Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Sew Sweetness Rockstar Bag and Greenbacks Wallet

I was about to start this post with "a few years ago," and then I looked it up and realized it was six years ago, yikes.... Let's start again.

Six years ago I attended one of those fun parties at my friend's house where you choose the fabrics for a custom purse. I love my purse and it held up really well, especially since I'm not a multi-purse girl and it's been used heavily over the past 6 years. Its one flaw is that no matter how I prop it up, it falls over every single time I am in the car, spilling its contents everywhere since it only has a magnet closure. It's like the pockets are spring loaded and with even the slightest turn, out jump the tissue packets and chapstick and wallet and pill bottles and flashlight (call it ridiculous, but this comes in very handy every so often). Not to mention all of the change and random child hair barrettes that find themselves in the bottom. Once the corner edges started to fray, I decided to make myself a new purse. 

After scouring purse patterns, I decided on the Sew Sweetness Rockstar Bag. I liked that it had a flat, wide base and a zipper closure, but mostly what sold me was that it looked like a bowling ball bag. And kinda like an old lady purse. I loved it! I also ordered the hardware kit so I wouldn't have to source those separately. This was in May 2015.

Rockstar Purse

What took me so long to make this purse? This thing is intimidating! I didn't want to spend all of that time making a purse to end up with a big old mess. But after New Years I decided enough was enough and was set on making this thing so I could stop throwing fits every time my purse fell over and spilled. Can you tell how much this annoys me? It's maddening!

I spent a good amount of time browsing fabrics before I settled on using a sampling of Sarah Watson's Garden Secrets and Cotton + Steel Mystery Food Sapphire as the lining. Like Dom Streater, I love the mix of prints (while we're talking about it, know that she is my fav Project Runway contestant everand is from Philly!). I also really love a pop of color for the zipper.

For the most part, this bag wasn't nearly as hard to make as I had imagined. Sure, I made a few mistakes here and there, but it was mostly smooth sailing until the very end. Going in, I was most concerned with attaching the side panels to the front/back and oh boy was I right. The wonderful Soft and Stable that gives the bag such great stability on every pattern piece (hence the name) created my sewing nightmare. After some sweat, blood (pins!), wrestling, considering throwing the entire thing out, and very slow sewing and re-sewing, I had a completed bag. I then spent the entire night oogling it. And also the next day. And pretty much every time I use it. It is beautiful! And functional! 

Rockstar Purse

Aside from the wide base and zipper closure, I really like the many pockets (two zippered inside and a zippered and non-zip on the outside) and that it can be carried either by the short handles or the strap that is long enough to wear as a crossbody (essential while managing small wild animal children). It's also large enough to carry my water bottle, which I'm pretty much never without (I use this one). And the nicely structured sides help it stand up and keep shape so digging around inside is easy. Best of all: it wasn't even tempted to fall over in the car. This purse is a total win!!

Rockstar Purse

While it's not as infuriating as a purse that constantly falls over, I had been dealing with a wallet that rarely snapped closed. I figured while I was at it, I'd make a Greenbacks wallet to match my new purse.  I chose version 3 because of the zipper closure and many card slots. I only have one debit card and one credit card, but I carry around gift cards in case I randomly pop into Target, Starbucks, or Joann. That small stack of gift cards really added some heft to my old wallet, but not this one! There are plenty of card slots with even some to spare.

Rockstar Purse and Greenbacks Wallet

The pattern doesn't include a specific pocket for cash, but since I rarely carry more than $20 at a time, the space next to the pocket will provide more than enough room. There's even enough space on the other side of the pocket to slide in my phone for the times when I go out with just my wallet.

Greenbacks Wallet Version 3

The wallet was pretty easy to put together and included only a small amount of finicky sewing to attach the bias binding (which is the only reason the pattern is considered "advanced"). Sewing slowly was the remedy! And now I have a beautiful and sturdy matching purse and wallet set. This is a first for me! Does this mean I'm a real adult now (as if having two kids didn't already seal the deal on that one)?

Greenbacks Wallet Version 3 

Thursday, January 26, 2017

More Hits from Little Things to Sew

This Christmas was a little different than last Christmas when it came to gifting handmade items. Who would have thought that having another baby would alter my Christmas gift production? :)

This year my niece was the only person to receive a handmade gift. She loves helping my sister-in-law cook, so I made her this quick and easy bias trimmed apron from Oliver + S' Little Things to Sew. I seriously love my edgestitching foot (Bernina #10) now. It made sewing on the trim so neat and easy.  

