Deep Summer

In deep summer, everything moves a little slower because of the heat.  The sewing slows down because we’re at the beach, or watching Endeavor on the television, or just lazily talking after dinner on the patio.  The dusk deepens, and we realize we’ve talked the evening away as we flip on the overhead twinkle lights and talk some more, maybe eating an ice cream bar.  Or something else cold and slippery and refreshing like a tall lemonade.

Backside Hills on EPP3

So I sip some lemonade while fighting the urge to take the scissors and whack off this veritable mountain of seams on the backside of Circles Block #2, which I’m currently working on.  I’ve made this section twice, and have now realized we need a Design Change.  It will work fine, but in Deep Summer, it’s best not to be thinking too hard.

BAckside of Large Circles Block#3

I finished the block this morning (this is the backside–full reveal the first week of August), went to add the background corners and realized I’d drawn the whole shebang one inch too large all the way around.  I slumped into my chair–it’s really too hot to do anything else, right?  Then after slumping for a while, I got up and redrew parts of it to make it conform to what we have going on so far in Circles Block #1 and #2.  I’m NOT remaking that center section, though, having already sewn it twice.  It will all be correct when I finally post it, and tested.

Retreat Ladies 2014

We had our annual Good Heart Quilters Retreat at Lisa’s house, and were joined by her two sisters-in-law, who traveled down from the Mountain West to join us.  This is just the first batch of quilters in the moring–more came and by evening, when the fudgy brownies came out of the oven, there were many more.

Jean and her quilt July 2014Jean was a phenom, getting several quilt tops to the finished stage so she can quilt them on her machine.  Others quilters were just as industrious, but I was head-down-fingers-stitching on the Circles Block and forgot to take photos.


I also finished my Four-in-Art quilt, but that reveal is not until August 1st, so check back then.  I really like this one and tried a new technique of printing on fabric.  I’ll share the quilt and all the “deconstruction” details next week.

And in Deep Summer maybe something we ought to do is read a poem or two, while sitting outside under the twinkle lights on the patio downing the last of the frozen peanut butter cookies — a poem like this one, by Susan Hutton, found *here.*

Falling Through

My neighbor, perched high on a ladder
one weekend afternoon,
trimmed the wrong branch and sent himself
slowly wheeling through the sky.
He curved through the air as smoothly
as if he’d been drawn with a compass,
a graceful inflection discordantly accompanied
by crepitating branches and breathy leaves,
and landed in a lush, bent sapling.
To call it beautiful misses the point.
To say he stood and walked away unharmed
is true. For fifteen years I’ve remembered that shape,
its pace, but it’s the moment when he understood
it would happen that I return to: that fear,
and whether he resisted it or surrendered.
How often it happens that we step, half-consideringly
into the impersonal forces at work,
unable to pull ourselves back.
The tread of the stair beneath our feet
the appalling speed of our own blood.
The fifty years of our working lives limit our thoughts
as the pyramids’ size was ultimately determined
by what they could build within the pharaoh’s life.
The arctic whale moves through the water
with a century-old, ivory spearhead buried in its flesh.
My son was born early, before his body had developed
the reflex to suck. He spent his first two weeks alive
covered in wires and tubes amid loud, beeping machines.
I did not know him yet, in the lasting way,
but I saw he had my grandfather’s face.
And oh I was afraid. And we moved through it.
Michigan Quarterly Review
Spring 2014



Pineapple Quilt Block (for Bee-mates)

Queen Bee

As my friend Susan of Patchworknplay says, I’m Queen Bee in August for the Always Bee Learning Bee.

Pineapple Block August ABL

This bee likes to learn new things, so I thought I’d try a Pineapple Quilt Block, but use a paper foundation piecing technique to keep everything true and accurate during the process.  This is an 8″ block when finished (8 1/2″ when you finish your block for me), and I’m using solid fabrics coupled with small print fabrics with a WHITE background — no grey, no tan, no beiges, just white.  In this bee we also mail out fabrics, and some of my bee-mates have already received theirs; I mailed them out early because of traveling and family visits in the last half of July.  I’ll also be doing this for my turn in November of the Mid-Century Modern Bee, but for that bee we don’t mail fabrics, but simply provide descriptions and examples.  **If you feel you have too many of the same, feel free to substitute in any from your stash, as long as the print background is bright white, and the figures are small rainbow-colored designs.  Ditto for the substituting the solids. I tried to distribute them randomly, but you know how things go.**

I’ve written up some step-by-step directions (below) but I got the paper foundation from Generations Quilt Patterns, another website with a really good tutorial on Pineapple Blocks. (They have a discussion of setting the blocks on this page.)  Their ideas and explanations are top-notch, so if you find my step-by-step confusing, feel free to step over to that site and take a look.  If you want the pattern, head over *here* and download the 8″ size of the Pineapple Quilt Block.

