Shoddy Seamstress Adventures: Giant Tote Bag

Holy Heck! Its HUGE!

Necessity is the mother of invention, so the saying goes.

I am a new Girls Scout troop leader this year. Our first meeting was last Thursday, and I realized: I need to carry A LOT of STUFF. Between the paperwork, activity supplies, hand sanitizer, my wallet/phone/planner: I needed multiple bags. Disclosure: I really hate carrying multiple bags. I also want to carry a small first aid kit (because cuts and scrapes happen all the time), and cleaning wipes to clean up after the girls (we should always leave a space cleaner than we found it).

This lead me to one of 3 paths, rip through my large collection of bags to find one big enough, buy a new bag big enough, make a new huge bag. Well, knowing me, I went right to option 3. Friday morning found me in the fabric section of Joann. I had toyed with the idea of a wool felt bag with leather handles (but all their wool felt didn’t look sturdy enough). I considered a double canvas bag (outside and lining). Then I was looking at the quilting cottons. They were on sale! And I’m a sucker for bright colors and a good bargain.

At home I had over a yard of 20″ wide Pellon 71F, an ultra firm fusible interfacing. It was not suitable for pencil cases (too stiff!), and just taking up space. I had my lightbulb moment. I mulled over some construction ideas in my head. I LIVE DANGEROUSLY, AND DON’T USE A PATTERN!!! That’s right, I made this bag without a pattern!

I picked up 4 coordinating fabrics from the quilting department, on sale at $3.99 a yard! Rarely do I ever pick up fabrics from the same collection, but I was feeling it that day. Unbeknownst to me, the rainbows are actually on a navy background, NOT black. There, you know the dirty secret of this bag. I also grabbed a 2 yard package of webbing for the strap, I was NOT interested in making them.

My handmade patch!

Friday I washed all the fabrics. Saturday I started the project by making the above patch. I was inspired by some little zip bags that say things like: “Ye Olde Bag of Witchy Sh!t”. I figured while this is appropriate for my actual life, it is NOT appropriate for Girl Scouts! I left the edges unfinished, because I want them to fray and look “punk rock”. Is a rainbow bag full of craft supplies and good intentions to make kids good citizens punk rock? You bet your bippy it is. I had intended on stopping here, and finishing the bag while the kids were at school this week. As we see, that didn’t happen.

So here we are, no pattern. A bunch of fabric. A sewing machine. A middle aged lady who still thinks she’s punk rock and her street cred hasn’t expired.

A huge flat.

I started by affixing the outer fabric to the interfacing. I laid the interfacing fusible side up on my ironing board, and laid the yard across the interfacing. Aligning the cut line of the fabric to the long edge of my interface. I cut the excess interfacing so I didn’t accidentally fuse my iron to it. Then I pressed the whole thing in sections. My tea-towel damp pressing cloth and the “regulation” sized ironing board made this take awhile. I trimmed the excess fabric from the bottom edge.

Then, I made the outside pocket. I cut a piece of sewn (non-fusible) interface that I though was the size of the pocket I wanted (eyeballed). I used non-fusible because that’s what I had on hand. I cut the pocket fabric double the width + an inch of the interface (I wrapped the fabric around the interface, saw where it overlapped sufficiently and clipped). The pocket fabric was centered the interface on the pocket fabric, with an inch on the top to fold over and finish. I folded the sides inward, overlapping slightly. Then I ironed the folds to hold, and sewed along the top, sides, and three lines down the center. I trimmed the bottom of the piece to the length I needed (setting aside the trimmed piece. Nary a precise measurement.

I placed my handmade patch and sewed it down. FYI: the patch is Kona Cotton in white, the “design” is Ohuhu Fabric Markers. My daughter got these for one of the virtual projects the girls did last year in Girl Scouts. Using resources wisely for the win!

I then guessed where to place the pocket, pinned the pocket, right sides facing. Sewed up the bottom, folded at the seam and ironed. I then stitched the bottom (for structure and aesthetics), followed by both the side seams. Which brings me to the above picture.

I sewed up the side, making a tube. I “squished” the tube into a flat, approximating where I wanted to pocket to sit (roughly centered on the wide side). Next I closed the bottom of the bag. I used a pad of post-it notes as a template to cut out for boxing the bottom. Don’t worry, I placed the notes INSIDE the seams- they are even. Then after I clipped the boxes, I lined up my cuts and boxed up the bag.

Turning the bag right-side-out was tough, since the bag is SO rigid!

I then made an inside pocket and added it to my lining fabric. Guesstimating all the way. Lining: tube made to size, trimmed excess at the long seam, trimmed to length, boxed bottom. I fit the lining into the bag, with the boxed seams meeting.

Approaching the finish.

I sewed the outside to the lining, and then cut and folded and IRONED a width of fabric to trim around the edge. This fabric is NOT cut on the bias, but is used in the same application. I wanted to preserve the directional pattern. I clipped the fabrics together, sewed around, folded the fabric OVER and sewed it down again. The inside fold is a bit long. I am still considering another round with the sewing machine to keep it flatter. Time will tell.

I cut my polyester webbing in half (1 yard) and used fabric to cover the cut edges. After considerable care, I marked and placed the handles. No, I didn’t use a ruler here. I totally measured with my hands- my finger widths became an impromptu ruler. I wish I was kidding.

And there it is. How I made this huge tote bag. I’m thrilled by it. I love the slightly off-kilter pockets. The whimsical perfectly imperfect nature. It is sturdy and the straps are SUPER secure! I know this will last me all the years I am involved with Girl Scouts, and beyond (I’ll just change the patch).

I need to go over some of the outer interfacing parts, moving the fabric around creates some puckers around the creases, and I want it to lay better.

This year I’ve started to use interface more in my sewing projects. I’ve always avoided it, because there are SO MANY different types and I’m never sure which one I should use. Of course, I could do insane things, like USE PATTERNS more often… but then what would be the fun in that. Live dangerously. Make it up as you go along.

A Year of Projects: Week4


Its Sunday again. Welcome. I don’t have any big finishes. Or starts. Or much of anything.

Until We Win: Fight

I’m on section 3 of 5 right now. Pictured is sections 1 and 2. Plugging along to make sure my numbers are right. They are. Updated the pattern file this morning to reflect some minor changes. This picture is recycled from last week’s update.

I started a design project (semi-YOP related) mid-week. Its crochet. I blogged about it here, I started the 2nd ball of yarn yesterday. (no new pictures)

Life stuff: On Thursday, the first Girl Scouts meeting of the year was held. Also, my first as one of the Troop Leaders!! It was exciting, I was super nervous. We got an idea of things the girls are interested in (Camping, Animals, Space, Cooking, Hiking, Making Jewelry). We filled our open troop volunteer positions! Yay! I like to think it was my stellar presentation (hahhahahahaaha). I also realized I needed an appropriately sized bag to carry my meeting items with. I spent my morning (and half of this afternoon) working on it. Its going to get a Shoddy Seamstress Adventures post early in the week. My bag is obnoxiously epic, and I’m really proud of it.

I got some new Birkenstocks. They are comfortable and make me (and my feet) happy.

And lastly, I had to take down the Zinnia beds yesterday. They had a good run, and I got my last bouquet clipped as I cut them down. I planted 6 yellow mums in their stead. I will miss all my wonderful pollinators, they have been a dream to behold. I’m sure our delivery drivers will be thrilled to not be accosted by the greenery any longer. Next year, I will plant them in a more inconspicuous spot.

Thursday. The unusable flower tunnel.

New Project. What??

As I was headed to the big box craft store the other day, I lamented not having a neutral scarf/shawl/wrap. I also had recently lamented my lack of current crochet projects, my active crochet WIP effectively zero (aghast). I picked up two cakes of Lion Brand Mandala in the colorway Harpy; a black to off-white ombre. Many of the greys are muddy, and I’m ok with this. Problem solved.

I found a stitch pattern I liked, and the chart translations were in Russian, Spanish, and Portuguese. I found an English version, but the line-by-line didn’t actually match the chart. I’m just going by the chart, which was easier that I initially thought.

I’m not sure which side I like better, the front or the back. So I guess its reversible?

Project Details: H/5mm hook. Lion Brand Mandala Yarn: DK, 590 yards, Acrylic. 11″ un-stretched. Will be as long as 2 balls takes me.

Harpy: a Black to Off-White ombre with muddy grey intermediate.

A Year of Projects: Week 3

No Kitten, time for a YOP Update!

Last week. Phew! I made a little progress on sewing through my fabric stash. I finished a pair of socks. I am working on the first test round of my Until We Win: Fight Shawl.

I wrote about my socks here and my sewing here, just in case you missed it. The socks are recent stash- they count toward my “Use 100 balls of stash yarn in 2021” and knit 3 pairs of socks for YOP 21/22. The shawl uses repurposed frogged yarn, and is part of Pattern Development and using stash yarn goals.

This morning, there were birds eating my zinnia mature flower seeds! I saw 4 total, but only captured a picture of 1. I’ve seen humming birds enjoying the nectar, but this is the first time I saw non-nectar eating birds out there in the flowers. The picture isn’t the best, its taken from my iPhone, Zoomed in 10x, THROUGH a window that should be cleaned inside and out.

Its a bird. A small bird. Like a finch or a warbler or something. I can identify like 4 birds, and this isn’t one of them.

Felt Like: Fall

All the Autumn Feels

After last week’s hurricane blew through, the temperatures have been significantly cooler. We’ve turned off the AC and have opened up the house. While its not all sweatshirt weather all the time yet, its a pleasant prelude to come.

This morning I left the house in full fall regalia. My socks, my clogs, and a shawl! I wore a tissue-weight hoodie- still too warm for fleece. I grabbed a Pumpkin Spice cold-brew and headed to the Farmer’s Market.

Finally getting to rock my Until We Win: Fight Shawl!

I’m so excited to get this shawl through testing and released! I’m knitting a second version in super old frogged stash currently. I don’t know the yardage of the frogged yarns I’m working with, so I have no idea if I actually have enough. LIVE DANGEROUSLY.
You can’t see it too well, but I used a thin, unadorned wrap-and-snap bracelet to secure the shawl. It worked, because it stayed in place for me all morning.

Shoddy Seamstress Adventures: Mini Zip Pouches and a Crazy Quilt

I spent my morning at the sewing machine today. Which is sometimes exactly what I want to do. Some of my projects are fun. Others are functional. Today’s projects were both. And inspired by ice cream.

Last week, my kids wanted me to send money to buy ice cream at lunch. Being a pushover, I said yes. I got together the 90 cents for each child (because I had a $20 in my wallet and didn’t trust them to bring me change). When it came time to give the kids said change, it occurred to me, I didn’t actually have anything to put this change in. Into a plastic sandwich baggie it went. A completely inelegant solution.

I looked at a number of different “change purse” ideas on Pinterest. I wanted it to be small. Zippered. Be made with available materials on hand. And relatively easy to put together. I liked the idea of a little triangular pouch; I have one I purchased for knitting notions years ago. I gathered up some reclaimed zippers (that were from my Grandmother’s house), fabric, iron-on fusible fleece and set to work.

I started by using the cardboard insert of a fat quarter as a template, it measures 5″x5.5″. I cut out 2 pieces of fabric (1 for the outside, 1 for the liner) and 1 piece of interfacing. I used the same fabric for inside and outside. I trimmed down both pouches to be closer to 3″. The banana pouch has a piece of bias tape encasing the inside seams. The Spiderman one I just used the zig-zag stitch to finish up the seams. I like the bias tape enclosing the zipper better, and if I made more of these, will use that.

These zippers being ancient (reclaimed sometime 20 to 60 years ago), they are metal as opposed to nylon. I like sewing nylon zippers better- I can sew right over the zipper teeth. I had to maneuver to avoid sewing over the teeth.

I wasn’t quite ready to put away my sewing machine. I had cut out the outside and liner fabric for a pouch earlier this summer. I decided today was time to put it together. I added a little wrist strap out of bias tape. I still am rubbish at sewing on zippers. Practice makes PROFICIENT.

It’s the right size for a small project, like socks!

Nope. I still wasn’t done. I worked on putting more pieces on my “crazy quilt”. I guess this would be considered a crazy quilt. Its random pieces of scrap fabric from all the projects I’ve worked on in the past 18 months (and before).


This whole fabric project has been a lot of fun. I can recall the purchase of most of the fabrics, which were fat quarters, which were from OTHER sewing projects, and which were purchased for projects that never came to fruition. The oldest fabric in the quilt was purchased in 1994, the most recent fabric purchased in August 2021.

At this time, I am approaching the limit of my fabric scraps. Many of those remaining are rounded and quite small. I trimmed my sections as I went to square them off. Its a tremendously busy piece of fabric, a testament to my love of bold colors. I will back it with fabric I already have. I know I have a queen batting I can cut down. I also have some regular poly-fleece that would make a suitable low-loft batting. I want to use as much repurposed or stash materials as possible.

A bit of background on the fabric/quilt project: Crafting creates A LOT of waste. Some waste, like treads, has no practical reuse value; if I put it outside, it could be dangerous for birds and wild life. I’ve used fabric scraps to stuff amigurumi, as it makes a heavy dense stuffing for decorative applications. My community does not offer textile recycling, which I would utilize if there was! Textile waste in landfills is growing to be a major waste stream. My salvageable scrap pieces are made into tiny sewing projects: mini-pouches and pen holders. Oh, and one of the dozens of masks I made last summer. Other pieces have been stitched into my “crazy quilt”. No rhyme, reason, or matching present.

FO and Storm Aftermath

Yesterday afternoon Hurricane Ida moved through the area. You wouldn’t know by today’s shining sun, however the aftermath is apparent by looking at the ground. I haven’t been beyond my yard today, but regionally, there’s been a lot of property damage from rain, flooding, and tornadoes. The district closed school today; I think this is the earliest inclement weather closure of any school year yet! There were a number of roads closed this morning because of flooding and trees down.

The district caught a LOT of community flack for yesterday’s dismissal disasters across the county. A bus with 10 kids on it had to be rescued from flood waters. The sheriff’s department ordered all busses off the road and back to schools yesterday. Parents and guardians needed to go get kids, and some schools had pick-up lines multiple hours long because of this. No worries, we had no issues, just damp elementary schoolers.

My zinnia were bowled over by the heavy rains. This is not a surprise. They had gotten quite leggy, and I had been thinking of replanting the beds with mums next week anyway. I broke my kitchen shears clipping the stalks back and then did what I should have done to begin with: went to the shed and got the pruning shears. I didn’t break the pruning shears. Tomorrow, I’ll go out and get another pair of kitchen shears; which ironically I was looking at when I was in Home Goods the other day.

Today WAS going to be a sewing day. With the kids home, that didn’t happen. However. I DID finish my socks this morning!

This yarn is the $7 yarn I purchased from Darn Good Yarn earlier this summer, it was 260 yards total, and I used all but 3 or 4 yards. Its back up at the $30 price now. I used a size 2/2.75mm for the body and a size 1/2.25mm for the ribbing. I had enough yarn to do another pattern repeat above the ankle, instead of doing 30 rounds of 2×2 ribbing. I thought 130 yards would make below or at the ankle socks on my size 9.5 (eu 40) feet. The stitch count is 64. Toe-up with a short-row heel, and a k2tog bind-off. I was going to do a sewn bind-off, but changed my mind last minute.
Pros: the stripes are almost perfectly matched (within a dozen stitches). Just enough yarn for a pair of socks. No leftovers. Vibrant. A REALLY good value when you catch a sale. Already caked up and ready to go (no prep required). Cute box packaging keeps things neat and would present nicely as a gift.
Cons: I wouldn’t pay full price, not nearly enough yarn for the $30 asking price. They yarn is a little splitty, not a tight spun yarn. If you like to knit socks on size 1 or smaller needles and/or have larger feet, this might not be enough yarn to make socks without contrast heels/toes/cuffs

Not the yarn’s fault: the pattern stitch got lost. I recommend the most basic or stitches: stockinette or rib. A bias construction would look really cool.

I like the stitch pattern, and have IDEAS for a semi-solid version with contrast toes/heels/cuffs. Instead of constructing it toe-up, I have an idea for top down.

A Year of Projects: Week 2

Make Stuff!

I didn’t get to work on EVERYTHING I wanted to work on this week. But guess what, I’m a going to go with the flow! Let’s focus on what I DID accomplish.

Not YOP, but still an accomplishment: Yesterday I moved around some “organization” stuff in my daughter’s room. I use the word organization loosely, because she is seven. I have admitted defeat, officially. Expecting her to sort her stuff into labeled tiny bins and containers when she puts her toys away is unrealistic. Kids like the chaotic dump, cram, and stuff method of storage/cleaning. We now have half a dozen undifferentiated bins in an easy to access bookcase. She seems thrilled. I am horrified by the wanton disregard of any semblance of order. But I can see the floor of her bedroom and closet and there isn’t a bunch of stuff crammed under her dresser and inside her dollhouses. Looks like we all win.

I finished the cotton version of my PlumBody top! I still haven’t washed/blocked it yet. But all the ends are woven in and the shoulders are kitchener-ed up. It is too warm and heavy to wear on a hot and humid day. The pattern is written, next up is final diagrams and test knitting! I really love this design, and I’m so excited to finally be at a stage to share it. It is a SUPER easy, SEAMLESS knit with some interesting construction bits. Its worked on size 7/4.5mm needles and uses DK/Lt Worsted/Worsted weight yarn.
This version had a bit of yarn chicken built into it, but also modifications taken into account of the fiber. I shortened the sleeves and I made the body a bit more cropped. In retrospect, I could have also made short-rows to bring down the front body an inch or so (my chest hikes everything up). I’ll wait to wash/block to determine any recommendations.

I decided to knit a pair of socks out of the Darn Good Yarn kit I got earlier this summer (I’ll talk about the yarn in the future). I am working a textured stitch called “Dragon Scales” from Oh La Lana. Honestly, I think these have a diamond shape reminiscent of my Say Yes To Pie Socks (Rav link- because that’s only where it is for now), but bigger. Working title: Mother of Dragons Socks. The self-striping is not the best ever choice (the texture gets lost) but I’m 100% going to knit these again in the “leftover” orange from the Say Yes To Pie socks with contrast heels, toes and (possibly) cuffs! But I might make them top down because I want to see if tubular cast-on “fixes” my issue with top-down socks.

No pictures, but I watched a little video on how to install my walking foot on my sewing machine recently. This past week, I installed the foot on MY machine (swapped the needle for a ballpoint needle) and tested it on a super stretchy knit piece. FRIJOLES!! It worked! MY machine didn’t try to eat the fabric! No puckering either. So coming up I have 1 PJ dress (for girl child), 1 PJ dress (for me), and 1 pair of PJ pants (also me).
I have also been sewing my scraps into a larger fabric. It may become a quilt or a throw. a top or back to a larger project. No idea yet.
Piecing all these random pieces together is a bit time consuming; I’m trying to make my sewing a lower waste endeavor. I don’t want to contribute to the textile problem plaguing landfills. Textile recycling isn’t readily accessible in my area.

That been my YOP week!

Shoddy Seamstress Adventures: Oh Look. More Masks.

A “small” batch of masks waiting to go to their new homes.

We are back to school in our county! We are about a week into the new school year, and all seems well-ish. COVID is still an issue, particularly with those who are unvaccinated, so this means: masks! I made my kids some new ones and pencil pouches recently, so these recent onces are destined for other recipients.

It all started when my neighbors texted me and asked if they could commission some masks for their grandson, just starting school for the first time.
Then I was talking to a friend of mine, who mentioned her great-grandson (who she is raising) starts with Head Start this week. And I immediately asked her if she wanted me to make him some reusable masks for school, you know, since I was already going to have my machine out. I made some adult sized ones for her too. She is ALWAYS out helping the community, bringing some of the extra produce from the Hungry Harvest market to people in need, volunteering at community gardens, and being a genuine source of light and hope to everyone she encounters. Ms. Linda is such an amazing person, and everyone who knows her is so fortunate.

You would THINK I would be a super pro at making these masks, having made SO many of them (a hundred of this style, at least). Alas. It is still slow going. Nothing is perfectly lined up. Or perfectly symmetrical. Guess I’ll just keep practicing, and then when I get better, change my sewing features to Mediocre Seamstress Adventures!

A Year of Projects: Week 1

A New Hope.

My esteemed fellow humanoids! I am kicking off my SECOND Year of Projects participation right now!! What is Year of Projects (known as YOP herein)? A loose blog collective group on Ravelry that shares their progress on an individually created goal list for roughly 52 weeks running. We are an active and supportive group; in our crafty endeavors as well as in “life stuff”. The great thing, you can join anytime (most members are in week 8 currently, some run Jan-Dec). The group is currently in its ELEVENTH year.

My lists last year looked a lot like my “Ideas” page. I just wrote down all the stuff I wanted to accomplish, which in turn made me feel unsuccessful when the list grew instead of shrunk! This year, I have some categories that I can fill in, helping keep me on track for overall GOALS, while my idea pipeline/to-do list can roll over, grow, seed new designs where there are no “failures”. I might modify this if I get a better idea. And I have socks on there twice. Maybe I need to knit 6 pairs of socks? I think that’s accurate.

I did a project update yesterday (Poly-Projects) and I shared some starts and project updates. Today I haven’t gotten in much knitting. I have been working on masks. Again. But they aren’t for us, I worked on those a couple weeks ago. I decided to use pinking shears on the seam allowance to have the curve lay better. This required a trip to Joann to get some pinking shears. I wanted the Gingher ones, but they were locked up and I didn’t feel like interacting with another human at that moment, so I just went with the Fiskars ones. And saved myself $30. They perform as expected; but I won’t call them beautiful.

After I wrote yesterday’s post, my spouse got home from is work trip to Alaska. I was the recipient of some REALLY GREAT goodies- all Alaska made! An awesome project bag stuffed with yarn and stich markers!! I’ve got some ideas already about this yarn!

Next week I hope to have some updates to share (besides my update framework)!!

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