Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Tutorial: Patchwork Tissue Holder

Tissue holders are an excellent project for beginner sewers. They're quick (around 30 minutes the first time), they do not require large investments in fabric and other than sewing a straight line there are no special sewing skills involved. And they turn out impressively cute, don't you think? 

There are many tutorials out there for a basic one-fabric pouch. This is for a patchwork-style and it is made using four different fabrics. Let's get started.

Fabric scraps measuring 16" by 14" in total
Sewing machine, thread to match fabric
Tape measure or ruler
Cardboard or cardstock for template
Sharp scissors for cutting fabric, or rotary cutter and ruler
Tailor's chalk or washable fabric pen to trace template onto fabric

1. ASSEMBLE and iron your fabric. I used four different patterns, plus a solid linen for the lining. In total you need enough fabric to piece together two sections, each measuring 6" by 7.5". This project is perfect for teensy scraps, like these 6" by 6" samples I had on hand.

2. TAKE two fabric pieces and stack them, right sides together. This means the two "nice" sides face each other. Make a simple running stitch down one side to join them. Remember to back up your stitches at the top and bottom of the fabric so it does not come apart. (I see I made a mistake in labelling this photo: it is the right side that is sewn together, not the left.)

3. Press open the seams with a hot iron. There is a saying in sewing "If you don't have time to press, you don't have time to sew." A good press really does make all the difference in keeping your project straight, tidy and well-shaped. 

4. REPEAT steps 2 & 3 with the other two fabric pieces. And press the seam open. Here is an example of pressed (left) and unpressed seams. the Unpressed seam is bunchy and will result in an uneven design in the next steps. 

5. YOU now have two strips of fabric, which need to be sewn together. Line them up, right sides facing and sew a straight line down the right side. Press the seam to one side. You should have something that looks like this:

6. TRACE and cut out a template measuring 6 by 7.5". You can skip this step and trace directly onto your fabric, but it is useful to have a template on hand if you will make this more than once.

7. POSITION your template and trace it onto fabric. Play around with the orientation and positioning of the template until you find a combination that you like. Centred will result in a symmetrical finished design. Here, I used an off-centre design.

8. CUT out your fabric and lining to the template size. I like to use a rotary cutter, which is like a pizza cutter for fabric. Very sharp! You must use a special ruler and cutting mat, but totally worth the $30  investment if you are planning to take up sewing. 

I used a natural linen for the lining. Needs a good iron!

9. SEW the lining and patchwork fabric, right sides facing. Sew the two 6" sides. Leave the 7" edges open. You will be left with a tube of fabric with two finished (sewn) edges and two raw (unfinished edges). Clip those threads nice and close.

This is what you should have:

10. TURN the fabric side out. Press flat. Turn your fabric so the finished edges are at the top and bottom and the patchwork is facing up. Fold the top and bottom toward the centre. I like a slight overlap (1/8") so the finished product doesn't gape open. Press lightly. 

11. CUT a 1.5" piece of colour-coordinated ribbon or twill tape. Fold in half. Again, this step is not required. It is not functional, just a decorative touch. 

Place the cut edge of the folded ribbon along the cut edge of one of the sides. Make sure the loop end is facing toward the centre of your fabric.

12. FOLD the finished edges to meet at the centre. Make sure the ribbon doesn't shift!

13. SEW the two unfinished edges. I use a scant seam allowance - just the width of the presser foot. If your seam allowance is too big the tissue pouch will be bulky and bunchy. Finish the raw edge with a zigzag stitch, or trim with pinking shears to prevent unravelling. Make it tidy by clipping errant threads. Carefully clip each of the four corners on a diagonal (take care to not cut into your stitches). This will make your corners nice and sharp in the final step.

14. TURN your tissue pouch right sides out. Use a knitting needle or chopstick (something pointy but not too sharp) to push out the corners. Don't push too hard or you might poke a hole through the stitching.

If there is one thing I learned from Project Runway, it is the value of a good pressing. Use your iron to stretch and pull the fabric into shape, if necessary. Add your tissue pack and you're done.

Here is the reverse side:

And here are two others, made for a friend: