Thursday, December 13, 2012

Time to dust off the serger

My poor BabyLock Serger has been sitting in my sewing room for months now. I just don't need to use it that often. I make bags and really don't need pretty finished seams on the inside.

However, I have been using it to finish raw edges of yardage before I wash it to make snack bags.  But that's about it. Which is a shame. So I went ahead and ordered this book:

It has a lot of information that is already in my owner's manual but much, much more detailed troubleshooting tips. It also explains the different stitch techniques you can achieve with your serger. I was hoping for a bit more information on clothing assembly/construction because I was planning on going back to how I started Blue Calla and making some clothing for kids. Regardless, it is a good start. I'm hoping to get a bit of reading done over the holidays and maybe attempt some clothing to sell at the Arts Market in the Spring.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Long time no post! (And a new hobo bag)

I know, I know. It has been a LONG time since my last post. Seeing as I only have 22 followers, I am not overly concerned. :)

The past 3 weeks have been so crazy for me. This has officially been my busiest holiday season yet. My smart phone wristlets have been very popular on Etsy and out of curiosity, I counted how many I have made since the beginning of November and it came out to 71. This is not counting the wristlets I made for my Arts Market space (which by the way, if you haven't been yet you should really go!!)

I am grateful for how busy I've been but this has almost meant NO time whatsoever for the creation of new items. Which is a big deal for me because I get bored easily. I decided over the weekend that I just HAD to create something from my idea sketchbook and take a break from the repetitive sewing.

I had an idea for a pleated front pocket that I saw on someone else's bag, which I would completely credit and link to had I thought of bookmarking the blog post. I decided to try and incorporate this style of pocket to my zippered hobo bags and here is the result:

Everything about the bag is the same as every other zippered hobo bag I've made except for the front pocket. I also added the side tabs and some fabric covered buttons on each side of the pocket's opening.   I used a combination of 3 different fabrics for the outside: a great black and white linen/cotton blend floral fabric, a black denim and a black cotton canvas. I know that some like short shoulder straps and others prefer cross body straps so this bag has both! The cross body strap clips on the o rings so if you like the shorter shoulder strap style then you can easily remove the long strap.

I used the black and white floral on the underside of the short strap. I love this type of accent - gives the bag a bit of personality!

Normally I add zipper pulls made out of satin ribbon and wooden beads that I paint myself to match the bag but when I saw these adorable zipper pulls for sale at Do Dangle Designs, I decided to try them out.

For the inside I used a Parson Gray fabric I've had for quite a while now. The inside has my typical amount of pockets: 3 slip pockets and 1 zippered pocket.

The bottom of the bag has 8 pleats total which I really like because this bag can expand to accommodate tons of "stuff".

This lovely bag is going to the Arts Market tomorrow but once everything calms down on Etsy, I plan on making more of these to sell online.

Friday, November 9, 2012


When I saw all of the beautiful ribbons available on Etsy, I went a little crazy and ordered quite a few. I just couldn't help myself - I love the colours, the textures, the patterns. So many possibilities! Depending on what you make of course.

I just received this stack of ribbons in a 1 inch width from Les Bon Ribbons on Etsy and they are really fabulous (except for the bright lime green one which I thought was going to be pale yellow):

Now I need to figure out how to use these. I sometimes add them as an accent on a bag which I could do again. Or I could incorporate them into clutches and wristlets? Time to brainstorm!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Upcoming Event: Local Artisans Open House

If you are looking for a great evening out, I will be 1 of 4 fabulous artists at this open house event in my neighbourhood. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Japanese Fabrics

These beauties arrived in the mail yesterday. I just love the colours, the texture and the patterns of Japanese fabrics.

I am just finishing up some smart phone wristlets and then I really want to tackle some projects with these. I can't decide - smaller clutches/wristlets or accent pieces on large bags?

If you are interested in snapping up some of these prints for yourself, you can find them at FabricMade on Etsy.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

De-stash Time!

