Archive for August, 2008

Vogue 8335 – Wrap Tunic

August 16th, 2008 3 comments

I love leggings, but I’m not 20 anymore, so I prefer long tunics over them. This one looked like a good bet, so I whipped up a muslin in a cotton knit.

For the first time ever, I attempted a full bust adjustment, using these instructions. I’m borderline in that department, and usually don’t need one. But it looked like a good idea here. Too late, I realized that this mock-wrap calls for an adjustment on both sides, since (ahem) that’s where my breasts are. I should have checked out The Sewing Divas’ advice, but apparently I was feeling geometrically challenged today, and didn’t quite get there.

Nonetheless, I did get a pretty good result:

Except. Except for that hem — what’s the deal with that hem? In order to ensure that I didn’t mess it up, I followed Sandra Betzina’s instructions and used Steam A Seam 2 to ensure (ha!) an unstretched hem. I even hedged my bet by cutting the SAS2 to size based on the pattern, not the garment. No dice:

Am I just terminally hem challenged, or what?

The bust part looks just fine, in spite of the fact that I really did do it all wrong:

And isn’t it cool, the way the stitching disguises the center back seam? And also keeps the untrimmed seam allowances flat?

OK, so this was a muslin. I’ll wear it around the house. But what on earth do I do to get those hems to work? Google, here I come. Again.

Update: After I posted my review of a previous top on PR, sewing for fun added a helpful suggestion there. She suggested using Design Plus Ultra-Soft Double sided fusible web from LJ Designs. I’m going to try it for the next shirt, but I’d already made this one.

Categories: Tops Tags:

Here Be Katzen

August 15th, 2008 No comments

Yeah, more cats.

The sewing room was meant to be Emma’s, since this unholy duo chase her all over the rest of the house. Somehow, though, Emma’s shelf gets co-opted now and then by Sally and Alex. There’s obviously no good reason to leave all the sewing room shedding to Emma.

These guys are Cat Angel Network rescue babies, too, but a little bolder than Emma. (And they’re siblings, too, so they’re a pack of 2 instead of a solo cat. Strength in numbers, yah!)

Categories: Home Tags:

PacSafe CitySafe 200 Review and Mod

August 12th, 2008 4 comments

Years ago, when I was living in Cuernavaca, I modified my backpack by putting metal screening across the bottom and sides to make it slash proof. When I was robbed, the thieves were only able to open my decoy pocket. What did they get? A banana and three tortillas, wrapped in a brightly colored handkerchief. (I’d have loved to have seen their faces when they opened the loot!)

So one of my avocations is the never-ending search for perfect travel bags, and I’ve been interested in ‘secure’ travel bags for a long time. I buy them, I make them, I search them out wherever I go, always eager to discover the next cool or useful feature.

This CitySafe bag has been on my acquisition list for over a year, but I wasn’t able to find the version I wanted in black. For my last trip, I made my Diva bag, and used it, but eventually decided that I really wanted the CitySafe, too, and I ordered it from REI.

Well, not precisely the bag you see above; that’s what I theoretically ordered. I bought mine in nondescript black, but it also comes in an attractive dark brown, tan, and the red above, which is actually more wine colored than bright red. But REI didn’t send me this exact bag — they sent the newer type, which doesn’t have that zipper you see on the left. The difference matters, as you’ll see below.

This CitySafe 200 comes with a slash-proof “exomesh” lining, and slash-proof straps. There are also clever ways to secure your main zipper, and to secure your bag around a bench, train seat (if you have bars underneath), chair, etc. Not so much an issue in this country, maybe, but pretty handy in quite a few other areas of the world, as noted above.

It’s almost perfect. But there are some issues, not relating to security, but to practicality. First of all, as mentioned, the new version doesn’t have that zipper you see above on the side of the water bottle pocket. The zipper pocket was barely adequate when it came to carrying a slim water bottle, but at least you could stuff one in if you had to.

It’s been replaced in the new version of the bag with a gusset — hidden elastic and netting (on the left in the photo above). The new pocket is completely useless — NONE of my vast collection of water bottles or super-slim, compact thermos units fit easily (or at all) into this travesty of a pocket.

