You can now sew your own reusable produce bags using my free tutorial! With my recent change in direction with the business, focusing now on knitting and crochet accessories, I decided to pull my sewing patterns that I had listed for sale in my Etsy and Craftsy shops and turn them into free tutorials here on the blog. Here's a better explanation.
Ready to make your own reusable bags? These are great for the grocery store, farmer's market, or even for collecting shells at the beach. Let's get started!
Cutting Out the Pieces
Cut two—6” x 26” rectangles of quilting cotton (cut 13” on the fold, paying close attention to layout if using directional prints)
Cut one—6” x 26” of the mesh (cut 13” on the fold)
Cut 1 yard of the drawstring cording
Fill your bag with produce and enjoy!
Honestly, I'm not sewing all that much this week. I've been in planning mode most of the week, having a "show hangover" for most of Monday after a terrific Yarn Crawl event. Ask other artisans--"show hangover" is a thing. I lost track of how much coffee I've consumed the past few days.
What have I been working on? Some side projects, plus a lot of sewing in the planning stages. Here's a peek.
The photo above is a close-up of the embroidery for my new Lil Rhody bags. I would show you a finished bag, but they are all sold out at the moment! I plan to spend part of break next week sewing more, not to worry.
Samples for a Seaside Sewing Summer Camp at the Newport Library. I'm really looking forward to teaching this camp with my pal Emma the first week in August.
Fabric shopping for Selfish Sewing happened this week. I'm planning a whole blog post about Lorraine Fabrics in Pawtucket--it's a local gem not to be missed. Lotta Jansdotter fabric for $2.99/yard? Yes please! The fabric above will become an Esme top from her book Everyday Style.
More Selfish Sewing fabric for another Washi Dress. See my last post about how terrific sewing with this pattern is.
A gift for a certain Maryland family member. I haven't completely decided what the final product will be yet, but I'm thoroughly pleased with the embroidery kit from I Heart Stitch Art.
Pillowcase kits. These are for a big donation the Sew Easy to Care Youth sewing group will make in a few weeks. All hands on deck to bust out as many finished pillowcases as possible, so I took a few home to sew up. It's hard not to smile while sewing for a charity.
Navy blue linen blend, my last piece of fabric from this week's Selfish Sewing shopping trip. These will become Owyn pants, also a pattern from the Everyday Style book. The patterns are so easy to follow, and so far the two garments I've made are quite flattering. I'm looking forward to making lightweight cropped pants for summer. We had snow last week, but I *know* summer will be here soon. Right??
This fabric is destined for a set of reusable book bags for my son's classroom. I'm very excited about this project, and will be sure to share more as I get to work.
What are you sewing and planning to sew these days?
Rope baskets are a thing now, and I thought I would see what all the fuss was about. They are easy, relatively inexpensive to make, and are quite meditative as you sew. They hog thread--about a spool per basket. I never got the hang of turning a corner to make a crisp base, but I also only made two baskets. They turned out larger than I intended, but my children thought my mistake meant all the more candy that the Easter bunny could leave them! Here are a few pictures of the basket in-progress and finished. The red marks near the handles were later erased with a hot iron (I use the FriXion erasable gel pens).
It shouldn't be a surprise that someone who doesn't like plastic, doesn't go for plastic Easter grass. Green fabric is fluffy, the right color, cotton, and reusable year after year. When you no longer fill baskets, you can sew something with it. Win win in my book.
I hope you had a lovely Easter, if you celebrate, and are enjoying that spring is finally here!
If you're anything like me and you sew frequently, eventually you accumulate quite a few empty plastic thread spools. I have a hard time throwing something like that into the trash, preferring to find a way to reuse or recycle it. Today I'll share how you can turn your empty thread spool into an adorable wool roving-covered sheep!
Trace the outline of your thread spool onto the white felt. Cut out two white circles to cover the ends of your spool. Cut a rounded-edge triangle out of the black felt (you can eyeball this based on the size of your thread spool.) Also cut two ear shapes from the black felt. Hot glue the white circles onto the ends of the spool. It helps to remove the labels from the manufacturer first, as some labels are plastic and will melt and curl with the hot glue.
Using white embroidery floss, embroider a mouth and two eyes (I used French knots for the eyes). Hot glue this onto one of the white circles at the end of your thread spool.
With a sharpie pen, mark four spots for positioning legs. This will be different depending on the size of your spool, but you can space the front legs 1/2" apart, and the front from the back legs 1".
Using your drill, make four holes where you marked. This is easier than you think! Don't fear the power tools, but wear safety glasses, please, just in case.
Select 4 eye pins to use for legs.
Place the eye pins into the holes as far as they will go and hot glue in place. Don't worry about being messy with this part as it will be covered up by the roving in the next step.
Take some roving (how much is entirely up to you), and wrap around the thread spool, gluing in spots to hold it all in place. Bend the "legs" to make "feet" so that your sheep can stand up on its own. You can do this with just your fingers, or needle nose pliers.
Separate a small slot in the roving for ears, and hot glue them into place.
Congratulations! You've re-purposed an empty thread spool into an adorable sheep! Do you have ways to reuse thread spools? I would love to hear from you in the comments!
Sewing for myself has been surprisingly fun this week. I thought I would share some information on the anchor skirt that I made for Selfish Sewing Week (shared on Facebook and Instagram earlier this week--DancingThreadsRI if you'd like to follow!).
The pattern came from Winter 2014 Stitch Magazine, and I would say it's appropriate for an intermediate sewer. Why? There are no ready-made pattern pieces, so you have to download, print and then assemble the pieces like a jigsaw puzzle. I kind of hate doing this, but it's how many digital clothing patterns are sold. Stitch is my absolute favorite sewing magazine, if you're looking for an intermediate/advanced resource.
Print, puzzle together the pieces, then cut your size. I ended up taking in quite a bit after cutting the recommended size based on my measurements. I cut an XL, but sized it down to more of a Medium while fitting. There are always adjustments to be made, even to the best-written pattern out there.
The other reason I think this is for intermediate sewers is that there are no zipper instructions. You have to know how to install a zipper to make this skirt!
All my zippered pouch-making definitely takes away garment zipper installation anxiety.
Originally I was going to skip the inset panel, because I just wanted a simple summer A-line skirt. When shopping for the fabric, the navy polka dots caught my eye (a premium quilting cotton from Joann Fabrics), and then the waves practically jumped off the shelf into my cart.
Add to that the anchor bamboo buttons I've been saving for a year from Katrinkles (I didn't know what to use them for, but couldn't resist them at last year's Rhody Yarn Crawl), and the inset panel is now the best part of the skirt!
I finished the seams with an overlock stitch (I don't have a serger, but you could also use a zigzag stitch--this means the fabric won't fray when you launder the skirt).
For an extra bit of fun, I used the wave fabric for the facings. No one will see it but me since it faces the inside of the skirt, but I think it's worth it. Signs of a well-made garment are attention to detail, and this is one fun little extra that makes the skirt look more professional.
To me, it's calling out for a short sleeve button front eyelet white top. What do you think?
We may have gotten more snow overnight, but I'm turning my thoughts to spring with the handbag I'm sharing today.
Following the principles I laid out in my last post on Sustainable Sewing, I set out to make myself a new spring handbag. The pattern is the 241 Tote from Anna Graham of Noodlehead, a mid-western independent handbag designer. The pattern was actually purchased 2 years ago and I'm just now getting around to making it! Since the pattern includes the license to sell bags made from it, this may appear as part of the Dancing Threads RI product line--I'm still chewing on the idea.
The main exterior print is an organic cotton from Cloud 9 fabrics. Organic cotton can be more expensive, but I happened to find this print at a discount store here in RI for $1.99/yard! It must have been overstock from a discontinued print.
