Category Archives: Ask Sewfie

What is Buffalo Plaid?

This isn’t the typical Ask Sewfie column, in that it’s not an actual question from a Sew Fun reader. This Ask Sewfie inquiry came about out of pure curiousity after my son, 8, asked for some red and black checkered pajamas… to match his new red velour robe, of course. I dutifully went to the local JoAnne’s where they predictably had plenty of red and black plaid fleece. I noticed it was all labeled “buffalo plaid”.

“What the hell is ‘Buffalo Plaid’?”, I thought. Note that in high school I rocked the 80’s in a custom made purple wool buffalo plaid winter coat. It was awesome. Thanks, Mom!

The Back Story

Well, it turns out, “buffalo plaid” originated from the Woolrich Woolen Mills, in Maine. The company began producing the Buffalo Check shirt around 1856. Due in no small part to its thickness and warmth, the shirt was an instant hit with workers and outdoorsmen braving the elements and has been in the Woolrich line ever since. Legend has it that Woolrich’s designer of the distinctive style owned a herd of buffalo and that’s how it got its name.

Woolrich Wooolen Mill

The Pajamas

I got started on the pajamas. I was pretty horrified that a simple “Easy, One-Hour Project!” pattern cost $15.95. When I was in high school, (yeah, this post is devolving into one of those old-people “when I was a kid” stories….) the only patterns that cost $15 were the crazy Bellville Sassoon patterns which would only be suitable for the prom, although I never did buy any of their patterns and the prom dresses I did make were pretty lame.

Pajama time!

Here is a Handy Tip

Whenever I make pajamas (and yeah, it’s A LOT), I always add a little satin ribbon tab on the butt so that the kids know which side is “the back”. Choose a color that’s REALLY REALLY obvious. Remember, our kids are the YouTube Generation which means they seriously don’t know how to dress themselves.

Add a satin tab on the back of your jammies and you’ll always know where your butt is

On an Unrelated Note

How to Make a Set of Soft Baby Blocks

Hi Sewfie,
I want to make a set of soft baby blocks that has a letter of alphabet on each block. How much material should I order to do this? (I may want extra, once I know the baby’s name, so that there can be duplicate letter blocks made).

Dear Lois,
The “Baby Geniuses Grow Up!” fabric panel that I used in the original How to Make Perfect Fabric Baby Blocks post is apparently out of print and getting harder and harder to find. BUT YOU DON’T ACTUALLY NEED IT!

You can make the 4″ covered fabric blocks from any fabric following these easy steps:

  1. Cut your fabric WOF (Width of Fabric) into 4 1/2″ strips.
  2. Then, cut these strips into 4 1/2″ squares.
  3. Applique your letters on enough of these squares to spell out the Baby’s name, one letter per square.
  4. After that, just follow my tutorial for assembling the blocks.
You can make 3 complete soft blocks with 1/4 yard of fabric

How much fabric do I need?

The average 44/45″ wide quilting cotton will fit 9 squares per 4 1/2″ strip. So, with 2 strips (i.e. a quarter yard of fabric), you can make 3 completed blocks. Here’s a handy chart:

Number of Blocks Yards of Fabric
3 1/4
6 1/2
9 3/4
12 1
24 2
26 2 1/4

To make the entire alphabet (that is one letter per block), you will need 2 1/4 yards. For any extra letters for duplicates, add yardage according to the chart, depending on the length of the Baby’s name. For little Seraphinia or little Montgomery, you are going to do a bit of extra sewing. Although some baby names can be pretty long, it turns out the average name length is only 6 letters.

Warm Stitches,

How to Make Table Scraps Coasters

Dear Sewfie,

I can’t bring myself to throw any any scrap of fabric, no matter how small. I’ve even gone through the trash after my kids clean up from a sewing project (shocking but true… they sometimes do clean up), re-claiming even the tiniest swatch that may be “still good for something”. As a result, every work surface in my sewing room is drowning in a sea of scraps… my sewing machine table, my cutting table, the book cases, even my knick-knack shelves… all covered in piles of scraps. What can I do with all of this without throwing them away?


Dear Scrappy,

This easy, fun project will justify your obsessive frugality AND will make a whole stack of fun little gifts and craft fair fodder!

Table Scraps Coasters

Make these cute coasters out of scraps lying round your cutting table

Materials & Supplies

  • Random fabric scraps from your cutting table, totaling about 12″ square
  • 12″ square fabric for backing (or 4 different 6″ squares)
  • 9″ square of heavy weight interfacing such as Timtex or Pelon Peltex
  • Masking tape
  • Yield: makes 4 coasters

Collect your scraps

Pick different colors and prints. Don’t be afraid of combinations you may think “don’t go together”.

Trim scraps

Using rotary cutter, trim the edges of your scraps. You don’t have to make perfect squares: try uneven strips for that “scrappy” look.

Sew Together

Stitch scraps together until you have an assembly at least 4.25″ x 4.25″ or larger. Press.

Line up template

Make a 4.25″ x 4.25″ template by marking your quilting ruler with masking tape.

Cut to size

Using your taped “window” as a guide, position your template over your fabric. Experiment with different angles. Cut your fabric to a 4.25″ x 4.25″ block by cutting one side, then rotating template 90 degrees. Repeat to cut all four sides. This is your coaster top.

Stitch to interfacing

Cut the heavy weight interfacing into four 4.25″ x 4.25″ blocks. Using a long basting stitch, machine sew coaster top to one square of interfacing using a scant 1/4″ seam.


Cut backing fabric into 5.75″ x 5.75″ squares. Place backing fabric right side down. Position coaster top right side up in the center of one backing square. Pin. Finish by self-binding with mitered corners. Click here for complete illustrated instructions on Self-Binding and How to Make Mitered Corners.


This Table Scrap Coaster is working hard at a U.S. Army Nanotechnology lab, keeping its owner’s desk dry and looking stylish to boot!

You could totally make a dozen of these
Warm Stitches,