Monday, April 21, 2014

Quilted Weekender Bag

Sometimes I am ridiculous. (Side note: as I typed that, in my head I heard one of my sisters snort derisively and say "Sometimes!?!" I'm not sure which one though, so I guess it means they would both say that). Anyway, after this travel set was delivered to its quite happy recipient, I was asked to make a weekender in the same fabric. I've made enough bags that I should have felt quite confident in working this out. So what did I do? I bought a pattern. Urrrgghhh, I know, I know. I wish I could say I instantly regretted it, but it took me a long time to even look at the instructions after I bought them, so I couldn't ask for a refund without looking like I was trying to pull something over. It just irks me when someone touts their years and years of sewing experience and then shares something that has elements that make no sense to me as a bag maker. It wasn't until I was in too far to quit that I realized how I could have made this simpler and better. So now I feel I have to make another one just to prove that to myself. See? Ridiculous.

Anyway, here's the bag I made this week (I worked on it in small bits spread out over several days, but it really didn't take me that long to do).

It's about twenty inches wide, and then twelve high and deep. It's a sturdy bag but a bit floppy so I've got it stuffed with afghans so you can see the shape. You can't really see it but I quilted wide squares on this (about three inches square). The pattern has you layer your lining with the exterior and make a quilt. While the prospect of raw edges being visible was making me twitch, I do like that the inside is quilted, too--

I modified the straps a little as I didn't want to use jute as the pattern called for--I wish I had made them a little wider but they are sturdy and comfortable just the same. They're long enough to sling this over your shoulder, but also short enough that you could carry it in your hand comfortably.

One of the first things that bothered me was the side pocket. The pattern directs you to make it by covering your lovely quilting with this pleated pocket. In seeing finished photos I decided I did not like the look of it, plus it would cover all my quilting work. So I top-stitched my quilt grid on the fabric that was going to be my pocket to keep the look flowing. Having a quilted bag and an unquilted end pocket would be one of those weird things that would irk me. Though I removed the pocket volume by not adding pleats it is still plenty roomy. This bag is basically a huge tube with the two end squares sewn to it. I greatly dislike making things that way as it can be difficult to get things to match up correctly, even when you measure and mark as directed....ahem...

I was going to say how securely those straps are stitched--four lines of stitching plus the boxed x for security...but I think I'll just direct your attention to that lint I need to brush off. I don't want you to think I'm not completely aware of how awful that looks.

And now, here is a pic that shows things I hate about this pattern. As the maker, not the user. As the user I wouldn't bat an eye, but as the seamstress they irk me.

First--excuse the stitching. My big machine started giving me some trouble so I switched to my small one. It was balking a little at the layers and looks worse on this side than the other. But that's not what I want to whine about. I'm not a fan of binding bags unless it's as a decorative feature around the top edge or something like that. I feel that raw edges should be able to be hidden in a bag, and that serging them as directed was not a suitable option for me. I felt like that would cheapen it. So I went with binding, which wasn't fun as there are a few quite thick layers in there (again the machine fought me a little). I considered binding the pieces individually before I sewed them all together, but that would bug me as well, so I did my best at the end and I'm not dissatisfied though it's not my finest. The other thing is that zipper. According to the pattern, on each side of the zipper I should have two inches of fabric that I would then hand-sew to the rest of the bag. And why? Why even bother with that extra fabric that makes no sense? So I pinked it. I like the look of pinking and it's in an area where you won't see it, so I'm fine with it. Well after the fact I realized I could have whipped up some bias tape and encased the edges that way, but I was so obsessed with the "WHYYYYY??!?!?!?!" of this pattern that I was in grumbling mode and not thinking mode.

It's hard to see in this photo but just to the right of and behind the zipper you can see a flap of fabric. There is one on each end of the main zipper to serve as pull tabs. I altered the installation of those as the directed method would have led to a broken needle or two

OK, so all's well that ends well. Any gripes I have with this bag are with the making process and not with the finished product in any way. It's sturdy, it's roomy, and it's cute. But I think in the future I'll just be doing my own thing. Because then I'll have no one to blame but myself. Which is also true in this situation, but I'm choosing to ignore that fact right now. Especially since I could have followed my own instructions and been much happier with the outcome...

