How To Make A Pillowcase With A Cuff // Easy Burrito Method


Making a pillowcase is a fun and simple beginner sewing project, and in this tutorial, I will show you how to add a contrasting cuff using the burrito method. It only requires a yard of fabric and about 15 minutes to make.

I’ll show you how to make them using a sewing machine, and a serger, and how to sew a French seam if you choose. You can also add a small strip of trim if you want and I’ll show you how easy it is to do that.

I have a FREE printable PDF guide showing the fabric measurements for a STANDARD, QUEEN, AND KING-size pillowcase. A standard pillowcase only requires one yard of fabric.



  • Fabric (flannel or quilters cotton)
  • Sewing machine (serger optional)
  • Sewing machine needle size (Universal 90/14)
  • Scissors (Rotary Cutter & Mat optional)
  • Pins/Wonder fabric clips
  • Seam gauge/ measuring tape
  • Iron/Ironing board
  • Label/Tag (optional)

Standard Pillowcase Instructions

When you buy cotton and flannel fabric from the store, the width that it comes on the bolt varies from 43-44 inches. The first measurement on the cutting guide shows 44 inches x whatever. That is the width (cut edge) of the fabric, not the selvage edge. So it may be 43-44 inches.

Don’t worry about that because I’m going to simplify the process by cutting off the excess in one of the steps that will save you some time. So just cut those pieces out as indicated in the photo.

TIP: Before cutting the pillowcase pieces, make sure you are starting out with a STRAIGHT EDGE. The video tutorial gives some good tips on how to do this and why it is important!

*****If you’re using a directional print fabric (images are facing one direction), you’ll need to cut it out differently. Check out the video tutorial on how to do that.



  • Main Fabric – cut 1 piece 44 x 28 inches / 111.5 x 71 cm
  • Cuff Fabric – cut 1 piece 44 x 9 inches / 111.5 x 23 cm
  • Narrow Trim (optional) – cut 1 piece 44 x 2 inches / 111.5 x 5 cm
pillowcase burrito


1- If you are applying the trim, fold the trim piece in half horizontally with Wrong Sides Together (WST) and press to form a crease. Set that aside.

PILLOWCASE FABRIC LAYERS2- Place the CUFF PIECE right side facing up.

3- Take the pillowcase MAIN PIECE and place it on top of the CUFF PIECE RIGHT right side facing up. Line up the edges. **Don’t worry if the side edges don’t line up. We’ll trim those off so they’re even in just a bit.

4- If you are applying trim, add that to the pile with the RAW EDGES lined up with the edges of the cuff and main piece. Pin or clip in place.


5- Take the top edge of the MAIN PIECE, and start making a little jellyroll towards the cuff.

6- Continue to roll until it is in the middle of the cuff.

PILLOWCASE JELLYROLL PINNING7- Fold the other edge of the cuff over the jellyroll and line up that edge with the others.

8- Pin or clip all those edges together using pins or clips.



1- Take the roll to the sewing machine or serger and sew along the pinned edge using a 1/2” seam allowance.

PILLOWCASE JELLYROLL2- THIS IS WHERE THE MAGIC HAPPENS! Grab a piece of the jellyroll from one of the ends and start pulling it out and continue until all the innards are pulled out.

3- Unroll the fabric and wallah, you have a beautiful ENCLOSED SEAM.

4- Flatten the fabric out and press the cuff so the seams are pulled out completely.


5- Fold the pillowcase in half with the WRONG SIDE FACING OUT (sewing machine & serger method or RIGHT SIDE FACING OUT (burrito method).

Line up cuff, trim, and fabric edges.

Measure 20.5 inches from the fold for the regular seam method and 21 inches from the fold. Cut off all the excess fabric.


There are three different methods to finish the seams on this pillowcase.

  • Sewing machine
  • Serger
  • French seams

Sewing Machine Method

1- Sew along the side and top of the pillowcase using a ½ inch seam allowance. Clip the corners.

2- Finish off the seam by sewing a simple zigzag stitch along the edges so it will not fray. There are other stitches you can use to finish the seams. WATCH THE TUTORIAL HERE.

ZIGZAG STITCH SETTING AT 4 wide, 3 length.

3- Turn the right side facing out and give it a good pressing.


Serger Method

1- Simply sew along the edge using a ½ inch seam allowance. ***For some helpful tips on how to start and end serged seams watch the video tutorial.

2- Turn right side facing out and press.



1- With the right side of the fabric facing out, you are going to make the first seam using a ¼ inch SEAM ALLOWANCE. I know this may seem wrong, but trust me.

PILLOWCASE TRIMMake sure the cuff edges and trim are lined up.


How To Add A Tag or Label To The Pillowcase

If you want to add a tag or label, this is the time to do it. If not, skip to the next step.

Locate where you want to add the tag and baste it in place with the sewing machine 1/4 inch from the edge. Place the tag so the folded edge of the tag is outside the pillowcase edge as shown in the picture. **Make sure you allow space for the seam. The tag needs to stick out after sewing both seams. So find where the ¼ seam would be then account for the next 3/8 inch seam and see how the tag will be exposed and adjust accordingly. (I hope that makes sense). The video tutorial will show how it is done.

2- After sewing the first pass with the ¼ inch seam. Cut any strings stray threads from the cut edge. Turn the pillowcase WRONG SIDE FACING OUT and press out the edges.

3- Now take it back to the sewing machine and sew another pass USING A 3/8 INCH SEAM ALLOWANCE.

PILLOWCASE PRESSING4- Turn the pillowcase RIGHT SIDE FACING OUT and give it a final pressing.

Tadah! Now wasn’t that simple. Look at the tidy, professional French seam.


These pillowcase burritos make such fun gifts! Grab a yard of fabric and have fun sewing!

Have fun making PILLOWCASES!





Jan Howell

Jan Howell

Whether it’s a new recipe, a fun craft, or some handy tips for your garden and home, I hope to empower and inspire you with skills that you can use to create joy, improved health, and to do it in a simple way.

Read More

Sewing With Fleece the Easy Way | My Top 10 Tips

sewing with fleece

Sewing with fleece can be a lot of fun and there are so many things you can make with it, however, there are a few things that you might want to know that will make your sewing experience with fleece a little easier.

In this blog post, I’m going to go over my top 10 tips for sewing and working with this stretchy, and cozy fabric.

SEWING WITH FLEECE: Tip #1- How to tell the right side of the fabric

The first tip that we’re going to go over is how to tell the difference between the right and the wrong side of the fabric. Sometimes this is pretty obvious. For example, when you look at printed fleece, the underside may be less vibrant but still can be kind of hard to tell.

With solid-color fleece pieces, it can be really tricky. When you’re sewing up a project and trying to put the right sides together, you’ll want to know which is the “right” side.

sewing with fleece selvage edge

Let me show you a SIMPLE HACK. Find the SELVAGE EDGE OF THE FABRIC. This is the edge of the fabric that has the manufactured finished edge. It looks like the photo above.

sewing with fleece stretchIf you take the non-selvage, the stretchy edge, and pull it, it will curl to the WRONG SIDE.

sewing with fleece non fray

SEWING WITH FLEECE: Tip #2- Fleece fabric does not fray

The second tip and what I love about sewing with fleece is that the fabric does not fray. That means that you don’t have to finish the seam edges on your projects and it’s quite nice.

SEWING WITH FLEECE: Tip #3- Use the correct needle and thread

When you sew on fleece fabric, you want to make sure that you’re using the correct needle and the correct size. You can get away with using a universal needle and honestly that’s what I use most, but you can also use a jersey needle or other ballpoint-type needles. This will keep the needle from putting holes in your fabric.

If you want more tips on needle sizes and needle types, you can download my FREE PRINTABLE SEWING MACHINE NEEDLE GUIDE, which shows you all the needle characteristics and how to use them.

Get the printable here.

I do recommend using a POLYESTER THREAD.


Fleece fabric does have a nap to it. The nap means the direction that the fluff or fibers of the fabric all go the same way. Corduroy fabric is a good example and is a little more obvious, but fleece also has this.

If I were to cut out a bunch of pieces and not worry about the nap, and they were going in different directions, your finished project is going to look funky and weird and it might even look like it’s a different color.

