Friday, December 19, 2014

Flex Frame Pouch Tutorial

Hey there, friends! So, I know this tutorial may be just a tad late for making holidays gifts, BUT just think of the jump you'll have on next year! Besides, you have all those birthday gifts to make and are always looking for awesome little extras to send in swap packages, right?

These padded flex frame pouches make perfect sunglass or eyeglass cases and fit most cell phones, but they can also be used for a million and one other things, such as a rotary cutter carrying case! Fill one with pencils for a teacher gift or use one as an extra special way to deliver cash or a gift card.

or you can follow along below…

Finished size  > 3.5” wide by 7.5” high

Cotton canvas, quilting cotton or linen for outer top
Real or faux leather or vinyl for outer bottom
Quilting cotton or lightweight linen for lining
Cotton batting
Pellon SF 101 Shape Flex (only if using quilting cotton or linen for exterior, not needed for canvas)
3.5” internal flex frame (resources included below)

Read through the entire pattern before beginning.
Seam allowances vary and are noted in each step.
RST = right sides together, WST = wrong sides together

I love using canvas when sewing bags and pouch projects because of the extra weight and durability it provides, however, quilting cotton or linen blends also work nicely for this project with some added stability from Shape Flex interfacing.

I used a variety of real and fake lightweight leather and vinyl on the examples shown above and all were cut from old pouches, wallets and bags I bought at the thrift store. I don’t recommend heavy leather as it is hard to turn on this small piece. You could also use canvas or cotton instead.  I recommend using a lining fabric that is close in color to your outer top fabric. You will see it slightly at the top where a fold is created to hold the flex frame and it looks neatest and least noticeable when the colors are similar.

I purchase my flex frame from They are sold in packs of 10 or 50 and are under $1.50 a piece including shipping. They have silver toned ends. You can also purchase packs of two from and they appear to have gold toned ends.

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For the outer top fabric, cut two pieces 4” wide by 6.5” high.

The top will be folded over about 1.25” so place any focal images below 1.5” down from the top. If using a lightweight material for the top with a leather bottom, cut two pieces of Shape Flex to the same size and fuse to the main pieces. No interfacing is needed if using canvas. If using lightweight material for the top and bottom portions, cut two pieces of Shape Flex 4” by 9.5” and wait to fuse until after piecing.

For the outer bottom, cut two pieces 4” wide by 3.5” high.

For the lining, cut two pieces 4” wide by 9.5” high.

From the batting cut two pieces 3.5” wide by 9” high.

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Begin by piecing the outer top and bottom fabrics together. Line one top and one bottom piece up along the bottom short edge of the main fabric, RST. Sew along the bottom short edge using a 1/4” seam. Repeat for second set of outer fabrics. You may need to use a leather/denim needle depending on the thickness of your material, but I have not had to.

Finger press the top fabric up and top stitch along the edge. You do not want to press with an iron to avoid damaging the leather. If you have trouble keeping it flat enough to top stitch, you can use a bit of glue stick to help hold it down.

If using cotton for the bottom, you can press the seam with an iron before top stitching. You will then fuse your 4” x 9.5” pieces of Shape Flex to the back of each outer piece.

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Next, you will spray or pin baste your batting centered to the wrong side of your lining fabric (it should be about 1/4” smaller on all sides) and quilt a few lines to secure in place. This helps to prevent bunching when turning the piece.

The quilting will not be visible when the piece is complete so it doesn’t have to be perfect. You can also leave the batting off, if desired, but I like the padding it adds to the case.

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After your outer and lining pieces are prepared, you will take one of each and, on the wrong side of the fabric, mark lines 2.25” down from the top on both the left and right sides.

Place your two outer pieces RST and sew using a 1/4” seam starting at one marked line stitching down around the bottom and back up to the other marked line. Be sure to back stitch well at the beginning and end as there will be some tension on this area. Go slowly through the seam where the top and bottom sections are pieced and make sure your tension is staying tight. Hand crank through or stitch over if needed.

Next, place your two lining pieces RST and sew in the same manner using a HEAVY 1/4” seam (somewhere between 1/4” and 3/8”) but leave a large gap in the bottom for turning the piece. Leave most of the bottom open, just turn each corner and sew a few stitches, back stitching well each time you start and stop.

