Thursday, November 27, 2008

Tea Towel Bags (Handmade Holiday Gift Idea #5)

When I started getting interested in sewing bags, one of the very first online bag tutorials I bookmarked was this. I learned to make the tote bag style rather easily, but never did try to use tea towels to make one until now.

I found several inexpensive 18" by 28" tea towels at Target ($4.99 AUD for a set). They were, as many others I've seen before, too pretty to just use in the kitchen. Most of them were paired like this one...

Being a coordinated set like this really just made things easier for me. I purchased three sets and got to work right away. The best thing about using tea towels is that there is virtually no fabric waste (yes, seams included). I used the tutorial I mentioned earlier but changed a few things. For one, I had to take the embroidery into consideration. My idea was to make the squares the focal point of the bag front. Secondly, I wanted a more sturdy construction (not floppy) and a different type of closure.

These are the two bags I've completed so far...

(Click images to enlarge)

I lined the main bag with fusible fleece and the inside with woven interfacing. The bags ended up really thick and cushiony. And because I had used fusible woven interfacing (which is basically fabric that can be ironed on), the lining remained soft. As you can see from the photo above, the bags close with magnetic snaps.

I'm sorry if you had expected me to make another tutorial for this one...the one I used is fantastic as it is and I am quite sure you can make your own following that. Do adjustments depending on the design of your tea towels.

This bag would be a great present to give anytime. And it's so much better than store-bought, commercially-made totes!

Monday, November 24, 2008

TUTORIAL: Appliqued T-shirt (Handmade Holiday Gift Idea #4)

I've seen this done many times in so many different craft sites/blogs that I wanted to try it out myself. I did this particular one on a plain kid size t-shirt but any size would actually do... plus the design possibilities are endless.

The flower pattern I used can be found here. You can use the same or choose from loads of other free applique patterns on the same site, or better still, you can create your own.

plain t-shirt
small scraps of fabric
small piece of iron-on adhesive (fusible webbing) for the applique - use the light kind
small button (if using the flower pattern)
matching thread

How to:
1. Prepare your materials. Print and cut out your pattern. Trace your shapes onto the paper side of your iron-on adhesive, then cut them out. If using the same flower pattern, cut out two leaves.

2. Following the manufacturer's instructions, iron on your shapes to the wrong side of your fabrics. Once cooled, cut out the fabric shapes, then peel off the paper backing.

3. Place the applique on your desired position on the t-shirt. Once you are happy with your design, fuse (iron-on) your applique. Let cool.

4. For more durability, sew the applique all around using a narrow zigzag stitch.

5. Neatly sew on the button at the center of the flower.

Now your shirt isn't so plain anymore! This would have been way more expensive had you bought it like this in the shops.

Isn't it great to sew?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

TUTORIAL: How to Make a Fold 'n Zip Shopping Bag (Handmade Holiday Gift Idea #3)

I am proud to say that I hardly ask for a plastic bag anymore when I'm out shopping. I do so only when I totally forget to bring a reusable bag with me. So as to have no more excuse, I thought of making a shopping bag that I could easily bring with me in my everyday bag, at all times.

I'm pretty sure you've seen one of these shopping bags before...

I remember when I was young, my mother always carried something like this in her handbag. The photo inset shows how it looks like all folded up and zipped. The size is very convenient for those light shopping days or quick trips to the library. Please pardon me for using such dull calico fabric. This was sort of a test run and I did not wish to waste any nice, expensive fabric. Thankfully, it turned out well and just as I had imagined it would.

Use pretty, coordinating fabrics and this shopping bag would surely make a great holiday present!

UPDATE: This tutorial is no longer available for viewing. The detailed 'how to' has been modified to make it even more understandable and easier to follow and will now be offered as an eBook (PDF) for a small fee at my Etsy shop, Simple Things. Thank you!

Monday, November 17, 2008

TUTORIAL: How to Make Personalized Key chains (Handmade Holiday Gift Idea #2)

Personalized key chains...another super easy project. So easy, in fact, you might find it boring... especially so if your sewing machine is capable of embroidery. Mine isn't and so I had to stitch each name in small pieces of Aida cloth.

To be honest, I had these names sewn many weeks ago with the intention of using them for personalized fabric journal covers. After completing just one, I simply got lazy to do more. Hence, these appliques were set aside for some other use. Which brings us back to the key chains...

If your machine can embroider, you don't need these appliques. But if you have to make them, I suggest you use a backstitch alphabet pattern to keep the letters small. Cut the piece to size and fuse with interfacing to stabilize it. You can take a look at this and this for some alphabet patterns if you wish.

Let's start the tutorial now, shall we?

6" by 4" printed cotton fabric
6" by 3" stiff fusible interfacing
4mm eyelet
1 piece key chain part (sorry, I don't know what to call it!)
1 3/4" key ring or large jumpring
optional beads, charms
embroidered name on Aida scrap, if using

How to:
1. Prepare all your materials. If you haven't installed an eyelet before, do not be intimidated. It is super simple. A small packet of eyelets come with the needed tools.

2. Center your interfacing to wrong side of fabric such that 1/2" on both long sides will remain uninterfaced. Fuse.

3. Fold in the uninterfaced 1/2" on both sides.

4. Fold shorter sides to the center and press well.

5. Turn your fabric over. Position your applique on the upper half of your strip, about 1/4" from the left edge. Using a medium width, small length zigzag stitch, sew applique all around. Alternatively, simply machine embroider the letters directly on the fabric. (I have done this step now so that the stitches will not show in the back later.)

Tip: Apply some glue stick on the back of your applique, position it on your fabric, then iron on. It will stay in place while you stitch.

6. Fold fabric in half to end up with a 3" by 1 1/2" piece. Topstitch all around close to the edges.

7. With applique side up and following the manufacturer's instructions, install the eyelet on the center right side, about 1/4" from the edge.

8. Insert key ring through the eyelet. Finish off by attaching the key chain part. Embellish with charms and beads if desired.

Go on and try it! I'm off now to think of more gift ideas...will be back soon!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

TUTORIAL: How to Make a Simple Baby Wash Cloth (Handmade Holiday Gift Idea #1)

Here's an easy to sew baby wash cloth that will surely be appreciated. A mother with a baby can never have too much of these! One wash cloth takes only a few minutes to can definitely make a bunch in just one sitting.

How to Make a Simple Baby Wash Cloth

Requirements (for one 11" x 11" baby wash cloth):
11 1/2" by 11 1/2" cotton flannel in baby colours and prints
11 1/2" by 11 1/2" light coloured cotton towelling
6" coordinating ribbon (1/2" wide)
matching thread
materials for applique (optional): small piece of flannel print, iron-on adhesive
basic sewing skills

How to:

1. Prepare your materials. Round off corners of both flannel and backing fabric.

Tip: You can also use store-bought face washers for your backing. Those are inexpensive, come in a variety of colours and are usually thicker than ordinary cotton towelling.

2. Lay your cotton towelling square right side up. Fold ribbon in half and position diagonally on the upper right hand corner of your fabric, as shown below.

3. Place flannel square on top, wrong side up. Pin all layers in place, making sure your ribbon stays in its proper placement. Stitch all around using a 1/4" seam allowance, leaving about a 2" gap in the bottom center edge for turning.

4. Turn wash cloth to its right side, push out the corners and press well. Slipstitch the opening closed. Topstitch all around, about 1/4" from the edges.

5. Optional applique: Cut out your desired flannel print design in whatever shape or size you want (Mine is a 2 1/2" diameter circle). Follow the manufacturer's instructions on how to use the iron-on adhesive (I used Heat 'n' Seal - Lite so fabric remains soft). Position your applique near the bottom right corner of your wash cloth. Sew in place using a medium width and small length zigzag stitch.

