Finishing Unfinished Projects (UFOs) Part 1: Smaller Items

The Problem

Over the years, I have accumulated an ever-growing pile of UFOs (Unfinished Objects). This wasn’t intentional, it just kind of happened. Sometimes I was working on things right before vacations or trips, and never got to them once back. At other times I started something new before finishing an existing project, and then moved on. And right before my father passed away, I worked on a big batch of totes, and then couldn’t bare to touch them afterwards.

I kept my UFO pile on a glider chair that was a part of our guest room before I conquered it and turned it into a sewing room. It didn’t bother anyone, and was just sitting there, getting taller and taller each year, out of mind although in plain sight (I have to admit that sometimes I did feel a little guilty because of it…). Over the years, whenever I did a major tidying up of the sewing room, I reluctantly went over that pile, and sometimes took things out that I no longer liked. But major tidying up was rare, and for the most part I didn’t even remember what was in the pile. Until, in the fall, my kids decided they needed the glider chair, that is. They moved it into our family room, leaving my UFO pile homeless on the floor…

You need to understand that my sewing room is rather small, and that a queen-sized guest bed takes most of its floor space. That leaves very little space for me to work in. Having the UFO pile take some of that space was bothersome. And so, in December, I decided to go over it and take inventory.

My UFO Pile

During my excavations of the pile, I found 58 projects (!!) as follows:

1 troll art doll.
1 veggie bag.
1 moth soft sculpture.
1 boro spring jacket.
2 journal covers.
3 messenger bags.
5 small crossbody bags.
6 clutches.
7 zippered pouches of different kinds.
8 quilts/wall hangings varying from small to a twin-sized bed quilt.
And, last but not least, a staggering 23 totes!

The Resolution

I am usually not one to make New Year’s resolutions, but this was too much. Besides, I needed the floor space for my scrap boxes. AND I thought I should teach my kids by example, and I DO want them to finish things they start… So, I decided to dedicate January to finishing up as many of these projects as I could. I forbade myself from starting anything new for an entire month.

The Execution

I decided right away that I don’t have to finishing everything. Only the projects that I still liked, and only those that were in fairly advanced sewing stages. I decided to absorb the fabrics of early-stage projects back into my stash. That meant dismantling the veggie bag, moth, one journal cover, one crossbody bag, five clutches and a zippered pouch. All of these went back into my stash, as I barely started them.

I resolved to leaving the jacket for the spring, and work on the quilts later.

Of what was left, I decided to start with the smaller projects, the ones I could complete relatively quickly. I knew that seeing them finished will encourage me to keep going.

Pouches

I began by completing the zipper pouches. The first three I probably started in preparation for some craft fair or other, although I don’t remember exactly when. I worked on scrappy pouches (in the bottom pf the picture) in fall 2019, when I made them as gifts to family and friends. I didn’t have time to finished those three then. If you’d like to try making your own, you can find a tutorial here.

Once the pouches were all finished, I went on to complete the one remaining clutch. I started it in spring 2018, in preparation for a May craft fair. At the time, I made two clutches out of the same beautiful embroidered fabric. I never got to finish this one, so it ended up in my UFO pile. Its sibling, on the other hand, sold right away.
Like all my clutches, I lined this one with silk and decorated it with an enameled coconut-shell button.

Crossbody Bags

When I finished with the small items, I moved on to the mini crossbody bags. I don’t remember when I started those. More than a year had passed since I last sewed a bag, and when I resumed working on these I was surprised to realize just how much work they were. There are so many required steps, thread changes, ironing…

Back in December, when I decided to dedicate January to UFOs, I imagined myself sitting in my warm sewing room, hot beverage at hand, looking out at the rain. But January 2021 in California turned out to be one of the warmest I remember. It was dry, sunny and for one week–summer hot, with temperatures close to 80 degrees. Naturally, I couldn’t just sit and sew. I ended up spending a few days gardening, something I’ve never done in January before…

Messenger bag

There were three messenger bags in my pile. Two required just a few extra rivets. The third, in the below picture, waited almost-finished for a LONG time. It was one of the very first bags I ever designed. At the beginning, I experimented with shaping bag flaps to match the fabric designs. I probably made 3-4 bags in this way. For this one, I sewed the flap and lining years ago, but still needed to finish the outer layer. In recent years I’ve always been making the lining last, so it was surprising to realize that I made them first once. It might be five years later, but I finally finished it!

