Tag Archives: Sewing with Children

Batik Shorts Tutorial

Hi, here I am going to show you how easy it is to make a pair of shorts without a pattern. After all summer is just around the corner (it’s actually snowing outside!).

I chose a lovely batik fabric which used to be my grandfathers sarong when he lived in Indonesia and I chose some shorts that fit me nicely.

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I folded the shorts in half and folded the fabric in half as well, laying the folded shorts on the fabric, making sure that the pattern on the fabric is facing the right way. Then I drew around the folded shorts with chalk, adding about one inch seam allowance all the way around, otherwise your shorts will be too small. I then cut around my chalk markings and repeated this once more for the other leg of the shorts.

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Cut a waistband out, this needs to be about 15cm deep and the length needs to long enough to go all the way around the top of the shorts, plus a seam allowance. Then zig zag your fabric. The reason I zig zag is to make sure that the fabric doesn’t fray when it is washed.

Take the two pieces of one leg and lay the fabric good side to good side. Pin the two longest straight sides together and repeat with the other leg.

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Use a straight stitch to stitch the pinned sides together and repeat for the other leg. I used the edge of the fabric with the edge of the sewing machine foot as my guide. Remember to go forwards and backwards at the beginning and the end to secure your stitch.

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Press your seam open using the iron. This means that when you stitch it all together later, you don’t get big bulky bits.

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Turn one leg the right way out and put that inside the other leg which is the wrong way out. Pin the curved edges together matching the seams and sew using a straight stitch. Then turn the shorts the right way around, you should now have something that looks like a pair of shorts without a waistband.

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Get the waistband and put the two short ends together. Pin it and then sew it together using a straight stitch. Take the pins out and then open out the seam using the iron. Fold the waistband in half across the length like in the picture, press.

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Open out the waistband as shown and pin the top edge of the shorts, lining up your back seam. The back of the waistband (where the seam is), needs to be pinned to the back of the shorts. (Just decide which side is nicer to decide which side is the back). Stitch this seam using a straight stitch.

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Press a little seam at the top of the waistband as shown in the picture. Mine is about 1cm long. Fold the waist band over the seam  and then pin it, leaving an inch gap to insert the elastic. I have marked the gap with two pins either side so I don’t forget to stop sewing here.

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Stitch this seam nice and close to the edge where the open side is. This will prevent any flapping bits of fabric on the inside. Then insert the elastic, I used a safety pin to do this. Try them on before you cut the elastic to make sure they fit over your hips. Then tie the elastic with a strong knot and stitch the hole in the waist band together, following the same line of stitches as before.

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Using the iron fold a neat hem line. I folded it over twice so that it looks nice from the inside (it also means I can turn them up on the outside if I want to). Pin and then sew the hem line, keeping your stitching nice and close to the open edge.

Press and wear!

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Dotty Christmas Trees

Christmas is finally upon us. Seems I have been preparing for months and months. But I wanted to share with you some of our creations and hopefully inspire you to make a tree yourself.

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Firstly my fabric Christmas tree. This took 4 hours to make and about 8 metres of fabric. I used fabric I purchased in a charity shop for £1 a metre and mixed it with some other fabric that had been given to me. It took 2 whole double duvets to stuff plus more, but I am delighted with the results. The decorations hang beautifully with the upholstery pins and no damage is done to the tree. There isn’t anything on the tree that isn’t handmade, I have treasured collections from my 2 years I spent in Indonesia, there are decorations that I made with my sister and my mum when we lived in Norway and there are beautiful beaded decorations from our travels to South Africa, plus some lovely ones we have made ourselves with my own children.

The tinsel is handmade and you can see a tutorial on how to make that @ https://dottybobbin.co.uk/christmas-tree-fabric-tinsel-tutorial/

I also have a tutorial on how to make the tree in case you missed that @ https://dottybobbin.co.uk/fabric-life-size-christmas-tree-tutorial/

Can you imagine how delighted I was when I went on one of my monthly trips to IKEA (I get withdrawal if I don’t go), only to find a roll of fabric with life size printed photograph of a Christmas tree on it?  I don’t know how I missed them last year!

I have a digital embroidery machine, mine is a Brother Innovis V3, and I love it! I used this machine to create these embroidered decorations on my trees. The first one is for my Mum and is hanging by her patio doors. She has a double curtain track in her pelmet so its a perfect place to hang the tree. Every year I have promised to add a decoration to her tree. If you don’t have an embroidery machine you can make fabric or felt decorations and velcro them on. One of my sewing clients has made an advent tree using this fabric, with a new decoration to put up every day. Alternatively try applique using a satin stitch and you can add hearts, stars, snowflakes etc.

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Here are a few samples of the decorations. Do you like the Dotty Bobbin?

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Below you can see my finished Christmas tree, which has pride of place in my porch, hanging from a curtain pole at the top and it has a pole inserted at the base to add some weight. I lined it with a white sheet and I appliqued the star on the top on my regular sewing machine as I couldn’t do one big enough on my embroidery machine.


