half square triangle quilting blocks

Sewing skills project 12: My First Quilt

Chambray and linen quilt
My half-square triangle quilt, featuring chambray and linen-cotton blend fabrics

Technically, this was my second quilt, but the first one was fifteen years ago and I didn’t know what the heck I was doing at the time, so…this is my first proper quilt.

Project

My First Quilt (lap size) from School of Sewing by Shea Henderson

Project features:

  • matching seams
  • pieced half-square triangles
  • machine quilting
  • hand-sewn binding

Process notes

Materials:

  • Robert Kaufman Kona Cotton in Charcoal
  • Robert Kaufman Kona Cotton in White
  • Robert Kaufman Kona Cotton in Ash
  • Robert Kaufman Kona Cotton in Spice
  • Robert Kaufman Essex Yarn Dyed Linen Blend in Black
  • Robert Kaufman Chambray Union in Indigo
  • Robert Kaufman Essex Wide Linen Blend in Flax
  • Gütermann 50 Wt Natural Cotton thread, color 3260 for piecing
  • Gütermann 50 Wt Natural Cotton thread, color 6210 for binding
  • Coats Machine Quilting & Crafts 30 Wt Mercerized ELS Cotton thread, color 155 Dogwood for quilting

Equipment and settings:

  • for piecing, used foot pressure of 2, J foot, tension 4, 5.5/2.0 with stitch 21 (except for the linen-to-linen blocks used pressure 1)
  • for quilting, used walking foot, 3.5/3, aligned seam line with edge of foot

Day 1: cut block pieces (120 squares); piece together the back (cut the length of fabric in half, resulting in two pieces each 2 yd x WOF; stitched 5/8″ from selvedge edge, then trimmed edges to 1/2″ before pressing open)

120 fabric squares ready to sew into blocks
120 fabric squares, ready to sew into blocks

Day 2: join binding pieces and press in half; pin blocks and mark for triangles

Day 3: sew seams on blocks to form triangles (used 1 bobbin + one and a half 100-m spools of thread)

Day 4: set block seams; slice each block in half diagonally

Day 5: press seams open (120 blocks)

120 half square triangle quilting blocks
120 half square triangle quilting blocks, seams pressed open and ready to trim to size

Day 6: trim blocks to 6 1/2 x 6 1/2; arrange blocks; sew first 5 rows

quilt blocks arranged for construction
quilt blocks arranged for construction

Day 7: finish sewing rows; set seams for 8 of the rows

Day 8: set rest of seams; start sewing rows together

Day 9: finish sewing rows; press row seams flat

completed quilt top
completed quilt top, ready for pin basting

Day 10: pin basting the top to the batting and backing

pin-basted quilt top
pin-basted quilt top

Day 11: quilt first half of the lines

Day 12: quilt second half of lines; trim edges; apply binding by machine; prep for hand stitching

Day 13: begin hand stitching binding

Day 14: complete hand stitching of binding

Results

Wow, this was a big project. Every time I started to feel close to being done, it turned out there was a lot more to do. And it wasn’t even a bed-sized quilt! It was such a great experience though, learning new things and bonding with my sewing machine.

My first challenge was cutting. Actually, my first challenge was choosing fabrics. My second challenge was cutting. It was hard for me to cut multiple layers of fabric and stay on grain. More accurately, I didn’t stay on grain. That’s something I’ll definitely need to watch more carefully, especially for garment sewing.

I’m so grateful the author instructed us to cut the blocks a bit larger and trim them down after the half-square triangles were pieced. They tended to be misshapen just enough that finishing without that trim would have likely put things askew.

When sewing the rows together I discovered that some Solvy stabilizer on the underside helps the fabric go over the feed dogs smoothly and prevents the trickier intersections from bunching up, getting sewn down wrong. This occurred to me only after 10 rows of ripping out a few corners on each row and re-sewing.

If I could change one thing about my project it would be the quilting stitches. I wouldn’t buy the 1200-yd spools of 30-wt thread for this machine again. There were just too many tension issues, and my quilting stitches aren’t as even as I’d like. The 50-wt worked much better. For me, sewing row after row during the quilting stage was rather tedious, with the size of the quilt unwieldy for my machine.

