Ruffle Hems

Oh so many years ago, my preschool daughter would not wear a turtle neck at all.  I get it, they are not my favorite either.  It was the early 90’s,  all I could find retail with long sleeves was a turtleneck, I took matters in my own hands.

I bought those turtle necks and cut the neck band down to one inch.  Then stretched while sewing a tight zig zag over the edge.  They ended up with a nice ruffle on the neckband, which we affectionately called “rufflenecks”.  She loved them, I was happy she was warm.  Now, she prefers to go sleeveless, but she has her own daughter and is old enough to figure her sleeve issues on her own. I love sewing for my grand baby!

In a recent pattern test, I made a couple muslins from some rib knit fabric scraps.  Soft, stretchy, and perfect for getting over a baby noggin.  Mid sew, I was taken back further in my memory to the 70’s and a cropped tank that was my favorite.  It had a ruffled hem, and I was the boss of everything when I wore it, or at least I thought.

I sewed the seams and bands with this stitch.  Visit my post Adding bands to tiny armcyes for tips on that part.

The rib I had was kind of thin, so I opted to serge the edge, and then turn it and hem with a shell stitch on my Bernina.

1 I chose this stitch with the widest width, and shortened the stitch.

2.  I tightened the tension to a 9 out of 10, and

3 rolled the fabric twice and hemmed.  It is easy to roll over a serged edge.

If this stitch looks familiar,  it is the mirror image of the blind stitch that I used in this post.

The pattern I used for this little yellow confection is a the Sara tank from 5 out of 4 patterns, this post contains affiliate links,  they cost you nothing to use, and encourage me to write more posts like this.  I hope you find this useful.

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Happy Sewing!  Joan

Adding bands to tiny armscyes

I have a new grand baby.   I am smitten.  I want to make her all the things.  She has a ton of 3-6 month size clothing that were received as gifts, so I jumped on the opportunity to test a new tank pattern in her next size!  I learned a bit about sewing small that I would like to share.  There are several patterns here and several different kinds of fabrics.  It was a good learning experiment.

On this armscye I zig zag basted the band to the body of the top, on the edge, then serged and top stitched.  On later garments, I used the stretch stitch on my machine, and it worked much better.  Serging stretches out this rib knit.  I hope it recovers in the laundry!

Those armscyes are tiny.  With regular arm bands that measure about 8 inches, that is a less than a3 inch diameter.   It will be much easier to get round them with a sewing machine.  Experiment on scraps to find the best stretch stitch that works with your fabric.  I ended up happy with this one, which may be called an overcast stitch.


It looks like a straight stitch from the outside, but those jags off to the right will add to the stretch and contain any seam allowance neatly.806415E0-783B-4A7A-8060-F80BFE698AB1

  1.  After sewing shoulder seams, top stitch them with the seam allowance towards the back.  It is my secret message to myself and parents, so we know which is the front and back of the garment.  It is often hard to tell and tags on a baby are not a place I want to go.D73538B4-2E41-4756-931D-E5FD682DFC02

2.  Figure the center of the armscye  location.  Hold the ends together, and walk them both to the fold.  Mark the center.  On a traditional tank, this could be really close to the shoulder seam.  On the example here, which is a racer back.  It is not at or even near the shoulder seam, but about an inch back.  Match up the center points, and sew a partial seam.  Start the partial seam about an inch to an inch and a half back from the center point.  Sew across the center point and about an inch to an inch and a half past that.  no need to stretch the band here, or maybe stretch slightly.  This will avoid that shoulder bubble that sometimes happens with tank tops. If you are using this technique for an adult size, you can make this partial seam longer, two inches on either side of the top of the shoulder will work fine.

Neckband sewn in the round, shoulder band partially attached.

3.  Then take those band ends, match them up right sides together (without twisting) and sew a seam across the ends (right sides together) to make the partially attached band into a loop.  I prefer to sew this with a machine, so that the seam can be opened to reduce bulk.  On this example I was using a performance knit for the bands, and my serger handled it much better.  The performance knit did not conform to the round shape as nicely as a cotton would.

4.  Sew the side seam of your garment.   I am happy to use a serger, but a regular machine stretch stitch will work here too.

5.  I like to sew one side seam then serge around the hem before sewing the next side seam.  makes the beginning and end of the serged edge less visible.

