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Saturday, 19 May 2018

A Tale of a Double Zipped Five Pocket Pouch & a Book Review

Stitched Sewing Organizers by Aneela Hoey
Stitched Sewing Organizers by Aneela Hoey...
Today I am back with — among other distractions — a promised quickie review of Aneela Hoey's Stitched Sewing Organizers (Pretty Cases, Boxes, Pouches, Pincushions & More). Published in mid-2017, it's a sewing book focused on making things to organize your sewing life.

But before I go into its contents, the reason I have this book (borrowed from the library) is an interesting story in itself that I want to share.

A couple of months ago, I came across a tutorial for a double zip triple pouch with five pockets on a YouTube channel. It turned into one of those anomalies for me: something I had to make even though I had no immediate use for it. (An unexpected side benefit is that the resulting project has been insanely popular on Pinterest.)

As I usually do, I read some of the comments under the video to get an idea of how the tutorial was received. It was clear that there had once been a series of "back and forths" about the fact that the tutorial may have been based on a pattern found in some book. Most of the pertinent comments had been deleted, but the name of the person who initiated the mini firestorm could still be ascertained from the remaining comments.

I decided to do a search on that name to see if I could find out the name of "that book".

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Seems the person behind the comments is a blogger in the UK who knows Aneela Hoey personally. (Her name is actually listed first in the book's Acknowledgements, so it's obvious she was merely trying to defend her good friend's pouch design.) It didn't take much effort after unearthing that nugget of information to find out the name of the book that contains a similar double zipper, five pocket pouch.

Not knowing the actual contents of those original comments or how they came to be deleted (by the YouTube channel owner? by the person who made the comments?), I don't know why the name of the book was never mentioned. I've already had this discussion: I don't have a problem with anyone taking an existing project, tweaking it, and offering up his/her own take on it for consumption by the masses... as long as the inspiration is acknowledged and credited. To me, that's sufficient; the law requires less. On the other hand, there are those who think that basing a free tutorial on a pattern from a book — regardless of any tweaks or improvements — is wrong, period.

But I'm not going to go down that road again, because it's a winding, twisted road with no end, no beginning and no speed limits. Let me just say that none of us are privy to specific details, so we shouldn't make judgments.

To demonstrate what I mean by that, here is a pattern that I found on Etsy, put out by Napkitten.

Zippered clutch/purse sewing pattern with three pockets by Napkitten
image courtesy of Etsy.com...

Yes, it's the "same" design.

Not having seen the contents of this PDF, I don't know how similar the instructions may or may not be to the book or to the YouTube tutorial, but I can tell you that there are reviews for it dating back to 2010. So it's been around for awhile... way before 2017, in any case. The finished dimensions of the pouch per this PDF pattern is 8" (W) x 4" (H) x 1.5" (D). The finished dimensions of the pouch in the book is 10.5" (W) x 5" (H) x 2" (D). The finished dimensions of the pouch from the YouTube tutorial — at least in my case — was 7.5" wide x 9" high.

And it's only meant as a general observation, but the first two pouches are very similarly sized, unlike the third one.

I have no idea how these three ladies came to create this double zipped five pocket pouch and I'm not about to guess. I find it entirely possible that other talented people may also have "created" this same design, since the concept itself — while unusual — is not beyond the realm of being thought of by the average person. (Which is definitely not the same as saying that the average person can come up with good instructions for how to do it!)

Here is the project from the book.

Stitched Sewing Organizers by Aneela Hoey
Triple Pouch project from Stitched Sewing Organizers...

The forty instructions describing how to make this pouch span seven pages. All twenty-three of the accompanying graphics are line drawings. (For the record, the instructions from the YouTube tutorial are not the same; the order of construction is also different.) Having seen the video, made the pouch and skimmed these pages, for me, this wouldn't be an easy project to tackle without actual photos. Certainly not impossible, just not easy.

Still, for those who have watched the video but yearn for written instructions, I have two suggestions: buy the pattern or buy/borrow this book.

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And speaking of the book, what about the rest of it?

Stitched Sewing Organizers by Aneela Hoey
The fifteen projects found in Stitched Sewing Organizers...

As stated at the top of this post, this volume is all about organizing your sewing life. From a cover for your measuring tape to a green tomato pincushion to various fabric boxes, the (fifteen) projects are focused on making things that can help keep your sewing notions in their place. For a sewing book, that's quite a clever theme. For those like me who are constantly conflicted with, that's neat, but what I am going to use it for, this book is filled with projects with a built-in purpose for the reader.

In terms of the contents, there is the requisite "summary of sewing basics" section at the beginning. Since several of the projects use vinyl, the author offers a couple of hints on how best to handle that potentially sticky material. A sheet of pattern templates (in actual size) for some of the projects is also included.

Stitched Sewing Organizers by Aneela Hoey
The sliding "matchbox" project is unique...
The fifteen projects are grouped into four categories: small things, cases and folios, pouches, and boxes and totes. Were any of them new or radically different? Maybe a few, like the subject of this post. But others are variations of things you've likely seen before. Please don't take that as a criticism, because virtually all sewing books can be described as such.

Within the confines of that predictability, however, I liked how the author gave thought to what projects to include, because there is a cohesive flow to them. For example, one of the small things is a little fold-up pouch. Later we see it inside a fold-up folio, and later we see both the pouch and the folio pictured beside a large zippered pouch. I like that; it gives the reader reason and encouragement to keep going... and perhaps sew up a set of organizers with matching fabric for gift-giving.

Stitched Sewing Organizers by Aneela Hoey
Projects that relate to one another...

Overall, this book distinguishes itself sufficiently from a "usual" sewing book. Not having made any of the projects, I can't speak to how easy any of them are to do, but there is online evidence of them having been successfully made by others. (Why didn't I try any of them? I'm just very picky. These days, I'm more likely to "see things" and make them my own way. For example, that sliding matchbox project might just make an appearance here in the future, but it won't be done the way it was presented in this book.) In any event, the instructions that I've read appear to be clear and the only truly complex item is the aforementioned five pocket pouch.

If you're the type who likes to learn via books — or if you have the option to borrow from a library — this one is definitely worth a peek or two. At 111 pages, the cover price to buy is $26.95 US.

Saturday, 12 May 2018

Best Nest Organizer Basket... in Tribute

Nancy Zieman Best Nest Organizer Basket crafted by eSheep Designs
A must do freebie pattern from Nancy Zieman...
In my unusual circumstances of having been a sewer and then not being one for many, many years, I wasn't very familiar with the name of Nancy Zieman, nor aware of her importance to the world of sewing. In recent years, I've noticed items from her line of notions by Clover, but don't own any of them.

For some reason, I had her pegged as a "quilting person" and — begging the forgiveness of every quilter out there — since that didn't define my interest, I didn't pay much more attention... until I heard that she'd passed away last November.

I'm not going to go into her story, because if you don't know and are curious, you can easily look it up for yourself. Suffice to say that she was an inspiring person, in many ways a role model, and ultimately had a life of creativity cut too short.

During my YouTube watching back in late February (the same time I came across the video for the 5 pocket zippered pouch), I found this tutorial from Nancy's Notions and immediately downloaded the corresponding PDF. It was my intention to make it with some of the new fabric that I'd recently ordered.

While weeding out files from my Other People's Projects folder recently, I made it a point to print out the templates so that it wouldn't slip my mind that this would be next on my to do list — after the Sew4Home quilted accordion pouch — as a tribute to Nancy and her legacy.

Nancy Zieman Best Nest Organizer Basket crafted by eSheep Designs
The basket can stand or hang...

This is the Best Nest Organizer Basket, a free pattern and tutorial to make a quilted hanging basket (links provided at the end of this post). Its big "pouchy" design makes it ideal for storing a multitude of things.

