Monday, November 4, 2019

A volunteer who happens to sew

That's me, I guess!

I started taking care of bird feeders (feeding, cleaning, bird baths, etc.) at Hospice House and Support Care in Williamsburg, VA recently.  The word got out that I sew. And another volunteer noticed my handmade tote bag. She asked me if I could make tote bags "like that." I surprised her by saying I made that one :)

As it turns out, Hospice House provides tote bags for families and the person who was making them wasn't able to continue. So, I stepped in and now I make lots of tote bags. They're very simple and I don't even line them as I don't know if they'll be kept or thrown away, and I don't care; the bag is no longer mine once I deliver it to the House. I've used up an awful lot of my stash and am collecting certain fabrics that would work well for the purpose.

Today, I met the person who sews pillows for guests at the House. They're decorative and offered to the family to take home. She brought in two great big bags of pillows she had made. As is wont to happen, we talked about sewing and it became clear that she did not want to continue to be the only one making them and maybe wanted to give it up. We talked for quite a while and I offered to take some of the pressure off by helping out. I'm not sure how this will turn out, but I wouldn't bother me one iota to help out. Pillows are fun to make and they're meaningful to the families.

I'm doing a couple other small projects for the House and probably will continue to do so for a long time. I volunteered for an early intervention center when I was younger and my children were babies and toddlers. I even worked for them for a while. Now, I'm volunteering at the other end of life's spectrum. A natural progression, I'd say.

Yes, I am a volunteer who happens to sew.

In the meantime, my nephew and nieces have asked for new trick or treat bags. They're the project for now! 

Sunday, August 25, 2019

New Tutorial - Patchwork tote bag, lined, with a pocket!

I recently made a bag for a friend and decided to get to stepping with a tutorial. It is also listed on the Tutorial page linked to the right. In fact, it's easier to read the tutorial linked from the tutorial page as the photos can be side by side and I'm not limited to size of the width. On the blog here, it's single photos one after the other :)

PATCHWORK TOTE BAG TUTORIAL
I've made 100s of tote bags in my years of sewing. Sometimes they're made as gifts, as was this one in our example. This bag was created with patchwork triangles, so there will be some "how to" for the triangles themselves. Otherwise, the instructions can be use for any tote bag. This one happens to be lined. You don't have to do this. Just leave that part of the tutorial out.

Not sure if this is the front or the back. You decide. I'll show you how to cut and stitch triangles to make this or any design of your choice. This bag is about 17" x 17".

And if that's the front, this is the back, or vice versa. I made the two sides just a little bit differently. Both include a bit of the Flying Geese pattern and a simple triangle to triangle pattern.

This is a nice shot of the inside which includes a full size lining and a recycled denim pocket that has been embellished with a square of the patterned fabric used in the patchwork.

First I decided that I was going to use denim in some way, so grabbed a small pile of dissected jeans.

Next came a decision to make the base square 3" and start rotary cutting those squares. You can mark and use scissors if you like.

I have a lot of brown fabrics and this one caught my eye for a tote bag project. So 3" squares were cut.
This leaves us with a couple of nice piles of squares to make our triangle designs.
Bear with me. We're about to sew and cut triangles using squares. Place a denim square face up on your sewing surface.
Then take a square of your print and place it face down on the up facing denim square.
I love triangles, but hate sewing on the bias edge of anything, so we're trying something new. Draw a line from corner to corner on the diagonal of your square. The dotted lines show where we are going to stitch, approximately 1/4" from the center line.
Stitch from corner to corner with an approximately 1/4" seamline.
Then stitch from corner to corner on the other side of your center line, again using an approximately 1/4" seam allowance.
Next, cut along your center line that you had drawn. You now have two triangles sewn to two other triangles. So much easier than bias seams!
Turn one of your new sewn squares over, finger press, and look at what you've done. Pretty cool, huh?
Press the seams open with your trusty iron.
Break time! Grab your lining fabric and press it if needed. Set this aside for now.
Keep sewing triangles into squares using the method I showed you above or one of your own.
Play with the squares...
...twist and turn them...
....to find a design you like.
I chose a simple design and decided to embellish one side with a strip of Flying Geese. You find a design you like and go with it.
At this point, I estimated 6x6 squares, or 36 for each side. I stitched 6 rows of 4 with the triangle design.
I knew I would need 6 of the Flying Geese units....
....but played design before I started to sew.
Sew 2 triangle units together as shown. Each one of these blocks will be part of the Flying Geese design
After sewing the units together, you can play iwth placement again.
Now sew each of the Flying Geese units together, line that column up with the rows of triangle units, match seams, and stitch.
Press what is now one of the bag pieces! You don't have to measure it, but this gives you an idea of where you are size-wise. I wasn't happy with the size and wanted it a bit bigger.
I used my 2" roll of denim strips to make an edge for the bag. When I am cutting denim for any project, I cut 2" strips to add to my roll. It's always there waiting. It is not bias cut, so unable to be used for binding, but it's pretty versatile for other things.
The edge rows for the bag are nothing special, but do take the recycled denim theme to another level as well as enlarging the bag.
Time to make the handles for your bag. Using another stack of 3" squares, stitch together an approximate 36" strip.
Press the seams open on your strip.
Fold your strip in half wrong sides together, matching seams, and begin finger pressing it to get the fold started.
Use your iron to press the folded strip from end to end.
Your pressed strip.
Back at the sewing machine, open your folded strip and begin folding the edges toward the center, wrong sides facing each other.
Fold the other side to the center.
Now fold this piece in half.
Stitch down the open edge of your strip close to the edge.
Stitch close to the edge on the other side of the strip.
Trim the end of the almost made strop with pinking shears if you have them. If not, just trim with regular shears.
Cut your long strip in half to create...
....two 18" strips to use as the bag straps. We'll get back to how to attach these in a bit. For now, set them aside.
As I was finishing the other side, I decided to do this side in a modified Flying Geese pattern. For this, I needed 6 rows of 6 again, so I got to sewing.
I did two rows facing down and one row flying up.
This side was pressed and then...
...using my 2" denim strips, I put an edge on the design.
This is everything we've done thus far (except the pocket; that will come later).
Time to address the lining
I placed the bag front and back on the cutting pad and then spread out the lining fabric (pressed earlier) on top.
Using the rotary cutter, I evened out all edges and the bag was now approximately 17-1/2" square. Break time...on to the pocket.
This is a pocket off an old pair of blue jeans. If you are going to embellish your pocket (which will go inside the bag), now is the time. I decided to sew a diamond of the printed bag fabric to the pocket to give it some pop!
Place one piece of lining fabric face up on your work surface.
Measure approximately 2-1/2" from the top.
You can measure the width too, but I eye balled it and placed the pocket face up on the lining (wrong side of pocket on right side of lining).
Stitch from top of the pocket, to the top on the other edge, 3 edges in total, leaving the top open. I try to stitch in the stitch marks that are on the pocket already.
Stitch again on the second set of stitch marks. If there are no top stitching marks from the original stitching, still do a second line of stitching for strength.
Back to the lining and handle. You need to find the center of the top of the lining on both pieces. At the same time, we're going to measure our handle placement from that center line.

