Julie Bowersett


Blog Writing Course Alumni

From Guide to Art Schools


Entries in sewing (6)


Child's Apron Tutorial

I've made a handful of these aprons for my kids to wear.  They cover clothing, especially laps, better than bibs.  They are super simple to make and quick -- once your pattern is made you can whip one of these up in about 30 minutes.

First, create a paper pattern.  The apron I made is designed to fit small children, about ages 2 through 5.  Increase the dimensions as needed.  Begin with a rectangle 10” x 22” and orient it with the long edges running vertically.  From the lower left corner measure up the long edge 15” and make a dot.  From the top right corner measure across the short edge 4” and make a dot.  Connect these two dots with a pleasing curve (you can trace the edge of a curved object such as a plate).  Cut out the pattern along these lines and mark the longest edge with an arrow and notation to cut on the fold.

Using this pattern, cut one fabric piece on the fold.

Fold the bottom hem under ½” and press (I like to use a poster board template cut to ½” to help with this task.  Simply fold the fabric up to meet the edge of the template and press.) 

Open out the hem and fold the cut edge under to meet the fold, making a ¼” hem. 

Press and stitch in place.  Repeat this procedure for both side edges below the curve.

Apply the bias tape ties.  Begin with the two curved edges.  Measure 15” in from the end of the bias tape and place a pin.  Aligning the pin with the hemmed side edge, sandwich the fabric between the bias tape fold, make sure the narrower layer of the tape is on top.  The 15” will extend past the hemmed edge and serve as one of the ties.  Cut the bias tape even with the top edge of the apron.  Repeat for the other side.

Stitch close to the edge of the bias tape from the right side.  Continue stitching along the tie to the end of the tape.  Make an overhand knot in the ends of the ties.

Now apply the bias tape to the top edge of the apron.  Measure 12” and place a pin.  Match the pin to the outer edge and sandwich the fabric between the bias tape fold, again making sure the narrower layer of the tape is on top.  Before cutting the bias tape measure another 12” for the tie and cut at the end of this measurement. 

Beginning at the end of the tie, stitch close to the edge of the bias tape from the right side.  Continue stitching along the tie to the other end of the tape.  Make an overhand knot in the ends of the ties.


Ruffled Burp Cloth

I love making these as baby gifts.  A few weeks ago I knew TEN pregnant women (it’s now down to seven pregnant women and three new babies) so I spent some time perfecting my technique on these as they will be coming in handy in the future.  These are very simple to make, can be customized for the recipient and are usually very appreciated.

I have attached a gathered ruffle in this tutorial but you could easily make a pleated version which would be very appropriate for a little boy.

Begin with a purchased cloth diaper.  I usually do not prewash the diapers but I do press them with lots of steam to remove any shrinkage. 

Square the ends of the diaper and serge or zigzag the cut edges (which will fray remarkably if you don’t).

Measure the width of the diaper.  My instructions are based on a diaper that measures 15” so adjust cut fabric lengths accordingly if necessary.

Begin by embroidering the baby’s name or another appropriate design on the lower edge of the diaper.  I like to center the design horizontally about 1.75” up from the bottom edge of the diaper.   (Not shown on the tutorial example.)

Next, cut the fabric strips for the ruffle, edge binding and trim strip.  In my example I used the same fabric for the ruffle and to bind the opposite end and a contrast fabric for the trim strip.  Cut as follows:

Ruffle:  3” x 32” (about 2 to 2.5 times the width of the diaper)

Edge binding:  2” x 16”

Trim strip:  1 ¼” x 16”

Fold the ruffle fabric in half lengthwise, wrong sides together (WST) and press.  Refold short ends right sides together (RST) and stitch in ½” seam.  Press seam open, turn and press flat.

Mark the ruffle and the lower diaper edge (on wrong side) in quarters.  Run two rows of gathering stitches approximately 3/8” and ½” in from the long raw edges of the ruffle leaving long thread tails. 

Matching the quarter marks on the ruffle to the marks on the diaper pin the ruffle to the WRONG side of the diaper.  Draw up gathering threads to fit and baste at 3/8”. 

