Useful Thing

Business card wallet

card_wallet_5Here’s another small crafty project from my recent crafty sewing binge.

I ran across this nifty business card holder pattern while on one of my recent lost afternoons surfing fabric websites. I landed on AmyButlerDesigns.com, home of all things Amy Butler. If you are not familiar with her work, she makes bright, fun graphic designs. You can find them on quilting, home dec and fashion fabric and more. One of the great things about the website is the fairly long catalog of free patterns. Many of the patterns are for quilting, but there are also a few for bags and accessories. I thought it would be fun to try a small project to see what I thought.

This is the Business Card Keeper. Once you “purchase” your free pattern, you are able to download a pdf file containing the instructions and pattern pieces. In this case, the only pattern piece is for the swoopy-edged cover flap. The rest of the pieces are rectangles cut to specified dimensions.

card_wallet_1I have to admit, there was more to the little pattern than I expected. It requires the fabric, of course. But it also requires heavy-weight sew-in interfacing and heavy fusible interfacing, both of which I had to hunt around for. The closure is hook-and-loop tape (aka velcro). I’m pretty sure I followed the directions correctly, but apparently I didn’t. Everything turned out a little too small and lot too crooked. I think it’s cute, but in that kind of “Awww, she made that herself” kind of way.

Don’t let that put you off, though. I think my lack of quilting experience really shows on this one. If you can handle precision 1/4 inch seams, you should do fine!

card_wallet_2Fabric.com carries a lot of Amy Butler fabrics, but far from all. I bought my “Cotton Blossom” yardage from a vendor on Etsy. I think if I was really excited about a particular collection, I would seek out stores that were quilting-specific. The fabric I used for my wallet was made from a random fat-quarter I bought because it was cute. Sigh.

I have a little more craftiness on the way, then back to fashion sewing.

Until then, happy sewing!

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Home Dec · Travel · Useful Thing

Travel Trays with Snaps

Let’s get started with flurry of instant-gratification craft posts! A while back, I made a few travel trays, which are just little padded rectangles that can be transformed into trays by pinching the corners together. The idea is that you can throw one in your suitcase. Then when you get to your hotel room, you have a little place to collect your glasses, jewelry, etc. on your nightstand. I thought I would give them away as gifts, but somehow they ended up becoming permanent fixtures on my work table. I guess it’s more accurate to call those stationary trays.

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I have seen variations on this idea using ties, velcro, or snaps on the corners. I prefer snaps, but didn’t have any snap setting tools when I made the first ones. I remember having struggled with using snap pliers. I think I don’t have the grip strength, or possibly the patience for it. So I used a new gadget that works with a hammer instead. It was much easier for me, but the hammering noise caused my dog undue stress. I guess I’ll have to do my hammering outside from now on.

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After assembling the padded rectangle, mark stitching lines with disappearing ink.
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Quilting with wavy decorative stitch

I quilted the base of my trays. It’s an easy way to experiment with different quilting methods. I don’t think it’s really necessary for a small size rectangle though. My favorite was the result of quilting with one of my machine’s decorative stitches. I also experimented with using multicolor thread.

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I quilted this one using variegated thread

I referred back to my original instructions, which were a free download from the Craftsy pattern library.

More crafty projects coming soon. Until then, happy sewing!

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Home Dec · Useful Thing

Laundry Room Organizer Pouch

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Close up of top showing care symbols fabric

The inspiration for this project came from two places. I came across a neat fabric printed with those universal care symbols (that aren’t quite as intuitive as the designer probably intended). I had to have it and I knew it had to be for something related to laundry. At the same time, I had been keeping my clothespins in a disposable plastic container that was well past its prime. I guess the world was telling me to organize my laundry area.

I cast around the internet for project ideas. It can be kind of overwhelming. Finally, I went on Craftsy.com and searched for all the free sewing patterns in the “Bags” and “Other” categories. That’s where I found Teresa Lucio Designs’ Boxy Pouch Tutorial. The pattern is clearly written with lots of pictures. I followed her instructions, only altering the dimensions to maximize what I could make with my small piece of material. Although she doesn’t specify what you need to do to change the scale, it’s pretty easy to figure out.

