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! 

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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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Across the Pond

I am just back from a wonderful week in Canada visiting two fabulous friends.  Naturally I took a few handmade gifts with me…

Firstly for Rachael and her daughter Amelie these Noodle head zip pouches – which I’ve made a few of in the past. They got filled with goodies from England (they moved to Canada 6 years ago). I couldn’t quite fit in the giant jar of Marmite I took for them.

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Next I went to stay with my Canadian friend Ellen. We’ve known each other for nearly 20 years. As its been 10 years since my last visit, I decided her 40th birthday was enough of an excuse for another trip.

For her birthday I made a paper pieced table runner. The inspiration for which came from a blog called Wombat Quilts. I love Cath’s quilts and she has tons of free patterns. I was quite glad I didn’t attempt a whole quilt – paper piecing is hard work.

Here are some photos I took before I left and one of it in situ on Ellen’s coffee table. Her husband Marc was very helpful and sent me photos of the living room and measurement of the coffee table. As you can see it fits and it looks great.

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Lastly I made some more zip pouches for  Ellen’s children Cohen and Ingrid, filled with some classic British sweets.

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It was a fabulous trip and I had so much fun with my lovely friends, I was spoilt rotten with lovely food, wine, coffee and trips out to do things and visit people – and it snowed!!!

It wouldn’t have been possible with out my husband at home holding the fort during half term, (whilst juggling work!) and my mum for helping out as well.

It’s good to get away and remember who you are and who you were before you became a wife and mother. Going away always gives me a fresh perspective on life and a new appreciation of home and family. I have remembered how boring it is to travel a long way on your own – give me some squabbling children any day!

Rachael and I. Ellen and I.

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Zip-topia

For ages I’ve been meaning to try out the Noodlehead Open Wide Zippered Pouch (it’s a free tutorial!). I spent the end of last year making it my mission to get to grips with zips. While installing a zip is now pretty straight forward, I never really got the zip ends quite as good as I’d like. Sometimes they were great, other times terrible. This brilliant pouch means no tricky zip ends – hooray!!

I made the first one for a birthday party we were going to, then proceeded to make a whole bunch for end of term teacher presents. Then (as I was on a roll) made a couple for some friends I did a charity bike ride with. Hence the fabulous bike fabric. If you struggle with zips I do encourage you to have a go they really are a lovely easy make!

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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!)

Hands-free Summer

I am rather partial to a new bag and as the summer holidays drew closer I realised that my favourite shoulder bags will be just plain annoying when trying to heard children around.

So I’ve had a plan (for a while) to make this fab cross-the-body bag by Noodlehead. Now this got a bit waylaid by my quilt making (and life in general). In the meantime Mary and Susy made their own versions. Being a competitive sort, this of course spurred me on!

Today after a trip to the fabric shop to buy a zip (and a visit to Mary to scrounge the strap buckle) it’s done.

I finished it minutes before I had to leave for the school pick-up. Anyone with children will know that as soon as they get home you can kiss goodbye to the idea of finishing anything!

Here it is in the very photogenic apple tree.

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