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Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Sew Practical: Drawstring Backpack

I have a stash of home decorating fabric and have been wanting to make one of these for so long.  There are plenty of patterns on the internet for drawstring backpack bags, so I won't claim this one is unique, although I used ideas from several different patterns.  I'm going to provide the entire instructions here, but if you get lost, the closest one to mine is Skip to My Lou's drawstring pattern.  I also should explain that I was on such a roll during the making of the first bag that I forgot to write everything down or take all the pictures.  So, I had to make another bag - shown below.  Here's what I used to make a 12.5" x 16" lined bag:

2 13 x 16" pieces of Fabric A (outside of bag)
2 13 x 16" pieces of Fabric B (lining)
2  3 x 12" pieces of Fabric A (casing) 
2 3 x 12" pieces of Fabric B (casing)
2  2 x 3" pieces of Fabric B (tabs)
4 yards of cord cut in half (I used 3/16" nylon coated)

You can use any cotton fabrics, although I like using the heavier home decorating fabric, especially for the outside of the bag.  You can also line your bag with a more water resistant nylon fabric, which makes it great for swim gear.  The cording you can buy at a hardware store.  You can also use ribbon (especially if your bag is lighter weight cotton), or you can make your own straps from fabric.

To begin the bag, you start with the smallest fabric details and work up to the larger bag.  On this bag I decided to go fancy and make pockets for the inside.  (I didn't include fabric measurements for pockets above.  Just cut rectangle of outer fabric to whatever size you want your pocket and add 1/2" to length and width for hems.)  I made 4 pockets, including some with Velcro closures and one for my sunglasses.  For each pocket, hem all four sides of the fabric before you topstitch it to one of the large (16"x13") lining pieces.  I sewed the pieces of the Velcro on the inside of the rectangle pocket and the other on the liner fabric, respectively.  I also sewed a button on the outside of the pockets for decoration.

On the 2 x 3" pieces, fold the long sides over to the center so they slightly overlap and sew a seam down the center of the long side with a zigzag stitch.  Repeat with the other 2"x 3" strip.

Pin the 13 x16" pieces of Fabric A right sides together.  Fold the 2 x 3" tabs in half with the short ends together, and pin each one between the 2 large outer fabric pieces, up 1" from the bottom of the long sides.  Keep the raw edges together. 

Sew on three sides, keeping one of the shorter sides of the fabric completely open.  I used a zigzag stitch throughout because home decorating fabric tends to fray. After ironing the seams, turn this "outer bag" right side out.  The top of the bag is the end with the raw edges.

Now you are ready to sew the 13 x 16" Fabric B pieces with the right sides together.  This time, however, leave a 3" gap or hole in the bottom short end for turning the bag inside out later.  When you finish with the lining pieces, you will have both long sides completely sewn, the short end at the top of your bag will be completely open, and the other short bottom of the bag will be sewn closed except for a 3" gap in middle of that end.  Iron the seams, but keep this "liner bag" inside out.

Next, make the 2 casing pieces by matching the 12 x 3" fabric pieces together, right sides facing. Use one of Fabric A and B to make each casing.  Sew three of the sides, leaving one of the long sides completely open.  Trim the corners, turn right side out, and iron.  These are the casings from the first bag I made:   

Now fold each casing on the long side so the liner fabric is on the inside of the fold.  Here are the casing pieces I made for my second bag.  The one on the left is already folded in half.  These will be the casing for your drawstring and they attach to the top of the bag.

Center each casing piece along the top of the "outer bag," matching the raw edges together.  The length of the casings is shorter than the width of the bag, so there will be 1" gaps between the ends of the casings and the sides of the bag.  Center and pin the second casing to the other side of the "outer bag."  You are now ready to slide the "outer bag" with the casings pinned into the "liner bag."  The "liner bag" is still inside out, but the "outer bag" should have the right sides out as you slide it into the liner bag.  All raw edges should be aligned.  The right sides of the fabric will be together, but all you will see is the wrong sides of the fabric (see picture below) 

Sew all the way around the opening, sewing together the "liner bag," the casings and the "outer bag."  When it is all sewn up, it will look like this (you are looking into the top of your bag.)

