Home Dec

Quick Fun Project: Tissue Box Covers

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Handmade tissue box covers aren’t always the decor you want. This one is kind of growing on me though.

I’m the first to admit that hand-made tissue box covers can go horribly, horribly, wrong. But stick with me – they don’t have to. In fact, they can add a little charm to just about any room.

If you are looking for an easy to make gift, or simply to brighten up one of your own spaces, you might want to give these covers a try.

I found a free tutorial for some quick tissue box covers on Blueprint. There are lots of them out there, but this one worked well for me.

Using the tutorial as a guide, I made a pattern for the cube shaped style of tissue box. You could make your cover as simple as a single layer of opaque fabric. Or you could make something padded, lined, and trimmed. It’s really up to you.

I opted for a more finished cover with bias trim and a lined inside. So for each cover, I used the pattern to cut 5 layers:

  • Outer fabric
  • Lining fabric
  • 2 Interfacing (I used a medium weight fusible)
  • Batting (I used a fusible version)

Fuse the interfacing to the wrong side of the fabric pieces. Trim the batting piece to remove the seam allowance (or just cut smaller to begin with). Then fuse it to the interfacing side of the outer fabric.

Through all layers, stitch an outline of  the top edge of the box shape. Then clip the corners to the stitching line.

Cut a hole in the center slightly smaller than the desired opening. Cut into the hole’s corners to make tabs that can be folded to the inside. Clip or pin the tabs to the inside then carefully topstitch them in place.

To trim the opening, you can simply place binding tape or trim on the inside of the box and sew in place. Or you can be fancy and apply the binding around the hole’s edge.

To get a perfect fit, pin the side seams while arranging the cover lining-side out over a tissue box. Then make a strong overcast seam on all four sides.

To finish, apply contrasting trim around the bottom edge.

TIP: Keep a covered empty tissue box at your sewing station. It’s a great place to tuck thread clippings and other small trash as you work.

SUPPLIES
  • tissue_box_cover_16Fabric: inner, outer: any woven fabric will do. I like quilting cottons just for the variety of designs available. Requirements will vary depending on the size of the tissue box. You will need a piece slightly larger than 2 x height of box side + (box length) X 2 x height of box side + (box width). Great for those scraps you can’t get rid of!
  • Bias Tape: buy the pre-packaged kind or make your own. In this case, you don’t have to cut bias strips. You can cut your strips on the grain because it won’t need to stretch around curves. So, you can use those little scraps for this too!
  • Fusible interfacing: The stiffer the interfacing, the crisper looking your cover will be. I used Pellon SF101, but you can go softer or harder if you prefer.
  • Batting: I happened to have some fusible fleece on hand, but any batting will do.

More coming soon!

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Fashion

Super Quick Stash-Buster Scarf

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Sweater knit up close.

I had just finished cutting out a cute new top (coming soon) out of a lightweight floral sweater knit. When I was done, I still had a wide length of fabric. It wasn’t enough to use for any garments though.

Regular readers will know that I like to find ways of using every little bit of leftover fabric. Because my scrap was basically a wide rectangle, it was perfect for a scarf.

I smoothed out the piece on my large cutting mat, aligning the grain as best as I could. Like many stretch fabrics, it was somewhat pulled out of shape near the selvedge. I cut that part away. Then I used the gridlines on my cutting mat and a long ruler to cut the largest rectangle I could, resulting in a 50 x 15 inch piece.

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The scarf fully extended

The cutting doesn’t have to be perfect. This project is very forgiving of mistakes.

While still at the cutting table, I folded the rectangle lengthwise, right sides together. This sweater knit stuck to itself very well, so I didn’t bother pinning it. Then I serged the long raw edges together using a 4 thread overlock.

I turned the tube so the right side was facing out, then serged the openings to each other. I had to hand stitch the last little opening, then done!

Instant gratification projects are so fun, don’t you think? Now excuse me while I rummage through all of my sweater scraps.

SUPPLIES

I had fun trying out some styling ideas….

Lots more coming soon!

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.

