About susanstewartdesigns

I think I was born with fabric and thread woven into my DNA. Sewing has been my passion for as long as I can remember! www.susanstewartdesigns.com

Blue Plate Special


Blue Plate Special is at her final show! Most major shows require that quilts entered into competition be no more than two years old, and BPS will be aged out in a couple of weeks. But it’s been a good ride! Let me tell you about this quilt…

BPS was really made almost entirely from leftovers! It all started with the narrow blue border stripe. This was left over from a quilt I cut out for my Mom to make a few years ago. I liked the colors, so I saved the strips. You can see the print here.


I had some Cherrywood hand-dyed fabric left over from years ago that just happened to be in the same range of blues and turquoise. The white sateen background fabric was left over from a big custom job I was considering, but fortunately declined. Some of the threads were left over (but of course I ended up having to order more! I always have to order more thread.) Even the free-standing lace border design was left over – it’s a Zundt design that I’ve used many times over the years.

The first competition in which I entered BPS was Houston in 2015. Master Award for Thread Artistry! Not a bad way to start!

025 (2)_2


(You can read about my Red Dress here and here!)

Then I entered it into the full line-up of AQS shows for 2016. Here it is at Paducah, with and Honorable Mention

BPS Paducah

and at Daytona Beach, with a category 1st place.

Blue Plate at Daytona Beach

Here is some of the bling she has won!

BPS ribbons

At AQS shows, she got a total of three firsts, one third, and two honorable mentions.

And now, at her final show at Machine Quilters’ Expo in Manchester, NH, there are another three ribbons to add to my bulletin board: 2nd in the Solo Artist Category, the winner of Embroidery At Its Best, and Best Machine Quilting – Sit Down (instead of a cash award, the prize for this is a Janome sewing machine!) That show is still going on, so I don’t yet have the ribbons to show you.

Update: Cricket Lomicka just sent me a photo! Thanks!


Except for that blue print fabric strip, all of the color is machine embroidery. The designs in the interior of the quilt are from the Contour Applique collection by OESD. The large swirls in the outer border are from the Yukata Art Set by Zundt, and the lace border is Lace Set 10, also by Zundt.

I used Hobbs 80/20 bleached, because I needed a white-white batting so as not to get a yellowish cast from my favorite wool batting. The back is white sateen, just like the front. All of the quilting is hand-guided free-motion, without a stitch regulator. Here are a few close-ups:





Blue Plate Special has had a busy couple of years. I hope she enjoys retirement!



The Making of a Miniature

In the summer of 2013, I decided to try making a miniature quilt. “Distraction II” was the result.


It is 16″ x 16″ and made from white silk/cotton Radiance fabric. The feathers are from 1/8″ to 3/8″ long. The parallel background lines were not done with a ruler, and ended up about 14 per inch. While I was making it I took a photo with a dime for reference!


You might recognize the embroidery design if you’ve been reading my blog for long. It’s a Zundt design that I’ve used on a number of things, including this dress. This little quilt ended up winning first place in the Miniature category at Houston in 2013!

I liked the miniature I entered in the contest so much that I decided to make another, using the center design and similar quilting, for my donation quilt for the Houston IQA auction. With yellow Texas roses, of course!

Days 1 – 5: Make a really cute little quilt, only to realize that the black and white dotted fabric I used for the backing shadows through  ( I had checked, and even used an underlining to prevent shadowing and to keep the cream-colored wool batt from making the white fabric look ivory instead of bright white. Didn’t work. Live and learn!

On to Day 6: Embroider a second piece of white silk/cotton Radiance fabric, soak to remove water-soluble stabilizer, press, and mark for quilting.


Day 7: Sammy helps with quilting. I have quilted-in-the-ditch of every bit of the embroidery with YLI monofilament, and am trying to quilt the flowers with bright yellow Superior Threads Kimono silk thread.

PS – Cats are no longer allowed in my sewing room. Not long after I made this, Stella, an older kitty, got a hand sewing needle lodged under her tongue and nearly died before the vet discovered the problem!


Day 8: Completed the quilting, all the rest of which was done with white Kimono silk thread. Soak to remove the blue marks, and lay out to dry overnight.

