Put your napkin in your lap-kin

Cloth napkins are a great way to dress up your holiday table, and also make a beautiful and practical gift. We use cloth napkins as our everyday napkins - they're durable, eco-friendly, and can be made from a variety of fun and interesting fabrics. They're incredibly simple to sew, so you have plenty of time to whip them up for a party you're hosting this holiday season or as a host/ess gift for one you'll be attending.

Supplies needed: Two yards of fabric per 4 napkins - cotton and linen fabrics recommended. I used different fabrics front and back (1 yard each), but you can also make them from the same fabric.

Cost: This will depend largely on your fabric choice, but you can ballpark at about $5.00 per napkin.

Time: Under an hour for each set.

I like to use two fabrics, one each for front and back, when I make napkins. There's no rule saying you have to do this, but I think it makes them more versatile. I chose a print in shades of white and green and a solid. The solid is a cross-weave, meaning the fabric is woven from two colors of thread - in this case, bright blue and green were used to create a darker blue-green.

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You'll need to cut your fabric down into fat quarters, approximately 18" x 22" - which is essentially cutting your yard of fabric in half each way. Since fabrics will vary in width, work from the dimensions of your narrowest fabric and trim as necessary.

Pin your fabrics together, right sides facing, and sew around the edge with a .25" seam allowance, turning at the corners, and leaving an opening about 2-3" unsewn so you can flip them right side out.

Trim the seam allowance diagonally at the corners so you'll get a nice, crisp point when you turn them. Flip the napkins right side out and press, ensuring that the seam allowance from your opening is tucked inside.

Topstitch around the edges about 1/8" from the edge, turning at the corners.

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Now your napkins are ready to gift and enjoy!

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Making Friends

This week's Handmade Holiday gifts are a lot of fun to make and even more fun to play with! I'm sharing how to make stuffed toys from cut-and-sew panels and fabric.

This type of project holds a special place in my heart...a few years ago, I designed a doll house pillowcase for my niece for Christmas.

She loved it and ultimately it became my first commercial fabric line, Let's Play House. That project is now available here as a free pattern from Robert Kaufman.

Today I'll be sharing 3 different cut-and-sew toy projects that sew up in no time and are sure to delight the little folks in your life.

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Supplies needed: for the Matryoshka dolls, I used a fat quarter of quilting cotton. For the Nutcracker friends, I purchased a panel of Alexander Henry fabric and some green dotted fabric for the backs. For the Cactus Family, I used my cut-and-sew panel from Spoonflower, printed on a yard of minky. You'll also need a bag of stuffing, thread, and a needle for hand-sewing.

Cost: for the Matryoskha dolls, everything I used was scraps from my stash. The fabric for the Nutcracker friends cost about $15.00. The cut-and-sew Cactus Family is $27.00. A bag of stuffing will cost about $4.00.

Time: about an hour for each set.

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For the Matryoshka dolls, I began with a small amount of standard quilting fabric. Your fabric could have animals or trucks or anything you'd like to make into a stuffed toy. Cut out the doll shape, leaving about .25" seam allowance around the print. Then cut out a matching piece from the fabric to use for the back of the doll.

Place the pieces together, right sides facing, and pin around the edges. Sew using a .25" seam allowance, leaving the bottom open for stuffing. I also recommend clipping the curves after sewing so the doll will turn right-side-out nicely.

Flip the doll right-side-out, and fill the doll with stuffing. You can hand stitch the opening closed in a number of ways - do whatever type of hand sewing is easiest for you.

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The Nutcracker panel has plenty of white space around each of the characters. Since these characters were more detailed than the Matryoshkas, you can leave the cut quite rough, planning to trace a wide outline using the sewing machine. Likewise, the backing fabric doesn't need to be cut to shape - only to size.

Place the pieces together, right sides facing, and pin around the edges. Sew a loose outline at least .25" away from the print, and trim the excess fabric.

Flip the doll right-side-out, stuff and sew closed.


The cut-and-sew Cactus Family has cut lines to follow, and a piece for the back of each character.

Pin the pieces together, right sides facing and sew around the edge using a .25" seam allowance, leaving the bottom open for stuffing. Flip right side out, stuff and sew closed.

