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Modifying a Pacsafe Bag

March 10th, 2013 2 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cons:

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

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

Categories: Accessories, Adventure/Travel, DIY Tags:

Replacement Rods for “My Double” Dress Form

April 19th, 2012 7 comments

A commenter left a tip for me, so I was able to buy an incomplete set of fitting rods for Miss Bedelia (thanks, Janice!).  Once I saw them I was able to figure out how to make replacement rods of my own.  The original rods are in two pieces, and slide to adjust.

There’s a little button that fits into a slot, once the right size is reached.  Inside each end is a brass-colored tab of soft metal (likely brass, in fact) that secures each rod end onto part of the dress form.  You can probably just make it out in the image above.  (I forgot to take a picture of the rods before I used them.)

I made mine of 3/8th of an inch wooden dowels, large brass fasteners from an office supply store, and tape.  (I used the cable ties to hold the top of the frame to the shoulder rod.)  After fitting the dress form to my body, I ran the dowels through the areas where the supporting rods belonged, per the instruction booklet.  I then cut each dowel just short of that length, and capped one end with a brass fastener.

Keeping the “legs” of the fastener along the dowel, I taped just under the fastener’s cap, attaching it to the dowel.  I used two pieces of tape, for extra security, and then ran the dowel through the dummy.  (Most rods must go through an eye bolt; the dowel is small enough to do that, but the brass fasteners are not.)

Then I attached another fastener to the other end of the rod, pushed it back into place, folded the ends of the fastener up, and wrapped them around the My Double shell.  Voilà!

Replacement rods for the My Double forms are hard to find, and, typically, expensive.  Rods are essential, though, and keep the dress form surprisingly stable.

Do remember to move or turn your dress form using the long vertical center rod — turn it by reaching into the neck — because the mesh will deform in unsupported areas if you aren’t careful.

My rods came in this charming box.  (It’s rubber-stamped with the name of the person who did the quality inspection — back in the days when people, not numbers, checked things over before they were sold.)  I’m happy to have it, but I’m even happier that I won’t be paying a fortune for the rest of the rods I wanted.

Total cost for my supplies?  Less than seven dollars, including the brand new roll of tape.

Related:

“My Double” Instruction Booklet

Miss Bedelia: My New Dress Form

A Tale of Two Dummies

Categories: DIY, Tools 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:

Twister Dress

August 2nd, 2011 8 comments

OK, it’s completely wacky, but how could I resist?  It’s the BurdaStyle Twister Dress.  There is only one pattern piece; it’s placed on the fold of your fabric.  Here’s what the pattern looks like:

The angle at the extreme left is one armhole, and the curve at the top is the neckline.  If you orient to the neckline and the long sleeve, you can see that the top of the dress is, indeed, “twisted” and perpendicular to the skirt, instead of being attached in a linear fashion.

My version is hemmed all around, but if you chose not to finish this dress, you’d finish it in ten minutes, easy, on your serger.

I’m not so sure that stripes are the answer here, but this dress is so much fun!  ( I mean, did I need that swath across my backside???)  It’s also indecently short, and inclined to ride up, so I expect to be wearing it with leggings.  It may be more “top” than “dress”.  But hey, it’s just so easy!  Easy to make and easy to wear:  It pulls on just like a tee shirt.  A twisty tee shirt, but a tee shirt.  Here’s the back view (it’s maybe a little “toga”, but why not?):

Yeah, it really does look a bit carbuncular, but in person it flows much better than it seems to here.

The English version downloads with two sizes:  I think it goes up to Burda size 42 (in spite of what it says on the Burda site), but it’s altered by adding width along the fold line.  That’s easy, on the one hand, but potentially limited, you’ll be restricted by your fabric’s folded width.

Since there was no possibility of an FBA, I added a couple of inches to the width before cutting; some people might want to widen the long sleeve a bit, which is theoretically possible.

I added the strap.  I’m not a member of the “it’s OK to have the bra strap showing” school, so I tacked this on afterward.

Not only is this dress a whiz to make, but it takes just over a yard of fabric.  This print is a light, four-way stretch from JoMar; total cost for the dress was about five dollars.  Or is it a top?  Either way, the pattern is a lot of fun, and worth fooling around with a bit.

