Category Archives: tutorials

DIY bow tie five different ways

It’s a fact: bow ties are cool.

group of handmade bow ties

As soon as I introduced the necktie to my online shop, I had people asking me about bow ties. And the same was true when I introduced my four fold necktie pattern! The fact is that bow ties are never going to go out of style.

The good news is my bow tie pattern is now available for sale, and it includes the traditional butterfly style bow and the swanky diamond point bow. The even better news is I’m going to show you three more variations!

Although I am showing them tied here, my pattern is for a freestyle bow tie you tie yourself, not a clip-on or pre-tied tie.

reversible, diamond-point bow tie

variation #1: make it reversible
When it comes to fabric, my motto is more is better. Why choose just one awesome fabric when you can have two? With a reversible bow tie, you can see both fabrics or one or the other, depending on how you tie it!

fabric layout for reversible bow tie

Achieving the look is simple. Your bow tie is in four parts: two short ends and two long ends.

To make your bow tie reversible, all you have to do is cut one set (one short end and one long end) in one fabric, and the other set in a coordinating/contrasting fabric.

If you were feeling really crazy, no reason you couldn’t use four different coordinating fabrics. Wild!

(If you want to make your bow tie reversible AND adjustable ~ instead you’ll cut both short ends in one fabric, and both long ends in the other fabric.)

adjustable bow ties

variation #2: make it adjustable
My bow tie pattern is for a fitted tie, but it is super easy to make it adjustable, if (a) you don’t know the shirt collar size of the wearer or (b) you simply prefer a little flexibility.

First, you’re going to need some hardware. I use this 3-part set, which I purchase from the amazing for a ridiculously low price.

They are sturdy, yet slim, for a comfortable fit underneath a shirt collar.

3 part bow tie hardware

Next you’re going to need to adjust the pattern. All you need to do is add a few inches…add 1″ to the short end, and 5″ to the long end.

The pattern tells you to create a front and a back of the tie by joining one short end to one long end.

For an adjustable tie, instead you will sew the short ends to each other and the long ends to each other (right sides facing, all the way around, leaving the opening at the pointed end of the strap).

bow tie with adjustable strap

You’ll turn each end of the tie right side out, and then fold under the raw ends to wrap around the hardware. The hardware joins the two completed ends together. That’s it!

variation #3: make it “batwing”
In addition to the traditional butterfly tip and the diamond point tip, you can go for the ultra modern batwing bow tie.

(I have no idea why it is called this. It is clearly not shaped like any part of a bat, nor any type of wing, as far as I can tell. EDIT: apparently it is so-called because it resembles the shape of a cricket bat!)

Adjusting the pattern to make this style of tie is ridiculously easy!

adjusting the bow tie pattern to make it batwing style

Start with your butterfly bow tie pattern. Take a ruler and draw a straight line from the widest part of the curve of the bow, straight out towards the end of the bow.

The line will cut off the very point of the tip of the bow, and that’s okay.

batwing bow tie pattern

This will form a paddle sort of shape, which is what you want to form the “batwing” bow. There is no curve in this style of bow tie, which gives it its modern silhouette.

With so many variations, you can make a bow tie for every well-dressed gentleman you know (or lady…lots of ladies in my classes make bow ties for themselves!), and they can all be different.

Click here to get the pattern and start sewing tonight! As always, send me pictures of the ones you make, I would love to see them!



make a mini jewelry roll with an expandable pocket

Good news sewing friends…I’m going to be introducing each of the ten patterns from my 2yards 10gifts e-book individually! First up, the mini jewelry roll.

This tutorial is a variation on the pattern, and shows you how to add a deep expandable pocket, to accommodate jewelry like wide, cuff-style bracelets. Check it out:

add an accordion pocket to your mini jewelry roll

The jewelry roll has long been the most popular item at Holland Cox, and since I designed it in 2008, I have made literally hundreds of them for friends, my best customers, and dozens and dozens of bridal parties.

I designed the mini version to be a stash-buster (you only need one fat quarter), so it is just as cute, but easier to make!

the mini jewelry roll compared to the regular size

I think they make such great gifts because they are so pretty and practical, yet not the sort of thing people usually buy for themselves.

This tutorial is all about the mini jewelry roll, but there’s no reason you couldn’t apply the same technique to the regular size (or some other thing with a zipper pocket!). The pattern for the regular size jewelry roll was published in One Yard Wonders: 101 Sewing Projects from Storey Publishing in 2009.

step one: alter the pattern

step one: alter the pattern
Click here to purchase the mini jewelry roll pattern. The pattern includes directions for two pockets, and this tutorial will show you how to make the bottom zipper pocket expandable.

Add 2 and 1/8″ to each side of the pocket pattern piece before you cut the fabric and interfacing for the bottom pocket. Prepare the pocket just as the directions indicate.

pin the zipper in place

step two: pin the zipper in place
Make sure your zipper stops are an equal distance from each raw edge, and slip the zipper tape in between the folded edges of the front and back of the pocket.

