How to Make Your Own Ugly Christmas Sweater

Make Ugly Christmas Sweater

Guest post by Lindsay Olsen

In the beginning, there was Great-Aunt Mabel, a woman blessed with a lot of creativity and an endless supply of yarn. What Mabel lacked in taste she made up in energy. Her nieces and nephews could always count on getting a warm, comfortable and utterly hideous sweater every Christmas.

Great-Aunt Mabel, and others like her, produced knitted monstrosities that could only be worn by the brave. Want a puffy, three-dimensional Christmas tree? Mabel had a stitch for that. Need to make sure that Rudolph’s nose is placed in a socially awkward location? Mabel’s knitting needles came with an anatomical GPS. It’s a shame she isn’t still around to wrap us all in the warm glow of holiday embarrassment.

Nowadays, the ugly Christmas sweater is a tradition to be celebrated, not worn once and hidden away in shame. If you don’t have a Great-Aunt Mabel and don’t have time to knit for yourself, there are still some options available for your Christmas party wardrobe.

Find an  ugly christmas sweater

Finding Great-Aunt Mabel

Exploring thrift shops is like searching for buried treasure. You never know what you’ll find. These stores often get donations from estates or from people who are simply cleaning out their attics. Great-Aunt Mabel’s work has been known to make an appearance. Vintage ugly Christmas sweaters can also be found in online shops and auction sites. Read the descriptions carefully to make sure the garment is the right size, and keep in mind that the actual quality and condition may not be apparent from the photos.

Tulle ugly Christmas Sweater

Starting From Scratch

The nice thing about creating a custom ugly Christmas sweater is that it doesn’t have to be a sweater at all. Any knitted top that’s heavy enough to support your decorations will do. Here are just a few of the ways to get ugly:

Artwork appliques.
This is a patch or other shape added directly to the sweater. You can draw your own designs using markers or fabric paints. Another easy option is to use iron-on transfer paper to print images you find online. Craft felt and a glue gun makes quick work of geometric designs like Christmas trees — not to mention snowpeople of either gender.

All the trimmings.
Craft stores and fabric stores are great places to find interesting and kitschy trim to add to your ugly Christmas sweater. Use string or yarn fringe to mimic icicles. For strings of ornaments, try ball fringe. The tiny yarn balls have a fuzzy texture and will sway as you move. Rickrack is an easy way to decorate a felt gingerbread house. Sequin trim adds flash and can be used to trace outlines or even woven in and around other decorations.

Light it up!
If sequins aren’t flashy enough, try battery-powered LED lights. These can be found in hobby stores or purchased online. Use strings of tiny lights as tree decorations, edging on a cottage roof or an outline around your own special sweater billboard. Larger individual lights work as noses for reindeer or for buzzed elves. Lights will need a power source and a controller. A simple pocket sewn into the lower edge of your ugly Christmas sweater will make these easy to reach.

Entering a new dimension.
Great-Aunt Mabel’s puffs and cable stitches gave her sweaters a bulky, three-dimensional look. You can do the same by adding on yarn pompoms to create Christmas trees or snowbanks. For a more sophisticated effect, try using tulle flowers. These come in a wide range of shapes and colors, and can be attached to any sweater with just a few stitches or a dab of glue. You can even use them to turn yourself into a Christmas present. Simply cover the front of the sweater with a large square of felt. Next, add a cross of wide satin ribbons. Finally, attach a cluster of tulle flowers as a bow.

make ugly christmas sweater

What to Do When Time Is Short

If you’re running short on time, searching the Web or hot-gluing elves onto your shoulder pads may not be an option. That doesn’t mean you have to attend that holiday party dressed like a civilian. Your custom ugly Christmas sweater is just a click away. Just choose your color and pattern, then add your artwork. It just shows that you can wear an ugly Christmas sweater and still be a snappy dresser – no glue gun required.

Just don’t tell Great-Aunt Mabel.


Sew a 15-Minute Placemat with Laminated Fabric

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #RitzFilledNotHangry #CollectiveBias

15-Minute Placemat with Laminated Fabric Sewing Tutorial

My toddler son is a picky eater. It’s not something I’m proud of, but it’s the truth! That’s why when we are going out and about, I fill up my “mom bag” with tons of snack options for him. His go-to “meals” these days are peanut butter sandwich crackers, applesauce pouches, fruit snacks, and almonds. Thank goodness there is some protein in there, because meat is one of the toughest things to get him interested in!
I thought it would be cool to make him his own little placemat, so that whether we are at home just hanging out in the living room, he can have a cute place to enjoy his snacks (that’s not our leather sofa).
I’ve had this laminated cotton fabric designed for a while now, and I’m so happy I found the perfect little project for it! To make one 13″ x 17″ placemat, you’ll need:

15-Minute Placemat with Laminated Fabric Sewing Tutorial


– 14″ x 18″ piece of laminated cotton fabric
– 14″ x 18″piece of quilt batting
– 14″ x 18″ piece of backing fabric (I used inexpensive white muslin)


15-Minute Placemat with Laminated Fabric Sewing Tutorial

1. Layer your fabrics as follows: quilt batting on the bottom, laminated cotton fabric on top of that (facing right side UP), and backing fabric on top of that (facing right side down).

