Stowe Bags for My Sisters

After I taught my youngest sisters to knit and crochet, I decided I wanted to give them each a crafty Christmas gift full of notions, needles, yarns, and patterns that would keep them making things. And as part of the gift, I wanted to make them each a Stowe bag to hold their projects as they worked on them.

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Unfortunately, with a non-napping baby on my hands, I wasn’t able to get enough time in the sewing room to finish the bags up as Christmas gifts. But I did finish them and gave them their bags this summer. My sister Sarah started using hers immediately.

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I used some quilting cotton from Joann’s—these prints are part of some of their newer, more modern quilt fabric lines. The bias binding is just the packaged stuff, which I find much easier to work with than any bias tape I’ve ever made myself.

I’ve made the Stowe Bag before and it’s a very satisfying pattern to sew up. Both of these bags are the smaller size, which actually holds an impressive amount of stuff. I’d say I can easily fit up to 3 or 4 skeins of yarn into the bag, which makes it a really versatile project bag size.

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I’ve made two Stowe bags for myself previously—one small and one large. My small bag is easily my favorite and most-used project bag. I’ve been using the large bag pretty consistently to hold whatever sweater project I have in progress, but I don’t find it nearly as useful as the small size. It might be because I used a fabric that doesn’t have a lot of body, but I find that my projects are more likely to spill out of the large bag, the pockets don’t seem as useful to me, and for a sweater-sized bag, I’d rather have a closure than handles. I know there are a ton of project bag makers on Etsy and I should just save my time and buy something. But I am stubborn and I’ve already bought some fabric so that I can improvise a zip-top, sweater-size project bag. Now I just have to find the time (and the desire) to actually sew it up.

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Catching Up: Unblogged Winter Projects

Hello, 2017. I’ve been off the blog radar for a while, both because we moved into our new house at the beginning of the year and because I am pregnant. I’m currently baking a very active little monkey who is due at the beginning of September. Unfortunately, I spent the first part of the year laid out with morning sickness and exhaustion. But I’m feeling better and have put the Spring semester to bed, which has given me lots of sewing and knitting time again.

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Our house!

I’ve been sharing things on Instagram as I finish them, which briefly led me to consider giving up the blog altogether and just sharing things on IG. And then as I started to plan out some future projects, I was reminded of how often I consult my own blog for project notes and details. More than anything, this blog is a very handy, searchable project journal for me. Sometimes, it feels time-intensive and onerous to take blog pictures and write up all of my notes for a blog post, but remembering that I consult those posts often as a reference makes it feel more worth it—especially since I can’t easily replicate that kind of record-keeping on Instagram.

All of that is to say that I’m going to try to catch up on all of my unblogged projects because it bothers me to not have any concrete details recorded. So here’s a big dump of the projects I finished over the winter:

Stowe Bags

Small Stowe Bag in Quilting CottonLarge Stowe Bag in Linen Blend

I made myself two Stowe bags to use as knitting project bags. These are my second and third versions of this pattern–I made my first version about a year ago. I’ve only recently started using project bags for my knitting. Somehow, it took me 10+ years to see the benefit of keeping my projects protected from cats that want to ruin everything. I made a small bag out of some Cotton + Steele quilting cotton and a large bag out of a medium-weight cotton/linen blend I had in the stash. I used packaged bias binding for both.

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For the small bag, I flat-felled the side seams, finished the bottom seam with a zig-zag stitch, and boxed the bottom corners. I was worried that quilting cotton would feel too light for this bag, but I really like the finished result. For the large bag, I serged all the edges and pressed the seams open, which helped manage some of the bulk. I also did the last step in the instructions where you tack the bottom corners of the bag down to help stand on it’s own when it’s full. It’s kind of a bulky finish, but I appreciate the added structure it gives since the size and fabric make for an otherwise floppy bag.

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Halifax Hoodie the Second

Last September, I made a Halifax/Brooklyn hoodie mashup that I’ve been wearing all the time. Just before Christmas, I made a second Halifax Hoodie using some super-soft sweatshirt fleece I bought from Girl Charlee. This time, I made View D with the kangaroo pocket and the funnel neck. I sewed up a straight XL. It’s not worth modeling for you now that I have a belly that distorts the fit, so you’ll just have to trust me when I say that the fit was spot-on and very comfortable. I wore this piece constantly this winter and can definitely see myself making this pattern again and again, especially since it has so many options.

Striped Hey June Halifax Hoodie

Leggings

Definitely not a very exciting project, but I’ve made a few pairs of leggings using the #9 Classic Black Leggings pattern from the Fall/Winter 2016 issue of Ottobre Woman (Ottobre 05/2016). I’ve previously made the Sammalikko leggings pattern from an earlier issue of Ottobre and found that they were too long in the legs, had a bit more ease than I would like, and needed some adjustments to the crotch curve and rise. These leggings, however, fit perfectly right out of the gate—right length, great fit, and super simple to sew since there is only one pattern piece. My pre-pregnancy hip measurement was ~45.5”, so I sewed a straight size 48.

