Sewing Machine Feet

photo showing a close-up of a clear plastic applique sewing machine foot. text reads: Sewing Machine Feet

I get a lot of questions about sewing machine feet. Mostly people want to know one of two things. What kind of specialty feet should they buy for their machine? And do they really need to have a walking foot?

Well – it all depends on what you want to sew!

There are so many specialty feet out there! I have a few I’ve bought for specific projects – a ruffling foot when my daughter was little and liked ruffles and gathered skirts, a piping foot for I-don’t-even-remember-what. You get the idea.

But there are a few feet that I use ALL THE TIME – and they’re what I want to talk about here.

Zipper Foot

I don’t sew much clothing, but I do like to make little zippered pouches and pillows with zippered backs. A zipper foot is pretty essential if you’re going to sew zippers. I guess technically you can do without it – but I wouldn’t want to. 🙂 The good news is that most machines come with a zipper foot, and if yours doesn’t, there are lots of inexpensive universals available.

A zipper foot is also really handy for sewing piping or other fancy trims where you want to sew right up against a chunky bit.

Handy links. . .

Walking Foot

If you like to machine quilt, a walking foot is essential. Basically, what a walking foot does is give you feed dogs that sit on top of your fabric, pulling it through at the same rate as the feed dogs built into your machine below the throat plate. This keeps the top and bottom layers feeding evenly through the machine. Genius!

A lot of fancier machines now have a built-in walking foot, but there are universals available for every brand and some of them are pretty inexpensive. I highly recommend getting one!

Handy links. . .

Quarter Inch Foot

This isn’t one of the essential sewing machine feet, but I really love it for when I want to be super precise in my seam allowance.

Here’s what mine looks like.

close-up photo of a quarter inch sewing machine foot for a Bernina

That weird piece sitting beside the foot actually screws into the machine and becomes a wall that you butt your fabric against, to help you get an exact 1/4-inch seam allowance (or whatever depth you set it to). This is perfect for joining quilt blocks – especially for quilts with half blocks and double blocks where the seam allowance needs to be really accurate.

For some machines, the quarter-inch foot has the “wall” built right into the foot, but those aren’t adjustable. They ONLY do a quarter inch seam allowance.

Handy links. . .

Clear Applique Foot

I saved my very favorite sewing machine foot for last – a clear applique foot.

If you do ANY machine applique (or any topstitching or edgestitching) this foot is absolutely necessary.

Here’s what a typical sewing machine foot looks like.

It’s metal and it might have a small opening like this one – but you can’t see much. And there’s very little visibility where the needle is actually going in – that smaller slot behind the main “toes.” It’s REALLY hard to see where you’re stitching with this foot.

Here’s a clear applique foot.

Close up photo of a clear applique foot - one of my favorite sewing machine feet.

Look at that! The base of the foot is made entirely of clear plastic – giving you total visibility as you stitch. That ability to see what I’m doing is what allows me to outline applique shapes like this so neatly.

cute applique chameleon made with striped green fabric and the Carter Chameleon - easy applique pattern from Shiny Happy World

Handy links. . .

So there you are – the four sewing machine feet I use most often.

Happy stitching!

How to Make a Cotton Mask – pattern and video tutorial

yellow mask on a blue background - How to Make a Simple Cotton Mask - photo and video tutorial

My daughter Jo has been a mask-making machine. She made over 1000 masks and donated them to our local United Way who is distributing them to the clinics and organizations that need them.

I don’t want to get into a debate here – so please don’t send me an email or comment about how you read these aren’t effective. Medical people in my area are asking for them, and right now I’m going to give them anything and everything they ask for. 

When I mentioned making and donating masks in my most recent newsletter, I was INUNDATED with emails from patients, nurses, mothers of nurses, hospice workers and more telling me how much these masks are needed and appreciated.

And when production has ramped up and hospitals and clinics are getting all the PPE they need, there will still be a need for masks to help reduce transmission when we all start leaving our homes again. I thought this article laid it out especially well. The short version is – everyone should be wearing masks when they’re in public. My favorite line in the article is, “My mask protects you. Your mask protects me.”

In addition to people saying they wish more people were making and donating masks, there were a lot of emails from people asking for the pattern I’m using. Keep reading for the complete tutorial.

This is a no-elastic mask. Everyone is sold out of elastic and I’ve heard from a number of health professionals saying that a behind-the-ears elastic mask is very painful when worn for hours at a time – which is what they’re having to do. I’m also hearing that some places are washing these masks multiple times a day, and the elastic is wearing out quickly under those conditions. So our mask uses fabric ties. One ties up at the crown of the head (it doesn’t seem like it would stay put there, but it really does) and the other ties behind the neck. This size fits any size head.

If you’re keeping a mask for yourself to wear to the grocery store, walking your dog, etc. make sure to remove it properly. Don’t grab it by the front of the mask and toss it on your kitchen table. Remove it by the ties, put it in the laundry, and then wash your hands.

Whew! That’s a lot of preface. Here’s how to make it. Scroll past the video for written instructions with step-by-step photos.

And here are the written instructions.

For each mask you’ll need two 6×9 inch rectangles and two 1 3/4 inch strips. I read several studies that said NOT to add any additional layers to this kind of loosely-fitted mask. Yes – additional layers will increase the filtration, but they make it harder to breathe THROUGH the mask, resulting in more unfiltered air being drawn in around the edges. Use tightly woven cotton – quilting cotton is great. T-shirt fabric also tests very well, but I don’t have any so I haven’t tried that with this pattern. It should work fine, though.

The ties need to be 1 3/4 inches wide and at least 40 inches long. We went with the full width of the fabric – selvedge to selvedge – because that’s 40 – 45 inches wide. Don’t trim off the selvedges. That finished edge means you don’t have to hem, which will save time. 😄

With this method, every 3/4 yard will make 4 masks.

If you prefer to use purchased bias tape – that will save time and stretch your fabric stash. Make sure you get 1/2″ double-fold bias tape. There are TONS of people selling large rolls on Etsy

If you use purchased bias tape, then 1 yard of fabric will make 12 masks.

Press your strips into double-fold bias tape. There’s a video tutorial here showing two different methods for doing that. Jo is using a 25 mm bias tape tool to make hers. That’s the right size for 1 3/4 inch strips of fabric. If you have a different sized tool at home, you can adjust the size of your strips accordingly. Just don’t go too skinny or it will be hard to catch all the mask layers when you sew it in place.

Put the two rectangles of fabric right sides together. (Nurses are recommending using two different fabrics so that if they have to remove the mask and put it back on, they can easily tell which is the outside and which is the inside.) Sew them together along the short sides, using 1/4 inch seam allowance.

Turn the mask right side out and press it flat.

Now it’s time to pleat the sides. You need to put three evenly-spaced pleats in each side of the mask.

If your fabric has a direction to it, make sure the pleats are pointing down.

You can eyeball the position of the pleats, but Jo has been measuring to keep things nice and even.

Measure up one inch from the bottom edge of the mask (turned sideways here). Then fold the rest of the mask down over the end of the ruler, and fold it back up at the half-inch mark.

Hold that fold with a pin and continue up the side of the mask with two more pleats, each starting one inch from the fold of the previous pleat.

Pleat up both sides, then sew those pleats in place by sewing 1/4 inch from the short edges.

Time to add the ties.

Fold the mask in half to find the center. Mark the center top and center bottom with pins. Fold the ties in half to find their centers. Wrap the center of one tie around the raw edge at the center of the top of the mask and pin. Repeat with the second tie and the bottom edge of the mask.

We’re only pinning at the centers to hold the ties in the right place. You can get the bias tape wrapped around the rest of the mask edge when you get to it while sewing.

Now it’s time to sew up those ties.

Start at the end of one tie and sew the folds together as close as you can reasonably get to the edge. When you get close to where it starts to wrap around the edge of the mask, pause, make sure the mask edge is tucked all the way up into the fold of the bias tape, and keep sewing. Continue past the edge of the mask, and on to the other end of the tie.

Repeat for the second tie.

Finished!

A few more notes. . .

If you have elastic and want to make a mask with behind-the-ear elastic loops, there’s a pattern here.

If you have smaller pieces of fabric and don’t mind taking a little more time, this center-seam pattern might work best for you.

Before you make any masks, you can contact a local organization to see if they’re requesting a particular pattern or materials.