Flip the bag to the bottom and you can reach in and pull out the "outer bag" through the hole in the bottom of the "liner bag."

Once you pull the bag completely out through the hole, you should see the right sides of the fabric like this:

Pull the casings to open the bag and push the liner into the bag. It should look like a real bag without the drawstrings! Now you are ready to thread the cording.  Take the first cord and thread an end through one of the tabs near the bottom of the bag.  Continue up along the outside edge of the bag to the ends of the casings at the top of the bag.  Using a safety pin on the end of the cord to guide you, thread the cord through the back casing to the other side of the bag.  Continue around the bag through the other casing, guiding it through the casing back across the top of the bag to the side where you started.  As the cord comes out of the casing, guide it back down the side of the bag and back through the original tab.  The ends of your cord should now be together, and you can tie the ends in a knot so it won't slip out of the tab.

Repeat the process with the other cord on the other side of the bag.  Each cord will go through the casings from opposite directions.  This is a picture of me threading the second cord into the back casing with the other cord already in place.  You will probably need to burn the ends of the cord after cutting them to prevent fraying.

And that's it!  It seems complicated, but it really is simple once you get the hang of it.

Happy sewing!


Monday, September 4, 2017

Sew Practical - Essential Oil Sachets

Did you know I sell Scentsy products?  I have my own website at so you can order for delivery to your house anywhere - no need to have a local party.  If you are a Scentsy user without a local consultant, it's a great option. Anyway, I'm always looking for ways to extend good smells wherever I am, including places where melted wax and electrical outlets might not be practical.  Today I'm combining my favorite smells through Scentsy with a little practical sewing to make sachets scented with Scentsy essential oils.  Oh, you didn't know Scentsy sells oils and diffusers?  Get over to my Scentsy website and check it out!

These sachets are so easy to make.  You just need some scrap fabric, a bit of ribbon, uncooked rice, scented oil and a plastic bag or bowl to mix.  I used Scentsy Lavender Orange Blossom.  Mix about 1 cup of rice to 6-8 drops of oil.


To make the heart sachets, you just need two pieces of cotton fabric about 3" x 5".  My hearts are the same fabric on both sides, but you can use different fabrics.  Because you will be cutting these without a pattern, it also doesn't matter the exact size.  Fold each piece of fabric in half with the right side showing.

Slide one of the pieces inside the other, and using pinking shears, start from the bottom left (folded) side and cut to the right on a diagonal until you get near the top right and then curve back around to make the middle of the heart.  When you finish and pull the fabric pieces apart, it will look like this.  Unfold to reveal two identical hearts.

Every heart looks a little different (which is why you cut two pieces simultaneously) and you can practice with paper to get it just the way you want.  Using the pinking shears gets you that jagged edge look, but if you don't have any, just use regular scissors and you will have ragged edges.  Place the hearts on top of each other, wrong sides together, and cut a piece of ribbon about 14".  There is nothing special about this length, other than if you want to hang one of these from your car mirror, you will need that length or more.  You also don't need a ribbon if you don't want to hang the sachet.  Pin the ends of the ribbon inside the heart.

Now you're ready to sew.  You will be sewing on the right side and need to leave a hole to fill the heart.  I've found it easiest to begin sewing from the left top corner, so when you come around and leave the top of the left "hump," it's easy to open and fill.

As you come down to the center where your ribbon is pinned, go about 3 stitches past the center and stop.

Backstitch 3 stitches to the center again, lift the presser foot and pivot the heart so your presser foot will be facing the upper right portion of the heart.  Now backstitch 3 stitches and then stitch forward around the right side of the heart all the way to the other side, leaving about a 2 inch opening.

If you're wondering why you did all that backstitching stuff where the ribbon goes into the heart, this secures the ribbon with several stitches and allows you to pivot with a little decorative X.  Now you are ready to put the scented rice in the heart.  Don't fill it too much or you won't be able to use the sewing machine to close the heart.  Sew the gap closed and you're done!

