Sunday, 28 March 2010

Tissue Box

I like to keep a tissue box in every room of the house as I find it really annoying to sneeze and there not be one nearby.  When I buy tissues I always tend to choose the basic range which looks unattractive, but I don’t always believe in paying more for everyday items.  While I was visiting Make It and Love It blog I came across a Tissue Box Cover, which was a very neat idea and solved my problem of having plain white tissue boxes on show.

Equipment Required

  • Tissue Box (I used a Sainsbury’s Basic Range, holds 250 tissues)
  • Fabric (Outside & Lining)
  • Interfacing
  • Scissors
  • Sewing Machine (Universal Needle)
  • Thread
  • Optional: Thread Cutters
  • Optional: Rotary Cutter, Ruler, Cutting Mat
Time Taken: 3 Hours
Techniques: Straight Stitch, Hemming and Making Corners.

Making the Pattern

I had plenty of these tissue boxes lying around which I decided to cut up to make the pattern. I wrote on the pieces “Cut 1 and “Cut 2” to remind me how many pieces I needed of each shape.

Cutting the Fabric

I used cotton fabric which is a light material and  I therefore need to use interfacing (stabilisers) to give it it more shape. I cut out a piece of white cotton fabric for the lining, black interfacing, patterned cotton fabric for the cover and lay the patterns on top for cutting. I traced around the pattern pieces adding a 1/4” seam allowance to all sides.


Put the lining (wrong side facing up), interfacing, outer fabric (right side facing up) and use a hot iron and pressing cloth to help melt the glue on the interfacing to attach it to the fabric. Repeat this technique for all the pieces. More advice on interfacing can be found at Burda Style website.

Making the Top

Measure the size of hole you would like in the top of the cover and cut out. I used a ruler and rotary cutter to cut the hole out.
Cut 1/4” slots in each of the four corners of the rectangle you have made.
Fold and press all the sides of the rectangle over and pin into place .
Sew a straight stitch around the shape.

Attaching the Sides

Stitch all the sides together using a 1/4” seam allowance.
When all the sides are attached press open the seams.

Attaching the Sides to The Top

On the top piece of the cover cut a small 1/4” square out, this will make it easier attaching the top to the side pieces later.
Pin the side pieces to the top of the cover.
Use a straight stitch on the sewing machine and stitch all the sides together.

Finishing Touches

Turn the cover right side out and press.
Turn up the bottom of the cover by 1/4”, press and pin.
Use a straight stitch all around the bottom. Now your tissue box is ready to use.
Final Thoughts
I found a few areas in the making of the tissue box to be tricky, such as making the corners of the box and stitching the top of the cover to the sides. When making the corners it was difficult to line them up and achieve that sharp corner shape. I found it awkward when I was attaching the sides as I had used so many layers of material and it was difficult to stitch through all of them. I kept missing one of the layers and had to re sew over where I had already sewn. Overall I’m pleased with my new tissue box and it looks much better then the plain white shade it was before.
Have you made a tissue box? Can you offer any tips on making a better job at the corners? I would love to hear your view below in the comments section.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Hobo Shoulder Bag

Now that I have conquered one of my biggest sewing fears of zips and actually found out that I really enjoy sewing with them I wanted to continue using them for now. For this tutorial I have chosen to make a Hobo Shoulder Bag based on one of Diana Rupp’s patterns taken out of her Sew Everything Workshop book.
I still had some of that funky fabric left over which I made my pencil case out of and thought it would make a great bag. 

Equipment Required

  • 15” x 11”  2 different Fabric (for outside & lining)
  • 3 1/4”x20” Fabric for the Strap (Outside & Lining)
  • 20” All-purpose Zip
  • Sewing Machine (Universal and Denim/ or Stretch needle)
  • Seam Ripper
  • Loop Turner or Stick
  • Scissors
  • Thread Cutters
  • Matching Thread
  • Rotary Board/ Ruler/ Rotary Cutter
  • Paper/ Pen – For making the pattern
Techniques: Basting Stitch, Top Stitching, Zips, Straight Stitch, Lining,  Loop Turner, Pattern Making, Grading & Clipping
Seam Allowance: 1/2”
Time Taken: 1 Day

1. Making the Pattern

For making the bag pattern measure a rectangular shape of 15” x 11” and use a curve for one of the corners. The handle is a 3 1/4”x 20” long rectangle. The body of the bag needs to be cut on the fold. As I recycled a skirt, I folded this over and placed the body of the bag pattern on the fold, which I then cut out.

2. Cut out the Pieces

Cut out 4 pieces from the main bag pattern (2 for the outside and 2 for the lining). Cut 2 of the handle (1 outside and 1 lining).

3. Constructing the Main Outer Body of the Bag

Put the right sides of the main fabric for the body of the bag together. Measure a 1/2” seam allowance at the top, this will be used for inserting the zip later.

Basting Stitch
Put the sewing machine on straight stitch setting  and adjust the stitches length to the longest, this will create a basting stitch and make it easier to un pick later. Tip: As basting stitches are only used for a temporary measure I find it easier to use bright thread to make it easier to see when unpicking later.

4. Press the Seam

Use an iron and press open the seam, which you have just created.

5. Using the Zipper

Line up the zip face down on the open seam. Pin to hold it in place. I used a smaller zip (around 15”) long than the size specified in the book but this later caused me problems in the final construction stages.

