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R.Kay Design: November 2011

Monday, November 21, 2011

Ella Cord Daisies - Exterior Is Done

Ella Cord Daisies is coming along, I finished the exterior shell tonight. This little beauty was really difficult to make. I wanted to do a video that would teach how to make it but I think it's just too hard. I'd like my next pattern to be easy enough for anyone to sew, even those new to sewing, and I don't think this is a good pattern for a novice. The instructions would be too hard to follow, it would even be hard with video. So, I'm going to add the lining to this one and give it to my daughter and move on to the next project. She's going to love it, it's just her style.

I added a pocket with a little ruffle on the outside. I'm going to make a big pocket on the inside for an IPad along with a zip pocket on the opposite side of the IPad pocket. The lining will need to be hand sewed to the inside using a slip stitch.

The zipper is a lighter brown only because I couldn't find a dark one but it matches the color of one of the daisies on the corduroy perfectly so it looks great.

Since I'm looking for a new project, I'm considering making a video instruction of how to sew an Amy Butler bag. I've had a lot of feedback saying the instructions in her books are hard to follow, and I agree, some of the instructions just don't make sense. So I thought it would be good to create instructions on video, kind of a follow-along class setting. I'm not sure what's involved in video, but I'm going to find out. And I'm going to have to get a curriculum put together, so I have work to do. Stay tuned and I'll let you know how it's coming along.

If you don't hear from be before Thursday I hope everyone reading this post (if you're in the U.S.) has a fantastic Thanksgiving!

Until next time ~


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Friday, November 18, 2011

Choose the Perfect Sewing Machine Needle for Your Project

Knowing which sewing machine needle to use can be confusing. Before I learned what the numbers mean and what choices I have, you would find me standing in the aisle at the fabric store, staring at all the packages of needles hanging on their pegs rubbing my chin. I admit I didn't have a clue.

I started sewing when I was really young, and honestly, I don't think there were as many choices, or maybe it's just that my grandmother kept the drawer in her sewing machine desk stocked and I never had to think about it. When I started sewing again years later, I had to test all the different needles before I had the knowledge to make a good choice.

I'm going to give you a basic overview of single needles and in a later post I'll cover double needles. And I'll also tell you which needles I choose when making my purses and handbags.

I normally use the Schmetz brand needles. They have every size and variety you will ever need. I also like the little boxes they are packaged in as they store nicely in my sewing chest and are easy to handle. I think Singer makes needles too, but I imagine you can use Schmetz needles in a Singer machine, correct me if I'm wrong. There are other brands as well, but I never see them at Joann's or Hancock, so convenience wins my vote.

Needles are sized in both American and European sizes. You will see the American Size/European Size or vice-verse on the package, i.e., 70/10 (Schmetz shows the sizes in this order) or you might see 10/70, it just depends on the manufacturer. Below is a chart showing the sizes that are available.

Sewing Machine
Needle Sizes
American European
Finest 8 60 Finest

9 65
10 70
11 75
12 80
14 90
16 100
18 110
19 120 Strongest/
As you can see, the smaller the number, the finer the needle. If you were sewing a very thin cotton fabric, you would choose the 60/8 size as it's the smallest, thinnest needle. If you were to choose a large thick needle you would make large holes in your fine fabric. Likewise, if you have a heavy home dec fabric, you would choose a larger, thicker needle, maybe an 110/18 or 120/19.

You will notice that needles have other labels like "Sharp", "Ballpoint", or "Universal". And you will also see specialty needles labeled "Leather", "Jeans/Denim", "Stretch", and "Handicap". Each of these types of needles are used for different fabric types or, in the case of the Handicap needle, special situations. I'll explain below.

Regular Needles - these needles are normally available in all sizes

Sharp - Sharp needles should be used for woven fabrics. They sew a very straight line and work great for top-stitching. When I sew handbags with quilt weight cotton, I use a Sharp needle and depending on how heavy the fabric is and how many layers I'll have, I choose anywhere from size 75/11 to 100/16. If I have a very heavy home dec fabric, I'll choose the 110/18 or 120/19 Sharp or maybe a Jeans/Denim needle.

