Apr 072014

“Oh man! I’d love to win!” wrote Paige Ronchetti of Little Nostalgia about my most recent giveaway, a book titled Sew Easy Designer Pillows, published by House of White Birches. “I only know how to do the most basic pillows (an envelope closure). My style is kind of eclectic, so I’m probably a blend of what’s above [from the blog post: nautical, country, cottage, boho, modern, or whatever.] I’d make some for our bedroom!”

Well, Paige has gotten her wish, since she is the book giveaway winner. Paige, a fellow member of Blogging Business Artisans, began taking interior design classes in 2011, and now offers her design services. Need to revamp one of the rooms in your home? For $150, she will send you some visual recommendations in the form of a mood board. Visit the Design Services page on her Web site, where you can see a sample mood board.

For the rest of you who entered the book drawing but did not win, you can draw inspiration from the following list of my favorite 15 online pillow-sewing tutorials:


Congratulations, Paige! I hope you’ll share with us whatever you design, based on the sample pillow projects found in Sew Easy Designer Pillows.

Random.org© 2014 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

Mar 112014

Last July Edi Royer, one of my fellow teammates from Blogging Business Artisans, sent me one of her laser-engraved wooden buttons. She sent several people buttons, in fact, and we all promised to feature her buttons in one of our handmade projects. Well, July led to August, the start of Iowa’s Destination Imagination season, and August led to September’s team recruiting efforts and updating of the state Web site, along with preparations for conferences in October and November, followed by training workshops in December, January and February. It is now tournament season, and Edi’s button has been waiting all this time to be included in a project. Did I mention previously that my husband and I are retiring from Iowa’s state Board at the end of the season? I think it is time for us to move on to new adventures and to reclaim our personal schedule.

Scroll ButtonBut back to Edi’s button, or should I say buttons? Edi, who lives in Essex, Iowa, is the owner of Memories for Life. She uses her laser engraving equipment for all kinds of creative projects: books with wooden covers, seasonal ornaments, etched glassware, magnets, cuff links, wooden buttons, and much more. Her buttons, however—and how I used the one she sent me—are what this post is about. They are perfect for journal covers, fabric flowers, hair ornaments, purses, jewelry and lots of other creative endeavors.

Button Collage

What did I do with the button I received from Edi? I finally finished my sewing project yesterday, an Atkinson Designs Lollipop Bag that uses Edi’s button instead of a “lollipop flower” as an embellishment for the clutch. More precisely, it is the center of a fabric kanzashi flower.

DSCN8205I had mentioned previously that I am sewing some “warm-up” bags of lesser complexity before I tackle the more detailed patterns that are part of the Bag of the Month Club I joined in January. Here is what I learned from completing the above bag:

1. A good way to use up all of your fusible batting is to butt the ends together and fuse them with Heat Press Batting Together™, an acid-free, almost weightless product from Jeanne Harwood Designs. I paid $7.99 for this product at my local quilt shop, but you may discover a better price online. A roll of this stuff measures 1.5 inches by 15 yards, and a little goes a long way. Let’s face it: interfacing and lining products are expensive, so you may as well save and use all of your scraps. The seam is invisible once you fuse your batting to the fabric.

Fused Batting Collage

2. I learned how to install a zipper by covering the zipper ends with fabric. This is a professional, very clean finish for a bag zipper. Basically, you cut your zipper an inch shorter than the width of your bag, and then cover the ends with folded fabric. Before you insert it into the bag, this is what the zipper looks like.

Zipper with Covered Ends

3. A measuring tape is indispensable when you’re trying to center a design on anything, but a really handy measuring tool called the Dritz Quilting 14-in-1 Measuring Gauge is even better. This two-sided aluminum gadget has all the basic measurements commonly used in sewing, from 1/8 of an inch to 2 inches.

Measuring Gauge

4. I learned how to make a strap for a wristlet using a swivel hook and a D-ring. The instructions in the pattern called for sliding your swivel hook onto the fabric strap, folding over one end by a quarter inch and sliding the other end under the fold, then sewing a straight line to anchor the hook in place. I didn’t like this method because it left the raw edge of the fabric exposed. Instead, I followed the instructions found on Emmaline Bags‘ blog, which involved sewing a rectangle onto the strap. I think this is more secure and also more attractive. I don’t know if you can really see this in my photo, but if you click on the photo below, you can zoom in.

DSCN82075. The above photo shows a fairly flat bag, but Atkinson’s design includes a clever hidden bottom gusset in a contrast fabric that allows the bag to stand up on its own, and to open up wider at the bottom if you need to insert more items in the bag.

Wristlet Clutch Collage

6. Sewing kanzashi flowers is fun, f-u-n, FUN!  What are they, you ask? Kanzashi are ornamental hair flowers made by folding fabric origami-style. They go back to the 1600s and originated in Japan, but today you’ll find them on garments, bridal headpieces, bags, jewelry—pretty much anywhere your imagination leads you. You can learn about many more ways to use kanzashi flowers in Diane Gilleland’s book, Kanzashi in Bloom. A great interview with Diane can be found at This Love Forever in Kanzashi: Flowers in Bloom Interview with Diane Gilleland.

