Sunday, August 2, 2015

W(hat's) T(his) D(ecision): Blocks 29-32

So, hey. Remember last year when I decided to make a quilt that makes no sense? Yeah, I forgot about it too. Sort of. I frequently saw the finished blocks and fabrics sitting there, and frequently thought "Oh yeah, I have to finish that." And then didn't. I'm not a big WIP person, and I've got the quilt, an afghan I have yet to show you, and a shawl in progress. I don't like having two big projects and one medium project in the works. It makes me feel overwhelmed. So last week I decided to just buckle down and at least get the quilt top finished. So here are the next four blocks in my 'What's This Decision?' quilt. Contain your excitement. I don't want to be held responsible for pulled excitement muscles.

This one is in memory of our swimming pool. Beach balls, umbrellas, and sparkly water. Pool noodles, diving sticks, and don't-pee-in-the-pool signs. Ah, memories. (Yes, I see that thread. And yes, the stripes were supposed to run the same way but I didn't notice until the end and was not in a seam-ripping mood. It kind of looks like a pool raft, too, so I left it).

Hippies, sittin' on the grass, crankin' out tunes. I really wanted to use that center fabric. Story for you. When I was younger this corner store used to sell these flower-power looking stickers with your name written on them. Being Bethany, I never had stickers, erasers, keychains, or license plates in my name. So at a school fair one of the things they were giving away was a set of these stickers with the name 'Mickey' on it. There was this other girl a year ahead of me who wanted them (her name was Celene) and I convinced her my name was Mickey so I could have these stickers that were not in my name either (I don't even know why--I wasn't going to buy something not in my name, but free? Come on). Next school year we were in the same class for reading. She called me Mickey all year. And apparently missed the fact that the teacher called me something not even close.

In eighth grade we had career day. I thought I might want to be a journalist (to my mind they wrote stories and took pictures to go with them--I didn't know they were separate functions), so I signed up for that guy (and I forget my other choice). I remember he sounded pretty...not...that smart...and got into an argument with the teacher who thought he should try to sound more intelligent. He told her "Look lady, I'm not gonna say octogenarian when I can say eighty-year-old guy." When he took questions I made the mistake of asking about how much money a journalist made. Not entirely tactful (I was thirteen, and doesn't one work to make money anyway?) but a general answer could have been provided. Instead he told me "That is the rudest question I've ever been asked, and I don't think you'd make a good journalist if those are the questions you ask." Now, being thirteen, in public school (which are a little more worldly than private/parochial schools) and also from Philadelphia, you can imagine (as I won't write it here) what I said to him in my head. Thankfully, the teacher jumped in and not only ended the session but told him she was calling the paper to let them know to send someone else next year.

I love little scenic depictions such as the center block. I really wanted to use it, so this is a picnic being held on the green, with the birds singing in the trees overhead. 

I tinkered with my layout over the weekend to figure everything out. I need 63 blocks like this total. I have 42 sewn, and 13 cut and ready to sew. It only took about two weeks to make all of them (if you don't count the year of rest I decided to take, bwahahaha).

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Kinda Sorta Nautical Beach Bag

Each year around this time my sister's friend/co-worker runs a benefit to raise money for a scholarship in her late mother's honor. Last year my sister asked if I could make her this weekender, and then she filled it with stuff that I really don't remember what it was right now. This year she wanted to fill a beach bag with goodies. We settled on a super simple design--the most basic tote you can imagine. I armed myself with coupons and paid half price for everything. Woot!

For all of its simplicity I love this bag oh so very much. It's clean, it's classic, and it's got a slight bit of swish to it to give it a little somethin'-somethin'.


Right? My mother and sister Alicia have similar tastes in that they like less-bold colors, clean lines, and not an obnoxious amount of detail. I frequently ask their advice in fabric matters because I'm very "Use all the colors!" and they're all "Maybe just pick one or two!"

This bag was super simple to make--it is 22 inches wide, 18 inches high, and has boxed bottom corners giving it a depth of five inches. I even paid attention to stripe matching.


Boom.

