New Bag!

It’s been a while since I added a new bag design to my shop. Not that I didn’t have any new ideas, but I’ve been so busy fulfilling orders, I had no time to play with new designs. This is the real shortcoming of having a do-everything-yourself business – that when your shop is busy, you just can’t get around to developing new products or write patterns… But I’m not complaining! There are many wonderful benefits to having a (mostly) one-person business as well, so really, I’m okay with it.

This week though, I’m happy to show you a new bag design finally! Well, it’s more like a “variation on the theme” of bucket bags that are already in my shops, rather than a radical new design. Still, I’m patting myself on shoulder for sewing up something different for a change.

Echino bucket bag by Piggledee

It’s a nice size for a handbag, except it has an adjustable shoulder strap. It resembles my bucket diaper bags, but there are no outside pockets. It’s also longer in shape than it is wider. It looks more grownup that way. It’s for women of all ages – not just mothers of little ones.

Bucket shoulder bag by Piggledee

Bucket shoulder bag by Piggledee

And the fabric! It’s this fabric that inspired me to make this bag. It’s a new “Echino” line of designer fabric by Etsuko Furuya, called “Den.” How I love the tiny specks of silver triangles like sparkling snowflakes. And the shade of steel grey background and the large-scale dots. And of course those cheeky little foxes in silver. I have loved Echino fabrics for ages, but this one is one of my favorites.

Echino bucket bag by Piggledee

 

Bucket shoulder bag by Piggledee

 

This bag is now available in my Etsy shop. I can’t wait to make more stuff this gorgeous fabric!

 

Easter Hats

Two months ago, we sold our house in Sydney and moved to a semi-country area called the Blue Mountains. We love it here. The air is fresh and clean. The traffic is non-existent. Our new house in a bushy area is incredibly peaceful. But the move meant our kids would attend a new school – a public school. Having only experienced Steiner schools before, the new school has been as much a culture shock to me as to the kids.

For one, this school has a lot of events – and I mean a lot. Every week there is something new. Crazy hair day, cake stand sales, snake education (yes there are snakes around here), excursions, and Harmony Day dress-up. It’s hard to keep up, and I admit, I’ve failed to prepare the kids for a few of these events, much to their dismay and embarrassment.

So when the school sent us a note that we needed to “make” special hats for our kids for the Easter Parade (and oh by the way, could you also contribute cakes for the cake stand?), I saw this as an opportunity to redeem myself as a Committed Parent.

I consulted my children about the designs of their Eater hats. My 5-year-old son immediately requested a “pirate bunny” hat. My 7-year-old daughter didn’t have any ideas. So I thought I’d make her something bright and rainbow-y, because she likes rainbows. I got this Japanese hat-making book out (“Oshaberina Boshi” – or “Chatty Hats” by Yumiko Itoyama), and got to work.

Japanese hat-making book - Oshaberina Boshii

For the pirate hat, I modified this brimless hat pattern.

Japanese hat-making book - Oshaberina Boshii

I used black canvas for the hat, and dark blue canvas for the lining. I modified the pattern to make the sides wider, to make it resemble a pirate hat. Then I painted a skull-and-swords pirate symbol on a piece of fabric (yes you can laugh at my feeble attempt)…

pirate bunny Easter hat in progress

…and attached it onto the finished hat with fusible web. Lastly I made a tiny eye-patch for a store-bought bunny doll, and pinned it to the hat. Finished!

pirate bunny Easter hat finished

For my daughter’s rainbow hat, I decided on this tulip hat pattern.

Japanese craft book Oshaberina Boshi tulip hat

I used six different Kona cotton colors in pastel shades.

tulip rainbow hat in progress

Then I pinned some store-bought pastel eggs at the top for the finishing touch.  

Rainbow Easter hat finished

I was very pleased how these hats came out. And the kids seemed happy as well!

 

 

pirate bunny and rainbow Easter hats

I didn’t forget to make carrot cupcakes for the cake stand, either. 

Carrot cupcakes with cream cheese icing

The Easter Parade was so much fun to watch. It wasn’t quite what I expected though, because other kids had truly crazy and bright-colored hats, which looked like they were made by the kids, not the parents. The black pirate hat especially looked demure and tame among the ocean of colors….

School easter hat parade

But it doesn’t matter! Because for once I felt like a Committed Parent on top of a school event. And my kids were happy to wear the hats I made, sing happy Easter songs with their classmates, and eat yummy cakes for lunch – though maybe not necessarily in that order.

I hope you all had a happy Easter weekend!

Facebook auction market – more fabric boxes – and giveaway coin purses

So one more day to go till the end of my Facebook auction – and I’m sad that it’s ending because it’s been so much fun. The original idea was to use fabric from my overflowing piles of scraps, and make one-of-a-kind items not normally sold on my Etsy or madeit shops. I thought having an auction would motivate me to use up those scraps, and have a bit of spring cleaning of my sewing room.

I didn’t anticipate it would be this much fun though. It was fun having that creative freedom – to make whatever I felt like making every day. You’d think I have that kind of freedom all the time, doing what I do, but it’s not really true. Normally, I have a set range of items up on my shops, and I’d make those items over and over again as they sell. Or I make bags to order. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love it, but it often feels like work, which it is. Developing new products is the creative fun part of course. But even there, I need to be mindful of the cost issue, and setting the right pricing can be a difficult task.

But this auction thing totally freed me up from any of those constraints. I didn’t even have to set a price (well, just the low minimum bid amounts), and making irregular-sized items was totally okay. I was crafting for the fun of it, and that was precious. I often stayed up late at night to sew, because I just couldn’t help myself.

And the support and encouragement from the Facebook community has been tremendous! I was paranoid that nobody was going to bid on anything, but I shouldn’t have worried. Bids came in from day one, and it hasn’t stopped. I’m particularly grateful that many of the bids are from fellow crafters and crafty business owners, who can make all these items themselves. Thank you so very much for your support, everyone!

Another wonderful thing about the auction is that I could gauge what items my customers were interested in. Sandwich bags and wraps were so popular, I might have to add those items to my regular shop offerings.

Fabric boxes was another surprise hit. I began making them for myself, but because of all the positive feedback, I’ve made a few for the auction — like these ones below. The apple ones are possibly my favorite. These are hand screen printed fabrics from Blueberry Ash Textiles based right here in Sydney. Aren’t they lovely?

So check out my auction album if you haven’t already, because there is still 24 hours till the end of the auction. By the way, I’m giving away three Liberty of London coin purses to three randomly-selected auction winners. I enjoyed making these coin purses, too, especially the pretty little Swarovski crystal bead zipper pulls. 
pink and green flroal fabric boxes

bright colored fabric boxesbright colored fabric boxes - lining viewLarge and small boxes - bright colorsFabric boxes using hand screen printed apple fabric - greyFabric boxes using hand screen printed apple fabric - greyFabric boxes using hand screen printed apple fabric - pink

 

 

Pattern Preview – Drawstring gift bag and a mini towel with double gauze

I am very excited to share that my next sewing pattern is nearly finished! This one is for a lined drawstring bag and a mini towel using a type of fabric called double gauze, and I wrote it with near-total beginners in mind. I love that it has two projects in one pattern. A beginner can learn the basics of sewing by first making the super-easy (but cute and useful) mini towel, and then move on to make the drawstring bag to learn the basics of bag making. And when you are finished, you can put the mini towel inside the drawstring bag, and what a perfect handmade gift that would make a new baby! 

Lined drawstring bag pattern - page one

I chose to feature double gauze in this pattern, because it is such a beautiful fabric for babies and children. It’s a popular fabric in Japan, where you can find them in so many adorable prints.  Unfortunately though, the popularity has not yet spread to the Western world. It’s a matter of time I’m sure, but I wanted to help spread the love of this soft-as-air fabric. Of course, you can substitute other materials for double gauze if you don’t have access to it, but I really hope you’ll give it a try some day. 

The pattern has a section on how to work with double gauze, and throughout the instructions there are tips on sewing with double gauze. So even if you are a more accomplished sewer, you might find this pattern interesting just for the information on double gauze.

This pattern, like my previous lunch bag pattern, has very detailed instructions with large, clear photos. Here’s a sample page from the mini towel section.

Lined drawstring bag pattern - sample instruction page

The drawstring gift bag is slightly more challenging, but is a perfect second project for a beginner to gain confidence in sewing. The resulting bag is beautiful because it is fully lined, and the ruffle top is particularly sweet as a gift bag. Once you make the gift bag, you can use exactly the same technique to make a larger laundry bag, or shoe bag, or lots of other kinds of drawstring bags. 

The pattern is being tested by six lovely volunteer testers right now. Four of them have already finished them this week, and have kindly sent me photos of their creations.

Pattern tester's finished bag and towel 1

This is Deanne’s creation. She had only one sewing lesson prior to making these items for me, so I’m so pleased what a beautiful job she did. She was able to follow the pattern without asking me a single question about it. So proud of you, Deanne!

Pattern tester's finished bag and towel 2 - Koala print

Pattern tester's finished bag and towel 3 - pink rabbitThese are the bags Sarah (navy koala) and Kristy (pink rabbit) made. They are not exactly beginners, but am very grateful for their help with pattern testing. 

drawstring bag by Erika

 

Lastly, I LOVE this bag Erkia made. She chose her own fabric (how adorable is the goldfish fabric!), so this is not double gauze. You can see the pattern works perfectly well with other types of fabric. 

I’m still waiting to hear from two more pattern testers, but as soon as their feedback comes through, and I revise the pattern, it’ll be up on my Etsy and Craftsy stores. 

 

French pastry bag no. 2

This week. I had another chance to make a tote bag with the beautiful “French pastry recipe” fabric and leather handles. This one was for a special client, who has now become a crafty friend. She requested that the bag be about 2″ shorter than my previous bag, and to have an exposed zipper pocket inside. This is what the finished bag looks from the outside. I love this shape.

French pastry tote bag with leather handles

I had never made an exposed zipper pocket before. Was it fearless of me to agree to a design I had no idea how to create, or was it a little… reckless? 

French pastry tote bag with leather handles - exposed zipper pocket

I hope it looks all right! Thankfully it was not too hard. I found a fantastic (and free!) tutorial on Craftsy.com by Ms. Elaineous. Her step-by-step instruction with clear diagrams saved my day.

Had I used a white zipper instead of dark brown, it would have looked more seamless. But I think this thin line of brown zipper looks lovely as a decorative accent.

The bag has a simple patch pocket on the other side. 

French pastry bag tote with leather handles - inside pocket

Stitching the leather handles was very time consuming, like last time. But instead of being frustrated about it, I just decided to watch a couple of Grey’s Anatomy episodes while stitching. A very enjoyable experience. And hard work is clearly worth it, because the finished bag looks very elegant and luxurious with that touch of leather. 

French pastry bag tote with leather handles - leather handles

In other news I’m planning a special Facebook “auction market day,” in about three weeks time. I’ll focus on making small things like wet bags and sandwich bags using leftover fabrics. So check out my Facebook page for details!

Thoughts on custom orders – a tote-style diaper bag

I love custom orders. Well, I should say that I love the right kind of custom orders. The right kind of custom order is when a customer wants a product that I also want to develop. In other words, a custom order becomes a funded research and development project. This kind of custom order motivates me to come up with a good design in a relatively short period of time – whereas, if left alone, I could be working on a new design in my “spare time,” and a project could drag on for months or more.

Another thing I love about a custom order is that I can work directly with my customer about the design. A customer doesn’t passively buy my finished product, but becomes a partner in creating something new. I really enjoy this collaborative process because I can learn what kind of products people are looking for, while at the same time, incorporating my design agenda. Plus in my line of work, it can get pretty lonely, and I love these rare teamwork opportunities – even when the client lives thousands of miles away!

Tote-style diaper bag with leather handles

Here’s an example of what I mean by the right kind of a custom order — a large tote bag I made this week for a customer in New York.

She loved the French pastry recipe fabric I posted on Facebook, and requested a large tote bag that could be used as a diaper bag for her upcoming baby. She chose the bag style and orientation (longer than wider), and requested lots of pockets. The rest was up to me.

Tote-style diaper bag with leather handles

Leather handles! I had never used leather handles before, but when I looked at this beautiful fabric, I thought it deserved to have leather handles. It’s a good thing my customer was not a vegan.

I used heavy-duty cotton canvas for the lining and for the bottom, to give the bag a good structure. I needed this structure inside, because I didn’t want to use interfacing for the French pastry fabric — it would have ruined the wonderful softness and drape of the 50% linen fabric.

 

 

Inside, there is a large zippered double pocket with waterproof lining on one side, and a simple patch pocket for the other side. So three pockets in total. If the bag was in “landscape” orientation (i.e. wider than longer), I might have added a side pocket.

You can’t see it in the photos, but there is also a linen tab with a carabiner on one side. These carabiner key-holder tabs are so useful, I’m adding these to a lot of my bags these days. It’s great not just for hanging keys, but you can hang a wristlet pouch from it to keep your essentials securely attached to your bag.

Another small detail I like is the strip of facing I added to the top of the lining, using the same French pastry fabric. Don’t you think it gives the bag a nice professional look? It also gives the bag another layer of fabric for structure at the opening.

I loved how the bag turned out, it was sad to send it away to my customer! But oh well, I can always make another one. That’s the beauty of doing this kind of custom orders – after the order has been shipped, I am left with a detailed note I took on how to make the bag. And that’s worth the many hours it took to make the bag itself.

 

 

Pattern testing – insulated lunch bag

I’m so excited to announce that my first pattern and kits for insulated lunch bags are now finished and up for sale! Why am I now writing patterns, you ask? Well, I have always wondered if other crafters might enjoy making the zakka items I create, rather than having to buy the finished items from my shops. I also feel passionate about getting people to learn how to sew. So my hope was to write patterns that are detailed enough for beginners to follow, but are still interesting for more experienced crafters.

I’d love to tell you more about the pattern and the kits in another post, but first, I’d like to tell you about the five wonderful women who tested my lunch bag pattern and kits – Erika, Bec, Su, Kristy and Sarah. At first I was hoping to get two or three volunteer testers, but was thrilled to find five! And they’ve all done tremendous work getting the kits sewn up and giving me invaluable feedback.

Here’s the lunch bag Sarah made. She chose this “boy and ship” fabric that turned out to be quite cute for this bag.

Sarah's lunch bag - boy and ship

Kristy from Monkey Mai made this lunch bag with the red bird fabric. Beautiful job!

Kristy's lunch bag - red linen birds

I was lucky to have two other professional crafters to test out my kits and pattern. Bec from Little Toot Creations is an experienced dressmaker. Isn’t her grey bird lunch bag beautiful?

Bec's lunch bag - grey linen bird

Su, another experienced dressmaker from Alice Loves Handmade, chose this pink elephant fabric for her daughter. It turned out so pretty and girly. I’m also pleased that most of my testers were able to make the lunch bags without having to print out the 20-odd-page instruction. You can see how nice the pattern looks on Su’s iPad in the photo. But more about the pattern itself later.

Su's lunch bag - Pink elephant with iPad

Last but not the least, Erika helped me out all the way from Vermont, US. She’s an avid crafter, and was the one who initially encouraged me to write patterns. She made not one but two lunch bags using her own fabrics – because sending kit materials to the US would take so long. I love both her bags! She made her own handles, too, which add a lot to the design, don’t you think?

Erika's lunch bag - Hello KittyErika's princess lunch bag

I really enjoyed working with all the pattern testers, and feel that they are now part of my team. It gets lonely sometimes working alone in my studio at home. So even though I have never met any of the testers personally or even spoken to them on the phone, it’s been wonderful to have this teamwork experience by email. It just shows how generous and supportive this crafting community is. Thanks a million for your help, and I look forward to working with you again in the future!

Zakka sewing class no. 4 – drawstring tote bags

We had a lot of fun this week at our fourth zakka sewing class.  We made drawstring tote bags, even though we had made tote bags a couple of months ago, because a couple of new members really wanted to make tote bags.  We decided on the drawstring version to keep everyone interested.  

I made muffins.  Vicky made muffins and scones.  She’s amazing.  

photo of muffins

photo of scones and muffins Vicky madeHere are the lovely bags everyone made.  It was a smaller class this time, because a few people couldn’t make it.  But not to worry, here’s my tutorial for everyone who missed the class.  

photo of drawstring tote bags made by class

I love the fabrics people chose.  The Japanese ballet fabric was perfect for a bag, which will be used for a little girl’s dance lessons.  And the navy dot bag will be used as a two-year-old boy’s lunch bag.  So cute!

photo of drawstring tote bags made by class

We are all fast becoming good friends, too.  We go fabric shopping together, and meet up for morning tea.  I am looking forward to our next sewing class – in which we’ll be making boy shorts and girl skirts.  Not strictly “zakka” I realize, but that’s okay.  Having made bags and potholders, we are moving on to children’s apparel.  Vicky will teach the skirt part, and I’ll teach the shorts part.  Fun!

 

Tutorial: drawstring tote bag

 

We made drawstring tote bags this week at our fourth zakka sewing class.  What is a drawstring tote bag?  Well, as the name would imply, it is a tote bag with a drawstring closure.  A picture below will say it all.  These hybrid bags appear in many Japanese craft books as children’s lunch bags, etc.

photo of a finished drawstring tote bag

This tutorial will make a fully lined tote bag in the above photo, about 8″ wide, 9″ tall, and 3.5″ deep.  A little bigger than a child’s lunch bag, but it’s a versatile size for either a child or an adult.  Of course you can modify the size to your liking.

What you need:

  • 1/2 yard of fabric for the bag body – canvas, denim, interior fabric, or other sturdy fabric is recommended.
  • 1/2 yard of fabric for the lining and the drawstring top – any lightweight woven fabric, like quilting cotton, will do.
  • 1 yard of cotton webbing for the bag handles (or you can make your own).
  • About 1.5 yard of plaited cord, ribbon, or any other material for the drawstring.

Step 1: Cut all the fabric pieces

  • Main bag body: (13″ x 12″) x 2 pieces
  • Lining: (13″ x 12″) x 2 pieces
  • Drawstring top: (13″ x 6″) x 2 pieces
  • 2 x cotton webbing in the desired handle length (plus 1″ for seam allowance)

photo of all the cut pieces for drawstring tote bag

Step 2: Prepare the drawstring top

(1) Overlock or zig zag stitch the sides of each piece (just the two sides; you don’t have to overlock the top and bottom edges)

photo showing overlocking or zig zag finishing the sides of thedrawstring top

(2) Mark with a pencil at 2.5″ from the top, on each side.  Sew the two drawstring top pieces together on each side, starting at the marked points and all the way down (again, just the side seams – don’t sew the bottom seam together). Sew at 1/2″ seam allowance.

photo showing how to sew the side seam of a drawstring top

(3) Press the side seams open, and from the wrong side, sew all the way around the open top sides.  Like this:

photo showing how to sew the top side seams of a drawstring top

(4) Fold the top seams over twice, making sure you leave enough space inside to thread your drawstring cord.  Stitch very close to the folded edge.

photo showing how to sew the top of drawstring bag

Step 3: Prepare the bag body and the lining

(1) With the right side of fabric pieces together, sew all the way around the three sides of the main bag body, at 1/2″ seam allowance.  Repeat for the lining – except leave about 4″ of seam unsewn (so you can turn the bag inside out later on).  I tend to leave this opening in the middle of a side seam.  But it doesn’t matter where really, as long as the opening ins’t too close to the corners.

Photo showing how to sew the sides and bottom seams of the bag and lining

(2) Cut the corners off and sew the gussets.

Mark about a 1.5″ square on the bottom corners of the main bag and the lining.  I measure this length not from the edge of the fabric, but from the sewn line.  Cut the squares off.

a photo of fabric with corners cut off for gussets

Tease each corner open, and sew at 3/8″ seam allowance.  Repeat for the remaining corners.

a photo showing how to sew a gusset

Step 4: Assemble all the pieces together

(1) Mark where you want to attach the bag handles, and sew them on to the top of the body, at about 1/4″ from the top, to the right side of the bag body.  Make sure the handles are attached in the inverse position, with the handles facing south.

photo showing how to baste handles on a bag body

(2) Layer the drawstring top over the main bag body, at the top, with the right sides of the fabrics facing together.  Make sure the finished edge of the drawstring flap (the part where you thread the cord) is facing south.

(3) Now, layer the lining over the drawstring top, with the right side of the lining facing the wrong side of the drawstring flap.  Basically, you are layering all three pieces together, with the drawstring top sandwiched in between the main bag and lining.  I hope it makes sense.

photo showing how to assemble three layers of bag parts together

(4) Pin the three layers together at the side seams, making sure all the three side seams are matching up.

(5) Sew the three layers together, all the way around the bag, at about 1/2″ from the raw edge.  If you sew slowly, while gently pulling the fabrics towards you as you sew, everything should match up more easily.  Press the seam (it’s always a good idea to press over a sewn seam for a cleaner finish).

Step 5: Finishing up

You are nearly done!

(1) Turn the bag inside out from the opening in the lining.  Press the top seam open.

(2) Tuck the lining and the drawstring top inside the main bag, and press the top seam again.

(3) Top stitch all the way around the top edge of the bag (very close to the edge, at about 1/8″ from the top).

photo showing the topstitching at the top of the bag

(4) If everything looks good, sew the opening in the lining shut.  Being lazy, I always use a sewing machine, but blind stitching by hand will make a more beautiful finish.

(5) Thread your drawstring cords at desired length.  A bodkin will come in very handy if you have one.  If not, a safety pin will do.

 

And that’s it!  Yay!  If you don’t want to use the drawstring closure, just tuck the flap inside, and you can use it as a regular tote bag.

photo showing the inside of a finished drawstring tote bag

And if you were looking to make a lined tote bag without the drawstring closure, just omit making the drawstring top from this tutorial.  You might want to attach a set of magnetic buttons to the lining though.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zakka sewing class no. 3

 

This month at our zakka sewing group meeting, we made cushion covers with zippers.  Vicky from the accidental crafter blog has graciously agreed to teach the class this time — so I didn’t have to do anything.  Well I cleaned the house a little,  and made a pound cake.  But that’s about it.

third zakka sewing class - everyone working at a small dining table

 

My dining table was just big enough to accommodate all the keen sewers, who by the way are no longer beginners.  I think everyone had a great time.  

Here are the lovely cushions everyone made.

cushions everyone made at the August zakka sewing meeting

Vicky has also made yummy muffins. She is super talented at everything.  

Blueberry muffins Vicky made

Vicky’s tutorial for the cushion cover is posted on her blog here – so you can make one, too!  Thanks so much, Vicky, for doing all the work, while suffering from a bad cold. I’ll make it up to you next time….  

And next month, we are making a drawstring tote bag.