February Bag of the Month

My February FrouFrou Bag

When I saw the name of the February bag (Windowshopper, by Mrs. H.), I knew exactly which of the fabrics in my stash I would use! What a perfect excuse.

No pocket on the front, just a large one on the back and the two interior ones.

I made the interior zipped pocket extra wide and deep so I could drop my (overstuffed) wallet in there, eliminating the need for a separate handbag. To keep it from pulling on the pocket, I stitched it all around to the lining.  

For the strap, I use cotton twill whenever I can, so I did this time. It's so sturdy that with the four layers obtained normally it doesn't need interfacing, but just to be safe I usually top stitch it up to five times - depending on the width. I also like the effect you get with that.

I used both Fray Chek and glue for the grommets - fingers crossed!

The fabric is part of the “Frou Frou” series, by Kathleen Francour for SPX Fabrics. This one consists of a large panel in the center, surrounded by several smaller panels. It's sold by the panel, and it's my understanding that this sort of design is normally used for quilts.

I have two others fabric from the same series, both with allover designs on the same theme; I used one of them for the back of the bag. I think I’ll make a large shopping bag out of one of the matching fabrics, then I’ll be all set when I go to town. 


The Four-Hour Gift

A while back I posted about this sewing organizer that I made for myself. (Here is the link.)

This was the caddy-cum-sewing-room-organizer that I made, but since I had had to improvise so much I was unable to give good directions.

Well, next week is my club's Christmas dinner and the highlight of it is the gift exhange. (No, it's not the dry turkey with awful dressing, lumpy mashed potatoes and boiled carrots that is the highlight!)

I'm in the middle of producing several bag samples for a potential client, so I needed to make something nice, multipurpose, and fast.

So I thought I might as well write down the procedure, for myself and for anyone out there who might need a quick-to-make gift at any time of the year.

This project took me exactly four hours.


You need two or three different fabrics: one for the exterior, another for the interior, and possibly a third one for the binding. I will call them Fabric A, Fabric B, and Fabric C.

You also need a stabilizer like fleece or foam, fusible or not, and a fusible interfacing. This latter could be light weight or medium weight, depending on the type of fabric. It gets fused to half of the exterior pocket fabric, and it gives body to the pockets.

You need a "#10" can - that is, a can that measures 6.25 inches in diameter and 7 inches in height. I used a 3-lb coffee can from Costco.
FABRIC A: Cut 2 pieces measuring 7.5 inches by 20.5 inches - one for the exterior and one for the interior. Caution! Depending on the thickness of the fabric and of the stabilizer used, you might need an extra half-inch on the width, so I would recommend starting with 21 inches, and adjusting later if necessary. Also take into account that your fabric may shrink when you fuse the stabilizer.

Cut 1 piece measuring 10 by 20.5 inches for the interior pockets (optional).

Cut 2 circles measuring 6.5 inches across for the bottom.

FABRIC B: Cut 1 piece measuring 10 inches by 34.5 inches for the exterior pockets.

FABRIC C: Cut 2 strips measuring 3 inches by 20.5 inches. This is for the binding, and it doesn't have to be cut on the bias.

STABILIZER (Fleece or Foam): Cut 1 piece measuring 7.5 by 20.5 inches for the exterior. This does not have to be one piece. I often assemble several pieces with a zigzag stitch as this material is quite expensive. See photo further on.

(Optional: another similar piece for the interior. I didn't use one.)

Cut two circles of 6 inches in diameter, for the bottom.

INTERFACING: Cut 1 piece measuring 5 inches by 34.5 inches, for the exterior pockets. This does not have to be all in one piece - see photo. I used Pellon SF101.



Iron all Fabric A, B, and C pieces.

Fold the exterior pocket piece in two along the length; do the same with the interior pocket piece. (Fabric B)

Fuse interfacing to one half of the exterior pocket piece, on the wrong side.

This piece measures 34.5 inches, but interfacings come in a 20-inch width, so you will have to join several pieces. A slight overlap like this works very well.

Fuse stabilizer (fleece or foam) to the exterior piece (Fabric A), on the wrong side. (If using non-fusible stabilizer, baste it all around with a long stitch.)

Here you can see how I joined two remnants with a zigzag stitch.

Fuse stabilizer (fleece of foam) to both circles (Fabric A), on the wrong side.

Note the extra quarter-inch of fabric all around.

If you use non-fusible stabilizer, don't baste it, just pin it in place for the moment.

