Friday, March 18, 2016

handsewing from stars to La Passacaglia

My love of quilted stars has really started to grow over the past 2 years.  One of my first star quilts was blogged about here.  This quilt was all machine pieced and was sort of an experiment in half square triangles.  Actually a lot of my quilts and sewing projects are done more as experiments.  I don't usually like to follow patterns.  I see something or get an idea and work with what I have for materials on hand.  I'm always looking for shortcuts too so my projects very often don't come out like I originally intended.

After these stars I became more drawn to lots of quilted stars.  My eye is drawn to the 30's prints with white sashing.  ...anything that is bright, fresh and clean looking.  I've been feeling like I'm ready to take some more time with quilts and projects and to work on technique rather than bust out a project.  Both of my girls are now of the age that our schedule is filled with dance, basketball and piano and I find myself waiting, waiting and waiting some more.  Knitting and crocheting are just not my thing so I thought I would work on some hand-sewing.

This hand-sewing inspiration came from a group of local ladies that hand-sew together.  I had the pleasure of visiting their last quilt show a few years ago.  It was a.m.a.z.i.n.g.  It was almost spiritual to be among so many vintage hand-made quilts.  Of course the fact that they were all displayed in a church sanctuary helped with that.  I have lots of photos and and will make a post about it at some point.  For years I have been a huge fan of english paper piecing hexagons.  I've never really had a specific project in mind, I just like doing it.  Then I came across something out there in blog land about Tula Pink and her work on the La Passacaglia medallions by english paper piecing.  And I was sucked in.

I completed 2 1/2 medallions by English paper piecing and was loving it but feeling a little disappointed because my sides and points were frequently not matching perfectly.  The centers of my medallions were puckery and it seemed like I was always running out of paper pieces when I was out somewhere.

I started hearing that the author Willyne Hammerstein did not use EPP but just hand-sewed the pieces together and it was much faster.  Half way through my third medallion I switched over.  I am so happy that I did.  It took a little learning curve to match up the corners perfectly but for me this is much, MUCH! easier.  My work lays flat.  Sides and corners meet nicely and I think that it's faster or at least if feels faster. 

My stitches have definitely improved in quality.  My middle finger and thumb now have a nice callus.   I have certainly had more than enough needles going into my finger but I hate using a thimble and I have tried them all!  My favorite way to trace the pieces is with a good ole pencil.  I loved the line easily drawn on with a Frixion but then mid-medallion I ironed my piece flat and all the lines disappeared.  It was an annoying challenge to redraw or guess where they were to add the next shapes.

This will be a project that lasts for awhile but I'm ok with that.  The frequent changes of working with different fabric and shapes will keep me interested and adding a new row is like unwrapping a gift.  

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Adventures in making a new bag

I have been longing for a new handbag for spring.  Since I started making them back in 2008 I have been carrying a handmade bag.  So I've been thinking that it was time to break away and give myself a whole new look on life and carry a leather bag made by someone else.

Christmas gift certificate in hand, I drove the 45 mins to TJ Maxx excited about the possibility of carrying around a bag that shouldn't take more than 10 mins to look at and decide it was right for me. (vs. the hours it takes to make one) I marched in on a beautiful spring day, excited, hopeful.  I walked around slowly looking at every bag and all their features.
Thinking as I went along...
too much hardware on that one
too big of a flap on that one
what the?
totally not practical....
At one point I felt like a country girl in the big city (I kind of am...).
Do people really carry these around?  Two thirds of the way through I thought, where are all the nice simple leather bags with a couple pockets on the inside? is that too much to ask?
Then I knew...that I was going to be making myself another bag.  I guess deep inside I knew that I could not betray my bag making self by carrying something made half a world away.  I had in mind the style I wanted but picking out fabric is the most daunting part of the whole bag making process for me.

Next stop - JoAnn's.

I am a, I have to see it, it has to catch my eye person.  If I think about it too much it feels like I've already been there, done that.  I second guess myself, then I just give up.  So I repeat in my head, see it, don't think about it too much, go with it.  There were two Ikats in aqua that were calling out to me as I scanned the heavyweights and that was that.  I quickly did an enie-menie-minie-mo and fabric chosen!

I still felt like I needed a dose of leather or something that made the bag a little different than my usual.  I could see a nice pair of brown leather handles to contrast the aqua.  Unfortunately our JoAnn's, for whatever reason, no longer carries bag making supplies.  Really?  Isn't this like the age of DIY and handmade bags?  Then it the lightbulb went off...

Next stop Goodwill.  I literally dug my way through the mountainous crates of bags and purses searching for a pair of handles.  There were actually a few options.  The hardware made my decision. And at only $3.50 I couldn't have bought a pair of handles for even close to that.  Now if I had only come on half price day.

Here we go!  Hideous bag with perfect handles plus Ikat fabric.  Here's the best part.  The total cost of my bag, handles $3.50, fabric 1/2 yard (reg $20 per yard on sale for 50% off) = $5, interior fabric (old sheet from Sally's boutique) the part I used was pennies so I'm saying free, interfacing $1.  Total cost of bag $9.50.  Plus there is enough Ikat fabric left for a couple zipped cases or a small bag which really brings the cost even lower.

And not until I saw this photo did I realize why this fabric stuck out to me so much.  I like aqua or turquoise, or sea green...whatever you want to call it.

I chose a very simple shape.  I started with 15" x 15" for the outside with 2" squares cut out of the bottom for a good sized boxy base.

The front pocket for my cell phone is a patch pocket cut 6" x 6" then pinched in the center base to make the top stay open a little.  I added a tabbed closure and snap.

The inside was a bed sheet from a thrift shop that I had in my stash and was the perfect match.  I added a band of exterior fabric around the top of the bag.  I always feel like this gives a more professional look.  There is a zipped pocket on one side.

And a divided patch type pocket on the other side.  The bag that I used the handles from actually gave me the idea.  These are more accessible than regular flat patch pockets because of the pleats and folds.

Usually I don't add a closure to my bag but I just felt like going for it this time so I added a snap there as well.

The one thing that I am kicking myself for is not adding a firmer stabilizer.  When I started I told myself I was going to add something really stiff like Pellon 70 but I was sewing this early in the morning before school and going out for the day and I REALLY wanted to get it done so I skipped it. It just has the Decor Bond/Pellon 809.  It's a little too floppy for me but hey I was able to have a new bag for the day.

I've been using it for a couple weeks now and I still really like it so I will be making more of these for sure.