Category Archives: Tutorials

Make Your Own Evergreen Christmas Wreath

Last year I shared with you how my mother-in-law taught me how to make an evergreen wreath.  This year we gathered with the whole family (my brother-in-law and sister-in-law, too!) to make them again.  We started our outing at our land to gather the evergreen boughs, and after a long (and somewhat wet!) hike we finally found the perfect branches.  After lunch we had a wonderful time creating our wreaths, and then going through the bags of flowers and pinecones that my mother-in-law has kept for just this purpose in order to decorate them.

Creating an evergreen wreath is super easy and fun!  Here’s how:

1.  Gather a bucket of fresh evergreen boughs.  We found fir trees to work best for this because their needles lie flat and aren’t prickly.  I think other branches would work, but you might want to wear gloves to keep from getting poked by the needles.

 

2.  Find or make a wire wreath frame.  You could make one out of a wire coat hanger, and the bonus is you will already have a hook for hanging!  You will also need some florist wire.

3.  Cut your boughs into lengths about as long as your hand.

4.  Gather these “hands” into a group of three or four (depending on how full your boughs are).

5.  Secure your wire to the wreath frame.  Wire the greens onto the front of your wreath frame by wrapping the wire around the wreath and greenery several times.

6.  Gather another group of “hands” and wire them to the back of your wreath frame, a small distance away from the group you just wired to the front.

7.  Continue to wire groups of branches alternately to the front and back until your whole wreath is covered.

8.  Twist the end of the wire to secure, and cut it off.  If you need a hanger, twist the wire into a hanging loop before cutting.

9.  You now have a beautiful evergreen wreath!  If the shape is a little wild, trim the boughs until you are happy with it.

10.  Decorate as you wish!  When I purchased wreaths in years past I only ever decorated them with a long velvet bow that I reused year after year.  I can’t resist my mother-in-law’s collection of decorations though, and love the way the flowers and pinecones look on the greenery.  These are attached with a glue gun, and they pull easily off the wreath at the end of the season to reuse next year.

Happy wreath making!

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How to Make Your Own Eco-Friendly Envelopes

With Christmas on its way, and inspired by Joy to the Earth, I thought it might be a good time to share a tutorial for making earth-friendly envelopes.

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I have created my own envelopes out of old calendar pages since a friend first sent me a letter in one when I was away at university (thank you Laurie!)  Many years later (never mind how many!), I still have that original envelope and continue to use it as a pattern when making my own.  I have also found an easy way to make these envelopes in any size, without a pattern,  to suit perfectly a handmade card or letter.  I often use old calendar pages, but have also made them from magazine pages, old maps, and engineering drawings my hubby brings home from the office.  You could also use old sheet music or pages from books headed to the recycle bin.

Materials

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You will need: paper (see above for ideas), a marker or pen, scissors, and a glue stick (or tape, although I personally prefer glue.)

 

Two Ways to Make a Pattern

If you aren’t lucky enough to have a friend send you an eco-envelope that you can take apart and use as a pattern, there are two ways to make your own.

1. Use an existing envelope

Find an envelope in your stash or recycle bin that is the right size and carefully open it up.  You now have an envelope pattern!  (as a side note, some envelopes are designed in such a way that they won’t fit on smaller papers, such as a magazine page.  If this is the case with yours, try option 2.)

2.  Create one from scratch (it’s easier than it sounds!)

  • Place your card or letter on the piece of paper you want to to turn into an envelope.

 

  • Fold up the bottom to cover the card.

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  • Fold in the sides (leave a bit of wiggle room

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  • Unfold the sides and fold down the top

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  • Unfold the paper.  You will notice that the folds have created rectangles in each corner.  Cut out these rectangles.

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  • For a neater looking envelope, round the edges.

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Create Your Envelopes

Trace your pattern onto the back of the paper you want to use and cut it out.  You might want to think about the design and where it will be on the envelope when you do this.  For this paper, I wanted the candles to be upright on the front.

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Put glue on the sides of the envelope.

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Fold up the bottom and stick it to the glue.  (If you don’t have glue, you could also tape your envelope together.)

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That’s it!  You’re now ready to mail!

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Mailing Tips

Since the envelope flaps are not self-sticking, you can close them with tape, stickers, or with a glue stick.

Use labels for the addresses.  I have a number of blank ones I use for this purpose, but I have also used a piece of scrap paper glued or taped to the front.

