Wednesday, March 25, 2015

My Ultimate Super Tote

A massive thank you to each and every one of you who left hits, tips and suggestions on my blog post and IG feed giving me your experiences in creating a Super Tote.  With your help, I'm delighted to say I have finished my very first Super Tote and I absolutely love it.



I have been watching so many of you make Super Totes with personal touches.  I knew when the day came that I made my own I wanted to tweak the pattern to suit my use of the bag. Needless to say, my chicken scratch covered the pattern within hours of my printing it.


The pattern is wonderfully written. Very clear instruction with easy to follow diagrams.  There are lots of ways to personalize your tote included as optional extras in the pattern itself, which was a nice touch.  

I started with the two large exterior pieces of  the bag.  I knew I wanted to use the Wordfind print from Playful as the "background" on the front panel.   The handles (and gusset) are of Essex Linen Navy because I wanted them to be extra sturdy.  The handles have batting inside and are a bit wider than called for in the pattern.  They're stitched...and quilted...and reinforced by stitching Xs at their base, giving them strength and form.  I used Annie's Soft and Stable as my interfacing to make the bag...well, soft and sable.  I wanted it to hold it's own shape, but squish under an air plane seat.  I found it to be pretty easy to work with even when at some points I was stitching it two layers thick plus several layers of fabric.  Not a bother.  On one side I put a slip pocket in Architextures and a key fob.  I also hid one side of a magnetic closure between the Wordfind print and the interfacing.  On the other went a internal zip with Architextures lining on the pocket.


That was as far as I could get in one day.  The next day I returned to add pockets to the front and I realized the Wordfind was just too much pink for me on the back.  I'd have to add pockets on both sides to break it up a bit.  Onto the back, I added a half pocket that I divided into two with basic stitching down the middle.  It was a nice way to also better secure the fabric to the interfacing.  The pockets are lined and have light, fusible interfacing between the two layers.  Instead of piping (as called for in the pattern) I just did a binding of Navy Essex on the top of the pocket to finish it.


On the front there's one massive pocket in Viewfinders  that again is lined, with interfacing and a binding on top.  Between the two layers I added the other half of the magnetic closure.  Boy it's hard getting photos of pockets on a bag, isn't it?


Next came the gusset of Essex linen backed with more Annie's Soft and Stable.   I pinned, and pinned and pinned and that worked well for me.  No blood was shed.  I hear, too, that Clover clips would work here as well.  I didn't have enough to make it all the way around so I had to stick to pinning.  Now, my gusset ended up being 2 inches taller on the left and right as compared to my bag (you can kind of see it in the photo).  I don't know why that is, but it was easy enough to cut that extra bit off.  I lost a bit of the pleat, though, on either side.  Next time I'll have to make the pleat it a bit longer to be sure I keep enough of it on the bag.


For the lining, I used the Jacks print from Playful.  I used interfacing between the layers on either side of the recessed zip.  I tried to get away without it, but you guys wouldn't have it.  I'm glad you stopped me from making  a huge mistake - I love it now that it's re-done and in use.


Inside you'll see another internal zip on one side and elastic pockets on the other.  I wasn't convinced that the elastic pockets would really be used (by me) or that they're high enough in the bag for me to find them (and the stuff in them).  I decided to give them a try, though, on one side to see how it went.  We'll see if they stay in my next super tote.


I used more Wordfind (scraps now) as the pocket lining in the internal zip.


And extra wide 1 inch thick elastic on the pockets.  I wish they were lined but at this point I was just getting tired and wanted this pretty finished.  It would have been easy enough to line them, though, so if they stay in the next Super Tote I'll add that to the pattern.


I do not like how the lining is just free floating inside the bag.  It seems kind of "baggy" and unrefined.   I can imagine myself snagging it when grabbing something at the bottom of the bag and pulling the lining fully out.  I flipped the bag inside out and added tacking stitches at 4-6 spots along either side of the lining gusset.  I just tacked the lining to the Annies hoping to keep it anchored a bit.

On the top of the bag the pattern tells you to top stitch along the upper edge.  I tried, but it looked just awful.  I'm pretty bad at that in general and this bag was no exception.  I decided to add another strip of Essex binding along the top and used navy thread that was then nearly invisible to stitch it down. I like it SO much more that way than as wobbly top stitching along the edge.

All in all I am delighted with how it came together.  It will come with me on a business trip later this week so it'll have the full test.  Stuffed with EPP and knitting, passports and reservation confirmations it will be shoved under the seat in front of me and strapped to a wheelie suitcase.  I'll let you know how it goes!


My photographic assistant, Miss Molly.  She's loving the first rays of the spring sunshine during our photo shoot.




Monday, March 23, 2015

New York State of Mind

In February I got a small case of the winter blues.  I wanted something fun.  Something new.  Something to look forward to.   You know how it is.

