An Improvised Binocular Case

For me, quilting is like cooking, and sewing is like baking. When I cook, I usually read a recipe or two, take what I like from each, and then just see how it goes—putting in a little of this and that, depending on what’s on hand. When I start a quilt, I’ll look at a pattern or two, and then just see how it goes—using what I have, going in whatever direction feels right. With both, I figure it’ll be fine at worst—and it could be spectacular!

When I bake, however, I know there’s chemistry to the recipe. I might throw in some nuts or maybe chocolate chips that weren’t called for, but I never stray too far from the recipe. When I sew, I follow one pattern all the way, perhaps throwing in an additional zippered pocket instead of chocolate chips. With these, I know there’s a delicate balance that could lead to dismal failure should I step off the proven path.

But when my husband and I realized the binoculars we were borrowing for our trip needed a case, I stepped off that proven path and designed my own case.

It went pretty well.

Actually, as I was making it—and struggling at times—I kept thinking of the old Saturday Night Live skit, Fernando’s Hideaway, where Billy Crystal’s catch phrase was, “It’s better to look good than to feel good.” Here, my goal was to make it look good on the outside. The inside? Meh.

I wanted the case to be padded, so I put quilt batting between the lining and exterior fabric, quilted it, and then put the bag together. This left exposed seams on the inside that I intended to cover with binding before I finished. Um, that didn’t happen.

The opening was bit too gaping, so I added some tucks at the sides.

The binoculars are laying down inside the case, so I wanted the bottom to be extra padded. I used some of my leftover quilted pieces and made a liner for the bottom. For a third layer of padding, I designed the strap to wrap all the way around the case. I also put in a regular ol’ snap to help keep it closed. The button and buttonhole on the strap finished off the case.

We have a strap for the binoculars, so we really wanted the case to be for times we would be transporting them. Therefore the two goals of 1) protecting the binoculars and 2) looking cute-ish were met, in my opinion.

But I don’t think I’ll become a sewing pattern designer—or a pastry chef—anytime soon.

My Laugh for the Day

Just a quick post to share a story from today. I needed to take my new pink and orange adventure bag downstairs to get it ready for our trip, but instead of just carrying it, I decided to try it on and admire it. I was checking it out when I felt something in the pocket. I didn’t think I’d started loading it up yet, so I checked the pocket…and found it empty. I couldn’t feel the object anymore either. But I kept messing around, and I felt it again.

And then it dawned on me. That seam ripper I’d been trying to find for the past two weeks? Yeah, I sewed it into the lining of my adventure bag. I have no idea how I managed that. But the first thing I thought was, “I wonder what TSA would do when they scanned that?”

Thankfully, I have other seam rippers that I can use to rescue this one.

Pillowcases for Charity

Or Why I Need to Start Buying Fabric in Yard Cuts

The Cincinnati Modern Quilt Guild has challenged its members to create pillowcases for ConKerr Cancer, a charity organization that supplies cheerful pillowcases to sick children in hospitals across the country and around the world. CMQG has the goal of making 100 pillowcases to give to the patients at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, an easily achievable goal if each member makes three cases.

I had never made a pillowcase before, so I was glad that both the ConKerr and the CMQG sites had links to tutorials. I found this video to be the most helpful, as it clearly explains the “hot dog” method of making the pillowcase. I usually don’t take the time to watch video tutorials, but the written tutorial for this method left my head spinning. The video includes measurements, too, so everything you need to know if right there!

Next, I went to my stash to find the perfect fabric. And that’s where my alternate title for this post comes in.

I love fat quarters. None of those fancy pre-cuts—jelly rolls, layer cakes and the like—for me. I like the cute little folded cuts of fabric that measure 18″ x 22″. I pick up several anytime I go to a fabric store—at a few dollars a piece, who can resist? Without making a stop at the cutting table, I have a nice bit of fabric with which I can do just about anything!

But they’re not quite enough to make a pillowcase.

The fabric needed for the main part of the pillowcase is 3/4 yard, but even the trim requires 1/3 yard. So finding the perfect fabrics in my stash was a little tough. Luckily, I had bought a few yards at the Herschnner’s warehouse sale, plus I had some leftover from the skirt I made a while back.

OK, this one might need to be donated to a nursing home or hospice center.

I found the pillowcases to be a fun and quick charitable sewing project (I sewed these three in part of an afternoon). I’ll need to make one more that’s a bit more whimsical for my third pillowcase for Guild. And while I’m at the fabric shop, I’ll buy some other yardage, too. A fat quarter will go a long way in small projects or cut up in quilts, but it’s worth it to have more of the stuff I love or the stuff I think others might love.

Quilt Sleeve Trial and Error

The one thing on my sewing must-do list this week was to sew a quilt sleeve onto my green and orange string quilt wall hanging. I had been in such a hurry to finish it (in time for my presentation about quilt labels at the Cincinnati Modern Quilt Guild meeting), that I didn’t bother with the sleeve. Now, I have the opportunity to submit the quilt to a small show, so the time had come to add a sleeve.

I had sewn sleeves on in the past, so I forged ahead, cutting the sleeve, turning under the short ends, and even hand sewing both long edges of the sleeve onto the wall hanging. Ta da!

And then, I decided to read up on how to attach a quilt sleeve.

