31 March 2011

Dear Amy Butler

Hello Amy Butler.

I saw you speak in September 2010 at The Creative Connection Event. You were darling and made a very good presentation. Your textiles are beautiful and you clearly have made a successful and long career that has impacted design in this country.

I bought your Style Stitches book so that I could participate in Jemellia's Style Stitches Monthly Bag Challenge. And it has been challenging as I have never followed a pattern before, having only quilted and made primitive dolls. During month 3 we were to make the 6 Origami Zipper Bags, my first attempt at sewing a zipper. I got all my zippers in and up to step 5. I then finished one bag, turned in right side out and your directions side to "smooth the sides." I had ghastly gaps with no fabric left to smooth, tuck or close. I saw on the Flickr group that people were hand stitching these gaps, or using alternative zipper techniques to finish these bags. It simply didn't work as directed.

I had no intentions of finishing these or any other "designer" patterns. After all, Vera Bradley sells a huge variety of well-priced, high quality bags that cause me no frustration whatsoever.  I am not saying I am intelligent but I have sequenced DNA and can follow a complex set of directions yet I could not understand what I was supposed to do with these instructions.  But...I hated to let Jemellia down.

For three weeks that stack of unfinished bags caused me grief. Now look, I do not want to feel negatively toward you Amy Butler, certainly not toward sewing. My machine is a kind of altar where I go to find peace. Life has lots of frustrations and drudgery, confusion and problems, I certainly don't need my time for creativity to be unpleasant. Not perfect, not without challenge, but these things could certainly be explained better, so that a novice who can follow reasonable directions can get a decent result.

After whining to another member of our group, trying to keep my issues from Jemellia, I researched and grinched through until I found a completely easy solution that closes the bag beautifully and is only a minor adjustment to your instructions.

I have to say, these difficult directions actually made me learn more. It, however, was not particularly enjoyable.

They are complete. I was challenged. I kept my word to Jemellia to participate. I just don't know how drunk I will have to get before I am willing to start month 4 which is designated "intermediate" level of difficulty.


Robin Thomas
Barely Bitter


  1. Thanks Robin. I replied to the thread on Flickr as well, but I just wanted to re-confirm my solidarity on this topic. Those directions totally sucked. I, too, found making these bags a real drag and only completed two out of the five that I had wanted to do. BUT.. I am SO excited to see your new solution and will also be thanking CindyLouHoo, I have no doubt. I don't understand why this had to be so complicated. Anyway..thanks for sharing and for helping.

  2. You rock.

    Plain and simple.

    I bought the fabric for my bags.

    And that's as far as I have gotten.

    Good Lawd I stink at challenges!

    But the love I have for you, oh Great Robin, is deep. And without challenges.

    HOORAY! :)

  3. My laughter comes after much hesitance, now excuse me, I must urinate.

    Also, way to go, Bird! I'll take the 2 in the front, yeah, gingham & dots...

  4. I have no real comment here, because I don't sew (though I want to), but I have to say, this was an enjoyable 5 minute break in my day.

  5. Congratulations! They are beautiful and I am so glad you finished them! And also glad you dug that one out of the trash!

  6. I love love love them..............you are a purse makin machine.........way to go!

  7. Robin, we should always leave those technical issues to a real scientist like you. Like Heather, I have bought the fabric, but due to surgery, have not completed any of the three bags! I WILL catch up, Jemellia! I can be a sewing machine myself when I need to, like the week or two before Silver Bella last year. Glad to see you are feeling better, Robin! Take good care, Gretchen

  8. Thank you for the inspiration, the redemption, and the giggle. I am now following your blog based solely on this post. Camaraderie, baby, camaraderie!

  9. Heh heh...
    Good luck with the next level!
    Oh, and I don't think that just because it's Jemellia's challenge, she should get first pick. I would like the floral/dot and the owl/dot.

  10. I love you...that's all for now.

  11. Ha ha! Well done for getting your project finished :-) Hope you don't have to get too drunk to finish the next level!! Looks great to me.
    Thanks for visiting my blog and for your lovely comment x

  12. I personally think the book is poorly written. I LOVE Amy Butler, BUT she really needed a better editor and she needed to hire a professional patternmaker to write the directions. I am finding that quilters/fabric designers do not a pattern maker make and in turn make me very upset when I buy one of their patterns or books and find flaws with the pattern and/or the directions that cause me pain.
    I am not easily confused by patterns and or directions and I find the directions in the book poor at best. I feel your pain Robin and I am an excellent patternmaker and seamstress.

  13. You were successful in the end though, which is more than I can say for some of the more challenging craft projects I've taken on in the past. Perseverance and wit are two of the many traits I love about you, Robin. And they are both abundant in this post. ;-)

  14. They're beautiful! I do admire your perseverance. I have fabric. Maybe by next year I'll have origami bags.

  15. I love you...you crack me up!! Beautiful bags dear!!!

  16. They are beautiful and you are hilarious. I think you should be a stand-up comic for your next job, ok?


  17. These are so freakin' fabulous! I want them all! My guess is that you will be keeping these pretties all to yourself? No selling? Love them!

  18. You may think you're not intelligent, but anyone sequencing DNA has my vote as a super genius with a flair for funny! Jemellia's bag challenge scared me from the get go, so I'm just sitting on the sidelines oohing and aahing over the pretty bags! I'd buy your cute little nesting bags in a heartbeat! You're rocking the challenge!

    Julie B.

  19. Cute bags, you cute girl you! I will have to stop by more often. So inspiring!

  20. Yes! A solution! Why, oh why did I not find this before I finished all my bags. Oh well- still a lesson learned. Your bags are wonderful. I love that owl print.


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