This Christmas, I received a beautiful piece of vintage indigo fabric – a one-of-a-kind stitched-together compilation that was one of many fabric pieces that the women of an indigenous tribe in Africa created to raise money to support their families. This large rectangle of fabric could be used as a shawl or a wrap, or even a table topper. It had fringe on both short sides, and the fabric itself was unique and well-loved — frayed in places, stitched by hand in others, it felt like threads of many stories stitched together.
What to do with such a unique piece? I own so many shawls and wraps – and rarely use the ones that I have – and I didn’t want it to just languish in my closet. At first I wanted to make it into a wrap dress, but I didn’t have enough fabric. Next I thought of a long shirt or a tunic, but the fabric was so delicate in places, I wasn’t sure how it would hold up to being sewn and repeatedly worn.
Then, I saw a blog posting by Karen Templer of Fringe Association. She was discussing a piece of hand-dyed indigo fabric that she was thinking about sewing into a kimono. Inspiration! This piece would make a beautiful casual shirt-jacket with drop sleeves and wide front bands.
I started with the Crossroads pattern Contemporary Kimono as the base for my idea. I first stitched a sample jacket (size medium) in muslin, since once I cut my indigo fabric, there was no going back. This turned out to be a wise precaution, as I made multiple modifications, including:
* I reduced the sleeve width and altered the sleeve length
* I changed the approach of the cuffs (rolled and tacked, instead of sewn on separately)
* I changed the approach of the neck band by reducing the width and finding a different method of attaching it
The biggest change I made was to first make the fabric double-sided. I wanted to line the fabric, because I knew it was too fragile, and too soft, on its own. I could have sewn a jacket lining, but I didn’t want it to feel separate – I wanted the actual fabric to be double-sided. Using 2 yards of Robert Kaufman’s Double Gauze Chambray in color Marine, I stitched the two fabrics wrong sides together and, in effect, created one single double-sided piece of fabric. I then cut all of the pieces I needed, basted the two fabrics together, and then sewed the pieces as I would have with any other fabric.
I even managed to preserve the fringe and place it at the bottom of the jacket pieces, and even at the bottom of the front band pieces! I used up almost every inch of the fabric, which made me feel good – no waste, nothing leftover. I tried interior side pockets, but because of the positioning of the jacket’s side seams, the pockets seemed to be set too far back, and it was awkward to use them, so I sewed them shut and trimmed them away. I thought about trying after-thought patch pockets – I think I had just enough fabric left – but I didn’t want to clutter the front of the jacket, or detract from the fabric in any way.
I don’t have a good moniker for this creation – it’s of the style of a kimono, but fitted enough that I don’t think it actually fits within that category of jackets. Regardless of the name, however, I absolutely love how it turned out. It’s well-fitted, comfortable, and shows off the vintage fabric exactly as I had envisioned. It is truly a one of a kind piece, both in terms of fabric and pattern, and its creation has allowed me to add my own story to the running tale of the fabric.
This is what happens when I impulse-buy fabric . . . I have to find some use for it 🙂 I’ve been working on creating some new fabric patterns, so I took the weekend to play around with different sizes and shapes of fabric bins.
I experimented with different weights of living fabric – quilting cotton for the sheep bin, heavier duck canvas for the kitty cat bins.
All of the bins are stabilized with a heavy craft-weight interfacing, but I added Annie’s Soft and Stable to the sheep bin – it did make it quite a bit thicker, but it was like interfacing it with quilt batting, instead of a stiffener. The result was added thickness, but not much more of a stabilized shape. Plus, I found it really difficult to work with – probably because it isn’t fusible, and it is extremely thick. I preferred using the canvas lining to add stability to the shape of the bins.
The sheep bin is the perfect size and shape for a sweater’s worth of yarn skeins in my queue, and the kitty cat bins found a home on my cat-loving daughter’s desk, to hold all of her small treasures.
By Hand is a series of lookbooks that focus on different fiber and fabric “making communities” around the country.
Each serial will feature photo journals and interviews with both up-and-coming and well-known yarn designers and dyers, local yarn stores, knitwear designers, fabric artists, and other makers who share the same philosophy and aesthetic of hand crafting functional forms to share and connect with others in the community. Projects, patterns, classes, and opportunities to purchase the artists’ work will also be included, as well as an opportunity to share what is beautiful and unique about each locale.
