Saturday, February 27, 2010

How to Make a Round Topped Bag

The finished bags are about 6 to 8 inches long, and about 3 to 4 inches across.
You will need:
                  some heavier weight fabric such as a felted wool sweater, about 10" x 13"
                  a zipper at least 12" long, up to 14" or 15"
                  thread, either matching or contrasting

First, you cut out an oval shape from your wool, it doesn't really matter what size,

 You can even use a fancy rotary blade to scallop the edge.
 Fold it in half vertically, and place a pin on each end at the fold line to mark the half-way point.  Unzip your zipper (Ha ha ha) and mark the halfway point on each side of it.
This is because it works best to sew each side of the zipper in two go's-- from the center down to the end of the zipper on each side. ( I tried sewing the sides of the zipper on to the felt in one seam, from one end to the other, but the felted wool has a tendency to stretch, and the two sides of the zipper stretched at different rates, so they turned out different lengths along the wool, -- if that explanation makes your head spin, don't try to figure it out, just take my word for it.)
So, starting at the half-way point on one side, match the center of one side of the zipper, making sure that the zipper pull side is facing upwards! and top-stitch the wool down on to the fabric part of the zipper.  You can use a zig-zag stitch if you like.
 turn it around and do the other side.  you'll have to have the bulk of the fabric on the right side of the needle to do this. At some point while doing this, you'll have to stop with the needle down in the stitching to move the zipper pull from one end of the zipper to the other, so that you can get close enough to the zipper teeth to stitch. 
 Then, repeat this for the other side of the zipper.
 Next, just fold the oval in half horizontally, and sew seams on the two sides, from the place where the zipper teeth start (back-stitch here) to the folded edge.

Now it's time to "box the corners".  This is to give the bag a squared corner bottom.  You just turn the seam to lay flat against the bottom of the bag, and stitch a seam cross-ways about 1" from the point.  you can experiment with how far away from the point you want to sew.  The farthur away that you place the seam will give a wider, but shorter bottomto the bag. 
 Then I usually cut the extra fabric off to reduce bulk.  You can zig-zag this seam if you like, especially if you're using a fabric other than wool that might fray.

When you turn it right side out, you will be so pleased with it! (I hope)
Then, you might want to embellish it somehow:
 You could sew on some doodads, or buttons.  On the red bag above, I used 2 of these ribbon roses to make a fancier zipper pull by just stitching through the hole on the metal zipper pull.

 On the light blue bag, I just pinned on a felt brooch I'd made sometime, it just is some cut out flower shapes stacked up with a button in the middle, and a safety pin sewed on the back.
 On the dark blue bag, I used a facing of quilting cotton to enclose the raw edge of the wool along the edge of the zipper...  I like how it turned out but it is beyond my powers of description to tell you how I did it.

It also has a wrist strap, sewn in when the little cross-seam was made to box the end. 

Any other ideas for how to vary the bag, or decorate it? I'd love to hear any ideas! michelle 

Felt Saturday

I didn't plan this for today, but it just unfolded that way.  I spent most a lot of today doing things with felted wool.   
Well, I did get sidetracked for quite some time in exploring other blogs.  That must be a phase that new bloggers go through, right?
 I made lavender pincushions/sachets,

And some more little round-topped bags

And here they are in a nice pattern:
I am also rolling some more coils for braided rug.  To write Part Two of the tutorial on how to make a braided rug, I have to start a new one so that I can take some photos of the process.  So, I am mulling over whether to make it round or oval, any votes on that?

Speaking of crafts tutorials, I came across this amazing how-to site, 
which appears to have instructions for just about anything, perhaps making my how-to's redundant. Well, I have a lot to do. michelle

Friday, February 26, 2010

New Yarn

 Yesterday I stopped in at our Local Yarn Store, since it was on the way to where my sewing machines were waiting to be picked up and taken home.  There were some lovely things, of course, and some of them came home with me!

 Well, not all of these are new, but the 4 on the right are.  Last night I wound the wool I had in these hanks into balls using my new ball winder.  What a great invention.

 I already had this wooden thing, which I don't know what it's called, but that holds the wool and spins while you wind it into a ball.  I had just been winding them by hand, but just recently I got this ball winder, which you just turn the handle and it spins around on an angle and makes really nice cylinders of wool.

  This shows one of the hanks, and the other one wound into the ball.

 And this shows what a hand wound ball looks like compared to the ball winder ball:

 They stack really nicely and don't roll around.  I would be tempted to re-wind all my hand wound balls if I didn't know that was sort of crazy. 

 So, after I wound up all these balls, I started to knit a scarf with the really soft and pretty light blue alpaca.  It is so soft!  I think the scarf won't take too long to knit since it uses 6mm needles and it's only 20 stitches wide.  I've wanted to make something with cables for a while now. 
 And now it's Friday already! Have a great weekend, michelle

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Felted aran Laptop bag


Today I made something I'd been thinking about for a while, which is a felted sweater messenger bag for my laptop.  My sister found me the perfect sweater for it, (thanks Gerry!) which was a hand-knit aran wool that they had shrunk a bit.  I washed it to felt it up more, and then started cutting it up!

 It's just a pretty simple rectangle that is big enough for my laptop to slide into.  It was still a bit stretchy, so I made a lining out of a striped ticking and sewed it into the wool rectangle.   
I looked for some buttons for the top closure, 

And found these three leather beauties- even the shank is leather!

I used a strand of linen with wool to crochet the button loops and an edge along the top of one of the sides, and then sewed on the buttons:

Then I made a strap out of the pieced left from the arms of the sweater, i just sewed them into a long strip and made a tube with this fake leather cloth i had. Turned it inside out and stitched it to the sides, along with a few more buttons through all the layers to make it secure, and Voila! it is done!
I love it!

Last night's quilt guild meeting was actually a lot of fun.  I saw some people I hadn't seen for a while, and that was great.  Also, they had a couple of "flea market" tables where a few people were selling things, and I was able to get a few crocheted fabric throw rugs, not large, but I thought they would be nice up by the twin beds at the cabin.  I would post a photo, but they're still out in the car, as I have been too lazy to unload it yet.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Quilt Guild Meeting

Tonight I will attend the Quilt Guild meeting for the first time in several years.
I was a faithful attendee for many years until my husband had to teach a night class on Mondays one year and I had younger children I couldn't leave home alone.  Then, living out of town and getting busy with other things, I just got out of the habit.  However, a large number of my friends were met through the guild.  But tonight! I am nervous because they asked me to come and be their "featured quilter" for this meeting.  I have spent all morning biting my nails and trying to organize my thoughts.  It is quite difficult to decide what to say and what to take for show and tell.
I thought I'd sew for a little to calm my nerves, but unfortunately I have a problem with my machine that requires me to take it in to be fixed.  I was machine quilting yesterday at full tilt, and hit a safety pin --- Ouch!! It seemed to do something very bad to the tension.  I pulled out my backup machine, but no go with it either.  So, both are sitting quietly by the front door. (along with the stuff I pulled together for tonight)

One of the things I'm taking is this project I started yesterday before the big hit.  It is some odds and ends from other projects, and some cut-out pieces from a little beat-up set of embroidered doilies.  I'm planning to turn the pieces into a long table runner.  It is good sometimes to just sew together stuff that can't possibly be turned into a pattern.

 And... remember about the little round-top case? Well I tinkered around a bit and sewed a couple from felted wool sweaters, and they are just crying out for embellishment now!  I took lots of photos during the process, so I hope to turn that into a "How-to" posting. 

 Also, as I was exploring some ways to customize the blog, I added some links to other blogs, including Judy's around the world travel adventure!
Wish me luck for tonight!  thanks! michelle

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Saturdays are busy

Yesterday, I spent quite a few hours in town at the store.  First, I helped  unpack some new orders, and then we had a staff sewing get together--all the 8 staff that work in the front of the shop, plus me were there.    
During our sewing party, we talked a bit about working the shop on Saturdays.  It is a busy day.  Weekdays have their own rhythm, with deliveries, phone calls, a lot of regulars stopping in, and some flurries of activity during the day, often around lunch hour.  Saturdays are often strikingly different.  Often they can be hectic, even with 3 or 4 staff working to help people.  The twice-monthly Saturday block pick-up days can be very busy, but often the same people come at the same time, so there can be quite a bit of socializing.  Sometimes a group of 4 or 5 will come in together, either coming from breakfast, or before going for coffee.   No deliveries, but lots of quilts being planned out.  Sometimes it is busy all day, sometimes a real rush at 4 or 4:30.  By 5:30 you can be very tired out! 

 Do you see that box of envelopes on the table? It was so much fun to open the box and find it.  It is a selection of Hot Iron Transfers for embroidery.  There are 20 dozen, which is 240 of them, and almost all are different!  We all had to pick out some favorites to take home.  (At less than $2 each it was easy)

After 5 years of working nearly every Saturday, I decided to spend Saturdays at home.  But Saturdays at home can be busy too. 

So far today, I have pin-basted two lap size quilts, sewn on some borders, browsed through some books to get some ideas for a new quilt using large scale prints, baked some home-made granola bars, started reading a novel by Laurie R. King, got caught up on Facebook, admired the sunshine, played with my camera and the collage creating features of Picasa, and watched some Olympic skiing on t.v...

I recently purchase this little toiletry pouch made by Fossil.  It is a great size and shape, I was thinking of trying to make one similar to it out of felt and one of the fun-colored zippers I picked up recently a year or two ago. Maybe later.. michelle

Saturday Surprise Block #13

For those who are sewing the Saturday Surprise Blocks, this is today's block:

 And here, some gorgeous new fabrics by Basic Grey, called "Blush", by moda

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Computer is my Friend

The last couple of days have been very computer oriented.
Catching up on my ledger book yesterday took up 5 hours! by the end of that I was pretty antsy, and it took a while to recover.   So, in the evening I sewed a bit, knit a bit...

These are little baby slippers, very tiny, out of alpaca so they're very soft.  the pattern is in a Debbie Bliss book.  I'd like to make them in my size.  Hmm. 

Then I decided I needed to sew a bit.  We got in a bunch of Amy Butler's Love collection on Monday, which are all big prints.  I didn't have any of them here at home, but I did have some Anna Maria Horner fabrics and some other nice bright fabrics, so I found a simple table runner pattern on the Moda web site:  
 I made it a bit longer, with 5 squares instead of four.  I like how it turned out.  I think we'll have to do some kits for at the shop, but in some of our new fabrics.

When I talked to Deb today, (she at the store, I am at home, working!), they were unpacking some other new fabric, another moda line called Blush, by Basic Grey, which you can see  HERE.
You might remember that they did a very popular Christmas group of fabrics called Figgy Pudding.  I almost jumped in the car and drove to town to see them, but I restrained myself.  

Instead, I worked on a couple of patterns -- the block for Saturday, and the new version of X and O's.  This was the first pattern I wrote in 2004 when Periwinkle opened, and I still think the design is good.  So, I have resewn the quilt in 1800's reproductions, and am totally redoing the pattern.  
Now I need to decide what to sew with the Blush fabrics!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

How to Make a Braided Rug, part I

I decided to break up this "tutorial" on how to make a braided rug, because it might take a while for me to write.  Plus, when I make a rug, there are three definite stages to the process.

This is Part I -- Gather your fabric, make strips and fold them

First of course are photos of some finished rugs:
 You can make a small circle rug for on a chair or stool, or a long narrow oval for a bench:

 or a circular floor rug:
 or a long oval rug for a hallway!
 You can combine the braided rug with a hooked rug center:

But first you have to collect some wool.
I've been lucky in the past to obtain fabric somewhat inexpensively, but I find this is getting harder to do where I live.  Aside from Value Village, and the Salvation Army thrift stores, we have a Mennonite used goods store here that I found the best stuff.  It was in a section that had little bundles of fabric for low prices.  Also, you can sometimes find some good lengths of yardage at garage sales, or perhaps a friend might have a stash that she wants to give away.  Or, you can get it at fabric stores, although that can be pretty expensive.
Sometimes, it is even worthwhile to take apart an old piece of wool clothing, if you want to use the color or pattern on it --- a very large dirndl wool skirt is good, but you have to be able to get quite a few fairly long strips from it to make it worthwhile.

I sort of knew what wool looked and felt like.  However, it is hard to tell sometimes whether a fabric is a wool blend.  The main thing is that it should be thick enough to fold into a cord that has some body to it, that won't be really flat.  If a fabric is thin, you can try to felt it by throwing it into the washing machine on hot, and then putting it in the dryer.
You can really tell the difference between 100% wool and a wool blend when you try to cut or rip it into strips.  100% wool rips really easily, whereas a blend has resistance to it, and makes a louder noise when you rip it. 

To start, you need to cut strips of woven wool that are about 2-1/4" wide.  I usually make cuts on the end of the fabric with the rotary cutter and ruler:  You can rip each strip individually, or if you're feeling strong, rip down a few inches on each, then fold half the strips one way and half the other.  Hold one bunch of strips in each hand and then pull apart to rip all the strips at once.

 After you have strips, you might want to join some of the shorter ones into a longer strip.  I like to have strips that are at least 4 or 5 feet long, up to about 6 or 7 feet long.
Join them with a diagonal seam.  Just lay one end over another at right angles, and sew on the diagonal. 

Then cut the extra fabric away.

At this point, I usually put them all into a large basket to keep near the sofa to have on hand for moments when you want something to do.  Perfect for watching t.v.
Next step is to fold and coil the strips into something that looks sort of  like a cinnamon roll.

 It's a bit tricky to explain how to do the folding/coiling.  What you're aiming to do is fold the raw edges to the inside (be careful so that any seams you had will be on the inside of the fold).  It's certainly a two-handed technique.  You might find it helpful to place pins in as you go to prevent things from unwinding if you accidentally let go.  My coils are usually about 3" to 6" wide when totally wound up.  Finish off by putting a pin in the end to hold it in place.  Then, you can lay them out on an ironing board.  I steam them thoroughly on one side, turn them over and steam again.  When they dry, the folds will be set in place so that they won't unfold when you do the braiding part.  

They look sort of interesting at this point.  Usually I do lots of them, so that later I can braid a lot at one sitting.
If you only want to give this a try, you'll only need a few coils for something like a 8" circle to use as a hot mat.  You'll naturally feel clumsy doing this at first, and be tempted to give up.  But, it's like a lot of things, if you persevere a bit and practice, soon it gets much easier and you'll be doing it without thinking about it. Really!

Well, that's it for the first step,  next you will braid the coils!!! Michelle

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