Tuesday, 8 December 2015

A Lighthouse Backpack

I had a discount code for Abakhan Fabrics and chose a random bundle of decor fabrics as I am keen to increase my bag sewing skills.

Among the fabrics that arrived was a heavy canvas printed with huge Lighthouses. I thought this would make a great weekend bag for my husband to take down to the boat when he goes sailing but he told me it wouldn't do because his boat is currently on a swinging mooring which means he has to row out to it using the dinghy and anything he takes this way MUST be waterproof. What a shame!!! It meant I would have to use it to make myself a new bag....

I found a great pattern and video class by Betz White at a new site for me, creativebug.com. The bag Betz made together with her excellent instructions gave me confidence to try it out. It's called a flight bag and would make a great travelling holdall but I made a few changes to suit my personal requirements which I'll share with you below.

This is my version.
I am so pleased with the results especially as it is roomy enough to use when I next go fabric shopping. Unfortunately my fabric shopping buddy has just taken off for a two month holiday throughout Indonesia so I may have to go alone and that means there will be no one to stop me buying too much.. Oh dear!!!

I needed a bag large enough to take my 12 inch tablet as well as my kindle and other large items I occasionally need to take with me. [Kindle is always useful in the dentist's waiting room etc] The size of this bag was perfect but as I wanted to have the option of using it as a backpack I made some modifications.

I added two extra rings on tabs to the bottom of the bag at the back and two large rings at the base of the grab handle straps. By changing the length of the long strap and threading from the bottom rings through the large rings at the top and back down to the bottom again, I can use the bag as a backpack.

Just using the strap from one top ring to the other, I have a cross body bag.


I also changed the back slip pocket into a zippered pocket and customised the interior pockets too.

I added a small pocket specifically for the battery packs for my hearing aids. These normally last about 10 days and they always run out when I'm not at home so I need to carry a supply with me. They would get lost in this big bag so the battery pack pocket is going to keep them where I can find them easily.

I also added another small zip pocket in the lining in the other side for glasses and other things that I need frequently but that would get lost at the bottom.

The bag took me a day and a half to complete and the most amount of time seemed to be cutting out the various pieces of pattern in lining, contrast, interfacing and the main fabric, then fusing the pieces which took forever. I used a heavy fusible interfacing where Betz recommended Fusible Fleece because (a) I didn't have any and (b) the fabric was already very firm and didn't need a lot of support.

Nearly all the hardware for this bag was plundered from a really horrible bag I bought from a charity shop for just £3.00. This included the large rings, the twist lock clasp for the front pocket and four gold coloured feet for the bottom but I forgot to take a photo of them, sorry.

There is a slight drawback to this bag though, it's large enough to put lots into it which means I probably will and I just hope I've made the handles strong enough to take the load.

I would definitely make this bag again despite the pain of fusing so many bits.

Friday, 4 December 2015

White silky shirt with a sleeve surprise

I wanted a white shirt, an item missing from my wardrobe and a basic staple to wear with almost anything. I searched my stash and found a beautiful silky satin-like fabric but would it look too much like wedding dress material? I needed to embellish it a little to take away the look of a bride. I also had a sleeve detail idea in my head and maybe this was the time to employ it.

First I used my Sure-Fit Designs body blueprint from the shirt kit and created the shoulder pleats and hidden button placket that Glenda has in her design options. For my sleeve design idea I added a strip of fabric that I cut 9 cms wide and joined with a 0.5 cm seam allowance. I turned it to the right side and pressed it with the seam at the centre. Having chosen a simple embroidery stitch I then sewed this down both sides. Before assembling the sleeve further I attached this strip down the centre of the sleeve using another embroidery stitch at 10 cm intervals through the strip and sleeve together.

I also sewed the fancy stitch down both edges of the shoulder pleats and around the cuffs. I toyed with the idea of doing this around the collar and centre front as well but I think less was more in this case and I'm pleased with the end result.

Don't ask about the jacket? It's still not finished and I'm putting it to one side at the moment until I am more in the mood to tackle the cuffs. I found this shirt was what I needed to get back to sewing some meaningful items but the lined jacket is still not there...

Friday, 30 October 2015

I've made a handbag!!!

Wow, I've made a handbag and I'm very pleased with the result [it being my first attempt].

I'm still trying to finish the jacket blogged last time but the sleeves are giving me some problems. I didn't want the puffed, gathered sleeves in the Burda pattern for the jacket so I redesigned the sleeve head but it wasn't that easy. Insead of having 1½ - 2" to 'ease' in, when I measured it was 3½" so no wonder I was having problems. 
Out came the seam ripper and a few modifications later and I've almost got one in. I still have three to go including the lining and I don't know about you but when a project doesn't go smoothly I get a bit disheartened and lose a bit of enthusiasm. Don't get me wrong, I haven't given up completely but I needed another project to 'lift' my spirits.

With Craftsy offering free classes for a small fee available only for October, I took advantage of the Design Your Own Handbag by Brett Bara class and found this to be exactly what I needed.

Brett was an excellent tutor and filled me with enthusiasm. I had fabric left over from the jacket and trousers so together with some hardware 'bits' bought from eBay, this is what I made.

I embroidered the front pocket before it was sewed to the bag. In fact sewing the whole bag was straightforward and fun but the order that you do things needs a lot of planning.
 This is the back of the bag with a zipped pocket. The outside pockets all had to be completed before sewing the sides and bottom of the bag. Each piece is interfaced and then a thick interlining is sandwiched between the outer bag and inner lining fabric.

 The view from the top of the bag shows the recessed zip which is a separating zipper so actually opens wider than shown.
 There is also a small zip pocket in the lining.

This view shows the inner zip closed to ensure contents stay inside.

The base of the bag has a stiffener provided by my husband and cut exactly to size. The stud feet are easy to apply and add a professional touch.

Well the bag is finished so I have no excuse now not to get back to the jacket sleeves. Making the bag was a good diversion for me. Do you find when a project is hitting a bit of a brick wall that it's best to move away from it temporarily and re visit it when your mood is in a better place to continue?

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Plaid Jacket - Why did I choose this for a first attempt?

It has been some time since I uploaded a blog and there are two major reasons for this. The first one is that we've been on an extended journey through Europe in our Motorhome. We left Dover early one morning at the end of August and travelled across to France by ferry before moving on to Bruges in Belgium for a couple of nights. From there we travelled to Luxembourg then on through Germany and Switzerland and finally northern Italy. We drove down eventually as far as Venice and then made our way home again via Switzerland France and Belgium. We visited many cities en route including Bruges, Verona, Luxembourg City and of course Venice itself and in every one of these plus many smaller towns my main focus was to search out fabric shops. Sadly there were very few to be found as they tend to be situated further out than the main shopping centres and not easily accessible but by far the best was in Luxembourg however, even here the fabrics were far more expensive than in the UK. I did indulge in some though but they're in my stash at the moment and will get blogged about when I decide what to make with them.

The other cause for the absence is that I am at last trying to tackle my bĂȘte noire which is a tailored jacket although as a first attempt it is a slightly casual and fully lined style.

I chose this Burda pattern from the August BurdaStyle Magazine [#106] because I loved the simple collar and patch pockets on the front which I thought would be easier to tackle than welt pockets. 

This was probably my first mistake because although the style was exactly what I was looking for, the instructions were less than helpful. I had to contact a friend and together we are trying to make sense of them. I did make a muslin first and tweaked the pattern by lowering the bust apex position and adjusting the waist line to mine. I also changed the top of the sleeve head as I wasn't keen on the gathered sleeve preferring the more classic set in sleeve look.

The second mistake for a first attempt was the fabric I chose. Well let me just say that I got this from a charity shop and it only cost £4.50 for nearly 3 metres so my thoughts were, it wouldn't matter too much if I messed up. It's actually a lovely fabric but the plaid design gave me a ton of pattern matching issues that I could have done without. Having said all that I am overjoyed at how I've managed to make the pockets and front pieces line up - so far so good.

As you see I chose to accent the shoulder, pocket flaps and sleeve detail in a plain fabric to add a little flair.
So this is as far I've got and I thought I'd share this with you now as I'm taking a lot longer to complete this project than I had hoped. I've got to tackle the sleeves next and having read the instructions over and over I'm still not certain what it all means. I do wish Burda would make it clearer as to which pattern piece the are referring. They number each piece for cutting but then refer to them by a description which doesn't help. For instance - On curved section, seam edges of upper sleeve and sleeve bands - why couldn't they use the number of the piece? I think they mean the overlap on the sleeve hem vent but it isn't really a 'band' as such and totally confused me. Instructions should make it simple to understand not leaving you feeling you've had to translate it from a foreign language!!

Do you find pattern instructions confusing sometimes? Does anyone else find Burda patterns particularly unhelpful? I'd love to know I'm not alone here so leave me a comment and let me know.

When this jacket is finally ready to wear I have some plain green fabric that I bought as a remnant from C&H Fabrics in Chichester before we went away and it matches perfectly. I am going to make some trousers with it and I also intend to make a handbag with the left over fabric of both the plain and the plaid. I've been inspired by a Crafsty Class by Brett Bara called Design You Own Handbag.

I'll keep you posted on progress.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Bergerac Jeans and an Owl.

Why bergerac Jeans I hear you enquire? Well that is where I bought this slight stretch denim type fabric while visiting friends who live there on our way home to England from a Spanish holiday in our motorhome. The material is softer than denim and has a warmth to it as well as a dusky blue colour that I love.

I have made these jeans before so I knew my sloper pattern was the right fit so it shouldn't take me too long to make these jeans right? Wrong!! It wasn't the cutting out or the sewing together that took the time it was the three whole days it took me to decide on what design to put on the back pockets.

The owl design stitched on the pocket before sewing
I didn't want the normal straight or curved diagonal lines and I didn't want anything  too bright or flash. Eventually I settled on an owl I had bought from EmbLibrary and stitched it out on the pocket fabric before making and placing them into position.
I then decided to embellish the front pockets and belt loops with a fancy straight stitch design using the same embroidery thread as the owl.

Both pockets completed before placing on back pieces
 I'm really pleased with how they turned out. They are fully lined so the tiny pieces of cut away stabiliser are hidden although I tend to use back pockets purely as a design feature rather than as a functional pocket and who would want to look inside my pockets anyway!!!?? Never mind, I am trying to live by the Craftsy Class tutors code to make the insides as good as the outsides and this has certainly helped my sewing education.

Pockets and yoke pieces sitiched in place
So here are the pockets and yoke in place. The photos make the colour look more purple than it actually is. The top picture of the owl has the best likeness for colour.

My favourite new tool is definitely a Frixion pen which I used to accurately mark the placements not only when hooping the design for embroidery but also on the fabric pieces. This just disappears as soon as you put the iron or warm water on it. I'm told the marks may come back if you put it in the freezer but as I am unlikely to ever get that cold I'm not too worried.
Front Pocket and belt loop detail

Completed jeans
Well here are the completed jeans and I'm very happy with the result.

The tank top is a muslin that I made very quickly yesterday using some leftover knit fabric and fold over elastic to bind the edges.

I'm delighted that I haven't got 'Bingo Wings' but I found RTW sleevless tops never seem to fit properly so I tend to go for short sleeve T-shirts.

I wanted  a vest top with the armscye matching up on the front and across my back and the straps to fit properly so my bra straps don't ever show. The muslin worked fairly well although I think I'll make the back neck slightly higher next time.

 The blue sweater top wasn't originally going to have any embroidery but the very white ribbing on the neckline and cuffs made it look like a football strip so I added the design to make it more individual.

We were up in Leighton Buzzard last Monday and they have a lovely shop called Fabric World which I couldn't resist. I found the ribbing I was looking for but it had been at the bottom on a shelf for probably quite some time and was quite grubby. I struck a great bargain with the owner and was delighted when the marks easily came out with washing. What had appeared as an off white creamy yellow with mucky brown marks is now the most glorious brilliant white.

It's always worth asking for a deal and that makes home sewing even more pleasurable when you know you have a unique closet of garments that cost less than half if you'd bought them ready made, plus the fit and design is personal and you have had the pleasure of using a hobby to create it. So WIN, WIN, WIN..

Sunday, 2 August 2015

And now the shorts

You've seen the fabric made up into a shirt and blogged here but this wonderful fabric with a bit of stretch had enough left over for a pair of shorts - but would I dare?

We're off to the Northern Italian Lakes for a month soon and I thought a pair of shorts would be a great addition to my wardrobe.

I made them from my basic trouser sloper [courtesy of SFD] and cut them out as long as the fabric let me.

I extended the waist by twice the width of the elastic plus seam allowance and didn't sew the darts. I also left out pockets and zip fly front. Once they were made up I made sure I could pull them on over my hips with the elastic in place and they fitted well so estimated a decent hem length to suit my age!

It doesn't show to well in the photos but there is also a 'V' split in the side leg hem similar to the sleeve hem in the top with the same fabric.

I'm delighted with the result so I may come home with tanned legs WhooHoo!!

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Is this too much green?

I need to ask you all a question and want you to be brutally honest...

I bought some plain green fabric to make some trousers and I added a little embroidery at the bottom of one leg. I made them out of about 1.5 metres of a total of 2 metres of fabric I bought whilst visiting Dorchester recently.

 At the same time I also bought some green and yellow mix cotton to make a shirt that would tone nicely and go together.
So far so good.


Having finished the trousers I then set about designing how I would make the top and with the recent success of a blue short sleeved top [blogged here] using Sure-Fit Designs new 'V' neck shirt I decided to base it on the same pattern. I changed the top to have a deep yoke and wanted long cuffed sleeves but to keep the same roll collar and 'V' neck features.

I really love this neckline for a shirt as it gives it a distinct feminine touch and is so easy to achieve.

Using the left over green from the trousers for the yoke and upper collar on its own would be a bit - well bitty! I wanted to bring them together and sorted the exact shades of embroidery threads from my collections and then used these on a modified design to add interest on one side of the yoke, the opposite collar point and the cuffs.

So now I have the trousers and a shirt but I'm thinking they're a bit too much to wear together.  The colour in the photos is a bit off as it as actually a very pretty lime green. The photos also make them look a bit like a pair of PJs. I need some critical comments to make me like this outfit more. Let me know what you think?

I could wear the top with the white Butterfly trousers as the blue matches.