Day 9: I always like seeing a project with all the blue marks removed! Here is a ruler to show you the scale. I discovered that I really like making teeny, tiny feathers! The straight parallel lines are about 16 per inch.
I wanted to make tiny double piping to bring out the colors of the embroidery. I covered gimp cord to make the piping. Gimp is about 1mm in diameter! I stitched on the piping and binding, then soaked again to remove more blue marks and glue, then dried overnight.
Day 10: I added a hanging sleeve and label to the back.
Before I show you the finished quilt, here is the “dotty” one. You can see the black dots shadowing through.
Here it is! “Yellow Roses.” Just about the only thing I did differently for this quilt (besides using white cotton sateen backing – solid white!) was adding a row of yellow echo quilting around the flowers to bring out the color just a bit more. The size is just 12-3/4″ x 12-3/4″

Heirloom Dreams

I followed quilting for years before I actually tried it. I was a subscriber to Quilters Newsletter Magazine for decades, and enjoyed the artistry of Caryl Fallert and the detailed precision of Diane Gaudynski. In about 2000, I visited the National Quilt Museum in Paducah, KY for the first time, and was blown away! Wow! Yet for a number of years after that, I said that I couldn’t start quilting in earnest because I wouldn’t have time to do anything else. Oh, I had done several special quilts (see Our Whole Life, My Texas Star, and David’s 21st Birthday Quilt, plus a few others) so I wasn’t starting from scratch. Finally, though, the idea of making a quilt for competition grew irresistible to me. And Heirloom Dreams was born!


56” x 55” 2004

I had seen those quilts in the museum, and later, had attended the AQS show in Paducah, so I knew what kind of quality was required to be competitive. Because I had spent many years working for Martha Pullen Co., heirloom techniques were in my blood, and I also knew this was something different that had not been brought into the world of quilts in a big way. So I got out my batiste and lace and my thinking cap! 🙂

I wanted a quilt that would have the overall look of delicate lace. It is actually four layers – a backing, batting, and two top layers of fabric. The top is white Swiss batiste, embellished with shaped French Val lace, shaped lace/rickrack bridging, shaped puffing, shaped bias linen strips, pinstitching, entredeux stitching, and machine embroidery from an old Husqvarna Viking embroidery card. The outer edge is a shaped linen applique. This was layered over light blue Swiss batiste to create the quilt top.

Making a great top is only half (or even less!) of making a good quilt. The quilting is what brings it to life, what transforms it from a flat, two-dimensional piece of fabric into a sculpted, three-dimensional work. And quilting was the challenge (and still continues to be.) I free-motion quilted around every bit of embellishment with monofilament thread – the lace, the applique, the embroidery. This is still the first step of quilting for every quilt I make. I created trapunto floral designs in opposite corners around the center medallion that repeat the machine embroidery shapes. The 3/8″ crosshatch was done with the feed dogs up… lots of tie-offs, and lots of turning! Shell-stitched piping outlines the scalloped bound edges.





So, my quilt was finished and photographed. Instead of starting with a small, local show, what did I do? I entered it in the World of Beauty contest at the Houston International Quilt Festival 2004! I was delighted when it won first place in the Computer-Aided Machine Embroidery category, was juried into American Quilter’s Society judged show in 2005, and was featured in Jenny Haskins Creative Expressions magazine, Issue 7.

It’s hard to believe that this was over 16 years ago! I still like many of the same things. I often use soft colors, and lean toward analogous color schemes. I still love fine details, and I regularly use medallion settings. Almost every quilt I make includes lace, either the fine cotton kind, or machine-embroidered free-standing lace that I make. I like symmetry. Intricate edges are interesting. And, I’ve learned a lot about quilting since then. Here are some of the things I’ve learned…

  • Quilts have to be visually appealing from a distance as well as close up. With heirloom garments, almost everything is about the tiny details. But quilts need to pack a “wow” from across the room as well as from a foot away.
  • The difference between expensive Swiss batiste and much less expensive cotton batiste is significant in a Christening gown; it makes much less difference in a quilt. Now, I’m not saying you should not use quality fabrics, but in this particular comparison, Swiss batiste is not worth the cost.
  • Those tiny stitches we love in heirloom sewing – pinstitch and entredeux – just don’t show up in the finished quilt. The little “holes” get lost in the texture. If you’re going to add lace to a quilt, a zigzag is just fine, and takes far less time.
  • As important as I knew quilting was, it’s even more important than I thought! It doesn’t have to be done on a longarm. All of my quilts were quilted on sit-down machines. This one was done on a regular domestic. The only way to be good at it is to do a lot of it!

