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.

How to Sew Pocket Organizers

How to Sew Pocket Organizers

Sew pocket organizers to hold all your stuff!

Pockets are not only for clothes and bags.  You can sew pocket organizers for:

  • Shoes
  • Jewelry
  • Sewing supplies
  • Knitting or crochet supplies
  • Art supplies
  • Any other kind of supplies
  • Baby gear
  • Guitar gear
  • Other kinds of gear
  • Remotes
  • Cords or cables
  • Tools
  • Toiletries
  • First aid kit
  • Other kits
  • Frequently used pattern pieces
  • Bills or mail
  • Money
  • Magazines
  • Papers
  • Games
  • Toys

Those are just quick ideas off the top of my head; the possibilities are endless.

How to sew a single hanging pocket

Anyone can sew a pocket organizer, even absolute beginner sewists.  A basic hanging pocket is just two finished  squares or rectangles, one sewn down on three sides on top of the other.

To finish the squares, you cut two identical layers and sew them around all four corners and sides with right sides together, leaving an opening for turning.

I drew this because the ink shows up better than my stitching in the photo.

I drew this because the ink shows up better than my stitching in the photo.

Clip the corners and turn right sides out. You can stick something inside to push the corners out.

Then stitch the opening closed. I usually just topstitch along that entire side. Sometimes I topstitch around all four sides.

Fold the top down an inch and a half or more towards the back and sew the edge down to form a casing for hanging. Then make a smaller finished square or rectangle pocket piece using the same directions as above.

Topstitch the pocket onto the larger panel along the sides and bottom. Don’t sew the top of the pocket closed!

I made this pocket from my leftover butterfly block to hold mail, which used to pile up in my entryway.

I made this pocket from my leftover butterfly block to hold mail, which used to pile up in my entryway.

Or cheat and use jean pockets

I did some searching to find some cute projects to recommend for you.  And I found some examples of organizers that were made by reusing jeans pockets. These save a step and so you can make these with super speed. Just be sure to use a jeans needle.

I think this one is a great idea for a closet organizer.

I think this one is a great idea for a closet organizer.

I will like to make a long double sided one of these to hang in the middle of a closet that’s shared by two boys at my house. This will solve a couple of different organizational challenges in that small closet nicely.

Here is one on a hanger that is being used for sewing supplies storage.

Here is one on a hanger that is being used for sewing supplies storage.

How to sew pocket organizers with multiple pockets

To start, make a backing panel. Cut two square or rectangular pieces to the desired size of your organizer pocket panel. Press interfacing to the wrong side of one of the two square or rectangular pieces. Then layer the two pieces right sides together and sew around, leaving an opening for turning.  Turn right side out, push the corners out well from the inside, press, and then sew closed.

To allow for hanging, you can simply fold over at the top and sew a casing, or you can make hanging loops and attach these by tucking between the two pieces when you sew them together in the steps above.

My sewing room curtain organizer panels use all of the above kinds of pockets.

My sewing room curtain organizer panels use all of the above kinds of pockets.

For the pockets, you could make several or many individual pockets in the same way as the larger backing piece and topstitch each pocket onto the backing panel separately. Or you could make long pockets the width of the backing panel. You can then topstitch to divide these long pockets into shorter sections.  You can also make your pockets slightly wider than your backing panel.  Then pleat them at the bottom and add elastic casings along the top edges, to build roomier pockets with more holding power.

My sewing room curtain organizer panels use all of the above kinds of pockets. I also stuffed a long one and sewed it closed around all sides to make a pin cushion way up high and out of the reach of grabby kids.

You can customize your pocket panels to suit your organizational challenges, no matter what they are.

Sew a money bag pocket

Maybe you’d call it a bag, but this project is simply a big pocket with a zipper at the top. You could use these as bank bags for deposits or otherwise holding cash. I made them big enough to hold multiple envelopes for monthly budgeting.

For stashing cash or other goodies.

For stashing cash or other goodies.

Or you could make these zippered pockets to hold your pencils or some other small collection.  I’m using one of mine for stashing my jewelry pliers set where no kids can reach them. Keeping my things out of the reach of children seems to be the major part of my own organizational challenges!

Favorite pocket organizers from around the web

If I haven’t given you enough inspiration to sew pocket organizers yet, check out these other ideas and tutorials that I found and collected from around the web. I will make the handy ironing board pockets right away, I can’t believe I have never thought of this simple solution before. And I think the pocketed towel will make a great gift for a sunbather I know and love.

