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Vogue 8407: Boarding Pass Case

February 18th, 2014 4 comments

I’ve been meaning to make a boarding pass case for  me and one for Mr. Noile for quite a while.  Now that both our passports have RFID chips, I decided the time had come.

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There’s really nothing to drafting one of these things; it’s essentially a set of pockets on a string.  I had this pattern in my stash from years ago, though, so I started with it.  Then I changed it up as needed for my own requirements. Here is side 1:

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(Bad photo:  The case is squared properly, honest!)  I used dupioni silk to keep the case as light as possible.  My boarding pass cases go through TSA in the same clear plastic bag as my personal electronics, so I used the brightest colors possible to ensure that I can track the packet easily as it goes through the screening process.

The pattern called for cardboard as a interior reinforcement, but that strikes me as really unwise, since there’s nothing much worse than rotting cardboard inside anything one depends on for travel, and getting wet sometimes happens.  Instead, I cut support pieces from the thinnest quilting template plastic I could find, then rounded the corners slightly so that they would not cut through the silk.

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Because RFID chips broadcast to anyone with a reader — that would be anyone who’s interested, not just your friendly snoopy government — I wrapped foil around the templates.  Aluminium blocks the radio frequency. Commercial pass cases are available that theoretically have the same protections, but tend to be bulky, heavy, and expensive.    Here’s a snippet from CNN describing the effect:

Wrapping your passport in aluminum foil actually works. It is called a “Faraday Cage,” and it’s the same thing that protects you from the microwaves as you watch your popcorn pop. The foil blocks electromagnetic waves so a nearby chip reader can’t force your passport chip to perk up and say “howdy.”

Accordingly, I cut heavy-duty aluminium foil to size

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and wrapped the templates.  I lined all of the pockets with foil, since many credit cards now also come chipped, which makes them vulnerable to remote ID theft,  too.

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This pattern is another one of Vogue’s failures: There are lots and lots of small rectangular pattern pieces which Vogue (or whomever) has avoided labeling, even though there is plenty of space to do so.  I transferred the information, but, come on, that was a pain, and why was it even necessary?

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Really, Vogue?  You couldn’t be bothered?

The pocket edges are meant to be bound;  here are two very unhelpful pattern pieces for the binding, which, bizarrely,  don’t even have the pattern piece numbers printed on them.  That information is on the swath of otherwise blank tissue paper proximate to these pieces.

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Instead of binding the edges, which would have been a huge pain in the silk, I ended up reinforcing the pocket tops with narrow grosgrain ribbon.  We’ll see how that holds up.

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This project was sewn on my vintage travel machine:  a Kenmore 1030.   That’s the zipper foot above, doing double duty as an edge stitcher.  I hadn’t sewn on this machine in a while, and was reminded all over again what a excellent little powerhorse it is.

The pattern calls for an around-the-neck ribbon.  That’s cute, but a lousy idea for something worn while travelling, and the instructions didn’t provide for any length adjustment, which might matter depending on how, and over what, you wear the case. bc-cl

I used round cord — nicer against the neck — and added a cord-lock so that I could control the length.  I strung a  bead — a really ugly plastic bead! — onto the cord to keep the toggle from sliding off the end.

Most, if not all, of the pockets in the pattern are open.  That’s not a very good idea, either, in my opinion.  I prefer to ensure that crucial documents and cards — not to mention currency — are locked down, so I added zippers to two pockets, and hook-and-loop fasteners to a third.

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Above is side 2.   The shadows on the red pocket are dips in light caused by two sew-on hook-and-loop fasteners inside the pocket. The ridge on the right is a pen sleeve; that’s a nice touch.  I’ll keep a small notebook or a few index cards in the pocket next to it, since the ability to jot a note is a fine one to exploit when on the run.

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I did leave one large pocket open on  side 1 for quick access to a boarding pass.  And I made one other change:  The lower front pocket on this side — the bright blue one here — is meant to have a clear window into which you can pop your ID.

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Since the whole world doesn’t need to know who I am, or where I’m from, or what my address is, and since I travel on a passport rather than with a driving license, I made this pocket opaque.  And I added a zipper, so that anything in it can be safely contained.  I stitched grosgrain ribbon along the zipper edges for support, and for a cleaner-looking finish.

Since this project is essentially just stacked rectangles, it would be an easy one to draft yourself, and not much more trouble than figuring out where Vogue has hidden the many unlabelled pattern pieces on the tissue.  That’s the route I’d have taken if I hadn’t already owned the pattern.