If you’re looking for where to donate your masks, reach out locally first. I found our local United Way by contacting our county health and human services office. United Way has taken it from there, finding out which organizations can use DIY masks and handling distribution to them. There’s probably someone in your county doing the same thing.

If your local hospitals/clinics/hospice care workers/etc. don’t need masks – fantastic! You can still make them for regular people. Maybe your grocery store employees need them, or your friends and neighbors. You’re also welcome to sell masks made with this pattern. In the Czech Republic, a grassroots effort provided ten million masks in just three days.

If you post on social media, please use the hashtags #coverourcaregivers and #masks4all to help spread the word.

Thanks so much!

Cuddle Fleece Is Discontinued – and a Suggested Substitute

I have sad news today. I can’t reorder cuddle fleece any more, so it’ll be going away from the shop.

The company has been discontinuing colors over the last few years, and they finally discontinued the line completely. 😢

I love this stuff! I use it for softies and all my quilt backs. It’s not hard to sew with, and it wears beautifully. But I just can’t get it anymore. 😢

The good news is – I’ve found a good replacement. I can’t sell it in my shop – it appears to be exclusive to Joann’s. But I can point you to it and let you know that it appears to be the same as my beloved Cuddle Fleece. It’s called Sew Lush and it comes in some really terrific colors. Here’s what the bolt end looks like.

At $14.99 per yard it’s a dollar cheaper than what I carried – and Joann’s always has good coupons. You’ll find it near all the polar fleece. In my local store there’s a short case near the aisle that has their “specialty” fleeces – the ones that are really nice quality.

For most of my softies, you need just 1/2 yard.

For bear and bunny lovies you need a full yard.

For most of my quilt patterns you need 1 1/2 yards to back a crib quilt, 2 yards to back a napping size, and 4 yards to back a twin size.

I hope Joann’s continues to carry/manufacture the Sew Lush fleece. It really does come in some lovely colors!

If you’re looking for some sewing tips for this very special fleece, here are a few. . .

Happy stitching!

Free Beaver Pencil Case Pattern

I’m participating in the Back to School Sewing Series with Sulky. You can make this fun pencil case!

That beaver can’t wait to chomp on all those colored pencils. 🙂

See a little sneak peek of that beaver design here – including a look at all the beaver designs I didn’t use. 🙂

Materials

Step 1

Download the embroidery pattern here.

Step 2

Print or trace the pattern out onto a sheet of Sulky Sticky Fabri-solvy at 100% size. The rectangle should be 4 x 9 inches.

Step 3

Peel off the paper backing and stick the pattern onto the fabric. Make sure you position it so that the whole image will fit in the hoop, with fabric all the way around.

Step 4

Choose your threads!

So many pretty colors. 🙂

Step 5

Embroider the design using two strands of Sulky 12 wt. thread. Stitch right through the stabilizer and the fabric.

I used backstitch for all the lines. Learn how to backstitch here.

I used satin stitch for the pencil leads. This video shows how I satin stitch pointy shapes.

Look closer!

I decided partway through stitching that I wanted a little more color on the barrels of the pencils – so I added some stripes running down them.

Your pattern has the added stripes. 🙂

That nose!

I wanted the nose to be solid, but instead of satin stitching I decided to applique it with a tiny scrap of black felt for a velvety soft texture.

At this point I just left it unstitched.

Step 6

Trim the fabric down to 1/2 inch outside the rectangle.

Make sure you do that now – once you soak away the stabilizer that handy line will disappear. 🙂

Step 7

Soak the piece in cold water for an hour or longer. I often leave mine to soak overnight with no problem. Rinse it in clean water, gently squeeze out the extra water, and iron it dry face down on a fluffy towel. This video shows how I iron my embroidery dry without smooshing the stitches.

Step 8

Whipstitch the nose in place using matching thread.

For a small piece like this I like to use a glue stick to hold the piece in place while I stitch it down.

Step 9

Stitching done!

The front piece for your pencil case is all fancied up. Now it’s time to sew it up into a pouch.

Cut a back piece from the main fabric 10 x 5 inches.

Cut two lining pieces, also 10 x 5 inches.

Step 10

Follow the instructions in this post to sew up your fancy lined zipper pouch. 🙂

Finished!

Now – go check out the rest of the series! It’s a fun group of free projects!

Happy stitching!

Try my new embroidery book! Over 500 fun motifs – all embroidered using the easiest, most basic stitches. Get the book here.

The Big Bag – a free large tote bag pattern

The Big Bag - a free large tote bag pattern from Shiny Happy World

Here’s a free pattern for my favorite large tote bag.

I LOVE this roomy bag!

This one hangs in my studio to hold packages ready to ship, but I also have a few that I take grocery shopping and to the farmer’s market.

I’m a big fan of reusable bags for grocery shopping, but a lot of them are on the small side. I need something that will hold more than one bag of chips! Or one of those big bags of grapefruit! This large tote bag fits the bill exactly – and you can’t beat a free pattern!

Materials

  • two fat quarters of the main fabric
  • two fat quarters of the lining fabric
  • 1/3 yard fabric for straps
  • scraps of fabric for pocket and pocket binding

Cut Out All the Pieces

These straight edges are great to cut with a rotary cutter. If you’ve never used these tools before, here’s a video showing how.

  • Main bag – cut two pieces, each 21 inches wide x 18 inches tall
  • Lining ­- cut two pieces, each 21 inches wide x 18 inches tall
  • Straps -­ cut two strips 6 inches wide x 28 inches long
  • Pocket ­- cut one piece 11 inches wide x 6 1/2 inches tall
  • Pocket binding ­- cut one piece 1 1/2 inches wide x 40 inches long

Ready? Let’s sew!

Step 1

We’ll start by prepping the straps. These are essentially double­fold strips -­ you can watch a video showing how to make them here.

sewing the straps for a tote bag

Fold one of the fabric strips in half the long way, right sides facing out. Press. Open the strip back up and fold each long edge in toward the center fold. Press. Fold in half again along the center fold so that you have one long strip, four layers of fabric thick. This makes a nice, sturdy strap. Press.

Topstitch along both long edges, about 1/8 inch from the edge.

Repeat for the second strap. Set them aside for now.

Step 2

Now to prep the pocket. Fold and press your pocket binding fabric into double­fold tape – just like the straps, but don’t topstitch the edges. Here’s that video again.

large tote bag pocket made with Ed Emberley crocodile fabric

Now we’re going to fold the bias tape around the raw edge of the pocket. Start in the bottom corner of the pocket.

Step 3

Stitch down the binding right up to the edge of where the pocket fabric ends. Don’t keep stitching! If you need to stop a stitch or two before the edge that’s ok, but don’t stitch farther.

binding a tote bag pocket with double fold tape

Stop. Backstitch a bit. Take it out of the machine.

Step 4

Open up the binding and fold it into a neat miter, wrapping it right around the corner of the fabric. Slide it back under the presser foot, backstitch a bit, then stitch down to the next corner.

Mitered corner - close up

This video shows how to miter those corners.

Repeat steps 3 and 4 until you’re back where you started.

Step 5

Trim off the excess binding, leaving about 1/4 inch extra to finish the raw edge.

The Big Bag - a free tote bag pattern from Shiny Happy World

Stop stitching a few inches before the end so you have room to open up a bit of the binding at the end.

Step 6

Open up the last bit of the binding and fold that extra raw edge under.

folding over the edge of the binding

Make it so it’s even with the edge of the pocket.

Step 7

Wrap the folded end back around the edge of the pocket piece and stitch it in place.

pocket for a tote bag - edges bound in contrasting fabric

The pocket should be bound on all four sides and ready to attach to the bag.

The Big Bag - a free tote bag pattern from Shiny Happy World

The binding is especially nice to have at the top edge of the pocket to help reinforce it and keep it from stretching over time.

You’re almost done!

Want to add a cute applique face to that pocket? You can use any of my single block patterns here. Just print the pattern at 60% of the normal size and it will be a perfect fit.

Step 8

Fold the top edge of one bag piece in half and mark the halfway point with a pin. Do the same thing with the pocket.

The Big Bag - a free tote bag pattern from Shiny Happy World

Use a clear ruler to position the pocket 5 1/2 inches from the top raw edge of the bag. Line the 5 1/2 inch mark along the top of the bag, and make one of the vertical marks line up with the center pin on the bag. Line the center mark on the pocket up on the same line and your pocket will be perfectly centered -­ with no measuring or math. :-­)

Detail

Here’s a closer look showing how to use the pin markers to center the pocket.

The Big Bag - a free tote bag pattern from Shiny Happy World

See how both the pins are lined up at the 13 inch mark?

Step 9

Stitch the pocket in place down one side, across the bottom, and up the other side. Make sure you backstitch a couple of times at the stop and start of your stitching to give extra reinforcement to the stress points at the top corners of your pocket.

finished pocket attached to a large tote bag made with a free sewing pattern from Shiny Happy World

Done! You’re ready to put the bag together!

Step 10

Let’s start with the outside of the bag. Pin the two main fabric squares right sides together. Using 1/4 inch seam allowance, stitch around both sides and the bottom of the bag. Repeat with the two lining pieces.

Now we’re going to box the corners of the main and lining bags­ so that your bag will have depth. A free pattern for a large tote bag is much more useful when the base of the bag is wide enough to hold those bulky items you need to carry.

 Watch a video demonstrating how to box corners here.

Step 11

Open out one bottom corner of the bag so that the side seam and center bottom seam line up, and the corner of the bag makes a point.

Measure down 2 1/2 inches from the tip of the stitching (NOT the tip of the fabric triangle -­ ignore that flap of seam allowance) and draw a line perpendicular to the side seam.

Boxing the corners of a tote bag

Step 12

Stitch right on the line you drew. Trim away the excess fabric.

boxing the corner of a tote bag

Repeat for the other corner, and for both corners of the lining.

Step 13

Turn the main bag right side out. Leave the lining inside out.

Pin the edge of one strap to the top edge of the bag, 4 1/2 inches in from the side seam.

measuring for strap placement on a tote bag

Repeat for the other end of the strap.

Repeat with the second strap on the other side of the bag.

Step 14

Put the main bag inside the lining, with the straps sandwiched between the two layers. Since the lining is inside out and the main bag is right side out, you should end up with the right sides together. Line up the side seams and pin the layers together around the top edge of the bag.

Step 15

Using 1/4 inch seam allowance, stitch almost all the way around the top edge of the bag. Leave the space between the two ends of one handle unstitched, so you can pull the bag through the opening. Be sure to backstitch at the beginning and end of your stitching. There will be some pressure on the edges as you pull the bag through.

Step 16

Reach into the opening and pull the main bag through. Pull through the handles, then pull the lining right side out and tuck it down into the bag. Press around the top edge, being especially careful to press the open edges evenly.

Step 17

Topstitch around the bag, about 1/8 inch from the top edge. Be sure that the folded edges of the opening you used for turning are lined up and that you catch both layers in the topstitching to hold them together. No hand stitching!

I wanted the topstitching thread to match the fabric of the main bag AND the lining, so I used green thread as my main thread and blue thread as my bobbin thread. The stitching is green on top and blue on the bottom. Neato!

Finished! One large tote bag made with a free pattern.

The Big Bag - a free large tote bag pattern from Shiny Happy World

The handles are the perfect length for throwing over your shoulder and the bag is roomy enough to hold three big bags of chips, or a bunch of veggies from the farmers market – including lots of healthy but bulky green leafies!

Maybe you don’t want such a large tote bag? I’ve got two more free patterns!

The Trick or Treat Tote Bag is great for trick or treating – but also for carrying library books, lunch, and more.

Trick or Treat Bag - a free pattern from Shiny Happy World

The Mini Tote Bag is quite a bit smaller. It’s great for small toys and snacks. When my daughter was very little we kept a few of these packed with “special” toys that we only played with on outings – like at a restaurant. One had a few trucks and cars, another had crayons and a cute notepad, another had a handful of action figures. They were great grab and go bags. 🙂

Mini Tote Bag pattern - free from Shiny Happy World

Happy stitching!

Using Cuddle Fleece for Dress Up Bunch Dolls

Using Cuddle Fleece for Making Dress Up Bunch Dolls - from Shiny Happy World

I’ve received a couple of emails lately asking if you can use cuddle fleece to make Dress Up Bunch dolls.

Yes you can!

Update – the cuddle fleece I used to carry has been continued. You can find more info here (including a link to a good substitute). You can also use polar fleece. If you go with polar fleece, I STRONGLY recommend getting the no-pill kind. 

This is actually a really versatile pattern and I’ve used all kinds of different fabrics for it!

Just to test the fleece I made the Beatrice Bunny you see in that top photo. 🙂

I used camel cuddle fleece and the resulting bunny is super cuddly and soft. The slight stretch of the fleece makes a bunny that’s exceptionally squishy. 🙂

A couple of things I did different with the fleece. . .

  • Use bigger eyes – the pattern calls for 9 mm safety eyes but I used 12 mm. The slight pile of the cuddle fleece tends to enclose the edges of safety eyes making them look smaller – so going up a size is generally a good idea.
  • Use thicker thread to embroider the mouth – the pattern calls for embroidery thread but I used thin cotton yarn. The reason is the same as the bigger eyes – I didn’t want the thinner embroidery thread to get lost in the pile of the fleece.
  • I used an 18 mm pink triangle safety nose. No special reason – I just didn’t even know about the noses when I designed the original doll. I wanted to try it here and I love it!
  • Be careful not to overstuff your softie! The slight stretch of the cuddle fleece allows you to pack in more stuffing – enough that the clothes will be too tight.

What other fabrics have I used?

I’m glad you asked!

Quilting Cotton

I’ve used quilting cotton for most of the samples. It works just fine.

Mollie - a Dress Up Bunch doll  made with woven cotton fabric

I’ve even got a bundle of quilting cottons in people colors that are great for making these dolls.

Flannel

I used flannel to make my Pip the Cat and I love how he turned out!

Pip the Cat made with flannel - a Dress Up Bunch pattern from Shiny Happy World

Be sure to use good quality flannel so your doll doesn’t pill after just a few snuggles.

Stretchy Knit Fabric

Yes – you can use stretchy knits too.

Using Stretchy Knit Fabrics to Make a Rag Doll - Tips from Shiny Happy World

That requires a little special handling – mostly using a stretch needle and being careful not to overstuff your doll so she still fits into her clothes. 🙂 I share all the tips in this post – plus a link to a source for special “doll skin” fabric used for Waldorf dolls.

Faux Fur

Yep – you can use faux fur too!

Rumples - a Dress Up Bunch dog made with crinkly faux fur

Here’s Spot the Puppy made in some really spectacular faux fur. I love this guy and named him Rumples.

One caution when using fur – the furrier the fur, the bigger it makes the doll. It might make the regular clothes not fit anymore.

Rumples is stuffed pretty tightly into his Play Clothes.

Rumples - a Dress Up Bunch dog pattern from Shiny Happy World

So there you have it! Lots of great fabric options for making Dress Up Bunch dolls!

Happy stitching!

Best,
Wendi

The Dress Up Bunch is a collection of adorable rag dolls with a wardrobe better than mine! All the dolls can wear all the outfits for terrific play value! Shop the pattern collection here.

Stuffed Animal Ears That Stand Up But Are Still Soft – Tutorial

Green stuffed bunny on a blue background. Text reads: How to Give Your Stuffed Animal Ears that Stand Up but Are Still Soft

It’s to give a stuffed animal ears that stand up!

I usually design my softies with floppy ears – often with a satin lining. I’ve known SO MANY kids who use softie ears like a blankie – clutching them or rubbing them as they fall asleep – that making blankie-like ears is kind of my default setting.

Bertie Bunny and Bartholomew Bunny both have floppy ears, and so does Elliott Elephant.

When I designed Benson Bunny (that spring green bunny you see in the top image) I wanted him to have ears that stood up straight.

I realized I had never made a stuffed animal with ears that stand up and I wasn’t sure how to do it!

Every stabilizer and interfacing I tried was either too floppy – or downright crunchy and hard. In desperation I turned to Betz White – bag-maker extraordinaire – and she suggested a product called Soft & Stable right away. She even sent me a sample to try and it was perfect!

Here’s what I love about it. . .

  • It’s easy to work with. You can sew right through it.
  • It’s stiffer than batting and really maintains its shape – but is still soft and cuddly. You can fold those ears over and they’ll spring right back up.
  • It’s very lightweight.
  • It’s machine washable and dryable.
  • It gives a really professional look to your finished softies.

I started carrying it in the shop (you can get it here) and included instructions for using it in Benson’s pattern. But I realized I never posted general instructions for it here.

The thing is – you can use this with ANY pattern – even one that I designed with floppy ears!

So – here’s how to give any stuffed animal ears that stand up – but are still soft and cuddly.

Any pattern will have you cut an ear front and an ear back for each ear. They’ll always be cut from the same pattern piece so they go together. You need to cut an extra layer of Soft & Stable from that same ear pattern piece.

So for each ear you’ll have an ear front (I do love making that piece satin or other contrasting fabric), an ear back (usually out of the main fabric), and a third piece that will be hidden inside the ear cut from the Soft & Stable.

The sometimes mind-bendy part is assembling the layers. You want the front and back sewn together with the foam in between, but how do you stack the layers so when you turn it right side out it works?

Easy.

Stack the front and back ear pieces just like you normally would – right sides together. I like to start with the main fabric piece face up, then the lining fabric piece face down. Now just add the foam piece to the stack.

That’s it!

Sew around the edge of the ear just like the pattern says.

Here’s Benson’s sewn ear from the foam side of the stack.

Bunny stuffed animal ear shown after sewing and before turning it right side out.

And here it is from the main fabric side of the stack.

The same ear show from the other side

See the pink lining fabric peeking out between the green and the foam?

When you turn it right side out (I love to use these turning tubes) make sure to reach in and turn between the main layer and the lining layer. That way you’ll end up with the foam between the two layers. 🙂

Done!

Now treat it just like an ear that doesn’t have the layer of foam in there.

If the pattern says to fold the sides in – that’s fine!

Bunny stuffed animal ear - folded in on the sides and ready to attach

You can fold and sew through the foam just like batting or almost any other stabilizer. It’s beautiful stuff!

You can use the same method to add 3D parts to quilt blocks! See that tutorial here.

Happy stitching!

Best,
Wendi

Joining Strips with a Diagonal Seam

Joining Strips with a Diagonal Seam - a video tutorial from Shiny Happy World

I almost always use scrappy bindings in my quilts and I get a lot of questions about how I get those diagonal seams.

I show the diagonal seam in my video How to Bind a Quilt – but I never actually showed how to do it.

Until now.

See how easy that is?

I use this method any time I’m joining strips together. For me that’s usually binding a quilt, but it can also be for bias strips on bags, clothing, and any other application.

Happy stitching!

Best,
Wendi

Free Receiving Blanket Pattern

baby's receiving blanket with fox fabric and fox applique

Make an easy baby gift with this free receiving blanket pattern.

A receiving blanket is seriously the easiest baby gift you can make. Choose fabulous fabric and no embellishment and you can make one in 15 minutes. Even if you add an applique (like the fox shown) you can still make it in less than an hour.

Here’s how. . .

Step 1

Cut two squares of fabric about 36 inches square.

Any kind of fabric is fine. I’m using quilting cotton here (from the GORGEOUS Into the Woods collection from Michael Miller Fabrics) but I’ve also used flannel, terry cloth, baby corduroy, and more. Just about anything goes.

I like to use one fabric for the front and a different fabric for the back, but you don’t have to.

And when I say “about” 36 inches I really mean it. I bought one yard cuts of fabric, but by the time I washed them and squared off the cut ends they were more like 34 inches. So I cut two 34 inch squares. No problem.

Step 2

Put the two squares of fabric right sides together and pin all the way around the edge.

Take a little care here and make sure you get everything laid out and pinned neatly. If your squares aren’t really lined up, it will show in the finished blanket – and make the pressing in Step 5 hard.

Step 3

Sew almost all the way around the edge, leaving an opening big enough to fit your hand for turning right side out. I usually leave 4-5 inches. Use a quarter inch seam allowance – or something close. I use the edge of my favorite presser foot as a guide which makes a seam more like 3/8 inch and that’s just fine. 🙂

Step 4

Clip the corners right up close to the stitching.

clip corners to avoid bulk

This will eliminate bulk in those corners when you turn it right side out.

Step 5

Turn the blanket right side out – taking care to poke out the corners and smooth all the edges. Press the edges flat.

Step 6

Now you have a choice. You can leave the edges as they are and hand sew the opening. I like to use ladder stitch (that links to a video tutorial) for invisible stitching.

