I made another tote!

Following my first tote I made, I jumped in making my second tote bag!  I followed the market tote tutorial exactly but decided to make some adjustments to better suit my liking.  For starters, I wanted a longer strap.  The 21″ strap was fine for holding but to sling over the shoulder, 6 more inches made it perfect and comfortable!  🤗

Another thing I decided to change was not putting interfacing on everything.  This time, I put the Craft Fuse on the two bottom pieces, along with the outer piece of fabric where the bottom pieces don’t cover, essentially making the interfacing only 1 ply thick on the bag.  I didn’t add interfacing to the handles on this second tote, I wanted a softer floppy handle verses one that stood up straight.  I think moving forward, I may do interfacing on just one piece of the fabric so it’s one layer instead of two in the original market tote tutorial.  I’ll have to test it out and see what I like more.

I did also cut my handles to a width of 2.5″ instead of the original 2″.  I find that with 2 layers of interfacing in the handle made it really hard to turn inside out.  It literally took me a half hour or more to flip it.  So this time I made the handles just a tad wider but without interfacing, it was much easier to turn with the wider width.  My straps were cut to 27″x2.5″ long. With the wider handles, I did fold over the middle of the handle length wise and sewed about 5″ to create a narrower handle, I like it!

Another tote adjustment I made was to shrink the bag down a tiny bit.  This was more so a decision to make a smaller bag.  Original size of the fabric was 21″x19″, I cut my fabric to 20″x18″ so it wasn’t that much smaller but it was a better size for carrying and for using the craft fuse since that width is 20″.

I didn’t put interfacing on the inside lining but I’m not sure how to feel about it yet.  Obviously it’s softer without the structure of the interfacing.  The lining still bunches up a bit like there’s excess fabric but not so much that it’s annoying.  I’m wondering if using a lighter weight interfacing would be more ideal.   I did sew some pockets to the inside lining for my cell phone, pen, and extra pocket for other goodies!  My stitching is less than desirable on the pocket since I put interfacing on that part along with a coordinating binding so it was really thick to sew and I went over it a few times to make sure it wasn’t going to pull apart.  I’ll do better next time.  😜

One last thing I changed was to leave the opening for turning at the top between one of the handles instead of leaving the opening in the bottom of the lining which later would have to be hand sewn shut. I’m still not that skilled at hand stitching so leaving the opening at the top, I was able to sew it closed with matching thread very close to the edge. I like it, much easier and looks better.

Here are some pics of my second tote bag:

Tote bag pinned inside out
Handles are floppy on this tote since there’s no interfacing inside.
I added pockets to this tote. I didn’t put interfacing on the lining so it’s soft.
The finished market tote, my version 🙂
Tote #1 and Tote #2, the front one is slightly smaller.

Despite the fact this was my second tote, it didn’t take me less time than the first one since I was making adjustments along the way. I really like the colors and patterns I chose for this tote bag. The outer fabric was another remnant find while I bought the 100% cotton lining at regular price. All in all, I’m very pleased with the adjustments I made, one step closer to sewing the perfect tote bag! I can’t wait to make another tote!  😊


I made a tote bag!

Ever since getting my new sewing machine back in December, a tote bag is something I wanted to learn to sew. I use reusable totes all the time when I go grocery shopping. Some of the totes I’ve had are at least a few years old and I noticed that the seams are starting to tear and stitching coming undone.

I love totes, well bags in general. The ones I own and often sold at stores are usually plain and boring, not to mention thin and cheap in material. Even the nicer strong nylon bags I have that cost $10 each are still one ply and have ripped. I haul a lot of heavy items from Costco in them. Well, this is the perfect opportunity for me to create some colorful unique tote bags with pretty matching lining to take with me on shopping trips or general use!  😄

After reading through a lot of tutorials and watching countless youtube videos on making tote bags, I decided to tackle The Market Tote Tutorial.

The first tote bag I made, I followed the instructions exactly as written, all 36 steps. It literally took me all night and into the morning, probably a good 8 hours to make one bag! I’m not getting rich making and selling bags nor would it be a viable business, Ms Slow Poke. :blush:  Some steps had me scratching my head while others were just trickier than it seems.

