it’s in the bag: Grainline’s Portside Duffle

I recently moved back to San Francisco after a three year hiatus, and exactly one month after my arrival one of my best friends announced she was moving from SF to LA. It was a happy/sad moment because she was moving in order to accept her dream job, and I’ve seriously never seen her as happy as she has been since taking this leap. Needless to say, her move also provides a great excuse for me to travel down to visit her and her fun new town, which I did for the first time this past November. Of course, I like to travel in style: intro the Grainline Portside Duffle!

Portside Duffle

I’m a fan of all the Grainline Studio patterns I’ve tried, and this one is no exception. The instructions were really clear, and after just a little effort on my part to hunt down the sort of hardware I envisioned (found at Britex!) the pattern came together really quickly. Admittedly, I was on deadline; I needed to pack the finished bag for my trip! I was in LA for a long, four day weekend, and was able to pack all the necessities (plus two pairs of shoes, of course) into this perfectly sized beauty. During my travels I got not one, not two, but three unsolicited compliments on my bag. It seems everyone is on the lookout for travel gear that isn’t made out of cruddy and unattractive nylon.

Portside Duffle1 The only change I made from what’s stated in the pattern was using the wide 1 1/2″ webbing for both my handles and the over the shoulder adjustable strap. This makes sense because you don’t have to fuss with finding matching webbing (which I actually found to be kind of difficult), and I think wider straps are more comfortable. I also did my adjustable strap just a little differently.

Portside Duffle innards

This time around I used a heavyweight denim for the contrast fabric, and lighter weight green denim for the main body. The green denim actually has a really cool design on it, but it’s difficult to see in these photos. If I make this again (and I think I may because 1: It was super fun to put together & 2: I’ve had some birthday requests from friends) I would try to find a way to sew the lining in by machine. I lined my bag with a light canvas in pale blue—pulled from the stash. I generally love hand stitching, but this was a little tough on my fingers. I’d also like to add a zipper pocket to the lining. (But maybe this felt more necessary because I didn’t have time to make up the awesome travel pouch and dopp kit that come with the pattern…)

All in all, I’m really proud of how well this bag turned out! It was especially rewarding to sew something so utilitarian. Have any of you experimented with bag making?


a funny but functional little sewing tip

I’m still waffling over my waistband issue, despite the fact that a couple kind sewcialists have offered up some smart advice on how to fix said prob. And while I wait for that skirt to fix itself, I thought I’d drop in today with a little sewing tip: Don’t pin your trial-hem in place, use bobby pins! You can see in the pic below how I applied them to my skirt (and yep, this is what’s holding the hem in last week’s photos).

bobby-pinned hem

These slip on easily and securely, but it’s still no trouble to roll the fabric around and make adjustments as needed. There’s the obvious benefit of these not being sharp, so you won’t hurt yourself whilst bending down awkwardly to apply them to the garment you’re wearing, nor when you’re prancing back and forth before the mirror to see if your hem looks all right. Unlike other clips, bobby pins are light weight, so they don’t tug or pull at the fabric much. Finally, I think bobby pins are the sort of thing that 99% of women are likely to have at hand, so next time you’re trying out a hem, give these a try. I’ll be excited to hear if this works well for you too!

trying something new: Experiments in Pattern Draping

Draped Bodice 2

This week I started taking a Pattern Draping night class at City College of San Francisco. Draping is something I’ve wanted to learn more about and experiment with for years, and I’m so excited to finally have the time and opportunity to try it!

Draping a Fitted Bodice Notes

This week we learned how to drape a fitted bodice front. I think next week we’ll draft  the back bodice and learn to transfer our draping to a flat pattern. I’ve done a few experiments in flat pattern drafting in the past, but I’m not much of a math person. Draping appeals much more to my desire to get hands on and see what happens.

 step one                step two

One of my favorite moments of the sewing experience is when the flat swathes of fabric start coming together and looking like a garment. With draping, your muslin starts looking garment-like almost immediately. Let’s give it up for instant gratification!

Draped Bodice

If any of you have been looking to try your hand at draping, you’re in luck: My instructor, Paul Gallo, has two courses on Craftsy where he teaches everything we’re learning in class. In fact, he’s recommended that we students download the class because the camera has a front row seat to all the action, and it’s easier to actually see what he’s doing than it is in our lecture classroom. Paul has years of experience and a really generous, comprehensive teaching style, all of which I can only imagine translates just as well to video.

imagining the future: Colette Patterns’ Albion

One of my favorite clothing items is a black wool duffel coat I bought at The Gap five years ago. It’s one of a few pieces in my closet that I reach for time after time, and always feel comfortable and stylish in. At least, I used to feel stylish in it before it started wearing through at the seams from all the use it’s seen! I toyed with the idea of making a pattern from my perfect coat  in order to sew up a new one, but seeing as I’ve never sewn any outerwear, the idea of drafting my own pattern was overwhelming.

Lucky for me, Sarai and her team of lovelies over at Colette Patterns came out with their rad new Albion pattern & saved me! This pattern looks like the perfect starting place for my new duffle coat. Plus, there’s a sewalong launching January 24th! I spent some time this past weekend scoping out fabrics and sketching up some initial plans, which I thought I’d share with you.

Sew U cover

Since this is one of the most ambitious sewing projects I’ve undertaken to date, bringing some order to it has helped me feel more confident and excited about the steps involved. To help with my planning, I used the template from Built by Wendy’s Sew U.

Sew U blank templateI like how Wendy indicates some of the key things to think about when planning a sewing project: trims & finishing, pattern alterations, and any changes to the construction plans in light of the alterations and finishing plans. In the upper right hand corner of the template, there’s a place to add fabric swatches and trim samples. And below that she’s got an area where you can sketch in your design ideas.

Sew U template filled

Here’s an example of a completed template from the book.

My Albion templateAnd here’s a version of the template I drew up in my notebook (along with a rather sad sketch of my imagined Albion)!

photo 3I guess the main thing is that I’ve captured my ideas, right?! And I can be pretty damn sure that no matter how my new coat turns out it will look better than this sketch!

photo 2The blue sticky note is my shopping list. I wanted to make sure I could stick it in my wallet or otherwise carry it around in the likely possibility that I’ll want to shop without dragging the whole notebook with. And on the back of this note I’ve started tracking what I spend on the project. This is something I’ve never done before…not the planning, and certainly not the tracking of project related costs, but I think it could be a good habit to try getting into.

So, have you seen the new Albion pattern? What do you think of it? Will any of you be joining the sewalong later this month?


when good things go bad…

I started this blog almost two years ago…possibly over two years ago. (I’m drafting this post at a café that­—happily, for productivity’s sake—doesn’t have wifi. As a result—happily, for vanity’s sake—I can’t go back and reference the actual date of my first blog post!) Whenever it was that I started, I remember feeling as though this would be like joining a fun new club, like attending an online sewing party. I was in graduate school at the time and had already managed to impress myself with the amount of things I could accomplish whilst staying in pajamas all day. (I love how I say that as though I actually own pajamas. Read: stained sweats and an old tank top.) But yeah, I was in grad school: studying full-time, teaching part-time, and trying to produce a thesis. And then, ambitiously, perhaps on the one free afternoon I had a term, I decided to launch a blog. (Cue: whah-whah sound effect…) Hidden between the lines here is how gravely I underestimated the amount of work that can, and I would say needs to, go in to creating some something I can feel proud of at the end of the day. Below I have featured two projects that I definitely put the time into, though I can’t say I’m super proud of the outcomes.

One of my sewing goals last year was to start developing a collection of patterns I could get a great fit on and then use and reuse as slopers. I’m still trying to develop an affection for the fitting process, and so doing this seemed like a way to help myself spend more time with the things I most enjoy about sewing.

