Project: Baskets

As I mentioned in Monday’s post, I like the idea of giving gifts in a reusable bag that I’ve made. I mentioned this to my sister, Jess and she told me that she’s done the same, but has used baskets. Jess shared a basket tutorial from sew4home that I decided to use for both my mom’s Mother’s day gift and a bridal shower gift.

I used the following supplies (2 different baskets):

Pink Basket:

Total Materials Cost: $17.86

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Bridal Basket:

Total Materials Cost: $15.52

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The baskets took about 4 hours to make. Each basket has 4 layers of fabric, interfacing, and batting so assembly took a bit of time. I found the stiff interfacing to be quite difficult to work with. Especially at the seams, it was tough to sew through. I ended up hand turning my machine so that I could go slow. When I didn’t go slowly through this part, the thread broke on me.

Pinning with the stiff interfacing was also a challenge. I ended up weaponizing the basket to hold the pieces in place.

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Look at those amazing pins of stabbing!

I also didn’t really like the look that the stiff interfacing gave to the basket. It made the slantedness of the basket very obvious, in addition to being more rigid than I thought was required for a gift basket. So I decided to try medium interfacing for the bridal basket. That worked well – the basket sides didn’t cave in and it was much easier to pin and sew.

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Pins go right through the medium interfacing. No more weapons!

The lining fabric for the bridal basket was a bit difficult to work with. When I first tried to sew the batting, I found that the needle wasn’t passing through the fabric at all. I switched to a stretch needle and everything was better from there on out.

It was important to use a walking foot in both baskets. This helped to keep all of the layers of fabric together, especially at the thick seams.

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Rigid sides had the benefit of supporting a bottle of wine.

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I was happy with the look of each basket when they were filled with the rest of the gifts. I was especially happy with the look and feel of the bridal basket.

* Amazon Associates Link

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Project: Tote Bag

Deborah Moebes’s Stitch by Stitch: Learning to Sew, One Project at a Time* includes instructions for a fairly simple tote bag. After making this project, I decided that I would make a tote rather than use gift wrap whenever possible.

I used the following supplies (2 different bags):

Bag 1:

Total Materials Cost: $10.77

Bag 2:

Total Materials Cost: $6.06

Total time per bag: about 2 hours

The book instructions were straight forward. Be careful with your cuts though, as a half yard will give you exactly the right amount of fabric for bag and handles. If you don’t cut carefully (as I didn’t for my first bag) you may not have enough fabric left for the handles.

When aligning your seams to make the bottom of the bag, make sure that you peek inside the bag to make sure the seams are aligned there too before actually sewing.

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Completed bag with handles from scraps!

I also made my handles a little wider than the book recommended, but I think this is a matter of personal preference.

This project is incredibly forgiving of errors. I know that the bottom of the bag is uneven but its not obvious from just looking it. The bag has held up well to use. I frequently carry a laptop in mine without issues. Its also reversible, so you can switch your look at any time!

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Using the bag!

Remember what I said about gifts? I made one for Alek’s mom for Mother’s Day along with a set of napkins to match the bag.

I may now be addicted to making tote bags. That’s probably ok though!

Project: Relaxing Eye Mask

Deborah Moebes’s Stitch by Stitch: Learning to Sew, One Project at a Time* includes a relaxing eye mask project. The project has you create an eye mask filled with lentils and your choice of pretty smelling things.

I used the following supplies:

Total Materials Cost (1 mask): $15.41

A second mask only incurred the cost of a second fat quarter.

Total Materials Cost (2 masks): $17.72

Time Spent: About 2 hours

The first order of business in this project is making the mask’s ties. The ties are challenging because they are tiny and need to be turned inside out after sewing. I pulled the first tie inside out using only my fingers (pulling a tiny bit up at a time) with much frustration. Deborah recommends using a knitting needle to assist with this step. Unfortunately the ball on mine was too big to be of help. So I tried to use the point of my knitting needle and successfully poked a hole in the fabric (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻.  My fingers were cramped after I finished the first one. I still had the longer of the two ties to invert!

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Not another!

I found a crochet hook to help me out. The longer tie was a bit too long for my crochet hook to be entirely effective though. At my complaints, Alek found me a drink stirrer with a ball on the bottom – I had the second tie inverted in no time flat!

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The ties and the tools for the job

Stitching this piece wasn’t very difficult, I just went slowly to take care with the curves. I made the lentil, rose petal, and orange peel mixture to fill it with. I asked Alek to hold the mask while I filled it, I’m pretty sure that filling required two people. Finally I hand stitched the seam where I left the opening for filling.