On the exterior piece mark a line half an inch from each end at the very bottom, then divide the rest of the space evenly. This will give you seven lines approximately 2 and 3/4 inches apart.

With a disappearing marker, extend those lines to the top.

Take the exterior pocket piece, mark a line half an inch from each end at the very bottom, then divide the rest of the space evenly. This will give you seven lines approximately 4 and ¾ inches apart.

With a disapearing marker, extend those lines to the top.

Place the pocket piece on top of the exterior piece, then join the lines at the bottom and at the top; pin in place.

Sew along the lines to attach the pockets, backstitching carefully at the top.

Fold and clip or pin half an inch at each end of each pocket.

Sew or baste along the bottom, ¼ inch from the edge. (You may want to baste this by hand if you're not sure.)

Now comes the most crucial step: fitting around the can to see if it fits! 

You should have from ¼ to ½ inch overlap for your seam, but don't be surprised if it's a tight fit, and if it's too tight, don't panic, just add a strip of binding. (Trust me, this can happen to anyone, and it has happened to me twice!)

Attach the folded inner pocket piece to the inner piece on the long side, at the bottom. 

To do this, place any side of the pocket to the wrong side of the inner piece, then flip it to the right side of the inner piece. The seam allowance will be on the inside.

Press the seam, then sew vertical lines at distances that will suit your purposes. (I did mine at 2.5 inches because I use them for skinny tools.)

Assemble the outside and the inside with a length of binding between the two.

A good way to do this is to fold in and press half an inch at each long edge, then to sew each side very close to the edge.

Alternatively, you may join the binding to each piece right side to right side, or one of each, as I did.

Now sew some binding to the bottom of the exterior piece, using your favourite method. I like Annie Unrein's technique of simply folding the binding (without ironing), sewing raw edges together on one side, then flipping the binding to the other side, and sewing that down.

Test around the can again for fit, then sew the two raw edges together with the proper seam allowance.

You now have a tube.

If the seam allowance is very small,  overstitch the seam with a zigzag or overcast stitch.

Turn the tube inside out.

Assemble the bottom disks, wrong side to wrong side, with a zigzag or overcast stitch

Then place it on the bottom of the can.

Finally, slip the tube over the can, arrange the inside part carefully all around...

Et voilĂ !

Good Luck!

If you have any questions, ask them here in the Comments.


A Travel Blanket For My Next Trip

This post is really out of order! What I should be talking about right now is this Travel Set:

Instead, I want to show off this cute project I just finished this morning.

It's something I've wanted for a long time. I don't know about you, but air conditioning and drafts drive me nuts, and airplanes and trains and buses are places where you can't avoid them and can't control them.

It's a Travel Blanket. This travel blanket. It's 48 inches wide by 60 inches long. (122 x 158 cm), and as you can see, it comes with its own carrier.

I found it in a tutorial on Nancy's Notions website. Not surprisingly, she sells the book, so I ordered it.

Travel Gear Made Easy is the title -- Mary Mulari is the author -- and it's also available on Amazon (and if you order it through this link I get a few pennies, but that's not why I wrote this article).

It just so happened that fleece was on sale at Fabricville, yes, even the animal print, which is a particular favourite of mine.

I happened to have 10 metres of beige corduroy that I had bought there during the $1 a metre sale.

I also had enough black zipper by the yard left for two zippers, and a length of black bias tape leftover from when I practised making one continuous strip of tape that I had learned from this video. And several yards of black webbing.

No excuses, right?

The flap has two pockets: one exterior one (notice the cool fully exposed zipper!)

And one secret interior one, accessible by flipping the flap.

You deploy the blanket by lifting the flap, which is attached by a strip of hook and loop tape. (AKA Velcro.)

Lastly, the handle is just the right size to slip over the handle of a suitcase.

See photo above for proper folding!
This is one of those projects that can be started and finished in one day, and I must say it's the most fun I've had sewing in a long time!



Disclosure: I love Craftsy classes. When I see the list of classes I've taken, I know where my budget overages have been going!

One of my favourites is this one:

As soon as I saw it I knew I wanted to make this bag. I liked everything about it: the decorative corners, the pocket, the two types of carrying straps...

MAKING A DOPP KIT (AKA make-up/toiletries bag)

I was looking for a pattern and tutorial for a dopp kit*, and I found a very good one on YouTube.

This is the end result.

The zip pull cost more than all the other materials put together!

I wanted an interesting lining that was masculine enough, and washable. This fern pattern polyester fit the bill.

The lining fabric is not waterproof, but it's washable.

I selected this particular tutorial and pattern because it has a separate lining, the kind that you "drop in" and attach with hand stitching. Easier patterns have an attached lining, which means you end up with visible seams inside. Not crazy about that!

Besides, I happen to love sewing by hand, so I welcomed the opportunity to practice my invisible stitches.

Hand stitching is a very contemplative process.

The pattern didn't call for the embroidered strips on either side of the zipper - or any embroidery for that matter. That was my own artistic touch.

Can you tell that the little zigzags are actually tiny ferns?

NOTE: The extra zip is going to be cut away.

The name of the site where I found the tutorial is kevinsews.com; Kevin's medium is strictly the video. 

To quote him:
Here you’ll find sewing related videos and tutorials created by me or others. This is because I am not a writer. Therefore, I capture videos of my interest in sewing.
Nothing wrong with that!

In fact, the "sew-along" series that goes with this single pattern consists of 15 videos - yes, 15!

The pattern came as a separate download. I had trouble printing it and Kevin kindly added a multi-page version so my printer would accept it. 

I've only been making bags for a few months, but with each one I make I advance my skills and my familiarity with instructions, fabrics, interfacings, etc. It's hard to believe that before I made this bag I had great difficulty sewing a straight seam!

* The name derives from early 20th Century leather craftsman Charles Doppelt, who invented his toiletry case in 1919. The kits became widely known during the Second World War when they were issued to GIs.



BEFORE I MADE THIS CADDY, all the tools I used regularly were in a plastic bin and my constant fear, as I routed around for a a tool, was that I might have forgotten to put the guard on the rotary cutter!

No more! I now have my tools organized and always within reach in this cute caddy. Isn't it adorable?

I had purchased the pattern from Craftsy and printed it out a while back. Now before you ask me for the link, let me warn you that I am not giving it here, for the simple reason that I had a lot of trouble with the pattern and the explanations, so that I ended up having to improvise a lot. I don't want to be blamed for causing those frustrations to others.

However, it's really easy to make and if you know how to sew you can easily make one. My goal in posting this is mostly to pass along the idea. Basically you need an outside cylinder of fabric (interfaced with fusible fleece), a layer or two of pockets, another cylinder of fabric for the inside, and some binding to join the two. You could add pockets on the inside, like I did.

First, you need what they call a "No. 10 can".

It's a can that measures 6-¼ inches in diameter and 7 inches high.

I used a coffee can from Costco, but I have also seen cans of tomatoes of that size; your favourite Italian restaurant might have those in their pantry.

In addition to the diameter and height, it's very important that you measure the girth of your can with a tape measure, then add about two inches to allow for the seam allowance and the thickness of the layers.

That's one of the places where the original pattern failed, and I ended up having no fabric left for a real seam. There was barely enough for an overcast seam, which, luckily, my new sewing machine can do. But for a moment I thought I'd have to start all over!

No, this is not serging, but a serger would do an even better job, of course.

I'M TOO NEW at bag-making to try and turn this into a tutorial. Instead, I will share with you some of the discoveries that I made and lessons I learned during the process, and some of the techniques that I applied, learned in my previous sewing adventures.

1. You Can Fuse Fusible Interfacing To Itself

This pocket piece was much longer than I could cover all at once, so I just joined two smaller pieces.

This is a good thing to know, because if you need thick interfacing and all you have is the thin kind, you can just add another layer. Or two.

2. How To Strengthen Vulnerable Seam Ends

They always tell you to backstitch the open ends of pockets like these, but in my experience it's not enough and I always finish that kind of seam by hand.

For this, you have to leave extra-long lengths of thread, both from the spool and from the bobbin...

...then you pull the top thread to the back by gently tugging on the bobbin thread until a small loop appears...

...you catch that loop (I like to use a crochet hook) and pull it all the way...

...like this...

...you thread both threads onto a needle, and stitch them into the backstitching...

...for about an inch, then you can cut it off, or, for even more safety, make a couple of knots of the kind used for tying off embroidery thread.

3. Eek! The Can Needed A Bottom!

This is how the inside of the can looked once I had slipped the caddy over it. That's how it would be if you just followed the pattern.

Clang! Clang! went the scissors every time I dropped then in. I didn't think that metal against metal would be good for the points of my good scissors!

So I cut three circles out of a leftover piece of lining that had fleeced fused to it -- honestly, I have no idea where that was supposed to go! -- stacked them, basted them together then sewed them to the lining.

VoilĂ ! A nicely cushioned bottom for my tool caddy.