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A LITTLE MAGIC WITH NEEDLE AND THREAD

A present to honor the arrival of a new baby can be useful now and a treasured keepsake years later. September is National Sewing Month, so here are a few ideas for special gifts you can make yourself.

Shirt-pocket quilt

A quilt with pockets for holding small toys, socks or shoes will look sweet hanging on the wall of a child's room. It is also an excellent way to recycle -- the quilt is made from old shirts.

1. Start by cutting nine 11-inch squares from the front portions of shirts, with the pockets in the center of the square. You can also trim the pockets off shirts or jeans and mix and match with different materials.

Pin three of the squares together and sew them with 1/2 -inch seams, creating the quilt's top row. Press the seams open. Repeat, making middle and bottom rows. Sew all the rows together with 1/2 -inch seams. Press open all the new seams.

2. To make a border for the quilt, cut four strips of fabric to the following dimensions. For the bottom, cut a 2 1/2 -by-34-inches piece of fabric. For the sides, two pieces measuring 2 1/2 by 31 inches. For the top, a 3-by-34-inches piece. If you wish, add four buttonholes to the top piece and sew buttons right over them. The buttons are decorative, so you don't need to open the buttonholes.

Pin the two side border pieces to the quilt and sew them with a 1/2 -inch seam. Then pin and sew the top and bottom borders.

3. To hang the quilt from a dowel, you will need to add four tabs at the top. To make tabs, use wide ribbon or strips of fabric, hemmed on the edges.

4. Cut one piece of fusible interfacing and one piece of fabric, each measuring 34 by 34 1/2 inches. Iron the interfacing to the back of the quilt.

Next, pin the fabric to the quilt with the right sides facing and sew around the perimeter with a 1/2 -inch seam, leaving a wide opening at the bottom of the quilt. Turn the quilt right side out and insert a piece of 33-by-33 1/2 -inch batting, which should be about 1/4 inch thick. Tack the batting in place at the intersections of the squares, and stitch the opening closed by hand.

Portable changing pad

Give an everyday hand towel a fabric backing, two ties and pockets for a few essentials like baby wipes, a diaper and ointment, and it becomes a pretty baby-changing pad.

1. Start by measuring your towel (most are 15 1/2 by 30 inches), and cut a piece of fabric the same size.

2. To make the pocket, cut a 9 1/2 -by-11 1/2 -inch piece of fabric. Place it on your work surface horizontally, right side up. Fold the fabric's right edge under by 1/2 inch, and press.

Fold the top edge under by 1/4 inch, then 1 inch. Press and stitch that hem -- this will be the top of the pocket.

Next, lay your large piece of fabric out horizontally and pin the pocket piece to the lower-left-hand corner. Make sure you line up the raw edges, with the right sides of both pieces face up. Stitch along the pressed short side of the pocket, joining it to the larger piece of fabric.

3. Using a piece of fabric chalk, mark a light line on the pocket, parallel to the edge you just stitched, about 3 inches to the left of it. Stitch along the chalk line. This divides the pocket into two sections, one for ointment, and one to hold baby wipes and a diaper.

For a tie, cut a 42-inch piece of seam binding or ribbon and fold over about one-third to create a long and a short end. At the center of the left-hand edge of your fabric, pin the tie to the pocket fabric. The tie's fold should be lined up to the raw edge and the ends should extend across the pocket with the shorter end of the tie underneath the longer end.

4. Pin your towel to the fabric, with right sides together. Make sure the seam binding is inside the pinned edges. Stitch around the perimeter, leaving a 5- to 6-inch opening at the short end opposite the pocket.

Clip the corners, and turn the pad right side out. Iron the pad and stitch the opening closed by hand. When you roll up the pad, use the ties to secure it.

Easy embellishments

Simply binding the edges of a cloth diaper with gingham ribbon turns it into an attractive burp cloth -- and an inexpensive gift.

Fold 7/8 -inch-wide ribbon over the top and bottom edges of the diaper, and pin, folding the ends under. Stitch on edge of ribbon, making sure to stitch through ribbon edge on other side.

Embroider or applique the baby's name or monogram on a plain boudoir-size pillowcase, blanket, hat, onesie, quilt or bib.

Don't worry if you're not an expert at these needlecraft techniques. Practice first on plain cloth, and remember that the final product doesn't have to be perfect -- part of the charm of the gift will be its handmade appearance.

Questions should be addressed to Martha Stewart, care of New York Times Syndication Sales Corp., 122 E. 42nd St., New York, N.Y. 10168. Questions may also be sent to Stewart by electronic mail: mstewart@marthastewart.com. Questions of general interest will be answered in this column; Martha Stewart regrets that unpublished letters cannot be answered individually.

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