teacher Christmas Gifts—a Fold-Up Tote Tutorial


This is the first year my little boy has been in school, and since I’m having a baby soon (eta 1 week, hopefully!), I decided to get a head start on all homemade Christmas gifts.  I wanted to do something kind of small for his teachers since he has three of them, and I found this fold-up bag tutorial on Pinterest from zaaberry.blogspot.com.

I thought it was really cute and a good way to use up some spare fabric I had lying around.  However, I decide to make a couple changes.  First, I wanted my bag to be lined.  It didn’t seem like it would be very sturdy if it weren’t, so I added a lining and interfacing for the outer layer of the bag.  I also made the straps slightly longer so it would be easier to throw it over a shoulder.  I topstitched in a couple of spots as well to make things hold up better.  If you want to make a bag with the modifications, I would recommend reading the original tutorial first and then reading the directions for my changes below.

Overall, I think they came out quite nicely.  The three teal ones are for his teachers, and the other two are for my adoptive college students at church.  I could definitely see myself keeping one of these rolled up in my car for quick trips to Aldi or the farmer’s market or library when I never seem to have a spare bag.  With the extra layer of interfacing and lining, I think they would hold a good amount of weight, too.



Cut your fabrics as follows:

Focus Fabric: 

  • 15×10” panels (cut 2)
  • straps:  cut a piece of fabric 4” x width of fabric.  Trim off selvages and then cut this long strip in half- – you should have about 21 inches or so for each strap

Lining Fabric: 

  • 15×6” panels (cut 2)
  • lining:  15×29.5” panel

Fusible Interfacing: 

  • 15×15.5” (cut 2)
  • 2” strips the length of your fabric straps (around 21”)—cut 2 strips

Thin elastic:  8” piece.  Note that I increased the length from the original tutorial.  The extra length is needed to accommodate the extra bulk from the lining and interfacing.

***All seams are 1/2” unless otherwise noted.



Sew one focus and one accent panel together using a 1/4” seam to make the back outside panel of the bag.   On next set, fold elastic in half and pin to the center of one of the panels.  Sew focus and accent fabrics together in same manner you did for the back panel.  Press seam toward the top accent fabric and top stitch.  Fuse interfacing to wrong sides of the panels.  Sew side and bottom seams of outer panels, right sides of fabric together.  Add button.  You can do this later if necessary, but I find it easier to sew now so you don’t have to worry about the knot showing later.



Sew side seams of lining, leaving a 3-4” opening for turning later.



Straps:  Iron the fusible interfacing strip in the middle of the fabric straps.  It helps to lay fabric face down, lay your interfacing on top of your fabric (fusible side on wrong side of strap fabric) and then once it’s lined up, lay a pressing cloth over it all before ironing.  If you iron directly n the interfacing, it will melt.  Fuse the interfacing to the straps in this manner, and then iron straps in half, fold in sides to meet in the middle and iron again, so it’s now folded up into fourths.  Top stitch along each side of each strap to hold in place.


PIn straps to the main part of the bag, three inches from each side seam on both panels.  Make sure your straps aren’t twisted here.  Place the whole outer bag into the lining, line up top edges of bag and lining, and pin.  Sew a half inch seam around the whole top of the bag.  Pull the outer bag through the opening you left in your lining for turning.  Sew the opening closed either by hand or machine.  I used a very narrow seam by machine for efficiency.  It won’t really be seen in the side lining anyway.  Pull lining inside bag and press.  I then topstitched around the very top of the bag to hold the lining in place and make my top nice and neat.


You’re finished!  To fold up bag, fold in thirds lengthwise, and then roll until you can loop your elastic around your button.

Trapunto Applique Tutorial

I fell in love a little over a year ago with this quilt found on Michael Miller’s Blog:

I decided to loosely recreate it, but I wanted the airplane motif to really stand out, so I decided to use a trapunto effect to make it really pop.  There are several ways to do this, but mainly trapunto consists of adding extra padding or stuffing to make a design pop up more than the fabric around it.

