Friday, 22 January 2016

Bag Making

One of the things I want to do more of in 2016 is bag making.  I've started the year off by making 3 new bags, a handbag, oversized tote and shopping bag.  I also plan to make an overnight bag, a camera bag, more shopping bags, a couple of big bags for carrying sewing supplies to group or class.

Campfire Messenger Bag

The first bag I made, which actually I made end of last year over Christmas was a new handbag - Noodlehead's Campfire Messenger.  I spent about a year trying to find the perfect bag pattern!  I like a smaller cross body bag and one with lots of pockets too.  I also like there to be a zip closing the main compartment so nothing falls out if I fling it around! Plus a large pocket at the back of the bag which will fit a book in as I often carry a book with me. 

Rear book pocket

This bag had a lot of pockets and included some techniques I hadn't tried before but I did find the instructions were easy to follow.  It took me a full weekend, lots of cutting and interfacing then lots of sewing too.  I used Tua Pink fabrics from Black Sheep Wools for the flap, rear pocket and lining.  For the main fabric I wanted something a bit more durable and heavier weight than quilting cotton so I used a sparkly star print canvas fabrics from UHandbag.

Under the flap
  I did have one issue which I contacted Anna at Noodlehead about, my gusset ended up being about an inch to short.  If you look carefully at the image above you'll see the binding around the top dips down on the left, it's the same on the right too.  It made it very difficult to bind around the top.  Anna did talk me through it and it looks like it must have been a cutting mistake.  She was very helpful and sent me step by step photos to show how it should have gone together.

The second bag I made was an oversized tote bag.  I received a free piece of faux leather with my Simply Sewing magazine and was trying to think of what to make with it.  A few days later I visited my local wool mill, Cold Harbour Mill, where they make their own tartan fabric.  They had an open day so I could look around and see how the wool was made, and how it was made into fabric.  I ended up buying half a metre of the Devon Blue Tartan and realised when I got home it went perfectly with the faux leather.

I didn't use a pattern, I just made it up as I went along, using the faux leather to decide on the side of the bag.  I lined it and added several pockets inside, and used some gorgeous leather handles from Sew Christine.  As much as I love the bag I don't think I'll use it that much so I'm going to gift it to a family member who will get much more use from it than me.

The last bag I made with a single layer (unlined) shopping bag.  I use these instead of carrier bags, and keeping them single layer means they roll up neatly to fit in my handbag.  I was approached by a new company called Kallosphere who make bespoke acrylic templates.  So you send them a design and they cut it for you in a solid reusable template (brilliant for quilting, or any designs you make repeatedly).

I fancied making a bag with woodland animals on so I found so I sent them outlines of the woodland animals that I wanted.  They then took those designs, they tweaked them to make them into shapes which would work well as templates.  They sent me the designs to give my feedback, and after tweaking a couple of things we had the final designs.  A few days later my templates arrived in the post.  I was impressed by how thick and sturdy they are, they will survive years of use.

I wrote up a tutorial for the bag here, you can make it with or without the applique. It's well worth making a few of these, it'll save you a fortune on carrier bags.  Plus fabric is pretty strong, they'll carry lots of weight.

I haven't quite decided which bag to make next but I'm considering this one which is from Debbie Shore's new book Sew Brilliant Bags.  I love that it uses fat quarters, I have hundreds to pick from!  I reckon it'd make a great weekender bag.   It's either that or a camera bag, I have a fab pattern for one from Sew Sweetness waiting to be used.

Saturday, 26 December 2015

Look back on 2015

2015 was a pretty epic year!  There was a lot of change, and a lot achieved.  The biggest change of all was taking on a business partner after 5+ years of running The Sewing Directory alone.  Former Sewing World editor Julie Briggs joined in April and from that point on I was able to work part time and suddenly had time free for other things!

Most of those other things consisted of sewing!  One of the things I'm most proud of is making my Tula Pink sampler quilt (top right), it took forever (about 4 months) but I do love it.  I've also done several Instagram swaps (the pouches are for one of them).  I've made lots of stuff for my son, and even some things for me.  Next year I'm going to try and make more for friends and family if I have time, I also still have lots of I want to make for myself too.

One thing I wanted to get into this year was bag making and as you'll see above I've managed to make a few but there's several more on my to do list.  I also got hooked on making 1 hr baskets and owl sewing buddies, I'm sure there will be more of them in my future.

