Shibori Techniques, Tips, and Projects

Shibori Tie-Dye Techniques, DIY Tips, and Projects

What is Shibori?

Bound resist dye methods, which we know as tie-dye, have been around almost as long as civilization itself. Many cultures have contributed techniques to this ancient craft. Perhaps none have contributed as widely as the Japanese, who began developing their methods, known as shibori, as early as the 8th century.

Shibori Tie-Dye Techniques, DIY Tips, and Projects

Shibori Techniques

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Shibori traditionally uses natural dyes, most often indigo. Dyers pleat, sew, tie, bind, or even wrap the fabric around a pole. Let’s look at these different methods now:

Arashi

With the arashi method of shibori, dyers wind a long and narrow piece of kimono cloth diagonally around a pole, then scrunch the fabric tightly together and bind with thread. This method produces a pattern reminiscent of rain, hence the name, which means “storm.”

Arashi shibori

Arashi shibori made with wide pvc pipe in place of a pole

Itajime

For itajime, or shape-resist, shibori, the cloth is first folded, then pressed between blocks of wood and secured with clamps or ties. The wood resists the dye and leaves a repeating pattern on the finished cloth. Shapes can be simple, such as square or rectangular blocks, triangular, or more elaborate, with wood shapes cut into various free form designs.

Kanoko

If you’ve ever tie-dyed before, you’ve likely practiced kanoko shibori methods without even knowing it. These are the familiar tied designs such as bull’s eyes and repeating circular or other motifs. Dyers make these designs by tying off sections of fabric, often including pebbles, popcorn kernels, coins, or other found objects repeatedly or randomly throughout the fabric.

Kumo

Kumo shibori is a pleated and bound method that creates spiderlike veining and circular designs. Dyers pull the fabric into peaks, twist or pleat, then bind with thread. Kumo designs may be any size, with small, repeating, all-over patterns or just one large kumo to cover an entire piece.

Shibori Tie-Dye Techniques, DIY Tips and Projects

Kumo shibori

Miura

In miura shibori, the thread is not tied at all. Rather, thread is simply wrapped, usually twice, with thread. Tension holds the entire piece together. Because this method is easier and can be accomplished with the help of machinery, it was perhaps the most historically used method for producing shibori designs. This method most often uses hooks to draw up tiny sections of fabric, which are individually wrapped.

Kimono, from the collection of Gentry Klossing, with finely detailed miura and nui shiboro

Kimono, from the collection of Gentry Klossing, with finely detailed miura (the diamonds) and nui (the waves) shiboro

Nui

Nui shibori uses stitching, either by hand or machine, rather than tying, to create designs.  From simple running stitches which gather and pleat, to flowers or other intricately stitched designs, nui shibori runs the gamut from super easy to unbelievably complex.

DIY Shibori Tips

shibori agistadler

photo courtesy of AgiStadler, Flickr

Shibori traditionally uses natural dyes, especially indigo. Jacquard makes an easy-to-use, pre-reduced, indigo dying kit, for a great price, too.  If you go this route, use a 5-gallon or larger bucket or plastic bin with a lid. Set this up and plan to dye outside for the sake of mess management. This dye kit will color a lot of fabric and will last 5 days when covered, so you can plan to spread the project over several days.

Or use any hot-water dye

You can also use synthetic dyes to achieve a shibori look, but be sure to use the kind prepared with a hot water dye bath. Natural dyes are immersion dyes, and so any synthetic dye you use should be this kind, too. Don’t use the popular squirt-to-apply types of dyes for your shibori projects.

I used a synthetic denim blue color dye bath in my stainless steel kitchen sink to achieve a softer blue for my batch of shibori pictured in this post. To get a darker and more authentic indigo color, you can mix denim and navy. Sarah Gibson from Room for Tuesday suggests mixing one bottle of Rit denim with half a bottle of Rit navy. Her pillows dyed in this bath look great!

Pillow project at Room for Tuesday

Pillow project at Room for Tuesday

Important DIY tips:

  • Wear gloves! Otherwise you’ll likely find it impossible to get the blue/black dye off your hands and, especially, fingernails. Besides being unsightly, this is not good because dyes are toxic chemicals which you’d rather not absorb into your system!
  • Take your time preparing the fabric. And have all fabric fully prepared for the dye bath BEFORE you start to prepare it. I rushed when tying the beans to make my kanoko circles and made a mess with my grid design! Take your time, do not hurry.
  • Rinse items individually until the water runs completely clear, then untie. If you don’t rinse completely before removing ties, your designs will turn out less crisp.

Easy shibori projects

Shibori is fun and you will enjoy it most if you start with simple techniques. Kanoko, Kumo, and Itajime are particularly beginner-friendly methods to use. You can shibori dye any item of white or off-white natural fiber fabric, such as cotton. You can even dye synthetic fabrics, as long as you choose a dye formulated for synthetics. I noticed Rit makes these now.

You can easily dye T-shirts, skirts, pillows and pillowcases, socks, scarves, and small fabric pieces in your kitchen sink. Sheets, curtain panels, and fabric yardage are easy to dye, too, though you may want to use a tub larger than your sink for these.

shibori altnoun shibori lisa dusseault shibori lisadusseault

I’m planning to use the fat quarters and long strips that I dyed today to make either a patchwork skirt and a top or a dress. I might make that project a tutorial for another post soon.

Have fun!

Shibori is fun, with near endless choices to explore. Unwrapping your dyed and rinsed shibori pieces to see the finished designs is as exciting as opening a real gift. Play with dye and have fun with it!

Flickr images licensed under the Creative Commons license.
Tutorial: More Kinchaku Japanese Drawstring Bags

Tutorial: More Kinchaku Japanese Drawstring Bags

We made lotus shaped kinchaku drawstring bags here on the blog a couple of weeks ago. I told you then that there are other ways to make kinchaku, too. So let’s look at these now.

Kinchaku are purse or lunch sized drawstring pouches. They were traditionally made with chirimen, which are kimono fabrics. They are most often made with a round or square bottom.And they are and were extremely popular with ladies in Japan, both now and in history.

I didn’t have any chirimen fabric, but I did have a piece of Robert Kaufman Tranquility fabric with a crane motif and hints of gold shimmer.

kinchaku tutorial

Square kinchaku, fabric by Robert Kaufman

I started with this Japanese inspired print, and then I made these in all sorts of other prints, too.

kinchaku Japanese bag tutorial by Millie Green

These are reversible, by the way, when you make them the way I’m showing you.

How to sew kinchaku

You can make your kinchaku with a square  or a round bottom.

Kinchaku tutorial by Millie Green

Small kinchaku made from five and six-inch squares

You can make them any size that you like.  Use three or four inch squares and add pockets inside to make a small pouch for carrying jewelry. Or use eight or nine inch squares to make a large purse. I think seven and a half inch squares are the perfect size for lunch bags.

