August Monthly Report

Friday, September 7, 2018

Happy September! It's time for August's monthly report. See past reports here.

This is going to be a pretty short update! I'm taking a much needed social media/blogging break for the next week and a half, but wanted to get this report up before the month gets away from me.

It was a busy month over here, starting with our annual cabin weekend in Wisconsin! It was my first time back in WI since we moved, and it was really nice. I love getting together with my retreat friends, we always have a good time together. This year I made little thread catcher bins with indigo that I dyed at camp a previous year! I used this tutorial to make them.

I set myself up for success at camp and came with the squares all cut and ready for my double gauze plus quilt! It felt so good to whip up a quilt top in a few days. This is the biggest square size in the arithmetic pattern. I'm so excited to continue working on this project. Thanks to my friend Brianne for posing with me :)

Always making drawstring bags! This time it was a tiny one, which I don't make enough of. It was fun to use a print from Anna's Forage collection! The tiny size is in the pattern version.

To keep myself accountable for my stash goals, I'm tracking my yardage for fabric and yarn each month. Read more about how I track my here. Here is how I did in August:

August Fabric
Used up: 30.5 yards
Brought in: 13 yards
Net: -17.5 yards
Year to date: +3.5 yards

August Yarn
Used up: 0 yards
Brought in: 0 yards
Net: 0 yards
Year to date: +218 yards

Ahhh! I'm so close to being in the negative in fabric! I was able to finish a few projects this month, but I also took a big stack of fabric to our annual summer retreat. Not as much as I usually do since I had to fly, but still a good amount. And I only brought back 2.25 yards! I was pretty proud of myself for that, since there are always lots of goodies on the fabric table. Other yardage in this month was a backing for my pineapple quilt.

My Mom came to visit in August and we got into all kinds of stuff, including a little thrifting. Super pleased with this haul! The jello molds are going to become pincushions.

We also planted a few things while she was here. A few hours after we planted this butterfly bush, a monarch was checking it out! Looks like it works!

George turned 9 in August! I don't know how that's possible, since he's clearly still a baby bunny. Here he is wearing a basil hat!

Have a great month!

Using Tucks to Add Structure to Your Bag

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Happy Thursday! Today I'm sharing a video of the tucking technique used to add extra structure to your tote bag and a more boxy shape!

This was originally posted as part of the Workshop Tote Sew Along. Want to make a tote too?
Find all the posts here: Workshop Tote Sew Along
Pick up a copy of the pattern here: Workshop Tote Pattern
Share your progress here: #workshoptote on Instagram

This technique is also used in the Sew Portable Travel Set Tote.

Half-Square Triangle Workshop Tote made using Mariner's Cloth and Kaleidoscope by Alison Glass.

This is the last step in the Workshop Tote Pattern, and it's totally optional. You'll still have a lovely bag without this step!

Happy Sewing!

8 Top Stitching Tips + Tricks

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Happy Tuesday! Today I'm going to share my tips and tricks for achieving beautiful looking top stitching.

This was originally posted as part of the Workshop Tote Sew Along. Want to make a tote too?
Find all the posts here: Workshop Tote Sew Along
Pick up a copy of the pattern here: Workshop Tote Pattern
Share your progress here: #workshoptote on Instagram

Half-Square Triangle Workshop Tote made using Terrestrial and Bird's Eye View collections by Sarah Watson.

1. Press Well

As always, good preparation goes a long way. Taking the time to press your piece before top stitching will ensure that everything lays nice and flat. This sets you up for nice looking stitching.

2. Use a Sharp New Needle

If it's been a while since you changed your machine's needle, now's the time! I typically use 90/14 size needles for bag projects.

3. Up the Stitch Length

I typically set my stitch length to 3.0 when I top stitch.

4. Use a Light Colored Thread

I get the neatest looking top stitching when I use a light colored thread on both dark and light colored fabrics. The hole where the needle goes through the fabric gives the stitching extra definition, resulting in neater top stitching.

5. Slow Down

Take your time! It can be easy to get into a groove and veer off course. 

6. Hide Back Stitching

If possible, I like to find a spot in the fabric to hide my back stitching. On this tote I was able to hide it in this wide flower that was near one of the sides. If I can't find a good spot, I'll skip back stitching, pull the threads through to the lining and knot the ends.

7. Use Your Presser Foot as a Guide

I recommend using the side of your presser foot to line up your top stitching if you can. I love using this little narrow stitching foot when I top stitch. If you can move your needle, move it to the right so that you can use that side of your foot to line up your piece and get a nice 1/8" seam.