Something I want to conquer next year is free motion embroidery.  I had a go at teaching myself over Christmas and this was my second picture (above), not too bad for a beginner I reckon but I want to get in lots more practice and improve.

One other thing I did a lot of with my new free time was reading!  I was aiming for a book a week, 52 books in total.  I hit that by the summer and I've now just finished book 134!  I should be around 136 by the end of the year.

Plus not only did I read a lot but I also wrote a lot, I started my second book in November and I'm 70,000 words in now!  My new book is not a craft or business book like my last one, it's fiction, a thriller.  I don't have a publisher for it at the moment so no idea whether it will ever make it into print but I'm enjoying the process plus it's even got sewing in it!

Speaking of my other book, Craft a Creative Business, it got published in the USA and many other countries in early 2015.  Plus it went to a second print run early this year!  It's kind of surreal to think that people all around the world are reading my book, Japan, India, Australia, Canada, all over the place!  Plus despite being on sale in the UK for over a year now it's still in the top 20 of the starting a business chart on Amazon, sometimes even top 10.

I don't know how many copies have sold yet, I only get a statement once a year but I should find out next month :)
The other thing I'm really proud of this year is how much we have achieved with The Sewing Directory.  Having an extra pair of hands working on the site has made a huge difference, we've gone through and revamped tons of older content and added huge amounts of new projects, features and techniques. 

We're up to almost 100,000 visitors a month and have some brilliant things lined up for 2016.  Plus if you haven't seen it yet we have a fab Christmas giveaway running with Weaver Dee, you can win a new sewing machine plus a leather sewing case.  Details here.

So how did your 2015 go?  What have you got planned for 2016?  Any projects in mind, new skills you want to learn?

Hope you all have a fabulous 2016!

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Donate unwanted quilt blocks to charity

Do you ever make a quilt and find you have a few blocks left over?  Those that weren't quite the right size, or didn't quite match colour wise?  Or do you have a mountain of scraps that need using?

If so you could help donate quilt blocks to charity, to be used to make quilts for children in Great Ormond Street Hospital and Boston's Children Hospital.

The campaign is called Donate a Block 2, you can get more information about it here.  
It's also the link you need if you want to take part, fill in your details and let them know how many blocks you can send.  Even just one is a help.

They have 2 phases of donations, the first one ends 31st December, so the sooner you can send the better.  The second one ends 31st January so if you don't have chance to do it before Christmas you could do it after.

I had some blocks left over from my Tula Pink quilt which I was planning to donate, but of course I couldn't find them anywhere when I looked for them!  So Instead I decided to make some blocks using some scraps and fabric samples I had.  I went for fairly simple designs so I could make as many as I could.  In the end I managed 14, most are pictured above, many made with Makower fabrics. 

I'm hoping I might get time to make some more after Christmas.  It was quite an enjoyable experience just making it up as I went along and not having to worry about following a pattern or making them match.

If you'd like to find out more click here. 

Monday, 2 November 2015

Fabric Giveaway!!

Izabela Peters is a traditional British homewares company with a passion for textile design.   They have recently decided to make their beautiful fabric designs available to buy in fat quarters so you can make your own creations with them. 

Their fabrics are available in affordable themed fat quarters bundles in 2 different fabric types – a silky soft 100% cotton fabric, and a more structured medium weight linen union material. 

A few of their beautiful bundles are pictured below.  Izabela Peters are giving 2 lucky winners the fabric bundle of their choice. 

Izabela Peters Fabrics - designed and printed in the UK

To Enter

Pop over to the Izabela Peters website and have a look at their fat quarter bundles and comment below to tell me which bundle you’d like to win.  Please also let me know if you would prefer the 100% cotton fabric or the Linen Union, if you don’t specify a preference the 100% cotton will be sent.
Don’t forget to leave a way for me to contact you – an e-mail, Twitter account, link to a contact form on your site etc.  Two winners will be chosen at random and will receive their choice of fabric bundle.

Terms & Conditions

One entry per person, multiple entries will result in disqualification. Please leave a method of contact so we can get your address, we will have to draw another winner if we cannot contact the original winner.  Winners will be chosen using  The prizes can be shipped to an address in the UK or Ireland.  All entries must be received by 6pm on the 10th of November 2015.  

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