Friday, April 24, 2015

Review and Giveaway: All Sewn Up Sewing Kit by May Chappell

It's review time again!

This time I've got May Chappell's All Sewn Up Sewing Kit (you'll find it on Instagram as #allsewnupsewingkit).

Fabrics are from Fresh Cut by Basic Grey for Moda
This little cutie finishes at 7" x 9.25", and it's the perfect size to hold a itty bitty rotary mat (this is the one I have in the photo) plus some extra goodies like pins/needles, a small ruler, a pen/marking tool or whatever strikes your fancy. There's even a clear vinyl pocket at the bottom with a zipper closure. 

I found the most tricky part of the pattern to be selecting fabrics!  The largest problem I had was that a very large chunk of my fabric stash is directional.  With only 3 fat quarters needed to make the bag, I knew that it would require a less directional print (the bag is longer than the fat quarter, so the pieces are cut with the width of fabric not length).  So, I pulled 3 fabrics that I bought on my trip to Texas.

Look at all of the space to store your pins/needles!

When I first looked at the supplies list, I was a little surprised to see that it called for fusible fleece (I used Pellon 987F), midweight fusible interfacing (I used Pellon SF101), and my perpetual favorite, By Annie's Soft and Stable, but I absolutely understand now.  I know that Lee knows her stuff, so I didn't question it.

I used a set of 3/4" hardware from Atkinson Designs

With a cover that folds over and closes with a swivel hook / d-ring, the bag has the ability to lay flat when open.  This gives you easy access to the contents, and when closed, you don't have to worry about things falling out of the larger pockets.  The almost 6" x 9" cutting mat nicely fills up the largest pocket, and it gives the bag a little bit more rigidity (I don't think it really needs it because it isn't floppy thanks to the layer of  Soft and Stable that is sandwiched inside).

I would not be me if I didn't make some modifications to the pattern, but they are very minimal. The first change I made was to use heavyweight vinyl instead of quilter's vinyl. I prefer a little more heft for durability (plus, it's what I had on hand). The second change I made was purely aesthetic - I did 3 rows of stitching on the  exterior accent pieces instead of 2 because I liked how it looked. Finally, before I attached the hardware to the bag itself, I ran a line of stitching close to the hardware to keep it from flipping around. That's it for changes.  See?  Pretty minimal!

I believe this pattern is a pretty quick to sew up.  I actually made the bag over 2 days instead of the 1 day I had planned.  This was not due to any problem with the pattern, I blame Benedict Cumberbatch (aka I watched The Imitation Game with my husband).  I cut all of the pieces and fused the required interfacing on day 1, and I did all of the sewing and hand binding (yes, it is hand bound) on the 2nd day.  I was done by mid-afternoon with the whole thing, so I think it can be done in a day.  If you're prone to distraction, I would say it would be easily completed in a weekend.

As a special treat to those of you that read my blog, I'm going to do a giveaway this time.  Lee Monroe, the creative mastermind of May Chappell,  has graciously offered to provide a free copy of the pattern to the winner.  Thanks, Lee!!!!  Even if you don't win the giveaway, the pattern is available to purchase through (which is what I did).

So, here's how this is going to work... leave a comment below (I'd love to know what fabric you would use for the All Sewn Up Sewing Kit but that isn't necessary.  It's just to satisfy my own curiosity).  I will leave the comments open for one week.  They will close on Friday, May 1 at Noon PDT (see what I did there?  The MAY Chappell pattern will be given away on MAY 1st).  Yes, I'm terribly clever like that sometimes!  After it closes, I will use a nifty random number generator to select the winning number (based on the order the comments were posted).  The pattern will come directly from Lee, so I will provide her with the email address of the winner.

Don't forget to check back next Friday to see if you have won, and huge thanks again to Lee for providing a copy of the pattern to the winner!  Good luck!

UPDATE:   COMMENTS ARE NOW CLOSED. picked comment 6, so Carla is the winner!  Congrats to Carla, and thank you to everybody that participated. I will pass along the information to Lee so she can make sure you get your pattern. 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

I may be a freak of nature (in the sewing world)...

...because I only have 4 projects that are outstanding (as of 5 pm on 4/19/2015 when I am starting to write this post).  Most sewing/quilty people I know have significant backlogs of works in progress (WIPs).

I am being completely honest with you, and the point of this post is not to make ANYBODY feel bad at all about having WIPs. It's merely an explanation, and, truthfully, it's just how I'm wired. 

Why am I telling you this?  I get a lot of comments about the rate at which I get things done, and what I have next on the agenda. So, here's the current list:

1.  The oldest project is my Park Bench quilt that I started last year as a block of the month program with Fat Quarter Shop. It's basted, but I haven't felt motivated to actually quilt it. I'm going to do straight lines on it.  The last time I posted anything about it was back in July before I had finished the top.

Pattern is by Jaybird Quilts and fabric is Botanics from
Carolyn Friedlander for Robert Kaufman

2. My Tula Pink Diamonds in the Sky quilt top is English paper piecing. It's over 1,000 pieces, and it is going to take me at least another year or two at the rate I'm going. I am not enjoying hand sewing at all. I do, however, love that it is something I can sit and sew while getting my hair done, waiting at the car dealership while they are doing an oil change, on a plane, or sitting in the waiting room at a doctor's office.  This is the most recent picture that I took of it.  This was back in October 2014.  Now, the partially attached row is fully attached, and I'm working on row 4 (of 13).

Pattern is from Tula Pink and fabric is from Tula Pink's Acacia collection

3. My Spiked Punch quilt was just finished being quilted by Teresa of Quilting is My Bliss last week, so I'll bind that after I get it back. 

Pattern is from Tula Pink and fabric is from Tula Pink's Moon Shine collection

4. My Butterfly quilt is also at the quilter and scheduled to be quilted late next month. This is the last hanging full picture that I posted before I filled in the missing background piece, added borders, and  sent it off to Teresa. 

Pattern is from Tula Pink and the printed fabrics are from Tula Pink's Elizabeth collection
Coordinating solids are from Michael Miller and Art Gallery Fabrics

Yes, I do sew with patterns and fabrics that aren't by Tula Pink.  This batch of pictures just happens to be quite Tula heavy.  And yes, I do suck at taking photos.

So, why do I have so few projects?  The truth is that I get bored very quickly, and I don't like to have something hanging over my head like that. It keeps me awake at night (in addition to many, many other things). I'm just not a long-term project kind of girl. If I don't do something full steam ahead, I will likely cast it aside and probably never touch it again.  It's just how I am, and I'm ok with it. I have dozens of projects in mind (and actually written down so I don't forget what I had envisioned), but I don't actually count a project as a work in progress until I have put the first cut into the fabric.  

I'm constantly thinking about the next thing that I want to make, and as soon as I have finished something, I've already moved on to the next (often within minutes). I don't do well with not having a project (I can't count the EPP project as part of this because I can't physically or mentally sit and hand sew for extended periods of time) because the feeling of being unfocused can be terribly painful. Inside my head already feels like a pinball machine, so why shouldn't I take advantage of the need for constant motion sometimes? 

If you ask me what's next, it's entirely likely that my answer will change within minutes. Right now, I'm thinking another One Hour Basket with the silly Dear Stella Meat fabric that I bought yesterday at the grand opening of Circa 15 Fabric Studio, but if you check my Instagram feed, you will get to see what I pick! 

So, there it is. This is why I work at the rate I do, and this is why I try to keep the distraction of additional projects to a manageable level. Too many projects, for me, is a recipe for disaster. 

Friday, April 17, 2015

I am not a scrappy quilter, and that is totally OK.

So, now the truth is out there.  I'm not a scrappy quilter.  (I truly love how amazing scrappy quilts can look, but I just can't seem to get my brain to wrap around the idea of actually making them).  I keep only a very limited amount of scraps that I use for testing (tensions, techniques, etc) with very few exceptions (for example, any Tula Pink fabric over 2.5" square stays in a special Tula scrap bin that I will use to make a sampler quilt from her 100 Modern Quilt Blocks book).  With that out of the way, I have a recently made a couple of different projects that are more scrappy (scroll to the end of this post to see the my version of Jaybird Quilts' Stereo quilt and Tula Pink's Spiked Punch quilt), and I really did struggle with it. To be honest, the most scrappy I can usually subject my brain to is to stay within a specific fabric collection.  Even if it isn't technically scrappy, these quilts are often more haphazard with the prints than my preference for a minimal quantity of different fabrics can handle (most of my quilts are limited to 4-5 different fabrics or fabric from a single collection supplemented with coordinating solids).

Is there anything wrong with my dislike of scraps?   Nope, but I seem to get a large amount of "those" looks. You probably have seen "the look" at some point in time. It's a mix of horror, disapproval, disappointment, and astonishment all rolled into one.  For the record, I don't throw out all of my scraps, I just don't keep them.  Most of the tiny pieces and trimmings get recycled, but I do my fair share of making sure my scraps find their way to somebody that will use them.

Why am I anti-scrap?  Here are a couple of reasons (and they actually are pretty darn logical if you ask me):

1.  Lack of space.  I don't have a large area to store much of anything in my condo (hence the name 50 sq ft studios).  Many quilters known for relying heavily on scraps seem to recommend using a system to sort their scraps .  I've seen them sorted by color, size, scale of prints, type of prints (ie vintage, modern, black & white, etc), or by designer.  I really do love the idea of organizing my scraps.  Right now I have a bin for Tula and a bin for everything that isn't Tula.

2.  I tend to gravitate toward fabrics with large prints.  My brain seems to latch on to prints that are begging NOT to be chopped up into tiny pieces.  Some of these prints are destined to only be on the side of a bag or on the back of a quilt.  It seems like the "magic" of the fabric disappears in pieces that are less than 12" x 12"!

3.  I don't always like to repeat the same fabrics over and over (yes, there are obvious exceptions to this).  With many fabrics I use, once I've used it, I'm done with it.  If I have over bought fabric for a project (or bought fabric without a specific project in mind), I will often use the fabric again.  This gets tricky because I can't always find projects that I want to make that use cuts under a half of a yard long.

4.  I get frustrated and overwhelmed when I have to sort through bins of tiny pieces only to figure out that I don't have the right fabric in the right size. We have all heard that patience is a virtue, so add this to my list of shortcomings. :)

5.  I'm one of those people that has fabric talk to me (no, I don't ACTUALLY hear voices), and the same thing with patterns.  If one or the other is talking to me, it usually means that I will have to buy it.  From there, once I have the right pattern for the right fabric, you can't stop me.  Something has clicked, and it's full steam ahead.  If it isn't telling me something but I can't get it out of my head, it may sit and wait a while while I peruse pictures of what some people are making on Pinterest or Instagram in hopes of being inspired.  As pieces of fabric get smaller, the chatter dies down and it just feels more forced and less natural.

6.  To me, scraps are not much more than pretty colored bits of chaos and disorder.  They are chaos born from good ideas that have seen their prime pass them by.  Chaos and disorder in my mind is part of the struggle with living with ADHD.  So many things flash through my head at super sonic speeds that I cannot control, but I can control some of the chaos in my environment.  I have worked EXTREMELY hard for years to find ways to combat these issues.  For me, I like structure and repetitiveness.  Scraps are not structured and not repetitive (other than their persistence in the environment).  Not having structure is quite stressful for me and causes me to experience a lot of anger and frustration, so keeping bins of scraps is not a very good option.

I know there are other folks out there that aren't scrap-inclined, so let's join together and embrace it.  Whether you are pro-scrap or anti-scrap, just remember, we are all sewing, and sewing is good.  :)

This is the Stereo quilt that I made using fabric from Amy Butler's Glow collection
after it was bound (quilted by Teresa Silva of Quilting is my Bliss)
This is the Spiked Punch quilt that I made using fabric from Tula Pink's Moon Shine collection
prior to sending it off to my amazing friend, Teresa, for quilting

Monday, April 13, 2015

Review: Doris Project Bag by Reene Witchard

I was recently given the opportunity to review the Doris project bag designed by Reene Witchard of Nellie's Niceties.  (In the interest of full disclosure, I was provided with a copy of the pattern by the designer, but the opinions expressed below are fully mine - for better or for worse.)  The timing was pretty much perfect because I needed a bag to hold the fabric that I've gathered for the Tula Pink Space Dust quilt that I am planning to make soon.

While the bag is really designed for yarn-based projects, at 18" x 16" x 6", it is nearly the perfect size to hold all of my special fabric for my Tula project (all of it except for the 5 yards of background fabric).  I'll be honest, I don't think the bag photographs especially well (and my lack of photography skills don't do it any favors). It's a very cool bag.

I used Zombie Apocalypse fabric by Emily Taylor for Riley Blake for the
top/lining and a black and white dot for the bottom.

The pattern is very flexible and written to so that the sewist can make their bag more scrappy (as shown on the pattern cover) or less so (as I have done).  You also have the option of adding a pocket to the front (the pattern lists both open and zipped) as well as an optional detachable shoulder strap.  You can also add a fabric covered elastic loop on the inside.  I opted for no pocket or elastic loop, but I did want to add the shoulder strap.  As with most other patterns, the additions do increase the amount of fabric required.  The simple Doris bag (no strap or pocket) requires 3/4 yd of fabric for the lining and just shy of 3/4 yd of fabric for the 3 outside pieces (base of bag, upper exterior, and lower exterior).  I found a cute black and white ribbon to match my fabric for the drawstring closure.

I did find several aspects of the bag to be challenging. The biggest challenge was with the instructions. It's not that the bag is difficult to make. It isn't. It's a pretty simple bag, but the optional bits (pockets and/or strap) made the pattern feel cluttered. There were several times that I actually said "huh? what?" out loud. 

Another challenge was the intentional vagueness of the materials requirements. It lists "medium/heavy weight fusible/sew-in interfacing."  That's an awfully large range. I did email Reene and ask what she used, and she told me that she has done a variety of weights with her fave being Vilene F220/304 (it appears to be comparable with Pellon ES114).  I admit that I like having choices, but not having seen the Doris project bag in person prior to making it, I didn't know how it was intended to feel. In the end, I did pick a different interfacing, but I felt good with my choice because it was an informed decision (keep reading to find out what I picked).

This should come as no surprise, but I did make several changes to the pattern.

The biggest change that I made was with my interfacing.  The pattern leaves room for a huge variety of different interfacing types to be used based on how you want your bag to feel.  I opted to interface all exterior pieces of the entire bag with Pellon SF101 (Shape-Flex), and I used some scrap Quilter's Dream Poly batting to add some structure to the bottom of the bag.  I quilted horizontal lines 1/2" apart to anchor the batting to the interfaced quilting cotton.  I picked SF101 because I wanted the fabric to have some extra body without the crispness of something like Pellon 911F.  The combination of Shape-Flex and Dream Poly batting made it feel more like Pellon 971 (Thermolam Plus fusible interfacing). My choice was really a departure from the instructions because the top of the bag in the pattern isn't interfaced.

Another change that I made was in the tabs that attach the strap to the bag.  The strap itself finishes at 1", but the strap tabs were only 1/2" wide.  With the swivel hook and d-ring that the pattern specifies, I didn't like that the d-ring side was much more narrow because the hardware wouldn't have a lot of support (plus, I tend to prefer symmetry).  So, I adjusted the cut piece from 2" wide to 4" wide so it would match the finished strap width.

My other change was to increase the size of the hole used for turning the bag. The pattern calls for a 3" hole. That just seemed way too small, so I increased it to 5". It was significantly more easy to turn. 

I'm pretty pleased with how my Doris project bag turned out. Here are a few more pictures:

This is why I need a project bag!

It's all in there with room to spare

You can leave the bag cinched (the first picture) or un-cinched

So, would I make this bag again?  Yes, and I think I'd probably make pretty much the same modifications.  I'd probably stop the interfacing of the upper exterior a few inches below the top edge because the interfacing makes it a little more difficult to cinch closed.

Well, that's about it for me.  I've got another project to tackle before I can even think about my Space Dust quilt, but when I'm ready, I know that I can count on Doris to keep me in check.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Review: Sew Together Bag by Sew Demented

Next up for review is the Sew Together Bag by Sew Demented.

I will first say that I love this bag.  It's super functional and holds a ton more stuff than you'd expect.  With that said, I think the instructions in the pattern were not very clear for a person making this bag the first time.  While I haven't been sewing for a very long time (just under 3 years), I tend to do pretty well with reading and deciphering patterns without having to seek outside assistance (via a friend / sewing shop / video / class), and I honestly don't know if I would have made it through this pattern without this tutorial that The Quilt Barn did for their sew along.  I had actually read that in a number of reviews and Instagram posts, but I didn't understand how bad it really was until I bought the pattern.  I suppose that is a contributing factor in why it sometimes gets the nickname "the Swear Together" bag.  The photos from the sew along really did make a massive difference in the sections about zipper installation and attaching the side panels to the lining.

