sewing general

Jan 262018

After the speeding roller coaster that was my December, I completely missed getting my niece a present for the wretched winter holiday. Upon offer, she suggested I make her something, so I did. After much brain-poking, I settled on a small bag which I’ve seen referred to as a lunch bag. Can’t just make a bag though, I had to put my own stamp on it, literally.

Carving cat head stamps.
Carved a few, small cat head stamps for the project. Might make a couple more yet, for my own fabric printing.
Printing a strip of cat head fabric.
Printing onto the darkest pink fabric I had left, using black fabric paint and a wedge sponge. Worked pretty well. The most issues I had were with my own fingertips getting messy. I only printed enough fabric for this project on this piece.

Bag, side view
The finished bag. Not sure about the exterior fabric choice matching her tastes, but that is a problem I always have when making for someone I don’t know well and don’t interact with often. This size is a little larger than the one I made before and I prefer the slightly smaller (couple inches, here and there) size better.

Bag, cover inside.
The printed fabric as the cinchable cover. I like it, although future prints of this will be on a different color background. So bright.

Bag, cover closed.
The cover, closed by drawstring. Honestly, one of the reasons this project took me so long is because I cannot find the damn string spring closures. Finally, I found one that was keeping a spool of elastic cord closed and stole it. Hope I find them this year.

Bag, interior.
The usually hidden interior lining. Niece is a cat fiend, after all.

Did new stuff, learned better methods, fulfilled a gift need, and all is well.

Jan 102018

Fabric art cuff with spikes!
Before Christmas, someone was looking for a cuff for a young man who is studying to be a tattoo artist. I thought I’d push the design a little closer to the ink + metal I usually see in that culture and added some metal spikes.

Fabric art cuff with spikes!
Side view to show the spikes poking out. I also made fabric scrap choices that would include more skulls and those eyes? They glow in the dark.

Fabric art cuff with spikes!
There are also some Edgar Allen Poe quotes in the fabric text bits.

This managed to get done in one evening = go me! I’d like to make a couple more of these this year. They’re not exactly poplular on Etsy (one sale ever), but I enjoy making them, and that is a fine reason on its own.

Nov 092017

Using foam interlining in a snap flap pouch, attempt #3. No French seams this time.
pouch with foam interlining and snap flap closure
This is fine. Again, using fabric scraps that looked good enough, plus a stripe of small and colorful, patchworked bits. Pretty enough. I like it much better with regular, internal seams.

pouch with foam interlining and snap flap closure
I estimated the width of the flap to match the front of back width, minus the sides that have bottom boxed edges. This worked quite well. I cut the foam to NOT fill the edges so that it could fold flat and not be puffy. Coincidentally, a pack of index cards fit inside this pouch perfectly – which is great because I need storage for a pack I opened and then the cats knocked them off the table onto the floor. That worked out.

The next foam interlining project is much more involved and the foam is the least of it. Hope to get it done soon, but if I don’t that’s fine, too. I’m enjoying taking my time on all the little pieces of this project, which I am completely making up at every step as I go along.

Nov 082017

Last week on the internets, I saw a sewing project that had impressive interior structure, but also looked soft and squishy. I suspected a foam and asked the sewist what she used. Surely enough, her response was Pellon Flex Foam. This is a thin (.125″) foam sheet that can be sewn, pressed, manipulated, whatever. Like interfacing or batting, but simply open cell foam. Ever in need of new things to try (true) and in dire need of more creative supplies (diametric opposite of true) I hopped on to Amazon and got a roll of Flex Foam in the non-lined, non-fusible version. The lined and fusible version are probably easier to handle and more convenient to use, but I didn’t know what I was going to use it for and the bare, naked foam on a roll version would offer the most options. Plus, it was available immediately and was WAY cheaper.

While I waited for delivery, I thought of ways I could use the stuff. Some obvious choices are shaped containers, like wine bags, pouches, etc. Not being a drinker, I started thinking about bags and pouches, but didn’t want to use the same old non-foamy methods as usual. For those I use lining, interfacing, batting, stabilizer, etc. in varying combinations depending on the item. To make the foam easy to insert or use, I thought I’d go for French seams. And hey, while I’m at it, I haven’t used the snap dies for my press for a while. Why don’t I make them with snaps instead of zippers – I’ve used plenty of zippers this year.

This is how I get myself into trouble. A new, unfamiliar interlining product, French seams I don’t usually use, and forcing snap closures or additions. I can’t do anything easy.

Nonetheless, I carried on and whipped up a couple prototypes when the foam arrived. I am a big believer in sharing failures alongside successes because how else can one learn? I hate going to blogs where folks casually show perfect finished products in flattering lighting and stylish props with no indication of the effort to get there. Save that shit for your Etsy shop! I need to see how you fucked it up! I want to see the chewed up seams that wouldn’t get through the presser foot, the crooked alignments that forced you to change your pattern, and hear all about the challenges you overcame to get that product to do what you wanted.

We all have different priorities.

Thus, the first tries:
Foam lined, snap pouches, with flaps closed.
A simple, French seamed, foam lined, snap closure pouch in blue print on the right, another in stripes on the left. Since they were made from the first scraps I grabbed that didn’t look hideous, they are odd shaped and sized. If something fits in these nicely, it is by pure chance alone.

Foam lined, snap pouches, with flaps open.
Same pouches with flaps open.

While I consider these failures, they aren’t really. They’re merely NOT GOOD ENOUGH. The one on the right was attempt #1 and I rather miscalculated (which implies I calculated at all, which I didn’t, everything is freehand) how much SA (seam allowance) would be eaten by the seaming and the foam puff, so the foldover flap is noticeably larger than it needs to be. It isn’t terrible, but it bugs me. Also, the lining fabric is not adhered to the naked foam anywhere but the edge seams, so the fabric … I don’t know a word for this .. it exists away from the foam. It doesn’t lay flat, or next to it. As the pouch moves, the lining moves and the foam doesn’t. Improvement choices are to make the lining tighter so it can’t move or to attach the lining fabric to the foam so there can be no excess when the seams are sewn. And I don’t like French seams inside the pouch. You don’t notice them at first because they’re fine, but once you notice them, they bug you. Or, me, at least. As well, doing boxed bottom corners with French seaming was new to me and I fucked it up, ripped it out and redid it. The seams ended up a bit fatter than they ought to have been if I’d done it right.

On to attempt #2 on the left. To make the flap SA match the pouch SA, I did the flap with French seams, then the pouch, making sure to aim inward on the lining fabric as I went to help with the loose lining fabric problem I had on the #1 pouch. These worked; the flap is not significantly bigger than the pouch, the lining fabric is snugger, and I finagled the boxed corners with French seaming better (seam edges first, box, tuck raw edges before box seam). I still don’t like it.

So, that sucked. I do realize I set myself the hardest, rockiest path up this hill, so I am not surprised. For the next attempt, I took away one of the restrictions, the French seams – since I like them the least. Also, French seams on pouches with flaps removes any fast or easiness from the seaming. I mean, really. Why do French seams which are best for fast, clean, interior seams that are enclosed when a third of your project must be seamed and turned out before you can assemble the body? It is illogical. I’ve found (from a few minutes of reviewing blog “tutorials” on this subject) that the people doing them this way are also simply seaming the edges up and leaving them with an exterior seam showing. Yuck. No thank you. That would be fine for giveaway-freebies or initial children’s sewing projects, but I don’t want that. It is also NOT GOOD ENOUGH and I’m going to die. I don’t have time to make expectedly lower-quality work.

I’ve gone on for a while now, so I’ll need to show attempt #3 tomorrow.

Sep 282017

It took me a while, but I made more fabric shag pouches and finished off the couple that were only started before. This is one of the past shags:
Fabric shag zip pouch, shag bag.
A blue pencil pouch sized job. Someone found my shop on Etsy by searching for “shag bag” which is hilarious. I’m using it. I don’t know if this is what they were looking for, or if shag bag means something else to them, but shag is a funny word and I’m going with it. Shag bag.

Fabric shag zip pouch, shag bag.
Red, small shag bag. This one was interesting because I’d only worked previously with blue theme on blue background, or theme on black background. This bag is also different because it is a double sided shag bag. The shag is on both sides and wraps on down to the bottom. It looks like some kind of fabric-Tribble-pufferfish when you stuff it full and it rounds out. Funny.

Fabric shag zip pouch, shag bag in Halloween colors.
A large, Halloween shag bag. Full-on, could-be-a-clutch purse size! I love Halloween (duh!) and had so much fun finding Halloween fabric scraps for this. I don’t know who would use it, but here it is. I love it.

Fabric shag zip pouch, shag bag in Halloween colors.
A small shag bag, in Halloween colors. I had enough bits left over from the large one to do this one, too. Seasonal fun!

Fabric shag zip pouch, shag bag.
Large, blue theme shag bag. This was a request/interest from a gal who missed out on the first one because it was too small at the opening to fit a sketchbook inside. This one fits a sketchbook fine and is off living in its new home.

These are all listed in my Etsy shop (except the last one) if you want to look at more pictures, or get one. Lots of detail photos of pockets, plus dimensions listed – which is why I’m not putting those details here.

Working on a new project (see previous post) is already producing a small nest of trimmed ends which will become new fabric bits. I think shag bags are going to be one of those things I make every few months (quarter? half year?) to manage all those bits. I might start a box to contain them – one mishap to the flat piece of cardboard I keep them sorted by color on could be detrimental my system. That and cats. You never quite know what the cats are going to do when I leave the workshop door open and unattended for more than five minutes. Yeah, I’m going to start a divider sorted box.

Sep 272017

Last night, after finally clearing the cutting board of three large projects, I went downstairs with a full 2.5 hours to myself and the self-imposed freedom to do whatever the hell I wanted. I thought I’d do the small, seasonal project which I have waiting in the wings and which could, reasonably be completed in the time I had that night.

I didn’t do that.

Instead, I found myself in a frenetic haze, pulling fabrics off the shelves as colors caught my creative eye and quickly sewing together some ideas. After a while, I realized something was off, tore them apart and redirected slightly.

Playing with fabric.
I don’t know about those gray skellies. I think they might be okay how I see them playing out. If not, I’ll do another. The greatest desire I had last night was the color combinations you see started here. There are three total combos for this blast of desire, two here; the other is in a pile beside Nome, which is what I’ve named my new machine (after having her for 1.5 years). Although, I have some longing feeling for Gretchen, my solid, reliable Pfaff mechanical machine which is gathering dust bunnies on the workshop floor. When I reorg the workshop, I’ll find a way to get her set up alongside Nome. They can share my attentions. I have plenty of sewing desire for both of them. Polyamorous projects?

Sep 192017

Halloween fabrics made into shag.
After a couple weeks of struggle with a time-limited project, I gave up. I couldn’t get it right and the clock was ticking. Defeat was admitted, pieces were salvaged and set aside for future reuse. [heavy sigh]

Another time-limited project is up next, but I couldn’t jump right into it yet. Instead I found myself in the mood to sew hundreds of tiny bits of fabric down. You really do have to be in the mood to spend hours doing this. I got another shaggy pouch done (a large blue one that is promised) and started on a large and small shaggy pouch in a Halloween theme. I did have to seek out some fabric from the stash for this, which was fun. I finished the large (seen above) off and now have one small and one medium pouch to finish. Before I can photograph them, I need to finish them all and clear my cutting board space, as that is where I take pics at the moment. I have too many things out lately. Need to finish projects and get them out of the way. I’m afraid I’m going to have to make this a goal next year; finishing partial projects and paring down some supplies. I need more space to move, do.

Aug 032017

Recall how I said I’d be working on the latest quilt over the weekend to get it done?
Remember when I explained that I had enough fabric to last decades?


When I went to bed on Friday night, I had the perfect vision of a zip pouch made of a fabric, the print of the fabric was a bit grunky, the background was a deep, sweet red. The zipper on the pouch was black. I was enamoured.

So, instead of doing what I said I would, I spent the weekend making this fabric design.

The red I wanted doesn’t exist in Kona cotton, so I took three yards the darkest hot pink that does exist and overdyed it with cherry red. It took a lot of time, but the color was perfect. Meanwhile, I drew the design, scanned, printed, exposed screens and mixed up printing inks.
Making fabric
It took another day to get the printing done, there was a lot of mess. It is excellent! Just what I envisioned.

Making fabric
This is the first layer alone, in a silver-glitter white combo.

Used my handmade fabric to make a pencil case.
Then, using my max-visibility zip pouch method (calling it a pattern seems wrong, since it can be made in any size instead of a limited pattern) I made a zip pouch from my new fabric. It is EXACTLY like I saw it and wanted it.

Used my handmade fabric to make a pencil case.
The start tab has a cheeky eyelet for hanging.

Used my handmade fabric to make a pencil case.
The interior lining is a thick, silver glitter star print.

Now I have in my possession the precise thing I saw in my head. I don’t think I can appropriately convey how happy, satisfied, and generally blissed-out this makes me. I swear I get a warm feeling in my chest when I see it and hold it. As well, I have somewhere to corral my drawing pencils for my latest drawing sketchbook. To maximize chances of success, I made two in one go; the second is listed in my Etsy shop, if this is somehow your dream, too.

After all that, I did finish the quilt; although, it is awaiting the final de-lint and de-thread session before photography.

Aaaah. Excellent.

Jun 142017

I didn’t feel like working on the quilt last night, so I pulled out one of my many unfinished projects and got it done.

This is the largest of my fabric shag pieces. Now it is a clutch, or very large zip pouch. I love this shag!

A teal lining with a little pocket for chapstick or whatever small item.

An almost full sized back pocket. I find these types of pockets useful on bags; they’re handy for flat things you get handed, like receipts, flyers, business cards, coupons, restraining orders, whatever.

Leaning for the dimensional view. It is interfaced fully so that it will hold its shape.

I put it in my Etsy shop, too. My Etsy gets used as an available item show room. I don’t worry about not selling many things; I like the idea that some of my work is able to be seen and purchased, if someone wants it. The possibility exists, and that is my level of “selling” commitment. Sort of a personal gallery.

Tangent, someone thought I was making a full size quilt when they first saw a picture of my fabric shag. My reaction was No, no way. It would be an insane amount of work and result in a shortened-life item since the shaggy bits would continue to unravel over time. That idea has stayed with me, though. I like the idea, crazy though it might be. The big pouch is fun to pet and a quilt would be even better for the tactile satisfaction. Now I am considering it.

Apr 062017

I’ve been making a number of zip pouches this year.

This is the first. Had some scraps laying about, so I turned them into a wide mouth pouch. This is a side view, with its ample bottom folded.

And open. This is another pouch that would be good for items which require a lot of visibility.

Whilst preparing for a large project of zip pouches, I made this to test out a zipper idea. It failed! That zipper edge is nasty! Anybody want a pigeon zipper pouch? It is about 3.5×5.5″ (9x14cm) or so and I’m going to throw the damned thing away because I cannot stand that failed zipper end. I mean, it is functional, but ugh!

Finally, a better zip pouch project preparation test. After reading a few different “sworn-by” suggestions on how to get the best zip pouch corners, I put them all to the test. After five variations, I found that the way I’d always done it was the best bet. Now I know. I might throw these into the Etsy shop for a very low price, since they were testers. They’re again completely functional, but some of those corners look like hot dogs wearing turtlenecks, if you know what I mean. Still, they’ll hold cards and coins and such.

Coming up soon on the crafty side – the actual large project of zip pouches! Plus, screenprinting! Exciting!

Mar 062017

I turned those previous fabric confetti pieces into a panel of shag. This will be the side of a zip pouch. It is fun to put your fingers through and to pet the wrong way.

This was the fun project I worked on this weekend. The other project was less fun, since I haven’t gotten it right yet. But I will.

Feb 272017

On Friday, I took a snow day. The roads were ice and I was cranky from overwork the whole week. I stayed home and in the morning I decided to play with the sewing machine and the scraps crammed up under my cutting board. That thing collects so many bits! Anyway, I chose the blue bits and came up with these six little blocks. They’re each about 3″sq. Don’t know what they’ll become, but for now, they exist.

I think my sewing machine might have a name. I hear the whispers sometimes.

Feb 032017

I made some Valentine’s inspired cuffs recently. I was really in desperate need of some sewing time, and this was a quick, one evening project.

I used a skull stamp I made years ago and had fun scrounging up enough bits of coordinating fabrics to at least mostly match up eight similar layouts.

These are flatter and more sleek than some of my other cuffs. I started adding beads to these, but they looked wrong so I cut them off. I left out the layer of batting, too. More streamlined.

All eight have similar arrangements, but I put red overlay on four and black on the other four. The ones with red have an almost pink look against the white parts.

I listed them in my Etsy shop since there might be other folks out there with similar tastes. They’re titled Mortal Love. Hahah.I was trying to sketch up something to carve for cards, but couldn’t bring it to life. Maybe this weekend something will coalesce.

Oct 182016

Another Scrappy Cat was not an intended project this year, but inspiration got its claws in me.
Hacker Scrappy Cat
It is in pieces still, but this will be Hacker Scrappy Cat. We were watching Mr. Robot (specifically S2 E3: This is your brain on drugs). The main character, Elliot Alderson, takes Adderall as a sleep deprivation tactic in an attempt to silence his alter ego/ schizophrenic second personality, accompanied by excessive joy and excitement. There was one scene, from which I will share a screenshot later when I’ve completed the Cat, with him wide eyed and delirious that I instantly pictured as a Scrappy Cat. Weeks later, I had an opening in my project schedule and have started it.

These Cats take so long to finish, but I enjoy making them at almost every step of the way. Turning them out is the one thing I hate. You may be thinking, don’t turn them out, stitch them seams out, but I can’t do that because I don’t like it. They don’t look right. So, I hate that one part and get it over with. The rest is good.

This Cat will have the ubiquitous black hoodie and multi-use backpack. And maybe a robot head pin, similar to the logo from the original shop in the show history. Or maybe not – that might be too close to something from the show. Inspired by is fine with me, taken from is not. I’ll sketch it up and see.

Oct 122016

Recently, I ended up with a new set of colored pencils. While I already have a surplus, I thought it would be nice to carry this set around with my daily sketchbook. However, the tin this set came in, while protecting it nicely, did not include a sharpener and tended to make small rattling noises which most people wouldn’t notice, but would irritate me. A zip pouch is the obvious answer, but when I selected an extra zip pouch from my stash, it wouldn’t do. It was your typical, unlined, flat zip pouch with no dimension, from the dollar bin.

For colored pencils, my first priority (after the basics like protection, silence, etc. are met) is access – visible and physical. I hate having to push through pencils to find the right color, then pull it out at an angle to escape the zip opening, hoping not to snag the teeth with the sharpened tip. Also, I don’t like to keep accessories like erasers and sharpeners in the same compartment with the pencils – I end up digging through all the pencils that way and they never seem to want to fit in compactly. With these things in mind, I drew up a zip pouch that would open up completely on the top for maximum reasonable visibility and ease of access. It would also have a side compartment for small accessories, be easy to open, and fit exactly the items it was meant for.

After my last zip pouch making play session back in June, I was confident I could execute my design needs and got to work immediately. I was prepared to make a number of these, since that is the best way to improve a design; make one, critique it, make another incorporating those improvements, and so on until you have the design closest to perfect that you can get. That is what I did.

Zip pouch efforts.
The first zip pouch. This is actually pretty close to the final design.
* The biggest problem was that I made the bottom too big for the number of pencils it was meant for.
* Second, I put a tab on the zipper on one end for ease of opening, but not the other. Turns out it feels better with tabs on both ends.
* The lining fabric is directional, but I cut it in one piece meaning half of the cat characters on the lining were upside down when you look inside the pouch.
Other that that, there were a couple sewing mistakes or imperfections and I thought of a way to improve one construction method.

Zip pouch efforts.
The first pouch, open. It may be too big for my desires, but I have LOTS of other art supplies that need homes and this is my new living room art-spot pouch. Those things fit well. The design works.

Zip pouch efforts.
This is the second pouch. It is almost perfect. There are only two problems.
* The side zip pocket goes down too far. You can’t tell because it is all internal, but if you had something very small, like a dime, it could slide down to the bottom of the pocket which would put it below the pencil compartment. It would be slightly more difficult to retrieve.
* I wanted an attachment option on the first zip tab so I added a swivel clip. That didn’t work and I removed it later, but you can see the shiny edges of it in the photo. It was too heavy and not suited for this design. I didn’t need it anyway, but it would be a nice option to have.

Zip pouch efforts.
The other side, where you can see the outside zip welt pocket for accessories. I love these skele-cats! And skele-mice, too, of course.

Zip pouch efforts.
Side pocket open. I lined it with a vibrant blue for fun.

Zip pouch efforts.
It opens up perfectly! It is the right size for the pencil set, I can see about half of them at a time, a small sharpener and eraser fit in the side pocket. After I removed the swivel clip, this was perfect for my needs and I could have quit at this point with the desired end product. I already had it in mind to make a few, so I kept on.

Zip pouch efforts.
The third pouch. Having satisfied my original need, I made a different size. Again, this one was almost perfect. The only flaw is minor, and shown below. Oh, this Halloween paisley!! I have such good fabric.

Zip pouch efforts.
The other side, showing the outside zip welt pocket.

Zip pouch efforts.
This opens up, wide and boxy. While this design is ideal for some things, it is not the answer to every zip pouch need I’ll have.
The attachement thing I talked about on the second pouch – while I didn’t need it for this design goal, I wanted to have it sorted for the day I do need it. I figured my press eyelets would be both tough and light enough to offer the best option. I made the first zip tab twice as big as needed to accommodate it, as well as to provide an instant tactile indication of which side of the zipper you were on. You know, in case you are getting into your colored pencil set in the dark. (!!!)

Zip pouch efforts.
Here is the imperfection – in the eyelet I installed on the start zip tab – I put it in upside down. The fat, tube part of the eyelet ends up the prettiest, but that part is on the bottom of the press dies. I forgot this when I pressed it in, but did leave myself a note for the next time I use the eyelet press. Really, you probably couldn’t tell. I showed it to Slick, who thought it was fine. Then I pointed out the pretty side and the slightly less pretty side of the eyelet so he could see what I was talking about. He grudgingly agreed that one side was slightly less pretty than the other.

Zip pouch efforts.
And this side pocket got lined with a striking red. Love that pop of color.

I did make one more zip pouch, a custom design for Slick. I’m not showing pictures of it because it was structurally perfect and there were zero design improvements. Also, I found his fabric choices dead boring, so just imagine a happy Slick, with his precisely designed and created zip pouch, and feel warm and fuzzy about it. He does, so it was a success.

There were two things I splurged on which made my project easier. First, a roll of zipper tape, 30 yards, in black, size 3, which is most accessory zippers, or pants zippers. Now I can simply cut off as much zipper as I need with nary a care. No more hunting through the stash for the size closest to my needs or making a trip to the store. I measure, cut, and pop a zip head on it. Truthfully though, I don’t even measure! I lay the zipper from the roll atop the thing I’m installing it in and that’s it. Buying zipper in bulk is WAY cheaper, too, especially since I got my roll on sale. Given how cheap and easy it is, I think this goes on my list of things I should have bought many years ago. It is a short list.
Second, a bolt of fusible interfacing. As a general sewist, I don’t use interfacing often. Usually, I would purchase a piece to fit my needs, plus the common extra to account for my human mistakes. This meant if I wanted to make a spur of the moment idea-something late at night and it needed interfacing, I was at the mercy of whatever offcuts and scraps I had from my last project. Not good. When I was in the store to buy interfacing for this very project, I saw a brand new bolt sitting there in plastic wrap and realized I could use my coupon on the whole thing. Sure, it was expensive, but it is now very possible I won’t need to buy interfacing again in my life. Plus, when I come up with some idea-something that needs interfacing and the stores are closed – IT WON’T FUCKING MATTER because I have an entire bolt of it! This won’t go on my “should have done this years ago” list, but it is a luxury worth mentioning to my past self.

On that note, when I talk about the short list of things I wish I’d known or done years ago and that I’m going to tell my past self, I am (of course) not being serious, nor am I regretful of my past. I put it this way to indicate the level of usefulness this new knowledge holds so that it can be appropriately gauged. It is easy to dismiss the impact of better tools or advancements when you’ve already enjoyed those benefits for so long that they are common, or when you don’t have them at all and therefore have no scale to consider them by.

I will probably make one more zip pouch in this style, now that a couple weeks have passed, to be sure I have my methods ingrained. I don’t need a pouch like this for anything offhand – maybe I’ll go looking around the workshop for things that need to be contained and then measure them.

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