Friday, December 17, 2010

Handmade Gift Idea: Reusable Shopping Bags

These awesome tote bags are one of my most favorite projects to do. When reusable shopping bags became really popular, I loved the idea of creating my own personal alternative to wasteful plastic bags. I decided to make up several more to give this year as Christmas gifts so here is the pattern I came up with awhile ago.

Following this pattern, one yard of fabric can make two shopping bags. The finished size of the bags are around 16"w x 18"l. The first step is to fold the yard of fabric long ways. (If you get a yard of 44" wide fabric this will be the length of the folded or long edge).

Next cut the fabric as follows. (The bottom edge shown in this picture is the folded edge). From one side (the left in the photo), cut four 3" wide strips, then divide the remaining fabric into two 16" wide pieces. The large pieces will be the bodies of the bags and the 3" wide strips will be your straps.

First is to construct the straps. Take the strip to an ironing board and turn one long edge over 1/4" and iron.

Then turn the other raw edge into the middle of the strap and iron.

Lastly, take the first folded long edge and fold it over so it is overlapping with the other side. Iron and pin. Repeat this with both (or all 4 straps if you are doing both bags at once) straps.

Next is to sew the straps. Starting on the center fold, sew the strap three times to make sure it is good and secure.

Now it is time to work on the bag. Take your long piece of fabric over to the iron and fold over one of the short sides of the fabric and iron.

Fold over the edge again, approximately 1", and then tuck one of the straps under this fold. Make sure the underside of the strap (side with the seam) is facing down during this step. I place the outer edges of the straps 4" in from the edge of the fabric. Pin the straps and seam. Do this with the other short side and a second strap also.

Now sew along the folded edge you just made. I used a zigzag stitch but a straight stitch would work also.

Next flip up the straps and sew a strong box around the end of the strap. To sew the strong box sew around the 4 edges of where the strap overlaps the edge of the bag and sew an X between these 4 edges.

Repeat this process for both side of the bag and both of the straps. Once this is done your bag should look like the below picture -- a long piece of fabric with finished handles on the ends.

Next we will be making the bottom of the bag kind of flat (to spread out some of the grocery weight) by folding the sides once before sewing. Fold the bag in half with the wrong sides on the inside and the straps aligned with one another. Pin 1" up on both sides of the open sides of the bag.

Then holding where these pins are flip the bag wrong side out.

Below is a side shot of what the sides will look like once you have done the folding.

Now pin up the two open sides.

Sew up the open sides of the bag, sewing over your pinned folds. I sewed the seam twice then cut the raw edges with pinking shears to prevent fraying.

The bag is now finished so turn it right side out and enjoy! (Or go back and finish the other bag you already cut the pieces for!)

I made a total of 6 bags this time around. Below are my fun fabric choices and how they turned out. I am excited to give some of these away for Christmas!

So will you make some of your own reusable shopping bags? Have you made some already? If so how did you make yours and do you have any tips? I would love to hear from you in comments below.

Hope you all enjoyed this project,


I linked up this handmade gift idea to the following blogs:

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Handmade Gift Idea: Beverage Decorations

For this handmade gift I made a mosaic mirror from some collected beer bottle caps. (I would be remiss without giving a shout out to my friend Lizzie for collecting all these beer bottle caps and saving them for me since I said I used them for mosaics. So awesome, thanks!) I have taken care to title this gift a beverage decoration and would say it is a gift for the "beer enthusiast" or "beer connoisseur". I would like to strongly point out that I am not using the phrases "heavy drinker" or anything that has negative connotations. Let's not give an insult with the gift, shall we?

Mosaics are something I have been doing for a few years and I have probably done around 20 projects. If people are interested, I can do a more thorough tutorial on mosaics later, but I will stick to the basics for this one. Here are the mosaic mirrors I made

I think they came out really cool and are a fun, eclectic decoration that showcases a variety of brews! To do this project I started out with two 12" x 12" wooden mirrors I purchased awhile ago at IKEA for only a few dollars a piece.

I played around until I found an attractive layout of my bottle caps. I used tile adhesive (found in the tile/grout section of your local hardware store. I strongly suggest using this stuff, the same stuff used to tile a floor as opposed to the more expensive/less effective craft store version) to attach my bottle caps to the mirror. Following the directions I then let this sit for at least 24 hours.

The next step was to grout my creations. I followed the directions on the package (again, buy non sanded grout in whatever color you desire from your hardware store, not the craft store) for mixing and application of the grout. After cleaning it up, I let this set overnight as well.

All that was left after this was sealing the pieces (grout and tile sealer found in the same places as the previous products) and painting the sides and back with some acrylic paint to make it pretty.

Mosaic projects are so much fun and can take some time depending on your design but are not hard to do . There are limitless designs you can imagine with this craft. In the future I will do another, more detailed post on mosaics. I will show some of my other projects, explain the process more thoroughly and refer you all to some other great references on the subject. (Probably better to do this once the weather gets warm and we can take this messy craft outside) Would that be something any of you would like to read?

Hope your holiday preparation is going well,


Thursday, December 9, 2010

Handmade Gift Idea: Crochet Scarves

Ok I know this one is probably kind of a "duh" for a DIY holiday gift, but I just had to share it because I have been crocheting feverishly for the past 2 weeks. There is just something about when it gets cold that makes me have an unstoppable desire to knit cozy things. My grandma taught me to knit many years ago and last year I learned how to crochet (and by that I mean how to make scarves out of using only a single crochet stitch) and this year I am going to try some other patterns to expand my crochet skills.

So in this blog entry I am going to show you the 3 projects I have completed so far this winter and what I have planned to make next. Perhaps this will inspire you to pick up some needles and get to work!

This first project is a giant cowl which was inspired by one owned by a friend of mine. Mine was created by simply chaining 61 stitches then single crocheting row after row until it reached my desired length (about 75") and lastly connecting the two short ends. Such a simple, easy project but the result is very stylish and oh so warm. It took quite a bit of time to complete but now that it is done, I am enjoying wearing it everyday!

This scarf I made as a gift. I used the same stitch as the above cowl, but only made it 20 stitches wide then added some tassels to the end.

I was really digging the over sized cowl look and I found the pattern for this open weave design on They have a huge selection of free knitting and crochet patterns for all skill levels (you do have to create an account, but it costs nothing). Here is a link to the pattern I used. I am thinking this one shall be another Christmas gift.

Like I said before, I want to get into some more complicated patterns this year (my normal plan of attack is just to experiment with different yarns and needle sizes using just basic stitches, and sticking to the easiest projects, scarves) While there are thousands of great, free, patterns online I fell in love with these designs on Etsy so I purchased some patterns recently (the patterns section on Etsy is one of my absolute favorite sections to browse!).

Below is my upcoming TO DO: Knit List.
(click on the photos to be taken to the item on Etsy)

This mug cozy was pretty much the cutest thing I had ever seen and I knew I had to make one of my own. I do not have the knitting skills to do this on my own so I purchased the pattern and am so excited to try it. I can't wait to give these to people along with one of my handmade pottery mugs! (Already made cozies are also for sale in this shop for those who do not knit)

I purchased a slouchy beret off Etsy awhile ago and LOVE it. It is so cute and perfect when you do not want to spend a lot of time on your hair (which is most of the days of the week for me). I love it so much that I decided to purchase a few patterns and I will be making some of these for myself and others. Perhaps I need one in every color?

I am really excited about this awesome scarf. I love the mixture of shapes and textures, it reminds me of a kind of shabby chic look. I plan to make it in an off white/ beige color.

Hand knit/crochet accessories can make such heartfelt and cozy gifts and can also be very stylish looking if done right. I will make sure to report back on the above patterns once they are completed. What about you? Will you be learning to knit or crochet this season? (ask a friend or relative to teach you, pick up one of the many great resource books or browse the hundreds of tutorials online!)

Do you already know how to make lovely knitwear? Will you be giving some as gifts this holiday season? Or are you hoping to receive someone else's gorgeous creation on Christmas morning?

Check back soon for more handmade holiday goodness,


Thursday, December 2, 2010

Handmade Gift Idea: Pajama Pants

This is the first of many handmade gift ideas I will be showing how to make this month. These pajama pants are super easy to whip up and make a perfect, cozy Christmas gift for someone you care about. Here is a shot of the finished product and below I will explain how I made these.

For this project you will need:

A pair of pants which fit you (or the person you are making them for) nicely
Fabric of your choosing (I used about 2.5 yds)
Waistband elastic (enough to fit around the waist once)
Sewing machine and matching thread

When picking your fabric choice, I think flannel, knits, cotton plaids or stripes work nicely. (When warm weather comes around you can try linens and lightweight cottons too!) One thing I found is that if your pattern pants are stretchy it can be helpful to use a stretchy fabric for your new pants; or use non stretchy with non stretchy fabric. If one of the fabrics is not stretchy, make sure to cut extra of the non-stretchy fabric so the new pants do not come out too tight.

The first step is to fold the pants in half with the crotch of the pants pointing out towards the front. Then lay the folded pants down on a folded piece of your fabric with the non crotch edge of the pants up against the fold. See the picture below if this description is a little confusing.

Trace the pants leaving 2 inches below and above the pants (for the waistband and ankle hem later) and leave a half inch seam allowance down the edge. Now cut it out.

Repeat this step again so you have 2 identical pant leg pieces.

Next, with right sides together, sew up the inseam of each pant leg starting at the crotch point (crotch point is the name I gave the pointy part of the fabric next to the tomato pincushion in this photo, which will get sewn together later to make the crotch of the pants) and sewing down towards the ankle. Do this with both pant legs.

To prevent fraying of the raw edges use a zig zag stitch, pinking shears, or whatever way you see fit to finish the seams. Do this throughout the entire pattern.

Now it is time to combine the two pant legs to make a pant! Do this by pinning the pant legs to one another (the pant legs should be facing wrong side out) and sewing them up from crotch to waistband on both sides.

Now you should have an unfinished pair of pants.

Now it is time to add in the waistband. Cut a piece of elastic the size of the waist. I turned over the raw top seam 1/4" and sewed so I wouldn't have another raw seam showing.

Then I folded down the waist 1.5" (since my elastic was 1" wide) and pinned. I sewed this down leaving a 1.5 inch gap to feed the elastic in through. Insert the elastic into the waistband by using a safety pin on the end to work the elastic around back to the opening. Next sew the elastic ends together and fold the remaining fabric over the exposed elastic and sew.

Now all that is left is to hem the bottoms of the pants and you are finished! Here is my boyfriend modeling his new pajama pants a.k.a. early Christmas gift! He is so sweet for modeling for me and supporting my craftiness.

This is a great patternless sewing project for a beginning seamstress and could make a super personal and comfy gift!

Hope you enjoyed this project,