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Mar. 6th, 2009


Vogue 2750 Maternity Dress

Remember last week, when I mentioned how making a maternity dress was perhaps on the horizon?

Umm. Yea.  By "on the horizon" I apparently meant, "destined to happen this week."

What happened was this.  Months ago, I bought this dress pattern on Ebay: Vogue 2750, designed by Lauren Sara.  Like, almost as soon as I knew I was pregnant.  It's a pattern for a knit fabric (like tee-shirt fabric or something) so I started looking, causally, for knits.  But they were all ugly.  And since I knew that this dress was going to require a substantial amount of fabric, I refused to buy ugly fabric.  (A good idea on principle, in fact.)

But then I found Gorgeous Fabrics, source of many terrifically lovely knit fabrics at reasonable prices.  I promptly fell in love with about 30% of their stock.  And as this was around Christmas list time, I asked Mom to buy me 4 yards of one of the fabrics.  (it's no longer on the site, so I can't post a link.  But trust me, it's gorgeous.  Just like the website promised.)  And bless her heart, Mom bought me 4 yards of fabric.

So this lovely pattern and this beautiful fabric have both been sitting in my stash for MONTHS now, and I've been wanting to make them come together they way they are supposed to, but just hadn't found the time.  Until Saturday, that is.

I don't know why - it's probably something to do with needing to make living room curtains and, um, do some real work that is well overdue.  But suddenly, on Saturday in the late afternoon, I decided I just had to have this dress made for the baby shower that friends were throwing me on Sunday.  This became an overwhelming imperative in my brain, and I decided to go with it. 

I started about 5 pm cutting out the pattern tissue and tissue fitting.  Had finished cutting out the fabric (made more challenging by the addition of kitties who love to pounce pattern tissue pieces) by 9 pm.  I spent about 3 hours putting together the bodice and sleeves and then called it a night.

In the morning I started sewing again at 10 am, setting in the second sleeve and putting together the skirt.  And by 1:35 I was wearing a hemmed, basically finished dress.  Which was good, because I had to leave for the baby shower at 1:45.  :-)  By "basically finished" I mean "wearable."  The waist seam wasn't double-stitched (it had been stitched once, but not a second time, to keep it from fraying), and the required button in the lining was replaced by a safety pin for the first outing.  And, of course, I hadn't pressed the hems.  But it was definitely wearable, and I really enjoyed having it on during the shower. 

This was my first time sewing with a knit fabric, and I'm quite pleased with how it turned out.  And I really like the pattern, and I plan to cut down the dress so that it's not a maternity dress once I can wear regular clothes again.  The fabric is too pretty for a one-time dress, and winter dresses are something my wardrobe lacks pretty substantially.  As long as I can figure out how to nurse in this dress, I'm hoping that it will become a standard part of my wardrobe.  I will even make more (and just redraft the skirt pattern to be smaller and less generous in the hem). 

Overall I found that it went together really easily, except for a fairly major error on my part.  I made the top backwards!  It's self-lined, so it looks identical inside and outside, and I made it the wrong way round.  This meant that in the stage where I attached the bodice to the skirt I had some major fiddling to do to make everything fit together.  My side seams don't match--by like 2 inches on each side!  But it's not too visible, I think.  And better than picking everything apart and putting it back together!

Of course, I never actually make a pattern just the way the designer tells me to.  That would be much too easy.  So I made a couple of fairly minor changes:
I made the back pattern pieces smaller than a size 16. And as usual, I had to take up a good 8 inches in the skirt and 4 inches in the sleeves. 

I added a pocket to the right side seam, after reinforcing the pocket squares with lightweight fusible interfacing. I do not believe in dresses that don't have pockets. Adding the pocket was pretty easy; I just sewed it onto both skirt panels before sewing the side seam.

I also top-stitched everything, especially on the bodice and sleeves, to catch the seams down and make them less ravelly. I followed the pattern directions about double-stitching and trimming the seams, but top-stitching just makes them a bit more secure, I think. I forgot to bind the waist seam and just double-stitched it like everything else.

I added a hook and eye at the bust after the dress's initial outing (to my baby shower). The neckline is REALLY low cut and with a slippery knit fabric I decided I wanted a bit more security!

After wearing the dress to the shower, where it got several compliments from people who didn't know I'd finished it twenty minutes beforehand (yay!), I'm going to make the following changes to any future incarnations (and perhaps even to this one). 
It's still too big through the back, so next time I will cut a 14 (or even a 12! depending on the sizing) through the whole thing.  I think it's really an ease issue.  I don't like loose floppy clothes.  And I may, potentially, need to learn how to do a full bust adjustment.  That would be a remarkable new thing for me, but I guess I'll handle it.  :-)

Next time I'll avoid the whole sewing-it-backwards thing by cutting out the lining in a different fabric, no matter what the pattern says.  My poor preggo brain doesn't need any help to get confused.  !

I'll also put pockets in both side seams.  One pocket is good, but two would be better.

I'll abandon the waist ties in favor of contrast ribbon ties. As it is the dress is a little undifferentiated. (yes, I know, my body is a little undifferentiated at the moment, too, but a pretty pink ribbon would still be a welcome detail).

I'll give up on the button idea in the bodice. The pattern calls for you to sew a button into the lining and a loop to hook one side of the bodice together. Then you put the second waist tie in the side seam rather than on the end of the bodice. But the button on my dress is practically in the center of my back and it pulls the fabric funny. It would be better to put both ties on the end of the fabric and make a slit or a button-hole for the tie to thread through; this would give more flexibility in the tying and sizing.
  That might be confusing for you readers, but it makes sense to me.  It basically just boils down to "I'll make the dress a true wrap, in the style of proper wrap dresses."
I may try making it as a top rather than a dress next time - just shortening the skirt so that it's tunic length rather than dress length.

Btw, I've posted a review of this pattern on PatternReview.com.  That site is a great resource for information on sewing patterns of all sorts.  I hardly ever buy a pattern any more before checking it out on PR.  I'm trying to review patterns as I use them, but so far I've only got two reviews up.  Not too surprisingly, my username over there is "alilizbeth".

So, onto the relevant construction details.

Total time: about 12 hours from start to finish.  Next time it will be way faster because I don't have to cut out the pieces from tissue.
Total fabric: about 3 yards, 60" wide.  The pattern calls for 3 3/8, but since I'm so short I always need less than they say.
Total cost: I spent $8 to buy the pattern on eBay - it's out of print - and Mom spent about $45 on the fabric including shipping, I think.  (When I saw the fabric it was on sale, in fact, but still at $10/yard full price it wasn't unreasonably expensive.)

Feb. 27th, 2009


When I'm not working or sewing ...

 ... I also practice alchemy, in my basement, in my spare time.

I just have to share this because it's lovely, and a project, though not perhaps lovely in the same way as things made with fabric are lovely:
But is this not some of the most wonderful dirt you've ever seen?  And just think, a few months ago it was shredded newspaper, dried up lettuce, squash skins, uneaten oatmeal, eggshells, and tea leaves (lots and lots of tea).  Now, thanks to my red wriggler worms in their rubbermaid bins, it is beautiful, dark, moist, crumbly, loamy, fertile vermicompost.  In a few months it will contribute to strawberries, peppers, tomatoes, squash, chard, and other delicious treats.

The alchemy of the living world is indeed a most magical, lovely thing.  And being an alchemist of this sort is truly gratifying.

Feb. 26th, 2009


Thinking, planning, dreaming

Reading the craft blogs is dangerous.  So many cute ideas!  Such creative projects!  But so little time (when I should really be doing "real" work, the kind that I am nominally paid for ...)

But sometimes the craft blog world is clearly just in my brain in a remarkable way.  Just yesterday I posted about making baby toys, and mentioned that I'd like to try balls, perhaps.  And lo and behold, I run across a stuffed ball tutorial.  With a jingle bell, no less.

And yesterday I was thinking about getting little Krauselet's furniture set up (we have a dresser for its little clothes, and a changing table.  We also have a co-sleeper bassinet ready in the wings, but I don't think we'll put that up until Krauselet actually arrives; it is going to crowd the bedroom pretty tightly). 

And in my thinking and mental furniture-arranging, I was considering how nice it would be to put up a mobile above the changing table (and above the dresser, too, which is the secondary changing table).  And then this morning Sew, Mama, Sew obliges me with not one, but two, mobile tutorial projects!

Not too many days, too, since I found tutorials for diaper changing pads and cool stuffed dolls, and I've also been thinking about our baby wraps, too. 

I have the fabric for the wrap(s) - J's mom kindly purchased it for us, but because she was paying I felt I had to acquiesce on color and weight.  So instead of a fun, funky purple/blue/green/cream cotton print that I loved and would have cut on the bias to make it a smidge stretchy, I ended up with a  white, cotton/lycra, slightly stretchy, lightweight twillish/canvas-y kind of fabric.  Nothing wrong with white, I suppose, except that it shows every stain ever made by baby or baby-wearer.  And despite MIL's assertions that it is the easiest to care for because you can just drop it in the bleach if necessary, it's not that simple around here.  I categorically do not use Chlorox or any similarly toxic substance, not even on my own clothes and certainly not on the Krauselet's.  It's sunshine, hydrogen peroxide, and gradually-dingy whites for us.  But plain white is a little, well, um, boring, and after all this wrap thing is more like a garment for me or for J than something for the baby.

So I've been thinking about how to spice it up.  The best idea I have so far is to make some really wide bias tape out of some fat quarters that I love (have I mentioned how much I love bias tape?  I really, really love it) and bind the wrap that way, thus preserving the stretchiness of the fabric (which is a nice benefit) and preventing the bulk of a traditional hem.  I'm also considering either appliqué or a crazy-patch block sewed to the center front of the wrap, which would have, in my mind, two benefits.  For 1) it would make it easier to hide baby stains (or mommy stains) on the front of the carrier, which is the most visible section.  And 2) it would be easier to find the center front of the carrier, which is useful for tying it on properly.  We also have enough fabric to make two wraps out of the white fabric, so I could personalize each one - one for me, and one for J, if I felt so inclined.

And of course I still want to finish all the nest-feathering projects and the personal-gratification projects, too.  Still in progress: living room curtains, and finishing a few UFOs of various varieties.  Still on the drawing board: cushions for the dining room, a curtain for the dining room picture window, and cushions for my rocking chair and the window seat in the living room.  On the horizon: making nursing-friendly tops, making baby presents galore, and making myself a wrap dress (which probably won't be a maternity dress anymore, but still will be awesomely cute).  Still a pipe dream: recovering the couch, and making a crazy quilt.  That last one is going to happen, even if I'm 95 years old before it does.

Feb. 25th, 2009



Haha!  I have finally figured out how to get photos loaded directly into my entries!  Old entries have now been updated with a representative pic of the project in question; and there's a me-modeling-the-vintage-apron pic too (but I didn't take it in the kitchen).

Feb. 24th, 2009


Baby blocks for Henry

As we're preparing for the Krauselet's arrival, I've been thinking a lot about toys lately.  Specifically, I've been thinking about creative, open-ended toys, the kind that you can use to do all sorts of things.  You know, blocks, dolls, play kitchens, sandboxes, etc.  Things made from stuff besides plastic.  Things a kid can use over and over for more than a week or two.

