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New Pattern Launch: Closet Case Sienna Maker Jacket

I seem to say this every time I review a Closet Case pattern but here it goes again: a good designer designs things you always wanted but a great one designs things you never knew you needed. 
And this is again true when it comes to the newly launched Sienna Maker Jacket - a must have for any self respecting maker, now that Heather Lou has designed it!
I was one of the lucky testers for this awesome pattern and first saw the inspiration and line drawings almost a year ago. I was instantly captured by Heather’s rendition of the traditional French workman’s blue jacket in a feminine form. The right balance of chic and utilitarian, it’s the quintessential studio wear for any maker at heart. 
Closet Case eventually decided to release Sienna in Fall 2019 after their fabulous summer Rome collection. Which means I had a lot of time to decide on the perfect fabric for my test version. I quickly developed a habit of asking myself this question every time I see a woven fabric - “Sienna or not?” That’s how much this pattern had been on my mind LoL.
As you could imagine over time I ended up with quite a few “maybe candidates for Sienna”. As medium weight stable wovens are called for, I had a variety of denims, twills and canvases on standby. But when I saw the Robert Kaufman Cotton Linen Indigo Chambray from Minerva, the answer to my internal question "Sienna or not?" was a resounding “YES!”. Staying true to the original inspiration of a blue denim worker's jacket, the search for the perfect fabric for my Sienna was over. 
This wonderful fabric has the most beautiful dark indigo wash and that special sheen only linen has. It is 150 gsm which is light to medium weight as linen blends go. I know it’s on the lighter end of what the pattern calls for, but the linen content gives it enough structure to be substantial enough for a jacket. That being said, I would love to sew up dresses, shirts, pants and all in this versatile fabric! A wrap dress/jumpsuit would be so dreamy!
Back to the Sienna jacket pattern. It comes in 3 mix and match views: long and mid length with belt closure, and a short length with button closure, sleeve pockets and the unique tall back vent. All views feature crisp lapels lapels and an abundance of oversized pockets, perfect for us makers. 
I chose the mid length view which is hip length for my 158cm/5’2” height. It’s my favourite length for outerwear as it covers tunic length tops and also look great with knee length dresses/skirts. That being said, it was a tough decision and I will definitely be making the other views in the future! 
There are so many cool features packed in this pattern. For sewists of all skill levels, there’s bound to be something new to discover in there. The whole sewing process to me was like a reading a great novel - I was torn between taking my time to savour the current chapter and eagerly anticipating the next. Here are a few of my favourites -
First of all - ALL THE POCKETS! Look at those ginormous patch pockets - they are designed with us makers in mind and drape away from the body to accommodate larger items. I immediately discovered they are perfect for yarn =) There's also chest patch pockets on the inside and outside as in a traditional French worker's jacket. Of course I had to borrow the sleeve pockets from the cropped view too! They are so fun to sew and perfect for those little tools I keep losing in my sewing room. I eliminated the buttons on the sleeve pockets for easy access and it stays shut well as it's wrapped around the arm. Genius design!
And now let's talk about THE BELT. That's the first thing that caught my eyes when I saw the ling drawings and blew my mind! It's attached to one side of the jacket with D-ring closure on the other side. To keep the jacket closed, you loop the belt through a fun welt opening, wrap it around your waist and secure it with the D rings. When wearing the jacket opened, you can loop the belt around the back loosely and anchor it with the D rings. Easy, chic and utilitarian both ways. Genius design again!
If sewing the Sienna is like reading a good book, then using this lovely indigo chambray fabric is like having coffee and cake with the reading. The gorgeous dark wash and feel of linen on my hands makes it pure joy working with it. It stitches and presses like a dream which makes it perfect for all the fun details in Sienna like the lapel and welt. I also love how light weight the jacket ended up being in this fabric. It feels like a over shirt one can layer with anything from a summer blouse to a cozy sweater.
The Sienna patterns launches at the perfect timing hopefully for sewists on both hemispheres entering transitional seasons. Here in Northern Virginia, we are finally having cooler days after a long summer and I can't wait to live in my Sienna both in and out the house. It's such joy to have everything I need in those pockets as I do my craft and life with little ones. If I can make and wear only one jacket for the rest of my life, it might just be Sienna in its various views. I can't wait to make a long version with a drapey viscose twill and a cropped version in a jewel-toned denim! Stay tuned =)
Until next time, Chloe
Instagram: @no.idle.hands

