Recently in Sewing Category

Spring/Summer Blanket and Tote

April 21, 2014


This is the season of beach trips, picnics and lazy days outside. Two things are needed to fully enjoy these relaxing activities: a blanket for lounging and a tote to carry it. With the Spring Blanket and Tote you have two-in-one. The blanket is quilted with batting for extra comfort and features Riley Blake fabric for style. Once folded the blanket becomes a tote that can carry beach towels, sunscreen, a Frisbee or light snacks. Because it is just a folded tote it cannot carry heavy items like food (you would carry these in a cooler anyway) but it can carry plenty of light items needed for a lazy day. It folds small and fits easily in your trunk or stroller.

To make your own you will need:

2 yds of double sided pre-quilted fabric (Riley Blake Double Sided Pre-quilted fabric)

Approx. 6 yds of 2'' wide bias trim (I cut mine from Moda's Quilting Fabric)

Approx. 2.5 yds of 2'' wide cotton fabric cut on the straight grain for use as ties (Cut into 4 ties)

Approx 2.5 yds of 4'' wide cotton fabric cut on the straight grain for use as straps (Cut into 4 strapes)

Square up your quilted fabric and apply the bias trim all the way around and stitch in place.


To assemble your ties, fold and press each in half along the length. Stitch up the length using a ¼'' seam allowance and turn. Fold in one end and top stitch. Repeat for the remaining ties.


To assemble the straps, fold and press each in half along the length. Open and fold each long end towards the center crease and press. Fold again on the length, keeping the raw edges tucked in. Stitch the strap along the length to close the open side. Double fold one short end and topstitch to secure. Repeat for remaining straps.


Next, Fold the blanket in half lengthwise and mark the center along the top with a pin on both folded halves. Measure out approx. 5'' from both sides of the center and pin a strap in place one each side of center and stitch with 2 lines of topstitching to secure. Repeat for the remaining straps.


With the blanket folded in half lengthwise, fold the two short side toward the center, meeting equally in the middle. Pin each tie about 4'' down from the top or bottom and 1'' in from the center and stitch in place.

Please enjoy your blanket at every available opportunity. They make great bridal gifts, great for parents and anyone who needs a nice place to sit to enjoy this wonderful weather. tote6.jpg

The Carpet Bagger

April 20, 2014


The latest entry in our bag series is a straight-up Mary Poppins homage. I have always been so delighted and enthralled with her magical bag. Who wouldn't want a bag that can cart around plants, tape measures and full-size coat racks? OK, my moderately-firm grip on reality means that I know I can't actually have a bag that does all that, but I CAN make a bag to take some Mary Poppins style out into the world when I have to tear myself away from the sewing room and watching Bert and the rest of the chimney sweeps dance to "Step In Time" for the 3,000th time.

While I call this project a carpet bag, it's not made using carpet scraps, but jacquard home dec fabric. I also used a tubular bag frame (I found mine on etsy), fusible interfacing, a bit of satin for the lining, and black leather tote handles. The amounts of fabric you'll need will vary depending on the size of bag frame you use -- mine is an extra large frame and required a little less than a yard each of my main fabric and lining.

To determine the size of my fabric cuts, I first measured around the edge of my frame.


 It's 27.5 inches from hinge to hinge, so by adding 1/2 inch on either end for seam allowance, I knew that my cuts would have to be 28.5 inches wide. I also wanted the bag to be between 13 and 14 inches high, so I started with 14 inches, then added 7 inches to accomodate for the section that needed to foold under to create the bottom and a 1 1/4-inch deep fold at the top to create a casing. So my final cut need was:

28.5 by 21 inches.

Before cutting that size though, I started with bigger cuts (roughly 31 by 25 inches) and applied my fusible interfacing to the back side of the fabric. The fusing can cause a good bit of shrinking with some fabrics, so it's best to cut after this step. I lost 2-3 inches in each direction, for example.

Once my pieces were fused and cut to size, I cut the same size in my lining fabric and flat-lined the interfaced pieces. I first basted the layers together with a long machine stitch, then I used my serger to finish all the edges. In the photo below, you can see one of the pieces with just the basting in place, and the piece under it is being edge-finished.


