It’s getting cold here in Sydney. I love fall dearly, but I don’t love how quickly my tea or coffee gets cold, before I even have a chance to drink it. A constant supply of hot beverage is essential to keep me going, especially when I work my “night shift” in my sewing room.
So last night, I decided I needed a teapot cozy.
I began by playing with paper. I’m terrible with maths, so the only way I can come up with three-dimensional patterns is by trial and error. Making a pattern using paper is easy and inexpensive. You draw something to start with on paper, cut them out and put them together with sticky tape, and try it on a teapot. If it doesn’t fit, you cut off excess paper or add extra bits to the pattern, until it’s a perfect fit.
It took a few tries to get here, but the rest is easy. You copy the tattered pattern onto a clean piece of paper and smooth out the lines. Now you are ready to sew up a sample!
I love this cat fabric by Japanese designer Megumi Sakakibara. It’s 100% linen – gorgeous, isn’t it?
This is a view from the other side. And there is a surprise! The teapot cozy is reversible.
For the reverse side, I used a flannel-like fabric by another favorite Japanese designer, Mico Ogura – isn’t the small-scale winter scenery appropriate for a teapot cozy? There is a layer of Insul-Bright inside, to keep the teapot warm. I finished the bottom with a brown linen bias tape.
And the cozy also doubles as a silly baby hat!
I stayed up extra late last night to actually test out my new cozy. Did it work? Yes, it did! No more going back to the kitchen for my second cup of tea to be microwaved. Hooray!
Sandwich bags are one of those seemingly simple products that are, in fact, troublesome to make. Well, technically it’s not difficult to make of course. It’s just difficult to come up with the perfect design – at least for me it was. In the past I have made a zippered version like this…
and a simple velcro version with velcro tabs at the top of the bag (the one on the right)…
and a flap version with a single fabric like this.
But none of them was truly satisfactory to me. Why? Well, here are my “pros and cons” comparison notes.
Pros: Neat-looking design. Food bits don’t get stuck in the velcro. Easy to maintain and wash. Probably lasts longer than velcro ones. A versatile pouch, because it’s great as snack bags (muffins, crackers, etc). Also can be used as a small wet bag, for wipes, makeup, crayons, and so on.
Cons: Fiddly to get a sandwich in and out of the bag because the zipper doesn’t open to the full width of the bag. If the zipper width is wide enough, then it’s too wide inside the bag, and the sandwich swims in it. Zipper can be fiddly to use for toddlers.
Pros: Nice simple design. Easy for children to use. Sandwich fits in snugly and securely.
Cons: Food can get stuck in the velcro while putting a sandwich in and out. Fluff sticks to velcro in the wash. Stitch lines for sewing the velcro shows through – not a very elegant finish.
Velcro-on-Flap Version 1
Pros: Flaps are cute. Food doesn’t get caught in the velcro as much, because the sandwich doesn’t have to touch the velcro strips while packing and unpacking. Sandwich fits in snugly and securely. Velcro is easier for kids to use.
Cons: The one-fabric design only works with non-directional prints – meaning, fabrics that have no upside and downside. The flap section was small, and it took some force to rip the velcro open. The stitch marks around the velcro strips can be really noticeable. And then there is the issue of washing velcro, and a possibly short lifespan of velcro products.
New!! Velcro-on-Flap Version 2
So this is my latest sandwich bag. Is this the “perfect” sandwich bag I was seeking? I think it’s very close. Here’s the “pros and cons” assessment:
Pros: I love that I can slide a sandwich in and out of the bag smoothly, without worrying about food getting caught in the zipper or velcro tab. The sandwich sits in the bag snugly and securely – not as snugly as with a sandwich wrap, but close.
I also love the two-fabric design. It allows me to use rather special fabrics for the small flap section, while keeping the cost down somewhat by using plain cotton linen canvas fabric. I can also use directional prints this way, because the print is used only for the flap bit.
The flap section is larger than the first flap version, which adds to the cuteness factor. More importantly, the large flap allows an extra-wide space between the edge of the flap and the velcro strips. You can grab onto this bit of fabric to open the velcro easily – very child friendly.