Fold the lining in half. Pin and clip the center. Pin and clip approximately 2-1/2" from the center while the fabric is still folded.
Unfold the lining fabrics and pin one of the handles on the snipped and pinned spot that was 2-1/2" from the center. The edges of each handle are now about 5" from each other.
Baste the handles in place using an approximately 1/8" seam.
Place one lining piece including handles face up.
Place the second lining piece right sides together on the first piece. The handle goes inside this fabric sandwich.
Pin the two facing pieces on three sides, leaving the top open. Begin stitching from the top of the bag to the bottom, across the bottom, and up to the top of the bag.
Do another row of stitching starting at the top and about 1/8" from first seam.
As you come close to the corner, start to ease your needle to the original stitching line and stitch over the first line to the corner.
Turn the corner with the second line still on the first and ease away from the seam line, back to 1/8" from the first line.
Bring the stitching line toward the corner again, using the first stitching line as your guide, come close at the corner, turn the corner, and come away from the original seam line gradually. The next few photos should help guide you with this.
You can see how I brought the second stitching line into the first in order to overlap stitches for trimming and turning in the next steps ahead.
When you have completed the seams on the lining, trim the corners at an angle so the corners will be crisp when we turn the lining at a late point in this process. Just wait!
Turn the lining you have just sewn so that the right side is facing out. Use your finger in the corner to push it out. You can use a corner tool, but since this is the lining, the crispness of the corner is not as important as it is for the bag itself.
Spread the lining out and look at what you've done. I like to hand press it at this point. You can take it to the iron and do it up proper, but this fabric is fairly pliable in my hands, so I didn't do that.
Clip the center on the bag top for matching later.
Repeat the instructions for sewing the side seams of the bag - right sides together, 1/4" on 3 sides, a second line of stitching next to that which merges to the point in the corners. Do not turn the bag right side out at this time.
Okay, here comes the fun part. Place the lining inside the bag, Right sides together.
It feels a little contrary to logic, but go with it. Push that lining into the bag. Right now, we're concerned with the top of the bag and keeping the handles inside the bag/lining sandwich.
Match the center clips on the top of the bag and lining. Pin into place.
Match the side seams of the lining with the side seams of the bag. Pin into place.
Continue pinning all the wary around the top, easing lining and bag to fit. Chances are, the measurements are not perfect and there will be a smidgen of an inch off here and there. You can usually stretch the fabric ever so slightly to make it fit.
Tricky part alert! Pick about a 3+" area to leave unsewn/open at the top. I mark my spot with a sideways pin to remind myself when I get to it.
Sew from one end of your opening to the other end of your opening at the top of the bag in a 3/4" seam.
Take a second seam between the top of the bag and the first seam, again leaving the opening for turning the bag unsewn.
Now for the really fun part - Turning the bag right side out. Remember that opening in the top where you didn't sew? Put your hand in there.
Begin by working on pulling the lining through the hole as the fabric is a bit thinner and easier to work with.
Keep tugging gently and don't give up. Grab the bag and start pulling it through the hole. It may take a bit, but all of the bag and lining will come through the hole and the bag will be right side out. It's not pretty work, but it does come into place. I promise.
Use this opporunity while your hand is inside between lining and bag to poke out the corners of the bag itself. The two corners on the bottom of the bag need a little work. Denim is tough and hard to make into a sharp corner, but if you sewed your seams correct and snipped off the excess fabric on the corners, you can push out a pretty nice angular corner.
This is what you have when you get the whole thing turned right side out. You can press or just use your hands to smooth it out.
Tuck the lining inside the bag and smooth everything out once again. Push, pull, tug, do what you need to even out seams, corners, and all that good stuff. Don't pull, push, or tug too hard. You don't want to tear your hard work into shreds.
In this photo, the scissors are pointing to the opening you left at the top of the bag. It needs to be addressed now.
Turn this unsewn bit into the bag lining as shown.
It's hard to see, but I pinned the opening closed.
Stitch all the way around the top edge twice - about 1/4" from the top and then again about halfway between that seam and the top edge. Be sure to catch the bag opening you pinned.
Smooth out your sewing around the top and look at what you made! Good job.
While you're at it, make a potholder with your leftover fabrics!