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The pattern itself seems not to be widely circulated (it's hidden away on their site for some reason), so it's also one of those wonderful surprise freebies. While you've likely seen your share of fabric baskets, this one is sufficiently different that it might just tempt you to give it a try, even if just to sharpen up some sewing skills.

Nancy Zieman Best Nest Organizer Basket crafted by eSheep Designs
Side and back view...

In my case, I made my own bias binding (for the first time, using an awesome technique of sewing two seams and cutting one continuous strip from a square of fabric) and then also quilted all of the fabric for this basket.

Here are my gusset/handle pieces. A suggestion to those who — like me — are relatively new to quilting: use a fabric element to guide your quilting. This geometric print had just the right placement of squares and lines to allow me to quilt a diagonal diamond pattern. (Like the one that I didn't do on the quilted accordion pouch.)

That said, consider using just every second occurrence of whatever element, because I found this to be very labour intensive, due to the size. With 2cm squares (less than 1"), it took a long time to quilt this relatively small piece.

Nancy Zieman Best Nest Organizer Basket crafted by eSheep Designs
A very time-consuming diamond quilting pattern...

I didn't use the suggested layout in the PDF, having learned from the accordion pouch project that I don't like to quilt large swaths of fabric at a time. (There's more than a bit of waste with those recommended layouts, too. Look for an upcoming post in which I make something out of the remains of the quilt sandwich from the accordion pouch.) Instead, I quilted two smaller rectangular pieces and used the first one to cut the gusset pieces and then this other to cut the front and back panels.

Nancy Zieman Best Nest Organizer Basket crafted by eSheep Designs
Got tired of doing the diamond quilting!

Notice that I abandoned the diamond quilting for the second round. Instead, I followed various paths created by the leafy vines on the reverse fabric from one side to the other. (Hey, all I knew was that I didn't want to do those lines again!)

My fabrics were Boundless DECOdent selections from an Earthtone Stash Builder pack, purchased earlier this year.

And you might wonder, what does a non-quilter use for quilt batting? An old fleece blanket; it worked like a charm. (And I also didn't have any spray basting, so just pinned a whole lot.)

Nancy Zieman Best Nest Organizer Basket crafted by eSheep Designs
I like that it can stand up by itself...

The finished basket is large enough (standing 35cm or just shy of 14" tall, by 8" or 20cm wide, and about 5" or 13cm deep at the very bottom) that it has found a job as the storage place for whatever my current sewing project might be. Other suggestions: it'd be a great Easter basket option for holding a floral arrangement or the kiddies can actually go out egg hunting with it. Or, it's a handy item to have in your guest bedroom to hold bath linens and related supplies. It would also make a nice house warming present.

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If you want to make this, let me say that the PDF consists of only two pages of instructions, so it's probably not a project for beginners. The video is similarly brief, running just under four minutes. However, with both available, someone who's up for a challenge can easily make this. There are only four pieces to the entire basket (three if you choose to cut the gusset/handle as one piece), so construction-wise, it's not a brain buster.

Nancy Zieman Best Nest Organizer Basket crafted by eSheep Designs
Back view...

My bias tape was cut from 2" strips; the PDF says to use 2.25" strips. The 2" width will do the job, so save yourself some fabric if you're making your own bias tape. The instructions also say to use a "generous" 1/4" seam allowance when first attaching the binding to the wrong side. I found that 3/8" (1cm) is actually the best measurement to go with; it's an exact measurement (neither generous nor stingy!) and when wrapped back around to the right side and stitched into place, the binding looks even on both sides. Maybe what they mean by a "generous" 1/4" seam allowance is 3/8", but then why not just say so and be clear about it?

By the way, I basted the front and back pieces to the gusset by hand before starting the binding. The instructions merely say to baste the layers together, but I took one look at the bulk and the gathering at the front of the basket and decided to opt for hand basting.

Neither the written instructions nor the video tells you how to begin and end your binding neatly, so I'll just drop a quick suggestion. Leave an extra 1" (2.5cm) free on each end for overlapping, making a fold on one of them to hide the raw edge on the other end. (Experienced quilters will know a much better way of joining binding so that it's practically unnoticeable.)

