Friday, September 28, 2012

Add Seam Allowance {when you don't have a pattern or your pattern doesn't have it}

How to add seam allowance to a sewing project if you don't have a pattern or the pattern doesn't have it
I have never sewn from a pre-made pattern before. I don't know whether I'm just stubborn, intrigued by a challenge, or lazy (maybe a bit of all 3) but I've always just tried to envision how something would fit together, and then make it.

In one of my sewing escapades, I created a pattern for something but realized I hadn't accounted for the seam allowance. Oops. If I had made it as-is, it would have ended up too small.

When joining two fabrics together, that important extra allowance of fabric (generally 1/2" all around), prevents your creation from falling apart at the seams. Literally. As well as preventing fraying from occurring right on the joining seam.

If you forget to add seam allowance and realize it after you've cut out your fabric? Move your breakables and tell your husband to exit quickly, because you'll want to punch something.

If you forget to add seam allowance to your pattern before you've cut out your fabric? No problem! Everybody's safe! I have an easy solution.

First let me tell you about my go-to cutting tools.

I love my Fiskars Rotary Cutting Set. It comes with a self-healing mat, rotary cutter and acrylic ruler. If you don't have these three things? Get them. I use them all. the. time.
Fiskars Rotary Cutting Set is essential for any seamstress and comes with a self-healing mat, rotary cutter, and acrylic ruler
The Acrylic ruler is what I use to add and cut my fabric with seam allowance when my pattern doesn't have it. It has little measurement lines that help you see exactly where 1/2 inch is, so you can add it easily before cutting. And it's the perfect straight edge.

Acrylic rulers help measure seam allowance and can be used as a precise straight edge

For something straight, it was simple to add 1/2" and simply cut with the acrylic ruler in place. The white paper is my pattern without seam allowance. With the ruler in place, I added 1/2" on each cutting point.

Place acrylic ruler on top of fabric, adding seam allowance of 1/2 inch to all sides

For adding seam allowance around a curve, you can use a regular ruler, or cloth measuring tape. At the 1/2" mark, go slowly around the curve, making marks directly on your fabric every so often to keep it even, with a disappearing ink pen (this photo is of me adding it to a pattern, but if you've already cut your pattern, write directly on your fabric).

*disappearing ink pens allow you to write on fabric and then blot off color with a damp cloth. They come in very handy!

Add seam allowance to a curve by using a ruler at 1/2 inch and mark spots with pencil

Don't fret if you made your own pattern or bought a pattern that doesn't have seam allowance! It's easy to fix BEFORE you cut...or husbands be warned. :)

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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Thrifted Table Makeover

Makeover a thrifted table to look like newI've been looking for a little table to put next to the couch for many moons. Something small and simple. It's way too easy to drop mail and keys on the coffee table and in three seconds it looks like a big old mess.

As luck would have it, my manager was going to give away this little red table from our after-school program room, so he said I could take it.

Free furniture! And just the kind of table for that little empty spot next to the couch. It would be perfect! But not red.

Eeek gad! That meant another painting project. After updating my dressers and desk I thought I was done with the painting projects already. Not sooo fast.

So off to Home Depot I went for a can of moca brown spray paint.  I already had sandpaper and a tarp from my other furniture makeovers, so I was all set.

After a little elbow grease with the sanding block and a shake, shake, shake of the moca brown spray paint, it was as good as new.

Spray paint an old table to look like new

It took a little finagling to spray the whole thing inside and out (I took the drawer out, knob off and was down on my knees in strange positions as I sprayed them all out on the confined space of my small deck), but was totally worth it.

Fix up a thrifted table with spray paint

I love the dark brown color. I thought about distressing it, but decided just to keep it clean and simple. It now sits perfectly by the side of the couch. And for only the cost of a can of spray paint? Fabulous!

Fixing up thrifted furniture is a cheap alternative to buying new

Looking for new furniture for your house? Before you start shelling out the big bucks, check out the pieces at your local thrift stores. Fixing up thrifted furniture is a cheap alternative to buying new and as you can see, with a little love and spray paint? It can look as good as new!

