Must-have holiday sling bag


And of course it’s a gift. I’m sending it this week to my beautiful Ashley, to be enjoyed for the season. I know she will love it!

Background: I’ve made dozens of these bags, many back when Ashley and I had a craft table at charity events. Our logo was ‘Back Alley Five & Dime’, because we focused on small, affordable crafts. This bag was the only thing that was priced above $10. We didn’t make money on our sunk costs, but we did get to make the donations that were our aspiration. Plus we had so much fun 🙂

square 5x5 rose scroll

The bag – it’s big! The finished size is about 26 ¾” tall including handles, and 18” wide. Remarkably, there’s something about the physics of its construction that makes it feel like nothing on the shoulder, even when packed with stuff. I admit to copying the Amy Butler Birdie Sling (still available online, though not on her site). I simply sought out online photos that gave me clues for the drafting.


Loving a challenge, I worked on the pattern and construction for quite a while. Result – I love this bag!

On the inside, an interlined bag lining with zipped pocket:


inside pocket

My fabrics are from JoAnnn. One thing they do really well is quilting cottons. They have the best selection I’ve found for holiday prints, and the fabric is very affordable with a coupon. BTW, their online print inventory is nothing compared to what’s available in the stores.


Ashley will be so surprised by this bag, and I know she will use it. We have a shared funky fun spirit – her mixed media gift to me last year. We’ve always danced in the kitchen…



Bye for now! Coco

Sunday small projects…

Mr. Lizard was out and about early this morning, king of the garden. He looks so feisty!

This has been a fun day – I’ve pulled out, started, and messed around with four different projects. Completion was not a goal…

But it’s been so pleasant. I’ve had the Olympics on the TV all day, and we’ve had thunder storms all afternoon. Very cozy.

So – components of the mess in my living room at the moment!

I decided to sacrifice my lawn Willow tank and try out my new T-Shirt Graffiti pens. I’m using part of a print from Alexander Henry’s Dia de la Catrina fabric. I just downloaded a pic, selected the section I wanted, and used special effects in Paint to accent the lines. Then I printed it and slipped it inside my tank. Oh, and there’s a piece of cardboard in there, too, to guard against bleed-through. The lawn fabric is sheer enough to make the tracing pretty easy – I used a Frixion pen, just in case I wanted to remove any of the drawing.

The printout…

Using the Graffiti pens has been interesting. I’m not doing a great job, but I’ve learned a lot. And when I’m done, I’ll follow the directions for setting the colors and washing the tank – that’s the real test! If the ink doesn’t run and stays intense, I think I’ll look for pens in other colors – these primary colors are not really my thing. But neat, huh?

I also designed and printed some ‘business’ cards. Finally. It’s really flattering when someone asks about something I’m wearing, chats with me, and asks if I have a card. Particularly when I’m in fabric or craft stores. I’ve been embarrassed to say ‘no’ and just scribble something on a scrap of paper.

The pic is also from Alexander Henry fabric, the La Strada fabric. It’s the same one I use on my blog, just a different section of the print.

And I’ve been making more looper bracelets for David. He has broken a bunch of them – we figured out its the salt in his pool and in the ocean (the loops are silicone). Football season is around the corner, and he really wanted the Florida Gator version. Gosh, it made me feel so good when he asked for more.

Not done yet – I purchased McCalls 7381 from I just love that they have so many patterns available as download PDFs. They’re inexpensive and instant gratification when I get a hankering to make something. OK, I enjoy the trimming and taping, it’s so mindless 🙂

Parting shot: Here’s my girl at the San Diego Comic Con, with her Walking Dead sling bag in action!

Bye for now – Coco

Summertime tote bag – a big one!

It’s Memorial Day, the official flip into summer. But summertime always starts early in Florida – it has been hot hot hot and humid. And the last thing I want to do is carry a leather handbag with all its metal zippers and whatnot’s. Too much!

Solution – a fabric bag. About five years ago I drafted a tote bag pattern, very much based on the Amy Butler Birdie Sling.

There are a ton of inspiration pics of the Birdie Sling on the web, and lots of tutorials as well. So drafting my version was pretty easy. I’ve made over 20 of these bags. They were both gifted and sold, back when Ashley and I were doing the craft fair circuit.

