Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Happy 11th Birthday!

My one and only daughter, Missy, turned 11 yesterday, the 28th of July. She had her celebration last Sunday. Unlike the past years, she opted not to have a little party with her friends at home. A few weeks ago, she asked me if we could go to the movies with her two best friends. It was ok with me but she later changed her mind since there was no good G/PG movie in the cinemas at the moment. Instead, she requested if we could eat out for lunch. And so we did.

We went to an Italian pizza place in a nearby mall. Our whole family went along but we had to sit in a different table and leave the three girls to themselves. After lunch, my husband and three sons went on their way and I was left to chaperone the girls as they did some shopping.

Their first stop was this place called Diva, a girls' accessories shop...you know, necklaces, bracelets, earrings, headbands and stuff like that. They bought this three piece necklace set with hearts bearing "BEST FRIENDS FOREVER". The thing cost $15 and they were to share the expense. I ended up gladly paying for it...it was my daughter's birthday anyway. Next stop was at Big W (a store something like Target). There they bought Lip Smackers, one for each of them. Final stop was Sweet Box where they spent the rest of their money on lollies.

And so yesterday, on the real day of her birth, Missy did nothing really extraordinary, except of course, opened her presents. We gave her the new Pixel Chix Fab Life and a set of 4 new High School Musical story books. She also got Hannah Montana walkie talkies and a beading set from her two friends.

Oh yes, this is the birthday cake I baked for her...9" in diameter and about 4-5" thick of chocolaty goodness...

I nearly stuffed this up actually. After putting in all the ingredients, I realized I had put half a cup of flour more than was required in the recipe. I added an extra egg...truthfully, though, I did not know what I was doing or what effect that would have on the baked cake! Anyway, it turned out great...how can it not be, especially with white mountain frosting. No kidding, we all loved it. (Please excuse, though, my terrible cake decorating skills!)

My second eldest son is having his birthday on Thursday. That means another cake to bake. And an added teenager in the family (yikes)!

Happy birthday again, Missy!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Impulsive Me

A couple of days ago, out of impulse, I purchased a PDF pattern for the Curvy Clutch from an Etsy seller. This was my first Etsy transaction ever. I know...I did mention just recently that store-bought patterns do not generally work for me. Having just finished another city backpack, I wanted to try out something small and simple this time so I can use my leftover fabrics. Actually, the clutch construction is something quite basic that I could have just figured out myself. But I wanted to give the pattern a try just the same. I got attracted to it mainly because of the bag shape.

I spent several hours trying it out and this is what I came up with....(you may recognize the fabrics from my messenger bag)...It is about
9" at the widest point and 4 1/4" high.

The instructions were clear and well-written. As I had expected, the final bag shape is great. The only thing I don't really like about it is how the flap sits...it seems a bit awkward because of the fact that the bag opening has a curved shape. While it was worth the try, I am not really sure how functional this would be for me. I did know, beforehand, that having no zippered closure meant less security and security is certainly important to me.

I have a great idea for zippered wristlets in my
mind...something that I must attend to very soon.

Before I forget, here are photos of my second city backpack. I omitted the front pocket because I had originally planned to trim the lower edge with corded piping and did not want extra layers of fabric to work with in the bottom. Obviously, that plan did not push through...I did add a zippered pocket inside to replace it. The main bag colour is not red, as reflected in some of the photos. I think it's maroon.

Oh, I really love this bag....

Front view

Side view

Flap open, showing drawstring and magnetic snap closure

Bag open, showing zippered pocket

Showing off the bag's great shape

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

TUTORIAL: The City Backpack

No longer a sneak peek...here it is, step by step as you had wanted it!

If you've come from Craftster or have read my previous blog post, then you'd already know what I'm talking about. If not, you can first read about it here, where there are more photos and details about this wonderful little bag.

Thanks to some really lovely people, I got the boost I needed to make another tutorial. Of course, it took a lot of effort but making it went along pretty smoothly and easier than I initially thought. I do believe online tutorials are much better than store-bought printed patterns, not just because they are free but because you are able to see upfront what you are exactly in for. I've bought patterns in the past and most of them turned out to be disappointments...they were either unclear, too complicated, lacked illustrations or I just did not like the construction in general.