Starting 1/2” below your marked lines, trim away about half the seam outside your stitch line (but do not trim at your bottom gap on the lining) and clip the corners closer to your stitch line. This helps reduce bulk.

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If using leather for the outer bottom, you will now want to partially turn your piece right side out to help with turning the entire piece later.

Start by turning the outer piece entirely right side out. Work carefully as to not deeply crease or nick the leather. If your material is stiff, it’s not fun to turn, but it will get there! Use a pointy but blunt object to help push out the corners from the inside once mostly turned. I use all sorts of things when turning small objects such as a screwdriver, my herra marker, the end of a capped seam ripper, a nail file and even a package of bias tape.

You will then fold the top fabric portion back inside out over the bottom portion.

You can skip these steps entirely if using a canvas or cotton bottom. You will not have trouble turning it later.

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Now it’s time to sew the outer pieces and lining together. This is kind of tough to explain in words, so pay attention to the photos and bear with me. Imagine two alligators facing each other with their mouths wide open. One alligator is your outer piece and the other is your lining. The top and bottom of their jaws are the ‘flaps’ left on your pieces above where you stitched them together.

You will first match up the top ‘flaps’ of your outer and lining and pin to hold. You will sew around the edge using a 1/4” seam beginning just above your previously marked line and ending just above the other, once again back stitching well at the beginning and end.

You will now repeat these steps for the other set of ‘flaps’, or the bottom alligator jaws.

Once again, trim away about half your seam starting and stopping 1/2” from your marked lines and clip the corners closer.

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You are now ready to turn your entire piece. Begin by carefully rolling down your lining piece until you are able to starting pulling the outer piece through the opening. Work slowly and carefully and don’t forget about the flaps. Use your pointy blunt tool to help with all the corners. Keep working until your outer and lining are both right side out.

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The next step is to stitch the gap in the bottom of your lining closed. Tuck the raw edges inside and pin to secure. Stitch close to the edge by machine or hand.

You can now turn the lining into the pouch. Start by turning the bottom in and slowly continue to roll the lining into itself. Here is where the package of bias tape comes in — it just happens to be the perfect size! Use it to help push the lining inside the rest of the way. If needed, use a smaller tool to help push the corners once inside.

Your piece should now look as shown above. One more step and you’re done! Give the piece a good press, avoiding the bottom leather and making sure to press the top flaps nice and flat.

Pull one flap back and pin to keep it out of the way. Fold the other flap down to where the side seams start and pin to hold. The size should be correct, but just make sure your frame will slide through the opening. Note that one end of the frame is larger than the other.

Using a simple slip stitch, hand stitch the flap to the lining along the inside bottom edge of the flap (Fig L). Be sure your needle is only going through the lining fabric and batting, not through the outer fabric. Much like hand stitching a binding down onto a quilt.

Once both flaps are stitched down, you are ready to insert your frame. Slide both sides in at the same time, pushing slowly and adjusting the fabric as needed if the ends catch a bit.

Once thru, push the fabric back a bit so you can easily close the frame ends together and insert the pin (they typically come in a separate little envelope with the frames). Press the metal flaps down over the top using a pair of pliers or flat head screwdriver and you’re done!

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As I mentioned at the beginning, this pouch can be created with a variety of materials. Fabrics used in the photo above are all from the Cotton + Steel Fall 2014 collections, due out in January 2015.

Top L to R: Playful canvas, Mochi canvas and Tokyo Train Ride canvas, all with real leather bottoms.

Bottom L to R: Mesa quilting cotton and Tokyo Train Ride quilting cotton insect panel both with faux leather bottoms.

Fabrics used in the step-by-step photos throughout the pattern are Ruby Star Polka Dot by Melody Miller for the outer fabric, which is a lightweight cotton/linen blend and Essex Linen in Flax for the lining. The outer bottom was cut from a vintage Samsonite garment bag acquired for $2.

This pattern uses one main fabric for the outer top portion of the case, but as you can see in the Mesa example above, you can also piece together this panel in any way you like. You just need to trim your finished pieces to 4” wide by 6.5” tall.

I created a paper piecing pattern for my geese design (download a PDF here!) and used charm squares . I fused a piece of Shape Flex to the back after piecing and pressing then trimmed to size and pieced with the bottom vinyl.

