A Pattern I Love to Love

I don’t remember when or where I first saw this fabric, but I absolutely fell in love at first sight. I’m a cat person from birth to now. I lost my last good cat around four years ago. If he had been my only cat at that time, I would have gotten another cat. But there was Angel, who was not an angel. When we finally had Angel put to sleep, the vet said, “You’re doing him a favor. He’s never been a happy cat.” I’m pretty sure if I examine my arms closely enough, I can still find the scars from his many bites.

So I am now catless, in a pandemic when I am home all the time and would love to have a sweetie pie cat settle in my lap. But Spousal Equivalent shakes his head every time I ask what he thinks about adopting another cat from a shelter. So I admire everyone else’s cat pics on Instagram and Facebook. And I swoon over cat fabric.

But really, isn’t this the coolest fabric print you’ve ever seen.

And the bag. THE BAG!!! This is the Sew Sweetness Vacation Packing Cube, which is part of Sara Lawson’s Minikins Season 2 set of patterns. Yes, the Minikins sets (there are two) are not inexpensive, but, boy, are these great patterns. You’ll find yourself making most every one over and over again.

As I was getting to the final half hour of sewing on this bag this morning, I was getting more and more excited. I had a feeling this would be my favorite bag I’ve ever made.

I made several mistakes on this bag, which I discovered quickly and was able to take a mulligan on. When I make the bag again, I will print out the names of each pattern piece and attach those names to each pattern piece. My error was sewing the top and bottom pieces to the front zippers instead of sewing the front top and front bottom pieces to the zippers. So I had to undo those seams and sew the front pieces on instead. That cost me the amount of time equivalent to one episode of the old TV show I’m bingeing while I sew. The only other error occurred while sewing the exterior back and sides, and the lining back and sides. I needed to leave the ends open ¼” as I sewed all those right angles together. I had finished the exterior when I went to bed last night. I sat in bed and watched that part of Sara’s video again and said, “Aha.” Then I was back in the sewing room before 7:00 a.m. to undo those corners and redo them correctly.

So if those were my only errors, I’m in pretty good shape.

The pattern set is Sew Sweetness Minikins Season 2. The individual pattern is Vacation Packing Cube, size Large. (The sizes are S, M, L, XL. The dimensions of the Large are 13¾” long x 12¾” tall x 4″ deep.)

If you want to see more examples of these packing cubes and you’re an Instagrammer, search on #vacationpackingcube.

The fabric is Robert Kauffman, the designer is Neiko Ng, the collection is Whiskers & Tails.
The lining fabric is Paradise Falls by Hello Angel for Wilmington Prints in color Pacific.

The zippers are from ZipIt Zippers on Etsy. She’s the best!

I plan to make more of these packing cubes. I’ll probably get all of them finished before we’re able to travel again, but won’t it be wonderful to have these cubes to organize my suitcase next time we head someplace fun?

Take A Stand!

Every so often I just have to take a break from making masks and do some fun sewing. This week’s break involved the Take A Stand tote in size Small, from byAnnie patterns. This zippered tote has exterior zippered pockets and interior mesh pockets. It’s ideal for carrying sewing supplies to a class or keeping them organized in your sewing space. I actually think my Spousal Equivalent would like one in a denim or heavy duty fabric to hold some of the tools from his workbench for when he goes to do handyman tasks for friends.

The zipper used to close the bag is about six inches longer than the actual opening. That means that the stand-up bag can be opened fully to enable you to access all the contents. When the zipper is closed, the 6″ zipper tail can tuck out of the way in the little strap on the right side exterior. The body of the bag is made with byAnnie’s great foam product, “Soft and Stable.” This stand-up tote is no slouch!

The adjustable shoulder strap makes it easy to carry the bag. You can carry it crossbody while your hands are busy schlepping something else. (I’m always carrying too much stuff, trying to avoid multiple trips.)

But this tote bag isn’t limited to use as just a class bag. It would make a great purse. It could carry my iPad Pro and my page-turn pedal and Apple Pencil for piano gigs. I could tuck my knitting supplies and yarn inside for road trips. The uses are only limited by your imagination. The Large can be enhanced with a clear acrylic stabilizer for the base of the bag.