Go ahead and try your hand at something you’ve wanted to do for a long time. Who knows where it might take you!?

Updating an Heirloom Dress

I made this dress for a 2002 issue of Sew Beautiful magazine.


It was made of pale pink handkerchief linen, Swiss cotton organdy, and yards and yards of French lace.


The technique for the article was the organdy “windows,” embellished in this dress with machine embroidery in the palest of colors. (The embroidery designs were from Pfaff embroidery cards which I am almost sure are no longer available.)


I wanted to demonstrate this technique in Heirloom Sewing More Classic Techniques, my most recent Craftsy class. If you’d like to see in detail how I made these transparent reverse applique windows, and get 50% off my class, click on the class icon on the right side of my blog home page.

I like to have lots of samples, and this dress was still in my sample closet. The problem was that the dress was pretty dated by now. It was probably a girl’s size 12, with a dropped “V” waist, giant puffy sleeves, and a huge collar. Still pretty, but very out of date. So I saved the time-intensive parts and re-made it!


I cut off the skirt and underskirt and took apart the bodice. I used the bodice and sleeves for fabric to cut the sleeveless bodice from my “Baby’s Breath” pattern in a size 4. Extra bits of fabric were used to cover the piping at the waistline seam and for the neck binding, and I removed some of the lace from the original collar for the neckline. You can’t see it, but I used the folded back facings with buttons and buttonholes from the original for the back button opening. I even salvaged the original’s back button tab, stitching it into the back darts of the new version!


Because the original skirt was very wide, made from 56″ wide fabric, it was too bulky to gather into the new, smaller waistline. So I cut out a section of the skirt and underskirt, going right through two of the little diamond-shaped windows, then sewing a new seam and carefully matching the embroidery motifs. I placed this at the center back. This moved the original side seams away from the bodice side seams and into the back, but the skirt is still so full, no one will ever notice or care. I shortened the skirt and batiste underskirt, made a new placket in the skirt at the top of the center back seam, and lined the bodice with batiste. That batiste lining is the only thing not from the original!

Here are a few more photos of the new version.



Stay tuned, I’ll post later about some of my other heirloom re-makes!


Trying out Lekala Patterns

I’ve known about (and been intrigued by) Lekala patterns for several years. I finally got around to trying one out. For those of you who have never heard of Lekala, it is a Russian-based company that provides made-to-measure patterns for an extremely reasonable cost. Choose from well over 1000 designs, enter in your measurements, and within a few minutes you are emailed a personalized pdf pattern.

This is one of their free patterns, a basic shirt, the Classical Blouse – Sewing Pattern #5446.


I used a brownish-purple (aubergine?) very densely-woven cotton flannel, sort of like chamois cloth, that has been languishing in my stash for years. Here is the result:


Look at that! A button-front shirt that fits nicely with no pulling across the bust!


The shoulders fit beautifully, and the darts are the correct height.



The only fitting change I made to the pattern was to make a square-shoulder adjustment (which is pretty simple.) As a construction change, I made continuous-lap plackets at the back side of the wrists, and changed the positioning of the tucks in the sleeves. The instructions were to simply leave a slit at the wrist end of the underarm seam. In my opinion, this puts the cuff opening in a very awkward position.

However, there is no magically perfect fitting system. This goes a long way, and I’m planning to try many other Lekala patterns. In fact, I’ve made a couple more since I finished this shirt a few weeks ago. Here are some of the pros and cons as I see them right now.


  • Lots and lots of designs, and very inexpensive
  • The fit for me in the chest, bust, shoulders, and hips is very good straight from the pattern. This eliminates a lot of fitting changes, such as full-bust adjustment and lowering the bust point (sigh) in almost everything I make.
  • You can get a pattern preview, in your custom measurements, emailed within minutes. The preview is on a 4″ x 4″ (10cm x 10cm) grid, so you can get a pretty good idea of flat pattern measurements from that and see approximately how much ease is included.
  • The pattern drafting is excellent. The pieces fit together perfectly.
  • The patterns can be purchased with or without seam allowances. The patterns for wovens have 1cm. seam allowances, which is very to use.


