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Tailored Apron with Proper Pockets Free Sewing Tutorial

Finished size: approx 53cm long x 76cm wide (21“ x 30“) plus ties!


80cm wide x 44cm long (31.5” x 17.4”) main apron fabric.

33.5cm wide x 31.5cm long x2 (13.2“ x 12.5“) fabric for the visible part of the pockets.

33.5cm wide x 31.5cm long x2 (13.2” x 12.5”) fabric for the hidden part of the pockets.

240cm (95”) of 18mm (1.5”) bias tape or fabric and bias tape maker to make this.

85cm wide x 13cm long (33.5“ x 5.2“) fabric piece for the waistband.

79cm wide x 9.5cm long x2 (31“ x 3.75“) pieces of fabric for the ties.

Step 1 – Cutting Your Fabric

Make up your paper pattern pieces as directed on the templates DO NOT CUT THE FABRIC UNTIL DIRECTED TO BELOW.

Take you main apron fabric, cut exactly to the size above, and fold it in half, so that the crease appears on the right.  Place the main apron template on top, so that the curve is along the left (open) side of the fabric (the template won’t reach all the way over to the crease on the other side).  Trace the curve on the left side of the template and cut through both layers of fabric.

Place the HIDDEN POCKET template on top of the still folded fabric and trace the curve of the pocket only.  Cut this shape out of both layers of fabric.


Put the main fabric piece to one side and take both pieces of your visible pocket fabric, cut exactly to the size given above.  Place one piece of fabric on top of the other, right sides facing each other, so you are looking at the back of the top piece.

Place the VISIBLE POCKET FABRIC template on top of the fabric, so that the curved edge runs along the left edge (the right side of the template won’t reach the right edge).  Trace the curved shape on the left of the template and cut out, through both layers of fabric.  You will now have two pocket pieces, facing in opposite directions.

Take your hidden pocket fabric pieces and place together, right sides facing, so you are looking at the wrong side of the top piece. Trace the template on all sides and cut out, through both pieces of fabric.  You will now have two pocket pieces, each one facing a different way.


If you haven’t already done so, cut your tie and waistband fabrics. 


Step 2 – The Pockets

Place the visible pocket fabric pieces in front of you, right sides of the fabric facing you, and then place the hidden pocket pieces on top, so that you are looking at the wrong side of the hidden pocket fabric pieces.


Put the left hand pocket to one side.

Sew the right hand pocket pieces together along the two longest straight edges, using a 6mm (1/4”) seam allowance.  Then trim the seam allowance back by half.


Turn the pocket out and iron, ensuring that the seams run along the creased edges.  Then sew the same two sides, again with a 6mm (1/4”) seam allowance.  Turn the pocket out the right way and press – you have just created a French seam!


Repeat these steps with the second pair of pocket pieces.


Step 3 – Bias Tape

If you are using ready-made bias tape jump to step 4.

Take your bias tape fabric and fold in half diagonally, then again in the opposite direction.


Cut a line as close to one of the folded edges as possible (you are aiming to cut the fold off).

In the next set of images I have moved the folded triangle round, so that the top edge in the images above is the diagonal line in the images below, this just made lining the ruler up with the lines on the cutting mat easier J.

Measure along from your first cut, 3.6cm (3”), keeping the ruler parallel with the first cut, cut again, continue repeating this process, moving along the fabric, cutting 3.6cm (3”) strips as you go.


Identify two pieces of tape that are long enough to run around the opening of each pocket (each approx. 40cm (16“) long).  Put these to one side.

You now need to join the remaining pieces together to make one long piece to run around the outside edge of the apron (approx. 160cm (63“) long).

For a professional finish the joins in the tape should be diagonal.  In order to do this, place two pieces of top of the each other, at right angles, right sides facing, with the diagonal cut edges lined up.  Fold the diagonal edges over by 12mm (1/2”) and iron the creases into place.


Open out the pieces and move the top piece up so that the top and bottom edges of the folds are directly on top of each other.  Pin and sew along the fold.


Open out the tape and iron the seam flat.  Trim away approx. half of the seam allowance and any excess fabric at the top and bottom of the tape.


Repeat these steps until your tape is long enough to reach around the apron (approx. 160cm (63“) long).

Feed your tape through an 18mm (3/4”) bias tape maker, ironing the creases into the tape as you go (we recommend spraying with starch first).  Then fold the tape in half, trapping the raw edges in the middle, and iron.

It is a good idea to roll the tape up and leave it to set at this point, even if just why you have a cup of tea, it helps the creases firm up and looks really lovely!



Step 4 – Attaching the Pockets

Pin your right-hand pocket to the right side of the main apron piece, lining up the edges of the hidden pocket piece with the main apron fabric.  Baste the hidden pocket piece to the main apron fabric along the curve of the pocket opening (see image below).  REMEMBER – Do not sew through the visible/back pocket piece of fabric.  This line of stitching is to secure these fabrics while you add the bias tape, so the line of stitches should be as close the edge as possible to ensure it ends up hidden under the bias tape.


Repeat these steps with the left-hand pocket piece.


Unfold one side of one of your shorter pieces of bias tape and pin along the basted edge, with the right side of the bias tape facing the back of the hidden pocket piece, lining up the unfolded raw edge of the tape with the raw edges of the pocket.  Sew together using your normal stitch length, in the first fold of the tape.


Fold the tape over the raw edges of the pocket, onto the right side of the apron.  Pull the tape over far enough to cover your last sew line without unfolding the 2nd long edge of the tape, pin and then sew into place, close to the edge of the tape.


Repeat these steps on the second pocket, trimming away any excess tape once pressed.



Step 5 – Finishing the Main Apron Piece

Unfold you remaining bias tape piece along one raw edge and pin onto the back of the apron, lining up the raw edge of the bias tape with the raw edge of the apron, starting at the top of one pocket and running all the way round to the top of the second pocket.  Sew into place, sewing in the ditch (the fold of the tape) as before.


Fold the tape over to the front of the apron, pin into place just past the last sew line, then sew the layers together.  Press and trim away excess tape from the top of the apron.



Step 6 – The Waistband

Iron a 1.2cm (1/2”) seam allowance over along one long side of your waistband.

Now fold the strip in half so that your folded edge meets the raw edge on the other side, wrong sides together.  Iron the fold into place.


Open the last fold back up and line up the unfolded long edge of the waistband with the top raw edge of the main apron, right side of the waistband facing the back of the main apron piece, with an even amount of overhang on each side of the apron.  Sew into place using a 6mm/1/4” seam allowance.


Fold the waistband up above the apron and iron the seamline.  Turn your apron over, so you are looking at the right side of the apron, and iron the seam allowance up, onto the waistband.


Fold the short edges of the waistband in so that they are lined up with the main apron’s sides and iron the creases into place.  Fold the top of the waistband down along the crease you made earlier (the majority of the waistband will sit above the main apron piece.  The raw edge of the folded waistband should meet the raw edge of the main apron piece at the front, inside the waist band (see image below).


Sew the waistband into place using a 6mm (1/4”) seam allowance, or less if you prefer (we use the side of our sewing machine foot as a guide, but switch the needle position to put it closer to the edge of the waistband).

Sew a second row of top stitches along the top of the waistband, the same distance in from the edge – LEAVE THE SHORT SIDES OPEN!


Step 7 – The Ties

Take one of your tie strips and iron in half along the longest side.  Then fold one of the short ends into a triangle and iron the creases into place (see images below).

Sew along the long open side and down the diagonal crease line – the second short end should be left unsewn.  After sewing, trim the excess fabric from the pointed end.


Turn your tie out, taking care to make sure the point is pushed out.  Iron the tie and then top stitch around all the sides EXCEPT the short side you turned the tie through.


Repeat these steps to make your second tie.

Insert a tie at each end of the waistband, making sure the pointy ends of the ties are both facing the same way!  We recommend inserting them approx. 2.5cm (1”) into the waistband. Pin into place and sew down the waistband to secure the ties and complete the top stitching.


Congratulations, you have finished your apron!


Fabrics used in this tutorial: Riley Blake Dutch Treat – click here to view in store.

Click here to download a printer friendly version of this tutorial.

Click here to download the templates.


Spooktacular Free Halloween Sewing Patterns and Tutorials

Apologies for the pun but we couldn’t resist!

With the children back a school the next main event on our calendar is Halloween – here is our pick of the makes from across the internet – all free patterns or sewing tutorials…

Spooky Cushion Free Sewing Tutorial – Kirs, Driven by Decor Blog


Monster Legs Free Tutorial – Hallmark Blog


Glove Monster – Handimania Blog


Bat Wings Halloween Costume Tutorial – Etsy Blog


Dragon Wings Halloween Costume Free Tutorial – Feelincrafty Blog


Trick or Treat Tote Bag Free Sewing Tutorial – Blog


Fox Tail Free Tutorial – Bitsfashion Blog (this one is no sew but could be made easier by sewing!)


Green Fairy Costume Free Tutorial – The blog


Mermaid Tail Free Sewing Tutorial – blog


Skeleton Costume Free Tutorial (sew and no sew options) – Blog


Superhero Costumes Free Tutorial – Lia Blog


Visit our Pinterest board dedicated to all things Halloween for lots more inspiration!

View our range of Halloween and spooky fabrics in store today by clicking here.


Dashwood Studio’s 2016 Christmas Fabrics Now In Stock!

Have you seen Dashwood Studio’s Festive Friends fabric collection yet?

It combines modern sensibilities with more than a nod and a wink to 1950s glamour – happy Christmas puddings and cats enjoying their Christmas party – what is there not to like!

dashwood studio festive friends christmas fabric collection long banner

Click on the image above to view in store.

If you are looking a pattern to use these fab fabrics with – check out or range in store (click here) and our free tutorials (click here).

Please tag us in to your makes in Instagram or send us images below or on Facebook, we love sharing your images 🙂

Christmas in August!

With Selfridges unveiling their Christmas shop in London this week we thought it was high time we unveiled ours!  Full to the brim with Christmas fabrics, designed to suit all tastes and styles, from the fab Studio E Love Joy Peace, traditional, Scandinavian collection, to Riley Blake Design’s Pixie Noel with more than a hint of 1950s glamour, and Santa Express brimming over with fun – and who could forget Michael Miller’s Christmas gnomes!

Save 10% on all these fabrics until Sunday 14th August by using discount code yoyoyo in your basket before you go to the checkout!

Click here to view all or Christmas fabrics in one place 🙂

Studio E – Joy, Peace Love

A Scandinavian inspired treat of a Christmas fabric collection, in lush reds, crisp white and teal.

Suitable for: quilting, dressmaking, home decor projects, crafts.

100% cotton, 110cm (44″) wide.

studio e-joy-love-peace-christmas-fabric-collection

Riley Blake – Pixie Noel

Tasha Noel has created a beautiful Christmas fabric collection for Riley Blake, reminiscent of the 1950s Babycham deer, cocktail dresses and classic Chrismas movies!

Tasha has a way with combining sugary colors with rich colors to create an amazing palette. This holiday collection is no exception. The sweet pinks and aquas are paired with Christmas red and navy blue to create a very modern Christmas collection. Bottle Brush Trees and adorable rabbits are paired with pixies in candy-striped tights in this whimsical collection with a modern twist.


Riley Blake Designs Santa Express

All aboard the Santa Express – a non-stop ride to a wintery wonderland of holiday delight by Doodlebug Design!

Join Santa and his friends in a collection so festive you’ll be giddy with creativity and delight. In classic Christmas shades and cheery winter icons these fabrics are perfect for crafting a unique gift or creating some seasonal home decor. So pack up some treats and grab a friend, cuz Santa Express is comin’ round the bend!


Don’t forget to share pics of your makes with us, we love seeing what you talented bunch do with these fab fabrics!

A Simple Girl’s Skirt For All Seasons – Sewing Tutorial


This pattern for a simple elasticated girl’s skirt is a true classic, with its origins lost in the mist of time!

My mum used to make these skirts for me in the 1970s and many of our customers still make them today for their own daughters, granddaughters, nieces, family and friends.

They are super easy to make, including cutting out they will take you around 30 minutes to make, and they don’t break the bank, typically using less than half a mtr of fabric and under a mtr of 25mm (1”) elastic.


We have listed the requirements for standard sizes below, but as we all know children don’t come in standard sizes! If you want to make your skirt ‘made to measure’ it couldn’t be simpler….

Fabric width = waist measurement x2 *

Fabric length = measure from the waist to preferred length + 57mm (2.25”)

Elastic = waist measurement (buy 25mm/1” elastic)

Standard Sizes



* If the fabric you want to use isn’t wide enough, or if you want to use a border print, you could sew two pieces of fabric together to get the desired fabric width. To work out the size of each piece of fabric simply divide the width figure in the chart by 2 and then add 12mm (1/2”) for the extra seam created when you join the two pieces together.

** Nothing is written in stone with this pattern, if you fabric is not as wide as you need, but buying extra fabric to make a join will leave you with a large off cut, you could just use a piece of fabric which is not as wide as directed above, your skirt will just have less fullness/gathers.

*** If your fabric is not wide enough, cut two smaller pieces and sew them together. Each piece should be half the width figure shown PLUS 12mm (1/2”) for the extra seam.

If you are planning on finishing your seams with an overlocker/serger you can get away with 25mm (1”) less on the length of your fabric pieces.

A Note About Using Border Prints

We have used two ‘border print fabrics’ in this tutorial as they work particularly well in this situation, the first is from Michael Miller’s Sommer fabric collection and is double border, with the same print running along both sides of the fabric. The second is Michael Miller’s Gnomeville Christmas print (this one has the border running down one side only).

When working out your fabric requirements, for most fabrics (with or without a clear direction) you would use the width of the fabric for the width of the skirt, and buy a piece large enough to give you your desired length. However if you are using a fabric with a border print, this would result in the border being on the sides of your skirt instead of the bottom. To get the border to run around the bottom of the skirt, you need to:

  1. Buy a piece long enough for the width of your skirt – you will have a large off cut for another project or your stash.
  2. Or if your fabric has a double border, or a single border but you are happy to have the border only on the front of the skirt, buy a piece of fabric half the width of the skirt piece plus 12mm (1/2”).


Step 1

‘Rough cut’ your fabrics by cutting slightly more than you need for your skirt. Then wash, dry and iron your fabrics before measuring and cutting out your pattern pieces (the fabrics will shrink in the first wash by approx. 3%).

Step 2 – For those of you using 2 pieces of fabric (if not you skip to step 3)

If you are using two pieces of fabric you will need to join your pieces together. Place one piece of fabric on top of the other, wrong sides facing each other (you will see the right side of the fabric). Sew a 6mm (1/4”) seam down one side and then trim the seam allowance back by approx. half (see images below).


Now turn the fabric out, so that you are looking at the back of the fabric, and iron the seam, making sure the seam line runs along the crease.

Pin the two layers together and then sew a seam 6mm (1/4”) in from the existing seam line, this will trap all the loose threads and raw edges inside the seam allowance.

Turn your fabric out, so you are looking at the right side of the fabric, and iron the seam once more. You can now treat your fabric as one piece.




Step 3 – For those of you using an overlocker/serger (if not you skip to step 4)

If you are using an overlocker/serger, finish your top and bottom raw edges now.


Step 4

Fold your fabric in half (from left to right), with the wrong sides facing each other – you will be looking at the right side of the fabric (see the next image).  Line up the raw edges and pin together along the vertical open side.

Sew the sides together using a 6mm (1/4”) seam allowance, trim the seam allowance back by half and then press the seam.


Turn your skirt out, so you are looking at the back of the fabric, and iron the seam you have just sewn, making sure the seam line is on the crease.

Pin the two layers of fabric together and then sew a new seam down the same side, 6mm (1/4”) in from the seam you have just sewn. You have just created a French seam, trapping all the raw edges inside – doesn’t it look lovely 🙂

Turn your skirt out the right way and iron along the seam line.



Step 5

Turn your skirt out the wrong way. Fold the top of the skirt over by 12mm (1/2”) and iron the crease into place (if you have overlocked your seams you can skip this step).


Step 6

Fold the top of the skirt over, onto the back, by 30mm (1.25”) and iron the crease into place. This will be the elastic casing.

Sew along the bottom of the casing using a 6mm (1/4”) seam allowance – make sure the gap between the sew line and the top of the skirt is at least 2.5cm (1”) to accommodate the elastic.
LEAVE a gap of approx. 7.5cm (3”) on the back of the skirt, to one side, to feed the elastic through later.



Step 7

Now feed the elastic through the gap you left earlier.

Pull the elastic clear of the skirt and sew the two ends of the elastic together using a zig zag stitch. Trim back the seam allowance and push the elastic back into the casing.


Step 8

Close the gap up left for the elastic.


Step 9

Finish the bottom seam by folding the raw edge up 6mm (1/4”) ironing the crease in,  Fold the fabric up again by the same amount, hiding all the raw edges, and iron once again. Then top stitch or hand sew the hem.

NOTE: If you have used a serger/overlocker to finish your seams you can get away with only folding the fabric over once before hemming.


How pretty!


We love seeing your makes, so encourage you to share pictures of your skirts with us below, on Facebook or tag us in on Instagram (#printstopolkadots) 🙂

Materials Used: Michael Miller’s Christmas Print – Jolly Holly Gnomesville, Michael Miller’s Sommer Collection Double Border Print. 25mm (1″) wide elastic.

Click here to download a printer-friendly version of this pattern

Quirky Quilting Terms With Their Definitions


Image reproduced under license from Flickr, Linda

Image reproduced under license from Flickr, Linda

We are currently compiling a quilters dictionary and came across the following fun acronyms which will bring a smile to any committed fabric addict…

STASH – (Special Treasure All Secretly Hidden)

S.E.X (Stash Enhancing eXperiences) committed sewers can’t get enough of this!

SABLE (Stash Accumulation Beyond Life Expectancy) – of course no sewer aims to create a SABLE, we all think we will eventually use every scrap 🙂

Sewing with Double Gauze – Hints and Tips


Have you Discovered Double Gauze Fabric Yet?

Whilst it isn’t a new type of fabric, it has, until recently, been something of secret amongst sewers, with just a handful of manufacturers making this super soft and breathable fabric.  This year however,  it has exploded onto the scene with many of the top design houses producing their own ranges, including Riley Blake, Robert Kaufman and Michael Miller.

Double gauze originated in Japan where dressmakers were looking for a lightweight, breathable fabric to make clothes from, which would work well in hot weather.  A single layer of gauze, like that used in bandages, was seen as the ideal weight for summer clothes and with a loose weave sewers recognised that the fabric would allow the air to flow around their skin, keeping them cool.  The problem was that when used in a single layer it lacked any weight at all and so did not drape in a pleasing way, due to the loose weave it stretched out of shape easily and it was often very see through.

The solution was to weave two separate layers of gauze at the same time, weaving them together at regular intervals to create a single fabric.  The resulting double gauze fabric is:

  • still very lightweight, but has just enough weight to drape softly,
  • very cool to wear, with the loose weave still allowing the air to circulate,
  • very, very soft – with a touch me and cuddle me quality,
  • a fabric which is no longer very see through.

The image below shows you a close up of the back of Michael Miller’s double gauze, you can see the criss cross pattern created by the weaving process.  Depending on your fabric’s colour and pattern, this is more or less visible on the front side (it is never more than on the back).  Once sewn into a blanket, garment or quilt, this criss cross pattern is not visible to the eye – the main image at the top of this post is the right side of the fabric below, if you look very closely you can make out the criss cross pattern, but you have to look very closely.

double gauze weave

How Easy is it to Sew With Double Gauze?

Prepare it correctly and you can treat double gauze pretty much as regular cotton.  The drape is looser so if you like very crisp corners when quilting then this won’t be the fabric for you, but with the right treatment and where appropriate interfacing, it can be used for any sewing project, dressmaking, quilting, even curtains and blinds!

Follow our top tips for sewing with double gauze below, and you will have no issues, and we are sure you will be delighted with the results – the look and feel!