I used something new on this bag--plastic grommets. I originally bought the metal ones that come in the little kit with the setting tools. In comparison to the size of this bag they would have looked teensy so I was going to use a few and do a drawstring effect. I decided to give it a test run to see if I needed to add any padding for the grommet to grip, and boy am I glad I did before cutting into the finished bag. I've hammered a few grommets in my day, and was oddly looking forward to it this time (I was in an ornery sort of mood all weekend and thought some hammering might help, haha). So I'm bang-bang-banging away, and when I checked? Nothing. Not a dent. Not a bent prong, nada. I tried again. Nothing. So back to the store to make the exchange. And I'm glad I did.

The most annoying thing about grommets and eyelets are cutting out the little holes for them to fit through. At least this was a larger hole, so I could use scissors. I was worried that they might not be secure, but they pop together with a most-convincing click, and are really nice and snug on there. I had to remove one (you put a screwdriver in a little slot) and it was not an easy thing to do, so I'm confident they'll hold.


I didn't use any interfacing on this bag. The outside is a home dec fabric, and the lining is a bottom weight in white. I used another layer of the white as an interlining for just a little more structure.


I was hoping to find more ropey-looking rope for the handles, but nobody sells rope!! I went to three hardware stores, and nobody sells cotton rope (unless it's thin clothesline). I looked online and to order thicker rope and ship it would have cost way too much for ROPE. I was going to braid some clothesline, thinking it would be cute (and it was) but that didn't work out in the end. So I told myself "Self, you are going to make this work." And I did. The above is thick piping cord. Not what I had in mind, but it achieves the look.

I researched knots (yes, I know, who says things like that?) and went with the bowline knot. I liked the double bowline but it ate too much of the rope (and I was NOT going back to the store) so I went with this. I tugged the jiminy out of them and they're on there well.

My sister loved it and stuffed it with goodies already. And tossed me the line "Don't you just love how you always have to learn something to make the stuff I ask for?" Yep, can't get enough of that.

Linking up here:
Submarine Sunday at Navy Wifey Peters Aboard the USS Crafty
Craftastic Monday at Sew Can do
Weekly Block Party at Pieces by Polly
Made By You Monday at Skip to My Lou
The Inspiration Board at Homework

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

A Teeny Confession

After all these years together I'm going to let you in on a little something. I don't like sewing zippers. There, I've said it. The secret's out. Yes, I've got a handful of zipper tutorials. And most of the time I tell you they're easy because I tend to choose styles where the zipper insertion is easy and the result is nice and tidy. But that isn't always feasible. When someone says "I just want a simple zippy pouch" I slightly cringe on the inside because it's the type of zipper that makes me categorize all of them as dastardly (though I'm not usually a one-bad-apple-spoils-the-bunch type of person).

I tend to just stitch in the zipper, trim the bulk, poke things out as best I can and hope for not-a-mess. Usually that works out well enough, but I'm always on the look-out for a new technique to try. I recently ran across a tutorial I had pinned and figured I'd give it a shot since I just had a request for a small purse for odds-and-ends to sit in a bigger handbag. Here's the result.


Isn't the fabric kind of nifty? It's a fat quarter from Joann's. The stitching makes it look like rain running down a stained glass window. Anyway--I made a simple flat-bottomed purse (tutorial here), but did the new method for the zipper. It's supposed to keep the corners neat (and I don't have any dents near the top corners so it works in that respect), but I feel as though the zipper is a little bit limited with how wide it opens (or doesn't open--it's good enough but not great). There's also fusible fleece in there, so that extra bulk might have affected things as well.


I also wasn't a fan of hand-stitching the gaps near the zipper closed. It certainly isn't my neatest work ever (I did have a photo of it that now I can't find, naturally). If I was thrilled to the gills with the result I'd get over it. It's good strong stitching, though, so it'll hold for sure. 


The purse itself is a really nice size. It's four by six inches with a two inch flat bottom. It holds a bunch of stuff, too--I filled it with purse junk to test it and it's roomier than it looks.It really didn't take much time at all, even with the finicky hand sewing--I think the quilting took the longest. As with this bag, my dissatisfaction stems from things that only the maker would know about. And the descent of my high hopes for a perfect zipper method.

So--do any of you have a magic method for neat zippers across the top of a purse? I should know this by now, but I don't sew these very often that I devote much thought to the matter, and I'm usually OK with small zipper dents because I'm a vigorous corner-poker-outer. But now that I've tried one way it's going to be on my mind. Your thoughts?

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

I love it not, but I love it anyway

Did you ever start to make something, and your sub-conscious kept poking your conscious and saying things like "I wouldn't do it this way" or "I think you should change course" until it changed to "I told you so" and "You never listen to me?" When it does that you should seriously listen. I've made a bag or two and learned a lot along the way--what works best for me, what I'm most comfortable with, what order of operations will give me the best results--all those things that lots of practice will instill in you.

A few weeks ago I came across a free pattern for a really cute duffel bag (bee tee dubs--did you know the duffel bag was named after the Dutch Belgian town of Duffel, so called because the fabric used to make them was originally sold there? Now you do. You're welcome). I found some really cute fabric at Joann's (is it me, or are they really stepping up their fabrics a bit? I'm finding a lot more variety than I used to) and got to it.

So I cut and fused and all that jazz, determined to follow the pattern as written. The first stumbling block was the straps. If you've sewn with me you know I prefer the bias-tape method of making straps. This bag had me doing the sew a strip and turn it inside out method. This proved near impossible and I had to remake the straps (which I stupidly still did not do my way). I then sewed the bottom panel, thinking "this is super bulky and might be an issue" (and kept going). I left the room to get more water for the iron, saw my progress thus far upon returning and thought "I should just make a regular tote instead of a duffel--I like the layout of everything for that" (and kept going with a duffel bag). The side circles went together OK, complete with piping (I also thought at this point "hey, these would be cute hot pads--I should do that instead and make a tote." And kept going).

So short story long, after breaking two nails, giving myself a headache, and producing a healthy blue streak of bad language, I finally admitted to myself that there are certain things I am just not good at, and one of them is definitely that style of bag where the zipper lays across the top and sews into a side panel (like a duffel or crescent bag--I've never been successful with either style). So I deconstructed a bit and made a tote, leaving a lot of the elements in place for sanity's sake.


If I had made a tote from the outset the only thing I'd have done differently (other than slimming the bulk) is to make the part on the bottom more prominent on the sides so more green would be visible. The straps aren't a bad length, but I'd probably have added a few inches. It ended up being a nice sized tote (after a smidgen of trimming after un-duffeling it), and I've been using it for smaller knitting projects.


Isn't that fabric the cutest? The colors are bright and vibrant and perfect for warm weather.


That large part in the center of the strap is a necessary evil, haha. I try to space my stitch lines more evenly, but that's the seam in there--quite a bulky little bugger to sew through. Not bad visually as an unintended design element, but not very pleasing in a tactile sense.


The bulk of that green part makes the bottom lay not so nice. The bag itself has fusible fleece, as does that green panel--which is way too much bulk for my taste. Even with a good solid press there's just too much bulk for nice neatness to prevail.


I also probably would have left the feet off if I had listened to myself. Having put them in near the beginning my fabric was already cut there, so I had to leave them in. Their placement is really what kept me from being able to have a bit of a taller tote with more green on it--if they ended up any higher my bag would look like it had oddly placed bronze nipples.


By the time I got to stitching everything up into a tote I was beyond caring how neat the zipper looked, so it's not my best. However, a happy little ribbon scrap cheers it up nicely.


So that's that. A bag I didn't mean to make, that is full of little things that irk me a bit but that I love at the same time because I just dig those fabrics so stinkin' much! Next time I'll listen to me. Then I'll hopefully end up with a bag I love so much that we'll get married.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

City Dwellers

For years my mother has wanted a bird feeder. Not a difficult thing to find, but a difficult thing to remember that you want, so to speak. Many a trip to a retail location that sells these ended with a head slap and a "Dammit! I meant to get a bird feeder!" My sister bought her one recently, and I do believe the bird seed companies have seen an exponential increase in sales ever since. 


There are usually about half a dozen assorted birds on here at any given time, making absolute gluttons of themselves. I'm honestly surprised they can still fly.


They empty this thing almost as quickly as you can fill it, which my mother has cut back to once per day. The tree this hangs in has a million billion birds in it at any given time that all look alike, so it's hard to tell if they share nicely or if there are a few hogs in there.


A few days ago a couple bluejays showed up. I couldn't get a photo, naturally. Did you ever listen to a bluejay? What a cantankerous sounding bird! I feel like if it was human it would be one of those whiny people who never shut up and complain about every little thing that is in no way a problem. I'm glad they left and haven't been back.


We have a pair of doves (Norma and Oswald, hehehe) who frequently watch the feeding frenzy from the electrical wires. Sometimes one of them pops down to feast with the others on the seed that falls from the feeder.


We've also had an elusive cardinal that my sister has, since the beginning of time, asserted was my grandpa's spirit animal. In the past several years I have been able to take this one's photo once. He always makes haste to his tree when he sees the camera (I'm not even really kidding). Tonight he was very preoccupied with something or other on the ground, so I was able to snap a blurry shot.


As luck would have it, I got into position to take some really good shots and my dog decided to bark as though the redcoats were about and we needed to be warned, and this one zipped off. But a few moments later, what I've been trying to snap for weeks came by.


My mom ordered this hummingbird feeder after hearing how well they work for my uncle. And they do. It wasn't but a few days before she had a few hits. There are about three different little ones who show up to take a sip. I never have my camera on hand (I run to get it but they disappear and don't return, as though they're in cahoots with the cardinal), but tonight I ran to get it and had a bit of luck.


This is Calliope. Her little black and white friend is Felicity, who I think is even tinier and more elusive (my summer goal is to get her photo--dream big, guys, amiright?). It's been quite hot and humid here, so they come out to eat later in the evening (unlike the other gluttons who feast sun up to sun down). 


And this is Elmer. This is Charlie's nemesis. Elmer creeps down the tree, one wee step at a time, pausing and looking around, waiting for it. We sit there and watch him, rooting for him. And then he gets gutsy, makes too much noise, and Charlie launches off the porch, chasing him back up the tree. A few minutes later you see Elmer creeping down the other side of the tree, occasionally peeking around. And then lather, rinse, repeat.

Tonight A-train asked me "What do you think those birds are saying to each other?" I didn't tell him they're probably talking about us idiots staring at them all the time, wondering why we don't have anything better to do.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Two Timing Tote/Diaper Bag Sew Along: Putting It All Together

You are soooo close to being finished with this bag. So let's get to it, shall we?

Putting It All Together

Take your lining and insert it into the exterior, right sides together, pinning or clipping around the top edge, matching up the seams and making sure the straps are tucked in-between and out of the way.


Sew along the top edge using a 3/8 inch seam allowance and backstitching, of course.


I literally cut some bulk here in this next step. At each of the four seams along the top I clipped a little, being careful not to get too close to my seam:


Reach into that gap we left in the lining, and pull everything through so that your bag is right side out.


While the lining is hanging out, fold in the raw edges of the gap, pin, and stitch the gap closed. Normally I like to do this by hand as it's less obvious, but I did not want to put my poor fingertips through stitching through the extra layers of fabric that our pocket created. So machine stitching it is.


Push your lining down into your bag.


Faux Piping the Top

Now we get to do one of my favorite bits--the faux piping along the top. I love doing this as it really reduces the bulk I'd normally be top-stitching through.

Fiddle with the lining a little bit so that some of it is sticking up and visible on the outside. It's a little difficult to describe, but you will honestly feel it just kind of roll itself into place as you move long, pinning/clipping it in place. The bulk ends up in this little area that we won't be sewing through, so you won't have to invent new swear words when we hit the side seams.


Stitch in the ditch, slow and careful, taking your time to make it nice and neat.


For big bags like this I like to pizza toss things into position.  Eh, you say? Open the zipper fully, turn the bag upside down over both your hands making fists. and punch it upwards, pretending you're tossing a pizza. Do this a few times, especially in the corners, and everything ends up nice and neatly settled. Give it a press if you want and you can be done or almost done.


