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Upcycling Fabric Scraps

Fabric-Scrap-Upcycle

This isn’t going to be a full tutorial because I didn’t do a great job of documenting the process. If you’d like a full tutorial, please let me know. I will link to the page I learned it from here.

I saw this really cool way to make a bunch of fabric scraps into new, usable fabric that is really textured and cool. First, you need a backing piece of fabric. I used an upholstery sample square that I hadn’t found a use for yet. Then, you cover it in fabric scraps. I went with all pieces from my “blue” sorter bin and let them fall all over randomly. I did try to keep it all in one or two layers and moved pieces around to cover all the empty spots. I left some upside down to add more variety in the colors, and I didn’t worry about ironing the pieces first. 

Once I had everything in place, I pressed it with my iron to smooth it down. Then I pinned water soluble stabilizer on top to help hold everything in place for the sewing machine. To sew, I lowered the feed dogs on my machine and crazy free motion quilted everything together. You can see that in the first video below.

 

@subearthancottage

Trying a new technique to make usable fabric from my fabric scraps. #upcycling #zerowaste #asmr #sewing #quilting

♬ original sound – Charity

After I had everything thoroughly stitched down, I rinsed out the stabilizer, shown here.

@subearthancottage

Rinsing out the water soluble stabilizer. It’s so cool to finally see the colors pop out as the stabilizer dissolves. #upcycling #sewing #quilting

♬ Lofi Vibes – Gentle State

That’s it. Now I have this really cool piece of fabric. I can’t decide what to do with it. It almost looks like it could hang on the wall like that as art. I also thought about making a couple of zipper pouches or sets of coasters out of it. It would also be fun to use as patches for clothing. 

What would you make with it? Leave your suggestions below. 🙂

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Sewing Chores: Tips to maximize sewing time

Even if you love sewing, there’s some parts that can be a chore. Ignoring those tasks or leaving them for later can result in wasted sewing time and money. Here’s a list of chores I try to tackle when I have a few minutes so that my real sewing time is spent actually sewing.

Bobbin winding

If you have a Side Winder, bobbin thread running out mid-project might not be a big hassle. If you rely on your machine to wind bobbins, though, running out means stopping your work, re-threading your machine to wind a bobbin and then setting it back up to sew. To prevent this headache, when you have a few spare moments, wind a few bobbins in your most commonly used colors. If you have a project in mind, wind a couple of bobbins in the needed colors. Keep extra bobbins on hand and wind at least one for every different thread color you have. 

Pre-winding extra bobbins makes this notice less annoying.

Clean your machine

Lint, threads and dust build up over time and can cause poor stitch quality or even damage your machine. It’s a good idea to make a habit of brushing the debris out at the end of each project, or during projects with linty fabrics.

If the inside of your machine looks like this, you should probably clean it more often.

Periodically you’ll want to vacuum out your machine to really clean it. Vacuum attachments made for cleaning computers work well for this. Some people use canned air, but that’s not recommended. It pushes some of the debris deeper into your machine.

Oil your machine

Once your machine is thoroughly clean, take a moment to oil it according to your manual. This will keep it running smoothly and reduce the need for costly repairs. If you don’t have the manual, you can usually find one online. 

After oiling, always sew a few rows on scrap fabric to soak up excess oil. That way, you won’t risk ruining a project with oil spots. 

Tidy up

The best practice is to put away tools and excess fabric as you go. It’s easy to get distracted and forget, though. Taking a moment here and there to run through your sewing area to tidy up when you aren’t working on a project can save sewing time later.

Keep a shopping list

Nothing is more annoying than having to stop work because you ran out of a necessary supply. Make note of supplies that are low or that have run out on a notepad to take on your next shopping trip.

Prewash fabric

Unless you know your final project will never be washed, you should always prewash your fabric. One way to make sure this happens is to wash it as soon as you bring it home from the store. You could also work it into your usual laundry schedule. Having a prewashing routine prevents delaying a project or worse, giving in to the temptation to make something and have your final product ruined in the wash.

Tip: Serging or zig-zag stitching the cut edges will prevent excess fraying in the wash.https://subearthancottage.com/random-sewing-tip-painless-prewash

These are the chores that, for me, are the biggest sewing time-wasters when neglected. Please share your dreaded sewing chores and tips to keep them from becoming time-wasters in the comments.

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DIY Embroidery Patch Quick Tip

I love upcycling in my crafting. I love that it saves money and keeps things out of the landfill. One of my latest ways to upcycle is using denim as a base for machine embroidery patches. Just about everyone has a pair of worn out jeans. Denim is the perfect weight for patches, so I take usable fabric from old jeans and stitch my patch designs on that. Give it a shot!