Cutting Chart Pineapple(Chart modified from Generations Quilt Patterns.  Used with permission.)

Using the diagram above, which is modified from Generations Quilt Patterns *here* cut your pieces to size, keeping track of which is which (solids vs. light bright prints). I cut all my strips 1 -1/2″ wide as I didn’t ever want to have to mess with unpicking if it went on slightly skewed.  (NOTE: for the outer corners (#38-41), sometimes I just cut a 3″ piece of fabric by 6″ piece of fabric.  I know the corner will be on the bias that way, but that’s okay with me.)

5_ Pieces Lined Up

Here they are, all cut out and ready to go (I am doing multiple blocks, so don’t get confused by what you see above).

Step One

1_Center Square affixed

Using a glue stick, dab a small amount of glue on the small square and glue it to the back (unprinted side) of your paper foundation chart.

Step Two

2_Beginning of First Row

One by one, align, then sew on the first set of print strips, using a 1/4″ seam.

3_ Beginning of Stitching Line

When stitching on this, and all other rows, start your stitching a couple of stitches before the line, and finish a couple of stitches beyond the line, so as to secure the sewing.

4_Ending First Row

I sewed on the first two, pressed them to the side, then did the next two.  I learned to pin the fabrics so as not to have slippage.

Messy Ironing Paper

I printed out your parchment paper on my Laserjet, which can leave a residue on the ironing board, so I put down a piece of paper and pressed on that.  This is the messy paper at the end of my pressing session (sorry about all the transfer stuff).

Step Three

6_Cutting and Folding_1

Fold back your parchment paper in order to trim it up.  I sketched in the first fold, above, in pink.

6a_Cutting and Folding

Lay your ruler so that 1/4″ peeks out, then trim.  Again, I used Generations Quilt Patterns as a reference, if you need to read or see it differently.

7_First Row On

All four sides have been trimmed (those fold lines look so crisp in this paper!).

7a_Stitching First Row

Here’s what the stitching looks like from the printed side.  Notice I’m a couple of stitches over the line every time.  Generations recommends a full quarter-inch over, but it tore the parchment paper too much.  Two or three stitches will be fine.

Step Three

8_Second Row

Repeat this process, using the solids this time.  At this point you can do two at a time (opposite sides, like the yellow and green shown above).  Stitch those, press out, then add on the remaining two solid strips.  Stitch, then press open.

9_Cutting and Folding

You’ll turn the paper and fold back again, as shown this time by the green line, above.  Trim as in the previous step, all four corners.

10_Second Row Sewn

It’s looking pretty cute!  I like how now I start to see blunt ends on the corners.

Step Four

11_Third Row Beginning

Add on the next row of light bright print strips, again doing two (only) at a time.  Soon you can do all four, just not yet. Trust me on this.

12_Third Row Sewn and Pressed

Press open, then trim.

13_Third Row Trimmed

One nice thing about paper-foundation piecing is how nicely the points come out and how it is all perfectly aligned.

Step Five

14_Fourth Row

Still doing only two at a time (opposites) add on the next row of solids.

15_Fourth Row Sewn Pressed Trimmed

All pressed and trimmed up.  The blunt end is becoming more pronounced.

Step Six

16_Fifth Row Pinned

Okay, now!  You can now pin on all four light bright print strips onto your pineapple, and lifting your needle/presser foot in between to pivot the paper and move to the new stitching place, then begin sewing again.  Clip through the traveling threads after you are finished sewing.

17_Fifth Row Sewn Pressed

It’s pressed.

18_Fifth RowTrimmed

And now, trimmed.  Keep going, keeping track of which row is solids and which row is light bright prints until you only have the corners left to do.

