Charity Tote Bags

This Christmas I will be again donating to Share The Dignity “It’s In The Bag” campaign. The principle of it is that you grab a bag and fill it with every day things that a woman who is homeless or fleeing a domestic situation might need, the little things we all take for granted. The idea is that you fill an old handbag so the person also get a new bag they can use. I don’t have any handbags so I made some tote bags to fill with my collected items. I decided to make basic cotton tote bags and change the design on the front to make each one different.

Button Bag
I have wanted to make a button front bag for a long time, it was one of those random things that I see once and think I want to try that idea out sometime.  A few months ago I brought jars of different coloured buttons during a sale, at the time I had no plans for them but they were perfect in this project. On the front of the bag I drew out a rough spiral shape, I randomly pulled out buttons from a jar of blue buttons and hand stitched them on using the same thread tying each button off as I went so if one came undone they all didn’t . Once I completed the spiral I then went through the jar and found a heap of the same small blue buttons so I made a second spiral with these. This was a lot of hand sewing in front of the tv work but I am happy with the result and I made a button bag. Originally I was going to do all 3 bag fronts in buttons but I realised it would take way too long.

Free Motion Bag
After deciding there was no way all 3 could be buttons I decided the second bag would be done with free motion quilting. I used the same metallic blue thread that I used on the button bag. I was trying to think back to all the things I learnt when I did the class with Deb Louie. I had a rough idea where my seam lines would be so I just went about going from section to section with my quilting filling the bag front with stitches. I didn’t follow a pattern, I managed to get a heart or two in there and I am very good at doing curls or waves. This reminded me of when I was a kid I would get a black pen and on a piece of blank paper randomly draw lines and swiggles to create little sections that I would then colour in with different colours. Free motion is a lot of fun and I really should do more of it. I used tear away stabiliser on the back of it, removing it was another tv job as there was lots of tiny areas that I had to remove the paper from, again it was worth it.

Decorative Stitches Bag
I am actually a person who does use those fancy decorative stitches that are on your sewing machine, they are a great way to jazz up a plain piece of fabric and that is what I have used them for on this bag.  I used the same metallic blue thread again and just randomly selected stitches on the machine to do a row of stitching across the front of the bag. I never measured anything out I did a row of stitching at the top, bottom and about the middle of the bag all by eyeballing the placement. I then in my head divided up the areas and did rows of stitching to fill in the sections. I decided less was more not doing too much as I didn’t want the front to look too busy. I did squeeze in my favourite heart stitch design because if I can add in a heart particularly a blue one I’m going too!

For the front of the bags I used a cotton drill fabric, this wasn’t from my stash but I did buy it in an Easter sale. On the insides of each bag I have used a cotton that had been in my stash after buying it on sale a few years ago. A few months ago I almost gave it away but held on to it so it was great to use it in these bags, the remainder of it I have cut up and used for WIRES pouches after doing to the burn test and discovering it was 100% cotton.

These are crossover the body bags. For the straps I used some nylon webbing I had in my stash. I just stitched the straps the outside of the finished bags. The webbing is about 2″ wide so nice and sturdy. Confession I did make the straps too long. I over estimated the length so they ended up hanging towards your knees and not near you hip, I only discovered this after they were finished and I had taken the above photos. I didn’t want to cut the straps otherwise you would have ends you would need to cover up to stop fraying.

My solution to the strap situation was to fold the excess webbing and stitching down as a decorative feature of the strap. It is a little hard to describe. At the centre point of the strap I folded it and ran my fingers down about 6″ and pinched the straps so you had a loop of excess strap at the top, this was the amount that I had to stitch down. I decided it would be better if you had this excess fabric on the inside of the strap so it would like another layer of support against the shoulder. I separated the loop at the area where I had it pinched and folded the sides in so that the loop was now folded down to the underside of the strap and not the top. I flattened the loop into a rectangle and clipped it into place. On the outside of the strap you now had 2 folds that need to be held together. I did the widest zig zag I could over these 2 folds to secure them down, going over the fold a few times until I was happy the would stay in place. I did this on each bag. I then changed to a straight stitch and went around the flattened  rectangle twice on each bag to secure it into place.

I only got away with this because I used black thread on black webbing. It doesn’t look too odd, I have seen bags that have added support at the shoulder so that was the look I going for. When something goes wrong call it a design feature.

I am happy with these bags, they are big enough to hold all the items I have been collecting this year. Making them was a lot of fun, I got to be creative and try out ideas. I had to overcome problems with the straps so I had to think. I used up a lot of items just sitting in my stash. I love sewing for charity, I love that I can help with someone using the simple skills that I have.

