Category Archives: tutorial

Sewing lesson: Drawstring gift bag tutorial

For today’s lesson, I thought I’d share one of our latest sewing projects.  The Artist has been trying to earn money to finance her big school trip to France next summer.  She was hired to do some custom sewing for a local shop.  We made drawstring bags to be used as take-home bags for some beautiful beaded purses.  Making the bag part was pretty easy.  But, in my prototype, we hit a brick wall when it came to making the casing for the drawstring.  How to get the cording in and out of the casing?  The solution (I thought) was to leave an opening at the bottom edge of the casing, but this turned the top of the bag inside out to get to the drawstring.
My prototype also utilized French seams to encase all the raw edges since the fabric the shop owner chose frayed very easily.  Yeah, that worked, but was pretty time consuming and made the bag a little too narrow.  So, we settled for simply overlocking the seam and went from there.  That made the casing issue an easy fix by just leaving an opening at the seam to thread the cording through.  But, that left a nice frayed out hole.  I finally came up with a workable solution.  Hopefully I’m not the only dunce out there that couldn’t make a simple drawstring bag, so I’ve created a tutorial.  Hope it helps someone.

Supplies needed:
Desired fabric
Thread to match
Cording to use for drawstring

I started by cutting my fabric.  For these particular bags, I wanted the finished product to be 12″ x 12″, so I cut with one edge on the fold and cut a 12.5″ by 13″ piece on my high-tech self-healing mat with my low-tech shears.  (A rotary cutter is next on my sewing wishlist.)  Cut with right sides together.

That fabric looks way wrinkly in the photo.

 The trusty overlock setting on my machine.  (Use a serger if you’re lucky enough to own one.)

 I left a 1/2″ side seam allowance, so I stitched . . .

. . . then trimmed the seam for a nice clean look.

Overlock the bottom seam with a narrow (1/4″) seam.
Finish top edge  by overlocking (ends up about 1/8″ wide.

I love the rich fabric choice!

At this point you should probably press all your seams to one side.  Since I skipped this, pretend the seam pictured below lays nice and flat.
Now, to solve the problem of how to get the drawstring in the casing, I basically made a buttonhole about 5/8″ from the edge as close to the seam as I could.  I tried the buttonhole foot, but got better results with a freehand straight stitch.  This is about 1/2″-5/8″ long.  Use a seam ripper to carefully slit the buttonhole, trimming away any loose threads.

Here you can turn the bag right-side out, making sure to get the corners squared out.  Or, you can wait until after you stitch the casing down.  It would depend on whether you prefer to work from the outer layer or inside layer as you stitch.
Turn about 5/8″ to the inside of the bag and stitch following your overlocked stitch line.

Cut cording to desired length.   Push one end through buttonhole opening and thread through casing around to buttonhole opening again.  Tie ends in an overhand knot to secure.  Turn right-side out if you haven’t already done so.

And there is your beautiful bag, all ready for packing cute shop goodies for customers or for gift giving or whatever.

We’re now pros at making drawstring bags.  Let me know if this tutorial helps you. 🙂

Sewing lesson: Kindergarten rest-time mat

Princess is starting kindergarten.  They are supposed to bring a beach towel to lay on for rest time.  I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t think just a towel on the hard floor would be all that comfy.  But, the commercially available mats are too big to fit in their cubbies.  So, I decided to make her a padded rest-time mat.  My first idea was to get two beach towels and sandwich a thin batting between them before sewing the edges.  Great idea, but she didn’t want a beach towel.  She fell in love with a princess fleece because it had “Tangled” on it.  I figured fleece would stay nice and soft and could be padded just as easily.  This is really my first attempt at machine quilting, but I don’t think it turned out too badly.

Here’s what I did:
You will need 1 to 1 1/2 yards of 60″ wide fleece and a crib-size package of low-loft batting. (Also, matching thread.)

(Note:  You may or may not need to include all steps, especially if you are more organized that I seem to be.)
* Pre-shrink fleece.
* Trim the edges of the fleece to remove any printing or funky edging.
* Fold the fleece in half, matching selvage edges.
* Cut a piece of batting to the same size as the fleece.
* Sandwich batting between fleece layers.
* Pin in place, taking care to match edges.
* Search for the bag containing matching thread that you know was right there yesterday.
* Look again since the thread must be hiding.  It was right there yesterday, you KNOW it was.
* Give up searching for the elusive thread and check thread stash for a close color.
* Find old spool of thread that will work.
* Wind new bobbin, stopping when bobbin is half-way full because you can start to see the spool beneath the layer of thread.
* Sew around, stitching one inch from all edges.
* Check amount of thread and mentally calculate how far it will last. (Wonder if you should have put less on the bobbin.)
* Decide three quilting lines across should probably work.
* Eyeball 1/4 of way down length and position for first quilting line.
* Sew all the way across the width.
* Repeat quilting at midpoint and other 1/4 point.
* Take a deep breath and pat yourself on the back for finishing before you run out of thread (barely).

Voila, here is the finished product.

How does it work, you ask?  Princess gave her approval, although it took some convincing that her semi-wet hair wouldn’t ruin anything. (Maybe I really didn’t need that extra 1/2 yard.  One yard probably would have done it.)

So, there you go, if you ever need to make a rest-time mat, you have an idea to start with.  The nice part was that this was a quick project (if you don’t include the time spent trying to find that thread).

Cooking lesson: Easy Fruit Tarts

Today I’m sharing a recipe that is so simple it’s almost criminal to even call it a recipe.  This would be a great treat for your family for Valentine’s Day.
Easy Cherry Tarts
You really only need two ingredients:
Mini graham cracker pie crusts
1 can pie filling (any flavor will work)
 That’s it, that’s all you need.
Step 1: Open pie crusts and set them on a baking sheet.
 Step 2:  Open pie filling and spoon evenly into crusts. (I generally use 6-8 crusts and have no problems with them being full.  You could even go up to 10 or 12 per can if you really had to stretch your pie filling.)
Step 3:  Refrigerate for at least one hour.  
That’s it, you’re done.  See?  Easy, peasy.  
Now pat yourself on the back, relax and accept all the compliments for your yummy dessert that you must have slaved over for hours.

Crafting lesson: CD Suncatchers

This isn’t an original idea.  In fact, I got the idea from my Cub Scout resources.  But, they are fun and easy to make, so I thought I would do a tutorial.  I think we’ve found this year’s Valentines. 🙂
CD Suncatchers
You will need:
2 CDs per suncatcher
Something for a hanger (yarn, string, rope, ribbon, ric rac, etc.)
hot glue
decorations (foam shapes, stickers, etc.)
Find a stack of CDs.  We had a bunch of old ones, but you could use new ones as well.  Cut your hanger to desired length (4-5″).  I just eyeballed and cut a pile.

On the label side of one CD, put a glob of hot glue.  Place both ends of hanger in glue, forming a loop.

Add a strip of glue around the CD.  You don’t want this too close to the middle or the edge.

Place the second CD on top of the first and press together to adhere.

We used foam stickers to decorate.  

Add a few stickers and voila, you have a suncatcher!  You could decorate both sides if you plan to hang where it will be free-hanging.  Just one side works if it will be against a window or wall.

We plan to use these for Valentines.  Add a little tag with something along the lines of “You’re a star!” or use heart stickers and a traditional Valentine greeting.  The possibilities are endless.

Linking up:  Share & Wow Wednesday   Link It Up Thursdays   Shine On Fridays  Saturday Craft Party

Halloween costumes — Doctor Who, Perry & Doofenshmirtz, Harry Potter

We tend to get some creative Halloween costume ideas around our house.  This year The Artist decided to be Doctor Who.  Surprisingly, this was much easier to pull off than I had expected.
Take a white dress shirt and black pants, add a thrifted tweed jacket, bow tie, crocheted fez and of course, a sonic screwdriver.  (We didn’t get around to the faux-suspenders out of wide, grosgrain ribbon.) 
We tried some sock-bun curls.  (There are tutorials all over Pinterest.)  I think it’s a learned art, but they didn’t turn out too bad.

Oh, can’t forget the “Trust Me, I’m the Doctor” earrings!

Shirt: JCPenney, Pants: ??, Jacket: Goodwill, 
Bowtie: Etsy, Fez: made by me, Earrings: Etsy, Sonic Screwdriver: ThinkGeek
Mr. Adventure and Buddy teamed up with a Doofenshmirtz/Perry the Platypus combination. 

 The Doofenshmirtz ensemble is based off of a Phineas & Ferb episode where Perry gets hold of a remote control and controls Doof’s every move.  A hilarious rap song ensues — “There’s a platypus controlling me . . .”  Mostly this costume was thrown together with bits and pieces.  We found the records at Goodwill.

The cute Perry outfit was made by my SIL.  It’s a simple fleece hooded jumpsuit with a foam tail sewn on the back.  We added a foam visor and drew the nostrils with black Sharpie.

Our Harry Potter robe is now in its fifth or sixth year of use!  Little Miss Sunshine wore it this year. 

I made the robe out of two black pillowcases:  a king-size for the robe itself, and a standard size for the sleeves.  (Hand-sewn when my sewing machine was on the fritz.)
Unpick the seams of the standard pillowcase and cut on the fold for two equal panels.  Resew the side seam on each to form the sleeve. (The finished edge is the bottom of the sleeves.)  Unpick part of the bottom seam on the king pillowcase for a neck opening.  Unpick the side seams near the bottom for a sleeve-sized hole.  Sew the raw edges of the sleeve and robe together being careful not to sew the opening closed.  And there you have a Hogwarts-style robe.  Add a house badge and a wand.