Happy mailing!

Pretty Fabric Necklace Organizer

I love necklaces.  I could live without earrings, I usually forget to wear the rings I own, and I have yet to find a bracelet that sits nicely on my small wrists, but an outfit seems incomplete without a necklace.

And I own many of them.

For the longest time they were folded, rolled, and stacked several necklaces deep in one of four little jewellery boxes that I own.  It kept them out of sight, but often made it impossible to grab the right one in a hurry.  What I really needed was a hanging necklace organizer.

And so I made myself one.  Gathering inspiration from here, here and here, I headed to the thrift store and found a framed print that would work perfectly.

I removed the glass and since the print was glued to sturdy cardboard, decided to reuse it as the backing for the organizer.

I covered the entire thing in Mod Podge and stuck down the fabric.

I then folded in the corners, using a little of the Mod Podge to make them stick, and then folded down the sides over the back, to keep the fabric in place.

 

After putting it back into the frame, I was ready to add hangers.

To create the hangers, I hot-glued small plain buttons to the surface, and then covered them with larger, prettier, buttons from my stash.  (Due to the shallowness of the frame, I couldn’t use nails or push pins without having them poke too far through, but I think the buttons were a fun solution!)

Then I hung it on the wall and filled it with necklaces!  Isn’t it pretty?

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Tutorial: How to Recover your Ironing board

Everyone deserves a stylish ironing board.  Until two weeks ago I was still using the same cover my ironing board came with 6 years ago and it was in desperate need of a makeover.  I grabbed some of my most favourite fabric and got to work.  It’s actually a fairly easy project with a big pay-off: no more ugly ironing board!

Do you want to give your ironing board a facelift too?  Here’s how to do it.

Materials:

  • a piece of cotton fabric a few inches longer and wider than your ironing board. (I used quilting weight, although I am sure a heavier weight would be even better.)
  • Your old ironing board cover.

1.  Remove the old cover from your ironing board.

2.  Pull out the cord from the old cover.  You are going to reuse it in the new one.

3.  Use your old cover as a pattern for cutting the new one.  Lay it on the fabric, and then draw around it a 3/4 of an inch away from the edges.  You can now bid a fond farewell to your old cover!

4.  Cut out your fabric along the line you just drew.  (Check out how brown that cover is!  I don’t think I’ll be repurposing this fabric….)

5.  Fold over the edges of your new cover 1/4 inch and press. (Ha, ha!  This is the point when you will realize that you don’t have an ironing board to iron on at the moment.  After the initial “oh…..right….” moment,I covered mine with a towel and motored on.)  Then fold them over again another 3/8″.  Press and pin.

6.  Allow the fabric to buckle around the curves.  No one will know.

7.  Sew around the whole thing, close to the edge, to make a casing for the cord.  Leave an opening about an inch wide on the straight end so you will be able to feed the cord into the casing.  Backstitch on both sides.

8.  Tie one end of the cord to a safety-pin, and use the pin to move the cord through the casing.  Pull the threads so they are even.

9.  Prepare your board for its new cover.  If you need new padding, use the old as a pattern to cut yourself some new.  The photo below is of the original, but I cut myself a few layers of cotton quilt batting to use instead.

10.  Now for the fun part.  I found that this took two people, but if you are more talented (or patient?) than myself you might be able to handle it on your own.  Pull the cords to slightly gather the cover and slip it over the board and batting.  Pull on the cords again to tighten it over the board and use your fingers to ease the gathers around the sides until the cover is on tight.  Tie off the cord.

11.  Stand back and admire your handiwork!

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Patch Pocket Tutorials

Welcome to all of you who have taken on the Summer of No Pants challenge!  I am really excited to share some patch pocket tutorials with you today.  I love patch pockets because they are easy to make, adaptable to many styles, and you can add them to anything (even clothes you didn’t sew yourself!)  So let’s get sewing!

Basic Patch Pocket

There are several ways to make a patch pocket, this way is super-easy and results in a nice strong pocket without any raw edges to worry about.

Decide what size you would like your pocket to be, and then add 1/2″ inch to each side.  For example, if you want a pocket that is 4 x 5 , cut two squares that are 4.5 x 5.5.  You will need 2 squares per pocket.   If you have stripes or plaids you might want to spend some time cutting pieces that line up with the plaids or stripes on your skirt.

