Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A Class with David Taylor

Over the weekend I took a one day class from David Taylor. Click the link to go to his website and see his stunning pictorial quilts. He brought several with him and they are even more impressive up close.

The class was on his method of machine applique. On his prize winning quilts he does hand applique, but he started out doing machine applique. I was able to finish the project in the class.

The pattern isn't my favorite and several folks didn't take the class because they didn't like the project. However, I don't usually take classes for the project. I take classes to learn a technique. And David is a great teacher. The class was so much fun! I learned a lot and now have the confidence to tackle machine applique, should the need arise.

If you get a chance to take a class from David, even if you aren't thrilled with the class project, do it. The pattern above was specifically designed as a teaching project. You get to practice all of his various techniques in one project with only 18 pieces which makes it realistic to finish during a day long class.

Monday, June 29, 2015

My Basic Zipper Bag :: A Tutorial {Photo Heavy}

In this tutorial I will show you how I make a basic lined zipper bag with all raw edges concealed. You can adapt this idea to any bag so I am not providing specific measurements for my bag but I do detail how you need to measure your bag.

To start, you need two exterior bag pieces.

Side One

Side Two
Square up your exterior pieces if necessary and measure their size. You need to cut two lining pieces the exact same size. 

In addition to the two lining pieces, you need to cut one more piece from your lining fabric that is 1.25" by 4" to be used for zipper tabs.

Start with the 1.25" by 4" piece, fold it in half lengthwise and press it. Then open it back out and press each long raw edge in to the fold.

Then press this in half again on the first fold.

You should end up with a piece that is 4" long by a little more than a 1/4" wide. This is your zipper tab.

Now take your zipper. I use a zipper that is longer than the top opening of my bag. I only use ones with plastic zipper teeth. This technique does not work well for metal zippers because you have to cut the zipper to size and you have to sew over the zipper teeth. Open up the zipper a little ways and sew across the teeth a little ways in toward the pull from the zipper stop.

Cut the zipper off about an 1/8" on the stop side of your sewn line.

Take the zipper tab and slip the cut end of the zipper into the tab and topstitch the tab over the cut end of the zipper.

Cut the tab fabric off even with the edge of the zipper. Keep the remaining tab for the other end of the zipper.

Cut your zipper so that it measures 1" less than the top edge of the lining fabric.

Sew the other part of the zipper tab to the second cut end of the zipper and trim it even with the edge of the zipper.

To reiterate: your zipper is 1" shorter than the top edge measurement of your lining fabric. For me, the top edge of the lining fabric measures 9.75", so my zipper is 8.75". 

Now you need one of your exterior bag pieces and your zipper with tabs. Place the zipper right sides together with your bag exterior along the top edge of the bag. Note: the right side of the zipper is the side with the zipper pull. You need to center the zipper on the top edge of the bag. It should be about 1/2" short on either side of the bag exterior.

Baste the zipper in place using an 1/8" seam allowance. As with most zipper installations, you will need to open the zipper up to start. Stop with your needle down, lift your presser foot and close the zipper, then continue sewing. You will need to do this every time you sew along the zipper.

This basting seam doesn't need to be pretty or even straight, as long as the seam is less than 1/4". This is an extra step and one that I haven't seen in very many bag patterns. Most patterns tell you to pin your zipper between the exterior and lining pieces. No matter how carefully I pin, my zipper always slips somewhere which irritates me. So I take this extra step to baste the zipper in place so it won't slip.

Now put one of the lining pieces on top, right sides together with the exterior bag piece. In the photo below, I have pulled back one corner so you can see what is underneath. I also use Clover Wonder Clips instead of pins for most of my bags. These clips hold things very securely without distorting my pieces like pins do. In addition, they don't poke me, but you can't sew over the clips!

Sew again along the top edge using a 1/4" seam allowance.