If I use busy prints for the flap section, the stitch lines for the velcro are not noticeable. Pretty elegant looking overall.
Cons: The only cons here are the inherent problems associated with velcro – tricky to keep clean and wash, and the lifespan may not be terribly long. Of course, if the velcro stops sticking after a couple of years, it’s easy to replace them – so I hope people will not throw these pretty bags away!
How adorable are these Liberty Hello Kitty sandwich bags? They are so pretty, in fact, that you can use them for other things like pens and crayons (the waterproof nylon lining comes in handy here). If I attach a shoulder strap, it’ll be such a cute little girl’s bag, too, don’t you think?
These sandwich bags will be available at my upcoming Facebook market day, and will be listed on Etsy later on.
I didn’t think I needed a new nappy bag – I already have two styles of nappy bags on Etsy and madeit, and they are both very popular. But this week, while climbing this tower in a local playground, hauling my kids all the way to the top and then back down, I suddenly realized that I needed a new nappy bag.
So when we came back home, I spent the rest of the day and much of the night thinking about the design. Then the following day, I made this.
It has a wide rectangle bottom.
I also used heavy-duty cotton for the lining, to give the bag a firm structure. You can see it’s firm enough to stand well on its own, with nothing in the bag.
There is one large patch pocket inside. I used the same yellow elephant fabric here, but in retrospect it was a bit too much of the elephants. Next time I’ll make a plain white pocket.
The main bag body has two decorative white vertical stripes, to give it a sporty look. There is a “hidden” pocket in the middle of the stripes, on each side of the bag. These pockets are not huge, but are handy for things like sunglasses, wallets, and keys.
The bag comes with two adjustable, removable straps. That means you can carry the bag as a traditional tote bag with two handles, or use just one strap to carry it like a messenger bag.
It looks a little like my “daycare bag” like this. It’s great for hanging over stroller handles.
But the best feature of all, is that you can attach the two straps like this….
and you can wear it as a backpack in case of emergency – like having to push two kids up an enormous tower, or when crossing a busy road holding their hands.
The “backpack conversion process” takes just about 5 seconds. Well, it might take a few seconds longer if you need to adjust the strap lengths. Anyway, I tried to make it as painless as possible.
The bag is not quite ready for sale yet, because I need to source better hardware. I mean, the ones I used function fine, but I know there are more elegant-looking clips out there. It should be shop ready in 3-4 weeks.
Overall I’m very pleased with this bag. The hardest part was to make the bag look good both as a nappy bag and as a backpack. It gave me quite a headache thinking about it, but in the end, I figured that most people would use it mainly as a regular nappy bag, and use the backpack feature only occasionally. So I prioritized the nappy bag part of the design.
So you see, it may not look very backpack-like when worn like a backpack… but I think it looks okay, and it’s surprisingly comfortable. And when you really need your hands free to look after your kids, it’ll be priceless to have that option.
By the way, don’t you just love this yellow elephant fabric? I’ve been using the elephant fabric for years, but had never thought to order the yellow variety before – because I thought it was too similar to orange. But the yellow is so much more beautiful in person – it’s such a gentle, sophisticated color. It’s similar to the grey elephant one in that sense – both are perfectly suitable for grownups to wear.
So one more day to go till the end of my Facebook auction – and I’m sad that it’s ending because it’s been so much fun. The original idea was to use fabric from my overflowing piles of scraps, and make one-of-a-kind items not normally sold on my Etsy or madeit shops. I thought having an auction would motivate me to use up those scraps, and have a bit of spring cleaning of my sewing room.
I didn’t anticipate it would be this much fun though. It was fun having that creative freedom – to make whatever I felt like making every day. You’d think I have that kind of freedom all the time, doing what I do, but it’s not really true. Normally, I have a set range of items up on my shops, and I’d make those items over and over again as they sell. Or I make bags to order. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love it, but it often feels like work, which it is. Developing new products is the creative fun part of course. But even there, I need to be mindful of the cost issue, and setting the right pricing can be a difficult task.
