Thursday, March 29, 2012

How not to make a bag

12March29bag I finished my new tote yesterday, and I think I understand the basic design now. This one looks better than the last one, but not exactly as it should have. It’s made from a free pattern at Blank Quilting's website. I don’t know if this link will take you right to the pattern – it might just be the pattern page, in which case you have to go to page 8 (I think) and call up the Crab Bay projects. (Besides the bag, there are also placemats, bibs and other things for your crab feast.)

If you do look up the pattern, you’ll see a simple but nice long, low tote bag. Mine is, uh, tall and narrow.Have I mentioned that I can’t read instructions? Can’t follow them, either. I didn’t even notice until I was putting the last stitches on it and suddenly though, “hey… wait a minute!” Don’t you hate those moments? My orange stripe was meant to be vertical. I cut it so that it would be up and down, not horizontal. But I guess gravity won out again. And since I placed it  horizontally, the direction of my bag changed. No big deal, really, at this stage of the game, but not what I was planning.

12March 29fancy I wasn’t paying attention to the direction of my free motion quilting, either, so my leaves point up and down on one side of the bag and from side to side on the other. Another no big deal, but it’s all stuff to keep in mind for the next bag. The original pattern didn’t call for gussets (a squared bottom), but I like that look and so I added them. The striped material is a pocket. And you can never had enough pockets. But because of the gussets, the pocket extends from the sides of the bag to its bottom. Not much use for a pocket on the bottom of the bag! Makes finding the change you tossed in there really hard to find. I put stiff interfacing between the two layers of pocket material and gave it a fancy stitch along the top just to hold it in place.

12March29fmq I told myself to make the lining a little smaller than the outside this time, but forgot, and now there’s too much of it inside the bag. Make it look soft though. Probably just right for Rusty or Ginger although they haven’t tried it out yet. I used pellon 987F fusible fleece for the main bag. I attached it to the outer material and then quilted it. I don’t know whether it was the pellon or my machine, but every once in a while the bobbin thread would stick as I was quilting and pull the thread into a mess if I didn’t stop right away and “unstick” it. Pulling the fabric up from the needle plate would usually free it. I changed the needle at one point but it didn’t make a difference.

I think that about does it for “lessons learned” on this project. I’m onto my “retirement bag” although I haven’t picked a pattern yet. I think I’ll be adding a zipper or two and some inside pockets to the next bag.

12March29pfaff For any antique fans who may be reading, I saw this at one of our thrift stores yesterday. Could have been mine for $10 but I don’t collect sewing machines. I do admire them, though, and I was told that this one runs fine. But I’m quite happy with my Horizon, thank you very much!

Until next time,

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Learning curves

12March25samples  I’m getting behind in my Free Motion Quilting practice, among other things. This month’s FMQ Challenge was done by quilt artist Ann Fahl who challenged us to toss out that boring stippling and try something new! Well, I’m still stippling, but I’m also trying two new patterns. I practice my stippling, my leaves and my feathers each time I try a new pattern, so they’re always looking a little better.

12March25flowers I spent hours drawing this leaves and flowers design. It looked simple enough, but I just couldn’t get it. Having to remember whether I was on the upward swing or downward was too much. Finally, I just drew the flowers. Upward, downward, upward, downward. Then I added the leaves back in. Every time I thought I “had it”, I’d lose it again. After days I finally felt confident enough to try it on the sewing machine. Not great, but not hideous. I lost my place a few times, but meandered around a little until I could get back in the groove – which is better than I would do 12March25swirly in the past, which is to utterly drown in my mistakes. I want to use this pattern in the bag I’m making, so we’ll be working on this one some more.

The second pattern is one by Wendy Sheppard that I found in a magazine. I love it, but trying to get those swirls and flames working together is beyond me at the moment. I’ll keep working at it because I really like the pattern. At least, it looks great when she does it. Wendy is going to be our August instructor.

12March23burch I have to share another thrift store score – this little bag made of gorgeous Laurel Burch material (thanks Marilyn!). Fifty cents. It doesn’t have a label in it, so I’m assuming that it’s homemade. If it is, somebody did a very nice job of it. I hope I can be at least this good some day.

