Gizmo Garage!

Welcome to the ChrisWDesigns Global Blog Tour!

First, a few tour details: At the end of this post, you will find links to all the tour participants as well as links to sponsor prize giveaways and tour discounts. (ChrisW Designs is offering a 20% discount on all patterns during the tour, and there are other discounts as well.) I'll also be giving away two copies of the Gizmo Garage pattern

Without further ado, I'd like to present my version of the Gizmo Garage bag:

I am not a tech junkie. As a medical transcriptionist, I spend eight hours a day in front of a computer and the last thing I want in my life when I am done with work is more tech. The one gadget that I really love, though, is my iPad. I love it so much that when I saw the Gizmo Garage pattern in ChrisW’s collection, I knew that was the bag I wanted to make to carry my iPad when I travel. I received the pattern for free. It’s a great design. Half of the fun of making it was watching each of the sections come together. I am not an experienced bag maker by any stretch of the imagination—this is probably my fourth bag—so this is a great choice for novices, although you should have some basic sewing experience. 

Fabric and notions:  The focus fabric was an easy choice. Tim Holtz is one of my favorite fabric designers. I tend to hoard pieces from his collections and when they do get used, it’s for very special projects like this one. Eclectic Elements Wallflower Ledger is a soft neutral, text-based design with pops of larger black text here and there. Those pops of black text made it easy to choose a solid accent fabric—black was the obvious choice—but I didn’t want just to default to my all-time favorite, Kona. That would have been too easy. Another dip into my stash yielded a gorgeous piece of 100% black linen fabric. It’s subtle, but it adds just a bit of extra texture and I think it was a great choice. 

Choosing a lining fabric is always tricky for me. I love bags where the lining is a surprise bit of a bright color. I auditioned quite a few brightly-colored small prints for this bag, but none of them really seemed right. In the end, I scaled it back a bit and chose something that—while brighter than the focus and accent fabrics—didn’t clash with them. 

Black nickel hardware added the finishing touch. It’s not as easy to find as hardware in the more common finishes, but I love the way it looks with the focus and accent fabrics. 

Rivets are used to add strength to the strap area and also as an accent detail:

The pattern calls for Pellon SF101 interfacing to add stability to the fabrics. White is the standard color available at most stores, but it’s worth searching out the black SF101, too, if you happen to be using a dark fabric. I suspect that using white interfacing on black linen would have been a disaster, especially with the looser weave of the linen.  

Sewing machine(s): Regular readers of my blog know that one of my other hobbies is collecting and working on vintage sewing machines, especially the Italian-made Necchis. I am not opposed to modern machines—I have a Janome 6600P that sees quite a bit of action—but I really prefer to sew on my vintage machines. (I also have a vintage ironing board and iron.) I used two of my Necchis exclusively to make this bag. For the lighter parts, I used my Necchi BF, which is a no-frills, straight stitch machine that was manufactured some time around 1948-1950. This particular machine used to belong to a professional seamstress. There are days when I am convinced that my only job is to operate the foot pedal; this machine knows what to do and does it without much help from me. 

For the heavier parts, when sewing multiple layers of foam and interfaced fabrics together, I went to my industrial Necchi. My industrial Necchi also happens to be a treadle machine. Yes, it’s foot operated, not electric. I have a fascination with treadle machines and a treadle machine has the added benefit of being able to sew very s-l-o-w-l-y. You would not believe how handy that is for some of the trickier parts of a bag where I want the stitching to be perfect. 

The Gizmo Garage pattern: I spent 16 years as a professional knitting designer and wrote over a hundred knitting patterns. I know a thing or two about pattern presentation and Chris’s patterns are up there with the best of them. I have some pretty significant spatial perception deficits that make it difficult for me to “see” things in my head, so I appreciate patterns that explain steps in several different ways and are liberally illustrated either with line drawings or photos. (Sometimes what seems like Greek to me when explained one way will “click” when explained a different way.) Any issues I had with this pattern were strictly a result of me being unable to visualize something the first time around, but a careful reading of the instructions and a moment or two to ponder them always cleared things up. 