I’m going to show you on this piece of fleece and these pieces for a slipper pattern. Notice how the front of the sole piece and the front of the top slipper piece are facing the same direction on the fabric. You don’t want to flip the pattern so that the top goes in the opposite direction.

You may be tempted to save fabric, especially on pieces like this, to flip that pattern over and have it face a different direction, to save fabric. DON’T DO IT! If I have to cut out multiples of the same piece, you can flip horizontally, but not vertically. (I hope that makes sense).

SEWING WITH FLEECE: Tip #5- Sewing machine settings

Stitch Settings: Using the correct sewing machine settings and stitching settings when you’re sewing with fleece fabric will make a big difference.

If you’re sewing an item that’s not going to get stretched, you can get away with using just a regular straight stitch, but you’ll want to adjust the stitch to be a little longer, say 3.5 to 4.

However, if you’re sewing a project that will be stretched at all, you will want to sew using a LIGHTNING BOLT STITCH or if your machine doesn’t have that lightning bolt stitch, just use a REGULAR ZIGZAG STITCH. Adjust the width to 1.5 so it’s a very narrow zigzag stitch. Set the length to be 1.5 or even shorter.

I do recommend testing out your stitches on a scrap piece of fabric before you start sewing your projects. Make sure that you’re using that zigzag or lightning bolt stitch on anything that’s going to stretch on your project because if you don’t when it is stretched the seam will pop and break, and you don’t want a hole in your seam.

sewing tips serger

If you have a serger, by all means, use it on your fleece projects. It makes the job so much faster and gives you some stretch to your seams and gives you a nice finished edge.

Another thing that you can do and I do recommend, is lowering the presser foot tension if your machine has that adjustment option.

SEWING WITH FLEECE: Tip #6- Use long pins

Use long pins and use lots of them, especially when you’re sewing around curves or over lots of layers of fabric. If you use little short pins they sometimes can get lost in the fluff of the fleece fabric.

For blankets or items made for children, you don’t want those little pins to get hidden in the fluff.

I really like these long flower pins.

SEWING WITH FLEECE: Tip #7- Sewing over bulky seams

When you’re working with fleece and several layers of fabric, it can get kind of bulky and things are going to shift. Here are a few tips for making this a little easier. (Watch the video for examples).

sewing with fleece hump jumperHave you ever seen this little Gadget? Most likely it came with your sewing machine. I have to be honest, it wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I even knew what this was strange item was.

It really is the coolest little device and it’s called a HUMP JUMPER. It levels off the presser foot when you sew over thick seams. It makes it so you don’t get those skipped stitches, and allows your sewing machine to ease over those bulky seams. They work really well when hemming jeans!

sewing with fleece diy hump jumperIf you don’t have one in your sewing kit, no worries. You can make one by folding a cereal box 3-4 times to make a rectangle as shown in the photo.

sewing with fleece bulky seamSlide it under the back of the presser foot just like you would the hump jumper. (Watch video tutorial for a demonstration).

sewing with fleece finger press

SEWING WITH FLEECE: Tip #8- No pressing

Fleece does not need to be pressed. If you need to open up a seam or something, just finger press it.

sewing with fleece cleaning

SEWING WITH FLEECE: Tip #9- Clean your machine

When you sew with fleece, you are going to have a lot of lint. Even when you’re cutting things out and especially inside your machines.

It’s important that you keep your machines clean. Take the brush that comes with your sewing supplies (or you can use a small paint brush) and brush out around the serger blade, the bobbin case and anywhere else you see lint.

Sewing machine repairman don’t advise blowing it with canned air or air compressors, which can lodge the lint even deeper into your machine.

It is a good idea to have your machine serviced and cleaned once in a while because lint does build up especially using fleece and upcycled sweaters.

sewing with fleece binding

SEWING WITH FLEECE: Tip #10- Use fleece for binding

I wanted to show you some ideas and tips on how to use fleece strips as binding. This binding can be used on so many projects.

Some examples are shown in the photo above with the BOWLING SLIPPERS, and PILOT & PIXIE CAPS.

sewing with fleece fleece bindingThis binding is so cozy, it stretches really nice, and it has a clean finished look. I SHOW THE TECHNIQUE IN THIS TUTORIAL.

I hope this information was helpful and that it makes your sewing with fleece a little easier.

I do have a new fleece pattern coming out soon, so make sure you are subscribed to my newsletter, so that you can be notified when new goodies and information are come out.

sewing with fleeceGet in your sewing room, get out your fleece and make something fun.




Jan Howell

Jan Howell

Whether it’s a new recipe, a fun craft, or some handy tips for your garden and home, I hope to empower and inspire you with skills that you can use to create joy, improved health, and to do it in a simple way.

Read More

My Top 10 Sewing Tips for Beginners | Know Before You Sew

sewing tips

If you’re new to sewing or if you want to learn some awesome sewing tips, you’re in the right place. In this post, I’m going to share with you my top 10 sewing tips. Even if you don’t plan on being a professional seamstress, knowing how to sew is a GOOD THING!

These tips are not listed in any order of importance, so make sure you check out the whole thing! You can also watch the video tutorial at the end of the post.

I’ve been sewing for a long time (since junior high school) and have used these sewing skills a ton throughout my life. Not only did these sewing skills come in handy to help put me through college working in sewing factories, but I was also able to make a little money while working from home when my kiddos were little.

I used to sew dance and drill team uniforms while they were at school, and now I am able to share my passions teaching others to sew.

top 10 sewing tips

Over the years I’ve learned a few things and am excited to share with you my top 10 sewing tips. Of course, I have several other tips, (and I hope you’ve been able to catch them in my video tutorials and blog posts over time).

For this particular post, I’m going to focus on the ones I find most important. So without any further ado, let’s get into those sewing tips.

sewing tips machine

Sewing Tips #1 – You Don’t Need A Fancy Sewing Machine

You don’t need to buy a fancy and expensive sewing machine, especially if you are new to sewing. I went a LONG time without needing a sewing machine that had all the bells and whistles.

Let me tell you, there are some expensive sewing machines out there and all you need is a good solid machine with the basic stitches. I recommend looking into buying a USED MACHINE.

Check your local online local classified ads and the Facebook marketplace. Sewing machine repair shops will often have used machines that have been refurbished for sale.

sewing tips sergerAs you continue to sew, you can always upgrade to a different machine and even buy an overlock/serger machine, (which I do recommend you get if you can).

I’ve had many many different types and brands of machines over the years, and I have my favorites. I’ll go over some sewing tips in the near future on how to pick out the right machine for your specific needs.

Sewing TipS #2 – Become Familiar with Your Machine

Your sewing machine will come with a manual, READ IT! If you buy a used machine and it didn’t come with a manual, you can get online and find a copy of the model and make of your machine. You can also get on YouTube and find some great tutorials showing you specific things regarding your machine.

The owner’s manuals will show the parts, how to care for and how to use all the functions of the machine. It’s amazing the things I have learned when I have taken the time to actually read through this information.

I know, that when you get a machine, you are eager just to dive in and start sewing. Take the time to become familiar with it and you’ll save time in the long run.

presser feet

Another sewing tip I want to mention about your machine is that it will come with several different presser feet. I encourage you to get familiar with them and learn how to use them. 

I have a post and video tutorial showing you what the basic feet are and how to use them. 

Sewing Tips #3 – Get the Basic Sewing Supplies

When starting to sew, it’s nice to have all the BASIC sewing supplies. This isn’t going to cost you a lot of money and it will save you from being caught off-guard without an item that would really make the task a lot easier.

I have a video tutorial where I share with you a buyer’s guide and my loved recommendations.


Here are some of those items I go over.

Sewing Tips #4 – Learn To Use A Rotary Cutter & Mat

Of course, this is optional, but I find this little tool saves a lot of time AND gives you really good results, especially when cutting straight lines. A rotary cutter doesn’t cost a lot of money and there are so many options out there.

I have a blog post and video tutorial giving you all the details on how to use them, what kind of mats and cutters are best, how to care for them, and some valuable safety tips. You can read the post and watch the video tutorial HERE.

Sewing Tips #5 – Take Care of Your Sewing Machine

Your sewing machine needs to be taken care of just like any other machine. It needs to be cleaned, covered, and occasionally tuned up. Even the best-made sewing machines will need to have a good service once in a while.

