Monday, July 24, 2017

The Maker's Tote -- Part Two

It's finished -- my version of Anna Graham of Noodlehead Patterns' Maker's Tote!!
And it's the first project to be crossed off my third quarter list for the 2017 Finish-A-Long!!
Hopefully, it won't be the only one!!
It's the only stitching I did last week so it's fun that it is a FINISH!!
Six of the past seven days have been crowded with people and activities including a visit to my friend's prairie in central Ohio (I shared lots of pictures last year HERE)
as well as a visit to The Kingwood Center in Mansfield, Ohio -- one of our great treasures I think!
This bed was filled with every color of coneflower currently available and it was stunning.
You know I left with two pots for my own garden!
Back to the tote -- the detailed instructions require careful study but every step was completely covered.  I spent a free afternoon cutting out everything needed for the body of the tote and organized it by steps on the studio floor.  While that's not a typical strategy for me, it was a good one and I need to make it a regular habit going forward!
I found a couple episodes of Vera on Hoopla to entertain me while working through all the steps. 
I decided not to learn a new skill and use a button instead of a snap but the search for buttons in my stash was futile.  It was fun to poke through the box and rediscover some little gems -- I need to find a use for more of these to keep them out of the "big yard sale"!! 
In the end, I opted for a Velcro closure on the pieced pocket. 
The thick foam interlining was intimidating to me, but my Bernina wasn't not phased by it.
There are two zipper installations in this tote and one of them uses an application from my tailoring past -- don't think I've done one of these since college?
Instructions were good and so I moved through it well if somewhat hesitant. 
The combination of foam interfacing and my coarse outer fabric made pressing this edge impossible. 
Thank goodness for basting!  
That did the trick allowing me to insert the zipper behind the opening and stitch it in place. 
The inner pockets are applied to the lining and are very roomy!
I adjusted the size of one of the pockets to accommodate the notebook that is always with me so I don't lose track of notes and ideas for the blog!
Once the lining was ready, it was time to layer it with the outside shell and insert the side gussets.
This is definitely the most challenging part of making this tote.  Anna advises going slowly and carefully so I (wisely) did this step at the beginning of one of my work sessions to avoid being impatient because I was tired.  These clips are becoming a favorite notion -- there was no way I could have pinned through all the layers successfully at this point.
I was disappointed when I looked down into the tote after inserting the side gussets -- you can see the excess fabric at the bottom.
Because the Ghana fabric doesn't handle de-stitching well, I fudged a bit and took a pleat in the bottom to remove most of the excess fabric.
I looked at all the photos I could find on Instagram and elsewhere of the inside of others' totes and couldn't tell much -- did I make a mistake?  I went back over all the measurements to see if I made a cutting error.  In the end, I think the pleat is the result of the lining being the same length as the outside of the bag -- because of the thickness of the foam interfacing used to give the tote such a nice shape, I think the lining should be a little shorter so it lays smoothly inside the tote.  
Therefore I've made a note on my pattern to take a 3/4" seam when stitching the two lining pieces together next time I make the tote.  

Time for the main zipper!
  Once again, basting was the easiest way for me to keep it in place.
 Anna's instructions for inserting this zipper are clear so my results are good.
The edges are finished with bias binding and really give the tote a professional look.
I'm so glad I bought one of these Clover bias tape makers years ago and almost as glad that I've learned to put it in the same drawer every time I use it!
It makes the task of preparing the strips so easy!
In no time, I had 2 1/2 yards of bias tape ready to stitch onto the tote! 
Loving these clips!!
Last step was making the handles -- I added extra stitching for texture since it's plain black fabric.
Anna designed it to have four layers of fabric and interfacing so it's quite sturdy.
It's a bit wide for my small hands, so I made a note to cut the piece an inch narrower next time.
Here's a peak inside!
It's very roomy and will be especially nice for my hand stitching or knitting when I'm traveling.
My only other small modification would be to place the front pocket up 1" higher on the front of the bag.  I may still move it but it will have to be hand stitched in place if I do that.
If you are tempted to make this bag, I encourage you to go for it!
It was a good experience and I'm pleased with the results.
This one is definitely for me but it will be a good gift make in the future!!

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go find a project to put inside the tote!!


Monday, July 17, 2017

The Maker's Tote -- Part One

On my last road trip across central Ohio, I left a few hours early with the thought I'd take some shopping or birding breaks.  The first stop was at Sew To Speak in Worthington, Ohio -- a newish shop filled with modern fabrics, yarn, and cheerful people.  I left with a few pieces of fabric and the Maker's Tote pattern from Anna Graham at Noodlehead

Then at the beginning of July, a group of gals on Instagram announced the Maker's Tote would be their project of the month and it seemed like a call to me to work on one, too -- not just own the pattern.

Once the decision to make something is made, the next job is to pull fabric and a piece of handwoven fabric from Ghana that my anthropologist sister brought me years ago was laying on top of a pile.
It's a sturdy somewhat coarse fabric and will be perfect for the outer fabric.
But do I have anything that will work with it or do I need to shop?
Not to worry -- look at all those teals and golds?
There are a couple new pieces but the majority is from that deep stash I own!!

With so many prints to chose amongst, I decided to piece a small scale tumbling block to show off the "set-in piecing simplified" technique which I teach -- should be an awesome conversation piece!
I worked with 1" finished 60 degree diamonds using G48 from Marti Michell's Set G (it's also in her Grandmother's Flower Garden template set).  My value inspiration is that narrow band second from the lower left corner of the package.
The day I decided to begin was beautiful outside and I wanted to be sitting in the back yard watching the bird feeders.
Solution?  Move the cutting to the patio table!
Can you see the small rotary mat on top of a larger one?
That makes all the cutting and trimming easier since I can twist the little mat in any direction!
That evening, I began to piece the tumbling blocks and decided to keep track of how long it took me. 
You do know I chain piece through these?
That's what my DVD and workshops are all about! 
Piecing tumbling blocks is the best way to learn the process and this stack of 30 blocks took just over 30 minutes.  Now it might take you longer in the beginning but with practice, it's an awesome technique. 
All pressed and ready to layout! 
I'm making a section large enough for the front pocket of the tote.
I'll fill in the sides with extra diamonds. 
I have found it's easier to assemble sections rather than rows -- much less cumbersome and easier to maintain the chain-piecing process.  In the picture below, I've divided all the tumbling block units into groups of three and two for the first step. 
Even though I need to start and stop at "dots" to keep the ends of the seams open, I'm still able to chain-piece. 
I call this the "Y" unit -- the alternate units are upside-down "Y" units. 
All the "Y" units are assembled and laid back out -- working from the layout is the secret to keeping on track in my experience.  There are a few single units across the bottom. 
Now I begin to set the "Y" units together -- the upper pair is already pieced and the lower pair is next. 
It's coming together! 
More progress -- two halves with a few single units to be set into place. 
I worked back and forth between the two halves adding the single tumbling blocks and extra pieces needed along the outside edges to complete my pocket. 
Everything is added and it's time to piece the center seam -- there will be nine individual 1" long seams and so I will throw in pieces from another project as "leaders and enders" at this point to keep the chain going!   I pieced the last of the 4-patches for Long Time Gone as I assembled this piece.
Now it's time to press! 
I have found that waiting to press until the entire piece is assembled makes it easier to keep adjacent seams out of the way of the y-seam I'm stitching.  Once they are pressed, you need to be constantly alert about moving the seams to one side or another. 
The pattern calls for interfacing this pocket and I fused that to the back side of the patchwork for extra reinforcement.  Then I laid the lining right side down on the patchwork and stitched them together leaving a 3" opening along the top edge. 
And it's beautiful!!
Next step is to decide how to position it on the Ghanaian fabric, cut all the pieces for the tote and settle into the studio for a long session!
Maybe two long sessions -- there are zippers!?!

Hope the week is off to a good start for you!

If you are on Instagram, you can check out #makerstoteclub2017 to see what the other sewists are doing with this pattern!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Dodecagon Progress and Tips

It's been several months since I shared the beginning of my version of Marge Sampson-George's Dodecagon pattern (HERE).  I've been poking along with it and have just started the final assembly of dodecagon #13 of what I think will be 21 in the final version.  I am so inspired by Kate's version (@midknightquilter on Instagram) that I've started to mess around with the basic layout suggested with the information Marge included with the templates and papers.  

Here are the first twelve!
Looking at them on the living room floor isn't ideal but it's the largest clear flat space in the house right now.  Thinning out is a messy business but that's another story!

All of them will be outlined with black hexagons and there will be four large floral pieces plus more hexagons outlining the dodecagons -- maybe scrappy greens??
Does auditioning for the color using the rug count?
This week, I spent a morning with some local gals who also want to make this pattern -- they purchased templates and paper from Paper Pieces here in the USA.  Not that I'm an expert but I'm thirteen blocks ahead of them and was able to share some tips about what is working for me.
Maybe you might be interested, too?
I think some of the tips I've discovered will apply to other English paper pieced designs with similar centers where eight or more pieces comes together.

I prefer thread basting my EPP (have never been a glue fan -- not even in grade school) and I find that doing my basting in the same direction around the pieces is an advantage.  I happen to go counter clockwise but clockwise would work too as long as you are consistent.  
Shouldn't do "either or" -- pick one and stay with it.
The advantage in my view is that it enables you to swirl the seams at the center without giving it much thought because the seam allowances are lapped the same way on each individual piece.
The photo below zooms in on the hardest spot to match -- the "corner" on the brown blade where the pink blade has to match is more of a "bend" and so going slowly and double checking before the stitching starts is important. 
Get careless about this and you'll be destitching!!
I've been assembling the blades into quarter sections of three -- seemed quite logical to me but the group had all tried to construct a half block (sort of Dresden plate style). 
I think the logic I applied comes from piecing 8-pointed stars in quarter sections.
This approach helps me achieve a sharp V-intersection at the center of the blocks and that's critical.
Then I piece the quarter sections into halves and finally do the center seam which I do in two separate seams coming from the outside edge to the center, tying off my thread and then coming in from the opposite edge.  The result is that I haven't actually sewn through the center -- there is a tiny little hole but it doesn't seem to be a problem. 
If you look back up at the dodecagon outlined in black hexagons, you'll see my centers aren't perfect but a search on Instagram for #dodecagon shows me I'm doing as well as most others with this!
And the blocks are getting better with experience!

So perhaps these are some helpful tips you can apply to your own work!

Looking ahead, in the studio this week, I've started to review Emily Breclaw's new book, Adventures in Hexagons, which was just released by C&T Publishing.  This is the beginning of my version of one of the quilts she designed for the book.  The patterns in the book are compatible with Marti Michell's hexagon templates sets which I'll be using for the cutting and I'll be machine piecing using the technique I teach, Set-In Piecing Simplified.
More to come on August 1 as part of her blog tour for the book!!
Ready for the weekend!!
We've had a bunch of rain so weeding should be a snap and is at the top of my "to-do" list!

See you next week!