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Saturday, 17 February 2018

Do You Wash Your Handmade Bags?

washing your handmade bags
Do you wash your handmade fabric bags?
Recently took off for two weeks to get away from the coldest (and, as it turned out, some of the snowiest) parts of our winter and enjoy the sand and surf in the quaint city of Mazatlan, Mexico.

The city is often referred to as the shrimp capital of the world. With vendors selling them just steps from where they are harvested daily, hubby and I make a point of cooking ourselves at least two camarĂ³n dinners in our hotel every time we go down.

Take a look at the caldo de camarĂ³n that we whipped up this time... yum!

First time for us... shrimp soup!

When eating out a lot on vacation, it's often difficult to get enough veggies into your system. We turned to soup as a fast and simple solution, especially since fresh ingredients were aplenty and cheap.

Back to the subject at hand, however, being around seafood, sand and humidity is not ideal for handmade fabric bags. I had two with me: my beach tote and my original proof of concept Make it Yours bag (as shown in the washing machine above).

The sand and humidity by themselves made my clothing difficult enough to deal with; having bags that were routinely being handled in that type of environment made it a no-brainer that they would be washed when I got home. In fact, my MIY bag actually landed full on the floor at a McD's (we were there for the free wi-fi) so there was no way that it wouldn't be washed!

That said, an actual "dunk in the water" type of washing is not something that most bag makers would recommend.

Nevertheless, how many of you have done it and what results have you gotten?


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My MIY bag had actually been washed before, so I knew it would come out fine. It was constructed out of tea towels and duvet cover material; all highly washable in themselves. However, most of the fabric was also interfaced with Decor Bond and none of it had been pre-washed prior to being sewn.

washing your handmade bags
Still pretty darn vibrant after a couple of washings...

I tossed it into the machine and washed it on the delicate setting with cold water. (I didn't bother changing my usual laundry detergent.) It was then air dried. I used the steamer setting on my iron to freshen it up afterwards, but it didn't really need any additional attention.

The beach tote bag was washed for the first time. I removed the ribbon zipper pull, but otherwise the whole thing went into the machine along with the MIY bag. Air-dried also.

And because I still haven't made myself any of those pressing tools I posted about several years ago, I stuffed a cushion inside it before giving it a renewing press with a hot iron.

washing your handmade bags
First time washed - came out fine.

This bag was also made out of repurposed bed linens, so I anticipated that it would make it through the wash just fine. I was a little bit concerned about the grommet hardware, but am happy to report that they were neither damaged nor loosened in any way.

mazatlan zipper pull
Palm trees, sandals and iguanas... all part of Mazatlan

Speaking of hardware, the above is a keychain converted into a zipper pull that will now hang from my tote.


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By the way, nothing compares to slippers when it comes to needing a wash after a couple of weeks at a beach resort. Here are hubby's new kimono slippers after a thorough washing.

handmade kimono slippers
Wrinkled, but nice and clean and ready for the next trip!

But getting back to washing bags, do you have a handmade bag that you'd like to wash but have reservations about doing so?

Since most of us do not pre-wash the fabrics that we use to make bags (it would unnecessarily reduce the crispness and vibrancy of the fabric), sometimes we're reluctant to do so after the fact. I believe that if you stick with quality fabrics, you should be fine with a cold water wash, even if you resort to the old "swish it in the sink" method.

Now, I can't guarantee that a washed bag will look the same as the day you originally made it. But neither does a used bag look the same as the day you originally made it. If we're making bags to use and not just to clutter up our homes — LOL, we all know that happens a lot too — then at some point, washing a bag is going to be preferable to keeping a dirty bag.

My main concern is about colour fastness. I still haven't washed my bucket bag because I've been worried about the red bleeding into the white. But then a little research turned this up online:

Courtesy Speed Queen...

image courtesy of Craftsy...
Haven't experimented with these techniques myself, but from what I've read, the colour catcher sheets (the most common brand seems to be from Shout) do work and I found one source that indicated success with the vinegar method.

As an added bonus, since we are all about DIY (and saving money), you can make your own colour catcher sheets. Check out the "recipe" here on Craftsy. All you need is a bit of washing soda and some squares of white fabric or felt.

There. Hopefully I've given you a bit of encouragement if you've been wondering about washing your bags and being afraid to do so.

If you've washed your handmade bags before, were the experiences successful or less than stellar?

In the majority of cases, it should be no big deal, given that we routinely wash much less durable things in our everyday lives with few issues.


Saturday, 10 February 2018

Free Pattern/Tutorial: Dimensional "Paper" Pieced Ornament

Dimensional Paper Pieced Ornament by eSheep Designs
My own dimensional paper pieced creation!
When I first heard the term "paper piecing", I wondered about the logistics of embedding paper in a quilting project. Then I discovered that the paper is removed before completion.

LOL...

At least half of my sewing journey is for learning, right?

Last summer, I saw an elaborate sewing project that was being described as dimensional paper piecing. A company called Indygo Junction and a designer named Amy Barickman are behind a new stabilizer called Fabriflair that is used to created 3D objects out of fabric covered pieces. Only in this case — unlike with paper — the stabilizer is not removed from the final product.

In fact, it's what makes the finished item a 3D work of art.

Although my interest was piqued from the start, I wanted to try my own hand at it (that is, without buying a kit) using supplies I already had and techniques that I preferred. For this project, the old tried and true single sided fusible Peltex from Pellon was my choice for the stabilizer.

As for the sewing, I wanted to be able to do as much by machine as I could. This means that making a really elaborate item composed of dozens of small pieces that need to be hand sewn (like the one I originally saw) is likely not in my future. Oh well.

Dimensional Paper Pieced Ornament by eSheep Designs
Sewing up a hexagonal 3D object is surprisingly easy!

This is a six sided, symmetrical, double ended hanging ornament, made out of twelve isosceles triangles. It's hard to measure, but the approximate dimensions are 9" (~23cm) wide (at widest point in the middle) and about 11" (28cm) tall.


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If you're like me and want to maximize your time sewing at the machine and not so much with your fingers, then this project is for you. The sewing takes less time than the cutting and fusing.

Gather Supplies

To make this ornament, you'll need:
  • 12 pieces of (quilting cotton weight) fabric, cut into triangles (see next section for sizing)
  • 12 pieces of Peltex, cut into smaller triangles
  • some fishing line
  • thread, cutting tools, iron, pins, clips, etc.

Cut and Fuse

The size of the fabric triangles is totally up to you, but mine were 5.5" or 14cm wide at the base and 8.5" or 21.5cm high from middle of base to peak, as shown in the graphic below.


Whatever your fabric size, cut the Peltex triangles a 1/2" or 13mm smaller all the way around. (My template for the Peltex measured 4" or 10cm along the width of the base and just an eighth over 6" or 15.5cm from middle of base to peak.)

Use the fact that the two long sides of these triangles are the same length to your advantage, by cutting your fabric or Peltex pieces in a row — right side up, upside down alternating — as shown in the diagram above. I used three Robert Kaufman fabrics, cutting four triangles out of each.

Dimensional Paper Pieced Ornament by eSheep Designs
Cut, press and fuse...

When the cutting is done, wrap each fabric triangle around a Peltex triangle, fusible side up. Starting along one long edge, fuse the fabric onto the stabilizer. Keep going until all three sides are fused. (For the sake of your fingers, keep your iron on a high but dry setting and avoid touching the bare fusible part of the stabilizer.)

Dimensional Paper Pieced Ornament by eSheep Designs
All fused!

You'll wind up with "tails" of fabric at each corner, but don't worry about them.

Stitching at the Machine

Once all pieces have been fused, think about what order they will be used for your ornament and pin or clip them together in pairs (with right sides together) in preparation for sewing. (If you have to, mark the inside of each piece with a number to help you keep track of the order.)

Dimensional Paper Pieced Ornament by eSheep Designs
Clip triangle pairs together to prepare for sewing...

Set your sewing machine to a zigzag stitch of 3mm wide to achieve the following...

