Tag 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!


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!


Upgrade Your Sewing: Hand Sewn Mini Pincushion

A hand sewn mini pincushion

Loryn: Even if you have a sewing machine, there are times when hand sewing can really make the difference in your sewing projects. If you would like to upgrade your hand sewing, this mini pincushion makes a great stocking stuffer while improving your skills. It looks adorable even when your sewing isn’t perfect!

The supplies you need are:

  • Small scraps of a natural fiber fabric
  • Sewing thread and needle
  • Pearl cotton embroidery thread in a contrasting color and embroidery needle
  • Two tiny buttons

The first thing to do is to pick out your fabric. I’ve used wool on this one. It’s only 1 3/4″ in diameter, so you can use up tiny scraps of fabric. I do recommend that you use natural fibers like cotton, linen, or wool for this project if you’re a beginner, as they are not too slippery. Silk and most synthetic fibers are slippery, so the layers slide out of place, something you don’t want to deal with while you’re getting your sewing chops!

Use a glass as a template.

After you’ve picked your fabric, decide on the size. The easiest way to do this is to find a round object about the size you want to use. My favorite round template is this vintage juice glass, which is 1 3/4″ in diameter. Double your fabric with the right sides in and trace around your object with a disappearing fabric pen or chalk pencil.

Trace a circle on your fabric.

If you haven’t already, trim the fabric down into a square with a wide hem allowance, which makes it easier to grip. We’ll cut it down to a small seam allowance after sewing. Put a pin into each corner, and you’re ready to start sewing.

A knot to get started

Thread your needle and you’re ready to get started. I’m using contrasting thread so it photographs better. By all means use contrasting if it helps you track your stitching—it will still look great! If you want to match, here’s a good tip: if you can’t find an identical thread match, go with a greyish shade of the same color, or even medium grey if you can’t find anything close. It will fade into your fabric.

I typically use a standard doubled thread knotted at the end for basic hand sewing. If you have a problem with knots, try a product like Thread Heaven. It really does make a difference.

Turning and stuffing the pincushion will put a lot of pressure on the knots, so pull the knot almost snug, then bring the needle back to the top and run it through the loop that is left (see photo above). This will prevent you from pulling the knot through the fabric.

Getting started with running stitch

Now you’re ready to get stitching. I’m using running stitch on this project. Slide your needle under the fabric and then back to the top, making the stitches as small as you can (turn it over to make sure you caught at least a few threads on the bottom). Start by making just one stitch at a time, then move onto more as you get comfortable.

Continue working around the circle

Continue working your way around the circle, following your traced circle line. Try to stay on the line, but don’t worry about being perfect. You’re getting practice, and it will still look cute!


Leave an opening about 1/2″ wide. The smaller it is, the harder it is to turn and stuff, but the larger it is, the harder it is to slipstitch the curve of the circle. I prefer the former!

Make two slipknots with your needle. To do this, make your last stitch, then stitch again in nearly the same place, but don’t draw the thread tight. Put your needle through the loop, then draw it tight. Repeat in the same place, and don’t cut your thread yet.

With seam allowances trimmed down.

Now you’re ready to trim the seam allowance down to about a 1/4″ (making sure not to cut your thread!).

Turning the pincushion.

Now it’s time to turn it right side out. A bodkin is a really helpful tool. It clamps shut, so you can stick it inside, grab onto the fabric, and pull it through that small hole. Bodkins are also great for threading elastic and cord through tubes, so it’s a great tool to add to your sewing box. Once it’s right side out, use the bodkin to make sure it is fully turned.

Stuffing time!

Now you’re ready to stuff it. I like to use scrap fabric, as it makes it weightier than polyester stuffing. Cut fabric remnants into small strips, and stuff them inside, using the bodkin to push them all around the pincushion. I used the fabric I trimmed off the seam allowances, plus some extras I was getting ready to throw away.

Sewing it shut

Once it’s stuffed, thread your needle to the right side, fold the seam allowances inside, and pin it in place. To slipstitch it shut, catch a small bit of fabric on the fold, alternating between sides until it is sewn shut. Make two more slipknots, and hide the thread inside the pincushion. To do this, put the needle in exactly where you make the knot, and bring it out in the middle of the cushion. Cut the thread, and wiggle the stuffing until the thread end disappears inside.

Embroidery time

Now comes the fun part—decorating! I’m using gold pearl cotton to divide the pincushion into segments. Thread about 30″ of pearl cotton into an embroidery needle, using a single strand with a knotted end. Run it through the middle of the cushion (your knot will be covered by a button later) and pull the knot snug.

Wrap the embroidery floss around the edge of the cushion, and run it through the cushion at the same point. Pull it snug enough that the thread creates a scallop.

