UPDATE: Alphabet Animal Art Challenge – 6 months later

Alphabet Animal Update Title

With the end of June it has officially been six months since the 2017 Art Challenge:  Alphabet Animals has come to a close.  I wanted to do an update since I have used those animals I created in quite a lot of new designs!  One of the goals of the Challenge was to create a library of illustrations I could use in various ways and in that goal I have had much success!  So today I want to share all the creations that I have made since the challenge ended.  If you are hearing about this challenge for the first time you can read the final blog post recap and see ALL the animals.  You can also see the other designs I created last year.

SURFACE PATTERNS

I’ll start with surface patterns.  All these have been created this year, so after the close of the challenge.  Since in many cases I ended up tweaking the animal illustrations I will share a look at the original animal and the pattern side by side!

All of the patterns I have created this year with animals so far have been created specifically for Spoonflower Design Challenges (although one did not end up being entered as you will soon learn).

Modern Farmhouse

Quail Illustration by Brenda Zapotosky

As you can see for this pattern the quail is playing a supporting role. I removed its top plume and did some recoloring to make it more “generic bird” versus a quail specifically.  I really love how it fits in so well with the other farmhouse images I created.  Modern Farmhouse is available in my Spoonflower shop.

Elephants and Polka Dots

Elephant Illustration by Brenda Zapotosky

For the “Endangered Species” Design Challenge I chose to feature my elephant illustration.  I didn’t make many changes to this character.  I changed the toe nail color to white and made the line weights for the facial features a little thicker.  (And overall color changes of course).  Since my elephant already had a unique polka dot detail I decided to build upon that for the pattern.  I actually created 4 different colorways of this design.  The Taupe colorway one you see here is the version that was entered in the contest.  You can find it and the 3 other colorways in my Animal Fun Collection.  This was actually the second time this elephant was selected from the library.  Last year I created a greeting card featuring the elephant!

Hedges and Hedgehogs

Hedgehogl Illustration by Brenda Zapotosky

The idea for this pattern was in my head almost immediately after creating the original hedgehog so I was very excited when the “Animals by Land” Design Challenge was posted giving me the perfect excuse to create it!  I kept the hedgehog mostly the same but tweaked the facial features again on this one, the most noticeable being that I gave it a round eye.  I think it is cuter that way!  The hedges got a bit more colorful too!  Find Hedges and Hedgehogs in my Spoonflower shop!

Mostly Happy X-Ray Tetras

X Ray Tetra Illustration by Brenda Zapotosky

Last but not least is my X-Ray Tetra.  For this one, I kept the pattern simple since there is already a lot of detail in the fish itself.  I did play with adding some polka dots, but I didn’t like them.  I did, however, do a fun little switch-up!  As the title suggests, not ALL these tetras are smiling… I added some frowny ones to the mix and reversed their coloring in places to make them just a bit more distinctive.  This design was created with a contest in mind but was never entered because I got the THEME wrong!!!  I thought it was Animals by/in/of WATER since the previous two contests were Land and Air… but for this one Spoonflower mixed it up and themed it “Animals of the OCEAN”.  Technically tetras are not ocean fish (which I learned through research, I am not a fish expert!) and I did not feel right entering this design.  Oh well… at least it gave me the motivation to create it since this was also a pattern idea I had in my head for a while!  Mostly Happy X-Ray Tetras is also available in my Spoonflower shop.

GREETING CARD

I have created one new card since the close of the challenge.  I have a niece and nephew who both turned 3 in June (cousins, not twins) and I thought the koala was a good pick since it was already holding onto to something making it easy to swap in the number 3. I also changed the hat to a party hat. I left the koala itself the same (even the position of the arms worked as is for the number 3!)

Koala Illustration by Brenda Zapotosky

I was there when my niece opened her card and upon seeing it she recognized it as a koala!  Granted she had recently seen a show that had koalas, but still, it made me really happy to know that my characterization was accurate enough for her to name the animal specifically!  I call that success.  The koala cards joins several other animal cards I created last year which you can find on my Cards and Gift Wrap page.

ARTWORK

The biggest thing (literally) that I created with the animal illustrations is a poster that incorporates ALL of them!  As I mentioned above my niece and nephew turned 3 and I decided that for their gifts I would create this poster.  It was actually quite a bit of work to pull it all together and fit them in a logical way and adding in all the text circles, title, etc.

Alphabet Animals Poster by Brenda Zapotosky SM

In addition to removing all the “props” that were originally paired with I also did some minor re-scaling, both enlarging and reducing scales of some of the animals to get them to work better as an ensemble.  Other than that all the animals except one stayed the same as the original in look and color (all the tweaks I made for the patterns came later).  The one animal that DID get changed was the armadillo since that was my very first illustration and it did not have the same “cute” look that I started with letter B.  Here is the “Before” and “After”.

Armadillo Illustration by Brenda Zapotosky

It was actually my husband who suggested I make them “cuter” after seeing the first animal, armadillo.  I am so happy he did, because it definitely enhances my already slightly cartoon-ish interpretations.  And I am glad I changed up the armadillo for the poster!

It is definitely a bit of a gamble to give the gift of art.  Especially BIG ART that is intended to be hung in someone’s house.  I took that chance because I thought my niece and nephew as well as their parents would like the gift.  And because I expected these to be hung in the kids’ rooms and not the main house.  I am so happy to report that gifts were well received AND have both already been hung!  Here is a look at the posters “in the wild”.

Posters in the Wild

I printed these posters at a standard 20″ x 30″ but sized the poster border proportions to work with a favorite IKEA frame line that I love (Its similar sized frame is 19.75″ x 27.5″). (Seriously, almost every wall frame in my house is from this line).  For the smaller frame on the left (which I framed) I trimmed it to fit the slightly smaller proportioned frame.  My sister opted for the same IKEA frame but with bigger dimensions so it has a mat (on the right).  It is fun to see the two looks side by side.

My husband’s reaction to seeing the poster for the first time was that I should sell them!  After selling greeting cards for a number of years I decided that being a producer really wasn’t for me.  I have been focused for the last several years solely on designing and selling my work where someone else does all the work.  However, these posters, which I am extremely pleased with, have me actually considering maybe selling (on a VERY limited basis) again.  It is just an idea at this point.  I would probably sell them both wholesale and retail if I did.  If you are a retailer or an individual and would be interested please let me know!  If there seems to be enough interest I would start investigating larger quantity printing!