  • The sleeves seem to be very narrow, and the armholes quite high and tight, in the three patterns I’ve tried. I’m trying to see if there’s an easy fix for that.
  • The fit on some patterns, especially knits, is much closer to the body than I like. That may be an Eastern European thing. I really don’t like tight clothes on myself. I much prefer semi-fitted to close-fitting. So, I am trying increasing my measurements a little when ordering patterns to add more wearing ease.
  • The patterns are pdf only. Yes, that means tiling and taping. But, you know, most of the patterns I’ve purchased recently have been pdfs anyway. I live too far from anywhere to be able to buy many paper patterns, and this is just so much faster than waiting for shipping.
  • The pattern pieces have very few match points. This can be helped by “walking” the seamlines along each other and adding your own, if you know that you need them. Also, the sleeves have no markings to indicate front or back, so you have to know by the shape of the piece which is which.
  • If you need to use instructions, these are atrocious! But if you are a confident sewer, then you’ll be fine. For example, this was a very basic shirt pattern, and I didn’t need any instructions. It’s been a long time since I made a shirt with a collar on a stand, but this went together beautifully, even with the heavy fabric I used. If you need help, there are many good instructions out there. Just don’t rely on the instructions that come with the pattern!

I’ll keep you informed about other Lekala patterns that I try. But for a trial run, I’m very pleased. I have a cozy, nicely-fitting shirt, that was made from fabric and buttons in my stash and a free pattern! You can’t ask for much more than that!





A Top from Burdastyle Long Sleeve Flounce Dress 11/2016 #117

In my previous post, I wrote about the dress I made from the Burdastyle Long Sleeve Flounce Dress 11/2016 #117 pattern. I really like the dress, but I had to make numerous adjustments to get it to fit nicely. I thought that before I forgot all the changes I made, I’d use the pattern again!

This time, I decided to shorten it and make it as a top, because, really, how often do I wear dresses? And, I left off the flounce.


(Check out those shoes! They’re the ones I made on my Arrowmont vacation with Annie!)

I used a roll end of red matte hybrid crepe from EmmaOneSock that I bought a couple of years ago (see, it’s always good to have a stash to shop in!) The fabric has a bit of stretch, doesn’t wrinkle, sews beautifully, and is still available.


Because of that bit of stretch, I stabilized the neckline with narrow strips of lightweight fusible tricot interfacing, cut on the lengthwise non-stretch grain, as well as interfacing the facing. Fusible tape is available, but I didn’t have any. This works just as well.


I did all the same fitting changes as for my gray dress, which you can read about here.

Now, some more pictures.


(Do you see the bookcase quilt in the background? It was a 50th anniversary gift for my parents, and you can read about “Our Whole Life” in this post.)




This top is quite different than the gray dress. Simple changes – omitting the flounce, and shortening to blouse length – let me get double duty from the pattern and the time spent on fitting. I encourage you to look at patterns you’ve made and enjoyed, to see if there are new and fresh ways to use them again.


Burdastyle Long Sleeve Flounce Dress 11/2016 #117

I recently finished the quilting on a quilt I’m not all that thrilled about, so I decided to take a fun break and make myself a dress. I had seen Burdastyle Long Sleeve Flounce Dress 11/2016 #117 online, and really liked the slightly assymetrical look


and seaming.


It’s a pdf only, so I bought it, printed it out, and started fitting. That’s where the *fun* started! First of all, it’s a petite-only pattern (I used size 21, which corresponds to a regular Burda size 42.) Now, if you know me, you know I’m not petite! I’m 5’9″, with long arms and long legs. I’ve never started with a petite pattern before. Adding length to pattern parts is not really difficult, however, so I started with comparing my measurements and the pattern measurements.

Almost all of my lengthening needed to be in the upper bodice. I ended up adding 1.5″ above the dart points on both the front and back bodice, the assymetrical right center front piece (that curves up to the neck,) and the flounce. The sleeves needed only 0.75″ added, half above and half below the elbow dart. That I only needed an extra 0.75″ is really odd, because I usually have to lenghten long sleeves by 1″ on non-petite patterns. I didn’t add any length at all to the skirt.