Flip the lining around to the back side of the exterior bag piece and iron everything nice. The zipper should be sticking up and the exterior and lining pieces should be wrong sides together. Then topstitch along the edge of the zipper on the exterior bag piece.

Front View: zipper attached to one side and topstitched

Back View: zipper attached to one side and topstitched
You need to repeat the process with the other exterior piece and lining piece. Start by laying the second exterior bag piece right side up. The lay the zipper, right sides down on top. Be sure to line up your bag pieces so that they are even along the edges. Notice that the zipper is about 1/2" in from each edge.

Again, baste the zipper to the exterior bag piece using an 1/8" seam allowance.

In the photo above, I opened the zipper so you can see the exterior piece underneath. The next step is to place the lining fabric on top of this. The two lining fabric pieces should be right sides together.

Again, I pulled back a corner so you can see the underneath piece.

Sew again with a 1/4" seam allowance along the top edge of the bag.

Just like on the other side, flip the lining fabric back so that it is wrong sides together with the exterior bag piece. Topstitch along the zipper.

Your bag should now look like this.

Front View: two bag pieces with zipper in between

Back View: two bag pieces with zipper in between
Now that the zipper is in place it is time to sew up the sides and bottom. Before you go any further, open the zipper a little more than halfway. With the zipper opened, pin the lining pieces together, right sides together and the exterior bag pieces together, right sides together.

Notice that I used pins on the lining part because this is just two pieces of cotton fabric. On the exterior part I used my Wonder Clips because these are two pieces of quilted wool (i.e. pretty thick). In the photo above I put a double arrow between the two pins I placed along the right hand side (which will be the bottom of the bag interior). Leave this area open for turning.

Using a 1/4" seam allowance, I start sewing at the bottom pin in the photo above and backstitch. Sew all the way around the bag stopping at the top pin and backstitching. When you get to the transition between the lining fabric and exterior fabric (the top of the bag) things can get tricky because the lining side is much thinner than the exterior side. Just do the best you can.

Notice the circled area in the photo above. What I ended up doing for this bag was to start sewing on the lining at the bottom pin, like I described above. When I got to the zipper part, the bag top, where the fabric transitioned from the lining to the exterior, I got as close as I could to the bag top and then backstitched and cut my thread. Then I started on the other side of the bag top an inch away from the zipper part and back stitched back toward the bag top as far as my machine would go. Then continued around to the other side. Again when I got to the bag top, I backstitched and cut my thread. Moved to the lining fabric again, started about an inch from the bag top and backstitched back toward the zipper. You can see in the circled area in the photo above that there is a small area at the bag top that isn't stitched because my machine simply said no. If your machine doesn't want to sew over this area either then don't force it. Everything will be fine in the end.

If you want to box the bottom of your bag, you need to do that now. If you don't, then you can skip down to the turning the bag right side out part.

There are several ways to box the bottom of a bag, this is way I do it. Start with one of the lining corners. Separate the two lining pieces a bit so that you can line up the side edge seam with the bottom seam. Then draw a line on the lining however far in you need to make your bottom. For my bag, I measured down 1.25" from the corner and drew my line. This makes a 2.5" bottom.

I like to put a pin in there to hold things in place. Mark all four corners this way, then sew on the drawn line. I usually backstitch at the beginning and ending, but I'm not convinced this is necessary.

Cut off the corners 1/4" away from your sewn line on the corner side of the line.

You need to turn your bag right side out through the hole you left in the bottom.

Just stick your fingers in the hole as far as you can and start pulling. It might take a bit of tugging and fiddling, but take your time and all will be fine. Some folks call this "birthing your bag." If you've ever given birth to a child or seen a child or animal being born you will understand.

Poke your corners out nicely, then fold the raw edges of the opening in the lining inside and sew the opening shut. You can do this by hand or machine. I usually do it by machine with thread that matches my lining fabric.

Poke the lining into the bag.

Zip it up and enjoy your new bag!

