A May Birthday 

This month my lovely daughter turned 12. For one of her presents she asked me to make her a bag, which I was thrilled about. It’s a delicate age, it’s hard to know if she will love or hate things. She chose the Noodlehead sidekick tote and some lovely fabric….. It’s a bag I’ve made a couple of times before and again it came together really well. I used the neon pink text print inside and around the zip. The outside was a denim from my local fabric shop turned inside out for a more faded look. She’s really pleased with it and it’s been used for most of half term so far. 

     

  I also secretly finished off my half of the jelly roll jam quilt project we started together AGES ago! She finished hers last autum but my quilt top lay around until the self imposed deadline of her birthday got me motivated. She was thrilled to see it finished and even more thrilled to see it was going to be a gift for her.  Here it is in her room.
   Birthday season is over here until November. My youngest son has already put in a quilt request! 

Super Tote #2

Last summer I tackled a bag pattern called the Super Tote by Anna at Noodle-head. Her bag patterns are fab and I’ve made most of them over the last 3 years of sewing.

I had a little trouble with my bag which I moaned about at the time. Despite it being a tricky make and me making a bit of a pigs ear of making it, I did use it all summer.

So as winter approached I threw it in the wash and unfortunately it went in with something very blue….which sadly ran into the lovely yellow of my bag – making it a kind of muddy grungy green colour. Very sad. I tried lots of colour run removal washes and in the end decided on some weak bleach to try and lift the colour out. This did help a bit but it just doesn’t look very good any more.

So…..time for another Super Tote I thought. My sew-jo has been flowing well over Christmas so just after new year I thought I’d give it a try.

The fabric I used was all from my stash. The main body is inside-out denim (left over from my Dad’s apron and my ovenglove-a-thon) with some lighter denim for the straps and zip bits. I cut into a very precious fat quarter of Kokka linen for the main pocket.

Here are some of the things I did differently this time: (skip this bit if you aren’t intending to sew one!)

* read the pattern properly! last time I didn’t realise I had to stitch the straps to the top of the bag outer, which meant it was all a funny shape and flopped over. In my defence it’s easy to miss this bit in the instructions.

*I chose the same fabric for the bag outer all the way up (and behind the straps) – last time I had 2 different fabrics, which meant when the bag was picked up you could see the different fabric poking out from behind the outer pocket.

*I did a front pocket with a facing piece rather than a fully lined pocket and I added piping this time, which I love the look of. For some inspiring piping see Mary’s Super Tote

*I added a zip pocket inside the front pocket (confused!?). I used the front pocket a lot for my phone last time but found the little slip pocket that I added was too high up and when I bent over my phone fell out! So this time it’s nice and secure and it’s a lovely text-print lining.

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*I added a zip pocket inside the main lining. Again I didn’t bother with the elasticated pockets as per the pattern, as I knew it would be very unlikely that I’d take the time to put things in the right places. As it’s a big bag I decided that one pocket would be useful for lip-balms and other small items to cut down on rummaging time.

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*when attaching the gusset I clipped the curve on both pieces of fabric – the gusset and main lining piece, this made it WAY easier to attach. Last time I just clipped the straight piece.

*I interfaced the main bag body and straps with fusible fleece. This was quite bulky to sew but gave a much better and more sturdy finish than the woven interfacing I used last time. Its a heavy bag and it needs a lot of structure to make the shape work.

So in conclusion – it’s worth having another go at a tricky pattern. I totally love and am very happy with this one. Here are some photos.

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Summer’s End

We’ve had a very busy but very fun summer. The last 6 weeks have gone in a flash, which is rather sad really. Here we are on the last day of our holiday in France.

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Our eldest starts high school today, it feels like a huge step towards teenage-hood. She requested a new pencil case earlier this week and rather than buy some plastic tat I asked if she wanted me to make one.

We decided on a boxy pouch with lots of space for a calculator and geometry set (I had to look up what that was because i couldn’t remember!). She chose some of this Road 51 bundle that I bought recently

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I decided to go the extra mile and make some quilt as you go panels for the body of the pouch. There is a great tutorial on QAYG here

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The boxy pouch was a surprisingly easy make. I used the tutorial from pink stitches blog.
A very pleasing make:

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And a happy excited daughter

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A commission

Just before I escape on my hols , I want to share my first ever paid for sewing project.

