Wednesday, September 28, 2011


I stumbled upon a pattern for sewing coffee cup sleeves on the Fiskars website and decided to conclude National Sewing Month by making a pair in Fall-themed fabrics for my coffee loving colleagues.  The pattern was free on their website and was super simple to sew.  I really like the idea of a reusable sleeve because it cuts down on waste...just throw it in your laundry with the rest of your stuff when you need to.

You will need to collect two coordinating fabrics, some batting, a small piece of elastic cording, and a button (two if you want to make it reversible).  You will also need a sleeve from an earlier cup of coffee to use as a pattern.

Use the sleeve to create a template by drawing around it, then drawing another line about 1/2" out from its edge thereby making it a little larger all around for seam allowance.  (I have not yet drawn the larger outline in the above picture.)

Use your template to cut two pieces of fabric and one piece of batting.  I used my rotary cutter to cut the batting - scissors tend to snag.

Layer your pieces in this order:  batting on the bottom, then lay one of the fabric pieces with the right-side up, then your other piece of fabric with the right-side down. 

You will want to lay your pieces so the edges line up nicely.  I splayed the pieces in the photo above so you could see the order.  Once they are lined up, cut a 5" piece of your elastic, fold it in half and lay it between the two fabric pieces with the cut edges hanging slightly outside your layers (loop end pointing towards the middle).

Pin the edges.

Sew a 1/4" seam around, back-stitching over elastic to secure and leaving an opening for turning the piece right-side out.

Trim your edges and clip your corners then turn it right-side out and hand stitch the opening closed.

 Top-stitch, using a 1/4" seam allowance.

Add a button.  I put buttons on both sides to make it reversible.

I made a second one for another colleague using different fabrics and style of buttons.

When we were all out together the other day, naturally we had to stop at my colleagues favorite coffee spot and when they came back to the car I gave them each their Fall Coffee Cup Sleeves.  They were so delighted they immediately put them on theirs cups (right over the cardboard sleeves if you look carefully!).  Cheers!

And now, I bid adieu to National Sewing Month 2011.  I draw in a deep breath and pat myself on the back -- I have braved my sewing machine one more time (anyone who knows me knows that I am not " at one" with my machine.)  The Machine and I have been associates since Middle School (waaaay back in the day) but have never mastered true friendship.  At best we maintain a distant wariness.  It's my fault really.  I have never truly tried to reach out to It.  It has always scared me with its mysterious elements.  But I must say, I think I might be close to asking It to come out and play more often.  Maybe get to know It a little better.  We'll see.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


The heat of the summer is soon to be a thing of the past (I sure hope so!), the open windows admit a slight chill to the night air, the endless weeding in the garden will come to a stop, and the desire to bake things will start.  I like the change of seasons and the change of motivations it brings with it.

In the Fall, the magazines that arrive at the library begin showing pictures of soups, apples, pumpkins and all things "harvesty" (I'm sure that is...should be...a word).  When the October issue of Crafts 'n Things Magazine first arrived, its cover caught my eye and drew my attention to the fact that it was definitely time to start focusing on Fall crafting!

Isn't that inviting?  Just the word "harvest" conveys images of corn, pumpkins, apples...warm apple cider.  Of course I had to flip through it and as I did I was surprised by the variety of ideas and techniques inside - felting, painting, sewing, punch needle,  clay, Styrofoam, paper crafts, cross-stitch - each project by a different designer and each listed resources for further ideas. 

I found myself inspired and wanted to try a number of them.  But where to start?  Well, since September is National Sewing Month I opted to start with the Sewn Harvest Pumpkins.  Fashioned out of a printed tan cotton fabric with brown velvet stems and green leaves made from clay, the pair of them looked pretty in the photograph and the instructions seemed simple enough even for me (you may remember that I am not "one" with my sewing machine...).   Anyway, I thought a grouping of them in different sizes and fabrics might bring a little bit of the harvest season into my home.

Project One: Sewn Harvest Pumpkins 

I chose supplies that I already had: some upholstery, corduroy and quilting fabrics that went well together instead of the tan cotton fabric; raffia and hemp instead of the jute twine; and sticks instead of velvet  for some of the stems.  I also decided not to make the clay leaves shown in the pattern because I just wanted to focus on the sewing.