Cassiy

Baby Animal Burp Cloths

Burp cloths are one of the most easiest gifts to make for a new baby. They are practical and you can never have to many from what I hear.

I have made burp cloths a lot of times and didn’t follow a pattern anymore the steps are really simple

  • Cut a piece of towelling and cotton the same size
  • Place cotton right side down on top of towelling
  • Stitch around edge leaving a turning gap
  • Clip corner points
  • Turn right sides out
  • Top stitch around edge of cotton topper folding the turning gap closed

You can make them any size you like. I like larger ones that you can place over your shoulder or wrap around the child as they get older. I used a large towel that I cut in half, I than cut each half into 3 pieces. Without realising it I cut the 2 halves different ways – one I cut along with width of the towel, the other I cut along the length of the towel so I have 2 different size burp cloths. Both are long enough to go over the shoulder – one set is narrower and longer, the other set is slightly wider and slighter shorter. The narrower ones were cut across the width of the towel, the wider ones across length.

Originally I was planning on using leftover fabrics in my stash but when it came to cutting these fabrics up I realised I didn’t have enough. I went to my local quilt shop and found this gorgeous baby animal print fabric on sale it is perfect. I don’t normally do babyish print fabric because I want the person to be able to use it as the child is a little older. This fabric is cute, baby animals are good for any age child. The print is also subtle so afterwards when you don’t need to use it for the child you could use it in other areas of the house when you need a quick absorbent cloth.

Another gift off my list for this year

Cassiy

Plattie

Normally I am so on top of things but I’ll admit one child who was having a birthday had crept up on me. I was planning on making the child a different toy but the materials I had weren’t suitable and before I knew things it was nearing time to post the gift off and I had nothing done so Plattie came to the rescue.

Plattie is a Funky Friends Factory pattern. This pattern had been in my stash for some time to make. When I realised my impending deadline I remembered this pattern and knew it was perfect, the toy was going to a child not living in Australia. What a cute little native animal to make them. Construction wise it is a really easy and quick pattern to make – providing you cut out all the pattern pieces! In my rush to get the pattern traced out and pieces cut so I could take it to my sewing group meeting to stitch up that day I missed a piece and didn’t take the leftover fabric with me so I had to come home early to finish him off in time. There is an online tutorial you can follow for this pattern but I didn’t need to.  The only way I differed from the pattern was I ironed on pellon on each of the paw pieces (double thickness in each finished paw) Unlike a lot of toy limbs you don’t stuff the paws on him so I used the pellon to make them a little bit more fluffy and cuddly rather than just straight thin cotton in the paws.

The fabric used were caramel fabric leftover from the Activity Go Case and some brown spots from the Kids Messenger Bag. Confession I have a basket of fabric in my lounge room waiting to be put away downstairs in my stash which comes in handy when I am wanting fabric at odd hours or last minute as you never know what you will find in it and generally the fabrics in it have been pre-washed and ready to use. Plattie has turned out to one of my all time my favourite toys. I don’t say this often but he is totally adorable, it was hard to give him away. In my gift stash I found a cotton crocheted blanket I made as a test piece a couple of years ago which was perfect to wrap around Plattie as toys do like to snuggle in blankets.

So my theory is that you learn something from each project you make. From this project I learnt the value of being organised so that your aren’t in position of rushing to make a deadline. When you rush you make mistakes like forgetting to trace out a pattern piece. I also learnt that what seems the most simplest project can also be the best looking if you do it correctly, the old principle of Keep It Simple works.

Cassiy

 

Hand Tacking

I am a big believer of hand tacking when it comes to sewing now, not on all things just on some.

I have never had formal training and don’t know the expert way of tacking, I don’t use special threads or needles. For my taking stitches I use a medium to long length stitch using a regular sewing needle, thread wise I usually use a near empty bobbin in a strong contrasting colour so that I can see it easily. I like to pin and then tack. Depending on what I am doing sometimes I leave the pins in sometimes I will take them out. The things I do hand tack are zippers, curved pieces on toys, stuffed limbs in toys. anything that has a lot of pinning particularly at odd angles. Hand tacking stops the fabric layers slipping. Sometimes using my seam ripper I remove the tacking stitches just before the section goes under my sewing machine needle other times I take out the stitches afterwards.

Sometimes patterns will tell you to tack before sewing, these days even if a pattern doesn’t tell me I choose to do it. It may take a few extra minutes to hand tack a piece but the time saved and more importantly stress levels reduced by doing the tacking is worth it. I’m not finishing a seam only to discover I missed half of it. I am doing less reverse sewing (unpicking) by taking the time to hand tack. I am happier with the end result the first time around. On toys in particular I’m getting a better result on gusset pieces which before were my nemesis as I could never get both sides of the gusset to look even. The little bit of extra sewing preparation beforehand pays off in the end. I have heard that using silky type threads are good for tacking as you can remove them easier but I have never had an issue with removing the tacking stitches, plus it is a good way for me to use those near empty bobbins up.

Cassiy

Mini Pinking Shears

I didn’t know you could get pinking shears in a smaller size until I asked at my local quilt shop a few months ago and they just happened to have some come in.

The pair I got measure a total length of 7″ which is 2″ smaller than my original pair which measure at 9″ The cutting blade is smaller on these with a 3″ blade before the pivot, my older ones blade is closer to 4″ I haven’t weighed the two pairs but I can tell by just holding them these are also lighter. I got them a few months ago but this morning was the first time I tried them out.

I’m in the process of making a toy which has a lot of curves in it. On some the pieces I would have traditionally had to snip the curved seams with a small pair of scissors so that the pieces would sit nicely when turned right side out. Using these pinking shears I was about to cut away some of the seam allowance and create notches around the curve so when turned out it sat nicely. It was wonderful to get such even notches around the seam and there was less mess, in the past I have been known to be covered in tiny threads when snipping curves.

I’m calling these mini shears even though the difference is only 2″ to my regular ones. They feel more compact than my regular ones. In the past I have never cut around toy pieces with my larger sheers in case I cut too far and snipped the seam but with these smaller ones I can. If you come across different size pinking shears I think they would be a good investment for your sewing stash. Now that I know how well these work I will be using them again on toys and other curvy seams.

Cassiy

Kids Messenger Bag

I have always wanted to make a simple messenger bag. I had seen this tutorial by Zaaberry for a kid’s size bag floating around Pinterest for some time and decided to finally give it ago.

It is a great to tutorial to follow with the instructions easy to read. This is a very basic bag with no closure or pockets or anything inside but you could easily make this more complex and add details to this if you wanted to. I kept it basic and followed the pattern. For the outside fabric I used some spotted quilting cotton I picked up last year because it was on sale and I liked it, I knew I would find the perfect project for it.

The fabric for the flap and the lining is a cotton I picked up a few years ago just because it was pink and had chocolates and pastries on it. The print on it is very bright and visible on both sides of the fabric which is how I made a minor mistake. I have placed one lining fabric the wrong side up. Some fabrics you can clearly see which is the right and wrong side of the fabric, on this fabric it is a little bit trickier. This fabric was only faintly lighter one side and if you weren’t paying attention fully like I must not have been when I grabbed it to pin it and sew it you put it the wrong way. I only discovered it after I finished the bag and I left it. It is not extremely obvious and aside from that the rest of the bag is fine, it is on the inside and still looks pink and brown.

You learn some from every project. On this bag I learnt how to make attach a simple bag flap and also that you need to pay attention to each individual fabric to see how it needs to be treated – it is a directional print, is the right side and wrong side visible. These things may sound basic but sometimes you forget them like I clearly did.

Cassiy

 

Softies For Mirabel 2017

Once again this year I will be contributing to Softies For Mirabel a toy drive hosted by Pip Lincolne (Meet Me At Mikes) where toys are hand made for the Mirabel Foundation who support children abandoned due to parental drug use.

simplicity-1549

This year I tried out a new pattern I had in my stash Simplicity 1549 making 2 toys from it an owl and a bunny. I brought this pattern I think at the start of 2016 but never got around to making it last year.

simplicity-1549-owl

The owl is made from brown fabric leftover from draft stoppers I made last year. The leg fabric is the same fabric but in a stone colour. The fabric had a very open weave so I decided to use a double layer of it on the body and legs as these areas would be stuffed and I didn’t want it falling apart or the stuffing getting out. The wings are a single layer with a layer of pellon inside each one. I did they eyes differently as I think I have mentioned before I don’t like closed eyes on toys. Eyes give the toy personality and I like them open.

simplicity-1549-bunny

For the bunny I used more of the stone fabric again doing double layers but this time on all pieces. The ears aren’t stuffed but I wanted them to hold their shape so that is why I did double. The purple body is leftover polar fleece as is all the applique on the eyes, ears, nose. The mouth is some pom pom trim from my stash, I love the added bit of texture it gives.

These toys were very easy to make as there wasn’t a lot of pieces or complicated sewing. I did all the applique bits by hand as I enjoy hand sewing but you could have easily done them on the machine.

I hope some little kids enjoy these toys and the toys make them feel safe. They were made with love.

Cassiy