Friday, May 31, 2013

I'm a bag lady!

I never thought I would say those words, but it's true. After the nightmare experience of making the infamous Weekender bag, I decided to stick with what I know and love, making quilts.

But I'm leaving today to visit my friend, who has just retired. She is going to a quilt retreat later in the summer, and I decided that Elizabeth Hartman's sewing circle tote would be a nice gift.

I'll start by saying that this is a fabulous pattern. It is well-written and well-illustrated with photos. It is not something that you will complete in a day. Well, I couldn't have done it in a day. There is a lot of cutting. But once the sewing started, I just took it slow and easy.

I chose Robert Kaufman essex linen blend in denim, and a stack of Denyse Schmidt fat quarters--the ones that were released in Australia, not here in the States, so I had been saving them for something special. For the inside lining, I used "McCall's Easy Sewing Guide" by Windham.

I learned a lot of new skills. There are four exterior pockets. I decided to choose the quilt-as-you-go option because I had never done it before.
  It was really fun and I'll be trying that again soon.

Inside, there are three zippered pockets, two small and one large,
 and five elasticized pockets.

Excuse my picture overload there, but I couldn't believe how well they turned out!
Wonder clips were invaluable. If you don't have any of these, consider getting them. They work for SO much more than binding. They are flat on the bottom, with good gripping teeth. I might not have hated the Weekender quite so much if I had had Wonder clips.

There is a lot of very bulky sewing. Elizabeth uses duck cloth for stability, as well as fusible interfacing. A couple of times my needle must have bowed just a little when going through all the thickness, and I got this message.
So I just hand cranked for a couple of stitches and things were fine.

I couldn't believe my lack of frustration with sewing this bag. But really, just going slowly and following the directions made sewing this bag a very good experience. Everything fit together just perfectly.

I'll warn you--it uses a lot of thread. I think I went through five bobbins! Is there anything I would change? Yes. I would follow Elizabeth's instructions completely. She mentions that it's a good idea to zigzag all around the pieces of duck cloth because they tend to fray. I was anxious to get to the fun stuff, and zigzagging around duck cloth was kind of boring, so when it came to the last pieces, which were long and narrow, I just skipped that step. Next time I'll zigzag around all the pieces.

I'm completely thrilled with this sewing tote. It's beautiful and well done. I give Elizabeth a lot of credit for that. I have gained some valuable new skills that I'm anxious to use again. Let's just say that I don't think zippered pouches will freak me out any longer.
I celebrated when I was done.
Oh, and I added this on the inside. :)

And here's another first. I get to link up to Amanda Jean's finish-it-up-Friday and at Lucy's who is hosting TGIFF. Woohoo!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Really Random Thursday, 5/30/13

What? It's Thursday? Today kind of snuck up on me so here's what I have for you this week.

We had family pictures taken last Friday evening. Usually we set up the tripod, Aaron hits the timer, rushes to his place in the group, and the picture gets snapped. We do a few different groupings. 

Here is last year's picture.
And the "goofy face" picture.
We didn't choose the best time of day, so the lighting was bad. But we are happy if we can get the kids to smile and the babies not to cry. The thing is, though, these pictures are really important to me. Four generations. Things can change in the span of a year. You just never know. I'm happy that we do this once a year, regardless of the lighting.

However, my cousin's son married a professional photographer, so Shannon took our pictures this year.

These are some random shots someone took with my camera.

We all took a break for dinner.
Kids on quilts. Last year the babies weren't looking at the camera. In fact, they were looking in opposite directions. This year, well, they aren't babies anymore.
Goofy faces.
I can hardly wait to see the "real" pictures.

And the next day Charlotte played at her piano recital. She takes lessons from my mother, her great-grandmother.
Christa (who also had a student playing in this recital) and Charlotte played two duets.
I love my family so much.

Your turn.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

WIP Wednesday, 5/29/13

I'm leaving on Friday to go visit my long-time, very dear friend in western Kansas. She just retired. I'm envious so happy for her. In true procrastinator mode, I waited until yesterday to start making a little gift for her, the sewing circle tote by Elizabeth Hartman.

I have made the infamous Weekender.
I will never make it again. You couldn't pay me to make it. Well, maybe you could pay me, but it would be so astronomically expensive that there probably wouldn't be a good cost/benefit ratio.