I like how Theresa had her boxy pouch set up, turning down the contrast lining to make a cuff. I will probably leave mine set up the same way, but it’s also going to be useful to zip it up if I need to take my clothespins to a different area.

clothespin_box_3It requires fusible fleece, medium to heavy weight fusible interfacing, lining fabric and a zipper. I think it would be neat to add tabs or handles on the ends, or possibly inside pockets. I’m sure I will use these instructions again!

Bonus: Here’s a link to what all of those care symbols really mean: I printed it out and keep it next to my washing machine.

Next time – the quickest knit skirt ever!

Until then,

Happy sewing!
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PS…
If you are not already a Craftsy member, what are you waiting for? In addition to patterns and supplies, they have great online classes. I’ve learned a lot from the ones I have taken. Getting a Craftsy account is free, which would give you access to the site and free patterns like this one.

Now Craftsy also has an unlimited viewing plan, called BluPrint. It’s all of the Craftsy classes, plus even more in subjects like dance and photography. Right now, they also have a 7 day free trial.

Home Dec · Useful Thing

Quickie Serger Coasters

While Mom and I were were picking through her fabric stash last November (see where I get it?), She came across some upholstery scraps.

Me: “That piece is pretty small. Do you still want it?”

Mom: “I always wanted to make coasters out of this.  I was going to just serge around the edges. But I don’t have my serger anymore.”

Me: “Do you still want coasters out of it?”

Mom: “Yes, but I don’t have my serger anymore.”

I took that as a hint that Mom wanted coasters for Christmas, although I suppose I could have also taken it as a hint that Mom wanted a serger. I took the piece home with me, fairly confident that she would forget all about it. Then I got to work.

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Start with a couple of tiny scraps.

It really was a small piece. I was able to squeeze just  8 5-inch squares out of it.

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Cutting 5-inch squares is easy with a 5-inch quilting ruler
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Ready to begin

I had read about using wooly nylon to make decorative edges. The little coasters seemed like a good way to test out the idea. I looked through my collection of stretch serger thread. I have a few different kinds. Some are Wooly Nylon, some are textured nylon, some are textured poly. The tan color that matched the best was textured nylon.

I learned a lot more than I expected to with this little project.

I’ve become fairly proficient at setting up my serger. I’ve figured out that the best way to thread the fluffy nylon is to use a needle threader. It’s faster to bend the little wire on the threader to go through the serger’s tiny holes than trying to pull it through with another thread.

I set up the machine with a two-thread wrapped edge overlock stitch, with the needle in the wide position. The nylon is in the lower looper and coordinating regular serger thread is in the left needle. Luckily, my machine has a preset tension setting for this purpose, so I didn’t have to mess around with that.

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How do I cover those corners?
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Ugh. Another view of my first attempt.

The first attempt was pretty discouraging. The edges didn’t get covered completely and the corners were not covered at all.

Part of the problem was that the textured nylon is not as fluffy as the woolly nylon. But I thought I could still make the edges fill in by making the stitch length as short as possible and being careful. But those corners? Hmm….

When I thought about it, following my manual’s instructions for turning around a square corner probably worked exactly as they intended. They probably assume that the stitch is to be used on the inside of a garment, so it doesn’t matter if the coverage is less.

For my next attempt, I changed my strategy.

  1. Stitch the edge to the end
  2. Keep going past the edge for about .25 inches, making a short “tail.”
  3. Lift the presser foot and reposition the square, wrapping the extra bit of stitching around the corner.
  4. Place the needle in the down position close to the to edge. Lower the presser foot.
  5. Stitch the next side, stitching over the tail

This method worked pretty well for me, although the first few coasters made with it look pretty rough. It took some practice to get the hang of it.

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Edge filled in nicely after second pass and shorter stitch length
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Some corners are better than others, but they all got some fray check to prevent unraveling

Finally, I wrapped them all up and placed them under the Christmas tree.

Oh, and Mom? She did not guess what was in her gift. And she thinks the coasters look nice. Thanks, Mom.

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Useful Thing

Vanity Table Headbands

This is a chance to use up all of those partially used cards of trim.

I like to put on a headband while I get ready for my day.  It keeps the hair off of my face while I stand at the sink or sit in front of the mirror. Unfortunately, pre-made headbands are always too loose for me. Instead of settling, I make my own.

