archives: crafts

reversible sewn bag

It all started with a Thermos. I can’t exactly explain why I got it in my head that I needed to start bringing soup for lunch in a Thermos—there is, after all, a perfectly good microwave at the office—but I spontaneously bought a Thermos last week. Fall is definitely in the air and I knew I’d be making a big batch of soup. My Thermos is not an awkward shape (in fact it’s less bulky than I expected it to be), and it would probably fit in my purse no problem, but I got it in my head that I needed a bag to bring my lunch in, for the Thermos and any other lunches. More often than not I put my lunch in its container in a plastic bag and shove it in my purse, which is neither elegant nor environmentally sound. So on Sunday I made this (modified) reversible bag!

sewn reversible tote bag

I didn’t want this bag to be flimsy but I didn’t have a lot of heavyweight fabrics to choose from, so I used canvas (for some reason I have a lot of yardage of canvas) for the interior and a quilting cotton that I added lightweight fusible interfacing to for the outside. I really don’t plan on reversing it at all but it was an interesting lesson in construction to make it that way. If I were to make another I’d just leave a hole in the middle of the lining fabric and turn it right side out that way instead of struggling to get it through one of the straps! It truly killed my hands to be tugging on it that way, flaring up the carpal tunnel that plagues me.

sewn reversible tote bag

I didn’t make the straps as long as the pattern calls for, lopping off about 3 inches, because I wanted it to be a handheld bag rather than a shoulder one. (I only used the bottom two pages of the pdf template, to be precise.) It’s roomy—I ended up tucking my umbrella in it this morning, too, and a water bottle. Maybe it doesn’t need to be this large but it doesn’t feel unwieldy and some days I end up with homemade lunches of many elements, so this will fit all the little containers. My work on the topstitching is actually rather sloppy, and I’m debating picking it out and redoing it. At the seams it’s super thick and tricky to go around the curve so I’m not eager to do it again. As it is, the bag is plenty cheery and happy, and it got me through a Monday with a smile on my face! It definitely made the commute more fun.

sewn reversible tote bagThanks to Jason for taking these photos on our way home tonight!

 

pillow crazy

Making that first pillow has started me on a pillow obsession! Here’s my second one:

shattered chevron pillow

It was inspired by this block , which used this tutorial, I’m guessing. Obviously this could not be done as a quilt as you go though so it’s just a block that was quilted like a normal quilt top. I pulled a lot of old scraps and a few untouched but loved fat quarters in teals and mustards. It really came together pretty easily, though if you don’t plan out your angles at the beginning you end up with a lot of frustrating waste.

I specifically oriented the chevrons so the seams would all be parallel, so that I could do half-inch quilting lines and they’d match within each section. I picked a path near the middle and then just echoed from there, even though it didn’t always hit the apex of a chevron exactly. I backed it with Kona Coal just like the first one, making another deep pocket. The final dimensions of this one ended up closer to 14.5 square because of some loss when I squared the block up and then some shrinking from quilting it. You can tell it’s a more puffy pillow!

shattered chevron pillow

I’m trying to decide what to do for the two other pillows on the couch that I’d like to redo. Half-square triangles? Something else? This is such a fun way to play with new techniques.

 

washi tunic

Once I had my Washi Dress under my belt, I was keen on sewing something else, and I was also interested in finding out if I could get the Washi pattern to fit better for me—via a tunic.

cotton washi tunic

For this, I actually did a muslin of the bodice at one size down from the size I used for the dress, and omgsotight; it was NOT an appropriate change! But it led me to focus on the dart; I made it deeper but kept it at the same location, to try to tuck the fabric under my bust more. (I could’ve done more on this, in retrospect.) I didn’t lengthen the bodice, which I’ll revisit if I do this pattern in the future. On the bottom I used only 2 pleats, one on each side, by cutting the Small size for the tunic bottom and making slightly larger folds just to make the pieces match. I wonder if this pattern could hold up to a no-pleats version well or not.

cotton washi tunic from the back

After trying it on, it just didn’t seem fitted enough. I know, I know, the Washi isn’t meant to be fitted, but that’s not my style! So I added waist shaping—in the most slap-dash way: I just drew some curves and sewed them atop the existing seams. A pass through the serger dealt with the excess fabric, and I’m a lot happier with the way it fits on the sides now. For this one, because the cotton was heavier, I didn’t bother interfacing the facings, and I didn’t even tack them down (I didn’t understand how to do that, anyway) but they stay put just fine.

cotton washi tunic neck detail

As to the sleeves—there is no denying that the pattern gives a bit of a football shoulder pad effect. There’s a reason so many people are pictured wearing Washis with their arms akimbo! I wanted to mitigate that from the outset, and the only way I could figure out how was to increase the curve of the curved part of the sleeves. I could’ve gone even further, but I’m pleased enough with the result. I wore it to work (it’s the first of my sewn garments to be worn for real) and a coworker who is always stylishly dressed and has never once commented on my appearance (boring as it normally is) complimented me on my shirt, not knowing that I’d made it. Success! Farm dog Rex approves, too.