A friend wanted a storage bag for a mattress topper in her camper van. As soon as people know you can sew you get all kinds of requests. I was finally persuaded after a few glasses on wine on a night out.

I followed the same principle as my drawstring yoga mat bag, just a lot bigger and with a long oval bottom. My friend was thrilled with it, most importantly the mattress topper fits perfectly.

I used some ikea curtain off cuts (handily made use of the ready hemmed bits) the green is home decor fabric. I did lots of reinforced hems as this will be dealing with lots of weight and lots of use. Fingers crossed it’s up to the challenge.

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A Sewing Personal Best

I’ve been meaning to make a new beach bag since last summer and finally with the impending school break and a holiday booked, I got round to it.

Our old bag (shown below) was bought in a French supermarket many moons ago so definitely time for an upgrade.

I thought about buying a beach bag pattern I’d seen doing the rounds but with a long list of dressmaking patterns I’d like to buy, I decided I could manage without.

I used the old bag as my size guide and dug out this lovely ikea bird fabric, which is a nice home decor weight.

The handles were the ones from my Supertote which I made too short and I used Lisa Lam’s very nice clear zip pocket tutorial.

This was a super-fast make I think I started late morning and it was all done by school pick up (I’m not the speediest sewist!) and more amazing than anything I didn’t pick up my seam ripper once! That really is a first.

It’s huge with plenty of room for all our beach clobber. I’m looking forward to trying it out very soon as we are counting down the days until the end of term now!

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Troublesome Tote

I’ve just finished making the Super Tote bag by Anna at Noodlehead. I’ve made a number of her bags in the past (The Go Anywhere bag and a couple of Sidekick Totes here and here). I bought the Supertote pattern AGES ago when there was a bit of a sale on and not having made a bag for nearly a year I thought I’d finally give it a go. I spent a while browsing other peoples efforts and read a few reviews, which gave me some helpful pointers about inside pockets and fabric choices.

As a lot of people say, it’s not a quick make, there are some fiddly bits like getting the gusset pinned and stitched in on both the outer and lining. If you have a bit of bag making experience under your belt it’s a pretty straight forward make.

…Except…. I had a few of my own troubles with this bag.  Some were my own doing – like miscalculating the handle length (remember they don’t start at the top of the bag!). Other problems….well, who knows….

My first irritation was that the front pocket didn’t quite cover the green lining fabric underneath (see photo below). This is because I opted to make the lined pocket and sewing outer and lining together means you loose a little length on the pocket. This just bugged me. So I unpicked the binding (which I did instead of piping) interfaced it and stitched it so it sat higher up.  There was no way I was unpicking all that curved gusset again! Fixed ( or so I thought).

 

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Secondly…I was rather disappointed that the recessed zip pieces were left with raw edges on the inside of the bag. I would like to have seen these with a double fold, so at least they didn’t look so scruffy. They are inside but actually you see then quite a lot when the zip section flops about., next time I would cut these pieces a bit longer so that I can fold them neatly under

So onto my next point and I only realised this when I was finished. The zip part (which I made from heavy denim – so could have been part of the problem) is all very loose and floppy. The zip tab ends fall down inside the bag making it a real fiddle to open and close the bag. I really wasn’t happy with the final finish and after wrangling over it for nearly a week (on and off) I was a bit miffed to say the least. Not one to admit defeat, after sleeping on it I came up with a solution…..

I put an extra line of stitches along the recessed zipper (see photos below)  this made everything much more secure and helped the zip sit much higher in the bag. I thought it might stop the top section of the bag from being so floppy (another irritation after all that interfacing!)

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I also hand stitched my zip tabs into the bag lining, so they didn’t keep disappearing, this worked really well and I’m quite happy with the whole zip arrangement now.  A shorter zip might help this problem too.

