Taking care of some odds and ends

A few years ago, I made a project, called a Beatle Bag.  I wrote about it here – beatle bag .

This bag is my “take it with me” sewing kit full of all those essentials you need when you are “away” from your home sewing room. The pattern information is in the post  above from 2014.   This was a pattern I picked up at a quilt show and paid $20 for the pattern and the vinyl pockets. Note; not just any vinyl pocket – double ended with spots in the center for securing them in the beatle bag.  The “BASICS” of the bag are worth doing!  I have used the bag below for 5 years straight, so it is looking worn.

Well used beatle bag

I learned a lot about sewing through multiple layers and fighting with poor stitches when I had a needle that was TOO small during this project.  I learned that sewing through velcro required a #16 / heavy duty / denim needle, as did putting the binding on this project, after the fact. (Oh, the stitching is ugly).  Oh, yes, I used a twill fabric for the outside, not a quilters cotton as suggested. Could explain some of my issues I suppose, but it has held up quite well!

I take this sewing bag with me EVERY time I leave the house to go to a guild sewing event, a bee, a sit & sew etc.  It did serve the purpose for which I made it. So, my $20 was not a bad investment….except….. I have spent the LAST 5 years swearing under my breath everytime I unzipped one of those vinyl pockets and came away with the slider in my hand.  I figured that I could carry on; with clips from the office supply store keeping the pockets closed. Bulldog clips; jumbo paper clips, anything I could find to keep the pockets closed.

My dear husband could get the slides back on, but not me.  He said – “Don’t over fill the pockets“.  Ok; I admit it….I put a few tools in the pockets, but not ALL the stuff that was on page 9 of the pattern.  No kleenex, breath mints; chocolate or aspirin.

Ok; I know…I should have had chocolate in there, but because I keep my sewing in the garage, I didn’t want to attract any bugs etc. Anyway, as you see in the photo below; the bags are an unusual configuration and you can see the “off tabs” inside one of the bags!

OLD beatle bag inserts

Anyway…. fast forward 4 years….and I decided enough is enough, and went to Walmart and bought a yard of vinyl.  I sew better now than I did than when I first made the Beatle Bag.  I was pretty convinced one day last year that I could “remake” those pockets. Then, as you know, I got busy. Vinyl sat on the top shelf in the sewing room, gathering dust. 😦

Well….this week I got inspired when I saw a You-Tube video with Kimberly at the Fat Quarter Shop making a  Project bag  with a vinyl “window”.  Then I watched another You Tube “project bag” maker, taking a bit different approach  Another Project bag  .  ( You have to Fast forward to 3:00 mins to get to the project in the 2nd video.)

I had all the supplies on hand to “re-engineer” my pockets.  I had a yard of medium weight vinyl, lots of zippers, and 1/2 yard of 2 really cute “sewing” fabrics that would be fun to use.  I also know when to use a bigger needle when sewing through weird stuff.  (Or at least I thought I did….note – don’t use a 75/11 when going through multiple layers of fabric and vinyl…..upgrade to at least a 90/14.)

I layered up a fabric for the outside and one for the inside with batting; and quilted the entire 1/2 yard in a cross hatch (3″) pattern.  Then I measured out the size I wanted and cut the quilted yardage into 4 pieces.  I marked where the button holes should go, and was desperate for an hour looking for my owners manual for my sewing machine….and how to attach the buttonhole foot. After purging a supply of 2015 -18 fabric sales catalogues from my shelf, I suddenly realized I was putting the buttonhole foot on backwards. I never found my user manual …but I filled a waste basket full of stuff for the recycle bin. (Now that I am finished the book will reappear I am certain).

And, you would have thought I’d remember to put in a bigger needle after I did the quilting…but I didn’t until I had 2 done with some “crummy” stitches in the binding. Don’t zoom in…..(The life story of this bag!)

Beatle bag inserts reinvented

I made them with a zipper at both ends; and buttonholes (2) down the center. The vinyl pocket holds a lot of stuff!

Replacing the vinyl inserts

After I did 2 with RED edges I realized how silly that looked with the purple and green bag, so I went “SCRAPPY” with the remaining 2.

The picture below shows the reason I needed the button holes –

4 new inserts made

The sections are held in bag with velcro tabs that come up the center.

Hindsight – I probably should have “rounded off the corners and just done the binding all the way around; but I didn’t think of that until I realized that the “corners pop out” when the bag is rolled closed.

