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>

Someone Needs a Yoga Session

If you’re not a musician, you may not understand how frenetic December is for working musicians. Churches, clubs, performing arts organizations—they all want to provide lovely entertainment or worship experiences for their members or patrons. That means we working musicians must learn music, attend rehearsals, and then perform. And when it’s all done, we’re exhausted. Many of us are totally disinterested in hearing one more note of holiday music. Speaking for myself, I prefer to skip the whole Christmas celebration. I really don’t want gifts. I don’t want an enormous dinner. My best Christmases have been either ones over which I took a vacation (Hilton Head Island is my idea of heaven!) or days when I had popcorn at the movies for dinner. This year I’ll leave home around 3:00 p.m. to drive my granddaughter to the airport an hour away. We’ll stay in a hotel, have dinner together, and watch a movie before an early bedtime so she can catch an early flight to spend some time with her girlfriend in a distant city. This may become a new Grandma Time tradition!

Yesterday around 4:30 I played my last paid set of black dots for the year. After my Saturday night performance, I came home and cut out a bag to make for my Spousal Equivalent’s sister-in-law. It will become the “gift wrap” for her L.L. Bean Christmas gift card. When I got home after my final performance yesterday, I went to weekly Sunday night Mexican dinner with friends, then came home and sewed up the bag. This is an easy sew! And this is the second time I made it; fortunately, I was able to remember a few little tricks about the bag.

Here’s the blog post I wrote about the previous make. Well, to be honest, that post has more to do with the machine than the bag. And about my trip to the Cincinnati area to meet a DNA cousin. ❤️ And, by the way, that Singer sewing machine that is almost the same age as I am now lives with another sewist who lives just a few blocks away and was so happy to adopt it.

And here are the details about this bag. First, how cute is that Yoga Frog fabric, which I found on Etsy. If you want some, open Etsy and search for “yoga frog.” And equally cute, how about that frog charm for the zipper pull. Another Etsy find. The seller is beyondfindings. But, really, just search “frog charm.” So much cuteness!!

<Sidebar On>
My elder brothers (five and seven years older, never quite sure what to do with the much younger adopted sister) nicknamed me Toad when I was 10 or 12 or whatever. Okay, it was Toadster, then they shortened it to Toad. I thought it was cute until I became an adult. And then I came to a personal realization that maybe it wasn’t meant lovingly. Maybe they should have left it at Toadster. That’s cuter. And less demeaning. Or insulting. Or whatever. Oh, the angst of teenagerism.
<Sidebar Off>

Oh, yes, the details. The fabric is from Robert Kaufman Fabrics and is ID number AJW-11128-184. The real name is “Back in 5 Minutes.” But “yoga frog fabric” in Google will bring you a number of results. Hancock Fabrics of Paducah has it, and Bug Fabrics has some in stock. If you’re reading this in Hawaii, Kawaii Fabrics has it in stock as of this writing.

The bag is from Sew Sweetness. It’s the Bellevue Pouch from Minikins Season One. Don’t let the price of that pattern package throw you. There are a lot of Very Good patterns in there, and they’re under $7 each, for bags you’ll make over and over again.

For me, the only challenge on the Bellevue is turning and topstiching that zipper-on-a-curve. But it’s not awful. Just take your time and keep holding those top seam allowances flat.

And do use foam on it. I used ByAnnie’s Soft & Stable. I think I used headliner on the first one I made. Using fleece or just Shape Flex (Pellon SF-101) is not going to give you the lovely crispness that the foam gives you. I always use non-fusible foam and baste it all around the pattern piece. The finished result is worth the extra effort.

That’s all I’ve got for you. I’m on break now for three weeks, and I’ve got a lot of sewing to catch up on! Merry Christmas, Happy Festivus, Happy Hanukkah. Whatever your deal is, I hope it’s wonderful and brings you joy. Like the joy looking at these yoga frogs brings me. 😊

Same Show, Different Bag

In my posts, “Meet the Paladin” and “A Pineapple for You,” you saw a bag I made for one of the leads of the Youngstown State University production of “Cabaret.” (Note: The recipient loved the bag. 💜) In the show, an unseen 🌟 is the person who records a song (the Nazi national anthem) to be played from a gramophone at a critical point in the show. The recording is supposed to sound like the voice of a young boy, scratchy like an old 78 RPM recording would be. The director of a local youth stock theatre company recommended one of the young singer/actors who studies with her, a lovely 11-year-old girl with a stunningly clear voice and a great musical ear. I never was able to meet the young singer, but a few weeks after she made the recording for us, I worked with her dad in a local production of “South Pacific,” and friended him on Facebook. This afternoon I will drop the bag off at her home on my way to my final holiday performance weekend of the year. 🎉

I wanted a musical print fabric, and chose Art Gallery Fabrics’ Hearts Melodies collection, using “The Key of Hue” for the exterior and “Tuner Tumbler Viola” for the lining. At one of my local Michael’s stores, I found an antique gold treble clef charm adorned with three tiny rhinestones. Perfect for this star of the show. The pattern is the “Paladin” from “Sew Sweetness.”

I have nothing new to say about the construction of this bag that I didn’t already say in the other two posts. I will add, however, that this is a tricky bag to make—at least it feels that way to me. There may be other Bag Ladies and Bag Dudes who think it’s a piece of cake. However, I have to watch the video a couple of times and proceed very cautiously when I’m at the point of sewing the exteriors and the interiors together. Definitely watch the video. That’s the best advice I can give.

But, difficulty aside, this is a great bag. It’s worth any cursewords that escape your brain during the sewing process. Just sayin’.

What do I love about this bag? I love that, especially in the large size, the middle pocket is just right to hold most phones. I made sure the pattern pieces that would become that middle pocket both had fusible fleece to protect the phone that might be nestled there. I love that, on first sight, it’s just a zippered pouch. It’s only upon unzipping and spreading it open (a benefit of the overhanging zipper!) that you realize the zipper hides three pockets. Three! And I love that the medium and large sizes both include an interior zippered pocket. Kudos to Sara Lawson, the owner and designer of Sew Sweetness, for a brilliantly designed pattern.

Bag Photo Gallery

A Pineapple for You

You know that feeling of joy and satisfaction when you finally finish a project that took a lot of thinking? I have that feeling this morning. I have just finished a bag for a student who played Fräu Schneider in “Cabaret.”

The Youngstown State University production of “Cabaret,” for which I served as rehearsal accompanist, closed just over two weeks ago. That was just in time for Thanksgiving week, the last week of the semester, and finals/juries week.

<Sidenote On>
If you’re not a musician who had applied music lessons in college, you might not know the term “jury” as it is used in college music departments. When you take voice or piano or oboe or … lessons, instead of having a final exam, you sing or play some or all of the repertoire you studied during the semester in front of a panel of instructors or professors in your particular instrument. For YSU voice students, you are allowed to choose the song you wish to sing first, then the various instructors on the panel tell you what to sing next. Stressful? Yes, stressful. Very. And you do this the same week you’re taking all your finals in your other classes, either required academic classes or music classes. I’m spending my week practicing all of my accompanees’ repertoire, and hold one or more practice sessions with each of them. I let them schedule with me as many times as they want at no extra charge, as I want them confident when they walk into the classroom for that performance.
<Sidenote Off>

What is the significance of this bag to that beloved student? The elderly landlady falls in love with her elderly tenant, Herr Schultz, who runs a fruit market in Berlin. When he is beginning to court her, he brings her a pineapple as a token of his affection. She is touched by his generous gift, and they sing, “It Couldn’t Please Me More” (The Pineapple Song) Our student who played Fräu Schneider, Ace Lowry, is one of my accompanees and I love them dearly. Talent oozes from their every pore. I wanted to do something special for them, so I searched every fabric website I could think of and came up with “Hawaiian Colorful Pineapple – Beige” from Trans-Pacific Textiles (fabric .com). For the lining I chose a batik, “Island Batik Fresh Pick’ins Large Eggs – Nasturtium.”

I snuck 15 minutes here and 30 minutes there to make this Sew Sweetness Metro Double-Zip Pouch, which is part of designer Sara Lawson’s Minikins Season Two set of thirteen patterns that use a minimum of bag hardware and are quick sews and fairly easy for beginners. (Let the record show I am not a beginner bagmaker, but it’s always nice to be able to grab an easier pattern when one needs a quick gift.)

I had showed Ace two bags, without telling them about the pineapple fabric. They saw the Paladin Pouch and the Metro Double-Zip that I made for myself earlier this year as a travel bag. (Here’s my blog post of the group of Metros I made.) Ace chose the Metro, made with the pattern hack that creates a separate pocket between the two zippered pockets, and includes a crossbody strap.

I made the crossbody strap out of the pineapple fabric, then realized it just wasn’t long enough, but would be a nice addition if they wanted to carry it over their shoulder rather than crossbody. Then I ordered some of Sara Lawson’s fabulous cork fabric to in brown to match the brown in the pineapple print. The cork that Sara stocks is the nicest cork fabric I’ve ever touched or sewn on. I will not buy cork from anyone else after this. (I had purchased some cork from a local store a while back. When I made a bag for a friend with it, the cork cracked. Not a good thing to happen!)

Using Sara’s video on adjustable straps, cut four pieces of cork, each ½” wide and the full length of my one yard of cork. I pieced two strips together using a diagonal seam, and top-stitched the seam allowance open. Then I stacked the two strips, being careful to offset the diagonal seams by about an inch, and adjusting the total length accordingly. (My total length for each pieced strip was about 45″.) I laid one strip wrong side up, attached a &quarter;” strip of Wonder Tape (water soluble tape for sewing) to that strip, then place the second strip wrong side down, carefully aligning the edges. Then I topstiched all the way around the strip at about ⅛”. And for the final touch, I grabbed a pair of rubber gloves and a small paintbrush and applied Fiebing’s Black Edge Kote all the way around the strap. Here’s Sara’s video about Edge Kote, which I only just found—I wish I had watched it before I applied the Edge Kote. Knowledge is a good thing!

Today I’m practicing with Ace and will give them the bag then. I’m hoping they feel the love I poured into this bag.

Special touches: The lampwork bead attached to the zipper on the front pocket it one I made when i lived in Tucson and was trying my hand at torching beads. Note the zipper pull on the top zipper—a pineapple, of course. My bags are all marked with tags that say “Jananza!,” the name my youngest granddaughter gave me (with help from her mom) when my younger son married her mom. The bags are lovingly handcrafted in Youngstown, Ohio.