Saturday, March 31, 2012

Electric Youth in a Handbag

My knees hurt. My feet hurt. It's only partially because I'm getting old, harharhar. I'll let you know why later in the week (not why I'm getting old but why they hurt). Hopefully you can stand the suspense until then. So while I'm sitting here fussing on the internet and putting my feet up I figured I'd show you the order that I just finished.

The original idea for this one was supposed to be a yellow, gray and white combo. Naturally I could not find a single thing that pleased me. If I was looking for yellow, orange, and green there would have been an abundance of the yellow/gray/white. That's the way the universe treats my fabric whims. I called my customer (a.k.a. my friend who was ordering this for her mom for Mother's Day) and asked what she thought. I was staring at a cute print with some pink in it, and totally on my wavelength she goes "I was thinking that a pink and gray scheme would be cute too...." In my hands and off to the cutting table. A few evenings of the ol' hack 'n stitch and I was done.

I was waffling between gray and pink for the accents, but I think the gray is much better. As much as I like pink I think it would have made this bag entirely too sweet. I know it's such a little thing but that front pocket drives me crazy to sew. It makes the straps more difficult to stitch where I place them, and it bulks up the seam something fierce. Otherwise, this one goes together pleasingly quick.

Here's the back without the pocket:

I played with the shape on this one a little more so it's not as wide as it usually is. I've been very good lately about taking notes on things. I usually just follow a basic pattern and do the rest from memory. It goes so much faster if I write down what I did that I like and reference it later. What? You say "Duh, that's obvious!?" Yeah, it is. Slow learner over here...

I like the tapered shaping on the gusset. Usually I wing it and cut it the same width, but it makes the bag so much more barrel-shaped and shapeless at the same time. This offers some subtle shaping that's a little bit more feminine.

Suspension bridge zipper, slip pocket (and a zip on the opposite side). I find making pockets a little annoying, but they're a necessary evil -- I love having pockets in my own bags so I can't begrudge the extra work for someone else. I amuse myself by adding little touches like bias tape along the top.

Parts of this fabric--like the outlined pink flower above--remind me of the eighties (in a good way!--I used to loooooooove pink and gray together. When I was really young in the 80s. Because I'm not old. Ahem). Remember that song by Debbie Gibson - 'Electric Youth?' It kept playing in my head while I was working on this. Not that I remember it or anything. Because I'm not getting old, remember?

There was also a request for a few little zippy pouches. I was proud of my zipper economy skills. I started with 2 zippers, and got 4 out of them - 2 in the bag, and one for each zippy purse. Wanna know how? I took off the purse zipper, and replaced it with a larger pull (I always do this). I was crazy obsessed with getting the right measurement for it, so when I cut off the excess length (I buy loooong zippers--same price for more versatility) I had enough for the change purse (and used the extra pull for that. I used a long zipper on the inside, saved the other half, and luckily had an extra pull (that I had taken off aNOTHer zipper) to add to it. I was oddly pleased with myself for this. If you could have peeked inside my head you would have thought I had just saved the world or something.

Does this photo remind anyone else of those "look how many generations in one photo" pictures people take at family reunions? This bag started off as the Highbrow Hobo by u-handbag. I loooove the original bag very much, and have fabric set aside to make myself one. But most of the time I'm asked to make it a little larger, so I added the gusset, and of course use a zipper instead of a snap, but these are all doable adjustments. You can find the pattern for sale here if you're interested.

So that's about it. You may think I'd be making progress, but here's the thing. For every project bag I empty something else fills it right back up. Which is good. But busy! But let me tell you - I am really happy with my new organization system. Everything I need is right there in the bag, just like a little kit. When the bag is empty I'm all done. I like it. Plus it's much easier to keep everything out of the way in the bin under my sewing table than in scattered stacks all over the dining room.

I've got a baby blankie that needs some stitching. Have a restful Sunday!

Linking here this week:

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Wonky Fan Block

Hey there hi there ho there! Is anyone else in a mild state of shock that we are almost into April? At work I overheard "first quarter reports are due blah blah blah" and had to look at the calendar to make sure it wasn't some big fat liar with his pants on fire talking. Sincerely--where in the heck did all the time go? I don't like it, guys. Too fast.

