Christmas, sewing, tutorials

Quick-Make Holiday Gifts

Looking for a quick and easy-to-make gift with the holidays fast approaching? I’ve got a few suggestions that just might help.

If you have someone on your list that seems to have everything, a personalized handmade gift can be the one thing they’re missing. If you’re like me, you enjoy giving people something handcrafted verses something store bought.

Since everyone in my family has at least two quilts from me, I occasionally move from the realm of quilting for gifts. One great idea is pillowcases. These can be really fun because you can make them personal by choosing fabric that reflects the recipient’s hobbies, interests or simply something they’d enjoy. My husband is a huge bird watcher so I made him a bird print pillowcase.

Since I’m all out of ideas for my son, I decided on pillowcases for him and his girlfriend. I chose a bright and whimsical fabric that’ll be perfect throughout the holiday season.

I made these using the Easy Burrito Pillowcase Tutorial from Baby Lock.

You’ve gotta love those French seams! If you’re not familiar with them, this is a great introduction.

When trimming the pillowcase fabric, use the cutaway selvage for tying it up before gifting. It makes a nice presentation if you use a pinking rotary cutter or pinking shears.

Here’s a future money saving tip—shop for fabric after the holidays. You can get last year’s prints for a lot less than new ones.

My daughter requested an Easter Bunny mini quilt from a free Bernina tutorial. It’s so cute and easy.

I think it took me more time to cut the fabric than to make it. 😉

So now I’m set and am already planning for next year…

I also have other small gift ideas under my TUTORIALS tab. Check it out and see if there’s anything you’d like to try!

fabric project, home decor, sewing, Uncategorized

Autumnal Table Runner

With the fall season approaching, I’d decided to create an autumnal tablescape for my sofa table. Since June I’d been thrifting, something I’d never done much of before, looking for pretty and elegant items to coordinate with things I already had.

What I didn’t have was a table runner. My first thought was ‘What could I make using what I have?’, then remembering I’d stashed a narrow piece of white Essex Linen leftover from making napkins. Perfect!

While the piece was WOF, it wasn’t long enough to drape over the table ends, so I trimmed the fabric to 9 1/2″ wide by 34 1/2″ long giving nice coverage for my table that measures 11 1/2″by 38 1/2″.

I planned to hem and top-stitch, but after pinning one side it was apparent that it’d be too bulky so I left the edges flat and ran a zigzag stitch all the way around, giving it a bit of a rustic look.

Since the linen was white and not fall-like, I decided to tea dye it. This wasn’t something I’d ever tried before but it was so easy and rather fun! I quickly found a YouTube video with all the info I needed.

Because the runner is a bigger piece of fabric, I doubled the recipe for dyeing: 5-6 tea bags to 2 cups of boiling water (this doubled, using black tea). If you’ve never tea dyed before, just boil the water, add the tea and let it set for 15 min. Remove the tea bags and place your item in the bowl, making sure it’s covered. Allow it set for at least 15 minutes, or until the desired color is achieved. I soaked mine for 2 hours, occasionally turning the fabric. NOTE: Tea dyeing works with natural fibers only.

Once it’s the color you want, remove and rinse with cold water. I gently rolled mine in a towel to remove the excess water. After unrolling and smoothing it flat, I placed it in the sun until dry.

On the first day of autumn I set up everything and am really pleased. 🙂 It’s a lovely display for fall and will do nicely through Thanksgiving.

This is a great way to give your space some seasonal vibes, and if you’re a thrifter, it’s fun to go on the hunt for just the right things.

PDF download, sewing, tutorials, Uncategorized

Wine Bottle Bag Tutorial

Last holiday season I was invited to a Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner party where I wanted to bring a bottle of wine for the host and hostesses for each occasion. While it’s perfectly fine to bring wine itself, I wanted to dress it up a bit so I decided to make fabric bottle bags.

After finding several how-tos, I made the first one using a combination of what I’d found; taking notes and photos along the way so I could create an easy, downloadable PDF to share.

For my first project, I chose fall-like colored fabric and a shimmery orange ribbon and the duo made a lovely bottle bag, perfect for Thanksgiving!

For the second project, I used holiday inspired fabric and natural twill tape for a rustic look and together they were just right for a Christmas party.

These festive bags are not only for wine bottles, they’re also great for sparkling grape juice. And best of all, this project is SO EASYit only takes about 25 minutes, from pressing the fabric to tying the bow! Choose one fat quarter, add some ribbon and a bit of time and you’ve got a classy gift to give. 🙂

Sound fun? Download this free PDF Wine Bottle Bag Tutorial and make something beautiful!

quilting, sewing, Uncategorized

Save that Selvage!

Ever since I started quilting I’ve been saving selvages. Even though I have plenty, I can’t seem to stop saving ones that have fun sayings and cute drawings printed on them.

Since I like to keep things to a minimum, I’ve found a great way to use some of those selvages—wrap them on gifts instead of ribbon—and this is the perfect time of year to do so.

Each Christmas I like to give my family members something handmade, and because everyone has received at least two quilts from me, I’ve had to think of other things to make. For the last few every years I’ve gifted my husband a bird-themed pillow case wrapped with colorful selvage.

Other gifts I’ve dressed up by using selvage is table napkins made for my kids. When I completed this set I wrapped it with selvage and tied a pretty bow. I think it classes up the bundle and makes a nice presentation.

(If you’d like to make table napkins for yourself or as gifts, I have a PDF Table Napkin Tutorial available).

Of course another good way to use selvage is wrapping and gifting a quilt. When I gift a quilt I always find a selvage that compliments the fabrics. By doing this there’s nothing to buy and I’m ready to gift or ship without doing any shopping. Nothing like saving time and money!

Another bonus to saving and using selvages is that they’re really easy to store. I just bundle a few together, place them in a large zip-lock bag and keep it in my scrap bin. It doesn’t matter that they’re creased and wrinkled, just press and trim when needed.

Not only does this put pretty selvages to good use (that may otherwise be tossed out), it’s convenient and environmentally friendly! 🙂

how to, PDF download, sewing, tutorials, Uncategorized

Table Napkin Tutorial

For most quilters, managing stash is an ongoing process—as long you keep sewing, you keep ending up with left over fabric, especially with precuts.

Early this spring I finished a quilt using a layer cake I’d had since 2015. (Wow!) When the quilt was complete, several 10″ squares were left. I knew I’d never use them in a quilt and I didn’t want to store them, but what could I do with a dozen precut squares?

After considering a few options, I decided to make reusable table napkins for everyday use. And because I like all things environmental, it was a fun and practical choice.

These napkins finish around 8 1/2″ square and they’re so easy to make. If you’ve got any 10″ squares lying around, download this detailed Table Napkin PDF tutorial and start stashing down!

quilting, sewing, Uncategorized

Quilting with a Tailor’s Clapper

It wasn’t until recently that I learned what a tailor’s clapper is, let alone find out it’s a great tool for quilting. Who knew?

If you’re not familiar with this funny little thing, here’s some general information. A tailor’s clapper is an elongated, rounded piece of hardwood (average size: approximately 9″ long x 2″ wide) with a routered groove down each side. Some are straight and some are a bit wider on one end, but no matter the design they can be used in either direction.

What’s the purpose of a tailor’s clapper and how is using one beneficial to quilting? This handy tool helps to achieve wonderfully flat, crisp seams which is exactly what quilters want! And in the end the results will give you a beautifully flat quilt top. 🙂

After reading quilters rave about them and doing a bit of research myself, I thought I’d give one a try. I decided to purchase this one from Amazon. I like that it’s made in the USA and it had a lot of good reviews. This one offers 2 sizes, I chose the standard size.

How does a tailor’s clapper work? Well, they’re pretty basic and very easy to use; here’s how. Once you press your seam with a hot, steamy iron, remove the iron and immediately place the clapper on the seam then hold it down for a few seconds. The clapper will trap the heat and steam leaving an amazingly flat seam.

Here’s a look at fabric I sewed and tested with and without the clapper. It’s easy to tell which one I used the clapper on and which one I didn’t…it really works!

I’m definitely seeing a better outcome in my quilting now that I use a tailor’s clapper when pressing, and I most definitely recommend using one. And what I find so interesting is that this simple garment-making tool that originated in England well over 100 years ago is still useful in today’s complex world!

Note: I am not endorsed by the product mentioned in this post; it is just an item I like, use, and wanted to share information on.

PDF download, sewing, tutorials

Fabric Utensil Wrap PDF Tutorial

With the summer season upon us and picnics in the forecast, I thought it would be a great time to offer my Fabric Utensil Wrap Tutorial as a downloadable PDF. I’d had some inquiries about making this a PDF and since I, too, enjoy having tutorials on my computer, I went ahead and created one to share.

You can download my Fabric Utensil Wrap Tutorial to any device to use at your convenience. If you’d rather follow along online, it’s still available on my February 8, 2021 blog post. You can also find it on my FREE DOWNLOADS tab.

Any which way you choose, it’s a great project for toting utensils on the go!

how to, organizing sewing space, sewing, tutorials, Uncategorized

Storing Fabric on Comic Book Boards

In January I spent a few days organizing my fabric. For storage, I have a box for all 10″ squares and a 4-drawer Rubbermaid unit I’ve divided out for specific cuts for my printed fabric only. I’ve designated one drawer for each cut: strips, remnants, fat quarters and WOF yardages. I also have another unit with one small drawer just for solids.

Lately I’d been accumulating solids and my drawer was getting full. Also, when I needed a particular color I’d have to take everything out which was pretty inconvenient. That said, I decided it was time to find another way to store my solid fabrics.

I’d remembered reading about quilters using comic book boards for storing fabric, so I thought I’d take a look into the process. A quick Google search and a brief video showed me how easy and cost effective it is.

I found that many quilters use BCW boards sized 7″ x 10 1/2″ (Amazon). A pack of 100 costs around $17 so if you don’t have a huge stash, this quantity will last quite a while! The boards are definitely sturdy enough for wrapping up to a few yards of fabric, and they’re acid free so they won’t cause any discoloration.

Quilters also use plastic alligator clips for securing the fabric. On Amazon, a pack of 500 costs around $10. Again, this quantity can last a long time! The clips are really sturdy and the ridges grip and hold nicely.

After ordering these two items, I was ready to go.

For my stash, I decided that the smallest amount of fabric to be stored on a board would be a fat quarter; anything smaller stays in the drawer. I also decided to store larger yardage amounts on the boards too, as I don’t usually have more than a yard or two in any given color.

To get started, I ironed everything. I recommend doing so because of course fabric looks nicer pressed and since it will be stored this way indefinitely, flat lying fabric will give the best results possible.

Next, folding and wrapping. For fat quarters, fold selvage to selvage. This will make your piece about 11″ high by 18″ wide. Next, place the board in the center where it will fit just right vertically, then wrap the sides around. For yardage, fold selvage to selvage. Then fold again in half, bringing the fold on the bottom up to the selvage at the top. The fabric will measure about 11″ high, just like the fat quarter. Fold the fabric once again, this time from side to side, bringing the raw edges to the fold. Place the board vertically in the center then wrap the sides around.

Place clips on the ends to secure the fabric and you’re finished!

For mine, I made tags to identify the fabric. I simply cut strips of paper about 3/4″ x 2″, and using a Frixion pen I noted the fabric brand and color. It took some extra time to figure out what was what, but when I need to know later the info will be there.

I also have plastic bins for storing the fabric. Not only does it look pretty, it’s a great way to see what’s on hand and it allows for quick access.

If you have a lot of fabric that you want to store on comic book boards, you may want to do a few pieces at a time. I had 26 cuts and it took me several hours! I’m happy to have spent the time for the great results, and I plan to do this as I acquire fabric so my stash is always stored up-to-date.

sewing, tutorials, Uncategorized

Making Reusable Canvas Grocery Bags

The winter months are a great time to catch up on projects you’ve been planning but have been putting off for a while. In my case it was making reusable grocery bags out of canvas.

To get started, I didn’t want to spend a lot of money, and high quality canvas wasn’t really necessary so I purchased a durable canvas drop cloth (for around $9) which saved me at least half. The weave was comparable to fabric off the bolt, so it was a win-win.

For instructions, I followed this excellent tutorial https://www.themakeyourownzone.com/how-to-make-a-reusable-grocery-bag/. Since the tutorial was geared for using plastic materials, I made a few changes along the way…

Because I was using cotton, I was able to press seams with an iron and I used my hot ruler for accuracy.

I also had the issue of fraying, so once the seams were sewn and the body portion of the bag was assembled, I ran a zigzag stitch along all the raw edges. A serger would work nicely if you’ve got one.

Notice the nice hem along the top? When cutting, I planned to have the factory sewn edge up top for a professional look. It was also a more substantial edge for attaching the handle and it added extra durability.

Overall, the tutorial allowed me to achieve the same results just with different materials. If you decide to make your own reusable bags, I should point out a few things regarding plastic vs. canvas.

First of all, the canvas bags won’t stand up like plastic! But they’ll definitely last longer and they can be laundered which is a definite plus.

With both types, you’ll want to be sure to add something to the bottom for support. I used fitted cardboard to give the bags a more defining shape and added strength.

My husband does the grocery shopping (he actually likes to) 🙂 and he loves these bags. And of course, if it’s green and eliminates plastic waste I’m all about it!

From start to finish, these bags (I made 3) took just a few hours and they’re a really easy make.

sewing, tutorials, Uncategorized

Fabric Utensil Wrap Tutorial

Every year I look for handmade gifts to make my family for Christmas, usually it’s a quick sewing project and sometimes it’s not even quilting related. 😉 Last year I stumbled across a neat item that doesn’t require a lot of time or materials—a fabric utensil wrap. They’re great for picnics, work lunch or any meal on the go!

If you’re like me and are always finding ways to reduce plastic waste, these eco-friendly, reusable wraps are the perfect solution. If it’s good for the earth I’m sold, so I decided to make one for each of us, myself included. I also went extra green by opting for bamboo utensils.

Since these wraps were so well received, I thought I’d write a tutorial to help pass along the idea. Here’s what you need and what you have to do:

MATERIALS

  • 2 fat eighths (or fat quarters) – each a different print
  • 1 – 24″ piece of 1/2″ twill tape (or 1/4″)
  • general sewing supplies

GETTING STARTED

Since you’ll probably end up tossing this in the laundry at some point, it’s a good idea to prewash the fabric. Whether you do or don’t prewash, be sure to press your fabric before beginning. Once pressed, cut each piece of fabric to 9″ x 20″.

Next, press a 1/2″ inch hem on one short end of each piece. I used a hot ruler to keep my hem accurate.

SEWING FABRIC PIECES

First, align both pressed edges then pin together. Starting on a long side of the pinned fabric, sew a 1/2″ seam along three sides, leaving the short pressed end of the rectangle open. I used washi tape as a guide to keep my seams straight.

Once sewn, trim away the top corners the making sure not to cut too close to the thread. This will help reduce bulk and it’ll help give the corners a nice finish.

Next, from the open end, turn the fabric right side out. I used a blunt tip bamboo stick to push out the corners for a sharper point, it really makes a difference.

After your corners are nice and sharp, press. Then sew the open end closed with a topstitch about 1/8″ from the edge, backstitching at each end. 

MAKING THE UTENSIL POCKET

After sewing all the sides closed, fold the previously open end (now topstitched) up 5 inches from the bottom to create a pocket. Pin the side edges of the pocket.

SEWING IN TWILL TAPE

Fold the 24″ twill tape piece in half and insert the folded edge into the top left side of the pinned pocket. The fold should be inserted into the fabric approximately 1/2″. Pin the inserted tape about 3/8″ down from the topstitched edge.

TIP: Sew a zigzag stitch along each end of the twill tape to keep it from fraying.

Stitch a 1/4″ seam allowance all the way around the edges, backstitching at each end.

CREATING UTENSIL POCKETS

Now that the main pocket is created, it’s time to create individual pockets for the utensils. You’ll need a ruler and a fabric-safe marker. As an alternative, I used a hera marker to indicate my separations so I didn’t have to worry about any markings.

I needed 4 pockets—one for chopsticks, a fork, a spoon and a knife. I divided the width of my pocket in equal measurements from left to right: 1 3/4″, 1 7/8″, 1 7/8″, 1 3/4″. Depending on your needs, determine your measurements. After doing so, mark a vertical line from the topstitched edge to the fold at the bottom for each section. Next, sew on the line, leaving the top open and backstitching at the ends. And done!

NOTE: The step above can vary quite a bit, depending on your purpose. For example, if you want a section for a reusable straw you’d opt for thinner pocket or if you want a section for a napkin or condiments, you may want to make a wider pocket. I should note that packets of mayo, mustard and/or a rolled up napkin fit inside the sections of the wraps I made.

At last, your wrap is ready to use! Simply place the utensils inside, fold down the top, roll it up and tie.

AN ALTERNATIVE SIZE UTENSIL WRAP

For my husband and myself, I made a smaller size wrap, omitting the pocket for chopsticks. I planned for only three sections: a fork, knife and spoon. I cut the fabric pieces 7 1/2″ x 20″ and made the pocket sections 1 7/8″, 2″, 1 7/8″. Otherwise, I followed all the instructions as written.

Whether you use bamboo or regular kitchen cutlery, hurray for ditching one-time plasticware! Every step towards going plastic-free counts and these fun wraps are an excellent way to start!