Appliques can be sewn on in many ways—a common method is to use fusible web and then machine sew around the edges.  While I do use that sometimes, I tend to like the look of hand appliques better.  For some reason it seems to look more professional and finished to me, so that’s how I did this one.  It was relatively simple since it’s all straight lines.

First, I made my pattern.  There’s a downloadable pattern here, but since I didn’t find it until after I had already finished the applique, I made my own.  I blew up the airplane portion of this quilt in word (hence the pixellation in the pattern), printed it out, and cut out the design.  I then cut the fabric 1/4” larger on all sides.


After that, iron the edges under, pin in place on your quilt, and hand-sew the applique on (or use fusible web if you choose that method).  Once that’s finished, cut a piece of batting that is a little larger than your appliqued design and pin it on the back of the quilt.  Make sure it’s secure because you don’t want the batting to shift around while you sew from the front.


Flip the quilt over and sew around the edges of the applique from the front.  I did not sew on the actual applique—just very close in the ditch.  If you were using fusible web, you could sew right on the edge of the applique at this point.

Once it’s sewn down, trim the excess batting from the back.  Be very careful not to cut your quilt top.  Go slowly, and it also helps to pull the batting back so you can see the fabric easily and be sure it’s not going to get caught in your scissors.  To be extra careful, you can use a pair of blunt tip scissors.



For now, you’re finished until you actually quilt the top.  It pops up a bit now from the extra padding, but once it’s added to the quilt batting and back, it will really stand out.  If you quilt over top of the trapunto, it will flatten it out quite a bit, so I outlined the applique while I was free-motion-quilting, and then quilted around it, and it stands out nicely.  It really helps draw more attention to the applique.


Pleated window panel tutorial


Since the rest of my craft/laundry room was getting a face lift with new bookcases and laundry basket dressers, I decided to make a new curtain to go along with it.  There isn’t really anything wrong with my existing curtain, and I really like the little fabric flowers I made, but I just wanted something with a little more color.  I bought this curtain from Goodwill (originally a Simply Shabby Chic panel from Target) and dressed it up a little with ribbon and pinned on fabric flowers.  Since I’m taking it down,  I now have a bunch of fabric flowers to use for something else.  I’m thinking purses…

IMG_5131  IMG_5132

I found this fabric by Premier Prints called "Harmony" that I just loved. I thought about using it in our rec room/playroom, but while the colors would be great for a playroom, it doesn’t mesh so well with the rest of our house, and it’s highly visible from other places.  However, it’s perfect in my craft room.  I found the zig-zag print first, called “ZoomZoom” and then also bought a few of the coordinating prints to use for accessories and basket liners to help tie everything together.

I wanted a simple panel with something cute along the top, so I went with fabric covered buttons and made a pleated “bell” type gather every few inches.  I attached it to the rod with clip rings, which can be found almost everywhere.  Mine came from Joann’s.  For the tie back (I really need one of those because of the window A/C unit in the summer), I just made a long strip of fabric and tied it in a knot.

This panel was quite easy, especially if you skip the lining part.  Here’s how I did it:


1.  You need to measure your window length and width.  My window was very narrow (about 20 inches, not including moldings), so I only wanted one panel, but if yours is wider, you can just make two panels instead of one.  In general, fabric should be twice as wide as the window so you have some fullness, but this isn’t an exact science, so you can give or take a little width depending on how full you want your curtains to be.   For the length, first decide where your curtain rod will be and how much length your clip rings will add, and measure from there to the floor, or wherever you want your panel to end.  This will be the finished length of your panel.  I wanted mine just above the floor, and my finished length needed to be exactly 84”.  I added four inches to the top and three to the bottom to account for  hem allowances.  So, I cut my fabric 91” long x the width of the fabric (selvage to selvage).

