Thursday, November 28, 2019

Bag Finish

I've been working on this bag since Monday, and today I finished it:


The insides of the pockets:

I really like the finished product, but making this bag was quite a challenging experience. Read on if you are interested, skip the rest of this otherwise!

A friend recently made the "Sew Together Bag", which is not what this is, but which inspired me to make this. There is also the "Bionic Gear Bag", which is not quite what this is. There are other similar bags, such as the German "Zippy Bag", the "Quilters Organizer Bag", a Russian version I don't know the name of because I can't read Russian, and probably more I haven't found.

As I looked at the various options I came across the "Sew Like a Puppet" website. The owner of that website was involved in a legal action against the designer of the Bionic Gear Bag. She has written a book about it, "Sewing Wars", which I haven't read so can't comment on. The blog section of her website is a little over the top, but she has several patterns for sale, including one called "Bionic Gear Bag for Puppets". It was only $5 so I decided to give it a try. (That turned out to be US dollars, unfortunately, even though I believe the seller is in Australia.)

I have made a few bags before, mostly from patterns designed by Nicole Mallalieu of "You Sew Girl". Nikki's patterns are well-written and well designed. Her instructions include photos and diagrams, and are logically set out and easy to follow. She always gets people of varying levels of skill to test her patterns, which is where things like missing steps or unclear instructions get picked up and fixed before publication. This pattern has none of those qualities.

The actual pattern was confusing. Here's a sample of my confusion:
"2 INCHES" printed in a random place on the pattern piece, with my tape measure showing that none of these lines are 2" apart, so I have no idea what that measurement refers to. There's a missing dotted line that I have added in, and an extra one I have scribbled out.

There are no diagrams in the instructions, which is a shame because some steps really need more than just words. There are some photos on the last page, but they are not labelled and have no explanation so are not really a lot of help.

The cutting instructions didn't seem to work with the sizes of the sections on the pattern piece.
Almost every piece listed actually needed to be a different size than given, although for a couple of those it was because I wanted to change the distance between two of the pockets. One major part of the bag is not listed, so some guess-work was involved.  You can see some of my scribbles as I tried to work it out, but I have notes written all over this page.

A couple of times I questioned whether this is even meant to be a real pattern, and if I had fallen for some sort of joke in buying it. I was tempted to abandon this pattern and buy a different one, but then I came across the Inch-Art site, where Nina has written a tutorial with lots of photos for the original bionic gear bag. With her photos plus my own pattern-drafting skills and bag-making experience, I persevered.

The first section involves making all the internal zip pockets. Here I will say that the method in the pattern I bought seems a better way to do it. The pockets are formed one by one:
So in this photo the first two zip pockets are complete, and I am working on the third one. I used longer zips than necessary because a) this is all from stash, and b) it is actually easier to use longer zips and cut them down later. I discovered with my first zip that the Janome zipper foot is no good for this type of work, so I ripped that one out, then sewed all the zips with my trusty Elna Lotus. I should have known, because Nikki of "You Sew Girl" wrote about this problem 7 years ago.

Next the side pieces. One:
 Then two:

At this point I read in the instructions that the very front and back pieces should be 3" longer than the side pieces. Mine weren't! (In fact the back wasn't even long enough to reach to top of the sides.) I should have read right through the instructions before making my calculations about how big these pieces needed to be. As it turns out 3" is more than you need, but I had to add some to the front and the back before completing the side seams:
You can see the seam across the back, below the height of the side piece, and the one at the front just in front of the triangle shape. Fortunately I had made the quilted outer section much longer than the pattern specified, or I would have been re-making that.

The sides got their binding, then it was time for the long zip that holds the whole thing together.
This is where a diagram would be helpful. The written instructions for lining up the bag, the zip and the binding were not good enough. I couldn't see how the instructions would give me the correct result, because the layers seemed to be in the wrong order. But then I may have been misinterpreting them; a clear diagram would clear up the confusion. The Inch_Art tutorial's written layering order also confused me, and she used a navy zip and binding so the details were lost in her photos. I played around with the pieces, and read both sets of instructions, and couldn't see how it would work. Fortunately there is a video series by Birdcage and Thread for the "Sew Together Bag", and the 7th video shows how to do this zip. They cleverly basted the zip in place then dealt with the binding later. That was a much better process!

After I'd basted the zip to the bag, I stitched the binding to the whole length of the zip with my Elna Lotus:
Because I wanted to be sure I was sewing straight, I unconventionally sewed with the zip facing down so I could see the lines woven into the tape. That's the back of the zip facing up. When I got to the bag and couldn't see the zipper tape, it didn't matter as I could just follow the line of basting stitches.

