Making Fabric Tea Bags For Pretend Play

Guys, I did it. I broke out the sewing machine to make something for Clara’s third birthday. It’s a little tradition of ours to make her something instead of buying it since she gets a ton of store-bought presents from family and friends. I even used her big ol’ stash of monthly photo fabrics, which have also come in handy for making her a quilt, a table runner, a beanbag, and even a birthday banner (remember that epic battle of woman vs. sewing machine?).

It all started when I saw these fabric tea bags on Pinterest and thought they’d be really fun for Clara’s play kitchen since she’s so into making food and pretending to eat it and have tea parties with her stuffed animals. And really, what’s a tea party without tea? So even though there weren’t any directions to be found, I thought I’d just wing it. What’s the worst that could happen? Wait, don’t answer that. You’ve seen my previous work

First I cut a few little squares from ten of my favorite fabrics.

Then I grabbed some twine that I had in the gift closet for the string part (it’s leftover from a gift someone gave me a while back). I also brought in a few cotton balls from the bathroom because I figured the tea bags had to be stuffed with something. And then I just cut two tea bag shaped pieces of fabric from each swatch (so although you see 10 tea-bag-shaped swatches below, there are two in each stack, right on top of each other for a total of 20). I also cut a long rectangle from each fabric to make the tag on the top of the tea bag.

Then I sat down at the sewing machine, said a small please-don’t-make-me-throw-you-out-the-window prayer, and got sewing. Within about five minutes I had this mess, and had completely ruined my first tea bag. There might have been a few whispered obscenities. Nothing gets me heated like my sewing machine, guys. Nothing.

But I resisted the urge to Hulk Smash it and started in on my second attempt. This time I came up with the idea of putting both of the right sides of the tea bags together (with the bad ones facing out) while tucking the string between it like you see in the photo below. Then I sewed up all of the sides of it except for the bottom where the string sticks out. You can see how bad I am about following the edges of the tea-bag shape here. Better work on that.

Then I turned it right-side out. The good news? The string was securely sewn to the top of the bag. The bad news? It looked like a feminine hygiene product. I allllmost gave up for the second time. There were more mumbled obscenities.

But before I threw in the towel, I figured it might look better if I could tuck half a cotton ball in there, fold the bottom part up to seal it, and add a little stitching to hold it closed, thereby finishing the bag part. Thankfully things started to turn around at this point, because it actually got cute-ish (and less tampon-esque in shape). Hallelujah!

To attach the tag part at the top I just folded that piece of fabric in half and put a few stitches into it so it caught the string and stayed folded.

Then I put my head down, said a few more “please don’t make me pound you with a hammer” prayers to my sewing machine, and in about ten more minutes I had three more of these guys knocked out. Wahoo!

About half an hour later I was left with nine tea bag babies. They’re definitely not perfect, but that first attempt was my only casualty. And my sewing machine is still alive and well. So…. success!

Clara especially loves them because I have tea every night and most mornings. So she sees me with it and now has her own tea bags so she can sip with me.

So this is the project that almost wasn’t, but is! And I think we all learned a lesson today, guys. No matter how much something looks like a feminine hygiene product when it’s half done, at least try finishing it before flushing it down the toilet. Both literally or figuratively.

Anyone else sewing stuff? How’s your relationship with your sewing machine? I hear that so many people love to sew (and even that it calms them?!) but my experiences can best be described as tumultuous with a side of anxiety. So far in the end it has always been worth it though. And seeing Clara and her stuffed giraffe sitting down for a little tea party is pretty much the cutest thing ever.

Comments

  1. Val says

    I’m glad that you said “feminine hygeine product” — it was exactly what I thought, but I immediately felt so bad! Luckily, the finished product is incredibly cute. Sewing is just like decorating: the middle makes no sense.

    • Kathryn says

      Oh my goodness, Val. That’s brilliant. I’d never thought about that before.

      This former seamstress has a DIY-as-necessity home in her future and you’ve totally helped me realise I can tap into some of my past experiences with that frustrating-yet-ultimately-so-fulfilling-crazy-in-the-middle feeling! My future self thanks you!

  2. Praveena says

    Awww…this is so cute! I have a 11 month old girl and I am very inspired to make a handmade gift for her birthdays!!

  3. Suzanne Schlotterback says

    It’s all about the quality of the sewing machine. I was a sewing cusser until I got a quality machine and surprise, I can actually sew. I have skillz. It wasn’t me! LOL. Sewing can be calming with the right project. (easy, cute, and quick!)

    • KarenH. says

      Yup! With sewing machines, quality matters. And worst of all, a bad machine for a beginner can make them give up sewing entirely, when the problem was never them.

    • Richelle says

      I agree! My aunt taught me to sew and bought me my first machine but it was a cheap one and it messes up every time I try to use it. I would get so frustrated. I borrowed my mom’s machine and haven’t had a problem since – my projects turn out so cute!

    • Lindsay says

      Could not agree more! Sherry, that Brother you have is a crap sewing machine. I guarantee you that’s the problem. ANYONE can sew on a decent machine. You need to look for an older Singer machine that has all metal parts. I have two amazing Singer Fashion Mates from the 60’s that are a dream to sew on! You should be able to find something on Craigslist for pretty cheap.

    • says

      Thanks for all the get-a-new-machine tips guys! I’d love to invest in one down the line, but I bought the machine I did because it had amazing reviews (hundreds of them) on amazon! So I think it’s mostly user error in my case :)

      xo
      s

    • Cara D says

      My brother works great but my old brother was a mess. So I think it depends on the machine. My grandma’s expensive singer is better of course.

    • Christine G says

      Machine sewing can be so much fun, but a cranky machine can halt all that really quick. Check to see if adjusting the tension of the bobbin keeps the thread from piling up all crazy-pants (check your manual, usually a knob on the side).