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Ugly Sweater Mug Rug

It's been a while since I participated in an Instagram swap, but this year's Ugly Sweater Mug Rug Swap was too cute to not join in.

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Supplies needed: scraps of Christmas-y cotton fabric, 7" square of cotton batting, thread, fabric for binding

Cost: assuming you work from scraps of fabric and batting, the only cost will be for the pattern - $6.00

Time: about an hour - if paper piecing intimidates you, check out my tutorial for a freezer paper method that won't make you crazy.

Using this pattern from Kid Giddy, I created an ugly Christmas sweater for my partner from scrap fabric I had on hand. The pattern comes with two styles of sweater - a crew neck and a v-neck. Hopefully this is ugly enough for my partner! I had a lot of fun quilting the plaid design, and I like the way it looks from the back almost as much as from the front. You can check out all the photos from the swap on Instagram.

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The Pajama Game

Pajamas make a great Christmas gift because they're easy to make, easy to customize, and easy to fit since they're so forgiving. This week, I'm sharing three of my favorite free pajama shorts patterns with you. When paired with a coordinating cami or tank top, any lady would be thrilled to receive these handmade jammies.

City Gym Shorts

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While technically not a pajama pattern, there's no reason these can't serve as jammie shorts. You can make them from voile or rayon for a soft, luxurious feel, or from flannel for a cozy pair. I made a pair from cotton because I love this print but wasn't sure it would fly as actual clothing on a grown ass lady.

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The City Gym Shorts pattern is available in sizes for all ages from Purl Soho. They have a distinctly athletic look, which I love. The pattern calls for bias tape, so be sure to check out my easy bias tape tutorial to make what you need for this project.

 

Madeleine Bloomers

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This pattern from Colette is feminine and cheeky as well as a breeze to sew up.

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The little details like the bows at the legs and the frilly, cinched waist make these really special. I sewed mine from some beautiful sheer cotton voile, but there are so many luxurious fabrics you could choose from.

 

Easy Boxer Shorts

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Last but not least, these easy boxer shorts from eHow are incredibly comfortable and incredibly simple to make.

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I used some soft waistband elastic in a fun color as suggested in the tutorial, and I couldn't be happier with how they fit and feel.

Fat Quarter Tea Towels

This week's Handmade Holiday gift idea is a fat-quarter friendly tea towel project.

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Supplies needed: fat quarter of medium- to heavy-weight fabric (see note below regarding fabric selection), ~5" of ribbon or twill tape (scraps will work fine!), thread, scissors, sewing machine, iron, pressing board, a couple of straight pins or Clover clips

Cost: up to ~$15.00 (price will vary greatly based on your fabric choice)

Time: 15-20 minutes, plus the time you spend shopping for fabric, which could be considerable

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A note about fabric selection

For a beautiful, long-lasting tea towel, you will want a fabric with a heavier hand than quilting cotton. I would recommend linen, twill, or canvas. For my tea towels, I'm using Linen Cotton Canvas from Spoonflower. I'm not just pimping Spoonflower because I have designs for sale there...there are a few reasons this works well. First, the Linen Cotton Canvas is a durable choice for tea towels. Second, while a standard fat quarter of fabric is about 18" x 22", fat quarters of this fabric are 18" x 27", which is a great size for a tea towel. Third, Spoonflower introduced a feature earlier this year where you can Fill-a-Yard of fabric with multiple designs, so one yard of fabric can yield 4 different tea towels! This saves you money, and allows you to make unique towels for everyone on your list.

Now to dive in!

If your fabric has any selvedge, trim that away before pressing.

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You'll press 1/2" on all 4 sides, and then fold that over and press again to enclose the raw edges.

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Cut a piece of twill tape (or ribbon) to about 5" long, Tuck this under the pressed edges in one of the top corners, running diagonally across the corner as shown below.

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In order to keep the twill tape from shifting during sewing, you'll want to secure it with a couple of pins or Clover clips.

Since the stitching will be very visible on the front of the towel, I like to sew from the front. Do whatever floats your boat, though! You'll stitch at the 1/2" mark around all 4 sides, pivoting at the corners.

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And that's it! You've made a beautiful tea towel that adds personality to any kitchen.