Are the gears in your brain turning now? What problems could you solve if you sew pocket organizers to keep things in place?

Crazy Patch Butterfly Applique Blocks

Crazy Patch Butterfly Applique Blocks

These crazy patch butterfly blocks happened by accident.

These crazy patch butterfly blocks happened by accident.

These crazy patch butterfly blocks happened by accident.

The last time I made a crazy patch quilt, I wound up with two extra blocks. I have no intention of collecting UFO blocks, but I’m not inclined to throw my handiwork away. So I stared at them a while, trying to think of something to make from these extra blocks.

Something told me to cut them into triangles, so I did, still not knowing what I’d do with them. I played with the triangle pieces for a few minutes, and this design idea came to me. I think it’s a good one.

You could make a bunch of these for a quilt, a few for a table or bed runner, feature one in a sampler quilt, or just make one for a small project.

I plan to use one of these to make an oversized pocket on a skirt. And I’ll show you what I’m going to do with the other one next week, so stay tuned.

Here are the steps to make these:

Crazy Patch Butterfly Blocks

For each block, you will need:

  • Background rectangle or square
  • Muslin square
  • Assorted small scraps

Step one: make the crazy patchwork

You could make these crazy patch butterfly blocks any size, but my examples started with a six inch square. Take your muslin square and arrange a several sided scrap somewhere near the middle of the square.  Choose another scrap with one side at least as long as one side of the first fabric, and place it right side down atop the first.  Sew along this seam, flip the second fabric down where the right side faces up, then press.  Repeat this process, gradually adding scraps, until the square is fully covered by your assorted scraps.

Then, place the block right side down on your cutting mat and use your rotary cutter and ruler to trim the fabric scrap from the edges of the muslin square.

I made one on video so you can see exactly how to do this step:

I should mention that traditional crazy patchwork also incorporates embroidery stitches over the seam lines. If you have a machine that does decorative stitching, then you can sew a line of decorative stitches along the seam after you add each new scrap to your crazy square. You don’t want to wait until the end, since these scraps go every which way.

Step two: cut triangles

Now lay the crazy patchwork square right side up on your cutting board. Use your ruler and rotary cutter to cut it in half diagonally, then move your ruler and cut diagonally the other way, to end up with four quarter square triangles. You could use scissors if you don’t have a rotary cutter, but if you want to make patchwork, you really want to get a rotary cutter and cutting mat.

Step three: appliqué

Here’s how to arrange the triangles to construct these crazy patch butterfly blocks. Place the top pair of wings with points together and the ninety degree angles at the outside bottom corners. Then angle the bottom wing pieces with the longest edges on the inside and the ninety degree angles pointing out.

Crazy patch butterfly block.

Crazy patch butterfly block.

Pin these to your backing square and appliqué using a satin stitch. I made these using a rectangular backing cut at nine and a quarter by eleven and a half inches.

If you will be using these for a small project rather than a quilt, there is an alternative way to hold your pieces in place rather than using pins. You could use double-sided fusible web. You would affix this to the back of your appliqué pieces and then remove the paper backing and affix the other side to the backing rectangle.

This makes appliqué really easy, but I don’t recommend using it for quilts, because it will be crinkly inside the appliqué. If you are making a wall quilt or other small decorative project, it is an easy choice.

Bust out the scraps

After you appliqué the crazy patch butterfly wings, then use corduroy or another scrap fabric to cut a long, tapered oval for the caterpillar body. Applique this in the middle, to cover the intersecting wings.

My son just pointed out that I forgot to add antennae to mine. If you’d like to add antennae, you can do this using hand or machine embroidery. Or you can use Debbie Mumm’s easy idea that she calls pen-stitch embroidery. That is, you can draw them with a fine tipped Sharpie or other permanent pen.

Here is one that I quilted the background using using tight free-motion quilting.

Crazy patch butterfly block quilted.

Crazy patch butterfly block quilted.

As you can see, these crazy patch butterfly blocks are super easy to make. They’d be cute on a baby, wall, or bed quilt. Or you could feature just one on an apron or skirt.

What will you make with these crazy patch butterfly blocks?

What’s In Style for Spring Sewing?

What’s In Style for Spring Sewing?