The finished product has a nice romantic scent and feels nice and cool! Its a great mother’s day gift!

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The finished product!

I had enough of the lentil, rose petal, orange peel mixture to make a second one of these. I choose a white and grey fat quarter from the Massdrop Modern Summer Anapola Fat Quarter Bundle. This one made a wonderful bridal shower gift.

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Angry bird calms down while modeling a relaxing eye mask.

*These are Amazon Associate links

Piped Throw Pillows

I’ve been working through Deborah Moebes’s Stitch By Stitch* over the past 2 months. At the beginning of April I peeked ahead so I could order supplies for future projects and have them on hand when I got to them. I spent some time considering the fabric for the Piped Throw Pillow project. We already have throw pillows that match our couch and they don’t need to be replaced. But what if I made pillows that fit certain themes? That got me thinking about the Game of Thrones premiere. After a bit of searching I found Game of Thrones house sigil fabric on spoonflower.com.

The spoonflower fabric is a bit expensive, so I made a practice pillow first.

I used the following supplies:

The Force Awakens Pillow:

Total Cost for Force Awakens Pillow: $16.76 ($12.27 without Quilter’s tape, as it used very little.)

Game of Thrones Pillow:

Total Cost for Game of Thrones Pillow: $20.75 ($15.26 without Quilter’s tape, as it used very little.)

I didn’t have bias tape on hand for these pillows so I had to make some. A quick skim of the instructions informed me that I wouldn’t need to bother with ironing the bias tape, as it would just need to be used to wrap around the cord.

It was a bit tricky to get the piping attached evenly to the edges of the fabric, but with lots of pins I mostly got through it.

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Pinning the cord down was important!

This was my first ever attempt to install a zipper and it went well. The instructions in the book were good. I couldn’t actually find the recommended 1/2″ quilters tape, so I used 2 1/4″ strips on each pillow.

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1/4″ strips of quilters tape on either side of the zipper seam

This also worked out well, as I used the seam itself as a guide to align the tape.

Because the fabric needed to be cut away form the piping in order to make the 90 degree quarter angle at the corners actually make the turn, the finished products have small holes between the pillow and the corner piping. I’m not sure how to resolve that. On the Game of Thrones pillow I tried to leave more of the piping fabric at the corner so that when I turned the pillow inside out after sewing it would grip. That didn’t work as well as I would have hoped.

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Tiny hole in the finished product

Overall, I was happy with both pillows! They are neat looking and great for themed parties! I was most worried about zipper installation but the instructions in the book were so clear that it was very easy. Each pillow took about 2 hours to make. I was especially happy to have the Game of Thrones pillow on display for our Game of Thrones season 6 premier party!

*Amazon Associates Link

Project: Margot Pajamas

The second project in Tilly Walnes’s Love At First Stitch* is Margot Pajama pants. When I suggested that I might make Alek a shirt, he told me he’d prefer I make him new pajama pants. Since pajama pants are usually very loose fitting and tend to be not very gendered, I made my first pair of Margot pants in his size. Then I moved on to making a pair using jersey fabric for myself.

I used the following supplies:

Alek’s pants:

Total Cost for Alek’s Pants: $34.24

Wendy’s pants:

Total Cost for My Pants: $20.44

The patterns provided in Love At First Stitch are two sided. I knew I’d need to trace them out on something prior to cutting them. I found the swedish tracing paper on Amazon and decided to give it a try. I found that placing the tracing paper over the pattern on the floor and then tracing out the size I needed with a ball point pen worked really well. The pattern and paper were easy to realign either was bumped (by me or the dog).

The swedish tracing paper is more like very lightweight fabric than a real paper, so cutting it has a nice feel.

After cutting the fabric, I used cans of beans to hold the traced pattern down while using the tracing wheel to trace it onto the wrong side of the fabric.

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Canned food holds everything in place nicely.

After tracing it, I used my rotary cutter* to cut out the pattern. Following the steps in the book was straight forward. When I finished cutting the fabric, I was seriously intimidated. The pieces weren’t the same size and I thought I’d messed everything up. One key insight in the book is that when constructing clothing its important to align the raw edges, even if that means wrinkles in the fabric that isn’t along the edge, rather than make sure that the pieces lie flat. Given that insight, I pushed on giving it my best.

One place where I deviated from the book was when overstitching the final seam in the crotch. I just sewed them together rather than finishing each edge of the seam separately as recommend. That does mean my seams where the tie is coming out are unfinished. We’ll see how they old up over time.

I didn’t really feel like making a ribbon, so I just used twill tape that I happened to have in my notions drawer as a tie.