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If you're interested in purchasing the design shown in the example photos, you can find it here in my Spoonflower shop. If you'd like to learn how to design a tea towel calendar of your own, check out my calendar design class on Skillshare.

Covered Button Earrings

To kick off my Handmade Holiday series, I'm sharing these scrap-friendly covered button earrings.

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Supplies needed: covered button kit, earring posts, E6000 adhesive, scissors, pliers, pencil, small fabric scraps

Cost: ~$10.00 for 3 pair of earrings

Time: 10-15 minutes, plus drying time

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If you've not used a covered button kit before, you'll find that the back of the packaging is very instructive. It also includes a template for cutting your fabric.

Cut out the button pattern from the packaging and trace the circle onto your fabric. You'll need two circles to make a pair of earrings.

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For each earring, you'll need one circle of fabric, one button front, and one button back. You'll also be using the mold and the pusher from the button kit to assemble these.

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Center your fabric circle over the clear plastic mold and place the button front on it, face down. Using the blue pusher, pus the button front down into the mold.

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See how all of the fabric is tucked around the button front? Now you'll place a button back on top of this, and use the pusher to push it in until you feel it click into place.

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You'll need to remove the shank from the back of the button. Using a pair of pliers, squeeze on either side of the shank loop as shown below and squeeze gently. This will release it and it should pull away easily.

The button kit comes in odd quantities. My kit had 7, which is an awkward amount for pairs of earrings. You can always buy two kits and solve this problem, or consider that 7th button as insurance in case you screw one up. At any rate, here are my 6 earrings.

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Place a dot of E6000 adhesive on the button back and push an earring post into the glue.

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Let the glue dry overnight, and you have a lovely gift for someone you love...or to keep for yourself!

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Simple Circle Pouch Tutorial

Earlier this week, I was preparing for a road trip and found myself in need of some pouches to organize bits and bobs that I'd be taking with me. I didn't need anything big and fancy, and didn't want to spend much time on them. I just wanted something sturdy and cute that I could toss in my bag.

I sewed up a couple of these simple circle pouches using my Let's Play House fabric, but this project is also suitable for scraps. Altogether, I used about a fat quarter of fabric for each, including the lining and zipper tab.

To create my circle pattern I used a small plate from my kitchen, which measured a little over 7", so my fabric pieces just needed to be a little larger than that.

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You will need to cut:

 - 2 circles each from exterior fabric, lining fabric, and batting

 - 1 rectangle at 2.5" x 5" from lining fabric (or a suitable size for your circle)

You will also need a zipper that is longer than the width of your circle. For my ~7" circle, I used 9" zippers.

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Set aside one set of circles, and cut one of each fabric/batting exactly in half. These will make the front the pouch. I did this by folding them in half and cutting along the fold.

Take one of each half-circle and pin with the top edge of your zipper in the following order, bottom to top:

 - Lining fabric, right side up

 - Zipper, right side up

 - Exterior fabric, wrong side up

 - Batting

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Sew through all layers using a zipper foot. If you don't have a zipper foot, use 1/4" seam allowance and sew carefully!

Flip the fabric/batting away from the zipper and press. Top stitch through all layers 1/4" from the zipper.

Flip the unsewn edge of your zipper up, and repeat the steps above for your remaining half-circles.

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Take the rectangle of lining fabric, and press it in half, long edges together.

Unfold the rectangle, and iron the long edges in to the middle line you just creased.

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Fold along the crease and press again, making sure the long, raw edges are tucked in. Sew along the open edge with 1/8" seam allowance. Set aside.

Open the zipper slightly, and pin the opening closed. Baste the opening, across the zipper teeth, close to the edge of your circle. Go slowly - be careful not to break your needle on the zipper teeth.

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Now fold the zipper tab in half, and place at the opening you just basted. I put mine inside the circle by about 1". Leave the raw edges to hang with the ends of your zipper (we'll cut the excess away later), and baste in place.

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Take your fabric circles, and layer as follows, bottom to top:

 - Lining fabric, wrong side up

 - Batting

 - Exterior fabric, right side up

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Make sure the zipper on your pouch front is open and layer it with your fabric circles. The pouch front should be lining side up. Pin in place all around the circle.

