Category Archives: Tutorial

How to de-fluff your machine

When was the last time you cleaned your sewing machine? If it was after you were sewing with fluffy fabrics, then well done! But if you’ve been sewing with a lot of furry or fluffy fabrics and haven’t cleaned your machine out in a while (I admit I’m guilty of this!!), then maybe it’s about time you gave your sewing machine a little care and attention.

If your machine seems to be ‘growing’ fluff, then it’s definitely time you cleaned it!

My machine has a top-loading bobbin, and the instructions tell me to never add oil to the machine. Front-loading bobbin machines will have different ways of cleaning out the fluff that collects.

Before we get started, you’ll need:

  • The screwdriver that came with your machine (or a suitable short screwdriver)
  • The lint brush that came with your machine (or a similar suitable brush)
  • Two tissues (not essential, but I find them useful – a couple of small cloths would work equally well)
  • A lint-free cloth (again not essential, but it can come in handy)

Ready? Ok, first things first – we need to remove the bobbin cover. You can tell I’d not cleaned my machine for a while, by all the fluff on the right hand side.

Remove the bobbin (simple so far, eh?)

Now we need that screwdriver. Mine is more like a key than a screwdriver, but it’s small enough to fit into the awkward angle needed to undo that back left screw.

The screws are pretty small so I put the plate and screws on a tissue to the side of my sewing machine, to make sure they don’t get lost.

I knew my machine was in need of cleaning, but I hadn’t expected it to be quite this bad.

Using that small lint brush, carefully remove the fluff from the machine. I find the fluff sticks quite well to it, so I don’t need to brush it from side to side in order to collect up the fluff.

I use a tissue to wipe the fluff from the brush so I’m not just adding more to the inside of my machine.

Next, check how the bobbin holder is located (and if necessary, take a photo) – you need to align it correctly when you put it back in. If you get really stuck, your instruction manual will have a diagram showing how to line everything up, but realistically I know you’re not going to want to spend time looking for the instruction manual in the first place.

Lift out the bobbin holder.

And guess what? Yep there’s more fluff on the inside of there as well! This can be brushed, or wiped around with a dry cloth.

All that’s left now, is reassembly! Replace the bobbin holder, taking care to line it up correctly. Then wipe over the needle plate (I use the tissue I put the plate on earlier) and put it back in the slot, remembering to tighten the screws so the plate can’t wobble with the vibration as you’re sewing. Sometimes I find this small screwdriver fiddly to use, so you might find a small regular-shaped screwdriver works better for you.

Then simply replace the bobbin and bobbin cover.

Your machine will thank you, and should now be ready for hours more sewing!

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Topstitching Jeans

In preparation for an amazing pattern release later this week, I thought I’d share a quick video I made for how I tackled the topstitching over a bulky seam. 

I use regular thread, and a straight stretch stitch for strength… well, it also looks pretty good too! But going over a bulky seam is a bit of a nightmare if those stitches don’t come out straight, so how do you do it?

You could just a piece of folded fabric, or maybe some thick folded card – they’d both give the same result. But I’m using the button shank plate (which I’ve also seen called a Jean-a-ma-jig) that I got as a special deal from the shop when I bought my machine.. Normally the button shank plate is £8, but I’ve seen Jean-a-ma-jigs for about half that, so it’s worth looking round for a good price!

Ok, so how do you use it?

Sew as normal just to the point where the foot starts to lift at the front, as it tries to climb over the bulky seam.

For my button shank plate, there’s a thick side and a slightly tapered side (on the right in this photo). With the needle down, lift the foot, and gently push the tapered side under the foot at the back. Lower the foot again….

….it should now look like this! Slowly sew – you may need to use the hand wheel, depending on your machine and the thickness of your fabric!
Once the machine has stitched past the bulk, you can remove the button shank plate from the back.

Because that probably sounds way more complicated than it actually is, here’s a quick video of the button shank plate in action. I hold it in place to start with simply because I’m using a triple straight stretch stitch – that goes backwards on every third stitch, and I wanted to make sure my needle didn’t hit the plastic plate!

And there you have it – a little tip to help get topstitching to work over those bulky jeans seams!

5 out of 4 – 20K Blog Tour

If there’s one thing about the British weather, it’s remarkably unpredictable! We always joke that you can spot a tourist by the way they’re unprepared for rain, or unusually cold snaps, so it seemed a logical step to make myself a warm fleece as part of the 5 out of 4 20k blog tour! Yes, you read that right, 5 out of 4 patterns* has hit 20k members in their facebook group!
Keep reading to check out my make, and read right on to the bottom of his post for details of the 40% off sale and giveaway!

I used the Ascent Fleece* pattern by 5 out of 4 patterns* again, but you’ve probably noticed that my fleece looks totally different from the other Ascent I made before. I’ve got a couple of RTW full-length zip fleeces, but I never find it comfortable to zip them up further than the base of my neck, so I thought a lace up style might be more user-friendly, while still keeping me warm!

I had to deviate from the pattern quite a bit to achieve the lace-up look, so I hope you’re paying attention at the back there, if you want to follow along!

Place the facing and front pieces right sides together and stitch as per the instructions. If you prefer to have no raw edges showing (although as fleece doesn’t fray, it’s not the end of the world), you can overlock / zigzag the two long sides and base of the facing first.

Cut down the centre of the facing stitching, and turn the facing in. The right side of the facing should now be on the wrong side of the front piece. Pin this in place.

Making sure to leave enough space for the eyelets, stitch down one side, across the base, then up the other side to secure the facing in place. I used a straight stretch stitch just for strength, as it won’t really need to stretch much (if at all). I used 4mm eyelets – there’s not really any need to use huge ones, as long as you can fold the tape or fit the cord through the hole.

Add the collar as stated in the instructions, but bear in mind that the facing is already sewn in (there’s no zip to fold it around), so when sewing the inner collar to the outer, you can start at the base of the short edge, sew up, along the top, then down the opposite short edge, before turning the inner collar to the inside.

I added in the holes for my eyelets at this point, but because the inner collar base hasn’t yet been stitched, I didn’t add in the eyelets – you really don’t want to be sewing over the top of them!

I used a straight stretch stitch on the ‘stitch in the ditch’ around the collar base, but decided to skip the top stitching around the top of the collar. I didn’t think it was necessary as the collar stands up fine without it. Really that’s just personal preference – the majority of RTW fleece tops do have that topstitching.

I started fitting the eyelets at this point, but stopped part way through as the thickness of the fleece was proving a bit of a challenge. I will admit I made a mess of 5 or 6 eyelets before I managed to get the fleece to behave, and all the eyelets in place.

I used a metre of plain tape and just threaded it through the eyelets as if I was lacing a shoe. I could probably trim the tape down a little, but I’d rather have it too long than not long enough. It was worth the hassle of the eyelets, as it certainly helps to keep the cold out, while being fully adjustable!

Can I just say that I love patterns which use a 3/8″ seam allowance, as that is the same as the width of my walking foot, so it’s really easy to line up on straight edges and on curves.

On to the pockets next, and another small deviation. I don’t have a concealed zipper foot for my machine (and really don’t want to fork out £20 or so for a branded one), so I picked out two standard zips instead. Rather than following the instructions, I used the method I came across before, for adding a zip to a dress.
You sew the side seam, then backstitch just where the zip is meant to start. Change the stitch length to the longest straight stitch you can, and tack (baste) for the length of the zip. Change back to whatever stitch you were using on the side seam, take a couple of stitches forwards, then backstitch to lock that in, before finishing sewing that seam.

If you look closely, you can see the difference in stitch length between the main seam (to the right of the zip) and the tacking where the zip will be.

Then you place the fleece wrong side up, and position the zip face down over the tacked stitches. I did straighten the zip out before sewing, as I realised it was somewhat wonky the way I’d pinned it to start with!

Turning everything right side up, carefully sew the zip into place. I kept the walking foot on for this step, so I had to sew half the zip at a time (I couldn’t get the zipper pull to move past the walking foot), but if you sewing machine will cope with the fleece and a zipper foot, that is a much better option.

Then just unpick the tacking (basting) stitches to open the pocket up and make it usable! This method will result in the stitches and the zip showing a lot more obviously than if you were using a concealed zip.

I added the pocket linings as the instructions stated, although I did use the main fabric for the pockets as well – I like to be able to plunge my hands into warm, cosy pockets on a cold day, so fleece was a necessity! That has made the front a little more bulky, but to my surprise my machine handled all those layers with no trouble at all when it came to hemming the base.

Although it was a cold windy day when these photos were taken, I was perfectly warm with my fleece top. It was definitely a wise idea to use the same fabric for the pockets, as my hands were suitably warm and toasty!


Never a wise idea to not have your hair tied back fully when it’s windy!

Wondering where the blog tour will take you this week? Here’s a handy little schedule to make sure you don’t miss any of the stops 🙂

5 out of 4 Patterns 20k Blog Tour Schedule

April 2 – Tales from a Southern Mom | Miss Marah Sewn

April 3 – Dragon’s Flame Designs | Poppy Monroe Collection

April 4 – Pear Berry Lane | Candi Couture Designs

April 5 – Sewing with D | Kathy Kwilts and More

April 6 – The Sassy Seamripper | My Heart Will Sew On

And to top off their celebrations, 5 out of 4 patterns* are not only offering 40% off their patterns (excluding Gloria) from Monday 2nd April through Saturday 7th April with the code SOBIG, but also have an amazing giveaway you can enter! Check out the prizes on offer (and how to enter) in the Rafflecopter box below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

And good luck!


Pattern: Ascent Fleece* by 5 out of 4 patterns*
Fabric: Mark Pickles Sewing Studio
* – affiliate link

Fabric Mousemat Tutorial

Last month, a friend sent me a handmade mousepad for my birthday; she’d used a self-adhesive foam backing, and fray-check on the fabric to stop the ends from fraying. It looked a lot better than the bought mousemat I’d been using, and inspired me to have a go at making a couple myself, to give to friends for their birthdays.

It’s not something I want to keep to myself, so I thought I’d share my fabric mousemat tutorial with anyone who wants to try making one!


Foam sheet: 9″ x 8″ or larger
Fabric : 10″ x 9″ for the zigzag version, 11″ x 10″ for the hemmed version
Matching thread

Old mousemat to use as a template (mine was 9″ x 8″)
Denim needle
Walking Foot

I found an A4 sheet of foam for 60p in the local craft store, and some purple fabric in my scraps pile, so this turned out to be a very cheap mousemat!

Fabric Mousemat Tutorial (zigzag version)

  • Take your old mousepad, place it onto the foam and trace around it. Cut out the rectangle from the foam.
    If you didn’t have a mousemat to trace around, you could always just cut a rectangle 9″ x 8″ and round the edges by drawing round a round object like a saucer.
  • Take your fabric, with the right side facing the table, and draw around the foam you just cut out. Then, draw a line 1/2″ outside that (this is the line we’ll be cutting). Cut out the fabric on that outer line.
  • With the right side facing the ironing board, iron the fabric along the inner line, so you’re creating a 1/2″ fold onto the wrong side on each edge.
  • Place the fabric over the foam, and carefully bend those folded edges around to the back of the foam.
  • Hand tack (baste) the fabric from the underside, to hold it safely in place for the next step. When it comes to the curved corners, you can fold over a little bit of the fabric to help keep the front nice and smooth.
Fabric Mousemat Tutorial
The underside of the mousemat – I will admit I could have measure and cut the fabric more accurately to have my 1/2″ fold on each edge!
Fabric Mousemat Tutorial

As you can see, the fabric was still slightly damp at this point, from my attempts to iron out some really stubborn creases! The tacking isn’t straight, but that doesn’t matter, as the tacking stitches will be removed anyway.