These little sachets are great in clothes drawers, hanging in the car, on door knobs or closets.  They also make nice gifts.  As a Scentsy consultant, they are a great way to "sample" the oils for customers.


Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Sew Practical - Patchwork Steering Wheel Cover

Steering wheel covers are hardly optional in Arizona.  For those of you who have seen photos of people driving with potholders on their hands, I can assure you the struggle is real.  I have the luxury of parking mostly under a roof, but I still wanted to keep my hands from melting on the vinyl of a steering wheel.  Then I found this awesome tutorial from Sweet Dreams by Sarah, featured on the Moda Bake Shop blog: 30-Minute Gift:  Padded Steering Wheel Cover.  For the most part, my tutorial closely follows Sarah's instructions, so if my instructions are not clear, feel free to slide on over to her tutorial for clarification.

In her tutorial, Sarah used actual quilting "charms," but I'll save you the time and just say you need 12 5" x 5" squares of cotton fabric and a backing piece measuring approximately 48" x 5".  I will say a lot of this is approximate because every steering wheel is a little different.  While most are 14.5" in diameter, there is some variation.  I would recommend measuring the circumference.  If you are tracking my tutorial and Sarah's, you will see I have increased the number of squares from 10 to 12.  I like the idea of the fabric having gathers around the outside.  You also need a piece of batting that is approximately the same size as the backing fabric, and two pieces of elastic (3/8" or 1/2" width) about 14" LESS than the length (circumference) of the sewed pieces.  Finally, you can make some optional straps that require 2 pieces of scrap fabric 1" x 3" and two small pieces of Velcro.

A note about batting.  In her tutorial, Sarah uses Insul Bright Heat Resistant Batting.  I decided to use a piece of polar fleece as batting.  I had the perfect remnant that I was able to fold in half long ways.  I just wanted to be able to put my hands on the steering wheel without burning them - I don't care if they are a little warm.  I was more interested in the padding effect rather than insulation.

To begin, sew each of the squares side by side in the order you want them leaving only a 1/4" seam allowance. Press all of the seams in the same direction.

Place the strip of sewed pieces on top of the backing, right sides facing.  Sew down both long sides. Before turning right side out, pin the piece of batting or fleece on the ends of the pieced strip.  Do not pin through both sides of the cover because then you won't be able to turn it inside out. 

Carefully turn the whole thing inside out, putting the fleece flat on the inside of the cover.

Unpin the pins and sew a seam down both long sides 1/2 inch from the edge.  This will form the tubes for the elastic.

For each piece of elastic, pin one end at the opening of one side of a tube.  Attach a pin to the other end of the elastic and thread it through the tube, pinning it on the other end so it doesn't fall back into the tube (it will be tight).  

Now for the fun part.  Take your cover out to the car and wrap it around the steering wheel.  Tighten the elastic so it is snug enough and pin the elastic in place.  Mark where you want to gather the ends to form the circle.  Also, you can make some optional straps that will keep your steering wheel cover from sliding around as you turn the wheel.  Just mark a spot where you can sew a little strap and attach it with Velcro.  You will want those straps to be just under the part of the steering wheel that crosses the center.  Here are the straps already sewn on so you can see the placement.

 Take your steering wheel cover back to the sewing machine and sew the elastic down and the circle closed.

I love this easy pattern so much I made more than one steering wheel cover so I can have one in the laundry!

Have fun!


Monday, August 7, 2017

Etsy Dorm Shopping Under $25!

It's that time of year again and I was thinking you might need a couple of cute things for the new dorm room.  Look no further than Etsy, your marketplace for the truly unique.  While I don't make things for cute dorm rooms, I have to plug my own Etsy store, Pretty Pretty Cindy for the cutest baby stuff!  Click on the titles below to see the Etsy listings. Ready for the best part?  All of these items are less than $25!!  You can also find them (and so much more) on my Pinterest board Dorm DIY or College 

Personalized State Laundry Bag

Bathroom Organization

LED Lights

Bed Caddy

Custom Dorm Door Sign

Shower Caddy

Dorm Sweet Dorm Pillow

Clothespin Push Pins


Cellphone Stand

Dry Erase Frame

Have a great school year!