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?

DIY: Reversible Tote Bag Tutorial

DIY: Reversible Tote Bag Tutorial

It is easy to sew a reversible tote bag; even beginners can make this project.

It is easy to sew a reversible tote bag; even beginners can make this project.

It is easy to sew a reversible tote bag; even beginners can make this project.

You can make these in any size. My three examples are each sized slightly differently.

To make one reversible tote bag, you need 2 different bag fabrics. Depending on the sturdiness of your fabrics, you may also need medium weight interfacing or fusible fleece. You can make your bag handles from long rectangles of one or both of these fabrics, or you can use grosgrain ribbon, as I have here.

Reversible tote bag step one: cut bag pieces

Measure & mark 1.5” from both sides of the bottom corners & cut these little squares out.

Measure & mark 1.5” from both sides of the bottom corners & cut these little squares out.

Cut two squares or rectangles of each fabric to your preferred dimensions. I made these using 13” x 14”, 14” x 15” and 13” x 17” rectangles, and I have made them both much smaller and much larger.  The 13” x 17” is big enough for my laptop. But ribbon handles aren’t a good idea for a laptop bag; follow the directions for making stronger fabric handles if you plan to carry your computer.

Then measure and mark 1.5” from both sides of the bottom corners and cut these little squares out. Do this for all four pieces of your bag fabric.

Step two, optional: interfacing

If you choose to make your reversible tote bag from home decor fabric and/or canvas, you won’t need to use interfacing.

If you are using quilter’s cottons or similar lightweight fabrics, cut fusible fleece or interfacing to fit two of the bag pieces. Follow package directions to fuse fleece or interfacing to the wrong side of both pieces of one bag fabric.

Step three, optional: pockets

You can make pockets on one or both sides of your reversible tote. The easiest way to make pockets is to start with a rectangle, fold it right sides together, and sew all around, leaving an opening for turning. First topstitch the opening closed, then pin and sew the bottom and sides of the pocket to the bag.

You can make a long rectangular pocket that stretches the full width of your bag, or make square patch pockets and sew them in the middle of one or more of the bag pieces.

Step four: sew two bag bodies

Take both pieces of one of the bag fabrics and sew along the bottom and side seams with right sides together. Press seams open. Now, miter the corners by lining up the side and bottom seams you just sewed at the middle of the new seam you will form from the square cut out. Sew these seams.

Repeat with the pieces of the second bag fabric.

Step five: handles

Use a soft measuring tape or even a string hung over your shoulder to determine how long you want your straps to be. I like long shoulder straps, so I usually cut mine about 30 inches long. If you prefer to carry your tote on your arm, cut yours shorter. You need two.

I saved time making these bags by using grosgrain ribbons to make easy straps. To do this, just cut two pieces of ribbon to your desired length.

To make fabric handles, cut two long rectangles to your desired length measurement by twice your desired strap width. Apply interfacing to the wrong side of your fabric if you like.  Fold lengthwise right sides together and press. Sew along the long open edge, then turn. Press again.  Now top-stitch along both long sides.

There is no need to finish the short ends as these will be concealed between the two sections of the bag.

Step six: assembly

They are handy for carrying books, notebooks, your computer, clothes for overnight or the gym.

They are handy for carrying books, notebooks, your computer, clothes for overnight or the gym.

Insert one bag into the other, with right sides together. If your placed pockets on one side of each bag body, insert them together so that the pockets are on opposite sides. Push down the corners to make sure both bag pieces are lined up well at the bottom. Then line up the side seams from both pieces and pin these together.

Take one strap and hold one end in each hand so that the loop hangs down. Be sure it isn’t twisted and insert it between the two bag parts on one side. Measure in from the pinned side seams on each side to be sure the straps are centered. About three inches in is a good guideline, but eyeball your bag to decide on exact strap placement. Just measure the distance between strap and side seam on both sides to be sure they are even. Pin, then repeat on the other side with the other strap.

Now sew together along the top edge.  You will have to leave an opening big enough for turning; I sew across all the straps and leave the opening on one side.  Turn everything right sides out. Both sides of the reversible tote will be pointing out.

Stick your hand into the opening and poke all the corners out from the inside. Then push one bag body into the other so that it becomes a bag with handles at the top. Return to your ironing board and press. Pay attention to the edges still open from turning; you want to press the raw edges inward and neatly align for top-stitching this opening closed.

Now stitch all the way around the top of the bag and you’re done.

Make more!