The advantage of folding the fabric over the edge of the foam, is that it doesn’t rely on any glue staying adhered over time, and also eliminates the need to use fray-check.

  • Starting on one edge (not on a corner!), carefully zigzag around the mat – this will ensure the fabric stays as flat as possible (nobody wants a lumpy mousemat!), and to also help prevent any fraying from the edges underneath.

I did use a walking foot and denim needle just to be on the safe side as I was a little uncertain how the regular foot and needle would cope with the foam…. however, my hand sewing needle went through the foam really nicely so I don’t think a denim needle or walking foot are really essentials for this.

  • Carefully trim the underside edges of the fabric with scissors, just to make them a little neater.
  • And there you have it – a finished mousemat!
Fabric Mousemat Tutorial
The corners might not be the neatest in the universe, but for a 60p mousemat that can be made in any colour combination, you can’t really go wrong!

But what if you don’t like the idea of a zigzag all the way around the mousemat? Then you could try the hemmed version instead….

Fabric Mousemat Tutorial (hemmed version)

  • Take your old mousepad, place it onto the foam and trace around it. Cut out the rectangle from the foam.
    If you didn’t have a mousemat to trace around, you could always just cut a rectangle 9″ x 8″ and round the edges by drawing round a round object like a saucer.
    Fabric Mousemat Tutorial

  • Take your fabric, with the right side facing the table, and draw around the foam you just cut out. Then, draw a line 1″ outside that (this is the line we’ll be cutting). Cut out the fabric on that outer line.
  • I then used the faux overlock stitch (a zigzag, but with an overlock foot) on my sewing machine to neaten the edges – this bit won’t be seen in the end, but it’ll stop the edges from fraying.
    Fabric Mousemat Tutorial
  • With the fabric right side down, place the mouse mat foam pad on the top. Fold over the ‘overlocked’ edge slightly, then fold again, so the zigzag stitches are all hidden. Tack (baste) this down, through the mousemat foam.
    Fabric Mousemat Tutorial

    Fabric Mousemat Tutorial

You may want to measure the amount of fabric you have showing on the wrong side, to ensure you catch it with the stitches in the next step.

  • Starting on a straight edge (not on a corner!), carefully (and slowly) sew through the fabric and mousemat foam. I used a straight stitch, but you could use a contrast thread and a fancy stitch if you prefer.
    Fabric Mousemat Tutorial
  • Looking at the back of the mousemat, all the fabric should be stitched, with none of the ‘overlock’ stitches showing.
    Fabric Mousemat Tutorial
  • And there you have it – a finished hemmed mousemat!
    Fabric Mousemat Tutorial

I’ve tested out the zigzagged mousemat, and haven’t had any problem with the mouse catching on the stitches around the edge.  Just make sure you don’t sew over the body of the mousemat itself, as that would disrupt the movement of the mouse and prevent the mat from working as it should. Keeping the stitches to 1/8″ – 1/4″ from the edge is the most practical option.

This fabric mousemat tutorial is provided free for everyone to use. Link backs to this tutorial are welcome – please do not copy the tutorial and post it on your own site!

You may sell items you have made from this pattern, but please do not sell the pattern itself! 

Handy clothes peg bag – tutorial

Having seen the condition of my Mum’s clothes peg bag, I decided it was time she had a new one. Being the kind soul that I am, I thought I would share this clothes peg bag tutorial with you for free. 🙂


One  wooden clothes hanger (this is a children’s hanger, approx 33cm (13″) from side to side) if your clothes hanger is wider than this, simply increase the width of the fabric to suit (make sure add in a 5/8″ / 1.5cm seam allowance on both sides when working out the width).
Outer fabric – two pieces 36cm wide x 41cm high
Lining fabric – two pieces 36cm wide x 41cm high
Matching thread


Seam allowances are 5/8″ (1.5cm) unless otherwise stated. Tacking is done 1/2″ (1.2cm) from the edge.

