Category Archives: Sewing

finished napkins

Christmas Advent 2015 – Day 15 Napkins

As part of my Christmas table decorations, I made some homemade napkins. I consider myself a very amateur sewer. If it involves straight stitches, I can probably do it. These are nice and easy turned out really well.  I am very happy with them. I made them like the tutorial here. The only difference with mine was that I did two rounds of top stitching at the end.

finished napkins


  • 14 fat quarters
  • 3 yards of fabric
  • coordinating thread
  • rotary cutter
  • sewing machine
  • pins

Following the tutorial linked above, I ironed all my fabric, cut out my pieces (I cut mine 21″ x 14″), and pinned them right sides together.

fabric all cut out
Fabric all cut with my rotary cutter.
napkins all pinned together
Fabric all pinned together and ready for sewing.

I sewed around each napkin leaving a 3″ space open to turn the napkins right-side out. Next, I cut the corners off, making sure not to cut the seam. After turning the napkins right-side out, I picked out the corners of the napkins with a large darning needle. The chopstick method the tutorial mentions works well too.

sewing topstitching
I did two rounds of top stitching.

I ironed the napkins and then sewed the top-stitching, closing up the hole in the process. I did sew two rounds of top stitching as I like the finished look it gives the napkins.

finished napkin

I did my happy dance when I got my first one finished and had to send a photo to my mother and sister.

finished napkins

I am really happy with the look of all the different colors. Pick your favorite color to use at dinner!

finished napkins in homemade napkin rings

The napkins look great in my homemade napkin rings. In the picture above, you can see the fabric I used for the backside of all the napkins. I wanted something to tie them all together as a set.

Happy Crafting!


Miniature Beaded Velvet Stocking Ornament


Loryn:  I’ve been doing a lot of sewing and beading for Christmas this year, and I wanted to make an ornament that would come together pretty quickly. I used a scrap of vintage silk and rayon velvet. This miniature stocking is perfect for tiny scraps that you might have lying around – I used less than 5 square inches for the stocking. I sewed it by hand because the fabric is so slippery, but you could use a machine if your fabric isn’t so touchy. I had planned to make a cuff, but it was too small to fold over the stocking body. That’s why I made a simulated cuff with the beads. I also made the toe way too big, so I cut it off and reshaped the bottom. Little pieces like this are fun because even when it goes wrong, you can still end up with a cute result.


Here you can see the beaded detail. I used number 15s and gold delicas for a little sparkle. I sewed the beads on in groups of three. The stocking is very cute, and you could easily make a dozen to decorate a small tree! — Loryn



Headwarmer challenge

Hat from a sweater.


Sweater- I found a beautiful wool sweater at Goodwill for under $2.00. Stripes make measuring easier



Sewing machine

Embroidery needle and floss

Lay out the sweater and cut all the seams. This will give you a good idea of how much fabric you have to work with. Fold the fabric over in to an inside out rectangle. Sew along the top and the back. This will give you a tube that is closed at one end.

Turn right side out and grab the two corners at the top of the hat. Sew through the triangles created and then tie your thread very tight. This will give you some very cute kitty ears.

Turn up the hem and tack in several places with needle and embroidery floss. I made several knots all the way around.


Place a cup on the wrong side of the fabric and mark with a marker. Cut out the circles. Embroider a running stitch around the outside of the circle. Gather it up, this makes a yo-yo. Run a stitch around the outside of the yo-yo and pull tight to make the flower petals. Do this 8 times or the number of petals you would like. Sew a button in the center to make a center.

Attach the flowers evenly around the outside of the hat.

And there you go, a beautiful, unique and very warm hat that any little kitty/flower girl would love.

hat 009

Completed hat

hat 006

Close up of flowers




Ornament Advent: Day 9 Upcycled Felt Bird


Loryn:  For Day 9 of our Ornament Advent challenge, I’ve made a bird from old sweaters that I felted. Wool felt is expensive, so upcycling old sweaters is a crafty way to have a good supply cheaply. I sewed the bird together using blanket stitch. (For a tutorial, see my felted ornament post from last Christmas). I wanted the bird to be delicate, so I used fine gauge sweaters so the felt isn’t too heavy. I loosely stuffed him with cut up felt scraps, which gives an old fashioned look.


For the details of the face, I used gold embroidery floss for the beak, and a bead with a few blue backstitches for the eye. He went together quickly and looks great on the tree!

— Loryn


Make a Simple Grocery Bag Tote – Part II Assembly

Completed grocery tote bag

My first post, on pattern drafting, showed you how to make a simple tote bag pattern. This post will cover how to assemble it. I’ll also show how to make french seams, which form a quick, easy seam finish that won’t unravel in the wash.

