Archive for January, 2011

Little Corduroy Riding Hood

January 24th, 2011 11 comments

Nadine, the original designer of this garment calls it a capuche-écharpe, or “hooded scarf”.  But it’s a whole lot more than that:    It’s a hoodie (of a kind!);  a scarf;  a vest; a shawl; and maybe a bunch of other things, too.

(Links to her site and the pattern are in the text below, and also at the very end of this post.  Scroll all the way to the end if this post gets too wordy for you.)  I love wearing it with jeans,  a wool sweater and/or a down vest.

Here  it is with the ends tossed over the shoulders like a scarf:

Here is the “vest” version:

and the shawl version (sort of):

(I hate that belt buckle.  I’m looking at you, Orvis.  Why can’t a girl get a decent jeans belt with a small, black buckle?)

Here’s how the hood looks in back:

It can be worn as a poncho-like garment (mine is too wide to look good this way; Nadine’s pattern is better):

And here it is, on my dummy, in sort of a half-vest wrap (before embellishment):

Mine is made in black no-wale corduroy, lined with a black and white botanic micro-fleece bought at Field’s Fabrics a few years ago.  The button tabs are red no-wale corduroy (only three made the picture; not sure what’s up with that):

There’s a seam down the center back of the hood, with three tabs and three over-sized buttons closing the hood.  Another tab and over-sized button close under the chin.

I think the large buttons on the corduroy are one-and-one-quarter inches:

Because I wanted to anchor the buttons well, and didn’t want thread showing through on the fleece side, I used small red buttons as anchors underneath the large ones on the “front”:

At first, I skipped the decoration on the corduroy side, but the wide black ends just needed something more.  I’m not sure that what I added is the “more” required, but hey, I’m an engineering sort, not a creative sort.  Gotta work with what you have.

The end result of the embellishment wasn’t where I thought I was going, but I like the result anyway.  Kenneth King, who is the undisputed king of embellishment, would never have stopped here, but I am a simple cotton-and-wool kind of girl, so this was fine with me.

The tassels are drapery tassels bought at JoAnn’s.  They fell apart the first day I wore the hood (at JoAnn’s, no less, where I was shopping for more tassels!)

See what’s missing?  It’s the thread that wraps around the “neck” and keeps the tassel in one piece.

You might say “duh!  those are home dec, not apparel”, and you’d be a little correct, maybe, except how do you think these would fare on your table runner?  The curtain you open and close?  Your pillows?  Not well, my friends, not well.

However, the fix was easy, if annoying.  I just hand-stitched through the tassels just below the knobs, wrapped matching thread around the top of the tassel over and over and secured it so that each one looked exactly as it did before they came apart.

The tassels are not supposed to be washable, but my guess is that they will wash fine, but will fuzz up like dust bunnies once they hit the water.  That could be all right; I’ve got a spare one I’ll be testing.  The tassels allegedly dry clean, so they’d probably work well on any garment that requires that kind of care.

The inspiration for this piece came from the wonderful French blog Mes petites mains . . .  pleines de doigts, which you can read in English via this link.  (You can also get to the translated version anytime from my Links list on the right of this page.)  Author Nadine has  a tutorial and pattern right here.  If you don’t read French, open a Google Translate page, and copy and paste the URL into the page; voilà, you’ll have English!

Nadine’s original design is very different from mine (and much more creative!), and her blog is full of marvelous things — well worth checking out!   I DIDN’T use her tutorial, though, as I’d forgotten about it, so my hood is a little different.  As you can see below, my pattern was kludged up over several iterations:

Here are the differences between mine and the vastly superior Nadine version:

  • The back edge of her hood is curved (probably a good idea!); mine is straight
  • The long ends of my version are toooo wide; Nadine’s are about an inch and a half narrower.  That’s better!
  • Nadine put all the buttonholes on one side on her pattern, but one of her examples has the buttons and loops alternating; that’s what I did on mine
  • Her pattern has rounded edges at the bottom of the scarf; mine has points, which I prefer.  She’s made a bunch of very good-looking hoodie/scarves with the rounded ends, though.

Let this be a lesson to all of us that organization matters: I found Nadine’s tutorial, a week after I’d finished my hood, when I finally go to the bottom of the pile of papers on my desk.  I had printed out the tutorial two weeks before Thanksgiving!  After I’d made mine, but before I found Nadine’s pattern, Mr. Noile and I spent quite a few minutes trying to figure out all the configurations for this garment — all because I had not noticed the fourth button at the neck, which is more than obvious on Nadine’s pattern.

