Thursday, June 28, 2012

Alice Brooks Butterfly

Hello all, if anyone is still out there after yesterday's major whine-fest. My computer issue is way beyond me at this point, so I have to call in my tech squad (a.k.a. my brother-in-law Matt). If he can't fix it at least he'll know how to wipe it clean and start fresh (which I'm fine with. I actually tried to do that but couldn't even get that going--I'm this close to saying "I give up" but I don't like to give up and so I carry on).

Anyway, I did manage to finish the very last block in our quilt along. It's called the Alice Brooks Butterfly. I don't know if it's just me, but these quilt blocks were supposed to progress in difficulty--I consistently found the last being easier than the second. Same with this block--it went together surprisingly easy, except for the usual pressing issues. If it's not a straight seam I apparently can't iron a thing flat to save my life. But otherwise, I'm quite pleased with this finale block.

My dad saw it and said "Is that some kind of bug?" I said "NO Dad, it's a butterfly" (which is probably a kind of bug but not the kind that he meant). And he said "Call it a buggerfly." Oh Dad. You so witty. It does actually look more like a moth, though, so I get where he was coming from.

For the antennae I tried to use one of my fancy stitches, but as I was going right over a bulky seam it balked and didn't want to look fabulous. But it looks good enough.

And wanna see something else?

Want me to tell you what you're looking at? Those are some points that match up, kids. And I didn't even try. So that's the trick. Say to hell with it, and your points come together.

I've been working on a new handbag that I don't think I will ever make again. I'm using a pattern from a designer I've never tried before, and I feel like this is way more complicated than is necessary. I already changed the lining assembly, and I find myself reading directions a few times to understand what I'm supposed to do. It's coming along quite nicely, and I love the fabrics, but I feel like there could be an easier way to make most of this bag. So once I have finished this one I will make another so I can immediately suss out what that easier way is.

I'm going to leave it at this wee little post today as I feel like I'm tempting fate by even being on my computer right now. Nothing frustrates me more than a problem I can't solve. Not a real problem, but a silly problem that should have a simple answer. I'm perfectly willing to let God have a hand in the real problems. But if he wants to tickle the innards of my PC here I wouldn't be upset.... Just sayin'....

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

First World Problems

That's what my sister tells me I have. And she's absolutely correct. But I'm getting tired of having them.

For example, Saturday night my computer got all "Oh, hey, guess what? I'm just going to not do certain things anymore. No reason. You won't be able to figure out why. You won't have a virus or malware, and I'll still function for the most part. But that thing you wanted to download and install? Forget it." I did a ton of research, and I have no idea what the issue could be as the fixes don't work or won't install. So I backed up all my data, and tonight I'm going to venture into the land of using the recovery disk to completely reload everything. And then I'm going to take a long trip to the town of Putting Everything Back Where it Belongs. Population: me. Super frustrating because I've only had it a few months. But with my last laptop I had it a few months and it overheated, frying everything, so HP had to rebuild certain parts. This is a lovely pattern I seem to have developed with PCs--to have them for a brief period before they mutiny.

My new Kindle arrived yesterday. I have a pile of old-fashioned paperbacks I'm working through, but I wanted to set it up anyway. I was ready to take a hammer to it--the WiFi would not connect, so I couldn't register it. Turns out I had 2 numbers switched in the password. OK, that's my fault, but it was still extremely frustrating, and not helped by the frame of mind I was already in with my laptop. It's actually my dad's fault for coming up with an insane password. Oh, and Jeff Bezos? Sorry for the evil thoughts I sent your way. My bad (insert nervous laugh).

The other day I bit the bullet and signed up for online bill-pay. Everything in one easy location. The first time I do things like this I get nervous that it won't work and then I'll be in lala land thinking all is well as they repossess my goods. So I went to check things out, and right there on my credit card, first time ever, were 2 unrecogized charges. Not that the two events are related. Just that I'm glad I'm neurotic and was making sure one thing worked, so that I could find that someone wants me to pay for their $h*@. Now I get to wait and see what happens with my dispute claims.

