Category Archives: portfolio

Patchwork Game Bags

Patchwork Drawstring Game Bag

Patchwork Drawstring Game Bag

Patchwork Drawstring Game Bag

Patchwork Drawstring Game Bag

Last week I made five patchwork bags and listed one on Etsy. They are game/dice/toy/travel bags. The first patchwork bag I ever made was for Peanut back when he was one (the picture on the bottom). As we prepared for a trip, it became clear that he would absolutely need a special bag to carry his plastic nesting cups for vacation. Notice the trend? I might also have been looking for an excuse to do some patchwork sewing, because it fascinates me. That bag is still in use and still makes me smile. While working on this blog post, I realized depth of my affection for this particular style of bag and instead of holding back and being polite, I decided to let loose and tell you all the things I think are amazing about them!

A little bag for a small child is wonderful for its simplicity and endless possibilities. A bag that children can open and close themselves is a great object. These bags are great for travel. Their small size limits how much the kids can bring with them. If it doesn’t fit in the bag, then it doesn’t leave the house. Once out and about, toddlers love opening and closing the bags to take individual toys out. In the car or on a plane or in a restaurant, a little bag of special toys can provide endless entertainment. A bag can be a cave or a bed or a field, becoming part of play once it’s not holding toys. A bag full of peg people can become it’s own world.

Older children always seem to have a collection of little things to take along. Whether it’s acorns in the forest or the latest supermarket collectable toy, gathering seems to be a hallmark of 4-6 year-olds. A personal bag gives them a way to take their collection with them and imposes limits on how much they can take. It’s also a great way to take games on visits or trips. Games in boxes are bulky and the box itself isn’t always very sturdy. A card game or dice game in a bag is easy to carry and easy to identify.

The color and pattern combining that makes up patchwork allows for endless possibilities. There’s nothing more fascinating than to see how a piece of fabric can be transformed by its neighbors. Making patchwork pieces is an experience in endless variation. For this bag, I sat down one day while Pumpkin was coloring and started trying to figure out just how many combinations there would be for a nine patch piece. The answer is mathematical, of course, but working it out through coloring was fun. I imposed a couple rules because I was trying to figure out a good process for making multiple bags. The results were fascinating. Patchwork or quilt sewing is about the magic of the process as much as the beauty of the finished piece.

I’ve made a lot of drawstring bags over the years, always looking for a favorite method. I like a lined bag for anything the kids are going to use. Exposed seams on the inside are always a weak point and a lined bag has the added element of a surprise when you open it up. I’ve combined a couple different methods to come up with the one I used for these bags. Extra stitching around the string openings gives added strength there. Top stitching at the top of the bag keeps the lining in place and gives a pretty ruffled effect when the bag is closed. These bags can be opened and closed time and time again without wearing thin or wearing out!

So there’s my little drawstring bag obsession in a nutshell. With the Herfstmarkt at Peanut’s school coming up on 1 November, game bags in beautiful fall colors were just the thing to make. I’ll bring along my small collection of vintage games as well. A bag and a game would make a terrific Sinterklaas or Christmas gift. The bags are 9cm x 21cm (7.5in x 8.25in) and made of 100% cotton. There’s one listed on Etsy now, in case you can’t wait until the market or won’t be able to attend.

New Bibs New Plans

Little Bird Bib

Little Bird Bib

Little Bird Bib

Last week I took some time to put together a production schedule through the end of 2014. It’s organized by week and on basically has three categories; make, develop, and extra. Make is for the product I’m going to batch make, including fabric notes. Develop is for products I’m developing or improving. Extra is all the other stuff I need to do to keep my little shop running, packaging and banners for example. The idea of a production plan is ridiculously simple and basic, but this is the first time I’ve done it. I couldn’t be happier with the way it’s changed not only how I work, but how I feel about my work.

For the past year, I’ve been making it up as I go. That meant making a lot of choices and usually making them based on intuition rather than information. Selecting fabric by intuition works. Making production decisions by intuition is not fun. The worst part of it was that it was impossible to know when I’d done enough. Every time I crossed one thing of the list, something else filled the spot almost immediately. My non-system left me feeling nervous and frustrated. A market date sent me into a making frenzy, but I also spent a good bit of my sewing time looking around my workroom wondering where to start.

When it came to putting together my production plan, I set manageable goals. In my weekly schedule, there are only three to four hours of guaranteed daytime sewing time. The rest is full of kids, household, and the other shop work that needs to be done. I can sew in the evenings and on the weekends, but the first nine months of this endeavor taught me that working like that was bad for me, bad for my family, and not too much fun. I’m being realistic and with some luck, that will keep me happier and ultimately more productive.

The unexpected magic came when I realized that a production plan was a great tool for organizing a lot of aspects of my business that I’ve been struggling with. Knowing what’s going to be new in my workroom and Etsy shop every week means it’s easier to plan blog and Facebook posts to support those additions. Make this week, blog about next week. Make now to prepare for the Lindenmarket on November 30. I also have some idea of how my inventory will build over the next few weeks, which means I also have a better idea of what supplies I need to have. Planning down to the fabrics I’ll use means fewer last minute panics about KAM snap colors (ahem). One week in, I’m pretty excited about how useful my production plan is going to be.

All of this brings me to my latest batch of bibs! The fabric choice was inspired by friends who’ve just had a baby and gave him a lovely bird name. I got a bit emotional about it and decided to make a series of bibs in his honor. If you’re following me on Facebook, you know they are already in my shop here. They are a bright teal with dark purple birdies. Figuring out which fabric would best coordinate for the neutral was tough. Once I gave up on anything matchy-matchy, I found this lovely dark gray tan in my stash that lets those bright colors just pop! I’m very pleased with the results and hope you are, too!

The Real Bag: Kokka Messenger Bag

Kokka Messenger Bag

Kokka Messenger Bag

Kokka Messenger Bag

Kokka Messenger Bag

Kokka Messenger Bag

Kokka Messenger Bag

Just before summer vacation, I made The Organized Office Bag from the Bag Making Bible. It’s part of my little challenge. In the process, I was reminded of a fundamental lesson about my work. One must buy high quality fabrics to make a high quality bag. It’s tempting for me to buy affordable (cheap!) fabrics and notions. After all, part of the appeal of sewing is that if you make it yourself, you might invest the time but you won’t have to invest the money. The more I sew, the more I see that it’s just not worth it. Too many nicely made bags have turned out off because the fabric wasn’t right. Maybe it wasn’t the right weight or quality or color. Experience has shown, the wrong fabric can turn anything into a disaster.

On the other hand, the right fabric can take a bag right into the stratosphere of bag-making satisfaction! And who wouldn’t love this gorgeous Kalima Echino decoro by Etsuko Furuya for Kokka? The colors! The birdies! The geometric patterns! It’s a cotton/linen canvas and utterly divine. I picked it up at the Stoffenkamer in Ghent during a family trip. My seriously supportive husband took the kids so I could go fabric shopping and congratulated me when I came home with a bag full of fabric gloriousness. What a guy, right?

As cheesy as it sounds – and it sounds so, so cheesy – this bag was the end of a journey and feels like the beginning of the future. My obsession with messenger bag making goes all the way back to 2009. Seriously! This particular bag felt like a massive accomplishment, the cherry on the cake of my years of bag making attempts and education. It’s a Real Bag. We have upholstery weight or heavier fabrics for the exterior and interior. We have interlinings and interfacings to give the bag structure and body. It uses hardware. There are metal parts on this bag, clasps to close the flap, d-rings to fix the strap to the bag body, and a big shiney metal slider to make the strap adjustable. All that adds up to a Real Bag.

This bag features a zip pocket, and elastic pocket, and a divided slip pocket on the inside. I skipped the optional laptop flap, adjusted the dividing lines on the slip pocket, and added a d-ring inserted into the side seam for my keys. I love the elastic pocket. It’s perfect for my water bottle and I use it all the time!

