Mandolin Case

mandolin case

Just a simple mandolin case, that shouldn’t be too difficult to design and make. I quickly became disillusioned of that idea after getting started.

My son has added a mandolin to the growing collection of music instruments that he plays. But, it came without a case. That should be easy enough to make, I thought.

First, I traced the outline of the mandolin and measured the maximum depth so I could make a pattern. Then I rounded up materials.

The fabric for front and back pieces, the zippers and the strap are from recycled luggage. A couple garment bags were purchased at a thrift store and then disassembled for their fabric and hardware. Lots of zippers in a garment bag. It was an inexpensive way to get a long double slider zipper and some heavy duty fabric.

But it required some extra effort of seam ripping and done carefully so as to not ruin the zippers. There was just enough of the dark blue fabric for the front and back fabrics. I was even able to cut out the front piece so that it included a zippered pocket from the original garment bag.

For the side pieces, I was going to use fabric from the black bag, but the fabric has a fairly open weave, which did not seem like a good choice.

I needed less than a 1/4 yard of fabric for the side pieces, but did not have any leftover scraps that would do. This meant a trip to a fabric store. I went shopping with a friend to a fabric store closing sale where I found several yards of a brown fabric that would work nicely. Didn’t need or want that much, but the whole thing cost about the same as buying a 1/4 yard of fabric at regular price and it was suitable for the project.

There was one more material to find and purchase, which was 1/2″ thick foam for padding. The rest of materials needed was just thread, needles, inner fabric and stabilizer; all of which I already had.

patches in her box of fabric

The inner fabric was a scrap that had migrated to the box of fuzzy fabrics that my dog likes to sleep in. It got washed, cut up and stitched into the case. Don’t worry about my dog, she has plenty of fluffy fabrics in her box.

To give the bag some rigidity, a layer of heavy duty stabilizer was added to the bag. The foam was stitched to the stabilizer and trimmed to the same size as the stabilizer.The stabilizer and foam had to be cut to a tad less than the finished size with no seam allowance so that they would not add bulk to the seams.

mandolin padding

Trying to cram stiff stabilizer and 1/2″ thick foam through the machine took patience and a shorter presser foot. The need for a shorter presser foot was an idea that came to me after a long struggle with a regular foot. I used a free-motion embroidery foot since it is a little shorter. Even then, I had to compress the materials to get them through the machine.

The hardware was stitched to the outer fabric pieces. Should be simple enough.

mandolin case handle

Nope, I mistakenly attached the handle to the hinge side of the case instead of the zipper side. That would have not only been inconvenient form my son to have to set the case down and turn it around to unzip it, it could have been disastrous. If the case was not zipped all the way shut when picked up (which might not be noticed since not on handle side), then the mandolin could have fallen out.

mandolin case handle on wrong side

So, back to seam ripping again. This time I had to carefully remove the handle and D-rings (for strap that got omitted from final product), then figure out where to locate handle on the other side and reattach it.

Next, the stabilizer/foam pieces were stitched to the fabric pieces. First to the liner and then to the outer fabrics for the front and back pieces and in the reverse order for the side pieces.

What I did not realize was that the stabilizer in addition to the foam would make the pieces rather stiff. That was a good thing for the finished product to protect the mandolin, but for construction, it made assembling on the sewing machine a physically challenging step in the process.

Flat pieces were not difficult to sew together, but once the thing starting to take shape it was becoming a monster to handle. In the picture below, I had just started to sew the side to the back piece and it was relatively easy going at this point.

mandolin case assembly

I am pleased with the finished product and more importantly, so is my son.

If I had to do this over again, it would be a little easier for the lessons learned and much easier if it could be made on an industrial sewing machine that was built for this type of sewing. This is not a project I would volunteer to do again even though it was worth the effort of making the mandolin bag, both so the mandolin could have a case and for the value of the learning experience.

Of course, there is all those leftover zippers that I am sure will find their way into future projects. Hmmm, I’m thinking of one of my zippered bags which is going into self-destruct mode after many years of service and needs replacing. With all those zippers, there could be different compartments and there could be….

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Ring Thimble with Plate Tutorial

This tutorial is for a ring thimble with plate. This type of thimble is often used for sashiko stitching, but can also be used for stitching temari or when stitching through thick or difficult fabric. The thimble is worn as a ring, but the plate that rests on the palm at the base of the finger is what pushes the needle. This allows greater force to be used than just the strength of fingers, making stitching easier.

temari thimble 1

You might wonder why anyone would want to make a ring thimble with plate when an adjustable metal or leather ones can be purchased inexpensively? Well, if you are like me, and allergic to various metals, then a metal one is not a good option. The leather ones are usually colored with dyes that often contain metal, so that is not a good option either for the same reason. Also, I find the soft plate of the leather still allows my palm to get sore.

