A Travel Tote

MarcyBagOn the evening before wheels-up to France, I finished the tote bag to keep me sane on this trip!

My friend and fellow fiberphile, Mary Lou Alexander, recently destashed and transferred some goodies she no longer needed to my stash. I wanted a new bag for this trip and started digging into her upholstery fabric remnants. Voila! (as they say in France).

Marcy Tilton has designed a number of great handbag patterns for Vogue, but Vogue 8590 fit my needs. My small travel purse doesn’t carry enough things to get me through a long plane trip, so I always like to have a tote large enough to carry my travel purse, along with my carry-on that holds things I won’t need until I arrive but don’t want to put in checked baggage. (Camera, jewelry, adapter cables, etc.)

MarcyBagDetailI’m not going to say a lot about this bag, as I’m still not completely packed. But it’s perfect. It’s Very Big without feeling or appearing to be Very Big.

There’s one glitch in the pattern instructions, if you’re making the bag. The illustration for attaching the straps is incorrect. Look at the pattern envelope picture and the illustration on the pattern back and apply your own brilliant logic. I also didn’t quite get the pleat in the inside pocket. Next time I make this bag, I’ll add more and different pockets, but time was of the essence on this one.

The exterior is two upholstery fabrics. The interior is a remnant of lightweight silk noil that was lying around. The cord to tie it shut and the patch on the side pocket is one of Jas’s old ties I cut up. Why did I put that patch on the pocket? (No, it’s not a secondary pocket. It’s just a piece of silk handsewn into place.) I tried silkscreening a cool design on the pocket. Nope, the upholstery fabric was too bumpy to take it. So I decided to stencil a design over it. Again, nope. So how could I hide the mess of paint now sitting on the pocket? Why, put a patch over it.

I carried the bag with me last night to my son’s dress rehearsal for “Legally Blonde, the Musical” at the Youngstown Playhouse. What a great bag! Pockets on each end just the size for a water bottle. If I want to drop my phone into that pocket, it’s down deep and no nasty European pickpocket can get his hands on it.

And a final note: That bag I made of French-themed fabric? It felt too light for me, like it wouldn’t hold things I wanted it to hold. So I laid it over the end of the plastic-covered ironing board and painted it with diluted Crafter’s Pick Fabric Stiffener. Now it’s great and is being folded and tucked into my suitcase.

Au revoir!

P.S. After walking around Pittsburgh International Airport for a couple of hours: That exterior side pocket is the perfect height for one’s passport and boarding pass. Inspired!

But Not for Me

RfrontIn preparation for our upcoming vacation in France, my recent sewing frenzy has been totally focused on moi. But, ever the devoted Grandma, I saw a cute new McCall’s pattern and decided DGD needed a new dress for her upcoming end-of-year festivities.

Ridley will be 10 in a few weeks, but she got her height genes from her mother’s side of the family. She’s probably about 5’4″ and wears a girls’ 14 (although there are items in her closet in Misses Small). I did not ask her mother to measure her before cutting out the pattern–oops. I looked at RTW size charts, compared them to the pattern measurements, and cut a 14. The resulting unsewing and resewing could have been much worse!

imageI found a pretty 100% cotton sateen border print at Jo-Ann’s and bought all they had. I cut the widest ruffle out of the border so two ruffles would be floral with random dots, and e bottom ruffle would be all dots. This fabric was a dream to work with.

Before attaching the three ruffles, I had Ridley come over and try the dress on. Smart move! The bodice was a little roomy. The length–if I had used all three ruffles, as in the pattern, the dress would have dragged the floor.

imageI unsewed the bodice side seams and took each side seam in ⅝” at the armhole, tapering out to nothing at the raised waistline. I did not cut the excess seam allowance, figuring that in a year she’ll love the dress and I can redo that seam back out to the size 14.