Once all your edges are finished, put the pieces right sides together and stitch along the sides using a 1/2-inch seam allowance. Leave several inches unstitched at the top of each side -- this will form the casing.

After the sides are stitched, press them open and stitch down the seam allowance on each side of the seam, including the unstitched section at the top of each side. This gives the bag sides a little extra stability, and tucks in the ends in so when you stitch your casing, they'll be squared away.


Stitch a short, wide zig-zag at the base of the V where your side seams are open. This is an area that will take stress when the bag is complete.


Next, fold the top edge down 1 1/4 inches and stitch to create the casing on the front and the back. (Your casing should be open at the sides.) I stitched again about 1/16 of an inch away from the initial stitching to make sure it's secure.


Handle time! I measured out the placement of my handles, then used masking tape to hold them in place so I could take a look at placement. I left the tape in place while I hand-stitched the handles, removing it as I went. 


Here are the handles all stitched down:


Next I closed up the bottom seam (1/2 inch seam allowance again), then folded it as shown below to create a rectangular bottom. Using the width of the open frame as a guide, I marked the folded edges of the fabric to create a stitch line of the same width. I did a double row of stitching here for insurance as well.


The bag frame has to be taken apart to slide the casings on. There are tiny screws holding it together, so when you unscrew them, have something to put them in! The frame pops off of the hinge ends like this:


OK, getting both sides onto the frame involved some hilarious wiggling and dance moves on my part. I got some derisive looks from the cats. 

But once the frame was back together with the bag casings in place, I replaced the screws and turned it right side out. And huzzah! 

Here's what the frame looks like reassembled, with the casings pulled back so you can see the screws:


And here's how the hinge nestles between the two casings when the fabric relaxes into place:


I'm now ready to load all manner of things into my bag, which only took a few hours to assemble. I may add some strabs to fasten it close if I can decide on buckles. I really like the idea of carting my daily needs around in an old-school bag like this. I may also cover a rectangle of heavy cardboard to keep the bottom squared while I'm toting it around. But for now I'm going to hum "Spoonful of Sugar" and spin around the house. 



Oscar style recreated

April 18, 2014


Awards Season is one of my highlights of the year. I crave the inspiration leading up to it and after I spend hours dreaming of the dresses and details that I loved. Incorporating those details in way that are wearable in a more low-key life we non-celebrities live is one of my weekend hobbies. One dress I really adored was the Gucci navy dress worn by Amy Adams to the 2014 Oscars. While I am immediately attracted to any navy garment like moth to a flame I was more taken with the collar detail on the top of her strapless column dress. It was so simple and so striking. I had to recreate it. I picked the pattern McCall's 4440 but any strapless dress would work. The collar is shaped like an over-sized Peter Pan collar. To make the collar I stitched up the top of the dress according to the pattern instructions  but did not yet attach the lining to the bodice. Then I measured the width of the bodice at the top. My size 10 (with ½'' seam allowance because I am between a 10 & 12) measured 38''. I divided that in two since I intended to have the collar be two pieces to accommodate the back zipper. I drew a rectangle 19'' wide (half of 38'') by 6'' high. I then marked the center of the rectangle. One half is the front and one half is the back. The front will be curved like a Peter Pan collar and the back will remain unchanged. Next, I used my french curve to create a gently sloping curve that ended ½'' above the bottom of the rectangle (the ½'' is seam allowance so if you use 5/8'' than add that to your rectangle). If you do not have a french curve you can use a collection of different size upside down bowls and rulers. Be sure your rectangle is sized to fit you and your dress. I cut four pieces (two for each side of the collar) and placed them right sides together and stitched them leaving the bottom open. The curve was notched and so was the corner and the remaining seam allowance was trimmed to 1/4''. I turned the collar pieces right side out and pressed.oscar13.jpgoscar12.jpgoscar10.jpgoscar11.jpgoscar9.jpg

I attached the collar by pinning it to the top of the bodice matching raw edges. Start pinning the collar ½'' from the edge of the bodice (to accommodate the zipper) and leave 1'' at the center and starting pinning the second collar piece. Baste the collar pieces in place and continue assembling your dress.



