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1  SEWING IN GENERAL / Sewing in General: Discussion and Questions / 10 Ways to Economize your Sewing on: June 12, 2011 09:14:44 AM

I originally posted this here:http://www.sewsweetness.com/2011/05/10-ways-to-economize-your-sewing.html

1. Set a monthy budget and stick to it.
This year, I've been restricted to $25 for my monthly sewing budget. This not only includes fabric, but sewing patterns, notions, and interfacing. I'm going to be honest, it isn't easy, especially if you have a small stash. But I think setting some sort of limit for yourself is important. It not only keeps you in check, but it will prevent you from buying fabric on impulse (fabric that you might change your mind about or not even use!). I keep a piece of paper over my sewing machine, with the budget limit at the top. Every time I buy something, I mark down how much I spent and what I bought. If I sell something (fabric, a custom item, etc.), I add that to the list as well as a "+" instead of a "-".

2. Cut corners when working with a sewing pattern.
All patterns list the fabric and notion requirements on the back. In a lot of cases, I have found that the fabric requirement are usually an over-estimate. Designers will usually illustrate a cutting layout, which means they show you which pattern pieces to place where, and if you need to place them on the fold. However, it is really easy to economize your fabric when working with a sewing pattern. Once your pattern pieces are cut out, lay them out on your fabric but do not cut them out (if you do not already have the fabric you plan to use for the project, use a similar-sized piece of fabric to estimate how much you will need to purchase). If a piece needs to be used more than once, either mentally visualize it before you move it to another space on the fabric, or mark it with chalk or an invisible marking pen. Place the pieces as close together as possible (unless you need to fussy cut). Only cut when you are satisfied that you have saved yourself the maximum amount of fabric.

You can also use solids or scraps for less visible or important pieces. As an example, made the Amy Butler Weekender Bag. The pattern called for 1-5/8 yard of fabric for the exterior. I only had 1 yard of the fabric that I wanted to use, and even though I did fussy cut it, I managed to fit all the important pieces on the fabric. There were 2 pattern pieces that I was not able to fit, but these pieces I cut from solid green coordinating fabric scraps that I had. This works for this particular project because these parts of the bag are the reverse sides of 4 exterior pockets on the bag, which are really not visible. I am not sharing this information so that you'll purposely not have enough fabric for a project; but with advance planning, it is possible to work with much less fabric than a pattern calls for.

3. Be flexible with your notions.
Coordinating thread that will match your fabric is needed for most projects, mostly for topstitching. But it is usually cheaper to work with white thread (I bought some Coats and Clark white thread recently on sale for $1 per spool). So I use white thread for all the non-visible parts of my sewing projects, and save the colors for when thread will be showing. You can also save on zippers by trimming a larger zipper to fit your project needs. I have a whole bag of older zippers in many sizes and colors, and I will often trim them if possible,  just so I don't have to buy a brand new zipper.

4. Swap for supplies.
There are several places to swap your unused fabrics or other supplies, such as on Flickr. Keep in mind that you will need to pay for shipping, to send your item to your swap partner, but it's a great way to get something new (to you, at least!).

5. Go thrift store shopping.
The best places in the thrift store to check for repurposing fabric is the linen section. Sheets and pillow cases are great sources of fabric. I blogged about one of my trips to the thrift store here. I actually used the light blue king sized sheet ($2) last week as backing for a 70" x 90" quilt. Even if I had bought the fabric at the store on sale, it would have cost me at least $30. With all the supplies you need for a quilt, you could easily spend $100. Saving on the backing is a great way to trim your costs. The pillow cases also make great sources for making layer cakes or charm squares. A vintage dress, apron, or pajamas would also make a great source of fabric that you can use for a bag!

6. Work with scraps.
Scraps will not only make a great quilt, but I have also used scraps to make bags and dresses. It's really easy to piece fabric scraps together into a larger unit, and use your pattern piece to cut out what you need.

7. Only buy if it is on sale or with a coupon.
I know it's really hard, especially with quilting fabrics, but it is possible to buy only if something is on sale. I'm sure you have many fabrics that you have your eye on, so watch for sales (True Up has a weekly post of fabric shops that are having sales). Watch for a good percentage off, or a free shipping offer. Also, I don't buy anything at Joann's that isn't on sale. My family members save their Joann ads from their Sunday papers, so I usually have about 3-4 ads a week, and there are at least one or two 40% or 50% coupons per ad. Even if I only need thread or a zipper, I will use a coupon on it. I also use a lot of fusible interfacing, so if it's on sale and I can also use a 25% transaction coupon, I'll get 5-10 yards of interfacing at once.

8. Share a fabric bundle.
If you want to purchase a fat quarter or half yard bundle of an entire fabric line, why not split it with a friend? On occasion, I'll go in on a bundle with my friend, Kim, and it's usually cheaper to buy by the bundle as opposed to buying yardage separately.

9. Conserve batting.
What do you do with all the scraps of batting you have amassed from quilting? Connecting smaller pieces with a zig-zag stitch is a great way to get larger pieces, especially for quilted projects like a table runner or bag.

10. Use a free tutorial or a library book.
With all the free tutorials out there on the web, it's entirely possible to sew projects from only free tutorials. Amy Butler even has many sewing patterns available for free on her website, or you can find her Blossom Bag pattern from the Style Stitches book here. Just about every sewing book that I have on my Amazon wishlist, I was able to request from the library. The books that come with pattern pieces even have the pieces in the back of the book. With many sewing patterns selling for $5-$15, it's a great way to save money.

2  PURSES, BAGS, WALLETS / Purses, Bags, Wallets: Completed Projects: General / Re: Tutorial: Naughty Secretary Bag on: June 10, 2011 09:00:18 AM
LOVE that!  Thanks for the tut!  Cute dress too!

Thanks!!  Cheesy It's the Colette Patterns 'Eclair Dress' :-)

3  PURSES, BAGS, WALLETS / Purses, Bags, Wallets: Completed Projects: General / Re: Tutorial: Naughty Secretary Bag on: June 09, 2011 08:00:55 PM
Hey, I hear what you're saying about the cardboard, that's why I made a false bottom that could be taken out. I have seen the quilting plastic, I guess it is a force of habit for me to stretch my supplies as I'm on a $25 a month sewing budget, lol. :-) I'm always trying to find a cheaper way to get things done.
4  PURSES, BAGS, WALLETS / Purses, Bags, Wallets: Completed Projects: General / Re: Tutorial: Naughty Secretary Bag on: June 09, 2011 12:54:40 PM
My apologies, I am an idiot :-P
5  PURSES, BAGS, WALLETS / Purses, Bags, Wallets: Completed Projects: General / Tutorial: Naughty Secretary Bag on: June 09, 2011 10:41:21 AM


I am completely addicted to sewing bags! I have tried my hand at many handbag patterns and thought it was about time to write my own! I'd like to introduce you to the Naughty Secretary Bag! I'm not really sure how I arrived at this name...it just popped into my head, lol. At a generous 15" x 14" size, this bag totes around books, a laptop, whatever!

Check back soon for a smaller version of this pattern...the Noisy Librarian Bag!

This sewing pattern is intended for a confident beginner or intermediate sewer. There are a lot of steps, but everything is do-able! I would be happy to answer any questions along the way, via a comment or in my Flickr group! I hope you like it, please let me know what you think, and I'll keep my fingers crossed that you'll want to sew it for yourself! :-)



- 1 yard of fabric for the exterior
- 1 yard of fabric for the accents, straps, and false bottom
- 1 yard of fabric for the lining
- 2 yards of Pellon Shape-Flex (fusible woven interfacing) if you are using a decor-weight as your main fabric -OR- 4 yards of Pellon Shape-Flex if you are using quilt-weight cotton as your main fabric
-1/4 yard of fusible fleece
- half inch magnetic snap
- piece of cardboard approximately 15" x 15" (cardboard boxes work great!)

Helpful hints: If you have never used fusible interfacing before, you can find it at your local fabric store. My Joann Fabrics stocks the interfacing near the cutting counter, and you want to look for the bolts with the lilac-colored labels...those are the fusible ones.

If you are more experienced at sewing bags, you might want to substitute in 1/2 yard of Pellon Peltex fusible interfacing for the Exterior fabric portions of the bag. This will make a bag that can stand up on its own. Use the Peltex on the Exterior Main Panels and Exterior Side Panels only. I am not a fan of using fusible fleece for the outside of bags, because it tends to make them look crinkly.


1a. Using the attached .pdf file, print out the pattern pieces for:
-Top Side Panel
-Top Band
-Side Accent
-Side Panel

1b. Tape the Side Panel pieces together at the dotted line to form one piece. This will be your Side Panel pattern piece.


From the Exterior Fabric
2a. Cut 2 pieces each 14-1/2" tall x 16" wide. These will be your Exterior Main Panels.

2b. Using the Side Panel pattern piece, cut 2 pieces on the fold. These will be your Exterior Side Panels.

2c. Cut 1 piece measuring 5" tall x 16" wide. This will be your Exterior Bottom Panel.

From the Lining Fabric
2e. Cut 2 pieces each 14-1/2" tall x 16" wide. These will be your Lining Main Panels.

2f. Using the Side Panel pattern piece, cut 2 pieces on the fold. These will be your Lining Side Panels.

2g. Cut 1 piece 5" tall x 16" wide. This will be your Lining Bottom Panel.

From the Accent Fabric

2h. Fold your fabric selvage to selvage (the finished edges of your fabric). Cut off the printed selvage. Cut a straight line 6" away from the selvage. Repeat twice. This will leave you with 3 strips that are 6" wide by approximately 44" long. The strips will become the Handles.

2i. Cut out the Top Band pattern piece on the fold. Repeat until you have 4 pieces.

2j. Using the Side Accent pattern piece, cut 4 pieces on the fold.

2k. Using the Top Side Panel piece, cut 4 pieces on the fold.

2l. Cut 2 pieces 4" tall x 15" wide. These will be your False Bottom Panels.

For the Pockets
2m. With your leftover fabric, cut 2 pieces each measuring 10" tall by 16" long. These will be made into pockets on one side.

From the Fusible Woven Interfacing
2n. Repeat steps 2a. and 2b. and 2c.

If you are using decor-weight/cotton canvas fabric as your exterior, cut 2 pieces each for 2a. and 2b and 2c. Using the manufacturer's instructions, fuse 1 piece onto the wrong side of each exterior fabric piece.
If you are using quilt-weight cotton as your exterior, cut 4 pieces each for 2a. and 2b and 2c. Using the manufacturer's instructions, fuse 2 pieces onto the wrong side of each exterior fabric piece.

2o. Repeat steps 2e. and 2f. and 2g. Fuse 1 pieces onto the wrong side of each lining fabric piece.

2p. Repeat step 2i, for a total of 2 Top Band pieces. Fuse 1 piece onto the wrong side of each Top Band fabric.

2q. Repeat step 2j. Cut 8 pieces total and fuse 2 pieces per Side Accent.

From the Fusible Fleece
2r. Cut 2 strips measuring 1-3/8" x 52". Set aside.

2s. Cut 4 squares measuring approximately 1.5" x 1.5". These will be used later to enforce the snap (if you used Pellon Peltex for your bag, complete this step with the Peltex instead).

2t. Repeat step 2i. for a total of 2 pieces. Fuse these per manufacturer instructions, to the wrong side of 2 of the Top Band pieces.



3a. Take your 2 False Bottom pieces. With ride sides together, pin all the way around, leaving 1 short end open.

3b. Sew along the long edge, pivot, then the short edge, pivot, then along the remaining long edge. Be sure to backstitch at each end. Clip the corners, being careful not to cut the stitching.

3c. Turn your fabric right sides out, using a turning tool (you can also use a knitting needle, dull scissors, or pen top) to push out the corners. Press.

3d. Take your cardboard and cut 3 pieces measuring 3-1/2" x 14-1/2". Insert all 3 into the pocket you have created. You may need to trim them; they should fit snuggly.

3e. Turn the fabric of your open end under, about 1/4". Sew the opening closed by hand.


4a. Take 1 Exterior Side Panel piece and 1 Top Side Panel piece. Place the Top Side Panel at the top of the Exterior Side Panel (the short edge), right sides together. Sew across that edge. Press the seam toward the Top Side Panel. On the right side of the Top Side Panel, topstitch 1/4" away from the bottom of the Top Side Panel.

4b. Take 2 Side Accent Pieces. Make a mark 2" up from the bottom straight edge, on both sides. Pin. Sew them right sides together along the top curved edge, stopping and starting at the marks you made. Sew slowly. Backstitch at each end. Clip along the curved edge about every 1/2". This will help your curve lay nice and flat. Turn right sides out and press.

4c. Lay the Side Accent piece that you just assembled on top of the Exterior Side Panel. The straight unfinished edge of the Side Accent piece should be level with the bottom of the Exterior Side Panel. Pin. Baste, using a 1/4" seam, along both sides of the Side Accent and along the bottom to attach it to the Exterior Side Panel.

4d. Using your coordinating thread, topstitch on the curved edge of the Side Accent, about 1/8" of an inch from the edge. Backstitch at each end.

4e. Repeat steps 4a.-4d. to assemble the other Exterior Side Panel.


5a. Take 1 Exterior Main Panel and 1 Top Band piece (with the woven interfacing fused to it). The 16" edges of the Exterior Main Panel will be at the top and bottom. With the Exterior Main Panel facing you, place the Top Band piece face down on top of it. The "prong" on each side of the Top Band should be even with the top of the Exterior Main Panel. Pin.

5b. Starting at the left corner of the Top Band, sew along the edge of the Top Band until you arrive at the right side of the Top Band. Backstitch at each end. You should see a thin strip of your exterior fabric peeking through. Cut that strip out so that the raw edges of the Top Band and the Exterior Main Panel are even.

5c. Trim the corners. Clip the curved edges about every 1/2". Flip the Top Band up so that the right side is now facing you. Push out the corners of the Top Band and push the tab down on each end so that it is covering part of the Exterior Main Panel. Press. Also press the middle portion of the Top Band up toward the Top Band. Topstitch on top of the Top Band, 1/8" away from the seam.

5d. Repeat steps 5a.-5c. with the remaining Exterior Main Panel and 1 Top Band piece.

5e. Take your 3 Handle pieces. Cut 1 of them in half. This will give you 2 long strips and 2 short strips. With right sides together, sew 1 long strip to 1 short strip. Press seam open. Repeat for the remaining pieces. This will leave you with 2 new Handle pieces.

5f. Take 1 Handle  piece and fold it down the center, length-wise. Press. Open the fold.  Take the bottom half and fold it up to the crease. Press. Then take the  top half and fold it up to the crease. Press. This will give your Handle 3 creases equal distance from each other.

5g.  Using 1 of the fleece strips that you cut earlier, slide it into one  half of the strap. Fold the handle in half down the original center  crease. This will leave you with a 1.5" handle. Press. Repeat for the other Handle piece. Topstitch 1/4" away from each long edge. Next trim each Handle - they should be 52" long.

5g. Make a vertical line, with a fabric marker, on your Exterior Main Panel, 4" away from the left edge. Make another vertical line 4" away from the right edge. Pin 1 Handle to the inside of the left line, beginning at the raw edge of the Exterior Main Panel. Bring the other end of the Handle and start pinning to the inside of the right line. Make sure the Handle is not twisted. The middle of the Handle should continue over the top of the Exterior Main Panel.

5h. Topstitch along the left and right side of the handle, this time 1/8" from the edge of the Handle. Start from the bottom of the Exterior Main Panel and <b>STOP</b> when you reach the middle of the Top Band (This is really important!! If you sew all the way to the end, you won't be able to get your Handle inside when you sew the exterior and lining of the bag together). Repeat with the other side of the Handle.

5i. Repeat steps 5e.-5h. for the other Exterior Main Panel.</div>
<div style="text-align: left;">


6a. Take 1 Exterior Main Panel and 1 Exterior Side Panel. The Exterior Main Panel should be facing you. Place the Exterior Side Panel face down on the right side of the Exterior Main Panel. The side edges should be even. Also take care to match the seams from the accent pieces so they will line up after you have sewn them. Pin along the side edge. Sew and backstitch at each end. Press seam open.

6b. Repeat Step 6a. to attach the remaining Exterior Side Panel, this time to the left side of the Main Panel.

6c. Take your remaining Exterior Main Panel and sew it to one of the Exterior Side Panels (it doesn't matter which side you attach first) along the long edge. Press the seam open.

6d. Now you should have one long row of panels. Bring the unfinished side edge of the Exterior Main Panel to meet the unfinished edge of the Exterior Side Panel. Pin, sew, and backstitch at each end. Press seam open.

6e. Take your Exterior Bottom Panel. Place it facing you, with the long edges on the top and bottom. Pin the bottom right side of one Exterior Main Panel to the top long edge of the Exterior Bottom Panel. Sew along the long edge, starting at stopping at 1/2" from each corner. Backstitch at each end. Repeat for the other long edge, and for both side edges.

6f. Looking at 1 corner, put your needle where you stopped sewing in step 6e. Push the seam from the sides of the bag down, to form a triangle. Sew from one corner to the other on a diagonal. Repeat for all 4 corners. Clip corners.

6g. Turn right sides out. Push all corners out. Press all sides and the bottom very well so that all seams look very crisp.


7a. Pick up both of your pocket pieces. With right sides together,  pin along one long edge. Sew. Press seam open. Flip so that both right  sides are facing out. Press again. Topstitch the finished edge, 1/4" away.