Wow. Did I guess wrong. I mean, I would have been able to hang the quilt. But it would have looked wrong. I attempted to make the sleeve somewhat more right, but then I decided to do it all right. So I started over from scratch.

Most quilt shows have very specific requirements for how the sleeves need to be attached so the show can hang the quilts properly. Here’s a tutorial from Quilts, Inc. for attaching a sleeve that meets the International Quilt Association requirements. They suggest cutting your sleeve to at least 8 1/2″, so the finished sleeve is 4″, deep enough to accommodate the poles or slats used at most quilt shows. For the record: I cut my first sleeve to a mere 6″, so the finished sleeve was pretty skinny.

The most common (and commonly recommended) sleeve is called a D-sleeve. It gets its name from the shape the open ends of the sleeve make once it’s attached to the quilt back. The side against the quilt is flat, and the open side is rounded to accommodate the width of the pole used to hang it.  This tutorial from Tallgrass Prairie Studio illustrates very clearly the shape of the D-sleeve and how to get it.

Basically, it’s just a matter of creating a temporary fold of 1/4″ that opens up to be the rounded part of the D. Once I had the top edge stitched down, I folded the sleeve up toward the binding and pinned in place. Then I stitched down the new bottom edge.

For the record: So that‘s why my last quilt didn’t hang right! I had been sewing my sleeves down flat; once the dowel was inserted, the front of the quilt bulged because there was no allowance made for the width of the dowel.

Here’s my D shape.

The placement of the sleeve on the back of the quilt matters, too. Because the sleeve has give (thanks to the D shape), you need to be sure to position the sleeve so the give doesn’t end up showing above the quilt once the pole is in place. This tutorial from Blue Moon River shows where to place the sleeve, even in cases where the top of the quilt isn’t straight. Most people recommend placing the sleeve 1/2″ to 1″ below the top edge of the quilt. For the record: I had my sleeve right below the binding. Of course, I didn’t have any give in the sleeve at the time, but had I made a D sleeve, it would have peeked out above the quilt once a dowel was inserted and the quilt was hanging. Here’s what it looks like when done correctly.

Finally, the length of the sleeve is important. All three tutorials above have slightly different recommendations for the length. I followed the first set of instructions above, which calls for cutting the sleeve 2″ longer than your quilt; then you fold in each short side 1 1/2″. This puts the sleeve just 1/2″ in from the sides of the quilt, which is great for a quilt show. I prefer to hide my hooks and dowel behind the quilt, though, so this leaves very little margin for error as I am/ my husband is hanging it (sorry, Honey).

Each of the tutorials above has other little tips and insights to help you along. If you haven’t attached a sleeve before, I suggest giving them all a quick read (before you forge ahead) to figure out what will work best for you.

Adventure Bag

When my husband and I went on a beach vacation earlier this year, I decided to make a summer tote bag to take along (here’s my blog post about that summer tote bag, part 1 and part 2). Now at the end of this month, we’re fortunate to be going on another significant adventure: an Alaskan cruise. And I decided to make a bag for this trip, too. An adventure bag!

Well, it’s really pretty much just a messenger bag, but I did add a lot of pockets. I got the measurements from this tutorial from Cold Hands Warm Heart. She also includes instructions for making the bag that I followed to some extent, but for the zippers, pockets, closure and strap, I turned to my trusted source, The Bag Making Bible by Lisa Lam. I tell you, I use this book all the time.

I added two zippered pockets to the bag (one on the interior and one on the exterior, under the flap) and one sectioned pocket on the interior.

For this bag, I used a magnetic closure for the first time. Again, I turned to The Bag Making Bible for instructions, and it really was easy to install, although getting it lined up on the bag was a little tough. I ended up kind of guessing, and I see in the picture above that not everything is exactly center. Oh, well.

I guessed, too, on the length of the strap, and I ended up getting the whole bag together before I realized it was  way too long. So I took it apart as much as I needed to remove the strap and shortened it by a full 7 inches (OK, it was a bad guess). My strap ended up being about 42 inches. While I had the strap off, I topstitched the long edges, something I had planned on doing but forgot. Sometimes I get so wrapped up in moving forward that I forget to pay attention to the details.

The exterior fabric was one that I found while I was in Wisconsin. My mother and I went to the Herrschners warehouse sale. (Here’s the blog post I wrote about my mom, Rose Doyle, including some of her quilts.) Herrschners is a catalog company headquartered in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, and each year, they open their warehouse to the public for a tremendous sale. Tons of yarn, puzzles, needlepoint…and fabric. This is an Anna Maria Horner decorator weight fabric that I got for less than $4.00 per yard. Needless to say, I bought a lot of this and other fabrics, too. Plus a few skeins of yarn, just for fun.

I like the bag quite a bit. I have to say, though, that I would re-engineer the way the strap is attached, should I make this bag again. Right now, the strap and the flap are in each others’ way, so the ends of the strap don’t lay smooth. I would either rework the width of the flap or use a bag body that has the strap attached to the bag exterior rather than between the exterior and the lining.

But, again, I think this bag will work great for the trip. I love that it fits comfortably across my chest, so my hands will be free for adventure. And it’s really roomy. I’ll share photos of the bag in action a few weeks!