I have also been making some felt trees with the children at a crafting party, and look what they made. Why not try making some yourselves with your own kids?


Lastly I wanted to show you my own little Dotty Bobbin embroidered Christmas tree!  Guess what people are getting for Christmas this year?


Merry Christmas, I hope Santa brings you all a lovely sewing machine for Christmas!

Pillow Case Aprons Tutorial

Welcome to another Dotty Bobbin Tutorial. Here I would like to show you how to convert those unwanted pillow cases into gorgeous little aprons. If you are anything like me I am constantly in the charity shop picking up things such as mismatched pillow cases, in this case the fabric is a lovely brushed cotton. It came with a bed sheet that I have already made into a winter nightie for my daughter. The lace is from a vintage stained tablecloth that was no longer required so I saved the lace. The blue cotton ties are from Primark packaging! The pink cotton lace was saved by my grandmother from a tablecloth that she no longer wanted. True upcycling!

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First cut the pillow case, I took off the section with the envelope on it, otherwise you will have too much fabric bulk on your apron. Then you need to secure the open end and prevent any fraying by serging/overlocking or zig zagging the raw edge.

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Next, I have attached the cotton lace, I have firstly pinned this in place and then used a zig zag stitch to attach it. If  I used a running stitch then I would have the lace flapping around a bit, hence I chose the zig zag, however if you were using a narrow ribbon or lace a running stitch would probably be best.

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Next how to gather, if you are using a single layer of fabric then you can use a gathering foot on your machine, but they don’t work as well with multiple layers, so here is the old fashioned way. You need to set your machine to it’s longest running stitch. DO NOT go forwards and backwards at the beginning and end of your stitches as you need to pull the threads and that will stop you doing so.

Sew two parallel rows of running stitch along the top edge of your apron. If you want a ruffle at the top of the apron, then sew your rows a couple of inches further down the apron. Tie a knot in one end of the rows (make sure you tie a knot in the same end for both rows). Then from the other end very gently pull the threads, you will need to pull only the top or only the bottom threads for this to work. Using your other hand gently gather the fabric as you pull, evening out your gathers until you reach the desired look. If you snap your thread you will need to start again, so be gentle!

Now carefully stitch a normal length running stitch in the middle of the two rows you sewed before, stitching over the gathering (going forwards and backwards at the beginning and the end). This will secure the gathering in place. Now you can remove your gathering stitches if you wish with an unpicker. I didn’t bother as I was covering it with the lace afterwards anyway.

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Next pin your lace or whatever you are using as a tie onto the top and secure in place using a running stitch. I have first attached the blue ribbon then I have attached the lace. Below I have made a second one, slightly different with some pink cotton lace instead. Here my friends twins are modelling them, whilst serving us adults some wine on the beach. Could life get any better?

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How to make a fabric book cover

Hi, its me, Sam and I am going to blog about how to make a fabric book cover. I am making mine for my summer diary.

First you need to measure the length and width of your book. Close the book and use a tape measure to go round the book including the binding. You need to work out how much you want to fold over the edges to hold the book. For an A5 book you would normally fold it over about 6 cms.  Add this to your fabric measurements. Add two more cm to the length and the width to allow for a seam to sew.

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Fold over 1cm on each side of the fabric, press and sew a neat hem with a straight stitch. Start with the two long ends, then do the two shorter ends.

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Finally fold over 6 cm of the fabric on each side, pin in place, and stitch the open edges, trying to keep on top of your previous stitches so that it looks nice. Remember not to sew the opening for your book cover!

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If you would like to add a bookmark then take a piece of ribbon, or I used shoelaces, and secure to the top middle of your cover, making sure the ribbon is long enough to overlap at the bottom so you don’t lose it. If you want to add a pen holder at the side, then add 2/3cm to the length of your fabric before you cut it, depending on how thick your pen is. Then once your book cover is finished just close the cover and sew a straight line from top to bottom down the spine. I hope you have a great result!

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Party Favour Jars

Don’t you love an excuse to make up some party favours?  Well my daughter Annelies is turning 8 next week and she is having a sleepover in the chicken shed with some friends (no chickens!). It was named the chicken shed as we were doing it up for the chickens but it turned out too good so we converted it for the kids instead! Thats a blog in itself for another day!

Well here is what we made this evening before bedtime, until we ran out of jars and sweets! Might have eaten a few along the way! (The idea actually came from one of my sewing students Sharon who loves a bit of chintz!)

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I want to show you how to make a scalloped edge on your sewing machine. Hopefully your machine will have a setting which resembles mine. I know most of the new Singer, Janome, older Elna’s and Bernina machines have this function. Perhaps it is one of those stitches you never used or even realised your machine could do!


We played around with the stitch length and width and settled for 6 width and 0.6 length. After cutting out a circle on your fabric, as demonstrated by Annelies,  use the edge of the foot with the edge of your fabric as a guide and then sew all the way around. Using some sharp very pointy scizzors trim away the excess from your scalloped edge and place on top of an old jar with an elastic, then cover with a ribbon. Careful not to cut through your stitches. 