19_Penultimate Row Sewn

Step Seven

20_Outer Blocks placed

Some of you have 4 1/2″ triangles in your packet and some of you have 3″ x 6″ strips.  I show both in the following photos. To figure out the alignment, Generations Quilt Pattern uses a nifty trick of letting the point of the triangle guide you.

21_Outer Block Aligned

Line up the outer raw edges of the diagonally cut triangle, with the point centered in the square, as shown by the bright blue (above).  Stitch.

22_Outer Blocks Pinned

For the 3″ by 6″ strip, fold in half to find the center, then line that up with the center square, as shown.  Pin, then stitch.

22a_Outer Blocks SewnPressed

Corner blocks pressed.

Step Eight


Okay, I know this ruler isn’t perfectly aligned (the phone rang right as I was going to snap the photo and startled me, and I didn’t find out until later how crooked it was). So, don’t do as I show, do as I did: make sure to only trim 1/4″ outside the solid line, all the way around.  DON’T TRIM ON THE SOLID LINE.

Ripping Off Paper

Once trimmed, turn it over and use Katie Pasquini-Masopust’s famous “Fatty Thigh” method for removing foundation papers (I learned this from her at Houston one year).  As she instructed us: lay it over your fatty thigh, and pop the papers off, starting on the outside, working in.  The parchment paper comes off so much easier for me than regular paper, so I hope you have an easy time of it.  Thank you, thank you!!  You are done!

Final Four

Here are four together.  I look forward to seeing all of yours!

–Final notes–

Boys in the Boat

I listened to The Boys in the Boat while working on this project, a fascinating story.  I’ll never look at this sport the same way again.

Parchment Paper

And the paper? Here’s a photograph of the information on the edge of my ream of paper.  I bought this paper several years ago, beginning with my Come A-Round quilt (below), a foundation-pieced quilt, and have used if for several other projects (including Scrappy Stars and I am currently using it for my selvage quilt).  It will probably last me until I die, and although not cheap (I think I paid 35 bucks for this ream) I feel like it was a great investment.  They do sell it on Kelly Paper online, but I’m not quite sure which one is which.  You could take in a scrap of what I sent and ask them to find the same thing, I suppose.

Come A-Round, full SM

Yep,  all those spiral dotty circles in the middle were arcs that were paper-foundation pieced.  The pattern is a Piece O’ Cake Design, titled Everyday Best.


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Happy to Be Home

Croatia Trip 2014

Well, the laundry is done, but I’m still walking into walls, as the jet lag recovery seems fiercer this time, perhaps complicated by the arrival of my son and his family 24 hours after we arrived home, but who can say no to seeing the grandchildren?  The trip, above, was delightful, with the appropriate number of highs and lows.  If you want to see some of my photographs, there is a pretty extensive collection of them on my Instagram feed (button to the right), and once I start posting about the trip, many more will be on my travel blog.  One of the positive things is that I now know where Croatia is.  And Slovenia.  And know that Hungary has this massive lake in the middle of it that stretches for miles and miles, or at least it felt that way, as our train from Zagreb (Slovenia) to Budapest (Hungary) stopped at every single station along that lake. And I also know that I need to figure out how to make gulyas (goulash) the Hungarian way.  It was amazing.   I was able to read all your comments while I was gone, and hoped you enjoyed the continuing posts.  Thanks for the messages you left.

MCM Block July 2014

I pretty much did nothing for the first few days home, but then eased back into sewing with our Mid-Century Modern’s Bee block for this month.


Susan, of PatchworknPlay liked this quilt, so asked us all to make a 12″ star with a black background to begin her collection.  Beginning with one that I liked from my Jolly Old St. Nicholas quilt (post *here* with lots of 12 blocks with templates), I subdivided and added, so it would be more snazzy, with more colors.  You can download a PDF file of the templates by clicking on this link: Snazzy Star.  Enjoy!  It’s my welcome home gift to you, making up into a 12″ block.

Screen Shot 2014-07-09 at 5.20.44 PM

I used my QuiltPro program to do this–it’s a simpler, older version of an electronic quilt program, but it works great for me.  So, cross two things of my list: a Bee Block for July, and Getting Back Into Sewing!

