Monday, April 21, 2008

Tips, Tricks & Techniques - Part 1

Earlier on the day of Alex's attack I did the program for the Seams Possible neighborhood group. I presented a bunch of little things that I had learned recently that I thought others would enjoy hearing about. Thus was born Tips, Tricks & Techniques - Part 1. Here is the handout I presented with a few modifications for an on-line community. Enjoy!

Different Way to Make a Boxy Bag

Amy Butler’s ‘In Stitches’ sewing book has some incredibly complex patterns. I made the ‘Patchwork Bag with Zipper Charm’ as part of a sew along on the web. I love the result but when I contemplated making another one for a more mundane purpose the thought of cutting out and using 27 pieces of fabric seemed daunting. With a different method I used three – one lining, one exterior and one for a handle. There is a tutorial on this technique on the web at
three bears that shows the basics better than I ever could here.

Here is a picture of the bag I created while experimenting with this technique that used two fat quarters ..... it now holds all of the puppies pills and potions.

Other handbag ideas:

Use a center close handbag zipper (mine come from create for less).
Add fabric extensions to each end of the zipper before insertion to reduce the risk of broken needles and to reduce bulk.
Add fobs to zippers for ease of use.
When creating a traditional boxed bottom attach the lining box to the exterior box before closing the bottom of the lining.
Add a few lavender buds between the lining and the exterior. Lavender lasts for centuries and will add a nice scent when the bag is used.


On the internet there are swaps of creative goodness being coordinated all the time. Check out Swap Dex for a nice listing of swaps that are willing to take new participants. I have swapped wristlets, craft supplies, Artists Trading Cards, Chunky Book pages, handbags, miniature quilts, matchbox ornaments and old buttons. I’ve even swapped based on a theme like Travel or Dark Fairies. I have been disappointed only once with what I have received (ugly towel received versus a black work Huck Towel I sent). Need a creative boost, try a swap.

Non-traditional Store Goodness

Need a magnetic closure but don’t want to spend $3 – 4.00 for one? Try the hardware store for rare earth magnets. They are very strong, can be encased in an organza pouch for sewing between the lining and exterior of a handbag or jacket and are incredibly cheap. The five pound strength cost me less than $0.50 each rather than $4.00 for a set of two from some suppliers.

Another hardware store find is metal washers. These can be strung together with ribbon to make jewelry, handles or belts. Check out for instructions.

The grocery store can also provide some alternative materials for your creativity. My Kroger has a section with crayons and such and I think I have found an inexpensive alternative to Shiva paint sticks. Crayola makes something called ‘Twistable Color Slicks’. I did a test between paint sticks, slicks and oil pastels. All worked well with rubbing plates. Heat setting did cause some bleed through for the slicks and pastels but all washed well. Paint sticks cost about $6.00 each and work very, very well. Slicks cost about $4.00 for a set of five primary colors. Oil pastels cost about $10.00 for a set of 14. Experiment, you may find a new tool.

Rent and watch a ‘Sewing with Nancy’ DVD from the Library. These are little gems of sewing goodness. At the Spring Branch neighborhood group we watched the one on Simple Jackets and I think everyone walked away with a new trick or tip. Especially clever was the way to make a reversible jacket without using binding to join the two sides together.

The attendess seemed to enjoy this program and I think everybody learned something. I am now planning on a few more of these so I have one on hand when a regularly scheduled program is cancelled.

BTW - I have been doing additional experiments with magents as closures and the use of paint stick alternatives. I plan on posting the results here soon.

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