Wednesday, March 26, 2014

My Aragon bag

Back in the beginning of February, I took a workshop with Sara Lawson of Sew Sweetness and made this lovely bag.  The workshop was an all-day event, organized by the Chicago Modern Quilt Guild, a group which I am so happy to have joined about a year ago.  Many of us braved (yet another!) snowstorm that day, to gather and sew and eat and sew and chat and sew... as Sara expertly and patiently walked us through the making of her Aragon bag.

The Aragon bag was designed as a diaper bag, but it would also make a great carry-on tote.  I'll be using mine as a "retreat" bag to carry fabric and sewing supplies.  The thing has nine pockets (!) in all, which are perfect for stashing rotary cutters, rulers, thread, elastic, zippers, and more.  And the interior is easily large enough to hold several yards of fabric, as well as some in-progress projects!  If you're interested, you can find out more about the Aragon bag in Sara's pattern shop.

I enjoy making bags, but I'm not sure I would have attempted one this complex without the workshop.  Despite having done a lot of prep work beforehand and sewing all day (okay, so maybe I should have been talking less...remember the part about chatting?!), I still hadn't completely finished the bag at the end of the workshop.  Another hour or so of focused work at home, though, and it was done!

I used fabrics from Jeni Baker's Nordika collection for the outer bag and side pockets, with a teal polka-dot print from Joann's for the interior, top, and shoulder straps.

I cut out the pattern pieces using the cute little pattern weights my mother-in-law made for me for Christmas.   No more cans from the cupboard as pattern weights for me!  I stuck to the pattern for the most part, with just a few (three, in fact) modifications.
1) I changed the shape of the front flap pocket to be more rectangular, but still with rounded bottom corners (see top photo).  The pocket in the pattern is more of a semi-circle.  I liked how the shape of my revised pocket was more connected to the overall shape of the bag, but, more importantly, I just wanted to be able to fit more stuff in it!
2) I made the shoulder straps a few inches longer, because I'm tall and wanted the bag to hit my hips, not my waist, when I carry it.
3) I used a different interfacing than the pattern called for -- Pellon Peltex 71 (an ultra-firm fusible stabilizer) instead of the recommended Soft and Stable foam interfacing.

If you ever have a chance to take a class from Sara, I would highly recommend it.  She was a great teacher, was very well prepared to walk us through each step, and was patient and personable.  Plus, you'll likely end up with an amazing new bag as a result!!

Monday, February 10, 2014

A Kitchen Stitches winner!!

The winner of my giveaway of the new Kitchen Stitches book is.... (drumroll, please...) Debbie!!!, who said, "Looks like a very useful book! Thanks."  I think you'll find that it truly is, Debbie!

You can read more about the book, and my contribution to it, here.

And if you didn't win, but would still like a copy of the book, you can always purchase a copy at your local bookstore, in the Martingale shop or through Amazon.

Happy stitching!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Double-Handed Pot Holder from Kitchen Stitches (and a giveaway!)

Here's a clue to which project I chose to stitch up for this week's Kitchen Stitches blog hop.  (Hint: Look in the upper left corner of this photo.)  **Also, I'm giving away a Kitchen Stitches book to one lucky winner today!  Info at the very bottom of this post.**

Yes, for several reasons, I decided to make the Double-Handed Pot Holder by Natalie Barnes.  First, I don't think it's possible to have too many pot holders... and I didn't yet have this double-handed type.  I also liked the opportunity this project provided to mix lots of print and solid fabrics, plus the pot holder is constructed using the quilt-as-you-go method, a technique I've been wanting to try.

Working with a Valetine's Day theme, I chose pink and red fabrics to start.  Then I added some oranges (My hands just naturally reach for them.  I can't really help it!).  I brought in a bright blue and citrus-y green, as well, to keep it from being too monochrome.  The radical part is the hot pink solid that I chose for the backing.  I'm not usually a pink person, but it just seemed right for this project.

The instructions were easy to follow, with clear diagrams.  The quilt-as-you-go technique was painless and quick.  Since I don't usually sew with hot pink and therefore didn't have any thread to match the backing, I decided to use a bright orange (I know, I know.) thread in the bobbin to provide a fun contrast with the pink.  For the top thread, I used an off-white.  The upper left photo shows the two thread colors.

Due to my own novice-ness at hand sewing bindings, and the many layers involved, I managed to stab myself several times with my needle during the process.  Twice, in fact, I had to spot clean drops of blood off the pot holder!!  Eventually, though, I got the hang of it, and the rest of the binding attachment went smoothly.  The many band-aids on my fingers may have also helped protect them (and the pot holder) from further injury!

Photo courtesy of Martingale Press.

Here's Natalie's lovely version from the book.  I love the idea of the casserole cozy, too.  That's on my future "to do" list.  I really think this is a wonderful book full of great gift ideas or a nice way to add some color and cheer to your own home.

Don't forget to follow along this week with all of the bloggers (many of them book contributors) participating this week:

2/3  Heather at The Sewing Loft
2/4  Becky at the Patchwork Posse and  Kim at My Go-Go life
2/5  Amy at FormWork Design and  Deby at So Sew Easy
2/6  Rebecca at Ruby Blue Quilts  and Jackie at Jabot Quilts
2/7  Melissa at Happy Melissa Quilting
2/8  Kari at Fresh Cut Quilts

Now, the giveaway -- thanks for being patient!  Simply leave a comment below for a chance to win one copy of Kitchen Stitches.  The giveaway is open until 5pm CST on Saturday, February 8, when I'll randomly choose a winner.  Please make sure your email is included in your comment, especially if it's not connected to your Blogger profile.

Good luck!

Monday, February 3, 2014

More Kitchen Stitches stitching

Getting this out a little late in the day... but I wanted to share some info about a fun little Kitchen Stitches blog hop I'm participating in this week.  Several of the book's contributing designers are stitching up projects from Kitchen Stitches -- with a Valentine's theme -- to share.  The fun twist is that we've chosen other projects in the book to sew, rather than our own.  I finished mine up late this afternoon, and will show and tell on Wednesday.  Can you guess from this snapshot of my work table just which project I made?

Here's the line up of participants this week.  Be sure to take a peek each day at what these lovely ladies have been up to.  I'm truly flattered to be in the company of such great designers!

2/3  Heather at The Sewing Loft
2/4  Becky at the Patchwork Posse and  Kim at My Go-Go life
2/5  Amy at FormWork Design and  Deby at So Sew Easy
2/6  Rebecca at Ruby Blue Quilts  and Jackie at Jabot Quilts
2/7  Melissa at Happy Melissa Quilting
2/8  Kari at Fresh Cut Quilts

And here's one more glance at some of the projects in the book.  I just love all that color!

Photo courtesy of Martingale Press.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Kitchen Stitches book release... and a giveaway!

Have you seen Kitchen Stitches yet?  I'm thrilled to be a contributor to this great new book by Martingale Press -- and now I can finally share some of the photos I took almost a year ago of the tea cozy and placemat set I designed!  But first, I'll tell you that if you are patient enough to read all the way to the end of this post, you can find out about Martingale's big giveaway to celebrate the release of Kitchen Stitches, a collection of fun and fuctional sewing projects for the kitchen and more!

I love pairing linen with pretty cotton prints, and I used the Circle Blooms design as a way to do just that.  Then I added a little hand embroidery for extra detail.  This was my first time experimenting with reverse applique, something I had wanted to try for a while.  That's one of the things I really enjoy about designing sewing projects/patterns -- it gives me a chance to try out new techniques and skills in order to achieve the look that I'm after.

I had my own little styling session in my dining room to take these photos.  Ha!  It could use a little work, I know.  I'm fascinated at how photos in books and magazines are styled, and I'd love to get better at this.

Also, I know I'm a nerd, but I like all the circles in this photo.  Hmmm...  Maybe I should've used a spoon instead of a fork for an even more "circular" look!

There are many wonderful (and colorful!) projects in this book that would make lovely hostess gifts, or a nice little something for your own home.  The basket liner and baguette tote by Natalie Barnes also pair linen with cotton prints, and are delightful.  The casserole cozy, also by Natalie Barnes, and the slow-cooker cozy by Rebecca Silbaugh are both colorful and fun -- besides, who doesn't love a "cozy"?  And I just love all the potholders (by Natalie Barnes, Jenifer Dick and Kim Niedzwiecki), as well as Lindsay Conner's super-simple, yet very clever, magnetic message board.  Now I'll stop and just tell you that you can get a peak at ALL of the book projects here, on Martingale's website.

And now, for the giveaway details!  You'll have to head over to Martingale's blog, Stitch This! to enter.  You have the chance to win one of 14 copies of the Kitchen Stitches ebook, or the grand prize of a $100 gift certificate to  You have from now until February 6 to enter.  

Again, here's the link... and good luck!

Finally, just for fun, I thought I'd include an early sketch of the little tea cozy that made it into this charming book.