Posts Tagged ‘tote bags’

Decision Tree for the PIPs

March 6, 2019

I jumped into a new PIP (project in piles), and both succeeded and failed. While the part of the project I worked on went as the instructions promised, the product isn’t what I expected. Now I have to make choices, and I think a decision tree will be useful not only for this PIP but all the others.

My plan was to make a bunch of new tote bags from a collection of brocades. The good news is the bag turned out exactly like the pattern. Actually, this is astounding news. I can’t remember the last time I followed a new pattern and ended up with a replica of the picture in the book. Unfortunately, I didn’t understand all I was seeing in that picture, which is why the good news is also the bad news.

The tote bag is pretty enough, and well-made enough, but it isn’t functional enough for me. The handles don’t feel right, and it isn’t as large as I thought it would be (yes, I read the dimensions before I started – don’t ask me why I expected something different). So, I’ll spend the next few days on my decision tree, deciding whether to abandon the project entirely and fold my brocades into a different project or use a different pattern for more bags. Whatever happens, I’ll probably call this particular PIP finished. The beauty of decision trees is you can follow at least one branch to a conclusion you find satisfying.

Oh, drat, that’s a new project – a quilted decision tree!

Luck and wisdom!

Of Reindeer and Chenille

December 28, 2016

Despite the approach of 2017, or perhaps because of it, I’m starting this post off with something cheerful and cute:

Lani Longshore reindeer

This is a Christmas present from my son. The kids sometimes tease me about my odd collections, but they know how to make me smile. Having something to smile about will be important in the coming weeks, because my Christmas present to myself was permission to ignore the projects in the sewing room.

I did manage to start one project, turning chenille into products that might be marketed with The Chenille Ultimatum. My co-author Ann Anastasio saw a tote bag with raw seams that we thought would work well for chenille.

Lani Longshore chenille tote bag

The bag is made from one long strip of fabric and two small rectangles for side panels. I added the pocket. The raw edges are ideal for chenille, since managing those thick seams isn’t fun at all. Here is the reason I know that:

Lani Longshore chenille pillow

Turning the pillow corners took nearly as long as sewing the entire envelope. I’m not sure if it would be easier to make a round pillow or to try inserting tassels in the corners to hide any irregularities.

Those are questions for another day, however. Today, I’m going to admire my new reindeer, and ignore my projects as my New Year’s gift to myself.

Luck and wisdom!


September 3, 2014

Despite my best intentions, and a brand new notepad, the new schedule I wrote up didn’t work this week. Part of that was due to the end of summer festivities – Labor Day Weekend and the Scottish Games – and part was due to the tortuous path creativity often takes. Oddly enough, stomping around the house in a snit did not help the creative process. Then I remembered the little voice from my GPS, who finds another way to my destination when I take a wrong turn even though the route is mapped out right there, on the screen. “Recalculating,” she grouses. I did, too.

Lani Longshore Viking tote

My go-to scheme when the task at hand proves difficult is to do something else. Instead of staring at the pile of fabric that wasn’t making itself into my Challenge project, I made a tote bag. I bought two yards of this Viking journey fabric, intending to make a quilt when my story about space Vikings is finished. Since I’m still working on the third book in the Chenille series (The Chenille Ultimatum), the space Viking story is on long-term hold. Instead, I lined the tote bag with space fabric.

Lani Longshore space fabric

I also put some jingly-jangly stuff on the outside of the bag.

Lani Longshore Viking motif keychain

It’s probably no surprise that I have more lovely embellishments. They didn’t quite fit the requirements for a tote bag.

Lani Longshore Viking embellishments

Since it is easier to make a new small project than put scraps away, I started a base quilt that might be a better home for the embellishments. It will also be a nice escape project for the next time I get writers and/or quilters block.

Luck and wisdom!

Where I’m From, Where I’m Going

November 6, 2013

In an attempt to wrench myself away from the rest of my Halloween fabric, I decided to make one more project and then reassess the sewing room. Since I can make tote bags in my sleep, that’s the project I chose.


The side with the crows

The side with the ravens


This is a very simple bag – no pockets, no zippers, no embellishments – just an enjoyment of fabric.


The side with the bats

The side with the bats


The reassessment took a bit more effort. While I was stacking up fabric for future consideration, I noticed some of the inspiration objects I have in the room.


My grandparents creations

My grandparents’ creations


This vase and the plastic flowers were made by my grandparents, Fred and Luba Rezansoff. They were multi-talented people who sang (click here to see the album of Russian songs they made with close friends), served their community, gardened and made art.


That desire to make beautiful things filtered through the generations. My mother made a flower arrangement from one of the miniature pitchers that my grandfather carved.


From my grandfather to my mother to me

From my grandfather to my mother to me


It’s kind of thrilling to think about the genetic contribution to who I am as an artist (instead of obsessing about the genetic contribution to my expanding waistline). That’s where I’m from. The question before me is where am I going?


Once again, family came up with the answer. My brother mentioned that Karen Nyberg, now on the International Space Station, put out a call for star blocks. Click here for a link to the NASA website or here for information on the star block challenge.


I met another quilting astronaut on the set of Simply Quilts. Jan Davis doesn’t mention quilting in her official NASA biography, but she appeared on a show in 2000 and demonstrated hand applique. She designed a pattern based on the NASA astronaut pin that was available free on the Simply Quilts website.


(Shameless self promotion – I was also a guest on Simply Quilts. Alex Anderson‘s producers wanted to do a show on quilting in non-traditional venues. Alex and I are both members of Amador Valley Quilters, so she knew about the prison project and asked if I would mind her passing my contact information to the producers. Mind? Mind?!! I couldn’t say yes fast enough. Taping the show was a joy, and then to be allowed to watch the taping of Jan Davis and meet her afterwards – one of the best days in my life.)


Davis flew on three space shuttle missions. Like Nyberg, she also brought fabric into space. While I’m sad that this connection between quilting and NASA isn’t (yet) in the official history, at least Nyberg’s art is being recognized.


I don’t know if Davis or Nyberg or even my grandfather identify themselves as artists, but I do. Making something beautiful is as much a gift to the community as it is to the artist/crafter/hobbyist/human being expressing joy or pain or amazement at life itself. And yes, I’m including art that challenges or disturbs in the category of “something beautiful” because there can be a beauty about truthful emotion that transcends any ugliness in the piece.


My first impressions of Northern California in 1983 were not those of beauty. My husband and I were driving down I-5 in mid-summer, the last leg on our move from Boston. Every mile we drove south, more green disappeared from the landscape. By the time we hit Redding I accused him of taking me to Mars. This quilt is based on that memory. With a little bit of luck and a lot of perseverance, I hope to find some beauty in there.


To Mars, via California

To Mars, via California



Style = Story + Strata

August 14, 2013

I’ve said before that I wait for the fabric to speak to me before I start a project. I’ve also admitted that very often my color choices depend on what I can reach. This week I accepted the truth – my style is determined by the story behind the materials and where those materials are in the layers of stuff around my studio. Rather than fight the reality of my cluttered creative space, I will embrace it and turn that bug into a feature.


Another reality I have embraced is that I have no space for another quilt anywhere – not the walls, not the chairs or couches, not the beds – but I can always use another tote bag. I made two.


Lani Longshore flamingo tote


I had an eighth of a yard of bright pink fabric with either flying birds or flying bats (I think they’re birds), some hot pink purse handles, hot pink chenille on a spool, and a yard of flamingo fabric.


Lani Longshore flamingo fabric


The is tote is big enough to carry my sharing to quilt guild meetings, which is why I attached my name tag to it.


Lani Longshore celtic box tote


I finished the small, square tote from the fabric that Margaret Misegades gave me. The celtic fabric really is from Ireland.


Lani Longshore dove


The dove is not from Ireland, but I thought it went well with the celtic pieces.


Lani Longshore button


I bought the button embellishments in Santa Fe at the SAQA conference. They are made by Robin Pascal of Perfect Buttons. When I bought them, I had no idea how appropriate that name is, as I think they really are perfect for this project.


And so it is with my new-found label for my style. It doesn’t really describe what comes out of my studio, but it certainly describes my process. For the moment, that is as good as I’m going to get.




The Beginning of the Bag Wars

January 23, 2013

The county where I live is gently prodding its citizens to be more responsible. Grocery stores no longer offer plastic bags to shoppers, and charge a dime for paper bags. This is a good step – encouraging us to use fewer resources; to be aware that our actions (such as buying out the chocolate aisle because its going to be a really hard week) have consequences; to become more creative.

As a quilter, I have nearly as many tote bags as I do rulers. There are patterns for buttoned bags, zippered bags, pouched bags and fancy dress bags tucked among my quilting books. I can make a basic boxed-bottom tote with the same ease that I can sew a 9-Patch.

The fancy bag collection

The fancy bag collection

And yet . . . I’m going to miss my grocery store bags. For one thing, I used both varieties. The small plastic bags were stuffed in their very own holder for use in small trash bins.

bag holder

I think this was the very first tote-like item I made, which is probably not a surprise to any of you with a passing knowledge of fabric. The piece I used for the holder came over on the Mayflower.

The paper bags are great for the trash, for transporting items to meetings (especially when I don’t need the stuff back), and for recycling shredded documents.

paper bags

My grocery shopping habits won’t change, as I’ve amassed a collection of working bags over the years and started using them when local eco-friendly groups guilted me onto a higher plane of consciousness.

The working bag collection

The working bag collection

I don’t miss the status of being greener-than-thou (or at least greener than some of my neighbors). What I will miss is the convenience of lining my small bins with free plastic bags. Also, I can foresee the time when, after enjoying the treats my friend the fabulous cook gives me after a party at her house, I will be returning not only the containers but the bag she sent them in. It’s the right thing to do, and I suspect we’ll find new ways of getting rid of the stuff we simply can’t reduce, reuse or recycle. Until then, I will mourn the bag.


Breathing Space

May 16, 2012

The week came and went, and so did I. I went into the sewing room and tidied up one pile every day. It didn’t matter how small the pile was in the beginning as long as it was gone by the end. This is what I gained:

By sorting and consolidating fabrics for my prison program, then shifting the bins from one place to another, I carved out a little breathing space in the corner. There is still fabric in both upstairs bedrooms, the downstairs bedroom, under the piano and in the garage, but I can get to the fabric in the sewing room so I’ll be able to use it in kits more easily. That will make it easier to swap out empty(ish) bins from the sewing room with full bins from other places.

Along with the sorting of fabrics, I also forced myself to cut the scraps. I hate cutting scraps almost as much as I hate sorting socks. That means I delay the chore as long as possible, and that is why the stack of cut squares looks like this:

Last of all, I said goodbye to an old friend.

I have used this tote bag to haul patterns and kits to my prison quilting class for nearly twenty years. It is one of the first tote bags I ever made. I had always thought we would retire together, but age is catching up with both of us:

While there are plenty of products (most resembling spackling compounds) available to hide my fraying edges, this situation is terminal. I sent the bag to tote bag heaven and brought out another from my near-inexhaustible supply. The new bag is bigger, stronger, and will be of great use but I’ll always remember the original fondly. In the end, I hope that I am remembered equally as fondly when I go to tote bag heaven.

Twilight of the Thread

April 4, 2012

I gave myself permission to get rid of thread this week. Some of my thread is very old, some of it was meant for techniques that I don’t use, and some of it has been waiting for a special project that will never come. The old stuff I threw away – it’s stressful enough during an election year without trying to keep smiling when my thread breaks. I boxed up some of the rest – I’ll give it one more chance, in case I use those techniques in the next six months, then it goes to a good home. The special thread that I won’t ever use is going to my friendship groups in hopes of finding someone who will appreciate it.

The thread that was left went into two small-ish cases that I can keep by my sewing machine:

It may not be the most elegant solution, but it really works for me. I used to keep thread in a couple of small chests on the shelves that would often get blocked in by other stuff. Also, the thread would hide in the drawers – yes, I know the drawers are small, but thread is sneaky – which is why I have six spools of red.

Next came the embroidery floss. I have been finishing up cross-stitch kits that I acquired so long ago I no longer remember whether I bought them, was given them, or found them on the doorstep. While I felt a sense of accomplishment when the last stitch was crossed, I also felt a sense of oppression when I saw how much floss was left. I decided I would make small things for my brother’s soon-to-arrive grandchildren:


Boat on a bib


Bird on a bib


Booties with gull and shrimp

With what was left from the leftover embroidery floss (and an extra skein of purple) I decided to experiment with a tote bag:

My first attempt at a purple and black rose didn’t quite work, but that’s okay. The embroidery floss served its purpose, even if it is now living in my trash can instead of on the tote bag. Using the free stuff instead of the good stuff let me experiment, which helps me learn and grow. Now I’ll keep going until I create the rose that I want – and I’ve cleaned out one more pile in the sewing room!

A Toy Tote for the Newest Santa Claus

December 14, 2011


My brother will be a grandfather next year. I’m not certain how he is dealing with it, but I’m thrilled. For the first time in years, I had an idea for a Christmas present for him. All grandchildren consider their grandfathers to be the next best thing to Santa Claus, so of course he needs his own bag to haul the toys, right?


I wanted the tote to be a little more masculine than my usual bag lady creation, so I showed it to my husband, who suggested a handle would be more appealing to my brother than a shoulder strap alone.

I also decided that my brother needed to have his own collection of spit-up towels for the baby. Trusting in the spirit of the season, I gave cross-stitch another chance. While I love embroidery, I have found that cross-stitch (like crotchet and knitting) taxes my basic math skills. I can’t count. I’m always getting lost in the pattern, or not finding the center no matter how hard I try. Still, I pulled out my patterns and tried a few small, simple things:

This is the first one I tried. I figured a one-color pattern would be a good warm-up, and that I could figure out how to make the letters even if I can’t count.

Next I tried a rocking horse:

Although I managed to follow the pattern, I didn’t center it properly on the towel. Oh, well, at least people will know a real live human made it because there’s a mistake in it.

Next I tried some shells:

These were more challenging than I expected, because the holes are so small. By the time I got around to the last bit of outline stitching, there wasn’t a lot of room for the needle and floss.

Last came a folk design that reminds me of Russian folk art:

My luck ran out with this one, and I did get lost in the pattern. However, after successfully navigating the other designs I decided folk art could accommodate my errors and fudged a few squares here and there. I know the baby won’t notice, and I suspect my brother won’t, either.


The Finishing Spree

January 12, 2011

I had a deadline this week – make a tote bag for a gift. The kit I bought could be used for two totes if I altered the instructions slightly, so I did. I made my deadline, and decided to finish up the second tote for me:

Finishing something gave me such a rush of endorphins I decided to pull out some of the UFOs that were within an hour of being done and see how far I could get. First on the list was the GPS bag. My son reminded me that we make our own reality, and if I used the “getting lost” fabric that’s what would happen. My daughter said the balloons wouldn’t work either, so I used fish:

I don’t have pet fish, and I’m a vegetarian so I don’t go fishing, but I really like fish fabric. I don’t even know what kind of fish these are (trout?), but they’re pretty and they’re on their way to someplace wonderful.

Next were two chenille bags. Why chenille? My friend Ann Anastasio and I wrote a novel about quilters saving the world from space invaders called Death By Chenille. I thought it would be fun to carry copies of the book in chenille totes. They languished on my shelf for quite some time, which is actually fine because the book has languished, too (we’re still looking for an agent).

The first bag languished because I tried to make a fancier pocket than usual, and it didn’t quite work. It needed some sort of clasp to make it useful. Without realizing, I had bought the perfect clasp months ago, so on it went:

The second bag languished because it needed a pocket and after the disaster with the previous pocket I was stumped. Today, I just sewed on the first thing that came to hand and called it good.

The pocket still needs something – a button maybe – but for the most part the bag is finished. If my son is correct, and we do to some extent create our own reality, perhaps this will be End of the UFO Year, or at least Beginning of the End of the UFO Year.