Sewing up my Christmas List

The Christmas countdown seems to be in full swing in the shops. Which always makes me panic and want to get organised (unless you are my husband who will waits until 20th December). I feel pleased with myself this year for getting started early for once.

Last weekend I made the Christmas pudding and cake and had enough fruit left to make mincemeat too. Can’t wait to have my first mince pie made with it (but definitely not in October!).

So I’m feeling a bit less panicked. I’ve written some lists, we’ve negotiated with the family where we are spending Christmas Day AND I’ve done some sewing.

In my quest to conquer the ever-tricky zip pouch I decided that’s what everyone in my family is getting this year. I’ve made 3 and I have 4 more to go. I may do more if I don’t get too bored with them.

Each one I make I refine the process a bit more. Understand what to do to avoid those scrunched-up zip ends or ones where the lining is showing.

One of them required a whole half hour of unpicking (it was just about finished) when I realised the lining kept getting stuck in the zip. So lesson learnt!

My lovely friend Mary showed me how to make them a while back but as I’d forgotten, I also grabbed the chance to buy Elizabeth Hartman’s perfect zip bags pattern when it was on sale recently.

Elizabeth has lots of clever tips but also does some things which I haven’t bothered with again. So I do feel I am finding my own way.

I’m not sure why I’ve been so intent on mastering these, probably because they look so good when you do get them right and make such great presents.

Here’s what I’ve made so far for my kids. I’ve kept to basic shapes and single fabrics for ease and speed but there are lots of nice variations for scraps and pleats in the pattern.

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Perfect Patterns

I’ve not been hugely productive in the sewing department the last couple of weeks. Tinkering and playing with my new machine has distracted me from actually achieving much.

I have had another bag on the go though.

A while ago I saw that Elizabeth from Oh Fransson had a pattern sale (40% off don’t you know). so I wasted no time in buying her Perfect Quilted Tote and Perfect Zip Bag patterns (because everyone needs a good pattern for zip pouches).

I love the look of the quilted tote and I often find myself needing a nice shopping bag. Most of the jute shopping bags I own seem to have really long handles, so they end up dragging on the floor (I’m short, me). So I decided this would fill a gap in my bag collection.

Rather than doing the scrappy quilted panel as shown in the pattern I used two improv blocks I made recently in a fit of creativity. I loved making these blocks – diving into the scrap draw, no measuring needed. I’m not sure I quite nailed the vortex effect but I’m really pleased with them.

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Straying from the bag pattern meant some working out in order to get things in the right place. I really should have put my block further up so it  didn’t get so lost in the bottom of the bag (I have lots of annoying little issues with this bag – read on!) .

The pattern it’s self is great, very well laid out, clear photos and very good sewing instructions with a huge introduction about types of fabric to choose. My only niggle is the way it’s laid out – there are 2 styles of totes to make and I was making the second one on the pattern. The entire process of how to make the bag is only listed on the first tote, so I had to keep jumping back up to the first page to try and find the relevant bit and not get muddled between the two sizes.

It all came together really well.  I had a few tension teething troubles with my new machine, so my straight line quilting isn’t as nice as it could have been but I guess that’s the new machine learning curve for you.

Finally you sew a facing piece to finish off the top of the bag. This encases the handles and the rough edges of the body and lining. I got a bit cross with it all, as it was just plain fiddly and didn’t end up looking as good as other methods I’ve used. The facing piece does create a nice look though – if I could get it on with out lots of puckering!

The final instruction was to top stitch along the inside of the facing. This meant that these stitches then show on the outside – and mess up your carefully sewn quilting lines. This seems like a strange over-sight in an otherwise lovely pattern.

I considered stopping and switching to invisible thread for this (the pattern also suggests you can hand-stitch this final bit) but as it was 5.30pm on a Sunday night – dinner and homework were calling and I just hoped that somehow my top stitching would magically match up with my quilting lines. They didn’t! but it wasn’t bad.

It’s annoying to end a project feeling slightly frustrated with the finish. My inside pocket (which was a much easier slip-pocket than the paneled zip-affair in the pattern) was too high as well – because I forgot to factor in the facing around the top of the bag.

I spent the evening toying with the idea of taking it all apart and fixing the pocket and re-sewing the facing but decided that it was better just to move on. After all one of it’s potential uses is for carting stuff around on the school run . So really no need to be perfect. But perfect is nice sometimes isn’t it?