I tried my muslin on, and, boy, was this made for a strangely-shaped bust! The distance between dart points was 11″; mine should be about 8.5″. I’ve never had this issue with such widely-spaced dart points! In addition, the darts as drawn made for a very pointy look – think vintage Madonna! So, I had to lengthen the darts, and curve and taper the stitching to avoid the cone shape. It took a lot of try-ons to get that bodice looking good!

In addition, I did my usual square-shoulder adjustment, and lowered the right shoulder an additional 0.25″ in front. Again, as usual, I needed to take in 0.25″ on each side of the back neck. The shoulders were not wide enough to accommodate a dart, so I curved the center back seam in .25″, starting about 4″ below the neckline. I ended up taking in the front neckline a bit at the top of the side bodice pieces, as well. These are very slim sleeves, so I did a 1″ full biceps adjustment.

I like the fact that Burda patterns often have a shaped center back seam, but this one was a little too shaped for my back, so I partially straightened the seam, adding a little at the waist, and taking in a little at shoulder blade height.

This pattern had no seam allowances, so I added 0.5″ seam allowances all around, and 1″ sleeve and skirt hems. I knew the waist would be a little tight 😦 so I cut out the dress with 1″ side seams.

The fabric is Stretchy Suit Weight RPL – Charcoal from Gorgeous Fabrics. It feels nice and is comfy to wear.


The pattern called for wool crepe, and as much as I love working with wool, I just cannot stand wearing it against my skin! I know, there are many soft, lovely wool fabrics out there, but even cashmere is itchy to me. So, no wool except for fully lined garments! This pattern had a similar weight and drape, plus a little stretch (and, it’s a heathery charcoal, so the inevitable cat fur won’t be as obvious!)

I stabilized the neckline and shoulder seams with narrow lengthwise strips of fusible tricot interfacing, fused at the seamline. I also fused 0.75″ strips of the tricot to the zipper opening. The neckline facings were interfaced with lightweight fusible weft insertion.

The front flounce is single layer. The pattern instructions said to just zigzag the raw edge. Yuck! Lining would have made it less drapey, so I bound the edge with soft bias cotton/silk Radiance fabric in lime green.

Those 1″ side seam allowances were sewn at the full 1″ at the underarms, tapering to 0.5″ at the waist and to the hem.

Now, finally, some pictures:


(Sorry the dress is a bit wrinkled; I wore it yesterday evening, and spent a lot of time in the car with a seat belt on.)



This photo of the back is over-exposed; the others show the color more accurately.

Finally, I just love the green-edged flounce! It can be draped in several ways.54

Fitting garments for oneself is an ever-changing and ever-learning venture. And just when you think you have it figured out, age creeps in and moves parts of your body around! 😀





Important Things

It’s been almost a week since I returned home from a delightful vacation with my daughter. You may remember that I wrote about our vacation to Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts last year and the “stitching” that entailed! (Here and here…)


We’ve made such wonderful memories on our previous Arrowmont trips, that when I read about an upcoming class on making shoes, I knew it would be perfect. So on Oct. 29, we boarded our planes to go to Gatlinburg, TN. And of course, our favorite pizza!

Just like last year, we arrived a day early so we could drive through the mountains. Wow wow wow! I’ve been through the Great Smoky Mountains a number of times, but never in the autumn. And we were there at absolutely the right time! Annie and I descended into speechlessness for much of the time. Take a look at some of these photos (and realize that these photos don’t even come close to the reality!)


Of course, being the tiny-detail-oriented people that we are, we found a plant with dozens of ladybugs.


Last year our little insect find was butterflies!


When class started, we had lots of fun choosing our leather colors for our shoes. Then came cutting,




and more punching!


These pieces are lined, punched, and ready to put together.


We laced (this is where the stitching comes in)


and laced,


and laced.


Some of the students’ uppers ready to be stitched to the soles (mine is second from the left, Annie’s is third from the right.)


They look kind of like duck feet at this stage, right?!


Stitching the upper to the sole. This isn’t exactly a needle and thread for heirloom sewing, is it?!


After the lasts were slipped into the shoes, they were heated in a very low-temperature oven. It was pretty funny to see all these shoes “baking” in the oven!


Then it was time to prepare and glue on the heels and taps (with some very stinky glue.)


The sole and heel edges were dyed and waxed and burnished, and…finished shoes!


The shoemaking was a blast, but not the real reason for the vacation.