Circles EPP Button

I picked up lots of ideas for the Circles blocks–a richly decorated church in Slovenia had them painted everywhere–so right now I’m working on the EPP Circles block #3 (named “Ljubljana”) and will post that the first part of August.


I am also working on our Contrasts challenge for our Four-In-Art reveal August 1st, so keep your fingers crossed that I’ll make my deadline (I’m starting earlier this time, as my jet lagged brain is still fogged in).  In keeping with the laundry-list theme of this post, I’m also the Queen Bee for the Always Bee Learning Bee in August, and in this bee, fabric is mailed out along with the block, so that’s in the works as well. And I’ve just got to get to the beach this summer, don’t you think?

There's No Place Like Home

But as Dorothy found out, there’s no place like home. I’m glad to be back.

Independence Day


Happy Fourth of July!


I just returned from a long trip to Croatia, Slovenia and Budapest, and am still trying to figure out what time zone I’m in.   As soon as I do, you’ll be the first to know.

Jetlagfrom *here*

Circles Block #2, English Paper Piecing

EPP Circles #2 Block_finished

Circles Block #2

Here we go again, with the second block in our slow sewing, English Paper Piecing, series of circles.  This one is called Kansas Sunflower and Barbara Brackman’s book shows its origin around 1928.  I have created a PDF pattern (roughly drawn, as I am no graphic artist); click to download: EPP Circles #2

This one has a large center circle, which measures a bit under 5 1/2″  but I would cut it 6″ because I think having the extra bit of cloth is better.  To get a smooth template to gather it up over, iron two pieces of freezer paper together, then trace the circle.  It should give you enough stability.  Or do as I did: head to your iron, and using the tip, iron it in small bites around your paper circle, then sew it to the paper.

EPP2 Circles block #1

Here’s the sketch of the block.  On the lower right you’ll notice that I colored in one half-arc green and one half-arc blue.  If you want to split yours up like that, I included just one tracing of that as an option, but you could also just cut the other arcs in half and go at it that way.  I prefer the larger outer arc. As before, in Circles Block #1, there is an assumption that you know a bit about English Paper Piecing, where you take the pattern, lay it out, then fold the seam allowances back over the paper pattern, then baste.  Others have used freezer paper, or glue.  Do a Google search if you are curious about these other ways of securing the paper.

EPP2 Cutting out EPP pieces

I wanted to use a chevron for the “petal” piece, so I fussy cut them so the chevron stripes would meet along the sides.  I pin down my pieces (with the writing up), then just freehand rotary cut around them.

EPP2 Pieces Laid Out

Auditioning everything.

EPP2 Arcs Basted and Stitched

After basting the seam allowances down to every pattern piece, I stitched the petals together in two groups of six.  Then I sewed the arcs in between those, as shown below:

EPP2 Setting in Outer Arc

EPP2 Stitched and Center Circle Pinned

I stitched those two flower halves together, then the last two arcs, then laid on the center.  I don’t know why I chose this orangey-red; it just spoke to me.  I had already basted the seam allowances down so I just arranged it on the petals and pinned it down.  I appliquéd it onto the petals, and that’s when I discovered that maybe a 6″ diameter circle might make you happier as it’s a scant 1/4″ overlap in some places.  Then the fun part: taking out some of the papers.  I released the center circle basting threads and the petal basting threads and took out those papers, but left the papers in the deep blue outer arcs.

EPP Circles #2 Block_finished

I’m putting the photo in again, because now you have a decision to make: do you want those four seams in the outer pieces to line up with a point?  Or to be offset (like mine)?  I went back and forth and decided I didn’t want it so busy–I liked the slightly off-kilter look of not having points dead center at Noon, Three, Six and Nine O’Clock.

EPP2 Sewing Diagram

I don’t think there is any easy way to get those four outside pieces on.  This is how I do it: I stitch the seams between parts #1 and #2 to get two pieces hooked together, then pin it about four places around that the #1 arc of the outside circle.  I begin at the lower center  (XX) and stitch around that 1/4-arc, stopping one inch short of the next seam allowance.  Part #2 is just flapping in the breeze.

Then I go back to where I started stitching (XX), and stitch the other side (#2), using a few pins where needed (not too many, or it’s ouch-ouch-ouch).  I then seam together pieces #3 and #4, and repeat the process.  As I draw near to the #2 piece, I thread a different thread, do the seam between #2 and #3, then tie it off.  I go back to the thread I was stitching with before and then finish it off.  Repeat for 1/4-arc #4.

I just reread this, and if you are confused, I don’t blame you.  It’s just hard to navigate those pieces when they are backed with paper, and I get tired of fighting with them.  I suppose you could just seam all four outside corners together, then pin and appliqué it down like you did the center circle.  I don’t think there is a wrong way or a right way to do this.  Have fun and let me know what works for you.

EPP Circles Block 1 and 2


Are you worried about the fact that my circles aren’t matchy-matchy?  Sometimes I was worried about that too, but then in the previous post I noticed that there was such a variety of circles and colors in a couple of those quilts, and calmed right down.  Keep going.  Keep stitching.  Have fun.  Next circle block comes up around the first of August, right after our Four-in-Art Reveal of Contrasts.

I’ve started a tab, above, with all the blocks and their posts, for easier reference.  By the way, there is no big deadline for any of this; I think I’d have a heart attack if I had one more deadline.  I just wanted a project to put in a little box and carry with me on car travels, on vacations, and while I collapse in the heat at night on the sofa to watch a good movie. (And given that it will take me several months, I may be curling up under a quilt in the cold, still hand-sewing.) Just know that it’s here if you want to make some circles, or a pillow, or need a hand project that is an alternative to 5,000 hexagon papers or umpteen finished hexies.  If you do decide to make one, or several, send me a photo and I’ll put it up here on the blog.  Have fun sloooow sewing!

Circles EPP Button

Some Interesting Circle Quilts


While looking through this blog, I found some examples of interesting circle quilts.  This one, made by Kathleen H. McCrady and titled  Sawtooth X, is patterned after an old one from 1875, using reproduction fabrics in brighter colorways.



This is kind of “circle-y,” but has added oak leaf appliqués in the corners.

American Folk Art Museum Circle Quilt(from *here*)

Known as the Georgetown Circle Quilt, its maker is unknown, but it was made in the era between 1900-1920.

Georgetown circles variation(from *here*)

Here’s a modern variation of that Georgetown Circles quilt.


I found this one on my computer, with a date of 2005.  It’s from Freddy Moran and I believe she calls it Airship Propeller. But I could be wrong about that title.  Jenn Kingwell did a similar design, but turned her blocks on point:

Steampunk1(from *here*)

Circle Block from Smithsonian

Lastly, when I lived in Washington DC, the Smithsonian Institution’s American History Museum had this sort of secret quilt tour, but if you knew about it, you’d call them up and a docent would take you in the back and open lots of archival drawers, showing you positively ancient quilts (some 250+ years old).  It was amazing.  In one drawer was this quilt with circles.  This one looks challenging to piece, but I think easier if is English Paper Pieced.  I’ll save this one for later in the series, once we’ve gotten our skill set up and going.

All this proves that our slow sewing, of making English paper  pieced circle blocks is an idea that has come around again.

Contrasts: Four-in-Art August 2014 Challenge

Screen Shot 2014-05-18 at 8.19.46 PM

from *here*

The theme for our August 1st Challenge Reveal is “Contrast.”  Anne suggests the contrasts inherent in cities: noisy/quiet, man-made/natural, fast/slow, wealthy neighborhood/poor neighborhood.  I have started thinking about this, but first, my interest is in the visual contrasts: dark/light, colorful/greyed, smooth/rough, thin/thick.

Screen Shot 2014-05-18 at 8.39.29 PM

from *here*

The following images are snapshots from the New York Times Travel/Design Magazine: “T.”

Screen Shot 2014-05-18 at 7.44.15 PM Screen Shot 2014-05-18 at 7.44.49 PM Screen Shot 2014-05-18 at 7.54.55 PM Screen Shot 2014-05-18 at 8.02.38 PM


2014 Yearly Theme: Urban • August 1st Challenge: Contrast

Quilts and Stitching in Art

Okay, I had a fun time in Washington, DC this spring once I realized I could play I Spy and look for quilts.  I think this is a good game that I should keep playing, and if you have a picture of a quilt in art — whether it be in a painting or a photograph in a museum — send it over and when I get a slew, I’ll do a post.

