review: On the Go Bags

On the Go Bags

On the Go Bags: 15 handmade purses, totes & organizers – unique projects to sew from today’s modern designers by Lindsay Conner and Janelle MacKay

This book contains instructions for making a variety of types of handbags by sewing and related construction techniques. Most include dimensions for cutting fabric and use minimal computer-generated diagrams to illustrate the how-to of constructing the item. Pattern pieces for a few items are included in a perforated section at the back. While these instructions are fairly detailed, I have been spoiled by the excellent bag patterns created by Erin of Dog Under My Desk, and these just do not measure up. I prefer Erin’s actual photographs to the diagrams here, and her patterns never skim over the little details that make a handmade bag look perfect. The instructions here are fine, just not the level I’m accustomed to.

full disclosure: I borrowed this book from the East Lansing Public Library through the MeLCat ILL system



vacation bag proof

I used the Two Zip Hipster I made for our trip throughout our travels and it was perfect! I was able to carry the necessities with me but not be burdened with a heavy bag or a sore shoulder. Cross-body bags are great for travel, too, as it’s nearly impossible to set them down and forget them.

Two Zip Hipster (pattern by Dog Under My Desk) fits the Universal tour package binder perfectly

As it turned out, Universal gave us a little notebook with all our tickets and stuff inside, and it was as if this purse was designed to hold it. It could not have been a more perfect fit!

Two Zip Hipster (pattern by Dog Under My Desk) fits the Universal tour package binder perfectly

As you can see in the photo above, it fits inside with just enough room to zip the zipper above it. I do find it interesting that Universal still likes to give you a hundred little pieces of paper to manage, whereas I believe Disney now does everything on a wristband if you book a package (for our day trips they issued us a card that contained all our ticket, fast pass, and dessert reservation info). If you’re going to Universal and doing a package, I definitely recommend making this bag.


a brand new bag

We are going on a trip pretty soon*, to Universal Studios and Epcot! I am pretty excited since we haven’t been on a vacation in awhile, and it’ll be Halloween-theme-time at the parks. It’s also the Food and Wine Festival at Epcot, which we loved the last time we went. And we haven’t ever been to the Harry Potter parks! I’ve been bingeing Witch, Please in preparation (I have been listening to this anyway because it is THE BEST, but I’ve been spreading the episodes out so I could always have more – I finally gave in and just got caught up).

I knew that I wouldn’t want to carry my usual purse in the parks and that I wanted a cross-body style for max comfort and making sure I don’t lose it (a shoulder bag is too put-down-able). I know that generally you don’t need to carry a lot of stuff with you in these parks, but I always want sunglasses and sunscreen and mints and whatever and anyway, I knew I needed a bag.

The perfect one was already in my pattern file: the Two Zip Hipster by Dog Under My Desk.

Spoopy Two Zip Hipster - pattern by Dog Under My Desk

It turned out awesome! I have raved before about Erin’s patterns but seriously, they are THE BEST (equal level of awesome as Witch, Please). They’re so easy and every step is laid out and it all goes so smoothly. I chose this super spoopy fabric in honor of Halloween time. I had hoped to find a Harry Potter themed fabric, but all the ones that Joann carries (at least in our local store) are loud and juvenile and not cool enough. I’m happy with this spider fabric, though, and I’m also going to embellish the exterior with at least one Hillary pin (#ImWithHer)! If any of you lovelies have tips or things to know about our destinations, please share!

*would-be evil-doers, take note that our house will be occupied while we’re away! No opportunities here!


gadgets guarded

K’s birthday was last week (while I was gone – sob!) so I made him a couple of Gadget Guards for his devices – useful and fun!

Gadget Guard for Karl's lappy

First we have one for his laptop. It’s Zelda-themed, with two different fun Zelda fabrics for the main fabric and the lining.

Gadget Guard for Karl's lappy

Then for his tablet, I used two Doctor Who fabrics:

Gadget Guard for Karl's tablet

Gadget Guard for Karl's tablet

Nothing like using fun fabrics to make a project extra enjoyable! And, as ever, credit goes to Dog Under My Desk for making this excellent, easy to use pattern.


purse replacement

About a year ago I made myself this purse using the Date Night pattern by Dog Under My Desk, but expanded to 120%. I’ve been using it every day and it has been perfect for the stuff I always want to have with me (probably still more than I should require but JUST IN CASE is always on my mind). When I made it, I just used some random fabric from my stash, and it was not a very high quality quilting cotton.

Former purse strap unraveling

Just recently the strap has started to fray. I really don’t think this would happen with a higher quality fabric, but as it is this gave me an excuse to make myself a new purse. šŸ™‚

New DUMD Date Night at 120%

This time I chose an apparel fabric, a sturdy grey and black houndstooth that is a bit heavier than quilting cotton, but not a lot as I didn’t want to add a lot of thickness (this is what has kept me from using a duck or similar heavier cotton). This fabric is super my style and I am really pleased with how it turned out.

New DUMD Date Night at 120%

For the inside, I couldn’t find any nerdy fabric that suited me – so much of what Joann has is male-focused and I am sort of tired of everything always being either men or princesses. My kingdom for some Phryne Fisher fabric! This bird fabric is cute, though, and who can resist putting a bird on (in) it?

New DUMD Date Night at 120%

I did the same double-inside-pockets that I did last time. They have been perfect for my needs! On one side, I can carry my phone, a bottle of lotion, and my favorite pen, and on the other side, my reading glasses and my sunglasses each in their own compartment. I love being able to customize my purse like this!

New DUMD Date Night at 120%

Here’s a close-up on the fabric. Isn’t this print elegant yet practical?


wrapping up 2015 and embracing 2016

It’s hard to believe another year has passed. I mean, calendar years are kind of arbitrary, but it does feel a little useful to think about the bigger picture periodically. And it’s a great excuse to crack open some spreadsheets and do a little analysis! (Spreadsheets are my raindrops on roses.) Some of the web services I use also provided me with some fun year-end wrap up, so let’s take a look.

First off, Goodreads. I love this site as a tool for tracking which books I’ve read. As a lover of mystery series and of non-fiction books on specific topics that often have very similar titles, there’s no way I’d be able to remember which ones I’ve read or not without some kind of tool.

Goodreads 2015 summary photo Goodreads_Annersquos_Year_in_Books_-_2016-01-01_09.48.04_zpsc2jx3jxf.png

Wow, almost 10000 pages read (according to this metric)! That is a nice number. Funny that the longest book I read was a YA novel, which sometimes have a rep for being fluffy.

Goodreads 2015 stats comparison photo Goodreads_My_Review_Stats_-_2016-01-01_09.51.31_zps26wyboi5.png

This 29 seems low! Looking at the actual books Goodreads says I’ve read, that only includes the fiction. I read a ton of non-fiction but that doesn’t seem to show up in these metrics (I believe this is because I usually add fiction books to my to-read list first, and then move them to my currently reading list when I start them. NF books I tend to just add after I’ve completed them so they don’t have a span of time covered on the site). I counted up and, to some extent, I read 186 non-fiction books in addition to the 29 fiction. To some extent because that does include some I didn’t read cover to cover, of course, especially cookbooks. Either way, I’m not feeling bad about the 29 being down from last year’s 40.

2015 was a pretty good year for me in terms of blogging consistently – 132 posts throughout the year!

2015 LibrariAnne posting patterns photo posting patterns 2015_zpswaumqmyl.png

My most popular post was eff the shave-triarchy. Eff yeah! Update while I’m at it: I feel like I have saved SO MUCH time since quitting shaving. My showers are super quick and I’m probably saving a bunch of water, too. Feminism wins again!

As ever, I made a whole lot of stuff in 2015. Thanks to the magical tool that is Ravelry, I know that I completed 94 knitting projects this year!

2015 knitting projects pie chart photo 2015 knitting projects pie chart_zpsqqitgrie.png

I kept five of these knitting projects for myself (not including Blythe stuff) and gifted 26 of them to others. The Blythe stuff was a mix of samples and things that have made their way into my Blythe wardrobe.

I also spent a lot of time sewing this year. I sort of slacked on Blythe sewing until the last quarter of the year, but I made up for it by making a bunch of bags and several quilts earlier on. Once we moved into Firefly Cottage, it was a lot easier for me to spend time sewing since I have so much more room now.

Here’s a sample of the Blythe sewing I did:

2015 Blythe sewing sampler photo Blythe Sewing 2015 collage_zps3vose6lc.jpg

I made 11 projects from Dog Under My Desk patterns (actually I did a few more! But I haven’t gotten around to taking photos yet, so I’m only counting these).

2015 DUMD projects photo DUMD 2015 projects collage_zpsulzmibhb.jpg

These patterns, for anyone who is considering making a bag, are THE BEST EVER. Seriously, I never felt like I could accomplish a professional look or a durable-enough-for-actual-use bag until I found Erin’s patterns. They are amazingly detailed and you really feel confident that your project is going to turn out to meet or even exceed your expectations. I use my Take-Off Tote every time I travel, as well as many of the Essential Wristlets. I also use my enlarged Date Night as my everyday purse and it’s still going strong after months of daily use.

Quilts were also a big part of my sewing this year.

To start things off, I made a challenge quilt for the Shepherd Maple Syrup Festival Quilt Show. The theme was Spring Fling and my quilt won a gold star for Best Portrayal of Theme.

Best portrayal of Spring Fling theme:gold

SO EXCITING!! I won some maple syrup, which was of course amazing, but the feeling of having my work recognized was mega amazing.

The Figure and Flock quilt I made in 2014 was featured in that same show, as well as in the window of Grey’s Furniture during Art Walk Central in the summer.

Check it out! My piece, "Figure and Flock" is in #artwalkcentral15 at Gray's Furniture! Vote AWC24!

These were some of my first public showings of my art quilts, so it was really exciting for me. I hope to have more opportunities to share with the public in 2016! I haven’t started the challenge quilt for the Maple Syrup Festival yet, but I am mulling ideas already. The theme will be Fall Frolic, so it’ll be interesting to make it during a different season than it is focused on. As autumn is my favorite season, I’m sure it won’t be too challenging.

I’m still working on the very large art quilt I started in 2014. The length of time it’s taking is a lot more than I anticipated, but I did have to put it on hold for much of 2015 until I got a larger workspace, and it is a much larger art piece than I’ve done before. It’s in the home stretch, though, so I hope to have it finished soon!

I also made a couple of quilts for two Skatey-Eight babies who were born in 2015.

First off, this Back to the Future inspired quilt, made for Dan’s new daughter:

Back to the Future Quilt

And second, this Star Wars inspired quilt, made for Michael’s son:

Star Wars Quilt

I also had a pretty productive year in terms of AnneArchy biz!

2015 AnneArchy wrapup photo 2015 annearchy wrapup_zpspuxpn1wq.png

Wow, 31 patterns feels like a lot to have published in one year! I’m also thrilled to have had so many of my patterns faved on Ravelry. That is huge! I appreciate SO MUCH that folks are interested in knitting the patterns I write.

My most popular items this year were half Blythe, half Firefly.

2015 most popular AnneArchy patterns photo most popular annearchy patterns 2015 collage_zpsojgtb7vd.jpg

Last year at the beginning of January, I set a few goals:

  • Blog regularly (keeping this one)
  • Participate as a swapper in the Blythe Swap Group at least a few times (keeping this one again)
  • Find ways to be excellent to others on a regular basis
  • Write up and publish the remainder of the Blythe knitting patterns I have started working on
  • Complete my current art quilt project
  • Spend time with near- and far-flung friends more often

  • How did I do?

  • Blogging – did well (see above)
  • Swapping – did well! I participated in several swaps and am currently signed up for the next one
  • Being excellent – I would like to hope I did this
  • Writing up Blythe knitting patterns – I probably got about half of these done, which leaves me with more to do in 2016!
  • Complete art quilt – NOT DONE YET, but in the home stretch
  • Spend time with friends – somewhat? I am going to continue to strive for this one

    Sooooo, now that I’ve thought about all of these things from 2015, what am I looking forward to in 2016? I’m looking forward to a lot of things!

    Things I want to do and work on include:

    • complete the big WIP art quilt
    • complete the Fall Frolic challenge quilt by the April 23, 2016 deadline
    • learn how to do silk ribbon embroidery (I have the supplies and books in hand!)
    • compose a plan for Firefly Cottage gardens, and get a start on implementing it
    • continue writing and publishing knitting patterns
    • do whatever else strikes my fancy

    All in all, I’m excited for 2016! There are so many things to be made and plants to cultivate and people to enjoy life with. Here’s to kindness, happiness, productivity, and fulfillment in the new year!


  • take note!

    This weekend I made time to pull out one of the Dog Under My Desk patterns that I hadn’t yet made: the Notepad Organizer.

    Notepad Organizer -  pattern by Dog Under My Desk

    I just adore this fabric (from Spoonflower) and I think it turned out quite well! I’ve been on a kick of using fabric from my stash instead of shopping and I’m finding lots of fun stuff I forgot I had.

    Notepad Organizer -  pattern by Dog Under My Desk

    Of course I don’t happen to have any of the right sized notepads on hand, but I will find one soon enough, I’m sure.

    Having made that one according to the pattern, I then couldn’t resist adapting it to make a larger one that will fit an 8.5 x 11″ notepad.

    Notepad Organizer, modified to fit 8.5x11" notebook - pattern by Dog Under My Desk

    I did some excellent math to figure out how to make it the right size, and it totally worked!

    Notepad Organizer, modified to fit 8.5x11" notebook - pattern by Dog Under My Desk

    It’s maybe a little taller than it would have to be, but I wanted to have some leeway so that any loose papers wouldn’t risk having their edges poking out.

    We recently started playing a D and D campaign with our trivia teammates and it has been great fun so far! I will be using the large notepad organizer to hold my character sheets and any other related stuff. Here is our crew on a recent quest:

    Ongoing campaign

    My character is a gnome sorcerer but I haven’t found a good mini yet, so for the time being, I’m being represented by an Adipose. K is an elf ranger, currently in the guise of a Dalek. There is no shortage of Who-related minis around our place, but we have room to improve our collection of fantasy-based ones!


    Fab tab


    I’m traveling again, this time to Montana for another professional conference. Last trip I hooked a carabiner on the strap of my Take-off Tote, which worked fine to hang my water bottle, but occasionally it would slide around, especially when I had the tote on the handle of my carry-on. So yesterday I whipped up a quick mini strap and sewed it onto the existing strap to form a tab. So far it works great!


    FO Friday: 120%

    I really like the Date Night purse I made, but it’s just not quite big enough for day to day use. So I decided to take matters into my own scanner/copier’s hands and enlarge the pattern!

    Date Night purse at 120% -  Dog Under My Desk pattern

    (apologies for the flash on that image – I was having trouble getting the very subtle fabric print to show up.) I chose to do it at 120%, which may be a tiny tad larger than I truly need, but it works really well and the purse doesn’t feel stuffed when I have all my necessities in it.

    Date Night purse at 120% -  Dog Under My Desk pattern

    I also love this lining fabric – so fun and reminiscent of the days when I was sewing from paper patterns (not that people don’t still do this – I just happen to use mostly online stuff right now). There’s something romantic about paper patterns illustrations.

    I also put in an extra pocket, so there’s one on each side of the lining. I really cannot ever have too many pockets in a purse! This way my pens have a special spot, as do my sunglasses, phone, reading glasses, and lotion. I can also fit in an Essential Wristlet (minus the strap) containing the little stuff (gum, mints, advil, etc) that tends to get lost if it’s not contained, as well as my wallet and whatever small items I need that day. I’ve already gotten a few compliments on this bag!


    FO Friday: even more sewing!

    I am addicted to sewing lately! Not that I don’t normally enjoy it, but I’ve been super productive lately. I attribute this to a few factors: K is working so I have more hours at home when he’s not around to be available to do stuff with, I have a few trips coming up for which I’d love to have choices for The Perfect Bag(s), and lastly, we are in the final stages of buying our next home and I have a lot of extraneous anticipatory energy that I am channeling into sewing as opposed to fretting/obsessive planning. (Not that I’m not still planning like a fiend.)

    I’m also in the market for a new everyday bag/purse. I would love to downsize a bit – I am accustomed to carrying a rather huge bag containing every possible thing I might need or want – BUT I also want to be able to take my laptop with me when I need to (which is fairly often) and I don’t know that I want to be carrying two bags on those days (SO, if I have a larger laptop-accommodating bag that I only use when needed, then I need my everyday purse to fit inside it, while still containing all the stuff I want with me all the time). (I only want my bags to be everything or all situations!) I am so far from the woman who refused to carry anything more than a duct tape wallet! But how can I live without room for sunglasses, wallet, keys, phone, emergency nuts, gum, mints, reading glasses, small notebook, pen and emergency backup pen, checkbook (I could live without this, for all I use it these days), and whatever else I’m forgetting at the moment?

    Anyway. It does seem like I might be able to survive quick jaunts around town with slightly less baggage, so I made the Date Night bag (pattern by Dog Under My Desk – the best patterns I’ve found).

    Date Night purse (pattern by DUMD)

    It’s cute and a great size for a minimal amount of stuff (wallet, sunglasses, keys, phone). I have used it on a few quick errands and *gasp* survived without all my extra crap! Of course I used a fun Star Trek print for the lining.

    Date Night purse (pattern by DUMD)

    I’ve also been thinking that, while I’m on my upcoming work trips, I’d like to have some smaller mini-bags to store specific things inside the Take-Off Tote I posted about last week. For instance, my iPod and headphones. I have an ancient-by-today’s-standards iPod (5th generation classic), and I like over-ear headphones, so they actually take up a little bit of space.

    Star Trek large boxed corner Essential Wristlet

    The larger version of the DUMD Essential Wristlet with boxed corners is perfect!

    Star Trek large boxed corner Essential Wristlet

    You can’t tell in this photo, but the lining is a neat tonal dye that is somewhat variegated throughout. Plus, more cool Star Trek fabric.

    Feeling adventurous from all this bag sewing, I took a chance and got a wallet pattern by a different designer. It’s okay but not up to the standard to which I’ve become accustomed.

    Ultimate Wallet pattern by So Sew Easy

    It’s the Ultimate Wallet by So Sew Easy. The directions weren’t bad, but definitely didn’t give the level of detail or precision I’m used to with Erin’s DUMD patterns.

    Ultimate Wallet pattern by So Sew Easy

    I was pretty unimpressed by some of the construction details – there are a lot of big, heavy, thick areas that could/should be trimmed down in ways not included in the directions, and it’s just not as precise as I’d like in both measurements and instructions. I had more than a few moments along the way of thinking, “but what if I…” but I chose to trust the pattern and not second-guess it. I should have gone with my gut in this case!

    Ultimate Wallet pattern by So Sew Easy

    On the plus side, it has a zillion card pockets and plenty of space for paper money, as well as an internal zippered pocket. Overall, I’d say: great in theory but not so great in execution. It’s not a bad pattern and I didn’t see any errors, it just wasn’t what I was hoping for.

    Back to the safe, happy terrain of DUMD patterns for my next one! This time it’s the Day Tripper.

    Dog Under My Desk Day Tripper

    This is obviously not a smaller bag, but I still wanted to make it. I wanted to try using home decor fabric AND doing a bag that uses traditional batting rather than Soft and Stable (much as I love Soft and Stable, it’s somewhat pricey and not sold locally so I have to order it online).

    Dog Under My Desk Day Tripper

    This bag is awesome for a person like me who loves pockets! You’ve got the zippered exterior pocket, sectioned open pocket on the back, sectioned open pocket on the interior – and I added another sectioned open pocket on the other side of the lining. Pockets for everyone!

    Dog Under My Desk Day Tripper

    This may become an everyday bag for me. When I bought my big splurge Coach bag, I expected that the quality would be top-notch and that it would essentially last forever. NOPE. It has frayed on one of the straps where a big bit of the covering on the strap peeled away JUST LIKE a bargain imitation-leather purse would have done. BOOO. I can of course trim off the fraying bits as they happen, but one should not have to do that with a big-name expensive purse. Anyway, I can always use this Day Tripper for an everyday bag instead, until I wean myself down to a smaller one.

    In the meantime, I’m feeling pret-tay good about all this accomplishment.

    Hermione gif