I like to make flat headbands with hook and loop closures. I can make them loose or tight depending on where I connect the ends. They are really easy to make and a fun way to use up scraps.

Here’s how:

You’ll need

  • Terry or towel fabric
  • 1 1/2 – 2 yards wide or extra-wide double-fold bias binding such as Wrights or make your own
  • 3/4 in. to 1 1/4 in. sew-on hook and loop tape, such as Velcro
  • Matching thread
  • Any trims that appeal to you – just make sure they can be washed
Cutting is so simple, it is easy to do more than one at a time

Seems obvious, but measure your head first. Write down the measurement and add at least 3 inches. That will be the length of the band.

If you haven’t already, wash and dry the terry cloth.

Lay the terry flat and cut a strip 2 1/2 inches x your chosen length.

Cut a 3 inch strip of hook and loop tape.

I made a semi-circular template with a 2 1/2 inch diameter out of lightweight cardboard, then used it and a fabric marker to mark the headband’s rounded ends. If you want to leave them square or cut free-hand, that’s fine too. Use sharp fabric scissors to cut the ends.

Sew the fuzzy piece of tape (loop) to one end of the top side, 1/2 inch from one end. Sew the rough (hook) piece to the opposite end on the bottom side, one inch from the end.

Sew trim (rickrack, appliques, etc.) to the top side, if desired.

Using your favorite method, sew binding around raw edges. I like to clip the binding in place, but also use steam to help shape it to fit around the curved ends. TIP: You’ll get better results if you iron the kinks out of the binding before working with it.

Close up of hook and loop tape

Done!

Variations:

  • Scale down for kids.
  • Instead of binding, serge the edges with colorful thread.
  • Make a quilted version by sandwiching cotton batting between a top and bottom strip.
  • Make matching headbands with scraps from pajama or bathrobe projects.

This is definitely one of my favorite stash-busting projects.

Have you tried making headbands? Tell me about it!

Ready for a spa day!
Home Dec · Useful Thing

Ironing Board Cover

iron_cover_old
Yuck!

How about a quickie project?

I spend a lot of time with my ironing board.  Lately, the deplorable state of its cover has been getting under my skin.  Why not make a new one?

Making a new cover couldn’t be easier.

First, remove the old one.

Choose a tightly woven, colorfast material for the top.  I pulled a cheerful plaid from my stash.

Using the old cover as a pattern, cut the new material.

Set up the serger for a 2 or 3 thread overcast with the knife up.

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Three thread overcast encases the drawstring cord.

Lay about 6-8 inches of cord to the right of the fabric edge (next to the foot) and draw to back of machine.

iron_cover_new
Yay!  So much better!

Starting on one of the long sides stitch a wide overcast around the edge, feeding cord through at the same time.  Stop about an inch from where you started sitiching. Leave another 6-8 inches of cord at the end.

Alternately, serge without the cord.  With a tapestry needle, thread the drawstring cord through the overcast stitches.

Pop the new cover on the ironing board and gather in place.

After so many relatively complicated projects, it feels great to have a little instant gratification! This project took about an hour (not counting blogging).

Fashion · Travel · Useful Thing

A Minimalist Bathrobe Part 3: Putting it all Together

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Basting the belt loop with my favorite tool – painter’s tape

Once again, I can assert that sewing is a small part of garment construction. Putting the robe pieces together was a relative snap after all of the planning and preparation.

After sewing the pockets and the darts, I was ready to start putting pieces together. In the last post, I tested various seam finishes and landed on flat-felling as the best option. I love the clean lines the enclosed seams make.

Of course, nothing ever goes exactly as planned. I carefully pinned the sleeves in place and was ready to sew them, when I realized that I had pinned them right sides together (flat-felling starts wrong sides together). Rather than pull everything out, I figured it would be fine to have the sleeve cap seams on the inside and use faux-french technique to finish them. It turned out fine, I am happy to report.

