Monday, February 10, 2014

My New Yellow Purse: Day 2

It's after 3:00 PM - time to put the sewing aside for today. I worked for two hours before lunch and another two hours after lunch - not a bad sewing day at all. My days are too busy with other things to devote more than a few hours to sewing.

(Shhh... this is a secret - just between us! I also tire out from the intensity of focus much sooner that I used to do, but we don't talk about that.)

A change of plans.
The day's sewing began with the realization that my plan to attach pockets between seams just wasn't going to work. The seams become way too thick and lumpy! So I put the pockets aside for later when I will need them, and I went to work on the body of the bag.

First, I cut two pieces of the yellow print 8 1/2" x 17" and two pieces of the gray fabric 6 1/2" x 17". The yellow makes the main body of the purse, and I'm using the gray for the base. I hope the gray won't show the dirt quite as much as the yellow might have if it were on the bottom of the purse.

Everything that follows about the body of the bag was done twice. Once, for the front section of the bag, and once for the back.

Now comes the fun part - attaching my lovely piping between these colors. First, I sewed the piping to the yellow fabric, lining up the seam edges like I did with the pockets yesterday.

Then, I sewed the placed the gray and the yellow right sides together sandwiching the piping between them. I lined up the seams and stitched from the yellow side right on the same line of stitching that secures the piping. I pressed the seam towards the gray.  

Time to quilt! I used a fairly lightweight cotton batting for the pockets, but I chose Stiff Stuff batting for the bag, itself. It holds it's shape beautifully.

Quilting! The same treatment on the yellow that was used on the pockets, but vertical lines 3/4" apart on the gray to give an interesting textural contrast. I drew the lines onto the fabric first.

Then I stitched. Up one line, across in the ditch between piping and gray, down the next line, across the bottom - one continuous line of stitching. It shows best on the back.

Now, I trimmed everything even and squared it up. The gray measures exactly 4 1/2" from the piping seam to the bottom, and the yellow is precisely 7, from the piping seam to the top. That makes a total height of 11 1/2". The width of each piece side is 16". This is what the two pieces of the bag look like after trimming.


Look how those four layers of seams show up on the gray! 

That ridge is even more noticeable in the photo! I wonder how I can make it less obvious.  Maybe I should have quilted the pieces first, then sewn them together. I was trying to avoid a getting seams too thick for sewing together. Hmm...
And on to pockets.

Step one, pocket flap.

First thing I did was to add the "male" part of a small magnetic snap to each of the pockets. A picture is worth a thousand words, they say, so I'll just let these pictures do the talking. 

The short rows of stitches above and below the snap go through the quilted front.
Those few stitches really add to the snaps stability.

Next, I made a quick row of zigzag stitching along the raw edge of the flap. 

You can see how I measured and marked the location for the pocket flaps. Everything had to be centered and made level.

Finally I trimmed the bottoms of the flaps evenly and finished them by sewing to the bag with a tight zigzag stitch.

And that was it for today! 

More to come tomorrow.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

My New Yellow Purse

I found these fabrics last week.

Actually it's more like they found me. I was completely innocent. I swear! I just walked into one of my favorite quilt stores to get a fat quarter of something and this fabric jumped out at me shouting, "Me, me, me! I want to be a purse!"

I don't know about you, but sometimes my resistance is at zero. And, truth be told, I desperately need a new purse. Maybe three. The old ones are totally, without question, completely worn out.

I'm going to try to keep a journal about the whole purse process on this blog. I'd be delighted if  you'd like to follow along and sew with me. Measurements are all in bold type so you'll know exactly what I'm doing.

Now for the pattern. Oh, yes, I could easily go to Craftsy and download a lovely pattern. There are literally hundreds to see. But, I have this thing about liking to make my own designs. Nothing is ever quite exactly what I want. As I've said, I can't follow a pattern to save my soul. By the time I'm done tweaking it will have become something else. May as well start from scratch.

So I began mentally sketching it out. A germ of an idea formed. I definitely wanted to incorporate piping. I know, totally crazy. So much work! But that's another side of me. I don't mind lots of fussy work. I enjoy it, in fact. And this purse is just for me. I don't know if I'll write a pattern or not because it really does have a lot of detail and it won't go quickly.

After three days of experimenting on paper and in my head I finally came up with a plan. This is it. Incomplete, but enough for me to begin work.