Wrap the thread around again, this time on the opposite side from your first wrap.

Repeat, dividing it into quarters.

Put your final threads in the middle of each quarter, so you end up with 8 segments. Now you’re ready to finish it off with buttons. I used two tiny mother of pearl buttons from my collection. Thread the button on, then run the thread through the other hole to the bottom of the cushion. Put another button on, and repeat, so that you end up with the thread coming out of one of the holes of your top button. Run the thread through the buttonhole, and bring your needle out under the button, without going back through the pincushion. Wrap the thread around the thread shank that holds the button three times, then hide your thread inside the pincushion. You’re done!

If you have any questions, put them in the comments. I’m happy to help!—Loryn

Miniature pincushion

Quilting Technique—Finished Wristlet Purse


Stripe quilted wristlet.

Loryn: I’ve been working on a mini purse or wristlet to go with my new paisley bag. I wanted it to coordinate, but not match too slavishly. I also wanted to try a different spin on the quilted technique I had used in one of my unfinished objects. You can also see it here, in this wristlet I made for my stepsister a few years ago:

Purple stitched purse

For this purse, I made and finished each piece separately, before assembling.

Previously, I had made the pieces out of a quilt sandwich of muslin surrounding flannel. I didn’t have any flannel (and our fabric shop has left town), so I used six layers of muslin instead.I did not use a pattern for this. I made the main body the size I wanted, 7″ by 11″ long, and quilted it. Then I made the curve I wanted and sketched around it to create a pattern piece for the sides.

I had not tried multi-colored stripes before. I wanted this design to read as gray, so I used two shades of gray, with pink and fuschia. I did all of the quilting before assembly.

The next step was to add the zipper (seen here on the finished piece). To sew a zipper into a tube, use a zipper that is a few inches longer that the piece. Baste the zipper into place, then sew it into place with the zipper fully open so you can get both sides under the presser foot. When you’re done, cut off the excess and sew a tailor’s tack over the teeth to keep the slide from coming off.

The hardware was a pain for this project. Our local Joann’s Fabrics closed because a super Joann’s was opening in Kokomo, and evidently they can’t have two stores within 30 miles of each other. I stopped in at the new Joann’s when Kristin and I were in Kokomo to look for hardware, and the selection was simply terrible. They had no small d-rings. Kristin’s ingenuity came to the rescue, and she suggested that I use belt buckles with the center piece removed. They didn’t have the hooks I wanted, either (like the ones on the purple-stitched purse above). Instead, all they had were this spring type. Save yourself the headache and don’t buy the spring-type pictured here. They fall apart almost instantly. Also, the finishes didn’t match, as one was brushed and one was glossy. Spray paint to the rescue!

To assemble the bag, I slipstitched the sides together by hand. This looks really good, but honestly, it was a pain!

Finished mini purse


And here is the finished bag! I will have to replace the hooks sooner rather than later, but I’m going to look at hardware stores to see if I can find better quality there. I’m looking forward to carrying them to work tomorrow!

Upgrade Your Sewing: Basic Curtains

Pink laundry room curtains
Pretty in pink!

Loryn: If you’ve been wanting to improve your sewing skills, this article kicks off a series of articles on how to make simple home dec projects really shine. Most home decor projects, like curtains, pillows, and bedskirts, are just simple rectangles, so it’s the details that make them special. These simple curtains look good because of three basics:

  • Pressing
  • Lining
  • Edgestitching

I started sewing when I was about five years old. I made project after project after project, drafting my own patterns and getting wildly creative. The one thing that I didn’t have any patience for was the finishing details. My work was sloppily finished until I saw the projects a friend of mine produced. She wasn’t an experienced sewer, but her simple projects were so beautifully finished that they looked great! It finally sank in that all the creativity in the world didn’t pay off if I didn’t pay attention to the details. If you haven’t been quite happy with the results of your sewing, read on for tips you can apply to any project.

If you only apply one tip to your sewing, it should be pressing. Pressing every seam open may seem like a lot of fuss, but the results are worth it. I set up one end of my work table as an ironing board so I don’t have any excuse to skip it. Because I’m cheap, I just throw a folded towel down and iron on it, as it gives me a lot more surface area than an ironing board.

These curtains are lined, as unlined feedsacks are thin and don’t give a lot of privacy. The lining also helps the curtains keep those nice folds at the top. My favorite source for linings are old sheets. This lining is made from new in package vintage fitted sheets that were too small for thick modern mattresses. If you see at garage sales, be sure to pick them up! Here you can see the difference the lining makes:

To make the lining, I sew the lining and and the main fabric (right sides together) around three sides like a pillowcase. Press the stitched seam, then turn the curtain right side out. Use a pin to get your corners pointy, then press the edges again in preparation for edgestitching.