Anyhoodle, we're still on the wonky blocks in the QAL, and this one I dig man, ya know? I think the checks might be overkill and I should have chosen a more subtle background, but eh. I'm not going to start therapy over it. I would like to make a properly pieced fan block at some point--it can't be that much different than a dresden plate block cut in quarters, can it? And I bought a dresden ruler for when I had high hopes of free time, so maybe I'll give it a shot.

I don't think it's as obviously crooked as I would have liked for it to be... What's the deal with that? When I'm supposed to sew straight it's a mess, when I have the freedom to wonk things behave themselves. At least the "handle" part of the fan is absolutely ginormous. OMG, ginormous is a word recognized by spell-check. I expected the red squiggly, but nope--it's a word.

The red was a little too empty, so I slapped favorite decorative stitch on it. Wanna hear about a tragedy? I'm out of red and white polka dots. GASP! I know, I know, that will be rectified immediately. It's like when I don't have a spare spool of white thread beyond the one I'm using. I think the effect is called 'palpitations.'

I think that's all I've got to say about that. Happy Friday!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Your obligatory springtime flower post

I'm a lazy gardener. So lazy I don't even do it if I can help it. I do love flowers, though. Love the colors, the scent, the infinite variety. I just don't like dirt. Or sweat. Especially sweat. I'll be in my aerobics class and everyone will be like "Oh man! I love this sweat we're working up tonight, burnin' calories! Wooo!" And I'm usually just like "Actually, I kind of feel like a big sweaty slug right now. Does anyone have any cookies?" What I should say, I suppose, is that I really appreciate the effort that green thumbs expend so my eyes can experience colorful joy. So I've come to admire the good, old-fashioned, be-lazy-and-watch-them-grow weeds. Weeds have flowers, sometimes. And yes, they're invasive, and hard to get rid of, and grow like...weeds, but sometimes weeds have pretty little bits about them.

I can still remember my friends' moms yelling at them "Don't blow the dandelions! They'll go everywhere!" I'm glad my mom was always the one to encourage such adventures, and that our lawn was always a patchwork of grass and weeds so my dad didn't freak out too much about what it would do to his lawn.

 My mom would still get happy smiley if you brought her a fistful of dandelions to put in a juice glass on the window sill. And I'm pretty sure she'd say "I remember your grandfather used to love dandelion salads..."

 I love that we have large patches of clover, and these little purpley bits spring up from amongst them. I used to secretly wish my dad would mow in some crazy pattern around them to keep my 'wildflower garden' from being shorn....

 I didn't realize I had focused on the grass instead of these, but they migrated from next door. I don't know what they are, but I found them interesting.

Wanna see some real flowers? Sort of? 

 This is the white pear tree that grows next door. It is absolutely gorgeous right now, but it won't last long.

 I wish forsythia bushes would stay this color all the time. It's just a flash of sunshine, and then boring green. Well, not boring, but boring in comparison to the yellow.

 My mother and I discovered that if we leave certain annuals in place they spring back the next year, even more vibrant and full than the year before. And snapdragon seeds travel faaaaaaaar. These aren't snapdragons, it was just a fun fact for you :)  I don't remember what these are....they're a few years old now.

 Pansies are some of my favorites. Maybe because I identify with them. I wilt in the heat, too, bwahahahaha.

We've had odd weather the past few months. No snow (I'm still miffed about that), not even a need to bundle up this winter. Then temperatures in the '80s all of a sudden. Then it got cool and windy and rainy. I wore short sleeves last week, and sweaters this week. I wish Mother Nature would make up her mind, already.

But I still must say a hearty thankee to her--she made the sun come out just before sunset so I could have good lighting to take pictures of weeds for you.

This post makes me think of this quote: 
"Some people are always grumbling because roses have thorns. I am thankful that thorns have roses."
-Allophones Karr
 I kind of want to get a tattoo of a rose simply because of those words, as a constant reminder to seek the good in people. Of course, it's a bit of a cliche sort of a tattoo...but nobody has to know what it means but me...and you.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Scrappy Tumbler Table Runner

MONTHS ago (see here) I bought myself an AccuQuilt Go Baby fabric cutter. And MONTHS ago I used it to cut out a gazillion and seven tumbler blocks from fabrics in my scrap box. And because I either have no time (or plenty of time, depending on the day of the week, how much coffee I've had, and how my workday goes) these have been sitting in a pretty, scrappy pile, waiting for me to hop to.

A few weeks ago my mother reminded me about it, and I felt terrible that it had been sitting for so long. My mother never asks for anything more than a cup of tea, so I always feel particularly bad when I lag behind on the few things she asks me to make. So I made that priority number one and sewed it up. I put it together in an evening, and quilted and bound it in another. So here she is, in all her springy, scrappy, tumblery glory.

I went with total random placement, which worked in some areas and not so great in others. The tumbler shapes make it look a bit more complicated, but the cutter made it simple. I fought the urge to include every single color of the rainbow in all their hues and stuck to pinks and yellow and greens. And birds and flowers. All lovely spring-timey things.

I love looking at quilts and thinking of the things the fabrics have been part of - change purse, sunglasses case, bag lining, bought a fat quarter and never used it....

I made a little girl's sundress out of this print last year - I didn't have much left but I had to keep it I adored it so. I'm glad it fit in with the scheme of this project.

I don't know why but those little birds up there on the pinky-red background are one of my favorite fabrics ever. There's nothing exceptional about the print, but there's something about it, just the same. As is that very pale pink floral. I used it in a diaper bag a looooong time ago and have been using the scraps very discriminately since then.

I quilted this one quite simply, following the seam lines about a quarter inch on each side. My walking foot decided to act up again. It's walking, but it might be drunk. Every time I crossed a seam the part of the foot that moves forward and back would get stuck back. The stitch length varies in certain sections where it was getting stuck before I realized what was going on. My fix? Every time I crossed over a seam, I would stop, tug that part forward, and keep going until it happened again a few inches later. It wasn't fun and my fingers were sore, but it led to a more satisfactory project than the alternative. I don't know why I have such lazy walking feet.... I love quilting like this (following the seam, not with an ornery foot) because the back of the quilt ends up looking just as nifty as the front.

Since it's not reversible I went with a plain pink I had sitting around (that photographs like it's lavender but I promise you it's pink). The quirks from the foot trouble are more evident on the back, but oh well. I machine-bound the entire thing - I'm getting better at it but I still need to work on getting a better look on the back part.

I did the noble thing and showed you only the best corner of the binding on the back. Some of the others aren't so tidy. I was low on the binding fabric after cutting some tumblers out of it, so I cut it on the straight of grain instead of the bias. I thought it might give me trouble, but it behaved itself.

This kind of project is one of my favorites to make - it's fairly quick, not too difficult, and lets you play around with those scrappy bits that otherwise just sit there, twiddling their proverbial thumbs....

I'm going to link this up here:

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Bucket Bag for Me!!!!

I've been one busy sewist this weekend. My next quilt block is finito already, and I finished a custom order. I always feel so excited when I can cross something off my list. But today I'm going to show you the bag I made for me the other night. I'm not sure if you're the same way, but I tend to put myself last. If I stuck to that, I'd still be carrying my wooly winter handbag in the summer, making the fashion part of my sisters' souls shrivel up a little bit in the awfulness of it all. Since I've been so busy I could see the "me" bag slipping away into 2013. The other night I decided to butt head of everyone on my list and put me first.

This bag pattern came from the delightful Lisa Lam's (from u-handbag) book The Bag Making Bible. I have not (until now) made a specific pattern from this book, but I have used the instructions countless times to check, double-check, and try new techniques. If you'd like to make your own bags this book is a great resource (it's honestly the only bag reference book I use). OK, plug over. The fabric came from Joann's (and is from a line called 'Reflection'). I walked by it a few times, touched it, thought about it, and left it. But it was one of those fabrics you have to go back and get because you know you won't be able to do without.

I whipped up this bag in one night. It's supposed to be a reversible tote bag, but I made some modifications to it and it's a regular old one-way handbag now.

For once I can say this picture is NOT blurry, the fabric just has that look to it. Almost as though you're gazing at it through water. I'd almost dare to say it looks like fleece in actuality, and I would have thought such if it wasn't sitting there in the quilting cotton section.

See? Watercolory. I couldn't decide if I wanted the pinky-red or the tealy-turquoise for the straps, but the teal seemed just right as there were already a lot of pinky-red flowers in this print. It's a really nice size--not too large, and certainly not too small.

These colors are so refreshing, and springy, no? I'm hoping to also make myself a summery bag (I'm thinking something orange) but if I don't get to it I'm thinking this one could see me through to the fall. You can see the modifications I made too - I added a zip pocket and a slip pocket.  Here's the closure:

I have people who order bags from me who are decidedly zipper people. They wouldn't dream of something less secure closing their bag. I decided I am a mag snap girl. I like having my bag on my shoulder and still being able to root around inside easily without fussing with a zip. I once had a snap come out of a bag I had made for someone (and this horrified me beyond belief to hear), so now I add some extra top-stitching around it to hopefully secure it a bit more. I also pad each side of the prongs with a piece of fleece to keep it from wearing through. I'm not sure if either of these do a thing towards their intended end, but I'm hoping so.

The only thing I'm a little uncertain of is the straps on this one. As you can see there are three rows of stitching, so it's pretty secure, but they're also cut on the bias, so I'm very curious how this bit of stretch will play out. I usually pad my straps with fleece (and these had nothing indicated in the pattern), so to maintain the flow here I added a tiny bit of fleece to the part of the strap that will sit on my shoulder. It seems perfectly fine, but whenever I try a new technique I tend to obsess about it a little bit. Or a lot.

Not long after the book was published Sew Mama Sew and Lisa Lam offered up this very pattern as a freebie download (and it still is - you can find it here). If you're looking to make your own bags, or would just like to give one a whirl, this one is quite simple and quite satisfying. The materials list isn't cumbersome at all, and you can showcase a few favorite fabrics if you make the original reversible version.

I've got a lovely scrappy project coming your way next, so make sure you stop back! I hope you have a lovely week, lovelies!

I'll be linking up here:

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Gettin' mavericky

Ahoy ahoy! Just popping in real quick to show you the latest wonky quilt block. Our QAL started again after a bit of a hiatus, but we're still on the wonky stuff. I made this block in about a half hour on Sunday morning, no lie at all. I do believe it is the quickest quilt block I have ever made, ever ever ever. Because, ya know, proper measurements weren't actually required. I had a beastly night of sewing the night before and needed something a little bit free in its structure. This was perfect. So here's my maverick star:

I don't know that I'm in love with the center red square, but I'm pretty sure I can get over it. I love how I didn't have to watch for points getting eaten by seams or any of that jazz. It really is quite freeing to just stitch without worrying about any of the usual.

I decided to really exaggerate the differently sized star points. I'm really wild like that. 

So that's that. Not much of a post, I know. But I must be getting to bed. I finished sewing myself a handbag tonight. Well, started AND finished tonight. It was delightful to have a bag project that didn't spread across several days or take up an entire Saturday. It's another thing off my list (I decided to butt ahead of everyone else on it). I'll share pics soon. Ta!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

My Sewing Space

I did a major clean-up of my sewing studio (aka the dining room) last night. It makes me very aware of how much stuff I have, and I always feel better once everything is back in its place and where it should be. I've shown you before how I've organized my fabrics and other bits, but never where I actually sit and work. So I thought I'd share that today.

I used to sew at the end of the kitchen table, but that got to be annoying for everyone. My mother graciously granted me a corner of the dining room to use as a sewing area, and it's perfect for my needs. I'd love to have a big, beautiful sewing room, with fancy cabinetry and a cutting table, and all that jazz, but this is perfectly fine and forces me to not be too messy since it is in a common living area (as my sister constantly reminds me ;)

Here is the main scope of my workspace:

Drawers for all my junk, and a small folding table that can be easily taken down if it's a fancy time (like Thanksgiving or Christmas). I try to keep the top fairly clear of stuff, but there are some essentials one needs at hand.

I might have a pin problem. I have an entire cushion (the pink) crammed of cute pins that I don't use. I just like to see them sitting there. I'm not sure why my spare iPod cord is crammed in there... But the rest is my seam ripper, seam gauge, marking tools, scissors, snips, and rotary cutters, and other little gadgets. That green stenciled organizer came from Joann's and is the best thing I've found to use for my little bits.

The bottom drawer of my generic plastic wheeled drawers (Walmart? Target?) is full of patterns. For PDF patterns I have one of those big bill organizer doohickies that I keep them in that sits on top of these drawers.

The middle drawer holds a bunch of random things that I use quite regularly.

This is the glue I use for purse frame purses. It can be hard to find, and I usually have to buy it from overseas, so I stock up to make the most of the shipping charges.

I found these cuties on a clearance table somewhere. Very useful for magnetic snaps, eyelets, and grommets. They tuck into a cute little pouch and are very out of the way.

I bought this at Christmas but hadn't been able to find it. One of the reasons I love organizing my stuff--I always find something new.

Plastic canvas circles. I'm sure it was a great idea I bought them for, hahaha, but it's long gone now. And the snaps? I've never used anything but magnetic snaps. What in the hell compelled me to buy so many snaps? 

When I buy pre-made bias tape or piping I save the little pieces of cardboard for wrapping paper cord, trims, ribbon, anything that needs winding. 

 I forgot I had bought these little hexie templates. One day....

The top drawer holds thread and presser feet. Very exciting.

Those little bobbin donuts are the handiest things ever. I've dropped the whole thing full, and nothing dropped out. Magical.

 Spare needles, my blade sharpener, and a purse of safety pins.

 Double-sided organizer thingee that my mom gave me.

That organizer thing up there is quite handy. If you only need one side you can collapse the other to save space. Yesterday, I was going through the piles of fabrics for all my upcoming orders and feeling buried. So I organized each project in its own Ziploc bag. The fabrics, zippers, snaps, purse feet, rings, whatever. It's already selected and organized so I just need to pull out the bag and get going. The only thing not in there is interfacing.

Tucked in the corner here we have my bolts of woven interfacing and fleece, and some quilt batting I still need. Bottom left is my grandma's oooooold ironing board. It unfolds for two different sized surfaces, which comes in very handy depending on the size of what I'm sewing. It needs to be recovered, but it's one of those things that will just have to wait for now.

The dining room table itself is my cutting table and where I iron. So far this set-up has worked out really well. I have no complaints, and am hugely grateful that my mother lets me take over this room when I need to (which is often). My dad had no say in the matter, hahaha.

So that's my space. Everything I could have a need for is at hand, and the fabrics and other doodads are upstairs in their own spaces in the spare bedroom. This way I'm just taking what I need for a certain project instead of having tons of stuff everywhere.

I feel so much better once I have everything organized and tidy. Something about the blank slate and the potential mess that's going to fill it is way better than trying to work within the mess I've already made. It's kind of like how having fresh new sheets on your bed makes you excited to tuck in for the night. Is that just me? Probably. I focus on weird things, this I freely admit.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Seussical the Diaper Bag

I hope I don't get sued for that title.... This is the last diaper bag I will shove in your face for a bit (see here and here for the other two). I have a few more to make, but they don't need to be done for a bit, which is just as well. Even though I've got them down to a science practically, my eyes have been glazing over in their monotony. I didn't think I'd be saying this, but I do believe this is my favorite thus far. It's so bright and playful, and so Seussy.

I didn't want to go with a straight Cat in the Hat or Lorax print, so I was borderline gleeful when I saw this one. The blue isn't the most exact match, but it works really well. I thought red would be perfect, but the blue really seems to go nicely. I did a bit of a faux piping around the top. I love doing that - you just pull up the lining a bit and stitch in the ditch. It reduces bulk, and accents really nicely. The others I've done didn't seem to need that bit, but this one practically tapped me on the shoulder and said "Ahem...would you mind?"

I had to buy some extra elastic for the side pockets. I grabbed the first quarter- inch pack I saw without even thinking about it. I usually use the knit elastic, but I bought braided. I never noticed the difference before, but wow! The braided is much looser, and isn't as satisfyingly snappy. Point to remember for the future...glad I only bought the one pack.

I love how Yertle the Turtle is kind of peeping out of that pleat up there. That piping is what drove me insane last week. It finally came in the mail, but not after I drove to all available fabric and trim stores in my area to finally meet with success. It's a good thing I love bias-cut stripey piping or I might have gotten annoyed. OK, I did get annoyed, but only because my love is so deep.

For this one I made one small change on the inside. Previously I had put in elasticized pockets only on one side, but I got some feedback that it would be nice if they were all that way, so I did that on this one. It doesn't make much more work, but it does make things seem more secure.

That's all I've got for this lovely sunny Sunday. I keep scratching things off my to-do list, but things keep jumping onto it so I'm really getting nowhere, even though I'm making progress. I'll leave you to scratch your head over that one :)

Linking here this week:


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