The purse will be mid-size. I usually prefer either small purses or big totes, but the fabric in this one needed a bit of space to show off. It will measure about 10" tall and 15" wide at the top. The base width will be 11".  Two pockets with flaps on the outside because I like to keep my cell phone and my sunglasses within easy reach. I haven't decided if I should place a big pocket on the back, but I might do that. I love having lots of pockets to keep everything organized. The bag will have a recessed zipper at the top and more pockets on the inside.

Once I start sewing I know that it will have lots of alterations to the plan, but there has to be a beginning.

Today's progress:

1. Make the piping. (This is definitely optional.) The piping I'm using came from Hobby Lobby. I couldn't find the soft, flexible piping in the size I wanted anywhere else. Believe me, I looked!

Next, I cut two strips of the green 2" times the width of the fabric. It will need trimming, but that's good. I want the width of the finished piping piece to be exact.

I folded the piping inside the fabric strips, adjusted my zipper foot to allow me to get really close to the piping and started stitching.

When I had sewn the piping inside both strips of green fabric I needed to trim it. All of my seams are going to measure 1/2", so I used my handy-dandy 1/2" rotary cutting ruler and trimmed away.

2. Make the pockets and flaps. That's right. Pockets first. The reason is that my pockets and pocket flaps be will quilted and stitched into seams in the purse before I quilt the rest of it. At least that's the current plan. 

First off, I cut pieces of fabric, batting, and very thin muslin. I made them large enough to quilt both pockets in one piece and both pocket flaps on another piece. Once again I cut them a bit larger than I'll need because quilting can really alter the size and shape. I cut the pocket pieces 7 1/2" x 14" and the flap pieces 7 1/2" x 10". Then came making the quilt sandwich so all would be ready to quilt.

The free motion quilting was so much fun! It took awhile to decide how the flowers should be quilted, and I went for a simple suggestion of petals - so easy! 

After quilting the section for pocket flaps I realized that the inner quilting on every vein of the leaves was just not necessary. So, on the pockets section I quilted around the leaves and down the main vein only. The difference shows on the back, but one the front it can't be noticed at all.

Pocket flaps come first, both the right side and the lining. I cut them from the pattern I had made and began to began the job of adding piping.

(If you'd like the pattern for the flap, just send an email to and I'll get it right to you.)

 I lined the cut edge of the piping right up agains the cut edge going around the pocket. Then I stitched as close to exactly on the stitching line from making the piping as I could. Going around the corners is just a bit tricky. The piping will fold out and away from the pocket when it's finished, so I needed to use easing to make sure that it wouldn't pull too tightly.

Once the piping is on the quilted section of the pockets it needed to be snipped so the seam allowance wouldn't pull in. You can see that happenning as I stitch around the corner in the photo above.

Next, I actually basted the pocket lining to the front! Folks prefer even to skip pinning. Not much basting goes on anymore, but I really needed to bast if I wanted that lining to stay in place when I sewed it. 

Then, once again with the zipper foot, I sewed the pieces together from the quilted side trying to follow as closely as I could to the original stitching lines.

Trim, turn, iron. This is looking good!

Pockets are up next. I cut two pocket front and lining pieces in 7" x 7" squares. Then I drew a 1/2" seam around three sides of the pocket. I know, overkill perhaps, but that's the way it was. I do want these pockets exactly the same. I stitched right on the lines, trimmed, turned and ironed.

Oops! I had mis-measured! Oh, no! 
The pockets are 1/2" too narrow!

Okay. No choice. Make new pockets from scratch. That took the wind out of my sails, but they are finished and just right. Whew!

The last two photos may be misleading. The pockets really are sewn on three sides. The open end is on the bottom because that will be sewn into a seam as will the top of the pocket flap. I think.

Enough for today! Time to fix dinner. Tonight I'll do some crocheting while getting my "Downton Abbey" fix.

Continued sewing and blogging can wait for tomorrow.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

A few hints for making the "Home" quilt along house block

Yes, the pattern is finished! I am so excited to have it done.

You've seen this before, but here it is one more time, just for fun. :)

I promised you a few tips for putting this together, and here they are.

1. To Limit Bulk
If you are wanting this for a lap quilt you may want to limit the bulk and stiffness of the fusible web as much as you can. If you are planning on using this as a wall hanging it probably makes no difference. You can reduce the bulk of larger pieces by cutting out the center of your piece of fusible web before ironing it on to the back of the applique fabric. You will need to leave a piece of web at least 3/4" wide around the outside edge to give you a secure fuse.

2. Embroidering Flowers
It's difficult enough to embroider through even one layer of fusible web, but near the bottom of the house you will have two or three layers of web. I wouldn't even try to stitch through that. Instead, I drew the shape of the flower bed onto a larger piece of my green fabric with white chalk, then placed it in my tiny embroidery hoop and embroidered the flowers onto it. The fusible web was ironed to the back after the embroidery was finished.

3. Applique Stitch Choices
The stitches you choose for securing the appliques can add life and depth to your block. Thread colors that contrast will highlight the pieces, especially when made with a standard 50 weight thread or heavier. Stitching in matching colors with lightweight, 60 weight thread will recede into the fabric and almost disappear.

Dark thread and zigzag stitching add contrasting trim to the door and the window.
Contrast thread made with a straight triple stitch (jeans top stitch) separates the panes on the windows and creates the ropes for the swing. A similar effect could be achieved with embroidered lines.

A blanket stitch in thread slightly darker than the applique pieces adds definition without standing out too much. The machine blanket stitch also makes very clean edge to the applique. Again, a similar effect can be achieved with a blanket stitch made by hand. I simply don't have the skill to produce lovely, even blanket stitches by hand.

A blanket stitch in matching thread, especially if the thread is a fine 60 weight, will blend into the applique and practically disappear.

Now, on to the block #2.

I'll choose from one of the ideas I've been given so far. Please keep adding to our list! This is what we have so far.

Thank you all so much for these wonderful ideas!

needle, thread and scissors
yarn and knitting needles 
a kitty cat
rocking chair
plate and silverware 
teapot or coffee pot 
cookie jar and cookies  
potted plant
sewing machine
white picket fence
coffee mug
watering can

Happy Stitching, everyone!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Sewing is finished on my house block!

Wow! I love this feeling of accomplishment!

The pattern isn't ready yet, but the applique stitching is finished. Yesterday was a long day at the sewing machine, but once something nears completion I seem unable to stop until it's done.

I've made the templates for the applique pieces, and that's a big step. I still need to draw the layout plan and write the pattern, so there is quite a bit of work remaining. Even so, I'm hoping to have the pattern ready by Friday or Saturday. Fingers crossed!

I really like the way this block has turned out! It has enough detail for my tastes, but it looks like it would be much more work than it was. Since it's a large block, the pieces aren't terribly tiny and there really aren't too many of them. The only hand stitching was the embroidery used in the flower bed.

It's amazing how much life is added by stitching. The before and after photos really highlight the differences.  I've decided that, at least for now, I won't make one in different colors. I have so many other projects waiting for attention.

Astounding isn't it?
I thought you might like to see a list of the ideas that I used from all of you.
  • a 16" block
  • just the house and one big tree
  • bigger blobs for leaves
  • a swing
  • flowers under the window
  • a sidewalk to the front door
I'll end with a few closeup photos so you can see the details more clearly. When the pattern is ready I'll add a blog post with more information and a few helpful hints for putting it all together. 

The doorknob button won't be sewn on until quilting is finished.

Oops. A stray piece of thread invaded the photo. 

Happy Wednesday, everyone!!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Quilt Along House Block Progress

This center house block is finally coming together! I'm ready to start work on templates tomorrow. Then I'll do the applique stitching and add any details that are needed. I should have the pattern totally finished and up on Craftsy by February 10th at the very latest. Then the new blocks could come out on the 10th of every month.

It remains 16" x 16", and it basically contains the house and just one tree.

I'm so much happier with the leaves on the tree! I moved the house up a bit and added another layer of grass so the empty area on top is much smaller. Now it all seems balanced. What else? Oh, I changed the colors on several pieces. The yellow was just one color too many on this one block. The blocks will contain many colors in my scrappy quilt, but I prefer to have the colors in each individual block harmonious. 

I need to thank all of you for your ideas. 

Thank you!

The swing is an just an idea. It hasn't been ironed in place. If I keep it I'll need to drop it a bit lower. The house looked so deserted and lifeless!

To keep or not to keep? What do you think? 

I'm also considering adding some bushes or a pot of flowers to the front of the house. That would involve some tiny pieces, but it can be made quite manageable. 

Again, what would you like to see? Leave it alone? Add some color?

Ideas for other blocks are coming in. 
Please join in with your ideas. 

This is what I've been given so far:  

needle, thread and scissors
yarn and knitting needles 
a kitty cat
rocking chair
plate and silverware 
teapot or coffee pot 
cookie jar and cookies  
potted plant
sewing machine