Snowed In

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Notice that the dog has kicked off one of her booties? She really regretted that once she realized how cold the ground was.

Ugh. It’s been frigid here in Portland, and we’ve even had a dusting of snow–a rare sight, for sure. So we’ve been stuck in the house (with the notable exceptions of Josh going to work for a few hours each day and venturing out to the Blazers vs. Kings game last night). You’d think that would help with the final push to get all of our holiday gifts finished and shipped. Yeah, you’d think. As of Sunday, this was the state of all of our gifts that needed to be made.

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The pile looks pretty daunting, eh?

We sent Sunday slogging through a couple of gifts for folks–the pieced bag (for Josh’s grandma) from Anna Maria Horner’s new book and a fancy hostess apron for Josh’s stepmother (also from Anna Maria’s book). Josh’s other grandmother is going to be getting an Amy Butler Downtown Purse, which she specifically mentioned when she didn’t get one last year (she saw Josh’s stepmother‘s last year), and it’s almost done, just needs the lining sewn attached to the bag body.

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Half of the pieced bag--this is looking dangerously close to quilting...

We’re on the home stretch, but totally blew our December 16 deadline. (Snow was a factor, but not the factor.) This year, we’re not attempting any insanity like last, in which we tried to make everything for everyone. That was just too stressful and exhausting. And, frankly, not everyone likes a homemade gift (weird, huh?).

In other–completely random–news, Sarah was shopping for the fabric for the pieced bag at Fabric Depot last week and was innocently minding her own business when she crashed smack into this pillar with her cart.

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At least they had the decency to paint it red.

Yes, it’s a concrete pillar, the same height as the bolts of fabric, in the middle of the aisle. Hands down, The Despot has one of the most inhospitable shopping environments ever. What, they’re booby-trapping the store now?

And, finally, this is Josh’s secret holiday project. He calls it, “A Very Zombie Christmas.” Can’t say much else about it…

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This guy was left over from our garage sale from hell.

Happy holidays, everyone. And please reassure us that we’re not the only ones who have totally botched up the gifting and decorating this year…

~S & J

Interview: Chika Mori, Co-Author of Zakka Sewing

2978112859 7d14562acd Interview: Chika Mori, Co Author of Zakka Sewing

Zakka Sewing is a new book–it came out last month–that is the first zakka book aimed at English-speaking crafters. As you know, we love our collection of Japanese craft books, and it turns out that they’ve become something of a phenomenon. The co-authors of Zakka Sewing, Therese Laskey and Chika Mori, recognized this trend and have brought anauthentic Japanese craft book experience–the worked with zakka makers in Japan to develop the projects–to the American audience. If you’re interested in Japanese crafting, but are intimidated by, or don’t have access to, the books from Japan, Zakka Sewing is a great introduction. In fact, despite our now-formidable collection of zakka books, we learned a lot about what constitutes zakka, the materials used and the themes that emerge in Japanese crafts.

Chika Mori, one of the co-authors, was kind enough to answer a few questions about  their new book, and zakka in general. You can learn more about Chika on her web site, Chikagraphy, and at her zakka blog, Zakka Place, which has loads more information about zakka projects .

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Zakka Sewing Co-Author Chika Mori


Sewer-Sewist: We’d love to know a bit more about you than what the book jacket tells us. We know you’re both creative types, and would love to hear about sewing and crafting in your lives.

Chika Mori: My parents tell me I started drawing when I was 2 or 3 years old. Sewing and crafting came much later, when I was 10. No one taught me how to sew. It came to me rather naturally.

I was brought up in a very creative environment. My great grandmother, my grandmother, and my mom, were always making something, such as purses, bags, and kimonos. Sometimes they re-used old scrap kimono fabrics and made patchwork comforter covers and pillows. Most of the time they created for themselves, but occasionally they gave away their creations as small gifts to close friends. I remember one day when my mother made me a tiny doll with some left over yarn. I loved the doll so much that I showed it to my classmates the next day – and I ended up asking my mom to make at least 30 more dolls for my friends. I wanted to make some too, but I was 6 years old and too clumsy for that.

My love of drawing and my sewing skills started to come together after I became a 4th grader. Drawing some funny-looking characters and making simple dolls or sewing appliqued handkerchiefs became my favorite hobby, and it has since become my profession.

