Author: oldspoolsewing

Narwhal Softie: Hand Sewing for Beginners

Narwhal Softie: Hand Sewing for Beginners

I’m so excited to participate in this year’s Sew A Softie Blog Hop! Trixie is the Australian based sewing instructor and blogger who created the Sew a Softie virtual event back in 2015, when it was just a day to celebrate fun, beginner friendly hand sewing projects to entice kids and adults to get sewing. It has since morphed into an entire month and Trixie invites countless other sewing instructors, crafters and General Creative Folks to share tutorials and help spread the word.

The event takes place on both Facebook and Instagram so anyone can sew along with us! Find all those links on Trixie’s website, through here!

Obviously, I love this idea! Hand Sewing projects, especially with felt, are the perfect introduction to hand sewing for someone at any age. I was extra honored when Trixie found me on Instagram and reached out to ask if I’d like to participate in the Global Sewing Party happening this July.

So, for Sew a Softie 2020, I introduce you to my Narwhal Softie, !

a Narwhal at the beach in NJ, whodathunk?

So let’s go over the few things you’ll need in order to stitch up your very own Narwhal softie: The Materials you’ll need for this project are:

Let’s Get Sewing!

First off, download and print out the sewing pattern which you can find through the Download button above. Print out at 100% to make it the same scale as mine- but feel free to make it bigger or (only slightly) smaller if you want to experiment with size.

Make sure to gather all your materials and various colors of felt. I’ve used dark blue for the body, a lighter blue for the belly, purple and pink for the horn and a darker purple for the fin. You’ll also want a little bit of black and white fo rthe eye. You can absolutely change up the colors to match the personality of your narwhal!

You’ll want to then grab your paper scissors and cut out each of the pattern pieces on the lines.

After you’ve cut each piece out, match it with it’s coordinating felt and pin in place. Make sure no pins are hanging over the edge where youll be cutting! Alternatively, you can grab a writing utensil and trace your pattern pieces onto the felt (which is sometimes easier for smaller hands) and then cut the shapes out. Make sure to note how many pieces of each you need, it’s written on each pattern piece.

The first pieces to go to together will be the belly to the body. Were going to attach that piece with a running stitch! Its one of the most basic hand sewing stitches and an excellent stitch to know, you can put anything back together once you know how to do a running stitch.

Thread your needle with whatever color embroidery floss/thread youd like to use and make sure to tie a knot in the end. Click through here my quick how to video on the best way to tie a knot for hand sewing.

Starting from the back so the knot is hidden, begin stitching near the edge of the belly piece, around the upper part. We’re going to leave the bottom edge of the belly unsewn because we’re going to sew that later with a more decorative stitch.

When you reach the end of that edge, bring your thread to the back and tie a knot before you cut your threads. Repeat with the other side, making sure you are sewing that belly piece opposite that piece you just finished.

Tying a knot

Next, let’s make some cute decorative embroidery stitches to mimic the spotted back of a real narwhal. This step is totally optional, but I love adding different textures through stitching on my felt projects. Here, I’ve used a combination of long and short running stitches and french knots. French knots are a more intermediate level embroidery technique, but I have seen many of my 9 year old students totally nail it with some practice!

To make a French knot, come up from the back where you’d like to make your spot. Pull all the way through, and bring your needle down to the surface of the felt. Using your other hand, wrap the thread 3-4 times around the needle. Keeping tension on the working thread, put the needle back through the felt in the same spot you came up. Pull tightly, and a small round knot should form on the surface.

Once your stripes and dots are complete on both sides, grab the fins! I put a spot of glue on the back to help keep it in place while I stitched a few running stitches.

Looking a lot like a narwhal, isn’t she? Next up is the most magical and interesting part of these mysterious Arctic animals- the tusk! Did you know a narwhal’s tusk is actually a tooth, growing up and outwards? Amazing!

First, you’ll take the wide triangular piece and fold it in half. Using a matching color thread (or not, it’s your world!) sew the long edge together with a whip stitch.

