Monthly Archives: November 2012

So around 2005, I got a wild hair that I should make reusable shopping bags.  They weren’t readily available, you had to find them online, and people were selling organic cotton bags for like $10 a piece.  I’m terribly cheap about little things and said, “Psssshaw! I can make those for less than a dollar!”
I took a grocery bag, opened it on it’s seams, and made a pattern.

I started buying fun fabrics and making bags, but I was having trouble with the edges.  In order to keep the price under $1 per bag (my cost), I had to come up with a way to make the bag single layer (not reversible) and have a nice edge. The end result was using the piping foot and the rolled edge stitch on the serger.  The result was pretty darn cute.  I sold a couple to friends and family, and even at my mom’s book store.  I thought, “This could be huge, if I get grocery stores to carry them!”  This was before all the grocery stores and Walmart sold their own bags in the checkout lane!  I then sat down and started a business plan, came up with a business name, made cards and tags for the bags. Spent a lot of time shopping for fun funky fabrics for the bags.

Then I cut out a TON of bags. My back hurt, my hands hurt, I was miserable.  I had cut out like 50 bags, it took two whole days.  I figured it took about 3 hours to make a bag, start to finish.  If I were going to sell these for $2/bag (I figured that was a good price point, since I need about 10 bags for my groceries, and spending $20 on bags is reasonable, 100 dollars is not), I’d have to make dozens an hour to even make HALF of what I made at my full time job.  So the realization dawned on me that unless I wanted to make a sweat shop with the kids as child laborers, it would have to just be a hobby that I did in my spare time.  So the bags went away.

That said, I do periodically take one of the cut bags out of the stash and put it together.  With a single layer of fabric, these bags hold 3-4 Two Liters of soda!  They are incredibly strong.  But, I also like the idea of a reversible bag, so I’ve been making some of those, too.  Last night I used one to practice on the new embroidery machine.


There are tons of tutorials on making reversible shopping bags out there, so I won’t bore you with it. I will say, you don’t need the tutorial. Just go get a plastic bag, cut along the side seams and cut the seams across the top of the handle. Lay it flat against your fabric, with your folds matching (the fold of your fabric matching the fold of your bag). You’ll see that it fits perfectly in the ~21-22″ space between the fold and the selvage, and takes up about 18″ horizontally.  Add a little seam allowance (or don’t), trace, cut, then sew up the seams (the ones you just cut on the plastic bag).  Then you can turn under the raw edges along the handles and opening, serge, serge with piping and rolled edge, or use one of the tutorials for making reversible (you’ll need to cut two bags, obviously).  This takes half a yard of fabric, so depending on the fabric you buy, you can get these for a dollar or two, in more fun, personalized fabric than what the grocery store offers.

Please note that  you should wash and iron your fabric first so it doesn’t shrink AND you should wash your bags frequently especially if they carry meats, etc.

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My friend’s daughter baking with her Hat and Apron

One of the fun little things I like to make is a matching hat and apron set for children, (though I’m making one for a child and an adult right now).  This idea came to me when I was going through some old stuff, and I found my daughter’s old apron. It was from Michaels, a thousand years ago (she’s a Junior in college now!).  I painted on it with puff paints, and it had actually held up pretty well through the years.

I’m the kind of mom that makes the kids help cook, even starting very little.  We had (at the time) a foster child living with us, who loved to help me cook or bake. I’d put on the adult aprons that my daughter and I had made, but of course I had to tie them around him four times and he still managed to trip.  So for his birthday, I decided to make him his own apron.  And just for fun, I was going to throw in a Chef’s hat, cause he would just love that.

The birthday present was a huge success. He loved it, the people on Facebook that saw a picture of it (but not him in it, can’t post pix of him for legal reasons), loved it, and a friend of mine asked me to make one for her daughter. She supplied the fabric.  I found I could get two aprons out of two half-yards, mixing the fabrics up.  This gave me really fun combos of patterns.  And omg can my friend pick out really beautiful fabrics that go so well together!  I could have cut up her whole stash!I had to stop myself at two sets of aprons.

So you’ll see here in the pictures, the “apron/hat set” I’m working on are actually three different sets. Because I’m so disorganized, I failed to take pix of one set all the way through. So I’ve mixed and matched the different photos to show you the complete tutorial. But the premise is the same for all of them, even though one (the flames fabric) is for an adult.