The apron is made completely from Tula Pink fabrics: the body is Fox Nap from the Chipper collection and the trim is Tortoise Shell from Slow and Steady. I don't usually buy a lot of Tula (I think the designs are pretty but they never seem to fit into the projects I'm making), but these prints jumped out at me when I was browsing in Pennington Quilt Works as my niece is a great lover of all things pink. I thought Fox Nap was just pink enough but will age nicely as she gets older.

Bias Trimmed Apron

I love the crazy toddler photobomb happening in the photo above. Truthfully, I completely forgot to take nice pictures of this apron and had to settle for a quick snap before wrapping it on Christmas Eve morning. They turned out a little dark, but you get the idea.

I included a little pink whisk to the side pocket when I wrapped it. That would have been a cute picture to capture!

Bias Trimmed Apron

Although they weren't Christmas gifts, right before Christmas I whipped up two pairs of mittens for my little wild animal. Before this, we had one pair of mittens that I was constantly misplacing in our tiny house (how this is even possible is beyond me). I didn't have any fleece in my stash, so I raided her outgrown clothes bag and reused an old pair of pajamas. And I was able to use leftover bias tape from the apron for the elastic casing (even if they are double the size the pattern calls for). It took me maybe two hours to complete both pairs, so this is a very quick project if you are in a bind. My daughter calls these her "Mommy mittens" and proclaims "Mommy made them!" every time she puts them on, including at school. Her teachers were impressed!

Two more wins for Little Things to Sew! I think by the time I'm through having little kids in my life I'll have sewn through the entire book. All of the patterns are so classic, easy, and well written that I will never tire of them. It's by far my favorite source for kids sewing. (I've also made the Red Riding Hood CapeTutu, and Explorer Vest).

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Mini Heart Quilts: Variations on a Theme

Although made a few months apart, it seems like I've had hearts on the mind lately when it comes to mini quilts. And all before Valentine's Day even!

To celebrate my quilt guild's 5th anniversary, we were challenged to make quilts with the theme of "Five." I went through a couple of ideas before I settled on creating an homage to Big, which was released in 1989, the year I turned 5 years old. Is there a more iconic scene in the movie than the "Heart and Soul" keyboard scene?

I'm really into the reuse/repurpose and only-buy-what-you-need mentality lately (watching Minimalism on Netflix (and also probably having a second kid) only added fuel to the fire). I had just gone to the Salvation Army during their weekly 50% off sale so I had a large selection of thrifted clothes to chop up for my material. I got a strange satisfaction from breaking down all of the clothes into usable fabric.

I now have a stockpile of thrifted materials (and buttons!) that I have big plans foryou haven't seen the last of them yet.

Since I was at the height of baby brain when I made this and couldn't imagine thinking through how to measure all of the pieces on my own, I found a simple keyboard quilt pattern. It was very quick and easy to sew together, just the sort of project I could handle when 36 weeks pregnant.

I used this quilt as a personal challenge to step outside of my quilting comfort zone (straight line quilting) and finally try some freemotion quilting on an actual project instead of just test squares. I'm pleased with the result even if it's relatively simple quilting. Baby steps.

Piano Keys Mini Quilt

I wish I would have gotten a close-up picture of the bottom left of the keyboard where I quilted in "Zoltar Speaks" (the name of the arcade game that grants Tom Hanks' wish). You can kind of see the writing in the bottom right corner on the back below. I didn't trust myself to freemotion handwriting, so I wrote out the words using a water soluble marker and then traced over it. It turned out much better than I was expecting!

Piano Keys Mini Quilt Back

Speaking of freemotion quilting, I had gotten a Sew Steady table to make quilting on my domestic machine a little more bearable and was disappointed when I found this quilt almost sticking to the plastic table surface (I tried with cotton too so it wasn't due to the synthetic material). After some internet troubleshooting, I found a tip to buff the table with Turtle Wax. I can excitedly proclaim this to be a fantastic solution! I have a hunch that since Sew Steady now sells their own polishing kit, they don't buff the tables to be as smooth in the factory, but maybe that's just the way my conspiracy theory mind works. Just apply a very thin coat of original Turtle Wax on the entire table, let dry, and wipe clean with a microfiber towel. After repeating three times as suggested, my Sew Steady table is now slick as can be! I don't even need the Supreme Slider anymore, the quilt glides that nicely over the newly buffed table.

I love these little challenges from my quilt guild because it's a fun prompt to create something I might not have thought of on my own. Plus it's a great way to make just-because gifts for the people you love. This little beauty is now hanging in my music-teacher-sister's classroom. Check out our guild blog to see all of the "Five" themed quilts. I love that everyone approached it differently.

