By Request Only

Baby Boy (okay, so he’s 45!) has been traveling much more in his life lately, including several trips overseas. Years ago I made zippered “Pet Mesh” bags to hold the charging cords for their various electronic devices. A couple of weeks ago, after his Christmas/New Years/Wife’s Birthday trip to Austria and Italy, Dear Son #2 asked for a new bag that had greater depth for holding his international converters. And a new bag was born, at his request. There’s no greater compliment than your own child asking for a new bag!!

The pattern I use for such bags is the “Zip It” bag pattern from Nancy Ota. The Sew Thankful retail website carries the bag pattern, along with various colors of Phifer Pet Mesh. I buy my pet mesh in black from Lowe’s or Home Depot—I believe it’s cheaper, and I really like the basic black.

So the only trick to tell you about with this bag is how to give it more depth. I’ve been sewing a lot of bags lately, mostly designed by Sara Lawson for her Sew Sweetness pattern line. Sara is an absolute genius both in designing bags and in writing pattern instructions. She also makes videos for most, if not all, of her designs. So there’s no way you can fail at making one of her bags. And, the more different patterns you try, the more you learn about bagmaking. So figuring out how to give my son the depth he wanted in the bag was just a matter of reviewing couple of Sara’s patterns and “hacking” Nancy Ota’s Zip It pattern.

A boxed corner would give my son exactly what he wanted, I was sure. I sewed the pattern as written, then zig-zagged the inside raw edges, instead of binding. Leaving the bag wrongside out, after zig-zagging, I flatted out each bottom corner, forming a triangle of the corner with the side seam centered, and sewed a diagonal seam across, about an inch or so down from the corner. It looked sorta like this /_\ , the bottom line being the seam. When those two seams were done, I cut off the excess, leaving about ¼” raw edge on the outside of the seam. I then zig-zagged that raw edge, and turned the bag rightside out.

My son said it’s perfect! (He’s a good boy. 😉)
-The fabric is from the very bottom of my stash, purchased at Josephine’s in Portland around 2000 or earlier. It’s from the DeLeon Design Group.
-My Pipher Pet Mesh was purchased on a roll from Lowe’s or Home Depot in the screening aisle. Also see the Sew Thankful site (link above) if you want colored pet mesh.
-The zipper is from Zip It on Etsy. Great vendor!! Wide variety of zippers, great prices, fast shipping.
-The pull charm is from JoAnn’s in the jewelry aisle.
-The hardware to hook the charm to the zipper pull is from Emmaline Bags in British Columbia. She has the very best selection of bag hardware. It costs me a smidge more and shipping takes a few days longer, but I absolutely love her stock. I frequently use her “Handmade” zipper pull charms.

(I’m going to put this here, just in case you want a piece of that fabric – different colorway.)

A Last Minute Make

Two weeks after returning from vacation and spending lots of time editing photos and writing my vacation travelogue, I just realized I never wrote a post about the last bag I made before vacation.
. . .
I actually started the fabric preparation to make another Sew Sweetness Paladin bag (that pattern I love to hate). As I started fusing the first exterior piece to the interfacing, I realized, to my horror, that the fabric was actually directional and I had cut it upside down. (Look at the black eyeglasses frames at the bottom of the first picture. Imagine those glasses at the top of the bag, upside down. Nope. I cannot let that happen.)

I didn’t want a bag with upside-down print, and I didn’t want to throw away a perfectly good piece of fabric. I began racking my brain for the best solution. The bottom of the side pattern piece has the corners cut out—that’s the part you sew diagonally to get the boxed corners. (See the picture with this paragraph.)

<Sidebar On> Paladin has boxed corners—meaning that after you sew the sides and the bottom, you pinch the corners flat and sew a diagonal seam across the corner, giving the bag some depth instead of having a flat bag. The traditional way to give a bag depth so it can easily hold more items is to make a separate piece for the bottom and the sides. Boxing the bottom gives you the depth without the extra work. Look at the two frog bag pictures and you can see the diagonal boxing seam. Notice how nicely the bag stands up because of that seam. (This is the Bellevue Pouch from Sew Sweetness, with the construction blogged here. The Bellevue has much deeper boxed corners than the Palladin. But a box is a box. 😉)
<Sidebar Off>

So how could I save this fabric and get the print right-side up? I started by cutting off the bottom. Then I again had a simple rectangle that could become a slightly smaller bag.