Dimensional Paper Pieced Ornament by eSheep Designs
This is the zigzag stitch you are looking to achieve...

I'm not sure what stitch length this is, since that part of the dial on my machine doesn't indicate an actual number; test it out on your particular machine until you get something similar.

Once you have it set to your satisfaction, run the zigzag stitch so that the one half of the zigzag falls off the surface of the fabric. When you open up the two joined triangles, you should see something like this.

Dimensional Paper Pieced Ornament by eSheep Designs
Fast and neat stitching on the outside via the machine!

It should look very neat and tidy... and you didn't have to hand sew it!

Take your finished pairs of triangles and sew them together until you have a completed assembly of six joined triangles.

Dimensional Paper Pieced Ornament by eSheep Designs
Half of your ornament is done!

Take your remaining triangles and place them in desired order around this assembly. Mark them if necessary and then clip into pairs and start sewing again.

Dimensional Paper Pieced Ornament by eSheep Designs
Repeat the process to make the other half of the ornament...

When both halves are completed, place them right sides together and do the same zigzag stitching along the six-sided edge.

Dimensional Paper Pieced Ornament by eSheep Designs
Clip and then stitch both halves together...

Carefully turn the whole thing right side out when you're done.

Dimensional Paper Pieced Ornament by eSheep Designs
Turn right side out and you're now ready to hand sew...

Now for the part that I usually don't like... finishing up by hand. However, it finished up quite quickly.


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Stitching by Hand

Tuck the little fabric tail ends into the centre of the ornament and ensure that the open panels can be closed tightly around them.

Dimensional Paper Pieced Ornament by eSheep Designs
Tuck fabric ends inside...

You will actually start sewing from the widest part in the middle and work your way out to the pointy ends.

Dimensional Paper Pieced Ornament by eSheep Designs
Sew up half of the ornament at a time, starting in the middle...

If you don't want your stitching to show, you can do an "invisible" stitch. I figured that since the stitching can be seen along all of the edges anyway, hiding this one would be odd.

Dimensional Paper Pieced Ornament by eSheep Designs
I'm totally happy with how this turned out!

Finish up by threading some fishing line through the top, hang it up and admire your handiwork.

By the way, if you're into tassels, you could add one to the bottom. Or make two or three of these in different sizes and hang them "water drop style" one on top of the other. (Hint: you don't have to use six triangles per "side".)

Hope you enjoyed this little introduction to dimensional paper piecing! Another project (a vase) is in the works to be turned into a pattern. If you're interested in being a tester, take a look at the requirements on this page and then drop me a line.

Saturday, 3 February 2018

A Bevy of Bobbin Organizers

Options for organizing your bobbins
Silicone bobbin clamps...
Last August, I decided to tame my small collection of bobbins and purchased these silicone bobbin holder clamps on eBay.

I ordered them on the 17th and by the time eBay's 45 day protection loomed on the immediate horizon, the shipment had still not arrived.

Not wanting to fall prey to bad practices by some eBay sellers, I always request a refund when this happens. And I always contact the seller to re-submit payment when the package ultimately arrives.

In this case, it was November 8th. For me, it set a new record for delivery from China. (I had been convinced that it was lost or at best, sitting underneath some discarded crates at the port of entry in Vancouver.)

In the near three month interim, I began to seek out other solutions. For example, at the Sears liquidation sale, I picked up a package of those things commonly known as bobbin buddies. They are meant to be stuck into the top of a spool for easy matching of bobbins with their original thread mates.

Options for organizing your bobbins
Good idea but still lacking...

After I tried these out, I realized that keeping the loose threads at bay was important to me too. And these bobbin buddies did nothing to keep the thread under control.


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A few years ago, I was in the market for some double-walled water bottles. (Yes, change of topic, but this all ties together eventually!) When we travel, we like to bring along our own water bottles. On one of our trips to Mexico, my other half left them behind in our hotel room fridge. As replacements, I tried a variety of styles, including these jumbo tumblers from Bubba. While they hold more, they are also too big to be convenient for travel, so they've been put to other use.

Now — for the part that ties this all together — these tumblers came with permanent straws made out of silicone that we've never used. While digging through a kitchen cabinet on the morning of November 8, I came across these straws and had a sudden inspiration to turn one of them into bobbin managers.

Options for organizing your bobbins
Snip, snip and a silicone straw is turned into a bunch of bobbin (thread) managers...

You've seen the idea before; people generally buy PVC piping for this purpose. But my straw hack here works just as well.

Options for organizing your bobbins
You can't even see where the tail of the thread is hidden!

Now, I'm not suggesting that you go out and buy yourself a Bubba tumbler just to get the straw, but it's another case of how you may find things around the house to repurpose. (And who knows? Maybe you do have oversized straws at your disposal that can be put to similar use.)

If you've been reading carefully, you'll note that I said I made these little bobbin managers the morning of November 8. That afternoon, my silicone bobbin clamps finally arrived in the mail.


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Despite the long wait for these, they did not disappoint. No more loose bobbin tails!

Options for organizing your bobbins
All three of my bobbin organizers in use...

Unless the bobbin is almost depleted of thread, these clamps hold well.

Options for organizing your bobbins
Close up view...

The set of twelve — along with a couple of ball chains to keep them together — were $3.79 (USD; shipping included). With my silicone straw yielding twenty-eight little bobbin managers, I now have enough thread management for forty bobbins.

My next move, therefore, was to get more bobbins. For that, I shopped Mom's old sewing kit. They're free and I don't have to wait three months to get them.

Options for organizing your bobbins
Three ways to organize your bobbins!

But if you've been curious about these little clamps and wondered how well they might work, I can say that I recommend them. Be aware, however, of price variations — I've seen as high as $12.99 USD for this package of twelve and there's no flippin' way I would ever buy at that price!


Saturday, 27 January 2018

Sewing & Crafting Tips & Tricks

Sewing and crafting tips & tricks...
Today's post is a collection of tips and tricks or hacks for sewing and crafting that you may or may not have seen before.

Unlike other random lists, however, I can personally vouch for these, as I've tried them all over the past year and they remain in my arsenal, so to speak.

If you're interested in other sewing tips, also check out this post from three years ago.

Is There a Doctor in the House?

My father-in-law was a surgeon, so when he passed away, we had a bunch of surgical tools at our disposal. I claimed this hemostat clamp. It's a handy item to have in a sewing kit.

A hemostat clamp is a worthy sewing tool to have...

It's not as long as I'd like it to be, but it's still been useful whenever I've needed to grab fabric in hard to reach areas, such as when turning skinny straps right side out. With the two handles locked together, it grabs and holds on tightly.

Sharpening Your Pins

Do you keep your pins in a box? When I first started sewing, my pins were always stuck into my store-bought tomato pin cushion. Then I was given a box of (better) pins and started to use those, directly out of the box.

Over the years, they've become dull. What a surprise... not! After all, they get poked into all sorts of fabrics that dull their points, just the same as the actual needle on a sewing machine.

You'd be amazed at the difference after you sharpen your pins!

It suddenly occurred to me that store bought pin cushions are generally stuffed with material that helps keeps pins sharpened, like ground up walnut shells. (Steel wool is apparently another great pin sharpener, but I don't think that many pin cushions are stuffed with steel wool.)

So one day, I sat down with my box of pins and stabbed each of them repeatedly into my tomato. (Maybe pick a day when you're feeling aggressive!) They have performed much better since.


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Multi-Purpose Cutting Mats

It's been many years since I first purchased a set of flexible cutting mats. At the time, it was for the purpose of using them as disposable cutting boards, but I've since found a use for them in the sewing room.

Not just for the kitchen...
You'll need to get the ones that aren't too stiff and are preferably clear so that you can see through them. The pack of two that you see here were $1.50 at a local discount store. They're a decent size, 12" x 15" each.

They're ideal for creating permanent templates for patterns. If you have something that you make over and over again, it's a great alternative to paper (although you can't pin them to your fabric). Moreover, if you have the clear version, you can easily fussy-cut your fabrics.