This is not a short pattern. At 70+ pages, you might want to do as Chris suggests at the beginning of the pattern and print out the 2-3 pages of text instructions at the end and come back and refer to the digital version of the pattern as you come to each step. (If you have an iPad or laptop in your sewing room, that’s very easy to do!) Also, Chris provides individual pattern pieces which can be cut out as well as the measurements for each piece. You choose which to use to cut out your pattern pieces. Because most bag patterns are made of up rectangular shapes—and because I am used to cutting fabric with my rotary cutter—I prefer the written measurements over the pattern pieces, although I did have to use the pattern pieces for the flap details. I really only needed to print out the first half dozen pages and the last couple of pages of the pattern. For those who like to work strictly from pattern pieces, though, Chris has you covered and includes all of them for all three sizes (I made the smallest size bag). 

Quilters and bag makers all tend to grumble about the amount of time needed to cut (and in the case of bags, interface) pieces. It seems most sewists would prefer to get right to the sewing. I am one of those rare birds, apparently, who relishes the prep work as much as the sewing. I spent one whole afternoon cutting and labelling the bag components and another afternoon ironing on the interfacing. I don’t like to rush this part. Accurate cutting and interfacing at this step makes the actual bag assembly that much easier. 

There are a few spots in this pattern that call for the use of foam interfacing such as byAnnie’s Soft and Stable or Pellon FF77. I have both but used the Pellon for this project. Chris has a great method for keeping the bulk of the foam out of the seams. She has you baste it in with a 1/8” seam, then come back later and cut off that basting edge and cut the foam down to the seamline I used appliqué scissors to do that, which worked splendidly. I’ll note here that it’s also helpful to keep the SF101 interfacing out of the seams, either by cutting the interfacing smaller than each pattern piece before fusing or by going back after the seam is sewn and carefully pulling the interfacing away from the fabric and cutting it off. I’ve used both methods. 

Because Chris is an Australian designer, she uses metric measurements. (Imperial measurements are also given in the pattern.) This is the first pattern I have run across that uses a 3/8” seam, but the equivalent 10 mm must be pretty standard in other parts of the world. I think I need to invest in a set of metric cutting rulers, because it would have been so much easier just to use the metric measurements throughout the project. That 3/8” seam threw me a bit at first, but then my eyes got used to “seeing” where it needed to be. 

The Gizmo Garage bag: The pattern includes instructions for bags in three sizes, with measurement guidelines to ensure you make the correct size for your device. I chose to make the smallest bag, which is 14" tall and 8-1/2" wide. 

If you are a pocket person, you will love all the pockets included in this pattern. There is a large divided pocket underneath the front flap for carrying cords and other tech necessities:

Just behind that is a large slip pocket perfect for papers/manuals and a second slip pocket for smaller items, like your phone and a pen. 

The main section of the bag—if you don't use it for your computer or a tablet—is perfect for holding the usual purse items such as a wallet, mints, lip balm, and for those of us with older eyes, our reading glasses (and now you know what is in my purse). 

My iPad fits perfectly into the padded iPad pocket on the back side of the bag:

And that pocket flap echoes the flap design on the front of the bag (I also love that grab strap, which is unbelievably handy):

This bag has no zippers, making it a great first choice for novice bag makers. (I don't mind zippers, but I know that they can be scary if you’ve never done them before.) The pattern incorporates the use of interfacing, foam, and basic hardware (magnetic snaps, D-rings, and rivets). There are plenty of opportunities to practice topstitching and good seaming techniques. If you work slowly and always "measure twice and cut once," you should have no trouble with the construction, even with techniques you may not have tried before. 

I know that a project has been a success when I have had fun making it, but also when I spend a lot of time admiring the finished product. I’ve already picked out several other ChrisW patterns as future sewing projects, and I know they will be as enjoyable to make as this one was. 

To be entered into the giveaway for a copy of the Gizmo Garage pattern, please leave a comment below telling us your favorite flavor of mints or lip balm. The husband will pick two commenters at random (by number), each of whom will get a copy of the Gizmo Garage pattern. 

Tour Discounts

  • ChrisW Designs is taking 20% off all patterns until end of day (Australian Central Standard Time) November 21. Code GlobalBlogTour17 (applied automatically with this link. Buy without fear: If you purchase during the tour and then win a pattern, your purchase price will be refunded.
  • Handbag Hardware Australia (aff link) is offering a 10% discount for the duration of the tour. Use code: CWD10. (Excludes interfacing and Emmaline Bling.)
  • Bobbin Girl has a 10% discount using code BLOGTOUR17. (Not to be combined with any other discount or rewards points.)
  • Gold Star Tool is taking 15% off for our tour readers. Use code chriswdesigns.
  • Zipit (aff link) is also offering a 10% discount on shop items. Use code ChrisWDesigns.