Ballpoint - Ballpoint needles should be used for knit fabrics. The ballpoint goes between the loops of the knit without snagging it. They do not sew as straight a stitch but work well with knits because the stitch stretches better with the knit. I haven't used a knit for any of my purses.

Universal - The Universal needle is a mix of a Sharp and a Ballpoint. It's not quite as sharp and not quite a ballpoint, so it will work with both fabrics. I only use Universal when I don't have another choice. I keep a package of 80/12 Universals in my sewing kit just for an emergency.

Specialty Needles - these needles are not usually available in all sizes

Leather - The Leather needle's point is wedged so it can penetrate dense fabrics like leather.

Jean/Denim - Jean/Denim needles are very strong and can be used for thick fabrics or many layers. Imagine what would happen if you were sewing eight layers of denim with a mid-weight needle, it would break wouldn't it? The Jean/Denim needle is extra sharp and extra strong.

Stretch - Stretch needles are used on knits when a ballpoint needle leaves skipped stitches. Tightly knitted fabrics like Lycra frequently require a Stretch needle.

Handicap - A Handicap needle has a little slit on the side of the eye where the thread can be slipped in instead having to thread it. I've never used one of these needles but might need it if my machine didn't have a needle threader.

Lastly, I can't end this post without telling how important it is to use a sharp needle. Use a new needle after every two projects or if you hit a pin. Also, using the wrong size can cause your stitches to be uneven and can make your thread break. Take the time to choose and insert the correct needle so your new purse will look professionally made.

Oh - one more thing! If you throw out your needles in the trash you risk getting stuck when empty the trash. To save yourself from that, take an old prescription bottle and poke a hole in the top. Whenever you trash a needle, stick it in the bottle. When you trash the bottle full of needles, put masking or duck tape over the hole and throw it in the trash can. Everyone will be save and it's a really convenient place to put your old needles and bent/broken pins.

If you like this post please subscribe to my mailing list to receive a blog recap every Tuesday or retweet it on Twitter.

Thanks and until later ~


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Friday, November 11, 2011

3 Best Interfacings I Use When Making Handbags

If you go to the Pellon website and click on the products link, you'll understand why it's so hard to figure out what interfacing to use when making your handbags. Counting how many different interfacings are made by just this one manufacturer, you'll count 61. Really? Are that many needed?

Well, maybe that many are needed when you look at all the things you can make where interfacing will make the project better. But, for the most part, when making handbags and purses, I only use three and I stock up on those three when I find them on sale.

I use Pellon brand fusible interfacings because fusible is easy to use and the Pellon brand is found at most fabric stores. So below you will find a little info about my fav three interfacings along with their item numbers. If you want to buy these items, you will find the item number on the end of the bolt to insure you buy the proper interfacing.

  1. SF101 Shape-Flex® All Purpose Woven Fusible Interfacing - I use this interfacing on the linings of my handbags, it gives the fabric a little more strength, body, and stability. Since this interfacing is woven just like the cotton fabric used for the lining, it allows the fabric to move naturally, it's just stronger. It comes in white and black but I rarely use black, if you're using a cotton that is at least quilting weight, you usually can't see through it.
  2. TP971F Fusible Thermolam® Plus Extra Loft Fusible Fleece Interfacing (if you want less loft, use 987F Fusible Fleece) - I use this interfacing on the exterior and straps of my handbags. It helps them to stand up and have shape while making the fabric cushy soft.
  3. Peltex® Ultra Firm Heavy Weight Stabalizer - There are three options for Peltex, sew in with no fusible (Peltex 70), fusible on one side (Peltex 71F), and double side fusible (Peltex 72F), and depending on what you're making, you may buy any of them. I use Peltex for clutch purses, some wallets, and hard lining dividers.
If there's another brand or item you use for interfacing, let us know in the comments below. I hope this helps you choose which interfacing to buy next time you go to the fabric store to buy for your next handbag.

Soon I'll write about how to fuse the interfacings to your fabric. I wrote about it once before but I think it was embedded in a sew-along and I think it needs its own post.

