Jul 232016

I have a black thumb, so flowers never survive around me. Nonetheless, I love blooms of all kinds, so I surround myself with flowers that won’t die—silk flowers, paper flowers, floral scents, floral-embellished bed linens, and so on. In one of my Etsy shops, JN Originals, I sell crocheted flower brooches.


When I started binding my own books and selling them in Mister PenQuin, I knew the covers would be embellished with flowers. At first, I purchased packages of paper flowers. I particularly appreciated the dainty ones made by Prima, but gradually I began altering purchased paper or silk flowers.

Altered Store-Bought Flowers

Today I most enjoy fashioning handmade flowers from paper, fabric and fibers, but I can’t justify tossing away my remaining store-bought collection. As a result, I am still working my way through the flowers I have purchased.


Still, it’s fun to experiment with different kinds of handmade flowers.

Handmade Flowers

A few weeks ago, a customer approached me and asked if I could make her a password book using a flower from one of my gratitude journals, but the paper from a password book. Obviously, I couldn’t take apart the two books to meet her request, but fortunately the paper she liked was a digital one I had purchased from a graphic designer who allows you to sell handmade items using her digital papers. The flower, on the other hand, was from a package I had purchased from Hobby Lobby. Not only was it no longer available, but I didn’t want to buy yet more pre-assembled flowers. I offered to re-create the flower so that it would be similar to, but not exactly like, the purchased flower adhered to the book in my shop.

The customer asked for the flower on the left, but the paper on the right.

The customer asked for the flower on the left, but the paper on the right.

To re-create the flower, I stamped white Bazzill card stock with an Old French Writing rubber stamp by Hero Arts and brown Hero Hues Latte Chalk Ink, also by Hero Arts.


Then, I cut out flower shapes in graduated sizes using Donna Salazar’s Carnation Creations die set by Spellbinders.


I layered the flowers, glued a wooden ball to the center, and adhered it to the cover of a book. My buyer was pleased, as you can see.

Final Password Book

Designing handmade flowers is time-consuming—you probably won’t be paid for your time if you sell the items you embellish with them—but it is infinitely satisfying. It also gives me a chance to use my overflowing collection of dies, inks, stamps and papers. If you also like to create paper flowers, you may be interested in reading the following tutorials on my blog, which include links to other resources.

An old nursery rhyme asks, “Mary, Mary, quite contrary: how does your garden grow?” My answer, of course, is with paper, fabric, fiber and glue, all wrapped together with a little imagination and a lot of love.  That’s the story behind my flowers!

© 2016 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.


Feb 282016

This weekend’s Purse Party 2016, especially before I begin five weeks of radiation treatments on Monday, was a welcome treat after almost six weeks of recovery following surgery for endometrial cancer. Purse Party is hosted annually by one of my local quilt shops, Quilter’s Cupboard in Ankeny, Iowa. The newest bag patterns and samples are introduced, along with some old favorites. Bag-sewing tips are shared, and tools to make your bag-sewing easier are recommended. If you’re looking for a list of bag sewing patterns to attempt, scroll down to the bottom of this post, where you’ll find a list of patterns. You can order patterns directly from the friendly folks at Quilter’s Cupboard, or online if you prefer.

Purse Party attendees also receive a designed-by-Quilter’s Cupboard pattern, in this case the Place for Everything Pouch where you can store sewing or needlework notions, cosmetic supplies, jewelry, and even your colored pencils, blending stubs and other drawing tools.


At a previous Purse Party, Quilter’s Cupboard offered attendees a free Pet Screen Tote pattern. This pattern is now available for purchase. Contact Quilter’s Cupboard directly.

Patterns by Annie Trunk Show

New this year was a Patterns by Annie Trunk Show featuring bags that punched quite a “wow” factor. Picnic in the Park, for example, is a fabulous padded, pocketed picnic basket layered with fabric and foam that produce a marvelously structured bag. Quilter’s Cupboard owner Cindy Peters points out, however, that most people are making it to carry their sewing projects and notions for quilting retreats, sewing weekends, or a take-your-sewing-with-you vacation.

Picnic in the Park

Another Patterns by Annie pattern, Bon Voyage! Tote, is a generously-sized tote bag that includes outer slip pockets for your keys and phone, three inner slip pockets, and a hanging zipper pocket that is the perfect size for your electronic tablet.


