Raindrops on roses & penguins on polka dots

Okay, okay, so I know they’re not quite the lyrics to acccompany Julie Andrew’s melody from the Sound of Music, but I strongly believe it is only because she didn’t have this enchanting fabric in front of her at the time. If they’d given her this fabric to make clothes out of for the troublesome Von Trapp children, instead of the putrid moss flocked curtains they ended up in, then well, let’s just say things might have turned out very differently indeed.


Many of you know of my ongoing obsession current enthusiasm for bird prints (we’re talking everything from tiny wee swallows to giant parrots … my avian infatuation is non-descriminatory!) and as soon as I saw this print in the window of a tiny village shop I fell in love. I was shopping with my mum at the time and she did her classic, “Seriously?” face as I pointed to it on the bolt and exclaimed, “Oh my goodness, I LOVE that!” Mind you, as it is a Nancy Wolff print for Kokka (imported from Japan) it certainly wasn’t cheap. It’s a medium to heavy weight linen and so that limited my options with what to make with it (please don’t think I didn’t toy with the idea of a penguin print dress because I so did … however, common sense and not wanting to have to send my cats out to sweep chimneys in order to earn extra money for their human’s fabric addiction saw me purchase a much more sensible lone metre).

I decided that the best option for my scant yardage was to make a bag, and so I whiled away a good few hours on pinterest, oohing and ahhing over other people’s amazing bag makes and tutorials. Then I saw this lovely pattern from Tiny Seamstress. The bag I picked is the Mini Poppins bag (note that the downloadable pdf pattern also features another tote style bag too – two for the price of one!). I was delighted, but once the pattern downloaded I faced a dilemma. Could I really fit everything I usually cram into my handbag into something that used the term “mini” in its description? That would include mobile phone, three half used packets of pocket tissues, random pens (usually without lids), lipsticks, sunnies, a large handful of receipts, my wallet, one stray earring and some baby wet wipes (yep, I know wet wipes are a mum’s secret weapon and I’m not a mum, but ever since my friend Laura demonstrated how to wipe blood from a cream satin shoe using only a baby wipe I don’t travel anywhere without them!) In the end I plumped to enlarge the pattern to 125% size when I output it, just to give me a bit more storage space for all my stuff. This decision comes back to bite me later … stick with me and you’ll see.

Anyhow, the pattern was great (although no pictures for those of you who like a helpful diagram but I found that by referring back to the photo I could see what I was meant to be doing) and I chose to pair the penguins with a dark navy linen polka dot and a hint of orange (to pick up the tones in their lovely little beaks). The pattern is intended to be sewn with quilting weight cotton, so although I did use fusible fleece for my outer bag parts and the inside pocket, I didn’t add it to the lining as I used a thick checked wool tweed in burnt orange. Be warned though – when you get to the strap insertion and sewing the whole darn lot together, it is not for the faint hearted! It was all I could do to jimmy it under the presser foot on my machine and I sewed the whole top seam with my eyes half closed awaiting a needle break or some other sewing catastrophe. It was like sewing through a fabric mountain. Luckily, my new sewing machine is obviously made of stern stuff as it sewed through without a problem. Here are some detail shots.


Yep, did you see that wonky topstitching? Well, topstitching through all layers was no fun either, especially where the straps joined. There was thick linen, fusible fleece, strap and wool lining to get through and I just couldn’t make it as perfect as I would have liked. I unpicked it once and restitched, but exactly the same thing happened again. Ah well, if the sewing gods dictate slightly cockeyed topstitching then who am I to deny them? This is also where I encoutered my mistake … the pattern is designed (at 100% size) to perfectly align the width of the outside feature pockets to the width of the strap. Yet, because I had upsized the bag, mine doesn’t match. That’ll teach me to be a smarty pants. “Why not just make wider straps?” you ask … ah, well, that’s because it’s nigh on impossible to source wider rectangular metal strap rings. Next time I make this bag I am just going to do it regular size so everything aligns perfectly. Repeat after me “pattern designers know what they are doing!” 😉


Overall though, despite these minor imperfections, I am delighted with the bag. The penguins get a lot of attention when we’re out and about (only fitting seeing as some of them are wearing trilbies, so have obviously dressed up for the occasion). It was also my Sew Green December make … although it is a little late to the party. Now it’s back to the jungle for me, with two more makes to finish by month end. I have no idea what February is for the Sewcialists? Anyone?

Published by t@uandmii

Colour mad designer rampages gleefully through the world of plus size sewing! Oh, and there may be shoes … and cats.

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