During most of 2013, will hosting a monthly mini-series, each month edited by different crafters and designers. Enjoy!

The theme for this month is Make It Local :: with Alexandra Smith of Lola Nova.


Inspired by my last post about the Farmer’s Market, I decided to whip up a simple tutorial for a handmade market bag called “The Origami Market Bag”. The name is taken from its unique folding technique. It makes up in a flash and is nice and roomy for all of your market treasure.

You will need fabric, thread, scissors and a sewing machine.

For the fabric, I suggest something a little heavier such as: canvas, linen, denim, or home décor type weight.

We start off with a piece of fabric whose length is 3 times the width. I found using a piece that is 17” X 51” (43cm X 130cm) makes a good size bag; you can play around with sizes if you like.

Once you have cut your piece of fabric to size, hem all of the raw edges.

(In the following photos I’ve used a smaller piece of unfinished fabric just to show the folding technique)

Start by laying your fabric with your hems facing away from you and follow the folding technique as shown below.




Now pin and stitch as shown for both sides of the bag. I used about a 1cm seam allowance.



It is ok if your bag is a little off center, this may happen if your hems are not perfectly even to one another.

Now that you have sewn your 2 seams, you can leave the bag as is for a nice triangle shape, or you can create some shape by sewing boxed corners, or simple angled corners. Now turn your bag right side out and press if needed.



The next step is to create the handle for your bag. I used some coordinating fabric for a handle.

Cut a piece of fabric that is 3.5” X 6.5” (aprox. 9cm X 16.5cm) turn under and hem the 2 short sides of this piece. Fold the piece in half length-wise with right sides together and stitch raw edges with a ¼” (just under 1cm) seam allowance and turn right side out creating a tube.




Take one of the long top triangles of your bag and thread it through the tube of fabric as shown. Overlap the other top piece with the bit you have threaded through the tube and pin. Now stitch in place. Slide the tube over the stitched overlapped section and center it.





Ta Da! You now have your very own Origami Market Bag!


Go ahead and make a few more, you know you want to!



Please note, this tutorial is intended for personal use only. Therefore, do not reproduce, sell or commercialize in any form. Thanks for understanding!

Edited to add: My version of this bag was originally based on a bag I received many, many years ago that was handmade by a family friend from the Philippines. That first bag was made from old cotton rice sacks (similar to vintage flour sacks) and the handles tied in a knot. Not long after receiving it, I made my own bag using a couple of bandannas sewn together. In the years since, I have seen many versions of this very simple bag. Many variations of it have shown up as craft trends come and go, then come around again. I have seen similar patterns in vintage craft books, Japanese craft pattern books and high end leather bags on the runway. I have even seen some in macramé!

I make no claim to have “invented” this style of bag; its origins are ageless and elusive. I did sort out just how to make it on my own and put my own spin on it. The only bags I have sold from this tutorial were the prototypes pictured here, after materials cost, 100% of the profit from them goes directly to the fund for the Shugg children. I have no intention to sell any more of these bags.

Thank you,

Alexandra Smith


During most of 2013, will hosting a monthly mini-series, each month edited by different crafters and designers. Enjoy!

The theme for this month is Make It Local :: with Alexandra Smith of Lola Nova.

Today, Alexandra introduces Nancy Langdon, the designer behind studioTANTRUM/Fledge and author of Sewing Clothes Kids Love: Sewing Patterns and Instructions for Boys’ and Girls’ Outfits.

For you, I have a little downloadable Ebook to construct a fun, summery tunic dress based on macramé.


I’m pretty sure we’re at the tail end of hipsters being fascinated with all things 70s. All the good 70s things, as few as they were, like Milo Baughman and Curtis Jere, have been done. We’ve even gone through Corningware, muscle cars, black lights and Afros. All that is left is macramé, rotary phones, 8-track cassettes and TAB (not that new-fangled Diet Coke, thank you very much). And my vote is for macramé. I was recently wandering about Retro Row in Long Beach and saw dusty old macramé owls selling for upwards of $70. So, yes, macramé is upon us again. Right on!