It was a beautiful day today. Sunny and about 16 C (64 F). Not summertime yet, but I’ll take it. I got home from work this afternoon and had a look to see if anything besides the snowdrops were coming up. The tulips and crocuses are on their way. But as I was looking at the snowdrops, I noticed the bees buzzing all around them, collecting pollen from the only flowers in bloom. And my wonderful next door neighbours (thanks Judy!) 12March25bees brought their roto-tiller over today so that I can till a garden spot. I started digging it by hand last Fall, but ran out of time. I tilled for a couple of hours before supper and got the first pass done. We have lovely soil near the back fence, and it’s going to yield lots of delicious vegetables! After 10 years in this house, I’m finally getting a vegetable garden. Some things just take time. In fact, all of the good things take time.

Until next time,

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The pin pig

12Marchpig Many months ago someone posted a picture of the strangest thing they had in their sewing room. I don’t remember what it was now, but the idea stuck with me. You know how sticky some ideas are.  Well, here is what I think the strangest thing I have in my sewing corner is – the pin pig. I picked it up at a local thrift store many moons ago because I couldn’t resist these colours. To justify my $2 purchase, I kept a few pins in it. Now I keep my worn out machine needles in it (so I guess it’s a needle pig now). It takes some effort to toss out individual needles since we don’t recycle steel here, only tin, and I like to put a piece of tape over the point so it doesn’t slice through the garbage 12March23pins bag. So I just toss them in the pig. When it gets full, I’ll tape the whole lot and throw them out. 

I finally cleaned my work area the other day because I had to mend my jeans. It took me a whole 20 minutes to put all of those bags of scraps, unused fabric, etc. away where they were supposed to be. It might not look so clean in this picture, but it is. All of this paper on the table is me practicing drawing some Free Motion Quilting patterns. It was frustrating at the beginning, and it took me 12March23clean several days, but I think I’ve finally got my right hand connected to my brain and when I get home from work tonight, I’ll see how it looks with some thread added.

I’ve started my next project. This is all fabric I rescued from the local thrift store. The big blue/green polka dots were a St. Paddy's Day special - all fabric was on for 25 cents – and there was a four metre bundle of it. I think it’s going to make a very pretty bag. Yes, another practice bag. And after this it will be another bag. A co-worker is 12March23bag retiring at the end of April, and I want to make one for her. I was going to make her a bag as a Christmas present, but she moved up my completion date by announcing her retirement a couple of weeks ago! I bought some fusible fleece last weekend, which I’m using in this bag – the only thing that didn’t come from the thrift store. I attached it this morning, so we’re ready to start sewing.

There was a New Moon on Thursday at 2 Aries, with quite a boost from Mercury and Uranus. Aries is fire and fire is energy: Mercury and Uranus rule air signs and air does a lot of thinking, but it also fuels fire. These two planets passing through Aries will energize your creative activities. Aries is also a wee impulsive, though, so watch that tendency to start working on a billion great ideas that you can’t finish. Try to focus on one or two projects that have been challenging you for some time, instead. Aries colours – red for go!

Until next time,

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Just do it!

12March19mess Write or clean? I wish I could say that I’ve been on vacation for the past two weeks, but I haven’t. Busy time at work, and I think I left all of my words at the office. Or my brain under the bed. Or something.

Haven’t been sewing either. This is probably the longest my dear sewing machine has sat without playing since I bought her last summer. Besides work, I think it mostly has to do with the fact that my sewing 12March19Rusty area is a terrible mess. There’s so much clutter there that I don’t have room to do anything. Yep, time to do a little Spring cleaning around my sewing area. Of course, it doesn’t help when Rusty decides to visit. He takes up a lot of room.

Temperatures are inching up slowly and we’re beginning to talk about outside projects. Like  replacing the deck roof – the one that blew off in the windstorm we had last week. 12March19roof Well, a quarter of it blew off. I was trying to fasten it down at the time, but it was old and already falling apart. We tried to replace it a few years ago, but the local hardware store didn’t tell us the panels were in until my vacation was over, and we didn’t have time to do it. Now it’s going to cost us over $1,000 just for the materials!

You can probably tell that more than just the roof material needs to be replaced. There’s so much we’d like to do with the deck, but it all costs money. I wonder if I 12March19ginger can quilt something to cover it.

Ginger really, really likes the bag I made. She and Rusty took turns sitting on it, but she seems to have claimed it. Just her colour, too. I guess I’d better get busy and clean up my sewing area. My sewing machine is getting very lonely.

Until next time,

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Snowdrops and vines

12March7snowdrop Without even expecting it, I saw some snowdrops up on March 4. It was a beautiful, warm day – 17 C / 66F -but still. I don’t usually see my snowdrops until mid-March or even later. This is a good sign. I wanted to wait until sun was on that part of the yard before I took pictures of them, but I forgot. (Nothing unusual there!)

The next day it snowed. And snowed. Winter blustered its way back, but i got my pictures. Snowdrops in the snow.

12March7snow Temperatures are supposed to warm up after the Full Moon on Thursday morning (18 Virgo). And not a day too soon. This is only March, after all, and I expect the temperatures to swing between gorgeous and ugly! And the lousy winter intrusions haven’t really bothered me like it has with most other people I know – until now. Now I’m starting to get a little… cranky … when I see more snow falling. But I know that Summer will be here (and gone) before we know it.

12March7quilting Spurred by the success of my little bag, I returned to work on my (Really) Big Tote. Artist Terri Stegmiller has an easy tutorial on her blog for a basic tote with a flat bottom and side pockets. Even I could follow directions, so it must be easy, I made a minor goof with finishing the inside seam, but everything else went together smoothly like she said it would. I am thrilled!

12March7bag I used a bunch of ugly fabric that’s been hanging around. Except for the handle fabric, everything came from the local thrift store and has been hanging around for two or three years. I’m glad to get rid of it. But in using it for this tote, I also found myself thinking “That doesn’t look so bad after all!” Funny how that happens. It’s a really big bag, and I got lots of practice with my Free Motion Quilting. I haven’t practiced my “leaves” for over a month, so I decided to work on them with this project. And, yeah, I’m back to the variegated thread – Mettler cotton. This time I really liked the way it came out. It’s all about experience. So now that my experimental bag has turned out “not bad”, I think I’ll try again using some of my favourite fabric. Maybe I’ll add an inside pocket, or a flap or a magnetic closure, or some applique. So many options! I won’t know what I’ve decided until I choose.

Until next time,

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Feathery goodness

12March1bag And I am not referring to that fluffy white stuff falling from the sky again. I swear, February – and now March – made up for all of the winter that we didn’t have from November to January.

I am so happy with myself this morning… I made a bag!!! Don’t laugh. I’ve been trying to figure out this process for ages – read and watched lots of tutorials. Unfortunately, I don’t have years of sewing behind me so I don’t  have that foundation of knowledge. I can do lots of other things that I’ll bet you can’t,  but bags wasn’t one of them. I wrote my own instructions as I went along, so now I 12March1silk can work on making them look attractive. I used four six-inch pieces for this one (my third attempt) – two for the outside and two for the lining – and some scrap batting that I pieced together. Stay tuned for more bags in the future!

Still practising my feathers! (And my stippling.) I’ve been using different thread as well, and two weeks ago I bought some silk thread – some 100wt YLI and some Guttermann – probably 40wt. They both sewed nicely but the YLI took a bit of getting used to. Hard to hold on to because it’s so small and slithery. Also had to 12March1curly fiddle with the tension because it was too loose. In the above picture, I sewed one feather using Guttermann on one side and YLI on the other. Then I continued on with the YLI, which was easier to cover up mistakes with because it’s so fine.

Even managed to do a little curly-cue fiddlehead. The 100wt makes it easier to sew lines closer together and not make it look overwhelming. I like it. It’s not for every sewing project, but I think I can find some more uses for it in the future.

12Marchfeathers So, February was the month of feathers for SewCalGal's FMQ Challenge, with Diane Gaudynski as our teacher. Thank you, Diane. I think I learned a lot. (The above picture is my feather practice sheet.) This month’s challenge is from Ann Fahl and I just know it’s going to be another good one!

Until next time,