Sunday, April 19, 2015

Playing Catch-Up With the Betsy Sew Along

I'm having the hardest time keeping up with my schedule! I've missed Week Two and I'm posting at the last possible minute about Week Three! I'm not even sure how that happened, really. 

Let's just jump right in without any further delay, shall we?

April 9: Sew Along Week 2—Add exterior corners, accordion pocket, zippered back pocket (pattern steps 11–29)

{giveaway Betsy for 2015 Stash Bash Attendees}

The corners...just one of the details that makes The Betsy Travel Bag look professional. How do you get the finished edge so perfect? Well, I'll tell you. I measure EVERYTHING. I remember when I was an intermediate level sewist making garments. I had to turn an edge under 1/2" (1", 2" whathaveyou) but it never came out perfect and I could never find that slidey ruler thingy to help me get it accurate. One day, I realized that if I needed a 1/2" hem, I could use a fabric pen on the wrong size and draw a line 1" away from the edge. If I folded the edge to the line, I would have a perfect 1/2" hem! So, that's what I do. Double the measurement that the pattern tells you, draw it on the back of the fabric and press! Voila! Perfection every time. It's so satisfying. We'll use this trick throughout the Betsy pattern, so keep your eye out!

When you sew the corners on, pin them balls in/across the triangles. This will help keep the corners in place and will keep the pin heads out of the way of the presser foot.

The accordion pocket is pretty straight-forward. Two rectangles placed right sides together and sewn all the way around, leaving a 4" opening at the bottom for turning. 
{finished accordion pocket}

It's important to pay attention to one-way design when deciding what is the top and what is the bottom of your pocket. The opening needs to be at the bottom. The reason is because the top-stitch is 1/2", which wouldn't end up closing the turning hole of it was on top. However, since the pocket is edge-stitched at 1/8" across the bottom and down both sides, it will close easily. 

Follow the marking diagram in the instructions for pressing and folding the accordion pleats. You will stitch the center line, then the sides and finally across the bottom of the pocket. It is essential to pin the pocket in place really well to make sure there is no shifting and bunching of the pocket. 

For the accordion pocket straps and strap tabs, as well as a few other things, you will be asked to stitch a "square and an X". I use a grid ruler to measure 1/8" up from folded bottom edge, draw a line. Measure the space between lines of stitching (about 3/4" or 1") measure that distance up from the first line and Mark. Connect the corners by drawing an "X". Start by stitching on the first line you drew, go up to the next line by carefully stitching over the existing stitches on the strap. Sew the full square before continuing to the first diagonal line. Go up (or down?) the original stitch line and stitch the next line in the "X". I hope that all made sense!

The back exterior zippered pocket seems to be really intimidating to most people. But, I'm telling you, YOU can do it! I just taught a class and most of my students were so nervous about this step. They couldn't believe how easy it was when they had it accomplished. Seriously, it's as simple as sewing a rectangle. You don't even have to put your zipper foot on (Gasp! Shock! For real...)
{trimmed rectangle to show the cute polka dot zipper}

Place one pocket lining right sides together on the back exterior, follow the instructions for marking the pocket line; stitch on the rectangle. Then, draw a line down the center of the rectangle and cut it open. Feel free to trim some of that seam or leave it as is. If you trim, it'll be easier to pull the lining completely out of the rectangle and towards the back. If you don't, the lining will then wrap the seam and remain exposed, which is a pretty accent, in my opinion. 
{untrimmed rectangle for accent}

If you leave the rectangle untrimmed, as shown in above photo, the pocket lining will be all weird and puckery on the sides where the zipper ends are. DO NOT WORRY ABOUT THIS! Simply adjust the seam allowance to cover it when you stitch the second piece to it. This is a hidden pocket and you will not see the seams, nor will the seam allowance make a difference in pocket functionality. Just trust me, this is one of those times in sewing where you get to be wild and carefree!

When installing the zipper, after pulling the lining to the inside, you don't have to pin it. Instead, I use either Liquid Stitch or Elmer's glue to hold it in place. For this reason, I almost always do this step first. It gives the glue time to dry while I work on the corners, accordion pocket etc. Apply a thin line of glue to the long edges of the zipper tape, then carefully center the zipper on the rectangle. If you place the zipper head face down, hold it with your finger, you can sort of roll the zipper along the opening line to make sure it's centered nice and neat.

Next up is the Week Three Post, which I will finish up right now. Stay tuned!

Happy Stitching!

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Book Review: Improvising Tradition...

I received this book for review at the end of last year. I remember thinking "Improv quilting?? I dunno. That's too 'art quilt' for me, but I'll try it." I guess I think crazy-weird arm flinging, stage leaping, mime faced expressive dance when I think of improv quilting. For example...
{Caterham Dance School, photo by Elliott Scott Photography} 

Graceful, lovely, unique but totally not my thing. I appreciate it, I admire those dancers for being brave and gutsy and free, but that style is not for me. Improv quilting is not for me, I need rhyme and reason. I can only express myself by refusing to make quilts entirely out of one line of fabric. Mixing fabrics, designers, prints and colors is my expressive dance in quilting! I am not a stage galloper, an arm waver, an improv quilter. No way no how. 

Or so I thought...

Well then this book landed in my mailbox and I was all "Eeewww, Improv Quilting, what the heck?" I turned the pages hoping to find that one quilt in the book that proved me to be right, that one quilt that screamed out "I am EXPRESSIVE! And FREE! I AM IMPROOOOOOV!" but they all just sat there in the book, quietly, waiting for me to realize that I was letting my preconceived notions of this form of quilting get the best of me. 

These quilts were free, yes:
{morse code quilt}

These quilts were artsy:
{mirrored sunset wall hanging}

These quilts were modern:

These quilts were adorable:
{guppies in the middle baby quilt}

And these quilts were definitely inspiring:

Oh yes, this whole book was inspiring. All  17 projects are inspiring, in fact. I found myself flipping through the pages because I wanted to see how they did that funky awesome herringbone thing again, or re-read the instructions on needle-turned appliqué once more. I especially kept finding myself looking again, over and over, at the XOXO Baby Quilt. That one...THAT one was going to be the one that kicks off my improv quilting love affair. I had to make it, so one afternoon, I did. 
{fabric selection}

If you've read my "About Me", you know I make lists. I'm never without a to-do list and for the last two years, making a mini quilt for my friend Katherine has been on that list. I decided to turn the XOXO Baby Quilt  into a mini quilt for her.

Can I just tell you how much fun the improv process is? There are no rules, no one is looking over your shoulder and saying "You're doing that wrong." because you get to create as you go. The beauty of it is that you get to make something with guidelines, you have the general idea for the end result in your head, and if you're good at being a one-step ahead thinker, you will love this process.

I haven't done the quilting on it yet, but I have a plan for it. (Weird, right? Planning on an improv piece.)

I know my perception of this type of quilting has permanently changed. I think they should stop calling it "Improv Quilting" and they should call it instead, "Choose Your Own Adventure Quilting", don't you? 

You can find this book in the InterWeave online store by clicking here.

Visit the author, Alexandra Ledgerwood, on her website here.

Happy quilting!

Thursday, April 02, 2015

The Betsy SewAlong!

Fun, fun, super fun. I get to have a sew-along with my publisher/co-hosts Rebel Craft Media for The Betsy Travel Bag. 

{Angela Pingel's Betsy}

Here's the funny thing...I'm co-hosting this Sew Along, meaning I have to be responsible and organized and punctual (insert "Huh, Wha??" Face here) I'm still kind of in disbelief that I made up that pattern. I mean, I keep seeing it on Instagram, I've seen the test-sewn versions in person and every time I look at it I think "Wow, that's a cool bag. I should make one!" And then I remember that I did make one. In fact, I made the pattern. How'd that happen, I mean did it go from an idea to all of this? 

{inside, sorta}

Somebody pinch me, this is pretty cool. The best part is, now I get to see what you guys make. It's pretty neat to see other people so excited about creating a bag from something I made up. I can't describe the feeling, but it's very humbling and it makes me giddy. 

{side view}

I'll be working on three Betsy's during this #BetsySewAlong. I'll be on Instagram to help answer questions, give advice, encouragement or explanations. There's nothing to silly to ask, so don't worry about that. I'd love it if you joined us! 

{fabric pull for a raffle Betsy/SewAlong 1}

The Betsy SewAlong has a weekly plan, giving you plenty of time to tackle the items on the list for that week. The pattern is available through, zippers can be purchased through Zip-It on Etsy and the hardware kit, in three different price/style options, can be found at

Check out the details below, and join us for a fun month-long sewing event. 

Show us your progress on Instagram using #BetsySewAlong and #TheBetsyTravelBag!


The Betsy Travel Bag Sew Along Schedule

Posts will go live on the below dates (Thursday of each week for 5 weeks).

April 2: Sew Along Week 1—Cut, interface, make handles/tabs/etc., make exterior quilted panels (pattern steps 1–10)

April 9: Sew Along Week 2—Add exterior corners, accordion pocket, zippered back pocket (pattern steps 11–29)

April 16: Sew Along Week 3—Make end panels (pattern steps 30–50)

April 23: Sew Along Week 4—Make interior pocket, assemble bag and lining (pattern steps 51–69)

April 30: Sew Along Week 5—Finishing steps: add top zip, binding, handles, strap (pattern steps 70–82)

May 8: Deadline to submit finished photos.

Enter to Win!

Share a photo of your finished bag on Instagram on or before May 8 at 11:59pm EST. Tag your bag photo with #BetsySewAlong and @rebelcraftmedia to enter. The bag must be completed in full to be eligible to win.

Not on Instagram? Email us a photo of your completed bag to by the deadline to enter.

One winner will be selected at random from all submitted and eligible photos of The Betsy Travel Bag.

The winner will receive a fat quarter bundle of “Biology”, designed by Sarah Watson for Cloud9 Fabrics—courtesy of Fat Quarter Shop!

Happy Sewing!