Seems like you are interested in making the city backpack and that is why you are here. Thank you for your trust! I do hope you will get exactly what you are after. Happy bag-making everyone!

Before we begin, some very important things to remember...Please read this carefully.1.
After cutting your fabric pieces for the bag bottom and flap, use a protractor or any curved object to shape the corners, as illustrated. Alternatively, you may want to make a pattern to make cutting fabric easier.

Measure 1 1/2" from your corner, draw the curve, then cut off the corner. Do this for the four corners of your bag bottom and for the two bottom corners of your flap.

Use a 1/4" seam allowance throughout, unless otherwise instructed.
As a prerequisite to this project, you need to know how to install magnetic snaps. If you intend to add a zippered or simple slip pocket on the bag inside, you should also know how to. Here's a link to a useful tutorial.
4. Except for the drawstring, all fabric pieces are interfaced. The bag front/back/side sections, as well as the bag bottom, flap, grab handle, and strap attachment loops are fully interfaced. Instructions on how to interface the back straps and the casing will be provided in the tutorial.
5. Reinforcing the bottom with template plastic is optional. Please refer to these simple instructions on how to use your template plastic.
6. Fabric dimensions are provided at the start of each part of the tutorial. You can cut your fabric pieces as you go along sewing, part by part.
Towards the end of this project, you will be sewing through a thick layer of fabrics. Have an appropriate sewing machine needle ready.
Ready now?
How to Make a City Backpack

What you will need:
1 meter plain medium weight fabric
1/2 meter printed medium weight fabric
1 meter fusible interfacing, appropriate for med-heavyweight fabrics
1 set magnetic snap
4 metal slides
matching thread
template plastic (optional)

Main Bag
Part A. Front Pocket
10 1/2" (W) x 11" (H) plain fabric for bag front
10 1/2" x 4 1/2" plain fabric for pocket outside
10 1/2" x 5 1/2" printed fabric for pocket inside

1. With right sides together, join and stitch the two pocket pieces along one of the long sides.
2. Open the seam and press flat.
3. Fold to join the unstitched long edges, wrong sides together. Press to create a crease on the fold.
4. Open pocket piece. With wrong side up and printed fabric on the bottom, pin this to the right side of your bag front, bottom edges together.
Measure 2 1/2" along the crease from both ends.

5. Stitch as illustrated.

6. Fold down pocket piece along the crease and/or stitched line. Baste along the sides and bottom edges.

Now you have a slip front pocket. You can add a velcro or snap closure for more security if you want to.
Part B. Main Bag Sections
Front section as stitched in Part A
10 1/2" x 11" plain fabric for bag back
2 pieces - 5 1/2" x 11" plain fabric for bag sides

1. Join the bag front, sides and back sections, stitching with right sides together along the long edges. Press all seams open, then turn bag right side out.

You should have something like this at this point...
3. Topstitch 1/8" from both sides of the seam lines. Be sure to catch the open seams on the back. Do this slowly to make sure your lines remain straight.

Part C. Back Straps/Strap Attachment Loops/Grab Handle/Drawstring/Casing**Take note: If you are using really thick interfacing, I would recommend that you half the width of your interfacing for the following parts. If your sewing machine can sew through thick layers of fabric (mine did!), then cut them as instructed.
2 pieces - 4" x 32"-35" plain fabric for back straps (length will depend upon your requirement)
2 pieces - 4" x 5" plain fabric for strap attachment loops
4" x 9 1/2" plain fabric for grab handle
2" x 51" plain fabric for drawstring
2 1/2" x 32" printed fabric for casing
Back Straps1. Cut your interfacing 1" shorter than your back strap length. Fuse to wrong side of strap such that 1" on one end is not interfaced. (Please excuse my terrible cutting skills!)

2. Fold in 1/2" of non-interfaced end and press. This is going to be your finished end.
3. Fold in long edges towards the center and press.

