Midlife crisis sewing

My, how time flies. Sorry, I’m in the midst of midlife crisis, so haven’t had much time, energy, or motivation to sew or blog. It’s gotten so bad that I’ve even considered Kondoing my fabric Stash – never mind new purchases. Can you believe that? Me of try-prying-my-stash-from-my-dead-hands persuasion, thinking of donating / recycling unused yardages – not even scraps, but whole yardages.

Recent years of losses + meeting new people with different perspectives on life had me questioning my clinging on to things & fear of taking risks. Like a house of cards, once a chunk is chipped away from the foundation the rest came tumbling down. Taking a look at the debris, I realised I had boxed myself into a particular narrative of who I am. And what were once invigorating expressions of that identity are now insipid habits & stashes of unrealised dreams, dead weights & devoid of life.

So yeah, much more time have been spent reflecting, figuring out what to do, how to change, & dealing with the emotional roller-coaster of actually trying to change – rather than just fantasising about some rosy future when this is all over. “Yes please!” to less acquisition-fueled fantasies and to more doing / making. I’m also taking baby steps to face my fears, take a chance & try something new. And to be open-minded, curious, & non-judgemental. I didn’t think I was a judgemental person, but I do in fact layer stories of the past onto what’s happening right now, instead of just observing what is & exploring what could happen next if I try this or that. All this is of course easier said than done. Everything takes so much time! But I’m trying to learn to appreciate the Journey.

The only sewing I’ve managed to do in the last few months were…

  1. more cross-body strap bags to replace the knackered prototype,
  2. a mini-skirt waiting for a partner to complete the look,
  3. a failed mohair sweater frosting that would have been the partner,
  4. and a bunch of panic holiday sewing.

1 & 2 were made when I was just beginning to sense something was amiss. So both tried to revive former glories with the tried & tested. 3 was the first attempt to be looser with my sewing, but I fell flat on my face. 4 I’ll write about in separate posts. Suffice it to say it’s my tortoise version of the Great British Sewing Bee: so much to make + so little time = rolling with the punches & a crash course in the new way.

1 Self-drafted Bags with Cross-body Strap

These are replacements for the prototype I made in 2017. I had already cut out rest of the fabrics when I first made the prototype, so this was a production line to make 3 just before Xmas. A friend at work was leaving her safe job to take a punt in acting. When I first joined the team she was THE welcoming committee & had asked about my prototype bag, even wanting to buy one. So I finally made her one as leaving present.

The only things I did differently this time are:

  • Protective clear PVC layer instead of laminating the print. The original RTW bag I modelled after used a clear PVC layer. The laminated prototype was wearing out in places & looking very grubby. So I was hoping PVC would fare better. Now that I’ve used these replacements for a while, I think the problem is the change in dimension – I made my version bigger than the RTW original. So the bag bends around my body & even the PVC will wear out at the point of the bend. But I’ll worry about a fix when it’s time to replace – hopefully not for another couple of years since I kept 2 for myself.
  • Rivets to reinforce strap attachments… because another point of failure on my prototype was strap attachment stitching, and one of these bags will be a gift so I wanted it to hold together a bit longer. I used a hand press kit & bag rivets I got in Asia. Went on like a treat. No more waking up the neighbours with hammer banging in the middle fo the night!

2 Self-drafted A-line Mini Skirt

A case of mutton dressing as a lamb, this is recreation of a mini-skirt I made over a decade ago. The original died accidentally in the tumble dryer – I’m rubbish with laundry. Made with leftover of the same decade old fabric to go with the same cheer-me-up impulse buy 2004 Stella McCartney vegan thigh-high boots. Talk about midlife crisis eh ūüôā

2019 mug shotsI had to redraft the pattern using my current A-line Skirt Block. It’s lined & has contoured facing instead of waistband. While the skirt came out alright, I haven’t dared wear it out yet. TBH it’s been too cold & I’m out of practice with heels. Plus the sweater knit I was going to wear this with turned out a total disaster. So the skirt now has no partner in crime against ageist fashion police.

3 RIP NG Self-drafted Mohair Sweater

This was meant to complement & tone-down the mutton-lamb skirt above, but it was an unmitigated disaster. I had no particular design in mind when I bought this sweater knit from Mood NYC a while ago. As usual I was simply seduced – this one by its heavenly caress Purrrrrr.

plan A

plan B

Trawling for ideas in Pinterest, I thought a cowl-neck sweater dress like the one Gigi Hadid wore may go well with the mini-skirt & thigh-high boots. Had such high hope for this frosting. But it was NG – I felt like a pink Big Bird. So I thought maybe I can salvage this by going tighter – like a ballet-style wrap cardi. Unfortunately there really wasn’t enough fabric in the tent sweater. I tried piecing, but it didn’t work with the delicate sweater knit. Worst part is the shedding. You could have sworn I have like 10 cats in the house. Achoo!

So into the scrap recycling bag this went. Sorry Earth, there’s only so much I can handle. Will shop more carefully in the future.

Cross-body bag & wallet

OK one last blog catch-up before I go back down the rabbit hole….I made this bag & wallet set last year. Now while I can’t recall all the details for you, I can at least update you on how they held up…or not!

I don’t know about you, but I’m one of those people who love things to death. This just-big-enough & reassuringly-secure-crossbody RTW bag I bought on holiday a few years ago is a case in point. It’s probably made from plastic leather, so the strap had started to crack and in danger of literally hanging by the threads. Plus one of the metal strap clips have broken. Super-glue & electrical tape tide me over for a while. But it was time to make my own replacement, not least because I would like it to be just a little bit more personalised to my needs: While it’s my favourite amongst my RTW bags, it just a tad too small and with too few inner pockets. The wallet bought from the same shop also can be improved by having a separate coin pockets and be more accommodating of different size notes – especially the yucky plasticky new ¬£5 & ¬£10 notes that don’t fold well.

The Design & Pattern

So here are the originals by zzzz2005: compared to my replacements:

 

Design changes:

Bag

  • Bigger bag body (2″ wider & deeper)
  • More inside pockets: 2-tier pockets for cards & keys + extra pockets for pen, phone, misc.
  • Simple non-detachable strap attachment. The original bag used swivel clips & the straps would get all twisted over time. Plus clips just seem less secure, easier to break.
  • Custom print for the flap. I do actually like the original print a lot, so could have cannibalise the original bag to reuse the print. But I decided to fix & keep the original bag as well for those times when the smaller size would do.

Wallet

This is a love-child of the one I got from the same shop & the Paul Smith wallet I got for DH, peppered with Make Supply’s tips on making leather wallet.

  • Base design is modeled after the Paul Smith folded wallet construction
  • Sizing-wise I changed it to match my wallet when folded as that dimension fits my smaller hand better
  • Changed one side’s card pockets to a zipped coin pocket
  • Followed Make Supply’s approach to card pockets even though I’m using thinner fabric instead of leather for these inner pockets
  • Added custom prints for one side of wallet outside & coin pocket

For the custom prints…

I ended up using Printfab UK‘s fabric printing service. I looked into the high street photo printing services, but they mostly offer printing onto finished goods – cushions, wall canvas artworks – which means higher prices and more work to recover the fabric for sewing. In addition to per metre pricing, Printfab also offers metric Fat Quarter size (printable area 70cm x 50cm with 0.5cm unprinted border, rather than the smaller imperial FQ size of 8″ x 22″/ 46cm x 56cm). Their fabric choices¬†are all cotton apart from one linen-cotton mix & range from lightweight Cotton Muslin (66gsm) to heavier Cotton Hopsack (398gsm). I went for mid-weight Cotton Half Panama (230gsm) to minimise bulk, especially as I’m adding a protective clear plastic layer on top of the print like the original bag & wallet. The Fat Quarter size is enough for me to decorate 4 bags & 4 wallets. Mine cost ¬£12.78 including VAT & UK domestic shipping and arrived more quickly than I expected – ordered late Saturday night & it arrived on Wednesday.

For the prints, I had trouble sourcing the same vintage Chinese ad poster print, or similar ones that I like as much. So I initially went with some Tang Dynasty scroll paintings with a fabric / sewing theme (“Fang Lady With Servants” by Tang Dynasty painter Zhou Fang and “Court Ladies Preparing Newly Woven Silk” by Tang Dynasty painter Zhang Xuan). It took a fair bit of image hacking to cajole these into the shapes & sizes I needed. But there was enough scenes to compose a couple of matching sets. After finding out that the Fat Quarter was bigger than I expected, I decided to make the effort and recreate a similar old Chinese ad poster design as the original bag. I didn’t bother with matching wallets for this design, instead cobbled together a couple of design meaningful to me, one a fabricholic quote that maybe some of you can relate to too! ūüôā

I was originally going to use clear PVC fabric to protect the print – like in the original bag & wallet. But the one I bought from Aamzon had that nasty toxic smell. I hung it outside to air & I think it flew away. Oops. So I ended up laminating the print instead.

