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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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

Sewing for Knitting, 3rd Edition: Pleated Tote Bag

I’ve been doing some more meta-crafting, as Aidan calls it, and sewed up a larger knitting project bag. It has taken me ten years to appreciate the purpose of a project bag. Sure, it keeps all of the stuff that you need for your project together, but more importantly–and this is the part I wish I had realized sooner–it protects your knitting from the constant onslaught of cat hair that is an inevitable part of life in a multi-feline home.

Pleated Tote Knitting Project Bag

This is the Pleated Tote Bag from The Long Thread, which is a free tutorial with very clear and easy to follow instructions. It’s a fully lined tote bag that is about 17″ wide at the bottom, 13″ wide at the top, and about 15″ tall. It’s the perfect size to hold a sweater-sized knitting project.

Close up the pleat detail on pleated tote bag

The outer and lining fabrics are both from JoAnn’s. I walked into the store without a clear sense of what I was looking for, but I must have been feeling inspired by the ’70s, because this is the only fabric that jumped out at me. When the woman at the cutting table asked me what I was making and when I told her I was planning to make a knitting bag, she said: “Well, it’s not your grandma’s knitting bag, is it?” But I suppose it depends on how tacky your grandma is.

Whatever. It is bright, it makes me happy, and it’s very unlikely that I will misplace my knitting.

Pleated Tote Lining close-up

I followed the tutorial instructions closely, with the exception of the top-stitching. The tutorial suggests two rows of top-stitching at the top and on the handles, but I was feeling lazy and only did one. (Although, I’m pretty sure that the tutorial samples also show only a single row of top-stitiching.) The outer fabric is all stabilized with fusible fleece, and the thickness of the fleece made folding the pleats evenly a bit tricky. The only other challenging part was top stitching the handles–I found that one of the handles wanted to twist while it was being sewn shut. I’m wondering if maybe I pressed the troublesome handle a little off grain and maybe that’s what caused the problem? Still, everything turned out fine in the end.

Grandpa Cardigan progress shot

This pleated tote is currently holding my in-progress Grandpa Cardigan, which I am knitting along with a friend. I’m using Cascade 220 in Atlantic, which is a much more attractive color than it appears to be in the above progress shot (kind of a light navy blue). Grandpa is a bit of a tricky pattern, but I’m enjoying the challenge and have to keep tearing myself away from it so that I can do, you know, actual work. I also told myself that I was going to put it aside once I finished the neckline shaping so that I could finish up my Apres Surf Hoodie, but I am weak-willed and just ended up knitting my through another ball of yarn. I can’t wait until this one is finished–it’s going to see a lot of wear this fall and winter.

There are more knitterly details about my sweater progress on Ravelry if that’s the kind of thing you’re interested in.

Sewing for Knitting, Round Two: Small Project Bag

I haven’t had a lot of sewing motivation lately, which I blame on summer. I’ve seen a few other bloggers explain that their motivation to sew or blog has slowed over summer because they want to take advantage of the nice weather and romp around outside. I need to be very clear: I am not one of these bloggers. I am like a shade plant that wilts and burns and shrivels up in direct sunlight and extreme heat. I am truly a winter soul and summer weather has a way of zapping me of all of my creative energy.

Temporary sewing space

Anyway. Aidan is spending the next six weeks at a ridiculously long work-related training program and while I get to visit him on the weekends, his absence has left me with a lot of empty time in the evenings to sit on my hands and feel sorry for myself. Rather than indulge that self-destructive urge, I rearranged our dining nook into a temporary sewing space so that I can sew while the TV keeps me company. It might not be enough to keep me sewing on the really hot and humid days, but it’s enough to get me excited about sewing again.

Pac Man Knitting Project Bag

To break in my new space, I spent an evening making a small, sock-sized knitting project bag using various leftover scraps of fabric. The Pac-Man inspired fabric is leftover from a pair of pajama shorts I made for Aidan to take on his trip. I ordered it from Hart’s and but it says they are out of stock now.

Project Bag Lining

I used this free tutorial from Very Shannon for a basic flat-bottom drawstring bag that is lined in a way that effectively makes the bag reversible. It was really easy to make. I read through the instructions once or twice before I started, and then was basically able to construct the entire bag without needing to refer back to the tutorial.

Project bag drawstring casing close up

The tutorial has you construct a casing for the drawstring that seems a little non-traditional that basically leaves a 2” opening at the top of the casing for the end of the drawstring. I’d prefer the look of a more traditional drawstring casing, and if I were making a project bag for someone else, I’d probably go to the trouble to make one. But as is, the drawstring is perfectly functional and eliminated all of the more tedious parts of making a casing so it really was very simple and very quick to make.

Knitting Project Bag

All in all, this was a very satisfying little project. And now, back to making some clothes!