Saturday, May 28, 2016

New Blog Look! (A W.I.P)

If  you've visited my blog before, you might notice that things have changed a bit!  I'm very excited to show off what I've learned so far as part of the "2016 Advice and Tech Help for New Quilt Bloggers" Blog Hop.

Click the button in my sidebar to learn more about it!
Hey!  I have a button in my sidebar!  WHEEEEE!
When I first set up my blog, I will admit, I just grabbed a Blogger template that didn't look too intimidating, and played around until I figured out the very basics.  I didn't really understand how it all worked, and to be honest, I didn't care too much about how my blog looked.  My purpose for blogging is 1. To write about what I make, simply because I enjoy it and 2. To connect with other bloggers.  I don't intend to win sponsors, host ads or make money from it.  So, as long as it functioned, I was fine.

But, sometime in the last year, I started to read a lot about the experiences other bloggers had as part of the 2015 New Bloggers Hop.  Not only had they improved the look and feel of their blogs, they also made new connections and on line friends in the process.  Now, that's hard to resist.

So, I signed up and was accepted! We haven't even made it to the "hop" part yet, and I've learned so much already! This week, we worked in small groups to critique each other's blogs.  Just the process of looking at other blogs with a critical eye really got me thinking.  For the first time, I paid attention to the content of a blogs side bar and how all the elements worked together - or didn't.  I started to think about how the blogger's personality and style came across through the formatting choices they made.  And, I realized that the appearance of my blog really didn't say much about me at all.

So, I started to do a little research to find out how other people made such great looking blogs.  I read quite a few articles and played around with some sites like PicMonkey and Canva.  All of this was very new to me, and I had quite a few moments of frustration when I couldn't figure things out.  But I walked away and came back, stuck with it, and in the end, I've made some great changes!

I have a new header that I really like, and which, I think, gives a good sense of my style.  I have tabs for pages which I will be developing.  I have a new "about me" blurb that sums up who I am and why I sew, and I have a button in my side bar!  That's not bad for a day's work!  

There are things I still want to add.  I need to find a way for other bloggers to  follow me.  I'm thinking possibly Feedly, since I recently discovered that as part of the hop.  I want to establish an Instagram account with the same name as my blog and link it to my site.  And, of course, finish the content for my pages.

And, I'd like to invite YOU, since you happened to stop by, to comment on the current look, and let me know what essentials I am still missing.  Your input is VERY much appreciated.

I'm linking up to Can I Get A Whoop Whoop at Confessions of A Fabric Addict

Friday, May 20, 2016

241 Bag - A Finish! (FAL #2)

It's done!  It's finished and I think I love it!  Here it is, my 241 Bag!

For the most part, my bag went together well.  The pattern, from Noodlehead, is well written and really easy to follow.  If such a thing as a "free weekend" existed in my life, I am pretty confident that I could make one of these in it!  As it was, the making of this bag stretched out over three fairly stressful weeks.  On more than one occasion, sitting down to sew on this purse was exactly what I needed. I discovered that it's really OK to just work for 15 or 20 minutes at a time, too.  It was actually very effective and helped me to get a finish in a week when I very possibly could not have had one!

This is such a cute purse, and such a practical design!  I love those deep side pockets, and that zip pocket in the front - Be still my heart!  It looks so stylish, it fits my phone perfectly, and it was SO. MUCH. FUN to put in.  Sure, it was a little intimidating at first, but I persevered, and it was really fun to see how to it came out.  Whoever thought of that method first was really smart!

I made just few simple modifications to make this purse even more practical for me.

 First, I added a front sleeve to the interior slip pocket.  I like to keep a bit of cash handy, and NOT in my wallet.  So, that front pocket will be used for that.  Also, I added a key hook, much to my youngest daughter's delight.  She panics every time I have to look for my keys for more than a minute.  Which is pretty much every time I look for my keys.  This should solve that problem.  Maybe.  My older daughter knows me well, and her comment was, "Great idea, as long as you remember to put your keys on it."  Yeah, there's that.

The last modification I made was to add a small pop of contrast to the navy strap.  I love that hashtag fabric, and I just wanted to use a bit more of it and add some interest.

There's not much I don't like about this project.  I did have a bit of a problem with the lining.  When I was finished, the lining was just a bit too bulky for the exterior.  I think I was just too small with the seam allowance.  So, after I and finished, I turned the whole thing wrong sides out again, and stitched around the three seams that comprise the lining.  that mostly solved the problem.  I might still hand tack the lining to the exterior in a few places, just to keep it flat and nice looking.  Although, now that's it's loaded with my  stuff, I really can't see enough of the lining to know that it's anything other than polka dotted and cute, so maybe the tacking won't happen.

I'm not sure I'll use fusible fleece for the lining of the next one.  It sewed really well, and it's what I'm used to, but I think it's a bit puffy for this design.  We'll see.  Maybe I'll be glad for the stability as I use it more.

It's going to be fun to use this purse.  It coordinates with my phone and my planner, so I feel all "pulled together" using it.  I have plans to use my scraps to make a wallet, a key fob and a tablet case to complete the set.  So fun.

With all the things I LOVE about this finish, I think perhaps the best thing was that I sewed along with a new friend while making it.  Bernie and I exchanged e-mails throughout the process.  It was so good to get her encouragement and to get to know her.  She blogs at Needle and Foot,  and you really should pop over and visit her.  You can see HER finished 241 bag, and scroll through her posts and get a peek at her incredible free motion quilting.  She's really an inspiration, and I'm pretty sure we're going to be on-line quilty friends for a very long time!

One last look.  And yes, I celebrated my finish with a Starbucks trip.  I wrote this post and enjoyed a White Chocolate Mocha while my daughter was at rehearsal.  It's all good!

And, now I have two of my Finish Along goals for quarter 2 done!

I am linking this FINISH to:

Finish it up Friday at Crazy Mom Quilts
Monday Making at Love Laugh Quilt
Let's Bee Social aThe Sew Fresh Quilts

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

A WIP and Curveball

What's that saying about the "best laid plans?"  I LOVE having a plan and a timeline for constructing my 241 Tote, thanks to the sew along that I'm doing with Bernie at Needle and Foot.  It's really motivating to be doing this with someone, and setting goals helps me to break the work up into manageable portions.

HOWEVER, life has thrown a slight curveball.  My 10 year old daughter has been hospitalized at Children's Hosiptal for a week now.  So, instead of sewing away, I'm spending my days keeping her busy and happy.  She has cystic fibrosis, and hospital stays like this are one of the ways we keep her healthy and able to enjoy her busy life!  This is the 7th stay in her ten years, which is a pretty good track record for someone with CF.  She feels OK, but at her clinic visit a couple weeks ago, her lung funtion was a bit low.  So, we are here, getting frequent respiratory treatments and heavy duty IV antibiotics to treat the bacterias and fungus that we know grow in her lungs.  I knew this was coming, but had hoped to put this visit off until summer vaction starts in a month.  Those decisons, however, are not always ours to make.

With that out of the way... back to the 241 Sew Along!  Before we (I say we, because even though she's the one doing the tough stuff, I'm here with her all the way) were admitted, I managed to get my 241 pattern prepped, and my pieces cut and interfaced.  I knew I'd be coming home for at least part of the weekend while my husband took a turn at the hospital, and I wanted to be ready to sew given the opportunity.

It was fantastic to be able to sleep in my own bed on Friday night, wake up, and take my morning coffee to the sewing room where my stack of pieces was waiting for me!

I've made pretty good progress, I think, since I've only had a few hours to spend.  It helps that the pattern (from Anna at Noodlehead) is so clear and easy to follow.  I get a sense that the pattern is written exactly as Anna would give directions to a friend if they were in the same room, sewing together.  No overly technical language, and lots of friendly reminders like "be sure not to catch the pocket lining in the seam as you sew."  That turned out to be really good advice, by the way.

The first step in assembling the bag's exterior is making the darts at the bottom.  This is probably common knowledge, but I learned a neat little tip for sewing darts from my daughter's 4-H sewing leader.

The first step is to place a pin through the point of the dart.  Then, place a second pin through both of the "legs" of the dart at the fabric's edge and a third pin midway between the first two pins, going through both legs, again.

Pull the fabric up to a point, making sure that the two pins closest to the edge lie flat.  This makes sure that the legs match up, and that your dart will be the correct size.

Take the middle pin out and place it through both layers of fabric. 

Now, stitch on the leg from the edge of the fabric to the point.  It's really simple, but a quick and effective way to make sure the darts are done well.

Anna includes a really neat way to make a very smart looking pocket in the exterior of the bag.  I was nervous about doing it, and I admit I had to read through these steps a few times.  Cutting through the exterior fabric was a bit scary.  Luckily, my teenage daughter was working on a project in the sewing room, too and was able to give me the advice I've so often given her..."It's only fabric.  It can be redone if something goes wrong."  Wow, was it worth it!  I love the way this pocket went together and the way it looks on the finished bag.  My topstitching around it could be better, but in the overall appearance of the bag, I think it will be just fine.

The finished pocket is just the right size for my phone, and I LOVE the pop that the dot lining fabric gives.

In the places that I want double top stitching, I've been taking advantage of the moveable needle position on my machine.  I stitch one line using the edge of the presser foot as my guide, then, I pop the needle over to it's left position, and run the line of stitching though the toes of the presser foot.  It works like  charm and gives a nice finish!

I used fusible fleece on the lining of the pockets, and I really like the weight and look.  I am using the same for all the lining pieces, and I'm excited to see how this works for the main body.

The final assembly step for the exterior took a bit of time.  Sewing the pocket/side panels to the center pieces seemed daunting, given the curve, and just the volume of fabric.  But one of the tutorials I'd read in preperation for making my own bag suggested "going hedgehog" with the pins at this point.  So, that's what I did, and it all worked out just fine.

Working on my 241 bag was just what I needed on my reprieve from the hospital.  It was challenging enough to hold my attention and serve as a nice distraction, but not so complex that I got frustrated.  It was a nice little boost to see it come together so nicely!  Sewing is such perfect therapy!

Probably the best part of the time spent in my sewing room was getting to look over as see this:

My oldest was busy sewing away at one of her 4-H projects!  She has enough expertise now that  I am only needed for occasional quick answers.  We can sew side by side and BOTH get something done.  We take turns picking music (her pick this time was the Hamilton soundtrack) , and we sing and chat as we sew. After spending most of the week apart, sewing together gave us a perfect chance to reconnect.  Plus, she got to see me using my seam ripper on more than one occassion (remember Anna's advice about the pocket lining not getting in the way of the seam?  Follow it!).  I think it's good that she sees it's OK to make a mistake.  It's only farbric, and all that.

We have at least 4 more days to go here at the hospital.  So, I won't have a finish to post this week.  But, I'm all set to finish the lining and assemble the bag this weekend.  I can't wait to share it with you then!

Be sure to check in with Bernie to see how her 241 bag is coming together.  Aren't her fabrics just lovely?

I am linking up this week to:

Sew Cute Tuesday at Blossom Heart Quilts
Lorna's Let's Bee Social
The WIP Link Up at Silly Mama Quilts

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

241 Bag With a Friend

I have needed a new purse/carry everything tote for a long time!  I have wanted to make myself a special one for an even longer time!

A while back, I made two purses that were donated to silent actions for fund raising purposes.  I enjoyed the bag making process and loved the finished products!  Somehow, I never got around to making one for myself.

I managed to choose fabrics I loved.
They match my phone and planner!!! Love!

Even settled on a pattern.
But, no bag.

Thanks to a new quilt blogger friend, however, that is about to change!

I first "met" Bernie when I stumbled upon her blog, Needle and Foot and was chosen as the lucky winner of a giveaway she was hosting.  What great luck!  Lovely fabric and a lovely new friend!  She sent a sweet message letting me know I had won, and we exchanged a few e-mails .

Since then, we have visited each others blogs and left comments.  That the best part mm of blogging for me, finding a few bloggers to exchange comments with on a regular basis.  It truly is like having a circle of sewing friends!

Bernie mentioned in this post that she had plans to make a 241 tote from Noodlehead.  That's the same pattern I had picked for my bag!  Oh, I thought!  Wouldn't it be fun if she and I lived in the same town  and could get together to sew our bags??  Well. I said something to that effect in a comment, and Bernie responded with an idea: "Let's have a virtual sew along!"  Yaaaay!  I'm in!

So, she outlined a few guidelines for us.  We will both blog about the process, link to each other's posts, and support each other in the process as we go.

Today is the first day of our 241 Sew Along! I have managed to get my pattern ready! I've not used many pdf patterns.  It was a breeze to download, print and prep this one. My pieces are cut, interfaced and ready to go!

Before I was brave enough to cut, I read a good number of reviews of this pattern,  as well as lots and lots of blog posts about it.( Isn't it great that we can connect with each other and learn from each other in so many ways???)   Many of the makers mentioned using fusible fleece on the lining pieces to give the bag more body.  I've made bags with fusible fleece before, and decided this was the way to go.  My outer pieces are interfaced with a lighter weight fusible that I had purchased for a different project.  I hope it all comes out OK!
Decided to line with this dot.
It's perfect! 

One of the tutorials I read referenced cutting the bag pieces with a rotary cutter.  I was nervous to cut any thing with my cutter other than straight lines with a ruler.  But, I gave it a try.  Yikes!  Scary! I was sure I was going to lose a finger!  As far as smooth and accurate cuts go, I'd give my self a B or B-.  I guess we will see when it comes time to piece this bag together!

There is a good tutorial here with pictures that I will be using to help me through the sewing process. It appears to have been written quite a while ago by Katy of The Littlest Thistle for Sara's blog Sew Sweetness.  Again, I'm so glad to be crafting in this day and age.  Both these ladies offer a wealth of information and I could get lost for days at either of the links above!

Stay tuned for upcoming posts from Bernie and me as we make our 241 totes!  I am so excited to have her support, and the push to get this bag done and off the list, finally.

I am linking up to Let's Bee Social at Sew Fresh Quilts!