tutorials and tips

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These shorts began life as standard storebought khaki pants for the boy, at some point got cut off into shorts and today got a little girlifying with some graphic pink floral print scraps and some rather scratchy polyester “lace”. I’m fairly certain the fabric is a Jane Sassaman design but I couldn’t identify it positively. I also switched out the old plain buttons for covered buttons using the same pink print.

boys khaki shorts trimmed in pink fabric and lace for a girl

After I did the first side I decided to take pictures so here’s a quick tutorial. For the fabric trim you can use purchased bias trim, or handcut bias or straight grain fabric as I did. I cut mine about one inch wide and a little longer than the distance around the hem of the shorts leg. Cut the lace to the same length. First turn your shorts inside out so you can work on the right side of the fabric more easily. I prefer to offset the seam of the trim a little towards the rear to eliminate extra bulk at the inseam.

Step 1: Lay the fabric strip face down with the top edge of the lace overlapping the width of your zigzag stitch. Pin as desired. Skipping the first centimeter, zigzag down the overlap until you are nearly back around to the beginning. Trim your fabric and lace to fit under the beginning with a little extra to fold over. Fold the fabric end up but underneath the beginning flap. Fold the lace ends at a right angle with the short ends underneath or towards the right side of the shorts, trimming if necessary. Finish zigzagging.

shorts trim tutorial by random-charm 1/9 shorts trim tutorial by random-charm 2/9 shorts trim tutorial by random-charm 3/9

Step 2:
Fold the left edge of the fabric to meet the edge of the trim and finger press. (Or iron if you prefer.) Then finger press again to conceal the zigzag stitching. (I finger press a little at a time as I stitch.) Topstitch the open edge slowly. When you get to the end you will reach the folded end of the fabric trim. You can sew that little space shut if you choose but I didn’t bother. Your fabric and lace trim is now secure. You may add a decorative line of topstitching to the top edge of the fabric trim if you like.

shorts trim tutorial by random-charm 4/9 shorts trim tutorial by random-charm 5/9 shorts trim tutorial by random-charm 6/9

shorts trim tutorial by random-charm 7/9 shorts trim tutorial by random-charm 8/9 shorts trim tutorial by random-charm 9/9

And the finished shorts modeled rather reluctantly by the girl. Don’t let the grin fool you, her contrariness is barely concealed by her choice of the most unpink shirt she owns. After I took the picture she insisted on wearing the shorts backwards for the rest of the day.


P.S. Isn’t she getting tall?? I’m telling myself it’s just the picture but . . . the camera doesn’t lie, does it?

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six pointed paper snowflake

I’ve been making these paper snowflakes for as long as I can remember and I never get tired of cutting these pretties. I know that some people are a bit intimidated by the folding required to create the six-pointed shape so this year I decided to make a snowflake folding template that will hopefully make that easier. Then you can get creative about the cutting! All the directions are printed on the pdf with numbered, dotted lines for where you fold. Here are some photos of the process. So if it isn’t snowing where you live, make your own snow!

paper snowflake folding 1 paper snowflake folding 2 paper snowflake folding 3 paper snowflake folding 4 paper snowflake folding 5 paper snowflake cutting example 1 finished paper snowflake 1

You can do this with ordinary copier/printer paper but it is easier to cut if you use something thinner. If you fold precisely then you will find that at step three you have a tiny bit extra sticking out of both sides. This is intentional. It accounts for the thickness of the paper when you make the final fold. Start out by cutting out simple triangles from alternating sides. I like to cut so that the bridges of paper left in between are the same width. After you unfold your creation you can press it in a book or carefully run a warm iron over it to minimize the fold lines.

If you make a paper snowflake you really like, preserve it by laminating it. I use Therm-o-Web Iron-on Vinyl which looks a lot like good old contact paper but is thinner and you seal it in seconds with a warm iron. Just trim around the outside edge with scissors. We like to tape these to a window.