I recommend taking your machine into a sewing machine repair shop occasionally to have it serviced, especially if you’re having issues with your stitch! I do have a tutorial showing Common Sewing Machine Problems and how to troubleshoot the issue.

sewing tips threading

Most of the time, you can fix the issue with some of these simple things (Like re-threading your machine).

The sewing machine mechanic can give it a good cleaning. (You’d be amazed at how much lint and gunk can get into crevices that you can’t get to). It’s worth the money and will keep your machine running smoothly and make it last longer!

Your handbook will give instructions on how to maintain and clean your machine. With newer machines, they usually don’t recommend oiling anymore. Just check your manual.


Sewing Tips #6 – Use The Correct Type of Needle

Most of the time you can get away with using a universal sewing machine needle if you’re sewing on cotton, cotton blends, or some kinds of synthetic fabric. Using the wrong type of needle can put holes in your material and give you a poor stitch.

For example: if you use a regular needle on a KNIT FABRIC, you will put holes in the fabric. If you use a thin needle on denim, you’ll most likely break the needle.

sewing with fleece needle guide

I have a blog post giving all these details AND I offer a free printable PDF that you can download that has a chart showing needle types, size, and what to use them on. YOU CAN GET IT HERE.

Another sewing machine needle tip I have is to use a needle sorter. If you’re like me, I put a needle in my machine and then I FORGET what type and size needle is in there.

There’s no way my eyes can read that tiny print on the needle telling what size it is. That is where this nifty little PIN CUSHION comes in handy. You can learn more about it here, and get the PDF iron-on printable to make your own.

Sewing Tips #7 – Keep Fabric Scraps Handy For Testing

I like to keep small scraps of fabric handy by my sewing machine for testing out new stitches and colors of thread. This allows me to test out the stitch length, width, and color of the thread.

You can also test buttonholes, and decorative stitches before sewing on your final project. It’s much better to make mistakes on a scrap of fabric than on valuable fabric that you’ve cut out and prepared for your project.

Sewing Tips #8 – Use Upcycled/Recycled Clothing As Fabric

If you’ve been following me, most likely you know that I LOVE upcycling. Re-purposing an item of clothing to make something else brings me so much joy, and I like the idea of recycling.

Not only do you save money, but you can also create some really cute, unique, and fun items that you don’t see everywhere. Most of my patterns and tutorials have options to use upcycled clothing.

Here is a post and video tutorial where I give several tips and ideas for thrifting and upcycling.

sewing tips upcycling t shirtsOh, the fun things you can make with an upcycle T-Shirt. Check out some of the ideas here.

Sewing Tips #9 – Be O.K. With Making Mistakes

Even the best seamstress will make mistakes. No matter how long you’ve been sewing, you’re going to make mistakes and have to unpick, and that’s o.k!

Once you understand and accept this, it won’t be quite as frustrating when you have to take out a few stitches or even start over again.

Sewing Tips #10 – Take Your Time & Have Fun!

When you are working on a project, I recommend setting up your sewing station, even if that is your kitchen table, and don’t rush.

I went many, many years without a sewing/craft room and I created a lot of items right there on my dining room table. You are going to make a mess, that’s what creative people do, and you can clean everything up when you’re finished.

If you sew in a rushed state, most likely you’re going to be stressed and more prone to making mistakes. Set some YOU TIME aside, and slow down and enjoy the process!



I hope you found these tips helpful! Please reach out if you ever have any concerns or questions and I will try to help out.

You can find my video tutorial on my YouTube channel.

My PDF sewing patterns can be found here on my site.

Have fun sewing!





Jan Howell

Jan Howell

Whether it’s a new recipe, a fun craft, or some handy tips for your garden and home, I hope to empower and inspire you with skills that you can use to create joy, improved health, and to do it in a simple way.

Read More

How To Make a Tomato Pin Cushion // Free Pattern

tomato pin cushion

This adorable tomato pin cushion is such a fun little sewing project and a nice asset to your sewing supplies. You can make this pin cushion out of quilters cotton scraps or of course, a felted wool upcycled red sweater!

tomato pin cushion supplies

Tomato Pin Cushion Materials & Supplies

zipper bracelets items and materials
tomato pin cushion cutting out

Tomato Pin Cushion Instructions

1- Cut out 4 tomato panels

2- Cut out 1 leaf and one stem from felt

tomato pin cushion panels


3- Place two of the tomato panels (RST) right sides together and pin in place.

4- Using a ¼ inch seam allowance, sew along one side of each set, back stitching at the beginning and end of seam.

5- Clip seam allowance with little v cuts, making sure not to cut into the seam.


6- Place the two tomato panels (RST), lining up the seams.

Pin or clip in place.

7- Starting about 1 inch from the top seam, sew around the tomato stopping about 1 inch from the seam.

Back stitch at the beginning and at the end of seam.

8- Turn the tomato right side facing out.

Poke out curves with your fingers.

tomato pin cushion filling

9- Fill the majority of the tomato full of the crushed walnut shells.

Use a funnel and a cookie sheet underneath to help control spillage.

10- Top off the tomato with the fiberfill stuffing.

11- Double thread a needle with red thread and knot the end.tomato pin cushion closing opening

Sew the opening closed using a ladder stitch. (the video tutorial shows close up of how to sew this stitch).

tomato pin cushion indent

Tomato Pin Cushion Indent

1- To make the tomato indent, double thread a needle with the UPHOLSTERY THREAD.

Knot the end. Insert the needle into the bottom, center of the tomato. Poke the needle out of the top center. (You may need to use a pair of little pliers to pull the needle out).

2- Take BIG stitch, and direct the needle back up through and coming out the bottom of the tomato.

Repeat this process until you have the intent you like. Take a stitch and knot close to the thread. Cut the thread.

Tomato Pin Cushion Stem & Leaf Application

1- Take the 1×1 inch stem piece and apply some craft glue to one side.

Start rolling to form a little stem.

2- Clip a little slit into the center of the leaf.

3- Slip the stem into the slit and extend it about ¼ inch pas the leaf.

4- Apply a light application of hot glue to underneath side of the leaf to adhere the stem to the leaf.tomato pin cushion

5- Using the craft glue, apply a light coat of glue on the underside of leaf.

Press the leaf onto the tomato.

Tomato Pin Cushion Stem & Leaf Application

1- Take the 1×1 inch stem piece and apply some craft glue to one side.

Start rolling to form a little stem.

2- Clip a little slit into the center of the leaf.

3- Slip the stem into the slit and extend it about ¼ inch pas the leaf.

4- Apply a light application of hot glue to underneath side of the leaf to adhere the stem to the leaf.

5- Using the craft glue, apply a light coat of glue on the underside of leaf.

Press the leaf onto the tomato.

Top Stitching Leaf Embroidery

This portion of the project is optional. I like the added character of edging the leaf with a small ladder stitch.

1- Separate out 2-3 strands of green embroidery floss. Thread a needle and knot the end.

2- Starting at one of the inner corners of the leaf, stitch around the edges of the leaf.

That’s it!

I hope you enjoyed that tutorial. Have fun sewing!

Other projects you may be interested in.






Jan Howell

Jan Howell

Whether it’s a new recipe, a fun craft, or some handy tips for your garden and home, I hope to empower and inspire you with skills that you can use to create joy, improved health, and to do it in a simple way.

Read More

How To Sew on a Button | Simple Hand Sewing Method


Everyone needs to learn how to sew on a button. Most likely some time in your lifetime you’re going to have a button pop off a shirt or some kind of clothing, and sewing it back on is super easy. In this post, which includes a VIDEO TUTORIAL, I’m going to show you how easy it is to use a hand sewing method.

Items & Materials Needed

  • Sewing needle
  • Thread
  • Scissors
  • Toothpick
  • Button


Most button-up shirts include a spare button. (Yep, kinda like a spare tire). Look on the side seam of the shirt and there may be a single button sewn to the tag of the shirt. Pretty cool because it can be a little challenging to find a button that looks exactly like the ones on your shirt, even if you do have a big jar of buttons like I do.

All you have to do is clip off the button and sew it on where the other one came off. Let me show you how easy it is to do.