The stringy Strigiformes is the official state bird for the year 1973. According to witnesses, the year 1973 was, in fact, a state (of mind...of quite a state). The stringy Strigiformes is the official state bird for the year 1973. According to witnesses, the year 1973 was, in fact, a state (of mind…of sorts…in quite a state).

Macramé, the craft of knotting lace, is likely the earliest of the string-based arts, predating knitting, crochet and tatting by millennia. Fiddling and tying up bits of cord in fancy ways did not seem to have geographic or cultural limits, as ancient examples can be found in places as far-flung as Peru, China and Egypt. The earliest example dates to 3500 BC; since some anthropologists argue that civilization is only about 4000 years old, well, that means macramé is old.

Arabs were probably the first regular practitioners, tying up the weft ends of woven textiles in artistic ways. Sailors over the centuries have used macramé in innovative and creative ways, for example, around tool handles, so sharp knives and heavy hammers wouldn’t slip out of wet hands. The craft, brought from the Holy Lands to Western Europe by the wives and servants of crusaders, was fancied in later centuries by Louis XIV and William of Orange’s Queen Mary. Macramé found its most refined form near Genoa, Italy, where punto á gruppo was taught as a skill to poor children during the 19th Century and resembles fine bobbin lace. Be that as it may, macramé is now synonymous with Nixon-era housewives penchant to release small flora from terrestrial bounds with hemp houseplant hammocks. And lest we forget the hippies: Here, a cautionary tale of what happens when twine is combined with 70s era hallucinogenics (some of these items appear in fact be made from psychoactive hemp …)

And if you thought macramé owl wall hangings were bad, say hello to the macramé owl bra! “Macrame Accessories: Patterns and Ideas for Knotting,” Dona Z. Meilach (1972) And if you thought macramé owl wall hangings were bad, say hello to the macramé owl bra! “Macrame Accessories: Patterns and Ideas for Knotting,” Dona Z. Meilach (1972)



No words. Just no words “Macrame Accessories: Patterns and Ideas for Knotting,” Dona Z. Meilach (1972) No words. Just no words “Macrame Accessories: Patterns and Ideas for Knotting,” Dona Z. Meilach (1972) Wait, one word: MANcramé. Enough said. “Macrame Accessories: Patterns and Ideas for Knotting,” Dona Z. Meilach (1972) Wait, one word: MANcramé. Enough said. “Macrame Accessories: Patterns and Ideas for Knotting,” Dona Z. Meilach (1972)

On the other hand, if we embrace macramé fashionably responsibly, we can evoke that sense of hope for a better world, which is, I think, at the heart of the new hippie style.

Elizabeth and James Elizabeth and James




Catherine Malandrino Catherine Malandrino Gucci Gucci

I hope my addition to the macramé trend this fits the bill.


“La Jolla” (lah HOY-ya”) is a simple, super-duper quick DIY dress with a lot of California soul. This straight shift dress with macramé overlay is an easy-living, flip-flops and popsicles kind of summertime piece to wear anywhere, anytime fun is to be had: as a swimsuit cover-up, as a dancing dress to the end of the school year party, or as a flexible, easy-to-throw-in-a-suitcase piece to take on vacation.

Made up in all white, I think La Jolla is pretty enough to wear to a beach wedding. La Jolla is a beautiful coastal town near San Diego. “La Jolla” is a corruption of the Spanish word “joya”, which means “jewel.” I find this to be a gem of a dress, because with a little cutting and polishing, some cruddy old tee shirts or a clump of boring plain knit fabric can really shine. “Jollas” also happens to be a genus of South American jumping spiders. Since this dress has that SoCal spirit, but also sort of has a spider web look to it, I’ve decided to call it “La Jolla”.

This pattern is sized for girls, ages/sizes 5 to 12. The design concept is great for teens and women, however, the knotting has not been calculated over all size sets within the Ebook instructions. La Jolla is available as an Ebook here.

And speaking of making the world a better place, all proceeds from the sale of this Ebook will go to benefit a home-grown, grass-roots effort to help the people of Enwen, a small village of about 1,000 in Cameroon, Africa, to help themselves. The story of Enwen is not a complicated one, but amazing nonetheless. A young man, Tichi, from this village was educated in Germany. Upon returning to his village, even though he had grown up in Enwen, he was taken quite aback by the poverty. And so he and his partner, Katrin, decided to do “something.” That “something” is Nahow, which in the native Pidgin means something like “S’up brah”. has developed many “somethings” and those “somethings” include an adult learning center to teach valuable carpentry and sewing skills, outfitting the village with solar panels, refurbishing the elementary school and sponsoring doctors’ visits. And this at very, very low cost. For about EURO 20 a month, a villager will be given an apprenticeship in carpentry. Like real, super-duper, hard-core, high-quality carpentry as only Germans can. The people at Farbenmix, my partner in all things sewing, have become personally involved with this project, even having gone to the village to teach sewing.


I’ve kept the price low as makes sense. As you know, PayPal will have their take. The Ebook has over 20 pages of instruction with lots of photos and illustrations. And the basic pattern pieces are there. I’ve translated it into German, too, just in case. It is a PDF file, so, if EURO 4 is a bit steep, maybe you can go halfsies with a friend.


Enjoy! And thank you for supporting the craft of sewing!


During most of 2013, will hosting a monthly mini-series, each month edited by different crafters and designers. Enjoy!

Introducing Mary Jo for the month of April :: The theme for this month is functional creativity.

Mary Jo :: Five Green Acres

Regardless of your hemisphere, the change of seasons is here, bringing with it the inevitable Wardrobe Changeout. Surely I’m not alone in dreading the task of switching out all the cold-season clothes with warm-weather ones, or vice versa. If you have growing kids in the mix, this task also becomes a reckoning: what still fits? What wardrobe holes need to be filled? And if you have a penchant for filling those voids with even the slightest handmade touch, this quickly becomes a very busy transitional season indeed. But there is strength in numbers, and the brilliant voice behind the Elsie Marley blog has found a way to unite us in our common goal. Formerly called Kid’s Clothes Week Challenge, Meg has streamlined the name of the semi-annual event that gets us cranking out clothes for our kids to KCW (Kid’s Clothes Week) and has also given it a shiny new website. The next edition of the challenge is nearly upon us — April 22-29.
kids clothing week
Meg and I recently had a quick chat about it all — check it out for yourself and see if you’re as fired up to start as I am.

Mary Jo:  The participation in KCW seems to grow with each season, highlighting the universal need to clothe our kids in a way we can reconcile with our own creativity. Can you tell us a bit about how KCW has evolved?

Meg: Kid’s Clothes Week started because I found myself in front of the tv too many evenings in a row. Most nights, I’m wiped out after I put all the kids to bed and the couch calls me. Then the next day I feel awful because I haven’t made anything, or engaged my creative brain in any way. I thought if I can get my tired self into my studio, my creativity will wake up a bit. So, for one week I made myself work on sewing kid’s clothes for one hour each day after everyone was in bed. And it worked! I felt better, I made things, I had amazing creative momentum!

I think all we need is a little push: off the couch, off the computer, out of our own brain and into our studio (even if it is a tiny corner of your dining room table, it’s your studio). That so many people have jumped on the KCW train only strengthens that idea. With so many people sewing at the same time, it makes the experience so much more enjoyable. You might not think that because someone is sewing kid’s clothes in Australia the same week you are would make any difference, but it does! They are excited about what you are making, which makes it more exciting to make things, which just makes everything better. More than 300 people had already signed up for this spring’s KCW by the end of March, with many more expected!

kids clothing week

Mary Jo: Your design aesthetic is so clean and inspiring to your readers — where do you find your inspiration?  How has your aesthetic changed over the years?

Meg: Inspiration doesn’t come easy to me. Yes, there are a million things on pinterest that are amazing and that I want to make… sort of. But that real, I need to make it now — I can’t go another minute without making it! kind of inspiration is hard to come by. I have to work to get it. That work is simply paying attention. Paying attention to the things in my real life and on the internet that move me. You know that feeling where you immediately are drawn to something–a color, a combination of objects, the light, some random photo on pinterest. All of those things can be explored and turned into something new.