All that’s required is to figure out what pockets you want, stitch them to each backing piece (front and back), put the right sides together, add a neck string, stitch around the main pieces, turn and close up the opening.  As I wasn’t much of a fan of the instructions in general (cardboard support, ribbon neck tape, open pockets, failure to label pattern pieces)  I’d give this pattern the rare “D” grade — barely passing.

Categories: Accessories, Adventure/Travel Tags:

Vogue 8854: My Kind of Sweats

February 5th, 2014 4 comments

This is the second time I’ve made this tunic.  The first go-round was an experiment:  Could I get a decent-looking top out of some men’s sweatshirts?  The answer was “yes”, and now there’s no stopping me!

btnVogue 8854 is turning out to be my best friend:  gotta love this collar  and the great excuse for featuring a single favorite button!  That’s a skinny grosgrain loop around the button, below, which make a quick, no-turn, closure.  I do double the ribbon, though, for durability, and stitch along the edges before sewing it in place.

btnbtnI mostly sleep-walked through making this one, and made a massive number of mistakes, all of which I was able to fix, more or less. Paying attention counts, but so does recovering when one hasn’t . . . and sweatshirting, thank goodness, is the most forgiving of fabrics, providing, of course, you rip out stitches with great patience.

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I managed to get the stuff that counts most, righ.  And I remembered the small details, like the edge-stitching on the shoulder.  That  helps define the seams, and keeps them from looking sloppy-sweatshirt-puffy.

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This iteration was cut from just two men’s sweatshirts — one XL, I think, and one XXL, for the length.  There doesn’t seem to be much increase in length as the sizes go up, so I wasn’t tempted to buy anything larger.

v8854Love this pattern!  The changes I made included sloping the shoulder to fit my own better, enlarging the front pocket, lining the front pocket, adding cuffs using ribbing from the source sweatshirts, using grosgrain instead of self-fabric for the button loop, and eliminating the shirt-tail detailing from the hem.

Categories: Tops Tags:

Pillowcase-Sham, Fungi-Edition

January 26th, 2014 4 comments

A dear relative has made her life work the pursuit and study of the mushroom.  I wanted to make her a set of silky pillowcases so that she could spend her drowsing moments with images of her favorite obsession.

Do you have any idea how difficult it is to find serious mushroom prints on fabric?  Oh, sure, the cartoon mushroom is everywhere; so are psychedelic interpretations of the honorable fungi, colors and shapes distorted beyond recognition.  And fungi with elf-dwellers below: there is plenty of that.

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Fortunately, a chance stop at a vacuum cleaner/sewing machine shop fairly far from home turned up this lovely print complete with proper identifications in Latin.  I was stunned!  So was the clerk, who pointed out that I was buying the last of a whole bolt — and that the store had gotten two in.  She said she couldn’t imagine how they’d ever sell it . . . and yet, it was disappearing like mad.

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I whipped the pillowcases up in no time, but these aren’t ordinary pillow sleeves.  Although these can be used like standard pillowcases, I deliberately designed them to be used differently.

fpc-gpI dislike, intensely, this (shudder) ugly gap, in which the pillow, and its under-dressings, show through the opening.  Surely this is not how pillows are meant to be used!

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Is this not much nicer?  It’s still a light, comfy pillowcase, but how much better!  There will be no pillow slippage here — where one wakes up in the morning to discover that the pillow has wrestled itself half outside the case, seeking an unclothed domination over the bed.  There will be no uncertain moments during the night when the coarser cover of the pillow itself sullies the sleep experience.

Also, an encased pillow just looks nicer on the bed, even if under the covers.  Make sure you plan ahead, though, since you will need to cut the front side of the pillowcase longer, which will affect how much yardage to buy.  My finished flap was about five inches, plus about three-quarters turned under on its raw edge, so my front piece had to be at least that much longer than the back.*

All I did was stitch up three sides of the pillowcase (French seams, of course, for a neat finish), and hemmed the back open edge as usual.  The front edge then got a deeper hem.  Then I turned the pillowcase inside out, and folded the deeper hem against the inside front of the case.

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I then stitched along the existing seam line to hold the deep hem in place. It doesn’t show here, but I also bar-tacked at the end (within the seam allowance), rather than simply back-stitching, since the lower edge of the deep hem will be subject to unusual stress when folded over the pillow.

The pillow can be slipped inside just as usual (in the Philistine fashion!), or it can be popped into the case, with the deep hem folded over the opening, so that nothing shows but your preferred fabric.

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It was a small gift, but it bundled up quite nicely.

I admit that when I replace our current set of pillowcases, I’ll probably serge the seams, which is far less elegant, and correspondingly more efficient.  (Mr. Noile sleeps with nine pillows; do you blame me for wanting to cut the labor short?)  For a gift, though, French seams and the neatest of finished edges are the right thing.

*Thanks, commenter LindaC, for having noticed that I left this crucial bit of information out!

Categories: Home Tags:

Decades of Style 5006: 1950s Stole

January 22nd, 2014 6 comments

For a long time, I’ve wanted something stole-like that I could wear to spruce up basic travel outfits, and which would work as a personal wrap on a plane.  When I saw Decades of Style’s 1950s stole, I knew I had to make it.

dcstlSee that cool little arm flap on the right?  That’s what sold me!  However, as you’ll see, things didn’t turn out exactly as I expected, though the end result is very much what I wanted.

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The pattern has only four pieces — one of which is sewn to the border of a large piece.  So there’s the front, back, and the wrist flap; the only tricky part is keeping the pieces sorted out once they were cut.  I took a tip from Jillly Be’s excellent post about her own Decades of Style stoles, and marked each piece (and its right side) with tissue paper.

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This is particularly important because the pattern pieces aren’t symmetrical.  Nor is the construction intuitive, so I highly recommend not skipping this tip! Also, it’s very important to note that the main fabric is cut RIGHT side up, but the lining is cut WRONG side up; a rather critical instruction that was apparently left out of earlier printings.

My fabric is a lap robe rescued from an IKEA “as-is” bin.  (Gotta love IKEA!)  In some respects, this material is the worst possible for a stole — it’s extremely subject to pulling and forming awful loops, so I’ll have to keep my eye on it and catch them as they occur.  On the other hand, I fell in love with the fabric’s light weight, its soft texture, and the excellent tones, which will work perfectly with every color in my winter travel wardrobe.

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The flap that I was so thrilled about (so 50s!) covers an opening in a seam between the upper back and the lower back.  You’re meant to wear the stole with a wrist slipping though it.  As well as that may have worked at social events in the 1950s, when women may have delightedly posed for effect while conversing — cigarette poised in holder — at cocktail parties, that wasn’t going to fly in my life in the 21st century.  I need that arm!

 

dc-nk(Yeah, that lining hasn’t recovered from being crumpled in a packing cube.)  Jilly Be also wrote about being concerned about the wearability of this stole.  In an amazingly courageous act, Jilly added buttons and buttonholes to one side so that the wrap would stay in place.  I followed her sensible example, but sewed over-sized snaps under the buttons.  No way was I brave enough to put buttonholes in this material!

A secondary advantage of adding the closures is that it makes it much easier to figure out how to put on the stole.  That’s surprisingly difficult the first few times it’s done, but using the buttons for orientation is very helpful.  (The lining is a satin backed with cotton, for a little extra warmth and heft.)

Mr. Noile and his mother — we were visiting the parents when I sewed this up — took one look at the flap and suggested I turn the opening into a pocket.  Brilliant!

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That’s exactly what I did.  It was an after-market hatchet job, and not at all elegant, but it worked perfectly anyway.  I cut the pocket from lining material, added a zipper so that nothing would fall out (and to support that seam when the pocket was in use), and tacked it into place behind the flap by hand.

My e-reader just fits in the pocket; I wouldn’t walk around with it in my pocket, but it will be really convenient to have a safe place to stash it while traveling, since I’ll be able to put the reader down safely while briefly doing something else, like eating.  I hate using airline back-seat pockets, not only because they are probably filthy (used diapers, anyone?), but also because stashing anything there increases the chance I’ll leave it behind.

The pattern is terrific, and I highly recommend it.  Beware, though, that this is a midriff-hugging stole; the drawing is quite accurate.  It will cover your bust, but nothing below.  If I make it again (and I might, in a more durable linen), I may increase the front length.

Sizing is atypical, which you’d expect from a vintage pattern.  Following the chart, my correct size probably should have been A, but I made B instead, which was just right for my slight-ish C bust frame; size A was right for my frame, but a little tighter than I liked across the bust, and there wasn’t enough difference, otherwise, between the sizes to require alterations.

Categories: Coats/Capes/Wraps Tags:

Burda 6992 — Asymmetrical Cape with Bat-Wing Sleeve

December 7th, 2013 1 comment

This is one of those garments I really should have drafted on my own.  It looks simple, and it is. But Burda offered a few details I really coveted, and wasn’t sure I could get right without a lot of experimentation, so I bought the pattern.

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I love the bat-wing sleeve (it’s on the left in the photo below).  I wear mine reversed (and that’s how it is on my dummy, too) since I am right-handed and would rather have the fitted sleeve on my dominant arm.  There’s an opening in the drape on the right for the left arm of the wearer, but no sleeve, and it’s this asymmetry that I found so appealing.  There are just two pattern pieces: a rectangle, which, optionally, can have a longer, slanted, hem, and a triangular piece that forms the sleeve for the right arm.

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Here’s a side view of the sleeve.  I really like the geometry of this wrap, and the added interest from the angled hem.  On the right, the garment ends at the high hip, but dips to below the knee on the other side.  Or much longer:  I removed several inches all around.

bsw-slvThere’s a drafting error or two: one set of notches does not meet up, and one side seam is longer, not intentionally, and doesn’t end where its mate does.  Correcting this is simple; just lop off the longer edge.  (This is a different matter than the intentional, extra, length of View A.)  That’s very sloppy, especially considering how simple this pattern is in the first place.

Because of the way the sleeve falls, the back looks quite a bit different from the front.  Eventually, I’ll try to get some pictures up showing the cape worn; I’m not sure these really do it justice.

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One thing to keep in mind when making this pattern is this:  It looks as if varied sizes are included in the envelope. In fact, there’s even a size/yardage table on the back. But this is a one-size-only pattern; close scrutiny reveals that the yardage is the same for all sizes.

I half-followed Burda’s directions, until I realized that they seemed to be complicating what was, in reality, a pretty simple project.  I found the directions completely baffling — which is really ridiculous, since there’s nothing very complicated here at all.

No, Burda, one size does not fit all from size 8 to size 24 — especially if it’s an over-sized pattern to begin with!

I don’t wear the smallest Burda size, but if I’d left this pattern unaltered, I would have found it unwearable.  I trimmed this baby everywhere, and raised the neckline, too, so I wouldn’t swim in it.

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However, when I altered the neckline, the combination of the one Burda direction I followed and my alteration left me with an opening in the neck edge, on the left shoulder.   Since it didn’t look terribly out of place, I could have left it.  Or I could have sewn it shut, which would just have continued the seam line on the rest of the garment.  Instead, I decided that a decorative button and loop were called for.

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That’s a hair band, cut to size, looped around the button.  (Hair accessories:  Best source of colored elastic bands anywhere!) I’m not sure whose mistake this was, Burda’s or mine, but it worked out just fine.

The fabric is a bouclé that’s very similar to a silk and rayon one I love.  This one has the same weave (though different colors), but is probably an acrylic blend.  The texture is visually interesting  (and there’s some rayon there in the bulky yarns, which are softer than the rest of the weave), but it’s ever so slightly on the stiff side. That’s probably a plus, since it’s also less fragile than my beloved silk/rayon bouclé.

Before assembling the cape, I carefully zig-zagged all around the edges of each piece, to prevent ravelling and distortion. This probably isn’t the “right” thing to do if you’re doing couture sewing, but was a sensible thing to do for this project.

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All the seams are bound with a Hong Kong finish, which lends some structural stability to a fabric that inherently has little.  In order to reduce the appearance of bulk on the outside of the garment, I lightly hand-stitched the seam allowances to the body of the garment, ensuring that they would lie flat instead of bunching.  For this fabric, simply pressing the seams open would have been ineffectual over the long term.

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The stitches are very loose so that the seam allowance will “float” instead of pulling at the material and distorting it.

The verdict:  The pattern is pretty awful, but the results quite satisfactory. I’m not sorry I bought the pattern; I just think it’s a little ridiculous that I still had to essentially re-work the whole thing in order to use it.

Feet I used to make this cape included:

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the seam guide with IDT;

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the quarter-inch right guide foot;

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and the narrow edge foot for stitching-in-the-ditch.

I thought I’d like this cape well enough, but it turns out that I love it!  However, anyone tempted to make it should be sure to check out the sizing before cutting, check the neckline (too big for me, but I suspect too small for the larger end of the size range), and beware that there is one point (marked “2” I think?) where the ends of the two pattern pieces will not meet correctly.  A tissue fitting will identify all these issues, and all are easily corrected.

Categories: Coats/Capes/Wraps Tags:

BurdaStyle USA: Meh

November 29th, 2013 8 comments

Fifty percent more expensive($15!); 200% less interesting, and page after page of seriously lackluster  content. I was so thrilled to see this in a USA bookstore, and so utterly disappointed when I went through it.  Costly AND boring; it’s a lousy combination.