Yellow head pin holds body seam allowance to the back. Button headed pin holds band seam allowance to the front. actual seam is matched.

6.  Pin the folded band to the right side of the garment and finish sewing the armscye.  If both body and band seams are serged, move the seam allowances one way on the band, and the other on the garment.  I like the garment seams pointing back to follow the shoulder seam.  Since we did not stretch the band much on the top of the shoulder, take care to stretch without puckering round the rest of the circle.  Start your seam just a little before the last one ended, and overlap about a half inch before they meet up again.

Fuly sewn circle.


I serged one of the test garments afterwards, and that really stretched out the fabric.  It could bounce back after a trip to the laundry.  On an adult sized garment, serging the armscye might be a good idea. Can you tell which garment was stretched out with serging?

7.  Lastly top stitch the seam allowance to the body of the tank or tee.  It will help make that seam lay flat, and create less chafing on a little baby. I used my Bernina#20 foot here,  perhaps you have a foot with a guide?



I sewed a fun hem on one of the rib knit versions, and will try to write a post on that one later.  It is a favorite hemming technique with stretch. If you are interested in learning how to make a blind hem on the machine, check out this post.96DC9513-C715-48F6-818B-822E29FFE911

I used multiple patterns to experiment with this process.  And several fabrics, which is your favorite?

Affiliate links for favorite patterns that could employ this technique are below, if you are interested in supporting the cause, at no cost to you. I appreciate it!

Sara everyday tank and dress

Mandy fitted tank

Kids Taylor racerback

Adult Taylor racerback

Virginia tank



Happy sewing! Joan



Easy reversible bra/swim top hack

As part of this summer’s quest for a swim top/bra I agreed to test the re-release of the Agility  by 5 out of 4. I am pleased they are including more sizes in their pattern options.


This is advertised as a tank and dress, and it makes a great racer back bra too.  Loving the Taylor dress that calls for a racer back bra for those of us who prefer to keep our straps under wraps.  There is a strapped version and a T-back version.  I made the strapped version.

I had a small piece of this mystery knit that worked nicely with some  Nylon Spandex I bought to make swim tops to serve double duty as a comfortable bra.  Wicking fabric is really lovely to wear when the mercury rises.

To make this reversible was a super simple process.  I added 1/2 inch to the bottom of front and back pieces. Then layered the pieces in this order to sew the side seams:

  • print back right side up
  • print front right side down
  • solid front right side up
  • solid back right side down.  ACDC46D0-76B8-4D3C-A81B-7A6ECC0010F4

This was a great way to enclose those side seams, but created a little extra bulk when stitching the elastic in a later step.  Next time, I will sew them separately then press open before stay stitching the edges.

Zig zag basting on the edge  makes for a great stay stitching that stretches, and saves time ripping later.  The open toed embroidery foot, or #20 on a Bernina works wonders here.  I zigged and zagged my way all around the edges.


I sewed my straps to one side of the top, then wrapped them around like this. Tip – attach the same fabric on the first sew, so that when you wrap around, you can see where the binding needs to be sewn on the contrast side.  If your bobbin threads are a little wonky, be sure they match the other side.  I left the back of the binding un stitched from side seam to side seam, so I could attach the straps later.


I pinned my straps in place – safety pins are best here, as getting this off is an interesting challenge with straight pins.  Once I had the fit just right, I stitched the straps down like this.


Then I clipped off the ends close to stitching, folded them down and wrapped the binding where it needed to go to match the rest of the bands, and top stitched.  Brought the straps back up and stitched across the upper edge of the binding from side seam to side seam just across the back.  E6E18EA7-43D2-43BB-8C7F-89E3EBA75EAF


Otherwise, I followed Jessica’s excellent tutorial, then when it came time to flip the elastic to the back side and top stitch, I added a twist.

I serged the ring of elastic to the raw edge of the pink side.  Instead of flipping this to the wrong side and top stitching like this,


I turned it the other direction, then again to look like this, and top stitched.  This is best for lighter weight fabrics, as there is an extra 1/2 inch double folded at the upper edge of the elastic.  Working on another way to encase the elastic at the bottom edge with less bulk.  more on that in another post!


As long as your strap top stitching passes muster, this could be worn either way!

The blue print is likely to show through when it gets wet, so that will be my swim side.  I might line the next one with power mesh or techsheen.

This post contains affiliate links, they cost you no more to use them, and help me on my sewing journey.

Happy Sewing!  Joan



Adding pockets

I recently tested the Sheila top  and dress from 5out of 4 patterns.  It is part of their basics line, and has very detailed instructions.  A well drafted T shirt dress is a great layering piece, easy to accessorize.

One thing.  I need pockets.  Life hands you keys or a wallet, or something else that needs a spot to be.  Purses are great, but I like to travel light. I sew pockets in everything.  This is my new favorite method.

I drafted my own pocket here, but if you have Taylor, that pocket will work just fine.

  1.  Cut 4 pockets. Two sets of two mirrored pieces.

2.  On the wrong side of your dress front, mark where you would like the top of your pocket opening.  I made this one about 8 inches from the armcye.  I think that ended up just a tad high.  Somewhere between 9 to 10 inches would be more comfortable.  Make your top mark or notch at this point, and the next mark will be 5.5 inches below that.

3.  Align one pocket so that the top of the pocket is one inch above that start mark with the right side of the pocket facing the right side of the dress front.

4.  Stitch from mark to mark, being sure to secure your stitches at each mark with 3-4 back stitches.

5.  Clip into the seam allowance just to the end of the stitches.


The top and bottom of the stitching is marked with a notch.

6.  Open out that pocket and under stitch.  Understitching helps to roll the pocket to the back so it looks tidy in the next step.

7.  Fold the pocket and seam allowances to the right, and stitch parallel to the seam line 1/4 inch away, catching the pocket and seam allowances in your seam. Start and stop your seam parallel to the first seam made in step 4.   The pins mark the stop and start spots below.


Pocket seam opened and understitched on pocket side, with seam allowances included. Stitching is 1/4 from the seam.

8.  Fold the pocket back to the wrong side of the dress front.  Pull the seam allowances out at the top and bottom of your pocket opening.  You will have a sweet 5.5 inch indentation in the side of your dress front that looks like the photo below.  This is your pocket opening!



9.  Top stitch that indentation starting at the edge of the fabric sew in about 1/2 inch, and turn, so you are stitching about 1/4 inch from the 5.5 inch opening of the pocket, then turn again and stitch off the edge.  Your seam will look like this [.


Top stitching on the pocket opening.

10.  Next align the second pocket with the first.


Second pocket placed on top of the previously sewn pocket.

10.  Stitch the edges of the two pockets together around the bottom around the side and over to the top.


Serged edges of pocket ready to be top stitched.

11.  Pin or use wonder tape to adhere the pocket to the front of the dress and top stitch around the edge of the pocket where the serging is in the above photo. Use a stretch stitch, consider a double row of stitches!


The open toe embroidery foot works great for maintaining an even edge.

12.  Baste along the side seam, so that the edges of the top and bottom of the pocket are secured, and the opening is still open.

13.  Make the other pocket.  Tip:  lay your dress flat to be sure pockets are even and symmetrical before top stitching the second one.


Finished pocket secured into side seam and front of garment.

14.  When you are ready, stitch your side seams as you normally would, making sure to sew right up to the opening without closing it.

Enjoy wearing your garment with stitched down pockets.  Want to continue sewing fancy?  Try out a blind hem.

This post may contain affiliate links.


Blind hem tutorial

So many different ways to make a hem. For knits, it is important that the stitch stretches with the fabric.  I love being able to take the time and enjoy the zen in a hand stitched hem, but sometimes I just want to get it done, so I can move on to the next project.  This is where a machine made blind hem comes into play.

First step is to try on the garment and check side, front and back views to be sure the hemline is even.  Now is the time to adjust and straighten.

Once that is done, overlock the raw edge.  Then fold up and press the hem.  In a hurry, I am pretty good at eyeballing a 3/4 or 1 inch hem, and baste with the longest stitch your machine can make.

Hem serged and basted into place. Notice the length and  placement of the basting stitches in tan.

Some clips come with markings that will make this job a breeze.

Make this seam along the needle thread of your overlocked seam.  This will give you a ledge to stitch on in the next step.

Fold the hem back up to the right side of your garment (like the cuff on pants).

Pull the quarter inch of serged/overlocked edge to the right.  It is just a tiny bit. Everything else goes to the left.


Serged edge to the right and the hem is folded up underneath and moved to the left.  If you look closely you may be able to tell that this picture was taken after the hem was sewn, making the serging look wobbly.


Attach a blind hem foot to your machine.  Mine looks like this.  The actual stitch is a modified zig zag and looks like this.  Several straight stitches on the right, then a zag to the left.

Blind hem foot and blind hem stitch selection

Set it up so that the guide/blade is nestled up against the fold of the fabric, and that the straight stitches are on the tiny strip of serging, and the one stitch that goes to the left goes into just a few threads of the fold.  This is called the bite. This zigged stitch is what gives the blind hem some stretch.

It may take some adjusting in either moving the needle position left or right, or widening or narrowing the stitch width to get your positioning just right.  Roll a few stitches by hand by turning the fly wheel manually.  When you are satisfied with your bite, you can just sew around the circle of your hem maintaining the relationship between the blade and the fold of your fabric.  I go round and overlap my previous stitches by several inches.  Back tacking with this foot is problematic.  The overlap will keep it from unraveling.

Straight stitches on the right and one zag to the left.

If the bite is too big, it will show on the right side of your garment.  If it is too small, there will be no hem.

If you missed catching the fold on more than a couple stitches, it would be wise to stitch over that section, or go in with a hand stitch or two.  If the bite is too wide, it is best to remove those stitches.


Can you see the huge stitch that was too big of a bite?  This was at the beginning of my hem, and will be removed, since I overlapped and the newest stitches will take over.


Inspect your hem.  If it looks good (nearly invisible on the right side) you are ready to remove the basting stitches and give it one more press.


The stitches should look like a tiny dimple in the fabric.  Matching thread is a good idea here.

It is always a good idea to test for stretchiness of stitches on scraps, and with practice, the blind stitch just may become one of your favorites!

I am thinking that this dress may need pockets.  Stay tuned!

This post may include affiliate links.  They cost you nothing extra to use, and help me  in sharing posts like these.  Happy Sewing!  Joan








Reversible Mobius Swim Bra Top

100 years before I was born, a genius mathematician came up with the idea of a Mobius strip.  August Ferdinand Mobius created it, but M.C. Escher made it more famous in his picture of ants crawling on the one side of a strip, infinitely marching Red Ants.  You may remember this from art class, perhaps.

I am a great fan of reversible items, especially garments.  So many fun combinations of color can be used.  In this case, I used the same color for both sides, and changed the order of sewing, so that there is no inside or outside.  For the next one, I plan to use two different colors.

This is Stitch Upon A Time’s Brazi pattern.  I used a wonderful wicking fabric from Phee.


Lay out your pieces, so that your back-strap edges match up to the front-strap edges, and that the center front crossover of the Brazi is facing outwards.  I had to think about this several times as it looks wrong, but once the straps are crossed to form the famous keyhole back, all will be well. Sew the short shoulder seams right sides together on main and lining fabric.


For seams that cross, I like to borrow a tip from our quilting sisters.  Nestle the two seams together so one seam goes left and the other goes right.  It may be good to clip, fabric glue or pin those in place along the edge, and prepare to go slowly over the seam or lift the presser foot a little to get it over the hump.

With right sides together, I serged the front crossover to back under arm in one long seam simultaneously adding ¼ inch clear elastic, repeated for the other side, and center, from underarm to underarm.  A note about serging elastic, do not stretch the elastic other than to keep it straight on the fabric.


I love that the elastic can thread like dental floss through this opening on top of the foot, and feed under it.  I learned at Albuquerque Fashion Incubators to hold my sewing in two hands independently.  For example, the elastic in my left hand to keep it far from the blade and the fabric in my left hand to keep it close to the blade.

I started and finished about ½ inch from the edge of each arm pit, and let it go over a little bit on the center fronts.  No over locker/serger, no problem!  Just use a good wide stretch stitch that will go through the elastic and give you a stretchy seam that does not pop.  Practice on scraps so you know for sure.

Here you can pull the center fronts through the strap seams to turn your Brazi right side out.  Depending on your skill and fabric, it could be a good idea to press with a low iron at this point.  We will be crossing those straps to form the famous keyhole back, then sewing our side seams.