Remember that part that my machine wouldn't sew over? Here is what it looks like on the finished bag.

I told you it would be fine.

Now you can make a simple zipper bag of your own. 

If you have any questions, please ask them in the comments. If you are a no-reply blogger then leave your email address in your comment if you want me to respond to you directly or I will respond to your question with another comment. 

Friday, June 26, 2015

Oh Dear!

Yesterday I saw this blog post on S.O.T.A.K Handmade. I purchased some clothesline and even bought a book on the subject years ago. Like 7 or 8 years ago. The S.O.T.A.K. Handmade post made me want to give this a try. This morning I dug out my package of clothesline. It was in the first place I looked for it. I took that as a sign that I should put aside the project I began yesterday and make a bowl.

For a first try I'm very pleased with it.

I didn't try anything fancy, just tried to make it bowl shaped.

Now I need to go find the book I purchased and read it so I can figure out how to make different shaped bowls. I'd also love to make a bag.

And I need to go buy more clothesline.

I will definitely do more of these.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Starting Something New: Stacks

Yesterday I taught a class at Kathy's Fabric Trunk and came home with a new project.

Kathy's birthday is in August. She has a folder of free patterns to choose from, all requiring fat quarters and a background fabric. You choose a pattern, make the quilt, and turn it in before August 15th (I think that's the deadline). The quilts hang for her birthday celebration and the makers are entered into a drawing.

The pattern I chose is called Stacks. When I got home yesterday afternoon I pulled out a few fabric bins that hold collections. I decided to use the above fabrics from one of my favorite collections. I just love the intense colors. I thought about using scraps, but decided that it would be faster, and more enjoyable, to just follow the directions rather than having to figure out how to make my scraps work. Sometimes it is better to trust the pattern writer and just enjoy the process rather than reinvent the pattern.

I am still tidying too, but can't do it for long periods of time. Click here to read about my tidying adventure; it's the second part of this post.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Scrap HST and a Book Review

Last week my scrap group met again. This is what I made.

There should be 144 HST (half-square triangle) units in these three stacks. This represents clue 2 in the mystery quilt we started last month. The first clue gave the fabric requirements and cutting instructions. Since I'm the group leader this isn't a mystery to me, but I'm still enjoying the process. I think the finished quilt is very pretty. I cut all my pieces for my HST units using my GO! cutter so all that is left for me to do with this is press them open. I'm resisting doing that because it is so hot here right now. The last thing I want to do is stand over a hot iron for 30 minutes while I press these! Luckily I don't need to have them pressed until clue 4. I'm just going to wait for a not so hot day to press these.

Now for the book review. FYI: This is not a quilting/sewing related book. You may want to skip the rest of this post. It won't hurt my feelings. 

I finished reading "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up" by Marie Kondo. The author is Japanese and has a very "Eastern" view of objects and tidying, but I think the basic principles apply to anyone. 

First, she says that if you really embrace her idea then you will only need to do a whole house massive tidying marathon once. After that you will need to do a bit of maintenance tidying, but you should learn through the process to let go of things you no longer need rather than storing them. I sure hope this sinks in with me!

Second, she recommends that you tidy by category, not by room. And the first category to tackle is your clothes. So I over the weekend collected every article of clothing, including shoes, coats, hats, gloves, purses, jewelry - if you wear it then it belongs in this category - and piled them on my big basting tables. She says it is important to make one pile so that you can really see how much you have. I was skeptical, but having done it with this first category, I will continue. It really did help me to part with things once I realized how much I had. For example, I had 17 pairs of white socks. Seriously! I do not need that many white socks. I kept 5 because these are the socks I wear most often.

It was harder than I thought it would be, but I did get rid of three garbage bags of clothes and one bag of shoes. I had more shoes than I realized! All of the shoes I parted with either no longer fit or hadn't been worn in years. Why was I keeping them?

