How many of you loop a tape measure around your neck while you’re sewing? I’m pretty sure there are a lot of hands up out there! This cute little concept is designed to capitalize on that habit by turning the measuring tape into its own mini caddy with scissors on one end and a pincushion on the other. All the basics will be close at hand. Wouldn’t this make a great gift for all your sewing pals?!
The most common length for measuring tapes is 60”, however, we felt that was a bit too long with the additional length of the tools at either end. So we cut the tape into a shorter length. We used 36” – one yard, but you could choose any length you’d like.
If you wish to make your neck strap shorter or longer, it’s easy! Just remember you want about 3” to either end of the tape measure, plus ½” at each end for a seam allowance. That means, to your finished tape measure length, add 7” to get the cut lengths for your lining strip and ribbon length. In our sample that formula was: 36” + 7” or 43”. For the vinyl, add 1” to the finished length of your tape measure. The vast majority of commercial tape measures are ⅝” in width, so the width measurement of the vinyl and the stitching recommendations shown below should work great in most situations. If your tape measure is quite a bit smaller or larger, you’ll need to do some additional testing to determine the best width.
The tape measure resides in a clear vinyl channel, making it easy to see the important markings and still retain all the needed flexibility. Sooooooo – why didn’t we just stitch right through the measuring tape? Two reasons: 1) most tapes these days are fiberglass. The paper and fabric tapes of days gone by have indeed gone by since they were prone to stretching out of shape, making their measuring less than accurate. Fiberglass is wonderfully strong and resistant to stretching, but is a bear to stitch through; 2) stitching along the edges of the tape interferes with all those important little marks you need for… um… measuring! A clear vinyl channel solves both issues and allows you to cut the best length for how you work.
When sewing with the vinyl, we recommend using a Walking or Even Feed foot or engaging your machine’s built-in fabric feeding system. You could also use a Teflon® or similar foot, such as the Janome UltraGlide foot. If you don’t have any of these options, try layering parchment or wax paper over the vinyl and stitching through the paper to eliminate drag. Simply tear away the paper when done. For more tips, take a look at our tutorial Successful Sewing with Laminated Cottons, Oilcloth, and other Sticky Stuff.
There’s a cute little pincushion at one end of the caddy to collect a few pins as you’re sewing. Shorter pins work best; the longer quilting pins might stab all the way through – ouch! We often add ground walnut shells to our pincushions, but not in this case as we didn’t want to add extra weight that would pull down on one end of the strap.
We used a plastic snap to create the mini scissors loop at the opposite end. You could also use a standard metal snap. If you are new to inserting snaps, we have two tutorials you can review prior to starting: one on inserting Babyville plastic snaps, and a second on inserting metal snaps.
Don’t want scissors or afraid they’ll poke you? You can, of course, put anything you’d like on the looped end – maybe a seam ripper or small, lightweight magnifier.
Our Neck Strap Caddy finishes at approximately 1½” x 42”, allowing for a 36” tape measure at the center. The ribbon and pincushion extend from one end about 6¼” and the scissors loop extends from the opposite end about 2¼” plus the length of your scissors.
Sewing Tools You Need
- Sewing Machine and standard presser foot
- Walking or Even Feed foot or engage your machine’s built-in feeding system; optional but recommended for the layering and vinyl in this project – we used the built-in AcuFeed™ Flex fabric feeding system that is standard on many of our Janome studio machines
- Teflon® or similar foot, such as the Janome UltraGlide foot; another option for stitching on the vinyl
Fabric and Other Supplies
- 1¼ yards of 1½” wide ribbon in a pretty print; we used a pink gingham ribbon
- ½ yard of ⅝” ribbon in a coordinating solid; we used a pink grosgrain ribbon
- Scrap or ⅛ yard of 44″+ wide quilting weight cotton for the lining; we used a standard Kona quilting cotton in off white
- Scrap or ⅛ yard of 20”+ wide lightweight fusible interfacing; we used Pellon ShirTailor
NOTE: With the 20” wide products, you will need to cut multiple lengths, butting them together to create the required 42” in finished length. In this case, we used nearly the full ⅛ yard to cut three strips.