If you aren’t sure what size you want your pockets to be, cut out some paper squares in the size you think you want, lay it on the skirt and see what you think.  When you find the size that looks good, add 1/2″ and you’re ready to go!

Place your squares right-sides together, and sew around all edges with 1/4″ seam, leaving about 3 inches open for turning.

Clip the corners, turn the pocket right-side out and press.  (If you want to be fancy you could slip-stitch the opening closed at this point but I usually don’t bother)

Top-stitch across the top of the pocket.

Pin your pocket in place on the garment.

Sew around the sides and bottom, close to the edges.  Make sure the opening you left for turning gets sewn closed at this point.

Tip:  For pockets that don’t sag when they are full, start and finish sewing a little bit across the top on each side. 

Done!  That was easy, right? 

But what if you want something with a little more style to it?

Dress it up!

Before you sew the pocket to your garment it’s really easy to dress it up with ribbon, a contrasting fabric piece, buttons, ric rac, or oven some embroidery.

Make a Shapely Pocket

Who says pockets have to be squares or rectangles?  Try cutting your pocket in circles or half-circles, triangles, flowers, stars, hearts, you’re limited only by your imagination!

Bias-Binding Trim

Sometimes a little bias binding on the top of a pocket dresses it up nicely.

To make this kind of pocket, follow the directions for the basic patch pocket, but when sewing your fabric pieces together, leave the top open.

Clip corners or curves, turn right-side out and press.

Now take a piece of bias binding, open it up, and pin it to the top of the pocket, right-sides facing and matching the edges.  (Bias binding usually has one side that is shorter than the other.  Pin the short side to the pocket.)  The binding should hang over the sides about 1/2″

Sew the binding to the pocket just to the side (closer to the edge) of the first fold-line.

Press the binding towards the top of the pocket, and then fold it over to the other side to encase the top of the pocket and press again.

Top-stitch along the bottom of the binding, being sure to catch the back of the binding in the stitches.

Fold the ends of the binding to the back of the pocket and pin it to your garment.

Stitch around the pocket as described for the basic patch pocket.

You now have a fancy bias-trimmed pocket!

Create Flapped Pockets

Start with patch pockets already sewn to your garment. 

Decide how big you want your flaps to be.  This is a good time to play around with paper models until it looks right.

Once you have the right size, add 1/4″ seam allowance to all sides to create your pattern.

Cut two of these out of your fabric, and one out of interfacing for each pocket.

Apply the interfacing to one of the two pieces for each pocket. 

With right-sides facing, sew around all sides, leaving a hole for turning.

Clip curves and corners, turn right-side out and press.  (Sounds familiar, right?)

Find the centre of the flap and put in a button-hole.

Pin the flap into place on your garment and stitch across the top.

Sew a button to the pocket.

That’s it!  (Isn’t this fun?)

And one more….

The Gathered Pocket

This pocket has a unique look, and also provides a little extra room for pocket treasures.

Start with a paper pattern of  the size of pocket you want to create.

Trace the bottom onto another piece of paper, and then mark out a top that is 1.5x larger than what you want your finished top to be.  (You could go bigger than this if you want even more gathers in your pocket, but this was a good size for me.)

Connect the top line to the bottom line. (I used curved edges for this semi-circle, you would use straight lines for a square.)  I folded it along the centre-line to do this so I would have two sides exactly the same.

Add 1/4 inch seam allowance to the bottom and sides.   Cut out your pattern and use it to cut 2 pieces of fabric (per pocket.)

With right-sides together sew along the bottom and sides, leaving the top open.  Turn and press.

Set your machine on a long stitch and stitch two rows of stitching across the top – one at 1/4″ and one at 1/8″.

Pull the bottom threads to gather the top to the desired width.

Finish with bias tape as described for the bias-taped pocket.

Voila!  A gathered pocket!

So there!  Absolutely no excuses for not having pockets on your skirts and dresses (or aprons, or pants, or bags, or anything else you’re making!)    Once you’ve mastered the patch pocket there are so many others you could try (with zippers and pleats and welts, oh my!  Maybe a future blog post?)

Happy Sewing!

Pillow Cube Tutorial

I designed this pillow cube months ago when I was looking for something that would act as a design element, but also be functional for extra seating or to put up your feet at the end of a long day.   (Not that I ever sit still long enough to put my feet up, but I have heard that it can be enjoyable!)

