The Third Cousin-Bag

Two years ago, my mother’s eldest nephew’s wife (i.e., my cousin) texted and asked if I’d make some bags for her and her two sisters out of vintage fabric she purchased years ago on a trip to Egypt. (I may have gotten some or all of the facts wrong, but two years is a long time during a pandemic.)

I stay busy as a collaborative pianist at Youngstown State University, and have to make time to sew. And I had to choose a pattern. So I spent the entire summer of 2022 auditioning bag patterns.

For the camel fabric, I finally settled on the Tourist Tote Bag, from Sew Many Creations. If you’re just starting out as a bagmaker, this pattern is an ideal starting point.

The fabrics I used to coordinate with the vintage camel fabric are:

  • The base is an upholstery vinyl from Richloom Fabrics’ manufactured housing and RV line. My nextdoor neighbor is the designer, and she frequently gifts me with her unneeded samples. They are a dream to sew with. JoAnn’s carries some Richloom home dec pieces, which you might also like. Or you can let Google help you find other vendors of the Richloom fabrics.
  • The straps are made from “Dimples” by Gail Kessler for Andover Fabrics. I believe the color name is Amberglow. Follow that link and look at all those incredible Dimples colors. I’ll be ordering more of this fabric in the future!
  • The lining of the zippered pocket is Carved Rounds Batik in Orange, available from Lunn Fabrics. If you love batiks and don’t know Lunn Fabrics, you’ve just found your new best sewing friends! They’re located in central Ohio and have the best batiks made to their specifications in Indonesia. Here’s that link, and look at those colors!
  • The bag lining it Whisper tonal floral, from P&B Textiles, but it’s not on their website. If you want this orange, my LQS has it—Village Quilts in Canfield, OH. Type 00537 (the number 0, not the letter O) in their search bar. The number is the manufacturer’s number for this fabric. I used Whisper Orange.

The interior of the bag, showing the zippered pocket on the back.

The lining of the zippered pocket.

I shipped the bag to my cousin the day I finished it, and almost forgot to take photos. I received a text right after it arrived. She said she liked to always keep a “bag of bags” available if she needs to make an unexpected trip. So inside this camel bag will be a small bag of cosmetics, another bag of medications, maybe some device chargers, and so on.

Now to get started on the second fabric. I’m determined to have these done before the summer is over!

You can read about the two “sister” bags here.

Brushing Up

How awful is it that I haven’t posted a new make in almost six months?! That’s just terrible! Well, in my defense, there was a bit of a sandstorm in my basement sewing room that coated every surface with concrete dust. I’ve gotten half the room cleaned up, but there are still a lot of surfaces that need to be cleaned and fabric that will have to be washed. If you look at the pictures on this page, you’ll get an idea of what happened.

But I needed a mental break and was able to grab an hour (or maybe a little more 😉 ) on three different days to make this Sew Sweetness Vacation Packing Cube for my youngest granddaughter. Tyler, his wife Leslie, and Leslie’s daughter, Caroline, drove down from their new home in Interlochen, MI, at Christmas. The primary impetus for the trip was the 90th birthday of Tyler’s college mentor, Dr. Ron Gould. But while spending three days with me, the kids and I got to spend time with my eldest two grands, Celeste and Cody. We played games, ate, worked on a new jigsaw puzzle, ate, and just generally had a lot of enjoyable bonding time together.

I noticed that Caroline carried her brushes and curling iron loose to the bathroom to do her hair, and I thought she might like a special bag to hold them when she traveled. On the last few trips I’ve taken, I had to search around for something to hold my similar items. I didn’t like the idea of the brushes’ bristles getting caught in my sweaters. I had been thinking of making a similar bag for myself when I found a padded bag in my basement bag stash. I used that on our January cruise to the Eastern Caribbean, but I didn’t love it. It took up too much space.

I made three packing cubes for myself two years ago, and I use them every time I travel. I have a large Eagle Creek soft-sided suitcase that I love and use every time we go on a cruise. Those three packing cubes hold all the clothes I need for a 7-day cruise, and leave just enough room in the suitcase for my shoes and toiletries. It thought that bag would be perfect for Caroline’s hair things. But if I used the mesh panel, it wouldn’t protect anything in the suitcase from the bristles.

