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I actually finished! Hallelujah! It’s not perfect, but I think it looks adorable.

I started with this very simple tutorial for a basic lined, zippered pouch. If you’re like me, and you don’t like to follow formal patterns, this tutorial is awesome. The steps are simple to follow, and the finished product (if done correctly) is awesome.

I altered the tutorial slightly by adding a layer of extra firm sew-in interfacing between the lining and the top layer. This provides some padding to protect my Kindle, and also helps the pouch keep its shape.

Unfortunately, even though this was my third attempt at the dang thing, I still had some problems.

First of all, my Kindle is a little under 7 inches wide, so I sewed this case with a 7-inch zipper. Unfortunately, exactly 7 inches isn’t quite wide enough to clear the zipper, so I have to fight with it a little to get my Kindle into the case. Once its past that zipper, though, it fits great.

I had so much trouble installing the zipper. Even though I used the zipper foot on my machine, I know I’m doing something wrong, because every time I reached the top of the zipper, my stitches went haywire. I need to get some more practice sewing in zippers, and any hints or tips would be much appreciated. Or maybe I’ll just start using snaps and buttons from now on.

One other issue: if you look closely at the top of the zipper in the picture above, you can see that the zipper is hanging open a bit near the right edge of the pouch. I’m assuming this is because I skipped the optional top-stitching step after sewing in the zipper? I wasn’t sure what the tutorial was recommending that I top-stitch, but it seems likely that I was supposed to put a few stitches in between the end of the zipper and the edge of the pouch. It’s probably for the best that I skipped it, though, because if the zipper didn’t hang open a bit, the Kindle probably wouldn’t fit.

I have enough fabric to try this¬† one more time, so I’ll probably try again with a wider zipper. For now, I need a break. I also still owe a couple of people Christmas quilts that I promised to them, which means it’s back to sewing squares and triangles for me.

Next up: a basic 9-patch using these fabrics. You probably recognize a lot of them from some of my past projects. These are some of my favorite fabrics I’ve used, and I’m excited about the combination.

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Yeah. So. My first non-quilted project? Big fat hideous failure. Sigh.

I decided to try this incredibly simple little lined zippered pouch tutorial at Skip to My Lou. It looks so easy, and it really should have been easy, even for a beginner.

I measured my Kindle, rounded up to 5 x 7 inches for good measure, and then added half an inch to each side for seam allowances. I cut the fabric as instructed by the tutorial. I added an extra step and sewed some extra firm interfacing to the back of the outer fabric to add some padding and protection for my Kindle. I sewed the interfacing on with a scant seam allowance so the extra stitches would be covered by my 1/4-inch seam allowance.

I was feeling pretty confident about the whole thing until I started working on the zipper. Zippers are supposed to be easy, right? Well. It was not easy for me.

I had bought a 9-inch zipper, because they didn’t have the color I wanted in the 7-inch zippers, so I needed to resize it. The instructions were simple enough. I just needed to whip stitch where I needed the zipper to stop, and then trim it 1/2-inch below the stitch. Easy.

I stitched it once, measured to double-check before cutting, and realized that I needed to trim the whole zipper to 7 1/2 inches including that extra 1/2-inch — not just the teeth. Rookie mistake, but whatever. I cut out my whip stitch, measured again, and stitched again.

When I measured to double check it again, it was still too short. I was confused, because I was pretty sure I’d measured correctly, but it was late, so I chalked it up to sleepiness. I cut my stitches and did it again. This time, I felt pretty good about it, so I went ahead and trimmed the zipper.

I was proudly surveying my work and feeling quite accomplished when I realized, to my horror, that I hadn’t miscalculated the measurements. I had just turned the zipper the wrong way when I double-checked it. I had made my final cut totally backwards.

Sigh.

I decided to stop for the night, put the project away, and go to bed in disgust. I needed a new zipper anyway, and it was too late to buy one.

The next day, I went out and picked up a 7-inch zipper in a different color. The smaller zipper would eliminate all the fuss of resizing. I began working on the project with renewed determination.

I struggled with my zipper foot, and I hated the whole process of inserting the zipper, but I knew that would get easier with practice. I zipped right through the rest of the sewing (no pun intended).

I wasn’t happy with the finished product. To me, it looks sloppy, and as you can see, I didn’t quite stitch that stinkin’ zipper all the way to the end, so the extra fabric was sticking out instead of tucking neatly into the seams. But I figured, whatever. It’s for me, I still think the fabric is adorable, who cares if it’s a little sloppy? What matters is that I have a cute little place to stash my Kindle.

Then I realized my Kindle doesn’t even fit in it! The Kindle is about 1/2-inch too wide. Since this is a family site, I will not share the words that erupted from my mouth upon this realization.

The good news is, I have plenty of extra fabric to try again. This time, I’ll add some extra width to the fabric to account for the turning (I think that’s why it was off). And hopefully I’ll have more success the second time around.

This really is going to be a learning process. I know I made similar rookie mistakes when I learned to quilt, even though I barely remember them now. (An incident where I cut an entire lot of fabric strips a half-an-inch narrower than the pattern instructed does come to mind, though. That was painful.)

What is it they say about failure, though? Try, try again. I’m not finished with you yet, lined zippered pouch.

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One of my New Year’s resolutions is “Use my sewing machine for something other than sewing squares and triangles together and quilting them with straight lines.” I not only want to experiment with free-motion quilting; I also want to learn to sew bags and clothes and other practical items.

I’ve always done things a bit backwards. You’d think I would have learned to sew a simple bag before I learned to sew an entire quilt, but alas.

The first project I wanted to tackle was a case for my Kindle. I only paid $99 for it, but I couldn’t find a cover I liked for less than $40. I knew I could make something that I liked for much less than that. All I really want is a padded, zippered pouch, which probably sounds super easy to seasoned seamstresses, but I’ve never worked with patterns or zippers or interfacing (unless batting counts as interfacing … does it?) I decided it would be best to use a pattern for my first project instead of trying to wing it.

My first hurdle was finding a pattern that I liked. There are a million on the Internet, but none that were exactly what I wanted. I took a look at the pattern selection at my local Joann Fabrics store, and I didn’t find anything there — not even a simple zippered pouch. What I did find was an adorable purse pattern (pictured at the top-right of this post), and I knew I could make it work as a Kindle case and for carrying other things, too. (You can get the pattern yourself here.)

Unfortunately, after opening up the pattern and looking at the thing, I realized that choosing a pattern was the easiest part. The thing is written in a totally different language. I suddenly had a flashback to the last time I resolved to sew a pattern, and I remembered why I gave up like a big quitter. Sigh.

This time I’m determined to suck it up and just do it, but I’m wondering if it would be better to start with a simpler tutorial for a zippered pouch. Maybe something like this with some firm interfacing for padding?

I did find this sort of useful guide to sewing with patterns, but I can’t help but feel intimidated and confused when I look at all the lines and instructions and try to figure out how everything is going to line up and where to sew and bah.

I’m really a smart person, I promise. Just bad at following visual instructions, I guess.

Do you have any tips or resources for a first time pattern sewer? It would be much appreciated.

 

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This is my absolute favorite quilt I’ve made to date. It’s an incredibly simple alternating 9-patch design, and it came together so quickly, but I am in love with the finished look.

I chose this simple pattern because I was running out of time, and this was the final quilt I needed to finish before Christmas. I didn’t work from a pattern, but I was inspired by this 9-patch quilt made by Red Pepper Quilts.

This is the largest quilt I’ve made to date at 80 inches by 80 inches. This time, I took care to make sure that the patterns were facing in the same direction to avoid a super crazy random look. I think it made the finished product look much more polished.

I love working with 9-patch blocks so much that I’m working on designing more projects that will go together this quickly and easily and look as polished and intricate without being difficult.

As much as I loved this quilt, I was happy to give it away to my sister-in-law and her husband for Christmas.

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Oh, Lord, I learned a lot while making this quilt. The original pattern didn’t include the white sashing between the blocks. The blocks were incredibly complicated, and the finished quilt was supposed to be pinwheels that connected at the triangles (I’m sure that makes no sense, but just trust me, it was complicated).

There were many many more steps to this quilt than any I’ve ever attempted. The stars are made from a solid square sewn to four sets of triangles sewn together. Mini-four-patch squares are in the corners of each block. So I cut a million strips, sewed those together, cut them, and sewed them into the four-patches. Then I cut a bajillion triangles, sewed those together, and pieced the blocks using all the components. It took me FOR.EV.ER.

When I started looking at my pieces to put together the blocks, I realized that the way I’d sewn the colors together had basically made it impossible to sew the pattern as I planned. So I had to scrap it and design a new pattern completely from scratch.

I added the sashing to make the stars pop and keep the mismatched triangles from clashing next to each other. I used the remaining solid squares to add interest to the sashing, and the remaining triangles to sew the flying geese border, so there was little waste even though my new pattern required far fewer pieces.

I do like the reverse colors — the blocks coordinate so for each block with a light star and dark border, there is a matching block with a dark star and light border. I quilted it diagonally to draw attention to the alternating diagonal pattern. The finished quilt is about 64 inches by 64 inches, and it currently lives with my husband’s grandparents, who received it as a Christmas gift.

After struggling with this pattern so much, I think it will be a long long time before I attempt to work with triangles again. I just prefer the simplicity and symmetry of rectangles and squares. That said, it was an incredibly valuable learning experience.

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