Kanzashi in Bloom

You sew kanzashi flowers a petal at a time by hand, but the process is goof-proof when you use one of Clover’s Kanzashi Flower Makers. I started off by cutting five 3-inch by 3-inch squares of fabric to make five petals, but later I cut another square because I decided I liked six petals better. The green bit of plastic is the Clover Kanzashi Flower Maker. There are many types and sizes from which you can choose. The one below produces a two-inch flower.

Getting Started

I coated my thread with beeswax to keep it from tangling, but also to strengthen the thread and keep it from breaking. I used 24 inches of thread to sew all six petals.


You begin by laying the template onto the right side of the fabric. Then you fold both the fabric and the template in half, and lock it into place. Trim the excess fabric with scissors. You don’t have to be very precise.

Folding & trimming fabric inside template

The template is numbered on both the front and back side. Knot your thread and insert your needle into “1” on the back side (where it says “Start”), come up at “2,” go down at “3,” and continue until you have hit all the numbers and arrive at “12” (“Finish”). This is what the back and front sides of the kanzashi template look like.

Back and front sides of template

Open up the template, remove the fabric, fold it in half with the long stitches on the inside of the fold, and simply pull the thread. A petal forms without any effort at all. In the photos below, you can see what both sides of the fabric look like when you remove it from the template.

Inside and outside of fabric

Leave the petal on the thread because you will use the remainder of the thread to make additional petals. Leave 4 to 6 inches of thread between the end of the previous petal and the one you’re working on, then slide each petal next to the previous one when it is completed.

Petal Assembly

When you have finished all of the petals, insert your needle into a fold from the first petal a few times, and knot off. Sew a button in the center, and you’re done!

Finished Flower

Although this wristlet clutch was fairly simple to sew, I guess I learned quite a bit. Because nearly everything I crochet or paper craft involves adding a flower, you can imagine that I’ll be adding flowers to the things I sew, too. And Edi’s wooden buttons add the perfect final touch!

© 2014 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

Feb 252014

Sitting at the foot of the basement stairs is a box piled high with sewing projects I haven’t gotten around to starting. “What’s that red and black and white stuff?” asked John. “Maybe you need to donate it.”

Pillowcase 1

Well, I guess that wasn’t too subtle a hint that it’s time to work on UFOs (UnFinished Objects). Quite some time ago, I was shopping at Herrschners in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, when I picked up the above fabrics in kit form, intended for a pillowcase. I don’t usually buy my fabrics pre-packaged that way, but I liked the combination and had someone in mind to whom I wanted to give the finished item. The black and white polka dot fabric, incidentally, is “That It Dot” by Michael Miller Fabrics; the black and white floral fabric is “Night and Day” by Robert Kaufman. I have no idea who designed the red marbled fabric, but I’ll bet you can find something similar in just about any quilt shop.

There are many ways to sew a pillowcase, but the method I used to sew this one happens to be Herrschner’s. Sewing a pillowcase is easy—so easy, in fact, that it should be one of the first projects beginning sewers tackle. Pillowcases sew up quickly and easily, always look nice, and are guaranteed to make novices feel like pros. Once you sew your own pillowcase, you won’t want to go back to store-bought ones. Ready to sew along with me?

Getting started

To make a standard sized pillowcase measuring approximately 21 inches by 32 inches, you’ll need:

  • One rotary cutter and cutting mat
  • Steam iron
  • Thread
  • Cotton fabrics, 44-45 inches wide, folded in half and sliced as follows:
    • main fabric at 28 in.
    • cuff fabric at 9-3/4 in.
    • accent fabric at 2-1/2 in.


1. Pin together the right side of cuff fabric to the wrong side of main fabric across the long side. Sew using a ¼-in. seam. Press the seam toward the cuff.

Step 1

2. With wrong sides together, press the accent strip in half, lengthwise. Pin and sew the raw edges of the accent strip to the right side of the cuff’s raw edge with a ¼-in. seam, matching raw edges. I have a quarter-inch presser foot that makes this easy. Press the strip out and away from the cuff.

Step 2

3. Fold the cuff and accent strip toward the right side of the main fabric. Overlap the seam below by about 1/8-in. to ¼-in., and pin in place. You’ll notice, in the first photo, that I didn’t want to eyeball things. I wanted to fold over my cuff at 5-1/8 inches, so I stuck a strip of washi tape on my Dritz Ezy-Hem aluminum iron guide at exactly that point. If you don’t have one of these, just mark a manila file folder at the appropriate distance, and slide that beneath the fabric fold before you iron the cuff down. Topstitch the edge of the accent strip in place, as well as the cuff. Press! You can never use your iron too much when you’re sewing.

Step 3

4. Fold the entire piece in half, right sides together, matching cuff and accent pieces. Trim away the selvages from the long side. The bottom should be even. If not, trim it. Pin and sew using a ¼-in. seam. Zig-zag or overcast the edges of the fabric using a sewing machine or serger to keep the seam from fraying.  In the second photo, I used my overcasting foot and a corresponding stitch on my sewing machine, since I don’t own a serger. Repeat for the bottom seam. Press and turn right side out.

Step 4

You can easily make a pillowcase in one evening, maybe even two pillowcases if you don’t stop to take photos at every stage of sewing. Some other methods of construction can be found at these links:

Tomorrow I will finish a matching second pillowcase. The first one is folded, all ready for gift-giving!

Pillowcase 14

© 2014 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.