I decided to register for a New York Beauty piecing class and have really really really been looking forward to it since.  I have been all over Pinterest searching for inspiration.  I have been pulling fabrics from my stash and have been daydreaming of the mini 4-block quilt I want to make.  It was a wonderful boost to my imagination (and winter spirit) just to have registered.

This past Friday (20 March....my Dad's birthday) my day had finally come!  I popped into the car with my sewing machine, a small suitcase of fabric (but what if the absolute perfect fabric was left at home? you had to bring it all....) and a pillow case filled with my mini ironing board and rulers and set off for Dublin.  Happy happy happy.

This class was hosted by the Quilter's Guild of Ireland, taught by Ana Buzzalino using this quilt, New York Sate of Mind, as our guide.


There were 12-15 people in the class, with each and every one (no exception) using a full array of batiks.  Some were full of lively colors (gorgeous oranges and purples) but others had more shades of brown and green than I have ever seen in my life.  I was the weirdo.  With lots and lots of Sesame Street in my child hood, it bubbles up in my head at times like these:

One of these things is not like the others,

One of these things just doesn't belong,
Can you tell which thing is not like the others
By the time I finish my song?


We were given templates to make four blocks or one full circle.  The instruction was quite brief and basic - quick intro to paper piecing and how to fit a curved seam (with many pins).  Really the huge bonus of having a teacher with you for the day was to ask questions and get practical hands on help.  In that way it was brilliant.

I started piecing (using techniques from my Craftsy class) the arcs immediately, loving every bit of it.  I used a Cotton and Steel basic print (yellow) in combination with a rainbow of charms from our last charm swap.  They give you so little space in these classes I was always digging to find what I wanted.


Before I knew it, though, I had four arcs pieced!


And struggled a bit with the inner piece but just learned more pins is always better than fewer pins.  The outer L-shaped piece was a treat after I got that inner curve squished in there.


By the end of the day I had four blocks pieced, making one circle.  Woo hoo!  It's not perfect. I cut off a few triangle points, but I at least know now why that happened and how to avoid it in my next block.  I'm delighted with the layout, the color, the yellow pulling it all together.


I absolutely love it.  There will be three more to make a four block "mini".  It's not too mini, though, as this piece is 16.5 inches square UF.  

At the end of class we all gathered as a group holding our block for a photo.  Everyone had their batik block in hand except me.  The really nice woman next to me in the photo (who was on the other side of the room and hadn't seen me piece all day) looks at mine, looks at me and says "well, that's different".  Um, yeah.  Hilarious.  

I'll sign off with a photo from Friday morning.  While I was driving to Dublin, I had the perfect view of our eclipse.  It was a really stunning even to witness.  This photo was taken by my friend Dion back in Galway.  Thanks, Dion!  x

  








Thursday, March 12, 2015

Super Tote Inspiration!

It comes in the funniest of ways.  This time from two completely unrelated sources.

1. I am travelling at the end of this month and am itching to make something new to travel with me.  A zippy pouch?  I have many.  A purse?  Too fiddly.  What to make, what to make.....

2.  I was reading blogs over my lunch today and saw a super tutorial to make a tote bag. 

A tote!  But I need a zipping top to shove it under an air plane seat.  What's that, you say?  A Super Tote!!!  The light came on.

Oh, yes.  Paypal has this way of enabling spontaneous purchases.  Before I knew it I had a brand spankin' new Super Tote pattern printed out at my desk.



I am home tonight pulling pretty fabrics....

Clearly Playful from FSQ is my first choice, combined with two Essex linens.
and playing with Google image for a bit of inspiration/orientation.


Here is my question for all of you.  Have you made a Super Tote?  Do you have any hints or tips to share? Or any ideas of what you'd add into the pattern?   I see lots of cool suggestions like adding internal zipper pockets, using one massive cross-body loop instead of two handles, internal key fobs or external smaller pockets.  It's kind of fun daydreaming a bit, isn't it?  I'm totally jazzed to start stitching over the holiday weekend.  Bring it on!



Monday, March 9, 2015

Quick Strip Paper Piecing: A Craftsy Class

I love paper piecing.  I love the crisp points and the amazing designs you can create that would be a nightmare with traditional piecing.  I do not dig the ridiculous waste of fabric.  This waste has put me off making a larger project using paper piecing.  


I decided to take a Craftsy class on paper piecing to learn a few tricks.  Just before Christmas their classes were on sale, so I figured it's my best time to try out my first one.  I registered for Quick Strip Paper Piecing taught by Peggy Martin.  She's a good teacher with complete instruction, easy to follow printouts and clear videos.  At time it's a bit too basic, but that would make the class quite accessible for a very early stage quilter.

The idea is to strip piece your blocks to both save time and reduce waste.  The patterns are included in the class and are pre labelled with measurements and arrows to dictate the direction of your sewing to make your life SO EASY.  I'm loving it.  


The pattern I'm using here is the easiest one in the class where you sew only straight lines.  The mindlessness makes super sewing after a day at work.  The class does include more complex compass blocks and a New York Beauty that I will tackle in the near future.  Her instructions on the video make it look do-able.

For fabric, I'm using the Mimosa line and Kona Ash from the shop.  I would normally have used a white/cream, but I didn't want the points of the yellow blocks to be lost if a piece of white flower randomly was pieced next to the Kona white/cream.  Ash it is, then.


As for waste, there still is some.  It's in no way the amount of waste that I would expect from making six blocks the traditional way.  This is all of it....  not bad, right? 


I have decided to make a quilt top of 9 blocks so that you can see the secondary pinwheels appearing between the primary yellow blocks.  For now it lives on the design wall in little 1/4 block pieces.   With any luck I'll have a finished top to show you within the week!


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Cushion Cover Tester Block

Thank you all for your suggestions for Mom's birthday cushion covers!  They were incredibly helpful, giving me ideas of fabric combinations that I never would have seen myself.  You guys are amazing.

To give you an update, I found some Spraytime fabric to match Dad's quilt, which is total luck as most of the colors I used in 2011 are no longer available.  I could not get every fabric I used, but four is more than enough for a pieced cushion cover.


In January I picked up a few French General prints to coordinate with Mom's quilt.  That's easier to do as French General never really strays from the same color combination, but instead only varies the pattern they're printing.  Easy. Peasy. 


I have to say, they tone together much better than I thought they would.  That floral French General print has a deep chocolate brown and a mossy green that brings the two lines together.  

Never {ever} thought I'd type that sentence.

With instructions from Sarah, I made a tester block that I like quite a bit.  I think it brings the two quilts together pretty well without being too busy (at Mom's request).  I think I will make another using the French General cream instead of the Spraytime cream as the background fabric.  


If I like that, I will finish off a second and will add on borders bringing them to 18 inches square.  We are well on our way now, ladies!  Thanks a mil, Sarah!  







Monday, February 23, 2015

Cotton & Steel Infinity Scarf

You know what it's like when you see something posted on a blog or Instagram and it makes you gasp?   Well, Susy Dunne rocked my world on Instagram (@susydunne) a few weeks ago with a pom pom infinity scarf.  I had never in my life wanted to make an infinity scarf before I saw that post.  It just so happened that Playful prints by Melody Miller from Cotton & Steel arrived in the shop when this obsession began.  My fate was sealed....


Ta da!  I used Melody Miller's Vintage Floral Lawn print in combination with (rather large) pom poms to create this infinity scarf.  I had the misfortune of choosing an online tutorial that used a MASSIVE amount of fabric and stitched it together in the least direct way possible, but we got there in the end.  If I made another in the future, I'd do it very differently and in half the time.  That said, I'm pleased as punch with how it turned out.  


This scarf (here hanging on my design wall by a knitting needle) measures about 18 inches across and 66 inches in circumference.  It's just that bit too wide and too short for a double neck loop or too long for a single loop.  



The pom poms are only on one side seam which suits me just fine.  No need to over do it.  In the end, I had to use a zipper foot to get these pom poms sewn into the seam.  It wasn't pretty with all of my grunting and shoving, but it worked out well eventually.

In the end, I am happy to have learned a ton and I look forward to wearing it out and about.  Susy, thank you for rocking my world!  






Thursday, February 19, 2015

Celebrating the Year of the Sheep

Happy Chinese New Year!  I have to say Chinese New Year is not a regular holiday in our house, but this year is special.  2015 is the year of the sheep!  Or the ram.  Or the goat.  It's confusing.  I was reading this NYT article about the in-distinction this morning, which only further supported the general confusion.

Is the sheep in the FSQ logo an ewe or a ram?
I think she's an ewe, but that's an issue for another day.
Does she need a name?  Perhaps we see a contest in the future!
I will say every year is the year of the sheep here at Fluffy Sheep Quilting, so we're just glad the zodiac has finally caught up.

What better way to celebrate than a massive reduction in prices in the shop?  No discount codes, no start/end date.  We just spent a ton of time last night reducing the price of nearly every fabric currently in the shop (except 2015 arrivals, Konas and Aurifil).   What was in the sale section is further reduced.  What was not in the sale section can be found there now.  Have a good dig around the website - some fabrics went right from full price to -40% off!

To give you a preview:

In the -10% off section, you'll find Architextures, Figures, and Oh Boy.


At -20% off, we have Riley Blake gingham, Mixed Bag, Paint, Rocket Age, Social Club and Vintage Happy.


There are three pages of prints at -30% off including Enchanted, Rapture, Wishes and Scrumptious.



Finally, there's a bonanza at -40% off  with all Christmas prints, Briar Rose, Minimalista, and all kinds of orphaned prints from Nordika, Simply Style and Boho.  So don't miss out on scoring your favorite prints today - some of these bolts are awfully skinny and will not stick around for long. 

Happy new year, friends.  




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