Introduction: Sewing Pixel Art Bags

When I originally started making these my goal was to make a quilt, but I am a very impatient person and I wanted to use my awesome pixel art NOW! So the idea transformed into making smaller panels that could be used for smaller projects. And besides, you can't really show off a quilt when you are walking down the street! 

Step 1: Materials and Tools

What you'll need:

- a pattern for your pixel art (I used graph paper to draw mine)
- fabric that match your colors from your pattern 
- light weight fusible grid
- a roller cutter and mat OR scissors
- iron and ironing board
- a thin piece of cardboard (the side of a cereal box works well - this is optional but recommended)
- a sewing machine
- very sharp, pointy sewing scissors (this is important - trust me!)

Step 2: Preparation

When making these, I use a pattern that is 20 pixels by 20 pixels and I use a 1-inch grid so the instructions are based on 1" x 1", adjust accordingly if you are using a larger grid. (2" x 2" is preferable for making these as quilt squares).

Begin by cutting the colored fabric. Since the 'pixels' are 1" x 1" I like to cut a combination of 1" x 2" (for filling large areas) and 1" x 1" (for detail areas).

Once you have your pixel fabric ready, cut a 20" x 20" piece of the fusible grid. Lay the fusible grid on the ironing board with the 'bumps' facing up. This is the glue that will hold the fabric in place while you work. Note that the grid lines are on the back of the fusible grid, but you can still see them through the lightweight fusible. I like to work in rows, filling in about 5 or 6 rows following my pattern. When you have a few rows laid out, press it well with the iron to keep them in place. Be careful not to touch the iron to the bare fusible grid, it will stick to your iron and make a mess!

Continue working the rows until you have completely filled in the pattern.

Step 3: Sewing the Rows

Let's get sewing...

The 20" x 20" square can be a little awkward to wield at first because although the pixel fabric has been ironed on it's only on there lightly so you have to treat it gently or the fabric will start to peel away.

Using the grid lines as a guide, fold your first row along that center line (the grid line will run along the edge of the fold). Using a 1/4" seam allowance sew your first row. Continue sewing rows until you have all of the vertical rows done.

I find it easiest to start in the middle and then alternate sewing rows left and right (or above and below) the middle. The important thing to remember is that you will be working in only one direction - first vertically and then horizontally.

Step 4: Pressing the Rows

This part can be a bit tricky and awkward and that's where the cereal box comes into play!

You need to use lots of steam to get this to behave, and holding it down with your fingers is not a good option. Begin by lightly pressing the back side so that all of the rows are going in the same direction. Working a few rows at a time, lay the cardboard on top of the rows and give it a good blast of steam with the iron, pressing down hard while letting it cool. Continue until all of the rows are pressed well.

Then give the front a good press too.

Flip it over to the back side again. Now, using those nice, pointy, sharp scissors cut into the seam allowance at each of the intersections using the grid lines as a guide. (I don't have a good picture of this, but you will understand when you are doing it). Clip down as close to the seam as possible. This is what's going to let you fold the horizontal rows. Clipping is the most time consuming part of making these pixel panels!

Repeat Step 3 for the horizontal rows.

Repeat the pressing step, pressing the rows towards the bottom of the panel for a nice finish.

Finally, you want to 'block' the piece. This means to square it up nicely. I pin mine to the ironing board's padded cover at the four corners and along each edge - stretching and shaping it to a square. Once you have it pinned securely give it a really, REALLY good blast of steam from the iron, flattening and pressing it. Be careful of the pins, they can get super hot when you do this!

Leave it pinned to the ironing board until it has completely cooled.

Step 5: Turn It Into Something Cool!

These 'pixel panels' can be used in a variety of ways. I make them using 1" x 1" pixels (turns into 1/2" pixels after sewing). Each of my panels turns out to be about 9 1/2 inches square and then I use them to accent laptop bags and small purses. If you make them with larger 'pixels' they can be used to make the aforementioned quilt, or accent pillows.

Use your imagination! challenge

Finalist in the challenge

SINGER Quilting Contest

Finalist in the
SINGER Quilting Contest