Monday, August 25, 2014

Sewvivor Round 2: The Graffiti Tote

I am happy to say that I BARELY squeaked through round 1 of Sewvivor and now it's on to round 2! Our instructions were to make a quilted bag. I needed a new purse anyway so I was excited from the start to make something that I would really love. I'd say that I succeeded!

When I first started designing this bag I decided I wanted a big area of negative space just for quilting however I wanted. Recently I became acquainted with the amazingly talented Karlee Porter and her Graffiti Quilting style, and I wanted to include my take on that in my bag. That vision ultimately became what I'm calling "The Graffiti Tote." I had so much fun quilting many different designs on each side. I'm still not a natural doodler, so I had my laptop open with several different pages of inspiration pulled up while I was quilting, so I could pause and think about what do do next. I had hoped to go take some photos in front of some amazing graffiti but just did not have time to work that into my family's schedule. I've decided that close-up photos are probably best for this one anyway.

One of my favorite motifs to quilt right now is one that I'm calling "Twisting Triangles." I happened across this YouTube video a few months ago, (which has cool doodling, but is kind of odd) and wondered if I could turn it into a quilting design. Yep, it totally works! It's slow but SOOOOOOO worth it. I use a straight ruler with my longarm, but it could be done with a walking foot on a domestic machine if you don't mind turning your quilt a lot.
The effect of this design is best when you're using it to fill a hexagon or larger space. When you alternate the direction that you "twist" with each triangle, it makes a tessellating fan shape. I love it. I had originally planned on putting two different sized hexagons on each side of the bag, but there were so many other designs I wanted to try that I didn't have room. So I just did one.

I used Kona White on the back. The quilting shows up so well.

Here's the hexagon motif on the outside. I just love this quilting design!

This is technically the back of the tote, but both sides look nearly identical other than the quilting and I love them both. I've decided that graffiti quilting is super fun to do.

Here's a view of the back of the back. I loved including so many different design elements!

I loved this little area in the middle of this photo.

 And this one. I'm just so pleased with how this turned out. I used Soft and Stable instead of batting, and it not only adds excellent structure to the bag, but makes the quilting have a nice sturdy puff that batting just doesn't do. It worked so well.

Even though I wanted a lot of negative space I definitely wanted to include some piecing. I decided to frame the quilted area on the top and bottom with paper-pieced equilateral triangles, which I referred to as "waddling puffins" for a working title because they are squattier than flying geese. And puffins are cute.

I asked my sister (who is better with computers than I am) if she could make up a pattern for me and this is what she came up with. She's not a quilter so it is missing a couple of lines that would be helpful and doesn't have lines for outer seam allowances, but if you have done paper piecing before it's not really a problem. If you'd like to download the above picture and use it for your own paper piecing, go right ahead! I used 14 triangles across each edge of my tote. I used newsprint this time and I loved it. It came off SO easily.

I used my favorite prints from Emily Herrick's Rustique line and I love the saturation of the colors! I stitched in the ditch around the triangles, which was just enough quilting in relation to the heavy quilting in the center panels.
I decided to try leather handles for this because they are so sturdy and won't wear out quickly like fabric handles often do, and the leather just seems to go with the general feel of Rustique. I purchased a piece of leather meant for making a belt at my local Tandy Leather, as well as some screw-in rivet things. I'm sure they have a real name but I don't remember it. I was nervous about cutting the leather and putting the handles on but it was actually really easy to do. I used a box cutter, a ruler, and my older cutting mat and couldn't be happier with the results. I'm sure I will use leather handles often on bags that I make in the future--possibly even the same ones because they may last longer than the bag itself!

 A few months ago I learned a fun technique called pin weaving and I really wanted to include something made this way in my finished tote. It involves embroidery floss and 1" strips of fabric and is really easy to do. I decided that a flap to close the top of my bag would be the perfect place to include some pin weaving. This is one of my favorite elements of the whole bag! I'll be writing up a tutorial on it soon because the ones I found online were uber-complicated and quite different from this method. *update: see a tutorial here!

I made the flap and attached the snap before quilting it. I don't do well with free-motion on my domestic machine, so I used water-soluble stabilizer to mount the flap on my longarm and did an allover swirl pattern to stabilize the weaving. It was really easy to rinse off and then the flap dried overnight and part of the next day.

After quilting I trimmed the raw edge off of the flap, put a binding on that edge, and sewed it onto the inside of the bag, topstitching from the outside so I could hide my stitches in the ditch.

Last time I used a magnetic snap half of it eventually ripped through the lining of my purse. I was not happy with that, and didn't want it to happen again. This time I stabilized the lining with two pieces of fusible interfacing and a small batting scrap. I think it should hold pretty well.

I wanted the inside of the bag to be really user-friendly and I decided that making specialized pockets was the way to go. On this side I included a cell phone pocket and water bottle pocket, sized to fit my phone and my favorite water bottle, and a pen pocket. I didn't use a pattern for any of these but they were quite easy to make. I also stitched in the ditch from the other side below the snap to prevent it from pulling up and out of the bag.

The other side has two zippered pockets, one of which is waterproof for holding things like lotion and hand sanitizer that could possibly explode and make a mess. The fact that the waterproof PUL I used is bright pink is just a bonus!

I also included a fob to attach my keys to so they will no longer get lost in the abyss.

When making the bottom of the bag I first quilted the piece for the bottom, trimmed it up, and made a little pocket with another piece of Kona white and slid a piece of plastic canvas in. Nice and sturdy, yet washable!  Although, to be fair, I'll have to remove my leather handles if I do need to wash this purse. Good thing my fasteners are the screw-on kind.

 I also attached purse feet before sewing the bottom on.

To get the side panels to fold around the corners of the bottom piece, I did a stabilizing stitch and clipped up to it. A combination of pins and wonder clips worked really well to hold everything in place.

I like the feet on the bottom. I hadn't used them before, but I think I likely will again.

The finished bag measures 4" by 12.5" on the bottom and it is 10.5" tall. This has been a really fun challenge for me and I now have what may be my favorite purse that I will ever own. I really love it that much. If you haven't already, please go visit the main Sewvivor Round 2 Post and vote for your favorite entries! I would appreciate your vote very much!

Linking up to LAFF.


  1. It is totally AWESOME!!! I love it! Being a bag maker, you crushed it! LOVE IT!!!

  2. I came all the way over here to tell you that I ADORE your quilting on such a large negative space panel! This project is gorgeous and definitely got my vote for this round! Good job!

  3. I came over to your blog after I voted to tell you that I ADORE this bag. it is amazing and every detail is so perfect. If you ever get sick of this bag I would be happy to 'adopt' it from you. :)

  4. Such amazing work Barbie! I still can't get over the amount of work that went into this! It's the perfect bag! I didn't even add pockets inside mine!! Love it!

  5. Look forward to the weaving tutorial. Good luck with round 2 :)

  6. I love your bag! The feet on the bottom are great, but I love how many different techniques you've crammed into it. I've also checked out Karlee's blog and will be ogling her graffiti quilting for a while - it's gorgeous (as is yours, totally stunning!). Also, can't wait to come up with an idea to use your weaving tutorial for - table runner, maybe!?

  7. Barbie, this is AMAZING! Can I ask what size thread you used for quilting the graffiti? Thanks for sharing a bunch of techniques and ideas - camping in the middle of the woods at the moment, but bookmarking this to revisit when I get home and have the benefit of a full size screen to better admire the details. Good luck with this Sewvivor round!

  8. Your quilting is just lovely. Thanks for the inspiration.

  9. Gorgeous quilting! What a fun way to put all those quilting motifs together. Awesome!

  10. I am in awe at your bag. I sure want to make me one now. The quilting is to die for and is what caught my attention. I am going to check out the link you provided and learn how to grafiti quilt. It is GRAND!

  11. I am amazed! Such a beautiful bag and beautiful quilting. Thanks for the tutorial. I must try the quilting on my domestic machine! Thanks for sharing.
    Love from Amsterdam

  12. Wow!! That is just gorgeous - the colors and the quilting!! The quilting is just awesome!


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