Preparing the Fabric


  1. Take the piece of fabric you want to use for the back of the clothes peg bag, and tack (baste) it to one of the lining pieces, wrong sides together. This will stop it moving around as you sew the pieces later.
  2. Take the piece of fabric you want to use for the front, and tack that to the other lining piece, right sides together.

Marking and Making the Opening

      1. Draw the opening onto the fabric using chalk / something that won’t show through to the other side (I cheated and used a pencil) I centred my opening, making it 8 cm from the top seam, 15cm from the bottom seam. That gave me an opening 15cm high, and I made it 13cm wide.


        Just in case those instructions make no sense, here’s a diagram showing the measurements I used

      2. Carefully stitch over the marked opening, using a short straight stitch.

        Opening - stitched

        I stitched the opening in black to make it easier to see where I needed to cut the hole

        You’ll probably notice that my opening isn’t totally even both sides – that’s not a problem, as it’s not overly noticeable when it’s finished!

      3. Carefully cut out the opening, staying within the stitching, and clip the curves so it is easier to turn (make sure to not clip the stitches!).
        Clipped Curves
      4. Carefully unpick the tacking stitches around the outside edges.
      5. Turn the front pieces through the opening you’ve just cut, and press flat.Turned and pressed
      6. If like me you chose to use a non-matching thread up to this point, change the thread to a more suitable colour, then top stitch the opening…. I used the side of my presser foot as a guide for a nice narrow seam allowance.Top Stitch

Putting the Bag Together

  1. Take the front piece (with the opening), and the back piece (back main fabric and lining still tacked together), and place them right sides together. Pin around the outside, but mark a small space at the top for the metal hook of the clothes hanger to poke through.
    Important: This bag will have a straight top edge – for a small hanger, it isn’t really necessary to make a slope to the top, but if you’re using a larger hanger, you might want to draw the right slope onto the lining fabric so you know the exact line to follow on the next step.
  2. Starting just on the side of the opening (marked with a * on the image below), stitch down a little, then sew the 5/8″ seams around the bag. When you get to the other side of the opening, turn and stitch off the edge again, so you have two small lines either side of where the hanger will fit through.

    I’ve gone over the seams on the computer so you can see where the stitching is (the thread blends in a little too well on the lining!)

  3. Trim the seam allowance down a little (just to stop it being so bulky).
  4. For extra reinforcement, I stitched around the seams again, 1/2″ from the newly trimmed down edge (yes, this does make the bag a little smaller). This time however, I started below the opening, just backstitching on both sides to reinforce it.
  5. Turn through the opening, and press
  6. Fit the hanger into the bag, carefully slotting the hook through the gap at the top

And there you have a finished clothes peg bag, ready to fill with pegs!finished-front front-detail finished-back

I’d love to see the peg bags you make with this tutorial – simply post links to the pics in the comments 🙂

Main and lining fabric from Fashion Fabrics.

This tutorial is provided free for everyone to use. Link backs to this tutorial are welcome – please do not copy the tutorial and post it on your own site!

You may sell items you have made from this pattern, but please do not sell the pattern itself! 


Smartphone Case Tutorial

A while ago, I knitted a smartphone case for my Mum, but she was looking for a second case, and requested a fabric one. I couldn’t find any tutorials that worked for her specific phone, so I decided to make it up myself, and share this Smartphone Case Tutorial with you!

This case will fit a Nokia Lumia 530 with a little wiggle room, and also a Samsung Galaxy S2 (very snugly). If you have a different sized phone, you could always add a little onto the width of the pieces first – it’s better for it to be slightly too big to start with, as you can always take it in before you finish!



10″ x 10″ outer fabric (I used a remnant from a fat quarter)
10″ x 10″x lining fabric (I picked a firmer fabric to give it some body)
10″ x 10″ wadding (you could use batting, but I used the lightest-weight wadding my local craft shop sold)
1 x hair elastic
1 x button


In the end, I decided not to use the ribbon to make a keyring loop

Cut out the fabric

  1. From the lining fabric, cut: one rectangle 4 ½” wide and 6 ½” high, and one rectangle 4 ½” wide and 8 ½” high.
  2. Cut the same from the outer fabric.
  3. Cut two 4 ½” x 6 ½”  rectangles from the wadding.