- Scrap or ⅛ yard of 44”+ wide soft vinyl; we used a 4 gauge craft vinyl
- ONE ⅝” wide x 60” long fiberglass measuring tape; we used a Dritz Fashion Color Tape Measure, which comes in pink and green
- ONE small snap; we used a Babyville plastic snap in pink and used the Babyville pliers to install – you can go this route, use another type of plastic snap or use a standard metal snap
- Scrap of felt for the pincushion; we used white – you need two apx. 5” squares
- Small handful of polyester filler
- All-purpose thread to match fabric/ribbon
- All-purpose thread for optional decorative stitching on the pincushion; we used bright pink
- White or invisible thread for stitching vinyl; we used white
- See-through ruler
- Fabric pen or pencil
- Seam gauge
- Seam ripper
- Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
- Pinking shears
- Iron and ironing board
- Pressing cloth to protect the vinyl
- Straight pins
- Clips for holding vinyl; we used Wonder Clips
- 1¼ yards of heavy thread or thin string
- Needle nose pliers or tweezers
- Seam sealant; optional to seal the ends of the decorative stitching on the pincushion
NOTE: All the cuts below are based on our sample. Check the introduction above to see how to adapt the sizing.
- From the 1½” ribbon, cut ONE 43” length.
- From the ⅝” ribbon, cut ONE 7” length and ONE 4½” length.
- From the lining fabric, cut ONE 2½” x 43” strip.
- From the lightweight interfacing, cut enough 1⅜” wide strips to butt together to equal 42” in length.
- From the vinyl, cut ONE 1” x 37” strip.
- From the felt, cut TWO approximate 5” x 5” squares; you’ll trim them down to size later in the process.
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
Create the lining and vinyl channel
- Find the lining strip. Place it wrong side up and flat on your work surface. Find the interfacing strip. Center the interfacing on the wrong side of the fabric strip so there is ½” of fabric showing beyond on the interfacing on each end and ⅝” of fabric showing beyond the interfacing on each long side. Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse in place.
- Press back each end and both sides of the fabric strip ½”, creating a folded finished edge on all four sides.
- Turn over the strip so it is now right side up on your work surface.
- Find the length of heavy thread or string, it should be as long or slightly longer than the fabric strip. Lay the string down the center of the lining strip.
- Tape down both ends of the string. You want to tape about 2½” at each end.
- Find the vinyl strip. Place it over the string. Clip the vinyl to the fabric strip.
- The vinyl strip should be centered top to bottom and end to end, and the string should extend out beyond either end.
- Thread the machine with either white thread in the top and bobbin or invisible thread in the top and bobbin. Lengthen the stitch. Using a ⅛” seam allowance, stitch along each side of the vinyl strip through all the layers, removing the clips as you go.
NOTE: We opted to use the built-in AcuFeed™ Flex fabric feeding system on our Janome machine. You could also use a standard Walking or Even Feed foot, a Teflon® type foot, such as the Janome UltraGlide foot, or cover the vinyl with wax or parchment paper to reduce drag. For more tips, take a look at our tutorial Successful Sewing with Laminated Cottons, Oilcloth, and other Sticky Stuff.
- Stop and lock your stitch at each end. Do not stitch across the ends.
- Remove the tape from the ends of the string.
- On the left end of the string, securely tie a paperclip.
- Find the tape measure. Cut the tape measure 1” longer than what you want your finished tape length to be, plus ¼”. That ¼” is to allow you to have full markings all the way up to and a little bit past your finished length. We wanted our finished length to be one yard: 36” to which we added 1¼”. So we cut the tape to 37¼”.
- Poke a hole in the end of the tape measure about ½” in from the cut end.
- Slip the paperclip through the hole in the tape measure. Don’t unbend the paperclip much; you want it to remain as flat as possible.
- Slip the paper clip into the left open end of the vinyl channel and slowly and carefully pull the tape measure through with the string.
- Pull the tape measure all the way through and out the right open end of the vinyl channel. Trim the tape to its final length. For our sample that was 36¼”. Remember, you do want about ¼” past your desired length to make it the easiest to see and measure all the way to your desired length.
- Using a small pair of needle nose pliers or tweezers, reach into the left open end, gently and carefully grab the head end of the tape measure (the metal end), and slide the tape measure back to center it end-to-end within the channel. There should only be about ½” of vinyl channel to either end of the tape measure.
- Topstitch across each end to secure the channel.
Insert the narrow ribbon and stitch front to back
- With the lining strip still right side up (and with the tape measure in place), find the two lengths of narrow ribbon.
- Unfold the ends of the fabric strip.
- Place the 7” length on the left end of the lining strip, aligning one raw end of the ribbon with the raw edge of the fabric. Pin in place. Repeat to place the 4½” length on the right end of the lining strip.
- Find the 43” length of 1½” ribbon. Place it right sides together with the lining strip, sandwiching the two narrow ribbon lengths between the layers. Pin along each end.
NOTE: Our ribbon looked exactly the same on both sides.
- Re-thread the machine with thread to match the ribbon in the top and to match the lining fabric in the bobbin. Re-set the stitch length to normal.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch across both ends… just the ends. We stitched both ends at once, looping the ends and stitching across both in one pass, like chain piecing, then cutting them apart.
- Clip the corners and grade the seam allowance, then flip the ribbon and the lining so they are now wrong sides together and the seam allowances at either end are hidden between the layers. Gently press flat – remember to use a pressing cloth; don’t get close to that vinyl with your iron! Pull the narrow ribbons out into position, extending from either end.
- Pin or clip along both long sides.
- Edgestitch as close as possible to the edge down each long side.
- You want to stitch with the vinyl channel facing up so the vinyl doesn’t drag against the needle plate. In our case, this meant we flipped our thread color, using thread to match the lining fabric in the top and thread to match the ribbon in the bobbin. We also switched back to a standard presser foot and lengthened our stitch slightly.
Create the mini pincushion
- Find the 5” squares of felt. Through the center of each square, add some lines of decorative stitching in a contrasting thread. That means you’ll need to re-thread and re-set your stitch length and width. You want the finished stitching to be about the same width as the narrow ribbon. We used two lines of 9mm stitching in a bright pink thread.
- Make a small paper or cloth pattern that is 2½” square with a line down the exact center.
- Place the two felt squares wrong sides together.
- Position the 2½” square pattern over the decorative stitching with the pattern’s center line aligned with the middle of the decorative stitching. Pin the pattern in place.
- Using pinking shears, cut around the pattern through both layers of felt. If desired, you can add a dab of seam sealant along the outer edges of the decorative stitching to make sure the threads don’t ravel.
- Pin the smaller squares together, leaving a small opening along one side. This opening should be perpendicular to one side of the decorative stitching.
- Re-thread the machine with thread to best match the felt in the top and bobbin. Re-set the stitch length to normal.
- Using a ¼” seam allowance, stitch around all four sides. Remember to pivot at each corner and to lock your seam at either side of the opening.
- Find the handful of polyester filler. Stuff the pincushion. It should be as full as possible.
NOTE: We often add ground walnut shells or similar to our pincushions, but in this case, we didn’t want to add the extra weight.
- Find the main strip. Insert the remaining raw end of the shorter ribbon into the opening of the pincushion. The ribbon should be in line with the decorative stitching.
- Pin the ribbon in place.
- Stitch the opening closed through all the layers, exactly matching the previous seam line.
Create the scissor loop
- Re-thread the machine with thread to best match the narrow ribbon in the top and bobbin.
- At the opposite end, make a tiny double-fold hem in the remaining raw end of the longer ribbon.
- Center one half of the snap on the hemmed end.
- Using the proper tools, set this half of the snap.
- Fold the ribbon back on itself to create an even loop and use the set half of the snap to mark the position for the opposite half of the snap. Cut a hole through all the layers at this marked point.
- Insert the second half of the snap.
NOTE: Check the introduction above for links to our tutorials on inserting both the plastic Babyville snaps as well as standard metal snaps.
Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation: Debbie Guild