Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Saving Time and Money in the Sewing Room

Okay, I promised you some practical hints and tips following my philosophical rantings last week so here they are. 
Zakka Elephant Bookmark - all is not quite as it seems ......
the button eye is from an old dress, the hair bow  from the hanging loop off a top and the bright pink neck and dress ribbon is from a chocolate box wrapping!

Buttons         It is often cheaper to buy old shirts and clothes from charity shops/thrift stores and take the buttons off rather than buy new.  Children’s clothes are a good source of cotton fabric and cute, novelty buttons.

Bag making             The same applies to old bags found at thrift stores and jumble sales (no I don’t mean the dear old ladies who will not let you have that Prada handbag for 50 cents!!!).   Unwanted bags often have fixings and hardware that can be re-used.  I did this with my very first bag – the Zakka messenger bag - all the pieces came from the charity shop and cost only pennies.
Ribbon          Take ribbon off chocolate boxes and gift boxes.  Always check that the ribbon is not nylon before using it.  I also use the hanging loops from clothes as followers of my blog may remember.

Keep a hand torch in the workroom – if you drop a pin or a needle onto the floor it will be easier to find with a light shining on it.

Don’t put a needle down on a flat surface because it will be difficult to pick up.  Place it in a pin-cushion or on a mug rug instead.  Do I need tell you it will be much easier to pick up if it is placed on a Patchsmith mug rug?
Patchsmith mug rugs - great for cups, mugs and ..... needles!!!
Velcro dots  Make your own Velcro dots by tracing around a small coin onto the back of ordinary sew-on Velcro.  You can make a lot of dots from a very small piece.

And here are some tips specifically for mug rugs:

1.         Always unpick from the back.  If you are careless with the seam ripper you can patch the back whereas a patch across the front may just be noticeable (you would think!).
2.         Don’t worry too much about seam matching – if it is a little out it really won’t matter.  If you look closely at the patchwork block on my Extra Raspberry Ice Cream Sundae you will see the seam on the left-hand side is a little out.  Obviously I didn't notice at the time but now that I do I still think it is a lovely little mug rug.
3.         Remember that a mug rug will most probably hold a cup so do not place buttons in the area that you anticipate a cup resting – not unless they are quite flat buttons - as it may make the cup unsteady.  Wherever possible try to place them towards the top or bottom of the mug rug. 

The button on this honey pot is nicely out of the way of a cup.

4.         Use a small pair of nail scissors for cutting out little pieces of appliqué.

5.         Move the fabric, rather than moving the scissors when cutting circles or arcs – this will make for a smoother cut (this may sound odd but try it, you’ll see what I mean).

6.         Let fusible webbing cool completely – it is easier to peel.  You may want to get your mug rug finished NOW but go make a cup of tea. By the time you bring your cuppa back to the sewing room the appliqué should be cooled and ready for peeling.
7.         Use felt for very small pieces – it is less likely to fray.
Felt stars on Dad/Pop Mug Rug
8.         To hang a mug rug that is already bound attach a small washer to the middle of the back, 1/2” down from the centre. The mug rug should hang from a small tack quite nicely.

So there you have it.  I am off to Bronte country for a few days – it would be lovely to return home to find an outpouring of hints and tips left in the comments below.  All are welcome.

Sew until next time ......


  1. Great tips! I'll add my tip for hand-stitching on the couch while I watch tv. I use a pretty bowl for holding my thread, pincushion, scissors and any little pieces of fabric I'm working with. It keeps everything handy in an attractive way.

    1. I should've guessed your tip would be an elegant solution. xxx

  2. These are great tips! I really like the small washer tip for the hanger!!

    My tip: I can read fine with my reading glasses. But I was so frustrated hand sewing... until I got a pair of 2.5+ magnifying glasses at the drugstore. I use them only for sewing, up closer to my face than a book. I love seeing what I sew now!! And ripping out those stitches are more accurate.


    1. I too use a slightly stronger pair for sewing - great minds think alike.

  3. My top tip - I always use Microtex needles aize 60 for sewing batiks but they are impossibly fine and a devil to thread (my Bernina auto needle threader doesn't like them either) I thread the needle THEN put the needle in my machine - works every time!!

    1. This is a brilliant tip - it is simple yet has never occurred to me. Nice one Nicola.

  4. Very useful tips!, thank you very much. I´m still a quilting learner so it'd be great to read more, thank you very much. Love, Victoria

  5. Love the tips about utilizing the thrift store for buttons and hardware! I'll have to start doing this :D

  6. Have just found your patterns on Craftsy & bought 3 instantly,I love them(& want) them all.Will be following your blog from now on.

    1. I hope you enjoy making them - they are a little bit of fabric fun.