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The end of the school year is drawing near and like years in the past, I get this itch to make gifts for my son’s teachers. These plans don’t always work out the way I want them to but I always have the best of intentions.

IMG_1133This year I decided to make Jake’s teacher a reversible tote bag with some bright primary colors as a thank you for all her hard work this year. I got the instructions from here. They had me at “simple”.
IMG_1132The outer bag is a cute hand print design with lots of primary colors. My choice as I thought she’d appreciate the symbolic nature. Then I had my son pick out the inner lining and he went with this nice goldenrod yellow material with orange and red polka dots. At first I didn’t see the combo working but let him choose anyhow.

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The project was simple and I was able to simplify it even more. It called for cutting a 13.5 x 14 square of fabric and sewing closed 3 sides. Well, I could do that but instead I just cut a folded piece of fabric and sewed closed two sides. Super simple. I used the folded edge as the bottom of the bag and it worked fine. My favorite part was making the little pocketed corners so that the bag had a flat bottom. It’s kinda like my mitered corners. I loved learning how to make mitered corners as complicated as it can get and it’s my favorite technique when I quilt. These corners were simple yet effect, giving the bag more dimension and structure to the bottom. Again, a technique that is worth learning and adds so much to my sewing.

The handles came out pretty cool too! I originally made my seam too thick so I ripped the first one out and restitched it with my needle shifted closer to my foot and my fabric running right up the outer edge. In the end I had perfect little straps! I loved this part even with the ripping out of the seams. The process was simple just fold and press, fold and press, then sew together and VOILA! You have a strip that when cut in half gives you two clean straps. I used the inner lining material for these and I think they came out great. Then… The snag…IMG_1139Making the straps was awesome and by this point in the evening I was feeling pretty confident in my progress. I had two bags with corners all made up and some cute straps to match. The next step had me placing the bags together with the good sides matching up. Then I had to attach the straps. While the instructions had pictures and a well described blurb about what to do, for some reason I couldn’t visualize this step. The point was to attach the straps about 2-3 inches in from the edge in between the good sides of the fabric so that when you turn it all right-side out, the handles would be attached seamlessly into the bag.

IMG_1141Humm… Well this kinda looks like the picture in the instructions… Turns out I did have them attached facing the right direction and I sewed the whole damn thing only to find out I was wrong. The straps had to go BETWEEN the good sides of fabric, not inside the whole bag. Ugh… So I put it down, went to bed and promised myself I’d take it up the next day.

IMG_1142I did just that and STILL attached them wrong! I ripped out the original seams on the handles and when I went to attach them, I had them on the right sides of the fabric but facing out instead of in, leaving the handles in the wrong direction when the bag was turned right-side out.

IMG_1143I got so frustrated turning this bag around to only find out I had done it wrong AGAIN that I ended up with a pile of sad, wrinkled fabric all twisted and messy. I was about to give up. But I didn’t. I took out that seam ripper and went at it again.IMG_1144MUCH BETTER!!!! This time I got the handles in the right spots, on the correct side of the fabric and facing the right way! When I was done, I tangoed with the fabric to get it turned around and was tickled to see everything was in the right place and looking so adorable, albeit a little wrinkled after all the tugging. And, the lining my son chose ended up being a great combo with the hand fabric on the outside. The whole thing looks so cute and very teachery!IMG_1146 After all the seams that were ripped out and after three attempts to get the damn handles in the right spots, it all came together and looked so nice. The husband even told me it looked store quality. What a sweetheart. As the creator I could still see a few areas of improvement but the overall effect was wonderful.IMG_1149
This morning my son and I gave it a test run with his library books. The bag ends up much bigger than I expected which is a great. Big enough for her to tote her papers to grade and books to read. It’s very cute and I’m super proud of this finished product. So much so I’ve already cut the material to make another, bigger bag with the same material. After that I may make a smaller one for Jake with some dragon material for a lunch tote. Something easy to wash when it gets dirty.

My mind is popping with ideas for bags of different sizes and shapes now that I have worked with this particular pattern. It’s so simple to adjust to your needs that I can see it being used in different ways to make different bags for all kinds of use.

My son is 8 years old. He’s growing like a weed and venturing out into new and unexplored territory. This Spring he played baseball for the first time and he’s reading more and more.

It’s hard to believe that this baby…

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Is now this boy…

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And after all the years of watching me sew, he’s now interested in it himself. After I brought my sewing machine home from the repair shop, he’s been very curious about the story behind it and what I use it for. He’s watched me repair his costumes and create mug rugs and now he’s ready to learn how to sew!

My favorite part of being crafty with him is watching how his mind works. Seeing how he picks his patterns and colors amazes me. Even without knowing much, he’s got a great eye for color. The end of the school year is upon us and as a gift to his teacher, we plan to make her a bag and a matching mug rug. So together we walked to the craft store and bought some fabric to make her an adorable reservable bag.

He’s a little antsy to get the whole thing started but I had to explain how we had to clean the fabric first and get all the prep work done. He wasn’t thrilled. When everything was ready and it was time to cut, he was STILL frustrated that he couldn’t sew yet. So we sat down to cut our strips for the mug rug.

I’m keeping that pattern simple. Just 2 inch strips sewn together with a simple border and binding and solid backing. I taught Jake how to hold the rotary cutter and how to measure out the strips using the clear ruler and our green rotary pad beneath. Math is a WONDERFUL thing to learn when doing a hands on project. Makes it much more easily understood plus it makes fractions fun.

My lefty

My lefty

At first I couldn’t figure out why the rotary cutter wasn’t working for him then I realized my lefty was angled wrong. He was cutting from the wrong side of the blade so I had him switch his position. Much better!

He did get frustrated more than once with the cutting. He would roll it along the ruler and it would skip across the fabric, only cutting here or there. I explained to him it takes pressure against both the ruler and the cutting pad to cut through the fabric from one end to the other. And then I explained that the time it will take to become good at all this won’t be in a matter of minutes but over a longer period of time. That for some it takes years. This seemed to ease his frustrations and he continued to work on it.

After cutting enough strips we pinned two together and set to work on the machine. He threaded the needle (!!) and took his time to sew a straight simple line. I was soooo proud!!!

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And here he is with his first piece! It came together great and he did a fantastic job sewing and cutting. I plan to work a bit with him each day and to remind him that sewing isn’t an overnight project. It takes time and patience, something I hope he will learn to have more of. The side benefit, this project will hopefully strengthen his hand and eye coordination AND build his fine motor skills, an area in which he’s always struggled.

He may not be interested in sewing for long as all 8 year olds tend to jump from interest to interest but I’m thrilled to have someone to share my love of sewing with, even if it is only for the time being.

This mama is super proud!

Back In The Saddle

Hey fellow quilters! It’s been weeks, months, even YEARS since my last post. When I last checked in my boyfriend had proposed to me and we were celebrating our engagement. That was in November of 2012. Well, it’s now May of 2014 and we’re about to celebrate our first anniversary! Amazing how time flies!

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In the time since we got engaged and got married, a lot has changed. We’ve rearranged the house and traveled. My son played his first season of baseball and he’s about to finish up his second grade year! And in all that time, I’ve not yet finished his quilt or started any new sewing projects. A little due to lack of time and also due to an issue with my machine.

My Good Ol' Girl

Kenmore-Sears 6 stitch.

My trusty ol’ girl got stuck and I couldn’t loosen it up. I did try to get some sewing done on my son’s quilt but my poor ol’ machine just didn’t want to work with me. So I wrapped her up and put her away for an undetermined amount of time.

Then I ran a race. Weird transition, I know. I run as a form of fitness and fun. In 2012 I ran 12 races and this year I’m at it again with a half marathon also in the mix. I also write about it on my running blog, Running With A Purpose. At a race recently with my husband, there was a booth at the finish line for sewing classes. Of course I was intrigued and it reminded me that my machine was in storage and not working. So I asked the ladies running this booth where they took their machines to be serviced. They gave me a name and an address. I tucked that flyer away for another day.

About a week ago we were going to the symphony and I remembered that flyer. The symphony happened to be held in the same city, only 3 miles away from this sewing machine shop. So I convinced the guys that we HAD to stop there and drop off the machine. We’d be right there so why not!?! And so we did! After the show was over we headed out the Pals Vacuum and Sewing Center to see what they could do for my poor, neglected machine. As I explained that my machine was 25 years old and had never been serviced (EVER!) they promised that they would check it for free and then call me with what needs to be done and that when I took her home, she’d be better than I ever remembered.

I was so excited! And only a few days later did I hear the good news! Nothing was wrong with my good ol’ girl, she was just gunked up and needed a good bath. And only for $90! These guys are in my phone now as my go-to machine shop and I haven’t stopped singing their praises.