Nancy Zieman Best Nest Organizer Basket crafted by eSheep Designs
Overlap the binding at the end with a folded edge for a clean finish...sorry for the shadowy pics!

Speaking of binding, make an effort to iron/steam the edges of the finished basket. That twisted appearance that you see on one side of the front binding disappeared after I gave it a steam.

One final observation: no quilting instructions are provided. As I said earlier, I made my quilt sandwich with fleece as my batting and did not use either spray starch or spray basting. Yes, there was some shifting of layers despite judicious pinning, but that's why the pieces are cut after quilting.

As an alternative, one might try simply interfacing both fabrics with fusible fleece.

However you make this basket, here's to Nancy Z for the gift of the pattern and for her tremendous contributions to the world of sewing. Here are the links to the PDF and the YouTube video.

Spread the word; this project is too nice to stay hidden.

Saturday, 5 May 2018

No Sew Tutorial: T-Shirt to Blinged Up Infinity Scarf

Blinged Up Upcycled Infinity Scarf by eSheep Designs
Close-up of the beaded fringe on my upcycled t-shirt scarf...
A couple weeks ago, I shared some nifty t-shirt upcycling projects and promised to come back with one of my own designs.

It's based on the "instant" infinity scarf that you can make by simply cutting out the middle of a large t-shirt (for this purpose, the larger the better), which is a 30 second project that yields a perfectly functional scarf.

This idea kicks it up several notches by adding bling with a partial fringe highlighted by pony beads. It's still all "no sewing required", something that we all can appreciate every now and then.

The concept actually came from a combination of the two infinity scarves that I previously converted. I liked the fringe on the lacy cowl, but wasn't crazy about having it go all the way around. So, in much the same way as the strand scarf was only partially sliced, I decided on some carefully placed cuts to create a partial fringe.

Blinged Up Upcycled Infinity Scarf by eSheep Designs
Blinged up infinity scarf worn double-wrapped with fringe along the top...

My original t-shirt was given to me by friends who had traveled through Utah. However, it never resonated with me ("proud to be from St. George"... uh, not really) and the large size meant that it was really only good for sleeping in.

Fortuitously, in not having been worn much, it was in almost new condition in terms of its vibrancy (it's black), so it was a great choice for this project. Also, the graphics were located high on the chest, so the middle part that was cut out did not have any printing on it. (Which is not to say that you can't use a printed t-shirt for this project; that's totally up to you.)

This scarf allows you to be uniquely creative through the versatility of pony beads. They come in all colours, materials and sizes, so you'll have no problem finding something to make your scarf specifically yours. (You might even have some at home that are suitable.)

In my case, my crafting stash was low on beads, so I popped out to a local dollar store and picked up this bag for $1.25. These are .3" or 8mm in size. Half are smoky black and the other half are clear/silver. I used thirty-eight of them and still had many left. (In fact, I ended up putting some on my other scarf projects... you'll see the photos at the end of this post.)

So if you've got a t-shirt to sacrifice and some beads to glam it up, grab a ruler, a rotary cutter and cutting mat and let's make this!

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1. Flatten and smooth out a (preferably men's) large t-shirt and then cut away the top (just under the sleeves) and bottom of it (the hem).

Blinged Up Upcycled Infinity Scarf by eSheep Designs
Slice the top and bottom off a large t-shirt...

2. Along one of the folded edges, in an area approximately 5" high by 10" wide (13cm x 25cm), measure and cut one single 5" long strip, 1/4" (6mm) wide (shown in pink in the drawing below). Because it's on the fold, you'll wind up with a strip that's actually 1/2" or 12mm wide. Continue cutting 1/2" wide strips, 9 times (which gives you 18 strips; again, because the fabric is folded).

Blinged Up Upcycled Infinity Scarf by eSheep Designs
Cut strips in an area measuring 5" high by about 10" wide along one side...
the pink strip is the one that should be 1/4" wide, all the rest are 1/2"

3. At this point, start staggering the height of the remaining strips (you should be able to get 8 cuts in the space remaining) so that they get gradually shorter. Mark or fold a reference line if needed.

