Saturday, January 18, 2014

Sewing Duffel Bags, Harvesting Hardware, and Claire V. Samsonite

I have a little problem with blogging ADHD. If you're a loyal reader, you must be very patient with the way I skip around from one project to the next and leave half of them unfinished. I apologize for the inconsistency - maybe this year I should work on my follow-through. Here's a couple things I owe you a post on:
  • The results of my Kaffe Fasset dress! (cute but with some serious fitting issues despite muslining - I see seam ripping in my future)
  • What became of Josh's shirt! (It's finished! He wears it! I'm gonna make another one! Eventually...)
  • Photos of the finished wedding dress! (Are we even interested in this anymore? I only just got a hold of the official photos)
Now that I got that off my chest, I'm going to blog about something new! Whoops. Actually, it's new-old. I have to give you a belated Christmas sewing report because I want to tell you about my adventures sewing duffel bags. So if you're so over Christmas...

...and you're not interested in sewing bags, perhaps you wanna sit this one out.

I managed to sneak in sewing time and even made some last-minute Christmas gifts. I'm quite proud of this for two reasons. First, I was totally scrambling to get everything together for Christmas this year. There's never enough time, but somehow there was time to make a few gifts. And second, I somehow managed to resist fabric shopping for myself whilst out buying fabric to make others' gifts, even though everything was on super Christmas sale and even though I found many fabrics that would make a fantastic holiday dresses. [I guess you know from my silver dress that I did cave, eventually. But not til after Christmas!]

So what did I make? An apron for my sister - more plain, practical, and durable than the last one. (Katie! Send pics!) Second, a duffel bag for my brother-in-law:

With the release of two beautiful bag patterns this season - Cooper from Colette Patterns and the Portside Travel Set from Grainline Studios - I suddenly had the itch to sew luggage, if not the spare cash to buy patterns.

Colette Patterns Cooper bag

Grainline Studioes Portside Travel Set
So, using the power of geometry and some trial and error, I drafted my own pattern for a duffel bag.

[I finally had to look it up - duffel can be spelled "duffel" or "duffle" and the word comes from a town near Antwerp. Or at least so says]

I used leftover wool from my Minoru coat, duck cloth from Joann's, and hardware that I scrounged from a Goodwill bag. Pro tip - it is much cheaper to buy a piece of luggage at the second-hand store and harvest it for the hardware than to buy all those pieces new. Plus, you find interesting looking options that Joann's doesn't stock. I particularly like the antique-y looking brass of this set I found.

The bag has a zippered pocket on one end and pockets on the sides.

The shoulder pad thingy was also scrounged from the Goodwill bag. I also lined the duffel with rip stop nylon (also from Joann's). The bottom of the lining is made out of the duck cloth though, for extra durability.

There's also an interior pocket.

I think the lining makes it look very polished. I tried inserting it by machine, but that didn't work so hot. It was very hard to work around the bulky wool of the outer fabric. I ended up ripping out all my machine stitches and sewing the lining in by hand. Also, I'm not sure there's an easy way to insert a lining when you're working with a lapped zipper. Anyone know?

I'm very proud of my sewing machine for powering through all those thick layers of a fabric. She was a real trooper. I was also surprised that sewing this bag wasn't as boring as I expected. It was actually pretty enjoyable. I didn't have to mess around with fitting. I liked the drafting process. I liked sewing a bunch of straight lines - it made me feel fast, efficient, powerful! And I like that the outcome is such a useful object. Hopefully it holds up to lots of wear and tear.

I already have more bags planned. In fact, I'm in the process of making one for my brother's Christmas gift. Yes, it will be a late gift. A very late gift. Actually, I was aiming to make it in time for his birthday, but I'm afraid I'm going to miss that mark as well, and I'll tell you why. It's because I harvested the hardware from a Samsonite bag, and Samsonite bags are apparently built to never come apart, ever.

The D rings are fastened to the bag with strips of metal, and removing them was a battle waged over several days. I attacked, retreated, attacked with a new tool, retreated again, etc. I was too lazy to go buy the proper tool to hack through metal, but I am extremely stubborn, and I did win in the end.

All in all, the bag yielded up three zippers, a couple of lobster claw clasp thingies, some D rings, and a metal slide for the strap. The bag was $2.50. A single zipper can cost more than $5 at Joann's.

But was it worth the energy to extract all that hardware? Considering the triumph I felt overcoming a laptop bag, I'll say yes.

As for the irony of destroying one perfectly good bag in order to create another? Well, I haven't sorted out how I feel about that yet : )

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Sewing for Josh... sigh.

I know 2013 is officially over, but for some reason I've gotten the urge to cross off another item from last year's resolutions: sewing something for Josh.

"...An excellent idea. Why are you only doing this now?"
I'll admit, I've gone way too long without trying to make him something. Trouble is, last time I tried there were many fitting woes that I didn't know how to handle. Also, Josh doesn't really like to hold still.

