Side Stitches: Reversible Tote Bag

The end of the school year is drawing near and like years in the past, I get this itch to make gifts for my son’s teachers. These plans don’t always work out the way I want them to but I always have the best of intentions.

IMG_1133This year I decided to make Jake’s teacher a reversible tote bag with some bright primary colors as a thank you for all her hard work this year. I got the instructions from here. They had me at “simple”.
IMG_1132The outer bag is a cute hand print design with lots of primary colors. My choice as I thought she’d appreciate the symbolic nature. Then I had my son pick out the inner lining and he went with this nice goldenrod yellow material with orange and red polka dots. At first I didn’t see the combo working but let him choose anyhow.


The project was simple and I was able to simplify it even more. It called for cutting a 13.5 x 14 square of fabric and sewing closed 3 sides. Well, I could do that but instead I just cut a folded piece of fabric and sewed closed two sides. Super simple. I used the folded edge as the bottom of the bag and it worked fine. My favorite part was making the little pocketed corners so that the bag had a flat bottom. It’s kinda like my mitered corners. I loved learning how to make mitered corners as complicated as it can get and it’s my favorite technique when I quilt. These corners were simple yet effect, giving the bag more dimension and structure to the bottom. Again, a technique that is worth learning and adds so much to my sewing.

The handles came out pretty cool too! I originally made my seam too thick so I ripped the first one out and restitched it with my needle shifted closer to my foot and my fabric running right up the outer edge. In the end I had perfect little straps! I loved this part even with the ripping out of the seams. The process was simple just fold and press, fold and press, then sew together and VOILA! You have a strip that when cut in half gives you two clean straps. I used the inner lining material for these and I think they came out great. Then… The snag…IMG_1139Making the straps was awesome and by this point in the evening I was feeling pretty confident in my progress. I had two bags with corners all made up and some cute straps to match. The next step had me placing the bags together with the good sides matching up. Then I had to attach the straps. While the instructions had pictures and a well described blurb about what to do, for some reason I couldn’t visualize this step. The point was to attach the straps about 2-3 inches in from the edge in between the good sides of the fabric so that when you turn it all right-side out, the handles would be attached seamlessly into the bag.

IMG_1141Humm… Well this kinda looks like the picture in the instructions… Turns out I did have them attached facing the right direction and I sewed the whole damn thing only to find out I was wrong. The straps had to go BETWEEN the good sides of fabric, not inside the whole bag. Ugh… So I put it down, went to bed and promised myself I’d take it up the next day.

IMG_1142I did just that and STILL attached them wrong! I ripped out the original seams on the handles and when I went to attach them, I had them on the right sides of the fabric but facing out instead of in, leaving the handles in the wrong direction when the bag was turned right-side out.

IMG_1143I got so frustrated turning this bag around to only find out I had done it wrong AGAIN that I ended up with a pile of sad, wrinkled fabric all twisted and messy. I was about to give up. But I didn’t. I took out that seam ripper and went at it again.IMG_1144MUCH BETTER!!!! This time I got the handles in the right spots, on the correct side of the fabric and facing the right way! When I was done, I tangoed with the fabric to get it turned around and was tickled to see everything was in the right place and looking so adorable, albeit a little wrinkled after all the tugging. And, the lining my son chose ended up being a great combo with the hand fabric on the outside. The whole thing looks so cute and very teachery!IMG_1146 After all the seams that were ripped out and after three attempts to get the damn handles in the right spots, it all came together and looked so nice. The husband even told me it looked store quality. What a sweetheart. As the creator I could still see a few areas of improvement but the overall effect was wonderful.IMG_1149
This morning my son and I gave it a test run with his library books. The bag ends up much bigger than I expected which is a great. Big enough for her to tote her papers to grade and books to read. It’s very cute and I’m super proud of this finished product. So much so I’ve already cut the material to make another, bigger bag with the same material. After that I may make a smaller one for Jake with some dragon material for a lunch tote. Something easy to wash when it gets dirty.

My mind is popping with ideas for bags of different sizes and shapes now that I have worked with this particular pattern. It’s so simple to adjust to your needs that I can see it being used in different ways to make different bags for all kinds of use.

Sew Fresh Quilts

Bad Quilting, Bad!

This is a real post. A post without a finished product, perfectly pressed seams or beautiful situated fabrics to show off their color and lines.

There are no quilts rolled majestically to display the way the color combinations work so well together like a dance performed beautifully.

The lighting isn’t perfect and the background wasn’t picked for its contrasting colors to better display the subject.

This is a real post.

A post of mistakes. Of unfinished business. Of a good idea gone bad.

I had the great idea to create little mug rugs as a last day of school gift to Jake’s teachers.

I even blogged about my idea.

But not every idea is meant to be completed.

What started out as a fun project for Jake turned into a nightmare.

First, they turned out too small.

But I thought to myself, hey! These will be mini mug rugs, kinda like a double coaster. How cute!


Instead that made my life hell. I quilted it together and I could see that I was going to have a problem.

And since I wasn’t thinking this through all the way, I just cut my binding at the standard 2 1/2 inch width. Sigh…

Yeah that didn’t work. Why I didn’t cut it smaller, more like 2 inches, I will never know. But the binding was just too big for something so small.

All that extra material for such a small project made it buckle and ripple and just look awful.

So, I’ve decided to set it aside and get his teachers flowers for tomorrow.

And chalk this up as experience.


Side Stitches: Teachers’ Mug Rug Gifts

I love charm packs!

I could buy nothing but charm packs and be completely happy. They come coordinated, organized and pre-cut. What’s not to like?

The other day I got the grand idea to make my son’s teachers and staff at school an end of year gift: Mug Rugs! They went over so well at Mother’s Day that I figured it was a simple and quick gift I could make that would be perfect for saying thank you for a great year.

I went to my stash to see what I had and felt that nothing really fit that summer-y, end of the school year, I’m-a-teacher feeling. So I went online and starting tinkering.

In my search I found two adorable and beautiful packs: Moda Lollipop and Moda Grand Finale. When we opened them up, I almost fell over at the cute of Lollipop and loved the richness of Grand Finale. Jake was thrilled too and together we pulled the packs apart to see what we had to work with.

Moda Lollipop Charm Pack

Lollipop is a sweet set with bright colors, fanciful patterns and lots of cheerfulness and fun combinations. I liked this one best.

Moda Grand Finale Charm Pack

Jake, on the other hand, loved working with Grand Finale, which was a shock to me. I was expecting the playful colors of Lollipop to draw him in but no, he worked solely with Grand Finale and I let him. These were for his teachers, anyway.

Two of Jake's color combos....not a bad start

As apart of the project, I let Jake pick the color combos. I had him pick three colors, telling him to keep it simple with two patterns and one solid. Took him a bit at first to get the hang of picking a solid that was found in one of the patterned swatches. His first picks were not too bad.

Getting better at it....

Then he started getting the hang of it. While I was apart of the process, Jake did most of the color choosing. As you can tell, he worked in the Grand Finale pack primarily and every once in a while I’d get my hand in and stick a swatch of Lollipop in there.

Hey, I think he's got it!

His last set was my favorite (and probably because he used all Lollipop colors). I was so impressed with his choices that by the end, I felt there was no reason to tweak anything he put together.

My plan for now? To cut one pattern and one solid square into four squares and sew them together, alternating like a pinwheel. Then I’ll use the last pattern swatch and use it in it’s entirety. No cutting that one.

This it the rough drawing of what the mug rugs will be. A solid on one side and a small pattern cut from two swatch on the other side. Simple. Minimal cutting and sewing. Yet classy and a nice gift to give.