the made by bird Etsy shop has LAUNCHED!

I've spent so long thinking about this and planning for it that it's hard to believe the made by bird Etsy shop has actually become a reality.  A huge thanks goes out to my incredibly supportive family and friends.  I could never have pulled this off without their endless encouragement.  And thanks most of all to my husband, who has been my sounding board, my rock, my everything a husband is supposed to be but rarely is... he had more faith in my ability to do this than I had in myself, and I probably would have given up on this whole idea a long time ago had it not been for him.  Okay, okay, enough with the gushing.  Time to celebrate... not only did I finally open my Etsy shop, but in doing so I crossed the last item off of my five for 2010 list with two months to spare.  Woohoo!!!  :-D

it's all happening...

With my Etsy shop launch only a few weeks away, I've been hunkered down in my basement most nights churning out bag after bag (okay, and catching up on Project Runway and Sarah's House.) I'm really excited about how the designs and fabric combinations are coming together, and wanted to give you a little preview...

The first bag I'll be selling is actually what inspired this whole crazy Etsy shop idea. I've always been a take-your-lunch-to-work kind of girl, and spent years trying to find a good lunch bag. The insulated kind you find at Target left a lot to be desired from a style standpoint, and though seemingly large from the outside - my various tupperware containers never seemed to fit. So like most working women who take their lunch, I resorted to using small shopping bags (Sephora worked the best for me.) The size was perfect, but they would inevitably wear out after a few weeks of use. I needed a fabric lunch bag that was the same size and shape of my favorite small shopping bags... so after years of searching, I finally just I made one myself. I originally made the bags using oil cloth, but decided to switch to fabric for my Etsy shop because I wanted them to be a bit more eco-friendly.

(Please try to ignore my dirty windows... I keep hoping they'll magically clean themselves and it shockingly never happens.) The bags are the size of a small department store shopper, and I'll be selling them in 3 different fabric options. (All fabrics are by Amy Butler, because I love her and I couldn't imagine cheating on her for my very first collection.) To make them nice and sturdy, I used home decorator weight fabric backed by an extra firm stabilizer. I also took a trick I learned from making the Weekender Bags and added a bottom insert to the bag to help it keep its form when it's loaded up with leftovers. Finally, the bags are lined with a coordinating solid fabric to give them a nice finished look.

I've been using the Lunch Tote prototype as my lunch bag for a few months now and am very pleased with how it's held up. It's been through the wash a few times and all I've needed was a hot iron to get it back to its original shape. (Btw, each bag will ship with washing instructions, and I'll have them up on the blog for reference.)

And now for my next act...

The second bag I'll be selling was also born out of necessity. Being a fairly eco-conscious person, I try very hard to avoid using disposable (especially plastic) bags. We always have reusable shopping bags when we go to the grocery store, Home Depot, and other big box stores, but they're not practical to keep in your purse for unplanned shopping trips (i.e. the pharmacy, "accidental" Anthro excursions, etc.) Usually if I find myself at the checkout counter without a reusable bag, I'll jam as much as possible into my purse and carry the rest by hand. In addition to looking a little ridiculous, there are times when this just isn't practical and I have to get one of those dang dreaded disposable bags. This is promptly followed by self-loathing and fears of being lectured and guilted out of money by the annoyingly eager Greenpeace canvassers that occupy nearly every corner in downtown Portland. Anyway, you get the point... I needed a reusable shopper big enough to hold the contents of a standard $60 Target trip, and that I could fold or roll up so it's small enough to keep in my purse. Voila... my Roll Up Shopping Tote.

Like the Lunch Totes, this bag will also come in 3 different Amy Butler fabric options. It has a sling shoulder strap, and a wrap sewn into the back with a velcro closure for when you need it stowed away. To reduce the bulk when the bag is rolled up, there's no lining... instead I used French seams. This type of seam basically encases the original seam so that no raw edges are exposed and fraying doesn't become an issue. The Shopping Tote is also machine washable.

Though over 2 ft in length - once rolled up, the bag is smaller than a CD. All you do to roll it up is fold the shoulder strap down toward the bottom of the bag, do a length-wise tri-fold using the width of the wrap as your guide, then roll up from the bottom, pull the wrap around the rolled bag, and fasten the velcro. It was surprisingly easy to do... I didn't even need to lay it out on a table first. (Along with the washing instructions for this bag, I'll include a diagram for how to roll it up. I feel like it's pretty intuitive, but I realize I'm also a little biased.)

Next steps... oh, about a million. I'm still aiming for an end of September / beginning of October launch, but I'll post an exact date once I have it pinned down (no pun intended, I swear.) Stay tuned!

the first batch of christmas crafts

My ability to blog about this first batch of Christmas crafts sadly means my short trip to Michigan to visit my best friend, Lindsey, has already come and gone. (All you girls lucky enough to live in the same town as your best friend - stop reading this, go over to her house and give her a big fat hug, because you are very very fortunate!) I have a small tendency to spoil Lindsey, especially since the birth of her son Will, so I tried to scale back this year and focus more on craft than cost. Will's presents were easy - Amy Butler's Little Stitches provided plenty of inspiration and baby clothes are so small they require very little fabric. I decided on the Kimono PJ pants and used Moda's Funky Monkey fabric in Sock Blue, Cream Counting Monkeys and Brown Sock Texture (for the cuffs.)

I used leftover fabric from the pants to applique coordinating onesies:

Here are the finished sets:

A couple tips for these pants... 1) Use 3/4 inch wide elastic or make the casing for the elastic a little bigger because the 1 inch elastic was a really tight fit. 2) Make the pants about 1-2 sizes larger than you think you'll need. Will is 5 months, a bit small for his age, and just started wearing 6-9 mos. clothes. I thought I'd be safe making the pants size 6-9 mos. but they were pretty snug around his diaper. They'll be fine for him for only another month or so, which is why I'll be making him 2 more pairs in a bigger size.

For Lindsey I aimed for a combination of pampered and practical. I'd been dying for an excuse to pick up Amy Butler's new Love collection, and thought it would be perfect to use for a little library tote since Lindsey's a regular at the Berkley Public Library. I used Lotta Jansdotter's Simple Tote pattern as a starting point, and added lining using some leftover fabric from Lindsey's Weekender Bag.

This bag was super easy to make and the lining added a nice finished look to the original pattern. I used the bag as gift wrapping and threw in some Philosophy Amazing Grace bath products (the pamper part), and the Exhale: Core Fusion - Pilates Plus DVD (the practical part.) Lindsey loves working out but as a new mom doesn't have a ton of time, so the 10 minute workouts on this DVD are a great solution.

More Christmas crafts to come... :-)

4 Weekender Bags in 4 weeks

I've had a lot of overly-ambitious crafting ideas in my life, but this one was beyond insane - with only a month to go until my wedding I would make EACH of my bridesmaids the (infamous) Weekender Bag by Amy Butler.  That worked out to 4 bags in 4 weeks.  Of course I got my heart set on the idea before I searched the blogosphere and discovered that this was a beast of a pattern.  But, I was determined.  The first bag took me about 2 weeks (with my bachelorette party in Vail squeezed in there) and by the time it was done I was dreading the fact that I had 3 more to go.  It was everything other bloggers said it would be, and then some.  No tears, but a heck of a lot of ripped seams.  The whole process was so exhausting that the only pictures I took were with my phone!  (I promise, this is the last project I'll post with such crappy pics.)

Anyway, here's bag #1:

The second bag was SOOO much easier than the first one.  In fact, if you're attempting to make this bag, I definitely recommend making two - just so you can remember the whole thing fondly and enjoy the satisfaction of feeling like there's no pattern you can't handle.  Here's bag #2:

And bag #3:

Finally, (and trust me, it was a BIG, WONDERFUL, HAPPY finally) bag #4:

It was all worth it in the end:

Here's my advice should you decide to embark on your own Weekender Bag adventure...

Scour the blogosphere for all the hints, tips, and pictures you can find.  The tips from other bloggers that I found most useful were:

1) Use seam tape when making the prepared cording instead of sewing the seam closed. I tried it both ways and the seam tape actually creates a much cleaner look and you don't have to worry about making sure the seam is hidden when you sew the cording to the exterior panels.

2) Add interior pockets. The pattern doesn't come with any, and it's such a big bag having interior pockets is a really nice addition. I added a small zipper pocket (tutorial here), and used the large exterior pocket pattern piece to create two additional pockets inside (cut 2 extra pockets when you do your initial cutting, sew wrong sides together, then attach it to the lining by basting the sides and bottom, and sewing a seam up the middle to create two pockets.) You'll have more than enough fabric leftover to make the pockets, so don't worry about having to buy extra yardage.

3) A lot of blog posts indicated that there was no such thing as a 30" non-separating zipper. There is. I got this one and it was neutral enough to use for all 4 of my bags (you really can't see the zipper much once it's done anyway.) You might want to add a little zipper pull, though, because the zipper takes a bit of breaking in, especially on such a big bag.

4) Many of the blog posts below (and in general) were written before Amy Butler revised the pattern to improve upon her first version. If you buy the pattern now, it should have a lot of the tips and work-arounds already included (such as using Peltex instead of Timtex.)

5) The cutting for this bag takes a LONG time. Be prepared to devote most of your first day to getting everything cut. (You won't feel like doing anything but kicking back with a nice big glass of wine once you're done with this part.)

Here are the blog posts I found most helpful (i.e. couldn't have made it through the first bag without them):

a green tote for a green thumb

This was the bag that reignited my passion for sewing.  My mom taught me how to sew when I was a little girl, so it seemed fitting that my first real project as an adult would be a gift for her.  I decided on the Garden Tote from Lotta Jansdotter's Simple Sewing, with green canvas for the exterior, and black and white floral cotton to create a nice contrast with the interior.

Garden Tote gift set

my adorable Mom proudly showing off her xmas gift

Garden Tote close-up

The design of this tote is great because it has lots of pockets to store your gardening tools, and it's sizable but not so much so that it's too bulky or awkward to carry.  The pattern is fairly easy as far as bags go, and the only real trouble spots were the corners when sewing the bottom to the exterior.  I gave this to my mom for Christmas in 2007, and it's (thankfully) held up very nicely for her since.