These vacations are not inexpensive; in fact, for what I’ve spent over the years on “crafting” vacations with my children, I could have bought a very nice car. But that car would depreciate in value the moment I drove it away from the dealer. And over the years it would get dings and scratches and wear, and would eventually be worth very little monetarily. But the value these vacations have brought to our relationship doesn’t depreciate. In fact, it increases in value. So I happily drive my 14-year-old car, and realize that my money was spent for the most important thing.







Tote Bag Tutorial (or, What To Do With Hundreds of Upholstery Samples)

A couple of weeks ago I received a phone call from the woman who owns the drafting shop where I get my pattern sheets printed. We’ve gotten to know each other over the years. She said that her parents were closing their furniture store, and would I like to have the upholstery samples? Well, sure, why not?! Not exactly your typical heirloom or garment or quilting fabric, but it’s fabric, right? So my husband took the pickup and picked up four big packing boxes full of upholstery samples! And by big, I mean about 40 pounds each!


Textures, colors, patterns, oh what fun! But what in the world could I do with all those samples? I thought on it for a while, then sorted out about half of the fabrics that were too heavy (and too many browns!) for what I might have in mind. That left two big almost-full boxes of lovely fabric.

I know that many of my sewing friends do a lot of charity sewing. There are my friends from the Florida Sewing Sew-ciety; the SAGA Wee Care program; Threads of Love; Quilts of Valor; Project Linus, and many other groups, not to mention all the individuals who sew, just to give to those less fortunate. They are a very generous group! So I thought that if I could write up instructions for a simple tote bag, someone or some group might want to use the upholstery fabric for totes for women’s shelters, homeless shelters, etc.

I stitched up some bags, working on the instructions in my mind as I made them, then posted to my friends on facebook that the samples were free to a good home for anyone who could pick them up or would pay shipping. I’d even throw in instructions for the totes. Within minutes the fabric was spoken for!

These are not couture totes, but they are very nice. The fabrics are sturdy, and the construction is solid. I designed them so that they would be easy to sew, but also so that they would look good enough that anyone would be proud to carry one.


I thought that others might also like the instructions. So here it is…

The Upholstery Sample Tote Bag Tutorial

Each bag requires: Two approx. 18″ squares of upholstery fabric, 3/4 yd. quilting cotton, polyester sewing thread, size 90 or 100 (14 or 16) jeans machine needle. Optional – glue stick, 2″ wide blue painter’s tape

Seam allowances are 3/8″ to 1/2.” Accuracy is not critical!

Do not press the upholstery fabric with an iron. Some of it is very heat sensitive (ask me how I know!)

If using regular fabric instead of upholstery fabric for the outer layer, it should be interfaced with a medium-weight woven interfacing.

Choose two upholstery fabrics that coordinate. Trim them to the same size, if necessary.tote-1

You can just make one side of the tote from one fabric, and the other side with the other fabric. But you can also make it more interesting by piecing the fabrics so that it looks like you’re supposed to be using two fabrics! Place both fabrics right sides up, and cut through both layers. This cut can be vertical, horizontal, or diagonal (see finished totes photos above.)


Pair the bottom layer from one side of the cut and with the top layer from the other side of the cut, and vice versa.


Place the two pieces for one side of the tote right sides together and stitch; repeat for the other side of the tote.


Now, remember, you can’t press some of these fabrics. So just fold the seam to one side, and topstitch from the right side on both pieces.tote-5

Now it’s time to make the straps. I made these to go all the way to the bottom of the tote, for more support. Straps just stitched to the upper edge are more likely to pull out.

Get out your quilting cotton. Cut enough 4″ wide strips to equal two lengths, each about 1-1/2 yards long. Seam these together if necessary to get the length needed. Several inches shorter or longer is fine, too.

