Steely Seamstress

Sewing for life


Quick Make: Quilted Bottle Cosy

I made something very quickly yesterday. I suppose I must be used to making tricky items of clothing with convoluted instructions, so this little make really surprised me. It was done and dusted within the day.

I have this little flask that I take on cycle rides with me. I have had it for many years and it is just one of those really useful objects that I wouldn’t be without. Except there is a problem. It just doesn’t properly fit the holder on my bicycle and for ages I have just wrapped a little bubble-wrapping around the bottle so it stays tightly in the holder. Anyway, yesterday I decided enough was enough and my sewing skills came to the rescue.

The flask I take on cycle rides

I decided to make a quilted bottle cosy so that the bottle would sit in the holder better. The added advantage is that I thought that the quilting would really help insulate the bottle too keeping a cold drink cool and a hot drink warm.

I chose a couple of scraps of fabric. The outside fabric is left over from my Lander trousers. The inside, is some travel-themed fabric which I used previously to make a passport holder. The bias-binding was found in the stash. I found some batting in the stash too.

My finished quilted bottle cosy

I used two fabrics (cotton lawn for inner fabric and cotton twill for the outer fabric) and batting measuring 30 cm x 30 cm. This was sufficient for my flask. However, you may wish to measure the circumference of the flask and the diameter of the base of the flask. Add these two together and add seam allowances to get a rough fabric size.

Fabric size (length and width) = Circumference of flask + Diameter of flask + 6 cm

I also used bias-binding approximately 3 cm longer than the circumference of the flask and a length of cord, which I just cut at the length I thought looked right once I had threaded it through the bias-binding.

The bottle cosy holding the bottle.
  1. Fold the outer fabric square in half along the diagonal. Press. Draw a line (using a fabric marker) on the fabric along the press line.
  2. Next draw additional diagonal lines. I drew these evenly spaced by using the ruler width as a guide.
  3. Draw additional diagonal lines at 90 degrees to the original line. These lines will create the stitching guides.
  4. Place the inner fabric right-side down, then the batting and finally the outer fabric right-side up on the table.
  5. Pin the fabrics together.
  6. Next tack (baste) the fabrics together.
  7. Sew along the stitching lines using your sewing machine.
  8. Wrap the flask in the fabric and mark how much of the fabric is needed. I used enough to completely wrap the flask and then added 3 cms for a seam allowance (1.5 cm at each side) . Trim the fabric.
  9. Fold the fabric in half right-sides together and stitch using 1.5 cm as the seam allowance.
  10. Cut a circle of fabric the size of the base of the flask + 1.5 cm around the entire circumference from the remaining quilted fabric.
  11. Pin the circle of fabric to the cylinder of fabric already created, making sure that the right side of the fabric is on the inside. Stitch.
  12. Turn so that the right side is visible.
  13. Fold out one side of the bias-binding and place the raw edge, with the right-side against the top edge of the inside of the cosy. Pin in place. Fold the short ends under and pin these in place too. Stitch along the fold line of the bias binding. Keep the short ends of the bias binding open as these will be the openings for the cord.
  14. Fold the bias binding over the top edge of the cosy and pin in place on the outside of the cosy. Edge stitch this in place.
  15. Thread a cord through the bias binding. Cut to a length that looks good and knot.

I feel a bit sad that I didn’t take pictures of the steps. So, if the instructions aren’t too clear just let me know and I will try to add some.

Note: I did not finish any of the inside seams. Ideally I would finish these with bias-binding, but the small size of the flask and the thickness of the fabric would have made this fundamentally too fiddly.

The bottle is now held snugly in the holder on my bicycle.

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November Quick Make – Pot holders

I still had a little of the fabric left over from the apron I made back in September, and looking around the kitchen I realised that I didn’t have any pot holders, just a pair of oven gloves. What better way to use up the last of my apple-themed fabric!

You will need:

18 cm x 18 cm piece of cotton fabric. Canvas would work well as it is thick. I used by apple fabric.
About 80 cm of bias binding. I used ready-made, left over from my apron project, but you could made your own too. There is a good tutorial from Colette Patterns on how to made your own.
18 cm x 18 cm wadding
18 cm x 18 cm towelling fabric or an old towel


1. Cut out your pieces of cotton fabric, towelling and wadding.

Pot holder 1

2. Mark the quilting lines on the cotton fabric with a fabric pen, pencil or tailor’s chalk. The apple print has a definite up and down to the print so I placed my lines diagonally across my fabric. I placed the lines the width of my ruler apart just to make things easy.