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With only a couple of exceptions, the patterns are baggy, boxy and uninteresting — not to mention that most, if not all, appear to have been recycled from previous European editions of BurdaStyle — and not the better examples, at that. PS:  I already have those patterns, which happened to have come with BurdaStyle issues full of other, better, patterns, too.

Just to reduce the value further, there’s no “All Styles at a Glance”, so figuring out exactly what’s in the issue isn’t quick or easy, and, worst of all, half the patterns are *downloads*.  If your dream is to spend hours on your knees taping paper together and you don’t care if your patterns are still accessible in the future, then this edition is for you.  None of this describes my preferences, though.

There’s more editorial in the USA magazine, but I don’t even like the editorial in the European versions; it’s even worse in this North American iteration.  I buy BurdaStyle, Europe, for the patterns and the alternate sensibility the European styles offer.  I don’t even care what language they’re in; I buy them because they’re interesting.  This magazine isn’t.  I sure hope I can still buy European issues when I’m in New York; this “targeted” version costs too much and offers too little for me to give it another glance.

I’m really baffled: why would those of us who still buy the traditional BurdaStyle want this more expensive, watered-down version that doesn’t even include the patterns featured? And why would people who don’t already like the Burda magazine model care about this dull offering?

A month ago, I bought my copy when out of town; my local bookstore got stacks of them in weeks ago, and not a one seems to have sold.  A few years ago, the same store used to stock the English version of European BurdaStyle, but just three copies at a time.  In spite of the fact that they sold out, the store stopped stocking them.  It’s hard to believe that “BurdaStyle USA” will be able fill the empty niche.

Maybe I’m wrong, but I’m pre-disposed to liking Burda, and this approach seems really off. Without some major changes, I’m guessing that “BurdaStyle USA” isn’t long for this world. Time will tell, I guess.

Can’t we just get better distribution of European BurdaStyle in North America?  It’s a better magazine, a better value in terms of content (visually, in the magazine, and in terms of actual patterns provided), and offered at a better price.

Categories: Books/Magazines Tags:

Sewaholic 1302: Tofino Pants

November 23rd, 2013 4 comments

Sewaholic patterns are aimed at the pear-shaped woman, but that doesn’t mean that the rest of us can’t use Tasia’s innovative patterns, too. I fell in love with the Tofino Pants at first glimpse:  The side panel!  The piping!  That bow!  Now I’m madly churning them out.  This was my first pair.

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JoAnn’s flannel offerings are among the worst anywhere, any time, but every now and then there’s a gem of a bolt stuck among the thin, badly printed, awful designs in the pj horror section: This was one of those.  It’s a tiny herringbone check, in a color (and design) an adult could love. Defying the JoAnn odds, it’s also thick and beautifully napped. Score!

swtoft(I know: low light, rumple-riffic, but hey, people — this is flannel, and I’m a sewist, not a photographer!)

I made some changes to the pattern. The legs are drafted to be quite long, and my own are quite short, so I lopped off  3.5 inches. (If you do this, make sure that you remember to shorten the side panel, too!) I cut a size 8; at my correct inseam length, only 2 packages of commercial piping were needed.  And I removed the fake fly, because what?   No need for a fly here, faux or otherwise.

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(Flash this time; an improvement? Hard to say!)

I left the waist band placement as drafted, even though I was pretty sure that it was going to fall lower on my hips than I prefer. (Let’s just say that I’m not really trend-forward, opn any front!)  That turned out to be true; these pants ride at the point where my usual PJ pants fall once I’ve rolled them down.

It turns out I don’t like this in the finished garment; that makes no sense at all, but there you are. The front is lower than the back, but not as angled as this image makes it seem.  That makes for a nice fit. The drop is not as much as it appears to be in my photo — the tilt of the hanger is exaggerating the tip toward the front.

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The piping really makes the pants. I used jumbo piping, because I wanted it to stand out without getting lost in all that soft flannel.  To make sure that it went in evenly, I did something I rarely do:  I not only pinned it in place, but then basted it with a large zigzag stitch to ensure that it didn’t slip when assembling the layers. This took only  a few minutes extra, and was well worth the expenditure of time.

The legs are super-wide. That’s a nice feature, and this width is probably perfect on a longer-limbed woman.  I’ll take them in for my next pair, though, as this is too much fabric on my smallish frame. You can see in the photos that the proportions aren’t particularly pleasing to the eye when the legs are this short — but the width does make for very cozy wearing!

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I added pockets to the side panels. I hemmed the top of each pocket  by attaching grosgrain ribbon to the right side of the fabric, then adding a row of zigzag stitches to finish the enclosed raw edges.  Then I folded the pocket hem over and stitched the grosgrain along the opposite edge to make the pocket hem.