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Do you remember me mentioning that front pocket binding and how I spent ages getting it to cover the green lining?  Well low and behold when you put stuff in your bag it all goes a bit pear shaped and all that hard work counts for nothing!  The photo below shows it in action -( it actually doesn’t look too bad in this photo but rest assured it is) –  can you see how the handles are pulling the green lining up and distorting it all?

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So what lesson can I take from this bag making adventure?  Don’t over cook the details on a bag you’ve not made before – it may all be for nothing if you don’t like the finished result!

All that said – I think I do like it, I LOVE the fabric and it’s really comfortable to carry and will be great for the summer holidays to lob stuff in. I’m just mightily disappointed at the loss of form and shape once it’s full of stuff. I certainly don’t remember seeing any photos on my search of flikr and pinterst that looked like my bag…so maybe I’m the only one.

I’d love to hear from anyone else who’s found this with their Super Tote.

Additional info November 2014: I realised after speaking to a friend who had also made a super tote, that I hadn’t attached my handles properly! They need to be stitched onto the top of the bag.

Somehow I missed this in the instructions.

Now I’ve done this the bag doesn’t flop around so much at the top and the zip section sits better without the need for the extra line of stitching I added.

Even with all mistakes I made with the pattern, I used it all summer and I will definitely be making another (following the inductions better this time!)

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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A New Side-Kick

As autumn rolls around suddenly I am itching to make a new bag. Last winters’ model was one of the first things I made and frankly, I can do better than that now! In July I made the side-kick tote – a pattern by Anna at Noodlehead. My summery one has been cleaned of sun cream and sea salt and retired for the winter.
Even with the kids back at school, I can’t get away from the fact that this bag is just so practical. It is extra-versatile in that it can both be a cross-body and shoulder bag. I now have a new side-kick in lovely muted colours.

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Snap Happy

My husband recently gave me a camera. He got it for work but decided it would get better use as a family camera. So I’ve been enjoying trying it out.  It’s a Samsung NX1100 smart camera, I really like it’s slightly retro styling and it seems easy to link to my phone to transfer photos – all the more It takes lovely pictures!

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I usually use my iPhone for photos, while this is great when you are out and about sometimes it’s nice to have something a bit more special.

Of course a new camera means I need something to carry it around in. I spent a while searching for the right thing to sew and eventually found a tutorial on Pinterest. It’s a bento lunch box bag and handily has a handle and drawstring, also lots of padding.

The tutorial wasn’t great. It looked great, clear photos, options for different sizes but some of the cutting info wasn’t correct and I had to do some improv when the instructions kind of dried up. I won’t name and shame, it’s probably a lot better than anything I could have written! But that’s sometimes what you get for using free tutorials online.

I put pockets inside for the flash and spare battery but because of the improv section, the pocket ended up being a long way down the lining and the lining rather baggy, so they don’t work all that well. Apart from that I’m really pleased with it.

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The final photo is taken with the camera. Next I think a nice fabric neck strap is in order!

Moneybags

Last sunday I got to go to the amazing Festival of Quilts in Birmingham with the lovely Mary, Emily and Susy (thanks again driver Emily!) we had a really fun day, though I’m quite ashamed to say that we didn’t actually start looking round the quilt exhibition until an hour before the end if the show (oooops). The quilts were amazing!

So, yes, we shopped and chatted and chatted and shopped. Mary was has an invaluable eye for a bargain.

During all this shopping I noticed Mary and Emily pulling out rather nice wallets from their (equally nice) bags. Mary had only just whipped hers up the night before. Then I spotted a piece of laminate in the sale box at The Eternal maker stand – a plan was hatched!

This was my first time sewing with laminate. It’s not as tricky as expected but you have to remember; you can’t pin it or iron it and if you make a mistake those needle holes are there for good.

My bit of laminate was only just big enough. It was a fiddly ‘mofo’ to make (no idea how Mary did hers in an evening!) and oh my sewing would go so much more smoothly if I read in instructions properly! Why does sewing seem to take me back to my school reports!?

I’m very pleased with the finished results. I did have visions of a mangled mess at some points. Here’s the link to the tutorial if you fancy giving it a go (not that I’ve really sold it!)

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