For these bags, I used a vintage 60s polyester canvas. I normally don’t like poly, but it does work well for an item that will get dirty and need to be laundered frequently. Plan on roughly 1/2 a yard per bag, plus extra for handles. For a four bag set like this, plan on 2 1/2 yards.

First, cut out your pattern, keeping it square and on grain. If this is your first time using a new pattern, I recommend finishing one bag completely before cutting out any of the others, so you can fix anything you don’t like. I made my first bag too small and resized the rest. You don’t want to find this out after you have cut up all your fabric!

For this bag, we’ll be using french seams. Here is a quick tutorial:

French seams step 1

Sew the first seam with the right sides facing OUT. We’ve been so conditioned to always have the right sides facing in that you might have to make a conscious effort to have the right sides facing OUT. Double check before sewing! As you can see in the picture, I’ve sewn a scant 1/8″ seam. If you’re not comfortable with this, cut your seam allowances larger, then sew a 3/8″ or 1/2″ seam and trim it down. In either case, make sure there are no frayed edges that could show through the final seam.

French seam step 2

After you’ve sewn the first seam with right sides facing out, fold the seam so that the right sides are now facing in, as seen above. Your first seam and the raw edges will now be trapped inside a second seam.

French seams step 3

Sew a second seam with the right sides together. It needs to be large enough to miss the raw edges of the seam inside. As you can see above, it gives a very nice, clean finish!

To sew the bag with french seams, it is fastest to complete step 1, sewing the seam with the right sides facing out, on both sides and the bottom. Turn it wrong side out, and sew the second seam on both the sides and the bottom. When you are finished, it will look like the bag above.

Constructing the corner

Next you’ll make the corners. Turn the bag so that the right sides are out again, and sew step one of the french seam. Make sure that the seam allowance on the bottom is not twisted.

Turn the bag so that the wrong sides are out, and sew the final seam along the bag bottom corners. Now we’re ready to finish the top.

For these grocery bags, just fold over a simple 1/2″ hem, and you’re done with the body!

All that’s left are the handles. I make mine a little differently. I cannot stand to turn tubes. After years of struggling with frayed, ripped out, misshapen messes that were supposed to be an elegantly turned handle, I gave up and developed my own technique. If you are graced with tube-turning ability, then by all means make your handles that way. But if you’re like me, just make them like this. The sewing police aren’t watching!

The first step is to cut two 20″ long by 4″ wide strips for each bag.

Handle construction

Fold a 1/2″ hem up at each end of the strip.

Then fold the sides in like you would to make a bias strip.

Then fold the strip in so that all raw edges are hidden.

Now pin the handle carefully so that the two edges are aligned, and top stitch all the way around the handle. Not only did you get to avoid turning tubes, but the handle is four thicknesses wide, giving it a nice sturdy feel.

All that’s left is to attach your handles to the bag. For the 18″ wide bag, I placed the handles 5 1/2″ from the outside edge, with 2″ of handle sewn to the bag for strength. Sew an X-shaped design for added reinforcement.

As I mentioned in the pattern drafting post, I made the first bag 14″ wide, which is too small for most groceries. I enlarged the pattern, and made 3 bags that are 18″ wide. It was a serendipitous mistake, because the small bag is perfect for holding the other three bags when not in use, as well as for small shopping trips to get one or two items. These bags are great because you can really stuff them! For my small household, three will accommodate a big shopping trip. For a large family, six would probably work better for you. Happy sewing!


Learn to Draft a Simple Bag with this Pattern Tutorial

Simple grocery bag pattern

Loryn:  If you’d like to be able to create a simple bag or purse pattern in any size you want, this tutorial is for you. I created the pattern to make a set of grocery bags, but you can make them any size you want! The grocery bags are a nice place to get started, though, because they are unlined, with a simple handle, and even if they’re not perfect, they’ll still eliminate the need for a plastic bag! I’ll go over bag assembly in a second post, and I’ll show a gallery of design changes you can make in a third post.

To get started, you’ll need:

  • Paper large enough to draft the pattern. I like the weight of cardstock, so I just taped four pieces together.
  • A pencil
  • A ruler (a 6″ quilting ruler is handy).

Step one to draft your bag pattern

The first step is to determine how wide you want your bag to be across the top (this shape is narrower at the bottom). I decided on 14″ for my grocery bag. Then, determine how tall you want it to be. This bag will be 12″.

Once you’ve decided on the size, draw a rectangle the width and height of your bag. Mine above is 14″ by 12″. Leave room on all four sides for seam allowances and hems, which we’ll add later.

Step two to draft a simple bag pattern

The next step is to determine the depth (width across) of your bag. Add a second rectangle that is half the size of your desired depth. I want my bag to be 6″ deep, so I added a 3″ rectangle onto the bottom of the first rectangle. If you want a 4″ bag, add 2″, etc.