Here's an example, with one of my home-made ruler grips on it. (I made this one with a drawer pull after making the original set in the tutorial.)

A permanent template attached to my home-made grip...

Another sewing related use for these is as an alternative to cardboard or plastic canvas. (I don't readily know where to find plastic canvas.) Put this material under handles and in the bottom of bags for extra support, and unlike cardboard, it won't disintegrate when wet.

Remember my glasses case project?

Sunny Glasses Case crafted by eSheep Designs
A piece of flexible cutting mat plastic was used on the curved bottom part of this glasses case...

I made another one using this stuff instead of Peltex to add support to the bottom front panel. No difference in how it looks from the others, and I did not change the size of the template from the original pattern.

Repurpose Thread Spools & Straws

In this post from a couple of years ago, I shared a hack for how to use serger cones on a regular sewing machine. For awhile, I just used the long straw method, but I soon found a way to improve the hack with some of my old thread spools.

Reduce the size of the opening of your large serger cones with this thread spool hack...

Some serger cones have super large openings and will just not turn evenly no matter how long the pin. Push a standard sized thread spool up into the serger cone until it becomes wedged inside (it doesn't even have to be flush at the bottom), and then the straw can be used as intended. (There are actual products that serve this purpose; maybe search out serger cone thread adapters.)

Ensure Crisp Edges on Turned Items

I didn't really know how to title this one, but I'm not talking about frying eggs. This is about when you sew two pieces of fabric together and then turn it right side out through an opening, like when you make a patch pocket.

Before you turn something right side out, take the time to press the seam allowance where you've left an opening.

Press open the seam allowance at a turning gap before turning right side out...

This trick was last used in step three of my "Tute" in Ten ornament project last year. However, that item was round and a bit more tricky to accomplish. If you're dealing with straight edges like in the above, it's easy.

It's a small extra strep that gives you a much cleaner, crisper finish on the right side after you turn and topstitch.

Good Ol' Scotchguard

If you make it, protect it!
Another excellent find from my father-in-law's numerous boxes of stuff was a spray can of Scotchguard.

Since the very beginning of my current sewing adventure, I've been using it to protect the things that I've made. The product comes in a variety of formulations. This older one was meant to waterproof outdoor fabric, but I've been using it on my bags and wallets. Water beads up nicely on the surface afterwards. (Carrying a fabric purse when it rains can be a problem otherwise!)

When it runs out, I'll likely go with the Heavy Duty Water Shield version that's available now.


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Silicone Mat

Working with a hot glue gun? The first time I did so, it was quite a messy affair. (Hot glue doesn't come off a counter top as easily as one might think.) If you don't like the idea of glue dripping everywhere, search through your kitchen wares and see if you can find a silicone baking sheet. It makes a great resting place for a hot glue gun.

A silicone mat is a good thing to have if you do a lot of hot gluing...

The small mat above is a dollar store item for just this purpose. (For those who are not regular users of hot glue guns, just make sure to protect whatever surface you are crafting on with parchment paper or wax paper.)

Cheap Paper for Crafting

Interested in trying some paper crafting like origami or flower making? Shocked by what you have to pay for paper?

I was fortunate when I first experimented with making large paper flowers via a CreativeLive course that I had some coloured cardstock on hand. When I later made my own versions of large paper flowers, I found scrapbooking paper on sale at a good price.

Without sales, however, crafting paper can be expensive. So when I decided to make a couple of red, white and black flowers to hang on the wall of my sewing room last fall, I ended up opting for an unusual choice: wrapping paper. I got one roll at Michaels (where the prices of their other paper choices were indisputably high) and another at a dollar store for a total of $3.50.

My giant wrapping paper dahlias pop out of the wall in my sewing room...

Wrapping paper will always be white on one side, so you can get two looks out of one choice. What's even better is that you're not constrained by the dimensions of traditional paper.

After making these two flowers, I still have a lot of paper left for crafting or wrapping.

Any offbeat sewing or crafting tricks or tips that you'd like to add?