As I continue with my work, I realize that I have made many foolish purchases in the past when it comes to fabric choices. I make purses. So why do I keep buying fabric intended for quilts and children's clothing? Well, the answer is simple. Because they are gorgeous and I want to see them in person!

So today I am starting to sort through them and whatever I haven't washed or cut will be prepped for selling on Etsy. I do have some gems hidden away in my stash.... like this beauty:

Sprites of Tillbrook by Alexander Henry

I LOVE this fabric. It is extremely rare since it has been out of print for a very long time but I just don't have any use for it. I will also be selling any hardware I don't need. At great prices. So if you sew, stay tuned!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

My First Juki Project

I finally have the Juki working very, very nicely. It is exactly what I needed. It goes through so many layers of canvas or leather. I have been delaying using it for a project because it is in the basement and my sewing room is on the 2nd floor of our house. (You just don't bring a machine that contains a litre of oil into a nice room with a hardwood floor). But yesterday I tackled a new hobo bag with a beautiful lambskin leather with a reptile print and used my Juki to sew up the leather components.

I forgot to take a photo at home before I brought it to the Arts Market where Daniel kindly took a photo to put up on Facebook for me (thanks Daniel!). You can take a look at the bag in person there - it is a buttery soft leather!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Designing is hard work!

I have been so busy lately trying to come up with my own product line. By this I mean a specific set of styles that I will make over and over in different fabrics and materials. This is difficult in so many ways:

  • I am a busy Mom. Mr. Blue Calla works very long hours so I can afford to stay at home to work on my little business and take care of our 2 very spirited kids. Which means I pretty much do it all - cooking, cleaning, laundry, taking kids to school, after school activities, play dates, etc. And I run Blue Calla. So yes, pretty much everything.
  • Deciding and designing specific styles of bags is tons of fun but also stressful. What if no one likes and wants to buy the styles I choose? It is a huge investment in time and money that could be completely wasted. On the other hand, it could be EXACTLY what my business needs. Only time will tell.
  • Coming up with a design that I have not seen elsewhere. You would be surprised how many times I've thought that a new bag idea is genius and then I accidentally find that very style of bag while browsing the internet. It happens - a lot! Whether it be a design accent on the outside, or a feature on the inside, it has almost always already been done. 
  • Finding the time to create. It's practically impossible at this time in my life. But the kids come first so I will do my best!
Last night I finally decided what most of my collection will include. I am still stuck on a design for a smaller bag. I want a bag that can convert from a short shoulder strap to a cross body strap. 

I've purchased so many interesting new materials including some japanese imported fabrics like these:

These lovely fabrics can be found here.

And I've also bought a new selection of jacquard ribbons like these:

I've purchased these from Les' Bon Ribbon which I've purchased from before and have not been disappointed.

In terms of fabrics - I will be continuing with canvas, lambskin and cowhide as well as denim. And whenever I can get some nice colours, corduroy like this shoulder bag:

Pleated Shoulder Bag in Corduroy

Enough typing - time to get sewing!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

A Juki for my birthday

It was my birthday on Friday and I've reached the point where I don't care to celebrate very much. (The big 4-0 is approaching way too quickly for my liking!) I spent some great time with my little family and my mother came to visit which was the best part! And let's not forget the cake eating part. I love cake!

AND, I finally got something I've been wanting for a long, long time now. I was going to get a brand new industrial sewing machine but I accidentally came across a Kijiji ad for this used Juki DDL-555 and I couldn't pass it up.

After sewing with regular machines for a few years now, I must admit that I was a bit intimidated by something that has a separate, very large and noisy motor. BUT, I'm good now. It was extremely difficult to get information online about buying, setting up and using an industrial machine so I wanted to share what I have learned so far.

Before you do ANYTHING, get the manual for your machine. I learned so much from the manual that I searched for FOREVER and finally found here. If I had not purchased this manual and read it, I probably would've broken this machine before using it once. 

