Saturday, October 13, 2018

Tanner Springs Summer Reflections

In addition to bright, warm sunshine and brilliant colors, autumn brings a little melancholy that cannot be fully explained.  Perhaps my wistfulness simply laments the end of another beautiful Portland summer.  

These thread-sketched greeting cards celebrate summer in Tanner Springs Park. 
Because the cards were created using the same steps described many times, there are few words of explanation.  As always, please let me know if you have questions about product or process.
I hope you enjoy.


Sketch pad drawing of a new heron who visited a few days this year.
Sketch transferred to water soluble stabilizer, taped to canvas and ready for outline stitches

After stitching the outline in black, a little acrylic paint was used to add background color before filling in more free motion stitches.

4x6 greeting card


Sketch of bench where the spring bubbles up.

Finished 4x6 greeting card

Baby Ducks

Nothing heralds spring and summer in Tanner Springs like the arrival of baby ducks.

Lily Pads and Carp

My sketch does not do justice to the beautiful water lilies in the Tanner Springs pond.  
The introduction of carp into the pond threatens the ecosystem.  It is amazing how large some of the carp have grown in such shallow water.  It is still unclear how the problems caused by the carp will be resolved.
The carp was not part of the photo I took in the park.  I decided to add it later to create more interest.

This carp is more colorful than the carp you will see in Tanner Springs.  

Thank you for visiting.  I hope you will come back again.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Fun Cross-Body Bags

If you are familiar with Portland, you already know that NW 23rd is a destination.  Shops and restaurants line the street for many blocks.  The area glows with eclectic energy.

Artisan Avenue Marketplace is one of my favorite places to drop in.  Featuring local artists, there is always something new to admire.  The owner is delightful and helpful.  She has shared inspiration and ideas to explore.  My last visit, she suggested cross-body bags with animals.  I came home and started work.  I had a few false starts that I may share later in a blooper blog.  As a result of her suggestion, I made six cross-body bags, three of which feature animal art.  

The process I use has been described in many previous posts, but if you cannot find an answer for your question, please send me email.  I am always happy to hear from you! 

I hope you enjoy!


8 inches across the top, flaring to 9-1/2 inches across the bottom.  7 inches tall

Friday, August 17, 2018

Un-Recessed Zipper Bags

Handbags come in an endless variety of shapes, sizes and features.  That is also true of handbag patterns and tutorials.  Even with many free tutorials and patterns available online, it can be challenging to find just what you are looking for.  Adapting patterns to create bags with the features you want can be fun and rewarding,.....and, a little like solving puzzles.   Perhaps that is why I never tire of making bags.

Personally,  I am drawn to bags with pockets, inside and out, and with a wide opening so items are easily retrieved from the bottom of the bag.  I also like zipper closures, especially for bags I use for travel.  I just completed six new bags.  In this post, I focus on a few things I learned while making these bags, including adapting features and recovering from unexpected results!   I used new products and altered techniques found in several online tutorials.  Although the bags are the same size and have similar features, each one went together a little differently.  Read on to see what I mean.  

The Design

I started with basic requirements:
  • finished size about 10 x 11
  • shaped with a two inch flat bottom to provide a little more room
  • one interior pocket and at least one exterior pocket
  • an area of fabric that could be used for a thread sketch
  • adjustable, removable strap

Size and Shape

Although I use a rotary cutter to make most cuts, I still like to cut a pattern from freezer paper.  It makes it easier to position and visualize pockets and art features.  I also make notes on the freezer paper so I can remember what I have done.

For this bag, I used two small leaf designs, drawn and stitched using my normal "sketch-pad-to-fabric" process.  The lining pieces (not shown) were cut to the same dimensions.  The exterior has one zippered pocket.  On the side without the zipper, the contrasting fabric serves as a pocket.

Mistake to Feature

Making this bag was my first experience with a recessed zipper.  I wanted the bag to look like a small beach tote.  Recessed zippers are usually found in larger bags and totes.  I learned, through experience, they do not work quite as well for smaller bags. However, with a minor modification, the recessed zipper technique can be used to create a nice feature for smaller bags. 

I searched YouTube for a good recessed zipper tutorial.  My favorite was posted by Carole's Cricut Crafts.  I modified her instructions to suit my smaller bag by shortening the length of zipper on each side of the bag. However, this kept the zipper from fitting properly inside the bag.  Also, the  zipper and panels took up valuable room inside the small bag.

In an attempt to salvage what I had already done, I flipped the zipper panels up and top stitched to the lining.  Not only did this add 1-1/2 inches to the height of the bag, the extended zipper tabs and open-end panels created a wide mouth for easy access.  A new favorite feature was born!

This first bag had a pocket on the front, but no external zippered pocket.  Onward! 

Zippered Pockets

It was back to YouTube to find a good tutorial for external zippered pocket.  Sara Lawson on YouTube Sew Sweetness Channel has a tutorial on how to add a zippered pocket to any bag.   Her instructions are easy to follow and adapt to any size bag.  With only a slight modification to pocket size, I followed the Sew Sweetness tutorial with success!

Now would be a good time to talk about zippers.  I never seemed to have the right zipper color or size for my projects....until I found the Zipper Lady.  I purchased zippers by the yard in a number of colors and styles.  I could not be happier.  I cut the zippers to the exact length I need eliminating waste and saving money.  In addition, her selection of high quality zippers and pulls is almost overwhelming.  This picture may not display the beautiful zipper details.  It is a 5mm shiny silver nylon coil.  It looks like metal, but cuts and sews beautifully.  

Exterior Pockets Without Zippers

For most of these bags, I decorated an external pocket with a thread sketch.  To keep it interesting, I tried a few pocket shapes and styles,,,,not with equal success.  

I thought it would add interest to have the lower part of the Fremont Bridge thread sketch disappear below the curved pocket edge.  To create the edge, I cut the desired shape and auditioned it over the thread sketch.  


I positioned the pattern on top of the pocket fabric.  The folded edge of bias-cut trim was shaped along the edge of the pattern.

    Bias trim stitched in place. 

Outside pocket fabric with bias trim and the lining fabric were placed right sides together.  The layers were sewn together by stitching on top of the the bias trim stitch line.   Cut away the top part and flip the lining to the backside.  It takes a little easing and light pressing to make it lie flat.  

In the end, I did not use this pocket as prepared.  I liked the look, but it was too bulky.  I replaced it with a another pocket with a lighter-weight lining and eliminated the bias trim.  Bulk is an issue for discussion at another time.  

This scoop shape pocket was created similarly to the bridge bag pocket.  The lightweight fabric used for the thread sketch was padded with fusible batting to help maintain shape and provide a little padding to protect items inside the bag.  

Stitching Small Pieces

Before sewing all the parts together, you need to consider how the strap will be attached.  I use several methods, depending on the size and type bag.  I often use small loops instead of metal rings to attach the strap.  Very small fabric pieces can be difficult to stitch.  Using tear-away stabilizer helps move them through the machine without bunching or slipping. 

Putting It All Together

I mentioned earlier that all six of these bags went together a little differently.  Each method had pros and cons.  The jury is still out, but I think my favorite method is explained best online at Sew Modern Bags.  The Koda bag in the tutorial is different than my bag, but has a lot of good features.  The instructions had to be modified somewhat because of the zipper panels, but the result was clean and professional looking.  

Three photos at the same point in construction.  Above, the lining, exterior bag, and zipper panels are layered and ready to sew together.  Below, looking closely at the exterior, you can see the small gray loops at the seam line where the strap will attach with swivel clasps.  

For these bags, I purchased hardware online at Bag Maker Supply Etsy Shop.  They have a large variety of hardware and fast service.  

With the zipper extending beyond the split zipper panels, the bag has a wide opening for easy access to whatever is at the bottom of the bag.

Even with soft sides, the two-inch square bottom allows this bag to stand.  

Well, that's it!  Although this was a lot of information, if you are new to bag making, you will need more help to get started than I have provided here.  Many online tutorials provide free PDF format patterns for you to follow.  Try following the pattern as written for the first few bags.  If you have questions for which you cannot find answers, or need a good beginning pattern/tutorial, send me a note.  I have many more favorites!

Thank you for visiting.  I hope you return again soon!  


Sunday, July 8, 2018

High Brow Happy Hour

This giraffe doll, lovingly named High Brow, was initially featured in my UrbAnimals post on September 13, 2016.  He hangs around on my display wall with other dolls and animals.  After a recent suggestion to hang the dolls on bags, I started work on a bag specifically made for High Brow.  

Finished bag is 13-1/2" wide x 14" tall.  At full length, the adjustable strap measures 57 inches, including hardware.

This was not easy for me.  I enjoyed stitching the thread sketch and making the bag.  But there was something about hanging a doll from the bag that just did not speak to me.  This bag is the result of weeks of experimentation and anguish.  Even now, after several false starts, there are things I would do differently next time.  But, I've tried it, and I think I am over it.  I will share a few notes here in case I change my mind.   Rather than talk about the mechanics of the thread sketch or bag creation, I will focus, instead, on a couple new products that made this project more fun than it might have been.  
I hope you enjoy.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Happy Mother's Day

I am lucky to have had many remarkable women in my life. My mother has been gone for years, and I am missing my sister this year, but they were both in my thoughts as I stitched these Mother's Day cards for my mother-in-law as well as the other amazing mothers in our family.      

These cards are more whimsical than my typical cards.  I created the designs for light stitching on dish towels.  I liked them so well, I reduced the size and reused the designs for these cards.  I used the same method explained in many of my blogs, so will not dwell on the basics.  The pictures below depict how easy it is to create a simple and charming card.  

Basic design outlines were stitched in black.  While the fabric was still damp from rinsing the stabilizer, I used water color pencils to add just a bit of color to the main objects.  Small hearts cut from fabric were positioned and stitched down with complimentary threads.  Trimmed and stitched to card stock for mounting onto blank greeting cards.

Happy Mother's Day!

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Meet Maddy

I have been making dolls of all shapes and sizes for years, but Maddy is my first paper clay doll.  I have used paper clay for other projects and chose to stay with it for this doll.  Although happy with the final form, Maddy and I struggled through three different skin colors, two outfits, and three wigs.  There were times when I was sure this would be my last clay doll, but now that she is done, I think I may try it again using some of the lessons learned.        

Maddy is 16 inches tall.  Blue beads serve as elbow and knee joints.  Her head, shoulders and hips are attached to a soft body.  Clothes are permanently affixed.  

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Gentle Heart

"A gentle heart is tied with an easy thread."

George Herbert's words inspired the design of this clay and fabric sculpture.  The woman, and the heart she has captured, are both entwined with thread.  Here is the meandering creation in pictures and a few words.    

I enjoyed my first experience with paper clay at Christmas making small gifts for our grandchildren.  No heat or fumes to harden.... just time and patience.  While shaping the gifts, I started toying with the idea to create a paper clay doll.

I was only minutes into the project when, for reasons I no longer remember, I deviated from the plan for a doll.  An armature was formed and I was on my way to a figurine.  I worked on this figure for four weeks, trying different media and techniques.  The paper clay is very forgiving.  It can be shaped, carved and sanded with each new idea or mood.  At 17 inches tall, the figure is larger than intended.  It is a good thing I had only one package of paper clay..... who knows how this project may have grown!