Thursday, March 8, 2012

Practice Pouch Highlights: What's wrong with this picture?

Nothing like Highlights magazine and the smell of glutaraldehyde to really bring back the dental office panic attacks of my youth.  Our dentist growing up was a friend of the family.  Dr. B was rapidly approaching retirement age.  I always thought of him as a kind man, soft-spoken and gentle.  Right up until the day he pulled a (perfectly-good) permanent tooth in place of the wiggly-loose baby right next to it.  Some mistakes you can fix.  Some leave yawning gaps where your second mandibular bicuspid should be.

So, what's wrong with this pouch?  Plenty.  Thankfully, most of the issues are small and picky, and happen to be things that I can fix the next time around, which makes me incredibly grateful that I decided to take a practice run in the first place.  But, one...  Well, one is quite possibly gaping-hole-in-your-mouth serious.  I don't really know yet.  I'll need your help with that shortly.

First, though, the process details.  [Feel free to skip down to the next * * * if you want the quicker, less-detailed "spoiler" version of the game].

* * *

If you read my post from earlier this week (yes, two in one week...  I know, right?), you already know I'm working on a redwork pouch for one of the ladies in the St. Louis Modern Quilt Guild.  The embroidery and patchwork are both finished, I just need to put the pouch together.  As a veritable pouch rookie, though, I've been really nervous about cutting into that 144-piece patchwork without a little more preparation, so I (and several of my fellow STLMQG members) have opted to first make practice pouches instead.  

After falling in love with Mary Claire's super-cute hexie pouch earlier this week, I decided to purchase a copy of Elizabeth Hartman's Perfect Zip Bags pattern from her website.  I don't usually buy patterns, but Elizabeth's are worth every penny.  Her directions are detailed but simple, and after reading through this pattern just once, I envisioned at LEAST 20 variations of these bags popping up on my to-do list later this year.  Of course, I probably should have read the pattern more than once, but I'll get to that in a minute.   

My plan for the redwork pouch will require a few alterations from Elizabeth's original pattern:

(1)  Instead of a patchwork square on the front, I want to frame a circular embroidery pattern with patchwork, so this seemed like the perfect time to try my hand at Dale Fleming's 6-Minute Circle.  

(2)  Because my embroidery piece was already finished by the time I purchased the pattern, I regrettably discovered that it was too big to fit on ANY of the pouches in Elizabeth's PDF, so I also had to scale the pattern to fit the embroidery piece.  Thanks to some wonky math, I'm happy to report that this part of the experiment seems to have worked out nicely, and I am actually quite pleased with the final placement of the circle on the finished bag.  If anyone is interested in the measurements I used, I'm happy to send them along (minus all of the sloppy handwriting and parenthetical derivations): 

With these two changes in mind, I started combing through my stash for something pretty I could fussy-cut as the circular centerpiece.  It didn't take long to realize that my mostly-solid fabric collection doesn't really lend itself to that sort of thing, so I needed something else to fill the space.  I decided to raw-edge applique some simple text instead.   

I typed the word "quilt" in Microsoft PowerPoint using American Typewriter font (175 pt, bold).  I then traced each letter (backwards) onto the paper side of a small strip of sewable Heat 'n Bond using my state-of-the-art light table.  

I pressed the Heat 'n Bond onto the backside of some orange fabric I had laying around, and cut out the letters.  After pressing them to the white (interfaced) background fabric, I zig-zag stitched around the raw edges.  Unfortunately, I had some tension issues early-on, and it wasn't until I got to the L and the T that things really started to work themselves out, so don't look too closely at those first few letters.
(Mistake #1)

Once the letters were attached, it was time to try my hand at that circle.  According to my math, I was going to need a 7.25-inch opening.  Thankfully, one of my small bread plates from the cupboard worked nicely.  I traced the circle onto the dull side of my freezer paper template and pressed it to the backside of my interfaced fabric.  Next, I traced and cut the inner circle (Quaker Oats lid), and notched the curves as shown:

I pressed the notches back as directed to form a smooth circle, but I thought the result was a bit too stark, so I decided to add some batting and do some straight-line quilting in the same bright orange.  Now, Elizabeth's pattern calls for you to turn the exterior fabric over the edge of your interlining fabric before constructing your bag.  Unfortunately, I went ahead and did this before I'd decided to quilt.  Assuming I'd be folding that top edge again when I pieced the bag together, I did some lazy-man's quilting, cutting my thread ends instead of burying them, not realizing they would eventually end up right next to my zipper (Mistake #2).

It was also at this point that I decided to add some hand stitching around the circle for emphasis (why these things don't occur to me earlier is beyond me).  That means that after stitching, I now have little tufts of white cotton batting straggling their way through my grey fabric all the way around the circle.  Ah, well...  Practice pouch, right?  (Mistake #3).

Now that all of the preliminary work was finished, I could start assembling the materials for constructing the bag (don't you LOVE that lining fabric?).  Because I had scaled the pattern, I had to custom-trim the zipper, but otherwise, the bag came together just as Elizabeth described.  

Seriously, how much do you LOVE that lining fabric?

I know.  So do I.  Which is a good thing, considering we'll probably be seeing a lot of it since I'm afraid to zip it anymore:

Mistake #4:  Failure to interface lining.  

Grrr...  So frustrating.  I was going to interface the lining.  Truly, I was.  But, then Little Man got sick, and Miss Em needed a volleyball jersey, and yada, yada, yada, I got back to the sewing room, and blamo!  The bag was together before I knew it, with two floppy squares of interfacing left idly on the sidelines.  

All of that work to finish a bag that is completely non-functioning.  

I have neither the time nor the willpower to take the thing apart.  It's a practice bag, after all, and that would be seriously OCD even for me.  But, still...  It's pretty damn cute, if I say so myself.  I'd like to salvage it if I can.  I've already popped a few stitches yanking the hell out of it, and came pretty close to ripping the liner in the process.    How do I make it work without sloppily hand-stitching the lining up near the zipper?  

* * *

Fatal flaw:  Liner fabric (consistently) caught in the zipper teeth.  

Gaping mouth hole, or bridgeable gap?

The lines are now open...

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Ready for (semi-)redwork / "Cheer up sleepy Jean(s)"

The St. Louis Modern Quilt Guild is having a pouch swap at our meeting next week, and I've got some (hopefully) modern (semi-)redwork in the wings for my secret swap partner.  I can't show you the stitchery itself, as that would definitely give it away, but here are some of the fabrics I'm auditioning from my stash:

The plan at the moment is kind of a hodge-podge of techniques:  embroidery, patchwork, six-minute circle, reverse and raw-edged applique.  Will probably toss in some linen, and maybe a Dresden plate for good measure.  Sounds a little manic, I know, but this weekend is the first time I've set foot in my sewing room in nearly three months, and I have a lot of catching up to do. 

Here's what I have on the design board as the patchwork comes together.  I'm hoping the design of the bag and the sprinkling of modern fabrics will help swing the feel toward the less-traditional side: 

The squares will finish at an inch apiece, which means my 144 teeny-tiny pieces will finish at about 12 inches square.  This would be fine, I guess, if I didn't have plans to carve out the middle of this thing for reverse applique.  Because I may want to save the center portion for later, I couldn't bring myself to insert a square of muslin here to simplify things, so a-stitching I will go.  Borderline crazy, I know, but it took me nearly the full month to decide what to make for this special lady.  Now that an idea has finally settled into my brain, there's no going back at this point.

In other news, I've enjoyed a little retail therapy the past few weeks.  I may not have time to sew, but I find that petting fabric takes no time at all.  :) 

A little (or 12 yards of) pezzy print:

And a few stacks of (mostly) solids:

Some of these will be featured in a wall hanging I have planned for my other secret partner from the "For the Love of Solids" (FTLOS) swap currently underway on Flickr.  The ship date for international partners runs from now through Saturday, which means I have the potential to miss deadlines on two continents this week, I guess.   :)

Finally, if you get a minute today, pop on over to the Modern Quilt Guild's website.  They've  been busy posting their super-great 100 Days series since the first of the year.  TONS of amazing quilts and tutorials to enjoy.  This past week's series was called "Using what you have," and somewhere amongst all of the colorful scraps and vintage sheets is a quilt made of-- wait for it-- denim.  So, many thanks to the MQG for the kind shout-out this weekend.  It's pretty nice to be included in such amazing company.

P.S.  I grew up in the '70s, and a huge part of my childhood was spent laughing and singing along with a fun-loving group of guys who just-so-happened to give birth to the music video:  The Monkees, whose lead singer, Davy Jones, passed away this week at the age of sixty-six.  Although I was particularly smitten with Michael Nesmith (the quiet, broody one in the knit stocking cap), I could always rely on Davy and the gang for an honest-to-goodness belly laugh without politics or agenda, which made the days seem brighter to me, and life in general, just a little less serious.  I like to think that it's appropriate that a denim quilt was featured this week.  Not just in tribute to Davy and his bellbottom trousers, but also as a reminder that just as fabric can be rejuvenated with a little extra effort, maybe life really can be a bit brighter if we'd just take the time to make it that way.  As much as I grumbled about trying to make a denim quilt, the truth is, once I threw myself into the project, I couldn't help but feel good about the change I could see taking shape.  Have to wonder how much brighter life might seem if I put that much love and effort into everything I do.  Next time I hear "Daydream Believer," think I'll sing "Cheer up sleepy jean(s)," instead. 

Thanks, Davy.  For everything.