Blinged Up Upcycled Infinity Scarf by eSheep Designs
Stagger the height of the remaining strips...

4. Tug on each strip to transform it into a rounded fringe (this is actually known as t-shirt "yarn")... beware of the resulting little particles!

5. Thread pony beads onto the fringes as desired. (I put double beads on the 19 middle fringes and left the others "as is".) A simple toothpick is a great help with this. Tie a knot underneath the bead(s) to secure them.

Blinged Up Upcycled Infinity Scarf by eSheep Designs
Add your desired level of bling with pony beads...

And that's all there is to it! You should end up with something that looks like this, once you shift the cut area to the front.

Blinged Up Upcycled Infinity Scarf by eSheep Designs
Finished scarf in less than 30 minutes...

The t-shirt that I used resulted in a tube that was approximately 21" wide (folded) by 15" high. So my goal was to "fringe up" about half of that width, with fringes that were roughly one third of the height.

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Here is the scarf worn as a single loop. (This is just one variation; the fringes also look nice hanging asymmetrically on one side.)

Blinged Up Upcycled Infinity Scarf by eSheep Designs
Blinged up upcycled t-shirt infinity scarf...

My favourite option is wearing it double-wrapped, as it can look different depending on how the fringe is positioned. Here it is in the middle.

Blinged Up Upcycled Infinity Scarf by eSheep Designs
Worn double-wrapped with fringe in the middle...

And here it is along the bottom.

Blinged Up Upcycled Infinity Scarf by eSheep Designs
Worn double-wrapped with fringe along bottom...

From old t-shirt for sleeping in to something that can jazz up a cocktail dress... not too bad of an upcycle, if I do say so myself!

Oh, and here's what I did with my previous scarves in terms of blinging them up with my leftover beads.

Upcycled t-shirt and tank scarves crafted by eSheep Designs
A little bling goes a long way...

And the bonus thing about this process? It's not permanent. If I want to change it up with different beads (or no beads), it's relatively easy to do so.

By the way, Mother's Day is next weekend. If you're running short of ideas (and time), this is one that can definitely do in pinch!

Saturday, 28 April 2018

Gifting a Quilted Accordion Pouch

Sew4Home Quilted Accordion Pouch crafted by eSheep Designs
My version of Sew4Home's Quilted Accordion Pouch...
There's a folder called Other People's Projects in my main Crafts folder on my computer. It holds all of those "maybe I'll make that someday" ideas, in both PDF and saved web pages format.

I recently went in there to do a cleanup, because I've been collecting those projects for almost five and a half years and clearly, some things just aren't ever going to be made. A few are simply not interesting to me anymore and others are too similar to things that I've already done.

Since many of those projects are from Sew4Home, I also wanted to make sure that — for the ones that I wanted to keep — the PDF downloads were saved instead of the web pages. (Major kudos to Sew4Home for making that option available.)

During my cleanup efforts, I came across a tutorial for this quilted accordion pouch that I decided would be next on my "to do" list.

I first saw this project while on holidays last fall and had been intrigued from the start. It was, however, another of those items that fell under the category of but I have no use for it, so it remained merely "intriguing"... until now.

Sew4Home Quilted Accordion Pouch crafted by eSheep Designs
Front view, all folded up...

What's changed? I had been looking for a project to make for a friend's granddaughter, a teenager who's been through the wringer over the past few years, fighting an extremely rare medical condition that resulted in some very scary moments for the family. I've never met Ashley, but through my friend, I've come to care about her well-being. She is fine now, and with the Make A Wish Foundation sending the family on a celebratory trip to Hawaii this summer, this pouch might prove to be a useful item for a young lady to pack in her suitcase to organize small things.

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Small things they'll have to be, since — even though I knew what the dimensions were beforehand — the finished pouch seems smaller than I anticipated. (That said, because the bottoms of the pouches are not fixed together, each can be filled to a surprising level.)