Fabric & Notions Used

Construction Notes

As always, step documentation of my self-drafts are sparse on the ground. Here’s what I can reconstruct interrogating the finished bag & wallet…

Bag

  1. Sew Pocket top hems
  2. Fold Pocket sides SAs
  3. Fold Front Pocket at double layer foldline
  4. Fold Pocket bottom SAs
  5. Sew Pocket to Lining – sides, bottom, divider – except the Back Pocket side that goes across the bag left side
  6. Sew velcro to Shell Front & Flap Lining
  7. Fold Bag Shell & Lining in half lengthwise & sew side seams, sew bottom triangles to form bottom side seams
  8. Sew Back Pocket final side & bottom that go across bag left side
  9. Baste Flap Shell & Lining together along all edges, Bag Shell & Lining together at top edge
  10. Tape binding to Flap side & bottom edges, topstitch
  11. Baste Flap to Bag at top edge
  12. Tape binding to top edge, topstitch
  13. Glue strap layers together, topstitch
  14. Thread strap through buckle & rectangle-rings, fold back ends & hand sew in place
  15. Thread strap tabs through rectangle-rings, fold in half, hand sew to bag side seams

Wallet

This one was even more hairy. I resorted to a paper prototype to work out how to pull it together. But even this + the finished wallet don’t yield up a clear picture of the order of construction. So below is again my best guess.

  1. Sew Outer Print & FLeather RS-together, topstitch seam
  2. Trim FLeather SA, Fold Print SA & Outer Lining SA to wrong sides
  3. Fuse Outer Lining to Outer Print-FLeather, Fuse Coated Linen facing to Lining top edge
  4. Fuse interfacing to Inner Lining wrong side
  5. Sew Bridge to Coin Pocket left edge RS-together, Press SA towards Coin Pocket
  6. Sew Zipper to Coin Pocket-Bridge & Inner Lining top edges
  7. Sew Coin Pocket-Bridge & Inner Lining right & bottom edges r-s-together, Turn right side out
  8. Edge-stitch Bridge to Inner Lining (closing off the Coin Pocket in the process), Fold Inner Lining remaining SA to wrong side
  9. Hem all Car Pockets top edges (in my case, turn & fuse with iron)
  10. Sew stacked Card Pockets & Receipts Pocket right edge WS-to-RS, Fold SA inside Receipts Pocket, Topstitch/Fuse SA in place
  11. Working from top Card Pockets down, sew each Card Pocket lower edge to Receipts Pocket WS-to-RS
  12. Fold Card+Receipts Pockets top, left, bottom SA to wrong side, Top-stitch to Inner Lining WS-together
  13. Top-stitch Bridge bottom edge & corresponding Outer bottom edge separately
  14. Align Inner & Outer bottom edges, Top-stitching the layers together starting from Coin Pocket left edge across its bottom edge, up right edge, top edge of Outer only, down Card-Receipt Pockets left edge, across its bottom edge, ending at its right edge.

The Verdict

Six of one half-dozen of the other.

  • While the RTW bag fell apart in the material, my me-made fell apart at the seams. Maybe I should give rivets a go to reinforce the strap tabs attachment,
  • The Shell fabric I used may also be a bit too soft to hold up the goodies in the pockets – the Front top edge keep folding inward from the weight.
  • The laminated prints also did not hold up well. They look rather grubby with daily love. Combined with the softer Shell, there’s now a tear in the laminate where the bag bent naturally around my hip. May have to go back to the stinky PVC idea. But unfortunately I laminated all the remaining prints. Not sure adding an extra layer of PVC would be enough to prevent laminate tear & grubbiness or whether I should attempt to detach the laminate…or maybe even order replacement prints.

On the plus side, one girl in the office loves the bag enough to want to buy one-off me. Of course I said no. At least not until I sort out quality assurance issues. Then again Gen Z & Fast Fashion go hand-in-hand. Maybe she wouldn’t subject one to the daily abuse mine goes through.