How to make reversible Christmas table decor

Hi Minerva Makers
Have you ever wanted to make your own table décor for the Christmas season? I don’t know about you, but here in Barbados all things Christmas are overpriced! I thought I’d try my hand at making reversible décor this year. I’m talking placemats, chair backs, napkins and cutlery holders! This year I can use them on one side, and next year switch them around. Nothing beats a two for one right?
My home décor theme this Christmas is Winter Wonderland. I live on an extremely hot and sunny island in the Caribbean and since there will definitely be no snow outside, I decided to create the look on the inside. So my colour scheme is white and metallics with just a few red accents. I paired the most adorable cotton fabric with gold reindeer and silver Christmas trees with another cotton fabric featuring a gorgeous silver snowflake print.
Now on to the good stuff! I am going to share with you all the instructions to make these pieces yourself. For reference, I received 1.5 metres of each fabric and I made 2 placemats, 2 napkins, 2 cutlery holders and 4 chair backs. Our dining table is really small and though it is a 4 seater, I set it for just my husband and me with the exception of the 2 extra chair backs.
How to make reversible placemats
1. Cut 2 fabric pieces 12.5” x 18.5” and 1 piece of felt or batting a scant 12” x 18”.
2. Place fabric pieces right sides together.
3. Stitch all around at ¼” seam allowance leaving a gap to turn.
4. Clip corners, turn right side out and press. Insert felt between layers.
5. Topstitch the placemat making sure to catch seam allowance at opening. I did two rows of stitching.
How to make Santa hat chair backs
1. Draw out the shape according to your chair back measurements adding seam allowance to sides and bottom. My chairs have a trapezoid shape.
Here are my measurements:
Top 13” + ½” seam allowance (¼”each side) = 13.5”
Length 10.25” + ½” seam allowance (¼” each side) = 15.25”
Bottom 14.75” + ¼” seam allowance = 10.5”
2. For the flap, extend a line from the center of the top of your chair back shape upward 6.5” and connect that line to the edges of the top of the shape forming a triangle.
3. Use this pattern to cut two outer fabric pieces and two lining pieces.
4. Place two outer fabrics right sides together in between your two lining pieces. So your sandwich should look like lining, outer, outer, lining.
5. Stitch ¼” all around leaving bottom open then clip corners.
6. Cut two pieces of fur whatever length you prefer and matching the width of the bottom of your sewn shape adding seam allowance. Stitch together at sides so you now have a loop of fur. I made mine 3.5” long.
7. Slip fur piece into chair back shape right sides together and stitch all around using ¼” seam allowance.
8. Turn chair back right side out and hand stitch a pom pom ball to the tip of the triangle. 
How to make Christmas tree napkins
1. Cut two 8” diameter semi circles.
2. Place pieces right sides together and stitch ¼” all around leaving a gap to turn.
3. Clip corners. Turn right sides out and press then topstitch all around.
4. To fold into Christmas tree shape: Place napkin with flat piece at top. Fold the right side over about 2 inches from the edge of the left side. Then fold this same piece back onto itself so the edge lines up straight with the right side. Then fold the left side under itself so the edge lines up with the right side. Press into place.
How to make stocking cutlery holders
1. Print a stocking template.
2. Cut the template into 2 pieces: the bottom for your main fabric and the top for your fur.
3. Use the template to cut 2 main fabric pieces and 2 fur pieces.
4. Place wrong side of fur on to right side of main fabric and stitch across the top with ¼”seam allowance.
5. Flip the fur up.
6. Place your 2 joint fur and outer pieces right sides together and stitch ¼” all around leaving top open.
7. Turn right sides out and press.
8. Fold your fur down over itself just covering the seam line.
I am so happy with how my table decor turned out. I love how everything coordinates and how the two fabrics complement each other. The fur details help to bring my winter wonderland theme to life. I used a gold sequin tablecloth and a fur runner and it all goes together so well. There is no way I would be able to create this look with store bought items. I have a completely unique set that costs a fraction of the price of Christmas décor in the shops. Perks of sewing!

A Snowflake Frozen Christmas Grace Dress

Hi everyone! I am super excited to join the Minerva Makers team and to share my first project with you all! 