Brazi turned right side out.  To press or not to press?

Next, we will be nestling seams together, one pointing left and the other pointing right,


Seam allowances pinned together so that they face opposite directions, and reduce bulk.

Sew right and left side seams from bottom of main fabric bra across the previously sewn seam then to the bottom of the lining.  Opened up, it looks like the picture below.


Configure your Brazi so that it looks like this.


Can you see the infinity symbol yet?

Next, I used a triple stitch to top stitch the edges of the Brazi.  A regular or triple zig zag, serpentine or lightening stitch or your favorite stretch stitch works here.  Check it to be sure it stretches without popping the seam.  The three parallel straight stitch icon is really two forward and one back.  Not fun to remove, but oh so stretchy!


Some of my favorite stitches in this photo!


 #20 Bernina foot with the needle to the left is one of my favorites for top stitching.  The inside of the toes of the foot give me a nice wall to guide the edge of my fabric against.  Starting at one front edge,  you will surprisingly find yourself finishing at the other front edge in one infinite seam.  Or at least it seems infinite.  This is where the Mobius reference is coming from.


You can see the triple stitch in action behind the foot. Other brands may have an open toed embroidery foot that will work.

I used a safety pin to pin the actual center fronts together, by matching up the notches.  Try it on now, and make sure you have the coverage you like.  As well as the crossover.  Try right over left and left over right.  I have read that it makes a difference.   Once you get it how you like it, make a nice wide zig zag baste around the raw edges at the bottom of your bra.  Make this on the very edge, so that it will be included in the seam allowance, and you will not need to remove it later.  I used 3 wide and 3 long on my machine.  This will stretch and should not pop.


Brazi ready to be tried on, then basted around the raw edges with a 3 wide 3 long zig zag.

I have learned after decades of fast sewing and skipping the basting steps, that it is more efficient to baste, than to take out stitches and sew again.  I am currently a bigger fan of basting than I am of ripping.


Mark the center point of your band by folding it in half.  Here I used a black sharpie.  Don’t use ball point pens they can run and ruin your garment.


Band folded in half ready for marking.

Also mark the center point of your short edge.  Make a first partial seam that is back tacked on either end and is about ½ inch long.  Second portion of that seam on the short edge starts at the center dot and goes to the other end.  Back tack at beginning and end.

IMG_8832 (1)

Stop and go stitches leaves an opening to insert elastic later.

Here comes that zig zag basting stitch again.  On one long edge, fold the band to the wrong side about 3/8 inch and zig zag that down with a 3 wide and 3 long seam (that can be removed easily later).  Alternatively, if you are a fan of wash away wonder tape, that could be used here.


Band that has been folded up 3/8 and zig zag basted to stay in place.


With right sides together, pin or clip the center front and center backs of the band and bra together, pin or clip again at the quarter marks and perhaps at the 1/8 marks.  Sew this seam with a triple stitch, or your favorite stretch stitch, all round the circle.


Stitch the band to the bra. here we are just getting to the crossover.  Line up the edges as you sew.

Next, fold up the band so that the edge of it just covers the stitching in the previous step.


Pin at halves, quarters, eighths, as you like, and top stitch the edge down.  Here I used my favorite foot, moved the needle to the left, and sewed all round with a 2 wide 2 long zig zag so that the edge is firmly sewed down.  This time I am using the other toe as my guide.  I really love this foot.  Here I sewed up to (but not over) the pins.   Go slowly, you are almost done!


Top stitching the band and sewing right up to a pin.

Pull out that last zig zag baste if you are planning to wear this for swim or want to show off either side.   If you feel like you need more support, or want a tighter band than just the fabric alone provides, thread some non-roll elastic through the opening we left in the band, try on, sew together, and hand stitch the opening closed.


Here is the band with the opening we made earlier. Easy to add elastic later if needed.


This color is really close to my  sun kissed shoulders (thank you garden) I could wear it to swim in public, and will be fantastic under my light colored Spoxxy!  The wicking nature of the fabric will make it comfortable to wear as either a bra or swim top.   I plan on making more that have different colored front and backs!  If your fabric needs a bit more recovery,  or you want more support, consider sandwiching power mesh or techsheen in between the layers.