15-Minute Placemat with Laminated Fabric Sewing Tutorial

2. Sew around the perimeter of the stack of fabrics, about 1/2″ from the edge. Leave a 3″ section open on one short side for turning. Trim the seam allowance to 1/4″. Use your scissors to trim the corners at an angle, which will make it easier to poke out the corners in the next step.

15-Minute Placemat with Laminated Fabric Sewing Tutorial

3. Turn the placemat right side out, using a pencil or a chopstick to poke out the corners. Take the placemat to your sewing machine and pin the 3″ opening closed. Sew where you’ve pinned about 1/8″ from the edge to close the hole.

15-Minute Placemat with Laminated Fabric Sewing Tutorial

4. Next, topstitch 1/4″ from the edge around the perimeter of your placemat. If the laminated fabric sticks under your sewing machine foot, you can place a piece of masking tape on the underside of your sewing foot to keep it moving smoothly.

15-Minute Placemat with Laminated Fabric Sewing Tutorial

5. When sewing with laminated cotton fabric, it’s still okay to iron it, but always use a pressing cloth (another piece of fabric) so it doesn’t melt under your iron!

15-Minute Placemat with Laminated Fabric and Cardboard Box Tray Tutorial

6. Inspired by Pinterest, I also made my son a little tray to use with it out of a cardboard box. To make this part, just cut the flaps off of a box, and then cut “tunnels” in the two wider sides. I also taped a smaller box to the side, to make a storage container for toys or other snacks. The placemat fits perfectly on top!

15-Minute Placemat with Laminated Fabric Sewing Tutorial

Ta da! This placemat is the perfect size for a toddler to enjoy their favorite snacks. We love RITZ Peanut Butter Filled Sandwich Crackers and the cheese ones come in a close second.

15-Minute Placemat with Laminated Fabric and Cardboard Box Tray Tutorial

My nearest Kroger store is one of my favorites to visit, because it has everything I need, but it’s also not huge, so I can get in and out quickly. When my son gets kind of hungry… I mean “hangry”… he’s far from my favorite shopping companion. But I do keep lots of snacks in my mom bag, and a pack of these crackers always put him in a better mood. I’m so glad that RITZ Filled Sandwich Crackers are now available at Kroger stores! I usually find them in the lunchbox section, nearby the applesauce pouches my son also loves.

I hope you have fun making this placemat, and good luck keeping your kids from getting too “hangry”!

‘Sew Place Like Home’ Gift Idea for Sewists

Are you looking for a gift for your best sewing friend? Something to warm her heart this holiday season?

I’m excited to share with you a brand new book filled with sewing-related stories, essays, tutorials, recipes and more! The e-book can be downloaded instantly to your Kindle, or a free Kindle reading app on your smartphone or computer.

Sew Place Like Home

Sew Place Like Home: A Collection of Essays and Projects for People Who Love to Sew is edited by my sewing friends Jessica Abbott and Melissa Mora, and includes contributions from Stacey Byrne, Elizabeth Evans and Liz Evans, Shannon Clarke, Deborah Moebes, Jenny Rushmore and me!

To give you a little taste of what’s inside, I’m sharing a free excerpt of one of my favorite essays from the book. As I grow into motherhood myself, I am drawn to Jess’s story about sewing for her daughter:

Sew Place Like Home eBook

Excerpt from “She’ll Thank Me For This Someday,” by Jessica Abbott

It’s 1a.m., and here I sit. In front of my sewing machine, trying to desperately finish up the dress needed for tomorrow’s big school recital. The quiet whir of the machine, the feel of the satin as it slips through my fingers, a silent house, it almost has a dream like quality as my eyes start to blur from sleepiness. I stopped saying ‘5 more minutes’ hours ago.

You see, the thing is, the dress is not desperately needed. Truth be told, I could have easily gone to our local department store and picked up something similar for under $30. It would have saved me hours of time, and probably sanity.

But I am a seamstress. Do I really need to say any more than that?

My love for sewing is in my bones. And the thought of my daughter up on that stage in anything other than a handmade dress keeps me up at night…sewing.

Tomorrow morning I might wake up bleary eyed, regretting my life decisions as I reach for my third cup of coffee. But for now, all I can think of is the joy I will feel as I watch my daughter up on that stage. Walking down the center aisle, knowing that she draped in love.


Sew Place Like Home Kindle

I can’t wait for you to read the rest of her story, and the other wonderful pieces in the Sew Place Like Home e-book! I’ve downloaded it to a Kindle app on my phone for late-night reading.