And that about wraps it up!  I anticipate using more of these animals in future design projects.  Do you have a favorite you’d like to see used in something?  I’d love to know!

Thanks for reading!

Brenda

Sewing and Design Meet: Pebbles

Sewing and Design Meet Logo

It is time for another installment of “Sewing and Design Meet”.  This time I am sharing all about my Pebbles design and what I have made with it.  The majority of this post will be focused on the Lark Tee I sewed via a cut-and-sew project I ordered through Spoonflower’s sister site, Sprout Patterns, and I will be speaking a bit about that experience too.  At the end I’ll share a quick look at a simple winter accessories set I also made. This post is LONG.  If you don’t care about sewing details you can read about the design and then just scroll and look at all the photos 🙂

DESIGN:

Pebbles is a coordinate I created to go with my Sandcastles design as part of my Beach Bliss Collection.  I originally offered this print in 2 different colorways and then added a third one which does not actually color coordinate with the collection because I specifically created it for the winter accessories project.

Pebbles Pattern 3 Color Versions by Brenda Zapotosky

The Sandcastles design was created from hand drawings that I vectorized and turned into a pattern in Illustrator.  I included pebble details on the sandcastles and as background infill.  To create the Pebbles print I pulled out pebbles from the pattern and arranged them into vertical lines.  Below is a look at Sandcastles and some of the original hand drawings.  Most often, even if I do a hand drawing first, I completely redraw them in Illustrator, but this time I used auto trace since I wanted to maintain the feel of the hand drawing which I think matches the beach theme well.

Sandcastles Pattern and Illustrations by Brenda Zapotosky

 

FABRIC AND SPROUT PATTERNS:

Pebbles by Brenda Zapotosky on Modern Jersey Fabric
Design:  Pebbles Multicolored  Printed on:  Modern Jersey Fabric

Instead of purchasing “raw” fabric for this project I ordered my fabric AND pattern through Sprout Patterns.  If you are not familiar with Sprout they are one of Spoonflower’s sister companies.  With Sprout, you can order sewing patterns from a wide range of companies and designers printed directly on the fabric!  It is the ultimate, cut-and-sew: all you need to do is cut around the outlines of the pieces and start sewing!  With your Sprout purchase you also get a pdf copy of the pattern so you can sew it again in the future and also use the pieces for adjustments, etc.  (Which I definitely did).  I chose the Multicolored version of my Pebbles design printed on Modern Jersey.  Here is a look at a portion of the printed fabric where you can see a pattern piece and how the design continues on the unused fabric:

Pebbles Lark Tee Printed by Sprout 1

There are some pro’s and con’s to using Sprout and I think ultimately it will vary person to person on whether this sort of sewing experience is right for you.

PROS:

  • This is definitely a time saver.  Not only does it save you the time of printing and assembling a pdf or cutting out a paper pattern, but it saves on the time it takes to cut fabric too since all the arranging of the pieces on the fabric and lining up the grainlines etc. is already done for you.
  • You can order exactly the amount of fabric you need!  Instead of having to over buy on yardage numbers, the cut of fabric you get from Sprout will give you the fractional yards without having to buy a full 2 yards for example for a 1.5 yard project.  You can also mix and match fabric designs within a project… so if you want all your trim pieces to be a different fabric, you can select a different fabric design or even a solid color for those pieces.
  • Even though the fabric is sized to fit the pattern, for many projects there will still be some unused spaces leftover.  Sprout prints the fabric design on these areas too (as you can see in the photo) so you might end up with some bonus fabric pieces you can use for something else.  (I did end up NEEDING some of my extra, which you will read about below).

CON:

  • You can only choose to have one size printed… they do not grade between sizes.   If you are a “straight out of the package” size this is probably not even a con.  I am most definitely NOT a single size gal and this is a big issue for me.  I found a way to work around this and grade a bit between sizes which I will discuss in the sewing section of this post.

One last detail that is VERY important to note is that you MUST follow washing instructions.  I learned this the hard way as I shrunk my fabric, which changed the size and proportion of the pattern pieces!  I am so used to pre-washing my fabric in a blast of hot water and hot dryer to get the fabric to shrink as much as possible before I sew with it, I was basically on auto-pilot and did the same with this project.  BAD IDEA.  I was able to make it work, thankfully, but my shirt is a bit shorter as a result.  AND I had to cut new sleeves.  Thankfully they were the cap style and needed very little fabric and were able to fit on unused portions of the fabric but it is a bummer that I had to do that instead of saving those sections for a future project.

SEWING:

Lark Tee in Pebbles fabric by Brenda Zapotosky 1

The Lark Tee is a basic tee shirt with a ton of options.  For my Sprout project I chose the scoop neck with cap sleeves (but as I mentioned above you get the pdf so you get ALL the views and variations with it and can print it and use it like a regular pattern. I have already made several other versions).  I chose Modern Jersey as the fabric option.  The sewing is very straightforward so I won’t really go into that, but I do want to talk a little bit about grading the pattern.

I am pear shaped and in this pattern (and pretty much all Grainline top patterns per the SIZE CHART) I am a size 4 bust and my hips sort of hover between size 8 and 10.  But with Sprout you can only pick 1 size, so I had to do some creative thinking.  I have square shoulders and a wide upper back so I usually like to go up a size (to a 6) for my bust.  And since this was a stretchy tee, I figured I would be safe going with the size 8 for my hips.  So I ordered a size 8 with plans of using the pdf pattern pieces to grade the top smaller.  Of course needing to print and assemble ALL the tee pieces pretty much negated the fast and quick factor of Sprout, but I really wanted to try the whole process once to see how it worked, AND it was still faster having the pieces already outlined on the fabric since it saved me from laying them all out and finding the grain, etc.

As I mentioned above, I unknowingly shrunk my pieces, so when I laid the pattern pieces on the printed fabric things did NOT line up like I expected.  The fabric shrunk WAY MORE vertically then it did horizontally… so they weren’t smaller everywhere, more like squashed.  In the end it was almost good that I was grading it smaller, because I was able to fix this with my adjustments.  It did mean however, that the top got shorter.  AND, the size 6 sleeve piece did not fit within the outline.  Thankfully, there was enough extra fabric elsewhere to trace the sleeves.  After that was all worked out the sewing was easy!  Especially since I sewed it twice with other fabrics prior to cutting into the good stuff.

Lark Tee in Pebbles fabric by Brenda Zapotosky 3

Overall I am very happy with the fit of this tee.  I LOVE the size of the scoop neck! It is basically my “dream scoop”.  The sleeves are maybe a tad snug for cap sleeves and I would like the tee to be an inch longer (but that was the fault of the shrinkage).  I absolutely LOVE the Pebbles design as a tee, but the white background version might not have been the wisest choice. (Thankfully I ALWAYS wear a tank top under everything).  I also do not love it in Modern Jersey and wish I would have chosen the Cotton Spandex instead.  I have sewn a TON of things with Modern Jersey, I love the fabric, but for a tee shirt… it is just not breathable enough for my tastes.  But this is totally personal preference.  I am a natural fibers gal.

Lark Tee in Pebbles fabric by Brenda Zapotosky 4

Lark Tee in Pebbles fabric by Brenda Zapotosky 2

*** You might have noticed a pants change in these photos… I actually took photos on multiple occassions (months apart!) and locations.  I actually finished this top last year!  The blog post was so delayed I had a chance to take another round!

If you love this project and want to make one for yourself, here is the direct link to the Lark Tee on Sprout Patterns already combined with this design.  If you like the tee but don’t want to use Sprout Patterns you can also buy it from Grainline Studio directly.  It is also available as a paper pattern.

PROJECT #2:  Neck and Ear Warmer Matching Set

Pebbles Winter Set by Brenda Zapotosky

Technically this Project #1 since I made this well before the tee shirt but the blog post flows better to have it at the end.  Using the Drizzle colorway of the Pebbles design, printed again on Modern Jersey, I made a matching fleece-backed ear and neck warm set.  Both of these are self-drafted.  I love the fit of the ear warmer but I think I would tweak the neck warmer proportions should I make it again.  And I would not use the Modern Jersey again.  While I do love it for infinity scarfs, in this application where I backed it with fleece, a fabric with more structure like cotton spandex works better.  I have made several ear warmers and the ones that used cotton spandex are much smoother against the fleece.

That’s it!  You made it to the end!  Woop!  I actually have made one other item with some of Sprout leftovers, a headband, but I don’t have a good photo to share.  (And still have pieces left I could use as accents on a future project too!) I think I covered everything, but feel free to ask any questions or just say hello in the comments.

Thanks for reading!

Brenda

 

Sewing and Design Meet: Transit Lines

Sewing and Design Meet Logo

It is time for another edition of Sewing and Design Meet!  This time I am sharing about my Transit Lines design and the tote bag I made with it. This design is part of the City Collection which can be found in my Spoonflower shop.

DESIGN:

Transit Lines by Brenda Zapotosky

When putting together a new collection I don’t often sit down and sketch out ideas for coordinates but for CITY I actually did.  My original idea for the Transit Lines design was to have criss-crossing lines going in many directions, similar to a subway map.  However, as I started drawing it in Illustrator I really loved the look of just the horizontal lines with the thickened bars and decided to take it in that direction instead.  I love how the pattern is a versatile stripe and yet, when paired with its title, can easily (I think) invoke images of the city site that inspired it.  Whether you interpret the thick bars as trains or stations is up to you!  I also really love the color palette I decided on for this print: mostly neutral but with pops of color.

FABRIC: 

Transit Lines on Eco Canvas by Brenda Zapotosky BLOG

A few years ago Spoonflower had an awesome and rare 50% off sale on Eco Canvas and I ordered a couple of yards.  One yard I divided into (2) 1/2 yard pieces with the intention to make a tote bag with each of them, although at the time I did not have a specific pattern picked out.  I ended up choosing free tote patterns from Purl Soho for both of the totes.  I have a previous blog post about the first one I made, the Railroad Tote, and some zipper pouches I made with the extras.  I chose the Everyday Tote for the Transit lines design as I thought the more horizontal shape would suit it well.

The Eco Canvas has pluses and minuses for me personally.  On the plus side: It washes and sews well and colors are bright and vibran.  On the minus side: It is  much softer and drapier than other canvases which is something I do not like.  But I think this is really just a personal preference. I gave the Railroad Tote to my mom and she loves that soft quality.  When making the zipper pouches I decided to interface the Eco Canvas portions and I was much happier with the structure.  So for the Everyday Tote I knew I wanted to interface those pieces.  I needed to do some construction changes to accommodate this (Along with a bunch of other construction changes) which I detail below.

SEWING:

There were a lot of steps to making this bag, including some extra ones that came along with my changes, but otherwise it was straight forward and easy to sew.  I didn’t take a lot of in-progress photos (my sewing space is not photo friendly) and it was difficult to get a good overall look of the bag.  Here is the best one:

Transit Lines Tote by Brenda Zapotosky 3

As mentioned above, I made several construction changes when sewing up this bag.  I knew I wanted to interface the Eco Canvas pieces and since the bag isn’t lined, I needed to underline at least those portions so that the interfacing was not exposed.  After contemplating solutions for this, I decided to also change how the bag panels were sewn.  Per the instructions, you cut two full side pieces from what eventually becomes the “upper” fabric, and then cut bottom panels of the “lower” fabric which go over top the first fabric on just the bottom portion.  There are some good reasons to sew the bag this way.  It ensures you aren’t relying on a horizontal seam to hold the top and bottom half of the bag together and it creates a nice double layer for the bag base.  But, it meant that 1/2 of my good patterned fabric was going to be covered which I wasn’t crazy about.  So, I decided to instead cut both pieces at half height and let the seam where the bias “piping” detail is connect them together.  Since the bag side pieces were already cut, I chose to cut one in half height wise and that determined the height of my bag (and preserved a nice FQ sized piece of the Transit Lines for a future project!).  I sewed the top and bottom halves together with the accent bias “piping” in between.  I then UNDERLINED the entire height of the bag sides with a coordinating quilting cotton that I had leftover from the previous Eco Canvas projects.  I quilted this to the bag panels which helped provide the extra stability I lost when I changed the construction.  The quilting, despite using a walking foot AND having design lines to follow, is kind of wonky… Quilting is not my forte!  Despite the lackluster quilting, I absolutely love the end result inside the bag.  I think the quilted underlining really gives the bag a high quality look!

