Saturday, December 15, 2012

Vera Bradley Bag Tutorial

I love Vera Bradley products, but I don't like how expensive they are. A few years ago, my mom gave me a Vera Bradley bag to use when I was interviewing for teaching jobs. This fall, when I found some adorable Mary Englebreit fabric on sale, I knew I had to make my mom something with it. I decided to try my hand at making my own Vera Bradely-style bag for her, using the one she gave me as a model.

My Vera Bradley bag has an adorable owl pattern.
The fabric for my mom's bag has cherries,
which reminds me of the old "Cherry Cafe" play kitchen
we had in our basement growing up.
Vera Bradley bags are always quilted. I had some leftover fleece to use for batting from the applique bird quilt I finished this summer. I cut the fleece first, then my fabric. I decided to make my mom's bag a little bigger than my own because, well, what woman can't use a little more room in her purse?

After cutting the fleece and fabric to size, I layered my back, batting, and front pieces together and pinned them in place. Then I sewed the layers together, following the convenient diagonal lines on the cherry fabric.

As I quilted, the layers shifted a little. This is another reason to cut your materials a little larger than your model; you may have to trim the edges as you go.

The purse my mom gave me has pockets of various sized on the inside. These are nice for holding your phone, pens, sunglasses, etc.

To make the pockets, I cut two corresponding pieces of fabric about half the height of the purse. I sewed them together along the top edge (inside out) so that (right-side out) the inner and outer fabric of the pocket would be presentable. I pinned my pocket to the inside face of one of my quilted pieces. Now it was time to sew the two sides of the purse together.

I'm used to sewing purses inside out so that all the seams are hidden behind the lining. But, following my model bag, I sewed the two quilted pieces together right-side out. Then, I turned the bag inside out and sewed the seam inside itself. This is the hardest step to describe. Hopefully, so you can see what I mean from the pictures below.

When you turn the bag right-side out again, the seam is hidden as it should be. Inside, you see a tiny roll of fabric along the inside side seams. I honestly didn't even notice this about my own bag until I was trying to imitate it. I would have thought that the roll would be annoying, but it's (insert British accent here) quite brillant actually.

When I turned the bag right-side out I was so bummed to see that one of my side seams had shifted so that the fabric pattern didn't flow. I am not a perfectionist, I am not a perfectionist, I am not a perfectionist...gah! That erks me so bad! I considered seam ripping, but ultimately decided against fixing it. After all, imperfections are what make homemade gifts endearing. Plus, my mom would be happy to see the product of all those pep-talks growing up. She used to keep me from beating myself up over little mistakes.

Looking at the nice, squared bottom of the bag, I could see that I had never constructed a base like this before (large frame above). I did my best to imitate what I saw, and I'm proud of the result. First, turned the bag inside out. Then, I bent the bottom corners of the bag inward to create a blunt edge (first and second small frames above). I pinned the corner down and saw that all the layers of fabric were really bulky (third frame). So, I simply trimmed off the excess bulk (fourth frame). Flipping the bag right-side out showed that I accomplished a very similar look to my model (fifth frame).

My Vera Bradley bag had a hard insert on the bottom so that the purse would maintain its shape. I made my insert out of a used pocket folder. I folded the stiff paper into thirds and sewed fabric around it so that one side would look really nice.

Laid at the bottom of the bottom of the bag, my insert covers the seams and messy bulky corners that I had to trim down. I love how it maintains the shape of the bottom of the bag.

Finally, I was ready for some finishing touches. I ironed long strips of fabric to make straps and to cover the open top edge of the bag.

Before I sewed the edging around the top, I tucked the straps underneath the inside face of the purse and pinned it in place. Then, I ran two seams all around the top edging, which also secured the straps in place.

And there you have it! A do-it-yourself Vera Bradley bag!

And since I'm not one to waste fabric, I got a new tablecoth out of the leftovers!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

New Teething Gadgets

When Jadon turned two months old, he started drooling a lot, and chewing on his hands. My only thought was, Can he possibly be teething already? I heard that kids didn't start teething until they're about six months old. Then, a friend told me that it's possible, though rare, for a baby to be born with teeth. Two months didn't sound too early after that!

"Smile, Jadon! No, get your hands out of your mouth..."
Jadon is now over three months old, and I still don't feel any nubs at this point. He continues to drool and chew like it's going out of style, so something must be shifting somewhere in there.

With teething on the horizon, I bought a few new teething gadgets that I've admired other moms using. First, I got Jadon an amber teething necklace. You might think that the necklace is for chewing, but these beads are not designed for Jadon's mouth. Apparently, amber can be used as a natural pain reliever when worn against skin.

Jadon, with his new necklace
I was a little skeptical at first, but I had several moms tell me how well they worked for their children. A quick google search will tell you how they are supposed to help. As the baby's body warms the resin (amber is technically not a stone), oils containing succinic acid are released and absorbed into the skin and bloodstream. Succinic acid is known to relieve pain and reduce inflammation. Amber jewelry can be worn to help with many ailments, from teething to arthritis. I'm not sure how well this will work for Jadon, but I figure that it doesn't hurt to try.

I know that some people would never put a necklace of tiny beads on a baby because it sounds like a choking hazard. After seeing the necklace myself, I'm not nervous about Jadon wearing it. The necklace is "baby sized;" the strong, knotted cord does not stretch, and cannot fit over Jadon's chin. He's been wearing it for two weeks now, and hasn't even noticed it's there. I can't imagine the tough cord breaking, but if it did, only one bead would fall off. There is a knot separating each bead on the necklace to keep them all from falling off at once. And the beads are so small that they could be swallowed, but not close off the airway.

I also got some teething jewelry for me to wear. These pieces are meant to be chewed on. Another mom at my church showed me this necklace for her son to play with while sitting on her lap, or hanging out in the carrier. It's actually kind of soft and rubbery, though it looks like a hard piece of stone or metal from a distance. The materials are safe for babies and won't crumble in their tiny jaws of death. I liked that it could be worn with any outfit and actually look nice.

I did a little online shopping and found a Black Friday deal where a black necklace and black bracelet were each half off. So far, Jadon has enjoyed grasping the bracelet with both clumsy hands and shoving it into his mouth. The necklace is a little too hard for him to grasp at this time.

I don't know when these teeth will actually surface, but in the meantime, I'm preparing to let my drooling boy chew to his heart's content.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Christmas Quilt Underway!

My local thrift store sells leftover fabric. I stop by periodically to see if there's anything I'm interested in. I usually find something I can use, and it's so much cheaper than buying new. I hate it when the materials for making something costs more than buying the same item ready-made. Buying leftover fabric helps me keep my sewing projects affordable.

I recently found a bag of Christmas scraps for $2! I simply had to get it. I've always wanted to make a big, vibrant quilt with an assortment of beautiful, busy Christmas fabrics. This bag was exactly what I needed to get started!

Most of the scraps inside were exactly what I had hoped for. A few other pieces were just, um, unique...

Only in Wisconsin, I guess! these Christmas cows!

Before I started cutting, I spent a little time thinking about the quilt design I wanted to try. I've always made square or rectangle quilts. The only time I ventured outside this simple layout was with a blue jeans baby quilt for Jadon, and an applique bird quilt. But really, I was still sewing squares with added embellishments. I wanted to do something different with this quilt.

I referenced my "quilt mania" Pinterest board for some ideas. I was most attracted to the zig-zagging patterns in these quilts:


So, I decided to cut triangles. I cut four-inch squares that were then cut in half. As I cut, I sorted the fabrics into three piles: those that registered as "red" from distance, those that looked "green," and those that appeared "white."

I'm not sure if I'll need to get more fabric yet, but I had to start experimenting with my intended design. I want to arrange the triangles in such a way to create red, white, and green zigzags:

I'm hoping that this quilt will cover our queen-sized bed. What better way to transform our room at Christmas time than to cover the biggest item in the room in a beautiful red, white, and green spread? My goal is to complete the quilt by Christmas...a little gift to myself if I can pull it off!