Pot holder 2

3. Next, pin the three layers together with the cotton fabric on top, followed by the wadding and then the towelling.

4. Stitch the three layers together using the diagonal lines you marked earlier as your guide.

Pot holder 3

5. Next, attach the bias binding. Open out the bias binding and attach it to the wrong (towelling) side of your pot holder. Stitch in place. I found that it was possible to make neat corners by just curving them.

Pot holder 4

6. Leave an overhang of about 6 centimetres on the fourth side of the pot holder to create a loop for the pot holder.

7. Trim the edges of the pot holder. This will make it easier to fold over the bias binding to the right side (cotton fabric). I trimmed away at the towelling, wadding and cotton fabric, but left the bias binding intact. Trim the corners well too.

7. Fold over the bias binding and pin in place. Stitch the bias binding in place from the right side.

8. For the loop, sew the two sides of the bias binding together and then loop it to the wrong side of the pot holder. Hand stitch the loop in place.

Pot holder 6

And there we have it, a pot holder for the kitchen! I think I might manage to squeeze another two from my apple fabric.

Pot holder - finished

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May Quick Make – Train trip bracelet

I made a foray into new territory this month by trying out some macrame. This isn’t a craft that gets much attention these days.

I decided to make a very simple friendship-style bracelet, and selected an easy type of knot, known as the Spring Sinnet or slipknot. My main reason for choosing this knot was that I wanted to make this bracelet during a long train trip that I had coming up for work. Some macrame knots require a work surface or project board and pins or tape to hold the work in place. I’m not sure that anything using pins is a good idea on the train (although I have seen people sewing on train journeys). The Spring sinnet can be held in your hand as you work and needs no pinning in place, so it’s ideal as a “train trip” project.

Train Trip Bracelet


You will need:

2mm cord (I used a satin cord, commonly known as rat-tail
A bead
Measuring tape

1. Measure your wrist to get an idea of the length you wish your finished bracelet to be. Make sure it isn’t too tight or too loose (slips off your wrist)

2. Next multiply that length by 12 to calculate the length of cord needed. (For example, if you would like to make your bracelet xx long, then the length of cord needed will be xxcm)

3. Next make the decorative knots. Roughly 10 cm from one end, make a loop. The longer end is called the working end and new knots are added to this end of the cord.

Train Trip Bracelet -Step1

4. Fold the working end and post it through the loop from below. This forms what is know as a “bight”. Pull on the bight to tighten the knot.

Train Trip Bracelet - Step2

5. Once the knot is tight, pass the working end through the new loop you’ve created from below. Pull it most of the way through, but leave enough to form the next loop.

Pull on the area just below the first knot, to tighten the bight.
You can reduce the size of the next loop by pulling on the working end.

Train Trip Bracelet - Step3

6. Finally flip the knot to keep the working end on the right.

7. Add a new loop by passing the working end through the previous loop from the back. 

Train Trip bracelet - Step 4

8. Once you’ve make enough length required for the finished bracelet a final knot needs to be added. For the last knot, just pull the working end all the way through the loop.

9. To make a clasp for the bracelet, pass both ends through a bead. Tie a knot in each of the ends to make sure the bead stays in place.


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April Quick Make – Passport Holder

This is the second of my travel accessories, after the eye mask I made last month. I had plenty of the nautical-style fabric left and I decided to put it to good use making a passport holder. I was unsure how best to make this, I didn’t want anything that made the passport big and bulky to carry around, so I add cardboard to make it stiff and I didn’t make it significantly bigger than my passport. But I did think that some way of holding the passport open at the photo page would be a bonus. There is nothing worse than grappling with luggage and tickets and trying to find the right page at border control. For this reason I decided to add two elastic straps into the design for this very purpose.

You will need:

Fabric for the outside (I used my nautical-style fabric)
Fabric for the inside (I used some pale blue fabric with stars on it)
Measuring tape
Elastic (6 mm width, approximately 30 cm)

1. Measure the height of the passport. Mine measured 12.5 cm.  Measure the around the passport from one edge of the cover across the spine, to the other edge of the cover. Mine measured 18.0 cm. Add 2.5 cm to both the height and the width measurement.

2. For my European passport, I therefore had a height measurement including seam allowance of 15.0 cm and a width measurement of 21.0 cm.

3. Cut one piece of fabric for the outside and one for the inside according to the size calculated in the first two steps. Therefore I cut rectangles 15 x 21 cms.

4. Cut a piece of wadding the same size as the two rectangles.


5. Cut a piece of fabric measuring 32 cm by 8 cm. This will be used to make the corners on the inside of the passport holder. You may need to adjust the size of these corners for your passport.

6. Fold this piece of fabric in half along its length and press. Top-stitch down the length of of the folded fabric.

7. Cut the top-stitched fabric above into quarters to make the four corners.

8. Next assemble the inside of the passport holder. Place the corners on the inside fabric rectangle and then place the elastic. I made sure that the elastic was tensioned slightly. Next, tack all the pieces in place. I thought assembling all the layers in one go might be a little tricky. Pay special attention to lining up the corner pieces so that they are aligned horizontally and vertically. Make sure the elastic runs vertically from the top to the bottom of the holder. Trim the corner pieces.


9. Next, assemble all the pieces. Place the pieces in the following order:

  • Wadding
  • Outside fabric face up
  • Inside fabric (with corner pieces and elastic attached) face down

10. Pin, then tack in place. Stitch together leaving a small opening, in order to be able to turn the passport holder the right way out.

11. After stitching, trim the seam allowance, then turn the passport holder the right way out and press gently on a low heat.

12. Stitch up the opening. Insert your passport into the holder. All you need now is a holiday!




March Quick Make – Eye mask

I have been meaning for a while to sew some travel accessories. I bought some nautical-style fabric last month and this was one of my plans for it. There will be more!

You will need:

Paper to make template
Fabric – patterned for the outside of the mask
Fabric – something soft for the inside
Measuring tape
Loop turner
Elastic (1 cm width)

  1. First make a template for the eye mask. I made my own eye mask template as I find that the patterns on the internet a little on the big side. I think I have a child-sized head! You may want to try it out for size before you cut your fabric. If it is a little on the small size, just cut an extra cm around the template.
  2. Cut out the fabric using the template. For the patterned fabric I made sure that the area I cut contained two of the nautical motifs. Cut out another eye mask shape using the template from the other fabric. I used an old towel. It is soft and I felt this would feel comfortable against the eyes.Eye mask pieces
  3. Cut a length of elastic, adjusted to the size of your head.
  4. Cut out a strip of fabric that will be the covering for the elastic, approximately 2.5 cm in width and about 10 cm longer than your elastic.
  5. Fold the strip of fabric in half lengthwise, right sides together and sew approximately 12 mm from the folded edge.
  6. Using the loop turner, turn the fabric right sides out. Next, feed the elastic into the tube.Eye mask - fabric strip
  7. Take the two pieces of fabric that were cut from the eye mask template. Place them right sides together. Insert the elastic at each side (Remember that the elastic should be on the outside once the mask is turned right sides out So insert them on the inside of the mask sandwich). Stitch around the mask with a 5 mm seam allowance. Leave a gap so that the mask can be turned the right way out.Eye mask - attaching elastic
  8. Trim away any excess fabric all around. and clip the curves so that they turn better.
  9. Turn the eye mask to the right side. Iron the mask so that it’s all flat. Turn in the edges where the gap was so they stay in.
  10. Hand sew the gap closed.
  11. Try it on!

Eye mask - finished

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February Quick Make – Fabric covered belt

I decided to make a belt for my silk skirt as a finishing touch. I did look at a few tutorials online for making fabric belts. These suggested using “belting”. I looked in all my usual craft shops and then hunted on the web and found nothing for sale in the UK. In the end, the lady who kindly served me in Fabric Land suggested that I try using Petersham’s tape. It has just the right thickness and flexibility.

Belt - finished

You will need:

Petersham’s tape
Fabric that matches your dress or skirt
Paper for making belt pattern
Measuring tape
Loop turner

  1. Wearing your skirt or dress you wish to match the belt for, measure your waist (in my case, 85 cm) or the place where the belt will be worn.
  2. Add several extra centimetres to allow for the belt to pass through the buckle and be held in place by the belt loops. I allowed an extra 20 cms for this in my design.
  3. Cut a length of the Petersham’s tape to the length calculated in the previous step.
  4. Measure the width of the Petershams tape. (Mine was 2.5 cm)
  5. To create the pattern for the belt, draw the length of the belt and add 3 centimetres to that. Total length for pattern =108 cm. For the width, double the width of the Petershams tape (5.0 cm) and add a seam allowance (4 cm). Total width for pattern= 9 cm
  6. Cut out the fabric using the pattern piece created above.
  7. Fold the fabric in half and sew down the length of it, making sure that the seam is made to accommodate the width of tape (i.e. 2.5 cm)Belt close up
  8. Trim and press the seam allowance flat. Make sure the seam is in the middle of the belt.
  9. Sew a straight line along one edge. Trim the seam allowance.
  10. Pull to the right side using the loop turner
  11. Insert the tape. Make sure the seam is centre on the back of the belt. This takes a while!
  12. Sew up the end of the belt so it’s tidy.
  13. Iron the belting, making sure the seam is in the middle.
  14. Next, it’s time to add the buckle. Fold the end of the belt through the buckle and sew in place.