I made one that’s ten inches all around, but once you make these that large or bigger, then they become komebukuro. We’ll save those for another post.

Make them sturdy

You will want to prepare your fabric squares before sewing these together in order to create a nice sturdy bag. You have choices here, and I recommend you make your choice based on the wise old principle of using what you have.

Prepare your squares using any combination of:

  • Batting and backing
  • Fusible fleece
  • Midweight interfacing
  • Heavyweight interfacing
  • Felt
  • Canvas
  • Duck
  • Denim

I like to use fusible fleece on five of the squares and midweight interfacing or sturdy duck or denim for the other five. Felt works nicely in place of fusible fleece.

For canvas, felt, or anything other than fusible type interfacing, you can baste the sturdier fabric to the back of a lighter weight cotton if you are using this for your outer fabric. To baste, just sew these together with a scant 1/8” inch allowance all around.

Or make a miniature “quilt sandwich” by layering your outer fabric over a layer of wadding (batting) and a backing square. Then quilt these together. You can have fun with this and do some fancy or decorative quilting. Or you can keep it simple.

Kinchaku tutorial by Millie Green

I had some fun quilting on the outer base square for these kinchaku.

You can add pockets to some or all of the lining squares, too. Do this now, after you interface the pieces and before you sew them together.

Of course you should feel free to construct your fabric pieces by patchwork. Simple four-patch works nicely here, or use your imagination and go wild.

large kinchaku

Ten inch square bags (made here from four- patched five-and-a-half inch squares) are a great size for a project bag for knitting or other take-along crafts.

To make square kinchaku

Kinchaku sewing tutorial

You will need five squares of outer fabric and five lining fabric squares, prepared (as discussed above).

For the exterior, I like to use a contrasting square, possibly of the lining fabric, for the bottom piece. In this case, I cut four of the outer fabric and six of the lining.

Take the bottom piece, and sew the other four pieces to the four sides of this bottom square,right sides together,  starting and stopping a seam allowance width from the edges.

Then, sew these four squares to each other, creating the side seams. Now use your fingers and eyes to check and make sure there are no openings in these seams. Fix this now if you missed any spaces.  You can turn it right sides out and look at it now if you want. Then repeat with the remaining five squares.

Skip to the next section to finish your square kinchaku.

To make round kinchaku

Round kinchaku tutorial

You need two circles for the outer and lining bottoms, and a piece of each fabric that is as tall as you’d like your round kinchaku to be by the circumference of your circle, plus seam allowance. You can use a compass or trace a dish or other round object to make your circles.

Prepare your fabrics as discussed above. Then, simply sew the other piece right sides together around the circle and then sew the side seam. It’s easy to sew the circle, just go slowly and carefully guide your fabric to keep your seam allowance uniform.

You can clip little slits in the seam allowance all around if you like, but if your seam allowance is narrow you won’t need to clip much if at all. Check the bottom and side seam with your eyes and fingers to make sure everything is connected and you didn’t accidentally miss a spot. It is easy to fix these mistakes now. Turn right sides out, if you like. Then repeat for the lining piece and base.

To make the drawstring casing

For either square or round kinchaku, you have options in constructing your drawstring casing.

You can make tabs from matching or contrasting fabric, grosgrain or other ribbon, or bias binding. You can make several evenly spaced  tabs or just choose one wide tab centered on each of the four sides.

I like to use contrasting fabric. To make the tabs like I have done for most of the kinchaku pictured here, cut four same sized rectangles. Cut them between three and four inches wide by a length that is anywhere between one-third and five-sixths of the width of your squares. Turn and press a narrow hem on all the short sides, then sew these down. Now fold along the long edge, and center it along the top edge of one of the squares with the raw edges of the folded rectangle aligned with the raw edges of the square. Baste down with a one-eighth inch seam allowance. Repeat for the other three tabs.

You could do the same thing with shorter squares rather than rectangles and space two or three tabs along each square. If you use narrow bias binding, cord, or ribbon, you will want to use more tabs.

You can use contrasting fabric, even satin for the lining, and add pockets if you choose.

You can use contrasting fabric, even satin for the lining, and add pockets if you choose.

To finish your kinchaku

Place the inside and outside bag pieces right sides together, with the casing or tabs sandwiched between the two layers. Sew together, leaving an opening big enough to turn. Turn right sides out. Pull the tabs and push the lining down into the bag.

Sew the opening closed and continue top-stitching all the way around the top of the bag. Pull down on the lining and straighten the top seam as you sew.

Now thread a cord or ribbon through all tabs and tie the ends together. Then thread another cord of the same length starting and ending on the opposite side of where you started and ended the first cord. Tie the second drawstring and your bag is complete. You can tie the cords in a bow or use them as handles to carry your bag.

These are addictive

kinchaku tutorial

I can’t stop making these bags! They go together so quickly and are so cute and sturdy; sewing them is addictive. That’s good because these will make great gifts. Try this quick easy project and I bet you can’t make just one either.

Happy sewing!

Easy, Easier, Easiest Ways to Sew Baby Blankets

Easy, Easier, and Easiest Ways to Sew Baby Blankets

My favorite ways to sew baby blankets

Every baby needs blankets and these make wonderful gifts. There are lots of ways to sew baby blankets, but after making dozens over the years, both for my own babies and for gifts, I have settled on three basic ways that I prefer to make them. These three types of blankets are each useful in their own way, and any new parent will appreciate any one or all of these styles.

Baby quilts are easy to make!

If you ever wanted to get into quilting, a baby quilt is a great place to start. Because baby quilts are small, you won’t have to wrestle with these on a regular sewing machine, as you might for a larger quilt. Start with a simple pattern which uses just squares or rectangles if this will be your first quilt.

Easy,Easier,and Easiest Ways to Sew Baby Blankets

This tiny baby quilt is wrinkled to high heaven because baby outgrew it years ago and I pulled it from a box to show you!

You can choose a quilt with many small pieces if you have plenty of time to finish the quilt before baby’s arrival. I made this blue strip pieced crib quilt while I was waiting for my youngest baby’s birth. This quilt is 100% easy, but it is not the speediest of quilt projects.

Easy, Easier, and Easiest Ways to Sew Baby Blankets

See link for tutorial for this quilt.

Bigger blocks make quicker quilts

If you’d like to make a baby quilt in a hurry, choose a design with fewer and larger blocks.  For a great example of a quick and easy baby quilt, check out Jera Brandvig’s Log Cabin baby quilt at Quilting in the Rain. Her project includes instructions for quilting as-you-go, and this is a particularly speedy method of quilt construction.

I used Jera’s idea for making one large log cabin rectangle to piece a baby quilt top this morning in about an hour. I didn’t use the quilt as-you-go method on this, however; I’m quilting it all at once using free motion quilting.

This one will be an oversized baby quilt with a super soft flannel backing. The larger size means she won’t outgrow it as fast and can enjoy it into childhood, too.

baby log cabin 1

With large pieces and no precise cutting or corners, this large baby quilt top came together really quickly.

Here’s more from me on making quick quilts. Baby quilts are easy, and if you want to make one, you should. Please don’t be afraid of making quilts, it’s fun!

Easy, Easier, and Easiest Ways to Sew Baby Blankets

Crazy patchwork in large blocks makes an easy baby quilt, too.

An even easier way to sew baby blankets

If you don’t have the time or trouble to spare for making a baby quilt, you can sew a soft and sweet reversible baby blanket in a fraction of the time it would take to make even a simple quilt.

Easy, Easier, Easiest Ways to Sew Baby Blankets

To do this, you need two same sized pieces of fabric. One yard square is a nice size, or you can make it larger, perhaps to fit a crib mattress (27″ x 52″, plus a few inches on all sides to hang over the sides). You will want at least one of these to be a soft flannel. I prefer to use flannel for both sides, but they are nice when made with quilter’s cotton on one side and flannel on the other, too.

Feel free to applique or embroider the front of one of the fabrics before assembly. This looks really sweet in the bottom corner.

Cut the two fabrics to match and place them right sides together.  Then, using a dessert plate or saucer as a guide, curve the corners.

Easy, Easier, Easiest Ways to Sew Baby Blankets Easy, Easier, Easiest Ways to Sew Baby Blankets

Sew the two pieces together all the way around, except for an opening to turn. Turn right sides out and press. Then set your machine to make a wide, short zigzag stitch. I set mine with to a width of 5.0 and a length of 0.5. Zigzag around the edges of the blanket, about 1/8” from the edge. Be patient; stitching like this takes a lot longer than straight stitching does, so it will take quite a few minutes to go all the way around.

Or use binding instead

Another easy way to make this kind of double sided blanket is to layer the two fabrics wrong sides together and use bias binding all around to join them together.

I give these reversible blankets to every baby I know. Their mothers have often told me that these wind up being baby’s favorite blanket. My own boys liked these double sided flannel blankets so much that I made them to fit their beds.

Using a serger is the quickest and easiest way to sew baby blankets

Parents of babies who like to be swaddled will need lots of single layer receiving blankets. These are also nice to have in warmer weather and for on-the-go. I always kept at least one in the diaper bag and one in the car. They couldn’t be easier to make and take less than ten minutes, including cutting and pressing time.

Easiest Baby Blanket

Folded in fourths here to show the corner curve. These will fold down really small to fit in your diaper bag or even the glove box.

Simply cut one piece of flannel to your desired size (one yard square is my favorite size), curve the corners, and serge all around. I set my serger to its narrowest width overlock stitch.

If you are not comfortable serging around curves, then skip the curving of the corners. To do this, just serge four straight sides, burying the end of each chain under the beginning of the stitches on the next side. Then use a tapestry needle to bury the last thread chain under your previous serging.

If you don’t have a serger yet, this is one of many reasons you will want one. Here’s my recommendation for which one to buy.

It’s easy to sew baby blankets

You can sew a quick baby quilt, a soft double-sided blanket, and a single-layer receiving blanket (or several) all in the same day. These little projects are so satisfying that I bet, like me, you’ll want to sew some for every baby you know.

Happy sewing!

Lotus drawstring pouch make great gift bags.

Lotus Drawstring Pouch Gift Bags and Purse Tutorial

Lotus bags are a pretty Japanese style of drawstring pouch

We started looking at Japanese style bags last week, when I showed several ways to sew azuma bukuro, or bento bags. I mentioned that bento bags make great gift bags, but these are not the only style of Japanese bag that works well for this purpose. This week, let’s look at an even prettier way to make an origami style reusable gift wrap bag, this time a lotus shaped drawstring pouch.

Use them for gift bags and more

With such a pretty wrapper, even a humble gift becomes wow-worthy. Present a hostess or friend with one of these drawstring pouches you custom created to suit their style, and fill it with just cookies, candies, even a candle, to transform such consumable gifts into something memorable and continually useful.

Lotus bags make a lovely gift of candy.

Lotus bags make a lovely gift of candy.

I made a small one from a poinsettia print to both wrap and store the poinsettia flower pins I made as holiday gifts. Besides gift wrap, these pretty bags with their handy drawstring handles can be used as a purse, to carry lunch, as project bags for holding knitting supplies or a patchwork project on the go, or for travel organizers, to carry jewelry or cosmetics.

These would make sweet favors for a bride to share with her bridal party, baby shower gifts, stocking stuffers, goody bags, and more. You could even make one from satin, lace, or bead it to make a gorgeous purse for evening or for a bride.

If I had boy and girl children and I sent them to school, I’d make bento bags for the boys and pretty drawstring pouches like these for the girls.  I bet you can think of more uses for them, too.

The best thing about these pretty pouches is that they are incredibly easy to sew; you can make one in just a few minutes.

How to sew a lotus drawstring pouch:

You will need 2 same sized squares of fabric, one for the outside of the bag, and one for the lining. You will also need 2 pieces of cord, ribbon, or yarn for the drawstrings.

Use any size of square to make these. An 18” square makes a nice medium sized drawstring pouch. To make a bag large enough to carry lunch, I suggest using squares that are at least 20”. A 10” square is nice for a small pouch for travel or a small gift. I have made these smaller, with 8” squares, to make a tiny drawstring pouch for giving handmade jewelry. And I’ve made one much larger, too. I reused a baby wblanket I made long ago for one of my boys to make an extra large drawstring pouch for a scraps bag. It’s also fun to make these like a tiny quilt, using a small piece of patchwork for the outside square.

Small pouch to hold a gift of handmade bracelets and earrings, made from 8" squares.

Small pouch to hold a gift of handmade bracelets and earrings, made from 8″ squares.

You might like to affix fusible fleece or interfacing to one of your squares if you are making a larger lotus bag or one to use as a lunch bag or purse.

Place the two fabric squares right sides together and sew around all four sides, leaving an opening for turning. Clip the corners, turn right side out, and press. Then topstitch to close the opening, continuing the topstitching all the way around the square.

Fold up the corners

Now lay the finished square on your table with the exterior fabric facing up. Fold the four corners of the square back to show the lining fabric. I fold these back three, four, or five inches, depending on the size of the bag.

Make sure all four corners are folded back evenly.

You can use your ruler and cutting mat to be sure all sides are even. Pin these in place, then sew a straight line across each of these corner folds, 5/8” from the fold. This creates the channels for the drawstring.

Place the folded edge at the 5/8" mark on your machine, and sew straight across.

Place the folded edge at the 5/8″ mark on your machine, and sew straight across.

