Sewing Space Re-do, Phase One: The Awful Truth

One evening, I decided to just sew a quilt block. One little block. Just one. To sew that day. For a little sanity, you know what I’m saying? Sounds harmless. Inconsequential, really. But what happened was a maelstrom of havoc on my sewing area. You see, I was a chronic sew-and-dasher. That means I would sew something and then dash off to the next activity. The chaos that ensued is nothing short of disaster. But back to that block.

I needed my add-a-quarter ruler because the quilt I’m working on is a paper-pieced pattern. I could not find it. Anywhere. So I sat at my sewing machine and looked around at the awful truth. I had reached maximum out-of-control sewing supply and fabric clutter. I had found the proverbial ruler/straw that broke the camel’s back. It was time to take control.

Here, for instance is the inside of my green cupboard:

And here are some other shots of the embarrassing truth:

Anywhere there was a horizontal surface, I would just pile stuff in there. And it kept on growing with each trip to Joanns, each purchase online of the latest fabrics, and each project I never cleaned up after starting. I was deeply ashamed.

So, for the last several days I have been going through every thing. It has been daunting. But finally I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I’ll be back to show you phase II after I dig out a little more.

I found the ruler. But I won’t sew another block until I have a sewing space I can be proud of.

I hope you still love me.


Pincushion Tutorial


I’ve been making these beautiful Liberty of London and milk glass scissor holder pincushions, along with using fun vintage Japanese planters. You might like to go vintaging as much as I do, and if you sew, re-purposing these items as a pincushion is a lot of fun. I’ve made quite a few and thought I’d share about the process. I first watched a YouTube video about up cycling teacups, and while it was very informative, I’ve fine-tuned the process a bit more. I’ve had my hits and misses, so now I feel qualified to share! I also sell these in my Etsy shop at iquiltsewwhatshop


First off, you may have a dish or planter already. Terrific! If not, your first assignment is to find something you love and picture it as a pincushion. Not too big, though. Unless you have a million pins to wrangle. I’ve made some really small ones and they turn out pretty darn cute.

If you have one of these lace-edge milk glass dishes, they hold small lightweight embroidery scissors nicely. Any bigger or heavier ones really don’t work too well.


Now, gather your supplies. You will need:

  • cup, dish, egg cup, small planter…
  • Scissors
  • Strong needle. So not a tiny one and it must have an eye large enough for your button or home dec thread to go through
  • button or home dec thread (I can’t stress this enough)
  • coordinating fabric (enough to cut a circle about 2x the width of your item’s opening
  • tape measure or ruler
  • glue gun and glue sticks
  • poly fiber fill
  • patience 🙂


  1. Measure the opening of your dish


As you can see, this one measures about 3.25 across. Now I go to my kitchen or someplace and start looking for something with a smooth round shape that is about 7″ or so (bigger is OK. Smaller is not). My Fiesta sandwich plate fit the bill for this one.

2. Trace your circular object with pencil on the fabric.


3. Cut the circle out.


You’ll notice I’ve used Liberty of London Tana Lawn. I love using this for pincushions because I find it can really take the tugging that is required to make a really firm “pouf”. Plus, isn’t it just gorgeous?

4. Using a long pice of thread (trust me on this. You want it long…about 20″ long), thread your needle, knot the long end and make a small bite for your first stitch. Then go back and make a stitch over your first one. This provides a good anchor for your first stitch. You are going to need it because your thread will get pulled a lot. When I first started making these, I would pull and sometimes the thread would just come right out. To say the least, it’s very frustrating when that happens, so this anchoring technique helps avoid that. If you aren’t using a lawn, make sure you aren’t too close to the edge. On this example I’m about 1/8 in, but on regular cotton wovens, I would stay at least 1/4″ away from the edge in case of fraying.

5. Start going in and out with your needle, making a running stitch with long-ish stitches. Once you’ve made a few, then you can start stacking them on the needle, making an up-and-down poking motion and pushing the fabric up on your needle. This is a time-saver; not a requirement!

6. Once you’ve gone alll the way around to meet up with your beginning stitch, slightly pull up the thread (making sure you also are pulling your tail through your needle some more so you don’t lose your needle) and you’ll start seeing it form sort of a purse.

7. Start moving the gathers around until they are evenly distributed and then pull up to make a circle….but do not close it! Now we stuff it. Grab a handful of your poly fill and roll it around. This isn’t the entire amount you will use…just make a ball as sort of a “place marker”.

It get a wee bit tricky at this stage. Once again, take a look at that needle and make sure its not going anywhere and your thread tail is long enough to take some moving around. Now pull up your thread to make it a little tighter, kind of adjusting the gathers as you go so that you wind up with a nice, even circular “pouf”.

8. Once you have the approximate size you want for your opening, tie off your loose thread in a knot but do not cut it. Then stitch across (not too tight-you want your shape to remain round). I like to stitch in a star shape. Once I have that star, I stuff a lot more poly fill, using my thumbs and fingers to really smooth it out and I stuff it until it is nice and firm. I don’t like a really soft pinnie. I like them tight. Once you’ve gotten it as full as you like it, pick up your needle (should still be on this original thread) and sew another star to secure all the new poly you just pushed in.

