Recently, I made some cushion covers from re-purposed Liberty fabric that I already had. While searching through my fabric stash to find it, I came across lots of bundles of fabric pieces that I know I’ll never use. Scraps of cotton are potentially useful for all sorts of things, likewise wool, silk, linen and “exotics” like velvet, faux suede, lycra swimsuit material, fake fur, sweatshirting and ripstop nylon. But, after sewing for myself and my homes since my mid teens and accumulating a mountain of leftover pieces in the process, I had to admit that a good 20% of this stash didn’t fall into any of these categories.
There were many bundles of the why-did-I-ever-make-something-from-that variety. In my defence, the past is another country, they do things differently there. And the 1970s is a country far, far away. That would explain some of these fabric choices: the buttercup yellow needlecord I made into a dress, the psychedelic chiffon that was used for an evening wrap, the floral sheeting that looks like something out of “The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady”. But purple polyester satin? What was I thinking?
I piled these horrors into a large bag that once held a duvet and rang the local junior school to see if they wanted any fabric scraps for craft lessons. They bit my hand off, and still looked appreciative when I’d delivered the bag and they’d had chance to inspect its contents. Great, job done, and now I have room for more fabric and more yarn. But I’m not buying any, I’m still trying to de-stash by using things up.
With that in mind, I’ve been making a few small things to give as little presents when visiting friends or for birthdays, and I’ve started knitting a baby’s matinee jacket so that I’ll have one in stock the next time one’s needed. I’m using a Drops pattern that is written quite minimally, and not in perfect English – all part of the challenge. It has a lacy hem and yoke, with just a simple all-over lace pattern on the body and sleeves.
One of the little presents I’m making is a toadstool pincushion. I bought quite a quantity of red and white felt in 2011 to sew some Scandinavian-style Christmas tree ornaments, and I could probably make another 10 of these pincushions before I run short. They are based on lemonade bottle caps, which give a firm, nicely round base and prevent the maladroit from sticking pins in themselves.
There’s a link to the Instructable (not my own) that describes how to make them from part 2 of my 20 Crafty Christmas Presents post. I’ve made several for myself, including this embroidered version.
The toadstool variant uses a 4” diameter circle of red felt instead of the usual 3”, and I blanket-stitched on the white spots. Now it’s ready to be stuffed and then sewn onto the base.
I’ve stuck a neodymium magnet on the base of the bottle cap for this one, with superglue, so it will attach to a fridge. Sometimes I stitch a Velcro disk on the felt bottom instead – I have one attached to my sewing machine that way. I’d have thought my machine had a steel case, but magnets aren’t attracted to it so I’m guessing it’s aluminium, even though it weighs a ton.
I fancy putting something else onto this toadstool, besides the spots, to embellish it. A tiny needle-felted pixie would be nice, but I am incapable of making anything with a face look realistic – see Rudolph the Christmas trophy head for the proof of that. A caterpillar would be more within my skillset. I’m thinking that a knitted I-cord in green yarn will look pretty caterpillar-ish.
The other thing I’ve made recently is a tapestry bag. About 18 months ago I posted about this covetable cupcake tote we came across in Germany. It was rather expensive, but an ideal birthday present for one of our nieces, so we bought it. Before packing it up and posting it off, I had a good look at how it was constructed and took some measurements. I haven’t been able to find any tapestry fabric of the same quality, or such a cute design, but I bought a length of butterfly-strewn tapestry to have a go with.
At the weekend I cut it out and set to, and I’m pleased with the result. Half a metre of the fabric is enough to make two bags, which gives me an excuse to keep this one as I can still make another to give to a friend.
When I get round to it I’ll post a tutorial for this bag. In the meantime, for anyone who sews and has a little bag-making experience, the following should tell you enough to make your own. Apologies for the mixture of Imperial and metric units.
The bag is fully lined with a single internal pocket. Its opening edge is faced and a zip is inserted into this facing with the lining attached below it. The bag itself has only one side seam, but both the facing and the lining are in two pieces to make zip insertion easier. The straps are made from webbing and are long enough for the bag to be carried over the shoulder. The finished size (not including the straps) is about 37cm wide, 31cm tall and 11cm across at the base.
You will need:
- A rectangle of tapestry fabric that is 77cm wide and 50cm in the lengthwise direction of the fabric
- A rectangle of lining fabric, 80cm x 38cm
- A rectangle of fabric for the internal pocket (could be the same as the lining fabric, or a contrast colour), 27cm x 13cm
- 1.4m of ¾” or 1” wide webbing for the handles
- Medium weight, iron-on interfacing the same size as the tapestry fabric, unless your fabric is quite firm on its own
- A piece of heavy weight interfacing, 11cm x 37cm
- A nylon zip that is at least 37cm long
- Matching thread
Unless otherwise stated, 1.5cm seam allowances are included and the allowances should be pressed open.
- Iron the medium weight interfacing onto the back of the tapestry fabric, if you are using interfacing. Then cut 10cm off one long edge to leave a 77cm x 40cm rectangle for the bag. From the long strip, cut a 10cm x 40cm length for the top facing and discard the rest.
- Make the bag from the tapestry fabric by joining the short edges of the rectangle, sewing the bottom seam and then “bagging out” the base by sewing diagonal 11cm seams across both corners. Trim away the excess fabric at the corners. Also trim the rectangle of heavy weight interfacing to fit just inside the base. Slipstitch it around the edge on the inside without going through the whole thickness of the tapestry fabric if it is the sew-in type.
- Cut lining fabric in half to give two pieces each 40 x 38cm. Sew the pocket onto one of these pieces 10cm below its top edge, turning under a double hem all the way around the pocket rectangle and dividing it to form a flat 14cm wide pocket and a 7cm wide one with a gusset at the end.
- Cut the facing strip down the centre to give two pieces each 5 x 40cm. Insert the zip between these pieces to re-join them, right side of zip to right side of facing.
- Turn under the top edge of each lining piece and top stitch onto the underside of the zip with the facing underneath the zip. (See photo below.)
- Stitch side seams of facing and lining, trapping ends of zip.
- Stitch bottom seam of lining, press then unpick 20cm in the middle to leave a turning gap. “Bag out” the corners as for the outer fabric.
- Cut two 68cm long straps from webbing and stitch each end onto the bag within the seam allowance, with a gap of about 14cm between them.
- With zip open, attach facing to top of bag with right sides together, trapping the strap ends in the seam.
- Turn right side out and sew up gap in bottom of lining.
- Top stitch around upper edge to hold the facing in place.
Give the whole thing a press and you’re good to go.