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drawstring top project bag with clear vinyl bottom

I made this project bag for a swap on Ravelry. I chose the black vinyl for the main fabric on the outside because I thought it would be easier to keep clean and it would give instant rigidity to the bag without the need for additional support. The cotton print lining peeks up about 4 inches to make the drawstring top. There is also a little inner pocket made out of the same print and if I make another one of these bags I will use a contrasting fabric to make it easier to see. The main feature I wanted to try out was making the bottom of the bag out of clear vinyl. I personally tend to forget what is in a container if I can’t see through it. Any kind of container. So I thought a little window on the bottom would make it easy to check what was inside if you put your project aside for a while or if you have too many project bags! While the rest of the bag went together fairly easily, I did not figure out a good way to work with the clear vinyl. But I will try again!

faux leather vinyl cylinder project bag

The recipient likes dachshunds so I did a little reverse appliqué dachshund on the outside of the bag in the same print. It was not hard to do. Since the vinyl does not ravel when cut, there was no need to turn the edges under. I just put a scrap of the cotton print behind the opening which I cut with a craft knife, and then stitched around the edge of the cut-out on the sewing machine. Fun and easy personalization.

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And because I’m obviously behind on posting what I’ve been doing so I might catch up a little faster if I just dump a bunch of pictures into one post. Not as much story but you get the idea.

This is a basket/bag (Ravelry link) knitted in the technique called mosaic knitting which I did for a KAL (knit-a-long). The boy has claimed it for his own. The technique creates a thick two color fabric without the usually gyrations required of colorwork.

mosaic knitting two color basket

I had a black tee-shirt left from the boy’s Ninja costume last year. The boy has always liked owls, but we recently watched the movie Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole which refueled the owl interest in our house. I handpainted just the eyes, top of the head, beak and a bit of shoulder to suggest an owl staring out of the darkness. I really like how this turned out.

hand-painted owl in the dark tee shirt

owl face hand-painted on black T-shirt

And another skirt for the girl, recycled out of a pair of my old corduroys. I used the fabric but I only kept the hem and side seams and carefully recycled the back pockets. There are pleats in the front and elastic in the waist. It’s in a longer length as requested. I also used some of the fabric from the pants to lengthen a favorite pair of pine green corduroy pants that still have a lot of room in the waist. No picture of that, oops! but similar to what I did to the boy’s pants here.

hand sewn brown corduroy girl skirt

back patch pocket detail on handmade corduroy girl skirt

And the reason behind all the sewing? Besides the motivation of school starting and cooler weather, I spent about a month and a half knitting a sleeveless sweater for myself that turned out . . . well, about the way I expected but I didn’t care for it at all. Sort of turned me off knitting for a bit. I’ve also been working off and on with a bench the boy and I rescued from the side of the road. One corner was in quite poor shape but the rest of it was well made with good quality hardwood so I decided it was worth some work. I’ve cut mortises and tenons, drilled holes of all sizes and mixed and shaped epoxy type filler and sanded, sanded, sanded. I’m not quite done yet but there will be a post with pictures of the transformation when it’s done, since we have about a month left to enjoy it before it gets too cold for this year.

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monster stuffie supplies, wool felt, buttons, zippers

This started out as a project to make monster stuffies. The boy and I had done some sketches several months ago, so I pulled those out and made patterns. The girl and I pulled out colors and colors of wool and rayon felt, the jar of buttons, snaps, zippers and other odds and ends. The original idea called for using a functioning zipper for the mouth which would create a belly pocket. This took a little thinking but it wasn’t all that hard. I had hoped this would be easy enough for the kids to do a lot of the work. The wool felt is pretty thick to sew through so they did parts of it but some of it was just too hard. We stuffed the bodies lightly with poly pellets and wool stuffing.

We each made one stuffie and it turned out that we each chose a different one of the three patterns I had made. The girl stayed true to the original monster theme but the boy’s morphed into a caricature of Spider-Man and mine turned zoomorphic and became an owl. For some reason we have had a lot of owl “sightings” lately—Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole (an excellent movie by the way), a non-fiction book about owls from the library, the kids have been hooting at the neighborhood owls, and when we went to get the girl her first backpack, she chose one with a cute forest scene, complete with . . . owls.