The instructions were pretty simple, although there did seem to be an error in Step 6 which reads "with wrong sides together...turn right side out".  I think they meant "with right sides together...".  Also, I was having some conceptual difficulty with the instruction for the pumpkin body which could have benefited from a diagram. 

Tip:  I learned that it is important to stuff the pumpkin firmly and pull the wrapping cord tight to best define the segments.  The smallest light colored pumpkin was my last one and the segments are less "puckery" than the others.

The following instructional tutorial was added at a later date
in response to a request by an anonymous reader:

1. Fold a rectangular piece of fabric in half, right sides together, to form a square.

2. Machine sew a seam along the edge that is opposite the folded edge (the edge to the right in the photo above).

3. With strong thread and leaving a 6" tail, hand stitch a running/basting stitch along one of the open edges.

4. Pull the ends of the basting thread to cinch the fabric ends together; tie off and whip stitch to secure. This will be the bottom of your pumpkin. 

5. Turn piece right side out.

6.  Stuff body firmly with polyfill and stitch another running/basting stitch along open edge.

7. Cinch that basting stitch, tie it off  (wow, the exposure in my photos change alot! Looks like a whole other pumpkin...) 

8. Whipstitch it to secure as you did the previous one.  This will be the top of the pumpkin and the ugliness will be hidden by your stem when you sew it on.

9.  Thread a large-eyed tapestry needle with a long piece of strong threading material (raffia, jute, embroidery floss, hemp...I found the hemp worked best).  Thread it through the top, straight down through the body/core leaving a 12" tail.  Move needle over slightly to avoid first hole and push straight back through the body to the top.  Tie ends together to secure the pumpkin shape.

10.  Continue by bringing needle around the outside of the body and pushing through the same area at the bottom of the pumpkin, up through the core and out the top.  Snug (I also tied it each time for security) to form segment.  Repeat to create more segments by wrapping around the outside, up from the bottom through the body, snugging (and tieing) as you go until you are satisfied with the number of segments you have created.  If you run out of threading material before your segments are complete simply tie on another piece and continue.

11.  Sew a stem shaped piece of fabric.

12. Turn the stem rightside out, stuff the stem, whipstitch the ends together.

13.  Hand sew it to the top of the body, concealing the pumpkin's closure as you stitch.

(The above photo example for step 13 is from one of the other pumpkins.  My pumpkin did not magically morph...I just didn't have a good picture from the rust colored pumpkin for this step of how to sew the stem on.  Actually for the tan corduroy pumpkin I left the bottom of the stem open which worked out just as well as whipstitching it closed.  And in a couple of the pumpkins I simply hot glued sticks in for stems.) 

I hope this photo tutorial is helpful.  I thank the reader who requested it since I had originally written the blog as a tutorial and agonized over the length the article was becoming.  Please let me know in email or comment whether this works for you.  I love hearing from my readers and respond to the comments and emails as quickly as I can!  Unfortunately, I was away from my computer when the comment was posted...

Project Two: Needle-felted Halloween Mouse and Pumpkin

Sewing done,  I could then move on to the project that really drew me - the needle-felted items.  Lured in by the warmth of the cover art and the very cute mouse inside, I got my needle-felting supplies out.  I had blissfully forgotten that the last time I tackled needle-felting I had found it somewhat tedious with my insufficient tool. I remembered that fact once I got underway however, and I stabbed myself any number of times which is not a good thing when you are using white roving!  Anyway, while I still am not completely enamoured with needle-felting (because I simply am not patient enough),  I do love the completed felted items.

I decided to nix my original plan to make the needle-felted Indian corn and larger pumpkins...for now

The magazine has a lot of projects that are Halloween-oriented but I was still wanting to make Fall decor that was not Halloween specific.  I decided to work up their napkin ring project.

Project Three:  Harvest Jute Napkin Rings with Clay Leaves

A couple of the projects in the magazine called for an adornment of leaves made out of Sculpey Polymer Clay.  I didn't make them for the Sewn Pumpkins but I decided to give them a shot now.  I used burlap glued to cardboard tubes as the base and then set to work on the clay leaves.   The full-sized leaf templates are provided by the magazine and the leaves were easy to cut out and bake (especially after all the stabbing in the last project).  The hard part was waiting for the various paint coats to dry before I could proceed to the next step.  Also, I found the instructions for the painting techniques to be a bit vague - but I played around with the colors I had and applied them in a way that pleased me.  I liked the end result.