Now let’s sew together the 2 halves of our narwhal! Up until this point, we’ve used the most friendly of beginner hand sewing stitches- a whip stitch and running stitch. I challenge you to try the blanket stitch if you haven’t yet, it adds a bit more visual interest along the edges of your hand sewing projects. It’s also truly not too tricky once you get into the groove!

I’ve created another quick How to do a Blanket stitch video on my YouTube channel, if you’d like to see how it’s done!

Or, if you’re working with a younger sewist, a running or whip stitch will work just as well for this step.

Place the two body pieces Wrong Sides Together and place a pin or two through them to hold them in place. Starting at the top of the head if you’re right handed and under the head if you’re left handed, begin stitching through all the layers. Especially when you get to the belly, make sure you’re catching all the layers! Once you get just above where the mouth would be (remember, the tusk is actually a tooth!) take the horn and place it in between the body layers. Switching temporarily to a running stitch, sew through the body and horn layers all at once. Once you get to the other side of the horn you may switch back to a blanket stitch.

Stop with about 1’’-1 1/2’’ left of space in order to stuff your narwhal. I actually thought it would be quite fun to glue mine onto a hair clip when I’m finished so the whole world can see me wear my love of narwhals, so I skipped stuffing her. Make sure to gently push stuffing into the tail part, but don’t push too hard!

Finish sewing the hole closed and finish off with a knot!

Then, take the long, skinny strip you cut of contrasting felt and dab a bit of glue on one end. Beginning at the base of the triangular horn, stick the long strip down and begin dabbing a bit of glue on the backside and then wrapping it up the horn. Make sure to put enough glue at either end and making sure it’s good and stuck! Trim whatever excess contrasting felt you have after wrapping the horn.

The last step is to snip a little black circle out for the eye, glue it on and add a small white piece of felt too. And voila! Here’s your very own pocket sized narwhal stuffie. Well done!

Snuggly Owl Pillow Sewing Pattern and Video Tutorial

Kids love animals. It’s a simple fact! So, naturally, kids love animal themed sewing projects. Enter this super sweet owl pillow! I can’t take credit for this idea, it’s one I’ve seen in many different incarnations on Pinterest, but here’s my simple take and video tutorial for new sewists to follow along and make their own!

This project is good skill booster for newbies: it challenges them to tackle curves and a technique called applique, where you’re doing visible topstitching to attach the face and wings. They’re also revisiting good techniques like pivoting, and we close it with an invisible ladder stitch!

Use the link below to download the pattern and to make your own version of this adorable hooter.

Materials you’ll need for this project are:

  • 1/2 yard of fabric for the owl body, preferably quilting cotton. I love shopping Local(ish) Fabric Stores like:
  • Fabric Scraps for the wings, beak and eyes OR –
  • Wool or Wool Blend felt (better for the environment than plastic/polyester felt, here’s the small business where I like to buy mine:
  • a sewing machine
  • thread to match your project
  • A hand sewing needle to close your pillow
  • Thread or embroidery floss (again, find it on
  • Scissors, both for paper and fabric.
  • Pins or safety pins if you don’t have sewing pins
  • Buttons (optional)
  • Fluff to stuff with(try to avoid Poly-fill, that’s plastic! I love the recycled shoddy from Fabscrap )

And here’s the Video tutorial to sew along with to create your own:

Super Sweet Mama and Baby Sloth Hand Sewing Video Tutorial

Super Sweet Mama and Baby Sloth Hand Sewing Video Tutorial

I love craft and sewing books, my overflowing library at the studio is obvious proof of that! Just before Christmas a fellow sewing studio owner out in Brooklyn, Alexa Ward of Brooklyn Sewcial, had her first book published called “Sewing for Kids” with 30 different machine and hand sewing projects focused on teaching the absolute beginner of sewists and guiding them through more complicated projects, building their confidence along the way.

I was lucky to get a copy of Alexa’s book to review and OH BOY are there some fun projects in there! I love how she touches on many types of projects, from useful pouches to wearable garments and accessories. She organizes the book like a good sewing teacher would, covering the basics and necessary materials and then moving into simple hand sewing projects that increase in difficulty until you break out the brand new sewing machine.