But this auction thing totally freed me up from any of those constraints. I didn’t even have to set a price (well, just the low minimum bid amounts), and making irregular-sized items was totally okay. I was crafting for the fun of it, and that was precious. I often stayed up late at night to sew, because I just couldn’t help myself.
And the support and encouragement from the Facebook community has been tremendous! I was paranoid that nobody was going to bid on anything, but I shouldn’t have worried. Bids came in from day one, and it hasn’t stopped. I’m particularly grateful that many of the bids are from fellow crafters and crafty business owners, who can make all these items themselves. Thank you so very much for your support, everyone!
Another wonderful thing about the auction is that I could gauge what items my customers were interested in. Sandwich bags and wraps were so popular, I might have to add those items to my regular shop offerings.
Fabric boxes was another surprise hit. I began making them for myself, but because of all the positive feedback, I’ve made a few for the auction — like these ones below. The apple ones are possibly my favorite. These are hand screen printed fabrics from Blueberry Ash Textiles based right here in Sydney. Aren’t they lovely?
So check out my auction album if you haven’t already, because there is still 24 hours till the end of the auction. By the way, I’m giving away three Liberty of London coin purses to three randomly-selected auction winners. I enjoyed making these coin purses, too, especially the pretty little Swarovski crystal bead zipper pulls.
I started my late-night sewing session last night, intending to make more items for the Facebook auction. But instead I felt compelled to make these fabric boxes for myself.
Aren’t they pretty? I’m particularly happy about the bit of lining fabrics showing from the outside.
I had been wanting to use these brown and blue / mint green dot fabrics for some time. They are rather pricey, 55% linen, 45% cotton fabric. They have a delicious texture, and the faded-looking colors are just beautiful.
I love how the blue color of the stripe fabric matches the color of the blue dots. I couldn’t find a suitable stripe fabric for the green version though, so I used solid green cotton.
But why was I suddenly compelled to make these boxes, you ask?
To put all the fabric and masking tapes I acquired yesterday, of course!
It’s a great size for keeping any little things organised around your office or workroom. Would you like to make one for yourself? It’s easy to make. Here’s a simple mini tutorial for you. This will make a box about 4.25″ wide x 4.5″ high.
I found that the way I made these boxes created a bit of “waste,” because you are left with 8 pieces of perfectly good 4″ square bits of fabric (four for the main and four for the lining). I was going to put those away in my scrap drawer, when I had a brilliant (or pretty obvious?) idea. I could make another box using those bits!
How cute are these little boxes?
I joined the four 4″ square pieces together like a band, and stitched them onto a square bottom (I used heavy-duty cotton canvas in white – another leftover bits from making larger bags). I did the same for the lining, and then put the main and lining boxes together.
You see the little ones are definitely smaller, but still a very useful size.
They look a little like my family – two parents and two kids. Organization is not my strength – just ask anyone who has been to my embarrassingly messy sewing room. But I’m hoping that these boxes will steer me in the right direction.
You know by now that Japan makes adorable fabrics… but did you know the country also offers most drool-worthy stationary items? Our trusted postman brought me a small box from Japan this morning. And it was not a box of fabrics this time.
Well, not exactly.
These gorgeous rolls are fabric tapes. Yes, cotton fabric strips with an adhesive backing, so you can stick them onto most everything just like sticky tapes. Washi tapes (paper tapes) – in Japan we call them “masking tapes” – have been all the rage in the West for a while, but I have only recently “discovered” the fabric tapes. And I’m in love.
And you can find fabric stickers in a larger A4 size as well. What fun! You can use them to make your own wall decals, or decorate jars and other household items with it. Unlike washi tapes, these fabric tapes and stickers are not see-through, and more sturdy. They also stick better than paper ones. And they have much more of a presence.
Of course I had to buy some washi tapes as well. How pretty are these? The variety of designs available is mind boggling, and it was so hard to choose just a few. I wanted to buy everything!
I’ll be using these washi tapes to spruce up my product packaging, which is quite boring right now. Even just a little bit of these tapes stuck on a manila envelope will brighten up the whole thing, or so I’m hoping.