7b. Place the pocket so that the unfinished long edge is flush  with the raw edge of the bottom of one of the Interior Main Panels. The right side of the Interior Main Panel should be facing you. Pin the bottom and the sides. Sew a basting stitch 1/4" away from the edge, starting at the short end on the right side. Pivot at the corner, sew along the long unfinished edge, then sew up the remaining short edge. Fold the assembled Interior Main Panel in half lengthwise, making a crease in the center. Topstitch down this crease, which will divide your pocket into 2 compartments (it is helpful to sew starting at the bottom of the pocket, to avoid puckers).

7c. Repeat steps 5a.-5d. using your lining fabrics (you will be using the Top Panel pieces with the fleece fused to them).


8a. Repeat step 4a. using your lining fabrics until both Interior Side Panels are assembled.


9a. Repeat steps 6a.-6f. When you get to step 6d., make sure you leave a 4" opening on one of the long edges. This opening is so that you will be able to turn your bag in a later step (important!!!). Leave interior wrong side out.


10a. Take the small squares of fusible fleece that you cut earlier. With the prongs of 1 end of the snap in the middle of the fleece, mark the prong placement with a fabric marker or chalk. Cut small slits at the marks. Repeat for all of the squares.

10b. Place 2 squares of fleece and one half of the magnetic snap, with the washer, in front of you. Slide the prongs of the snap through both pieces of fleece, to make sure that the slits are big enough. Repeat for the remaining 2 squares of fleece and the other half of the magnetic snap.

10c. Now take your bag interior. Fold it in half and mark the halfway spot on both the front and back of the bag. Measure down from the center 2", and make another mark. At this second mark, take the other half of the snap and mark the prong placement. Cut small slits at the marks. Repeat so there are slits in both the front and in the back of the bag.

Helpful Hint: I like to put a little dab of Fray Check on the fabric where I've cut the slits (optional).

10d. Put one set of fleece/snap through the right side of the front of the bag. Put the 2 squares of fleece on the wrong side of the bag. Slide the washer on the prongs, and put pressure on the prongs to make them lie flat, away from each other. Repeat for the other fleece/snap and the right side of the back of the bag.


11a. Place the exterior of the bag (still right side out) inside of the bag lining (which is still wrong side out). They should be right sides together. Make sure the handles are pushed down in between the exterior and the lining, so that you don't sew through them.

11b. Pin along the top edge. Sew along the entire top edge of the bag (making sure not to sew through the handles), backstitching at each end.

11c. Pull the exterior of the bag out through the lining. Topstitch or slip-stitch the opening in your lining closed. Press.

Helpful Hint: You may want to topstitch the top of the bag after it is assembled, about 1/4" from the top edge. This gives it a crisp, professional look.


I hope you will want to sew this bag up for yourself! Please let me know if there are any details that I've missed, or any mistakes I can fix on this pattern to make it easier to use.<i> </i>

The fine print: This pattern is intended for personal use. Please do not take any of my wording or instructions. I don't mind if you make the bags to sell on Etsy or at craft fairs. I'd love it if you linked back to my tutorial! Thanks! :-)

6  SEWING IN GENERAL / Sewing in General: Discussion and Questions / Re: Applique help, please! Namely, the stitching portion... on: June 09, 2011 10:41:05 AM
Have you tried setting your zig zags at a tighter stitch? I have mine set at a 3 and a 1 for applique
7  SEWING IN GENERAL / Sewing in General: Discussion and Questions / Re: Sewing in Small Spaces on: June 09, 2011 10:40:13 AM
I have a small work space too. My sewing area is a small 2nd bedroom that I share with my husband's computer. I have my desk set up with my machine, and I store my fabrics in a container under my desk. My ironing board (directly behind my chair) doubles as ironing, cutting, and rotary cutting. lol.
8  SEWING IN GENERAL / Sewing in General: Discussion and Questions / Re: Cataloguing Patterns? on: June 09, 2011 10:38:34 AM
I'm really interested in this too...I did see a program for cataloging patterns, but I can't remember where it was or what it was called
9  SEWING IN GENERAL / Sewing in General: Discussion and Questions / Re: Newbie Sewer Needs Help!!!!!! on: June 09, 2011 10:37:49 AM
What about thrift stores or garage sales? I am constantly seeing machines for around $20
10  SEWING IN GENERAL / Sewing in General: Discussion and Questions / Re: Ideas for First Sewing Projects! on: June 09, 2011 10:36:43 AM
I think a pillowcase is probably one of the easiest projects for a beginner...straight seams, and you can even learn about French seams in order to make it seamless. :-)
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