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Using 1/4" seam allowance, sew around the entire circle through all the layers. Take care as you sew over the zipper teeth. (Can you tell I've broken a few needles in my time?)

Using sharp scissors, trim through the excess zipper tape. I also trimmed the raw edges of the pouch with pinking shears to prevent fraying.

Flip the pouch right side out and press. Topstitch through all layers using 1/4" seam allowance and a long stitch.

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Now your pouch is ready to be filled with whatever goodies you'd like!

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Cotton Baby Crib Bumpers

With several family members expecting babies this spring, I've been busy sewing up baby gifts, like these easy flannel burp cloths. Significantly easier to say 3 times fast and much easier to make than rubber baby buggy bumpers, crib bumpers are a lovely way to personalize a nursery and are a great gift when paired with baby bedding. (Before you go nuts in the comments section, let me say that crib bumpers are discouraged for newborn and young infants. We are constantly learning better ways to care for infants and children, so check with your pediatrician for the latest recommendations. I haven't had a baby in 13 years and am certainly not an expert.)

I purchased a selection of prints and solids for making crib bumpers and a quilt from Fancy Tiger Crafts.

I purchased a package of Fairfield Nu Foam crib bumper pads and used their free pattern, which you can download here.

The pattern was easy to follow and in an evening I was able to make the set!

Happy Hour Tea Towel Calendar

Every year, I design a tea towel calendar as one of my Christmas gifts. My friends and family have come to expect them, and I look forward to coming up with a new theme each year. I knew that we were going to need lots of cocktails in 2017, so I featured 12 of my favorite grown-up beverages.

I sketched each of the drinks in pencil, and included simple recipes. I knew that the recipes would be too much text for the tea towel, but who knows what else I might do with these illustrations?

I inked my drawings and pulled them into Illustrator for finishing.

After I finalized the layout, I uploaded my design to Spoonflower for printing. The calendar is sized to fit on a single fat quarter of Linen Cotton Canvas, and a simple hem around the edge is all that's needed to make a towel that will liven up any kitchen or bar!

If you'd like your own Happy Hour tea towel calendar, you can purchase this design in my Spoonflower shop!

While visions of sugarplums danced in their heads

When I was a child, no occasion went unmarked by a festive pillowcase. It began with Christmas pillowcases for me and my sister, lovingly sewn by my grandmother. We were so delighted that she kept making them. Birthdays, Valentine's day, Tuesdays - any reason was good enough for a special pillowcase. As time passed and fabric selection improved (along with her sewing machine), the pillowcases became more spectacular. My children have pillowcases she made with glow in the dark embroidery of their names! Our home now has no shortage of festive pillowcases for most occasions, so this year I decided I would spread some cheer and carry on this tradition by making pillowcases for my nieces and nephew.

 

These make a great gift and are super-quick to sew up in a pinch. You can even use them as gift bags! To make a pillowcase, you'll need one yard of fabric (I pre-wash mine...shrinkage after sewing isn't a big issue for pillowcases, but it softens the fabric up nicely). Fold it wrong sides together from selvage to selvage. I don't bother trimming off the fuzzy selvage edge - we're going to use French seams, so that will get trimmed away eventually. I simply sew along the selvage in this step. You'll sew across the top/short side and down the long side opposite the fold. Leave the bottom open - you have to be able to get the pillow in!

Now you're going to trim away that fuzzy bit and most of the seam allowance/selvage. You want less than 1/4"...just trim as close to the stitching as you are comfortable doing.

Now turn the pillowcase wrong side out and press the seams you just sewed.

Now stitch across the top and the long edge using a 1/4" seam allowance.

Now, before you get excited and flip the pillowcase right side out, let's do the bottom hem. Turn up and press 1/4".

Now turn up 3 1/2" and press. This will make the cuff, so to speak, of the pillowcase.

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Now stitch about 1/8" from the turned up edge. I moved the needle over because I have a fancy sewing machine, but you can eyeball it or mark it if your needle doesn't move. The goal is to make sure you close in that raw edge you turned under, so 1/4" is too much.

And that's it! Turn it right side out and your pillowcase is ready to enjoy!