Pajama Monsters

Pillowcases made out of felt with boxed corners couldn’t be easier. Customize for the little person in your life and enjoy having those PJs tucked out of sight.

Since the boys’ PJs end up tossed on their beds anyways, I figured why not let a cute monster gobble them up? Essentially, the pajama monster is an envelope-backed pillowcase made in felt.  Start with a few rectangles and then cut any or as many of the following as you’d like:  eyes, horns, teeth, cheeks/rouge, nose, lips, tongues, etc.  Just free-cut these and place on your large rectangle to get a feel for how they will look.

In my example, I made mine a princess monster:  ears, crown, eyes with eyelashes, nose, single tooth because this monster is going to a little princess we know.  Partner this with a book and a cute pair of (handsewn!) PJs as we did here, and you have a great gift:

The fabric you see was used to make super comfy PJ pants and an appliqued PJ tee to match.

Supplies needed:
  • your basic sewing supplies
  • One 14″ wide by 16″ high rectangle of craft felt
  • Two 14″ wide by 10″ high rectangles of craft felt
  • Scraps of other colors of felt for features like eyes, ears, teeth, etc.

Ideas for future:

Add buttons, ribbons, ric rac, ruffles and more to add even more dimension.  Try experimenting with the shape of the pillow.  Of course, you can get very, very detailed here–just remember who you are sewing for!  These will receive some serious “love” (er, abuse).


(You can click on any photo to enlarge it.)

Step 1:  Cut pieces

Cut  the pieces for your monster’s features.  Eyes, ears, teeth, horns, glasses are just a fews suggestions.  Just remember that any layered features (like pupils on eyes) may have to be sewn together before sewing them on the monster.  Here are a couple of examples of Pajama Monsters from my Sewing for the Holidays class:

Aren’t these guys cute?

Step 2:  Attach Features

Attach the features to one of the small rectangles.  Think about the order they will have to be sewn on and sew accordingly.

I begin by laying out my rectangles and experimenting with features. Once I am satisfied with placement, I remove the large rectangle and bottom small rectangle and begin pinning and sewing the features in place.

To get the princess face, I began by sewing the pupils to the eyes, then I sewed on the eyelashes and nose to the “face” (rectangle), finally I sewed the eyes in place and then added the tooth.

Place all ears, horns, etc. at least 2 inches in from the sides, or they will be cut off when making boxed corners!

You can experiment with sewing features elsewhere, but it works best to only sew on the top rectangle.

Step 3:  Sew Pillowcase
Place the small rectangle on the bottom half of the large rectangle.  Place the other small rectangle (the “face”) on top.  The lower rectangle should fit into the bottom of the rectangle and the face rectangle should fit in the top.  The two small rectangles will overlap in the middle.  You want this overlap to help keep the pajamas inside.

Can you see how the three rectangles are layered here?

Pin into place and sew all the way around the rectangle.  Backstitch at start and stop.  If you’d like, trim the edges with pinking shears.  Otherwise trim back with regular scissors.

Use plenty of pins!

Step 4:  Sew Boxed Corners
Cut a 1.5″ square from each corner and then pinch the corner shut, matching seams.  Pin together and sew.

1.5″ squares cut from each corner will give pillow depth–just be sure those horns or ears are at least 2″ away before cuting.

Pinch corner together so the seams match up. Sew this closed being sure to backstitch at beginning and end

And there you have it–a little monster to hold your little monster’s pajamas!



SLR/DSLR Camera Strap Tutorial

A few years ago I spied another mom wielding her Nikon DSLR with a fabric strap.  My camera and I instantly felt underdressed and I vowed to make one for myself.  Three years later I finally got to the project!  I began with making a simple strap cover–but I didn’t like how it slipped, even though it did make the strap much more comfortable.  Eventually I moved onto complete straps and tried them with and without pockets, with different widths of webbing, etc.

It took many wrong purchases and about 10 prototypes before I settled on the strap you see here: a fabric strap with a double layer of fleece and one pocket to hold my lens cap.  For my own strap, I have also added a quick-release set of buckles.  That way I can swap out straps easily and, since I frequently use my tripod, it allows me to easily set the camera in place.  But that will be a post for another day!

Shhhh…  This is my “it” gift this holiday season since many family members have recently acquired their own DSLR cameras.

Supplies needed:

  • your basic sewing supplies
  • 2 strips woven fabric 36″ long x 3.5″ wide (think about how fabric will wrap around neck when choosing)
  • 2 strips fusible fleece 35″ long x 3.0″ wide
  • 1 strip woven fabric 6″ long x 3.5″ wide (for pocket)
  • 30″ of 3/8″ or 1/2″ webbing (I buy mine from Strapworks)

Ideas for future:

Add buttons, ribbons, ric rac, ruffles and more to add even more dimension.  Try experimenting with the shape of the end of the strap. (You can also cut out vinyl end pieces or repurpose scraps of leather for the end pieces, but they can be difficult to sew and I haven’t found it to be that much more durable.)


(You can click on any photo to enlarge it.)

Step 1:  Fuse Fleece

On the wrong side of both long strips, center fleece (bumpy side down) and fuse.  You may find it easier to fuse it from the fabric side.  While you are at the iron, fold the pocket piece so it measures 3.5″ x 3″, wrong sides together, and iron.

Center the fusible fleece as well as you can on the wrong sides of the strips. Don’t fret, it doesn’t have to be perfect.

You can connect pieces of fusible fleece by overlapping pieces a little bit.

Step 2:  Sew on Pocket

Sew along the folded edge, about 1/4″ down.  Feel free to play with a decorative stitch here–but don’t forget to switch back to your regular stitch if you do!

Measure 3″ from the bottom of one of the fabric strips.  Place pocket right side down (if you have a right side) and sew the raw edges to the right side of the strip.  Fold the pocket up so that the raw edge is enclosed and iron the pocket so that it is smooth and flat on the strip.

Basically, you are lining up the pocket with the end of the strap. The folded end is what matches up with the end.

Place the pocket piece right side down. Sew pocket 1/4″ from the raw edge (not the folded edge). Then fold pocket up and press well.

Here is the pocket after being pressed. It is now a pocket that sits 3″ from the end. You can also see the top stitching along the top of pocket here.

Step 3:  Sew Strap Together

Place strips right sides together, being sure pocket stays flat, and sew down each long side.  If you go onto the fleece a little, do not worry.  Turn strap right-side-out and press well.  Tuck in the raw ends 1/2 inch and press.  If you like, you may press and then topstitch along each side (1/8″), but it is not necessary.

Sewing with a 1/4″ seam allowance means you should sew right along the edge of the fleece. It’s OK if you sew onto the fleece a bit.

Fold raw edges inside 1/2″ (or, to the fleece, which should be about 1/2″ from the end).

Step 4:  Attach Webbing

Mark out a 3″ wide x 1.5″ high rectangle on each end.  Using your ruler, make an X in the rectangle and then draw a line down the middle of the X.  Insert the webbing under this line being sure the webbing extends a 1/4″ or so beyond the top of the line/rectangle.  Beginning at the bottom of the line (center of bottom of rectangle), sew over this X and line at least 6 times.  You do not want the webbing to fall/rip out!  Avoid reversing.  Instead, always stop with your needle down and pivot to turn around.

I draw on my marks for the webbing with a disappearing ink pen.

The webbing should extend just a bit farther than the center line.

I usually sew around the rectangle 6 times before moving to each of the center lines. Then, I sew each of the center lines 6 times as well.

The finished stitching.

Step 5: Cut/Melt Webbing Ends

Cut the ends of the webbing at an angle to make it easier to thread through the camera openings/loops.  The ends of the webbing will fray enough to make threading it nearly impossible to thread.  So, you can use a flame (like from a butane lighter) to melt the ends or use Mod Podge or Fray Check to seal the ends.

An angled cut is best for threading the webbing back into your camera.

You’re done!  Use the hardware that came with your camera and loop it through!

All done and ready for a camera!

Tooth Fairy Pillows

A recent rash of lost teeth prompted me to make my own tooth fairy pillows.  (I often sew them with my youngest students, but these are merely one pocket sewn to two squares.)  As I was sewing mine, I quickly realized how this project would be a great project for beginning sewers.

The front features the recipient’s initial and a little pocket for holding the tooth/money/gift.  There is a little tooth appliqued on the pocket.  The back has a little envelope–the perfect size for any tooth fairy correspondence.  When I give these pillows, I include a note from the tooth fairy.  The poem inside reads:

Dear [name],

In the pocket, place your tooth that fell out

And in the morning you will shout!

For I will visit and you will find

I’ve left a surprise for you behind!

And for the teeth that are not in a rush,

Don’t forget, you still need to brush!


The Tooth Fairy

Since these pillows are small, you can easily practice with remnants you already have.  While I am not going to give you a precise tutorial, I will let some photos do the talking.  The skills you will develop by sewing tooth fairy pillows are:

  • continuing to develop cutting and straight-line sewing skills
  • adding a pocket
  • applique
  • inserting a basic handle

Supplies needed:

  • your basic sewing supplies
  • 7″ x 7″ squares of fabric (one plain, one printed)
  • Heat n Bond (for applique)
  • 4″ x 6″ (wide x high) rectangle for pocket
  • 5″ x 3.5″ (wide x high) piece of white felt
  • another small fabric remnant (for initial) and white felt remnant (for tooth)
  • 8″ of ribbon

Ideas for future:

Add buttons, ribbons, ric rac, ruffles and more to add even more dimension.


(You can click on any photo to enlarge it.)

Have fun experimenting–I can’t wait to see what you come up with!

A ribbon handle is perfect for looping over a bedpost or, more importantly, a door knob. It’s a nice touch for the tooth fairy who may not want to risk waking the child!

Close up of the front. A little pocket on the left is the perfect size for not only teeth, but also can hold money, lipgloss, a small toothpaste or toothbrush. An appliqued initial personalizes the pillow, but isn’t necessary.

Close up of another style–have fun with placement of extras like buttons and trim!

A close-up of the envelop on the back of the pillow. You stitch the “flap” on first–before you sew the pocket onto the pillow back. If you don’t it won’t be a pocket!

Adding a note from the tooth fairy is a nice touch!

Fleece Fingerless “Gloves” Tutorial

Smartphones are great, but they’ve made wearing gloves a bit tricky!  Pair these gloves with a cute infinity scarf-style cowl and you’ll have a great gift to give this winter.  Best of all, both projects are simple and the pair can be done with 1/2 yard of fleece.  This is another great project for beginning sewing, which is why I frequently teach or highlight it in my fall/winter classes.  The skills you will develop by sewing fingerless “gloves” are:

  • continuing to develop cutting and straight-line sewing skills
  • sewing with fleece
  • sewing a tube/around a circle

Supplies needed:

  • your basic sewing supplies
  • Fabric: remnant of fleece (or 1/2 yard fleece if making the infinity cowl, too)
  • Sharpie or chalk

Ideas for future:

These look great as is, but consider hand sewing some embellishments on them after they are finished.  Vintage buttons, fabric flowers, ribbon, will make these even more charming!


(You can click on any photo to enlarge it.)

Step 1:  Draft pattern and cut out fabric

Take a blank piece of paper and draw a 4.5″ wide by 9″ long rectangle.  Then, measure in 1/2″ from the left side and put a dot 1 5/8″ down and another 3 5/8″ down.  It will look like this:

Then, cut out your pattern and poke small holes through the dots.  Cut four rectangles from your fabric and transfer the dots.  Since fleece is so plush and it can be difficult to pin through multiple layers, I often trace my pattern and then cut, like so:

Step 2: Sew inner seam

The side with the dots is the inner seam (the side with the thumb hole).  Take two rectangles and place them right sides together.  Pin well.  Begin sewing at the top–backstitching–and sew to the first dot.  Stop and backstitch before lifting the needle and presser foot and advancing to the next dot.  Put down presser foot.  Lower needle and  begin to sew–backstitching at the beginning and the end.   Clip the  thread over where you advanced. Repeat for remaining rectangles.

This is a close-up of the area between the two dots (thumb hole). Advance here by lifting the needle and presser foot and sliding fabric away until the 2nd dot is lined up under the needle. Lower needle and presser foot and continue. Don’t forget to backstitch at each dot.

Step 3: Reinforce inner seam

Open seam, pressing each raw edge its side and pin.  Sew a 1/4″ seam allowance down each side of the inner seam, backstitching at beginning and end.

From the wrong side

From the right side. You sew all the way down each side of the seam. The hole is already in place so no need to advance.

Step 4: Sew outer seam

Fold glove so right sides are together and sew outer seam, backstitching at beginning and end.  At this point, try on the glove to make sure it’s not too baggy for your hand or the person you are sewing for.

Technically you could stop right here. Since you are sewing with fleece, the raw ends won’t fray. But it looks much nicer with the hems sewn.

Step 5: Finish top and bottom hems

With gloves inside out, finger press a 1/2 inch single fold hem (this means fold the fabric only once) and pin generously.  Freeing the arm of your machine or working carefully on the top, sew all the way around the tube.  If the arm of your machine is too big (as most are), just sew slowly, careful not to stick yourself or to sew hem to another part of the glove.  Turn right side out and your gloves are complete!

Lots of pins and a slow speed will help make this step successful.

All done!

You can choose to embellish at this point by adding a few decorative buttons.

Envelope Back Pillowcase with Piping

This is a great project for updating a room–with a small amount of fabric you can easily update old throw pillows.  Or, you can make new throw pillows by buying (or, even better, sewing!) pillow forms.  To make this a true beginner project, skip the piping and simply sew the three pieces together as shown.  However, I challenge all new and returning sewers to try adding the piping.  With the correct tools (you’ll need your zipper foot), you’ll be surprised how much a little piping adds to your projects!

This really is a great project for beginning sewing, which is why it pops up in my Sew Easy class again and again.  The skills you will develop by sewing pillowcases are:

  • continuing to develop cutting and straight-line sewing skills
  • pivoting
  • constructing an envelope back
  • sewing a double-fold hem
  • sewing close to an edge/sewing with a narrow seam allowance
  • optional: adding piping and sewing with a zipper foot

Supplies needed:

  • your basic sewing supplies
  • zipper foot
  • Fabric (3/4 yard or several fat quarters)
  • 10-16″ pillow form
  • packaged piping
  • disappearing ink pen, chalk or dull pencil
  • optional: straight edge, self-healing mat and rotary cutter

Ideas for future:

This same concept can be applies to covering square pieces of foam (as in a bench set) by adding 2” more fabric and creating a boxed corner

This same idea can be applied to make sweet little tissue covers

You don’t have to use the same fabric!  Since there are three pieces, feel free to mix and match

If you are redoing a bedroom, consider buying an extra flat sheet.  You can use this as fabric for your own pillows, valences, etc.

Use the concept of piping on hems, valences, pillow cases (i.e.. between the header and body of the pillowcase you made in Sew Easy), around handbags

Step 1: Cutting the Pieces

Using the method that suits you best for cutting straight edges, use the following guidelines to make your pillow.  For a square pillow the rule is to measure 1 inch square more than the form size for the front and 3 inches smaller (side to side) to create two rectangles for the back (see measurements below for further explanation):

10″ Pillow Form

Cut one 11″ by 11″ square

Cut two 11″ by 8″ rectangles

12″ Pillow Form

Cut one 13″ by 13″ square

Cut two 13″ by 10″ rectangles

14″ Pillow

Cut one 15″ by 15″ square

Cut two 15″ by 12″ rectangles

16″ Pillow

Cut one 17″ by 17″ square

Cut two 17″ by 14″ rectangles

Step 2:  Prepare the Back

Set iron for your type of fabric.  For each of the rectangular pieces, start with right side(patterned-side) facing down and press down a 1/2” hem on the long side of the rectangle.

Open hem and press raw edge in to meet the fold.  This is sometimes referred to as “turning and pressing.”

Can you see the frayed bits close to the crease? Just tuck that raw edge right into the crease!

Then fold again and press closed.  (Of course you may press a 1/4” hem and then fold and press another 1/4” hem, but many people find this difficult when working with such a narrow hem.)

Pin hem and sew hem in a place that is comfortable for you.  (I like to get close to where the folded fabric meets the single layer.)

I often press the hem again, just to have a nice, crisp edge.  Set aside.  Don’t forget to do this for both of the back pieces.

Step 3: Add Piping

(This is the most tedious part of the project.  Not doing piping?  Skip to Step 4B.)

Take the square piece of fabric and your piping.  (Make sure this piece of fabric is wrinkle-free!) Place your fabric pattern-side up.  Starting somewhere in the middle (NOT THE CORNER) of one side, pin your piping to the edge of the fabric.  The raw edge of the fabric should match the taped edge of the piping.

Continue doing this around the entire square.  When you get to a corner, clip the piping tape a bit to form the right angle.  Do not clip through the stitches of the piping, though!

To join the corded (piped) ends, bring each end in toward the raw edge a bit and criss-cross.  Pin.

Feel free to let these tails hang off even more making a total X. It’s better to have more piping that find out you are short at the last seconds of sewing. You will snip off any excess when you are finished.

Attach zipper foot.  Sew around the entire square as closely to the piping as you can.  Pivot at corners and be mindful of the pins!  (Ouch!)

You caught me! I’m using a 1/4″ foot here because I left my zipper foot in class the night before I wrote this tutorial. This is a placeholder until I take a new photo.


Step 4A:  Attaching Front to Back (piping)

With the piped side up, place the two back panels on top with the right side (pattern-side) facing down.  Make sure front and back match the way you want them too!!!  (i.e. prevent upside down prints!) Match up the raw edges.  The back panels will overlap.

Pin into place in a few spots.  Then, flip over the pillowcase and pin around all edges trying to go in on one side of the piping, under the piping and then come out on the opposite side.  When you are finished pinning, remove the few pins you used as placeholders on the opposite side.  Now you are ready to sew with the front panel up (so you can see the stitches you made when adding the piping).

Follow those stitches around the entire square.  Clip corners.  If you desire, you can trim and serge or overcast raw seam.


Step 4B:  Attaching Front to Back (no piping)

Place the square right side up.  Place the two back panels on top with the right sides facing down.  Make sure front and back match the way you want them too!!!  (i.e. prevent upside down prints!) Match up the raw edges.  The back panels will overlap.

Follow those stitches around the entire square.  Clip corners.  If you desire, you can trim and serge or overcast raw seam.


Step 5:  Completing the Pillow

Turn right-side out.  Check for any skipped stitches in seams.  Stuff with pillow form.  Trim any loose strings that have appeared.  Congrats–you’re done!

Reusable Snack Bags (Two Ways)

This is a great project for beginning sewing, which is why it pops up in my Sew Easy class again and again.  The skills you will develop by sewing these bags are:

  • continuing to develop cutting and straight-line sewing skills
  • sewing in a circle (sewing around)
  • how to advance while sewing
  • sewing with hook-and-loop tape (Velcro)
  • learning basic bag construction (which is easily applied to cosmetic bags and handbags)
  • understanding the basics of lining
  • sewing boxed corners (optional)

Supplies needed:

  • your basic sewing supplies
  • ripstop nylon (sold in the utility section of the fabric store)
  • woven fabric (anything from quilting cotton to duck cloth works well; nothing poly or too heavy)
  • hook and loop tape*

*A note about hook and loop tape (aka Velcro).  You can buy it packaged or by-the-yard.  My favorite kind to use is Snag Free Velcro because there is only one piece of tape as opposed to a hook (scratchy) and loop (soft) side.  It is significantly more expensive but using it saves me much time and prevents much frustration (and bloodshed–those little hooks can pierce skin!)  If I can’t find Snag Free, I prefer Velcro Soft–the kind that is recommended for baby clothes.  It is a much more pliable product and easier to sew with that the inexpensive, very plastic-y regular Velcro or hook and loop tapes.

Other notes:

Seam allowance is 1/4″ (often the right side of your presser foot), unless noted otherwise.  If you feel 1/4″ is too narrow, sew with a 1/2″ seam allowance.  Just know your bag will be a wee bit smaller and you may want to trim your seam allowance.

To see any photo larger, just click on it!

Option 1:  A Basic Reusable Snack Bag

Step 1:  Prepare your fabric

If your fabric is non-directional, cut each fabric (the nylon and cotton) into 8″ x 16″ rectangles. If your fabric is directional, cut each fabric into two 8″ x 8″ squares.

Step 2:  Sew exterior

Place your cotton fabric right sides together. For the rectangle: sew each side that is perpindicular to the fold. The top should be open and opposite the fold. For the squares: sew all three sides leaving the top open.   (Remember to backstitch at start and end.) The direction of the fabric should make sense when the square is looked at with the open end on top. Regardless which shape you begin with, you will end with an 8″ x 8″ “pocket” that is inside out.

Step 3: Sew lining

Repeat this step for the lining EXCEPT on one side you will advance the needle and leave approximately 3″-4″ not sewn.  (Remember to backstitch at start and end.) This hole is where you will turn the entire bag right-side-out. To advance, stop sewing and lift the needle and presser foot.  Pull the fabric (gently!) away from you until you have reached the desired second starting point.  Lower your presser foot and put your needle down.  Continue sewing.  (Note:  Make sure the opening is at least 2″ from each end.)

Note how the thread is long behind the presser foot.

Here is another view from behind the presser foot.

Another view of the side opening after the advanced thread was snipped.

Step 4: Insert lining into exterior

Begin by clipping corners so your corners will be crisp.  If you leave the triangle of fabric all that bulk will fill your corner and it will look sloppy.

First, clip the corners at bottom, being careful not to cut your stitches!

Turn the lining right side out and insert it into the exterior (which remains wrong side out).  You’ll note the basic sewing principle of “right sides together” is in place here.

Exterior (butterfly) is wrong side out; lining (ripstop) is right side out.

Slide lining inside exterior, careful to match up seams. Double check to make sure neither is greatly bigger than the other. Sew in seams to adjust if this happens.

Step 5:  Sew lining to exterior

Remove cover and expose smaller arm of your machine and slide the exterior/lining over it.  Beginning at a seam, sew all the way around remembering to backstitch at the beginning and end.

Step 6: Sew on hook and loop tape

Turn the bag right side out (through opening in lining), stuffing lining back in bag and pressing (ironing) it flat.  Now is also the time to make sure the corners are pushed out nice and crisp.

This is how it will look when you first turn it right-side-out. Simply push the lining inside the exterior after you turn it.

A cotton setting should be fine. You won’t melt the nylon unless you expose it to an open flame or leave a very hot iron on it for an extended period.

After pressing, turn bag inside out and slipping it over the arm of the machine.  Place the hook and loop tape on top of the lining, matching it up with top of bag.  Sew close to the edge, trying to only sew on the edge tape.

When you return to the starting point, stop before you sew a double layer.  Backstitch and cut the hook and loop tape trying to match it up as closely as possible.  Sew the second side.

If you ever run into a situation where there is a gap between the two ends, you can use a zig-zag stitch (with a 1.5 stitch length, if possible) to close the gap.

Step 7: Close hole in lining

Pull lining out and pinch the hole closed by tucking in the raw edges and pulling the sides until the hole is sealed and fabric is flat.  Place under presser foot and sew as close to the edge as you can, being careful to catch both sides.

Turn it right-side-out and you’re finished!

Option 2: A Reusable Snack Bag with Boxed Corners (flat bottom)

Begin by cutting two 8″ x 8″ squares of each fabric (you’ll have 4 pieces total).  Then, cut a square from the bottom corners of each piece.  I use a 1 3/4″ square so that my bottom will be 3 inches wide.  How did I figure this?  You divide the width by two since you have two pieces of fabric or two sides.  Then you add your seam allowance and this is the number you square for your corners.

3″ wide / 2 (each side) = 1.5 inches

1.5″ + .25″ (1/4 inch seam allowance) = 1 3/4 inches

So, if you wanted a 2″ bottom and were sewing with a 1/2″ seam allowance:

2″ / 2 = 1 inch

1″ + .5″ = 1.5  inches

Step 1: Prepare the bottom

Mark and cut a square (in this case 1 3/4″) from the bottom two corners of each fabric.  If your fabric is directional, be sure you cut the square from the bottom!!!

Step 2: Sew sides

For the exterior fabric, place right sides together and sew the three sides that touch the missing squares (left, right and bottom).  DO NOT sew the cut-out square parts!  In other words, no pivoting, etc.  Leave the top open and sew both sides and the bottom.

For the lining, sew each side and the bottom, just as you did the exterior EXCEPT leave a 3″ hole in the middle of one side.  Advance just as described in the basic snack bag above.  As you did for the basic bag, please be sure the ends of your hole do not come closer than 2″ from each end of the sides.

If you can’t see the stitches, be sure to click to see this image better. It will show exactly how and where you should sew.

Step 3:  Sew boxed corners

Pinch the corners together, matching seams, and sew closed.  Be sure to backstitch at the beginning and end of each of the four corners.

After the corners are sewn, you will have two mini bags that look like this:

From this point on, you follow steps 4-7 for the basic bag.  When completed, you’ll have this:

Remember that we took away three inches from the bottom and sides by making those squares, if you want your bag to be bigger, begin with a larger square!


Recommended Sewing Supplies

There are hundreds of sewing supplies you can use in addition to your machine.  A few of them are truly indispensable.  I have listed those below:

  • Iron
  • Ironing board
  • Really sharp fabric scissors (Fiskars are great)
  • Seam ripper*
  • Measuring tape*
  • Seam gauge*
  • Extra bobbins
  • Thin straight pins
  • Extra needles for your machine
  • Hand sewing needles
  • A variety of thread
  • Straight edge (clear is best)
  • Pin cushion*

*These  can often be purchased together in a handy kit

Additionally, you may want to invest in the following as you develop your sewing skills:

  • Fabric chalk
  • Rotary cutter
  • Self healing mat (a minimum of 18″ x 24″ is suggested)
  • Pinking shears
  • T square ruler
  • Snips (small, sharp scissors–nice to keep next to the machine while your regular scissors often remain near your cutting area)

If you have discovered other tools you find indispensable in your sewing adventures–please feel free to share them with us!

Tips for Pinning and Cutting with a Pattern

Pinning the Pattern to Your Fabric

When pinning your pattern to the fabric, it is good to start by placing one pin on the arrow that denotes the grain line.  This will help ensure that your pattern is straight.

Next, place anchor pins in the corners and follow the line of the pattern.  Don’t “cross” the pattern, or your pins will get in the way when cutting.

Face pins in the same direction when pinning–this will help you avoid pricking yourself and make removal easier.

Avoid pinning over notch marks!

Place pins 1-2 inches apart.

Pin on a smooth surface (carpeting can catch the pins and you’ll pin yourself to the ground!).  Save your back, too; pin on a table rather than the floor.

Cutting Fabric from a Pattern

When cutting the pattern and fabric, try to make long cuts rather than short, choppy ones.

Cutting slowly and with long cuts, follow your pattern as closely as possible, but without cutting the tissue.  Don’t forget to cut out notches.

For a single notch, cut the triangle:

For multiple notches, feel free to cut as one large notch:

Once all pieces are cut, remove pins and fold cut pattern pieces and place them back in envelope so you don’t lose them!

Pinning Fabric to Sew

When pinning to sew, place the pins across the cut line of fabric.  This way the machine will sew over them rather than get the pins stuck in the teeth.

Pin in the same direction.  Start the pin in the fabric and end the point near the cut edge.  This will lesson the possibility of you getting stuck as you sew and prevent the pinhead from getting caught in the teeth.

Summer 2012 Park District Sewing Classes

Parent-Child Retro Aprons:  Mix and match fabric to sew your own retro aprons with Angie! Parent and child will each walk away with a lovely waist-tied apron. We supply everything but the creativity! Adults must have basic sewing machine knowledge, or have completed Sew Easy or Parent-Child Intro Sew and supply a sewing machine and basic sewing supplies.

July 28th from 9 am – 12 pm Registration# 361215

Parent-Child Sewing Intro:  In this 2-session class, Angie will guide moms and daughters through how to thread a machine, wind a bobbin and sew with straight and zig-zag stitches. Participants will each complete a standard pillowcase. We supply all fabric and notions, you supply a sewing machine, basic sewing supplies and creativity. Machine rental is available.

July 31st and August 2nd from 6-8 pm Registration# 361214


Sew Easy, Too!:  In this abbreviated version of the skill-building class, we will make a fabric bowl and zippered cosmetic bag.  Participants will further develop their understanding of interfacings and basic linings as well as zippers.

August 7th and 9th from 7-9 pm Registration# 361211


Parent-Child Sewing – Tote bag:  Make matching or different lined totes in this workshop. Day 1: prepare the pieces and begin sewing. Day 2: Finish assembling the bags! We supply all fabric and notions, you supply a sewing machine and your creativity. Adults must have basic sewing machine knowledge, or have completed Sew Easy or Parent-Child Intro Sew. Please bring your sewing machine and basic sewing supplies.

August 13th and 14th from 6-8 pm  Registration# 361216

Book Review: Martha Stewart’s Encyclopedia of Sewing and Fabric Crafts

Martha Stewart has two great instruction encyclopedias:

Martha Stewart’s Encyclopedia of Crafts: An A-to-Z Guide with Detailed Instructions and Endless Inspiration


Martha Stewart’s Encyclopedia of Sewing and Fabric Crafts: Basic Techniques for Sewing, Applique, Embroidery, Quilting, Dyeing, and Printing, plus 150 Inspired Projects from A to Z

Both are available in the Oak Park Public Library as well as in stores and online.

These texts are extremely useful–clear directions, useful photos and fantastic glossaries will make them indispensable to you.  What’s even better is that there is a CD that contains patterns and templates.  (Many other sewing guides include patterns that must be photocopied and often enlarged which is often veery tricky!)

Do you have a sewing text you find useful?  Please post a reply and share!