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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.

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Patching Denim with an Embroidery Machine

Finished sewing

I love wearing denim blue jeans, but chasing my boys and taking care of my small zoo, they get lots of wear and tear. One of the worst things is having to scrap a favorite pair because of one too many rips. I’ve repaired rips in a utilitarian way in the past. This time I thought I’d try patching denim using my embroidery machine. I haven’t done much applique, so I learned some things along the way.

This tutorial makes use of an embroidery machine and serger. You could also adapt it to use a sewing machine or applique by hand and embellishing with hand embroidery.

Items needed

  • Denim jeans or other item to repair
  • Interfacing
  • Thread in colors of choice
  • Seam ripper or similar tool
  • Scrap of fabric at least 4 in x 4 inches
  • Stabilizers: Cut away or tear away, water soluble optional
  • Floral denim patch applique design file

Step 1: Open the side seam.

Since I’m repairing a ripped knee, I needed to take out one of the side leg seams on my jeans. Using a seam ripper made this easy, but you could use small scissors, too. I left the seam intact at the hip and ankle, only removing what was necessary to lay the ripped area flat in the hoop without risking sewing it to the back. Leaving a little intact makes it easier to resew the seam at the end.

Step 2: Prepare the rip.

Iron the area around the rip so it’s smooth and flat. If there’s a lot of loose threads around the rip, trim them. I caught this rip before it frayed too badly, so no trimming was needed.

Before photo patching denim
Side seam removed and jeans ironed flat.

I wanted the embroidered area to be solid, so I applied some interfacing to the back of the rip. I used some medium weight interfacing, but any should work, since it’s job is just to hold it together while the jeans are embroidered. This is a perfect project for using whatever scraps are handy.

Interfaced rip
Back of rip with interfacing applied.

Step 3: Hooping.

For denim, tear away or cutaway stabilizer is best. I chose cutaway for the most stability. It’s stiff, but it should soften in the wash. If not, I’ll switch to tear away next time.

I tend to float projects and only hoop the stabilizer whenever possible. This project seemed like it would work better tightly anchored in the hoop. It took a few tries to center the rip in my hoop so that all edges would be covered by my design. My machine has a 4 in x 4 in embroidery field, so the rip just barely fit. Smaller tears will be easier to fit in my small hoop.

Hooped denim
First attempt. Once I put it in my machine and had it circle the embroidery field, I saw it needed re-positioning.

Step 4: Embroidering the patch.

Once it’s properly hooped, it’s time to sew. On my machine, the first color stop said “Applique Material”. I haven’t done much machine applique, but the ones I am used to usually follow the sequence: placement stitch, tack down the applique (then trim excess), sew the final applique stitching. So, confused I just put the applique fabric and a water soluble stabilizer (optional) on top of the rip and pushed start.

stitching denim patch

What my machine was telling me to do was to just hoop the applique fabric so I could remove it from the hoop and cut it neatly. The second color stop was the positioning stitch. That would be stitched on my jeans and then my neatly trimmed applique could be placed in position and the stitching completed. Since I did everything at once, my applique isn’t as tidy as it could be. I will definitely listen to my machine next time.

Finished sewing, but still has water soluble stabilizer on top.
Finished sewing.

Step 5: Remove from hoop and cut away excess stabilizer

I also steam pressed over the back of the patch to start softening the stabilizer.

Patch from the back.
Patch from the back with stabilizer trimmed.

Step 6: Sew the leg seam.

To repair the leg seam, I used a lock stitch setting on my machine. You could also sew the seam twice to reinforce it or just use really heavy thread. I then serged the raw edge. If you don’t have a serger, an overedge stitch or zig-zag stitch would also work.

Finished!

Finished patching denim
Finished patch. Next time I will use heavier thread so the embroidery shows better.

Not bad. I wish I had used heavier thread so the embroidery would show up better. Listening to my machine and cutting the applique fabric to size before I sew it on to eliminate the raw edges peeking out is another improvement for the next time I’m patching denim.

If you’d like to use this applique design, you can download the file here. You can use the design on items you make to sell as well as for personal use, but please don’t sell the design file.

Floral knee patch applique
Floral knee patch applique design image.

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Friday Five

Sometimes throughout the week I think of things that I’d like to share with you but aren’t really worthy of a whole post. They could be things I’ve been working on, other sites I’ve discovered, shop or sale info, or general randomness. My solution is the Friday Five, where I quickly share some of those random or interesting things.

Sewing machine struggles

My Kenmore needs repair again. This time I got so frustrated with it that I packed it up and moved it off my desk. I don’t like using my Brother for anything except embroidery. I’d hate to mess up my only embroidery machine when I have another basic sewing machine. So, that leaves me with my vintage Montgomery Wards Signature. It works really well, but I’m not as familiar with all of the settings. I’m nervous about sewing anything special, because I don’t want to ruin anything by having tensions or stitch length wrong.

It’s also on the other side of my craft room from my other machines and in it’s own table. That means I have to bring everything I need over to it, rather than have it stored within reach. That all has deterred me from sewing lately.

I finally decided earlier this week to try to finish some of the masks I was working on when my Kenmore broke. Those are fairly simple and I have plenty of cotton fabric, so if my machine eats it, it’s not too bad. So far I only finished one, though, due to interruptions and being slow on an unfamiliar machine.

I guess someone felt the need to decorate it for Halloween.

Masks?

On the subject of masks, I’m contemplating adding them to my shop, but not sure if there’s still enough demand for handmade. I keep getting requests from friends and neighbors, though, so maybe? It would be nice to have them listed so I can have a catalog of sorts to show people when asked. Thoughts?

These were a special order from a friend. Luckily I finished them before my Kenmore broke. Sewing someone else’s fabric on an unfamiliar machine is scary.

Meal planning is hard

I had a dentist appointment last weekend that involved an extraction along with some fillings. That means that along with my usual gluten and dairy free restrictions, I’ve had to accommodate not really being able to chew. For most meals, that means planning for the family and separately for myself. I’ve also been fairly successful with losing some weight lately, so I didn’t want to get out of my healthy eating habits by living off mashed potatoes and ice cream for a week. That made it more challenging, because most of the healthy, filling foods I can think of require chewing. Luckily I’m down to only avoiding things that are crunchy or have small seeds that could get painfully stuck.

Odd shopping habits

I finally reorganized the pantry shelves this morning in an attempt to make meal planning easier. For some reason, I have four jars of salsa. Four! Three of them are the bigger jars, too, and all the same variety. I also have a ton of dried black beans, two varieties of split peas and lots of lentils. The black beans and lentils kind of make sense, but I’m the only one who likes split peas. I also thought I had black eyed peas and was planning on using them in a curry this weekend, but I don’t. At least now I know what I have and what I need.

Creative Home Projects Bundle 2020

The Creative Home Projects Bundle 2020 is only available for a few more hours. I talk more about it in this post. If you’re interested, be sure to order it before 11:59pm Eastern time tonight. For total disclosure, I do receive a small commission on bundles sold through my links. If you’re into DIY, I do think it’s worth having a look at the list of everything included and see if it’s right for you.

There’s also a 30 day money back guarantee. Before I became an affiliate, I purchased several of the bundles. I loved all except for one. Maybe it was because I already followed a lot of the authors in that bundle, but I just didn’t feel like I gained any new information from that particular bundle. I requested a refund by email within the 30 days and had it right away with no problems. I always hate guarantees or free trials that make it hard to cancel or request a refund, so I really appreciate how easy it was with Ultimate Bundles.

That’s it for today. Have a great weekend!