Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Style Stitches Challenge 1: Cosmo Bag finally finished!

Finally — it’s finished! I finished the first bag in the Style Stitches Monthly Bag Challenge, the Cosmo Bag, and I love it! It’s huge, has amazing pockets, is very comfortable to carry, and I love how the colors worked out.
So let’s talk about the pattern/book:
This is the first bag in the book, and the patterns are organized from easy to difficult. I’m not sure if the bags are supposed to progress in difficulty within their category (in other words, if the first easy pattern is the easiest, or if all the easy patterns are just mixed up), but regardless, this was labeled as an easy bag, one of three. I’m not sure I agree with that classification (and after reading several posts from other bloggers taking part in the challenge, it seems I’m not alone). I would say that most of the individual steps are pretty easy, but there are so many steps, most of them intricately detailed, and the finishing of the bag (the final steps) was one of the most frustrating parts of a sewing project I’ve done.

Also, it took FOR-EV-ER to cut out the many, many pattern pieces and then add interfacing to each and every one. I’m sure it added a lot to the final structure of the bag, but it took hours, literally hours, to complete it all. I wish I had allotted myself more time to work on the bag sooner, because I really waited too late in the month to get started and was pushing the deadline to finish (especially with all the sewing I’m currently doing for my sister’s bridal shower — more on that later).
That being said, I’ve never made anything using Amy Butler’s patterns before, and on the whole, I was pretty impressed. The pattern pieces all worked well (I had very little trouble with pieces not matching up properly.) and were clearly labeled. The instructions were generally pretty clear, but I definitely could have used more diagrams. There are very few of them, and the ones that were included I didn’t find terribly helpful. I found myself having to read and re-read many of the steps before I understood what she was telling me to do.
And while the glossary at the back of the book was helpful for defining terms, it didn’t really provide any instruction as to how to do things (i.e., it defined “stay stitch” but didn’t tell you how to make one, and since the bag instructions just tell you to “stay stitch” such and such (and then reference the glossary), that seemed a bit lacking to me. It seems like, at the very least, some of these terms could have been explained in the instructions a bit more, especially on the easy bags.
I’m also curious to see the bag in action. I think it will be helpful because it’s so big, and one of my favorite features is the huge pockets inside (basically, the entire inside is lined in pockets, four in all). However, I’ve read in some reviews that the pockets aren’t that helpful because they tend to stick out and sag a lot once you put things in them. We’ll see how that goes. It could be fixed with the addition of some sort of closure (e.g., button, snap, Velcro).
All that aside, I did finish the bag, and I’m so happy with the results. I learned a new bag construction technique, I got to work more with curves and clipping the seam allowances to smooth out the curves, I covered my first button in fabric (so easy and so cute!), and I can’t wait to take it to Dallas with me this weekend.

And now I’m ready to get started on the next bag ... more on that soon.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

New loves

Hawthorne Threads, one of my favorite online fabric shops, is having a $5 shipping promotion through the end of January, so, of course, I decided I needed to stock up, right? Plus, there are some wonderful new collections out right now that I wanted to snatch up before everyone else did. Part of my order (all fabric pictures courtesy of Hawthorne Threads):
Several fabrics from Laura Gunn's Magnolia Lane collection for Michael Miller (this is Magnolia Branch in Aqua)
Several fabrics from the Etchings collection for Studio E House Designer (this is Packed Vines in Gray); see more below
Spanish Petals in Buttercup from Patricia Bravo's Alhambra II collection, to be paired with this lovely:
Oval Elements in Eggplant from Patricia Bravo's Oval Elements collection (an awesome "basics" collection)

HT also has this great feature where they let people post pictures of projects they've made with a certain fabric so you can see it in action (you can see my wine bags here, as well as several other projects on the site). It's also a great way to find Etsy shops with items you like. Case in point today: A Touch of Stardust. I love what she's done with her fabric combos, and the bags themselves are super cute. I found her site when I added the Etchings in Blue fabric by Studio E House Designer to my cart, which she featured on this bag:
(Image courtesy of A Touch of Stardust)
So cute, right?
I can't wait for my goodies to arrive! (Oh, and you should check out Hawthorne Threads before the month's up. The shipping's a great deal, their fabrics prices and selection are always awesome, and they're customer service can't be beat.)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Snow day!

I do love a good snow day, don't you? I love snow (in modest amounts, mind you) — the sound of it softly falling and crunching under your feet. It's so peaceful.
And I really love when it gives me an excuse to stay home from work and sew! Especially because I have a lot to get done before the weekend's over. My projects for today: finish the coasters for my sister's bridal shower and make significant progress on my sewing challenge bag. Wish me luck, and I'll be back to soon to report on my progress.
Oh, and Netflix just added Return to Me to its instant watch list — bonus! — so that will definitely be on in the sewing room. Does anyone else love that movie as much as me?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Freezer paper stenciling

I have a new favorite technique. Ever since I first heard of freezer paper, I've been wanting to try this stenciling technique, but I needed an excuse. It wasn't long before I had two.

Remember Hooty, the owl softie I made for Christmas gifts? Well, as I mentioned back then, Matt fell in love with the little guy and asked me to make a gray and blue Rice owl for his office. The owl's still in the works, but I decided I wanted to spruce him up a bit by adding the signature Rice "R" to his tummy. And it turned out great:
The other project is a tip jar cozy for my sister's new coffee shop, Stir Coffee in Dallas. I used the freezer paper to add the logo to one panel of the cozy:

I'm definitely looking forward to seeing how these projects come together, and I can't wait to bust out the freezer paper again.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Style Stitches Challenge 1: Fabrics

Remember my challenge for the new year? Well, I've finally found my fabrics for the first bag out of Amy Butler's Style Stitches — the Cosmo Bag.
The gray and white fabric is from IKEA (I've had it for a while, just waiting for the perfect project.), and it's being paired with a berry-colored solid and Nap Sack in Berry from Joel Dewberry's Modern Meadow.
I can't wait to get started this weekend, right after those coasters, I guess. Check out the challenge's Flikr group for photos of other bags; a lot of people are already done!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

A big pile of coasters

My sister Vanessa is getting married in March, and I'm hosting her bridal shower in a few weeks. The shower is going to be a coffee theme (because Vanessa just opened a coffee shop, Stir Coffee, in Dallas). One of the favors will be a coaster, which, of course, I volunteered to make.
My goal for this week: get everything cut. My goal for this weekend: make some coasters. I'm loving how the colors worked out. I focused on greens and teals (something new for me, right?), but then brought in a few reds, browns, and yellow, too, just to add some variety.

Happy birthday, Stir!

Today, my sister and her fiancé are opening the coolest new coffee shop in Dallas, Stir Coffee.
Teaming with the ladies of Good 2 Go Tacos, it's a winning combination, and I'm just bummed that I won't be there for the opening. I'm going to check it out in a few weeks when I'm in town for her bridal shower, but if you live in the Dallas area, I suggest you get there as soon as you can. I can promise you won't be disappointed.
Happy birthday, Stir!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Better aprons = better cooks (or baristas)

Drum roll, please, for the last of the Christmas present wrap-up ... aprons! This week, my sister and her fiancé are opening the coolest new coffee shop in Dallas, Stir Coffee. Teaming with the ladies of Good 2 Go Tacos, it's a winning combination, and I'm just bummed that I won't be there for the opening. In light of her new venture, I decided to make Vanessa a couple of coffee-themed aprons using some of the great fabrics from Robert Kaufman's Metro collections (Coffee Beans in Brown (from Metro Cafe 2) and Coffee Cups in White and Cream (from Metro Kitchen)).
I started off with the full-length apron. I used this tutorial from the Michael Miller blog, with a few tweaks to make the apron a bit bigger. (I used an apron I already had as my pattern.) It's reversible, with a red gingham on the back side. (The camera didn't like the gingham; it looks better in person, trust me.) One pocket on each side sports an appliquéd "V" for Vanessa. I also changed up the pockets from the tutorial because I liked the look of the smaller, rounded ones instead.
For the half apron, I used one of the patterns from the great intro sewing book Bend-the-Rules Sewing. I've mentioned it before, and I'll recommend it again, especially if you're relatively new to sewing. Anyway, I used one of her apron tutorials and added two small, square pockets.
Since making these (and after Christmas, of course!), Kelly over at Sewing in No Man's Land decided to do a whole apron week, with tutorials and patterns for several very cute aprons. Yeesh. Maybe I'll have to upgrade Vanessa's for her wedding present. :)
The combo look (not really recommended):

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

I bet you can't guess...

what my favorite color is. :)
I was at Hancock Fabrics this weekend to pick up a few things, and they had all of their thread on sale for half off. I stocked up on some basics, but I mostly used it as an excuse to buy basically every shade of teal they had.
Since I, of course, already owned several teal spools, it seemed a little ridiculous by the time I got them all home and in their storage box, but I feel pretty confident they'll get used because I can't stop buying teal fabric either, like the new Sanctuary fabrics I just got in from Hawthorne Threads.
 It's a sickness.

Monday, January 10, 2011

A home for my new toy

One of my favorite Christmas gifts was my new Kindle. I hesitated about asking for an e-book reader for a long time. I love to read, and I'm one of those people who loves to hold a book in her hands, not to mention I'm always afraid that the e-book revolution will win out in the end, bringing about the end of bookstores and paper books. I really hope that doesn't happen. But in the end, I decided it would be nice to have one for trips, to read at work, etc. And oh boy is it! It's SO convenient — easy to carry, easy to download books at the push of a button, great for the gym (SO much easier to prop up on the elliptical than a real book) — and it's really easy on the eyes, too.
Of course, one of my first projects after returning home from the holiday travels was to make a little cover for it. I struggled to find a tutorial online that was what I had envisioned but finally found this one on Sweetie Pie Bakery. The tutorial itself is not great — a lot of steps are glossed over or awkwardly combined — but it was helpful for the general idea of how to piece it all together and for the measurements. (Actually, if we’re being honest, it wasn’t that great for measurements either as my case is really a bit too small. If you try this tutorial, I highly recommend adding a half inch to an inch to the final measurements. It should be snug, but I really have to jam my Kindle in to make it fit. Still, it was a good start.)
Anyway, I was generally pretty happy with how it turned out. I used some of the fabric left over from my wine bags, and I liked the blue combo (shocking, I know). Of course, I added an appliquéd "J" (why should everyone else get initials on theirs and not me?), and I finished it with some sew-on Velcro for a closure. My Kindle and I are happy.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Napkins, napkins, and lunches

We're just about to wind up the handmade Christmas wrap-up. I've been wanting to make my mother-in-law something for a while, and when I saw these frog fabrics from Alexander Henry's Novelty collection (Leap Frog in Lime and Navy), I knew they were perfect. She loves frogs, and since she's always hosting dinners and parties, I thought a fun set of napkins and placemats would be perfect. 
I made these a bit smaller, so they're really for casual dining. I thought our niece, who's a frequent diner at Chez Grammie's, would appreciate the frogs, too. :)
The back of the napkins is Joel Dewberry's Herringbone in Lake from the Modern Meadow collection, and the back of the placemats is a sheet from IKEA.
I kept up the napkin theme with my cousin Savy's gift. During a visit with her and her hubby this summer, she mentioned how much she loves roosters. She also loves plates and napkins — like really loves them. She's got quite the collection, believe me. Most of what she has is paper, so I thought I'd make her something she could hold on to for a little longer.
I loved the Farmdale collection from Alexander Henry the moment I saw it, and I kept coveting it for something of my own — an apron or potholder, perhaps. But when I was planning Christmas gifts, I remembered the rooster thing, and it clicked.
The Farmdale Crossing in Natural print (the one with the roosters) is great because it gives a little rooster love without being over the top. Sophisticated, chic rooster, let's say. Then, to add a little color, I used the Farmdale Orchard in Natural as a coordinating print. It was backed with a Kona red (sorry, I can't remember which one), and the roosters got a black gingham, both from Joann's. The Farmdale prints were from the awesome folks at Hawthorne Threads. I was so happy with the way they turned out; I'd wipe my mouth with them any time.
I've also been itching to make my mom something since she was so pleased with the purse I made a few months ago. She requested a big lunch bag that could hold plenty of Tupperware, so I wound up with this gusseted bag version, which was pulled from several tutorials I found online, since I couldn't find one that was just right.
She actually originally picked out the orange fabric (Orbs in Orange from Khristian A Howell's High Society collection) for her purse, but it got vetoed when it arrived in the mail and was much brighter than expected — a bit much for a purse but perfect for a lunch bag. I paired it with the Paisley Panache in Clay from the same collection and made a little napkin to match.
Then, I lined the bag with duck cloth to make sure it was plenty sturdy (plus I liked the look of the canvas lining) and added a little appliquéd "S" for "Susanne." (I went a bit wild with the appliqueing this Christmas, in case you haven’t noticed.) What do you think? I think it turned out pretty cute (and it’s big enough to fit a book for lunchtime reading or to use as a small tote on the weekends).
And speaking of lunchtime reading, has anyone else read The Hunger Games series? Based on several recommendations, it was the first thing I downloaded to my new Kindle, and I whipped through the first two books in a few days. I'm planning to finish the third tonight. I highly recommend it — but only if you have plenty of time to spare. You won't be able to put it down.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Pink's the new pink

My grandmother's had a rough go of it the last few years. Diagnosed with several forms of cancer, she battled back against each one, and we're all thankful for every extra moment the Lord has let her stay with us. Until this fall, she lived with my mom in Texas, but when my mom had to get a new job with less flexible hours, we all knew it was for the best if Grams moved to Georgia to live with my aunt, who's a stay-at-home mom and would have more flexibility to get Grams to things like doctor's appointments and to be around if she needed help during the day. It's been hard on everyone. I wanted to cheer Grams (a fellow sewer) up and help her feel more at home with a few little gifts I thought she'd like. It started with this little tote, which my aunt thought would be nice for trips to the doctor's office or just out and about. It's big enough to hold a book, her doctor's folder, and plenty more. Plus, Grams always has a purse full of wadded-up tissue, so I made a little tissue pouch to match.

For Christmas, I wanted something a bit bigger. My aunt suggested a runner for the top of her dresser. Grams LOVES color, so when I saw Dena Fishbein's Tea Garden collection, I knew it would be perfect for this project. I bought five of the prints from the fuchsia color palette: Darjeeling, Honey Bush, Ming, Oolong, and Meditation (purchased from Hawthorne Threads and Sew, Mama, Sew!).

Based on the size of the dresser, I worked out my measurements for the final length and width. I knew I didn't want to use each fabric in the same size, so I calculated out the five pieces in varying lengths and then switched them up for the back (same fabrics, but in different lengths).
Putting it all together was super easy. Once you have both sides put together, lay them out right sides together, then place a piece of batting on top (I used cotton flannel cut to the size of my put-together strip.) and sew around the outside, leaving a hole for turning. Turn right side out, topstitch around the edge (closing up the hole you turned it through), press, and you're done.
I love the way it turned out, and so did Grams. Plus, I gotta say I was happy to have fabric left over; these colors are just screaming to be used in a little clutch or something pretty. Add it to the list.
And this must have been the year of pink in my sewing room because this guy popped out using the same pink fabrics I used in my wine bag tutorial, Joel Dewberry's Herringbone in Berry and Dogwood Bloom in Berry from the Modern Meadow collection (purchased from Hawthorne Threads).

I was inspired by the outside ruffle on this bag from The Sweet Life by Design and used Noodlehead's makeup bag tutorial for the rest.
This one headed to my friend Nicole's casa in Texas loaded with beauty goodies.