upcycling: a patchwork blanket from scraps

i used to have a moving box under my cutting table to throw all the scraps and remnants in, pieces that would be too small to use for a garment. that’s where it all started with this blanket. once this box started overflowing with fabric remnants – anticipate: real quick! – i felt i had to do something about it. honestly, what keeps me interested in sewing is certainly not home deco, like pillows, blankets, curtains.. however, sometimes you do need those things and sometimes you happen to have the material right before you. in this case, both was true. and it was january, a time of year where it’s nice to have it warm, and that is what a blanket does: keeps you warm!

wrapped up

as you can see, i did not finish this blanket during wintertime. spring passed by and then, the prospect of summer was not incentive. at least, i had the pieces cut out and sewn together in february. just to give you an idea what i used, besides project scraps: a skirt from my boyfriends’ grandma, old jeans and pants, a plaid flannel shirt that never got worn, corduroy from an old skirt, a scarf from ukraine (interfaced for  a bit more stability), a corny tablecloth, a vintage pillow case (also used for this project), duvet covers, a polka-dot shirt from the thrift store, wool remnants from a skirt… and so the list goes on. i’m telling you about this in detail because i love that you can use basically everything. if it’s too lightweight – just interface it (you could even interface knits, so they won’t stretch)! upcycling is easy, you just have to get started. i’ve read a tip somewhere to sew together a bunch of scraps in every sewing session, it’s not as overwhelming as setting the goal to sew a big blanket in a handful of neverending sessions (which is what i did eventually) – on the contrary, it’s magically done at some point.

now for the details:

i cut 15x15cm (6×6″) squares and sewed them together in rows with a 1/4″ SA (using my presser foot as a guide). for warmth and structure, i used 100% cotton batting which i bought from ‘frau tulpe’ at 11,50€/m (volumenvlies 277). that’s the only thing i spend money on! it’s just right for a blanket and a bit sticky so sandwiching becomes much easier because the layers don’t shift around. you still have to pin or baste all layers together, though. i decided to pin, much faster! i’m not all about speed in general, but why would i want to crawl around on the floor for longer than necessary? i certainly thought this was a smart move… however, i cannot recommed that. the pins took vengeance on me as i quilted the layers in rows. next time i’ll be hand basting the layers together. for quilting i set the stitch length to 3,0.


for the backing i used plain muslin of which i had bought about 6 metres (6 1/2 yard) at the scandinavian ages ago to use for, guess what, making muslins. it was a bit softer than i’d remembered and when i looked through my stash i was happy to find it. i cut 2,5 m and prewashed it. then i remembered a mispurchase of mine: textile color which you can use in your washing machine, in a 60°C easy-care programm. it was a mispurchase because i do never wash my cotton garments at 60°C…  NO! to shrinked pants. anyway, the color (navy) was perfect for the backing cotton. now, although the color was said to suffice for up to 600g and my fabric actually weigh lighter (around 550g), the outcome is a soft blue that is very similar to light blue denim. or heaven. i’m not complaining, i like it. but navy is a bit far fetched.

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for the binding i used a quilting cotton from my stash, it’s an art gallery fabric and was an impulse-purchase last year. seriously, why would i buy quilting cotton, i never had any endeavour to sew a quilt before. my buying habits have changed a lot in a short time, meaning i’m much more considerate about what i buy and what i plan to make with it. as of late, i really cannot justify to buy fabric if there’s no specific project in the back of my mind. i like that development! by the way, have you heard of #slowfashionoctober? maybe you take part in it already. i’d like to pay tribute to the idea with this project. it’s clear that you do not always have to buy something new and shiny to create something new that – as in case of this blanket – will be used for ages. all the time and effort that went into making it make it even more precious to me. something i could never buy in a store. something i would never buy in a store just because of that!

back to topic: i cut seven strips along the widthwise grain, 6cm (approx. 2 3/8″) wide. i sewed them together diagonally, folded and pressed the loooong strip in half and sewed it on at a 1/4″. then, i folded it around the edges and sewed the binding on by hand. that took forever (4 -5 hours?).  i do enjoy handstitching because i can sit wherever i want (armchair, anyone?). if you want to save time this is not the way to go. if you find hand sewing relaxing or even rewarding, like me, go ahead!



there it is, a patchwork blanket from scraps, from old garments and duvets. i added some appliqué and embroidery stitches where it called for some spice. this barely cost me anything and it is now worth so much to me! upcycling rules.