Patch stitched on a scrap of denim.

You can find this design in my shop here.

Stitching mini patches on a denim scrap from blue jeans.

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How to Make a Port Pillow

Something that I have found very useful since getting my chemo port put in is a port pillow. Port pillows are small pillows that attach to seatbelts to prevent the seatbelt from irritating the port. Luckily, they are super easy to make with very little materials needed. There are many organizations that accept them as donations to give to cancer patients, so that’s something to consider if you are looking for a charitable way to use up your stash.

Materials for a port pillow.

Materials needed for One Port Pillow

  • 2 rectangles of soft fabric, approximately 4 inches by 7 inches. I like using quilting cotton.  There is enough fabric in my soap’s wrapping to make one pillow, so upcycle if you have it. 
  • 2 pieces of hook and loop tape (Velcro) measuring 3.5 inches each. 
  • Polyfil or other stuffing.
  • Thread

Step one: Baste the Velcro

Separate the Velcro pieces and baste them in place on one piece of the fabric close to the edges. I just eyeball the placement at about halfway between the middle and short edge of the rectangle for each Velcro piece. I like to make the softer piece face up, but it doesn’t really matter. You could also use pins to hold it in place instead of basting, but I find machine basting easier. 

Step Two: Sew the pillow

Sew the fabric rectangles wrong sides together as shown in the photo below. Be sure to leave an opening for turning. I left the opening on a long side for this one, but it’s easier to sew closed if you leave it on a short side. 

Leave the opening on the end next time.

Step Three: Turn and Stuff

Clip the corners, being careful not to cut the thread, turn the pillow right side out and stuff. I like to press the empty pillow before stuffing for a crisper look. Just be careful not to melt the Velcro if you do this too. 

 

Turned and pressed.
Stuffing. Needs a little more to be semi-firm.

Step Four: Sew it Closed

If you want the seam hidden, you can sew it closed by hand. I don’t mind the seam, so I use my machine to make it quick. This is much easier when the opening is on the end as evidenced by the number of pins I used to hold it closed. I hate using pins. 

I can usually manage without pins when the opening is on the end.

Done

The end result should look something like this.

 

This is one of those projects that I’ve done so often I may have overlooked something in trying to tell someone else how to do it. If anything is confusing, please ask in the comments. I will clarify it ASAP.

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Quick Drawstring Bag Tutorial or How to Reuse Your SubEarthan Cottage Soap Wrapping

I wrap my soaps in fabric because it looks nice, it allows the soap to breathe (read here for why), and because it feels better than plastic. I often wonder what happens to the wrapping. I’m sure there are some that toss it. I know of one person who collects the fabric for quilts. For those of you who, like me, don’t want to throw away something that could be useful but don’t know what to do with it, I have a tutorial for a drawstring pouch, just for you.

This is done with the wrapping from one of my soaps, but you could make it in any size you like.

Materials
Cloth wrapper from soap (roughly 8×11 inches)
Jute string from soap (about 29 inches)
Thread

Tools
Needle or Sewing machine
Safety pin or Bodkin
Scissors
Iron

First, iron your fabric flat. Then, fold down a long edge about 3/4 of an inch to one inch and press. This is for the casing. It doesn’t have to be super precise.

Sew a straight seam along the bottom of the flap to form the casing. All the sewing can be done by hand or machine. I have no time or patience, so I choose machine. Fold your material in half with right sides together like a book.

The fold is at the bottom of this photo.

Next, starting just below the casing seam, sew down the side and across the bottom. I use anywhere from a 1/4 to 1/2 inch seam allowance for this. Again, it doesn’t have to be precise.

With scissors, clip the bottom corners, being careful not to cut your stitching. You could probably skip this step, but it helps the corners look square and crisp. Turn your bag right side out.

Now it’s time to thread the string. Tie one end of the string to a safety pin, large paper clip, or attach a small bodkin. This makes it easier to work it through the casing. Thread it through the casing, safety pin first.

Once you get the string to the other side, remove your safety pin or other tool and adjust the string so that the ends are even.

Knot the ends together once or twice to keep it from coming out.

Ta-da! It’s done! Perfect for organizing your purse, storing jewelry or other small items, or as a small gift bag.

Or holding your favorite bar of soap.

Tutorials are always a little complicated to write because it’s easy to overlook small steps in things you do frequently. If something is unclear, please ask. 🙂

If you have any other creative uses for a SubEarthan Cottage soap wrapper, I would love to hear it!