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Due to the popularity of this project I have uploaded pictures of how I recovered my chair (with hopefully helpful notes) to Flickr here. There is also a link to a group where you can upload pictures of your own finished project! This was really not hard, I used less than a yard of home dec fabric and it didn’t take very long either. Instant gratification, I hope you’ll try it too. I am really enjoying this personal touch to my sewing space!

recovering back rest of office chair


clear pen with fabric insert

I like to write with gel pens that usually have clear barrels. I thought I’d try dressing one up to match my tape dispenser. I took the pen apart, wrapped the inner pen with fabric and then reinserted it into the clear case. This wasn’t too hard with fabric and would be even easier with paper. You only need a tiny scrap and you may already have one of these pens. These would make nice little gifts or stocking stuffers.

A few hints if you decide to try this yourself. Use a pen with a fatter barrel. The kind that have a bottom cap that screws off are much easier to work with. The piece of fabric or paper only needs to be about 3/4″ wide by the length that will show in your pen. Use clear tape to secure one long edge to the pen, wrap the fabric around and reinsert into the barrel. Screw on the bottom cap. Done.

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avocado green, light blue, white, dark brown fabric prints

I’m gearing up to decorate my “studio” and I’ve chosen a palette of colors. The walls are a very pale butter yellow which I will keep. I think I’ll be using these fabrics as accents. They have similar avocado-y green tones, light blues with a hint of aqua and dark browns. I have some dark brown and blue canvas as solids and a great deal of the trees on blue print. That one may get used for curtains. Anyway, spur of the moment I decided to use a bit of one of those remnants to make something pretty.

make your own insert for refillable tape dispenser

Here’s my “new” refillable tape dispenser. I simply removed the paper label from the inside and used it as a template to cut out cardstock-backed fabric inserts. You could also use any pretty paper you might have. It’s really quite simple but here’s a tutorial if you’d like a little more direction. I’m practicing making tutorials. :)

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self lined drawstring bag with knitting project
This is the shoe bag tutorial I promised a long time ago. I realized that although I first made it as a shoe bag, it really could be used for anything. Here I have one just the right size for holding a ball of sock yarn, and the sock-in-progress itself. I can pull the knitting out, pull the drawstrings onto my wrist and knit and walk at the same time. It’s sad, just goes to show how suddenly obsessed I am with knitting.

This self-lined drawstring bag is a great way to use pretty remnants of any lightweight fabric. It makes up easily in quilter’s cottons, flannel, satin or velvet, even a salvaged length from a favorite garment. You can piece your fabric to make up enough length or to have a contrast lining. You can even add pockets to the inside or outside before making the bag for even more versatility. A shoestring, ribbon, twill tape, cord or what-have-you can be be used as the drawstring. These make great gift bags especially in smaller sizes and can also be made as a purse for a young girl or a treasure bag for boys. Make one to hold the pieces of a game whose cardboard box is disintegrating. Custom size bags to store craft tools or projects, lingerie or shoes. There are no raw edges, no handsewing and the bag can be used inside out as well.

There is no pattern. It’s just a rectangle, you choose the size for your application. Grab some favorite remnants and the tutorial and make some cute bags. And if you use this pattern, e-mail me a picture of your bag! I’d love to see what you come up with.

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img_3847Phew. That was harder than I expected. But since I intend on doing more patterns and tutorials this was good practice. If you sew at all I would greatly appreciate it if you would take a look at this and see if it all make sense. I’m sure there are some problems, hopefully nothing major, but please let me know if you find anything that is confusing or wrong. I didn’t want to leave anything out but at the same time I didn’t want it to be 7 pages long either. It’s really easier than it looks. So get the pdf pattern and the pdf tutorial (3.9MB), a yard each of two great prints, 5.5 yards of bias tape and make yourself a fun spring bag!

bias trimmed slouch bag with tie straps

PS. Included in the tutorial are instructions on how to join bias tape into a loop which would be useful for lots of other projects such as pillow covers, quilts of course, potholders, etc.


slouch bag with tie strap

JenP’s teenage daughter saw a hobo style bag in a store and loved the shape but not the fabric. A search for a similar pattern came up empty. Since I love to make patterns I volunteered to draft a pattern based on a picture. Yeah, I like to go off on tangents like that.

Since I wasn’t making the bag for anyone in particular I just pulled fabric out of my stash. I got this turquoise Israeli fabric in a trade, I’ve always thought it was interesting but I didn’t know what to do with it. I figured it would look pretty good on a big bag. I had pulled the lipstick red out as a lining for another possible fabric and decided to use the combination as it brought to mind some recent pictures I’d seen of a room decorated in these colors and a fantastic quilt by CocoaDreams. It’s a total departure for me!

It didn’t take me too long to draft the pattern. It requires 3/4 to 1 yard of the outer print, 3/4 of the lining, 5 yards of bias tape and about two or three hours. Also a small piece of stabilizer of some sort for the base, I used fusible fleece but craft foam would work as well. Mine is made of quilting cotton so it is really lightweight. It’s huge and could easily work as a diaper bag, beach bag, anything. I took pictures along the way so that I can make a tutorial to go along with the pattern which I digitized after I finished the bag. Details: two inner patch pockets, wide tie straps, oval bottom, bias bound straps and top edge, single snap closure and two decorative ties. I wish I had some big red beads to put on the ends of those . . . And guess what? All machine sewing and totally reversible!

slouch bag reversible slouch bag in turquoise and red

I’m not sure how to post the tutorial as it’s quite a lot of pictures for which I have yet to write the accompanying text. It’s all there in my head. So as soon as I figure that out I’ll post the tute and pdf pattern.

I almost forgot. I pulled an AmyDawn to get the photo! The lovely model is a playground aquaintance, not quite a total stranger but almost. I met her about a week ago when she was at the playground with a friend of hers who is the mother of one of the boy’s classmates. Did you get all that? We happened to be the only ones at the same playground again today and she graciously agreed to model the bag for me, isn’t she cute?

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making heart shaped crayons

I know this post is probably a little late, seeing as it’s 11pm EST on Valentine’s Day but I’m posting it anyway. We did these earlier in the week, I just haven’t had time to upload the pictures.

The boy and I, with help from the girl, made heart shaped crayons for Valentine’s day for all their school and church friends. This is quite easy to do and you can use up the broken crayons this way. There are lots of instructions already available on the web but I will give my method and suggestions having done it several times now. The easiest way to make your own heart shaped crayons is to use:

  • Crayola brand crayons*
  • silicon mini muffin molds in any shape
  • toaster oven at 300°
  1. First peel the paper off the crayons. Using a craft knife to slice down the paper makes it much easier. If you are using new crayons, you will need 9-12 crayons to fill 6 wells of a mini muffin tray.
  2. Cut up your crayons with craft scissors or a kitchen knife. If you are making single color hearts it doesn’t matter how small the pieces are as long as they fit in your molds. If you are using multiple colors, I like to cut them into 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch size pieces depending on the size of your molds.
  3. Silicone molds are the easiest because you can easily pop the finished crayons out when they are fully hardened. If you use a metal tray, stick it in the freezer for a few minutes and the molded crayons should come out fairly easily. In either case use at least a layer and a half of crayon bits to make a 1/4 inch thick molded crayon. More bits makes a thicker crayon. Do not fill all the way to the top of the mold!
  4. If you are using individual molds, like I did, place them on a cookie sheet so you can easily slide them in and out of the toaster oven. Be especially careful when removing from the oven as you want your pretty colors to stay separated. Stirring the melted wax is not necessary and will leave a mark on the other side. Depending on your oven and the size of your molds it can take 5 to 10 minutes for the crayons to melt.
  5. Allow the molded crayons to cool fully before unmolding. Be patient!

The bottom side will be the prettier side. Any little edges sticking up can be smoothed by simply sliding the crayon over paper. I like to use two to three complimentary or analogous colors. But experiment and find your own favorite combinations! Pair a handmade molded crayon or two with a little notebook for a nice little gift any time of year for a friend of any age. Everyone should draw with crayons, not just kids!

*If you have used other brands of crayons there will most likely be a layer of clear/cloudy wax that hardens on the top. This is not pretty and it’s frustrating to kids. You can fix this by very carefully sliding the crayons across a vegetable slicer until you have removed the clear layer.  This will actually make the inferior crayons draw better than before because the process concentrates the pigments and removes excess wax.
It’s also prudent not to use the same tools for food and for crafting. I admit to not always being prudent. eek!

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