Sunday, December 21, 2014

I’ve got a Secret… Fat Quarter Folding Totes

I’ve got a Secret… Fat Quarter Folding Totes:    

Now, during the holiday hiatus of many shows, the Game Show Network has old reruns of I've Got A Secret and What’s My Line.  They aren't THAT old… I've Got A Secret is the “new” version of the show, with Steve Allen hosting, and the one I watched was from 1961.  It’s hard to believe that it’s been over 50 years since that show originally aired!  In the fall of 1961, I became a mother.  My firstborn child was born on 9-11… and that date now has a completely different memory attached to it, since the bombing of the Twin Towers in New York.  Times have changed so much since the 1960’s… hairstyles, clothing fashions... when women wore undergarments that drastically changed their body shapes!  Waists were cinched in, girdles held tummies flat, and bras were uplifting and transformed breasts into pointed objects… and remember nylon stockings with garter belts?  No wonder it took us so long to get dressed. Women wore dresses in the 60’s.  Now, it’s unique to see a woman in a dress, in this era of comfortable pants and elastic waists that expand as our waistlines grow.  Men’s lapels were wide, and so were their ties.  Today, as I brushed my curls out, I realized that my hairstyle now is much the same as it was in 1960 in my graduation photo.  The ratted hair and beehive hairdos came later, when I was busy raising toddlers and had little time for worrying about following fashion.  I've got a secret of my own… the “Real” me is that 19 year old young woman hiding inside me, that no one knows about or sees… but me. 

Recently, I found this website: and saw her tutorial for the fold-up tote bag.  (Check out her tutorials… she has some other cute ideas!)  I thought I could make it from fat quarters… I have a lot of "mystery box" fat quarters that don’t fit well into my quilting ideas, but they make cute and colorful bibs and other small projects.  I incorporated some changes for my own tutorial that make it even more to my liking!
This tote takes about 5 minutes to do the serging and about 30 minutes to sew the rest of the bag,  This does not count cutting the pieces, however.  By sewing several at once, the time per bag can be lessened a bit, if you do them assembly-line fashion.  Now, bear in mind that I have slowed down in my old age!  You may be able to make one faster than I can!
Each tote takes two fat quarters:  one for the main part and one for the band and straps.  Ironing the fat quarters before cutting is advisable, as the folds may prevent accurate cutting.  If you have a serger, it works great for joining the pieces, since the bag is not lined.  Alternately, French seams will also look neat on the inside of the bag, or you can zig-zag the seam to enclose it.   Cut off all selvages.  Fat quarters vary a bit in size; some are 18” x 21” and some are 18” x 22”.  Cut the main color fat quarter to measure 16” x 22” (or 21”).  Cut two pieces from the main color, 16 by 11,  or 16” x 10-1/2”, if the fat quarter measures 18” X 21”.  16” is going to be the width of the tote.   The smaller measurement will be the height of the main part of the tote.
Next, cut the bands and straps from the contrasting fat quarter.  With the fabric doubled, cut two strips 4” x 22” for the straps.  There should be 10” x 22” remaining.  Lay it flat on the cutting board and cut it 16” long, or the same length as the width of the body of the tote bag, so the result is a piece 10” x 16”.  Cut it into two 5”x 16” pieces.  This is for the band at the top of the main color.

Cut a 6” length of round elastic.  This will be for the closure.  Position the two ends of the elastic at the top center of the main color on the front of the bag, forming a loop, and stitch across it several times to secure it well.  When the band is joined to the main color, the elastic loop will be between the two pieces.
Join the band to the main body, front and back.  There are now two pieces, approximately 16” x 1 6”.  Press this seam down and stitch it in place a scant ¼” from the seam so the seam allowance is secured on the inside.  Join front to back on both sides and across the bottom.   Again, if you don’t serge the seams, edge them with a zig-zag stitch or do a French seam to prevent them from raveling.

Serge (or fold under ¼”) the top of the bag.  Fold under about 3/4” to the inside.  Stitch along the bottom of the fold and again near the top of the bag so that the folded portion is stitched down on the top and bottom. 
Straps:  Press each 4” x 22” strip in half, wrong sides together.  Open out, wrong side up, and press each edge in to meet the middle fold.  Fold in half again, enclosing the raw edges.  The strap will be comprised of four thicknesses of fabric. Stitch along both long sides, close to the edge. Turn under about 1/2” on each end of the straps and stitch in place. (See photo at right.)

Mark about 3” in from each side of the bag for the strap position.  Pin to the bag at the 3” mark, about 3/4” down from the top edge of the bag.  Double check to make sure the strap isn’t twisted before sewing.  Sew the strap to the top of the bag  across the top, down each side, and across the bottom, in a box shape, then sew corner to corner, an “X” in the center of the box.  Repeat with the other three ends of the straps.  If you wish, you may put some stabilizer on the wrong side of the bag for extra stability, but it isn't necessary to do so.

Sew a button to the band, about 3” up from the elastic loop.  I had fun rummaging through my button basket to find the right buttons for my bags.
If you wish to box the bottom, turn the bag inside out.  Fold the corner so that it forms a triangle, placing the side seam over the bottom seam.  Sew across the triangle, about 2” from the point.  I backstitched at the beginning and end so the stitching would not pull out.  This “triangle” may be cut off and the seam serged, but it isn’t necessary to do that.  Turn right side out.  The bag is finished!

With the little piece left over after cutting the contrast color, a pocket could be sewn on the front or back… or on the inside, if you prefer.  I sewed two pieces together, leaving a space for turning, and turned right side out and pressed.  Position the pocket about 2” down from the elastic loop, and topstitch the pocket to the main fabric of the tote,
making sure to stitch the place you left open to turn the pocket in the seam.  Backstitch at the top edges to secure the pocket.  It works best to sew the pocket to the main part of the bag before joining the side seams, but it can be done after if you are careful to keep everything straight, taking care not to catch any unwanted parts in your seam!  The two layers makes the pocket a bit sturdier.  A Velcro strip can be sewn to the pocket and bag at the top to close the pocket, if desired, or it can be closed with a button and buttonhole... or just left open.   Depending on the size of the pocket, it can hold a cell phone, keys, library card, or credit card. 
I have left some of the bags at 18” wide, but then I add another contrasting band between the main body and the band, which requires additional fabric.  In most cases, a jelly roll strip (2-1/2”) works well.

Large Tote: Cut 2 pieces of main fabric, each 10-1/2” or 11” x 18”, depending on how wide the fat quarter is. 

From one 2-1/2” contrasting strip to use between band and main body, cut 2 pieces, each 2-1/2” x 18”.
Cut the straps the same as for the smaller tote.
Cut the bands 5” x 18”. 
Sew the tote bag the same as in the first example. The only difference is that it will be wider and a bit longer.  The boxed bottom is made the same way, but it can be a wider “box” by sewing 3” from the point of the triangle, if desired.  Larger variations are shown at the right.

To fold the bag, lay the bag flat and fold each side in at the point where the straps are attached.  Fold the straps down.  Roll, beginning at the bottom, and at the top, secure the roll with the button and elastic loop.  It is small and can easily fit in a purse or the glove compartment of your vehicle, ready for a time when you need a bag to put things in, such as a trip to the library. ends of the straps.
Variations and Pitfalls:
It works best to fold both ends in, leaving a slight space between them when making the straps.  This allows for easier folding the final fold when the two edges aren’t actually meeting or overlapping.  One of the most difficult things was pressing  these narrow pieces with steam and not burning my fingers with the steam, so take care!  It doesn't matter if  you sew your strap to the right or left of your mark…just be consistent with all of the straps.  It was easier to sew the straps on with the bag inside-out.  It was easier to stitch the top and band seams with the bag right-side out, stitching on the wrong side of the bag.  Take care when sewing the straps to the top of the bag… it is almost easier to sew another bag than to rip one out that’s sewn on the wrong spot!  That happened to me on the THIRTEENTH bag!  No wonder #13 has a reputation for bad luck.   Here are a few variations on the basic bag. 
This is a good way to use up those bright prints and gaudy colors that don’t fit well into a quilt.  Wild colors are great in this tote!  They look bright and cheerful… a fun project to gift to a friend. It can be used as a gift bag, and can be utilized as a tote bag when the gifts are removed.  Use your imagination and have fun!

About 10 years ago, I divided up my buttons and gave each of my girls a container of them, along with a fitted-out sewing basket of their own… but I still have a little basket of buttons left.  There are strands of elastic thread and big-eyed needles in the basket, as well, from my children and after that, my grandchildren, toddlers who sat in my sewing room and strung buttons to make necklaces and bracelets, while I sewed.  I think some of the buttons are probably over 50 years old, so they can probably be considered antiques.  Antiques, bit not junk… I’m glad I collected them from dresses, blouses, shirts, jackets, etc.  The useable fabric from those articles of clothing was cut up and sewn into new things, but not until the buttons were removed and strung together to be used on something new.  So many memories reside with the buttons in the basket… memories that have little meaning to anyone but me.  Perhaps it's time for these buttons to decorate someone else’s life… I hope when the bag has reached the end of its life, the button will continue its journey on another cherished item!  

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Advent Banners and Family Fun

My five children had Advent Candy Banners when they were little, made of felt with decorative Christmas ribbon down the center and yarn ties down both sides to tie the candy to the banner. 
I thought it would be a fun project for the grandchildren to make, since we will all be together for Thanksgiving, I dug out some pretty upholstery-weight fabric
from my stash, bought to use as accents for tote bags and purses some years ago…. It’s antique gold chenille with subtle purple highlights and a lot of texture.  I cut the banners 12” by 27”, and since the fabric was 54” wide, I got two from each 12” pass.  I sewed the rectangle into a tube, right sides together.  I turned it right side out and pressed it well.  I folded it right sides together on the bottom edge , and sewed across the four layers… make sure your sewing machine will handle heavy fabrics in multiple layers, or use a lighter weight fabric with some interfacing to stiffen it if your machine will not handle heavy jobs.
Trim that seam and turn it right side out, and it will form a point, like it did in the table runner tutorial.  Stitch across the open top of the point on the backside.  Stitch the open end closed, just sewing through both layers in about a ½” seam.  
Choose a jelly roll fabric or cut your own 2-1/2” strips for the center decoration.  I cut mine in half, so they are about 20” to 22” long. 
Fold in half the long way, right sides together, and stitch across the bottom, again forming a point when you turn it right side out.  Press under ¼” on both long sides and pin it to the banner you made from upholstery.  I found out the hard way that I needed to situate the point of the decorative strip ABOVE the triangle forming the point on the banner, as it is just too thick to sew through without making your machine work too hard. 

Topstitch along both sides, around the point and across the top of the decorative strip.  I did not turn the top under, because the poem will cover that part.  Fold the top of the banner to the backside, making about a 3” rod pocket.  Topstitch through all layers. 
Mark both sides of the center strip with magic marker dots, so you know where to sew the 24 lengths of yarn for the candy ties.  My marks were about 1-1/2" apart.   Cut the yarn in 12” segments, and take one stitch to anchor it to the banner, then knot it twice, forming a square knot.  Sherri, Ava and I sewed the yarn ties on.   Attach a bell on the bottom point of the banner.  Insert a dowel or twig through the casing at the top of   Griffin cut our twigs from bushes bordering the yard in back, and they worked great!  Bella, Ava, and my sister, Sherri, added decorative bows on the bottom made of various things. You may add additional decorations, if you choose.  Print the following poem out on card stock paper and glue that to another piece of heavyweight cardstock or thin cardboard using rubber cement.  Glue the cardstock to the top of the banner with a good craft glue.   Attach a 12” length of Jute, cord, or raffia to each end of the twig to hang the banner. We put a dab of craft glue on the place where the jute cord was knotted on the twig to ensure it stays put.  The photo below, right, shows many of the banners completed, waiting for the yarn ties, bell, and hanger.  Maddie printed off the poems for us and cut them to size.
December first ‘til Christmas
Is the longest time of year.
It seems as though old Santa Claus
Never will appear.
How many days until Christmas?
It's mighty hard to count.
So this little candy banner
Will show you the amount.
Untie a candy every day
When Sandman casts his spell
And Christmas Eve will be here
By the time you reach the bell.

Your Advent Candy Banner is now complete and ready for you to tie on wrapped candy pieces.  The banner should follow your child into adulthood, and perhaps someday will be used by your grandchild.

My grandchildren and the two little great-grands had a lot of fun choosing their candy… the littlest ones needed help tying them to the banner.  I had an assortment of wrapped candy, dum-dums, and fun-sized candy bars.  Little Charlotte was so funny… hers was mostly cookies and cream chocolate bars!   She very seriously told us they were her favorite. 

While everyone was busy doing their thing, after Bella finished her banner, she painted henna art on everyone who wanted it… from little Lucas to the adults.  She is an excellent Henna Artist, and everyone had a lot of fun getting their own Henna tattoo.  In this photo, she is painting the henna on her Auntie April, Mark's wife, and the finished tattoo is shown on the right.  
It was a wonderful holiday, filled with a lot of laughter.            
It’s a joy to me, as a mother, to see how much fun my five children have together as adults.  Sherri commented to me at one point, “We’ve got some really good kids!”  And I agree wholeheartedly.  Everyone is busy leading their own lives, but when we come together, there is Love.  And that is the greatest gift my children can give me.
Now, midway to Christmas, the children should be half way to the bell.  I hope the memory of this first Christmas making their Advent Banners will be something they will remember for a very long time.  I hope your holiday season is also sweetened with the love of friends and family! 

Happy Holidays from our house to yours!  I hope the New Year brings all good things your way. 
In the words of one of our favorite yuletide songs... We wish you a Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year!

Porketta and Angels We Call Sister

Porketta and Angels We Call Sisters:
Note:  This is late getting posted, due to a problem with my computer.  It went to the tech hospital and the Geek Squad made it all well again… so pretend you are back in Thanksgiving mode, please!

Once upon a time there was a young woman, all of 14 years old, who had two younger sisters.  Then came daughter number 4!  This young woman loved the baby sister almost as much as if she were her own babe.  As the baby grew, so did the young woman.  When the baby was 4 years old, the big sister got married… young by today’s standards, but it was not unusual for young women of 18 to be married in the Midwest in 1960.  A year later, she had a baby of her own, but her little sister was still special to her, and the little sister sometimes spent weekends with her.  They sewed doll clothes and she cooked the little sister’s favorite foods, like waffles and spinach… not served together, of course, and she taught her little sister many things she knew.  As time passed and they both grew older, they still were close.  They shared laughter and tears as they traveled separate paths, and the little sister began to teach her big sister many things.  She taught her to make jewelry, and how to make collages formed from bits of things too precious to throw away, lovely works of art that decorated her walls.  She taught her new recipes, and still they laughed together and shared the sacred moments of their lives. 

This week, that little sister came to her big sister’s home to celebrate Thanksgiving with her family.  She and her husband have no children, so she shares the children and grandchildren of her older sisters.  Tonight, my two sons who do not live here in Cincinnati will arrive with their families, and all five of my children and their families will be together again.  I am so very happy my baby sister was able to come and be with us, getting to know the grandchildren she shares and renewing bonds with my children.   I have been cleaning and preparing my house for visitors… 26 in my immediate family will be here on Thanksgiving, if everyone comes.  I still hadn't gotten the beds changed or my refrigerator cleaned out.  A dear friend told me that perhaps an angel or two would show up to help finish everything.  And, Priss, you were right!  My sweet sister changed the beds AND cleaned my refrigerator.  Not cleaned, as I would have cleaned it… tossing old leftovers out... she took EVERYTHING out, including even the door shelves.  She tossed things that were lab specimens, as my children call them, and washed all the shelves and the inside of the refrigerator!  I had a pork loin in the refrigerator that I said I wanted to make into a porketta, and she promptly replied that she makes porketta all the time!  For those of you who didn't grow up on the Iron Range of Northern Minnesota, the melting pot of nationalities and immigrants, a porketta is a pork roast that is butterflied and seasoned with onion, garlic, fennel, salt and pepper.  It is a traditional food on the Iron Range, and served especially at holidays and special occasions.  It’s delicious served hot or cold in sandwiches. 
Little Sister, also known as Sherri, laid the pork roast on my cutting board, deftly sliced into it with a knife and spread it out on the cutting board.   
She then diced up a large onion and sprinkled that over the pork.  Next came the minced garlic… 2 to 4 Tablespoons, according to taste.  Finally, she sprinkled Fennel seed (we used ground Fennel this time) over everything, then salt and pepper liberally.  
Next, she rolled it up like a jelly roll and tied it together with cotton worsted weight yarn… the closest thing I have to string.