The pants came out well. They were a bit more tight in seat than Alek would have preferred, so next time I make PJs for him I’ll go up a size.

My pants were the first project I’ve ever used jersey for. Tilly warns in the book that the projects aren’t meant for jersey but I decided that for pajama pants, nothing could go terribly wrong.

The project started with trouble. It was impossible to double the fabric without it being wrinkled. I worked around that by just cutting each leg out separately rather than cutting through two layers of the fabric with one cut.

After I finished cutting, I grabbed a scrap to determine which needle would work best with the fabric. I found that anything smaller than a size 14/90 wouldn’t go through the fabric. The 14/90 seemed to work. As soon as the needle got dull though, the fabric started to jam below the throat plate.

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Fabric jam – that’s not good!

Even after changing to a fresh needle, I had issues with the bottom hems. After I finished, I came across this Craftsy post which leads me to believe that my stitch width was wrong for the fabric. I’ll experiment some more to determine what width this fabric wants since I have about 1/2 yard left over.

For the tie in my own pants, I used a leftover Mass Drop ribbon from a fat quarter bundle.

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The bottom hem is problematic.

Overall this project was a fun, simple introduction to clothing construction. I learned quite a bit. I know now that I need to test out different stitch widths when working with jersey. I’d also like to learn a bit about lining pants, as the fabric on mine is a bit thin.

Also worth mentioning, this owl fabric is super comfy!

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Check out my pants!

 

 

Project: Picnic Place Mat

Deborah Moebes’s Stitch By Stitch* includes a Picnic Place Mat project.  I was initially unexcited by this one as I don’t really need a picnic placement. However, I’m determined to go through to book to learn the skills taught by each project. Midway through my first one, I realized that a rollout pouch with pockets is useful for many things! I made two of these, one for me as a scissor holder and one for Alek to hold his paint brushes.

I used the following supplies:

The first Mat:

  • 3/4 yards woven gingham blue which I purchased at $1.99/yard
  • Thread
  • Ribbon that I had around.

The second Mat:

Total Materials Cost: $10.24

This is the first project that actually makes use of the bias tape that the book suggests making as an early project. My first mat was a bit of a disaster because my bias tape was completely uneven so it was difficult to get the edges to look good.

This project triggered me to become better at making bias tape. After getting the required tools and nailing down how to make bias tape, I tried again.

The next attempt was far better! The wider, more even bias tape gave the whole thing a more professional look. Alek’s still isn’t completely perfect but the flaws are a bit harder to see on a first look!

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My starting point near the bottom of the back is a bit messy.

I messed up the ties on both of these in slightly different ways. On the first one, I misunderstood the instruction to fold the tie in half before attaching and folded it in half along the width of the ribbon rather than the length. This means that tying it is a bit difficult.

On Alek’s, I completely forgot to add the twill tape when I was stitching down the bias tape.  I ended up stitching it just under the seam of the twill tape, but it left a visible line.

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The twill tape ribbon is attached a bit awkwardly here.

There are several aspects of this project which require a good bias tape. The ironed fold of the bias tape is used as a stitch guide after you’ve aligned the bias tape edge with your mat’s raw edge. If you don’t have an even edge on your bias tape this completely fails. This definitely happened to me on the first project.

Additionally, “Stitching the Ditch”, which requires you to restitch at the seem of the bias tape on the front of this project was far easier when the bias tape was wider and the fabric that the bias tape was made from was thicker. With the very lightweight gingham, I had a really hard time pulling the seam apart. It was much easier using the quilting weight cotton.

I’ve been using the gingham to hold my sewing tools. It is good for keeping things together but scissors tend to be too heavy and fall out easily. I have a vague plan to make a similar project in leather or canvas for myself!

 

Project: Brigitte Scarf

After some success with smaller projects, I decided that it might be time for me to start making stuff that I can wear. I wanted a book to give me a slow introduction to making clothing. The description of Tilly Walnes’s Love At First Stitch* was exactly what I was looking for.

The first project in Love At First Stitch is the Brigitte Scarf – Brigitte is a long head scarf with instructions to make a neck scarf as well. I made both scarves.

I used the following supplies:

Head Scarf

  • 1/2 yard white and green chevron material that I was given as a gift
  • 1″ of  elastic*

Square Neck Scarf

Total Materials Cost: $2.54

The head scarf was straightforward. I spent about an hour before work making it. I decided to slant my edges since I thought I would like that look better.IMG_20160406_090107

I may have cut my edges a bit too much as the scarf ended up not fitting around my head. Determined to get something useful out of my pre-work hour, I cut a bit of elastic and attached the two edges together.