Belt buckle close-up

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January Quick Make – Covered coat hanger

I have been very keen to try out shirring for a while. I can see great possibilities for creating tops, but I haven’t had the courage yet to launch into a big project yet. I thought that creating a padded hanger would be a perfect practice project. Obviously, it is possible to create these without the shirring, but the elasticity of shirred fabric, means that it will easily mould to the shape of the coat hanger without need to create a “hanger-shaped” pattern and I think it just adds an extra frilly-ness to the whole thing.

Apologies, for the quality of the photos on this post. I will improve them when I can. There has been nothing but rain for weeks and the light is really poor for taking photos. Anyway, onwards with the post.

You will need:

Wooden coat hangers


Fabric of your choice (I used cotton)

Shirring elastic (It only appears on the inside of the garment, so don’t worry too much about colour matching. White or a dark colour will suffice for most projects)

Loop turner

Matching Ribbon


1. Unscrew the hook from the wooden part.

2. Cut a long strip of wadding roughly 5 cm wide and wrap it tightly and evenly around the hanger. Wrap more wadding around the coat hanger if you wish the hanger to be more padded. Use a couple of stitches to hold it in place. Mark the place where the hole for the hook is, so you can find it later!


3. Next work out how much fabric you need for sewing the cover. First, work out the height required. Lay the hanger on the fabric and work out the amount required for the front and back, plus 1cm seam allowance for both sides. This worked out as 16 cm for my hanger.

As a rule of thumb when a fabric is shirred the width is reduced roughly to a half of what it was. So measure the length of the hanger and add seam allowance of 1cm at each end. This worked out as about 50 cm for my hanger. I therefore worked out that I needed 100 cm in length. It is better at this stage to calculate the amount of fabric to be used generously, it can always be trimmed afterwards.

4.  Cut out a square of fabric corresponding to the height (16 cm) and length (100 cm) worked out in the previous step.

5. Now it’s the time to do some shirring! Use regular thread in the top spool holder. The colour should match your fabric. The bobbin should be wound by hand, putting about as much tension on the elastic as you would if hand-winding a normal thread: Don’t pull it tight on the bobbin, but also don’t allow it to be slack.

6. The top tension should be set slightly lower than usual. Also, the stitch length will need to be lengthened. It’s worth trying to see what works on a test piece of fabric first.

7. With the fabric right-side up, sew in parallel rows, using the presser foot as a guide. Start by lining it up with the edge of your fabric – this will be where you make your first line of stitching.

8. The machine sounds worryingly louder when shirring, but this doesn’t seem to be a problem. Continue shirring subsequent lines. It gets a bit trickier as you add more lines and it’s necessary to hold the fabric flat as you sew, but not pull the fabric through the machine. If the elastic runs out half-way through the line, just rewind the bobbin and continue with the line where you left off, just secure the stitching with a few backward stitches.

Coathanger (shirring close-up)

9. For my coat hanger fifteen lines was sufficient to cover the front and back of the coat hanger with elasticated fabric. You may need less or more, depending on how padded you wish your hanger to look. When you’ve completed all your shirred stitching, place the shirred fabric right sides together and sew a seam with a 1cm seam allowance to create a tube. Leave a 1-2cm opening in the seam so that you can fit the hook through.

Coathanger (shirred fabric)

7.  Sew up one end of the tube, again with a 1cm seam allowance. You will need to leave the other end open to insert the hanger.

8. Turn the fabric tube the right way out and feed the hanger into it.

9. Close the opening on the open end using slip stitching

10. Screw the hook back into the hanger.

11. I decided that the metal hook of the coat hanger didn’t look very slightly. I decided to cover this with my fabric too. Cut a bias strip from my fabric. Next, fold the strip in half, right-sides together and sew the length of the strip. Trim so there is not too much excess fabric. Using the loop turner turn the strip to the right-side creating a fabric tube.

Coathanger (bias strip)

12. Pull the fabric tube over the hook and secure in place with a few stitches. Don’t worry about being too neat as this will be hidden by the ribbon.

13. Add a ribbon to mask the hole the hook goes through. Cut the ribbon to the right length. Fold the ends of the ribbon over and sew them in place to prevent the ribbon from fraying.

Coathanger (finished)