Tips & Tutorials

Sewing and pattern tutorials by fabric & flowers | Sonia Spence

Tutorial – Adding a Zip Pull using Mini Macarons

Tutorial – Adding a Zip Pull using Mini Macarons

Hello there! Well, this morning I’ve just finished off a zip pull – one of those fantastic 5-10min project that makes you feel so happy with the end result,  that I just had to hop on and share it with you!

Tutorial - how to add zipper pulls to the (Not So) Little Zippy Pouch using mini macarons by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence

A little while ago, I’d ordered a few things from the Rose Garden Patchwork (a new-to-me online shop) which specialises in Japanese fabrics.  Obviously, I’d ordered a couple of fat quarters (!) but also added to my basket these Mini Macaron’s: they are like buttons that you can cover with fabric but without the shank.  So you can place them together to cover the end of zip-tabs….I’d never seen them before and really wanted to have a play with them!

Once I’d finished my Not So Little Zippy Pouch, I thought a zipper pull would add the perfect finished touch – I don’t know why, but they always seem to make it feel nicer when you open the pouch?!

To make a zipper pull, you will need;

  • 2 macaron covers – I used 24mm and they come in sets of 6
  • 2 pieces of fabric, minimum 1.5″ square for zipper pulls
  • 1 piece of fabric, 0.75″ wide by 2″ long for zipper pull tab
  • Scrap piece of fabric
  • Needle & thread

To start, cut two circles bigger than the size of the macaron – I used the bottom of a large thread spool to draw a circle 1.5″ wide.

Take some thread and, starting on the right side of the fabric, do a running stitch around the edge of the fabric, until you reach your starting point. Place the macaron dome side down in the middle of your fabric and gently start to pull the threads together gathering the fabric up so that it is tight over the macaron. Knot your thread to secure. If you feel that the fabric is not tight enough, I found completing a second round of running stitch and securing it helped to solve this. Repeat for the remaining macaron. Set aside.

Taking the zipper pull tab, fold the fabric in half width-ways, wrong sides together. Finger press before folding the outside edges in towards the centre. Finger press again and keep in place with a couple of pins.

Tutorial - how to add zipper pulls to the (Not So) Little Zippy Pouch by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence

Place a scrap piece of fabric under your machine needle – we are going to use this to help feed our tiny little zipper pull tab through the machine (these are sometimes called leaders/enders) as the fabric is so narrow it can easily be eaten by the machine/not feed through properly.

Complete a few stitches on the scrap piece of fabric, and stop just before you reach the end of the fabric. Lift the presser foot to place one end of the zipper tab pull under the piece of scrap fabric – I tried to line up the centre of the tab pull with the needle. Place the presser foot back down, and sewing slowly continue stitching – because the zipper tab is quite narrow, you may find that the scrap fabric moves and the zipper tab pull comes out from underneath. If this happens, lift the presser foot and re-arrange.

Take your zipper tab pull, and snipping off the scrap fabric, thread it through the end of your zipper pull. Set aside.

Tutorial - how to add zipper pulls to the (Not So) Little Zippy Pouch by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence

Place two covered macaron pieces wrong sides together. Holding in place, begin hand-stitching (I use ladder stitch) around the outside to join them together, stopping when you are 1″ from where you started.

Squeeze the opposite sides together slightly to help open up the gap, and gently push the zipper tab pull ends inside until you reach the desired length (I pushed them nearly all the way in!).  If you are struggling to get the ends in, you can use sharp scissors to help encourage them!

Holding everything in position, secure in place, stitching through the zipper pull tab a few times before going on to close the gap.  

And ta-dah! We’re all done! I hope you’ve found this useful if you’ve not made covered buttons/zipper pulls before. I had so much fun making this, that I think I’ll be adding them to lots more pouches in the future! And don’t forget, if you’d like your own (Not So) Little Zippy pouch, do check out the pattern here!

See you soon,

S x

Today’s sky::: slightly cloudy, but finally some sunshine!!!

If you’ve enjoyed this post, please do sign-up to my newsletter to have updates and news sent to your inbox. And to see my patterns you can check out my Etsy shop here.