In case the shirt you need to replace a button does NOT have an extra button and you don’ts have a jar of buttons, here is a link where you can get standard shirt buttons with the basic colors. 

button knotting thread

How to Sew On A Button

  1. Double thread the needle and knot the end. (The video tutorial will show a slick tip on how to easily knot the end of the thread).
  2. Locate the spot where the button needs to be applied.


button 3 methods


  1. Insert the needle from the back of the fabric up into one of the holes in the button.
  2. Stick the needle back into the other hole and pull it out on the underside. DON’T PULL IT ALL THE WAY YET. Take the TOOTHPICK and place it between the two holes, with the thread over the toothpick. Continue to pull the thread tight over the toothpick.
  3. Reinsert the needle back up into the first hole and repeat the process THREE TIMES.
  4. Insert the needle back up into the fabric, BUT NOT THROUGH THE BUTTON this time. The needle should be between the fabric and the button.
  5. Wrap the thread around the strands of thread 3 times to create a shank. Take a small stitch at the base of the shank and knot. Insert the needle back into the fabric close to the stitches and out the back. Knot the thread one more time and clip the thread.
  6. That’s it! Pretty quick and simple, right?


You can stitch a four-hole button a few ways. You can make a crisscross or sew two parallel stitches. Using the crisscross method, instead of sewing into the hole next to the one you just came up from, apply the needle to the hole at a diagonal.

Insert the toothpick in the same manner and make 3 passes on each diagonal. 

Create the thread shank just like you do on the two-hole method, and knot in the same manner.


Double thread a needle and know the end. Locate the place where the button will be applied and insert the needle into the back of the fabric just underneath where the button will go.

shank buttonThread the needle through the button shank and back down into the fabric close to the shank. Make 3-6 passes depending on how big the shank is. For large shanks, make six passes and for smaller buttons, three passes will be plenty.

Poke the needle back to the underside of the fabric close to the stitches. Take a little stitch on the underside and knot and cut the thread.

That’s it. Pretty simple, right? I hope this is a skill that you can learn and that it will come in handy someday, even if you don’t do a lot of sewing.


7 Sewing Machine Presser Feet and How To Use Them

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Sewing Machine Needles: Why Choosing the Right One Matters




Jan Howell

Jan Howell

Whether it’s a new recipe, a fun craft, or some handy tips for your garden and home, I hope to empower and inspire you with skills that you can use to create joy, improved health, and to do it in a simple way.

Read More

How To Pick the Best Elastic for Your Sewing Projects


There are a lot of types of sewing elastic out there and knowing how to pick the best elastic for your sewing projects will affect the quality and final results of whatever you are making.

In this post I’m going to go over:

  • different types
  • what each one looks like
  • how to use each one

There are three basic types:

Here are four specialty elastics

All are used in different applications and serve a specific purpose.

They come in all kinds of widths, from 1/4 inch to 3 inches and up. Your pattern will typically specify which width to use, but in general, thinner ones are used for things like swimwear and necklines, while wider ones are used for waistbands for skirts and pants.


Here is a table showing the different types  and when you can use them.

Print this out and display it in your sewing room for a quick reference. 




Elastic Description

  • Parallel ribs
  • Narrows when stretched
  • Looses stretch if sewn into
  • Rolls more easily


Sleeve and Neckline Casings




  • Cross woven
  • Soft to the touch
  • Does not narrow when stretched


Waistbands (pajama bottoms, men’s briefs, skirts)

Lightweight-medium fabrics


WOVEN (Non-Roll)


  • Horizontal & vertical ribs
  • Firm
  • Does not narrow when stretched
  • More durable

***Tip: use a stronger needle when sewing into it


Waistbands of pants and skirts with heavy fabrics, houseware items, outerwear



  • Decorate loops on the side
  • Soft to the touch


Underwear, bras



  • Does not rot or perish
  • Heat resistant
  • Chlorine resistant


Swimwear, leotards



  • folds in half
  • soft against the skin


Leotard, underwear, headbands, hair ties, DIY watch bands



  • Thin and clear


Gathering knit fabric, shoulder seam stabilizer

Extra Tips 


Picking the Right Type

  • First, consider if you will be sewing through the elastic or placing it in a casing. Remember, the braided and woven elastic doesn’t do as well being sewn through.
  • Knit or braided types are better for lighter fabrics, while woven is better for heavyweight fabrics.
  • Use specialty elastics like lingerie, fold-over elastic, and clear elastic for your projects that have special requirements.

Picking the Best Size Elastic

  • Pick the size based on the size of the casing or insertion area and the location on the garment the elastic will be.
  • Neckline elastic needs to be much thinner than waistband elastic, for instance! Your pattern will most likely recommend the width needed.
  • Don’t cut it lengthwise. You’re much better off just getting one that is the right width.

Cutting the Length

  • Test stretch your elastic to check how much it stretches and if it recovers well.
  • You may need a shorter length of braided elastic to accomplish the same stretch as a knitted elastic.
  • Thinner elastics stretch more than wider ones, so take this into account when cutting your length.
  • Use a safety pin to join elastic and test before cutting.

I hope you foun this helpful.

Please send me a note if you have any questions while choosing the elastic for your projects.

Have fun sewing!





Jan Howell

Jan Howell

Whether it’s a new recipe, a fun craft, or some handy tips for your garden and home, I hope to empower and inspire you with skills that you can use to create joy, improved health, and to do it in a simple way.

Read More

A Beginners Guide to Rotary Cutting / Helpful Tips and Tricks

rotary cutting

When it comes to sewing and crafting, rotary cutting makes the task on hand so much easier and quicker. Here are some helpful tips and tricks you might want to know.

In this post I am going to go over:

  • Different types and sizes of rotary blades
  • Rotary blades
  • Changing the blade
  • Cutting mats
  • Rulers
  • Cutting curves
  • Cutting on knit fabrics
  • How to square off fabric pieces with the ruler and rotary cutter
  • Safety tips and useful accessories

Benefits of Using a Rotary Cutting Device

  • Get a clean straight cut
  • Quick cutting
  • Easily cuts multiple layers of fabric
  • Makes cutting shear and delicate fabric much easier
  • Cuts precise fabric for quilting cuts
rotary cutting cutters

Rotary Cutters

There are many different types and brands of rotary cutters out there. I’ve acquired and tried several different types of cutters over the years. Some have been great and some, not so much. Alternative cutting edges include blades for pinking or scalloping, which are interchangeable and less expensive than buying a special pair of shears.

Rotary cutters come in several different sizes. The most common sizes are 28mm, 45mm, and 60mm.

  • 28mm: cutting strips, squaring fabric, cutting curves and intricate pieces
  • 45mm: straight cutting, strip cutting, squaring blocks, can cut through multiple layers at once(up to 8 layers at once), cuts a variety of fabric types including thicker/heavyweight fabrics
  • 60mm: straight cutting, strip cutting, can cut through multiple layers at once(up to 12 layers at once), cuts thicker/heavyweight fabrics with ease

The 45mm cutter is the one I use most frequently and would recommend for your first rotary cutter.

Rotary Cutting Safety

Before I go any further, I want to emphasize how important it is to be cautious when using a rotary cutter. These blades are VERY, VERY SHARP!

You’ll want to make sure your fingers are out of the way of the blade.

Always cut away from your body. You may be tempted, when in a hurry to cut toward you, instead of flipping the fabric, but DON’T DO IT!

Apply the blade cover when not using the cutter. (I will admit, and my viewers catch it), that I don’t always follow this rule. It has come back to bite/cut me, a few times.

I really, really like this rotary cutter because it has an automatic retractable blade. When you cut, you’ll squeeze the handle and when you’re finished cutting and release it, the blade retracts. Its ergonomic handle is very comfortable to use and is one of my favorites!


How Do You Know When to Change the Blade?

Rotary cutting blades need to be changed occasionally. It just depends on how much you use it. You can tell if after cutting it leaves uncut sections or just doesn’t cut well. Don’t hesitate in changing it for a new one, because a new blade will make your cutting experience so much better, and safer.

How to Change the Rotary Cutting Blade

Each rotary cutting device will be a little different, but they’re all pretty similar. If you have an Olfa cutter, you can go on their website and find the different types of cutters and see how to change the blade. BE VERY CAUTIOUS when handling the blade.rotary cutting changing blade order

  1. Disassemble the cutter by first unscrewing the nut. ****Very important! As you remove each component, set them down in the order you remove them.
  2. Remove the metal washer and the plastic washer next.
  3. Pull the handle off the stem that holds the blade and set it aside. (I will go over what to do with the old blade in a bit).
  4. Carefully remove the old blade from the stem and replace it with a new blade.rotary cutting blade change
  5. Place the handle back onto the stem followed by the metal washer with the curve FACING UP like a cup.
  6. Next, place the nut back onto the stem and tighten until the front disk begins to spin. DO NOT OVER TIGHTEN!
rotary cutting used blades

What to Do With the Used Rotary Cutting Blades?