This makes fitting difficult. Also, sewing shirts is difficult and fiddly. Isn't it?

But I'm giving it a go with McCalls 6044.
I spent a long time measuring one of his dress shirts, writing everything down, and comparing those measurements to the pattern pieces. Unfortunately, there were a lot of things that weren't quite right with the comparison shirt, even though it's one of his favorites. Too tight in the neck is the big one. After spending a long time measuring, I ended up going with a straight size Medium. The only change I made was to fold a little length out of the sleeve - which seemed weird, because he often comments on how long his arms are. But according to the comparison shirt, that's what I was supposed to do, so I did it. It all seemed like it was going to work...

Boo. It's not awful, but there are some issues, and they're pretty much exactly what I already knew about trying to fit Josh. The neck is too small, and the sleeves are too short. Can I fix it?

Mmmmaybe? For the neck, I'm consulting a tutorial that Tasia did for this issue. It has stuck in my head over the years. I looked it up, and sure enough - true to Tasia style it is extremely clear and well documented. So we'll see if that helps.

For the sleeve length - I can make slightly longer cuffs and use shorter seam allowances. He'll probably roll the sleeves anyway. There's one thing I can't fix, however - the arms cythe is too low.

The whole shirt raises up when he lifts his arms, and I know from my previous adventures with my tailored jacket just what a problem that can be...

What kills me is that I suspected this would be an issue, and then I forgot to do anything about it when I cut the fabric. Note to self: You can always lower an arm scythe. You cannot raise it up. Sigh. This shirt was intended to be a wearable muslin, so I guess I'm not too upset. The fabric was cheap - a flannel I bought last year on super clearance. Still, I was really putting my all into it, finishing it nicely and everything. I even learned to make tower plackets! On the bright side, I found I don't hate sewing a man's shirt. It's actually kinda fun. But fitting Josh? Now I gotta go see if I can get him to stand still again...

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Silver Dress for New Years

Happy 2014 everybody! I hope 2013 wrapped up nicely for everyone - it sure did for me! Although my friends and I opted for board games and menudo over crazy parties on New Years, I am very satisfied with the way we rang in 2014. I also managed to finish my silvery dress in time to submit it to the SewingPatternReview Cocktail Outfit Contest!

Woohoo! How's that for some last minute resolution fulfillment? To be honest, I don't really give a hoot about resolutions. Well, that's not true. I like to make them, I just won't get on board that whole guilt train that goes around for all of us who don't live up to our own high standards. No thanks! But it was a (mostly) fun challenge trying to eke this out at the end of the year, allowing me to check off one of my resolutions that had been neglected.

I managed to finish up the dress about 6 pm on New Years Eve, and Josh and I snapped some quick photos before heading out the door to our friends' place. I took a few more today, outside in the new snow we're getting.

With mah boots on, cuz I'm not that crazy.

I'm not sure what I think about the skirt. I really like the way the pleats look, but they bunch up all funny when I sit down. Maybe it's the fabric I chose. It's a cotton/linen/polyester/mystery blend, and it might be a little stiff for this pattern. Or, maybe that's just the way pleated skirts go. I like the way it looks when I'm standing up at least.

I finally figured out how to successfully put in an invisible zipper using my sewing machine. Usually I hand sew my zippers. Something about the needle position on my machine in combo with the invisible zipper foot meant that I was always stitching across the zipper teeth on accident. Maybe that foot was never intended to be used with my machine? Who knows. I switched to a different foot, and it magically worked. Hooray!

I underlined the bodice in handkerchief linen leftover from my sister's wedding dress, but I wish I had just lined it instead. All the exposed seams of the sparkly fabric are itchy. I tried to do bias-bound armholes, but that was a disaster (I always pull the binding too tight), and I had to unpick them.

So I made some facings, instead.

For the neckline, I tried out a method from Lynda Maynard's Dressmaker's Handbook of Couture Sewing Techniques. My brother-in-law gave me a copy for Christmas (thanks Ian!) which relieved me of having to constantly borrow it from the library. Apparently, Lynda also has Craftsy course on her finishing techniques. Neato. I might grab that if there's ever a sale. This is the banded neckline from Lynda's book:

image from Lynda Maynard's Craftsy course
And here's mine:

My bands are a lot narrower, and I didn't topstitch. I think it worked out alright. I did a sample first, to make sure I was understanding the directions. Here's what it looks like on the inside.

I wasn't a huge fan of all the serged edges, so on the final version I made bias tubes instead and slip stitched them down.

The trim on the hem is some ribbon from my stash. I think I picked it up at an antique mall a while back.

Not much else to report, but if you're interested in all the fitting modifications you can read my review on SewingPatternReview.

Happy New Year everybody!