      Does your machine have feed dogs? Little toothy plates that move the fabric through at the same rate? If not, try to evenly guide the fabric through at an even rate to avoid bunching or jamming the needle.

      Use the edge of your sewing “foot” and any marks on the surface of the machine to help guide your sewing. Someone below explains the pivot at corners method really well.

      These tea bags are adorable and good luck with your future sewing projects! ^_^

    • says

      Totally wanted to ditto this comment. I started out with a cheapo walmart variety and used it for years. I knew it wasn’t the best, but I wanted to make sure sewing wasn’t a fad for me before I invested in a better machine. I cannot express how much a difference having a quality machine makes in my enjoyment of this hobby and execution of my projects! I was a great seamstress all along. It was my machine working against me. Find a friend with a better machine and try hers out.

    • says

      Yes and no, I have the cheapest crappiest sewing machine on the market, but managed a whole etsy business based around sewing. It teaches you patience and skill.

      (I wouldn’t have cut the tiny shapes first….that just makes it harder. Draw out the shapes on bigger pieces of fabric, sew on the lines, THEN cut.)

  4. Vickielovesjeff says

    Aww, super cute, Sherry. Congrats on not hammering your sewing machine. An accomplishment indeed!

  5. Tara Jane says

    I too have a love-hate relationship with the sewing machine…I am leaning towards blaming the machine. Love the hand made gift tradition, we try to do the same. I think that Clara needs some tea cups though- she will be more careful than you may think and if they are thrifted, so what if they break!

  6. Debi says

    I miss my sewing machine so much it broke a year ago and I haven’t been able to get a new one yet. (-$) So envy you machine!!!! Been jonesing to make a shade for the kitchen after I saw the ones you made. I thing I’ll try your no sew method. Love all your great ideas. I am hooked on you guys. As so as I get into work everyday before my computer is turn on to your site!!! lol

  7. Brooke says

    Um, hello! So cute!! I’m sure she’s going to love it with that creative little mind of hers!

  8. Heather says

    Those a so great they inspired me to finally post a comment to tell you. And look! I’m the first one :)

    In addition to telling you they are wayyy cute, I wanted to say old thread can sometimes cause rats nests. I used to get them all the time until I tossed all the wooden spools I got from Grandma and went with new thread.

    Thanks for a great blog!

    • Emily says

      Ditto on the thread– cheap thread is almost as bad as old thread. And old, cheap thread is the worst of all! Use a coupon and buy some good stuff. Also, play around with the thread tension on your machine. That’s ususally where to rats nests come from. Maybe buy some muslin and just practice on that until you find your zen :)

    • Emily says

      Me again! While I agree with the folks who are saying a better machine makes a huge difference (it does), I happily sewed on my cheap, Wal-Mart Brother for years before I upgraded. Don’t think you have to pay up to enjoy it. You’ll get the hang of it!!

    • says

      Thanks Emily! I think someday I’d love to upgrade, but I bought my machine since it had so many great reviews on Amazon.com and I’m sure it’s mostly user error :)

      xo
      s

  9. Christina Lewis says

    I have a love-hate relationship with my sewing machine. I am a self taught sew-er. I get so angry with my sewing machine sometimes that it too knows a few choice words not commonly used in the company of others. I am super stubborn, so after I kick and scream, I get back to things and I usually absolutely love the end result and so does my now 3 years old. It makes a mama proud when her favorite things to wear are what you made, imperfections and all.

  10. says

    Sherry, I am one of those people that loves to sew and I do it 6 out of 7 days of the week. I am a textile artist here in RVA. However I understand your frustration because even now, after getting a BFA in craft, specifically textiles, and even after sewing for years after that and before that…. there are days when I want to pick up my machine and throw it in the woods behind my house to get swallowed by poison ivy.I have noticed there some tricks to keeping calm and fixing the problems when sewing.IF you ever want some sewing tips… or a brief lesson feel free to crash my studio I would be happy to help you with some machine, or sewing advice.

  11. teresa says

    OMG! This post made me laugh so hard at work, I literally spit coffee all over my keyboard. Nice job on the final product though. Those tea bags are super-cute. Clara’s lucky to have a mommy that cares enough to make her some custom handmade goodies.

  12. says

    I love sewing! I started about a year and a half ago and this morning I went on a workshop on how to make knickers!!

    I find sewing at the machine isn’t always calming and sometimes makes me want to hulk smash / cry, but the whole process gives me great joy.

    Hand sewing (particularly embroidery) I do find very calming. Maybe because there’s no mechanics!

  13. Lindsay says

    Just curious…what is your tea of choice, Sherry? I love my earl grey and english breakfast in the morning, and like to mix it up with a cinnamon spice in the afternoon/evening. #obsessedwithtea :)

    • heather says

      I’m totally an “extra sleepytime” at night type of person but I love a good rooibos. I don’t drink caffeine, so herbal tea is totally my thing! There’s an awesome celestial seasonings one that’s a totally herbal version of a chai that I really really like. I can’t remember the name of it…but it has a tiger on it, so I’m guessing Bengal something. (I have no idea).

    • Jessica says

      Bengal Spice! I have some in my cabinet, but we always just call it tiger tea. Chai is my go-to tea when I decide to take a caffeine reprieve.

    • says

      LOVE THESE!!! Leave it up to you to break out the ole sewing machine to get me inspired ;) Maybe I’ll drum something up for Emma’s 3rd b-day in a few months.

      I wanted to add that I love green, too, but have been hooked on Green with Mint from Bigelow. Not sure if mint is your cup of tea (har har) but check that flavor out if you get a chance. Emma is addicted to it, too!