Monday, April 27, 2009

Step By Step: Adding a Seperate Bottom to a Bag

There are lots of different ways to construct a bag, one piece or several pieces, it all depends on how you want the bag to look when you are done. Sometimes, either for aesthetics or for functionality, you need a completely separate bottom on a bag. Sewing that rectangle on can be a swear worthy proposition without one simple technique.

Stat with five pieces, two sides, front, back, and bottom. The bottom on this bag is a long rectangle, but this technique would work with any shape including ovals and circles.
Match a side to the front and pin. When sewing, do not start at the edge of the fabric. Start sewing one seam allowance from the edge. I tend to sew my bags with 5/8" seam allowances because I learned to sew on clothing and any other seam allowance just feels weird. It can be hard to guess where 5/8" falls from the top edge of the fabric so I use a pivot technique to find it. In the following pictures, side B is the bottom edge and side A is the side edge.

I place the fabric in the machine so the needle is 5/8" from the edge of side B using my seam guide on the machine itself. I guess the distance to the edge of side A hoping I'm close to 5/8". Then with the needle down and without sewing, I pivot the fabric like so:
Side A is the side I intended to sew. If the edge of side A is not lined up with the seam guide on the machine, I back the needle out and carefully adjust to maintain the 5/8" distance from side B. Then I sew the seam, making sure I reinforce my stitching at the beginning of the seam. For me, this means reverse stitching back to the beginning of the seam and then sewing forward.

Your seam should look like this:

notice how there is that 5/8" that isn't sewn at the end of the seam there? Now you sew the other three sides leaving that 5/8" gap every time.

Then you are ready to pin on the bottom piece. This is where all that careful stitching really makes the difference. When you go to pin the bottom in, the corners sides will match up with no wrestling because the corners of the fabric can separate allowing the purse sides to turn at 90 degrees to each other.
Like this. See how I can match up the long edge and the short edge just folds neatly out of the way? When you sew the bottom seam, start and finish the width of the seam allowance from the edges again. Notice how in the next photo the stitching is rectangular. It never runs to an edge. Like this:
Now you just trim the seam allowance and flip it inside out. Sew the lining exactly the same way, but leave a gap in the stitching on one long edge to turn the bag through. When you are done your bag will have a structured defined shape. Like this:

And that's it. Simple, huh?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A structured version of an unstructured bag

This is my newest purse. I love the fabric! I picked up half a yard in the remnants bin at JoAnn. Then of course I had to go back and buy lining. I found some adorable polka dots that were designed to go with the outer fabric. The shape is a modification of the reversible gingham purse. I kept the pleats and top curve exactly the same but gave it a square base. It's also got a titch more width than the other one. Changing the front was a piece of cake, but the sides proved a bit more difficult. I held the whole thing up for over a week while I stressed over the perfect curve into the square ring. Then I went and sewed it at a very quick clip and the perfect curve doesn't exist on the purse anyway.

The previous two sentences say more about my personality than anything else I've ever written on my blogs.

I love the size and the handle length. I've gone a bit short with straps lately and it's nice to have a purse that hangs at my hip again. The size is perfect for fitting in all the crap I like to carry around in my purse these days. I used to be a minimalist, wallet and keys. Then I discovered all the lovely inconsequential stuff that makes life easier: safety pins, hand loition, sun glasses, note pads, lip glosses (in the plural), etc. Of course, once you start carrying all that stuff around, your purse can be quite a mess.

Unless you do this:

Pockets! I love, love, love interior pockets in a purse. They make me happy. I have pen pockets and sunglasses pockets and key pockets, and lip gloss pockets (in the plural), and note pad pockets, and if I had a cell phone I'd have a pocket for that too. The only thing hanging out without a pocket is my wallet and hand lotion. I love not digging.

Today while walking out of Walmart, I was able to reach in my purse and pull out my sunglasses without even looking at the purse. Then when I got to my car, I reached in and grabbed my keys, again without looking. There can be no higher praise for a purse than that.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Vanilla Fudge and all it's wonderful variations

If you are unfamiliar with candy making, or just want a refresher course, you might want to read the post on Chocolate Fudge.

the ingredients:

3 T butter
3 c sugar
1 1/2 C cream
1/4 c corn syrup
and a dash of salt
2 t vanilla

1. Add everything but the vanilla to a 4 quart heavy bottom pan. Cook while stirring over medium heat until the mix comes to a rolling boil. Place a lid on the pan for about 3 minutes to sweat the sides of the pan.

2. Remove the lid, place a candy thermometer in the pot, and continue to cook until the mix reaches 236 degrees.

3. Carefully pour the syrup out into the mixing bowl of a stand mixer. Only pour out what comes easily from the pot. Do not scrape out the pot! Let sit until it cools 110 degrees. (warm but not hot to the touch.)

4. Add the vanillla. Whip the fudge with the flat beater until the fudge looses it's gloss. If desired, add 3/4 c chopped nuts. Scrape fudge out into a buttered 8x8 baking dish and let sit until cool.