The hand stitching went very well and by the end I really felt like I had gotten into the rhythm of the stitch. Doing a quilt like this, with so much hand stitching, made me less likely to avoid it on future projects because now I know it’s not insurmountable.

I’m delighted with how my quilt turned out. I love the way the colors and fabrics work together — it looks crisp and polished, yet casual because of the chambray (which I’m addicted to) and dark grey backing. It has an appealing nautical feel to it. I’m not certain if there’s another quilt in my future, but I’m very glad to have made this one, and that my goal of sewing all of the projects in the book is completed.

Half square triangle quilt with chambray and linen blend fabrics

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Pieced placemat detail

Sewing skills project 11: Set the Table Placemats

plain quilted placemat backs
After washing and drying, the placemats have a crinkly, casual texture
Back of pieced and quilted placemat
The pieced design, after washing

Project

Set the Table Placemats from School of Sewing by Shea Henderson

Project features:

  • machine quilting
  • hand sewn binding
  • pin basting
  • batting

Process notes

I made two placemats following the regular instructions, and two with the Extra Credit piecing method.

Materials:

  • Robert Kaufman Kona Cotton in Stone
  • Robert Kaufman Kona Cotton in Charcoal
  • Robert Kaufman Kona Cotton in Honey
  • Moda Weave in a light grey
  • chambray
  • Pellon Nature’s Touch Cotton Batting
  • Coats Machine Quilting & Crafts 30 Wt Mercerized ELS Cotton thread, color 155 Dogwood (for piecing and quilting)
  • Gütermann 50 Wt Natural Cotton thread, color 6210 (for binding)

Equipment and settings:

  • 75/11 Quilting Needle for piecing, 3.5/2.0 stitch, using 1/4-inch guide foot for piecing striped version
  • 90/14 Quilting Needle for quilting front to back, 3.0 stitch length, 4.25–4.75 needle tension
  • used Thread Heaven for hand sewing the binding to the backs

Results

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed making these placemats. We’ve never been a placemat type of family, so I wasn’t sure I’d really connect with the project, but it was such a wonderful warm-up to the quilt project, and a cool way to try out different fabrics and piecing designs. I enjoyed the piecing in particular — it was relaxing and fun to see the sections grow strip by strip. Love my 1/4-inch piecing foot.

During my quilting experiment, I learned that a heavier thread is nice for quilting, so that’s what I used on this project. However, I wish that I had used a 50 wt thread for the piecing. The thick 30 wt thread was unnecessarily bulky on those pieced seams. The 30 wt was nice for quilting though.

The large 1200-yd spool of thread was too large for the thread area in my machine, and my spool pin doesn’t have a vertical orientation option. When it was lying horizontally in the primary spool location, the thread got caught between the spoon and the machine itself, causing tension problems. So it required using the secondary spool pin, which worked much better. But it still wasn’t as smooth as with the smaller spools, so in the future I’d avoid buying these large spools for the sewing machine.

When it was time to quilt, I kept forgetting to draw my design on before pin basting. I was able to get around the pins to do a simple diagonal line on the two solid placemats, but it would still be better to get the designs drawn before pinning as suggested in the book.

Most of my hand-sewn binding happened on a comfy lounge chair, but I did the last placemat at my work desk in my office chair. I was surprised to see that the stitching looked better (and was actually easier to do) when done at my desk. The Thread Heaven thread conditioner worked best when I ran the thread through once, then put it through the needle and knotted the ends, then ran the double-thickness through the conditioner again.

One of the biggest lessons I’m learning from this process is that it’s all about the prep. Planning, using the right supplies and equipment, and careful cutting make the process go much better — or at least make it more enjoyable.

