Everyday Tote Bag

I have been wanting a new tote bag for a while. You’d think I have plenty of bags to choose from by now – but I didn’t. I have several bucket nappy bags, a backpack convertible bag, a beach tote bag… and they are all wonderful for family outings. But they are all too big for everyday use. What I needed was a bag small enough for my wallet, phone, keys, small snacks… and my beloved iPad. That’s it. 

Black cat tote bag by piggledee

So this is the little black bag I whipped up this morning. I used a very sturdy cotton canvas fabric my mother found in Japan a couple of years ago. I love the cute-but-not-too-childish print of cats, yarn, apples, and other whimsical drawings.

Black cat tote bag by piggledee detail view

I like sturdy bags, so I used black canvas for the lining, fortified with interfacing.  There is a little patch pocket inside for my phone.  I also installed a carabiner tab on the side for my keys. These tabs are so handy – because there is nothing more frustrating than having to fish for your keys in your bag when you are in a hurry.

Black cat tote bag by piggledee inside view

The handles are heavy-duty cotton webbing in black.  All this blackness means I won’t have to wash this bag for a long time! Plus black goes with everything – especially in winter. The handles are long enough for me to carry the bag from my shoulder. 

Black cat tote bag by piggledee bottom view

The bag has a narrow flat bottom.

Black cat tote bag by piggledee

See, the bag is just the right size for all my needs, but there is still a little room left for extra things, just in case.

I’m very happy how the bag came out! I might make some for my shop in the future. 

 

 

Echino fabric boxes

I am a big fan of “Echino” fabrics by Japanese designer Etsuko Furuya. Her designs for this year are particularly pretty.

Photo collage of new Echino fabrics

Although my sewing room is overflowing with fabric, I could not resist ordering these prints. They arrived this week, and they were even prettier in person! I wanted to play with them right away.  The bird prints posed a challenge though, because the birdies were bigger than I thought. They are almost life sized, ready to fly out of the fabric. So I put them aside, and played with the other prints instead.

fabric boxes by Piggledee

Small fabric boxes! I thought these super bright, bold prints could be overwhelming in large sizes. But as small boxes, they exude just the right amount of impact. Put one or two on your work desk, and they’ll brighten up your space – and your mood, too – instantly. Or so I would hope.

Echino fabric boxes by Piggledee

 

Echino fabric boxes by Piggledee

green fabric box with an orange by Piggledee

They are large enough – or small enough – for one big orange or apple. Which is a great size for desktop organization. I use these boxes in my sewing room for organizing small sewing tools, address stamps, washi tapes, cut-up velcro strips… etc. They are very handy to have.

Echino fabric boxes by Piggledee bottom view

I used heavy-duty cotton for the bottom to give firm structure. I also padded the fabric for structure and cushiness. 

Echino fabric boxes by Piggledee lining view

To match the vividness of the Echino colors, I chose vivid Kona cotton colors for the lining. 

Echino fabric boxes by Piggledee

It’s hard to choose which box is my favorite – but I love this green stripe one in particular. It’s cool because you see different patterns and colors from different angles.  

Next project: what should I make with those life-sized bird fabrics?

 

Teapot Cozy

It’s getting cold here in Sydney. I love fall dearly, but I don’t love how quickly my tea or coffee gets cold, before I even have a chance to drink it.  A constant supply of hot beverage is essential to keep me going, especially when I work my “night shift” in my sewing room.

So last night, I decided I needed a teapot cozy. 

Piggledee photo fo a potholder pattern in progress

I began by playing with paper. I’m terrible with maths, so the only way I can come up with three-dimensional patterns is by trial and error. Making a pattern using paper is easy and inexpensive. You draw something to start with on paper, cut them out and put them together with sticky tape, and try it on a teapot. If it doesn’t fit, you cut off excess paper or add extra bits to the pattern, until it’s a perfect fit. 

 

Piggledee teapot cozy pattern in progress

It took a few tries to get here, but the rest is easy. You copy the tattered pattern onto a clean piece of paper and smooth out the lines. Now you are ready to sew up a sample!

Piggledee photo fo a sample teapot cozy with cat fabric

I love this cat fabric by Japanese designer Megumi Sakakibara. It’s 100% linen – gorgeous, isn’t it?

Piggledee photo of a sample teapot cozy with cat print

This is a view from the other side. And there is a surprise! The teapot cozy is reversible.

Piggledee teapot cozy sample with flannel fabric

For the reverse side, I used a flannel-like fabric by another favorite Japanese designer, Mico Ogura – isn’t the small-scale winter scenery appropriate for a teapot cozy?  There is a layer of Insul-Bright inside, to keep the teapot warm.  I finished the bottom with a brown linen bias tape.

Piggledee sample teapot cozy hat

And the cozy also doubles as a silly baby hat!

I stayed up extra late last night to actually test out my new cozy. Did it work? Yes, it did! No more going back to the kitchen for my second cup of tea to be microwaved. Hooray! 

 

 

 

New and improved sandwich bags

Sandwich bags are one of those seemingly simple products that are, in fact, troublesome to make. Well, technically it’s not difficult to make of course. It’s just difficult to come up with the perfect design – at least for me it was. In the past I have made a zippered version like this…

Zippered sandwich bag - pink elephant

and a simple velcro version with velcro tabs at the top of the bag (the one on the right)…

Velcro-top sandwich bag - Cats

and a flap version with a single fabric like this.

Flap sandwich bag - hippos

But none of them was truly satisfactory to me. Why? Well, here are my “pros and cons” comparison notes.

Zippered Version

Pros: Neat-looking design. Food bits don’t get stuck in the velcro. Easy to maintain and wash. Probably lasts longer than velcro ones. A versatile pouch, because it’s great as snack bags (muffins, crackers, etc). Also can be used as a small wet bag, for wipes, makeup, crayons, and so on.

Cons: Fiddly to get a sandwich in and out of the bag because the zipper doesn’t open to the full width of the bag. If the zipper width is wide enough, then it’s too wide inside the bag, and the sandwich swims in it. Zipper can be fiddly to use for toddlers.

Velcro-Top Version

Pros: Nice simple design. Easy for children to use. Sandwich fits in snugly and securely.

Cons: Food can get stuck in the velcro while putting a sandwich in and out. Fluff sticks to velcro in the wash. Stitch lines for sewing the velcro shows through – not a very elegant finish.

Velcro-on-Flap Version 1

Pros: Flaps are cute. Food doesn’t get caught in the velcro as much, because the sandwich doesn’t have to touch the velcro strips while packing and unpacking. Sandwich fits in snugly and securely. Velcro is easier for kids to use.

Cons: The one-fabric design only works with non-directional prints – meaning, fabrics that have no upside and downside. The flap section was small, and it took some force to rip the velcro open. The stitch marks around the velcro strips can be really noticeable. And then there is the issue of washing velcro, and a possibly short lifespan of velcro products.

New!! Velcro-on-Flap Version 2

Version 2 of flap-style sandwich bags

So this is my latest sandwich bag. Is this the “perfect” sandwich bag I was seeking? I think it’s very close. Here’s the “pros and cons” assessment:

Pros: I love that I can slide a sandwich in and out of the bag smoothly, without worrying about food getting caught in the zipper or velcro tab. The sandwich sits in the bag snugly and securely – not as snugly as with a sandwich wrap, but close.

I also love the two-fabric design. It allows me to use rather special fabrics for the small flap section, while keeping the cost down somewhat by using plain cotton linen canvas fabric. I can also use directional prints this way, because the print is used only for the flap bit.

The flap section is larger than the first flap version, which adds to the cuteness factor. More importantly, the large flap allows an extra-wide space between the edge of the flap and the velcro strips. You can grab onto this bit of fabric to open the velcro easily – very child friendly.

Version 2 of flap-style sandwich bags - view with the flap open

If I use busy prints for the flap section, the stitch lines for the velcro are not noticeable. Pretty elegant looking overall.

