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.

Mar 112014

Last July Edi Royer, one of my fellow teammates from Blogging Business Artisans, sent me one of her laser-engraved wooden buttons. She sent several people buttons, in fact, and we all promised to feature her buttons in one of our handmade projects. Well, July led to August, the start of Iowa’s Destination Imagination season, and August led to September’s team recruiting efforts and updating of the state Web site, along with preparations for conferences in October and November, followed by training workshops in December, January and February. It is now tournament season, and Edi’s button has been waiting all this time to be included in a project. Did I mention previously that my husband and I are retiring from Iowa’s state Board at the end of the season? I think it is time for us to move on to new adventures and to reclaim our personal schedule.

Scroll ButtonBut back to Edi’s button, or should I say buttons? Edi, who lives in Essex, Iowa, is the owner of Memories for Life. She uses her laser engraving equipment for all kinds of creative projects: books with wooden covers, seasonal ornaments, etched glassware, magnets, cuff links, wooden buttons, and much more. Her buttons, however—and how I used the one she sent me—are what this post is about. They are perfect for journal covers, fabric flowers, hair ornaments, purses, jewelry and lots of other creative endeavors.

Button Collage

What did I do with the button I received from Edi? I finally finished my sewing project yesterday, an Atkinson Designs Lollipop Bag that uses Edi’s button instead of a “lollipop flower” as an embellishment for the clutch. More precisely, it is the center of a fabric kanzashi flower.

DSCN8205I had mentioned previously that I am sewing some “warm-up” bags of lesser complexity before I tackle the more detailed patterns that are part of the Bag of the Month Club I joined in January. Here is what I learned from completing the above bag:

1. A good way to use up all of your fusible batting is to butt the ends together and fuse them with Heat Press Batting Together™, an acid-free, almost weightless product from Jeanne Harwood Designs. I paid $7.99 for this product at my local quilt shop, but you may discover a better price online. A roll of this stuff measures 1.5 inches by 15 yards, and a little goes a long way. Let’s face it: interfacing and lining products are expensive, so you may as well save and use all of your scraps. The seam is invisible once you fuse your batting to the fabric.

Fused Batting Collage

2. I learned how to install a zipper by covering the zipper ends with fabric. This is a professional, very clean finish for a bag zipper. Basically, you cut your zipper an inch shorter than the width of your bag, and then cover the ends with folded fabric. Before you insert it into the bag, this is what the zipper looks like.

Zipper with Covered Ends

3. A measuring tape is indispensable when you’re trying to center a design on anything, but a really handy measuring tool called the Dritz Quilting 14-in-1 Measuring Gauge is even better. This two-sided aluminum gadget has all the basic measurements commonly used in sewing, from 1/8 of an inch to 2 inches.

Measuring Gauge

4. I learned how to make a strap for a wristlet using a swivel hook and a D-ring. The instructions in the pattern called for sliding your swivel hook onto the fabric strap, folding over one end by a quarter inch and sliding the other end under the fold, then sewing a straight line to anchor the hook in place. I didn’t like this method because it left the raw edge of the fabric exposed. Instead, I followed the instructions found on Emmaline Bags‘ blog, which involved sewing a rectangle onto the strap. I think this is more secure and also more attractive. I don’t know if you can really see this in my photo, but if you click on the photo below, you can zoom in.

DSCN82075. The above photo shows a fairly flat bag, but Atkinson’s design includes a clever hidden bottom gusset in a contrast fabric that allows the bag to stand up on its own, and to open up wider at the bottom if you need to insert more items in the bag.

Wristlet Clutch Collage

6. Sewing kanzashi flowers is fun, f-u-n, FUN!  What are they, you ask? Kanzashi are ornamental hair flowers made by folding fabric origami-style. They go back to the 1600s and originated in Japan, but today you’ll find them on garments, bridal headpieces, bags, jewelry—pretty much anywhere your imagination leads you. You can learn about many more ways to use kanzashi flowers in Diane Gilleland’s book, Kanzashi in Bloom. A great interview with Diane can be found at This Love Forever in Kanzashi: Flowers in Bloom Interview with Diane Gilleland.

Kanzashi in Bloom

You sew kanzashi flowers a petal at a time by hand, but the process is goof-proof when you use one of Clover’s Kanzashi Flower Makers. I started off by cutting five 3-inch by 3-inch squares of fabric to make five petals, but later I cut another square because I decided I liked six petals better. The green bit of plastic is the Clover Kanzashi Flower Maker. There are many types and sizes from which you can choose. The one below produces a two-inch flower.

Getting Started

I coated my thread with beeswax to keep it from tangling, but also to strengthen the thread and keep it from breaking. I used 24 inches of thread to sew all six petals.


You begin by laying the template onto the right side of the fabric. Then you fold both the fabric and the template in half, and lock it into place. Trim the excess fabric with scissors. You don’t have to be very precise.

Folding & trimming fabric inside template

The template is numbered on both the front and back side. Knot your thread and insert your needle into “1” on the back side (where it says “Start”), come up at “2,” go down at “3,” and continue until you have hit all the numbers and arrive at “12” (“Finish”). This is what the back and front sides of the kanzashi template look like.

Back and front sides of template

Open up the template, remove the fabric, fold it in half with the long stitches on the inside of the fold, and simply pull the thread. A petal forms without any effort at all. In the photos below, you can see what both sides of the fabric look like when you remove it from the template.

Inside and outside of fabric

Leave the petal on the thread because you will use the remainder of the thread to make additional petals. Leave 4 to 6 inches of thread between the end of the previous petal and the one you’re working on, then slide each petal next to the previous one when it is completed.

Petal Assembly

When you have finished all of the petals, insert your needle into a fold from the first petal a few times, and knot off. Sew a button in the center, and you’re done!

Finished Flower

Although this wristlet clutch was fairly simple to sew, I guess I learned quite a bit. Because nearly everything I crochet or paper craft involves adding a flower, you can imagine that I’ll be adding flowers to the things I sew, too. And Edi’s wooden buttons add the perfect final touch!

© 2014 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

Jan 192014

I’m the Queen of Bs in my home. Nope, that’s not a typo. B stands for Books, Boxes and Bags, all three of which I collect in all sizes and shapes. I’m guilty of purchasing duplicate books and bag patterns, in fact, because I likely have too many of them and can’t keep track of them. That being said, I have decided that 2014 is the year when I will begin to actually use those bag patterns, mainly to learn about bag construction, with a long-term goal of designing my own.

BagClubButtonTo get started, I joined Bag of the Month Club, organized by Sara Lawson, author of Big-City Bags: Sew Handbags with Style, Sass, and Sophistication. The club is open to anyone, releases one brand new bag pattern a month from a different but well-known designer, and runs for six months. Over 200 individuals have joined the club so far, which you can join anytime you like during the six months of the club, and you’ll still get all six patterns. The cost is $40—pretty reasonable for well-written and illustrated bag patterns from designers like Sara of Sew Sweetness, Janelle of Emmaline Bags, Samantha of At home with Mrs H, Betz White, Anna of Noodlehead, and Chris of Chris W. Designs. You can join a Flickr group, too, or visit Facebook, where you can view other people’s finished products.

January’s bag is the Bye Bye Love Bag, designed by Sara Lawson. The bag features two exterior pockets on the front, a zipper pocket on the back, and six pockets on the interior. So far those who have completed the bag say it is very roomy, perfect as an overnight bag.

Photo courtesy of Sara Lawson

Photo courtesy of Sara Lawson

I have some purse hardware I bought locally at Jo-Ann Fabrics, as well as some online sites. Some great online resources for bag hardware and purse-maing supplies include:

I have not yet begun to sew my first bag because I have been occupied with Destination Imagination volunteer activities this month, but I did purchase my fabrics. They are from the Bobbins and Bits line designed by Pat Sloan for Moda Fabrics©.

Bag Fabrics

I don’t know whether I will actually be able to finish one bag a month, but that is certainly the goal. Have you started a new monthly challenge recently?

© 2014 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.