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

Tips for Dark Eyes on Dark Softies

dark brown crochet cat with black eyes

Felix is the new Ami Club 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

How to Sew a Zippered Pillow Cover – a video tutorial

How to Add a Zipper to a Pillow Back - a video tutorial from Shiny Happy World

I’m pretty picky about pillow covers.

I don’t like the envelope backs. They’re easy to sew, but they don’t cover the pillow as snugly as I like.

I like zippered covers, so they cover tightly and can be removed for washing – but I don’t like when the zipper is in one of the side seams. They never “sit” the same way as the other seams, so the finished pillow shape is always a little distorted.

I like the zipper to be somewhere in the pillow back (it doesn’t have to be the exact center) but I don’t like it to extend all the way to the edges, because the stiffness of the zipper again can distort the overall look of the pillow.

So here’s how I sew a pillow with a zipper in the back.

  1. I make the cover a little small. If the pillow is 18 inches square, I cut my fabric 18 inches square. When I sew the front to the back using a 1/2 inch seam allowance, the pillow cover ends up 17 inches square – perfect for the nice snug fit I like.
  2. I make the zipper a little short. Specifically – two inches shorter than the cut fabric. So for an 18 inch pillow, I buy a 16 inch zipper.

Here’s how I assemble the zipper back.

See how easy that is?

(Do you like that super fun, slightly wobbly gingham print? It’s part of the Gingham Play collection from Michael Miller Fabrics and I have fat quarter bundles in a rainbow of pretty colors.)

I make a LOT of these pillow covers.

My daughter doesn’t like using regular rectangular bed pillows. Instead she has an enormous pile of square pillows – mostly with quilted and applique designs on them. 🙂 She doesn’t like the inexpensive “hard” pillow forms. She likes these Fairfield brand Home Elegance pillows. They feel like down pillows, but they’re a LOT less expensive and they’re machine washable. Win!

You can use any quilt block pattern to make a pillow cover.

How to Turn Any Quilt Block into a PIllow

There are basic instructions here, and the Think BIG class has instructions for making giant floor pillows!

Happy sewing!

Best,
Wendi

Make Extra Fun Rag Dolls with Faux Fur Hair

Fun Faux Fur Makes Extra Awesome Rag Doll Hair - tips from Shiny Happy World

I usually use wool blend felt for the hair on my Dress Up Bunch dolls. It’s durable, easy to work with, and relatively inexpensive and it has a nice, classic look – even when I use non-traditional hair colors.

But you don’t have to use felt.

If you scroll through some of the photos in the Shiny Happy People group on Facebook you’ll find adorable dolls made with printed cotton fabric hair and cuddly fleece hair – but you can also use fun faux fur!

If you use a regular “hair-colored” fur you can make a doll with pretty realistic hair. If you use a more wild and funky fur (like the one I used) you can make a fun pixie. 🙂

Here are some tips to help you out. . .

Cut out the fur just like you would cut out the felt. Make sure the nap of the fur is running in the correct direction. To minimize flying fur bits, cut just through the fabric backing, as shown in this video – Intraux to Working with Faux Fur.

Fun Faux Fur Makes Extra Awesome Rag Doll Hair - tips from Shiny Happy World

I stuck the fur piece for the bangs down to the top of the head using a glue stick, then appliqued the bangs edge with a wide and fairly open zigzag stitch.

Fun Faux Fur Makes Extra Awesome Rag Doll Hair - tips from Shiny Happy World

You can see how to do that applique in this video – How to Applique Faux Fur.

After you get the bangs sewn in place, sew up the doll just like normal. You just need to make sure to smooth the fur into the seams. Here’s what the back of the head looks like – the fur is smoothed down between the back of the head piece and the back of the body piece.

Fun Faux Fur Makes Extra Awesome Rag Doll Hair - tips from Shiny Happy World

You can see how to do this in the Intraux to Working with Faux Fur video.

Here’s how it looks when you clip the doll front to the doll back.

Fun Faux Fur Makes Extra Awesome Rag Doll Hair - tips from Shiny Happy World

The fur on both pieces is smoothed between the layers.

Fur can be fat and difficult to pin. These Klip-It clips work really well with it.

And here’s my finished wild-haired pixie. 🙂

Fun Faux Fur Makes Extra Awesome Rag Doll Hair - tips from Shiny Happy World

A couple more things. . .

I used Poppy’s bangs with this doll and they come down pretty close to her eyes. If you’re using a very long fur you might want to choose a doll with a higher hairline.

I skip the pigtails or the buns when I work with fur. They just don’t work very well with that fabric.

You can read about my favorite source for faux fur here.

If you like these dolls and want to make your own, you can find all the patterns for the Dress Up Bunch dolls and clothes here.

Happy sewing!

Best,
Wendi
Wendi Gratz from Shiny Happy World

Make Your Own Laminated Fabric

Make Your Own Laminated Fabric

Sort of. True laminated fabric has a very thin layer of polyurethane film permanently stuck to the right side of the fabric. The resulting fabric is waterproof, but still has a nice drape to it.