Reversible tote bags are easy to sew in a hurry & the possible variations are endless.

Reversible tote bags are easy to sew in a hurry & the possible variations are endless.

Reversible tote bags are easy to sew in a hurry and the possible variations are endless. Make them in different sizes and try different fabrics and trims. Use tie-dye, quilting, appliqué, fabric paints, or any other embellishment you like.

They are handy for carrying books, notebooks, your computer, clothes for overnight or the gym. You can use them as a shopping bag, your purse, or for handmade gift giving. Pick out some pretty fabrics and make a bunch. Happy sewing!

Sew a Rice Pack Whole Body Heating Pad

How to Sew a Rice Pack Whole Body Heating Pad

How to Sew a Rice Pack Whole Body Heating Pad

You can sew a rice pack heating pad to any size at all.

The first one I ever made was a rectangle maybe about four by six inches. Okay, maybe it was a little bigger than that, but in use, it turned out to be silly small and I wanted a larger one.

I have made smaller rice packs that serve a neat purpose, though.

These make sweet pocket warmers when stuffed with rice.

These make sweet pocket warmers when stuffed with rice.

For a heating pad, bigger is better. So I made a large one with a folded kitchen towel and a big bag of rice, and this was a helpful friend for some time.

But have you ever wanted a full body hugging heating pad? I have, every month for some time now. I have wanted one to wrap around my tummy, and my dear and I have both wished for something bigger for pains in the neck and shoulders, too.

So I bought a huge bag of rice in bulk and decided to finally sew a rice pack heating pad big enough to wrap around.

So I bought a huge bag of rice in bulk & decided to finally sew a rice pack heating pad big enough to wrap around.

So I bought a huge bag of rice in bulk & decided to finally sew a rice pack heating pad big enough to wrap around.

Here’s how I made it:

Materials

  • 2/3 yd sturdy fabric
  • 20 cups rice

Of course you need a sewing machine, thread, scissors and/or a rotary cutter and mat.

Step one

Fold the fabric for your heating pad in half so that it makes a long rectangle approximately 44 inches (it will likely be shorter than 44 inches after pre-washing your fabric) by 12 inches, and press.

Then, make a narrow hem along both of the long (~44”) edges. Or you can serge along these edges with your serger.

Step two

Now fold it again, with right sides together. Sew along both short edges. Leave the long end open.

Of course you can serge these seams, too.

Clip the corners, and turn right sides out.

Step three

Now you are going to measure and then sew four lines of stitching to section the rectangle into five sections. These lines will run parallel to the end seams you just sewed.

I found the middle, then measured four inches out from there on either side, and marked my first two lines to create the middle section. Then I measured eight inches out from each of these to create the other sections.

Sew these lines from the bottom but end them approximately 3/4 inch before you reach the top.

Step four

And there is your whole body heating pad, which will wrap all around like a warm & heavy hug when you need it.

And there is your whole body heating pad, which will wrap all around like a warm & heavy hug when you need it.

Scoop two cups of rice into each opening.  Hold the bag and be sure all the rice flows to the very bottom of the pockets.

Now, sew a long line, parallel to the open edges, to bisect the five sections into ten.

Step five

Scoop two more cups of rice into each of the remaining five sections.

Then you can sew the long opening closed. I turned this over and sewed it down again to make this seam stronger, too.

If you want to be extra careful to prevent the rice from spilling out while you sew, then take the extra time to baste the long opening closed with quilter’s safety pins.

And there is your whole body heating pad, which will wrap all around like a warm and heavy hug when you need it.

To use:

Microwave the heat pad to warm. Microwave ovens vary a lot, so you will have to determine for yourself how long you should heat yours. Five minutes seems about right for mine, but be careful not to burn yourself.

Remove the pad from the microwave, shake it up a bit and evenly distribute the heat. Wrap it around your tummy, your shoulders, even your legs. Or lie down and use the whole length along your back from top to bottom.  And feel better soon!

Gifts to Sew for Mom

Gifts to Sew for Mom

Are you looking for ideas to sew for Mom?

Moms come in all types. But most appreciate handmade gifts, especially the ones you make. Whether your mom is glitzy or sporty, a homebody or a world traveler, we’ve got you covered.

For Mother’s Day, her birthday, holiday gifts, or just because you love her, here are lots of fun project ideas you can sew for mom.

Zip bags

There are so many uses for these that zippered cases are always a good gift idea. She can use one for a cosmetics bag for her purse or travel, to hold pencils or art supplies, or anything else. I once made a matching set of these in several sizes for a gift for my mom.

