Thursday, January 19, 2012

{Sew} Get Started: Simple Pincushion & Needlebook Tutorial

It's great to finally kick off the practical tutorials today! If you are learning to sew, a pretty pincushion and needlebook are a nice project to make. Small, simple and at the end of it, you have something beautiful and practical that you will use every time you sew. I have lots of pincushions and love them all! One for my sewing basket, one for handsewing, one for my little sewing travel kit, and some more...well, just because! Those horrible little plastic jars with spongy tops that you can buy for storing your pins have nothing on a beautiful pincushion you made yourself.

This tutorial is part of the {Sew} Get Started: Beginner Sewing Tutorials series. For the full list of tutorials, click here.

FairyFace Designs

So lets get started sewing!!

4 coordinating scraps of fabric for the front, and a complimentary one for the back.
1 pretty medium size button.
Small length of embroidery thread (if you need to go buy, you are looking for a skein of embroidery thread)
Some toy stuffing for the centre. (You will get this in craft stores.)

Some coordintaing scraps of felt - 2 x 9" squares should be enough. (Wool mix felt if you can get it)
Assorted buttons to embellish the front, including one for the closure
Matching thread

Please note:

All seams are 1/4". Please read all the way through before starting.  I have included very detailed instructions for beginners, with a lot of photos. More experienced peeps will not need all the detail :-)

Making the Pincushion

Press your fabric scraps, then cut 4 pieces for the front measuring 2.5" x 2.5" each. (If you want to use a 1/2" seam allowance instead of a 1/4" one, cut your pieces 3" x 3".) If you need help with cutting your fabric, I have information here about how to cut accurately.

Cut your fabric for the bottom piece 4.5" square.  (If you cut your top pieces 3" x 3",  then cut the bottom piece 5" square.)

Decide how you want to lay them out.

Place your top 2 pieces right sides together and sew, using a 1/4" seam allowance. For pieces this small, you don't really need to pin but do so if you wish for best accuracy. I just sew over my pins, I have only ever broken a needle once, but remove them if you want as you get to them. Remember to backstitch at the beginning and end of your seam, as the top of this seam will be an outside edge.

Repeat with the bottom two pieces.

Now you need to press your seams. You can press them open but it is quicker and easier to press one of the seams to one side and the other to the opposite side, and they will fit together nicely when you are sewing together.

 Place your top two squares on the bottom two, right sides together, matching the seams exactly. Place a pin on either side of the point where the seam points match, as close as possible to the line of stitching, about 1/8" on either side.

Pin the rest of the seam, close to either end, then sew, remembering to backstitch to tie off at the beginning and end.  Press your seam - you can press to one side, I pressed open just because I liked how flat it got the seam.

 If your points don't meet up precisely, don't worry about it as the button will cover this.

Take your bottom piece of fabric, and place it right side together with your pieced top, and pin. Then, starting about 1.5" from a corner, and backstitching at the start, sew a seam all the way around the outside edge. At each corner, put your needle down, lift your presser foot and pivot the fabric to change direction.

Then just put your presser foot back down and continue sewing. Stop about 2" from your starting point and backstitch to secure.

Using your scissors, very carefully trim the excess fabric from each corner. Be careful not to clip your stitches, don't go too close! This will reduce the bulk of the fabric to give you nice crisp corners.

Now, reach into the gap in your seam and turn your pincushion right way out, pulling the fabric out through the gap. It might be a little bit fiddly but you will get it out!

When you have it turned right way out, it will look like this:

Take an old knitting needle, chop stick or the closed point of your scissors and very gently push out your corners till they sit correctly. Don't push too hard, you don't want to tear the fabric, and if they don't push out totally, don't worry about it. This is fun, remember!

Now, take your toy stuffing. It comes in tufts like this:


Tearing it into smallish pieces, stuff into the pincushion until it is full and firm. You don't want it to be bursting at the seams, just a nice amount so it will hold your  pins securely.  It will probably take more than you think. If you want, you could put a little rice in the bottom of the pincushion to give it some weight too but it's not essential.

Once it is full, you need to handsew the closure. This is very easy, so don't panic!

Firstly, turn under your seam allowance - mine usually sits pretty ok without any help. Use a pin or two to match and hold your seams in place.

Thread a needle with some thread matching your fabric and tie a knot in the end. Then insert it into the interior of the seam, somewhere the knot won't be seen, and bring up at the beginning of the gap. Take a small stitch through the crease in the seam, then take a very small stitch in the opposite seam, picking up only a few threads.

Repeat all the way along until you get to the end, then make a few stitches in the same place to secure, push your needle in the same place and bring out an inch or so away. Clip the thread where it comes through the fabric and stretch out your fabric to make the thread disappear into the pincushion. (See picture below for the back of the pincushion to see what I mean) See, easy peasy! Don't worry if its not terribly neat, mine are never totally perfect and once you have the rest finished off you will never notice.

 Last thing to do is to add the decorative detail.

Cut a length from your embroidery thread and split the thread in 2. (Embroidery thread is usually made up of 6 threads twisted together, you want 3). Thread your needle with it and tie a knot in the end, and clip the thread quite close to the knot but not right on top of it.

Insert your needle through the centre point of your seams and bring out in the centre of the other side. Bring it all the way back around the front, following one of your seam lines, and push your needle back in and out through the same points again.

Pull it a little bit taut so it separates the quarters of the cushion, and is sitting nicely on your seam line.  Repeat the process, changing the direction of the thread each time until you have the 4 seams done.

The back should look like this:

After you have done the last seam and your needle comes out the back, push it back in through the centre point at the back and up through the centre point of the front, and thread the button onto it.

Sew the button in place by a few stitches up and down through the centre to secure. When you are done, take a stitch or two to secure at the back, then hide your thread in the same way as you did for the seam.

And, TA-DAH! you're done! Isn't it pretty?  Stick some pins in it, and admire :-)

Making the Needlebook

Cut 3 complimentary pieces of felt measuring 7.5" x 4", 6" x 3", 5.75" x 2.75". Felt is a lovely fabric to work with as the edges don't fray.

 Take your three pieces of felt and line up, centering the smaller pieces inside the larger piece.

Once you are happy with the arrangment, take a ruler and mark a crease in the centre of the pieces. I did this with the closed point of my scissors.

Using a matching thread, sew a seam down the centre, securing the "pages" of the needlebook, remembering to tie off your ends at the beginning and end. Start and finish about 1/2" in from the top and bottom of the outside page.

Round off the corners of your outside edge with your scissors. I just eyeballed it and cut.

You need to cut your buttonhole on the front of the needlebook next. (You could skip this step if you wanted as a closure is not really necessary.) You just need to snip a small cut with a sharp scissors, 2" from the top and bottom and at least 1/2" in from the edge. The cut should be just large enough to accommodate the button you will use. Felt doesn't fray and once you are reasonably gentle opening and closing, the buttonhole will not tear but don't cut too close to the edge of your needlebook.

Next, take some of your small scraps of felt and cut some circles in them - I cut 3, but if you want to play with the design a little, do. I used basic household things to trace my circles before cutting - an egg cup, a spool end, a coin etc. The biggest circle just under 2" diameter. I cut around the inside of the marked line so as not to have any marks on the felt.

Now, taking your buttons and your felt pieces, decide how you want to lay out your embellishments on the front. I piled my 3 circles of felt on top of each other with a button to finish. You could use more or less circles, whatever you like. You could also use a different shape if you preferred - like hearts for example. Be creative and go with what you like! Here is one of the layouts I considered.

Once you are happy with the layout of your buttons, handsew in place using matching threads.Clip your thread ends neatly on the other side. You don't need a lot of stitches to secure these buttons as they are not going to be used. Remember to also sew your button for the closure on the inside of the back cover of the needlebook, matching where you cut your buttonhole.

For the circles decoration, I stitched all the circles in place through the button initially. I then got some complimentary embroidery thread and sewed a simple running stitch around the edges. If you do this, just keep your stitches and gaps small and let your eye guide you. Take your time! A running stitch like this looks very pretty and though you will notice if your stitches aren't exactly even when you are doing it (as you are concentrating on it), once it is done and you are looking at the finished thing, you won't notice small differences in stitch length etc, they will disappear into the general loveliness!'re done!! Go find your handsewing needles and put them inside it, and admire.

I hope you enjoyed making these simple projects and that the instructions are all clear. If you have any questions, just leave me a comment below or post it up in the Flickr discussion group. If you make a pincushion or needlebook from this tute, please post a picture in the Flickr group, I would love to see them :-)

Next Thursday, Jennifer will be guest posting with her tutorial on simple table napkins so don't forget to pop back then.

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Made by Ronnetje said...

What a great tutorial! I'm giving it a try this weekend!

Unknown said...

Cute needle book Sarah! Thanks for the tute :-)

Moooody Cow ♥ said...

I'm getting my sewing machine this weekend, so I shall be giving this a try :) xx

my4lilgirls said...

These are great tutorials sarah, so clear, loving reading this new series it really is excellant
Karen x

Lucy | Charm About You said...

So cute! I will be making one of those pin cushions!

Belinda said...

What a cute tutorial and so easy to follow!! I've been sewing for years, but love this enough to do it too! Thanks for the inspiration.

Needled Mom said...

Very cute and a great tutorial.

Cindy said...

Really cute, simple idea! Thanks a mil!

Miranda said...

Super Cute!

Carli The Quilter said...

This is just lovely, what a great tutorial for all our new quilters at the BV Modern Quilt Guild. I'm emailing our members with this link!

Di said...

Great tutorial and very cute. I'm going to make these at the weekend.

Katy Cameron said...

What a cute set

Laura said...

cute, cute, cute, cute, cute

Mrs Flying Blind... said...

Super cute x

Leanne said...

These are great getting started projects. The instructions are great and the results are so cute.

Nicky said...

It's lovely and congrats on reaching the next stage of the Blogger's Choice Bundle Competition!

Erin @ Billy Button Design said...

Finishing up my pincushion tonight....I have to find a button!

LollipopsDaydreams said...

Brilliant, I am going to make the needlebook straight away. It will stop my needles disappearing into my pin cushion!! Thank you for the idea and the detailed instructions, All the best, Maria

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Helen said...

I was a little late finding your lovely blog and have just made my cushion today. No embroidery thread though so the decoration will have to wait until I get to the shops.

Brilliant tutorial - really easy to follow and I am delighted with the result. My first sewing machine make *proud face*