There is so much to be thankful for in this life, and I’m very proud to be this book because it shares some of life’s simply beautiful moments. Sewists will appreciate it the most, but it’s also great for those who love to bake, craft or create in their own ways. In addition to the essays, there are several holiday gift tutorials and recipes that are perfect for giving! I can’t wait to try the Quilt-As-You-Go Pot Holder project and the Spiced Hot Chocolate recipe mix.

Get the book

Disclaimer: Affiliate ads are included in this post, but all opinions are my own. Happy reading!

Free Christmas Printable: Rustic Holiday Gifts Tags

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #ShareTheHoliday #CollectiveBias

Free Printable: Rustic Christmas Gift Tags | Craft Buds

Christmas is just around the corner, and I couldn’t be more excited to spend it creating new family traditions and and sharing the season with loved ones. Today I’m going to share a super-quick tutorial showing how to make a rustic gift tag for your edible gifts. There’s even a free printable you can download!

Free Printable: Rustic Christmas Gift Tags | Craft Buds

You know when you’re in a mood to eat Christmas cookies, but you don’t want to spend hours in the kitchen? Or perhaps you’re looking for a quick holiday gift for that special teacher, neighbor, friend, or service provider. I recently decorated some store-bought brownie bites with white icing (the tube kind with a star tip from the cake mix aisle) and sprinkles. They were so tasty and quick to put together.

Free Printable: Rustic Christmas Gift Tags | Craft Buds

Toss those cookies (no, not that kind of “toss”) into the ultra-convenient Rubbermaid TakeAlongs, and it’s an instant, thoughtful gift. And you won’t even have to break a sweat.

Rubbermaid TakeAlongs + Free Holiday Gift Tag Printable | Craft Buds

The next time you are at Walmart, look for the green and red Rubbermaid TakeAlongs for a perfect, no-fuss gift. Fill them with trail mix, cookies, candy, or other treats. The endcap display includes lots of sizes and shapes (squares, rectangles and bowls), and they are easy to use, with no spills! If you are lucky, you might even find the limited-edition holiday prints. Since I am making cookies to freeze, I was glad to know they are freezer safe!

Making the Rustic Holiday Gift Tags

Free Printable: Rustic Christmas Gift Tags | Craft Buds

1) To make the holiday gift tags, use scissors to trim one side of a paper grocery bag to the same size as your printer paper (8 1/2″ x 11″). Insert the new “paper” into your laser or inkjet printer.

Free Printable: Rustic Christmas Gift Tags | Craft Buds

2) Download the free Printable Gift Tags here! Print a test sheet on regular copy paper, and when you are ready, print out the sheet of four gift tags on your paper-bag paper.

Free Printable: Rustic Christmas Gift Tags | Craft Buds

3) Cut out a gift tag and poke a hole into the top and loop through a piece of ribbon or twine. Tie a piece of festive, wire ribbon around your Rubbermaid TakeAlongs container, and tie on the tag. Slip in a candy cane, and you’re done!

I’m planning to take some sweet treats to my son’s teachers this Christmas. I know this free printable gift tag will come in handy! For more great holiday inspiration, click here!

DIY Catnip Mouse: Free Cat Toy Pattern

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #ToPetsWithLove #CollectiveBias

DIY Catnip Mouse, Free Sewing Pattern | Craft Buds

Does your furry friend need a little extra love? Today I’m excited to share a free cat you pattern inspired by my two cats, Murph and Chloe. Their favorite toy is a catnip mouse. However, the ones we buy from the pet store are a little too realistic (think HUGE, brown RAT) and sometimes they even cause me to do a double-take. Even if you are a beginning sewist, you can make this with materials you probably already have around the house!

DIY Catnip Mouse, Free Sewing Pattern | Craft Buds


  • Old t-shirt or small scrap of knit (stretchy) fabric
    • Cut two ovals 2″ x 4″
  • Contrasting color fabric for ears
    • Cut two ears, each about the size of a dime
  • Embroidery floss in a contrasting color
  • Scissors
  • Needle and thread
  • Fiber filling
  • 12-inch strip of ribbon
  • Catnip


1) Stitch a face onto one oval as pictured, with contrasting embroidery floss. Add eyes, a nose and whiskers. Use a single strand of thread and a hand-sewing needle to stitch one ear to the mouse.

2) Tie 3 knots into the ribbon tail at regular intervals. Zig-zag stitch one end to bottom of the mouse (the oval without the face) with your sewing machine or hand stitch if preferred.

3) Place the mouse top over the mouse bottom and stitch using a sewing machine or hand sewing needle about 1/4″ from the perimeter. Leave a 1″-opening near the tail for stuffing.

4) Use scissors to make small snips 1/4″ from each other around the perimeter of the mouse toy, making sure not to snip into the stitches.


5) Fill the mouse with a small handful of stuffing.

6) Sprinkle catnip into the opening.