Top Tips

  • Don’t forget to prewash your fabrics, just as with regular cotton.
  • If you are using interfacing iron the interfacing onto the fabric BEFORE tracing and cutting your pattern shapes. The loose weave of the fabric coupled with the action of ironing can lead to fabrics losing their shape, attaching the interfacing first will remove this possibility and instantly stabilize your fabric.
  • If you are not using interfacing, spray your fabrics with starch first, this will temporarily stiffen the fabrics, stopping them from stretching out of shape.
  • Once you have cut your pattern pieces stay stitch everything! Until you have finished sewing your item the fabric will remain fragile and will easily pull out of shape.  Running around the edges of your fabric pieces with a basting stitch close to the edge will stabilize the fabrics and almost completely eliminate this problem.  Once I have stay stitched I start breathing again!  From this point on I know it will be difficult to pull the fabrics out of shape.
  • Do not iron your fabrics from left to right (before they are sewn together) as this will stretch the fabrics, instead press the fabrics, by lifting the iron up and down, moving across the fabric as you go.
  • Don’t pull the fabrics through your sewing machine, just gently guide them, again avoiding stretching.
  • Use a longer stitch length, size 3-3.5 is ideal, this will reduce the risk of stretching and if you have to unpick you will be less likely to stress the fabric.
  • If you are dressmaking and some parts of the garment are going to have interfacing attached and some not (apart from just collars and cuffs), for example if the facing has interfacing attached, we recommend attaching interfacing to everything.  We recently made a tank top with facing from the shoulders half way down the bust, when on, particularly in the evening, you could see the line between the interfaced section and parts without interfacing.  If you are worried that adding the interfacing all over the fabric will take away all that is beautiful about double gauze, don’t be, the fabric remained super soft, like a second skin, and if anything the interfacing improved the overall finish.
  • If you have large darts in your garment, cut them open and iron the dart’s seam allowance open, half on each side of the dart.  We found that large darts, ironed in one direction, add enough weight to slightly pull the garment down and sag at the seam (we are being particularly picky, but this is so easy to avoid!).

I hope this list hasn’t scared you, as long as you follow these steps this fabric will come together as planned and we are sure you will be pleased with the results.  If you have had your fingers burnt sewing with knits and are worried that you will get to the end of piece A only to find it no longer lines up with piece B, don’t be, double gauze is sooo much easier to work with than knits!

Please do share your dos and don’ts with us – we love to hear about your experiences 🙂 and visit our Pinterest board (click on the image below) for links to lots of free patterns and inspiring images.



Quilters Tool Kit – Essential Equipment For Quilting

When you first start out with a new hobby it is almost impossible to know which pieces of equipment and tools you really should invest in, which you can buy at a later date, and what features to look out for.

Here is our list of must haves and nice haves for quilting, with buying hints and tips.


Alongside general sewing supplies there are three pieces of equipment that a quilter cannot live without – their quilter’s rulerrotary cutter and cutting mat.  Whilst you can ‘make do’ and ‘work around’ not having other items on our shopping list, you will really struggle to produce accurate quilts and remain in love with quilting without these key pieces of equipment.

quilting 101 rotary cutters
Rotary Cutter

Rotary cutters are used for cutting fabric in straight lines, accurately and crisply without the need to draw lines onto your fabrics first.

To use you simply place your quilting ruler on top of your fabric, put pressure on the ruler to stop it moving, and run the rotary cutter along the edge!

They are perfect for cutting strips, squares, rectangles and triangles, and can cut through several layers of fabric at once.  You can also use a small rotary cutter to cut curves but it is questionable if they are better than scissors in this situation.

There are a number of great quality brands on the market but the market leader has to be OLFA.  OLFA produce a number of different rotary cutters, we recommend buying either the standard 45mm rotary cutter, or the deluxe model.

Check out our separate blog post exploring the pros and cons of each type before buying – click here.

Cutting Mat

A cutting mat is essential if you are planning on cutting with a rotary cutter, it will protect your table, is designed for use with a rotary cutter and has self-healing properties. It is also a valuable tool when trying to get fabric pieces squared off and accurately marked.  Place your fabric on the mat, lining the edge of the fabric up with a straight line on the mat, and use your ruler and cutting mat lines to measures and cut the other sides – perfect lines and angles!

A cutting mat is also a great surface for tracing pattern pieces as it is smooth and none of the knots or ridges in real wood tables will come through as you trace over your patterns.

Look out for mats with inches on one side and cms on the other.  The mat should have a variety of diagonal lines on the mat as well as vertical and horizontal ones (the diagonal lines help with cutting a range of shapes including triangles and hexagons, as well as with cutting fabric on the bias).

Why bother with inches? Even if you grew up only using cms, a lot of sewing terms, references and patterns are still written in inches and having to make the conversion every time you measure something is a nightmare you can easily avoid with a double sided mat.

Buy the largest size mat you can easily store.  We use 60cm x 45cm mats at our Sewing School as they are easy to store and transport and large enough to cut most pattern/quilting pieces on without folding the fabric.  We have a larger 1mtr long mat back at our HQ, but storage is a nightmare as it really needs to be stored flat to stop it buckling.