I really thought I was being brilliant to think of using vinyl instead of mesh for the zipper panel. Then, when I looked at the Sew Sweetness blog post (above), I realized I was not the first person to think of this modification. Oh, well.

I had a hot pink zipper-by-the-yard with rainbow coils and flower pulls, and thought Caroline would get a kick out of that. Luckily, I had two different coordinating batiks in my stash that went perfectly with the zipper.

I cut the bag pieces an inch wider than the Small size pattern to ensure that the curling iron would fit in. When I tested the size after completion, there’s plenty of room for more brushes or a container of mousse or hairspray or shampoo. Everything in one place. And the bag is soft, so if all she wants to put in it is the curling iron, it will smoosh down to fit in the available space in her suitcase or carry-on bag. 👍

The only other change I made was to quilt the bottom exterior panel to some Insul-Bright Insulating Thermal Lining. This would protect the bag and the surface on which it was placed if Caroline had to put the curling iron away in a rush. I also told her mom about the heat resistant mat I have and suggested Caroline might like to have one. I found mine in Walgreen’s in Traverse City five years ago when I was spending three summer weeks playing for dance classes at Interlochen Arts Camp. The one I have is made by OXO, but they may have discontinued production of these items. Here’s a similar mat on Amazon.

With the combination of the heat resistant mat and the insulated bottom of the bag, Caroline’s belongings will be safe if she has to finish packing and rush out the door while the curling iron is still warm.

The only major error I made in this construction was to cut the exterior back out before deciding to quilt it to the insulation. Quilting any fabric to foam or insulation draws it up so the finished piece is smaller than the dimensions you cut. Ugh. I kept thinking I could work around that smaller back piece, but it was going to make the pieces of this puzzle not fit together properly. So on the last day, I cut another piece of fabric an inch or so larger all the way around, and another piece of insulation, and did the quilting all over again. Once quilted and trimmed to the right dimensions, the bag went together beautifully.

Today I’ll pack it up and ship it to Caroline, and then hope I can find some time in the next three months to make one for myself before we fly to Seattle to cruise to Alaska and explore Denali National Park.

I do love the time I get to spend in my sewing room, even if half of the space is still dust-covered. Maybe before I make a second bag, I should find some time to finish cleaning that room.

Two Bags Delivered

The whole time I’ve been testing crossbody bag patterns, I was thinking about the circus fabric my cousin gave me. I knew I wanted to make tote bags out of the elephant fabric, as there was much less of that fabric, and I needed to stretch it to make three bags.

Hmmm, now that I’m looking at these two fabrics again, I don’t even know why I have envisioned it as circus fabric in my head. I don’t even know what to call it, but I sure love those colors!

Anyway, I used the Tourist Tote Bag pattern from Sew Many Creations. To get three bags out of the elephant yardage, the widest any bag could be was 17″. I figured out the ratio of 17″ to the width of the bag in the pattern, and those were the dimensions I used.

This is the first bag I made from this fabric. The base is a cork fabric from SallieTomato. It sews like “buttah”!

The lining was a teal quilting cotton that perfectly matched the teal in the print.

The bag pattern doesn’t call for any pockets, but I can’t stand totes with no pockets, so I added a zippered pocket in the back of the interior.

Honestly, this is such a great pattern. If you’re a beginner sewist and are wanting to learn some bagmaking, you couldn’t go wrong beginning with this pattern. Or if you’re experienced and just need a quick gift for a special occasion, this PDF pattern should be your go-to.

Here’s the second bag. This is made out of a 10 oz. waxed cotton canvas, which is water resistant. I’ve been making waxed canvas bags this summer in an Intermediate Bagmaking Class offered by Ellie Lum of Klumhouse Patterns. That was a 12 oz. Canvas, and stands up beautifully. That’s what I thought this bag would do, but I was wrong. So I used some plastic needlework canvas and made a false bottom to lay into this bag to help it stand up better.

And here’s the lining. You can see the bonus zippered pocket and the false bottom in the bag.

Honestly, I love how these two bags turned out, and can’t wait to start the third one when I get home from vacation.

Here’s the post of the test bag that led to these two.

So Proud of Myself!