RbackThe ruffles are attached in a new-to-me way. The top ruffle is attached to the skirt (note the shorter dress in the pattern illustration). Then the middle and bottom ruffles (bottom is several inches longer than middle) are basted together and gathered together onto a skirt extension. The extension is then sewn over the top ruffle gathering. (Picture a sandwich of skirt right side, ruffle wrong side, extension wrong side.)

RnecklineAs I needed less length, I omitted the top ruffle and the extension. I gathered the middle and lower ruffle to the skirt. The top ruffle and extension are being sealed into a plastic bag for next year. She’ll have another five inches on her by then, I’m guessing, and will still be able to use this cute dress once I redo the ruffle.

(Click the last photo to see the halter neck with ruffle treatment.)

She’s a dancer and a spinner, so this dress totally suits her personality. And she grinned when she saw the skirt has pockets. It doesn’t take much to please this sweet girl!

Now back to my personal frenzy. Three days to lift-off.

Second Verse, Better Than the First

brownslacksHot off the sewing machine today is another pair of Marcy Tilton’s Vogue 8859. My first attempt occurred last week.

Today’s version proves one can improve upon success. I wore the gray slacks two or three times last week to test them out. Each time, I found myself pulling and tugging at the waist and hiking the pants up. The more I thought about it, the more I realized they were too big.

I purchased another piece of fabric from MarcyTilton.com, this time a cotton/poly/lycra blend from Theory. Marcy calls it Cocoa Canyon Stretch Woven. This has a sateen finish on the right side and is nice to touch and nice to wear. I cut it out last night and spent about three hours on it today. And now I have a great new pair of pants.

brownslacks1The lycra in this fabric is what really makes these pants. They’re skinny, yet very comfortable.

They don’t have a pocket, as it would destroy the line. But they’re going on vacation with me, so I really want a pocket. I snagged the pocket from Diane Ericson’s Panel Skirt and Vest (NLA). See that little external pocket on the skirt on the left in the picture? I sewed that up from a scrap of the pant fabric. There was no waistband or seam to sew it into, so I made a little “rod pocket” along the top (think of your curtains). panelI’ll make a little strip to go through that rod pocket with a buttonhole on each end. Then I’ll sew two flat buttons over the waist elastic, and I’ll have a nice pocket to tuck my spare Euros into.

The top I’m wearing? Marcy Tilton’s Vogue 8582. I didn’t like the drapey extension, as the wrong side of this fabric is white and it just didn’t look good peeking out of this soft brown/taupe print. I cut the drapey extension off and left a vent in one side, sewing the other side closed. The cowl neck collar is stolen from StyleArc’s Amy Knit Top. The fabric is a soft rayon knit that came from Waechter’s Fine Fabrics in Asheville. (Every time I have to drive ten hours to Asheville to visit my mother, I reward myself with a quick side trip into Waechter’s.)

I made this top to wear to Italy last year, and it’s one of my favorites. Now that’s especially true with these great pants underneath.

On the Spectrum from Like to Love

ToteCarryToteFinalWhen I was in Barnes & Noble last week, I picked up a copy of Modern Patchwork magazine from the newsstand. As I flipped through it, I noticed a number of cool projects that would make great gifts.

After focusing solely on garment construction for the past month, I wanted to take a break and try a new project from this magazine. I had picked up some Paris fabric a couple of months ago in celebration of my impending vacation, and decided to use that for a tote bag. I chose the Reversible Quilted Tote by Tia Curtis. The Paris piece I had purchased was only enough for the main body of the tote, with a little left over. I started digging through my stash to see what else I could use.

ToteLiningThe first big find was a piece of mauve cotton that I painted 10 years ago while living in Tucson. After painting it, I laid the wet fabric out on the stones in my yard to set. One of the unique properties of fabric paint is that it rises to the highest point while drying. So everywhere the fabric was resting on the rugged edge of a rock, a dark spot appears on the fabric. I love this unique finish! This piece would be the inside of the bag. (Yes, the pattern says reversible, but I intend to use it always with the Paris side out.)

