The Extra Large Really BIG Bag

I sewed a new bag this weekend! This is a really BIG bag (almost 3 feet across). I wanted one because both Chloe, and Leo & I have a swim class that meets twice a week, during the same time. The bag had to be large enough to carry three towels, three sets of dry clothes, snacks, diapering items, etc., yet be light weight and easy for this mama to carry. This one fits the bill with room to spare!

The pattern came from a blue plastic Ikea shopping bag. We have two, and they are really handy, especially at the beach. Sand slides right off the plastic. The handles are really clever, too. Each side has a loop of material that is attached in way that creates a shoulder strap as well as tote handles, so you can carry it both ways (you can see them best in the top photo). Essentially, those blue Ikea bags are large tarps with handles, but they stay crazy wrinkled and are ridiculously noisy because the plastic is so crackly. The design is perfect, though, almost exactly what I wanted.

Sewing notes: The Ikea heart fabric I already had in my stash. I used Pellon fusible interfacing to add body, but it didn’t adhere to the outer fabric properly, and I’m not sure I would use it again. As I said before, this is a basic, but cleverly designed bag, made of only two large and one small rectangle (for the bottom). I thought about forgoing the bottom and just sewing the side rectangles together, but it is the bottom that makes the bag roomy and gives it a wide opening. The handles are grosgrain ribbon and the top edge and the inside sides seams are finished with bias tape. Pretty snazzy!

Here are links to the other bags I’ve made: Freestyle tote, Hobo Slouch, Green Felt tote,  Zippered Felt bag and Tokyo Tie bag.



Make your own bean bag chair

Check out this cool bean bag chair by Joanna at Stardust Shoes. I never thought I’d say this about a bean bag chair, but I think this one is so fun. I wish I had one like it for Chloe’s room. She would totally dig it. Not only does she love to climb on chairs in general, but also to get in and out of boxes, bounce on cushions, and land in piles of dirty clothes on the floor. Wouldn’t playing with an oversize bean bag be like all those things?

Joanna offers both an adult-sized (shown above) and child-sized pdf tutorial, so technically I could make one myself. Maybe I will someday. Right now I’m stuck with a halfway finished spring top. I can’t seem to figure out the next step, and I’m not sure how best to move forward (Sandy, maybe I can ichat you and hold the instructions up to the camera?). Also strange is that I can’t find a single reference of anyone sewing this top, or any photos on Flickr or anywhere else. Maybe because it was written for teenagers and there aren’t any teenager-sewing-bloggers? Oh well. I might just try and wing it.


When a little discretion is advised…

Check out the Cloak Bag. The photographer in me is really tickled by this, but if I saw someone actually shooting with it I’m sure I would think it strange. However, it does partially fulfill my desire for a small, lightweight bag to conceal my equipment when I didn’t want to be so obvious (which is often). That is one thing about dSLRs. They are so in-your-face when I’d rather they be as  discreet as point-and-shoots. I guess that’s the price we pay for better quality and control.

What do you think? Would you carry this bag? via


Backpack/diaper bag exposé

Top row: Clif Kid snack bar, TJs cereal bar, Gerber fruit strip, 2 lollipops, graham crackers, apple juice box, TJs apple carrot fruit crusher

2nd row: receipts, coupons, Chloe’s sunglasses, large zip-lock bag (with 2 diapers, travel wipes and bib), small zip-lock bag (with Chloe’s birth certificate, insurance card, vaccination record, 2 single use thermometers, her doctor’s business card, emergency cash, and some of my business cards), travel pack of tissues

3rd row: gift cards, Hemp Organics lip tint in Earth, Eyeko’s Raspberry Fat Balm, change, 2 Daim candies

4th row: Kodak V550 camera, ear piece, cell phone, plastic spoon/knife, Wet Ones wipes (both Regular for serious germs and Extra Gentle for Chloe)

5th row: wallet case (with my ID, membership and credit cards), zipper pouch for cash and other cards, pouch with large re-usable fold away bag, post-it notes, pen, Clean Well hand sanitizer

This is a follow-up of my previous post. Please let me know if anyone else decides to do this. It would be fun to see the kinds of things other people carry, and I’ve learned some good snack ideas from other moms, too. 🙂

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The things I carry

David has always marveled at the amount of stuff I carry in my purse. At times, I was like Indiana Jones, always ready with a lighter, flashlight, pen, notebook, can-opener, pocket knife, band-aids, measuring tape, (then, as technology advanced) a digital camera, cell phone, memory stick… you get the picture.

About a month or two ago, I stopped carrying Chloe’s diaper bag around town, and now just carry an old black mini-backpack. It works fairly well, except that the large zipper-pulls clank annoyingly when I walk. However, it carries the right amount of stuff and leaves my hands free. A helpful thing when chasing a toddler.

The other day, while I was tossing my old receipts and replenishing the diaper baggie, I decided to pull everything out and document it with a picture. Yes, I really do carry all that stuff, although the contents does change. And yes, I really am a walking snack bar.

Graham crackers anyone?


Diaper Bag Surprise

Look what David surprised me with when he came home from work – a new diaper bag! Isn’t it cool!? It’s a Dash Deluxe Edition Diaper Bag in “pink links” by Skip Hop. Here I was, thinking I’d just get a plain black version so that he wouldn’t mind carrying it around without me, and he goes off and chooses something much cooler than I ever would have. The bag is a great size with roomy pockets and a removable cushioned changing pad. Best of all, the straps can convert from a shoulder bag to a stroller bag. And after the baby outgrows diaper changes, the bag will still be a stylin’ laptop/messenger bag. Neat!


Making Totes

David and I have been making totes lately. That’s right, David is sewing now, too! We were at New Seasons and saw a batch of simple, unlined totes for sale made from Ikea fabric and David asked me to teach him how to make them.

For his first two totes, he decided to recycle an old Pottery Barn curtain panel from our fabric stash. I walked him through cutting for size and inseam, and a few other basics like threading the bobbin, back-stitching, squaring the bottom and making french seams to keep the inside neat-looking and strong. Actually, David kind of knew how to sew long before me, because I remember him making large curtains for one of our first apartments back in the mid 1990s. However, this was a machine he hadn’t used before. He was a fast learner, and doesn’t get hung up and fussy about details like I do.

After making the bags, he then screen-printed one with an image of a bird. Didn’t it turn out great? I’m so proud!

And not to be completely outdone by my talented husband, here is a tote that I finished as well. I kind of made it up as I went along, which was not a good thing, in this case, because I think I would have made a couple different choices had I thought it through from the beginning. The outside is Ikea fabric (from the frederika collection) and the inside is Essex white linen cotton blend from Sew Mama Sew.


Hobo Slouch Bag

This is the bag that I mentioned was giving me such trouble. I call it my hobo slouch bag, modeled after one I saw at Target recently. It kills me to think that this bag was selling for only $9.99, and that it cost me more to make (not to mention the time!), except that I didn’t like any of the prints it came in. What I did like was it’s size and super long strap that could be worn across the body or tied in a knot to shorten. My version is very soft and lightweight, almost like a pillowcase, but sturdier. There is a lined magazine size pocket on the outside and smaller pockets inside for my phone and camera.

Besides drafting the pattern and the actual sewing, the hardest part was finding the solid grey fabric to match the side print I wanted to use. Greys are so tricky! They tend to be either too blue or too brown. In the end, the fabric for this bag came from 3 different fabric stores. Not very fuel efficient, I admit, but hopefully useful and re-usable in the long run.


Fertility Charm & Sewing

For perspective, the white contents in the center are grains of rice.

I recently made this fertility pendant for one of my swap partners who is trying to get pregnant. It took me some time to research the traditional ingredients carried in charms like these, but once I knew what to look for I found all kinds of information. For this purpose, I included only herbs, seeds, and grains, although stones (Basalt, Carnelian, Tiger’s Eye, Garnet, Rose Quartz) seem to be pretty popular, too. You can’t tell from the picture, but the vial is tiny, about 1/2 an inch tall. Then I put it into a vellum envelope and sealed it with a wax seal for presentation.

Meanwhile, I’ve been struggling the past few days on a new hobo/tote bag for myself. I saw this particular style while I was out shopping a couple weeks ago. The fabric was a red sailors stripe that I didn’t like, so I thought I’d try making my own. The outside is almost finished. It took me three tries to attach the oval bottom without the seams looking like hell. I’ve never attached an oval piece before. Is there some secret I don’t know about? I used a straight stitch, but there were all these little puckers. So I did it again about a 1/4 inch from that seam, and then again once more until it looked semi-reasonable. Now I’m in the process of sewing the lining pieces. I finally had to put it away though, so I wouldn’t get too frustrated. Being a beginner sucks sometimes. Would someone please tell those pattern makers to come up with some different styles, because this would have been so much easier with a pattern. Sigh. Hopefully, it will be complete and ready to share by this weekend.


Spring Fever: Tokyo Tie Bag

Tokyo Tie Top Bag in Lotus by Amy Butler for Rowan fabrics

The past several days have been so beautiful. Sunny, breezy… almost warm. It inspired me to do some spring sewing this weekend–when we weren’t outside enjoying the weather, that is. Meet my new Tokyo Tie Bag, from Sew Everything Workshop.

In search of suitably spring-like fabric (and to broaden my search for a solid grey to match another fabric I already have, that I want to make a larger bag with later. You would not believe how hard it is to match greys!), I checked out Fabric Depot for the first time. It’s over on the east side of town, where I rarely wander. They bill themselves as “the largest, most complete retail fabric store in the west” with 73,000 square feet of shop space. The place is huge, seemingly a sea of fabric bolts, including some of my favorite designers, organics, and even bamboo material. And they were having a 30% off sale!

For this new little bag I found a pretty flowered pattern and a matching heavy canvas for the lining. This was a good project for me to learn some new techniques – grading seams, clipping curves and adding a snap. Actually, I decided to use a magnetic snap instead, and was happy to find this tutorial for a little help. I didn’t machine sew the hole (since I don’t know how), but I did reinforce the sides by hand. Also, I couldn’t get the prongs to lie flat on top of each other properly, so I bent them outward instead. I hope that doesn’t cause too much of a problem later on.

Because I can’t leave anything well enough alone, I altered the shape of the pattern from the original sizing specified in the book. Instead, I made the straps just a little longer and the bag body a little wider. You can download my template here, but it has to be tiled onto two sheets.

I actually remembered to wash and iron the material before getting started, but I’m thinking it was a mistake to wash the canvas. It came out of the dryer a hard, wrinkled mess. I tried stretching, ironing, re-wetting and hanging, and even used some dreaded Downy Wrinkle Releaser (why do they make it smell so strong?!), but never got it very smooth and flat again. I could swear it said it was machine washable.

Next time, I think I’ll make the straps longer, so it’s more of a shoulder bag instead of a handbag, add an inner pocket, and maybe choose an even heavier weight canvas for a slightly more structured body. Either way, it’s pretty cute. 🙂

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