Every time we travel, the Jazzman forgets to take along a container (think: plastic grocery bag, shopping bag, cloth tote from car trunk for bagging groceries or one of the hundred or so Jan-crafted bags sitting around my sewing room!) in which to stash his dirty clothes before we head home. Every so often, I think I should make or buy him a bag for his laundry, and then once we’re back home and I’m in practice and performance mode, I forget all about it.

This week I was busy with: 1) my cousin’s bags, making a false bottom for the one that wasn’t standing up the way I envisioned it should so I could ship those two bags to her before leaving for vacation; and 2) making three of my special masks for the trip, one for Jas and two for myself.

Let the record show that by Wednesday noon I had not started packing for our cruise from Boston to Montreal. If you aren’t on Facebook, you wouldn’t know I came down with Covid and had my first Positive test on May 8. I wasn’t sure I was going to get over Covid in time to be allowed to board the ship tomorrow (8/27). I finally tested Negative on 8/18 and again on 8/20, but when I completed the Holland America-required health assessment two days ago, was told I couldn’t travel. I had to call their medical department and hold for three hours! to have a woman tell me I should be okay, but that I would have to test again when we got to the pier on 8/27.

So, anyway, while I was procrastinating packing, lest I burst into tears over missing this cruise I’ve been waiting years for, I had a lightbulb moment that said, “Make a laundry bag for Jas.”

And in the photo above, you see how that turned out.

Happy, happy me!

It’s modeled on an undie laundry bag I got at Nordstrom about ten years ago. I just grabbed some mesh and cut the largest rectangle I could out of that mesh, grabbed a coordinating zipper, and whipped it up in about 30 minutes or less.

Now, I’ll never have to look around for “this oughta do” bags in whatever hotel room we’re living in for a few days.

The dimensions are about 18″ x 20″. The zipper has a dress-zipper-size pull on it, so I found a coordinating zipper pull (that the lovely lady who owns Zip-It Zippers on Etsy sometimes sends along as a gift to her customers) to hook onto that pull. On the other end of the zipper, I made a loop out of the excess zipper tape and hooked a spare shower curtain ring onto that loop. That way, Jas can hang it from a hanger in the ship room closet (Ahem. Actually, we’re in one of the Neptune suites. 😊) and easily tuck his dirty clothes into the bag.

You can bet I’m patting myself on the back over this make!

What Was I Thinking?

For some reason, this spring and summer somehow became my time of buying bag kits. I look back on this box full of kits sitting by my feet whenever I’m sitting at my Juki, and wonder what I was thinking. What appealed to me about these Sallie Tomato kits that were promoted in the weekly emails from the designer?

I love choosing fabrics for bags, sorting through my stash of bag hardware to choose the metal color that I think will best complement the fabrics, and relishing that entire design process. Why did I think I wanted to choose another person’s options? It’s not that the kits were cheap (i.e. inexpensive). They weren’t. But they were on sale. And everything was included—the hardware, the zipper, the exterior fabric, the lining, and the pattern.

It’s not that the pattern cutting was already done for me. That’s the most tedious part of sewing—cutting out the pattern and fusing the interfacing.

So here I am, begrudgingly making a bag that I really didn’t want to make and that I certainly don’t need, when I’ve got a stack of bags that I owe to my cousin, and when I’d rather be whipping up a sundress to wear on a cruise that’s headed north as the weather turns cooler. (You see the wisdom in that desire, don’t you? she asked, ironically)

Sometimes I astonish myself with my gullibility. Just say no! Say “no” to emails encouraging me to buy something just because it’s on sale.

Yesterday’s make, as I wait for this damned Covid virus to leave my body, was a “Carry Along” wristlet bag. This is a nice little pattern, especially if you’re new to bag making and want a good place to start. The kit includes the Carry Along pattern with three sizes of bag; Sallie Tomato cork fabric, which is soft and sews like buttah; a coordinating piece of 100% cotton lining; a zipper cut to the size you need for the Medium bag; a “Handmade” label for the outside of the bag; and 1″ key fob hardware for the wrist strap.

The finished size Medium bag measures 8″ wide and 7″ high. Size Small measures 4″ wide and 3″ high; size Large is 12″ wide and 10″ high. I believe, after finishing the Medium, that I would have enough cork to make a Small, so long as I can scrounge up some coordinating lining fabric and a suitable zipper. It’s the cork that’s the most expensive component.

Was this an easy sew? Yes. Will I make it again? Probably not. There are so many bag patterns in my repertoire.

And yet, if I’m looking for a cute not-too-expensive make to use up some of my stash of vinyls, it would be a good item to have on hand for a maker’s market. Maybe I’ll do that in the spare 15-minutes-a-day I’m going to be reduced to once YSU classes start up again in a week and I’m spending all my days on a piano bench.

A Sweet Blast from the Past

Back in the early 2000s, when my two grandbabies were born, I bought them each Barefoot Dreams Receiving Blankets from Nordstrom. These were the original Barefoot Dreams blankets. They were flannel on one side and a polyester satin on the other side. They were bound with satin piping, and my first babe loved to rub that satin while falling asleep. On the flannel side was a satin square, with the following words woven into the square: “Laugh With Me,” “Dream With Me,” “Grow With Me,” and “Cuddle With Me.” The receiving blankets measured 27″ x 36″. (How do I know this? Because there’s one new receiving blanket on eBay, for sale.) Barefoot Dreams also made what they called a travel blanket. This was made the same, with the satin for fiddling with, and they measured maybe 16″ square. My daughter-in-law always kept a travel blanket in the car. The babies LOVED all their blankets. The elder baby was the most attached to their blanket, and repeatedly wore them out. The blankets cost about $50, which was a lot for a security blanket, and I bought quite a few of them through the years. When the younger grandchild was about four, they asked me to make them another blanket after wearing the latest one out, and specified that it be in yellow, their favorite color. I hadn’t thought about that blanket in years.

Now that baby is about to turn 21, and is living with me while between jobs. This afternoon I was in my sewing room, and she walked in, asking if I could fix something for her. I looked up, and here was the yellow blanket. Holy cow! What a long and beloved life that blanket has had. The only things I remembered about the blanket was that it was flannel and satin, and that it was a pale, buttery yellow.

As I looked at and fingered it, trying to figure out how to resecure that small butterfly to the flannel without taking the blanket apart or damaging it, I was astonished at the creativity and quality of my work from sixteen years ago. I don’t know where I found the drawing or pattern for the large butterfly, or where I got that beautiful turquoise and yellow fabric. Nor do I remember making the small butterfly. But I think they’re brilliant! The creativity of my 54-year-old self surprises me.

Most importantly, I’m so glad to see this blanket again, and to know how many hours and years of security and warmth it has given my precious granddaughter, who has always held my heart in her gentle and beautiful hands.

Thanks for walking down Memory Lane with me.

Never Too Old to Learn

I love learning new things. The reason I write my blog posts in so much detail, and carefully tell you every mistake I made, is so you might learn from my errors and be inspired to try using one of the bag patterns I use.

Back in April or May, I was on the Klum House site, looking for something or other, and saw that Ellie Lum, the designer behind the label, was offering an Intermediate Bag Making class. It was more than I usually spend on an impulse purchase, but I wanted to learn what Ellie had to offer. So I paid my money and chose the colors I wanted for the three bags I would learn to make. Then I noted the class start date and forgot about it.

A few of weeks later, about the time I was up to my ears in senior showcase performances, and church sub gigs, and preparing for my accompanees’ juries, the box of class materials arrived. I set it in my sewing room and forgot about that, too.

Juries came and went, the death of a dear friend threw me off-course for a week or so, the trip to Amarillo and Dallas to see my two sons came and went, and suddenly I realized I had missed the first Zoom meeting of the class—without even opening the box of materials. Without even being sure where I had stashed the box!

Sheesh! Last year was one tough year. But I’m very grateful to have been able to carve out time in the summer to learn about sewing with waterproof waxed canvas, leather strapping, and all the different connectors Ellie Lum has included in her bag design.

I won’t go into all the details of my boo-boos on these bags. I may add them later, but for right now, I just want to get these pictures out for you to see. I’m very proud of them.

The first bag was the Oberlin. It could be used as a purse or a tote bag.
The true colors are gray and black. It has a zipper closure and a magnetic snap, canvas lining, an interior hanging zippered pocket, and front and back exterior pockets that span the width of the bag, but are each divided into two pockets.