Companies like Cloud 9 are making organics in fresh, modern, beautiful prints.
The other fabrics used in the bag are 100% cotton and are smaller pieces left from other projects.
I love the overall shape of the bag!
The side pockets extend a bit away from the body of the bag, leaving them easy to access. One for phone, one for keys. Perfect.
One interior pocket plus a magnetic snap closure. The strap is the perfect length for a shoulder bag.
I'm ready for spring! Whenever it finally gets here.
What do you think? Would you like to see this as a bag in my shop?
Last week I got a pair of boots! I've been holding off for about 4 years to get a basic pair of brown leather boots. There was always something else that needed attention. I didn't need boots. But if I was buying boots, I was going to get a well-made real leather pair that would last at least 10 years (I hope!). That also meant a bit of saving on my part. Buying something you have been looking forward to, that you have saved for in advance, and that will be a wardrobe staple for years to come--what a satisfying purchase!
Last week I talked about composting your natural fiber scraps from sewing. What about the PUL? Nylon? Ribbon trimmings? If I can avoid throwing anything away, I will. Those bits and pieces that cannot be composted can still be recycled. Today I'm going to show you how to make boot inserts using other types of scraps.
Most boots look like this when you put them away at the end of the day:
I'm new to the leather boot party, but I'm going to take a wild guess that the leather will wear prematurely if you store your boots in this slumped-over position. If you do a quick search on Pinterest for "boot shapers", you get lots of people telling you to cut a foam pool noodle in half, plunk one into each boot. No thank you. You can probably guess that I'm not a fan of foam pool noodles. I'm not even going to show you any of those pictures, that's how much I like to avoid using plastic. There are some other ideas (wine bottle, coat hanger, water bottle, rolled up magazine, flexible cutting boards, Pringles canister...you get the idea). So I came up with another method that basically fills a fabric tube with scraps, making a firm support for your boots. Let's get started.
Start with two pieces of fabric, each 12" wide x 24" long. You can adjust the dimensions if your boots are very different from my size 9.5 (some calf designs are wider, some feet are too narrow for this diameter tube).
Fold the fabric in half lengthwise, right sides together, and sew a seam along the bottom and side openings with a 1/2" seam allowance. The red lines in the picture approximate the seams. (My pincushion in this photo is also filled with recycled scraps!)
Turn the tube right side out through the open end and stuff with sewing scraps.
Fill to within about 2" of the edge. Stuff firmly, but don't over-stuff. This kind of filling is dense and gets heavy quickly. You want the tube to have a firm shape.
Fold the raw edges in, creating a smooth edge without any frayed edges. Sew closed with a 1/4" seam allowance. If you overfill the tube, it will be difficult to wrestle through your sewing machine. It's better to have more room with which to work, you can redistribute the stuffing after the form is finished.
The finished boot supports may be a bit lumpy, but who cares?!?! You can smooth them out a bit by redistributing the filling. Plus, they are going to be inside a boot--no one will really even see them.
Recycling and maintaining a wardrobe investment at the same time. Now that's the sign of a good day! Cute bird fabric from Ikea is the icing on the cake.
Whenever I sew something, I try to use up every last bit of fabric. I've made all sorts of products to use the smallest bits of beautiful fabric--check out the patchwork pin cushion. Even after making something like the pincushion, there are tiny scraps leftover. How can you avoid throwing these bits away?
For 100% cotton and all other natural fibers (100% wool, linen, etc.), the small scraps can be composted. The fabric is biodegradable, and the small nature of these scraps mean they will break down relatively quickly in a compost pile.
You cannot compost synthetics. Any polyester fabric is not biodegradable, so it's not going to break down in a compost bin. This includes thread--most thread is 100% polyester. If you have scraps that have parts of seams sewn with poly thread, they cannot be composted.
From here on out, Dancing Threads RI will not buy printed fabric that is synthetic! The vast majority of my fabric is 100% cotton, but occasionally I work with indoor/outdoor fabric, a natural/synthetic blend or recycled felt (recycled from plastic water bottles, but since the scraps of felt are plastic, they are not biodegradable). I will use up what I currently have in stock, but I will not purchase any new synthetic printed fabric. For now, I will continue to use ripstop nylon and PUL for linings, and nylon mesh for produce bags. To be honest, I have not yet found a viable alternative. If you have suggestions, I would love to read them in the comments!
What about polyester thread snips? PUL and nylon scraps? I'm not throwing those into the trash anymore! I will share some ideas for using scraps as filling for other projects (instead of polyfill which is 100% polyester/plastic). For now, my scrappy sailboat ornaments/decorations are filled with these bits of leftovers. I have a tutorial lined up for something seasonal and quite useful that I think you will like. Check back here next week!
With more and more people raising backyard chickens each year, I bet that some of you out there have chicken feed bags leftover from your free-ranging egg machines. There is often some beautiful artwork on feed bags--no need to throw that plastic bag away! You can make a tote bag in a short period of time with a few simple sewing supplies.
Here is how I made this one for a friend.
First, cut the bottom off of your feed bag.
Cut two equal strips from the top of the feed bag. I cut 5" wide strips, but you can decide how thick your straps will be, as well as how much of the bag's graphics you want to sacrifice to the straps. Open up the 5" wide loop at one end so you have one long piece. I trimmed mine to a final strap length of 5" x 34" (I like to sling totes over my shoulder, and I find this length works well to do that).
Go back with a ruler and rotary cutter to even off the end, aligning with text or other graphics on the feed bag.
Fold the strip lengthwise in half, finger-pressing a crease in place.
Open up the piece, and fold the edges each in halfway, edges meeting at the center crease you just made.
Fold up the strap so that the raw edges of the long sides are now enclosed. DO NOT USE PINS. Clothespins or binder clips work really well to hold this material in place when you are ready to sew with it. Pins will leave irreparable holes.
Edge stitch both sides of the strap with a seam allowance between 1/8"--1/4". Repeat with the second strap. There is no need to finish the raw edges as it is plastic, and will not fray.
Sewing tip: you may need to gently tug on the material from the far side of your machine to get it to run smoothly. Pushing from the front doesn't seem as helpful, but maintaining even pressure (not too much!) from both sides will give you a smoother seam.
A machine needle used for garments or quilting cottons is not strong enough to handle this fabric. I recommend using a Denim needle, or a size of at least 16/100. The above photo is from a needle multi-pack--the needle shown is a heavy duty one, good for this project.
Turn the bag inside out. With a 1/2" seam allowance, sew the bottom closed. Then cut a 2.5" square notch from each of the two bottom corners to make a bottom box pleat (you may skip this step if you don't want a flat-bottom tote).
Open up the cut-away area and match the bottom seam with the side crease (not shown). Sew closed with a 1/2" seam allowance.
A finished box pleat.
Fold over the top edge of the bag by about 1/2" and sew a hem with a 1/4" seam allowance. You can make a bigger/smaller hem to preserve artwork on the front of your bag--it's completely up to you. No need for a double-roll hem because this is not going to fray.
Attach your handles wherever they are going to be most comfortable for you. I made a square that measures 1"x1" and went over it 2-3 times for durability. Placement of handles depends on the size of the bag. My finished tote is about 21" wide by 18" tall (32" tall with the handles), and I spaced my handles 4" in from the sides.
Congratulations! You saved a plastic bag from the trash, and have a handy new tote bag too. This is what I'm now calling Sustainable Sewing. Look for more sewing tutorials here soon. I would love to hear from you and see pictures if you make a feed bag tote using this tutorial!
As co-owner of Stitchery in Portsmouth, RI, I teach sewing classes to children and adults. Welcome to my blog Dancing Threads RI.