Each member of my guild was recently given a bag stuffed with fat quarters. It was a huge haul, and free! I decided to use some of the pink prints to make a mini quilt to send to a friend's quilty mom who has been in the hospital (pink is her favorite color).

I used the Scrappy Heart tutorial from the Hopeful Homemaker. It was super quick and easy to sew (and again, probably something I could have figured out on my own if my brain wasn't so zapped). It seriously took longer to "randomly" arrange the prints than it took to sew together. And even after spending all of that time flipping and switching the prints, I still managed to have a diagonal line of light colored prints down the left side of the heart. Of course I didn't notice until it was all sewn together. Gah! Since it doesn't look quite as glaring in person as it does in a photo, I decided to keep it as is. Otherwise I'm happy with the scrappy look.

Even though I went with my old standby straight lines for the quilting, I really like how I mixed it up and only quilted the crosshatch on the heart and above. Yes, this is mixing it up for me! I think it adds a nice movement and visual interest.

Scrappy Heart Mini Quilt

This was the first time I sewed hanging loops onto the back of a quilt. I included two Command hooks in the package so they could easily hang it up in her hospital room. 

Scrappy Heart Mini Quilt Back

I also added a label, which I've only ever done once before on a quilt (besides the Quilt of Valorthe label was mandatory). For some reason I envisioned making and attaching a label to be a super long and annoying process, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that it took only 15 minutes from start to finish. Now I love the idea of labeling all of my quilts!

Just in time for this epiphany, Quilt Alliance is currently hosting a Labeling pledge (thanks for the heads up, Jess!). If you take the pledge you are entered into a drawing to win custom quilt labels! But isn't the idea that the details behind your quilt won't be lost in the void of time more of an incentive?

Monday, January 23, 2017

Follow the Stars Quilt of Valor

Last March I learned about the Quilt of Valor Foundation while listening to the now defunct Quilt Your Heart Out podcast hosted by Mary and Marianne Fons. From what I understand, Marianne has been involved with the foundation for quite some time. The foundation's mission is to award quilts to service members and veterans touched by war. I thought getting involved would be a good opportunity to show my appreciation for the sacrifice that our service members and their families make for our country. Plus, I noticed that most of the quilts being awarded were very traditional in style and there might be younger veterans who would be interested in receiving a more modern style quilt.

Follow the Stars Quilt

Joining the organization is pretty easy and soon after I was contacted by my state coordinator with my first assignment. After some searching, I decided on the Follow the Stars kit by Maureen Cracknell from Hawthorne Threads. The color palette is patriotic without being overly traditional and the pattern reminded me of the floor in a fancy building (in a good way, of course). I didn't realize that I would have to make roughly 5,000 half square triangles to construct the quilt top, so it was a little slow going for me. It is pretty magical how arranging all of those squares just so results in a big and bold geometric design.

Follow the Stars Quilt Back 

Once I finished piecing the top and the back, I sent both to a volunteer long arm quilter who was super quick to return a beautifully quilted sandwich back. Then all I had to do was attach the binding and the label.

Follow the Stars Quilt 

What better way to show our appreciation and wrap our service members and veterans in a warm virtual hug than through quilts?

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Crayon Challenge Mini Quilt

The upside to having pneumonia is the copious amount of couch time that accompanies the exhaustion. Before I got sick I was on track to finish the mini quilt that I made for my quilt guild's Crayon Challenge that started in June. We blindly chose three crayons and were tasked with making a quilt using only those colors and a neutral if we wanted. I'm glad I didn't push to finish before our September meeting since I was in the hospital instead of ogling my guild mates' beautiful quilts!

At first I was a little concerned with only using four colors but then I remembered the Summer Sampler blocks that I've been receiving every Monday for the past few months. Have I mentioned my love for classic quilt blocks? Perfect for only using four colors!

I admit that I totally lucked out with my colors. I probably wouldn't have put this quilt together on my own, but I love how it turned out and the colors are totally fun and go perfectly together. I used Kona solids Ash, Berry, Cerise, Peacock to make the Parallel, Deck of Cards, Summer Slice, Corner Canyon blocks.


For the back I used some of the prints that I got in a black and white fabric swap at our last guild meeting. How much fun is this guild?! I'm so glad I found them last year.


I've stuck to straight line quilting on all of the quilts I've made so far, either diagonal, stitch in the ditch, or a grid across the entire quilt. I really wanted to go outside of my comfort zone for the quilting on this one, especially since I finished piecing it in July and theoretically had plenty of time to figure out my quilting plan. But of course I procrastinated and chickened out and ended up sticking with more straight line quilting. HOWEVER, I got a little adventurous and instead of straight line quilting across the entire mini, I highlighted the gray sections of the quilt blocks. Even though I wimped out, I love the effect that the quilting added.


And then I straight line quilted in the sashing and the borders. I couldn't resist! Plus I love the grids that the quilting created in the corners and in the middle of the quilt.


Here are some more detail shots because I couldn't resist.



And this is where my couch time came in handy. So many threads to bury!


Check out the quilts that my guild mates made for the challenge. There is such a wide range of quilts, I wish I could have seen them in person!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Paper Pieced Cassette Tape Mug Rug

For our June meeting, my quilt guild hosted a paper pieced mug rug swap. I had done very little paper piecing up until that point so I took this as a challenge and dove right in. I found Lysa Flower's Cassette Tape pattern and it looked kinda hard, but I decided to go for it since a small mug rug wasn't a huge commitment. If it didn't work out, I could always make something less complicated.

My first attempt went pretty well, but I didn't cut the bottom pieces of the cassette large enough so there were a few gaps along the bottom edge. I learned very quickly that I need to test the seam before I sew it to make sure that the piece is going to flip the correct way after pressing. Unpicking those tiny stitches is really not fun. This post by Lee Heinrich on the Bernina We All Sew blog was extremely helpful.

Paper pieced cassette tape, take 1

The second time around I cut very generous pieces for the entire pattern and I think it turned out really well! The only thing I'd change next time is to not add this wonky crosshatch border around it, because even though my seams are pretty straight, the bottom edge gives the illusion that it's very wonky. I used Lotta Jansdotter and Elizabeth Olwen scraps for the finished mug rug, along with some blue solids.

Paper pieced cassette tape, take 2

Here are all of the awesome mug rugs from the swap. I came away with the adorable pink steaming tea cup second from the left in the top row, made by our president, Neva!

Photo credit: Maggie from CJMQG

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Pretty Sewing Supply Storage

This train case was an impulse project after I stabbed myself once too many times on pins while reaching into my sewing supplies zipper pouch. I've only made a handful of bags over the years, so initially the Sew Sweetness Crimson & Clover Train Case was a little intimidating. But, with my seam ripper handy, I decided to tackle it one step at a time and it wasn't so bad at all! And no, I can't even look at this thing without getting "A Praise Chorus" in my head.

Sew Sweetness Crimson & Clover Train Case

This train case was the most complicated "bag" that I've sewn so far, but, like all of Sara's patterns, it's broken up into short logical steps that are easy to follow. I even made my own piping for the first time, something I thought would be fiddly and hard but turned out to be super easy, especially with the use of my Bernina piping foot (I used foot #12, but you could also use foot #38).

Sew Sweetness Crimson & Clover Train Case

Construction got a little nerve wracking toward the end when there were many layers to sew through, but I took my time and sewed slowly and carefully and it all worked out. I dipped into my Lizzy House stash since the case would be sitting alongside my sewing machine for the foreseeable future and I wanted the fabric to be something beautiful that I loved. The finished case has a zipper pocket in the top flap and smaller pockets all along the edges of the lower half. It fits my everyday sewing tools perfectly with room to spare!

Sew Sweetness Crimson & Clover Train Case

Around this time I also made sheaths for my scissors using A Threaded Mess' 30-Minute Scissor Keeper pattern. My Gingher scissors came with a black plastic sheath, but my other scissors have been floating around in my zipper pouch just waiting to stab me or bust through the pouch fabric. Since I was getting my tools organized, I decided to make pretty sheaths for all of my scissors and avoid a scissor incident before it occurred.

I raided my scrap bins for these and easily found enough to cover two large and one medium size scissor keepers. Mine took a little longer than 30 minutes each, but mostly because I was piecing together small scraps and then I quilted them to get a little fancy. The pattern calls for a small piece of cardboard to be inserted at the tip of the sheath so the points of your scissors don't poke through. I used pieces of a cereal box: it's just sturdy enough for the added protection but not so stiff that it's hard to maneuver into place. I gladly threw that sad black plastic sheath in the recycling when I was finished!

Scissor Keepers

Hurray for pretty sewing storage! Why do I feel like this is going to be a slippery slope and lead to me finally replacing the standard red sewing machine cover that came with Pippi to something more pretty?