SS: Why Zakka? What drew you to this topic, especially with so many existing books from Japan that are becoming more and more accessible, even in this country?

CM: There is a lot of literature out there, but how much of that is tailored to the non-Japanese audience?

There is a growing appreciation towards zakka so we thought there was an opportunity to create a book that just might hit the spot.

In this modern society, we have access to all kinds of products. It’s easy to to surround yourself with “things”, but do they make us feel good?

I believe more and more people started to look for substance in things. There is more to a product than just its form or function. A product can carry an idea or a meaning or a philosophy. Nowadays people think whether or not the product is made of recycled materials, or if it’s made by hand, or if it matches your lifestyle.

There is a philosophy behind the word “zakka”. We enjoy living our life each and everyday comfortably and happily. Zakka are everyday items that support this way of living. Zakka has magical powers to enrich your daily life – powers that go beyond what can be achieved by form or function. Simple household goods such as placemats and potholders can make you smile if they strike your chord. They give you a good feeling. I believe this is the essence of what is appealing to people.

I have come to a point in life where I appreciate the little things in life that make me happy. Zakka is one of the things I see that has plenty of little happiness that can be identified by many. I wanted to share my feelings with our readers through Zakka Sewing.

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In Japan, zakka makers create cozies for everything; this one is for a digital camera.

Zakka doesn’t have to be handmade. There are plenty of mass produced zakka. However, we are focusing here on the handmade kind. You can be very creative and original with zakka, and I think the fact that you can create your own feel-good item is exciting for people in this country and around the world.

SS: We are big fans of Japanese sewing/craft books and magazines, but always have a hard time putting our thumbs on what exactly it is that is so unique and intriguing about the Japanese style of crafting. What are your thoughts on why Japanese crafts are gaining in popularity with Americans?

CM: The simple and delicate aesthetics of Japanese crafts may be very unique to Americans. Clean lines and simple shapes, interesting mixture of materials, colors and patterns – all of these elements are carefully put together with attention to fine details and yet never overdone. Some Japanese artists incorporate foreign styles/cultures, especially French, to their creation. This blend of styles can also make Japanese zakka more interesting and unexpected.

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The Pear Purse. Fruit is a common zakka motif.

SS: Talk to us about the process of finding and working with the Zakka makers. What was involved in the process of collaborating with them to create projects aimed at a primarily American audience?

CM: In most cases I found the artists through Japanese publications and on the internet. Therese started a private blog for us in preparation for Zakka Sewing and we would post photos of handmade zakka and exchange thoughts.

We wanted to feature a broad range of projects from traditional Japanese feel to modern style, and from simple to complex. It was a challenge as I recall, but this was the key process to make this book appeal to a broader audience and I am very happy with our selections.

Not a single artist spoke or wrote English, so I had to do some heavy translating. It was quite a task to put their methods of creation in writing and then translate. Then I drew all the illustrations (combination of hand drawing and computer coloring). It was an interesting practice though, since it gave me an opportunity to examine the item from a different perspective and that taught me a lot.

Most of the projects in the book are each artists’ standard items. Sometimes Therese and I asked the artists to rearrange their projects for the American audience. An exception to this maybe the Bunko-bon Book Cover, because the book cover is originally designed to fit a standard “bunko-bon (Japanese paperback book)”. As we wanted the project to be original and authentic, we didn’t ask the artist to resize it. However, we did include instructions on adjusting the book cover’s size in case you don’t read bunko-bon, of course.

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Book cover—in Japan most books are the same size. The version in Zakka Sewing is easily adjustable for variations in book sizes.


SS:
Aside from working with the Zakka makers in Japan, what other research did you do that made its way into the book? For example, despite having quite a few Japanese sewing and crafts books in our personal library, we hadn’t realized what a prominent role linen plays in Zakka.

CM: As a crafts person myself, I have an extensive zakka library, new and old, plus I check most recent zakka trends via Japanese magazines and on the internet. I also go to hand craft events in Japan such as Design Festa in Tokyo and Tezukuri-ichi (handmade market) in Kyoto. There are also local boutiques that carry many handmade zakka, so I go and check them out as well. My craft friends who live in Japan are also my great resources. It’s really not research. It’s more like an obsession! I’m always looking and it’s what I do as part of my life.