I used a gorgeous stretch cotton sateen which was amazing to work with and created a beautiful dress. The slight stretch helps the dress hug my curves while still allowing for eating and breathing. The slight sheen was the perfect complement to this more casual approach to a stunning gown. 

Home Décor Tips and Tricks: Valance

April 16, 2014

valance swag3.jpgvalance swag2.jpg

Recently my mom asked me to help her create a valance for her bay window. She wanted traditional with just a little drama (drama is otherwise known as trim). Understated but elegant was her description. We found an out of print valance pattern on eBay and got to work. First, we picked out fabric. Mom wanted a tonal damask pattern in a satin or satin-like look in gold. We found this lightly patterned fabric a year or so back from a designer lot on (Helpful tip: If you are looking for a jacquard woven damask search for "Damask" then narrow down your search by selecting "Home Décor" and then "Jacquard" on the left side bar). Here is a similar fabric from Duralee.  

valance swag5.jpg

The one drawback from the beautiful fabric was because it was a poly satin it had much more drape than we wanted and needed for our pattern. Our pattern was structured with any drape from the swags given with careful shaping not from the fall of the fabric. We wanted each swag to be precise so we decided to add interfacing. Mom and I chose a medium weight sew-in interfacing because the fabric was a medium (almost apparel weight) and needed just a little bit of structure. Too much would have made the shaping of the swags impossible and stiff. I prefer to match my interfacing to the weight of my fabric. We also decided on sew-in because fusible can sometimes trap bubbles between the fabric and the interfacing and also can distort the fabric as it is being heated and pressed into place. Sew-in adds the structure we needed by preserves the shape of the pattern with no distortion and allows the fabric to be more easily manipulated.

valance swag6.jpgvalance swag1.jpg

The final piece of the puzzle was the batten (this is the board that is used to attach the valance to the wall). Some valances can use a simple curtain rod to hang but most call for a batten. However, when you go and ask for a batten at a home improvement store, most sales people will look at you like you spoke a foreign language and explaining what you plan to use it for and its general purpose will not help your case. It is easier to ask in the lumber section for a 1" by 3" board. While this is wider than most battens it is close enough and will get the job done. We used three 1" by 3"s and some L-brackets to attach the valance to the wall. The valance is stapled to the top of the battens. Cutting your batten into multiple pieces will allow you to shape your valance to your window shape if you have an odd configuration like a bay window or two or more windows on a corner. 

Check back for my next Home Dec project: a grand, padded upholstered great room valance. Check our instagram feed for progress photos. 

valance swag4.jpg

The Darling Duffle

April 13, 2014


I remember with great clarity the moment I fell in love with idea of making my own bags. I was probably 9 or 10, and I was flipping through one of my mother's sewing magazines. And I discovered a how-to article for making a pair of plush Christmas koalas -- brother and sister each with a full sew of adorable clothes. But the thing that grabbed my attention was the part of the sewing craft that showed how to make tiny duffel bags for each of the bears to carry their wardrobes and teddy bears in. I must have gazed at the tutorial for hours. I remember thinking that if I could learn to make bags for playthings, I could make bags for ME. And an obsession was born.

To this day, I love all manner of duffle bags, and I often think back to that magazine -- I WISH I knew what it was, but the publication details exited my brain long ago.

So, for today's blog post, I'm sharing a how-to for making a small-sized bag that would work great for a quick getaway. 

For this project, I used:

- 1.5 yards of double-sided quilted fabric

- 2 22-inch zippers

- 2 7-inch zippers

- 2.5 yards of ribbon (Mine was 7/8-inch wide, but you have some leeway with the width.)

- 2 D-rings to match the width of your ribbon

- 1.5 yards of webbing -- the width is up to you!

- 1 package of piping

Instead of cutting this duffle with round ends, it has elongated egg-shaped ends. It's the only pattern piece you have to sketch out, but I have it gridded out below. The rest is all rectangle cuts:

- 1 piece 19 x 7.25 inches -- this will be the bottom of the bag.

- 2 pieces 19 x 14.25 inches -- these will be the sides of the bag.