I think part of the reason it took me so long to do was because I’ve never made one before and didn’t/couldn’t grasp the concept of how to make a tote bag with an inside lining. When you buy totes at stores, I’ve never really seen them with a lining, at least not the grocery totes. That may be so it’s easy and cheap to manufacture in large quantities and would make it easier to wash/wipe clean from grocery spills. I wanted a pretty lining and a more substantial quality bag….well, hand made quality. 😊

So here are the pics for my first tote bag:

My First Market Tote!
It’s a big size, can fit a binder and notebook with no problems!
It stands and hangs well. It’s large!

The fabric I used were mostly remnant pieces I picked up at Joann Fabrics or Hancock Fabrics, I love sifting through the remnant bin for good finds. The lining piece I bought on sale, I like the bright cheery color and dragonflies and thought it would compliment well. I am quite pleased with myself for finishing this and had the thought to put a label on it especially since I figured out how to print on fabric last week. Label, sewing, qr code, new url, it’s all coming together finally…

I ended up using Pellon Decor Bond I bought at Wal-Mart for the interfacing for this bag. The only difference between the decor bond and Craft Fuse is the double width and it’s folded over. I have a bolt of the Craft Fuse as well but I have to do more cutting since the tutorial called for 21″ x 19″ where as the Craft fuse was only 20″ width while the Decor Bond was 45″ wide folded over, I can cut both pieces at one time. The interfacing may have been a bit too much, everything stood up and it is well structured so it’s not floppy. I had a hard time turning the the bag inside out through the 5″ opening in the lining per instructions. The interfacing just made everything very thick and bulky but it’s not going to fall over, that’s for sure. Moving forward, I would like a longer handle and maybe some inside pockets. For my first tote bag, it came out well, I’m looking forward to making more and perfecting it!  😍


My first Rag Quilt is finished!

Rag Quilt wasn’t something I initially set out to make, in fact, I had no idea what it was until I stumbled upon some videos on Youtube about them. After watching and reading a few tutorials on rag quilts being a good beginner quilt to make, I’m on board, let’s do this!   🤗

The premise of a rag quilt is that you create a quilt sandwich which consists of a front piece on top of an optional smaller piece of batting on top of a back piece, all sewn together corner to corner forming an X. Then each sandwich is sewn together with a 1″ seam allowance turned to the front of the quilt. When all squares in one row is sewn together, then each row is sewn to the next row with proper seam alignment. Once all sandwiched pieces are sewn together, a 1″ seam allowance is sewn around the border of the quilt. After that you’re ready to use your handy Fiskars 8.5 Inch Softouch Spring Action Rag Quilter Snip to cut 1/2″ – 3/4″ snips into that 1″ seam allowance WITHOUT snipping the sewn thread. These snipper scissors are awesome!! :laugh: Sure my hand still cramped after 3 hours of snipping but I suspect it would have been way worse if I didn’t have them. Plus they are sharp and cut through the fabric without problems as long as you’re not trying to cut through 6 layers at the same time.

Here are some pics of my Rag Quilt process:

Making a Quilt Sandwich
Pinning Quilt Sandwich
Chain Piecing Quilt Squares
Sewing together Quilt Sandwiched Squares
Pinning and Clipping together rows of Quilt Squares for sewing
Using Quilt Snips
Snip every 1/2″ apart and 3/4″ deep WITHOUT snipping thread.
Snipping is done!
Finished snipping the Rag Quilt.
After washing and drying twice, it’s all fluffy!
The back of the Rag Quilt looks like a normal quilt.
Printed label here has been washed twice and it still looks great and the qr code still scans!

I ended up washing and drying the rag quilt twice. The first time, it’s important to check the link trap often during the dry cycle to remove the build up of lint. The rag edges really shred in the washing machine and dryer. I read people suggest using a laundromat the first time washing and drying the rag quilt, I can see why. It left a lot of shreds in the washer after the first wash, the second wash was a lot less. The same is true with dryer. First time drying, every 10 minutes you should check the lint trap to remove the lint, there’s a lot! Another good thing to do is to take it outside (so there’s no cleanup inside) and shake the heck out of the quilt to remove shreds/lint after each washing and drying. After washing and drying twice, the edges are getting more “raggy”, I’m sure it will look even better after more washings.

I did have to use a pill remover/fabric shaver to get the cotton pills off of the quilt. It seems that the nursery cotton flannel tends to fuzz up and pill. I just want it to look best for presenting since it’s a gift.  😊

Here’s the pertinent info about this rag quilt:

Baby Rag Quilt
Made for: My new nephew Bo
Pieced, Sewn, Quilted by: Jean Eng
Location: Baltimore, Maryland, USA
Date: February 2015
Materials Used:
Front & Back: 100% Nursery Cotton (flannel)
Batting: 100% Cotton Warm and Natural Cotton Quilt Batting
Thread: Polyester
Label: 100% Cotton

All in all, I’m happy with the way it turned out. It’s a lot of cutting, sewing, and snipping but in the end, it produced a nice looking quilt. I think moving forward, I would use regular cotton, not flannel cotton for making this type of quilt. Regular cotton being thinner may make it easier to work with and may rag better too. I would also cut my squares bigger for adult size quilts, this was cut with 7″ squares and 5″ batting squares. I may go 10″ with 8″ batting next time.


Printing labels on fabric, trial, error, finally success…

After many trials and errors, I finally got my labels printed on fabric for the quilts I’m making! It’s been a huge learning curve on making quilts and my initial attempt at just handwriting the labels with fabric pens proved to be not as appealing as I had hoped. Turns out that writing on fabric is not quite so easy nor legible.

I read through numerous websites that described the process which many included temporarily adhering by ironing your fabric piece to freezer paper for a backing so you can run it through your printer. The freezer paper gave it some thickness and weight and formed a stiffer piece of fabric to feed into your printer. I didn’t try this with freezer paper but I did copy the same idea and used a product by Pellon called Fuse-N-Tear Stabilizer which is a stabilizer you iron on to the back of your fabric to stiffen it up for machine embroidering. I bought this stabilizer initially to test out the monogramming feature on my sewing machine to see if I could do a simple label. Many sample tests proved that monogramming feature is not a viable option for producing a small label that looked ok enough to not embarrass me. Since I bought 12 yards of the stabilizer, I put it to good use!  :laugh:

The next hurdle was getting the printer ink to set without washing away. This was again not an easy task. My main printer is an old inkjet HP Photosmart. It prints fine and I’m familiar with it so I was able to create 4″x6″ stabilized fabric pieces to run through the printer using the built in 4×6 tray. I did the whole let it dry, heat set the ink with iron, soak it in vinegar to supposedly further set the ink, a quick rinse in water and allow to dry. Result was that most of the ink would run and washed away.

Just printing and let dry, wash it and the ink disappeared. Printing and heat set with iron also washed off most of the ink, it left a greenish trace of what the printing looked like from black ink. Heat set and then soaked in vinegar didn’t make much of a difference than the previous method. I wonder if I can just skip this step altogether with labels I eventually printed with success.

The problem with the ink running isn’t so much the methods I used but rather with the type of ink I had in my printer. It turns out that pigment ink is what sticks around while dyed ink will just wash away. Pigment ink is the more permanent ink which also equate to the higher price tag on ink cartridges, it’s said to be non-yellowing, archival, and doesn’t fade over time, typically seen in photo printing. Even though my HP printer will do great photo printing, it doesn’t use pigment ink, it’s dyed. There is also a product called Bubble Jet Set and Bubble Jet Rinse to help set ink to fabric by prepping the fabric to take the ink better. I didn’t want to go that route with extra work and expense until absolutely necessary, plus I’d rather limit my use of chemicals and use more natural products.

I was beginning to think nothing about this whole quilting project is ever going to be easy and go smoothly. But I kept going because being able to print the label means that I can graphically produce a nice looking fancier label with all the bells and whistles of modern day technology and hopefully doesn’t continue to add to my growing sewing costs, I have spent WAY too much money on all things sewing related. 😛

After scouring the web for a solution to my new problem, reading countless forum threads, watching dozens of youtube videos, and sifting through numerous blog comments, not to mention the constant brainstorming I endured to figure out a way to make it work in the most cost effective way, I realized that I have an even older piece of crap Epson cheapo printer that came bundled with some computer purchase my brother made many moons ago. The only reason I have kept this printer is because it has a photocopy feature that doesn’t need to be hooked up to a computer to work. Every tax season I dredge it out to make copies of forms and documents and it barely works. The ink is super expensive and it runs out fast, it doesn’t print very well and it’s completely finicky and slow. BUT Epson inks are supposedly pigment ink! So my brilliant idea was to see if I can use it print up a label.

Sounds easy enough…. After realizing that despite a 3/4 full black ink cartridge, if the other 3 color cartridges are empty, this printer simply will not operate at all. And I wasn’t about to fork out $15+ for each of the 3 cartridges on this printer to see if using it for printing on fabric is an option. So I had another brilliant idea! :yes:  I’ll just buy some cheapo refilled ink from Amazon.com for this printer and swap out the empty color ink cartridges with non-genuine Epson ink but use the genuine black Epson ink that’s pigmented to do my fabric label printing! I ended up getting the 12pk for $15, it was cheap enough to test. If it works and for some reason I want to do color labels down the road, I can always fork out the cash but I seriously doubt it. I can always use the cheap ink for printing on paper.

Two, maybe three days I spent messing with the printer after the ink arrived. The trick of swapping out the cartridge did work, the printer would pop up with a dialogue about recognizing that I’m not using genuine Epson ink…um, whatever! Running the clean nozzle and head 4 times finally produced a cleaner looking image on paper. The true test is on the fabric. I had paper jams, errors and more errors, slow response, non-response…this printer just doesn’t play nice at all :pain:  but after numerous threats of its impending death by a second story window toss, it began to cooperate! I’ve learned a few things about this printer’s massive limitations and have finessed it within it’s parameters to produce a decent looking label. The Genuine Epson Ink doesn’t seem to wash off at all in water or through laundering, YES!!!

I still created my stabilized backing in the standard 8.5×11 size but I would cut out 4×6 size fabric pieces to iron onto the backing along with filler fabric for the empty spots. This way I can do my graphic design in a 4×6 environment and print it off on different sections of the page without wasting a full 8.5×11 piece of fabric. It peels off easy and I can reuse it a few times by ironing a new 4×6 piece to replace the one I printed and peeled off. Less waste is joyous!

I’m really happy with the way the labels came out. I used a white 100% cotton muslin fabric and the black ink really popped. I did set it in a pan of vinegar to supposedly set the ink more after I heat set it with the iron for 15-20 seconds for a few rounds. I did test with vinegar and without, frankly I can’t tell the difference. Neither washed off in soap and water and both looked similar without fading. If the Epson ink didn’t work out, my next option was to get a lower end Canon PIXMA as I read others have had success using a Pixma. Glad I didn’t have to spend more money now than I did, I’m sure my husband is happy too! Eventually it would be nice to get a newer wireless photo printer, but for now, this will do.

Check out my new quilt label printed on fabric:

Sections of fabric fused onto 8.5″x11″ stabilizer for fabric printing
printed quilt label
Printed fabric label sewed to a quilt square, how cute is that?
Printed fabric label sewn into the quilt, looks awesome!
Printed label here has been washed twice and it still looks great and the qr code still scans!

One of the big pluses to printing your own labels on fabric is that you can customize it however you want, whether it’s on a page of labels or each individual one. Here I have decided that since starting out with my sewing projects and quilt making that it’s a nice idea to label them with different unique QR codes that reference a shorten url to a page that talks about that particular sewing project. The reason for my own vanity shorten url site is to have more control over all my links. The shorter the url, the less complicated the QR code graphic will look. On fabric, a less busy qr code graphic may be more important than on paper.

I have read that quilt labels are very important to give a history of when, where, why and by whom the quilt was made, linking to a page is an extension of that, to give a fuller background. Despite the week I’ve had, it’s been a good learning experience and I’m very happy at the final results! 😄