As I have mentioned a few times, these blades are super sharp and you don’t want to just throw these babies in the trash. I recommend writing on the blade with a sharpie pen “USED” and placing it back into the case it came in. This way when you fill the case with used blades, you can just throw the case away.

The used blades come in handy when you want to make cuts on paper, cardboard, or other material that you wouldn’t want to use a nice new blade on.

Another tip: Write the date on the new blade, so you can have a reference for how long the blade has been on there.

Rotary Cutting Mats

Let’s go over the mats now. Using a rotary cutter requires a special mat underneath the fabric to protect your table and a special blade. (Don’t try using a rotary cutter without a cutting mat)!

Just like the cutters and rulers, there are A LOT of different kinds, brands and colors of mats out there. There are plastic mats, self-healing mats, and PVC mats. The most popular and known mats are the self-healing mats.

What is a Self-Healing Mat?

Self-healing cutting mats work by ‘absorbing’ the cut from a blade. The mat is made from many tiny particles that are pressed to create a solid surface: one that is not rigid like glass or hard plastic so that the ‘cut’ of the blade can be absorbed amongst those particles.

When you run a blade over and over in the same place on a self-healing mat, you’ll see that the damage becomes more pronounced as the cut makes more of an impact each time. Little fibers get stuck down in the cuts and eventually, you’ll have to replace the mat.

I have found a new kind of mat that I love! It’s called the BIG ROTARY CUTTING MAT. It’s made of PVC and is NOT self-healing.

rotary cutting mats

What is the Advantage of a PVC Mat?

  • Although it isn’t self-healing, it is quite durable and comes in all kinds of sizes up to 40” x 72”.
  • This mat is not supposed to warp and comes with a 5-year guarantee.
  • The company is a family business and is based in the USA. I like supporting local businesses.
  • Your rotary cutting blades will stay sharp longer.
  • You don’t have to put as much pressure on the blade.
  • It’s reversible and can be flipped to an all-white mat.

I have several sizes of these mats, but I LOVE my 36” x 60” mat. It fits really nicely on my sewing table where I sit my sewing machines.  When you cut on this mat, it will make little raised surfaces, but no worries. They send a little plastic scraper that you simply scrape over the surface to smooth it out, good as new.

Rotary Cutting Rulers

If you want to make straight cuts, which I’m sure you’ll want to do, you’ll need a ruler. This ruler needs to be made of durable plastic and there are a lot of different styles, widths, and colors out there.

They range in different widths and lengths. I would recommend getting a basic size to start with. I like this one. It’s 6.5 inches x 24 inches. 

rotary cutting ruler

Rotary Cutting Tips

Rotary cutters are great to square off a piece of fabric if you’re making a quilt or something that needs a square edge. (Watch the video tutorial where I demo exactly how to do this).

There is nothing more frustrating than to make a straight cut and have the ends not cut through all the way. TO AVOID THIS ISSUE, start cutting before the edge of the fabric and cut a few inches off the end of the fabric.

You can buy little accessories that make cutting a little easier. This BIG Mat Company has several different items.

I really like the ruler stabilizer. It is a little plastic rectangle that you can apply to the end of your ruler to act like a T-square or you can apply it anywhere on the mat as a straight edge. It’s really quite helpful.

***When cutting a straight strip, press firmly on the ruler and KEEP YOUR FINGERS OUT OF THE WAY!

I hope this was helpful and that you have fun cutting and creating.

Let me know in the comments below if you have any great rotary cutting tips to share with us.




Jan Howell

Jan Howell

Whether it’s a new recipe, a fun craft, or some handy tips for your garden and home, I hope to empower and inspire you with skills that you can use to create joy, improved health, and to do it in a simple way.

Read More

DIY Top Knot Headband | Easy Sewing Tutorial

top knot headband feature2

When you’re looking for a cute baby gift, this top knot headband is so quick and easy to make! They can be made with a minimal amount of knit fabric and OF COURSE, an UPCYCLED T-SHIRT! 

top knot headband tshirt

Choose fabrics that have good stretch to them. These top knot headbands are cute made up of solid colors or prints. I’ve been known to buy shirts, dresses, and skirts for the fabric to make other things with. In fact, I do it all the time, especially clothing on clearance racks! So be on the lookout in your closet and on clearance racks for some cute stretchy fabric that you can make headbands or other baby clothing with.

Choose fabrics that have good stretch to them. These top knot headbands are cute made up with solid colors or prints. I’ve been known to buy shirts, dresses, and skirts for the fabric to make other things with. In fact, I do it all the time, especially clothing on clearance racks! So be on the lookout in your closet and on clearance racks for some cute stretchy fabric that you can make headbands or other baby clothing with.

Make sure you are checking out my SEWING PATTERN STORE, where you’ll find a big handful of other things you can make for babies.

top knot headband

These topknot headbands look adorable on babies, toddlers, and even adults. They can be made to fit ANY SIZE HEAD, just follow the head measuring instructions to get a perfect fit.

You can make these headbands using a regular sewing machine; serger or you can even sew them by hand. If you don’t have a sewing machine, be sure to check out my HANDSEWING tutorial where I show you how to sew a stretch stitch by hand.

Top Knot Headband Materials & Items Needed

  • Sewing machine/Serger (optional)
  • Scissors/Rotary Cutter-Mat
  • Pins/Fabric clips (optional)
  • Measuring tape
  • Turning stick
top knot headband measurement


The best way to get the correct size is to measure the head you are making the headband for. If that’s not possible, refer to the Average Head Circumference Chart. Knit fabric will stretch to fit a wide variety of heads sizes in that range so don’t be too stressed about it!

Using a measuring tape, measure the widest part of the head. Write that measurement down.

Cut a strip of knit fabric (6-8 inches/15.5 cm x HEAD MEASUREMENT)

Feel free to alter the thickness of the headband. You may want a thicker, bulkier, or even a thinner headband. It’s all your preference and you can cut them out accordingly.

Make sure you cut out the strips with the stretchiness of the fabric for the widest part.

topknot headband tshirtUpcycled t-shirts work really well





Use a lightning bolt stitch, a small narrow zigzag stitch, this is so the seams won’t pop and break when the fabric is stretched, or you can use a 3-4 thread serger.


Fold the fabric strip in half lengthwise. Sew along the unfinished edge. Backstitch at the beginning and end of the seam.

Turn right side facing out using a turning stick or the eraser end of a pencil.

Align the seam so it is in the center of the headband.

top knot headband topknot headband knot

Take the short ends and tie a very loose knot.

Place the shorts ends Right Sides Together and with the seams lined up. Using a regular straight stitch, sew along the unfinished edge using a 3/8 inch seam allowance. (Basically the edge of your presser foot). Trim seam allowance.


I love this method because there is NO SEAM on the back of the headband, therefore making it so much more comfortable to wear.

Slide the knot down so it covers the seam you just made. Adjust the knot how you want it and you’re finished!

Tadah! Now wasn’t that simple!

I hope you have fun making these top knot headbands as much as I do. 


Play Video




Jan Howell

Jan Howell

Whether it’s a new recipe, a fun craft, or some handy tips for your garden and home, I hope to empower and inspire you with skills that you can use to create joy, improved health, and to do it in a simple way.

Read More

Sewing Corners and Curves | Serger Tips and Tricks

sewing corners and curves

Serging around corners and curves can be a little tricky, but when you know these handy tips and tricks, it’s no problem at all.

In this tutorial, I’m going to show you how to easily sew around square outer and inner corners and how to sew curves without any puckering.

For those of you who are visual learners, you can watch the video tutorial at the end of the post. I give several other serger tips that you won’t want to miss!

Typical Corners and Curves Sewing Projects

Of course, sewing around corners and curves is not a big issue with a regular sewing machine, but when you are using a serger (3 or 4 thread) it is different. For one thing, the serger leaves a chain of stitching that can get quite messy and add bulk to your project if you leave them too long when turning. No more of that!