7) Stitch the mouse closed using your sewing machine or a hand sewing needle. Alternately, you can leave it open if you want to refill it often.

DIY Catnip Mouse Free Cat Toy Pattern | Craft Buds

Tip: If you’d like, you can tie a mouse to a dowel rod and ribbon to make a magic cat wand toy!

DIY Catnip Mouse Free Cat Toy Pattern | Craft Buds

My cat Murph loved the catnip mouse toy on its own, but Chloe definitely preferred the wand. It was really fun and easy to sew up these cat toys, and I’m happy that I got to use up so many fabric scraps that I just had laying around!

DIY Catnip Mouse Free Cat Toy Pattern | Craft Buds

My cats love crunchy Friskies Party Mix when we sprinkle some on top of their dry food. Fancy Feast Purely is something I can feel proud to feed our cats, because it has real protein and no by-products or fillers. And, the little size makes them great stocking stuffers!

DIY Catnip Toy

For the holidays, I’m planning to treat the cats to some more handmade toys and some of their favorite treats that I picked up at Kroger on a grocery run. It’s a great one-stop shop for pet food, treats and toys!

Visit Purina for more inspiration on how to treat your furry friends for the holidays!

Spread holiday love to your furry friends with the help of Purina! Now through the end of November, take advantage of great savings on your favorite Purina pet products available at Kroger with this link, while supplies last.

DIY Toddler Train Costume for Under $10


My son loves trains, and since it’s close to Halloween, I thought it would be fun for us to make a DIY train costume together. So I searched Pinterest for ideas, and I was inspired by this train costume so much that I went into the garage in search of boxes!

DIY Toddler Train Costume | Craft Buds

Here’s the finished product! This DIY train costume was easy to make, and it cost less than $10! I used almost everything I already had at home, and you probably have many of the materials in your junk drawer. The only things I purchased were this blue spray paint and this Gold Duck Brand Tape (affiliate links) on Amazon.

DIY Toddler Train Costume | Craft Buds

1. To get started, I chose a deeper box for the base and a shallow box of the same width for the front. After cutting off all the box flaps (set these aside for later!), I cut a hole large enough for my son to squeeze through in the base of the deeper box. I cut a slot for the shallow box to insert it into the end of the deeper box, then curved the front to make a space for the wheels.

2. Use as much strong tape as you can to secure the two boxes together. You’ll spray paint over this later.

DIY Toddler Train Costume | Craft Buds

3. Gather materials from around your house for the other elements of the choo-choo train. Have fun! Cut 6 circles out from cardboard for your wheels. I printed off this train wheel clipart (resize as desired) and used a glue stick to adhere to each of the cardboard wheels. I think they turned out so cute, and they were much easier than drawing my own.

DIY Toddler Train Costume | Craft Buds

4. I used an oatmeal container with a toilet paper tube stuck inside (not pictured) for the train’s “nose.” Any time I could, I cut the boxes and inserted one shape into another to make them fit snugly. This is more secure than taping. After you get the shape of the box to your liking, spray paint it!

DIY Toddler Train Costume | Craft Buds

5. Let the box dry and apply gold Duck Tape to decorate the train. To get the number, I printed a number on computer paper, then traced the outline of the number on the back of the paper. I then covered the number completely with gold tape, and cut it out using my outline on the back. The number can then be glued onto your train!

DIY Toddler Train Costume | Craft Buds

6. To adhere the wheels to the box, I used e6000 glue (affiliate link) I already had at the house. It is super strong and worked the best out of anything else I tried!

DIY train costume | Craft Buds

7. You’ll notice that I took the straps off the train, because my son didn’t like them. To make the straps, I put a safety pin in each end of a piece of ribbon, then used the pin to feed the ribbon through 4 tiny holes in the box, criss-crossing the straps. For an older child, you could leave the straps straight. I tied a double knot and just left the safety pins on the ribbon in case they needed to be adjusted.

Thanks for checking out this toddler DIY train costume! Read about Mary’s fabric pumpkin tutorial to help you get into the spirit of the season.

How to Grocery Shop and Cook More Efficiently

5 grocery shopping and meal planning hacks to save you time and money

If you cook for your family most days of the week, you know how much time it can take. It’s not just the actual time spent cooking, it’s also the menu planning, list making and grocery shopping. Even if you love to cook, it’s a lot of time dedicated to a single thing. Maybe you wish you had more time for crafting, reading or another hobby. Here are some tips to streamline your planning, shopping and cooking so you have as much free time as possible outside the kitchen.

1. Simplify According to Your Schedule

If you have certain days of the week where your work schedule is busy, your kids have after school activities, or there is some other addition to the schedule, take that into account before you plan out your meals for the week. On days where the afternoons are full of work or activities, plan something extremely simple for dinner such as make-you-own sandwiches or a baked potato bar. You can even throw in a pizza delivery night every now and then. Make the meal plan work for you, so you can spend more time outside the kitchen.