BBW Shift Dress  I got the pattern for this simple shift out of The Built By Wendy: Sew U book. I’m pretty sure I cut out a size large, which is kinda crazy because it’s just not very large at all. The fit is okay, but it could definitely use some more adjusting before I start using it the way I hope to eventually use my slopers. I did some very basic measurements and then dove in and started crafting what I hoped would be a wearable muslin. This term, wearable muslin, is one I picked up somewhere around the internet from the many sewers who, through some sort of miracle working I still have yet to wrap my head around, mange to crank out fairly well-fitting garments right out of the gates. Girls, how do you do that?

BBW Shift Dress Pocket I spent a lot of time trying new techniques on this dress. It’s the first time I tried a lining, for instance. I also tried doing patch pockets without topstitching. This turned out all right, not great, but not bad for a first try. Unfortunately, I’d finished the pockets and was trying on the dress when I realized my pockets weren’t evenly lined up!

BBW Shift Dress Sleeve

I also used Wendy’s technique for sewing in sleeves: attach sleeves first, sew side seams second. This is definitely easier than setting in the sleeves, but I didn’t account for the finishing of the side seams. Woops.

BBW Shift Dress Neckline

The pattern is drafted with a basic crew neck, but I wanted a slit down the middle. I tried thinking through how best to do this. Nevertheless, I ended up doing it the wrong way. I was able to fix it, sort of, but you can see how the neckline is a little wonky. (Uh, you can also see how not great I did on finishing the edges of that lining.)

I think I actually did wear this wearable muslin out once, to a bar, where it was dark and potential onlookers where probably drunk enough not to notice its issues.

Gertie Skirt

This skirt was the second pattern I tried out of Gertie’s New Book for Better Sewing. It has lots of potential to become a sloper one day, though it is difficult to truly access the fit in this fabric, which is a wonderful-if-thick ponte sort of fabric. It’s possibly not the ideal fabric for this skirt. I had imagined I’d end up with a garment that was equal parts comely and cozy, and that was perhaps where I went wrong. I mean, I definitely think I have clothes that fit this description in my closet, and if all the clothes in my closet could fit this description I’d be a happy woman.

I’ve had this skirt shoved in a box, unhemmed, for at least six months. I was convinced it was absolutely not working, until I pulled it out to take photos for this post. Then I’m looking at these pics and I’m like, “Oh. Hmmm. That’s actually kinda cute…”

Gertie Skirt side view

Looks good from the side.

Gertie Skirt back view

Looks good from the back. (And yo, I hand picked that zipper two, maybe three, possibly five times. It’s perfect.)

Gertie Skirt waistband 1

But then something may be amiss with that waistband…

Gertie Skirt waistband 2

Yep, there’s definitely way too much room in there. (A little hard to see it here, but there’s about 3-4 inches between my body and the band.) Boo. With the fuller blouse I’m wearing in the shots you can almost over look it… But I don’t think that’s gonna fly in the long run.

Gertie Skirt 2

I had two thoughts for dealing with this. I could just replace the waistband with one that’s not so high waisted. I think this is a hard fit on me because my waist measurement is about three sizes smaller than my hip measurement. (I mean, it’s equally possible that I just messed something up along the way…)

gertiesnewbookforbettersewing_sultry sheath

Or, I could use some of the remaining yardage I’ve got of the wonderful-if-thick ponte and cut out the Sultry Sheath bodice in Gertie’s book, pictured above, and make this sucker into a dress. This second option is more appealing to me in most ways, except it would require my taking out that zip that I hand picked like fifty times whilst walking backward uphill through the snow. I suppose there’s a third option, which is just leave it as is. What do you think, sewcialists? How can I save this skirt?

Gertie Skirt: Save me?

Happy New Year!

I hope 2013 came to a happy ending for you!

The last year was a wild one, full of many surprises, some more welcomed than others. But you know what they say? All’s well that ends well.

I’ve been on an extended blogging break as I dealt with illness, finished graduate school, moved back to the Bay Area, and found a new job! I’ve also been quietly brewing up some new ideas that I look forward to sharing with you here, so stay tuned.

In the meantime, I’ve put together this playlist featuring some music I’ve been enjoying lately. I listen to these tracks when I’m starting my day, and I find they help things get off to a good start. I hope they’ll do the same for you!