The pattern is a free download from the link below, and will use up about about 22 sheets of paper and about an hour of your time to tape them together and cut the thing out.   I’m not wild about this pattern-delivery model; if this one hadn’t been free, and if it hadn’t had only one pattern piece (22 8.5 by 11 inch pages!), I wouldn’t have bothered.

I can see, maybe, a print-on-demand pattern delivery model, where, for instance, you ordered one day, and it was printed to order and posted to you the next day.  But assembling 22 or more sheets of stiff standard paper is a pain; sewing from it is clumsy, ands is storing the bulky pattern afterward is awkward.

Of course, I may be a bit put out because I had some unexpected help:

When these guys saw me spreading all that paper out on the floor, they came running, yelling “Par-tay!  Par-tay!”

Download:  Twister Dress pattern from BurdaStyle

Categories: DIY, Dresses, Tops Tags:

Threads Wardrobe Storyboard

June 14th, 2011 4 comments

Chez Noile is still in chaos, so I needed some quickie sewing projects that would chew up stash and require minimal space in the sewing room.  Also, I need summer clothes, since I’ve done little about acquiring any for years.  The Christine Jonson summer wardrobe from Threads (Issue 155 June/July 2011) became my springboard:

I made up a storyboard to keep my goal firmly in mind, and I even made the Princess Dress, although I’m not much of a dress-wearer.

Not only is the storyboard a great help in keeping me on track, but it’s a marvelous tool for checking and gathering notions.  I used line drawings from Christine’s site (altering at least one neckline according to my whim), and mocked it up on my computer, leaving room (more or less) for swatches.

The next step was to print it it on cardstock and glue my fabric swatches on.  Then I cut a transparent quilting template to fit over the whole thing, which protects it when attached to a clipboard.  With clipboard in hand, heading to the fabric store to pick up whatever thread or notions I need is fast and easy.  Matching colors is a cinch using the storyboard; it’s much easier than managing a slew of loose swatches.

Inevitably, I’ve made a few changes.  I’ve decided not to make the sleeveless vest, since I can’t actually see myself wearing it.  In summer, if I need a wrap, I need it over my arms, to compensate for air-conditioning.  And I’m not sure what I’m going to do about the jacket.  Do I make it reversible?  In a print?  And I’m not sure I’ll make the sleeved top from the Princess dress pattern, since I now suspect that, for this particular design, my bust is better balanced with a skirt.

But changes and refinement as I go along are all part of the program.  I’m really enjoying making up a planned wardrobe; I think this is a first for me, and I’m counting on making this my “go-to-it’s-brainless” summer travel wardrobe.

So far, I’ve completed five of the garments, and will be knocking off a few more as I wait on the tradesman’s fancy and the moment I can put the house back together.  Finished are the dress, a reversible top, one skirt, and two pair of leggings.  Reviews to come, and more on the way as I knock off the rest.

Christine Jonson quotes a budget of “just under $400” for nine to twelve garments that yield over twenty outfits.  My costs will run under $70 for all pieces, but I’m not using the premium cotton/lycra fabrics Jonson features.  (I can say “for all pieces” now, because I’m working with a finite number of fabrics, even though I haven’t finished the project.)

Related:

Christine Jonson Skirt 1219

Making a Reversible Tank

Threads Wardrobe Storyboard

Christine Jonson Princess Dress 1117

Christine Jonson BaseWear One Top 622

Christine Jonson Skirt 1219

Christine Jonson BaseWear One Leggings 622

Tunic/Tank Dress from BaseWear One Pattern 622

Wardrobe Wrap-Up

Jezebel Dress Form, Part 2

June 1st, 2011 Comments off

It’s up:  The Jezebel dressmaker dummy tutorial, part 2.

Love these articles!  Once I get a weekend to myself (and *cough, cough* Mr. Noile gets some free time), I’m going for it.

I love the shoulders, by the way.  They’re going to cause some problems when constructing garments (that’s why über-expensive Wolf makes “collapsible” forms), but I’ve minded much more having ill-defined shoulders on my current dummy.

Related:  Did you Say “Jezebel”?

Categories: DIY, Tools Tags:

Did You Say “Jezebel”?

May 21st, 2011 2 comments

Well, yeah, I did.  The Internet’s a strange place.

Still AWOL over here, I’m afraid.  Various projects have left our house a disaster (and will continue to do so for another couple of weeks), and I’ve spent a week in New York City in the meantime (can you blame me??).  But I’m back just for this post because the website Jezebel (weirdly!) has what looks like a great tutorial on making a dress form.

Today’s post is only part one, with part two promised for next week.  Except for the time involved, this looks surprisingly “doable”, and should result in a dummy that replicates your shape better than anything you could reasonably buy (or make via other methods), and with what I hope is a sturdy foam core.  I’m seriously tempted to try it, just as soon as I have fifteen hours to myself.  Oh, and a house again.

Related:  Jezebel Dress Form, Part 2

Categories: DIY, Tools Tags:

The LBD (Times 365)

May 19th, 2010 4 comments

Uniforms.  It’s what we sewists hate, right?  But what if you only had one dress — say, one LBD, like this one:

Here's the front, with an inverted pleat.

And the back, with a full-button opening.

Sheena Matheiken began an experiment in fashion sustainability in May, 2009.  What if she were to wear only one dress for an entire year?  365 days?

How do you design a dress that can be worn all year around? We took inspiration from one of my staple dresses, improving upon the shape and fit to add on some seasonal versatility. The dress is designed so it can be worn both ways, front and back, and also as an open tunic. It’s made from a durable, breathable cotton, good for New York summers and good for layering in cooler seasons. With deep hidden pockets to appease my deep aversion for carrying purses.

Actually, there were seven dresses, all identical, because, I suppose, doing laundry every night isn’t anybody’s idea of sustainability.

The dress part of the project was intriguing enough, but Sheena and her crew went one step further.  They called the exercise The Uniform Project, and turned it into a fundraiser for a group that educated children in India.  Here’s how Sheena described the other part of her mission:

The Uniform Project is also a year-long fundraiser for the Akanksha Foundation, a grassroots movement that is revolutionizing education in India. At the end of the year, all contributions will go toward Akanksha’s School Project to fund uniforms and other educational expenses for children living in Indian slums.

Here she is on July 10, wearing her LBD as an over-dress.  The red trim is under the dress, and then picked up again by the belt:

Halfway through, celebrating the sixth month anniversary of the Project.  The front pleat gave her enough room to add a petticoat beneath.  Add a collar, a satin cummerbund and those great gloves — and wow:

On January 5, with a t-shirt under and a sweatshirt pastiche-of-a-corset providing a burst of color:

On March 24, with just a big belt, a cowl and exuberant tights:

On January 21st, an over-T and a wrap belt:

There’s more, much more at The Uniform Project.  Click through the calendar at the left to see each day’s image.  Sheena is adorable and gamine, but there’s plenty of inspiration for those of us who are neither.

Sheena’s styles get quite wild and crazy; I’ve deliberately chosen the most conservative in deference to those of us who like character, but who aren’t gamine types (or very young women) ourselves.  But every day of Sheena’s project is worth viewing — it’s a real treat.  And, though the Project is over,  it’s not too late to donate to Arkanksha, either, if you like.

For fashionistas, there are notes for each image describing the accessories, etc., all of which were thrifted or donated to the Project.  As of today (May 19, 2010) the Uniform Project has raised $94,742.00, enough, they say, to keep 263 kids in school through the Arkanksha Foundation.  The fashion may veer toward the wacky, but there’s no more down-to-earth goal than educating tomorrow’s adults.  Good work, on all fronts, Sheena and crew!

Categories: DIY, Fun Tags:

Five Fingers for the Feet

May 26th, 2008 Comments off

I tried on these shoes last year at a sports store in Philadelphia. I didn’t get them at the time because I wasn’t quite sure how I’d use them, and, well, the clerk was a real jerk. (It’s the principle of the thing.) This year I have a brand-new kayak, and the idea of paddling with almost-bare feet was irresistible, so I bought these Vibram Five Fingers shoes from REI.

The “fingers” are really your toes, of course. There’s one protected pod for each of your little piglets. Wearing these is like going barefoot, but without the incidental pain or discomfort of stepping on random twigs or small pebbles when you’re outdoors. They provide enough protection that you can stride around without fear, but you also feel the ground in a way that is almost wonderful.

Putting them on the first time is a bit of a strange experience and getting used to putting each toe into its own little pocket seems weird at first, but quickly becomes second nature. I always wear shoes with roomy, boxy, toes, but the feeling of freedom this footwear provides surpasses anything else that goes on my feet.

I do spend much of the year going barefoot in my home, walking on hardwood floors. People who don’t go barefoot regularly might find that there’s some ramp-up time before they’re used to Five Fingers. The manufacturer even recommends wearing them only a couple of hours at a time until they’re familiar. I padded around the house for a few hours a day a couple of times, but on me they felt right instantly.

They’re perfection in the kayak. I have to wear a life vest, but otherwise, I prefer as few layers as possible between me and my boat. It’s smart to wear shoes, though — there’s nasty stuff on those there lake bottoms and river banks, and sometimes we like to hike in a bit and picnic while on a longer paddling trip. These feel like a second skin, but protect like a shoe.

Five Fingers sells the model above specifically for water sports, but I didn’t like the fit of the top of the shoe, or the way the strap lay on my foot. The worry is that you might lose an unstrapped shoe if you go overboard. So I did a simple mod — I just wrap elastic straps around each shoe while I’m in the kayak. I suspect this would be enough to keep them on my feet, and it’s easy enough to pop the strap off once I’m on land.

Making the straps took all of five minutes. I used black one-inch wide non-roll elastic, folded one end over a rectangular loop, folded under the raw edge at the other end, zig-zagged everything in place, and added hook and loop closures. I put the rectangular loop next to the side of my shoe (where I won’t feel it), and tuck the part that hook-and-loops closed under my instep. Eventually, I might wear out the elastic under the sole, but making new straps obviously won’t be much of a strain.

Five Fingers are machine washable (some reviewers — mostly runners — have noted that they get pretty grotty) and they are vegan-friendly. If you order them directly from Vibram, there’s a re-stocking fee; REI doesn’t carry them in our local store, but they are typically fantastic about returns, and there’s no shipping charge if you pick them up at an REI store. City Sports has them on their website, and may still carry them in their Philadelphia store, too.

Update:  April 2010 — our local REI has Five Fingers in stock, though they’ve been going fast. And Mr. Noile loves his, too.

Categories: DIY, Kayak Stuff Tags:

Return of the Pfaff

May 25th, 2008 Comments off

On Wednesday, I discovered that, owing largely to circumstances beyond the store’s control, my Pfaff was still waiting to be fixed, and not likely to be touched for at least a few more weeks. So I retrieved it, since I couldn’t live with the idea of storing it at the repair shop.

The problem seems to be the check spring, which keeps the thread from going too slack on the front of the machine on its way to the needle.  That’s it in the picture above — the part is both the spring (normally the thread would go under the spring), and the curved metal part it’s resting on.  The check spring is catching and grabbing the thread where it shouldn’t, for some reason.

The jacket I’m working on right now is linen, so the fabric isn’t particularly demanding. As a result, I’ve been able to use my Pfaff through the expedient of bypassing the check spring, and tightening up the tension discs a bit. It’s working for this woven fabric, but the next garment in the queue will be made of silky polyester, so I’ll probably have to go back to my Singer Fashion Mate for it.

Whatever’s wrong doesn’t seem to affect the buttonhole function (in spite of the fact it’s tension-related), and I really can’t do quick, simple buttonholes with either of my other machines. So I’ve now finished the buttonholes in my black Vogue 8499 pants, and am getting on with my next garment — a Vogue jacket.

So my Pfaff is home, but it and I are kind of in limbo while I figure out the next step. Which may be ordering the part on the Internet, and slapping it in. I haven’t decided yet if this is a less-than-bright move, but the motivation level is high. The fortnight I went without this machine was not fun. If my kind-of-local shop can’t fix it, and I send it away, it could be months before I see it again. That would not be good.

Update 5/26/08 — Added photo.

Categories: DIY, Home Tags: