Tote Bag

I’d mentioned in a previous post about dice bags that I did want to make a tote bag. I looked at several tutorials online for tote bags, and now I can not remember for the life of me which one I actually used. In all actuality, I probably used a combination of tutorials to come up with my final product, but I am pretty sure that I mostly used this one by Skip to my Lou.

I went to my JoAnn’s and picked out some home decor fabric that was grey and yellow. I kind of crush on this color combination and was happy to find some coordinating fabrics that were this duo.

14300695914_faf1b7985a_bI tried to stick with the tutorial mostly, but found that when it came to finishing the top stitching on the top of the bag, that I really wanted to try using my twin needle, so I made sure to dig out my instruction manual for my machine and thread it properly. Since I wasn’t actually using a second spool of thread, I wound a second bobbin and placed it on the secondary spool holder instead, and it turned out ok.


When I made this, it was more of an exercise of making something useful as well as practicing skill building techniques, but I didn’t really think about the final dimension of the product and how that would affect it’s usefulness. Once my final product was finished, I realized that it was probably a bit smaller than I would have liked it to turn out, but it is still a fine size for a smaller trip to the farmer’s market or getting normal sized books at the library. 13520334145_3733382d95_b

There are definitely things I would do differently though.

  1. I would make the bag size just at tad bigger. Not much, just a little, and that’s just a personal preference thing.
  2. I would have added some interfacing to the straps to make them a little more sturdy, and quite possibly to the bag’s outer fabric to do the same.
  3. I would have chosen to use a plain cotton for the lining just for softness. Again, that’s just a personal preference thing but every time I stick my hand in there I wish it were so.
  4. Work on tension. The machine I have is pretty much at it’s life’s end, but I really wish I would have figured this out. I never feel like I really got the hang of it on my machine.

I did use a heavy-duty grey thread made by Clarks and Coats to try to give it a little more sturdiness against the hoped usage. I have to admit, I really don’t use this tote that much. I want to, I just don’t. I think had I done the four listed things above, I might use it more often, but that may just be a convoluted if/then statement.

14299408402_09539f61db_bA word on my fabric and supplies purchasing: as if you didn’t already notice a pattern here, everything I purchased when I first started sewing was from JoAnn’s. Don’t worry, you’ll eventually see me grow out of this limited view of fabric but back then, it’s all I really knew. I do still go there for an occasional purchase of batting, interfacing, or stabilizer. While I am there I may pick up some Kona cotton, but the store nearest me has a very limited selection of it.







I also do pick up the occasional calico print or their Quilter’s Showcase when it’s on sale (like this week), but I try not to allow too much of the lower quality fabrics into my stash. That isn’t to say never, just hardly ever. Here is a couple recent photos of my weakness for low prices and cute prints as proof!

I really do adore some of the prints, but the quality just doesn’t seem to hold up well to washing. I am making quilts now that may see some extended use and would hate for them to fall apart. Maybe I am just overly rough and hard on things, even though I do try to take care of them.  A total of nine half yard cuts for $12.17 after tax. (A solid orange bought for binding got left out of the pink stack picture.) Sometimes you just can’t resist that!

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Janet the Juki

I’m pleased to introduce Janet, my new (to me) Juki TL-98Q. She is a beast compared to my old machine! She’s mechanical, giving her heft and speed, and the throat space is really incredible. I can’t seem to get over how much room there is.


When my old machine went out, I started looking around to decide what type of machine I would want. There were minimums that I knew I wanted, and I really didn’t want to compromise on these, if I could help it. I was going to be weeding out most of the extras based on budget alone. This was a blessing in disguise as I really needed to stay simple since I just learned how to sew less than a year ago.

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Five Finish Friday!