The edgestitching makes precise edges that look great. I use the 1/8″ mark on my machine’s throat plate to keep the stitching line precise. If your edgestitching is not as straight as you’d like, keep your attention on the 1/8″ mark and keep practicing! Edgestitching around the three seams, and then you’re ready for the hem.

To get the best results, hang your curtains on the rings, and then fold a standard hem. I sewed two lines of stitching. This makes a firm hem that makes a flippy curve along the bottom.

Here you can see how I’ve tacked the rings to the curtain. Clips would also look nice, but I have a large supply of vintage cafe rings.

The rings are brass, which doesn’t go with my kitchen/laundry room, so I spray painted both the rings and the rod:

Here’s a simple way to get your rings or clips evenly spaced. First, always use an odd number of rings. Sew or place the rings at the ends, then fold the curtain in half, lining up the rings you just placed. Place the middle ring at the fold mark.

Then quarter the curtain by lining up the end ring with the middle ring. The fold is the spot for your next rings. Do that on each side. For small curtains, I use five rings for each panel.

After one final pressing, the curtains are ready to hang.

I hope you’ve found a few tips that will be helpful. Check back soon for another post on how to upgrade your sewing!

Finishing Unfinished Projects

A pile of unfinished sewing projects
Unfinished business

Loryn: Unfinished projects are the bane of every crafter, and I have more than my share of them. The ones above are just my sewing projects. I’m not even going to bring up home improvement projects or beading!

It was really helpful to pull all of the projects out and evaluate them. Many are quite good and deserve to be finished. Others are a good technique that I should revisit. If you haven’t looked over your unfinished stuff recently, try it out. You might be surprised how inspiring it can be!

Unfinished tote bag project

This one is a puzzler. Why on earth didn’t I finished this large tote bag? The body is a poly/silk brocade, and the base and straps are ultrasuede. The lining is cut and inside the bag, and the zipper is there, too. I think I’ll finish this one soon. I like sturdy bags that can stand on their own, so I think I’ll add another layer of canvas for structure.

Unfinished bag and lining

You might recognize this canvas from the chair in my laundry room/entry way. This is a mid-size bag, about half the size of the one above. I absolutely love the bright lining fabric with the paisley canvas. I sewed the side seams of the body and lining before getting distracted. This one has a very heavy canvas interlining, which gives the bag great structure. I think I’ll finish this one right away, so I can use it before summer is over!

Unfinished quilt

This is the oldest project in my unfinished project pile. I started this for my friend Melissa’s son. He just turned 16! All it needs is quilting perpendicular to the current quilting and binding, and it’s not even very big. She has a second son who is now 15 months old, so I need to get this done before he grows up! This will be the second project to finish up.

Unfinished knitted stuffed animal

This is really a knitting project, but since all it needs is sewn together, I’ll lump it in with this group. This is a knitted stuffed cat that I started as a Christmas gift for someone several years ago. It’s hard to tell scale in a photo, but the body is just under 3″ tall. I knit it in lace weight alpaca at 12 stitches per inch. This one definitely needs to be finished. I did so much knitting on tiny needles that I really messed up my hands. All that effort shouldn’t go to waste! The pattern is from The Knitted Teddy Bear by Sandra Polley. It’s one of my favorite knitting books.

Beaded velvet birds

Aren’t these adorable? I started these more than ten years ago, and I think I set them aside because I wasn’t quite sure what I would do with them. At the time, I was doing a lot of hand beading. I’ve been wanting a hand sewing project (they’re hand beaded and hand sewn), so I think I’ll work on them in the near future and use them as Christmas ornaments, or maybe put them on a wreath.

Unfinished quilted bag

This is a long, narrow bag with a free-hand quilted texture. I didn’t finish it because I didn’t plan the construction well enough. I should have finished the flap edges before I quilted it, and I didn’t think of that until too late. Bulky hems or binding at the flap edges would ruin the look. Still, I really like this technique, and need to try it on a different bag, or maybe a pillow. The fabric is muslin, sandwiched around flannel. The closely spaced stitching is time consuming to complete, but it gives an inexpensive cloth like muslin a rich look and great body.

Unfinished mini quilt

Here’s another miniature. The finished patchwork squares are 1/4″. I love the beautiful colors of the linen, but this one was too fiddly, even for me. I had visions of tiny, hand-quilted miniatures, but I will never get beyond this point. I don’t have the heart to get rid of it, and it doesn’t take up much space!

Those are my current unfinished projects. Of course, this doesn’t include the hundreds I’ve gotten rid of over a lifetime of crafting, just the best of recent years. I’m going to get started finishing these, and you’ll see them in the blog soon!