Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Linen patchwork tote with leather handles

The local public library carries a fantastic collection of sewing books, including the latest titles. So for the past few months I have been exposed to and absorbed the Japanese crafting aesthetic of linen and patchwork. I finally got around to making my version of a linen patchwork tote and I'm really happy with how it turned out.

There are a lot of things that I like about this bag: the patchwork uses up scraps from a previous quilting project so there is minimal waste. This also means that each side is unique and every bag will always be one of a kind. The leather handles are simple, but add to the overall design of intentional minimalism. The single rivets are also a fun design element. The bag itself is wonderfully slouchy, but still sturdy enough to hold some serious weight.

same bag, other side
The bag is lined with some heavier weight cotton than the traditional quilting cotton and finished with a magnetic snap and finished so that it could theoretically be turned inside out.

I see many more bags like this in my future.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Getting organized

Some people get inspired while in the shower; I get mine while idling in traffic. Ever since I started sewing and quilting, I have collected a lot of tools to install snaps, grommets, eyelets, etc. and those things have been sitting haphazardly in a shoebox. As of today, no longer.

While at Joann, I saw a bunch of vinyl pencil cases on sale for back to school preparation and I thought that they were cute, but that was it. But on the way home, I started thinking about how nice it would be to have a more organized method to store my tools and not just organize them, but to be able to see them too.

Need for organization + extra vinyl at home + vinyl pencil case = vinyl storage envelopes (eureka!)

Now my tools sit pretty in their home and it's easier to grab what I need.

Making them was super easy. Just cut the vinyl to size and sew up the sides. For a more aesthetically pleasing look, I rounded the flap corners. Sandwiching the vinyl between tissue paper prevented the envelope from getting stuck between the feed dogs and presser foot.

The most difficult part was installing the snaps. If anyone has an easy idea for installing those fiddly snaps, I'm all ears.

PSA: The best Japanese fabric store in Southern California, Momen +, is having a massive sale on Japanese and European fabric September 1-3. We're talking Heather Ross, Alexander Henry, Anna Maria Horner, Lecien, etc. The store is in Torrance and right next to a bakery.

Monday, August 22, 2011


A quilt in progress... I wanted to make my brother a baby quilt that he could gift to some very good friends of his. I fussy cut a fat quarter of some very cute cowboys and cows. Only a fat quarter does not a baby quilt make.

Pieced around the fussy cut blocks and made this quilt up as I went along, so putting this together is taking much, much longer than usual.

The key, I think, is keeping the color palette simple and neutral. That and lots of staring at the blocks and rearranging them over and over on the floor to group the blocks to tell a mini-story and also balance the arrangement of characters with the log cabin blocks and pinwheels.

And, of course, the baby's name to personalize this one-of-a-kind quilt. The back is finished in super soft minkee.

Update: My brother told me that when Cohen, who is 1 years-old, was given the quilt, he immediately hugged it and then put his face on it. Ahh. That makes my heart happy.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Behemoth Baby Bag

Friends commissioned me to make them a baby bag and I was happy to oblige.

The bag needed to be big enough to hold all the stuff necessary for a baby (which is a lot) and also have some room for their own things. This one finished at 16" x 12.5" x 5.5". The straps are adjustable so the bag can either be worn cross-body or over the shoulder. The bag also comes with stroller straps to hang the bag from the back of a stroller because this one will not fit easily beneath the stroller seat.

The bag needed to have lots of pockets. The back pocket is secured with a magnetic snap. The front pockets are open and pleated so that they can expand a little.

One of the side pockets is lined in flannel to hold sunglasses. The other side is elasticized to hold a bottle.

The inside is separated into two sections with a zippered divider. The side closest to the back can be used much like a regular purse: key fob, pocket zipper, open pocket, and not show in the picture, yet 3 more open pockets on the zippered divider to hold a pen, phone and tissues.

The other side is all elasticized pockets to hold diapers, changing pad, clothing, food, etc.

Even the flap has a pocket to hold papers or something small.

And some pouches to go with the bag to hold a quick change of diapers or something. I didn't use a pattern, but did look at a bunch of tutorials online for all kinds of bags and looked through some patterns on bag making to figure out construction, and looked at online descriptions of all kinds of bags to get a sense of what kind of details to include. A very fun challenge.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Sunglasses wristlet

After many years, my original sunglasses case completely fell apart. Rather than try and find a new hard case to fit the glasses, I made a wristlet that would hold the glasses plus a credit card and some cash.

This is perfect for walking around at lunch during work because then I don't have to carry a full wallet and can still switch out my regular glasses because coming out to enjoy the sun is a bit like being a mole. The sun can be so bright.

The lining is flannel to help protect the lenses.

The back has a simple pocket that can just fit a credit card and building key card.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Tutorial: Simple Lunch Tote

I ended up making some more of the lunch totes and took process pictures to create a free tutorial.

Here's how to make your own cute mini-tote.*:

*If you want to make your own tote, but a different size, I've tried to include my thought process to help you think through your own measurements..

