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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Using fabric scraps: tea wallets (and fabric holders for other items)

First of all, thank you to all of you who commented on the subject of tea, and entered the drawing for this small giveaway. You probably aren't aware how much joy I receive when I open up my blog page and see that someone is interested enough to add a comment. It's for that joy that you give to me that I enjoyed sewing this tea wallet for one of you.

And now, drum roll, the winner of this tea wallet and assortment of tea, is Kris! Kris, please email me ( with your address and I'll post this out to you!

And for anyone who'd find making a tea wallet a fun endeavor, here's how I made this one.

So you know that I've been going through my stacks of fabric in my sewing closet this winter. I'm afraid I haven't made much of a dent this year, and will have to be more aggressive in my sewing. But I did find a wonderful use for smaller scraps (which is what I seem to have in abundance). This tea wallet (and many more to come, done similarly), used 4 pieces of 5 X 7 inch fabric. 1 rectangle of a decorator fabric (the heavy weight means I don't have to add an interfacing) and 3 rectangles of lighter-weight cotton. Perfect, as I have a lot of pieces about this size.

To make one tea wallet, cut 4 rectangles of fabric 5 by 7 inches. Use 1 heavier weight fabric for the exterior of the wallet, and 3 pieces of lightweight fabric for the pockets and interior. If you have found the perfect exterior fabric that is lightweight, iron on a piece of 5 X 7 inch fusible interfacing to this one piece. This will give the exterior some substance and prevent wrinkling. You will also need 1 button and about 4 inches of ribbon, cording or elastic for the closure.

Iron all pieces of fabric.

Fold the 2 pocket pieces in half, lengthwise, right side out. Top stitch along the folded edge, to give a finished look.

Place one pocket piece on the right side of the lining piece of fabric, 1 inch above the bottom edge. This will form the two top pockets. Pin along the bottom edge.

Sew this pocket piece to the lining fabric along bottom edge of pocket, about 1/4 inch from edge.

Pin remaining pocket piece on top of sewn pocket, lining up the lower edge with the lower edge of the lining fabric.

Sew along this lower edge, just under 1/4 inch from edge.

Fold the lining and pockets in half, and press with iron.
This will make a crease for you to sew along. 

Machine sew the crease, from the bottom edge up to the top of the top pocket. This creates 4 pockets, total. Also, sew along the lower edge, just under 1/4 inch from edge of fabric.

Fold a piece of ribbon or cord in half to make a loop. Play with the length you need to reach the button that you will sew on the front, eye-balling the placement. Pin the ribbon to the pocket/lining, on the right-hand side, just above the top of the lower pocket. Stitch in place, just under 1/4 inch from edge.

Place exterior fabric piece, right sides together, on top of lining and pockets. Pin all the way around. Stitch interior to exterior, 1/4 inch from edge, almost all the way around, leaving an opening, about 2 inches across, along the bottom edge, on the side of the wallet that the ribbon loop is attached.

Clip the corners just a bit, to minimize the bulkiness of the corners once turned right side out.

Through the opening, turn the wallet right side out, using a chopstick or other item with a dull point, to poke the corners,

then use a pin to pull out the remaining portion of each corner.

Press wallet, turning the opening edge under to match the rest of the lower edge.

Slip stitch this opening closed. You can top stitch all around the perimeter of the wallet, if you wish. But my top-stitching is not so neat, so I chose not to.

Sew the button in place, being careful not to sew through one of the pocket pieces. Fill with tea, and you're done.

These instructions make this sound much more complicated than it really is. I think, in total, making mistakes, unpicking, etc, I spent about 1  1/2 hours. When I make more, I should be able to get these down to about 30 minutes each, start to finish.

This idea can be sized for other objects one might carry with them, or want to keep all together, such as a small notepad and pen, some packets of handi-wipes, sunscreen and/or bug repellent, a small mirror and stick of lip gloss/balm, or a stack of home made note cards and envelopes.