- 1 piece 19 x 10 inches -- this will be the front pocket of the bag.

- 2 end pieces -- shown below.

- 2 shortened side pieces -- fold the side piece as shown to cut end pocket pieces.

The seam allowance for all seams is 1/2 inch.


Once you have all your pieces cut, edge-finish the top edge of the rectangular pocket piece and the two rounded end pockets. 

Then, stitch each of the rounded end pocket pieces to the 7-inch zippers, right-sides together. Flip your zipper so it and the fabric are both right side up with the seam allowance pressed down towards the quilted fabric, and top stitch about a quarter-inch from the zipper teeth. Do the same thing with your long side picket and one of the 22-inch zippers.


Set the pocket and zipper for each end piece on top of the full end piece so the curved edges all line up, and baste into place along top zipper tape and around all edges.

Then, cut 2 6.5-inch pieces of ribbon. Slide a D-ring onto each piece of ribbon, then fold each piece of ribbon in half. Stitch close to the folded edge and the D-ring, then center each ribbon and D-ring assembly on an end piece and stitch down perpendicular to the zipper. (Don't fret about the raw edges -- they'll get covered uo shortly!)


Align the long front pocket onto one of the side pieces the same way you did for the end pockets and baste into place. 

Cut two pieces of webbing about 21 inches long. (You can adjust the length based on your handle length preference.) I like to lightly singe the ends of the webbing to prevent fraying, but you can also apply Fray-check if you prefer.

Stitch the ends of one handle into place just above the zipper, 6 inches in from each side, first stitching a rectangle and then stitching an X inside it to firmly secure the handle ends.

On the back side of your bag, measure down 4 inches and in from each side edge 6 inches and mark for handle placement. Stitch second handle in place just as you did for the front/pocket side.


Stitch ribbon on top running parallel to the zippers, covering the top edge of the zipper tapes and the cut edges of the ribbon and webbing, using a straight stitch along each side of the ribbon. For the back side with no zipper, stitch the ribbon into place about 4 inche down from the top edge, covering the cut edges of the webbing handle.


Time to insert your top zipper! Edge-finish the top edges of your side pieces, then stay-stitch 1/2 inch from the finished edge. Pre-quilted fabric can sometimes get distorted, so be careful not to stretch it as you stay-stitch it.

Fold each side piece along the stay stitching, and top-stitch them onto the zipper, with the folded edge just abutting the zipper teeth. You may wish to run a second line of stitching about 1/8 inch from the first for extra zipper secutiry.


Sew the bottom piece to the two side pieces to create a tube.


Baste piping all around the end pieces, so the basting seam sits about 1/2 inch from the edge.


Once your piping is in place, sew the end pieces to the ends of your tube. I recommend basting it with a long stitch first, checking it out, and then going over your stitching again with a shorter stitch. And don't forget to unzip the zipper before you sew in the second end so you can turn it!

Once you're done, you have a cute little duffle that you can clip a shoulder strap to if you choose. It can easily accomodate several warm-weather outfits, and the front pocket is just the right size for a magazine or two. 



Happy travels!

Product of the Month: Cotton Lawn

April 7, 2014


Cotton Lawn- It just sounds nice; like two bits of summer rolled into one. Cotton Lawn is a lightweight cotton fabric that is slightly translucent (more so with solid colors) and is finer in both hand and drape than quilting cotton. It is mostly commonly found as a shirting but can also be used in layered skirts or as dress linings. Check out our designer cotton lawns and dotted swiss lawn.



Much softer hem curve now

I made a sleeveless tunic style billowy top inspired by some of the tops I have seen at J.crew lately with interesting, bold tiled patterns. I used McCall's 6509 Easy Tunic Pattern. I changed it up a little to accommodate my upcoming beach trip and the sweltering summer heat in Georgia. I eliminated the sleeves opting for a bound edge instead. I also only used the lower neck facing and made my own smaller neck band. I have only used a handful of neck facings that I am pleased with so for the most part I don't use them.  I cut a 2''  wide strip as long as my neck edge plus 1'', folded it in half lengthwise, pressed it. I opened it up and folded the short ends in ½'' towards the inside and pressed the ends. Then I folded it again lengthwise, and pressed it one more time. I serged the long raw edge and then pinned it to the right side of the neck edge and stitched it in place. Since the short ends were only folded I could insert my ties inside and then topstitch the opening closed and secure the ties.


Wrongside view of double folded hemband


Close view of my neckband before ties were added


I also made a 1 ½'' folded hem band instead of the hem facing. I did this because when I tried on my top it was too light and I didn't care for the way it hung (it actually didn't hang) because it was too light. I looked like I was hiding a pregnancy (which I assure you I am NOT). So I wanted to weigh it down just a bit and decided a double folded hem band would do the job and also since it was a straight band it would soften the curved hem line that I didn't care for either. The result is a beautiful shirt that is complimented by the soft, lightweight cotton and tiled mosaic print. I love the fit, drape and style together. The pattern was great but the fabric is even more wonderful. It is just slightly lighter than quilting cotton but it makes all the difference in a tunic pattern like this. I encourage you to branch out in your shirting material and try some cotton lawn. You need to cloth yourself in this; you'll love it. LAWNTOP7.jpg

On Trend: Blue and White Prints

April 6, 2014

LI-blue-and-white.jpgBlue and white prints are a super hot trend right now (as evidenced by the entire Michael Miller collection based around it). Plotting out new dresses for spring and summer, I looked for ways to incorporate the current 'it' color scheme into my plans, and came up with two dresses that use black and white cotton prints, but carry completely different vibes.

The first dress uses Toujours Bleu et Blanc and Simplicity 1418. I like the criss-cross design option for the bodice, but I didn't want to use a contrasting bias tape around the neckline and down the back. I cut bias from my main fabric, and then substituted satin ribbon for bias tape to form the faux lacing detail. 



The fabric gives this dress a slightly prim, old world vibe, like wearing a beautiful china pattern. 

For my second blue and white dress, I wanted to go a little more whimsical, so I settled on a print with an awesome octopus repeat

Because this print is busy but doesn't have the same type of bold motif as the fabric in the first dress, I wanted to keep the lines simple. For this one, I opted for another Simplicity pattern -- 1666. The dress in this pattern is easy to miss on the upper left corner of the envelope -- it's not featured in the main image.

This was a quick project -- it only took a couple of hours. (I will be making several more dresses with this pattern, for sure!) And the result is such a relaxed, unfussy garment, but it still totally delivers on style. 

I am so excited to wear these throughout the summer -- I'm hoping to get invited to a few picnics and garden parties so I can twirl about in my blue and white frocks! 

Blog of the Month: Anna Maria Horner

April 4, 2014

I have long been a fan this this month's blog, Anna Maria Horner, for several reasons. The first is she just does so stinking much in a day, I honestly can't work out the math. Of course, she has a few extra hands around the house to help out: her seven children. She also shares my love of bright colors and creatively employing those colors all across her life. Her house is filled with love and tons of fabric, yarn and thread. I have watched Anna Maria on Martha Stewart, recreated her free projects/tutorials and eagerly bought her fabric. Her blog is like looking through a window in her house but without all the weirdo, creepy vibes and you are welcome to pull up a brightly colored chair with a hand worked needlepoint cushion and enjoy a cup of coffee (though she strikes me as more of a tea gal).

If you are a fan of Anna Maria's fabric collections with Free Spirit you will definitely love her blog which is full of her fabric worked into colorful and creative projects. It will get the ideas rolling through your head. You can also get a sneak peek at her upcoming projects, cute kid pictures (like shooting fish in a barrel) and many how-tos on manipulating fabric. Look for her category cloud on the left sidebar for more specific searches. I love her tutorials because they are well done but also they are just fun. Her tutorials are heavily weighted towards quilting but since I am gaining interest in quilting and most of our customers are interested in quilting than this should be right up you alley.

I also really love Anna Maria's fashion posts. The mixed media that Anna Maria includes plus her color combos and embellishments really make my fingers itch. Her home posts are another favorite. It is like a beautiful family reunion, filled with cookies, song and nice smells (sans fighting and not enough bathrooms). I love the glimpses of kid crafts, hundreds of quilts and cozy blankets, and lots of smiles.


Hot Patterns Free Pattern Download: Aspen Cardigan

March 31, 2014

LI-Aspen-Cardigan.jpgIt's time for a new free pattern! It always feels like Christmas or my birthday when we get a new Hot Pattern download to test out. This time around, it's a cardigan with a ruffled peplum, designed for knits.

(Knits, I will never stop loving you.) 

The big draw here for me: There's no hemming or closure notions needed. The edges all around finish with a band of fabric, and it's designed to hang open (though I'll share some ways I played with closing it up wrap-style). Easy-peasy, perfect for a grab-and-go layer in your wardrobe. 

I made two versions of this, both in very fluid and drapey knits. For the first one, I went the ultra deluxe route and used designer knit -- a LIberty of London Dufour Jersey Knit in Darby Blue. It's like butter. 

The second version uses a slub jersey knit in a ballet pink. It's a much more economical option, but it also has a lovely drape. 

The cutting and construction is all straightforward. To cut a size 14, I used a little less fabric than called for on the pattern -- just a little more than two yards.

During construction, the only place I had to really take my time and exercise patience was getting the band that goes around the lower edge, center front and neck edge in place and lying smoothly. The curved bottom front edges were the trickiest bit. Once I had things figured out on the first go, the second one was a much smoother affair. 

The completed cardigan has a soft swing, and the peplum is not as full as I had expected based on the pattern sketch. This is a good thing -- it gives you more of a figure skim and less of a puffy effect. 

1-Aspen-Cardigan.jpgBut then while I was snapping photos, it occured to me that this garment is far more versatile than I had been thinking initially. I cut a strip off of a bit of knit yardage I had on hand and made a quick sash, overlapping the fronts of the cardigan like a wrap. And it is SO CUTE.


The soft pink, which is so girly and perfect for spring, also got a little belting treatment. 


This time, I used a chiffon scarf wrapped from the back, criss-crossed in the front, and then tied in the back. This is a perfect treatment to create an hourglass figure -- use a dark color for your sash and give yourself an instantly nipped-in waist.

4-Aspen-Cardigan.jpgWearing these soft, drapey fabrics in this fluid cut also made me think that it would be fun to make this up as a cover up for pajamas or even for poolside. Another versatile freebie from Hot Patterns! Huzzah!

Get your copy of this pattern here. Happy stitching!

Easter Basket Tutorial


Materials (for one basket):

½ yd. Fabric A Quilting Cotton

½ yd. Fabric B Quilting Cotton

½ yd. Medium weight interfacing

~ ½ yd. of Extra fabric for trim strips and handle

~ 24'' of ½'' diameter plastic tubing (from home improvement store)

All Seams are 1/2 '' unless otherwise noted


Print and cut out the Easter Basket Patterns Easter Basket Pattern 1 and Easter Basket Pattern 2. Cut out your pattern pieces. Fuse interfacing onto the exterior pieces.

With right sides together, pin 2 sides together along the short sides and stitch. Repeat with the other side. Clip the all around the bottom and pin to the bottom piece. Stitch around the bottom and press seams toward the sides. Topstitch to keep the seam allowance in place and trim seam allowance to ¼''. Turn right side out. Repeat for lining.

Place lining inside the exterior with wrong sides facing, pin in place. Cut a trim strip 3'' wide by ~24'' long. Press in ½'' of each long edge towards the center. Pin trim to inside of the basket and stitch in place. Fold the trim over the top of the basket and pin in place just covering the previous stitching line. Stitch in place, leave a 2-3'' gap to insert the tubing. Insert the tubing and cut to size. Stitch the gap closed.


Cut from fabric a handle piece 3'' wide by 20'' long and cut from interfacing 1''wide by 20'' long. Press fabric handle in half longwise and open and press edges toward center seam. Open handle and fuse interfacing to the center of the handle and fold the handle back up and topstitch down both long edges. Fold under raw short ends by ¾'' and pin to the center of the basket side right below the trim on both sides. Stitch in place with two lines of stitching to secure your handle. 


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