Next, you’ll mark out the corners that will be cut off. The size of the corner is a square, the same size as half the depth of your bag. Since I added a 3″ rectangle, I’ll mark out a 3″ square on each side.

The two outside corners will be cut off. You can achieve a similar result by making a bag the size of the total rectangle, and then sewing across each corner. I prefer this method because it is much more precise and it makes it easier to make your corners exactly the same size.

Next, you’ll add seam allowances. The translucent quilting ruler makes this easier. I added 1/2″ seam allowances, and the size will depend on your seam finish. In part 2 of this series, I’ll use french seams to assemble the bag. You might want to add 3/4″ seam allowances if you plan to use this finish. I also added only 1/2″ to the top of the bag. I recommend adding more for a hem allowance, at least 1″.

Now you’re ready to cut your pattern out and prepare to cut your fabric! I’ll go through bag assembly in part 2 later this week.

After I assembled my first bag, I discovered that 14″ really is not wide enough for a grocery bag. I measured one of my plastic ones and discovered that they are more like 18″ wide. Luckily, there is a simple way to add width to the pattern without starting from scratch. Just cut it in half like this:

Then add more paper in between to get the size that you want.

Now you’re ready to cut out the larger pattern.

For the grocery bags, I made a simple handle from a 20″ by 4″ wide strip, two for each bag. I made one 14″ bag, and three 18″ bags. The smaller bag is perfect for holding the other three when they’re not in use, and it’s also nice for trips when I only pick up one or two things.

I’ll be doing a second post on how to assemble the bags and a third post on all the different designs you can make from one pattern. Check back early next week for more!


Draft a simple grocery bag pattern

Upcycled Cashmere Sweater Scarves

Cashmere scarf made from upcycled sweaters

Loryn: We Crafty Sisters bounce a lot of ideas off of each other, and this cashmere scarf design was the result of a great collaboration. My stepdad (Lynne’s husband) asked for a cashmere scarf for Christmas. Lynne found one for $55 on Amazon, but she was sure there was a thriftier, crafty way to make one.

She and I started brainstorming. I did have a stockpile of thrifted cashmere sweaters to take apart for yarn (see my yarn post here), but she didn’t want to knit a scarf. What about sewing a scarf from the sweaters? The sweaters aren’t big enough to make a complete scarf without seams, making stripes ideal. A tube design hides all the seams and makes a double thickness that feels wonderful. Lynne took several sweaters to experiment with, and came back with this:

Gray cashmere scarf made from an upcycled sweater

She made it in one solid color for an understated look. The fabric came from a vintage Scottish cashmere vest, so it is the most unbelievably soft scarf you’ve ever felt. She also made the fantastic cross-stitch label:

Cross stitch label for scarf

I loved the scarf so much that I immediately began planning to make a few of my own. Here are the steps:

Lay out your sweater so you can plan your scarf. I used four rectangles from each sweater, two from the front and two from the back. The width will depend on the size of your sweater. For this Medium size, I made each rectangle 9 1/2″ wide and 13″ long (up to the armscye).

The scarf will be less likely to stretch out of shape if you keep the rectangles aligned with the vertical length of the sweater (the direction of the arrow). If you cut the rectangles in the other direction, they will stretch more. This rule can be broken like any other, though, so experiment away!

In addition to the four rectangles from the blue sweater, I also cut three 9 1/2″ by 4″ rectangles from a gray cashmere sweater. Again, keep the stretch of the knit crossways to your pieces.

In this step, I’ve sewn the stripes together on the 9 1/2″ edge, alternating colors. Press the seams open when you’re done. Then, fold it in half and sew across one short end, down the long side, and turn the corner of the other end, leaving a small opening to turn the scarf. Turn it, and slip stitch the opening shut (see a slip stitch tutorial here). I gave it another pressing, and it’s done!

These scarves are very quick and easy, and we’ll be whipping up a lot of them for gifts and for ourselves!!


Sewing with Vintage Thread

Vintage thread spools

Loryn: Conventional sewing wisdom says that shouldn’t sew with old thread, because it breaks too easily. This is one of those areas where I ignore conventional wisdom, and I think you should, too.

I see lots of vintage thread at garage sales and auctions, and I buy it whenever I can. The best part is that you can get a wide range of colors that are hard to find in modern thread. I haven’t had any trouble with old thread breaking, but I wouldn’t use it for parachutes or the crotch seam of your pants!

My favorite use for old thread is for topstitching, especially the small, brightly colored spools from the 30s to the 50s. You can find it in great colors, it’s usually 100% cotton (so it has great luster), and only using it for topstitching makes a small quantity go farther.

Vintage thread spools

I use larger spools of thread from the 60s and later for general sewing. Just like with the older thread, you can find it in unusual colors to match vintage fabrics, and you can find lots of different weights. And you just can’t beat the price!