Some of my favorite projects are her pizza pouch (personalize it with toppings or go plain-Jane if that’s your thing!) as well as the upcycled t-shirt with sequin trim. The most difficult project in the book is a duffel bag that I can’t wait to make with my students who come for Summer Camp at the studio!

But this week I went with her super cute Mama and Baby Sloth Keychain project to cover as a YouTube tutorial for my students. this project has some fiddly bits, but I think it’s the right amount of challenging.

Hand sewing Tutorial for Beginners: Make Tropical Pineapple and Flamingo Stuffies

Hand sewing Tutorial for Beginners: Make Tropical Pineapple and Flamingo Stuffies

This week on Old Spool’s Youtube Channel is another beginner friendly hand sewing tutorial to make some cute flamingo and pineapple felt stuffies. This project is a bit more advanced that my other hand sewing tutorials because of the shapes we’re sewing, but in the end, we’re doing the same simple combination of a whipstitch and a running stitch to put everything together.

If you’re new to sewing, I suggest starting with my Donut sewing tutorial because of how few pieces actually go into making it. If you’re feeling ambitious (and loving these hand sewing projects) you can also tackle my Llama or Cactus projects too!

Make sure while you’re over at my channel to like my videos and subscribe to my page!

You can find the patterns for the tutorial below, make sure to print at 100% or “Do not scale” when you print it out so that your pieces are the correct size! You can always make the pattern intentionally bigger or smaller, just know that super small pieces are harder for younger kids to cut and sew together.

The Materials you’ll need for this project are:

Felt Donut (or Doughnut!) Stuffie: Hand Sewing for Beginners!

This week I’ve got another new hand sewing project for beginners…. and it’s quite tasty!

We’re making donuts! Or is it doughnuts? I don’t really know! But I do know that I made a video tutorial for the whole process, over on my YouTube. Be sure to like the video and subscribe while you’re there, and leave a comment if you have any ideas for more cute felt projects!

i love my donuts/doughnuts

The Materials you’ll need for this project are:

Felt Cactus Stuffie: Hand sewing for Beginners

Learn how to hand sew your very own felt cactus stuffie using Old Spool’s pattern and my helpful Youtube tutorial! Make sure to like the video and subscribe to my channel while you’re there- and let me know in the comments if there are any projects you’d like to see!

The materials you’ll need for this project are:

Christmas Sewing Gift Guide for Kids!

Ahh, the Holidays. Who doesn’t love the faux snow covered window displays at retail outlets and the 20 song Holiday themed playlist the radio stations tune in this time of year? Doesn’t the idea of peppermint everything really get you excited about spending time with extended family and having to buy a gift for your boss?

Not so much?It’s all good, you can confide in me that you’d rather die than have your mom’s eggnog (but I will try to tell you that you should give it chance, just once, because it’s delicious) or vent to me how you took so much time getting the kids dressed up just for the younger one to throw a tantrum when she met Santa. That’s a priceless Christmas card, if you ask me!

But I’m here to make it a bit easier for those of you who have a budding sewist in your life this year with some great sewing tools and gifts. I’m not one for rampant consumerism the last few months of the year, but I can always get behind someone wanting to support a growing love of sewing and crafting. The most high tech item on this list is a better quality sewing machine, which is still a tool and not a computer.

Sewing Machines

Now, this is by far one of the priciest gift you can get someone who is learning to sew or already regularly sews. Sewing machines come at many different price points and there are bells and whistles galore. This is a very tricky world to navigate, especially if you know diddly squat about sewing to begin with. I’m going to include a few machines that have great online reviews as well as ones that I have a real life friend who vouches for it.

But, before I share these, a very important PSA:

Please DO NOT buy any new sewing machine that is priced under $100.

This is because those machines are a capital C piece of Crap. Just like everything else that has begun to be produced at a fraction of its original cost in far away factories, cheap sewing machines are more trouble than they are worth. One of the biggest obstacles when learning to sew is troubleshooting issues and getting used to your tools, and this is made even more difficult when you are working on a POS that has a 10% success rate.

That being said, I’m not here to promote you breaking the budget when buying a sewing machine. So here are a few affordable options:

The line of Singer Heavy Duty Machines is reasonably priced under $200 and is the sewing machine I have/had at the studio up until this month. I sewed on an older version of this model for years and tackled many different types of sewing projects on it. It withstood my amateur beatings and sewed my entire thesis collection at Parsons. The kids who have been taking lessons at the studio are familiar with this machine and it’s quirks, while I suggest anyone new to these machines to take their time when threading and sewing…they can be finicky. Models 4432, 4423 and 4452, and 4411 are all about the same, only variances are the amount of stitches they have and some are older models.

Also, so you know, as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

I have also had limited experience at another teaching studio with this Brother model and do think it’s an OK machine (comparable to the Singers listed above) It is a computerized machine that is quite beginner friendly. It does not have the same ‘upmh’ that the Singer models have, but friendly features like not allowing the kids to sew without the presser foot being down and speed control are really helpful.

Next up, is the machine I have recently upgraded to at the studio: the Viking Jade 20. While the Singers I have listed are perfectly peachy machines, I was having issues with them (that came with the amount of use they were getting, so not something you’ll likely experience at home) and wanted to be able to serve my students better, so an upgrade was in order. I agonized over this decision for weeks and ultimately purchased the Viking Jade 20 sewing machines from Stony Brook Sew and Vac that are now in the studio. These have an MSRP of $800 and are currently ON SALE for $399 (the price I paid for them).

There are also mechanical Viking machines such as the Emerald 116 that are excellent for beginners as well. These are massively superior to the Singer machines I mentioned earlier and are currently on sale for $299. Trust me when I say the extra $100 is worth it in this situation.

Many Janome machines that are in the lower price points also work well, such as the Magnolia 7318 or HD3000. I do not have personal experience but have heard good things from friends and other sewing teachers.

Now, here’s where I’m going to tell you that the adage that you “pay for quality” is 99% true when it comes to the sewing world. The $1000 machine is going to be 1000x better than the $100 sewing machine. So, the best bit of advice I can give you when looking for sewing tools is to establish your budget and then find the best within that budget. Consider how best you want to set up your child (or yourself!) for success in your sewing practice, and buy quality tools that will serve them best. Want to buy a machine they will outgrow, or a machine that will last a lifetime? Sometimes these hobbies they pick up are not a passing phase…just look at me!

When beginning to look for a *better* sewing machine models, I highly suggest you look at sewing stores such as Stony Brook Sew and Vac in Bordentown and Paramus Sewing Center up in North Jersey. These are the places that sell quality machines and where you can test the machines before you buy them, which is something you can’t do when purchasing from Amazon.

Also, if you are looking to purchase a better quality sewing machine from Stony Brook, I can have it delivered to Brielle! Make sure to tell the owner, Howard, that I say hello! He’ll be happy to hear about all the sewing machines being purchased for kids!


One of the most important tools next to a sewing machine is a good pair of sewing scissors. The budget option is a pair of Fiskars that have a screw visible so that they may be sharpened when they begin to dull. 8” is the longest I would suggest for a kid, while adults may find the longer versions preferable for cutting fabric.

Here’s where I’m going to suggest to spend your money at a small business as opposed to Amazon, such as the sewing store Topstitch that’s based in Atlanta. They have all of the tools you will need and an easy to navigate website. Click here to be taken to their tools page!

But because we can’t always be perfect, here are some Amazon links. I love the first option here because they also get a short pair of snips that can be super helpful when trimming threads! (All Amazon links in this post are for my affiliate program where I get a commission if you purchase through me, so thank you in advance!)

The better option for sewing shears would be one of these next two pair. I still use my mother’s pair of Ginghers she purchased in the 80s and I have sewed with since I was 8! Amazon has the best prices on Gingher Shears.

Kai’s are really high quality scissors that come in a few different lengths:

A small pair of snips is an important part of any kit, and if you want to be the coolest gift giver ever I highly suggest a pair of these UNICORN SNIPS!!!

Or a pair of brightly colored stork snips (very common in a sewing kit, I have some stork snips too!)

