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Saturday, 15 December 2018

Crafting a Miniature Purse... Just Because

Miniature Purse crafted by eSheep Designs
A "designer" bag, shown next to my pin jar for scale...
Not sure what possessed me to do this again, but having seen so many miniature purses and bags over the past year on eBay and YouTube, I figured it was time to try another one.

This is a tiny purse that's meant to be hung from a keychain or something and used as bag bling. (It does open up, however, so it's not entirely frivolous!)

It's based on a project (from a YouTube channel called DIY Crafts TV) originally calling for faux leather. I decided to use a thinner vinyl that I had in my stash, recycled from a dollar store item. The substitution was not entirely successful, as the handles do not have the fullness that would result from a thicker material.

That said, I managed to eliminate a lot of the hand sewing by using the vinyl, which is always a plus in my book. ;-)

The only part that was hand sewn here was the zipper. It was potentially way too fiddly for me to consider running it through the machine.


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The only template required for this project is a small rectangular piece, measuring 9cm wide by 16cm high. It is folded in half before the top corners are rounded off, and 1cm squares are cut from the corners along the folded edge. (If you want approximate imperial measurements, I suggest 3.5" wide by 6" high and then cut out 1/2" squares.)

A very simple template to arrive at the main body pieces...

Once unfolded, the template is used "as is" to cut out the faux leather/vinyl. For the fabric lining piece, another 1cm is added to each end as shown above (go with 3/8" if you're using imperial measurements). That extra material is then folded to the wrong side and sewn down to create a finished edge at the top.

Miniature Purse crafted by eSheep Designs
Standing up...

As you might guess, the cutout squares are used to create a boxed bottom.

Miniature Purse crafted by eSheep Designs
Closed on its side...

Construction of this is fairly straight-forward. For both pieces, put right sides together and sew up the sides, then box the corners. Turn the exterior piece right side out, drop the lining into it and then hand sew the zipper in between the two.

Miniature Purse crafted by eSheep Designs
Angled view of boxed bottom...

I chose to run some top-stitching around the top edge of the exterior piece to add some visual interest and to match what I planned to do with the handles.

The video tutorial doesn't provide any indication of seam allowances but with something like this, you might want to sew the lining seams a bit larger than the exterior seams so that the lining fits better inside. (I used seam allowances of 1/8" to 1/4".)

Miniature Purse crafted by eSheep Designs
View of interior lining...

I used black thread to sew on the zipper because I didn't want the stitches to be visible on the exterior (having already sewn the topstitching that was meant to be visible).


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The handles are created out of two pieces measuring 2cm by 15cm each (or 3/4" x 6"). The ends are cut into a "v" shape, which is left open and is the part that you see attached to the body of the bag. Beyond that, the two long edges are sewn together. (You can see how my handles don't quite bend smoothly; that's due to the thin vinyl.)

Miniature Purse crafted by eSheep Designs
Open on its side...

Since I didn't have any bling-y faux jewels to stick in the middle of those strap anchors, my alternative was to topstitch around them to make them pop a bit.

The handles were hot-glued onto the bag as the final step. (In the original tutorial, the maker hand sews them onto the exterior piece before attaching the lining and zipper.)

A final addition of a small split ring and a snap hook completes the item.

Miniature Purse crafted by eSheep Designs
The hardware is recycled from something (I don't recall what)...

By the way, I would normally provide a link back to the original tutorial, but this particular YouTube channel regularly employs a subtle form of clickbait that I'd rather not support. (She promotes her videos with images that are not of her actual finished projects. While it's not as blatant as the most insidious of online clickbait, it's still dishonest.) If you're interested, however, you can easily search for the name that I provided at the top of this post, followed by "mini handbag keychain".

Miniature Purse crafted by eSheep Designs
My new bag bling...

Now to decide what to put in this thing!


Saturday, 8 December 2018

Customized Tea Cozy

Shabby Fabrics Tea Cozy crafted by eSheep Designs
My tea pot has a coat...
As we head towards the official start of winter two weeks from today, let me go back a season or two to the birth of today's project.

Our summer ended abruptly around August 23 this year. This was after some really hot weather, so we were totally unprepared for and bummed out by the drastic dip to mostly single digit temperatures that occurred throughout the month of September, which also brought us at least two snow falls (I've forgotten if there was actually more than two).

As a result of our crazy cold start to the fall season, I began to make myself an afternoon pot of tea every other day. (I figured it was better for me than constantly going the coffee route.) But the problem with making a pot of tea on cooler days is that the tea sitting in the teapot also gets cool.

So... time for a tea cozy project!

Shabby Fabrics Tea Cozy crafted by eSheep Designs
Handle and spout are accessible...

I looked closely at a few designs before settling on this one from Shabby Fabrics' YouTube channel (full link at bottom of post; that was also the source of my mini accordion pouch project last month). I appreciated the simplicity of it while also seeing where I could add my own custom touch.

How simple? Two pieces that look like this is all that's involved... they are joined together with a bit of stitching along the sides at the bottom.

Shabby Fabrics Tea Cozy crafted by eSheep Designs
An uncomplicated tea cozy...

My custom touch? I added the grommets to thread the "ribbon" (leftover bias binding). The original was just tied around the middle.


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The cozy is generously sized. My teapot is probably on the smaller side. When I decided to add the grommets, I centered them 5" down from the top.

Shabby Fabrics Tea Cozy crafted by eSheep Designs
Lots of room down there!

The cozy finishes out at about 11.5" tall.

Shabby Fabrics Tea Cozy crafted by eSheep Designs
The body of the teapot fits snugly...

This project requires binding around the perimeter of both pieces and I have to admit I did a poor job of it! I decided to go with 2" binding that I had already "drawn" onto a square of fabric and it was just a bit too narrow for this style of application.

My binding was just a bit too narrow for this style of application... 

Of course, after I finished it (poorly), I had to wonder why I didn't just attach the binding the way I did with my quilted hanging file organizer.

Shabby Fabrics Tea Cozy crafted by eSheep Designs
It does keep my tea warmer!

It's like I was so busy following instructions that I didn't think to adjust them.


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In any case, it's just a tea cozy, it's just for me and I am fine with how it looks and functions.

Shabby Fabrics Tea Cozy crafted by eSheep Designs
Fabrics are from Craftsy's Boundless collection....

My fabrics were from my Craftsy Boundless neutrals/gold stash builder bundle that I purchased earlier this year. The gold highlights give the finished cozy a nice sparkle.

The other three patterns for tea cozies that I briefly considered were eliminated for the following reasons: 1) while very unique looking, one required a lot of fabric, 2) another was a cover (like for a sewing machine) that had to be removed to serve the tea, and 3) the final one — while in an overall sense very much like this one — had to be custom fitted and required gathering and sewing a channel for the drawstring.

I'm all about efficiency when it comes to projects like this and this tea cozy by Shabby Fabrics totally fits the bill. Maybe you know someone who would like this for a Christmas gift? It won't take you long to make.

As promised, here are the links for this project: click here for the YouTube video, and here for the pattern download.

Enjoy your tea!

Saturday, 1 December 2018

Every Journey Begins With a Single Step

Already 5 years? It's like I started yesterday...!
or... Why Five Years of Blogging Have Been Awesome.

Do you have a mantra? Not necessarily in the absolute Hindu/Buddhist definition of the word, but a guiding principle that lifts you up and keeps you going when you need the inner support?

Back in the fall, I took a find your mantra quiz and it came up with the title of this post as my personal mantra. The detail that accompanied it was the following:
You approach life with measure, knowing that time, dedication and patience are the ingredients to making your dreams come true... You are steady and determined, exuding a sense of calm and fortitude which puts those around you at ease.
Have you ever noticed the subheading under my title graphic up above? The official description for this blog is actually charting a personal sewing journey from student to designer.

More or less five years ago yesterday, I uploaded my first five blog posts. I back-dated four of them, under the impression that any immediate visitors would have more of a reason to stick around if they had an archive to read and some sense that I was being regular about posting. Every week since then, a new post has been uploaded on Saturday morning... this is the 266th one.


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Five years in, I'm grateful that the original single step of starting this blog has paid off. Not in a monetary sense or in the sense of the occasional ego boost that comes from having this platform — admittedly, blogging can be somewhat of an attention-seeking activity — but in the sense that things came together more or less as intended. My efforts, rolled out in pretty much the way the mantra explanation states, were rewarded.

Therefore, if an aspiring blogger were to ask my advice for how to last to year five, it would probably be along the lines of the above quote, particularly the part about "time, dedication and patience" and being "steady and determined".

But in the very beginning, it started with a single step, which was literally as simple as the decision that "I'm gonna give this a try!"

That is more or less how I began, armed with the idea that I would create things along the way in support of my goal of becoming a designer. I had (and still have) no clue how long the journey might last, but believed from the beginning that it will someday come to a purposeful end. (When might that be? When I feel that everything has become "been there, done that". But I will never just abandon the blog; when the end comes, you'll know it.) I'm not sure if I had any expectation of it lasting five years, but that's true of a lot of personal journeys... we just don't know.

In the meantime, let me tell you what's been awesome about five years of blogging.

Learning Stuff


I don't think you can be an active blogger and not learn along the way. From how to deal with techie things like spammers and scammers to deciding how and when to post, to blog is to learn.

And then, depending on the content of one's blog, there may be more learning involved. Fortunately, I'm a big believer in lifelong learning. With our ever increasing life expectancies, the quality of that longer life may depend on our being able to keep our minds engaged.