Now sew the bag together

The next step is to sew the four seams that will transform the lined fabric into a bag. Start on any side, and fold the straight edge between two corner folds in half, with the outside fabric facing together. Sew this short seam on the lining side, beginning your seam just beneath the drawstring channel you previously sewed. In other words, don’t sew all the way, or you will not be able to pull your drawstring through. Do this on all four sides. I like to use a 2/8 inch seam here, but you can make this wider, if you like. Just be sure to sew all four sides using the same seam allowance, whatever it is.

You can turn your bag right side out now if you’d like to create a flat, square bottomed bag with corners that jut out. Or you can choose to box the corners.

To box the corners

You can box the corners by either sewing straight across the four corner seams like this:

lotus4

Or you can sew a seam from top to bottom, creating an upright triangle, like this:

lotus5

Now turn right side out.

Insert the drawstring

Cut two same sized lengths of cord, narrow ribbon, twine, or yarn. For all but the smallest of drawstring pouch, I cut both to the length of my arm from shoulder to fingertip. I cut them a bit shorter for tiny bags.

Attach the cord to a bodkin or safety pin, then insert it through all four flaps of the bag. Then tie the two ends of this cord together. If you like, you can add some beads to the ends of your cord before tying.

Now take the other cord and use your bodkin to insert it at the opposite side of the bag from where you inserted the first cord. Pass this one through all four flaps as well, add beads or not, then tie both ends of this cord together. Now you can pull both cords to pull your drawstring pouch closed and open.

If the drawstring pouch is for gifting, you can tie the cords into a bow.

This drawstring pouch is only one way to make a kinchaku

When carried, a Japanese drawstring pouch is called kinchaku. However, this is only one of many styles and ways to make kinchaku. We’ll look at other ways to sew kinchaku here soon, too.

This style, the lotus bag, is a particularly pretty shape of drawstring pouch that can be used in many ways. Perfect for gift bags, they are so easy to make and so pretty that you’ll want to make at least a few. This is a great way to use up scraps while making a useful project.  Won’t you like to make some today?

Easy to sew lotus drawstring pouch make great gift bags.

Happy sewing!

Tutorial: 3 Ideas for Using Japanese Bento Bags

Tutorial: 3 Ways to Sew Japanese Bento Bags

Bento bags, AKA azuma bukuro

Bento bags are a popular Japanese style of bag, more properly called azuma bukuro (or fukuro. Bukuro and fukuru are different pronunciations of the same word, which is a blend of two words that translate to “good fortune” and “bag.” Azuma is the historical name for the eastern region in Japan now known as Kanto and Tohoku).

These are also sometimes called Japanese market bags, triangle bags, even origami bags, although there are other styles called origami bags, too.

I discovered bento bags a few weeks ago myself, and I am so glad that I did, because these are incredibly useful. I told you in January that I planned to sew for Christmas in July, and I’ve actually been doing this since June. So I’ve been making lots of bento bags as wrappings for the gifts I am sewing now. And for my own personal and household use, too.

There are different ways to sew bento bags. Whichever method you use, they end up the same shape. It is useful to know how to make these both ways, though, so that you can use scraps to make them. You might choose one way over the other depending on what size fabric scrap you have.

How to sew bento bags from rectangles

To make a bento bag from rectangles, you need two same sized rectangles that are three times as long as they are wide. Your rectangles could be 5″ x 15″ for a small bento bag, 6″ x 18″, 7″ x 21″, 8″ x 24″, 9″ x 27″, or any size, as long as it is three times as long as it wide.

Choose most any fabric you like to make these. Use 2 layers of cotton or linen for a soft and relaxed bag, or try denim or canvas for a sturdier bag that holds its shape well.

One rectangle will be the outside of your bento bag; the other is the lining. Align these with right sides together and sew around all four sides, leaving an opening for turning. Turn, press, and sew this opening closed.

Now place this lined rectangle with the outer fabric on top, and fold into thirds, with the lining fabric folded over the front. Sew two seams attaching each outer third of the rectangle to the center at opposite ends.

Then, sew across the two outer corners of the bag to box the corners. The shape and size of the bag will differ depending on how deeply you box these corners. Or you can choose not to box them at all.

Turn right side out and your first bento bag sewn from rectangles is complete. I’m betting you will make many more.

rectangle bentos

I made these bento bags from rectangles.

Sew bento bags from squares or triangles

There a couple of different ways to construct these from squares and triangles. Here are two slightly different variations on one method:

Take two same sized squares of fabric. They could be the same fabric for a bag with outsides and linings the same, or two different fabrics for a bag that will show both fabrics on both sides. If you want to use this method to make a bag with one fabric showing on the outside and one other fabric for the lining, you will need to first cut a square of each fabric in half diagonally and start the next step with four triangles rather than two squares.

Now you will either fold your squares in half diagonally with right sides together to form right triangles, or lay two different triangles right sides together, if you cut them as described above. Sew these together with an opening. Turn triangles right sides out, press, and sew the opening closed.

Then lay one triangle on top of the other at the right angles, forming a square where they overlap. Sew down along the edges of this square.

bandana bento

Overlap triangles at the 90 degree angles,and sew the square these form.

Now fold bag with right sides together and sew along both side seams. Box the corners and turn right sides out.

One More Way

Yet another way to make these is to start with three same sized squares, or six for a lined bag. You can use smaller scrap squares for this method than you can for the previous method, since this way uses more of them.

Sew two sides of one square to two sides of another square. Then sew two sides of the third square to the other two sides of the middle square.

You could line these as in the above methods, by sewing outer and lining squares right sides together and turning. Make three of these lined squares and then sew together.

This one is made from three squares. I'll make the lining the same way & sew the two together.

This one is made from three squares. I’ll make the lining the same way & sew the two together.

Or you could sew the bag and lining pieces separately, forming two bags. Then put them right sides together and sew, leaving an opening. Turn, press,and stitch opening closed. Sewing it this way creates a reversible bag, by the way.

What to do with bento bags

Now you know a few different ways to sew bento bags. You can probably think of plenty of things to do with them on your own, but here are quite a few ideas from me for how to make use of these handy bags.

Gift bags

These make “re-useful” wrappings because rather than just being a fabric gift bag, the recipient can then use it for some handy purpose like any of the ideas below.

Lunch sack

I first found out about these bags when I saw an anime character on TV using one to carry her bento boxed lunch. You can use these to carry your lunch as a pretty package whether you also use a bento box or not.

Your lunch will taste much better than this felt example lunch! Just tie bag closed to carry.

Your lunch will taste much better than this felt example lunch! Just tie bag closed to carry.

Bread basket and cloth all-in-one

I’m thinking they are perfect for wrapping loaves of bread as gifts, and these can go straight to the table for serving the bread and keeping it covered, too

Grab and go sack

For pencils, yarn or knitting supplies, small patchwork pieces, works-in-progress: anything you need to keep together and carry along.

Sort-able storage

Make a set for sorting nails or other hardware; fabric, scraps, or trim; cords, wires, or anything else. I plan to make a rainbow set for myself to sort small pieces of fabric and scraps by color. This could be a solution for organizing tools, a kitchen junk drawer, or bead and jewelry supplies collection, too.

