Batch sewing: 3 top tips & tricks!

I won't lie.  I'm actually enjoying some batch sewing or sewing in a production line fashion lately.

You see I have been doing a bit of sewing for the girls at Little Ziggy, a online store for very fashionable little dudes and dudettes!

To be specific, I've been making their ever so cute little playsuits and more recently their little dribble bibs.

In doing these little sewing jobs I have become quite the production liner!  And I'm enjoying it! Because I enjoy it so much here are my Batch Sewing 3 top tips and tricks.

Tip #1 : Prepare, Prepare & Prepare some more

This first step is the most crucial for batch sewing.  Preparing your job will be the key to your success.

Make sure that you have all that you need at once.  Meaning, you have enough fabric for the quantity you are making,  you have all the notions and equipment you need and most importantly, you have the thread!!  Nothing is more frustrating than starting your production line and running out thread!

I also suggest you cut all the pieces you need at once.  If you are making 10 bibs, then cut out 10 of the outer and back fabrics at once.

Pinning each and every piece first will enable you to begin with a stack of pieces ready to go.  For these bibs, I pinned all of the first with right sides together and added the tag so I could sew around each piece leaving a gap to turn them right way round.

Tip #2 : Sew a complete piece first

This next tip kind of goes against the whole concept of batch or production line sewing.  I prefer to sew one whole piece first.  A practice run if you like.

With these bibs, once I had pinned them all, I took the first one off the pile and then sewed it from start to finish.  It showed me what I was doing, tested the seam allowances and the process which I thought was the right way of doing it.

When this one turned out properly, I knew I was on the right track and it gives one a confidence to get stuck in and sew them all up.

Tip #3 :  Complete each step of the pattern with the whole batch. 

I'll admit, I had a deadline for these so I got them done quickly and in one sitting.  But it really is best to complete each step of the process with the WHOLE quantity of pieces.  In other words, complete each step of the pattern to the whole batch and then move onto the next.

For example, there are 4 steps to these bibs.  So I sewed the outside seams to each bib, turned them all out and clipped the corners, pressed each one and then top stitched each one.  In a batch.

Makes it super easy.  And quick.  Even mediative.

What have you sewn in a production line?  Is this the way you do it too?  Please let me know if you try this method and if it works for you.


Our first beginner sewing workshop.

Today was a very exciting day.  It was our first Absolute Beginner Sewing Workshop!

I hosted 4 very excited ladies this morning who all went home happily with a new tote bag and zippered pouch.  Everyone was very creative with their fabric choices with contrasting zips and thread!

Lisa created these beautiful bags and was very happy with them!
I put a lot of thought into the layout of the room and made sure everyone was extra comfy with tea, coffee and cake.  At each station, each person had a pattern, quick reference guide, test fabric, fabric marker and pins. 


We first of all learnt all about our machines and what dial does what. We then learnt how to wind the bobbin, thread the machine and pick up the bobbin thread at the bottom.  We then used our test scraps of fabric to do some practice with straight lines, corners and zigzags.

Choosing the fabric, the fun part, came next and then we got right down to cutting out and sewing up our tote bag.

After a break and some cake, we then moved onto our zippered pouch. Using some skills and principals that were just learnt, these pouches came together quickly.  I was super impressed with the ease that the girls whipped up those zips! 

 Overall a great day. I had a wonderful time and it made me so happy seeing the girls so happy and proud of what they've made.

When will you join us for a workshop?  What other projects would you like to tackle?


Ikea Hack for threading elastic through the casing

I can't help but share this with you.  It's my Ikea Hack for threading elastic through the casing!

Nothing is more frustrating than threading elastic through the casing and then accidentally loosing the end in the casing or even worse, pulling it straight through! Arghhh! And double arghh!

I couldn't wait to share this with you so I made a video! Voila! It's my Ikea Hack for threading elastic!

Do you have any sewing ikea hacks to share with us?  Post a pic for us on Facebook or on Instagram with the hashtag #sewingikeahack and #usefulboxblog.


The Oliver & S Bucket Hat is the perfect hat to sew!