When I finished the placemats I realized that our dining table is too narrow for them to be used like normal. It would be fun to make a set customized for our table size, perhaps with an improvisational approach. I was watching old episodes of It’s Sew Easy and was intrigued by a segment with Victoria Findlay Wolfe. She explained how she uses her 15 minutes of play method to create fabric from pieced-together scraps, then uses that fabric to make blocks. That sort of free-form play is basically the opposite of my structured approach to things, which is exactly why I think it would be awesome to try.

pleated purse detail

Sewing skills project 10: Pleated Purse

pleated purse in camel and chambray
This roomy pleated purse with both zippered and flat interior pockets has a substantial feel without being too stiff

Project

Pleated Purse from School of Sewing by Shea Henderson

Project features:

  • magnetic snaps
  • pleats
  • zippered interior pocket
  • boxed corners
  • topstitching

Process notes

Fabric:

  • chambray
  • Robert Kaufman Kona Cotton Honey
  • Pellon SF101 Shape-Flex woven fusible interfacing

Equipment and settings:

  • Universal 90/14 needle for topstitching strap
  • Microtex 90/14 for topstitching exterior, 3.5/3.5 with 1/4-inch guide foot, tension 5

Results

My favorite part of this project was learning how to do the zippered interior pocket. I’m really glad to have one of those under my belt and definitely want to do more of them in the future. The interior panel that I put the zipper in got a little distorted during the process, so that’s something I’ll be more careful with next time. The main issue was that I pulled the rectangular zipper opening to close together when sewing in the zipper, so it pulled it out of alignment a bit. For the other interior pocket, I made a simple flat pocket with stitched divider as suggested.

interior zipper pocket in pleated purse
The way the zippered pocket comes together is sort of magical, but it’s not hard to do

It was great to get some experience with pleats. My exterior panels were a tad narrower than instructed once the pleats were sewn down, so on the final piecing of the exterior I reduced my seam allowance to 5/16″ to compensate and that worked fine.

Now that I know how the magnetic snaps work, I’ll know how to position the fleece stabilizer behind them better next time. Mine are up too high and barely align with the snaps. I think it would also be nice to have some coordinating fleece interfacing on the exterior panel because during the final pressing I ironed over the snaps, causing shiny spots where the snap tabs were.

For me, the most challenging part of this project was getting through the thick layers with my sewing machine, and it was hard to choose the right needle. It would be awesome if the instructions came with needle suggestions to help point us in the right direction.

I’m excited to use this purse this summer — I already have a black purse, so for this one I chose a summery camel and chambray combo. It’s very roomy and will easily hold a little cardigan along with all of the ordinary purse stuff.

essential tote bag topstitching detail

Sewing skills project 9: Essential Tote Bag

Project

Essential Tote Bag from School of Sewing by Shea Henderson

Project features:

  • topstitching
  • boxed corners
  • interior pocket
  • strap length options
  • pieced stripes

Process notes

Fabric:

  • chambray
  • Robert Kaufman Kona Cotton in Stone
  • Robert Kaufman Kona Cotton in Black
  • Robert Kaufman Kona Cotton in Navy
  • Pellon SF101 Shape-Flex woven fusible interfacing
  • Pellon 971F Thermolam Plus interfacing

Equipment and settings:

  • Universal 90/14 needle for most of the project, except for the straps used Jeans 100/16
  • used default stitch length setting 2.5, except for topstitching and quilting used 3.5
  • for topstitching the straps used 1/4-inch guide foot and edge joining foot

Results

This project has a few really nice options with the instructions, and I chose to make the striped version, with long handles and an inside pocket. It’s a very roomy tote, and the Thermolam gives it good structure without being overly stiff.

My 1/4-inch guide foot and edge joining foot were invaluable for this project — I’m so glad to have them! For making the 1/4-inch quilting stitches next to each stripe seam, I just ran the guide down the ditch and it was a piece of cake. I ran into little hiccups when topstitching the opening in the last step because my guide would run into the straps and get hung up. As was mentioned in the book a few times, going slow on the topstitching really does help. After hearing it from several places, it’s finally sinking in that there’s nothing wrong with sewing slowly. In fact, it’s faster in the long run if stitches don’t need to be ripped out and re-sewn.

tech case detail

Sewing skills project 8: Tech Case

tech case for iPad 2

Project

Tech Case from School of Sewing by Shea Henderson

Project features:

