Saturday, February 27, 2010

Sewing adventures: big success, and an epic fail

Maybe I got arrogant by dominating the zipper lately.  I probably thought "This [next project] sounds so simple, and I'm awesome, so how could it go wrong?" But it did. Oh, how it did.  A few weeks ago, I decided if I could not win this then I would just make my own [the kit was sold out right away and me of little patience went for something else instead of just waiting for what I know would be a stellarly written pattern].  So I bought a pattern and a frame...

...and used some fabric from my stash to make my own carpetbag.  It seemed simple enough....I spent an evening cutting out all my pieces, being ultra careful not to hack it up.  Then I spent an evening doing the pocket. Just the pocket.  A ten minute job that took me all evening because instead of investing one minute and twenty-three seconds of work to make something easier I will invest about an hour trying to do something the hard way just because.  No less than three times did my mother tell me she didn't like my fabric combination, but I'm stubborn and refused to look at it objectively.

I took off from work on Friday...we had a wee spot of snow and I just didn't feel like dealing with it. I figured my itchy little fingers could finish that bag in no time flat.  I put in some inside pockets--but because of the style of the bag one came out way to close to the top.  I struggled through the rest of this bag, its big fat layers not cooperating and giving me clean seams, but still being stubborn I decided I was going to win.  After way too much time I had to put in the frame. After struggling, and fighting, and some cursing, I managed to wiggle that frame in. And then....failure.  My hinges wouldn't line up once inside the bag. I tried two different frames, several sets of pliers, I got other people involved. I skinned my thumb and got blood blisters when the pliers slipped. I spent about three hours trying to get this to work when my sister says "I don't like that bag. And I really don't like the fabric."  I decided that this bag was not meant to be. One should not experience injury when sewing.  I was going to make it into a simpler tote, but when I tried to I had distressed the fabric so much that it couldn't be made into anything I'd be willing to sell because of the imperfections I had created.  And when I looked at it from afar, I saw what my mother and sister meant. My fabric choices were just not fabulous.  So I did what I do and threw it away.  Then my mother rescued it and told me to make it into something cute and donate it.  [UPDATE: the fabric boo-boos were beyond repair, so it had to hit the trash anyway].

Rescued from the can still see my picked out threads on it.  I'm going back and forth on if I like this fabric combo or not.

I take full responsibility for the ruination of this project--obviously it's been made before, so it must be user error.  However...I think this was payback for my awesomeness earlier this week.  Something I had in my head actually looked how I hoped it would when finished:

This is the Expandable Tote Bag pattern from u-handbag.  I was going for a beach and ocean combo here and I think it came out well.  The pictures are not good (apologies) but it shows the fun-ness of the fabric.

I took this to work to show it off and it sold right away. I never expected that to happen.  But it saved me from having to write a description for it in the shop.  Of course this led to several people wanting beach bags custom made so I went a little crazy ordering my fabrics the other night. But at 30% off and free shipping, how could I not?

I am going to devote my day to cleaning up my sewing area and organizing my stuff.  Usually I get inspired because I find things I forgot I had.  But my fingers hurt too much to do any actual sewing.  I wish I could say "Ah, well" but I'm still annoyed. Not because it didn't work so much as all of the time I invested in nothing. I hate wasted time...says the girl who sleeps in every weekend while there's things to make and do and see.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Baby it's cold outside!

The Olympics must have put me in a wintery mood.  It seems unbelievable but we're supposed to get another foot-ish of snow in a few days.  We're finally just starting to melt from underneath three feet of the stuff, and more's a comin'.  Oh well--it is winter.  One should expect these things.  I actually don't  mind snow--it leads to cozy days of hot chocolate and tea, handknit afghans and cinematic adventures, and an extra little workout from shoveling.  Plus--is there anything more beautiful than the purply soft glow of dusk when there's a blanket of snow?  A book I read called it 'snowlight,' and that seems the perfect word for it, whether it is an official meteorological term or not. 

On the evening news they just did a story on the Harbin Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival in China.  Zero degrees is the norm in the winter there; when you're frozen solid why not make it a tourist attraction?  Oodles of workers spend days and weeks transforming mountains of snow and blocks of ice into extremely detailed sculptures and replicas of famous structures (the Arc de Triomphe, the Great Wall of China, etc.).  There is even a giant functioning thermometer carved out of ice.  Although at these temperatures, cold is cold and the number is irrelevant.

