Archive for the ‘Accessories’ Category

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.


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:


(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.


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


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.


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?


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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:

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


  • 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:

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

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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.

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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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