an autumnal desmond roll top backpack

when Taylor from tailortaylor.com announced he was looking for testers, i immediately jumped at the chance without thinking about it too much really. i knew his blog and thus had seen first versions of the backpack that he planned to release. have you noticed there aren’t any back pack patterns out there or at least, there are no patterns with a simple yet sophisticated design? i’ve never sewn a back pack before and as far as anything ‘bag’ is concerned.. there is one i’ve made two years ago, which happens to be a free pattern by Novita from verypurpleperson.com (coincidently also one of the testers for the desmond pack, see her superb version here!). That being said, I’m a total bag making amateur, but i was confident i could make it work. and i could – the instructions were thorough and helpful!

luckily, the testing period fit in with my calendar, otherwise i would have felt intimidated to sew with a deadline. my result of pattern testing the desmond roll top is a seriously quirky pack due to my ‘choice’ of fabric. choice is relative, since i didn’t want to spent more than neccessary on supplies and this is what i had on hand. my boyfriend bought this fabric in tehran last winter. maybe because it’s orange? i guess the color was the critical factor. i seriously do not know what’s the content of this fabric… pretty sure it has nothing to do with natural fibres! at first i was afraid it would melt under the iron. fortunately, it didn’t. so, that and it’s weight meant it qualified for being used! and the orange is really quite nice, isn’t it? now that the leaves turn into all the colors and – first and foremost: orange! – i get really excited about its vibrant color.



for the lining i used slippery but rather sturdy lining fabric made from black polyester. i got a bag full of fabric from my boyfriend’s mom when she found out about my sewing. there was a lot of poly lining fabric in there. so i’m glad some of that is processed and doesn’t take up space anymore. (my approach here was pragmatic!) i have to admit though, black fabric is not a thought-out choice to use as a lining. there’s this black hole-syndrome when searching for something. it doesn’t bother me too much, it does match the webbing and the black thread in the weave of my main fabric, a good thing.


apart from the fabric, which cost me nothing, i spent some money on the other notions. these included the metal hardware you can see in the front (zip, hooks, sliders, D-rings) and the plastic thingies that help fastening and adjusting the length of the shoulder straps (are they called buckles?). somehow, i could not find O-rings, which the pattern suggests. there are some online shops but i didn’t want to order online. honestly, living in berlin you can basically get everything around some corner. the plastic surrogate you can see below works in the same manner and is also attached the same way. easy as pie. all these things are relatively cheap to buy, especially if you buy larger quantities (if you are a passionate bag maker you might do that, i didn’t!). here are some detail shots of the installed hardware:

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all in all, the backpack is comfortable to wear (as long as i don’t carry around bricks, that is!) in everyday life. the straps are great for support and have a nice width so they do not ‘cut’ into the shoulders, if you carry something heavier. what i really like about it is the size, it doesn’t look to huge and is not too small for a broad back either. there are four inside pockets and three on the outside, which gives plenty of room for small things that would be lost on the bottom otherwise. which is crucial with roll top bags i think, in standard backpacks you have a zip going all around to the bottom.

desmond-ribbon-detaillast but not least, i added something special to my bag with a beautiful vintage zig zag ribbon (from the 60s or 70s), which i got as a birthday present from a good friend of mine. she bought it at a flea market in mainz/germany. isn’t it just great when friends, who do not sew themselves, gift you sewing related things? i’m really happy to have found such a good place and project to finally use it!


more info about the pattern:

the pattern comes as a two-file-pdf with 28 pages (actual pattern), plus 12 pages (illustrated instructions)

the desmond roll top backpack by taylortailor.com

the sewalong  has just started out!

…and i also really liked the color combination in Allie’s testers’ version!

tricky bits: neat patch pocket corners

in the last post i mentioned i figured out a neat way to finish the upper corners of the front patch pockets. i was using the grainline archer pattern, but this will work for every pocket which seam allowances on the upper edge are folded under twice and then topstitched in place. using a different pattern? just go ahead and change your pocket piece so the raw edge on top can be folded under. my method  is not very different from the original construction method that you find on the grainline studio blog. it’s just a tiny difference in folding under the edges and you can’t see any fraying edges when you look inside your pocket.

here you can see how the seam allowances should fold under with your pocket, no matter if you’re using it with the archer or a different pattern. here, the visible crease is the future top edge of the pocket.pocket-1

start by pressing the seam allowances (SA) and fold edges on your pocket. that makes it easer to line everything up later on.  i pressed the sides of the pocket, at a 1/4″ (6mm) SA, that’s what the pattern calls for and i think it’s the perfect SA for patch pockets. to continue, unfold the 1/4″ SA on the top of the pocket and fold under along the first crease (notch).pocket-2

now, again, fold under the SA on the sides. you can give it a press if it doesn’t want to stay put.pocket-3

now fold along the last notch (see crease in the above picture). the fraying edges of the pocket are neatly tucked under now. give it a press and/or fixate it with a pin. personally, i like to use a bit of glue (where my finger is) to keep the corner in place.pocket-4

here’s another close up of that sandwich:pocket-5

pin or baste your pockets in place (in this case, spaced 1 inch from the button bands) and proceed with topstitching the top of the pocket, thereby attaching the pocket to your garment. i like to sew triangles to reinforce the corners.pocket-8

finally, take a look into your pocket: no visible fraying edges that might poke out! neat.pocket-7

if you have questions let me know in the comments! do you have a go-to technique when attaching patch pockets?


shirtmaking: grainline archer in dotted chambray

a shirt is a wonderful garment. i almost never wear dresses, even if i do own a few, i never feel quite right in them.  i can’t stand feeling overdressed and dresses do that to me sometimes, although i have to say that shift dresses might be an exception (sweater underneath? – yes you can!) . the problem is, i do not own any shirts anymore (ok, now there’s one again) but i know, i would wear them almost every day. they make me feel put together and are still casual. it all began with my mothers closet when i was younger. she had a slightly oversized, olive green corduroy button down shirt that closed with metal snaps. doesn’t sound fascinating at all? well, it certainly was to me! i wore it around the house, as a shirt, as a skirt, as a dress, the buttons and sleeves (which could be turned into a belt when wearing it as a skirt..) made it easy to adapt. finally, five years ago: a dream came true.  i found me a lovely corduroy button up in a light brown. you can actually see me wearing it here. sadly, it’s not live anymore, and in the end it certainly wasn’t a pleasure to look at for nobody.

back to topic: a chambray garment is more versatile than its corduroy equivalent, so here i went for a grainline archer in a lightweight dotted chambray. the genesis of this shirt would be best described with: good things take time or “Gut Ding will Weile haben” as you say in german. the cutting and sewing part was actually done within a few days, no more than a week. however, the first version i made from this pattern dates back to september 2014. back then, i made a size 0 according to my measurements. having read on blogs that the archer fit generously, i cut right into my fashion fabric. turned out, it was a bit tight around the armholes.. i guess it was around this time that i discovered i need broad back adjustments, whereas the shoulder width was not necessarily an issue. the problem is that most of the time, for garments like shirts, blouses, t-shirts and tops in general you chose your size by bust measurement. since i usually* have a very small bust (maybe AA? never needed bras…) my broad shoulder adds to the circumference of my bust measurement, making it appear bigger than it is (in numbers that is!). does that make sense? in short, i do not need the width in the front (most patterns are designed for B or C cups), but in the back. that’s why i now tend to choose a size larger if i go by bust measurement – usually that’s the one that falls in the same column as my waist and hip measurement. however, i still have to do a broad back adjustment in a garment with sleeves, but with the archer in particular, i feel the overall look is more balanced with a size larger (i.e. size 2).  the size 0 did fit ok otherwise but was a bit snug for my liking. hello, i was socialized with oversized shirts!

well, it took me a year to trace a size 2, adjust the back, make a muslin and after a success – phew – i could finally sew it up in fashion fabric. so, here’s my first ‘real’ archer!

my adjustments were as follows: i made a size 2, with a 1″ (2,5cm) broad back adjustment, 1/2″ (1,25cm) on each side. i shortened the sleeves by 5/8″ (1,5cm), otherwise the shirt has the original length. for the next one, and there will be a next one, i’ll roll with the same adjustments. for construction i mainly followed the sew-along. (you can click on the images to enlarge them)

although i figured out a neater way to sew the breast pockets (will post about that soon!), there are two silly mistakes in construction. for this shirt though, i don’t care much about them, next time i know better. it looks pretty neat otherwise so i overlook these flaws with ease: 1) shoulder/sleeve seam was pressed and sewn to the sleeve cap, whereas it should have been pressed in the direction of the shoulder/yoke and 2) one side of the sleeve placket should turn under so the placket is able to fold and disappear to the inside.

trivia! for me it’s a roaring success, so let the shirtmaking commence…

one last thought about those measurements. did you ever wonder indie patterns don’t tell you more precise body measurements? it’s not all about bust-waist-hip… burda gives you all of that extra-info, like shoulder width, back width, arm length and so on. that way you can adjust the flat pattern. but, yeah, burda also has these labyrinth pattern sheets. nevertheless, wouldn’t these nerd-measurements be helpful sometimes with indie patterns? or does the bust-waist-hip-ratio always work out for you? i’m curious to hear!


pattern: grainline studio archer button up in size 2

fabric: 2 yards (1,8m) robert kaufman dotted chambray, bought approx. a year ago

notions: 9 plastic buttons from my stash, white polyester thread, interfacing ‘vlieseline’ H180 for button bands, H200 for collar and sleeve cuffs

dejà vù? yep, i’ve seen quite similar archers around the interwebs, too: seymour, design by lindsay and last but not least jessie’s made one, too! thank you for your inspiration and wisdom :)

*well, bust measurements change when you’re pregant! and others do, too. i don’t care though, right now unbuttoned shirts are the dressiest thing i fit into. oh well!


sewing project #1: baby snuggler

when i started sewing, i had very few to no fabric, let alone a ‘stash’. outworn or unloved clothes have been used for small bags or purses. it didn’t take long until i discovered ebay and the like as a platform for sourcing old bedsheets and duvet covers. discarded fabric with respectable patterns on it (mostly flowers in my experience) is easily found, and in abundance. it’s cheap and you get a lot of metres to work with! and it’s already there… at best, i could upcycle it into something useful. for experimenting it’s perfect, too, there’s no fear involved. and fear can kill creativity, of which i had a lot of when I started out two years ago. nowadays i find myself often choosing the save road and googling for techniques, just to make sure the outcome is exactly as planned. i miss that ‘illiterate’ spirit sometimes, but maybe I’m being just overly nostalgic!

from this time I still have remnants of this beautiful fabric which i used for the exterior of the snuggler. i’ve made a dress from it already, it drapes really nicely, which i find an unusual feature of duvet covers! if you have problems with thread tension, though, it does show with this fabric, because the weft is a bit looser. fortunately, I fixed that some months ago by buying a new bobbin case for my machine. note to self: better not mess with the lower thread tension… the fabric itself is pure cotton, so washing and pressing is not at all complicated. and destined to become a sleeping bag for a baby in her or his first months, it definitely shouldn’t be! all the same, it may look decent, no?


the finished baby snuggler

i used one pillow case, but had to buy the lining fabric. i couldn’t find a 100% cotton microfleece as the instructions suggest (polyester fleece doesn’t breathe). also, flannell was no option since the sleeping bag will be used during autumn and winter months. i pondered using terry cloth, which is used for towels, but I’m glad I didn’t – i cannot imagine it being easy to work with. finally i decided on 100% cotton sweatshirt-ing with a plush inside which i used as right side here. i was lucky to buy a remnant piece of 0,7m which was slightly cheaper than straight off the bolt (would have cost me 16€/m). considering this fabric is prone to pre-shrinking I *just* managed to cut the lining pieces from it. you don’t need the whole width of the fabric but the length is important.iI didn’t measure the amount of shrinking after the wash (programme: 30° C, delicate fabrics), but 5 – 10% makes sense. velcro tape is something I had already.

a peek into the inside with the adjustable velcro closure to swaddle the baby

the pattern has only two pieces which are both cut on the fold, from the exterior and lining fabric.  there are some darts at the foot bag (adding dimension) and at the top they shape the sleeping bag nicely. construction is fairly easy, but I had to make sure not to stretch out the sweatshirt fabric while sewing. combining woven and knit can be a bit tricky, but it’s certainly not impossible to get neat results. And in the end, I’m really happy with my fabric choices, color and all! I trimmed and clipped the seam allowances when it made sense. the instructions are brief, but I felt they covered everything and where easy to grasp, they even tell you when to trim and clip seam allowances. for me, being thourough and taking my time paid off. always a much more enjoyable sewing experience!!

look at how cozy this is:




pattern and design: lotta jansdotter baby snuggler (free download)