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Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Basic Back Pack Pattern Update

From time to time, I make some minor changes to my patterns. This usually making sentences shorter and moving diagrams. My most recent update was one of my favorite beginning sewing patterns...The Basic Back Pack.

This was really popular with the kids in my studio - they'd make a bunch for their friends. I even modified it for one girl who was a regular - I embroidered "Cheer" on it!

 Why is it a great project for a beginner? 
  • The 1/2" seams leave some wiggle-room for mistakes. Everything doesn't need to line up perfectly.
  • The cording is threaded through a casing at the top rather than a seam. More room for error!
  • The final step involves sewing side/bottom seams rather than inserting the lining in the outside and sewing along the top...and hoping it fits. 

 There's a divided  pocket inside.
 Here's a close-up of the side tabs. I wrapped the cording in tape to get it through the eyelets.

Thread the cording through the casing with a BIG safety pin or a cord threader. I have a collection of

FYI: I've used both for years. One of the "eyes" snapped off on the blue one, but I still use it. I LOVE this product!!

This pattern is only $3.99!

Purchase on Craftsy
Purchase on Etsy.

Monday, November 16, 2015

How To Buy A Sewing Machine

I thought I'd repost some articles that I wrote when I started blogging almost four years ago. This was a series on how to buy a sewing machine. The ideas and suggestions came from interaction with friends, sewing students, and retailers.

Part One: How To Buy A Sewing Machine Week

Part Two: How to Set a Budget

Part Three: The Goodies (Features)

Part Four: Testing the Machines

Part Five: Found One. Now What?  

Part Six: Maintenance

And here's a bonus - an interactive photo of parts of a sewing machine.


Saturday, November 14, 2015

Holiday Gift Ideas: Sewing Patterns

Are you thinking about making some gifts for the holidays? I've selected my favorite patterns and put them into categories to help you pick something based on your needs:

Fast and Inexpensive:
Hip Klip Pocket Accessory Large:
I love this little little bag. I've made so many of them that I can crank one out in under 45 minutes. 

All you need is a fat quarter, two zippers, and two eyelets. I love Hip Klips, but you can use carabiners.

Why is it so fast to make? There is no lining fabric. The zippers are sewn on the fold! 

Available on Craftsy
Available on Etsy The Bandolier Crossbody Bag:
This is similar to the Hip Klip. It's bigger, isn't flat, and has an adjustable strap.

Available on Craftsy Available on Etsy

Wine Bottle Gift Bag:

This fast project it a gift within a gift. And it doesn't take much fabric. And just check out those corks! 

This is a great project for a beginner. 

Available on Craftsy
Available on Etsy 

For the Organized:

The Sewing Caddy/Purse Organizer:

This is my top selling pattern on Craftsy. It's not only a sewing caddy, but it makes a great purse organizer. 

To speed up sewing, use store-bought bias tape.

Available on Craftsy
Available on Etsy
The Transit Tote:

These are also called Train Cases. I've seen some similar patterns but none are as simple to make as this one. I use my Inside-Out Zipper technique to simplify the whole process. 

I've included two bonus patterns: a mesh pouch and jewelry valet. Perfect for traveling.

I love this pattern so much that I made seven of them for gifts. 

Available on Craftsy
Available on Etsy

The Cosmetic Bag with Brush Roll:

I designed this pattern almost five years ago. It's one of my top selling patterns on Craftsy.  

My friend described it as genius. I'm still using the first one I made. This camo one went to my niece who's in the Army.

Available on Craftsy
Available on Etsy

For the Techie: Smartphone Wallet eXtra:

These wallets are what my friends want as gifts. We all travel light. I used my Inside-Out Zipper technique to make zipper installation a lot easier.

Available on Craftsy
Available on Etsy

The Tech Tote Crossbody Bag:

A great gift for those who carry their tech with them. It's got lots of room for other gear. And it's all zipped up. 

I used my Inside-Out Zipper technique for this bag, too. A pattern tester described it as easy to follow with a great zipper technique. I couldn't agree more!

Available on Craftsy
Available on Etsy

For the Eco-Warrior:

The Upcycled Sweatshirt Purse:

This is another really popular pattern on Craftsy (with a 4.5 out of 5 rating).

It's a fun gift that allows you to preserve those old sweatshirts!

Available on Craftsy
Available on Etsy

The Upcycled Sweatshirt Backpack:

Perfect for the backpack wearer. Just head to the local Salvation Army and head home and start sewing. It's nothing complicated. I include the grommet math (to make sure you equally space the grommets/eyelets).

Available on Craftsy
Available on Etsy


Thanks for supporting my little pattern business! You can also check out my free patterns for more goodies! have fun and happy sewing.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Eyelet Plier Hack

I insert a lot of eyelets and grommets into my project using the Dritz Eyelet Plier Kit. And every. single. time, I have to get out the directions. At first, I copied the back of the package and laminated it. I put that into my little "grommet/eyelet" basket were I kept them. Even so, I'd read and re-read out of fear that I'd do it incorrectly.

The other day I was adding some eyelets to a hanging shoe organizer that I cut up so it would fit going down my stairs. And it finally hit me: write on the pliers (Deep Half goes on the Right Side - Shallow Half goes on the Wrong Side).

BTW, I love my label-maker, too.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Free Back-To-School Patterns

Looking for some quick projects to start the school year?

Here are some of my free patterns that are perfect for the student in your life!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Transit Tote PDF Sewing Pattern

I've been working on this Transit Tote pattern for over a week! My brain is fried!

I ended up making six of these. When designing a pattern the first step is to focus on the big problems (measuring and design flaws). Then each subsequent one allowed me to fine-tune and focus on the minor problems (like technique and removing bulk). During this time, I post pictures on a private/secret FB group and get feedback.

Here's the front. I included a tutorial for adding two zippers rather than one long one. I used a version of my Inside-Out Zipper technique so you don't really "birth" the bag - and you don't have raw edges anywhere!

The mesh pockets are made with the mesh from a laundry bag!

The final size is 6 1/2" x 9 1/2" x 6" (tall).

The pattern includes this little Jewelry Valet. It unsnaps and folds flat so it will fit in your luggage. 

It's 4 3/4" x 4 3/4".
You'll also get the pattern for this little zippered mesh bag. It's 4" x 8".


The project looks more complicated than it really is. It took me about 3 hours to make the last one (and that includes jotting down pattern changes and new ideas). The technique that I created is unconventional, so read through the entire pattern before starting! Have fun!

Purchase in my Craftsy Shop 
Purchase in my Etsy Shop

And here are some behind-the-scenes from my "photo shoot" this morning.

My sewing room - getting ready. I think it's a lot like me...looks better in person. Really, it looks messier than it actually seems!


My photo studio. This is my screened-in porch. Those are "cat" shelves that my cats ignore. They prefer the carpet-covered kitty condo that's been moved to another part of my house.

I taped up white paper to make the background neutral.

Here's my design assistant. It was a bit chilly, so I donned my Mansfield University sweatpants and my ...uhm...25 year-old Penn State sweatshirt and headed out with my high-tech Canon camera. Really, it's not high-tech. It's a point-and-shoot that fits in my pocket. 

So nothing fancy here. I really love this tote which made doing this a lot of fun. But I had trouble stopping - I couldn't stop with the Transit Tote...I had to make the mesh bag...and the jewelry valet. Why? I head back to work next week (I teach college) and once classes start, I'm down for the count! 

I hope you enjoy sewing this tote! Happy travels!

Bernina Feet Storage

Last week, Bernina posted a picture on their FB page of an organized accessory box. I shared this picture and got some positive responses -- so I thought I'd write about it.

I keep most of the feet for my Bernina 240 in a plastic case with dividers (just like this one) stowed away in a drawer. I don't use the plastic accessory box that came with it. But there are several feet that I use a lot; those feet were taking up space in the area next to my machine (and I kept knocking them off).

My solution was to remove the foot "shelf" from the accessory box and stick it to the underside of my Horn Cabinet. I used the 3M Picture Hanging Strips (like velcro). BTW, I think that there are coupons on their website!

Now I have easy-access to my feet!

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Making a Pleated Mesh Pocket

Yesterday I wrote about mesh pockets, so here's how you can make a pleated mesh pocket. These are great for bigger items. This is the side panel/gusset piece for a big tote bag that I use when I'm traveling.

You'll need mesh. I use laundry bags and hampers. And you'll need binding. I make my own - here's my tutorial.

1. Measure your pocket. I made mine 2" wider and about 4" shorter (2" top and 2" bottom) than the side panel. Cut your mesh.

2. The pocket top binding is the width that I cut (2" wider) BUT the bottom is the width of the side panel/gusset.

3. Add the binding to the top of the pocket. Here's some help.

4. Open the bottom binding and mark the middle. Ignore the other marks here-I was experimenting!

5. Next, using this as a guide, sew the binding to the mesh BUT stop at the middle mark.

6. Remove from your machine.

7. Line other (unsewn) end of the mesh up with the the other end of the binding. You'll have excess fabric in the middle.

8. Move the extra fabric so it's out of the way and, starting at the middle point, sew the remainder binding to the mesh. DON'T sew the pleat yet!

9. Remove from your machine.

10. Press pleat flat as shown.


11. Sew pleat in place. It will look like this.

Notice that the pocket bottom is narrower than the top.

12. Flip binding to right side.  Attach mesh pocket to your project by sewing it along the TOP and the BOTTOM of the binding.

How will you use mesh pockets!?

Friday, July 31, 2015

Making Mesh Pockets

I've become a big fan of mesh pockets in my totes and purses. I like them because I can see the contents of the pocket; oh, and they are really easy to make!

All you need is some mesh. I checked out JoAnn Fabrics and found some tulle. I don't particularly care for it, so I've stuck with my go-to: laundry bags! I purchased pop-up hampers from Big Lots and recently discovered these from Target. I like the ones from Target because they are big (36" x 24"), so they work perfectly for my bigger sewing projects.


Here's what you need to do:

1. Cut your pocket to the correct size. My pocket sides and bottom are sewn into the seams, so think about that. You might have to put the binding all the way around.

2. Cut and make binding. I have a tutorial if you've never made it. I prefer my method because one side is wider than the other. This should be the length of your pocket (or whatever won't be sewn into the seams).

3. Place the narrow side of the binding on top of the mesh as shown. Line up along the edges. This will be the back of the pocket.

4. Sew in the fold. I use a walking foot - it feeds more evenly.

I don't pin. I just go slowly, making sure that the edges stay lined up.

If you need to, sew binding where it's needed. This pocket is on the inside of a big tote (it's part of the side panel/gusset). You'll see the binding at the bottom of the pocket. I didn't want a pocket that was too deep. I made this pocket about 2" wider than the side panel and created a pleat in the bottom. UPDATE: Here's how to create a Pleated Mesh Pocket.

5. Flip over and wrap binding over to the other side (this will be the front.)

6. Sew the binding to the mesh as shown. 

7.  Attach the pocket. Sew dividers as desired!

You could make this zippered if you wanted!

Here it is!

You can purchase the pattern for this purse insert on Craftsy and Etsy.

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