For the inside pocket, I found a piece of quilting cotton in a butterscotch shade that I thought would blend well. I constructed the pocket piece. (Sandwich the fabric with batting, stitch around the edges, turn inside out and press.) To bring out more of the mauve/rust/copper shades from the Paris print, TotePocketI pulled out one of my Marcy Tilton silkscreens. This one is multiple expressions of praise, gratitude, love and compassion. Digging through my stash of paints (yes, I have multiple stashes of arts/crafts supplies!), I found a bottle of Jacquard Lumiere Super Copper. I angled the silkscreen almost 45° and made two passes across the finished pocket piece, one on the left and one on the right. I hung it in the basement near the dehumidifier to dry for several hours and washed the silkscreen, setting it upright to dry. Later in the afternoon, I ironed the first passes I had done to heatset them, then taped waxed paper over them. I angled the silkscreen 45° in the opposite direction and drew the paint over the unpainted portions of the pocket. When I pulled off the taped waxed paper, I realized I had left some areas with no paint—obvious (to me) “white space.” I grabbed a very dull pencil sitting nearby, and started tapping it onto the paint residue inside the bottle lid and then randomly touching it onto the pocket.

Y’know, I have spent years and years trying to learn these techniques from Marcy Tilton and Diane Ericson, but suddenly silkscreening and fabric painting have fallen into place for me. I totally and completely love this pocket!

ToteSide1ToteSide2My friend and fellow singer Amanda had pinned a French Braid quilt block on Pinterest. I thought this block would be great for the side panels and found a piece of cotton hand-dye in complementary colors in my stash. All of the different shades in the French braid on the pictures are cut from one piece of fabric. Pretty good, huh?

Once the side panels were completed, I stitched along the piecing seams, and like how it looks. (Before quilting on the left; After quilting on the right.)

The construction of the bag is fairly straightforward: fold the nylon belting and topstitch to make the handles; sew the outside of the bag and the side panels and quilt; make the outside and inside pockets, and then sew everything together. Attach an elastic strip for button loop, sew on a vintage black button, and I’m done.

ToteFaceToteFrontPocketBut I don’t love it. I finished the work at about 10:45 and raced upstairs, where the Jazzman was ¾ asleep in bed. He opened his eyes and looked at me and I said, “I don’t like it.” Waaah. He wisely replied, “Someone will,” and closed his eyes again.

Let me tell you first the things I don’t like about this pattern. First and most importantly, the seam allowance is not stated. Should I sew ¼”, ½”, some other random fraction? The “Sewing Basics” section of the magazine says to use ¼” seams when piecing, but that’s piecing, not construction. Next, the inside pocket is constructed exactly the same width as the body. ToteInsideAnd the side and body are topstitched together—including the edge of the pocket!!! That means that for the side seam on the back, one is forced to stitch over (four layers for fabric plus batting—wrong sides together over a piece of batting and then turned right side out so fabric/fabric/seam allowance/seam allowance/batting—times three—back/pocket/side). That’s a whole damned lot of fabric and batting to be stitching over. Fifteen layers!!! Trying to make that side piece fit in place correctly is a job for supersewer, or is a pattern begging to be redesigned!! And because of the way one is setting that side panel into place, the stitching must stop at the proper point, ¼” or ⅜” or ½”, whatever you decided your seam allowance should be. I studied all the math in the pattern and decided that side inset seam allowance must be ⅜”. I should have marked the ⅜” point on the side piece, but I didn’t. It didn’t fit in perfectly, and I’m a big fan of perfection. Argh.

One more thing the pattern didn’t allow for was a directional fabric. By that, I mean that there’s a definite top and bottom to the design. The instructions said to cut two pieces of fabric 17″x27″ for the body. But that results in either the front or the back having the design upside-down. I added in a seam allowance for the center bottom and cut two pieces 17″x14″ for the directional fabric on the outside. A novice sewist wouldn’t know to make that adjustment.

