Thursday, September 30, 2010

Bolts Over Broadway: I Don't Heart New York--I Only Like It As A Friend

I couldn't decide on a title so you get both. You're welcome. And I'm a bit tired, so prepare for some rambling.
photo credit here
Guess where I went today? New York City's fashion/garment district. The sewing school I used to attend organized a bus trip, and I have heard such wonderful things about it that I decided to go. We hit all of the major hot-spots, I dropped a fair amount of dollars, but I was less than impressed. I can't figure out why... Maybe because the prices were NYC prices and made my eyes boggle a little before tucking things neatly back in place (I'm not used to shopping without coupons or coupon codes). Maybe because I don't have much need for Spandex, and there were four Spandex stores on one block. Probably because I went without a single project idea in my head and simply had no focus. It was all so overwhelming! Floor to ceiling rolls of fabric in every type and color imaginable. Also? It wasn't like New York on TV or in movies--there wasn't any glam or sparkle. It actually reminded me of downtown Philadelphia, and it smelled funny (no offense--Philly smells like that too). The humidity was unbelievable, and the stores had no ventilation, so I wasn't feeling sexy at all. I'm glad I went, but I'm not eager to go back. Unless it's for another one of the sandwiches I had for lunch--deeeeeelish!

NYC blocks are big, and the stores are stacked on each other. It's not the place for leisurely wandering, which is how I like to fabric shop. There weren't many places with bag goodies. There were some really neat o-rings--which would have made the bag unsellable they were so expensive. There were no leather handles or straps or anything I thought I would find. And the fabrics weren't bag fabrics. There were some gorgeous pieces of leather...but I couldn't bring myself to buy them because they were still in the shape of...whatever they used to be. Ewww.

That being said, I spent money. More than I thought I would but nothing crazy. So let's get to da loot!

Our first stop was Mood. Three floors of wow! Things were a bit pricey, but they had every fabric in every color. There were some beautiful houndstooth wools, but I just couldn't justify the cost to myself. OK, I'm thinking of this way too late but I just realized I could have bought a few yards and made a coat that would be cheaper than a store-bought one. Whoops... But I had to buy something--it's Mood!  So I bought these:

I think they're called nailheads; they might look good as a decorative element on something.

Next we headed to Metro Textile Corp. This was a place that was the size of a large basement with high ceilings packed to the rafters--very claustrophobia-inducing. BUT the deals were incredible. This is actually the only fabric that I bought all day--I bought 3 different kinds of rayon jersey. So incredibly soft! I'm not sure what I'm going to use it for yet, but I couldn't pass on the price.

I apologize for the blah photo but these colors are pretty much spot-on. The pink one is actually a little pinker in actuality but you get the idea.

After we went to M and J Trimmings. This is the place where I wish I had remembered I had brought my camera with me. Floor to ceiling trims, ribbons, lace, piping, buttons, Swarovski crystals, beads, appliques, you name it. Everything but fabric. I fell in love with so many things in this store--but so many of them were beyond what I could fathom paying. I did find one piece that I plan on one day attaching to a little girl's dress--once a little girl is available to me to bedeck in my hand-sewn finery.

They had this in every color--I had my mitts on red and pink, but went with the yellow instead. Nice and daisy fresh.

Then we went to Sil Thread, which, surprisingly, doesn't major in threads. They have every notion conceivable, and I scored some great tracing paper. I also shamelessly bought a shameful amount of zippers.

 At fifty cents a pop (for a 22 inch zipper!!) I went a little mad for all the colors. They will certainly get used and they're quality zips...I just can't honestly say I needed them.

Then we hit my favorite spot of the day: Pacific Trim. It was filled with the usual: ribbons, trims, unbound shoelaces--which I'm also just realizing I could have used as drawstrings on PJs or something...whoops again. But this was the only place that had bag hardware and handles. Most of the hardware was very basic and things I already have in abundance, so I didn't go too overboard. But I did get some nifty doo-dads:

An extra-big purse frame, a screw-in frame, some awesome pinky-red marbleized acrylic handles, and some miscellany (I like that word. Miscellany. Fun).