She can use these to hold anything.

She can use these to hold anything.

Quilt

Whether she likes to get comfy in her favorite chair or she babysits grand-babies, a lap quilt is a perfect choice to sew for mom. Make one in her favorite colors, to match her décor, or choose a special pattern.

The blocks in these quilts were pieced by my mother's and my husband's grandmothers. I found them in their sewing boxes & put them together with borders to make these lap quilts for our moms to share with their grand babies.

The blocks in these quilts were pieced by my mother’s and my husband’s grandmothers. I found them in their sewing boxes & put them together with borders to make these lap quilts for our moms to share with their grand babies.

And speaking of grand kids and special quilt patterns, you could get the kids involved and make a handprint quilt for their grandmother.  You can make a handprint quilt using washable fabric paint and the kids’ hands as stamps. Or you can have them trace and then cut out their hands and use these as appliqué patterns.

Handbag

Most ladies will appreciate a beautiful new handbag. Depending on your mom’s style, you could make her a clutch, a wristlet, a structured bag, or a casual cross-body purse or messenger bag.

The possibilities are endless here. Choose suede, an elegant stamped faux leather or other fancy fabric, a distinctive or wildly patterned print, or build her a bag based on a small piece of patchwork created just for her.

Totes

She can’t have too many tote bags since these are endlessly useful.

She can’t have too many tote bags since these are endlessly useful.

She can’t have too many tote bags since these are endlessly useful. Make her a stylish and sturdy tote bag for her library books, groceries, or other shopping and she will appreciate it endlessly.

Make a gorgeous XL tote in a special fabric and she will be thrilled to use it as a stylish everyday bag. Especially if you add in ample pockets and/or smaller zip bags for organizing contents.

You can make a reversible tote bag in any size and give her two bags in one.  Make a canvas tote with ample pockets inside and out to create a custom beach bag she will love. Or make her a few of these cute shopping bags that collapse into their own pocket.

And consider smaller totes, too. Here is one as pretty as a purse meant for toting her tablet.

Pillowcases

You can’t buy pillowcases as pretty as the ones you can sew. Make her a luxe pair trimmed in vintage lace. Choose a colorful patterned fabric to dress up her bed or a special motif she adores. Whether she loves owls,  Star Trek, or her favorite sports team, you can make her a pillowcase from a yard of any novelty print.

You could make a pillowcase covered in hearts to remind her how much she is loved.

You could make a pillowcase covered in hearts to remind her how much she is loved.

Sew a bouquet

A bouquet of flowers is a standard Mother’s day gift. You can sew her a bouquet of flowers that will never wilt and fade away.

Here are a lot of different ways to make fabric flowers.

Rice Pack

Whether she suffers from pains in the neck, back, tummy, or general monthly pains, an oversized microwavable rice pack heating pad will be a welcomed gift of comfort.

Slippers

There are lots of ways to sew slippers, here are some slipper sewing tutorials to choose from.

Pajamas

You can sew cozy pajamas from silk, cotton, flannel, or fleece. Make them ultra feminine with batiste and lace, or pure fun in a funky print. Start with an easy pattern from Simplicity, McCall’s, or Butterick, or use one of these tutorials.

Easy robe

Like pajamas, you can sew a robe from a lightweight or dressy fabric or from something heavier and more cozy. Robes are easy to sew. You can buy an easy robe sewing pattern or here’s a great tutorial showing how to make your own pattern using rectangles.

Apron

There are so many ways to sew aprons.  You can make her a pretty half apron from just a fat quarter of fabric plus trim, a full coverage bbq style apron from a yard, a reversible apron, or a garden or craft apron.

  • Oven mitts/ pot holders
  • Table runner
  • Placemats
  • Napkins

Travel bags

If your mom travels a lot, there are a lot of great gifts you could sew to help her

Project link at Positively Splendid.

Project link at Positively Splendid.

Pareu

I got this idea from the book Travel Gear and Gifts to Make, by Mary Mulari. She says that a pareu (pa-ray’-oo) is actually a colorful Polynesian wrap skirt. But it can also be used as a shawl, head cover, scarf, swimsuit cover up, light blanket, picnic blanket, or even a knapsack for carrying stuff.

This is probably the most used and loved gift I have ever made for my mom, and it is also the simplest. She travels a lot as a car passenger, and she likes to nap with a light blanket while riding.

A pretty pareau works perfectly for that plus more.