Bishop_ Sewing2

Okay, this isn’t technically quilting, but it’s stitching.  This is a detail of Mending, by Isabel Bishop and hangs in the National Portrait Gallery.  She writes “I have noticed regular denizens of [Union] Square [in New York City] who, sitting on the benches or on the fountain, easting, sewing or rearranging their worldly good in paper bundles, seem to be leading the most private of lives, entirely oblivious to the public character of the place.  The not-beautiful forms of the fountain seem. . . to make a throne for the old man sewing his trousers; he is billowing old overcoat [becomes] a robe.”


Elias Howe Pillow

This is a needlepoint stitchery in the gallery of the Washington National Cathedral that honors the 100 Most Famous Americans, all who have a red needlepoint pillow on a chair. Of course I was drawn to this one, honoring Elias Howe, inventor of the modern-day sewing machine.  We ALL owe him a debt.


Sondra Freckelton’s Harvest is one of her still lives that capture “the quiet beauty of domestic, often feminized objects — quilts, garden implements, house wares, and fresh produce gathered from her own garden in the . . . Catskill Mountains.”  I don’t know about you, but I was interested that a Smithsonian label-writer plopped in that phrase of “domestic, often feminized objects” when discussing Freckelton’s watercolor.  Don’t tell our male quilters this.


And I knew she wasn’t herself a quilter, for who of us would plop down vegetables on top of this gorgeous appliqué quilt?

Pieced Quilt_Fletcher_1

Mary Fletcher was born in 1940 and died in 1922, but her fine hand-pieced hexie silk quilt now resides in the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery.  We are all jealous!

Pieced Quilt_Fletcher_2

I decided she had an amazing scrap bag to have so many beautiful silks to work with.

Pieced Quilt_Fletcher_3

Pieced Quilt_Fletcher_4

Sharrer_Tribute all

And lastly, Honore Sharrer’s Tribute to the American Working People, who employed the polyptych format of medieval paintings to pay homage to the working people of America.

Sharrer_Tribute quilt

And here’s the quilt–in the upper left panel: a lovely scalloped Dresden Plate.

Iron Woman Improv: My Version of a Weekender Bag

Weekender Side A

Ever heard of Iron Woman Improv?  Well, anyone can throw together a bunch of scraps and make it end up sort of squarish-like, but this past week I’ve improv-ed a travel bag for some upcoming travels.  Above is the backside.

Weekender Side B

This is the side with the long big pocket across the front.  The problem with improv-ing is that you don’t know quite where you’re going, which some find liberating and free, which reminds me of the story of The Dot and The Line: A Romance in Lower Mathematics, which you should read, if you haven’t.  Basically it involves a romantic triangle with the Dot originally falling for a Squiggle, who could sprawl into random sort of positions and places, pulling her heart into anarchy, but no worries!

The Dot and The Line

The initially uptight straight line figures out how to make a bend. . . and then another and another until he has made complex (and even erudite) shapes, wooing that Dot back into his shapely arms.  But I digress.  (But do get the book for this next Valentine’s Day for someone you love. It’s a classic.)  Basically my challenge was how to get from these photos:

Various Weekenders Women Holding Weekenders Screen Shot of Weekenders Sewn

. . .  and this sketch. . .

Sketch for Weekender

. . . to this. . .

Weekender Side C

Weekender Side D

. . . and using a limited supply of my typewriter fabric.  Weekender Bags are all over the web, ranging from about 60 bucks way up to 500 bucks and more.  And certainly I read enough posts of people making Amy Butler’s version of a quilty weekender to know that you really haven’t earned your Quilter Stars until you’ve conquered her pattern.  And that’s where things get interesting. . . because I had NO pattern.  Nothing.  Not from Amy Butler or McCalls or Vogue.  Like I said, I had a sketch.  And this:

Baggage. . . which is the NEW! IMPROVED! (smaller) dimensions of what is considered a carryon.  I have wanted to make this bag for ages, needing a place for my iPad, my camera, my water bottle (carried empty through security, then filled afterwards), my junk and my stuff.  I’ve sketched something like this fifteen ways to Sunday and only now, got around to making it.