I didn't photograph the next step, but after pressing the binding back, I used Vliesofix T6 tape to fuse the binding to the back of the zipper and the bag, before stitching it in place from the front. (You can cut 6mm wide strips of regular Vliesofix/Bondaweb/WonderUnder if you don't have the tape.) That's another trick I learnt from Nikki, and it really helps keep everything under control so you can get a neat finish:

On top of the bag I hand-stitched the binding to lie flat against the bag, rather than stick up as it has a tendency to do with this type of bag:

The final step is to attach a tab to each end of the zip, and stitch it to the base of the bag. The measurements for this tab given in the actual instructions are different to the measurements in the cutting list. I used a combination of the instructions version and my own common sense to get a neat tab. I hand-stitched it to the bag, realising too late that it would have been much more sensible to make these tabs earlier in the process, and stitch them into place with the side binding. They could have sat there ready for me to attach the zip/handle to them as the last step. Next time!

Here's the tab, hand-stitched to the bag, machined to the zip:

And that's it!

As I said earlier, I love the bag. But I couldn't recommend this pattern unless you have experience making both bags and patterns, and are prepared to do a lot of thinking for yourself.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Early Morning

Very early this morning a small flock of sulphur-crested cockatoos paid us a visit:
Instead of being destructive in the garden as they have been so many times before,
they stuck to the grassy areas, and helpfully pulled up thistles:

Meanwhile inside, a couple of peony buds I took out of the fridge earlier this week are opening up nicely:

Sunday, November 24, 2019


Springfest is an annual market of about 500 stalls around the shores of Lake Wendouree. The market is put on by Rotary, and raises funds for charities in Ballarat. Today was a beautiful day for it.

We parked a bit of a walk from the lake, because otherwise you would never find a parking spot. Our walk to the lake took us through the "Show n Glow" car show. Hundreds of owners of "all vehicles through to and including 1980 chrome bumper vehicles" had brought them along to show off. The cars really did glow in the brilliant sunshine:

This picture because my first car was a Mini:

And this one because I think it was the ugliest vehicle on display:
It definitely meets the chrome bumper criterion!

We reached the lake and the actual market, and began the 6km walk around the lake:
Along with thousands of other people.

I always enjoy seeing the swans and cygnets on the lake:

After about 45 minutes of the market we had only made it about a quarter of the way around the lake. None of the market stalls were selling anything that we wanted, and they were all starting to look the same.
The crowds made walking difficult, and we decided we had seen enough.

It was a beautiful day for it, though.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Magpie Family

Father magpie being followed by one of his babies:
What you can't hear is the insistent "eep eep eep" sound the baby makes, demanding food. You would think a baby that size might be able to find food itself, but one of the things the babies have to learn is how to get food from the front of their beak to the back of their throat so they can swallow it. They do pick up bits and pieces (not all of it food) but they they don't know what to do with it. The adults feed them by putting the food right at the back of their throat like this:

The two adult females and one baby:
The adults are the ones with the white beaks. One of them is the mother, the other is the helper, who is probably a daughter from last year (so an elder sister to the babies). A few commenters expressed surprise about the helper adult in my last magpie post, but having extra help is not unusual. According to Wikipedia about 3 to 8 percent of birds have helpers, but it is much more common in Australian birds.

Our kookaburras have also fledged, but kookaburra territory is much larger than magpie territory so we don't see them often. We don't know how many babies they raised. I have seen 4 kookaburras together, but I don't know if that is the whole family. Kookaburras are another species that have helpers, so there may have been other members of the group nearby that I didn't see.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Peony Farewell

The last of the Coral Charm peony flowers this morning at 6:44am:
And the same flower this evening at 6:35pm:

In between was a hot and very windy day. Northern parts of the state were declared as "Code Red" fire danger. Here we were only at "Very High", because until yesterday you would hardly know it is nearly summer. We've had cooler and wetter weather here; we are not baked dry like many places further north. Have a look at our temperatures for the last 7 days, with the colours I used for my temperature quilt:

21/11/2019    37.1    magenta
20/11/2019    31.4    red
19/11/2019    20.4    yellow
18/11/2019    25.3    orange
17/11/2019    15.3    green
16/11/2019    13.0    aqua/teal
15/11/2019    15.7    green

We've had a bit of everything!

Although the peony flowers on the bush are now finished, it isn't the total end. I have a couple in a vase that I brought in before the hot days:
And there's another 5 buds that I cut and put in the fridge a couple of weeks ago. I'm hoping the internet is right when it says you can store peony buds in the fridge, and have them open when you take them out.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Twenty and Twenty-One

Here's the 20th of the charity quilts, quilted and bound:
You can't see the quilting from either side, but it is done in an all-over "feather meander" design as taught by Angela Walters. Doing this I learned that all-over designs are very boring to quilt. I'm sure it was good practice, but I had to force myself to sit at the machine to get it finished. No more all-over designs!

And here's lucky last, the 21st of the quilts that came about through our sewing bee last year. Photographed half in the sun so you can see the quilting:
I might even bind this one as well, just to celebrate getting to the bottom of the pile.


Last November I mentioned that our bee hives did not survive winter in 2018. I also mentioned that we had two new hives from a bee-keeper in Geelong. One of those hives was weak and did not thrive, but the other one survived. However they hadn't managed to store much honey before winter, so we had to feed them to keep them alive until spring. The feeding seemed to work, as there were bees going in and out of the hive when the weather was warm enough. I haven't been near the hive recently, but the garden has had plenty of bees in it as spring has progressed.

Today is warm and not raining, so a good day to open the hive and check on the bees. We thought they could be running out of room and need another super to expand into.

However this is the confronting reality:

No bees at all! Whether they have swarmed away, or died since the end of winter, I don't know. But I think that is the end of our bee-keeping efforts.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Compost Rebuild

Over the last couple of days the compost bins have been reconstructed:
They were originally formed of pallets left behind by the builders, but something sturdier was required. I don't seem to have a picture of the pallet ones, but if you go here you can see them.

So here's the new, sturdier, able-to-be-driven-into-with-a-tractor, bins:

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Patience Rewarded

Back in May a friend gave me leaves from several varieties of African violet. As previously reported, most of them have grown new plants, but these two are still just sitting here:
Or so I thought.

Yesterday Jeanette posted that a leaf she started at the same time had finally started to grow a new plant, hidden behind the leaf. So there was still hope for these two.

This morning I had a close look at mine, and look what I found under one of them:
A tiny leaf appearing! It has taken 177 days, but the wait has not been in vain.

Friday, November 15, 2019

The Garden in November

It seems as if just about everything is in flower at the moment, so be warned, this post includes rather a lot of photos.

Coral Charm herbaceous peony:
This year it had 18 flower buds, which is twice as many as last year. The last of the tree peony flowers are dropping their petals.

Chinese ground orchids:
not quite open when I took the photo this morning, but they have been, and there are buds to come. In the background you might be able to make out a tree peony flower with just a couple of petals left, and a rather eaten pansy.  The pansies are not doing too well this year.

Something (probably slugs) has had a good munch on this poor daylily, the first one to open this year:

One of several echiums:
At this point in my journey around the garden, the sun disappeared.

Wirilda - Acacia provincialis

Diggers speedwell - Veronica perfoliata:

Kangaroo paw:

This? It's a native, but its tag is missing:
Added later: Thanks again to Dee, who commented about this plant. It is not in fact a native, it is Tagetes lemmonii, or Mexican marigold! We bought it at the Melton Botanic Gardens Nursery along with a lot of actual native plants, then planted it in our native bed without checking where it was really from. Oops! Now we'll have to decide whether to leave it where it is or move it.



Wattlebirds visit this regularly.

Not quite in focus, but the lambs-ear is just starting to flower:

Another rose.
There's actually lots of different roses flowering at the moment.

In the background you can see some lavender and the treasure flowers, so that saves me two more photos.

Pink tritonia:

Graffiti geraniums:

A little bit of sunshine has come back to illuminate the white iris:
Still in the shade in the background are red hot pokers and pigface.

Bees love this Buddleja globosa, orange ball bush:

Hoverflies and other insects all over these black pearl lilies, Ornithogalum arabicum:

I love the colour of these Osteospermum daisies:


A hoverfly on a ceanothus:
The bees love it too.

This one is a wildflower, trailing goodenia:
 It grows here naturally, and seems happy in the garden. And obviously hoverflies like it too.

And here's a hoverfly on a succulent flower:

A bee in a chive flower:

Round about now I am running out of enthusiasm for this! Congratulations if you made it this far.

Other flowers include: snowball bush, sweet peas, emu bush, kangaroo apple, grevilleas, citrus trees, nepeta, euphorbias, abutilons, salvias, borage, californian poppies, mesembryanthemums, aeoniums, and probably some I've missed or forgotten. So many flowers!