I dug into my brain, remembering the first zippered pouch I made years ago, and replicated that. Sandwich the zipper between the exterior fabric and the lining fabric. Sew the first side of the zipper, then the other side. Sew up the sides, remembering to leave an opening to turn the bag (and remembering the open the zipper before sewing the sides). Voila! A bag is made.

A dear friend of my son’s has serendipitously become a cyber friend of mine. This woman loves bright linings in bags so that one can actually find things in the bottom of a bag. When I posted a photo of the finished bag on Instagram, she immediately said “I want that!” So I packed it up and ran to the post office. This sweet small bag was flying to California as I was flying to Mexico

Sometimes the stars align.

The details:
Exterior fabric: The Wordplay collection by Sarah Fielke for Windham Fabrics. It’s been in my stash for probably four years, but there’s some—as of this writing—at the designer’s website and some on Etsy. 9You could also try FabShopHop’s excellent fabric search feature to find it. There are several color-coordinated word prints in the same Windham collection that I like a lot. (See here.) This print comes in a black background, a gray background, and a black and white print. Windham also makes 108” wide quilt backing in the same print.
Lining fabric: A hand-dyed cotton in a green I love. I picked it up somewhere in my long history of hoarding fabrics. Love that dye job!
Zipper: YKK #4.5 purse zipper from Zipit on Etsy. She ships quickly from Wisconsin. She also stocks the charm on the interior zipper pull in a variety of prints.
Pattern: I highly recommend Sara Lawson’s Sew Sweetness bag patterns. The Paladin Pouch pattern can be purchased with a companion video. Buy it! I predict that if you try to make the Paladin without the video assistance, you will throw it in the trash can before finishing it. The Bellevue Pouch is part of the 12-pattern Minikins Season 1 bundle. The $80 price tag is very reasonable when you see the bags that comprise the bundle. All easy and quick makes with a minimum of hardware to purchase.

The bag’s new owner texted me yesterday to say how much she loves the bag. She said the gray background has the ability to appear as different colors in different lights. She and her husband refer to it as the “magic bag” because of this color morohing That made me smile.

A Flower Child Pouch

Some bags take longer to finish than others. This one has been hanging out in my sewing room since … early February, 2019! As I type this, we are 27 hours away from 2020! That’s a long time to be a WIP (Work In Progress). What got in the way of its completion? The problems I was having with my primary bagmaking machine. I was having problems with “birdsnests” (nasty tangles of thread that mass on the underside of a seam) which the machine repair tech called “user error.” My reaction to her statement: “Grumble, grumble.”

You might be wondering what I did to get around that birdsnest problem. I just bought a new machine! I had saved all the money I earned in a few gigs during the spring semester and my summer job at Interlochen. Then, when I returned home from Interlochen, I ordered a Juki TL-2010Q from Sew to Speak in Worthington, Ohio. I am in love with this machine, and it’s solved all my sewing problems that were caused when a machine refused to handle eight layers of bag fabric and interfacing. This is a semi-industrial, straight stitch machine, and I haven’t yet found a combination of fabrics that it can’t handle.

I’m still using the Bernina 330, but I reserve it for simpler, thinner bags. And it works fine, most of the time. So I keep it threaded with a neutral color of thread in a light color. The Juki stays threaded with black, until I need a different color for topstitching.

Within the past few weeks, I’ve sold three bags in my Etsy shop. So now I’m motivated to get some more bags finished and posted. Tonight I was working on a couple of other bags that are close to completion, but I needed to change thread. I glanced around my sewing table and realized this little WIP just needed a small amount of work in black, so I decided to finish it before changing the thread on the Juki.

This is another Metro Double Zip Pouch from Sew Sweetness bag patterns. I’ve made a number of these bags before and love the pattern. [See blog post detailing these bags.] It’s a versatile little (or not so little, depending on which of the three sizes in the pattern you choose to make) bag. I made it with an extra pocket in between the two zippered pockets. This pocket is perfect for holding a smart phone.

The bag is made from a favorite fabric that’s been in my stash for a while. It’s guitars adorned with flowers. The background is a deep royal blue. I selected the pink in the guitar on the front of the front pocket for one of the zippers. The lining fabric is a wonderful hand-dyed cotton that I bought in my favorite Tucson quilting shop when I lived there fifteen years ago. The top zipper is black, and the zipper pull charms are a “Handcrafted” charm on the top zipper, and a treble clef charm on the front zipper. The bag includes a wrist strap to make it easy to carry.

This wristlet bag will be posted on my Etsy store tomorrow, if you’ve a hankering to purchase it.

Thanks for looking!

Stocking Up

Two days after Christmas, one of the two beloved nieces of my partner got married, quietly, with only the couple’s children in attendance. But the next day, the extended families would gather at the bride’s parents’ home for a celebration.

Between them, the couple has four daughters, high school and college aged. Because we hadn’t made it down to the Columbus area to celebrate Christmas with the family, I bought some Panera and Starbucks gift cards for the four great-nieces. I wanted something nice in which to present the gift cards to the young ladies. So I started sewing bags. After several hours of work on these bags, I sternly said to myself, “You’re crazy.”

Bag Back

I’m thrilled that three bags have sold off my Etsy page in the past two weeks. And I want to stock more bags on the site. That means I must be smarter than to put lots of effort and energy and resources into some very carefully constructed bags that will not necessarily be used, or even liked. I realized I needed to put these bags in my shop, and just buy little gift bags on post-Christmas sale at Walgreen’s and be done with it.

So here are the first two of the new bags going up on my site as soon as we get home from the wedding celebrations. These bags are a pattern “hack” of the Sew Sweetness Paladin Pouch that I’ve made twice. Those earlier bags are blogged here and here. Look at this picture of the second Paladin I made. You can clearly see that it’s constructed from two separate bags cleverly sewn together. I saw a picture on the Facebook Sew Sweetness Patterns users group of a bag made from just one of the two bags. I decided that would make a cute bag that would be a quick and easy make. I shortened the zipper so it stops at each side of the bag, rather than overhanging the end. And I added a tab and D-ring on one side, and made a wrist strap to hook onto that D-ring. I’m very happy with how these bags turned out. I think they are great bags that are perfect for carrying one’s phone and a small credit card folder with ID and money.

The fabric for both these bags came from my “deep stash,” 😉 by which I mean fabric that’s been in place for a very long time.

The first bag is “vintage” Cotton + Steel fabric, dating from one of the their early collections. Both the exterior and lining fabrics are from Alexia Abegg’s collection, Hatbox. I haven’t been able to determine the pattern name for the exterior fabric, but the lining is called “All the States.” Googling will “alexia abegg”, “cotton + steel”, and hatbox will get you some hits, if you’re wanting some of the fabric. It still exists in sellers’ stashes.

[Edit 1/2/2010: Happy New Year! In the middle of the night a couple of nights after I wrote this post, it suddenly occurred to me that just because the strap tab held a ¼” D-ring, that didn’t mean the strap had to have a ¼” swivel hook. That part of the hook that one measures when choosing the size is just the loop at the end where the strap is connected to the hook hardware. A ½” swivel hook is going to be fine with a ¼” D-ring. Sometimes I can be so dense!! So yesterday afternoon, before going to our friends’ house for New Year’s dinner, I whipped up a ½” wide, ~6″ diameter wrist strap and sewed it onto one of the ½” swivel hooks I picked up at JoAnn’s yesterday morning. The bag with both its straps is up on Etsy now. Sometimes I just have to let a project sit in my brain for a while before it all gels.]

The second bag is made from fabric designed by Amy Schimler for Robert Kaufman Fabrics. The collection is Creatures and Critters 3. The exterior is Fox and the lining is Diamonds, both in colorway Ivory. Love those foxes and the sweet little birds sitting in the trees.

I’m pleased with these bags, and have a third cut out for when I return home from this party trip. Check out my Etsy shop, Jananza, if you’d like to own either of these bags.

Perfectly sized to hold your phone and essentials. A great vacation bag.

Wishing you and yours a happy new year, with 366 days full of peace and love.

A Pillow for an iPad

Meet my sister’s Christmas present—the Tablet Pyramid Pillow.

Here’s the funny story about this pattern. I saw it at a favorite quilting shop, Sew Deja Vu in Stow, Ohio, about eight months ago. I grabbed it with the idea of making it for my sister. But then I had a water leak in my sewing room and had to move everything out into the main area of the basement while that was repaired and the floor cleaned. And then summer came and brought with it much music to be made. And when I started looking for the pattern to make it for my sister’s early July birthday, it was nowhere to be found.

This side holds the tablet in portrait mode.

Then the fall semester arrived and took off with a bang. I suddenly had eleven students to accompany and the “Cabaret” score to learn and rehearsals every night of the week and music to find and prepare for a Christmas revue. And, uh oh, Christmas is almost here and what can I do for my sister and where the heck is that pattern? So I started googling and trying to figure out what the pattern’s name was and who designed it and where I could buy another copy.

A side pocket to hold one’s phone or earbuds or a small notebook and pen.

I found and bought the pattern, and a couple of days later it arrived. I pulled from my stash the beautiful fabric in my sister’s favorite colors that I had chosen for this project several months earlier. And I kept making music. My final Christmas performance was on Sunday, December 22. On Monday I went to JoAnn’s to buy a cool container of Guterman thread for my niece and (discover they didn’t carry the poly pellets I needed, so on) to Michael’s to get the pellets that are used to weight the bottom of the pillow. Late Monday afternoon and evening I cut out all the fabric and interfacing and did all the fusing and basting. When I went to bed Monday night, my cutting table held the five rectangles that would become the finished pillow.

The other side holds the tablet in landscape mode.

Tuesday morning, I was downstairs by 5:30 and assembling the pillow. Once the pillow is together, with a hole in one seam left to stuff it, you make an 8” square flat pillow out of muslin or a scrap of fabric and fill that pillow with 1½ cups of the poly pellets.

Then came the problem. I realized that the materials list on the pattern envelope hadn’t mentioned the stuffing to sit on top of the poly pellet pillow and help the pillow support the tablet. So I started digging around the basement for the large black plastic tub that I knew held leftovers from other stuffing projects. In my flurry of activity to finish this present so I could leave for the 75-minute drive to my sister’s house, I wasn’t finding the container. And then voila! I saw a plastic grocery bag filled with the excess stuffing from a bed pillow a friend had bought and then taken apart in an attempt to make it more comfortable, afterwards giving me the leftovers. I grabbed it and began stuffing handfuls of this nasty stick-to-everything stuffing into the open hole.

One more pocket to hold accessories.

I normally prefer hand-sewing for closing the holes one leaves in a seam for the purpose of turning a bag or stuffing a pillow. But time was soooo of the essence in this project. The fog was scheduled to lift at 10:00 a.m. (It didn’t. It lasted until Christmas morning!) And I had miles to go to deliver my gifts and spend a little sister time. So I did my best to turn the edges of the seam allowance and topstitch the opening by machine. It’s not pretty, but it’s done.

I snapped photos, grabbed my coat, had Siri ask my sister what she and my niece wanted for lunch from Red Lobster in Akron, and set out for my drive to Medina with a riveting murder mystery playing on my sound system.

And she loved it! It doesn’t work well with the thick protective case on her iPad. (The picture at the top of this post shows the pillow with my Kindle Paperwhite, a smaller device.) If I were making another, I might make that bottom horizontal strip wider than an inch—maybe cut the piece 4” wide rather than 2” and fold it to a finished 2” (minus the ¼” seam allowance).

Note: If you are planning for this pillow to be used with a smaller device like my little Kindle, there is a third strap you can add to the construction process that will hold the smaller device in place securely.

The details: The fabric is designed by Tula Pink for Free Spirit. The collection is Zuma. The color is Aqua Marine. The main fabric is Sea Bloom, and the accent is Tower 7. The pattern is Tablet Pyramid Pillow by Debbie Wendt for Wendt Quilting.

What would I do differently? See the accent fabric in the pillow, the larger inner strip to hold a smaller device in place? Oops. I didn’t pay close enough attention to those stripes. I should have folded two of those the other way. Oh well.

Mantra of the day: Perfectionism. It’s a heavy burden to bear.

<Postscript On>
As I’m finishing this post, it’s the morning of the 26th. I left home at 4:00 yesterday afternoon, missing Dinner With Friends. I picked up my 18yo granddaughter, the love of my life, and drove her to the Pittsburgh airport for her first ever solo flight. I had gotten a room for us to share at the Hyatt. After check-in, we walked from our room over to the terminal and she figured out what route to take and how to navigate what would be a very busy airport at 5:00 a.m. the next morning. I explained how the TSA line works and what she should have in hand to show the agent and what to do when she’ll undoubtedly have to check her bag at the gate. (Group 9! You know the overheads are going to be full when they get to Group 9.) I showed her where she gets on the train that will take her to the airside terminal and explained how the two levels of escalators will take her up to the shopping area and how she has to find which of the four concourses X-ing out from the shopping and dining area is American’s concourse. Think of all the information you need if every other time you’ve flown has been with your parent, who already knew all that stuff.

After our lesson time, we went back to the Hyatt and had dinner at the excellent bellfarm Kitchen|Bar farm-to-table restaurant. (She looked at the menu and said, “Grandma, it’s so expensive.” I smiled and assured her it was okay. And as I write this, I have tears in my eyes that my precious baby has grown up and I don’t know where the years went.)

And then we were back in our room, making memories. Both my heart and my Good Grandma points account are overflowing. 😊
<Postscript Off>