European linen, especially natural French linen has been popular among Japanese crafters for the last several years, for its natural texture, color, and durability.

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Merci Apron. This project involved several popular zakka trends: embroidery, linen and foreign words.

SS: Do you have any tips for Sewer-Sewist readers who check out Zakka Sewing and find themselves wanting to learn more about Zakka and Japanese sewing and crafting?

CM: If you are a beginner sewer and don’t use a sewing machine, Tartlet Pincushion is the project to get you started. It’s a simple project that allows you to be playful and experimental. You can make it your own by using different kinds of fabrics (I suggest thick material) or using decorative beads/buttons, small or large. It will be a wonderful Christmas stocking stuffer if you have friends or family members who love sewing.

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Tartlet Pincushion. A simple project, even if you’ve never sewn before.

In general though, I believe it doesn’t really matter if you are a beginner or advanced.

As the original meaning of zakka implies, your creation can be any simple everyday item. What’s important is that you feel good when you make it and use it (or give it!).

SS: Thank you, Chika!

~S&J

Bagged, baby!

At long last, the bag I made for our friends from Amy Butler’s new book “Little Stitches for Little Ones” arrived in northern New Mexico and I can now share the photos…

This one is dubbed the “Modern Nappy Bag” and is really something — its absolutely enormous! And it certainly doesn’t look like your run-of-the-mill diaper bag.

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I used fabric from Amy Butler’s newish line of home decorator weight cotton sateen, August Fields. Some woodgrain fabric of the same weight from Joel Dewberry’s Ginseng line looked like it was made to match, so I lined the whole thing and made the many, many pockets with that…

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I had a lot of fun making this bag, and hope the recipients enjoy it and are able to get some use out of it. What I like about it is that even if it’s a no-go as a diaper bag, it would be great as a tote bag for shopping at the farmers market or for a day trip where you need to pack a few things. It just doesn’t look “diaper-y.”

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I also made the accompanying changing pad in a an organic terry cloth that was the same light blue color that was in the woodgrain fabric, and back it with the woodgrain. It’s meant to be quilted in a grid style, but I quickly last my patience with that. I am just sooooo not a quilter In fact, while I respect quilting as an art form, it is one of those things I just don’t have the temperament for at all. I did manage to do some horizontal quilting before I got frustrated, so it looks pretty decent. Needless to say, I can’t imagine I’ll be doing anything remotely quilting related anytime soon.

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Funnily enough, this is the first baby gift I’ve ever made. Because I really don’t presume to know what folks want or need, I usually rely on that handy-dandy Target registry for these types of things. And, honestly, there hasn’t been anyone that I’ve been good enough friends with to merit making a baby gift. I hope that doesn’t make me a terrible person…

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Which reminds me of an incident from earlier this year. One of my former coworkers was planning a baby shower for another coworker. And the first coworker asked me to “make up one of those nice bags” for this person to put all the other gifts into. She was referring, to the Amy Butler High Street Messenger Bag, of which I’ve made several. I was flabbergasted. Not only was I shocked because of the time and expense a bag like that would take (people really don’t understand how expensive fabric is and how much effort and energy it takes to make something quality–I’ve accepted that), but I was doubly surprised because I wasn’t particularly close to the potential recipient. You have to be pretty high up on the list to get a handmade gift–particularly an elaborate one like a bag that’s, face it, pretty physically tiring to make with all the layers of fabric and whatnot. The friend that I made this bag and changing pad for (actually, the bag is for the friend’s wife, but whatever) was just about my only work friend that I had when I was working at The Job From Hell several years ago. (Seriously, it was bad. You try going to school board meetings that last until 11:00 p.m. and tell me it’s not hell.) And I also know that my friend really appreciates things that are made by real people. So it’s really a two-fold criteria for these things with me: 1.) I gotta like you a lot. 2.) You gotta appreciate stuff that’s handmade.

I’m wondering if I’m the only one who is like this? Are the rest of y’all nicer than me about the handmade gifting thing?

~Sarah

Edited: I forgot to mention that a friend of mine stopped by the house right after I finished this up and mentioned that the bag was big enough and the right shape to use “Paris Hilton Style.” By which she meant that you could carry a small dog around in it. Hilarious! (And very true.)

