Pinterest isn’t Helping

I think a lot of you might be able to relate, Pinterest is a huge time suck for me. My feed is a hot mess of jewelry, chainmaille, complicated recipes, and purses I’ve already pinned twenty times. I do love that you can find almost anything, but I hate when it shows you great ideas that literally go nowhere.

But sometimes you find just the inspiration you need, and this bag is the result of one of those times. This tote popped up in my feed, and it seemed so simple that I just had to try my hand at making one for myself. Fjallraven Totepack No.1, Red: Fjallraven: Sports & Outdoors

Last year I thought I would make something similar with this pattern but it turned out to be almost unnecessarily fussy and complicated. And the cost of the hardware (there was a lot) was almost a hundred dollars! I’ve since found some more reasonable sources, but the high cost of purse findings is a pretty common problem. I’ve got a work-around, but it’s an imperfect solution. I buy second hand purses and cut them apart.


So back to the simple tote that inspired me… I figured that since I was going to be making it up entirely I should probably use materials I have a lot of so there would be extra for when I screwed up and needed to start over. I just picked up these sweet circle print linens not too long ago at St. Vinnie’s, so plenty of yardage there. For accent pieces I pulled out some denim yardage left over from an upholstery project I did for the kids about ten years ago. I knew it would come in handy some day! (I should stop arguing with Todd when he calls me a hoarder.) Added to the mix are sliders and rings from a second hand bag and some zippers, one of which was removed from some other piece of clothing sometime in the past. I really do try to keep everything which might be useful.

I won’t make this post so much about how each and every step happened. I kept it all simple enough to be able to change and adapt as I went along and continued adding new ideas. I used basic techniques: adjustable straps, boxed corners, a false bottom and some simple zippers. I did a lot less frog stitching than I thought I would. Of course there are some changes I might make on the next one, but I love how it came out! Check out the pictures:

Totes magotes!
Zipper pocket on the front.
As a backpack.
Hard to demonstrate without arms.
Over the shoulder.
Adjustable straps are handy-it can even be a cross-body bag.
A recessed zipper.
And a big zipper pocket on the inside.

Overall I’m pretty happy with this convertible bag. Next time I would change the inside pocket but that’s about all I would do differently. I’m going to run out of sliders if I keep making them, though. ūüôā


Ethel and Jennie

Through this blog I’ve tried to give you a glimpse of how my creative process works. I think it’s important to communicate just how unique each of my repurposed projects really is. I think this bag is a good example. Let’s walk through what it takes to make a prototype.

*Some* people called this an ugly dress.¬† ūüôā

A couple of years ago I found this dress at Goodwill. When I find an item of clothing like this it stays in my mind. I really loved this piece and didn’t want to ruin it. One detail of this dress that you can’t see here is the sash which ties in the back. Lately I’ve wanted to experiment more with adjustable straps, and I’ve been thinking about that sash.

This time around I started with a pattern I already have of a bag from Swoon. All of their patterns have women’s names, and this beauty is Ethel. Someday I may even make one according to the directions! ūüėÄ

I don’t like the lining on this bag.¬†¬†

I made the above tote from a couple of shower curtains and omitted the closure. What I love about Ethel is her beautiful curves. Unfortunately, she’s made with foam interfacing and finishing and turning her is a bit like wrestling a hippo. Very bulky and frustrating.

So, I have a basic pattern I like, and a pretty dress. The first thing to do is rip that baby apart. This process can actually take hours so as to carefully preserve all of the little details, like the zipper and sashes.

I’m not sure if I’m especially attracted to florals or if that’s just what is out there.¬†

And this is what happens when I get impatient:

You know that sound fabric makes when it rips?  Like fingernails on a chalkboard.

Ripped it right up. I was going to use that piece for a pocket, but not now. Patience! (Eventually I did use this black fabric to line a couple of smaller pockets.)

I’m not going to use all of the dress for this bag. The shoulder straps, for example, can be saved for a future project.

While I’m making my projects I’m visualizing the finished item, which I’m sure is quite common. Sometimes I’m also visualizing the next three finished projects. ūüėČ And for this particular bag I wanted a little pop of bright color for the lining.

Rescue fabrics, if you don’t recall, are pieces of yardage that I’ve picked up second hand.

I pulled out a piece of rescue fabric, as well as a zipper I picked up from St. Vinnie’s, and you can also see I’ve gotten out my interfacings.

I iron everything on the upstairs walkway and then drape it all over my railing until I’m ready to use it.

Next I pressed everything. Sometimes twice.

I tried to keep everything grouped together so I could always find it when I needed it.
I’m starting to wonder if my coffee cup has a thing for being on camera.

