Thursday, August 30, 2012

200,000+ pageviews milestone!

It took me 9 months to reach my first 100,000 pageviews.
5 months later I'm at 200,000!

Thanks to everyone who visits Ricochet and Away!
Thanks to
everyone who participates in my challenges,
everyone who recommends my blog,
everyone who pinned my crafts,
everyone who linked to my posts,
a special thanks to my husband:
Mr. Ricochet, you let me vent my craftiness online with nary a complaint.  You entertain the kids while I'm taking photos of tote bags in the back yard.  You are OK having lots of crockpot dinners so I can spend lots of time sewing.  You understand my need to shop at thrift stores and hardly raise an eyebrow when I come home with a dozen leather skirts I will never wear but instead cut into pieces.  I love you!

Happy crafting and big hugs from Montana,  

Monday, August 27, 2012

Easy Shoulder Bag with Gusset

Yellowstone National Park was our family vacation destination this summer.  We camped and hiked and toured and drove the entire park.  Everywhere we went I brought my my big green bag.  It carried water bottles, sunscreen, bug spray, binoculars, my purse, and many other odds and ends for the family.  I could have just carried our big black backpack, but I'm just not a backpack type of  girl.  Plus, I've had this bag in mind for many months, but of course I didn't actually sew it until the day before we left!  I should have been packing, but instead I was sewing this bag.  Ahhh, the story of my life...

I made this bag out of a green tablecloth I picked up at a thrift store for $2.  The color called to me and I couldn't pass it up.  The lining is a wild orange and blue peacock print that I've used in several other bags, including this one:
I reviewed this pattern HERE.

This bag features a wide gusset, a padded cross body length strap, lots of interior pockets, and a tiny bit of decorative stitching.  It went together so quickly and turned out to be very useful.  So I wanted to share with you how I made it.

The supplies I started with:

green heavy weight cotton tablecloth
peacock print quilt weight cotton
fusible fleece
heavy top-stitching thread
regular thread
magnetic clasp
brass grommet
freezer paper
iron, scissors, sewing machine

Step one: creating a pattern
I folded my paper in half to make sure it came out symmetrical.
I cut out 2 outer pieces from the tablecloth and 2 of the lining.
Step two: making the outside front and back

To add some structure to the outer fabric pieces, I added some usible fleece to the wrong sides.
The fleece was trimmed to fit inside the seam allowances to reduce bulk. I added some decorative machine stitching with some heavy duty top-stitching thread.  (The stitch I used is called honeycomb and it's normally used for smocking.)  The stitching helped to secure the fleece to the sides of the bag. For the front side I followed the existing pattern on the tablecloth.  The back side just has some random lines of stitching.  Even though I fused the fleece to the sides, the stitching will help the bag hold up to repeated washings. 

Step three: making the inside front and back

 For the pockets, I cut some panels from the edges of the tablecloth.  The top edges were finished already which made everything easier for me.  The pink line in the photos above show how I stitched the around the panels making 3 different sized pockets on one side and a single large pocket on the other.  This was so much faster than making patch pockets.

Step four: making and attaching the gusset

The next thing I did was make gussets for the inside and outside of the bag.  These were simple 4 inch wide strips of fabic.  I added fusible fleece (trimmed to fit within the seams allowance) to the outer fabric gusset and added a line of honeycomb stitching.  Then I stitched the gusset to the front and back pieces.  Because the seams are curved, I cut notches in the seam allowances to ease the curves.  Depending on whether the curves will be convex or concave, you're supposed to cut v-shaped notches or straight slits accordingly.  I always just cut notches.  To me, it still works and I don't have to think.  

Step five: making the tab

This is the tab I made to keep the top edges of the bag together.  It ended up being a  finished rectangle of  tablecloth with the male half of the magnetic snap on one end and a brass grommet on the other end.  The grommet is perfect for hooking up my car keys and keeping them handy.  The female side of the clasp was attached to the front side of the bag.

Step six: making the shoulder strap
The strap is made up of 4 inch wide strips just like the gusset.  I added fleece to the outer fabric and secured it with the decorative stitch.  I added more fleece to the lining for extra padding for my shoulder.  I stitched them right sides together, turned it out, and top-stitched the edges.  Super easy and soft and cushy on my shoulder.
Step seven: putting it all together  
  1. I placed the outer bag inside the lining, right sides together.  I pinned and stitched the top edge, leaving the gussets un-sewn.  I used one of the openings left by the gussets to pull the outer bag through.  I pressed the top edge, turned under the edges of the gussets and pressed them as well.
  2. I inserted the ends of the strap into the openings left by the gussets.  I pinned and top-stitch all the way around the top edge of the bag.  I added some extra stitching to secure the ends of the straps to the gussets.  I stitched a square with and "x" in the middle.  You can see it in the finished photos.
  3. I stitched the tab onto the back of the bag, securing it with the box and "x" stitching. 
And here it is in all it's mean green wonder:

I was pretty vague about exact measurements because I really didn't measure anything but the width of the strap and gusset.  The length of the gusset and strap were eyeballed and the excess trimmed away.  Everything else was made off of the single freezer paper pattern piece.  I probably could have come up with a more creative shape for the tab.  Something curvier or perhaps a messenger bag flap would have been better.  Overall I am very happy.  This bag fills all my mommy-must-carry-lots-of-kids-stuff-wherever-we-go needs.  Plus, it's green, my fave....

What do you carry on family vacations?  What have you been making lately?  How comfortable are you with making something without a pattern?

Happy crafting and big hugs from Montana,
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Sunday, August 19, 2012

Fab Folds Sewing Challenge: September 2012

If you're new to my blog, WELCOME!!!!  Where have you been?  Among other crafty and bloggy things I do, I host sewing challenges.  I challenge other sewists to:
  • finish a project within a reasonable deadline,
  • learn new sewing techniques, 
  • hone the skills they already have,
  • and stray from their comfort zones.  
My goal is to entice sew-persons from all over the world to meet an intriguing challenge.  I know I'm not the only crafter who struggles with completing projects.  I find that these sewing challenges are just the jump start I need to finish what I start, show off what I've learned, and be inspired to do more.  How about you?
  • Are you interested in fine-tuning your sewing techniques?  
  • Do you need some inspiration to get back into sewing?  
  • Do you work better with a theme and/or a deadline?  
  • Does the idea of connecting with crafty folks from all over the world excite you?  
  • Are you ready to inspire and be inspired in return?  
If you can answer yes to any of those questions, perhaps this challenge will appeal to you.

I am very interested in techniques that add texture and dimension to my sewing projects.  I love ruffles and quilting and mixing prints and fabric types.  I also totally geek out on math and geometric shapes.  You'd think I'd be totally into pleats, pin-tucking, and smocking.  The sad truth is that besides a bit of canadian smocking and a few pleated handbags, I've never really explored any of those techniques to my satisfaction.  I came up with this challenge to remedy that.  

Why fab folds?  Well, essentially that's what pleating, pin-tucking, and smocking are all about.  You fold the fabric and secure it with stitching.  Ruffles and gathers have their place in creating texture and dimension in fabric, but I had to draw the line somewhere in this challenge.  Let's focus on pleats, pin-tucking, and smocking.  Folds in fabric secured with stitching.  Intrigued?  I hope so!!!!!!

Please get out your rulers and your irons and your creative minds and join me in this challenge!

The Fab Folds Challenge, should you choose to accept it, is as follows:

You are challenged to:
Successfully execute pleating, pin-tucking 
and/or smocking in a finished piece.  

What you sew is up to you.  I suggest something small and easy like a zippered pouch, potholders, or a small pillow.  Re-fashioning an existing piece is another option.  

Please don't submit a project you completed before this challenge began. 
Your secondary challenge is to:

Be friendly and reasonably available.
Take a little time to get know the other participants and visit their blogs. Share your tips.  Ask for help.
In the sign-up form below, please provide an email that you will check, read, and respond from.

  • You have until September 30th, 2012 to fill out the entry form and submit your finished project.  
  • October 1-31 will the the voting period.
  • Winners will be announced and rewarded in the beginning of September.

  1. Fill out the easy sign-up form so your profile can be displayed at the bottom of this post.
  2. Accept an email invitation to the challenge's Google discussion group.
  3. Become a contributor to the challenge pinterest board.
  4. Promote the challenge through your blog/twitter/facebook etc.
  5. Finish your challenge entry by the deadline.
  6. Make a blog post (I can make one for you if you're not a blogger) about your entry.
  7. Vote once a day for your favorite entry.
  8. The entries with the most votes receive bragging rights and fancy buttons.

Fab Folds Sewing Challenge

banner coming soon!