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Did I just do that? Ugh! (Sleeve pinned right sides together)

I also forgot to put a loop in the neck seam for hanging the robe on hooks.  This goof I dealt with by sewing a small reinforced panel with my name tag and loop, then stitching it to the inside back neck. I used a panel because the fabric is so light and fragile that the weight of the whole garment pulling on two small attachment points would quickly lead to holes. Stitching a square creates stability by distributing the load over a larger area. Just for fun, I used the selvage to make the loop.  I just liked the way the thread frayed around the edge – and because it is the selvage, it is very stable.

I really love the finished result. I will be taking my super-light robe not just to the gym, but any time I pack a suitcase for myself.  It’s so light that I could even find room in my carry-on bag.

The whole project became much more of a technique sampler than I intended.  I hope that some of my experiments and fixes inspire you to do something you haven’t tried!

Missed the rest of the series? Start here:A Minimalist Bathrobe Part 1: Making Plaid Work and A Minimalist Bathrobe Part 2: Edge Finish and Seam Experimentation.

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Fashion · Useful Thing

A Minimalist Bathrobe Part 2: Edge Finish and Seam Experimentation

Before I started putting the robe pieces together, I tested out some ideas for seam and edge finishes. I was looking for a good compromise between durability, attractiveness, and lack of bulk.

For the raw edges, I looked at applying binding and different overcast treatments. I wanted to work with supplies I already had, so I wasn’t able to get exact color matches. I chose several bias tapes I thought might work and two colors of nylon serger thread. I liked the way the blue tape looked, but none of the others. I played with different settings on the serger to get a nice decorative edge that completely covered the raw edge (already starting to fray). While both the white and the purple were a nice match for the plaid, only the purple completely covered the edge. The purple is Wooly Nylon and the white is Guetermann’s textured nylon. The wooly fills in the edge much better than the textured. I decided to go with the purple wooly nylon edge because it was best of the less bulky overlock finishes.

 

Since raveling was going to be an issue with the material, I went ahead and finished the raw edges on all of the cut pattern pieces.  I left the edges that were going to be inside a seam unfinished while I decided how to sew them.

Next, I took some more scraps and tested out a few types of seams

Seam 1 – Bound seam

There are a number of options for what to bind the seam with.  I could make my own bias tape out of the robe fabric; I could use seams great; or, I could use a pre-made tape from a package. I already looked through the packages I had on hand when looking at edge finishes and couldn’t find a color I was happy with. Seams great would work, but for something that is going to show, it is too sheer to look right. So I moved on without even testing bound seams.

Next, using my regular sewing machine, I tried out 2 different kinds of enclosed seams.

Seam 2 – Mock French seam

I really like the way this looks from both sides.  Having two rows of stitching makes the seam more durable. The extra weight from having essentially 3 layers of fabric stitched together actually makes the seam more structural. The very lightweight fabric really is pretty shapeless, so the extra stability really helps.

Seam 3 – Flat felled seam

The flat felled seam has the same advantages as the mock french.  The main difference is that it is started with wrong sides together and trimmed and stitched from the right side. Technique aside, it’s slightly less bulky and slightly wider.  I’m familiar with flat felling from other projects, so for me, this is the easiest one to consider.

I have never used the serger for any other seam than a 3 or 4 thread overlock. I knew that I could go that route and it would be fast and easy.  I really wanted to try something else for this project though.

Seam 4 -2 Thread flatlock with serger

This seam is really fun to do.  It’s cool to make what appears to be a plain overcast edge, but then pull the two pieces of fabric apart and have them lay flat with a neat decorative join. I’m glad I tried doing the sample first, though. It just didn’t look as “finished” as the enclosed seams.  It would be really fun to use on a thicker material, like a neoprene or fleece.

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The winner: Flat felled on the regular machine.

BONUS Technique: Covered Cord

I came across a neat idea while I was browsing my copy of Serger Secrets.  One of the examples illustrates a technique where a serger can be used to make decorative covered cord. I probably never would have thought of this on my own, but now that I know about it, I am sure I will find all kinds of ways to use it.  This will definitely be the go-to choice for belt loops.

It’s super simple to do, too.  Just cut a length of gimp or thick thread. I used white crochet thread.