These washi tapes also come in sticker sheets. I love, love, love these. Even though there are only little bits for each design, the variety is great. And they come pre-cut into pretty little shapes like tiny rectangles and circles.
I immediately had to play with these new toys. Aren’t these jars pretty? I’ve been wanting to make decorative jars like these ever since I first saw them on home decor blogs. I reuse glass jars all the time, so I can’t wait to stick these pretty tapes onto everything.
It’s my mother’s birthday today. Happy birthday, Midori! Here’s a special tote bag I made for her.
Don’t you just love the hint of sheepish playfulness, in the otherwise classic monotone scheme? My mother bought the sheep fabric herself when she was visiting Japan. She actually gave it to me for my birthday – along with stacks of other fabric. But what goes around comes around, and now I’m giving this fabric back to her all dressed up as a bag.
This large tote bag is in the same style as this diaper bag and this shorter variation – all with leather handles and a rectangle bottom. This bag is even more ambitious than the other two because it has not only an exposed zipper pocket…
but also a recessed zipper top.
I’m quite pleased how professional this bag looks! The exposed zipper pocket was much easier the second time. There is another patch pocket on the other side – because when it comes to pockets, the more the merrier.
Here’s what the bottom looks like. I used heavy-duty cotton canvas in grey for the bottom, with lots of interfacing layers glued on for extra stiffness.
My mother is a school teacher, and she lugs around her laptop to school every day. I’ve made her a laptop bag before. But this time, she wanted a bigger bag with a zipper top, so the laptop is hidden from view. This bag is large enough for both a laptop and an A4 folder (plus other personal things).
I finished this bag just in time to rush to the post office for an Express next-day delivery. Australia Post can be unreliable though, so I’m crossing my fingers it’ll arrive on time!
I am very excited to share that my next sewing pattern is nearly finished! This one is for a lined drawstring bag and a mini towel using a type of fabric called double gauze, and I wrote it with near-total beginners in mind. I love that it has two projects in one pattern. A beginner can learn the basics of sewing by first making the super-easy (but cute and useful) mini towel, and then move on to make the drawstring bag to learn the basics of bag making. And when you are finished, you can put the mini towel inside the drawstring bag, and what a perfect handmade gift that would make a new baby!
I chose to feature double gauze in this pattern, because it is such a beautiful fabric for babies and children. It’s a popular fabric in Japan, where you can find them in so many adorable prints. Unfortunately though, the popularity has not yet spread to the Western world. It’s a matter of time I’m sure, but I wanted to help spread the love of this soft-as-air fabric. Of course, you can substitute other materials for double gauze if you don’t have access to it, but I really hope you’ll give it a try some day.
The pattern has a section on how to work with double gauze, and throughout the instructions there are tips on sewing with double gauze. So even if you are a more accomplished sewer, you might find this pattern interesting just for the information on double gauze.
This pattern, like my previous lunch bag pattern, has very detailed instructions with large, clear photos. Here’s a sample page from the mini towel section.
The drawstring gift bag is slightly more challenging, but is a perfect second project for a beginner to gain confidence in sewing. The resulting bag is beautiful because it is fully lined, and the ruffle top is particularly sweet as a gift bag. Once you make the gift bag, you can use exactly the same technique to make a larger laundry bag, or shoe bag, or lots of other kinds of drawstring bags.
The pattern is being tested by six lovely volunteer testers right now. Four of them have already finished them this week, and have kindly sent me photos of their creations.
This is Deanne’s creation. She had only one sewing lesson prior to making these items for me, so I’m so pleased what a beautiful job she did. She was able to follow the pattern without asking me a single question about it. So proud of you, Deanne!
These are the bags Sarah (navy koala) and Kristy (pink rabbit) made. They are not exactly beginners, but am very grateful for their help with pattern testing.
Lastly, I LOVE this bag Erkia made. She chose her own fabric (how adorable is the goldfish fabric!), so this is not double gauze. You can see the pattern works perfectly well with other types of fabric.
I’m still waiting to hear from two more pattern testers, but as soon as their feedback comes through, and I revise the pattern, it’ll be up on my Etsy and Craftsy stores.