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Monday, September 24, 2012

Low cost {Big Impact} Gift Idea: Memory Book

Great gift idea on a budget to compile thoughts, memories and advice for someone you love My sister celebrated a big number birthday this year - the big 40 - and was feeling a little less than celebratory about it.

Age has a way of creeping up on you and kicking you in the shorts. I knew just how she felt. I'd been there not long ago myself.

What to give her? No little gift would do. Not for this birthday. I wanted to give her something she would treasure. Something that would lift her up. Something that would make her feel the strength of 40 years, instead of feeling worse for wear from them.

No small order, right??

With finances tight, I didn't have a lot of options so I had to think outside the box. But you know what they say? Some of the best gifts are the ones money can't buy, or in my case, just enough money to buy a memory book to store them in.
Write your memories, advice, what you love about a person and put it in a book for them

My goal: to compile a little book of thoughts for my sister from each member of our family. I decided to help guide each response by giving it some structure.

Structure the format with pre-set questions and/or statements to unify the book

I had each person share the top 3 things they love about her
A favorite memory with her or about her
and advice for the next 40 years

Great gift idea if you're on a budget to compile memories and thoughts of someone you love

It may just be that I have the most wonderful family in the world, and yes, I'm a little biased, but their words were so touching and sincere. Who wouldn't want a book about how much people love you? 

♥ I hope this memory book will be something she'll cherish for years to come.
♥ I hope it brings her comfort when she's feeling down.
♥ I hope it lifts her up when she's not feeling good about herself.
♥ I hope it gives her a fresh perspective when she's lost her way.
♥ I hope it reminds her how much she is loved.
♥ I hope it gives her peace in her past and present and hope in her future.

I don't think a flashy new car or dream vacation can give you that. But it can't hurt, can it? hahaha
For now, I hope it's just what she needed to stare 40 straight in the face and laugh. xoxo

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Friday, September 21, 2012

Add Slip Pockets to a pouch, tote or purse

Slip pockets: Tool Pouch

 I love little "extras" that keep things organized.

Adding slip pockets to the lining of totes, purses or pouches is a great way to keep the quick reach items handy, while keeping them separated from the black hole (aka the rest of your purse "stuff")....I know it's in here somewhere...
Adding slip pockets to my Ruffled Tote was the perfect way to separate my cell phone, keys and pens from the rest of my useless clutter necessities. (I used Method 1 for this purse)

Slip Pockets in Ruffled Tote on one side, zippered pocket on the other

{2 methods}: Adding Slip Pockets to a Pouch, Tote, Purse or Bag

There are a couple useful methods I've used to add slip pockets to purses or pouches. You can also add them to existing totes, if you don't mind stitching showing on the outside.

Method 1: Top Stitch

For this method, cut the fabric for your pocket double the length, fold it over (right sides together) and sew it together, leaving an opening to turn it.

It will create sort of a tube of fabric

With your "tube" right side out, the fold at the top of your slip pocket, and the open section at the bottom -  tucked together, Top Stitch your slip pocket to your lining, leaving the top open for your pockets. Add separating lines by stitching right down the pocket to create as many sections as you need. 

add slip pockets to purses, totes or pouches by folding fabric in half, sewing them together and top stitching to lining
Slip Pocket added to Ruffled Tote purse lining (Top Stitch Method)

Method 2: Flip Up

I used this method for my Tool Pouch. I only used one layer of fabric, but you can sew a "tube" as shown above in Method 1 and follow this to add it to your lining.

Take your tube or one layer of fabric, the length of your slip pocket and lay it upside down, right sides together. Fold in the side seams and stitch just along the bottom.

Add easy slip pockets to lining with this easy method

I also added a small zig-zag stitch to secure the fabric from fraying.

Now flip up your fabric

Pin the sides down (with seams folded under). 

Top stitch just the side seams to secure
Add separating lines through the pocket and lining.

Adding slip pockets to your tote, purse or pouch really is one of the easiest pockets you can add for a bit more organization. Try it, you'll like it! I promise!

