Growing up, learning how to use a sewing machine is one skill I never learned. Oh, I had one of those silly little craft machines, and I did everything I was told to do when using a machine. But everything I tried to make unraveled the minute I took it off the machine. I concluded I must be a horrible seamstress, gave up trying to use a machine, and just learned to hand sew a little.
Then I got one of those craft machines for my girls a couple years back. You know what I noticed about them then I'd never noticed as a kid? Those things don't have bobbins! Of course nothing I sewed held together. There wasn't anything holding the stitches to the underside of the seam!
Armed with that bit of knowledge and many years more experience, I went to my mother-in-law to learn the basics of using a sewing machine. Then, I've been watching videos and reading everything I can about reading patterns, creating patterns, and construction using fabric.
I still have a lot to learn, but I thought maybe I could bring you with me on this journey. If you've never learned to sew but would like to, maybe you'll find inspiration. If you know what you're doing, maybe you'll find a lot of laughs.
Here's how I made the hot and cold pack in the picture above.
I purchased a bunch of fat quarters a couple of years back when I got that craft sewing machine for the girls, thinking they could use them to make projects. Then we opened the thing and discovered what a crock it was, so we chunked the machine and saved the fat quarters until I learned how to really sew and could teach them. I could never seem to find the time, though.
Then I got fed up trying to "find the time" around my usual work schedule and decided to make some time for it. So after doing a bunch of research in the past weeks, I got out a couple fat quarters I thought would coordinate pretty well, opened them up, and pressed the fabric flat.
Then I used a length of yarn to create a bubbled half U shape on some old newspaper, traced around it, and cut it out. I folded each of the fat quarters in half, right sides together, lined up the pattern on the fold, pinned it down, and cut around it to get the correct shape out of the fabric.
Once that was done, I carefully lined up both pieces of fabric, right sides together, and pinned them in place. I left the gap to fill it with rice at the bottom of one side, and I think that was one reason the finished project turned out a bit wonky at the end. If I had to do it over again, I would leave a gap of about an inch in the middle of the back curve, at the very top. That way, you could fill both sides equally as you go.
In any case, place the material on your machine and set it to make the smallest straight stitch your machine can do. Remember to forward stitch for a few stitches, backstitch over them, and then go forward again to lock your stitches in, when you start and when you finish.
Sew all the way around the edge of the material, leaving yourself a half inch or so seam allowance. Take your time. There's no prize for finishing in record time, and going slow will make it more likely you'll get something that looks nice in the end. So take your time with it, and remember to take your pins out before they go under your presser foot. That'll keep you from ruining your pins and damaging your machine.
Once you finish sewing all the way around, leaving that inch or so gap, and locking in your stitches, you're ready to take it off the machine. Lift your needle and presser foot, pull the material away, and snip your ends.
Turn the material right side out. Use a funnel to pour your rice into the bag. I didn't measure, and you saw how that turned out. So in hindsight, I would suggest measuring out a half cup of rice at a time, and shake it into one side.
Smash it down as far as it will go and pin the material tight to hold the rice in place while you sew the line to create each segment. Line it up on your machine so the presser foot just skims the needles you put in the bag. Lock in your stitches, stitch straight across, and lock them in again at the end of the segment. Remove the pins, and allow the rice to fill the space naturally. Repeat on the other side to balance it out. Then repeat until only the center segment remains.
Fill the last segment with rice. Fold the raw edges of the material in, pinch together, and hand stitch it closed.
If you look closely at the bottom segment in the picture above, you can see where I finished off this one. Trying to close off a curve isn't easy, which is just another reason to consider leaving the gap in the middle back instead.
I hope you enjoyed this little tutorial and can learn from my mistakes. Until next time, happy crafting.
Amanda is the artisan behind all the products made and sold by Contented Comfort.