Several of the class students had trouble with the final stitching of the exterior and lining pieces. In my kit, I felt the exteriors and interiors weren’t exactly the same size, and those differences led to unwanted tucks in the stitching. I want to make the bag again soon, before I forget anything I learned, and see if I can get a smooth final stitching.

The second bag was the Maywood Tote/Pack. It can be carried as a tote bag, or pull up on the cleverly designed leather strap, and wear it as a backpack. Beyond cool!

I chose Moss and Black for the colors of the bag and here’s where the Maywood and I ended up: 💚.

I have never, ever, in my entire life, loved a bag the way that I love this bag!!! The first Maywood photo at the top of the post is the front of the back. The photo with this paragraph is the presto-change-o backpack. Cool, huh?!

“Pockets?”, you ask. We’ve got pockets! The front of the bag has a slip pocket that spans the exterior (the black rectangle in the first photo). That pocket has a magnetic snap that holds it closed. And the interior has another slip pocket that goes from the base of the bag to about two inches from the top, and from side to side.

It easily carries everything this collaborative pianist schleps to work with her every day. For example: iPad holding all my music (currently about 1800 pieces of music, plus three musical theatre scores); my page turn pedal; special reading glasses enabling me to see the mid-range of the piano music stand; my iPhone; sometimes my MacBook Air; sometimes a scarf or jacket; Apple Pencil and case; pencil and pen and highlighter; bottle of water; N95 mask; and small crossbody bag holding my ID, credit card, Kleenex pack, proof of vaccination. And it all fits easily into the bag and isn’t outrageously heavy!

Today I took carried it to a voice lesson I was playing with my favorite voice professor/neighbor/friend who had just returned from several weeks of vacation. When I walked into her studio after she had warmed-up the student, she stopped what she was doing to look at the bag, sling it over her shoulder, and ask me if I’d make one for her. 😂🤣 That’s how good this sweet bag is.

So that’s two of the bags in the Intermediate Bag Making class. The third is the Naito Bucket Bag. I finished it the day before yesterday, quickly took photos, and posted it to a couple of social media sites. But I haven’t carried it. But I sense it may become second only to the Maywood.

The color of the exterior waxed canvas is gray. The interior is a natural canvas. I love using light colored linings—you can find your contents much more easily with a light-colored lining. 👍

One of the best features of the construction of this bag is one of the great tricks of sewing. That’s knowing how to sew a curved edge to a straight edge. Honestly, I think this is the easiest such maneuver I’ve ever done! And I did it twice, perfectly. The bucket bottom of the exterior and the bucket bottom of the lining both require this trick. I didn’t cry. I didn’t curse. I didn’t even pull out my seam ripper! That success makes me want to construct more and more of these bags!

The other success on this bag arose out of failure in the Maywood. It was absolutely a user error, not an error in cutting at the studio or in design or documentation of the pattern.

Both arose out of the magnetic snap rivets that secure the Maywood exterior slip pocket and the Naito top hem that enables the user to make that cool fold in the top of the bag when you pull up the strap.

There’s an “innie” and an “outie” anvil that correspond to the outie and innie snap heads. If you don’t use these anvils and your hard setting surface and your mallet when setting those snaps, they don’t set completely and the cap of the snap will fall off. Trust me, I know. It happened to me. I had to use my seam ripper and scratch my head to figure out how to cover up that error.

But I did figure it out. And you can bet I patted myself on the back. 😊

So if you want to increase your skill set and have fun while doing so, go check out Ellie Lum’s current class offerings, and see if there isn’t a bag that appeals to you. I think you’ll be happy you did.

Long-Awaited Concert

This weekend we’re attending a Bonnie Raitt concert. We bought the tickets back in mid-February. I am not familiar with much of her work. Jas, however, knew when he saw her name on the concert list for this summer that she was on Rolling Stone Magazine’s “100 Greatest Singers of All Time” and “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.” He loves guitar music and tried for about the past eight years to learn to play the instrument. But when he started trying to learn to read music, he put his guitar in its case and it hasn’t seen the light of day since that time.