New sandwich bag - closeup of the flap

Cons: The only cons here are the inherent problems associated with velcro – tricky to keep clean and wash, and the lifespan may not be terribly long. Of course, if the velcro stops sticking after a couple of years, it’s easy to replace them – so I hope people will not throw these pretty bags away!

Version 2 of flap-style sandwich bags - Liberty Hello Kitty bags

How adorable are these Liberty Hello Kitty sandwich bags? They are so pretty, in fact, that you can use them for other things like pens and crayons (the waterproof nylon lining comes in handy here). If I attach a shoulder strap, it’ll be such a cute little girl’s bag, too, don’t you think?

These sandwich bags will be available at my upcoming Facebook market day, and will be listed on Etsy later on.

New sandwich bag lineup

 

Backpack diaper bag

I didn’t think I needed a new nappy bag – I already have two styles of nappy bags on Etsy and madeit, and they are both very popular. But this week, while climbing this tower in a local playground, hauling my kids all the way to the top and then back down, I suddenly realized that I needed a new nappy bag.

Playground tower at Newington Armory in Sydney

So when we came back home, I spent the rest of the day and much of the night thinking about the design. Then the following day, I made this.
New backpack nappy diaper bag - front view
Hmm, isn’t it just another big elephant bag, looking slightly more sporty than my other bags? Well, maybe, but not really. If you look closer, it’s actually more like my French pastry bag (or the “birthday tote bag“) than like my “daycare bag” or “beach tote bag.”
New backpack nappy diaper bag - bottom view
It has a wide rectangle bottom.

New backpack nappy diaper bag - inside view

I also used heavy-duty cotton for the lining, to give the bag a firm structure. You can see it’s firm enough to stand well on its own, with nothing in the bag.

There is one large patch pocket inside. I used the same yellow elephant fabric here, but in retrospect it was a bit too much of the elephants. Next time I’ll make a plain white pocket.

New backpack nappy diaper bag - front pocket view

The main bag body has two decorative white vertical stripes, to give it a sporty look. There is a “hidden” pocket in the middle of the stripes, on each side of the bag. These pockets are not huge, but are handy for things like sunglasses, wallets, and keys. 

New backpack nappy diaper bag - front pocket detail view

The bag comes with two adjustable, removable straps. That means you can carry the bag as a traditional tote bag with two handles, or use just one strap to carry it like a messenger bag.

New backpack nappy diaper bag - front strap view

It looks a little like my “daycare bag” like this. It’s great for hanging over stroller handles.

But the best feature of all, is that you can attach the two straps like this….

 

New backpack nappy diaper bag - backpack straps view

and you can wear it as a backpack in case of emergency – like having to push two kids up an enormous tower, or when crossing a busy road holding their hands.

The “backpack conversion process” takes just about 5 seconds. Well, it might take a few seconds longer if you need to adjust the strap lengths. Anyway, I tried to make it as painless as possible.

The bag is not quite ready for sale yet, because I need to source better hardware. I mean, the ones I used function fine, but I know there are more elegant-looking clips out there. It should be shop ready in 3-4 weeks.

Overall I’m very pleased with this bag. The hardest part was to make the bag look good both as a nappy bag and as a backpack. It gave me quite a headache thinking about it, but in the end, I figured that most people would use it mainly as a regular nappy bag, and use the backpack feature only occasionally. So I prioritized the nappy bag part of the design.

New backpack nappy diaper bag - being worn by me

So you see, it may not look very backpack-like when worn like a backpack… but I think it looks okay, and it’s surprisingly comfortable. And when you really need your hands free to look after your kids, it’ll be priceless to have that option.

By the way, don’t you just love this yellow elephant fabric? I’ve been using the elephant fabric for years, but had never thought to order the yellow variety before – because I thought it was too similar to orange. But the yellow is so much more beautiful in person – it’s such a gentle, sophisticated color. It’s similar to the grey elephant one in that sense – both are perfectly suitable for grownups to wear.

 

 

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.