2.  If using lining, do the same, except make your width about 3” less than your printed fabric.  My fabric was heavy enough that it didn’t really need lining, but I had some on hand and decided to do it anyway.  It will help with insulation in the winter.  If using lining, at this point you should sew your fabric, right sides together, on each side seam.  When you turn it right side out, you’ll have about an inch on either side where your printed fabric folds over and creates a nice finished edge.  If you aren’t using lining, sew a side hem on each side about 1” wide.

3.  Top and bottom hems:  Iron down 4” along the top and 3” along the bottom.  I then turned under about 3/4” to make a clean edge to sew:


At this point, you’ll want to sew your hems either by hand or by machine.  My machine has a nifty function that does a blind hem without having to hem by hand.  I used this.  Basically, you fold it just as you would for a hem an then fold the long fabric part back about 1/4” (you’re working from the back at this point).

IMG_5103    IMG_5101  IMG_5105

Basically, the machine sews a straight line for about a centimeter, and then it does a zig zag left where it “bites into the top layer.  It looks like the above picture on the back, but from the front, it’s an “invisible” hem,  better than I could do by hand and much faster.  I honestly think you could do this with the zig zag function on any machine.  You would have to get your spacing right, it would be a bit more difficult, and you would have more frequent “bites” on the front, but it would work in almost the same way.  Here’s the view from the front:


The green zig zag is where my hemline runs, and you can’t even see it in the photo and can barely see it in person.  After you’ve hemmed the top and bottom of the panel, it’s time to make you’re pleats.

4.  I decided my pleats should span about 3”.  I pinned 4” from each end (you will still only gather a 3” section, but the extra inch on each end allows for making our bells later), marked off a 3” section in the middle, and then I had four more sections to mark (I always choose an odd number because it’s more pleasing to the eye).  In my case, I have seven bell pleats.  For the other two, they’re harder to space correctly, so I just used trial and error with a ruler until I got them approximately the same distance apart.  This is why I used pins instead of a marker—pins are easily moved.


5.  After I got the pleated sections marked, I took one strand of heavy duty thread and hand sewed a straight stitch, using big stitches, between the two pins across the 3” section.  Clip the thread, leaving a tail, pull tight, and tie a knot with the two ends.  This gives you your pleat.

IMG_5108  IMG_5113

6.  After all your pleats are tied, sew a straight line along the back to complete the bell look and make it more stable.  I couldn’t sew all the way down, but sewing 3/4 of the way from the top toward the bottom of the hem will do what you need as far as holding the pleats in place.  You won’t see this sewing line from the front once you’re finished.  On the ends, I sewed along the very edge of my fabric.  If you remember, we left an extra inch on each end to allow extra fabric for making the bell on the ends.


7.  Now it’s time to make your fabric covered buttons.  I bought a kit just because it’s easy and professional looking.  I have heard of people using existing buttons, sewing a gathering line around the edge and then pulling tight to cover the buttons.  This works, and I even used it for my little boy’s ring bearer vest because it would be worn once, and I didn’t want to buy the kit.  However, for this, I wanted a more professional look, and I also didn’t have buttons to cover anyway, so I would have had to buy something no matter what.  I used the Dritz Cover Button Kitin the 1 1/8” size.  They come three in a package, so unfortunately I had to buy three packages just for one extra.  You can also buy refill kits without the pusher and mold, which is what I did after the first package, since those are cheaper.  This is a very easy process, and there are directions and a pattern for your fabric circle on the back of the package.

IMG_5125  IMG_5126 

IMG_5127  IMG_5128

8.  After your buttons are all covered, simply sew them on where you tied your pleats, and you’re done!  I used seven clip rings, one for each pleat, and clipped them to the backs of my bell pleats. 


For the tie back, I cut a fabric strip 6.5”x width of the fabric, cut the ends at a 45 degree angle, and sewed along the edges, leaving a space to turn.  I then turned the strip, hand sewed the opening closed, and tied it in a knot.  You can do all sorts of different things for your tie back, providing you even want one.  I’ll use this mostly in the summer when the window A/C unit is in place.  In the winter, I don’t need one, really.