The height of this pouch can easily be modified by adding to and subtracting from the height of your pieces. Just be sure to add equal amounts to the outer, lining and batting pieces.

The Mochi pouch shown above is made using a 4.5” flex frame pouch and has a finished size of 4.5” x 6”. The same construction method applies and the height can be any size you wish. The constant in the pattern will be marking the 2.25” down from the top before sewing your outer pieces or lining pieces together as the height of the flex frame is the same. You just need to add 1” to the width of your pieces as it is 1” wider than the 3.5” frame used in this pattern.

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I hope you have enjoyed this pattern! These are my new favorite go-to gift. I made them as sunglass cases but they can also fit many models of cell phone, can be used a cash pouch, stock full of pencils for a teacher gift - endless possibilities. Happy sewing!

~ nicole

Friday, December 5, 2014

Sturdy Fabric Basket Tutorial

Goodness, I am just so excited to share this little project! I'm a storage and organization junkie, and of course I love fabric, so combining the two just puts me in a happy place. Making sure my surroundings are pretty and make me feel happy and inspired is on the top on my list (what list, no idea, but it's important). 

When I got my hands on this bundle of the new line Westwood by Monaluna, I knew I needed all these little critters hanging out with me everyday so I decided to make some storage baskets.

These baskets are really quick and easy to make and are fat quarter friendly (the largest piece you need is 17x15 so pull out those big scraps)! They are made sturdy with a layer of Peltex, but can also be made soft using fusible fleece or batting. You could even very easily sew this entire project by hand with no problem.

The handles shown here are made from a thrift shop leather belt I bought for 50¢ but you can also use scraps of leather (or pleather!). I love to deconstruct old bags, pouches, wallets and other various things I find for cheap to use on other projects. The handles can also be left off if you prefer.

I already have one hundred and one uses for these baskets in every room of my house, but right now I plan to make a bunch to fill with goodies and give as gifts! Aside from the holidays, you can fill one with food items and take to the host of a dinner party, baby items for a shower, fabric for ME… errr… I mean a friend. Shall I go on?

You can download a PDF of the pattern by clicking the image >

I hope you enjoy this pattern! If you have any questions, feel free to comment below or email me anytime. I'm on instagram as lillyellasworld - please tag me if you make one, I'd love to see it! You can also use the hashtag #sturdyfabricbasket.

And because I'm just curious I have to know, which do you like the better, the owls or the deer?!

Happy sewing, friends! ~nicole

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

EPP Table Topper Pattern

This pattern, or something like it, may very well exist somewhere in the world. But with my 25th & Pine charm pack in hand, I went searching for a small EPP pattern that would be relatively quick and had no luck, so I just drew one up. 

I am by no means an english paper piecing expert and everyone has their favorite methods, so I'm just sharing my pattern templates here rather than a full tutorial. I will, however, provide some links to other tutorials for anyone who is new to EPP and explain how I finished my piece. The great thing about it is that all you need is fabric, a needle and thread – no sewing machine or experience is necessary. 

This pattern creates a piece that is 9.5" wide and is designed to be charm square friendly (5" fabric squares). You can get two center kite pieces from one charm square and more of the smaller pieces, but I used 5 white, 5 red and 5 green charms to create my piece. This pattern is also great for scraps, the biggest piece you need is about 2.5 x 5, but the templates can also be printed larger or smaller to create a different sized finished piece.

I made mine into a little table topper (isn't it the perfect little mini tree skirt?!), but it would also be nice used on a pillow, as a trivet or on a bag. You can download a PDF of the templates by clicking the image below. You will need to print two sheets so you have ten of each shape. 

I thread basted my pieces because I just haven't gotten the swing of the whole glue basting thing yet, but that would certainly work, too. When sewing my pieces together, I followed the order shown below.

To finish my piece I removed the papers and cut a piece of batting to the exact size of my piece (you could also use insulbrite if you wanted to make a hot pad). I then unfolded the outer edges of the green pieces and pressed it well. I layered the piece and the batting and did some machine quilting on the center, but you could also do hand quilting or spray baste the batting in place and quilt after attaching the backing. I only wanted my quilting to show from the top.

I cut a piece of backing fabric slightly larger than my piece and placed the quilted top and back right sides together. I sewed around the outer edge, using the pieced top as a guide, with a 1/4 seam and left a couple inches open for turning. I trimmed the seam, turned the piece right side out and pressed. You could machine or hand quilt at this point if you wanted to see it from both sides. 

I decided to finish my piece with a blanket stitch around the edge using a DMC pearl cotton and I love the way it came out. This also closed up the area I left open for turning. And voila! All done.

Here are some tutorials on english paper piecing:
Craftsy - English Paper Piecing from Beginning to End
All People Quilt - English Paper Piecing
Flossie Tea Cakes - EPP, where to begin
YouTube video - How to Finish an EPP Project

And you can find a good tutorial on how to do a blanket stitch here.

I hope you enjoy the template! If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below or send me an email anytime.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Easy fabric christmas bulb ornaments

I recently saw this tutorial for fabric christmas bulb ornaments by Jennifer Jangles on instagram and knew it would be a perfect project for the pile of Monaluna Westwood scraps sitting on my cutting table! I love this fabric for so many different uses but I think it really makes a perfect non-traditional holiday fabric.

These little bulbs were really quick and easy to make and all you need is some fabric, ribbon and felt scraps. I pieced two fabrics for the owl one and the squirrel is just one piece of fabric. I stitched the ribbons on but you could also glue them in place. 

Then you simply sew two circles together leaving a gap for turning and stuffing and machine or hand stitch the felt caps in place with some twine or ribbon for hanging. So quick and easy and a great project for charm squares or scraps. I think these would be adorable to make as extra little gifts and use them as a topper when wrapping presents.

Fabrics used are organic cottons from the line Westwood by Monaluna, now available for presale at Pink Door Fabrics arriving in early December. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Pattern Review: The Senna Tote

Im so very excited that my Senna Tote was chosen as a finalist in the amazing Purse Palooza event that Sara Lawson of Sew Sweetness hosts each year! There were 22 bags chosen for voting from nearly 250 entries and I'm extremely honored mine is included! (Especially since I nearly lost my mind fussy cutting that star print for the handles :)

(Voting is closed but thanks to all who voted for me!)

This is a fabulous bag pattern and it was overall pretty quick and easy to sew up. The pattern is the Senna Tote by lbg studio for Willow & Co. You can purchase a PDF download here.

The size is perfect for an airplane carry on, a weekend getaway or for hauling around goodies at quilt market - which is how I christened mine! It's not too large to carry around on your shoulder for a day, and while I know some people love large purses, I think it's too big for that.

As you can see, the top folds over if it not fully stuffed, but opens up for plenty of stuffing space! There is a small pocket on the front (which you can easily add a snap to if desired) and a large pocket on the back that runs the full width of the bag. The bag is fully lined and the pattern includes a large dividable slip pocket, but you could easily customize this or add a zipper pocket, too.

I often find I need to change the layering or interfacing used on a bag to make it as sturdy as I want it, but I did not need to do that with this bag. I did, however, lengthen the handles which is something I always end up doing with bags. I wanted it to fit comfortably on my shoulder without digging up into my armpit. 

If you plan to carry this bag by the handles at your side and are not very tall, you will definitely want to take that into account if considering changing the strap length. You'll have to find the right balance between fitting it over your shoulder and carrying it in your hand without it dragging on the ground. I also found myself carrying it hung over my forearm, which worked out well.

Im considering trying something different on my next one, making shorter carrying handles and adding an adjustable, removable single shoulder strap. My mom suggested that if you are using it as a carry on, the shorter handles would make it easier to hook over the handle of your rolling suitcase when wheeling through the airport or to hang from a stroller if using as a diaper bag. I'll be sure to let you know how it goes!

Cutting and interfacing all the pieces of this bag took me much longer than sewing, but I was also cutting all directional prints or prints that required fussy cutting. I was deliberate in my placement of the arrows and where the full horse images would fall. Plus, I'm totally OCD, so there's that.

Sewing was quick and the only part I fussed with was the areas at the end of the zippers when sewing the bag together at the last step. Topstitching around the zipper wasn't too bad, I just didn't get all the way to edges, but I have seen a couple leave this step out with no problem.

You will need a machine that can handle thickness for the bottom portion of the bag, but there arent any tricky or tight places to get into.

Im planning to make another one with a leather bottom and straps and will share pics when it's done!

If you're making this bag and have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below or email me anytime! (

Thanks for visiting!