I've started a Pinterest board especially for this challenge.  It would be great if all the participants could be contributors to the the board.  It's a great way to share inspiration, works-in-progress, and finished pieces.  Our Pinterest board for this challenge is titled The Fab Folds Sewing Challenge, 
but here is list of links that includes previous challenges as well:

  • Fab Folds Sewing Challenge
  • 2-in-1 Sewing Challenge
  • Garment Sewing Challenge
  • Solids-Only Tote Challenge
  • Naughty Notions Challenge
  • Typography Challenge

  • Visit Blooms and BugsVisit The Hobby Harbor
    Visit OnePerfectDayVisit Threading My Way
    Visit Sewing The Littleheart CollectionVisit Make it Cozee
    Visit Once Upon a Sewing MachineVisit Passion et Couture
    Visit Nisabell Necessary

    Woot!  Let's make something cool!
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    Saturday, August 18, 2012

    Good things come in small packages

    Way back in September of 2011, I attended my cousin Jen's wedding.  It was a very fun occasion, they are a very happy couple, and they have recently been blessed with the sweetest baby boy!   On July 15, 2012 he was born weighing 1 lb. 15oz. and measuring 13.25 inches.  Their son was born 3 1/2 months premature.    He had to be moved to a hospital in another state to receive the medical care he needs.  His parents are with him every day.
    This is an early photo of Tuff before he was breathing on his own.

    He is a fighter, overcoming every obstacle set before him.  We've nicknamed him Tuff, because he is just that.  The most recent update I've heard states that Tuff is now able to drink and digest his mother's milk, he's breathing on his own, and is up to 2 lbs. 5 oz.  Both parents have finally been able to hold him and give him his first kisses.

    Every moment I can, I'm praying for Tuff to keep progressing, to keep gaining weight, to keep fighting.  I pray for his parents, they have a long road ahead of them as well.  I can only imagine how difficult it must be for them. 

    Sometimes the tiniest footprints leave the deepest impact in our hearts.  I am sharing this post in hopes that you will share a similar story of your own.  I would love to read a long list of premature baby success stories in my comments that I could share with Tuff's parents.  Any words of encouragement, prayers, thoughts, stories, advice, would be greatly apprectiated.  

    Thanks for your comments!

    Monday, August 6, 2012

    Free Stuff From Plaid and some introspection

    When I started out blogging a year ago, I wasn't really sure of my purpose.  Why blog?  I already had a crafty facebook page to show off my creations, but I also wanted to teach and inspire.  I wanted to share and connect with other artsy-fartsy folks like myself.  Was that all I wanted?  I'm sure deep down I wanted to be recognized as a crafter/artist.  I'm sure I fantasized about how Martha Stewart was going to knock on my door offering to co-author a craft book with me.  But after having one year of blogging under my belt, I've learned some hard truths and faced some tough realities.  Well, maybe not so hard and tough, but truths and realities all the same.  :)

    I grew up in tiny town where I always stood out as artistic.  I was asked to paint signs for local businesses, I won ribbons for my artwork, and it was no surprise when I said I was going to art school.  I stood out a bit as an artist in college, which only spurred me to believe that I was pretty hot shit in the art department.  While I never was able to make a career out of making fine art, I contented myself with creative jobs in catering and youth art programs.  I got married, had my kids, bought my house, and then what?  I started sewing/selling purses via a facebook page which eventually took me to blogging.

    What are the hard truths I was writing about earlier?  The truth is I'm not really THAT cool.  The truth is there are TONS of cooler folks out there than me.  I'm not going to rock the craft world and be the next Martha.  I'm not going to get tons of money and renown for writing about zippered pouches and hosting online sewing challenges.  I could try, but effort I'd have to put forth to market myself and my creations would have to be monumental.  An effort of that magnitude would make me and my family miserable.

    Because at the end of the day, I'm not an artist.  

    I'm a wife.  

    I'm a mom.  

    Unless you're married to a famous actor, political figure or a felon, or given birth to one, you'll never get famous for being a great wife and mom.  I'm OK with that.

    For me, blogging has presented some unexpected obstacles as well as rewards.