Beatle bag reinvented

Oh well; what are you going to do?  I think “leave it alone” at this point.  In another 5 years; maybe I will make a new one from scratch and modify the whole project at that point.  (And if you look at the post I first linked to , you will see where my hubby said to “square up the project, not cut it rounded”…lol).

I have “filled” the project pages with my supplies, and there is still room.  And the zippers work, so that is that! For now anyway~!~

Speaking of “odds & ends”, I finished Bird # 3; and got an eye on #2 & #3!  They are all seated politely on the sofa for a photo shoot….then they are “going in the Christmas bin” in the linen closet!

(A look back at this project here – A week of Finishes and Fun  

and here – Cardinal block pattern ) .

Three cardinals finished

I had fun picking out black buttons with gold edges to use for the eyes.

Birds eye view

Edit – the cardinal pattern comes from Mom and Pop Quilt Shop – in Canada. The pattern is free and the page takes a bit of time to load.  This is an EASY pattern and makes a pretty 12″ block. I added borders and quilted with one layer of warm and natural batting and muslin for a backing. After the quilting I turned the squares into “envelope style” cushion covers. They hold 18″ pillow forms.

Another little “odds & ends” job that has been put off for years has been taken care of recently.  I made a bag to carry my cutting mat, ruler, shape cut and assorted stuff back around 2010.   I have had a “hate relationship” with the handles ever since I made the bag.  The bag gets heavy and the measly handles don’t give you anything to “hold on to” when you carry it and they cut into my shoulder.

Disclaimer – It is not the pattern’s fault that I hated the straps….mostly.  The bag was made using a pattern I found online at Moda Bakeshop.  The pattern was called “Cutting Mat Caddy by Melissa Corry”.  (I just looked for the pattern, and can not find it online anymore.  I have a print copy in my 3 ring binder)

When I first made the bag, I used the “general premise” of the pattern, and substituted “leftover squares” from a quilt I made for my granddaughter and my sister (Ok….I got crazy cutting and making 4 patches at some point). Anyway; I made the straps the size she recommended, but  wrapped them completely around the bag and stitched them on BEFORE I sewed the front and back panel together and lined the bag. The pattern didn’t call for you to put anything “inside” the actual handles.

I NOW know that the problem with the old handles (left side of the photo below) is that there was nothing to give stability to the handles…..this was the first bag I ever made.  I have had the bag “sitting” in the sewing room for a year, waiting on new handles.   One day, I grabbed the bag and fabric and just cut off the old handles, and got busy making new ones. In the photo below, you can see how I attached the new handles.

attaching the new straps

Since making this bag in 2010 I have made a couple of other projects that had “better detail” in making bag handles.  I used a layer of quilt batting inside my handles; and did several rows of stitching to stabilize the handles.  The new handles finished off 1 1/2″ wide compared to the old ones that were 1 1/4″.  I figured with good stitching, the handles didn’t NEED to go all the way to the bottom of the bag!  (I did not want to take out the bag lining either!!!)

See those old handles on the left below?  I saved them as a reminder of how to do it “wrong”.

NEW straps on my mat bag

So; version 2.0 of my mat bag is a success.  It holds my 18×24 cutting mat, shape cut and long ruler quite nicely, along with anything else I stuff in.  I’ve had 2 “test runs” to quilting events already and it works great!!  Straps are long enough to go over my shoulder which is what I wanted.

Mat Bag updated version 2.0

I’ve enjoyed working on some of these odds & ends that have been pushed into the corner for way to long.  I’m swearing off new projects until I get a LOT more of the “bits and pieces” taken care of along with the “odds & ends”.

Glad to have some of these projects done and no longer cluttering up my sewing space & head!  What about you?  Anything cluttering up your sewing space that just needs an “afternoon” to fix?

Christmas Cardinal Block

Yesterday I showed you a peak of my Christmas Cardinal Block I was working on.  It was such a cheery block to work with, I just could not “stop” and wait until the Queen Bees gathering on Tuesday.  My husband is still laughing because I was “working ahead” of the bee project!

Cardinals are said to mate for life, and I don’t want an odd number! I finished up the first block and cut enough fabric to make at least 2 or 3 more.  Those pieces will hold until Tuesday for our bee gathering.  