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Fat Quarter Bags

Looking for a fun and useful project for my beginning sewing students, I found a bag similar to this online, and decided to create a set of instructions that allowed for creative fun and interfacing/batting options. Make some as part of a holiday gift, or party favor.  School colors for a lunch bag would be fun too!

Ingredients:                           Makes two

Two coordinating fat quarters, two yards coordinating ribbon or twill tape for handles, and 12 to 14 inches of narrow ribbon, button and 6.5 x 7.5 scrap for optional pocket.  Optional interfacing/fleece/insulbright 9 x 21 inch for each bag.

First, trim off those selvages (look for selvage projects and keep them in your stash for later).   Cut your fat quarters in half to make two rectangles that are 9 x 21 inches.  Fat quarters are  cut into 22 x 18 inch rectangles, and you will want to start with fabric that does not have an up and down direction.  Or do not mind if your people are all on their sides 🙂 What is most critical here is that your bag and bag lining are cut the same size as each other.

Choose an interior.  Add interfacing/fleece/insulbright to your bag.  They all have wonderful and different qualities that will help the ultimate purpose of your bag.  Want to keep a baby bottle (or your water bottle/lunch/snack)  cool or warm, choose insulbright, it is amazing. First time project, fusible fleece is a little easier to handle once it has been fused to your fabric.  Just a bag for books, a few diapers/wipes/change of clothes, makeup to take you into evening, perhaps a nice interfacing will do the trick.  Experiment and have fun with it!

Cut your interior. InsulBright the same size as one of your bag rectangles.  Any fusible can be cut 1/2 inch smaller, and centered before fusing.  This will eliminate bulk in the seams.

Mark the strap placement.  On the short ends of one rectangle, measure in 2 inches and mark that spot on both sides.  Then mark the center line on one end.  This is where your straps will go.

Optional pocket.  I was lucky to have a nice sized scrap of a coordinating fabric.  Start with a rectangle 6.5 x 7.5 inches.  Fold down the top 6.5 inch across edge 1/4 inch and again 3/4 inches and press, then top stitch on the edge. Then press in 1/4 inch on the remaining three sides.

Center the pocket on the body of the bag with the fusible, and top stitch a line on the very edge and another a presserfoot’s width inside of that one.  The two lines of stitching will keep the top from pulling out.

Optional double ribbon.  place one yard of ribbon against another yard of the same width of ribbon wrong sides t and edge stitch both long sides.  Makes for a sturdier strap.  Cut into two 18 inch lengths and pin two inches in from each side of the top of either end of the bag. Baste this with a 1/4 inch seam.

On the other side, add the 6-7 inch narrow ribbon to the center of the bag and baste across the raw edge.

Place the rights sides of the interfaced bag and the bag lining together and stitch across the side with the ribbon in the center with a 1/2 inch seam allowance. On the other side, stitch from the edge to just past the first strap, and then pivot and stitch off the edge of the bag making an “L” shaped seam.  Make a similar seam on the other side, starting from the edge, and coming into the bag to the 1/2 inch seam allowance and pivoting to finish off the seam.  This leaves a nice opening for turning the bag right side out later.

Open the bag so that the seams you just made are in the middle and the interfaced bag is on one side, and the lining on the other.  Pin the seams together so that one goes left and the other right, and the actual seam nestles into the other seam.

Box Bottom measure up from the bottom fold 1.25 inch and in from the raw edge on the side 1.75 inches on all four corners of the bag.  Clip these lines. This made my bag bottom 3×5 inches.  If you want a more slender but wider bag, try cutting out the bottom squares one inch from the bottom fold and side seam line instead of one and a quarter inches.

On either long side of the bag, make a seam with a 1/2 inch allowance.   Then on each corner, bring the bottom fold to meet the center of the seam, closing off the corners.

Make a seam to close this opening with a 1/4 inch allowance.  Your bag will look like this when you are done.

Turn the bag right side out.  Pull the bag lining through first.

Then the remainder of the bag.  Slip the interfaced part of the bag inside the lined part and edge stitch all the way around to fully close off the opening.  The “L” seam you made earlier makes this job go more smoothly.

Hand sew a button on to either  side opposite the area where the center ribbon is, so that you can close your bag.  Snaps would also be fun here too.  It is always a good idea to prewash, or use Color Catchers the first wash!

