Sewing, Sewing with kids

Not-paper towels: Wiping cloth tutorial

We have used cloth napkins for a very long time in our house.  It’s been so long, in fact, that our thick, durable white napkins started to fray at the edges.  We bought some replacements (including some at a garage sale that had never been used), but what to do with the frayed napkins?

Make wiping cloths.

They don't have to be perfect and are a great way to practice top stitching, placing a hanging strap, and saving the Earth.

They don’t have to be perfect and are a great way to practice top stitching, placing a hanging strap, and saving the Earth.

We have bar mop towels to wipe the puddling water around the sink after washing the dishes at night, but we found that whenever we picked up a little spill — a drip or a dab off the floor after a vegetable dove from the cutting board —  we used a paper towel.  I figured perhaps a few small, ex-napkins with a hanging loop could stand in for those moments and save us a few paper towels.

First, I trimmed the fraying edges and cut each napkin in half.  Then I let the kid have a go at the rectangles of cloth, practicing stitches and sewing straight.  Why not? (This is why there are zig-zag stitches visible below.)

I found some extra material (the pink one was the remaining portion of a previously sewn strap, the others from a long strip of fabric I had left) and made straps.  You can make a strap by ironing the strip in half, then folding each side to the middle and ironing so it looks like a staple after it’s gone through the stapler.  Fold the sides together as if you were bending the staple in half so the folded edges meet, then top sew as close to the edge as you can manage.  You can top sew the other side as well to make it look nice, but for these I didn’t bother…

Here they are wrong side out, strap tucked inside.  Sew around, leave a little space to turn, iron and sew around the outside.

Here they are wrong side out, strap tucked inside. Sew around, leave a little space to turn, iron and sew around the outside.


I then folded the fabric in half and placed the little strap inside with the stem facing out and sewed around with 1/4″ seam allowance, leaving a couple of inchesfor turning right side out.  Trim to 1/8″ and trim the corners carefully (don’t cut your stitches).  After they were right side out, I used a chopstick to get the corners straight. I ironed  and top stitched  — in a couple of cases using thread that was nearing the end of the bobbin — and they’re done.

Every time a newly poured up of water leaves a little ring on the counter, a few drops of milk or tea are left behind, or the dog sloshes her water, I can clear it up without a paper towel.  Often the little spill is just water, so I can hang the little towel on our hooks and let it dry out for another use.  Even if you just clean up spilled bits on the floor and toss them into the wash, these hardly take up any room, are incredibly soft, and give new life to something no longer served its use.

Sewing, Sewing with kids

Sewing a Bag of DOOM!


“Good things will befall you” or “You will trip in barf,” but either way it’s fun to reach into The Bag Of DOOM!

During Independent Work Time some of the kids made origami beasts (and then tried to sell them to each other), some drew, and our kid made a tiny paper packet that held little paper fortunes.  She called it the Bag of DOOM.

Despite the ominous name, or perhaps because of it, all the kids wanted to choose a message from the tiny, ripped paper folder.  Even the teacher picked from it three times (probably to erase the time she chose the barf message above).  As the child relayed all this to me in the car ride home, I thought it would be funny to sew a Bag of DOOM (you have to accentuate DOOM like something is really crazy is going to come down).

The 10-year-old chose the fabric, ironed and sewed this (on the machine, with my oversight).  It’s not lined, so the side and bottom seams are finished with French seams.  If you aren’t familiar with the term, it’s a fancy way of saying that the raw edge is enclosed in the seam.

With the right side facing out, our child sewed the side and bottom of the bag with 1/4″ seam allowance.  I cut the finished sides down by about half, then we turned the bag wrong side out and ironed it.  After sewing the bottom of the bag and side again with a 1/4″ seam allowance, the raw seam becomes encased and won’t fray.  Try this on a leftover piece of fabric and change your sewing world.  Instructions from Craftsy right here.

To sew an easy bag, see this easy drawstring bag with Brett Bara here.  All we did was add French seams for durability (from DOOM).  The cord comes out of the inside, so use something smooth like a silky ribbon, and in our case, we moved the opening to the side instead of the center.  Don’t like that?  Here are a few other tutorials from SewMamaSew.

After making the bag, she had everyone submit messages to pull out at random: “A closed mouth gathers no feet,” “You’re one of a kind!” “A doughnut is coming your way!” and “Better to remain silent and thought a fool than speak and remove all doubt.”  The rest are all about bodily functions because, well, she’s still ten.