Zipper Top Weekender

I also needed it to have those little blue webbing handles that you see there, because I’ve learned that if I can hook it to my rolling bag (yes, we had to buy a  NEW! IMPROVED! (smaller) one for our trips) and get the weight of this second bag –er, personal item– over the wheels, it’s easier on my shoulders and on my arms and wrist.

Zipper Side Weekender

I’d purchased a couple of long zippers in different colors when I was in New York City last time, so I figured what would go with the fabric and pressed it into service.  And even though one of the cities we’re heading to looks like this:

Checking Weather

I didn’t use my Amy Butler laminated fabric, opting instead for my typewriter fabric.

Weekender Pattern Pieces

I first drew up the pattern.  I started with a rectangle of the dimensions from the airline, which is basically a backpack turned on its side.  I noticed that many of the Weekender bags, both Amy’s and all the eight billion other ones I looked at became narrower at the top.  I didn’t take off too much as I wanted the ROOM to carry my stuff.  I was going to go full out for the width dimension, but then thought I would look like I was carrying a fabric-covered brick of cheese or something and it wouldn’t look that good.  And I noticed that many had a wider base moving to a narrower piece across the top, where the zipper lives.  I did that too.  I laid over more pattern drafting paper (which is doctor’s tissue that you can buy in Medical Supply Houses) and traced some side pockets.

First Inside Pocket for Weekender Bag

I LOVE pockets.  So the first step was to cut the fabric way bigger than I needed and then sandwich the Annie’s Soft and Stable in between two fabrics and quilt it.  I had seen all the quilters talk about the expense and the headache of broken needles and the hassle of cutting out eighty-five thousand pieces, and decided I would go this direction.  So, above, you see the quilted purse piece with the handles stitched on, a pocket bound in another fabric for cuteness and stitched on and the first sewing of the cording around the outside edge (you can only see the stitching).

Unschool Plus had a pretty good write-up about her making the Butler Weekender Bag, with lots of helpful links from other bloggers.  I used one of those to make my corded piping by using a narrow strip of fusible web, instead of sewing it together, thereby eliminating another stitching line you have to disguise at the end, because let’s face it, NOBODY is fabulous at inserting cording.

I sewed in this in segments:
Segment One: Quilt and cut out the bag pieces.
Segment Two: Make the pockets and attach (I’ll talk about the other one in a minute.)
Segment Three: Sew handles.  Again, a guess.  I got out my last two travel bags and measured and took the average.  I wanted enough so that I could carry it over my shoulder and then so it wouldn’t drag the ground if I grabbed it and carried it by the handles.
Segment Four: Figure out zipper.  In fact most of the steps start with “Figure out. . .”  I spent a good amount of time sewing this, and an equally good amount of time walking away from it when I wanted to stomp on it and throw it off the roof of the house.

Zipper Trim on Travel Bag

I liked how I’d assembled the zipper in my Bostonian Bag, so found some of scraps of that fabric and did it here.  It’s basically a strip of fabric cut wide, folded in half, then the raw edges folded in.  Above is the first step, sewing the strip down.

Completed Zipper Trim on Weekender

And then topstitched down the other edge.  At this point I was freaking out because the thread in the bobbin kept pulling out from the bobbin tension spring.  ACK! ACK!  I painstakingly would thread it back in, again and again and again, thinking that my bobbin case was damaged somehow.  So there are little bobbles here and there unfortunately, but I don’t think the flight attendants will be grading my construction so I think I’m okay.  I finally just decided to tighten up the bobbin screw and that worked until I finished.  (And then I took my machine in for a tune-up at the sewing machine spa.)

I made the other pocket, the one with gathers, and sewed that on (you can see it better in a later photo and I’ll talk about it then), then made the cording, as mentioned above and stitched that, being careful to clip the piping so it would go smoothly around the corner.

Cording on Weekender Bag

Look ma!  No pins!  You don’t need any–just proceed slowly. Move your needle as far as it will go to snuggle up against that ridge of the cording.  My needle never broke because basically  you are sewing with a giant spear of a needle, if you’ve switched (as so many recommended) over to a size 16.

Clipped Corners on Weekender Bag

Color Plastic Clips

I bought my quilty clips in the children’s stationary section of our local Asian-foods grocery store, so that’s why they are all different colors (about $2.50 for a package). So many sewers/sewists/pick your word testified that the quilty clips were the only way to go.  I agree.

