Feb 152014

It has been a while since I have been sewing on a consistent basis . . . and what I sew today is very different from what I used to sew. Decades ago I sewed dresses and skirts for myself, and play clothes for our son. Today my projects are much smaller and tend to be functional home items such as potholders, aprons, organizers, and—as I announced in January—bags. But not a single bag has been sewn since the beginning of the year, I must admit. I have received two bag patterns through the online Bag of the Month Club, but beautiful as they are, I am a little intimidated by all the pages of the instructions: 25 pages for the Bye Bye Love Bag and 15 pages for the Butterfly Sling Purse.

So, I have decided some warm-up bag projects may be in order before I run a full bag marathon.

Earlier this week, I attended a Purse Party held at Quilter’s Cupboard in Ankeny, Iowa. This is the second or third one to which I have gone. It is typically held in mid-February and is designed to introduce sewists to a wide range of bag patterns, bag sewing tools, and—this time—to different options for lining or adding structure to your bag. “We all know,” says Cindy Peters, owner of Quilter’s Cupboard, “that the outside of your bag is only as good as the inside of your bag.”

Quilter's Cupboard

Below are some tips I’ve gathered from the collective Purse Parties I have attended:

1. When you sew with vinyl, either use a Teflon-coated presser foot, or adhere a little transparent tape to the bottom of the foot so that it will glide smoothly over the vinyl, instead of sticking to it.

2. If you like to add some hand embroidery to your bag projects, backing it with Shapeflex woven fusible interfacing adds body without weight.

3. If you are working with multiple fused layers of fabric and/or fusible yardage, let each layer cool down before adding more layers.

4. One way to mash seams is with pliers.

5. Use Scotchguard on bags to make them dirt-resistant.

6. Use spray starch after washing bags to give the fabric that crisp “just bought” feeling.

So, what is the first warm-up bag I decided to tackle? At the Purse Party held earlier this week, all of the attendees were given a free pattern using vinyl .pet mesh (also known as vinyl bag mesh). The owner of the business, in fact, told us she made dozens of these bags as Christmas gifts. “They work up really fast,” she said, “and they’re addictive.” I took Cindy at her word, and decided to make a yarn project bag for myself. This project, incidentally, satisfies all the requirements for the February Blogging Business Artisans challenge, spelled out by Sharla of Beaded Tail:

Love is celebrated this month so show us what you love! Whether it’s time with family, spring around the corner, food or furbabies, create something that shows us what you love!

When you work with vinyl—whether it’s solid or the mesh variety—you can’t really use pins because they leave behind holes. I find Clover Wonder Clips to be indispensable. They are rather expensive at $6.95 for 10 of them, however, so binder clips from the office supply store will work equally well if you’re on a tight budget.


The pattern suggests you use chalk to draw a stitching line on the pet mesh, but I couldn’t find my chalk marker. Washi tape is a great substitute, however. Thankfully, I had a roll on hand, courtesy of Deb Baroff of Stroll Through Storyland, who was my Secret Santa this past December. Thank you, Deb!


The straps on the bag were made using the Lazy Girl Wrap & Fold method. Basically, you wrap a strip of stabilizer (Stiff Stuff, in my case), or interfacing, “like a hot dog in a crescent roll,” according to Joan Hawley of Lazy Girl Designs. This is a quick and easy alternative to sewing a tube of fabric, turning it inside out, and threading stabilizer through it. As Joan says, “Ewwww. And we can do better.”


Because I worked on this bag between other tasks—answering e-mails, doing laundry, finishing some handmade books, and more—I suspect it took me longer to finish it than if I had sewn it without interruption. However, I would guess it took only a few hours to complete. Cindy told her Purse Party participants that you can also use favorite-but-outgrown or worn out T-shirts for the front of your bag if you back the knit fabric with stabilizer. If I try this, I will share it with you in a future post. For now, this is my finished yarn project bag. The fabric, “Knitty Kitty,” was designed by Greta Lynn for Kanvas Studio in association with Benartex. If you use it, be aware that the red is not color-fast; I tend to pre-wash my fabrics in cold water and then tumble dry them on low heat. The red in this fabric bled a little—not critical for a bag like this that will probably not be laundered or, if it is, will be hand-washed and air-dried.

DSCN8165Next on the agenda is a small zipper pouch to hold T-pins used for seaming when I crochet. I am confident that if I take on a few smaller projects before attempting the official Bag of the Month patterns, I will handle the sewing more confidently. Kristin Link of Sew Mama Sew suggests that if you take the time to enjoy the ritual of sewing, you’ll get more out of it. “There is a zen proverb that goes, ‘when walking, walk,'” she says in her post, Joyful Sewing: 12 Tips for Enjoying a Stress-free Hobby. That’s my goal, so I’m going to walk through a few simpler bag projects before running with more complicated ones.

© 2014 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

Jan 272014

January is traditionally the month in which folks make resolutions. Do I usually make them? Honestly, no, but I do set loose, hopefully achievable goals. This month Blogging Business Artisans‘ team captain, Edi Royer of Memories for Life Scrapbooks, challenged team members to:

Blog about your plans for 2014 and share them with the team. Tell us what you have in store for your Etsy shop as well as your personal life. Feel free to share photos of upcoming projects or just make a list of resolutions/goals.

Here goes! In general, I hope that 2014 will be all about bringing balance into my life, as follows:

Gold Scales of Justice by Kittisak

Image courtesy of Kittisak / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

1. Find a better balance between volunteer work and creative efforts.

2. Establish a photography schedule so that more products can be listed in my Etsy shops, instead of languishing on a table or in a box.

3. Have enough product on hand for craft shows so that my Etsy shops don’t have to be emptied in order to stock a show.

4. Learn about bag construction so that I can develop a few bags to sell on Etsy in a fourth shop that is just waiting for products to be listed.

5. Clean up the paper crafting studio and sewing room so that I can leave the doors to these rooms open when guests visit.

6. Lose weight and keep more of it off (this seems to be my goal every year).

That’s it, folks! If you have blogged about your goals this year, feel free to include a link to your post in the comments below so we can encourage each other.

© 2014 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

Jun 262013

I’ve been stumped for most of the month, trying to figure out how I would meet this month’s Blogging Business Artisans challenge, proposed by Cynthia of Antiquity Travelers:

June is a month for weddings. But how about a bit of twist on the saying ‘something old, and something new’. . . does anyone ‘upcycle?’ How do you take an old item and make it new? How about reworking an antique? Anyone do steampunk? How about quilting with fabrics from clothing that has memories to you?  Any other ideas?

It was a combination of visual triggers that finally helped me solve the puzzle of how to take something old and turn it into something new. I ran across an old outfit of David’s that I sewed for him when he was a toddler.

Toddler clothes

The crayon theme made me think of some water color pencils I have that need a case.

Water color pencils

But the next dilemma was coming up with the right fabric. I found this window valance made from denim that used to hang in David’s bedroom window.

Denim valance

What goes with blue? I thought. And then John brought me an early 4th of July hydrangea that suggested a solution: the patriotic colors of red, white and blue.


The light bulb turned on and I recalled some red, white and blue fabrics I had purchased years ago, waiting for just the right project.


Funny how an idea comes together . . . and funny how it evolves into something else out of necessity. The pencil case became a crochet hook case.  Why? To be honest, I didn’t cut the fabrics in quite the right measurements. In order for my roll-up case to work for pencils, it needs to be taller and the left-most and right-most pockets need to be a little wider to accommodate the bulk of the seam. I have leftover fabric, so I’ll be working next on “Take Two” of this challenge.

Roll Up Collage

John, who also crochets, has already asked me for a masculine version of the roll-up crochet case, so I guess Take One of this challenge is not a waste! Stay tuned for the revised version of this project.

© 2013 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.