Sunday, April 20, 2014

An Easter Tale

At the Easter vigil mass earlier tonight I was reminded of how solemn a holiday Easter is, especially the week preceding the actual celebration. So I decided to share an Easter tale with you to bring some levity to the day. 

It was about fifteen years ago. I weighed a good bit less and looked cuter in a lot more things, one of them being this long olive green skirt that I had that was slightly A-line and fit just right. I wore it to church for Easter mass with the family. On our return home, the sun was hitting the front door (which is all glass) in such a way that it was practically a mirror. So I decided to hitch up my skirt to see how it would look short. I pulled it way up, and turned to face everyone, thinking I'm being funny with my now-scandalously short skirt. I said "Hey guys, what do you think of this?" My dad was the only one who reacted as he was standing behind me, right where the slit was. The slit that was now revealing my rear end to him. My modest father, on Easter Sunday, being partially mooned by his eldest daughter. All he said was "Oh come on now." I had no idea what his problem was until I went upstairs to change. I laughed and laughed, and I'm laughing still as I'm typing this. If he had only gotten the house key ready quicker I wouldn't have had the chance to display how much of a lady I am.

So...uhhhh....Happy Easter!!!

Monday, April 14, 2014

It's Heeeere!!

It's amazing. A little sunshine, a little warmth, and the world wakes up. It's taken a long time to show itself, but spring has sprung. I had big sewing plans this weekend, but the weather was too nice. I felt like I had to be outside doing something, just to soak up some fresh air. I cut out the pieces for a bag I have in the works, and used the need for the adhesive on the interfacing to set as an excuse to go outside. My mother and I scrubbed down and swept off the porch, cleaning the cushions and the railings and all that jazz. We recovered the chairs and my dad put a fresh coat of paint on the frames. No flowers or anything yet, but just having clean or new cushions makes everything look bright and cheerful and relaxing with the freshness of it all.

You know it's spring when the chalk basket gets replenished for little kid (and sometimes big kid) hands.

After all the work bits were done on Sunday afternoon, we sat outside with our mugs of tea and just...sat. Every year I eagerly await the blooming of our neighbor's pear tree. A few days ago there weren't even buds on the trees, but now they're almost fully in bloom.



It kind of blows my mind just how quickly things changed from a week go, and even from day to day. No color, hardly anything on the trees, and now everything is coming back to life in a matter of days.

A perfect little bird landed on a perfect little branch and posed for a perfect little picture...before my camera was ready. When I finally had my business together, it turned and mooned me before flying away.

It was delightful to do outdoorsy things that didn't require layers and snow boots. I knitted seven dishcloths in one week for an order I had, so getting off the couch was the perfect remedy to my getting-sore hands and my already-sore butt. I took the day off of work today to catch up on some sewing and made some good progress. I've got to take my big sewing machine in for service as the shaft has gone and gotten itself a little crooked, so I'm muddling through with my other one. I've definitely become spoiled with all the bells and whistles. I feel inclined to lose my temper over this as this machine purchase did not come without its woes. But my mother has informed me that "These things happen" and I guess she's right. I've done it before and I suppose I can again live with no automatic thread cutter. I wonder if that's enough to get you deemed a martyr...

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Bright Branches

After finishing the never-ending afghan of navy blue, I needed to work with color. I wanted something quick but fun and easy that would also be super cute. As I mentioned in this post, the plan was to use all that bright yumminess to stitch me up some flowers. I picked a few from this book that seemed to fit the bill, as well as using a few tuts from Attic 24. I'm not sure how many episodes of Downton Abbey I stitched through (I signed up for Amazon Prime and my mom, sister Alicia and I have been glued to it in any mutual spare time), but I finally had what was determined to be enough.

Even weaving in the ends and sewing on the leaves and all that jazz was enjoyable, as each little bit made me giggle with its cuteness.

Some flowers I made once, others I made several times. Some took some time (and some frogging), others just flew off the hook in their simplicity. Looking at them all laid out is just delightful, eh?

This pink one is my favorite out of the lot, simply because of the colors.