This week has seemed to fly by. I had six WIPs that were sitting in a stack. While six may not seem like a lot to some people, to me that felt like a TON as I try not to be engaged in any more than one or two projects at a time. However, when my old machine started fritzing out on me while I was FMQing, I tried just piecing something new, cleaning the machine, ect, ect… Which led to the pile. So this week, after getting my new machine back from the shop, I was in completionist mode. I wanted these WIPs cleared up.

14381261533_fb207a15ee_bFirst up was one of the two Color Block quilts I was working on. It just needed the binding attached and I finished the back by hand. Not too terrible a task, but binding by hand is time-consuming for me. Continue reading

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I went to JoAnn Fabrics one day early in the Fall of 2013 for one thing and of course I walked out with something else. Turkey day fabric!

4962552-420That’s right, gobble till you wobble! I saw this and thought what a good, simple project some dinner napkins would make. I think this was also just a great excuse to buy this cute little print.

I looked at a few tutorials on napkins, and did I listen? Of course not! I ended up winging it. Honestly, I think it was more the fact that I was having some issues with hand coordination. I did try doing the whole mitered corner thing, but I really don’t think I had cut my fabric straight, so they turned out a little…. well a lot…. bad. The seams are awful. That’s ok, I can say that, I made them.

The first two I made I gave up and just folded the seams down. There is no photo of the first one because it was so bad that I decided to use it as a pressing cloth and well… there may have been a stabilizing accident, so goodbye was said to it. (Learned a real good lesson there about only paying attention to the project your working on, haha!)


The third one I made some effort on fixing, the fourth one I took the scissors to and tried to straighten it up some, which did end up paying off. I have folded the corners down so that you can see a little bit of the mitered corners. These have been used a whole bunch, but the odd shaping is really just due to my rookie green showing through.

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After Thanksgiving was over, we had used these a few times and grown used to not using paper towels, so I decided to make an everyday set. I caught some already clearances fabric on sale at JoAnn’s that matched my kitchen counters, so I grabbed enough for eight smaller napkins and tried again.

I found a different method which I managed to do much better this time. I used this tutorial from Sewbon which I followed to the T. Now this set is used EVERY day. They are wrinkly and soft and maybe not 100% perfect, but honestly they are soooooo much better than that first set and I really do love them. While I would have liked to purchase a print that was more to my taste, these match my 70’s kitchen counters wonderfully.


They have saved us a bunch of money instead of buying paper towels, I’m sure. It was an adjustment at first, my husband and I had to take turns reminding each other that we had them, but now we just grab one from the linen drawer in the kitchen and don’t even think about it.

I’ve also made two sets of four napkins for my MIL. The cream with red vines came from a yard I found at the LQS (local quilt shop) and the brown leaves were from left over fabrics that I used to make her quilt. I thought it might help her achieve the same goal of saving some dough through little changes, plus it does help keep trash out of those waste bins.







While I snapped a photo at the post office, I barely managed to get the ziplock bag shut and I was NOT opening it once I realized I still needed a picture. Instead, my MIL gladly took pictures for me to show you with. (Thanks Mom :))

I’m really glad I found this tutorial and appreciate that it has been so useful.


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Pushing Boundaries

In the past, I have not been a creative person. I didn’t typically pick out bold colors or patterns, I wouldn’t mix shades of color to save my life, and I used to not be a DIY type of person. I have found that since I picked up sewing that I have become better at all of these, but it didn’t come naturally or quickly.

My husband has tried to encourage me as he has found through the years that I do in fact like bold colors and patterns, I just don’t chose them for myself. I would find something that I liked in a book or magazine and say so, but then I would quickly add ” but I could never pull that off…” or some other negating comment. He has had to pulled me out of my colorless beige shell and has often given me the courage to try out new things.

In that spirit, when I came across a string art project I liked, I asked my husband if he would help me try it. And being the trooper he so often is, of course he said yes! So using the tutorial on The Harpster Home website, my husband and I created our own version.14276704946_2250c743f2_b-3

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Doggy Bed, take two…

After the last fiasco with dog beds, I decided that while the dogs still needed beds, I was not going to buy foam filling this time. Instead, our little dog Jack inherited an old pillow that I was going to make a zip-able pillowcase for, and our other dog Kendall was getting an old comforter from the linen closet that I no longer needed. I re-washed the comforter first, as my lesson was learned and not forgotten.

As for Jack’s new pillowcase, this necessitated a trip back to JoAnn. Luckily I remembered to put the measurements in my purse for the new pillowcase and was able to snag some super cute dog themed fabric for the top of the case and a some really cheap stuff to go on bottom. I’m pretty sure the bottom fabric is some type of poly blend and it feels thin and cheap, but as it’s just for the bottom of a dog pillow, I wasn’t fretting over quality at this point. Especially not considering what had happened with the previous two beds I made.

This time around, I wanted the zipper to be mostly hidden so that my little dog couldn’t get his nails caught at all and I was hoping this would prolong the life of the case. I searched the internet for a hidden zipper tutorial, watched a few videos and read a few blogs to make sure I had it down and understood it ok and got to work. I actually didn’t have much trouble at all with installing the zipper.

I did, however, find that I was always having trouble with my sewing machine tension. I ended up calling my mother in law to see if she could give me some guidance. Everything I read and looked up said that you should probably be in the mid range for proper tension, although my machine was having all sorts of weird puckering and pretty much made me hate making this new case. While I did have some small nesting and tension issues the first few times I had used the machine, I had chalked this up to inexperience, and I thought that this was what was going on this time too. But after talking to my MIL, I played with a piece of scrap from the previous experience and realized that my machine has some seriously tight tension issues. The setting on it really needs to be low at somewhere in between 2 and 3 for it to work best.

IMG_0711The lighting isn’t well in this photo, but as you can see, my pup plopped on top of his pillow before I even had the case finished and curled up with his blanket and toy. I guess I was taking too long figuring out my tension issues! Once I did, my sewing went a bit smoother, and I finished the case without issue. The result is actually something that he still uses to this day, almost a year later. I am glad its held up pretty well, with lower quality fabric and many washings. Over all, I would count this project as a success.

12871542634_8b67532580_oI had also spent some time crocheting this little blue blanket shown in these pictures for his new pillow/bed. It matches pretty well and didn’t take me very long, only about a week. I did decide to add a little clam shell border even though he is a boy mostly because I had been wanting to expand my ability with crocheting. I thought this border would give me a slight challenge while still allowing me the opportunity to mess up or for it to not be perfect. I figured since he is a dog, he doesn’t mind if it is a little frilly or flawed.


He absolutely loves sleeping under blankets and on top of any pillow he can find. He is such a spoiled dog. Why yes, that is him sitting on his bed in between our computers on top of our desk. Who has room for office supplies when I have an assistant like him?

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Contest at Mad About Patchwork

I know I just made a post yesterday, but I wanted to be as timely as I could about this one. I recently read this post on Sew Me Something Good about a contest/giveaway for Mad About Patchwork. It ends Sunday, June 1st, which is why I decided to post back to back.

While I had never seen the website that they were using to create their mosaics, Big Huge Lab’s Mosaic Maker, I HAD been to Design Seeds for inspiration. In fact, quite a few times. I just never seem to be able to make the decision to go with these bold and vibrant colors like my heart really wants. Take a look at my entry for the contest.

The design seed is Breakfast Hues. And next to it, my entry for the contest. The Mosaic Maker wasn’t hard to use and it was really fun to go through their stock and create one of these. If you have the time, go check it out and be inspired. Who knows, you could win a fat quarter bundle from them!



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Roll 20, a scrap project

With the demise of my sewing machine, the opportunity is presenting itself to work on some posts from some older projects. While I have found a new machine, the post about my new (to me) machine with have to wait for a bit as I have taken in to be serviced and cleaned. So my posts for now will continue to be about my learning to sew adventures…

After making the dog beds, I was beginning to feel more confident and was starting to spend a little more time searching the internet for projects I could complete at my low skill level. I kept finding all kinds of different tutorials for tote, grocery, and produce bags. While I did want to make a tote bag for the library and farmer’s market runs, I was thinking something smaller for now. Much smaller. Like dice bags!

Of course, I didn’t think to take good pictures at the time. It was impromptu and I had no idea what I was doing. I had some pirate themed fabric left over from my one of my dog beds, and an assortment of strings in my sewing box from my husband’s hoodies.

So here is what I did. Winged it. Completely. I repurposed an old orange pillow that had a rip in it that was going to be disposed of and cut some longer rectangles for the lining. I used the pirate fabric for the outer fabric and cut matching rectangles. I folded the lining in half, right sides together, and sewed down the sides, doing the same for the pirate fabric. I turned the newly created pouch right side out and left the liner alone and sat it inside the other.

Now the top hasn’t been sewn together yet, and neither has my string been put into place. And there’s the main problem folks. I did not think about how construction truly works when I just started winging it. I did not leave a space for my strings to poke out from.

14319156833_45fb24887e_bSo had I noticed this grievous error yet? NOPE! I just kept going. I rolled the top down to the inside, without even attempting to cover the unfinished edges and then realized my mistake. (in true Homer Simpson fashion) Doh!

I really wasn’t worried too much about how these looked at the time because they were supposed to just be giving me practice making something and using my machine. So I just snipped little holes where the strings were to be and pulled them on through.

14298420194_404ae4b6f0_bDo they look good? Nope. Did I get practice? Yep. Are they useable? Mostly. While I might not count this one as a success, it was a superb learning experience. Really thinking the design through, even when winging it, is an important step that will save you time and make your end project more useable and give the item longevity.

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Oh Brother (LS2125i), Why hast thou forsaken me?

My current sewing machine, a Brother LS2125i, was a present from my husband in order for me to learn how to sew. Now this is a low-end machine, no doubt about it.

14252428356_c77b4fb164_bIt has ten stitches and is really meant to be for sewing and mending. It can be purchased from Wal-Mart, Target, and Amazon… pretty much any big box store basically.

I have put this machine to use, no denying it. I’ve made clothes, purses, pillows, dog beds, and quilts. I’ve pieced, quilted, and attached binding with this machine. I even attempted some embroidery. If there was a way to do something with it that I could figure out, I tried it.  So you can imagine that after almost a solid year of use it is seeing some wear and getting grumpy. While it always had some tension issues, this last quilt (approximately the tenth it has done) was it’s final straw. It has had enough. Tired and overused, misunderstood at times and moody, the machine is mostly done for.

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A peak at current projects

Sometimes life gets a little hectic. Of course this is bound to happen now and again, which is why I missed making a post last week. My husband and I had an anniversary so we went on a day trip, and then our little dog accidentally ended up taken our bigger dog’s arthritis medicine, which as it happens, was three times the dosage for his size. After an emergency vet trip and three days of medicines and careful watching, writing and sewing just weren’t on my to-do list. Since I haven’t made a post in more than a week, I wanted to make sure I made at least a small one today.

So far I’ve tried to write about my previous projects before writing about my newer ones. I wanted to create a sense of continuity for the reader, but it does create a daunting task to go back 6 months or more to talk about old projects. So for today, I thought I’d give you a quick look at what I am currently up to. I happen to have three quilt projects in the works that are started. Of course many more are planned!

I have pieced and basted three, one of which is quilted, and binding has been attached to the front. Two are small baby quilts, specifically the Color Block pattern by Bijou Lovely.

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(She just won’t stay off this!)

The third is for my husband, using his fabric color choices for an All Things Equal quilt, which is made from a free pattern on Moda Bake Shop.


While I will probably make separate posts on all three of these later, I thought a sneak peak wouldn’t hurt.


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