What else...this week's (final) quilt block had paper templates to print. I go to do that so I can cut them and get started, and lo and behold--the printer doesn't work. I finally was able to use a printer that functioned, but the way the pattern is designed (I believe) only some of the cut lines showed up and I had to sketch the rest in. Luckily I didn't flub that part....

Last week I was on my way to the hospital to see sissie and the wee one, and I was trying to call my mother to find out where they were within the hospital. My Bluetooth was all synced up and everything, but every time I tried to call the calls would disconnect after a few rings. Then Car Guy Voice kept saying "Connect device." I must have looked like a crazy lady, screaming in my car, shaking my phone like I was going to heave it into the street. I finally found them. Throughout the day some of my apps wouldn't work and would force close. Factor in that it was about 100 degrees (which right away makes me feel sour) and I was all set to put my phone under the back wheels and put it in reverse.  

Why I am telling you all this? No reason. Just needed to vent. Oh, it's also why I have nothing creative to share with you, except one measly quilt block. I know, I know, get some real problems, lady, right?? I am supremely fortunate that my complaints have to do with luxuries like my laptop, Bluetooth, an e-reader, and crazy printers. I would just be much happier if things would spread out a bit more. I am almost now afraid to touch anything to do with technology. I declared I was going to go live in a cave, to which my brother started making Unabomber references, so I probably won't do that. Besides, they have spiders and bats, and I don't like that. But maybe it's the world's way of telling me to turn it off and do something productive. 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Totetorial: The Hobo Sack

Welcome back to our third tote tutorial (see the others here and here)! I think this may be one of the easiest kinds of bags to make--the simple drawstring bag. The kind that you hang off the end of a large stick when you're running away from home and hopping trains. But this one isn't big enough for running away necessities, so if you make one of these for your kids have no fear--they won't get very far :)  You could very surely make one of these for any age and any thing, but I think their simplicity and very handy cinched-in top works well for kids. Not much to fuss with to access the inside, and a pretty secure top to keep the goodies safe. You can make them in any size at all and can completely change the look just by changing the fabric. Isn't that one of the best things about sewing? You change from a fun cotton to a more serious tweed and you've got a whole new kind of project, even if that's the only thing you've changed! OK, let's get going before I keep going on and on...

You don't need much for this tote--less than a half yard each for the lining and outside. This is the type of project that would look really great in scraps, too. So if you've been hoarding....I mean...SAVing...some little bits that are too cute to toss you can make your bag a little patchworky bit of fun. Be mindful of your pattern if you're using directional fabrics. For this bag I used some pre-packaged bias tape for the drawstrings, but you could make your own tape if you prefer, or use twill tape or any other kind of cord that suits your fancy. You'll need about 60 inches total of whatever you use (more if you make a larger bag). Please note that we'll be using a 3/8" seam allowance throughout, and we'll be back-stitching at the beginning and end of each seam (that gets really boring to keep writing, so I'm boiler-plating it here :)

Start by cutting from both your outer and lining fabrics 2 pieces each that measure 13 inches wide by 15 inches high. This will make a pretty nice kid-sized bag, but if you've got other motives size up or down accordingly. Before we sew anything we're going to make a few little markings on the bag. Make a mark one inch down from the top of the fabric on each side, and then another mark a little more than an inch down from the first mark. Do this on each of the sides of your bag pieces for both the lining and the exterior. I made you a drawing so you can see what I mean:

 The black dots are your markings, and the red lines are where we'll be stitching. 

Take your outer pieces, put them right sides together, and sew across the bottom. Press that seam open. Keeping your pieces right sides together we're going to do the side seams. Start sewing until you reach the first mark you made one inch down. Backstitch. Then skip ahead to the next mark you made about an inch away. Start sewing again (make sure you backstitch here). Sew straight down to the end. Do this on the other side seam as well, making sure you leave that little one inchish gap (this is where the drawstring will go). Hopefully you can see in the picture below where I've left my gap--

Now press the side seams open. This next step isn't totally necessary, but it's quick to do and keeps the raw edges of the fabric from getting too agitated by the string when all is said and done. We're going to sew around the little gap we left, making a long rectangle around it. I keep my stitching about 1/4 inch away from the hole all around--

Do this for both sides. Here's what the outside should look like---

And here's the inside.