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Better to salvage than scrap, right?

The elastic would look nicer sewn inside the seam, but my hair should generally cover the ugliness anyway.

I’m pretty happy with the way the headband looks.  I’ll probably make more of these with the elastic inside the seam. This prototype was a tiny bit looser than I’d like (although still wearable).  Next time I’ll make the elastic strip a bit smaller.

The neck scarf was very similar to the napkins that I posted about last week. The differences from the napkins were that it was a bit larger and unlike the napkins, it didn’t have mitered corners. After having the head scarf come out a bit too small, I decided to go with the 32″ x 32″ neck scarf. My fabric pulled a bit on the first side that I stitched. I switched from a size 14/90 needle, which I used for the cotton headband, to a size 11/80 needle to stop the pulling. The larger needle was too much for this very light-weight fabric.

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A neck scarf really isn’t my style but I decided that this would make a nice bandana!

My biggest take away from this project: if something doesn’t quite work out, roll with it.  I like to wear wide headbands while I’m working out – so I’m excited to use long scraps to make more of my own!

It was also pretty exciting to make my first wearable!

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Project: Fancy Napkins with Mitered Corners

Deborah Moebes’s Stitch by Stitch: Learning to Sew, One Project at a Time* has a project teaching how to make cloth napkins. It’s a great beginner project, as the materials are cheap and you get to practice cutting and sewing straight lines.

I used the following supplies:

  • 1 1/4 yards woven gingham blue which i purchased at $1.99/yard
  • Thread
  • 1 1/4 yards purple floral fabric which was a gift.

Total Materials Cost: $2.50

The first part of this project just has you over cast the edges of your napkin. I’ve already talked about my initial difficulties with overcasting, so I won’t go into details here. In summary: before getting the hang of overcasting, my napkins were a disaster.

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Bad overcast stitches are pulling, making the napkin unable to lie flat even after ironing.

The next part of the project instructs the reader to fold over and miter the corners of the napkins, and then topstitch to keep the folds in place. I used the machine’s fancier stitches for the top stitching.  This made the napkins look nicer. Sadly since I was starting with a bad base (from the overcasting), my napkins still weren’t great.

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The uneven pull of the napkin made for messy folding and topstitching.

The final part of this project has you fold the edges, iron, and then fold again. No overcasting needed! This was pretty great for me, as I hadn’t yet learned the secret of overcasting when I tried this part of the project.

I went for a different fabric this time, my napkins are far better than the blue and white checked napkins. My stitches aren’t as straight as I’d like them to be but I’m not embarrassed to use them!

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With the raw edge folded under, overcasting isn’t required.

 

 

This project was definitely worth doing for the practice, especially since the the cost of materials was so low.  I find practicing my making something to be way more fulfilling than sitting around stitching straight lines just to get experience. We even put out the nicer set of napkins this weekend when we had guests over!

Making Bias Tape

Early on in Stitch by Stitch: Learning to Sew, One Project at a Time, Deborah teaches readers to make bias tape. Bias tape is made from thin strips cut along the stretchiest length of the fabric (the bias) – generally this means diagonal cuts from corner to corner.

You can use bias tape to hide raw edges while adding a cute trim to your project.

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The yellow trim on this project is made from bias tape.

There are some tricks to getting a long continuous piece of bias tape. The trick Deborah uses (also on her blog) is to make a weird tube so you only have to cut once. This left me with uneven edges and nearly unusable bias tape time and again.

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This is “completed” bias tape with edges ironed down.  Notice the uneven edge?

After much frustration from not getting nice edges, I started thinking about how I could achieve the same results by sewing smaller strips together after cutting individually. Made Everyday with Dana had the solution I was looking for! Now I could cut short strips using my rotary cutter rather than the scissors and the edges were straight and clean!

Next up: ironing down the edges of the bias tape.  On my first few attempts, I used a Clover Hot Hemmer and Clover Iron Finger.  The folds were uneven, and I was super frustrated. I was working with 60″ of bias tape – folding and measuring was tedious to say the least!

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Measuring and folding with the hot hemmer.

“There has to be another way!” In Stitch By Stitch Deborah uses a Bias Tape Maker, which she says is not required. I respectfully disagree. If you’re going to make your own bias tape GO BUY THESE NOW! You can buy the off-brand set of 4 for less than $10. They saved me so much time and frustration, totally worth it!

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A tool to make nice even folds for me?  Yes, please!

 

Of course, you can always just purchase bias tape if you don’t want to make your own. However if you make your own you get to decide exactly what colors and prints work best with your project.