Saturday, August 30, 2008

Amy Butler's Covington Bag

Pattern Description: Inspired by trips to the English countryside, this graceful handbag incorporates a clever cinching top that changes the bag shape. From the market place to the palace, it’s the perfect bag for your weekend jaunts. Pattern makes up into handbag or shoulder bag, which are exactly the same bag except for handle length.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Not exactly because I made a few design changes to suit my needs. I omitted the drawstring, enlarged the bag by tracing it larger and added an outside pocket. I also changed to bag’s lining to add more interior space with pockets.

Were the instructions easy to follow? Yes, very. However, the wording is too redundant, therefore, it somewhat complicates what should be an easy-to-follow guide.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? The pattern pieces seem so simple, but when sewn together, a unique purse with great styling magically takes shape. I think Amy Butler is a genius!

Fabric Used: Well—I just wonder what Amy would think if she saw that I paired the “temple garden pink” from her Tea Box collection with frumpish-y ultrasuede? It just seems to me that I have endeavored to force one of Amy’s wonderful mod designs to break out of its comfort zone and waltz into the world of little old ladies who meet to play mahjong while they much tuna-spread sandwiches. Anyway, I had intended to use another of Amy’s fabrics, but this combination just happened after I discovered that a remnant of ultrasuede I had leftover from another project complemented one color in the temple garden print.

Pattern Alterations or any design changes you made: This bag is designed to be drawn closed with a drawstring that threads through a casing formed in the lower part of the top panel. Amy describes the cinched purse as being “foppish,” which I believe would perfectly suit character Harriet Smith from Jane Austen’s beloved novel Emma. Instead, I enlarged the top panel, reinforced the panels with Peltex, and included a set of magnetic snaps. I reinforced the magnetic snaps using plastic canvas, which is a tip from this site. I cut narrow strips of Peltex and sewed them to the top edge of the front and back pieces to added strength to the seam line.

I also reinforced the bottom panel with Peltex and used HEATnBond to fuse remnants of unbleached muslin onto the front and back pieces to add body. I sewed remnants of buff felt onto the side pieces to stiffen the bag somewhat. The side pieces were supposed to have been met together at the center crease and folded over and attached toward the front of the bag.

Instead, I pulled both sides to the middle, creating a pleat. This change made more room inside the bag, so I used the pattern for the lining (only front and back included) and drew my own pattern pieces to create lining for the sides and a bottom. I also made outside and inside pockets. Some of the fabrics used for linings were remnants purchased in a grab bag from Walmart. I mixed lime green with temple garden for the lining, so the lining wouldn’t be so busy.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? Yes. I would like to make another exactly as Amy cleverly designed the bag. Sometimes, a foppish bag is exactly what I need for my inner Harriet Smith!

Conclusion My version turned out just as I envisioned it, and I love it.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Asian-Themed Projects

Lately, I've enjoyed thumbing through magazines and books that feature Asian-themed craft projects. My interest was piqued by a cross stitch project my daughter, Laura, completed. This piece was Laura's very first cross stitch project and it was a whopper, but she did a fantastic job on it. I love it!

After I showed Laura a pattern for a diminutive kimono-display quilt, she wanted one. I made this one for her as a graduation gift.

Since that time, I have been collecting fabrics with Geisha designs and rich colors. Here's a photo of the quilt I made. To me, it looks like kimonos placed into a "Hollywood Squares" background. Anyway, if anyone's interested, here are the instructions for folding the kimonos.

Kimono Folding Instructions

To make these kimonos, the folds should be made using an iron set to the highest setting for your fabric. I use a Rowenta steamer iron, which I love!

Here’s a photo of my Rowenta

1) With the wrong side of a 3-3/4 inch x 12-1/2 inch print rectangle facing up, make a single ¼-inch fold down each long edge and a double ¼-inch fold along the top edge.

2) Turn piece over so the right side is facing up and fold the two top corners over to the right side so that they meet in the center to form the collar as shown in photo 1.
Photo 1

3) Using photo 2 as a guide, fold the piece into three so that there is a ¼-inch space between the top fold and the point—the first fold and the lower edge should be aligned.
Photo 2

4) Fold in all the layers on both long edges so that they lie parallel with the edge of the collar, as shown in photo 3.
Photo 3

5) Fold back the top layers of the fabric on both edges and press them to form triangles as shown in photo 4, and then turn the piece over.
Photo 4

6) Fold the top section down along the base line of the triangles, so that the collar section protrudes above the fold line.

