Sewing for Me: Pink Chalk Studio Mail Sack

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Usually I sew for others. That brings me joy, and I love that. But the sewing projects that I plan for myself get set aside. This month, I finally finished one of those projects that I had been planning to do for years.

I wanted to make myself a Pink Chalk Studio Mail Sack. I have sewn this pattern several times as a gift and it goes together quickly and easily. The internal zippered pocket is so slick. It looks professional but takes very little effort to assemble. I love that!

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I should have shortened the strap for this one. The bag is a bit longer than I usually like, but I don’t think it will bother me very much. Usually I have to sling my bag over several layers of shirt/sweater/winter coat/scarf, so the long strap leaves room for all of those layers.

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Working on this project finally gave me the courage to cut into some of that lovely Melody Miller typewriter fabric that I had been saving. I love that print, but I’ve been hoarding it instead of using it. Now that I have made something out of it, I can appreciate its beauty through everyday use, and not let it languish in a corner of my sewing room!

Shiny Things

I’m attracted to metallic zippers. They are more difficult to sew with and they scare me a little, but I love the way they look. The thing that bothers me is that you cannot enclose a metallic zipper’s ends into a seam the way that you can with a plain old plastic zipper, which means that I can’t use some of my favorite finishing techniques the same way I usually do.

I used this Boxy Bag Tutorial to make some metallic zippered bags. IMG_1353

These sew up very quickly. Although I am not a fan of exposed inner seams, this tutorial covers them up nicely with a tight zigzag stitch. If everything is cleaned up and trimmed at the end, they still look professional.

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I used some of my goofy glasses novelty print for the outside and some Moda punctuation print for the lining of each bag.

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I adjusted the tutorial sizes as instructed for a 9 inch zipper and a 14 inch zipper.

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The next time I make these boxy pouches, I will use another layer of interfacing for the larger bags. They get all floppy if they don’t have extra layers of structure inside. I used fusible fleece to interface both of these bags. The small bag looks great, but the 14″ zipper bag doesn’t have the sturdiness it needs to stand up to regular use.

Things I’ve Made for People I Like

It has been months since I last posted. Life got in the way for a little while. But I miss writing about what I have sewn, so it’s time for a little catch-up.

I managed to meet most of my sewing goals for Christmas this year. That meant hand sewn gifts for most of the people on my giving list. I even finished some long projects that had lingered around my sewing room for years! This baby quilt had haunted me for years, and now it’s finally done and given to the baby (now a toddler) who it was meant for.

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I used some Aneela Hoey charm packs that I picked up at the Quilt Expo a few years ago. I love her charming prints for little ones. The pattern is the Patchwork Chevron Quilt tutorial that Jeni Baker did for Moda Bake Shop, reduced slightly in size. The lovely ladies at Material Matters in Thiensville did the quilting.

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IMG_1268This little zippered clutch was made from a pattern in the new and amazing book School of Sewing. It is the best instructional beginner sewing book that I have found. I’m a confident sewist, and I still learned new tricks from Shea’s book. I was thrilled to make this clutch entirely from fabric, notions, and hardware that I had in my stash. This went to my young cousin Abby.

IMG_1271This drawstring bag was made from my favorite standby pattern by Jeni Baker. I packed it full of yarn and knitting needles for my niece who showed an interest in learning how to knit.

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My husband’s secretary loves to knit, so she also got a drawstring bag with coordinating sock yarn.

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My two-year-old nephew is a hands-on, active kid. I used Badskirt’s tutorial to make these beanbags. They were tons of fun to make, sewed up quickly, and they’re fun to play with. I felt that I really needed to test them, so I confess that Peter and I tossed them around the house a few times before I wrapped them up for my nephew.

That’s a quick peek at my holiday gift sewing. What have you sewn for people that you like lately?

Cotton + Steel Open Wide Pouch

I am completely enamored with this handwritten US states print by Alexia Abegg for Cotton + Steel. I bought the linen substrate version in navy and cream, and the coral version came through the Pink Castle Cotton + Steel Fat Quarter club. I think this print just screams to be made into travel items!