Quilting Ruler

A good quality quilting ruler is a must for quilters and anyone who plans to cut squares and rectangles for other sewing projects.  Without one you will struggle to produce accurate right angles.  You can also use it to cut more complicated shapes such as hexagons and triangles as all the angles are printed on the ruler!

They are see through which helps when trying to line up the pattern on your fabric and the measurements are printed in two directions, allowing you to read from left to right, or right to left, which is more helpful than you might imagine!

They come in a wide range of shapes and sizes, we recommend starting with a ruler 16cm x 60cm.  It is long enough to cut binding strips from folded fabric in one go, and wide enough to cut the most common square and strip widths, but is still easy to store.

You can buy rulers with either cms or inches printed on them so make sure you buy the right one for your needs (we have both here and swap to and throw depending on the type of pattern we are using).

scissors for blog post

We recommend quilters have two pairs of scissors in their tool box, a pair of multi-purpose scissors or dressmaking scissors for cutting pattern pieces and fabrics (like our 21cm or 26cm scissors) and  a pair of embroidery scissors for trimming seam allowances, snipping into curves and cutting out fiddly applique.  If you are just starting out and have limited resources, or you don’t want to commit just yet, use a cheap pair of multi-purpose scissors and embroidery scissors, in the UK Dunelm sell great, cheap sets, and invest your money in a good rotary cutter, upgrading your scissors when you can.


All pins are not born equal.  For quilting, we recommend using flat headed pins.  The pros and cons of different types are explored below…

Plastic-headed pins – these pins are a good length, easy to spot when in use (or on the floor!) and due to their colourful heads, they are easy to grab.  On the downside the heads are plastic and this means they will melt if you iron on top of them.

Glass-headed pins – these are great for anyone who wants to be able to iron over their pins as the heads won’t melt, on the downside, they are more expensive than plastic headed pins and normally shorter.

Flat-headed pins – these come in handy when you need to lay a quilting ruler or tape measure over a pinned area. They are also a good choice for lace, eyelet, and loose weaves, as the large heads won’t slip through the holes in the fabric.  Our flat headed pins are also longer than our regular pins, making them a great choice for quilters who want a longer grip.

Seam Rippers

Where would we be without our seam rippers!

If you are new to sewing, take it from us, your seam ripper will become one of your best friends. Regular sewers accept that mistakes will happen.  When they do you need a good quality seam ripper to rescue the situation without fear or ripping or distorting the fabric, this is particularly important when quilting as, until sewn, those little pieces of fabric are easily stretched and distorted.

We have thoroughly road tested this one at our sewing school and love it.  Its handle is soft to the touch and ergonomically designed, making unsewing almost a pleasure!

To read our tips and hints for using a seam ripper click here.

Sewing Machine Feet

There are two main sewing machine feet that quilters use, a quarter inch foot, which is covered in the next section (Making Life Easier) and the one we consider a must have – a walking foot.  A walking foot really helps to keep the layers of your quilt in the right place as you sew them together.

Use your regular foot (or quarter inch foot) to sew the top of your quilt together, then, when you have pinned your top to the wadding and back, swap to your walking foot to quilt layers together.

If you want to do free motion quilting you will also need a free motion or darning foot.

If you plan on adding applique to your quilt it is useful to have a plastic see through foot with a wide gap for the needle, so you can see more of what you are sewing.



The following tools are ‘add ons’ they will make your life easier and we really do use them all the time, but when you are first starting out you can manage without them.

spray starch
Spray Starch

The number one ‘extra’ I would advise you buy is spray starch, it is readily available at your supermarket and smells nice too 🙂  (you can buy spray starchs designed for sewing but we find the one from the supermarket works fine).  Spray your fabrics before you cut them, or if using pre cut fabrics, before you sew with them.

The starch will stiffen the fabric temporarily, minimising any stretching, producing really crisp creases when you iron seam allowances over and will make the fabrics generally easier to work with.

Sewing Gauge

A sewing gauge may not look like much, but it’s the sort of tool that once you use, you can’t live without!


  • Measuring seam allowances as you turn fabric over and iron in creases.
  • Adding seam allowances to patterns and quilting blocks.
  • Double checking you are using the right seam allowance on your sewing machine.
  • Measuring buttons and marking spaces between button holes.
  • Turning out sharp corners, including the ends of bunting triangles!

Template Plastic

If you are a committed quilter we recommend buying your templates cut from template plastic, or buying template plastic sheets to cut your own.  Unlike cardboard:

  • Template plastic is see through, so you can see the fabric underneath and make sure it is lined up correctly and you can fussy cut your shapes.
  • Template plastic won’t get dented or curl, the shape will be the same on piece 100 as it was the first time you traced round it.

Freezer Paper

Freezer paper was originally designed to wrap around food before your freeze it – IT IS NOT THE SAME AS GREASEPROOF PAPER.  The paper is wax coated on one side and some clever sewer way back, found that if you cut your pattern pieces out of the paper and iron the shiny side of the paper onto your fabrics, the paper sticks!  Once you have cut out your shapes you can peel the paper off, there is no residue and you can reuse the template several times before it no longer sticks.

