Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Keeping up with the trend

Apart from Hannah Montana and the Jonas Brothers, the tweens/teens in this part of the world are going crazy over this. Yesterday, my daughter showed me her best friend's new pencil case which she had bought from Smiggle. It's one of those trendy pencil cases made entirely of zippers. If you haven't seen one, it looks like this...

It's cute...12 nylon zippers sewn together, with zipper pulls in alternate ends. What I don't like about it (as with any sewn item) are the exposed seams on the inside. Can you imagine what it looks like, with the 12 zips stitched together along their long sides? I want something that looks as good on the inside as it does on the outside. I gave it a bit of a thought, drafted out my plan, sat down on my machine till late last night and came up with own version of the zipper pencil case.

First side

Reverse side

Side view

Inside (clean isn't it?)

Short side seams concealed within a fabric strip

With some good stuff

I decided to use only 6 different coloured zippers (instead of 12), alternated with fabric. It was a bit tricky to sew together, but you know me, I work with zippers my own way (that means, for as long as I can avoid using the zipper foot, I will). I had to make sure my seam allowances were accurate or else the zips would not line up correctly in the final assembly. I made great effort to make the inside really neat. No raw edges exposed! And it is pretty sturdy as I had the fabric strips interfaced. Finished size is 8 3/4" long by 5" wide.

By the way, Lincraft has its own interpretation of the zipper pencil case. It makes use of the chunky, open-end type of zippers. Anyone interested to try that one out can view and print the 'how to' from here.

I am happy with the way my own version turned out. Considering I was very uninspired to work on anything for the past week, this project was a nice challenge. Hope you liked it!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Cooking a la Nintendo DS

When we gave our youngest the Nintendo DS for his birthday, the idea was that although ownership officially belonged to him, the DS was in fact for everyone's enjoyment. Everyone, of course, includes me! And that is why I have my own game...well, it's not really a game but this Cooking Guide. It's absolutely wonderful! Not only does it have 245 recipes originating from different countries, explained thoroughly with matching pictures and audio, it also has loads of helpful cooking tips as well. I would highly recommend this to anyone who loves to cook (and has a DS of course).

I've tried two recipes so far, one from Indonesia and another from Mexico. The Nasi Goreng we had for dinner two nights ago was so yummy, not a morsel of rice was left! It wasn't surprising as we all love our food hot and spicy.

The Mexican breakfast we had this morning was specifically chosen by my second son, Joseph. He has been asking me to make it since the weekend. This was something I won't usually think of preparing for breakfast but what can I say, it was another winning recipe. Here it is, so you too can start enjoying it!

Tortilla with Huevos Rancheros
(a filling, authentic Mexican breakfast with egg and salsa)

Ingredients (for 4 servings):
4 tortillas
olive oil
4 - 8 eggs
salt and pepper to taste
for the salsa ranchero:
400 g tinned whole tomatoes
1/2 onion
dash of chilli sauce
salt and pepper to taste
pinch of finely chopped parsley

1. Peel and chop the onion finely.
2. Heat olive oil, then fry onion over moderate heat until transparent.
3. Add tomatoes. Mix in while crushing them with a wooden spatula.
4. Cover the pan and simmer mixture for about 10 minutes over a low heat.
5. Once liquid is reduced, add chilli sauce, salt and pepper. Turn off heat.
6. Take a new frying pan and heat a dash of olive oil over low heat.
7. Place one tortilla in pan. Cover with some salsa ranchero, then break one (or two) eggs on top. Season with salt and pepper, as desired.
8. Cover pan and cook thoroughly until the eggs are set, according to taste .
9. Transfer tortilla to a serving dish and garnish with some parsley.
10. Do the same for the rest of the tortillas.
11. Serve hot.


Monday, October 20, 2008

Chronicles of a Swap

7 October: Today, I surprisingly received an invitation to participate in a personal swap. Sam from the UK had emailed me to ask if I could make her a mini messenger bag. She'd be providing me with the materials, plus will be sending me some of her own 'goodies'. I had not done any swaps before but yeah, I thought, why not? I could give it a try. Invitation accepted.

8 October: As per Sam's request, I emailed her a list of the materials she needed to send me.

10 October: Sam posted the materials today. Couldn't wait to get this thing started.

17 October: Goods arrived. This is what was inside the package...

Three coordinating fabrics in purple shades (other bag materials not in photo)

5" charm squares, bag pattern to use those squares with, small cuts of assorted printed fabrics, and a Simplicity pattern
Isn't it just obvious how my swap partner loves the colour purple?

Cut all the fabric pieces I needed before going to bed. I was feeling a bit anxious. I had no right to stuff this up! If I did, I would have no spare fabric and I will be in big trouble. Started sewing the flap and handle. So far, so good.

18 October: Worked on the bag for most of the day. My anxiety grew as my sewing machine, of all times, began to act really crazy. Couldn't get the stitches perfectly right, couldn't get the tension right. I changed bobbins, changed needles and still could not figure out what was going on. I had to sew, unpick, sew, unpick, countless times! By afternoon, I was done with the bag. Not fully satisfied though...but maybe it's just me. The bag looked alright but I simply felt frustrated. I just thought it's probably the right time to buy myself a new machine.

19 October: Bag is packed and ready to go.
Emailed Sam to confirm her postal address. She requested for a 'sneaky' photo.

20 October: Went to the Post Office right after I took my kids to school. I have not sent a parcel overseas for some time now so I was in total shock with the postal charges! I must say I was little bit traumatized by that. My 'fault' though because I had added some extra (surprise) stuff, making the package unnecessarily heavier. Oh well, this was afterall my first swap...I should learn.

Overall, it was a great experience. I just hope my swap partner will not be disappointed.

And for Sam, here's the (not so) sneaky photo. Hope I didn't spoil it for you too much!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

"Finish it your way" Quilted Patchwork Bag Tutorial

Another project, another tutorial. This is my new quilted patchwork bag...(once again not mine but will go into my handmade Christmas presents pool...sigh)

Full view


Bottom corner with dart

You might say this bag style is quite common. That's probably true...but what makes this one unique is the patchwork and the special touch and hard(er) work that comes with it. Being able to use up fabric scraps is an added bonus. I chose a floral motif for my fabrics. I did not bother to combine colours though. It seems any combination comes out nicely once sewn together.

The reason for the title of this post is this --- This tutorial is open-ended. Whilst I will be guiding you through most of the steps, the way you will do the final bag assembly will be up to you, not me. For my particular bag, I chose to do a zippered top. You might want to leave the top open, as in a simple tote, or close it with a magnetic snap or button loop. You might even want to add a flap. The final bag assembly will vary according to your preference.

Of course, before embarking on this sewing project, I recommend that you have at least some experience with bag-making. Or else, you might get a little lost towards the end!

Finished bag size is approximately: 12 1/2" at the top, 12 1/2" high, and 14" at its widest point. Pretty roomy.

* assorted medium-weight printed cotton fabric scraps
* medium-weight plain cotton fabric scrap, measuring no less than 7" by 15"
* fusible fleece and fusible interfacing enough to line main bag and lining
* matching thread
* your choice of closure, i.e. zipper, magnetic snap, button, etc.
* basic sewing skills, some experience in bag making recommended

How to:
1. PATTERN: Download the pattern here. Print at 100% then cut out pattern pieces. Glue pattern pieces onto cardboard then cut out once again. Use these as your templates.

2. CUTTING YOUR FABRIC: With the use of your prepared templates for tracing, cut the following:
For pattern piece A - cut 12 strips in assorted fabrics (you can choose to cut 2 of each kind if you want to make the front and back of your bag uniform).
For pattern piece B - cut 2 strips first then reverse the template before cutting 2 more (there should be 2 strips each for right and left side of bag).