I cut out my pieces and fused interfacing to everything. For the lining pieces I used Pellon P44F fusible interfacing.  It seems to me like a good, basic interfacing that I can use for a variety of projects.  For the outside of the bag I used fusible fleece. I thought that would give it some body without being too crazy. I did use the foam interfacing in the bottom of the bag for some structure.

In addition to the straps and lining, I was also seeing this bag with a recessed zipper. I’ve done this once before with a slightly different method, but this tutorial gave the finished look that I was looking for. That called for altering the lining pieces. After a bit of math (gotta get those seams right!) I cut the new pieces.

I actually managed this step pretty well.  Totally making it up at this point.

After all of the deep thought I needed to do some easy bits, so I decided to sew together the outside of the bag. Except I had decided to add pockets on the ends, so more pieces to cut and interface and baste. No pictures of that, though!

I thought a picture of something under the needle would be nice.

I still love this print. This is the bottom of the bag.

Curvy lady.

Yep, looking pretty.

I don’t usually take the time to baste but I definitely should.

I also took those sashes and basted them to the bag.

Next it was time to tackle the lining. This was where all of the zippers were going, so I took my time for each step. The first one was going on a pocket. I followed this video tutorial and it really was quite simple. The most complicated part was choosing the placement.

More needle action.
Ignore any puckers you may notice.

Once I was done with all of that I went back to the previous tutorial for the recessed zipper and made the casing. This is the zipper I saved from the dress.

I can’t even tell you how pretty I think this is.

For the most part this method worked, although I think the ends were a little clunky. There’s twice as much fabric as needed, really. Looks pretty though!

This is starting to get complicated again.

Here we have all of the pieces coming together, and it’s here that I’m going to stop and tell you that each of these steps took so much longer than it seems. Right here is where I realized I was trying to add a straight piece between two curved pieces, and what had I been thinking? Altering a pattern for the first time- I should have kept it a little more simple. I put her in time out more than once.

Looking for pins?  I have them all!

Apparently I also pin the hell out of curves. Oh, well, it worked!

It took me a day of pondering to decide how I wanted to sew the outside and lining to each other and in the end did it the way I always do. This tote bag is a good example. (It’s also a really good basic tote pattern, easily made reversible.)

Now she was almost finished, so I excitedly sewed around the top of the bag, finally close to the end only to find I had run out of bobbin thread halfway through. Another time out!

Different kind of pins here.

This morning I finished putting her together. There are some changes I would make on the next one, but overall I think she’s great.

Topstitching makes me so happy!
Interior reveal.
Completely adjustable handle.
Side pockets!¬† I’m still working on getting these just the right size.

But she’s not an Ethel anymore, more like her daughter. So the Jennie bag is born!*

Vivian loves her new bag!

Maybe I’ll make more some day. ūüėȬ† Next up, though, I think is another tote bag.¬† I have an idea that’s been nagging me.

*Ethel was a lovely lady who passed away just a few months ago. Jennie is her loving daughter.  I was thinking of them both as I was working on this project

Just Checking In!

We’re in the middle of the holiday season, a time when I’m picking and choosing which holiday parties I can make it to, which ones I can host, and what we’re doing for so-and-so’s birthday (four of them in December!).¬† I did one craft show earlier in the fall and for the most part, my crafting is on hiatus for a couple of weeks.¬† I’m experimenting with some new things and saving up ideas for my next burst of productivity.


But one thing that does not go on hiatus is thrifting.¬† I’ve cut back on the clothing I’m picking up to work with as I have plenty in the closet, but if a piece really calls to me then I’ll bring it home.¬† Today I spent some time at a local favorite with two of my daughters and found a few fun things.¬† In addition to making things out of shirts and jeans I do also like to work with vintage linens, as well as some contemporary linens.¬† I found these sheets today, in great condition:


What a fun print!¬† I’m going to get a lot of use out of these.¬† So many possibilities…

In addition to linens I do sometimes pick up second hand fabrics when I see something I like.¬† I call them “rescue fabric” because I’m adopting them and bringing them home.¬† I found some pretty goodies today:


The two pieces of fabric in the bottom and bottom right are somewhat small, but eventually just the right inspiration will hit me and they will be perfect.


But the best piece of all was something my daughter found and just knew I had to have it:


Oh, yeah.¬† Hot pink hippos on a bright green background.¬† It doesn’t get any better than this.¬† I may just keep this to bring out and marvel at every so often.¬† Wowie kazowie!

I hope your holiday season brings you everything you are looking for and some things you aren’t looking for at all, but will still make you happy.¬† ūüôā

Promises promises

I promised this blog post ages and ages ago.¬† My summer, like all of yours, has been busier than I expected I guess.¬† Usually I’m out of the craft room and in the garden but this year I’ve been in the house, fixing up rooms that were emptied by The Great Daughter Migration of 2017.¬† Also travelling and working.

