I thought for my upcoming sewing class at the local quilt shop it would be fun to do a pet bed. There were a few pet bed sewing patterns to choose from but I became fixated on the idea of a simple oversized floor cushion.
And since I love piecing (more so than quilting) the Fat Quarter Floor Tuffet by Kenzie Mac & Co looked promising. I love that it’s made with fat quarters, making it fun and easy to gather the fabrics needed for the project. There’s something about choosing fat quarter fabrics that’s like picking candy off the shelf — they’re all packaged and ready to go!
The pattern has two options for the button design: either a real button, sewn through the top and bottom to make a tufted cushion, or a mock button made from fabric and sewn to the top and bottom. I chose the mock button design since this is for pets. It’s easy for a real button to get caught in fur or chewed off, so this was a safer route for the little fur kids.
The cushion measures 26 inches wide x 5 inches high. My dog, Pipsqueak is pictured in the photo, and she’s a 10-pound Chihuahua mix. So I think it would be a good size for cats and dogs up to about 18 pounds or so.
Because of the interfacing used, this is a nice and substantial cushion, and very satisfying to sew. I used about 1 pound of fiberfil stuffing for my sample bed so that it allows some squishing down in the center and the edges to be a little taller. And since it’s stuffed with fiberfil, it’s lightweight and soft.
The fourth project in a workshop series I’m teaching at TechShop Chandler is for a waxed canvas shaving kit. It’s such a cool and functional project, and my first time working with fabric wax. This project expands on the skills learned in previous classes for the lined drawstring bag, denim tool roll, and simple zipper pouch.
We’ll also be making our own zippers from zipper tape and pulls, which is a great skill to have. It’s possible to buy zippers and cut them down to size, but with this technique we’ll be removing the unnecessary zipper coils from the tape and installing metal zipper stops. That’s the part that really makes it have a nice professional look. Plus, I selected a long pull and heavier coils than the standard all-purpose zipper so it’s a more substantial feel and nice experience to use.
I toyed with the idea of a metal zipper, which would have looked very appropriate with the waxed canvas, but I was concerned about rusting since it’s a shave kit. So I went with plastic instead.
The 5″W x 10″L x 3″H shave kit also has a nylon lining, boxed corners, pull tab, and strap on one end that acts as a handle. It’s a versatile project and I’d love to make more some time, especially because I’ve got all the instructions written out step by step!
As with all of the sewing projects in this series, the goal is for students to build basic skills and gain confidence at the sewing machine which can be applied to their own ideas and projects.
Key elements of the waxed canvas shave kit workshop include:
learning how to choose a needle and thread for your fabric so when you do a project on your own you have a better idea of where to start
learning how to assemble the pieces of a lining so that you can apply those principles to a future project
pressing seams, a key step to a high quality final project
applying interfacing to stabilize or thicken a fabric in order to give you the final results you want
learning how to make a zipper from zipper tape, a zipper pull, and stops that’s the exact length and color you want with professional results
learning how to install a zipper, opening up more opportunities for your projects to fit a shape better or hold things without the risk of them falling out like with a button closure
sewing straight and even seams so that the final project looks nice and clean
sewing stitch lines that are meant to be visible from the exterior of the project (topstitching), which can be decorative or functional, as with holding down the fabric so it doesn’t get caught in the zipper
making strong and clean finish straps
making double fold binding, a solution for finishing edges of fabric that’s applied to the outside rather than hidden inside seams
applying wax to the exterior canvas so that the bag is water resistant
When you learn how to install a zipper, it opens up lots of new project options. And when you sew a zipper pouch, you’ll want to sew many more. Or at least I did!