Is anyone else excited for Christmas yet?  Although I hate to see the back of summer, I’m always excited to start the Christmas countdown. I’m also a bit of a sucker for a themed dress, so I jumped at the opportunity to make something from Minerva with Christmas fabric.  I chose this beautiful snowflake fabric in the ice blue colour way.  While I am also definitely a fan of a statement Christmas dress, what I really loved about this fabric is that from a distance it’s pretty subtle, but when you look closely you can see the blue and white branches and silver snowflakes. Plus it also reminds me of Frozen, but in a grown up way (I hope!) 

The fabric is a medium weight cotton and once I felt it, I knew it would be perfect for the Sew Over It Grace Dress, as the skirt needs a little weight to help hold its shape.   The weight of the fabric also makes it perfect for the waistband, which keeps it’s shape really well and ties into a lovely crisp bow.  Plus it was so easy to work with – no slips or accidental snags in the fabric.


I’m usually either a 10 or 12 in Sew Over It patterns, depending on how much ease there is.  The Grace dress is designed to have a little bit more ease, so I made it in a straight size 12, and the only adjustment I made was to lower the bust dart slightly, which is an adjustment I always have to do. If I am making a fitted bodice I will usually make a proper toile, but as I felt I probably only needed to move the darts, I made this adjustment on a tissue fitting.  This made it a nice quick make, especially as the construction was also pretty easy. A party dress in a day!

Overall I love the way this turned out.  The length is perfect for me for party season, hitting just above the knee. I love the fact that the belt is separate, which means it can be tied at the back or the front and it can either be pulled tighter for a waist-cinching silhouette or left a little looser for after a big Christmas meal! Or you can just leave the belt off all together (personally, I like it better with the belt though).  Plus, obviously, it has pockets!

My only issue with the pattern was that the belt has a centre seam, which is visible from the front when it’s tied at the back. I didn’t have quite enough fabric to cut it without the seam, but next time I would make sure to cut it on the fold to avoid having the seam showing.  I’m sure that it’s only me that will notice anyway!

I finished off my dress with a little handmade label. I love adding these to my handmade clothes, I think it makes the perfect finishing touch!

This fabric and dress are the perfect match for the festive season, and I can’t wait to get my wear out of it at all the parties come December!

Thanks so much for reading, and Merry Christmas sewing to you all! 

Jen @miss_jennifer_makes


Bears for Christmas

I’m back on Minerva blog with a product testing post with a Christmas project.  When I was asked to pick a fabric to test for a season themed project I was super keen to do it. Why? You might ask.  Some years ago I started a little sewing tradition of my own: To make for each year a garment using a Christmas patterned fabric. This year’s fabric is this cute polar bears woven cotton fabric (which comes in black or navy blue).

I picked the Carolyn Pajamas from Closet Case Patterns to go with this fabric. I just had to add to my Christmas wardrobe a me made pyjama set. This was presented the perfect opportunity to finally use piping in one of my projects. Working with cotton is super easy and this is a good time to experiment.  I made my own piping using ready made red bias tape and piping cord.

Adding piping to my project meant that it look a little longer to make my garments, because I had to do some prep work before sewing some of the seams. But I feel it was well worth it. Piping adds elegance to my project and makes the pattern on the fabric pop up.

To mark the fabric I used a combination of chalk (stitching line for the fake trouser centre front opening and buttonholes placements), small cuts within seam allowance and thread tracing.

The fabric frays so, it is a good idea to consider various seam finishes. For my project, I used the overlocker, however if one is not available, a zig-zag on the edge of the fabric should do the trick. To reduce the bulk and for a more professional finish, I only overlocked the edges that are visible in the finished garment and once certain seams were constructed.

I never trace the buttonholes placement of the patterns that requite buttons down the centre front. This is because I prefer to set the master buttonhole directly across my bust line to avoid gaping in that area. Using a tool called expanding sewing gauge I establish the buttonhole placements starting with the bust. This means that sometimes I use more or less buttons than the pattern requires. For this particular project I used 5 buttons.

Even with adding the piping making my new set of pyjamas did not take that long. I think it took me longer to decide which buttons to add. In the end, I chose the navy blue buttons because I wanted to make a feature of the red piping.

To date, there are my ‘poshest’ set of pyjamas. Don’t think I’ll only wear them during the winter holiday season. I don’t think I’ll even only wear them to sleep in.  I wonder why I waited so long to add piping to my projects. I keep thinking how much piping will be too much in my projects.