3. CREATING YOUR PATCHWORK: To create your bag panels, first determine how you would want to layout your fabric strips. Piece the strips by stitching them right sides together along the long edges. Start with the left side of the bag using the strip with the curved left bottom corner, then continue with 6 different straight-sided strips. End with the piece for the right side. Do the same for the rest of the pieces for the other bag panel.
Open all seams and press flat.

Pin one bag panel to your fusible fleece. Using this as your pattern, cut out two pieces of your fusible fleece. Iron on to the wrong side of your fabrics.

Quilt your bag panels by stitching down on both sides of the seams, about 1/4" away from the seam.

4. HANDLES: Cut two 4" by 30" strips for your handles. You can choose to cut from one fabric only or join different fabric strips to make the required length. I used two different fabrics for mine.

Cut two 2" by 29 1/2" strips from your interfacing. Center your interfacing to the wrong side of your handle fabrics, such that 1" on both long sides and 1/4" on both short sides will remain uninterfaced.

Fold the long sides to the center, then fold again in half to end up with a 1" wide handle. Stitch down the long sides, about 1/8" from the edges.

5. TOP BAND: Measure the upper edge of your pieced bag panel. Using this length, cut 2 pieces from your plain fabric, 3 1/2" wide. Cut the same size of interfacing. Fuse your interfacing to the wrong side of your top bands.

6. ASSEMBLING THE BAG PANELS: Pin handles to bag panels as shown below. Center handle ends to the second strip (on your patchwork) from each side. Baste in place.

With right sides together, align the long edge of your top band to the upper edge of the bag panel, sandwiching the handle. Pin in place, then stitch layers together 1/4" from the edge. Do the same with both panels.

Open your fabric. This is what the right side will now look like.

Press the seams (where your top band and pieced panel joins) downward.

Topstitch close to the edge, making sure you catch the seams on the other side. Again, do the same with the other bag panel.

7. LINING: Pin one bag panel to your lining fabric. Using this as a guide, cut out 2 lining pieces.

Use lining pieces to then cut out your interfacing. Iron on interfacing to wrong sides of lining pieces.

If you'd like to put in a simple or a zippered pocket on your lining, do this now.

8. DARTS: The darts will give your bag bottom a bit of depth. To make a dart on a bottom corner, you will need to do the following:

Fold your bag panel diagonally such that one side edge will line up with the bottom edge.

Mark your dart by measuring 1" on the folded side and 3/8" on the curve. Lightly draw a diagonal line as shown. Stitch the dart in place along this line. Do the same for all curved corners of both main bag and lining panels.

This is how the corner will look like after stitching the dart.

Now comes the fun (?) part....How do you want to close your bag?

It's up to you now. Just some general suggestions:
If you want a zippered closure like mine, you can assemble the main bag and lining as you would a simple zippered pouch. If you don't know how to, click here to learn.

If you want some other kind of closure (like magnetic snaps), you would have to sew around the main bag and lining separately first, then assemble it as you would a basic lined tote or purse. See this for a sample.

Whatever you choose, just make sure your darts line up correctly. Please email me for any questions. I am happy to help. Good luck with sewing!

Shades of my past

This morning, at my kids' school, I was watching this mum as she was holding her newborn baby. Her baby is so beautiful, I couldn't help but stare. She seemed happy chatting with the other mums, with two of her younger children sitting next to her. She actually has four -- the eldest is in Year 1, the second in Prep. The third is probably about 3 or 4 years old. And then there's the baby. I was telling my daughter that life must be really tough for her, having to care for four small kids. But although she looked tired most of the time, I have not seen her grumpy even once (at least not at school).

Then I remembered that not too long ago, I was in the same position. When we first moved to Australia, my eldest just turned 7. My second boy was 5 1/2 and my daughter, 3 1/2. The baby came the same year as the move. Now the eldest is nearly 15. I recall people telling at that time, I seemed to be coping really well. I must have handled myself beautifully. How I managed, God only knows.

Time does fly so fast, doesn't it? I used to have no time to do stuff other than to care for the house and the kids and now, the extra hours all go to crafting! Isn't that just great?