This fabric was almost a shirt.  For me.

Now I see that it was obviously meant for as a hat for my son! And the Oliver & S Bucket Hat is the perfect hat to sew!

This fabric has been in my stash for a while and therefore I can't recall where I got it. But I loved it from the moment I saw it.  I've been pondering what it should become and thought that I had settled on a Chinese collared short sleeve shirt (ewwww, that sounds awful but thats the best description!). I got making but upon setting in the sleeves, I realised I had made a big mistake!  It was the wrong fabric for the pattern.  D'oh.  In all my excitement I hadn't given enough thought to the drape needed in the pattern. 

So it sat in the WIP pile for a bit longer.

Summer gets closer and I realise that my son has grown out of his summer hats. Light bulb moment! I finally decided to cut off the seams of the shirt and make up this beautiful cotton into this Oliver & S Bucket hat for Little Buddy. I'd been hoarding the pattern for a while too, but my pattern hoarding is for another post...a long post!!!

I am pretty happy with how it's turned out.  It keeps the sun out of his eyes and off his face perfectly.  And is unique and special.

I didn't follow the pattern to the letter as I felt "my way" was easier at the time! Next time, I won't top stitch the crown once I bagged it all out as that was fiddly and left a few bumps.  I may also add some width to the brim for that little extra shade from the sun.

Overall, the Oliver & S Bucket Hat is the perfect hat to sew! Have you made this hat too? We'd love to see your makes!  Post a pic to our Facebook page or tag #usefulboxblog on Instagram!


Box Pleat Midi Skirt - One of my favourite skirts to make!

One of my favourite skirts to make is with a box pleat. Which is lucky as I am in love with skirts at the moment. This love has come from thinking hard about what suits me and what I like to wear.  Skirts are a favourite for sure.  And I think I suit waisted midi skirts. At least I hope I do as that is one of my favourite skirts to make.

I loved this fabric the first time I saw it a month or so ago at Spotlight.  It's the Dark Leaves Linen Cotton at 133cm wide.  My friend was with me and she actually gave me the idea of a box pleat midi skirt when I feel in love with the fabric.  I actually had to buy some more when I finally came to make it! The fabric is lovely.  It has a nice drape even though it has some weight to it.  I washed it beforehand and I think that added to the ease of sewing.  I love sewing with cottons and linen, who wouldn't, so I enjoyed the actual sewing up of this piece.  Another reason this is one of my favourite skirts to make!

The pattern is a mix of a few actually!  I can't reference them here unfortunately as I have used them so often over the years that I have only my hand drawn copy of the original pattern with only "Box Pleat Midi Skirt, Size 12" as the identifier.  Note to self: I must organise my patterns!!

I knew that I wanted a tie back, pockets and the length to be the perfect midi. I drafted the pockets based on a 70's pattern of my mothers and the waist band is a simple curved length to make up the tie at the back.  And who doesn't love pockets in a skirt, especially mothers!

The only really tricky thing I encountered with the centre back pleat and how to insert the invisible zip with the pleat folding in on the CB seam.  I battled with it a little bit until I realised I can just give a few mm space between the pleat.  I also sewed down the box pleat around 8cm to make a nice flat fall over my misshapen mummy tummy. 

I was also very careful about the length. I know that I enjoy wearing midi length skirts or at least just at the bottom of my knee cap.  I also wanted a chunky hem which I could easily do with this fabric.  I made the hem 4cm and machine sewed it to give it some fullness and "air" to it!

Overall I am really pleased with how it turned out.  I enjoyed sewing it and I enjoyed showing off the finished skirt to my family.  It super fun to wear.  This really is a satisfying skirt to make.  And really is one of my favourite skirts to make!

Do you enjoy making simple skirts like this?  I'd love to see your creations.  Please post them on our Facebook page so we can all enjoy them!


Make your own wedding dress!

I've never been that little girl who dreams of her wedding day, planning every meticulous detail.  I was pleased though to actually do it in real life.