A thing is for sure, this year, my Christmas sleep wear is very elegant, I might even spend the whole season in this outfit.

Below are a few of my tips for working with cotton fabric:

•      Wash your fabric before you start your project, especially if it is a garment you are making to minimise any shrinking.

•      As cotton is super easy to work with, have fun, try to add elements like pipping to your project.

•      Consider finishing the seam allowances, the fabric frays.

•      The fabric is suitable for shirts, tops, dresses and skirts

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog post. And please, do share your makes on Instagram/Twitter by tagging @Minervadotcom and/or using the hashtag #MinervaMakes. I love to seeing what you create.

Simona @ Sewing Adventures in the Attick


What are you looking at? The anorak that stared back!

Dear Readers,
I'm very excited to be joining the Minerva Maker team. My name is Steph and my Instagram is Rx.steph. As you can probably tell, I love bright colours and don't take myself too seriously (if that isn't already evident from the tiny rubber ducks attached to my ears).
For my first project, I decided to make another Closet Case Patterns Kelly Anorak. I made my first one about two years ago, from waxed cotton with a quilted lining and I think it is one of my most worn makes. However, the dark purple colour doesn't always match my mood so I was keen to make something brighter.
This crazy yellow eyeball print Cotton Canvas Fabric is definitely fun! I was worried it would be too hard and cripsy, since it is recommended on the website for upholstery but it's soft enough for clothing (it would make a great dress or trousers too). It feels like a medium weight denim. 
For the lining I used a black Plush Fabric, also from Minerva. It feels like a faux fur with a dense short nap, it's very soft and surprisingly warm. I decided to extend the plush lining to the sleeves because I hate having cold arms but if you are concerned about added bulk or ease of taking it on and off, I would just line the body and line the sleeves in something slinky (like a rayon). 
I used the Kelly Anorak lining extension and chose to omit the centre back pleat in the lining, due to the bulk of the plush lining. The plush fabric sheds a lot from any raw edges, so be prepared to vacuum each time but once it is sewn in it doesn't shed. I am really impressed with the quality of both fabrics.I did find that the cotton canvas shrank a lot from ironing when attaching the fusible interfacing, despite having both prewashed and preironing the fabric. Perhaps putting in the dryer after prewashing or ironing slowly with lots of steam would sufficiently pre-shrink the fabric. I lost about 1.5cm in length and width so the finished jacket is a little smaller than intended but still fits fine. 
If you haven't sewn gusseted pockets before, be sure to take your time and read the instructions carefully. The first time I made the Kelly, I cut into the seam allowances too far and had to cut new pockets because I couldn't live with them being too small.Closet Case Patterns has a free sewalong tutorial on their website with lots of pictures, so you don't need to be intimidated if you haven't made anything more complex before. I had only been sewing for a few months when I made my first one.
I really like the construction of the front of the anarok. It has a zipper, placket and snap buttons, so you can choose how closed you want it depending on the severity of the weather. I used the Prym Anorak snaps in black, I used the same snaps in copper for the last one and they have held up very well. I haven't had any break or fall off, despite being heavily used. Prym also makes pliers to make inserting them easier, which is appreciated when you live in an apartment and can't hammer in hardware after work at night.
Overall, I'm very happy with this make and I'm sure it will get lots of wear when the weather finally cools down. The print and fluffy interior makes my heart happy but Minerva have a huge selection of heavy cottons which would probably work just as well if eyeballs aren't to your taste. 
Happy sewing,
Steph @rx.steph

Pretty In Pink

Have you ever seen a fabric that caused you to step out of your norm?

Well, that is what happened to me. First, let me start off by saying that I am NOT a pink kind of gal, but when I tell you I got knocked off my feet, that’s exactly what happened. I fell in love with this Metallic Brocade Fabric that I chose to do for my first blog post with Minerva. This color is called Cerise Pink on the Minerva website, but to me, the key word was “Pink” and I just don’t do pink. So you’re probably saying, “What happened?” This gorgeous fabric is what happened. It forced me to step out of my norm and I couldn’t be happier that I did. 

I have worked with Metallic Brocade before but if you have never worked with it before just know it does shed a lot but if you have a serger just serge each piece after cutting and you will be good to go. This fabric is so worth it because not only is the main fabric side beautiful but with the ability to wear the reverse side and get a totally different and beautiful look is so amazing. I don’t know which side I love the most, lol.

When you have fabric this beautiful and with this much detail to it, you really don’t want to use a pattern with a lot of details too because you want the focus to be totally on the awesomeness of the fabric. So with that being said, I chose a simple but yet elegant pattern in the Butterick 4443 view “A” in size 16. I have been known to hack most patterns by making either a small change or sometimes in a much bigger way but I totally decided to make this dress as it was designed to be.

I did a little adjusting to the bodice to assure I had that tight fit I like with off the shoulder dresses to avoid any gapping. This pattern does not call for the use of boning but I did use flat boning in the seam allowance of the front princess seam for more structure. The pattern calls for the lining of the bodice only, so I decided to use the opposite side of this fabric to line the bodice and I am so glad I did. Have you ever made a garment where you felt like you wish you could wear it inside out? Well, this little baby definitely has that chic appeal both inside and out. I used bias tape to enclose the seam allowances, used the Hong Kong finish and bias tape for hemming to add to its appeal.

I’m so happy with how this dress turned out and the very moment I put this dress on I felt more girly than normal. The flow and moment of this fabric is so awesome. This fabric is of medium weight but yet has a great flow to it. Whether you are a pink kind of gal or not, you will definitely fall in love with this fabric the moment you unpack it.

Thanks for reading and be sure to check out my personal blog at Angie J Styles



Sweater Knit Jarrah

I've made one other version of the Megan Nielsen Jarrah, which was version B, a usual sweater shape, but with a dipped back. I did like the look of the tie-front version, but thought that would suit a thinner sweater knit. When I first saw this gorgeous glitter stripe Sweater Knit Fabric I knew it was meant to be a Jarrah.
The jersey is a nice weight with a fair amount of stretch, so I thought it would be perfect for a sloppy cardigan or sweater. The Megan Nielsen Jarrah has a great shape as instead of raglan sleeves it has a dropped shoulder with sleeves attached. This fabric is perfect as it's quite a light sweater knit, but still warm enough to keep out the autumn chill.
The fabric has lovely glittery stripes, which although aren't hugely prominent, they are noticeable, because of this I wanted to match my stripes. It is tricky to do, but I found the tips in Tilly and The Buttons Stretch book the most helpful I have seen. One of the best tips is to not cut your pattern pieces on the fold, but to do so on the flat. This is done by cutting one piece out and then flipping over to cut around it for the adjoining piece. This means that the stripes stay straight across the garment.
After cutting out the rear piece, I then noted where the stripes lay around the armholes. For example, if the stripe started 1cm up from the bottom of the armhole, I lay the front pattern piece on the fabric with the armhole 1cm from the stripe. I then proceeded to cut the front pieces on the flat, as the front piece has the tie, it is not cut on the fold.
The construction of this pattern was quite simple and it was easy to sew up. I did start by stabilising the shoulder seams, just as a precaution as it is quite a light knit, although the pattern did not call for this. I sew with a lot of jersey, so I have a lot of stabilising elastic to hand! Sewing with this fabric was relatively easily and it didn't over-stretch. I used a standard zig-zag stitch as I do with all stretch fabrics.
When it came to sewing along the sleeves and down the body, it was time to check my stripe matching! When placing the pieces together to sew, I used a lot of pins. It is helpful to pin at every stripe, if the stripes are wide (as they are here) or every other stripe, if you have a narrow stripe. You then have to be very careful as you sew for the fabric not to move too much and dislodge how they are lined up.
Overall I was really please how my stripe matching turned out on the sleeves and body. It is hard to get stripes matched up and of course, entirely up to you whether you do it, but when they match it is very satisfying! 
The front section of the sweater is split into two pieces ready to tie up. As the fabric was quite drapey, I thought it might be a good idea to stabilise the fabric using some seam tape interfacing. I ironed this in place and then hemmed up as normal. Again the pattern doesn't call for it, but just felt it gave a lot more stability to the tie.
I think if I make another I would add a bit of length to the sleeves (as I have to all my sweatshirt patterns) as I'm quite long-limbed and I like a long sleeve. All in all though, I love how this top turned out and have already had lots of wear out of it.  
Thank you for reading!

Dixie DIY ballet dress with Vogue 9000's skirt Hack

Hi Everyone! I’m so happy to be sharing my latest make. I love the festive season. There are parties and great food and a sense of excitement in the air. It's funny because we plan and photograph our festive issues at Love Sewing magazine during the summer so I sort of have two Christmases! 

This dress is going to be a great staple this year as it's that magical combination of toasty and fancy.

It's the fabric that makes it so wonderful with subtle silver metallic threads and white sequins woven into the jersey. There is a great texture to the fabric too that makes it feel like a sweater knit you'd find in ready to wear clothes.

I used a mixture of the Dixie DIY ballet dress bodice with Vogue 9000's skirt which I cut on the fold and adjusted at the side seams to fit the bodice. The sleeves fit so well, I love the scoop neckline and you cant best a swishy skirt. I made a slim waist belt in the same fabric but also like it with my black patent belt. I should have made thread belt loops to help stop the belt sliding down! Still time to add those now it's done.

It cuts and sews very easy as the sequins aren't too densely spread over the fabric. I used a rotary cutter and mat then finished everything on an overlocker. The hems are just turned under and stitched. I used a universal needle and narrow zigzag for all the construction. Easy peasy!

It's a little sheer but as you can see with a slip underneath I have perfect coverage. It gave me a good excuse to break out my wedding jewellery again. I feel so sparkly and merry!!

Merry Christmas, happy festive season and a wonderful winter to everyone!

Amy @


It's pajama chic!

One of the things I love about sewing is the ability to create clothes that you wish you had in your closet. 
These Scottie PJ's are just that! As soon as I saw this fabric I knew that I needed to make my dream 2-piece pajama set. 
It's no secret among my friends and family that I love J.Crew, but they are a bit pricey. Every holiday season they have a pair of similar PJ's on their website and they sell out before I can splurge. Well now that I've made my own, I don't have to buy them! Didn't that work out nicely? 
For my version, I used Simplicity 8803. It's has pattern pieces for women and girls -which make it perfect for coordinating outfits! I used the Misses' size small for my top and a size medium for my pants. The pants were a perfect fit. The top? More on that later.
At first glance, this pattern seems intimidating. I mean, it's a pajama set with trim, a collar, cuffs and buttons, oh my! But in true sewing fashion, the projects that always appear to be the most intimidating usually are the easiest. 
The pattern calls for twill tape and piping. I opted not to use the twill tape since I didn't feel that my pants needed it. I did, however add the piping. I made sure to dig up my piping foot during the process. It was so helpful! 
The pattern does come with excellent directions for sewing the piping trim onto the pajamas. However, I cannot imagine taking these steps without a piping foot or a zipper foot. 
I believe there are 11 pattern pieces for the women's version, which again, surprisingly not a lot! Right? 
It took me a little longer to cut the pattern pieces since the fabric has a directional pattern. I cut each pattern piece on a single cut. If and when I make this in a solid color, this should not be a concern. 
I was careful to make sure that my front facing, front, back and pants all mirrored each other symmetrically. 
The surprise for me was that the cuffs for the shirt and the pants were separate pieces (forgive me but I've never made PJs like this before). So, again, I made sure that the cuffs matched perfectly with the fabric pattern on the sleeves and pants. This allowed for a seamless look between the break from the piping.
I will add that when I make these again, I will be sure to grade a size up in the top. The current top that I have is a little too snug (I made a small). By the finished garment measurements I should've had a decent amount of ease, but that wasn't so. I'll probably make a medium/large in the top to account for more room and comfortability as I sleep. 
So, the big question...will I actually wear these to bed or (even better) on Christmas? Um, heck yes. After all, these are my handmade (knock-off) Scottie PJ's! 

Christmas Placemats

To Make These Placemats I Used:

1m Cotton Christmas Fabric.  

1m White Cotton Fabric for the embroidery,

2m Various off cuts of cotton fabric

120cm per mat Satin ribbon, 18-20mm wide.

1m Sew-In Thermolam Compressed Fleece Dense Batting Wadding

Stranded cotton embroidery floss 7 colours

Iron on letter motifs

Wonder tape


Essential Equipment:

Large eyed embroidery needles

Embroidery hoop

Dressmakers set square or similar

Sewing machine with ability to lower feed dog

Lots of time and patience

When Minerva asked for something creative using one of their many Christmas design fabrics, I immediately thought 'placemats!'. I thought a 100%cotton fabric would cope with hot plates and wear better. I chose this busy patchwork design as I hoped it would make it easier to keep things square.

The Embroidery

I wanted to make a double-sided mat so that it could be Christmas on one side and Everyday on the other. I also wanted to personalize each mat by embroidering a name, with an iron-on decorative capital letter.To do this, I typed and printed each name in a handwriting font (Zapfino) size 76. I traced all but the capital letter onto white cotton fabric and the worked each word with couch stitch using cotton floss; 6 strands for the filling and 3 strands for the securing stitches.

I kept to the colours of the fabric but each name has a unique combination of two colours. 

In addition to the 5 family members I made another 5 mats with different names: Friend, Family, Welcome etc. The W of welcome I made myself from a scrap of red ribbon, stitched to a square of grosgrain ribbon.

Once I'd worked the names, they got a good press and I ironed on the capital letters. The D and A were smaller, so I ironed them to tartan taffeta ribbon and stitched on the whole square.

The Name Frames

I sized up each name and removed part of the Christmas fabric pattern so that the ribbon effect made a frame for the embroidered names. Some names took up more space, so the size of frame varied. I used wonder tape to position the frames over the embroidery and stitched with a close zigzag.

The Batting

The place mats needed to be a rectangle in a ratio of 2:3 i.e. the longer edge 150% of the shorter edge. I was aiming for 24cm x 36cm. In order to cut the 92cm wide thermolan batting most economically, the actual measurements were 23cm x35cm. 

The Christmas Patchwork

I used some of the Christmas tree rectangles as patchwork pieces and played around with contrast cotton fabrics until I got the effect I liked.  I would have loved to make a half square zigzag all the way round but it was so fiddly I just did the V at the bottom edge.  The rest was straight strips of fabric cut to size.

I stitched everything with 1/4" seams(3mm)- the cotton fabrics were stable enough to cope with such narrow allowances.

This all got a good press and a rough trim to match the batting rectangles, using my set square to ensure parallel edges.  I then hand tacked the panels to the batting around the name and the outer edge.  Phew. Halfway there.

The Everyday Patchwork

I could have just used a solid piece of fabric for the backs but I opted for patchwork with a simpler layout. After a lot of drawing and playing with shapes I came up with a design based on six 12cm squares (ratio 2:3 again). Once assembled it would look like a stretched hexagon.

After a bit of trial and error I decided the 3 horizontal stripes on the middle squares should be 4cm wide and the diagonal stripes in the corners should be 3cm wide. I tried making a template out of card, but in the end, it was just easier to measure each piece with my set square to get a true 45 degrees.  Even then, it was out in places but once sewn together it worked. Sometimes the seam allowance was wider to make the seams straight. 

The effect of the 3-colour hexagon is quite striking don’t you think?

I attached each unique backing piece to the reverse side of the batting with pins, taking care to line up the centres of each edge. 

The Quilting

First I drew a life size plan. Then, I stitched around each name on the Christmas side.

Finally, I turned over the work and did the diagonal lines. The technique I chose was free sewing; I dropped the feed dog, removed the presser foot and stitched by eye but with some pins to mark the start and end points of each line.

Once or twice I forgot to lower the presser foot lever, so the tension was a mess. More unpicking!  Where I had to stop and cut threads, I left long tails to tie off and sew in later.  It got better with practice, and the stitch length became fairly even. I'm quite pleased with my first attempt at free sewing.


The final stage with the satin ribbon binding. I had bought 2 different sorts. One was an expensive double sided satin 18mm wide, in ivory. The other was a cheaper single sided satin, 20mm wide, in green. I edged four mats in each colour. The thicker expensive ribbon was fiddly to manipulate on the corners so I elected to hand stitch them. The thinner cheaper ribbon folded easier, but also snagged a little. I like them both. Just a tip- satin ribbon frays a lot so cut yourself plenty of underlap.

After sewing in the ends and pulling out the hand tacking, they were done. Well 8 of them were.

I wanted to get this blog written so the last 2 are still waiting for their backs!

I’m quite pleased with them. They look pretty much as I had hoped. They may lack the finesse of some patchwork and quilting experts, but even novice quilters like me can manage a simple project like this.

By the way, I have enough fabric left to make a few Christmas tree coasters with a firmer, less bouncy backing. Can't have those Christmas drinks falling over! Thanks for reading.

 Anna @

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