Monday, May 21, 2007

Summery Dishtowel Totebag Tutorial

Thank you again for all the good wishes on my birthday. They were such a wonderful gift!

And now I have a little gift for all of you, a fun little bag tutorial.

I was shopping at Joann Fabrics with my mom last week, thinking of making a few totebags for some teachers I adore. I was planning on making some like the ones I made last year, but without the quilting, because that is the most time-consuming part. And, I thought if I could find some kind of nice webbing to use as straps (not the gymbag plasticy stuff), then that would eliminate the other most time-consuming part, the making of the straps.

So, I found some cute prints in the home dec department and some webbing that wasn't plasticy, but cottony like twill tape but a little stronger, and I was like, bingo! I am really cutting down the time it takes to make these!
After that, my mom and I went across the street to Crate and Barrel to get a wedding shower gift. I was looking at all the cute kitcheny-gifty things, and I had switched my brain to the category of shower gift, but I guess I still had the totebags on my mind.

'Cause right then I saw the dishtowels....and I about had a conniption. Cute, sturdy cotton prints, already cut in the shape of rectangles. My tote-bag plan had already eliminated the quilting and the making of the strap, thereby cutting down the time needed to make them, but by eliminating the cutting out, I was also eliminating all the time it would take to clear a space on my table big enough to cut out! Whoo hoo!!!!

And thus was born my summery-floppy-dishtowel totebag.

Cute huh?!

So, here are the instructions:

You will need 2 co-ordinating rectangular dishcloths that are the same size, matching thread, and 1 yard of webbing. I used a twill tape style webbing. 1 yard makes standard handles, you would need 1.5 yard for longer straps if you want it to go over your shoulder. Also, a scrap of wonder under is optional.

Step 1: Press the dishtowels. They will probably have creases from being folded and it is much easier to press them now than after you have made the bag. Use a spray bottle with water to get those stubbon creases out, the finished bag will be much more polished, trust me.

Also, double check that the dishtowels are really the same size. It will save you a headache down the road.

Step 2: Trim off the hems on the long sides of both dishtowels. (I didn't do this on the first few, and they still came out fine. It just makes the top edge a little nicer at the side seam because it eliminates the bulk.)

Step 3: Fold the bag in half, right sides together, and sew the side seams--the sides that you cut. (Do this for the 2nd dishtowel too-total 4 seams.)

Step 4: Now you will make the gusset. The gusset is the bottom of the bag--it's what makes the rectangle three dimensional, like a cereal box, as opposed to a flat rectangle, like a file folder.

Hold the bag in your lap, right sides still together and with one of the side seams on top, so the hemmed open side is toward you and the fold is away from you. Pull up the sides to make a triangle out of a bottom corner of the bag. I don't know how to describe this, so if it doesn't make sense, just look at the picture.

For taller totebags I usually make the gusset about 4", but since this is more of an open, market bag, I made it 5". It doesn't matter too much, as long as you are consistent. You want to pinch and pull the triangle so it is even, and if you are making the gusset 5", measure across where it is 5" and you will know it is even if the seam is centered at the halfway point--2.5".

Mark the sewing line with a pencil and put a pin or two in the seam.

Sew across the marked line and cut away the excess triangle. Do this on the other bottom corner too. And the corners on the 2nd dishtowel.

Step 5: Press the side seams open. Don't worry about pressing the bottom seam, you just need to poke out the bottom corners with your fingers, you don't need to press it.

Step 6 (Optional): At this point, since I am at the ironing board, I like to iron a small scrap rectangle of wonder under to the bottom of one of the bags. Probably the lining one. But it's a completely reversable bag, so it doesn't really matter. The wonder under at the bottom of the bag will make the 2 layers stick together and the lining stay in place, instead of shifting around and getting sloppy. It's optional.

Now, you have 2 bag parts.

Step 7: Put the bag together. Pick one to be the outside and one to be the inside lining. Turn the lining piece with wrong-side out and stick it down into the outside part.

Match the 2 pieces up at the side seams. Put a pin on either side of the seam, using another pin to poke the edges of those seam allowances slightly downward inside the bag "sandwich" so they won't show after you've sewn the edge.

Match up the hems of the top of the bag, and put a pin in the middle. Add more if you need them.

Step 8: the strap. Cut your yard of webbing in half for 2 straps and you will stick the ends right down between the 2 layers. Stick it in about 1/2 inch, or a little less. Don't stress about it.

As far as where to position the strap, I measured in from the side seam about 4" and centered the strap there. Adjust it to suit your taste. I only put one pin in the strap, but I sewed very carefully over the strap to make sure it was perpendicular to the bag. It is easy to shift while sewing and then the strap comes out of the bag a little slanted, so you might want to put 2 pins in, to be sure it is stable.

Here you can see the first strap pinned in place. Make sure the straps are coming out of the bag nice and perpendicular, and that the handle isn't twisted! Pin the strap in place on the other side too.

Step 9: holding it all together. Now you are ready to sew around the top edge. Go slow and make sure you are catching both the outer and inner bag. I sewed a scant 1/8th of an inch from the edge. In the photo below, the stitching line on the left is the hem of the dishtowel that was already there. The line of stitching on the right is my stitching that secures both bags together and the strap in place.

I like to do 2 rounds of stitching to make sure it is nice and secure. Below you can see where I sewed my scant 1/8, and then sewed in between my sewing line and the hem of the towel, so it looks like 3 cute rows of topstitching.

Now that it is all together, if you used the Wonder Under in step 6, fluff the bag out, lining everything up as it should be, and lower a hot iron down into the bag bottom to fuse the 2 layers together. This makes a nice finish.


You are ready for the beach, the library, the farmer's market........

And I betcha can't make just one! Have fun!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Random Number NINE

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Thank you for that really great party you all threw for me in the comments. It was fun in so many ways, especially all the moral support about the great things this decade will bring, and hearing from so many new people!

I have been re-reading everything and visiting all the new-to-me blogs and friends. If I don't get all the comments answered this week, be sure to know that I'll be stopping by.

Big congratulations to commenter number nine: Miss rohanknitter, who wins the prize! (Please e-mail me emily at emilyquilts dot com so I can get your mailing address.) I've enjoyed her blog for some time now--you just can't beat photos of baby lambs in the kitchen for good blog material. Go check out her cute new apron!

I had a wonderful weekend. My mom suprised me and showed up with Birthday Rhubarb Pie. Yum.

My mom is one serious pie-maker. Lard. ('Nuff said. )

My dad showed up with a friend. My dad left, but the little guy didn't. He's still here. Maybe forever.

My sister suprised me by flying here from California. Having her here for the weekend was the best present of all--I miss her so much!!! And look what she gave me--that's a gift certificate for one of her fabulous hats, made just for me. And my brother sent me a frequent flyer award to "anywhere that Southwest flies, but please choose your destination carefully". Looks like there's a trip to L.A. in my future to see my peeps!

I feel very blessed to have a family who I love so much and friends and blog readers who I love and adore.

And, I wake up every day and I am the same Em, no matter what the number.

So, coming down off that Queen-For-A-Weekend high, I've been on a bit of a sewing bender the past few days. Nothing like the last week of school looming next week to put the pressure on. And, as it seems to happen around this time every year, I've caught the Tote Bag Fever. Be careful, it's contagious.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Are We Mature Yet?

Hello friends, and welcome to my little birthday celebration! The theme for today is FUN. Thank you to all of you who have already left me good birthday wishes. It has made my day much brighter already.

I have to admit, I am not taking this well. I had a little breakdown last night and Dave is now threatening to give me therapy gift-certificates for my birthday! My sister is threatening to send me a coffee mug that says "Lordy, Lordy, look who's Forty"!

So, let's have a little fun.
I want to show you this handmade card from my dear friend Tracey, which has given me a great trip down memory lane:

On the front is a collage with the following quote

To exist is to change
To change is to mature
To mature is to go on
Creating oneself endlessly

The middle is more paper collage and the obligitory four-zero.

Then, I turned it over for something I totally wasn't expecting. Photos of Tracey and I circa 1991, from our years as roommates in NYC.

On the left side is a picure of me, with wild eyes and the caption "Have we arrived at mature yet?" I am sitting on the side of our bathtub (so I don't make a mess) in our teensy West Village apartment, leaning over the tub making some kind of drink concoction that involved dropping a shot glass of something into a beer and drinking the whole thing down in one gulp. Something like that. I think it might have been Amaretto into a beer and it tasted like a Dr. Pepper.

On the right is a photo of me (after partaking of the beverage, from the look on my face) with Tracey behind me saying "I hope not!"
Since I've been reminiscing, I will relate a little Em history. After college in Philadelphia, I moved to New York to pursue fashion design. I met Tracey through a mutual friend who brought us together because we both knew how to sew. We still laugh about that, but I have to admit, having the ability to sew was pretty unusual in the 90s, especially in New York. We didn't just love to sew, we had a lot more in common besides that, and became great friends and roommates.

Here was a typical Friday night for us: She would walk to my office in Time Square and pick me up and we would take the subway up to the Upper East Side, where there was a bar that served the ladies free beer until 7pm. We'd mingle amongst the yuppies partaking our little hearts out until after 7, when we'd take the subway all the way down to the West Village, getting out at 6th Street where there was a Ray's Pizza and getting a slice. We'd walk to our apartment at Christopher and Bleecker, where we'd put on loud music, eat, drink (see picture above) and get ready to go out for the evening.

We'd head out atabout 11pm, to somewhere in the Village, usually Peculiar Pub or Red Lion on Bleecker Street. We had the best time, chattering endlessly, until the bars closed down at 4am. We'd walk home, stopping at Zito's bakery where they'd be bringing the bread up the conveyor belt from the basement, and if we called down the hole into the basement the son would come up and sell us a loaf. We'd take it home, sometimes eating it on the way, but usually saving it for french toast the next morning (approx. 1 or 2pm the next day).