Now go forth and make the second bag.  They make great gifts!   Think small essentials bag.   Perhaps a project in progress bag.  Consider bags in different sizes.  




It is in the bag!

Simple formula for lined bag with your choice of size, handle and closure!  So easy it is already “in the bag”.


Working with new sewists, I am continually on the look out for quick to make and clever useful projects.  More experienced seamsters can whip these out in batches. Early in the game sewists can experience easy success!    Teacher gifts, party favors, so many uses!  I am considering small bags from theme fabric to house a bar of hand made soap for an upcoming bridal shower.

Start with scraps if you like.  You will need two same size longish rectangles.  The formula is as follows:

Desired bag width plus 1 inch for seam allowances.  Desired height of bag times 2.5 to 2.75 for a generous flap.  If you have a specific item to bag, measure it now!

Play around with what you have on hand to start with and have some fun!

Right sides together, with a quarter inch seam allowance, sew both rectangles along one short side.

Open this.  Press the seam allowance towards the lining, and under stitch.  Under stitching will roll the seam towards the lining so this edge looks really clean.


View of back side of bag after under stitching and top stitching!


Press and top stitch with a fancy stitch if you like.  If you plan to close your bag with hook and loop tape, include one side of the tape along the edge of the front of your bag now.


For a firmer flap add a bit of fusible interfacing!

Align your work and trim off any excess fabric that may be caused by the under stitching.    With right sides together, pin the pieces together and draw a fancy shape for the flap, or leave it straight.  A hex ruler might be a nice tool to keep both sides symmetrical.  Stitch this seam.  A straight seam would under stitch nicely!

Optional “wrap” the corners of your fancy cut flap.

Make a strap!  A 14×3 inch rectangle folded rst lengthwise, stitched with a quarter inch seam turned and top stitched works great.  As does ribbon, webbing or twill tapeimage

Pin your strap that has been folded in half with raw edges aligned to the raw edges of the bag and the folded edge towards the center of the bag.  Set it just below where your flap ends and the bag begins so that it ends up near the top of your bag.  Baste in place.  In the photo my strap raw edges extend past the raw edge of the bag. This adds security and keeps the selvages on the strap from showing on the finished bag.



Now on for the tricky part:  See above, pull the bottom of the bag so that it covers the strap.  Pin the bag (both layers) to the outside cover only of the front of the bag on the right and left sides.  Then slip the lining of the bag over the front of the bag.  This basically turns the bag wrong side out and the lining will form a loop on top with the outer bag also forming a loop on the bottom.  The bag portion will be tucked up into the flap, but only just past the strap.    The remainder will be the flap.  If you are creating a specific size bag to fit a particular item.  Now is the second good time to measure.  (The first would be before you cut the fabric.) In the photo I used clips, as I had lined these bags with PUL.



Side seam stitched with “L” seams!

Align right sides together, and make a 3/8 inch seam along this edge.  Making sure to back stitch over the strap to secure it.

Make sure the second side of you bag is lined up and symmetrical to the side you just sewed.

Create two “L” seams along this edge.  Start at the top and just about a half inch after you sew across the many layers of the sides of the bag.  Pivot and stitch to the edge creating a seam that looks like the capital letter “L”.  Then a few inches later along this edge, make another “L” seam that serves two purposes.  It leaves a clean and sturdy opening for turning and finishes the side seam of the bag.  A small bag needs a smaller opening than a larger bag.


Second half of “L” seam!

Suggested ratio would be to leave an opening half the length of the bag side.


Flip it the bag right side out, this may take multiple flipping to be sure the lining is on the inside.  Poke out corners with a handy tool (chopsticks work great here!).  Pin the opening closed with the raw edges neatly tucked inside.  Top stitch narrowly to ensure that the opening is securely closed.


Complete the closure by adding the other half of the hook and loop tape to the inside of the flap, or add snaps, buttonholes and buttons, or whatever makes your heart happy. Kam Snaps make my heart happy!  I get mine locally at Hip Stitch and would be glad to show you how easy they are to apply.  A pattern with measurements, and possibly kits will be available in July 2016.

This makes a great snack bag, holiday gift bag, cosmetics, or think fusible fleece for an electronics bag.

