Ali Wilkinson

Wrestling a Bionic Gear Bag

I spent a lot of 2014 admiring the various Sew Together and Bionic Gear Bags I saw popping up on blogs around the world. So useful and offering great fabric matching opportunity, but terrifyingly daunting to make! Zips and I don’t play well together, and I have already shared my ineptitude with all things 3D, so although I bought the pattern a good 6 months ago I have been procrastinating on the actual making.

I can’t recall why I chose the Bionic Gear Bag over the Sew Together bag. I think I might have read somewhere that it was a bit bigger, and therefore I reasoned that it would be easier to man-handle during assembly. Yesterday was the once a month UFO day for my sewing group and I decided to make the most of being surrounded by experienced 3D object and bag makers to take the plunge.

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Choosing fabric was not so easy. There’s the exterior and then 5 pouches plus 4 zipped pockets, so plenty of scope to spend several hours just deliberating over fabric choices. In the six months since I bought the pattern I have selected 3 different sets of fabric to make this bag out of. Interestingly there’s not a big choice of colours when buying zips in NZ, so the zip purchases sort of dictated the colour selection. I started by picking the exterior and grabbed this out of print Cuzco by Kate Spain, which I have been admiring in my stash for the best part of a year without finding a project for it, nor realising it was from the Cuzco range, which I have coveted ever since stumbling across it online and then immediately learning it was rare as hen’s teeth. Double result!

Anyway, I am prattling… So having picked the Cuzco print I went off down a hot pink and orange route which saw me pick up some Tula Pink Foxfield and Saltwater and some unknown designs – that deep orange one that looks like paperclips and that Aztec-y pink print, which I think might be AMH or maybe another Tula Pink.

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I strongly recommend reading the entire pattern through to try to understand each step. The pattern is 50-odd pages long and Sally (the designer of the pattern) goes into a lot of detail in quite a witty way as she really spells out what you need to do. However! I still found something that I am pretty sure she didn’t mention, and that is that the side panel template needs to be flipped or the fabric cut double sided otherwise you will end up with one side opening one way and the other side opening the other way. Luckily I spotted that as I was about to cut…

As you can see on the above photo, Wonder Clips are your friend for this bag, and even more so when sewing the liner to the sides and bindings on the sides and zipper. (just a hint – Massdrop has at this very moment a special on Wonder Clips in case you are interested, and such WC specials are pretty much run every few weeks, so head over there for a bargain buy!)

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Of course being at the sewing group I was not entirely paying attention all the time, and despite being surrounded by bag making pros I still managed to sew the sides onto the liner upside down… When I re-read the pattern and looked at the template I saw where it was marked “Back bottom” and “front bottom”. Now had I seen that earlier and paid more attention the sheer amusement would have ensured that I did not make this error!

The above photo is the moment I realised my mistake. All I have to say is Clover’s seam ripper is TOPS, and at least I could use this to vent my irritation at the Black Caps (NZ cricket team) being beaten by the (arrogant and unsportsmanlike) Aussies.

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The above photo shows what it should really look like….

Another tip is that I found that my bag was bigger than the exterior – longer by about 1.5″. Luckily I had just enough of the Cuzco fat quarter left to replace the originally cut exterior.

Adding the exterior and the bindings required wrestling and corralling skills worthy of a cat herder and my prima donna Husqvarna snapped 2 needles and threw a bit of a wobbler a few times during the process. This has made me all the more determined to get a Juki. (Dear husband, if you are reading that, take it as a hint and remember my birthday is in June…)

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Here’s the end result. All that remains is to hand sew the zipper tabs to the base of the side binding and it will be good to go. I think I am going to use it as my toolkit/sew away from home bag, and also perhaps as my cutting table organiser instead of the dozen or so mugs with broken handles that I currently use. There’s certainly stacks of space in the bag to hold everything. I like that the zipped pockets have three at the same size and a slimmer one. I also like that the pouches between the zipper pockets are different sizes – a very skinny one, a slender one, and then big and bigger versions.

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In summary, my verdict on this pattern is that it is very well written and a great design. All up it took me 8 hours to make not including selecting fabric and the unpicking/resewing the side panels. It’s very economical with fabric and doesn’t require lots of hardware. No doubt I will make another, but with the time involved I don’t think I will be making one each for my 4 nieces as I had originally been planning!

This is a finish for Quarter 1 of the 2015 Finish Along

Ali Wilkinson

Navigating the Drunkard’s Path

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The online curves class continues and this week we tackled precise curves using the classic Drunkard’s Path as our subject. I think I have said before that I have avoided curves as much as possible until now, but through this class I am finding my feet and gaining confidence though I think I still have a lot of practice to do before I can call myself competent!

This week’s project was to make a pot holder using the DP pattern. Rachel demonstrated several techniques and offered a number of tips, the best of which have to be to use starch to reduce bias stretch, and to use tweezers to hold the last part of the quarter circle as it approaches the needle.

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As I rummaged in my scrap bin I noticed that my scraps tend to be strips no more than 2.5″ wide. I wonder how that happens? Perhaps I have so far been pretty good at using up fabric within the projects it was bought for. Who knows but I now realise a project made of strings has to be happening in my future!

Anyway, back to topic…. I was pleased to find the above fabrics amongst the few larger scraps I have, and was pleased to see that they work well together. That blue and lime fabric was part of a fat quarter bundle I won a while back and is by Prints Charming at Spotlight. I have no idea about the spots but have a feeling they might be Michael Miller, and the stripe is one of my favourite ever Tula Pink designs (from Saltwater).

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I decided to use the pinning method for this first attempt and you can perhaps tell that I was nervous and eager to make it work properly through the abundance of pins I used! (just as an aside I would like to draw attention to the pins which are from Clover and are the finest pins ever and so very, very useful).

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My first block was the one in the top left corner and you can see quite clearly that as I progressed clockwise around my technique has clearly improved! Luckily those creases you see are not puckers and I think are as a result of the starched fabric being pinched. I also realised after I had done the first two that I was sewing them together upside down (doh!). I had been sewing with the quarter circle on the top, and I noticed a huge improvement when I placed the quarter circle on the underside.

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I used InsulBright batting and quilted following Rachel’s suggested simple design. Binding is a shot cotton.

This was a pretty quick project to complete taking about 2 hours in total. I plan on making more, perhaps as thank you or hostess gifts, and I am sure that I will get quicker and perhaps even progress to sewing without pins! Now that’s something to aspire to!! LOL. The potholder finishes at 8″ square, so these were quite small DPs to work on for a first go. I have the book A Quilter’s Mixology which is entirely filled with quilts and cushions made with the DP block and presents many imaginative designs – see here for a book review and images of some of the fabulous quilts in the book. I am still inspired to make a modern quilt using the DP, and it will be added to my running wishlist of projects to do before I die.

Here’s the backing which I left plain:

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This is a finish for Quarter 1 of the 2015 Finish Along – hurrah!

Ali Wilkinson

A Quilt (almost) Entirely Made by Hand

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In 2013 I embarked on a big adventure to learn English paper piecing (EPP) and make an entire quilt using the method. In the end it didn’t quite work out that the entire quilt was I decided I didn’t want a lap quilt and so added borders on by machine.

The centre panel is a Tula Pink kit called Hex on the Beach, made up of 1008 2″ hexagons in different fabrics from her Saltwater range. It came in a box with 100 little cardboard hexagons and a pattern book with instructions for layout. I decided to do this as my first EPP project largely because I loved the ombré effect of the colours in the design and because the hexies were pre-cut!

I used the gluestick method of attaching the fabric hexie to the cardboard template, sewing one row at a time and then joining the row to the main body. I only removed templates from rows that were supported on all sides by another row – leaving templates in the first row and the most recently added row provided a bit of structure and firmness that made assembly more precise.

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This was a great project for the summer as I carted it around with me everywhere and was able to enjoy the sunshine and still sew. I took it to the poolside while Elise swam with friends, and on planes trips I took a couple of rows to sew together which took up less space than reading a magazine. (I have some scissors with the tiniest of rounded points that cut thread properly whilst being acceptable to the airline security personnel).

It looks like a lot of work, which it was, but it wasn’t tedious or drawn out. I found it very satisfying to see the patterns emerge and change as each row was added.

To complete the top and make it King Single bedside I added two borders of different widths, using some of my favourite Saltwater fabrics. I pieced the back as a simple cross with even more designs from the Saltwater range.

I got it quilted using close wavy lines to resemble waves and to emphasise the chevron style design. The borders were quilted as pebbles and swirls. Binding is a stripe from the Saltwater range.

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