 IMG_5166 IMG_5168


I hope this works for you!  Leave a comment with any questions.

How to make and transfer your own embroidery pattern

Personally, I haven’t done a lot of embroidery– cross stitch, yes, but not embroidery.  In the past if I’ve ever wanted to add an embroidered message to a piece of regular fabric, I’ve used a counted cross stitch chart (either from another source or just an alphabet I’ve made up) and waste cloth.  However, that process, while doable, takes a long time.  You have to make the chart, baste the waste cloth in place, do the actual embroidery, and then tear the waste cloth strings off.  It’s also limiting if you have to do straight stitches as counted cross stitch requires.

For a recent baby quilt, I wanted to do a cuter, more curvy font, and needed a different method.  After coming up empty googling embroidery alphabet patterns, I decided to make my own, and it worked beautifully.  This may not be a new method, but it was  lightbulb moment for me.  Here’s what I did:

1.  Type your message in Word or a similar program and print.

2.  Flip your page over and trace your letters in pencil on the back side of the paper.  I could see through easily, but if you can’t, you can always use a light box or a sunny window.

3.  Cut your message into its parts using a ruler to keep the bottom edge straight.  This helps in aligning the pattern on the quilt or project later.

4.  Tape your pattern down to your project to prevent shifting, and then rub gently to transfer the pencil markings.  At first I tried an all-over rubbing technique with the edge of a bottle, but this didn’t work, so I used the capped end of a marker to trace more firmly over each letter.  This worked much better.  You can check if your pattern is transferring by peeking underneath.  Be careful not to move it too much, though, because if you need to lay it back down to rub some more, you want it to be in the same spot.

5.  Once the pattern is transferred sufficiently, remove the pattern.  At this point, if it’s too light, as mine was, you can trace over it again with pencil or with one of those disappearing ink pens.  I chose pencil because it was easier, and it will be covered up with thread anyway.  As long as you don’t make a mistake, pencil is fine.

6.  Embroider over your pattern, and you’re finished!

The whole process took me about two hours, which was quite a bit less time than I had expected.  I did make a small mistake around the date– all those twos confused me when I was tracing over it again, but I corrected, and you really can’t even see where I tried to turn a two into a zero.

I will most likely use this solely for lettering purposes (until I at last get an embroidery machine, that is!) because I seldom need to embroider designs on something.  However, I do think it would work for most design/image purposes as well, provided they aren’t too terribly detailed.  If they are, other methods like printing on iron-on transfer paper would be more accurate.  However, this method is fast and easy and uses items most people already have on hand.

One final tip– when you’re tracing over the back of your pattern for the first time, make sure the printed side is over a piece of paper, or you’ll end up with this on your tabletop:

Adding a name and date to the baby quilt

I posted yesterday about this quilt that I made for my cousin’s new baby girl.  The baby was just born today, and they texted/emailed out a picture along with the name and the stats.  I plan to visit them in the hospital tomorrow, and since I had the evening to attempt adding some personalization to the quilt, I decided to go for it.

Originally I hadn’t planned to do this because I don’t have an embroidery machine, and hand embroidery takes a while on top of the fact that I already had the quilt finished as it was.  I was googling embroidery alphabets without much luck when I stumbled upon an idea:  make a pattern myself.  So, I did exactly that, and this is what I ended up with:

I’m quite happy with the way it turned out.  I plan to make a tutorial in a few days, so I won’t explain more now, but I’ll definitely be using this method again.  The entire process of pattern transfer and hand embroidery took about two hours, and it was super easy.

I’m so excited to give this to them.  I love personalized things, but buying them can be so expensive.  Also, I give out non-personalized baby quilts as gifts all the time, so it’s nice that this one is a little more special for my cousin.

How to quilt a king-size quilt on a standard domestic sewing machine

Until recently, the largest quilt I have quilted on my personal sewing machine was a queen-size.  However, my brother-in-law is about to get married, and I really wanted to make them a quilt to use on their bed.  Of course, they had to pick a king size bed. I was so nervous because my sewing machine is just the normal smaller size.  When I say I have a standard machine, I do mean standard.  The distance between my needle and the right side of my machine is only seven inches.  The next machine I buy will be larger, but for now, I have to work with what I’ve got.

