Friday, 21 October 2016

The Weekender Bag - I made it!

Well technically I made it back in June but only got around to finally putting in the lining last week.

Where to begin?

Well it's not difficult but it is tricky.

There's a million and one blog posts out there about it, some with step-by-step instructions but I'm not sure I have that much more to add so these are just my comments on the whole process.

Like a lot of people, I used Peltex, wadding and then scraps of fabric - all the ones I used were canvas weight.

I'm not particularly sure what my colour scheme was - perhaps mustard, burgundy and blue with a bit of teal.

Then once you've done the two main panels, it's on to the front and back pockets which require a line of piping on the top of each.

Top right is the lining for each of the pockets and it's a home furnishings weight fabric.

Then it's sewing the pocket to the main panel, plus the straps which are my only regret.

I wish I'd made them wider and possibly sturdier. It's a big old bag and if you really do stuff it to the max, you're going to need the strongest handles possible. Can't remember what the instructions were for sewing the handles on but just know I went above and beyond what the instructions said, to make sure they stayed secure. I also made my handles longer than the instructions.

Then you sew the piping all the way around the edge of the bag and get so excited you need to stop, model half a bag and have your photo taken for posterity.

You also need to have your photo taken because from here on in, it does start to get tricky and you need to remember that moment and hold on to it.

Actually, I tell a lie, there's the attaching the zipper to the long, long panel. That step is not too bad.  Although it's such a long piece of required fabric, I just sewed scraps together to get to requisite length.

On the right that's the laminate fabric I decided to use for bottom exterior - you know, wipe clean and all that.

Right, now this bit is tricky and all the tutorials I read said SWITCH TO A JEANS NEEDLE. Do it. If you don't you'll have broken needles.

Fortunately I finished the whole project with no broken needles because I think I used a jeans needle at this stage and because I took it oh so slowly. You're using your zipper foot for this stage and you are attempting to get as close to the edge of the piping as possible.
You may need to go back at certain points and redo - I did.

So attaching one main panel to the zipper panel is fiddly/annoying/time consuming/stress inducing but it is completely achievable.

Where the tricky levels ramp up a notch or two is sewing the other main panel to the pic above. Then you need to take it stitch by stitch. All told, I think it took me about 20 minutes to accomplish that step.

Then you are just giddy with 'OMG, I just made a Weekender'. I can achieve anything.
Or thereabouts.

So giddy, that you feel the need to make a mosaic of your Herculean achievement.

Then, I think I was just so over making it, I couldn't face the lining.

It sat there for four months until I realised I actually did want to use it and that wasn't going to happen until I'd made and inserted the lining.

Which I did.

And I can't find the photos I took but they are on my Instagram feed (link in right hand side bar) if you are interested.

You are slip stitching (by hand) the lining in and that is timing consuming and especially fiddly once you get to the zip ends. You can just see in this pic that I chose a home dec weight pink fabric for where I would be hand stitching but the bulk of the lining is a laminate.

And then it is done and you have one finished Weekender Bag.

Did I actually need one - no.
is it good value to make - absolutely not.
Would I make one again - absolutely yes.


Because it's a challenge, a real achievement when you finish one.
Because I happen to think it is one of the best looking and professional bag patterns out there at the moment.

For those reasons alone I would recommend you make it.

Friday, 5 August 2016

A dots, spots and stripes obsession

Having made this quilt by Chris Jurd last year, I was up for another challenge.

She makes the most amazing paper pieced quilt patterns and so this time I picked her You Little Beauty pattern which is supposed to look like this:

I was also fascinated by the graffiti artist Jason Woodside (I stalk him on Instagram @jasonwoodside) and I thought it would be really interesting to see what a quilt would look like made in vibrant colours but only with dots, spots and stripes.

I didn't actually have many in my fabric hoard so asked to swap on Instagram and received some incredibly generous packages, including one from @narthexart who offered to screen print me my own collection of prints. I think they add a real individual zing to the quilt.

And off I started.

With a tidy quilt room and a neatly stacked basket of possibilities.

Then I got the bright idea that it would be really good to use all the little left over scraps you end up with from paper piecing and turn that in to the quilt back.

It's not necessarily one of the quickest nor brightest of ideas I've ever had but for the moment, I'm still doing it.

I'd like to tell you the pattern comes together really quickly.

But it doesn't.

Especially when you decide to deviate from the pattern and make it longer and therefore bigger.

But then it becomes a metaphor for life; don't give up, keep going to the very end.
What's the point of life if we don't challenge ourselves from time to time?

And I constantly struggled with the idea of 'perfect' versus 'good'.
So much so that I've even named the quilt which is not what I normally do.

There is definitely a cut-off point from striving for perfection and enjoying the process; where that is, is different for each person.

Will people look at this quilt and think it is a riot of colour and just enjoy it for what it is?

Or will critical eyes scan over it and point out all the missed points and joins?

Do I feel comfortable with my idea of perfection?

No, I'm going to go back and sort out some of the missed joins but it is too late and life is too short to worry about the less than completely perfect points in some of the curved arcs.

Hence its name: The Cut Off Point.

So finally, I got the whole centre of the quilt top finished.

And it was time to think about the borders.

I followed the original pattern which was wavy half, followed by a quieter fabric to straighten the edges.

I made the upper and lower edge borders, sewed them on and disliked them almost immediately.

Suddenly, the eye was drawn to the black and white polka dot fabric and the dramatic impact of the quilt was softened.

I didn't want any one piece of fabric to take centre stage and now one was. I do get the concept of giving the eyes somewhere to rest but in this case I felt the eyes drifting into inertia.

So I unpicked the black border and thought it would be rather fun to actually have the striping, pointy wavy section of the border as the edge of the quilt.

