Monday, April 24, 2017

Marker Totes for my Etsy Shop

As I've been working on stocking my Etsy shop, I've really been racking my brain to offer some unique products.  I started with my repurposed vintage pillows.  Now I am working on something pretty different: marker totes.

In 2014, I made my two oldest children these marker totes for Christmas.  I honestly think they were the best handmade gift I have ever given them.  I thought they would be used primarily for church, (during the first hour that is very adult-centered), but they use them everywhere, all the time.  For example, we've brought them to waiting rooms at doctor's offices but the kids often like to simply use them at home too.  

When I made them, I didn't enjoy the process.  I was stressed out to be making something without a pattern for sure.  I know some people don't like using patterns but I love using them because they tell me exactly what to do.  I was also stressed because they were very tedious and time consuming to make.  Recently, I decided to revisit these and see if I could make the process easier and I did!  

Here's the first one I recently made.  I love this Pandastronaut fabric from Pink Castle Fabrics.  (It's Japanese, and I have a special love for Japanese fabrics!!! Seriously, if I could only sew with Japanese fabrics, I would still be a happy camper).  So, as you can see from this picture, I simplified the construction of the marker tote significantly: I used cotton webbing for the handles instead of making my own (I seam ripped them off of a store bought tote bag I already had), I didn't bind the outside, and I used snaps for the tab closure instead of velcro.  

But here's the problem I am dealing with and have not yet solved: when you put the markers into the tote, the tote really gets warped and squeezes in on itself.  This version was especially bad because I used a big piece of peltex to give the tote stability.  It doesn't bother me too much because I made it for my youngest son and I am not a HUGE perfectionist when it comes to items I make for my family.  But if I am going to sell something, I want it to be just right.

I decided to make another version, this time using Pellon Flex Foam (just like automotive headliner or Soft and Stable) as the main stabilizer for the tote.  It still warps and squeezes in on itself, as you can see:

I talked to a talented sewing friend and she gave me some ideas, emphasizing that different interfacing is probably not enough of a change to fix this problem.  I need to change the construction of the marker pockets......

This picture shows the other side of the interior, you can see that pulling on the right- it's so bad!

My friend gave me one idea to try and make the pockets as an elastic gathered strip, like in the free Noodlehead pattern: Snappy Mani Pouch.  It's been almost 8 years since I made a pocket like that (for the diaper bag I made to use with my first born), so I decided to do the Mani pattern to relearn.  Here's the outside:

Here's the inside.  Such a cute pattern that I will have to revisit again to make friends gifts.  Making the elastic pocket wasn't too bad but it's definitely not fast, which is definitely a drawback.  If I am gong to make those marker totes over and over for sale, I need to make them very simply and quickly so that I don't have to charge $1,000 for them because they take so much time.

One significant piece of my progress with this project is that I discovered an awesome local resource for cotton webbing.  Believe it or not, I've lived in Colorado Springs for just over 3 years and there was a fabric store I'd never been to until recently.  I just didn't really know about it and none of my sewing friends were very "into" it or encouraging me that I should go... But they have a TON of webbing and their whole store was 25% off over the past 2 weeks, so I went and got a bunch of colors, 18 yards for $21.

I thought it would be a good post to share my process in trying to design something "original."  I hope to update soon, sharing my success that I've figured it out.  If you have any ideas, please let me know.  I'd love to hear if you've had a similar process in trying to design something unique.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Garden Party Easter Dress 2017

 Time to document the Easter dress I worked on last week for Charlotte.  I had this Art Gallery floral in my stash from the awesome Keepsake Quilting sale this past summer.  Initially, I paired it with a simple geometric blender for the strip accents, I loved the way this bunny fabric looked with it but I was unsure because the bunny is a bit of a "stripe" and I worried that I would be able to keep it straight.

I sewed the first fabric accent onto the back piece and decided to rip it off and try the bunny fabric.  I am so glad I did.  Even though a bunny fabric really "screams" Easter, this whole dress turned out very spring-y and will work well in summer too.

The pattern I used is the Garden Party dress, a predictable choice for me since I almost exclusively only sew Oliver and S patterns when it comes to dresses for young girls.