Now we're going to box out the corners by smashing them into a triangle. Your bag should be inside out. Bring the side seam and the bottom seam together making sure they're lined up perfectly. If this part is crooked it makes everything look crooked, so take care with this part.

I want my bag to have a depth of 3 inches, so I measured across 3 inches, making sure my 1.5 inch mark is right on the seam. If it was off, I'd have to check and make sure my seams were stacked up just right.

Mark this line, put in a few pins, and sew. Repeat for the other corner. Put them up against each other to make sure they're the same. Once you're satisfied that they're even, trim the corner off--

If you turn your bag right side out you'll see that you now have some lovely boxy corners.

Now do everything we just did to your lining pieces. You should end up with 2 identical  shells--one for the outside and one for the inside. Place one inside the other (it doesn't matter which) with the right sides facing each other. Check that your little holes line up--if they don't now is the time to make adjustments.

Match up the side seams, and pin around the top. Sew, leaving about a 5 inch gap in the middle of one of the pieces. Once you're all stitched, reach inside the gap and coax everything through the hole, right side out.

Shove the lining down inside the outer bag. Pin your top edge nice and neat, being sure to tuck the raw edges inside the gap we left. You might want to give a little press here (mind that you don't melt your pins!). Now topstitch about 1/8" away from the edge of the bag, all the way around. This does our top-stitching and closes the gap in one step.

OK. Here's the last bit of sewing on the bag. We need to make a casing for our drawstring. First make sure both layers are nice and flat against each other, and that the lining isn't pulled up higher or vice-versa. We're treating this as one layer so it needs to be neat. Line up your needle with the top line of the little rectangle we made around the gap.

Take note of the measurement on your sewing machine, as this will be your "seam allowance" for this part. If your machine is lacking in measurements put a piece of tape on your machine to place the edge of your bag against so you can keep everything lined up. Sew all the way around, keeping that seam as straight as possible.

Now you're going to do it again, matching up your needle with the bottom of the little rectangle, noting the measurement/putting down some tape, and then sewing around again. One note here--you may not match up the top of the skinny rectangles on each side. If you do, then wow! You're precise! It's more of just a sewing guide so we know where to sew our lines, and not something that anyone will ever notice if you're slightly off (especially if your thread matches your fabric). And I know what you're thinking--yes, I'm just saying that because mine weren't exact on the other side :)

Here's what it should look like--two rows of stitching for the casing, and one for our topstitching. OK, that's all the sewing done. Now we're going to feed the strings through. I'm using pre-made bias tape, which is open along one edge. I stitched the edge shut, and then sewed along the folded edge as well, just because I liked the way it looked. If you're using cording or twill tape you won't need to stitch.

To feed my tape through, I stuck a pin in one end, fairly close to the edge--

Start on one side. Feed the tape into the hole, going in between the outside and the lining, using the pin to lead. When you get to the opposite side gap, pretend it doesn't exist and keep feeding, until you come all the way back around and through.

My tape was just exactly the right length, so I knotted the ends together right away so they wouldn't pull out.

Then repeat this process, going in and out through the other side gap. I knotted again right here, but if my drawstring was longer I would have fiddled with it a little more. It should allow you to pull open the top of the bag fully without too much extra being visible. When you tug the cords to close the bag, they should be just the right length for carrying. Play with yours a little to see what length you'd like the cords to be. Then knot the ends together.

And that's it. These are so easy I made one for a little boy, too, using regular rope cording for the drawstring.

Aren't they just the right size for all the wee little junks kids love to tote? Good for a few snacks and toys when you know the kiddos might need to be occupied for a bit (doctor's office, trips, visiting Great Aunt Hilda who won't let you touch anything...). And for the grownups--toiletries? the latest portable craft project? whiskey for visiting Aunt Hilda who won't let YOU touch anything either?).

 Awwww look!! They're on a date!!!

Next week we'll be stitching our final tote--one of those cute little drawstring backpacks. I'm going to switch things up and sew with BOY fabrics for a change!! I know!!!! What the...?

If you have any questions on this or any of the other totes please don't hesitate to ask. They're fairly straightforward bags, but if you're new to sewing (or new to sewing bags) things can be a little confusing until you get the hang of it. See you soon!

Linking up here:

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Scatterbrained in Red and White

This was a bit of a surreal week, so I'm not even going to try to write a coherent post. Sorry. Click away if you must, but stick around if you like random wordiness. It shall abound within this post today.

On Monday I had a stupid day at work. Nothing specific, just one of those days that leaves you all grrrr. So Charlie, in his nice clean white state, decided to find a nice dirty place to roll around in. I must confess--I love when he does this. He reminds me of a little boy who has a good day outside--

I don't know why but no matter what I can never capture how dirty he really gets when he does this. He then assumed his usual position under the kitchen table. Seriously--how does he do that? It looks so uncomfortable!

On Tuesday I sewed up my next quilt block--a feathered star. I was so precise but made kind of a mess out of it--it's not terrible. Just a little pleaty. I was thinking it would be great if there was a paper-piecing option. The next day (I kid you not!) we were informed someone had come up with a PP option. I toyed with the idea of redoing it, just so I could switch the checks and dots, but decided that if too many of the blocks come out perfect it's really just too much pressure on all the other blocks, so I'm letting it be ;)  However...I may just be overcome by the need for a good thinking sew and make it anyway.

On Wednesday one of the guys I work with decided to open a can of these and have at them. I think he did it for the shock value--we are decidedly yanks in my workplace, and this is a decidedly southern snack (their favorite, according to the label).

They look like peanuts sitting in muddy water. The shells are very soft and split right open, and the nut has almost a chickeny consistency (due to the good long soak). I tried one in the spirit of adventurousness (and also the spirit of peer pressure) and decided they are what evil tastes like. I'm not a fan of briny things--pickles, sauerkraut, etc.--and the "muddy water" was some kind of brine. My co-worker then proceeded to gross me out the rest of the day by slurping and gurgling and making a mess out of them and acting like he was having dinner in that nasty scene from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom where they eat monkey brains and bugs. Sorry, that's gross, I know. But I must have been in that inexplicably squeamish frame of mind for this to bug the hell of me. I apologize if I offended anyone who finds these delectable. I'm sure that, freshly made, they can be quite good. I'm not in a hurry to find out, though.

Today I took the afternoon off to go and visit the newest addition to the clan. My sister Rachel finally popped and introduced little Aiden James to the world. I'm trying to figure out how I can steal him without either her or the authorities figuring anything out.

He's made of sweetness, and is just so stinkin' cute! He kept us waiting, so we know he definitely belongs to his parents (Hi, guys!! Hehehe--just, I'm not). I kept hoping he'd somehow ESP me whether he's going to like Legos or trains so I'd know if I need yarn or fabric for projects I've been a-thinkin' on, but he probably figured it best to not spill it all to the crazy auntie the first time you meet her.

Tonight was one of those nights where you feel that sweet treats will really make your day feel better. I declared this to Zach, who whipped us both up some chocolate milk. He took the powder, leaving me with the syrup (I prefer the former). BUT he paired the Hershey's syrup with a random Hershey's cup we had (knowing it would amuse me, he said), and put a lid on it. So I wouldn't spill it. Because I guess I do that. But I don't. I adore that kid.

And I'm not sure if this means I will have truly lost it or if it is a very good decision considering how much I read, but after eleventy-million years I broke down and bought a Kindle. Just the regular reader--all the stuff you can do on the Fire I can do on my phone so I didn't feel the need. You would think that Amazon would have appreciated the conversion of a long-time hold-out and practically ran that thing to my house, but they haven't even shipped it yet.

I'm off to have a good intense nightie-night. I am absolutely exhausted this week. Hopefully I'll see you Sunday for my next tote tut. Hopefully on your part--I'll be here :)

Happy Friday! And--hahaha---Zach is sleeping over tonight and just gave my sister a heart attack by lying in wait to scare her as she came out of the bathroom. I wonder where he gets those antics from :)

Monday, June 18, 2012

Stuffed Shirts

Disclaimer: some of you, especially guys (do they even come here?) and/or rabid sports fanatics, might be horrified by what you are about to see. All I can say is - it wasn't my idea. But I love how these turned out, and I'm not one bit sorry. And I'd do it again. And again. Because they were fun too. So there.

A few months ago a guy I used to work with, who also happens to be the brother of one of my sisters' very close friends, asked if I could make Phillies pillows for his man-cave. MLB doesn't make fabric that isn't fleece because of all sorts of licensing mumbo-jumbo, so it was going to be a creative sort of project. We thought maybe MLB bedding, but it would be too money-licious for a few cushions. I thought maybe doing some applique work to mimic jerseys might work. HE thought actual jerseys might work. After half a dozen "Are you SUREs?" I was tasked with jersey pillows. Fast forward to a few weeks ago when said jerseys came into my position, and the thinking cap had to go on to maximize the fabric and work around all the curves for the armholes and such. Fast forward again to Saturday when I snipped and pinned and had too much fun.

One had basic sleeves, the other raglan. Factor in the necklines and my tends-to-overcomplicate brain and I had a good long think before I snippety-snipped.

I knew I was making pillow forms to insert in these in case I had wacky measurements I couldn't find pre-made forms to fit. I wanted to keep them as jersey-looking as I could, so I had to deal with the neckline. I consulted with my creative team (aka asked my mom) and used a knit mesh hunk of fabric to mimic an undershirt (hopefully).

The shoulder curves prevented me from using as deep of a neckline as I would have liked on this one, but it turned out ok. I picked out all the stitches on the "official" labels and resewed those back down.

Each time I made a cut into one of these I cringed a little inside (and may have apologized to the ghost of Mike Schmitt more than once. No, Schmitty isn't dead, in case you were wondering. But it's not like I could apologize to him in person). My dad was all "Who asked you to do THAT?" when he saw what I was up to. Apparently, in my household, jerseys are something to be revered and any degradation to their integrity is to be looked upon in a highly aghast manner. BUT, when I was done, I no longer felt bad. I apologized to Mike Schmitt again--but this time for apologizing in the first place, because the end result was pretty cool. My dad even grinned. He doesn't really grin. He's pretty stoic. He may have been thinking about the ribs and coleslaw we were having for dinner the next day, but I'm going to pretend it was about these. OK--here's your reveal--and I know, I know, they're just pillows--but I love the way they turned out.

Due to the curve of the pillow the red "undershirt" isn't as obvious as I would have liked, but whatevs.

The button-fronts were an unrealized bonus for easy off washing purposes (if you wash a you even wash a jersey? I have no idea).

They're the same size--I have no idea why one looks so much larger.

I was stupid geeked about how these turned out. Maybe because they were a little more detail-oriented than I thought they'd be... Even Z-man wants one. I guess I'll be scouring eBay for old jerseys now. Ta!

** This post has been featured on the Shutterfly blog post '75 Rad Team Room Ideas.' **

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Totetorial: One Yard Tote

Hi, gang! Ready for another tote tut (see the previous one here)? This one is super easy, and can be made using one yard of fabric. I know--there are a lot of things that can be made from one yard of fabric, but when I started sewing I was simply amazed that I could make a tote out of one yard of fabric. Making it out of the same one yard cuts down on fabric choosing time, because everybody knows that's what takes the longest. Of course, if you want to mix your fabrics than you just go right ahead and do so, following the measurements and instructions below. Again I'm going with a very floppy, unstructured bag. If you want to include interfacing with yours go right ahead--the tut will work out just fine. It's a bit pic heavy, but I'd rather err on the side of thoroughness. Ready to sew?

I'd love to give you a supply list, but it would be meager--you need a yard of fabric. If you're using directional fabrics be mindful of the pattern. If you're a newbie you may want to use a fabric where direction doesn't matter. Two things to note from the get-go: backstitch at the beginning and end of every seam, and all seams are 3/8" throughout.

Press your fabric so you get nice even cuts (wrinkles make things go wonky). Then fold your fabric selvage to selvage (the way it came off the bolt), and then fold it in half the other way, raw edge to raw edge. Your fabric should now be four layers thick.

Trim your selvage, and then neaten up the other raw edges. You should now have two edges that are folds, and two that are nice and neat raw edges.  

Line up your ruler 5 inches from the selvage edge. Give it a slice. Since that nifty fold is at the top you'll now have two 5-inch lengths of fabric to use as your straps. Trim those so that they are 5 by 26 inches (longer or shorter if you'd like, but 26 inches ends up as a nice comfy length).

Take your remaining fabric, and very slightly trim the folded edges, enough to get rid of the fold, but not enough to matter much for measurement purposes. If you like you can leave this to be the width of your bag (though I trimmed mine to measure about 17 inches). Trim the bottom until it's 15 inches high. You should now have your handles, and 4 pieces of fabric that are each 15 by 17 inches.

First we're going to do the handles. Fold your handles in half loooooong edge to long edge and press.

Open it up, fold each long edge towards the center fold you just made, and press.

Fold it in half once more along your original fold, and press it one more time. Hop on over to your sewing machine. Stitch along the edges, as close to the edge as you feel comfortable (I shoot for 1/8 inch). This time I decided to add a couple extra rows of stitching, just because--but it's not necessary.

Put those babies aside. Get on back over to where you left your bag pieces. If you're using directional fabric now is the time to make sure everything is right side up as we're going to do a trim job on the bottom edge. On each of your 4 pieces, measure (on each side) 2 inches from he bottom and 2 inches from the edge, drawing a bit of a square:

Trim those squares. Be careful, as these will form the flat bottom of your bag and you don't want them to look too crazy. You should have 8 squares snipped off. You don't need these--stick them in your scrap bin. Unless you're normal, and then you could just toss them :)

Your four layers should now each look like this, with your short edge at the bottom. I even added some handy-dandy lines to show you where you're going to stitch--

Take two pieces, right sides together, and sew along the bottom. Press the seam open. Then sew the side seams and press those open as well. Keep this inside out. Now comes the flat bottom part. This is a bit of a modification of the smashed-triangle version (which we'll get to next week) but gives the same results. Take the side seam and the bottom seam and match them up. Slide in a few pins.

Sew across that bit. Do the same for the other side of the bag. When you turn it inside out to see what's going to happen (unless you already know, in which case--don't ruin it for the others, guys :) you'll see some nice tidy boxy corners:

Now grab those handles you made. Measure in 4 inches from each side seam, and pin your handles in place on the right side of the fabric, making sure they're not all twisty--

Stitch your handles down 1/4" from the top edge. I go over them a few times as the handle join is a stress point in bags. 

Take your other two pieces of fabric (the lining) and sew those together as you did the outer shell above. The only difference (and a critical one) is that you leave a gap of about 5 inches in the bottom center. This is for turning the bag in a few steps. You should now have your outer shell with the handles, and the lining with no handles, but a nice little gap in the bottom--

It doesn't matter which, but one of your pieces needs to be inside out (and the other right side out). Put one inside the other, so that the right sides are facing each other. Match up your side seams, and pin all around.

Sew all around the top. Then reach through the gap you left and gently pull the bag through.

Once everything is pulled out the proper way pin the gap in the lining shut (tucking the raw edges inside) and stitch it closed, either by hand or by machine. Shove the lining down inside the bag. Pin or press the top edge (I like to pin) so that all is neat, and then top-stitch around the edge, about 1/4" away from the edge.

Give it a bit of a press, and there you have it--a tote made out of one yard of fabric, with a wee bit left over (enough to try a change purse if you fancy giving one a go). It folds up flat--nice and handy to keep tucked in your purse.

I made a bunch of these a few years ago for a few craft fairs. They're quick and easy, and make nice little gifts, especially when folded nice and neat and tied with just the right bit of ribbon.

As ever, if something isn't clear please ask away. And if you make one I'd love to see it--give it an old ploppity-plop in the Flickr pool. Have fun!!

Next week: we'll be sewing a traditional drawstring bag--perfect for kiddos to tote their goods around. Hope to see you then!

Linking up here this week:


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