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Tour Schedule

(Australia Central Standard Time)

// Please note that none of these post links are available before the scheduled date (ACST). If you click on one too early, you will get an "Error 404: Page not found." You know about those, right? //

Sunday, November 12

Monday, November 13

Tuesday, November 14

Wednesday, November 15

Thursday, November 16

Friday, November 17

Saturday, November 18

Tuesday, November 21

  • Giveaway winners announced on all the blogs:

ChrisW Blog, Glitter in my Coffee, Michelle's Creations, Flying by the Seam of my Pants, Serial Bagmakers, Tiger in a Tornado, Vanaehsa, Judith Stitches and More, Doctora Botones, Sewsewilse, Suck It Up Buttercup, Vicky Myers Creations, Marvelous Auntie M, inspinration, Fée bricolo, Trisha's Craft Corner



ChrisW Designs Global Blog Tour!

Got your passport?—the Tour has started!


Head over to Chris's blog for tour schedule, sponsor details, giveway information, and a whole lot of fun (check out all the great sponsors!). I'll see you back here on Wednesday, November 15!


The Things I Get Asked to Do

The husband came home the other night with a sewing project for me:

This is the crotch of his insulated Carhartt overalls. The seam is blown out. (Let's keep the jokes to a minimum—this is a G-rated blog.) 

I had to wash them, first—they were covered in concrete from a footing pour—but some time today I need to see if I can fix them. I know the Necchi industrial will be able to handle this task with no issues; the problem is going to be getting to this part of the overalls in order to sew them. It won't be as simple as repairing a strap. I told the husband that it's akin to having to fix a foundation after the house has been built on top of it. I'll see what I can do. He suggested using rivets, which I do have, but I am not sure that they will be a strong enough repair. I don't often wish for a freearm sewing machine, but one would be helpful now. All of mine are flatbeds. 

More than once have I thought that he should be a product field tester. He finds the limits of just about everything eventually. Casualties in the early years of our marriage included a pair of Fiskars sewing shears that were used to cut Formica (!!!!) and several hair dryers that were used for thawing out pipes. (I hide my sewing shears now.) After I washed these coveralls, I had to scoop a handful of rocks and pieces of concrete out of the washing machine. 

Well, I like a challenge, and he doesn't care about asthestics. These overalls are still in good shape otherwise and they are not cheap to buy new, so it makes sense to try to rescue them. I'll report back if I am successful.  


It snowed most of yesterday. The husband has been out making his plowing rounds. Ali's little guy knows that the red truck is the "plow truck." He has also categorized our other trucks as the "farm truck," the "work truck," and the "boom truck," because it is important to know which one is which. We are supposed to get more snow today, although this morning it is warm enough that it seems to be mixed with some rain. That should make the roads nice and slick. I am still baffled by the way people are driving. I see people driving way too fast for the road conditions. It's almost always guys in trucks, who seem to think that having four-wheel drive confers upon them some special ability to drive at highway speeds on slick roads—at least until they end up cab side down in a culvert somewhere. I actually saw some guy make that very maneuver right in front of me on an icy road some years ago. He had to climb out of the driver's side window to get out. 

I'll have to make a trip up to Eureka next week to pick up the processed pork. I am going to take the husband's big work truck, the Dodge 5500. (He also has a 4500.) Last year I took the BMW, and while we were able to fit most of the boxes into the cargo area (I did have to make two trips), I was pushing the GVW limits of that car. I don't want to do that again. The truck is a monster dually, but I drove a one-ton for several years (although mine wasn't a dually) and this one has an automatic transmission. I just need to remember that I am driving the Titanic and not get myself into a spot I can't get out of. The husband's work trucks are all cab-and-chassis configurations with flatbeds. It should be relatively easy to stack all the boxes and tie them down with ratchet straps. We might have to change the name of that truck to the "pork truck." 


You will notice some changes to the blog in anticipation of the upcoming blog tour that starts on Sunday. I also added a search feature to the sidebar, although I haven't yet tried it out. Feedback is welcome, if someone wants to experiment with it. 