Take a moment to make sure the raw ends of the zipper tape are tucked inside, and then pin in place.

topstitch the zipper in place

step three: topstitch the zipper
Using the zipper foot on your machine, stitch the zipper in place by sewing very close to the folded edge (about a 1/8″ seam allowance), making sure you catch the raw ends of the zipper tape.

Normally those ends would be sewn into the side seams of the jewelry roll, but with the expanded pocket, the ends of your zipper will be exposed. You want them to look neat, don’t you?

mark and stitch fold lines

step four: mark and stitch fold lines
Use tailor’s chalk or a pencil to mark the bottom edge of the completed pocket 1/2″ away from each side. Then measure 2″ away from the first mark, and mark the fabric again.

Stitch through all layers of fabric at the second mark; this will form the outer fold of the expandable pocket.

Start your stitch at the raw edge, and sew towards the zipper. At the very top of the fold, leave the needle down in the fabric. Lift your presser foot, and rotate the fabric to sew in the opposite direction. This way, you get reinforced stitches without any messy thread ends to deal with.

stitch and fold lines

If you like, you can do another stitch along the inner fold, which would be 1″ away from the first chalk mark you made.

fold and press expandable pocket

step five: fold and press
To create the deep folds that make the pocket expandable, fold the pocket so your stitch line matches your first chalk line, and press the pocket carefully.

This will form a 1″ deep pleat, while leaving enough seam allowance at the raw edges to sew the expandable pocket into the jewelry roll.

continue with the jewelry roll directions
This tutorial replaces step five in the pattern directions, so after you press down the folds, continue with step six!

expanded pocket zipped closed

The expandable pocket zips closed quite nicely, even with that large cuff bracelet inside.

The best part is that the expandable pocket doesn’t take much extra time to make, and only a little bit of extra fabric!

The mini jewelry roll pattern calls for one fat quarter, but with the larger pocket you’ll probably need another half fat quarter. If you had three fat quarters you could easily make two mini jewelry rolls with the expandable pocket (surely you know two people who would like such a pretty gift?).

Download the pattern right now, and you can have one of these finished tonight. I know you have two fat quarters’ worth of fabric laying around!

finished jewelry roll with a big fat cuff bracelet inside

Pretty cute Mother’s Day gift, don’t you think?

As always, I’d love to see pictures of the ones you make, whether you choose the expandable pocket or not!


DIY utensil roll for brown bag lunches

I don’t mind telling you I failed spectacularly at keeping my 2013 resolutions, especially the ones about healthy eating. Oops!

But I shall persevere for 2014 nevertheless. Thus, I have vowed to commit to brown bag lunches on the days I teach at the studio. As with all things in my life, my new resolutions have somehow all managed to relate back to sewing.

finished utensil roll

I made this little fabric utensil roll so when I make my salad-in-a-jar (I saw it on Pinterest!) I have something to eat it with. A missing fork is all I’d need as an excuse to buy (delicious, fatty, expensive) takeout instead.

It’s pretty, eco-friendly, and ridiculously easy and fast to make. I made this one in about an hour, including pausing to take pictures for the tutorial!

gather materials for utensil roll

step one: gather materials
I used a lightweight denim for the self (the outside), a bright magenta cotton for the lining, and a pretty floral print for the pocket.

For the self and lining, cut two rectangles 9.75″ x 14.75″

For the pocket, cut one rectangle 9.75″ x 13.75″

For the strap, cut one strip of fabric 22″ x 3″

I also used lightweight, woven fusible interfacing (Pellon SF 101) on the back of each piece except for the strap. Some people wouldn’t bother with interfacing for such a small thing, but I pretty much use it on everything.

mark lines for silverware slots

step 2: make the pocket
After applying interfacing, fold the pocket in half lengthwise, so it is still 9.75″ wide and about 7″ tall. Iron it flat to form a sharp fold along the top edge.

Mark the stitch lines for the utensil slots by measuring 2.5″ from the left raw edge, and then 2″ from the first mark.

press creases into fabric to use as a stitching guide

I chose to have 3 slots in my utensil roll, (2 for flatware and one big one for a napkin or condiments) but you could make as many as you like.

To ensure straight lines when you stitch in the slots, use a hot steamy iron to crease the fabric where you intend to stitch.

stitched slots for utensils

Pin the pressed pocket to the lining, with the raw edges along the bottom matching. Stitch the pocket to the lining along the creases you made, forming the slots for your utensils.

Start from the raw edge and sew towards the folded edge of the pocket. At the very top of the fold, leave the needle down in the fabric. Lift your presser foot and rotate the fabric to sew in the opposite direction. This way, you get reinforced stitches without any messy thread ends to deal with.

sew in a 45 degree angle at one end

step three: make the strap
This sort of strap is a favorite of mine, but if this seems too fussy there’s no reason you couldn’t use a ribbon for this job, or even a bit of elastic and a button.

To make the strap, fold the strip of fabric in half lengthwise, with right sides together, matching the raw edges. Sew the long edge together with a 3/8″ seam allowance, and sew one short end at a 45 degree angle. Leave the other short end open.

Make sure to backstitch at the open end, and reinforce the points of the angled end.

trim off the seam allowance

Trim off most of the seam allowance on the strap, and then turn it right side out.

A little something I learned turning narrow tubes (like the straps on a bow tie)…it’s actually easier to start from the pointed end than from the open end! Turn it in on itself using your thumb, and then push the point towards the open end of the tube using something with a blunt tip, like a pencil eraser or the end of a paintbrush. Works every time!

attach strap to right side of pocket

Press the strap carefully, making sure the seam stays to one edge. Attach the raw edge to the right side of the prepared pocket with a zig zag stitch, about 5″ up from the raw bottom edge.

If you want to use an elastic loop and a button, attach the loop of elastic here instead (maybe 2″ long?) and sew a button on the right side of the self, the same distance from the bottom, but about 1″ away from the edge.

leave an opening

step four: sew it all together!
Sew the self and the prepared lining together with right sides facing, using a 3/8″ seam allowance.

Leave a 3″ hole at the top, and make sure to backstitch at the beginning and end of this hole, and at all four corners. Take care not to sew over the strap!

I like to reinforce all seams, by sewing right on top of them with a slightly longer stitch.

trim the corners

Trim the seam allowance in the corners to a point, and turn the whole thing right side out.

Do a little finger pressing to flatten out the seams, and to make sure the corners are flat and square, and that the raw edges of the hole are tucked inside.

Press carefully.

finishing stitches

The last step is to close up the hole! If you’re feeling fancy, use a blind stitch to close the hole invisibly. I simply topstitched close to the edge, with a backstitch at both ends.

I also decided to stitch in the fold line, about 4.5″ away from the finished top. This forms a flap that will cover your utensils and prevent anything from falling out once everything is all rolled up.

fold flap down to cover utensils

That’s it! Pack your lunch and your fork, knife, chopsticks, whatever! Put a napkin or little condiment packs or a bag of tea or anything you like in the large pocket.

Feel smug that you are eating healthy, being eco-conscious AND conquering your new year’s resolutions all at once!

finished and rolled up

As always, I’d love to see the ones you make.


in bloom year round

Fabric flowers are so great – they are fun to make, easy to wear, and add color and interest to your outfit. I’ve used them on several handbags from my main collections, including the zaria envelope clutch, the oasis wristlet, and the idyllic envelope clutch:

fabric flower embellishments on the idyllic envelope clutch

They are also, of course, awesome to wear on your person – on a lapel or in your hair, or even instead of jewelry.

I’ve been meaning to write a tutorial on how to make fabric flowers forever, but never got around to it because there are only a million ways to make fabric flowers.

But, I have found my focus, and this tutorial is going to focus on only ONE technique: turning a ruffle into a flower. To illustrate the several different looks you can get with this one technique, I’m going to make flower embellishments for three items from my 2 Yards 10 Gifts e-book: the obi belt, the envelope clutch, and the bedroom slippers.

raw materials for making fabric flowers

step one: choose your materials
Literally any type of fabric will work for this. In fact, the more varied your materials the more awesome your final product will look, especially if you’re going to group a bunch of flowers together.

I chose a cotton print, cotton jersey, linen, wool, and of course (my favorite), double faced satin ribbon. Nothing beats fancy ribbon for pretty shine and saturated color!

I cut strips 20″ long, but this is not something that requires precise measurements. Don’t fret, there’s no wrong way to do this!

strips of fabric

step two: finish the edge
How do you want the edges of your flower petals to look? Some fabrics look awesome with a raw edge, both those that don’t unravel (felt, leather, jersey), and those that fray very prettily (linen, silk).

What about finishing off the edge with a narrow hem, or with bias tape, or a serger stitch? You can also fold the fabric to get a soft edge, or press the fold to get a sharp, creased edge. There are so many options!

trim the edge to create a shaped petal

With raw edges, you can also cut shapes into them, if you want more traditional looking “petals.” I cut my red wool into rounded petals, and my green cotton jersey into pointed ones. To do this, just fold the strip of fabric accordion-style, and then trim off one raw edge however you like.

ruffles to be shaped into flowers

step three: make the ruffles
The best way to make a ruffle is to run a long basting stitch down one edge of the fabric, and tug gently on one bobbin thread until your fabric gathers the way you like.

Your basting stitch can be right up against the edge, right down the middle (for a tuxedo style ruffle, like the black linen above), or somewhere in between, depending on the effect you like.

cotton jersey flower
cotton jersey flower with folded edge and a fabric knot center

step four: twist & stitch
All that’s left to do is twist your ruffle into a concentric circle, and stitch it together by hand, so that it stays in a flower shape. That’s it!

You may want to use a few pins to hold your flower together while you sew it. You may want to cut a small circle of some sturdy fabric to use as a base for your flower (felt is great for this), but these are both optional.

fabric flowers on an obi belt

Sometimes the flowers won’t need anything in the center; sometimes you might want to add a little something, like a button or a bead (or several…or both!).

Sometimes I’ll use a smaller flower as the center of a larger one. Or sometimes I’ll use a small bit of ribbon or other trim and tie it into a knot to form the center.

cotton and satin fabric flower

The last step is to figure out how to attach your flower! If you want to wear it lots of different ways, sew a pin backing on to the back. If you’d like to wear them in your hair, sew on a hair clip, bobby pin, or hair comb. Or, just sew the fabric directly onto the item!

gigantic red wool flower for bedroom slippers

As always, I’d love to see pictures of your flowers, and how you plan to wear them!





the easy way to sew a narrow hem

Be honest now…how many sewing projects do you have that are nearly finished…except for the hem?

Yeah, hemming is a pain. Especially when you need a really tiny one. Well guess what friends, I’m going to show you an easy way to do a tiny, narrow hem (without needing a fancy presser foot)! I’ll use a simple pocket square as an example, but you can use this technique on anything.

3 pocket squares with a narrow hem

I know there’s probably tons of tutorials online on how to do this, but here’s why mine is going to be better: I’m going to show you how to deal with the corners.

This whole process uses up about 5/8″ of fabric, so make sure you have 5/8″ hem allowance on whatever it is you’re hemming. For example, if you want a 12″ square handkerchief, cut a piece of fabric that is 13 and 1/4″ square (12 inches + 5/8″ on each side).

baste 3/8" away from raw edge

step one: baste
Choose the longest straight stitch on your machine, and baste along the raw edge using a 3/8″ seam allowance. Go ahead and let the stitches cross at the corners.

You probably want to use matching thread for every step, just in case your basting stitch ends up showing a tiny bit in the end. You don’t want to have to pick it out after the fact!

fold along basting stitch and press

step two: fold & press
Fold the fabric towards the wrong side along the basting stitch, and press with a hot iron. The basting stitch serves as a crease in the fabric, making folding precisely and evenly much, much easier.

If you do not baste first, you will be spending triple the amount of time at your ironing board, trying to get an exact 3/8″ hem, trying to keep the fold straight, and trying not to burn your fingers.

It seems like you’re adding an extra step, but trust me, basting first actually saves you time!

stitch 1/8" away from fold

step three: stitch
Now go back to a regular length stitch. Sew down the folds you made in step 2 by stitching very close to your basting stitch…no more than 1/8″ away.

At the corners, your stitches should go all the way to the edges. When you turn the corner, lift up the 3/8″ hem you pressed down in step 2, and start your next stitch underneath it. This prevents the corners from getting too bulky, and makes step 4 easier.

trim close to stitch

step four: trim
Trim off the seam allowance, cutting really close to your stitch from step 3. Just like the basting stitch serves as your guide for folding and pressing, your second stitch serves as your guide for this super-close trim.

I like to fold the seam allowance away from the body while I trim; you want to be very careful to avoid snipping into the body of whatever you’re hemming.

fold and press again

step five: fold & press again
Next, you will fold towards the wrong side along the trimmed edge, and press with a hot iron. But this time, since you’ve trimmed away the excess, your fold will be a tiny 1/4″!

Without those first two stitches, making this final fold an even 1/4″ would be unpleasant and time consuming. There would be burnt fingers for sure, possibly also unrepeatable swear words.

This is your final fold. Can you believe we’re almost done? There’s only one more stitch to do. Now, how to achieve flawless, flat corners?

The secret is two-fold. First, you’ll have to trim again.

snip away corners

step six: trim again
After folding and pressing in step 5, open up the fold at the corners, and cut off the very tip of the inside corner at a 45 degree angle.

The line marked in the image in step 5 shows where to trim; the image above shows the corner after it’s been trimmed. That tiny snip makes a big difference – you’re actually eliminating two layers of fabric, but only in the spot your needle will be piercing the fabric…so the rest of the corner lies flat, and no raw edges peek out.

pin corners before stitching

step seven: stitch again…but pin first
My sewing students will tell you, I do not encourage over-pinning. I’ll take pins away from you, if I have to! But here, I really think it’s necessary.

I like to put a single pin at the very end of each side, as shown in the image above.

You can trim diligently. You can press perfectly. But that fold is still really tiny; it wants to flatten out and cause you trouble. A pin will keep that from happening! Leave it in until the last possible moment, when your machine is just a few stitches away from the exact corner.

(Yes, you are going to have to slow down to do this right. Slide the pin out a little at a time if you have to.)

Now! For the second secret to making flat, flawless, tiny hems…you need this little gizmo:

hump jumper

I have no idea what this thing is called. It came with my machine, but I’m sure you could find a similar thing in a fabric store.

What it does is trick your presser foot into thinking it is laying flat, when really you’ve got a big lump of fabric (aka a bulky seam/corner) underneath it.

When the presser foot lies flat, then you can stitch cleanly and evenly…no skipped stitches, no thread nests, no bent needles. Hooray!

hump jumper under presser foot

Sew down the final pressed hem until you reach the exact corner (taking out the pin at the very last moment). With the needle down in the fabric, lift the presser foot and turn the fabric, as if you are going to sew down the next side.

Before you start sewing again, slip the gizmo underneath the presser foot as shown above.

The gizmo helps the presser foot lie flat, so that you can sew your first few stitches (over the lumpy corner) without any trouble!

As soon as the presser foot clears the little gizmo, remove it (with the needle down) and then continue sewing along!

By using that thingy to help you sew in one, continuous square, you get flawless, flat corners. Check it out:

perfect narrow hem with perfect corners

Now, what to do with your new skills? You could make pocket squares or handkerchiefs for the gentlemen you know, of course. But how about a set of fancy napkins for Thanksgiving dinner?

This technique is especially helpful to make very narrow hems, and is super handy for curved hems, too. But you can use it for anything! It works on pretty much any weight fabric, too. As always, I want to see pictures of what you make!


tired turtleneck transformed

Too much alliteration? Sorry, I couldn’t resist. Anywho, check out my latest refashion:

finished zip cardigan

Many years ago, I went through an inexplicable turtleneck-loving stage, which ended suddenly and with even less explanation.  These days I can’t stand wearing turtlenecks, but I hate being cold even more.

The obvious solution is to turn those turtlenecks into something wearable, something I can layer to keep me warm!

materials needed

step one: gather supplies
Besides your sewing machine and basic sewing supplies, you will need three things:

1. the turtleneck. One you’re not wearing, or that you’re willing to experiment on. Any kind will do, in any weight fabric. Mine is a medium weight, short-sleeved ribbed turtleneck.

2. the trim. I used 2″ wide trim I made myself using a bias tape maker, although it is cut on the crosswise. Bias-cut trim would have probably worked better. If you want a solid color, save yourself some steps and buy a package of extra wide, double-fold bias tape.

3. the zipper. If you want this to function as a true cardigan, you’ll need a separating zipper. I plan on wearing mine at least half zipped all the time, so I don’t care about that.

For the best effect, you’ll want the zipper to reach all the way from end to end. Mine was 23″ and a bit too short, so measure carefully!

chalk line before you cut

step two: mark & cut
Decide where you want the split in your cardi, and mark that line with chalk. I decided for asymmetry, and therefore drew my chalk line a little bit off center. After cutting on this line, I ran a wide zig zag stitch along the raw edges, to prevent the knit from unraveling.

The zig zag was probably not essential because of the rib knit, but with a looser knit it would be critical. Use a serger if you have one (that is not in your closet under other stuff, like mine is).

pin and stitch fabric trim

step three: pin & stitch trim
Pin your bias tape to the front of the cardigan, matching the raw edges, with right sides together (as seen on the right above). Stitch in the first fold using a slightly long straight stitch (as seen on the left above).

use stitch witchery to make it stay without sewing

step four: fold & press trim
Fold your bias tape to the wrong side of the cardi, enclosing the raw edge. Normally, you would stitch in the ditch from the right side, taking care that your stitch catches the folded edge of the bias tape on the wrong side.

But, I didn’t want any stitches showing.  So I cut a skinny strip of stitch witchery, and pinned it inside the fold (see above).

Then, I pressed the trim with a hot steamy iron, taking care not to iron over the pins, even though I used heat-resistant glass head pins. You can very easily leave an impression of the pins in your fabric if you iron over them, even the super-skinny ones. Just take them out as you go, just like when you sew!


pin zipper on top of trim

step five: attach zipper
As a nod to the exposed zipper trend, I decided I wanted the zipper on top of my fabric trim, rather than tucked behind it.

I pinned the zipper tape to the very barest edge of the finished trim, and stitched it down with the tiniest seam allowance I could manage. I decided to use gold topstitching thread, because why not?

use topstitching thread to add contrasting color

Done! A perfect layer for October days that range from the high 40s to the low 70s (seriously, that’s what the weather’s been like around here!).

Obviously this works on any top, not just a turtleneck. But then you wouldn’t get the cool effect at the collar!

You could cut your cardi down the center, or at an angle. If you are super fancy, why not try a curve (in which case you would definitely need trim cut on the bias)?

Try this with any weight turtleneck, anything from a t-shirt to a thick, heavy sweater. Have fun with the color combinations, and look out for zippers with crazy prints on the zipper tape (or stitch them on yourself!).

Send me pictures of the ones you make!




wear it this weekend: nautical cardi refashion

Although September is well under way, around here it’s still a little warm for long sleeves and jackets. It’s the perfect weather for layers, like a nice lightweight cardigan.

nautical inspired t-shirt refashion

You can make this cute nautical style cardigan from a t-shirt, and wear it this weekend! This tutorial is very easily adapted to different weight shirts and different colors.

Why not make two or three? This only took about two hours, which practically counts as instant gratification!

supplies needed for this refashion

gather materials
I used a short sleeved, navy blue t-shirt for this refashion. I wanted a traditional nautical look, plus it’s still too hot for something heavier. But this tutorial works just as well with a sweater, or with a long-sleeved shirt.

You’ll also need 1.25 yards of white grosgrain ribbon (I used 5/8″ wide), 1.25 yards double fold bias tape, and eight 1″ gold buttons.

I recommend using a blunt nosed needle made especially for knits in your sewing machine. A regular sharp needle can snag the fibers in a knit, leading to skipped stitches and other frustrations. Sewing is supposed to be fun!

t-shirt cut down the middle to make a cardi

step one: cut
Cut your shirt in half right down the center front, to turn your shirt into a cardigan. You may want to mark the line first with chalk, to make sure it is perfectly straight.

If you’re making this cardi out of a sweater, run a zig zag stitch down either side of the chalk line before you cut it…it will prevent your sweater from unraveling before you get to the next step!

grosgrain ribbon

step two: apply ribbon detail
Cut your grosgrain ribbon into eight 5″ lengths, one for each button. If you use thinner ribbon and smaller buttons, you might want more than four on each side. It’s all up to you!

To make the plackets, Fold the raw ends of the ribbon towards each other, making a point in the center, so the ribbon forms a little arrow shape.

measure and mark where ribbon should be

Measure and mark on your cardigan where you’d like the ribbon and buttons to appear. Make sure they are evenly spaced, and that the left and right sides of your cardigan match.

Baste the raw edge of the ribbon plackets to the raw edge of the center front of the cardigan.

use bias tape to cover the raw edge

step three: finish the raw edges
Use bias tape to enclose the raw edges of the shirt and ribbon. Narrower tape would work just as well, but might be harder to sew on. Leave a half inch of bias tape at each end.

If you’re doing this refashion with a sweater, you can leave it at that. If the shirt or sweater you’re using is very bulky, you might not want to fold under the edge again (in that case, I would sew all the way around the ribbon in step two above, rather than just baste the raw edge).

fold under and stitch

Otherwise, hide the bias tape by folding under the edge and pressing and stitching it down, 3/8″ from the folded edge. Make sure your ribbons are folded out of the way, so you don’t stitch over them (as seen on the left side of the cardigan above). Tuck the ends of the bias tape under this fold to hide the raw edge.

Then you can sew down the ribbon along the edge of the arrow shape, using matching thread (as seen on the right side of the cardigan above). Make sure to leave your needle down in the fabric when you turn those sharp corners!

gold button detail

step four: sew on the buttons
Use chalk to mark exactly where you want each button to be sewn on (I chose closer to the inner edge than to the pointed end of the ribbon), and then sew them on by hand.

Done! Enjoy your new adorable cardigan, a perfect transition piece from summer to fall!

Obviously you can choose any color shirt, ribbon, and buttons. This would look adorable with a red shirt instead of navy! How about a white lightweight sweater with navy ribbons and silver buttons?

Or you could forgo the traditional red/navy/white nautical look and try something more modern.

As always, I’d love to see pictures of the ones you make!




wear it this weekend: the easiest t-shirt skirt in the world

So, it’s Wednesday. Whether you’re going to the beach for Memorial Day weekend, or planning on settling in for a staycation, you’re going to need something cute to wear. Something fun and summery, yes?

When it’s too hot for jeans, a loose fitting summer skirt is your best friend. I’m going to show you a ridiculously easy way to refashion one from a t-shirt. I promise this is the easiest refashion you will ever do!

finished t-shirt skirt, with a red top and floral obi belt

gather materials
There are honestly only four steps to this refashion. You’ll be done in less than an hour! All you need is a t-shirt, elastic for the waistband, scissors, and your sewing machine. There’s NO hemming on this skirt, you are literally going to make ONE cut, and sew THREE seams.

The first thing you need is a really big t-shirt. Some tips for picking a good one:

1. A large men’s t-shirt (or XL or XXL, whatever) works best. They have a boxy shape, and come in larger sizes. If the shirt around the chest will fit around your hips, you’ve got yourself a winner!

2. Choose one with little to no logos/printing, unless it’s something cool you’d like to feature on your skirt.

3. Choose an awesome color! I chose yellow because “solar power” is everywhere. Just don’t use a white shirt, or you may be flashing your knickers to the world!

Swipe one from anyone you know who hoards big t-shirts, or pick one up at a thrift store, like I did.

cut thrift store shirt off at the sleeves

step one: cut
Cut off the top of the shirt, right at sleeves. With a big enough shirt, this should leave enough fabric to be a knee-length skirt. You’ll use the hem of the shirt as the hem of your new skirt.

1" elastic waistband

step two: make a waistband
Cut a length of elastic for your waistband. I like to use 1″ wide swimsuit elastic, as it is just the right amount of stretchy without being too stiff.

Wrap the elastic around your waist where you’d like the skirt to sit, and overlap the ends 1″. Make sure it’s not too tight, but snug enough to hold your skirt on your body!

Sew the ends together using a zig zag stitch.

ease skirt waistband to fit elastic

step three: pin
Now you have an elastic waistband that is probably significantly smaller than the waistband of your skirt. To make them fit, you’ll have to use what the commercial patterns call an ease stitch.

That means sew a basting stitch (the longest straight stitch on your machine) all the way around the top of your skirt. Do not backstitch, and do not let the stitches meet.

Check out this dress-shirt-to-skirt tutorial for more details on how to pin the elastic to the skirt. Essentially, you will be pulling on the basting threads to gather the fabric of the skirt, to ease it into fitting the elastic.

finished elastic waistband for tshirt skirt

step four: sew
Now that you’re all pinned, sew the skirt to the elastic using a zig zag stitch, right along the top edge. Then fold the fabric over, and stitch it again, so the raw edge of the elastic is inside.

Done! Enjoy your super cute skirt!

A skirt this simple is ripe for variations, of course. How about using 2 or 3 shirts of different colors and color blocking them? How about adding embellishments like fabric flowers? Or perhaps making a maxi skirt version? The possibilities are endless.

As always, I’d love to see pictures of the one you make. Happy Memorial Day!




diy fabric envelopes for valentine’s day

Yes, it’s an utterly made up holiday. But what’s wrong with making up a reason to tell people around you that you care? Nothing. Especially if you do it with something handmade!

These fabric envelopes are an all-purpose gift. Whether you are celebrating February 14 with friends, family, or your sweetheart, you can do it with these pretty keepsake fabric envelopes.

finished fabric envelopes in three fabrics

This is a three-way tutorial, based on three types of fabric: a cotton print, silk dupioni, and thick and fluffy eco felt.

All three make really pretty ways to present your Valentine’s Day gifts, whether they are love letters, a simple greeting, or a gift card.

pattern for your fabric envelopes

step 1: draft your pattern
This pattern is incredibly simple and can be made in pretty much any dimensions. Draw out your pattern on a bit of posterboard or paper you have laying around (newspaper perhaps? magazines from last month?).

Check out the image above. On my pattern, a = 4 inches and b = 8 inches. Make yours anything you like.

For the cotton and silk envelopes, you’ll need to add a seam allowance as well. I like to use a 3/8″ seam allowance, so that’s what I added to each edge.

double faced satin ribbon

step 2: choose a closure
We’re trying to keep this simple, yes? So we’ll need an envelope closure that is easy and attractive. I hate velcro, and snaps are ugly, and making buttonholes is a PITA, so I chose ribbon closures. I have a ton of ribbon, plus it’s so pretty and colorful!

I used grosgrain ribbon to go with the cotton and the felt, and double faced satin to go with the silk dupioni, for a more posh effect.

cut fabric for fabric envelopes

step 3: cut your fabric
Your next step is to cut the fabric. Use your paper pattern to cut one of whatever fabric you’re using. If you are using the cotton print, you’ll need two pieces of fabric, one for the outside and one for the lining.

attach ribbon to right side of flap

step 4: attach the ribbon
For the cotton and silk envelopes, attach one end of the ribbon to the right side of the fabric at the point of the flap.

Make sure the ribbon is laying down on the fabric, with the other end towards the bottom of the envelope.

finished hems on silk envelope

step 5: finish the edges
The next step for the silk envelope is to finish the raw edges. You’ll do this by folding and pressing down (to the wrong side) a narrow hem on all sides, and then stitching it down.

Fold down the tip of the envelope flap before you fold down the sides. I used a 3/8″ hem, but use a bigger one if it’s easier for you. Use a hot steamy iron to get nice sharp creases in your silk, then sew the hems down in matching thread, making sure to catch the ribbon when you sew the tip of the envelope flap.

topstitching on felt envelope

For the felt bag, it doesn’t really matter which side you attach the ribbon, as felt does not have a “right side.” It’s up to you which becomes the right side when you do the topstitching.

I chose to topstitch so that the pointed tip of the envelope flap was visible, so my ribbon ended up being on the wrong side (it wouldn’t matter either way if I used topstitching thread in my bobbin, but I didn’t).

Topstitch along the angled edges of the flap, and along the envelope bottom.

sew self to lining, leaving an opening at the bottom

step 6: sew together
For the cotton envelope, your next step is to sew the lining to the print. Sew all the way around, leaving at least 2″ along the bottom open.

Backstitch at the beginning and end of that opening, and make sure you don’t sew over the ribbon! Trim the corners and then turn it right side out. Iron flat, making sure all the corners and seams lie nice and flat.

how to neatly finish a seam

Now all three envelopes are ready to be finished! Fold the bottom of the envelope to meet the bottom edge of the flap, and then sew along each side.

See the image above for a nice neat way to finish your seams…bring your top thread to the back side of the fabric using a hand needle, and then tie the thread ends together in a knot. It’s nicer looking than backstitching, and just as secure.

The last step is to fold down the envelope flap, and use a hot iron to flatten the crease…remember to use a press cloth when ironing your eco felt!

DIY fabric envelopes three ways

You’re done! Put your love letters or your Starbucks gift cards or your tickets to Hawaii (or whatever) inside your pretty fabric envelopes, and tie them up with the pretty ribbons.

You make these for any holiday of course, not just Valentine’s Day. Stuff the envelope full of cash for a newly wed couple or a college student, or make several as a super-fancy way to deliver invitations to a swank dinner party. Have fun with it, and let me see pictures of the ones you make!


tragic brown cardigan refashioned into something wearable

My new year’s resolution is to finally have the wardrobe of my dreams in 2012. I don’t plan on doing much shopping though…I’m going to refashion what I’ve got into fabulousness, and sew the rest from scratch!

tragic brown cardigan: before

This chocolate brown cardigan is a perfect candidate. How unspeakably dull is this thing? Why would I want to dress like Mr. Rogers (who is definitely a role model in a non-fashion way, though)? What could I have been thinking when I bought something so plain and verging on ugly?

I’ll tell you what I was thinking: I need something versatile. I say it all the time now, and I’m going to keep saying it: basic does not have to be boring.

Obviously, there was a time I did not know this. I mistakenly equated versatile with plain. It was during these dark times that I purchased this tragic and dull cardigan sweater.

Good thing I’ve seen the light, and now I can fix it!

tragic brown cardigan: hideous original buttons

Seriously, what is with these buttons? Not only are they absurdly large, they are a foul mud color! Not even the same chocolately brown as the sweater! Not nice.

Obviously the first step in this refashion is to ditch the fug buttons. I found these pretty golden ones at my local fabric store, and thought they would do nicely:

pretty gold buttons

After cutting off the old buttons, I noticed that their extreme size had stretched out the button holes on the sweater. I didn’t want them to gape open over my new (smaller) buttons, so I knew my next step was to doctor the button holes.

I simply put a few stitches in the top of each button hole from the back side, using matching thread, to make each one about 1/4″ smaller.

cardigan button holes, before and after surgery

Just changing out the buttons made such a big difference; I could have stopped there. But the cardigan still felt unfinished to me. It was still too dull to be something I would want to wear on purpose.

So I asked myself: what would “versatile” really look like? Not in the abstract, but in terms of what I actually wear or what I want to wear?

Well, it turns out I wear an awful lot of purple, red, and bright apple green. Those are the color shirts I’m most likely to be wearing under this cardigan, so why not add those colors to the cardigan itself?

hand spun yarn

I found this pretty hand spun yarn in my stash, which I believe I purchased from some local knitter at Crafty Bastards two years ago.

I had no idea what I was going to do with it when I bought it, but that’s almost always how it is with me. I decided to sew it onto the button placket and neckline of my cardigan in two long lines.

I used a very long and very narrow zig zag stitch to sew the yarn in place. I also put a new, blunt-nosed needle (especially for knits) in my machine. Sharper needles meant for woven fabrics can snag your knit fabrics; it’s especially important to avoid that when you’re topstitching on knits, like I did here.

cardigan with new yarn accents

Tragedy averted! My finished cardigan is interesting, colorful, versatile, and most importantly, something I actually want to wear, rather than something I just throw on because I don’t have anything else.

Shouldn’t every item in your wardrobe be like that?

brown cardigan: tragedy averted!

I wore this sweater yesterday with a purple shirt underneath it, and got lots of compliments! More importantly, I felt really great in it…like myself. Before, it felt purely utilitarian – just another layer to put on because it was a bit cold outside. Now it’s something I want to wear, and feel good wearing.

That feeling is the difference between just wearing clothes, having a style all your own.

The whole process took me about an hour. What do you have in your closet that only needs a bit of attention to turn into something you love?