I was really nervous to attempt the quilting on such a large quilt (120″ square) on my machine, but I dove right in and hoped for the best.  Surprisingly, it wasn’t nearly as difficult as I thought it would be.  I chose to do a simple stipple pattern since I’m the most comfortable with that, and I didn’t want to tackle a more difficult quilting pattern in addition to tackling the largest quilt I’ve made to date.  I discovered a couple of things in the process. 

First, the key is in the setup.  You need plenty of table space to hold the weight of such a large quilt, and you need a good plan of attack before you begin.  In order to make quilting easier, I moved from my craft room down to the dining room where I could use two tables plus my little sewing desk .  You need a table in the back as well as one to the side to hold the weight of the quilt.  If the quilt hangs off the table at all, you’ll have a lot of drag, which will make the quilt impossible to move around freely.

Here is the quilt spread over my dining room table, a library desk, and my little sewing table (and my messy house in the background– keepin’ it real):

Even with all the table space, I had to bunch it up to keep it from falling off the tables.  Something that also helps is to place your back table against a wall (or in my case a dresser), so it can’t fall off the back.  If you have a corner you can work in so it won’t fall off the side, that’s even better.  There are lots of other tips that make free motion quilting easier, but for now I’ll stick with what’s helpful for working with larger quilts.

In addition to a good table setup, you also need a good plan in place for where you’ll start and stop your quilting.  I’ve seen two major prevailing methods for where to begin and end the quilting.  One method is this:

You start at one end in the middle, and basically divide your quilt in half, so you’re never working on more than one half at once.  However, when you get all the way to the left side, you have a ton of quilt bunched up, and even if you turn it halfway as I do, you’re still working side to side, which can be a bit difficult.  This method works well for smaller quilts, and I always use it for baby size, but it’s definitely not the way to go for larger ones because you end up with way too much fabric bunched in your machine when you get about halfway through.

On a king size, I had much better luck with this method:

Here you divide your quilt into quadrants and work on one quadrant at a time before completely stopping and moving on to the next.  I first read about this method on the free motion quilting project blog.  There is a ton of helpful information to be found here, but one thing I love about this blog is that the author herself, whose skills are WAY beyond my own, uses a domestic machine.  I love that although she’s a semi-professional/professional, she adamantly states that you do not have to have a long-arm, a $3,000+ machine, or a dedicated sewing studio to create beautiful quilts and/or large quilts. 

Anyhow, I digress.  Her road map for quilting a large quilt is to divide it into quarters and do one quarter at a time, sewing from the outside to the center, and then back down to the outside.  You then go back to the center and back out, and at the end of your quarter, you’re down to a very small area.  The hardest part, is of course the first pass, but you will never have more fabric bunched in your machine than you have when you get to the center of your quilt at that very first pass.

I found this method the easiest, not only because it prevents a lot of fabric bunching in your machine, but also because I found I had fewer missed spots or spots where I left a hole and had to work my way in to fill.  It’s a very organized method to quilting, and I plan to use it from now on, even for my baby quilts.  I don’t know why I put off trying this method for so long, but I’m glad the king-size finally forced me to try it out.

The ONLY downside, in my opinion, to this method is that it requires you to stop and “break” your thread after every quadrant.  This takes a tad bit more time (we’re talking a minute or two, max), so on a very small quilt where bunching isn’t an issue, you might prefer to use the first method in the interest of quilting continuously.  However, on a bed size quilt, that extra time is well worth it.

This quilt, surprisingly, only took me about five hours to machine quilt.  I was shocked at how quickly it came together.  Although I don’t plan to make many king-size quilts in the future (the largest bed in our house is a queen), if I do need to make one again, I won’t be nearly as intimidated as I was this time.