My final thoughts on this and all the garments I sewed in that week is that it’s time to graduate to “real” patterns. Though these are graded, they also are using design elements (like elastic and the gathering/pleating) to basically get around actually fitting the pieces. It’s time for me to get patterns that are truly more my style, learn to put in a zipper, and also explore some real fabrics. I’m ready.

cotton washi tunicPhotos again by the amazing knitwear/handmade-wear photographer Caro Sheridan. I love our weekends away with knitting friends and yes, I made 3 garments in preparation!

 

quilt as i go

OMG I love this pillow. Love it. The mere afternoon it took me to make is a measly price to pay for the joy this is going to bring me.

quilt as you go vortex pillow

I completely literally followed Let’s Eat Grandpa‘s examples (this one being my favorite), using her tutorial. I’d never tried “quilt as you go” before, so it was something to cross off my list as a sewer. I loved watching the vortex (because that’s how I see it) come together, and feeling the texture as it happens is cool, too. I’d like to do more with the technique, given how easy it is. (You can see that  I forgot to quilt one segment, but that’s ok with me.)

quilt as you go vortex pillow

The case is backed with some Kona Coal, which sort of blends into our couch. I did a simple pocket with a decent amount of overlap to be sure nothing would show and to make it so I wouldn’t need a button. (It’s not the prettiest back, so I’ll spare you a picture.) It covers one of our existing couch cushions, which have always tended toward the flat side. I tried to counteract that but I didn’t go far enough, it’s clear. How do you determine the best side length, anyway? The old pillow cover is 16.5 inches square. This one is 15.5 inches square. I could probably go even smaller, though Jason says he loves it just as it is. And the truth is, I love it too much to edit it down at all!

quilt as you go vortex pillow

washi dress

Now that I’ve started sewing my own clothing (ha, look at me, talking like I’m making a whole new wardrobe already) I’ve been thinking a lot about fit. When I shop for clothing in retail stores, I try items on to see how they look, but I don’t think about how they fit. I realized, in making a Washi Dress, that I don’t know how to really assess how something fits yet. But I like to think this one looks pretty good on! (All photos by Caro Sheridan; the last photo by our host, Phil!)

chevron washi dress

I didn’t make a muslin of the Washi—my bust measurement went fine with one of the existing sizes, and I knew the skirt was forgiving enough to not matter. It came together fast once I got the shirring to work (which, upon further reading, I’ve learned I did not do correctly, but it functions fine, so I’ll just be improving my technique for the future. In case you are wondering, the problem is that the elastic is wobbly on the back, which means I didn’t have it properly under tension. I’ll be playing with that once I get more elastic.). I went with a tank instead of sleeves and made white bias binding out of Kona Snow for the armholes. (Now I wonder if I should’ve used that for the neckline too, but I’m not doing it now.) I tried it on once it was all assembled, modeled it for my boyfriend and a friend, and asked if I needed to change anything. They said it looked fine.

chevron washi dress back

But does it FIT fine? I’m not convinced it does. The bodice should probably come lower. The bust darts don’t make the bodice shape to me in any real way. The neckline gaps just a bit (maybe partly because my “featherweight” interfacing was too heavy in combination with the cotton, lightweight though it is, or maybe because I forgot to clip the curves). I know there’s room for improvement if I take this one on again.

chevron washi dress

Wearing it while tromping around Star Valley Flowers‘ farm in Wisconsin, however, I discovered it is a great garment for wearing. It’s comfortable, breezy, and the fullness of the skirt means it requires absolutely zero effort at all. If I add a white cardigan, I’ll happily wear this to work and show off my handiwork. But I won’t make this dress again without significant revisions. This field of sunflowers are actually part of Driftless Organics‘ farm, across the street—we couldn’t resist them!

in the sunflowers in the sunflowers