With apologies to my sister-in-law who gets my posts via e-mail, this post is about how I made blocks for her little boy for Christmas. (Delete this e-mail now, sister!) (The rest of you can scroll down to see the pictures.)
I bought a piece of 4" thick foam at Hobby Lobby and found a post at eHow.com on how to cut foam. I'll tell you, my hands and wrists were sore from pulling my electric knife through the foam, and I certainly should have put it up on the table instead of the floor because my bunner muscles and thighs were SORE from kneeling, squatting, and otherwise dancing around while cutting. Mercy. Oh, and I put one of my cheap, large cutting boards under the spot where I was cutting with the knife - you will ding it up, and badly.
The foam was about $22 and I used a 40% off coupon - you should be able to see the current one being offered here. It was 22"x22", so I'm thinking of making extra blocks (or two) and selling them in my Etsy shop. Maybe a set for a baby girl?
On my shopping trip to Hobby Lobby, I found the fabric you see - it coincidentally was a print with 4.25" square blocks! I cut it apart so that four blocks were together, and I stitched on a top and a bottom, so to speak. On the advice of both my mother and MIL, I'm using a zig zag stitch for strength. I left two sides open for stuffing the foam in, as I found leaving just one side open made for a very tight squeeze.
Then I hand stitched the remaining two sides shut using more or less a basic whipstitch. I tended to space my stitches too closely together, which I thought was better than too far apart. My mom had encouraged me to try to space them about the same distance as the zig zag stitches from the machine, but my brain kept over-riding that. :>)
I found that even using only the width of my presser foot as my seam allowance, some of the blocks are pretty tight - plus it comes as no surprise that none of my blocks are completely square (nor are my fabric cuts). Were I to do this again with non-block-printed fabric, I'd probably cut at least 4.5" squares and possibly 4.75" squares to make sure there is enough room. On the one hand, you don't want the fabric too loose and the foam sliding around inside, but on the other hand, too tight isn't very pretty.
To make the bag, I figured three rows of three blocks each, which would be 12" by 12", plus 4" on the sides, and I wanted plenty of room for a drawstring at the top. I ended up cutting my fabric 17" across by about 37" long (partly influenced by the size of my piece of fabric). I was completely winging it without a pattern (which seems to be my favorite way to sew!) so I'll just explain what I did.
First, I made the patch with [nephew name]'S BLOCKS. I tried embroidering it and didn't care for the way it turned out. So I pulled that out. I had a number of scraps left over from the blocks, so I made stencil letters on the computer (see how to do that at my ABC Book post) and cut them out. I used two-sided fusible interfacing attached to the print first, then traced the letters on the back side - make sure you trace the letters BACKWARDS so they'll end up the right way - and cut them out, then fused them to the navy piece of fabric. I cut around the edge with pinking shears and stitched it to the light blue fabric for the sack. Note that my webbing is thick, so I did NOT stitch around the outside. I used some of this on my ABC Book referenced above, and ended up breaking my thread several times. Had I used the Wonder Under that I finally found in the storage room this morning, I'd have used a zig zag stitch around the letters.
Looking at it now, I think I should have scooted it down a few inches when I stitched it on, but without the bag sewn and the blocks in it, it looked centered at the time. So, if you try this at home, learn from my mistakes . . .
To make the bag, I folded the fabric at the bottom of the bagand pinned one side. I stitched that side shut and pressed the seam open. I trimmed the corner a bit, snipping off the diagonal, so it would be neater when turned right side out. I think at this point I had intended to fold the top down and sew the slot for the drawstring, but I forgot. I stitched the other side, also all the way up to the top, which kind of came back to bite me later, but I persevered! I then turned the top down and stitched the drawstring slot, but if you're following along in your mind, you'll realize I don't have anywhere for the drawstring to go into or out of - it's completely stitched shut!
Luckily, I thrive on this type of challenge. :>) I stitched back and forth a few times about 3/4" down from the top of the bag along one side seam, and then used a seam ripper to open the side seam stitches between that and the seam that made the bottom of the drawstring slot. Success! For the string, I braided six strands of navy yarn with different colored flecks and knotted each end. I fastened a barrette on one end, and used that to feed the yarn through the slot. (Slot isn't the right word, but I can't think of what the right word would be! Feel free to leave me a comment on that!) I also pressed the fold at the top so it would lay neatly.
Then I stuffed the blocks in and tied the yarn, sat back, and admired my work. :>) You can see more of what I'm doing for Christmas at my Handmade Christmas post, which I'm updating as I make more things. (Unless you're going to be a recipient of said gifts. Then no peeking, you Scrooge!) You can also see more handmade Christmas ideas at Proverbs 31 Living.
For more frugal ideas, visit Life As Mom.