If I were redesigning, I think I would make the outer bag and the inner bag separately, using a temporary spray adhesive to hold the batting in place on the inner bag. Then I would stitch the two bags together around the top, leaving an opening for turning. (I’d probably leave the opening in the side of one of the bags and turn the whole thing right-side out through that opening. Leaving the opening in the top would make it too obvious on the finished product.) (With a directional fabric, the opening could be left in the bottom seam.)

ToteComp1
ToteComp2The only other thing I would change would be to use a much heavier-weight stabilizer in the bottom of the bag. I bought the wrong product. I will go back and get a heavier weight, then make a sleeve of the inside fabric for it and either hand-sew it to the bottom of the bag, or attach Velcro dots to the four corners of the bottom insert and the bottom to hold it in place.

If you stop and realize how long it took you to read this post, you’ll correctly figure out that this bag took a lotta lotta lotta work. To put that much work into something, one wants to love it when the work is complete. As I stated before, I don’t love this bag. But maybe when I get the new floor in it and tuck my laptop or iPad into the pocket, I will.

ToteQuiltingWhat do I love about the bag? I love each of the individual components. I love that it will remind me of this, probably my tenth or twelfth visit to Paris, for years to come. I love the piecing on the side. I love using my hand-painted fabric inside and remembering the sunny Tucson day when I painted that fabric and laid it out on my desert-landscaped yard to dry. I love-love-love the silkscreening and how well that turned out. Probably in a week or two, I’ll have to reread this post to remember that at one point I didn’t like this bag. I hope so.

And what am I grateful for? That my Husqvarna Viking Designer 1 has a built-in stipple quilting stitch, so I could put the fabric sandwich in place, push the start button, and just guide the fabric while the machine did all the hard quilting work for me. That definitely saved my shoulders!

Hmmmm. On second thought, maybe I do like the bag. I think I’ll keep it!


I left the bag on my dresser last night after photographing it. It was the first thing I saw as I opened my eyes this morning, and I instantly realized that my make-two-separate-bags-and-attach solution won’t work. Part of what gives this bag its stability is all the quilting. Quilting “inside the box”, if you will, after the bag is constructed will be headaches of difficulty. So it’s back to the drawing board as far as how to make the side panels fit easily.

I made a similar unlined mesh bag a couple of years ago. The side panels were sewn in the way these are, and then double-fold bias tape was stitched over the seam to enclose those rough seam allowances. But you’re already sewing through fifteen layers—this would be another four layers on top of those fifteen.

Hmmmm. Keep thinking ….

Done *and* Completed

MulberryBothAfter writing about my feeling of exposure given the length of the front “ruffles” on Katherine Tilton’s Vogue 8691, I went back to my sewing table and gathered up all my scraps. Alas, there was not enough fabric to cut new, longer panels.

So I pulled out the pattern piece for the two front panels and cut a second panel to be attached to the bottom of the first panel. The piece started at the bottom edge of the front panel, extending down 2″ and up 1″—a total height, if you will, of 3″, with the bottom of the first panel extending down 1″ over the top of the second panel. Make sense?. That gave me enough length topstitch the first panel over the second with a double needle and wooly nylon in the bobbin.

Then I went out slipped the top on and went outside, interrupting the Jazzman’s mowing to ask his opinion. Still not right.

The back was good. The front was now good. But the side—not so much. We looking at the angles where each panel met its neighbor and decided I would start at the side seam and angle down to where the side panel meets the front seam. (The side panel—double wide—is attached to both the side front and side back. But the side back didn’t need any alteration.) I drew the pattern piece to start even with the bottom of the side panel at the side seam and drew it down to meet the bottom of the front panel at the side front/front princess seam.

Et voila!, as they say in France. I wore the top half-an-hour later to our friends’ retirement party, and heard lots of compliments. And I didn’t feel overexposed!

MulberryPanel