THE FIRST ISSUE OF BY HAND IS BASED IN PORTLAND, OREGON AND FEATURES:
This is a fabulous sewing project – it is quick and very easy, and because of the nature of the knit fabric, the fit is almost guaranteed! I got the idea from one of Fancy Tiger Crafts‘ Instagram posts, and I really like the fabric their sewing sample featured – Pickering yarn-dyed jersey (55% hemp / 45% organic cotton). It’s a little heavier than most knits, and I think that helps it hang better. I chose color Storm and had no problem cutting size medium (8-10) out of 3 yards.
Moneta is a Colette pattern, and I think it’s accurately rated as beginner. You will need to have a jersey knit machine sewing needle, and understand the stitches on your machine well enough to choose the right stitch for knits. I didn’t have a twin needle, so I finished off my hems with a zig-zag stitch – it really didn’t matter because the marled nature of the fabric means that your stitches don’t show at all, which is an added bonus if you’re worried that they may not look very neat and straight 🙂
I had never used clear elastic for gathering a knit fabric before (this is for attaching the bodice to the skirt), so I reviewed Colette’s tutorial, which I found helpful. It’s really a very cool trick, and worth remembering for future projects.
The only part I struggled with was the hem along the neckline – because it’s a knit fabric, you don’t need a facing, which is nice. However, after I sewed the shallow hem, I found that the neckline gapped some right in front. I experimented with several ways to address the problem – maybe the neckline is cut too wide? – but in the end, I just folded the front of the neckline in again and sewed a little deeper hem, gradually fading it out to the sides near my collarbone. It’s still not as tight as I would like it to be, and the wide neckline means that sometimes my bra straps show, but I think overall it looks neat enough.
I would highly recommend both this fabric and this sewing pattern – it makes the perfect spring/fall transition dress, easy to sew and very comfortable and easy to wear – and I love that it has pockets!
This was a quick and easy project – a tote bag perfect for my weekly trips this week to the farmer’s market. I used a yard of white canvas and leather straps from Modern Domestic, taupe linen from my fabric stash for the lining, and I based the design on Purl Bee’s Railroad Tote. I added stiff interfacing between the canvas and linen to give the bag more structure. As a subtle design feature, I quilted horizontal lines, spaced approximately one inch apart, on each piece of the canvas/interfacing.
I have a years-old pair of organic cotton summer pajamas from Garnet Hill that I have literally loved to death. Inspired by their simple design (and the fact that they’re not available anymore), I decided to cut them apart to create a pattern for new PJs. The process was incredibly simple:
Cut apart PJs and trace on pattern tracing paper. Since I wanted the new pair to be a little smaller, I didn’t worry about adding in any seam allowance (although I did add in an allowance for hemming the top and the pants legs, and for the elastic waistband).
Find similar fabric – I needed something that was very lightweight – this lawn/voile fabric from Modern Domestic did the trick nicely.
Cut out pattern and sew. The two pant pieces were identical (there really isn’t a front or back), but the top and back are slightly different, so I cut them out separately. I made my own bias tape from the fabric to trim out the neck and armholes of the top, and to create the spaghetti straps. I used 1″ elastic for the waistband. I even kept the small touch of the vents on the sides of the top.
I love it! I’ll likely get similar fabric and make a few more pairs of PJs over the course of the summer.
I bought this beautiful kit from Purl Bee and hand-sewed all of the eggs and the decorative flowers. I was a little intimidated at first, but it wasn’t as hard as it looked, and as long as I didn’t insist on perfection, I loved the way that I was able to combine colors, shapes and designs and make each egg unique. I think that they’ll make beautiful decorations for Easter next year!
I couldn’t resist buying some of this beautiful new Warsa linen at Purl Soho – the soft, muted colors beautifully offset the handwoven blanket I splurged and bought while visiting Swans Island Company this summer in Maine.
The pillows are 20″ square, in colors Fig, Celadon, Smoke and Coyote. In order to use some of the more vibrant colors, I sewed up a Forty-Minute Tote in colors Tangerine and Cayenne, and added handmade leather handles from Bolt Fabrics here in Portland.