The finished dimensions of the two sizes are:
Small – 8¾”H x 12″W x 6½”D.
Large – 12½”H x 16″W x 8″D.

Here’s the cool thing about the Small version of this tote: It’s got a companion pattern then adds to its organizational ability. The companion pattern is the Running With Scissors tool case which works fine on its own, or balanced over the Take A Stand tote. Measuring 9½”H x 12½”W x 1½”D when closed and 12½”H x 20½”W when open, decide what you want to store in the Running case before you start the project, and size your pockets accordingly. Then, when you get to class or are working at your sewing machine, open it and turn upside down over the Take A Stand bag, and you’ve got easy access to all your tools. This is one brilliantly designed bag!

But back to the Take A Stand tote. Annie Unruh, the byAnnie designer, makes construction easy by providing short videos for the most challenging tasks of this tote. I also like that her printed instructions include checkboxes by each step of the process so you can mark each task off when complete and always know where you are in the construction. The instructions also include small labels for each pattern piece so you can label them as you cut the pieces. You never have to hold a 3″ x 12″ (or whatever) strip of fabric and ask yourself what on earth that piece is to be used for.

If you’re a regular reader of my blog posts, you know I like to share my dos and don’ts after finishing a sewing project. So what did I like? I love the size of the bag; I love Annie’s standards in her design presentation—her patterns are doable, makeable.

What don’t I like or what do I wish I had done differently? The exterior, the lining, and the Soft and Stable are quilted together. I marked my quilting lines with chalk, and then was pretty sure the only way those chalk marks were going to come off was if I washed the quilted piece. I was pretty sure it was going to shrink but decided to do it anyway. I was sure I’d like the look. And I don’t like the look. I wish I had either marked with a marker that would have disappeared with heat a a drop of water. It’s not terrible, but it’s not up to my standards. (Perfectionism rears its ugly head again.) And I will tell you that the curved edges of the end pieces are challenging. They’re not impossible—obviously—but they’re not easy.

One other thing. If you’re going to use a stripe for the accent fabric, as I did, pay attention to the upper border and binding pieces on the front zippered pocket, Pocket A. My stripes didn’t match from the bottom side of the zipper to the top side. I can never unsee that! So either don’t use a stripe, or make sure you’re cutting the 2″x12″ Pocket A Binding so that the stripes match the 2½”x12″ Pocket A Border.

I highly recommend byAnnie’s patterns. Go for it, and have fun. I think you’ll be very pleased with your resulting bag.

Fabrics –
Designer: Tula Pink;
Exterior fabric – Collection: Pinkerville; Fabric: Fairy Dust in Day Dream
Accent fabric – Collection: All Stars; Fabric: Tent Stripe in Orchid
Lining – a hand-dye in lime from my stash.

So Sew Easy Carry All Bag

Way back when Craftsy was Craftsy, long before it became Bluprint, then was sold, and now will become Craftsy again with all their databases of classes we’ve purchased intact, I saw a bag kit that I thought was very pretty. I bought the kit – the beautiful Modern Meadow line from Joel Dewberry with his Dogwood Bloom modern print on an aqua (“Pond”) background, lining fabric in the Herringbone print in Pond, and accents from the Herringbone print in navy (“Lake”). The pattern was the So Sew Easy “Carry All Bag,” a free pattern. Because of the Craftsy/Bluprint debacle, I can’t even look back and tell you when I purchased this kit, but I’m sure it was more than three years ago. Sometime last year, when I had a break from all my piano work, I started making the bag.

And then the fall semester of insane schedules and the spring semester of Covid-19 took my mind totally off this bag. It sat on the end of my cutting table, nagging me every time I cut out and sewed a mask. The exterior of the bag was finished, and the lining was cut out and interfaced and the pockets were complete, but something was holding me up. Finally, about a month ago I made time in the middle of all the masks to take inventory of all the pieces of Joel Dewberry fabric that were lounging on my cutting table. I determined that I had never cut out the bottom of the lining for the bag, ostensibly because I had run out of Pond Herringbone fabric. I logged on to Etsy and found a vendor who had a yard of the Herringbone and ordered it. And then looked again at all the fabric I had, realizing that even though I didn’t have a piece long enough to make the base, I had enough to piece the size I needed for the base. Finally, on Saturday, with my partner away visiting a cousin and kayaking on Lake Erie, I finished the bag lining. This morning I put everything else on hold and sewed the drop-in lining in place.

Now, what to do with yet another carry-on sized bag?

And further, why did I decide to make a free pattern when I’ve already bought carry-on bag patterns from Swoon and Sew Sweetness and byAnnie—designers that I know and love and trust?! The next time I’m tempted to download a free pattern from an untested [by me] designer, I’m going to write a post that asks you all if I should do it, to which you will quickly reply “No, No, No!!”

Anyway, this bag. It’s an okay bag. What didn’t I like? I never could get the PDF pattern pieces to print correctly, which caused a few problems. It does not have a shoulder strap. And it’s got a drop-in lining. Ugh. I do not like having to sew the lining into the back of the zipper. I’d much rather have to turn the entire bag rightside out through the bottom of a pocket than have to try to get the entire zipper and lining to perfectly match. It never works for me.

So what do I like?

The fabrics. Those colors and the big bold dogwood print—love! I like the contrast between the floral print and the dark straps. (Note to self—you could have used those Joel Dewberry fabrics to make any of the carry-ons patterns you’ve already vetted!)

The pockets. On the exterior front there’s a zippered pocket. On the exterior sides there are pockets that might hold a water bottle. In the lining back, there’s another zippered pocket. In the lining front, there’s slip pocket that’s made from the dogwood print. It spans the width of the bag and is divided into three separate pockets, one just right for my phone. What a concept—always knowing where my phone is!!

Will I use it? I might. It would be okay to throw a change of clothes, my toiletries, and my iPad and chargers into for a road trip. I wouldn’t take it as a carry-on for a flight, because of the lack of shoulder strap. Do I know how to make a shoulder strap and could I have done so? Yes and Yes. But it annoyed me that I had dug this hole for myself. I didn’t want to have to take the time to dig through patterns to find the strap pattern and hack this pattern to make the strap happen. I can be very stubborn.

Will I sell it? It’s not up to my standards. I’m tempted to figure out what my financial outlay for the fabrics, zippers, and hardware is and sell it for that plus the shipping cost and a donation by the buyer to their local food bank. I would include the disclaimer that it’s not perfect, but can be a very useful bag. I don’t know.

So that’s the story of the So Sew Easy “Carry All Bag.” At least it’s done and off my sewing table. Tomorrow I can fold up all the leftover fabric and get back to mask making.

There’s one less UFO (UnFinished Object) in my UFO box. Yea for that!!!

A Fishy Sleepshirt For Me

Finally! A break for a few hours in all my mask making to sew something fun, something I’ve been thinking about sewing for several years.

There are a lot of independent (“indie”) pattern designers nowadays, and more popping up each month. There’s a t-shirt/dress pattern I’ve been looking at for several years. It’s called the Laundry Day Tee and it comes from Love Notions Sewing Patterns, LLC. Love Notions is Tami Meyer and I am now her newest instant fan.

The Laundry Day Tee was first released in 2015 as a t-shirt. It quickly became a favorite pattern for everyone who made it. And they started asking for pattern hacks, which Tami has created for them. The pattern is available in sizes XS to XXXXXL. It also is now available in childs’ sizes, and I believe there’s a 15-inch-doll size available.

Here’s the description from the pattern instructions:
“Why do laundry when you can just whip up one of these cute and flattering tees in less time than it takes to dry a load of clothes. The Laundry Day Tee comes with three neckline options- scoop, v-neck & cowl as well as five sleeve lengths- tank, short, elbow, 3/4 and long. You also get to choose from a regular tee shirt length, tunic or knee length dress. Both the tunic and dress have high/low options. Perfect to wear with jeans and leggings alike!”

All of that, plus there are hacks available to make a maternity dress and to make it nursing-friendly for moms with new babes.

And the pattern instructions tell you how to adjust the bust size, either decreasing or increasing. Right there in the instruction sheet! You don’t have to go searching to find the info—It’s. Right. There. !!

I’m impressed. I am very impressed.

So what did I change to my standard size Large? It’s designed for a 5’5″ frame, and I’m 5’8″, so I added 3″ to the tunic length. That’s all. I wish I had started a stopwatch when I started sewing. Let me tell you: this thing goes together in a handful of heartbeats!

It’s been so long since I’ve sewn a knit garment, I had forgotten some of my standard practices and had to search through my blog to find some of these notes. I use a strip of tricot interfacing to reinforce the shoulder seams. I sew the seam and then sew a second row of stitching between ⅛” and ¼” away from the first line of stitching. (I do not use a serger.) For my hems (designed to be 1″ deep), I cut 1″ strips of tricot interfacing and fuse those to the hem allowance on the seam hems and the bottom hem. Then I fold and press those hems and stitch the hems with a double needle and wooly nylon in the bobbin.

That’s it. I sewed the short dress, put it on, and took pictures. Done. No fiddling with anything about the pattern to make it fit.

I’m thrilled.

If you haven’t yet made a Laundry Day Tee/Dress, what are you waiting on? Really! Just do it!!

Masks and a Pouch for Storage

One of my lovely accompanees asked if I could make a couple of masks for her. After showing her the fabric choices, I made three masks. Then I ended the day by making a little pouch so she could store the clean masks safely in her bag or backpack.

The pouch is from Sew Sweetness—the Hexi Zipper Pouch. This is a free pattern, a quick sew, a multi-purpose pouch. The pattern specifies foam interfacing, but you could just as easily make it with fusible fleece or even just Pellon’s Shape-Flex interfacing. I find if a bag has curves, it’s harder to make the curves smooth when using foam. Next time I make this pouch, I think I’ll use fleece. If you want a slightly larger pouch, print it at 110% or greater and you’re good to go!

But what a great little pouch!

Think of the ways you can personalize it:

  • English Paper Piecing – hexagons, or other patterns you might find.
  • Machine embroidery – monogram? cute animal motif?
  • Hand embroidery – a favorite stitch or sampler of stitches.
  • Use leather, cork, faux leather, denim, a favorite upholstery scrap.
  • Sew with clear vinyl, with a fabric binding around it to take to concert venues where big bags aren’t allowed. Remember live concerts? 😊 You wouldn’t line this. If you have the Sew Sweetness Minikins Season 1, look at the I-Spy pouch instructions for ideas.
  • Use coloring fabric and give the recipient several fabric pens in their favorite colors so they can personalize it themselves. A number of fabric manufacturers are making coloring fabric these days. Go to Etsy .com and search for “coloring fabric.”

And just look how easily this pouch holds three Zippy masks.

The Zippy mask pattern, from RenĂ©e McCloud, has a zip tie in the center front vertical seam. This forces the fabric away from the wearer’s face. When inhaling, the fabric is less likely to be pulled into the wearer’s mouth or nose.

I make these masks with adjustable ear loops and a twisted craft pipe cleaner over the nose. My goal is to have a comfortable mask with as few gaps between the mask and the wearer’s face as possible. And I use a coordinating but different print on the inside than the outside. This way, the wearer, after taking the mask off in their safe space (car, home) can put it back on, knowing which is the outside and which is the side to put next to their mouth and nose. No cross-contamination. The inside fabric also creates a filter pocket. The mask is made with three layers of 100% cotton and one layer of non-woven interfacing that acts as a filter. But if the wearer is anxious about the environment in which the mask will be worn—how many contaminants might be in that space—an extra filter or bit of filtering material may be tucked into the filter pocket for extra protection and ease of mind.

I hope I’ve given you some new ideas today.

Please wear a mask when you go out of your safe space and wash your hands frequently.
Stay safe. Be brave.