Aside from the somewhat muddy instructions, it truly is a great bag. I want to really be clear on this - I don't want to potentially scare anybody away from making one.  I've made 5 of them so far, and I have a feeling that I will make another at some point in time.  So, here's my obligatory collage of the Sew Together Bags that I've made.

Top Row - Priory Square bag made for Katy Jones' Fall '14 Quilt Market Booth (it's actually featured in the magazine ads for the collection!)
Row 2 - Tula Pink Parisville & Plume, Alexander Henry A Ghastlie End
Row 3 - Kaffe Fassett Paperweight, Kaffe Fassett Paper Fans (this one was a gift)

Why have I made it 5 times, you ask?  As I noted in the photo caption, the bag in the largest photo was made for the amazing I'm a Ginger Monkey / Katy Jones (yes, I'm talking about her again) to showcase her Art Gallery Fabrics Limited Edition Priory Square collection.  I use the first bag in the 2nd row to hold my binding supplies (needles, threader, Thread Heaven, etc).  The 2nd bag in the 2nd row is currently not in use.  I originally made it to hold an English Paper Piecing project on which I was working.  The first bag on the 3rd row is my just in case sewing kit.  I keep some of my sewing essentials in it (scissors, extra rotary cutter, a spool of my favorite 50 wt Aurifil #2600 thread, a folding tape measure, some glass head pins, and a seam ripper) just in case I forget my primary supply bag when I'm attending a class.  The final bag (3rd row on the right) was actually made for my boss.  I know how much she liked my Kaffe Paperweight bag (and to ease my guilt from reducing the hours that I'm working at the quilt shop), so I asked her to pick out some fabric for her own bag.  I'm not sure what she will do with hers yet, but it would be great for holding so many different types of things including makeup or small art supplies.

One of the coolest things about the pattern is that your materials list is pretty flexible.  In its most basic form, you will need 1 fat quarter for the exterior, 1/2 yd for the lining, 1/3 yd for the pocket lining, and 1 fat quarter for binding.  You will also need 1 - 18" zipper, 3 - 9" zippers, 1/2 yd of fusible lightweight interfacing (I used Pellon SF101).  There is also an optional pincushion which requires a 4" x 6" fabric scrap and either wool roving or a similar stuffing, and an optional needle landing made from a 3" x 4" piece of wool felt.  If you want to quilt the exterior, you will also need an 18" x 22" piece of either batting or fusible fleece.

For all 5 of the bags, I chose not to quilt the exterior, add the pincushion, or the needle landing.  Because I felt like I wanted my exterior fabric to have a little bit more body since they weren't being quilted, I actually used 2 layers of Pellon SF101 instead of just 1.  If you choose to go this route, I'd recommend that you get an extra half yard of interfacing.

While the idea of sewing 4 zippers may seem daunting, the way they are installed is very straight forward (honestly).  They are long enough that you can get some good practice but not so long that they become difficult to work with.

One easy tip for making this bag is to buy zippers that are longer than the pattern requires (I usually go with a 20" and 12" for the inside compartments). By doing this, I have extra space at the end to move the zipper pull out of the way, and I don't have to stop part of the way across the zipper or worry about the possibility of accidentally trying to sew though the metal stops. :)  In most cases, I can trim the extra length off (after moving the zipper pull to the inside) and either do a zero stitch length zig-zag or sew back and forth over the end (my primary bag making machine is straight stitch only so zig-zag isn't even an option) to create new stops.

On my most recent bag, I decided to finish the binding by hand (my friend Teresa does all of hers by hand). It turned out very well, but I don't think it was really worth the extra time to do.  I'm not usually a "good enough" kind of person, but it actually looks pretty decent on this bag.

I talked to another friend, Kaitlyn, and she quilted Soft & Stable instead of batting or fleece on the exterior.  I didn't have the opportunity to see the bag in person, but it looks great in her photos.  With as much as I love Soft & Stable, I might have to make another bag to test it.  ;)

Anyway, that's about it on the Sew Together Bag.  I really do recommend giving this bag a try.