8. Tuck as You Go

It can be hard to get your lining to stay tucked in as you top stitch around the top of your bag. I like to press it in place as best as I can, but I also tuck it as I stitch. I pinch the top edge, pushing the lining further inside the bag as I stitch to get a nice top edge.

Happy Sewing!

Dyeing Webbing for Custom Bag Handles

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Happy Thursday! Today I'm going to share instructions for how to dye webbing to make custom handles for your totes! I love using webbing in my tote bags for a few reasons. It's sturdy, it's fast, and it's easy to customize with dye! I'm going to show you how dye with RIT dye, which is readily available at craft stores, big box stores like Target or Walmart and even some grocery stores. It doesn't take a lot of supplies, and doesn't take long either. So if you've never dyed anything before, this is a really great beginner dye project!

This was originally posted as part of the Workshop Tote Sew Along. Want to make a tote too?
Find all the posts here: Workshop Tote Sew Along
Pick up a copy of the pattern here: Workshop Tote Pattern
Share your progress here: #workshoptote on Instagram

Plain Workshop Tote made using Outback Wife by Gertrude Made.

1. Gather Supplies

First up, the webbing! You'll get the best results if you use 100% cotton webbing. I usually buy mine from JoAnn Fabrics (it's in the notions area), but your local quilt shop may carry it, and you can always find it on Etsy.

RIT dye can be used a few different ways, but my preferred method is on the stove. I find that I get more intense, even colors. I also like the liquid RIT Dye versus the powdered, because it's much less messy. Plus it's easier to save and store the leftover liquid dye (which you'll have plenty of!). I also recommend picking up a bottle of RIT ColorStay Dye Fixative.

It is important to use a pot and tools that are only for dyeing. I picked up this little pot at the thrift store for a few bucks, and my measuring spoons from the dollar store. In this tutorial I used a small electric burner (from Walmart), but you can of course use your stove!

You'll also need some plastic gloves, dish soap (I love original blue Dawn for dyeing), table salt, a plastic container or small bucket and a spoon to stir with. And don't forget to protect your workspace! Plastic drop cloth or butcher paper works great.

2. Prep Your Webbing

Before dyeing, it's important to wash your webbing. This will remove any dirt or chemicals that might interfere with the dye. I like to do this in a small bowl or sink. Warm water and a little dawn dish soap goes the trick. Rinse well and squeeze out excess water. No need to let it dry, now we can move right into dyeing!

3. Prepare Dye Bath

The liquid RIT dye amount you'll need is based on weight. One bottle (8oz) will dye up to two pounds of fabric. 1 1/4 yards of webbing weighs just under 1 oz. I've broken down how much dye you need per 1 oz below:

For 1 oz of fabric or webbing:
- 1/2 Tablespoon of liquid dye*
- 1 Tablespoon of salt

*I usually double this and use 1 Tablespoon as per RIT dye recommendations, to achieve a more intense color.

Fill pot with enough water for webbing to move freely and be completely covered. Heat until just below boiling. Add dye, salt, and a drop of dish detergent to pot. Stir to incorporate.

4. Dye

Wet your webbing in clean water, squeeze out excess water. Carefully add webbing to dye pot, keeping the dye bath at a low simmer. Stir continuously for the first 10 minutes. This helps achieve an even color. You can keep your webbing in the dye bath for up to an hour, stirring regularly. Darker colors may require longer dye times. I pulled my webbing out after 15-20 minutes. Don't forget, the webbing will dry lighter.

5. Set Dye

This step is optional, but since this webbing will become handles that will touch your clothes, I don't recommend skipping it. Fill a small bucket or plastic container with 2 quarts of hot water. Add 2 teaspoons of RIT ColorStay Dye Fixative, mix well. Add webbing straight from the dye bath, without rinsing. Let webbing soak for 20 minutes or more, stirring occasionally.

6. Rinse + Wash

Remove webbing from fixative and rinse under running water until water runs clear. Start with warm water and then cool water. Hand wash with a little dish soap. Rinse well and air dry.

A note on dyeing: There are a lot of factors that play into the final color of your dyeing. As you can see above, my webbing is not an exact match to the dye bottle. It's actually closer than it looks (I had a hard time getting a good photo of this color!), but dyeing is often a magical mystery. My webbing started as a natural color rather than plain white, so that can change the final color. Just something to keep in mind when choosing your dye!

Happy Dyeing!

Simple Steps to Great Looking Gussets

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Happy Tuesday! Today I'll be sharing the simple steps you can take to get great looking gussets! Plus a little video of the entire process if you need a refresher.