Or (if you want a no-hand-work project) you can topstitch your blanket all the way around the edge. That will make your seams extra secure and sew up that opening at the same time.

close-up of the topstitched edge of a receiving blanket made with a free pattern from Shiny Happy World

Here’s how close to the edge I typically stitch.

Finished!

But that’s not all. This receiving blanket pattern is basically a blank slate for you to play with.

Sure – you can use fabulous fabrics and make it just this simple. How beautiful is this?

deep blue fabric with foxes - Into the Woods collection

Honestly – no further embellishment needed at all.

But if you want to add something fancy, you can.

You can add some embroidery. Maybe stitch baby’s name and date of birth in the corner? There’s a free alphabet pattern for hand embroidery here.

You can add some applique. On this sample I added the Fergal Fox applique pattern in the lower right corner of the blanket.

Finished receiving blanket made with a free pattern - plus an added fox applique face.

No resizing needed – and it’s a great way to get extra mileage out of patterns you already own. If you do this, make sure you place the bottom edge of the neck right up against the raw bottom edge of the blanket.

applique fox face added to the corner of a receiving blanket pattern

That way the raw edge will get sewn up in the stitching that sews the front and back of the blanket together and it will look like the fox is peeking into the frame rather than like a decapitated head floating in the corner. 🙂

There are lots more single block applique patterns available here – perfect for adding to this pattern. And there are a few free applique patterns here. Add a free applique pattern to the free receiving blanket pattern for a perfect low-cost gift!

Have fun with this pattern! Be sure to tag any photos of your finished work with #shinyhappyworld – or share it in the Shiny Happy People group on Facebook.

Want some other free patterns for projects you can make with a single quilt block applique pattern? Here are a few of my favorites. . .

Happy stitching!

Tips for Dark Eyes on Dark Softies

dark brown crochet cat with black eyes

Felix is a new crochet pattern and I love him. 🙂

For the pattern I stitched him up in yellow, because lighter (and solid) colors make it easier to see the individual stitches. But I also wanted to make him in this tweedy dark brown for more of a tortoiseshell cat look – just for fun.

The tricky part of using dark yarn – or dark fabric for a sewn softie – is getting the eyes to show up well. The eyes are the most important part of the face!

I’ve got two solutions for you today.

If you want to use a solid black craft eye (which is what I use for most of my softies) then it’s a big help to back those eyes with a circle of a lighter colored felt just a smidge bigger than the eye. That’s what I did with Milton Monkey. . .

Milton Monkey - a softie pattern from Shiny Happy World

. . . and with Brandon Beaver. . .

Brandon Beaver - a Cuddle Club pattern from Shiny Happy World

And that’s what I did with Felix. Here you can see those eyes a little closer.

I used a 1/2″ circle of sandstone felt with 9 mm eyes.

I use this tool to trace nice neat circles in lots of sizes.

circle template

I don’t remember where I got this exact template, but I’ve seen similar items at Office Max and Staples.

If you make a lot of softies and tend to use the same size eyes, you can also buy die-cut eyes which are perfectly perfect circles. When I make kits I buy felt circles at Woolhearts on Etsy. These are the circles I buy – you can choose the size and an assortment of up to six colors. It’s handy to keep a little stash of favorite colors.

Once you have the circles cut, there’s one more step. You need to punch a hole in the middle for the shank of the eye to go through! You can use an awl like this one, or you can use a 1/8 inch hole punch for extra neat holes.

Use a hole punch for nice neat holes in felt

Perfect little backs to set off your eyes! I usually stick to a color that’s a lighter shade than the main color – but not too light! White in particular can make your softie look scared.

Another option is to use an eye with color already in it.

(When I do that I usually use a slightly larger eye than what the pattern calls for – like jumping from a 9 mm to a 12 mm eye.)

Look at Sharon’s cat (named Arnold). She also made a dark brown kitty, but she used awesome cat eyes for hers!

dark brown cat with yellow eyes

With those big eyes and no mouth he immediately reminded me of the cat from Kiki’s Delivery Service.

And now I need to make a black cat. 🙂

Happy stitching!

Best,
Wendi

Crochet an adorably cuddly hound dog. Get the pattern here.