Inspiration source (and a better pattern!):

Nadine’s free tutorial and pattern are here.  She asks that you send her a photo if you make one up.  Mine’s on the way to her.

Related: Embellishment

Categories: Accessories Tags:


January 23rd, 2011 3 comments

I’ve just finished a garment that needed a little enlivening, so I added some braid to spruce it up.  (The garment in question will show up in the next post.)  I had an accidentally too-wide expanse of black corduroy, and after considering several options, I used a basic embellishment technique taught by Kenneth King (*but not unique to him).

The embellishment is just a flat black braid over which I’ve looped red rattail.  This is pretty pathetic embellishment compared to the exotic and extravagant designs Kenneth King turns out — what I’ve done would just be a base on which to build, if I were to embellish King-style.  Sadly, I am not Kenneth King, and this stark example is Noile-style.  Nonetheless, it has its uses.

I used the same method years ago; it’s a sensible, mathematical approach to the problem.  If you’re doing completely free-hand embellishment, this isn’t useful, but if you want to repeat a pattern or duplicate the exact pattern on another part of the garment, this is a great way to do it.

Here’s how I did it:  First you take a piece of symmetrical braid, and tack it in place.

Loopy braid like this works best, but a solid braid works too — it will just be a little more tricky to figure out where you are.  I did both sides of my garment at once, anchoring the wide braid in place (measuring carefully to make sure they’d be symmetrical).

And then I wove the rattail through, and anchored the loops:

The repeat pattern on the braid lets you space the additional trim evenly — and makes it easy to repeat on another surface.  If you’re using solid braid, you can weave the additional trim over and under evenly by counting motifs, or you can just do it the old-fashioned way and measure.  But a nice, loopy, braid like this black one makes the whole process simpler and easier.  (You can see the black braid a little better in the first and second images above.  Black on black:  Not so easily photographed.)

I used a medium-sized Gutterman thread spool to ensure uniform sizing for the loops:

Then everything gets tacked down.  I made this before I got my braiding foot,  and, worse, added the embellishment after the garment was finished, so I did all this trim by hand.  I’m afraid it’s all too obvious.  If I’d had my braiding foot, I’d have finished in half the time, with a much more professional-looking result.

Speaking of a professional-looking result, don’t use rattail that’s been tightly wound around a small card for a project like this.  You want rattail from a large spindle, without obvious creases.  Mine came from the beading section, and I wasn’t able to do a thing about the obvious kinks dented into the cord by  the tiny card it was wrapped around.  What can I say?  I was stash-busting and there was no way I was going to buy more red rattail, even if I could find it.  Which I couldn’t — not locally, at least.

* Kenneth King IS unique, however, and if you ever get a chance to take a class, attend a lecture, or just drool over what he’s wearing from across the street, do it! His work is incredible, and he is marvelously witty and entertaining in person.

Categories: Misc Tags:

Vintage McCall’s 3087: Old Is New (or at least Japanese) Again

January 19th, 2011 5 comments

Two terrific bloggers recently posted several batches of vintage men’s shirt patterns.  Lisa, of As I Said  .  . .  and Peter, of Male Pattern Boldness, both featured this vintage McCall’s (no. 3087) pattern, and now Peter’s decided to make it:

I was really thrilled to see this pattern, because I had already decided to make a shirt just like it for Mr. Noile.  (The pattern is on its way to me as I write.)  Mr. Noile lived in Japan, and has an abiding interest in many things Japanese.  A while ago, we watched a Japanese video series called At Home Dad.   The star, Hiroshi Abe, wears a shirt just like this in episode 10:

The interesting/quirky/fun feature is the closure:

I took these screenshots when we watched the show; they’ve been sitting on the back burner ever since.

I’m pretty sure that Hiroshi’s (or rather, Kazuyuki’s — he’s the character) shirt is knit, which gives it a very contemporary feeling.  However, in keeping with Mr. Noile’s own at-home lifestyle-of-the-moment, I’m going to make his in flannel, in the long-sleeve version.  If he likes it, I think I’ll make it in knit, with the short sleeves, for spring.

Another minor difference is the collar.  Kazuyuki’s collar is cut so that the edges are flush with the chest seams; the pattern seems to have a more traditional collar, with longer points nearly covering the buttons.  Here’s how it looks at the end of the day, when Kazuyuki has undone the buttons, exactly as if he’s undone the top button or two of a conventional shirt:

What I’d really like to know, though, is who, in Japan, found/researched/co-opted this design?  And where has it been slumbering since 1954?