I may or may not post this weekend, I'm going shopping on Saturday with my daughter who just told us she's having a baby! She's about 12 weeks along and wants to window shop at Babys R Us. Should be fun.

Until next time ~


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Sunday, November 6, 2011

International Quilt Festival in Houston

We went the International Quilt Festival today. My sweet hubby went with me and we had a great time.

I guess I'm lucky to live in Houston because if I didn't I would never have gone to the Quilt Festival. The convention center where it's held, George R. Brown Convention Center, is huge. [off topic - I Googled George R. Brown, I didn't have a clue who he was...he was one of the original founders of Brown & Root, now KBR, Inc. and formally a subsidiary of Halliburton, the engineering and construction firm headquartered in Houston.] Anyway, I digress, the convention center was about half quilts on display and half trade market with every kind of quilt and quilt supply vendor you could ever think of.

I found a lot of stuff I really want, who wouldn't? But there were also a lot of booths with the same stuff. There was lots and lots of quilting fabric. And if you want to buy a quilt, there were lots of those as well. All the major sewing machine companies were there, so if you were considering a new machine, it's a great place to see all the machines. The most expensive thing I saw were the long arm quilting machines. The one I liked was $30,000! Thank goodness I don't quilt, I know I would be tempted to dream about having one.

The one thing I saw that I really think I will buy is a home pressing machine. The one I looked at was around $250 but the owner of the shop, who was from Atlanta, said he had another model that's perfectly good for about $150. I want it for Christmas! Yes, that means I will be able to fuse interfacing for a purse in about 10 minutes instead of the 1-1/2 hours it takes with my iron.

I bought a new pair of scissors for clipping curves. I like to clip very close to the seam and if I try to clip all the way down to the tip of the blade, they split. This happens because of the multiple layers of fabric all with interfacing. I found a pair made to cut rubber stamps so I tested them with eight layers of denim and they worked I bought them.

I also stopped and talked to the girls at Craftsy. What a great website and the girls were super sweet. So sweet I had to take their picture, see it to the left? I only found Craftsy last week and I have fallen in love with it. The classes they offer are top quality. I posted my Molly Handbag pattern over there and a ton of folks have come through my project post and signed up to get it. If you found my site from Craftsy and joined my mailing list, welcome and thank you for coming by.

Anyway, that's another year for the International Quilt Festival, it went off without a hitch and was pretty awesome!

Until next time ~


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Saturday, November 5, 2011

Survey Results

Last week I ran a survey to find out what topics my blog followers enjoy reading. I didn't get a whole lot of responses but I got enough to see that I'm headed in the right direction.

Before I posted the survey I looked back over my posts since I started the site. Overwhelmingly, the posts that included projects, instructions, and handbags were the ones that had comments. Yesterday I added a "Most Popular Posts" widget to the sidebar, and again, overwhelmingly, the posts that deal with purses and handbags came up - check out the sidebar, just scroll down a little - see all the purses lined up one after the other? Those are my most popular posts.

The survey helped me a lot. It confirmed that you don't want to hear about business, how to do blogs,  or anything other than purses, projects, and sewing. It also told me who your favorite designers are, what problems you have when sewing, where you hang out on the internet, and what you like to make.

So, first I want to give a great big THANK YOU to those who took the time to give me input. It is most appreciated. I know each of you has to ration your time and I am so grateful that you gave me a few minutes to respond. I also greatly appreciate that you take the time to read what I write - I can't describe how much that means to me. Thank you, thank you.

How will all this information guide my business and this website? Well, here are the results from the survey:

Favorite Purse/Handbag Designer:  Amy Butler
Favorite Fabric Designer:     Amy Butler
You like to make:     handbags and purses, many currently quilt
Topics you want to read about:      sewing technique, sewing projects (mostly handbags/totes/purses), color matching and trends, fabrics and which to choose, which thread to use, what's the difference with interfacings, sewing needles, altering patterns, sewing machine reviews, adding accessories to a design, e.g., pockets, hardware.
Your problems when sewing: Amy Butler patterns are very hard to follow/confusing, broken needles, color matching, don't know which interfacing
Where you hang on the internet:     Some use Facebook but none use Twitter, you love give-aways, like sew-alongs, and most comment on blogs

And here's my take-away:

I should stick to the subject of the blog which is purses, handbags, and sewing. You guys really like Amy Butler, both her purse designs and her fabric. And you read blogs for fun and to learn how to sew and make handbags (among other things).

So, that's what I'll do, stick to the subject at hand. And thanks again for the input. I'm looking forward to having a clear direction to guide my writing.

Until later ~


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Friday, November 4, 2011

Uptown Molly Going To Her New Home

It was so exciting to have a give-away here at R.Kay Design! Last Monday the Rafflecopter thing I used to keep track of everything chose Gloria Walshver as the lucky winner. So Uptown Molly is on her way today to live with Gloria.

It was fun having a Give-Away and I think I'll do more of them. I'm always making purses and handbags when I'm creating a design. I certainly don't need all of them and who better to have them than my wonderful readers!

I really liked Rafflecopter, it kept track of everything and then it used to choose the winner, it couldn't be more fair than that. However, I did learn a few things along the way. I think my first mistake was making it mandatory to "Like" my Facebook page. I think it's a mistake to make any category mandatory, I won't do that again. That way those who want to enter can just do the things they want.

Writing a note for Gloria

Wrapping Molly
Another thing I need to do is some research. I really thought more folks would enter. Maybe it's because I didn't know where to go to tell everyone. I tweeted about it on Twitter, I posted it on Facebook, I mentioned it in my weekly email, and I posted it on Still only 41 entries and only 10 different people. I'm certain some didn't enter because of the mandatory Facebook, I'm learning.
Next time I think I'll send a separate email to my list so it's noticed by those special people who gave me their email address. I really
want them to know about it. And maybe I can find some more places to list it so people who don't know my site will find it. I know you guys want the give-away to stay small so your chances of winning will be better, but I really want to grow this site to be a great place for discussions, conversations, and learning. And I also someday want this to be how I make a living. I want this blog to be a winning place for everyone and the more the merrier! So if any of you know how I can expand entries for my next give-away, I'd really appreciate your comments.

So good-bye Uptown Molly and until next time ~


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Thursday, November 3, 2011

Sneak Peak - Ella Cord Daisies Handbag

If you've been following my progress with the Ella Handbag you know I've had a ton of problems along the way with my design process. I was just not paying attention on those days when I was working as evidenced by forgetting to put the handles on before I sewed the top seam. Where was my mind?

When working on a prototype for a pattern it's a little different than when you have a proven pattern and a list of instructions. When developing a pattern, instead of working from a list that tells me what to do, I have to work from experience. It's all in my head. I have to think, "What's the next logical step?" and then do it. It's really easy to leave out a step as my brain tends to skip ahead because I think a lot faster than I sew. Seems logical, right?

Anyway, that's my excuse and I'm stickin' to it!

The first Ella had the Wonky Weave thing goin' on, but I think with the next prototype I'm going to just keep it simple (maybe that will help my brain a little). I also tried adding a hard divider made with Peltex to hold an IPad. Peltex is a thick and stiff interfacing that can be purchased with fusible on both sides. It made a nice divider but it didn't work well when sewing the lining, it was too stiff to allow the seams necessary to make the bottom flat. So, with the next Ella prototype, I'm going to use a regular pocket for the IPad. And lastly, I think I'll add an outer pocket as well.
Finished Ella Wonky Weave

The picture above shows the fabrics I'll use for the next Ella, I think I'll call her Ella Cord Daisies. The main outer fabric is a 21 wale corduroy (21 is the number of cords per inch, very narrow, like pin wale)! Should be great for fall and winter and I love the subdued colors.

Hopefully I'll be able to move through the sewing of this one much quicker since I know where my problems are (and I keep my mind in check - it really needs to stop wandering). Then I'll be able to move on to writing the instructions. I'm really looking forward to getting this one out to the world!

Wish me luck!


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