Coming into this journey, I wanted to learn and perhaps re-learn, given that I'd been away from sewing for such a long time. Above all, I wanted to experience different approaches to things and avoid the trap of being one of those old biddies who think, there is only right way to do this.

So I soaked up all that I could from other sewing blogs and eagerly set out to re-build the skills needed to transition from student to designer.

One could say that the past five years have been a continuous "one step at a time" learning adventure, in both blogging and sewing.

When I posted my first entries for this blog, did I have any idea of the diversity of learning that I was about to experience? Probably not; but as I've said before, I tend to move forward with few expectations.

Sharing Stuff


With my aim to become a designer, it would have been an absurdly lonely journey had I just blogged to keep an online journal. (And really, what would be the point of becoming a designer if I would be the only consumer of those designs?)

Therefore, early on, it was clear that I had to make the effort to engage and connect with actual people. (Not easy for the private and introverted individual that I am at heart.) While I remain more and more wary of social media in general, I have to admit that being part of the blogging community has been instrumental in allowing me to share my ideas, projects and yes, my designs. It's been mostly positive in that sense, and I'm extremely grateful. The number of people who are truly enthralled about this little hobby of mine in "real" life are so few as to be less than a couple. It's nice to be able to share my work online with those who have a common enthusiasm for it.

Helping People


The one thing that I miss about teaching is seeing the look on people's faces when I help them break through a tough concept... literally the exact moment when the proverbial light bulb goes on. It's a victory unlike any other in life, because it's such a win for both parties. Not only that, I've been left virtually speechless by the flood of gratitude and effusive praise that sometimes resulted from those situations. (I taught adults; children and teens would probably not be so immensely thankful!)

In five years of blogging, I've had a few comments that take me back to those days of being really helpful. Early on, I received one for explaining how to use the Windows Snipping Tool (totally not about sewing). Later, when I posted about a set of DIY ruler grips (somewhat about sewing), a couple of arthritis sufferers expressed their appreciation for the idea. More recently, a post about sewing up a sun visor for glasses unexpectedly met a need for a person experiencing vision loss who then thanked me profusely for sharing.

In life, being helpful is its own reward. For a blogger, the opportunities to be helpful are out there all the time.

That is one of the most awesome things about blogging.


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Escaping the Daily Grind


What can I say? For all of its inherent beauty, our world is becoming a distracting, stressful and undeniably hateful place. Whether it's humanitarian crises in third world countries or the loss of humanity in the political processes of first world countries, sometimes I just need to escape.

I feel lucky that I don't have to crawl into a cave to do so. In contrast to the near constant news of destruction around the world, blogging — and the specific purpose behind my blogging — allows me to create and build... and rejuvenate my soul.

I'm pretty sure you know what I'm talking about when you're in the middle of a sewing project and are just intent on getting to the next step; even if it's fixing a particularly vexing problem and you're forced to rip out stitches. At least, in that moment, you're focused on something other than whatever your "real" problems might be.

We all need to have an escape. My blogging adventure has provided me with two: the sewing part and the writing part.

Taking the Time to be Selfish


Surprised by this one?

Look up the definition of "selfish" and all of its negative meanings will flash at you in bright neon lights. (Well, not literally.) However, there is one positive meaning usually lost in the mix of the negative that you should examine... the part about caring for your own well being above others. The truth is — if you're not otherwise a narcissistic person — putting a priority on self-care is a good thing.

After all, if you're constantly giving away the best of yourself, what does that leave for you?

In terms of blogging, it's definitely okay to be the number one fan of your own blog. It is, after all, a reflection of what you're passionate about and hopefully, who you are.

For me, this means that I will write about whatever I want (within the parameters that I've set up for myself). That way, I can always sit down with my own blog and be entertained by past posts. As long as I maintain that freedom, I have the fuel and the drive to continue. If my aim was to post only what I thought my readers would like, I would be courting failure.

Because I really don't know what my six readers will like. (Okay, that's a self-effacing exaggeration, but the truth is — after five years — this remains a small-time blog. And because I stay away from other social media and have essentially chosen not to focus on growing this thing, I'm fine with that.)

The point is, unless you're a business and have done massive amounts of data research, you won't know what your readers will like either. Trust me on that. On a blog post by blog post basis, after five years, I still don't know how each one will be received by readers when it gets published. After five years, I now have a good idea which ones may not interest readers so much (which doesn't stop me from posting), but whether or not any given post might be outrageously popular? I'm nowhere near being even 50% correct on guessing those... and during my school days, getting 50% on anything would have been demoralizing.

The main takeaway here is that I don't let that guesswork weigh into any decision that I may make about what to post. Since my blog is all about me, I selfishly write about what I want to write about. Likewise, I take on sewing projects that I like.