But the teeny ones are my favorite in their teeny, flowery cuteness. I was going to add some buttons to the centers, but once they were all finished and hanging out together I didn't think it was necessary. I could have gone on and on making these as they're quite satisfying to make. But then my yarn-flower adorned tree branches wouldn't have looked realistic....

I couldn't tell you how many photos I tried to take, but this window is just not placed in a prime spot for great photos. But it's enough that you get the idea.

I have all my stuff ready to make a summery wreath for the front door, but I've got a few projects to finish up first. But no worries--if summer takes as long to get here as spring did I have until at least August to make it.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

A Warren of Scuts

FYI, a 'warren' is what you call a group of rabbits, and a 'scut' is their cute little squishy bunny tail. Consider that today's vocabulary lesson. And you thought you just stopped by for the stitchery....

While perusing the posts on some of the linky parties I hook up to, I saw a post that I immediately pinned. Though it didn't feel like spring or look like spring, the calendar said it was indeed spring. So I decided to get with the making (even though it looked like January outside) so I could have an Easter craft under my belt. Following this tutorial, I spent a fun few evenings clipping and stitching and stuffing and tying until I had my own herd (another acceptable word for rabbit groups--are you writing all this down?). 

Bunny line-up. Who dunnit?

Almost all of the fabrics came from my stash. I bought one--the coral one with the little circles that mimic bunny ears where they overlap. I bought one of those multi-packs of ribbons around Christmas, and used those for the little bunny bowties.

Bunny punishment. Stand and face the wall. 

Would you look at those adorable bunny scut butts? I hot glued on a simple pom-pom after spending way too long pondering where an upright bunny would have a tail. I think this view is ridiculously adorable, and wanted to tie the bows facing this direction, but thought that would be pretty dang confusing. I know, I could leave them this way as the bow is implied, but it took me forever to make them look even halfway decent.

Bunnies right turn! March!

I do believe my favorite thing about these is the pinked edges. If left to my own devices I would have found it necessary to sew these inside out and turn without even thinking of sewing them right sides out and pinking the edges. Sooooo easy this way and I love the look it gives. As usual my stuffing could use some help, but I think I'm at the point where I can accept good enough when it comes to stuffing things. It's not like I do it that often.

I think these two ended up being my favorite. Throw in some gray and you have my current favorite color combination.

As is so often the case I make things due to cuteness and the neeeeed to have them right away, without any forethought as to what I'm actually going to do with them. So right now they're all standing guard over a basket of fabric eggs I made a couple of years ago.

The great thing about these is that you don't need very much fabric to make them, and they are so super quick. It's one of those projects where you almost feel tempted to just keep going and going until you have a roomful of bunnies. Y'know....they'd multiply like rabbits. See what I did there? I'm here all week, folks.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

An Afghan for my Dad

I love to make things for my family and friends. It's very rare that I feel possessive over something I've made, as most of the time I enjoy the process itself. But when I think back over the past ten years (when I first learned to knit and crochet) I can count on two fingers the things I've made my dad--a knitted scarf, and some canvas covers to keep any light out of those giant jug things you use when you make your own wine. Last year, in the midst of some afghan or another, he said to me jokingly "You should make me a Penn State afghan." I gave a quick search and came up with nothing to guide me. I back-burnered it as if I was going to make one I'd have to make my own chart, and if it's not stick figures or rainbows it doesn't get drawn by me.  He never mentioned it again. On a whim a few months ago I looked again, and found a crochet pattern for a Penn State afghan. Here's the link to the pattern. I don't know when the PSU copyright police will intervene (if at all) so if you're interested grab a copy now.

I started this project on Super Bowl Sunday. I'm pretty sure I've made it about twice, once you consider the amount of frogging and restitching I did. The whole thing is done in half double crochet, which always gives me fits along the edges. I literally counted every single stitch for a loooong time to make sure nothing was getting wonky. I finally found my rhythm, running a marker over each row on the page as I finished. I must have been cock-eyed at one point as I goofed up what is essentially highlighting, and had to rip out a third of what I had done. And then I did it again a little later, but not quite so drastically. I spent a few evenings overall not even stitching, but just comparing my chart to my blanket to find where I went wrong, and then wrapping my yarn up to go at it again. Considering that this blanket is a great couch throw size, and the amount of redoing I had to do, it actually came together quite fast. I finished it up this weekend, gave it a wash and dry, and now it's ready to be used. So it figures the weather turned and it finally feels like spring around here.

