10: breaking the rules

What else can I say?  You’ve done it all.

Hopefully, with the Introduction to Sewing and Intermediate Sewing Techniques courses, you’ll feel like the master of that sewing machine.  If it ever starts giving you trouble… you know where the power switch is.  Yes, that’s a threat!

And maybe I’ve mislead you to think that this is a technical lesson, when in reality, it’s more of a motivational lesson.  See, once you have the skills, you’re the boss.  Nobody else can tell you exactly how to do something.  Truthfully, there are more ways than the ones I’ve presented in these e-courses for doing each technique.  From now on, it’s okay to break the “rules” a little.  It’s okay to venture away from an exact pattern, or to try to make a pattern of your own.

Are you perfect?  Probably not.  At least I know that I still make errors, almost daily.  A lot of times, those mistakes will actually improve your end product, because it will let you think creatively. Problem solve.  Each of these, for example, are projects that had a different vision at first, then ended up BETTER after I put a little sweat into it.

This dress had a HUGE neckline. It just slipped off of my daughter’s shoulders. With a simple twist at the top, I found that made the neckline smaller and added a fun shape to the dress.

I bought fabric to make a basic apron, but the remnant I had wasn’t big enough. Determined to make it work (for several days) I slanted the fabric slightly and found that I could utilize the fabric area better if the apron was asymmetrical.

The first prototype I made for the Scrapped Fox was kind of a disaster. Rather than having two slight and angled pieces of fur to emphasize a pointed nose, I had one thick piece that came straight across. My husband sweetly pointed out that it looked like a thong, and I reworked it. I love the way the fox is today, but if nobody had said anything, I might have put up a thong face for the blogging world to laugh at.

And other times a fail is just a plain fail.  So, it doesn’t work.  Big deal.  Lesson learned and you move on.

Now, as for the quality of the work you put out, that might just depend on what it’s use is.  My rule of thumb is simply this:

If it’s for me or my kids, I take short cuts, and only focus on what will be seen.

If it’s for someone else, I take time, and make sure that everything is done right, inside and out.

Shows you what an awesome mom I am.  But can you tell?

Hopefully not.  This little theory has saved me hours and hours of my life.  It lets me spend more time with my kids, and more time for dinner prep- which I need desperately.  And, in cutting corners on my own projects, I open up a few more minutes here and there to ensure quality when I’m sewing for someone else.

Man, someone should write one of these to encourage me in the kitchen.  I need it.

I think I’m procrastinating finishing this e-course, and I don’t really know why.  I’m one of those annoying people who dances around hanging up the phone, because I don’t know how to abruptly say goodbye.  I guess all I really need to say is that sewing will change your life.  It’s a stress reliever (once it’s no longer a stress inducer), and it’s a skill of self-reliance.  Keep sewing…

sunglasses case

How is it that this is the last pattern for the introduction to sewing AND intermediate sewing techniques courses, and I’m just now doing a pouch?  I mean, seriously Stace, get with it.  Honestly, I don’t think to make purses these days, because I’m glued to my diaper bag, but a cute zippered pouch to toss into said diaper bag is a good thing.


Fabric for the main (outer) part of the pouch
Fabric for the lining
1 yd. bias tape (to match the lining)
9″ zipper
Matching thread


1. Cut the outer pieces:

1 piece- 5  1/4″ x 14  3/4″
2 pieces- 8  3/4″ x 3 1/4″

And cut the lining pieces:

1 piece- 8  3/4″ x 5  1/4″
2 pieces- 8  3/4″ x 2  3/4″

Prepare 1 yd bias tape

2. Line the two smaller pieces of the main fabric with right-sides-together, and sew down the length (8  3/4″) using a 5/8″ seam allowance.  Press the seam open.

3.  Lay the zipper face down onto the wrong side of the seam that was just pressed open, pin, and sew the zipper in place.

4. Use a seam ripper to carefully pick the seam, leaving about 1″ in tact at the top and bottom so the two pieces won’t zip completely apart.  Check the zipper.

5.  Press one side of each lining piece (2  3/4″ x 8  3/4″) under 2/3″

6.  Pin each lining piece to the wrong side of the zipper, with the fold of the lining overlapping the zipper slightly.  Top stitch both sides.

7. Mark the location of each pleat onto the long, outer fabric.  Start by marking the center on the top and bottom of the piece.

Then mark 1″ from either side on the top and bottom.  That marks the center box pleat.

Measure 2″ over, and mark with 3 pins, spaced 1″ apart.

8.  The pleats can be made one of two ways.  First, I’ll show you the technical way (A), and then I’ll show you the cheater’s way (B).

A. Focus on one pleat at a time (marked in sets of 3 pins) and bring each side pin back, lining up with the center pin.  Pin the fold in place on both sides, and on the top and bottom, and press.


B.  remove the center pin in each pleat marking, and fold the fabric with wrong-sides together, lining the side pins up.  Sew from the top to the bottom 1″ from the folded edge (the distance of the pins).

Press flat to create the same look as the box pleat.

9.  Stitch the top and bottom of each pleat in place using a 1/4″ seam allowance.

10.  Line all 4 layers of the pouch together with right-sides-toward-the-center.  Start by placing the zipper right-side up (the lining should be sewn in place underneath it), and laying the pleat right-side-down on top of it, then lay the remaining lining piece right-side-up on top of it all.

10.  Sew around all 4 sides using a 5/8″ seam allowance.  Check to see if the inside of the pouch looks right, if so, trim the seam allowance down to about 1/4″.

11.  Sew bias tape around the edges.

12.  Turn the pouch right-side-out.


This pouch can be used for anything!  Throw it in a bigger bag, or carry it as-is.

9: zippers

Ask anyone with little or no sewing experience what makes them the most nervous about sewing, and they’d tell you “zippers”.  Maybe it’s the jagged teeth snarling at them?  It does take a little bit of practice to get used to working with zippers, but I think you’ll find that you’re more qualified than you might think!  The trick to sewing zippers is changing your presser foot.  Putting in a zipper with a standard foot is an awful experience, but with a zipper foot, you’re smooth sailing.  So go ahead and do that right now.  The zipper foot is open on the left and the right to let you get closer to the bulky zipper teeth as you sew  (I’m tempted to make a “they don’t bite” joke here, too cheesy?)


The first thing to identify when you’re buying a zipper is if you need a separating or a non-separating zipper.  The zipper in your winter coat is separating, it isn’t attached at the bottom, so the left side pulls apart from the right size when you unzip it.  The zipper in your skirt is non-separating, meaning it’s connected at the bottom.  The zipper packaging will indicate if it is separating or non-separating.

Look at the types of zippers available.  Invisible zippers work differently than standard zippers (we’ll go over both), so be careful when buying a zipper that you notice every characteristic.

The length of your zipper is very important.  Obviously, you want it to be as long or longer than your project requires.  The length of a zipper is marked on the package.  Store-bought zippers don’t typically come any longer than about 22″, if you need something longer than that you will most likely need to order it online.

And, of course, you need the right color!

For our zipper samples you’ll want 1 regular, non-separating zipper and 1 invisible zipper at least 5″ long each, and 4 sample rectangles.


Centered zippers are done using standard, non-separating zippers.

Sew a seam where you will put your zipper using a 5/8″ seam allowance.  Just sew the first 4″ of your seam using a basting stitch, and then set the stitch length back to normal to finish the last 1″ of the seam on your sample.  Press the seam open with an iron.

Put the zipper foot on your sewing machine with the foot off-centered to the right.

With the wrong side of the fabric facing up and the right side of the zipper facing down, center the zipper over the basted part of the seam and pin it in place.

Start at the top right of the zipper and sew down the length (4″ for our sample).

If the zipper head gets in the way of the presser foot (especially if you aren’t using a zipper foot)- lower the needle, lift the presser foot, zip the zipper head out of the way, lower the presser foot, and continue sewing.

At the end of the zipper, about 1″ from the bottom, pivot the fabric and zipper to sew across the bottom of the zipper.  Do this carefully, possibly with the hand wheel, to avoid breaking the needle when sewing over the zipper teeth.  Pivot once more to sew back up the other side of the zipper.

Once again, if the zipper head is in the way of the presser foot, lower the needle and lift the presser foot to zip it out of the way.

When the zipper is in place, use a seam ripper to take out the baste stitching and open the zipper.

If there is excess zipper below the sewn portion, you can cut it off below the stitching.


Put the invisible zipper foot on your sewing machine (you can also use a standard presser foot or zipper foot, as long as you sew about 1/8″ from the zipper’s teeth).

Place the invisible zipper face down on the ironing board.  The teeth on an invisible zipper curl in, you’ll want to iron them  flat.

Lay both pieces of fabric right-side up, with the zipper between them, also right side up.  Unzip the zipper, and flip the right side of the zipper over to the fabric on the right, lining them with right-sides-together, lined along the edge of the fabric.

Sew as close to the zipper teeth as you can down the length of the zipper. With an invisible zipper foot, simple feed the zipper teeth through the guide on the right side of the zipper foot.

Lay the zipper next to the other piece of fabric, with right sides up.  Line the remaining zipper and fabric with right-sides-together.

Sew down the length of the zipper as close to the teeth as you can.  With an invisible zipper foot, feed the zipper teeth through the left guide on the presser foot.

Sew across the bottom of the zipper a few times to secure the stopping point at the bottom and cut the excess zipper off of the bottom.

On the right side, the zipper should be completely hidden in what looks like a seam, and on the back side, you see the exposed zipper.


8: pleats

Pleating serves the same purpose as gathering, but rather than the fabric looking scrunched, it is folded and pressed.  There are several different ways to pleat, we’ll go over three of them in this lesson.

To practice each pleating method, use 3 scrap rectangles, 3″ x 10″ each and heat the iron.


Knife pleats all move in the same direction (like a cheerleader’s skirt).  They take twice the length of fabric than you want from the finished product, so your 10″ scrap fabric will make 5″ of pleats.  2″ knife pleats are pretty typical.

Start by placing a pin along the length of your fabric marking every 1″.

Pull the first pin over to your second pin, line them up, and pinch the first pleat with your fingers.

Remove the marker pins, and pin the pleat in place.

Pull the next marker pin over to the pin next to it and continue this process until your pleats are all secured with pins.

Straighten the pleats evenly and press them with an iron (do not remove the pins yet).

Sew along the top with a 1/4″ seam allowance to hold the pleats in place.


Inverted pleats are often seen on bed skirts or kilts.  Just like knife pleats, they have a 2:1 ratio, meaning you need twice the amount of fabric as you want in finished pleating.

Use a sample rectangle (3″x5″) and mark the center length with a pin.

Use pins to mark 1″ from both sides of the center pin.

Pull the left pin over to the center pin, pinch the pleat with your fingers, and pin the pleat together.

Rather than continuing in the same direction like you do with the knife pleat, you now want to take the right marking pin and move it back, lining it up with the center pin as well (right to left).  Pin the pleat in place.  You now have 1 inverted pleat.

Straighten the pleat evenly and press with an iron (remember, do not remove the pins yet).

Sew along the top with a 1/4″ seam allowance to secure the inverted pleat in place.

For skirts, the bottom of the pleat is left open, but some projects, like throw pillows, require that the bottom be sewn the same way the top was.


Look at the back side of your inverted pleat sample.  What you see is a box pleat.

To make a box pleat, use exactly the same method, but rather than bringing the left and right sides up to the center pin, you pull them behind towards the center pin.  How’s that for simple?


Sunglasses Case: Steps 7-9

asymmetrical apron

I used to make standard aprons, embellishing them with appliques and ruffles.  I made them because they were “in” and people would buy them, but not because I particularly liked them like that.  One day, while fabric shopping, I found something that was exactly what I’d want for an apron.  The problem was, it was a remnant, and I was worried there wouldn’t be enough.

Taking a chance, I bought it anyway.  After I preshrunk it, the piece was even smaller than it had been originally, and there wasn’t enough for my pattern.  For a few days I kept going back to that piece of fabric and draping it over myself imagining it as an apron.  Finally I stopped wallowing, and decided that if it was that important to me, I’d make it work.  So I envisioned every possible layout to cut an apron out.  Nothing.  I stood in front of a full-length mirror and draped from my shoulders one more time.  It was so close, and then it hit me.  If I just tipped it at a slight angle, it would work!  And so became the asymmetrical apron.

I’ve made dozens of them since.  The nearly-square shape makes them really easy to make, and everybody loves them.  Simple and unique.  I like to make them with thick, home decor fabric, because they feel sturdy and tend to lay better.


1 1/4 yds fabric
1 button
matching thread


Waist Measurement:

27-32″     Small
32-36″     Medium
36″ ↑        Large


1. Cut the fabric out according to the instructions found on the printable PDF pattern.  The dotted boxes give cutting instructions for the apron piece (which is a simple square) and the straps (waist and neck).  Line the corner cutout at the top-right corner of the fabric and cut.

2. Fold the 3″ strips in half lengthwise with right-sides-together and sew down the length of the strap guiding the raw edges on the edge of the presser foot.  This creates a long tube.

3.  Hook a safety pin to one tip and feed it through the inside, scrunching and pulling at the fabric, to turn the tube right-side-out.  Press each strap flat (there should be 3 total).

4.  Turn one raw edge of each strap to the inside of the strap about 1/2″ and pin to hold.

5.  Top-stitch along both edges to keep the straps flat.

6.  Iron around the entire apron using the double hem method (pressing under 1/2″ and then again 1/2″ for a clean finish)

When double hemming the curve, it may help to pin it in place to help hold it’s fold.

7.  Lay the apron piece out with the wrong-side-up and locate the two points that will have the waist straps (keep in mind, the curve goes under the arm, and the top of the curve is where the neck strap goes, if that helps you visualize).  Wedge the end of each waist strap under the double hem and pin them in place.

8.  Try on the apron and determine how long the neck strap needs to be.  It should come down from over the neckline of the apron a bit, to allow room for adjusting to various buttonholes.  Cut the neck strap 1″ longer than the length you determine, and repeat step 7 with the neck strap piece.

10. Start at one corner and top-stitch the double hem all the way around the apron, being sure all three straps are sewn in place.

11.  Lay the apron with the wrong-side-up and fold the straps over.  Pin.

12.  Sew back and forth along the edge 2 or 3 times to hold the strap in place.

13.  Sew 3 buttonholes on the edge of the neck strap, spacing them about 1″ apart.

14.  Cut the buttonholes carefully and make sure the button fits through.

15.  Stitch the button in place 10-15′ away from the neck strap.  It’s a good idea to try the apron on to help determine where to place the button.

16. Iron a double hem around all 5 sides of the pocket a top-stitch all the way around it near the inner fold of the double hem.

17.  Try the apron on again, and determine where the pocket should be.  Pin it in place.

18.  Edge stitch the pocket to the apron, leaving the angled side open to keep the pocket functional.  It helps to stitch into the angled side 3 or 4 stitches at the beginning and end.