This is a really great sewing project – just make sure you’re using a jersey needle and a knit/stretch/small zigzag stitch on your sewing machine. There’s only three pattern pieces – front, back, and sleeves – and then the binding for the neck and sleeves. The neck binding may appear really small at first, but it’s important to stretch it VERY tightly around the neckline – this is what keeps the neckline from hanging poorly or gapping open when it’s done.
Pattern: Lark Tee by Grainline – I sewed the scoop neckline / long sleeve option
Mods: I cut 1/4″ off the sleeves before the 3/4″ hem, and I cut the bottom of the shirt at 18 1/4″ from underarm seam before the 3/4″ hem (which meant I cut off at least 2-3″ – it would have been WAY too long).
What I like about this pattern is how it’s got such a flattering silhouette – with just a little bit of shaping in the body, combined with the knit fabric, you get a really attractive fit. I’ve got knit fabric in three more colors, just waiting to become Lark tees . . .
For the past few months, I have been inspired by several maker blogs that focus on apparel sewing. I had been thinking for some time about sewing my own clothes, but often felt too frustrated and intimidated by the process. However, the posts of other bloggers, particularly Karen Templer of Fringe Association, really made me think about some crucial issues, as well as the concept of honing down my wardrobe to several basic, well-made pieces that all worked together. What a relief it would be to go to my closet and have only a few pieces – but beautiful, well-made pieces – to pick and choose from! That might seem like a strange thing to say, but it feels like the more clothes I have, the less I appreciate each piece, and the more overwhelming it is to figure out what to wear each day. In any case, I just end up wearing the same core pieces over and over, so why do I have a closet full?
I did know how to sew, and I’d sewed clothes for my daughters, but I’d never successfully sewed my own clothes – at least, not pieces that I ended up liking in terms of fit. I was worried that if I tried it again, I’d have the same frustrating results, so I decided to buy a few private lessons at Modern Domestic, a great sewing/fabric store in Portland, and see if I could learn some tips that would get me started.
I began the lessons in late July, and since then I’ve sewn an Everyday Skirt (Leisl + Co), two Scout Tees (Grainline), two Tiny Pocket Tanks (Grainline), a Zinnia Skirt (Colette), two Aster Shirts (Colette), two tank dresses that my instructor and I hacked from a store-bought dress, the Tofino Pants (Sewaholic), and I’m currently working on the Moss Skirt and Lark Tee (both Grainline). I feel like I’ve learned so much through this process, not just in terms of technical sewing knowledge, but even more, what it takes to try to sew a wardrobe that I will actually wear. I sat down and put to paper some of those thoughts:
Lesson One: Fabric Matters I guess I should have already known this, given what I know about the importance of choosing the right yarn for a knitting project, but I think it might be even more crucial with sewing apparel projects. Unfortunately, while a knitting pattern will have a recommended yarn – whatever the sample was knit in – the same is not true with sewing patterns. Instead, the pattern lists only broad categories: cotton, lawn, etc. A good pattern might give some further recommendations about how light or heavy the fabric should be, the drape of the fabric, etc., but most of the time, all you’ve got to go on is “cotton.” Of course, that’s like listing the yarn for a knitting pattern as “wool.” What weight, gauge, hand, drape, and a million other descriptive terms? My most successful sewing projects were sewn with the exact fabric that my instructor recommended – and, I found, it’s much easier to buy a pattern you like and then find a good fabric to sew it in, rather than picking out a fabric you love, and then trying to match it to a pattern. Sometimes I was steered away from fabrics I really liked and agreed to choose something I wasn’t as crazy about, but I always liked the end result better than when I plowed ahead with a fabric I was drawn to, even if it wasn’t ideal for the pattern I was working on. The moral of this story: choose your pattern, then get help from knowledgeable experts in a fabric store to choose the best possible fabric for your particular project.