There’s a great post here about the difference between oilcloth, laminated fabric, and chalkcloth.

It’s terrific when you can find it – and more and more manufacturers are making it. But it can still be pretty hard to find, and when you do – the print options are usually fairly limited.

So what about when you find a lovely fabric collection like this one. . .

Spring Walk fabric collection from Cloud9 Fabrics

Spring Walk from Cloud9 Fabrics – and you want to make it into an adorable, doll-sized raincoat and boots?

Dress Up Bunch Doll Raincoat Pattern

And you want to make that raincoat and boots out of laminated fabric because your kid is smart and they know regular cotton is not waterproof?

You make your own laminated fabric!

I used a product called Pellon Vinyl Fuse and it worked great.

It’s very easy to use – you just iron it on. The package has very clear instructions.

After that you treat it almost like any cotton fabric – with a few key changes.

Tips for Working with Laminated Fabric

  1. Do not iron it from the vinyl side of the fabric! Save the backing paper you peeled off when you applied the vinyl and use that as a press cloth if you absolutely must iron from the front. I found the stiffness of the fabric meant all I ever needed to do was a quick finger press – no iron needed.
  2. The resulting fabric is stiffer, with less drape than a true laminated fabric. Choose a simple pattern without pleats of gathers.
  3. Some people recommend sewing over a piece of tissue if you need to sew with the vinyl side down – for fear of the feed dogs scratching the vinyl. I sewed with the vinyl side up and down – with no tissue – and had no scratching or grabbing problems.
  4. If the laminated fabric crinkles a lot when you turn it right side out, you can hit it with a hot hair dryer and smooth things out really easily.
  5. Use clips instead of pins to hold the pieces together. Pins will leave permanent holes in laminated fabric.

Use clips instead of pins when working with laminated fabric.

One more reason to love my sewing clips. 🙂

And now – one more photo because these tiny boots are so dang cute.

Adorable doll rain boots - from the Rainy Day pattern collection for the Dress Up Bunch dolls

Seriously! I want them for myself! You can get the Rainy Day pattern collection for the raincoat and boots here. But they only fit dolls – not you or me. 🙁

Happy sewing!

Best,
Wendi
That's me!

Using Stretchy Knit Fabric for a Rag Doll

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

As soon as I wrote this post about sewing softies with stretchy knits, I started getting questions about using knits to make Dress Up Bunch rag dolls. I decided to give it a try and the answer is YES!

With a couple of caveats. 🙂

Everything in the post about stuffed animals applies to rag dolls.

  • Test your fabric with a universal needle and prepare to switch to a stretch or ballpoint needle if needed.
  • Do not overstuff.

The Do Not Overstuff rule is especially important for rag dolls. If you stuff them too fat, they won’t be able to fit into the regular Dress Up Bunch clothing patterns!

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

The knit fabric will change the proportions of your doll a bit – she’ll be a little wider. You can see the difference here between the knit Poppy (purple hair) and the woven Poppy (copper hair).

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

I was super careful not to overstuff, but you can see that the knit Poppy still has a slightly wider head.

The other thing to keep in mind is that you’ll also want to use a knit fabric for the hair. If you use felt hair with the knit skin, the hair will not stretch but the face will and it will look like her face is bulging out from under her hair. Not cute. 🙁

I used this peat solid from Cloud9 Fabrics for the hair, and a very high quality Waldorf doll skin fabric in tan (from Weir Crafts) for the body.

So you need to be extra careful with the stuffing, but the finished doll is incredibly soft and cuddly in a way that you can only achieve with knit fabric. Give it a try!

Update – I added a new post here showing a Dress Up Bunch doll made with Cuddle Fleece – and it has an overview of all the specialty fabrics I’ve used for these dolls over the years. Go take a look!

Happy sewing!

Best,
Wendi
That's me!

How to Add an Opening for Dolls with Wagging Tails

How to Add an Opening for Wagging Tails - a tutorial from Shiny Happy World

Most of the Dress Up Bunch dolls are human, but a few of them are critters with tails. And those tails need wagging room! Here’s how to add an opening to any pants or skirt pattern for the Dress Up Bunch dolls.

Cut out all the pieces as normal.

When you come to the part of the pattern where you sew the center back seam, jump in with these steps. . .

Measure down the center back seam 2 inches and mark with a pin.

Measure down 1 3/4 inches from that pin and mark with another pin.

Sew from the top to the first pin with a normal stitch length. Sew the space between the pins with a longer stitch length – the longest you can set on your machine. Switch back to the regular stitch length and sew the rest of the seam.

How to Add an Opening for Wagging Tails - a tutorial from Shiny Happy World

Make sure you backstitch (with the normal stitch length) a bit at the top and bottom of the section of long stitches. You’re going to cut those big stitches and this will keep the rest of the regular stitches from unraveling.

