Sew Organized for the Busy Girl: Tips to Make the Most of Your Time & Space - 23 Quick & Clever Sewing Projects You'll Love

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Fit sewing into your busy lifestyle with practical tips that will help you put hours back on the clock! Author Heidi Staples, a creative mom of three, will help you organize your sewing space and works-in-progress so they are ready to roll at a moment's notice. Revive your creative life and make the most of your time with easy-to-implement advice that will have you saying, "Why didn't I think of that?" Stitch up 23 thoughtful gifts, ranging from handcrafted quilts to home decor, children's gifts, and attractive storage cases. With an arsenal of time-savers, you'll finally finish those projects while enjoying a little "you" time at the sewing machine.

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Why Every Modern Girl Should Sew

ePub

Why bother sewing?

You can buy clothes at Walmart for a fraction of what it costs you to make them. Home furnishings are available online at the click of a button, and styles are changing faster than anyone can keep up. Gifts line the shelves at the local mall, and if you’re really desperate, you can buy something handmade (by someone else, of course) on Etsy.

Besides, who has time to sew? Have you looked at your calendar lately? Where exactly are you going to find time to do this in between meetings, errands, and the 50 other appointments on your schedule today?

Making the Case for Sewing

In today’s world, it may seem as if sewing has become completely irrelevant, but I disagree. So do a lot of other people out there. The handmade revolution has exploded in recent years. There was a time when people made everything themselves because they had no other choice. Now we’re choosing to make more things ourselves because we’re finding that it’s a more fulfilling way to live.

 

Designing Woman: Create a Space That Works for You

ePub

A few years ago my family went to a nearby animal shelter to adopt a puppy. We returned home with not one but two young dogs, a brother and sister who had been more than our hearts could resist. I suddenly found myself with five children in the house—three little girls under the age of five and two furry toddlers ready for trouble. For over a year, I spent my days running from disaster to disaster: holes in the garden, cereal all over the floor, and toys in everybody’s mouths. In desperation, I went to the library and checked out everything that offered advice on child rearing and dog training. In the end, all the books said essentially the same thing: it’s not so much about training them as it is about training you to know how to help them.

I’ve learned that the same advice applies to a lot of things in life—yes, even your sewing room. What matters isn’t the setup; it’s all about what you do with it.

Some people have perfectly decorated studios that are always a mess, while others can keep a lovely sewing corner with hardly more than a set of plastic boxes. You are the biggest factor in how organized your space is going to be and how efficiently it’s going to work for you. It involves a bit of training, of course, and a whole lot of practice. But when you have a handle on what works for you and what fits your style, it all comes together to make a place where you love to sew.

 

Calendar Girl: How to Fit Sewing into Your Schedule

ePub

People often ask me how I find time to do everything I do. Between cleaning, cooking, homeschooling my daughters, and running errands each week, where do I find the time to sew and blog?

You Have to Make It Happen

For me, sewing is not always a tidy process. Let’s take a look at a little piece of my day …

Noon: Put Mouse down for a nap, start playtime for Bear, get Bunny started on afternoon schoolwork.

12:15 p.m.: Sit down at my workspace to start sewing.

12:23 p.m.: Stop to put Mouse back in bed after she stages a protest.

12:36 p.m.: Start pressing the fabric I need for a project.

12:45 p.m.: Stop to answer the phone; remind the local newspaper for the 257th time that we really are not interested in a subscription.

12:52 p.m.: Get back to my pressing.

12:56 p.m.: Stop to help Bunny with the mysteries of bar graphs.

1:07 p.m.: Finish pressing and start cutting my fabric.

 

Double-Zip Clutch

ePub

Double-Zip
Clutch

CLUTCH SIZE: 11˝ × 8½˝ closed, 11˝ × 17˝ open

This project is probably the most adaptable one in the book. Adjust the size, fabric choices, and inner pocket formation to make a gift that will fit just about any situation. See Bright Idea!.

FABRIC REQUIREMENTS AND CUTTING INSTRUCTIONS

Double-Zip Clutch

opens to 11˝ × 17˝ to hold stationery or other items

Making the Clutch

Seam allowances are ¼˝ unless otherwise noted.

Fuse interfacing to the wrong side of the fabrics for the exterior, inner pocket, and flap. See Supplies.

INSIDE POCKETS

1Right sides together, fold the inner pocket fabric in half to make a rectangle 12˝ × 8˝. Stitch the raw edges together along the 12˝ side.

2Fuse the 7¾˝ × 12˝ interfacing rectangle to one side of the inner pocket unit. Turn the unit right side out. Press. Topstitch ¼˝ from the edge of each 12˝ side.

Add interfacing, turn the unit right side out, press, and topstitch.