  • sew a curve
  • sew a buttonhole
  • sew a button
  • custom pocket
  • protective padding

Process notes

Fabric:

  • dark navy chambray
  • Marcus Fabrics Aunt Grace Ties One On #5369 in navy and white
  • Robert Kaufman Kona Cotton in a taupe shade (possibly Cobblestone)
  • Robert Kaufman Kona Cotton in Sage
  • Pellon SF101 Shape-Flex woven fusible interfacing
  • Pellon 987F Fusible Fleece

Customized fabric measurements for iPad 2:

  • 8 3/4 x 11 for exterior, lining, and pocket
  • 7 3/4 x 10 for coordinating interfacing/fleece pieces

Equipment and settings:

  • Microtex 80/12 needle for most of the project, except for the final assembly used Jeans 100/16
  • used default stitch length settings for straight stitches
  • basting stitch #06
  • for topstitching around the opening, used 0.0/3.5 stitch with edge joining foot
  • used pinking shears to trim seam allowances
  • tried using the open toe foot to stitch the seam on the flap, but the fabric didn’t stay flat around the curves, so that didn’t work very well
  • switched stitch length to 1.8 around curves
  • for top stitching the flap used 0/3.5 with the edge joining foot on the straight parts and 0/3 around the curve
  • for buttonhole used 5.0/.3

tech case for iPad 2

Results

I ran into some confusion with the flap pattern piece in the back of the book because it says to cut 2 of the woven interfacing, but the written instructions say to cut 1 fusible fleece and 1 woven interfacing. I followed the written instructions and it worked great.

It was challenging to sew the seams when constructing the exterior pieces because the presser foot kept wanting to squish the thick part of the fabric out to the side. So my seams there are wobblier than I’d like. It’s definitely something to practice! It might have helped to put a thick, folded piece of fabric on the right side of the foot to even it out.

I’m really happy with how the final case turned out — it looks very crisp, polished, and professional. My iPad is a really tight fit along the sides (the height is perfect) so if I make another I’ll add extra ease into the width so it’s easier to get in and out.

carry-all-clutch-with-ruffled-key-fob

Sewing skills project 7: Carry-All Clutch

Project

Carry-All Clutch from School of Sewing by Shea Henderson

Project features:

  • sewn curves
  • hook and loop tape
  • zipper closure + zipper tape ends
  • sturdy interfacing
  • attached key fob

Process notes

Fabric:

  • dark navy chambray
  • Moda Weave in a light grey
  • Pellon 987F fusible fleece
  • Pellon 808 Craft-Fuse fusible interfacing

Equipment and settings:

  • Microtex 80/12 needle for most of the project, except for the final assembly used Jeans 100/16
  • used default stitch length settings for straight stitches
  • basting stitch #06
  • used pinking shears to trim seam allowances

Results

This is a great size for a small clutch — it easily holds a phone, some cards, and lip balm. And this project was definitely a step forward in complexity with so many new techniques! It also featured more pieces and notions, more layers, and more to align. One thing I’m learning through this process is the importance of taking my time and aligning things carefully because once they’re sewn down, a small misalignment can have a big impact on how straight the final piece is.

I liked the technique of sewing the hook and loop tape down with a zig zag stitch. I wish the tape matched my fabrics better, but I had to make do with what was available at the fabric store.

carry-all clutch with ruffled key fob carry-all clutch open

Joining the lining pieces and exterior pieces around the zipper tape was hard for me. It was really thick there and I had trouble sewing in a straight line while keeping the tape ends free.

When I sandwiched together the lining, zipper, flap, and exterior I didn’t get things properly aligned and my basting stitches were visible on the flap. Also, that set of layers was too far from the zipper teeth. So next time I’ll look at that area more carefully to see if I can get it even.