To make one, you just hem a square or rectangle. You can make one from a 44″ or a 60″ square. Since I knew she would use it as a blanket, I made my mom’s in the larger size. And I sewed a small matching tote with a strap, for storing the pareau rolled up while not in use. I bet it has been over ten years since I made it for her, and she still raves about and uses this gift all the time.

Needlebook

If your mom sews a lot or even just a little, she will certainly treasure a needle book you make with love just for her. You can make a simple one from felt or create a patchwork cover and include a zippered “page” for holding small scissors and other supplies.

I like to make needle books with a zippered page inside.

I like to make needle books with a zippered page inside.

Fabric necklace or bracelets

Jewelry is another go-to gift for moms, but have you ever sewn jewelry? Here are some ideas you could try:

I hope this list gave you some good ideas. What will you sew for mom?

How to Sew Easy Shorts in Just 10 Minutes

How to Sew Easy Shorts in Just 10 Minutes

You really can sew easy shorts in ten minutes. I made pairs for two of my boys and a pair for myself in half an hour, and this included stops for elastic fitting and rewinding a bobbin.

Sew Easy Shorts

For kids, sew easy shorts in 10 minutes using bandanas

Easy bandana shorts are a super quick and simple way to make cute shorts for kids.

I made these with polyester, rather than cotton, bandanas. I am collecting cotton bandanas for another project and I accidentally bought a couple that turned out to be poly.

It occurred to me that these will dry quickly and so make perfect yard shorts for my boys who are in and out of the garden sprinkler this time of year.

I’ve made these from cotton bandanas before and they have been summer favorites for all my children. They wear them so much that the cotton ones don’t last through too many seasons. So it was time for me to whip up a couple more.

You can use bandanas to make shorts to fit most any size child. Or you can make bandana pants for a baby or toddler. Here’s how to make them:

Supplies:

  • Two bandanas
  • Elastic for waist
  • Sewing machine
  • Thread
  • Scissors

Step one to sew easy shorts: measure

The key measurements you need are the child’s waist and rise. To measure rise, run the measuring tape from the waist, between the legs, to the back waist.

I like to make bandana shorts like jams using the full bandana and not measure inseam or length. If you’d like to hem your child’s pants to a specific length, you are welcome to take the leg measurements. Then you could trim the bandana from the top rather than hemming the legs. That’s what I’d do if I wanted to shorten these.

Sew easy shorts step two: cut

Fold the bandanas in half with the fold running vertically. You are going to cut out a J shaped piece from the top edges. Determine how deep and wide to cut this J shape based on your measurements.

You will want to divide the child’s rise measurement by half and add 1 inch — or up to 2 inches, if you’d like to add more room to grow.

Mark that far down from the top corner edge of the folded bandana. Then mark an inch and half to two inches in from the outside edge. Cut in a J shape between these two points, leaving a J shaped cut-out on the edges of your folded bandanas.

Fold the bandanas in half with the fold running vertically.

Fold the bandanas in half with the fold running vertically.

If I wanted to shorten the legs from the bandana lengths, I would cut that many inches off the top, before I measured and cut the J.

Step three: sew legs

Each bandana will make one leg. Fold them right sides together, and sew down the inseams, which are the edges of the bandana beneath the J crotch seam you cut out.

After you sew each leg, turn them right sides out.

Step four: sew crotch seam

With the legs right sides out, align the crotch seams of each leg piece. Make sure the leg seams you already sewed are aligned, as well as the top edges.

Sew this crotch seam with a stretch stitch, for maximum strength.

Now they look like shorts.

Now they look like shorts.

Step five: sew the waist

Now fold over about an inch at the top of the shorts, toward the inside, and press.

Sew around this seam, leaving a couple inches open, to allow for elastic insertion.

Cut elastic to the child’s waist measurement, attach a large pin to the end of the waist elastic, and thread it through the waist channel.

Then, sew the elastic ends together and top-stitch the waist closed.

Of course, you can hem them if you like, and if you did not shorten them from the top at the beginning.

Personally, I like to let little boys wear them long. The green and blue pair are longer than knee length on my youngest and look cute to me.

Voila! Ten-minute kid shorts.

Voila! Ten-minute kid shorts.

Sew easy shorts: ten minute adult yoga shorts

I used the same technique to make myself a ten minute pair of shorts, too, refashioned from a t-shirt. I made legs from the front and back panel of one of my dear’s favorite t-shirts, which he has outgrown.

Sew all the seams on these with a stretch stitch.