The FREE PATTERN source for the Cardinal block — Mom and Pop Quilt shop

The block was  designed for a Christmas 2017 quilt.  All the specifics are on the link above. Laura-Lynn of Mom & Pop Quilt Shop even wrote a nice comment on yesterday’s blog post and included a you-tube video link   She does videos all the time and has a 48 minute video talking about the construction of the block. Laura-Lynn’s videos make me feel like I am sitting in her sewing room with her, as she chats and laughs while she sews!

Anyway, I thought I would share a little bit more about my first cardinal block.  I decided the block would be incorporated into a pillow.  I sized everything for an 18″ pillow, and used the “envelope style” for ease of stuffing and unstuffing of the pillow form or one of my every day pillows.

Envelope style back

Since it will be a Christmas decoration, I want the ability to pack it away flat after the holiday.  I will probably slip my existing sofa pillows into the cushion cover.

The block finished at 12″ and I added a borders before quilting.  I really wanted the bird to “pop”, so after I cut my muslin and cotton batting I slipped 2 more layers of wool batting under the area of the bird.  Once I did some outline quilting of the bird, I folded back the square and trimmed along the edges.  Then I smoothed out the square and did my quilting around the bird.  Once that was all done, I changed to a variegated red  Superior thread and did some quilting on the bird body.  For the beak I switched thread  again, and used some of my embroidery machine thread in gold and black.  Last but not least was  how to make the eye of the cardinal.  I don’t do hand embroidery, so  I dumped out the button box and dug for “just the right” button.  (Note….I am making more pillows, so I held out a “bunch” of those “just the right buttons”.  No, they won’t be the same.  Each will be unique!)   I looked online at a lot of photos of Cardinals to decide just where to place the eye, and to get a look at the way their feathers lay before I quilted!  Those photos led me to pick a button with gold around the edge.

quilted and ready to trim

Once the quilting was finished,  and the button sewn on for the eye, I trimmed off the excess batting and muslin.  (Note, I used the muslin so the inside of the pillow would be smooth)

Here is a close-up of the bird – You can see how I quilted his body.  The addition of the extra 2 layers of batting give the cardinal a plump look.

Cardinal Close-up

The pillow form was inserted and I think I got the look I was after.

Cardinal Pillow finished

I now have a pair of 18″ Christmas pillows from this line of Moda Christmas TOLE fabric.  I bought several yards of the coordinating fabric a few years ago to make 6 Star Christmas pillow slip covers for my daughter.  You might remember I had trouble with one pillow and the markings from a pencil, and had to “remake” her 6th pillow.  So, I ended up with 1 star pillow.   I can STILL see those faint lines from the silver quilt marking pencil, but from a galloping horse it blurs into the background.  The following Christmas I made her a table runner with the same star pattern.  (I linked to it yesterday).   Because I still have several yards left, I chose this fabric for the project.  The body of the cardinal is from red scraps of varying origins and vintages. The selvage was on the red holly leave and was from 1992! While looking at the Moda Tole fabric,  I looked at the sale ticket from the original Moda fabric purchase – 2016. 

Cardinal and Star

In one of the comments yesterday, Quilting Nurse asked if it was a hard pattern to make.  I must say I found it fun and easy!  I mentioned to her a couple of things.  I think the cutting instructions I had could be improved.  The pattern had us cut squares at 2 7/8 for the half square triangles (HST), and 3 1/4″ for the beak quarter square triangles (QST).  I don’t know about you but I like even 1/2 ” increments.    My suggestion is to cut for your favorite method of making a 2.5″ HST.  Some people like to make the 8 at a time method.  I like to cut my HST base pieces at 3″ and construct, and trim to 2.5″ with the June Tailor Perfect Half Square/Quarter Square Triangle ruler.  Others might be using Bonnie Hunter’s methods with strips and the easy angle or Deb Tucker’s method.  Which every way you do it, cut so you have a 2.5″ HST when it is done.   All the squares in the basic block are 2.5″ before being sewn into rows!  Bottom line, I would rather trim than come up short of HST & QST.   So, before you start cutting, decide your “best method” and adjust accordingly.

I will be taking my first bird for show and tell, and doing some more construction during the Queen Bee’s gathering on Tuesday.    If you make one of these Cardinal blocks, tell me what you will do with it.  Wall hanging, table runner, quilt???   Share your photo’s.  Have fun stitching!