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.