Press one long edge of the trim strip under ¼”. 

Fold in one short edge ½” and pin on top of ruffle, RST, matching raw edges.  Folded edge of trim strip should be flush with the edge of the diaper.  Fold under remaining short edge so fold is flush with opposite edge of diaper (trim off excess if necessary) and pin in place.

Stitch slightly beyond the 3/8” basting stitches through all layers.

Flip ruffle and trim strip to the diaper’s right side and press.  Stitch close to the edge of the trim strip.  Match the color of the top thread to the trim strip and the bobbin thread to the diaper.

Press one long edge of the binding strip under ½”. 

Fold in one short edge ½” and pin to remaining short edge of diaper, RST.  Fold under remaining short edge of binding so fold is flush with opposite edge of diaper (trim off excess if necessary) and pin in place.

Stitch at 3/8” through all layers.

Fold binding to wrong side of diaper and pin in place.  Stitch in the ditch from the right side to secure (I like to use an edge joining foot for this, as pictured).

These are quick and easy to make.  You could make some up to keep on hand and add the embroidered name at the end.  Enjoy.


Baby Crib Sheets

Crib sheets are very easy to make and make great baby gifts.  You will end up with a sheet of much higher quality than the ones you buy in the stores for two reasons:  you can use a high quality 100% cotton sheet as your fabric (most store bought crib sheets will not be made from this quality of fabric) and you can apply elastic around the entire sheet (not just at the corners like most purchased sheets) which allows for a better (and safer) fit.  These sheets also fit toddler beds.

Here are some easy to follow instructions for creating your own crib sheets.  You can start with any fabric that is at least 45 inches wide but it must measure an actual 45 inches.  I recommend that you prewash any fabric first since these are designed to be tight fitting and any shrinkage after they are made will make it very difficult to place on the mattress.  I also recommend 100% cotton fabric for the baby’s comfort.  My favorite source for fabric is other sheets.  You can often find very good quality sheets on clearance at stores and online.  My favorite shopping spot is The Company Store (and Company Kids).  Their sheets are very high quality and you can often find something useful in their clearance section.   You can get two crib sheets from each double or queen sized flat sheet.  If you are willing to unstitch the hems on a twin sized sheet you can sometimes get two crib sheets from that size, too.

Standard crib mattresses are 27” x 52”.  (Here is a handy website to bookmark that has standard bedding and mattress sizes.

  • Begin by cutting your fabric 70 inches by 45 inches. 
  • Cut an 8.5” square from each corner of this rectangle.
  • With right sides together, match the two cut edges of each square opening and stitch, forming a boxed corner.  I use my serger and a three-thread stitch for this step which roughly makes a 3/8” seam.  Repeat for all four corners.
  • You will need 2.5 yards of 3/8” elastic.  Make sure it is the sew-through variety.  Butt the cut ends together and zigzag over the join, forming a continuous circle of elastic.  Mark the elastic into quarters (fold in half on the seam and mark the other fold, refold so seam and mark match and mark the new folds).
  • Mark the sheet into quarters.  You will want to mark the center of each raw edge between the corners.
  • Pin the elastic to the wrong side of the sheet, matching the quarter marks on the elastic to the quarter marks on the sheet.  Stretch the elastic between two of the marks and serge the elastic to the edge of the sheet.  Repeat for all four quarters of the sheet.
  • Turn the edge under encasing the elastic.  Stretch flat and zigzag through the sheet and elastic around the entire edge of the sheet.

Ribbon Handled Bag

You can make this bag any size you want.  The trick is to cut the lining fabric 4” longer and the same width as the outer fabric.  I will give the dimensions of the bag I created which is on the small side, great for carrying lunch, a handwork project or a journal and pen.

Cut outer fabric 14” x 19”

Cut Lining Fabric 14” x 23”

For handles use 1-1/4 yard of 1” grosgrain ribbon.  Cut this length in half for two handles.


Fold outer fabric in half matching the 14” ends, right sides together. Pin along the sides and stitch ½” from the cut edge of the fabric.  Repeat for the lining fabric, leaving a 4” opening in one side for turning.


