Saturday, January 7, 2012

January Craftivism Challenge and Sew-Along - Part 1

In the spirit of cleaning up and cleaning out, we have two projects this month:  The APQ Million Pillowcase Challenge, and Little Dresses for Africa.  Both are simple enough for beginners, so if one of your goals for 2012 was to learn to sew, these are perfect for you.  Both can also be made with fabrics from your stash or repurposed items.

When I teach someone to do something new, whether it's crafting or gardening, I STRONGLY ENCOURAGE my student(s) to start with a project for charity.  Why?  Because it shows the student that their skills have value - not only for themselves and their families, but to others in need.  The lady who taught me to crochet made our little group of ten-year-old Girl Scouts promise that someday we would teach others to crochet, too.  That was her way of showing us our skills had value to others.  I like to carry on that tradition.  Every Girl Scout I've taught to crochet has had to take the "I will teach others" pledge.  Every adult I've taught has made a square for an afghan that went to Warm Up! America or an afghan for Haiti.  The Boy Scouts that took my merit badge workshops for Gardening and Plant Science grew vegetables for Plant a Row for the Hungry, and those boys grew over 100 pounds of produce this summer for our local food pantry.  I'm so proud of them, you can tell!

So let's get started, and we'll start with the pillowcases.  The APQ website has all kinds of patterns and instructions for making pillowcases with patchwork borders and other techniques if you are a more advanced sewist.  We will be using this pattern  as the basis for the tutorial.

The pattern details what you'll need for fabric.  Feel free to repurpose old bed sheets (only plain cotton - no flannel at this time, please).  Find areas that don't have stains and are not too worn.

Also a quick word about directional fabrics...
Directional fabrics have a pattern that is directional, meaning it has an up and a down, like this one:

When you are cutting and sewing, be sure you keep direction in mind.  For our purposes here, stripes can go up and down or side to side.  Holly Hobby, however, cannot stand on her head.  Pay close attention to how your fabric will look when your project is finished.

And a quick word about working with wonky scraps...
These are great to use up for the "hem" section of the pillowcase, as long as they are big enough.  Here's how to make sure they are, or at least square them up for other projects:

Use your mat and your ruler to get nice, straight edges on all 4 sides.  Measure while you're at it, and if you're lucky, you'll have a piece (or pieces) big enough.  If not, that's ok - save them for other purposes.

Other basic supplies needed: a rotary cutter and mat (or scissors and a yardstick), matching and/or contrasting thread, an iron and ironing board.  This is assuming you have a sewing machine, and know how to use it.  You don't have to be an expert, just be able to sew a straight seam.  Pins may or may not be helpful to you.  I don't use them, but when I was first learning to sew, I did.  Use them if they help you, and don't if they don't.

First things first - wash and dry your fabric.  Then, press it.  I fold mine in half when I press it.  It helps with cutting later.  So now, you are going to line up your fabric on your cutting mat, and using your ruler, you will cut 2 rectangles from each piece of fabric.  One rectangle will be 26 1/2" x width of fabric, and the other will be 10" x width of fabric.

Press the 10" rectangle in half with wrong sides facing.  The wrong side is the back of the fabric.  Fold this strip in half again and trim off the selvedges (that's the bound edge of the fabric - usually says what company made it on a white strip, and the opposite side).  Fold the 26 1/2" rectangle in half, also with wrong sides facing, and trim off selvedges.  Use your ruler and cutting mat to ensure you have straight and even edges, and that your rectangles go no smaller than 41".

Now, match your 10" rectangle with the right side of the wide edge at what will become the bottom of your pillowcase.

Sew a 1/4" seam (pattern says 1/2", but I've found 1/4" works better) along that raw (i.e., cut) edge.  Just straight stitches are fine.  If you get to the end, and find that one fabric is shorter/longer than the other, feel free to trim things up to match.  Press the seam on the back toward the top (the main "body").

On the right (i.e., front) side, feel free to add decorative stitching or straight stitching to hold this fabric in place.  You could even do just a simple zigzag.  I usually use a decorative stitch, but the pattern says straight stitch.  Use what you like.

So now it's going to really start looking like a pillowcase.  Fold your fabric in half lengthwise with your contrasting hem on one side (choose your left or right).  Starting from the hem edge, sew up the long side, using a 1/4" seam.  I use a reinforced stitch on my machine, but you can use a straight stitch as well.  Feeling adventurous and ambitious?  Try using French seams.  When your long seam is done, stitch the short seam on the opposite end of the contrasting hem.  Clip your corners close to (but NOT THROUGH) your seams.  This will give you nice, sharp corners.  Turn your pillowcase right side out, and press well.  Speaking of pressing, press every step of the way.  This will give you a much nicer finished product.  Repeat this process with the other pieces of fabric.

Now that you've made two beautiful pillowcases, choose one to donate to the APQ challenge (the other one stays home for a little while longer).  Donate it to a local women's or homeless shelter, hospice center, nursing home, etc.  I donate mine to a local children's hospital - we have a friend whose son receives treatment there, and those wonderful folks are near and dear to my heart.  Find a cause that speaks to you, and give them a pillowcase.   Oh, and be sure to get a receipt and save it for your taxes!  Be sure to go to the APQ Million Pillowcase Challenge website and add your case to their count.  Leave a comment below to tell us how many you make as well.

Feel free to make more, and you can make them from flannel, too.  You can make them from a single piece of fabric, as well.  You will need 1 1/8 yards of a single fabric, trimmed to 38 1/2" long by 41" wide.  Press up the edge that will be your hem 1/2", then fold that edge up another 2".  Press, and stitch.

Stay tuned for part 2!

This post is linked here.


Unknown said...

Hi Ann
great tutorial! thanks for commenting on my blog, i am following you now. feel free to follow me back if you want too :-)

Tim & Kaydee Johannsen said...

So cool! Wish I had the paitence!

Unknown said...

So glad you stopped be, so I could also find your blog! Love it!!!

Unknown said...

what a great tutorial. thanks for sharing about the pillowcase challenge. I will surely share and blog about them. have a lvoely weekend!