quick and cool grocery tote

Handmade Christmas gifts 2015

Clockwise from large picture on left: Great Big Tote, Home and Away Cable Cozy, Quick and Cool Grocery Tote, Zippy Wallet

For this year’s Christmas presents, I wanted to do some sewing, something that fit each recipient’s personal style and interests.

Both my parents and my husband’s parents like to travel, so for the guys I made Home and Away Cable Cozies. This pattern includes a zipper pouch, which went together fine, and strips of elastic to hold cables. That part was trickier. For the first one, I tried stitching down just the width of the elastic, which required tying off each thread end. For the second one, I learned my lesson and ran the stitches all the way across the panel, allowing them to simply be backstitched at each end.

For my mom and a close friend, I made Quick and Cool Grocery Totes from Sewing to Sell by Virginia Lindsay. This was a fun pattern to make because it’s an efficient use of fabric, and it accommodates different fabric widths (which was good because I ran into that issue with my fabric choices). Boxing out the bottoms was an interesting and challenging experience. I couldn’t envision how they would come together, and had to just go for it (“use the Force” as a friend would say). Luckily it worked out just great!

My sister-in-law tends to like dark, basic colors (like me) and has simple, unfussy taste. I thought she’d appreciate a little Zippy Wallet for unencumbered trips to the store or whatnot. It turned out cute, except I wish I had attached the snap with my new snap tools — this one is a little unrefined.

And I also made two zippered pencil pouches for my nephews that didn’t get photographed — one in a Minions fabric, and the other in Skylanders fabric. I filled them with some mini markers and Field Notes-style notebooks with their names printed on them.

It feels great to sew something special for loved ones, and I hope the projects get lots of use. One of the best parts of this project is that I started making them back in August, making it a relaxing experience free of rushing and pressure. That’s definitely going on the calendar this August, too!

final sewing station bin

Sewing Station Bin

As I spend more time at my sewing machine, I’m noticing lots of ways I can improve the space. The first step was a thread rack to get those guys off the table and out of the way. Next up is a bin to hold thread clippings and small tools that get used often.

I sized this bin (inspired by the pattern I bought from Noodlehead) so that a large paper lunch bag would fit neatly inside, making it easy to dump out the trash. And the pockets in the front give me easy access to some things that kept getting lost in my plastic organizing bin.

The blue and white patterned fabric is Retro in Evening from the Betty Dear by Darlene Zimmerman line, and the navy is Kona Cotton. I bought them this week to run some test samples on my new sewing machine. But once I got them home, it was clear that they were too nice for that and needed a real project. The natural canvas and white lining fabric are SAS Fabrics bargains, so I don’t know much about what they actually are.

Topstitching! It was so fun to explore this technique more. I used a topstitching needle with two regular threads (one a natural color and the other khaki), which gives the look of a thick topstitching without needing to buy special thread.

For this bin, I used a non-fusible fleece interfacing — at least I think that’s what it was. It’s another item from SAS, so it’s also a bit of a mystery. But I liked sewing with it a lot more than the Pellon 71F because it was more flexible. The canvas provided some structure as well. It’s a softer-sided bin than the one I made for my knitting supplies.

I used one of my new bias tape makers to fold up the strip along the top of the large pocket. That thing is slick and really fun to use. Excellent use of a few bucks.



Next time I make this bin, I’d consider the following adjustments:

  • use a different approach on the patch pockets, leaving them unlined and like what would be on a shirt
  • line the large pocket with a fabric that matches the binding
  • use a higher quality fabric for the lining (although in this case, it’s completely hidden and being filled with a paper sack anyway)
  • run patch pockets all the way under the bottom
  • stop the channel stitches at the bottom fold instead of running underneath
divided basket with wool and canvas

Divided fabric basket for knitting supplies

I sewed this divided basket to keep in-progress knitting projects tidy and portable. It’s a natural cotton canvas body with a herringbone wool pocket and cotton liner. I’m so happy with this neutral and classic combination of colors and textures.

divided basket with knitting supplies

divided basket for knitting supplies

I wish I had lined the pocket in front — the knitting needles poke through the wool pretty easily. And next time, I’ll adjust the pattern to make the lining a bit taller, while making the divider a bit shorter.

For the interfacing, I used the heaviest one I could find (Pelon 71F Single-Sided Fusible Ultra Firm Stabilizer) but discovered I really don’t like sewing with it. At least, not with this pattern. It’s so stiff to work with, and isn’t flexible enough for the curves in this project. Next time I’ll try the Pelon 808 interfacing + 987F fusible fleece as recommended in the pattern instructions.

hair accessories organizing basket

Divided organizing basket for hair accessories

While researching ways to store and organize my knitting supplies and in-progress projects, I came across one particular pattern many times…like, over and over. It’s a divided basket sewing pattern by Anna at Noodlehead and it appears to be taking the fabric basket world by storm. It has great proportions and a clean, crisp look to it, plus it’s so practical. I really like making things that have a useful purpose.

Before I purchased the pattern from Noodlehead, I had found a few tutorials and figured out how to make the general basket with handles and a large front pocket. At the time, I didn’t really need the divider on the inside, but discovered through trial and error that the divider really does help add structure and stability to the basket. I used leftover canvas ticking from my apron project and made a large basket, originally to hold those knitting supplies. But it’s too large to be practical (doesn’t lend itself well to hauling around the house) and the sides are too floppy. The interfacing wasn’t quite strong enough to hold up those large sides.

large canvas basket
Large canvas basket

I think I’ll move this one under my vanity to hold towels.

With the pattern for the divided basket in hand, I adjusted the dimensions to create a small basket for a shelf in my bathroom to hold miscellaneous hair stuff. I always have bobbie pins and hair ties floating around, along with various clips.

This small basket is sized at 5″ W x 4″ D x 3″ H, with a divider inside. It’s made of medium-weight woven cotton (the dark brown is a Kona Cotton, which is a beautiful color and fabric).

hair accessories organizing basket top view

With this basket I learned that the top of the divider should be no closer to the top of the basket than 3/4″. Mine was too tall and my stitches are really erratic around that area. Other than that wobbly stitching, I’m really happy with how this little guy turned out. The channels on the pocket in front are good for holding a few clips, and the divider is actually really helpful to keep the pins and ties from making one tangled mess.