Transit Lines Tote by Brenda Zapotosky 1

Other changes I made:

  • I flip flopped from the directions which fabric I used for the front and back of the pocket so that I could enjoy more of the print.  I also made the pocket wider since there was plenty of room to do so.
  • I changed the order of sewing so that the folded over top hem of the bag was sewn last.  I did this on my Railroad Tote too.  By saving it until last the tops of the side seams are concealed instead of exposed.
  • Longer straps.  I like to wear my bag over my shoulder and longer straps make it more comfortable when I do.

I chose to use 2 different colors of bias tape instead of one and I am very happy with the results.  On areas where I wanted the trim and finishing to stand out (like on the exterior seam or around the top of the tote fold over hem) I used black.  To finish all the interior seams I used white.

Transit Lines Tote by Brenda Zapotosky 5

Transit Lines Tote by Brenda Zapotosky 4

Transit Lines Tote by Brenda Zapotosky 6
DETAILS! Pretty details are one of the “perks” of sewing your own!  Like rotating the print to be vertical on the pocket.

The webbing I used for the straps (linked at the end) is a bit industrial.  It works ok… especially since the Eco Canvas is also a synthetic, but I wouldn’t get it again.  I purchased a large roll of it and have a lot leftover, so it will probably pop up in another project at some point. It was a really good deal though, and should be pretty durable (I hope).

I was hoping that this bag would work as my music bag and I am happy to report that it works perfectly!  My previous bag was a freebie tote that I got when I worked in Architecture.  It was rather ugly and advertised a window company that I am not even a big fan of (otherwise I might have posted a “before” photo).  I love having my new “chic” bag that is me-made and features one of my own designs!  It holds all my music, books, and misc. with room to spare! (And even packed can sling over my shoulder!)

Transit Lines Tote by Brenda Zapotosky 2

DETAILS SUMMARY:

(I have seen others do a summary like this and think it is a fun way to provide quick access info all in one place. I will probably make it a regular feature of my sewing posts.)  

Pattern:  Free Everyday Tote from Purl Soho

Fabrics:

Notions:

  • Pellon Interfacing, Lightweight, Fusible (I can’t remember the exact #)
  • 1 package each white and black bias tape
  • HipGirl 1 1/4″ Black Polypro Webbing
  • Sewing label designed by me and printed by Spoonflower

That about wraps it up!  If I missed a detail that you would like to know about feel free to ask in the comments!

Thanks for Reading!

Brenda

 

Sewing and Design Meet: Floral Bliss

Sewing and Design Meet Logo

It is time for another installment of Sewing and Design Meet.  Actually it is time for the second installment… I started this series last year and then never did a second one!  Oops!  Hopefully this year, there will be more regular posts for this series.

Today I am sharing about my Floral Bliss design and several projects I sewed with it. I currently have 4 different colorways of the design plus coordinates all available in the Floral Bliss Collection in my Spoonflower Shop.

DESIGN:

This design has a really fun story, since it began as a doodle in a doodle book I kept a long, long time ago.  Here is a look at the original, non-repeating doodle:

Floral Bliss Doodle by Brenda Zapotosky

As you can see, this doodle was not created with a repeating pattern in mind, and thus, there was a lot of work involved in turning it into one.  It was a multi-step process, where I would split the design apart in photoshop, print it out and add more elements by hand, re-scan it, erase elements, digitally tweak etc. Here is just one in-progress look.

Floral Bliss In Progress Pattern Creation by Brenda Zapotosky

At this point you can see the original page outline was still present.  Once I went through all those steps mentioned above (some more than once) and had a repeating tile with all my hand drawn elements, I next started the long process of recreating it as a vector tile in Illustrator.  I did auto-trace it as a first step, but there was a lot of time spent editing and tweaking, etc again in Illustrator.  This is not a fast process!

The original use of this pattern was for a Spoonflower limited palette contest. There was no theme other than the colors: Coral, Mint, Black and White, so it was a perfect opportunity to use an abstract pattern. Here is the look at that colorway of the pattern for the contest:

Floral Bliss Coral and Mint by Brenda Zapotosky
Floral Bliss (Coral and Mint) Design by Brenda Zapotosky

This is one of the most “hearted” designs in my shop.  Because of its popularity and the amount of time invested in the pattern, it made sense to offer it in other color versions as well.  I also added a second, smaller scale version.  I currently offer it in 4 different colorways and 2 different scales!  I have sewn with 3 of those colorways.  Here is a look at the other 3 versions:

Floral Bliss 3 Color Versions by Brenda Zapotosky
Colorways Left to Right:  Pink and Gray, Tropical, Winter Blues

 

 

SEWING:

The first project I made from one 8 x 8 swatch:  A Travel Eye Mask.

Floral Bliss Eye Mask by Brenda Zapotosky

This was made with the Floral Bliss Pink and Gray (Small Scale) version of the design.  I am not 100% sure which fabric type this is… one of the woven cottons.  I created my own sewing pattern by tracing a freebie eye mask that I had (modifying the shape and size a little bit and adding seam allowances). It is backed in raspberry pink flannel with a layer of batting in between and I kept the piece of 1/4″ elastic I used “raw” (which I rather like).  Bonus:  All the extra materials were already in my stash!

The second project I made used the original colorway of the design in the Small Scale again combined with a coordinating Polka Dot:  A Travel Jewelry Pouch.

Floral Bliss Travel Jewelry Pouch 4 views by Brenda Zapotosky

This was a gift for my sister and Floral Bliss was one of the patterns I knew she liked. (She also loves polka dots).  It was quite an ambitious project for me at the time I made it.  It was my first time working with vinyl, had multiple zippers, and a LOT of bias binding.  I actually wrote an entire blog post about this one where you can read all about it in great detail.

The third, and final project so far is an Infinity Scarf.

Floral Bliss Winter Blues Infinity Scarf by Brenda Zapotosky

This scarf features the newest color of the Floral Bliss design, Winter Blues, in the larger scale.  (The small scale version has not been added to my shop yet.)  It is printed on 1/2 yard of Cotton Spandex Jersey.  I don’t like my infinity scarfs to be too voluminous so 1/2 yard is the perfect size for me.  I used Spoonflower’s Fill-A-Yard function to get 1/2 yard of this print and a different print for the other half which I also plan to make a scarf with.

I created this colorway specifically for this project.  I wear a lot of scarves in the wintertime and keep them on even inside, so I like a lot of variety.  This print, at this scale, in these colors will work well with a lot of what is already in my wardrobe and is quite different than my other scarves.  Here it is styled with another recent make of mine, a Lane Raglan by Hey June Handmade sewn up in RK Laguna Knit in Navy.  I think this is the 7th Lane Raglan I have sewn.  It is definitely a TNT (Tried and True) pattern for me!

Floral Bliss Scarf with Lane Raglan Brenda Zapotosky

FINAL THOUGHTS:

I think it is apparent from the above projects that Floral Bliss is a very versatile design!  I sewed these 3 very different projects quite far apart.  It is fun to see that it is a design that I continue to return to and use in different ways.  I have not sewn anything up in the Tropical colorway yet, but there is the chance that I will in the future should the right project come along!  A skirt or dress for summertime would be lovely in that version of the print.

How about you?  Which version is your favorite?

Thanks for reading!

Brenda

 

Sewing and Design Meet: Canvas Bags

Canvas Bags group picture by Brenda Zapotosky for Blog

I am thinking of starting a new regular series of blog posts:  Sewing and Design Meet.  A place to showcase those projects where my fabric designer self and my sewing self come together to create a project!  (Or in simpler terms: When I sew stuff with my own fabric designs 🙂 ).

I am kicking off the series with a trio of bags created from 1/2 yard of my Hip Sequential (Cool) design printed on Eco Canvas by Spoonflower.

DESIGN:

A look at the pattern:

Geometric Promo by Brenda Zapotosky

This pattern was actually created during a special Spoonflower design challenge last spring.  The theme for this day of the challenge was geometric and I had a little flash of inspiration! I really liked the idea of solid and divided rectangles slowing getting smaller in width in sequential order. The end pattern worked so well with my existing Hip Geometrics Collection I have since added it in all four collection colorways as well!

SEWING:

When I ordered my fabric, Spoonflower did not yet offer their Fill-A-Yard service so I had to create mine manually by uploading a full yard design file divided into two patterns.  My thought was that 1/2 yard on the wide fabric should be enough for two bags/totes of some kind, although I did not have a specific pattern in mind when I ordered.  I chose Eco-canvas as my substrate as Spoonflower was having an amazing 1/2 price sale on it at the time.  A look at the printed fabric:

Hip Sequential on Eco Canvas by Brenda Zapotosky

I had the fabric for quite a while when I saw a few free tote tutorials by Purl Soho and knew I had found the right bag for this print!  For this pattern I chose the Railroad Tote.  I thought the rectangular shape was a good pairing for the geometric print.  To pair with my fabric I purchased some Kaufman Big Sur Canvas in Solid Gray.  Buying online is usually a bit of a gamble (unless you have purchased the exact product before) so I was quite excited to see how perfectly the canvas I chose matched both this print AND the other pattern, Transit Lines, I had printed with it.

Railroad Tote by Brenda Zapotosky for Blog

I mostly made the tote per instructions.  Since I had plenty of the canvas and I like pockets on my bags I decided to add the pocket to BOTH sides of the tote.  I also changed the finishing order a bit so that I could have the tops of my side seams enclosed in the folded over edge of the top of the bag.  This required a few more steps and was a bit trickier to sew this way, but well worth it for the final result!

I am very happy with how the bag turned out but I would make a few tweaks for the next one.  The side pockets end up being very tall and skinny.  While the look from the outside is quite lovely I would prefer them to be less deep, so next time I would modify them somehow.  I also plan on making it bigger overall.

I had a long skinny piece of this print left over and plenty of the gray canvas so I decided to sew up some zippy pouches with the left overs.  Originally these were supposed to be a bigger and smaller pouch in two different styles and the zippers I purchased for them are 2″ different in length.  However, I did not anticipate that the style of the bigger pouch made it appear smaller and the extensions I added to the smaller pouch would increase its size so much.  In the end they are almost the same size!

Hip Sequential Zippies by Brenda Zapotosky for Blog

For the “larger” pouch (Top bag in the photo) I used another free bag pattern: The Open Wide Zippered Pouch by Noodlehead.  I have used this pattern before and it is a really nifty design!  (Do people still say nifty?)  I can’t remember for sure which size I made but I think it was the smallest one as I am fairly certain I used a 9″ zipper.  I know the pattern calls for 10″, but you really can’t find that easily at any stores by me.  Not sure if I made the bag smaller to compensate, but having made it before I knew that the zip overhangs a lot so there is definitely wiggle room there.

The “smaller” pouch is just a basic rectangle lined zipper pouch using a 7″ zipper.  To give it a little extra flair I added the little canvas loop to the side.  I also chose to add canvas extenders to each side of the zipper so that the ends wouldn’t pull into the sides of the pouch.  I used the technique outlined by my fellow Spoonflower designer and friend Ceri for her cut and sew pouch project: The Hand Strap Clutch.  You can see both details in the photo below.  You can also get a small glimpse of the lining.  For both zipper pouches I used a “textured look” quilting cotton, “Crosshatch Sketch”, that I purchased from Hawthorne Threads.  They no longer have the color I chose:  Fog, but there are several other colors available that might pair well with this print.  There are of course many color match choices in my Spoonflower shop too, including this teal color version of my Hip Shapes design.

Hip Sequential Small Zip Close Up by Brenda Zapotosky for Blog

One last note:  The Eco-Canvas is not as stiff as normal canvas (definitely not as stiff as the Big Sur Canvas I paired it with) and tends to flop around a little.  I highly recommend using interfacing if you want a bit more structure to whatever you are making with it.  I added a very light interfacing to both zippered pouches and really liked the bit of structure it gave.  Unfortunately the inside of the canvas is exposed on the tote so you would have to give it a lining if you wanted to add interfacing there.  I have the other 1/2 yard of my Eco-Canvas left with the other print I chose to use for a second tote and I am currently brainstorming ideas of how I can add lining/double layer to the top pieces, so I can interface that one!  If anyone has any suggestions, I will be making the Everyday Tote with it.

I’ll leave you with a few more views of the bags!

Canvas Bags details by Brenda Zapotosky for Blog

Thanks for reading!

Brenda

A Fabric Design Tale

This post is a tale of sorts, of two whimsical designs that began as hand drawings and were transformed into fabric.  An appropriate title could have been: From Pen and Ink Hand Drawings to Seamless Patterns to Printed Fabric to Sewing Creations. But that is a lot of words. Hence:  A Fabric Design Tale 🙂

If you read my previous post then you already know that for Christmas 2016 I made my youngest niece and nephew each a raglan tee using my fabric designs.  Both began as hand drawings and so I thought it would be fun to share the process (since it was different for both) in how I transformed those into the fabric and ultimately a finished sewing project.

Fantasy Fish

fantasy-fish-promo-pattern-by-brenda-zapotosky

For my nephew I chose my Fantasy Fish pattern.  I originally created this design for the Great Barrier Reef themed contest on Spoonflower.  This was still in the beginning stages of my learning Adobe Illustrator and creating patterns. For this pattern I wanted to have all the elements inter-connected and I wasn’t yet sure how to do that in AI, so I stuck with Photoshop to create the entire pattern.  To do this I began by drawing a base design by hand, scanned it into Photoshop, cleaned it up, and then using the offset function split the design apart.  I then printed the split apart design and drew in more elements to start to fill the space.  I had to do this several times before I had the entire piece filled in and the full pattern tile created.  Below you can see some of the stages of the pattern.

fantasy-fish-pattern-progression-by-brenda-zapotosky-with-words

I chose to have the design printed on Spoonflower’s Cotton Spandex Jersey since I would be pairing it with Cotton Spandex Solids purchased elsewhere and I wanted the fabric types to be as close as possible.

fantasy-fish-by-brenda-zapotosky-fabric-photo

I love how it looks printed out!

Butterfly Party (Midnight)

butterfly-party-midnight-by-brenda-zapotosky-promo

For my niece, I chose the Butterfly Party design, Midnight color version from my Flutter Collection.  I created this design from a doodle I drew in one of my doodle sketchbooks long before I ever started created surface patterns.

butterfly-doodle-by-brenda-zapotosky

Since I never intended this drawing to be a seamless pattern when I created it, I decided to use the elements as components in a new design instead of converting the original composition to be seamless.  For this design, I used the auto-trace function in Adobe Illustrator to render the elements as vector.  From there I did A LOT of clean-up, modifications and redrawing.  In fact sometimes I do so much editing of a traced design that I wonder if it wouldn’t be faster to just redraw all the elements manually.  I do like, however, how auto trace gives a bit more of the hand-drawn feeling and for this print I think it really works.  While I love the black infill with the butterfly silhouettes and polka-dots on the original doodle, I thought it was too busy for the pattern version so I decided to eliminate it.  Instead I used some of the little butterflies to create a coordinating pattern.

delicate-delights-four-colors-small-by-brenda-zapotosky
Delicate Delights design in 4 different colorways.

You can find these little butterflies and many other coordinating prints in the Flutter Collection on Spoonflower.  And here is a look of the fabric (also printed on Cotton Spandex Jersey):

 

butterfly-party-by-brenda-zapotosky-fabric-photo

 

Raglan Tees

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I used the same pattern for both tees, the Raglan Sweatshirt 015 from Brindle and Twig. Since the kids are so close in age, I was able to use the same size for both of them!  For each shirt I was able to fit the body pieces on one fat quarter of the Spoonflower fabric and used solid fabric leftover from other projects for all the rest of the pieces.  (Huge perk of sewing for littles!!!)  I chose black for the fishes since there is already black in the design and I love how it makes the colors really pop.  For the butterflies I used this aqua I had in my stash that I was happy to see matched so well!  I was a bit concerned about the arms being lighter than the body (I guess when I think of raglans I usually think the darker color as the arms and bands) but I think it adds a lovely brightness!

butterfly-party-raglan-tee-by-brenda-zapotosky-with-words

fantasy-fish-raglan-tee-by-brenda-zapotosky-with-words

For the most part I thought this was a good pattern.  I was surprised at the size of all the bands, which seemed a little small in diameter to me.  I change almost all of them to be a little bit bigger after I sewed the first one (I THINK the neckband on the butterfly shirt is the only place where the band is cut to the pattern size).  I would definitely keep this change in the future.  It made it easier to sew and was still not too big. I made the butterfly raglan first so the tweaks on the fish one reflect what I learned from the first.  My only other complaint is with the pdf assembly.  I found that the aligning box on the pdfs to be a bit confusing.  Perhaps it would not be to someone else, but I thought I would mention it.  I will say that Melissa from Brindle and Twig was very kind and receptive to my feedback when I emailed her, which is huge bonus points in her favor!!!  Customer service and communication goes a long way in my book. I also like the very large size range that comes with the pattern.  I could make these for several more years before the kids will be too big for the pattern.

So there you have it!  A look at the progression of a design from the very beginings to a final finished project!  I’ll end with a couple of detail close-ups.

kiddo-raglans-by-brenda-zapotosky-details

And as always,

Thanks for Reading!

Brenda

 

Handmade Christmas Gifts 2016

handmade-christmas-gifts-2016
All wrapped up in my gift wrap featuring my design:  Christmas Triangles

I thought it would be fun to do a post sharing all the Christmas gifts I made.  I plan on doing seperate posts detailing a few of the projects so look for those soon.  I was much less ambitious this year than last, which ultimately made the “making” more fun.  It didn’t hurt that I now have a better idea of what I like to sew, so I didn’t take on any project that I would hate.  I also included a non-sewing project gift too.

KIDDO RAGLANS

kiddo-raglans-by-brenda-zapotosky-2
Fantasy Fish and Butterfly Party fabric designs by Brenda Zapotosky

These will be getting their own post (stay tuned!) so I will keep this brief.  I made my youngest niece and nephew raglan shirts using a few of my own designs.  I was able to get the body pieces cut out of 1 fat quarter each. The rest of the pieces were cut from solids that I also used for other projects, making these shirts not only super cute, but not too expensive either!  I actually gave these at Thanksgiving when my family was in town so that I could see them being opened (and worn!  They both had them on the next day 🙂 Having them finished so early was a nice load lifted off of me in December too.  Since I am planning a separate blog post, I’ll save more detailed photos for later.  Designs:  Fantasy Fish and Butterfly Party (Midnight) Both printed on Cotton Spandex Jersey.