Zipper Tie

I always add a pull to my zippers for a jazz hands effect (teehee). If it's a teeny pull I have to find some thin ribbon or the like to fit through (which is why I go for replacing the pulls with a larger one or using my new favorite thing, the handbag zipper). Most of the time I make a matching pull out of a scrap of fabric. 

So grab a scrap of fabric, maybe eight inches by about an inch and a half, and fold it like bias tape (press in half, press raw edges towards the fold, press in half again). I use that triple stitch function I mentioned that looks like this:


And sew the strip closed. If it's a narrow strip I just go up one side, if it's wider I'll do both. Then I trim the tips to an angle.


Here's how to make a nice neat loop on your pull. Fold it in half and push it through the hole in your zipper pull:


Take both raw edges, and poke them through that loop of fabric hanging out the other side of the zipper:


Pull it firmly into place, being careful not to break your zipper. 


Trim the edges on an angle if they're a bit long.


And ta-dah! Totally finished!

Don't forget the part where you pop it over your shoulder and strut! Flickr in the side bar, so load up and let me see your fabric combos!!!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Two Timing Tote/Diaper Bag Sew Along: The Lining and Zipper

Hasn't it been fun watching that pile of fabric pieces get smaller and smaller? It's about to get smaller still! Here we go with the all-important lining of our bag.

The Lining Pockets

Fold your pocket piece wrong sides together lengthwise, and press.


Sew a line half an inch from the fold for our elastic to live in.


Along the bottom edge, make a mark every 3 1/2 inches (you should end up with five marks).


For the marks that fall seven inches in from the sides (the second and fourth marks) draw a straight line from the top to the bottom of the pocket (this is easier to do before pleats and elastic try to pull things wonky). I forgot to take a photo of this step, but you can see the line below just the same:


Now we'll deal with those pleats along the bottom. This piece of fabric is 21 inches wide, and our bag front/back is 16.5 inches wide. That's a difference of 4.5 inches. I'm making three pleated pockets, so three into 4.5 is 1.5. Each pleat has 1.5 inches of fabric in it. And because we're folding that fabric to make the pleat, we half that number to 3/4 inch. (Honestly it'll make more sense in a second. Unless I haven't lost you yet).

SO, pick one of your remaining three marks to start with. Fold on that mark, and pin your pleat (like we did on the outside pockets) 3/4 inch away from the fold:


Pin the other pleats the same way (make sure all of them have the fold towards the front or back so they look uniform). Open them up a bit and pin them flat. Press it  little bit.


Cut about eighteen inches of elastic and feed it through the casing just as we did for the outside pockets, stitching the one edge before pulling it all the way through. Pull the elastic through until the top edge of the pocket measures 16.5 inches, then stitch that edge and even out the gathers.

OK. Now take either the back or front of your lining, laying it down right side up. Lay your pocket down on it, matching up the bottom edge, and pinning in place (if it's a touch off it's really no big deal and you can trim off that overhang). I pin along the sides, too. Because I'm the boss. Stitch along the bottom, using a 1/4 inch seam allowance. You could omit this and leave lots of pins in place, but stitching along the bottom makes it a bit easier to attach the gusset.


Remember those lines we drew? We are going to stitch along those to separate one pocket into three. Start at the bottom, and stitch towards the top, keeping everything as straight as you can. When you get to the elastic backstitch several times. 


Remember how we trimmed the curved corners on the exterior? Do it again here.


Repeat for your other pocket piece. 

Sew your front to the gusset, right sides together, just as you did on the exterior of the bag, using a 3/8 inch seam allowance. Repeat for the back part of the bag and the gusset, but make sure you leave an eight inch gap along the bottom so we can turn this right side out later on.


Attaching the Zipper Casing

We need to make a few marks on our lining to get our casing in just right. Draw a line across the front and back pieces 1 1/4 inches from the top edge.


My zipper casing is exactly two inches smaller than the (finished) lining, so I started pinning the casing in place one inch from the seam, with the top edge flush with the line we just drew.


Then stitch the casing into place, as close to the edge as you can.


Repeat for the other casing and side of the bag.

Phew. So you have got the exterior of the bag, and the lining. Next time we meet you'll be finishing up your new bag!

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