2. Stock Up on Grab and Go Snacks

If you have to spend time in the kitchen making snacks for the kids in addition to the time spent making meals, you’ll be in the kitchen a lot. Stock up on snack items that your kids can get themselves so you won’t need to spend a lot of time scrounging around for food during the pre-dinner hours. There are numerous options for healthy snacks that you can keep in your pantry and fridge.

3. Try Once-a-Month Cooking

This method works extremely well for some people and others hate it, so you’ll probably have to try it out to see if it’s for you. The concept definitely cuts down on your daily time in the kitchen. Once you take a couple days to prep and cook your meals for the month, all you have to do is toss dinner in the oven or slow cooker. This method also allows you to buy meats, cheeses and vegetables in bulk so you may save some money at the store.

If you want a little more flexibility, you can take a day every month to prep dinner for half of the upcoming days. That way on days when you have a busy schedule or just don’t feel like cooking you can pull a homemade meal out of the freezer. You can either make casseroles that just require reheating or prep slow-cooker meals where you simply place all the ingredients in the slow cooker in the morning.

4. Try a Subscription Box

It seems like there are subscription boxes for everything nowadays, and there are even several options for home cooks! These dinner box subscriptions come with all the ingredients and instructions you need to make a home-cooked meal so you don’t need to worry about finding a recipe and then shopping for the ingredients. There is also less food waste because the boxes include the exact amount of every ingredient you need for the recipes. There are several different brands and most offer trial boxes so you can see if it works for your family.

5. Choose Recipes with Overlapping Ingredients

One of the best ways to limit your time in the grocery store and kitchen is to plan your meals wisely. Try to find recipes with overlapping ingredients so you cut your grocery list down and throw away less food. Leftover rice can be used the next night to make fried rice. Use delicious and healthy flavored mayo from Hampton Creek for sandwiches one night and Mediterranean pasta salad later in the week. Look at the things you normally keep on hand in your fridge and pantry and build your meal plan with those ingredients in mind.

With all you have going on in your life, it’s important to streamline your shopping and cooking activities so you have more time for all the other areas of your life. Freezer cooking once a month can save a lot of time if the method works for you. Dinner subscriptions boxes are another good option. Planning your menu around a set of common ingredients makes your shopping and cooking easier. It can take a while to find the right method for your family, but once you do, you’ll enjoy all the extra time you’re not spending in the kitchen.


What tips do you have to make grocery shopping and meal prep more efficient?

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post and Craft Buds was compensated for posting.

Sewing Easy Patchwork Bags + Baskets

Today, I’m excited to share a project I made from a brand new Craftsy class called Colorful Patchwork Bags & Baskets! It’s a sturdy patchwork basket that can be used to hold a variety of things, and I think I’ve decided I’m claiming it for my sewing room. :)

Patchwork Basket - Craftsy review

Colorful Patchwork Bags & Baskets (affiliate link) is a taught by Craftsy instructor Caroline Fairbanks-Critchfield, who you know from her popular website and newsletter, Sew Can She. I had the chance to meet Caroline a few years ago at QuiltCon, and she is totally awesome. She’s smart and creative, and very passionate about teaching quick and easy projects that you can make for yourself, as well as sharing the creative work of others.

Patchwork Basket - Craftsy review

The class itself focuses on three types of projects, all made using Caroline’s secret weapon: gridded fusible interfacing. By fusing patchwork squares of any size (seriously… 2″ to 10″ squares… whatever is in your stash!), you can make patchwork panels and turn them into a 1) basket, 2) tote bag or 3) zipper pouch. My first project was the basket, but I’m going to have to try the cute tote bag next!

Patchwork Basket - Craftsy review

Aside from the gridded fusible interfacing, I used a square of Peltex sturdy sew-in interfacing on the bottom and Pellon Thermolam fusible interfacing on all sides. Instead of making fabric handles, I substituted my own canvas and leather handles salvaged from a thrifted tote.

Patchwork Basket - Craftsy review

The basket has these really cute corners which fold out and then over on two of the sides, giving you a peel of 9-10 different fabrics at once, so you can really have fun with your patchwork! Use all of your scraps… mix it up. I had fun picking out some of my favorite fabrics, like Essex linen and those Cotton + Steel apples, and mixing them with my go-to scraps and some neutrals I had on hand. Oh… the bottom is patchwork, too!

Craftsy Colorful Patchwork Bags + Baskets


Want to learn more? Head over and check out the video to learn a little more about Caroline’s Craftsy class! You’ll learn a lot about interfacing, drafting a custom bag pattern, and customizing your project to any size, from a teeny tiny zipper pouch to a super large beach tote or basket!

Craftsy Colorful Patchwork Bags + Baskets

My take on the class: It’s great for beginners and perfect for someone who has time to make a small project here and there, but may not want to tackle a whole quilt. You probably have many of these materials in your stash, so what have you got to lose?!