After cutting all the parts and pieces for the sewing circle tote, which I actually started a few days ago as there are a LOT of pieces to cut, the first thing to sew was the straps. Let me just say this. If you are on the fence on whether to purchase Wonder Clips by Clover because you think they are only helpful for binding, I gave them a good workout today and they rate five out of five stars. Seriously. I might not have been driven to drink with the Weekender if I had had these wonder clips.

They are multitaskers, perfectly designed--flat on the bottom and lots of room on top to clip bulky layers.
This is the first time I have done quilt-as-you-go. I'm hooked. It was really fun. There are four exterior pockets on the sewing tote. Elizabeth gives you lots of options, but QAYG was really fun. And this is a small enough project that you can get your feet wet to see how you like it.
The exterior is completed (I won't turn it right-side-out until later). Elizabeth's pattern gives the most excellent step-by-step instructions, with hints along the way and lots of photos so you know exactly what to do. There are times when you are sewing through an amazing amount of layers, and sometimes my Elna got a little crabby, but we made it through. Look at the inside. Isn't it pretty? I totally amazed myself.

However....I am now working on the lining. Which has zippered pockets and elastic pockets. I despise doing zippers on my Elna. Hate the zipper foot that she came with. Ordered another one. Hate it too. Please, please, tell me. How do you make nice stitching on each side of the zipper? What am I doing wrong? I actually ended up pulling out my beloved Singer Featherweight. Unlike my Elna, she seemed to breeze through zipper installation. So until further notice, she will be my go-to zipper installer.
It was a long day (i.e., I have powered through four bobbins already!) but I'm ready to tackle the lining. Update soon...

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Really Random, 5/23/13: Portlandia

Mark and I were in Portland last week for quilt market. There are lots of market-related posts already up, showing everything from fabric lines coming out in fall to pictures of booths, fabric and pattern designers, book writers, etc. I decided instead of posting my pictures of mostly the same things, I'll give you a little snapshot into our days in the beautiful city of Portland, pretty much in the order I took them.

For you Beatles fans, I really liked the name of this bead shop, just around the corner from our hotel.
The first evening, we had happy hour at one of our favorite places, the Portland City Grill, which is on the 30th floor of a bank building just a couple of blocks away. Beautiful view.
(this is one of my favorite pictures...)

They definitely know how to recycle in this city. This was in the lobby of the bank building.
Pioneer Square is known as "Portland's living room." Our first grandchild, Caleb, was born in Portland. If you are regular reader, you know that he passed away after three days. Aaron and Christa had a memorial brick installed with his name. It's always nice to find it, and spend some time in reflection.
I always wonder why people spend the money on a brick, only to misspell a word.
(right there in the center, "your" so cool?)
One of my favorite statues. I should have taken a picture of all the people who stood next to him holding an umbrella, trying to duplicate his stance.
We need one of these in our shower at home. So handy to have it mounted on the wall.
If you have watched the TV show Portlandia, you may be familiar with the expression "put a bird on it." 
While asking a random stranger about whether I was on the light rail train going in the proper direction (we took the light rail everywhere--no need to rent a car), it turned out she wasn't a random stranger after all. She was Anna Griffin, THE Anna Griffin. And I got to chat with her almost all the way back to our hotel.
Lunch at Deschutes Brewery where they have over 100 beers on tap. Even though neither one of us are beer drinkers, we sampled...
Back to Portland City Grill, this time for a nighttime view.
Our hotel, The Benson, is over 100 years old.

Beautiful lobby.
The Benson "bubblers" are in lots of places downtown, iconic drinking fountains with an interesting history.

Portlanders like to support local businesses. We had breakfast three mornings at
The Original, where they had ketchup (sorry, I just can't call it "catsup"--that always seems weird to me) made locally.
Need directions to someplace?
Okay, though we tried to get donuts at Voodoo Donuts, where they are open 24 hours a day,
the line was always like this (even at 11 p.m.!) Oh, how I wanted a bacon maple bar.
Meanwhile, back in Minnesota (yes, I digress), they had tennis ball-sized hail.
However, we were able to get some yummy chocolate at Moonstruck Chocolate:

And when it was (sadly) time to take the light rail back to the airport, we saw this guy, all silver, probably waiting for the next train to take him to.....well, I'm not sure. Where do you go when you are all silver?

Your turn.