Edit — The free pattern for Small Town Charm embroidery blocks is no longer available.
I wanted to share my completed Small Town Charm project with you. The blocks I have shared in previous posts have been incorporated into a tote bag for my friend June. The bag was made with short straps to go over her walker handles, and buttons to hold them in place. It also has ties on the side to keep the bag from swinging while the walker is in ‘motion’.
Before I made this project I took a look at her existing bag and measured it. Those measurements were important as I created the new bag, since I didn’t have a walker handy to test the fit.
I had fun figuring out which fabrics I wanted to use for the bag, making my choices from that one box of fabric I had dumped out and sorted. I really wanted to make the bag for June using her OWN fabric. My hope is the fabrics will be ones she remembers having. While they don’t have the same elegance as the beautiful blues and golds in the bag picture above, they do remind me of things she likes. And, when I agreed to make the new bag, June didn’t make any color requests. Well…you know that I like things scrappy!
I played around with lots of color combinations, and thought about how I wanted to “construct” the bag. Once the decisions were made, the extra bits of fabric came down off the wall, and the construction was pretty simple.
After the front and back of the bag was made, I layered it with Pellon 973F (Fusible Fleece) and did some quilting. I made the straps, and put the bag together.
Once the outside of the bag was made, I chose one of those pretty pink fabrics and made the lining. I added pockets for both sides of the lining. I used the fusible fleece in the pockets too, so it has some body.
Construction is similar to lining any tote bag. Once your lining is ready, you slide the main bag inside the lining, with pretty sides (right sides touching). You have to make sure you leave an opening for turning. My opening was on the side, just above the edge of the pockets.
Those little clips are great for holding the edges of the bag together and keeping everything lined up during the sewing process. You can see the stitching of the pockets on the back side of that lining in the photo above.
Below, is the inside of the bag showing the pockets.
Once the bag was pulled through the opening and turned “right side out, a quick press along that top seam, and of the lining before top stitching around the upper edges. I use my clips then as well to make sure there is no shifting.
Button holes in the straps for two closing positions, and some bright shiny buttons on the Flower Shop side of the bag.
The blue bag she had previously had a bit of velcro tab to keep the bag closed. I added a 3″ strip of velcro near the top edge of the new bag, skipping the tab. I also added two pockets on the sides of the bag, where she can keep a packet of tissues if she likes. The ties for the walker on the bottom are made from June’s stash of bias tape binding.
The bag has a “scrappy quilter” look to it I think. My husband, who knows her so well, thinks she is going to “LOVE” the new bag. I had fun making the Small Town Charm embroidery blocks, and building a bag that will be functional for her. I’m glad I have had a little experience making bags in the past few years, or I would never have tackled this without a specific pattern in hand.
If I was making this into a tote / purse for myself, I would not have used the dimensional awning on the flower shop, but I knew the bag would be stationary once attached to the walker, and I think the flower shop will face out, so it won’t get mashed during use. For myself, I would use a magnetic closure, and put a couple of key ring loops inside the bag to have a spot for hooking my car keys. (Hate hunting in the bottom of a bag for keys!) Because of where / how June lives, she really doesn’t use keys.
Do you enjoy bag making? Any tips? Do you have a favorite pattern that you make frequently?
update (March 2022) – the free pattern is no longer available
I worked on the Small Town Charm -Flower Shop block on Sunday and Monday. When I set it up in my embroidery machine, it gives me the stitching details. I did remember to watch the you tube videos before I started. I have to tell you that I set the you tube speed setting at 2x to buzz through the very chatty video. These blocks are stitched out on my Janome 11000 machine. They are free downloads from Designs in Machine embroidery. I’ll put links for the block and the video at the end of the post.
The Flower Shop block has 28 color changes, the stitching time is 75 minutes, and there are 29610 stitches in the project for the 5×7 size project. I stitched it my 8×8 hoop.
What you “don’t see” on the screen, and what has to be done while the project block is ready to begin is all the preparation for the machine applique. Fabric choices must be made, and the fabric needs to have some wonder under applied to the back for the applique. The wonder under/heat n bond lite help with the trimming.
Oh, and those thread choices…..I probably added 4 or 5 extra in as I went along. My big ironing station is to the left of my embroidery machine and I use it as a staging point for the threads. Usually I have my thread lined up on an old calendar page for color change order, but not with these blocks. I did a run thru with the color sheet, and on the machine I paged thru the various colors, but what I really did was zoom in closely on the pattern on my computer and make some color plans.
I have a basket on the ironing station with the prepared fabrics and leave my self a corner to press if I need to use the iron. And bobbins….I often wind a bobbin with a similar thread if there is a lot of heavy stitching. This precludes any chance of a bit of white bobbin thread showing. I use children’s pony tail holders to contain the loose tails of my threads.
The previous block was made using a bit from my stash, and I thought I would chose my background fabric for the next block out of a box of my friend June’s “stash”. (You might remember that I packed up her sewing room 3 or 4 years ago when she moved to assisted living, and I am still going through those boxes organizing.) The applique pieces come straight out of my scrap drawers.