Set up the serger:

  • Needle position: right
  • Stitch length: 1mm
  • Stitch width: as narrow as your machine will go.  Mine is 4.5mm
  • Presser foot: a gimp foot is recommended.  I don’t have one, so I used my cording foot instead.  I think anything with a channel on the sole of the foot would probably work.
  • Thread: decorative thread in the upper looper, all-purpose in the needle
  • Stitch finger: rolled
  • Tension: set for 2 thread rolled edge

Make a few inches of chain.  Pull the chain threads towards the back of the machine. Slip the cord under the presser foot so it feeds through the channel and exits just to the left of the needle. Add the cord to the other threads and hold them together to start. Then just hit the pedal and watch it go. Magic!

Next time: putting it all together.

Find Part 1 here

Fashion · Useful Thing

A Minimalist Bathrobe Part 1: Making Plaid Work

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Step one: make a plan

Now that I have a bathing suit that I don’t mind wearing to the gym, I turned my thoughts to making swimming at the gym easier.  When I do a swim, I have to carry a bag with a minimum of a towel, swimwear, shower shoes, bathing cap and toiletries. Ideally, I would have a bathrobe to come and go from the dressing area to the showers.  I never bring one, though, because the ones I have take up too much room in the bag.

Somewhere in my past, I picked up a few yards of soft double-faced cotton.  One side is plaid, the other stripe.  I realized that reversible fabrics don’t necessarily need facings or hemmed edges.  I could use bias tape or a densely stitched overcast to neaten the edges.

I took a pattern for a short, shawl collared robe I have already made and made some modifications. I eliminated the seam allowances and hem length on all of the outer edges.  The original sleeves were slightly puffed 3/4 length, which wasn’t what I wanted. I measured the front and back of the arm opening at the seamline and wrote the numbers on my pattern. Then I looked for a simple, full-length sleeve with the same measurements.  Luckily, the first one I tried was a very close match.  The belt didn’t need a pattern, since it was just a long rectangle.  Although it added a little extra bulk, I thought it was worth it to add patch pockets, a loop at the back of the neck, and belt carriers.

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Fabric pinned to itself and taped to mat. Pattern pieces aligned to match plaid at seams. Plaid sorted!

I knew if I wanted the finished product to look good, I would have to be careful about placing my pattern pieces. There are a few things I do that make this process much easier. Before even starting, I try to choose a symmetric plaid. I think about how I want the plaid to be arranged on the garment, then make the foldline on the stripe I want to run down the center back. I lay out the doubled fabric on a large, gridded cutting mat. If the fabric is slippery or hard to align, I use blue painter’s tape to keep it aligned to the grid.  To make sure the upper and lower edges stay aligned, I pin the bottom and top together on a prominent stripe every few inches or so. It probably goes without saying that I have pre-washed and ironed first. I carefully examine the plaid and make sure the stripes align to the cutting mat’s grid in several places.  They almost never do at first, but a little patience smoothing things out always pays off.  Then I arrange the pattern pieces so they line up on the sides. Commercial patterns almost always mark the waist, so that’s a convenient place to check alignment.  Otherwise, you can use notches to match a horizontal stripe. I usually start with any piece I want to go on the foldine.

After all of that, I cut the front and back. I decided where I wanted the patch pockets to go and cut squares in the right size, again being careful to match the plaid.

In the next post, I will be trying out different types of edge and seam finishes.  See you there!

 

General · Useful Thing

20 Ways to Use Your Scraps

While I wait for a replacement for my leaky iron, I’ve been thinking about how to use what I already have.  Lately I have been pondering what to do with my scraps.

You can always use your scraps to practice on, or rip into strips to tie up your tomatoes. But you love that pattern!  Every time you see it in your stash you sigh and put it back.  It’s just too small.  Or is it?

Here are some things to do with that piece that you may not have thought of:

  1. Bias tape
  2. Quilt squares
  3. Pocket linings
  4. Facings
  5. Doll clothes
  6. Covered buttons
  7. Multi-colored projects
  8. Accent stripes
  9. Color blocking and piecing
  10. Contrast welting
  11. Headbands, barrettes, bows
  12. Luggage tags
  13. Pattern weights
  14. Applique
  15. Patches
  16. Baby clothes
  17. Patches
  18. Napkins  (assemble a mixed set)
  19. Small bags (coin purses, earphone case, etc.)
  20. Sachets for your drawers

Of course, these are just a few possibilities.  What do you do with your scraps?