The wallet is holding up much better, though again the laminates look a bit grubby from the get-go. Practicality-wise it’s an A.

Sets 2-4 are already cut. One of these days I’ll get around to them. For now shabby chic will do!

Aviator Cap & Convertible Mittens

Lastly, mopping up the too-big-to-trash scraps of the orange-black double-sided sweater knit are these experiments with an Aviator style hat & a pair of convertible mittens.

Style Shots & Mug Shots

4-style1-1b

WORN WITH: 1 Self-drafted mock-wrap skirt, Burda 2015-10-109 sweater, Burda 2013-11-117 jacket;

 

The Cat-ear Aviator Cap

Inspirations, Design, & Pattern

I had collected a bunch of inspirations for Aviator style cap. There was even one planned in my SWAP Fall/Winter 2014, though for a different fabric. The Block shown below was actually developed for that, which of course I haven’t got around to make. So count this make as a wearable muslin? Although this is knit, and the other isn’t, so maybe not so insightful as a muslin. Hmmm…

I had originally considered Burda 2011-10-149 fur cap for that planned faux shearling aviator cap. But because my head is really flat in the crown, I was worried standard hat pattern won’t fit well. RTW hats tend to fly off easily. And a floppy fabric one that mold to the head might just show up my deficiency. So I made my own Block from flattened plastic wrap + clear tape head mold. I added back some extra room in the crown, but not as much as in a standard pattern, just enough to disguise my deficiency slightly.

So how I ended up with ears…Yes I do feel a bit silly wear this. But you frequently see young ones in London & East Asian women in cute knitted animal face hats. I guess ultimately I still have East Asian blood flowing in me. Excuses excuses. In any case I consulted Burda 2011-10-142 animal cap which is a similar hat for children, but ended up going with the Block I already have with added ears. After all this is suppose to be a muslin right?

Fabrics & Notions

Construction Notes

I thought my fabric was thick enough to go single layer. But when I made up the single layer I found the result too floppy & unstable. Oops. So I ended up scavenging for scraps big enough to double all pattern pieces. This mishap did allowed me to hide the seams of the Ears to the cap & the strips of interfacing I used to stabilize the cap circumference & edges. The construction is otherwise unremarkable – apart from the general problems I had with this fabric. The Ears were the first time I tried using Flatlock stitches on a dart. It didn’t come out too bad. So now I don’t have to convert darts into seams – eg princess seams in my reversible skirt – to get shaping when using Flatlock as my primary seaming technique.

2-steps-Hat

The Convertible Mittens

Inspirations, Design, & Pattern

The mittens are the equivalent of impulse purchase. I had never lust after one. But as it was cold outside, I couldn’t find my gloves, and there was enough scraps left, I thought why not. I settled on mittens because fingers seem too fiddly to sew well in my spongy fabric.

After Googling “mitten sewing patterns” & “convertible mitten sewing patterns” I cobbled together different ideas & made up my own pattern to fit my hands as you can see below. There are probably simpler patterns one can use. But I didn’t want a visible seam line on the back of my hand, so I had to add extra bits like the “Back of Hand Tab”. You may be less fussy if you make one yourself! :@)

 

1-pat-Mittens

Fabrics & Notions

  • Fabric: 2.5 yd Mohair/Acrylic/Nylon Double-sided sweater knit from NY Elegant Fabrics ($59.95/yd)
  • Notions: 1/8″ elastics.

Construction Notes

Construction would probably be easier on the sewing machine. But my overlocker challenged me to flatlock the whole thing & I accepted. OK, I did have to tidy a few bits with hand sewing, and the finishing is a bit on the rough side. But for what would have otherwise been scraps they’re now serviceable mittens for a season or two. So can’t complain.

2-steps-Mittens

The Verdict

Regardless of whether these accessories are your cup of tea, or even mine, it’s quite satisfying to use up all the scraps without having to take up quilting or crafting! The hat – minus the ears – will probably get made again, maybe with chin closures for better practicality, for I haven’t given up on those inspiration images just yet. The mittens probably no, for I prefer gloves. Even as convertibles, they’re not as useful (for using smartphones while keeping hands warm) as I’d hope, because I discovered I actually use my thumbs as well when smartphoning.

So that’s the end of this double-sided fabric. Next up, my second attempt in recent years to make a pair of trousers.

