Archive | April, 2012

Handbag Mess

29 Apr

After a week of carrying about my handmade handbag, I need to make another one. That’s the problem with the whole “design your own” deal: you really do have to do the project a bunch of times, to make it work out right.

Problems that I will resolve in the next bag:

-the body fabric is too lightweight. If I use linen or dressmaking fabric, I need not only to line the bag, but also layer the top fabric over a stronger fabric. It’s too floppy, and the vinyl pulls down heavily on the soft and flexible linen. Even interfacing isn’t durable enough for daily purse wear.

-the snaps keep coming off. Snaps are not an appropriate way to close the top of a handbag, where one must open and close it dozens of times a day, reaching in repeatedly for keys, subway card, phone, change, etc. For the revision, I’ll use magnets, and set them right into the plastic canvas that gives structure to the top flap.

-the top flaps also have too much flop and wobble, especially when I carry the bag in the “tote” manner where the straps pulls each side at a slight angle. Particularly when the snaps aren’t holding tightly (which is always), the whole bag skews slightly from the weight pulling unevenly from the straps.

Back to the drawing board!

I made another handbag.

25 Apr

This time, I made up the pattern myself.

I wanted to try something with a little more structure than the typical (and my last) floppy fabric bag.

I’ll tell you, though, this “designing” racket is nuts. I mean, if I say “It’s my own design”, what I really mean is “I sewed one part, and then I ripped it out, and then I resewed it, and then I changed my whole mind, cut it out all over again and differently, and then sewed it one more time just for good measure. And then STILL when I got to a step later on down the line, I had to undo part of what I did, and jerry-rig it some other way just to make it work.”

So my idea was that it can be carried on a long strap, folded over, like this, OR, if I have extra things to port about, I can clip the strap to the top, and carry it like more of a tote bag:

…and either way, I can remove the strap, and carry it as a clutch (folded over) or else by the handle. It’s versatile.

It was also kind of a nightmare to make, because it was my first time sewing with vinyl, my first time trying to make a fabric bag have stiffness and structure to it, and my first time working with real hardware.

But I think the black makes it nice and subtle, and the linen panels lighten it up (more than my corduroy bag that I made in winter), and the houndstooth…well, I just really like houndstooth check. (And yes, you may recognize that exact fabric from a shift dress. It’ll be fun, to wear the two items together, one day.)

And look! It has feet!

Sewing poem

22 Apr

Delightful internet find of the day: Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Pattern, by sewing blogger Erin of “Dress a Day”, after Wallace Stevens’ Thirteen ways of looking at a Blackbird.

Creativity in words as well as in fashion and design…it’s almost too much.

(Quilt detail from Andrea Zuill)

The Perfect Fit

21 Apr

On of my favorite books from my vintage sewing collection is from 1971, called “The Perfect Fit”.

It purports to be the last word you will ever need on pattern making and personal clothing design for the home sewer.

It offers an “exclusive” “Over Lay System” with “Trans-Dart” device, and between those two simple (and revolutionary) offerings, one can produce beautifully fitting fashions for every body, “while saving hundreds of dollars.”

You’ve probably never heard of this sewing revolution, but before I tell you more, let me show you one of my favorite details:

“Meat, $1.00”.  Nothing says “DIY greatness” as much as an oddly repurposed grocery store price tag.

Anyway, the “Perfect Fit” system is essentially one by which a home seamstress has a series of small pattern pieces representing a variety of essential “block” or “sloper” pieces, which she will be able to enlarge into full-sized patterns using punch-out cardboard tools, conveniently provided at the end of the book.

Here are a few of the basic pattern pieces:

You see here how there are carefully angled lines at the key points of each pattern shape, and multiple radiating lines for each curved pattern line. The idea is to lay your cardboard punch-out rulers (from the back page of the book) along each line, extending out to a determined point on that ruler (guided by your body’s own measurement), make a dot on your pattern paper, and continue around until you’ve transferred  all the points, one at a time, to your pattern paper. At which point you simply connect the dots, and have your own, custom, perfectly fitting pattern piece for the corresponding little drawing.

Simple, right? Deadly accurate, too, I presume. (I note that no designer uses the “Perfect Fit” system today, at least that I’ve ever heard of.)  But my copy has its punch-out rulers all intact, and I admit the process intrigues me:

I’ve always wanted to try it, but I like my tools all neatly held together with their paper tabs.

In spite of its failure to deliver on “easy to understand sewing techniques”, the book does offer a good number of basic pattern drafting techniques, and does lay out some good basic design fundamentals, providing simple shapes and then good advice on things like how to move darts,  or  convert a bodice to princess seams. The best part, though, is that it provides good templates of basic clothing (dress, blouse, pants, skirt) and then neat line drawings of many ways those shapes can be customized by adding different sleeves, collars, pockets, belts, lengthening and shortening hems, and choosing different weights and styles of fabrics.

(It even has a section on using these basic pattern pieces as guides for designing knitted or crocheted garments.)
While the “Over-Lay system” may not be the most practical way to get basic block pattern pieces to perfectly fit your body, the fundamental idea is still true: with a library of block patterns for proper-fitting basics, a home sewer could, indeed, create an endless wardrobe of choices, “as beautiful and fashionable as the latest Paris, London and Rome originals you see in the leading fashion magazines.”

Handmade Travel Outfits 5-5.5

18 Apr

Last day–

And in keeping with the theme, I wore the same skirt two ways. What’s more, I kind of invented the skirt on the fly. I took out the yellow cotton underskirt from last week’s knitting project, and declared that a finished skirt, all on its own…

and wore it first with an older cotton hand-knit sweater (pattern: “Orangina“) for a morning appointment (with red flats), and then later with my Butterick b5497 and Jambu sandals, for tromping about town, as well as for the return trip home.


And that concludes this particular journey, completed in all clothing I made for myself. Time to settle in back home, and get out the sewing machine (and knitting needles) to see what turns up, next.

Handmade Travel Outfits 4-4.5

17 Apr

The theme for this trip appears to be “separates”. Skirts and pants and tops worn mixed and matched, with not a single dress mixed in. Versatile, hand-sewn clothing in multiple outfits.

This is day 4, my “folded skirt” in ponte knit. By day, for touring around, it’s paired with a pullover lace sweater knitted from a 1923 pattern, “Summerland Sweater“.

The turquoise and blue with my bright-colored bangles and earrings make this is my “1980’s revival” outfit.

By night…

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Handmade Travel Outfit 3

15 Apr

Same green pants I’ve worn before (Butterick 6833).

This time with a tunic top I made a couple of years ago. It’s McCalls M5512, and I made it out of this Missoni-style fabric I fell in love with. Turning the grain-line on the bias was an alteration of my own, to play up the lovely stripes.

To bad it didn’t photograph well in the sun, it’s mostly pink, shot through with purple, blue, green, and gold. Goes well with my handmade bangles. I really loved wearing this outfit, I felt like I was embodying the spirit of the 1970’s, with the loose, long tunic layered over flowing trousers, with sandals.

Handmade Travel Outfit 2 1/2

14 Apr

The  same slacks, without the jacket, later the same day, makes a more casual outfit.

The shirt is one I re-fashioned from a men’s button shirt. I can’t find the original blog post I first saw this on, but another blogger inspired the “wear it backwards” detail–I cut off the sleeves, put darts in the (old) back of the shirt, now the front, cut out a new neckline, and turned a stuffy shirt into a fun summery top.

This is before:

This is now: