Archive for the ‘Accessories’ Category

Whimsical Purse Mod

April 13th, 2012 2 comments

I love Baggallini purses; there’s one for (almost) every occasion, and I own way too many as a result.  Usually I want a purse that can be used as a shopping bag as well as a handbag, and Baggallini has plenty of those, but sometimes I want the most minimal thing possible.  That would be Baggallini’s surprisingly well-thought-out Teenee Baggallini.

What I don’t like on this small bag, though, is that metal plate on the front.  It snags inside my purses when I use the Teenee as a wallet, and it adds an unwanted few ounces when I’m wearing it cross-body.  So I remove them.  This is tricky, but possible if you’re careful.

First I take a small, thin, screwdriver and carefully lift the plate from the front of the bag.  Then I cut a very, very small slit in the lining behind the nameplate and gently pull the logo support from the back, on the inside.

This leaves two holes in the front of the bag, and a small slit in the back.  I use a bit of clear repair tape over the slit in the back ( you can buy it at camping/recreational supply stores).  Because these bags are kicky and fun, I cover the two holes left in the front with an embroidered patch from Demeritwear.

Here is the cookies and milk  badge for my orange bag:

I choose this one for the color, of course, but I also for the whimsy of the motif.  The embroidery is bright and clear; the patches are meant to be ironed-on, but I hate ironing stuff, so I just stitch them in place.

If you don’t know Demeritwear, you should!  They make cheerful, kooky, silly and yes, even dippy, little “merit badge” patches for all occasions.  (Theoretically they are “demerit badges” — maybe because scouting has the originals all wrapped up? — and there’s a story, but it’s not necessary to go into that here.  Check out the website if you’re curious.)

These nicely made embroidered badges would be fun as faux buttons on tee shirt shoulders (or amusing faux epaulet-like decorations) , as identifiers on kids’ back packs or lunch bags, as logos on jackets, hoodies, or sweatshirts, or as a decorative touch on rear jeans pockets.  I use them on and in my packing system, too, so that I can tell what’s in my packing cubes.

Other ways I’ve used these badges:

Case Mod

Packing Cube ID

Disclosure:  Please read it a the bottom of the Case Mod post.

Categories: Accessories, Bags, DIY, Fun Tags:

LBD Jewelry Organizer

January 24th, 2012 13 comments

On a trip to New York this past fall, a sudden, violent, downpour hit, and I ducked into The Container Store to wait it out, knowing that I’d find lots to look at.  The Container Store seems like a strange idea to me, but in Manhattan it makes perfect sense:  It’s kind of a hardware store for urbanites who want something a little more interesting than cardboard boxes for storing goods.  I saw this, and was instantly inspired to make something like it as a gift for Noilette:

It’s so clever, isn’t it?  I’m not wild about keeping any kind of jewelery in plastic sleeves, though, and those open pockets strike me as a bad idea for a Manhattanite like Noilette, who moves house constantly.  I decided to make her version with net pockets and zipper closures . . . and to make the “dress” a little more like a real Little Black Dress.

That required finding black brocade fabric, which, needless to say, was not available at my local fabric store.  I bought polyester “brocade” curtains instead, and black sheers for the pockets.  I also picked up eight zippers and a faux-velvet clad hanger.

Then I sketched the outline of a sheath dress on shelf paper, cut it out, and used it as a pattern to make, first, the “material” for the lower front of the LBD:

I cut strips of the drapery sheers much longer than the width of the pattern I’d made, and attached the zippers by centering them in the middle of the strips.  Then I pinned the “fabric” I’d made to the pattern, and trimmed all around.

The very top of the front is a small bodice, sewn to the uppermost zipper.  Once that was attached, I laid the sheer front piece over a full-length front cut from the brocade, and stitched the strips to it appropriately to form long pockets with the zip openings.  I also interfaced the all-brocade front backing, to support the pockets well.  Here’s the two-layer front, pinned together with the interfacing beneath:

I stitched the pockets randomly, making them various sizes, with just two, extra-large ones, along the bottom edge.  My only requirement was that it should be possible to get two fingers into each easily, to make retrieval of small things, like earrings, possible without frustration.

Let me just say that I’d rather sew the flimsiest China silk than ever deal with this poly again. This stuff didn’t ravel; it shredded.  Is there such a thing as short-staple polyester?  If so, this is it. Also, I think my scissors got duller just by being in proximity to this stuff.

I assembled the whole thing by putting the back right side to the mesh front, sewing the shoulders and the sides, and turning.  The neck and armholes are finished with bias binding, turned inside and topstitched, and the LBD was finished by turning the “hem” in and edge-stitching it closed.  I inserted the hanger, and voilà:

Yes, it needs a final pressing. That’s a lopsided fold line just above the “hem”.  I’m terrified of my iron, and I took the photo before risking melting all that lovely poly.

The pockets look dark, don’t they?  I tested the sheer before using it, though, and it’s quite easy to see what’s behind it.  To wit:

See the brooch?  Here’s a close-up of it in the pocket:

I added a loop at the bottom, in the back, with a silver button:

The button is to keep the loop from showing on the front, thus retaining the illusion of an LBD, but the loop is so that the “dress” can be folded up, held in place with the hanger hook, for transportation, or to save space:

Naturally, I loved the idea of an organizer disguised like this, but it’s also a practical solution for keeping jewelry visible and accessible in a tiny apartment where one might not want to leave such things just lying around.  The zippers ensure that small pieces won’t get lost, and the sheer should be kind to whatever Noilettte puts into the organizer.

The “inspiration piece” has velcro loops for necklaces and the like on the back, but I decided against this feature, as I wanted to make something that would completely enclose the stored pieces.

Categories: Accessories, Bags Tags:

A Sewing Day

January 9th, 2012 2 comments

I spent last Saturday with  a group of fellow sewists at a Sew In hosted by Annette, of Fabricate and Mira.  It was a convivial and productive day, and a lot of fun to re-unite with some favorite sewing friends, and meet a few new ones.  Annette had never held a Sew In before, but you’d never have known it; everything was organized beautifully.  She’s written up some tips on how she prepared — they’re a perfect blueprint for hosting your own.

Annette suggested that those of us who participated might write up how we prepared; I thought that was a great idea.  I’d never attended  a Sew In before, and, about a week in advance, I suddenly realized that I’d need to plan — especially if sharing even a large table with six or seven other sewists.

First item on the agenda was a rolling case for my travel machine.  The one in the photo above isn’t meant for machines; it’s a “yarn tote” from JoAnn, but my mini machine fit perfectly into it:

All of JoAnn’s rolling sewing machine cases are ridiculously overpriced, but the yarn totes were less so, and with a 50% coupon, this was a reasonable purchase, although it probably has a durability rating of zero.  That’s OK; I’ll baby it, and it will probably serve the purpose for years.  The wheel and handle construction appeared to be the same as on the bigger machine totes costing three times as much, which made this seem worth the gamble.

Then I gave some thought to what project I should take. This is what I settle on:

I had just finished my Koos coat (Vogue 1277), and knew that a project with huge pieces like that one wasn’t a good idea in a shared space, so I decided to begin work on  a coat for Mr. Noile.  This one’s unlined, so I knew I’d have lots of Hong Kong finishing to do, and it’s also full of epaulets, pockets and flaps — small pieces that could be easily managed if space was tight.

For a long time I’ve been trying to convince myself to make a roll-up fabric sewing kit, but I could never decide on the configuration, or how I’d carry it, once made.  For Annette’s Sew In, I used a plastic tote that fit into the open pocket on the front of the rolling tote.

There was plenty of room for all my sewing accessories and all the notions I needed for my project.  It’s easy to put a container like this on the floor, out of the way of other sewists, saving table space, and easy to grab things from it, too.  (I removed the jacket zippers before I took this shot; this box was full!)

I keep my small travel rulers and my Ginghers in another small, thin,  plastic case just to make sure they don’t get bent in transit, or the points nicked.  Everything in this box is s duplicate of supplies I have at home, so that I don’t have to unpack it after venturing out.  (That’s a legacy from the days when I sometimes traveled 800 miles to Mr. Noile’s parents’ home and sewed there.)  Keeping this gear packed up minimizes the chance that I’ll forget something on any particular day.

My project went into a zippered, mesh, double-sided packing cube.

I cut out everything (except interfacing, as it turned out), and put the small cut pieces on one side of the cube, and large ones on the other.  Love those packing cubes! This one served as a handy file system, and kept the project pieces I wasn’t working on confined neatly and out of the way.

The packing cube and all my miscellaneous non-sewing stuff went into this tote:

And that was it for luggage.

My secret weapon, though, for portable sewing, is my little Kenmore 1030.  It’s a small metal machine, made back in one of the rare eras when Kenmore made a good machine.  (My 1030 was made in Japan in 1973-1974. The mid-seventies were kind of a golden moment in Kenmore sewing machine history.)

The first machine I ever bought was  a Kenmore 1040, which was the model just above this one, with a few more features.That machine was the only one I used for years, and I was knocking out Vogue Couturier patterns on it with no trouble at all.  It was a fantastic machine, and I’ve missed it a lot over the years since.  When I went looking for a travel machine, I knew what I wanted, and found this one on eBay.  The owner had loved it just as much as I do; I felt honored to give it a new home.

I packed several days in advance of the Sew In, which turned out to be a good thing, since I walked into the sewing room the day before and realized that I’d failed to pack the 1030’s controller.  Whoops!  That’s a detail you’d want to check carefully; they’re just too easy to overlook.

It was so good to see Andrea, Karen, Lee and Mimi again, to meet Annette in person, and to meet two (new to me) sewists, Val and a very nice woman whose name I am horrified to realize I never got.  (Bad ears, and worse memory, I’m sorry to say.)

Annette’s blog post has a very helpful list for hosts, so I’m going to follow her example, and provide a check list for Sew In guests:

~ Choose a project that will be easy to manage in a group. Lee assembled quilting squares, Val made fabric bowls, and Karen whipped up three tee shirts during this Sew In.  Andrea wasn’t able to join us until later; she was in the early stages of making a gorgeous coat, and still prepping the individual pieces.

~ Prepare your project with an eye toward space constraints (cutting pieces in advance, etc.).

~ Pack your project pattern (if you’re using one) and notions. Remember interfacing, zippers, buttons, cording and any other extras you might need.

~ if you are starting a new project and want to save time on the day, wind your bobbins.

~ Make sure you have the tools you’ll need:  scissors, rulers, measuring tapes, pins, pin cushion, extra needles, and any personal favorites that make your sewing life easier, etc.

~ Double check to be sure that you’ve got both machine AND power cord/controller.  Mimi had left hers at home, just as I almost did.

~  If acceptable to your host, bring any magazines, stash or other items you are willing to part with (but be kind, and take away whatever isn’t acquired by the time the day is over).  I was thrilled to take home a couple of Burdas and Threads I didn’t have, and a couple of pieces of yardage I’d never have purchased, but can imagine using for fun.  One womans’s stash is .  .  .  another woman’s stash!

Annette wisely decided that we’d step out for food, and invited us to bring healthy snacks.  (It is just post-holiday season!)  Her home is ideally located for lunching, with a lot of eateries just around the corner, which was an advantage, of course.  We brought pizza and sandwiches back to the house.  Getting take out meant no fussing at the Sew In, no need to clear the table of our projects and machines, and no major clean up, either.  In a less congenial area, everyone could potentially bring an easy-to-eat, fast lunch, and get back to sewing just as quickly.

Categories: Accessories, Adventure/Travel Tags:

Vibram “Barefoot” Mary Janes!

June 8th, 2011 2 comments

Be still my heart!   I can now walk in “barefoot” comfort with shoes on.

I love my Five Fingers, but, let’s face it, if you wear those babies around town you’re going to be discussing your feet with everyone you encounter.  Merrell (whose shoes, along with Clarks, fit me better than any others) got together with Vibram and decided to solve this serious social problem.

Five Fingers have a separate little pocket for each toe, and they are amazingly comfortable shoes; Mr. Noile and I wear ours kayaking.  The general idea is that they allow you to walk just as you do when barefoot; a whole bunch of runners swear by them, and feel they’re much better for feet and legs than standard running shoes.

These Mary Janes are the covert version of the barefoot locomotion.  There are a bunch of other styles in this line (these are called “Pure Glove”), but this is the one I’ll wear every day.  Someone described wearing these as being like wearing socks with soles; it’s true!  Sooo good to the feet!

Oh, and they’re machine washable.  They may just possibly be the perfect shoe in which to travel; they’re light AND sturdy — as well as being readily removable if you have the misfortune of encountering TSA.

These might be barefoot shoes even Lsa could love .  .  .

Categories: Accessories, Adventure/Travel Tags:

Tapestry Capuche-écharpe

March 10th, 2011 1 comment

A couple of months ago, I made a red, black and white version of this convertible hood/shawl/scarf, and not long after that, this very different version, for a gift:

A peculiar sensitivity prevented me from donning this garment (I thought that honor should go to the recipient!), so I don’t have any photos showing what it looks like with the hood buttoned into shape.  However, I did take a few shots of the wearing variations before I sent it off:

The tapestry is a cotton blend, which I washed in cold water before using.  It’s amazing how often you can get away with this, and what a nice fabric results — one very suitable for garments!

Here’s the shawl collar version with the tapestry folded back:

The burnt orange side is a lovely wool flannel — nice and warm, but not too thick.  It’s about the thickness of old-school heavy cotton flannel.

You get a very different effect by folding the flannel back to form a shawl collar:

Overlapping the fronts gives an almost jacket-like look (and makes for a very cozy torso in weather that only requires, say, a sweater on your arms):

You can see a little bit of the shape of the hood itself below, although it’s folded.  Like my other version, this one has tassels at the end of each front piece, as well as on the point of the hood.  However, since I was mailing this one, I kept the cello sleeves on the tassels so that they wouldn’t be crushed or mussed in transit.

You can see the triple set of loops along the left.  They button to the other side to form the hood.

In retrospect, I’d probably use something else — maybe even grosgrain ribbon — for the loops.  The flannel is a wonderful fabric, but it did make fairly bulky loops.  Grosgrain, or something of a similar weight, might be a little less obtrusive and, maybe, a little easier to button.

Choosing notions for a project like this is a lot of fun!  I chose wood buttons with a little bit of detail for the tapestry side:

I used these “tortoise shell” buttons on the flannel side so that there wouldn’t be bare stitches showing:

By some miracle, I was able to find tassels in an almost-perfect color; that was the most difficult part of this project!

When I  made the previous version, I discovered that the tassels came unravelled immediately, so this time I used a combination of fray check and some carefully placed stitches to prevent disintegration.

I’d never have thought about making these if it hadn’t been for Nadine’s wonderful blog, Mes petites mains . . .  pleines de doigts, which is full of imaginative, delightful garments, including many versions of her luticharpe.  Check out her excellent tutorial and pattern instructions, too.

This is a wonderfully quick and satisfying project for days when you just want to make something, but don’t want to start a month-long project.  And what could you wear that is more perfect for the winter-spring season change?

Nadine asks that you send her a picture of your capuche-écharpe if you use her tutorial.  Please do!  It’s a wonderful way to say thank you.

RelatedLittle Corduroy Riding Hood

Categories: Accessories Tags:

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:

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:

Quick Belt

April 30th, 2010 No comments

When I made Vogue 1088 recently, I wasn’t very happy with the belt I used in the photos.  It was one I picked up for next to nothing because it was the easiest way to buy a buckle to play with.  It’s some kind of vinyl, with a pearly sheen.  (Maybe it’s supposed to look metallic?)  Here it is on the dress:

The metal buckle was all wrong (and so was the vinyl), but I kind of liked this style of belt with this dress, though, so I combined some faux linen and a rectangular plastic buckle I got at M&J, and came up with this:

(Whoops –normally that button would be, well, actually buttoned.  My bad.)

It couldn’t have been easier:  I cut the fabric to the length and width I wanted, angling one end (and adding a seam allowance, of course); chose a light interfacing with some body; stitched it all together, leaving one end open; edgestitched; closed the straight end, wrapped it around the buckle’s center bar; stitched the end down, and that was it.

I really like it on the dress, and I love the shape of this buckle, but I wish it were, say, enameled wood or even just a better quality plastic.  It’ll do for now, though, and the belt is just as comfortable to wear as the dress is.

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TSA-Friendly Belt

April 27th, 2010 2 comments

Ah, TSA.  How you’ve changed our lives.  How difficult you’ve made it to travel in normal, human, clothing.  For an upcoming trip, I am wearing a t-shirt tunic and leggings on the plane because that will get me through screening more expeditiously than anything else, and because, after surviving the horror that is the modern airport, I want to feel comfortable once I’m in that tin tube.

I’d rather be wearing pjs, but, hey, this is the closest I can get.  In a concession to not looking as if I’d just dressed for breakfast, I’ll be wearing a belt.  Not an interesting belt, and, heaven knows, not a belt with any metal — enemy of TSA — in it.  I’ll be wearing this belt:

It’s elastic, 1 1/2 inches wide, with what is called a “ladder buckle” connecting the ends.  Here are the components:

I sewed heavy-duty hook-and-loop tape, as wide as the elastic, to each end of the belt, making sure to leave a lot of room for adjustment.  Once actually on board I don’t want to end up bifurcated by a too-tight elastic band around my waist, so being able to readjust the size without depending on the elastic alone was a must.

It doesn’t bother me to wear the flat buckle in the back, so I can wear the belt as it is above on Miss Bedelia, or turned around so that it looks like a contrast waistband, or a plain elastic cincher.

You can buy ladder buckles at most (if not all) EMS stores (they’re behind the counter, ask to see the delrin or nylon buckles), at REI, and at  sporting goods/adventure stores that sell webbing.  They’re often on a rack by luggage or camping gear.

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Transferable Pockets for a Bag

January 12th, 2009 No comments

Five or six years ago, I made a strip of pockets and used it all the time in my work totes. The idea was to have all my stuff (phone, Palm Pilot, Moleskine, business cards, etc.) in one place for quick grabbing during the morning rush. After I stopped working at an office, I tended to use bags with internal tailored pockets, so this little gadget stayed in a drawer. I’ve resurrected it for a new project, though (more about that later), and decided to post a description here.

Planning was really important here. Before I cut, I laid out everything I thought I’d want to put in the pockets. I’m no longer using the same stuff, but here’s an idea of what I would put in mine now:


In this picture there’s a comb, a Moleskine datebook, lip balm, a phone, a small flashlight, a pocket wallet, earbuds, and an MP3 player. I also planned a pocket for my camera (in use at the time this picture was taken!) and another small notebook.

My finished strip measures 25 inches by 5 1/2 inches, so I cut two pieces of nylon ripstop that size, plus a small seam allowance, for the main fabric and the lining. I also cut a light interfacing to give the pockets some structure. I wanted an identification holder, so I figured out where it should go on the outside of the pocket strip, and stitched a clear plastic window in place before sewing the pocket strip. Then I assembled the strips right side to right side, with the interfacing against the wrong side of the fabric pieces, and stitched around three sides, leaving an opening on one short side for turning.


Then I turned it right side out, and, placing each item where I wanted it, defined the pockets with pins. Above the identification card I placed three narrow pockets: Lip balm goes in one and I carry a small dental brush in another (thanks to a horrible orthodontist whose talents still affect my teeth). I can’t remember what I kept in the third small slot years ago, but a digital camera battery would fit there nicely now. Here’s what the finished pockets look like, stuffed and folded up:


I like using dark ripstop or a microfiber for sport linings because it’s very lightweight but strong, shows little wear or dirt, washes up nicely and dries quickly. Because it’s a little hard to see inside a purse or bag, though, I color-coded most of the pockets after I’d decided where each one would be.

After figuring out the pocket placement, I opened the strip back out and added bright grosgrain ribbon tabs to the tops of most of the pockets . Then all that was left to do was to sew the vertical lines, and close up the side opening.

You can see the finished tabs easily when the pockets are rolled up:


I wasn’t the only one to have this neat idea. Not long after I made mine, a whole bunch of similar organizers turned up all over the place. Small wonder — they’re really useful, fun to make, and are a great gift, too! If you’re more creative than I am, yours could be really beautiful, too: Instead of ripstop, consider using silk, a set of retro prints, or maybe even chiffon and satin for evening.

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