Press the seams flat and then open.  A point presser makes this easier.

Fold the lower corners of the bag into a triangular shape making a box bottom and matching the side seam with the fold at the bottom of the bag.  Sew across the triangle 2” from the point.  Repeat on both sides of each fabric piece.

Turn the outer fabric right side out but leave the lining fabric inside out.  Make sure you poke out the lower corners of the outer bag.  Drop the outer fabric bag inside the lining fabric bag with the right sides of each piece facing each other.  Match the side seams on the two bags and align the top cut edges of the fabric.  Pin along the entire upper edge. 

Sew completely around the upper edge of the bag 1” from the cut edge of the fabric.

Turn the bag right side out through the opening in the lining.  Reach through the opening and finger press the 1” seam allowance toward the lining half of the bag.  Press the seam where the two fabric layers join with an iron.

Push the lining fabric into the bag allowing the top 1” to fold over the top seam allowance.   Edgestitch along the fold of the lining fabric (or stitch in the ditch if you prefer).

For the handles mark approximately 3” on either side of the center of the top edge of the bag on both the front and back of the bag.  Mark the ribbon 4 “down from each cut end and fold the ribbon in half lengthwise at this point.



Sew the ribbon to the bag at the marks you made 3” on either side of the center front and back having the ribbon folded in half as you sew. 

Use the free end of the ribbon to tie a knot over the attached ribbon and leave end hanging.



For details on the kanzashi flower I used on this bag see my post Love in Bloom.


Journal Cover


This tutorial will explain how to make a customized cover for a journal or other hardcover notebook.  Click on the thumbnails below to see the full sized image.  

Begin by measuring the book you would like to use.  Open the book out flat and measure the width and height from edge to edge.  My example journal was 9” x 12” (example measurements will be shown in parentheses in italics).  Add 1” to both dimensions to allow for ½” seam allowances (10” x 13”).  In the example I am showing the outer fabric is created from a fabric panel of woven strips.  You can use any fabric you wish and cut it to the correct size. 

Cut one outer layer and one lining layer this size.  Also cut two pieces of fabric for the “pockets” that the book cover fits into.  These should be cut the same height as your outer and lining fabrics (10”) by 6” wide. 

Press these two pieces in half along the 6” sides – you will have a folded rectangle measuring 3” wide by the height of your book.

Lay the lining fabric right side up.  Match the cut edges of the pocket pieces to the raw edges of the lining fabric and pin in place.  The folded edge of the pocket pieces should be toward the middle of the lining fabric.

Baste the pocket pieces to the lining.  Lay the outer fabric layer over top of the pockets with the right side facing the right side of the lining fabric (pockets will be sandwiched between the two layers).  Pin around all four sides.  Stitch around the edges using ½” seam allowance, leaving an opening for turning in the center of one of the long edges.  Clip corners diagonally and press the seams open as much as possible.  Turn the cover right sides out, taking care to fold the pocket pieces to the lining side of the fabric.  Push the corners out, fold in the edges of the opening, and press the cover to form crisp edges. 

If you plan to embellish the cover you should do so before sewing the opening closed.  I chose to make three ultrasuede flowers and sew them on with buttons.  Here is a trick for sketching freehand flowers that will have balanced petals.  Draw a star just slightly smaller than the desired flower.  Use the five points of the stars as a guide to draw the petals.  Alternatively, draw a “love sign” then divide the two largest quadrants in two forming five arms.  Again, use the arms as a guide to draw your petals.

Cut out the flowers from ultrasuede.  Working through the opening as needed, pin the flowers in place on the cover.  I used pearled cotton to sew the buttons on.  Take a stitch through the flower and the cover as shown.  Pull the needle through leaving long tails.

Thread the buttons onto the thread tails.  Push the needle through one set of holes on the button, switch the needle to the other tail and push through the other set of holes.

 Tie the thread tails into a double knot and trim the ends as desired.

When all of the embellishing is complete sew the opening closed by hand or machine.

Slip the cover of the book into the pockets in the lining.  Enjoy!