It is always useful to have some creative projects ready to go at any time of the year and this post is JAM-PACKED with ideas
If you need a reminder on how to set up your sewing machine? Click here for my latest video on getting you started.
- Rope Bowls
These are fun and cheap to make!! Once you have made one, you will be hooked.
What you need
- 10-15m of cotton rope (uncoated washing line is perfect – or 6mm piping cord), you will need to get your machine needle through it – so avoid solid plastic cores.
- Jeans or Leather Sewing machine needle (a size 90 would be great) – These are easy to buy from a fabulous British shop John James.
- Thread (you will need a couple of spools of thread and two wound bobbins)
- Sewing machine
- Fabric scraps cut into 1” x 5” rectangles (optional)
- Glue stick (optional)
How to do it
Watch me demonstrate how to make a rope bowl here.
2. Fantastic Pencil Case
Gather together scraps of fabric, two pieces of wadding (or an old tea t
What you need
- Scraps of fabric
- Two pieces of base material (wadding, tea towel etc) cut to 10” x 8”
- 12” zip
- Sewing Machine
How to do it
This is such a popular project that I have written a tutorial for it which is attached below.
3. Reusuable Make Up Wipes
This easy project has gripped my sewing classes for weeks. They have made them for themselves, for family members and wrapped them up as gifts.
What you need
- Absorbent natural material. I have used bamboo Terry Towelling fabric, but microfibre cloths from the pound shop would work just as well. See what you can find. Good ideas don’t need to be expensive!
- Wadding or an old tea towel to give the wipe structure.
- Fabric scraps
- Paper (A4 sheet or anything to make a pattern with)
- Circular item (to draw around – a tin of baked beans is good)
- Sewing machine
How to do it
For each circular
4. Drawstring Bags
These are really useful, versatile bags to make. You can fill them with toiletries, sweets or presents. You could even get ahead of the game for family birthdays or Mothers Day. They can also be scaled to any size.
What you need
- Exterior fabric 2 pieces 6” X 8.5” (for bag outer) and 2 pieces 2” x 5” (for ribbon casing)
- Lining Fabric 2 pieces 6” x 8.5”
- Ribbon – 2 pieces ribbon 15” long ( ¾” wide ribbon is about right)
- 2 large wooden beads (optional)
How to do it
Below is my cheat sheet on making these bags. I hope you enjoy making them!
This is not a messy activity any more. Dylon have washing machine dyes that you pour into the drum over your items, shut the door and run the machine on a normal 40’ wash. Afterwards, I run one high temperature wash with an empty machine and wipe around the seal and that is it. One batch of dye can dye a number of items, so this is a great group activity
What you need
- 100% cotton items to dye. T-shirts, tea towels, camisole tops, or plain fabric you can make into a scarf or bandana later on.
- Elastic Bands (lots and lots and more)
- Dye (from a hardware store)
How to do it
Soak the items in warm water and squeeze the water out as much as possible. Next put as many elastic bands on your item, and wind them as tightly as possible. The more bands you can get onto your item then better. Even when you think you are done – add more!!
Once all the bands are on, pop it in the washing machine with the dye, following the manufacturer’s instructions). When the washing machine is finished, take the item out and remove the bands and give it a good shake … Hey presto – a fabulous tie dye item. You can repeat the process using a second dye of a different colour the same item and this will produce some great blended patterns and shades.
For more ideas about tie-dye and the shapes you can make, have a look at my Pinterest Board here.
This is a simple way to package any note or card which is quick to make and looks fabulous. In my teen Christmas classes last week we were making a version of these envelopes and filling them with chocolate coins as extra family gifts, however at this time of year, when we so many Thank You cards are being written, I thought these would provide a perfect envelope for my own Thank Yous this year.
What You Will Need
An envelope of the size you want to replicate – steamed open and flattened
Felt Square (size depends on the size of the envelope, but a 10″ square is a good bet!)
Lining Fabric (the same amount as for the felt, however, if the lining has a directional pattern, not this pattern will be cut on point)
Kam Snaps, hook closure or button and loop.
Bondaweb (the size of your envelope)
Threads of coordinating colours
Paper & Fabric scissors
Permanent Pen and a Frixon Pen
Pinking Shears (optional)
- Using a permanent pen, trace around the flattened envelope creating an outline on the smooth side of the bondaweb
- Cut around the outline and press the bumpy/gluey side of the bondaweb template to your piece of felt using a hot dry iron.
- Using the fabric scissors cut around the edge of the bondaweb template, which is now fixed to the felt. You will now have flat, unlined felt envelop
- With your frixon pen draw around the part of the envelop that will be the front. This allows you to see the size of the area that you have to work on for your message.
- Optional Step : Create a panel for the front of your envelope. My panel was 2″ x 3″ and backed with bondaweb, but can decide the right size for your envelope. I cut this edges of the panel with pinking shears to create more interest. The benefit of adding this panel is that the change in colour adds contrast to your envelope front and it also means that if your free motion writing goes wrong (:-)) you can start again without having to recreate the whole envelope.
- Write your message on the front of your envelope or on your panel with a dark thread using the sewing machine fixed with a darning foot. I find it helpful to draw out the message I want to sew with either pencil or friction pen and then trace over it with the sewing machine. On felt I find a friction pen is fine to use, but check on a small area if you are unsure.
- Once the message is finished, remove any remaining frixion pen marks and if you have created the optional panel, fix it to the front of your envelope and free motion sew around the panel to complete the look.
- Remove the bondaweb from the back of the felt envelope and iron the lining fabric to the exposed glue on the back of the felt envelope. Once the lining is attached, trim the lining back with scissors so it is flush with the felt.
- Using a blanket or other decorative stitch and a normal/zig-zag foot on your sewing machine, sew around the edge of the envelope from the felt side.
- Fold the edges of the envelope up and press it with a hot dry iron and pressing cloth. The envelope is now complete except the fixings.
- I used a kam snap, but a hood and eye or button and loop could also be used. With a frixion pen, mark where the fixing need to be on both parts of the envelope and fix the closures.
- Add your park inside and you have the perfect thank you gift !
Thank you to all of the people who watched the Free Motion Applique Class live this morning on the UK Quilters United Continuing Development Facebook Group this morning. If you haven’t watched it, then please register with that group. An edited version of the class will also be available on the GillyMac Designs YouTube Channel later on today.
The tools and materials you will need for this project are
- A picture or idea -( The picture I used can be found at the bottom of this post as a downloadable sheet – along with an easy ladybird as well).
- Background fabric (for a small zipped purse size you would need a piece 10” x 8”)
- Various small pieces of coloured fabric
- Selection of coloured threads
- Wadding or Foam (same size as background fabric)
- Cheap fabric for the back of drawing (same size as background fabric)
- Steam a Seam Lite 2 (double sided)*
- Frixion Pen
- Sewing machine
- Darning foot
- Paper scissors
*Other products are available for the first fix – such as glue, Bondaweb, 505 spray, as I discussed on the video
For success, especially in the beginning, it is important to keep your designs simple. Even complicated subjects can be summarised in a few lines. This is easy to do when you practice. You will find some good starting points for many subjects can be found on Google Images. Don’t be concerned about making drawings perfect. This type of sewing is not about perfection, it is about conveying the essence of your design.
A few other things that I didn’t mention may help you
- It is possible to do this type of applique with a normal foot. In this case, the feed dogs would be moving the fabric and it would be a little slower, but perfectly possible. If you use a normal foot then turn the stitch length down to 1.4-1.6 and sew over your drawn design
- I don’t use an embroidery hoop. I hold my fabric taught with the palms of my hand. You may want to experiment with using a hoop and make up your own mind.
- Stamps to mark your fabric can be a good alternative to other ways to mark a picture. Any stamp can be used, with any ink – just make sure that you have covered the stamp print with thread and no one will ever know that you didn’t draw it yourself in the first place!
Finally .. if you have made up some samples and want to know what to do with them, then why not consider making a zipped pouch. Below you will find my easy instructions to make a pouch.
Happy Sewing, Gill x
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With so much dressmaking in full flow at GillyMac Designs, I thought it would be an ideal time to share with you some tips on how to work your way around a dressmaking pattern.
- UNDERSTANDING THE PATTERN: Unless you are using a modern pattern, you will find that patterns are often written in a strange form of English. We all struggle with this (it’s not just you), but getting to grips with your pattern, and all the information it contains, is critical to making your perfect garment. Take time to understand it. Read it carefully and not quickly. This is all part of the process of dressmaking that you will come to love.
- THE PATTERN SLEEVE -The pattern sleeve contains a huge amount of information. Before you buy a pattern read the sleeve carefully. It will tell you about the sizes the pattern caters for, the size of the garments produced (there is a difference between the body size, for a size 10 and the eventual garment size for a size 10, so check out both). It will tell you about the amount of material needed for the garment as well as any other haberdashery (often called ‘notions’) needed. It will often also tell you about the complexity of the pattern and the required skill level needed to make it. If that isn’t included, the number of pieces is often an indication of sewing easiness! Finally, and very importantly, it will also tell you the type of fabric the pattern is suitable for.
- PATTERN TRACING: Most commercial patterns are printed on dressmaking tissue paper and have cutting marks for more than one size, and often the pieces for different versions of the garment as well. This tissue paper is very thin and will tear easily. Use Swedish Tracing Paper to trace off the size and pattern pieces that you want to use. Make sure you transfer all the marking and labelling to your traced pieces. your traced copy will be much more hard wearing and you will be able to alter it to record the adjustments you make to the basic pattern as you develop the fit for your body one you start sewing. Note: Modern patterns are often more expensive, however, they are printed on higher quality paper which will last much longer and is more durable to repeated tracing. Furthermore, the instructions in modern patterns are infinitely better than in the older style of patterns.. so although more expensive, it is money well spent.
- FABRIC PREPARATION: Wash, dry and press your fabric before you start cutting it. This minimises the risk of fabric shrinkage when the garment is complete. Don’t miss out this step.
- PATTERN PREPARATION: If your pattern is creased from folding and storing, then iron your pattern before using it for cutting. A crinkle in a pattern can make the sizing completely different. Ironing a pattern is easy, just use a pressing cloth and a cool iron setting.
- CUTTING AREA READINESS: When laying fabric out for cutting, make sure that you have a big enough space to work in. This can be tricky at home. The floor is fine if you dont have a big enough table. If using the floor is not an option, but space is limited, then use a cleared table and work only on the fabric that is on the table, then roll the piece up and work on the next part and so on.
- CUTTING DIAGRAMS: Patterns come with a cutting or layout diagrams. This would normally show where the fold is and where the selvedges are. The selvedges are the slightly bound edges of the fabric that run top and bottom along its length. The fold required for cutting is typically along the length of the fabric with the selvedges running parallel to it. Take time to look at your cutting diagram to make sure you are folding your fabric correctly. All the information you need will be there, just in pictorial form, so a long hard look is all that is normally required to get this step right. THere may be different cutting diagrams depending on the size you have selected to make, the width of your fabric or if you have directional fabric or your fabric has a nap (eg. like velvet or velour, it looks different when rubbed one way rather than the other). Note: Read the guidelines in your instructions, some patterns call for the fabric to be folded right sides together before cutting, and others for it to be folded wrong sides together.
- GRAIN: A piece of fabric has three grainlines, one that runs along the length of the fabric, parallel to the selvedges. This is called the lengthwise grain. The second runs across the fabric, from selvedge to selvedge and is called the crosswise grain. The third is called the bias grain and it runs diagonally across the fabric at 45′ to the selvedge. Your pattern pieces will come with a grainline marked on them. Unless it states otherwise, this will be the line of the lengthwise grain. That is the grain that runs along the fabric parallel to the selvedges. It is important to get your pattern piece arrows exactly on the lengthwise grain. A good tip is to measure the distance the pattern grainline from the selvedges at one end of the grainline and then again at the other end of the lin to make sure they are exactly the same distance … hence your piece will be running correctly along the lengthwise grain.
- CUTTING: Place your pattern pieces right side up on the fabric. You may be required to place some pattern pieces wrong side facing up, just check the cutting diagram key – this is normally shown as a shaded pattern piece. Some pieces may be required to be cut on the fold, other pieces not. Check your pieces and cutting diagrams carefully to get this right. Remember to align your piece on the grainline, then pin and cut. You may be required to fold the fabric again to cut different pieces. Use only sharp dressmaking scissors to cut fabric successfully.
INTERFACING & FACINGS: Interfacing is a separate material, which is either sewn or ironed onto fabric to make it stiffer. In dressmaking, this will often be for collars and waistbands. Facings are made from the same material as your garment and are set just inside the neck or armband or in places you may get flashes of the inside of your garment and you wish the right side of the fabric to be displayed even if it is on the inside.
Voila! I hope you have found this helpful. In coming weeks I will cover pattern marking, common sewing techniques and fabric types…. :-). Don’t forget to follow me on Facebook and Instagram for the latest news and classes from the Studio, as well as tip and tricks to make your sewing go smoothly. If you want to join a class and it is full or you don’t see exactly what you need, call Gill on 07818 551232.