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Category Archives: InStitches Sew Along

You’ll Be Needing This, Of Course

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Because nothing conveys love and congratulations better than an enormous laundry bag.

That’s my philosophy, at least, which is why this has been my go-to high school graduation gift (for girls, because I can’t bring myself to give hand-sewn gifts to high school boys, unless they’re related, and then too bad for them), and I can’t just shift gears now. Plus, I’m a little at a loss for ideas when it comes to grad gifts. Really, though, you might head off to college or your first apartment thinking that you’ll be fine with just a basket, until you trail your undies behind you on the way to the coin-op machine. I’m just saying, it happens.

What I forgot about this particular model was how absolutely huge it is, and this one is actually smaller than its predecessors. The original was an early Amy Butler pattern, and this one is uses the pattern from her InStitches book (which is two inches smaller in diameter, bringing it down to a modest 13. And almost three feet long, so it can double as a slightly uncomfortable sleeping bag. Practical!) Also, I was happily reminded that an InStitches pattern that is only a few pages long is pretty easy in its execution. Good times, fellow Sew-Alongers—good times.

Day 17: Same Time Next Year?

Look familiar?

In desperate need of a new way to corral the mail, I decided that the new entryway table would be a good place to set up operations. For this to work, I would need some sort of holder, maybe a box? Hang on—I know how to make fabric boxes! Yes, my InStitches Sew-Along experience came to the rescue once again. And, once again, this came together a lot faster than I remember with the first one. Of course, I don’t really have a clear recollection of why I decided I wouldn’t be making bunches of these the last time around, but I do know that I came away with that feeling. Well, I can still see why I wouldn’t make dozens of them at once, but I would definitely crank out another from time to time.

It’s strange how one little thing can change the look of an area so dramatically. You can’t see it well in this picture, but I added the green jug to the table and tucked in a couple of big leaves from the front yard (which was an idea I snagged from some magazine, though I don’t remember which one, but the leaves they were kind enough to recommend as a modern look for indoor decor happen to be ones which we have growing in abundance in our yard), and now that corner is the one spot in our home that has some style. Hey, it’s a start! I’m hoping it leads to bigger and better things, or even just remains the one surface in the house not to disappear under a pile of paper and such. Sure, it’s easy for one to say, “Um, so don’t stack a bunch of crap on that table”. I know this is the obvious, and practical, solution, but if we’re being obvious and practical, we’ll take into account that I’ve not managed to master this discipline in any area of my life. Yet.

I Knew This Would Happen

Of course, when I opened up my files to start sharing pictures of the gifts I made this year, I discovered that several of them were never photographed. Whatever. You know what? That means I still managed to snap a quick pic of about twice as many as in previous years, so it’s an improvement at least. Still aggravating, though.

OK, but you can easily picture fill in the blanks with your imagination: picture this bag, but in shades of charcoal in place of the blue, and these potholders in a yellow and pink four-patch pattern (as they were shown in the book, for that matter). Oh, and another patchwork scarf with a matching tote, which was actually a birthday gift. There, that was easy.

So the Craft Apple Mini Patchfolio pattern got a major workout:


I’m of the opinion that everyone could use a nice notebook, and this size is just perfect for tucking into most of my purses. Putting together the fabric combinations was so much fun. These make great use of fat quarters, but I think I ended up slicing into yardage for each and every one of them. Still, I’m just saying, they’d be great for using up fat quarters if you have a stack of ’em.

[You can take a peek of the inside of these here and here if you’d like.]

We’ve already begun the post-holiday cleaning around here. By that, I only mean that we’ve taken all of the gifts completely out of their wrapping and stacked them on the table. You have to realize that this is a major concession for me. I have always liked looking at my stack of presents for a while (which is to say: days) before putting them away. The stack is smaller and more significant nowadays, but I still have the same “pile and admire” tendency. My husband does not share the same tendency. I thought I was really compromising when I agreed that we should get rid of all the paper and ribbons yesterday, which turned into taking everything out of the gift bags and boxes, which led to having to put away all of the reusable gift bags and boxes. That was two steps that I’d planned to stretch out over the course of a couple of days. We stopped there, but I don’t think I’ll be able to hold off the full-scale find-a-place-for-everything sweep that’s bound to take place before the weekend’s out. (Yes, when I originally said that the pile admiration could go on for “days”, I should’ve said “weeks”. There, I said it.) That means I have to get a move-on, because I want to at least get the boy’s old toys cleared out before we add a bunch of new ones, or else who knows when it will get done. I can’t stand kicking these toys around, but I have to admit that I have a hard time getting rid of some of them. The good part is I know that he would never notice if the bulk of them went missing, so I don’t have to deal with that difficult conversation. Two is a very good age in that respect.

Turns Out It May Have Been the Math

Sure, there was a missing strip to blame for the first binding mishap, but what can I say about the second one?

Oh, but yes: this morning, when I rounded the fourth corner of the second quilt, I was again short by about six inches. Really, what?! Too ridiculous. I added an extra strip to the third binding, which ought to do the trick, but if not, I don’t know. I…yeah, I don’t know.

Nevertheless, there are now two quilts with bindings attached, which makes them as good as done in my book. Sure, the hand-stitching will take at least another couple of days for each one, but that’s sitting-around work. I don’t count that; they’re as good as done, I say!

Speaking of as good as done, here’s one of my InStitches Sew Along submissions for Nov/Dec:

Tell you what, the ol’ Hanging Toiletry Basket was easier the second time around, but I have no idea why. That should stand to reason, being that it’s the second time around and all, but it still was a pleasant surprise. I managed to keep the mindless screw-ups to a minimum, and didn’t even bust a needle this time. Bonus!

I’m feeling a little nostalgic about the Sew Along now that it’s wrapping up. I’ve looked forward to trying to rise to the challenge each and every time, and talk about getting full use out of a book! This has got to be some kind of record for me, no doubt about it. Oh, and to be able to use so many of the materials I already had on-hand for the projects–that was especially sweet. Good stuff all the way around. Big thanks to the masterminds, Kelli and Finny, not only for sticking with it, but making it a lot of fun to boot. Look at how much gift-giving inspiration it’s providing me with this season–these projects have been priming the pump, I tell ya!

Hope for the Hopeless

So, true to my original plans, I’ve been working on modifying the InStitches Patchwork Bag for use as a men’s travel toiletry bag. Friends, I am so excited! I mean, it’s pretty much the same bag, but here are the exciting parts:

  • It didn’t take me a week to gather, cut, and quilt this thing the second time around, which was totally a deal-maker.
  • The modifications involved some basic math skills, which was a potential deal-breaker. However, from the looks of things so far, the new calculations were actually correct. I’m as shocked as you.
  • One of the only things that really bothered me about the first bag was that little unfinished edge along the zipper, on the inside of the bag. It’s just barely visible, but it bugged me to see the little bits of frayed thread and batting sticking out. And yes, I did zig-zag finish it, but not close enough to the edge to suit my tastes. Well, this time around, I decided to refer to my sewing machine’s user guide in search of an overcast stitch of some sort that would be more effective. Turns out my machine even has a fancy little overcasting foot and a special stitch. The result? A much trimmer edge, and a happier seamstress. Hooray for the manual! Hooray for literacy skills! Hooray!

I have another one already in the works, because ya can’t make just one. No, keep cranking ’em out until you mess one up so badly that you never want to try it again—that’s my philosophy!

Looks Like We Made It


Whew. That was much more arduous than it ever should have been. So many days. So many mistakes. In the end, though, I am surprised by how much I like this bag. Surprised because, to tell the truth, I wasn’t all that fond of it. The shape just didn’t do it for me, and there’s the whole matter of inserting the zipper, which fills me with dread, regardless of the fact that I now know how to work with zippers and haven’t had all that much trouble with them as of late. From this point forward, I’ll look back at this project and remember “Look, you totally can put in a zipper, OK?” That will be nice.

So, yes, I started out with plans to just wing the patchwork—just cutting and randomly piecing until that 15×18 (or whatever it was) rectangle emerges. After about two minutes, the pieces went in the trash and I remembered all of those nice strip-pieced blocks that I’d made in a fit of determination to whittle away at the growing heaps o’scraps, and thought about how nicely they would speed this process along. And speed it along they did: I sewed two patchwork squares together, added a border of the turquoise paisley and brown to the top and bottom, and there you go. Patchwork rectangle.

At this point I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank Ms. Finny herself for the pep talk she gave me, and also for her idea that this bag could be used as a fine cosmetics bag. I don’t like the little metal-mesh lunchbox that I picked up a couple years ago at The Container Store anymore. It doesn’t look cute enough in our newly painted bathroom, but this will be a stylish alternative indeed. Also, be sure to check out her own cheater patchwork hint, which worked out beautifully for her bag. Cheaters never prosper? I beg to differ.

Anyway, the construction itself was pretty straightforward, which is something I’ve come to appreciate in this book’s patterns. Page after page of instruction, but the doing is nowhere near as difficult as that would make you think. The problem I have with that much text, though, is that I’m a skimmer when it comes to reading. I kid you not, I read the instructions “using the zipper foot…stitching close to the EDGE OF THE ZIPPER“. Italics mine; this is what my brain filled in for the words “zipper teeth“. Not at all the same thing, but I read it and re-read it the same way not once, or twice, but thrice. [I love when I can work in the word “thrice”.] Hello, seam ripper. Then I also sewed the lining on inside out, but at least I discovered that at the halfway point. Oh, and I put the side panels on the wrong way.

Some projects start off on the wrong foot and never seem to straighten all the way out.

Still, I have visions of a more subdued, less lengthy, strap-free version for a men’s travel toiletry bag. I think I’m going to have to give it a go. You see? The bag grew on me enough that I want to try it again, which has to be worth something.

Coming Soon

Actual finished projects (hopefully)!

It’s been kind of a crafty week, in fact, but we’re entering into the tricky time of year when the works-in-progress are of the gift variety, thus inappropriate for broadcast. Still, by next week, I hope to at least finish the InStitches Sew Along project, seeing as how it’s for September/October, and October is starting to wind down.

Two months really did seem plenty long when the project was introduced. However, here’s what progress has been like so far:

Day 1: Decide on fabric somewhat. Become overwhelmed by the thought of creating the patchwork, then have the brilliant idea of how to cheat. [More on that later, like when I actually finish.]

Day 2: Begin cutting fabric

Day 3: Continue cutting fabric

Day 4: Realize that I left out some of the backing pieces, and return to the mat to cut still more fabric.

Day 5: Quilt, quilt, quilt. Become disgusted and disenchanted with the whole walking foot thing, seeing as how I still end up with a whole lot of distortion in the fabric. I do, however, really like the guide that you stick in the back of the foot to measure the distance between the lines. Good stuff.

At the end of Day 5, I realized that I didn’t have a zipper, and production stopped there. Soon, though–soon.

For those of you who haven’t started your bag yet, don’t be discouraged by these estimates. It’s not like they’re full days, and besides, I have a feeling that a more focused individual could’ve persevered a little more. I’m not going to beat myself up about it, though.

I: InStitches Sew Along

Definitely my favorite crafty challenge of each month. So here we are, Month #8, with my favorite project (so far): the Square Potholders.

Looking for evidence that it’s my favorite? Man, those are two prized pieces from my fabric collection, and I used them for potholders! Hey, I figure that this way I’ll get to enjoy them plenty, since there’s usually a whole lotta baking goin’ on.

Check out the way they dress up these humble fish sticks:


I know!

You can also see that I couldn’t just leave well enough alone with the patchwork design. The size of this project provided too good of an opportunity to try out a block idea that’s been rattling around in my head, so I went with that instead. As for the quilting itself, let’s just say that I have some sort of mental block or deficiency or something when it comes to measuring out grids. The enormous crossed zig-zag is the method used in the Denyse Schmidt book, and I have latched onto it. It has a certain “I meant to do that” quality that works well with my particular challenges.

One more thing: I think I’ve mentioned this before, but I use straight-grain binding whenever possible. It uses less fabric, which suits the miser in me, and it’s faster (which suits the…slacker in me? Sure, whatever!)

InStitches July (To Be Continued)

So here is the completed Hanging Toiletry Basket. Ta da! Of course, you probably can’t help but notice that I utterly bailed on the whole theme (filling it with my favorite luxury items), hence the “to be continued.” By the way, I loved that theme idea, Kelli. I was pretty jazzed about having my own little treasure trove. Yet – the basket hangs empty. Oh, but it will be filled: Eventually, I have plans to fill it with treats for one of my favorite teens, and they will be plenty luxurious! Well, by teenage standards, or at least what I feel should be appropriately luxurious to a kid. There’s no telling.

As for the basket itself, it marks a Sew Along milestone for me, in a way. This project was featured earlier in the year, and then retracted. I was so happy! Just looking at the instructions and seeing that boning was somehow involved…yikes. Instantly overwhelming. So, when it was named as the project of the month for real this time around, I was kind of bummed out but thought I would at least give it a shot. You know, in the spirit of approaching it as a challenge and all. And – see? – it wasn’t impossible! In fact, aside from the time when I broke my needle sewing through the boning [Op error? Perhaps.], and the devil of a time I had sewing around the bottom [Due to my poor scissor skills when it came to trimming the interfacing? I cannot say.], it was smooth sailing. I actually foresee making a couple more. They seem to have a lot of potential uses, and the design makes darn good use of fabric.

Impressed by the stellar photo styling, what with the basket hanging on the keys in the door? I got mad skills – what can I say?!

InStitches Sew Along – June

So where were we?

Ah yes – Lake Living Room. Well, we had a landscaper out on Friday, and he thinks that the problem can be greatly improved by adding still more drains. The work should be done by the end of this week, so it’s as good as resolved in my mind. Never mind that it’s supposed to rain every blasted day this week. There is (please, oh please) already light at the end of this tunnel.

On to the sewing!

Let me start off by saying that, if you haven’t already started on this month’s InStitches challenge, there’s still time. The placemats and napkins may just be the easiest projects in the book. That having been said, if you don’t have a fabric combination on-hand (with enough yardage, and you will need plenty), well, it’s time to step it up. Picking out the fabrics was ridiculously time-consuming. [Finny, I hear ya.] And here’s the thing: I decided to throw thrift to the wind and buy the fabric for this project. This was before I scored the fine Hancock’s bargains; I don’t normally keep a lot of home dec yardage on the shelf. The only piece large enough is one that I’m sick of using. Anyway, long story short, I wandered around JoAnn’s aimlessly for an hour before settling on this Waverly print, but couldn’t find one piece that coordinated with it. Yes, that’s what I said. With all of those colors swirling around in this print, I couldn’t find one piece that I liked enough to pair with it. Whatever. Luckily, I did find that dotted piece on the shelf at home, although only after about an hour of going through those stacks. See? Ridiculous. At least there was a happy ending, though, right?

As for the napkins, I had two challenges:

  1. Yep – coming up with a suitable fabric combo in yard and a half increments.
  2. Personally, I don’t really care for double-sided napkins. Normally, I’m all for the reversible hem-free option, but not when it comes to napkins. Weird hang-up, I know.

I have been wanting to try the Handmade Napkins tutorial ever since I laid eyes on it, though. It was also very straightforward and easy to use. Seeing as how I had enough white twill for the main piece, coming up with enough fabric to make the bindings wasn’t too difficult. Finally! Actually attaching the binding to the napkins was not such a pretty picture, but I think that a little practice would go a long way in that area. Not sure how much practice time I’ll be logging, though, because I sort of, um, hated attaching the binding. Still, I do like the way they look. So, yes, definitely need to suck it up and work on perfecting the binding technique. I’m just saying, if you ever receive a set of these from me, you’ll know that it was a labor of love to be treasured always.

Looking at this photo, I really could get used to sitting down to a proper table. Of course, that would require clearing the ever-present stack of books off the unused portion. Oh, the table in the photo is not our actual dining table; it’s just a spare. Time only allows for so much, you know. In this case, the staging of the photo won out over the clearing of the “real” table. There you go – full disclosure. Speaking of time, I need to wrap it up and get dinner going. Til tomorrow, Friends!