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Then I sewed the bottom of the pocket, right side to right side, onto the leg panel, and folded it up so that the pocket sides aligned with the seams of each side panel.  The pocket is automatically finished when the side seams are sewn.

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The grosgrain acts as a kind of gentle interfacing to better define the pocket edge (so it doesn’t cling to the flannel) and to support the upper pocket so that it doesn’t sag.  The edges of the pocket will wear better, too, because of this small bit of reinforcement.

In the end, I decided against the bow. Although I love it, it would just be a pain in every day life, especially since I wear my flannels with long overshirts.   And I cut another corner:  The instructions call for encasing the elastic in a fully-enclosed waistband.  I just folded the waistband over, matched the edges, and stitched it to the pants.

A diaper pin makes the perfect threader for wide elastic!

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Tasia’s method is better because it gives a nice, clean, look to the inside of the pants. Also, my method results in some seam allowance bulk that “poufs” the pants out slightly just below the waistband.  I don’t care about this, personally, so I went for the quiick-and-dirty solution, but almost everyone who makes these pants will probably feel differently . . .

Sewaholic patterns have consistently clear directions, are drafted beautifully, and are stunningly beautifully done .  The level of professionalism, where professionalism is defined as “precision, care, and skill” is awe-inspiring.  Few companies (and none of the Big Four) come close to this kind of quality.

Speaking of which, I was floored to see that Tasia had included a pattern piece for the necessary bias strips for those who want to make their own piping.  Whoo-hoo!  I can’t stand drawing long lines on fabric, nor rotary cutters, so this is real incentive to make my own piping sometime  in the future.

Oh, and that bow?  There’s a pattern piece for that, too. None of this “go buy wide ribbon” stuff.  Your contrast bow can match your piping perfectly, if you’re so inclined.

Feet I used for this project:

Seam allowance foot with IDT, for non-piped seams (posed for photo purposes only — the pin should be parallel to the foot, not cock-eyed like this, and, anyway, they get removed just before the foot would strike them);

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cording foot for installing the piping;

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edge stitch foot, for “stitching in the ditch” where the waistband attaches to the pants:

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and standard multi-purpose zig-zag foot, which I forgot to photograph.

For the crotch seam, I used a triple stitch, which adds strength and some elasticity to the area where seams show the greatest stress:

thosthThat’s it!

Categories: Pants Tags:

Chiffon Wrap

November 18th, 2013 8 comments

This wrap couldn’t be easier to make:  one rectangle, two seams! Here’s the front:

The pattern is by Rhonda Buss, of Rhonda’s Creative Life, who made it part of her weekly free pattern posts.  My version isn’t very exciting, featured as it is here, on my duct tape dummy, but it’s wonderful to wear.

Back view:

Because I never wear anything remotely formal, a wrap like this has a lot of appeal.  Slip it on over a black top and slim pants, and, voilà, I can almost look dressed-up.  Also, it packs up into nothing at all; if I had to look somewhat elegant, this could be a good fake.  Or it could be one fantastic beach wrap!  Here’s a sneak preview of Rhonda, modeling it quite romantically:

to get the full effect, you’ll need to check out Rhonda’s post where you can see it in its wondrous, flowing, glory at the beach!

I used my rolled hem foot to finish all the edges.  It did a beautiful job, and was a quick and easy way to knock off the project.

Rhonda’s instructions are here.  If you don’t know her blog, do take a look around.  Rhonda consistently posts clever and imaginative ways to think about, and manipulate, fabric — her Fabulous Free Pattern Fridays are incredibly inspirational, but so is the rest of her blog.  Go visit — you won’t be sorry!

Categories: Jackets, Tops Tags:

Modifying a Pacsafe Bag

March 10th, 2013 2 comments

I’m generally a fan of pacsafe bags, which have metal mesh screening inside to make them travel-safe — or at least slash-resistant — in environments where that might be a risk.

I like this bag, a citysafe 350 GII, especially, because the herringbone exterior does not scream “travel baggage”.  I hope the fabric wears as well as more typical ones do; the jury’s out on that.  In use, though, this bag had more than one flaw.  The most serious of these is the lack of an exterior pocket, something almost every reviewer has complained about (and with good reason!).

True, there is a small hidden pocket in one rear seam, but that’s not convenient for anything larger than about 4 inches by 6 inches.  (And it’s got issues, too, since pacsafe calls it a “passport pocket”, but lists an RFID-blocker as a feature of the GII 350.  The RFID pocket — meant to block radio frequency waves emitted by passports and financial cards — is actually inside the bag and isn’t relevant to this particular pocket.)

