May 042014

My favorite Friday night activity is some variation on the following:

Crafty still life

Crafty still life

Candle lit, notebook out, and crafty supplies at the ready – a lovely way to end the week and start the weekend.

Rounding up where I’m at with my current crafty projects:

-I’m almost done cutting out interfacing for the Dorothy bag. Since moving to NYC and getting rid of our dining room table, I’ve yet to figure out a good setup for cutting fabric. Instead of continuing to avoid the bag project, I remembered that interfacing isn’t nearly as wide as fabric, and so less intimidating to cut. I made do on my cutting mat and sewing/crafty table, which is wonderfully long but not very deep – the 24″ axis of my mat hangs off on both sides. I picked up some heavy washers to act as pattern weights, and am digging this no-pin rotary cutting.

-My cross-stitch phone case is coming along nicely. I’m stitching daily on my commute, assuming I can get a seat or a good “standy-spot” – one where I can brace myself against the subway doors for balance and keep my hands free for stitching. Last weekend I was this far, sharing my work with a friend:



Now I’ve finished the fox face but for the eyes, and am on my third chevron stripe. I’ve decided to leave the black chevrons blank rather than stitching them, both to save time (ohman this grid is tiny), and for textural interest. My progress is going along faster now that I discovered I can cross stitch while watching a show (catching up on Mad Men season 5).

-In crafty dabbling news, I started an advanced papertcut project yesterday while volunteering at Brooklyn Craft Company. Some photos here. Our instructor, Annie of Bmorepapercuts, brought some of her amazing work to show us, including part of a huge piece – practically my height – cut out of Tyvek. My papercut is still very much in the early stages, since I spent lots of (too much) time customizing my design and getting the lettering right (you write it out backwards in this process). Also because I listened to my body and took frequent breaks when my hand/neck/back/shoulders starting aching. I need to learn a less claw-handed knife grip! The tip of my right index finger still feels vaguely tingly. I’m going to pick up a pack of exacto blades so I can continue this project at home.

I’ve been riding my newly-tuned-up bike more often, the cherry blossoms are in full bloom in the botanic garden, most of my sweaters have been put away in exchange for shorter sleeves and the occasional bare legs, and spring looks like it’s finally here to stay. Happy May!

Apr 172014

Lately I’ve been intent on finding a new bag to replace a beloved bag that I’ve worn to death.

The bag in question:


Goodbye favorite bag! Bought at Amsterdam’s Mono (now operating as parkarma and mesimu). Not pictured is the crossbody strap, as one of the strap connectors disintegrated.

When we were visiting Amsterdam in 2010, Charles bought me this bag for my birthday. Well-seasoned with great memories from our trip, it’s served me well as my go-to everyday bag. At least, it was my go-to until I moved to NYC and started carrying a backpack everywhere – so I can tote all my essentials without destroying my back. (If by essentials, you understand I mean everything I might possibly need while out of the apartment for 9+ hours: knitting, lunch, a snack or two, water bottle, journal, book…) That said, on the rare days when I do use a purse, I get excited (“omg it’s a purse day!”) and want to carry something beautiful and functional.

In terms of function, I’d like the bag to have a cross-body strap, handles, zipper closure, and at least one zipper pocket. In terms of aesthetics, the bag needs to be structured. Piping, metal hardware, and purse feet all help achieve that structured look. I’m also drawn to the contrast of the strap with the main fabric, which is both colorful and a design that doesn’t compete too much with the oft-worn patterns in my wardrobe.

When I started poking around and thinking about my plan of action, I realized I have no idea what type of bag this actually is. Is it a rectangular bowler?

women's handbag shapes

women’s handbag shapes: source

Or maybe a satchel? Safari?

purse style diagram

more purse styles: source

Or maybe it’s a Boston bag? Whatever the name, after I realized I couldn’t get another bag from the original shop, and didn’t find any amazing ready-made options, I started looking at sewing patterns.

Some of the contenders:

It's a Cinch Tote by U-Handbag

It’s a Cinch Tote by U-Handbag

Betty Bowler by Swoon Patterns

Betty Bowler by Swoon Patterns

Dorothy Day Tripper by Swoon Patterns

Dorothy Day Tripper by Swoon Patterns

This image of Diedelbug Handmade’s Dorothy sealed the deal, as I love the look of the contrasting solid straps against the patterned background. So Dorothy it is!

I’ve sewn a few simple bags before – a drawstring sack for holding my favorite knitted shawl, a little waist pack for walking the dogs, and a couple of tote style bags. I’m looking forward to the challenge of creating something with more structure. A couple resources I’ve found to help out along the way include a sewalong with photo tutorials for Dorothy, and an active Facebook group for Swoon Patterns.

The patterned fabric will be the main body of the bag, and the teal will be the contrasting straps. Still debating whether to use the solid for either half of the gusset.

fabric for Dorothy bag
So far I’ve managed to iron my fabric, cut bias strips to turn into piping, and find yarn to insert into the bias strips to function as cording. Turning an 18″ square of fabric into a continuous length of over 5 yards(!) of 1.5″ bias tape was nothing short of magic! I referred to some of my sewing books to learn this method, and also found a good online tutorial on the Coletterie.

I’ve been busy enjoying the first burst of spring in NYC, spending time with friends, traveling to see family, and hosting guests for the long weekend. Here’s hoping I’ll find (or rather, make) time to devote to this bag in the next few weeks!