Press the seam allowance open.

How to Add an Opening for Wagging Tails - a tutorial from Shiny Happy World

Sew a tiny little rectangle around the section of long stitches to reinforce that opening.

How to Add an Opening for Wagging Tails - a tutorial from Shiny Happy World

(You’ll want to use matching thread, of course.)

Use a seam ripper to cut the large stitches inside that reinforced rectangle.

How to Add an Opening for Wagging Tails - a tutorial from Shiny Happy World

And voila! You have an opening for the tail! Continue with the rest of the pattern instructions.

This works for pants and shorts (as shown above) or with a skirt.

How to Add an Opening for Wagging Tails - a tutorial from Shiny Happy World

If you’re making Pip the Cat, Squeak the Mouse, or Spot the Dog this is a method you can use to adapt any of the clothing patterns to fit their tails. Have fun with it!

Happy stitching!

Best,
Wendi
That's me!

Tutorial: Ombre Glitter Eyes

I’m completely obsessed with painting my own craft eyes!

Today I’m going to show you an awesome technique: how to paint ombre glitter eyes!

Aren’t these amazing?

ombre glitter eyes

This ombre effect is super-easy to achieve with glitter paint because the paint is actually clear with specks of glitter. That means that one coat leaves little gaps for another color to shine through!

Tutorial

Here’s how to do it in three easy steps!

freshstitches ombre eye tutorial

I’m so excited about the possibilities… I’m thinking my next ones will be white and pink ombre. What do you think?

glitter freshstitches

What color combinations do you think would be amazing?

Try it!

To try this yourself, you’ll want to grab some clear craft eyes and your favorite colors of glitter paint. Give it a try!

clear craft eyes from FreshStitches

I now have clear craft eyes available in multiple sizes! So much fun!

Are buttons a baby-safe substitute for craft eyes?

You’ve probably read the disclaimer: craft eyes are not recommended for use in toys for children under the age of three.

plastic animal craft eyes from FreshStitches

I’m often asked, “can I use buttons instead”?

In short, the answer is no.

To explain why, let’s talk about why craft eyes aren’t baby safe. It’s incredibly unlikely that the washer will accidentally come off of the back of the eye. (in fact, it’s pretty difficult to remove the washer from an eye with plastic ridges, as I showed in this blog post on how to remove craft eyes.)

The danger with craft eyes is that a baby (or dog) could chew through the fabric that the eye is attached to, dislodging the eye.

Now what about buttons? Many people assume that since they’re sewn on, they’re more secure. But it’s not true. A baby can use their set of chompers to chew through the thread attaching it to the piece.

Baby-safe eyes

For a completely baby-safe eye, you’ll want to crochet the eye (follow these directions for a crocheted eye) or sew on a felt eye.

amigurumi crochet owl kit by FreshStitches

Crocheted eyes look fabulous!

(Get that owl pattern here.)

To be on the safe side, you’ll want to watch your little one whenever they’re with buttons. Just the other day, I saw Maddie chewing on the button on her sweater. Oops. Not safe!

How to Match and Join Pattern Pieces

How to Join Pattern Pieces

I try whenever possible to have my pattern pieces print out on a single sheet of paper – but sometimes I just need to go a little bit bigger. In those cases, you need to tape two pattern pieces together to make one larger piece.

For clothing patterns you can get into taping LOTS of pieces together, but for my softies and applique patterns it’s almost never more than two pages – and it’s easy!

Here’s how to do it. . .

Step 1

Print out both parts of the pattern. Make sure you’re printing at 100%!

How to Join Pattern PiecesThis shows two halves of a new Dress Up Bunch shirt pattern. It’s a one piece pattern (no separate front, back, sleeves, etc.) so that makes it just a little bit too big to fit on a single sheet.

There’s also a pattern piece for the bib to a set of overalls. You can ignore that bit. 🙂

Step 2

Cut off the blank edge of one of the pieces.

How to Join Pattern Pieces

Printers don’t print all the way to the edge of the paper, so you’re always going to have a blank strip at the edge of your pattern pieces. Just cut your pattern piece a bit so that the edges of the piece go right up to the cut edge of the piece of paper. In this case, you can cut anywhere between the line between the two hearts and the edge of the paper. I like to leave as much pattern as possible in there because it gives me more lines to match up, which keeps things accurate.

Step 3

Overlap the two pieces.

How to Join Pattern Pieces

I like to do this step in a window so I can really see the lines on both pieces of paper.

Line up as many points as possible – the line, the two hearts, and the edges of the pattern. Now you can see why you cut away that strip of blank paper – it would have broken up the continuous outline of the pattern piece.

Once you get everything lined up perfectly, tape the pieces together.

Step 4

Cut out the pattern piece.

How to Join Pattern Pieces

Two pattern pages have become one pattern piece. Easy peasy!

Happy sewing!

Best,
Wendi
That's me!