After being annoyed once too many times by my inability to stick a guide book, a subway map, an e-reader, the outgoing mail, or anything at all into an easy-to-access outer pocket, I took a brave pill or two, and cut into the bag.  First I marked it carefully:

No, whoops, that’s not what I did first. First, I cut a piece of plastic quilting template into the shape I wanted for the finished pocket. Slipping the quilting template into the finished pocket keeps the pocket from riding up when it’s used. The template holds the pocket in place, but is thin and light enough to be almost unnoticeable.

(Note the round corners instead of angled ones that might have cut through the pocket.)

Then I cut two pieces of lining material for my new pocket, the same shape as the template, but with seam allowances — and forgot to photograph them. (Can you tell I haven’t had much practice, lately, at being a sewing blogger?)

Then I marked one piece of the pocket lining, and pinned it to the outside of the pacsafe bag.

In my fantasy, I was going to be able to do this on my machine . . . that was a nice dream.  Instead, I ended up sewing by hand.  Happily, the herringbone helped to keep my stitches even.  Once the placket was sewn (twice-stitched for strength), I blanket-stitched the edges to stabilize them, and to prevent raveling.

Then I turned the lining to the inside, and attached the back of the pocket to the piece that formed the placket — that was tricky, but feasible, with a little patience.

I sewed the seam around the pocket bag three times; this fabric is probably fake dupioni, and frays like crazy.  Once that was done, I tucked the new pocket into place inside the bag, and hand-stitched, invisibly, all around the placket opening.

Once the placket was reinforced, I inserted the zipper.  Huge improvement!  I use this external pocket every single time I take this bag out:  Ironically, it is the single most useful feature of the bag!  With or without “anti-theft” features, a bag that is a pain to use every minute of the day isn’t really a useful bag; one external pocket changed all that.

While I was inside the bag, I solved one other nagging problem:  The side phone pocket wasn’t anchored at all.  That meant that every time I took anything in or out of it, the lining came with it.  Even worse, the lining floated out every time the zipper was opened, and regularly got stuck in the zipper coil.  Really, pacsafe, you couldn’t be bothered to anchor the pocket???

It took only a stitch or two to remedy this, though anchoring the bottom edge one was tricky, since there wasn’t much room to maneuver.  This is something that should have been done during construction.  These bags are not inexpensive; there’s not much excuse for missing something so basic.

The straps on pacsafe bags tend to be quite stiff; this is really obvious on the skinnier ones. That is an inevitable result of  designing them to limit the damage that might be caused by random cutting by bad guys.  Sadly, the buckles pacsafe put on this bag — a backpack — are completely useless for holding the straps once they’ve been adjusted to the size the wearer prefers.

The buckles are slick, with no teeth or gripping mechanism on the underside.  Even slight movement causes them to slip — it’s maddening! It’s also really dumb; buckles with teeth molded in aren’t any more expensive to make than buckles without them.  Really pacsafe??? Did anybody actually test this bag before sending to market???

I sewed tabs of athletic elastic to the bottom edge of each buckle.  This kind of elastic has grippers running along one side.  It isn’t a perfect solution — the rubber doesn’t grip quite as effectively as the right buckles would — but it’s a whole lot better than the constant annoyance of having to readjust the straps every ten minutes.

There is room in this small pack for a regular-sized water bottle, and since there are no exterior pockets for one (that’s OK with me; that’s in keeping with the more sophisticated, urban-ish look of a herringbone bag), I added an elastic loop to keep mine upright. (It’s a covered hairband, attached to the side seam.)

This really attractive bag is finally practical, and less annoying, to use, now that I’ve hacked it. At the price, though, I shouldn’t have had to do this myself.

Here’s a brief summary of the pros and cons of this bag, unmodified, pros first:

  • urban appearance that doesn’t scream “travel bag”
  • padded interior pocket for tablet or iPad
  • “RFID” pocket which may or may not block RF waves (I’ve seen articles claiming that most don’t), and won’t do anything for financial cards even if it works, unless you just dump them in the bottom of the pocket
  • key clip inside (but the clip is difficult to use and too small)
  • wide, easy access opening
  • zipper tabs lock with hidden clip
  • locking snap hook, allowing bag to be secured to stationary object (but see “cons” below)
  • “exo-mesh” on bottom of bag to thwart slashing
  • wired straps, ditto
  • grab strap on top

Cons:

  • no exterior pockets at all, not even one in the back panel, which is almost standard in the industry
  • terrible buckles on straps, which slide freely
  • only one strap has a clip; the other is permanently sewn in place, which limits strap configurations and potential ways to secure bag
  • hidden pocket lining gets caught in zipper, pulls out and catches in zipper when used
  • only two pockets inside (why not another one, or another couple, on the other side of the lining?)
  • room for a water bottle, but no way to keep it upright, which might matter if carrying electronics

These bags are not inexpensive.  As sold, I’d give this bag a C — or maybe a C-minus for the awful non-adjustablity  of the straps.  It’s just fine, though, now that I’ve made these changes.  I’m glad I sew.

Categories: Accessories, Adventure/Travel, DIY Tags:

My Kind of Tunic: Vogue 8854

March 1st, 2013 23 comments

A lot of people have complained about the un-inspirational drawing on this envelope. Not me! As soon as I saw it, I knew this pattern was made for me.  It’s taken months to sew it up, but my first reaction was right: Here’s my new favorite garment: A sweatshirt for grown-ups!

I made this tunic out of three men’s sweatshirts, largely because I couldn’t find a color I liked in yardage I could purchase.

This tunic has great shaping, but the best feature is that collar — it’s fantastic in a way that is only hinted on the pattern envelope!  It’s buttoned and folded down, above.

Isn’t that great?  But wait, there’s more! Here’s the collar worn up:

and here it is worn open:

I love, love. love this tunic! All the comfort of a sweatshirt, with none of the ugly! It’s also extremely easy to make, especially if you ignore Vogue’s directions.  Here’s a list of what I did differently, and what changes I made:

  • I made a size S(mall), but altered the shoulder line, which was too horizontal for my body.
  • Because I cut this pattern from three sweatshirts, I had to slash  the pattern horizontally to fit the pieces, and draft two new lower pattern pieces, one for the lower front and one for the lower back.  I could have cut the lower front on a fold, but I cut two separate pieces and seamed them instead, so that the original vertical seam line was preserved below the pocket.
  • The new lower back piece was cut on a fold, like the upper back.
  • I enlarged the pocket, making it wider. I didn’t like the proportions on the pattern pocket as much as I wanted to, and my pockets need to work, meaning this one had to be big enough to use.
  • I stitched higher up the pocket opening line than Vogue suggests.  As noted above, my pockets need to work. I wanted to be sure anything tucked inside wasn’t going to fall out easily.  If you do this, make sure that your hand fits into the opening!
  • I finished the sleeves with the original ribbing from the sweatshirts.  I love cuffs on sweatshirt sleeves, so this was a no-brainer for me. Using the sweatshirt cuffs meant that the ribbing matches perfectly; that would have been hard to do if I’d tried to buy it separately
  • I eliminated the curve at the hem.  I don’t much like the look, and I wanted this to be more tunic/dress like than tunic/shirt like.
  • I edge-stitched everywhere, so I didn’t follow Vogue’s directions for stitching the plackets. There was no reason not to, I just prefer the edge-stitching.  Arguably, Vogue’s stitching on the collar (about an inch in from the edge) is more refined-looking.

I pretty much ignored Vogue’s instructions, which seem increasingly ridiculous and out-of-touch.  There’s no good reason to sew the shoulder seams before doing the front plackets; all that does is ensure that you’re hauling around a ton of extra fabric while working with the plackets.

Also, why would anyone set the sleeves into the armhole on a garment so perfectly suited for sewing them in flat?  I ignored this, too.

However, I did interface the collar, which I normally wouldn’t have done when sewing with sweatshirting. The interfacing gives it enough body to keep its shape.  New sewists don’t need to fret:  the collar is just a rectangle, so it’s easy to handle.

My loop is grosgrain, rather than self-fabric; I just happened to have the perfect color on hand, and like the crispness of the ribbon.  I was lucky to find a coordinated button, too.

Heres’s the back view. It’s a little flat, here on the dummy, without the arms, and the shaping of the sides of the tunic gets lost a bit.  But in real life it fits very nicely, with a little bit of a retro vibe in spite of its generally classic look.

This is a very quick sew (if you don’t need to make new pattern pieces, that is!) that no one need fear.  I’ve got another one in the pipeline, and I have a feeling this will become a favorite for years to come.  Easy to sew and easy to wear — what could be better?

It’s been a long time since I blogged here — five months, to be exact. Bad blogger!  I have been sewing, but my life, for better or worse, isn’t just sewing, so I haven’t been writing up the projects. Maybe I’ll catch up, or maybe I’ll just continue to post here now and then . . . time will tell.  At the moment, I don’t have a clue!

Categories: Tops Tags: