The Collegiate Tote

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Every time I design a bag pattern, I'm trying to solve a functional problem I've experienced. My new pattern, the #CollegiateTote, is the bag I wish I had in college: roomy, adaptable, and not and ugly backpack. I no longer have to lug around textbooks, but this tote is going to be really handy at Fall Quilt Market!

The collegiate tote measures 13" H x 12" W x 5" D so it can easily carry your books and other necessities. To help the bag keep its shape when doing heavy lifting, it features a sturdy bag base insert. The recessed zipper gusset helps keeps everything secure and dry. You wouldn't want the rain ruining that $200 textbook! 

The bag features easy hardware-free tote handles as well as a detachable adjustable strap for when you want a hands-free crossbody bag. My favorite feature of the Collegiate Tote is the two gusseted front pockets. I like to teach new skills with my bags, and I rarely see gusseted pockets in other patterns. They really elevate the look of any bag and they're actually quite simple to make. They're also a perfect place to highlight some cute fabric, like these Echino hipster deer.

My pattern testers made some great Collegiate Totes that I want to show off!

Leah used adorable Japanese fabric featuring French bull dogs for a quirky and cute tote!

Debbie's pink plaid tote is so lumberjack chic. This is going to be great for fall!

Kristy's tote screams Burberry and the rivets she added to the handles add extra class.

Erica's minty polka dot tote reminds me of mint chocolate ice cream. So obviously it pleases me greatly. 

If you're going to Fall Quilt Market, track down @Giucy_Guice and check out this Collegiate Tote I made with Alison Glass's new indigo handcrafted and Andover chambray.

The Collegiate Tote is now available for purchase in my Craftsy shop. I can't wait to see the pretty bags you make.

Iceberg: A Double Gauze Quilt

Saturday, September 26, 2015

The more quilts I make, the more I come to appreciate simplicity. After finishing the Epic Game of Thrones Quilt, I needed an easy project that would be less mentally taxing. Without too much thought, I started making half square triangles with my collection of double gauze prints. 

At first I made a bunch of 6" HSTs, which is the largest size I can make with my bloc loc ruler. Then I started using small scraps to make 4", 3", and 2" HSTs. When I was tired of making blocks, I connected the smaller HSTs to make 6.5" x 6.5" unfinished blocks and randomly arranged them. They reminded me of icebergs poking out of the water, hence the name.

Pressing double gauze seams can be...obnoxious. Since the farbic doesn't have much body, the seam allowances aren't inclined to hold their position. I got frustrated and lazy during the process and pretty much threw seam nesting out the window. I would just mash them flat with my iron and sew them. Surprisingly, it doesn't seem noticeable in the finished quilt.

I pieced some wool batting scraps together and made a backing from my unbleached Cotton + Steel double gauze and some larger blue double gauze scraps. I tied all the intersections with blue perle cotton before hand quilting all the background triangles.

Instead of a traditional binding, I did a self-binding finish using some of the excess backing. I machine stitched it down because I was concerned about fraying. Either way, it's super cuddly. 

Size: 48" x 66"
Fabric: Cotton + Steel double gauze prints, Nani Iro, other Japanese double gauze prints, and one Japanese lawn print
Pattern: 6", 4", 3" and 2" HSTs
Quilting: Hand quilted with Aurifil 12wt cotton & tied with perle cotton
Completed: September 18, 2015

How to machine piece wool batting scraps

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Since I first used Dream Wool batting by Quilters Dream back in June for my B.U.B. quilt, wool batting has become my first choice. I love the airy softness, the gentle drape, the coziness, and the loft that makes quilting pop. Naturally all this comes at a higher price than cotton, polyester, or cotton/poly blends. 

With the higher price point, saving up scraps of wool batting is a no brainer. I regularly machine piece cotton batting scraps together for quilts using a wide zigzag stitch (here's a quick tutorial for that), but I was unsure that piecing wool batting would be as straightforward. 

I went ahead and tried my normal approach: a zigzag stitch with the widest setting and a length of about 1.8 (my Juki's length ranges from 0-5). It was no good. Wool lacks the density of cotton and is prone to stretching. My seam was wavier than the ocean in a hurricane and it would not lay flat. The seam also felt too noticeable to the touch. Next, I tried whip stitching pieces together by hand, but my attempts seemed both structurally weak and left an obvious pucker. Plus, it's slow. Moving on. Lastly I considered fusible batting tape. I use this stuff for Soft & Stable scraps, but I felt that it would feel too noticeable in my quilt. Additionally, the care information for Dream Wool says not to iron it, so I ruled this out.

Determined not to let my scraps go to waste, I tried the the logical path my brain whispered to me. I laid out my scraps with the edges butting up against each other. Using large basting pins, I pinned the pieces together every 10" or so. I was careful to keep the pins perpendicular to the seam so I could be sure the pieces would be fed through my machine evenly.

On my machine, I switched from a walking foot to a standard presser foot. The walking foot's grippy feet seemed to be getting tangled in the fibers of wool and causing it to feed at an uneven rate. The irony. I also lowered the presser foot pressure as low as it can go. I also made some adjustments to my stitch length. I did some tests on scraps, lengthening the stitch length until the seam didn't feel so prominent. I ended up using a length of 4.2. 

When sewing my scraps, I kept a hand gently placed on each piece of batting close to the seam and sewed very slowly. As I progressed, I paid close attention to upcoming pins, making sure they stayed perpendicular to the seam. If they're crooked, you've got an obvious sign that your batting hasn't been feeding evenly. I removed the pins just before they reached the presser foot. All the while, I gently held the batting pieces together near the seam. Occasionally a few fibers would get snagged on the front of the presser foot which would cause some feeding unevenness. In those instances, I stopped sewing, un-snagged them, and continued on.

The end result was pretty good! There were a tiny small waves here and there, mostly where I started sewing too fast or had fiber snags that weren't corrected quickly. But overall, my pieced batting was acceptable and was easily smoothed out in the basting process. 

So there you have it! If something doesn't go right the first time, MAKE IT WORK.

Epic Game of Thrones Quilt Tutorial

Sunday, September 6, 2015

For all my fellow nerds, here's the Epic Game of Thrones quilt tutorial I promised!
Quilt size: 60" x 72"

You will need to download the four FPP sigil patterns from Her patterns finish at 10" square, so you will need to double the size of the templates and adjust the .25" seam allowance around each piece. Some of the templates were quite large after increasing the size, taking two or even three pieces of paper that I had to tape together.

Assemble your Kona solids for the quilt top. I used:

Pewter (2 yds) - Stark direwolf and main quilt background
Silver (1 yd) - Stark banner background
Tomato (1 yd) - Targaryen dragon
Pepper (2 yds) - Targaryen banner background and Baratheon stag
Rich Red (1 yd) - Lannister banner background
Caramel (1 yd) - Lannister lion
Curry (1 yd) - Baratheon banner background
Charcoal (1.375 yd) - Outer border & binding

You'll also need some small cream colored scraps for the lion's tongue and lighter yellow scraps for the stag's crown. I used a twin size sheet for my backing. If you plan on using 42" wide fabric, you'll need 4.5 yards.

As I mentioned in my initial post, you'll probably want to go through each template and check the numbering. I had to renumber many pieces. In addition to the sigil patterns, you'll need to download my banner tail FPP pattern. Print (4) copies of the pattern. Cut each set out and tape together according to the instructions in the pattern.

Before you start your FPP blocks, cut the following pieces from each of the banner background fabrics and set aside:
  • (1) 1.5" x 20.5"
  • (2) 1.5" x 21.5"
  • (2) Pieces large enough for sections 2 & 3 on the banner tail pattern (8" x 16" should suffice)
From the main background fabric (Pewter), cut:
  • (4) pieces large enough for section 1 on the banner tail pattern (at least 6" x 22.5")
  • (2) 4.5" x 28.5" 
  • (1) 4.5" x 7"
  • (1) 4.5" x 42"
  • (6) 3.5" WOF strips
Once that's taken care of, you can FPP your blocks as normal. They should measure 20.5" square, including seam allowances. Tear off the papers. Sew the corresponding 1.5" x 20.5" piece to the top of each block and press. Sew the 1.5" x 21.5" pieces to the left and right sides of the block and press. Piece your banner tail and sew it to the bottom of your block. At this point I did the hand embroidery on each banner. I used a combination of outline stitches and backstitching.

Sew the 4.5" x 7" and 4.5" x 42" pieces together along the short ends and press to make a 48.5" long strip. Divide the 3.5" WOF strips into two sets of (3) strips. Sew each set of strips together end to end to make two long 3.5" wide strips. From each strip cut a 54.5" long piece and a 60.5" long piece.

Assemble your quilt top according to the diagram above. Join each pair of banners with a 4.5" x 28.5" piece. Join the two sections with the 4.5" x 48.5" piece. Sew the left and right borders and then the top and bottom borders.

From your Charcoal fabric, cut (8) 3.5" WOF strips. Sew them end to end in pairs to make (4) long strips. Trim (2) strips at 66.5" long and the remaining (2) at 60.5" long. Sew the 66.5" pieces to the left and right. Sew the 60.5" pieces to the top and bottom. 

Cut (7) 2.5" WOF strips from the remaining Charcoal fabric for the binding. The rest is the usual steps of basting, quilting, and binding. 

Being Picky When Picking Fabrics

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Over the past year, I’ve watch my fabric stash grow. What used to be contained into two small baskets now occupies an entire metro rack. I became acutely aware of my fabric situation this past Spring Quilt Market when my entire suitcase was stuffed with fabric from Sample Spree.

During one of my regular cleanup/destash sessions, I found myself facing a lot of “limbo” fabric. Fabric with beautiful prints and colors, but just isn’t quite me. I’m a visual glutton. I see something cute or pretty and I have to have it for my collection. It certainly explains my childhood predilections for Pokemon cards.

The problem arises when my collector’s instincts beget impulse purchases of fabric bundles. Last winter, I bought a fat eighth bundle of Anna Maria Horner’s entire 24 print collection, Honor Roll. It sat on my shelf. And sat. And sat. I frequently took it off the shelf, thumbing through the prints, but I always returned it to the shelf afterwards. It never felt right for the projects I wanted to make. Sometimes I flipped through the stack and considered selling it on destash, but I would reshelf it again because I did enjoy the prints. I kept telling myself I would use it. And why wouldn’t I? It was beautiful fabric.

After a few other limbo moments, I started to understand why the fabric sat unused for months and months. I liked the prints, but they just weren’t my style. AMH’s grown-up fabrics don’t fit into my environment, which revolves more around cuteness and novelty. Sure, I like animals, but I also don’t bring the zoo into my house because that wouldn’t fit into my lifestyle either. I realized that liking something is enough to make it part of my life. It needs to be a good fit too.

That realization didn’t magically cure my collector’s impulses though. Wouldn’t that have been nice. I did however, find an acceptable system to help placate it. When I got home from Market, I dumped out the tote bag full of pamphlets, catalogs, postcards, and look books I amassed. I went through them, putting all the ads for fabric collections I liked into a pile. Then, I carefully went through that pile and asked myself, “Does this fabric collection fit my style? Would it blend into the decor of my home? Would I feel comfortable wearing it on a regular basis? Does is speak to my personality and the image I want to present?” If the I could answer those questions affirmatively, I decided those would be the collections I would be happiest purchasing.

The fabrics that didn’t pass the test would probably end up sitting regardless of how pretty they are. I was surprised by how many collections I ended up saying no to. Instead of purchasing those lines and regretting it, I opted to let the promotional handouts serve as a collection themselves. I’ve hung some on my walls. Some stay in a box that I flip through from time to time. It’s nice to feel like those pieces of art are part of my collection in a way that didn’t hurt my budget or take up much space.

If you don’t have access to promotional materials, try printing out photos of collections you like and projects made with those fabrics. Make a bulletin board or scrapbook with them. They can be a part of a new kind of collection.

For the limbo fabrics currently in my stash, I've decided to sew them up into projects to list in my newly revived Etsy shop, like the AMH quilt below. That way I can have the joy of sewing with the prints I admire without the responsibility of housing it all.