Thursday, December 20, 2012

Week 50 or (Teacher) Goodie Bags

We're heading off for a few days, including Christmas, in the mountains. Not that we're necessarily going skiing or hiking or snowshoeing. Or really anything involving the outdoors. The hotel has a fancy pool, with big and little water slides and a hot tub. There's an indoor water park at another hotel in town. And there are outlets. Shopping as well as electrical.
That's an 18" ruler. I cut the round piece freehand.

Ready for a roller skating sleepover.
With gifts like these, you need a fancy bag.
Before we leave, we need to get through one more day of school, though. Which means I need to kick it into gear with the goodies for the teachers. Most people stick with a small something for their child's teacher. But I was raised by a teacher and a crafter/student. And my husband was raised a giver. He always overspends on gifts and he'd rather err on the side of generosity, be it in sending MP3's, tipping waitstaff or giving to teachers. So we get something small for every person who has contact with our kids. This year that's 12 people. Make that 14, but it's too late to make another 2 bags, so gift certificates it will be for them.

My dad gave us some lovely shiny material a few years back. Maybe he wanted me to make him a vest out of it. Maybe it was for a dress for the girls. In any case, it has been sitting and now it is going out. Last weekend, I made a gift bag for a birthday party my younger daughter attended. I dare say, I would not have minded getting that bag with my own birthday present in it. (It's not the same when you make it for yourself.) A simple not quite perfect circle as a base. A rectangle for the body. A bit of satin cord. An hour later, there was a bag.

The gift tags are this free printable.
Crazy detail: teacher's names used to finish the drawstring casing.
(Zoom in if you need to see it for yourself.)
The other material lent itself better to flat, square bags. More random pattern. More easily cut randomly. Which is what you need when you want to just slice across and down and not worry about whether you cut a giant motif in two different directions. I meant to get more ribbon for drawstrings on Monday. Luckily I had ribbon lying around waiting for a project.

Four larger bags for the teachers in the homerooms and 9 small bags for the rest of the staff. Yes, 9+4=13. One bag went to the younger child before I realized my miscount. Note to self: make the gift list from the staff list, not from memory, next year.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Week 49 or Double-Upcycled Super-Fancy Gift Bag

Some time in college, I thought it would be fashionable to cover the yoke of a dress in shimmery black buttons. They were in the nickel bin at Windsor Button. (Ooh... shiny.... buy now, find purpose later...) I made a simple green/black iridescent sheath dress. I sewed 40 black buttons on around the neckline. But only in front. It looked fine lying flat on my bed, but the weight in front couldn't be overcome. And nobody but a stick-thin model with a padded bra will ever look good in a sheath dress. So I wore it once or twice and then packed it away. By the time I got it from the basement of my parents' house 20 years later, it was musty smelling and had mysteriously gotten holes in random places.

Fast forward to Sing Along Mary Poppins 3 weeks ago. (Time flies. I thought it was months ago, but Thanksgiving weekend really was just 3 weeks ago.) Older daughter simple MUST have a costume. She goes rummaging through her stuff and finds nothing. Then she hits my closet and finds The Dress. Which she is astounded to find I am willing to cut up for her. So I do, taking the bottom 8" to make a ruffle at the hem and shortening it to girl length. Except I made it TOO short and now she needs something else to wear. Grr... we need to leave for the movie in minutes and she still doesn't have a hat! Take one mom-sized white Oxford cloth shirt. Turn button-down collar into Peter Pan collar and do some fancy buttoning on the cuffs. Add Mom's sleeveless dress that's maybe too short for a proper mom but is below-the knee and really drop-waist on a 9 year old. Run like heck to the hat store downtown to find the perfect flat-brim blue felt hat. Make it to the movie in time for the costume parade!

All this left me with a completely unwearable shiny green dress with 40 buttons on it. Not even the little sister will wear it. So I cut off all the buttons, along with the top of the bodice. Which happened to be where most of the mysterious holes were. (Perhaps there's some silk in there and some weird decomposition happened. The holes don't follow perspiration or wear patterns. Some are at the edges and others in the center. You may even be able to spot the patches in the top photo.) I sewed it shut roughly along the line of the armpits. (No potential for perspiration-driven decomposition now!) A strip from the lining became a casing for a drawstring. The end of a roll of black ribbon left over from... some craft project from the turn of the century. And now we have a very shiny drawstring gift bag to fit somebody's Christmas present in.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Weeks 47 & 48 or Fancy Wino Bags

Uh. Oops. I got swamped and then I got sick. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

The craft fair I've been dithering over is coming up this weekend, so I got down to business. I finally called the organizer and got the correct date. Thankfully it wasn't last weekend, because I don't think passing out, coughing raucously or sneezing on the merchandise is all that good for sales. Especially when they're also holding a luncheon in the same room. So if you're in the area, stop by Grace Church, across from the library, between 10 and 2 on Saturday.

After making the call, I promptly got sick. Yet another perk of having kids. Although they do force you to get "better" a lot faster. Or at least to get out of bed. There went the weekend, Friday noon to Monday noon, pretty much stuck in bed. Luckily I was able to bookend it with trapeze classes because the other thing going on this weekend is my superhero-themed show. Saturday night, 7:30, at Jordan's. And if you can't make that, the staff is putting on a more comprehensive holiday show, with several very talented performers putting on additional acts, on the 15th at 8:00. There are some serious professionals among them, so it's absolutely worth the price of admission, which is nothing beyond putting up with SRO accommodations and the horrendous acoustics of the Jordan's lobby.

Once I recovered, I had to think of something I could make, and sell, en masse. So I decided to make wine bottle gift bags. I still had large sections of a wine-red gown, so I dug that out. Then I saw a hideous sparkly green velvet shirt that I had thought might turn into a winter church dress for one of the girls. They never bit and I never pushed, so now was its time. Target had some little spools of ribbon in otherwise useless lengths, so I got those for drawstrings. Who else needs 18" of ribbon? Seriously, that is just rude. You know some poor kid found that in the dollar section and was all excited to wrap things in it. Then they got home and it ran out before they even got it off the roll. Grr... great for me, though.

I didn't want to go out and buy fabric to line the bags with, so I folded over a large section at the top. I figured the chances of anyone ever looking below the neck of the bottle were pretty slim. The bags look fully lined when they're tied up, and presentation is what it's all about anyway.

So, the super quick, not for beginners tutorial. Cut a rectangle of fabric 14" wide and 21" long. If you're using material with a finished edge, put that along the 14" side. Fold it right sides together and sew along the 21" and now 7" edges. Make box corners on the bottom. Fold over (to the inside) about 4" of the finished edge and sew it down close to the edge. If there's a wide hem, use that as a casing. Otherwise, sew about 3/4" from the first seam to make a casing. Turn the bag right side out. Use a seam ripper to make an opening in the casing and insert your aforementioned otherwise useless 18" snippet of ribbon. Insert bottle and you're good to go for a party on Park Avenue or in Park Avenue. It's the world's classiest paper bag. And I've got 10 of them, 6 red and 4 green. But only one has the sparkly buttons.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Week 46 or After the Election

I made or fixed or started a bunch of projects this week, but none of them were bags. I patched the knees on some kids' pants. I started knitting a purple penguin. I almost finished a sock. I started a second sock for a different pair. I wrote a bunch of grant award letters and sent out award ceremony invitations. And I made a couple of little boxes as tests.

During the election season, I noticed hundreds of corrugated plastic signs littering people's lawns. (not that they swayed my vote, I just saw them. As raw materials.) After the election, I don't know where they all went, but they sure disappeared fast, and very few of them were in trash cans or recycling bins. Believe me, I looked for them. It's not like they fit in a regular barrel.

I did see a truck driving around collecting some of the more outlandishly large ones, so if I want those, I'll need to make a phone call (shudder) to a political campaign office (shudder some more) sooner rather than later (oh, just forget it). I got a stack of small signs from friends, so I'm all set for bag liners. I'll stiffen up the Lego bags that are filling my life now. I added stiff bottoms to the bags I made last week.

I wanted to see how well they'd work as boxes, so I made some little prototypes. Here's one of them. It only took up half a sign, so it's about 4" x 6" x 4". I figure if I use a whole sign, I could make a waste paper basket. How very appropriate! The giant signs could make an entire trash barrel. Or a compost bin, with a little duct tape to seal the seams and a gasket around the top. The circle of nastiness would be complete. And all for the low, low price of $5,000,000,000 every four years!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Week 45 or Lined Lunch Bags

I didn't even think about it until I sat down to write this, but these bags sum up our household politics. Red and blue. Pretty evenly split with white flags at the ready. It's been a tough week, but we seem to be coming out the other side still stitched together and ready to make lunches.

It's a standard size bag, copied from little shopping bags and apple picking bags. Perfect for Mom and apple pie. Lined with rip-stop nylon. Durable, washable, wipeable, small enough to carry, large enough to hold a small picnic.
A bit late, but not too much. And once again, I've made multiples. Three this time. Each just like the others. And stiffened on the bottom with discarded lawn signs from the election.

