Hand[le] Me My Laundry

Laundry BasketHere’s a quick Sunday tutorial. You know the big plastic laundry baskets you can get in the hardware or home goods stores? Have you ever felt they were incredibly uncomfortable to carry when returning the clean laundry to its home? Or what if you have it overloaded with sheets and towels and you can’t carry it with one hand? Try walking up two-and-a-half flights of stairs, carrying the basket with two hands and risking falling head over heels down the stairs?

Here’s your solution.

Taking your quilting ruler or whatever straightedge you’ve got handy, measure and draw a horizontal line about ½” above the highest circle. Turn the basket around to the opposite side and repeat. Now using heavy duty shears, cut the handles off along that line. I used my heaviest Fiskars shears that are intended for home decorating projects. Do not use any of your dressmaking shears or any scissors reserved for fabric.

Cut off handlesThe leftover pieces will look like what you see in this photo. You can throw them in the recycle bin. I’ll put mine aside with my other odd things that can be used as a resist in fabric dyeing.

Now you need some webbing or belting in a width between 1″ and 1½”. Cut two pieces about 36″ long. If your webbing frays, coat about ¼” of each cut end with FrayCheck or glue and let it dry. Lace the ends of the webbing through two of the holes. I chose the second hole out from the center hole. I laced mine from the outside to the inside, and then turned the edges out so they matched the concave top of the hole.

Make sure you have laced each piece of webbing through the two holes on one side, not across the body of the basket. If this doesn’t make sense, look at one of your double-handled purses. (Or check out this cool Betty Bowler bag from Swoon Patterns – my favorite bag pattern designer.) You want to be able to carry the basket lengthwise, not crosswise.

Here’s the trickiest part of the project: Arrange your sewing machine in the middle of your table so you can balance the basket on the table.

With the basket balanced to the left of your machine, turn about 3″ of the end up and stitch back and forth over the raw edge, attaching it to the webbing on the outside. I kept angling my presser foot to have about eight rows of stitching covering about a ¼ to ½” near the end.

Et voila! That’s all it takes to make transporting your laundry less painful. Okay, so you still have to deal with the washing, drying, and folding part. But isn’t this a great solution? You’re welcome.

Now I bet you want to know where I got the gawdawful neon coral webbing. My Portland sewist friend, Tina, and I are making duffle bags for our trip to Bali. Tina ice-dyed the canvas (exterior fabric) and cotton (lining). The bag needs handles and I wanted to use cotton webbing instead of sewing and folding the canvas into straps. It required shopping online and trusting the colors on my display to match one of the orange/yellow/pink shades in the dyed canvas. When I went to cut the straps the other night and held the webbing up to the fabric under good light, I realized I had misjudged the color. Grossly misjudged! So I ordered some undyed cotton webbing and a couple of colors of Procion MX dye to make new webbing that will match the fabric more closely.

And what to do with the old webbing? I realized I was sick of hurting my hands on the old laundry basket.

So there you go!

Swoon Ramona #4

About two years ago I made a Swoon Ramona crossbody bag for my younger grandchild. I don’t think they have taken it off except to sleep in all the time since receiving it. With that much use, it’s now threadbare. And all the ScotchGard in the world cannot guard against that amount of wear. It’s feeeeelthy!!

I begged and begged for my babe to take it off and give it to me so I could wash it. When they refused, I just ordered fabric to make another. Happy grandma, happy teenager.

Ramona #1, in a madras batik with cloud-print lining.

This is the third Ramona I’ve made. Number 1 was made for myself, during my 2015 summer working at Interlochen Arts Camp. Number two was the one Cody is carrying in the first picture. Number three was for a close friend of Cody’s, who is also a devoted Whovian. That was blogged here.

So, on to number four. I forgot about the quilting I did on the base of #3. Wish I had read that again before making this one, but every make is about the learning for me, so that’s fine.

Bag liningFor this bag, I used SF-101 interfacing on the lining and fusible fleece on the exterior. I made the strap connectors wider by folding in thirds rather than fourths. I felt that held the ring better and gave me less bulk to have to sew over. And the adjustable strap was a little shorter than designed. Somebody forgot to think carefully about how she was laying the pattern pieces out and didn’t leave enough width at the top of the fabric to cut the two 4″-wide strips.

Clara's AdventureThe fabric, purchased online at eQuilter.com, is from the Doctor Who line – the exterior is Infinite Tardis and the lining is Clara’s Adventure.

I prewashed the fabric, then sprayed with Mary Ellen’s “Best Press” and ironed until it was crisp and oh-so-easy to work with. After I dropped the bag at my babe’s house, I texted, “I hope you love it.” Here is the response I received: “I do! It’s so sturdy (and clean lol)”

There’s a teenager who knows the way to Grandma’s heart.

Happy Accident

I blame my tendency not to read and re-read instructions on the four years I spent in law school and all the reading I had to do there. That’s my story; deal with it. 😉 This happy-accident story is a result of my not carefully reading the instructions for this little bowl.

A year or so ago, I had a nice leftover ball of merino wool in a beautiful rich blue shade, enough to make into something small. For years I have loved flipping through Joelle Hoverson’s “More Last-Minute Knitted Gifts” and dreaming of making each one of these darling projects. (Yes, I do also own Joelle Hoverson’s “Last-Minute Knitted Gifts.” One can never have too many books.)

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While writing this, I read Joelle’s bio on the back of the book, then googled her. I never knew she was one of the co-owners of one of my favorite shops in the world, Purl Soho. If you’re a knitter or quilter, you must visit Purl Soho on your next visit to Manhattan, or just click over to see their sleek site. I receive their newsletter on a regular basis and greatly admire its understated elegance. Go visit!
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Knitted Bowls

The bowls, as they’re supposed to look.

So, a while back, like a couple of years ago, I quickly knit up this little bowl. But I never wove in the ends. (If you have no idea what that means, it’s the final step in finishing a knitting project. All the strands of yarn that are left hanging at the beginning and the end and anywhere you changed yarn in the middle of the project must be woven into the knitted “fabric” so they don’t come loose during its life.) And in my mind, this bowl was to be felted. (Again, if you don’t know … to “felt” a 100% wool project, you throw it in very hot water and beat it up in a washing machine or in a pot on the stove. This causes the wool strands to join themselves to each other and it becomes a much denser fabric.) Here’s a better explanation, with pictures.

Of course, if you read the description of the bowl in the book, you might notice right away that not only is the bowl not to be felted, it’s not even suggested for knitting in wool!!!

Felted Bowl side viewWhen I pulled the little bowl out of my antique wringer washer, I was a little disappointed that it didnt felt up very well. The individual stitches in the fabric are still visible. Now as I’m explaining things here, I realize I forgot an important aspect of the process: soap. Dang!

So how can I make this soft little bowl (which I truly do love, even if it’s a misfit) more useful. I’ll start by spraying a little Aleene’s Fabric Stiffener Spray on the base and see if that gives more of the effect I want. If you’ve read much of what I do here, you’ll recognize that I’m all about experimentation and learning. Next step: ordering some high quality cotton yarn to try these bowls the way Joelle envisioned them.

And in the meantime, what else might I do with the bowl, besides hold cool African trade beads that I bought at the Tucson Gem & Mineral Show fifteen years ago? Well, it could be a hat for an American Girl or other 18″ doll.

Or a teddy bear.

Smaller felted bowlUpdate after lots of soapy thoughts:

Felted Bowl side viewThe more I thought about this floppy bowl and its lack of true felted texture, I decided I wanted to try it again. I put hot-from-the-tap water in the wringer washer, then added a teakettle full of almost-boiling water and a scant teaspoon of Dawn dish determent. I coiled two accidentally-felted wool socks into the center of the bowl and slipped a rubber band around the entire bundle. I slowly submersed it in the hot water until it was completely wet. Bear with new hatThen I closed the lid, engaged the agitator, and walked away for thirty minutes. When I came back, I was amazed and thrilled. It was really and truly felted this time.

And if you want proof of its shrinkage, look at its new place as teddy bear hat. Now that’s the right fit for a hat! 😉

Put Some Cork In It

Cork and cotton bagToday was a snow day and in my neighborhood, the snowplows come around infrequently. I had a “Music at Noon” performance scheduled with a Dana School of Music musical theatre student, but morning classes were cancelled, and the head of the musical theatre department wisely cancelled the Music at Noon performance. I was supposed to go to an activity with my granddaughter, but knew with the six or so inches of snow we got last night and the dearth of snowplows, I’d never get out of my neighborhood. So snow day = sew day.

Cork and Shibori BagHave you seen the cork fabric that’s become available over the past eighteen months or so? I really love the feel and the look of it. The bulk of the world’s cork forest is in Portugal and Spain, and I believe the fabric I’m able to get my hands on is from Portugal. Sewing with cork is really no different than sewing with leather and not as expensive. But it is more expensive than fabric, so treat it carefully. If you’re thinking about experimenting with cork, read this blog post first. Or google “sewing with cork fabric.” There are lots of hints and tips out in the sewing world.

Faux Leather BagI’ve made one or two small cork bags before, but I wanted to experiment some more, so I did another modification of the “My Favorite Zipper Pouch” that I’ve made a dozen or so of already. In fact, the most recent one only got shared to Instagram and never made it to the blog. That was made of a faux leather designed by my talented next-door neighbor. A good-sized piece was gifted in my direction, and after the success of that bag, you can bet that more will follow.

My goal with that bag was to be able to fit a spiral-bound notebook inside. I cut the pieces 10″ tall x 13″ wide. But I forgot to take into account that the bottom is boxed with a 3½” seam, so it was not nearly tall enough for a notebook.

Box Bottom of Cork BagToday’s effort was cut 11″ tall x 14″ wide, with only 1¼” square cut out of each bottom corner, rather than 1½”. I fully expected to have a 2″ depth to the box bottom. Alas, the finished depth is in excess of 2½”. The finished size is about 9½” tall, 11″ wide, and 2½-3″ deep. Maybe I can put a 5″x8″ spiral notebook in this, but an 8½”x11″ notebook is not going to fit. If I analyze the math on this bag and the previous one, maybe I can figure out how to translate the flat cut proportions into the finished bag size.

Inside Zippered PocketAnother thing I did with this bag was to add an inside zippered pocket. And trying to stretch my brain, I thought I could do it from memory, as I’ve made so many bags with zippered pockets like this. After screwing it up and unsewing several times, I dug through my pattern drawer and looked at the directions on the Swoon Patterns “Ethel Tote.” (a free pattern!) That zippered pocket was much easier than I was trying to make mine, and in 45 minutes or so, the pocket was complete and I was ready to finish the bag.

The other lesson I learned is that a 5½”-6″ opening is insufficient for one’s hand to be able to dig around in the depths of a pocket for some desired little doodad. Next time I’ll make the opening 7″.

Finished BagFor the first time in making these bags, I pieced the front. My goal was to marry the cork fabric with some of my friend MaryLou’s shibori scraps she gifted to me. The cork was cut 6½” tall, with top and bottom ¼” seam allowances. The shibori, then was cut 5½” tall. The zipper takes a ¼” seam allowance; the join between the two fabrics takes ¼” on each piece; and the bottom seam takes off ¼” from the front and back pieces. The lining to the bag is all MaryLou’s hand-dyed fabric, in a little lighter colorway. I’m so lucky to have such talented and creative friends!

So there you have it. Do I know what I’m going to do with this bag? Will I use it myself, or offer it to one of MaryLou’s and my mutual friends—her fabric and my sewing. I don’t know. But I learned a lot making it, and that makes me happy.

So that’s my snow day. I didn’t push myself on this project. I just had a leisurely day, watched a couple of movies while plodding along, thinking and doing and learning. I can’t ask for a better day than that!

And the hot fudge topping on this icy day? When the Jazzman got home from his 12-hour workday, spent outdoors in weather that didn’t exceed 24°, he fired up the snow blower and took care of the driveway and the sidewalks. I feel guilty when I don’t get out and do it myself, but the gas fumes give me migraines, so he indulges me and freezes some more so I don’t get sick.

It’s now 10:00 p.m. As I’m typing the final paragraph, the weather app tells me it’s 16° and feels like 8°. The snow is starting again, and it looks like we may get another inch tonight.

You think maybe I’ll get another snow day tomorrow?

A Little Box Pouch

Box PouchWhat to do when you realize you have all the necessary Christmas gifts for the family gathering except for one—your [virtual] sister-in-law? You dig into your treasured shibori stash, find a tutorial you like, and whip up that one last gift.

The treasured shibori fabric was destashed by my friend, quilter MaryLou Alexander. MaryLou’s quilts all begin with high quality undyed fabric, which she scrunches and folds and stitches and dyes with either MX dyes or natural dyes, before cutting and piecing and machine quilting. (She’s currently in her natural dye period. Everything in my treasured stash comes from the MX time period.) And she ends up with incredible works of art that are exhibited around the world and on all our friends’ walls.

Box PouchThe tutorial I like is from Leslie Rutland’s “DIY Zippered Box Pouch Tutorial” on her “The Seasoned Homemaker” blog. This is a sweet little bag with lots of uses. The finished dimensions are 7″ W x 4″ D x 3″ H. Box PouchAdjusting the beginning measurements will give you a larger or smaller bag. I think my next make of this pattern will be a larger bag, similar to my guy’s Dopp kit.

It’s an easy, quick make. I highly recommend.

Who has too many bags? Not I!!