Winter: It's Cold and it Snows

People often ask me what a typical winter in Montana is like. My response tends to be something like, "When I find out, I'll let you know." We've lived here for 24 years and I still don't think I could describe a Montana winter accurately. There was the winter of 1996-1997, when it started snowing on October 15 and the last of the snow—some 216 inches in total—was not gone from the yard until May 31. There was the year we had snow on June 10. There was the year it went down to -10 the first weekend in October. (I was teaching a knitting workshop in Tucson that weekend and missed the whole thing.) Some years we haven't had snow until just before Christmas. It has hit 90 degrees in April. 

We seem to have fallen off a cliff this year; the transition from hot to cold always seems to happen faster than the transition from cold to hot, but this year it was fairly quick. Just two short months ago, at the beginning of September, it was still up in the low 90s and we were praying for that first snowfall to put an end to fire season. We have about six inches of snow on the ground now. It's colder than usual for the beginning of November, too, and that's not my imagination. We've been runnning in the 20s—that's the daytime high—and the weatherman noted the other night that that is about 20 degrees below normal. I've already broken out the flannel-lined jeans. I put the insulated curtains up last week. Having them up makes the house feel like a cave, but it does cut down dramatically on the amount of propane we use to heat the place. 

I am also making good use of all these quilts I have stacked up around here. We have a down comforter on our bed that we sleep under year-round. It has a lightweight cover for the summer and a heavier one for the winter. Even with the heavier winter duvet cover, though, I was still getting cold at night, so I put this quilt on the bed:

It's amazing how much toastier I feel with just the addition of this quilt. And I adore this quilt. My only regret is that I didn't make it bigger. This is the Scrapper's Delight pattern from Sunday Morning Quilts. I made this a couple of years ago and my friend Tera helped me quilt it on her longarm. The picture doesn't really do it justice. It fills me with happiness just to look at it. Many of the scraps in here came from a scrap fabric trade with my knitting friend, Kate, which adds to the charm. 

Of course, now that I have this quilt out on the bed and can see it every day, I did what any normal quilter would do: I started another one. (The scrap bag is overflowing, after all.) And really, this is mindless sewing at its best. There is no measuring, just sewing strips to each other until the block is about 13" square, then trimming it down to 12-1/2". I did four blocks in two nights of before-bedtime sewing:

I think that sometimes people forget that I have a full-time job in addition to all the other stuff I do. Even though I work from home, I still have mentally draining days when the queue is filled with reports from doctors who mumble and doctors whose first language is not English. There are nights when all I want to do is sew and not have to think too hard. And these blocks are like potato chips. I'll finish the other six I have started and then I'll take a break and go back to something else. 

I should also note that part of the reason I love this block—and scrappy quilts in general—is that it lets me play around with color. I was a one-color knitting designer. For some reason, my brain could not handle designing knits using more than one color. I am a lousy interior decorator for the same reason. Give me a scrap bag full of fabrics, though, and I am like a pig in mud. I read somewhere that a quilter's fabric stash will tend to be internally harmonious simply because that person tends to gravitate to the same kinds of fabrics over and over. You can tell that I am all about the bright, saturated colors. I have to remind myself to throw in a neutral here and there to tone things down. This may not be to your taste, and that's fine. I am not a big fan of batiks. Luckily for quilters, we have a wide range of fabrics to choose from. 


The piano tuner came and spent a couple of hours with the baby grand yesterday afternoon. My piano—most pianos in general—does not react well to drastic temperature shifts. Mine tends to get screechy in the fall, which is usually when I have it tuned. It's much mellower now. I have to start working on Christmas music soon. The Lutheran church called again and asked if I would play for a Thanksgiving Eve service in two weeks and I am also going to fill in for them on a Sunday in December. I asked my church if they would loan me out and they were gracious enough to say yes. There is a dearth of church pianists in this valley. I know a lot of people who play, but very few who want to play in church. It really does take a completely different skill set to be a church pianist. I am now actively looking for young people to mentor because I won't be able to do this forever. 

Things I did not think I would be doing now if you had asked me 25 years ago to describe my life now:

  • Being a church pianist.
  • Being a pig and chicken farmer, or farmer in general. (I still have no idea where that came from.)
  • All the quilting and sewing.
  • Being an amateur sewing machine mechanic.  