Sew4Home Quilted Accordion Pouch crafted by eSheep Designs
It's certainly not big...

This is essentially a set of five 5" high by 7" wide (roughly 13cm x 18cm) pouches joined together at the top seam. (In fact, individually speaking, each one is like my tablet envelope, with the substrates used in reverse.) The back pouch incorporates a flap that wraps around to the front pouch and closes with a snap fastener.

Sew4Home Quilted Accordion Pouch crafted by eSheep Designs
The five pouches are joined in the middle at the top edge...

Because the edges of the pouches are bound, the opening into each is actually only 5.75" (~14.5cm) wide. Someone stated in the comments section of this Sew4Home project that this would be good for storing greeting cards; unfortunately, a typical card won't fit into this pouch when made per the original dimensions.

That said, since it's all rectangles, one could easily change up the size. Not only that, it would also be easy to adjust the total number of pouches to include.

Sew4Home Quilted Accordion Pouch crafted by eSheep Designs
Back view...

The project requires a half yard of quilting cotton, a half yard of batting, a half yard of laminate (yes, the interior is meant to be wipe-cleanable), and several yards of binding tape. I used my still vast supply of pink floral vinyl (faux wax cloth) for the interior, and a predominantly pink selection from a recent fabric purchase — a Robert Kaufman Remix Metallic by Anne Kelle. Not being a quilter and having no batting to speak of, I just interfaced the fabric with fusible fleece.

Sew4Home Quilted Accordion Pouch crafted by eSheep Designs
See how I made sure that the print on the flap fabric
lined up with the print on the front of the pouch??

The original Sew4Home project uses store bought satin binding; I made my own binding out of the solid off-white yardage that was part of my Boundless DECOdent package from that same recent fabric purchase. For anyone thinking of doing the same, let me say that double-folded binding made out of quilting cotton is probably a lot thicker to sew through than satin; i.e., I didn't enjoy sewing the binding, particularly at the corners where it wraps back onto itself and is many layers thick.

Sew4Home Quilted Accordion Pouch crafted by eSheep Designs
All stacked up and open...

An unexpected difficulty that I encountered was in the final step of attaching the pouches to one another. Without a free arm sewing machine, I deemed it virtually impossible to accomplish. If the pouches had been made with regular fabric alone, I wouldn't have hesitated to manhandle, bend and yank in order to sew that 2" section at the top of each pair of pouches. But since I was dealing with vinyl, it was a different story. Not wanting to damage that lining, I ended up joining those pouches by hand-stitching them.

Yep. That same hand sewing that I have said so many times here that I hate to do. That's how committed I was to this project. ;-)

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By the way, notice that this is quilted? Yes, I've been tiptoeing into the quilting realm, and this particular experience taught me that quilting a large piece on a regular sewing machine is not much fun.

This project started out as an 18" x 35" (46cm x 89cm) quilt sandwich. The original instructions called for a diamond quilting pattern across that entire surface. Once again, due to my choice of the vinyl lining, I did not want to make too many stitching lines across it (potentially encouraging perforation), so I just quilted horizontally along the fabric's chevron print. Even so, having to start in the middle, sew in the same direction, and make my way out towards the edges resulted in a lot of "stuff" needing to be rolled up and manipulated under the arm of the machine.

Compounding the problem was that the vinyl did not always feed smoothly underneath, resulting in areas where the stitching is quite a bit smaller than what was set as the actual stitch length. If I had a third hand, I would have been able to guide the big quilt sandwich evenly through the whole process.

Sew4Home Quilted Accordion Pouch crafted by eSheep Designs
A view of the "accordion" effect along the side...

But in the end, I'm happy with the final result. It's a reasonably cute pouch and I hope my recipient likes it.

If you want to make this, here is the link for the Quilted Accordion Pouch for Jewelry, Lingerie & More on Sew4Home. Take advantage of the PDF download option if you're interested in keeping the instructions for future reference.