So I modified it. I reached inside of the outer fabric flap (next to the front of the bag) and carefully cut the elastic and mesh along the seam line. (I put a safety pin at the end of the elastic first; if it had been in a casing, I didn’t want to have to re-thread it.) Here’s how it looked once I cut it open (the light color is the lining, folded over):

Then I whip-stitched the edges of the mesh and the elastic, and encased them in grosgrain ribbon, making sure to stitch the mesh in place at least three times. Hiding my stitches as carefully as possible, I stitched the grosgrain edge into the flap, hiding the edge inside. The result? A pocket large enough for a standard slim Nalgene:

Unfortunately, it’s not as deep as it should be (that’s a child’s Nalgene above). The last inch and a half of the pocket is useless because, instead of taking the gusset all the way to the bottom, PacSafe just pleated it closed. None the less, with my modification, at least the pocket’s now usable.

When I carry a tall Nalgene, I also clip a carabiner through the cap, just to make sure that I don’t lose the bottle if it pops out of the too-shallow pocket:

I also added a flat button and elastic loop to keep the gusset neatly closed when not carrying a water bottle:

(Great button, isn’t it? It’s exactly the size and shape of an M & M candy. I used it for the feet on my Diva bag, too, and I wish I could find more of them.)

Next up were the two flat pockets on the back side of the bag, closed with zippers. Very flat pockets — in fact, very flat, small, useless pockets. (I was alerted to these by reviewers on, as well as to the solution to the problem.)

Carefully removing the stitching that divides these pockets reveals one long, large pocket — perfect for maps, tickets, smaller guidebooks, etc.. Keeping any of those in your new pocket won’t require opening the main section of the bag, which is exactly what you’d have to do if you left these pockets small.

Happily the ‘two’ zippers aren’t two at all — once the midline stitching is gone, you’ve got two zipper heads on one long zipper — perfect! And you can even use a small padlock or cable to ‘lock’ them closed, if you wish.

Inside, this bag has lots of (mostly) well-designed interior pockets. A small pocket on one end is perfect for my chopsticks, and two sleeves on the other end hold pens. Along the side, though, is a whole section for credit cards. Really? Credit cards? Out in the open like that? Who even thinks of doing that anymore? I wanted (and needed) another pocket for my gear, so I sewed one up, and hand-tacked it in place:

That’s it on the left. On the outside, I put a smaller pocket for lip balm and my mini-flashlight. Can’t live without either. Looking at it now, I wish I’d made a box pocket, just like the ones PacSafe provided. (Maybe I’ll get ambitious and replace it one of these days.) That’s another really nice thing about this bag — it’s really beautifully made, inside and out. So many things are sewn sloppily these days — but not this bag!

There’s a smaller zipped interior pocket (inside out, above) that’s perfect for a wallet (that thing you actually use for your cards and small ID), a passport, and even a small notebook. A large, almost hidden, pocket lies behind the interior pockets, also with a zipper closure.

What else might I want to change? This bag doesn’t make into a backpack. However, the strap is highly adjustable, and the bag is flat and easy to wear — and worry-free, even in a large crowd, or mashed up against hundreds of humans in a subway. The strap adjusts small enough that I can carry it on my shoulder like a purse; it’s long enough so that the bag can be slung, quite low, across my body, too.

So I’m sold, but hey, PacSafe, people have been complaining about these things I had to mod for quite a while — how about addressing them? You’ve got a great bag here — I made mine fabulous! How about you doing the same?? I might even buy another one, next time in dark taupe (or what I’d call brown).

Note: REI shows the zipper bag on their website, but will send you the gusset version, which is also what’s now stocked in their stores. At least in their stores in the three states that I personally checked. Harrumph.

By the way, this bag also comes in a smaller, purse-sized, version — the CitySafe100. If you travel lighter than I do, it’s pretty neat. Of course, you’ll lose about 1/3 of the space of the 200, and as for the water bottle? No way!

Categories: Bags Tags:

Vogue 8323 – Scoop-Neck Top

August 11th, 2008 7 comments

I’d made the cowl version of this shirt previously and really liked it. Opportunities to wear it aren’t frequent, though, since the cowl is really exaggerated — fun, but not too practical for every day. I love the lines of this shirt, though, so I decided to make the scoop neck version.

Putting this one together couldn’t be simpler (or faster!). It’s got princess seams front and back, sleeves, and that’s about it. And a nice, trim look when you’re done:

My hem doesn’t look all that great though. I used an adhesive, iron-on tape to support it and keep it from stretching, but the results aren’t exactly what I want (though the look did improve with washing — after this photo was taken — for unknown reasons).

Love those lines! This is one of those maligned, widely-available cotton knits (I’ve got a lot in my stash for some reason), but they sew up beautifully — except for that hem problem. I need to do more work on this.

I’m getting very fond of this particular utility stitch on my Pfaff. I love the way it finishes the seams, and keeps them smooth — much nicer than the little ridge trimming the seam leaves:

Vogue has you finish the neck using bias tape, trimming the seam allowance, and turning the tape to the inside. Instead, I finished the neckline using a self-fabric band, turning it once over the seam allowance, and then “stitching in the ditch”. It worked really well, and gave a clean, neat look to the neckline:

That made my neckline 5/8ths of an inch higher than Vogue’s, of course, but it’s just right on me.

This top is a great alternative to the sloppy tee we’re all tempted to wear around the house. It’s super comfortable, easy to wear and care for, and so good looking! Even better, it whips up in no time at all. I’m sure I’ll be making more of these.

Categories: Tips, Tops Tags:

Butterick 5111 – Hat With Scarf

August 5th, 2008 No comments

This was the problem: an unexpected week in a eastern city at the steamiest time of the year, and no hat to wear. Well, no hat that didn’t look as if I was ready for a ten mile trek in the woods. I needed something to keep the sun from my noggin, but it needed to be urbanish. And very, very lightweight and cool to wear.

Did I mention that we were leaving soon, and I had about two hours to left to sew? Rifling through my pattern stash turned up Butterick 5111, view C. In the fabric stash I found some brown linen, and I’d recently bought a brown/green/gold chiffon print that would work for the scarf.

Because I wanted it to breathe, I didn’t use any interfacing. Instead, I topstitched the crown very close to the seam line, which gave just enough support to keep the shape. Of course, this also meant that the hat probably wouldn’t be able to support four large carriers for the scarf, so I just tacked the chiffon strip in place.

I used my new narrow hemming foot to finish the edges of the scarf. Then I folded each edge of the scarf to the center, lengthwise, wrong sides together. Mine’s considerably shorter than the one shown on the pattern envelope:

I turned it over, putting the hemmed edges underneath, and again folded the outer edges toward the center again. This formed a pleat on either side of the center of the scarf. Then I folded the scarf in half, and tacked the center to the center front of the hat, securing the pleat invisibly. I repeated this on either side of the hat just above the ears.

At the center back, I made a chiffon loop lined with the linen, and pulled each end of the scarf through it:

OK, I didn’t read the directions and didn’t do the scarf the right way, but I still ended up with a nice-looking, quick-to-make head topper. I say the pattern’s good. It worked, it fit, and it was true to size (I did use the chart printed on the pattern instruction sheet.)

Categories: Hats Tags:

Actually, I Prefer Noile

August 4th, 2008 No comments


Fail Blog

Categories: Fun Tags:

Diva Bag: Straps and Exterior

August 3rd, 2008 14 comments

Because I plan to use my Diva bag on an upcoming trip (and because I like stuff like this!), I added some traveler-friendly security features.

The first modification was putting slash-proof wire into the straps. I bought vinyl coated galvanized wire at Home Depot, and had it cut to length at the store. Then I stitched the wire onto the interfacing for the strap interfacing, zigzagged carefully over the cable. Very carefully — if the needle hit the cable, it would break, and likely go flying, which could be nasty.

Once this was done, I assembled the straps according to the instructions, which have you fold the outer edges of the fabric toward the middle. If you’re cutting your straps from patterned fabric, you’ll want to make sure that you’ll get the results you want by checking the way you’ll be folding your material before you cut! With a solid color, this wasn’t an issue, of course.

Then it was on to the pockets. The larger front pocket has a hidden phone pocket inside, so that’s done first. It’s actually sewn to the front of the bag, and later hidden by the front pocket:

I added the strap and buckle. No way my phone’s hanging out without some kind of restraint. My pleat is the reverse of the one shown in the pattern directions; it doesn’t make any difference — I just prefer this one.

Once you’ve completed the phone pocket, you place the large exterior pocket over it, baste the edges together, and add the straps down each side:

The other side of the bag is done the same way, only the pocket is smaller. Once the straps are attached to the front and back of the bag, it gets assembled just like the lining, except that there aren’t any pockets on the outer sides of the bag. Because I didn’t iron-on my interfacing (I’m sewing with nylon, and just thinking about melting interfacing to nylon gives me a coronary), I quilted the sides of my bag to hold the interfacing in place:

These side pieces fold up accordion-style, so fan-shaped quilting seemed like the right thing. It’s pretty obvious that I’ve never machine-quilted before, isn’t it? Mr. Noile liked that herringbone effect very much, though, and pointed out that it was perfect with the design. I’m going with that thought.

Once the main part of the exterior is assembled, you put a piece of mesh screening in the bottom of the bag. In keeping with my “slash-proof” theme, I sewed two layers of aluminum screening to the underside of the mesh, zigzagging (carefully) around the rough edges.

I tacked four small, M&M shaped buttons to each corner of the base of the bag, through the outer layer of the bag, and through the screen and mesh, to hold the mesh in place. The instructions imply that you’ll be able to tack the mesh to the seams of the bag, but it’s too small to allow that.

The screening won’t prevent my bag from being slashed on the sides, but the sides aren’t likely to cause spillage the way slashing the bottom does. And they’re much harder to get to than the bottom, if you’re looking for a dramatic way into someone else’s purse.

Mr. Noile suggested that, next time, I cut the mesh in half crosswise, and zigzag the pieces together so that it will bend in the middle when the bag is carried. I think that’s smart — the mesh would still provide a base, but the bag wouldn’t be as bulky when carried (unless you really stuff it).

Once the front and back are attached, and the sides are sewn up, and your mesh is in place, the main part of the exterior of the bag is finished:

At this point, you tuck your lining inside, and prepare the “zipper sandwich” that will close the main section of your bag. The zipper excess just gets cut off, and the raw edges on each side are finished with extension flaps that you use to close the bag for carrying. Here’s how the sandwich looks assembled and attached to the bag, before the zipper is trimmed:

The flaps use pattern piece D, as well as an interfacing piece. For some reason, though, the curve on the interfacing piece doesn’t match the curve on pattern piece D. I drew my own, and recommend you, do, too.

Here’s how they looked once they were sewn to the bag:

These flaps are assembled off the bag, but next time, I think I’ll get a better result if I first sew one flap to the bag along the bottom edge, and then stitch the second flap piece to the one already on the bag. Assembling them separately and then fitting them over the raw edge of the bag was a bit of a pain.

(That strap that shows above is the one that secures my phone in the hidden phone pocket.) I didn’t much like the look of this flap — if you use a patterned fabric, it will probably look great, but ugh, this looks so . . . utilitarian?

So I scrounged around and found this trim:

Hook and loop tape is used to close these flaps. I’m already concerned that this skinny strip won’t be able to take the heat over time — when the bag’s full, there’s a fair amount of stress on it. One solution might be to use extra wide, extra strong hook and loop here — covering most of the flap. Or maybe some other kind of fastener is indicated; I haven’t really made up my mind.

Matching the flaps up perfectly when closing them is a bit of a pain for we OCD types, too. Next time I might just cut these in a rectangular, shorter height, shape. Though I admit that the flap curves do work well with the shape of the rest of the bag.

Closed, the bag is about 8 inches by 12 inches at its base — that includes the sides, which stick out past the front a bit:

The strap length is perfect on me — easy to wear, and also easy to carry. Made in my nylon, it’s also incredibly light, but strong. Here’s the interior, stuffed for a trip:

What’s there? Starting at the left and clockwise, a phone, a folding toothbrush, a mini-tripod, a Moleskine City Notebook (don’t leave home without it!), small pocket with stevia packets, the “hidden” pocket with my wallet, etc., a mini-flashlight, extra mini-pens, my Moleskine planner, and a small pocket with a spork, soap leaves and lip balm. Attached to the D rings are my Nintendo DS (sudoku and brain games to go) on one side, and a small zip bag for personal items (comb, towelette packets for restrooms without tissue, etc.). On the bottom of the bag are a silicone cup stuffed with a bandanna and a small packet of nuts, and my clip-on sunglasses.

There’s a lot of room, but you can’t quite use it all, since folding the bag to close it reduces the volume significantly. My small notebooks interfere with the folding a bit — I just push them toward the center, though, and it works out fine. Those of you who travel lighter won’t have an issue with this.

In the outer pockets are a fold-out pocket city map and a packet of tissues; I’ll have a 12 ounce thermal drink container in the larger outside pocket on most days.

As the pattern promises, you can wear the Diva as a backpack — very handy when you need both hands for a few minutes (or even longer):

Though it admittedly looks a little odd from the side:

I had a wonderful time making this bag, and loved the very clear, step-by-step directions. There aren’t any steps here that are difficult, and, as long as you label your pieces, assembly should go very smoothly, even for a novice. The Diva is a cleverly designed bag, and I’m expecting it to be very useful for everyday as well as for trips when I want everything but the kitchen sink with me while I’m out all day exploring.

Follow-up: After a week in Washington, DC, I can report that this is a wonderful light bag that mostly fulfilled my requirements very well. However, when I travel, I tend to carry a whole lot of stuff, and most of it would do better in a flatter bag. I’m seriously considering making this bag again, and making these changes:

* reducing the width by three to four inches, and widening the length by about four inches to make a much flatter bag

* taking the deep pleats out of the phone pockets — they’re way too big for my phone

* making the closure flaps rectangular, and using a different method to stiffen and close them. As I’d suspected, when the bag is really packed, the hook and loop can’t quite keep things together.

* switching the inside pockets so that the larger ones go behind the front and back panels, instead of along the folding edges. This would put one of these pockets against the “secret” pocket, which might require a more substantial closure on the “secret” pocket.

* placing the inner phone pocket, and possibly several other smaller ones (maybe one specifically designed for pens, and another for my spork and chopsticks) along the folding sides

* adding an umbrella pocket on the underside of the bag (with a closure) (Another Mr. Noile suggestion!)

* adding a webbing strap under the bag to give my hand a natural place to hold my overstuffed bag when it’s on my shoulder

* putting hook fastener on the top of one strap, and loop fastener on the top of the other so that they hook and loop together on my shoulder

As a final note, I wish that Lynndi Enright had been a little more careful with her branding. When I post this to Pattern Review, how do I post it? Under “Expressions in Design” “Thumbuddy Special” or “Lynndi Enright”? Every one of these appears on the pattern envelope, but none of these are listed on Pattern Review’s drop-down company listing. Unfortunately, Pattern Review’s search system isn’t sophisticated enough to overcome a challenge that doesn’t involve exact names.

“Thumbuddy Special” is particularly bad, not only because you have to remember that it’s said as if it were a lisp, but then you have to wonder whether it’s got two letters “b” or not. Not to mention that, bizarrely, it’s not a unique name.

Searching on Google for “Diva Essential Designer Bag” is complicated, too — try it, or just imagine how many hits you get with the words “diva designer bag”. All of this makes finding the patterns somewhat difficult.

Designers, beware! A unique, specific, descriptive name is a really good idea if you’re trying to sell a product people will want to find on the internet.


Diva Essential Designer Bag

Diva Bag: The Lining

Categories: Bags Tags:

Diva Bag: The Lining

August 2nd, 2008 No comments

Here’s how the lining gets assembled for the Diva Essential Designer Bag. First you put together the pockets that will line the front and back of the bag. If you want to jazz them up, this is the time — I added jumbo rickrack to the tops edges so that I could find the pockets easily in the bag, and so that the lining wouldn’t be so boring.

The one above with rickrack is for a cell phone, and the one you can’t really see (on the left here) is a “secret” pocket to stash your wallet or cash in. It normally won’t be very visible, although the many layers of my chrome yellow fabric got very, very dark once they were stacked on top of each other. Anybody who gets this far into my bag is going to know that there’s something funny about that end of the bag. That’s not likely to happen, though, since the zipper opens from the other end.

Then you make the pockets that are attached to the sides of the interior lining. There are two medium-sized pockets on each side, each of them with a small pocket sewn onto it. One of the small pockets is cut in contrast (or, if you prefer, you could do both that way. Here’s how these pockets look sewn in to the lining:

I added D rings to the sides of each pocket, ’cause I just can’t live without my D rings. They’re attached to short pieces of one-inch black webbing, and tucked into the side seams.

Here’s the lining with the front and back pieces attached:

Once that’s done, you sew up the sides, and the interior of your bag is virtually finished:

For the most part, each pattern piece is sensibly named, but there’s one piece called “zipper remnant pocket”. The name drove me nuts. There is a zipper remnant — part of the zipper that you cut off after you sew the zipper in place. But it doesn’t have a pocket.

Eventually, I realized that two small pockets that get sewn onto the medium-sized lining pockets were cut from a strip of fabric that was also used to make the strips the zipper is sewn to: hence, the small pockets are “zipper remnant pockets”. This is possibly the world’s dumbest name for a pattern piece. Do yourself a favor and cross out the phrase everywhere you see it, and write “small inner pockets”. You’ll be happy you did.

That’s an odd mistake, though, because the directions for this bag are otherwise really beautifully written. Each step is broken down into a tidy, bite-sized piece, and there are helpful photos for places that might give you a little trouble. The order of assembly is well-thought-out, too — I loved doing the lining first because the outside of the bag is actually less complicated, and went much faster. As soon as it was done, it was pop in the lining, and viola!

The potential capacity is huge, but as we’ll see, that’s not quite how it works in practice. Next: the exterior.

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