My favourite must-have sewing tools

My favourite must-have sewing tools

NOTE: this post may contain affiliate links. It will not cost you any money if you click on them and just means that I get a small commission for recommending it, which helps to keep the blog running. Thank you.

Did you see the #greatbritishquilter event that happened over on Instagram during September? It runs for the whole month and is organised by Sarah Ashford Studio and Very Kerry Berry. It’s a great way of getting to know/find other quilters, and there are prompts for what to post each day to help everyone get to know one another. By the end of the month, you will most likely have a longer wish-list of fabrics/patterns and projects than you started out with, and more friends too!

My favourite 5 must have sewing tools by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence

The prompt for one of the days’ was ‘flatlay‘ – making an arrangement of items to tell a story and taking a picture from above. I chose some of my favourite sewing tools and I thought you guys might be interested in hearing about them too?! Although not an exhaustive list by any means, these have become my favourite tools over time!

1. Needles, Pins and Clips!

Needles

It probably goes without saying that, as a Sewist, a needle is one of the most important tools that you can have! In my humble opinion, I think needles are very much a personal choice dependant on your own sewing technique and preferred ‘feel’ of a needle. For hand-sewing, after trial and error, my weapon of choice is an Applique Needle No. 10. I have packs of gold-eye and black gold needles, but will normally pick the gold-eye needles as I find them a good length to work with and they glide nicely through the fabric. Sometimes, if I’m doing very fine applique work I will use shorter applique needle as it makes me feel more in control of the sewing (why, I don’t know, but there you go!). I’ve heard great things about Tulip Needles but haven’t yet tried them, I’ll let you know if I do!

My 5 must have sewing tools - Clip'n'pincushion by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence

Pins

Although I have some decorative pins which are useful when I want to be able to see them on the fabric (or take pretty pictures!) I mostly use dress-maker pins: they are made of stainless steel and quite fine so don’t tend to mark the fabric too much – which also means that you can leave the pins in until the last minute when sewing on the machine to keep the seams together. The one downside is that they don’t have a glass head on them so you do have to keep an eye on them so that none go missing! They are also good value for money in comparison to some of the prettier pins that you can get. Mine are by Prym but I found some similar ones here.

My 5 must have sewing tools by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence

Wonder Clips

These clips have so many uses! I first got them when I started bag-making as they’re brilliant for holding thick layers of fabric together, or fabrics that you don’t want to mark with pin-pricks such as laminate, or waxed cotton. They’re also handy for holding all the pieces of a block together, keeping pattern pieces together……..You can read about how these little clips inspired the Clip’n’Pincushion here.

3. Seam Ripper

A good seam ripper is essential in my sewing room as it gets a lot of use!!!! After years of using the standard version, I picked up a Seam Fix seam ripper at a quilt show and was amazed at what a difference it makes! The bigger handle is ergonomic making it really comfortable to use, the blade is sharper and – my favourite bit! – you run the rubber end over the stitch line that you’ve just ripped and it pulls out all the stray ends of cotton that are left behind and makes the needle holes virtually disappear. It’s magic I tell you!!!

My favourite 5 must have sewing tools by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence

I also find a seam ripper very useful for holding fabric together when sewing them on a machine as the point means that you can grip the fabric right up to the last minute!

4. Small Ruler

I have lots of rulers – mostly acrylic for quilting – and I picked up this little 6″ metal Stanley ruler when I was making curtains for turning hems over. I’ve always had a seam gauge ruler but to be honest, I’ve never been a big fan of them: the little orange marker tends to move quite easily and the rulers are quite flimsy and seem to bend easily. I wanted something that would be robust, and this little ruler really does the trick. And being solid it doesn’t matter if you catch it with the iron. It’s fine enough that if I’m checking a seam allowance whilst sewing on the machine I can get this right in where I need to. And as an added bonus, you can also use it as a bit of a pressing tool for folding a crease into fabric if there’s nothing else to hand! I picked mine up at a DIY store.

5. Scissors

It goes without saying that these are pretty important in a sewing room! A small pair of sharp scissors/snips are essential for trimming all the threads as you go, but not necessary right from the get-go. Fabric cutting scissors are also a must, but quite a personal choice I think in terms of what feels right. I have a pair of Ernst & Wright stainless steel scissors which are beautiful and cut really well. But. I find them really heavy, so if I’m cutting out a big project my hands end up aching. A few years ago now, I was given these Ring-lock scissors as a Christmas present. They look a bit strange with the holes in the blades but I Love Them! The holes are apparently there as it means they weigh less, and I have to say they have never made my hand ache whilst cutting out large projects, they are brilliantly sharp and so comfortable to use. These have been going strong for maybe seven years now?!

My 5 must have sewing tools by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence

There are lots of different types of scissors on the market – Kerry has a great review here of spring-loaded scissors which is another option if you find your hands struggle with heavy scissors. 

I have to confess, that last year I managed to cut a pin with my beloved scissors and dented the blade. I was devastated and they just wouldn’t cut properly after that. Disaster. And then someone recommended I try a mini scissor sharpener – I wasn’t sure if it would do anything (I was getting ready to buy a new pair of scissors!) but thought it was worth a try. It totally revived my scissors so I would definitely recommend giving it a go if you have a favourite pair of scissors that need rejuvenating!

6. Thread

For quilting, I always use Aurifil thread. I mostly use a 50wt thread as I find it great for hand and machine piecing. I did get a spool of the 80wt thread which is really fine to try for hand-piecing and I have to say it does make the stitches almost invisible. Mostly though, I stick with the Aurifil 50wt (orange spool!) in grey, white and a pale yellow. I was quite surprised by just how handy the pale yellow is, as it blends with a lot of colours really well.

My 5 must have sewing tools by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence

For dress-making and bag making though, I always use a poly-cotton. The thread is stronger and has a little bit of stretch to it, which is very helpful on seams that can be under pressure/being stretched. 

I hope you’ve found this useful – are there any tools that you think I’ve missed off? What are your must haves? 

If you have any questions then please do drop me a line and if you’ve found this post useful and would like to keep in touch, please sign up to my newsletter to keep up to date with news, tutorials and patterns.

 

Thanks, 

S x

Today’s sky::: some blue but quite a lot of grey today!

If you’ve enjoyed this post, please do sign-up to my newsletter to have updates and news sent to your inbox. And to see my patterns you can check out my Etsy shop here.

Sewing the Huxley Bag – a convertible rucksack

Sewing the Huxley Bag – a convertible rucksack

NOTE: this post may contain affiliate links. It will not cost you any money if you click on them and just means that I get a small commission for recommending it, which helps to keep the blog running. Thank you.

A little while ago, I was debating designing a new bag. My messenger bag was threadbare and I’d cut it apart to remove the hardware for my daughters’ bag! I wanted a bag that I could convert from a shoulder/ crossbody bag into a rucksack and although I had come across quite a few – I especially liked this one – they weren’t quite what I wanted. Then I saw the Huxley Bag by Goheen Designs and I was smitten. The idea of using rivets and other hardware seemed like good fun!

Originally, I’d hoped to have it finished in time for Festival of Quilts, but that didn’t quite happen……kids, holidays and the like mean everything’s taken a bit longer. I also decided to take my time to enjoy the making process: the pattern is rated as confident and there are a number of steps to follow – not in a scary way, mind! – and I’d made a few adjustments to it due to the fabric that I was using, which involved a bit more thinking!

I made a large View A and used a waxed cotton (from here) – it has a leather-like look, but is a bit thinner and provides an element of being waterproof which is handy! It meant that I could do without the webbing but had to adapt the pattern – both in terms of width and length (on some strap pieces, the pattern calls for leather to be top stitched to a longer piece of webbing) which required a little bit of planning.

Sewing the Huxley Bag - a convertible rucksack (Goheen Designs) by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence

I also decided to add a zip to the back pocket – I love having a secure place to keep valuables, especially when it’s being used as a messenger bag. I added the zip in between the outer and lining fabric of the back pocket and then secured the ‘free’ zip side straight on to the back piece of the bag with a few lines of stitching. However, I didn’t really read the pattern fully through – schoolgirl error! – and then realised I would have to alter the length of the bike straps in order to make it all look ok! Ah well, if you chose to do this, you can learn from my mistake!