How to make a quilt label on your inkjet printer

Normally I don’t put a lot of effort into quilt labels.  Often, if I’m stippling, I’ll sign and date it in the quilting and not even bother with a label.  A lot of times, it’s tough to see the labeling info in the quilting, but I think it’s kind of fun to search for it and find it.  This type of “labeling” also gets the best reaction from the recipient when I’m giving a gift.  For some reason, they usually think it’s cool that it’s hidden away in the quilting.

If I do decide to label a quilt, or if it just doesn’t fit with my quilting pattern, I usually just take a sharpie to some white muslin and print all the information.  This is a bit ugly and not at all professional-looking, but it’s quick, and it gets the job done.

However, recently I made a king-size quilt as a wedding gift, and I wanted to include more words as well as make the info more obvious.  I also cared a lot more how this label looked since it’s a gift for such a special occasion.

Not long ago, I bought some June Tailor inkjet fabric printer sheets on a whim.  Joann’s was having a 60% off sale on quilting notions, plus I had an extra 10% coupon, so I stocked up on a ton of stuff and threw in some things I thought I might like to try in the future.  The only thing that had me worried about these sheets is that even though they’re supposedly colorfast, you aren’t supposed to wash them with detergent afterward.  How practical is that for a bed quilt?

I don’t have a good embroidery machine, and I’m a week away from gift-giving time, so I needed something fast and easy.  I have hand-embroidered before, but not only does it take a long time, but you also have to make the words bigger, and I had a lot of words to include.  Enter inkjet printer sheets.

I decided to give them a try, and I couldn’t be happier with the results.  I’m really excited that I was able to use a picture of the couple since I think the bride will really love that part.  I’m also quite confident that the label will hold up to washings, in detergent no less, for many years to come.  Here’s how I made my label:

1.  Design your label on the computer.  I used a digital scrapbooking program by Stampin’ Up!, but you could use Photoshop or even Word to design a label.  After designing my images, I then inserted them into a word document.  While I was at it, I filled up the rest of the page with labels I could use on other quilts.  The only downside to this is that unless you have specific quilts for specific occasions to print at the same time, they won’t be personalized with a message or the date.  However, I have a few smaller ones that I sell or give away as gifts to people I’m not so close with that I want to put a message on it.

2.  Print a test sheet just to make sure everything looks good.  These fabric sheets are quite expensive if you don’t get them on a major sale like I did, so you don’t want to waste them.

3.  Stick your fabric sheet in and print.

4.  Let the ink dry for 10 minutes.  Below is a comparison of my test sheet (paper) and my fabric sheet (note this is the one I scorched).  I think the print quality on the fabric is excellent.  The only real difference in person is the fabric is slightly less of a bright white than the paper.

5.  Iron for 12-15 minutes on highest setting.  Yes, you read that right.  12-15 minutes.  I recommend pulling up a chair.

6.  Rinse in cold water.  I added salt and white vinegar to my rinse water, even though the directions didn’t recommend that.  However, this is a common method for setting dyes, so I thought it couldn’t hurt.  I then rinsed again in plain cold water.

7.  At this point, if you plan to use this on a bed quilt that will undergo washings, it would be advisable to wash in detergent just to make sure the ink will hold up.  Unfortunately, I only had the Purex sheets and no regular detergent, so I skipped this step, but it didn’t bleed in the least during rinsing, so I really think it will be fine.

8.  Blot with a towel and press dry.  NOTE:  Blotting with a towel is very important.  I didn’t the first time, and I ended up scorching my fabric and having to start over.  I really think it scorched because the fabric was too wet.  I could be wrong, though.  You can see the little spots below.  I probably could have left it, but I’m a perfectionist, and since I’m putting this much work into the label in the first place, I wanted it to turn out well.

9.   From here, you’re ready to use it however you’d like.  I framed mine out with scraps from the quilt top, and I just love how it turned out.  You can print in color on the fabric, but I opted for black and white so it would stand out against the brightly colored frame.