Spring sewing for your wardrobe is one of the best ways to chase away the end of winter woes.

What’s in style and on trend? What should you sew for this year?

What's In Style pin

Spring sewing: what’s still in style

There a few trends that popped up last year that we saw again this year on Spring runways, namely:

Lingerie-inspired fashions

Romantic and baby doll style lingerie continues to be a fashionable influence, with nightgown style dresses, both short and long, and even pajama styles being featured by many designers this year.

New this year to this category are wraps and dresses that mimic menswear-style silk robes.

Paper bag waists

These came back last year and we are still seeing them now. Luckily for us, they are easy to sew, especially for elastic waist skirts and pants. Just fold over the top of your garment an inch or more farther than you would normally fold over for an elastic casing, sew a line of stitching slightly lower than the fold to create the casing, insert your elastic, and voila.

Or sew a paper bag neck; higher necklines are on trend this year, too.

Or sew a paper bag neck; higher necklines are on trend this year, too.

Metallic shimmer and shine

Metallics started popping up everywhere last year, and these are still in now. You can sew most any garment in a lamé or other metallic fabric now.

Gold lamé? More like gold fabulous!

Gold lamé? More like gold fabulous!

Midi lengths

The flattering midi-length skirt is still where it’s at this year. We also see midi length cropped pants and jumpsuits cut to this length now.

The flattering midi-length skirt is still where it’s at this year.

The flattering midi-length skirt is still where it’s at this year.

Pleats

Last year we saw these primarily as small, accordion style pleats. This year, these are still in style. But so are pleats of slightly wider widths.

Plaids

Where large plaids were the rage last year, this year the trend is toward smaller plaids. You’ll also see a mixing and matching of similar plaids in differing scales worn together.

Forget the large plaids; small plaids are where it's at this year.

Forget the large plaids; small plaids are where it’s at this year.

Florals

Florals are usually everywhere in Spring. This year, they are trending a few different ways. Designers continued last year’s trend of using small scale florals in romantic, feminine style, though they’ve sometimes paired them with edgier pieces. The small scale romantic florals are particularly popular for jumpsuits now.

Larger, 70’s style florals are also popping up all over this year.

Larger, 70’s style florals are also popping up all over this year.

Ruffles

Large and wide ruffles continue to trend this year. Use these on blouses, skirts, and dresses.

Stripes

Stripes were featured widely last year, and they are still big. We saw stripes on Spring runways this year in different ways. Vertical stripes in navy or black and white are in, and so are colorful, wide horizontal rugby stripes.  Pinstripes also featured widely in men’s shirt style dresses.

Use black & white stripes vertically this year.

Use black & white stripes vertically this year.

What’s New for Spring sewing 2017

Embroidery and embellishments everywhere

You can put your embroidery machine and embellishment software to good use in your Spring wardrobe now.

You can embroider any garment this year.

You can embroider any garment this year.

We saw embroidered motifs here and there last year, but it is more widely featured this year. Designers paired embroidered vests with embroidered pants and emblazoned dresses and blouses with heavy embroidery. Handbags especially were covered with embroidery designs this year.

Bags, blouses, dresses, jackets, and pants also saw lots of beading and sequins in designers’ Spring collections. From beaded and sequin designs such as florals to covered sleeves, embellishments are on trend.

Bold prints

Besides the kitschy 70’s style florals already mentioned here, other 70’s style prints are in. Also make use of graphic geometric prints this year, especially large scale prints.

Higher necklines

Mock turtlenecks are in, even on bathing suits. Boatneck styles are cut higher than usual, too, right at the neckline.  For necklines cut a bit lower, designers paired these with silk scarves wrapped tightly around the neck, to imitate the turtleneck style.

Pair dresses with less coverage, such as spaghetti straps, with higher necked tops worn underneath.

Shoulders out

There are also plenty of shoulder-baring styles this year. Off the shoulder cuts are popular, especially for peasant blouses and dresses.

Off the shoulder peasant top.

Off the shoulder peasant top.

Hopefully you still have the patterns you bought in 2011, because one shouldered designs are in again. One sleeved styles are trending, too.

A-line mini skirts

Cut these on the bias. A-line minis are my absolute favorite skirts to sew; I’ll share how to draft your own pattern for a perfectly fitting bias skirt here on the blog soon .

Sheers

Sheer skirts over leotard style tops. Even sheer hoodies!

Sheers and cutouts are big this year, along with higher necklines.

Sheers and cutouts are big this year, along with higher necklines.

Glam

In tribute to David Bowie, 80’s style glam is trending now, especially with puffed-at-the shoulder sleeves and wide ruffles.

Flared hems

Both ankle flare pants hems and bell sleeved blouses are in style now.

Flared bell sleeves on a one-shouldered design.

Flared bell sleeves on a one-shouldered design.

Jumpsuits

Here is another major way what was hot in 2011 is back again today. Jumpsuits are big now, in all lengths, particularly wide legged midi styles, in floral prints.

Patchwork

Runways this year featured patchwork dresses of all kinds. From a mix of solids reminiscent of Amish quilts, to patchworks of patterns and florals, any kind of patchwork can work in your Spring sewing and wardrobe this year.

Feathery fringe

Feathery fringe is everywhere now, from necklines and sleeves to bags, even dresses covered in tiers of brightly colored feathered fringe.

Feathery trim.

Feathery trim.

BIG bags

While smaller handbags with heavy embroidery are in style, super XL bags are all the rage.

Spring sewing: color trends

Spring sewing: color trends

Besides the florals, bold patterns, and stripes trends already discussed, here are the color trends for this season:

  • Khaki – it’s everywhere
  • Pinks – pale pinks, mauves, raspberry
  • Blue – all shades of blue, especially several different blues worn together
  • Neutrals – these are featured more often than usual this year
  • Gold – metallics are hot in general, but especially gold
  • Yellow – while orange was hot last year, yellow seems to be the it color this year
  • Neons – these bright colors are coming back again now
Yellow & blue are both hot colors now.

Yellow & blue are both hot colors now.

I’m excited that patchwork and embroidery are trending now, and I’ll be adding more of these pieces to my closet. On the other hand, in style or not, you’ll never see me wearing yellow, gold, or feathery fringe!

Which of these styles are you excited to sew for your wardrobe now and which trends would you rather skip?

Sewing on the Go: What and How to Pack for Class or Traveling

Sewing on the Go: What and How to Pack for Class or Traveling

Sewing on the Go: What and How to Pack for Class or Traveling

Whether you are attending a sewing class or planning a leisurely vacation, sewing on the go is something you will want to do sooner or later.

We’ve talked a lot about sewing rooms here on the blog, but we haven’t addressed the issue of sewing on the go here before now.

Sewing on the go won’t work if you aren’t properly prepared, so I’ve made this short video to cover all the areas you need to address to ensure you have what you need when you take your sewing on the road.

Here’s everything you’ll need:

Sewing on the go: portable machine

Janome Jem Gold

I already discussed this machine in my beginner sewing machine buying guide. It is definitely my choice for best lightweight portable machine.

Sewing on the go: machine carriers, luggage and totes

You definitely want to think about this before you get ready to take your sewing to go. I hadn’t ever considered this myself until the day before I taught my first sewing class at the community center. I suddenly realized I was going to have a lot of equipment and gear to lug and I had no idea how I was going to carry it all!

So I grabbed a thick piece of table linen and whipped up a humongous bag to carry everything.

So I grabbed a thick piece of table linen & whipped up a humongous bag to carry everything.

So I grabbed a thick piece of table linen & whipped up a humongous bag to carry everything.

While this bag has proven itself to be quite useful in other ways, I don’t recommend this solution for sewing supplies and gear. I only used it that one time for this purpose and then I found a more suitable option. I have appreciated the ample sack for carrying beach supplies for myself and my kids, and it carries three of our ukuleles in boxes safely in the trunk when we travel with them these days.

For toting your sewing machine and supplies, save time and trouble by ordering one of these great choices from Sewing Machines Plus:

Here is a link to SMP’s full selection of trolleys, totes, and cases.

Sewing on the go: sewing supplies

Here is the list of supplies to be sure to include in your travel sewing kit:

Here is the list of supplies to be sure to include in your travel sewing kit:

Be sure to get an extra pair of dress shears to keep in your go bag at all times.

You’ll also like to have a portable rotary cutter.

Here is the combo cutting mat/ pressing board mentioned in the video.

And here is that Rowenta travel iron.

The clover mini-iron is available in a couple of different options:

Here are the cooling sleeves for the mini-iron.

And that’s what you need to be well equipped for sewing on the go. Happy travels to you!