(not cheesy) Teacher Gifts You Can Sew

It’s that time of year and I don’t mean deer season.  Teacher gifts.  Our kids’ teachers bust their tails and most likely risk being institutionalized so little Johnny and sweet little Suzie can grow up to be super stars.  The least we can do is present them with a not cheesy and thoughtful end-of-the-year gift.

Here is a list of five really cool, not boring, teachers gifts that you can make.  Or if you’re one of my local peeps, I’ll be glad to make something for you.

From Jillian in Italy you can learn how to make these fabric baskets so your child’s teacher can store and organize all their teachery stuff.  I like useful stuff, and this certainly qualifies.  An even nicer gift would be a basket or two filled with all that teachery stuff.Fabric book marks from S.O.T.A.K. Handmade.  Yes!  Of course!  Super easy, undetailed, and useful.  Making these fabric bookmarks would be quite doable and inexpensive for multiple teachers. 

These cute and colorful key fobs from Sew4Home are a fantastic way to use up scraps and of course can be made in an endless array of colors and patterns.  I especially like the decorative stitches.I really like these easy yo-yo paper clips from Positively Splendid.  There is minimal sewing and it’s hand sewing at that!  I’m saying this for any of you who may be new to sewing or for those of you (us) who wait til the night before the last day of school to come up with a gift that’s not a Starbuck’s gift card or an apple mug.   Easy yo-yo clips by Positively Splendid

Sayyes.com has a really cool tote bag tutorial that looks like a piece of notebook paper.  This is a bit more involved, but would be great for that special teacher.  I may be making this myself.notebooktote2

I hope this makes it possible for you to bring a unique and personal gift to your child’s teacher this year.

I’d love to see your ideas too!  Thanks for reading and please come back and bring a friend.

Keepin’ It Real

I don’t know about you, but I don’t quite have it going on like Better Homes and Gardens.  So, naturally my sewing room is not a brightly painted, quiet and solitary space with ergonomically arranged tools at every angle.  But I’m constantly seeing images of just that out there in cyber space.  Then I look at my work space…

Well here is some reality (a.k.a. comic relief) for y’all people who sew, but also go to work, have kids, and live in the real world.

This little slice of heaven…



Which one do you think is closer to reality?  …….  Yeah, me too.

How about all the advice on ergonomics and posture?  Truly good, sound advice.

How you sit at your sewing machine has a lot to do with how long you can sit there enjoying yourself sewing, without aches. One of the key concepts of ergonomics is keeping your body in a neutral position as much as possible. Neutral position is the most relaxed state for your body. Your weight is centered and your limbs are relaxed.:                                                          vs.

This cat is more like the real life posture you’d see if you come to my house when I’m sewing.  Actually on the floor too, laying out pieces, pinning pieces, crying…  Ok, not too much crying.

But it’s happy tears.  Really.

There are plenty of DIY storage ideas for your small sewing supplies too. Then there are actual sewing supplies that get used.The landfill might be a little bit of an extreme.  Then again, it might not.

Not everything turns out perfectly the first or fifth time.  That’s why they make seam rippers.  And it’s why we all have one.

Don’t give up.  If you’re new to sewing check out tutorials, tips, hacks, whatever people are calling advice these days.  If they don’t work then try again.  Laugh at your mistakes.  Heck, if you’re thick skinned enough send me a picture and we can all laugh.  So what if your work space is messy?  Honestly I think it’s true what they say about neat spaces being spaces that are never used.  I have yet to sit down and sew anything more than just repairing a seem and not have it look like a hurricane went through my sewing area.

Sewing is an evolving skill.  It takes finesse that is gained from doing and trying and redoing.  And if your work space works for you then work it!  Hone your skills, have fun, express your creativity, release stress, and be able to say you made something from scratch with your hands.  Good job!

Thanks for reading.  Please do come back and bring a friend.

It’s a Small World After All…

… filled with lots of Disney fans.

Today let’s have a vocabulary review.  Fanatic. 


