confessions of a fabric obsessive

Category Archives: my tutorials

Upcycle project – skirt into shoulder bag tutorial

This skirt caught my eye at a car boot sale. It was too small to fit me, so I bought it specifically to turn into a bag. It’s bright, it’s colourful and it’s 95% cotton, how could I resist?

Here it is ironed and ready to start. I have already unpicked the top stitching from some of the vertical seams, stitched the pocket openings closed, removed the zip fly and stitched that closed too.Oh yes, I’ve also unpicked the hem to give me more length a I want this to be a tote-sized shoulder bag (or a tote with a shoulder strap).

This skirt has a natural a-line to it. I thought long and hard about what to do about this, whether to leave it as it was, maybe gather or pleat it in some way, but I settled on squaring it up. Luckily,the skirt had several vertical seams. Ignoring the two side seams and the centre front and centre back, I used the seams that were left as a reference to mark new vertical seams against. I placed my ruler parallel to my chosen seams and pinned where I wanted my new side seams to be.

I refolded the skirt so that the front and back seams where at the sides so that I could use the same original  seams and pin new front and back seams parallel with them. You can see the extra fabric used for the kick pleat.

Here is my ex-skirt with the pockets trimmed off, and the new seams sewn and trimmed. I also sewed the bottom seam of the bag before I took the photo.

I turned the skirt inside out, just to check on how it would all look (don’t worry about the crease from the original hem that I unpicked, I’m going to box the bottom corners of the bag later, so the crease will end up out of sight on the bottom of the bag).

This is now ready to use as a template to cut the bag lining. The original skirt was a bit stretchy. I’m going to use a half-inch seam allowance when I mark and cut the lining, as the lining will probably take most of the strain of carrying the bag’s contents.

The skirt came with a self-fabric belt (you noticed the belt loops, right?).  I originally intended to use the belt as a shoulder strap but it’s slightly curved and not really long enough, so I used the belt for a couple of other things.

  1. to provide a belt and buckle closure to keep the bag closed-ish at the top
  2. to cover up the not-so-successful front-of-skirt-with-zip-fly-and-buttons-to-bag conversion

I got so impatient to finish my new bag that I couldn’t wait to take photos for this tutorial.

 I boxed the bottom corners of the bag and the lining. I wanted to use a salvaged bag strap for this bag, so I sewed some 2 inch wide twill webbing into two loops with one square d-ring (can you have a square d-ring? you know what I mean)  in each loop before I inserted the lining into the bag and top-stitched around the top of the bag to finish it off.

Here’s a good tutorial on how to box a bag (do the same to the lining before you slot it in) and top-stitch the bag-straps into the gap between the lining and the bag outer by Carolyn over on My Back Yard Eden.


Happy sewing


Project Fabric tutorial

One of the things I like about Spoonflower.com  is being able to buy other people’s project fabric (fabric designs that others have put together that contain the pattern, and sometimes instructions too, for a toy, book, bag, bookmark…) and have a go at making a soft toy (or apron, ornament, skirt, etc) myself.

In retrospect I wish I’d got it in a heavier fabric, this is on quilting cotton and is a little bit thin, but what’s done is done, and it’s time I sewed it together.

First I needed to iron it;

then cut out the shapes OUTSIDE the thick lines;

(closely supervised by our cat, of course)

I carefully matched up the outlines on the fabric pieces right side to right side and machine stitched almost all the way around, leaving a gap to turn it the right way out and stuff it (as the fabric was quite thin fine, I also added an extra layer of cotton each side so that it wouldn’t rip or wear out as easily).  So now they all have a double layer of fabric, and are double stitched too (once from each side as I attached the extra layer of cotton).

The smoother (flatter, straighter) the curve on the stitching on the inside corners, the better the finished toy will be. This is what I mean:

I trimmed the fabric (with pinking shears, because I know what my trimming skills are like),  and clipped the inside curves and corners really closely so they would turn right side out properly. Then I stuffed them with child-friendly soft toy stuffing until they were nice and firm.

 You can see how the fabric on the rear wheel puckers a little, even before it gets stuffed. I stitched the curve too tight. The other curves next to the wheels turned out really well.

After I stuffed it, I looked at the light and thought:

“This is going to be played with an almost 2 year old and then by his tiny baby sister. That light on top is going to be the bit that gets ripped up/chewed off/bitten to shreds and then the stuffing will come out and that would be bad”

So I took all the stuffing out turned it back inside out, machine-stitched it, poked it back the right way out, stuffed it again, and stitched it up. If this had been a decorative item and not for little people to play with, I’d have left the light on top of the ambulance.

Voilà, a red ambulance (without a light, but he’s not even 2 years old yet so not a critic), a purple car and a little man.

Stuffed and ready to stitch closed. This car crash needs an ambulance. (I had to play with them just a little bit, just to check that it worked, honest.) New ironing board cover by the way, I managed to put several holes in my old one (with blue sky and white clouds).

My present for my sister’s little man as a distraction when his new baby sister needs attention.

Auntie ClaireBear

Find ClaireBear on Spoonflower here

pinboard tutorial – fail

Every single self-respecting craft blogger has tutorials on their blog, and I’ve been wondering for ages what to do for my first tutorial.

Give away a trade secret? Show off something related to crafting but not my speciality?

As you already know, I’m passionate about fabric and colour, so when I decided to cover a very boring pinboard with fabric, I thought “That’s it! It can be my first tutorial. I’ll need to take lots of photos, and then write it up when it’s all done and then bob’s your uncle!  It’ll be great!”

Oh dear.

Oh dear, oh dear.

Here are the photos with a little commentary by me.

Very boring pinboard

Pretty fabric cut to size with just a little bit extra around the edges of the very boring pinboard

Spread the glue (PVA or craft glue) onto the very boring pinboard

Iron fabric, place squarely on the pinboard, smooth out any wrinkles. Make sure there are no airpockets, and make sure that the fabric is pushed well into the corners

Leave to dry overnight

Get up next morning to find lots of wrinkles and airpockets where there wasn't enough glue

Sad Claire

Try to fix the wrinkles and airpockets by moistening with plain water then smoothing out, wait for it to dry. find out that this works, but the bumps come back as soon as it starts drying out again.

Sad Claire

Re-wet the whole lot, peel fabric off pinboard, start again with more glue (lots). Discover that the back of this particular pinboard is corrugated cardboard and bows when it’s wet. Put a weight on the board on top of a plastic bag, so the glue doesn’t stick the weight to the pinboard. Smooth out the wrinkles in the glue next day, and wait for it to dry.

Trim loose fabric at back of pinboard

Give up and cover up the lumps and bumps with colourful pictures. Piccy's courtesy of Hobbycraft's magazine

Vow to never, ever use craft glue to stick fabric on a pinboard ever again.

Stick to spray-on adhesive, like I used to cover the drawer fronts of my filing cabinet.

Remember to mask with newspaper to stop spray going everywhere next time. I'm sorry this photo is so rubbish, the fabric looked a lot better than this when I first did it. I'll tidy it up soon, I promise.

I like the look of the selvedges on this fabric, so I deliberately left them showing

Find another boring pinboard, and some more pretty fabric.

Iron fabric

Use repositionable spray-on adhesive, smooth everywhere, make sure you go right into those corners, flip over and neaten up the back

…and they all lived happily ever after!

Claire Bear

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