    The obstacles being:
    1. HTML.  Thank goodness it's mostly cut and paste.  
    2. Fragile ego.  I geek out on my stats daily.  My head inflates when the traffic increases.  But not all my posts become as popular as I thought they would.  I really worked hard on all my Tudor rose posts, but they never really caught on.  On the other hand, my No Dye Tie Dye post, took off like wild fire.  Go figure.
    3. Time.  Here I am sitting at the computer for 1.5 hours.  I originally just wanted to share what Plaid sent me in the mail and now I've completely changed directions and am off on a totally new tangent.  I've rewritten the first three paragraphs several times and feel like I'm wasting my afternoon sitting at the computer when I could be sewing.  Time.  There is never enough to say all I want to say.
    4. Ideas.  Every time I come up with what I feel is a radical and useful and wonderful new idea, I google it.  Chances are someone else has already blogged about it.  It's very difficult to come up with something original and new.
    The rewards being:
    1. Meeting people like me.  Not everyone is into making yarn out of t-shirts or Mod Podging old purses.  I treasure my blogging friends.  You rock!  You make me feel like I'm not alone, and you've taught me so much!!!
    2. Having an outlet.  My husband and friends, bless their hearts, do not always want to hear about the inner workings of my sewing machine nor can they relate to the supreme frustration felt when I cut my fabric wrong.  
    3. To inspire others and be inspired in return.  Sometimes you just need a jump-start to get your creative juices flowing.  Crafty blogs are great for finding inspiration.
    4. A tiny trickle of money.  For my entire first year of blogging I made just under $200 for my ads and some paid posts.  That's after 140ish posts and a bazillion hours on the 'puter. Nothing to write home about, but better than a stick in the eye.  
    5. Free stuff!!!  As you can see from the photo in this post, Plaid sends me free stuff from time to time.  I've amassed quite a collection of Mod Podge and such.  I've been approached by numerous companies and corporations to get free swag or articles in magazines, but Plaid is the only one who has really pulled through for me.  I love the products and the people are great. 

    So what was my point?  I've written about identifying myself as a wife and mom, rather than an artist.  That is a hard truth that I have faced and accepted and embraced and am proud of.  I've written about the obstacles and rewards of me blogging.  Did I have a point?  LOL, not really.  But I do hope to learn some things from all of you.

    What do you identify yourself as?  Has it changed over the years?

    What are your biggest rewards and obstacles when it comes to blogging?

    Thanks so much for your comments.

    Happy crafting and big hugs from Montana,
    a.k.a. My Love or Mama
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    Saturday, August 4, 2012

    Quilt Block Challenge

    I'm helping Adrianne at Happy Hour Projects with a quilt block challenge this month.  Click this button and check it out!  Lots of great prizes and lots of fun to be had!

    Happy crafting and big hugs from Montana,
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    Thursday, August 2, 2012

    Vote: 2-in-1 Sewing Challenge

    2-in-1 Challenge Homepage
    Click on this banner to visit the 2-in-1 homepage and read the challenge guidelines.

    Hosting a sewing challenge in July ended up being tougher than I ever imagined.  July was a super busy month for our household.  We had BBQs, family reunions, camping trips, overnight guests, scout camp, swimming lessons, day camp, vacation and much more!  That left little time for blogging and even less time for sewing.  I'm sure all of you out there in blogland were feeling the crunch as well because participation was a bit low for this challenge and we have a mere 5 entries to vote on.

    However, the 5 entries we have to choose from are exceptional and creative and super clever.  Check them out and be sure to follow their links to see more pictures and read about how they were created.

    The poll is at the bottom of this post.  Pick your top 3 entries and press the vote button.  Anyone can vote once per day.  The winners will receive fancy-schmancy buttons and bragging rights.  Good luck to all the participants!

    Gia from Greece
    Gia blogged about her reversible bucket bag HERE.

    Kadie from Texas
    Kadie blogged about her double-sided pillow HERE.
    Pam from Australia
    Pam blogged about her pillow with a pocket HERE.
    Diya from India
    Diya blogged about her mug rugs to pot holders HERE.

    Kat from Oregon
    Kat blogged about her reversible baby dress HERE.

    Rikka from Montana
    Challenge Hostess
    I blogged about my reversible placemats HERE.

    Share this button with your friends:
    Vote: 2-in-1 Challenge
    <div align="center"><a href="" title="Vote: 2-in-1 Challenge" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="Vote: 2-in-1 Challenge" style="border:none;" /></a></div>

    Super huge thanks and hugs are due to all the participants, all the looky-lous, and everyone who promoted this sewing challenge.  You all make it so fun and inspirational and easy to make these challenges happen.  THANK YOU!!!!!!

    Happy crafting and more big hugs from Montana,
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