For mine, I cut the rise a bit short, and then added a waist section from another shirt.

This did not work out perfectly as a ten minute design, so I won’t go into detail about the waist section. Other than to say that I sewed it right sides together to the top of the shorts, and then folded it over and sewed it down on the inside atop the previous seam.

My mistaken way to do this had to add elastic for the top of this section. I want to make these and yoga pants with a crosswise knit cut short enough that it will not need elastic; the ones I just made have too much bulkiness around my already too bulky middle! I’ll hope to show how to make a yoga pants pattern here soon if I can.

But these worked well enough to wear and to love. My husband particularly loves these shorts; he’s been complimenting me on them all day. He doesn’t mind all the bulkiness around my middle, because he is responsible for it. This is what has come from having “cook dinner” on my don’t do list. He cooks things like rich stews, fried chicken, pizzas, and fat burritos and burgers every week! I’m going to have to take dinner off of my don’t-do list soon, or else I’ll have to make myself a whole new wardrobe!

I think they will be a comfy favorite, & I made them in just ten minutes for $0.

I think they will be a comfy favorite, & I made them in just ten minutes for $0.

Ten minute adult legging shorts

I made another kind of shorts for me in ten minutes, too.

I made another kind of shorts for me in ten minutes, too.

I made another kind of shorts for me in ten minutes, too.

I think of these knee length leggings as undershorts and wear them under casual short dresses.

Make these the same way as the other shorts, using stretchy knit and cutting them smaller for a closer fit.

Rather than adding bulkiness with a waistband channel, stretch a narrow elastic waistband and top stitch it down using a stretch stitch.

The elastic I had is fairly decorative,so I sewed it on the outside in this case. You can use a thicker elastic for the waistband, and sew it on the inside instead, if you prefer.

Make your own shorts

You don’t have to start with bandanas or T-shirts to make shorts.

Make elastic waist shorts to fit anyone by measuring desired length, inseam length, waist and leg circumferences (plus ease) and rise. It is easy to cut shorts to fit anyone’s measurements in just a few short minutes. No pun intended!

I encourage you to both sew easy shorts and to play with bandanas, refashion T-shirts, and have fun with fast fashion ideas like this. Happy sewing!

Sewing Productivity Video: How to Make More Time to Sew Part 3

Sewing Productivity Video: How to Make More Time to Sew Part 3

We’ve been talking about sewing productivity and how to make more time to sew for the past few weeks. In case you missed them, here are links to part one and part two of this series.

Sewing Productivity Video: How to Make More Time to Sew Part 3

I have a few more tips and ideas to share today and I made a video to recap all these ideas for you.

Batch tasking

Batch tasking is a method you can employ in many systems to make more time.

Don’t run through the same series of steps many times; instead batch steps together and work on many items at once. Cut all those quilt or pattern pieces out at once. Load several bobbins at a time, since this will save you stopping to load another soon.

You can make more time for sewing when you free time from other tasks by batching, too. If you don’t already batch your errands, doing this will make more time for you.  Stop running daily errands, if you do, and run errands quickly on a designated day of the week. Or batch certain errands together more economically.

I usually batch task the bathing of children, baking, computer tasks, and lots of other things. In general, I find that making and doing things in batches helps me to make more time and do more things.

Chunking

Chunking is when you grab a chunk of time to focus on one project.

Flylady made the 15-minute time chunk a daily thing for millions by encouraging her followers to set a timer for 15 minutes and declutter.

While this is a good use of a time chunk, you can use this productivity trick to do anything you want. It’s a great option for getting started on a task you have been been procrastinating about; you can do anything for only 15 minutes.

Pomodoro

For tasks that require more work and focus than 15 minutes, try using pomodoro.

A pomodoro is a 25 minute time chunk. Set your timer for 25 minutes to focus on one specific task. When the timer rings, take a 5 minute break and follow with another pomodoro. You can do three or four rounds like this, and then follow with a longer break.

Pomodoro means tomato in Italian and was named after a kitchen timer like this one.

Pomodoro means tomato in Italian and was named after a kitchen timer like this one.

I have been amazed to find out just how much work I can get done on tough projects in only 25 minutes. I like pomodoros so much that my whole day is often made up of a long string of them.

Alternating between a 25 period or two at my desk and a 25 minute chunk for housework helps me to get everything done and fights burnout from sitting too long at my desk.

Resources and Inspiration

We’ve touched on a lot of topics in this sewing productivity series. Here are links to more information on some of the ideas and systems we have covered here:

Bullet Journal

Ryder Carroll created the bullet journal system, which is a fabulous way to organize your notebooks if you prefer to use pen and paper for your planning and lists. His quick video here is a great overview of the specifics for this easy system.

I use the bullet journal system like Ryder and scribble quick lists. But it is worth noting that the bujo can also be a creative outlet. Many people create beautiful notebooks with this system. You might like to check out Tiny Ray of Sunshine to see gorgeous examples of creative bullet journal layouts and lists.

Trello

If you would rather use kanban boards and a digital app to keep track of your great ideas and to do lists, Trello is an excellent option. I use free Trello boards for organizing and keeping track of lots of things. It definitely helps my sewing productivity by holding all my good ideas until I can find the time to get them done.

Eisenhower app

The Eisenhower matrix is easy to work with on paper. But if you prefer to go digital, now there is a free and easy-to-use application for making these four quadrant lists.

FlyLady and Kon Mari

If you are unable to achieve sewing productivity because of a messy house or too much clutter, I know a couple of ladies who may be able to help you.

Flylady has helped millions out of CHAOS (can’t have anyone over syndrome) and gently encourages better routines for keeping clean and organized. Just be aware that she will send you a LOT of emails if you sign up for her list.

While Flylady did help me, no one has helped me to create order in my home as much as Marie Kondo and her KonMari system. She wrote The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up and its sequel, Spark Joy. I recommend these books to anyone who could use more order in their home.

Setting up this system will require significant time investment up front, but once you complete your konmari, you will save tons of time and trouble and your home will stay clean and organized with minimal maintenance. My own sewing productivity has increased at least tenfold since I invested the time to konmari my house.

Sewing productivity: make it a priority

Of course, dirty dishes and laundry are everyday things. It is easy to get caught up in all the things you have to do and never get around to sewing all the things you want to sew.

You can use these productivity tricks I have mentioned to minimize your work and make more time to sew. Or you can let the dishes and laundry pile up and make sewing your top priority. I have to admit that sometimes this is my favorite trick for better sewing productivity.

We all have lots to do and limited time. However you find the time, making is important and I encourage you to make more time to sew.

Make More Time to Sew, Part Two

Make More Time to Sew, Part Two

Here are more tips to make more time to sew

Here are more tips to make more time to sew.
Hi! I hope you found part one of this series helpful for making more time to sew. I saved my favorite productivity hacks for this week. Here are new ideas for how to make more time to sew; hopefully these will help you, too.

Automate systems

If you can’t get someone else to go for your groceries, could you streamline and automate your system by meal planning and ordering the groceries online, for example, rather than wandering grocery store aisles with your cart?

An easy system for meal planning definitely helps me to make more time.

Another example: some people do laundry on a certain day of the week, but I can’t imagine that. I do laundry every day, automatically. Or I did, anyway; I battled laundry and gave up significant amounts of time to taking care of laundry with love for my family.

Finally, I managed to eliminate laundry backups and piles by doing a load or two — through to completion of putting them away, without exception — every day.

And my work on getting this system into an automated rhythm paid off for me even further. My husband surprised me by offering to take over this daily management! I happily loaded laundry onto my don’t do list and that gives me more time every day.

Keep reading to see more ideas for easy automation of regularly recurring tasks.

Keep reading to see more ideas for easy automation of regularly recurring tasks.

Just having an automated system of where you always put your keys, phone, and other items, for example, could potentially save many minutes of time spent searching for your things.

The same goes for your sewing tools and space, of course. Keep your machines next to their thread, for example. Arrange a hot iron and pressing board within your reach from your sewing machine when you make patchwork. Always know exactly where everything you need is by having a dedicated place for everything and keep everything always in its place when not in use. These little tweaks can save a lot of time for more sewing.

Speaking of systems:

Take a tip from the king of Twitter. I am talking about Jack Dorsey. Dorsey is one of Twitter’s founders and its first CEO. And when Twitter performance was lagging in 2011, he came back as CEO to turn the company around. Dorsey also founded Square, the app that turns a cell phone into a card scanner and enabled everyday folks to easily accept credit card payments.  For a time, he was CEO of both giant operations.

This productivity whiz shared his secret by talking about how he themes his days. When I read his descriptions about how he handles marketing, communications, and growth on Wednesdays, and culture and recruiting on Fridays, for example, I sensed a way to make more time and I started thinking about this.

Keep it simple, silly: easy to remember themes

For this to work for me, it had to be simple and easy to remember. After working with different iterations of this idea, my current themes for my days include things like:

Monday

Mail and management on Mondays. Some folks might prefer to use the OHIO rule (only handle it once) for mail. For me, though, I prefer to deal with the last week’s incoming mail quickly and all at once on Mondays.

I made this butterfly organizer pocket to hold my mail for dealing with on Mondays.

I made this butterfly organizer pocket to hold my mail for dealing with on Mondays.

Management for me means I am paying bills, scheduling tasks, planning my next week and reviewing the previous week, following up on things, etc.

You could have Making on Mondays, and fit sewing and other projects in on this day every week.

Tuesday

I clean tubs, toilets, and tile on Tuesdays.

Or how about teaching on Tuesdays? You could teach yourself or someone else how to do something new.

Wednesday

For me, Wednesdays are devoted exclusively to writing, and I try to do not much else, because I am currently writing more than one book.

If you don’t have much writing to do, you might like to have whatever Wednesdays instead, for maximum scheduling freedom on hump days.

Sewing could definitely fit into Whatever Wednesday!

If you are in the once a week laundry camp, you could do your washing on Wednesdays.

Thursday

Thrifty Thursdays. I used to choose to do my shopping on this day, since following the thrifty theme helped me not to make impulse purchases or otherwise spend unwisely.

Now that shopping is on my don’t do list, I am helping to free time from excess management on Mondays by theming Thursdays for thinking, too. I allow myself to invest a larger percentage of this day for reading and learning new things.

Friday

Floors, FUN, fitness, and friends on Fridays- I use Fridays for fitting in all these things.

I try to schedule most of our outings, field trips, hikes and other outdoor activities, and also playdates or informal dinner parties with friends, on Fridays.

I also do a good bit of sewing under the umbrella of fun on Fridays. This would be for fun new project ideas, just playing with patchwork or starting a new quilt, stuff that is fun. I wouldn’t do mending on a Friday, since that isn’t as much fun.

We have family time every day here, but if yours doesn’t live with you, maybe you could use Fridays for family time, if this will help you.

I’ll also tell you about a tool that can save a ton of time from Friday’s floor cleaning task. I have a lot of hardwood and other hard floors, and also a pack of boys and a dog. So cleaning floors used to take up what felt like half my day on Fridays.

Luckily, a steam mop is a huge helper that cuts this task from tedious chore to so fast and effective it is almost fun to clean floors.

These are not all made equal, however. I love the well-designed Luna Plus steam mop system, especially because of its handy extra uses in the bathroom. This baby can save time on the floors on Fridays, and the tub and tile on Tuesdays, too.

It cleans twice as well as you can, and in half the time!

Saturday

Sew on Saturdays.

Here are some ideas to get you started thinking about your own themes for every day of the week.

Here are some ideas to get you started thinking about your own themes for every day of the week.

I would advise against any temptation to have Saturday shopping as a theme! That is based on my own opinions, however; you should do what makes you happy.

If you normally shop on Saturdays, could you move to using thrifty Thursdays for this? Then you could save money for more sewing equipment and supplies and a whole day of the week for sewing. I’d love to help you save time AND money, so do consider this option.

Some folks might like to theme their Saturdays for socializing. I do this some weeks myself.

Sunday

Sew on Sundays, too!

It is fortunate that there are two days of the week beginning with S! And it makes perfect sense when theming your days to plan two days of sewing, if you want to make more time to sew.

Of course you could also devote all or part of either Saturday or Sunday to Service or as your Sabbath day of rest and reflection.

And wait, there’s more!

This series will be continued to part three, next week, because I’ll like to show you a few more ways to make more time. And I’ll share a video I am working on for you, where I’ll give you more details and inspiration about all the ideas from this series.

Until then, happy sewing. I hope these tricks can help you to make more time for sewing this week, and I hope you get to enjoy making something you’ll love.

How to Make More Time to Sew

How to Make More Time to Sew

You can make more time to sew

Do you have more ideas and things you’d like to make than time to do them?

No matter how many ideas that is, the right answer is no.

You can make more time to do anything you want, including sewing.

Here are my tips & tricks for finding more time.

Here are my tips & tricks for finding more time.

Productivity has become one of my passions. In fact, I am outlining a book I’ll write about many productivity hacks I have learned. I’ll share a few of these with you.

Make More Time to Sew

Set up for success

You need an efficient, working sewing system, including machines and workspace. That’s not to say that you can’t use a kitchen table if you don’t have dedicated space. In that case, a big part of your system would be keeping that kitchen table clean and never allowing piles of things to accumulate there. That way, you can whip out your sewing machine and get to work whenever you find a chunk of time to sew.

Keep work spaces clear & ready for working whenever you find time to sew.

Keep work spaces clear & ready for working whenever you find time to sew.

You do not want to waste time having to clear a space to sew. Keep your spaces clean and clear. Have backups of all machines, if you can. And keep them clean and in good working order. I gave tips about this when I laid out rules for keeping your sewing room in order.

The don’t-do list

Use the Eisenhower Matrix for prioritizing tasks. Start your don’t do list by dumping all the tasks in the not important, not urgent quadrant.

Use the Eisenhower Matrix for prioritizing tasks. Start your don’t do list by dumping all the tasks in the not important, not urgent quadrant.

Here is a great way to grab all kinds of time.

What are you currently doing that someone else could do?

If you are a parent, for example, that job is about raising competent people. And doing things for kids is often a disservice to both of you. It was awfully helpful for me and my kids when I realized this.

My own don’t do list started with only one item I could think to move there—washing dishes. It stayed like that for a long time. Gradually, I started finding things to add and helpers to give tasks to. My don’t do list is quite long by now.

My don’t do list now includes going shopping for groceries, for example. I order groceries online, and my husband is willing to go to the grocery store and pick them up. So I never go out for groceries at all anymore!

This is liberating and frees up all kinds of time to sew.

You can say no!

Do not feel obliged to accept all invitations or requests for your help. Be helpful and social, but remember the rule: don’t do for others what they can do for themselves.

Here is another helpful rule to keep in mind when thinking about your don’t do list: Only do what only you can do.

Right now, I’m busy doing so much that only I can do that I have delegated a lot of tasks to others & gained time by having a long don’t do list.

Right now, I’m busy doing so much that only I can do that I have delegated a lot of tasks to others & gained time by having a long don’t do list.

When you are looking at items on your plate and deciding which things to dump, it might be helpful to think of the 10-10-10 question. Just ask what difference a particular task will make in ten minutes, in ten months, and ten years. If it doesn’t matter much in any of these timelines, then perhaps that is a task you can let go and include on your don’t do list.

You can use this question to clearly see and reorder your priorities if necessary, so it is a helpful tool in other ways, too

Capture all your ideas

Achieve a mind like water that is free to flow in whatever container it finds itself by emptying it of all those things you do want to do.

Don’t use your brain power for keeping track of ideas and plans. Write these down. You need to regularly drain your brain, or download data to paper or digital file.

Use a notebook, card file, or organize lists on an app. The important thing is to have a system for tracking all your ideas, projects, and tasks. And use it!

How to Make More Time to Sew

I’ll recommend my two favorite ideas for this: a bullet journal or bujo, as these are affectionately known online, and a kanban, which comes from the system known as kaizen.

Bullet Journal

A bullet journal is a notebook with numbered pages and an index in the front. This helps to organize your lists and information so you can find it. You can have project lists, lists of next actions and Most Important Tasks, books you’d like to read, garments or quilts you want to sew, ideas, sketches. The point is to use it to capture everything you want to keep track of, rather than using your headspace for this.

Use an index in the front & number bullet journal pages to easily find all your lists.

Use an index in the front & number bullet journal pages to easily find all your lists.

Kanban

A kanban board is a central tool in the system known as kaizen (“change for better” or “continuous improvement). I find it to be incredibly helpful.

A kanban board is simply three columns: to-do, doing, and done. I have used a white board and also a tri fold board and post-it notes to organize a kanban for some big projects before. Now I use free Trello boards to do this digitally.

My kanban board for today.

My kanban board for today.

The trick to making kanban work for you is to limit the Doing column, and keep it moving. My advice would be to use no more than three doing cards at a time. I allow an absolute maximum of five on mine, but try to keep it to three or just two.

Move these doing cards quickly to done, in a continual stream. The way to successfully do this is to make highly actionable tasks. “Make a quilt,” for example is a PROJECT, not a task or next action. Break projects into next actions. So the first task for “make a quilt,” might be to settle on a design, or if you’ve done that, plan and buy all the fabrics. Next actions in order would then be, prewash fabrics, iron fabrics, cut patchwork pieces, assemble patchwork, finish quilt top, make a quilt sandwich and pin, quilt, bind.

I hope these time saving tips help you. There’s more; I saved my favorite productivity hacks for finding more time to sew for part two of this series, next week.