The apron I traced from an existing apron I had.  Then I trimmed it with bias tape. Two packages is adequate for an adult (I use the wider for the adult, and the thinner for the child).  I think I use two packages for the child, too.  I’ll have to come back and edit this after I confirm. I also create a pocket by folding coordinating fabric in half, then trimming to match the edge of the apron. Here is a picture before the neck and waist ties were put on:




The hat is simply a circle and a rectangle, some velcro, and a small bit of bias tape.

I used a 24×7 inch rectangle, and a circle with a circumference of 65″.  That’s a wobbly circle, unfortunately, in the picture you see.  Long strips of velcro are the secret to avoiding sizing…but to to between children and adults, measured my own head, added several inches for overlap, and then used .39 to divide 27 (the distance around my head plus overlap).  I got 72″ circumference.  I then fudged a bit and went with the 24″ diameter circle.  The fluffier the chef’s hat, the better. Right?



You need to fold the circle in half, then notch one corner on the fold.


On the other corner, make a slit about 1/4 of the way towards the notch you just made.  The notch is for matching up center later (where my finger is pointing in the picture. The slit is the opening for overlap for velcro.






You’ll wrap the bias tape over the slit, and sew it down with a line of stitches about 1/4″  in from the edge.  I love the way a contrasting thread color looks (even if my stitches get a bit wobbly), but you might like something that blends in better. It’s all about your taste.




Are you familiar with gathering fabric using long basting stitches? If not, there are probably tutorials out there. Simply set your stitch length to as long as it will go, leave tension the same as it was.  Make two runs around the outside of the circle, staring and stopping on eat side of the slit. The first pass should be at 5/8 seem allowance, the next pass inside this, I usually do “presser  foot distance” inside the line. Here’s a terrible picture with light thread, so sue me.

You can see the thread line on the right side of the fabric, and how it’s already starting to gather.

You might also notice that these instructions are out of order.  You can do it either way, apply binding first or second. Up to you.

Back to your band. I put iron-on interfacing on the wrong side, then fold right sides together, and serge both short ends.  Leave the long end open, and obviously leave the folded end alone.  Turn it right side out, and push out the corners with scissor points, a pencil, whatever you have.

This band is for a different hat…don’t worry.  You aren’t seeing things.






So here I folded the band in half along the long side to find the halfway mark. Then I pinned it to the notch on the circle (right sides together).  The bias-tape covered slit then gets pinned on either end. I let the bias tape hang over, then fold them over after serging. Notice how the gathering is already happening. Once the three pins are in, pull the bobbin threads on one end, gathering the fabric gently and pushing it down the bobbin thread to evenly distribute between the pins.  Do this on the other side as well.  Once  you are happy with the distribution of ruffles, you can pin the circle securely to the band

Then take it to the serger, or stitch it with a 1/2″ seam allowance or more (make sure you cover the basting stitches or you’ll be ripping them out later).


Ok, so here is the nearly finished product. I like to put a row of stitches around the edge of the band so that when it comes out of the wash it stays nice and flat. Also, when you are doing that, catch the circle seam, which helps the hat “stand” up better than it is here in this picture.  I’ll get the real “finished” product pix tonight.





Well, so that’s about it.  What details did I skip? Tons I think.  I’ll have to check my math to explain it better. I did kind of throw out all my calculations and just randomly pick a diameter (mostly cause the cutting board I have has a 12″ radius premeasured).

Once this is done, I’ll get a picture of my friend’s daughter modeling it as well.




Disclaimer: If you want to copy this tutorial, have at it. If you want to sell what you make, have at it.  My idea isn’t original, so I’m not stupid enough to try to claim otherwise. This is just my way of doing it.  Nothing pisses me off more than those who steal ideas and then say “Don’t steal my idea.”  Steal away.

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So I opened up the box. Here’s the contents (minus all the books).  There is an instructional CD and a Quick start guide. I watched the cd and skimmed the quick start

New Machine and Accessories Fresh out of the Box



The operation manual bored me to sleep. Twice.  So we skipped that.

Check out all those accessories! Look up close.


So I had a hat I was making for a friend of mine, and I wanted to embroider his name on the front.  Before I did it “for real” I wanted to give it a test run.  I had another hat which was a “spare” I was making for a different friend…a less picky, more forgiving friend.  So I decided to try my hand at my first embroidery experiment.