Overall, the pattern is really well written. On first look at the download, it can seem slightly intimidating – there are over 40 pages! However, many of the early pages are used to share tips, and the rest of the pattern takes you through step-by-step in a clear and concise way.

Sewing the Huxley Bag - a convertible rucksack (Goheen Designs) by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence

Sewing Tips

  • If you are using fabric instead of leather, make sure to add a seam allowance to the bag strap guide – I added 1/4″ – and cut two pieces for each strap. Place two pieces wrong side together and sew around, leaving a gap for turning. Turn through and topstitch before proceeding as per the pattern.
  • For fabric straps, cut all pieces at 4″ wide x the length of the pattern piece or webbing (whichever is longest): fold one or both ends over (dependant on if it’s a visible end), fold in half along the length and then fold the edges into the middle. Top stitch around the edges of the strap to secure
  • Check position and length of the bike straps before adding a zip pocket on the back of the bag! They need adding before the zip is sewn on and I altered mine to be a bit shorter so that the straps sit at the top of the pocket and only used one popper.
  • If you want to add a zip to the back pocket, make tabs to go at each end of the zip. There should be at least 1/2″ of fabric at each end for the seam allowance to allow for ease of sewing the bag together (see my tutorial here if you’re not sure how).
  • To mark sewing lines – especially where they are not going to be seen – I found that placing the paper pattern piece on top of the fabric and using a Hera marker would create a guideline (similar to what I would get from creasing) the fabric.
  • Using a zipper foot for sewing the sides (especially where I’d added the zip pocket) and sewing the outer and inner bags together around the top gave a better result, and meant the foot didn’t get pushed out of the way by all the straps. I also found it was less likely to give me skipped stitches where there were lots of layers.
Sewing the Huxley Bag - a convertible rucksack (Goheen Designs) by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence

Tips for accurate placement of rivets & poppers

  • Laying the paper pieces over the fabric, I would push a pin through the guide mark – sometimes this would leave a visible mark that I could then punch, other times I would use a quilting pencil to make it more visible with a dot.
  • Where possible, I folded or layered pieces together so that I could punch holes in all of them at the same time and therefore increase my ‘accuracy’.
  • I used 6mm rivets for this bag, I figured the waxed cotton would be a bit thinner than leather. Largely, this was okay but there were a couple of spots – mostly on the handle at the edge of the bag flap – where slightly longer rivets would have been handy, so next time around I will definitely look at getting some bigger ones!
Sewing the Huxley Bag - a convertible rucksack (Goheen Designs) by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence

I think that covers everything?! Someone on IG asked me if the bag was heavy, which is a really good question and one I had to think about! It makes sense that it would be with all the hardware on it, however, its actually quite tricky to tell. The waxed cotton is a heavier fabric anyway (the bag I made for my daughter weighs probably double the one I’d made out of cotton and wadding!) but having never sewn with leather, I’m not sure how this would compare? So far, all I can really say is that it is a good weight and I’ve not been put off using it!

Overall, I am so happy with the bag! It’s not the biggest rucksack – it’s best to think of it as a shoulder bag that converts into a rucksack – but is perfect for my needs. Having never used hardware before, I feel that it really lifts the finished look to a much more professional level. Not all of my rivets are perfect – in fact, there are a number of things that I could pick on as ‘could be better’ – but I think that’s the makers’ curse, isn’t it?! I’m trying to let these little things go though and concentrate on all the skills I learnt! I can see myself making another in the future, maybe using different fabrics and having made this one, I can see (hope!) that others will go together a lot quicker and easier!

See you soon,

Sx

Today’s sky::: blue skies with the odd cloud

If you’ve enjoyed this post, please do sign-up to my newsletter to have updates and news sent to your inbox. And to see my patterns you can check out my Etsy shop here.

A new Messenger Bag using waxed cotton

A new Messenger Bag using waxed cotton

NOTE: this post may contain affiliate links. It will not cost you any money if you click on them and just means that I get a small commission for recommending it, which helps to keep the blog running. Thank you.

A few years ago now, I made a messenger bag that I have absolutely loved and used so much it’s actually gone thread-bare in parts! 

Messenger bag and tips on sewing with waxed canvas by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence

I’ve been debating making another one for a while because it was such a fun make, and decided one would be perfect for my Girl for her birthday. I also thought I’d have a go at using waxed cotton fabric for the fun of it and, being in the UK, it generally rains a lot here! I found a company which do an antiqued waxed Barbour type fabric and went with the Gold Stone colourway (just in case you’re interested!)

I’d never used waxed cotton before and confess that I was a little nervous beforehand. Not so much about stitching through it but about the build-up of wax on my machine – the fabric feels waxy (obviously!) and I was constantly washing my hands! Some of the stitching was done on my old Singer Featherweight, and I have to say she breezed through the fabric no problems! My Janome also sewed through it okay with no build up. I think the only thing I will have to do is clean the bed of my machine as it does feel a little extra slippy than normal!

Messenger bag and tips on sewing with waxed canvas by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence

Helpful tips for sewing with Waxed Cotton

  • Use a Jeans/Denim sewing needle
  • A slightly longer stitch length (3 or higher)
  • A walking foot really helps with easing fabric through the machine
  • Use clips or pin within the seam allowance to avoid marking the fabric
  • Finger pressing/pressing tools help with flattening seams instead of ironing
  • A polycotton thread worked well, but doesn’t give a huge amount of stitch definition – I’m using a thicker thread next time just to see the difference!
  • Overlocking around the pieces at the beginning will help to avoid any fraying

The pattern is the Messenger Bag by Michelle Patterns and is really well written. Having made it before I knew that it would come together fairly quickly, but did make a couple of adjustments…..

Omitted Interfacing: the waxed cotton is a much thicker fabric than recommended and I also used a cotton duck type fabric for the lining so I chose not to interface any of my pieces. The bag still has a good structure (and was a lot quicker to put together!) so I would probably do the same again! I did still add wadding to the bottom gusset of the bag though as it definitely helps with the shape!

Bag Strap: the recommended strap length is really long, and so I cut one at the width of the fabric – about 58 inches. After cutting off the footing, it came out the perfect length!

Messenger bag and tips on sewing with waxed canvas by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence

Extra Pocket: I added a hidden zip pocket on the back of the bag, before joining the linings together. I love a zipped pocket – somewhere to keep the valuables safe! The trickiest bit is turning the fabric through and getting a crisp edge to the zip opening when pins can’t really be used. I didn’t want to risk ironing it so used a lot of finger pressing and wonder clips to press it into submission!

Button Closure: for a change, I decided to add a button loop closure – the only thing I’d found annoying with my bag was that it wouldn’t always stay fastened up – more to do with my buckle than the design – and I thought a button would look cute! I used a piece of fabric 2″ wide by about 5″ long, folded it in half along the long side, and then pressed the edges into the centre before stitching along the edges to secure and sandwiching between the bag flap pieces.

Messenger bag and tips on sewing with waxed canvas by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence

I am so pleased with how it came out and absolutely looove the look of the waxed cotton – it’s already starting to lose it’s overly waxy feel and almost looks like leather or suede. I’m looking forward to seeing how it wears over time and love that it gives the pattern a more luxurious look. If I’m honest, I’m just a little bit sad that I’ve promised to gift it to my Girl…..I am definitely going to have to make another for myself but for now, I’m already working on a different bag using a darker brown version of waxed cotton. More on that next week hopefully!

S x

Today’s sky::: overcast and cloudy, but occasional blue sky and still warm

A Green Quilt: Green fabric and Green wadding

A Green Quilt: Green fabric and Green wadding

A while ago (longer than I really wish to admit!), Boy 2 asked if he could have a ‘Green Triangle quilt please, Mummy’. Of course, other things kept coming up and although I kept buying green fabrics when I saw them, I didn’t really make much progress!!!

