A new bag pattern

 

Step by Step tote

I’m happy to let you know that I have a new simple tote bag pattern available on Etsy. I call it the First Steps Tote Bag because the pattern is very straightforward, and would make an ideal project for someone who is getting back into sewing, or who hasn’t sewn for a long time. There’s lots of straight lines to sew, and nice big half inch seams to play with. The pattern is very detailed, and thoroughly tested by stitchers at my sewing classes and by pattern testers too (very big thanks to them!).

Here’s another version I made:

finished bag

The little trim is a very achievable challenge which makes this simple tote shape a little bit out of the ordinary. As usual with my patterns, there are loads of pictures and the instructions are as detailed as I can possibly make them. Great for beginners of course, but if you are an experienced stitcher after a very quick-to-sew and reliable bag pattern, then I hope this will tempt you!

 

Tutorial: Appliqué and patchwork boiled wool pillow

boiled-wool-applique-and-patchwork-cushion

I can’t tell you what a fun project this boiled wool appliqué and patchwork cushion is. The wool is so forgiving and doesn’t fray, and wonky machine stitching seems to just disappear… If it’s not a fabric you have experienced before (and it was new to me!), boiled wool is a bit like wool felt, but it has a cosy, fuzzy texture and a little bit of  drape and stretch. The stretch gives boiled wool the advantage of making it rather easy to match seams (the exact opposite of what I was expecting). It has been an absolute revelation to me as a glorious fabric to work with – you just have to follow a few simple rules.

Working with boiled wool:

  • If you have one, use a walking foot. I’m not entirely sure I’d attempt this project without one..!
  • Use a ball point machine needle. I used a 90/14, which coped really well with the thick layers, especially when I was sewing the whole cushion together.
  • Use a longer stitch than usual. I found a 3mm stitch was fine for this project.
  • Don’t pull the fabric through the presser foot from the back – let the feed dogs do the work for you, and make sure you are supporting the weight of the wool fabric so that it doesn’t have to be dragged up to the presser foot by the feed dogs – that’s a sure fire of causing the fabric to stretch out of shape.
  • When ironing the wool (e.g. when you are pressing the seams open), press incredibly gently on minimum heat and try not to press the front of your work at all.
  • Use 1/2in seams.

Dragonfly Fabrics - Designer Dressmaking Fabrics

Huge thanks to Dragonfly Fabrics, my sponsors, for provided me with the boiled wool and velveteen to make this cushion.

boiled-wool-applique-and-patchwork-cushion-close-up-3

You will need:

  • A selection of pieces of boiled wool – I used a selection from my sponsors at Dragonfly Fabrics – where you can buy in increments of 30cm (12in). It’s hard to be specific because it really depends on how many different colours you want to use. To give you an idea, you need a 6in by 12in piece to make one square, one flower section and one flower centre, and 3 cuts of 30cm each would certainly be enough if you used just 3 colours for the cushion (which would look great and would be far less confusing than my more scappy approach).
  • 30cm (12in) cut of stretch velveteen in a coordinating colour for the back of the cushion. You could also use more boiled wool, or some other sturdy fabric with a bit of stretch, for example, a stretch denim.
  • 16in square of cotton fabric to line the patchwork section
  • Stranded embroidery cotton or cotton thread to match the flowers and flower centres
  • 17/18in cushion pad – I used an 18in duck down cushion pad for my pillow and it is a really great fit
  • Freezer paper
  • Pattern templates
  • Both the boiled wool and the velveteen shed tiny fibres everywhere whilst you are cutting them. I highly recommend a lint roller to pick up all the bits.

Pattern notes:

  • Seams are 1/2in throughout.
  • Finished size is 15in square.

Cutting the fabrics:

From the wool felt cut:

  • Nine 6in squares for the background.
  • Nine 4 1/2in squares for the flower petals
  • Nine 2in squares (although you can probably just about get away with 1 3/4in squares) for the flower centres

From the velveteen cut:

  • 2 pieces measuring 10in by 16in

Preparing the flower pieces:

Download and print out the templates. Make sure you open them in Adobe Acrobat reader and untick/deselect the ‘fit to page’. You can use the little inch square to make sure the print out is the right size.

Trace the flower template onto a piece of freezer paper and cut out. Repeat for the circular flower centre.

Iron the freezer paper flower template onto a 4 1/2in square wool piece as shown (shiny side goes against the wool).

1-cutting-out-the-flower-with-freezer-paper

2-cut-out-boiled-wool-flower-for-applique

Cut out the flower, and then peel off the freezer paper. Cut out 8 more sets of petals in the same way. You should be able to use the same freezer paper template to cut all the flowers.

Iron the circle template onto a small piece of felt and cut out:

3-cutting-out-the-centre-circle-for-the-flowers

Repeat to make 8 more flower centres. Again, you should be able to use the same piece of freezer paper to cut all 9 pieces.

Making the flower units

Decide on the arrangement of squares, flowers and circles and lay them all out on your work surface, and then take a photo! You will forget, so it’s great to have this as a reference. Here’s the kind of thing I mean – although it’s a rubbish photo, and shows how I made my arrangement in a horribly disorganised way – but it’ll give you an idea:

arrangement

Pin all the flowers in their respective squares, and put the circles somewhere safe until you need them.

Take one strand of embroidery thread or use ordinary cotton sewing thread and stitch each flower in place. I used a simple whip stitch  – here’s a lovely clear overview of how to do this stitch by Alison Glass at Sew Mama Sew. Put the TV on, or the radio, or your favourite podcast and just enjoy the hand sewing. If you want to give the edge of your flowers more definition, and make the stitching more of a feature, you can use a larger whip stitch with more than 1 strand of embroidery thread, or you can use a blanket stitch. Customize away!

Once you’ve done all the flowers, check your photo again, then pin and stitch all the centre circles in place.

Making the patchwork

Take two squares and pin or clip together. Adjust your stitch length to 3mm, if you haven’t done it already and stitch with a 1/2in seam.

4-pinning-boiled-wool-squares-together

5-first-two-boiled-wool-squares-stitched-together

6-squares-stitched-together

Refer back to your photo, and complete this row. Stitch up the other 2 rows and then very gently press all the seams open. They won’t stay very flat, and please don’t try and get them to go flat because you will spoil your beautiful wool, but you should be able to press them enough so that they stay open. Don’t trim the seams.

Take two of the completed rows and clip/pin together matching the seams. I find it helpful to clip the seam allowances so that they stay open. I pin through the seams so that I get them really nicely lined up:

7-clipping-the-3-rows-together

Stitch the final row in the place to finish the patchwork, and then press the seams open – again, don’t trim the seams.

Lining and ‘quilting’ the patchwork top

Clip the lining piece and the patchwork top together, wrong sides together and clip round the edge. Pin through the centre of each block too, to keep the 2 layers together (sorry pins aren’t pictured):

8-lining-on-the-cushion-top

Make sure the wool patchwork seams are open (the lining will help keep them open) and lying flat.

9-quilting-in-the-ditch

Working on the right side of the patchwork, ‘quilt’ (officially I shouldn’t really say quilt if there aren’t three layers being stitched – don’t tell!) the two layers together, stitching in the ditch along the seam line, as shown. Repeat for the other 3 long seams.

Making the back section

Fold in 3/8in on one of the long edges of the velveteen pieces, and then fold again to make a double fold, hiding the raw edge. You can use an iron on a cool setting to help you make this fold – don’t press with too high a heat or you will destroy the lovely nap of the velveteen. Clip or pin this double fold as shown.

10-hemming-the-backing-pieces

As you can see, the backs of the clips are facing up in the picture – because you now need to flip the fabric right side up and stitch this fold closed on the right side of the fabric. I kept my stitch length at 3mm and continued with the ball point needle. Make the line of stitching a scant 3/8in from the folded edge to make sure you catch the fold with your stitching.

Repeat with other piece of velveteen. If this kind of thing bothers you, you will want to check that the nap will go in the same direction when the back pieces are in place before deciding which of the long edges to fold and sew on the second back piece.

11-hemmed-back-pieces

Finishing the cushion

Lay the cushion top, right side up, on your work surface. Place one of the cushion back pieces on top, right sides together as shown:

12-placing-back-pieces

Put the other cushion back piece on the other side, again right sides together with the cushion top, and so that the 2 folded edges overlap.

Pin or stitch together and stitch all round the edge of the cushion with a 1/2in seam. Trim the seam to a generous 3/8in and then use a zig zag stitch or overcast stitch on your sewing machine (or overlocker if you are lucky enough to have one) to finish the seam neatly (unlike the wool the velveteen will fray).

13-overcasting-the-edges

Turn the cushion through to finish, and push the corners out with the blunt end of a pencil or similar.

boiled-wool-applique-and-patchwork-cushion-close-up-2

boiled-wool-applique-and-patchwork-cushion-close-up

And that’s you all done. Enjoy your lovely cosy cushion!

Tutorial: Liberty patchwork mini-Christmas stocking

If you are looking for a Christmas stocking that you can stuff lots of lovely gifts into, this is not the sewing tutorial for you! The final stocking is about 7in (18-19cm) in height, and is meant really for decoration, although there’s nothing to stop you putting a little present or two inside… I always imagine the finished stocking hanging from a beautifully polished brass door handle, against a lovely oak door… well, a girl can dream…!

liberty-patchwork-mini-stockings

 

If you haven’t used woven iron-on interfacing before, you might want to read my blog post with some tips and tricks that will give you confidence to work with this very useful fabric.

You will need

  1. Scraps of 8 different Liberty prints in coordinating colours. The scraps need to be gig enough for you to cut twelve 1 inch squares from them. Feel free to use more than 8 different prints if you want to, as long as you can cut a total of 96 1 inch squares. I used a Christmas scrap pack from my sponsors Duck Egg Threads.
  2. Approx 10in x 14in of linen style fabric, for the main outer. I used yarn-dyed Essex linen in flax, one of my favourite fabrics when I need a natural linen look.
  3. Approx 10in x 14in Liberty fabric for the lining and toe end pieces
  4. Approx 14in x 18in light weight iron-on interfacing – I used Vilene G710, a woven interfacing which brings body without stiffness
  5. 10in x 14in medium weight iron on interfacing – I used Vilene G700, again a woven interfacing
  6. 7 inch piece of narrow ribbon
  7. Neutral grey or cream thread for your sewing machine – here’s a piece I wrote about not trying to match thread to patchwork
  8. Print outs of the main stocking template and lining template. Make sure you open the templates in Adobe Acrobat Reader, and when you print, make sure that the ‘print to fit’ box is NOT ticked/checked. There is a 1 inch box printed on each template so you can check the templates are the right size.
  9. 60/8 sewing machine needle – I find a very sharp microtex needle works well, or a really nice new sharp Universal 60/8 would work too.

Cutting list

Cut twelve 1 inch squares from each of the Liberty prints. The easiest way to do this is to cut the scraps into 1 inch strips, then pile up the strips (up to 6 in a pile) and cut into squares. The squares don’t have to be very accurately cut, as long as they are not hugely too big or too small.

Fold the outer main fabric in half and pin the larger template securely to it, through both halves of the fabric. Draw round the template and then cut out the 2 stocking pieces from the fabric (if you have a small rotary cutter, you can cut round the template using that).

From the lining fabric cut 2 pieces measuring 2.25in x 3.5in for the toe ends. Fold the rest of the fabric in half and pin the smaller stocking template very securely in place, pinning through both halves of the fabric. As outlined above, cut out 2 lining pieces – here’s what you should end up with:

step-13-cut-2-lining-pieces

From the light weight interfacing cut 2 rectangles measuring 8in x 4in. Next fold the rest of the interfacing in half, and use the larger template to cut out 2 pieces, as you did for the main outer fabric.

Fold the medium weight interfacing in half and use the smaller template to cut 2 pieces, as you did for the lining fabric above.

Instructions

Step 1: Make the patchwork cuff pieces

Working on the smooth side of one of the 4in by 8in pieces of lightweight interfacing, draw a grid of one inch squares like this:

step-1-draw-the-grid

I use a soft pencil for this – it’s very important to use a marking pen that isn’t affected by heat (so no Frixion pens!). Make sure you can see the marked lines fairly clearly on the other side of the interfacing.

Take 48 of your prepared Liberty squares, and working on your ironing board, or on a piece of card or small cutting mat that you can carry to your ironing board, arrange the squares into four rows of eight.

Put one of the prepared pieces of interfacing, rough side facing up, on your ironing board and place the first 4 squares on the first marked column.

step-2-place-first-squares

Carefully use the iron to press into place – they don’t have to be really firmly stuck at this stage, so just a brief press will do. Use a piece of baking parchment to protect your iron from the sticky stuff.

step-3-place-second-row-of-squares

Repeat with the next column of squares, and then continue along until you have completely filled the grid. Don’t worry at all if some of the squares overlap a tiny bit, this will be sorted at the next stage. Once the grid is full, flip the interfacing over, and run a steam iron over it 5 or 6 times, or use a damp cloth and press for about 10 seconds, to make sure that all the squares are firmly attached. This is how it should look:

step-4-squares-all-in-place

Thread your sewing machine with a neutral grey or cream thread. Fold the piece of interfacing along the first short grid line, RST.

step-5-folding-the-first-row

Put a couple of pins through the fold to secure, making sure that the lines on either side match up.

Stitch with a scant 1/4in seam. It’s important to be stingy with the seams because of the extra thickness that the Vilene adds to the fabric.

step-6-stitching-the-first-row

Continue, stitching all the short rows in turn. You will end up with something that looks like this:

step-7-all-the-short-rows-stitched

With a pair of sharp dressmaking scissors, trim off a tiny part of the seam allowance of each seam, close to the fold. This will allow you to press the seams open, and ensure that the seam allowances don’t get too bulky.

step-8-trimming-the-seam-allowance

Repeat this trimming process for each of the folded seams, and then open up the seam allowances and press very thoroughly. You will end up with something that looks like this on the back:

step-9-press-the-seam-allowance-open

I find the pointy end and the flat end of a Hera marking tool really useful for opening up the seam allowance and holding it open whilst I press. Here’s how it should look on the front:

step-9a-front-view

Next fold along the first of the long grid lines, as shown:

step-10-folding-the-first-long-row

Stitch a scant seam, as before, and then repeat for the other 2 grid lines. Trim the seams and then press them open, as before. Your finished patchwork piece should look like this.

step-11-long-rows-stitched-and-trimmed

Repeat this whole process with the other piece of interfacing and the Liberty squares.

I like to make one final step with the cuff pieces before I move on to the next stage – I stitch all round the edge of the patchwork about 1/8th inch away from the edge, just to keep stitches unravelling as I work on constructing the stocking later.

step-12-stitch-round-edge-to-prevent-unravelling

Step 2: Complete the lining pieces

Iron the medium weight interfacing to the lining pieces – 5 or 6 passes with a steam iron, or 12 seconds pressing with a damp cloth will be enough to fix it in place.

Then take one of the cuff pieces and place right sides together with the top of one of the lining pieces, aligning it centrally, and pin in place.

step-14-pinning-cuff-to-lining

Stitch and then press the seam upwards (I find this really helps when you are folding the cuff down, later on):

step-15-press-seam-upward

Use the main body template to trim completed lining section to size:

step-16-use-the-template-to-trim-the-lining-and-cuff-piece

Repeat these steps to finish the other side of the lining.

Step 3: Make the outer stocking

Iron the lightweight interfacing onto the 2 main body fabric pieces.Fold the template toe section along the marked line then use the template to mark the toe section line on the back (the interfaced side) of the 2 pieces.

step-17-interfaced-outer-and-marking-the-toe-piece

Take one of the marked pieces and put one of the 2.25in x 3.5in Liberty rectangles right side together with it, aligned as shown in the picture:

step-18-pinning-toe-piece-in-place

There should be a 0.25 inch overlap at the seam, as shown, and enough fabric that, when you stitch along the marked line, the fabric will cover the entire toe section. Stitch along the marked line, reverse stitching at either end. Fold the fabric right side out, and press:

step-19-toe-piece-stitched-and-folded

Top stitch close to the fold, then trim the excess fabric away:

step-20-toe-piece-top-stitched-and-trimmed

Repeat for the other outer stocking piece.

Put the two outer stocking pieces right sides together, and pin. Because I am entirely incompetent at stitching curves in a smooth way, I like to mark my stitching line on the curved section:

step-21-outer-pieces-rst-with-lines-marked

Stitch round the edge, reverse stitching at both ends of the seam.

To help the seams lie flat when you turn the stocking through, you need to clip and notch the seam allowance. Clip the concave section (the valley shaped bit!) and notch the convex sections (the hilly bits!):

step-22-notches-and-slashes-made-in-outer

Turn the completed outer right side out and press.

Step 4:Complete the lining section

Fold the hanging ribbon in half and position on the cuff section, just next to the seam between the lining and the cuff, as shown. The raw edges should be lined up with the edge of the cuff. A smidgeon of washable glue is really useful here, to hold it in place, but you can pin if you don’t have glue.

step-23-ribbon-folded-and-glued-in-position

Put the other lining piece right side together with this one, and stitch as you did for the outer, but this time leave a 2.5in-3in gap in the long back edge of the stocking lining – remember to reverse stitch at either end of this gap, and and at either end of your line of stitching (sorry I didn’t get a picture of this bit, but you can see the turning gap in the next picture). Notch and clip the curves as before.

Keep the lining section wrong side out, and pop the completed outer section inside, so that their right sides are together.

step-24-outer-tucked-inside-the-lining

The picture shows the top bit of the outer poking out, but you need to line up the two top edges, making sure that seams are aligned, and pin all round.

Take the stocking to the sewing machine and stitch round the top edge. I find the easiest way to do this is to work on the inside of the stocking, pulling the top layer out of the way, and gradually easing my way round the top.

step-25-stitching-round-the-top-edge

When you have finished pull the entire stocking right side out, through the hole that you left in the lining. You should have something like this:

step-26-turning-the-stocking-through

Push the lining down inside the outer – a large size knitting needle or crochet hook is really useful here for pushing the lining into place.

Press the top edge of the outer, until you have something that looks like this:

step-27-lining-and-cuff-tucked-into-the-outer

Top stitch the top edge, close to the fold, again working on the lower part of the stocking and pulling the top half out of the way as you stitch. Fasten off the ends of the top stitching, thread the ends onto a hand sewing needle and pull them through between the outer and inner sections to get them securely out of the way. Then sew the turning hole in the lining closed.

Turn the cuff down and press again to finish.

liberty-patchwork-mini-stocking-tutorial