Useful Thing

Vanity Table Headbands

This is a chance to use up all of those partially used cards of trim.

I like to put on a headband while I get ready for my day.  It keeps the hair off of my face while I stand at the sink or sit in front of the mirror. Unfortunately, pre-made headbands are always too loose for me. Instead of settling, I make my own.

I like to make flat headbands with hook and loop closures. I can make them loose or tight depending on where I connect the ends. They are really easy to make and a fun way to use up scraps.

Here’s how:

You’ll need

  • Terry or towel fabric
  • 1 1/2 – 2 yards wide or extra-wide double-fold bias binding such as Wrights or make your own
  • 3/4 in. to 1 1/4 in. sew-on hook and loop tape, such as Velcro
  • Matching thread
  • Any trims that appeal to you – just make sure they can be washed
Cutting is so simple, it is easy to do more than one at a time

Seems obvious, but measure your head first. Write down the measurement and add at least 3 inches. That will be the length of the band.

If you haven’t already, wash and dry the terry cloth.

Lay the terry flat and cut a strip 2 1/2 inches x your chosen length.

Cut a 3 inch strip of hook and loop tape.

I made a semi-circular template with a 2 1/2 inch diameter out of lightweight cardboard, then used it and a fabric marker to mark the headband’s rounded ends. If you want to leave them square or cut free-hand, that’s fine too. Use sharp fabric scissors to cut the ends.

Sew the fuzzy piece of tape (loop) to one end of the top side, 1/2 inch from one end. Sew the rough (hook) piece to the opposite end on the bottom side, one inch from the end.

Sew trim (rickrack, appliques, etc.) to the top side, if desired.

Using your favorite method, sew binding around raw edges. I like to clip the binding in place, but also use steam to help shape it to fit around the curved ends. TIP: You’ll get better results if you iron the kinks out of the binding before working with it.

Close up of hook and loop tape

Done!

Variations:

  • Scale down for kids.
  • Instead of binding, serge the edges with colorful thread.
  • Make a quilted version by sandwiching cotton batting between a top and bottom strip.
  • Make matching headbands with scraps from pajama or bathrobe projects.

This is definitely one of my favorite stash-busting projects.

Have you tried making headbands? Tell me about it!

Ready for a spa day!
Home Dec · Useful Thing

Ironing Board Cover

iron_cover_old
Yuck!

How about a quickie project?

I spend a lot of time with my ironing board.  Lately, the deplorable state of its cover has been getting under my skin.  Why not make a new one?

Making a new cover couldn’t be easier.

First, remove the old one.

Choose a tightly woven, colorfast material for the top.  I pulled a cheerful plaid from my stash.

Using the old cover as a pattern, cut the new material.

Set up the serger for a 2 or 3 thread overcast with the knife up.

iron_stitch_closeup
Three thread overcast encases the drawstring cord.

Lay about 6-8 inches of cord to the right of the fabric edge (next to the foot) and draw to back of machine.

iron_cover_new
Yay!  So much better!

Starting on one of the long sides stitch a wide overcast around the edge, feeding cord through at the same time.  Stop about an inch from where you started sitiching. Leave another 6-8 inches of cord at the end.

Alternately, serge without the cord.  With a tapestry needle, thread the drawstring cord through the overcast stitches.

Pop the new cover on the ironing board and gather in place.

After so many relatively complicated projects, it feels great to have a little instant gratification! This project took about an hour (not counting blogging).

Fashion · Travel · Useful Thing

A Minimalist Bathrobe Part 3: Putting it all Together

robe_cord
Basting the belt loop with my favorite tool – painter’s tape

Once again, I can assert that sewing is a small part of garment construction. Putting the robe pieces together was a relative snap after all of the planning and preparation.

After sewing the pockets and the darts, I was ready to start putting pieces together. In the last post, I tested various seam finishes and landed on flat-felling as the best option. I love the clean lines the enclosed seams make.

Of course, nothing ever goes exactly as planned. I carefully pinned the sleeves in place and was ready to sew them, when I realized that I had pinned them right sides together (flat-felling starts wrong sides together). Rather than pull everything out, I figured it would be fine to have the sleeve cap seams on the inside and use faux-french technique to finish them. It turned out fine, I am happy to report.

robe_inside_sleeve
Did I just do that? Ugh! (Sleeve pinned right sides together)

I also forgot to put a loop in the neck seam for hanging the robe on hooks.  This goof I dealt with by sewing a small reinforced panel with my name tag and loop, then stitching it to the inside back neck. I used a panel because the fabric is so light and fragile that the weight of the whole garment pulling on two small attachment points would quickly lead to holes. Stitching a square creates stability by distributing the load over a larger area. Just for fun, I used the selvage to make the loop.  I just liked the way the thread frayed around the edge – and because it is the selvage, it is very stable.

I really love the finished result. I will be taking my super-light robe not just to the gym, but any time I pack a suitcase for myself.  It’s so light that I could even find room in my carry-on bag.

The whole project became much more of a technique sampler than I intended.  I hope that some of my experiments and fixes inspire you to do something you haven’t tried!