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Easy fix for worn out denim jeans

Denim jeans don’t have to be tossed or cut up for crafts when they start to wear out. With a little effort, you can easily get some more wear out of your favorite jeans. For this tutorial, I’m using a pair of denim blue jeans that are still in good shape except for where my thighs touch. There they are really worn on one side and there is a hole on the other. Because of where the hole was located, I wasn’t comfortable even wearing them around the house, so I decided to try a simple fix.

Interfacing for support

First, I ironed lightweight fusible interfacing on the inside of the worn areas, making sure to completely cover all the worn out spots with the interfacing.

Reinforce with stitching

Once it fused and cooled down, I turned them right side out. Using a narrow zig-zag, I stitched back and forth over the hole and worn areas. This serves to secure the interfacing and add strength.

If you can, drop or cover the feed dogs on your sewing machine so you can move the jeans freely under the needle. The machine I used doesn’t have a way to drop them and I don’t have the special foot plate to cover them. Instead, I used a combination of repositioning and forward and reverse stitching to make it work.

Denim Jeans Fix

Depending on the location, you could use contrasting thread and decorative stitches to turn the repair into an embellishment.

Lengthening a slightly short pair of jeans

I also have a pair of jeans I love, but they needed a button sewn back on. They were also a little short, so I replaced the button and let out the hem while watching TV one evening. These heavy denim jeans are now ready for the coming colder months.

Buttons!

These have an obvious line where the hem was. They’re really cute so I don’t care.

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Easy denim jeans fix.
 

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Scrap Busting: Organization for Zero Waste Sewing

If you sew, you have a stash of fabric scraps. No matter how carefully you plan and lay out your patterns, there is almost always going to be some little extra bit. With some creativity, even the smallest scraps are useful in other projects. In order for that to happen, though, you need to be able to know what you have and find what you need. Here’s some simple suggestions to make the most of your fabric scraps.

Decide what makes sense.

I sort my scrap stash primarily by color. Most of it consists of quilting cottons, so sorting by color makes sense. For other types of fabric, I sort by fabric type more than color. For example, all flannel scraps go together.

Think about how you craft or how you naturally group things to find what will work best for you. If you focus more on prints than color family, then try group by prints. If you use a large variety of fabric weights and textures, use that to determine your groupings.

Out of sight, out of mind.

For me, being able to see what I have is the most important. I have a clear plastic sorter bin, similar to what you’d find at a hardware store, that I keep near my cutting table. I put scraps that aren’t really big enough to fold practically into the bins, sorted by color family. The front of the bins are clear, so it’s easy for me to see colors and prints at a glance.

Plastic shoe bins or similar containers would also work. You could upcycle shoe boxes or shipping boxes, but you lose the visibility with something that isn’t clear. In that case I would clearly label the outside with the color family.

Scrap organization
This garage sale find keeps my scraps organized and visible.

Don’t forget the tiniest scraps.

Even the tiniest scraps can be used for stuffing, to strengthen handmade paper or in textile art. I keep a small bin next to my sewing machines and sergers to collect threads, clipped corners, trimmed seam allowances, etc.

Have a plan for other types of scraps.

Little bits of lace, trim and buttons from refashioned clothing get stored in glass jars. I find the variety of colors and shapes pretty, so I like having them sit on a shelf where I can see them. If I need a button or bit of embellishment I know what I have. In the meantime, it’s art.

Scrap jars

Stabilizer scraps go into a drawer under my embroidery machine. If I’m embroidering something that needs a little extra support in an area, I use a suitable scrap instead of a whole new piece. Stabilizer scraps can also be used to reinforce buttons and button holes.

I store most of my interfacing in a shoebox. Small scraps go back into the box to use similarly to how I use stabilizer scraps.

Don’t get overwhelmed.

If you find that your scrap stash is growing larger than what you can use, sort through and pull out anything you don’t love or just don’t see yourself using and donate them. Schools, libraries, scouting groups and similar organizations will often take fabric scraps and other craft materials to use for art projects. You can also list them for free on craigslist or Facebook. As a little girl, I used scraps from my grandma to fashion clothes for my Barbies and My Little Ponies. If you have know of anyone with children, they might like the scraps to play with, too. By donating them, they still get put to use and you’re better able to see and use what you still have.

Put those scraps to use!

Once you know what scraps you have, make it a goal to use them up. If you’re stuck for ideas, Pinterest is a great place to turn for ideas. I have a board dedicated to scrap busting projects that I add to frequently. You can find it here.

I’ll be posting creative ways to use fabric scraps soon. To make sure you don’t miss it, sign up for my newsletter here. When you sign up, be sure to check your spam folder for the confirmation if it doesn’t go straight to your inbox.