Shirts and Skirts

For the past couple of years I haven’t done nearly the amount of crafting that I had in the few years previous.  I’ve been too busy with other things.  But now I’m just working at one job, and the other people I drive around have cut back on the number of jobs that they are working at.  And it’s still winter, despite the thermometer, so it’s still sewing time.  All of which adds up to some inspiration, in the form of tote bags.

I started with a simple, basic pattern.  It’s about 18 x 14, and doesn’t have any pockets.  And because it’s so simple I couldn’t resist making it reversible.  That’s a thing for me-I love the reversible stuff.  Here’s bag one:

Can you see why I’m calling this post shirts and skirts?  I’m digging into my stash of thrift store and garage sale finds to make these bags, almost entirely from repurposed shirts and skirts.  It makes for some interesting details.


This is the second bag.  I didn’t take a picture of it, but there is a pocket on the reverse.  Handy!

And from there I went nuts.  I started adding more pockets and tabs to button the bag closed.  Each one is a little different, depending on the clothing I was working with.  Smaller shirts meant a smaller bag.  Sometimes I was able to incorporate existing pockets. Take a look!

Fun, right?  Now I’m ready to move on to the next idea, another set of totes made from pants.  Let’s hope it goes well!

Spring Cleaning in February

If Pinterest is any indication, those of us who craft and sew and create are in constant search of ways to organize our stuff.  I know there are creative people out there who thrive in chaos and feed off of that, but it seems most of us get butterflies from organizing into matching bins and marking everything with a label maker.  I tend to reorganize my space in some way about twice a year.  Once after a big bout of creativity and all of my stuff is everywhere, and another sweeping organization when I come back to crafting after the summer gardening season.  In fact, if you ask my family they will tell you that the whole house is like that, and the way we store and organize everything is in constant flux.  Last year I posted pictures of an organized attic space on my Facebook page.  Today I can’t get in my attic to take pictures.  Maybe that’s the next big project…

The big impetus for my latest clean up was my scraps, which were part of the subject of my last post, here.  There have been pictures here and there that indicate just how chaotic it’s gotten.  The “system” I was using just wasn’t working for me anymore.


Here you can see what is mostly scraps from repurposed shirts, separated by color into little baggies and then into bigger baggies, kept in a laundry basket.  Somewhere in another basket is yet even more scraps.


Once I decided it was time again to clean up, I started by gathering all of the scraps into one place.  You’re looking at everything-pieces of shirts, leftovers from quilts, squares from other projects, etc.  In order to re-sort I had to get it out of the way and reorganize my sewing space.

Remember these pictures?  This was my space in the middle of a project, but it accurately reflects what was going on.  Besides needing better storage of scraps, I had come to realize that my sewing machine would probably work better if was next to an outlet instead of me always tripping over the extension cord.


I used to keep scraps of glass in these bins.  When I stopped doing glass work I tore this down and stored it in the garage-for years.  Sydney and Emma helped me gather all of the pieces, get them cleaned off, and put it all back together.  The scraps themselves are still in little baggies because dust, but I’m super-happy with this.  There are bins that are empty, too, and some with trims, etc.


I kept the denim scraps in the big bins and put them in a cabinet with the interfacings/fusible fleece, etc.

The sewing machine moved to the back wall, and I pushed out the wood-topped cabinet.  We used to have a love seat in front of it but that’s gone now, so more room for me!  You can see my fabric yardage folded and sorted by color/fabric type.  It’s an okay system, but digging around to find the right piece usually makes a bigger mess.  I picked up some containers on our last trip to Costco and they are just right.  I need more!

Ultimately, I still share this room with four other people who are using it for entirely different purposes, so this is my space within a space.

The pictures make it seem crowded, but there is plenty of space for little ol’ me.  Everything is close at hand but there’s plenty of table-top space to spread out.  ( I didn’t even notice until now that my coffee cup had it’s picture taken again. )


In  addition, I also have The Wall of Totes along the back of the room.  These are my raw materials, the shirts and jackets and pants I’ve been collecting for a few years now, sorted by color/type of clothing.  Believe it or not, this is after a couple of hard purges.  I’ve embarked on a new project that has me going through all of it again and I’m finding a lot of good stuff.  😉


And finally, here’s my closet under the stairs.  That’s where “the other stuff” lives.  Well, some of the other stuff.  There’s still an attic full of totes, most of which is display stuff but there is also fleece and batting and foam stuff for ornaments and….

Something Just for Me

One of the universal problems that anyone working with fabric faces is what to do with scraps?  Sewists, quilters, we all have little pieces of fabric taking up room and mocking us.  They’re still useful, can’t throw them out, what to do?  I suppose knitters have the same problem with yarn.  After Christmas and all of those projects for others I took a little time to make something just for me, only using scraps.  (And then after this project I took some time and reorganized my crafting space.  So claustrophobic!)


