pencil pouch in navy blue waxed canvas with jeans gold topstitching and leather trim

Handcrafted Christmas gifts 2018

I’ve been in the process of shifting my business Oxford Dogma from hand sewn products to artwork, including custom pet portraits. One of my goals with this change is to put sewing back on my hobbies list to do for enjoyment instead of for income. This got me totally enthusiastic to sew Christmas gifts again! Something I haven’t done in a few years (I think 2015 was the last time).

canvas zipper pouches - handmade Christmas gifts 2018

Things got rolling when I chose Noodlehead’s Canvas Pencil Pouch Tutorial as my starting point. Normally I deliberate for days on end when it comes to choosing a sewing project, but I thought one of these pouches would be perfect for my nephew who loves to draw. I loved the zipper Anna uses in the tutorial, and ordered a set of 5 from Zipit on Etsy for my project. And after a somewhat disastrous attempt to wax my own canvas, made things easier on myself by ordering a yard of hand waxed canvas from A. L. Frances Textiles on Etsy.

With 5 of these zippers on hand, the navy waxed canvas, and plenty of different canvas options in my stash, I was able to also make pouches for my mother-in-law, a close friend, and a Dopp kit for my brother. The Dopp kit is my own design, not the Noodlehead pattern. And with one zipper left, I found a beautiful fabric from Rifle Paper Co/Cotton + Steel on Etsy that I thought my mom would like.

waxed canvas pouches with metal zippers and leather trim
A set of waxed canvas zipper pouches for my brother (the Dopp kit) and nephew (the pencil pouch).
navy blue waxed canvas dopp kit zipper pull and snap detail
This snap-strap detail was highly experimental — I’m so glad it worked out right!

I thought it would be fun to make some stickers for my nephew’s pencil pouch (always looking for reasons to use my Silhouette Cameo and the pack of label sheets I bought for it!). This sent me on a mission to learn about drawing Kawaii style illustrations. I filled some in with color and left some as black line art so he can color them in himself. If you’ve never doodled cute characters like these I highly recommend it — totally delightful.

For my mother-in-law, I used one of the same printed canvas fabrics from the big tote I sewed her back in 2015. I really like the color block design Anna used in her tutorial and went with that same concept here, pairing the canvas with a dark denim.

zipper pouch in yellow stripes canvas with denim contrast and metal zipper - Noodlehead pattern
Jeans gold topstitching complements the dark denim color block plus echos the yellow stripes of the canvas
denim and yellow stripes canvas pencil pouch - Noodlehead pattern
Detail of zipper and leather pull

For my friend I chose black and grey canvas, again in the color block style. And for hers I added a foldover leather detail.

zipper pouch in light grey and black canvas with leather accent - modified Noodlehead pattern

black and grey pencil case - modified Noodlehead pattern

To choose the fabric for my mom’s zipper pouch — which I imagine her using more as a toiletries bag than a pencil case — I thought about the colors she likes to wear and how her middle name is Rose. When I came across the Rifle Paper Co. fabrics I fell in love with them and chose one that would work well for this slender pouch. There was one I liked even more than this one, but the scale of the print was much too large for what I was trying to achieve.

zipper pouch in Rosa Natural by Rifle Paper Co - Noodlehead pattern
Fabric: Rosa Natural by Rifle Paper Co.

pencil pouch in Rosa Natural Linen Canvas - Rifle Paper Co Fabric with metal zipper - Noodlehead pattern

I think everything turned out great and I’m really happy with the results. The Noodlehead tutorial helped make these a joy to create. Treating myself to nice zippers and fabrics helped, too! I enjoyed digging into my stash of leather and hardware, putting them to use in new-to-me, interesting ways.

It was very rewarding to be able to learn new things and experiment while creating gifts for the people I care about.

handy coloring organizer paper pockets

Handy Coloring Organizer

Recently I became obsessed with the idea of designing and sewing a portable art case for kids, to hold paper, coloring books, pencils, markers, and crayons. After some sketching, I turned the idea into a pattern and made a muslin version of it.

And that’s the moment it was clear that my rudimentary sewing skills were holding me back.

The design worked pretty well, but finishing the curved outer edges with bias binding was…not pretty. I set the muslin art case aside and turned my attention instead to a simpler project that essentially filled the same purpose. When I bought Sewing to Sell by Virginia Lindsay, the Handy Organizer project intrigued me. It looked fairly straight-forward, and was a flexible pattern that could be adapted to different things, including a colored pencil holder.

I made some adjustments to the pattern to get closer to the vision in my head:

  • left off the outer pocket
  • replaced the ties with a button and loop
  • stitched channels in the left-side pockets to hold pencils and crayons
  • added a box pleat to the exterior, adding double fold bias tape that I made from the same fabric as the interior pocket (making this bias tape was so much fun! I want to turn all fabrics into bias tape now.)

I learned a few things during this project:

  1. Canvas doesn’t provide the same type of body and structure as a quilting cotton backed with mid-weight fusible interfacing. The piece was floppier than I’d have liked.
  2. It’s important to make sure all the bits and pieces are out of the way before stitching a seam. Originally there was a hair tie to close the case, but it was caught in my seam and when I ripped out the stitches to release it, the rubber inside was severed. A few years ago this would have crushed me, but the years have provided perspective and calm: it was salvageable with a fabric loop.
  3. Red tailor’s chalk doesn’t brush off of natural-colored canvas so well.

This project was a great learning experience, and I look forward to the day I can pick that original muslin back up and turn it into the real deal.

set of monogram and graphic tea towels

Customized Graphic Tea Towels

This week I wanted to make some gifts for friends who both happen to be getting into cooking more, so some custom-designed kitchen towels sounded like a fun idea. I brainstormed a variety of approaches, but one of my requirements was that the fabric be absorbent. Non-absorbent kitchen towels are super annoying.

At the fabric store, I didn’t see any bolts specifically marked as tea towel fabric, but there was something called “diaper cloth”. I figured that had to be absorbent! It’s a soft, lightweight cotton with a slight diamond texture on one side and fairly flat texture on the other side.

Each friend received a set of two towels: one with their initial and one with a more graphic element designed to fit their style. To make the images, I outlined the element in Illustrator and filled it with a diagonal line. Then I printed them on my laser printer (reversing the image) and used a blender pen to transfer the graphics onto the towels.

ampersand and M monogram tea towelsquatrefoil and H monogram tea towels

I experimented with the sizes of the towels: two of them are 15 1/2 x 23 1/2, and two of them are 15 1/2 x 26 1/2 (final sizes). Normally I sew with polyester thread, but for this project I picked up some white cotton thread. It was really nice to sew with, and I like the way it blended in with the 100% cotton fabric. Mary Ellen’s Best Press made the seams a piece of cake to fold, press, and stitch. That stuff is awesome.

The towels can be washed and dried no problem, and perhaps in time the graphics will fade some, which would actually look pretty cool.