It is also great for paper piecing and applique as there is no need to pin the papers to your fabric – just iron into place!

basting spray
Basting Spray

Quilter’s basting spray is a temporary adhesive that you use to stick your quilt top and bottom to the wadding whilst you quilt the layers together – eliminating the need for pinning!

If you hate pinning but can’t get hold of basting spray, consider using Vilenne’s double sided fusible fleece as your wadding, you can iron both the top and bottom sides of your quilt on to the fleece and can choose whether or not to quilt the layers together (as unlike wadding this product does not need quilting at regular intervals).

Pressing Board

If you look under your ironing board cover, odds are you will see a metal frame with a criss cross pattern running across the board. This mesh construction helps steam disappear through the bottom of your fabrics when ironing, and gives your ironing board a degree of ‘give’ which is really helpful for normal ironing.  But when you are ironing parts of a quilts the bounce built into the ironing board can distort your fragile fabric pieces and you really want to retain the heat in the fabric for as long as possible.

If you use a hard pressing board rather than an ironing board, you will eliminate the stretch and retain the heat.

You can make a pressing board cheaply at home, using fabrics from your stash, a small piece of wadding, piece of hardboard, such as MDF – and a stapler!

PLUS if you make your pressing board the right size, you can have it next to you when sewing, allowing you to sew a seam and iron it, without having to get up and down, up and down.

Click here to view our pressing board tutorial.

Sewing Iron

If you are a committed quilter we recommend buying a sewing iron.  These nifty little irons get hotter than most travel irons, but are a similar shape and size.  Prym ones come with their own travel bag and have a water chamber built in to use steam.

These irons are small in overall size and have a small point for getting into corners, inside soft toys, bags, baskets and dressing making parts.  Plus the smaller plate is easier to control when trying to keep multiple seam flat for pressing.

We use these irons at our sewing classes and love them!

Sewing Machine Feet

We talked about the walking foot in the must have section above.  In addition to this foot there are three other feet that quilters use:

  • A qquarter-inch-sewing-machine-footuarter inch foot – this one is slightly narrower than a standard foot, helping you create seams with smaller allowances. It also has a straight piece built into it for your fabric to butt up against for accurate sewing.
  • Free motion or darning foot – if you plan to do free motion quilting (this is when you quilt a random swirly pattern on top of the quilt rather than stitch in the ditch or use a pattern made out of straight lines) you will need a free motion or darning foot.
  • A see through foot – if you plan on adding applique to your quilt a see through foot with a wide gap for the needle is very useful as you can see more of what you are sewing.

If you already quilt and there is something you can’t live without, we would love to hear about it below!

Pellon Quilters Grid 820 Review & Tutorial


Have you discovered Pellon’s Quilter’s Grid 820 yet?

It is a lightweight fusible interfacing with 1″ (2.5cm) wide grid lines printed on the back to help you line up your quilting/patchwork squares.  Because you fuse your design onto the top of the interfacing before you start sewing, you can quilt quickly, easily and accurately – without pins!

Why use it?

Whether you are making a whole quilt out of squares and strips, a panel for a bag or purse, quilting blocks to use in mix and match quilt design or other crafty make, Quilters Grid will make your life easier.

  • There is no need to pin your pieces together as they are fused to the interfacing.
  • Once you have plotted your design you iron it into place on the Quilters Grid – ensuring you don’t get bits mixed up between the table and the sewing machine.
  • Because the design is fused onto the interfacing it doesn’t get pulled out of shape during sewing and ironing processes.
  • You sew your patchwork together in lines, rather than pairs, speeding up the sewing time.

How it works…

Quilters Grid is 115cm wide, so it can handle most quilt sizes.   You can use the grid to make up separate quilting blocks and then sew them together, or lay your whole design out on one large piece of Quilters Grid and get sewing!

If you want to make a wider quilt you can butt two pieces of interfacing up against each other, you can always temporarily hold them in place with masking tape on the smooth side, we don’t recommend overlapping pieces as it will add bulk.

Start by cutting out your strips and squares, or visit us at where you can buy almost all our fabrics precut in a range of popular shapes and sizes.

Cut a piece of quilters grid large enough to take all your squares when their raw edges are butted up against each other – THIS WILL BE LARGER THAN YOUR FINISHED QUILT SIZE as it needs to include all the seam allowances.

Lay your design out on top of the bumpy side of the Quilters Grid, so that the raw edges of each of your pieces butt up against each other – use the grid lines on the interfacing to help you keep straight.

quilters-grid-build pattern-riley-blake-bloom-patchwork-tutorial-pellon-820-uk-stockist
When you are happy with your design, iron it onto the interfacing.  Use a pressing rather than ironing action, lifting and placing the iron, up and down, across the fabric, rather than pushing the iron around, this ensures that the fabrics stay put.


Now time to sew your fabrics together to hide all those raw edges 🙂  Fold the top edge of the quilt over along the line where the first two rows of squares meet (along the raw edges).  The fabric squares will be facing each other, and you will be looking at the back of the interfacing.


Sew (through the interfacing) using your normal quilting seam allowance (measuring in from the folded edge).

We position the fabric so that the fold is in line with the edge of the sewing machine foot, and the needles is in the middle position – see image below.