That's it, you're all done! Too easy, wasn't it? And how cute is that? Now go and make some more!

By the way, if you noticed, the title of this post says 'Handmade Holiday Gift Idea #1'. This should mean there would be a #2, #3 and so on. Hopefully, I will be able to follow through in the coming days and weeks before Christmas!

Have fun!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Vincent (Starry Starry Night)

Was humming this while driving earlier. To me, the greatest song ever written, so beautifully sung by Don McLean....

Starry, starry night.
Paint your palette blue and grey,
Look out on a summer's day,
With eyes that know the darkness in my soul.
Shadows on the hills,
Sketch the trees and the daffodils,
Catch the breeze and the winter chills,
In colors on the snowy linen land.

Now I understand what you tried to say to me,
How you suffered for your sanity,
How you tried to set them free.
They would not listen, they did not know how.
Perhaps they'll listen now.

Starry, starry night.
Flaming flowers that brightly blaze,
Swirling clouds in violet haze,
Reflect in Vincent's eyes of china blue.
Colors changing hue, morning fields of amber grain,
Weathered faces lined in pain,
Are soothed beneath the artist's loving hand.

Now I understand what you tried to say to me,
How you suffered for your sanity,
How you tried to set them free.
They would not listen, they did not know how.
Perhaps they'll listen now.

For they could not love you,
But still your love was true.
And when no hope was left in sight
On that starry, starry night,
You took your life, as lovers often do.
But I could have told you, Vincent,
This world was never meant for one
As beautiful as you.

Starry, starry night.
Portraits hung in empty halls,
Frameless heads on nameless walls,
With eyes that watch the world and can't forget.
Like the strangers that you've met,
The ragged men in ragged clothes,
The silver thorn of bloody rose,
Lie crushed and broken on the virgin snow.

Now I think I know what you tried to say to me,
How you suffered for your sanity,
How you tried to set them free.
They would not listen, they're not listening still.
Perhaps they never will...

Monday, November 10, 2008

I Don't Like Mondays

Today, at least...

This morning, of all days, the car wouldn't start. I had to ask my eldest son to walk to school (about 1.2 kms away from the house). It was 8:15am and my three other kids and I had to hurry to the bus stop to catch the 8:25am bus. And then, of all days again, the bus was late. It came at 8:35. We are rarely ever late for anything so I just hate it when things like these happen.

After dropping off my kids, I decided to walk all the way home (about 3 kms) as I did not wish to wait another 30 minutes for a bus ride. I needed the exercise anyway. When I got here, I went straight to the car and tried to restart the still wouldn't. As I glanced at the gear, I noticed it was on D (Drive). My husband had put the hand brake up but apparently had forgotten to shift the gear to Park when he came home yesterday...

It's a good thing the weather's good today.

Here's a work in progress which I hope to complete by tomorrow...

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Nothing much, just random stuff

I didn't realize it's been a week since I wrote my last post. We just had a four-day weekend and I've been pretty busy preparing a surprise slideshow presentation for my brother's 50th birthday celebration on Saturday. I had a real blast looking at family photos from the 1960s up to the present. So nice to reminisce once in a while.

Of course, I squeezed in a bit of sewing. Made this CD holder which I am not particularly proud of (but will share with you just the same)...

I planned it carefully but the execution was not as good. I have to draft a better design.

I was thrilled though to install the eyelets (or grommets). It was my first time and I did not know they were that easy to use till then...and now I'm thinking of all sorts of ways to use them. For a belt perhaps?

I also made some baby stuff for my sister in-law's friend's newborn daughter. I miss having a baby around and just thought it would be nice to sew something for a baby.

These are my quick and easy-to-make baby washers. I just adore the cute flannel prints.

Each one is backed with cotton towelling.

I also made a burp cloth and matching bib.

My sister in-law said I could easily sell this stuff and encouraged me to make more. I just might. And I'll probably do a tutorial too.

Have a great day!