Monday, December 3, 2012

Giveaway Day 2012!

It's here!  The Sew, Mama, Sew! December Giveaway Day (which is actually an entire week, since there are so many awesome prizes available).

I love participating in this event, because I always discover new blogs to follow and ideas of things to make.  I love sharing what I make with others who appreciate handmade goodness, too.  Here's what I'm giving away:

A handmade fabric ornament, made using the tutorial I posted about last week.

And...a matching reusable, insulated coffee sleeve.  I keep one in my purse and use it nearly every day...makes me smile every time!

Don't they look cute together?

Entering is easy.  Just use the Rafflecopter widget and make sure I have a way to contact you!  Liking my page on Facebook gets you an extra entry but is not required.  Entries will be accepted through December 7, and I'll ship to anyone, anywhere.  Be sure to visit Sew, Mama, Sew! and enter all of the other giveaways.  And pace have all week!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, November 30, 2012

Holiday Makings

Now that I'm done with the one craft show I decided to do this year, I have turned my focus to a list of handmade Christmas gifts for friends and family.

First up was these awesome stockings from a tutorial by imagine gnats.  I had already been eyeing these fun, modern fabrics from the Winterkist collection, so when I saw the tutorial I knew it was meant to be!  I loved making them.  Rachael's method of quilting as you go was new to me, and it turned out beautifully.  I did end up having to piece the lining fabric together to get pieces large enough for the pattern, but that probably could have been avoided had I paid more attention when cutting out the fabric strips for the stocking fronts.  I think the hand-cut felt names really complete the stockings.  I made these for my brother, his partner, and my yet-to-be born first nephew.  I made the baby's stocking in a combo of colors from each parent's.  If you know them, don't tell them about these yet!  It's a pretty safe bet that they won't see them here, and I will have them in the mail on their way next week.

Next up is a lap quilt by special request for my step-mother, who is in a residential facility with Alzheimer's.  I chose a cheery jelly roll by Valori Wells and made some funky log cabin blocks.  I need to trim them and add some charcoal gray sashing, and then quilt it.  I'm hoping to get this one done by Monday!

After that, I have some reusable grocery totes to whip up.   I lucked out and managed to hit the Joann's Black Friday sale!

I also am going to try out this tutorial for fabric Christmas ornaments.  I'm not so sure about using hot glue to assemble them.  I'll let you know how they turn out.

Be sure to check back on Monday...I'll be participating in Sew, Mama, Sew!'s Giveaway Day.  It was a ton of fun last year, visiting hundreds of new blogs and discovering great new handmade items.

Monday, November 12, 2012

A Weekender Weekend

Drumroll, please................

It's finished!!

I finally got the chance to sit down and have a good chunk of (mostly) uninterrupted sewing time to tackle this baby.  In case you haven't see it, Fabric Mutt and Lori H. Designs put together a sew-along for Amy Butler's popular/dreaded Weekender Bag.  Making this bag seems to be the Holy Grail for sewists across blogland and is well-known for its difficulty.  I came across the pattern last year when I was just starting back into sewing, but I put it off after reading all of the horror stories about it out there.    Now that I have been making bags and other accessories for over a year on a regular basis, this sew-along gave me the needed push to buy the pattern and try it out.

I'm going to do a little show and tell for those who just want to see the bag.  Then I'll add my two cents about modifications and a little tutorial on how I machine-stitched the lining to the zipper.

This is by far the largest bag I have made, and it is in fact a piece of luggage.  Tons of interfacing (even the super stiff Peltex sew-in that I had never used), home decor-weight fabric, and a very long zipper made this one expensive project.  Think close to $100 in materials.  But it is going to be very sturdy and useful!  The size reminds me of a bowling ball bag.  My sewing machine would definitely fit inside the bag without a problem.  It will be perfect to bring as a carry-on piece for a plane trip, especially for someone like me who travels in and out of Alaska and always packs a change of clothing for each family member for unexpected stops along the way.

I was happy to learn new techniques along the way, like making piping for the edges.

The inside...not bad, considering it is sewn into the corners by hand!

Note the size of this compared to a park bench.  Pretty roomy.

I even remembered to attach a label (although in truth I had to go back and put it in after I sewed the strap, because I forgot to do it first, as usual).

In short, I love this bag.  And--I know I'm going to get dirty looks for this, but I want to encourage others to try sewing it-- it wasn't hard for me to make.  I consider myself an experienced bag maker and intermediate-level sewer.  Had I attempted this bag a year ago, I don't know that I could have done it.  But really, now that I know the basics of making bags, it was pretty simple but time consuming.  Between cutting and sewing, it took me about 10 hours.

So now on to the tips and tricks.  I perused blogs for quite awhile and rounded up my favorite tips on a Pinterest board.  Had I not done this, making the bag would have been much more difficult!

  • I made the bias tape for the binding out of a fat quarter of fabric, using this tutorial.
  • I used Stitch Witchery to make the piping, rather than worrying about hiding stitches the whole time, as suggested by Jen here.
  • I widened the straps like Providence Handmade.  I also added a couple of inches in length to each strap.
  • I left off the end pockets and added a magnetic snap to the center of each side pocket, about an inch from the top of the top of the pocket, like hey porkchop.