I was pretty sure that I would still be married to the husband, and happily, I am. I've also got two delightful kids. The other stuff has been an interesting ride, though. Who knew. 


DD#1 finishes her second fieldwork in Boise at the end of November. She has to take her Washington state licensing exam either in December or January, but she already has a few job interviews in the Seattle area. That's exciting. It doesn't look like she'll have trouble getting a job. DD#2 is in the middle of her all-expenses paid vacation study abroad in Italy. She got straight A's on her midterms, including an A+ on her Machiavelli essay. The professor for that class wanted to know why she wasn't majoring in political science. (Her history professor wanted to know why she wasn't majoring in history, and her Italian professor was annoyed that she chose to live in the pensione instead of doing a home stay during this term. She appears to be in high demand in the various disciplines.)

Interestingly, DD#2 gets to take her final exam in her poli sci class at Machiavelli's home, which is just south of Florence. We went by there on our way out to the winery in September.  I am glad that she had this opportunity and that she is making the most of it. 


Don't forget, the ChrisW Designs Global Blog Tour starts on Sunday, November 12. I'll post more details tomorrow and this weekend, but you'll definitely want to stop by each blogger's site to see the beautiful bags and for your chance to win free patterns and prizes! My bag will be featured next Wednesday, November 15! 


Existential Blog Crisis

I've been writing this blog for almost six years now. I had a previous blog called Musings on the Art of the Cable at my knitting website. When I stopped designing knits, though, I discovered that I really missed blogging (more than knitting). Suck It Up, Buttercup started out as a way to keep my mother and my mother-in-law up to date on what was happening out here. My mother lives in Cleveland and my MIL lives in Maryland, so they only got to see the girls a couple of times a year. Over the past six years, though, this blog has taken on a life of its own. It runs a pretty wide gamut from sewing machines to quilting to gardening to food preservation to livestock to moving giant toads around the property. The readership has also grown quite a bit, especially over the past year. Again, that wasn't intentional, but I am happy that other people have found the blog and think it is entertaining. 

The husband and I have had lots of discussions about the blog.* He is of the opinion that I should try to monetize it in some way. I have really, really mixed feelings about that. I write this blog because I enjoy writing it. I don't want it to turn into one of those "mommy blogs" consisting mostly of a string of product reviews. I want this blog to be about real life and I don't think my reality lends itself well to monetization (at least not in the way the husband is thinking about it). 

So there's that. 

And then I was invited to be part of this upcoming blog tour. The process has been a whole lot of fun for me, but it has come with some challenges. I was asked to submit my logo to the blog tour organizers so they could start putting together promotional material. That presented a problem. I don't have a blog logo. I fretted about this for a few days. How on earth was I going to come up with something that encompassed everything I do here? (Most of the other participants have blogs devoted strictly to sewing and crafts.) I could have a logo with some kind of farm animal in it, but what about the sewing machines? If I had a sewing machine logo, what about canning? If I had a kitchen-themed logo, what about the giant toads? (Yes, I did consider having a logo with a giant toad in it, but that joke is a few years old now and would require too much explanation.) I cannot draw to save my life and I needed this logo pretty quickly. 

I am relatively happy with what I came up with, despite my rusty Illustrator skills. Thank you, Shutterstock.com, for the picture. If you use your imagination, you can envision that woman up there as me in my apron, getting ready to tackle one of the many projects I have going on around here. I still need to do some tweaking (I don't like the start black and white of the entire blog), but this will work. 

*The husband was forbidden to read my blog for a long time. I instituted a rule when we were in college that he could not read anything I had written. He was the editor of the college paper and then the literary magazine. I had done up a couple of pieces for the newspaper which came back from his desk all marked up with red ink. That was so traumatizing that I had to make up that rule for the sake of our relationship. He has retired his red pen, though, so I don't mind so much if he reads the blog now. 


Winter is a difficult time for picture-taking. It's mostly white out there. And cold. I'll try not to overwhelm you with quilting pics, but there is going to be a fair bit of sewing happening this winter. In the meantime, I'll leave you with a picture of our hard-working dogs:

Lila (on the left) is kind of a pouf hog, so we had to get two dog beds when I replaced the old one. It has cut down on the amount of arguing over who gets to sleep where. 

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