[fuhnat-ik] /fəˈnæt ɪk/
1. noun – a person with an extreme and uncritical enthusiasm or zeal regarding an interest or topic.
2. adjective – fanatical.
Now let me use it in a sentence.  I have been called a lot of things in my day, but never a Disney fanatic.  Or… I may be a fanatic over things like good library books, great music, and a good thrift store deal, but not over Disney.  
HOWEVER, the circle of life continues and it was my sister’s birthday.  Naturally, I made her a Disney inspired gift and she LOVED it.  So for approximately 24 hours I was the owner of Disney décor… a whole new world for me indeed!
Here is where I got the idea.  A big thank you to Erica at Five Little Monsters for the idea and tutorial!!  She made this almost effortless by providing all the measurements for me.
I made three changes to her directions.
1.  I added light weight fusible interfacing to the wrong side of the front panel before sewing the front and back together.
2.  I used duck cloth for the backs of the pillows to give them more weight.
3.  I appliqued a bow on the Minnie pillow instead of making a stuffed one and sewing it on.  I just free handed a bow on the polka dotted fabric after I had added light weight fusible interfacing to the back of it.
Here are the bare necessities (materials) you will need.
  • 1 yard black fabric
  • 1/4 yard red fabric
  • 1/4 yard red and white polka dot fabric
  • 1/8 yard yellow fabric
  • small scrap of white fabric
  • fusible interfacing
  • 1/2 yard 1″ white eyelet lace
  • 2- 16″ pillow inserts
When you wish upon a star, people like Erica will do the math for you.  This makes it so easy!  Heigh-ho, heigh ho, it’s off to work you go.  Put it together and what have you got?  Bippity, boppity, boo!
This sewing project was seriously one of the easiest under the sea.  It made a creative and unique birthday gift at a fairly inexpensive price.  Somewhere out there are poor, unfortunate souls spending tons of money on factory-made, cookie cutter gifts when they could be making their own.  Imagine using other color schemes to represent other Disney characters.  All the colors of the wind…  Let it go and see what you can come up with!  I’d love to see pictures of your creations.
Hakuna matata, y’all.  As always, please do come back and bring a friend like me. 

4 Out of 3 People Are Bad at Math

Hahahaha… I can’t take credit for that title, but it really makes me laugh.  Sewing is math, people.  Just go ahead and accept that if you’re going to attempt any kind of sewing.  But the same basic formulas you learned in school apply here.  This knowledge will keep you from holding up the line at the fabric store cutting counter.  You’re welcome.  IMG_1189Memorize this.  Print it out or scribble it down.  Heck, tattoo it onto your arm. That might be kinda low class.  Still, good though.  Wink, wink.  Whatever you decide to do, just have access to these figures and you won’t have to hear everybody sighing as they shift from one foot to the other in line behind you.  Somehow it can feel like you are the black sheep on the purebred albino sewing farm if you can’t mindlessly spew forth these fractions.

Here’s a little more math tutoring that will come in handy.  You will need these “flash cards” when you’re making more than one of something, but buying all the fabric at once.  This is almost more helpful (I think) than the yardage chart.  I like math, but it seems that most people say they don’t like it or can’t do it.  So, here ya go.

1/8 yard + 1/8 yard = 1/4 yard

1/4 yard +1/4 yard = 1/2 yard

3/4 yard +3/4 yard = 1 and 1/2 yards

3/8 yard + 3/8 yard = 3/4 yard

5/8 yard + 5/8 yard = 1 and 1/4 yards

2/3 yard + 2/3 yard = 1 and 1/3 yards

7/8 yard + 7/8 yard = 1 and 3/4 yards

Now you can impress your friends or maybe even win a game show with your acquired mathematical understanding.  Or at least you can make a pillow case or something.

As always, thanks for reading and please do come back and bring a friend.



Goes Together Like Cake & Ice Cream

Cheap sunglasses and leather, that is.  I bought these fake Dolce & Gabbana sunglasses the other week and I love them.  For a mere $5, they were slightly less than the $160 to maybe $300 retail price for real acetate ones.  So far I haven’t gone blind or lost any skin from my nose or ears.  ANYWAY, I needed some kind of protection for my investment.

Being the fabric and sewing notions scavenger that I am, naturally I had two sample pieces of leather that I paid 25 cents each for from the local Habitat Store.  This was the perfect mini project for one of those pieces.  I chose the crocodile print.  Here’s the simple project explained.

I used my sunglasses as a gauge for size, of course, then marked a cutting line using a ruler.  I rounded the corners after cutting where I marked the line.

Next, I used the scrap piece I cut off as a tester for different stitches.  With my JUKI HZL-210 machine I have 188 choices!  Can you tell I’m still excited about it?  Be SURE to use a leather needle.  No exceptions here.  Safety first. Once I decided what stitch I was going to use it was crazy easy.  I added my little monogram first.  Then I binder clipped (is that a verb?) the edges together.  DO NOT try to pin leather.  Do NOT!  That should be illegal.  Just move the binder clips as you sew, being sure to leave your presser foot down when you stop sewing to move a clip. 

There was no need to worry about a lining or about raw edges since this is authentic leather.  Nothing but the finest for my high society-esque eye wear.  I even like how the factory grommets look.  This could be made with vinyl if you use the kind that is very, very leather-like.  The kind without strings when you cut it, and with a hide-like texture on the under side.  (Maybe pleather would have been more appropriate for my faux lenses.  Ha!  It’s like putting a pig in a Sunday dress.)  I am happy with the way it turned out and would love to see pictures of any that you make.

As always, thanks for reading and please do come back.

Just Add Lace

What do Elizabethan dresses, 1980’s ankle socks, and cheap Walmart pajamas have in common?  Lace!  When has lace ever not been in style?  A closet needs lace like French fries need ketchup.  Like a Christmas tree needs lights, your life needs lace.  And it’s simpler than one might think.

Here are 15 ways to use lace in your sewing.  I may or may not have been able to come up with 15 different ideas on my own, so I borrowed a few from several sources.  Enjoy!

#1  This lacy tee tutorial is so feminine!

#2  Infinite possibilities with this lacy infinity scarf tutorial .

#3 through #10  This lady has gathered EIGHT lacey DIY sewing ideas.  Good ones too – like lace on shorts, lace inset jeans, lacey pockets, and more!!

#11 Add lace to the hem of a shirt for an (almost) instant transformation.

#12  This doesn’t even involve sewing, except that somebody or some machine made the lace.  But this lacey shoe upgrade tutorial is gorgeous and easy!

#13  Or just “be-lace” your denim jacket.  Here’s my “new” jacket!

#14  I really love this American Flag made with lace and ribbons and am going to be gathering my treasures to make my own very soon.American Flag out of remnants:

This lady has included it on her blog.

#15  Add lace to your windows for a frosted look.  Cut lace fabric to the same size as your window.  Mix a little cornstarch with warm water, dip your lace panel into it, and slap it up on there.  Smooth it out and let it dry.  Gorgeous and cheap!

I can’t even begin to count the lace DIY projects one can find on the internet, but this is at least a start.  I’d love to see your ideas, so please feel free to comment with them.

Have fun, come back, and bring a friend.  Thanks for reading!


Calling All Math Nerds!

Y’all have probably heard it said before that one should measure twice and cut once.  But how are you supposed to measure if you don’t understand how to read the tape measure??  You too, can be a math nerd.  It’s easy and fun and all the cool kids are doing it.

Sewing involves a lot of math.  Even if you hate math or think you aren’t good at it you can still measure successfully because I’m here to help you understand your tape measure.  Hopefully you are already able to understand the inch marks on your tape measure.  Those are the clearly marked numbers that usually go from 0 to 60.  But those little hash marks… the yard lines or dashes or fraction thingy things… ?!?  NOT hard.  Here it is, y’all.

My handy dandy diagram will have you winning the fraction jackpot in no time.  You’ll be the Matron of Mathematics, the Dame of Division, the Frau of Fractions, the Ruler of the Ruler!

tape measure

The longest line between 0 and 1 shown above is the half inch (1/2) mark.  The next longest lines are the eighth and fourth or quarter inch (1/8 and 1/4) marks.  The shortest lines show you sixteenth (1/16) inch marks.

To eliminate confusion make sure you know that:

1/8 + 1/8 = 1/4


1/4 + 1/4 = 1/2

With this breakdown of the marks on a tape measure understanding pattern and cutting measurements should be much less frustrating and confusing.  So, adjust your crown like the Aristocracy of Arithmetic that you are and start making accurate and precise measurements.

I hope this has been royally helpful.  As always, thank you for reading and do come back and bring a friend.


One Thread, Two Thread; Red Thread, Blue Thread…

Pick the right thread.  It’s important. 