Her method for deciding on whether or not you keep an item is to hold it in your hand (yes it is important to actually touch every single item) and ask yourself, "Does this item give me joy?" A little hokey, I know, but it did help to think in those terms at times.

I did this a little differently. As I picked up each piece of clothing some were very easy to determine. So I went through each piece and if I had an immediate reaction (positive or negative), I went with it. Then I went through the rest of the items. The things that I was neutral about. For example, I am indifferent about my snow shoes. I kept them because I need them, but they don't give me joy. They keep my feet warm and dry when I have to shovel snow off the sidewalk. The author might tell me that I should have snow shoes that do excite me, but I can't afford to throw out something in good working order that I would have to pay to replace.

She also had a lot of advice about folding your clothes vs. hanging them. However she cautioned against purchasing a bunch of storage/organization items. In her view, many of these things just make it easier for you to keep things you shouldn't. She advises that you wait for a bit after you are done tidying each category before buying any new storage items. See if you really need them first. You may find something during the rest of the process that you could repurpose to store your things. I think this is good advice.

Again, the author is Japanese and so are most of her clients. She is writing the book from the perspective of tidying a Japanese size home. For example, one of the things she advises is to store like items in only one place in your house. In general, this is good advice, but we have three bathrooms in our house. I am not going to store toilet paper in only one place. When I buy toilet paper, I divide it up and store the rolls in or near each bathroom. Same goes with cleaning supplies - each bathroom has their own set of cleaning supplies. Every bathroom has a cabinet or closet in or near it so the toilet paper and cleaning supplies are hidden, but each bathroom gets some. So some things I don't think are practical for most American style homes.

In closing, I think the book will be helpful to me. I plan to use the method and go through my entire house, including my sewing room. If a UFO no longer "gives me joy" I will get rid of it. The same goes for my other sewing/quilting related stuff. For me, I have too much stuff. My stuff is overwhelming me and making it harder for me to appreciate the things I own that I really love. My plan is to be as honest as I can with myself about my things and only keep what I need and love. The rest is just clutter.

I should add that I am only applying this to MY things. I will not do this for my family or force them to do it with their things. You can not do this for somebody else. Everyone has to make their own decisions about their possessions. This is why you can't hire someone to organize your house for you and have it stay organized, unless they happen to have the exact same values and way of doing things as you. And why I can't clean/organize my child's bedroom and expect him to keep it organized my way. *sigh*

Monday, June 22, 2015

Second Rose of Sharon Bag

I finished my second Rose of Sharon bag over the weekend.

This is the one I have been making along with my students when I teach the class.

If I get to teach the class again I'll have to start another bag.

I took lots of pictures (47 to be exact) of how I make the zipper bag. I plan to do a tutorial on this "basic zipper bag" soon. I doubt I will use all 47 pictures. I can't go back and rephotograph a step if the picture is blurry so I take lots of pictures as I go and then only use the best ones. The idea for the tutorial is to demonstrate my method and give you the basic instructions so you can make this any size you want. I hope to get the tutorial done this week sometime, but no promises. It will be coming relatively soon though.

Friday, June 19, 2015

A Class and a Gift

I took a class yesterday on the back basting method of hand applique. It was so much fun to take a class rather than be the teacher for a change!

We made a little flower. It got a little wrinkled on the way home.

Well ... I only got part of my flower done in class. There are two more pieces to add. You can see them drawn in on the photo below of the back side.

If you aren't familiar with back basting you can google it. I probably won't use it for everything, but it is really nice for leaves and stems. No matter how careful I am some of my leaves always end up too far away from the stem. Both of these leaves turned out perfect!

When I arrived for my class I had a surprise gift waiting for me.

Inside was three yards of this fabric.

I have had my eye on this fabric for a couple of weeks but hadn't bought any yet. Two friends went in together and bought this for me as a thank you for running the scrap group and not charging for the class. Thank you so much Debbie and Maria! As you know, I love it.