I've never made an afghan like this before, so carrying the yarn in such a way to make it almost invisible from the front was a learning experience. When it's all laid out you can see a little bit of where I carried it, but when I researched how to do this a lot of the examples I saw had the same thing going on so I figure it must be an occupational hazard. I really truly don't care, as I'm pleased as punch that the Nittany Lion came out looking like it was supposed to.

I guess it doesn't matter where you start an afghan like this, but I started at the bottom. The letters are pretty blocky and close together, so it was good practice for minding the yarn.

Doing an entire afghan in HDC was quite tedious, and I might have lost my mind were it not for the logo breaking up the monotony. I really like the texture that results from it. I don't know how I used to make all my afghans in one color (I feared weaving in too many ends so I avoided color changes). When I think back so many of them were just one solid color--I don't know if I could do that anymore for anything beyond a baby blanket sized project. I almost look forward to the color changes to see how they all play together.

I put one row of single crochet all the way around to neaten the edges and finish it off. My fingers were SORE trying to work that hook into my stitches on the sides. I wished and hoped the whole time that I wasn't creating ruffles or pulling too tight. But everything came out nice and smooth.

 Due to this not being the most relaxing project, tension got the better of me, and the sides are a little wavy. But I don't care. Who lays an afghan out on the floor nice and flat and keeps it that way? No one. Around here they're folded or rumpled, on the couch or recliner, usually with someone snuggled under one. As long it fulfills the purpose of a blanket, I don't give much of a hoot about imperfect edges.

So you wanna see the whole thing, then?

I used plain old Red Heart yarn in soft navy and white (I didn't think navy would be so hard to photograph consistently, as it shows a little different in some pictures, but it is indeed navy). I ran into an interesting thing. Most of my yarn was similar enough, but one of my skeins of blue (and I bought the jumbo size) was weird. The yarn felt very thin, almost like a sport weight. When I bought more to compare them it was interesting to see the difference. I've never encountered that before within the same brand, but it's something I'll be keeping in mind in the future.

This was probably one of the more difficult things I've ever made. Which should make up for the fact that it's only the third thing I've ever made for my dad. This should count for fifty things, at least.

Linking up here:

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Square Pouch Tutorial

A few weeks ago I received an email from Penny Cottons, a fabric company from Thailand that is venturing into the world of quilting cottons after a long history in the apparel fabric industry. I asked if they'd be interested in a project-for-fabric trade, and they quickly sent me some fat quarters to play with. I was curious as to the quality of what they would be sending--the prices are so low I thought for sure I might be getting some low-quality pieces. I was so very wrong. They sent me their Vintage Patchwork fabrics, and they are beautiful.

The colors are true to what is on the website, and they are wonderfully soft. They stitched up beautifully and I am so very very pleased with them. I've already placed an order with them for more. The selection is a bit limited right now, and postage is a little on the higher side, but the good prices balance that out. If you see something you like there I recommend that you give them a shot. And now, on to the project and tutorial.

Last week I posted a tutorial for how to make up a pattern for a boxy pouch in any size at all. This week I'm putting my money where my mouth is (or my fabric where my needle is, I suppose would be a better way to state it) to show you that it does work out.

First up--I drew my pattern. I knew I wanted a three inch square pouch, and about nine inches long. I put the zipper in the center, and used a quarter inch seam allowance. Here's the pattern that resulted.

For this size a fat quarter each for the lining and exterior were perfect. I used cotton quilt batting for this one, but I would recommend using sew-in fleece (I like Thermolam Plus) as it's a bit more sturdy. You'll also need a standard zipper (one inch wide) long enough for your top edge. I recommend going longer to have some wiggle room. for the top-stitching. I started off by quilting my exterior fabric. Yum. Not necessary, but I'm glad I did.

Using your pattern piece, cut out an exterior and a lining. If you didn't quilt your fabric, cut out a piece of fleece and treat that and the exterior as one layer.

Let's make a zipper sandwich. Lay down your lining, right side up, your zipper right side up, and your exterior, right side down. Line them up nice and neat and clip/pin in place. Your layers should look like this:

In order to be able to do this with no raw edges on the inside, we need to 'indent' our stitch line a little bit. Make a mark a quarter inch in from each edge. Those will be your start and stop marks. Using a quarter inch seam allowance (a quarter inch foot is crazy good at helping you put in nice neat zippers) stitch in your zipper, starting and stopping at the marks you just drew, backstitching at each end.

It's a good thing you're hungry as we need to make another sandwich for the other side of the zipper. Layer your fabrics the same way but, because we have no bottom seam, you'll have what looks like two loops with the zipper at the top:

Make your marks and stitch as you did for the first side of the zipper. Now, to keep the fabric from getting jammed into the zipper we need to topstitch it in place. This is where a longer zipper comes in handy--opening it wide makes this step a little easier. Arrange your bag so it looks like this:

I like to finger press the folds of fabric near the zipper and pin them in place so they don't shift when I topstitch. As we need to keep those teeny flappy bits at the ends free, topstitch the same way you inserted your zipper--indent the stitch line a quarter inch.

OK. Now we need to arrange our bag so that the exterior and the lining are separate layers. Reach in through the gap and turn the bag inside out with the two layers kind of 'stacked.' It may take a little fiddling and turning the first time. Also--open up your zipper about halfway (at least).

We're going to start with the lining. With the zipper in the middle, line up the bottom piece with the top piece where the zipper is and pin together. The exterior will want to come along--just push it out of the way and tell it to wait its turn. If you did your math right (for those adventurous souls who made your own pattern) these pieces should line up perfectly.

Stitch those layers together and smoosh the exterior out of the way of your presser foot. Go right on over that zipper.

Repeat for the other side of your lining. Now you're going to repeat this with the exterior, pinning the sides together and sewing over the zipper. I didn't for this one, but if you're going to insert little tabs near the zipper (ribbon would look cute for this size) lay them between the exterior layers in the center. This is detailed better in the original tutorial.

By now you should have two flat pieces stacked up and stitched on the edges.

Now we are going to box the corners. We have to do this step for the lining and the exterior so you'll be a pro by the time we're done. Put your index fingers in the gap, one at each corner, and pull them apart so the edges are together and you have a straight line instead of the 'L' shape you see above. If you have it arranged correctly, one side will have the seam in the center (see below). Pin, and stitch across. For the lining do this for three corners, but do all four for the exterior.

When you've got seven corners boxed, work the bag through the final corner of the lining that you left open. Go gently. This is why we opened the zipper, or else we'd have an impossible task ahead of us. Once through the gap, with everything turned right side out, find the lining gap. Tuck the raw edges in and sew them shut, either by hand or machine. Tuck the lining inside, poking the corners out gently, and give it a press. Tie a bit of ribbon to the zipper pull for a little something extra. Done.

The cute polka dot lining has been in my stash forEVer. I've never had a need for it until now. It matches perfectly. I loved how this one came out so much that I immediately made another, but smaller by one inch in each direction.

I'm just noticing how, on the blue bag, the right side looks misshapen. That's only because the batting is so soft that when I picked it up I squished it slightly out of shape and am just noticing now. Isn't the pink one just the cutest?

I used fleece on the little one, and you can see how it holds the shape much better. I also put in the little tabs near the zipper for this one. It's going to be perfect to hold my crochet hooks and stuff, as my current case could use a break.

I used the same exact technique for both, and was amazed at how quickly they came together when I didn't have to pause for pictures. In the future I'll be using fleece as opposed to batting as I like the little bit more stiffness it gives. One word of advice: I wouldn't recommend making the sides smaller than two inches. I felt like an OB-GYN really earning their paycheck when I turned that one inside out. No joke.

So there you go. Another option for your bag arsenal. Link some up in the Flickr pool. I love seeing other folks' fabric choices. Thank you, Penny Cottons, for the delightful fabric to work with.

Linking up here:


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