Anything else would make this journey a lot less enjoyable.

So allow me the indulgence of patting myself on the back for lasting five years. If you've been along for at least some of that journey, let me also thank you for your time. It's been immensely appreciated!


Saturday, 24 November 2018

Designing Large Scale Prints

Lattice wallpaper by eSheep Designs
B&W Challenge Design #1 (mockup courtesy of Spoonflower)...
Have you ever checked out the fabric at IKEA?

Their patterned selections almost exclusively feature LARGE prints. Considering that the brand is all about home furnishings and decor, that's not a surprise. Their fabric is usually turned into curtains and bedspreads and pillow shams, and to make an impact in those sorts of applications, the prints need to be big and bold.

When I first started creating my own fabric designs, I discovered that most of my prints came out a bit bigger than I intended. It's easy enough to resize patterns via Spoonflower's user interface, but for me, it's always been difficult to translate the given measurements into reality. (I guess that's another good reason to order a swatch first.)

Today's post is about a limited palette — black and white in this case — large scale wallpaper design competition at Spoonflower, starting next week. Big and bold is the aim! I haven't taken part in one of these in a long time, not since the creation of my Sewing Machine Zen fabric. But as soon as this one was announced, I knew it was up my alley.

A lot of my designs start out with a black and white version.

(By the way, if you're interested in participating, submissions close on November 27 and voting begins on November 29; results will be announced December 6.)


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I began with a simple set of black interlocking chevrons on a white background and let PSP do its magic. Here is my base print.

Interlocking Chevron design by eSheep Designs
Interlocking Chevrons design...

After rotating this design ninety degrees, PSP transformed it into the pattern that you see at the top of this post. (That was originally going to be my entry into the competition.)

Among other transformations that were very quickly executed...

B&W wallpaper by eSheep Designs
B&W Challenge Design #2 (mockup courtesy of Spoonflower)...

And when I say quickly, I mean quickly. It takes just seconds for these to generate. (For those who are curious as to the actual command functions used, they are Effects | Reflection Effects | Kaleidoscope.... I then "toss the dice" to let it randomize the parameters.)

B&W wallpaper by eSheep Designs
B&W Challenge Design #3 (artwork courtesy of Spoonflower)...

It actually takes more time to upload the files to Spoonflower than to whip up the designs in the first place.

B&W wallpaper by eSheep Designs
B&W Challenge Design #4 (mockup courtesy of Spoonflower)...

I went through a lot more, but these are my favourites.

B&W wallpaper by eSheep Designs
B&W Challenge Design #5 (mockup courtesy of Spoonflower)...

Remember, all of these prints came out of the interlocking chevrons design.

B&W wallpaper by eSheep Designs
B&W Challenge Design #6 (mockup courtesy of Spoonflower)...

For as much as I thought I had a worthy entry, it also felt like it was missing something free-form and organic.

So I slept on it.


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During a waking moment in the middle of the night, an idea came to me to go back to some of my zen-t doodles and look there for inspiration.

This one seemed liked the perfect choice.

Zen Jungle Doodle by eSheep Designs
Zen jungle doodle...

A half hour of clean-up work in PSP and a seamless tiling transformation later, here is my entry into the competition.

Zen Jungle Doodle Wallpaper by eSheep Designs
Zen Jungle Doodle Version A (mockup courtesy of Spoonflower)...

The clean-up work consisted mainly of filling in holes where the black or white was missing. I didn't try to make it perfect in any other way because I wanted to retain the obviously hand-drawn look.

Also, since no other shades (i.e., gray) are allowed, I reduced the colour depth for the entire image to two. The seamless tiling effect was accomplished via the Effects | Image Effects | Seamless Tiling... command. Afterwards — since that command generates overlapping elements with various levels of transparency — I repeated the colour depth reduction to go back to just black and white.

For a wallpaper, I think the larger size has more balance to it. This smaller one here seems a bit "busy". Of course, any of these designs can also be used for fabric or wrapping paper. (Did you know Spoonflower also offers a wrapping paper option?)

Zen Jungle Doodle Wallpaper by eSheep Designs
Zen Jungle Doodle Version B (mockup courtesy of Spoonflower)...

And in case you're thinking that you have no desire to paper your walls, crafters have used this material for much more than wall decor. They've lined the backs of shelves, drawer fronts, head boards and table tops to give new life to old furniture, applied custom "skins" to laptop covers... I've even seen a lamp shade!

Turning Spoonflower wallpaper into inexpensive custom stickers is a common crafting use. I once purchased a (2' x 1') swatch of the peel and stick variety for $7.50 that was turned into decals for my hubby and his buddies. (Along those same lines, I've long thought about designing spice bottle labels for myself.)

Thoughts and ideas?