Crazy for Sewing

I’m so thoroughly enjoying my latest sewing projects. It has been a very busy week-and-a-half and I was ready to catch up on some sewing this weekend. Today also happens to be my birthday and my dear husband gave me the day off, which I spent sewing up a new project I’ve been dying to try.

Before I get to my recent batch of projects, a little while ago I made another Essential Wristlet from Dog Under My Desk (the first one I made was for my daughter). I loved this Chinese lantern fabric, and I paired it up with a yellow and red small print fabric.

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I’ve been using it for my chequebook and some small knitting supplies (stitch markers, cable needles; the knitting itself I carry in my drawstring bag but the little items get lost in there).

While I was busy with back-to-back work assignments, I took mental breaks by browsing around the Dog Under My Desk site thinking about which projects I wanted to try next (I’m a bit obsessed with her stuff right now). Aside from the amazing full patterns she sells, she has a number of tutorials on her site. This one, for the Neat and Tidy zippered pouches, caught my eye because she had mentioned that she uses them for small items in her purse, which not only makes them easier to find but allows her to switch purses much more easily. I thought this was an excellent idea.

See, I  carry around a large, sturdy woven basket as a purse. It looks kind of like this one:

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I love it, especially because it stands up when I put it down and it holds a lot. I can fit in my knitting, a book, snacks for the kids, wet wipes, and water bottles. But smaller things tend to get lost in there. Plus, sometimes I don’t need to bring all that stuff with me, and it would be handy if I could easily switch to a smaller bag when needed. Speaking of which, it would be nice to have a smaller bag!

So when I finally got some sewing time, I made this zippered pouch, which I am now using to carry my lip balms (I have some Burts Bees lip shimmers in different shades and my go-to vanilla mint lip balm). It measures 4″ x 6″. I’m dying to make more of these – one for my headphones, another for cards I don’t use often, etc.

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Then I decided to try making a messenger bag. I intended to make one for Miss Em but I thought I’d try one for myself first using some fabric I already had. The pattern was a freebie from No Time to Sew (rumour has it that Dog Under My Desk is working on a messenger bag pattern – stay tuned!). It worked out fine – and I was especially proud of all the pockets – but when I tried to use the bag I found that it didn’t work very well for me. It’s too floppy (my local fabric store doesn’t carry any name brand interfacing so I’m left to guess what will work best) and the flap just seemed to get in my way.

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After that I made another drawstring bag. I’m loving the one I already have, and have wished a few times that I had more. The first one was about 7″ W x 10″ T. This one was 9″ W x 12″ T. I have more of these planned – they’re proving to be very handy.

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Finally, for my birthday sewing project today I made the Zip And Go bag from Dog Under My Desk. When I run into a store, like the bagel shop or the grocery store, I really just need my wallet and phone. This is the perfect bag for that. I can carry it around in my basket, then pop my wallet and phone in it, put it over my shoulder, and enjoy some hands-free shopping. (The need for such a thing became particularly apparent to me over Christmas when I unknowingly dropped my wallet, which I was carrying under my arm as I juggled some bagels, and left it in the parking lot. Thankfully, a good samaritan found it and brought it to the police station where I later picked it up with great relief and gratitude).

I’m really happy with how it turned out. Once again, Erin outdid herself with an excellent pattern that was easy to follow and very fun to make. I feel very accomplished being able to churn out such pretty and practical things with my sewing machine! It holds my wallet and phone perfectly, and I actually can’t wait to go grocery shopping tomorrow!

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Now that I’ve discovered I don’t really like the flap-style messenger bag for a purse (I think Miss Em will, though), I’m more convinced than ever to make the Daytripper bag. I think the gusseted zipper is just what I need in a bag.

First, however, I have purchased the Bigger on the Inside drawstring backpack pattern to make a bag for each of the kids. When we go out the kids often have a bunch of things they want to bring into the car – iPads, 3DS games, chargers, etc. – and I end up giving them my cloth grocery bags. They aren’t built to be carried around easily and they end up elsewhere when I get to the grocery store. I thought it would be nice to give them each a bag. The local fabric store had a huge sale last weekend and I picked up some great fabric. Stay tuned for pictures!

Holiday Crafting

We’ve taken about two weeks off for the holidays, and other than a whirlwind 3-day tour of the various grandparents’ homes, we are staying put and enjoying long, slow days with nothing planned. I have been using the time to indulge myself in various projects.

Before I get to the photos, I have to point out that my “camera” is actually a crappy old cell phone (RIP Nexus 4, which suffered an untimely death 3 weeks after I got it). The colours don’t do any justice to the pieces, so you’ll just have to imagine them brighter and bolder!

I managed to whip up a couple of gifts before Xmas. The first was a quilted wine bottle tote for my mother. Mum loves her wine, and she enjoys bringing bottles when she visits with her friends. This handy tote will allow her to carry her bottles in style, and the handle ensures they won’t be dropped. I used this tutorial from Needle and Spatula.