Oh so pretty…

It’s settled. One of us is going to have to learn Japanese. Because all of the goodies that we keep finding at Kinokuniya are getting a bit out of control. This time, and innocent trip to Uwajimaya has resulted in quite the find — The Pretty Bag Collection.

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I have such a weakness for bag-making, as you’ve probably noticed (it’s funny, too, because I have only been making bags for a year or so). And this book has some really awesome projects. It’s, like many of the Japanese sewing books, brokenn down into thematic sections, this time by fabric type: Silk Shantung, Jacquard and Lace & Check. This is, actually, far more fabric information than I’m normally able to figure out in most of the books I’ve picked up on one of stops at the Japanese book store.

Here are just a few of the highlights that I quickly scanned this afternoon.

This asymmetric bag would be great to show off a striking lining fabric. I would be fun to sew it in a simple exterior fabric and an absolutely wild interior.

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These two shaped bags are just damn pretty, hands down. And the round one, in particular, could be really fun — and is really screaming for contrasting panels. You could also do some interesting embellishment with beads or crochet (which I don’t know how to do, but like the idea of for whatever reason) on the ties at the top.

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I’ve nicknamed this pieced number “The Clever Bag” because I think its handle/closure is just so ingenious…

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But hands down, I have four definite favorites of the 24 projects in the Pretty Bag Collection. In fact, I’ve been looking at this book every time we go to Uwajimaya, because of these both of these. They’re garment-inspired bags! Seriously how awesome are these?

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They’re bags and they’re clothes. And you sew them. What’s not to love? It’s like the perfect storm of craftiness.

~Sarah

Breakthrough!

Not only do we have a functional computer again (Public Service Announcement: don’t fill your Mac hard drive beyond 70% capacity; just ask Josh & I what happens), but I also managed to let go of some slightly obnoxious perfectionist tendencies I have with regard to sewing.

 Breakthrough!

Yep, on my latest project, I had a significant bobbin malfunction (it happens to the best of us, right?) and had some bobbin stitches—yes, the stitches no one really sees—go wonky. And I took a deep breath, fixed what I could, and moved on with life.

And, you know what? It looked just find.

Kind of liberating, I think.

~Sarah

Bagged

My fabulous Amy Butler Sophia Bag—the one that made my fingers bleed—has gotten kinda of dirty. Between taking it on the MAX, leaving it sitting on the floor of my cubicle at work and accidentally kicking it and the general wet grossness of the weather here, it’s looking pretty funky. Now, I’m faced with a bit of a problem: how to clean it up. You see, it’s interfaced with buckram, which can’t be immersed in water because the structure (starch) will dissolve. So, I may have to (break with my hard and fast policy) and get it—gasp—dry cleaned. (I hear there’s an eco-cleaner near our house, at least.) Anyway, because I didn’t want to deal with deciding to go to the dry cleaners just yet, so I made a new bag for myself. (I know normal people would not understand how completely, utterly logical this is—but I know y’all get it.)

I’ve mentioned before what a tremendous fan I am of the designs of Etsoku Furuya, produced by Echino. I really like a lot of the unusual Japanese textiles, and Bolt carries a lot of goodies, most of which I can resist—but not Echino. I’ve made the High Street Messenger Bag out of her wolf fabric already and it’s just some of the most dynamic, vibrant prints I’ve ever seen. (There’s something wonderfully dangerous about having such a bad-ass fabric store within walking distance of our house. We’re very lucky.) I picked up the cherry-colored version of Furuya’s interpretation of the leopard print and found some cheapo complementary fabric for the lining. (Echino is, as we Oregonians say, “spendy,” so saving on the lining helps.)

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Ever since I made Josh’s step-mother one of the Amy Butler Downtown Purses, I’ve been meaning to whip one up for myself. It’s a great size and when I say “whip one up,” I really mean it. It takes no time to make this back—just a bit of wrestling at the end when attaching the straps.

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I’m rather proud of the way the pattern placement ended up. I’m not as precise about that as I could (should) be, but this time I went to some fairly significant effort on the location of the leopards on this bag, and I think it paid off.

The pattern placement on the back turned out pretty well, too.

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The bag’s a little wide for someone as short as me (I know that sounds weird—but if you’re short, you know what I mean). But the fabric’s what is really shown off here anyway.

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I used buckram again for the interfacing to give this bag shape. I really like the structured shape that it creates. However, I just used what we had around the house, and Josh uses a much heavier weight buckram for his hat brims that I do for bags, so I had to do some more intense-than-usual wrangling with the finished bag. This included having to give up on the suggested attachment method (top-stitched to the outside) and going to attaching to the inside and hiding it in the lining. That’s a weird description, I know, but you can probably figure out from the pictures what I did. If I’d been thinking ahead, then I would have narrowed the flap just a smidge in order to account for the strap residing inside rather than outside the bag. I have a feeling I’m the only person this bothers, though.

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I also added a pocket to the inside of the bag. This was really easy—I just cut off the top of two additional pieces of lining fabrics, sewed them together, added the size of pockets (I made four, but wish I’d made three—the two on the ends aren’t that usable) I wanted and basted it to the lining. Much better than the original pocket-less version. What was Amy thinking? She usually goes overboard on details like that… (My attempts at photographing the interior of the bag were not too successful, as you can see.)

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(Sidebar for a short lecture: That envelope in my bag? That’s my ballot. Filled out and ready to go. Oregonians: don’t forget to vote by May 20. Postmarks don’t count. It’s got to actually arrive by the 20th. So make sure that your ballot in the hands of your county elections office by Tuesday. End of lecture.)

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Notice the blouse I’m wearing in these pictures? That’s the Project Runway/Simplicity blouse I made a couple of months ago. I haven’t worn it much because the elastic in the sleeves annoyed me beyond belief and basically looked 100% dorky. So, recently I got around to ripping the elastic out and all is well in the world again. I wear this a lot with jeans and this ancient black jersey pencil skirt that I believe will be with me for the rest of my life. An added bonus is that it coordinates quite well with my new bag.

So, I’ve got to tell you that while this latest project from me isn’t too thrilling, Josh is working on some really unusual stuff. I don’t want to say much more. But, I’m always amazing at his willingness to think of some of the craziest things to craft—ever.

Just wait. You’ll see.

~Sarah 

I’ve stopped whining…

Because my Sophia Bag looks so awesome!

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Even though it resulted in a serious pin graveyard and some bleeding fingers…

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It was totally worth it.

I covered a lot of my changes in my first entry about this bag. You remember, the post where I whined a lot. But here’s the quick recap: I added some handbag feet. I chose the black plastic ones—simply because black worked with my color scheme. They don’t have the satisfying click of the metal ones, but they look the way I wanted. I’m surprised Amy didn’t include these in the original pattern, because this bag really benefits from them.

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(Please excuse the imperfect stitching… There were a lot of layers involved in the bottom of this thing!)

I also omitted the piping from the bottom. Not that I didn’t give it the ol’ college try, but it just wasn’t working for me. Actually, I don’t think it was necessary design-wise, anyway. The bag has such a a strong shape that really stands on its own. (Both figuratively and literally!)

I also changed the pocket configuration in the inside of the bag. The pattern just has two large pockets on each side, which really didn’t suit my purposes. I left one size as is with the two pockets—those are perfect for my wallet and the assorted lipsticks that I must carry with me at all times.

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I then divided the other pocket panel into four so that I could accommodate the other stuff that I lug around—namely, my snazzy new red CrackBerry BlackBerry.

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Just a few more pictures of this bag (can you tell that I’m infatuated?)…

The two side panels have “tattoos” centered on them, which looks pretty funky fresh.

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I used 3/32 inch piping and did a bit of top stitching with red metallic thread.

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All-in-all, I’m really happy with the way this turned out. The contrast between the classy design and the funky fabric really works for me and suits my style. I did take Liz‘s advice that she left in this post awhile back to look for this light-weight meshy grid stuff in the craft section for the bottom of the bag. Well, I’m not sure if I found the exact stuff at the Fabric Depot, but whatever it was that I ended up using—it worked. Thanks, Liz!

I also have to pat myself on the back with this one. Not only did I let go of my obsessive need for everything to look perfect (that just wasn’t happening), I employed hand stitching relatively successfully. The directions called for you to slip stitch the lining into the bag and I actually did it without trying to come up with some hair-brained, half-baked plan to avoid the hand stitching and use the machine. You have no idea what a huge step this is for me. When I learned how to sew, my mom taught me. She’s really good at hand sewing, really fast at it (she’s a fierce embroiderer—which I hate) and she generally did that step in the sewing process for me. So, I never really developed my hand stitching skills. Anyway, I did a very passable job of stitching in over 40 inches worth of lining! Do I get a sewing merit badge for this accomplishment?