Happy sewing!  Joanimage








Variations on the “fly”

I can’t tell you how many times I have made up a pair of boxers from the First Choice boxer pattern, or how many copies I have purchased.  It is far and away my family’s favorite.

Lets face it, there comes a time when your kids will no longer wear something “Mom made” out in public.  That is a sad day for those of us with a need to sew. Years ago when we were potty training, I saw so many cute novelty fabrics at my LQS, that I just had to make something.  Then I found the First Choice Boxer pattern, and made up a few pairs for my 3 year old son.  I was tickled to find fabric with Scooby Doo and Blues Clues. He was intrigued with the fly.  They were sweet, cute, and he would wear them, not much else but, his older sisters were glad that he was not running around starkers like a 3 year old would given the choice. These fit the bill as they are not meant to be worn in public, and serve well as PJ or lounge wear.

Ironically, this turned into a long pair from flannel, and both daughters begged me to make them as gifts for all their friends, who in their teens would wear them in public.  Luckily now we are past that stage too.

My youngest is soon off to college and I let him know recently that we will need to weed out some of his older, now capri length and way too small pj pants as they are not fit to be seen in by someone other than his parents. And that is debatable.  Dug through my flannel stash and picked out a few pieces that would be acceptable “lounging around the dorm” pants.

Even more ironic, they make a great split slip for me (or pj pants) when lengthened and made from a lovely batiste or voile.









Earth Box under cover



When I first saw the Earth Box at my local garden center, I thought it was a pricey planter good for folks who live in an apartment with a tiny balcony.

Later I learned about the benefits of sub irrigated planters.  They make a lot of water wise sense when gardening in the desert.  I love that they are a small finite space that you can clear out and plant in a short amount of time.  I have a few now, taking advantage of end of season sales over the years. And, yes, in addition to raised beds on the ground.  I have some on the balcony!

The funny thing about living in the desert is that the variations in temperature during one 24 hour period can be pretty dramatic.  From near freezing in the morning  to upwards of 70-80 in the afternoon. Makes germination tough.

Discovered years ago that beans will not germinate when temps get over 90 degrees.  We go from an early spring where it is too cold for seeds to germinate outside, to too hot in a manner of weeks. This leaves a short window of time for bean germination.   I have taken to germinating inside, and have used all manner of purchased pots to do so.  Recently I found a newspaper pot maker on Amazon.  Love it.  It takes some time to roll up enough pots, but a ruler and yesterday’s newspaper, a glue stick and something nice on TV are all it takes.  Fill them with good potting soil, then carefully stand them up shoulder to shoulder in a tray, pop a seed in each one, and cover it, then water the tray.

Suddenly it was like Jack and the Beanstalk at my house.  Tall little bean plants needed bigger digs, and quick.  I planted a row of peas on one side of the earth box, and a row of 8-9 bean plants on the other side.  Now what to do to keep them from freezing.

Measured the interior dimensions of the box, and with this nifty tool,  cut 1/2 inch PVC pipe to fit.  Using eight 8.5 lengths and two 24.5 lengths, four elbows and four elbows with a third opening (side outlet)   to make the upper corners.

It was very easy to assemble.  It will somewhat contain tall willowy flowers or legumes, but more importantly, it will support a special cover made of garden fleece.  These little covers make a world of difference to tender young plants.  Like wearing a sweater, it seems to take enough of the chill out of the equation that gives those green babies a fighting chance.  I had a 10×12 foot piece of the light weight stuff.  I cut two 12 x 12 squares for each end and a 30 x 36 rectangle to cover the top.  I sewed 3 sides of each square to the 36 inch end of the rectangles.  This made a nifty little cover that was loose enough to pop on, but to keep it on I used a large binder clip.

We have woken to some frosty mornings recently after a little teaser warm spell, and those beans are happy in their little mini green houses.  I believe they were providers.  They are my first beans to plant each season.  Helps to soothe the urge to garden when temps are still a bit too cool.

Their neighbors, the sugar snap peas came up surprisingly well.  Peas can handle cooler temperatures, but the little shoots are often fodder to birds and rodents.  The covers give them a chance to get bit enough to be ignored by these ravagers of the garden.

Another season extender is the Wall of Water.  Love Walls of Water.  They allow me to plant a few tomato plants each week, when the moon says it is ok.  More on that one in a bit.  Happy planting!