Quilting the wadding

If you skip this step, nothing will stop the wadding from moving around when you turn the case the right way round later, so this step is important!

  1. With the small lining rectangle WS up, stitch the wadding to the top edge with a 3/8″ seam.
  2. I stitched straight down the centre, and made a wonky diamond, but let your imagination run wild to quilt the wadding to the lining! You won’t see much of it when the case is finished, but you’ll know it’s there.
  3. Stitch around the remaining three edges with  a ¼” seam. This will hold the wadding in place on the edges, but the seams won’t be visible on the finished case.

Set the small rectangle to one side, and do the same with the large rectangle, except that this time we need to line the wadding up at the base of the rectangle, leaving the top section unwadded. This will be the top flap, and if it’s padded it makes the case a little too bulky to put into a coat pocket!

With both lining rectangles finished, it should be looking something like this:


The unwadded top flap is folded over on the right, with the small lining rectangle on the left

The front smartphone case section

  1. Taking the small lining rectangle, and the matching outer rectangle, place them RS together. Stitch across the top edge with a ¼” seam allowance.
  2. Turn to RS, and top stitch over that seam with a 1/8″ seam
  3. This is now the front section.

Putting it all together

This is where it starts to sound really complex, but you’re almost at the finish line!

      1. Take the large lining rectangle, and place it RS up. This will be the back lining for the case.
      2. Place the hair elastic at the top of this rectangle, with the neat loop pointing towards the bulk of the fabric. Pin or tack (or both – hair elastics can be a nightmare to keep in one place before stitching!).

        Hair Elastic

        The metal piece will be inside the seams, and can be cut off before turning.

      3. On top of this, place the front piece, with the front lining face down, so the front cover is RS up.
      4. Finally, place the back cover on the top, WS up.
      5. Pin and tack! This is really important, as it’s so easy for something to move as you stitch!
      6. Mark a gap to be able to turn the case the right way out. I left a gap on the corner which wasn’t ideal, but it was easier than leaving a gap where there’s more than 2 layers!
      7. Sew carefully around the case, with a ½” seam allowance, backstitching at both sides of the gap to reinforce the seam. When stitching over the hair elastic, I ran a few stitches backwards, then came forwards again just to ensure it’s held firmly.
      8. Trim the seam allowances to make it less bulky when turned, and clip the corners being careful to not cut into the stitches. Cut the metal part off the hair elastic.
      9. Carefully turn the case the right way around – this will seem quite fiddly, but stick with it.turned
      10. Before doing anything else, check the phone fits comfortably in the case. If the case seems a little large, turn it back the wrong way around, and sew another seam down either side, just a little further from the edge than the first ones, to make it a little narrower. Then turn back the right way and check again.
      11. Assuming the phone now fits comfortably in the case, carefully fold in the edges of the gap, so they match the seam line on the rest of the flap.
      12. Top stitch around the flap, with a 1/8″ seam allowance to close the gap and make the flap look better. I prefer to make the flap corners a diagonal rather than perfectly pointy corners, but you might prefer to make them perfect right angles.
      13. Put the phone back into the case, and check the required position of the button. Remove the phone (again) and carefully sew the button onto the front of the case. You could of course have machine-stitched the button on earlier, but this way you can ensure a snug fit for the phone, rather than risking it either being a bit loose or the elastic not quite reaching.

And there you have it! One finished smartphone case!

Phone Case - finished


I’d love to see the cases you make with this tutorial – simply post links to the pics in the comments 🙂


Outer fabric and button from The Makery, lining fabric from Hobbycraft and hair elastic from WilkoNone of these links are affiliate links.

This tutorial is provided free for everyone to use. Link backs to this tutorial are welcome – please do not copy the tutorial and post it on your own site!

You may sell items you have made from this pattern, but please do not sell the pattern itself!