Roman Shades: What to Do When Things Go Wrong

Roman shade

Loryn: No matter how much crafting experience you have, things often go wrong when you’re designing a custom project. The trick is not to get discouraged, and use your creativity to come up with a solution!

Roman shade

I’ve been wanting roman shades for my living room, and I thought I would get started on this window because it is the smallest of the three (it’s a Victorian house, so the window panes on the downstairs windows are over 6′ tall on most of the windows). I just needed one piece of fabric that was 55″ wide by about 40″ long. What could be easier than that? Famous last words!

Linen cotton fabric

For my fabric, I have a bolt of upholstery-weight linen cotton fabric that I picked up at a garage sale for $10. I bought it specifically for these shades. I love the horizontal woven stripe. The fabric is 56″ wide, so I had one inch to spare for a hem.

First check. After I cut the length I needed, I discovered this stain along the folded edge of the bolt. I need every bit of this fabric for my three windows, so going down to the unstained part of the bolt was not an option. No problem, I’m used to getting stains out of vintage fabrics. I soaked the fabric in Biz (which is what I had on hand) for several hours. Biz is great at getting out greasy stains, but it didn’t have any effect on this stain.

I went out and picked up some oxygen detergent, and used the boiling method to clean it a second time. Stain didn’t budge.

I tried the oxy method again, and this time I boiled the fabric for nearly an hour. Stain didn’t budge.

The oxy method removes just about every stain but rust, so maybe that’s a rust stain. I soaked the fabric in Yellow Out for several hours, which was a pain because it gives off a lot of fumes. Stain still didn’t budge.

By this time, I was ready to admit defeat and start looking for other options to hide the stain.

Roman shade ribbon decoration

One option would be to cut out the stain and put vertical seams in the shade. I didn’t want to do that in this case because I wanted to emphasize the horizontal lines of the fabric. Roman shades often use ribbons on the front of the shade where the tapes are, so I bought some bias tape that could cover the stain. One piece would go down the middle (over the stain), and two pieces would go at each edge.

Before I could iron the tape on, I needed to run the fabric through a regular laundry cycle to get all the Yellow Out rinsed out. When I pulled the fabric out of the washer, the stain was gone.


Don’t ask me why regular laundry detergent worked where all my other cleaners didn’t. Who knows.

Roman shade binding

I scrapped the bias tape idea, and went back to my original plan. It should be smooth sailing from here, right? Those of you who’ve worked with linen or cotton fabric can probably guess what went wrong next. I dried and ironed the fabric, and then decided to double-check my measurements so I could hem the sides. Only to find that the heat from boiling had shrunk my fabric by 2″. It was now only 54″ wide, and the window is 55″ wide.

Sigh. I guess it needed a decorative binding anyway, didn’t it? It adds a nice accent color, and nobody has to know it’s covering up a mistake. I cut a 4″ strip of fabric to add a 1 1/2″ finished binding that extends past the edge of the main body and adds the width I need. I cut the binding horizontally across the fabric rather than on the bias so that I could have horizontal stripes along the sides to match the horizontal stripe in the main fabric.

I had a great tutorial to show you on how to make perfect mitered corners for binding. Unfortunately, I learned that my method does not work when the binding extends past the edge. Instead of nice, flat, square corners, the binding pulls, giving my shade convex corners.

This time I admitted defeat. The convex corners are staying! They’re just as hard to see in person as they are in the photos. I’ll show you how to apply binding on another project!

I tried one final new idea on this shade: I sewed on eyes (from hook and eye sets) instead of rings for the shade strings.

I have a huge lot of vintage hooks and eyes that came from an estate sale. I thought I would try using them in place of rings to guide the ropes that raise and lower the roman shade. They were easier to sew on, but I don’t recommend them for shades that you’ll raise and lower a lot. the sharp eyes will cut the ropes eventually.

After all of that, I finally have a finished shade that I really like. Challenges will always arise when you’re designing a new project. The more you exercise your creativity to overcome the obstacles, the easier it gets. And in the long run, those creative solutions will become your best work!


Merry Christmas: Vintage Button Giveaway!

Button Tree
All of the Crafty Sisters love vintage buttons, and we’ve collected them for years since inheriting our grandmother’s button box. We would like to thank our readers with a giveaway of buttons from our collections. To enter, just comment below. We’ll draw a winner in a random drawing on Saturday, December 17th. We’ll ship them anywhere in the world. Merry Christmas!
Button Tree
Glass, funky plastic, and metal buttons
Button Tree
There are 24 of the tiny mother pearl buttons, along with sets of celluloid, metal, and plastic.
Button Tree
Button Tree
A pair of large purple mother of pearl buttons.