She salted and peppered the outside and added a bit more fennel, and put the onion and garlic bits that had escaped over the top of the roast.  Then she triple-bagged it (porketta has a very strong scent that permeates everything in the refrigerator), and it is in the meat drawer of the spotlessly clean refrigerator, waiting to be roasted.  It will provide sandwiches for the multitudes in my home over the weekend.  (Addendum:  the porketta was cooked to perfection in my Halogen roaster, and smelled delicious!) 

While Sherri was busy putting things back in the refrigerator, I was busy with a project of my own.  I am making Advent Candy Banners.  I’ll put up another blog SOON with photos of our banners made the day after Thanksgiving this year.

I am thankful for my family.  My sister and my children helped me do much of the prep work for Thanksgiving dinner, as well as the clean-up.  The turkey will be put to bake in the morning. I will make dinner rolls… then it is just a matter of putting everything into the oven to bake.  I’ll assemble the stuffing and bake it separately from the turkey.  My youngest son peeled and diced parsnips, turnips rutabaga, carrots, and sweet potatoes and put them in a roasting pan, ready for the seasoning before baking.  My sister made a crockpot of red and white rice and lentils with curry that is smelling delicious.  I made ribbon jello, dreamsicle salad and a lime/pistachio/cottage cheese salad.  I have a huge bowl of diced pineapple and oranges, a couple of pans of freshly baked cinnamon rolls and a big crockpot of “fruit soup” (a Finnish tradition) for breakfast.   And don’t you dare tell me there aren't angels among us, because one is sleeping in the room above me as I write this, and I call her “SISTER”!

Update:  I didn't hear my alarm go off Thanksgiving morning, and awoke an hour too late... but the aroma of turkey roasting was in the air!  My youngest son had set HIS alarm, and he put the turkey on at the right time, and diced all the celery, onions, and even some mushrooms for the dressing.  I don't usually put mushrooms in mine, but I know he's a very experienced cook, so I tossed them in.  When he got up, he told me he sliced the mushrooms in the hope that I would make coddled eggs with mushrooms for breakfast!  He didn't get them that morning, but I did make him coddled eggs the next day.  And, of course, Quentin got his cheese omelet.  I notice the grandchildren are starting traditions of their own.  (Smile!)

If you are fortunate enough to have a sister, perhaps these quotes will have some special meaning for you, as they do for me:

One's sister is a part of one's essential self; an eternal presence of one's heart and soul and memory.
                                                                ...Susan Cahill, American Writer

You can't think how I depend on you, and when you're not there, the colour goes out of my life.
                                                                 ...Virginia Woolf, English Writer

A sibling may be the sole keeper of one's core identity, the only person with the keys to one's unfettered, more fundamental self.      ...Marian Sandmaier, 20th Century American Writer

Loving a sister is an unconditional, narcissistic, and complicated devotion that approximates a mother's love... sisters are inescapably connected, shaped by the same two parents, the same trove of memory and experience.            ...Mary Bruno, 20th Century American Writer

We are sisters. We will always be sisters.  Our differences may never go away but neither, for me, will our song.                       ...Nancy Kelton, 20th Century American Writer