9. Test your pouf to see if it’s the right size. If it is too big, you can always run some stitches across, kind of pulling it in some more, but you need to do this in an equal fashion so it remains round. If it’s all set, now you are ready for the final step: the glueing.img_7954

10. Do not run a bead of hot glue around the inside rim all at one. Ask me how I know this is a terrible idea. 😉 Just start on one small section and secure your pouf in there. It will only be glued on one side…on this one I applied about 1.5″ of glue.


Once your pouf is in, then you can gently pull each side over and put dots of glue to secure it on the rest of the circle. Do this with care. You don’t want glue coming over the top. It’s much nicer if you can’t see any glue.


There! You should have a beautiful new old pinnie.

Just a note…if you have another shape besides a circle, then measure each direction and double it. They can be a little trickier, but with practice, you’ll become a pro, too!


If you make one, I’d love to see yours! Post it on Instagram, using the #pinnielove or #milkglassscissorholder if you have found one of those. Or tag @iquiltsewwhat or @shopiquiltsewwhat

I have many pincushions listed in my Etsy Shop, in case you’d rather not make your own. 🙂 iquiltsewwhatshop


Thanks so much for reading. Come back soon!


Recently I hosted a fabric swap on Instagram involving Tiny Floral fabrics. I’ve been involved in other fabric swaps hosted by @purplepoppyquilts where we all purchased three yards of fabric in a color scheme and sliced them up into 10″ squares. I became a huge fan of these swaps because it’s a terrific way to build up stash without having to buy large quantities of different fabrics. I also like scrappy looking projects, so it was a good fit for me. Briawna’s (aka @purplepoppy) Color Square Swaps focus on a color theme. I wanted lots of florals, so after contacting her for advice (and also not to step on her toes since the format was her brain child), I cautiously hosted the first swap, limiting it to just 40 participants. 

The spots filled up quickly and off we went! Everyone posted a photo of their selection, in hopes that we wouldn’t duplicate prints and it worked! Everyone checked in before purchasing for the go-ahead. I kept track of all the choices. 40 wasn’t bad! My choice was from Quilt Gate, which I discovered after seeing it on @sunnydaysupply’s Instagram feed. Her feed and her shop are irresistible!

All the packages started arriving (I wonder what my mailman thought?) and I was giddy with excitement! I sorted them and sighed a bunch of sighs. You fabric lovers know what I’m talking about! Here they are:

Others posted their own arrangements and I LOVE them all! I actually might have a hard time deciding what my favorite is between the fabric selections or the creative posts showing all those lovely prints off! 

I’ve decided to host another round. Sign ups are Friday, April 21 at noon EST (USA participants only). 

Customized Burp Cloths

Our family is growing by one this spring, so it is baby shower time! And for us creative types, that means it is time to think outside the gift registry and come up with something that we can hand make that will still satisfy the mother-to-be. I started looking around online for inspiration and found several tutorials for cute burp cloths, so I thought I’d start there. The mom has particular tastes so I didn’t want to stray too far from her nursery theme. Turns out I didn’t have to stray at all!


I went to my local Babies R Us and printed up her registry, went trolling up and down the ailes trying to decide what I’d pick up for the expectant couple, when I came upon their nursery bedding.

And then it hit me. I didn’t see crib sheets; I saw fabric! There it was, my inspiration. After I checked out, I went next door to Hancock’s (conveniently located!) and picked out three coordinating flannels and headed home. If you do this project yourself, don’t do what I did and go to the fabric shop fueled only by one cup of coffee, and only get 1/4 yard of fabric. It wasn’t a disaster, but a healthy sized burp cloth is about 10-18″ so mine wound up being 8″ since I only got 1/4. But hey, I have less to throw in my scrap pile now, so it wasn’t all bad. And I think they came out at a useful size regardless.  PLEASE NOTE: Disregard the batting you see in the photo below! You’ll read why below.



The basic instructions are:

  • Cut off the elastic part of the crib sheet and iron it out (you’ll have about 2 yards)
  • cut out rectangles of 8″ x 18″ of the flannel and crib sheet (or 10×18 if you bought more flannel)
  • Sew wrongs sides together, leaving and opening on one side to turn it inside out.
  • Clip corners
  • Turn right side out and press
  • Top stitch the perimeter
  • Top stitch a couple of lines across the burp cloth, either straight across the width or length, or diagonally (which is what I did)

If you need a good tutorial for a burp cloth, see Dana made it

I saved the cute burlap Velcro band that came with the sheet and used it to package them up.


A note about these: I used batting for some reason. I think they are a little too stiff. I hope they wash up nicely, but if I had to do it again I would definitely not use the batting. Mine seem like tiny rectangular quilts. But the good news is I have enough leftover sheet fabric to make washcloths to redeem myself once I find some nice, soft baby terry cloth.


Another note: If your sheet and your backing are both cotton, use cotton thread and don’t worry about pre-washing anything because it will all shrink up about the same size. However, I have seen a lot of tutorials using polyester backing (Minky or chenille) and quilting cotton for the other side. Definitely pre-wash your cotton in that case because when they get washed for the first time the cotton will shrink up but the polyester won’t and it will look weird.