Native American snow sculpture.  Photo by R. Todd King.

Vegas? Nope.  That's all ice.  Photo by R. Todd King.

For a great little overview of the Hardin Ice Festival, click here.  It really is beautiful.  And much cozier doing it whilst curled up on your couch watching Jeopardy than actually making the trek.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Zippered Pouch Tutorial

Here is a tutorial I put together on how to make a zippered pouch.  You can alter this, of course, so that it measures whatever size you need for whatever you want to use it for.  You can also add little embellishments like pleats, or curved corners.  Here are a few examples:

The top two are pencil case sized pouches; the tan and red has has cute little pleats, the blue and green has softly curved edges (I used a saucer to trace the curve).

Before any sewing project, I recommend giving the directions a quick read-thru--sometimes it really does make life easier. 

To get started, we'll need to gather our ingredients:

~ 2 pieces of outer fabric (mine is music notes) measuring 4 inches by 6 inches (this includes my quarter inch seam allowance)
~ 2 pieces of lining fabric the same size as your outer fabric
~ 4 pieces of lightweight fusible interfacing the same size as your lining and outer fabric
~ a zipper long enough to go across the top.  I like long zippers so mine is about ten inches, even though the pouch is not that wide.  We can trim off any excess later on.

Obligatory picture of what you'll be needing.

Begin by pressing your pieces.  Then iron your interfacing onto the wrong side of each piece of fabric.  I like to interface each piece; you may choose to do only the lining or only the outer pieces, or none at all.  If you do none at all there will be a lot of stress on the fabric near the zipper area, so you may want to iron a strip on there if nowhere else. 

Now that we've got that ready, we're going to make a zipper sandwich.  Take one of your outer pieces (right side up), place your zipper face down along the top edge, and pin (Figure 1).  Then, take a lining piece and place it right side down on top of the zipper, matching up the edges as best you can.  Pin in place (Figure 2).
You could of course match them all up at once, but I find this extra step of pinning twice helps me keep everything all lined up much better.  It's your choice, of course.

Figure 1
Figure 2

If you have a zipper foot it comes in extremely handy right now.  If not, that's ok, it'll just be a little fiddly.  Line the foot edge up with the center of the zipper and note where this is on the seam guide so you can keep a straight line.  Then stitch it all together, backstitching at the beginning and end.  One note about the photo below:  when I use my zipper foot if I put the zipper to the left I attach my foot on the left side; I'm not sure if this is the right way to do it but the other way feels funny. 

Sewing your zipper sandwich.

Repeat for the other side.  Make sure your fabrics are lined up the same way (outer is right side up, zipper is face down, lining is right side down).  Now is the time I like to press everything near the zipper, and then topstitch to keep the fabric from getting stuck in the zipper. It should look like the below:

If you flip this over you'll see the green lining with the wrong side of the zipper running down the middle.  Check for that now to minimize cursing later.

OK, we're getting there.  We're going to sew up the sides now.  At this point, because my zipper is waaaay too long, I pull the zipper pull down into the middle so I don't accidentally sew it off to the side where it gets stuck in the middle of nowhere.  For some reason (I've never done this before and I've made loads of these) I decided to cut my excess zipper now instead of later; so I have to be really careful not to pull my zipper pull off at either end.  That being said....take your outer piece and match it with your other outer piece, right sides together.  Do the same with your lining.  You should now have one long rectangle with the lining on one side, the outside on the other, and the zipper hidden in between (see below).

Right sides to right sides, hidden zipper, all pinned up.

You need to make sure your zipper is lined up ok so it isn't all mismatched when you're done.  Instead of folding the zipper towards the lining, I like to fold it towards the outer pieces.  I'm not exactly sure why, but it seems to work out better for me when I do it this way.  The below shows what I mean.  However, you can also fold the zipper towards the lining.  Try a few of these and see which method you like. [UPDATE: I've made a bunch of these since this tutorial...fold the teeth towards the lining--the opposite of what I have below and say above.  Apologies for the momentary brain-dump].

Pin this section well--you want to make sure it stays put when we stitch the sides.