I find my handmade thimbles to be much more comfortable than either the metal or the leather ones, which I did try. I even wrapped the metal one in fabric, to make it usable. But the time spent make that one useable could have been spent making a better one. These also have a slightly larger plate than the metal one, which I find easier to use.

Making your own thimble also allows you to have one with a custom fit size.

TOOLS, MATERIALS AND SUPPLIES

temari thimble 2

The tools, materials and supplies you will need are in the picture above. They include:

  • Scissors – for cutting thread and for cutting plastic and fabric
  • Thread, general purpose – one to match felt color and one matching ribbon color
  • Small needle– for stitching with the general purpose thread
  • Large needle – for stitching with the perle cotton  or embroidery thead
  • Perle cotton thread (or embroidery thread)- color that coordinates with felt color
  • Template plastic – or equivalent cut to 1/4″ wide by the circumference of your finger (where you would wear a ring) plus 1/2″
  • 3/8″ grosgrain ribbon – one at 2 1/2″ long
  • 3/8″ grosgrain ribbon – one at 2 times the length of the strip of template plastic plus 1/2″
  • A pull ring seal from a milk or other carton – this one is from an almond milk or coconut milk container
  •  Felt – a small piece that is slightly longer than the plastic strip and a little wider than the width of plastic strip plus the width of the pull seal. A polyester felt was used for this project due to an allergy to wool.

PREPARING TO SEW

temari thimble 3

L to R: seal with ring, seal with ring cut off, and seal with an edge cut off

Cut the ring off the pull seal. Next, cut a sliver off the edge of the circle so that it includes the little nub where the ring was attached.

temari thimble 4

Align the long piece of ribbon just inside the long straight edge of the piece of felt and place the seal with the cut edge near (with a small gap between) the ribbon. With a pen, trace along ribbon and around pull seal. Next, cut just outside the marked line, being more generous around the seal.

temari thimble 5

STITCHING THE PARTS

With the leftover piece of felt, lay the pull seal on the fabric with a gap (about 3/16″ to 1/4″) between the cut edge of the circle and the edge of the felt. Trace the curved edge with a pen and then connect the line up to the edge of the felt. See picture above. Cut outside the marked line.

temari thimble 6

From the remaining felt piece, cut a small circle that just fits inside the concave side of pull seal. Baste in place with a couple stitches.

temari thimble 7

Place the pull seal convex side up on top of back of felt so it fits inside circular area. Stitch pull seal to felt so that the stitches are small random stitches on the concave felt side. See pictures above.

temari thimble 8

Trim felt around the pull seal so that it is even with edge of plastic.

temari thimble 15

Take the longer piece of ribbon and fold it in half so that a 1/2″ of one end extends beyond the other end. Starting at the fold end, whip stitch down one side, insert the strip of plastic and then stitch down the other side to enclose the plastic. Don’t cut the thread yet.

If the ribbon is stiff like the metallic grosgrain that is used here, then the plastic probably is not necessary, but is recommended for a softer ribbon such as a satin or non-metallic ribbon. The metallic was used for this project as it was what was on hand at the time.

temari thimble 16

Wrap the ribbon around the finger you would use it on. I find the ring finger, next to smallest, one works best for me. Wrap so that the folded end is underneath and the cut end on top. Mark the ribbon where the overlap starts. The thread tale shows where the folded end is under the other end. Don’t make the fit snug. You want to be able to slide it on and off easily.

I had to pin the ribbon in order to take a picture.

temari thimble 17

ASSEMBLING THE PARTS

Stitch the ring closed along both sides of the overlap. When you get to the cut end, fold it under and continue sewing across the fold, then down the other side.

 

temari thimble 9

Take the short piece of ribbon, fold it in half and slide over the overlapped section of the ribbon ring. Stitch it to the top of the seal. In the picture on the right, you can see where the felt has been flipped down to show stitches that go through the pull seal. Trim the ribbon.

This ribbon connector provides more support so the felt between the ring and the plate does not get stretched and worn.

There are little holes in the edge of the plastic because I forgot this step and had to unstitch the felt backing from the pull seal, attach the ring and restitch backing.

 

temari thimble 10

Baste backing in place.

FINISHING

temari thimble 11

Wrap felt strip ends around ribbon ring and trim so the ends just meet. Stitch ends together with thread that matches felt.

temari thimble 12

Using a buttonhole stitch, stitch around the plate, around the bottom edge of ring and the top edge of the ring.

temari thimble 13Using a stab stitch, stitch across the space between the plate and bottom of the ring, then go back the other direction and with stab stitches, fill in the spaces. This stitches the plate backing to the felt and the ribbon connector.

temari thimble 14

Your custom made ring thimble with plate is ready to use.