As I approach the end of the year, and the end of my initial commitment to this project, I need to remember that the last few weeks I've been over-producing bags and have actually sewn enough to finish out the year. But I'll keep going for at least a few weeks. And probably, because that's just the way I am, into the new year.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Week 44 or More Bakery Goods

Sandwich wraps folded into 1/3 squares.
The theme of the month is the bakery. About 2 years ago, I bought some waterproof fabric and made sandwich bags for our family and a few others. I bought a yard more with the intention of making more for friends. Well, intentions gave way to procrastination and the material lingered. Until now.

Position your sandwich.

Ready to roll.
The other supply that had been languishing was a pile of quilting fabric. Whenever I feel like I've got too much material, I think of the place I bought this stuff. A quilter needed fabric, but she didn't know how much of any particular pattern she might need. So she bought the whole bolt. Then she needed something else. So she bought another bolt. Eventually, she converted her dining room into a sewing room, with a cutting table instead of a dining table. And fabric racks instead of credenzas. Then she took over the little room next to the dining room. I bought about 20 yards of fabric that day. I felt so decadent and ridiculous. The flannel got used pretty quickly to make nightgowns for my daughters. I made a couple of skirts for them. The rest just sat. Until now.
Fold in the bottom corner.

I'm pleased to say that there is now an inch or two of space on one of my fabric shelves. That could be because I now have a box of fabric waiting for a purpose. But I know I've made a dent already.

Works with a sub roll, too.

This week I made sandwich wraps. With the benefit of 2 years of field trials, I decided to move on from bags to flat wraps. They have the advantage of being able to fit any size sandwich on any type of bread. You could also use them as placemats or mini picnic blankets. And if you're really desperate and serious about your low-carb diet, you could use them in place of tortillas. Very high in fiber! They're 19" square, large enough to fit a sub, sturdy enough to sit on. Machine washable and PVC-free.
The front of the 15 year, 3 generation quilt.
You can see the backing peeking out of the top right corner.

My very own quilting scraps, from the backing of the only quilt I ever made, became two more baguette bags. Very dark purple with golden lettering and lilac gingko leaves. Hopefully potential customers will not associate the wrap with the smell of gingko fruit.
The baguette bags.
They're not that short, just folded in 4 for the picture.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Week 43 or The Bakery Bag Collection

Yes, I am going to do the craft fair on December 1st. Thank you very much for asking.

A & J King's rack o' bread.
The epi is on the bottom shelf.
It's a pull-apart baguette
without an end for everyone.
I had to make myself another baguette bag, since I am now buying two loaves of long, skinny bread at a time. One baguette for school lunches and an epi for an group snack when I have 2 extra kids between school and gymnastics. You can't expect them to make it all the way from lunch to 4:30 without some extra calories! Especially when you're also asking them to 75  minutes of gymnastics and half an hour of running around on the playground. No sports drinks, though. That's why they make water fountains, girls!

I used a different font on the upper edge of the bag. It didn't turn out nearly as well, so I'll be going back to the original font. On the machine it looks like a printing font but it turns into cursive when it's sewn, since it doesn't cut the thread between letters. To the lady at the bakery who said people would buy them: be at the fair; the bags will.

The cookie bag.

I also sewed up a bunch of small bags from the scraps of the apple bags. It's the beginning of my Bakery Bag Collection. There's the cookie bag, which will hold a large chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin or peanut butter cookie. Then there's the biscotti bag, which I realize is just cookie in another language.  It's a tiny version of the baguette bag.
The biscotti bag.
Perhaps next week will bring the sandwich bag. But probably not the cake bag, although you never know. Carrying those boxes can be a challenge. And they certainly don't fit in a regular bag. Definitely not a sticky bun bag. That would just get too gross too quickly. If you have any other suggestions, write them in the comments.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Week 42 or A Bushel of Apples

This week's crop
I think I'm going to go through with the craft fair. I have yet to shell out the $20 table fee, but I made another 6 apple bags this week and put some work into making little drawstring bags out of the remnants.

If you can't make it out to Salem for the fair on December 1st, stop by Shoplocket and get a bag any time.


Saturday, October 13, 2012

Weeks 40 & 41 or Pick an Apple

In an effort to get back on schedule, I made 4 bags. It feels like cheating to make the same bag over and over again. But hey, I've made it all the way to October and I've fallen back a bit on the schedule. Just one week. Which can be made up by going back and counting the number of bags I've made instead of the number of posts I've written. I need to cut myself some slack here. To be honest, I didn't think I'd make it this far.

Another way to look at it is that I've figured something out. A friend asked if I wanted to sell at her church's craft fair in early December. I'm considering it, and trying to apply the lessons I learned selling at craft fairs before I had kids.

  1. Nobody likes a sourpuss. If you're going to sell something, you have to talk to people.
  2. Variety may be the spice of life, but too much spice will sink a craft table. Pick one thing and do it well.
  3. People are cheap, especially at craft fairs. Price accordingly. Or make some impulse purchase items.
If I am to do this craft fair, I will need to swallow my not-so-inner introvert and be nice to people for a whole morning. I need to make a LOT of one or two related things. And I need to make a LOT of some little throw-away thing that kids and cheapskates can pick up, feel like they're doing a good thing and buy.

So I made 4 of the Apple Bags. Not iBags. Bags that fold up into an apple shape. This time around, they're all red, but at some point I will make green apples. They're actually the perfect bag all around.

  1. I can make lots of them relatively easily, although this time they took longer than I expected to sew up. And that was only partly due to the fact that my sewing table also has my computer on it.
  2. I have a TON of lightweight material that isn't really suited to most other bag patterns.
  3. It's a cute concept which will store and display nicely.
  4. With the scraps, I can make little coin purses, gift bags, whatever, to sell as impulse items.
  5. They satisfy MY need to sell something useful and unique. Yes, I got the fruit concept somewhere else, but I believe I have made it mine.
Buy it here.
I'll let you know in a week or two whether the fair is going to happen or not. And what I'm making out of the scraps. Until then, save your pennies and save the 1st of December for a winter fair. And hold your horses, because I feel like I've bought myself 2 weeks off from writing with this crop of bags.

Buy it here.
Buy it here.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Week 39 or A Chalkboard Lego Box

Well, first off I'd like to thank Cynthia for the chalkboard fabric. I've got yards and yards of it. Enough to make bags to hold all my Lego's and those of the Junior FIRST® Lego® League teams at school, plus one to send back to Cynthia as "payment." (Not that she's asking to be paid, I just want to get rid of fabric!)

All closed up, the box looks pretty good.
Next I'd like to state that chalkboard fabric is a horrendous combination of stiff, floppy, thick, and weak. It's perfect for covering a corkboard and having a dual-use surface, except that it would show all the pin holes. It's good for little insert panels on larger projects. It's probably even great for making simple sewn shapes. What it's frustrating for is making large projects with complex seaming and topstitching away from the very edges. Which is to say it's been quite a workout for my sailor language as well as my sewing machine.
This side doesn't look too bad, just wrinkled.
It's vinyl(?), so I can't really iron it.

The stitching went just fine when I was sewing together the simple edge seams on the side panels. Things went swimmingly when I added the velcro and the handles, probably largely because I did that before assembling the whole thing. It even went well when I sewed the center panel in between the side panels. Topstitching at the corners was another matter entirely. I kept getting loops on the back of the fabric, and they got big enough to gum up the machine. At one point, the cover to my drop-in bobbin even popped off from the mangling. Somehow it landed under the far corner of my desk.

Don't look too closely at the stitching outlining the corners.
That's where things broke down. Also do not notice how crooked
the label on the left edge is. I sewed it blind, from the other side. 
I already cut out a second bag and started sewing it up. I have a feeling it will sit half finished for a few more weeks before my wrists recover. Oh well. I cut up a plastic sign to stiffen the sides. By the time I finish the other one, the election should be over and I'll be able to get my hands on infinite amounts of corrugated plastic.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Week 38 or Another Lego Box

The kids started back at school a few weeks ago. Lego League starts up again this week. For the past two years, I've coached a series of Junior FIRST Lego League teams at the school. This year my older one has aged out of the Junior League and is moving up to the competitive stage. We lost our competitive Destination Imagination teams due to kids graduating and a coach's kids moving out of the school. (Boo on many different levels, but she's still a dear friend, and none of the boo's are directed at her.) So the competitive pressure is on our shoulders. And my daughter only wants to do it so she can go to a championship far away. Our school may be small and poor, but somehow we manage to send a team to the DI national championships on a regular basis. In the 4 years we've been there, three years have seen a team go to Nationals. If only for the financial health of the donor community, I hope we don't go farther than local competition.

So this year I will be coaching two teams, with my kids, instead of four teams, only one of which has my kids on it. A couple of months ago I made a Lego box that we use at home. It seems to be holding up pretty well. When I made that one, I cut out material for a second one. I made the center panel out of clear plastic with Kevlar threads. At some point I forgot which pieces went to what and used one of the plain bits for some other project. How odd that the material was perfectly rectangular and 21" wide! Just what I needed at the time! So one side is cut from stiffer sail fabric, the other from softer sail fabric. I'm sure the kids will be so distraught by the discrepancy that they refuse to play.

Knowing all the pains I took to add the velcro and the handles last time, I sewed them to the components before assembling the box. Way easier. With the extremely stiff center panel, I would have been cursing like a sailor sewing them on this time. Never mind that I then sewed one of the handles into another seam. It came out easily enough with no visible damage.

I had just enough of the Kevlar material to make the lid, so I did. All in one day. OK, maybe two or three days. I had just enough plastic sign material to stiffen two sides, so I did. I may have to wait until after the elections to grab another sign and stiffen the other panels. Then again, if everything works well without it, I may not bother. Right now, it's holding together well enough, but it's definitely not as structured, stackable or tidy as the other box. I also like the idea of having a semi-clear box. Unless I can find two clear plastic panels, I would lose that feature.

Oh, crap. I just checked out the Lego League registration information, and it looks like I'll be asking the PTO for a lot more money than I had intended. Oh well, we're saving a lot by not having the DI teams. And the city wants to encourage STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) programs, and has a pot of money for that.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Week 37 or The Ugliest Fabric Ever

I got this fabric when I lived in Malden, more than a decade ago. It wasn't pretty then and time has not treated it well. We used to live around the corner from two upholstery shops. At some point I asked for their scraps and got a bunch of stuff, this among it.

I made a few Christmas stockings out of it and then it just sat. There's really not much you can do with rubber-backed sage green fabric with a diamond pattern woven in. It's absolutely not appropriate for clothing. Not even costumes. Stuffed animals would be unhuggable. Perhaps placemats, with a nice dark green edging; they would stay put on the table, but who has the decor to match them? I shudder to imagine a room filled with a couch covered in this.

Well, a grocery bag seems as good a use as any. The handles were a scrap from... something. It's actually quite lovely fabric, nice and soft and smooth, perhaps a very sturdy silk. I think I inherited it from my grandmother. She died 16 years ago.

Now you see why I need to make bags every week. My apartment is very slowly emerging from under decades of hoarding. I gave away a fold-up bag to the grocery store bagger yesterday. He's a very friendly guy, with mild special needs that cause him to tell me the story of Bell & Evans chicken whenever I buy their nuggets. Or how he should get his sister in New York City a bag that folds up as small as my Chico bag. Well, I wasn't about to give him something I would have to pay to replace. Plus it was filled with groceries. So I found the other bag in the trunk of the car and ran back to give it to him.

And I have, in a way, replaced a bag derived from the wardrobe of the distinguished grays with a bag worthy of a blue hair. I was a few days late already, so I wasted no time with such niceties as a proper box bottom. (I just tucked the bottom in when I sewed the side seams.) Or a separate step to attach the handles. I did stitch along the lines of the diamond pattern to reinforce the handles, though. It was enough pressure on my obsessive tendencies to see the box bottom diagonals clashing with the diamond diagonals. I could not bear to sew x-boxes to reinforce the handles.

I promise to do something more inspired on Thursday and post again this weekend. OK, maybe not more inspired but at least with nicer fabric.

Friday, September 07, 2012

Week 36 or An Apple for the Teacher

Last week I made a bag that stuffed into a strawberry shape. But a lack of polka dotted fabric, the fact that the bag didn't quite fit into the strawberry and that the strawberry was way bigger than a real-life strawberry led me to rethink the pattern. What's still red and yummy? What's a little bigger that a strawberry? What's a nice thing to give a teacher on her birthday? An apple.

So I modified the pattern to turn the strawberry into an apple. I enlarged the corner block. I added some leaves. I put in little box corners to flatten the bottom of the apple and add a little depth to the bag.

This was a rush job, since I was trying to make it to a trapeze class and still finish the bag so it would only be one day late for my daughter's favorite teacher's birthday. Next time, a stitch on the bottom to keep the drawstring from pulling out of the casing the first time you try to tie it shut.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Week 35 or The Strawberry-Banana Bag

My inspiration was this tutorial, which is itself based on the reverse engineering of a bag she was given.  My fabric must have been slightly thicker than hers because it's a really tight squeeze getting it into the strawberry corner.

I'd add some sparkly polka dots next time, since I don't have red spotted material but I do have fabric paint. And make the berry just a smidge bigger. I like the size of this bag. Much smaller and you can only fit one box of cereal in it. And sew my tag in before I put the sewing machine away.

Buy this one (with or without sparkly silver seeds) or order a custom bag at ShopLocket.