Categories: Mr. Noile Stuff Tags:

Presser Foot Storage

January 16th, 2011 3 comments

My Pfaff 1229 has storage for the five most commonly used presser feet on the top of the machine, but over the years I’ve acquired quite a few more of these handy accessories.  I store them in a double-sided box meant for fishing tackle:

I’ve tucked the labels for each foot into the corresponding slot, or provided labels for those that came without.  I might go a few years without using a specific foot; this ensures that I’ll have a clue what I’ve got when I go hunting for the right foot for a rare task.

There’s a loop in the end of this particular box, which makes it perfect for hanging up behind my machine:

That hook solves one of the banes of sewing — not being able to find the tool you want when you most need it.  I find, too, that I’m more likely to use my “library” of presser feet if they’re handy; that’s made my sewing easier and more efficient.  And more fun, too!

By the way, if you own (or acquire) a wonderful Pfaff 1229, presser feet and accessories marked “D” are the ones that fit your machine.  I’d suspected this for years, but many of my feet also fit other machines, so I wrote to Pfaff customer service recently, and they confirmed my suspicion.  Although my Pfaff is 25 years old, a surprising number of these accessory feet are still available, as they’re also compatible with much newer machines.

Categories: Machines, Organization, Presser Feet, Tools Tags:

Kindle Case

January 13th, 2011 4 comments

A dear relative recently acquired a Kindle DX, and wanted a case for it.  There are lots of e-reader cases around, but not so many for the over-size DX, so I decided to see what I could whip up.

The first issue was the Kindle itself; Mr. Noile and I both have Sony e-readers, so I needed to see the Kindle before I could figure out a design.  Happily for me, Staples now carries Kindle in-store — a brand-new development.

I trotted over to the store with a transparent quilting template in hand and outlined the Kindle on the template, not forgetting to stand the Kindle on its edge so that I could get the width.

The store’s manager, who saw me messing with his Kindle, asked if he could help  me.  When I explained, he grinned and said “Creative!  I like it!” instead of showing me the door.  How cool was that?!

It was important that the case be nice to handle;  it also had to be easy to get the e-reader in and out of it; and the closure had to be simple but effective.  Early on, I decided it would have an open top and a loop-and-button closure, but I went through probably six different design prototypes, before deciding on something completely different from what I’d originally intended.

My relative is a scientist — a mycologist, to be precise.  I really, really wanted to make this case of felt, and add a lovely, lethal example of Amanita muscaria to the front.

It might not be everybody‘s dream to have images of poisonous mushrooms around, but it probably would have been just right in this case.

Alas!  It was not to be.  I was able to find the necessary colors, but the only in horrid synthetic felt, and the good wool felt pieces in my stash were all wrong, color-wise.  Just the same, I tried, and made a prototype from the yucky felt.  It looked looked, well, cheap.   Felt made of recycled plastic may be noble, and it may be fine for costumes, but it’s downright awful for anything that matters.

Plan B was to locate real wool felt.  I’d thought I’d find it one stop away on the turnpike, at Olde Peddler Wools.

Not exactly, as it turned out.  But I DID find a fantastic store, which deserves its own post.  (And will get it, too, as soon as I catch up.)  The wools at Olde Peddler are (mostly) hand-dyed, and (mostly) cut into various lengths for rug-making.  Sadly, though,there was nothing remotely useful for creating a mushroom-adorned case.

I did, however, find a lovely piece of felted wool.

I used the original template to make a pattern, adding a small seam allowance, and then measuring around the sides and bottom to get the length of the strip that connects the front and back.

I discovered that the December 2010 issue of Good Housekeeping (what a terrible magazine!  but useful, in this case) was the exact thickness of the DX, so I held my  nose and bought a copy.  I used that to determine the width of the side strip, adding seam allowances, of course.

There was just enough wool in the pre-cut piece to make the front, back, and the side band.  For the lining, I’m afraid, I had to resort to the dreadful felt.  No matter; it worked fine, and it’s hidden, so it can’t easily offend aesthetically.

E-readers need protection when they are lying about, and the screens demand respect, so I used the quilting template for  front and back reinforcement pieces, and cut them to the exact size of the Kindle.

Front and back each had three layers. Above, you can see utility felt on the bottom, the thin plastic template in the middle, and the lovely wool on top.  Sorry about the chopped off corners at the top . . . I’m better with my sewing machine than with my camera.

I decided the best closure would be a loose loop with an over-sized button, so I attached oval elastic to the back lining before assembly.  I debated anchoring it to the template and/or the back of the case, but the extra support didn’t seem necessary .  .  .

but I did make sure that I zig-zagged very far down the elastic for durability.

