Patchwork Duffle

I don’t have PS on my laptop. I use my iPhone for maybe 99 percent of the photos I take these days. I’m waving the white flag and giving up on any pretense of polished perfection in favor of actually writing more than one blog post a year. So if less-than-perfect pictures offend you, you probably want to stop reading my blog.

Life happens. A lot. So here I am, seven months since my last blog post, trying to start anew. So how about I just dive back in?

At Quilt Market in Portland this past spring, I snagged a copy of Bari J‘s Holiday in London Duffle Bag. Bari is one of my favoritest people ever and I really love her aesthetic, so I pretty much had to pick up one of her awesome bag patterns, especially one that had the potential to become my go-to travel bag.

I was itching to make something with a gorgeous range of Michael Miller fabrics we had at the shop. Norwegian Wood plus a bunch of other gorgeous, graphic brights. Elizabeth Hartman’s patchwork Weekender came to mind but I didn’t want to make the Weekender so the patchwork Holiday in London Duffle came into being.

Holiday in L

I picked up 10 fat quarters plus extra cuts for the handles, strap and binding. Oh and separate lining fabric. Yeah, not doing twice the patchwork. As it was, the patchwork, quilt-as-you-go method probably added about eight hours to this project. Why? Because I’m slow and sometimes mess things up and have to figure out a fix midstream.

Holiday in L

I did an easy piecing job by using strips of different widths to fill the space. If you do this, you’ll want to cut the Soft n Stable at least an inch larger all the way around to compensate for how much it pulls in during the quilting process. I forgot this on a couple of pieces and so my bag turned out a wee bit smaller because I had to trim things up to get them to fit together properly. Whoops!

Holiday in L

I tinkered with the straps and handles (and tabs) and just made them into casings to slip cotton canvas webbing through. I really like using webbing for the durability factor and having them covered with fabric pulls together the whole look. I also used my favorite, favorite, favorite Fuse n Wrap piping because it is one of the best inventions ever. Seriously. (Soft n Stable falls under that category, too.)

The instructions were easy to follow and I like how the seams are all encased. If I make this again (and I probably will because I think it will be a great graduation gift), I will attach the bag bottom a little differently because I’m too lazy to do the hand sewing. (What? Have you not met me?)

Holiday in L

I skipped the “faux piping” step at the end because it’s a little on the bulky side and I just wanted to be done with it and start using it. I immediately took it upstairs to show off to Miss L and my Honey because nothing says “I’m done!” quite like show and tell. Ok, I really wanted someone who was not me to ooh and aah over it because it is FABULOUS. I love, love, love it and am so glad I put in the extra effort to do all that piecing and quilting. If you’re thinking about making this bag, I highly recommend checking out Bari’s fantastic sew along.

Bag Lady Returns

I haven’t been blogging much lately but I have been sewing. I guess it’s a trade off sometimes and I’m certainly enjoying the productivity.

I’ve been itching to make the Pink Chalk Mail Sack ever since I saw Kathy Mack carrying one around Market. I love the styling and the cross-body handle is especially appealing to me. The hardest part was deciding what fabrics to use! Ultimately I decided to sew it with the bright, fun Gypsy Bandana by Pillow & Maxfield for Michael Miller Fabrics.

Can you say “Yummy!”? Totally loving how it turned out. I did substitute fusible fleece for the interfacing recommended for the bag exterior, mostly because I had it on hand and prefer a little softer feel sometimes.

In retrospect, I wish I’d used a smaller print for the bag yoke and handles but I can live with this combination. It’s a nice size, very generous, and I like that there are plenty of pockets I can fill with all my necessities.

The Kindergartener-to-Be

I decided yesterday that Miss L needed something new to wear when I took her to register for Kindergarten.


Yes, the last of my babies will be off to school this Fall. Bittersweet, for sure, but it’s hard to look at this face and not share a bit of her excitement. We pass the elementary school every day on our way to her preschool and she never fails to point it out on our travels.

I needed something bright and cheery to match her mood, and these new Michael Miller fabrics were just the thing. I swooned over them when Sarah was considering ordering them for the shop. As soon as they came in, I started buying pieces of the collection. (I think I’m up to six different prints. Shhhh!)

The top is one of my favorite patterns, the ModKid Frida. I’ve been intending to sew another (actually have the fabric for three others!) but just haven’t gotten around to it until now. I made the 4/5 again and actually planned to make a dress — right up until I realized that I didn’t have enough of the hedgehogs to make that happen. Whoops! I lopped off the bottom of the pattern an inch at a time until I could make it work. Obviously I was planning a shirt when I bought the yardage.

I did make the hem band a little more narrow than the pattern called for, just to change it up a bit. The bodice and sleeves are lined with the same fabric as the exterior, since I actually did buy enough of that.

The hat is a new pattern for me, the Izzy n Ivy Jack and Jill. I ran into a little problem but the awesome Jana of Izzy n Ivy saw my tweet and gave me just the info I needed to finish it up. I may have modified the hat a little, too, but mostly that was because it was getting late (I finished up about 11 p.m. Wednesday night) and I’m relatively lazy when it comes to some parts of the construction process.

The ruffled capri jeans are another of my recycled too-short pants projects. They really are an awesome way to use up something that no longer fits in length but is just fine in the waist. Also? Super fast. You know how I love me some fast projects.

As always, the true test was L’s reaction to the outfit. See that face? That is the face of a happy customer, for sure. So happy was she, in fact, that the outfit had to go with us to gymnastics this afternoon so she could put it all back on before we left. (Usually she’s happy to wear her leotard home.)

Color Theory

Probably one of the most frequent comments I hear about my sewing is “I love the fabrics you choose!” It never fails to bring a smile to my face, as well as a little bit of a blush.

One of the things I touch on in the classes I teach is fabric selection — not just the appropriate type of fabric to use for a garment but also color, print and scale.

Give any 10 sewists the same pattern and you’ll likely get 10 very different interpretations of that garment, each with a very different “feel.” A lot of that has to do with fabrics they chose. It’s not just about color, but about how the colors and prints work with (or against) each other.

When I pick fabrics for a project, I think about who I’m sewing for plus how many fabrics I want to use and where I’ll use them. Samantha’s Miss Madeline pattern is illustrated with dresses that use the same fabric for the sleeves and dress, with a contrasting fabric at the waistband and apron edges. I like to mix it up a little more, so I use that same contrasting fabric on the sleeves as well. (Of course, I think it would be super fun to add another fabric into the mix and have the sleeves be something entirely different.)

For this particular dress, I knew I wanted to use that gorgeous orange floral print from Sandi Henderson’s Farmer’s Market line but I wasn’t quite sure what to put with it. The person I was sewing it for said she likes stripes and wanted a very fall feel to the dress. I literally went to the quilt store, pulled the bolt of main fabric off the wall and started walking around to find fabrics that spoke to me. (Doesn’t that sound so zen? LOL!)

I do it fairly often, actually. It’s not unusual for me to pile a table with bolts of fabric so I can lay them on top of each other to see how the colors and patterns work together. Often, it’s not so much about matching colors exactly but seeing if they’re harmonious when placed alongside each other. The orange in the stripe from this Amy Butler fabric is pretty darned close to one of the oranges in the flower but what really makes the two work together is the graduated shading of the green stripes. It kind of echoes the graduated shading of the flowers. Similar but different. It’s why I chose the Flutterby panel for the apron. The greens sort of fade into each other and really complement the bordering stripes without being an exact match. When put together, the three fabrics give off a similar vibe; they all say “fall” with the same subtle voice.

Contrast that dress with these two, also made with the same Miss Madeline pattern. They have a completely different feel, thanks to very different fabric choices:

Another thing that’s important to think about is the scale of print. Most fabric lines made by quilting fabric manufacturers include a large print, medium print and small print. Why? Because when you are combining fabrics, it’s pleasing to the eye to have prints of varying scale. A good rule of thumb for choosing a fabric based on scale is fewer seams, bigger print. Bigger pieces of fabric will maintain the integrity and feel of the print, whereas smaller prints can more easily accommodate more seams and smaller cuts.

I absolutely adore the aqua mermaid fabric on the dress to the left. Those mermaids, however, are HUGE, about 12″ tall and 8″ wide. If I tried to use that fabric for a patchwork twirl skirt, for example, it would lose so much of the under-the-sea effect that it just wouldn’t be the same. Instead, I chose to make a jumper-style dress with two big pieces and two side seams. The accent fabric is a medium-ish sized polka dot that balances the larger print.

I don’t really think of these as hard-and-fast rules by any means but these are the kinds of things in the back of my head when I’m selecting fabrics. Ultimately my goal is for whatever I make to reflect the wearer’s personality, rather than wear the owner.