I must move on to some Christmas gift sewing and to tackle some of those ‘Perfect’ Zip bags I mentioned earlier.

Here’s my bag in action on the school run this morning.

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My Brother and I

Over the last couple of months I been pondering and planning a new sewing machine purchase. Last week I finally took the plunge and now I’m the proud owner of this beast!

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Just today I was wondering how I’d managed to have overlooked the important job of blogging about it. Almost as soon as I had that thought I read that Sew Mama Sew were hosting a mass-machine review. So I’m linking up with lots of others to talk about what we love (and hate?) about our sewing machines!

What brand and model do you have?
Brother Innovis 350 Special Edition

How long have you had it?
About 2 weeks!

How much does that machine cost (approximately)?
£600 (inc quilting kit)

What types of things do you sew (i.e. quilting, clothing, handbags, home dec projects, etc.)?
Quilts, bags, gifts

How much do you sew? How much wear and tear does the machine get?
I usually sew about 3 times a week I guess, so it gets medium usage.

Do you like/love/hate your machine? Are you ambivalent? Passionate? Does she have a name?
I love my machine! It’s still very new. It’s bigger and more technical than my old machine. 

What features does your machine have that work well for you?
It has lots of labour saving gadgets, (auto thread cutter, auto needle threader, auto reinforcement stitch & a knee lift). It came with lots a quilting accessories like an extension table, free-motion, walking and 1/4″ foot.
The knee lift is brilliant, never thought I’d use one and didn’t realise it was a feature of this machine, so it was a nice surprise. It’s super-useful. It has a larger throat plate space than some in the same price bracket) which makes quilting easier.

Is there anything that drives you nuts about your machine?
Not too much yet. One annoying thing I’ve found is that when I put on the 1/4″ seam foot I have to remember to change the needle position before I sew or the needle hits the foot and snaps. I’ve done it once and I’m sure I’ll do it again!

Would you recommend the machine to others? Why?
Yes! Great features for the money but depends what you are after.

What factors do you think are important to consider when looking for a new machine?
What about you old/current machine would you like to improve? Is this a stepping stone or your forever machine? How much money do you have to spend? What features would you like/need/not fussed about. Go to an independent retailer with a show room. Try out everything in your price range. Buy from them even if there are better deals online, it’s worth having the backup down the road. Go to a sewing show to see lots of models. I wasn’t planning to get a Brother, so I was surprised to like it so much. Look for the wow factor if this is your forever machine, you want it to make you go Oooo!

Do you have a dream machine?
I guess a bigger long-arm machine if I stated making a lot of quilts but this one is pretty much a forever purchase so I won’t be looking to upgrade any time soon!

Stillness

Stillness isn’t something often found in my life (apart from when I’m asleep). I’m not good at doing nothing – I’m writing this in the checkout que at the supermarket.  Convenient as it is to have everything at our finger tips , I’m not sure  – well, I KNOW it doesn’t help with the frantic pace of life.

This weekend my husband and I went on a retreat. The focus was on stillness, meditation and yoga. There was also a lot of good food, good company in wonderful surroundings.

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I really enjoyed finding some calm and thinking about how to carve out still-spaces each day. Stillness doesn’t need to be silence, nor does it need to be motionless. I could be enjoying some stillness here in the checkout que. Taking some deep breaths, standing a little taller, feeling a little calmer. Remembering what’s important and perhaps becoming more patient and generous as a result. I’m not sure that will happen all the time but it’s good to make some small steps.
Of course there is a little sewing story in here too. A lovely lady called Helen lent us a yoga mat for the weekend and before I took it back I gave it a bit of a make over.

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Small Blog Meet Up

Lily's Quilts

Lynne over at Lilly’s Quilts is hosting a meet up for small bloggers…at 5″ 2 I am quite a small blogger – but also my blog is quite small. I started out on Tumblr as a way of documenting  what I was sewing. Slowly I’ve been drawn into the sewing blogosphere! I really got keen after meeting so many others at the Fat Quarterly retreat. I tend to blog when I’ve got some thing sewing related to share. I’m looking forward to linking some other small blog people.  If you are visiting from Lynne’s meet up – welcome have a look around! There are links to Bloglovin and Instagram (which I love) on the left.