Fix It June: Tote the II Forever!

Next up on my Fix It list: My replacement tote that’s barely six months old.

Self-drafted Tote v2

Sadly poor construction quality is not limited to fast-fashion RTW. Tote I lasted me almost two years. So it was definitely a WTF moment when the handle tabs on Tote II started doing this:

5-broken

I thought the thicker faux leather would last longer. I was wrong. I’m not exactly sure what happened, but here are my suspects:

  1. 5-compareDifferent D-rings I used this time have rectangular wire profile where as Tote I had rounded wire profile. Combined with heavy grocery maybe the pointier edge acts like knife edge.
  2. Lack of tab reinforcement from woven interfacing. Can’t remember whether I reinforced Tote I, but Tote II definitely needed this. And it needed a stiff interfacing at that. For these softer tabs keep shifting to the extra pointy corners of the D-rings.

I decided changing 1 would be too much hassle, so 2 it was then. Apart from a layer of old woven interfacing, I stiffened the center bit that goes around the D-Ring with a double layer of Ban-Rol (precut interfacing for waistbands that won’t collapse heightwise). I bought these long before I discovered that standard waistbands don’t like¬† my short-waisted torso. Now it finally found a use!

The replacement tabs had to be hand stitched and the stitching shows on the inside of the bag. Not brilliant. But at least functional. And thanks to an old-fashion thimble and needle grabber, I managed to do it without spilling blood.

While I was at it I tried to enlarge the zipper pull too. Clio was right that Lampo zippers are some smooth operators. And Don Morin was right that a large ring pull is a plus for practical zipped bags. My Lampo’s pull was lamentably anemic. My stash & trash yielded no matching ring pull of any sort, not even a keyring. So I end up wrapping the existing pull with a scrap from the tab redo. Hopefully this tote will now last me a while longer.

5-fixed

Fall-Winter 2014 SWAP … batch 1 designs

I had these design & inspiration posts lined up for ages now, but got distracted¬†then lost the mojo to finish them. But as Me-Made-Tote the Second is from this batch, and possibly the next two projects, maybe it’s time to finish them.

batch 2 designs
- SWAP2014aw-2-inspirations

So you’ve seen the tote already.

The fake fur shawl should be dead easy. But I’m not sure how useful it’ll actually be. I love the glamor &¬†already bought the fake fur ages ago. On the other hand, it’s so fiddly to wear &¬†isn’t really that warm as it only covers the shoulders. I’m not one who need only spot protection from the cold. Chunky short sleeve sweaters have never made any sense to me either. The other fake fur (shearling) shawl I made a while back has been languishing in the closet collecting dust. So maybe this one can wait.

The fake shearling aviator hat on the other hand would be so timely as height of Winter approaches. This would help me use up the rest of the fake shearling.

But I think I’ll probably make the two white ‘sweaters’ next. I’m losing my sewing room to visiting relatives over the coming month. And for these two I plan to add knitted ribs to the woven gauze bodice. So I can do the knitting while the sewing room is out of commission. I would have loved for both garment to be made from knits entirely. But I couldn’t find any plain mohair sweater knit in a neutral off-white color. What I ended up getting was loosely woven mohair gauze from Moods in NYC, and matching mohair yarn to knit the collars and ribs for the sleeve and bodice hem.¬†The sweater proper is to replace a RTW I loved that I mistakenly shrunken in the wash & dry. I’m hoping there’ll be enough left of the gauze to make the¬†long sleeve shrug.

Lastly are designs for the loveliest double-sided mohair sweater knit I got from NY Elegant. I love both sides of the fabric. And I could really do with some black garments. I’ve been going all browns & colorful lately that my black wardrobe is in seriously neglected state. But it would be a sin to hide the sumptuous orange mohair side. So more reversible garments it is. I’m thinking princess pencil skirt to cut down on the bulk. But I wanted a bit of variety in my pencil skirts. So this one will have asymmetrical front & slit. I haven’t decided on the top. I was originally thinking another cowl sweater, but now think a sweater jacket would be more versatile. Either the Burda option which is quite simple and potentially boxy, or the Vogue option which is more shapely, but might not be as versatile as it might not look as good worn unbuttoned.¬†The other problem with the Vogue option is that it has waist pleats. That might look weird reversed. In any case I won’t have to decide until I get my sewing room back post-holidays.