Also included with the pattern is a see-through Project Tote that would be perfect for keeping supplies for small projects together. Tuck in your pattern, fabric and notions, and you’re ready to go. I can imagine having an entire series of these!


The Get Out of Town Duffle is a zippered, structured bag with lots of pockets. The bag fits perfectly into an overhead bin for your weekend flight. You’ll want to purchase the pattern, simply to learn how to make an adjustable strap with a shoulder pad.


Shopping at a local craft fair? You’ll need the To Market, To Market Tote & Tag. Use the roomy zipper tote for purchased goods, and the Name Tag & Essentials Bag for your event I.D., credit card and loose bills. The Name Tag & Essentials Bag can be worn either around your neck or on your shoulder, and is adjustable. Although the pattern is easy to follow, you can watch a series of video tutorials by Patterns by Annie that walk you through the steps of making the Name Tag & Essentials Bag.

To Market, To Market

The Open Wide! Bag is aptly named because it opens up wide and allows easy access to contents. Organize your belongings with the handy mesh pockets. The pattern includes three sizes, perfect for organizing your travel supplies.


Special Occasions at the Abbey is actually a two-for-one pattern, featuring Lady Sylvia’s Swirl purse and Lady Edith’s Ruffled Rosette purse. Both bags are just big enough to hold your evening essentials. The patterns are inspired by the ladies of Downton Abbey. These tiny bags generated a great deal of excitement at Purse Party.


Becca Bag Sewing Class

When I visited Quilter’s Cupboard today to take photos for this post, several women were engaged in a sewing class, making Becca Bags from Lazy Girl Designs. What makes these “stow and go” bags extra special is the easy circular One-Zip technique, which involves cutting a zipper apart, removing the pull, and stitching in one side of the zipper tape straight and flat. Bring the ends of the zipper together and slide the zipper pull back on. When you open the bag, the zipper installation allows the bag to open up wide, and the bag stands on its own.

Becca Bags

10 Bag Sewing Tips

One of the most helpful aspects to a Quilter’s Cupboard Purse Party is learning new tips about sewing bags. Here are a few tips I jotted down:

  1. Don’t throw away your Bosal In-R-Form or By Annie’s Soft and Stable foam stabilizer scraps. Instead, use Heat Press Batting Together to fuse the bits together on both the front and back.
  1. When you use a foam stabilizer, the seam layers can become quite bulky, especially if you plan to apply bias binding. Compress them by sewing parallel lines of straight stitching between the seam line and raw edge, or use a zigzag stitch. You can also do a decorative stitch on the outside of the bias binding, which looks nice and does essentially the same thing.
  1. Instead of installing metal purse feet, consider sewing buttons to your bag bottom. Layer large and small buttons together to achieve thickness.
  1. To produce soft-but-strong purse straps, use Dreamy Fleece Fusible from Lazy Girl Designs, or Pellon 987f Fusible Fleece (available at JoAnn Fabrics).
  1. If you are having trouble sewing layers or hard-to-sew spots, try using Fabric Fuse Liquid Adhesive by Therm-o-Web.
  1. To give your bag both softness and structure, layer Dreamy Fleece Fusible (or Pellon 987f Fusible Fleece) and Pellon 809 Decor Bond (a fusible heavyweight woven interfacing, available at Joann Fabrics).
  1. Use 505 Spray and Fix Temporary Fabric Adhesive to make anything fusible that is not fusible. This is a temporary basting spray, so it does wash away, but in most cases you will not throw your finished bag into a washing machine. 505 Spray will not gum up a sewing machine needle.
  1. To add body to a fabric, or to turn a cotton fabric into home decor fabric, iron on Pellon SF 101 Shape-Flex®.
  1. If zipper installation makes you nervous, visit By Annie’s Zippers Are Easy Videos.
  1. To measure, mark and press hems all in one step, use the newest heat-resistant Clover Press Perfect Hot Ruler by Joan Hawley of Lazy Girl Designs. It’s great to use for bag handles, binding hems, rounded corners, and interior and mitered corners. Fold your fabric over the Hot Hemmer, and press your fabric into place with either a dry or steam iron.

Explore These Bags, Organizers and Accessories

Patterns by Annie:

Purses/Tote Bags:

Accessories/Smaller Bags:

In The Hoop Machine Embroidery:

Just for Fun:

© 2016 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

Feb 062016

What do you do with your holiday cards once the season has passed? I hate to throw mine away, so I often use the front side of the cards to embellish bags, especially store bags with logos on them that can then be used for gifts. You can see one of the bags I decorated below from a post I wrote five years ago, titled Five simple ways to wrap your holiday gifts. Mel Lockcuff, in How to Recycle Old Christmas Cards into Festive Placemats, creates collage-style placemats that are laminated with clear Con-Tact® Brand Clear Covering. Pinterest is stocked with ideas about how to recycle your old Christmas cards, such as crafting a 3-D Christmas tree, creating a paper poinsettia that you can use as a package bow, or even sewing together cards to make a Christmas card basket.

Solid Color Bag

I gathered up my cards from this last Christmas and considered what to do with them.

2016 Holiday Cards

Naturally, I save cards that include newsy notes, as well as holiday post cards with family members’ or friends’ photos. These cards will never be recycled or discarded.

Saved Holiday Post Cards

I decided to target the cards that included blue, gray or silver on the front side of the card so that I could make snowflake gift tags. Then I dug into my collection of wafer thin dies and paper punches to see what snowflake patterns I could generate. I did add scrap papers, as needed, in solid sky blue, royal blue and white, as well as some adhesive crystals, and embellished the tags with markers and Tim Holtz Distress Ink. The supplies and tags for the entire project are listed at the bottom of this post, and are identified with numbers so that you can duplicate these tags if you wish, or use my tags as inspiration for your own.

Gift Tag Group 1

From left to right: Tag A – 1, 2, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 15. Tag B – 1, 2, 3, 6, 9, 13, 14, 15. Tag C – 2, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 11, 12, 13, 15.

Gift Tag Group 2

From left to right: Tag D – 1, 2, 5, 7, 9, 10, 11a, 12. Tag E – 1, 2, 5, 7, 9, 10, 11a, 12, 13, 15. Tag F – 1, 2, 5, 7, 9, 10, 11a, 12.

From left to right: Tags G – 1, 8, 11, 12. Tag H – 7, 8, 9, 10, 11a, 12. Tag I –7, 8, 9, 10, 11a, 12. Tag J – 1, 8, 11, 12.

From left to right: Tag G – 1, 8, 11, 12. Tag H – 7, 8, 9, 10, 11a, 12. Tag I –7, 8, 9, 10, 11a, 12. Tag J – 1, 8, 11, 12.

Favorite Gift Tag

Snowflake Tag K above is my favorite one. Supplies include 1, 6, 9, 10, 11, and 12.

When I was finished with the snowflake tags, which involved six different holiday cards, I ended up with more than two dozen gift tags. Yes, it’s detailed work, but it’s relaxing in the same way that you might find coloring the images inside adult coloring books.

What do you do with your old holiday cards?


Please note that some of these items have been discontinued or are out of stock from the manufacturer. If you search for the exact term shown below, however, you may find other sources for the item. The links provided do not necessarily represent the lowest price, but simply availability at the time of this post.

1. Die – Spellbinders S4-114 Standard Circles
2. Die – Spellbinders S4-404 Create-a-Flake Five
3. Die – Spellbinders S5-065 Moroccan Motifs
3a. Die – Memory Box 98914 Bristol Snowflake
4. Punch – EK Success 1” Scallop Circle
5. Punch – EK Success 1-1/4” Circle
6. Punch – EK Success 2” Circle
7. Punch – EK Success 2” Scallop Circle
8. Punch – EK Success 2-1/2” Circle
9. Ranger Tim Holtz Distress Ink Pad, Faded Jeans
10. Making Memories Deluxe Paper Piercer
11. Marker – Sharpie Permanent Marker Silver Metallic
11a. Marker – Copic Sketch B97 Night Blue
12. Adhesive – Xyron Create-a-Sticker 150 and Xyron Create-a-Sticker 500
13. Adhesive – Judi Kins Diamond Glaze
14. Adhesive – Aleene’s Fast Grab Tacky Glue
15. Embellishment – Hero Arts Gemstones

© 2016 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.