They are a quick and easy project and the end result is soft, squishy and fun!  (What more do you want from a pillow?) 

Want to make your own?  Just click on this handy dandy tutorial and you’re on your way!

The Fabulous Pillow Cube Tutorial

If you make a pillow, please let me know!  I would love to see it!   Enjoy!

Mens Shirt Transformation

After my sewing experiment yesterday turned out so well, I was really excited about trying to transform another of Hubby’s old shirts.   He can’t wear them anymore because the collars have started to fray, but some of them are just such nice fabric that I can’t bear to throw them away.  And the pile of shirts in my sewing room just keeps on growing…..

For this project I picked out this little Pierre Cardin number (I should mention here that ever since we started buying all  of our clothes second-hand our closet has seen a wealth of designer labels it never knew before…)

Then I cut off the offending collar and the sleeves.

I wanted a prettier neckline so I cut one side in a nice v-neck kind of shape.

Then I folded the shirt in half and cut the other side to match.

Then I tried it on and realized the shoulders were way too wide, the armholes way too deep and the whole thing way too big.  So I kind of eye-balled it (take 3 finger widths off here, 4 finger widths off there…)  I turned it inside out and cut one side into the shape I wanted, then folded it over and cut the other side to match.  This was a much more flattering shape.

From there I sewed the side seams, using flat-felled seams to keep it neat.  Then I grabbed some seam binding from my grandmother’s stash and covered the armholes and neckline.  Then, ta-da!  A new nightshirt!

I love it!  It is a teensy bit shorter than I would like so I am going to make a pair of shorts to wear with it.   I wonder what Pierre would think of his shirt now?

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Re-usable Grocery Bag Tutorials

When Sew, Mama, Sew! launched their re-useable bag sew-off they included a number of links to tutorials.  When I set out to make mine, I, of course, had to make one of each, even though it would have been so much easier and faster to choose one and put them together in an assembly line (I am trying to learn to accept this “let’s find the hardest way possible and take that route” part of my personality….)

Anyway, I tried all three tutorials with the plan of sticking with the one I liked the best.  Although they were all great, each one had something about it that I wanted to change.  So, in the end, I kind of combined them all together into one hybrid bag that will now be my standard fabric bag pattern.  Here’s the line-up:

Green Bag Lady Bag

This bag was super-quick and super-easy.  There was even a how-to video to watch, although I just used the printable directions.  If you wanted to make a whole bunch of bags in a really short period of time, this would be the one to make.  The only problem with this one for me was that the ends were all left unfinished.  With the non-fraying fabric I chose when making this one, it’s not really an issue.  But if I wanted to make it out of a fabric prone to fraying (like the decorator fabric I used for two of my other bags) I would have had to do something about it.  There are easy ways to fix this, but it would increase the time it would take to make the bag, and it would make it look a lot like:

A Morsbags bag

This bag took a little more time than the Green Bag Lady’s but with a more polished result.  French seams took care of the exposed seam issue and I love the look of all the extra stitching.  My only problem with this bag is that there is no bottom.  The straight sides are perfect for carrying all sorts of things, and I would happily use this bag for everything except for groceries, but I really like the flat bottom for grocery bags.    There is a very quick fix to this problem, but then the bag would be almost exactly like…

Irene’s Classic Tote

This tutorial is very similar to the one above, but with the addition of a pocket on the front (which I left off mine) and the handles are done a little differently.  This was definitely my favourite handle and my favourite way to do the top seams (it’s the same process as the Morsebag but done after sewing the side seams which I think makes it look a lot neater.)    I am really just being picky when I say I have a problem with this bag, but I don’t like the look of the triangle seams on the inside of the bag.  I know, I know, no-one is going to be looking at the bottom of the bag, but I know they are there and for some odd reason it bothers me.

All 3 are great bags, and I could be happy with any of them.  In fact a lot of the bags I use on a daily basis have unfinished seams and triangles on the inside and I never noticed or cared, but for some reason when I am sewing it myself I notice every little detail (see “hardest possible way” comment, above).     But since I am terribly particular (and trying to love myself anyway), this is the “hybrid” bag I came up with.

Start with a square of fabric 18 – 20 inches depending on the size you want your fabric, or the width of the fabric scrap you are trying to use up.

Cut 2.5 inch squares out of the bottom.  (This is from the Green Bag Lady).

