Adding Structure with Soft and Stable – Review & Tips

One of the really great things about sewing is that you aren’t dependent on what you can find (or afford) in the store – you can create or customize all kinds of things to your specific tastes and needs.

Lately, I’ve been on a streak of making totes, bags and purses.

Since my work (both as Creative Director for Lakeshore Sewing and as a quilt/textile artist and designer for my own business) requires a lot of intense focus and creativity, I find it relaxing to take a bit of a break and let someone else do the basic designing and let me have the fun of customizing to my heart’s content.

I really enjoy it when I get a chance to make something quick and (relatively) easy. And bonus points if it is functional, too!

One of the products I’ve been playing with lately is Soft and Stable from ByAnnie.

Product info from the ByAnnie.com website:

BYANNIE’S SOFT AND STABLE® OVERVIEW

ByAnnie’s Soft and Stable® is a new product which I developed to use in place of batting or other stabilizers in purses, bags, totes, home dec items, and more.

Why use ByAnnie’s Soft and Stable®?

  • Great lasting body and stability
  • Lightweight
  • Maintains shape
  • Gives a professional finish to your project
  • Easy to sew
  • Fabric can be quilted to ByAnnie’s Soft and Stable® or just sewn around the edges of the pieces — no need to quilt every 2 to 4″ as with batting
  • Soft and comfortable
  • Washer and dryer safe

My summary – I love it! But…

I am very happy with the shape, structure, and finish of bags I’ve made with Soft and Stable. They look great, hold their shape, and don’t collapse under the weight of the straps or handles – all while remaining lightweight and easy to carry.  The extra protection for the contents is pretty great, too – especially for things like a phone, tablet, laptop, sewing machine, etc. I’ve given the sewing machine travel bag I made with Soft and Stable away as a gift, but here is another great example of a well-used bag still holding its shape after a couple of years and a lot of use:

One of my favorite travel bags is this duffle, designed and made by my friend and colleague, Laura Witt. Not only did Laura use Soft and Stable to support the bag, she also inserted a strip into the shoulder strap to make the bag more comfortable to carry.

But I don’t always find it as straightforward to use as is sometimes implied…    Continue Reading…

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The 241 Tote from Noodlehead – Review, Part 2

As anyone who sews or quilts can tell you, individual patterns have gotten more and more expensive over the years, especially if you like to seek out and support independent designers. Being able to download patterns and save them as pdfs can help (as opposed to buying printed patterns, with or without paying additional for shipping), but it’s still enough to make you think twice – especially when there is actually a lot of free content (albeit of varying quality) out there.

Here are the factors I consider when thinking about buying a commercial pattern:

  • Clarity – Are the instructions well-written and all measurements accurate? Are the photos and/or illustrations clear and to the point?
  • Value – Am I likely to use this pattern more than once? Can I envision it made up in different colorways or fabric styles?
  • Versatility – Does the pattern offer more than one option? (e.g. different sizes, embellishment possibilities, or optional design elements that can be mixed or matched)
  • Giftability – Is it a design that is likely to appeal to multiple generations (e.g. Would my mom like it? My kids?)

I mentally award bonus points if the pattern gets my own creative juices flowing with lots of possibilities for additional customizations of my own.  🙂

The 241 Tote from Noodlehead (see my previous post for more details) ticks all of these boxes.

In fact, I think it’s one of my favorite commercial tote patterns!

Here is my latest version of the 241 Tote:

The 241 tote – pattern by Noodlehead, adapted by Beth Ann Williams; fabrics from Changing Seasons Collection by Beth Ann Williams at Spoonflower.com

As you can see, I’ve made some changes in the original pattern!

Continue Reading…

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The 241 Tote from Noodlehead – Review, Part I

Did you ever experience a breathless moment in time when you looked up and knew in that brief instant that THIS was THE ONE? 

Ok, let’s get our minds back on track here… I don’t know what you are thinking about, but I’m talking about tote bags. 😉

I love totebags. Cute little purses just don’t have enough room for me to haul all of my necessities around – especially since those necessities usually include a least a few file folders and maybe even a yellow pad. I’m always on the lookout for ideas for new totes – be it different fabric combinations, different bells & whistles (zippers, hardware, pockets, etc.), or different shapes.

What captured my attention about the 241 Tote (2-for-1, get it?) pattern from Noodlehead was the unusual shape and fun side pockets.

The 241 Tote from Noodlehead (photo from pattern page)

Continue Reading…

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December Wrap-Up & Link Love

What a month! Not only is late November through December extra-busy with the holidays AND one of the most demanding times of the year for my day job as Creative Director for Lakeshore Sewing, but our plumbing saga continued with more water in the basement, where my studio is located. Needless to say, my creative plans for the month had to be adjusted.

But I’m happy to say that I did manage to squeeze in at least a little sewing fun.

Below are 3 of my December projects, plus links to the free patterns I used. All 3 patterns are keepers for me – ones I’m sure I’ll use again. 

Scandiavian Star Ornaments

I was first introduced to these folded & woven fabric ornaments through a delightful instragram post by misterdomestic linking to this tutorial on his YouTube channel.

I also found a handy photo tutorial by Anna Curtiss.

Stow-Away Shopping Bag

I resized the free pattern from Moments Designs (pattern download offered through Craftsy) to make giftable shopping totes that fold into their own snap pouches for storage. I enlarged the pouch slightly because I used heavier fabric than was used in the original pattern. The instructions are terrific, with step-by-step photos for every step. 

Bohemian Bag

Continue Reading…

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Sewing with Seat Belts

No reviews today – just one more day of seat belt fun before moving on to our next topic. 🙂

This time, I’m showing the Market Tote and Pouches from Cozy Nest Design in different colors. I’m using indigo, royal blue, and lavender blue.

Seat belt webbing from Cozy Nest Design – Check out the swatches on the website to see the full color range.

My second Market Tote. Pattern (3 sizes included) from Cozy Nest Design.

Continue Reading…

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Pattern Reviews

Front view of my Market Tote, pattern from Cozy Nest Design

My last post included my review, some helpful tips, and photos of the Market Tote Pattern from Cozy Nest Design.

Today I’d like to share 2 additional related patterns: the Pouch Trio and the Cosmetic Bag Duo.

Note: All pattern information is from Cozy Nest Design.

Seat Belt Series: Pouch Trio Sewing Pattern

$5.99 (PDF download)

This sewing pattern will take you step-by-step to create a trio of customized pouches made from seat belt webbing. If you have never worked with seat belts before, this is a great project to get you started. Seat belts are shimmery and luxurious, yet extremely durable and easy to clean and sew. The pouches are fully lined and close with a zipper. These pouches are so versatile; use them for make up, accessories, for travel or for every day. You can even dress them up by adding a clasp ring for a matching tassel or wrist strap!

Here are a couple of pouches I made to coordinate with my teal feathers, tropical teal, and minty aqua tote:

Zipped Pouches made from seat belt webbing. Pattern by Cozy Nest Design.

Once again, I found the pattern exceptionally well written. The only time I got into trouble was Continue Reading…

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Pattern Review

Sewing with Seat Belts – Market Tote from Cozy Nest Design

Notes: All pattern information is from Cozy Nest Design.

Seat Belt Series: Market Tote Sewing Pattern

$6.99 (PDF download)

The Market Tote sewing pattern will take you step-by-step to creating a customized bag made of seat belt webbing!  Seat belt webbing is shimmery and luxurious, yet extremely durable  and easy to clean and sew! The tote features 2 exterior slip pockets and a flap accent with metal ring. On the interior you will find a zipped pocket and zipped gusset closure. The handles are 23″ long with a 11″ drop. Instructions are included for 3 different size options.  

Skill level: Intermediate
Finished sizes:
small: 14 x 9 1/2 x 3 3/4″
medium: 15 1/2 x 11 x 3 3/4″
large: 17 x 13 x 3 3/4″

What’s in the pattern:
–  3 complete sets of instructions are included – one for each bag size (small, medium and large)

– imperial and metric measurements
– cutting labels and one pattern piece* for each bag size
– a thoroughly tested design given the thumbs up by my amazing test team
– quality computer-generated line drawings and concise, detailed instructions
* all other pieces are cut based on measurements.

Here are the colors I chose for my first Market Tote:

I chose these 3 colors arranged in blocks for my first tote. Market Tote pattern options include instructions for 1, 2, or 3 colors and solid, stripes or blocks versions.

Continue Reading…

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Sewing with Seat Belts – one of my new favorite things!

It has been observed that I’ll try to sew almost anything if it sits still long enough…

I get a kick out of trying new things, whether it’s new-to-me fabrics, or more unusual materials such Tyvek, used dryer sheets, specialty papers, or even very thin sheets of metal. One of my most recent discoveries is seat belts – yes, seat belts! The kind that you buckle up in the car – only in fabulous colors.

Sarah of Cozy Nest Design has developed a terrific series of patterns for stylish totes, bags, pouches, and even a wallet using seat belts. She also sells seat belt webbing by the yard or in customizable kits that correlate with her pattern line. She even has hardware!

I should note that in addition to Sarah’s ingenious seat belt patterns and supplies, Cozy Nest Design offers an inviting  selection of inventive and creative sewing patterns for fabric, too. 

One of the first things I did was order a set of seat belt swatches.

Continue Reading…

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Book Review

Bags, the Modern ClassicsBags – The Modern Classics: Clutches, Hobos, Satchels & More by Sue Kim

From C&T Publishing:

The bag makes the outfit!

• Make your own fashion statement with these sophisticated, runway-worthy bag designs
• Each of the 19 projects has multiple variations for more than 75 different stylish ways to carry it all
• Create perfectly polished bags in no time with easy construction techniques

Turn your favorite fabrics into a fashion statement! From chic wristlets to functional carryalls (and everything in between), each project includes a full-sized pattern, easy-to-follow instructions, and inspirational photos. All the sewing basics you need are here, and you will learn some more ambitious techniques such as stitching hook-and-loop tapes, making darts and pleats, and attaching magnetic snaps or zippers.

I have a fairly large collection of books and patterns for bags, purses and totes; but I’m always on the lookout for fresh approaches, new techniques or innovative styles and shapes. However, newest isn’t always best, and this book from 2011 is one of the books I most often recommend for beginners. Although these projects don’t feature a lot of bells and whistles (complicated hardware, multiple pockets, etc.), the clean, classic lines provide great jumping-off points for more advanced sewists to customize to their heart’s content. Continue Reading…

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