I also made a few changes of my own, from my prior bag-making experience.  On the inside, I inserted a zip pocket on one side and a large patch pocket on the other.  I never make a bag for myself without a place to securely zip my keys and other valuables.  Since this bag will be used for travel, I gave myself a nice-sized place inside to securely keep airplane boarding passes that is still easily accessible.  I am always paranoid to walk through the airport with those in an outside pocket.

I made a 6" tall piece for each end of the bag by tracing the bag end after inserting the zipper.  I folded down and pressed the top inch and then made a little 1.5" wide strap to hold a D ring.  I attached the end piece, with the D ring strap centered underneath it, to each side.  This gives me the option to make a clip-on shoulder strap later on. I haven't made it yet, but I'm sure I will.  This bag is so big, that even with my slightly longer handles it could still be a bit awkward to carry when full.

Now on to the tutorial part.  The original pattern has you hand sew the entire lining in.  I don't know about you, but after spending this much work on the outside of the bag, I want the inside to actually hold up to some wear and tear.  My hand sewing skills are not the greatest.  I did see others mention machine sewing the lining into the bag, but I didn't find specifically how they did it.  So I made it up as I went along.  It worked out pretty well.

After assembling the bag lining and inserting it into the bag, pin it in place at the top curves.

Fold under the raw edge along the zipper so that the folded edge is flush with the zipper teeth, or even a little bit away from them if you can.    

Using your zipper foot, start as close to the beginning of the zipper as you can (I ended up being about an inch and a half away from the zip pull).  Working on the inside of the bag (the lining fabric is on top, followed by the zipper tape), fold the outside fabric under and away from your presser foot.  Stitch very closely to the edge of the lining fabric while using the folded-back outside fabric as a guide for your zipper foot and get as close to the opposite end of the zipper as you can.

Here's another view.  See how the outside fabric is turned back away from the zipper?

  • Repeat for the other side.  Be sure to check that your zipper will move freely next to (or over top of) the lining edge.  I have a big chunky sport zipper on my bag and it works fine.
  • Hand sew the rest of the lining zipper opening to the zipper tape, and then hand sew the other areas in the bag according to pattern directions.
  • I also managed to hide a 2" seam on the outside top of my bag, right where the piping attaches, sewing through both the outside and lining.  I did this on either side of the top middle of the zipper to help hold the lining up inside the bag.
And for a few last things that made it a bit easier.  Use clothespins to hold the layers together when sewing the bag sides to the part with the zipper.  The little curved parts of the clothespins that are meant to grab onto the clothesline fit perfectly over the piping.

Don't be in a rush!  I have read about others breaking 10 needles and walking away with sore shoulders from shoving the layers through their machines.  I only broke one needle, and it was because I wasn't paying attention to where my zipper teeth were when sewing across them.

I realized when sewing the outer sides to the middle section that it's not really necessary (or easy!) to sew with a half-inch seam allowance.  I just got as close as I could to the piping with my zipper foot, and then went back around the bag a couple more times to get closer in the spots that were too far away from the piping.  It worked just fine.

A quality sewing machine makes a big difference!  I sew with a pretty simple Husqvarna Viking, and it always works wonderfully for me.  If your machine is powerful enough, you won't feel like you are trying to shove your layers through.

I think that's about it (finally, I know!).  Thank you so much to everyone out there who offered up their tips and experience with this bag so that it was easier for me!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Cathedral Window Quilt: Complete!

It's finished!!  I know I got a bit behind on posting each of my blocks in the Cathedral Window Sampler Quilt-along.  You can see the detail on each individual block here in my flickr set.  I love how this came out so much that I decided to take it to one of my favorite spots for a little photo shoot.  I made this for my own living room, with fabrics from Fly a Kite and Outfoxed.  I used Maureen Cracknell Handmade's quilt-as-you go method, so when the quilt along was over all I had to do was sew my blocks together.

I added a cathedral window block of my own, based around a little cathedral window I already had waiting in my stash for just the right project.  Then I added two plain 12.5" squares of fabric to make a 3x4 quilt.  And I even remembered to add a label.

The backing is from Loulouthi by Anna Maria Horner.  I had it in my stash, and it happened to go perfectly.  I used the "self-binding" technique for the backing for the first time.  Basically, I trimmed the backing to 1.5" larger than the quilt (after quilting the backing fabric to the rest of the quilt) and then folded the raw edge of the backing in to meet the raw edge of the front.  Then I pressed the folded edge over the front and machine stitched all the way around.  Voila!  No hand sewing involved.  In the whole quilt.  Hooray for that!!

Here's a little better look at the quilting on the front...although the bright sunshine this morning makes some of it hard to see.

Perfect for a cold Alaskan morning at the beach!  And since the sand is frozen, it didn't even get dirty.

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Long Weekend

If you "like" my page on Facebook, you may have seen the pic I posted today showing the towering stacks of fabric, skeins of yarn, and general messiness on my sewing desk.  I have several projects going right now- the Cathedral Window Quilt-Along has 2 blocks left for me to make, I have a quilt to finish for my daughter, a quilt to start for myself, plus lots of random smaller projects for my Etsy shop. I definitely don't need to add anything to that list right now.

But then I came across the Long Weekend blog hop, in which a whole bunch of people are going to attempt Amy Butler's Weekender Bag pattern all at the same time.  I have been eyeing this pattern for about a year.  But I have been afraid to try it, because there is a ton of information out there in blogland about how difficult it can be.  And expensive to make.  I figured now is as good a time as any to give it a go.  So I ordered the pattern and bought all of the materials (which, indeed, were not all...sheesh).  I'll post updates as I work on it.  I hear the cutting the pattern pieces out takes the longest. Guess I'll start that on Monday!

I chose cotton twills from Oh Deer! by MoMo for Moda.  The green is the body and the dots are for trim and lining.

The materials: sew-in and iron-on interfacing, cording for piping (eek!), a huge zipper (I got two colors because I didn't have my fabric picked out when I bought them), and template plastic.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

AGF October Challenge: Mending Kit

I am so, so proud of this project!  Last month I discovered that Art Gallery Fabrics hosts a monthly sewing challenge.  I actually won last month's with my fab laptop sleeve:

This month's challenge was a mending kit.  I despise hand sewing.  But it is a necessary evil.  So I made myself participate in the challenge, hoping to make something that I will love using enough to make hand sewing not so terrible.  I think it worked!

I designed this kit, using fabrics from the Indie line by Pat Bravo (my very favorite, could you tell?), using nothing but the bag-making skills I have learned over the past year and my trusty iPad sketching "pen."  It turned out just as I had hoped--or maybe even a little better.

The outside is lightly gathered, with a fun contrasting strip down the middle.  Inside there are two zippered pockets (with metal zippers to give it a little edge) that can hold buttons, needles, and even my hexie-making templates.   I added a little loop to hold my favorite metal ruler, a pocket for my scissors, and elastic loops for my thread.  I have lots of thread, and always seem to buy the same size spools, so I made the loops to hold this specific size.  The little pin cushion attaches with velcro.  I used DecorBond on both sides for extra stability, and sandwiched a piece of cotton batting in there too.  The whole thing folds in thirds (a requirement of the challenge) and fastens with an elastic loop and fun wooden button.

All folded up, it looks like a fun little clutch.  Did I mention how much I love it?!?!

I wish I had discovered these challenges earlier in the year.  Those who complete them all are in the running to win a new sewing machine.  There's no way I can catch up now, but I'm so glad I found them.  It's always nice to give myself a way to expand on my design skills.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Purse Week 2012 Finalist!

I just found out that the Art Student Tote that I made as a diaper bag for my cousin is in the top 10 for Lemon Squeezy Home's Purse Week 2012!

Stop by A Lemon Squeezy Home and take a look at the other fantastic entries in the top 10.  I can't believe my bag is among them!  Here's the flickr group with all of the entries.  They are amazing.  Voting for the winner is open until Monday, October 22.  Just go to A Lemon Squeezy Home, and click for your favorite on the right hand size of the page.  Super simple, no log-in required!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Cathedral Window QAL Block 4 and Quilting As I Go

I worked on block 4 last Friday.  It was super simple, which was a nice change after the complexity of block 3.

You may have noticed that the above block is already quilted.  Oh yes it is!  I have seen many methods of "quilting as you go" but have never tried it myself.  The whole having to hand-sew the backing on the blocks together made it a no-go for me.  But then Maureen Cracknell Handmade posted this awesome (and awesomely simple!) tutorial last week.  I may now actually finish the quilts that I start!  Hooray!  

Basically, her method has you quilt each block to its own square of batting, sew all of the quilted squares together, and then attach the backing with a minimum amount of quilting.  I think it's going to be awesome.  Did I already say that?  Well, fabulous, then.  I tried it out this weekend on my completed blocks, and it works really well for projects such as this where all the blocks are different.  You can really make the quilting complement each block individually.  The only downside of this method, for me anyway, is that the quilting patterns on each block don't translate to the backing fabric.  The backside of the quilting is hidden inside the quilt.  BUT, if I have to choose between paying someone a ton of money to longarm quilt for me, try to quilt myself the traditional way where I need to set up 3 extra tables to hold the bulk of my quilt, or not have the backing show the quilting stitches on the front, then I choose option 3 hands down.  Hiring out a longarm quilter makes the quilt feel like it's not completely my creation.  For that reason, I still haven't completed this quilt for my daughter from August.  I just can't bring myself to try to fit it through my machine, although I know I could do it.  I'm thinking about dismantling it a bit and using the quilt as you go method, and then sewing it back together.  For the first time since I began quilting nearly 10 years ago, the quilting part is actually fun!

Here's a little peek at my quilting so far:
Pins and more pins

This block was a little tricky, because my needle kept getting stuck in the Heat n Bond that was used in its construction.  I ended up quilting just the little background squares that peek through the stripes.

Back of Block 3

Block 3: I loved quilting this one!

Back of Block 3

Block 4

Back of Block 4

Ooh, I can't wait to finish this!