 Isn't that detail great? I think I'm keeping this one for myself. I can get several looks from this one--I just have to make a few bags and screw in a new one every now and then.

 If I'm totally honest here, I must admit that I bought these purely for the color. I don't have a thing they'll go with but I don't care. Love! They had a tan and dark brown set, which would have been infinitely more practical, but much less fun.

So that's that. I wish tomorrow was Saturday so I could sleep in, but Friday is the next best thing, I suppose. Have a good one!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Puffy Bowtie Quilt Block Tutorial

Hi, gang! I've put together a tutorial for a nifty little quilt block that is superb for using up scraps.  I love scrap quilts--they're bright, and random, and I don't have to think as hard about it as I would if I were planning out a fancier quilt (which I've never done, by the way--the thought of it intimidates me). Anyway, this quilt block was the product of a fabulously snowy afternoon over Christmas break at my grandma's house in Oakdale, PA. She was very excited to show me how to make this block--I thought it was going to be the more traditional bowtie pattern, but this one is so nifty I thought I'd share. I don't know where she learned it from, so I don't even know how to credit the design. It's probably on the web somewhere, but I don't know what it's called either to look it up. I am a fountain of knowledge, I tell ya--I promise that I know how to make it though, haha.

OK, let's get started. This is what we'll be making:

  I used white as my main fabric, but you could also use black, or any other color that will contrast with your bowtie. I have oodles of these squares made in all different scrappy colors.

Once you decide on your fabrics, you will need to cut 3 squares in the bowtie fabric, and 2 squares in the main fabric. I cut my squares at 3 inches, because that's what Grandma said, and I'm not messin' with Grandma. You could cut these in any size you'd like, but this ends up being a pretty nice size.

Obligatory picture of what you'll need.

First, take one of your bowtie fabrics (mine are red floral), and fold it in half, wrong sides together.

Ignore the black lines--they were seam lines I drew when I was planning on hand-stitching the entire thing. Then I remembered how I am and machine-stitched it like a nice, sane person (not that hand-quilters aren't sane--I just have no idea where they have acquired such patience).

Take a bowtie square, right side up. Put the square you folded in half on top, with the raw edges lined up. I like to keep the raw edges of the folded square to the right side--it helps me keep things straight for a later step. Place a main fabric square right side down on top of this. Pin carefully so the edges are all matched up nice and neat.

If you're using a tone-on-tone fabric make sure of which side is which before you sew (that's more of a note to myself. Because I forgot to do that).

Stitch, using a 1/4 inch seam allowance. You should have something like the below.

Check to make sure everything is just peachy so you're not filling the swear jar later.

Now you're going to repeat. Take your remaining bowtie square right side up, place it against the folded square, and then place your remaining main fabric square right side down (again with the raw edges to the right--it helps me keep the colors straight so they alternate properly in the finished block). You're just going to pretend that the first two squares you stitched together aren't hanging off the bottom.

You can see the fabric from the other block at the bottom.

Stitch. You're going to have a wonky looking sort of thing after, but you'll be getting the idea of where we're headed.

If this was a real bowtie you might think that this is how I would tie it. And you would be correct.

The next part is only slightly fiddly, but you do need to be precise with lining everything up. What you're going to do is open the "pocket" formed by that center square. I simply stick my fingers in and pull it taut. Once everything is smooth and no extra fabric is stuck in the seam I carefully pin. Perhaps some pictures will help with that puzzled look you might have right now:

Make each seam go a different direction to reduce bulk. The left side is lined up proper. My right side will be tended to shortly (as half of it is under my left thumb, haha).

Once it's all lined up and pinned, carefully stitch.

  For the extra-strength version you can backstitch at the seams, but I don't.

If everything has gone according to tutorial, you should have THIS:

This is the stage when I press my seams. OK, I WOULD press them at this stage...but I haven't done it yet.

  All seams are neat and enclosed.

I have a gallon-sized Ziplock bag crammed full of these right now; here are a few:

These look fun in so many prints, and you can play around a little with patterns and stripes.

I laid mine out to get an idea of placement, and I decided there are going to need to be plain squares in between the bowtie squares. When they are placed one right after the other you sort of lose the look of the block. A bit of plain fabric next to it will make the bowtie pop. I am simply going to take my white fabric and cut squares the same size as my finished blocks (in this case, 5 and 1/2 inches). If I wanted to make life difficult I could sew these on point so the ties are all straight across and connect to one another at the corners...but then I have to worry more about color placement. We'll see how I feel when I get there. Or maybe I'll just say "B'ah! Patchwork totebag!"

So that's it. Pretty simple, eh? As ever, if you have any questions or if I've written something in a confusing way, let me know and I'll do my best to clear it up. Happy quilting!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Get thee to the giveaway!

The lovely Christine is having a nifty little giveaway on her blog--fabric dye that sounds like it turns your fabric into delicious eye candy, bag-making accessories (woo-hoo!), and a few other goodies (doncha love surprises?).  The colors sound absolutely beautiful--Bahama Blue, Sunflower Yellow, Tropical Green, etc.--it's like summer hasn't whisked itself away for another year.  She will be selecting 3 winners on Monday October 4th, and this giveaway is open to everyone, anywhere. So if you fancy getting your mitts on some of this stuff, click here to leave a comment on her blog and be entered for a chance to win. Good luck!

Look at those colors! Wowza!!
(photo from SewChristine)

In other news...I have my fabric all ready to sew to show you a fun little quilt block that my grandma taught me over Christmas break. It's a good 'un for using up those scraps that you know you have hoarded saved. You should be seeing that in the next few days so check back!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sheesh! Monday already?!?!?!

I had one helluva weekend.  Nothing exciting, just got lots done between today and yesterday because Friday night I laid on the couch and watched 6 episodes of 'Lost' on DVD. My sister Alicia told me for 3 straight seasons to catch up because I'd love it but I was all "Nah. I wouldn't like it."  I only became interested during the last season, which I wasn't going to find out the ending to only go back and watch the first 5 seasons already knowing the deal.  So I'm halfway through the second season now, and she was right. I love it. I have a touch of an advantage--she told me to pay attention to everything, so that's what I'm doing instead of just sitting there all ho-hum about it, possibly missing some detail I might need later.

OK, so I did NOT mean to go on about that for a whole paragraph.  I want to show you my newest bag:

This here bag is the 'Pleated Pinafore' purse from u-handbag (where else?)

This was going to be a summer bag, but I never got around to it.  So I used some wool from the ol' stash to make a scrum-diddly-umptious fall/winter bag.  There were some new skills for me in this pattern:  I made my own piping using my brand new piping foot, and I made covered buttons.  Both of these were very satisfying, lemme tellya.  Throw that in with the pleat (I love making pleats!) and it was a bag o' fun.
Neat recessed zipper

For the most part I didn't do too bad with matching up the plaid lines.  I forgot about them when I was cutting so I got kind of lucky when it worked out ok.

I'd show you the inside but you can't really see anything--it's pitch black in there.  I forgot that I severely dislike working with black--so hard to see to line everything up or rip out your stitches! Is this just me?  Anywhoodle, this bag is for a charity raffle at the high school of the granddaughter of a lady I work with.  She asked if I'd be willing to donate a bag for the mother/daughter tea.  I tried to make something that both the mother and the daughter might want, and I think this will work--because both my mother and my sister want it, haha.  I think it would go great with a pair of leggings and boots that are like Uggs but aren't as clunky and gross as Uggs; or with jeans and a sweet leather jacket. 

That was Saturday.  This morning a friend of mine came over with her son so I could fix his much-loved pillow. This thing was very much loved--it was falling apart and she didn't know how else she could fix it. She tried to switch it with a new pillow but he was having none of it. She brought me a panel from a wall-hanging that was what the front used to look like; I added some soft interfacing and simply sewed it to the front, leaving the edging and back in tact.  I could have very easily thrown together a new pillow, but it needed to have the same tactile qualities for the most part--the softness of the back, the piped edging, the smell, etc.).  I was concerned he'd know it wasn't quite the same, but she said he went for his nap no problem, so yay.  Hopefully it holds until he doesn't need it anymore.

This afternoon I whipped up a quick little fall project which I'll show you as soon as I get the pictures taken.  I'll probably do a mini-tutorial--the idea isn't mine, but I made some changes to the original to get what I want. Easy-peasy and really cute and fall-ish. Even Alicia thought they were cute (and she and I are rarely on the same crafty wavelength).  This evening I made a quick little iPod case for a friend. I had originally intended to use a sew-in purse frame, but I couldn't get the pattern right for several tries (I hate wasting fabric!).  If I had a hammer nearby this thing would have been smashed thinner than a dime, I was so frustrated. So I did something much simpler and cuter with an elastic-loop and button closure. Nothing fancy, but it will serve it's purpose, and I won't lose my mind. I used this tutorial I found on Sew, Mama, Sew

Soooo...that's about all I have for now. I love when the weekend is over and I feel like I accomplished something. Enjoy your Monday!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

I Second My Own Nomination

So how's this for fun?  I'm wasting time on Facebook the other night, and I head over to the page.  There's a discussion board asking you to post your favorite blog.  I shamelessly plugged my own (all the other kids were doing it!), but there were some real lovelies mentioned.  Anyway, I get an email that says I'm the Blog 'o the Month for  I even got a nifty button to post in my sidebar!  Sort of made my day.

Once I get this bag I'm working on finished (I'm excited to show you--I haven't made this one before) I'm hoping to do some fun seasonal stuff.  Because like it or not (I personally like it) the holidays are just around the corner.

Have a happy Friday! 

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

"The Bag Making Bible" Review

I have sufficiently calmed down enough to review this book in its glorious entirety.

The cover is beautiful, as is the entire book.  

Readers of Lisa's blog will not be surprised in the least to learn that this book is just as fun, just as readable, and just as action-packed as all of her tutorials and patterns available on her site.  Her instructions are crystal clear, her photographs helpful instead of just filler, and her chatty writing style makes it feel as though you're sewing with a pal instead of reading something that's technically....well, technical.

Unlike many other bag making books, this one is actually useful.  This is not a book of patterns for you to simply follow (although there are 8 fun patterns included).  This is a book that shows you how to create your very own beautiful custom bags, from top to bottom and everything in-between (because any bag-maker knows that interfacing is key).  Need to modify the size? Done.  Want a different kind of strap?  Done.  Want to incorporate fancy-schmancy hardware? Done and done.  Many are the bag books I have seen where they offer tips like "Add a lining.  Add pockets.  Add zippers."  And that's it.  No instruction whatsoever on how to do it.  This book shows how to add more pockets than I knew existed, and different methods for adding zippers (which aren't as scary as you may have heard).  The bag you end up with will truly be a one-of-a-kind creation as you build it according to your vision.  But to get you motivated, each section has a beautiful bag for you to create that will build upon the skills you just learned.  So you go from this:

A simple book bag with different style variations this:
This bag looks quite ambitious, but Lisa's wonderful directions and tips will make it a reality.  This is the bag I've wanted to make since she released some sneaky-peeks of her book.

Look at all of the things you'll learn about within these glossy covers:
It's a mixed bag of bag-making knowledge...see what I did? It's a picture of a bag, with the bag parts listed inside.  Geddit?  Those are the actual chapter headings from the book, by the way.

 What's that tucked into the cover?  A full-sized pattern sheet! Some tracing is required, but I'd rather trace than spend the day at a copier, trying to enlarge.

And if you order a copy from her shop it may just land on your doorstep with this inside:

Isn't that fun?

OK, so to sum up.  You will want to get this book.  It's a beautiful book but it's not stuffed with fluff that other craft books are that distract you from the fact that they're just not very good or useful. It's clean and minimalist, but packed with information and tips.  The pictures are gorgeous, and focus on what's most important for you to get your bag just right.  She tells you everything you need to know to make a "Whoa baby!" bag no matter how many elements you choose to include.  Just be careful. Bag-making is very addictive, and you'll be quite busy--because everyone's going to ask "Can you make me one?"

Monday, September 20, 2010

I may injure myself from excitement

It's here!!! I've been waiting for this day for almost a year and it's finally here!!  This landed on my doorstep today and was waiting for me after work.  It is magnificent.  I'm off to devour it.  Full review coming soon!

by the lovely Lisa Lam from u-handbag

Sunday, September 19, 2010

This is what I meant the FIRST time

I made another 'For Pleats Sake' bag this weekend.  I was hoping to make a dent in my stash with it but it really doesn't use much fabric at all.  This one came out the way it was supposed to. I think I'm going to keep this one for myself.

Aren't the colors perfect for autumn?  I found the fabric at Walmart. I don't really like buying fabric at my Walmart (or even going in there--it's oddly seedy for a new store in nice neighborhood) but I just loved the print on this one.

I modified the inside a bit from the original.  First, I didn't do pleats on the lining because I wanted to add pockets--a voluminous pleated inside wasn't going to make that an easy feat.  I did the pleating on the outside and made sure the two pieces were the same size.  Then I laid them down on my lining fabric and arranged them in the size and shape I liked, and then cut it.  I then laid these lining pieces on my fusible fleece and cut.  I inserted the inside zipper pocket (using this tutorial) before I ironed that side to the fleece.  For the inside slip pocket, I fused the lining to the fleece first and then sewed the pocket on to give it a little extra stability.  I then added a magnetic snap as a closure, even though I don't think that part is entirely necessary.

I have a bit of a thing for polka dots...if I could get away with it I would line everything with them.

For the handles I used another pair of faux leather braided handles that I had.  They're not glamorous but they'll do.

It figures I'd finally make myself a bag, and that it would scream "Autumn!!!!"... just when the weatherman is calling for it to be in the nineties again.

I used something on this bag I have never ever ever used before.  Fusible woven interfacing.  And heavens to mergatroid I am hooked!  I've heard how it's supposed to be stronger and have a nicer drape, but it was always a bit pricey for me, so I went with the basic craft-fuse stuff.  I never had any problems with it, but this is so much nicer for sure.  I found an incredible deal on the stuff, so I stocked up.  Plus it was extra wide, so it should last me for a nice long time.

I have one more bag I have to make for a fundraiser, and then I'm hoping to have some easy crafty things to share, one of them being a quilt block that looks much more difficult than it is. 

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Fresh Cut

Thursday, September 16, 2010

It Takes Two to Make a Thing Go Right

For weeks I have been wanting to make the 'For Pleats Sake' bag from u-handbag.  It's totally yum, and uses some very posh leather handles.  I have not seen the handles that Lisa stocks in her shop anywhere else, but I like to make the most of overseas shipping, so I figured I would wait until I needed a few things and get it all at once.  Yeah, totally forgot to order the handles.  I dug through my stash and found a few things that would work well together.  So here we are:

I know the fabric is from Kona, but I don't know what it is specifically. It was left on my doorstep.  No, really--my mother's friend leaves me fabric every now and then on her way to work.  Wonderful way to start the day.

Some lovely pleats for your viewing pleasure.

 The inside is a fabric called 'Tea Stain' that I found at Joann's.  I originally wrote Satan instead of Stain...I find this inexplicable, yet amusing.

 The handles are faux leather that I also bought at Joann's a loooong time ago.

I have a confession to make.  I remade the bag you see above.  And I took the official finished product to work today to show off and promptly sold it (woohoo!), so I don't have pictures of the proper version, but you get the idea from above.  Why the remake?  Well, some of us may have thought that there is only one way to make a pleat and they were in fact experts at that method.  So when something seemed off because they weren't doing it properly, they may have just kept going instead of looking at the stinkin' pattern pictures.  The real version is narrower at the top and has a much nicer shape.  However, I learned a few things to do differently and it worked out really well for the final version.  I am going to make one of these for myself this weekend, so I can show you what it's supposed to look like and the modifications I made. 

Disregarding my initial goof, this was a really simple pattern; I was able to make it in one night.  The only part that gave me any lip was the v-shape on the side.  I think that's just a matter of practice makes perfect.  Third time should be a charm...I feel like I say that a lot.

What a Deal!!!

I'm pretty sure everyone in the craft community has heard of Etsy.  But have you heard of Artfire?  It's the platform from which I run my little online shop, and right now they're offering quite a deal.  Normally, Pro accounts cost about $16.00 a month.  That's a flat rate by the way--no fees for posting, selling, or anything like that. Just $16.00 for oodles of extra features to sell your stuff.  Right now, though, if they get at least 20,000 people to sign up each of those Pro accounts will cost only $5.95.  That's an AMAZING savings!!! All you have to do to get a Pro account at such a low cost is head on over to the Artfire Group Deal page and submit your info; once they meet their minimum all of those new Pro accounts will lock in at that special rate.  So head on over, sign yourself up.  Tell your friends, and have them sign up for their own Pro accounts.  Happy selling!

Monday, September 13, 2010


Ok, so the blog is lookin' a little different and I'm liking it.  I've tried to clean it up a little bit and make it a little bit more organized.  Here's what I did:
  • Changed the design of it.  I'm pretty sure this is going to change again in October. And in November.  Definitely in December...  I saw some adorable Halloween stuff I actually wanted to use right now but I didn't want you to think I was crazy, since it's still technically summer (unless you live at the bottom of the world in which case--stay warm folks!)
  • Removed some stuff from the sidebar that wasn't really all that necessary.
  • I made a tab at the top called 'Feeding My Addiction.'  It's where I've listed my favorite fabric and notions stores.  If you know of any others let me know and I'll add them--I love finding lovely new places to keep in business shop at.
  • I made a tab at the top called 'Pop On Over.'  This is a list of my favorite sites and blogs to visit, most craft-related, many of them humorous.  Have a look-see.
OK, that wasn't as many changes as I thought there'd be. I just got tired of seeing all of that stuff in my sidebar.   But watch--tomorrow I'll see a pimped out blog with lots of flair and I'll go "Awwwww!!! I want all of that!"

And if you looked to the top and don't see the 'Pop on Over' tab it's because I didn't make it yet.  I was going to tell you to go to my profile page and check out the blogs I follow, but then I thought that might seem like going to a restaurant and being told to get your own water.  So I'm going to go do that right now, but I only thought of it when I was typing that bullet, soooo....sorry I told tall tales.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

You're out of your element when...

  • You go to a Japanese restaurant and wonder when they're going to bring out the bread and olive oil.
  • You're in a fancy-schmancy culinary store and you overhear someone say "Oh! I bought that knife--I use it for making peanut butter and jelly."
  • You're sitting in a bar with friends wishing you had brought your book in with you.
  • You go to a demonstration and are the only person thinking that $20 is NOT a great deal for four unscented tealights.
  • You go into a Coach store and when the staff asks if you need help as you maul a bag you respond "No, I'm just seeing how they put this zipper in."
  • You're the only customer in the post office who understands how mail actually works.  Forty-five minutes later, upon your departure (the line was that long), you are still the only one who understands.
  • You want to live with the cast of Jersey Shore just so you can correct their grammar on a real-time basis.
  • Feel free to insert your own here.

I haven't been getting much done in the way of sewing.  I have a list up to here (you're going to need to visualize that part) of things I want to make, I have a bunch of fun fabrics, I've got loads of inspiration....but someone pulled the motivation plug or spiked my coffee with blah.  This past week, the only things I've sewn are two very simple shirts that I've made several times so it wasn't even really like sewing because they were so familiar.  And even they took forever.  Do you ever just have one of those days/weeks/months where it seems you get absolutely nowhere?  Yeah, that was me this week.  Curled up on the couch playing around online and watching TV, drinking tea, and not doing much else.  Not a good thing to do on a daily basis, that's for sure.  I'm happy to say I feel that has all passed and I'll be back to being productive in the very near future.   I guess we all need a break now and then.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Lay off o' my blue suede shoes

No, seriously.  They're mine.  Stay away.

They were on sale. And I had a coupon.  And the lining is adorable.  And my sister didn't die from disgust in the middle of the store.  All things was I supposed to say no?


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