Congrats to Caroline on this new class. I hope you get to check it out! Caroline has provided a special link so you can get the class for 50% off, and best of all, this deal never expires!

Check out the rest of the projects in the blog hop here!


Sporty Strap Pack Sew Along – Post #3: Finishing the Bag

On the Go Bags Sew Along 5

Welcome to the second post of the Sporty Strap Pack sew along! This is the one-shoulder backpack pattern featured on the cover of our book On the Go Bags, co-written by Janelle MacKay of Emmaline Bags.

Janelle kicked off our sew along with several helpful posts for those of you sewing the Airport Sling Bag, (another one from the book!) which you’ll find here:

Airport Sling:

Sporty Strap Pack:

You may have already joined the On the Go Bags Facebook group, but in case you haven’t, check it out for all of the sew along info.You can share your bag progress, ask questions, and even enter to win prizes just for sewing along! We’ll do about 2 weeks of instruction for each bag, and then you’ll have 4 weeks to finish for a chance to enter your bag for giveaways.

Sporty Strap Pack Riley Blake

Here’s the bag again, featured in Keep on Groovin’ from Riley Blake Designs.

Adding the Zipper Flap

In the last post, we talked about getting the pockets and straps made for the bag. Now we are focusing on that zipper and zipper flap.


Fold your interfaced zipper flap piece in half. Prepare the zipper tabs by folding in half, then opening up and folding each raw edge in an extra 1/4″ toward the center. Insert both ends of your 18″ zipper into one of these zipper tabs about halfway.


Cut off the metal stopper end of your zipper if needed to get it to 18″ in length.

DSC_0066 DSC_0068

Here’s another view showing how I inserted a zipper end in a zipper tab. Note that it goes about halfway down. This is because you want to extend the zipper with fabric, in a sense, and leave a little fabric to sew through at the very tip to where you don’t have to sew through the actual zipper along with all the layers of your backpack.

Now stitch the zipper tab to each end of the zipper as shown in the book.


Here comes the scary part. But it really doesn’t have to be scary! Take the lining panel and outer panel that look like this (neck pointed slightly to the left) when placed right sides together, with the lining closest to you. Or refer to the pattern notches and directions in the book. Place your long ruler 1 1/2″ from the left side of the neck, traveling straight down to the center of the bag pieces. Use your rotary cutter to slice through both layers along this line. You can mark it with a pen to be safe!


Slice! That wasn’t so bad.


Next, take the left half of the outer body piece you just sliced and place it in front of you, right side facing up. Place the zipper flap, which you pressed in half earlier, on top so the raw edges align. Then, place the zipper on top of that, with the zipper pull side face down. The right edge of the zipper will align with the raw edges of your outer panel and zipper flap. Pin together if you’d like… we’ll be adding one more layer!


Next, layer the half of the lining flap you cut earlier face down on this stack. Make sure it has the same shape/notches as the body piece below.

Pin or clip everything in this stack together (not pictured)…


Carefully removing pins as you go, stitch together everything you pinned together in the last step. Use your fingers to make sure everything stays aligned along the raw edges as you sew.

The zipper will especially want to get away from you when you are stitching past the zipper pull. No worries! Just lift your presser foot when you get close, raise the needle, unzip the zipper a bit, and continue stitching. I like to start with it in the middle, and then move it out of my way back toward the beginning so I can finish stitching in peace.


When you have completed this step, your panel will look something like this. You can see the zipper flap naturally falls over to the left of the zipper.

Now take that whole panel and fold it in half, so the wrong sides of the fabric are facing…


And press it so it looks like this. Fold the zipper flap over the zipper and press.


Now topstitch two lines to the left of the zipper flap, on the outer fabric, going through the lining fabric on the other side.

Notice how my lining is sticking out a bit below my outer panel? Not concerned… we’ll trim that off in a bit, as well as the excess zipper tab peeking out.


Okay, now it’s time to take your remaining outer body panel (the right half when you sliced it earlier) and place it right side up in front of you.


Next, take the bag panel we just worked on. Stack it on top, so the zipper edge is facing left and the neck is pointing up. Line up the raw edges.


To complete this “bag sandwich” you’ll add the final half of the lining panel, face down.

Pin along the raw edges as before, and stitch.


Now repeat the same steps as before, pressing and topstitching. More details on this in the book.

You’ve got it!


Putting it all together


Remember that bag panel with the pocket and straps? Grab it, and stuff the straps inside the pocket. Add some pins if you’d like. You’ll want them out of the way.


Okay, now pin the two outer fabric panels together. the one on the bottom (right side facing up) has the pocket. The one on top (right side facing down) has the zipper. Since you don’t want the lining to get caught, roll it up like a burrito in the center and pin.


