Monday, April 8, 2013

Gypsy Thread Tutorial: Sew Simple Fabric Envelopes

On Saturday, April 6th I participated in a fabulously fun event, the Demolicious Birthday Bash, celebrating the combined anniversaries of Tampa Upcycle and the Tampa Bay Etsy Crew. A dozen or so artisans and crafters in the Tampa Bay, FL area gathered together to offer hands on demos to the general public. I was so honored to be part of this gathering. For my demonstration I offered a quick learn-to-sew project suitable for all ages and sewing skill levels which I'd love to share with you now.

Sew Simple: Fabric Envelope Tutorial

Sew Simple Tutorial

Gypsy Thread Sewing TutorialMaterials:

~ Fabric scraps of any kind, at least 8" long and 3" wide
~ Buttons, 1/2" wide or larger are easiest to work with
~ Thread, in a coordinating or contrasting color
~ Pinking Shears (those zig-zag, alligator-teeth scissors)
~ Straight Pins
~ Hand Sewing Needle

Note: This tutorial can be completed without a sewing machine. The actual amount of stitching is minimal and would make an excellent project to practice your hand stitching. Alternatively, you could use a serger around the edges of the Fabric Envelope and skip trimming your fabric with pinking shears.

Fabric Prep:

Gypsy Thread Sewing Tutorial
Figure 1 - Fabric Measurements
1) Decide how large or small you would like your finished Envelope. (See Figure 1. Click on the photos for larger images.) Using pinking shears, cut your fabric using the following formula:

~ desired Pocket Width + 1" x three times the desired Height ~

For instance, if you'd like an Envelope pocket to measure 5" across inside and 4" tall when closed, your cut piece of fabric should be 6" x 16". (This is only a guideline for your first Envelope. Feel free to alter and play with the dimensions going forward.)

** The use of pinking shears will keep most fabrics from fraying. **

Gypsy Thread Sewing Tutorial
Figure 2 - Cut folded fabric diagonally.
2) Fold your strip of fabric in half lengthwise, with the long sides matching, short sides folded. Crease the fabric to make it easier to find this halfway mark later. Make a diagonal cut with your pinking shears across one of the ends of your fabric strip. (Figure 2.) This end will become the fold-over flap of your Envelope. It's perfectly ok to choose any angle for your cut that looks good to you.

Gypsy Thread Sewing Tutorial
Figure 3 - Fold fabric in thirds.

3)  Open the fabric and lay it flat. Fold the fabric in thirds, with the short ends folding in toward each other. (Figure 3) Play with the layout of your folds until you've found an arrangement that you like for the appearance of your final Envelope.

Gypsy Thread Sewing Tutorial
Figure 4 - Pin pieces in place.
4) Once satisfied with your placement, pin the pocket edges together. (Figure 4) Do not worry if your pins aren't perfectly spaced or straight. Pins are merely tools to keep your fabric in place before thread is introduced. Placing the pins perpendicular to the fabric edges make it easier for you to remove the pins while sewing.

The Sewing Part:
~ Remember, this section can be altered by skipping the use of a sewing machine and hand sewing the edges by hand.

1) Choose your thread and thread your sewing machine according to the machine's directions. If you're unfamiliar with your machine or do not have a manual, you can often find directions through a Google search entering your machine's brand and model number.

Gypsy Thread Sewing Tutorial
Figure 5 - Lining up fabric on the machine.
2) Line up your envelope on your sewing machine. You'll want the top edge of your pocket to be placed just under where the sewing machine needle will pierce the fabric. Also take a look at the little measurement marks beneath the fabric. Line up the outer edge of the fabric, where the pins are sticking out from, against the 1/2" seam guide line. (Figure 5)

Gypsy Thread Sewing Tutorial
Figure 6 - Finished Stitches
3) Sew 2-3 stitches to start, then reverse your stitches using the button or lever on your machine that creates a backstitch. Allow the machine to backstitch 2-3 times to lock your stitch. Begin sewing straight to the bottom of the Envelope, again backstitching at the end 2-3 times. Repeat this step with the opposite side of your Envelope pocket. At this point your envelope should look like Figure 6. 
Again, click on the photos for a larger view.

Attaching Your Button:
Choosing buttons and other trims are the trickiest part of part of this process for me. So many choices!

Gypsy Thread Sewing Tutorial
Figure 7 - Decide button placement.

1) Decide where you'd like your button to rest once it attached and fastened to the Envelope. (Figure 7) Center it over the crease formed earlier on the flap. Do make sure to choose a spot at least a 1/2" above the pointed edge of your Envelope flap.

Figure 8 - Clip the button hole.
 2) Make a horizontal fold halfway under the button. This will match the creased lines against each other. With pinking shears make a cut perpendicular to the new fold. The cut should be approximately half the length of of your button. (Figure 8) For instance, if using a 1" button, make a 1/2" cut.

Gypsy Thread Sewing Tutorial
Figure 9 - Make sure the button fits.

 3) Double check to make sure the button fits through the hole you just cut. (Figure 9) Cut the hole a bit larger if needed.

Gypsy Thread Sewing Tutorial
Figure 10 - Arrange the button.

4) Find the spot where the button will be attached to the Envelope. Fold the flap closed, and arrange the button beneath the cut hole. (Figure 10)

Gypsy Thread Sewing Tutorial
Figure 11 - First thread pass.
 5) With a threaded hand sewing needle knotted on the far end of the thread, make your first stitch from the inside of the pocket lining up the stitch with where your button will be placed. (Figure 11) Pull the thread all the way through so the knot rests against the inside of the fabric.

Gypsy Thread Sewing Tutorial
Figure 12 - Button threading.
6) Thread the needle through one of the button holes and back through an opposite hole. Then insert the needle back into the fabric close to, but not exactly through, the previous threaded spot. (Figure 12)

7) Continue stitching looping the needle and thread through both the fabric and button holes pulling the thread taut with each passing, taking care not to sew through the back of your Envelope or poking your fingers with the needle.

Gypsy Thread Sewing Tutorial
Figure 13 - Make a knot.
8) After making 2-ish passes through your button, with your button feeling securely attached, leave the needle on the inside of the Envelope. Flip the Envelope partially inside out and create a knot to secure the final stitch. (Figure 13) To knot, pass the needle beneath a few threads at the back of the fabric, loop the needle back through the loop now formed, and pull tight. I like to make two knots for extra security.

And you're done!!!
Gypsy Thread Sewing Tutorial
You now have a completed Fabric Envelope. Feel free to make dozens more to hold your special pieces of jewelry, a gift card to give to a friend, as a business card holder, or a trinket collector for your favorite kiddo

If you have any extra tips for this project, or find a spot that should be tweaked a bit, please do feel free to comment and share with others. If you do make a Fabric Envelope from these instructions I'd love to see how it turns out. You can share your photos on the Gypsy Thread Facebook wall for all to enjoy.


  1. What type fabric do you suggest using? I'd like to do this with some of the leftover nice cotton fabric from my curtain project, but I'm concerned about fraying.

    1. You can use just about any type of fabric for this project. Stretchy knits might be tricky, but if you were to use a serger instead of a sewing machine it might make things easier. Woven cotton fabrics (not stretchy) are perfect!
      The pinking shears are used so the fabric does not fray. They're great to use for finishing seam edges on just about any sewn item. It's a sewing short cut. I should probably amend the tutorial to say this. :-)

    2. Ah, didn't realize that's what pinking shears did!

  2. This is such a cool tutorial and a great idea Ryan loved learning with you on Saturday thank you.


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