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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Thrifted Desk Makeover: sturdy sewing machine table

Thrifted furniture makeover before and after photosDid you check out my Thrifted Dresser Makeovers last week? Even after all of that, I was so not done painting. My mission this summer was to get all the painting done before I headed back to my school-year job, and by golly, I'd get it done if it killed me!

This desk, like my dressers, also has sentimental value. I grew up with this desk. When we moved into our new house in 2nd grade, my dad bought it at an unfinished furniture store. I remember sitting in the garage watching him transform it with bright white paint and sunny yellow nobs. Ah, the memories.

All it needed was a little TLC after all these years. So I hammered the baseboard back in place and got me some pretty paint.

Look for discounted paint for thrifted dressers in Home Depot's Oops Paint SectionI seriously lucked out when I found this Tiffany blue paint for only .50 cents in Home Depot's "Oops" Paint section! Since I didn't have enough for the whole desk, I used blue for the drawers and antique white for the rest (like the dressers).

*Be sure to refer back to the supplies you might need in the painted dressers post before you get started with your own thrifted furniture makeover.

Another quick tip? If you're removing hardware and setting it aside while you paint, make sure to screw your nuts and bolts together on the original knob. Saves time and you won't misplace any of them.

Painting tip: Keep screws, bolts and nuts together when removing hardware


It turns out, this old desk works perfectly as a sewing machine table. Lucky for me, this old style craftsmanship is solid wood, and as sturdy as can be. No wobbles, which is especially important when that old sewing machine motor cranks. Plus it has deep drawers for additional storage. (A crafty girl can't have too much storage!)

Lets have one last look, shall we?
I did, after all, ache like I'd just done yoga for hours after I was finished. Painting requires more squatting muscles than I knew existed. Obviously somebody's out of shape!

Thrifted dresser makeover before photo

Use sturdy thrift furniture for sewing table

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Monday, September 17, 2012

Lined Zipper Pouch - Tool pouch for the Domestic Diva

How to sew a lined zipper pouch for toolsA short time ago my beautiful niece left for her first year of college.

Wait. Wasn't it just yesterday I was in my first year in college? But if I'm still 18, how can she be....??? Dang. Reality bites my friend.

Anywho, as her goodbye party drew near, I wondered what I could give her that was both practical and thoughtful?

I pondered on what things I found I needed once I had flown the nest.

And of all things that came to mind? Tools. After all, a girl's gotta be prepared to deal with whatever comes her way.

Tools for our college student:
Small hammer, retractable tape measure, flashlight, tacky putty & nails to hang pictures, pliers, and screwdrivers (flathead and phillips). I didn't have one, but an Allen wrench may also come in handy for cheap college furniture assembly.

Must have tools for college students

Assembling the Zipper Pouch with Lining and Slip Pockets

Now for the tool bag. The last thing I wanted was to give my niece a big bulky tool pouch to stuff in her over-stuffed car, so I measured the biggest item I had and created an economy sized pattern.

Small sized zipper pouch makes it less bulky

For this lined zipper pouch I cut a piece for slip pockets, two lining pieces, and made the outside two-toned using heavy weight cream and black cotton fabric.

Zipper pouch with two-toned outer fabric, lining and slip pockets

The slip pockets easily fit the tacky putty and flashlight for quick access. I'll be sharing a quick tip on adding slip pockets to your lining, in a future post.

Easy slip pockets can be added to linings for better organization and access

To create the two-toned zipper pouch front, I sewed the two-colored pieces right sides together,

Sew two colors of fabric together for eye-catching pouch exterior

ironed the seams down and top stitched with corresponding thread.

Secure seams with top stitch when sewing two fabrics together for zipper pouch

I referred to the fabulous How to make a lined zippered pouch tutorial from Skip to my Lou. She has a great tutorial showing the sandwich technique for putting linings, zipper and outer layer together.

Sew lined zipper pouch together by sandwiching centered zipper to all pieces

I also decided to add a stenciled design for the front and back, to give it a feminine touch, and added a skinny black ribbon for the zipper head. I'll be posting how I did the freezer paper stencil designs in the next few posts.