I really did get some great pictures of her modeling this dress but it wasn't easy.  She was in no mood to cooperate and I pretty much had to say that she'd have to skip having any more Easter candy unless she complied!  After a little while, she warmed up to it, as you can tell.  I really do have a great appreciation for professional photographers who have the talent to work with kids- it seems like an impossible job based on my amateur experience.

I gave Charlotte the assignment of sifting through my vintage buttons to choose one for the back closure.  Can you believe she found this cute little bunny one within minutes?  I was thrilled and was definitely not going to make a trip to Joann's to buy one bunny button!

I liked the Garden Party dress pattern a lot.  I am so in the mood to make her more dresses right now, I just love the challenge and the speed with which these projects come together compared to a quilt.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Scraptastic Tuesday April: Leaders and Enders Project

Thanks to everyone for their kind words and support about my "repurposing vintage needlework" post.  It was great to hear from so many of you and I really would love to see if you decide to make your own pillow or mini quilt from discarded or sentimental needlework pieces.  For that post, I forgot to include a mini quilt I had made with the same idea.  This piece of embroidery was found at an estate sale for about 50 cents.  I think the black word on the bottom right is the name "Dawn."  I decided to frame it with scraps and this was the March entry I submitted for Scraptastic Tuesday through Instagram.  

For April's submission, I'd like to share a recent scrap busting endeavor I decided to start as a "leaders and enders" project.  I loved a scrappy quilt Nettie shared on her blog in February.  She shared the dimensions she used and I decided to cut a bunch of these squares and rectangles from my scraps.  I've put them in a tray by my sewing machine and when it works out, I sew them before and after other projects- this way, it will get done without me devoting a TON of time to it (hopefully).  I am not sure if I really love the results so far though, maybe my fabrics are too busy or maybe it will look better as a whole rather than in parts.  I truly do admire other quilters who seem to put together any and all kinds of scraps to make such gorgeous creations.  So far, when I've made things out of scraps, I've stuck to specific color palettes and that's been the approach I've been more comfortable with.  I'm excited to give this "anything and everything" method a try.

Linking up to Scraptastic Tuesday for April at She Can Quilt.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Re purposed Needlework in Patchwork Pillows

I've been busy making pillows.  It's fun stuff I tell you.  I've had an idea for a while now: I can't seem to resist buying handmade embroidery and cross stitch pieces when I see them at yard sales.  As a person who sews, I appreciate all of the time and effort that goes into hand stitching.  I can't resist buying these pieces when I see them, and for the items I detail here, none of them cost more than $2.  $2!  Think of all that time and care given to these pretty pieces of needlework, only to be given away for mere pennies.  But I do get it, they aren't appreciated by everyone and I am sure a lot of people don't know what to do with these items.  Styles and decoration preferences change.  Some items become irreparably stained or damaged over time.  It feels exciting to take these treasured pieces of the past and transform them into something pretty and useful once again.

Here's a picture of me holding all of these pillows in front of a recently finished quilt top:

I bought this chair cover (?) piece for $1 this summer:

I cut it up and put it with just two other stash fabrics, using my favorite size of patchwork square: 2.5".

This table runner was in rough shape but look how pretty the flower and butterfly embroidery is:

Here's what I made it into:

On the blog, I've shown this before.  But I found these armchair cozies irresistible!  The pair was only 50 cents.  I love me a bright orange/red.  I found a way to use the roses and butterflies in two separate projects:

This pillow was made with all scrap fabrics and vintage tiny ric rac:

A mini charm pack of Moda's PB & J added some fun and style to these butterflies:

Hot air balloons have a special place in my heart because every year we attend a balloon festival in the Springs and the whole family loves it.  I found this piece framed at a garage sale for $2.  In pondering how to use it, I was tempted to go a little crazy and add all sorts of colorful, scrappy fabrics to frame this cross stitch but when I found this somewhat muted blue/gray polka dot in my stash, I loved how it coordinated and I knew the pairing would better allow the needlework to be the center of attention.

Finally, this butterfly embroidery was previously part of a small white tablecloth.  I went ahead and kept this design simple too.

All of the pillows have zippered flap backings like this:

I think I've said before here that I have been trying to get an Etsy shop.  In the fall/winter, I had success at craft fairs selling many items: bibs, reusable snack bags, patchwork dish towels, crayon wallets, etc.  But it isn't very stimulating or super creative to sew those kinds of items over and over.  I've been trying to think of something I could sew that is unique and more fun to create and designing and creating items from "upcycled needlework" is one of my more unique ideas for the shop.  I intend to develop a service for people where they could give me their (perhaps) sentimental needlework items and I could transform them into a more meaningful keepsake/item such as a pillow, mini quilt, etc.  By making all of these "examples" of what I can do with embroidery pieces, I have created a bit of a "portfolio" to show what I can do.  I have listed these pillow covers in my Etsy shop as well, I'm hoping this idea will appeal to people whether they purchase a custom order or not.  It's still a work in progress and I am not done setting it up, but feel free to check out my Etsy shop: Dresden Lane Designs.

On the side, I have still been working on plenty of "personal" sewing projects which I will share soon!

Friday, March 17, 2017

Finish it up Friday: Skeleton Quilt completed

 And just like that, the skeleton quilt is completed!  Yay!  I rented the longarm on Monday and had it bound that evening (just the machine binding part).  During a few evenings this week, I managed to sneak in the hand sewing of the binding.

For long-arming it, I chose a digital spiderweb pattern, stitched in black thread.  I think it looks awesome on the white skulls, it's not very noticeable on the rest of the busy quilt.

All of the fabrics on the front have glow in the dark properties, except for the solid black framing the skeleton blocks.  The skeleton block pattern is from the new book by Tula Pink and Angela Walters: Quilt with Tula and Angela: A Start to Finish Guide to Piecing and Quilting Using Color and Shape.  Newcomers to this blog might wonder why I am blogging a "Halloween" quilt in March.  My son is completely obsessed with all things Halloween and this quilt will be on his bed year round.

I decided to put all my leftovers from the front onto the back (with a few other cuts lingering endlessly in my stash).  Usually I am happy to have leftovers from a quilt front to use in other projects, but I don't see myself making another Halloween, glow in the dark kind of quilt anytime soon, if ever!

Another sewing project I've been working on was making a stuffed animal with my son for a first grade school project.  He chose a "Black Mamba" - which apparently are green in coloring with black mouths.  Instructions from his teacher for this project indicated that you could make a stuffed animal with poster board and wadded up grocery sacks for stuffing.  I just knew that making the "real thing" with fabric and fiberfill would be easier- but I have to admit that I am a little worried the teacher might think making this that way is too advanced, suspecting I did everything for him.  But I really tried to have him take the lead: he drew the snake shape on the fabric, pushed the foot pedal and helped me guide the fabrics, he did all the stuffing himself, and he did most of the hand sewing, for closing the gap, himself.  He chose the buttons and eye placements too.  He is really happy with how it came out and had to take it to bed with him after it was completed.  He doesn't look so happy in this picture but I know he just wasn't happy to have to take a picture.  

On the evening we were going to make the snake, he went into my sewing room and discovered the skeleton quilt that I had hidden in the closet.  I was disappointed because I wanted to surprise him and present it to him when it was completely finished.  Oh well.  He was super excited about it and repeatedly said, "I love you so much!"

This afternoon, I hosted a little post-preschool birthday party lunch for my daughter.  We did it at home and kept it very simple with a princess theme.  Here's an easy decoration idea: I placed a big piece of Ann Kelle princess fabric onto a $1 pink plastic table cloth.  

Linking up to Finish it up Friday at Crazy Mom Quilts

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

A Dress and the Skeleton Quilt Top

My sweet daughter turned 5 years old last week.  I made her a dress in time for preschool picture day and her birthday.  As a family, we all went to Denver and enjoyed a visit to the Children's Museum.  As I continue to struggle with homesickness for New England, I find that taking advantage of visiting such unique places helps- we even decided to buy a membership.  

I returned to the Me Hearties dress pattern and chose a Lizzy House knit (from the clearance section at Hawthorne Threads):

Here's some "action" shots of gift opening:

Like an idiot, I deleted all of my pictures of some baby gifts I recently completed for a friend.  Here's a screen shot of their documentation on IG: size 6 month baby boy Quick Change Trousers:

Last week, I immediately dove into making Gregory's skeleton quilt.  Having completed the skull blocks at the retreat, this top came together came together rapidly.  I put it together in a bit of an "improvisational" way: I told myself I would aim for the size of 78" x 90" and I was eager to use up as much of the glow in the dark fabrics as possible (because I don't see myself making another similar quilt anytime soon and those fabrics wouldn't play well in other projects).

Here's how it came out:

Although you can't see his face in these pictures, Gregory is very happy with this quilt.  We got the skeleton costume for a $1 at a yard sale the day after I finished this top: perfect timing!  I have already scheduled time to rent a longarm to quilt this top on Monday, March 13 (yes giving that business another try since it's my only local option!).

I have to admit that I am a little self conscious about this quilt because it is kind of creepy.  I don't want people to think I am obsessed with creepy stuff or even that Gregory is either!  I had originally wanted to make the sugar skull pieced blocks with several bright solid fat quarters from my stash and just a plain black background AND put that darn skeleton panel on the back of the quilt.  But I know Gregory wouldn't have been thrilled with that idea and was very insistent on using that panel on the front.  It's so difficult to use panels!  This is why I was quite thrilled with the outcome of the Harry Potter quilt.

I do think Gregory will enjoy using this quilt all year round and he's been bugging me to make him it for quite a while.  It's so much easier (and often more enjoyable) to sew for Charlotte but I don't want him to feel left out.

I'll be back soon with a post showcasing the completed quilt!  Thanks for reading.

Friday, March 03, 2017

Finish it up Friday: Kittens Quilt

 In February, an important project sneaked into my list of projects.  A sweet girl in my church has been battling cancer and I offered to make her a quilt.  Her mom told me she loves cats, which was a pretty easy directive for me and my stash!

I made a "solids version" of the Kittens Quilt, pattern by Elizabeth Hartman.  I really debated trying to make the kitten face version of the pattern (much more detailed with eyes and nose), but I felt it was important to make this quilt fast for the recipient.  Of course, I didn't use solids, but found lots of kitty themed fabrics and blenders in my stash and framed them in this berry colored solid.  My daughter Charlotte loves cats, so pulling these fabrics together wasn't too difficult.  If it had been any other animal, I probably would've had to go shopping!

Before the FRMQG retreat I cut all of the pieces, and on the Friday night of the retreat (at 2 AM, so I guess it was technically Saturday), the top was completed.

I was very unsure of how to quilt this quilt.   The dark purple sashing and the much lighter colored fabrics seemed to require lots of different colored threads... I didn't think I would have the patience for that.  I leaned towards trying an "invisible" (monofilament) thread but my LQS was out of stock.  I took a look at their variegated Sulky selection and chose a thread that had the colors of plum, cream, gray, and a mustard yellow: perfect!

During the first night of quilting this quilt on my domestic machine, I ran into some really bad tension problems.  I spent almost an hour ripping out some bad quilting and then went to bed.  The next day, I researched quilting tension issues and found that my needle tension really needed to be raised: up to a seven (!), whereas my normal tension is set at a 4.  This is resulted in some upper thread breakages occasionally, but it didn't happen often enough to make me want to give up.

Here's some close up pictures of some of my favorite prints I included in this quilt:

For the backing, I dug out some serious stash lurkers: the white on yellow polka dot was meant to be a bag lining but I ended up finding a different print I liked better.  You can see there are two kitten blocks: this was because I accidentally made two extra blocks and didn't want them languishing in my orphan block pile for forever.

The print to the right is a quirky Michael Miller fabric I've had for about a decade (one of my first Marden's finds)!  Isn't it perfect for this quilt!?

I bound the quilt in a Patty Young stripe.

 It feels good to start and finish a quilt so quickly.  I had a lot of fun making it and I hope the recipient enjoys it and will find some comfort in it.

Linking up to Finish it up Friday at Crazy Mom Quilts.