Having a background in event management, I could handle all those details easily and I knew where to start and what to focus on.  We wanted a venue that could hold both the ceremony and reception and most importantly, we wanted to feed our guest decadently! They were the big tick boxes that thankfully were checked to meet our expectations!

What were your biggest expectations of your wedding?

However, there was one element that was puzzling me - My Dress!  Just a teeny tiny element of course!  I began thinking that it would just be easy to find a dress off the rack or indeed source a fabulous vintage dress. Sure, that would save me time, it made sense.

Then one day I was chatting to my mother in law and she mentioned that she made her wedding dress and I could see how proud she was of that.  Afterall, sewing is something to be super proud of, we all know that! It made me think.  All our guests know that I can sew, some even know that I have made a friends wedding dress and will they expect that I have made my wedding dress?

More importantly, how would I feel when they asked me?  I quickly decided that I would feel awful if I said I didn't make my dress.  And I didn't want to feel that on my wedding day.

So that was that, I decided.  I am going to make my own wedding dress! I am going to be one of those proud ladies who made my own wedding dress!

Did you make your own wedding dress?

Once I had decided on making my dress, I started the search for the fabric.  Finding the right fabric was going to dictate the style of my dress. Whenever I had imagined my wedding dress growing up, it was never white.  Hell no! I look terrible in white. It was always going to be a bright red or green or teal.

I searched high and low for an emerald green silk, I even looked into having it dyed.  But to no avail. Then I found this teal, or even petrol, blue silk in Tessuti.  That was it...I found it!  The next step was to add some "bridal" to it, hence adding the lace & a train at the back.

My inspiration for the style of the dress came from this dress from BHLDN coupled with the lacy sleeves!  And I used this Vogue Pamela Roland V1289 pattern as the basic block as I loved the pleats in the bodice and skirt!

I got pattern making using the Vogue pattern and made up around 4 toiles to get the fit right - all while keeping it a secret from my partner!  

Here she is! 

I was overall really chuffed with the result and I felt a million bucks on the day.  Especially when people did ask if I had made it.  I felt most proud!

I encourage all sewers out there to make their own wedding dress.  What's stopping you??? It's the best feeling...

I'd love to hear if you made your own wedding dress?  And how you went about it?  Weddings are pretty neat!

More soon on other elements of the wedding which are handmade....!


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Tutorial :: Cushion Cover

I have a confession.  When I see tutorials on making cushion covers I think "D'uh, who can't sew a simple cushion cover!?"  But I have noticed in blogs that people are really rather keen to take up sewing. So what better thing to try your hand than a cushion cover. And I wouldn't be providing a Usefulbox of craft if I didn't cover all levels of sewing. 

So here we are, my take on a simple cushion cover. 

Materials needed:
  • Fabric & cushion insert
  • Sharp scissors
  • Thread - can use contrasting coloured thread
  • Buttons - quantity depending on the size of your cushion
  • Pins & unpicker

My cushion insert was 40cm x 60cm which I bought from Ikea. I just popped the insert on the folded fabric (also from Ikea) and estimated the fold over or 'envelope'. 

Once you've sized it all up, fold over the ends of the short side in order to hem it. 

Turn to right side after pressing.  Place your buttons on the fold to work out the positioning of the buttonholes. Use pins to mark the size of the buttonholes. I chose to use a different coloured thread for the buttonholes. 

TIP: To cut open your buttonholes, pin across one end.  Poke your unpicker into the other end in the middle of the stitching and push up to rip.  The pin at the top end with save your unpicker going through past the buttonhole.

You now have the finished ends of the "envelope".  With right sides together, fold over with the buttonhole side in the middle with the underside overlapping. 

 Sew & overlock the side seams.

Turn to the right side and press. 

I decided to stuff the cushion with the insert and while a pin is holding it shut, I then pinned where the buttons should be placed.  I pushed a pin through the buttonhole for placement. 

The way that I sew on buttons with the machine, is to take off the foot, turn to the stitch setting to the horizontal buttonhole stitch & press down the foot to hold in place.  And sew!

Once all the buttons are sewn on & you've popped in the insert...You have a cushion cover!  Voila!

Happy sewing!