Finished Dimensions: 7" x 8.25" x 3"

Materials Needed:
  • 22" x 12" duck canvas, canvas, or other sturdy fabric for the bag interior
  • 1 fat quarter for the bag exterior
    If your fabric has a pattern that runs vertically, but no distinguishable up or down pattern (e.g. stripes), you can cut the piece using the same patterns as your bag interior. Otherwise, you will need to cut two pieces that are each 10.75" wide x 11" tall.
  • Small grommets or large eyelets, plus a tool to help install the grommet or eyelet
  • 30" cord, like the nylon rope used to hang laundry outdoors
  • Scissors with a sharp, pointy end (like embroidery scissors)
  • Clear ruler
  • Rotary cutter
  • Cutting mat
  • Iron and ironing board
1. Cut your canvas bag lining.
In this case, I simply cut open the desired bag shape to use as a pattern and traced all around the resulting shape, adding a 1/2 inch seam allowance.

If I didn't have a bag as a ready-made pattern, I could use some basic math to figure out the correct pattern size. Example: the finished bag is 8.25" tall x 7" wide x 3" deep. So to get the length of the needed canvas, add two heights + depth + 1" seam allowance for each side.
8.25" + 8.25" + 3" + 1" + 1" = 21.5"

To get the width of the canvas, the widest part of the bag is 7", but the bag is also 3" deep. So add the width plus the depth plus the sewing seam allowance for each side.
7" + 3" + .5" + .5" = 11"

The middle part is actually the bottom of the bag, which is 3" deep and 7" wide. So add the seam allowance to your pattern.
7" + .5" + .5" = 8"

2. Sew the sides of the canvas bag lining.
Fold the resulting shape in half. Sew with a half inch seam allowance on only the sides of the folded piece.

3. Press open the seams on the canvas bag lining.
I just took the bag, opened it up and slid it over the narrower side of my ironing board so that the iron could glide over the seam. Opening the seams makes sewing your boxed corners much easier and neater and creates cleaner lines.

4. Sew your boxed corners.
When you pressed open your seams, your lining will naturally start creating a box shape. Help the shape along by lining up the center seam of your side panels with the center of the bottom.

Sew a half-inch seam allowance. If your sewing machine has one, use a triple stitch or other reinforcing stitch. Otherwise, just sew over the line a few times.

5. Cut your bag exterior.
Using the canvas lining as a starting point, fold the lining flat to figure out the length and width for the exterior fabric. 

Example: Once this particular shape was flattened, I could measure from the bottom of the lining to the top: 11".

And measuring from one side's seam allowance to the other: 10".

Because I wanted to use a fat quarter, I tried to get away with the smallest seam allowance possible - 1/4 inch - to figure out what size pieces I needed to cut. Thus, two pieces that are least 11.5" x 10.5". However, a 1/2 inch seam is more secure.

6. Sew your bag exterior.
Lay your pieces right sides together and sew the sides and bottom using your determined seam allowance (1/4 inch in this tutorial).

7. Box your corners for the bag exterior.
Having sewn all three sides to create a stable shape, this is when I like to create my boxed corners.

My bag is 3" deep, so to get the correct size boxed corner, divide the depth in half (1.5" in this example) and using scissors or a rotary cutter cut out a 1.5" square on each bottom corner.

Press open all your seams and sew your boxed corner just as you did for the canvas lining.

9. Fold over the top of your canvas lining.
Fold over the top of your canvas lining toward the wrong side of the fabric by about an inch on all sides. Press the fold flat.

Then as in the picture above, fold the lining flat to measure the distance from the bottom of the bag to your new top. In this case 10". You will need to fold the top of your exterior bag fabric so that it finishes at the same length.

10. Fold over the top of your exterior bag fabric.
Knowing that the lining and exterior bag fabric have to be the same length, I need to fold over the top just enough so that it finishes at the same size as the lining. Measure from the bottom seam allowance and then fold over the top by the right amount. Press the fold flat.

11. Insert the canvas lining right side up into the exterior bag fabric and pin together.
Press flat the boxed corner for the exterior bag fabric. For the lining, press the boxed corners toward the bottom of the bag. Line up the center of the seams of the lining with the center of the seams of the exterior bag fabric. Pin generously.

13. Topstitch all the way around the bag.
Sew slowly and topstitch about 1/4 inch from the top of the bag all the way around the close the gap between the lining and exterior. To help hide the start and stop sewing marks, I like to begin and end at one of the side seams.

To make handles for your tote, you can sew in your handles while you are topstitching around the bag. Just insert your handles between the lining and bag exterior and make sure that they are placed evenly apart.

Or you can continue on to the next and final step to install eyelets to create rope handles.

14. Install your eyelets.
Mark and measure the placement of your eyelets. Here I measured 3" from the side and 1" from the top on all sides to mark the placement of my four eyelets.

Using an eyelet plier or similar tool, punch out a starter hole for your eyelet.

Then fiddle with the hole until it is the right size for your eyelet.Then using the eyelet plier again, press the eyelet securely into the fabric.

15. Tie your rope handles.
Make sure that the rope fits into your eyelet. Cut two pieces of rope about 14" in length. Thread each end of the rope through the eyelets and double knot the ends.

And now that you know how easy these totes are to make, sew a bunch assembly-line style to have on hand as needed.

As an aside, the fabrics for the lunch tote are Japanese fabric fat quarters I purchased at the Long Beach Quilt Festival. The vendor is Momen Plus and turns out that the store is in Torrance. Who needs to travel to Tokyo to get a fabric fix, when this store with all of its fabric goodies is just a short drive away?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Simple lunch tote

In initially thinking about making a gift bag, I was going to design one from scratch, but then I got smarter. Several bloggers have shown how they use a pre-existing bag to make a template. Bingo.

I cut up a small paper bag that I've used over and over again because it is the perfect size to hold lunch or other small things. Then I laid it directly onto canvas and traced the size, adding a half-inch seam allowance on all sides. To the top and bottom I added a 1.5" seam allowance.

After some fiddling, measuring and back of the envelope math, I figured out that I could cut up a fat quarter into two pieces measuring 10.75" x 11" to make the exterior. The result is a perfect-sized tote bag to hold lunch or other essentials. And the canvas is nice because it lends some the bag some rigidity.

The seal gives a sense of scale.
The bag finishes 7" x 8.25" x 3".

Saturday, August 6, 2011

A is for Apron

For my sister's birthday, I made her the Mango Tango apron from the book A is for Apron.

The pattern could have been written better and the pattern itself differs slightly from the picture in the book. Here is what I learned:

Firstly, the pattern in the book needs to be enlarged 400%. Rather than try to figure out how to accurately enlarge the image on a copy machine and then tile the resulting sheets of paper, I went to Kinko's. The lady who was at the counter was extremely helpful. She suggested that I first photo copy the page at regular size and then run that copy through the scanner for the large format copying machine. Otherwise I would have had to rip apart the book to get the page to feed through the scanner.

A word to the wise, the large copies are not cheap. I copied three patterns in the book and ended up paying more for the copies than the book itself.

Secondly, the neck straps are a bit short so I would lengthen the straps by at least one inch on each side or try to make them adjustable.

Thirdly, the center rectangle panel is completely missing from the pattern. I had to read the instructions a few time to make sure that I just wasn't paying attention. I simply cut a rectangle 3" high and the width of the top pattern piece. If making this apron for a short-waisted person like me then I wouldn't add the rectangle. But if the person has a long or regular length torso, then adding the rectangle would help make the apron fit better.

Fourthly, I would lengthen the ties if the intended wearer is an American size 8 or larger. Which means that the fabric would have to be 1.5 yards instead of the recommended 1 yard.

With the leftover fabric, I had just enough to make one matching oven mitt.

The picture would be better with actual cupcakes instead of empty liners.
And because I don't like wrapping things in paper anymore given how much fabric I have, I made a tote to hold all the items. Eventually everyone in my family will have enough totes to change them daily.

The bag has an interior pocket and a magnetic snap.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


As in making lemonade from lemons. Which suits this quilt perfectly. Because pretty much everything that could go wrong in making this simple quilt did. For whatever reason, I was just not on my game.
"Lemonade": 39" square
Long-time friends commissioned me to make a baby quilt as a gift for one of their friends. They asked for something playful and liked the colors blue, green and yellow. I had been wanting to make a hexagon quilt so this was the perfect opportunity.

My first mistake was that I didn't have enough fabric of the main print to make 9 hexagons, so I had to figure something else out. Because my friends had asked that I personalize this quilt for the boy, I thought I would just applique the name in the extra square and be extra fancy and also add the Chinese name.

Rejected square re-purposed into a pillow

Second mistake. Because the pieces are so small, machine appliqueing the pieces made the texture way too rough for a baby's quilt. But I had already incorporated the square into the quilt row. Which meant I had to take apart my row and sew in a new square.  But I put so much work into designing, cutting out, and then appliqueing the letters that I was loathe to just toss the applique into the trash. So I sat on it and decided to eventually add borders to make the piece big enough for something. Then I sat on it some more and after 3 days figured that I could try to make it into a funky throw pillow.

I had some very fun Japanese fabric from the Long Beach quilt show so I cut it up to make an envelope back. I also had to line the appliqued piece to protect the seams and keep them from unraveling in case the putting in and taking out of a pillow insert would rub the seams too roughly. Lemonade out of a lemon.

Third mistake. Despite measuring three times before cutting, the square that I had to put in to replace the rejected applique square was too small and the result was too ugly. So out came the seam ripper again. It took me four tries to get the right size square. Too many late nights perhaps?

It took me three tries to get the name appliqued correctly. Sheesh.
Hooray though for my new sewing machine. Look at how big the space is between the needle and the rest of the machine (aka the "throat"). Made all the custom quilting much easier to do.

Some close ups of my sketch-like quilting.

lots of doodles to offset the angularity of the hexagons
And the back

This quilt was a lot of fun to plan and quilt. I  hope that it is well-used and well-loved.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...