Press the strips in half lengthwise, right sides out, then open the strip back up. Press the long raw edges in to almost touch the fold. Then fold the strip in half again along the original crease. You will have a 1″ wide strip that is 4 layers of fabric thick. Use a little glue stick to hold the final folds in place; it makes stitching much easier. Press to dry the glue.tote-6

Stitch close to both edges of both strips.tote-7

Place one end of one strip 4″ – 5″ from the side edge of one tote side, with the short end even with the lower edge of the tote side. Use a ruler as shown below to make this easy. Use some glue stick on the back side of the strip, but don’t put any glue at the top edge. Place a strip of 2″ wide blue painter’s tape across the top, even with the top of the tote fabric edge, as shown. This not only holds the upper edge of the strip in place, it creates a stitching line for the next step.tote-8

Bring the other side of the same strip around, and glue and tape to the other side of the same tote side. Make sure the strap isn’t twisted.tote-9

Starting at the lower edge, stitch with the needle down, along the previous stitching line from the bottom until you just touch the blue tape.tote-10

Pivot and stitch right next to the tape until you get to the other side of the strip.tote-11

When you reach the stitching line on the other side of the strip, stop and pivot again. tote-12

Stitch down about 1/2″ ( I counted five stitches.) Stop and pivot again, and stitch across the strip.


Stitch to the line going up to the blue tape, and stitch up  and across again, reinforcing that stitching. Then pivot and stitch down the other side of the strip to the bottom of the tote. Repeat for the other strap placements.

Right sides together, stitch the front and back tote pieces together at the lower edge. Fold the seam to one side and topstitch.tote-15

This is now your pattern for the lining! Cut a piece of quilting cotton to the same size.tote-17

Fold the tote right sides together and stitch the side seams. tote-16

At one lower corner, bring the side seam to meet the bottom seam. The corner will be at the tip of the point. Stitch across the point about 1-1/2″ from the tip. Backstitch well at each end.


Similarly, stitch the side seams of the lining except leave a long opening on one side seam. Press back the seam allowances of the opening. tote-19

“Box” the lower corners of the lining the same way you did for the outer layer.tote-20

Don’t cut off these corners on either the lining or the outer fabric.

Turn the lining right side out, and slip it inside the outer layer, which is wrong side out. Match up the side seams and pin (these are the only two pins you need for this project!) Now, working from the inside of the circle, with the outer fabric against the bed of the machine and the lining on top, stitch all the way around the upper edge, making sure to not catch the straps in this stitching.tote-21

Reach your hand through the opening in the lining side seam, and pull the entire bag right side out through the opening. Reach through the opening and push out the boxed corners of the outer fabric.

Line up the edges of the lining opening, and stitch close to the folded edges.tote-22

Push the lining down inside the bag. Now grab the bottom of the bag (both outer fabric and lining) and turn the entire bag inside out. Working again “inside the circle” with the lining against the bed of the machine and the outer fabric on top, topstitch the upper edge. Keep the straps out of the way. You’ll have to work the fabric with your fingers to get the seamline to lie along the edge, but just work a few inches at a time.tote-23

Finally, turn the bag right side out. Finished!tote-a





Ruffle Fabric Grab Bags (and instructions for a ruffle skirt!)

Four or five years ago, I discovered ruffle fabric, and had a great time using it in girls’ clothing. So much fun that I purchased a lot of it and sold it, along with an idea booklet. Well, I’ve lost interest, and I need the space (for the upholstery samples I’ve been given!)

So, I’m offering grab bags. I can fit at least 2 yards, and probably more, plus some nice soft waistband elastic, in a USPS Tyvek mailing envelope. $12.00  plus $5.00  shipping $8.00 shipping (I’m sorry, I just shipped my first batch of orders, and the shipping was a lot more than I estimated) The fabrics all sell for $15/yd. or more. The value of the fabrics and elastic will be at least $35.00. US domestic shipping, only. If you’d like to order, go to my contact me page on my website here, let me know what you’d like, and I’ll send you a Paypal invoice.

You’ll get at least two colors, maybe more. Some pieces may be small, but you can use small pieces for trims. But here’s the catch – no color requests. The choice is mine, and when a fabric is gone, it’s gone. But all the colors are pretty. There are solids, floral prints, tie-dye effects, and a netting fabric with rosettes.


Also, you’re on your own for sewing the stuff. It’s not difficult. No hems required! I apologize in advance, but I just don’t have time to answer individual questions on how to use it. But if you’re a little adventurous, you can have a lot of fun for just a little money!

Here are some ideas…

A simple skirt with an elastic waistband (instructions at the end of this post.)


A purchased t-shirt cut off, with a ruffle skirt added, and purchased leggings with a strip of ruffles sewn on at the bottom.


Bodice made from the rosette netting, and skirt from ruffles.


A woven cotton skirt with elastic waistband, with a strip of ruffles at the lower edge.