Blue messenger bag

Most of these finished items are now listed in my Etsy shop

Unisex Urban Messenger Bags

When I first sojourned into the bag-making world, I mostly enjoyed sewing messenger bags. Over the last couple of years, however, I found myself making less and less of them. Earlier this year, I finished some messenger bags as part of my efforts to reduce the piles of Unfinished Projects (UFOs), but those were designed along with my early work, and were already cut and ready for sewing. I haven’t designed new ones in a while.

Well, a few weeks ago I set about to tidy up my sewing room. I found a piece of sample fabric swatches that I really liked. Their pattern and colors stood out to me, so I started playing around with them. I realized that the best way to do them justice will be by making them into messenger-bag flaps.There were four flaps in the end, all made from the same fabrics, but in different color combinations. I then set them aside.

This week, winter returned with a spell of gray days accompanied by downpours of rain and even some hail. I was in a gray mood. It was the perfect setting to work on some gray messenger bags!

The flaps were mostly finished, but didn’t have closures. To me, their pattern felt very urban, modern and edgy. I sewed them to be rough on the edges, with a somewhat unfinished look. To match that city look, I decided to give them swivel-hook closures. I also added some top stitching, to make the underside of each flap a little piece of abstract art:

Each flap I matched with a solid fabric for the body, in a color that made its own colors pop out. I sewed the outer shells:

Then the linings:

Before I was about to connect the outer shells to the linings, I realized, to my horror, that I was very low on black thread…

Amazon to the rescue! But I still held my breath as I was stitching them together…

The thread barely lasted through the last stitch!

There still wasn’t enough thread to finish the straps, however, so I had to wait a day for my Amazon parcel to arrive. But the wait was worth it, as I’m very happy with how this collection turned out 🙂

And since I was already in a gray mood anyway, and had a brand new spool of black thread to boot, I went on to make a couple of gray and red artsy sling bags as well:

I plan to put them all up in my Etsy store over the next couple of days, so make sure to check it out!

Off Track, Again… But Isn’t It Fun?!

The days are too short. Or maybe it’s that the weeks aren’t long enough. Either way, I seem to blink, and it’s Friday again… My to-do lists never get shorter. My project piles never shrink. And the many, many ideas in my head just keep accumulating, waiting for a right moment that never comes.

Can you tell I’ve been busy? Both in the sewing room and out. There are kids to drive around, school events to go to, groceries to buy and meals to cook. And then there’s a house, a garden, and always, ALWAYS laundry… Despite it all, I managed to sew quite a bit in the last couple of weeks, and that’s the part I want to tell you about today.

Cleaning up my sewing room a few weeks ago turned out to be somewhat problematic. It’s true that I greatly enjoy the extra space and added cleanliness. However, allowing myself to bend my New Year’s resolution got me off track. I am really happy with how my Peruvian Tapestry Totes turned out. Working on them, though, cracked the dam that held my creativity at bay. The result? A flood of new ideas, unchecked excitement, new experimentation and a bunch of new projects… I just can’t help it! So, sadly, I made only a tiny dent in my original UFO piles, but then added quite a few new projects to make them significantly taller…

When you sew, you see, there are scraps. And when scraps accumulate, they start giving you ideas… For me, there is nothing better than sitting on the carpet surrounded by fabrics. Beautiful fabrics, in different colors, shapes, and sizes. And when this happens, I start playing, matching, designing…

Don’t these pieces look great together? They will make a gorgeous new sling bag.

And these, I just HAD to sew into a flap (for another cute, spring-colored sling):

These are flaps for messenger-bags-to-be. They started their journey as a sample that caught my eye on FabMo’s wall. They looked so amazing together that I just couldn’t resist… And yes, I will sew the rest of them, eventually…

Then I made a cross body bag for a friend, and happened to notice a few other pieces that also wanted to become cross body bags. So I let them. I love them all, but especially this one:

I DID work on some linings for previously-sewn shells (i.e.–UFOs), but these require many steps and take a while to make:

In the midst of all this, I also took a couple of days’ detour to make a custom tote for a special lady:

Ah, and there’s the troll. But he deserves his very own post, another day 🙂

A New Year in My Studio: Trying to Finish Partially-sewn Projects

I’m not quite done writing about my trip to Peru, but I thought I’ll take a break from that to tell you a little about what I’ve been up to in my sewing room.