 

Nine-Patch Pocket Pillows

ePub

Nine-Patch
Pocket Pillows

DELUXE PINCUSHION SIZE: 5½˝ × 6½˝ with 4½˝ pocket

FIRST AID STATION SIZE: 16˝ × 16˝ with 10˝ pocket, plus 5¾˝ × 4½˝ zippered pouch and 6½˝ × 5˝ cold pack

BOOK NOOK SIZE: 26˝ × 26˝ with 20˝ pocket

This is a fairly simple project, but oh, the possibilities when you change the size and add a few accessories! Use similar construction methods but vary the size to make a pincushion, first aid station, or library cushion. A variety of Nine-Patch blocks enhance each project.

Deluxe Pincushion

5½˝ × 6½˝ with 4½˝ pocket

Make your pincushion work overtime by adding a pocket for embroidery scissors and sewing clips. A miniature Nine-Patch block is a great way to show off your favorite tiny prints.

FABRIC REQUIREMENTS AND CUTTING INSTRUCTIONS

Making the Pincushion

Seam allowances are ¼˝ unless otherwise noted.

NINE-PATCH POCKET

1Arrange the 1½˝ squares into a 3 × 3 grid. Sew together to make a Nine-Patch block.

 

Sleepy-Time Friend Kit

ePub

Sleepy-Time
Friend Kit

STUFFED DOLL SIZE: 2½˝ × 9˝

TOTE BAG SIZE: 6˝ wide × 8½˝ high × 3˝ deep, plus strap

MINI QUILT SIZE: 8˝ × 8˝

PILLOW SIZE: 5˝ × 3˝

This little stuffed doll can be made into just about any character you like, and his size is a great fit for small hands. Use his pocket for a stuffed friend of his own or special treasures, like jewelry or just-lost teeth. A coordinating tote plus miniature quilt and pillow add extra fun to the mix.

BUSY GIRL SPEAKS 

Lynne Goldsworthy of Lily’s Quilts (lilysquilts.blogspot.com)

Any tips for busy people trying to fit sewing into their life? Find a little corner where you don’t have to tidy things away every time you stop sewing. I like to have one hand-sewing project that can be picked up whenever I have a free minute.

Organizational tips for the sewing room? I have a trash bin right next to my cutting mat and a scraps box underneath. When I’m cutting, tiny scraps go into the trash, and bigger scraps go straight into the scraps box.

 

Baby Love Set

ePub

Baby
Love Set

CRAWL PILLOW SIZE: 18˝ × 12˝

FLUTTER QUILT SIZE: 37˝ × 35˝

This sweet little butterfly quilt and caterpillar pillow welcome the new babies in your life. Colorful prints make these pieces a perfect fit in the nursery. Make one item if you’re in a hurry or sew up the complete set if you have the time.

CRAWL PILLOW FABRIC REQUIREMENTS AND CUTTING INSTRUCTIONS

Crawl Pillow

18˝ × 12 To brighten any nursery

Making the Pillow

1Choose a green square for the caterpillar’s head. Baste the eyes onto the face with fabric glue. Machine appliqué with black thread and a zigzag stitch. Stitch at least twice around each eye to secure them.

Sew the 1½˝ × 3˝ background rectangle below the head.

Add eyes to a green square and sew a background strip to the bottom.

2Stitch the other 4 green squares together in a long row.

Sew the 1½ × 10½˝ background rectangle to the top of the row.

Sew 4 squares together and add a background rectangle to the top of the row.

 

Chevron Table Set

ePub

Chevron
Table Set

TABLE RUNNER SIZE: 9˝ × 37˝

PLACE MAT SIZE: 12˝ × 17˝

Chevrons are not only a great modern accent on these table items, but they also give you the chance to showcase some of your favorite prints. I chose to use a brown sketch print that has the appearance of linen without the stretchy texture that could make these Flying Geese a little more challenging to sew. One of the place mats is intended for a child, while the other three use the same prints found in the runner.

TABLE RUNNER FABRIC REQUIREMENTS AND CUTTING INSTRUCTIONS

Though the materials list gives you a little leeway for cutting mistakes, you can actually make these chevrons using only a stack of charm squares if you make each cut perfectly!

Chevron Table Runner

9˝ × 37˝, featuring Sketch by Timeless Treasures Fabrics

Making the Table Runner

Seam allowances are ¼˝ unless otherwise noted.

FLYING GEESE BLOCKS

1Arrange the chevron prints (2 squares and 1 rectangle each) in order.

 

Brass Ring Pillow

ePub

Brass Ring
Pillow

PILLOW SIZE: 18˝ × 18˝

BLOCK SIZE: 14˝ × 14˝

A traditional Wedding Ring block, also known as a Crown of Thorns block, looks surprisingly modern when transformed into a pillow made of low-volume prints or enlarged to make a lap quilt. “Going for the brass ring” is an old American saying that dates to the turn of the twentieth century, when carousel riders used to reach for brass rings as they straddled horses on the outer ring of the ride. Today the phrase refers to those who are willing to do their utmost to achieve their dreams. It’s a lovely thought to accompany a gift for someone special who may be embarking on a new life adventure.

