Thursday, June 28, 2012


Today we delivered 40 pillows and 55 pillowcases to the STAR family shelter in Daytona Beach. There were  lots of children there, and the staff encouraged us to distribute the pillowcases immediately. The children were polite yet also very excited to be receiving a new pillow and the pillowcase of their choosing.

Enjoy some of the photos of the day

already useful two boys
Upon leaving one of the members of the sewing group commented that she felt like she had just been given a gift. We were encouraged, challenged and heartened by the experience. We need to do more of this!

Pillowcases for 1,000,000 challenge

Our sewing group at church is having a great time this summer making pillowcases. The article on the Better Homes and Gardens  quilting website caught my eye. It looked like a great project to build skills, and use up some of our donated fabric. I contacted a local shelter and they were very interested, especially since we would be stuffing the pillowcases with new pillows.
We used the roll it up pattern that uses french seams, so there are no raw edges on the finished cases.

The pillowcases are finished, next step delivery

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Make a Lined Drawstring Bag

 4 bags
I’ve been keeping myself busy lately making drawstring bags. It started out as a small project. Many of my sewing machines do not have cases, and I wanted to make some bags for the foot controllers, power cords, specialty feet, etc. Along the way I became slightly obsessed, and now I can’t stop making them. Be looking for a blog giveaway soon.
Here’s how I made them.

What you need
2 pieces of bag fabric 16” x 11” (a fat quarter cut in half will work)
2 pieces canvas (or other lining fabric) 15” x 11”
1 piece canvas ( or other lining fabric) 10” x 6 ½”
2 strips of coordinating fabric 2 1/2” wide , and 12” long
1 strip of coordinating fabric  2 1/2” wide and 7” long.
Paper backed fusible web cut in 1” strips. You’ll need about 30” total
60” cording or ribbon
Cut bag and liner fabric and set aside. If you have used a fat quarter that is not quite as wide as the measurements above, use what you have and cut the canvas the same width as the bag fabric. Just make sure your liner is 1” shorter than your bag. Width measurements of both bag and liner must be the same.

Step 1—Making the two casings and the pocket trim.
Choose one of your 2 ½ inch strips measuring about 12” long. With wrong side up iron paper backed fusible web to the center of the strip. Leave release paper in place and fold edges together to just meet in the center. Press to form a good crease on both sides. Remove release paper and press to make your casing strip. Repeat for other casing strip and 7” pocket trim. Set aside
fold casing pieces to center
You should have two 12” strips and one 7” strip that are 1 1/4” wide.

Step 2—Make the pocket (if you don’t want a pocket, skip this step)
Fold small canvas piece in half to make a 5” X6 ½” rectangle, press to make a crease. Open canvas and draw a line 1’ below the fold. Pin pocket trim to the pocket aligning top edge of trim with the drawn line. Stitch trim to pocket piece.
position pocket trim
Now fold right sides of pocket together and stitch on both sides, leaving about 2” open at the bottom for turning. Turn pocket right sides out, fold in opening and press.
Position pocket in the center of one of the canvas pieces and stitch in place along the sides and the bottom making sure you catch the area you pressed in.
pocket stitched to lining

Step 3—Making the Bag
Put right sides of bag fabric together and stitch on the two long sides and the bottom. Repeat with canvas pieces, but leave a 3” opening at the bottom of the canvas lining. You will later turn the whole bag through this opening.

Step 4 Mitering the corners
You can skip this step, but it makes for a bag with dimension. Go ahead and try it, it’s not hard to do.
Grab one of the bottom corners and match it with one side seam and the bottom seam line. This will form a triangle. You should be able to feel that your bottom seam and side seam are together.
I draw a line 1 1/2”  from the point of the triangle.
draw line for corner miters
The sew on your drawn line
stitch corner miters on bag
You will miter the two corners on both the liner and the bag.

Step 5—sewing bag and lining together
Leave the canvas liner wrong side out and turn the outer bag right side out. Stuff the outer bag in the liner bag. Make sure the right sides are together, and the top edges are aligned. Stitch all the way around the top edge making sure you catch both the lining and the bag.
 bag and lining ready to sew
Locate  the bottom hole in the canvas lining, pull the bag all the way through and continue to pull working the lining out as well. Both sides will be right side out, joined at the top.
lining ready to stuff in bag
Machine stitch to close  the hole in the bottom of the lining and stuff the lining into the bag. Adjust the bottom of the bag so that the corners you mitered are at the bottom of the bag rather than positioned at the side.  Since you cut the lining shorter than the bag you will have a nice border inside the bag.
ready to attach casings

Step 6—Attaching the casing
Take once section of the casing and turn under the short end ½”. Beginning at one side seam pin casing halfway around the top of the bag, stopping at the opposite side seam. Turn under casing ½” and pin just shy of the side seam.
Repeat the process with the other piece of casing. You will have about a ¼” gap between the two casings at each side seam. Stitch top and bottom of casing to bag 1/8” from the edges.
stitch casings to front and back

Step 7—Thread the drawstrings
Cut two 30” lengths of cording or ribbon. If you are using one that ravels make sure you wrap it with tape before cutting. I used painter’s tape.  
Take one cord and attach a safety pin to the end. Begin at one of the side seams and thread the casing all the way around the bag through both casings. Adjust so the cord is of equal length. Take the other cord and begin at the opposite side seam and thread it all the way though both casings. Even the cords and pull to activate the drawstring feature.
one side threaded with cord
Tie the ends of your drawstrings together, and there you have it. The two bags in the center of the picture below have coordinating fabric strings…more about that in another post.

4 bags

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Left Needle Kenmore

One of my sewing buddies bought this lovely green Kenmore 158.130 model in a cabinet with accessories for a mere $10. It was a little dusty, and locked up in a few places, but it had no problems that a little oil and lubricant couldn’t take care of. It sews a nice stitch, but alas, it’s a “leftie”


The first time I encountered a left needle machine I thought something was wrong with it. I could get it to zigzag perfectly, but it only did a straight stitch in the left needle position. Hmmm…

needle position

This photo shows the needle in its straight sewing position. Turns out Kenmore made a lot of left needle sewing machines when they first began production of zigzag machines. In today’s world, it’s good machine for a utility sewist, a garment maker, or someone just learning to sew, but for the quilter, not so good. To get it to sew the quilter’s 1/4” seam the fabric would have to be fed through only the left set of the feed teeth. Guiding the fabric would require some digital gymnastics and might result in injury. Over the years I’ve had a few near misses because my finger was too close to the needle, and I don’t want to invite trouble.

That said, it’s a perfect machine for the Sewing Machine Project. Michele who blogs at Life with Lou just delivered 21 machines to one of the drop points for this wonderful organization. Maybe a trip to my closest drop point in New Orleans is in my future, or my friend and I will find a new sewist here who would give it a good home.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Anatomy of a tote bag

A few weeks ago I ordered the half yard bundle of Jessica Jones Outside Oslo fabric in the dawn color wave.
Jessica writes one of my favorite blogs, How about Orange The fabrics are fantastic, and as they are a lightweight canvas duck, I decided to make some tote bags. I’m still experimenting with linings and interfacings, but I’m pleased with the results so far.  My goal was to replace the pictured bag that has been an indispensible travel companion for many years. It’s way past its prime, but the size, and weight are perfect for books and magazines
purple bag
I started by making the straps, covering a 1” wide strip of cotton webbing with the handle fabric. I cut the strapping 45” long, and cut the fabric the same length only 3” wide. That allows enough fabric to wrap around the strapping and stitch. It is not necessary to finish the inside edge as pictured in the photo.
making the strap
Make at least three rows of stitching on the straps, then cut this long strip in half for the two handles and set them aside.
more strapping
Next task was to join the bag pieces right sides together and stitch around the sides and bottom of the bag.
I then turned the bag right side out, and pressed the top edge of the bag to the outside, about 1/2”
turning under the seam
You may notice that the body of the bag has stitching on it. I did want extra heft, so I stitched a layer of natural canvas to the wrong side of the bag and then treated the two layers as one piece of fabric.
I then marked and pinned the handles to both the front and back of the bag and stitched them on.
sewing on the handles
To cover the stitching and secure the handles, I cut a strip of fabric and turned under the edges. I wanted the finished edge to be about the same width as the handles.
top edge of bag
I then lined up the top of the bag with the top edge of the fabric strip and stitched as closely as possible.
stitching over the handles
I then stitched the other edge to the body of the bag. To avoid raw edges on the top border, you will need to lap the border. It’s a good idea to offset the lap from the side seam so you are not sewing through many layers of fabric.
lapped top border
I like a flat bottom bag, so I mitered the corners. To do this, grab one of the bottom corners and match it with one side seam and the bottom seam line. This will form a triangle. You should be able to feel that your bottom seam and side seam are together.
I lay a triangle the size I want my miter to be, then mark and sew
marking the corners
sewing the corners
I generally leave the corners uncut for added stability in the bottom. but if you like, you can cut 1/4” away from the stitching an finish with an overcast or zigzag stitch.
I then made a sleeve and inserted plastic needlepoint canvas into the sleeve to make a sturdy bottom for my bag.
All done
completed bag

For a super simple tote bag tutorial and more bags using Outside Oslo fabric, check out Molly’s 20 minute tote from the Purl Bee.