Clamped Seam Weekender Bag

The band around the middle that contains the zipper is now fully clipped to the first bag piece.  It’s at this point that I think I might actually make it.  Thanks to all the Instagrammers who cheered me on.  And on.  I sewed that seam using a size 16 needle (advice from the Experienced Weekenders), and I was so aware that I didn’t have an industrial machine which would have made the job so much easier.  The only thing to do, then, is to forgive yourself your mistakes and keep going.

Inside Pocket and Clamped Weekender Bag

Side Two, clipped and ready to be sewn.  This pocket is a long rectangle, about 5 inches longer that the desired space.  I backed it in that fabulous Backyard Baby fabric, sewing around all four edges, but leaving a space about 1″ unsewn on two of the shorter edges, near the same long edge.  I turned it, pressed the corners out, then stitched a double line of stitching on either side of those little gaps, making a ruffle at the top, and a placket for elastic.  I threaded some elastic through, stitched it on one end to hold it, then pinned the pocket in place, pinning in random pleats on the bottom to take up the fullness.  I started sewing on the right side of the pocket, backstitching to hold the top in place, down the side, halfway across the bottom (going over the pleats), then up the middle to create two pockets.

Just before hitting the placket with the elastic, I gently pulled it take up the fullness, but not letting the purse side buckle.  I stitched over that, turned the piece, and re-stitched over that center dividing line, then across the bottom, then back up the last side.  Just before reaching the elastic in the placket, I repeated the pulling gently to adjust the elastic to fit.  I pinned it about an inch inside the sewing line, clipped off the extra elastic, then let it retract slightly back inside to hide it.  I finished stitching over that.

(I think I’m writing all this down so I won’t forget what I did just in case I lose my marbles and decide to do another one.  Just in case.)

Inside Pocket A Weekender

I finished stitching that second round of stitching-the-purse-side-to-the-zipper-band-piece, then turned it to find those places that needed a bit more stitching or a bit closer stitching, and did that.

Inside Weekender Bag

Binding Seams Weekender Bag

I cut a companion fabric into bias strips 2″ wide, folded them like bias tape, and topstitched them over the slightly trimmed inner seams.  I won’t let you see that, because again, my home sewing machine is no match for the industrial binding machines used in factories.  But it looks fine, and is sturdy.

Oops on Weekender Bag

I had an oops, and covered it with the selvage from Backyard Baby.  I would try to explain it, but then you’d really develop a migraine and swear off bag-making forever.  Let’s just say that even though I have a degree in Clothing and Textiles and have sewn sewn sewn for nearly forty-five years, I can still make big enough mistakes that need a fix like this.  The trick is to forgive yourself for the imperfections and move on.

Bottom of Weekender

And that’s it.  I’ve gone through security and traveled enough that I know what I need in a travel bag.  I need it to be sized appropriately, have a zipper pocket that I can access quickly on the outside to throw my phone in while I go get X-rayed and the bag gets X-rayed, long enough handles to slip over my shoulder and a way to attach it to my bag so when I make long connections it can be carried on my roller bag.  And can it please look good and not cost a bunch?  While I don’t plane-travel all that much, I think that this bag will also work for short hops in the car when I drive to see the grandchildren, too.

So, now I do I qualify for Iron Woman Quilting Improv?  My travel weekender-type bag was made from start to finish in one week, with lots of help from all you wonderful blogging quilters, who laid down a trail for me to follow.

May the typewriter be with you.


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Some June Bee Blocks

ABL June Block_2 2014 ABL June 2014_1 Block

For June, Celeste asked us to help her whittle down her scraps by making Bonnie Hunter’s Boxy Stars, with instructions found *here.*  I messed up sewing one corner and went into my stash (this bee sends us our fabrics) to re-do the 1/4-block I needed to.

MCM Block June 2014Linda, of our Mid-Century Modern Bee, asked us to make giant string-pieced diamonds, including a strip of orange somewhere.  It’s to help complete a quilt she started three years ago, *here.*

A good way to begin summer is by getting some sewing done.  Now maybe it’s time for a vacation?

Dilbert going on vacation