Lesson Two: The Right Tools Make All The Difference As in so many handcrafting hobbies, I found that a few crucial tools made a world of difference. First amongst these were sewing machine feet – I quickly acquired an overcast foot, an edgestitching foot, a foot with a seam guide, and several others. Even though they’re a little expensive, they’re well worth in if you plan to keep sewing clothes. The reason: they allow your sewing to be more precise, especially the stitches that you will see when the project is done, and it is the preciseness of these lines that makes your project look professional. A straight and even seam line goes a long way to making a project look well done! Sewing feet and other tools take a lot of the guesswork and struggle out of the project. Some of my favorites (all under $10): a seam guide, Wonder Tape (for adhering buttons so they stay in place while you’re sewing them on), a chalk marker, and Swedish tracing paper (for tracing and customizing your patterns – this might be more like $15).
Lesson Three: Get Help! When I began this journey, I already knew how to sew – I’d sewed many quilts, blankets, tote bags, curtains, pillows, etc – all things that didn’t require much fitting! I had also sewed a lot of cute dresses for my three daughters. But once they got old enough that they didn’t want to wear what I sewed for them, I wanted to try sewing my own clothes. The problem: every time I sewed something for myself, I felt like it fit poorly. I was following the directions, so what was I doing wrong? I decided that there must be some tricks of the trade that I didn’t know about, so I signed up for a series of private lessons with a sewing instructor at one of Portland’s great sewing and fabric stores. This was immensely helpful, not only in teaching me important techniques, but also in teaching me little tricks and tips that are never in the published sewing patterns, and in increasing my overall confidence.
Lesson Four: Be Prepared to Sew a Pattern More Than Once I almost never knit the same pattern more than once, especially if it’s a sweater – let’s face it, a lot of time and yarn money go into one sweater! Sewing a piece of clothing takes less time than knitting, although it doesn’t go as quickly as you might think when reading the pattern because set-up (pressing and pinning in a hem, for instance) often takes as much as 3-4 times as long as the actual sewing. Nonetheless, for me it was much more feasible to sew a pattern twice than it has been to knit a pattern twice. Which is a good thing, because I think you have to sew each item you make at least twice in order to achieve a good fit. Once I accepted this – and looked at it as an opportunity to try out different fabrics – I was a lot happier with my finished products. I will likely wear the “first run” items I sewed, but it’s the tops and skirts that I sewed a second, or even third or fourth time around, that I like the most. I think this is especially true with tops, because the fit tends to be much more exacting than with a skirt (unless the skirt is form-fitting- most of mine had some gathering, so the fit wasn’t so exact).
Lesson Five: Fabrics Cut on the Bias Can Help With a Flattering Fit My greatest success was when my instructor and I took a factory-sewn dress that I liked the style and fit of, and hacked a pattern straight from the dress. It was extremely easy – no sleeves – but the final result was beautiful, so much so that I sewed two of the dresses, and I’m working on a third. While working on this project, I learned a lot about cutting fabric on the bias – how it is much more difficult and expensive, since it requires a lot more fabric, but how it also can result in a much more flattering fit, because fabric cut on the bias stretches and drapes in a way that helps positively accentuate your form. I now look for patterns where at least part of the apparel piece is sewn on the bias, because I think it’s much more likely that the result will be a flattering fit.
Lesson Six: Sewing Bias Tape is an Essential Skill I discovered that of the most essential – and difficult parts of sewing any kind of shirt or top that looks like it fits well is how it fits around the neck (and armholes, if it’s sleeveless). By and large, this is a matter of how well you sew (and edgestitch) the bias tape. One great trick I learned: if the neckline seems to gap or hang open, it means that you need to tighten up the bias tape a little. In other words, when you’re pinning the bias tape to the neckline, pull on it – just a little. It’s very stretchy (of course, since it’s cut on the bias) so you don’t want to overdo it, but by increasing the tension on the bias tape, you’ll help tighten the neckline a little, to prevent gapping. Good pressing will help too, but it won’t completely solve the problem of a neckline that gaps or hangs open.
