Necessary Sewing: A Couple of Projects That Fulfill a Need

Sewing is mostly a hobby for me, but sometimes it’s a necessity—I need to create something I need to use now.

Masks in-progress.

Sewing isn’t always glamorous. Sometimes, sewing is necessary. It’s not all hobby and unicorns and rainbows. For me, the last month or so has consisted of necessary sewing, mainly making masks for my school kids to wear at school. I also made a couple of L’il Knot Bags by indigobird, because I thought I might use them to hold used masks.

Masks! Masks! Masks!

Here’s the deal: my kids have to wear masks at school. If they have to wear masks, well, they should have fun masks to wear. So, before the beginning of the school year when it was s—l—o—w—l—y becoming apparent that they should be wearing a mask at school, I rifled through my fabric stash and pulled fabrics they could choose from for their masks. (They enjoyed picking the fabric.)

Halloween Masks

I then decided I’d make them a set of Halloween-themed masks. And, while I’m way over sewing masks at this point, I have already acquired fabric to make winter-themed masks. (There is no way I am going to waste time and fabric on holiday-themed masks that they’d only wear a couple of weeks. Winter masks can be worn December and January. Maybe February.)

The worst part of making the Halloween masks? When I cut out 24 ear straps and realized that I cut them in the wrong direction along the knit fabric. Bah! It happens. Side note: I’ve found that cutting an old t-shirt into 1” strips creates ear straps that are comfortable.

D’oh! Knit fabric ear strips cut in the wrong direction against the grain.

I’ll refrain from telling you all the details about my masks. At this point, everyone should have found a mask pattern and materials that works for them. If you just gotta know, leave a comment or send me a message via my contact page.

Medium L’il Knot Bag

The L’il Knot Bags came together easily enough. I made a small and medium-size bag. Originally, I thought one would work well to hang on a hook and have my kids deposit their mask into at the end of the school day. But, ends up the hook I have by the front door works well for this purpose. (They hang their mask by its lanyard on the hook.) The bags are functional and fun so I’m sure I’ll find a purpose for them. Another side note: that small bag is made from the fabric I used to mend my M&M’s Quilt and Yellow Quilt (that’s its official name, y’all—ha!). I was pleasantly surprised these two fabrics coordinate so well!

It’s hard to see the lining fabric–peep the green lining near the handle.

Necessary sewing can be fun. I mean, it’s great to be able to justify sneaking off to my sewing machine because I have to get these masks done before school starts! But, sometimes it’s sluggish. When it was feeling like that, I promised myself that once I was done, I could move on to something more fun, like working on the next quilt in my queue.

Here are more examples of what I consider to be necessary sewing: visibly hemming jeans, making handkerchiefs, and sewing baby bibs.

What having you been sewing lately because you have to, not necessarily because you want to?

How I Mended a Quilt by Reinforcing It with Fabric

I have a quilt that is about 15-years-old and had started to deteriorate on one side. I mended it by sandwiching the worn area between two layers of fabric and quilting it with big stitches.

Yellow quilt repaired and ready for bed.

A little history on this quilt: my mom made this quilt from a block-of-the-month quilt kit she got from Joann Fabrics & Crafts circa 2000. In 2006 or 2007, she mailed it to me as a college graduation gift (I graduated in 2005). Readers, this quilt is hand quilted. It has a muslin backing that is so soft. (Y’all know I love a muslin backing.) I love this quilt.

Wear is visible along the binding.

Unlike my M&M’s quilt that I mended by simply cutting off the worn area and re-binding the cut side, I didn’t want to lose size with this quilt. Inspired by Japanese Sashiko and Boro methods and aesthetics, I decided to reinforce the worn area of this quilt. Head over to Upcycle Stitches to learn more about Sashiko and Boro and to be inspired.

At some points, batting was exposed.

Since the worn area was about 6” wide along one side of the quilt, I simply cut a 13” x 72” strip of complementary fabric—at least the fabric in my stash that matched the best and that I had enough yardage of—ha! And, I had to cut and stitch together a couple of pieces to get a patch that size. 

Here the patch is cut, ironed, and ready to be machine-stitched onto the front.

I then folded the fabric patch in half, longwise (wrong sides together) and ironed it. The ironed fold allowed me to see the halfway mark along the patch, which I wanted to land right on the original binding. 

Pinned into place and then stitched on.

Next, I pinned the fabric to the quilt (right sides together), machine-stitched it down with my quilting foot, and then folded it over and gave it a little iron. Think of this patch going on like a really wide binding. 

Pin-basting, getting it ready for quilting.

This is where it got a bit tricky, because I needed to quilt the fabric down before attaching the edge of the backside of the patch. I pin-basted the patch in place. Once that was done, I went to town with stitching big stitches in pearl cotton thread.

Stitch! Stitch! Stitch!