4. Fold fabric in half lengthwise to end up with a 1" wide strap. Press again.
Stitch down close to the edges, starting from the raw edge going down to and around the other short side then down the long edge.
6. Do the same procedure with your other back strap.

Strap Attachment Loops
1. Follow steps 3-5 of Part C/Back Straps to create your strap attachment loops.
2. Slip each strap loop over the lower bar of the metal slides. Baste the short ends together.

Assembling your Back Straps
1. Take a new metal slide. From the metal slide back, insert the finished end of your back strap starting below the upper bar, going over the center, then out the lower bar. Stitch the strap end in place approximately 3/4 - 1" from the bar.

2. Insert the other end (with the raw edge) of the back strap through the back of the upper loop of the slide with the strap attachment loop. (Read that again!) Then slip this same end to the back strap slide, going under the lower bar, then over the center and out the upper bar.

Perhaps this book diagram will make things a bit clearer...
3. Do the same with the other back strap and strap attachment loop.

Grab Handle - Follow steps 3-5 of Part C/Back Straps to create your grab handle.

1. With wrong side up, fold in 1/2" from both short end and press.
2. Now fold lengthwise in same manner as back straps/strap loops/grab handle.
3. Stitch down the middle.
1. Cut your interfacing 1" shorter than your fabric. Center and fuse interfacing to fabric such than 1/2" on each short side remains interfaced.

2. Fold each short side 1/2" in and then another 1/2". Stitch.
3. Fold the casing, wrong sides together then press.

Part D. Flap
7" (W) x 8" (H) plain fabric for flap inside
7" x 8" printed fabric for flap outside
1. Find bottom center of inner flap piece and measure 1" up. Mark this spot. Insert the "male" half of the magnetic snap right above this mark.

2. With right sides facing each other, stitch outer and inner flap together along sides and bottom. Leave top open.
3. Turn flap right side out and press. Topstitch 1/4" from the edge.

Part E. Assembling the Main Bag
10" (W) x 6 1/2" (H) plain fabric for bag bottom, shaped as instructed

1. Baste the strap attachment loops to the bottom edge of your bag back. Position the raw edges of each strap loop 1 1/2 inches from the center of the back section.

2. Pin and baste the back strap ends at the center of the upper bag edge, about 3/4" apart and at an angle. Make sure your straps are not twisted.
3. Pin and baste the grab handle also at the upper bag edge, each end approximately 1/4" away from the back strap.

4. With magnetic snap side up, pin and baste the flap raw edge along the upper edge as well.

5. Locate the center of the casing and pin this to the center of the back upper edge, raw edges up. Continue pinning around the upper edge. Baste.
6. Bring the flap down to the bag front. Press down the magnetic snap on the flap hard enough to leave an impression on the bag front. Mark the center of the magnetic snap impression.
7. Install other half of the magnetic snap (flat side) on the bag front.

8. Turn the bag wrong side out. With right sides together, pin the bag base to the lower edge of your bag. It is good to start pinning from the center of each side, then going around the curves.
9. Slowly and carefully stitch the bag bottom to your bag. Clip the curved corners.
10. If you are strengthening your bag base with template plastic, now is the time to attach it.
**Suggestion/Tip: Adding a corded piping around the bottom edge will give the bag a more finished look!
Bag Lining
2 pieces - 10 1/2" x 11" printed fabric for bag front and back
2 pieces - 5 1/2" x 11" printed fabric for bag sides
10" x 6 1/2" printed fabric for bag bottom, shaped as instructed
**Take note: If you would like to add pockets to your lining, do it now before proceeding to the next steps.

1. Join the bag front, sides and back sections, stitching with right sides together along the long edges.
Increase your seam allowance by about 1/8" (from 1/4"). This ensures your lining will sit nicely inside your bag.
2. Stitch the bag bottom to the main bag in the same way as in Part E/Assembling the Main Bag/8-9. However, this time,
leave a 6" opening on one side of lining bottom to be used for turning later.

Final Bag Assembly1. With right sides facing each other, put main bag inside bag lining. Pin in place, making sure the four vertical seams are aligned. Be sure, too, that the back straps, grab handle, flap, and casing are neatly sandwiched inside and in between main bag and lining.
2. Stitch around the top edge, using a 1/2" seam allowance this time.