Lesson Seven: Choose Your Patterns Carefully I have found that I prefer the patterns published by independent designers much more than the traditional patterns (McCalls, Butterick, etc). However, the independent patterns are much more uneven in terms of a good fit, clear directions, etc. For that reason, once I find a designer that I like, I’m inclined to buy more of that line of patterns. For instance, I’ve found Grainline patterns to be explained clearly and to actually fit a wide variety of “real” women’s shapes. Because a pattern often doesn’t have a single photograph of the actual item, being worn by an actual person, I found it very helpful to use Pinterest and Instagram to see how the finished product was being sewn – and worn – by real women. If I saw a variety of women in different shapes and sizes, all able to wear the piece and have it look flattering on them, then I knew that it was the pattern for me!
In the next couple of weeks, I will post photos of me wearing my newly sewn wardrobe – I think you get a much better feel for how the pieces look and fit when someone is wearing them, but it’s a lot more time-consuming to put together that kind of a photo shoot 🙂
This week’s sewing projects – quick, simple, and satisfying!
A set of four placemats and napkins, sewn from Robert Kaufman’s Studio Stash Yarn Dyes. I bought one yard of the Denim and 1/2 yard each of the Spice and Denim from Bolt, without really thinking through what I would use them for. I originally thought I’d sew a shirt and maybe a skirt, but it seemed too cutesy – maybe a little too much matching going on? So, I took a look at my quantities and decided I had just the right amount for placemats and napkins. The placemats are double-sided – I just sewed right sides to right sides, with the batting in between, then turned them right side out, sewed a top stitch a little less than 1/4″ from the edges, and then quilted them with one vertical line and one horizontal line, both down the middle.
I liked the color of the fringing on the napkins, so I fringed them out a little way (I’m sure they’ll fringe more on their own with repeated washings), and then stitched a stay stitch 1/4″ around all four borders.
My idea is to give these as a gift set, along with four of my hand-thrown mugs – I picked these because I thought they color-coordinated well:
I’m lucky enough to live near the Pendleton Woolen Mill store, where you can buy a wide variety of Pendleton fabrics as either scraps or off the bolt – 1/2 yard is more than enough to make a beautiful 20″ pillow cover.
As a birthday gift, I sewed up a six-pack of cloth napkins from Robert Kaufman’s Essex linen-cotton blend (I think this color is Taupe) – 1 1/2 yards gave me six 18″ x 22″ napkins.
I usually find knit fabrics to be too thin and flimsy, not really good quality and, as a result, difficult to work with. The Birch organic knits, however, are entirely different. These knits are thick and plush, still with a lot of stretch and give, but they feel so nice, and I love the color palette!
I bought two yards of Teal and one yard of Sky and sewed up a comfy pair of yoga pants and a t-shirt to lounge around in this summer. The yoga pants pattern is here, and it’s incredibly easy – although I have to say, the sizing seems WAY off. I fell somewhere between a large and extra-large, so I went with extra-large, figuring that I could size it down as I went . . . which I definitely needed to do! I must have re-stitched the seams three times, each time cutting out multiple inches. In the end, I had to reduce the entire piece substantially, and especially the legs – even with a wide-legged look, the way I originally cut it out would have been ridiculous. So, I just kept sewing, trying it on, pinning in a new seam, re-sewing, re-trying it on, etc. In the end, I’m pretty happy with the fit – there’s still a lot of fabric around the upper thighs, but then, they’re yoga pants – they’re supposed to have a lot of flow 🙂
One note – I used metal grommets for the waist ties, and I like the look, but keep in mind that when you cut a hole in knit fabric, it will GROW – on the first hole I cut, even though it seemed really small, by the time I inserted the grommet, the edges of the hole were showing outside the edges of the grommet – so, just poke a very small hole in the knit and wedge the grommet in, that way you’ll keep from growing the hole beyond the borders of the grommet.
I had a little more difficulty with the t-shirt, largely due to the neckline. I didn’t have a pattern, so I cut the shape from one of my current tees, and cut the neckline high (as it would be for the back). Then, you need to trim down the neckline a little in the front, so that it’s not so high on your neck. Somehow, even when I was really careful trimming it only a little bit (after trying it on and marking with pins how low I wanted it to go in front), it still kind of bags and gaps once I had the edge hemmed. I even tried sewing the shoulder seams in closer to compensate, and that helped, but not completely. I’m not sure why I can’t get the neckline to lay flat – it must be something about the shape I’ve cut it in, but heck if I can figure it out!