Industrial sewing machines sit in an oil pan. The oil get sucked up and splashes around inside the machine and keeps everything working smoothly. If the oil pan is empty, this is very bad and you can break the machine if you try to run it.

Second, find a sewing machine dealer who can provide you with service and parts for your machine. I am lucky to have found Paul at The Sewing Machine Centre and I am always amazed at how much he knows about every single sewing machine in the world. He does not service industrial machines himself but he has someone who does. He also has a contact at another sewing store who will be ordering any parts I need including needles. 

I figured out how to thread the machine, wind a bobbin and adjust tensions quite quickly but I am finding it to be very fussy. The tension has to be "just so" for the bobbin and the top thread. I have finally figured everything out and just sewed through 12 layers of duck canvas like it was butter. 

I am in love. 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

First Day at the Arts Market

Yesterday, Mr Blue Calla kindly took a day off work to help me setup my space at the Arts Market. It was a bit of a juggle with kids needing to be picked up from school, van rentals, installing drywall (I do not like drills) but I managed and I am very happy with the end result!

It feels great having my own little space in a store that will actually force me to leave my house sometimes. I plan on checking up every Wednesday to make sure my items are neat and tidy after the weekend shoppers have been by.

I met some wonderful fellow artists while I was there. My neighbour Krystin from everything you do is a balloon was there also setting up. She is very talented with upcycling vintage furniture. Maybe she will let me take photos of her space and show off her amazing work.

My new space! (Oh yes, and me - slouching and wearing my comfy yoga pants)

If you live in Toronto, please feel free to drop by and check out all of the handmade goodies at The Arts Market which is located at 1114 Queen St East (between Pape and Jones) right in Leslieville.

Friday, September 7, 2012

End of Summer

Summer is over and it is back to school and back to work in this house. I barely worked this past summer. The kids are 4 and 7 now and they are just too much fun and I LOVE hot summer weather which means very little time sitting inside at a sewing machine.

We did a lot of this:

And made some new friends:

And enjoyed some spectacular views:

But now it's time to get back to reality. I am super excited to start a new adventure this month. I have leased a small space in a wonderful store called the Arts Market and it features so many creative and talented fellow artists. I love the feel of the market - each artist gets to decorate and stage their area as they want. The market is located at 1114 Queen St East which is such a short distance from my home (could it be more perfect?!) I am busy sewing a whole new assortment of leather bags and some smaller items as well for the new space. Come and visit my booth starting September 19th!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Perfect Stitch

In my latest adventures with leather, I have been researching and experimenting with different threads, needles and trying to achieve the perfect stitch. While asking my good friend Google questions, I came across a forum post by a factory worker who sews leather items and he mentioned not to waste money on thicker thread and just use a regular, good quality thread. It really won't make a difference. This is good to know BUT I really, really love the look of those thicker threads on leather. It adds to the personality of the bag - especially when the stitch is nice and done in a contrasting colour.

So far I have tried: Gutermann polyester thread, Gutermann extra strong thread, Coats and Clarke all purpose thread and lastly, Gutermann upholstery thread.

The all purpose threads - they work. They work really great actually. They are quite tough and the seams seem to be fairly sturdy. They just don't show up very well and that's not the look I am going for!

The extra strong thread works but I found I needed to use a bigger leather needle (100/16 at least) so the thicker thread would go through the needle without fraying. This is a problem however because I've found that the smaller leather needles go through multiple layers of leather a lot easier (go figure!) My bobbin casing DEFINITELY does not like this thread and it would fray immediately. This one is out!

Gutermann upholstery thread - after hours and hours of research and a lot of trial and error I think I've finally figured it out. This is a very thick thread and looks really great. Pros - can be threaded into a variety of needles sizes and works perfectly fine in my bobbin case. Cons - not many colour choices at my local store and I find the end does fray and unravel quite easily. HOWEVER, here is what I had to do so my stitches came out perfectly top and bottom:

1. lower bobbin tension almost to the lowest tension
2. use my maximum top thread tension setting (mine is 9)
3. go with a bigger needle size than my usual 80/12 leather needle. I can manage with a 90/14 but found it better with a 100/16.