After "breakfast" the next day, we'd hang out, sometimes going to the Park, sewing, shopping, until we'd be ready to repeat the process on Saturday night! We were grown up girls with jobs, living on our own in New York City and we thought we were so "MATURE"!

Good times. It was one of the most fun times of my life. The thought of staying up til 4am on a regular basis is completely foreign to me now! Obviously, with 3 kids, a minivan and a mortgage, things are very different. But I hope that I can still have as much fun as that girl did. One thing I have learned by now: it's all in the attitude.

So in an attempt to change the pouty attitude I've had for the past few days, I am offering up a contest. Fun! Here's what you have to do. Leave me a comment. Give me some moral support! Tell me what is fun about being forty! Tell me something that you have found fun on the blog. Or just de-lurk--you decide, no pressure.

Everyone who leaves a comment on this post by Sunday night will go into a drawing to win this. 3 fat quarters of some springy quilting fabrics I've picked up at recent quilt shows, and 2 mini-skeins (50 gms each) of Sophie's Toes. June Wedding and Froggy. Enough to make booties, shortie socks, regular socks if you striped them, or a Chevron scarf!
That should start those creative juices. Have fun!

Yes, It's Another Post From Me Already, Don't Faint

I said I had a lot of FOs to show and I wasn't kidding. And I'm feeling a sense of urgency today, possibly being something to do with the last day of my 39th year, so I've gathered together some photos having to do with the theme of "scarves".

Here's a photo from the archives: a Koigu lace scarf I finished in November 05:

I loved making it and wearing it, and in fact have worn it quite fuzzy. The great thing about a simple lace scarf is it is very easy to throw on with my standard uniform Old Navy tee shirt and twill pants and it makes everything look more pulled together.

They are also fun to knit and I had been itching to do another.

So last December, I cast on some solid cream colored sock yarn and made the Lopi Lace Scarf from Weekend Knitting. It became a Christmas gift for our sweet 1st grade teacher. I want to make this one again and think that the simplicity of the lace design would be great for a varigated yarn. I wonder if I have any varigated sock yarn lying around?

Then in February, I started Argosy. Here it is blocking on my bed:

Look at those pretty points!

Wait a minute, what is happening on this point? Crap!!!!!

Double crap!!!!

I put it away for about a month and then got out a needle and thread and carefully re-bound it to the last loop, then sewed the one live loop down as well as I could.

It was worth it!

My stylist (Hi Mom!) couldn't decide which way was better and took photos both ways:

Mom, getting in on the sock-yarn-scarf action, started a plain stockinette tube in Sophie's Toes color Secret Garden. When she comes to visit again, I'll get a photo of her in the finished product, because it turned out really cute.

While Mom was stockinette-ing her little heart out, I was working on my Chevron....

Tune in tomorrow to laugh at/cry with/console me on my big day! And there'll be a contest!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Ariann Finished

Hey you crazy cats, thanks for tuning in. I have been meaning to be in touch all week, I have a lot of knitting to show, and maybe even a big birthday to have, and maybe a big announcement, and possibly even a contest! So much! So lets get started off with Ariann.

I finished Ariann about a month ago, and with that weird April cold snap we had, I actually got to wear it a few times!

This is a great sweater. I added a bit to the largest size in the abdominal region. It might have been an additional repeat, perhaps just a wave of the magic wand or maybe some knitting voodoo....I was a long time ago and I forget, but whatever it was, it worked fine and it fits nicely.

The sleeves are very long on me, even though I shortened them by 1". Yes, I have very short arms and have never been able to figure out how much to shorten when it's a raglan style. My fall back method when in doubt is to shorten by 1", and in this case, it wasn't enough. On one hand it's ok, because that seems to be the current style, but on the other it's not so great when you're trying to cut syrupy pancakes for 3 kids in a restaurant and you're dragging your sleeves through the muck.

The only weird/major change I made was I left out the buttonholes. Mainly, because I was messing with the numbers so much, I was afraid that I'd reach the top of the yoke and be off on my last buttonhole. I did make a swatch and experimented with machine-sewn buttonholes put in after the fact. It worked great. I have wondered about machine sewn buttonholes for a long time, since so many ready made sweaters have them. I definitely want to explore this more.

So, I was fully intending to do the buttonholes that way, but then I found this great pin at a thrift shop, used it in a pinch because I wanted to wear the sweater (weird April cold snap) and I liked it that way so much that now I may never add the buttonholes.

I also made the collar longer. I looked at many finished Arianns around blogland and I noticed that on a lot of them, the collar looked skimpy compared to the pattern photo. I have a Rowan sweater with a big 8" collar that I love, so I did the same for this.

I would like to make this again. You might remember that I almost abandoned the Nashua Creative Focus for Cotton Ease a few months ago, and I still think this would be great in Cotton Ease. The pattern is kind of mesmerizing and its a great, wearable sweater.

Props, Bonne Marie, you are one talented designer!