Homemade Iron-on Decals

Homemade Iron-on Decals
Photo used with permission
from FilthWizardry.com
Thanks, Lindsey!
Did you know that you can decorate your kids’ clothes and other sewing projects with HOMEMADE iron-on decals?

That’s right – according to Lindsey over at Filth Wizardry, you can make permanent decals from plastic shopping bags. So check out her post for all the details and be sure to also read her follow-up posts linked to at the bottom. Lindsey has a lot of cute ideas and great photos, so browse around Filth Wizardry to get many cool ideas.

And when you’re done there, check out the simple and cute skirt-from-a-t-shirt how-to over at Mama Smiles. What a great project for a sewing beginner! In fact, why not make the skirt and then decorate it with your own decals?

Bread Bag Raincoat

Sewing treasures from trash isn’t new. After seeing the potato chip bag apron I featured recently, Sally over at Sew Wonderful sent me a link to a bread bag raincoat made back in the 60s from Wonder Bread sacks. Thanks Sally! You'll have to follow the link to see the picture as I've been unable to contact the person from whom I'd need permission to post the photo.

Got any cool sewing or quilting trash-to-treasure ideas or stories? Please share them here!

Potato Chip Bag Apron How-to

Photo by Debra Atlas
used with permission
This clever potato chip bag apron was one of the winners in the “Treasures from Trash” recycling competition held at the Shasta District Fair. How cute is that? And what a great use of bags that would otherwise be thrown away! This is a perfect project for sewing with kids - fast, easy and cheap. Also, what a nice gift for any summer occasion, such as Father’s Day or for use during the Fourth of July. So what are you waiting for?

Easy Potato Chip Bag Apron Instructions

You can easily make a cool apron from empty potato chip bags! Just follow these simple steps:

  1. Cut off the tops and bottoms of the bags
  2. Slit each bag down the back
  3. Wash the bags thoroughly with soap and water to remove grease, salt and chip debris, and then rinse and wipe them dry with a dishtowel
  4. Turn the bags face up and cut the fronts to the sizes desired
  5. Sew the bags together with strips between the bags (as shown), or just sew the bags directly to one another to create a large enough piece for the apron front
  6. Layer your potato chip bag “quilt” with denim or other heavy cotton, wrong sides together, and trim the edges to the size and shape desired
  7. Bind the edges, and add ties to go around the neck and back.
Voila! A cool apron for indoor or outdoor use!

No-Sew Option

And what if you don’t have time to sew? You could just tape the bags together, finish off the edges and attach the ties with colored duct tape.

Also, here are a few kid-friendly recycling books on Amazon that you might like:
Don't Throw That Away!: A Lift-the-Flap Book about Recycling and Reusing (Little Green Books)ReMake It!: Recycling Projects from the Stuff You Usually ScrapThe Three R's: Reuse, Reduce, Recycle (What Do You Know About? Books)

Sewing with Kids Using Inklingo

Try Inklingo today!
Linda over at Inklingo has created a cute School House block especially for sewing with kids! How cool is that? For those who don’t know, Inklingo creates printed quilt pieces. Yes, that’s right – you print the quilt pieces on the fabric. And not only do you have all the cutting lines, you have sewing lines, too!

Anyway, back to the new School House block. All you need is three fabrics. Then you iron them to freezer paper and run them through your inkjet printer. Voila! Quilt pieces printed right on the back of the fabric! Then use the included Puzzle Page to get the pieces laid out correctly and start sewing. First, you’ll make four rows, and then sew the rows together. Finally, embellish your block with buttons and trim if you want.

And it gets better! Linda has also included tips specific to sewing with kids. AND if you visit her blog and leave a tip or comment, you just might win $25 – but hurry because the winner will be announced on Mother’s Day, which is May 8th this year. As of this morning (4/19/11) there’s already 14 comments with valuable tips so be sure to read through them all and add your own.

Happy Sewing!

Simple Sewing Machine for Kids

Janome 11542
Well, here it is - a simple sewing machine for kids! This little beauty is a refurbished Janome 11542, recommended by Crafty Gemini in response to my Perfect Sewing Machine for Kids? post. It rates 4.5 based on nearly two dozen reviews at Overstock.com, and cost less than $65 with shipping. After reading the reviews and researching my other options, I chose this machine for my granddaughter’s 10th birthday based on features, weight and price.

My list of wants included:

  • Drop-in bobbin
  • Zigzag
  • Convenient reverse
  • Easy to thread
  • Durable
Nice features that weren’t on my list:

  • 4-step button hole
  • Free arm (just remove the accessory storage)
I haven’t yet tested the machine enough to vouch for long-term durability but it sure meets my other criteria. Although weight didn’t make my original list, I realized that having a machine she could lift would be a plus and am happy to report that this one weighs in at about 11 pounds. Considering her new baby sister now weighs more than that and she packs her around every chance she gets, I think she’ll easily handle moving the sewing machine around.

Test stitches - Janome 11542
 But How Well Does it Sew?

I tested the stitches and played with the tension, using yellow on the top and black in the bobbin so that problems would be easier to spot. The tension dial came pre-set at five, which was fine for most stitches. In fact, it was actually fine for all the stitches but the quality improved at a lower setting for some. Anyway, I marked the tension dial setting for each line of stitching on my test fabric for use as a reference.