But it was still not right. By doing that I had made the borders too narrow and the balance of border versus blocks didn't work.

I took them out and remade and with one border on and the next started, I am much happier.

The borders you draft yourself so I am just making the spikes random widths and then keeping the whole foundation paper strip neatly clipped together, slowly unraveling a piece as and when I need to.

And that's where I'm at so far.

It's become an obsession; a battle of mind over matter. There are other things I want to make but until I've finished this, everything else has fallen by the wayside.

As you can probably see...

Friday, 3 June 2016

Pattern testing

When Erica from Kitchen Table Quilting asked on Instagram if anyone wanted to pattern test the first quilt pattern she was going to sell, I offered.

Not because I fancied pattern testing per se but more because the pattern fascinated me. I could see there was a lot of precision cutting involved (and subsequent trimming of blocks which I hadn't really factored in ) which I thought would be a challenge.

It's made up of two different blocks which are then set on point.
Each square finishes at just 1.75" so it's a great scrap buster for using up even the smallest scraps of fabric.

Did I mention there was trimming involved?

I don't often follow actual patterns these days so I never worry about whether I have 'enough' of one fabric to make the quilt. I was about a third of the way through this quilt when I realised I did not have 'enough' of that yellow floral I was using as a background.

Cue cutting up a sort of lime yellow dotty fabric to fill in the missing bits.

Which obviously was a deliberate design decision.

Then it was on to quilting and I went for a zig zag (ish) stitch.

Which I think gives a lovely texture.

And then it was on to binding and it was done.

For an early morning  photo shoot which seemed to make the quilt glow.

And then when I'd finished I added it to my pile and decided I really ought to try selling my quilts locally.

I approached a lady who runs a sort of craft gift shop in town with this quilt. In my head I was thinking I would be happy to part with it for around £250 but she told me that she had kantha style quilts (made in India) in her shop that she struggled to sell for £69 a piece.

I was amazed. We live on an affluent island and have over 100 cruise ships calling in here each year, bringing thousands of tourists.

Reluctantly, I decided to sell it for £150, less her commission, just to see what would happen. Within a week it sold but to a quilter who told her she understood the hours that went in to the making of it.

I gave the lady another quilt to sell but I have mixed feelings. On the one hand I don't believe you could charge what it actually takes in man hours to make a quilt but on the other hand, what is an acceptable and reasonable price?

I'm not doing this to make a living; rather quilts just happen to be a by-product of a hobby I love to do. Is it because quilts that ultimately end up on beds are seen as utilitarian and therefore attract no greater value than what you could buy in the bedding section of a department store? I don't really know.

Meanwhile, in other news, I finished the outside of my Weekender Bag but that's for another blog post when the lining is in and I can reflect on its making.

Linking up to Finish It Up Friday

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Colour, colour and more colour

There are very few fabrics these days that completely knock my socks off.
We seem to be drowning in an increasingly large sea of new fabric line after new fabric line with not much to distinguish one from the other.

In my opinion of course.

And then along came Mostly Manor from Victoria Findley Wolfe and the orange fabric in particular stopped me in my tracks and I knew I had to purchase some.

So I did.

I've never made a quilt with half triangle rectangles before so that's what I decided to do, using as many bright fabrics as I could find.

It was my first time using the Bloc-Loc ruler to trim this particular block and it took me a while to get a hang of it.

The long evening shadows meant it became very difficult to photograph it without inadvertently appearing myself.

How can you not want to hoard that orange fabric?!

I feel it's a happy, cheery quilt which hopefully signals the arrival of warmer, sunnier weather.

Thursday, 7 April 2016

The other sewing

I started a Sew Together Bag.

And I finished a Sew Together Bag.

Then I made a pink quilt.

This was the front.

And this was the back.

Then I made a cushion cover for a skills swap with a former work colleague who now fires her own pottery designs, many with a Guernsey theme.

Can you believe that in return she gave me these:

Then youngest daughter picked fabric and pompons for two cushions for her room.

After which I made a cushion cover for my secret partner in the cushion cover swap I set up on Instagram.

And then I made another one.
Just because I had a wobble moment about working with softer colours.

And then I unfortunately made another one.
Because people don't always do what they sign up to do.

Organising a swap has been a HUGE eye opener to me.
I will never get people who willingly sign up for something on the basis of a set of rules they have re-read and then completely fail to follow through.

It is HUGELY time consuming (and frustrating) having to chase people and I'm afraid I lose a little bit of respect for them in the process.

In this swap there is one person who suffered a life-changing medical situation where she is currently unable to walk and confined to a wheelchair. Yet, she still contacted me to say she was not a flaker and would be finding a friend to mail her package. I would never have expected her to do that.

It just heightens even further the lack of communication from others.

So I had to make another cushion cover.

Then I had a temporary obsession with sewing together teeny tiny scraps into pouches and needed to make four before the scratch was itched.

I swapped mini quilts in person with the lovely Rhea at one of my favourite quilt shops ever.

I don't often get to see quilt stuff in person so when I did, I made a number of purchases.

Such as this pop-up basket. You buy the pattern and wires and you do the fabric choosing and assembling of.

And a Linden sweatshirt.
There was a sample hanging in the shop and it looked so nice and I keep hearing it is easy.

So this is as far as I've got.

And a Weekender Bag.

This is like the Holy Grail of bag making and although I don't actually need one, that is beside the point.
I need to make one.
So I've started.

I'm using Peltex, wadding and scraps of cotton canvas.
I may live to regret such a sturdy layering.
Only time and needles will tell.

And finally...I've started another quilt using these fabrics.
Just because.

I hope you know what that means.
I sent my mum some flowers this week with 'just because' on the delivery note.

She called me to thank me for the flowers but asked what 'just because' meant.

Just because
Just because I can.

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