Now, sew up the sides using a quarter inch seam allowance.  When you get to where the zipper is, go slow so that you don't break your needle.  I like using a longer zipper because it ensures that those metal bits aren't in my way and I'm just sewing through the teeth.  I also like to reverse over the zipper a few times to make sure it's tacked in there nice and secure.  When the sides are all sewn up I trim a little bit of the bulk away near the zipper.  Below is what you should be looking at right now.

Bulk reduced at zipper which has been triple-stitched for security.

Reach inside the outer pieces and make sure your zipper is open, or else you'll have some choice words to say later...  Sew all the way across the bottom of the outer pieces, backstitching at each end.  Do the same for the lining BUT make sure that you leave about a 3 inch opening in the middle so we can turn it right side out later.  Here's where we should be:

Notice the turning gap at the top.  Make sure you clip your corners, but don't cut into the stitching "corner."  This cuts down the bulk for nice neat corners.

Still there? Hang tight, we're almost done.  Reach up into that gap you left and pull the outer part all the way through (that's why we left the zipper open).  It may be a little tight so just be careful not to burst your stitching.  It will wiggle through, though. 

They call this "birthing the bag" with good reason...first because it makes you wonder how you're getting so much fabric out of an opening so small...and second because when it's a bigger bag and you stick your hand way in to do this, see where I'm going.

There are a few ways to do the next step.  You need to make sure your corners are nice and corner-y; you can reach inside the gap and use a point poker thingee or a bodkin, or use a plain old pin to tease the corners out.  You can see all three in the photo below.

Nice square corners give it a much better look than stuck inside corners.

Right now I like to press so that everything is nice and neat.  Then, fold in the edges of the opening we left so that the raw edges are inside.  If you like to handstitch, stitch it closed now.  I like to pop it into my machine and sew close to the edge.

Handstitching is neater, but I'm not good at handstitching, so I use my machine.

Gently shove the lining back down into the coin purse.  Poke the corners into place.  Wiggle your fingers up near the corners where the zipper is and poke those out as well.  They may need a bit more convincing because they're bulkier; just show them who is in charge.

Say night-night.  Tuck in the lining and neaten it up.

Zip 'er shut, give it a pressy-press, and say ta-da!  Because that's it. Stick a fork in you - you're done!

This simple little project is one of my favorite things to make. You can make them plain or simple, cutesy or pretty, whatever.  And you can make one to match the size of whatever you're going to use it for - makeup brushes, crochet hooks, pencil cases, cards and cash, lipstick and a mirror, whatever you fancy.  And with a gift card tucked inside they can make a unique and fun little gift.

I hope that was simple to follow and helpful to you.  Sometimes it helps to see something written in a different way than the information that's already available.

Now go make yourself a cup of whatever and enjoy your new zippered purse.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

I win. So there.

I done did gots me groove back, I think....

I remembered I never posted a pic of the bag I made with the zipper closure where I had to actually take the zipper apart and then reassemble it.  So here she is:
The pleated bag and a closeup of the zipper that tried to kill me :)

I really like the look of this one--very clean and straight.  But I don't care for the edges that are unsecured--it doesn't work for me and the way I open my bag.  I was a doofus and didn't leave enough length for my strap, so it's a little shorter than I usually make, but it's definitely workable.  It's not my favorite, but it looks sweet and I love the fabric (much rosier looking than my photos show).  I'm going to pop it in the shop--she'd make a cute little summery bag.

Second: I made this little change purse this weekend for a future Broadway star.  Seriously. She's a great singer with a bubbly personality - she'll be fun to see on stage one day.  She's only fourteen, so there's a bit of a wait...but one day...
There's a tutorial on this coming soon...

And finally, the bag for which I've been having zipper adventures and driving myself crazy. Da-da-da-DA-da-DA!
This is the Highbrow Hobo bag, pattern by Lisa Lam at u-handbag.

Nifty gold rectangular rings and a shot of my zipper...the best one yet.  Apparently there's something to this whole "take your time" business.

Her bottom has a nice pretty curve to it...just like mine. HAHA. Naughty...

I had previously made one in chocolate brown and aqua, but it had a snap closure.  This bag is adorable, but it looks even better when it has stuff in it.  I don't know why that's so...maybe because it's fulfilling its handbag destiny.  I hope the woman I made it for is pleased.  She wanted something kind of Asian-inspired, kind of Vera Bradley-inspired, but not fully either one and not obnoxious.  Oy.  I hope this fits the bill for her because I'm pleased as punch with it.  I have two other fabric combos to make this bag out of, and now I'm kind of excited about it.  Who knew a zipper could sap your mental energy and make you shy away from something you love?  But after two weeks of trial and error, of searching and sketching, I've got it right where I want it and it's working for me.  Take that, recessed zipper.  You're really not that tough. 
OK...I'm off to knit a bit and catch up on the Olympics.  I love the Olympics.  See you all on the flip side!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Apron strings can be used for other things than what they're meant for... **

My mother sent me an email of the below, and I thought it was so nice that I'd share it here.

"Remember making an apron in Home-Ec?

I don't think our kids know what an apron is. The principal use of Grandma's apron was to protect the dress underneath because she only had a few--it was easier to wash aprons than dresses and they used less material. But along with that, it served as a potholder for removing hot pans from the oven. It was wonderful for drying children's tears, and on occasion was even used for cleaning out dirty ears. From the chicken coop, the apron was used for carrying eggs, fussy chicks, and sometimes half-hatched eggs to be finished in the warming oven. When company came, those aprons were ideal hiding places for shy kids.  And when the weather was cold grandma wrapped it around her arms. Those big old aprons wiped many a perspiring brow bent over the hot wood stove. Chips and kindling wood were brought into the kitchen in that apron. From the garden, it carried all sorts of vegetables. After the peas had been shelled, it carried out the hulls. In autumn, the apron was used to bring in apples that had fallen from the trees.  When unexpected company drove up the road, it was surprising how much furniture that old apron could dust in a matter of seconds. When dinner was ready, Grandma walked out onto the porch, waved her apron, and the menfolk knew it was time to come in from the paddocks for dinner. It will be a long time before someone invents something that will replace that 'old-time apron' that served so many purposes.  They would go crazy today trying to figure out how many germs were on that apron. I never caught anything from an apron but love."

Caroline Ingalls, Olivia and Grandma Walton, Lucy Ricardo, and Alice--these ladies were rarely without that essential accessory.

I'm not sure what you'd wear these for nowadays unless it was part of a costume (for sale at Artfire).

These hostess aprons are actually kind of sexy and dressy looking (if those terms can indeed be used in the same sentence as the word apron)--these are also for sale at Artfire.

Today's aprons are used by crafters and gardeners to keep the essentials close at hand.  They're not the nose-wiping egg carriers they used to be (again--Artfire).

I'm not too young to remember the apron.  My mother used to tie one around us kids to use as a huuuuuuuuge bib (that we didn't really recognize as being one because babies wore bibs).  I remember a dark denim and red bandana fabric apron with little pockets that I wore when I played "waitress."  My brother had one that he wore when he was "helping" my dad in his workroom.  And when we were allowed to help in the kitchen, it was a symbol that we were being taken seriously as the chef's assistant (never mind that the chef never wore one).  My mother still has a few aprons that my grandmother made long ago.  They're simple little affairs, and pretty threadbare at this point.  But she keeps them tucked away in a drawer, just in case aprons make a comeback.  Everything old becomes new again at some point; maybe one day the beloved old apron will fall into that category.

** Title comes from Everything but the Girl's song "Apron Strings."

Monday, February 8, 2010

Snowed In and Bowled Over

And now, I present to weekend.

It snowed a little bit....

Reminders of warmer days...

Is anything more perfectly suited for a snowy afternoon? I think not.

Watching a Saturday marathon of this old gal made me want to listen to old music...

What a handbag looks like before it's born...cutting this out is the worst part of the project.

When this grows up it's going to be a quilt of some sort...and oddly, cutting this out is kind of therapeutic.

Homemade jambalaya for Superbowl Sunday.

My favorite little guy turned 8...and what's a snowy Superbowl Sunday birthday cake without accompanying hot chocolate?

If you got hammered by this storm I hope you stayed warm and didn't injure anything essential while digging out.  We're preparing for another walloping here tomorrow night.  Funny how having to get to work takes some of the fun away from heaps of snow.  Maybe I'll get lucky and get to stay snuggled under the covers because work will be cancelled...a girl can dream.


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