Favorite scraps or charm squares (5˝ squares) can be put to use in this miniature version of the original block, embellished with an extra row of piecing on each side. Low-contrast prints and a tight color scheme make a quiet statement with big impact.

BUSY GIRL SPEAKS 

Angela Pingel of Cut to Pieces (cuttopieces.blogspot.com)

 

Envelope Clutch

ePub

Envelope
Clutch

MANICURE KIT SIZE: 9½˝ × 7˝ closed, 9½˝ × 17˝ open

ART PACK SIZE: 15½˝ × 12˝ closed, 15½˝ × 33˝ open

There is lovely simplicity in an envelope clutch. Its classic shape looks both elegant and modern, and the piece can be designed for so many different situations. I’ve included two sizes that you can easily adapt for a number of uses and occasions.

BUSY GIRL SPEAKS 

Kimberly Jolly of The Jolly Jabber (fatquartershop.blogspot.com)

Any tips for busy people trying to fit sewing into their life? Wake up 30 minutes early to get some sewing done during the peaceful morning time.

How do you entertain little ones while you sew? My kids have their own fabric cabinet, and I change it up often. They use the scraps to organize their own “quilts” on the floor.

Best advice for a new sewing blogger? Give yourself an achievable goal. Maybe you want to complete a small project each week. Maybe you will post a group of tutorials each month. Also, set boundaries. Many quilters use codenames for their family members just to be safe.

 

Jet-Set Case

ePub

Jet-Set
Case

CASE SIZE: 12˝ × 8˝ closed, 12˝ × 18˝ open

ZIPPERED POUCH SIZE: 8½˝ × 7˝

Traveling with three little girls in tow is a major event, and the only things that keep me sane are plenty of caffeine and lots of organization. Pretty little cases like this one are just the thing I need for corralling jewelry, makeup, and small toiletry items that might otherwise wander off in the midst of packing. The D-ring loop serves double duty as a closure and as a way to hang the bag when you arrive at your destination.

With a change in fabric choices, the Jet-Set Case can fill a variety of uses. Fill it with school supplies to make a deluxe pencil case. Add sewing materials to make a traveling embroidery or cross-stitch case. The ideas are endless.

Jet-Set Case

Interior, 12˝ × 18˝, provides plenty of space to carry your most important supplies. My version features the Vintage Happy collection by Lori Holt for Riley Blake Designs.

 

Splitting a Big Project into Manageable Pieces

ePub

Make Something Bigger: Projects for Time and Travel

I must govern the clock, not be governed by it. —Golda Meir

While there will always be occasions that call for quick projects, it’s good to leave room in your life for the occasional challenge. There’s going to be a moment when you’re browsing online and a new pattern catches your eye. It’s gorgeous and interesting, and it already has a growing following among the blogs. Your fingers are itching to get started. “But how,” you ask, “am I going to find time for something that big? Small finishes I can do, but that? No way.”

All that is about to change.

Splitting a Big Project into Manageable Pieces

As far as I’m concerned, a project is “big” if …

+It means a lot of hand sewing. This includes projects involving English paper piecing, embroidery, or hand quilting.

+It’s made up of quilt blocks that are difficult to piece or have lots of small pieces.

+The quilt itself is physically large, calling for a large number of blocks.

 

Traveling with Your Sewing

ePub

Make Something Bigger: Projects for Time and Travel

I must govern the clock, not be governed by it. —Golda Meir

While there will always be occasions that call for quick projects, it’s good to leave room in your life for the occasional challenge. There’s going to be a moment when you’re browsing online and a new pattern catches your eye. It’s gorgeous and interesting, and it already has a growing following among the blogs. Your fingers are itching to get started. “But how,” you ask, “am I going to find time for something that big? Small finishes I can do, but that? No way.”

All that is about to change.

Splitting a Big Project into Manageable Pieces

As far as I’m concerned, a project is “big” if …

+It means a lot of hand sewing. This includes projects involving English paper piecing, embroidery, or hand quilting.

+It’s made up of quilt blocks that are difficult to piece or have lots of small pieces.

+The quilt itself is physically large, calling for a large number of blocks.

 

Summer Tourist Quilt

ePub

Summer
Tourist Quilt

QUILT SIZE: 44˝ × 44˝

BLOCK SIZE: 12˝ finished

Sewing up one of these quilts is like sitting down after your last vacation to look at all the pictures you took on your trip—oh, the memories! You can use the pieces in your scrap bucket or cut a square from each new print that comes to live on your fabric shelves. Summer Tourist is a quilt to be made over time, sewing up a block whenever you have enough prints collected. This is also a great project for using leftover charm squares and mini charm squares.

If you’re looking for instant gratification, try something smaller like the Weekend Tourist. This mini quilt is a great way to showcase some of your favorite prints when you’re looking for a fun, quick finish.

FABRIC REQUIREMENTS AND CUTTING INSTRUCTIONS

Summer Tourist

44˝ × 44˝, 12˝ blocks

Making the Quilt

36-PATCH BLOCK

Make a 36-Patch block in each color group, alternating saturated and low-volume prints.

 

Dotty Hexagon Pillow

ePub

Dotty
Hexagon Pillow

PILLOW SIZE: 17˝ × 12˝

Here’s your chance to give hexagons a try! Grab a stack of solid-color charm squares and put together this salute to the color spectrum. If you’re feeling feisty, try making the pillow with prints instead of solids. Either way it’s bound to brighten up your next rainy day.

FABRIC REQUIREMENTS AND CUTTING INSTRUCTIONS

Dotty Hexagon Pillow

17˝ × 12˝, featuring Kona Cotton Solids by Robert Kaufman Fabrics

Making the Pillow

BLOCK ASSEMBLY

If this is your first time with hexagons, be sure to do a little research on basting the hexagons and sewing them together. See Resources for links. If you’re already a hexie fan, be sure to check out Tacha Bruecher’s masterpiece Hexa-Go-Go for some incredible project ideas!

1Baste each trimmed charm square to a 1¼˝ hexagon paper foundation, using your preferred method.

2Refer to the Hexagon Assembly diagram to arrange the hexagons into 7 rows, 4 with 8 hexagons each and 3 with 9 hexagons each. Space the white hexagons among the colored ones.

 

Starlet Mini Quilt

ePub

Starlet
Mini Quilt

QUILT SIZE: 28˝ × 28˝

BLOCK SIZE: 24˝ × 24˝

I love making a project with giant quilt blocks. It gives me the chance to make something a little more intricate, and it only takes a few blocks to make a good-sized project. One block makes a lovely mini quilt for your wall or table, but don’t stop there. Check out Bright Idea! for more variations.

FABRIC REQUIREMENTS AND CUTTING INSTRUCTIONS

Starlet Mini Quilt

28˝ × 28˝

Making the Quilt

BLOCK ASSEMBLY

1Right sides together, pair the following 6˝ squares:

+1 pair of white/black

+2 pairs of red/black

+4 pairs of white/red

2Refer to Half-Square Triangle Quartet to make 4 half-square triangles from each pair of squares, for 28 total. Trim each to 3½˝ square.

Make 4 half-square triangles from each pair of squares.

3Follow the Block Unit Assembly diagram to make 1 center unit, 4 corner units, and 4 side units.

 

Girl Friday Sewing Case

ePub

Girl Friday
Sewing Case

CASE SIZE: 8½˝ × 10½˝

Back in the 1930s, a “Girl Friday” was another term for your most reliable personal assistant. You’ll feel the same way about this little sewing case, which has plenty of room for your next project, along with a handy tool pocket on the front. Get ready to travel in style!

FABRIC REQUIREMENTS AND CUTTING INSTRUCTIONS

Girl Friday Sewing Case

8½˝ × 10½˝

Making the Case

Seam allowances are ¼˝ unless otherwise noted.

POCKETS

1Fuse interfacing to the wrong side of the pocket exterior and pocket lining fabrics.

2Wrong sides together, press the divided pocket rectangle in half to make a rectangle 6½˝ × 4½˝. Slip the 4½˝ × 6½˝ interfacing inside the fold, leaving the ¼˝ seam allowance at the bottom free. Fuse in place. Topstitch ¼˝ below the fold.

3Baste the divided pocket in place along the sides and bottom of the pocket lining. Sew a line down the center, backstitching at both ends, to divide it into 2 pockets.

 

Joy

ePub

One of my biggest achievements in the past year was to begin teaching my three daughters how to sew. My girls were still pretty young when we got started—just three, four, and six years old—but they had been begging to do this with me for months. I wasn’t entirely sure how I was going to make it all work, especially with the many dangers that lurk in the corners of a sewing room. Access to the cutting board was definitely out, and I didn’t want them going near the sewing machine unless I was running the show. I finally decided that I would let them have total creative control in the design process and limited participation in the actual sewing.

I spent several days sewing small quilts with my daughters that fall, and now I look back on it as one of the best things I ever did. Every part of the process was an adventure to them. They loved digging through my scrap pile, picking out their favorite colors and prints, figuring out a quilt design, and putting their hands on top of mine as we sewed together. I loved hearing their funny little jokes, holding them close on my lap, and listening to their dreams while we worked together. Their fearlessness as artists took my breath away. They knew exactly what they liked, and they embraced it with arms wide open. There were moments when they were so excited about what we were doing that they would actually start giggling with pure happiness.

 

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