The machine runs smoothly and sounds fine - no scary noises. I’m a little concerned about the thread holder, however, as it is plastic and seems a little hard to snap into place. If a kid is going to break something, I put my money there. But I think if it is left in place instead taken off when not in use, it should be fine.

Update 1/22/13 - If you're having sewing machine issues, I just discovered that Craftsy has a free online class that may help. I signed up and so should you!

FREE Online Sewing Class

Make an Easy Travel Pillow Case

Pajama pants before . . .
I have a pair of pajama pants that don’t fit, but I love the feel of the fabric – very soft and smooth. I also have a travel pillow with no case. Well, guess what? You can make a really quick and easy travel pillow case from a pajama pants leg!

This is the perfect sewing project for even a very young child as it takes just one seam. That’s right, one seam and it’s done. How’s that for instant gratification?

Pillowcase How-to

Before you cut, stuff the pillow inside the opening of the leg to make sure it fits.

Cut the pant leg.

Then cut the leg off 17 inches from the hem.


Sew across the cut edge.

Sew a ¼ inch seam across the cut end. Finish the edge with a zigzag stitch or pinking shears.

Easy one-seam pillowcase finished!

Turn the pillow case right side out and put the pillow inside. It doesn’t get much easier than that!

I realize the pillow case is a little funny-shaped but I don’t care. I could have squared it up but then it would have taken more than one seam, right? And this way, the pillow can’t fall out!

Now I wonder what I'll do with the other pajama leg . . . 

Civil War Quilts Block 2

North Star by Barb Fife
North Star is the second block in the Block of the Week series at Civil War Quilts. Be sure to read the snippet of history and view the cradle quilt made of this block.

As you can see, this block has lots of possibilities. In the cradle quilt, the center square and star points are cut from the same fabric. The example pictured here uses contrasting fabrics. What I see is that the large center square is perfect for fussy-cut focus fabrics, which are always a favorite when sewing and quilting with kids.

Fork Pins 35/Pkg By The Each
A quilting must-have!
North Star requires one center square, four corner squares and four flying geese (try Speed Piecing Method A). And to make matching the seams easy, try using fork pins (image is an amazon affiliate link). You just nest your seams together and the two prongs hold them perfectly in place while stitching. I discovered fork pins a year or so ago and couldn’t live without them now!

Another Block-Piecing Shortcut

Piece with flying geese and half-square triangles.
This is the first block in the free Civil War Quilts Block of the Week and is an old design with many names including “Devils Puzzle,” Winding Blades” and “Flyfoot.” At Civil War Quilts, it’s known as “Catch Me If You Can.” Although pieced from 16 half-square triangles, you can eliminate some of the matching seams and bulk by using four flying geese and eight half-square triangles instead. Do you see it?

Note the four larger orange triangles. If you simply make flying geese units (I recommend Speed Piecing Method A at this link) with the light color on the left and the dark on the right, you would have the same look without a seam down the center. How cool is that. Then you’d need just eight half-square triangles sewn together in pairs and added to the top of each flying geese to make four identical units. Rotate these as needed and sew together to form the block as shown.

What do you think? Can you see other ways to easily make this block? If so, please post a comment and share!

Learn History and Quilting at the Same Time

Civil War Quilts Block of the Week - block #1
Civil War Quilts is a new blog that offers a free Block of the Week in honor of the American Civil War Sesquicentennial. So what is a sesquicentennial, anyway? Well, it means 150 years – either an anniversary, time period of that length, or occurring that often. In this case, it’s the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War, which began April 12, 1861.

Throughout 2011, author and quilt historian Barbara Brackman will post a quilt block each week along with a true story about people who lived during the Civil War. Just think – by the end of the year, you could have 52 blocks completed!

The first block is called “Catch Me If You Can” and requires 16 half-square triangle units. There are instructions on the site, but for piecing with children I recommend a different method than the one shown. This kid-friendly technique eliminates sewing along a bias edge and allows for the less-than-perfect ¼-inch seam allowances that often occur when learning to sew.

How to Make Perfect Half-Square Triangle Units

To make perfect half-square triangle units every time, you simply add 1⅛ inch to the finished size desired and then square-up the unit after pressing. The "Catch Me If You Can" block consists of 2 inch finished squares so you cut your fabrics to 3⅛ inches square.   
Cut 3⅛ inches square.

Then pair your fabric squares right sides together, with the lightest one on top, and draw a diagonal line from one corner to the other. I used a black marker so that you could easily see the line but I usually use a pencil.
Draw a diagonal line.
Stitch ¼ inch on both sides of the drawn line and cut. I used black thread so you could see it easily but you'd want to use thread to blend with your fabric.
Stitch ¼ inch on both sides of the drawn line.

Cut on the drawn line.
 Press each unit open, with the seam allowance toward the darker fabric.

Press open - you now have two units!

Now square each unit to 2½ inches.
Trim your square on two sides.

Finish squaring to 2½ inches.

Untrimmed and trimmed units compared.

Both units squared up.

Now wasn't that easy?
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