I started this project with the blues.  I mean, a lot of blues.  I’ve been looking for a while for a good foundation pieced block pattern to use up scraps like this.  I like foundation piecing, especially for weird little shapes, as it helps stabilize what may otherwise stretch out of place.  I came across this blog in my search:  Pintangle’s Crazy Quilt

I’m not into crazy quilting, but these blocks were perfect for what I wanted to do.  I chose to only work with block one and rotate it throughout the quilt.  I was also inspired in my design by this quilt, which I pinned in Pinterest a while back: Bottled Rainbows


Here you can see how I modified the block by adding a 1/4 inch sash between each piece.  Below are close ups so you can see that even the white fabrics were scraps of all kinds.

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The blocks started coming together, and that’s when I realized my big mistake.  When printing the blocks I had copied and pasted the pattern into Word in order to fit more than one onto a page, and inadvertently stretched the block by about a 1/4 inch on one side.  Not a big deal, except I was flipping the blocks as I was sewing them into rows.  You can see in the picture above that it was creating a problem.  I did end up unsewing quite a lot of it and did some trimming.  It got better, but I’ll always see where it’s wrong.

Next is the border.  Still working with scraps, still foundation piecing.  I cut longer strips of plain white fabric and pieced directly onto that.



Every so often I stopped, flipped it over, and trimmed.  Yes, I’m making more scraps.  It’s a never-ending loop!


I kept the quilting simple, as I always do, by stitching in the ditch with variegated thread.  Quilting is my least favorite part of the process, so I keep it simple.


And here it is, hanging in my room.  It reads a little warmer in this light.  It’s actually the first quilt I’ve finished in a while, and it was a nice mental re-set to move on to the next thing, which was to reorganize my sewing space.

The Handmade Holiday, Part Five


When I declared this holiday was going to be as handmade as possible, I’ll admit the reception was pretty lukewarm.  But Youngest Daughter (Katie) was enthused.  We had been watching Over the Garden Wall on Netflix, an animated miniseries, and she had been planning a Wirt cosplay.  For those not in the know, cosplaying is when you dress up like a character, sometimes from animation or live action, whatever catches your fancy.  Katie is really into it, and makes videos online while in costume.

Wirt is the boy on the right in this picture.  Katie figured his cape would be an easy make, so she asked for that.  It wasn’t hard, but I’ve made easier.  You don’t see it as well in the above picture, but the lining is red.  So I cut up a blue sheet and red tablecloth that I had, and my friend, Polly, donated some gold-toned buttons and voila!  A cape!


This turned out to be one of those projects that actually inspires me, and once the idea for the cape was solid, I started to think of more things to add to the cosplay.  For one thing, I had plenty of leftover red tablecloth to make a hat.  So I made the hat (no picture, though).

I should mention that we all watched this miniseries, some of us more than once, so I was well aware of how important the relationship between the two brothers was.  You can’t have Wirt without Gregory.  And I started to think, how can I make a Gregory?  Katie used to be into sock monkeys and I thought it would be fun to make a cosplay for one of them, and to make it look kind of like he made it himself.


And there is Gregory!  I made his teapot hat from a piece of fleece, his coverall from a t-shirt, and his pouch from a scrap from some pants.  I couldn’t find a frog in Katie’s old toys, so Sock Monkey has a chameleon instead.  The pouch isn’t empty, either.  Gregory’s pet rock is in there, as well as his taffy:





I also took one of these:


and added a brooch pin finding to the feet.  This is Beatrice and she is important to the story, too.  Now Katie can pin Beatrice to her shoulder.

I think it all came out well, but of course by the time Christmas came around I think Katie was kind of over it.  I did have fun making it, though.  Sock Monkey was happy to have a costume.


The Handmade Holiday, Part Four

Don’t you hate it when you thought you saved a draft of something and it’s completely gone the next time you open the program?  Yeah, let’s just hope that means it needed to be rewritten anyway.

So for a Christmas gift for Emma (Middle Daughter) I thought it might be fun to kind of finish a project she inspired years ago.  She’s always been very attached to her things, and at one point just loved her jeans.  Most of them had some sort of embroidery or other cool embellishments, and she really didn’t want to part with them.  And neither did she want to pass them on to her little sister.  We put them away for a time, and then, when she was a little bit over it, I started cutting them up.  This was way before I had started repurposing other clothing.  I cut up those jeans, and then started on other jeans the kids had, and then it was on to shirts, and then some of my shirts and even some of Todd’s clothing.  I had in mind making some sort of quilt, maybe one for each of the girls.  And like so many of my projects, at some point it got sidelined and put away.