So when Steve and Stephanie's son Henry was born on January 28th (and I still don't know how they managed to get to the hospital in the middle of the night, during the snow storm ...) I naturally wanted to make him a gift that would be creative and open-ended, at least potentially.  I also didn't want to make something like a quilt or blanket or pillow or clothing, because if Steve and Steph are anything like us, they probably have lots of those already, especially since Henry's their third baby.  (Ok, let's be honest: I'm sure they also have tons of toys.)

So given that I didn't want to make bibs or blankets, and I didn't want to buy something, what's a girl to do?  Go to the internet, of course.  Eventually I stumbled upon this fantastic idea: stuffed blocks.  There are lots of variations on this, some of which I will eventually try.  But that tutorial on Flickr is what I used, and I really like the way they ended up.

Following in the recent stash-busting pattern, I used stashed fabrics: 5 different cottons and the never-ending scraps of yellow twill left over from the button stoles.  The cottons were left over from another baby quilt (Lydia's, made in December of 2007) or various other recent projects, including the tote bags.

On the yellow twill, I machine embroidered H-E-N-R-Y using navy blue thread and a zig-zag stitch.  I just free-hand drew the letters using a pencil - I still haven't figured out the best method for marking fabrics, but pencil works pretty well for most of the time, especially if I don't change my mind later.

I cut out the blocks 4" square, using my rotary cutter, ruler, and mat that thesporkinator  bought me for Christmas.  I <3 the rotary cutter.  It makes things that are square so much more fun and simple to cut. 

Each block has one of the embroidered letters on yellow twill, and one square each of the yellow multi-colored dots, the blue gingham, the green gingham, the teal squares, and the red-orange calico.  I just sewed them together in random order, and by happy accident they turned out to be totally un-matching.  Then turning, stuffing, and hand-sewing the openings closed followed.  Voila!  Soft blocks for the baby.

The most difficult part of the project was marking all the sewing/stop lines (it's important not to sew all the way to the end of the fabric, or you don't end up with a cube!) and next time I do this I will probably just put pins at my stop lines instead of doing all the marking.

I say "next time", because I am totally going to make lots more cubes.  I might even branch out into balls, though that much geometry seems a bit out of my league right now.  These are (I hope) a great baby gift, and they involve way less time and energy and money investment than a quilt.  And we have LOTS of friends having babies just now, including 2 to whom I owe presents already, because they are already born.  (I don't know why, but I don't like to make baby gifts until babies arrive.  I can start them, but I don't like to finish before the kid makes its appearance into the world.  Not sure of the reason: superstition, or a desire to personalize for each child, or a bit of both?)

Anyway, next time I will probably skip the turning part of things - I think it would be fun to leave the seam allowances on the outside and just pink them, so that Baby has something easier to grasp onto.  (Plus, raw edges are cute!) 
I might experiment with using more solid foam rather than poly-fill, so that the blocks are more substantial (after I get the dining room chair cushions made and have some leftover foam to play with). 
I might add a jingle bell or something in the centers. 
And I will definitely be sure all the fabrics are pre-washed ... the red calico shrunk a bit in the dryer (oops) so Henry's blocks are now slightly rounded.  (If I get around to it I might unpick them and take out a bit of the stuffing so they lay flat again.  Then again, I might not.)
I also might transform this into a hand-sewing on the couch kind of project, depending on how many I decide to make.

I think I will probably go through my scrap boxes pretty soon - which are pretty much overflowing - and cut a bunch of squares so that I can make blocks when the mood strikes me, without too much preparation.  This is a pretty quick, fun project, and it would be even quicker and more fun if I already have the pieces cut.

Total time: to read the pattern, pick fabrics, cut out, and sew & stuff 5 blocks was about 2.5 hours.  A lot of that was getting the embroidery finished and looking okay.  The cubes themselves sewed up pretty fast, maybe 15-20 minutes each.
Total cost: minimal, as I used small pieces of stashed fabrics.  Perhaps a total of $2 for fabric and stuffing?  Even purpose buying fabric would probably not cost more than $1/cube.
Total fabric use: a 3" finished cube (which is what these are) needs a 12 x 8 inch piece of fabric (to get 6 4-inch blocks).  That means that it is infinitely possible to get 5 blocks out of 3/8 of a yard of standard-issue, 44" wide cotton fabric.  [One fat quarter could do nearly two blocks of this size.]  (Let me tell you, figuring out that fabric usage with a preggo brain was a Herculean task).  So let's say I used 3/8 of a yard of cotton for these five blocks, spread over scraps of 6 different fabrics.

Bitty backpacks

My awesome advisor (I can never decide if that is spelled with "E" or with "O" and Firefox thinks "O" is wrong but I prefer the look of "advisor" to "adviser" because it seems more active, so I'm not going to look it up, so there) ... anyway, let's start over. 

My awesome advisor and his wife have two little boys, twins named Oliver and Hugo.  They are now about 18 months old.  Actually, Steve and Stephanie now have *three* little boys, as baby Henry was born at the end of January, in the midst of that huge snow and ice storm that stopped Cincinnati in its tracks.  So they really have three little boys, but these backpacks are for the two older little boys, the twins.  Baby Henry gets a different present, one I shall mention in due course.  Hugo and Oliver get presents for two reasons.  First, because I *meant* to make them presents when they were born, and went so far as to actually buy fabric for said presents, but failed to then complete the presents.  And second, because I think newly-minted big brothers are just as worthy of celebrating as newly-arrived baby brothers.  (And third, because taking presents to a baby and not to toddlers in the same house is a sure-fire way of starting tantrums, in my so-far limited experience.)

I thought long and hard about what I could make for the boys.  I didn't really want to make pillows, or soft toys - not sure why, I just didn't.  I've been in a bags mood lately, but I'm not really sure that boys carry tote-bags.  (Male [or female] friends are welcome to put me straight on that point).  So I decided to make some (hopefully) toddler-sized backpacks instead.  This was a free-form project, built using a pattern straight out of my head.

Basically, these are just rectangular drawstring bags, around 9 x 11 inches each, that have straps sewn onto the backs.  They're not particularly ergonomic, but they're also not particularly heavy-duty.  I'm envisioning these carrying a book, a stuffed toy or a ball, and a snack, rather than a weekend getaway's worth of toddler entertainments.

To make the bags more visually entertaining, I used black broadcloth for the back, and pieced the front of each bag in a quasi-log cabin style block, using stashed cotton fabric (and one stashed twill, the yellow, which comes from the button stoles I coordinated making as a fundraiser for SDD in 2003, remember, girls?).  Yes, the center panel is fabric that I also used for the little tote bag for Lydia.  In fact, I had purchased that panel fabric for the never-made baby presents for Hugo and Oliver.  I like the idea of giving twins (especially little twins) things that are similar but not identical.  [gaiadea  and geminid  may feel free to excoriate me for this in the comments.]  So that panel fabric seemed perfect - matching colorways, but squares in some panels and circles in the other.  In order to make the bags not identical, I reversed the log cabinish design.  Hugo's is red at the top, and Oliver's bag is yellow at the top.  I embroidered each boy's name at the top of his bag using some very bright green cotton embroidery floss.

The front of both backpacks are lined with more black broadcloth to cover the seams, using French seams so that the seams are all hidden.  If I had been feeling more ambitious I probably would have quilted the bags, but I wasn't feeling particularly ambitious so I didn't.  Like I said, light-weight bags, not heavy duty ones.  The straps are pieced from more of the panel fabric, matching the central panel (so Hugo's has blocks and Oliver's has circles); the backs of the straps are more black broadcloth.  Have I mentioned that I love my fabric stash right now?  (Though I haven't had an excuse to go to the fabric store since before Christmas ...)

I'm pretty pleased with how the backpacks turned out, and hope that the boys will enjoy using them.  I'm planning to give them away just as soon as the kids and Stephanie get over their colds and I can go visit.

If I were making more backpacks I would probably do a more traditional log-cabin style front, with a smaller center panel and more piecing, and I would at least top-stitch if not quilt the front.  I would also make the button-holes that I used for the drawstring a lot smaller (so that it doesn't slip out as easily), and maybe place them off-center so as not to obscure the embroidery.  And I would probably use a light-weight interfacing in the straps to make them a little sturdier.

Total cost: for each bag, using stashed fabric and notions ... let's say about $3-5.  Or we can say $0, since the fabric was purchased so long ago and was in the stash.
Total fabric use: for each bag, somewhere south of 1/4 of a yard.
Total time investment: for both bags, around 3 hours total.

Feb. 13th, 2009


Prettied up planner

So for a couple of months now, I've been using a Levenger Circa junior-size planner.  I've been interested in the Levenger circa system for years, ever since I saw playgreek  and family using them.  But they are pricey!  So when I decided to invest (and I do mean invest; the hole punch is like $70!) I wanted to make sure that I actually liked the system before I jumped in with both feet (or with $70, as it were).  I did this by buying a cheapo starter pack (for the much more manageable amount of about $12), which came with a bunch of pre-punched paper as well as a translucent plastic cover and some rings.  I quickly decided that I loved the concept, but didn't particularly like the stater papers that came with the notebook--too form-y, not free-form-y enough.  And I wanted to be able to print my electronic calendar from iCal and Google Calendar and have a paper copy with me.  So that meant investing in the hole punch.  And some heavy-weight printer paper.  And I've been very pleased with the results, in general.  The notebook is a good size, and I always have it handy for jotting stuff down, so that my poor preggers brain, which is apparently made of applesauce these days, doesn't have to struggle to remember when my midwife appointments are or what exactly we needed at the grocery store.

What I really wanted was one of the pretty bookcloth covered notebooks, which come with a handy-dandy pen loop as well as being lovely colors (like plum, and turquoise, and jade).  But spending another $48 on a notebook that's enhanced with a measly piece of elastic to replace a perfectly functional notebook lacking elastic seemed, well, wasteful.  So yesterday, when I should have been doing real work, or at least altering some of thesporkinator 's suit trousers, I decided to make a custom cover for the planner instead.  (What can I say?  It was a beautiful sunny day, and my sewing room has the nicest sunshine ...)

I'm pretty pleased with how it turned out, in the end.  The materials I used were 3 mostly complete fat quarters, leftover from a pack that I bought in college.  In early college.  So probably this fabric has been hanging around about 8 years now.  It's made its way into various projects in small ways, but I still had big chunks left.  Hooray for my awesome fabric stash!  (I'm working on stash busting from now on, until I make enough space in the drawers that I can put more yardage in ...)  I also employed for the covers a cardboard cereal box that was in the recycling bin, and some stiff sew-in interfacing scraps that I also found in the stash helped give some body to the pockets.

The final product has two cloth-covered covers.  Each cover has pockets on the interior.  The front pocket is vertical (I copied this design element from some of Levenger's uber-pricey leather folders).  The back cover has a pen pocket and a horizontal pocket for papers.  The updated cover is about 1/2" wider than the original Levenger-sized cover, in order to accomodate the pen pocket, but I don't think this is a bad thing.

Unfortunately, this project took a lot longer than I expected, mostly because I sort of had to change plans a couple times in the middle.  (I'm going to go ahead and blame it on the applesaucey pregnant brain, which isn't so good at math or analysis these days.)  I don't think the changes made the project worse in any way, just a little more difficult and time consuming.  This was supposed to be just a short little thing, to enjoy some sunshine before getting back to real work.  Hah!

For one thing, I totally failed to add seam allowances to the fabric I cut out for the main body (the blue/purple wave).  This decision was prompted by the fact that I was just going to glue the fabric down onto the cereal box cardboard I cut for the cover.  But then I realized that I didn't have any spray adhesive, and elmer's glue would be messy, and hot glue would hurt my fingers ... so I decided to sew the fabric to the cardboard instead.  This was surprisingly easy.  I didn't even break a needle.  But then the cardboard cum fabric was too thick to go into my punch, so it couldn't become the cover on its own.  I had to adjust everything (read: pick out everything) so that I could slide the translucent cover of the notebook's original shell into the fabric/cardboard cover.

For a second thing, the whole no-seam-allowances thing meant that the front vertical pocket, which I had intended for use housing folded 8.5 x 11 sheets, wouldn't actually hold said 8.5 x 11 sheets once they were sewed down.  Sigh.  I solved this problem by adding a pocket horizontally in the back cover.  It took some rejiggering, and I had to cover up part of the pen holder, and I had to hand-sew one edge of the pocket down so as not to lose the functionality of the pen pocket ... but it all works now.  Can put folded papers in back pocket, receipts and smaller pieces in front pocket, and still have holder for a pen or two.

I made skinny double-fold bias tape out of one of my pieces of fabric, which I used to bind the edges.  And a good thing I did, too, since I ended up needing something to bind the edges to keep the pocket together, following the major design change from cover to pocket!  Learning how to make my own bias tape (using the continuous method here, by the Dread Pirate Rodgers) has been a real revelation in my sewing.  I love love love bias tape.  And piping.  And edging.  And once I found this tutorial (from Autum at creative little daisy) on a DIY way to make double-fold bias tape, I love it even more.  I attached the bias tape using hot glue (ouch!  My poor index fingers are not sure about hot glue.)  Despite the burned fingers, I think the bias edging really makes the whole project.  It sort of ties it all together.  Thank goodness it works; I would have been very disappointed to put in so much time and end up with a sticky, gluey, mess that looked awful or didn't lie flat.

On the whole, I'm pleased--but probably won't be redoing this project any time soon!

Total fabric: parts of 3 fat quarters.  Probably if I had used fewer fabrics, I could have gotten away pretty easily with just one fat quarter and some bias tape or ribbon.  And about 18 square inches of sew-in interfacing.
Total cost: I'm going to call it zero!  Because these fat quarters and the interfacing came from the stash, and I don't even remember how much I might have paid for them back then.
Total time: from planning to finished, about 4.5 hours.  Probably I could have cut this down by measuring more carefully, including seam allowances, and sketching out a plan on paper before I started.  But where would the fun be in that?

Feb. 11th, 2009


updated posts

I updated the last two Christmas sewing posts (dishtowel totes, and a tiny tote bag) with links to Flikr photos of the projects, which I finally managed to upload today.

I've been doing lots of sewing.  More posts to come when I get around to taking decent pics!

Jan. 28th, 2009


A tiny tote

 ... for a tiny tot, my best friend Emily's 12-month-old daughter Lydia.  Lydia's birthday is at the end of December.  Her mom and I have been friends since we were infants (really), and we exchange birthday gifts at the holidays (because that's when our birthdays fall).  So it made sense to add Lydia to the gift exchange.  On the logic that Emily was receiving one of the dishtowel totes, and Lydia is still young enough that stuff Mom likes is cool, and tote bags are always useful, I decided to make Lydia a tiny tote.

I used some stashed cotton and basically followed the same pattern as for the other tote bags, just on a miniature scale.  I have a mini tote bag that my Aunt Frances made for me when I was about Lydia's age, and it is still in daily use around here as my lunch bag.  So I patterned the bag for Lydia on that small little bag, which is about 6 inches square.  Lydia's ended up a little smaller than that one because of the panel fabric I used for the exterior: I wanted to showcase each panel, which is not quite 6 inches, and not get weird bits of the adjacent panels also showing at the sides and bottom.  But in the end I think it worked out - a good size for carrying around a few blocks, some Cheerios, and whatever else a 12-month-old little girl needs to have with her.  :-)

The fabric is from the stash.  The exterior is part of a half-yard of panel fabric that I bought at St. Theresa Textile Trove a while back; the interior is the same aqua blue cotton that I used in the dishtowel totes.  In retrospect, I probably would have preferred using a slightly different shade of blue for the lining, but the lighting in the dining room wasn't great and I used what I had to hand.  All the other fabric was buried in the depths of the not-yet-unpacked sewing room, so getting to my other options was not really possible. 

Total fabric: about a quarter yard, perhaps?
Total cost: nominal, as everything was already stashed away; probably a total of about $3's worth of fabric.
Total time: under an hour, since I was in bag production mode.

A ton of totes

Well, not really a ton.  But a lot of tote bags, given to various friends and family members as Christmas and birthday gifts.

I used the Dishtowel Tote tutorial as my basis.  I bought a pack of 5 dish towels at Target for $10, and bought cotton on sale at Joann to use as lining.  Unfortunately I had to use two different lining fabrics because I couldn't find one that worked for all 5 dishtowels.  (Poor me!  I had to buy two different fabrics!  Oh noes!)

I basically followed the tutorial pattern pretty closely, but of course we all know that I am incapable of using any pattern without altering it a little bit at least!  So here are the alterations that I made from the original dish-towel tote:
1. Instead of cutting my towel down to make part of the handles, I made the entire handle from lining/contrast fabric.
2. I added an exterior pocket of the lining fabric to one side of each bag.  Because really, every tote bag should have at least one pocket.  Just like every dress should have a pocket.  Pockets are fantastic.
3. I decided to make the bag capable of standing up on its own, rather than leaving it as a traditional tote bag.  So I sewed gussets, like in the Classic Tote tutorial.  In 3 of the 5 bags I just sewed the gusset as one of the last steps, meaning that the flaps are inside the bag.  In the other two, I gussetted the lining and the exterior fabric separately, so that the flaps would not be accessible from the interior of the bag.  It's certainly a nicer finished look, but I'm not sure doing this is worth the time.
4. In at least a couple of instances I used my sewing machine to do some decorative embroidery/top stitching on the pockets.
I'm pretty pleased with how these totes turned out.  For one, I love the colors - so bright and happy!  For another thing, yay for inexpensive, reasonably quick handmade useful gifts!

There are a couple things I would probably do differently next time:
a. Sew the gussets last, but then sew one seam down the center bottom of the bag to catch the flaps down, or at any rate catch the flaps down somehow.
b. Buy bigger dishtowels so that I can cut them to make the handles as directed; I think in retrospect they look nicer when the handles have some of the main fabric on them.
c. True up the dishtowels before I started.  One thing that slowed me down a bit in the assembly line process of making these bags was that I expected them to be square at the corners and straight at the hems.  Hah!  Shows how little I know.  Next time, I'll cut the hems off and make sure I have true rectangles before I start.
I really like this concept, though, and I think I will strive to keep some dishtowels around (or maybe some cute fat quarters, I'm sure they would work equally well) so that I can throw gifts together at the last minute, as it were.

Total fabric: 5 dishtowels (I think mine were 17x23? so let's call it 5 fat quarters) + ditto for the lining + around 2.5 fat quarters for the handles, pockets, etc.  That means a total of about 2.75 yards, I'd reckon.  Plus interfacing.  Plus buttons.
Total cost: about $20 for 5 bags, or about $4 apiece.  Maybe a bit more, because I didn't use stashed buttons.  So let's say $5 each.
Total time: around 2 hours per bag, because I kept wanting to get all creative.  Probably if I had really just done the assembly line thing it would have been a bit less than that.

Pics: Bag 1, Bag 2, Bag 3, Bag 4 exterior, Bag 4 interior.  I gave away bag 5 before I photographed it, but it achieved a similar level of awesomeness, IMHO.

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