A ghost from my Christmas past

A few years my parents moved back to Colorado and hosted Christmas. That year my mom had put up three Christmas trees. Yes, I did say three, which should tell you something about what her house turns into at the holidays. Every room is decorated; sometimes one of the bathrooms will have its very own miniature tree. It’s both alarming and impressive.

I hadn’t been to their house for the holidays for a number of years, so when I ran across this little guy I wasn’t surprised by the fact that he looked familiar.

At first I thought perhaps I’d seen him in years gone by. Then it occurred to me that maybe I’d bought him and given him to my parents one year. And then I realized…

I’d made him!!!!!

Coincidentally, he’s made from the same fabric I used for my Christmas tote some 18 or so years later.

I didn’t find anything new at their house this year, but I know my long ago holiday craft phase involved more than making one Santa, so it’s just a matter of time before something else pops up…


I finally finished sewing buttons on my dress, but I haven’t had the heart to post about it yet because we had to put Lucy, my sewing buddy, to sleep this month.

Lucy was recovering very nicely from elbow surgery, but unbeknownst to us she also had cancer. By the time we found out it was far too late to do anything. She was only six years old.

Lucy loved to lie by me when I was sewing, and this often turned into her lying on whatever I was sewing. Once I was hemming one leg of a pair of flannel pajamas when she laid down on the other leg…she looked so comfortable I moved on to another project and gave up on that one for the day. She was there for all of my photographs – if she wasn’t in them she was just off camera making me smile. We miss her very, very much.

Christmas tote bag

Two weeks ago I decided to forbid myself from working on any sewing projects except the dress that was done except for buttons and a hem. I industriously sewed three whole buttons, then discovered a loophole…anything made with Christmas fabric had to be made immediately, because what’s the point of making something with a holiday theme if you can’t enjoy it for that holiday?

No, I did not sew all of those little squares – that’s just the pattern in the fabric. I’d rather sew buttons than put that much work into a bag.

Many years ago I went through a Christmas craft phase, during which I apparently went nuts buying holiday-themed fabric. I dug it all out and ran it through the washer and dryer. Lucy found the pile after I’d pulled it out of the dryer, so I had to delay putting it all away.

The fur on her front shoulder looks funny because she had elbow surgery about a month and a half ago, and they shaved both of her front legs. It’s been neat seeing it grow back because it’s all fuzzy and thick – it’s like she has a fleece undercoat.

Fortunately I’d snagged the fabric I wanted before she made her nest, because she was sleepy and therefore crabby. It’s best to let a sleeping Lucy lie.

The gray and white flowered fabric in the background is the dress that needs buttons. I seem to be able to walk by it every day without feeling guilty, so I’m trying to figure out another plan.

I originally thought I’d walk through Kristin Link’s free Craftsy class. I started watching the class, which is quite well done and very easy to follow. Then I decided the proportions of the main/contrast fabrics weren’t right for me, and what I really wanted was to duplicate a Vera Bradley tote bag that I use all the time. I wrote down the measurements used in the Craftsy class and measured my Vera Bradley bag…and then I went off the rails.

Making something without a pattern isn’t all that challenging as long as you’re okay making mistakes and having to redo things. Since I have this issue when I do follow patterns I was unfazed by the complications I created for myself. At some point along the way I wrote down these measurements, which are probably close to what I used:

main fabric

  • exterior: 16″ x 17″ on the fold
  • straps: 3″ x 27″
  • interior pocket: 12″ x 6″

contrast fabric

  • exterior: 16″ x 4″
  • interior: 16″ x 19″ on the fold
  • interior cardboard holder: 13″ x 5″

These measurements got a bit tweaked because I had to shave things down here and there to account for my sloppiness – but they’re roughly correct. I used a 1/2″ seam allowance. I totally made up the pocket. Next time I may sew a seam down the center because it’s a tiny bit floppy.

My Vera Bradley bag has a pocket-like thing at the bottom of the bag, with a thin piece of cardboard in it. It’s structured so you can easily remove the cardboard, presumably in case you want to wash your bag. I decided to not sew my version to the inside of the bag until I’d tried it out, but I probably will because it seems to be working well.

One thing I made up that I am happy about is that I cut the main exterior fabric and the interior fabric on the fold, so I didn’t have to sew a seam on the bottom of the bag.

You may be wondering why on earth I didn’t just finish watching the Craftsy class, which is an excellent question that I have also asked myself. I did like the class, at least the part that I watched, and I’ve recommended it to some of my girlfriends who are interested in learning how to sew – I have nothing but good things to say about the class. I’d been wanting to sew a tote bag for a while before I found out about the class, so I think I just wanted to see how good of a job I could do on my own. I’m planning on watching the rest of the videos to see what else I could have done better.

The end result is as I would have expected – the bag is nice, but would have turned out a little nicer if I’d put more thought into it. It really does help if you have a plan when you start a sewing project… That said, the bag is sturdy, and the business of the fabric makes it difficult for anyone (except me) to see where I was a little sloppy.

Now I don’t have any more excuses about sewing buttons…but I bet I can come up with something if I try…