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I also made a set of Xmas-themed potholders for my Mother-in-Law. These mini tumblers were too cute to resist. If I’m going to make any more of these, however, I think I’ll treat myself to a tumbler ruler to make the cutting job go faster. I used this pattern from Fons and Porter. Honestly, I regret paying over $7 (it was in US funds) for such a simple pattern: I just needed to know the dimensions of the tumbler and from that point on I could have done it myself. But it was so close to Christmas and I panicked. I felt a bit better when I realized the pattern was made by Jenny Doan of Missouri Star Quilt Company, who is also a Craftsy instructor, and one of my early inspirations for quilting (they have great instructional YouTube videos for quilting from pre-cuts).

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That was all I managed to get done before we left for Xmas visiting and gift-giving. Our “big” gifts for the grandparents (we have three sets of them) were framed family photos. We did a professional family photo shoot and had them printed up. It has been years since anybody has had shots of the whole family, or good shots of the kids (both smiling, no goofy faces, everyone in focus). They were much appreciated.

Coming home it was wonderful to know I had 10 days of NOTHING ahead of me. No plans, nowhere to go, nobody to drive around. Just pure, stay-home, indulgence. We’re a family of homebodies so to us, this is a great way to spend the holidays. Me, I’m using it to indulge in lots of sewing projects and finally cross some of them off my “wish” list.

I’m super proud of this one: it’s a zippered pouch with an inside pocket and detachable strap for Miss Em. She loves to ride her bike to the store 2 km away, buy some treats, and check our mailbox (we have a rural mailbox; it does not get delivered to our home). I give her my cell phone in case she needs to call. She used to put it all in a plastic ziploc bag, but now she has this lovely pouch that she can attach to her bike basket so it doesn’t fall out.

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I got the pattern from Dog Under My Desk. At first I had planned to just make something using a freebie pattern, but when I saw her Essential Wristlet I knew this was what I wanted to make. I have to say it was excellent and worth every penny. Wonderful illustrations and very clear instructions made the whole process smooth and frustration-free. I am so happy with how it turned out – it looks great and Miss Em was so happy with it. Needless to say I’m spending some of my own Xmas money on fabric to make a few more of these.

Another project I’ve been wanting to try is this Drawstring Bag tutorial from In Color Order. I often need a bag for bringing my knitting along with me, tossing in some fabric scraps and bobbins to match thread at the fabric store, or any other little bunch of things that need a bag. It’s so much nicer than using plastic and these can easily be made in any size.

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The instructions were clear and easy to follow (and free!) but it’s a very simple project so even a total beginner should have little trouble with it. This would make a lovely (and useful) gift wrap as part of a present for someone. It’s a great way to use up orphaned fabric, too. I’m going to make some bigger ones for putting laundry in when travelling (not that I do much of that), storing excess fabric, and anywhere else I currently have plastic bags in use.

The next project I want to try is making fabric baskets. I have found a number of tutorials online and am looking forward to having some lovely storage options around. I’ve just purchase a very inexpensive shelving unit for the bedroom to deal with the overflow of sewing and quilting supplies, and having some pretty fabric baskets to store things in would look so much nicer than a jumble of plastic bags.

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I can’t find a pattern or tutorial for these, but after I’ve done a few simpler ones I think I could pull off something like this.

I’m really enjoying sewing functional items that I can whip up in a day, that use relatively little fabric (unlike quilts), and don’t need to be stored in a trunk or hung on a wall. But rest assured, I’m not done with quilting. I ordered a bunch of wonderful patterns and when they arrive I will get started on them. One thing about small sewing projects: I find them hard to put down so I need a fair amount of free time to make them. Quilting is easier when time is short because it’s done in small steps anyway.

Enjoy the holidays!

 

The Joys of Hand Quilting

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When I first became interested in quilting it was the hand-sewing aspect that turned me off. While I admired the patterns and fabrics used in quilts, the idea of all that hand-sewing made me feel it was something I would never really have the patience for. Luckily, I discovered machine quilting and it gave me the courage to try this wonderful craft.

I’m loving the creativity of quilting and all the many techniques that can be used. This is a good thing because I’ve found that with each new project I want to tackle a new skill. I went from a very simple pattern with My First Quilt to an improvisational pattern with my South Pacific quilt. I learned machine-finished applique for the Star of David quilt. My current project, a bed quilt for my daughter, gave me a chance to try English Paper Piecing – I made hexies!

Hexies for Miss Em's quilt.

Hexies for Miss Em’s quilt.

It was while I was making the hexies that I discovered the joy of handwork. I loved that I could sit in front of the TV in the evenings and watch shows or Netflix while I was sewing. While my machine is in the same room as the TV, the noise makes it difficult to hear the show, for me and other family members. So if I was really interested in following the show, I couldn’t use my machine at the same time.

On another occasion, it was raining and I was sitting on the sofa doing some paper piecing. I loved the peacefulness of hand sewing while listening to the rain falling on the roof. There is so much noise in the world and sometimes you just want to do something quiet. Now, I do have my knitting, which I often do in front of the TV, but sometimes it requires a bit more mental focus, like if I’m working a complicated pattern, counting rows, or making cables, for example. Basic hand sewing is fairly mindless, in a zen kind of way and also, if I’m doing this for a while, it helps to have different things to work on so your hands don’t cramp or get injured from repetitive strain – mixing up sewing, quilting, and knitting during a long movie or a few episodes of binge watching is like cross-training for artists!

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Anyways, I became hooked and soon I was hunting around the web for inspiration for other paper piecing projects. Well it didn’t take long for me to realize that hand quilting might be just as much fun. I immediately came up with a small project idea that could incorporate both paper piecing and hand quilting: dresden plate potholders. With Christmas just around the corner (from a crafting perspective) I decided they would be a gift for my Mother-in-law. Just the excuse I needed to buy fabric and supplies!

Example of a dresden plate block.

Example of a dresden plate block.

The next chance I got, I headed down to my fave fabric/quilting store and picked up a small, cheap hoop, some quilting needles, a thimble, and hand quilting thread (it’s lightly waxed). I also bought two charm packs from Moda: Esprit de Noel is a lovely, old-fashioned series that I thought my Mother-in-law would like; the more modern In From the Cold series combines beautiful greys with greens and blues – I like it so much I’m going to make myself something from it.

Esprit de Noel, by Moda

Esprit de Noel, by Moda

In From the Cold, by Moda

In From the Cold, by Moda

Back at home, I couldn’t wait to start practising hand quilting. A oncoming cold gave me the excuse I needed to put aside housework and lay down on the sofa with some tea, a good movie, and my hand quilting supplies. I’d watched several YouTube videos and I thought that the Thimble Lady’s technique made the most sense – I was not satisfied that I needed to poke my fingers and sacrifice my skin for the sake of my craft! However, I just couldn’t get the hang of it, perhaps because I lacked the specialized thimble she uses, or just that I had zero experience with hand quilting (or hand sewing for that matter). I was starting to get a bit frustrated so I hunted around for some other videos and came across Sarah Fielke’s video for Craftsy. I found her method to be easier and her tip about not pushing on the needle before you make the “hill” with your thumb was key for me. Soon I was making straight lines with fairly evenly spaced stitches. Not bad for a beginner! I was hooked. But practising on a scrap square was not very satisfying. Time to start a real project!

I’m almost done paper piecing the dresden plate for MIL’s pot holders. I just need to applique the dresden and centre circle to the background fabric and I’ll be able to start quilting! I’m super excited and can’t wait to figure out what quilting designs I’m going to use.

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I’ve got lots of ideas for future projects, and since I’ve decided to focus more on small projects and art pieces for the next little while (bed quilts are expensive to make and I get tired of dealing with all that fabric after a while, plus I was recently inspired by a fabric arts showing at a local gallery – more on that in a later post), I’ll have many opportunities to practice hand quilting techniques. Between that, paper piecing, and hand applique I’ll have lots to tinker with as the season brings us back indoors.

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I made a Wallet!

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(Disclaimer: due to a recent cell phone disaster I’m resorting to an antique phone with a crappy camera: the photos really don’t do these fabrics justice!)

I’ve had my lovely Pfaff Ambition 1.0 sewing machine for about a year now. I’ve made a few quilts here and there, but I really hadn’t planned on doing much non-quilt-related sewing. Sewing was never really my thing, you see (who knew a 45 year old woman could still discover new things about herself?).

Anyways, I’d been thinking for some time about getting a new wallet—my old one is going on 10 years now—but didn’t want to spend money on something so frivolous. I saw some cute wallets in a chain store a couple of months ago and thought “hey, I bet I could sew something like that!”. I consulted the Mighty Google, who led me to the Color Me Domestic blog and a post about a fabric DIY Wallet. Inspired by the beautiful fabric combination she used, I decided to try one for myself. The pattern was mostly based on a tutorial from All Wrapped Up, but I liked what Color Me did with it, and so I based mine on that.

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Back of wallet when closed.

 

I had a great time at my local fabric store looking through their box of fat quarters and trying to find a set of three fabrics that looked great together. I wanted something with a slight oriental feel to it and I was really happy with the fabrics I chose (that stripe across the back is also the inside liner fabric). The total cost was less than $15.

Thanks to Color Me’s suggestions, I increased the size of the flap closure and have had no problems with curling at the edges. I also decided to switch the inside bits around so that the zipper enclosure was at the top and I could access my money without having to fully open the bottom flap. I switched the orientation of the bottom section so that it was upright when fully opened. Finally, I added a liner to both sides of the pockets (there is a pocket behind the zipper and another behind the bottom credit card holder) using the same fabric that lines the inside of the wallet.

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I am so proud of this wallet! It’s definitely not perfect, but it is the first real sewing project I’ve ever done, and it is something practical that I use virtually every day. It is far prettier than anything I could have bought (especially for $15!), and the satisfaction of knowing I made it myself makes up for any imperfections in stitching, or the fact that my zipper occasionally gets stuck because I didn’t sew the inside seams close enough to the edge.

While I enjoy making pretty things, making pretty things that are super useful is just that much more satisfying!