Finally, I stitched down the short sides and the edge of the backside using a needle-turn appliqué technique. I folded back and tucked in about a ¼” of the edge of the fabric and stitched the patch down right at the fold.

Needle-turn-like appliqué to finish the sides and back edge of the patch.

So, the repair is like a wide single-layer of binding that I quilted with big stitches and attached like an appliqué. 

Finished patch.

Is it perfect? No. Is this the proper way to repair a quilt? Probably not. Is the quilt now usable and back on my bed? Absolutely! Does it sleep like a dream? You know it! And, really, isn’t that all that matters?

Now, let’s take an appreciation tour of my mom’s original quilting:

My favorite: she stitched in a chicken!

Tiny, perfect stitches.
For all you crinkle lovers. There’s no softer thread count than 15-year-old, well-used quilt!

How do you repair your quilts? Leave a comment if you’ve got a tip or trick that I just gotta know!

How I Match Colors When Buying Fabric Online + Annual Pillowcases

I use two different methods for buying fabric online so that the colors coordinate. For this year’s pillowcases, I used the easiest method.

My 2021 pillowcases. One for each of my oldest kids and one for myself.

Every year, I make myself and my kids (just the older two for now) a new pillowcase each. I wrote a tutorial for the pattern and technique I use here. It requires coordinating fabric and sometimes matching fabrics is hard…especially if you’re shopping online. 

Now, there’s no wrong way to pair fabrics, but some fabrics just look better together. Since shopping online has become a norm (and not just because of the pandemic), buying fabric online is becoming a norm. 

Shopping for fabric online isn’t easy, though. There’s something about not being able to see it and feel it and most importantly, put fabrics side-by-side to see if they coordinate that creates difficulty. Alas, I have a couple of tricks!

I mean, these lobsters. How could I not buy this fabric?

First, look at the fabric website on different screens, such as a smartphone and a laptop. I did this with one of last year’s pillowcase fabrics and some fabric for my Down the Rabbit Hole Quilt. Usually what I did was browse on my phone, emailed myself links to any fabrics I thought may work, and then hopped onto my laptop to open the email and click back to the fabric website. Bonus, I have a monitor plugged into my laptop, so I looked at it on 3 screens (phone, laptop, monitor). I figured somewhere “in between” was the true color and it worked, albeit, with a bit of faith and risk. Ha!

Think that first tip is too tedious? It is! But, my second tip is easy-peasy, which is to just skip the guess work and buy fabrics from the same line! Designers create patterns and color palettes that coordinate so really all the fabrics in a particular line look good with all the others. I did this with my Craftedmoon fabric by Sarah Watts that I used for one of my pillowcases.

Craftedmoon fabric by Sarah Watts–the colors and prints are so rich and luxurious.

Now, I don’t know what to tell you if your online fabric purchase has glitter that you couldn’t see in the picture, except maybe pitch the fabric and chalk it up as a learning experience. I have learned that lesson

Gorgeous fabric makes for the best nights of sleep.

For these pillowcases, I bought 4 of the fabrics on eBay. I was very pleased with the experience. Who knew? The Violet Craft fabric I searched for because I thought it’d be nice for my daughter to have a pillowcase that matched her quilt (that was doomed by glitter—see above about learning experiences). So there’s a bonus tip: if you need “out of print” fabric, try eBay! I think there are some sellers who are just trying to destash, but also some who have found a little business. I didn’t find the prices and the cost of shipping to be a barrier to purchasing on eBay. Plus, eBay now is a place I “browse” fabric when my thumb is itching to scroll on my phone. I started a Pinterest board to save all the fabrics that catch my eye from there (and elsewhere). Go ahead a take a peek, and purchase away (if you buy it, I won’t be tempted to myself! Heehee!).

I love the vacation vibes of this Violet Craft fabric.

So, look at online fabric pictures on multiple screens or just buy fabrics from the same line since they’re designed to coordinate. Also, browse eBay for any fabrics that may be out of print or fabrics you may never see in a traditional fabric store—brick-and-mortar or online. And, have a little faith and take a little risk in the process. It’s just fabric!

Pillowcases are such a great way to showcase eye-candy fabric.

Do you ever buy fabric online? What are your tips and tricks to finding exactly what you’re looking for?

Why I’ll Never Use Glitter Fabric in a Quilt Ever Again

The glitter-covered quilt backing fabric I used sheds a lot of glitter. So, I’m putting it aside and vowing to never use glitter-adorned fabric in a quilt again.

Simple patchwork quilt featuring Violet Craft’s Palm Canyon fabrics.

This is one of those quilting failures that holds an unforgettable lesson. My daughter and I made a super-quick 10” charm pack patchwork quilt out of Violet Craft’s Palm Canyon fabric. We were pressed for time, so we just stitched the 10” squares together instead of making a more intricate design. But, the fabric is so fun and soft that after getting the top together, I really liked it. The simple design puts the fabrics on display.

