I have to admit that I’m a bit of a bag fiend. In some ways, this obsession is practical; I carry around a lot of stuff. I pretty much never leave the house without the essentials (keys, wallet, lip balm), my planner since I can’t remember anything that isn’t written down, sunglasses (you never know, even on the rainiest Boston day) and a good book (currently Neville Shute’s A Town Like Alice which is so good it may find its way onto the Essay Quilt) in case I find myself waiting in a ridiculously long line. Then there’s the knitting bag, also a frequent companion. Though there’s no practical reason to bring my knitting with me everywhere, I often can’t help it and end up leaving the bag untouched in my car while I run errands. To top it off, I’m quite fond of smaller bags-that-go-within-bags as a way to keep all my various possessions organized. This week, in order to get in some sewing while writing on my Essay Quilt, I indulged in this love of bags.
First of all, I decided that the best use for my one stray feedsack was another messenger bag. After much pondering, I came to the simple realization that since I love the first one, I’m guaranteed to love another just like it. I accented it with various other antique fabrics, some from the Birds in the Air quilt, others from my giant patchwork quilt, resulting in a truly patchy look:
Though I’m always up for something new, there are many advantages to repeating projects. You get to work out all the kinks that arose the first time around. In this case, that meant making the flap a little longer. I also decided to shorten the strap but since this was a rather last-minute decision I had to improvise and do so by layering it up a bit, sewing it together and adding a cute button:
I stuck with the soft flannel lining since that was such a success last time:
Then came the clutch. The summer before my freshman year at Harvard I bought a small Vera Bradley bag to hold my ID, keys, lip balm, etc. It proved to be a trusty and durable companion but at the end of four years, it’s a little worn out:
The full weariness of this little accessory isn’t really conveyed in the photo. Let’s just say it was time for a new one. Once again, I made the most out of my antique fabrics- even the little scrappy bits- and came up with this:
I accented it with antique buttons which also have the added benefit of holding together the three layers (I’ve been putting batting in all of my bags since it makes them both softer and more durable). Though it’s only been through about a week of use, this guy is proving to be quite sturdy and just as useful as the last (which now has the less-tiring task of holding my knitting accessories within my knitting bag, such as darning needles and scissors).
It’s probably no surprise that my last sewing endeavor of the week was a knitting bag. Once again, some practical factors came into play. Somehow, I still had (and do have) leftover antique fabrics and I can’t bear to let them go to waste. Furthermore, the various tote bags that I’ve been using up until now aren’t quite large enough for my giant Domino Knitting Stoles. They also don’t have zippers which provide a nice security, especially since I’ll soon be lugging my knitting on a trip to Australia in a couple of weeks. So with this in mind, I made my own knitting bag:
It’s a truly scrappy concoction, one side stripes and one side squares. Almost all of the fabrics are antique, but a few are random new ones I’ve picked up here and there. The insides are old curtain fabric from Urban Outfitters that I accumulated somewhere along the way in college. I decided that they clash so much, they actually go together.
This bag has also already been put to use and also proved itself a worthwhile undertaking. I love being able to safely zipper up my stole and balls of yarn and I love having a knitting bag that’s just as unique and expressive as what it contains. I’ll admit that between this and my messenger bag, I look like a bit of a crazy bag lady walking around with two patchworky accessories made from some of the same materials. But I’m pretty much OK with this.
As an avid crafter, I hate to admit when there’s something I just don’t like about a project. But I have found one. Zippers. It’s official; few things are more difficult than inserting a zipper into one’s bag. I pulled it off twice this week but it was no easy task. I can only seem to do it by hand, and it’s a slow and awkward process. The zipper slips around and getting over the edge’s curvy bits is unfailingly frustrating. There’s no way around this, and I happen to love bags with zippers, so I’m resolved to a frustrating future of occasional zipper insertion. I just had to vent.
Thankfully, the rest of the bag assembly process has been quite painless thanks to my wonderful Singer sewing machine. I love it so. Especially, no offense, in comparison to the cheap Brother that I was keeping in the dorm (whose inadequacy, to be fair, is probably due to the low price rather than Brother per se). Either way, this week’s patchwork projects have been made blissfully easy by this glorious machine, without all those stitch hiccups and tangled threads that can add unnecessary hours to one’s work, so I decided that this week’s mini quilt should be in partial homage to my Singer. The best way I could think to do this was to try out some of its more elaborate stitch patterns. I chose a vine and leave pattern and a few different colored threads and came up with this:
However, as much as I love my machine, it goes without saying that I value handcraft as well. So for the center flower, I whipped out one of my favorite books, the Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Needlework…
…and chose a few embroidery stitches. Nothing fancy; I used a circular buttonhole for the center and chain stitch for the petals. It was nice to revive my limited embroidery skills for a little while (I learned to embroider last summer while interning for TNNA since its one of the five ‘official’ needlearts) and add a touch of true handicraft to the quilt.
As the above pictures indicates, this quilt has another meaning as well. In addition to prolific patchworking, one of the most outstanding features of this week has been the presence of my mother’s garden. Though I appreciate the garden’s beauty and I’m a proficient weeder, I’m certainly not as competent a gardener as my mother. Therefore, one of the garden’s greatest benefits from my point of view is the fresh food; lots of lettuce, kale, Swiss chard, scapes (my personal favorite), strawberries and much more to come (I eagerly await gooseberries in particular). It’s been a while since I’ve had time to indulge in my baking/cooking endeavors but that’s yet another wonderful thing about being home. This past week we had a few lovely strawberries and I decided to use them to make fresh strawberry ice cream. I’d never made ice cream before, and this simple ‘Philadelphia-style’ recipe (from Williams-Sonoma’s Ice Cream) includes nothing more than milk, cream, sugars and strawberries. It doesn’t look like much but it was lovely; slightly sweet and very creamy and soft (though next time I’m going to chop the strawberries into even finer bits since frozen chunks of strawberry are a bit like ice):
My mother and I also combined our cooking skills to make the most delicious side dish of polenta and vegetables. I was in charge of cooking the polenta and discovered that without lots of cheese (in this case, cheddar) and salt polenta is pretty bland. My mother, using Swiss chard from the garden, put together a delicious vegetable medley to go on top:
The recipe is from the book Potager: Fresh Garden Cooking in the French Style by Georgeanne Brennan but we included the chard stalks since ours was freshly grown. Beautiful and delicious. This type of cooking, full of fresh garden ingredients and all the wonderful relaxation of being at home, is an equally essential component to the patchwork lifestyle which means that these days I am perfectly in my element.