I don’t know if my aesthetic has changed so much. I have always been drawn to simple shapes and clean lines, but I don’t think simple has to be boring. My children like big, bold prints and colors. I try to find a simple silhouette that will show off a huge print or crazy color. I have realized over the years, that the simpler the clothes, the better the fabric needs to be. You can’t hide behind a thousand ruffles on a simple a-line dress. Move beyond quilting cottons, and discover double gauze, voile, jersey, twill. They will transform your simple dress into something amazing.

kids clothing week

Mary Jo: What have you found yourself making again and again for your kids? Do you have a favorite pattern or silhouette?

Meg: I find myself drawn to Japanese sewing books again and again. The clothes are simple and modern. Yes, the patterns are in Japanese, but there are many pictures of the process. For a visual learner like me, I find the photos much more helpful than the poorly written directions in English patterns. Happy Homemade Vol. 2 is probably my favorite one (if you read my blog, this is no surprise). But there are many out there. Cherie from you&mie recently did a week long series on Japanese sewing books. It is an invaluable resource for working with them–and I’m not just saying that because I wrote one of the posts!

Many of my favorite patterns come from that book, but I have also fallen hard for Rae’s Flashback Skinny Tee pattern. It is an amazing basic pattern that can be made into sweaters and dresses and all kinds of tops. It is a great way to really get comfortable sewing with knits.

Mary Jo:  What new features are on the docket for this KCW?  What do you plan on making for your own kiddos? 

Kids clothing week

Meg: I am working with Dorie from tumblingblocks on a new site for KCW. Instead of toiling away in secret and then surprising everyone with the big reveal, we are working with the KCW community to build the site. It’s great to involve everyone in the process, so we can make it work for everyone! The new site is going to be a place where you can come and hang out: share projects, look up patterns, talk about what went right and what when so very wrong. For now the new blog is where all the action is!

>For this Kid’s Clothes Week, I’m think of making one shirt. Usually I over do it and make waaaay too much stuff. This time, I’m going to take 7 days to work slowly on one shirt and share each step along the way. We get so hung up on the end result (pretty pictures! pretty pictures!) that sometimes we forget to share the process. And really, for sewing nerds like me, the process is the best part!

Thanks Meg! I’ve already signed up to participate in the challenge. Who’s with me?

{images from Elsie Marley blog}

{ 1 comment }

Book reviewed by Megan Enright: Megan is wife to a tolerant and encouraging husband and mother to four children ranging in age from 18 years down to 5 years. She spends her days keeping company with her 5 year old daughter and her evenings cheering on the sidelines as her older sons deal with homework, sport and other teenage issues. In her quieter moments, she likes to knit, embroider, sew and cook. She’d like to have the time and talent to crochet and quilt….maybe one day.  She can be found at Notebook from home blog.

Alabama Studio Style by Natalie Chanin. STC Craft/A Melanie Falick Book (March 1, 2010)

Other books: Alabama Stitch Book and Alabama Studio Sewing + Design

Over the last few years I have developed a bit of a crush on Natalie Chanin, founder of the business and fashion label, Alabama Chanin. So it was with a high level of excitement that I came to review her second book, “Alabama Studio Style”.

My admiration for Natalie Chanin stems from not only the clothes that she produces, simple yet embellished, but also from her philosophy of fashion and how fashion and clothing production can become a community builder and an opportunity to make a lifestyle statement. Natalie believes in “slow design”, a theory which is along the same lines as “slow food” or “slow living”, a deliberate and thoughtful method of making clothes far removed from the department store production lines so common in our shopping baskets today.

As a result of this dedication to the process of clothes making rather than the speed at which a garment can be produced, her books consist of hand sewing instructions only and I was unable to see machine sewing references in the book at all. Clothes made by hand!? What a concept. However, such is Natalie’s thinking and her clothes are simple, elegant and superbly individual. Not something that you can put together in a couple of hours.

In this particular Alabama Chanin book instructions are given for making a dress, a skirt, a scarf and other homeware items including placemats, pillows and jar covers. Because the clothes are of a simple design the instructions are clear and easy to understand. The recommended fabric for all clothes is jersey cotton and a variety of stitches, both stretch and non-stretch, are outlined clearly in the book. Hand stitches, of course.

I love hand stitching and am much less confident with my machine so I approached Natalie’s patterns with great anticipation. I attempted a simple panelled skirt. My only small complaint is that the sizings are small. I am a standard Australian size 12 in all clothes and I found with my measurements I fell into the largest sizing outlined in the book, an XL. My first attempt was in a smaller size (my ego refusing to believe I could be an XL) and it was indeed way too small. So if you are a curvier girl I feel some adjustments would need to be made to the patterns.

Putting this aside my very plain skirt turned out quite well. The next step in the Alabama Chanin method is to embellish. Instructions for stencilling, embroidery and relief appliqué are all included in the book and the pictures of the finished effects are very inspiring. The possibilities are restricted only by the sewist’s imagination and the idea is to use Natalie’s visions purely as a guide to create your own individual piece.

Natalie’s designs are available as completed garments, all hand sewn by local women from Natalie’s community in Southern America, however, I feel through her books Natalie is very encouraging of crafters to create garments that have meaning for them and that are cherished because of all the love and labour that has gone into producing that one item of clothing.

I am yet to embellish my skirt. It has taken quite a few hours in the evening just cutting, piecing and sewing. However, even though it appears a very plain skirt it is one I will wear with great intention knowing how many hours went into its production. I believe that this is Natalie’s purpose with her books, to instil a sense of thoughtfulness into what we wear and to not just buy and wear clothing that hasn’t been produced ethically or with fairness to all of the people involved in the production of that garment. A few beautiful clothes made with care and attention are indeed more meaningful than many made haphazardly and cheaply.

Natalie Chanin’s voice comes through very clearly in her writing and in this book she includes some recipes and other small insights into her life within a much cherished community. “Alabama Studio Style” only reinforced my admiration for Natalie and I know it is a book that will not sit on my bookshelf untouched. It is a reference book not only for creating lovely clothes but also for creating a meaningful outlook on life.

[Take a peak at Natalie Chanin’s studio and some business advice from when she was a guest at whipup in 2010. -ed.]


Kirsten Johnstone is an Architect based in Melbourne, Australia who uses the mediums of built form and interior space to create refined designs. She also uses yarn, fabric and photography to explore her modern aesthetic on a smaller scale. She has an eye for flattering forms that are deceptively simple yet frequently transformable, designs with a distinctive urban edge yet elegantly wearable. Find her online at assemblage.


Here is a super sweet linen skirt with top stitched appliqued circles randomly scattered across the skirt. This Tutorial provides instructions for a simple elastic waist skirt for your favourite little girl.

petite pluie d’ete : French for Little Summer Rain, the circles and fabric colours provide fond memories of gentle rain showers to relieve the summer heat.

SIZES: Made to Measure

FABRIC: 1m x 1.3m wide linen, approximately, washed + pressed and 0.2m x 1.0m wide medium weight fusible interfacing


  • Scissors
  • Chalk Pencil
  • 3 x circle templates (or use different size crockery like I did!)
  • Pins
  • Sewing Machine
  • Thread, matching + contrast
  • 25mm wide non-roll elastic
  • Needle, for handsewing


  • Other fabrics would look fantastic but not as ‘summery’ – I think fine pinwale corduroy works brilliantly with the textural contrast but I would suggest keeping it to plain colours ie not using fabric printed with patterns
  • Using this method for circles across the skirt of a tunic dress would be gorgeous.
  • And yes, definitely, a skirt for yourself would be beautiful!
  • I choose to machine wash my skirt on the “handwash” setting to limit fraying although it is certainly a design feature of this skirt.
  • Find the full tutorial and pattern details on this 6 page PDF download.