Last night, after work, I picked up my son and we trekked out to PALs to pick up my machine. Low and behold, she’s good as new!!! Maybe even better than before! I brought her home and set her up in my new craft/makeup corner.

IMG_1119 She works great and fits nicely on this big ol’ desk we got from Ikea. There are even some shelves on the side where I can load up my stash to pull from when I’m working. At the back there is a hole that all my cords can drop down to a power strip so that everything is powered properly but you can’t see the mess of wires.IMG_1118

So pleased to have my machine working again and working better than ever. My crafting corner is clean and getting organized and I have space to work on all my projects, old and new. I guess the time away from sewing has given me a new sense of excitement and creativity.

I’ve got a quilt to finish and I’ve decided to try my hand at a gift for my son’s teacher so I’ve got a few projects on my mind. Can’t wait to start!

A while ago I got this great idea to match my son’s bear’s quilt and make a bigger version for my son using the same bright, sassy material that I did when I made this favorite bear a small lap quilt.

Little man!

Ahhh…look how little he was! Well, he’s not so little any more. He’s in first grade and learning to read. He runs races and loves to play air drums. He’s now lost 3 teeth and is pretty darn tall.

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Still silly…

Yea….he’s a ham alright.

He’s been patiently waiting for me to get off my duff and get this quilt finished. In April of 2011, I got the rest of the material needed to finish the project but you know how life is. You promise yourself to finish something and then POOF! You have a million and one things to do that take priority.

Since then my boyfriend and elementary school best friend moved in with us. The addition of his things to our already busy household meant that my sewing machine was unplugged and covered up for storage. I haven’t sat down to quilt in ages.

But last month we decided to take a trip up to our family cabin and spend some time in the simplistic, slow pace of Big Bear . I took up my sewing machine, determined to get some more work done on that damn quilt top.

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Low and behold, the machine came out and I got down to sewing.

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But that didn’t last long. As I was settling into my routine and sewing down the quilt top to the batting and the backing, I heard The Guy call to me. He wanted me to join him. Of course, just when I am on a roll!

And then this happened…

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Ok so I can’t complain about being interrupted from my sewing when I get surprised with an engagement! The Guy had been super sneaky and jumpy that morning. Little did I know he was planning to propose to me that weekend. He did a fine job and we’re happily trudging through the beginning steps of the planning a wedding for June.

This also means that the quilt has gone back into storage to be finished another time. Maybe when we have more space or when I have a craft room all to myself I’ll be able to pull my machine back out to finish this darn thing. Or maybe when I’m so stressed out over invitations and seating charts for the Big Day, I’ll just whip out the machine and sew away my frustrations.

But I plan to finish this quilt in 2013. My son deserves it and I want him to have it before it’s too cool to have a quilt that matches one his teddy bear has.

Bear's Quilt

Bear’s Quilt

On Friday while I was whittling away my time before the end of the work day, I was directed to a blog called ReFashionista. Within a few posts, I was hooked! I couldn’t stop reading along with the adventures of this young, creative woman and her journey to recreate fashion one piece at a time.

Her bravery to chop and take-in clothing to not only improve but to fit her own personal style was really addicting to read about. So addicting I decided to take it a step further and try my hand at refashioning some of my own clothing.

This dress has a past. I bought it at a Gap outlet some years ago. I loved the layering and the gradient change in color from a light pinkish off-white to a deep magenta.

What I didn’t pay attention to was the straps. The damn things were twisted and torn. So I decided I couldn’t let a good piece go unused and attached some elastic straps to make due. Sadly, the tank-top had very little to attach new straps to (as this picture so badly demonstrates). It made the dress look like I had done a half-assed attempt to poorly fix something.

Bad straps, bad!

But wore it I did. Loved the flow of this dress and the fact that it was casual enough for a day by the pool but dressy enough that with a sweater and jewelry, I could wear it out to dinner on a date night.

Pre-cut dress

But after awhile I just hated those straps and my bad attempt at fixing them. So away went the dress.

That was until I read the ReFashionista blog and realized this dress had potential as a skirt! A nice longish flowy one! And I’m all about simple pieces I can slip into and top with a solid shirt or tank-top.

Snip, snip.

I had a little time in between my race Saturday morning and a playdate for my son to make some quick changes to this dress so that I could wear it out and about. With my sewing shears, I snipped away the top right at the elastic that made up the empire waist line.

All done cutting!

I left a smidge of material right along the elastic so that nothing would fray. I literally had minutes to do this so I consider this project only half way done. My intention is to come back and adjust the size and add a proper elastic waistband.

And voila! A skirt was born! Not too shabby for a simple snip! No more horrid straps and now I can wear it around with whatever color top I choose. Again, it’s not complete, I wanna go back and adjust the size. It’s a bit baggy on me and I don’t plan to get bigger so I bet the size will become an issue the more I run.

And with the addition of a proper waistband, I’ll lose a little length which doesn’t bother me. I kinda like the length on this one.

My first attempt at taking something I already own and repurposing it into something new to wear was successful. And by successful I mean that not only could I wear it out and about comfortably but I got compliments on it left and right. And I couldn’t help but blurt out that it was once a dress! Ha! Take that!

 

While I may not be sewing much these days, I am still working on adding to my fabric stash so lovingly stored in the corner of my craft room. I’m always keeping an eye out for new bundles and sets to fill those color gaps here and there.

So even though my son’s quilt is still hanging out in the middle of my room, undone and about 85% of the way finished, I’m buying new bits and babbles to build up my stash. Maybe it’s some subconscious way to get me into my craft room where I’ll be reminded that “HEY!! You have some projects that need to be finished!!!”

Or maybe it’s my way of continuing to avoid all these half-done quilts and side projects lying around.

Either way, I pulled together some nice little additions to my growing collection of unused fabric waiting their turn to become something bigger. This here is a layer cake for Moda called Circa 1934 by Cosmo Cricket. I like the vintage feel and the neutral colors with that punch of red.

Then I went ahead and picked up these bundles by Robert Kaufman to fill in any neutral or solid gaps in my rather expanding collection. I love these bundles of gradient colors and find it really hard to pull them apart. But I have and I will once I get in mind what I want to do with them.

I have a book in my collection my mom passed on to me years ago called It’s Okay If You Sit On My Quilt. It’s by Mary Ellen Hopkins and I have used it before. Now I felt that while the book made the steps simple to sew together two fat quarter cuts of fabric and create little squares in an easy manner, the squares were too small for me to work with in my beginner stages. But I’m starting to feel the pull with these bundles to pair the individual pieces up and sew them together so that I can make a quilt using her patterns.

We’ll see… I have so many works in progress that I feel slightly stupid to even consider a new one.

But it can’t hurt, right?

 

Crafty Corner: After

This past weekend was gorgeous. The sun was out and the sky was clear. It honestly felt like summer had come early. My son and I even got a little sun kissed from being outside while he rode his bike.

While my son rode his bike back and forth along the hot pavement, I took some me-time to work on my crafty corner. Yeah, that old thing was still a mess even though I had made some small improvements by moving out the wire shelves. But that was it. I had actually done very little.

But the day was warm and the neighbors were working on the clutter in their garage. Their energy must have been contagious because I quickly began to work on my room and soon I had all my stamping and papercraft buckets lined along the wall and my sewing table had been mostly cleared. With this little change the room opened up and seemed a little more manageable.

Then I went to work on the sewing table and the corner where I hold all my material. I cleared away the things that didn’t belong on my machine table and picked up some scraps and trash. Soon it was starting to look more usable and not just a storage corner for all things crafty.

While I was working, I found some small strips of material cut for a project I had long forgotten. They were from a Moda pack I had pulled apart for a disaster of a project for my son’s teachers last year.

Well now, aren’t these colors great together? I thought so too. After the table was de-cluttered, I sat down with some blue thread and quickly stitched the strips together. Once I was done, I put them to the side and wondered what else I could sew together while I sat here.

That’s when I saw the remaining Lollipop Moda stack sitting there unused. These were meant to be mug rugs but that project went nowhere and I officially stopped sewing because of the frustration over those guys not coming together.

So I grabbed two and sewed them together.

Just like that, I was quietly grabbing two squares at a time without much thought to the combinations or any pattern and I was sewing little pairs of fabric.

What will I do with this? No clue. But I felt like I was taking back a little of what I had lost. A sense of forward motion, some creativity, and that feeling of togetherness. Maybe of completion? Not sure yet but there is something positive about taking things that are just sitting around and putting them together and working toward a final destination.

I did a few pairs and then was called outside to witness a “Bike Parade”. My son and his friends were all set up with chairs for the audience and players were chosen to ride for the crowd in a procession fit for a king. They were giggling and being silly, wearing cookie costumes and wildly yelling as they rode by.

It was a good weekend.

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