7) On the back, open up the previous fold, then double-fold the top layer of fabric upwards so that the raw edge is tucked inside and lies along the lower fold—the top fold should be in line with the previous fold line. Refold the previous fold back down over itself to hold them in place. See photo 5.
Photo 5

8) Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse two 1-inch x 2-1/2-inch pieces of interfacing to the back of the kimono, with one piece across the top sleeve section and the other down the length of the body. These fused pieces should hold the folds in place.
Fused on back

After I made two more kimonos, I placed them into a shadowbox frame I purchased for $3 at a yard sale. The frame had enclosed a fake braided string of garlic. I hung the unframed garlic string in my kitchen. I lined the background of the frame in deep blue fabric that created a rich background for the printed kimono fabrics.
My finished project

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Monet's Flowers

In early July, my daughter and I spent a few days in France. Laura had been studying in Besancon, and we met up in Paris after her studies ended. This morning, while I was walking my dog, I noticed a beautiful flowering vine in my neighbor's yard. The flowers reminded me of those we saw in Monet's garden. Here are some photos my daughter snapped while we toured Monet's estate in Giverney. I have to admit that I was a bit of a whiner because to my body, it was 2 a.m. when we were there.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Thursday, August 21, 2008

My Beloved Plate Collections

I have loved plates since I was a young teenager. I worked at Goldsmith's department store in Memphis during summers and Christmas breaks when I was a young woman, and I purchased my first set of dishes, which was Johnson Brothers "Regency White," from the this store with some of my meager wages. I kept the set in my closet until I married. However, my everyday dishes are Johnson Brothers Blue Willow. My love of this design began when I was in fourth grade after I ordered the book Blue Willow from a Weekly Reader offer. The book's cover depicts a blond-headed girl and a Blue Willow platter. I thought I resembled the cover photo of the fair-skinned girl, who's slightly smiling. I still have that book.

I also knew Blue Willow dishes well because Aunt Bea on "The Andy Griffith Show" served many a Sunday chicken dinner on plates with this famous design. Over the years, I have picked up older and newer plates with various designs and colors, and my finds hang everywhere throughout my home. My kids always knew when I'd tapped a mother lode at an early Friday yard sale because they'd hear my hammer banging a nail into a ever-disappearing blank space on a wall.

Here are just a few of my many collectible plates:

This is an old blue-and-white platter I picked up at local antique mall. It was in pieces in a box when I happened upon it. I asked the vendor if the platter was for sale, and she told me that she'd dropped it and had placed it out in case a regular customer who specialized in mosaics happened by. I bought the platter for $2.50, and then I glued the pieces back together. It had been repaired before, and there are large metal staples in the back of the plate from repairs made long, long ago. I love this platter, and it hangs in my living room. I am glad the mosaic lady didn't find this platter before I snapped it up! What a shame it would be for this treasure to be plastered together haphazardly as a tabletop! I shudder at the very thought!

These plates depict Paris fashions through the years, and they hang above my sewing machine in my sewing room. My sister gave me one as a Christmas gift, and I purchased the rest of the collection on eBay. My daughter, who's into fashion design as a department-store buyer, also has a set of these plates, but they're in boxes under her bed. She'll soon be moving to a place of her own, so her collection might soon see the light of day.

These are some of my Spode blue plates. A Blue Willow platter is surrounded by plates I picked up at a discount store at a Missouri outlet store.

These are my red Spode plates. The center red willow platter came from the same antique mall as my old pieced-together platter, but I bought it about 20 years ago for $25. I used my birthday money to buy the platter, and I loved it then, and I greatly treasure it now. The other plates were purchased at en estate sale for $10 each.

I bought the brown Spode plates at a store called Fifth Season in Little Rock. It was my birthday, and my sweet husband took me shopping and bought these plates for me on a whim. The other plates came from estate sales.

That's a few of my treasured collections. I told my kids that if there were an earthquake, I'd have to create mosaic tabletops! I shudder at the very thought!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Don't Like to Lose My Cool -- But

Last Thursday, our air conditioning went out. We waited all day for the repair guy, who told us he couldn't fix our problem until the next morning because he had to order a fan. Anyway, I had waited in our hot house all day for the UPS man to deliver our daughter Laura's wedding dress. The bridal shop in Brinkley had specifically coordinated the delivery so that Laura's dress would spend minimal time in a cramped box on a hot truck. My husband, Jim, had cooled down our motorhome, so we would at least have an escape from the heat, but I still waited inside our hot house for the UPS man.

Well, I went out to the motorhome to update our son, Matthew, about our air conditioner’s fate. While I was out in the motorhome, I heard the familiar rumble of the UPS truck. I flew down the motorhome's steps and across the patio. I could hear the "Chariots of Fire" theme song in my head as I raced inside our house. As soon as my eyes adjusted from the searing brightness of daylight to the dark contrast inside my house, I saw a note taped to my front door. The note had been left by the UPS man, who could not be more than a block away by that time. I grabbed the keys to Matthew’s car, since it was parked behind other cars, and headed out to catch that UPS guy. The air-conditioning repair guy was at that very moment making his way to his truck, which was parked beside Matthew’s car. I was obviously angry as I hastily high-stepped my way to the car, muttering “This is crap, crap, crap!” I am certain that the squeal of Matthew’s tires on the pavement alerted the air-conditioner guy that I was terribly unhappy about something. I had the UPS guy’s note with me, and I rolled the car’s windows down because I was already hot and the car’s interior was scorching enough to bake flesh. When I took off at warp speed, the note nearly exited the open passenger window, but I managed to catch it when it circled back around on an air current.

Anyway, as I turned the corner on Dogwood, I saw the UPS man stopped at a neighbor’s house. As soon as I neared his truck, however, he took off, and I remained in pursuit. I followed this boxy brown truck through Tinseltown Cinema’s parking lot, behind Dixie CafĂ©’s parking lot, and then through The Home Depot’s parking lot. The UPS guy stopped near the front entrance and I pulled in behind him. However, an approaching customer’s menacing stare prompted me to move my vehicle, so I pulled in front of the truck and hopped out of the car, leaving one sandal behind. I plucked the sandal off the floor board with my big toe and repositioned my foot into the sandal before I ran back to meet the UPS man. After I caught the guy’s attention, I waved the retrieved note and explained that I really needed to get my package. The UPS man explained that he just knew someone had to be home at “26,” since he’d seen the air-conditioning guy coming and going. The UPS guy handed me the giant box containing Laura’s dress, veil and headpiece, and I loaded it into the backseat of Matthew’s car and headed home. Once inside, I carefully opened the box. Since I was sweating like a pig, I hesitated to inspect the dress, for fear I’d leave perspiration stains, but at least I’d managed to get the dress out of that box before another night passed.

Just after I removed the dress from the box, I noticed that the air-conditioner repair guy had returned. He seemed a little fearful of me when I opened the door and stepped out to see what he wanted. He stopped below the steps, and I suppose he felt that a bit of distance between us was wise, at least for his welfare. Anyway, the guy explained that he had found the fan we needed, so he’d be able to repair our air conditioner. No more than fifteen minutes later, the air conditioner was repaired. When the repairman returned with the invoice for me to sign, he asked if everything was okay. I pointed to the oversized dress bag hanging in the doorway and recalled my odyssey to rescue the dress. “Oh,” he said, “I wasn’t sure what you were upset about, but I knew you were angry.” That’s when I realized that he thought I was mad at him for not repairing our air conditioner. The repairman also explained that since his next appointment didn’t answer his phone, the repairman had decided to use that time to repair our unit. That’s also when I realized that “ordering a new part” is just a ruse the repairmen use to stay on schedule with their obviously overbooked appointments.

Anyway, that’s my story of the week. I am at least happy to report that the inside of our house is cool! Maybe Laura and her fiancĂ© will plan a fall or even a winter wedding! Hmmm--maybe I should have my furnace checked soon!