Fashion

Simplicity 8386 Off the Shoulder Knit Tops

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I took a little bit of a risk making these tops. I’ve never had any off-the-shoulder tops before, and wasn’t sure if they would be comfortable to wear all day. Would they stay up? Would they restrict movement? I’ve been seeing off-the-shoulder styles for a couple of years now though. They can’t be that hard to wear, right?

These are my 3rd and 4th tops made from Simplicity 8386. I think that might be a record for me! I even have one more cut out and another planned. They are just so easy to make, so flattering, and with only 2 pattern pieces and so little fabric, they qualify as stash-busters as well.

off_the_shoulder_knit_tops_12I made the floral one first. The fabric is a stretchy cotton/lycra jersey from Jumping June Textiles. It’s a 4-way stretch with 8% lycra so there was no question about it holding its shape. I cut the top exactly to the pattern, and while wearable, it’s a little short for my taste. No regrets, though. It’s still good with layers and high-waisted styles.

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I’m still learning how to do a good coverstitch. This one has teal thread in the needles and beige wooly nylon underneath.

Making the top was very easy. Most of it was sewn with a 3-thread overlock on the serger. There is a casing for elastic around the top. I did the hems with my serger‘s coverstitch function. Once again, I used Dritz Elastic Threaders for pushing the elastic through the casing. I can’t believe how agonizing that process used to be when these cheap little gems were there all along! For the coverstitch, I used plain Maxi-Lock serger thread in the needles and Maxi-Lock stretch thread underneath. So far, this seems to work well. I put it through a machine wash and (low heat) dryer cycle and didn’t notice any shrinkage.

Now that I knew I liked the pattern, I took the time to lengthen the waist. That extra 1.25 inches by itself is enough to make the length much more versatile. That’s a good thing, because I forgot to add to the bottom like I intended.

The striped one is sewn the same way as the first. Because it is made with a less elastic 2-way stretch jersey, it feels much lighter. It was one of those remnant table finds, so I’m not sure what it is made of. The main thing is that the stretch matches the guidelines on the pattern envelope.

This would be a great pattern for a beginner who is ready to learn about knits.

After wearing them a few times, I can say that they do stay up. They don’t restrict movement…  much. If you reach up over your head, you will need to re-adjust. Otherwise, a good cute summer top.

Next time – a little home dec!

Happy Sewing!

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Click here for examples of Simplicity 8386 View A.

I reviewed this pattern on PatternReview.com. Click here to see my review.

Fashion

Vogue V8792 Bias Tee Shirt 3 Ways

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I made Views A and B (Short Length)

I had a lot of fun last week putting together some cute lightweight tee shirts. Vogue V8792 has been on my to-sew list for a while. I initially chose it because I liked the interesting way the stripes were positioned on the top in the cover photo. Did I mention I love stripes? But when I started looking at the details, I was really intrigued by the short sleeve views (A, B, C). The long and the short sleeve shirts are completely different, not just the same shirt with options. The long sleeve versions are fitted and have set-in sleeves. The short sleeve ones are loose fitting and made from only 3 pieces: front, back and neckband. The front and back are cut on the bias and attach together like a puzzle. That sounded like a lot more fun!

My first version used a lightweight gray rib knit with a subtle heathered stripe. I thought the stripe would create an interesting effect where the two bias pieces met. It went together quickly on the serger – cutting it out took about the same amount of time as sewing. I was surprised that I didn’t see the effect I was expecting though. It turns out that I somehow ignored the layout directions and cut the front and back pieces on grain instead of on bias. Oops. The shirt is still nice, still wearable, but a little disappointing.

Since it was so easy to make, I thought I would give it another try and see if I would like it better if I followed the instructions! I made two more, both using a mix of different colors.

The second tee used up a pretty mottled green remnant that was about 1/4 yard long and full width. I paired it with a sheer cream color knit that was a little too transparent to use on the front. I made the neckband a little wider than the pattern called for, but otherwise this one followed the pattern instructions. The difference is subtle when there is no obvious stripe, but I think the shirt may drape a little better than the gray one.

The third tee gave me an opportunity to try a color combination I love: sky blue and white. There isn’t a lot to add about this one, but isn’t it cute?

Summer, here I come!

Happy sewing!

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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!