I’m teaching a workshop at TechShop Chandler on June 1 so more people can learn to sew this versatile project. Students will learn many essential skills in this class that they’ll be able to apply to their own projects.
learn how to choose a needle and thread for your fabric so when you do a project on your own you have a better idea of where to start
learn how to assemble the pieces of a lining so that you can apply those principles to a future project
press seams, a key step to a high quality final project
apply interfacing to stabilize or thicken a fabric in order to give you the final results you want
learn how to install a zipper, opening up more opportunities for your projects to fit a shape better or hold things without the risk of them falling out like with a button closure
sew straight and even seams so that the final project looks nice and clean
sew stitching lines that are meant to be visible from the exterior of the project (topstitching), which can be decorative or functional, as with holding down the fabric so it doesn’t get caught in the zipper
I had so much fun sewing these samples for my upcoming sewing class at the local quilt shop! There’s just enough variety (a little quilting, some fusible fleece, little pockets) to make it interesting, but it’s not a complicated project with a million fussy pieces.
The first one I made was in a natural linen blend fabric. I experimented with diagonal quilting lines instead of vertical, just to see what the outcome would be. This one is just for me, and I’ve been using it whenever I take the dogs out for a walk.
The second one I made was in brighter, more eye-catching colors with a modern arrow print. This one is for the quilt shop to use as a sample and show people what they’ll be making when they sign up for the class.
The bag is part of the Pet Set sewing pattern by Patterns by Annie. It’s compact and works cross-body, and has the pocket on the outside that dispenses poo bags for when your dog does his business. I like to carry my phone, kleenex, and a small can of animal defense spray because we have such an off-leash dog problem in our neighborhood.
About a year ago I started my handmade business, Oxford Dogma, where I design and sew accessories for dogs and their loving humans. Without taking the time to develop my sewing skills and gaining confidence at the machine, I don’t think I would have been able to get such a good start with the business.
My focus at the quilt shop is sewing for pets, primarily for a community with quite a bit of sewing experience. But I’m also teaching sewing classes at the local makerspace TechShop. The goal with these classes is to help makers feel more comfortable in the textiles room and behind the sewing machine. They often are looking to expand their basic skills and pick up tips for helping achieve their creative goals and projects.
The first class was for a lined drawstring bag. The goal was to work with simple shapes (just several rectangles) and piece them together to create the final project. Basic techniques like joining pieces, pressing seams, and sewing long straight lines were the focus. The experience was really rewarding because I remember well the feeling of learning things that would get me closer to my business goals.
Next up is a heavy duty tool roll. This project is useful on a few levels:
we’ll be sizing the tool roll based on the students’ tools, so they’ll gain experience sizing fabric pieces
sewing with heavy fabric like denim presents a unique set of challenges to overcome for successful results
attaching straps with durable “x box” stitches provides experience making a durable stitch that’s tricky at first, but gets better each time you do it
Last night I had a wonderful time teaching a pair of students how to sew a lined drawstring bag at TechShop Chandler. They both had some experience with sewing, and wanted to develop their basic skills so they could expand into new types of projects.
When it comes to sharing something I’ve learned or made with others, it brings me such happiness. It’s almost addictive! Last fall I attended a retreat (dubbed “Boss Ladies Retreat”) with some good friends — all smart, introspective, thoughtful, and ambitious women. One of our activities was to explore each of our values and missions. During this exercise, my ever-present tug to teach and share knowledge became much more clarified for me. The most powerful element to this exercise wasn’t listing my values (I had done a lot of thinking on that over the years and felt in touch with them), but rather in how we can put those values into tangible action.
Instead of just writing down what we value, we were challenged to think about how we could incorporate those values into our daily lives and use our personal mission to serve our friends, family, and community. The thing I loved about this was how it took something very lofty and rather vague and turned it into an actionable thing. One of my missions came into focus:
Because I value progress, I live to share what I learn with friends and family to empower them with knowledge that helps provide clarity and leads to growth.
It became clear why I love sharing bits of books with others who express interest in a topic, why I relate something I’ve gone through with someone who seems to be going through something similar…why I like to teach sewing! Being able to empower people with something that helps get them unstuck and moving forward toward their goals feels amazing.
After class, I asked the students what they’re favorite parts of making these bags were. One really liked learning the value of pressing seams. That’s something she’ll be able to carry forward into all of her future projects. The other just really enjoyed constructing something — taking some pieces and making it into something new. They also really liked using slivers of soap to mark their fabrics and how the marks magically disappeared with some steam from the iron.
I look forward to seeing what they come up with next, and meeting more students who are eager to get comfortable in the textiles room.