3. Pull main bag out of the lining opening. This could be a bit tricky if you had attached template plastic to your bag base.4. Slipstitch close the opening. It is good to press the bag at this point.
5. Topstitch 1/4" along the top edge. Make sure not to stitch onto the flap, back straps, grab handle, and casing.

6. Finish the bag off by threading your drawstring through the casing (use a large safety pin to help you out). Knot the ends of your drawstring.
Hurray, we are all done! Finished bag size is approximately 11 3/4" (H) x 10"(W) x 5"(D). That was a long tutorial but hopefully not as hard as it seemed. Please let me know how it all works out for you! Any questions, feel free to ask.

Enjoy your new bag!

Sneak Peek into Something New

I started on this bag as soon as my children went back to school last Monday. And boy, was I overeager to finish it. I know I shouldn't have been...the more I rushed, the more I made mistakes. I had to unpick time and again because I wanted my stitching perfect. Halfway through sewing, I had doubts I could even successfully complete this. Now that it's done, I can't really claim it's perfect but I am quite pleased and more so, relieved. I took pictures along the way with the intention of making another tutorial soon. It's quite a long, tiring process so I am really having second thoughts...unless I get very good feedback. I do need some encouragement and inspiration, you know.

This backpack design combines several aspects of backpacks I've seen in online tutorials and bag-making books. I call it the City Backpack. It is a small-sized backpack, approximate size being 11 3/4" (H) x 10"(W) x 5"(D). Something you can take to trips to the city, to the park or to go shopping with. Appropriate for a child as well. Oh yes, it is small, but even I was surprised to find how roomy it actually is inside when it is fully open.

I reinforced the bottom with template plastic. First time I tried this. The back straps are adjustable. Again, my first time. The outer fabric and lining are both lined with fusible woven interfacing. I've been using non-woven ever since, so this is another first. Yeah, the bag holds a pretty good shape and can stand on its own. It closes with a flap with a magnetic snap and the upper bag edge has a drawstring. I did not want a patch pocket on the front so I came up with some sort of slip pocket. The way I did that sprung entirely from my imagination...

On with the photos...hope you like it!

Front view
Side view
Flap open, Drawstring and magnetic snap closure

Inside view
Inside again, this time with some stuff
Would love to hear what you all have to say...

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Yesterday's Crafty Accomplishments

First accomplishment...

My daughter got all interested in baking after that first try with her friends. She asked if she could make something again all by herself. Of course, I obliged as I am all for her learning how to bake. I suggested another recipe from the same children's cookbook we used before. She likes brownies so that's what she made.

I know there are tons of brownies recipes in the internet, but as the book says, this one is "childproof in the sense that a little undermixing or overmixing, or a little inaccuracy in measuring ingredients will not be detrimental to the outcome." So this is really a recipe designed for kids. And it's yummy too.

The marshmallow topping is not really included in the original recipe. I just thought of adding it to give the brownies a more 'kiddie look'. The topping turned out a bit sticky for my liking...it was hard to cut neatly. It's up to you if you would like to do the same.

Kiddie Brownies

In a large bow, mix together:
1/2 cup melted butter
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup cocoa
1/2 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder

Add in: 1/2 cup chopped nuts (we used walnuts), if desired

Grease one 9" by 9" square pan. Pour in brownie mixture. Bake in a pre-heated 180 degree oven for about 20 minutes or until the brownie starts to pull away from the sides of the pan. If you want to add the marshmallow topping, do so a few minutes before taking the pan out. Let the marshmallows melt but be sure not to overcook the cake. Cool, then cut into desired sizes.

Second accomplishment...

I finished my third messenger bag. A real cutie. Seriously, this is the last one (at least for now). It gets a bit tiring after a while. I am currently brewing something new, which I hopefully will be able to do once the school holidays are over. In the meantime, I have got to catch up on household chores!


Top view

Cute inside lining

Hanging in my daughter's bedroom door (yes, she's a Miley Cyrus fan)