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We raided my ribbons box and used old pieces of upholstery trimming and laces from the pound shop. Using a straight stitch just attach the ribbons or lace near the edge, demonstrated by Sam. Once attached you can trim off any excess fabric from underneath if required.

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Earlier in the day I made some cherry jam for the first time (if anyone knows an easy way to remove cherry stones please let me know!), so mine went in a Kilner jar, with a lovely jar cover made by my sewing student Sharon O’Connor.

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For your inspiration I have included some other images of jam jar covers that I found on my favourite site Pinterest. Next time I am going to try embroidering them first on my embroidery machine!

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I would love to hear from you if you have any other ideas or if you give it a go yourself.

Dotty Bobbin x

TIP: if you are struggling to remove the sticky label residue on the jars, try using a cotton pad and nail polish remover – worked for me! 


How to make a superhero cape

My mum told me about www.iamsupercapes.co.uk, who are making super hero capes for sick and disadvantaged children in the UK and the rest of the World. So I thought I would make one too, and show you how to do it, so you can make them at home as well.

I cut the fabric out using this pattern that my mum made, you can use the shape in the picture to make your own from newspaper.

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I put the paper on the fabric, pinned it onto the fabric and cut it out. The black rod is an iron paper weight in case you were wondering. I cut out two pieces of fabric, one for the outside and one for the inside of my cape.

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Once I cut them out, my mum embroidered a dragon on her embroidery machine. You could stitch on a piece of felt or fleece with a design instead, like a lightening bolt and things like that. You can download lots of templates on the internet to use or copy one from a book.

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Lay the fabric pieces together, good side to good side, pin them together like shown, and then stitch together, leaving a 10cm gap to turn it the right way around. Once you have stitched, zig zag both layers together on the edges, so that it doesn’t fray in the wash (remember to leave a 10cm gap with the zig zag as well).

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Turn it the right way around and press the edges flat with an iron and some steam. Turn the edges of the opening in and pin it together. Increase the length of your straight stitch on your machine to 3.5 and topstich all the way round the edge of the cape, staying 0.5mm away from the edge. I topstitched to stop the lining from sliding around and it looks nice too!

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After this I had to make a button hole using the button hole foot. If you don’t have one, you can use velcro instead, or  sew on a hook and eye. Then stitch on the button, on the other side. If you want to use your cape on both sides, then sew a button on both sides to make it look nice.

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Here is my finished cape, I loved it so much, I made another one for me to keep in blue!

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Quilting, Open Toe Embroidery Foot and Easter Wreaths!

Easter week is upon us already and I haven’t even made my Easter runner yet. Four days left, better get cracking (sorry couldn’t resist that one!). The holidays are always an opportunity to get some sewing and crafting done with my own children, and ensures that I test run everything that I try with my students! So this is what we have been up to. Quilting, open toe embroidery/free sewing, discovering heat resistant wadding plus a little bit of Easter crafting too. I found a lovely fabric in IKEA which is only £5 per metre and is full of leaves. I thought it was nice and spring like and the large shapes make it ideal to practice sewing with an open toe foot on your machine.

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Typically this foot creates fear in some. It involves removing the shank on your machine to fit it and dropping the feed dog, but once you get it right it is good fun, even for kids. You can pick them up fairly cheaply on Amazon. So tips I have learnt along the way with some help from my Twitter friends…when sewing freely on fabric without wadding, your fabric must be stiff or stiffened with interfacing, otherwise it will look a mess. I tried using an embroidery hoop but it wouldn’t fit under the foot. Then ensure that your feed dog is down. Most machines have a knob at the back of the machine, sometimes you have to remove the arm of the machine to see it. This will drop the feed dog. Older machines or cheaper modern models will have a plastic or metal plate that you can clip on top of the feed dog instead.Thread as normal, leave tension as normal and away you go! If you have to change thread I found it affected the tension, so I had to lift the feed dog back up and drop it again to get it back to a nice tension.

Here is what we have made, we lined with heat resistant wadding and backed with curtain lining. Then used the veins in the leaves as our guides.  I did the middle one, the others were done by my children. 

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Another IKEA fabric seen here I used just to practice on but I bet that would make a nice quilting project too! 

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My grown up students have been quilting too! Here are some of Vicky’s creations and Nicky’s. Fabulous aren’t they? They tried out the walking foot for these creations.

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Lastly had to mention these as they are such a success, for less than £1 on Amazon you can buy wire florist’s wreaths. Cut all your scraps, or tear them to save time into 1 inch wide strips about 5 or 6 inches long. The tie with a single knot all around the wreath on both wires. It takes a lot of knots and about 1 1/2 hour of time, then fluff up and trim with scissors. These are the first ones my children made last week. They are beautiful and make a lovely Easter centre piece or on the door. I will be making some more as gifts and for Halloween and Christmas too!

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Have a wonderful Easter xxx