I don’t intend to imply that I know all or even a significant percentage of all there is to know about thread.  What?  There are things to know about thread besides what color it is?  Yes.  But I am sharing what I do know to help you maintain some level of sanity.

There is an ocean of information just about thread!  Natural fibers, synthetic fibers, spun thread, continuous filament thread, general purpose thread, quilting thread, metallic thread, that thread, this thread, your thread, my thread… (Yes, my son IS working on a poetry unit at school right now.  How’d you guess?)

Pick out the right thread.  I used to think this sounded rather OCD and like something somebody who had nothing better to do with their time would say.  Ha!  Turns out, it’s what a person says when they know what they’re talking about.

Decide what kind of sewing you’re going to do.

Repair work such as fixing a seam or a hole in a garment; sewing a pattern for a doll dress, an apron, etc.; hand quilting; embroidery; or whatever type of project you’ve decided to tackle.

Know that there are all different types of sewing thread.

  • Cotton threads
  • Nylon/rayon threads (including invisible thread)
  • Silk threads (and silk ribbons)
  • Wool threads
  • Metallic threads (ORNERY STUFF!)
  • Designer threads (mixed threads made by combining different types of threads, e.g., cottons with rayon with silk, etc.)

Know the general characteristics of different types of thread.

General sewing projects are going to require either cotton or polyester threads.  I guess you could say I do general sewing.  That sounds so … general.  I’m usually sewing bags, zipper pouches, light upholstery, alterations, boy scout patches, and the like.  Not prom dresses, wedding gowns, silky opera gloves, or fur stoles.

Cotton thread: a good general purpose thread, usually mercerized, but has no “give”.  This means it will break if used on anything stretchy such as knit.  Ideal for delicate fabrics.

Polyester thread: strong and has excellent “give” to it.  Has a shiny or waxy look to it as opposed to the matte finish of plain cotton thread.  Also great for a variety of sewing projects, including using with fabrics that stretch.

With most general everyday sewing you will most likely be choosing one of these two types.  Here are a few more tips on the thread you use.

  • Never use old thread.  Don’t use the old thread you got down in the bottom of an old trunk full of dishes and Christmas ornaments at an estate sale.  Any number of things could have happened to it that would cause it to be brittle and break.  Mold and mildew, insects, moisture, or friction against any abrasive surface causing the thread to wear or fray.
  • If you can’t match the thread color to your fabric color exactly, choose thread that is one or two shades darker than the fabric.  Thread that is lighter tends to stand out more.
  • Always keep white thread and black thread on hand because you will need these more than any other color.  I feel like I’ve used enough white thread to put several more rings around Saturn.
  • If you decide to use metallic thread for your project you will need a metallic thread needle. Just FYI.
  • Cone thread, or serger thread can be used on a sewing machine, but it’s generally not as sturdy since it’s meant to be used in tandem with three other strands.  You might want to keep that in mind if you choose to use cone thread for your sewing project. 

Believe me that there is a whole galaxy of thread information and lingo.  I’m just getting you started with the basics.  A good place to start.  What advice do you have on choosing the right thread?  I’d love to hear.  Thanks for reading and please come back and bring a friend.


I Love Leftovers! … Reading a Remnant Label

Remnants at the fabric store are like presents that you find under the Christmas tree the day after Christmas with YOUR name on them!  It’s like the “HOT DOUGHNUTS NOW” sign lighting up right as you pull in to Krispy Kreme.  It’s like the teacher coming into class with the audio visual cart on a Friday afternoon!!  (It your were born at least a few decades ago, you know what I mean.)

But what’s so special about remnants anyway?  They are what’s left at the end of the bolt when the bolt gets down to one yard or less.  No matter what kind of fabric, it will be marked at 50% off the regular price.  That sweet, fuzzy baby flannel that’s $3.99 a yard is now $1.99 a yard.  Also, that marine vinyl that’s $24.99 a yard is now $12.49 a yard!

So, let’s look at how to know what you’re getting when you buy remnants.  One thing to know is that you should not remove the label.  Each remnant is rolled up with the paper label inside it like a jelly roll, then taped closed.  Believe me, I know first hand that if you try to unroll it even a little bit to peek at the whole piece you will not be able to make it look like you didn’t just open it.  It’s just like opening lipstick and trying to get the lid back on with it looking like you just opened it and tested it on the back of your hand. 1.  The red section of the above label and the grey part right under it…  Remnants will always be labeled as such and will not be returnable.  As a general rule cut fabric and trims are never returnable.