Kokka Messenger Bag

The biggest challenges when it came to sewing was getting the gussets nice and smooth and figuring out the adjustable strap. Two or three rounds on the gusset taught me the trick: align the sewing lines, not the edges of the fabric. In practice, that means the gusset piece is pulled tightly against the body piece. It looked like I had pulled it too tight, but it worked out just right with minimal puckering. Next time I will try drawing the seam line to help with pinning. My brain was terrified of the adjustable strap and convinced I’d manage some kind of ridiculous mistake. In the end it was easy, but I had the music off and practiced the slider placement at least three times before sewing anything down. Nothing like a little primal sewing disaster fear to make a girl work a bit carefully!

So there you go, I feel like I’ve graduated into Real Bag Making now. The next challenge? Translating the lessons learned here into my own design. Hrm…..

Anya cross body bag

Anya cross body bag

Anya cross body bag

Anya cross body bag

I took some bag pictures last week to get ready for posting this bag on Etsy. It is my favorite bag. Well, it’s a new, lined and better version of my favorite bag, which I made in 2009 and still use every summer. It’s a soft, squishy pile now, but my favorite. It’s linen, a combination of new and a vintage British home furnishings fabric I found way back when and have been hoarding! Anya’s gotten some design adjustments for production. The pockets are properly put together and the handle is as well. Neither has raw edges. I miss the rough look, but this is a sturdier bag. The interfacings are different as well, so it has some body and the handle is sturdier. It’s really neat to see how much I’ve learned about construction techniques just over the past few months. This one will go up in my Etsy store in the next week or so. If you’re interested in buying it before then, email me, and we’ll work it out!

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Making: small and sweet

Mini-tote party

Wrist strap, key fob

In Dutch, there’s a phrase “klein maar fijn.” It refers to things that are small, but oh so nice. This has been a week of klein maar fijn sewing. Little wrist straps using my scraps and mini-totes to do some workshop marketing. If you follow Earth Apple Studio on Facebook, you’ve been treated to my making and mini-tote tour. It’s all in preparation for de Linden Market this coming Sunday (6 April) and workshops at Studio Jurk starting on 14 April!

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Sewing for market

Sewing, sewing, sewing

Bibs

Work in progress

Card Holder

This has been my busiest and most productive sewing week yet. I’ve been making inventory for the Feel Good Market on Sunday – that’s 12:00 – 18:00 on 16 March 2014 in Eindhoven. Last October I visited the Feel Good Market with a friend. It was during Dutch Design Week and there were lots of people, lots of energy, and lots of really good and interesting products to see. People were there with everything from artisan breads to greeting cards, to gorgeous scarves and vintage interior pieces. I knew it was a place I wanted to be and can hardly believe it is going to happen on Sunday.

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Market Madness

Lindenmarket site visit

On Sunday, 1 December EarthAppleStudio will be making her market debut at the Lindenmarket in Nijmegen. I’ll be at the Lindenberg (right downtown) from 12:00 until 17:00 helping turn this work space into a lively, inspiring market. Will you?

This came about when Marieke offered to share her market table with me. She takes pictures and prints them on plywood. The effect is stunning! Have a look at her Pinterest page. She’s the pro and I’m going to see if I can keep up just a wee little bit.

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Bib-iddy bob-iddy

Bibs

Would it not be cool to show you new bibs and a new bob? One of these days I’m going to manage a haircut appointment, but until then – bibs. Bibs for kids. Kids who like to eat, smear, spill, splash, and on and on. When our littles were bib wearing age, I found few bibs that seemed to work for us. They were either too flimsy or too small or to hard to tie with strings and whatnot. So here we have it: a big old pretty bib with snaps. Oh yes – snaps. Ahem.

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Card Holders

Card Holders
13 11

Over the past couple years, the number of cards I’ve been carrying around has multiplied. Not only are there bank cards, library and museum cards for me and kids, but nearly every store I go into has some kind of tracking, I mean loyalty, program they want to give me a card for. It’s exasperating and my poor wallet can’t handle it. My aesthetic senses were groaning at the little zipper bag I’ve been using for cards as well. I know, you remember my ode to zipper bags and can’t believe I just wrote that, right? Well, a solution was in order.

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