Retreating with Bags

I just returned from our ASG Chapter's fall sewing retreat.  

A few times a year we gather with our projects and sew together.  I can't really explain how therapeutic this ritual is.  I think it must be the 'quilting bee' tradition that we are tapping into.  Yes, we sew, a bit...but mainly we just spend time with each other, solving the problems of the world...or at least our little corner of it!

There are always a few quilts that get pieced together, often long forgotten 'back of the closet' projects that need the distraction-free zone of a retreat to get to the finish line, lots of stories and laughing...and the snack alter!!  Laden with every version of chocolate and the random apple...just for show of course...no self-respecting 'retreater' would leave the chocolate in favor of a healthy snack!

One of our crew, who is famous for taking full advantage of the 11th hour, (she will back me up in that statement!), finished a gorgeous baby quilt Saturday morning in time for the 12:30 baby shower that afternoon!!!  AND, she did all the quilting herself!

I'm never sure what to take along for retreat sewing.  Many of my projects require the help of my dress form and access to my stash, for all the bits and pieces that I don't plan on needing.  Packing an entire project, with all the right notions is tough for me.  I usually don't have a plan that gets me to the end of a project, so I never really know what I'm going to want along the way.

This year I was inspired by Rhonda Buss, who shared her travel bag pattern with us a few weeks ago. (you can see and read about mine here).  I made the large 'carpet bag', but didn't get to the smaller accessory bags that she showed us.  I decided to keep the theme going and work on a toiletry bag that I have been planning for several years now!

I have a totally shredded toiletry tote that was actually the packaging for a bubble bath kit that I got as a door prize somewhere in time.  It is clear vinyl with a zipper on three sides that is the perfect size and because it is clear, I can use it for my liquids without having to pack two bags.

I know it doesn't look like much, but my husband and I argue about who gets to take it when we travel...there is just something about it that works.  So I decided to use it as the model for a new toiletry bag.
I will spare you the prototypes, of which there were several. (one was actually nice enough to share with my husband, so he now has a bag of his own!)  I eventually got to a pattern that I liked, gathered up the materials and sewed it up at the retreat.

The fabric choices started with a quilting cotton that had a vinyl coating on it.  It reminded me of the oil cloth that my grandma used to cover her picnic table in the summer.  I thought it would make a perfect lining for my bag.  

I found several fun coordinates, colorful zippers, bits of ribbon and some clear vinyl to make the outside pockets.
After making so many prototypes, the bag went together pretty quickly, leaving me with lots of retreat time to play with other bags.  

I like the Lazy Girl Design patterns and made a couple of small accessory bags.

My favorite little bag was the one I engineered for taking my earrings along.  I used the idea of a credit-card wallet as the inspiration, just making it a bit smaller.  I'm very pleased with the way it turned out.  It actually has seven little pockets.

I had lots of fun taking 'glamor shots' of my little collection of travel bags.

I am going to be sooo dang coordinated when I take my next trip...TSA will surely be impressed!

(oh, and the title of this post refers to my projects of course, not my fellow retreaters! 😝  ) 

Now that I am back in my own studio I do have some fall sewing projects lined up.  The first one being some kind of shirt to wear with a sweater vest that I got last winter.  I love it, and have tried a few different things with it, but haven't found one I really like yet.  After that...we'll see...😉 


Sweater Weather

...so I have tried taking moody, arty  photos...the kind where the model is looking off into the distance, or scowling at something off camera.  Or having only half the body in the picture frame...but they always look contrived and self conscious.  I think I would need to be a photographer or something to be able to take those kind of pictures.  So for now, you will have to suffer through with my corny, 'self-portraits' standing in the back yard or my very poorly lit dress form in front of a blank wall.  I may put 'taking better pictures' on my list of things to do, or not....

Anyway, here is a collection of non-photographer photos of some of the knitting projects I have been finishing up this fall.  

I like to have a knitting project when I travel.  But there comes a time in every project that requires counting, or fiddly work that just doesn't happen on an airplane.  Or they get so big that it is hard to shove them into my carry-on bag.  Instead of finishing the project I just start another one and at some point I end up with several mostly knitted sweaters.  As I was trolling around for yet another project to take on some up coming trips, I stumble on three nearly finished sweaters.  Fortunately I had worked on them in the relatively recent past so I knew what I needed to do to wrap them up.  

The vest was a very quick project.  Big fluffy yarn, size humongous needles, and no sleeves!!!
It's chunky and cozy and will be great this fall and winter.

The yarn was a purchase at the West Michigan Fiber Fest several years ago.  I really liked the earthy colors and the way the spinner had made the yarn tightly twisted in some places and left almost no twist in other places.

My cardigan is actually a pattern called "Order of the Garter."  I don't often use patterns because it is difficult to add and change them for my vertical challenges, and I spend more time trying to figure out the abbreviations than actually knitting!!!  But I wanted to try a 'top-down' pattern and thought working in only knit stitches would take at least one element out of the equation.  I did have to add to the sleeve length but that was fairly easy.  

I am very pleased with the result!  Not sure if it will encourage me to try more patterns, but this one was relatively drama free and I finished it!!

The last 'unfinished object' is a self designed pattern knitted with a tweedy cotton yarn called Tetra Cotton by Rowan.  I really wanted the unusual yarn to be the star of the sweater so the style is very simple.  A boxy top with drop shoulders and long sleeves.


So I have an empty knitting basket but three lovely sweaters finished just in time for fall!

And I can cast on another project, guilt-free! 


A Buss Bag for Fall

Fall is my favorite season.  The first days when the temperature goes down feel like a sigh of relief after the last hot days of summer.  The colors , the smells...I like everything about it, except the fact that it means winter isn't far off!  

No matter how long I have been out of school, I still get that 'back-to-school' energy boost.  I have to go out a buy a new box of crayons or something!!  And, usually by now, I have swapped out the pile of linen on my cutting table for a luscious pile of wool.  But this year we have had, not just warm days, but our hottest days of the summer well into October!  It just hasn't felt right to go inside.

But this week, on the first rainy day of the fall, I gathered with several of my ASG buddies and we made 'carpet bags' with the lovely, creative Rhonda Buss.  (you can read about her sewing adventures here )

If you wander around at all in my past posts you will notice that I kinda like engineering and making bags...a lot.  So the chance to see another 'bag lady' in action was perfect.

We worked with Rhonda's pattern, that she assured us would fit under the seat in front of us, and possibly, even in the bag-size-checking device at the airport!  

We cut and stitched, laughed and chatted, and eventually had a roomful of very lovely, personality plus travel bags.  There was no doubt about which bag belonged to which sewer.  Everyone was a perfect reflection of the owner's personality and style.

Rhonda's pattern was well designed and the hints and tips she shared made them go together like a breeze.  I think there may be some more of these in my future!

Rhonda helping me adjust the placement of my straps.  

I was planning to use the black cotton webbing as it came, and Rhonda asked in her best innocent voice, "Are you going to add anything to the middle of your straps?"  WELL, I guess I am!  And she was absolutely right!  The strip of contrasting cotton gave the bag some extra panache and beefed up the straps to handle the size of the bag.  Good call coach!

Finished bag with my coach!

Love the way the bird is peeking out of the pocket of this bag!

Each bag was a total reflection of the maker!

A day away sewing with friends...the perfect way to welcome in fall!