I am saving the navy and cream linen for a big, beautiful tote. Maybe the Super Tote by Noodlehead. The coral print had to be used immediately because I simply couldn’t resist. I sewed it into an Open Wide Pouch because that’s my go-to weekend project.

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I used Robert Kaufman Essex Yarn Dyed Linen as the base and a Parson Gray print for the lining.

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Now I want to fill this up with goodies and take it on a road trip!

Leather Bottom Pouch

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I am obsessed with sewing zippered pouches, especially this one: the open wide pouch by Anna Graham, the brilliant mind behind Noodlehead. I have made roughly 15 of these beauties and enjoyed every minute of sewing them.

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I love this pouch because the design is utterly practical. It opens wide (hence the name) and you can get at everything inside easily. This is perfect for me…the woman who throws everything into a bag willy nilly and then has to rummage around to find it later. My packing skills are truly atrocious.

The exterior fabric is from Pat Bravo’s Indie collection with Art Gallery Fabrics. I savor this print, and it’s hard for me to cut up the yardage from that collection, but this bag seemed worthy of the honor. The lining is a print from Anna Maria Horner’s versatile True Colors collection.

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I have been experimenting with sewing leather, and I decided to incorporate some into this bag. The bottom of the bag was cut from leather upholstery scraps generously given to me by my mother-in-law so that I could explore some of my sewing whims.

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I used a leather needle to sew all seams on the bottom portion of the bag. I also switched from my usual 100% cotton thread to a 100% polyester thread for the leather base. Cotton threads can be eaten away by the natural oils in leather, and I wanted this bag to last. Even though it added a few minutes to the process to re-thread the machine, I feel it is worth the extra time to have a durable product.

Tiny Pocket Tank: A Garment Sewing Venture

I am scared of sewing clothes for myself. I can’t explain this fear, because it doesn’t make any sense. I used to sew apparel all the time when I was a 4-H member. I made skirts, tops, dresses, and suits (I only made pants once, and that was hard). I sewed knits and used a serger. But I did all of it under the watchful eye of my mother, who had a lot of expertise in the area and could help me figure out the hard parts.

My last attempt at sewing a garment for myself happened back in 2010, when I tried to make a blouse from a Colette pattern. It turned out ok, but I didn’t have a serger at the time and was dissatisfied with the interior seam finishes and the quality of the fabric I had chosen. I never wore it in public. It was discouraging.

I got the itch to sew garments again after sewing the ultra cute Tiny Pocket Tanks made by talented ladies with sewing blogs. The examples from Pink Chalk Fabrics were particularly motivating. So I jumped in. I downloaded the pattern, used some Anna Maria Horner Little Folks voile from my stash, and sewed myself a tank top.IMG_0989

The pattern was so simple it was almost astonishing. I used french seams for the sides and shoulders, because I am not quite mentally prepared to tackle the serger yet. I followed the neck and armhole finishing instructions to the letter, and I am grateful, because the outcome was lovely. I have never had a curved edge lay flat like that before. Neat!

IMG_0991I did made a tiny alteration to the directions. Instead of using a straight stitch for the under-stitching, I used a narrow three-step zigzag stitch. Nancy Zieman recommends this for under-stitching, and back in my 4-H sewing days I always relied on the three-step zigzag stitch to help my facings lay flat. It still works!

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(Can you see my zigzag stitches? I think I need a better camera.)

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Here’s the finished garment on me. There are some minor fit issues around the bust, but I don’t have the confidence yet to do pattern alterations…

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…so instead I will cover it up with a cardigan! This is how I would have to wear it to work, anyway.

The minor success of the Tiny Pocket Tank has inspired me to try some more garment sewing. Nothing too fancy, just a few other tanks that can be sewn with french seams and worn casually. Next up is the Wiksten Tank. Then I have my eyes set on the Eucalypt Tank. Brianna and apparel sewing – a saga to be continued…