Archive for the ‘Accessories’ Category

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

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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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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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DIY Cash Envelope

June 16th, 2008 4 comments

You might think that a well-educated, theoretically sophisticated person like me (back off, folks, I said “theoretically”!) might feel a little silly carrying money around in an envelope. I don’t, though, because I learned to do this by following some basic, commonsense financial advice from a guy named Dave Ramsey. He advocates using envelopes with budgeted amounts as a way of keeping a eye on expenses.

I carry just one envelope (groceries/household/food funds), and formerly used Dave Ramsey’s own envelopes. Unlike the office supply variety, Ramsey’s are just the right size for currency, making them convenient to carry around. But they’re paper, and mine tended to get a little ragged, so I laminated them with contact paper. Then I duct-taped the edges, like this:

Ugly, no? When I couldn’t take it any more, I hauled out some iron-on interfacing, a thrilling tropical print, and set to work.

First, I opened out one of the original paper envelopes and traced it on the interfacing. Then I cut out a corresponding piece of fabric, adding an allowance for the side seams, around the fold-over flap, and along the top edge. Then I applied the interfacing to the fabric.

This was a quick and dirty project, so I just stitched up the side seams, turned it right side out, and then folded the fabric over the top flap and the top edge. I sewed those edges down with a decorative stitch. Then I added two sets of velcro to keep it closed.

The result, while perhaps way too flashy, is a lot of fun, and much more durable than the paper/laminate/duct tape version.

This envelope is so slim (that polyester crepe was positively filmy before I applied the interfacing) that it’s hardly noticeable in my purse — much sleeker than a fat wallet. (I use a small card case for ID and debit card.)

You, of course, don’t need an actual Dave Ramsey envelope to whip this up, but can whatever paper currency is in your wallet to gauge the size of your envelope correctly.

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Keen Bag Review and Mod

May 17th, 2008 No comments

On a trip to REI a couple of weeks ago, I found this Keen Rose City Shoulder Bag crumpled under a stack of stuff in the miscellaneous luggage department. Since it had been remaindered, I snapped it up: it’s the bag I copied and wrote about in this previous post. Here’s the fabric side of the bag, in a really nice, Ultrasuede-like lime (Keen calls the color “Sweet Pea”):

When I got it home, I discovered some interesting things. First, the reason one side of the Keen bag is so unforgiving is because it’s made of recycled rubber. Kudos to Keen for the environmental action, but this is a reversible bag, and, yuck, that’s really not nice next to the body! However, when I tried it on, I realized that there’s no reason it wouldn’t work fine as the lining. Here’s the rubber side, in deep purple:

The second thing I discovered is that Keen’s side pockets are really small. The interior pocket is teardrop-shaped — great for a hand, but maybe not so useful for stuff you might put into it. The pockets are hidden in the center seams, but there’s just one on each side. There’s also just one pocket along the neck strap. I like my version better, with two pockets on each side (one inside the bag, one outside), and two on the neck strap.

I didn’t buy the bag in the first place because of that stiff rubber, and because I really disliked the puffy look of the edges. See how the the different types of material fight with each other above? Well, now that I had one to play with, I decided to see what I could do about that. Here’s the result:

I edge-stitched all around the bag’s openings. That gave the bag a really sleek, tidy edge all around. Ideally, I’d have used a topstitching thread, but, not surprisingly, I couldn’t find one in the right shade of lime. Sometimes stitching a heavy synthetic non-woven can result in perforations that act as a tear-away line; using a heavy thread can prevent this. Since I had no choice about the thread, I used a longer stitch length to create more distance between the holes on the rubber side.

Here’s a detailed look at the edge of the shoulder strap. (The bag’s on my dummy’s shoulder, and the color you see probably isn’t anything like the really glorious Keen color.)

That’s probably too much detailing for a relatively inexpensive commercial bag, but it really makes a huge difference, not only in appearance, but also in the way it lies when worn. Which is exactly why we sew, isn’t it?

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DIY Reversible Copycat Bag

April 25th, 2008 17 comments

kbag1.jpgI loved the looks of this Keen Rose City shoulder bag when I first saw it (and every time after). The shoulder strap is very long, giving the bag a funky look, but also making wearing it pretty versatile — it drops from the shoulder, or can be worn across the body. It’s also got four very cool, hidden pockets.

What I don’t like, though, is the stiff, unforgiving, rubbery feeling of the Keen bag. It’s puffy around the edges, and probably wouldn’t feel very nice to wear — unless you’re really, really into industrial chic. I love my Keen shoes, but I think carrying this bag would be a little like wearing the shoes on my arm.

Fortunately I sew, and this basic design is simple (even, you might say, timeless, except for the lengthened straps). (I know, it’s all wrinkled in the picture. 100% cotton — go figure. Yes, the photographer was too lazy to re-iron it for the photo shoot.)


I whipped up this muslin from memory, and was really happy with it. Well, except for the fabric, maybe. That lining is not weaving’s finest hour. (But now it is out of my stash!)


This style was a natural for a reversible bag, and the full lining meant that I could have a total of six hidden pockets. There’s just one main pattern piece, which I drafted on freezer paper:

I cut two pieces of each fabric. I installed invisible zippers in the center seams of the main fabric and the lining, and added an extra layer of cloth between the main fabric and the lining in the body of the bag to divide the space into two separate pockets, accessed by the zippers on each side.


I cut small pockets to insert into the widest part of the shoulder strap, and then put one more invisible zipper in each inner strap seam, making small hidden pockets in the strap.

I assembled the bag like a vest. The shoulder strap is quite wide; much to my surprise, when I saw the Keen bag after I’d made mine, I’d actually gauged its width within an eighth of an inch of the Keen’s. I’m not sure how the width works on the original bag, as the strap is fairly stiff. I fold mine in half to wear it, which is very comfortable.

The exaggerated length of the strap is a lot of fun, but not as practical as it could be (especially since I’m short). I’ll definitely make this bag again, but will probably shorten the strap a little. And I need to work on my invisible zipper technique; I had some trouble with the short zippers set into the curve.

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Handle Mod for a Straw Bag

April 17th, 2008 2 comments

My new fuschia dress called for a spiffy bag, but one that still managed to keep the retro theme (at least a bit). Black wicker seemed like the right answer. I didn’t like the handles on the bag I found at all, though:


They just didn’t fit the mood. The original straps were sewn in place, so I removed them and bought webbing to make alternate straps — plus a little extra for a key chain. I wanted my new straps to be interchangeable, so I also bought a set of rectangular loop holders.


I attached small pieces of black webbing to each of the rectangular loops (you can see one of them in the picture above, at the lower right), and sewed them in place along the top of the bag.

Then I sewed decorative buttons to one side of each strap, and a flat, plain black button to the other side. Final step for the straps? Buttonholes, so that I could loop the ends of the strap through the rectangular holders, and button the strap (on the wrong side) to the flat black buttons.

I love the way the rectangular loops give such a professional look to the bag. Sewn loops just wouldn’t have done the job. Here’s a close-up look a the finished straps, attached:


I attached the key chain inside the bag, at the top, toward the front (as I’ll wear the bag). I tested several positions, and this one worked best for me. It’s placed so that the keys will rest on the bottom of the bag, so that any distortion of the rim of the bag will be minimized.


Here’s the bag (with the fuschia straps) on my dummy:


And with the black straps:


My bag came with an inner pocket sewn into the lining; if it hadn’t, I’d have added one. I still may enclose the opening and add a zipper for access; the jury’s out on that. In general, I prefer closed bags. This one’s designed to hold right under my arm, though, so securing the contents in that way may not be necessary. We’ll see.

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