It’s my blog, and I can cry if I want to…

I’m back from my England trip, which was straightforwardly bad. Unfortunately Professor Boyfriend tested positive for Covid on the morning of our first full day there. We’d travelled from separate locations, but since we’d spent the previous night in the same room, I also isolated for the remainder of the trip (with the exception of food-and-paracetamol quests), though I still wore all the fun vacation clothes I had packed; hopefully the occasional pharmacist occasionally appreciated them. Professor Boyfriend had to change his return ticket and extend his trip an extra week (between that and the second room so I could isolate separately, this terrible trip cost the earth!). I actually flew home on schedule and left him there (our original flight date was now the day Prof B.F. was allowed to go outside with a mask, and y’know, feed himself), and then *I* tested positive on my first morning back. By the way, I departed England on the 41°C Tuesday and returned home to a severe and prolonged American heat wave. My apartment, which I cannot morally leave, hit 91°F, which is almost impressive. Also, then my fridge broke.

That’s the moment where this became a comedy, in my opinion! Professor Boyfriend is going to be okay. I’m going to be okay. My groceries that I ordered for quarantine, especially the fancy ice cream I was using to soothe my loneliness and illness? Opposite of okay! But better it than us!

I’m a little dizzy and very very warm, but I really like blogging and I’ve got NOTHIN’ BUT TIME, so I had a look around my house for something I could amateurishly photograph and realized it was finally the season to share my beloved sleeve board. More accurately, my sleeve board cover, which is the only part I made.

A few words on the wood construction first, which are based on my memories of someone else’s experience. So have this salt grain. You can keep it.

Professor Boyfriend built the base without benefit of power tools. The curvy middle section is pine, I believe, or something pretty soft, but the base-base and the actual board part are hard maple. Hard maple is also known as rock maple, and it is ridiculously hard – he had to revise his plan to attach the three sections with screws, because the steel screws kept breaking, and switch instead to dowels and glue.

This wood was challenging to work with, but it hasn’t warped even with the repeated application of steam from my iron, and it doesn’t leak any resin or sap when heated. Also it’s so smooth and pretty and would never snag anything and I unscientifically believe it could stop a bullet.

I stupidly broke the middle section recently, but Professor Boyfriend mended it, what a guy!

I made the cover by tracing the finished surfboard-shaped-top onto medical bum paper and adding 2” seam allowance. I used that pattern piece to cut two layers, one from quilt batting and one from cotton canvas. I trimmed the batting layer to be a little smaller than the outer canvas, and stacked them wrong-sides-together (not that the batting has a wrong side, but you know what I mean), and afterwards treated them as one piece. I used the same cotton canvas to cut wide bias strips, which I joined and then sewed around the edge as a bias facing. This bias facing was intended to function as an elastic casing.

If I ever make another cover, I would do that differently. Folding around the tight curve of the ‘nose’ of the piece was hard but doable, but feeding the elastic through that area was memorably too difficult. I had to unpick some of the facing’s edgestitching so I could yank the elastic past the trouble point, and it’s still not altogether even.

Next time, I would add a separate casing made from extra-wide double-fold bias, essentially a bias binding instead of a bias facing. Ultimately, this worked, though.

And the benefit to sewing it this way was that I could trap short lengths of elastic neatly under the edgestitching. These little belts help the cover stay in place during use.

I used the same elastic for these as I did in the casing, and that elastic, you may recognize, is the scavenged straps of many bras! Even a so-so bra tends to yield pretty good elastic. Chop up your bras today! Leave no survivors!

If you like to sew shirts, a sleeve board is a joy in the morning. I can’t imagine flat-felling a sleeve seam without one now. Heck, it even improves wearing shirts. Professor Boyfriend often borrows this to iron, and he is not someone who routinely seeks entertainment in ultra-specific ironing. This is joyfully, conveniently, attractively fit-to-purpose!

I don’t know what the wood materials cost, because Professor Boyfriend made this as a gift, but the cover was free. I made it in January of 2021 and it still looks fresh. I’ve been known to iron non-sleeves on this board as well, if I don’t feel like hauling out the big one, but you’ll never prove it, copper! Anyway, I love it. 10/10.

I hope you’re all keeping well – be healthy, be cool! TV recommendations are actively solicited, by the way; I still have a few days of solitude (and heat, phwew) before I can rejoin society. And even better, when society can rejoin me, both in the person of Professor Boyfriend and also, hopefully, the miracle of refrigeration!

Pattern: I traced the wood thingie

Pattern cost: NA

Size: NA

Supplies: scraps of Cotton and Steel canvas, batting; thread, elastic from stash

Total time: 3 hours

Total cost: $0.00

Green Bean(ie)

As far as I can tell, a leftover skein of yarn is sort of equivalent to a spare half-yard of fabric. A psychological burden that will weigh increasingly heavily upon you until you eventually use it for something, anything a chance to make accessories! And I had an untouched skein remaining after knitting my first knitted thing. I didn’t really have any sense of what to do with 160-something yards of DK-weight wool, but then I happened strangely effortlessly upon this free Purl Soho pattern, which called for my existing weight of yarn and my owned size of circular needles (US 3). Whaaat! So I made a hat for Professor Boyfriend.

I cannot recommend too strongly knitting a sweater, then a hat. I feel like I sneezed this out in less than a week. Also, I had some extremely helpful voices suggest I was twisting my purl stitches on my sweater, which was massively useful to this beginner, because it led me to read about stitches generally and I learned a whole handful of things. The real biggie: I wasn’t twisting my purl stitches. Because it turns out I wasn’t actually purling at all, because I didn’t know how! I was doing some other thing! But now I do know how to purl, without twisting! Ta-da!

I realized this accidentally while watching a YouTube video about stitch mounts in which an experienced woman slowly and kindly pointed out how one thing is different from a different thing, which is more knowledge than I used to have about stitch mounts. Reading about twisted stitches also led me to discover twisted rib, which I find a lot handsomer than the flimsy 1×1 DK-weight ribbing I made before. So I disobeyed the Purl Soho pattern and knit through the back loop instead. Ohoho! They don’t own me!

I knit a size M since Professor Boyfriend has, I’m pretty sure, an average, medium-ish head. Also because I had the one skein of yarn it called for, which I just realized THIS SECOND is irrelevant because different skeins are different amounts of yarn!! Aahhh!! Well, I got away with it! Cripes. I do wish it was an inch or two longer, but I haven’t blocked it yet because I’m waiting for hot weather, so maybe I can get a little more length out of it then. Professor Boyfriend says it fits fine, and it’s his noggin, so either way we cool.

Thanks to YouTube stitch mount lady (a link I sadly did not save to my spreadsheet; weird), I learned to distinguish between a knit stitch and a purl stitch. This distinction was previously invisible to me. Those were the only two choices for the majority of the hat so I was feeling pretty good and competent, especially on the part that’s just a tube! Also, for a while it was a knit-until-it-measures-etc. pattern, not a count-your-rows kind of pattern, which is much more relaxing.

My single most triumphant moment (which I can also credit directly to the YouTube maven): if I were to have followed the directions for one of the decrease rounds, I would have ended up purling my knits and knitting my purls – and I noticed, and corrected it! I caught a pattern error! Or who knows, maybe I miscounted something and messed up, but if so I didn’t compound my mistake, and I still get to feel triumphant.

Eventually the hat stops being a tube and starts becoming a hat. The decrease rounds go quickly, even with the counting involved. I got to apply my magic loop skills but there’s a moment near the end where you’re working with like, 6 stitches, and it feels like surely not? This is not enough of stitches? But somehow it came together, and without a hole (which I was going to brand as a sunroof)!

The twisted rib is very stretchy and I like the whirly effect as seen on the crown of Professor Boyfriend’s head. And the color (which he was not consulted on) looks nice on him! He’s a nice-looking guy! I know this was an outrageously simple project but I feel good for getting through it without errors.

Kind of hilariously, a few days after I finished this and gave it to Professor Boyfriend, a birthday gift from my sister arrived in the mail. She’d knit me a hat that looks like it could eat this one for breakfast. Also green. I knew she was making me something because she ran some allergy stuff by me – I can’t remember the exact details but this is seriously luxe; the words ‘silk’ and ‘alpaca’ both came into it somewhere. And it is GORGEOUS.

Professor Boyfriend is lovely and gracious about his lightweight hat though. Sometimes we wear our green beanies at the same time, and this event is known as Hat Club. All are welcome.

Anyway, I’m proud of my knitting progress so far! I’m definitely not a natural, but I can feel my understanding getting better, and I think that’s the most important part – my technical skills improve more meaningfully if I actually get what I’m doing. And it’s nice to know a knitting project doesn’t have to take over a year!!

Back to sewing as per ushe next week! And thanks again to all the knitters who shared their expertise. 😊 Mad grats (⬅️gratitude with attitude). Ta-ta!

Pattern: Classic Ribbed Hat from Purl Soho

Pattern cost: $0.00

Size: Adult M

Supplies: 1 skein of DK (leftover Cloudborn Highland DK in Ocean)

Total time: 2/24 – 2/28, 2022

Total cost: $0.00

(Not a) Field Bag

A series of not-quite-flops but certainly-not-triumphs have left my soul damp and robbed my hair of its vigor. I’m pivoting briefly to sewing gifts for others while I rebuild my powers!

This first is a knitting bag for my sister, who is unaware of this blog and hates surprises anyway. I was leaning towards the Noodlehead Crescent Tote pattern but feeling a bit blah about sourcing the notions when I remembered the Grainline Field bag. My vague sense of this bag: trendy, but something off about it. The off thing, I rediscovered, is the price. The PDF is $16 dingitty dang dollars! I spent a few minutes skipping around the video sewalong at 2.5x speed to discover what justified this price point and was aghast to realize it’s as simple as it looks. The whole pattern is three rectangles. And two of those are the same width!

That said: the technique of folding in the boxed corners at the base is lovely, and the sewalong is excellent. And I like how slim the notions list is. But whether I’m with a fox, or in a box, I will not spend an amount of money that nets you 32 pounds of sweet potatoes at Haymarket for the privilege of sewing a dead simple tote, so I just sort of went ahead and made one. Well, two. But first, one!

Mine is not an accurate, proper Field bag, obviously. I used the dry oilskin scraps leftover from my Sandhill sling and based the dimensions on that available fabric. This version was meant as proof-of-concept, so I only used stuff I could find around my house fo’ free. It’s got two grommets instead of the Field bag’s three; I harvested the leftover grommet from an old Kelly anorak kit, plus the extra grommet from an otherwise-unused Kelly anorak kit (it’s a good kit). The drawstrings are just grosgrain ribbon from my drawer of gift wrap supplies. I’ve got some odd lengths of natural cotton webbing kicking around; this one was 11” long. The finished base of this bag is about 5” x 8.5” inches.

Overall it works! A boxed-corner tote is a boxed-corner tote, etc. My least favorite part is that the stitching to attach the internal pocket is visible on the outside, and my bobbin stitching is almost never as pretty as my topstitching. Especially on this oilskin, where the bobbin stitches almost ‘float’ on top of the fabric and seem to scar the surface. I decided to choose something toothier for the final version in hopes that the stitching would sink in more.

To jump ahead, I *still* don’t like the look of it, even on this nice textured cotton/linen canvas. If I was doing this again I would cut an underlining layer, attach the pocket just to that, and then afterwards treat the underlining/outer bag as one. It’s too late now…unless I start over, which is tempting. On the one hand, it’s a gift and I want it to be nice. On the other hand, it’s a gift destined for Germany, so pretty soon I won’t have to look at it anymore. In the meantime I’m just quietly disliking it.

This final version is a slightly different size than the oilskin one, by the way, because this time I based the dimensions on ½ yard of 45” fabric. I was given a generous cut (19”, <3), but the base is a little wider than the first time (skinnier pocket = wider base + shorter sides), 5.5” x 8.5”.

This one has the three grommets, though I’m not at all clear what they’re for! Buying the grommets was an unexpected pain. Neither Gather Here nor Michael’s carries 6 mm grommets, which is the size I have the tool for. Gold Star Tool will sell me 100 6 mm grommets for about $11 including shipping, which I could then share, but without the tool, so the next user would have to have a 6 mm tool of their own. Wawak will sell me 25 grommets for about $9.00 including shipping, with the tool, which is a strictly worse deal but easier to share because I could give away the extra tool too. I could also buy a similar but different size of grommet and its corresponding tool locally, but then I’d be spending money and ending up with two tools, and I don’t want two tools! I already have one tool!

It’s a cursed economist’s word puzzle: if Lia can buy 100 grommets at 11¢ apiece, and 25 grommets at 36¢ apiece, why can’t she just have 3 grommets? Why?!! Just gimme! I eventually got 25 grommets for around $7.00 from this US-based etsy shop, feeling like Alice through the Looking Glass with her two hard-boiled eggs. They’re fine.

I used wide piping cord for the drawstrings, but I hadn’t anticipated how much it would fray. Luckily my on-the-fly fix seems to be holding – I had a handful of zipper stops purchased in haste and never used, and I clipped them onto the ends of each cord. While they don’t wrap around the whole cord, they seem to be pinching it together just fine.

I also made a little tag from the selvedge, just for fun. This Ruby Star canvas has a really wide selvedge on one side, but the pattern bleeds to the edge on the other, so it evens out.

The last minor change I made was to fold and sew the edge of the handles – I’m not really sure what that one dinky handle is for, but I thought this treatment gave it a little more polish. I went back and did the same thing to my practice bag, but upside-down, oops! Whoever gets this version from the Buy Nothing (if anyone wants it) can change it with my blessing.

And there we have it! Hopefully my sister will find this useful, but if not she can pass it on. I believe in the ‘it’s yours now’ school of giving – once a gift is given, the gift-ee can do whatever they want with it. Boil it, mash it, stick it in a stew.

Anything they like. No matter what, I’ll enjoy how few scraps remain!

Pattern: almost but not entirely unlike the Grainline Field bag

Pattern cost: NA

Size: finished base 5” x 8.5”/5.5” x 8.5”

Supplies: scraps of M&M dry oilskin in Navy, thread, hardware, webbing, string from stash; zipper stops, Gather Here, $1.00/1/2 yard of Noodles Dove on Canvas, Gather Here, $7.50; 2 yards of 1/8″ cotton piping cord, zipper stops, Gather Here; eyelets, etsy (WeiFashionDesign), $9.07

Total time: 1.75 hours/2 hours

Total cost: $1.00/$16.57

Vest-iges

So I made this pair of disasterpants (they feel worse than they look), immediately rued wasting the fabric, but then got some great suggestions to reuse it and keep it out of a landfill. The one that really grabbed me was KK’s idea – a vest! I had a biggish scrap left of uncut yardage and a strong desire to chop up some jodhpurs, and thus this vest was born.

I’m really a bit tickled by it. I knew from the get that I was unlikely to keep it (my middle is usually warm enough, it’s my ends that need help), but may I introduce Han Solo – After Dark?

I know the camera adds 10°, but it’s not overemphasizing the triangular profile of this vest. It’s like wearing a velveteen pyramid. That’s because I quilted not 1, but 2 layers of batting to each outer layer.

This fabric swallows light, but you can maybe kinda-sorta see I used wavy vertical lines. It was a really relaxing experience; I made a paper guide to keep the lines relatively consistent, but the organic nature meant I didn’t have to be precious about spacing or even notice if I strayed 1/8” from the planned curve. Also, I quilted each piece separately (just the 3 – back and two fronts), and they were all wee and easy to handle. And now, really quite plushy!

Can you tell the back is cut from two pieces, and one is on the cross-grain? It seemed so obvious on the table, but it shows up less in photographs than I expected. I didn’t have enough fabric to fuss about fuzz worry about nap.

I Googled around a bit and decided that rather than buying a pattern to use up scraps, then buying fabric to use that pattern, in a circle, forever, I would try a free pattern. I landed on this Purl Soho design as a base. I started with a size L, but shortened about 4 or 5 inches – a few from the bottom, and a couple more removed horizontally through the armscye. I considered extending the front to overlap or cutting a separate button placket, but a) I was pretty sure I didn’t have enough fabric to pull that off and b) I wanted to make this a no-spend project, and I didn’t have any coordinating buttons to hand. As it turns out, the shape of the neckline as drafted is too high to overlap nicely anyway.

I did pop in some pockets. I didn’t have enough fabric (that’s my vest leitmotif) for patch pockets, so welts it was.

I worried the velveteen + two layers of batting might be too bulky for nice welts, but actually they went in neatly and smoothly. I’ve learned you can play pretty rough with cotton velveteen and it doesn’t mind, so I pressed with lots of steam heat. Also the fabric ate up all my topstitching.

I used and appreciated this single welt tutorial from poppykettle! Unlike hers, however, my pocket interior isn’t self-fabric, but a long rectangle of scrap cotton with a bare facing of velveteen, and my measurements were based on availability rather than any overwhelming design plan or logic.

My lining is composed of a thousand scraps, mostly velveteen but also some leftover corduroy from old mangled overall legs. Unfortunately I didn’t have enough navy to go around the armscyes or face the hem.

Lining the vest, especially contrasted with bias-binding, was delightfully quick. I used a convenient Sarah Kirsten tutorial – special shout-out to her tip to sew the edges of the turning hole down to the edge of the fabric! Wrassling this right-side-out was a bit athletic, and I can’t be certain but I think she saved me from shredding the lining like cabbage.  

My last step was to sew directly over the quilting lines nearest to each front edge, now through all the layers, to de-puff the front somewhat. At this point I wasn’t even using navy thread in my bobbin – it’s purple – and yet it just nestled down into the pile and disappeared. And the vest was done!

And actually, so was this bonus skirt! After ripping out the inseams, I cut off most of the lower legs. Then I sewed the back center seam in a straight line down from the waistband, the front center in a straight line down from the base of the fly, trimmed the excess, serged the edges, turned the hem to my desired length, and ta-da. A new mini. The finished length at center front is 16.25″; the finished length at center back is 18″.

Neither the vest nor the skirt are staying in my closet, but I don’t consider either of them a failure. I made them both to get something out of nothing, and hopefully once they’re swapped or donated, someone will enjoy each piece. Maybe even together, but they’d have to be bolder than me!

Happy February! : )

Pattern: Purl Soho vest

Pattern cost: $0.00

Size: L; shortened from the bottom and through the armscye (about 4 – 5”)

Supplies: scrap velveteen and corduroy

Total time: 6.75

Total cost: $0.00

Pattern: refashioned pleated mini

Pattern cost:  N/A

Size: 44 waist (from SisterMag jodhpurs)

Supplies: refashioned jodhpurs

Total time: 1.75

Total cost: $0.00

A Murder Is Announced

Professor Boyfriend and I have participated in a weekly game night for years, but this year for one week only we hosted a murder mystery evening instead. It was partly for Halloween but mostly due to A Murder Is Announced, because we held it on Friday, October 29th, just like the mysterious notice in the book!

I was given the character of Sally, an authoress, and initially I thought I’d just wear this McCalls dress, but then I had a rummage through my mending basket and got a better idea. I’ve had this brown Kaufman flannel half-circle skirt lying there unworn for ages due to a youthful indiscretion – I tried to install an invisible zipper on the bias and the back seam was unwearably wobby. It took me months of wear to notice, but once I did, I realized my rear looked like a ski slalom. Then I crammed the skirt in the mending pile for mumbledytum years.

But change was finally a-coming. I removed the waistband, unpicked the back seam to about an inch above the finished hem, and took out the zipper. Happily I didn’t have to touch the hem itself!

Then I was pleasantly surprised to see the fabric itself wasn’t stretched all out of whack. The zipper had become permanently distorted, though, and I didn’t have another one. Here’s where I had to use my little grey cells, mon ami. Some context: this skirt is pre-spreadsheet-era, meaning it’s at least 5+ years old, so as you can imagine I didn’t have any leftover scrap fabric hanging around. Also, my washing machine is broken (and has been for several weeks) so I haven’t been buying and can’t add new fabric. Also also, it was the Tuesday night before the Friday of the party. Also also also, the original waistband closed with a snap I was unable to pry out, so instead I had to snip off the ends, making the already-scanty waist piece (see: my measurement of 5+ years ago) now comically small.

So I winged it!

Improvisational button fly time. I grabbed some buttons from my recent regretted button-buying binge and, HUZZAH, even though they weren’t suitable for the planned project I ordered them for, they were perfect here. I ‘drafted’ an extremely sketchy fly shield from a mostly-coordinating scrap by guessing at a length and width, folding it in half, and sewing the bottom shut. Then I sandwiched some snipped-up hair elastic button loops between the shield and the original back seam allowance. I also left the bottom half-inch or so of the shield piece free and unstitched, which matters later.

 Next, I folded under and topstitched the opposite seam allowance, but only parallel to the seamline.

The only part that required a little finesse was re-sewing the center back seam. I folded the bottom free half-inch of the fly shield out of the way and sewed the back seam shut until I bumped into my new stitching. Then I overlapped the button side over the now-extended fly shield and sewed a short horizontal bar to join the two layers at the base. Voila, button back!

I used another piece of scrap fabric to extend the original waistband piece. Does it match? Nah. Does it matter? Honestly, also nah. Professor Boyfriend and I have a saying we rely on in times like these: “It’s better than good. It’s good enough!”

For a finishing touch, the day before the murder, I Googled “how to sew a beret” and about an hour after that I had one of those too!! I used Erika Bunker’s tutorial on the We All Sew blog, and it was excellent. My only meaningful change was to add seam allowance to the inner circle (the head hole circle). I also folded my ‘stem’ in half and attached it flat instead of sewing it into a loop. This beret was the perfect use for a scrap of wool that was too small to wear but too nice to get rid of! I lined my wool with cotton, because it’s what I had around. I love it.

It was surprisingly easy to find everything we needed to host the evening lying around our apartment – this poison bottle is a vintage vanilla extract bottle I use as a bud vase, my cigarette holder is a metal straw with paper curled inside, and I bought my brooch at a pawn shop at the tail end of my Victorian phase (the pawn shop has been a patisserie for years, which shows how long I’ve been living in Somerville).  

My new-old skirt is still a little snug, but it served its purpose. Much like the pockets, which, while low, are large enough and sturdy enough to contain a murder weapon. I walked around with a Lewis chessman in my pocket all night but was still framed for murdering an industrialist with a hairpin. Nom d’un nom d’un nom! I think I’m a beret person now, though! I’m going to wear it in real life!

And as long as I’ve got you here, how perfect would Navid Negahban be as a post-Suchet Poirot!? He’s my dream casting. Pipe down, you Malkoviches and Branaghs! Hercule has arrived!

Now it’s time to pick your weapon!

Welcome to November. Don’t get murdered. 🙂

Sandhill Sling

My heavy-hitting Making backpack is sadly wearing out (heavy-hitting in terms of how often I use it, but the fabric is actually shredding, wah). But that gives me a good excuse to sew a new bag!

This is another Noodlehead pattern, the Sandhill Sling.

I bought the paper pattern. In this case that means a nice little plastic bag containing an instruction booklet, a rounded-corner template, and a cutting list, but it was the same price as the PDF so might as well! As a bag amateur, I also appreciate a physical booklet (easier to follow).

I kind of like the feeling of being busted back down to beginner. I also picked a new-to-me fabric, dry oilskin from Merchant & Mills. It is fine. Sorry, pronounce that “fyne”. This bright navy color isn’t particularly eye-catching but it was mostly a dream to sew. I was originally very careful with it – skipping a pre-wash, storing it on an old gift paper tube instead of folding it – but it’s a sturdy fabric meant for heavy use and I quickly got over my preciousness.

Tolkien reportedly thought the most beautiful words in the English language were “cellar door”, but I guess no one ever told him “you can skip the interfacing”. The pattern didn’t explicitly say so, but the oilskin was so stiff already and I thought interfacing would make the bag layers unmanageably thick. Plus I had no way to attach it. You’re not supposed to apply heat to oilskin (just handling the fabric with my body heat gave my hands a non-unpleasant waxy feeling), and in fact the only time I used an iron during this whole project was turning back and pressing the edges of the lining where it’s attached to the zipper.

Finger-pressing dry oilskin is amazing. It creases like thick paper and then it just stays put. If you need it to be flat again, you just smooth it, and then it’s flat. It doesn’t shift, it barely frays, and it doesn’t grow at all. At one point about 2/3rds into the project you’re supposed to true up your main panels and mine were exactly the same size as when I started.

The only downside of dry oilskin is that it doesn’t really heal. Solution: just go ahead and get it right the first time. Iiii did not.

All of its friendly qualities became frenemies when it was time to attach the gusset.

I sewed the lining first to get comfortable attaching the gusset loop to the rounded corners, and in quilting cotton it was a relative breeze. It conformed to the curves and I invisibly eased the straight edges a little when necessary. Lemon-squeezy.

Attempting that same step in a thick, rigidly stable fabric that shows every stitching hole? NOT SQUEEZY AT ALL.

I got everything attached but not well. I misaligned the main panels, placed the cross-body strap off-center, sewed the top edge of the front panel less-than-parallel to its zip, and gathered one straight edge on a few inches of the gusset. I finished the bag (including hand-sewing the lining to the zip), but it was bad. I felt bad when I looked at it. I started making plans to give it away but I didn’t want to punish anybody by giving them a bag that was madly askew. Here’s a couple un-glamour shots:

 I fretted about it for 48 hours then decided it was time for this mésalliance to end in divorce and ripped the outer layers apart.  

Side note: I had more than enough fabric to recut pieces as necessary, which made this decision easier. The pattern called for 5/8 yards, I bought ¾ yards, and even though I cut the strap out of self-fabric I probably would have been fine with ½ yard total. That said, I didn’t have to recut anything. I re-measured the gusset loop and the seamline of the main panels (easy to do when the needle holes are just hanging out) and discovered my gusset was 1” longer than my seamline. I’m not sure how or why this happened, but I sewed out the excess, and it’s a billion times better now. A billion. I ran the numbers.   

Also, once I was in there anyway I figured I might as well make another change. Using the leftover foam from my Making backpack, I cut two Sandhill Sling main panels sans seam allowance, and now they’re floating around between the outer and the lining. I couldn’t work out a way to attach them (probably should have left them some SA after all), but they seem to be staying put! I didn’t have enough foam to construct a whole third inner layer, but I’m not sure that would have been the right move anyway; the Making backpack just has it on the big panels.

My second-sew-around didn’t affect the lining, or I might have added an internal hook for keys. If/when I make a second, I’ll probably use foam again, plus add a key hook, and maybe some webbing carry handles a-la-Raspberry Rucksack, too. Kind of a greatest hits tour of all the bag patterns I’ve sewn so far.

I love hardware but I hate buying it. Mine is all from Wawak and I’m happy with the quality and even happier I could buy it all in one place, with the exception of the webbing; I chose to sew the self-fabric strap 100% so I wouldn’t have to order from two places.

Also at the last moment I changed my zipper color from “Navy” to “Pennant Blue” and I have zero regrets! I ran the numbers on that, too.

Last time I sewed a Noodlehead pattern I bought the hardware kit from there, but the Sandhill Sling kit is divided into two lots. Zippers and hardware are separate and neither includes webbing, and in the operatic words of the sex pest from the musical I cannot stop listening to, “I don’t know about THAT, Pierre!”.

Happily I do like my finished bag, part 2: Bag Harder. It’s nicely hands-free but I can swing it to the front if I want to get something out of it. Due to my manhandling, it already looks pleasantly rumpled and broken-in, much like Scott Bakula. I’d like to make another one for Professor Boyfriend. Maybe that time I’ll measure *before* punching a ton of permanent holes in it. Learning Is Fun!!

Pattern: Sandhill Sling, view A

Pattern cost: $9.00

Size: NA

Supplies: 3/4 yard M&M Dry Oilskin in Navy, 3/4 yard Resilient Creatures quilting cotton, Gather Here, $36.58; hardware  (Antique Brass, Pennant Blue), Wawak, $12.73

Total time: 5.25 hours

Total cost: $48.31

Removable Collar

Hi! Come in, get cozy, let’s make a collar! As a reminder, I added a removable sherpa collar to my Hampton jean (well, corduroy) jacket, and today is the how-to.

Oh, but first the why-to – it makes a surprising amount of difference to the warmth of the jacket, and while it’s a pain to put on and take off, once it’s on it’s less fuss than a scarf. And I like the way it looks. 😎 I was jazzed about the idea of ‘removable’ because I wanted to be able to launder it separately or replace it if it aged faster than the rest of the jacket (plushy materials, especially cheap plushy materials, get mangy so fast – or maybe just mine do, but still).  

I figured out some better techniques mid-sewing. The diagrams are idealized – the photos show what I actually did, ha!

First, prepping your pattern! If you’ve already finished your coat, you can add a collar after the fact, but if not, it’s a good idea to add some interfacing where the buttons will be sewn. The Hampton collar has no interfacing as written – you could interface the whole thing, or just add it in spots to preserve the casual drape. That’s what I did. To ensure I could find them again I sewed “X”s from corner-to-corner of my interfacing squares.

Have your collar pattern piece handy (on the Hampton jacket it’s a half-piece, which is what you’ll see reflected here), and let’s boogie –

Now isn’t that all very tidy and sensible? It’s, um, not what I did. I did prepare my jacket collar mostly as described.

But I didn’t patch-interface my inner collar, which was a misjudgment that I’ll hopefully get away with. There’s not a ton of stress on the buttons, but I’d feel more secure if the fabric had a little support! Oh, and a note on the number of buttons: I had leftovers from an old shirt; 5 medium, 3 small. The pacing and placement worked out, which was pure luck. I’ll take it!

My fabric, by the way, is the same fineline twill I used for the pocket bags to reduce bulk. Same purpose here. My sherpa is pretty cheap (in quality, not in price, cry for me – it was my last fabric.com order before I learned that website is owned by Amazon) and it shed like a sonuva, in addition to having unexpected stretch, so I immediately interfaced it and serged the edges.

Originally that long rectangle piece was going to extend beyond the sherpa. I was going to sew buttons below the collar, not on it, hence my short finished edges.

Above I recommend cutting the undercollar in two pieces on the bias, because using mine cut on the straight grain proved it will crumple and crunch instead of conforming to the curl of the collar. If/when I remake this collar (if I can source nicer sherpa material, fer instance) that will be my biggest change.

Now, about that sticky-outy rectangle – it didn’t work! It was unsightly and uncomfortable. That’s why I landed on a folded-under rectangle band; it’s harder to button, but much nicer to wear. If you really don’t want spare buttons on your inside collar (I admit they’re pretty obvious) you could hem the sherpa layer in a similar way, but tuck little loops, like a cut-up hair elastic, between the rectangle and the sherpa. That way your buttons could still be below the collar but the attachment would be pretty low-profile.

Definitely understitch, and definitely wrap the seam allowance towards the undercollar! I guarantee you’ll only see fuzzy cozy sherpa when wearing a collar constructed like this! I finished my edges with bias tape, which was a bit of an overreaction. Serging probably would have been fine.

Anyway, as throw pillows are pets for your couch, my jacket has a pet collar! I’m glad this experiment worked out, and I might reconstruct it one day with better know-how and nicer materials. That’s the power…of removability!

If you have any questions about any of this, let me know!

Stay warm! Merry happy!!

Pattern: Alina Sewing + Design Co Hampton jean jacket (just the collar)

Pattern cost: NA

Size: 12 – my rectangle was 19 ¾” long

Supplies: 1 yard of Shannon Minky Luxe Cuddle Sherpa Ivory; leftover fineline twill, fabric.com, $18.28; buttons, thread from stash

Total time: 4.25 hours

Total cost: $18.28

The Sultan of Swat

If you’ve ever noticed a valiant 2-inch curl or a little extra pink on my scalp, it’s because I get occasional bald spots. They always fill back in, and the number one enemy of hair regrowth is worrying about it, so mostly I ignore them. But I’m in a high-risk group for skin cancer and the last thing I need in the summer is exposed skin on the part of my body that’s closest to the sun! The solution? Hats.

I’ve dipped my toes into hats before, but I find them tricky. Whenever I put one on I feel like people are thinking of me the way I thought of this one tween who wore a fedora to school every day (“You’ll learn, kiddo”). But finally I decided: hey, for a hat that says “I’M NOT TRYING, YOU’RE TRYING”, why not wear…a baseball cap?!

I tried one on and actually liked it, except the only one that fit my head also had embroidery that said DOG DAD, which alas ’tis not I. I peeked at the construction and decided I could make one. And then I made one!!

There are free patterns available, but I paid for the Style Arc Baseball Cap because I wanted a little more hand-holding and assurance. I was also wild with curiosity to find out what was in the brim, since that notion wasn’t listed. Answer: it’s ‘heavy canvas’, which is not very specific or helpful. Oh well.

I’m happy with the pattern itself. It makes what I think is described as a ‘dad cap’, a little over-sized and vintage-feeling (though, and this is probably the first time I’ve said this, I think there were too many notches!). But the instructions are frankly a scandal. They don’t quite fill a 3” x 5” square and there are no diagrams, just a drawing of the pattern pieces and then a drawing of the finished object – essentially this, for sewing.

So I did my own thing, mainly based on the RTW cap I tried on. Most significantly, I omitted the lining, and instead sewed bias tape over the interior seams. This was the last of my favorite bias tape – it’s just a perfect weight and color. This pale khaki green coordinates with everything!

I also skipped the interfacing. The pattern recommends an interfaced outer AND lining. So my version is only about 25% as thick as recommended! Obviously, it’s a lot softer and lighter!

Because I didn’t use a lining, I needed a new solution for finishing the edge of the little igloo door in the back (I don’t know what that area is called). I tried a bias facing three times but it wasn’t happening. Eventually I drafted a 2” wide facing, which did the trick! After topstitching it I realized I had forgotten to insert the back ‘straps’ between the facing and the hat, so I put them in the sweatband instead.

I used 3 layers of heavy interfacing in the brim. It’s still not very stiff, but it’s what I had on hand, and it holds its shape pretty well. I added two lines of topstitching. Incidentally, I think I need to get my machine tuned up – my stitch length has been all over the place!

I omitted the covered button because I didn’t have one and because I don’t think the meeting point of the seams looks too shabby.

And finally, I used snaps instead of Velcro for the band because – and I cannot stress this enough – I bought a ton of snaps a year and a half ago.

It’s certainly not perfect – that back asymmetry isn’t just in the photos, and the center front seam isn’t centered on the brim. But if I consider it a wearable muslin it’s pretty cool! I’d like to make more! It’s a snappy, satisfying project with a neat result.

I have a scrap hierarchy – if I have a lightweight piece I make a tank, pocketing, or bias tape, by order of size. If it’s medium/heavyweight, I make shorts. If it’s too small to make shorts, it just sits there. But now I have this as an option. So, this is a broad plug for making a cap! It’s fun AND efficient! If you try this pattern and have any questions (totally justified by the terrible directions), please send me a note. It’s all doable.

The other scrapbuster is this Tessuti Romy top, which I made in my scrap frenzy in March. Obviously it’s the linen leftovers of my shorts! I wasn’t wearing this top at all, because it was a funny betwixt-and-between length, but I cropped the side seam to 6.5” and now I love it as a coordinating set. The hem is actually hand-sewn because I didn’t feel like hauling out my machine and it ended up being a nicely meditative summer morning activity.

I’m also warded against evil in my new Danny Brito pins, which is always handy.

Finally, this is the face I make when I’m quoting The Sandlot at Professor Boyfriend and he quotes The Goonies back at me. They’re both great flicks, but I was TALKING about BENNY THE JET.

FOR-EV-ER.

Pattern: Style Arc Baseball Cap

Pattern cost: $5.88

Size: NA

Supplies: scraps of Kaufman cotton/linen in Forage; thread, interfacing, snaps from stash

Total time: 3.5 hours

Total cost: $5.88

Pattern: Tessuti Romy top

Pattern cost: NA

Size: 95% of M with changes

Supplies: scraps of linen blend; thread from stash

Total time: 2.25 hours

Total cost: $0.00

Raspberry Rucksack

Oh hellooo! This may become an annual tradition – it’s the second April running that I’ve posted a backpack. The difference between my Making backpack and this is that this is a furbelow, a frill, a bibelot, and a trifle. Maybe even a bagatelle. I love it.

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It’s my Raspberry rucksack, in the size “little”. Arguably, “li’l”. It’s SO li’l! I’m inexperienced at sewing bags, making it an act of blind faith until each step is complete and I actually understand why I’ve done what I’ve done. So I was initially surprised at the size, even though I made paper pattern pieces (the pattern gives measurements). While planning, I thought the Little Raspberry would be a cute accessory that could carry exactly 1 bag of granulated sugar; after sewing I thought I accidentally made a child’s backpack; now, post photos, I’m back to cute accessory.

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It was quite a journey (especially compared to the signal lack of journeys it’s actually been on – we’re staying home, pal).

Okay, where to start? Maybe with the pop-up pocket. It’s so tiny.

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It’s useless. Again, adorable. But it’s so much work to go fishing for the zipper that I probably won’t bother. My furbelow has a furbelow!

The sew along with photos was a MUST. I used it faithfully, except I ended up unpicking one line of topstitching, the one that delineates the zipper-covering flap from the “roof” of the pop-up pocket. I thought it was too wobbly and an eyesore, but that’s probably why my pocket is more floppy, less boxy. I am glad I sewed the pop-up pocket either way. It was a fresh and exciting process, and I kept trying one more step just to see what would happen!

Next, the main zipper. I didn’t understand how this would relate to the backpack front at all. (I promise I read the whole booklet several times before starting – it just wouldn’t attach to my brain!) Now I wish I had done a better job sewing my curved corners, and probably made the curve larger and gentler as well. These are traced-a-thread-spool curves, I would even go up to roll-of-tape curves.

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There was NO WAY I was ready to attempt Sew North’s clean finish hacks, but now I’m super interested! I don’t actually mind the zipper tape edge (or the bias bound finish), but I like trying new things. And conversely, I like repeating patterns. So I could do both.

May I brag on myself for a moment? Thank you. The result is concealed under the main zipper flap, but I actually shortened my bag zipper the right way, by moving the little metal stop thingie with a pair of pliers. It is so tidy. I like it very much.

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The inner and outer fabrics are Ruby Star canvas. They’re nice and strong and cooperative and fine to unpick, which I for SURE took advantage of. I topstitched the main zipper several times, since I kept stitching tucks into the tape.

I changed thread color all over the place with this project – three different spools (outer color, lining color, strap color) and bobbins. Since I didn’t need a ton of any one color, I cleaned out a lot of odds and ends. I was beaming with gratitude that I had the right leftovers in my stash, since my only thread source right now is the hardware store and they have about 6 colors. I feel like one lucky ducky!

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Finally, the straps and hardware. These were a pain! I found the zippers locally at Gather Here, but I couldn’t turn up 1” wide strapping in any colors that worked with my fabric. I had 1” wide natural-colored cotton strapping in my stash, though, so I figured why not try to dye it myself!

I decided on yellow onion skins because I was open to a wide range of yellows, and because it was

  1. Free.
  2. Non-fugitive (unlike my other contender, turmeric, which fades over time.)
  3. Food safe, so I could use my existing pots and pans, which kept it
  4. Free.

It went fine! I made an absolute dye BONANZA, pints of it, but I only soaked my strapping for about an hour, then I dumped the rest down the sink (like a dodo, because there were dishes in there). I used this and this tutorial, neither of which mentions that while the dye is simmering, your kitchen will smell like warm B.O.

This yellow isn’t perfect, except that it was a perfect match for my thread, so I guess it was perfect after all. Phwew!

A curious thing about my strapping: I dyed WAY TOO LITTLE of it! The pattern calls for 100” for the arm straps, 18” each for the handles, and 3” each for the connectors. I dyed 100” TOTAL. I didn’t have enough for the fancy crossover situation, obviously, so I sewed my arm straps the way the Making backpack pattern calls for. They’re juuust long enough, but it definitely contributes to the child’s-backpack flavor.

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I had a heck of a time finding 1” sliders, which I eventually got on Etsy. I used sliders instead of rectangle rings for the connectors to save a purchase. Intensely Distracted linked to her webbing and hardware sources, also on Etsy, and I wish I had seen it sooner since she found two US-based shops! If like me, you’re struggling to find 1” webbing and hardware, 1.25” or 1.5” actually seem like they would be fine, too. I’ll report back if I try it!

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I learned so much sewing this, I want to turn right around and do it again. Sourcing fabric is an issue right now, so I need to wait – and obviously I don’t need another backpack instantly – but I really want to apply what I learned! And it might make a good gift! And, okay, I don’t normally end with a geyser of photos, but it’s so cute!

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It’s just so cute!!

Pattern: Sarah Kirsten Raspberry rucksack

Pattern cost: $10.50

Size: little

Supplies: 3/4 yards of Ruby Star Society canvas in Brushwork, Teal; 3/4 yards of Ruby Star Society canvas in Circles and Lines, Amethyst, Gather Here, $21.00; 30″ double-sided zipper, 10″ all-purpose zipper; Gather Here, $8.15; 4 1″ sliders, LIKEBAGS (etsy), $6.63; thread, strapping from stash

Total time: 8.25 hours

Total cost: $46.28

Making Making Backpack

What did I make? A backpack! What did it cost? A fortune! What’s inside of it? A throw blanket!

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Okay, it’s not really an expensive trifle for transporting fuzzy throws. It’s just stuffed so it will stand up for these photos. So far I’ve used this backpack for an overnight trip, a picnic, and a Trader Joe’s snack run (R.I.P. dark chocolate peanut butter cups, gone too soon. I’ll buy more), and it’s been a trooper!

This is the Noodlehead Making Backpack, a PDF pattern I bought last November. This is the only bag I’ve sewn in the last several years, and the first backpack ever. I finally sewed it because of the release of the Raspberry Rucksack pattern, which I purchased pretty much instantaneously! One backpack pattern marinating in the stash is one thing, but two? That’s one too many, pal. For…some reason. Who knows, but it got me started.

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The single best purchase I made for this project was the official hardware and zipper kit. I’m sure there’s a cheaper way to assemble those supplies, but I couldn’t find them locally, and I hate, hate, hate shipping things if I can otherwise avoid it. Buying in one place cut down on 1) shipping costs 2) environmental costs (less packaging, less fuel) and 3) stress. For a backpack first-timer, there was nothing like the peace of mind of needing a certain ring or strap width, puttering over to my manila envelope, and fishing it out, no further questions.

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My ultimately least successful notions purchase was Otter Wax! This isn’t a poor review of the product, just good ol’ fashioned user error. I thought I could wax the leftover linen/cotton from my Flint shorts and get a piece of fabric as thick and heavy and waterproof as storebought waxed canvas. You might see the flaw in my plan – part of the operative phrase there is ‘canvas’. One small bar of wax was more than enough for 1 yard of fabric, but even coated as thoroughly as I could, my fabric was still essentially lightweight. And as far as I can tell, you can’t interface waxed fabric!

I dithered for a bit – I couldn’t find information about deliberately removing Otter Wax from fabric. Plus, the fallacy of sunk costs got me for a minute. But in a reckless moment, I threw the fabric in a hot wash followed by a hot dryer. The result? Fabric I could interface (though the bond was unenthusiastic), with no water resistance but a pretty lovely waxy aroma. That’s not sarcasm! I love the smell of wax.

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I had a packet of Merchant and Mills bag rivets sitting around, and I tried them for the first time on the front pocket here.  I wasn’t madly impressed. They didn’t seem very sturdy on their way in, and one is already scratched, just a few uses into the life of the backpack.

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I’m very happy with the quality of the Noodlehead notions, though!

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This project was all about the notions, too! I bought foam! I’ve never bought foam! It’s cheap and makes a huge difference to the final shape, I’m glad I didn’t skip it, even though I had some spending fatigue at that stage of the game. The only new fabric I bought was 1 yard of cotton for the lining. I love the colors of this design and I’m hopeful it won’t show wear and tear too obviously.

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1 yard was exactly right for all the lining pieces, with a big enough piece remaining to make enough 2” wide bias tape to bind all the raw seams. I initially tried running the seam allowances through my serger, to compress them and for extra security, and broke my very first serger needle. A lotta firsts with this project. In the end, I hand-sewed all the binding, and eventually figured out how to miter the corners (not right away, but inside a backpack is a good place to learn!). One pulpy finger, a bit of experimentation, and many hours later, and my backpack was done!

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I can see why people get a bag bug! I’m eyeing the Range Backpack next…and as soon as I buy that pattern I guess I’ll sew the Raspberry Rucksack. Time to emerge from my cocoon of rarely sewing bags to become the kind of butterfly who owns too many backpacks!

 

Pattern: Noodlehead Making Backpack

Pattern cost: $9.00

Size: NA

Supplies: scraps from Flint shorts; 1 yard of Rifle Paper cotton, Gather Here, $12.00; hardware kit, Noodlehead shop, $21.50; Otter Wax, foam, interfacing, Gather Here, $23.55

Total time: 11.5 hours

Total cost: $66.05