Tuesday, April 29, 2014

See & Sew B5699 - ongoing project

White-Crowned Sparrow
courtesy of whatbird.com

I'm listening to punk rock and birdsong while I'm writing this.  So life is pretty good.  We have White-Crowned Sparrows passing thru on their way north, and they have a pretty distinctive call.  They are keeping me & Bella entertained.  I saw at least 3 this morning in our back yard.  

Jackets!  I am starting to dread them.  There must be a way to master them, but it probably involves making many...and I can't bring myself to do that.  I know it would improve my skills, but my life would be filled with dread.  

So now I'm trying to finish this See & Sew B5699 pattern, which I've been working on, little by little for quite a while. (I'm in denial about how long, so won't bother to look it up!).  I started it when we were having a mild fall.  Then it turned into a brutal winter, and I just lost any interest in something short-sleeved!  

I had trouble with fitting, (mostly cured by Allison @ Bits of Thread) but finally got the wool dress finished & lined and I've worn it quite a bit this winter with some store-bought jackets.  
I decided before I started the wool version of the jacket I'd try out a "muslin" in some cotton/linen that I found on sale.  If you look at the older blog posts (linked to above), you'll see I really struggled with the fit (again!). But I think it's looking pretty good now.  

It's got bound buttonholes & is lined with some of the silk I bought last year.  It's quite thin, so a little difficult to work with, but sure feels nice!  

There is still some stuff to do, definitely, which I will get to right after I finish this post.  They are as follows: hemming, hemming the sleeves & getting the lining tacked under the hem & facings correctly.  But I'm pretty close.  
Linen/Cotton blend fabric detail

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

One Yard Wonder: Lunch Bag for Roommate!

This lunch bag was a quick project because the Roommate often leaves his lunch bag at work...so I decided to make another.  I haven't figured out what I'll do when he leaves both at work, though!

The pattern is from One-Yard Wonders by Hoskins & Yaker, 2009.  It's a great book to use up bits of your stash, the patterns are fairly easy, and there are plenty of ideas inside.  

I used Heat 'n' Bond Iron-On Vinyl on the pieces, inside & out.  I may try running it through the washer, on gentle, just to see what happens to the vinyl.  Have to work up my nerve first!  
Inside is lined with printed kente from Ghana. 
This was only a partial stash-buster because I bought a yard of fabric for the outside (I couldn't help it...batiks were on sale at Hancock!).  But I did use scraps from other projects for the lining.  
I have had many comments when I blog about fun shirts that "my boyfriend (or husband, or significant other) would never wear that shirt!"  I suspect that those guys wouldn't carry this lunch bag either!  Remember, the Roommate teaches 3rd grade, so has no qualms about being a bit wacky.  Just another reason his students love him (and so do I).    

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Cooper Backpack, from Colette Patterns: Finished!

Bella inspects my work, or does some birdwatching?
As you're reading this, you're going to find out some things about me you may or may not wish to know.  For example, I'm a birder.  And I can't make up my mind.  So there.  TMI?  Hopefully not.  Now way TMI about making this backpack/ messenger bag/pannier, from Colette Patterns, the Cooper, which is available in three styles.  I chose to make the backpack.  That was the easy choice.  

The more difficult choice was the fault of Birch Fabrics, which recently released a bunch of lovely Charley Harper fabrics in four types (flannel, canvas, stretch & quilting cotton).  The Roommate & I love modern art & birds, and Charley Harper is just the perfect meeting of those two concepts.  (I bought the fabric from Del Ray Fabrics, a local distributor.) So, knew I wanted canvas for the outside, and quilting fabric for the inside, but...what to choose?  And...won't it get dirty?!

As you'll see below I solved both those problems, one with prevarication, one with a lucky web search.  

First, I didn't decide on 2 fabrics, instead, I gave in and chose 4: 2 quilting cotton (for the lining) and 2 canvas prints (for the outside).  

But I quickly realized that all the white was going to get dirty quickly.  So what could I do to protect all that lovely white?  I did a quick search for iron-on vinyl, and discovered Heat 'n' Bond Vinyl!  And a nice tutorial about using the product, too.   

I ordered most of the fittings from www.HardwareElf.com, and got the cotton webbing from an Etsy shop, and then I dyed it to match.  Also, the bottom is not vinyl-ized, it's a double layer of heavy canvas, which I also dyed.  

I had fun adding some extras...like a key fob inside, a couple of extra pockets (one specifically to fit my phone, another for pens/pencils), and even a zipper pocket inside.  I love lots of pockets & cubbyholes!  

I finished the lining first, and wanted to tweet a photo of it...and Bella had to inspect that, too.  She certainly keeps me on my mettle.  

Here's a couple more of the inside so you get an idea...

Here's what the back looks like, with the flap open.  I'm quite pleased at how the straps came out.  

And the front, with the flap open, too, showing yet another little pocket.  I used magnetic snaps, but not the rivets I ordered.  The snaps were easy to put on--no big deal.  The rivets, though, would work better on thicker fabric. I did a test run on some scraps & realized that the rivets would have looked pretty bad, because even vinyl-ized, the fabric was quite thin. 

That is not to say that fabrics treated with Heat 'n' Bond are easy to use.  Read the above-mentioned tutorial carefully!  First, you can't really pin it, because the holes don't go away (not a big deal at the beginning, but towards then end when you're trying to hide your stitching for finishing, it's a problem).  Related to this is the fact that any mistakes you make will always be with you.  

And although the fabric doesn't end up as stiff as oilcloth, it is a hassle to work with because it fights back!  One of the last steps is to put the lining inside out to the outside, then sew around the top before tucking the lining back inside.  Well, at this point, I had lots of layers, the cotton webbing straps, plus the vinyl to deal with, and my regular old machine almost couldn't deal with it.  You'll probably notice there are no close-ups!  And I must admit, I have a bit more I need to top stitch, but was really quite tired of dealing with it all.  I went through many heavy duty needles on this project (5-6!).  I'm not sure I'd make another (even with heavy, non-vinyl-ized fabric) without having access to a heavy duty sewing machine.  

Mistakes really aren't easy to correct once you've vinyl-ized your fabric.  If you handle the fabric too much, the vinyl begins to peel away (be sure and don't leave any edges unsewn!) 

I wish I'd put a handle at the top, between the backpack straps; nice to have another way to carry it.  (I don't think it's called for in the pattern, but it would have been easy to add.)

This particular vinyl though (I chose matte) has a nice hand...not as plastic-feeling as oil cloth.  And it seems softer & I believe is supposed to not crack, which oilcloth does after too much folding.  

All in all, I'm looking forward to using it (I took it to run some quick errands today & it worked great).  I'll be curious to see how long it looks good...does the vinyl protect the fabric?  Does the vinyl keep the items inside dry in the DC spring rains?  

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

What do YOU do with your old North Korea maps?!

I have mentioned before that we have plenty of old maps at my office. (Maps marked Soviet Union don't have a lot of credibility these days!)  The Roommate has taken many of them to school for his 8 year olds to color on, and we have lots more stored downstairs in our basement either for pattern making, gift-wrapping, storage-box decorating, or...my latest idea...pattern storage!  

Because I like to use vintage patterns, I find that some are extremely fragile.  So often before I even start cutting out, I just re-trace the whole thing onto better paper.  Not only does this keep them from tearing even more, it ensures I don't lose any of the original pieces, which unfortunately has happened. :-((

Life's eternal questions:  What to do with old North Korea maps?
Sometimes I use grid easel paper from Staples, and sometimes it's onto an old map (no particular reason for using one or the other).  But patterns, like maps, are a pain in the rear to re-fold, and if it's a vintage pattern, even the pattern packet can be quite fragile, too.  So it's frustrating to try to fit the fragile pattern into the fragile packet.  I've just given up!  Instead, I use and old map, fold it into an envelope, staple it in a few key locations & viola!  A big, sturdy place to put the newly copied pieces, the original pieces & the packet.  It doesn't completely cut down on folding, but it sure makes putting patterns away a lot less frustrating.  

A place to store them is another issue, since I haven't really standardized my new envelopes, but basically, I'm filing them all upright between some magazine storage cases.  Now that I have a place to store traced patterns, I think I'll eventually re-trace all my vintage patterns (as I use them).    

Any great ideas you've come up with to solve this folding/fragility issue?  Please post below!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

More Western (African) Shirts...for Friends + 2 Vintage Patterns Sewn!!

The Roommate's Western (African) shirts have been well-received all up & down the East Coast. We were having dinner w/ some good friends near Union Square & I got a request to make another western shirt.  

So, I came home & went thru the remnants of my fabric from West Africa, and found one piece that I thought would be good for the contrast.  The problem was finding main color to show off the wax print.  I didn't have any, or not nearly enough; my source for West African prints (G Street) didn't have any, so I broke down & bought some Marimekko (on sale at Crate & Barrel outlets) for my friend, and a very tiny print for his little boy.  (There was no way I could make dad a shirt without making a tiny one, too!)

Oh, and they are both from vintage patterns!  For you #vintagepledge sewists out there!  Simplicity 6693 is the men's pattern, and McCall's 7456 is the boy's pattern (I made version E).  
Above is the back of the little boy's shirt.  I was especially pleased how the diamond design worked (and look at how well the collar matches!).  This is some crazy fabric!  I was cutting  everything from the same piece, but there are so many different designs, I was able to get lots of different looks from it.  

And here is the dad's shirt.  The wax print looks amazing with the Marimekko, huh?!

Even the green placket is from the very edge of the fabric!  Though it sort of looks like chile peppers on it.  Or xmas-y.  But I couldn't resist using as much as possible of this amazing textile, in honor of the Africans who don't waste any of their fabric.  

Because this is the fabric that keeps on giving, I was able to find plenty of 'centerpieces' to use on the front & back yokes.  

One thing I really worried about was fitting.  Our friend is a much different shape than the Roommate (besides being 20 yrs younger!), so I knew that my current pattern wouldn't work.  So, said friend took off the shirt he was wearing, in the restaurant & gave it to me (he had a t-shirt on underneath)!  I did lots of measuring of that shirt then re-traced the whole pattern, incorporating those measurements, onto a different set of pieces.  (Next post will be about storing those pattern pieces.)  

A few more detail shots below.  

And, my friend, modeling his new shirt.  I was so pleased...I sent it to his office & he didn't wait 'til he got home to try it on, instead sending me a picture from work.  (I'm the same way, I still wear new shoes home from the store whenever possible!)  I'm thrilled!