Important tip! When sewing around the neck, you don’t want to sew too much of the strap corners. This is because you’ll want the strap free so it can swing in any direction. We’ll be covering this raw edge with the strap facing later. So either before or after you do this step, you can unpick a few stitches to get that top strap out of the way. Then, just use your fingers to manipulate it through the sewing machine so you don’t have to sew the strap too… just the outer body panels!


Here’s another great tip! When sewing the body panels together, your lining will be pinned to the center, right? What happens when you inevitably have to sew over the tip of the lining, near the zipper? It’s okay…. just go right over it. for the inch that you need to, but pull back the lining before and after the zipper so it doesn’t get caught in your stitch line. You want it to be free for the next step…


Take the lining panel (the one with the elastic pocket, and place it face down on the other lining panel (the one with the zipper. Pin around the edges of just the lining panels. You can pin the body pieces out of the way, if you’d like. Stitch, leaving a hole for turning.

Note: I’d love it if someone wanted to try leaving their turning hole in the side instead of the bottom of the lining. After several bags, we think this might be easier!


Here’s what your bag will look like after the body pieces are joined and the lining pieces are joined. It’s kind of like a star fruit!


Tip! Your bag has probably shifted a little bit. Since one panel has a zipper and one doesn’t, one will naturally be larger. Just use your rotary cutter to gently trim off the excess lining. The shape of this bag is very forgiving.



Turn that bag right side out and pin the lining closed so you can hand or machine stitch it.


When you get to this 1″ section nearest the zipper, you might have to just bite the bullet and hand stitch it. Or be lazy like me, and just leave that bit of the lining open.

Prep the Strap Facing


This one is pretty straightforward in the book, but I wanted to give you some pics of the strap facing I sewed for the bag…


Here it is right side out.


And here it is stitched to the bag strap. Ta da!


I think a matching or contrasting strap facing can work well here, so feel free to change your mind. It’s just a small scrap of fabric, so pick something you’ll be really happy with.


Remember that strap buckle? I rarely read the instructions when putting one on… I kind of  slip it on and off in different directions until something just “feels right.” This is why my husband and I can never assemble IKEA furniture together. He wants to read the directions, and I’m all… “Eh, this looks like it could go here.” :)

Thank goodness for instruction-type people!


Here is a fresh look at the back of the bag, which shows the strap situation a little better. When I took it to Chicago, it was a little “slidey” on me, so if that happens to you, just take it out and try, try again.

Tip: Burn and melt the end of nylon strapping with a lighter for a few seconds to keep it from unraveling.

Goodness, this was fun!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this Sporty Strap Pack Sew Along! I hope it encouraged you to try something new, and that it was fun and not too intimidating. Those who know me also know that I’m often sewing during my son’s nap times or late at night. I may have only small amounts of time to work on a bag, and then I get interrupted… Then I come back and make a mistake, losing my train of thought. It happens! We can all be brave and try something new, and let our seam rippers do their jobs. :)

And now, here’s where you can link up your bag for prizes…. 5 winners will be randomly selected from all entries submitted by June 15th! Don’t forget to enter your finished Airport Slings by May 30th… you’ve still got time!


And if you have a moment, we’d also like to invite you to upload a picture of your finished bag (any one from the book) to an Amazon review, to share with the world. And share it on the Facebook group, because we want to ooh and ahh over it. :)


Sporty Strap Pack Sew Along – Post #2: Straps + Pockets

On the Go Bags Sew Along 5

Welcome to the second post of the Sporty Strap Pack sew along! This is the one-shoulder backpack pattern featured on the cover of our book On the Go Bags, co-written by Janelle MacKay of Emmaline Bags.

Janelle kicked off our sew along with several helpful posts for those of you sewing the Airport Sling Bag, (another one from the book!) which you’ll find here:

Airport Sling:

Sporty Strap Pack:

You may have already joined the On the Go Bags Facebook group, but in case you haven’t, check it out for all of the sew along info.You can share your bag progress, ask questions, and even enter to win prizes just for sewing along! We’ll do about 2 weeks of instruction for each bag, and then you’ll have 4 weeks to finish for a chance to enter your bag for giveaways.

Sporty Strap Pack Riley Blake

Here’s the bag again, featured in Keep on Groovin’ from Riley Blake Designs.

Making the Straps


In the last post, we got all of our pieces cut out and stabilized or interfaced. Here are the right sides of the strap pieces. You’ll see the 2 small and 2 large ones. The nylon strapping gets pinned onto 1 of each, with the longer strapping pinned to the shorter strap, and the shorter strapping pinned to the longer strap.


In the Facebook group this week, Melissa asked me if the stabilizer for the curved strap goes right up to the end of the fabric (as pictured above), or if it gets pushed back a 1/4″, to allow for an easier time sewing the seam allowance. My answer: Push the stabilizer 1/4″ back from what is featured in the picture, so it’s not butting up against the edge of the strap. This will go through your sewing machine easier.

Truthfully, I didn’t trim back my stabilizer on any of my Sporty Strap Packs, because my sewing machine sews right through them! I reduce bulk after sewing with a pinking rotary cutter, so the straps lay nice and flat after topstitching. But that suggestion on cutting back the stabilizer to be a little smaller than the straps will help you out if your sewing machine has a rough time going through multiple layers. :)


Here are the interfaced sides of each strap after they are sewn to the matching one. See that little nylon strapping hanging over the edge? We’re gonna trim that off next.


I like to use a pinking rotary blade to trim off the entire curved edge of both straps, including the nylon strapping. You can also notch the curves with regular scissors or pinking shears.

Now turn those straps right side out, press….


…. And add your two layers of top stitching! Mine are about 1/4″ from the edge, and another 1/4″ inside that.

If your nylon strapping didn’t stay perfectly centered, you can rip out some stitches in the end and reposition the strapping to try again. Make sure to do this before topstitching, though.


Here is how they look attached to the outer panel of the Sporty Strap Pack. I recommend pinning and basting in place. Make sure you baste them to the panel that has the neck slightly slanted to the right side. (See the note in the book about the notches on the pattern piece if you need more help figuring out which side is which.)

Making the Flat Pocket (and Pocket Flap)

I’ve used contrasting pockets on this bag, but you can also choose to match the fabrics for the outer bag and pockets, like the one on the book’s cover.


When we were writing the book, Janelle came up with this neat idea to have one curved pattern piece that coordinates with multiple patterns. So all you need to do to “curve” the bottom corners of your pocket flap is find the appropriate curve line on the pattern piece and line it up as shown. Repeat with the second corner of your pocket flap.


To find the center point of your pocket flap and flat pocket, fold them in half and use your finger to make a crease. Then apply the magnetic snaps as explained in the book. If you’ve never used a magnetic snap, I think you’ll find them quite easy to master, and they add a lot of bang for your buck as far as making your pockets look professional.


Here are both my curved pocket flap and flat pocket pieces with the magnetic snap attached. Note that I’ve inserted the magnetic snaps into the stabilized pieces. I make the tiniest hole with my seam ripper, and then force the magnetic snap prongs through the layers. This way, I can avoid having to use fray check. But that’s always an option if your holes end up being very big and you want to prevent them from tearing.


After the magnetic snaps are in place, stitch the flat pockets together leaving a gap in the top side (see the pins). Do the same with the pocket flap. See where I’ve pinned it? The top flat side is where you’ll turn it.


Now turn that flat pocket right side out, and add two lines of topstitching 1/8″ from the edge, and 1/4″ from the top edge to close that turning area. Place the pocket on your bag front (the one with the straps attached) as shown, using the measurements from the book as your guide.

Pin the pocket in place and stitch around the three bottom sides.


After that pocket is stitched on, place your pocket flap on the bag so that the metal snaps connect. Pin the flap in place and use a single line of stitching 1/8″ from the top edge to attach it to the bag front.


Here is the flap opened after sewing it to the bag. Plenty of room between it and the top of the pocket, which is great for stashing your cell phone or keys securely!

Making the Elastic Pocket


Remember that corner template? We are going to use this again. Refer to the book to make sure you are cutting the correct curve for the elastic pocket. Curve the two bottom corners of both pocket pieces. This will be along the 10″ side.


Now stitch them together, leaving a gap in the curved bottom for turning.


Turn the pocket right side out. Here, I am using a frixion pen to mark a straight line 3/4″ from the top, which will create my elastic casing.


Rip out a few stitches on both the right and left sides of the pocket, just above the line you sewed in the last step. Insert your elastic and safety pin, referring to the directions in the book for completing the elastic pocket. I hope these photos help give you extra visuals to explain the process!


Here is the almost finished elastic pocket. Just stitch to secure the longer end, and trim off that elastic.


Next, pin the elastic pocket to your bag lining piece which has the neck curved slightly to the left, as shown above. See your pattern piece and notches for further clarification. Remember, the bottom of the pocket is still opened, with the seam pressed in 1/4″. We’ll be stitching that down as we sew all around the pocket’s left, bottom and right curve.


Here’s picture of the gathered pocket sewn onto the lining and the flat pocket sewn onto the outer bag with straps. Although, the pocket flap should also be sewn on… I just hadn’t gotten a picture of that yet.

We’ve accomplished a lot today!

If you have any questions about the Sporty Strap Pack Sew Along, feel free to ask them in the On the Go Bags Facebook group! I’ll respond to any questions on the group or will incorporate them into future sew along posts.

Thank you for sewing along with us. It means so much to me and Janelle, and we are humbled and grateful every time we see one of your creations!

If you have a moment to go post a review of the book on Amazon or, that would be so generous of you. Pssst… you can even add your bag photos and comments to the review page!


On the Go Bags Sew Along Sponsors

Aurifil * Blend Fabrics * ByAnnie * C&T Publishing * Craftsy * Pellon * Riley Blake Designs

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