Otherwise, the t-shirt was easy – I just cut out a front and back, sewed it together at the shoulder seams, then the side seams, then hemmed the neckline, sleeves, and bottom. The sleeves are part of the front and back (that is, no separate sleeves), and there’s no yoke or facing, which makes it as easy as sewing a pair of pants – just a front and a back.
I always feel slightly dissatisfied with my sewn wardrobe – for some reason, I can never get the fit to look just right, or maybe it’s that I can never get the piece to look really smooth and finished. You’d think it wouldn’t be that way – since I can custom-size the clothing piece as a go – but I always end up feeling like whatever I sew just isn’t that flattering on me. I love the idea of a largely handmade wardrobe, but I need to first get past feeling like the FOs aren’t attractive or flattering in fit and style.
After they arrived, they sat in my sewing room for several weeks, waiting for inspiration. I considered a variety of projects – quilt top, pieced placemats, even a skirt for my youngest daughter. In the end, I couldn’t bear to cut them up – they were so perfect just as they were! – but what to do with a bunch of fat quarter squares, no matter how gorgeous the fabric was? Then last week, I was shopping at a boutique store full of handmade goods, and I kept coming back to a packet of three color-coordinated linen cloths. These linens were simple squares (or maybe a little more like rectangles) and could be used for cloth napkins, or kitchen towels, or any other “napkin or towel” use that one might have. They were so simple, yet it was that simplicity that let the texture and color of the fabrics shine, and I found that I wanted to buy them, even without any particular purpose in mind.
And then I remembered my fat quarter bundle and I thought “ah ha” . . . and I knew what the Manchester fabrics were destined to be. So, I just ironed and stitched a rolled hem – I didn’t even bother to cut the quarters perfectly square, because I liked them to be a little funky in their shape and style. I didn’t wash them ahead of time, either – I figure that if they shrink when they’re washed the first time, it won’t matter, given that they haven’t been sewn into any kind of a larger overall project.
I’m thrilled with how beautiful they are in their simplicity, and how “completing” them hasn’t taken away my enjoyment in the texture and color of the fabric itself. I think that I will bundle them in sets of three or four and give them as gifts with my hand thrown mugs or bowls – kind of a handmade kitchen set. I hope the recipients enjoy and appreciate them as much as I do!
recently saw an Eileen Fisher scarf/wrap that I wanted to buy, but when I saw what it cost, I thought it would be worth trying to find the fabric and make the simple accessory myself. I found not one but two beautiful spring scarf/wrap fabrics at Purl Soho: Kokochi Double Gauze (Silver Grey Dots) and Robert Kaufman’s Veneto Linen Gauze (Flax).
I purchased two yards of each, and then split the fabric lengthwise – this meant a length of approximately 72″ and a width of 18″ (for the double gauze) and 30″ (for the linen gauze). Then I fringed the ends of each by simply pulling the threads out one by one – by far the hardest part! I fringed the double gauze to only 1″ or so – I couldn’t stand it any longer, since it’s double gauze it’s two fabrics together, so you actually have to fringe two separate pieces of fabric for each end 🙁 I fringed the linen gauge to approx 3″ and then tied the fringes, so they wouldn’t get messy and tangled.
Next, I ran a stay stitch about 1/8″ from the short ends of the scarves, so that there was no chance that the fringe would continue to unravel. Finally, I sewed a hem (1/4″ rolled under, then a second 1/4″ rolled under) along each long end. I quick press with the iron, and they were done!
We continued with our tradition of a homemade and decorated birthday cake that represents an interest of the birthday girl/boy – Alia’s lifelong love of bunny rabbits remains strong, so I’ve come up with many versions of a bunny cake over the years!
Because age ten is the first age in our household when sleepovers are allowed, this birthday was met with much excitement, and as gifts, Alia’s grandmother sewed her a bunny pillow:
And I sewed her a quick and easy sleeping bag:
I found these wonderful Cotton + Steel bunny-themed fabrics at Bolt (bunnies and moons, how perfect for a sleeping bag!) and sewed the bag and a matching pillow without a set pattern, as follows:
Exterior and interior fabrics – 3 1/3 yards each – for both the outside and the inside, cut the fabric in half lengthwise (so you have two pieces that are 60″ long), then cut each piece to 36″ wide. Sew these two pieces together, so you have one piece that is 72″ wide x 60″ long.
To sew the ties, cut 18 pieces 3″ x 12.5″ (you’ll have enough fabric left over to do this), fold lengthwise, sew one short edge and one long edge, leaving one short edge open. Then turn right side out and press.
Next, create a “quilt sandwich” by laying the exterior fabric right side up, then the interior fabric on top of it (right side down), and then the batting on top of both (I bought the highest loft batting I could find, and then used a double layer). Cut around all sides to get all of the fabrics and battings the same dimensions, then pin together along the edges, tucking the ties inside (unfinished edge lining up with the edge of the fabrics/batting, and the length of the tie tucked in between the two fabrics).
Sew along all four edges with a 6/8″ seam, leaving an 18″ wide hole in the middle of the top edge. Clip the corners and turn right side out through the top edge hole. Then, stay stitch around all four sides again (this will help to give the bag a defined edge, and will close up the top side hole, as well). Finally, I used a bar tack stitch approx every 10″ to give the bag “puffiness” and to hold the batting in place and keep it from shifting around.
My ties along the bottom didn’t line up as nicely as I had hoped – I’m not sure what went wrong, I measured (but apparently not accurately enough!), but my side ties line up nicely. The ties are a nice alternative to having to sew in a zipper, and they allow you to open up the bag and lay it flat, if you choose to do so.
This was a rush job and I could have done it more neatly – it was a little difficult stitching through so many layers, especially two layers of thick batting, and my sewing machine wasn’t thrilled to do it, but it came out all right in the end.
I love working with canvas fabric, and particularly when I get to add a splash of color with fun zippers and webbing for the handles. The Overnighter Bag is a well-written, easy-to-sew pattern from the Purl Bee – it can be sewn in an afternoon, and the duffel is the perfect size for, well, an overnight trip 🙂 Or, in our case, a carry-on bag for the plane – I made one for myself and one for each of my daughters to take along on our impending trip to Turks & Caicos.
Per the instructions, I washed the fabric first – afterwards, at first I regretted doing so, because no matter how much I ironed it, the canvas still had a slightly wrinkled look, and I thought initially that I preferred the smooth appearance of the unwashed canvas. But after it was done, I decided it looked better after washing – and, in any case, the fabric did shrink appreciably, so assuming that I ever want to wash the bag, it definitely needed to be pre-washed.
After sewing the first one, I made a few modifications:
* I cut the bottom piece 9.5″ wide instead of 8″ wide – it then needed to be trimmed down a little, but at least it wasn’t too narrow, as it was when I went with the 8″ width.
* I used the entire 3-yard length of webbing for the handles, instead of cutting each piece as called for in the pattern – the pattern sizing is just too short, I can’t easily throw it over my shoulder. You can see the difference between the black handles (first bag completed, per pattern specs) and the blue, green and purple handles.
* I used scraps of canvas instead of scraps of bias tape for the pieces at each end of the zipper – it’s a lot sturdier and less likely to warp or tear.
Otherwise, I stuck to the pattern, which was clear and easy to understand. The only slightly challenging part was sewing the sides to the bottom, because there are some tricky curves to maneuver. However, it doesn’t have to be perfect, as the canvas is forgiving and masks a lot of less-than-perfect corners 🙂
Here are the bags “in action” at the Portland airport, getting ready to head out to Turks & Caicos . . . they all survived the trip admirably, although one had such a heavy load that one of the straps ripped out a little where it connects to the top of the bag, so I had to just quickly re-sew it when we got home.
Another of this week’s quick sewing projects – using up the rest of my Shetland Flannel from this project to make PJ lounge pants for my girls. I’ll give these as Christmas gifts at the same time that I gift the flannel robes. Quick, easy, and oh-so-comfy!
I used Simplicity #2290 (a repeat from this project) and sewed size eight for my 9 1/2-year-old youngest daughter, and size Adult XS for my just-turned-12 middle daughter. I only had two yards of each color, so I had to use scraps for the bottoms of the legs on the bigger size. The fit on both was right on (or at least, as much as it needs to be for lounge pants 🙂