But I still have and use the first one I made. I love it. It’s roomy, about 26 ¾” tall, including the handles, and 18” wide, and it has some incredible physics going on. Load it up, and the weight is barely felt on one’s shoulder. Seriously! I’m sure it has something to do with the inside bag hanging freely from the top band. Whatever it is, I’m amazed every time I use it. I don’t know if that is characteristic of the AButler bag as well, but I’d be interested to know.

BTW, this one has been through the laundry several times. Yes! machine wash and dry. 

Time to make some more. It’s a great way to use remnants, since each piece – shell, inside bag, bands/handle – uses a yard or less of fabric. Calico, quilting cotton, and light canvas all work well. This cute black/grey number is the first one I’ve done without contrast fabric on the bands and handle. And it works perfectly with just about everything in my closet.
Keepsake Calico Cotton – Black Lines, from JoAnns
On the inside: Nothing bugs me more than a bunch of loose stuff on the bottom of a hand bag, hiding my keys and making me crazy. So the inside of this bag has a pocket on each side. One is stitched down the middle, the typical phone & glasses accommodation…
Lining Fabric, Buttercream Bicycles – Gray & Metallic – JoAnns
And the other is zipped – a catch-all for lip balm, nail file, comb, tissue, the jewelry I take off when it bugs me… I used a purple zipper because it’s easier to see than a black one would be. And I’ll put helper of some kind – a ribbon or charm – on the pull.

On the clothes front, my latest pair of Love Notions Sabrina Slims:

Black/White Ethnic Glyphs Cotton Spandex Knit, from Girl Charlee

Top – Butterick 6024

Parting shot: Zebra butterflies and a giant swallowtail roosting in the guava tree at sunset a couple days ago. They’re in the tree almost every night now, just six feet from my porch. Beautiful.

This little guy is not so little – 5″ wing span!

Ciao! Coco 

Action hero drawstring backpack!

My daughter and her companion are heading out to San Diego for the big Comic-Con on the 16th – I just had to make something for the trip. How about matching drawstring backpacks using Marvel action hero fabric. Really neat!

The San Diego Comic-Con is in its 44th year and is the country’s longest continuously run comics and popular art convention. DD and DDC (my acronym for dear daughter’s companion 🙂 go to comic-cons all over the country, are very immersed in the pop culture and collecting scene, and have wonderful friends everywhere. It has opened a whole new world for me as well, I love the art and fantasy.

The backpack – I started with a free pattern and tutorial by Debbie Colgrove on I liked Debbie’s pattern because (1)  it has doubled reinforcement on both sides of the bottom corners, where the grommets are attached, and (2) the drawstring casing at the top of the backpack is constructed separately and attached to the bag. The result is a very sturdy backpack. Who knows what will jump in there!

Here’s a look at a completed backpack before cording. The finished size is 17″ wide x 18″ long, which is a bit larger than the pattern – I wanted a roomy bag.

Sizing difference in cut materials                pattern                           mine

                              bag                                                  15″ x 17″                         18″ x 18″
                              casing                                               16″ x 3″                          19″ x 3″

I’ve never done big grommets before, only little eyelets. These really test your bravery…all that sewing and it comes down to putting a big hole through your work.

I had tools on hand for this project, since I attach gripper snaps to garments fairly often. The 3/8″ grommets were easy to find. My tool kit includes a Costa Rican hardwood bread board and a meat tenderizer. The large, flat side of the latter is wonderful for setting snaps and, now, grommets!
Fun project – Ciao! Coco

Jungle January # 1 – a Jungle Bag!