Speaking of crafting, a tutorial for a new bag is coming up....I do not want to show the bag yet so here's just a teeny, weeny peak to tease you...

I'll wrap that tutorial up very soon, I promise. There's this other project in the wings...she's been waiting for a couple of days now for some progress --

Still no hair, face or clothes! But at least I've managed to wind that yarn for the hair on cardstock. Will hopefully be able to sew that in today.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The birthday boy plus other homefront happenings

My youngest son, Matthew, turned 7 yesterday! This is him, having fun with his new Nintendo DS lite...

We skipped the big 7th birthday party and in place, gave Matthew this rather expensive birthday present. Months ago, he was planning on inviting his school friends for his celebration but I sort of brainwashed him into choosing a 'nice' gift over a big bash. We still ate out though, in a place of his choice, but only invited our one and only close relative here, my brother and his family.

In other news, our backyard renovation is underway. My husband is no Jamie Durie, but he has been busy seriously planning our own 'backyard blitz'. Yesterday, he cut down a couple of small trees and as you can see from the photos, dismantled some bricks and that round table slumped in the background. Next up would be the clothesline.

He hopes to finish his pet project in about a month's time. I'll surely post photos here when the transformation is complete.

And yes, of course, before I go, some crafting news. Made this second mini messenger bag for my daughter. This one has a neat adjustable strap! More photos of this bag on my web album.

Have a nice day!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

So that you, too, may be smitten

Some nice people have asked me to make a tutorial for the small messenger bag in my last post. I don't want to keep anyone waiting and so I whipped up something quickly...not a full tutorial though as that is really not necessary. The bag is just a downsized version of the original, larger one, of which a detailed tutorial is already available here. What I have are instructions on how to use only 3 fat quarters to make this smaller size. I have complete illustrations on how to cut each piece. Don't worry...additional notes are included on some modifications that you have to do. If you have made the larger one before, this one will be a breeze, I assure you. And if this is your first time, then I assure you, too, that this project is not as complicated as it seems. In fact, it's quite easy.

Download the instructions now and get sewing! I will be making another one myself so I will be sewing along with you. For any questions, feel free to email me.

Please post photos of your bags, if you can. I would be happy to see them!

Have fun.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

My most favourite thing in the world

At the moment, that is. I am truly, madly, deeply in love with this. Totally smitten, head over heels! I can't stop thinking about it, admiring it, holding it and taking it wherever I go...

My favourite thing in the world, as of yesterday...

A smaller version of my original messenger bag! Made from only 3 fat quarters, cut so wisely and pieced together to make this wonderful little bag of my dreams. The perfect everyday size.

Oh, please pardon me... It's just that I am so pleased with myself!

Anyway, just before you go, you might want to listen to more Savage Garden music...

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Sewing the day away

Got to make this quick...Daylight Saving Time is commencing tomorrow and we're losing an hour. Got to get to bed and sleep!

I spent most of yesterday sewing (instead of taking care of more pressing concerns) and felt a bit guilty about it that I had to do 'penance' late last night by doing some ironing. Today, I saw something in a back issue of a craft magazine (Australian Country Threads, Vol 8 No 11) that made me feel a lot better. A stitchery pattern by Carol Newton...

It expresses every stitcher's sentiments, doesn't it? And so here I am once again, proudly showing off what I've accomplished with all that sewing.

First of all, the patchwork bags I previewed in my last post
are now done!

The pattern for this next one is from Sweet Pea Totes. It is a rather large tote. Quite easily assembled although I cheated on the handles a bit.

The other side...

Yesterday, too, as I went shopping for my lining fabric, I bought this wonderful find. When I saw it, I knew exactly what I was going to use it for...

A fabric-covered journal for my sister in-law. I hope she likes it (and doesn't see this here!).

I even managed to personalize it by embroidering her name on a piece of Aida scrap...

And lastly, I found these too. Three coordinating fat quarters that will soon be magically turned into something that's been on my mind for a while now.

As of this writing, the fabrics have already been cut. Stay tuned for that.

Well, off to bed now! The precious minutes are ticking away!