Here you can see some of the squares.  For this project I used the big ones.  I’ve used some of this denim for other projects over the years.  I thought this would be a good rag quilt, something sturdy if she wanted to keep it in her Jeep for the winter, just in case.


These are my clothing scraps from my other projects.  All sorted by color or type.  See that top baggie that looks like random stuff?  Those are my precious batiks.  Saving those for a future project.  Anyway, I knew I would need these scraps to add to the quilt.


These are the shirt squares I had previously cut out from the kids’ clothes.  They were mostly sweatshirts, so used them for batting.  This is not a tutorial for making a rag quilt, so sorry if my pictures are of no help to you.  I didn’t do a very good job anyway, so there is that.


When making a rag quilt you have to clip the heck out of the seams.  Even with these spring-loaded clippers it’s a tough job.  And I missed a few seams the first time through and had to go back and finish.


Here it is, in process.  This would have gone smoother if I had planned it out all of the way.  I thought I had more matching sets of denim blocks than I did.  But overall, it came out fine.  About halfway through I figured out what I was doing wrong.  I may someday make another, but for now I’ll leave rag quilting to my cousin.  She’s a master.

The Handmade Holiday, Part Three

img_20161109_092006489.jpgOne of my recurring goals is to “use what I have” for a project.  I think a lot of crafters can relate.  I have tons of stuff-fabric, beads, miscellaneous supplies.  Some of it is left over from kicks I’ve been on, some has been gifted to me, some I pick up second hand because who can resist a big tub of quilting cotton scraps for $5.00 at a garage sale?  In my heart there’s a tiny part of me “rescuing” that stuff.  Usually it’s all put away neatly because that is what works for me, but when I get into a project everything comes out and gets spread around during the design phase.  I thought I would share some pictures of what that looks like.

As part of the handmade holiday I really wanted to put together some ornaments for a group of friends we have that get together every couple of weeks.  We have a fun Christmas party with a white elephant gift exchange and sometimes a few of us will also pass out small, inexpensive gifts.  You can see from the pictures above and below that I had everything out, from old jewelry to silk flowers to who knows what.  Pure chaos.


I started with the idea of using canning jar bands and a big basket of trims and hem tape that I was given.  Of course, I got the idea from Pinterest where the pinner had used twine.  Very Pinterest.  I don’t have twine, I have twenty year old bias binding.


It was during this project that I decided to sort out some of those zippers into their own basket.  I like to sort things.  It’s a problem.  Then I put the glue gun to work.

One other restriction I placed on myself was to make each ornament different.  I really liked how some of them came out, others not as much, and at least one fell apart when the recipient opened her gift.  😦  That totally sucked.  But overall I was happy with the results.

Anyone else out there like to make your own ornaments?  I found it relaxing to just design a new one or two a day.  It made a big mess, though, to have all of my stuff spread out while working.  I’d love to have a little more room to work.  Maybe someday!

The Handmade Holiday, Part Two

I mentioned in my last post that I was including birthdays in my definition of “holiday”, and how can you not when one of those birthdays falls on Christmas Eve? Middle daughter’s birthday has generated our own quirky set of holiday traditions. The best one, when the kids were still little, was to leave a piece of birthday cake for Santa instead of cookies.

When middle daughter was very young she started her own tradition with my mother in law. MIL often wore embroidered shirts which middle daughter was fascinated with. She would sit on her grandma’s lap for hours, weaving stories based on the pictures on Grandma’s shirts. 

Some of MIL’S clothing came to my house when she couldn’t wear it anymore, for whatever reason, and it’s been waiting for me to do *something* with it. So this year it became Daughter’s birthday present.

I started with a shirt and a pair of Grandma’s jeans. I need the jeans for the back of the pillow because I had already scavenged the back of the shirt for a different project.

There aren’t a lot of “how to” pictures for this post. Pillows are pretty simple. I cut out as much as I could of the front of the shirt to make a rectangular panel. Not so easy, actually, with the buttons and embroidery bunching things up. Then I unsewed the jeans, laid out the panel on top, pinned and cut. See those scissors? They were a birthday present to me from Oldest Daughter at the beginning of December. Cushion grips, which was a very thoughtful thing to do.

I thought it would be nice to actually make a pillow form and removable pillow cover, so I made this one from one of Grandma’s old pillow cases.

Because of the buttons I was able to sew up all of the sides and turn it easily, and then just button it up over the pillow form. After this picture I went back and tightened up the corners because it was too slouchy for my taste.

I rounded off the corners using a deli container as a guide.

Still a little slouchy for my taste, but much better. I think Daughter appreciated this sentimental gift.