Here's the finished lined zipper tool pouch - front and back

Zippered Lined Tool Pouch Completed - front view
Lined Zipper Tool Pouch Front

Paint stencil design on zipper pouch for additional details
Lined Zipper Tool Pouch Back

The zipper pouch lining turned out nicely - the slip pockets help with separation and storage.

Sew easy slip pockets to pouch or tote
Lined Zipper Tool Pouch Inside slip pockets

A relief to see that it all still fit after assembly! hahaha

A tool pouch with all the necessities are a must have for any college student

Okay, so I'm a little fanatical, but I added a little cover for the claw of the hammer. I didn't want my niece to stick her hand in the tool bag and scratch herself. That's what good Aunt's do.

Sew an easy hammer cover to prevent zipper pouch rips or scratches on your hand

My nephew was pretty impressed I fit all those tools inside such a small bag. My point exactly.

Zipper pouch with lining is a great way to store a few necessary tools

All zipped up, full of tools and ready to head off to college with her. If only there was room for one more thing in there...ME! We're all going to miss her but are so excited for her new adventure!♥

Tool pouches with all the necessities are great gifts for college students

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Friday, September 14, 2012

Thrifted Dressers Makeover: before and after

Fix up thrifted furniture with paint and hardware Do you know how long fixing up these thrifted dressers has been on my summer to-do list? Well I'll tell you. Three whole years.

Finally, the weather here in Seattle has actually been good enough to get it done! Bam!

Thrifted dressers makeover: After

These dressers actually have a history. Can you still call them "thrifted" if you swiped them from your parents house? I say yes.

Once upon a time, the one on the left stood in my bedroom and the one on the right, in my sister's room. They were lovely back in the day.

Some time during high school I tried out my crafty skills (or lack thereof) and painted my bright white dresser with cream colored exterior house paint and changed my nobs from bright yellow to dark green with an old can of spray paint I found in the garage. Spiffy.

And there she stood, until I got my real craft on.

Painting thrifted (or in my case, swiped) furniture can completely transform it, so before you go buying new, consider stopping by a thrift shop - they're full of potential. 

Make a list of painting supplies you may need to fix up your thrifted furnitureMake sure you have all the right tools before you start your thrifted furniture makeover project. Home Depot is really helpful if you aren't sure what you need.

And for sure, check out the Oops Paint section at Home Depot. It's paint people bought but didn't want and it's yours at a major discount.

I got this entire gallon of antique white for only $7, marked down from $28!

Before you paint your thrifted furniture, make sure to cover the ground with a tarp or drop cloth
Supplies you might need:
Paint roller                  
Foam brush for details  
Putty to fill in dings
Rags (dry and wet)
Disposable gloves
Old clothes and shoes to paint in (paint'll gettcha!)

Oh, and another thing? Get ready to use your muscles people! There's a lot of crouching, bending, stooping, squatting, and up and down with the paint brushes. I know, I sound like a pathetic couch potato but I was surprised at how tired and sore I was when I was done! For you athletic types, however, it'll be a breeze.

Here's another look at the before and afters. My favorite part of a makeover.

For the hardware on this one, I replaced the old green nobs with antique glass nobs I found at an estate sale last year.♥

Thrifted furniture transformation before and after
Thrifted Dresser - BEFORE on L and AFTER on R

My husband wasn't particular on what hardware he had (as most men may not be), so we spray painted his yellow knobs white. I like the clean look.

Thrift dresser before and after makeover
Thrifted Dresser - BEFORE on L and AFTER on R
And here they sit on either side of our bedroom (sorry, my camera lens isn't wide-angle enough to get them both in the same photo).

I'll admit, I've probably gone a bit too far by making him have a vase full of flowers on his dresser, along with the decorative mirror hanging over it. Poor thing. I may need to get him a manly box or something so he doesn't feel like I've completely taken over. But who are we kidding?

Fixed up thrifted furniture looks like new after makeover

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