I decided to just “dump out” the box with the reds, pinks and blues on my big table to select fabric. It was labeled SORT and had the colors on the end of the box, so I am actually doing double duty. No wonder it takes me so long!
I thought she might enjoy seeing some of her own fabric in her bag. Of course, just dumping it on the table made a mess, and I am gradually measuring and refolding and sorting it all. In the process of the sorting I have plucked out several more pieces I think will work for the bag I am going to make. No doubt I will be digging for turquoise and purple soon.
The fabrics got restored to their box after doing some pressing and folding. I found some great fat quarters, and other fabrics that might get introduced into this bag. There was way to much 1980’s dusty rose or mauve for my taste in this box! You will see the choices I made later, as I am still ruminating on them.
It’s pretty exciting to see the machine counting down and to know I am nearing the end with no troubles during the stitching. 3 minutes to finish the 29,610 stitches! And that spool in the bottom left corner tells me I am on color #27 out of 28. PHEW…….
There is a second hooping for the block on the left to be done, and it is for the awning. I was able to actually stitch out TWO awnings in one hooping. They stitch out quickly, but are quite fiddly to turn. I ran the stitching for the awning twice, and had trouble during the turning, so stitched it again on my sewing machine.
Below are the two blocks side by side, and I still have to put the awning on the one on the left.
I spent nearly an hour turning the awning and getting the little scallops to pop out. They were challenging and tiny. I used a pair of forceps to poke around and hold and help me turn. My tweezers were too pointy and ended up poking a hole and I had to re-stitch that bit.
I decided to make the awning dimensional, but tack it down snuggly as it will get a lot of handling on a bag. I think it turned out well.
I thought I would share a couple of comments on how I did this block. I hoop my stabilizer, and then put a piece of batting on top and run a basting outline stitch over it to tack it down. Then I floated my pink background fabric and ran another basting stitch to tack it down. After that is done, I start the design, and the first step is a placement line for the building background. I didn’t want the pink to show through, so I added another bit of batting on top of the pink, in the same space where the building will go. Then I place the building (yellow fabric) over the placement line. I use a piece much bigger than the outline, and run the tack down line again, and then trim and do the rest of the stitching. The extra layer of batting gave those stitched in bricks extra dimension. Plus, it really helped with all the heavy stitching on this block without adding more stabilizer. (This digitizer did not give a placement line and a tack down line for several parts, so, it was a bit of a challenge.)
Another choice I made was to add a little “fabric in the window” of the door. I fussy cut that pink floral from an absolutely hideous print I found in June’s box!
And, as I mentioned I added extra colors in my thread choices. I used some variegated threads for the blossoms and stopped the machine to change the green threads for the various leaves of the plants and for the various baskets. To give the blocks some “continuity” I used the same plaid fabric for the sidewalk on both blocks, and the same yellow “building” fabric on both blocks.
Whenever I am working with these applique type blocks, there is a lot of stopping, taking the hoop off the machine (project remains hooped) and trimming along tack-down lines etc. Depending on how well the digitizer did the stitch selection for tack-down, there is a chance for error or pulling. On both blocks in this collection, the tack-down only ran one series of stitches. The other thing I noticed is with the satin stitching and how narrow the unlay zig zag stitching was. I have experience with other digitizers (Sweet Pea designs for one) who do a much better job with this step. So, fair warning, when you run the tackdown on this design, run the step a second time. I ended up with my “sidewalk” pulling in one corner. Now, that could be because the zigzag underlayment wasn’t wide enough for the satin stitching or my fabric gave way due to the open weave of the fabric. The wonder-under / heat n bond light should have prevented the fabric pulling .
I knew that I had to fix that little pull once I took the project out of the hoop. I loaded the same silver thread into my sewing machine and did a tiny zigzag all along the edge of the sidewalk along the satin stitching. Yes, if you zoom in on the picture with the awning you can see it, but it saved the block. Not show worthy, for certain, but it will keep the bit from coming loose on a finished bag. I did a similar repair on the Ice Cream Scoops block. Hey, stuff happens, but it helps to have a way to fix it and carry on. My husband spent a few minutes looking closely and couldn’t find the fix. I am pointing it out to use as a lesson on how I “recover and carry on” with a block. Too many hours to get frustrated and be dissatisfied, when fixing it is possible.
The table in the sewing room is cleaned up again, and the thread back on the wall racks. The blocks are on the design wall with some fabrics that I am considering. The bag pattern is still being considered as well. A rainy day, perfect for sewing is ahead.
By the way, did you see the post – it note on the very first picture? I think the last time I changed my needle in that machine was July 3rd, and I’ve done a project or two since then. The post it note helps me remember when that was, and since it is the 1st of September, perhaps it is time to clean the machine and change the needle! How often do you change your embroidery machine needle? Curious…….Thanks for stopping by and commenting.
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