The last year I spent time at Interlochen was 2019, when I was one of the collaborative pianists in the dance division for the first three-week session. I noticed the sign that stated all concertgoers were prohibited from bringing bags into Kresge Auditorium. However, they could bring see-through vinyl bags or Ziploc® or similar bags to carry their phone, wallet, and other necessary items into the venue. (Did you notice the graphics on the lower right portion of the ticket photo? Those represent things you can/can’t bring into the venue.)

Sara Lawson, of Sew Sweetness Patterns, one of my favorite bag designers, released a bag to be made of clear vinyl, and I made two of them last year—one for my friend who works in HR at Interlochen Arts Camp, and one for my daughter-in-law, who teaches High School Contemporary Dance at Interlochen Arts Camp. Both those bags are shown in my post, “How Time Disappears During A Pandemic.”

That bag, the Pinto Stadium Bag, is not easy to make—in my opinion—because of the curved corners on the bag. The bag has a gusset around the sides to provide depth in the bag, increasing what you can easily carry in it. The gusset is rectangular, and sewing a curved edge next to a straight edge requires a lot of fidgeting with the edges.

As I was thinking about wanting to make a bag to carry to the concert, I kept thinking about those accursed curves. (Carry a Ziploc bag for my purse contents? Seriously? You must not know me very well!) I remembered that I had bought a new pattern a couple of years ago, printed it off, and tucked it in a holding place in my sewing room. That pattern was the Hello Pouches pattern from Knot + Thread Design. I’ve admired this bag since I first saw the pattern, but have never had a reason to make it. Well, this week meant a long-awaited concert was my reason.

I have four varieties of vinyl for use with these bags. Vinyl by the yard comes in varying thicknesses, from 4 gauge (0.004 inches thick) to 80 gauge (about 0.08 inches thick). I believe mine is all 12 gauge, as recommended by Sara Lawson in the Pinto pattern. I have the normal clear vinyl, along with a see-through yellow, pinkish-red, and blue. For my “Bonnie Bag”, I chose clear.

I then dug through my fabric stash to see what I could find. Very long ago, in March, 2020, when all hell broke loose worldwide, I bought some fabric to make a tote bag for my sister’s grand-daughter-in-law, whom I’ve come to adore. I was making a bag for her. She wanted a black bag as she usually wears black. (Who does that sound like?) And she wanted a lining fabric that would demonstrate her support for her LGBTQ child and friends. For the rainbow fabric, I selected “Rainbow Graffiti Stripe” from the Buzzin’ Around collection by Kim Schaefer for Andover Fabrics. I had just enough to act as the accent fabric for this bag.

I chose the size Medium. But I wanted to have the greater part of the sides made out of the clear vinyl, rather than the fabric. As designed, the fabric base, once the corners are boxed, is about ½” to 1″ less than the height of the top (vinyl) piece. I wanted the bottom piece to be much shorter than the vinyl piece, so the ushers who cleared us into the venue could clearly see that I was not carrying any contraband into the concert. My finished bag has about 1½” of fabric and about 4″ of vinyl, topped by just over ¼” of top binding and the zipper. The zipper installation is one of those cool installations where you use half a zipper and one pull. I don’t understand why this works, but I’ve done several of these, and know it does work.

I wanted a wrist strap for this bag so I didn’t have to carry it into the venue and balance it on my lap all evening. I opened the Sew Sweetness Metro Double Zip Pouch pattern on my iPad and copied the instructions for the wristlet strap. I sewed the D-ring onto the bag by hand (i.e. with a needle and thread), and whipped up the wristlet strap out of a deep violet fabric from my stash.

I am so incredibly happy with this bag, I can hardly stand myself. If you don’t know this about me, I have two beloved grandchildren, ages 21 (in four weeks) and 19, who are transgender. I have a number of students I accompany who are LGBTQ. I frequently play for local musical theatre shows, and many of those actors are LGBTQ. I love all of my students, regardless of the flag they fly or how they present or whom they love.Carrying this bag will advertise—to anyone who needs the support—that I am an ally. If they need someone to talk to, there I am, proud to be supportive of their lives.

And I’m proud of having figured out how to hack the “Hello Pouches” pattern to meet my specific needs. Yay, Me! 😉