I need to admit… since my last post I have officially become obsessed with Liberty Hello Kitty fabrics. I can’t stop thinking about what other little things I can make with those fabrics. Why little things? Well, aside from not needing much fabric, those Liberty fabrics really shine at a small scale, because the prints are so detailed and crisp. Besides, little things are inherently cute, don’t you think, and I have a tendency to be obsessed with tiny creations.
Aren’t these sun hats pretty? Okay, they are not exactly “little” – they are for 3 year olds. But still, hats don’t require too much fabric in the scheme of things. Each hat takes less than 1/4 meter of the main fabric.
Here’s a shot of the hats before they had linings. The Liberty fabric is very lightweight, so I fused it first with woven interfacing to give it the body a hat needs.
This one has pink and white stripe lining, which is very girly and dreamy.
This vivid-colored hat has solid hot pink lining. The lining is important because you’ll see it when you wear this hat with its brim rolled up. It’s fun to have a different fabric peeking under the brim. These hats are actually reversible, but seriously, would you ever wear them to hide the gorgeous Kitty print?
And while at it, I couldn’t resist making something else to go with these hats.
Mini handbags! I had so much fun making them. These are just little zippered coin purses basically, but with the little handles, don’t they look like handbags?
They may be small, but not completely useless. I could fit an iPhone in it, so a grownup could use it as a phone case. They are lightly padded as well.
Now, what else can I make with these fabrics….? To be continued.
My mother loves aprons. She adores them so much that she wears them pretty much all the time at home. I haven’t worn an apron myself since my pastry chef days, but doesn’t it look cute on my mother? This is the apron I made for Mother’s Day this year (along with a few placemats using the same fabric), using a lovely cotton linen blend canvas from Japan with drawings of vegetables on it.
Are you an apron fan? Or maybe your mother is? Then it’s really easy to make, even without a proper pattern. Just use whatever apron you already have and like, and make a pattern from it – I’ll show you how.
Step 1: Copy a pattern from your favorite apron.
Press your favorite apron well, and place flat on a large piece of paper. I’m using a thin tissue paper for pattern tracing, which you can buy at a sewing supply shop. You can use any large piece of paper you have, of course, but having this semi-transparency helps in the step below.
First, make sure there is enough blank space on the paper around the apron, to add seam allowance later. Then trace all the way around the apron with a pen or pencil.
Next, you are going to clean up those lines you just traced. Fold the marked pattern vertically in half (fold along the dotted “center fold line” on the diagram below), more or less matching the left and right sides together. See, this step is easier to do if you used the semi-tranparent paper.
Chances are the lines for the left side don’t exactly match the lines for the right side, because your apron has been worn and washed many times, and it has lost the original sharp, symmetrical lines.
With the draft pattern folded, re-draw neat, straight lines over your original tracing, using a ruler (except for the armhole curves). Make sure (1) the top hem line and the bottom hem line are aligned parallel to each other, (2) the two straight sides are parallel to each other, and that (3) the straight sides are at 90 degrees from the bottom hem line. Basically, if you extend the side seam and top hem lines till they meet, the apron outline should be a perfect rectangle shape. I hope this diagram helps.
Now is a good time to modify the pattern to your liking. If you’d like a longer apron, just add some lengths to the side seams. If you’d like a wider apron, so it will wrap over your body for better coverage, just extend the armhole lines a bit on each side, to make the apron wider.
Next, you need to add seam allowances to the pattern. Add 1 3/8″ (3.5cm) to the top and bottom hems. Add 3/4″ (2cm) to the sides, and to the curved armhole hems. The drafting part is all finished now!
With the draft pattern still folded in half, cut the pattern out along the seam allowance lines (but don’t cut along the folded center!) – so you’ll end up with one big apron pattern piece.
Finally, make a paper pattern for a rectangular pocket, too. Any size of your choosing is fine, but 13″ wide x 10″ high (33cm x 27cm) is a good size that includes seam allowances.
Step 2: Cut the fabric and cotton tapes.