I was excited to share pictures with all of you of my desk renovation, but by the time it was all done it felt pretty basic to me.¬† I had planned on putting together a corner desk but the space was all wrong for the piece that I found.¬† So let’s start with that piece:

Everything you see in this picture came with.  Well, not the stuff in the background.  Or the floor.

This project started with the desk you see here.¬† We found it at the Habitat for Humanity Restore in West Madison, and it was literally on the last aisle of the store.¬† I had looked at everything else-kitchen cabinets, living room furniture, everything.¬† I was trying to find cabinets/hutches/drawers to work with and make a desk/worktable out of.¬† This desk had everything, except a desktop, which was fine with me.¬† I would have picked up a piece of counter top at the same time but at this point I was stuck on the idea of making a corner piece and figured I’d just make something.

My oldest daughter is always on the hunt for more shelving so I gave the hutch and shelves to her.  I really wanted to put them to use but my space is limited.

And then I started the usual process of cleaning, cleaning, cleaning and sanding, sanding, sanding.¬† I really hate sanding.¬† It’s the main reason I don’t do more of this kind of thing.¬† I know you’re supposed to be able to skip a lot of the prepping with chalk paint but I’ve never actually worked with the stuff.¬† I researched it a little and it seemed like it might not stand up to the constant use I was planning.¬† Also, waxing?¬† Most sites I read recommended re-waxing every six months to a year.¬† I don’t even wax my legs that often!

Here’s a slightly blurry picture of the drawer units primed.

So I went with the traditional latex enamel.  Easy to work with and stands up to constant use.  And because this project was entirely for me, I went with a bright, fun color.

Peacock blue for the win.  It makes me smile.

The color was great, and it turned out that the pieces were mostly solid wood.  All I needed now was the hardware, which I had already picked up at our local resale shop.  A big bag of glass knobs for ten bucks!

This is before they went through the dishwasher.
This is after.

They’re mismatched but I don’t care.

Another grainy, weird picture.  

The paint color is not really this light.  My photography skills need work.

All that was left was the desktop, which I quickly made from a sheet of plywood I had sitting around.  Not the best choice, but I figured it would do for now until I spot a replacement at a garage sale or resale shop.  The benefit, of course, was that I could make it any size I wanted to.


I can’t tell you how much I love this thing.¬† I sit at it every day.¬† Would you like to see the rest of the room?¬† I have posted pictures of that on Facebook, too, but should blog it just a little.¬† Maybe later, for now I have to go make chili!

Shoulda Woulda Coulda

I can’t believe I haven’t posted since March! ¬†Wow, I guess I’ve been busy. ¬†Most of you reading this will already know, but my girls found a place together and all moved out at the same time. ¬†Chaos ensues! ¬†I’m still getting my house together in the aftermath-they each had their own bedroom, so I have three empty rooms to play with. ¬†What a luxury of space after so many cramped years. ¬†They also have a ton of space in their new place and I think they are loving it.

One of the benefits of all of that space, of course, is a new, dedicated sewing room. ¬†I’ve been sharing my space for years, in various rooms, with various other activities. ¬†And Todd is happy to have all of those tubs of old clothing out of our bedroom! ¬†I have a couple of projects related to the new sewing room and hopefully will be blogging that soon.

But first, just a little peek at a project I made while all of the chaos was going on. ¬†This was a special order for a family member. ¬†By the time I got to the end I really regretted not taking pictures all along to blog in detail. ¬†This bag was a great exploration of just how my creative process works. ¬†For example, it took a week at least to choose which fabrics/pieces of clothing to use. ¬†And maybe some of you are aware (or maybe not), but I’m not working with a pattern. ¬†It’s more like an idea of a pattern and then go from there. ¬†I also chose to work with a pair of jeans on this one, and that’s new for me. ¬†I’ve done that a couple of times and haven’t loved the results, but this time something clicked. ¬†Here’s a look:


I made this tote about the same standard size that I make all of them, 18″x 14″. ¬†The handles are approximately 30″ long. ¬†Isn’t that a great print? ¬†That is a vintage sheet I found at a resale shop and it was perfect. ¬†In fact, I’m making curtains for my new guest bedroom out of what was left.


Sometimes it’s the little details that make a piece. ¬†Here I used swivel clasps to attach the straps. ¬†Those are the belt loops holding the rings.


Also a special zipper, and you can see here that I used the waistband from the jeans as binding on the pocket panel. ¬†I’m still getting the hang of installing zippers, so I could have been happier with this one. ¬†But it had to be installed like this so it could do this:


Yup, she’s reversible! ¬†Aren’t those cute pockets? ¬†I actually did wish to keep this one when I was done, despite the flaws. ¬†(If you can’t see them, I’m not telling you where they are!) ¬†I can’t wait to make another one!

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. ¬†ūüėČ


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….