Sew French Seams on the sides and bottom.  (From Morsebags and Classic Tote)

Back to the Green Bag Lady.  Squish the bottom seams together and sew first wrong sides together:

Then right sides together:

To make a nice French Seam on the bottom.

Complete the top and handles according to the Classic Tote.

Ta-da!!  From this:

To this:

So now I have 5 bags ready to go, a new go-to tote pattern, and a better understanding of my all-too-picky-and-perfectionistic self!  Not bad for a day’s work! :)   Hey…if you’re out there and still using plastic bags – stop!  Grab some fabric and a sewing machine (or a sewing friend) and whip up a few bags, even a beginner could make these in less than an hour.  Call it a Christmas present for the planet! :)

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Baby Shower Sewing & Tutorial

DSC01388Today when I woke up I decided that, no matter what else needed to be done, I was going to sew today!  Last week I spent some time cutting my scraps of flannel into two of my favourite scrap-busters: baby bibs and flannel wash cloths.  The fruits of my labour today can be seen in the picture to your left (hmmm…it really doesn’t look like much for a day’s work – except that I did get sidetracked by laundry, a few internet searches, and cooking and cleaning up a big dinner….).  Not having babies of my own, I like to keep these on hand for quick baby shower gifts (usually accompanying a handmade quilt, toy, book or outfit).  It was a good time to get these done because I have two baby showers coming up in November and the second is a very special one.  Every year the ladies in my small group (about 10 woman from my church who gather together once a week to learn, talk, pray and support each other)  host a baby shower for mothers in need.  Leading up to the big day we collect as many baby items as possible (like diapers, clothes, books, small toys,  as well as a few things for the Moms too!) and then on the big night (Nov. 16 this year) we gather together and package everything into gift bags.  The bags are then distributed to families in our area through Early Intervention.  It’s fun for us and a great help to Moms in our community who are struggling to support their families.   I still have quite a few things I want to make – but today was a good start!  And…while I was making all of these things, I thought I would put together a tutorial for making baby wash cloths.  It’s actually very simple (a beginner could definitely make these and if you have been sewing a while you probably don’t need to read this tutorial) and I have had good reviews from the moms I have made these for so far.  It is also a great way to use up smaller pieces of cotton flannelette.

Cotton Wash Cloth Tutorial

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Materials:  Two 8-inch squares of cotton flannel, thread, sewing machine

 

 

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Place the squares right-sides together and sew along the edges with a 1/4 inch seam.  Leave about 2 – 3 inches along one side un-sewn for turning.  (Hint for new sewers: When you are sewing and reach a corner, leave the needle down, raise the presser foot, and pivot the fabric into position for sewing the next side.  Lower the presser foot and continue sewing.)

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Clip the corners close to the stitching.    Turn right-side out and press, turning the raw edges under on the un-stitched section.

 

 

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Top-stitch (sew close to the edge) around all 4 sides.    That’s it!  Your wash cloth is finished.

 

 

DSC00793Tie them up with a pretty bow for gift-giving!

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Laptop Bag – and Tutorial!

It’s 4:30 am and I can’t sleep.  Bad for me, but good for you.  Why?  Because I have finished my first-ever tutorial!  I have had the pleasure of making many things from the tutorials which very creative people have posted for free on their blogs, and after taking advantage of so many I thought it would only be fair to add my own.  Now, I usually work from patterns, but last year I wanted to make my own laptop bag and couldn’t find anything I liked.  So, I came up with this:

Bags 001It has a big pocket in front to hold my cord and accessories, and then the main pocket comfortably fits the laptop.  I got a lot of nice comments on it on Facebook and my sister-in-law mention that she might like me to make her one.  Well, a few months passed and we never really discussed it but as her birthday was coming up can you guess what I made her?  (I’m sure you can).  Here it is:

DSC01058Don’t you just love this Amy Butler fabric?  I made a few changes when I made this bag including a stronger fabric for the handle, and a contrasting band on the front flap.  I am happy to report that she loved it!  And now…. you can make your own bag to love with this Laptop Bag Tutorial.

It is my very first tutorial and I tried my hardest to make it as clear as possible, but I don’t expect it to be perfect so if anything doesn’t make sense, please let me know.  And if you do actually use the tutorial to make yourself a bag I’d love to know about it!  Happy sewing!

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