Now that you have the pattern, the rest is easy! Choose any medium to heavy-weight woven fabric for the apron, such as canvas or home decor / interior fabric. Linen or linen blend fabric will make a particularly lovely apron. Quilting cotton is not recommended, because it is too lightweight. Prewash and press the fabric well.
Pin the apron pattern over the fabric, and cut along the pattern.
It’ll be most accurate if you first mark the outline of the pattern onto the fabric with a pen and a ruler, and then cut along the marked lines. But for things like an apron, there is little harm done if you choose to just pin the pattern onto the fabric and cut the fabric along the pattern.
Cut the pocket piece, too.
Cut two lengths of lightweight cotton tape (about 1″ or 2.5cm wide) for the neck tie (one for each side, to be tied together at the desired length by the wearer), and two lengths for the waist ties. Again, any length you like is fine. My suggested lengths for a thin-to-average sized woman is 21″ (55cm) each for the neck ties, and 35″ (90cm) each for the waist ties.
You can buy lightweight cotton tape in bulk quite cheaply online. Try searching on eBay or Etsy, for example. I use them for a lot of things, from lunch bag handles to bunting making.
Step 3: Make the pocket and attach it.
Fold over the top edge of the pocket at about 3/8″ (1cm), and then fold it again to make a double-fold hem. Stitch along this folded edge. Fold the sides and bottom edges of the pocket at about 3/8″ (1cm), and press well.
Pin the pocket to the middle of the apron.
Stitch around the sides and bottom of the pocket onto the apron, stitching close to the edge (about 1/12″ or 2mm from the edge). Then stitch around the sides and bottom again, at about 1/2″ (1.3cm) from the edge. This second round of stitching (1) makes the pocket more securely attached to the apron body, and (2) conceal the raw cut edges of the pocket inside the double stitching. So if you look inside the pocket, it’ll be nice and clean.
Step 4: Sew the curved armholes.
Fold over the raw edge of a curved armhole in, at 3/8″ (1cm). Press. Then fold it again at 3/8″ (1cm), to make a double-folded hem. Press.
Sitch along the fold. Repeat for the other side.
Step 5: Sew the top hem.
Fold the top hem over at about 3/8″ (1cm), and then fold it again at about 1″ (2.5cm) to create a double-folded hem. Press well. Insert a piece of cotton tape (for the neck tie) into this fold, close to each end of the hem. Pin.
Stitch along this top hem, close to the folded edge. Your stitching will attach the cotton tapes to the apron at the same time, with the cut edge nicely concealed inside the folded hem.
Now fold each cotton tape over towards the top (so the ties will face upwards towards your neck, not droop downward toward your feet), and pin. Topstitch along the very top of the apron, stitching over the cotton tapes along the way.
Step 6: Sew the sides.
Fold over a straight side hem at about 3/8″ (1cm), and then fold it again at 3/8″ (1cm) to create a double-folded hem. Press well.
Insert a piece of cotton tape (for the waist tie) into this fold, at the top of this hem, and pin.
Stitch along this side hem close to the folded edge like you just did with the top hem, stitching over the cotton tapes at the same time.
Now fold the cotton tape over to face outwards (so it’s ready to wrap around your waist). Stitch over the tape in this position (just over the tape bit; you don’t have to sew all the way along the side again) – try to stitch right over the previous stitch line, so you won’t see the second line of stitches from the right side of the apron.
Repeat for the other side.
Step 7: Sew the bottom hem.
Fold the bottom hem at about 3/8″ (1cm), and then fold it again at about 1″ (2.5cm) to create a double-folded hem. Press well. Stitch along this bottom hem, close to the folded edge.
Stem 8: Finish up.
Your apron is nearly ready! Try it on, and make sure the neck ties and the waist ties are the lengths you like. If they are too long, cut them shorter. (If they are too short… well there is nothing you can do now at this point, other than unpick the tapes and stitch longer ones on in their place.) If everything looks good, fold over the raw cut edge of each cotton tape piece twice, and stitch over the fold line to keep the tape ends from fraying.
All done now! Enjoy your new apron. (This is my mother last year, wearing last year’s Mother’s Day present!)