I adore vanilla fudge. It's been a favorite of mine since I was a little girl, so there's the nostalgia factor. There's also the fact that vanilla fudge is the perfect base for half a dozen different flavors of fudge. Make plain vanilla the first time, but after that have a little fun. Try one of these versions:

maple nut fudge: reduce vanilla to 1tsp. Add 2 tsp maple flavoring (I like Mapline, it's sold next to the vanilla) with the vanilla. Mix in 3/4 cup walnuts.

Opera Fudge: omit nuts. Mix in 1/2 c chopped maraschino cherries instead.

Pumpkin Fudge (yes! Pumpkin!): reduce cream to 1 cup. add 1/2 c pumpkin puree and 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice. Proceed as usual.

Penuche (brown sugar fudge): use brown sugar instead of white sugar in the vanilla fudge recipe.

Peppermint fudge: reduce vanilla to 1 tsp. Add 1/2 tsp mint extract with the vanilla and stir in 1/2 c chopped candy canes. (after chopping the candy canes, place the candy in a sieve and shake to remove candy dust. You just want the larger pieces.) Eat within a couple of days. The candy canes will soften over time.

Experiment. We live in a world with so many wonderful flavors and cooking ingredients, it's almost criminal to not play around with them. My next few fudge flavors take more complex changes to the recipe so I'm still perfecting those. Watch for butterscotch, coconut, and peanut butter in the coming months.

Friday, April 10, 2009

A different kind of pillowcase dress

This is my style of pillowcase dress:

I found this lovely pillowcase at a thrift store about six weeks ago. It had the pretty flowers all over the front but not the back. I saw it and instantly knew it needed to be a little dress.

A dress like this. With a real bodice and puff sleeves.

So I cut the beautiful hand crocheted lace edging off the end of the pillowcase. Then I cut the front in half. and sewed the sides together to create a skirt. Then I sewed the edging back on the bottom of the skirt. When I cut the embroidered front in half, I discovered there were an odd number of rows of embroidery. I saved that odd row and did this with it:

It was perfect. All that ric rac is really there to make the necessary seams look purposeful and decorative rather than utilitarian. The ric rac definitely looks decorative, doesn't it?

This is the beautiful lace that originally edged the end of the pillowcase. It made the pefect hem for the dress.

The bodice and sleeve fabric all came from the back of the pillowcase. I lined the bodice with some spare muslin. that and the ric rac are the only new parts of this dress. Everything else is vintage and I think it makes the whole thing more beautiful.

Just for the record, there are 75 flowers and 40 inches of lace on that dress. Someone somewhere put at least 10 hours of labor into this piece. I'm so happy that I could preserve it like this and make an heirloom for a lovely little girl.

The dress was delivered this morning to a friend for her little 20 month old girl. I can't wait to see her in it on Easter Sunday. Sadly, I don't think I'll ever be able to get pictures of the girl in the dress. It's a little harder when it's not your girl being the model. I was glad to get these pictures, though. It will be great to remember exactly what I did if I ever run across a similar pillowcase.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Playing with Magnets

We have been needing a chore chart at our home for a while now. The kids often got stuck doing the same chores for weeks and that meant bored kids and undone chores. Steve, my husband, got productive the other day and started a chart for me. It was just the kick in the pants I needed to make the chart I had been planning.

Steve took our big magnet board in the kitchen and made a grid with colored electrical tape. Yeah, it's a bit cheesy but I love it because when we decide we're done using the board as a chart, the tape will come off without a mark.

I made magnets for each chore the kids were expected to do every day and a magnet for each of their names. The everyday, non-rotating chores, like clean your room and brush your teeth, are color coded by name. The rotating chores are in black. This helps the rotating chores stand out and it helps the kids quickly see which column is theirs. When they've done a chore they turn the magnet sideways. The kids decided that when they've done part of chore they could turn it 45 degrees.

The labels for the magnets were made in a MS Word table. I kept the lines on the table to be sure I could cut each one exactly the same size. I printed out full sheets of the labels and then cut them down into blocks of three by three so they would fit in my Xyron 510. I bought a laminate/magnet cartridge yesterday to create the magnets. They are easy to cut apart with a heavy duty pair of scissors, but don't use your good ones because the magnet will dull the blade.

And since I had that spendy Xyron cartridge, I had to come up with another good use for it:

Paper dolls! Aren't they cute?

I just printed them out, ran them through the Xyron and then cut them out. Of course, when you cut them out, you also cut the tabs off the clothes. Don't forget to cut the slits in the hats so the girls can wear them.

For our paper dolls we used the ones at this link: Paper Dolls from Kid Fun You might also want to try the paper dolls from The Toymaker. You could, of course, just Google for more fun free paper dolls or even draw your own. The best part about this project is that it works for so many things. You could add clip art of things like watering cans, flowers, beach balls, toys, whatever you want to imagine with. Try making a small magnet board for a little girl with a frame and sheet metal (most hardware stores will cut to size for you. If not, tin snips aren't hard to use.) She could carry the dolls with her where ever, a great travel toy, and it would get the girls off your fridge.

With magnet boards being so popular now, it's a lot of fun to customize them with your own art. The magnet cartridge for a Xyron is a bit on the spendy side, but if you buy it on sale it's a lot easier to justify. Just think of all they fun you can have with one.

Personally, I'm going to make a really cool refrigerator poetry set next.