Bag Again!

I have a backpack that I got from a travel catalog many years ago.  It has been my 'go to' bag since I found it.  And, if I'm honest, it should have been retired a while ago!  It is well traveled and it shows!  It is still available from the catalog, but I thought rather than just buy a new one, I would try to replicate it, only instead of the boring, nondescript brown nylon of my current edition, I wanted to jazz it up a bit!

I had seen Kantha cloth tote bags by Will Leather Goods in a shop on Key West. They were light and colorful and way more fun than brown nylon!  BUT, even if I spring the cash for one of these lovely bags, I know that I will default to the tattered brown backpack because for walking around all day a backpack is just more comfortable for me than a one shoulder bag. (I still may need one of these at some point!😍 )

A few years ago I finally found a piece of Kantha cloth that I liked BOTH sides of.  Not an easy task!  I wanted to make a Mieko Mintz-esque slouchy, jacket and had been on the hunt for the fabric.  What I found was a throw about 60" square, which was plenty of fabric for what I had in mind.

(this is not MY jacket, and thank you Heidi for modeling Mieko's work so beautifully!)

But it was the inspiration for my version.

Just as I had hoped, it is light and colorful, very slouchy and lots of fun to wear!

I know, I was talking about the backpack that I wanted to make....stick with me....

Seeing the totes made from Kantha cloth sent me into my scrap pile to see if I had enough left of my throw to cobble together a backpack!!!  See it all makes sense now!

It was touch and go as to whether I could squeak out the pieces I wanted from the chopped up bits of Kantha that I found, but because it's really a patchwork of old gauze saries anyway, I just made it a bit more 'patchy.'  

Voila!  My version of a Kantha cloth backpack!  Complete with adjustable padded straps, a front zipper pocket just right for my phone and wallet, a large compartment for my rain jacket, water bottle and map! (I'm starting to sound like the catalog page!)

I used a brown linen for the back, I was a bit worried about catching the quilting threads as I put it on and took it off, and (the real reason)I didn't have enough of the Kantha anyway!  I think the Liberty of London cotton makes a wonderfully soft and light weight lining and is a light color so it's easy to find things inside the bag.

My original backpack has an inside pocket that is nice to keep small bits and bobs from roaming around on the bottom of the bag.  I couldn't figure out where to put an inside pocket on my new pack, so instead, I made a separate pocket for smaller things.  I have used several of the Lazy Girl designs and find them really well done.  This one uses the one sided zipper trick that makes putting the zipper in very simple.

I'm very pleased with my new pack, but a little nervous as well.  Giving up the brown nylon may cause a bit of withdrawal!  I am planning to take it along on my upcoming trip, we'll see if it can keep up!


Another UFO (unfinished object!)

I've kind of been on a roll finishing up "lost in mid thought" projects.  While I was scrounging around looking for something that I'm sure was critically important at the time, I came across this vest that got started at some point, I think last year.  

The fabric had been residing in my stash for quite some time  It was a piece of wool jersey that I had intended for a much larger project, but when I pre-washed it, it did as wool is want to do and, I ended up with a significantly smaller hunk-o-wool.  On to "Plan B."

What you see on the dress form is the entire piece of fabric, pleated and gathered to look more or less like a vest.  The obvious problem being...no armholes!

There!  That's better!

I love the weight of partially felted wool jersey and it is so moldable!  Most of the shaping is done with a good head of steam from my iron.  The edges and selveges felt and curl into wonderfully organic shapes that must end up as a feature on the finished product!

I used my sewing machine in two spots.

To stabilize the gathering at the neckline and form the loose ruffle for the collar, I stitched a length of grosgrain ribbon to the underside (which is the outside) of the neck.

I also ran a stabilizing row of straight stitch around each armhole before I cut them out.  I didn't want the gathering at the top of the shoulder to open up too much when I released the armhole.  The stitching is about 1/8th of an inch from the raw edge.

The darts are all sewn by hand with button weight thread.

I haven't decided what, if anything, I want to do about a closure.  I have several lovely button options, which would require some sort of buttonholes...I think it works fine with no closing devices...I could use a pin or shawl pin, which means I could change it up...still pondering.

The scarf is an 'infinity scarf' made from a wonderful piece of Malaysian silk that is printed in 4 yard panels to be used for their traditional tunic and wrap garments. Some of the print is a border and some of it is for the center design of the tunic...very interesting fabrics.  And gorgeous!

I considered a couple of pockets out of my armhole leftovers, but couldn't figure out where to put them.  I guess they will get saved for another project!


Traveling in Style!

After finishing projects for other folks I was itching to make something to take with me on an upcoming trip.  I usually am not much of a vest person, but for the 'not quite spring' weather I thought a vest would be just about right.  The only plan I had for packing was gray shoes.  You have to start with something!  So...a vest to wear in early spring with gray shoes....I know...not much to go on, but I headed into the stash to see what surfaced.

Boiled wool!  Perfect!  

The colors in the photo are a bit off, the taupey wool looks much grayer in real life.  

I decided to make the darker gray the main body of the vest and use the striped wool jersey and the taupey-gray wool as accents.  The paisley is a cotton jersey and definitely needed to be in the picture somewhere.

I chose a shirt dress pattern that was pretty straight forward.  I figured I would just make it without sleeves.

I had one yard of the boiled wool so I did some  creative cutting to get the pieces I needed.  More on that later!

Here's what I ended up making.

Simple, slightly 'A' shaped shirt dress, button front, back yoke, band collar, shirttail hem longer in the back....

A couple of tricks I used  to stretch my one yard of fabric.

Raw edges!  No hem allowances, no facings.  I really like the challenge of working with raw edges.  Figuring out what to sew first and what to trim away to make the raw edges look intentional and not just, well, raw, is a great engineering puzzle.

Lapped seam allowances.  I only needed 1/4 inch to overlap and make raw edge seams.  

The pocket 'cutouts' became the back yokes...the cute ribbon detail on the yoke...yep, it's covering up a center back seam!

I tried using a single layer for the collar since that's all I could get out of the dark gray, but it really needed the weight of two layers, so the inside of the collar became a 'design detail' using the taupey-gray!  I was planning to make a traditional curved collar band that met at the center front, but when I got the two pieces attached at the neckline, I kind of liked the loose ends, so I left 'em.  The top edge of the collar band is left open as well.

The buttons and button holes were also fun to engineer.  I love slotted buttons and have used them a couple of times recently. These are attached with 1/4" Petersham ribbon stitched onto wider twill tape.  The ribbon and twill tape also work to stabilize the front edges of the vest.

I tried a couple of button hole options.  Putting a machine button hole on the Petersham was not particularly successful.  The ribbon got scrunched up and distorted.  I ended up making a 'dotted line' of ribbon with raw edge slits in between for the button holes.  I think it picks up on the striped insets on the pockets.

The paisley became a long sleeved T which will work with other things in my travel wardrobe...as soon as I figure it out!

Not much left of my yard of gray wool!

I am really excited about the finished vest.  It's really comfortable and I feel very stylish!  I think it will be just right.   Now we'll have to see what else makes it into the suitcase!


Restoring an Old Friend

Since returning to Michigan at the beginning of February I have been "clearing the decks" getting ready for some spring projects.  That's actually an 'alternative fact'...I'm really stalling by finishing projects that have been hanging around, waiting for some kind of flash of brilliance to dazzle me!  It's been kind of quiet on the inspiration front.

I knew I would have my annual 'vest-a-thon' for my son's birthday waiting for me.  It has been fun to have him pick out fabric combinations and make something that I know he will like.  Now that I have made a few versions, the pattern is getting pretty close.  Each round we have tweaked it a bit so that it fits the way he likes.  He has also figured out which fabrics he likes best for the different elements...no slippery linings, fun prints for the backs, a little surprise for the linings...and he is very appreciative.  (what a good boy!)

The other project that was waiting for me was major surgery on a beloved jean jacket that my son's girlfriend has had since she was in high school.  Yikes!  I really didn't want to mess up on that one!  

I got it at the end of the year and stared at it for several weeks.  It stared back.  It was very intimidating.  I decided it deserved some solid thinking time, so I put it on my dress form and started thinking...and thinking...and...enough already...Just do it!

My first idea was to scavenge parts from another jacket to replace the worn out bits.  I found a jacket and some jeans at the thrift store that could act as my 'parts department.'  I realized that the thicknesses of the denims would be really difficult to sew and probably uncomfortable to wear.  And it was obvious that this jacket was all about comfort!  OK, scrap that idea.

My next thought was to make new parts.  Fine, but that opened up a huge range of options.  I put together a few combinations and texted off pictures hoping to get one blessed by the owner before charging in.

While I liked them all, I was partial to the paisley golden brown combo and was very excited when that one came back as the winner!

I wanted to leave as much of the original jacket intact as possible, strengthen the areas that were most worn and replace the missing parts.  Here's what I did...

I fixed the hole and fraying on the yoke and put a lining on the inside to give it strength.
I bound the worn out collar edge.  I bound or satin stitched over the frayed edges of the pockets, front openings  and button holes.  Patched any 'major' holes.  And finally, I added new cuffs.

I took a few 'progress photos' to describe a trick for getting nice square corners when turning out collars or cuffs.

Instead of trying to hit the corner and pivoting the stitching, I sew off each edge which insures that the corner ends up square and even.  Trimming on a 45 degree angle close to the corner reduces bulk and supports the corner when the cuff is turned out.

Get yourself a point pressing tool, you will love it!  Pressing the seams before turning out the cuff keeps them from bunching up and gives a nice crisp edge.

Here's the part that I find really helpful...when turning the cuff right sides out, work the seam allowances flat with a point turner before aligning the face fabric and the lining.  This prevents the dreaded 'bulge' that often happens when the seam allowances get jammed into the corner.

Nice square corners!

I am quite relieved that the renovated jacket has been given the 'seal of approval' by the owner and is safely back in her closet.  I think the 're-tread' will give it a few more years...but I'm keeping the scraps just in case!