Some possibilities for gifting fabric wallets (tea or otherwise) would include bridal or baby shower favors, end-of-the-year teacher appreciation gifts, Mother's Day gifts, and I'm thinking way ahead here, Christmas stocking stuffers for the tea drinkers in your circle. I plan on using another fabric to make a wallet for a purse-sized notepad and small pen for my step mom as part of a basket of gifts for Mother's Day this spring (US Mother's Day is in May -- happy belated Mother's Day to all you moms in the UK who celebrated this past weekend!).

Other things I'm considering making with my heap of small fabric scraps include, pin cushions, sachets, covered hangers, and covered cardboard boxes. Any other suggestions for using up small scraps would surely be appreciated!


  1. Looks like a very doable project. However, I would be the one to sew the pocket shut with the button. :) Also, the obvious thing to do with a lot of small pieces of fabric is to piece something together for quilting.

    1. Hi live and learn,
      I do have to unpick my share of mistakes, too. But I heard a saying recently that I really like, "if you're not making mistakes, then you're not doing. Do-ers make mistakes." This helps me to realize that whatever I do, mistakes are part of the process.

      I'm currently teaching myself a bazillion ways how NOT to crochet. One of these days, I will actually get it right, and all those mistakes will have contributed to my learning.

      Quilting is a really good suggestion, and will likely be a way to use some of the scraps. I'm thinking a quilted bag might be nice. Thanks for suggesting quilting.

  2. Replies
    1. Hi Economies,
      Kris is right, everyone who comes here is really nice. Thanks for being one of them!☺

  3. Lili,

    This tutorial is perfect-you have walked us through each step! I am just not much of a seamstress-so I thank you! You know, I like all of your ideas for future use of your small fabric scraps. I especially like the ideas of sachets, and covered cardboard boxes!! Can't wait to see these other projects! I know they will be amazing!

    1. Hi Jemma,
      Thank you! I do enjoy crafty endeavors. I've seen fabric covered boxes that I thought were very lovely. I'll have to see how big my scraps are.
      Thank you for dropping in!

  4. Happy, happy Kris! And now we all win because of your instructions for making one. I was so hoping you would do this. Thank you.

    1. Hi Judy,
      I'm so glad! I hope my instructions were clear enough. I had problems with my camera the day I was sewing, and didn't have photos of everything I wanted. I'll update the photos the next time I sew one of these (which should be soon!).
      Thank you for your comments!

  5. What a great idea! This would be the perfect sewing project for me to try--I haven't had a lot of experience sewing and it's not my strong point. This kind of project would be excellent practice, though.

    1. Hi Pamela,
      Thanks! You were sewing an apron earlier this year, weren't you? Sewing does take a bit of practice. Small projects are definitely good for that. I'm learning how to crochet this month, and after numerous unravelings, I've now decided that I should find a tiny project to start. One of my daughters has promised to teach me how to crochet a flower.
      Good luck with your sewing!

  6. I never win anything! Wow! Thanks Lili, and how kind of everyone else to congratulate me as well. I love the community you have created with your blog.

    SO excited about the tea wallet--I don't have a sewing machine so I will especially appreciate your handwork. :)

    1. Hi Kris,
      Congratulations! I wish it were a bigger giveaway, but I was delighted to do this. I meant what I said at the beginning of my post, that I get so much joy from this blog and the people who come here.

      I'll get this off to you right away. Enjoy the tea!

  7. Congratulations to Kris! Hope you enjoy your new tea wallet. :)

    1. Hi Belinda,
      Another really nice person!

      My husband made a remark about the comments here one day. He said that he'd never been to a blog where everyone was so kind to one another, no snarky comments or vicious attacks. I told him that this was the norm for frugal living blogs. In general we're just all a nice bunch.

      Hope you have a lovely evening, Belinda.

  8. So glad the tea wallet is going to a happy home! And yes, lovely commenters for a lovely blogger!

    1. Hi Sarah,
      You're too sweet!
      I hope your week is going well!


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