I won’t go through all the gory details of how you set up the Brother SE400. I will say it was dead easy. The hoop is the only real pain, and I’m starting to get the hang of it.  It comes with a preloaded bobbin, and the correct embroidery needle installed.

I simply plopped in my machine embroidery thread (Coats and Clark, black), and whizzed through the menu.  My friend’s daughter’s name is Afton, but the machine would only take Afto.  I realized that this is because the hoop is longer than wide, and the words were being sewn left to right, horizontally.  IIRC, there should be a way to rotate these, right?  I looked but couldn’t find it.  I’ll give it more of a search tomorrow.

Anyway – long story short, I simply had to rehoop for the “n.”  The problem with that is trying to get the placement exactly right. WHAT A PAIN.  I bought the bigger hoop, but by then it was too late. In for a penny and all.

So…Here’s some pix of the process:





and the finished product:



That’s all for now!

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If I were organized, this would have been the first blog post.  I’m not. Get used to it.


The name “Sew Messy” is appropriate for me and the way I craft. And live really. 😀

Kitty likes the Chaos of my former Sewing Desk

I’m trying to keep the chaos of my craft room out of the rest of the house, but sometimes it is extremely difficult. Our house doesn’t have a dedicated area for crafting, where I can shut the door and ignore the mess.  Currently my craft room is shared space in the formal living room. The dogs stay in there at night (in their kennels), my son uses that room for his homework, the piano takes up most of the wall space.

This weekend I decided I had to do something about the mess, so I set about to improve the work flow of the room, toss as much as I could, and generally organize that which I had to keep.


I didn’t get very far.

I’ll show you pix here in a minute.  But again, going back to the name.  I am not a Martha.  I don’t have a pristine workspace, perfectly ordered bins for my bobbins and pins.  If I want to find my pins, I walk around barefoot in the craft room!  These blogs that show off their immaculate spaces, dedicated to the “art” of sewing and crafting, drive me crazy.  First of all, we don’t have the space for such things, secondly, I think it puts people off.  I recall making my second ever quilt on a very very badly tuned $15 garage sale sewing machine, in the middle of my living room floor. That quilt is still in use today, nearly 19 years later.  The stuff that comes out of my sewing room is, I have been told, pretty darn cool.  The sewing room itself…not so much.  My methods aren’t textbook, I take short cuts, I cheat all the time.  I don’t pre-wash my fabric all the time; I don’t always iron my seams before going to the next step (sometimes I do, though).  I buy bias tape from the store instead of making my own.  I don’t take gorgeous shots of my precious children wearing my creations using my uber-expensive SLR that I spent two months reading the manual on.  I use my iPhone; I use the flash; I borrow other people’s kids to model (most of mine are grown and out of the house).

It’s just the way it is.

But if you are able to look past all this, you just might enjoy watching what I’m working on, learn a thing or two, teach a thing or two (leave some comments, please!), and hopefully feel good about your OWN cluttered sewing room!  See…I’m just hear to make you feel better about yourself! 😀

So here are some shots of the sewing room..this is IN PROGRESS..not even the before shot (don’t have one…remember: disorganized).

Please don’t call that Hoarders TV show and suggest me for next season….

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I was at Walmart the other day, looking for yarn, and happened upon their sewing machine collection. It’s a long story which I might one day share, but I lent/sold my pfaff embroidery machine to the mom of my good friend.  Long story short, it’s not coming home any time soon, nor do I seem to be getting paid for it. I should be irritated, but I know where they live, I could go pick it up if I wanted to. She’s using it, I assume, and I’ll get it back some day.  My friend will track it down.  However, I did need to do some embroidery, so I’d been eye-ing a cheap gap-filler.

I wanted something cheap, that could do fonts, that would also sew button holes with one touch.  The Brother SE400 seemed to fill every check box I had, and it was under $400.  A price I could afford with my Pfaff in limbo. It also has the drop in, horizontal bobbin, which I love.

Check this out, amazon has it for just over 300 and free shipping for Prime members.

I’ve just opened the box and gotten out the manual, so I don’t have a review for it yet.  Some of my first intended projects are personalizing some Aprons that I sell.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

Also, here’s a blog I’ve found BrotherSE400 which appears to have reviews of the machine and accessories. I’ve already ordered the larger hoop.

For the record, I bought the machine from for 349.00, used Ship to Store, and paid about $25.00 in sales tax.


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