A Cartoon for Quilters: The Story of Mrs. Bobbins

May 29, 2017   /   byAbby  / Categories :  Feeds

Julia Icenogle in her home studio.

One afternoon in 2008, while mingling at the opening reception of an art show where her work was displayed, illustrator Julia Icenogle was approached by the editors of the Kansas City Star. The newspaper was looking to create a blog and they’d decided a web comic would keep readers coming back each week. “I had a cartoony style and they thought it kinda looked like the Far Side comics by Gary Larson,” Icenogle recalls. The paper had a popular column on quilting and wanted that to be the focus of the comic.

Picke Dish

“The artwork I had at the show wasn’t about quilting,” says Icenogle, who is 30. “I’m not a quilter. I’m a knitter and I’m very into knitting and other crafts, but I’ve actually never tried quilting.” She was a caught off guard, but gave the opportunity further consideration when the editors called a week later. “I was like, ‘I don’t think I’m the right person for this. Yes, I can draw funny cartoons, but I don’t know a thing about quilting,’” she said, but despite her protestations they handed her a stack of quilting magazines and sent her home to see what she could come up with.

“I went to the library and checked out all the books on quilting so I could get all the plays on words about different names of quilt blocks,” Icenogle says. “And then I started studying my aunt.”

Mrs. Bobbins

On the left, Julia Icenogle, the artist behind Mrs. Bobbins. On the right, her Aunt Camille, about whom the character is based.

Her aunt Camille is an avid quilter who was living in Lawrence, Kansas at the time. Iceonogle describes her as “really blunt about some things, and really opinionated and passionate about quilting.” With her aunt as her muse she came up with the character for the comic, Mrs. Bobbins.

Julia Icenogle

Stocky with a shock of gray hair and round green glasses, Mrs. Bobbins leads a quilt-focused life with attitude. “She’s a young 60. Mrs. Bobbins is a lady who is going to have an opinion about every single thing and she’s going to be very vocal about that, standing with her hands on her hips the whole time, loud and complaining about most things,” says Icenogle of her character who has since become something of an icon in the quilting world. “She’s very excited about stocking up on fabrics and quilting is her entire life. She doesn’t really do many other things besides quilting.”

Needless to say the editors were pleased and the comic ran on Pickle Dish, the Kansas City Star blog, weekly for five years from 2008-2013. In total Icenogle drew 500 comics featuring Mrs. Bobbins. Often Mr. Bobbins, her soft-spoken husband who secretly would like to try quilting himself, makes an appearance along with several middle-aged girlfriends.

quilting cartoon

When her contract with the newspaper ended the rights to Mrs. Bobbins reverted entirely to Icenogle who, after a taking a break for a few years, is now revamping and republishing them on her blog. In a recent one Mr. Bobbins is talking with a friend while he has giant butterfly-shaped holes in his pants. “The wife’s been into quilting with wool lately,” he says.

The comics have been shared widely in quilting circles online. Icenogle says the jokes in which Mrs. Bobbins shows a glint of self-awareness about the amount of fabric she’s amassed seem to resonate the most with readers. A strip in which Mrs. Bobbins is standing in front of her closet saying, “Oh this fabric stash,” sold well as a print.

Many quilters see themselves and their friends in Mrs. Bobbins. Designer and teacher Cheryl Sleboda understands well why the cartoons have become so popular. “What I see is brilliant branding towards the largest segment of the quilting market. Every quilter has said most of these things,” Sleboda remarks. “The ladies in the two very traditional quilt guilds I belong to certainly have said everything in these cartoons.”

Others are bothered by the gender roles depicted in some of the Mrs. Bobbins cartoons that can feel outdated. “She is definitely based on the stereotypical old school quilter,” says Icenogle of her character. “It’s kind of what I observed in most of the quilters I talked to from the Midwest. That’s kind of what people were joking about.”

Icenogle has considered creating a character foil for Mrs. Bobbins, a friend who is different and modern, but until now hasn’t pursued it. “To be honest I just don’t think I’m immersed enough into the more feminist quilter culture to even know that is a thing. My knowledge of quilting is limited to just what I see and most of what I see is the stereotypical older lady quilter.”

quilting cartoons

quilting cartoon

Mrs. Bobbins has become a driving force in Icenogle’s illustration career. The web comic helped her pay her way through a masters degree program in occupational therapy. It led to a book, The Big Book of Bobbins: Fun, Quilty Cartoons, published by C&T in 2010, as well as a 2012 wall calendar. Last year Northcott, a major manufacturer of quilting cotton, licensed Mrs. Bobbins for fabric that will be released soon. A selection of the cartoons is also available as machine embroidery designs.

“Looking back and looking at all the things I’ve drawn in the past I don’t think I ever expected that it would take off more than just a very local crowd, like here is our Kansas City blog and I think we’re going to maybe reach people within a 200 mile radius of here,” laughs Icenogle. “But here’s somebody in Australia and here’s somebody in England who wants to buy something with Mrs. Bobbins on it and so that was kind of like, ‘oh my goodness.’ And now with Facebook I’m pretty much getting interest all over the place which I never expected that to happen.”

The post A Cartoon for Quilters: The Story of Mrs. Bobbins appeared first on whileshenaps.com.

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Ida Clutch Bag

I have something a bit different to show you today, which is this little clutch bag that I made for my sister, who absolutely loves it.  I first spotted it on Instagram when Kirsten from Fifty Two Fancies made it, and instantly though that my sister would like it.


The pattern is called the Ida Clutch Bag, and is a free pattern from Kylie And The Machine.
One of the bags on the introduction page is leather, as is Kirsten’s, and I really loved them, so decided to give it a go myself.  

Much googling finally brought me to Leather4Craft on ebay, where I bought some veg-tan goat skin leather for £22.00.  It came as a rectangle of leather, which I stupidly forgot to measure, and is lovely and soft.  There was more than enough for this little bag.
More googling was done on cutting and sewing leather.  I used my rotary cutter to cut it out, and pattern weights to hold the pattern piece down.  I say pattern weights, it was really my phone and some masking tape…

You can maybe, sort of, judge the size of the leather from this photo.  There was enough leather to the top to cut out another pattern piece, and there was a bit left over that is probably about half as wide as the bit that my rotary cutter is sitting on.
Sewing the leather turned out to be a lot easier than I thought, but leather needles are a must.  I practised a dart on some scrap leather first, and my machine handled it beautifully.  Sewing leather is a bit of a one shot deal, you don’t want to be unpicking, and my walking foot was great.

I marked the point of the dart with a pin, which left a little hole in the leather, then clipped the dart ends within the seam allowance.
I marked the dart legs with a pencil on the wrong side of the leather.
I obviously couldn’t use pins on the leather, as they would leave little holes, so I used a mini clothes pegs to hold everything together.  Quilting clips would be great, but I don’t have any.
 This is what the darts look like from the wrong side,
And this is the right side.
The instruction page on the interfacing mentions that the sample leather bag is interfaced (I think it’s in the comments), but I was a bit too scared to try that!  So I just interfaced the lining.  I used a medium weight interfacing for the whole bag lining (Piece B), and then a woven interfacing on top for Piece C.

I added an inside pocket, and made it as big as I could without interfering with the darts.  It’s big enough for a phone.

Next came inserting the zip, and the instructions for it are brilliant.  I didn’t take any photos of it, but here’s what it looked like when it was finished. 
The pin in the photo above is marking the tailor’s tack for the snap placement, which leads me on to attaching the snaps.  I wasn’t looking forward to this, because I was afraid of ruining the leather.  But some more googling showed me how to do it.  
Everything I read called for interfacing, but, as already mentioned, I didn’t want to interface the leather.  So I didn’t use any, and it’s grand.  Here’s what I did.
First of all, I practised on a leather scrap!  The snaps have two prongs on the back that are secured with a little washer.   

I stuck a pin through the lining and leather where the tailor’s tack was (the tack was just in the lining), to mark the snap position on the leather.  Then I used the washer as a template, and marked the position of the prongs with a pen (making sure it wouldn’t bleed through to the front!).


Admire that lovely top stitching!


Then I snipped into the leather using some embroidery scissors.

The prongs on the snap go through the holes from the front, then it is held in place with the washer.  I just put it through the leather, so the snap is not visible on the inside of the bag.

Here’s what it looks like from the right side.

I did the same with the other snap, and here’s what it looks like when it’s closed.

As suggested in the instructions, I sewed the edges of the bag with a zipper foot.  It was tricky to get over the closed end of the zip, and I ended up just turning the hand wheel.

I’m delighted with how this little bag turned out, and leather definitely isn’t as tricky to sew as I thought.

Now I sort of want to make a leather purse…  Have a great weekend,
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New Look 6500 shift dress: a simple pattern that I couldn’t leave unmodified

How much adjustment do you do on a very simple pattern? Do you feel it’s worthwhile to make very small changes to get it just right or perhaps you sew up simple things as is and save your efforts for a special dress or coat.
This simple dress pattern is something that I choose as one of the suggestions for my Sew a Dress class at Hello Stitch in Berkeley. (scheduled again for Sun. July 30 – the first one was great fun. More details at the bottom of this post on all the upcoming classes). As it happens Craftsy asked me to write a longer post outlining all the steps to sew a simple dress, consequently I decided to sew up this pattern and get a lot of things done with one project. Plus I’ve been on a shift dress kick lately. They are such simple and pleasant things to wear. Since it was 107˚F in the SHADE here yesterday I would rather have worn a dress made of ice cubes but since that is not going to happen a shift dress it is.

batik shift dress

I have had this fabric in my stash for a good 5 or 6 years. It’s a cotton batik that I bought in Hawaii, quite a large amount (5 yards) and just never found a use for it. Slightly heavy as a lot of batiks are, so not really good for most dresses plus the vertical stripe had me stumped. I think I found the perfect style for it that uses the stripe best. Plus I can wear my stripes navy blue espadrille sandals – double win.
Here’s the pattern envelope, with a sneak peek of a subsequent version of this dress. Which everyone has gone wild for on my Instagram teases, embroidered denim must be the thing this summer. The envelope says D0569 but all the pattern pieces say New Look 6500 so I’m calling it that. I really like New Look patterns, they come up with some super cute dresses and tops, plus they include all sizes in one envelope and cost $ 3.99 all the time.

New Look Shift dress pattern

batik dr front view

Onward to my adjustments: I sewed this dress for the Craftsy post, not as a wearable but as a “photograph-able” item, i.e. something that would really show in the step-by-step tutorial but I had no intention of wearing it. It was actually quite a pleasure to just sew up a dress with no changes, I sewed the size 12 and went from there.
Here is the version I sewed for Craftsy, in a quilting cotton that I had in my stash, I think a remainder from a project I did for someone on Etsy ages ago. And I really loathe this color of green so don’t even tell me that you like this dress on me 🙂 Plus for the most part sewing/wearing garments with quilting cotton is a bit NO for me. With some exceptions they always look a bit off: too wrinkly, too juvenile, too unsophisticated to claim my interest.

green shift dress

green shift dress3

But I include the photo of me wearing this one to show the neckline fit. That neckline was choking me – I don’t like that high round neckline and when you move your head forward it’s so uncomfortable. Good shoe match thought, right?

Back to the blue and white batik version. Can you see the difference in the neckline? It is so much more comfortable for me in the second version. I wanted to figure out exactly how much to open the neck so I made a version of just the top half of the dress in swedish tracing paper – and every time I use that I remember that is has absolutely no give. While it seems like a good idea because you can sew it – putting it on is not so easy. I did put a zipper so I could actually try it on – which worked in the end but it was kind of shredded. However it was good enough to slice and dice a bit, figuring out how I wanted the final neckline to be shaped.

neckline comparison

I cut out the batik version based on my new neckline, and basted it together at the shoulder seams to see if I liked the neckline. It still seemed a bit too high for my preference and also I like the armholes to be more cut in at the shoulder in a sleeveless dress. So instead of cutting more off the edges of the dress I made a one piece facing for front and back, and then used tracing paper to mark a seam line. At the neck I took away a further 5/8″ (total seam allowance now 1.25″) and then on the armholes I think I sewed it at around 7/8″ which makes the armhole a bit bigger all around. You have to be careful that it doesn’t make the armhole too low but this dress had a very tight armhole so there was plenty of room.

batik dress facing new seam

On my next version of this dress (the embroidered chambray fabric)  I’ll show how I make the one piece facing plus this upcoming version is lined so it incorporates facing and lining together.

The original New Look pattern had separate neck and armhole facings which works ok, not my preference but not as horrible as some make it out to be. But there’s a better way. Another option for these simple summer dresses is bias binding but I wanted to show the traditional or basic type of dress sewing.

But we are not done yet! In fact this adjustment should have come up first in my writing but I only remembered to take this picture a few minutes and include it. The bust dart on this dress is both large and high. I measured it on the pattern piece and could see that it needed to be lower so I did that before I did anything else, just a straightforward shift downward about 3/4″. The bust dart is kind of larger than it would be had there been other darts (vertical waist darts)  or other shaping. Trying it on it made the dart a bit too pointy – not my favorite look. So I reduced the width of the dart.

dart adjustment on shift dress

On the tracing paper on the left you can see the faint outline of the original dart, too high. The second placement, lower but too big, and then the final version in the purple dotted line, just right. I sound like Goldilocks don’t I but if you’re going to do adjustments you might as well go all the way until you like the fit.

Batik dr side and back view

Back and side view, you can barely see the dart but that is the ideal, at least for me. Since the side seams were not even in length I split the difference at the top of the seam at the armhole and sliced off about 3/8″ off the side back at that point. Worked out fine.

batik dress front 2

So that’s chapter one on my summer shift dress extravaganza. I have some more complex things in line for my sewing table but not sure what order I will sew them.

Here’s the link to that Craftsy post: The Complete Beginners Guide to Sewing a Dress.

Update on classes at Hello Stitch Studio on Berkeley. The Fit Lab was great – we are going to schedule this class again soon. In July we are repeating Saturday classes for sewing Skirts, Tunic Tops, and a new on starting on Wed 7/26 in the evening is a Button-front shirt class. All these classes are two sessions scheduled a week apart so not a long term time commitment and you will get a project done (or nearly) and learn some new and useful techniques. The Dress class is an all-day one on Sun. 7/30. FYI: I’ve found parking to be surprisingly easy around the studio and it is no more than a 10 minute walk from the Berkeley Bart station so really convenient to get to.

This was yesterday afternoon. Survival mode with an iced coffee. thankfully lots cooler today (ha ha only mid 90’s˚F).


Happy weekend sewing,

today’s garden photo, this white daisy just looks so calm and cool, even in this heat!


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Surprise Watercolor Drawings are a fun way to paint! Kids can make their creations, give them to a friend, and watch as their friend uncovers the magic drawing using watercolor paint! We’ve partnered with Imperial Sugar to bring you this fun activity, featuring sugar glue that you can make at home!   Surprise Watercolor Drawings…

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