I love how the fabric design is on display with this simple quilt.

Because of the pandemic, I ordered batting and fabric for the binding and backing online. I chose a pink material for the backing. From the picture on the website it looked like the pink fabric would match the pinks in the Palm Canyon collection and maybe sorta there was glitter on it, but there wasn’t much of a description and besides, why not glitter?

Why not glitter? I’ll tell you! While the fabric isn’t 100% covered in glitter, the glitter sheds everywhere. In the washing machine. In the dryer. Anything the quilt back touches gets covered in minuscule specs of metallic shine! It gives truth to a lot of those glitter memes you see pop up on the internet.

Look at how the backing sparkles in the sun! And, boy, how it sheds that glitter!

Sigh, so I told my daughter that while the quilt was great and I’m happy we got it done, it’s going to be an “outside quilt,” which is a thing I made up just for this quilt. We’ll use it for picnics and playing outside and while shedding glitter in the wild is probably not good for nature, it’s at least better than my family inhaling it. And, maybe it will shed all of the glitter it will ever shed and we can use it inside the house as originally intended. 

Of course I tied this quilt. It’s one of my favorite ways to finish a quilt, especially a design this simple.

The good news is, I have a glitter-adorned fabric that I acquired for binding a different quilt that is about halfway done, but now I know better! I will not be using that fabric! Truth be told, I am attracted to shiny objects, including glitter, so this has been a heartbreaking lesson, but an aggravating one, too. It was so frustrating that my attraction to sparkles has waned. Never again will I ruin a quilt with glitter fabric!

So disappointing to have a quilt ruined by glitter!

So how about you? Are you pro- or anti-glitter? (Do you know any secret tricks for getting glitter off of fabric?)

My Grainline Studio Scout Tee from an Upcycled, Thrifted Old Navy Dress

I used fabric from a thrifted Old Navy dress to sew a Grainline Studio Scout Tee. Not only do I have a new shirt, but I learned to sew with rayon/viscose fabric.

Grainline Studio Scout Tee from thrifted dress.

Let’s dig into the details of my Grainline Studio Scout Tee that I made with harvested fabric from a thrifted Old Navy dress. I mentioned it in my last post about the clothing I made recently.

I love harvesting fabric from thrifted clothes because it’s significantly cheaper than buying new fabric and I feel less inhibited to try new things. In 2019, I made a handful of zipper pouches from repurposed thrifted clothing. And, a bit after that, I sewed a t-shirt from a thrifted knit maxi dress so that I could start learning to sew with knits (I’m still learning knits!). This Scout Tee from a dress allowed me to not only make a pattern I knew I liked, but also gave me the opportunity to sew with a fabric I’ve never used before, a 100% rayon/viscose.

Original Old Navy dress tag. It’s nice to have the fabrication and care instructions.

I’ve made a Scout Tee before in a size 10 and I like the fit of the shirt, but I wanted it a bit longer. I lengthened the pattern by 1 1/2”. I was able to use the original hem of the dress for the hem of the shirt, so the overall additional length is probably 2”. 

Original Old Navy Dress–size XL

To start, I cut the dress up at the seams and ironed the pieces (so much easier than ironing a sewn garment—haha!). There was just enough front and back dress fabric to get the front and back of the shirt. The back of the shirt is the back of the dress, so there are the same seaming details that were on the dress, which I like. 

Back of Grainline Studio Scout Tee. Notice the vertical and horizontal seams.

The sleeves were trickier to cut. I used the dress sleeves, but I had to create a patchwork of fabric from the dress sleeve and ruffle cuff. It worked! And the extra seams aren’t too noticeable and they don’t irritate my arms. 

Detail of the sleeves. Notice the two extra seams.

For the bias binding at the neckline, I had to dig into my stash of quilting cotton. It probably isn’t the best weight of fabric to use with the flowy, lightweight rayon/viscose dress fabric, but this project was all about making it work and the cotton bias worked!

I didn’t have matching purple thread, so I used what was in my machine, a light aqua. It’s more contrasting that I would like, but I had the thought that while making apparel, if one tiny thing is “off” maybe I won’t treat the finished garment as precious and wear it a lot as opposed to waiting for “the right time” to wear it. You know what I mean?

The contrast stitching doesn’t bother me. I didn’t have to change my thread and now it doesn’t feel too “precious” to wear on an average day.

Overall, I’m happy with this shirt. And, I now have the confidence to sew with this kind of fabric. Also, I’m eager to see what I can make with more fabric harvested from thrifted clothing! 

Have you ever sewn from fabric harvested from secondhand clothing? Do you have any tips or tricks for me?

Grainline Studio Scout Tee