Ottobre Woman 05/2016 Classic Black Leggings

My only struggle was with figuring out the right length for the elastic. It turns out that the ideal, for me, is cutting the elastic so that it is the same length as the width of the waist (in other words, cutting it so that I don’t need to stretch the elastic at all while I’m sewing it to the waistband). I forgot about this when I made myself a third pair of leggings months after the first two pairs and ended up with a waistband that is tight enough that I think I’m going to need to rip out and redo the elastic. See—this is why I need project notes on my blog. One last note: I think the instructions recommend making a traditional waistband casing and then threading the elastic through. This is unnecessarily tedious for leggings. I used my serger to attach the elastic to the waist, then folded the elastic down and secured the waistband with a zig-zag stitch.

Zelda Pouch

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This was a super simple project that Aidan requested at the beginning of December and that I finally made up for him sometime in February. This little pouch also has the distinction of being the first item I made in my new sewing space. I drew on the zipper instructions from the Petal Pouch pattern (which I made several times over for Christmas gifts last year), but otherwise based the dimensions on the size of the pattern repeat in the fabric. Aidan keeps a bullet journal and uses this to hold his pen stash for journaling, so this has been in regular use since it was finished.

And that brings me up-to-date on everything I finished before Spring Break, so now I’m only two+ months behind on blogging. Progress!

Plaza Tiles Stowe Bag

I’ve been interested in the Grainline Stowe Bag pattern since it was released–it’s got a nice minimalist aesthetic paired with great details like the interior pockets and the bound edges. I finally decided to give the pattern a try and make a knitting project bag as a birthday gift for my friend Abby.

Grainline Stowe Bag

The fabric is the Cotton + Steel Clover Canvas in the Plaza Tiles print. It’s a 6 oz canvas, which is a perfect weight for this project. I used some packaged off-white bias binding to finish the edges. I know some people like to make their own bias binding, but I’ve tried it before and found it enough of a pain in the ass that it’s become one of those “life is too short” activities for me.

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This is the small size bag, which is actually pretty roomy. In the first picture where the bag is filled, it’s holding my tailor’s ham and four skeins of yarn. The pockets can also hold a lot of stuff, which is a bonus for people like me who like to keep all kinds of crap like calculators and pens and post-its and extra needles with my projects.

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The bag is unlined, which I don’t mind, except that it leaves you with the question of how to finish your seams. If this bag were for me, I might have just serged the seams and called it good enough. But since it was a gift, I wanted a clean finish on all of the seams. I read a bunch of reviews looking for tips on how other people managed their seams and came across one review from Fancy Tiger Crafts where someone used flat-felled seams to finish the sides and a french seam for the bottom. I decided to try the same. The flat-felled seams on the sides look really nice and the french seam at the bottom is, of course, very bulky. I think there’s probably a better way to clean finish the bottom, and I’ll experiment with something different on my next version. I wasn’t a huge fan of the pattern’s recommendation for forming the gusset on the bag since it seemed to exacerbate the bulk at the bottom, so I just boxed the corners and finished those edges with some bias binding.

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The bag is easy to put together, although I was nervous about all of the bias binding. I’ve applied double-fold bias binding before, but not well. However, this time, I’m really pleased with the way the binding turned out. I think it’s partly a result of my increased sewing skill and partly a result of going slowly, but the pattern instructions were also helpful in getting a nice finish. The pattern suggests steaming the binding into the shape of the curve for the side of the handles before applying it, which really did make it easier to apply. To do this, I just laid the sides of the handles flat on my ironing board, sandwiched the binding around the fabric and pressed it flat before taking it to my sewing machine.

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I used some of the leftover fabric to make Abby a bonus zippered notions pouch, using this tutorial from Flossie Teacakes. All of the pockets on the Stowe bag are great, but sometimes you have those little things like stitch markers and tapestry needles that you don’t want rolling around loose in your bag.

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The zippered pouch isn’t quite as fancy as the Stowe bag but it does feature some cute kitten faces on the inside. I bought this Cotton + Steel quilting cotton print from their Cat Lady collection to make myself a Stowe bag, and I used a bit of it to line the pouch. It’s hard to tell in this picture, but the cats are all piled up with little balls of yarn, so the print is thematically on point.

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This was a really fun project and I’m so pleased with the way that it turned out. It’s a bit more work than the super minimalist, quick and dirty project bags I’ve made for myself before, but the extra work is definitely worth it–especially as a gift. I’ve already got fabric cut out to make one for myself, and I’m thinking this might be useful for my very crafty, artsy sisters who are always toting around sketch books and pencils and markers. I know when this pattern was released, there were people who balked at it’s apparent simplicity and it’s price. If the pattern doesn’t interest you, it doesn’t interest you. But I think it’s a thoughtfully put-together pattern with great details that results in a beautiful and very useful product.

Grainline Stowe Bag