6. Baste the Zipper in place

Use the basting stitch to hold the zipper in place.

7. Secure the Zip

Use a straight stitch with your zipper foot and sew the zip into place. For advice on sewing with the zipper foot see some great video tutorials on YouTube.

8. Unpick the Stitch

Now that the zipper is secure on the fabric use the seam ripper and unpick all of the basting stitches.

9. Bag Seams

Use a regular straight stitch and sew from where the zipper is around all the sides, remembering to back stitch at the start and end of stitching.

Press all the seams open using an iron.

Use either a pair of scissors or rotary cutter and grade all of the seams. Grading means to cut one side shorter then the other. Clip the curves of the bag using scissors be careful not to cut into the stitches.

Making the Lining

Put right sides together and stitch along the sides and the bottom of the bag, leave the top open. As I was sewing with satin fabric I needed to use a denim needle, so I swapped my universal needle and replaced it with this needle to be able to sew better. Remember to press open the seams and clip the curves.

Making the Handle

Place the right sides of the handle together and pin along the top. Sew a straight stitch along where the pins have been placed. Trim the seam allowance to 5/8”. Use a long stick or loop Turner and turn the handle the right way round. For instructions on how to use a loop turner see Burda Style techniques.

Use an iron to press the handle flat and top stitch along the outside of the edges.

Attaching the Handle to the Bag

Line up the centre of the handle to the corners of the bag and sew in place. Go over the same stitches a few times to make it strong.

Putting it All Together

Slide the lining over the bag and tuck in the top, this is to cover up the raw edges and to stop fraying of the fabric. Use a straight stitch and stitch all around. Be careful not to get the lining caught in the zipper. Use the free arm on the sewing machine to help. The bag is complete and ready to go.

Final Thoughts

This is the first bag I have made apart from shoe bags and I am very pleased with the results. Using a smaller zipper created problems where I could not sew all the way around using the sewing machine and I had to finish off hand sewing. The lining was mixed with two shades of gray as I did not have enough of one fabric to cover the whole of the inside of the bag, however I love the contrast it creates. Now I am waiting for the warmer weather to be able to show off my new summer bag.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Making a Pencil Case

From reading my past entries you will understand my fear of sewing with zips, which developed from not finishing off a project from a Dressmaking & Soft Furnishing course at the local college. Today I have decided that I am going to overcome this obstacle and make something simple which includes a zip. In a wonderful book written by Diana Rupp titled Sew Everything Workshop, there are instructions not only for making a pencil case but also how to attach zips in detail with pictures, as well as many other delightful projects to make.

Equipment needed

  • Scrap Fabric 9x4 1/2”
  • 8” Zip
  • Tailors Chalk
  • Ruler
  • Scissors
  • Pins
  • Thread
  • Seam Ripper
  • Sewing Machine (I used a Universal needle)
  • Iron, Ironing Board & Pressing Cloth
  • Optional: Rotary Cutter, Cutting Mat, Measuring Gauge

Techniques: Inserting zips, shortening zips, baste stitch & straight stitch.

Time Taken: 1 Hour

Cutting the Fabric

Fold the fabric in half and cut out 2 pieces using scissors or a rotary cutter and ruler measuring 9x4”. If required press out any creases with a hot iron.

Seam Preparation

Put the right sides of the fabric together and measure a 1/2” seam allowance  marking with chalk on one of the long sides of the fabric.

Sew a Seam


Put the sewing machine on straight stitch and use the longest length setting, this is known as a baste stitch, it will make it easier to pick the stitches out later.

Pressing the Seam

Open out the seam and press it open using an iron.


Shortening the zip


If the zip is too long for the pencil case it can be shortened very easily. Line up the zip with the pencil case and make a mark on where the zip needs to be cut. Line up the chalk mark with the needle on the sewing machine and use a zigzag stitch, repeat this a few times to reinforce the stitching. Cut off the excess of the zip using household scissors. This technique can be used for concealed zips as well.

Holding the Zip in Place

Line up the zip again in the seam and use a baste stitch to keep the zip in place.

Marking the Fabric

Turn the fabric over to show the right sides facing upwards and measure 1/4” from the centre seam repeat this for the other side. This will be your guide to sewing the zipper in place.

Using the Zipper Foot

Put the zipper foot on a sewing machine and use a normal straight stitch to sew over the stitching lines you made.

Unpicking the Baste Stitches

Use a seam ripper and carefully unpick the baste stitches that were created to keep the zip in place.


Unpick the middle seam also to show the zip.

Closing the Case

Put the right sides together and pin around the sides that need to be sewn. Remember to keep the zip open an inch to be able to turn it the right way round. Use a straight stitch with a seam allowance of 1/4”.

Sewing the Case Closed

Swap the zipper foot back to the normal sewing foot to sew a straight stitch remembering to reverse sew for a few stitches to reinforce the stitches at the beginning and at the end. To go around the corners leave the needle in the fabric, lift the pressure foot and pivot the fabric, it keeps the sewing consistent.

Cutting Corners

Cut the corners at the bottom of the case, be careful to not cut into the seam. Tidy up any loose threads with the scissors and turn right side out through the open zip.

Finished Case

Its now ready to be used.

Final Thoughts

Learning how to insert zippers has not been as frightening as I first thought, it is actually a very useful skill to develop. I can now go and attempt all of those projects that I want to make with a zip. If you have any views or can offer further advice on zipper insertion please write below.