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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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.

Simple swaddling blankets

I know there's been a lot of baby gift making lately, but it's new baby season in my circle, and these projects are just so much fun to share! There are so many great choices for fabrics and baby items are typically pretty easy to make.

Today I'm sharing some simple swaddling blankets I made for a new arrival. These flannel blankets are made with serged edges and take very little prep work - a stack can easily be completed in under an hour.

I bought one-yard cuts of flannel fabric, and pre-washed them. Begin by folding one yard in half one way, and then in half the other way (this would technically be called 'folding in quarters', but I want to be clear that it gets folded one way and then the other.)

In the photo above, the folded sides of the fabric are on the right side and the bottom. All of the selvedges (the edges with copyright and printing information) are now on the left hand side, and the raw edges are on the top. Now we'll trim the selvedges off - don't worry about the top/raw edges just yet.

Now we'll round the corners of the blanket. This gives it a nice, soft feel - and makes the sewing process much easier! I used a rounded plate as a guide for my corners. Your trimming doesn't have to be perfect...the serger is going to clean it up nicely for you. Just be sure you are trimming the upper left-hand corner - the one without folds. If you cut through your folds, you're going to be sad.

That's it for prep - you're ready to serge! Start in the middle of one side, in the straight area. This will be much easier and more secure than starting with one of the rounded corners. You don't need to factor in any seam allowance - just run your fabric right along the edge of the knife blade. It will trim away any wonky strings, but you don't need it to really remove any of the fabric.

Take the corners slowly, just following the curve you cut.

When you get close to the beginning of your stitching, lift the presser foot and tuck your thread tail under the needle. This will lock that thread tail into the seam and keep it from breaking loose with repeated use and washing of the blanket.

Once your stitching is overlapping where you started, just sew off the edge of the blanket. This will leave a thread tail that needs to be tucked in.

Using a large needle, tuck that thread tail into the stitching to secure.

Now trim the tails and you're done! You've made a blanket (or more likely, a whole mess of blankets) that are perfect for swaddling and tummy time. Babies everywhere will adore you, and so will their parents.