Here is the end result:

I'm a pretty happy girl. I'll have to give it a try with my next bag!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Convertible Clutch Pattern Review

I was browsing on Pinterest today and came across this pattern for a convertible clutch by LBG studio. I love bags that can be used in more than one way as you can probably tell by my convertible bags. So on a whim, I bought the pattern and since it was a rainy day I figured it was the perfect time for a small sewing project.

The pattern is very easy to follow and I think this bag could be made by beginners. I did make some changes to the handle because I like my handles very sturdy so I inserted 2 pieces of heavyweight Pellon interfacing (the sew in kind) into each handle at the last step where you sew the top band onto the body of the bag. The pieces were approximately 7 inches x 1 inch. It did make for some thicker sewing but Pellon is so easy to sew through and I like how sturdy the handles are now.

Another change I made was to insert the magnetic snap to the lining pieces before attaching the lining to the outer shell. It just made more sense to me and I always make bags this way.

This bag is a good size at about 11.5 inches wide x 8 inches high to the bottom of the handle and about 3 inches deep when it is unfolded. It comes with a small pocket inside that is the perfect size for a phone.

I'm not sure if I will start producing these for my Etsy shop but I did enjoy making it. You can buy your own version of this pattern here.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Leather and Vinyl Faux Leather

This week I'm going to be trying something very different and out of my comfort zone. I will attempt to sew leather bags as well as some beautiful vinyl "faux" leather bags. Anyone who has followed me since I first started my Etsy shop knows that I am always changing the styles of bag I sew as well as the materials I use. I was not looking to start using leather but let's just say that these hides sort of fell into my lap. I have been hesitant to use leather because I am an animal lover myself so I will have to try not to think of what I am sewing with.

I have 4 half hides (I believe they are cow hide but again, trying not to think about it too much!) in a very, very soft black, a red, a dark charcoal grey and a medium brown that has this fabulous texture. I believe I will have enough to make one bag in each and 2 in the dark grey but I can't make any commitments here since I have not examined them closely for flaws yet. Plus, I will likely make mistakes!

They all feel rather soft to the touch, especially the black hide. The brown one has almost a patent leather feel to it so I will need to chose a style of bag that will work with its stiffness.

I also found some great vinyl faux leathers for those who are not interested in leather. These are the same price as canvas for me so the cost of these bags will likely be very close to what I am charging for my canvas bags. I picked out 4 colours and textures that I found most interesting and appealing. These are great because they are durable like leather but the cost is much more reasonable and they are easier to work with.

Top to bottom I have a reddish brown with this great pebbled texture, the black has a basket weave pattern, the medium brown looks like standard leather grain and the blue/grey (steel blue??) also has the standard leather texture.

I have a custom doll to sew and then I am starting on some tests. I have already determined the perfect stitch length, thread tension and needle for my machine. Next I will be designing some patterns that are a bit more suitable for working with these materials. I am so excited!!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Time to get started

This arrived in the mail today:

And of course, because I mostly wear solid colours the patterns and all those colours kind of made me panic a bit.

Today I'm going to start by washing and shrinking the yardage before cutting. I also need to deal with the pattern pieces. If you remember this post, I was concerned about cutting the pattern pieces in the correct size. Then I found this amazing blog post which explains how to copy your pattern and cut out a single size which then saves the original pattern from being cut. GENIUS!! And since I am lucky enough to have one of those multi-purpose printers I will be trying out this technique. I will make sure to share how that worked in my next progress report. Wish me luck!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Evening Clutch in Black Brocade - GIVEAWAY CLOSED

This giveaway is now closed.

I found this beautiful brocade in the back of my fabric cupboard and thought it would make a great evening clutch. This fabric is incredibly difficult to work with but makes the most gorgeous clutches! You have to iron it at a very low heat and it frays so much when you have working with it.

I forgot to reduce the heat at one point when switching from ironing canvas to ironing the brocade and there is a bit of melting at the back of the clutch. It barely shows so I thought this would make a great giveaway item! All I ask if that you comment below and tell me if you own any clutches and if so, how often do you use them? I will grant one entry if you are a Facebook fan and a second entry if you follow my blog so please leave a separate comment for each entry!

I will be picking a winner tomorrow night, Monday, March 26th at 9:00 PM EDT. Good luck!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Lambs for Spring

I have been busy sewing these incredible lamb dolls lately. They are quite tall - at least 18 inches and the head is very large which makes a great pillow for a toddler. Every time I list one in my shop, it has sold within 24 hours. I am using a fabulous Lamb doll pattern from Dolls and Daydreams which can be purchased here.

First of all, these are amazingly well drawn patterns. I have purchased and tried many, many patterns in the time I've had my Etsy shop open and I love patterns that are not hand drawn which means use a computer program to draw and please use a ruler for straight lines! I like pieces that are symmetrical (circles should be round). These patterns are very good. They are probably not for the beginner sewer in my opinion because I have a lot of experience and I do find them a bit tricky on the final step - sewing the body shut. But I am experimenting and coming out with pretty good results each time. The key is to take it slowly.

A couple of tips I'd like to share:

1. I use the triple stitch on my sewing machine instead of just a straight stitch when sewing up the limbs and the body. The picture on this setting for my machine looks like 3 parallel dashed lines. I have found this stitch makes incredibly strong seams which will stand up to a lot of stuffing. The only con is that if you make a  mistake and you need to rip some seams, it can be time consuming. I think that the strength of the seams is more important.

2. Make sure you leave enough space at the top of the limbs - it really does make it easier to sew the limbs to the body especially when sewing the body shut.

3. I find stuffing that is really, really puffy works best for the body because it fills everything out nicely. It also means the doll is much lighter. I have used a stuffing that is more expensive in the past but it sort of clumps and makes a heavy doll. Experiment with different brands of stuffing to see what brings better results.

4. Before stuffing the body and closing the side seam with a ladder stitch, I iron the opening closed so that I have a nice crease showing me exactly where I need to insert my needle. It makes a really nice, straight seam. I use this same idea when closing everything I make!

And now for more pictures:

My favourite model. I will not lie - there was bribery involved in getting her to do this.

I will be trying more Dolls and Daydreams patterns soon: Fox, Monkey, Tiny Tot and Horse/Zebra

Friday, March 16, 2012

Spring projects

I spotted this little trio in my garden this week - a sure sign that Spring is here.

Since the nice weather is coming, I'm planning on completing a couple of sewing projects for myself. (I promise to TRY!) I am always so busy and what little time I have to sew, I tend to make things for my Etsy shop. But I have purchased 2 sewing patterns and some fabric and I really do want to make something for myself. 

The first pattern is the Socialite Dress by Anna Maria Horner - which I purchased at Venezie fabrics online store.

The second pattern is the Roundabout Dress & Slip - also available at Venezie Fabrics.

At this point, my only concern with these patterns is that even though I have the measurements for each size I really don't know which size I should make for myself. I usually buy a size medium or large (I really prefer loose fitting clothing) but these patterns seem a tad on the generous side so I may just play it safe with a medium. I wish there was a way for me to keep the pattern in all sizes!

As for fabric selection - this was very hard. I feel nervous about picking out fabrics for clothing as opposed to bags. BUT, I did place an order for the following combos - both from the Secret Garden collection by Sandi Henderson:

Grand Tapestry in Midnight

Vintage Ironwork in Midnight
And this combo:
Garden Gate in Garden

Cotton Couture in Herb (horrible photo!)

I will have to take photos of the finished projects. I figure by posting this, I have somewhat committed to following through this time! :)