Transitions are always hard for me. It usually takes me a while to get back into a routine after going on a trip. Especially a trip as exciting as the one I took this winter. So after coming home from the Andes in early January, I warmed up my sewing muscles by making a few new toiletry bags. Zip pouches are relatively simple to make, and are a quicker sew than my more complicated bags. They were a great project for getting my creative juices flowing!

This time I decided to experiment with using foamed-filled fabrics for some of the bottoms. I love the result, as the foam gives the bags a nice shape in addition to fun textures!

Since valentine’s Day is approaching, I then went on to make new original fabric heart-cards. These are always fun to create. This year I made them in three different colors: red, blue, and my favorite purple!

Here are the red ones:

The fabrics I used for the cards inspired me to make a wall hanging, too:

When this fun part was over, I was ready to tackle some less-pleasant tasks. Over the past couple of years, you see, I accumulated big piles of partly-finished projects. These are now taking up a lot of space in my small, messy sewing room. They make moving around hard, and concentrating even harder.

I began working on these projects at various times, and didn’t finish them either because guests arrived before I got to it (my sewing room is also our guest room), or because we went on vacation, and I never got back to them upon return. I usually have so many ideas for new things I want to make, that unless I finish something right away, I never do…

But a new year just started, and I thought that this was a good reason to try and finish these partially-finished things. In the past, I started the year by cleaning up my sewing room, but this time I can’t do that unless I move the unfinished piles into the finished-work bins…

I started with a couple of messenger bags and a tote. The bag on the upper left is my very own long-awaited-for summer purse:

I still have a few more messenger bags to finish, as well as market totes and my absolute-favorite Renaissance Totes. There is also an eclipse-inspired art quilt that I started last year, and a twin-size bed quilt for my daughter that has been waiting, sandwiched and ready to quilt, for at least four years (!!!).

I guess I have my work cut out for me for the next few months… It’s hard to keep disciplined, because a million-and-one new ideas are calling. But I will do my best to keep on course. Wish me luck!

 

Autumn Sewing: My New Fall Handbag Collection

The official beginning of fall came and went amidst mid-summer temperatures. True, some shifts were already in the air, like the subtle yellowing of light or the gradual lengthening of shadows. But the weather still called for shorts and tank tops, and the large majority of trees remained stubbornly green.

To me, fall begins on the day in which I find myself looking for my slippers–a furry, chunky pair in light pink, which I would never have picked for myself (light pink being among my least-favorite colors). I inherited them from my younger daughter a year ago, after we realized that–YIKES!!–her feet had outgrown mine. Color notwithstanding, my slippers are pure softness and warmness and feet-happiness, the best possible companions for cold winter days. I found myself desperately looking for them (and for a jacket!) earlier this week, when early-morning temperatures suddenly plummeted. Fall, it seems, has finally arrived in California.

It is true that whimsical temperatures keep the trees confused. While the mornings and evenings are getting noticeably cold, mid-day temperatures fluctuate drastically. The forecast for today, for example, is 85 degrees, with tomorrow being even warmer. Only a handful of leaves on my backyard Maple tree show early signs of turning. All the other trees are still clinging to their summer attire.

But I already went into full-blown autumn-mode, complete with pumpkin-pie cravings, gourd decorating, and–how not?–fall-color sewing! Earlier this week I happily dug into my fabric piles, picking autumn-feeling pieces and drowning myself in a jumble of deep maroons, wine-reds, mustard yellows and browns, all in rich, delicious textures. I spent a couple of fun days matching different pieces together, and playing around with various combinations. Finally, I settled on the following six, my upcoming fall collection:

Warm, autumn-colored textiles

Autumn-colored textiles

Warm, autumn-colored fabrics

Fall-colored upholstery fabrics

More autumn-colored textiles

Fall-colored fabrics

I proceeded to cut the fabrics for all six fall purses, linings and pockets included. My hope is to complete all six by the end of next week, in time for my October 22 crafts fair. Yesterday, after looking at my planner and realizing how little time I have left, I decided to skip exercise and spent the entire day sewing instead. The result: my first two autumn bags, still awaiting their straps (which I plan to attach after all six are sewn):

Any Texture Fall collection handbags. upholstery textile purses