DRAWSTRING BAGS

two-drawstrings-bags-by-brenda-zapotosky-2
Wacky Bicycles and Cool Guitars fabric designs by Brenda Zapotosky

For my dad, I sewed up two drawstring bags.  He is a man of many hobbies and interests and I figured that he could definitely use a few extra bags for a myriad of what-nots.  I chose two designs I thought he’d love (music/guitar playing and bike riding are two of his interests) and had them printed on Spoonflower’s Linen Cotton Canvas.  I chose this fabric because it is more heavy-duty than the basic cottons but isn’t super stiff.  It also has a lovely texture. Each used one Fat Quarter.  I have made several drawstring bags now and these are the best so far in terms of construction.  I used french seams and double folded over edges, but there were still a few exposed raw edged ends.  I thing I know how to finally eliminate these (guess I’ll need to sew a few more to make sure!).  For the drawstrings I used parachute cord, which was a totally new material to me.  I wanted something a bit more substantial, maybe even shoelace like, but wasn’t finding what I was picturing, and then I stumbled upon the parachute cord!!!  Given the variety of options the stores had, I’d say it is pretty popular stuff.  I loved that were so many colors to choose from too.  A big change from all my previous drawstring bags was the use of TWO SEPARATE sets of “strings” per bag.  Previously I used just one, so you need to use your hands to help cinch it closed.  By using two sets of strings, each curving opposite of each other, all you have to do is pull on the strings and it closes by itself.  I owe this “eureka” realization to my sister, who was the one who clued me into the secret.  Thanks sis!  My dad loved the bags, so overall:  Success!  Designs:  Wacky Bicycles (Off Road) and Cool Guitars.

PAXSON RAGLAN

christmas-paxson-looks-by-brenda-zapotosky
Paxson Raglan with custom designed fabric label

For my husband, I sewed up a color blocked Paxson Raglan (Pattern from Seamwork Magazine).  This is the second time I had sewed this pattern for him.  The first one was one of my biggest sewing disasters ever! (Check out this post for the horrible “Big Blue”) I stuck with cotton lycra this time, a tried and true substrate I knew I could sew well.  This one, however, was not without its own drama!  Originally I had planned a buffalo plaid for the body panels.  I cut one of them, only to discover that despite my meticulous efforts to cut it straight, the plaid was crooked.  Since I did not have enough left to recut that piece and the second one, I pulled out a piece of fabric from my stash instead.  Fortunately I had enough leftover of this lovely Robert Kaufman Laguna Jersey Pepper Heather from a previous project to cut the body pieces.  In the end, I think it ended up better than the original idea.  I love the gray and black together, and the fabrics are more similar in weight.  I have not yet taken any “in action” shots of the shirt being worn, and given its size, I went with partial or folded photos instead, but I think it is enough to give a basic idea of the shirt.  I made a straight size L, which fits pretty well.  I think it could be a tad longer so next time I’ll probably add an inch and I might try smaller SA for the body sides just to give it a tad more room.

(On a side note:  Turns out that plaid fabric is printed incorrectly, so it was NEVER going to have been straight.)

TWO-SIDE MINI-COWL

kiku-winter-mini-cowl-by-brenda-zapotosky-words

I have sewn a lot of mini-cowls (both one fabric and two fabric versions) for gifts in the past.  This year I only ended up gifting one.  I actually made 2, since I bought a fat quarter of each design and that is enough to make two two-sided cowls.  One I gave to my mom. The other I kept for myself.  🙂  My mom only had one so far, and I know how much she loves it, so I wanted her to have another one.  For the prints I picked the Winter version of my Kiku Garden design and the coordinating print, Kiku Pops Twilight.

NOT-SO-KNOTTED TOTE

notso-tote-4-by-brenda-zapotosky
Geometric Cactus Flowers fabric design by Brenda Zapotosky

This was my 4th time making a variation of this bag.  (To see my first and learn about how it got its peculiar name check out this post).   I made this for my sister.  I have a full blog post planned for this one too, so I’ll save all the details and more photos for then.  The exterior fabric is the “Shadow” colorway of my Geometric Cactus Flower design printed on Spoonflower’s Cotton Poplin.

VACATION PHOTO BOOK

san-diego-photo-book-by-brenda-zapotosky

This is not a sewing project, but I do consider it a handmade gift (even though it was “manufactured” elsewhere) since I put in a lot of time designing and creating it!  In October 2013, my family celebrated my mom’s 60th birthday with a meet-up vacation in Southern California (we are currently living in 3 different states).  I was obviously way delayed in getting this book together, but I knew my mom and step-dad who wouldn’t make these books themselves would love a memoir of the trip with our collection of photos all together.  It was a big undertaking, but worth all the time, because they loved it!  And thanks to my coupon savvy I was able to get this book and a copy for my myself for a pretty good price too!

That’s it folks! I hope you have enjoyed seeing on my 2016 Christmas gift makes.  Maybe I even inspired a future project idea too!

Brenda

 

 

Sammy the Whale and Friends Plushie Project

sammy-the-whale-and-friends-title-photo-smaller

I’m an aunt to a lot of littles and not-so-littles.  In fact I have 16 nieces and nephews between my and my husband’s side of the family.  The most recent additions, one girl and one boy, are cousins born just a few weeks apart.  For their first birthdays (which were late spring/early summer, I am WAY behind on this blog post) I decided to dive into the world of plushie sewing!  I have seen so many cute projects by others and I had the perfect character already in my library in which to create my plushies:  Sammy the Whale!  I first created Sammy for my original Whales and Waves Pattern for a contest on Spoonflower.  I have since created 3 other colorways of the design as well as a second pattern that features Sammy in a new way.  (You can find all the designs in this Collection).  For this cut-and-sew version I enlarged Sammy and a few of his fishy friends to make some fun plush play toys for the kiddos. (Side note:  I did not plan this photo shoot very well and gifted the items before realizing I could have used a few close-ups etc. I apologize in advance for not having detail photos).

sammy-the-whale-and-friends-plushie-with-words-seaside

 

I definitely learned a lot by sewing these, (including the slip-stitch.  So nifty!) But mainly, that I do NOT like sewing plushies!  I had to do a lot of reshaping of the outline to get Sammy’s tail and curve looking nice which was rather frustrating.  The GOOD NEWS is, because I sewed these, I was able to tweak the original design so that they will now be much easier to sew!  The plushies you see here in this post are VERSION 1.  Version 2, which are listed in my shop, have softer, easier to sew curved outlines and more space between the dashed edges and the characters.  So your finished version will have more white space around your sea creatures. I also added a third polka-dot fish!

To supplement my printed fish I decided to add a few extra fish made out of felt.  To create these I traced the outside of the fish onto 2 pieces of felt and 1 piece slightly smaller out of thin quilt batting.  I sandwiched them together and stitched the outline near the edge and then used a wavy stitch on my machine to create ripples on the body.  Using this wavy stitch might have been my favorite part of the project!  I used just one standard little sheet of felt from the craft store and was able to get 2 fish from it.

sammy-the-whale-and-friends-pinky-by-brenda-zapotosky

Construction:  Since I used a lightweight fabric, I chose to add fusible fleece to all the character pieces to give them more structure and pad them from potential stuffing lumps. Then simply stuffed them to desired firmness with loose fill.

Lastly I created a matching drawstring bag to hold all the little critters.  I used one fat quarter of the color coordinating versions of my Confetti Fish print:  Confetti Fish (Seaside) and Confetti Fish (Pinky).  I chose the Basic Cotton Ultra for mine, but if you go for a wider fabric you’ll get a wider bag too.  There are several other prints in the Collection that would work for the bag as well.

BONUS:  I wanted this project to work on ANY of the Spoonflower fabrics.  So I sized it to be 21″ wide to fit the Whale and 3 Little Fish.  If you order a wider fabric you will also get a BONUS character:  Jeremy the Jellyfish!  Here is a look at the 2 widths.  It is all the same listing, and available in both colorways, you will see the jellyfish appear when you pick a wider fabric.  (My version was made with the Basic Cotton Ultra).

whales-cut-and-sew-two-sizes-by-brenda-zapotosky

I was very happy with how these turned out in the end (and they were very light and easy to ship!) but I won’t be making plushies again anytime soon… maybe ever. he he he

Thanks for reading!

Brenda

 

Travel Jewelry Pouch

Floral Bliss Jewelry Pouch Folded by Brenda Zapotosky with Words

Several years ago my sister gave me a lovely travel jewelry pouch as a present.  She mentioned loving it so much she wanted one for herself too, but when she tried to find another one they no longer made them.  Knowing that she was so fond of mine I thought it would be the perfect gift to make for her.  Shouldn’t be too hard, right?  It only required sewing 3 zippers on one item, binding multiple layers of interfacing and materials (a skill I have NOT mastered), and sewing VINYL (for the first time).  But whatever, I could handle it… I thought.

I found a pattern/tutorial online that was similar to my pouch, (and it seemed a little easier to make), so I went with that.  It is officially called the Mini Jewelry Roll by Haberdashery Fun.  You can also download a pdf version of the tutorial at the Pellon website.  I used the pdf since I prefer looking off of a piece of paper rather than a device when I am sewing.  I decided to make mine a little less mini, and it folds over itself rather than rolls, thus I am calling mine a pouch.  But that really isn’t important.  🙂

Onto the sewing!

I asked my sister to give me a list of some of her current favorite fabrics in my Spoonflower Shop and I would pick from that list for her gift. (The actual fabric I went with remained a surprise, as did the gift itself, she did not know what I would be making when she made her list).  Of her picks, I thought the Floral Bliss Coral and Mint (small scale) design would work well for this project.  Since it did not have any coordinating prints I whipped up a simple matching polka-dot for the inside of the pouch.  I chose black zippers and bias tape for the trimmings and really love how they pop against the prints.

Since I had enough length with my fabric and I know that my sister has a preference towards chunky jewelry, I decided to make my pouch a few inches longer than the instructions suggested, I THINK I added 4″ total in length (I should have written it down), giving each pouch section an extra inch in depth and the pouch itself an extra inch.  The pouch is still nice and compact, but I think the extra room makes it a little bit more versatile.

Sewing the vinyl was much less difficult than I expected!  For my first attempt, I followed the directions and sewed with the vinyl on top of the zipper edge (with no pins, etc. to hold it down).  The results were not good.  It was VERY wavy and did not lie flat.  So I removed the zipper and came up with a new method instead.  I decided to put the zipper on top as the finished “edge”.  I liked the fabric of the zipper being the exposed piece instead of the vinyl edge and because the solid black was now on top, I could use Wash-Away Wonder Tape to hold it in place and it would not be seen.  Normally I would not worry about the tape showing since as its name suggests it dissolves away when you wash it, but not knowing if this pouch would be washed I wanted to keep it hidden. Other than that change I pretty much followed the directions for the rest of it (with one other exception as you will see). Along the lines of the cotton ball suggestion, I did put a folded up wad of scraps in all of the pouches before sewing them down to help ensure they would not be too tight to hold chunky jewelry.

As hinted at above, sewing on the bias tape binding was my failure of the project.  I need to blame this partially on the fact that I did not follow the instructions and sew it to the inside first before folding over to enclose the edge and top stitch on the outside.  My mind got a little jumbled about whether bias tape (instead of classic quilt-style binding) could still work like this.  And I didn’t think it was really necessary.  (And maybe I was a bit impatient too…) I really, really, REALLY wish I would have done it.  My single stitching along the binding did not catch all the edges on the inside and I ended up having to do a second line of stitching in places to catch it all. Had I done the inside stitch first, even though the top-stitching would have missed in places, it would have still had that first stitch to hold it down.  The end result is quite ugly and definitely not up to my personal standards (especially for a gift).  But if I had pulled it all out and started over it would have left a line of holes in the vinyl and I wasn’t sure if that would compromise the integrity of the piece.  So, despite my disappointment, I left it.  AND it doesn’t effect the function of the pouch at all.  Yay for that!

Floral Bliss Jewelry Pouch Flat by Brenda Zapotosky

Besides the ugly binding I am very happy with the end result.  If I was to make one again (and I don’t see that happening anytime soon) I would want to have the zipper width better span the width of the pouch.  Right now there are gaps on each side. (I kept the zipper and width exactly as instructed in the tutorial)  Next time I would use the next size up from  7″ to 9″ zippers but only increase the width of the pouch by an inch.  This would eliminate the gap.  Otherwise it is a great tutorial.  And despite the binding flaws, my sister LOVES it!  And that is really all that matters.

Floral Bliss Jewelry Pouch Inside  by Brenda Zapotosky

Floral Bliss Jewelry Pouch Close Up 2  by Brenda Zapotosky
Check out that custom designed label!

Floral Bliss Jewelry Pouch Close Up 1 by Brenda Zapotosky