Thanks for reading and happy sewing!

Embellished Hexies

Hello and thank you for stopping by! Today I’m sharing my method on making 1″ hexies embellished with embroidery. I hunted and pecked my way around it until I found a method that worked for me, so I hope to share any tips you might not know yourself!


Here’s what you’ll need to get started:

  • Fabric (I used quilting cotton) with small scale prints that you like
  • Scissors
  • Embroidery thread and 50w thread for basting and needles for each
  • cardstock hexagons
  • 1″ hexagon template (the one I used in the photo I found at my local quilt shop)
  • iron
  • Lightweight fusible interfacing
  • Heat disappearing marker. (I use Pilot Frixion)
  • small embroidery hoop (4″ is what I use)




1. Place embroidery hoop around the portion of the fabric you’d like to embroider. I usually do not cut the fabric until afterwards, and I work towards the outside edge of the fabric, so as not to waste.


There are several fabrics that I would consider printed and primed for embroidery. Use your clear hexagon template to see what is the right scale. Then go ahead and embroider whatever you’d like. A note about technique: I use knots to start and finish, but that would not be the case for “regular” embroidery. There is simply not enough from to start  and finish. Also, we will be using the fusible interfacing to kind of seal the back. As you can see, the back of my embroidery work is quite the mess!


After you are satisfied with the embroidery, prepare the fusible interfacing.


Using the hexagon template, trace around the shape on the fusible interfacing (I “accordion” the interfacing up so I can cut several at once. These don’t have to be perfect!). Trim just inside the traced line. You can see I’m about 1/8″ inside the template. This helps to not have so much bulk when you are turning in the edges for basting.


Now iron on the interfacing to the back of your embroidery work, making sure your interfacing hexagon is placed correctly. I use the traced lines on the fabric as a guide, since you can see them fairly well through the fabric if you are using a dark erasable marker.

Flip over and use your hexagon template again to trace around the design on the front, and trim from the traced lines at least 1/2″. Give yourself plenty of room. You can always trim some more away, but adding is impossible and you’ve already done all that beautiful embroidery work!


Now you are ready for the final couple of steps. Are you excited? Use your cardstock hexagons and fold over the edges and baste in place using your 50w thread.


Use your iron once last time to get rid of the heat disappearing ink line. Not too much…just enough to get rid of the line. You don’t want your card stock to warp. Please not there is a whole punched in the middle of the cards. This facilitates removal of the paper after they are all sewn in. A chopstick or something similar would work. (And notice I didn’t give myself enough allowance on the deer head so I stitched a few more on that one)

All done! They are secure, ready to use, and best of all CUTE!






Dumpling Pouch

Here’s my latest completed project I am happy to cross off the list for #sewufo2016. This one was an Angel project, which means I sewed up and sent a package to an Instagram swap participant that did not receive a package from their original partner (aka a FLAKER). I’ve been flaked on before and let me tell you, an empty mailbox when you are expecting a package is no fun.

This Instagram swap was the Dumpling Swap. Participants were to sew a Dumpling Pouch from Michelle Patterns and one other sewn object. I have sewn several dumpling pouches, so since I had the hang of it, I decided to embellish this one a little more. Someone commented on Instagram that it looked like the top was whipped cream. I have to agree!


The pattern is cut on the fold, so if you are using directional fabrics, you’ll need to sew a seam where the fold is, paying attention to how you are cutting the fabric (with the direction headed in the way you want). On this one I didn’t want to do a seam, although I did utilize directional fabric (the strawberries and the music staff). I used batting instead of the fusible interfacing the pattern calls for. I stitched in the ditch and also stitched across, making little boxes.


For the strawberry fabric I simply switched it so who knows which way is the right way! I didn’t mind about the music (although I am a musician…so I surprised myself that I didn’t mind). In the end, I think it looks just fine.


I used the green striped fabric (which is Tasha Noel…as well as the strawberries) to line the interior


Here’s a photo of the two sewn items I did. I will cover the needle book in the next post. Thank you for reading!




Swaps and bees…bees and swaps. That pretty much summed up my 2015. I made some new and interesting friends, honed my 1/4″ seam skills and learned some new techniques (as long as there are innovative tools being released, there will always be new techniques!) Now that I have LOVELY blocks for the three bees I participated in, I have quilts to sew, promised family projects to complete and ideas in my head that just won’t stop!

2016 will be a year of tremendous change for my family and while I absolutely have loved swapping on Instagram with my quilty friends (with two very disappointing results…sigh…ok, moving on now), shipping deadlines and coming up with the perfect creative new project might not be the best pressure for me this year. But I realized if I wasn’t actively swapping or in a bee, I might lose touch with this wonderful IG quilting community that has brought me such joy. And then I discovered the perfect solution!


#SEWUFO2016 was born! It means I’ll be sewing up my unfinished objects this year and whoever wants to join in certainly can! To join, simply post a picture on your Instagram feed with the hashtag sewufo2016.

Have fun and I’ll be enjoying seeing your UFO’s become FO’s!