Tutorial: Hand-Sewn Reverse Applique Needlebook

DIY Reverse Applique Felt Needlebook Tutorial

DIY Reverse Applique Felt Needlebook Tutorial

Needlebook Tutorial Open Pocket View

As I’ve mentioned before, when I first began sewing, I used my friend’s grandmother’s tank of a Singer. I was so clueless then, I didn’t know how great that old workhorse was. I just wanted to learn to sew, and I used the machine I had available. At the same time, I started to dip my needle into hand-sewing and embroidery.  A book on embroidery caught my eye on Amazon, and I was off to the races. The thing is, it’s really, really hard to describe stitches in words. It is, as they say, like dancing about architecture. I was completely befuddled by the drawings and long explanations of what I was assured were simple stitches that any  beginner could easily master. Sigh. Me? Not so much. The only way I figured any of it out was to get myself some fabric and thread and needles and go to it. (It probably doesn’t help that I’m a lefty. But honestly, the few times I’ve come across embroidery instructions for lefties, I was even more confused!)

So, I found myself in need of this “needlebook” I kept hearing about. I didn’t have a clue what a needlebook was supposed to look like. All I knew was that all the sewing books and blogs seemed to think I had one, or should at any rate, and once I began my tentative attempts at embroidery I could see that I really did need a place to stash those needles and pins so that they didn’t end up underfoot or stuck in the couch cushions (yes, that was a painful lesson learned). So, despite my near-total ignorance on the matter, I set about designing one for myself with some scraps of fabric leftover from the first bag I ever made. My sewing has come a long way since then, but that slapdash, very DIY-looking (and not in a good way) needlebook has done its duty and it has a special place in my sewing bag as a symbol of my tendency—sometimes admirable, sometimes foolish—to dive headlong into a challenge, always presuming I can figure it out.

But lately I’ve wanted something a bit more stylish, and more functional as well. Inspired recently by the Alabama Chanin techniques of hand-sewing and reverse applique, I created this felt needlebook with reverse applique. It turned out really well, and so I thought I’d share it. I made two with different appliques for the cover: a wonky cross and a flower petal design. You can download one of my designs or draw your own. I’ve included the design downloads in the tutorial.

I hope you enjoy it! It’s a quick, fun project with a useful result, and a good excuse to try out reverse applique if you’ve never done it.

Get the complete tutorial:
 Reverse Applique Needlebook Tutorial

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Next Up, My Autobiography in Shoes, with Interpretive Dance Accompaniment

For the past week or so, I’ve been on deadline for work, and I’m afraid I’ve been neglecting, my new love, this here blog, in favor of the old ball and chain. Gotta pay the bills. You know how it is.

In the meantime, I offer this:

My Life in Shirts: AKA a Shirt History of Nearly Everything

Smile, it’s Tuesday! Or, alternately, grumble sardonically into your coffee. Either way, we’re good.

Mad Men, Stylin’ Women

Whoo and big, big hoo. Mad Men is finally back! And if, like me, you are anxiously counting the minutes until the new season premieres tonight, kill some time browsing through Fashionista’s gallery showcasing the style evolution of the deeply awesome women of Mad Men. So fun.

(Except poor Peggy. Her style has evolved from horrendous to slightly less horrendous. But she rocks her awesomeness in so many other ways.)

(And also, scrolling through these photos made me realize, I’m dreading the day bell bottoms and sideburns show up to ruin the mod party. You just know polyester pantsuits are looming ever closer. So enjoy those bullet bras and cashmere twinsets while you can!)

Check it out here: The Style Evolution of the Women of Mad Men

Enjoy!

Afternoon Delights

Embroidered Rainbow Stitches Linen Bag

Hectic days at work and at home meant I didn’t post quite as much as I planned to this week. I’ve got some fun stuff in the works for next week, but in the meantime I thought I’d share a couple of excellent time wasters, in case you’re in need of some wholly unproductive and delightful distractions. And really, who isn’t?

  • Apartment Therapy asks readers: What’s Under Your Bed? Weigh in with your comments and read others’ true confessions. Sure to inspire smug horror and perhaps a touch of Schadenfreude just for good measure. And then the guilt sets in.
  • And if that’s not enough to keep your procrastination in overdrive, head on over to Remodelista to enter their Pin It To Win It contest by creating your own color board on Pinterest. You could win some super-dandy Pantone mugs.  And I won’t be jealous at all. Nope, not even a little bit. At all.

Happy Weekend!

 

There’s Hope for My Dark, Indolent Soul Yet

Some days look like this:

Burnt Cake

Hopefully, they’re outnumbered by days that look like this:

Cyclamen

So, yesterday? Burnt cake. Metaphorical cake, but still. My printer broke.  Both my computers seemed to be taking a personal day, because they certainly weren’t working. My phone was in a funk, and even my camera had the vapors. I got almost nothing checked off my mental (and actual) to-do lists, and for much of the day I felt like I was spinning my increasingly frustrated wheels. But in the midst of this technological black hole of death, there’s this:

Gandhi's Top 10 Fundamentals for Changing the World

Source: Gandhi typography poster via idea obscura.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I just need to smack myself upside the head with truth, perspective, and kick-ass typography art. Hit the reset button, I’m ready to go!

[Click here to download a free PDF of this amazingly cool attitude readjuster for your very own self.]

The Wedding Invitation That Will Shame All Other Invitations Into Despair At Their Sheer Inadequacy

Seriously the coolest, sweetest wedding invitation ever. And I didn’t even know wedding invitations could be cool. Kinda makes me wish I knew these people, but then again, that is a lot of cool to live up to. Most likely, they could only disappoint. Hopefully they are living happily ever after. If not, I don’t even want to know.

Don’t Fear the Needle

Hand-Sewn Blue Felt Ball

The thought of hand-sewing used to terrify me. When I first started sewing, I borrowed my friend’s grandmother’s ancient Singer. I didn’t know the first thing about machine sewing—or sewing, period. I didn’t even know how to thread it, so I just used the thread that was already in the machine, which fortunately was a nice neutral brown that pretty much worked with everything. Eventually, though, the thread broke, and I was faced with the daunting task of tackling the Singer’s baffling series of tension knobs and hooks and loops. I might as well have been trying to build the space shuttle from scratch for all I knew about the process. Of course, I didn’t have a manual either. So, I turned to the handy-dandy Internet and voila, seconds later I had a PDF of the manual in front of me. I set to work, being in general rather confident in my ability to accomplish pretty much anything as long as I have directions. Sure enough, shortly thereafter I once again had a functional, threaded sewing machine. No sweat. (A few months later, I bought myself a very nice Brother, and I was off to the races. I thread that thing like nobody’s business! Ah, how far I’ve come…)

So why, then, was I so scared to pick up a sharps needle and throw down some stitches with the hands God gave me? Perhaps it was a generational preference for technology, my instinctive presumption that I could never do as good a job as a machine. Also, I did not grow up with a tradition of sewing. I didn’t have a mom who patiently sat with me and passed along all her sewing wisdom, and the wisdom passed down to her from her mother, and so on. I hear these stories so often from sewers and quilters, and I’m always envious. Regardless, I didn’t have that, and I picked up sewing all on my own. (Apparently my paternal grandmother was a master seamstress, though, as was one of her daughters. Unfortunately, my grandmother died before I was old enough to learn to sew, and my aunt was well into a sad case of dementia by the time sewing caught my fancy.)

The first things I sewed were bags, and I dreaded the thought of having to hand-sew the linings closed. I’d read through the directions on a project, and every time I’d come to the point where I was told to turn the bag right side out and blind stitch or slipstitch the opening, I’d think, Well, surely there’s some way to get around this, right? I can’t really have to hand-sew it! Oh, the horror.  I got over it, and actually became a teensy bit proficient at it. I distinctly remember the first time I finished a bag and I truly couldn’t see where I’d stitched it closed. I was so excited I grabbed my clueless husband and shoved the bag at him. “Look!” I squealed. “Can you see where I stitched the opening closed? You can’t, can you?  Yeah me!” He gamely agreed that he couldn’t find the stitches and professed his amazement at my growing skill level. (He’s a sweetie like that. I’m sure he didn’t  have the first clue what he was supposed to be looking for, but after many years of marriage, he is exceedingly well trained in the art of when to blindly and generously praise.)

That was more than a year ago. In recent months, to my surprise and delight, I’ve learned to not just tolerate hand-sewing. I’ve actually grown to love it. It’s a graceful counterpoint, a delicate and subtle contrast to the blunt instrument of machine sewing. It gives me a welcome feeling of control, as opposed to machine sewing, where often I feel that I’m grasping for the reins and my machine is about to bolt for the hills. I’m just holding on for dear life half the time, praying for everything to go as planned.

The rhythms of hand-sewing have become a part of my daily life. And did I mention the convenience? The portability factor is huge! I love being able to sit on the couch with a project in hand, after getting the kiddo to bed, and watch TV with my husband (in the 5 minutes we have alone every day before we pass out from exhaustion). I have taken projects to 3rd grade basketball games, doctors’ waiting rooms, and the school parking lot at pickup time. I’ve even sewed while stuck in a traffic jam!

A year ago I would have been shocked that my current favorite project, the one I’m always itching to pick up when I have a random 30 seconds of downtime, is this:

Continue reading

Once More, Into the Breach!

Boy Stuff

I was up until 1:30 am last night, then back at it at 6:00 this morning, feverishly sewing a Roman centurion costume for a school performance I only found out about 2 days ago. It’s a familiar story for most parents of school-age children, right? The cupcakes for the bake sale you’re told about at 7 am the day they’re due, the week-late forms found crumpled in the bottom of the backpack, coated in sticky remnants of snacks gone by. But you know what? It was so much fun! For once, we managed to get everything done on time, no one was crabby or overly critical or demanding. We scrounged up the components from stuff we already had around the house—a never-used, never-will-be-because-it’s-way-too-ugly-ugh-what-was-she-thinking-when-she-bought-me-that? belt; the handle from an old broom for the sword, with cardboard sword tip painted silver; sword’s sheath sewn with leather scraps leftover from a deconstructed coat.

As much as I love the precision of sewing, constructing an item with care and time, as much satisfaction as I get from (the rare instance of) sewing a perfect quarter-inch seam, nothing—I mean, nothing—comes close to the satisfaction of using my skills to make a slap-dash, better-than-it-should-have-been costume in a few hectic hours, sending the kid off to school with a hug and a grin, knowing that his unreasonable confidence that “My Mom can make that!” is, at least this time, true.

Stitch 1, Take 2

Desktop SurferOften in life there’s no way to it but through it. Let it be said: A first blog post is paralyzing. The white void of the blank page, the cursor blinking impatiently. Come on then, just do it! it says. And so I am.

Hello, Interwebs! Welcome to Sewthegirl. I’m just hanging out here on the corner of Responsibility and Creativity, doing a little sewing, a little crafting, and whatever else strikes my fancy, while trying to raise kids, take care of my family, juggle a day job, and maintain my sanity, one stitch at a time. So, what’s the next move? And did anybody bring a map?