Wednesday, June 15, 2011


My dear friend Emily is leaving for a new job at Disney World.  Seriously, she gets to work at Disney World.  For money.

I knew she wouldn't want more junk to have to pack, but I wanted to give her a little something to send her off.  So I made this little toiletry bag, and filled it with snacks for the road.  (Chex Mix, red licorice, and peanut butter m&m's.  Plus a Taco Bell gift card.)

 I used three fat quarters in fun prints that remind me of Emily. 


And I lined it with clear vinyl, for easy cleaning of spilled foundation and smashed lipstick. (Or is that just me?)

I've seen cute laminated fabric/oilcloth projects, like this one, on other craft blogs.  I'm too cheap to buy real oilcloth, but I had some clear vinyl in my stash, and I've been wanting to see if it would work to overlay it on a printed fabric.

So, did it work?  

Ummm, for this project, not really.  It might be OK for something like this bib, or this book cover, but having the two interior sides facing each other turned out to be a major pain.  They kept sticking together, making the whole construction process a lot more cumbersome.  And I'm pretty sure it will affect usability too, since Emily will have to unstick it from itself just to load it up.  That is, until she spills foundation, lipstick, and loose powder inside.  Then it will be just right. 

Ree's Bag

This bag was one of the most exciting and terrifying projects I've tackled yet.

You see, I don't actually know what I'm doing.  When things work out well, its due mostly to luck and perseverance.  And the generous support of my seam ripper.  But my sister, Ree, has great faith in me, so when she asked if I could make her a purse with customized pockets to hold all her stuff, she probably thought I could do it.  (Probably because I said "sure, no problem, I can do that."  She's so gullible.)
So we got to work.   I photographed my stash so Ree could choose fabrics.
She chose 3 & 4, lined with A.

We browsed the Internet for pretty bags.  There were a lot.

Eventually,  Ree settled on this design, from a talented bag maker named Sweet Bee, who I don't know and does not have a blog (as far as I know).  (But she should.)

And then I realized I had a problem.  I meant to only suggest bags that had tutorials or online patterns I could follow.   There are hundreds of them out there, so it wasn't a particularly hard rule to stick to.  Except, you know where this is going, do you?  Somehow, this one slipped in.  And Ree liked it.  And I didn't realize until after she'd already picked it that Sweet Bee didn't share a pattern.

Now, what I should have done was say, "Ree, the bag you picked doesn't have a pattern?  How bout we go with your second choice?"  But instead, I uttered (to myself) the five most treacherous words in all of craftdom:  "How hard can it be?"

Answer:  Hard.

You see, I'm not so good with the 3-dimensional spacial intelligence.  And I'm really more an eye-baller than a measure-twice-cut-once-er. And even though I  mostly knew how to do all of the individual steps, it's important to complete those steps in the right order.  You know, like putting on  your pants first, then your shoes.  If you get ahead of yourself, you're just going to end up having to take off your pants.  Wait, no. Your shoes.  You have to take off your shoes.  And use your seam ripper.
And it seemed like each problem  I fixed only created another one.

Like, the air soluable marker I was using to mark pocket seams kept disappearing too quickly.  So I used tailor's chalk.  And then of course, I couldn't get it off.
See the red line in the center of the right-side pocket?  That's persistently immovable tailor's chalk.  The kind that's not supposed to be permanent, but is.  Apparently.

Ree didn't care, really, but I was determined to give her a pristine bag.  So I scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed that thing, but that chalk wasn't budging.  And not only did I not get the chalk lines out, I created water stains on the outside of the bag.  So then I had to scrub and scrub some more to get those (mostly) out.  

And then the exterior of the bag was crazily wrinkled from being turned right side out.  And the stiff interfacing I'd ironed to the back of the fabric was puckering weirdly.  So I went at it with a hot iron until I scorched patches of the fabric a subltle shade of "toasty."  (It was perfectly smooth, though.)

And in some places I made so many reinforcement stitches that I made the fabric tear from over-stitching.   Argh!

Other complaints (mostly just for me so I can remember what to improve next time.):  The exterior fabric is a heavenly soft cotton that I fear won't wear well. (I thought with heavy-duty interfacing it would be OK, but with a bag this structured, should have used a thicker material from the start.)  The straps pull the exterior of the bag in an odd way when the bag is worn.  (This is partly because of the thin material, I think, but also because the straps are only sewn to the exterior fabric, not the lining.  I'm not sure how to get around this problem without having stitches on the inside of the bag, which would get in the way of the pockets.)   The circle rings I used came from an old thrift store purse.  I looked for rectangular rings like Sweet Bee used in the original, but they didn't have them at JoAnn's, and I didn't want to wait for an online order.  (Next time, I'll wait.)  The curve is not perfectly symmetrical or smooth, a detail you might not notice until you take another look at Sweet Bee's masterpiece.   (If I try this look again, I think I'll try sewing the contrast pieces together on a curved line first, and then cut the curve, rather than try to sew along the curve with a narrow seam allowance.)  Finally, I made the interior pockets extend the entire depth of the lining, closing them up in the bottom seam of the purse.  But I hadn't considered that the box seams at the bottom sides would interrupt the pockets, making them awkwardly shaped.  (This wasn't a huge deal because those pockets were customized to different depths anyway (for chapstick, pen, lip gloss, and ipod.)  But next time I will not enclose the pockets in the bottom seam.  With lining and pockets, there were way too many layers down there anyway.) 

On the positive side, despite its imperfections, I actually think the bag turned out OK.  I love the fabric combination, the pockets on the inside, and the creamy quilted cotton I used for the lining. 

I also love the zipper pocket, because I think every purse needs at least one zippered pocket.  "For tampons!" Ree exclaimed.    Exactly.   I used followed this tutorial to create the placket pocket, and then just sewed in a zipper.  I'm more proud of it than I should be, and it might just be my favorite part of the bag.  I also added a magnetic snap, which was so easy I'll probably be putting them in everything from now on.

And the good news for me is that I learned a lot constructing this bag, which will make my next bag even better.  In a way, I feel sorry that Ree gets the guinea pig prototype bag, and I'll be the one who benefits when I make version 2.0 for myself.  Sorry Ree!

But,  even if it's not perfect, it's got a place for everything.  And I'm hoping that finding her car keys will be so easy that Ree will forget about all the other flaws and just enjoy the bag.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

A massive coverup

This may be hard to believe, but I am not always completely graceful, charming, and delicate.  In fact, I can be downright clumsy.  Slobbish.  A mess!  I blame my kids, but the truth is on any given day, the stains on my clothes are just as likely to have come from my own mishaps.

So I've taken to embellishing clothing -- shirts in particular -- to cover up signs of wear.  Like spaghetti sauce.  Or whatever.

Guess what's hiding under all those ruffles?  Grease spots, that's what.  You perv.

I've cropped this photo a bit because, well, I'm horrible at being photographed.  Don't believe me?  This is the face I was making in the photo above.  And this was one of the best shots.  I think I was yawning, but it could have been a sneeze.

As long as I was cropping, I went ahead and trimmed of my lovehandles too.  Because it's my blog, and I can.  But doesn't my hair look great?  No photo editing there.  That's 100% natural.
Grace, on the other hand, knows how to work it.  With her it's hard to find a picture I don't like.  So here are ten. 


Beneath these flowers and birds hide splatters, splotches, smears and stains.  Shhh!  Don't tell!
I've got a few more tops, and a couple pairs of pants for me that I still need to photograph.  But you get the idea.  Your clothes may be stained, your handles may be lovely, but a massive coverup is easier than you think!


 I recently came in to a stash of onesies in assorted sizes.  (And by "came into," I mean "ordered from")

  I have a baby, but he's getting big now, and so the little onesies  have to find new homes.

Lucky for me, some of my friends have recently had babies conveniently sized for my onesies.  How thoughtful!

First, Erin's sweet baby, Ania, finally got a little something from the stash.

This first outfit came from a series of happy accidents.  I've got a bin full of stained, worn-out, and out-grown clothes that I've saved to be upcycled.  This skirt has been in that bin since Grace was little enough to wear it, probably 3 years ago.

Somehow after wearing the skirt only once or twice, my pre-toddler had a run-in with a blue sharpie.  I planned to cover the stains with some kind of design or applique, but I never got around to it, and now she's 4 1/2, and it wouldn't quite be appropriate to squeeze her into a 9 mo skirt.

So, I decided to cut it apart to use the fabric.  My intention was to imitate this shirt, which I found (in royal blue) on the clearance rack at Target.  It was in Grace's (current) size, but at $6, it was more than I usually pay for kids' clothes.  Because (have I mentioned?) I am cheap.   Anyway, I went ahead and bought it.  To copy it.

It may be too small to get a good look at it, but the embellishments are concentric circles of scallop-edged fabric strips.  It's a really pretty effect, and I wanted to see if I could approximate it.  I cut strips with pinking shears and tried sewing them in a tight spiral.  It ended up looking like an awkward rose, but I didn't like the pinked edges.  So I tried the same thing with the finished edge of the skirt.  And I liked it a lot more.

It's not at all what I was going for at first, but it turned out pretty anyway.

All that was left then was to cut out the stained part of the skirt and size it for a 3-month-old.  I stewed forever trying to figure out an easy way to size down the attached britches, and then I realized since it was going over a onesie, it didn't need britches.  Yay!  I love it when the best way is the easy way.So I cut the britches off, brought in the waist, and removed the bottom tier so the skirt was just the right size.  I realize it might be a little weird to give my kid's used clothes as a baby gift.  But the skirt was only gently used before the run in with the sharpie.  And Erin is eco-conscious, so I doubt she minds a little re-purposing. 

On a second onesie, I added a ruffly butt

and a scrap of vintage fabric

And ta daa!  A blurry onesie.

Just kidding.  It's not really blurry in real life.  Just in all the pictures.

So that was two onesies down.  And then, Rozannah had a tiny little peanut, which gave me the chance clear out the rest of the newborn size package.

I fancied them up just a bit.    

With embroidered applique.

With lace.
Not shown:  lacy butt.

And with a little iron-on bedazzling.

George was curious, so he thought he'd give cross-dressing a try.

The lace and the applique came from the old lady stash.  I got the iron-on studs in a clearance bin at Wal-Mart a long time ago.  This is the first time I've used them, and I'm pretty happy with how it turned out, except that some of the coloring on the gold studs came off on the iron and transferred  to the onesie.  It made it look kind of dirty.  Or maybe burned.  (Or maybe I just burned the fabric while putting on the studs? Hmmm.)  In the future, I think I'll use my Silhouette cutter's rhinestone setting templates to arrange the dots, because that was a bit of a pain.  (Quick tip though:  Silhouette sells a fancy tool for picking up and placing rhinestones, which of course I don't own.  So I stuck a little blob of plasti-tac on the end of a seam ripper, and that worked just fine.)  I have lots of studs left, so expect to see them on future projects.

Pretty much everything in this set has to be hand-washed and line dried, so I felt like I needed to apologize for the gift as I was giving it.  Special care clothes are ridiculous for kids!  But at least lil' peanut will grow out of them quickly, so they won't have to be worn & washed very many times.

So that's five onesies down.  Just twelve more to go.