This was originally posted as part of the Workshop Tote Sew Along. Want to make a tote too?
Find all the posts here: Workshop Tote Sew Along
Pick up a copy of the pattern here: Workshop Tote Pattern
Share your progress here: #workshoptote on Instagram

Simple Steps to Great Looking Gussets
1. Cut Corners with Scissors

It can be tempting to make all straight cuts with a rotary cutter, but this is one place where it is worth the extra it takes time to pull out your scissors. When cutting those corner squares out of your piece in preparation for sewing the gussets, it's important to be accurate. With a rotary cutter, it's really easy to go past your cut lines and into your seam allowance.

2. Proper Backstitching

Make sure to backstitch at the start and end of your side and bottom seams. This will ensure that the seams don't want to come apart while you're trying to get your gusset lined up!

3. Nestled Seams

Nestling your side and bottom seams really helps keep those seams locked in place while you sew your seam. Push one seam to the right, and the other to the left. You may choose to press with an iron, or simply with your fingers.

4. Plenty of Pins

Stick a pin on the diagonal through both halves of your seam. This will keep it in place as you sew!

5. Extra Security

Want your gussets to be extra strong? Add in a little backstitching as you sew over the seam intersection to keep it secure.

Voila! A great looking gusset! You'll be doing this for both the lining and the exterior. This will give your bag a nice flat bottom, allowing it to hold all your goodies!

Happy Sewing!

How to Add An Interior Slip Pocket to Any Tote Bag

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Happy Thursday! Today I'll be showing how you can easily add a simple slip pocket to the inside of almost any tote bag pattern in just a few short steps. You'll want to add your pocket before the lining of your bag is put together. It's much easier to do while everything is still flat.

This was originally posted as part of the Workshop Tote Sew Along. Want to make a tote too?
Find all the posts here: Workshop Tote Sew Along
Pick up a copy of the pattern here: Workshop Tote Pattern
Share your progress here: #workshoptote on Instagram

Patchwork Workshop Tote made using Checkers Gingham by Cotton & Steel.

For the Workshop Tote, add pockets to your lining before Step 4 of the Tote Construction. If you're making one of the Elemental Totes, do this before step 1 of instructions for the Easy Tote Bag and before step 2 of instructions for the Simple Tote Bag.

1. Choose Your Pocket Size

When choosing how big to make your interior pocket, it's important to consider it relative to the finished size of your bag. You want to make sure there is room on all four sides of the pocket and that it won't interfere with the bag construction. My go-to pocket size for tote bags is a finished size of 6" tall x 7" wide. Cutting your proposed pocket out of a piece of printer paper can give you a better idea of how it's going to fit on your lining pieces. Once you have settled on a size, add .5" to each measurement for seam allowances.

For this tote, we'll be cutting (2) 7.5"x6.5" pieces for the pockets. If you'd like to add a little extra strength to your pocket, consider interfacing one piece with a light-weight interfacing like Pellon SF101.

2. Sew Pocket

Place pocket pieces right sides together, lining up any directional prints with the top of the print towards the top of the pocket. Sew around all four sides, leaving a small 2" opening along the bottom edge. Backstitch at the beginning and end of the opening and pivot at the corners.

Trim corner seam allowances to 1/8" to help reduce bulk.

Before turning, press the opening seam allowances under by 1/4" to make it easier to close. Turn pocket right sides out, gently poking out corners with a dull pencil or chopstick. Press well.

If you'd like, you can add a line of top stitching to the top edge of your pocket for a little extra detail.

3. Choose Your Placement

Typically, I  place the top edge of my pocket approximately 3" down from the top edge of my lining piece. I recommend finding a bag you like and measuring how far down the pockets are to get an idea of where you want yours to be. I also prefer my pocket to be centered, but that's up to you too! Consider what you'll be putting in the pocket when deciding on placement. Pin pocket piece in place, with the open edge towards the bottom of the tote bag.

4. Topstitch in Place

Using a 1/8" seam, topstitch along the two sides and bottom of your pocket, to secure to the lining piece.

Pull threads through to the wrong side of the lining piece and tie off for a neater look.

5. Optional: Create Dividers

If you'd like you can divide your pocket in to several sections. Mark a line down the pocket where you want the divide. I used a hera marker to mark my line.

Starting at the bottom of the pocket, topstitch on the marked line, back stitching carefully when you start and stop. Slow way down when you get to the top of the pocket to be sure you don't go too far past it. Again, pull your threads through to the back of the lining pieces and tie off for a neat finish.

Voila! A quick little pocket! My divided pocket is just right for holding a small notebook and a pen.

Pocket fabric is from To Market, To Market by Emily Isabella.

Happy Sewing!


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