Considering how challenging it was for me, I was pleasantly surprised how polished my project looked when I turned it right-side out and pressed it into shape. Such a good feeling!

quilted zip it pillow

Sewing skills project 6 Extra Credit: Quilted Zip It Pillow

Project

Zip It Pillow, Extra Credit quilted version, from School of Sewing by Shea Henderson

Project features:

  • binding
  • covered zipper
  • soft interfacing
  • removable and washable cover
  • quilting
  • + hand-stitched binding

Process notes

As with the last pillow, I made my own 18 x 18 pillow form.

Fabric:

  • Robert Kaufman Kona Cotton in Stone
  • Robert Kaufman Kona Cotton in Charcoal

Equipment and settings:

  • microtex 80/12 needle
  • used optional muslin backing to make quilt sandwich
  • marked first quilting line with fabric pen, then each additional with 1 3/8″ painters tape, using the walking foot and stitch #2 3.5/2.5
  • for the lines next to the primary grid lines, used stitch #1 0.0/2.5 and aligned the original stitches with the left edge of the walking foot
quilting with painters tape guide
Using painter’s tape as a quilting guide

Results

I think I used too few (or poorly-spaced) basting pins because there was some rippling with the muslin backing. This wasn’t a big issue because that backing was the lining, but it’s something to watch for when making the quilt project.

After quilting the top, I trued it up with the backing and noticed it was 1/4″ smaller all around. So the backing required a little trimming to make them line up.

I must have had beginner’s luck with the first pillow — after joining the binding ends on this one, there was a bit too much binding length and it caused a tiny wrinkle when it was stitched down. It’s barely noticeable, but it’s something to be careful of in the future. It’s definitely easier to re-sew that binding joint than rip out the seam after stitching it down!

hand stitched pillow corner detail
I’m happy with the hand stitching on these corners

The hand-stitched binding was trickier on this pillow because it was so much darker than the pillow itself. I decided to use thread that matched the binding rather than the pillow, and it was more visible than if the binding and pillow matched in color. But after I washed and dried the cover it helped blend the thread in pretty well, and leaving it unpressed after drying resulted in really cool texture that helps loosen up the understated look of the plain solid fabrics and straight quilting.

zip it pillow quilted detail
The wrinkled texture gives this cover a more casual look
zip it pillow

Sewing skills project 6: Zip It Pillow

Project

Zip It Pillow from School of Sewing by Shea Henderson

Project features:

  • binding
  • covered zipper
  • soft interfacing
  • removable and washable cover
  • + hand-stitched binding

Process notes

The instructions called for an 18″ square pillow form, and I made my own using a 36″ x 18″ piece of muslin, serged on two sides, turned right side out, then stuffed with about 12 oz of polyester Poly-Fil, and serged closed.

Fabric:

  • Robert Kaufman Railroad Denim Fine Stripe in Indigo

Equipment and settings:

  • for attaching zipper, rested the foot on the zipper teeth and aligned the edge of the tape with the edge of the foot
  • zipper foot: 2.5/2.5 for right side of foot, 4.0/2.5 for left side of foot
  • to stitch front and back pieces together, used walking foot (love this thing!!) with a foot pressure of 2

Results

It was super easy to make a pillow form from scratch, and I’d definitely do it again. With the cost of the muslin, it was under $3 to make the form, which is a fraction of what I saw them priced at in the store.

I really like the structure the fusible fleece adds to the fabric. It was more challenging to fuse smoothly than the lightweight non-woven or woven styles, but eventually I got it smoothed out.

Sewing in the covered zipper went fairly well, but the flap fabric shifted some while stitching it down. Next time I’ll try to align and pin better so it stays smoother. This zipper did turn out with more even stitches than the Zipper Pouch, so that felt good.

zip it pillow zipper detail
Rust-colored zipper to match the living room furniture
zip it pillow hand stitching detail
The hand stitching was much smoother than my previous attempts on other projects

When I read that we’d be hand stitching the binding using the ladder stitch on the back side, I have to admit I was kind of dreading it. But once I got rolling with it, it actually became a nice, soothing thing to do. It was a little disappointing to reach the end! It took me around 4 hours to complete the hand stitching, and it was fun to see the finished results. This is the best explanation of this stitch that I’ve seen so far, although I struggled with the corners — will work to improve them on the next pillow.