Pins & Needles & More

Get your kid a box of quality pins. The cheap pins you can find can be dull from the get-go, break easily and just aren’t worth the hassle, plus the difference is all of a few dollars that won’t break the bank. Pins are something that should last a good long time for anyone sewing at home and if you buy *glasshead* pins, you’ll never worry about your kid melting the plastic butterfly off their pins when they’re using the iron. We use non-glasshead pins at the shop though, I just always remind kids not to iron over them.

I reccomend these or these from TopStitch or a box of longer Dritz pins like the ones below. New sewists find longer pins easier to use which is why I’ve linked some that are 1 7/8” long.

Also consider a magnetic pin dish, this leaves no excuse for pins all over the table while they are working (just ask them what Miss Julia’s #1 pet-peeve is…)

I’m also totally in love with these Bobbin Savers, they keep my bobbins organized (and off the floor, where they often end up and get stepped on!)

Getting a multi pack of better quality thread is also a good idea (*please don’t buy cheap thread on amazon! Stick to the brand names here*)

Finally, grab a pack of hand sewing needles while you’re at it:

And how could I forget a seam ripper!? These guys are absolutely critical to anyone’s sewing practice- they help us fix our mistakes!

There are lots of other fun things to set your kid up for sewing at home. You may have noticed that scrunchies are quite popular lately, and I buy my elastic for scrunchies by the spool (so they never run out! This also makes each scrunchie cost only pennies!


I always recommend bringing your kid over to Joann’s on a day off so they can shop for fabric on their own. There are so many things to choose from and they will have an absolute blast searching for just the right fabric for whatever creation they’ll be making next. So a gift card to JoJo’s is always a great thing to stick under the tree too! Quilting cotton is the type of fabric we use the most often for our beginner projects here at the studio, but it’s also fun to check out all the garment and specialty fabrics that Joann’s stocks.

I wish there were independent fabric stores locally, but Joann is your best bet price and choice-wise.

BUT if you’re looking to keep it small, I highly recommend Hawthorne Supply Co’s website for beautiful fabrics. You can buy a gift card right on their site, and you can’t go wrong with anything that you buy through them. It’s a small business located in Upstate NY and they carry high quality fabrics as well as design their own line of quilting cotton prints.

A Sharp Look at Rotary Cutters (on the Notch & Swatch YT Channel)

A Sharp Look at Rotary Cutters (on the Notch & Swatch YT Channel)

Earlier this month, Brigitte and I published an introductory video to the how’s and why’s of rotary cutters! If you don’t use this fabulous (but slightly dangerous) tool already in your sewing practice… prepare for your mind to be blown!

Make sure to like, leave a comment and subscribe to our channel for more educational sewing videos in the future!

Scunchie Tutorial (on the Notch & Swatch Youtube Channel)

Scunchie Tutorial (on the Notch & Swatch Youtube Channel)

What’s the most popular project at my sewing studio the past year?


Learn how to make your own scrunchie in this easy to follow video tutorial! And make sure while you’re over on Youtube that you like, subscribe and comment on our videos so we can reach more budding sewists!

Advanced Style Inspiration

Advanced Style Inspiration

Today I want to introduce you to the absolutely amazing, life affirming and whimsical world of photographer Ari Seth Cohen’s Advanced Style Blog.

If you haven’t heard of Advanced Style, it is a fashion and street style blog focused on men and women of a certain age, if you will. Ari was inspired by his loving relationship with his super fashionable grandmother to begin photographing older women (and men!) on the streets of NYC where he lives. One of the driving forces of the Advanced Style Blog is Ari’s vision to make sure the elderly who often feel unseen by society, well, seen. Too often we overlook the beautiful and rich lives those who are older than us have lived because we live in a society that values youth above so much else.

Well, thankfully, we have Ari and his beautiful subjects. I urge you to follow Advanced Style on Instagram or Facebook to get daily updates. He has no specific style he likes to photograph, but there is always a common thread: his subjects are joyful and expressive in their dress and their actions.

Ari has also published multiple books of his photographs, most recently his Advanced Love which celebrates older couples with unique personal styles. It’s a complete riot of love and fashion!