Before I learned these tips and tricks, I had stitching tails all over the place, which doesn’t look really clean and finished.

Before trying any of these tips, I recommend getting some scrap pieces of fabric and just practice. It takes a little practice and every fabric is different.

Tips for Sewing OUTER CURVES

Start with lining up the fabric edge you are sewing with the side of your serger plate (the side with the blade). This is where you want to keep your focus point. As you slowly sew, you’ll be gently rotating the fabric to the right, keeping the edge of the fabric aligned with the edge of the cutting plate.

Be careful not to twist too much or you’ll get puckers. Just let the machine feed the fabric and you turn the fabric. You’ll get the hang of it real fast.

Tips for sewing  INNER CURVES

The same thing as with outer curves, except instead of rotating fabric to the right, you’ll rotate to the left. Inner curves are a tad trickier because it is a smaller radius. Just go slow. Any slight puckering that occurs can be pressed out.

Most likely, you’ll be sewing a lot more outer corners than inner corners, but knowing how to sew an inner corner using this method is a GAME CHANGER!

Sewing Corners and Curves outer corners

Outer Corners

To sew an outer corner, sew up to the edge of fabric and then take two more stitches by TURNING THE HANDWHEEL TOWARDS YOU.

Lift up the presser foot, gently pull the fabric back a bit to disengage the threads from the looper hooks. This will enable you to PIVET THE FABRIC around. Align the fabric edge with the knife plate edge and the top of the fabric in align so that when the needles come down it will be at just inside the edge of the fabric.

Continue to sew. It’s pretty simple. Do some practicing on scrap fabric. It’s actually quite fun, and notice what clean corners you have all finished nicely!

Sewing inner curves

Inner Corners

Begin sewing and when you get close to the corner, flip the bottom of the fabric edge to line up with the knife edge of your serger. THIS WILL MAKE A NATURAL PLEAT! Flatten the pleat (it will look like a little ice cream cone).

Continue to sew straight, keeping the fabric along the edge until you have completed the corner.

Open up the fabric and BAM, there you have it!

If there is just slight puckering, this can be pressed out.

sewing corners and curves clip cornerNOTE:  if the fabric is thicker, you may need to clip the corner just slightly 1/16 of an inch before sewing. You shouldn’t have a problem with lighter weight fabrics.

Once again, practice and test out the fabric you’re using on your project to see whether you need to clip the corner or not.

I hope that was helpful. Please leave a comment if you have any questions.

Play Video




Jan Howell

Jan Howell

Whether it’s a new recipe, a fun craft, or some handy tips for your garden and home, I hope to empower and inspire you with skills that you can use to create joy, improved health, and to do it in a simple way.

Read More

DIY Neck Cooling Scarf | Easy Sewing Tutorial

neck cooling scarf

When it’s hot and you need to keep cool, this DIY neck cooling scarf works like a charm. The scarf is made of simple cotton fabric and filled with water beads. These polymer crystals or water beads are quite amazing and when soaked will plump up with water, expand and then release the moisture slowly. That’s what makes this cooling scarf so nice is that it will stay wet and applies gentle moisture to your skin that keeps you cool for hours.

This is a very simple sewing project that even a beginner seamstress can handle. Making a neck cooling scarf will only take you about ten minutes to make, and it only takes a minimal amount of fabric. These are great to wear when you are working outside, or inside and can be worn by adults and children.

What types of water beads/crystal are best to use?

There are lots of varieties out there. The “crystals” are very small chunks that almost looks like a powder, while the “beads” are smooth spheres. I like to use spherical beads for comfort and ease of use, and some say that the small crystal powder can absorb into the fabric. You will be AMAZED at how the big the beads plump up when soaked in water. One teaspoon turns into 3-4 cups once soaked!

You can find the beads in most craft stores, floral shops and even some hardware stores will sell them in the garden section. They were all sold out in the stores in my location, so I bought them on-line and was very pleased with this brand. (clear beads) (colored beads)

You can find the beads in most craft stores, floral shops and even some hardware stores will sell them in the garden section. They were all sold out in the stores in my location, so I bought them on-line and was very pleased with this brand. (clear beads) (colored beads)

Neck Cooling Scarf Materials & Items Needed

  • Water beads or water crystals
  • Cotton fabric
  • Scissors/rotary cutter (optional)
  • Sewing machine
  • Iron
  • Pins/ fabric clips
  • Measuring tape
  • Cookie sheet (to keep the beads from going all over the place)

Neck Cooling Scarf Instructions

1-Hydrate the beads.

If you are using beads, hydrate them before placing them into the scarf. There are so many different sizes of beads that it’s hard to know how much they are going to expand. If you fill the scarf tool full they can expand too much and pop the seams.

If you are using the crystals you can apply the powder before soaking. JUST REMEMBER YOU’LL ONLY NEED JUST A LITTLE BIT! 1 teaspoon of powder, split into different pockets.

neck cooling scarfThe bead to water ratio is 1 teaspoon/3 cups water. Get a big bowl or tub to put them in. It may take a few hours for them to hydrate completely. I like to soak my beads the night before I plan on sewing.

neck cooling scarf cutting fabric

2 -Cut a piece of cotton fabric 4.5/10 cm x 42-44/112 cm inches.

Most bolts of cotton fabric are 42-44 inches wide, so just cut a strip of fabric 4.5 inches.neck cooling scarf cutting ends

3 -Fold the long edges of the fabric strip in half and CUT OFF THE SELVAGE EDGES AT A 45° ANGLE to form a taped edge.

4 -Open up the strip and fold in half again with the RIGHT SIDES FACING EACH OTHER.]

5 -Pin or clip in place.

You are going to leave a space un-sewn about 4 inches/10cm long to turn to the scarf. Find the center and mark that 4 inch space so you don’t forget and sew.

red clips
neck cooling scarf tip
neck cooling scarf sewing

6 -Sew together.

Using a straight stitch, start sewing at one tapered edge and sew all the way around to the other end. DON’T FORGET TO LEAVE THE OPENING. When you come to the red clip, backstitch and then lift up your presser foot and move to the next red clip. Backstitch and continue to sew the rest of the seam backstitching at the end.

7 -Clip corners.

neck cooling scarf turning

8 -Using a turning stick, turn the tube right sides out.

9 -Press seams out.

Fold the seam allowance under where you left the opening and press in place.

10 -Fold the scarf in half and measure 10.5 inches/27 cm from the fold and mark both layers with a pin.

This is where you will stitch the scarf to create the pocket that will hold the beads. You don’t want the whole scarf to be filled with beads, just the portion that wraps around the neck. (Some folks like to make 3 separate pockets, and this works well if you are using the powder, but if you are using the beads, I find it’s not necessary and only takes more time).

11 -Sew vertical seams

Sew two seams where you marked with pins. Backstitch at the beginning and end of seam.

neck cooling scarf filling with beads

12 -Fill scarf with beads.

Now it’s time to fill the scarf with beads. Place a cookie sheet under your workspace so you don’t have beads rolling all over the place. YOU DON’T WANT PETS OR CHILDREN INGESTING THESE BEADS!!!! You can use a funnel that will fit the beads, but I find that you can just grab a handful and feed them into the hole you left. Fill one side and then the other. Don’t overfill as they may expand a little more and pop the seam.

13 -Sew the opening closed.

Once the scarf is full, place the opening edges together and clip in place. You can hand-sew the opening closed or I use the sewing machine. I prefer using a 1/8 inch seam allowance on the sewing machine, it’s much quicker.

14 -Clips threads and you’re finished.

neck cooling scarf soaking

15 -How to soak and hydrate the neck cooling scarf

The beads will eventually dry up, but it takes several days. To re-activate the neck cooling scarf, just soak the entire thing in water for a couple hours. If you want to dry it out, just leave it in the sun. The beads will shrivel up to almost nothing, allowing you to store the wrap flat until the next time you need it.

Some friends and I are currently making a bunch of these up and taking them to the homeless shelter all hydrated and cooled. Perhaps this could be a project for those in your own community who are out in this heat; just a little way to give back.

Get in your fabric stash and make a few neck cooling scarves for yourself, family and those in need.