As you sew you will be capturing the raw edges inside the seam allowance.


Iron the seam to one side, then fold the quilt/square over along the next line between the fabric squares and repeat. Continue in this manner all the way across the quilt/block.


Iron again and then start the process over, this time sewing across the join lines between square in the columns.

quilters-grid-next side-riley-blake-bloom-patchwork-tutorial-pellon-820-uk-stockist

Once you have finished, iron the back and turn your quilt over to check that all but the outside edge raw edges are hidden, if you have missed any lines go back and sew them now.


Check your quilt/block is still square – because you have used the interfacing you should find the block/quilt has not moved very much at all.  Trim back as necessary.


You can use the quilt top/block as it is, but many sewers like to finish off by snipping into the seams on the back to reduce the bulk.  Some people cut along the creases in the seam allowance so they can open the seam out flat, but we think that is too fiddly.  We prefer to cut the bulk away from each point where the vertical and horizontal sew lines cross.  Simply fold the quilt back up as when you were sewing it – leaving the seam allowance sticking out at the top, and cut little squares out where the seams overlap, taking care not to cut into the main seam line – try it, it is easier than it sounds!



Then press your block/quilt again and all the bumps will have gone!


It took us less than 20 minutes to make this square, made out of 25 x 2.5″ squares, including planning the design!

Love the fabric?  We used Riley Blake’s Bloom and Bliss collection – vintage heaven!

We love seeing your finished projects so please tag us into your pictures on Instagram #printstopolkadots, or share with us via Facebook or email 🙂

Rotary Cutter Buying Guide

If you are thinking about buying a rotary cutter but are not sure if it is the right tool for you, or if you want to know more about the differences between the different types of rotary cutter, then this is the blog post for you.

The most important things to remember when thinking about buying a rotary cutter are:

  • You will need a cutting mat and a suitable ruler when using your rotary cutter– we recommend investing in a quilting ruler but to start with you could use any strong, straight edge with your cutting mat.
  • Rotary cutters can be used to cut curves but it isn’t easy, most sewers use scissors for curves and keep their rotary cutter for cutting straight lines, quickly and more accurately than when using scissors.
  • Rotary cutters can handle up to six layers of thin materials.



Types of Rotary Cutter

We stock market leader OLFA rotary cutters and so will be talking about the differences between their cutters in this post, but the principles hold true for all brands.

Features to Consider – Handle Type

OLFA rotary cutters have two main handle types, standard/straight and deluxe.  Both include covers for the blade to keep it, you and your family safe when not in use.

The deluxe handle is ergonomically designed, with an anti-slip rubber grip to reduce or eliminate hand fatigue and stress, while the squeeze trigger allows the blade to self-retract for safety.

The standard handle is still easy to hold and use, but if you are planning on cutting a lot of shapes your hand will start to ache after a while!


Features to Consider – Blade Size

Olfa sell a range of blade sizes, from 28mm to 60mm.  The smaller the blade the easier it will be to cut curves, the larger the blade the quicker you will be able to cut straight lines, as each turn of the wheel will travel further 🙂  They all cut upto 6 layers of fabric at a time.

THE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO REMEMBER is that you CANNOT use different blade sizes in the same rotary cutter – if you want to use a 28mm blade and a 60mm blade you will need to buy two rotary cutters, a 28mm one and a 60mm one.

Features to Consider – Blade Types

You can get 3 different types of blade for your OLFA rotary cutter, a straight blade, pinking (zig zag) blade and a chenille blade.  If you buy a 45mm deluxe rotary cutter you can use all three types of blade with your cutter, keeping them in their own little plastic cases when they are not in use.

Regardless of the brand or type of rotary cutter you buy, you will need to replace the blade from time to time, if it gets dented or loses its sharpness, so when considering which cutter to buy, remember to factor in the cost of replacement blades.


How to Choose

If you already use a rotary cutter, or know you will be using one regularly, it’s worth spending the extra money on the deluxe model.  It is easier to use, you are less likely to ache from constant use during a long day or night of sewing and the cover shuts down to protect you, your family and the blade itself when out of use.

If you have never used a rotary cutter but are a committed quilter we would still recommend going for the deluxe model, you will be glad you did with all the binding and sashing strips you cut, let alone the quilting shapes.

If you are new to sewing and are not sure if you need a rotary cutter, we recommend starting with a good quality pair or scissors, remember, rotary cutters really only out perform scissors when you are cutting lots of straight lines, if you plan to sew clothing you won’t get a lot of use out of one.  Until you have worked out what sort of sewer you are, we would recommend saving your money.

If you find you like to dip in and out of a range of sewing styles, clothing, homewares, quilting etc.. and sewing is a hobby not a business, we would recommend buying the standard model.  It’s not that you wouldn’t notice the difference, but you may not get enough use out of the deluxe model to justify the extra expense.  If you fall in love with quilting or are planning on cutting hundreds of bunting triangles with your rotary cutter – definitely go for the deluxe one – it will be kinder to your hands!

REMEMBER, if you want to ‘pink’ the edges of your fabrics (cut with a zig zag finish) you will need the deluxe version, for which you can buy straight and pinking blades.