Knot Temari: a very large temari

temari 26 with ruler and small temari for size reference

Why Big:

Always looking to explore new challenges, I decided to make a large temari- a very large temari.

Most temari average 3″ to 4″ in diameter and larger ones that I have seen on internet are about 6″ to 7″ in diameter. The largest one that I had made was slightly larger than a basket ball at a little over 10″ in diameter. That size did not really present much in the way of technical or design challenges, so I decided to go even larger. Temari #26 (aka Knot Temari or Big Temari) is 21″ in diameter. That is about the size of a typical large beach ball.

Challenges with Big:

The biggest challenges in making a very large temari had to do with handling a beach ball sized ball. If the core was made with my usual materials such as scraps of fleece or batting wadded around a noise maker, as lightweight as those materials are, they would have made the ball too heavy to handle.

Wrapping the ball in yarn and thread was another challenge that required a new method for coping with size.

I decided to use a thicker thread that would be more proportionately pleasing on the large ball size and type of stitched designs that were going to cover the surface. Trying to find the right size thread was a challenge that was met by not finding it, but making it.

Thicker thread required a larger eyed needle. Stitching on a surface of a sphere for which the curve is closer to flat than on a small ball meant that short straight needles were not going to be as effective as a long curved needle. So, a large eyed, long curved needle was needed, but where could I find one?

creating designs suitable for a large scale ball, rather than an enlarged version of something appropriate for an average sized temari, was a challenge that provided an opportunity to explore more complex designs.

In the following section on how the temari was made, I explain how all these challenges were tackled.

filler

How made Big:

One of the most important things I had to consider before starting was determining what to materials to use for the core. It needed to be light weight so that as a large ball it could be reasonable to handle without causing fatigue. It also needed to be malleable that could be shaped into a sphere while being firm enough to retain its spherical form. I did not want to use a material that would degrade. And finally, cost and environmental impact were concerns.

Polystyrene packing peanuts fit all these requirements. Polystyrene is an inert material which does not break down, attract moths or other bugs, and is very lightweight.  As a bonus, it was free since it was donated by a friend and their use defers their destination to a landfill.

Using polystyrene packing peanuts meant a means of containing them had to be found. On internet, I noticed that temari makers who use loose fillings such as rice hulls, will fill the toe of a sock or stocking or wrap paper or plastic around the loose fill. I used two mesh laundry bags to hold the peanuts.

Making the core of this temari started with partially filling  two mesh laundry bags with polystyrene peanuts. One bag was not big enough, so I used two. They were not completely filled as a rectangular pillow shape would have been difficult to reshape into sphere. A bell was added to each bag. (A friend’s mother who is Japanese and used to make them when she was younger is disappointed when a temari is silent, so out of respect to her, I add a bell to each temari I make.)wrapping ball 1

Then just enough yarn was wrapped around the two bags of foam peanuts to make it roughly spherical in shape. Next, strips of batting were wound around the rough ball to smooth out the big lumps and provide a smoother surface for the yarn wrap. Three pounds of yarn was used for the next layer. For the final thread layer that would be stitched on,  four cones of black serger thread (3000 yards each) were used.

wrapping ball 2 At first, I used a chair to rest the core on while winding yarn. The height of the chair seat height was good for thumping the ball down to compact the foam peanuts while shaping it into a tight ball so they would not shift around and deform the shape later.

Once the ball was stable with no foam peanuts moving around, I found that winding the yarn was easier when I had the ball resting on a smooth table. My sewing machine table is a desk with plastic laminate at a good height to work at while standing. After some trial and error, I found a method of spinning the ball with one hand while guiding the yarn or thread with the other hand. Winding the yarn and thread on the core took a long time since I found it necessary to work in small time chunks each day to prevent repetitive motion injury.

008

When I was done wrapping the ball in its final layer of black thread, I discovered that the solid black on that scale was not very pleasing as it gave the surface a dead flatness (for lack of better description) that was contrary to its physical shape. So, I added touches of color that would be used to embroider the surface later. Machine embroidery threads in purple, turquoise and dark pink were sparsely wrapped over surface of the black and then a sparse layer of black over the colors to visually integrate them with the black surface. The solid black on such a large surface made the ball remind me of a black hole, giving the whole thing a heavy appearance, so adding the colors near the surface tied the surface of the background into the stitched designs.

When I started this temari, I was unable to find a large eyed, long curved needle to purchase locally, so I made a couple. Later I found some which I bought. For larger curved needles, I prefer the shallower curve of the ones I made over the purchased ones.

024

Small purchased needle and two large handmade needles

The surface of the ball was divided as a C10 in the usual way with a strip of paper. Actually tyvec was used here since I had a piece long enough. I don’t intend to use that again since it was a little stretchy therefore hard to keep marking accurate. The finished marking was close enough to true that it would not affect the stitched designs, so I left the marking.

measuring ball

Then the purple bands were marked and stitched based on the icosidodecahedron polyhedron, which is the tessellation of twelve pentagons and 20 triangles on the surface, for 32 faces. To do this, the bands went through the middle of adjacent sides of pentagons which creates a smaller pentagon on point inside each pentagon and the lobbed off corners of the larger pentagons become the triangles.

 stitching bands

I am very fond of variegated yarns and threads since they add a dynamic quality to what would otherwise be a static design, but I usually use them with a solid to show off their changing nature. I found the perfect colors, but not in the right size. The yarn for the purple in the bands was an eight ply cotton yarn which I split into 4 plies. The yarn used for the knot designs were 4 ply cotton crochet threads all of which I split into 2 plies. Splitting the yarns brought all of them down to about the size of #5 perle (pearl) cotton.

Each of the pentagon areas were embroidered with knot designs. For the triangle, I used the same pattern and colors for all 20 to have a constant throughout the ball. For the 12 pentagons, I created 6 knot designs to use as pairs on opposite poles so that no two alike are seen at the same time.

stitching triagle designs

At first, the ball was just placed on a round lipped waste basket (don’t worry- it was new and clean) while stitching the knots, but this required frequent lifting and turning of the ball. I found this to be really tiring and hard on the arms and shoulders. So I mounted the waste basket on a lazy susan (turntable with ball bearings) which I mounted on a piece of plywood (to stabilize the base). This was placed on the floor in front of my chair. The turntable significantly reduced the amount of turning necessary to stitch the designs, but it still had to be lifted occasionally.

temari 26 view 1-3

temari 26 view 4-6

Having Fun:

I have to fight a tendency to preplan projects down to the last detail in my head or on paper, leaving no room for spontaneity or happy accidents and once it is done in my head, then I get bored with the project long before it is completed. Consequently, I try to save some things for designing as I go.

Although I designed each knot pattern as I went, I had already determined the thread colors and made up some design rules to help guide the design process. Some of the rules I made up were things like: the number of threads wide for the bands of each color, each color occupied the center of two knot designs, the green thread was the main color and the other two played supporting roles, the main color must create a knot without the aid of the intertwining of the other colors. Then I deliberately bent or broke the rules to add interest created by inconsistency.

This was a fun and challenging project for which I found the entire process and end product to be very rewarding. I am certain there are more temari in the large to very large categories in my future as there is something about the scale that is just appealing to me.

waiting

 

Two Upcyle Tote Bags

Carolyn, a friend I met years ago through our quilt guild, was debriding collected stuff since she is moving. So, she gave me a bunch of fabric and other things. Among the fabrics were some scraps that were just seemed to want to become a tote bag.

carolyn's scraps bag

I made the one above then gave it to her when I saw her at our quilt guild meeting as a going away gift. I will miss seeing her at the meetings, but there is always internet to stay in touch.

placemat tote

Among other things she brought over was a couple of matching placemats. One got transformed into a box and the other became this small tote. The tan fabric on the top was a scrap from a thrift store and the ribbon used on the handles was a scrap from my box of ribbons.

The box bag is almost done, but not quite, so maybe it will show up in a later post after it is completed and my frustration with it has worn off.

Even though both totes were made from fabrics from my friend’s scraps (mostly), they ended up with very different personalities.

Two Repurposed Sewing Projects

Wishing for an ottoman and not being able to find one that I liked, led me to repurpose a milk crate.

ottoman

What I was looking for was a foot rest with storage space under the cushion. We had an old wood milk crate that was hidden away in a closet that was just the right height with a cushion on top.

The wonderful tapestry fabric was left over from recovering a set of dining room chairs and some scrap lumber in the attic made the base of the cushion. So the only purchase was the 2″ thick foam. The inside is yet to be lined. It will get a lining like the one made for the picnic basket shown below.

picknick basket 1

This sturdy picnic basket was given to me by a friend. It has found a new purpose by being a project basket that I can tote around the house and keep my current sewing project materials tidily within reach of where ever I am parked.

To give the inside a smooth interior that won’t snag threads like the wood does, I made a removable liner. Fabric was stitched to a very stiff stabilizer (Peltex) to make a liner that fits snuggly inside the basket. The liner is stiff enough that it stands on its own so does not need to be attached to the picnic basket.

picknick basket 2

A peek inside the basket shows the liner and my latest temari that I am working on.