I originally planned to do a blanket stitch around the outside, however my fingers balked  — they’re iffy from way too much computer use — so I gave up that scheme, too, but not before I’d outlined a guide all around the front:

For the button, though, I punched two holes through the plastic template, and made sure it was sewn through all layers.  I didn’t want this closure to be frustrating, and a mobile button was not a recipe for success.

Preliminaries finished, all that remained was to baste the front and back to the edging strip (how did I manage to take not one photo of that???).  I zig-zagged all around, encasing the raw edges (including at the front and back openings), and there it was:

Unfortunately, this is where I goofed up a bit:  My seams were a bit smaller than they should have been, since I’d originally planned for a wider blanket stitch.  No matter; I left them just as they were, since I was far more worried about the case being too small than a bit larger than necessary.

That seems to have been a good choice; the case turns out to be just as easy to use as I’d hoped, and appeared to please the recipient very much.  Mission accomplished, if many iterations later, and in a radically different form than first visualized!  I’m loving my new “well, that didn’t work, where do I go next?” sewing style!


The lovely mushroom family image can be found here.

Kindle image from Amazon.

Disclaimer: No one supplied remuneration to me for anything mentioned in this blog post.

Categories: Accessories Tags:

Felting, Of A Kind

January 9th, 2011 8 comments

This presser foot is called a “couching/braiding foot”.  It’s one I haven’t used before:

It’s got a loop in the front through which to feed braid (or thick yarn), and a groove in the back so that the braid/yarn can be grabbed with the walking foot and feed straight through.

I want to do a subtle embellishment on an upcoming garment, so I played around with this foot a bit, using a variegated bouclé  yarn applied to plain, solid gray, plastic-bottle felt.  The results surprised me:

It looks like needle felting, doesn’t it?  And, wow, does it make that horrible, plasticy, felt look good!  And, oh boy, is this presser foot  fun to use!

For better or worse, I won’t be applying the bouclé to felt of any kind for my next project, so I’ve still got some experimentation to do on other fabrics.  This is a very encouraging preliminary result, though.

My Pfaff 1229 doesn’t have much in the way of what anyone would call truly decorative stitches, so I wondered if I’d find one that worked for this type of thing.  I ended up using stitch 24:

I was mostly concerned that the stitches would be too obvious, and overwhelm the yarn.  I hadn’t counted on the felting effect.  This presser foot is going to be a great tool for the upcoming project, and for a bunch I can imagine in the future, too.

NoteI forgot to engage the walking foot when I took the first photo — it would normally be “standing” on the yarn directly behind the presser foot.

Categories: Machines, Presser Feet, Tools Tags:

SewStylish Tunic

January 5th, 2011 8 comments

There’s  nothing like the phrase “month-long trip with one suitcase” for getting my attention, so I took one look at the “Comfy Cowl Top” article in the Winter 2010 SewStylish/Quick Stuff to Sew or Whatever — see note below and ran with it.

The idea is that the top in question (really a tunic), made in an interesting fabric, would work as a top layer, and equally well all by itself, covering a multitude of temperature/social situations.  Perfect!  I”d show you a picture of theirs, but I can’t find one online, and I’m not going to go through the hassle of scanning it.   Too bad — theirs is cute in a gold mesh.

I knew that I had just the right fabric for my version — A couple of years ago, I bought this light silk bouclé from Kashi at Metro Textile:

It was an unusual purchase for me (so bright!), but the colors were wonderful, so I couldn’t resist.  My mother-in-law also bought a length, which was quite adventuresome for her, as she leads an utterly monochromatic life, clotheswise.  The wonderful thing about this fabric was that it looked terrific on me (rosy skin tones) and just as wonderful on my  mother-in-law (for whom orange shades are most flattering).

My mother-in-law’s monochrome tendencies reasserted themselves once she got home, so I ended up buying her yardage, which meant that I had so much that I didn’t have to feel at all badly about experimenting with any of it!    So I took a yard, and washed it in the machine.  It’s the law in the Noile household:  silks must be washable.  Ditto for anything with which I travel.  This was the result:

A denser weave, deepened colors, and oooh-la-la!  I loved it, and quickly tossed another couple of yards into the machine.  (Delicate, of course, and cold water wash always.)

I was lucky that the fabric was wide to begin with, and that I had lots, because, of course, there was a bunch of shrinkage.  I have notes somewhere, but the loss was probably a good 15%, maybe even a little more.  If Kashi’s prices hadn’t been so reasonable, this tunic would never have seen life!

The SewStylish pattern is very simple, and there are only three pieces:  the front, the back, and the cowl.  You either scale it up by hand using graph paper, or you take it to a copy shop and get it enlarged by 800 per cent.   I didn’t bother to scale the cowl, as all you really need for a rectangle are the dimensions.  There’s a center back seam, which I’d just eliminate whenever possible; there’s no good reason for it if your fabric is wide enough to accommodate the piece.

Construction couldn’t be simpler:  Make the cowl; sew the center back seam; sew the shoulder seams (I added twill tape to limit stretching);

sew the side seams; finish the armholes; hem.  The instructions call for finishing the armholes with “Seams Great”, but I couldn’t figure out why I’d ever want to do that, so I settled for serging and turning the edge under, then hand-stitching so that nothing showed on the right side.  (I used four threads to serge; this is a very ravelly fabric, and that fourth thread was extra security.)

The result was kind of cool:

(Forgive my poor duct tape dummy — she’s lopsided, too big, and needs replacing.  Not to mention that I’ve not perfectly arranged the tunic, which isn’t helping.)

The tunic fit nicely, and it was a lot of fun to wear (lighter than a sweater, a really nifty shell on its own, goes with everything, etc.), but there was a problem.  Here’s a side view of the original version, which hints at what’s at issue.  (Unfortunately, I didn’t take a picture of the original back):

You can’t tell for sure in this picture, or in the one published in the magazine, but the back is voluminous — really, really full.  Too full by waaay too much to ignore.  It traveled the distance from “interesting” to “baffling”, so I made a radical change.  After the fact.  Which, of course, destroyed the structural integrity of the garment, but, hey, it’s not as if I had a choice.

Rather than pick stitches out of the tiny, tiny bouclé loops, I simply cut up the back, and took in a pie-shaped wedge, beginning at nothing where the center back met the cowl, and ending by removing a full five-and-a-half inches from each side of the center back.

The center back, of course, is supposed to be cut on grain.  Sigh.  I’m going to wear this around a bit in the privacy of my own home, and if I love it, I’ll make it all over again (I can probably salvage the cowl).  There’s a huge incentive for making it right:

It just happens to coordinate with every one of my Burda polos!  Next time, though, I’ll eliminate the center back seam completely (now that the pattern piece is narrower, that should work fine).  Others should beware the armholes — they look impossibly small on the pattern, but aren’t quite as small as they seem because the tunic falls off the shoulders, and arms exit lower than with a conventional armhole.  These fit perfectly on me (I wouldn’t want them bigger when wearing the tunic without a shirt underneath), but this would be worth checking, as I’m on the small side.

Other notes:

SewStylish seems to be having an identity crisis.  I almost missed this issue on the stands because “SewStylish” is nowhere in the header on the cover.  (It is in small print — “” — on the lower edge of the cover, and on the spine, neither of which are visible when scanning hundreds of magazines in a rack.)

I went to the SewStylish website, but it’s an awful mess, and finding information about the current issue was an exercise in futility.  Except that I learned that this is Vol. 4, even though there’s nothing in the magazine that identifies it that way.  Which is too bad, because this issue is great, and it would be nice if it were more findable, on-line or in-store.  I’d call this a branding failure.

Categories: Adventure/Travel, Tops Tags:

Case Mod

January 1st, 2011 1 comment

Apparently my mania for adorning my suitcase is unstoppable.  I’ve added little, personal, “de-merit” badges to the cover to complement my “destination” souvenirs:

The three small circular badges running across the center of the picture represent (left to right):  storms at sea; rum in cocoa afterward (incredible!); and snow, glorious snow — three totems of my favorite travel experiences.

These quirky badges are from Demeritwear.  I love the clarity of their designs, and the quality is also really impressive, which isn’t something you can say about a lot of this type of thing (see Budapest badge, above, for example!).

Demeritwear shows only a few uses for their clever embroidered patches on their website.  They suggest adding them across tee-shirts, or to baseball caps, and they’ll even sell you the shirts or caps in question, if you like.  I probably wouldn’t use them this way myself, but I’ve managed to find a few things to do with them.   If, like me, you don’t own an embroidery machine, but sometimes want a little something along those lines to spruce up a project, you might like these.

Disclosure:  As a result of a communication unrelated to this or any other blog, Demeritwear added several unsolicited patches to an order I made with them, along with a great note.  It’s easy to love a company that responds to suggestions with appreciation and a positive response, but no one at Demeritwear knows that I have a blog (at least not yet!), and, as I’ve been crazy about these quirky little badges for years, I can affirm that I haven’t been successfully bribed to say good things about them. Thanks to the FTC, though, you can draw your own conclusions about that!

RelatedHow To Find Your Bag Anywhere

Categories: Adventure/Travel, Fun Tags: