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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Some of the best tutorials on bag making

I wanted to share with all of you a new friend I found recently. She caught my attention with a comment she left on one of my posts and so I checked out Janelle's blog.  I loved her tutorials. I have seen many how to's on adding  zipper pockets or making a strap, but hands down I liked Janelle's the best.

Zipper Pocket Tutorials, Strap Tutorial, Zipper Gusset Tutorial

Soon I was reading her blog regularly, but quietly. {I am not the most outgoing person.}  When she had a giveaway for a pattern I loved, I could not resist.  I entered and won one of her sewing patterns, the Emmaline Bag. 

 I loved the pattern right away, the quality really impressed me and soon I was e-mailing her. She is not only very talented, but she is friendly, kind and compassionate.  I have yet to finish her beautiful Emmaline Bag - due to life being complicated and not always going my way. I expressed frustration over this one night as I was e-mailing Janelle, and her kind words were soothing. Just goes to prove that you never know when or how you find a friend!

So, are you ready to get know Janelle a bit more too? 

How did you start sewing?

My mother always sewed for us when were children.  She will get all of the credit for influencing me, just as her own Mother gave her the bug – I got it from her.  There was never a time in my life that I don’t remember my mom owning a sewing machine.  I’m not sure whether I asked to sew or she just got me started, but I  began sewing when I was about 11 years old.  She set me up on her machine and let me run stitches through scrap fabric, and I believe that I made a little pouch or two, kind of like Barbie sleeping bags.  Soon after, in Grade 7 Home Economics class (about 12 yrs old), I really got the sewing bug with my first big project – a BBQ apron for my Dad.  It was peach!  I made it really masculine for him though, with a picture of an ape on the front done in liquid embroidery.  I don’t remember much from those years of school, to be honest, but I do remember most of my home economics projects!   I think, by far my favorite was hand sewing the stuffed animals.   I made a dolphin and a little black bunny.  By grade 8 or 9 my machine sewing had progressed to bigger projects like gym shorts and a duffle bag.  As well as sewing, my mom also taught me to crochet and knit, and I knit my first sweater when I was about 12.  

What are your favorite sewing projects?

I started quilting when I was about 20 and for a long, long time machine piecing and quilting, would have been my favorite sewing project.  This question would have been easier to answer then!  I have enjoyed paper piecing, strip piecing, hand quilting, machine quilting, hand appilique, machine applique... You get the idea!  However, I think I got burnt out on it and was getting a bit tired of traditional or heritage patterns, and to be honest when I moved to Australia almost 4 years ago, I completely changed directions.  Partly because I had to choose what to pack or sell to move here and I really felt like “cleansing” my stash – all of the country style fabrics were abandoned completely.  I got rid of a lot of UFOs!  I brought projects with me that were mostly machine applique projects like those of McKenna Ryan.  Projects that could be finished quickly with a fast reward.  Once those few projects were finished, I didn’t start anymore and had a year or two (recently) where I hardly sewed at all except mending – which, by the way, I HATE.  I think sewing for me was a very social hobby.  I sewed quilts when I was young with my dear friend, Lisa.  It was all we talked about and we learned together.  Later, I sewed quilts and wall hangings a lot with a few other girlfriends.  When I moved here, not only did I not have any friends that sewed, but I also spent WAY less time indoors than I did in Canada.  Also, where I live in Australia, the houses are very contemporary and some quite “beachy” and quilting just didn’t seem to fit anymore.  No need to huddle under a nice blankie here!  But  I still had the itch to sew, it never left completely – I had only taken a break.  I had been thinking about making bags for a while and had bought a few patterns along the way and last year around October, I finally did.  I started sewing bags and haven’t stopped!  I am enjoying the quick reward of sewing bags – and I just LOVE designing them.  I am bag crazy, bag obsessed!  Lately, I’ve been seeing some beautiful quilts with a modern flare and I’m really feeling inspired to make one or a few!  So to make a long answer, short... My favorite sewing projects are NOT mending.

What is your favorite fabric to work with? 

I love fabric like a scrapper loves paper.  No, more.  I walk through fabric shops and touch and pull and ooh and ahh!  I do love quilting cottons the best though.  I went through stages where it was all about 30’s prints, country prints, and then asian prints.  When my girls were little, there was always inspiration for quilts, dresses, and barbie clothes to come from quilting cottons.  Because of my new found addiction to bag making, I’m branching out though, and I’m really experimenting with other fabrics such as tweeds, canvas and cotton d├ęcor fabrics so if you ask me again in a year, my answer might be different!  But I will never like to sew chiffon... let’s make that clear. 

Favorite fabric designer?