Louise Cutting Designs – Heading for Adventure duster coat
As Prttynpnk has reminded us, it’s time to bring the Jungle January prints out to play!
I love this bag, this makes number four just for me!  But a major sharing of kudos –  although I drafted my own pattern, the bag is inspired by Amy Butler’s Birdie Sling.
This is a roomy bag! From the bottom to the top of the strap is 28″, and the width of the bag is 18″. It’s really comfy because it fits right up under the elbow/upper arm area. It feels secure, and the front strap is a nice handhold.
Shell – Animal print calico, Holly Lobby
Contrast – Shelburne Calico Garden Dot
The shell has 5 pleats on each side and a deeply rounded gusset bottom. Not seen in the photos, there is a 3/4″ magnetic closure centered about an inch below the top opening.
Cheetah, tiger, and leopard!
The lining has no pleats – but does have two pockets, one of which is quite large and has a snap to snug it up.
Lining – Benartex Calico Black Snow Geo Modern
Out of view, every piece of the bag has a sewn woven interlining (not fusible interfacing). I’ve found that interlining a tote really helps it keep its shape and bear the weight of all those things we just have to have 🙂 My favorite fabric for interlining these bags – recycled sheets!

A final note on the design – Amy Butler worked some magic with this bag. I’m sure some physics are involved (bird on a wire?) because fully loaded, this bag feels like a featherweight. So weird and wonderful!

I’m off to prowl for fabric and leave you with Nikita the stealth kitty. She looks soooo guilty.
Ciao! Coco

Keyka Lou Clutch Handbag

This looks very suspicious to me…particularly since my sewing machine conked out on Sunday! Had a fit is more like it – threw a part and grew a bulge in the housing! So weird. Actually, I take very good care of my sewing machines. I think that sewing on a very basic machine for 6 – 8 hours a day pretty much explains its demise 🙂 It was worn out.

What is a sewist to do? Why, order a new machine of course! It’s coming today, a Singer Quantum Stylist 9960. Super excited. It has lots of stitches and gadgets and things for me to explore 🙂 And I expect it will last a bit longer than my last machine.

Meanwhile…a project for Priss the IKEA SY- the Keyka Lou clutch with inset zipper! I downloaded the pattern and purchased the colorful set of 12″ zippers from Pink Chalk.

This is a fun project that uses almost no fabric. The pattern actually includes templates for two sizes:
Clutch: 11″ wide x 6.75″ high (28cm x 17cm)
Pouch: 8″ wide x 5″ high (20cm x 13cm)
I opted for the clutch, they are so ‘in’ right now! Here is the shell, with the zipper inserted,

Kanji Keepsake Calico, JoAnns
Shelburne Calico Gardens. red dot, Windham Fabrics

And the lining. I added a cell phone and miscellaneous pocket to one side. Got to have these!

American Jane Petit Poulet Stripe, Moda Fabrics

I used Pellon 808 Craft Fuse interfacing on the shell pieces, and a sewed a linen blend interlining on the lining pieces. The goal was to have a bag that doesn’t flop when it’s clutched or opened – my combination worked out perfectly!

A peek inside – and you can see how the zipper is inset about 1 1/2″. I think this looks very smart…

Love my new clutch! This might be a nice holiday gift item…
Bye for now, I’m going outside to flag down any UPS truck I see – Coco!

I love a package – Zippers

I might as well be in a candy shop – look at these zippers! Twelve 12″ zippers in such beautiful colors! Not sure if I should sew them or just hang them on a string an look at them…

They came today from Pink Chalk Fabrics, only $9.95 for 12! (Love the store, the blog, the newsletter). And they really do go with something.

I’ve been feeling crafty – and I blame it on Svetlana. Her small quilted and pieced projects on s.o.t.a.k. homemade are so beautiful. Well, her quilts are beyond beautiful. I like to go and just look once in a while.

Anyway, I love to make bags and purses and pouches. She has done some really pretty ones. And lately it seems everyone (movie stars, royalty, tinkerbell…) is carrying a clutch purse. So…I’m going to make some!

Pink Chalk has a great downloadable pattern from Keyka Lou, $8.

Looks are deceiving – the large one is just shy of 12″ x 7″! And the smaller one is 8″ x 5″. Love it that you get both sizes in the pattern.

And the really nice touch (what makes this a clutch, not a cosmetic bag), the inset zipper. I’ve never sewn an inset zipper, am happy to have a pattern at last.

So I’ve actually been saving even the small scraps of all the cottons I’ve been sewing this summer, and I have a bunch from quilts and craft projects. Sometimes I need a break from sewing garments and just want to fool around with something. This should be perfect!

Ciao! Coco