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~Sarah

No Pain, No Gain?

from sarah the sewist 

I spent a lot of this weekend working on Amy Butler’s lovely new pattern, the Sophia Bag. However, this pattern has officially kicked my ass. Or at least my fingers.

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Yep, that’s my index finger—one of the many victims of this little project. As of this evening, I have had to stop bleeding on my fingers three times, and suffered a couple of bruised finger tips. I never knew that you finger tips could actually bruise! I believe about half of our pins are now toast as well.

Yes, I’m feeling sorry for myself. No, I’m not apologizing for feeling sorry for myself.

This bag is shaping up to be a pretty cool one, despite all of the drama.

For something a bit different (okay, maybe a lot different), I’m using an Alexander Henry home dec weight fabric called “Tattoo Too.” It’s absolutely brilliant. It’s got lots of funky stylized “tattoos” all over…

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I love the slightly edgy look of this fabric constrasting with the very girly, old-fashion shape and lines of this bag. It’s fun and a little unexpected.

Here’s a close up of one of the tattoos—the only thing that would make this better is if it said “Mom” in the heart instead of “Amor:”

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Just like Amy’s High Street Messenger Bag (several of which I made this fall), there are a lot of pieces to this one—but, luckily, I’ve made enough of these bags to save my sanity and label, label, label each piece (ask my how I learned this lesson).

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I also had an adventure with the piping, somehow buying way too thick of cording to make the piping—I know I bought the quarter-inch stuff like was called for, but I think my stuff was a lot more dense that most cording, so I zipped back over to Fabric Depot before they closed last night and bought three yards of 3/32 cording instead. (I’m a big spender—my total came to 62 cents. This may be some sort of fabric store buying record.)

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So far, I’ve made a few changes, including the piping size: after staying up until 2:00 a.m. last night wrestling with the bottom panel with all of its piping and interfacing, etc, and then getting up wrestling with it some more, I just decided to omit the bottom panel’s piping. (Sidebar: I really need to investigate my options for creating a sturdy bag without so much thickness. There’s got to be a way.) Oh, and I added feet to the bottom.

I had hoped to finish this up this evening, but honestly, my hands and fingers ache. And the trusty Kenmore really needs a break. It was starting to get pretty aggravated with my abuse. It’s been so good to me, so I need to return the favor. After this project’s done, I’m going to give it a good de-linting and clean out as a reward.

Well, off to nurse my wounds.

Hard to give away…

from sarah the sewist

As we’ve mentioned a time or two, we’re continuing to work on holiday gifts for everyone, and we’re finally starting to feel like we’re making some progress. I just finished the gift for Josh’s stepmother. It’s the Amy Butler Downtown Purse. This pattern came in the mail yesterday—thank you Lisa Lam over at the wonderful site U-Handblog. I had won her monthly bag contest awhile back (for the Amy Butler Messanger Bag I made for my mom’s birthday), and had my heart set on the Amy Butler Downtown Purse pattern as my prize… Unfortunately, this particular pattern was out of stock, so I had to wait. This pattern arrive was pretty fortuitous!

I am particularly happy that we didn’t need to run out the “storm of the century that didn’t actually happen” (the weather folks here in PDX had everyone on high alert this weekend, claiming snow and wind) to get supplies for this one either (sort of my MO—get started, realize I don’t’ have a critical piece for my project, have to run to the sewing shop, etc, etc).

A couple of weeks ago we bought a yard or so of some absolutely beautiful cotton from Windham Fabrics “American Coverlet Collection.” You can read about the design concept for this line here, and visit the American Coverlet Museum’s site to learn about their work preserving coverlets. What an exciting effort they’re undertaking trying to preserve this unique American art form! Anyway, as you can see, this is gorgeous stuff.
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Of course, me being me, I did make some changes. I’m continuing my infatuation with fusible fleece. The stuff just has so many uses… Since we didn’t have a lot of Timtex, I backed the sides of this bag with two layers of fusible fleece, which created a pretty thick, very sturdy structure for Downtown Purse. I also used the fusible fleece for interfacing the strap, which I think makes it a bit more comfortable to carry—I had done this when I made my friend her Frenchy Bag, and she seemed to like that particular feature.

2080804251 4da531d78f m Hard to give away...Also, I truly hate the removable false bottom that a lot of bags have. After making a zillion of the Amy Butler High Street Messenger Bags and never finding the stupid quilters template that you’re supposed to use to make the false bottom, I now avoid that phase of bag making as much as possible. My latest creative brainstorm was to use two layers of Timtex to make up the bottom of the bag. (I know, I’m living on the edge… two layers of Timtex—the stuff is a tremendous pain in the butt to sew as a single layer, let along two.) It worked out just fine and seems to have created the needed stability at the bottom of the bag.

I really got a bit obsessive about matching the patterns on this one… Like, I think pretty much everything matches up. Which is weird, because I usually try to be kind of serene about that sort of thing. I mean, there only so much you can do to make sure your fabric pattern lines up, right?

2080804461 c5b1aeb983 m Hard to give away...Can you tell that I really, really don’t want to give this one away? I really am proud of this one. I think I’ll make a very similar one for myself sometime soon.

 Hard to give away...

 Hard to give away...

Very Green Bag

frenchy bags cover med Very Green Bagfrom sarah the sewist

(This is one of those projects that is so not my style. But I know the recipient will love it. The shape of this bag is fabulous, but the fabric… It’s just so green. I hate green. And the frogs. For some reason, I have no problem with banana seat bikes, garden gnomes or goldfish on my clothes and accessories, but frogs? Not my thing)

I saw this froggy fabric from Heather Ross’ new collection for Free Spirit and I new that I just had to make something for my friend (also) Sarah who loves all things green, and especially all things froggy. Enter the Amy Butler Frenchy Bag pattern. This is a very simple pattern really great for showing off interesting fabric combinations. I combined this with a green that appeared in both of the main fabrics. (In fact, I think this bag may encompass 90% of the naturally-occurring shades of green.)

The result? Well, pretty green.

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The Frenchy Bags (I made the larger, shoulder bag version) come together really quickly and easier, just like the other Amy Butler patterns I’ve used lately. However, like everything I sew, I had to tinker a bit.

First, I think this bag is supposed to have four pockets, not two. If it isn’t, then dividing the two large pockets into four is definitely an improvement—they sagged inside the liner until I sewed them in half. Now the pockets are perfect for a cell phone (my pal has, of course, a green phone that’ll look awfully snazzy with the bag), smaller wallet, compact, that sort of thing.

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I also omitted that magnetic snap for a few reasons: it isn’t really necessary, because this is a shoulder bag, so hopefully your arm will keep the bag closed as intended; the opening for this bag is actually on the small side, as it tapers where the two fabrics are joined; and, I didn’t have a magnetic snap, and really didn’t feel like searching one out.

The biggest modification that I made was that this bag calls for sew-in interfacing, like Pellon 40. Anyway, I really hate sew-in interfacing. It’s a pain, wastes thread and just annoys me for some reason. (I accidentally bought three yards of it a month or so ago and have been trying to use the stupid stuff up.) Anyway, knowing that my friend is a very busy teacher/dog walker/pet sitter, and that she’s always running from place to place and, therefore, this bag will probably really take a beating, I decided I wanted to make this thing a bit more durable that it was originally designed.

Searching through piles of fusible interfacing at Fabric Depot, I found something that looked promising: “Fusible Fleece.” Now, I have no idea what fusible fleece is, but the lady who cut it for me thought that it was probably something you use for quilting and other related crafts. Anyway, it felt squishy, not like stiff Timtex, and seemed like it would do a bit more to protect the contents of the bag from abuse. Needless to say, I think this decision was a good one. Excepting the pockets, I used the fusible fleece everywhere the sew-in interfacing was called for. The result was bag that had a lot of body. Which isn’t a very good description, but better than “slightly puffy.”

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Basically, by using the fusible fleece, I created a bag that has a really defined shape, but still is relaxed looking. What I’m most excited about, though, is the way the handles turned out. You can see in the picture that they have a padded look, and, as a result, feel extremely comfortable on the shoulder. Since this is a shoulder bag, that’s pretty important. I think that I’ll do this to bag handles from now on.

We agreed that quite a few people will likely be getting these bags for Christmas this year—it’s that simple to put together.

As always, the dog got in on the action:

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Bag: (fake) Pig (skin) in the City

from josh the sewer

I did it. I made a bag and it isn’t too girly. When the Sewist and I started (well, mostly the Sewist) making her mother’s bag, I also cut out the pieces for my own bag attempt and sat it I aside until I had some time to put toward it.

1034682610 654054256c o Bag: (fake) Pig (skin) in the City 1034680926 d172be04ab o Bag: (fake) Pig (skin) in the CityEarlier this summer when we were looking around the Mill End Store, I noticed a bolt of pleather football upholstery and thought it would look kind of cool (almost made pants, but that would not work too well and, really, I ain’t the type for those kind of duds).

A month later I found the Moda “Varsity” fabric in the 50 percent off rack at Fabric Depot. (Already this bag is off to a weird start, I really don’t like either place that well, and don’t get me started on the Porta-Potty situation at Fabric Depot, errrrrrr. Oh, and I don’t like football that well either).

Since the football stuff is really thick, I did not use the canvas in any part of the construction except for the side panels. Like the Sewist’s bags, I left off the tab. I used white thread to contrast with the pleather and only topstitched the strap, which I also sewed a couple times to the main bag for reinforcement. I always end up carrying heavy stuff when I bother actually carrying stuff at all, so it makes sense to make it extra durable. The other change I made was to the tool pocket were I cut down on the pencil and pen holders and went with a spot to put a cell phone and a place for the iPod Nano I don’t have.

I also learned that, like everything else I sew, the seam ripper is my best friend. Which sucks. I would really like to sew something without picking something out over and over again. The strap, in particular, became intimately acquainted with my seam ripper. A word to anyone thinking about making this out of pleather: it’s a tremendous pain to make the strap. If you try to iron it, it’ll melt. So, first I tried basting it down, which didn’t work. Then I tried gluing it, which didn’t work. Finally, I glued it, then stacked books on top of the strap to hold the glued sides together, holding it in place for 24 hours. Which worked really well, until I forgot to check how much thread was left in the machine’s bobbin. So, I “sewed” most of the strap without a bobbin. Back to the seam ripper (because even though there was no bobbin thread, the top stitches stuck). Finally, after try number 172, I sewed the damn thing together. And it looked pretty good.

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Despite all of the excitement in constructing the strap, I enjoyed putting the thing together. The pleather wasn’t that bad to work with, it rolled a little, but was manageable. Now that I am done, I am not sure I like it enough to carry around, partly because the pleather is eerily soft and I don’t actually go to that many places that I actually need to haul enough stuff to warrant carrying a bag…

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Bag Lady

from sarah the sewist

I’ve been on a mild bag-making spree, and Josh is proving to be a very valuable adviser in creating extremely cool messenger bags, one for me and one for my mom for her birthday.

First, my Will the Wolf Survive? messenger bag:

923389905 7d1c7a60dd m Bag LadyNow maybe the fabric designer wasn’t inspired by the Los Lobos song, but it’s been on Josh’s playlist (you know, the one in his head that he sings out loud since we’re the last Gen-Xers in America that don’t have an iPod) ever since I bought this fabric.This is one of the the most wonderful fabrics ever, designed by Japanese artist Etsuku Furuya, made by Enchino.

I have been carrying this bag every day since it was completed and got the ultimate compliment when Josh and I were grocery shopping the other night. Our cashier first asked me where I got my bag, and after I told her that I made it myself, she asked me if I’d considering making one for her. This was a wild experience, and I can’t get over it. I really don’t like the idea of someone else having “my bag,” though, so for now, it’s just something to inflate my ego about to sewing skills and funky aesthetic sensibilities.

The second, the This Thing is So Wildly Over-the-Top that My Mom’s Bound to Love It Bag:

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The fabric is from the new Amy Butler “Nigella” line, and it’s really my mom’s style… And really not mine.

There’s a special message for my mom hidden on the inside of the strap:


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It’s not any fancy-schmancy machine embroidery (and you know I didn’t do it by hand, due to my strict no hand-sewing policy), our little Kenmore’s monogramming feature didn’t do half bad.

Josh has a theory that pretty much everything can be improved if you add piping, and I think that my mom’s bag kind of proves his point. The piping really does put the bag in the realm of over-the-top that’s just right for our purposes.

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