This is a tough one!  I don’t think I can narrow it down to one favorite fabric designer.  There so many inspiring fabric designers out there, and after seeing the reviews from Quilt Market, there is just no end to the fabric design talent!  Sometimes I fall in love with single fabrics and no name fabrics and just have to buy them and sometimes I fall in love with whole ranges.  I seem to gravitate towards Moda fabrics, they have amazing designers but there are a few stand outs for sure.  Heather Bailey, Anna Marie Horner, Tula Pink, and definitely Joel Dewberry and Amy Butler.  Amy Butler’s fabrics are so cheerful and happy and make me smile, I use a lot of her fabrics.  She just puts colors and prints together that I never would have dreamed of and it turns out so beautifully.  Someday I will learn to coordinate like that!

Do you have a quick tip or trick?

Quick tip #1:  When you need to leave a hole open in your lining or in a pocket for turning, while it is still inside out, press back your seam allowances on the opening.  If you are using a 3/8” (1 cm) seam allowance, press back 3/8” on the opening so after you turn the pocket or the bag lining right side out, you don’t have to turn that seam allosance in.  It’s already done for you and the hole will sew closed nice and neat.  
Quick tip #2:  For topstitching 1/8” or 1/4” - If your presser foot doesn’t have a clear mark on it where the 1/8” or 1/4” marks are, place ruler under your foot and mark your desired seam allowance right on the foot with a permanent felt tip pen.  

Favorite sewing machine?

My favorite sewing machine doesn’t sew great stitches or sew quietly.  My sewing machine broke my foot!  When I was a teen (who thought she was all grown up), just moving out on my own at 16 years old,  my mom and I drove down from Canada to California to visit my beautiful Grandma.  She was generously scrounging items to give me to help me set up my first home.  Along with a bright orange shaggy bathroom mat, I was also given my first very own sewing machine.  A 1942 black singer sewing machine with an electric plug and a domed wooden cover.   It worked, I used it. I used it for mending in the beginning, and then to sew little crafts for craft fairs, and then later, clothes for my first baby girl.  By the time I was 20, I was quite fed up with it not sewing quite right and traded up to a cheap Singer from Costco, but I still have it.  It’s tucked away in storage in Alberta, and will find a place in my home when I move back to Canada in two months.  I still love it, even though it broke the top of my foot.   Apparently the lock on the cover doesn’t quite lock to the base on the VERY heavy machine.   As far as modern machines go, I don’t have a favorite right now.  I was really loving my Janome Memory Craft, but it was sold this week in preparation for my move home.   I know I will never sew without the “needle up/needle down” button again, but I look forward to test driving many models when I get home. If anyone has any suggestions, I would welcome them!

Any advice for beginners?

Try not to get frustrated if something isn’t working out.  There is always someone to help.  Not only is there now a wealth of information and tutorials on the net, but also a lot of experienced sewers to share their knowledge.  As I was mentioning earlier, my good friend Lisa and I started quilting very young and we looked at a lot of magazines and watched a lot of “Sewing with Nancy”.   But our biggest roadblock was salespeople in quilting shops that didn’t take us seriously.  As girls in our late teens and early twenties, we would go into quilting shops to buy fabric and ask questions and sometimes the ladies working there would ignore us, thinking we were browsing and didn’t know anything.  If we asked questions about the right foot for free motion quilting, for instance, or anything really, they would talk down to us an say things like “you don’t really need a foot like that if you are just learning to sew dear, that is for QUILTING!”  So if you are young and just learning, learn to smack them old hags!  Just kidding, my advice is to make sure you get the service or advice you want and deserve and don’t walk out empty handed because someone didn’t think that you were old enough or knew enough for their time.  

What challenges do you encounter when sewing (as in , what frustrates you if anything when it comes to sewing)? 

I do face some challenges while sewing with my machine and I’m learning to adapt the way I sew to help.  About 2 years ago, I put my neck out WASHING MY HAIR!  I know what you are thinking, I was probably using Herbal Organics, but no I wasn’t.  There was no head whipping, no hair flipping, I just reached up to shampoo and it was all over grover.   I spent about 20 minutes sitting on the bed with only a towel around me, freezing, waiting for my husband to come home so he could help me get into a lying position.  It has never been quite the same again, even after many numerous chiropractic appointments.  It wasn’t until I started sewing bags again that I realized what a strain I was putting on my neck while hunching over the machine.  Could years of sewing have caused this?  Hmmm.....  Or maybe it was because I just turned 40?  I have worked around this the best I can by raising my sewing machine up!  I don’t let it sit in the handy hole in my sewing desk.  I pull it up and set it on the table top, right near the edge.  The higher the better.  Try a phone book underneath, it really helps!