Missed the rest of the series? Start here:A Minimalist Bathrobe Part 1: Making Plaid Work and A Minimalist Bathrobe Part 2: Edge Finish and Seam Experimentation.

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Fashion · Useful Thing

A Minimalist Bathrobe Part 2: Edge Finish and Seam Experimentation

Before I started putting the robe pieces together, I tested out some ideas for seam and edge finishes. I was looking for a good compromise between durability, attractiveness, and lack of bulk.

For the raw edges, I looked at applying binding and different overcast treatments. I wanted to work with supplies I already had, so I wasn’t able to get exact color matches. I chose several bias tapes I thought might work and two colors of nylon serger thread. I liked the way the blue tape looked, but none of the others. I played with different settings on the serger to get a nice decorative edge that completely covered the raw edge (already starting to fray). While both the white and the purple were a nice match for the plaid, only the purple completely covered the edge. The purple is Wooly Nylon and the white is Guetermann’s textured nylon. The wooly fills in the edge much better than the textured. I decided to go with the purple wooly nylon edge because it was best of the less bulky overlock finishes.

 

Since raveling was going to be an issue with the material, I went ahead and finished the raw edges on all of the cut pattern pieces.  I left the edges that were going to be inside a seam unfinished while I decided how to sew them.

Next, I took some more scraps and tested out a few types of seams

Seam 1 – Bound seam

There are a number of options for what to bind the seam with.  I could make my own bias tape out of the robe fabric; I could use seams great; or, I could use a pre-made tape from a package. I already looked through the packages I had on hand when looking at edge finishes and couldn’t find a color I was happy with. Seams great would work, but for something that is going to show, it is too sheer to look right. So I moved on without even testing bound seams.

Next, using my regular sewing machine, I tried out 2 different kinds of enclosed seams.

Seam 2 – Mock French seam

I really like the way this looks from both sides.  Having two rows of stitching makes the seam more durable. The extra weight from having essentially 3 layers of fabric stitched together actually makes the seam more structural. The very lightweight fabric really is pretty shapeless, so the extra stability really helps.

Seam 3 – Flat felled seam

The flat felled seam has the same advantages as the mock french.  The main difference is that it is started with wrong sides together and trimmed and stitched from the right side. Technique aside, it’s slightly less bulky and slightly wider.  I’m familiar with flat felling from other projects, so for me, this is the easiest one to consider.

I have never used the serger for any other seam than a 3 or 4 thread overlock. I knew that I could go that route and it would be fast and easy.  I really wanted to try something else for this project though.

Seam 4 -2 Thread flatlock with serger

This seam is really fun to do.  It’s cool to make what appears to be a plain overcast edge, but then pull the two pieces of fabric apart and have them lay flat with a neat decorative join. I’m glad I tried doing the sample first, though. It just didn’t look as “finished” as the enclosed seams.  It would be really fun to use on a thicker material, like a neoprene or fleece.

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The winner: Flat felled on the regular machine.

BONUS Technique: Covered Cord

I came across a neat idea while I was browsing my copy of Serger Secrets.  One of the examples illustrates a technique where a serger can be used to make decorative covered cord. I probably never would have thought of this on my own, but now that I know about it, I am sure I will find all kinds of ways to use it.  This will definitely be the go-to choice for belt loops.

It’s super simple to do, too.  Just cut a length of gimp or thick thread. I used white crochet thread.

Set up the serger:

  • Needle position: right
  • Stitch length: 1mm
  • Stitch width: as narrow as your machine will go.  Mine is 4.5mm
  • Presser foot: a gimp foot is recommended.  I don’t have one, so I used my cording foot instead.  I think anything with a channel on the sole of the foot would probably work.
  • Thread: decorative thread in the upper looper, all-purpose in the needle
  • Stitch finger: rolled
  • Tension: set for 2 thread rolled edge

Make a few inches of chain.  Pull the chain threads towards the back of the machine. Slip the cord under the presser foot so it feeds through the channel and exits just to the left of the needle. Add the cord to the other threads and hold them together to start. Then just hit the pedal and watch it go. Magic!

Next time: putting it all together.

Find Part 1 here

Fashion · Useful Thing

A Minimalist Bathrobe Part 1: Making Plaid Work

robe_plan
Step one: make a plan

Now that I have a bathing suit that I don’t mind wearing to the gym, I turned my thoughts to making swimming at the gym easier.  When I do a swim, I have to carry a bag with a minimum of a towel, swimwear, shower shoes, bathing cap and toiletries. Ideally, I would have a bathrobe to come and go from the dressing area to the showers.  I never bring one, though, because the ones I have take up too much room in the bag.

Somewhere in my past, I picked up a few yards of soft double-faced cotton.  One side is plaid, the other stripe.  I realized that reversible fabrics don’t necessarily need facings or hemmed edges.  I could use bias tape or a densely stitched overcast to neaten the edges.

I took a pattern for a short, shawl collared robe I have already made and made some modifications. I eliminated the seam allowances and hem length on all of the outer edges.  The original sleeves were slightly puffed 3/4 length, which wasn’t what I wanted. I measured the front and back of the arm opening at the seamline and wrote the numbers on my pattern. Then I looked for a simple, full-length sleeve with the same measurements.  Luckily, the first one I tried was a very close match.  The belt didn’t need a pattern, since it was just a long rectangle.  Although it added a little extra bulk, I thought it was worth it to add patch pockets, a loop at the back of the neck, and belt carriers.

plaidlayout
Fabric pinned to itself and taped to mat. Pattern pieces aligned to match plaid at seams. Plaid sorted!

I knew if I wanted the finished product to look good, I would have to be careful about placing my pattern pieces. There are a few things I do that make this process much easier. Before even starting, I try to choose a symmetric plaid. I think about how I want the plaid to be arranged on the garment, then make the foldline on the stripe I want to run down the center back. I lay out the doubled fabric on a large, gridded cutting mat. If the fabric is slippery or hard to align, I use blue painter’s tape to keep it aligned to the grid.  To make sure the upper and lower edges stay aligned, I pin the bottom and top together on a prominent stripe every few inches or so. It probably goes without saying that I have pre-washed and ironed first. I carefully examine the plaid and make sure the stripes align to the cutting mat’s grid in several places.  They almost never do at first, but a little patience smoothing things out always pays off.  Then I arrange the pattern pieces so they line up on the sides. Commercial patterns almost always mark the waist, so that’s a convenient place to check alignment.  Otherwise, you can use notches to match a horizontal stripe. I usually start with any piece I want to go on the foldine.

After all of that, I cut the front and back. I decided where I wanted the patch pockets to go and cut squares in the right size, again being careful to match the plaid.

In the next post, I will be trying out different types of edge and seam finishes.  See you there!

 

General · Useful Thing

20 Ways to Use Your Scraps

While I wait for a replacement for my leaky iron, I’ve been thinking about how to use what I already have.  Lately I have been pondering what to do with my scraps.

You can always use your scraps to practice on, or rip into strips to tie up your tomatoes. But you love that pattern!  Every time you see it in your stash you sigh and put it back.  It’s just too small.  Or is it?

Here are some things to do with that piece that you may not have thought of:

  1. Bias tape
  2. Quilt squares
  3. Pocket linings
  4. Facings
  5. Doll clothes
  6. Covered buttons
  7. Multi-colored projects
  8. Accent stripes
  9. Color blocking and piecing
  10. Contrast welting
  11. Headbands, barrettes, bows
  12. Luggage tags
  13. Pattern weights
  14. Applique
  15. Patches
  16. Baby clothes
  17. Patches
  18. Napkins  (assemble a mixed set)
  19. Small bags (coin purses, earphone case, etc.)
  20. Sachets for your drawers

Of course, these are just a few possibilities.  What do you do with your scraps?

 

 

Useful Thing

Coupon Wallet with Owls

couponwallet - 6
Pattern has 8 dividers arranged accordion-style for expansion

Here’s a cute quilted coupon organizer with divided sections and a magnetic snap closure.  This pattern is a great choice for playing with color.  You can vary colors on the bias tape, sections, sides, lining and cover.  It’s also a good choice for using up small pieces of pretty fabric that aren’t quite large enough for a major project.

The pattern I used is the Coupon Organizer from iSew.biz.  If you love it, but don’t want to make your own, you can buy finished ones on the iSew etsy page.

The pattern comes as a pdf file which you print yourself.  Instructions are detailed and come with lots of pictures.

Cutting is super simple.  Compared to clothing and home dec, it’s a treat to cut all of your pieces on a small surface!  The other side of the coin is that small pieces make assembly a little fiddly.  If you take your time, you shouldn’t have any problems though.

couponwallet - 1
Interfaced divider pieces and vinyl labels in “curlers”

I opted to hand-write my labels, but there are excellent instructions for making printed versions if you prefer.  You can choose from fabric labels, vinyl tabs with paper, or whatever works for you.  I chose vinyl.  Although I read the clear instructions, somehow I still managed to sew all of my labels on upside down.  Fortunately, I only had to rip out 8 2-inch seams to get back on track! (Yes, I didn’t notice until I finished all of them).

couponwallet - 2
I can’t believe I sewed all 8 labels on backwards!!!

TIP: In order to get a sharp folded edge on the vinyl labels, I pinched the vinyl closed with wonder clips over small pieces of fabric.  Without the fabric to protect it, the vinyl would get imprinted with little divots from the inside of the clips.  I only had to leave them on for a few minutes to get the nice crease I wanted.

If I were to do this again, I would interface the divider pieces before cutting.  That is, just fuse a large rectangle, then cut all of the small rectangles from that.  That would cut the amount of effort for the divider cutting almost in half.  I used Pellon SF101, but I think any midweight interfacing would work.

I would also consider using a spray adhesive to keep the layers of the cover together while quilting.  Even using a walking foot, mine shift a little.

TIP:  Consider using a different color in your bobbin if you are quilting very different top and bottom fabric colors in your quilt sandwich.  I chose pale pink on top and black in the bobbin.

For years I have been toting around my coupons in paper envelopes.  This organizer is a huge improvement.  I already have my coupons in it.  Maybe matching grocery bags next?  Hmmm…..