A dress with sleeves cut from ruffle fabric, and a single ruffle at the neck edge.


I have a limited number of idea booklets left, for an additional $5.00. You can see it here. But like the fabric, when they’re gone, they’re gone; I won’t be printing any more.

Here are those instructions for the 30-minute ruffle skirt!

30-Minute Ruffle Skirt by Susan Stewart

Make this quick and easy skirt for any size using knit ruffle fabric. This amazing fabric is a poly/spandex fabric with knit-in ruffles! No hems or seam finishes required! Most of the design work and embellishment is done for you! Just think of the twirl possibilities!

For this skirt you will need two measurements – the waist measurement where you want the elastic to sit, and the length of the skirt from the bottom of the elastic to the lower edge.

You will need:

Desired length plus ½” of ruffle fabric

Waist measurement of 1½” decorative waistband elastic


  1. Add ½” to the desired skirt length, and cut this length (or as close as possible) across the width of ruffle fabric. For a girl’s full skirt, use the full width of ruffle fabric. For a slim skirt, measure the fullest part of the wearer’s hips, and add 2” or 3”. Cut the fabric to this width.
    1. When cutting between the rows of ruffles, fold the ruffles out of the way so you cut through the backing fabric only. Most ruffles have a sheer strip and a heavier strip of fabric behind each ruffle. This gives a nice line along which to cut for most applications. The sheer strip is below the top of the ruffle, and the opaque strip is below the lower part of the ruffle.  
    2. Length measurements can only be approximate, as the fabric must be cut in between rows of ruffles. When in doubt, make it a little longer. To shorten the garment, all you need to do is cut off a ruffle or two!
    3. Make sure the ruffles are lying in the correct position when cutting across rows of ruffles.
  2. Before you stitch the seam, you need to hold the ruffles in place, so they don’t get bunched up or flipped up in the seams.   “Tame” the ruffles by pinning, serging or zigzagging, or use blue painters’ tape to hold the ruffles in place.
  3. Right sides together, stitch the short sides together, matching rows of ruffles, and using polyester thread and a stretch needle. While seams can be serged, I usually prefer to simply zigzag them. Why? Because if a ruffle is caught in a zigzagged seam, it’s easy to open a few stitches, release the ruffle, and re-stitch. If it is caught in a serged seam, it may be cut off! Zigzag (approx. W = 2.0, L = 2.0) on the seamline, and again about ¼” from the first stitching, within the seam allowance. Trim seam allowance close to second stitching.
  4. With a lengthened straight stitch (L = 4.0) and slightly loosened needle tension, stitch two rows of gathering threads around top of skirt, one row about ⅛” over the top edge of the upper ruffle, and the other about ⅜” from the first row, within the seam allowance. Fold skirt in fourths and mark the quarter points.
  5. Measure elastic to fit snuggly around waist, by measuring around the wearer, if possible. If that is not possible, then cut the elastic an inch or so shorter than the waist measurement.
  6. Stitch cut ends of elastic together. Fold the waistband in fourths and mark the quarter points.
  7. Pull up the bobbin threads of the gathering stitches to make the skirt top edge fit the waistband. Match the quarter points and adjust the gathers evenly.
  8. Pin the lower edge of the waistband over the gathered edge of the skirt so the edge of the elastic just meets the top of the upper ruffle (for the floral ruffles, let the edge of the elastic cover about ⅛” of the upper ruffle, which is white instead of printed.)
  9. With the skirt inside out, stitch the waistband to the gathered fabric. You should not need to stretch the elastic to fit the fabric, as the fabric is gathered. There are several ways to do this stitching, which must stretch:
    1. Use a 6.0 double needle. Use a second spool of thread, or wind an extra bobbin, for the extra needle. The bobbin thread will zigzag between the needle threads and provide the needed stretch. Do some test stitching to determine if the tension needs to be adjusted.
    2. Stitch with a multi-step zigzag, about 6mm wide. Test and adjust the length so the points of the zigzags are about 4mm apart.
    3. Stitch two rows of a “lightning stitch” or a straight stretch stitch about ¼” apart.
  1. Pull out the gathering threads so the skirt can stretch. On the wrong side, trim off any excess skirt seam allowance above the waistband stitching, if necessary.

And that’s it! Your twirly, ruffly skirt is done!