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Sewing Tutorials

Men’s Pocket Square in Liberty of London Lawn

As I near completion of the men’s sport coat I started six years ago, I am sprinkling in small projects that I can easily complete. It’s not really a deliberate move to make me more “productive,” although I’d love to give myself credit for that. It’s more like, that coat makes me feel a little underwater sometimes, where I’ve painstakingly hand-stitched the sleeve lining to the armholes only to realize that the facings aren’t straight and it all has to come back out…and turning to another project so I can step back from that one for a minute feels like a good thing.

In this case: it’s a companion project. My husband and I were at a men’s store that he loves about two months ago, looking at ties and pocket squares. The pocket square, I suspect, is making a comeback after seeming to be overlooked in men’s fashion for a long time? Back me up on that, someone.

The ones we liked were very, very expensive. Like, $75 for a 16″ square of cotton, expensive. And as we browsed the selection, I realized that while some of them were clearly exotic and imported, a lot of them were Liberty lawns. I have an impressive array of Liberty lawns in my studio, which I kinda famously bought one evening when I was enjoying a glass of wine and unwisely in front of my computer with my wallet nearby and a discount code burning a hole in my self-control.

I figured, why not? Let’s give it a shot to sew our own pocket squares. Worst case: they’re only OK. Best case: we discover limitless possibility.

I started by considering the hem. I wanted to do a tiny machine-rolled hem at first, I think because after all that hand sewing that needed to be ripped out of the sport coats lining where it was falling crookedly, I didn’t feel up to attempting a hand-rolled hem. But the corners really eluded me, they were just so teensy tiny I didn’t feel satisfied with the quality of the work. Since a pocket square is so small but also highly visible along the hemline, I figured the hem really needed to be excellent.

In the end, I made these identically to my fancy napkins tutorial, but used a scant 1/4″ hem along the edges, and mitered the corners. They look lovely, and I don’t think the slightly wider hem adds too much weight–if these were heavier fabrics, I’d be concerned that the thicker hem would drag the corners down when it’s worn in the sport coat pocket, but that hasn’t been the case so far.

I love a simple project. I love when sewing saves money by allowing us to feel “fancy” but without the price tag. It feels like winning. And even more than that, maybe most of all, I love the feeling when my husband comes into the kitchen in a suit and he’s fussing with the pocket square I sewed for him, excited to wear it for his digital conference that day, all dressed up to work remotely. Sewing, even small things, gives me such giant rewards when it makes our today better.

How To Sew On Patches

How to Sew On Patches By Machine | Whipstitch

For our children’s Junior Ranger backpacks, I worked hard to plan the design to enable the maximum number of patches to be added over the years.  Every Junior Ranger receives a pin when they are sworn in, and I’ve seen some children at various national parks with dozens of these on vests and jackets.


Some of the parks, however, also award patches to their Junior Rangers.  They do these in different ways: some parks give the patch as a matter of course.  A few have levels of patch, based on the age level of the Junior Ranger in question, and kids can earn more than one patch at that particular park by completing more Junior Ranger activities on subsequent visits (this is usually only the very largest and most popular parks, like Yellowstone).  Other parks have it in the gift shop where it can be purchased–but only after showing the pin badge as evidence of Junior Ranger-ness.  Some, like Grand Canyon, also have them in the gift shop, but behind the counter where Junior Rangers must ask for them and then purchase.  A few (like when we visited Mojave National Preserve this spring) award the patch only if the Junior Ranger activity booklet is completed on-site, versus being mailed in after the visit.*  And others have no patches at all, or at least not any specific to the Junior Ranger program (although we have encountered a very, very small number that didn’t have SOME kind of embroidered patch available).

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How to Store Wool Yarn & Fabric

how to store wool yarn and fabric | whipstitch

When I started knitting, I realized I needed to think about storing my textiles differently.  For one good reason:  MOTHS.

Moths are the enemy of long-term textile storage, which we learned the hard way at our house from one vintage jacket purchased at a second-hand store that worked its way through three prized sweaters before we discovered what was going on.  Textile moths LOVE wool, which is why closets have been made of cedar and old ladies have smelled of naphthalene for decades.

With my fabrics for sewing, I admit that I didn’t think too much about storage, certainly not specialty storage.  I mean, cotton, right?  Fold it up, stick it on the shelf, done!  I have had a number of wools rolled up in a basket for years and never gave them a second thought, probably (and I’m ashamed to admit this, but it’s true) because I got them cheap at a closeout sale, so I didn’t ascribe any particular value to them.  Insert conversation about cost vs value here.  Sigh.

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Holiday Gifts: Tutorials to Get Them Done

What is it with this year?  December is going SO QUICKLY.  Hanukkah is already upon us, you guys!  Seems like usually by this point in the Christmas season, I’ve already cut out most of my projects and have set aside night after night for stitching them up–but this year, I’ve struggled to get my feet under me.  I know I have some folks to sew for, but I haven’t even really determined to make for all of them.

Assuming that I am not the only one in this boat, and that others of you are still searching for the perfect (and perfectly QUICK) project to sew for someone on your list, I’ve gone through the Whipstitch archives and compiled a handy list of tutorials for simple, classic projects that go together in a single sewing session and make great gifts.

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Advent Calendar Sew-A-Long

Advent Calendar Quilt

Years ago, I re-created my mother’s Advent calendar and interpreted it as a quilt-as-you-go project, complete with template.  The year I finally buckled down to make this for our family, I worked on one house a day each day in December, and had a completed calendar by Christmas Eve!  Every year since, I have taken tremendous pleasure in bringing this piece out of storage and adding a ribbon here and a detail there, so that it becomes even more precious to our family as time rolls past.

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Tutorial for a Lined Bodice on Sew, Mama, Sew!

FLip Flop Dress sewing pattern by Whipstitch

Today over on Sew, Mama, Sew I’m sharing a tutorial for making the Flip Flop Dress with a variation in the waistline seam.  When I was manufacturing children’s clothing for a local design boutique, I made my garments in bulk–which required me to dip into the toolkit manufacturers use to reduce both fabric bulk and sewing time for each garment made.  With this tutorial, I’m applying one of these techniques to the Flip Flop Dress–and sharing some of the insider tips that are tucked inside the pattern instructions to help make ALL your sewing faster and cleaner!

See the post here, and happy sewing!


Making the Flip Flop Dress with an Unlined Bodice

The Flip Flop Dress: optional unlined bodice with rounded neckline

The Flip Flop Dress is a classic girl’s dress with a fully lined bodice.  One of the features I love about this dress is that all the interior seams are completely enclosed: the shoulder seams, armhole seams, side seams and even waistline seam are all tucked inside the bodice lining, so that only the skirt side seams are visible once the dress is complete.  Lining a garment is always my preferred method of sewing, since it’s so tidy and neat.

On the other hand, some garments demand to be left UNlined.  The dress above, for example, is made of double-gauze, which has as its greatest asset its breathability.  The lightweight weave allows air to move through it while still remaining opaque, and it’s my go-to summer fabric for everything from pajamas to blouses to dresses and skirts.  Lining it would defeat the purpose of using double-gauze in the first place, so I needed a technique to keep this version unlined.

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TUTORIAL: Applying Piping

When I was dreaming up the Prayer & Meditation Cushion pattern, one of the first epiphanies I had was that it really needed piping.

prayer and meditation cushion | whipstitch

One of the best parts about piping is the way it really defines a seam and makes it POP.  I love it on almost everything–children’s clothes, women’s dresses and tops, pockets for a bit of sailor flair, handbags for a bit of chic, and obviously on cushions.

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Printable: Bias Tape Makers & Measurements

While I was at QuiltCon, I had the privilege of teaching a quick demonstration at the invitation of the ladies from Cotton + Steel.  Naturally, the first idea that popped into my head was to share my on-going passion for continuous bias tape.  Yes!  More CBT converts!  More bias tape projects!  BIAS TAPE FOR EVERYONE!!

continuous bias tape

I made little giveaways to share, lengths of bias tape wrapped around cardboard, as takeaways for the folks who came by to visit.  Doing a demonstration in a setting like this is always a little funky–it’s a little bit of a fishbowl, and it’s hard to tell if no one is paying any attention or if everyone is paying attention.  Turns out, having some goodies to give away is a great method for giving folks a heads-up that something fun is about to happen.  YOU get some bias tape!  And YOU get some bias tape!  EVERYONE gets some bias tape!!

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Now Available: The Pockets E-Book!

Raise your hand if you love POCKETS!!

Whipstitch ebook guide to sewing pockets

Back in 2012, I created a 14-page printable workbook to accompany a practical workshop in pockets, one of my very favorite details to add to sewn projects.

flat piping on shorts slant pockets

Originally written for Sewing Summit, this workbook features step-by-step photos and instructions for constructing SEVEN different styles of pocket.  I loved every minute of putting this together and teaching from it, and now I’m making it available to everyone!

pocket pieces

Pockets are dreamy, and they’re an exceptionally simple and quick way to add both functionality and visual detail to a project–I especially love them on garments, like dresses and skirts, where they’ll stand out and take your sewing from looking ho-hum homemade to looking hoo-ah handmade.  Learn to make patch pockets, lined pockets, slash pockets, zipper pockets, in-seam pockets, flap pockets and welt pockets–all with full-color photographs to guide you and clear written instructions as you go.

elastic skirt pocket

Use the guides and instructions on these pages to cut your own pockets–or use the included templates to create duplicates of the ones pictured.   That’s right–this guide includes both the guides for all seven styles AND printable (or traceable) templates to make your own.  You can even enlarge or shrink them to adapt the pocket styles to your own needs!  There are classic shapes and quirky ones, and fun shapes and simple ones.  In-seam pockets and patch pockets, slash pockets and welt pockets, zipper pockets and more.  All of them are clearly explained and photographed in full color.

pockets workbook screen capture

This is a downloadable PDF file that you can save to your desktop or print as a reference.  You can also add it to your tablet, where you’re able to zoom in on the images for incredible detail and keep right next to you as you sew as a handy reference!  I loooooove my tablet, and often work with it next to me as I sew.  Having this workbook as a reference that can be printed is awesome–but it’s even better when I can add it to my iPad newsstand and access the content digitally, where I can make the images as large as I need to get the detail necessary to really get the sewing done right.  I’m so excite to offer this e-book to you with those features in place!

I hope you’ll love using this workbook as a guide and a reference.  I poured a lot of love into it–and some whimsy, too, like a word search and a “quiz”–and can’t wait to see what you’ll make with it.  For a short time only, it’s on 40% discount, too!  Hop over to the Whipstitch shop and click to buy for just $5!

Lining Cardboard Storage Boxes: Tutorial

The vintage maps I decoupaged on my empty cardboard diaper boxes turned out really pretty, but the upper edges had a tendency to peel and unroll, and I was concerned that lots of tiny hands would make short work of flaking off all that hard work.  As I was glueing, I was mentally calculating what a lining might look like on these boxes.

map storage boxes

At first, I thought, “How cool would it be to sew something around the upper edge here?”  But then I realized I was risking partial blindness when a needle snapped off while stitching through stiff cardboard and flew through the air right at my cornea.  So, no dice on sewing through the boxes, y’all.  I am not that brave.

toy storage view 2

Then I thought, what if it’s removable?  That way, when the children inevitably make it filthy, it’ll be easy to pop it out and wash it up.  Now, full disclosure, the odds that I’ll ever actually pop it out and wash it up are pretty slim–I’m waaaayyy more likely to shake the dust and crumbs out onto the patio and call it a day.  But even that can be made easier with a little hook-and-loop fastener and a simple muslin lining.

lining lip

Now, since I started thinking about putting maps on the outside of these boxes, I’ve seen a bunch of different ideas for how to use a diaper box for storage.  So many of us have dozens of them lying around, it seems wasteful not to use them.  I love the ideas I’ve seen here and here and here, but wanted to stick with my decoupaged maps–they’re sleek and simple and very much in line with the look I wanted for the playroom.  And while I am tempted by the idea of having the lining lip over the upper edge of the boxes (like in this mock-up image, which is not the finished version), I was pretty attached to the idea of having the lining stuck to the inner edge and not visible from outside.  Plus, I’ll be able to move them to the shelves of one child’s closet later on and not have to worry about who gets them or how well they’ll match–heck, they can each have one!  So making a linig that’s invisible and tucked away, but still comes out for cleaning, seemed like the most logical and straight-forward solution to me.

map storage boxes tutorial

I based my measurements here on the Huggies boxes I had, the jumbo-size box of 72 in size 4.  Box dimensions vary a bit based on what size diapers you’re using and what brand, so be sure to check on your measurements before cutting!

lined diaper box measurements

My lining bags (I think of them more as bags than as linings, just bags that attach to the inside of a box) are made of a heavyweight unbleached muslin.  I originally bought this as muslin for pattern drafting, but it was heavier than what I thought I was ordering (blergh–totally didn’t see the fine print).  It worked out, though, since I’ll be able to use it for the foundation for all our new bed skirts PLUS the not-quite-blackout lining for the curtains I’m sewing for our oldest daughter’s freshman dorm room this year AND for this project!  Winning.

muslin | whipstitch

I cut my pieces in one thickness, using a clear ruler to mark the dimensions directly on my fabric with marking chalk.  You ought to have three pieces, all rectangles, two of them identical.

cut fabric

Begin by stitching the side panels to the center-and-end panel.  The long rectangle is the two small ends of the box PLUS the bottom of the box; the two smaller rectangles are the sides of the box.  We want to match the sides to the bottom at the center, and not sew the ends just yet.  By folding each rectangle in half longways (like a hamburger, not like a hot dog, as they say in elementary school these days), you can finger press or press with your iron to mark center and match those pressed lines for placement.  So much easier than measuring, y’all.

lining up

Use a 1/4″ seam allowance and press the seam allowances toward the side panel.

press seams

Next, fold up the four corners and stitch them from point to opening at the upper edge.  Use a 1/4″ seam allowance, and take care to catch the seam that joins the center panel and the side panels in your new corner seam.

pinch corners

Repeat with all four corners until you have a boxed lining to insert into your storage box.

test fit

At the upper edge, I’ve added another 3/4″ to the height of the box so that I can attach some Velcro and fold the upper edge to the interior, making the attachment invisible.  Now, in the interest of full disclosure–because y’all know I am all about the full disclosure–I was pretty tempted at this point to fold the edge over and make the lip and just be done with it.  The sewing here had taken all of 15 minutes, and was pretty simple.  I could easily have thrown in a narrow hem at the upper edge, folded it over and called it a day:

lining lip

But I had committed to doing this Velcro thing, and honestly, I wanted to see it through.  It’s not as though living with this particular “What if?” was going to torment me, but I really did want to get to the other side on this project and see what I thought about the results.  I know y’all are feeling me on this one.

I’m working with a roll of beige sew-in Velcro that I happened to have on hand.  You can easily use stick-on stuff, too, or even the iron-on kind, just know that either of those will almost certainly need some extra glue to hold them in place on the box (less so on the fabric).  With the lining still flipped over the upper edge of the box, I pinned the fuzzy side of the Velcro in place, close to the edge.  When I got to where the two ends met, I folded one under about 1/4″ and tucked it in so no raw ends were showing.

pin velcro

Just as an FYI, it’s always best to make the non-pointy side of the Velcro be the part that’s going to be washed–washing the pointy section can cause threads and lint to get caught in the plastic fibers, and then they don’t get as much oomph to their stick.  (Another FYI: Velcro is a name brand; all non-Velcro versions of this product are technically “hook-and-loop tape.”)

Once it was all in place, I removed the lining from the box, and stitched super close to both sides of the Velcro to secure it to the lining.  Thread color isn’t important here–you’ll never see the raw edge of the lining or the Velcro itself, and even the threads on the wrong side will be tucked away out of view.

remove lining It wasn’t important for my purposes that the raw edge of the fabric be tucked under, because the Velcro was designed to flip to the wrong side of the lining bag and attach, meaning the raw edge will be out of sight, anyway.  So the Velcro is sewn right at the raw edge, with the backing of the tape placed together with the right side of the bag.  I used a very scant seam allowance and stitched riiiiight at the edges on both sides of the tape, all the way around the upper edge of the lining bag.

glue velcroWith that done, I hot glued the pointy, receiver strip of Velcro on the upper edge of the box.  Just a little will do, and the strips don’t necessarily need to go all the way into the corners.  Think about how much abuse your storage boxes might get, though, and know that the more length you have, the more strength you have–so more Velcro will make a more secure foundation for your linings.

Once the sewing is done, and the hot glue has cooled, it’s easy peasy lemon squeezy!  Just attach the two strips together by folding the upper edge of the lining bag over to the wrong side.  It should pop into place, like a donut.  If the bag isn’t perfectly sized, no big deal–using a stiffer fabric, like this heavyweight muslin, means that the weight of the toys will be supported by the bag and Velcro regardless of whether the corners of the bag fit all the way into the corners of the box.

finished lining

And voila!  Cheap and easy prettiness.  This project cost me exactly $0, since I had all the supplies on hand, but it is about 1000x more attractive than just storing the diaper boxes on the shelf and calling it a day.  If you’re forced to purchase heavyweight muslin (you can always use some fabric from your stash, if you don’t want to buy anything), you can get a yard for $6, enough to make three or four box liners.

toy storage

I’m off to re-categorize these toys.  Should I be concerned that my kids are always putting Potato Head parts together with the Army men?  Is there trouble brewing in Toyland?  Film at 11.