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

 

 

Dotty fabric boxes – and a mini tutorial

I started my late-night sewing session last night, intending to make more items for the Facebook auction. But instead I felt compelled to make these fabric boxes for myself. 

Two fabric boxes with brown dot print

Aren’t they pretty? I’m particularly happy about the bit of lining fabrics showing from the outside.

I had been wanting to use these brown and blue / mint green dot fabrics for some time. They are rather pricey, 55% linen, 45% cotton fabric. They have a delicious texture, and the faded-looking colors are just beautiful.

 

large fabric boxes - liningsI love how the blue color of the stripe fabric matches the color of the blue dots. I couldn’t find a suitable stripe fabric for the green version though, so I used solid green cotton.

But why was I suddenly compelled to make these boxes, you ask?

fabric boxes with masking tapes and fabric tapes insideTo put all the fabric and masking tapes I acquired yesterday, of course!

It’s a great size for keeping any little things organised around your office or workroom. Would you like to make one for yourself? It’s easy to make. Here’s a simple mini tutorial for you. This will make a box about 4.25″ wide x 4.5″ high.

DIY fabric box mini tutorial

 

 

I found that the way I made these boxes created a bit of “waste,” because you are left with 8 pieces of perfectly good 4″ square bits of fabric (four for the main and four for the lining). I was going to put those away in my scrap drawer, when I had a brilliant (or pretty obvious?) idea. I could make another box using those bits!

small fabric boxes with brown dot fabric

How cute are these little boxes?

small fabric boxes with brown dot fabric - bottom view

I joined the four 4″ square pieces together like a band, and stitched them onto a square bottom (I used heavy-duty cotton canvas in white – another leftover bits from making larger bags). I did the same for the lining, and then put the main and lining boxes together.

large and small fabric boxes with blue dots

You see the little ones are definitely smaller, but still a very useful size.

large and small fabric boxes - family portrait

They look a little like my family – two parents and two kids. Organization is not my strength – just ask anyone who has been to my embarrassingly messy sewing room. But I’m hoping that these boxes will steer me in the right direction.

 

Pretty, pretty tapes from Japan

You know by now that Japan makes adorable fabrics… but did you know the country also offers most drool-worthy stationary items? Our trusted postman brought me a small box from Japan this morning. And it was not a box of fabrics this time.

Japanese fabric tapes and washi tapes

Well, not exactly.Japanese fabric tapes

Japanese fabric tape rolls

These gorgeous rolls are fabric tapes. Yes, cotton fabric strips with an adhesive backing, so you can stick them onto most everything just like sticky tapes. Washi tapes (paper tapes) – in Japan we call them “masking tapes” – have been all the rage in the West for a while, but I have only recently “discovered” the fabric tapes. And I’m in love. 

Japanese fabric sticker sheet

And you can find fabric stickers in a larger A4 size as well. What fun! You can use them to make your own wall decals, or decorate jars and other household items with it. Unlike washi tapes, these fabric tapes and stickers are not see-through, and more sturdy. They also stick better than paper ones. And they have much more of a presence.

Japanese washi tapes

Of course I had to buy some washi tapes as well. How pretty are these? The variety of designs available is mind boggling, and it was so hard to choose just a few. I wanted to buy everything!

I’ll be using these washi tapes to spruce up my product packaging, which is quite boring right now. Even just a little bit of these tapes stuck on a manila envelope will brighten up the whole thing, or so I’m hoping.

Japanese washi paper stickers

These washi tapes also come in sticker sheets. I love, love, love these. Even though there are only little bits for each design, the variety is great. And they come pre-cut into pretty little shapes like tiny rectangles and circles.

Japanese stickers on jars

I immediately had to play with these new toys. Aren’t these jars pretty? I’ve been wanting to make decorative jars like these ever since I first saw them on home decor blogs. I reuse glass jars all the time, so I can’t wait to stick these pretty tapes onto everything.

 

Birthday tote bag

It’s my mother’s birthday today. Happy birthday, Midori! Here’s a special tote bag I made for her.

black and white tote bag with sheep fabric

Don’t you just love the hint of sheepish playfulness, in the otherwise classic monotone scheme? My mother bought the sheep fabric herself when she was visiting Japan. She actually gave it to me for my birthday – along with stacks of other fabric. But what goes around comes around, and now I’m giving this fabric back to her all dressed up as a bag.

This large tote bag is in the same style as this diaper bag and this shorter variation – all with leather handles and a rectangle bottom. This bag is even more ambitious than the other two because it has not only an exposed zipper pocket…

black sheep tote bag - exposed zipper pocket

but also a recessed zipper top.

black sheep tote bag - recessed zipper top

I’m quite pleased how professional this bag looks! The exposed zipper pocket was much easier the second time. There is another patch pocket on the other side – because when it comes to pockets, the more the merrier.

Here’s what the bottom looks like. I used heavy-duty cotton canvas in grey for the bottom, with lots of interfacing layers glued on for extra stiffness.

black sheep tote bag - bottom view

 

 

My mother is a school teacher, and she lugs around her laptop to school every day. I’ve made her a laptop bag before. But this time, she wanted a bigger bag with a zipper top, so the laptop is hidden from view. This bag is large enough for both a laptop and an A4 folder (plus other personal things).

black sheep tote bag - inside view

I finished this bag just in time to rush to the post office for an Express next-day delivery. Australia Post can be unreliable though, so I’m crossing my fingers it’ll arrive on time!

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!

Hello Kitty madness

I need to admit… since my last post I have officially become obsessed with Liberty Hello Kitty fabrics. I can’t stop thinking about what other little things I can make with those fabrics. Why little things? Well, aside from not needing much fabric, those Liberty fabrics really shine at a small scale, because the prints are so detailed and crisp. Besides, little things are inherently cute, don’t you think, and I have a tendency to be obsessed with tiny creations.

Liberty Hello Kitty sun hats

Aren’t these sun hats pretty? Okay, they are not exactly “little” – they are for 3 year olds. But still, hats don’t require too much fabric in the scheme of things. Each hat takes less than 1/4 meter of the main fabric.

Liberty Hello Kitty hats being made

Here’s a shot of the hats before they had linings. The Liberty fabric is very lightweight, so I fused it first with woven interfacing to give it the body a hat needs.

Liberty Hello Kitty sun hat with pink stripes

This one has pink and white stripe lining, which is very girly and dreamy.

Liberty Hello Kitty sun hat with bright pink lining

This vivid-colored hat has solid hot pink lining. The lining is important because you’ll see it when you wear this hat with its brim rolled up. It’s fun to have a different fabric peeking under the brim. These hats are actually reversible, but seriously, would you ever wear them to hide the gorgeous Kitty print?

And while at it, I couldn’t resist making something else to go with these hats.

Liberty Hello Kitty mini handbags

Mini handbags! I had so much fun making them. These are just little zippered coin purses basically, but with the little handles, don’t they look like handbags?

Liberty Hello Kitty mini handbags as a phone case

They may be small, but not completely useless. I could fit an iPhone in it, so a grownup could use it as a phone case. They are lightly padded as well.

Liberty Hello Kitty mini handbags as a phone caseNow, what else can I make with these fabrics….? To be continued.

Liberty Hello Kitty fabrics… and DIY covered button hair ties

I am not a huge Hello Kitty fan. I mean, I probably was when I was 8 or so, and all the little girls in Japan loved everything with Hello Kitty on it. I know the Cat has since become an international icon of cuteness, but I never quite understood why.

So when I first saw Hello Kitty fabrics from Liberty of London (was it a few years ago?) – I didn’t get it. To me, Liberty of London tana lawn meant top-quality, luxury fabric for grownups. These fabrics are super expensive, and frankly, just too good for children who’d smear spaghetti sauce on them. And Hello Kitty meant… well, “childish trinkets” comes to mind when I think of it. Liberty and Hello Kitty just didn’t seem to mix.

Until I saw this fabric.

Liberty Hello Kitty Art fabric

Wow! So beautiful and cheesy at the same time. The design is so clever in that, while the cats are everywhere, they are well-blended into the overall pattern – you probably wouldn’t even notice the cats when looking from a distance. Instead of being the main thing, Hello Kitty has become dots, flowers, and colors.

When I learned that these fabrics are only available for sale in Japan in limited quantities, I had to order some right away. Never mind the exorbitant price tag.

Hello Kitty Liberty fabrics

And these arrived yesterday. I love, love, love them. The silky quality of Liberty Tana Lawn fabric, combined with the detailed and crisp print, and the silly cuteness of colourful cats everywhere, is a winning combination – even for a grownup I might say.

Hello Kitty Liberty fabrics - selvedge

 

Here’s what the selvedge looks like: Printed in Japan, and for sale only in Japan. It’s not allowed to make products out of this fabric for sale.

Now the dilemma was, on one hand these fabrics were too precious to cut into. On the other hand, I was dying to play with the kitties because they were too darn cute. Hmm… The solution?

Hello Kitty Liberty covered button hair ties

Covered buttons of course! Made into girly hair ties! These were so easy and satisfying to make – and require only a tiny amount of fabric. Would you like to give it a try? Here’s what you need:

Materials needed for covered buttons

You can buy covered button sets from a craft shop, or online. They are pretty cheap in bulk and come in different sizes. Each set has a rounded, outer button and the backside panel. Make sure they come with the mould tool, or buy it separately. I bought mine here.

Step 1: Make a template with clear plastic so you can “fussy cut” the fabric. The button kits I had are about 1 1/8″ in diameter. The template should be a circle with about 2 1/8″ diameter. I marked the center of the template, so it’s easier to place a desired object – say, a Kitty face – right in the middle of the button.

Step 2: Place the template onto the right side of the fabric, and trace around it with a pen.

covered button DIY - cut fabric

Step 3: Cut the fabric.

covered button DIY - cut fabric

Step 4: Sandwich the fabric between the mould and the rounded outer button. Make sure the right side of the fabric is facing the mould side. Press the button into the mould.

covered button DIY - setting the button

 

If you have a clear mould, you can check from the other side if the pattern is placed where you want it. You also have to be a little careful with very lightweight fabric like Liberty tana lawn, because the fabric can get stretched out of shape — and the pretty face of the cat could be distorted. If you are not happy here, you can take the button out the mould and start again, till you get the result you want.

covered button DIY - place fabric on mould

Here the fabric is pushed all the way in.

 

covered button DIY - back of button

Step 5: Press the back of the button into the mould till it clicks in. I just use my fingers here, even though the mould comes with a little tool for pushing the back panel in (it’s the little round blue thing you see in the photo above).

 

Step 6: Pop the button out of the mould, and that’s it!

Step 7: Thread a narrow, commercial hair tie through the loop hole in the back of the button, and you just made the world’s prettiest hair tie for your little girl – or for yourself.

covered button DIY - threading hair elastic

You can also buy covered button kits with a flat back, without the loop hole. You can glue them onto DIY hair slides, or magnets, or little pegs… the possibilities are endless.

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.

 

 

Zip-top daycare bag (i.e. diaper bag)

Recently I was asked to make a nappy bag with a zipper-top closure instead of a magnetic button closure. I said yes, thinking it wouldn’t be too hard.

Zipper-top diaper bag in green elephant

Well it turned out to be a little more challenging than I anticipated. Simply inserting a zipper at the top is easy. But keeping the D-ring tabs on either top ends of the bag – which is part of the bag design, allowing the shoulder strap to attach neatly – required some thought.

In the end the solution was simple – I used a recessed zipper design, which I have used before for my wristlet pouches.

Looks great, doesn’t it? I also attached a handy carabiner tab (I used a lovely linen tape here) just under the zipper here, so you don’t lose your keys or wristlet pouches. You don’t really need these for my regular diaper bags with magnetic button closure, because you can simply use the D rings on either side, and tuck the hanged items inside the bag. With the zipper-top, you can’t do that because then you won’t be able to close the zipper.

I’m pleased with this optional design. This bag will be great for traveling, too, because the content will not spill out when accidentally knocked over under the aiplane seat, for example. You can also carry your tablet or laptop and feel secure about it. These zipper-top nappy bags are now available to order on my Etsy shop.

I love it when my customers challenge me to come up with a new design feature I had not made before. It allows me to experiment with new things, and expand my creative horizon.