2.  The yellow section of the sticker…  Here is the amount of yardage as well as the price.  Almost all remnants are one yard and under, but here I’ve struck gold!  You can see that I’ve gotten 1 and 1/4 yards of fabric that is normally $12.99 per yard.  That amount totals $16.23.  Since it is a remnant I paid $8.11.  That part is not on the label.

3.  The white part of the sticker…  in really small, blurry font you can see the washing instructions.  If you really need this information I suggest finding a bolt of the same fabric and getting the information off of the end of it.

SOMETIMES, even remnants go on sale at 50% off of their price, which means 75% off of the regular price!  For example, a half yard piece of $4 per yard fabric would be $2.  At 50% off as a remnant it would be $1.  Another 50% off of the $1 would be 50 cents.  50 cents is 25% of $4, making your final price 75% off!  Fabulous!

You never know what you might find in the remnant bin.  It’s really the place to look if you’re making small projects or anything that needs small pieces.  You just might get inspired.

Thanks for reading and please do come back and bring a friend.



If It Doesn’t Fit, Make It Fit

I found a really pretty shirt at my favorite place, the Goodwill.  The only problem is that it doesn’t, or didn’t fit.  It’s made of rayon and does not stretch over my hips.  I had a couple of choices.

A: I could tie it up in a fashion like Daisy Duke, and most likely not be welcomed into places I frequent, i.e. church, work, my son’s Boy Scout meetings, Wal-Mart… oh wait, I could wear it to Wal-Mart.  (If I frequented Wal-Mart.)


B:  I could alter it to fit my not-shaped-like-a-number-two-two-pencil body.  No wonder it was at the Goodwill.  It would fit a scarecrow.

C:  To not buy it because it didn’t fit, was never an option.  I would make it fit.

B.  I chose B.

Steps to an awesome shirt make-over:

  1.  Get a shirt at the Goodwill.  I got one that didn’t fit because it was pretty, but yours can be the correct size.  This project could be for aesthetics only, not a true alteration like mine.
  2. Get a small amount of coordinating fabric for the stripe down the back.  I bought a fourth of a yard of leopard print fabric in a similar weight and texture to the shirt fabric.  This was a gracious plenty.
  3. Make sure you have chalk, something to measure with, matching thread, and basic sewing supplies.IMG_4528

First, find the middle of the back of your shirt and mark a line from top to bottom with chalk.  I love chalk because if you make a mistake it isn’t permanent.  Measure, measure, measure!  Then measure again.  You have one chance to get this right when you cut it.

Second, cut your shirt on the chalk line you just made.

Third, cut your strip of coordinating cloth 4 inches wide by the length of your shirt, plus 1.5 inches.  ********  You may need yours to be wider or more narrow depending on how you want your shirt to fit.

Fourth, pin your strip to your shirt with right sides together, leaving about 3/4 of an inch extended beyond the top and bottom of the shirt.  Sew this in place and repeat on the other side of the strip.IMG_4533









Fifth, serge or zigzag the edges of your seams.  Do not skip this step.  You will have strings hanging out everywhere and tickling you if you do.

Sixth, turn the edges under twice and line them up with the factory edges of your shirt.  Sew in place, matching your stitches up with the factory stitches if possible.  IMG_4536

IMG_4537Seventh, make a pleat at the top if needed.  IMG_4538I made a pleat at the top by pinning and then sewing.  This kept the neckline from being too big.  Decide how you want yours to fit and then pleat or don’t pleat accordingly.  Lastly, you may want to iron your seams, but otherwise you’re done!IMG_4545IMG_4549

After those simple steps my shirt fits and looks like it came off the rack that way.  I paid $3.75 for the shirt at Goodwill and about $2.00 for the leopard print strip.  And I had plenty of the leopard print left over for who-knows-what!

This could be done in so many ways with an endless combination of colors and patterns.  You could even taper the strip so that it’s smaller at the top, eliminating the need for the pleat.  Maybe try this on the front of your shirt.

Thanks for reading and please do come back!