Basket / bin

You can make these with interfacing or even quilted for sturdiness. Especially when these are small, they will nicely stand up and hold things on a bureau, desk, counter, or table. Or stand one in a dresser drawer or cabinet.

Harvest bucket

Sew another strip of fabric to connect the two ends and it becomes a handy tool for harvesting your garden.

Produce bags

For separating fruits and vegetables on the counter or to use while shopping. Unlike many reusable bags, bento bags are easily machine washable.

Use them to harvest or store produce.

Use them to harvest or store produce.

Purse or shopping bag

Sew a strip for a handle and carry a bento bag, small or large, as a casual purse or a shopping bag.

Make a strap by sewing a wide or two narrow rectangles into a tube, then tuck raw ends under & insert the ends of your bento bag, then sew.

Make a strap by sewing a wide or two narrow rectangles into a tube, then tuck raw ends under & insert the ends of your bento bag, then sew.

Add to this list by sharing your ideas for how you will use these in the comments below. Happy sewing!

Butterfly Bag, Small and Large, and Blue Patchwork Purse

Butterfly Bag, Small and Large, and Blue Patchwork Purse

Reversible butterfly tote.

Reversible butterfly tote.

I have been making lots of bags lately, and I have a few tutorials and different bag patterns coming up here soon. This week, though, I’m showing a couple examples of butterfly bag and another variation of a simple tote bag purse.

First, I used my crazy patch butterfly appliqué blocks to make two different sizes of bags recently.

I made a butterfly bag tote as a gift for my niece’s sixth birthday. It’s a reversible tote big enough to carry coloring books and crayons to the ball park, where her brother plays nearly every day. There’s also room for a small quick quilt I made that she can use to sit on the bleachers or the ground while she’s there.

Baylee quilt, caption, I made this quick scrap quilt in only about an hour & a half.

Baylee quilt, caption, I made this quick scrap quilt in only about an hour & a half.

Here are the step-by-step instructions for making a reversible tote like this. You can use the strip piece method linked as a video below for making the patchwork straps.

Butterfly bag small purse

Then I found a single stray rainbow strip pieced block at the bottom of my scrap bin and I decided to make a small denim bag with a butterfly, too.

This will be a gift for a teenage girl.

This will be a gift for a teenage girl.

I used a rainbow variegated thread in the needle for the butterfly appliqué and also the strap and topstitching for this bag. This is probably my favorite decorative thread, and I have used it in a lot of projects.

To show off the lining fabric, I sewed the bag and lining together without straps, then folded over the top. I sewed the strap to the outside, with the raw edges under the fold. Then I used two rows of topstitching around the whole bag. I made the strap with a wider blue and narrower green piece of bias tape, covered by wide zigzag stitches up and down about five times.

Blue patchwork tote purse

Here is a purse I made for myself last week. It is just a simple tote with the addition of a curved, bias- edged flap at the top. I quilted the patchwork using horizontal rows of a wavy decorative stitch that reminds me, like these blue fabrics, of the ocean.

This one is mine.

This one is mine.

To make the flap, just quilt together a rectangle of patchwork with batting and your lining fabric. Make it about an inch narrower than one side of the bag. Then you can fold it in half and cut the corners into curves. Then bind the curved edge and short ends with bias binding.

I used half of a thick turquoise ponytail elastic and a half-ball style button for a closure. I just sewed down the elastic to the lining side of the flap when I attached the bias edging. It also has a large zippered pocket inside, with patch pockets for cards inside that larger pocket.

Just baste the flap to the bag, and then tuck it between the bag layers when you sew the bag and lining together.

If you don’t know how to make this strip style patchwork, which I also used for the straps on the large butterfly tote above, here’s a video of me explaining how to do this.

I actually made this piece of patchwork some time ago. The blue quilt pattern I showed here was for my baby’s crib, and I made bumper pads, too. We didn’t really use these, so I decided to reuse the patchwork to make bags. This is the first one I have done; I plan to do a bigger laptop tote or backpack with the next one.

Like Amish quilts, these bags include mistakes!

I have to say that each one of these bags includes some little issue that I am not happy with. For example, the lining I chose for my blue bag is a gorgeous midnight blue print. But, especially with the flap, too, it is pretty impossible to see what’s in my bag without shining a light. It’s not a huge issue, since I usually just stick my hand in my bag and grab what I need by feel, anyway.

I boxed the corners too deeply on my niece’s butterfly tote and gave it a different shape than I intended. But this worked out, because the unintended bucket shape of the bag is what inspired me to make the quilt that I otherwise might not have included with this gift. And while I probably won’t ever make a strap like the one I made for the rainbow butterfly bag again, it is interesting and different looking and it works just fine.

The Amish include mistakes in their quilts on purpose. My mistakes were more accidental. The thing is though, all these little issues are lessons learned. I’ll never use a dark fabric as a bag lining again. Maybe I’ll make a post about more of these kinds of lessons I have learned the hard way soon. I’d be happy to save someone from making some of these mistakes.

In the meantime, I hope you will join me in bag making. Happy sewing!

Sew Easy Fabric Flower Pins for Bags, Hats, Hair, Gifts and More

Sew Easy Fabric Flower Pins for Bags, Hats, Hair, Gifts and More

Sew Easy Fabric Flower Pins for Bags, Hats, Hair, Gifts and More

I wanted to make a fabric flower pin to dress up and bring together the complementary colors on a reversible tote bag I made for my mother-in-law’s Christmas gift.

Yes, I’m getting a head start on my Christmas making now. And that’s why, when I loved the flower I made for her bag, I kept going and made a bunch of these pretty flowers. I kept my favorite of the bunch for my hair, and the rest are for gifts.

I kept my favorite of the bunch for my hair, & the rest are for gifts.

You could sew these directly onto a ponytail elastic, barrette, headband, clip, clothing, or bag, but I opted to make them more versatile by sewing them onto small brooch pins, which I can then pin on my hair elastic, hat, or bag.

Who can make a flower?

While making these, I had a sweet memory of my great grandmother, Lucy, who was a Sunday school teacher and loved nothing more than hearing children sing.  Of all the songs she taught us, my favorite was always this one:

“Oh, who can make a flower?

I’m sure I can’t, can you?

Oh, who can make a flower?

Only God, it’s true.”

While these aren’t the real thing, I sure felt happy while creating these fabric flowers and thinking of this old song and Grandmother Lucy. I hope you enjoy making them, too.

How to sew fabric flower pins

To make these double flowers, you need ten or twelve circles of fabric, a strong hand needle, thread, and a button for the flower center. You may cut five circles each of two different sized circles, or you can use all same sized circles. You may choose to cut seven rather than five for the bottom layer; these will be the larger circles if you are using two sizes.

If you would like to make leaves, cut these from slightly larger circles than you used for your largest flower petals.

You can cut your circles using an Accuquilt Go, a compass, or with the help of an Olfa circle rotary cutter.

You can also make your circles by tracing around a glass or other round object. I traced and then cut my circles several layers at a time. I used several sizes of mug and glassware and made my flowers in a few different sizes.

Sew by hand

Once you have your circles cut out, you can sit and sew them. This little project is sewn entirely by hand, and so is a great opportunity to sit and watch TV, or to have something to do while sitting in a waiting room or traveling as a passenger.

Thread a needle with a long, double length of thread. What I mean is, thread the needle and then tie the two thread ends together at the end. Then, take your first circle and fold it in half, wrong sides together, and then in half again, forming a quarter circle.

Sew a long running stitch through all four layers of the curved edge. Then pull the thread taut to gather the petal and repeat with the next petal. After you have sewn and gathered five petals, pull thread to tightly gather and sew the last petal you gathered to the first one of the five.

Sew the last petal to the first, then neaten center.

Sew the last petal to the first, then neaten center.

Continue to sew the raw centers of the petals tightly to each other, to tighten and neaten the inner edge of the flower center. Do this on both sides, then tie and cut your thread. You can set this flower aside for now.

Wash, rinse, repeat

Now sew another flower, perhaps using a different sized circle. Once you have both, sew them together with the smaller flower on top. If you’d like to add one or a couple leaves, do that now.

I made my leaves slightly differently than the flower petals. Instead of folding the green circles into quarter circles, I folded the circles in half, and then thirds. Then I sewed them with less gathers than the flower petals. Sew the leaves onto the back of the bottom flower layer.

Choose a matching or contrasting button or use a bit of embroidery for the flower center. Sew the button down through both layers of fabric flower.

Then sew the whole thing to a brooch pin, hair elastic, bag, or anything else. Small brooch pins work best, in my opinion, as these can then easily pin across a ponytail elastic or even a small barrette, not to mention on bags, lapels, hats, and etc.

Poinsettia pins

You can sew both flower layers from red fabric and make these into poinsettias. These will be useful during the holiday season. I plan to make small gifts of brooch pins at least, but I can think of lots of other ways to use these for holiday decorations and gifts, and I think I’ll be making a lot more of these fabric flowers in red.

You can sew both flower layers from red fabric & make these into poinsettias.

You can sew both flower layers from red fabric & make these into poinsettias.

Enjoy making them

I hope they will bring joy when I give them as gifts.

I hope they will bring joy when I give them as gifts.

I felt joyful making these and I hope they will bring joy when I give them as gifts. Whether you make just one fabric flower or a basket full, I hope you will enjoy making these as much as I did. Happy sewing!

Sew a Small Purse Tutorial: Tiny Tasseled Tote

Sew a Small Purse Tutorial: Tiny Tasseled Tote

Here’s my own design for a small purse tutorial.

Small purse tutorial.

Small purse tutorial.

This elegantly simple bag is incredibly easy to sew and offers endless opportunities for embellishment.  It is tiny as totes go, but as a small purse it is offers plenty of space for all your essentials, with room to spare.  It features an outside pocket big enough for your phone or sunglasses, and two inner pockets, one sized for your ID and debit card.

I really wish I had an embroidery machine; if I did I would completely cover this small bag with colorful embroidery. Since I don’t, I decided to make mine understated and casual in all one color and with minimum embellishment.  I think this denim blue corduroy is nearly a neutral color and I know it will go with much of my wardrobe.

I want to buy some silk cord to make the tassel and make a bag like this in a dressier fabric, too. Keep tuned to this blog, as I will soon share another small purse tutorial for a variation on this bag that is a lot of fun to make, too.

Without further ado, here’s this small purse tutorial, suitable for beginner sewists:

Tiny tasseled tote small purse tutorial

You need fabric for the bag body and lining, a little bit of interfacing, and yarn for the strap and tassel.

Cutting instructions

Cut:

  • 2 bag body pieces (main fabric) 7.5″ by 9″
  • 2 bag lining pieces (second fabric) 7.5″ by 9″
  • (optional) 2 interfacing pieces  7″ by 8.5″
  • (optional) 1 interfacing piece 4.5″ by 8″
  • 2 main fabric pieces 5″ by 7″
  • 2 pieces second fabric 5″ by 7″
  • 1 piece second fabric 6″ by 9″

Step one is optional – interface or quilt

If you choose to add interfacing to your bag, do it now. Because my outer fabric was corduroy and the quilter cotton lining fabric less sturdy, I chose to interface the back of my lining fabric (7.5″ by 9″ inch rectangles).  If you use quilter cotton or other lightweight fabric for the outside of your purse, then interface that instead.  Also apply interfacing to one of the 5″ by 8.5″ rectangles.

Another option is to forego interfacing and quilt one layer of your bag, either the outside or the lining. Just quilt these now, before we move on to construction.

Make the outside pocket

Take one 5″ by 7″ piece of your main fabric, and a matching piece of the lining fabric and align these right sides together. Sew around all four sides, leaving an opening of at least 2″ to turn right sides out. Clip the corners, turn, and press.

Now fold over the top about half an inch, press, and topstitch. I chose to press mine with the lining fabric forward, to show a bit of contrast on the outside of this otherwise plain blue bag. You can fold towards the inside though, if you’d rather not show off your lining fabric on the outside of your purse.

Center the pocket on one of the bag body 7.5″ by 9″ rectangles, with the hem you just sewed at the top of the bag. Sew the sides and bottom of the pocket to the bag body piece about 1/8″ from the pockets edges.

Make the inside pockets

Take the 6″ by 9″ lining fabric, and fold it right sides together to make a rectangle 4.5″ by 6″. Sew with a ¼ inch seam allowance along all three open sides, leaving an opening of at least 2″ for turning. Turn right sides out, press, and top stitch the opening closed.

Now fold one short edge of this finished rectangle upwards about 2 inches and press this fold line well. Then, center this pocket on one of the 7.5″ by 9″ bag lining rectangles, and sew the bottom and sides down on the lining fabric.

Inside pocket image.

Inside pocket image.

Sew the bag body and lining

Now take the two main fabric rectangles and put them right sides together.  Make sure the outside pocket is facing with the opening pointing up, then sew the side and bottom seams.

Then repeat for the bag lining pieces, again making sure the pocket opening is facing up before sewing the sides and bottom together. Set both bag and lining aside.

Make the tassel

Wrap yarn around the four outstretched fingers of hand about ten times. Tie the yarn together at the top of these loops with a short piece of yarn, then cut through all the loops at the bottom. Take another piece of yarn and wrap it around and around the strands, about half an inch from where you tied the yarn together at the top, then tie. Voila, a tassel!

How to tie a tassel.

How to tie a tassel.

Make the flap

Take one of the 5″ by 7″ pieces to your ironing board and place it right side down, aligned with the long edges horizontal and the short edges vertical. Then fold the bottom corners upward to make a point in the middle and press these fold lines well.

Tassel bag point image.

Tassel bag point image.

Then, cut along these pressed lines to make a triangle shaped piece for the flap. Cut a lining rectangle piece to match, too. Now, go back to your ironing board with these pieces. Fold  one of the edges you just cut to form the triangle back ¼ inch and crease this well with your iron. Repeat on the second triangle.

Tassel bag point crease image.

Tassel bag point crease image.

Now place the two triangles right sides together and sew together along the opposite side of the triangle from the side that you just creased. Clip the seam allowance from the triangle point, turn right sides out, align the creased seams you previously pressed, and press again.

Now insert the two short yarn tails from where you tied the yarn together at the very top of your tassel into the triangle point. Topstitch along the seam you just sewed, then topstitch to sew the side with the pressed seams closed, too, being sure to catch the yarn at the top of the tassel inside the seam.

The third side of the triangle flap remains open. Align this open edge with the top edge of the back side of your bag body, right sides together, and sew right along the edge to baste these pieces together.

Make your strap

To make the yarn strap, use 9 pieces of yarn about 4 feet long. Use 3 strands each to make three long braids, then braid these three all together. Secure ends by tying with another piece of yarn. Or opt to use ribbon or make a long fabric strap instead, if you prefer.

Final assembly

Take your main bag body and your bag lining body and insert one inside the other, with right sides together. The flap should be between the two bag bodies. Now place your strap inside, also between the two bag bodies, aligning each end with the side seams.

Use the free arm on your machine, and sew these together, leaving an opening to turn. You will sew the backside with the flap and the straps, and leave the opening in the front. Turn right sides out and push the lining side into the bag body. Now fold the edges of the opening inward, topstitch this opening closed, and you are done.

It’s reversible

Technically, this bag is reversible. Although, if I were going to reverse this bag, I would change the construction of the inner pocket. I wouldn’t want a debit card pocket on the outside of my bag. To do this, just omit the step of folding the inside pocket up to create the card pocket. Sew it on as a larger patch pocket instead, the same as you did for the outside pocket.

I hope you use this small purse tutorial to make one, too. What fabric will you use? How will you embellish yours?

Gifts to Sew for Dad

Gifts to Sew for Dad

Gifts to Sew for Dad

Sometimes it is hard to think of a great gift to sew for dad. It might seem like endless project options come to mind for most any other recipient, but gift ideas to sew for men don’t come quite as easy. Between the holidays, his birthday, and Father’s Day, you need a few good gift ideas each year—and that’s if you only have one dad to sew for!

Gifts to Sew for Dad

To help solve this perennial problem, here’s a long resource list of ideas to sew for men, including your dad, your children’s dad, or any other dad you might love.

Pillowcase

I seem to list pillowcases in every gift idea post I write! That’s because they are easy to make in a hurry, everyone uses them, and none are as nice as those that you make. So they make a nice gift to sew for dad, too. My dear always loves a gift of a new pillowcase, especially for his jumbo XL long pillow. Last year, I made him one with Star Trek fabric, it is covered with line drawings of the Enterprise.  I used a vintage yard I’ve been saving and some vintage trim, too, and made him a new one today.

I think he'll love this for his jumbo pillow. I love the extra bit the sparkly trim adds to this.

I think he’ll love this for his jumbo pillow. I love the extra bit the sparkly trim adds to this.

Pajamas

Simplicity and other pattern makers make super easy to follow patterns for pajama pants. Or you can trace a favorite pair to make a pattern, or you can follow an online tutorial.  Make them extra nice by adding pockets and drawstring waist. My dear prefers these cut quite loose and made from plaid flannel shirting; these look great on him, too.

Handkerchiefs

Make these from soft cotton; they are nice in flannel, or even knit.  Use a serger to finish all sides. For knit fabrics, you don’t even have to hem them at all. To save a step, buy these pre-made and make them more fun with tie-dye or personalize them with embroidery.

Handkerchief detail.

Handkerchief detail.

Quilt

A quilt is a perfect gift to sew for dad. Make him a lap sized or larger quilt in his favorite colors if you know them. If not, you know he loves his college or pro team’s colors, or go with a muted and manly collection of scrap fabrics. My favorite quilt I made for a man was a corduroy scrap quilt, with brightly colored squares alternating with khaki squares in a Streak of Lightning pattern. Choose a high quality, super soft cotton flannel for the quilt backing, and use cotton batting for maximum comfort quilts.

Streak of Lightning quilt, Ashley Van Haeften, from Flickr.

Streak of Lightning quilt, Ashley Van Haeften, from Flickr.

Bedside or chair arm organizer

Sew an organizer pocket to go over the side of his chair and hold his remotes and things, or under his mattress to keep glasses and reading material safely at hand.

Comfy his couch

Besides making a quilt, you can make his couch even cozier with custom cushions, perhaps one which includes pockets for his remote. Or make him a cuddly plush sofa blanket.

Two layers of Cuddle Plush fabric make an ultra cozy sofa blanket.

Two layers of Cuddle Plush fabric make an ultra cozy sofa blanket.

BBQ Apron / tocque / oven mitts

Use appliqué or a fun novelty fabric to make and personalize an apron just for him. I like this reversible pattern from Michael Miller fabrics best. Make the gift even nicer by pairing it with an easy-to-make, matching chef’s hat (tocque is the proper name for these) or an oven mitt.

Reversible, adjustable apron & chef hat.

Reversible, adjustable apron & chef hat.

Handyman apron

Help him around the house by sewing a full-coverage handyman apron or an easy pocketed waist apron for holding nails or a few tools.

First aid kit

Everyone needs one. You can make it roll-up style, or with a zipper.

Zip bag

Zip bags I made for guys yesterday.

Zip bags I made for guys yesterday.

Make him a small and simple zippered pouch for holding his cufflinks and jewelry, sketching pencils, or other small items. For something a bit roomier, here is a tutorial for a boxy toiletries bag that will work well to sew for dad.

You can sew an easy zip bag in 15 minutes, or less.

You can sew an easy zip bag in 15 minutes, or less.

Phone or glasses case

These are simple and easy to make. If you prefer, make a hanging charging pouch.

Tablet tote

This one is really easy to make; scroll down to see a manly looking option. The iPlaid is a good choice for a guy, or you could make one from scrap jeans.

Laptop sleeve or bag

If you can get your hands on his laptop to take measurements, then you can make this easy laptop sleeve in an hour or less. For something with a strap, make him a messenger style bag to fit his laptop.

Lunch bag

He’d probably rather not carry a cutesy lunch sack, so here’s how to sew a reusable brown bag with waxed canvas.

Wallet

Make it bifold or trifold. Or make him a simple business card wallet.

Other kits or bags

Make a tool roll or tool bag, a cord roll, a battery bandolier organizer, a monogrammed suede bag for his liquor bottle if he carries one to go, a shoe bag for travel. I’m making a patchwork quilted ukulele bag and a drumstick bag for my hubby this year. A soft padded guitar bag is a great idea, too.

This fabric is perfect for lining his ukulele case.

This fabric is perfect for lining his ukulele case.

Cup, can, or bottle cozy

Here are free tutorials to sew these for a can, a bottle, or a coffee cup.

Keychain

Lanyard type key fobs make useful gifts. You can make them with webbing, leather, even recycled jean denim. Here is a neat tutorial that includes a way to make these with a zipper for a place to stash cash. Or make something else useful to hang hang on his keychain, like a chapstick cozy or earbud or iphone pouch.

CD visor or book

Plenty of dads still keep their music on CD. If yours does, you can sew him a place to hold them on his car visor. I made one with a patchwork dive flag and ocean blue fabrics for my diver dad. You can also use felt to make pocket pages and sew a folder or book for holding CDs.

Baby carrier

Dads love to wear babies, and babies love it when they do. For a new dad, make a sling type, mei-tai, or a toddler sized soft structured carrier in a manly color or fabric.

A mei-tai style baby carrier is super easy to sew and comfy for both dad & baby.

A mei-tai style baby carrier is super easy to sew and comfy for both dad & baby.

Sporting gifts

Stadium blanket, photo courtesy Fons & Porter.

Stadium blanket, photo courtesy Fons & Porter.

Hat

There are lots of ways to sew a hat. Here are tutorials and free patterns for a few different styles:

Shorts

Buy a simple pattern, or use my 10-minute way to make shorts. You can make the bandana style shorts in that link for men using four bandanas instead of two.  Just use two bandanas instead of one for each leg, and add side seams to sew these together. Add length at the rise with a matching or coordinating fabric, or cut a couple more bandanas in half and sew these at the top. Or choose a funky fabric and whip up some board shorts for him.

Tie / bowtie

Buy some silk and make him a stylish tie with a pocket square to match. Here are tutorials for a bow tie and how to add a secret wallet pocket to the back of any tie, too.

Scarf / cowl

Unless you live in the Southern Hemisphere, you probably won’t want to give dad a scarf for Father’s Day. But for winter holidays or birthdays, a scarf or cowl makes a great gift.

Do you have other ideas?

I am sewing all my Father’s Day gifts this year. What about you? Which of these ideas will you sew for dad? If you know any good gifts to sew for dad or men that aren’t on this list, please add them by commenting below.

The Best Heavy Duty Sewing Machine: A Buyer's Guide to Value

The Best Heavy Duty Sewing Machine: A Buyer’s Guide to Value

What is the best heavy duty sewing machine? I’ve been looking at these machines for a while now, and I have formed some strong opinions on this subject.

The Best Heavy Duty Sewing Machine: A Buyer's Guide to Value

I sure need one. Twice now, I broke and caused expensive repairs to regular sewing machines by using them to sew projects that were too thick. Once it was a heavily pocketed and quilted bag (and piping! I should have known better). And the other was when I was experimenting on a new dog collar design and tried to sew too many layers of thick webbing and embroidered trim.

I have several project ideas that I have not been able to make yet because I don’t dare to without a heavy duty machine. After carefully shopping these, I have decided there are a couple of clear choices for which heavy duty sewing machine is best to buy. One is simply the best heavy duty sewing machine period, and the other is the best value economy option.

The best heavy duty sewing machine

In my opinion, the Janome HD3000 is the best heavy duty home sewing machine on the market.

It is no secret that I love and trust Janome. I have never had any problem with a Janome machine other than the ones I caused myself, as mentioned above. And Janome has been making and improving on this model for more than 20 years now, so I know they have got it exactly right. Plenty of people are still sewing on those decades old machines today; they are high-quality machines that are built to last.

The HD3000 has so many features, functions, & stitches that it is a perfect choice for a primary machine.

The HD3000 has so many features, functions, & stitches that it is a perfect choice for a primary machine.

The HD3000 has so many features, functions, and stitches that it is a perfect choice for a primary machine. I am sure I would use it regularly for all kinds of sewing, rather than keeping it covered until I have a heavy duty type project.

Here is just a partial listing of the Janome HD3000 features and included accessories:

  • Built-in needle threader
  • Horizontal, drop-in bobbin
  • Snap-on presser feet
  • 18 stitches
  • One-step buttonholer
  • 7 piece feed dogs
  • Drop feed
  • Free arm
  • Extra-high presser foot lift
  • 5mm maximum stitch width, 4mm maximum stitch length
  • Blind hem foot
  • Overedge foot
  • Hemmer foot
  • Quilting bar
  • Hard cover

If you want the best heavy duty sewing machine, then you want to buy this one.

The best value economy choice

I also want a coverstitch machine, an embroidery machine, and I need a new serger. So, like with most of my buying, I need to make an economy choice and spend less money on my heavy duty sewing machine. I think the best value choice is a Toyota Super Jeans machine.

While these machines are not labeled as heavy duty sewing machines, they actually are. They are built to sew through up to twelve layers of denim. Denim is about as tough as fabric gets, so I know these machines will handle whatever I need them to sew.

The gliding foot that comes with these is really neat; it automatically adjusts when sewing layers of different thicknesses and makes for easy sewing on bulky projects.

I might have said that I wouldn’t buy any sewing machine except one made by Janome, but that was before I knew that Toyota makes sewing machines. Just as I have been loyal to Janome for buying sewing machines, I have been loyal to Toyota for buying cars. I know well from experience that Toyota offers superior quality and reliability at a good value.

The Toyota Production System

My trust in Toyota goes beyond my experience with their vehicles; I trust their production system and even use parts of it myself. When I wrote about productivity here, I mentioned the kanban system and that it comes from the system of kaizen. I did not mention this then, but kaizen is just one part of a larger system known as the Toyota Production System, or TPS.

Toyota pays careful attention to all steps in their manufacturing and other systems to ensure quality, efficiency, and value. It is a system that works so well that the system itself has become famous. This is why I know I can trust anything made by Toyota.

Any of the Super Jeans machines make an excellent choice for a heavy duty sewing machine. They each include utility and decorative stitches; a generous accessory package; and a 2-year warranty on the motor, wiring, light assembly, switches, and speed controls (and 5 years on the sewing machine head). You can also get an extension table for these to help with sewing large projects.

The J15 is the most economy model. It has 15 programs with 11 utility and 4 decorative stitches. It does not have a stretch stitch.

The J17 has 17 programs: 13 utility, 2 stretch, and 2 deco stitches.

The J34 is the luxury model in this Toyota line, and performs 34 programs, including 15 standard and 19 stretch and decorative stitches.

While the Janome HD3000 is the best heavy duty sewing machine to buy, I’ll be saving some money and going with what I think is the best value option, the Toyota J34. I can’t wait to use it! Which one are you getting?