There was a bit of a whoopsie when I was trimming the binding overlap: instead of cutting just one of the loose ends to make the 2 1/4″ overlap, I cut through both ends. This left me with no room for joining the two ends of the binding. So I had to sew one cut piece back on, using the 45° angle join, then trim it properly, and finally sew the final joint. Essentially it left me with an extra binding joint seam very near the final one, which isn’t a huge deal but something to take more care with next time.

zipper pouch

Sewing skills project 5: Zipper Pouch

Project

Zipper Pouch from School of Sewing by Shea Henderson

Project features:

  • easy zipper
  • fully lined
  • sturdy interfacing
  • topstitching

Process notes

Fabric:

  • navy and white chambray
  • Robert Kaufman Betty Dear by Darlene Zimmerman in Stripe and Dots Lipstick
  • Pellon 931TD medium weight fusible interfacing

Equipment and settings:

  • used microtex 80/12 needle, tension 4 and 5
  • I zipper foot
  • used basting stitch #06 to hold the zipper in place
  • for zipper topstitching used 3.0 stitch length

Results

This is a great medium-sized pouch that opens up nice and wide when fully unzipped.

I had a hard time making the topstitching on the zipper match on all sides and had to rip out the second seam a few times to get it closer to matching the first one. In addition, the fabric got uneven, making it difficult to line up the exterior and lining pieces during the final seaming.

Trimming the zipper tape to 10″ before sewing made it difficult to line all of the pieces up evenly, and a raw edge is starting to poke out from one end of the zipper.

I made a boxed bottom, and according to the instructions making 1 1/2″ notches in the corners of the exterior and lining would form a 2″-deep base. However, my 1 1/2″ notches resulted in a 3″ base. Which is fine, but a pretty big difference. I have yet to find a dependable formula for these boxed corner pouches. It’s going on my list of things to do!

I’d like to work on my zipper skills more to improve the accuracy of my sewing so that all sides of the zipper (either side to left and right, and interior/exterior) match up nicely. This involves basting more precisely, writing down machine settings, and pressing with consistency so that I can reliably sew in a zipper with good results.

I really like how these two fabrics look together.

zipper pouch detail

Adjustments to consider for next time:

  • leave zipper untrimmed until final seaming
  • align layers more carefully so they match up on final seaming
  • try narrow fusible web instead of basting stitch
  • explore some tutorials for making the zipper ends lie flat
ruffled wristlet key fob

Sewing skills project 4: Ruffled Wristlet Key Fob

Project

Ruffled Wristlet Key Fob from School of Sewing by Shea Henderson

Project features:

  • gathered ruffle
  • topstitching
  • sturdy interfacing
  • D-ring hardware

Process notes

Fabric:

  • dark navy chambray
  • Moda Weave in a light grey
  • Pellon P44F lightweight fusible interfacing

Equipment and settings:

  • used universal 90/14 needle, tension 4
  • for edge stitching used edge joining foot
  • used basting stitch #06 to make the gathering stitches on the ruffle piece
  • for ruffle topstitching used 3.5 stitch length

Results

While I’m not a ruffly kind of gal, this was a fun little project. It was a good opportunity to practice my topstitching accuracy, and was an introduction to two new things: making ruffles and adding a D-ring.

ruffled wristlet key fob detail

The lightweight interfacing (not sure what kind it is because it was an unlabeled remnant) was very nice to use. It was surprising how much structure it provided. After fusing it to the fabric, it didn’t seem to be adding much, but it worked out well and didn’t make unsightly crackles or creases like with some heavier interfacing. It was also easy to sew through.

When I made the final stitches securing the D-ring in place, I noticed that I hadn’t positioned my ruffle quite evenly, so one side looks longer than the other. It wasn’t bothering me enough to rip out the stitches — I’ll keep it as a reminder to align with more accuracy next time. Other than that, I’m very happy with how this project turned out.

simple strings apron detail

Sewing skills project 3: Simple Strings Apron

Project

Simple Strings Apron from School of Sewing by Shea Henderson

Project features:

  • topstitching
  • all-in-one adjustable strings
  • divided pocket

Process notes

Fabric:

  • Robert Kaufman Railroad Denim Fine Stripe in Indigo

Equipment and settings:

  • used 80/12 microtex needle, tension 4
  • for edge stitching on string used edge joining foot, 0/2.5 (1/8″ from edge/fold)
  • for topstitching on pocket used J foot, 5.5/2.5 for 1/4″ seam
  • for 1/2″ seam used J foot, 0/2.5
  • overcasting stitch 11 with G foot for raw seams in pocket
  • used hera marker instead of paper pressing guide when folding and pressing edges
  • used chalk wheel instead of fabric marker when marking stitch lines

Results

This lightweight fabric and smaller shape makes this apron much easier to wear than my previous one. It doesn’t pull on my neck as much, and the size fits me better (as opposed to the larger, unisex version I sewed before).

simple strings apron

My fabric was fraying quite a bit at the raw edges, and they were left exposed on the interior seams for the pocket. So before stitching the pocket down to the apron, I finished those seams with an overcasting stitch.

Using a striped fabric required extra time to get the folds and seams to line up nicely. This fabric made very crisp folds, aided by Best Press spray. Overall it has a very crisp, clean look to it.

As suggested in the book, the edge joining foot did make the job much easier, as I was able to zip down seams (especially on the super long string) with a high level of accuracy. I did notice that aligning to the left side of the guide resulted in a narrower seam than aligning to the right, so that’s something to watch for next time.

lined drawstring bag

Sewing skills project 2: Lined Drawstring Bag

Project

Lined Drawstring Bag from School of Sewing by Shea Henderson

Project features:

  • easy-to-close drawstring
  • fully lined
  • boxed corners

Process notes

Fabric:

  • Robert Kaufman Kona Cotton in Poppy
  • Robert Kaufman Kona Cotton in a taupe shade (possibly Cobblestone)
  • Moda Fresh Air by American Jane in Light Blue
  • Marcus Fabrics Aunt Grace Ties One On #5369 in navy and white

Equipment and settings:

  • used 90/14 needle for everything but the drawstrings
  • for 1/4″ seams used J foot 5.5/2.5, following right edge of foot, thread tension 3.5
  • to edge stitch the lining opening closed, used R foot 1.5/2.5
  • for top titching the casing, used blue needle thread and white bobbin thread, increased tension to 4, stitch length 3.5
  • to topstitch the drawstrings, used edge joining foot 1.0/2.5, and  switched to 80/12 microtex needle

Results

lined drawstring bag detail

This is a great little bag! The drawstrings are substantial, giving it a sturdy feel.

When the strings are pulled, the unfinished seam allowance in the casing can get pulled out, causing some unraveling. Plus it doesn’t stay as neat and tidy like I’d prefer. Finishing the seam allowance on the casing portion with a zig zag or serging and topstitching that portion down would help.

I ran into an issue with the way the instructions are written — in step 1 we’re to cut two 1 1/2″ squares from the corners of a 10 1/2″ side, and it says the bottom of the piece should measure 10 1/2″. But the piece was that wide to begin with, so removing 3″ would leave shorter 7 1/2″ sides. I emailed the author about it but hadn’t heard back. I forged ahead anyway and everything worked out just fine, so I think it was a small typo in steps 1 and 2. Or a difference in the way I interpreted the instructions.

UPDATE: I heard back from Shea and it was indeed the way I was interpreting the instructions. Once the corners are cut, the bottoms of the lining and exterior are 7 1/2″. The instructions say 10 1/2″ because the top edges and both edges of the accent piece are 10 1/2″.

I learned a good lesson in the importance of slowing down and reading the directions carefully. I was so excited to get started and see the finished bag that I forgot to make cut one of the drawstrings during the cutting stage (not a huge loss, but felt silly). And I didn’t take a moment to consider my bobbin thread color when topstitching the casing so had to rip out my first stitches and re-do that part. One of my goals during this experience is to slow down and enjoy the process of sewing, not just rush to the finish.

I’m really happy with the accuracy of my sewing in this project, which is a good step in the right direction.