Pattern Review: The Lola Bea Diaper Bag

I am not a seamstress. I can sew, don’t get me wrong, but I would never presume to call myself an expert. Nor, in truth, would I consider myself terribly intermediate, either. I do best with straight lines and simple patterns and easy to follow instructions, and I am far too impatient to iron every seam between steps or pick out stitches that aren’t quite right.

Except, it turns out, when I decide that no matter what, this project just has to be absolutely perfectly perfect in every way.

Enter the Lola Bea Diaper Bag pattern.


I came across this pattern while looking for a simple tote bag pattern to make swimming bags for the kids for their swimming lessons. The pictures caught my eye and my heart and I thought to myself Oh, I wish I could sew things like that!

I clicked the “Favourite” button on Etsy and tried to put it out of my mind. I am not a very talented seamstress, you see. I do much, much better with hand sewing, and this bag definitely wouldn’t be well suited for hand sewing.

A month later, the bag was still floating around in the back of my mind and, with M so pregnant she looked ready to pop any day, I took the plunge and bought the pattern in hopes of actually being able to make her a diaper bag that wouldn’t embarrass her when out in public.  I figured that if it should prove too complicated, I would simply chalk it up as yet another failed sewing attempt and that would be that, with M none the wiser. Handmade with love was what I was hoping for. If it came out looking more homemade, I could always just keep it for myself. And if it came out (as I rather expected it would) looking like something a 2 year old cobbled together with the help of some string, spit, and glue… well, I could always cut it apart again and use the scraps for crazy quilting.

When I opened up the pattern and started to read, I started to panic.

The bag is fully lined with elasticized pockets, which I knew I could do as I have tried my hand at that before. But it also has an interior zippered pocket that is fully lined and perfectly centered in the middle, and a magnetic snap closure.

I was in over my head, and I knew it.

But then I realized something amazing: The Lola Bea Diaper Bag Pattern is a zillion pages long and the designer, Abby of Sew Much Ado, included detailed photographs of every single step. Every one.

Every step of this bag is explained in easy to understand language with accompanying photographs.

So clearly explained, in fact, that this was the result:

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It is slightly floppier than it should be since I couldn’t find heavyweight interfacing and had to settle for a medium weight, but I am so thrilled with how it turned out! There are exterior elasticized pockets:

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A lovely ruffle down the front with a magnetic snap closure (a first for me — I had never tried installing one before).

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A messenger-bag style flap that I lined to match the ruffle and has the other half of the magnetic snap sandwiched between the layers:

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The inside is fabulous, with lots of elastic pockets around the edges and a zippered pocket perfectly placed in the centre of the lining:

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Do you see that zippered pocket? Do you see it? I am so pleased with that pocket. I have never, ever, not since Grandma R first showed me how to put in a zipper when I was about B’s age, put in a zipper. I have no idea why, but zippers have always scared me — nevermind fully lined zippered pouches that have to fit perfectly across the centre of the bag.

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I ran out of the cute dog print fabric as it was a single fat quarter in the midst of a big bin, so I ad-libbed on the pattern a bit (don’t tell me you are surprised that I broke the rules again) and made the elastic pockets out of half print fabric and half lining fabric, and then did the same with the striped fabric on the other side so that it matched. Sort of. Since stripes and dogs don’t exactly match, but you know what I mean.

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I also added a handy-dandy hook loop to hold your keys. Ever since getting a purse that had such a hook, I have wished for such a hook in every purse or bag or backpack I have ever had. So I gave her one. And I gave her a loop on the other side for attaching a pacifier or a little toy.

All in all, I am thrilled with how the bag turned out. I couldn’t have done it without such a wonderfully clearly written and thoroughly photographed pattern that really is more tutorial than simple pattern and taught me a lot about bag construction.

My final verdict: This is a 10-star pattern in a 5-star world and I would happily by more patterns from Abby again.


How Not To Finish An Embroidery Project

I’ve been working steadily away on the Christmas felt kit I first blogged about here and to my great surprise, it has now joined the ranks of finished objects. Of course, I couldn’t just leave it the way it was meant to be in the pattern designer’s eyes… oh no! Follow the ‘recipe’? Nope, not me. I’m getting rather good at not following recipes, after all.

The pattern is a fun one… Santa on his sleigh, soaring high above the rooftops as his trusty reindeer prance merrily across a moonlit sky.

Santa’s sleigh was fun to do, filled with the big man himself with a sack full of toys, and with sequined contrails flying out behind. The reindeer however… those reindeer bothered me. See the problem?


No? Let me zoom in a little…

He’s just too plain! His harness and head straps are just… boring! Red and green, typical Christmas, but oh so very ordinary. What to do? What to do?

Add some embroidery embellishments, that’s what to do! Here’s what I did:

French knots in two shades of read on the head piece, and sort of detached chain stitch with french knots on the body harnesses, in a different colour for each of the three reindeer. Don’t they look cute?

There’s only one tiny little problem…

Once I finished fancying-up these three gentlemen, the rest of the piece looked rather un-embellished. So I fancied up Santa’s beard with french knots and bullion stitch and satin stitch and more. And then I fancied up the toy drum some. And then I fancied up the stars in the sky. And then I decided the edge of the finished pillow looked a little plain, so I bought some lovely gold cord to fix that.

So even though the project is, technically, a finished object… somehow it still isn’t finished.

What’s more, while I was busy un-finishing it, a certain little girl caught the bug and started an embroidery project of her own. Two projects, if I’m completely honest, and a third is now underway.

First, she decided she wanted to learn how to do those funny little french knots I kept adding to Santa’s beard, so I showed her. They do take some practice, and practice she did. She’s very persistent when she wants to be. Even when your needle comes unthreaded and your thread ties itself in knots and then — even worse! — wraps itself around to the wrong side of your embroidery project.

But if you are patient, and can rethread your needle when necessary, and then rethread it again because the pesky thing just won’t cooperate… well then! You can master anything.

And once you’ve mastered french knots, why satin stitch is positively easy!

In no time at all, you have yourself an environmentally friendly, completely reusable, non-synthetic wool and cotton poppy to wear on your lapel for Remembrance Day.

So what is project number three?

Ah… well… that’s a surprise, you see. But it involves lazy daisies and backstitch and stem stitch and running stitch and the cutest little Christmas ornament pattern you ever did see. It’s a set of six, of which three are being stitched by me and are destined for my mother’s tree, and the other three are being stitched by B, hopefully for me!


Christmas in July

It has begun. The collecting and deciding and stitching and fussing has begun. You see, I finally, finally finished stitching the tree skirt I started several years ago. It’s true! It’s done!

That tree skirt now has history, and it hasn’t even made it under the Christmas tree yet. Every year on the first of December, I drag out the boxes of Christmas decorations and transform our house into something altogether more decorated than it is the rest of the year. What can I say – I like Christmas! And every year, I find the bag that holds the tree skirt kit that I purchased oh so long ago and haven’t yet finished.

It mocks me, that tree skirt.

It sits there in its bag taunting me. Saying things like “you don’t need to finish that gift for your daughter. You can give it to her in January. Work on me instead. You need me. Without me, your tree looks… nekkid!”

Sometimes, I even listen.

Most of the time, I keep my focus on the gifts that need to be finished, but I have been known to take “breaks” from all my mad Christmas crafting and sewing and knitting to work on the tree skirt. Every year, it seems, I get one more section done before it gets swept up in the January clean-up and goes back in the box for another year.

Not this year.

This year, I kept it out.

This year, it sat on the mantle above the fireplace and taunted me daily. Finally, sometime in March, I had time to work on it in a serious way. And so, with a little daily sewing, huge progress was made. Eventually, life got in the way and the tree skirt found itself ignored once more until very recently.

It may have been a little strange to be stitching Christmas trees on Canada Day, but it was so close to being done… all that was left was to stitch half a hundred tiny felt pine trees with even tinier felt snowy bits. Have you ever tried stitching tiny felt snowy bits on tiny little trees on a hot summer afternoon in July? I wouldn’t recommend it. It isn’t the least bit refreshing.

But now the tree skirt is done. Done! I can add it to the list of finished objects. I can admire it as it sits on the table. I can dream about December first and putting it under the tree.

So there I was on the second day of July, with a few minutes of idle time on my hands and no more mineature clumps of snow to stitch… what to do? What to do?

Why, start another one, of course! Aren’t the little trees cute, all covered in snow and sequins?


The Quilt of Many Colours

Remember the quilt? The turquoise one B wanted for her birthday that was anything but turquoise?

It’s done!

I don’t have a good pic of it on her bed, but here’s one of it as it was getting pinned in preparation for quilting and binding. (sorry for the wonky lighting, I was photographing it in the basement where it was laid out on the ping-pong table).

The Quilt of Many Colours

The Joy of Colour

B is a colourful kind of girl. She likes large collections of markers and crayons, chalk that looks like rainbows, and the oddest, most eye-popping assortment of fat-quarters of quilting cotton that you’ve ever seen.

Trust me, I know. And when I say eye-popping? I truly mean it. Truly. My eyes have been popping out of my head for days and days now… because I’ve been making her a quilt out of the fabrics of her choice.

“I want a quilt for my bed,” she told me a few weeks ago when I asked what she wanted for her birthday. “A turquoise one.”

Okay, I thought. I can do that. I’m not a fabulous quilter by any means, nothing like my grandmother Rita’s mad crazy talent for it, but I can put something simple together, just so long as I remember that I can’t quilt in anything but straight lines. (Yet. I do mean to learn one of these days.)

A turquoise quilt? Definitely do-able.

A dig through my stash and a trip to the fabric store later, B was happy with her choices of fabrics and I was staring at the explosion of colour in the craft room and wondering how on earth I was going to make it all come together.

Because it most definitely wasn’t a nice, uniformly hued batch of turquoise that was sitting on the table waiting to be cut into strips and squares. Oh no, not for my girl. Instead, I was faced with two adorably cute little-girl prints, three shades of pink, two of purple, four different blues, three of turquoise, a pastel rainbow stripe, and an apple-green check to round it off.

Since apple-green check goes with everything, after all.

What to do? What to do? Dive in, I guess, and see what comes of it.

Here’s a pic in progress:

Beyond this point, thar be pirates!

If you are my sister, do not, I repeat, DO NOT read beyond this point. Seriously. Stop reading now. No peeking! Because beyond this point, there be pirates. I mean Christmas gifts. And pirates. Really big, strong pirates with wooden peg legs and eye patches (which contrary to popular belief don’t actually cover up missing pirate eyes) and shiny black boots. Well, ok, one boot, since the other leg is a peg leg. So no reading further, oh sister of mine. No being sneaky, no periscope vision, no finding out what I’m making you before it’s fully made. Thank you.

(Is she gone? Are you sure? Okay, good.)

So once again I find myself contemplating the fact that tomorrow is the first day of December. How did that happen?

December first is the day we traditionally decorate the Christmas tree.

December first is the day we get out the little Christmas village with tiny houses that are totally out of scale to the massive fire station, and the handsome firefighter with his cute little dalmation puppy who looms over the little skating couples like some sort of Jolly Green Giant except he’s wearing a firefighter’s suit. And he isn’t green.

December first is the day we start eyeballing gingerbread cookies and deciding if we should try making a gingerbread house from scratch this year or if we will once again buy a kit and avoid the frustration of royal icing that doesn’t set up to the consistency of cement fast enough. Or roof pieces that fall off. Or walls that have decided that they really, really want to be on the kitchen floor in five pieces instead of politely pretending to hold up the roof that won’t stay on.

And December first is the day when I realize just how many gifts I decided to make by hand, count up how many are finished, and proceed to have a complete fit when I realize that at this rate, I’ll finish the last gift sometime around February 22nd if I don’t get a move on.

It is a truly time-honoured tradition, this last minute panic of mine, so in the spirit of Christmas industriousness, I am (of course) not crafting, but blogging about my deplorable behind-ness in crafting and moaning about what is still left to be done. (Not that I moan). But I have checked off quite a few gifts already, though I’m not quite sure how that happened, and just the other night checked off another one that makes me insanely happy. Seriously. I smile every time I see it.

Here’s a peek of it in progress:

Yo ho ho ho Christmas stocking top in progress

Yo ho ho ho stocking top finished

The pirate with his chest of gold

He’s needle felted and appliqued, with a touch of embroidery and beading and sequins for good measure. And here he is, in all his pirate-y goodness, treasure and all:

The finished pirate stocking

Yes, I photographed him on a real bow-topped pirate chest. And it has treasure in it. Real treasure… It’s full of yarn!!

Here are some detail photos of Pirate Santa. I deviated from the pattern a little… okay, a lot… because I always do. (Hmm. For a rule-following sort of woman, I seem to do that a lot.)

The stocking kit (from the Bucilla line by Plaid) comes with a ton of sequins and beads and instructions to stick them everywhere, but I skipped most of that. It also is meant to be completely appliqued but I mostly needle-felted him because I discovered I could, and since needle-felting is a relatively new obsession of mine, I’m still in that obsessed phase where you use it absolutely everywhere you possibly can. Like on Christmas stocking kits. Because you can. And because adding sculptural felt details to what would otherwise be a flat lump of felt with sequins on it is way more fun than just sewing on sequins.

Santa in a pirate hat, holding a cardinal

I just love that little cardinal perched on his hand. And his hat!! With the holly and the berries… I love the hat.

Tiny pirate ship

And the tiny pirate ship? How cute is that?? I tried to needle-felt in a skull and crossbones, but it came out looking sort of blobbish. My sister has a good imagination, though. I’m sure she can imagine it’s a tiny skull and crossbones. Can’t she?

Pirate Santa's treasure

And of course, what pirate is complete without a treasure? Or a starfish? Miss B loves all the french knots on the starfish. She keeps running her fingers over them. K, on the other hand, thinks it is vastly unfair that I took the coolest button out of our big jar of buttons and put it on a stocking for my sister. Even if it does look like it should be solid gold pirate treasure instead of a button and really, really looks like it belongs in Pirate Santa’s treasure, secretly that button wants to be his. He was somewhat mollified when he discovered a second, identical button in the button jar, except now he’s decided he needs his own Pirate Santa for Christmas and that really wasn’t in Mama’s Christmas Crafting Plan at all.

And Nat, since I know you are still reading, would you please remind me to add “Gingerbread house kit” to my grocery list this week? Thanks. Appreciate it. Love, me.

Christmas is coming…

I know, it isn’t even Halloween yet, but you can’t escape it… Christmas is coming, and coming soon! The malls are already filling up with Christmas items, much to my disgust, and yet at the same time, I’ve already been elbows-deep in Christmas preparations around here. I have to be. There are only 86 days left.

(Or so my iphone tells me.)

You see, I am a crafter. You might have noticed we like to do crafty things. Lately, I haven’t been posting very many crafty things on the blog, mainly because the crafty things I’m making have to remain a secret for another 86 days. Christmas crafting has begun, and to tell the truth, I’m running a little late.

So far I’ve managed to finish a capelet for B, a seed stitch scarf, and this wonderfully drapey drop stitch scarf:

drop stitch scarf

Finished drop stitch scarf

As well as two felt board dollhouses:

Felt board doll houses in progress

If you subscribe to Living Craft magazine, you might recognize them (though I did them up as foldable playmats instead of on a stretched canvas frame). They’re designed by Melissa Crowe, who blogs over at Checkout Girl and has a fabulous Etsy shop where she sells her work and takes custom orders too.

Felt board dollhouse playmat folded up

Felt board doll house playmat opened up

They were much faster than I thought to work up and came out oh-so-cute. I think they’ll be a huge success — even before the first one was done, B was dying to play with it and she practically hovered over the sewing machine as I finished up the edges of the playmat and added the fastener. Now she’s begging for one of her own since these two are destined for cousins.

Today I managed to get the teacher gifts done, little post-it note holders made from acrylic stand frames, and they were so easy and inexpensive and look so cute now that they are done. I got the idea from sisterstuff.

post-it note holders for teacher gifts

To make six, you’ll need:

  • 6 acrylic stand frames from the dollar store, 3×5 portrait size (mine were $1 each)
  • 6 pads of 3×3 post-it notes (mine came in 2-packs, total $3)
  • 6 decorative pens (pack of 6, $1)
  • pretty scrapbook papers (from my stash)
  • ribbon (from my stash)

Making them is really simple.

  1. Remove the stock photo from the frame and use it as a template to cut your scrapbook papers to size. You could also have your kids draw pictures for their teachers, or use stamps to make a pretty design.
  2. Slide the paper in the frame. 
  3. Stick one of the post-it note pads on the front (just peel off the back paper and stick the notes right on the frame, they’ll hold nicely).
  4. Tie it up with a ribbon, insert a coordinating pen, and voila! Pretty and useful teacher gifts for under $2 each.

Have you started getting ready for Christmas yet? Are you crafting anything? Please do let me know — I’m still looking for ideas for a few people and would love some inspiration.