Jan Howell

Jan Howell

Whether it’s a new recipe, a fun craft, or some handy tips for your garden and home, I hope to empower and inspire you with skills that you can use to create joy, improved health, and to do it in a simple way.

Read More

4 Basic Sewing Machine Seams and Seam Allowance Tips

seams and seam allowances

In this tutorial I am going to go over the basic sewing machine seams and give you some seam allowance tips.

What are seams?

Seams are the building blocks of a clothing item and are the points of connection between fabric pieces. As a beginner seamstress, the first thing you will learn how to do is sew a basic seam. (Sew two pieces of fabric together).

There are several different types of sewing stitches that you can use to make up seams. Be sure to check out my SEW SIMPLE SERIES, A BEGINNERS GUIDE TO SEWING, where I show you all the basic stitches, seams and guide you through several easy sewing projects. (PATTERNS INCLUDED).

seam allowance

What is a seam allowance?

Whenever you sew seams, you’ll have some kind of seam allowance. This is the distance from the seamline to the raw edge of the fabric, which allows the fabric pieces to be durably connected without fraying or coming unsewn.


Here are some basic seam allowance “facts” and “rules”

  • The width of the seam allowance depends on the type of fabric and the seam finishing technique used. A thicker, bulkier fabric requires a larger seam allowance while thinner, lightweight fabrics work well with a narrower seam allowance.
  • The most commonly used seam allowance measures 3/8” to ½”.
  • Some seam allowances are finished to ensure seam durability and prevent the raw fabric edges from fraying. Fabrics like knit or polyester do not need to be finished. Here are some simple techniques to finish seams (NO SERGER NEEDED).
  • After the seam is stitched, the seam allowance should always be ironed down in a specified direction in order for the seam to lay flat (you’ll see a demonstration of this in the sewing tutorial video below).
    All conventional sewing machines have a seam allowance guide to the right of the sewing machine needle. In order to sew each seam at the proper seam allowance, the raw edge of the fabric is aligned with the appropriate seam allowance guideline according to the required seam allowance length. In my tutorials, I usually give some great tips on things you can do and use to make following these guides easier.
  • Most patterns will give you the SEAM ALLOWANCE requirements and measurement for that specific project. If it doesn’t, use the standard 3/8 inch seam allowance. (This by the way is just the edge of your normal presser foot).


  1. Place the two pieces of fabric you are working with together, matching edges and pin in place. Use the 3/8 inch guide on the top plate of your machine to line up the edges of the fabric, or if your presser foot edge is at that measurement, you can just use the edge of the presser foot as your guide.pressing seams
  2. Sew the seam. Open up the seam allowance and press flat using an iron.


A flat felled seam is basically an overlapping seam that’s sewn flat. When the seam is complete, there are no raw edges showing. It’s used frequently in menswear because it’s extremely durable and sturdy and provides a neat finish. If you’re wearing jeans, take a look at the seams. They are almost certainly flat-felled. Use a flat felled seam on shirts or trousers, which see a lot of stress, and you’ll get a durable finish.

Here’s how to go about sewing a flat felled seam.

  1. Pin fabric with right sides together. You will be using a 5/8 inch seam allowance. tape seam allowance guideI like to place a piece of masking or painter’s tape onto the sewing plate at the 5/8 inch mark. This will help you see more clearly and help you guide the fabric along as you sew.pressing seam allowance
  2. Instead of pressing the seam open, you’re going to fold the seam allowance to one side and press.flat felled seam stitching
  3. Flip the fabric over to the right side. Now sew a straight line on the side that the seam allowance is pressed to.1/8 inch seam allowance
  4. Sew 1/8 inch from the seam line fold. TIP: Most presser feet will have little notches indicating 1/8 inch marks. This is nice to use this feature when sewing this seam. Simple line the fabric up with that right 1/8 inch guide and sew away.


trimming seam allowance

  1. Sew the seam with a ½ seam allowance. Before pressing the seam, take your scissors and trim away ¼ inch from the right seam allowance.pressing seam allowance
  2. Fold the uncut seam allowance over the cut seam allowance and press in place.
  3. Now fold the top seam allowance under ¼ inch encasing the cut allowance. Press in place.
  4. Topstitch in place along the folded edge to secure in place.


French seams are perfect to use on lightweight, sheer fabrics, or lace. I like using this seam when I make pillowcases. The seam encasing all of the fraying fabric edges inside a tiny seam allowance of 1/4″ (5mm). French seams can be great to use if you haven’t got an overlocker (serger) and want to create a perfect finish to your project.

  1. When sewing a French seam, you start by placing WRONG SIDES OF THE FABRIC TOGETHER, instead of right sides together.French seam 1/4 inch seam
  2. Sew the first seam using a ¼ inch seam allowance. Then, fold the fabric along the seam line, so the right sides of the fabric are together and the stitching is at the edge of the fold. Press well, so you are working with a sharp crease at the fold on the seam. You may want to pin the fabric edge, especially if you are using a slippery fabric.3/8 inch seam allowance
  3. Now sew another seam using a 3/8 inch seam allowance.


  4. Press the finished seam to one side or the other.

Play Video

There you have it, 4 basic seams for you to use.



7 Sewing Machine Presser Feet and How To Use Them

Unpicking Serger Stitches the EASY WAY

SEWING BY HAND | Most Important Stitches to Know

Have fun sewing my friends!




Jan Howell

Jan Howell

Whether it’s a new recipe, a fun craft, or some handy tips for your garden and home, I hope to empower and inspire you with skills that you can use to create joy, improved health, and to do it in a simple way.

Read More

DIY Upcycled T Shirt Bags | Sew and No-Sew Methods

DIY Upcycled T Shirt Bags

Recycling and upcycling is one of my passions, and making these t-shirt bags is another way to reduce waste and find another use for unwanted clothing. I love these bags! They make great grocery bags, activity bags, and you can even use them as a purse if you want. You will be surprised how durable they are!!

Making and using these DIY T-Shirt bags is great way to reduce waste and recycle unwanted clothing. They make great grocery bags, activity bags, and you can even use them as a purse if you want. You will be surprised how durable they are!!

These bags are super easy and quick to make (10 minutes), and it will help to reduce the pollution of shopping bags. Did you know that one hundred billion grocery bags are used in the United States each year?  This means that the average American family gets 1,500 bags from shopping trips. That’s NOT OK!

That’s a lot of bags. Even if they make it into the garbage, 100 billion bags take up space. Whether they’re stuck in a tree, floating in the breeze or sitting in a trash pile, these bags don’t decompose. Because they’re made from petroleum, toxic chemicals can seep into soil and water.


Pollution on land is a problem, but what about these bags when they get in the ocean?  It’s dangerous to animals. Sea turtles, marine mammals and fish confuse the bags with prey, such as jellyfish, and eat the plastic imposters. Ingestion of these bags can lead to malnutrition, and eventually, starvation. Bags can also become caught on waterfowl or coral and wrap around the animals, causing injury or death.

Ok, I think you get the picture. Making and using these upcycled t-shirt bags will help reduce plastic bag pollution. I love that, and I love upcycling t-shirts as most of you know.

I am going to show you two different methods. A no-sew method (in case you don’t have access to a sewing machine) and a simple sewing method.  I prefer the sewing method myself because it is a lot faster!

Let’s jump right into the tutorial.

Upcycled T-Shirt Items & Materials Needed

  • T-shirt
  • Scissors
  • Masking tape (optional no-sew method)
  • Sewing machine/serger (sewing method)
  • Fabric clips/pins (sewing method)

T-Shirt Bag Instructions


  • Turn the t-shirt wrong side out.
  • Cut off the sleeve just inside the arm seam.
  • Fold the shirt in half lengthwise.
  • Cut out the bag opening by cutting a deeper neck line. (About the depth of the armholes).
  • Decide how deep you want the bag to be +3 inches/7.5 cm. Cut the bottom off if you want it shorter. You’ll really only need to shorten if you are using a very larger t-shirt.
  • Measure 3 inches/7.5 cm from the bottom of the shirt, take a piece of masking tape or painter’s tape and apply it to the shirt to mark this point.
  • Cut little slits along the bottom of the shirt up to the tape line, ½ -3/4 inches/1 cm apart.
  • Starting from one side, tie one strip from the front to the adjacent strip on the back in a double knot. Continue tying knots until the bottom is all tied.

There will be little holes between the knots. To close those up, take one tie from the first knot and tie it to one of the ties of the second knot in a diagonal manner. Do this to all the knots.

Reinforce the end knots by tying them again.

Flip right side out and there you have it.

T-Shirt Bag Sewing Method

  • Follow the steps for the no-sew method, but instead of cutting the strips, simply sew the bottom closed.


  • Set your sewing machine to a LIGHTNING BOLT STITCH or SMALL ZIGZAG STITCH. (SHORT & NARROW).

You can use a serger if you have one.

  • Make a tuck/pleat in the bottom of the bag by folding the sides of the shirt over about 4 inches/10 cm. Clip or pin in place.
  • Use about a ½ inch seam allowance. Sew across the bottom, backstitching at the beginning and end of the seam.
  • Turn right side out and ta-dah you’re all finished. Such an easy project.

Get in your closet and find some t-shirts you no longer want or need and MAKE T-shirt BAGS!

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Jan Howell

Jan Howell

Whether it’s a new recipe, a fun craft, or some handy tips for your garden and home, I hope to empower and inspire you with skills that you can use to create joy, improved health, and to do it in a simple way.

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DIY Baby Bib Tutorial | Reversible

baby bib reversible

Sewing for babies is the best thing ever. This reversible baby bib is a fun and quick little project that is great for even a beginner seamstress. You can apply snaps or Velcro and it has an optional food pocket.

You can use two different contrasting fabrics, or use the same fabric for both sides. The baby bib can be made with several types of fabric: flannel, terry cloth, quilting cotton, sturdy knit fabrics, or laminate cloth.

These make the best baby gifts! Combine a few bibs with some burp cloths, a mitered corner baby blanket, and a bottle of yummy smelling baby lotion and you’ve got an adorable baby gift, a gift that is made from the heart.

Be sure to check out my other baby tutorials.

Baby Bib Materials and Items Needed

Baby Bib Fabric Choices & Requirements

Bibs can be made using several types of fabrics; flannel, terry cloth, quilting cotton, knit, and Pull laminate finished cloth (used for diapers). 

You can make the baby bib reversible and you can use two different prints or colors.


Baby Bib Pattern Assembly

Due to the large size of the pattern, you will need to assemble the pattern first.

Simply fold or cut the dotted line on pattern piece 2 and place it on top of and on the dotted line on piece 1 where indicated.

Tape in place and cut out the chosen size.

There is a size for infants, toddlers, children, or a small teething bib. 

*YOU CAN MAKE THE PATTERN SMALLER OR LARGER. I give you specific instructions in the video on how to easily do that. 

Cutting Out

Fold the fabric in half, lengthwise with selvage edges (the finished edge of fabric) parallel to the fold.

Place the pattern piece so the grain arrow is parallel to the selvage edge. 

baby bib cutting outCut out 2 bibs on the fold. You can double fold and cut all 4 pieces at once if you are using the same fabric for the front and back.

FOOD POCKET (optional)

Cut out a piece of fabric approximately 8 x 12 inches. Fold the fabric in half crosswise and then fold in half again lengthwise.

Place the food pocket pattern along folds where indicated. Cut out one.


Sewing Baby Bib

If applying a FOOD POCKET, fold the pocket fabric piece in half lengthwise.

* Adding a tag along the pocket top is a cute addition, but optional. Or you can add a tag in the seam somewhere.

Place the folded pocket on top of one of the bib pieces right side facing up. Align the edges and clip in place.


Baste in place using a ½ seam allowance and a long basting stitch. Do not backstitch.

Place the other bib piece right side facing down on top of the other bib piece. Line up edges and clip or pin in place.

You will be leaving about 4 inches unsewn on one of the sides of the bib. (This will allow you to turn the bib inside out).

Starting on one side, sew all the way around using a    3/8 inch seam allowance. Backstitch at the beginning and end of the seam.

Clip outer curves with V notches and inner curves with little slits.

Using a turning stick, poke out the curves and edges.


Close the opening you left open by folding the edges in to match seam allowance. Press and clip in place.

baby bib topstitching

Topstitch all the way around using a 1/8 – ¼ inch seam allowance.

Baby Bib Snap Application

You can use KAM snaps, which is what I prefer and use. Or you can use sew-in snaps or even Velcro.

Place the pattern on top of the bib, lining up curves. (Notice: you will be placing two snaps on one side of the bib and only one on the other. This will allow you to adjust the neck size).

Using the awl, that comes with the snap kit, poke the holes where indicated to mark the snap points.

Follow product instructions for the snap or Velcro application.


Here are some other baby projects you may be interested in:





Have fun sewing!

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Jan Howell

Jan Howell

Whether it’s a new recipe, a fun craft, or some handy tips for your garden and home, I hope to empower and inspire you with skills that you can use to create joy, improved health, and to do it in a simple way.

Read More

Sewing With Plush Fabric | Tips & Tricks

Sewing With Plush Fabric

Items made with plush fabric are the coziest things ever; however, sewing with plush fabric can be a little tricky. In this post I am going to give you some great tips & tricks that will make the sewing process a lot easier and save you a lot of grief!

What Is Plush Fabric?

The fabrics that are considered “plush” are:

  • Faux Fur                 
  • Fleece
  • Minky (also known as “Cuddle” fabric
  • Velvet
  • Chenille
  • Velveteen

These fabrics usually have a “nap” to them. If you run your hand up and down the fabric, they’ll be smoother in one direction and may even look a shade different in color.

plush fabric blanket

What do you do with plush fabric?

These cozy fabrics make really nice toys, blankets, pillows and jackets. It’s not just for babies! We, adults, deserve to have something COZY! 

The fabric is available in solids, prints, embossed and double-sided. Embossed Cuddle is a favorite. You get softness plus a subtle design that pops up from the nap, such as the classic dimple as well as hearts, stars, paisley, and more. Next time you’re at the fabric store, check and see what they have available.

You can buy the fabric by the yard, or you can upcycle a throw blanket or item of clothing (like I like to do). The bunny in the photo below was made from an upcycled fleece jacket.


Sewing With Plush Fabric Tips & Tricks

  • Things are going to get messy! Plush fabric sheds when cut; use a rotary cutter to minimize fuzz. After cutting, place pieces in a dryer with a damp washcloth on low heat for about 10 minutes. Keep a lint roller, masking tape, and vacuum handy.

plush fabric stretch

  • This fabric has some stretch to it. It stretches on the crosswise grain but very little along the lengthwise grain (parallel to the selvages). If you are sewing two pieces of fabric together, it’s important to line up stretch with stretch and the grain with the grain, or you’ll get twisting and uneven seams.

plush fabric pinning

  • Use a lot of pins! This fabric will do a lot of shifting from the time you pin until the time you actually sew, so place a lot of pins to hold things in place. I love these long, floral tip pins. It makes them easy to see, so you don’t accidentally leave pins in your projects. 
  • Attach a walking foot, if you have one. If you are going to be sewing on these types of fabrics, it’s well worth the investment. Most sewing machines have one available if it doesn’t come with one. It makes a huge difference when sewing on the fleece, Minky, upcycled sweaters, etc. *If you don’t have one, be sure to hold the bottom layer of fabric a little more firmly when sewing. What happens is, the bottom fabric gets fed through the machine more quickly and you’ll get uneven sewing.
  • If you’re sewing a different type of fabric together with the plush, place the plush fabric on the bottom when sewing.
  • Use a ballpoint needle, 90/14 (Ge my NEEDLE GUIDE HERE).
  • Set your stitch length to a longer-than-normal stitch (3-4) to keep seams from puckering.
  • Do not use an iron. The fabric can melt!
  • Use a slightly bigger seam allowance. I like to use a ½ inch seam allowance when sewing on plush.
  • Using a rotary cutter will give you a cleaner cut edge.
  • If sewing together with a different type of fabric, especially cotton, be sure to wash the cotton piece first! Plush fabric will not shrink, but the cotton will.

Sewing with plush fabric is really not that bad once you get the hang of it. I wished I would have known this stuff before I attempted my first plush fabric project.

I have a video tutorial showing you how to make a plush self-binding blanket, and I go over these tips in it. WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE.

You may also find the fleece binding tutorial helpful.

Check out my sewing patterns HERE.

I hope this was helpful and that you’re now ready and excited to make a fun baby blanket or teddy bear.