Happy Monster:
monster stuffie character wool felt button eyes and zipper mouth

Intense Superhero:
Spider-Man inspired zipper pocket stuffie

Silly Owl:
wool felt hand sewn owl stuffie with zipper pocket belly

This was a fun project and I think we’ll make more of these to give away as gifts. I’d particularly like to find some patterned wool to turn into felt to use on these stuffies.

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paper hat worn by cat

Paper hat made in the “French style” according to the boy. He had just finished reading a version of the fairy tale, Puss in Boots, with lots of froofy clothing. Hat modeled patiently by Duke the cat.

plumber's tape and water bottles

I have these small water bottles that don’t leak when they tip over and are just the right size for the kids. Unfortunately with much use the lids no longer screw down tightly. On a crazy whim I pulled out the plumber’s thread seal tape, read the box (it is food-safe), and wrapped a length around the threads of the bottle. I screwed on the lid and tested it out. Super, watertight once more. They’ve been through the dishwasher twice and I haven’t had to replace the tape yet. I think they’ll make it through the rest of the summer.

hand knitted lunch bag

I knit this “lunch sack” from a pattern I found on Ravelry. The pattern was written to be knit flat and then sewed up after. Although I don’t mind sewing, one of the things I like about knitting is the ability to create shaping without having to sew seams. So with a little math I converted the pattern to knit in the round, preserving as much of the original details as I could. It turned out pretty well although it is a little too stretchy to hold a full water bottle and a piece of fruit. But it would be just fine for a sandwich and a snack.

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I received a very polite e-mail from a reader asking about the pattern for the cyclette bag (see here and here). I had intended to write up the pattern with pictures and apparently didn’t get around to it. Not a surprise. But looking back through the pictures I did actually make three of them! Which is a lot for me, I rarely make two of the same thing. But I didn’t take process pictures of any of them, waah.

So I decided to make another one and write up the instructions and take pictures along the way. It turned out to be a bit more involved than I had thought it would be. None of the sewing is particularly difficult, there were just more steps than I remembered. It is a rather clever construction (If I may say so myself) and requires no hand sewing but all seams are neatly enclosed. I’m not sure how I will proceed with formatting this one. The pattern lends itself to a few variations, which I may play out in order to incorporate into the finished pattern/tutorial.

But here are the pictures of the latest cyclette bag, inspired by the musette bag or feed bag carried by cyclists. The bag is sized to hold lunch and a water bottle, plus your wallet and keys in the inner zippered pocket.

random-charm's cyclette bag musette bag cyclist tote inside zipper pocket detail tote bag

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I have to say that the men in the house pulled off the best handmade presents this year. I helped a little but the ideas and much of the execution was theirs. The boy made his sister a monogrammed purse which she adores.

hand sewn felt and leather purse for little girl flowers monogram

We traced and cut an oval from some stiff pink felt left over from another project. The boy used a fabric marker to draw a curly “S” in the middle of the oval and then arranged and sewed on felt flowers all around. I cut a very simple pattern out for a curvy purse with a large front flap, reminiscent of styles from the ’70s. I cut the pieces from some scrap leather I had. (I’m pretty sure it’s bi-cast or laminated but it looks surprisingly nice and I think it will hold up fine to loving use by a little girl.) The boy helped me machine sew the oval onto the front flap. He then used a fabric marker to stencil a sweet message on the inside to his sister. Later I hand-sewed the pieces of the purse together and attached the strap to rings at the sides. It looks great, the boy was quite proud of himself and his sister was over the moon! See the photos below for the play-by-play action.

Oo! Pretty!

Oo! Pretty!



Oh, man, she kissed me!

Oh, man, she kissed me!

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I am so proud of the girl. She has been making a list of all her favorite people and making gifts for them. Some of her choices have been interesting but I’ve done my best to help her carry out her plans. This faux leather wallet is for one of her boy friend/heroes. Though he is nearly 6 years older, he has always been kind to her and she looks up to him like another brother.

pleather faux leather wallet with contrast stitching hand made

I was a bit dismayed when she said that she wanted to make him a wallet but after a bit of thought I pulled out this remnant of black vinyl. She sat on my lap at the sewing machine and chose one of his favorite colors, red, for the thread. We then turned the dials of my simple machine through the different stitch patterns and sewed parallel lines of red stitching against the black. I folded the rectangle wrong side out and sewed; her eyes danced as we turned it right side back out revealing the simple pouch shape. She chose a matching red resin snap to close the wallet.

hand sewn pleather vinyl snap wallet pouch

It didn’t photograph so well, and it’s a bit on the bold side, but I think he will actually like it. She seemed matter-of-factly pleased with the finished project and immediately wrapped it and wrote the label. I had to retrieve it after she went to bed and carefully unwrap it to photograph it!

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These projects barely qualify but since I haven’t done much else with a needle and thread lately you get to see them. Please excuse my lack of grammatically compete sentences. Strange mood tonight.

Water bottle holder. Yummy coffee/cocoa swirly fabric from Robert Kaufman. Self-lined with thermal-reflective fabric enclosed. Normally used to make potholders but should insulate cold as well as warm drinks. We’ll see how it performs.

water bottle holder with thermal lining

Mario Galaxy luma stars. At the request of the boy and his copycat sister. Green, his current favorite color and dark pink, her perennial favorite color. Highlights and eyes sewn on by hand, outline sewn by machine on felt. The boy named his Starfy and the girl named hers Perla but subsequently calls hers Starfy as well. The inspiration is thanks to “Uncle” Chad who brought his Wii game with him when he came to visit. (The jury is still out on whether or not we should press charges.)

hand sewn handmade felt luma stars from Mario Galaxy

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I know I’ve been busy crafting but I’m not sure what! Origami dragons and paper ballet dancer puppets, little doll blankets and perler beads. And laundry. This is the time of the year where we have all our various types of boots and coats out because we never know from one day to the next what the weather will be like. It seems to increase the laundry as well.

Off the spinning wheel: two ounces of hemp fiber spun into about 100 yards of DKish yarn. Or twine. It’s hard to call something like this yarn. It was quite rough so I kept a dish of water to wet my fingers occasionally as I spun. It was certainly interesting but I don’t plan on spinning hemp again. Maybe a hemp/cotton blend.

handspun hemp yarn

Off the knitting needles: one handspun hemp mesh and leather market bag. I had hoped to knit the hemp into the Ilene market bag pattern but there wasn’t enough yardage. So I improvised by cutting a piece of thin leather for the base and the handles and knitting the mesh pattern for just the body of the bag. I used a tiny scrapbooking holepunch to make holes 1/4″ apart all the way around the edge of an oval traced off one of my casserole dishes. I then used a crochet hook to pull loops through each hole, did a single crochet and then deposited that loop onto circular needles. I then knit up all the yarn in the mesh stitch and cast off. I punched similar holes in the bottom edge of the leather handle piece and used some commercial hemp thread to hand sew on the bag. The mesh stitch stretches easily to accommodate quite a lot of things despite not looking all that big.

handspun hemp knitted mesh and leather market bag

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This post is for you, ArTchrJan.

rag rolled hair curls

Okay, this is actually the back of the girl’s head while she is working on the project to follow. She asked for curly hair so I put her hair up in rag rolls, too cute huh? Anyway, here’s her beach scene collage cut with the “special” scissors. We have an assortment of scissors with different edges like waves, scallops, etc. That’s a person on the beach and a sea monster in the water.

construction paper collage

Friday the boy brought one of our plain canvas bags to me and asked to paint it. The girl immediately wanted to paint too of course. As usual, I requested they make a sketch first. Otherwise the girl is apt to just scribble. Here are the results, including the feet of the artists; a Pokémon ball (or so I was told) and a tiger cat with red rat. And now we have a one-of-a-kind library bag! I think I’ll request they paint some others.

pokemon ball painted on canvas bag

tiger cat and red rat painted on canvas bag

And this project is a little older, maybe a week or two ago. the girl and I made this juice can lid mosaic out of Sculpey. Actually she did most of it, rolling the clay through the pasta machine and cutting out the shapes with canapé cutters, I just helped fill in the blue background and worked the oven.

polymer clay sculpey mosaic flower on juice can lid

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$1 mesh bath puff

Take one mesh bath puff, a pair of scissors, 2′ of bias tape or wide ribbon, 2′ of cotton string, about 10 minutes at the sewing machine and voila! a reusable mesh bag for fruits and veggies. The bath puff is held together by a short length of cord, once you cut it you get a really long tube of soft mesh, diameter about 10″. I cut it into 15″ lengths. I sewed leftover bias trim from another project to close off the bottom and then as a casing around the top. I threaded cotton string through the top as a drawstring.

It’s actually about the same size as the plastic grocery store bags and would hold about 8 apples I guess, maybe 2 crowns of broccoli, etc. I don’t think this mesh is as strong as I would like it to be but we’ll see how it works out in practice. I have another source for some heavier duty mesh but I figured I’d try out my idea with something cheap and readily available first.

I hate coming home from the grocery store with ten of those clingy plastic bags. They aren’t really good for keeping your veggies in once you get home or for storing anything else for that matter, too flimsy. They are recyclable but still, they have a useful life of about 30 minutes. What a waste. So I thought I’d try out some mesh bags and see how I like them. My big problem will be remembering to take them with me to the grocery store.

reusable mesh fruit or vegetable bag

And for anyone who wants to try this themselves, there is enough mesh in one of those bath puffs to make 10 bags! You could probably use foldover elastic on the top edge instead. Might be easier to make and use than the drawstring casing. The fabric trim just looks pretty!

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handspun BFL wool dyed with red Kool-Aid to a watermelon color

Isn’t this yummy? It’s handspun BFL (blue-faced Leicester) that I spun on the wheel and then plied and dyed. With Kool-Aid. Yup. I know, I should get some real acid dyes but for now, this is easier. I don’t have to have special dye pots set aside, etc. I just do this in a glass measuring bowl in the microwave and it works. You can dye any animal fiber such as wool or silk with food dyes and a bit of acid such as vinegar or citric acid. The bonus with Kool-Aid is that it already has the citric acid in it. (Here are some good instructions for dyeing with Kool-Aid.)

I think this yarn is destined to be a little girl bag similar to the one I made for my friend Jan. The girl likes watermelon very much. Would it be too silly if I shaped it like a watermelon? Not with a rind and seeds and all, just a half moon shape. Then I could practice increases.

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knitted wallet size pouch

I knit this wallet size pouch out of sock yarn remnants for my friend Jan. I practiced Judy Becker’s Magic Cast-On for knitting socks from the toe up (which will be my next knitting project). So the pouch is completely seamless and knit in the round. The less finish work at the end, the better in my book! I used a random combination of knit and purl rows to add a little textural interest. The strap was crocheted to length. Not really a pattern, just made it up as I went along.

This was a quick and easy project and would be great for using up bits of yarn from other projects. You could easily add a closure or change the size or proportions of the bag to suit yourself. It would also be a good project for making little gift bags or for making useful practice swatches for patterns for bigger projects.

wallet sized handknitted pouch on 5x8" notebook

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fabric gift bags with sewn in ties made from scraps

I made these quick little fabric gift bags out of remnants. I originally made a cross back baby jumper from this fabric for a friend’s daughter. My girl inherited it and I think it’s since been passed on to someone else!

Anyway, I hate to throw away scraps and these pieces were probably only 4 x 6 maybe. I did a rolled hem on the top edge with the serger and then stuck the ribbon in the seam as I sewed. Faster than a drawstring bag but you can’t lose the tie either! There is a better description on how to make these bags by Betz White. You could even make these with the iron-on hem tape if you don’t sew, just don’t put anything too heavy in it just in case!

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self lined drawstring bag with knitting project
This is the shoe bag tutorial I promised a long time ago. I realized that although I first made it as a shoe bag, it really could be used for anything. Here I have one just the right size for holding a ball of sock yarn, and the sock-in-progress itself. I can pull the knitting out, pull the drawstrings onto my wrist and knit and walk at the same time. It’s sad, just goes to show how suddenly obsessed I am with knitting.

This self-lined drawstring bag is a great way to use pretty remnants of any lightweight fabric. It makes up easily in quilter’s cottons, flannel, satin or velvet, even a salvaged length from a favorite garment. You can piece your fabric to make up enough length or to have a contrast lining. You can even add pockets to the inside or outside before making the bag for even more versatility. A shoestring, ribbon, twill tape, cord or what-have-you can be be used as the drawstring. These make great gift bags especially in smaller sizes and can also be made as a purse for a young girl or a treasure bag for boys. Make one to hold the pieces of a game whose cardboard box is disintegrating. Custom size bags to store craft tools or projects, lingerie or shoes. There are no raw edges, no handsewing and the bag can be used inside out as well.

There is no pattern. It’s just a rectangle, you choose the size for your application. Grab some favorite remnants and the tutorial and make some cute bags. And if you use this pattern, e-mail me a picture of your bag! I’d love to see what you come up with.

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