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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Sew Practical - Decorator Dishtowels

About a week ago I told you about the terrycloth I bought that just didn't make the grade for my baby burp cloths in my Etsy store.  I already made some simple dish cloths, but I really wanted to try some dish towels.  You can find plenty of DIYs on dishtowels, but I had only a few simple requirements - a generous size of about 15" x 26"; and because of the quality of the terrycloth, finished edges to prevent fraying.

For each towel you will need:

Terrycloth  15" x 26"
Cotton Fabric  6" x 18"
Contrasting fabric for bias tape.  I used a home decorator fabric, which is slightly heavier weight.

Position the cotton fabric on top of the terrycloth about 4" from the bottom.  The cotton piece should extend beyond the edges of the terrycloth 1 1/2" on each side.  Fold the long edges of the cotton piece under 1/2".  Press and pin down.  Topstitch in a contrasting color thread, or use a piece of ric-rac or other trim over the edge or peeking out from under the cotton fabric.

On the short sides of the cotton piece, fold 1/2" under, and then fold a 1" hem to the other side of the terrycloth and sew on the opposite side.  

Next, create the 2 1/2" wide bias tape.  There are many tutorials on creating bias tape, but the main thing you need to know is that cutting fabric on the bias is just cutting on the diagonal.

To combine the bias strips, sew at right angles and then trim:

Apply the bias tape around the perimeter of the dish towel, including over the areas of the cotton fabric.

And there you have it - pretty decorator dish towels!


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

DIY Nursing Pillow

Before I start, I should say I sell these Nursing Pillows in my Etsy store, Pretty Pretty Cindy.  If you would rather make your own, this post will tell you how to do it.

Materials Needed
1 Piece Cotton Fabric 13" x 24"
1 Piece Minky Fabric 13" x 24"
Sewable Velcro (approximately 6 inches)

I was making several pillows while taking pictures for this tutorial, so if you were seeing whales and suddenly see elephants, you're not confused.

Place the two fabric pieces right sides together and PIN, PIN, PIN!  (While the cotton fabric in this picture looks like it is right side up, it is NOT.)

Minky is notorious for sliding, so the more pins, the better.  Sew around the perimeter with a 5/8" allowance, leaving approximately 3 inches of the fabric open on one of the short ends so you can turn it inside out.  Before you turn it inside out, press the seams.  (DO NOT iron the minky side.)  This is very important on this piece because it helps it keep its form.  Turn the pillow inside out and press the cotton sides again.  This is what you should have so far.  Note the hole at the bottom.

Stuff the pillow with fiberfill.  Don't fill the pillow because you won't be able to fold it over and still get your arm inside.  Stuff it loosely and keep folding it over your arm until it is a plump, firm pillow when folded.  Hand stitch the opening closed.

On each short end of the pillow, topstitch 2 inches from the end.  It doesn't really matter whether you sew onto the minky side or cotton side of the pillow, as long as your bobbin thread is the same color.  I usually like to sew on the cotton side because my bobbin stitches don't always look as nice as I would like and the minky side is more forgiving as the stitches are not seen as well.

Now for the sadistic fun part.  Be sure to use Velcro for sewing because the adhesive Velcro will really do a number on your needle.

Cut three segments of Velcro 1 1/2 to 2" long (both the soft sides and hook sides).  Using an empty bobbin or other similar sized round item, trace a rounded end on each end of Velcro and cut.  This makes a more attractive piece.

Rip the Velcro pieces apart.  In the 2" space at the end of one side of the pillow, place one of the soft Velcro pieces on each end and one in the middle, like this:

Sew around the edge of each piece of Velcro.  You want these securely fastened.  Then, place the hook side of each Velcro piece together with its match already sewed down on one end of the pillow.  Fold the pillow over the minky side so the 2" spaces on either end line up.

For each Velcro piece, hold the pillow in place to match the sides together and carefully tear the Velcro pieces apart.  I use my thumb and forefinger to pinch the hook side of the Velcro to it's corresponding location on the other side, but you may want to use a fabric pen to mark the intended location on the other side of the pillow.

Sew each hook side down.  Sewing the hook side of Velcro can be a little tricky.  Try to stay on the thin outside edges of the pieces where there are no hooks.  Once you get all three hook pieces in place, fold the pillow and match them with the soft Velcro sides.  Slide your arm in for fit.  

And there you have it!  A soft, portable nursing pillow that keeps your arm cool and covered in soft minky while supporting baby's head for breast or bottle feeding.  It's so portable and when your baby outgrows it, the pillow makes a great travel pillow.  It is machine washable, just fluff it back into shape after drying.

Again, I have plenty of designs for these pillows already made at Pretty Pretty Cindy, and I am happy to consult to find the perfect fabrics for you if you don't see something you like.  I welcome custom orders!  I don't generally charge more for custom orders and I can usually get a nursing pillow made and shipped in a few days.

Whether it's for your baby or a gift for someone else, nursing pillows are pretty AND practical.  


Sunday, June 11, 2017

Sew Practical - (Very) Simple Dishcloths

One of my favorite fabric places is SAS Fabrics in Phoenix.  I call it the "warehouse o'fabric." It is not much to look at as a store, but the fabrics (and every notion you can imagine) is there.  Recently, I dropped by hoping to find some white terrycloth for the baby burp cloths and wash cloths I make and sell in my Etsy store, Pretty Pretty Cindy.  I did find some terrycloth, but when I brought it home, it just wasn't a high enough quality for my burp cloths.  With several yards of this terrycloth, I decided to make some dish cloths and dish towels.  These aren't fancy, but certainly prettier than rags, right?

I started by cutting the terrycloth in 9" squares.  Because of the quality of the terrycloth, any finished item will require some type of binding along the edges.  I picked a blanket stitch and lengthened and widened the stitch.  If this sounds unfamiliar, this is typically an adjustment you make on your sewing machine.  Play around with the stitch size on scrap fabric until you get what you want.  Using the blanket stitch and some colorful thread, I stitched around the perimeter of the square 5/8" from the edge.

Once you have stitched all the way around, trim the excess right up to the stitch.

And that's it!  If you want more color on each cloth, you can use a different color in the bobbin.  I used this opportunity to finish some thread I had leftover on bobbins from different projects.

They aren't fancy, but I really like the cute pop of color on these little dish cloths.  I still have more terrycloth, so next I'm turning my attention to some dish towels.


Friday, June 9, 2017

Vacations with Teens

Last week we took advantage of some cheap flights and headed to San Francisco with our kids, ages 16 and 14.

Family vacations have always been a high priority for us.  With our varied work schedules, vacation time IS family time.  Kent and I realize that as the kids get older, there won't be as many family vacations in our future with just the four of us.  (Of course we joke that as long as we are paying and the destinations are cool, they will find the time!) 

While Kent and I have been to San Francisco several times, the kids haven't experienced a "city" vacation - no car, no hotel and no "kid" destinations (i.e. amusement park).  It was amazing.  We introduced them to Uber and a studio apartment.

We biked the Golden Gate Bridge.  We toured Alcatraz.  We shopped and ate in Chinatown and Fisherman's Wharf.  We rode the BART and the cable cars.  Yes, it was touristy, but it also was amazing.

When the kids were younger, we thought vacationing with teens would be a drag because they wouldn't want to hang with us.  We were wrong.  We have no physical limitations (they're not too little now and we're not too old yet).  We share the same interests in exploring and seeing interesting places, and the two of them stop bickering just shy of killing each other.

Best of all, by visiting "real" places, we get opportunities to talk about what it's like to be with people and in places that are very different than those they know.  While they don't have to be "of the world," they have to live "in" it. I love the fact that my kids still seek my opinion on things.  I don't know how long that will last, but like our vacations, I will enjoy it while it lasts.

Let's hope that's a good, long time.


Sunday, June 4, 2017

Sew Practical - Quilted Glasses Case

One of the best things about sewing is being able to make little items for yourself and your friends.  Here's the sunglasses case I made last weekend:


2 pieces  10" x 10" fabric (outside and lining)
1 piece 9" x 9" polyester batting or fusible fleece
1-2" sew on Velcro

This is a simple project and the perfect opportunity to try some simple quilting.  For my fabric I used a light blue linen for the inside lining and a Waverly home decorating fabric which holds up well for the outside.  Home decorating fabric isn't cheap, but you can find plenty of remnants at JoAnns or Hobby Lobby for a dollar or two for projects of this size.  I also used a 9 x 9" piece of batting, although it would have been fine at 8" square.  You can also use fusible fleece if you don't want the bulk.

Pin the fabrics right sides together and center the batting on top of them.  Using a zig-zag stitch, sew around the perimeter, leaving a 2-inch opening to turn the piece inside out.

Cut the seam allowances close, clip the corners and turn inside out.  Close the opening with hand stitching.  This is the outside fabric.  The lining fabric is on the other side.

I decided to quilt diagonal lines, so measuring from corner to corner, I marked dots every 1.5" with a fabric pen (disappearing ink).  

 Using a walking foot and a quilting guide (that little bar thing that sticks into the walking foot), I used a "quilting" stitch on my machine and sewed mostly straight lines diagonally every 1.5" inches.  If you can get the first line across the center diagonal straight, you can use it and the metal guide to sew the subsequent lines the same distance and angle.  

Once the lines in one direction are completed, turn the piece and sew the other lines diagonally across the lines you just sewed.  Use the bar as a guide.  See how I ran the metal guide over the previous stitch to get the right placement for the next stitch?

Once you finish the quilting, turn the piece over so the lining is facing up.  Fold the fabric as shown below and note the location of the fold.  Separate the Velcro (one side is hook, the other is eye).  each Velcro side 1" to the right and left of the fold respectively, and hand sew the Velcro in place about 1/4 - 1/2" from the top of the fabric.

Fold the piece back so the outside fabric faces inside.  Sew around two sides, clip the corners, and turn inside out.  It will be bulky and your stitches may get strained, so be sure to use a thread that has a nice contrast like the blue I used.

And there you have it!  I'm looking forward to trying this again and being a little more precise perfect.  The best part of doing this type of project is that it takes very little fabric or time and gets better every time the basic pattern is repeated.  If you are one of those perfectionist types, make several of these and give them away - they make great little personal gifts.