Green Triangle Quilt and Dream Green Wadding by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence

At the beginning of this year though, I decided that now was the time! I pulled out all the fabrics, looked at the notes I’d scribbled myself and set to for a massive chopping session. And then realised that my size measurements were based on when Boy 2 was a toddler, and promptly had to cut a load more!!!! At least it should last him a good while now!!! In all, I cut a total of 205 triangles (for anyone that’s interested, the finished quilt measures 46″ x 68″) using the EZ equilateral 60* triangle which made life so much easier! I cut strips of fabric 5.75″ wide from a FQ and then sub-cut into triangles using the template.

I used a mix of solids and patterns and I think they work quite well together, especially with the patterns allowing me to introduce a few different colours other than just green! Piecing triangles is not too tricky – particularly if you’re using the template as it helps with lining them up – but in joining the rows I did have to let go of my inner perfectionist slightly! I’m not going to pretend that all of my points are perfect, but using lots of pins at each of the joining points certainly helped to get them generally okay!

When it came to quilting, I was a bit stumped, as my wadding roll has run out. I had a look around and came across the Dream Green wadding over at Cotton Patch as an environmentally friendly alternative which  I decided to try out, given the growing concern about the amount of single use plastic that we are generating in our world.
(Note – I realise that the majority of fabrics I’ve used are not environmentally friendly, but I am working on using what I have rather than buying new where I can)

Green Triangle Quilt and initial thought of Dream Green batting

The wadding is made from recycled plastic bottles and for each pack that you buy, it tells you how much has been saved from landfill – this king-size pack is the equivalent of 28 plastic bottles! The wadding has a slightly green tinge to it, with a few streaks and I have to confess that if I was working on a quilt with a lot of white negative space I would be a little bit nervous about it showing through. Having said that, it looks greener when it’s all rolled up, but once it’s a single layer, it’s almost imperceptible. Certainly, one to check before basting the entire quilt though!

Green Triangle Quilt and initial thought of Dream Green batting

The Dream Green has a lovely soft texture to it, doesn’t shed too many fur balls and quilts beautifully. I felt a little bit nervous about it (I’ve always used a cotton batting) but overall I was really impressed. It has a slightly firmer structure to it that the cotton wadding – maybe you can see in the picture above how it stands more upright? Unlike some waddings’ I’ve worked with, there’s no obvious wrong/right side that I could see and the projects that I’ve washed have all come out really well with no greater than expected shrinkage, which is always a good thing!

There are only a couple of things that I’m a bit uncertain about: packaging wise, the wadding is sent in a plastic bag and, because I ordered it online it was sent in a further plastic bag. I couldn’t see any information on the Dream Green leaflet or the packing to say that it’s recyclable, so overall I probably came out as environmentally neutral in making this purchase, which is better than negative but there is maybe still room for improvement?

I also felt that there was some slight stretching of the wadding whilst basting some of my larger quilts, although I need to make a few more projects to confirm for sure. I admit that basting quilts is not something that I’m fantastic at. I baste my quilts on the kitchen floor, taping the edges down and using 505 spray, and noticed that on a couple of larger projects where I’m smoothing the quilt top over the wadding – and admittedly crawling around on top of the quilt! – I’ve ended up with slight ripples (or lettucing?!) around the edges of the wadding, and I’ve wondered if this is due to the synthetic nature of the material? And it doesn’t seem to have the same ‘bounce back’ as the cotton waddings I normally use. Like I mentioned, I’ve been really happy with the quality and feel of the Dream Green and would use it again but for a bigger quilt, I would probably use my normal wadding until I’ve nailed a better technique of basting!

Quilting wise, I used a variegated Aurifil thread and serpentine stitched following the lines of the triangles. It means that even from the back Boy 2 cannot argue about whether or not it is triangle-y enough!!!

Green Triangle Quilt and initial thought of Dream Green batting, aurifil thread

Have any of you used Dream Green? Or have any extra tips on how I can up my basting game?!

S x

Today’s sky:::: cloudy and blue but beautifully warm!