When they were done, I glued them to the prepare tubes with some berry sprigs.

I grouped some of the items together in a display by my fireplace.  We will see how long the mouse lasts before my cat discovers it.

I would love to work on a number of other items in the magazine but I really need to get to work on the wreath for my door before Fall is over!  I have already found the inspiration for that and will show you soon.  Until then, browse through the magazines at your local library and you are bound to find some great inspirations!  Magazines are great sources of information, providing a variety of up-to-date ideas of whatever the current trends, materials and resources are and should not be overlooked when you are researching ideas for things to make.

Some other magazines that might be of interest:

 Country Living, October 2011 issue includes pumpkins that are decoupaged with all sorts of interesting patterns; crow silhouettes fashioned from static-cling window decal sheets (a very trendy Halloween craft this year); and a custom-stamped tablecloth for Halloween.  Decoupaged pumpkins, who would ever have thought?!

Martha Stewart Living, October 2011 issue includes clever paper bats to hang outside your front door; a number of very funky, clever, and simple ideas to dress up your pumpkins instead of carving them which are bound to impress your visitors; and a beautiful idea for an artful arrangement of Fall foliage and fruit.

 McCall's Quick Quilts, October/November 2011 issue includes a variety of project types including some adorable ideas for Halloween.  They also always feature some Quick and Easy ideas.  This magazine is beginning to make even me think about learning to quilt!

Friday, September 2, 2011


Part I - The Crafty Tip:

In my last post I used a nylon cord for a drawstring to use on the laundry bag I sewed.  When nylon cording or rope is cut it has a tendency to fray.  To keep the ends from fraying I needed to seal the ends.  Here is a brief tutorial about how I did that.

It is a little hard to see against the white sink in the photo below but you can sort of make out the fuzzy tip where I made my cut.

To seal the ends so they don't fray, first make sure the cord is nylon and not cotton. Nylon melts, cotton burns.   Once you have ascertained that it is nylon, hold a small flame slightly below the cord until the end melts slightly.

If it flames up, blow it out and be careful not to burn your fingers.  It does not take long to happen.  See the nice clean end on my cord in the picture below?

This works on nylon rope as well.  This is a tip I learned from my father when I used to sail with him.  My father has always been a fountain of knowledge. 

Part II - The Aha Moment: A Prescription Bottle Repurposed as a Matchbox

When I opened my kitchen drawer to search for matches to seal the drawstring cord I used for the laundry bag I sewed, I found them alright!  They were all over the bottom of the drawer, happily intermingling with 500 toothpicks - all of which had escaped their containers and were partying in the bottom of my drawer.  The boxes that had been holding them had fallen apart and the contents had spewed forth.  This led me to an aha moment, however, as I thought of a way to repurpose an old prescription container into a waterproof, child-safe match container.

I collected my supplies:  a matchbox, an old prescription bottle,double sided tape and, of course, you will need matches eventually.


Remove the old prescription label from the bottle.  Most of them peel off pretty easily.  (I had already removed the label before I took the photograph above.)

Remove the "striking" section of the matchbox (the part that you rub the match against to cause it to flame) and apply pieces of double sided tape to its back side, covering it completely (double sided tape is sticky on both sides).

Press that prepared striker section to the prescription bottle to adhere it.

I applied a small piece of regular scotch tape where the ends met.  It isn't terribly pretty but I just wanted a little added security.

Put the matches inside the container and close it up.

You now have a waterproof, child-safe container to keep your matches in.  When you need to use a match, take one out, put the lid back on, and strike the match against the strike section on the outside. 

My husband discovered (the hard way) that putting the cap back on prior to striking the match is vitally important...matches all over the place!!  OopsGood tip honey, thank you for testing it out for me!

Oh yeah, those pesky toothpicks got their own container in the drawer as well.

That's it for today!  No book this time.  Just a little Crafty Tip and Technique.