Improv Tote: WIP 2

Lucky you! An update within a week of my last post! 😉 Yes, a bit more progress was made on the tote. So, where were we?

The Handles Of Course


So I went with the D-Ring option in the end. I also removed the stiff woven interfacing from the cording – it was too stiff – and instead went with naked cording inside double layer of faux suede.

The part below the D-Ring ended up being a layer of vinyl leather over faux suede – for that fake leather thickness. I went for a Vivienne Westwoodish diamond shape cut out with the aid of a cardboard template. WIP-06

As you can see, plenty of double-sided tape was used in the process to hold the pieces in place. May not be what the professionals use, but it does the trick. And this bag is totally an exercise in using up the stash – decades old double-sided tape included!

So here are the finished handles. Don’t look too closely though. The sewing is all a bit wonky. But hey, for once it’s “Good Enough”!


Next up I sew in the zipper opening before attaching the handles to the bag.


As you can see, it goes from middle of one side panel to middle of the other side panel. I plan to finish it off with two vinyl leather tabs like the ubiquitous Longchamp Le Pliage tote bags.

WIP-09 WIP-10

And the handles were “baste” in place again with double-sided tape before being edge-stitched. BTW, the Teflon Feet comes in really handy for these faux suede and leather! But it’s a bit wide, so luckily my machine can swing the needle either way up to 3.5mm.

Where the handles are attached I reinforced the bag panels with the stiff woven interfacing. Because I’m paranoid about handle failure, especially with those heavy bottles of Coke Zero that my Other Half have me buy for him from time to time.

Bottom Up!

Next up is attaching the bottom. I did the two long sides first, then clip the corners (reinforced with Dritz Fray Check wherever I clipped), and finally sew the two shorter sides.


Now the Lining & Inside Pockets

Again in a stash-busting move I used whatever was in my stash no matter how inappropriate it might be. So standard dress lining it is then. Something tougher would have been better. But I’m being disciplined.

As a compromise, I fused the stiff woven interface to the lining instead of the bag fabric. I was going to use the stiff one on the faux suede and another lighter one on the lining. But extra layers means extra weight, however imperceptible it may seem while the bag is empty. Fusing the stiff interfacing also forced me to use up decades old Aleene’s Original Iron On Fusible Web.


The pockets are double layer lining interfaced with decades old Pellon Soft Shape interfacing. On one side I experimented with pleated pockets sewn into  the side and bottom seams. On the other side are flat edge-stitched pockets. We shall see which gets used more often!

WIP-15Rest of the lining construction is like the outer layer. With the addition of the stiff interfacing the bag stands up all by itself! I’m very proud.

And here’s a shot of the inside pockets. No zips inside. I don’t like too many hurdles to get to my junks.


Stayed tuned for the next episode, where the Bag and the Lining get hitched!

Improv Tote: WIP 1

Happy New Year all! Hope you all had a lovely Christmas and maybe even managed to get a fair bit of sewing done.

Sadly over here, hardly anything was achieved sewing-wise. Apart from over-eating induced coma I suffered a bout of Perfectionism. Hence the lack of activity here – it was just too depressing to write about!

But as the Sewing Princess reminded me, there’s a wonderfully supportive sewing community online, and I need not wallow in my fitting woes alone. So I’ll take some pictures of my Whack-a-Mole fitting problems on a sunnier day and maybe you’d join in with my Name That Fitting Gremlin Game. But not today. Today I want to talk about my first bag making attempt.

inspiration_originalA while back when I was traveling a bit, I wanted a replacement carry-on bag. The one I had was getting tatty in places and was a bit heavy once laden with all the modern-day gadgets. So I started cutting out fabrics for a replacement.  But when I measured the weight, my fabric pieces was working out heavier than the original bag. Some sewn products are best left to the professionals, who have access to special material that better meet the practical needs which we can’t easily get hold of in consumer fabric stores. Sigh.


So, what to do with the cut out fabric pieces? As they were originally destined for a rectangular bag, I decided to make a tote a bit like this £114(!!!) Vivienne Westwood tote bag:

Vivienne Westwood Battersea Print Bag Khaki

As my fabric is a polyester faux suede, I’m not sure how easy it would be to transfer printed images onto it. So I had to look for alternative ways of adding visual interests.

Hot Patterns Queen Of Hearts Bowling Bag & Hand Bag PatternI’ve always like corner patches like on Hot Patterns’ Queen of Heart Bowling Bag Pattern. So I thought I’d use some of scrap vinyl I have in my stash for this.

As you can see I don’t have a proper pattern and instruction to guide me. So I’m improvising as I go along.

One tutorial I am using bits & pieces of is this tutorial for a mini-bowling bag by Qazicat:

Qazicat Leopard Bowling Bag Tutorial …Like its instruction for the corded handle. Or how to stiffen the bag sides and bottom. Or order of construction. Useful stuff and clear instruction.

Love the leopard print example Qazicat shown as well. Would be perfect for Pretty GrievancesJungle January too (which I chickened out from – my slopers not being ready and all)!

Work In Progress

First off, attaching the vinyl patches to the bottom parts of the bag. As both vinyl and polyester don’t like high heat – and I’ve lost the instruction for the various interfaces and adhesive webs I have – I decided to just use standard double-sided tape in my stash. I’ll edge-stitch them as well just in case the adhesive tape lose its sticking power with age.

Here are all the patches – entire bag bottom, small strips on lower edges of the sides, and rounded bottom corners on the main pieces of the bag:

I’m using up decades-old stiff fusible woven interfacing on the back of the faux suede. I think they were for shirt collars and the likes. But again, heat issue with faux suede, so they’ll probably just be sewn in rather than fused.

I’ve also started on the handles. Here are thick piping cord wrapped in the same stiff fusible woven interfacing. The outer layer will probably be the faux suede. But I’m still pondering on whether to beef it up a bit with an extra layer. Or maybe even use thicker piping cord. At the moment it looks a bit wimpy compared to the size of the bag.

inspiration_handleAnd I’m also debating whether to attached the handles directly to the sides or to attach them via a D-ring so that they can hang down when not in use for more compact storage.

That’s it for now. For apart from fretting over fitting, I’ve also been busy stressing over our bathroom renovation, making endless plans and drawings to try to whip the builders in line.

New Bathroom

And of course now the builders have taken over a huge chunk of our apartment with inevitable dust everywhere, any sewing would have to proceed at a tortoise pace.

Hopefully it won’t be weeks for the next installment of this!

Cape WIP

No, I haven’t been playing truant. Work’s been rather stressful, so progress is slow with the cape. I’m almost there. Just need to attach the lining, finish the hem, the button holes and buttons. In the meanwhile, here are some WIP pictures. Non-sewers be warned – plenty of boring sewing details to follow!

The fitting tweaks…

So, after my disappointing muslim of Burda Style 2011-08-112, I enlisted the help of Big Bertha, my duct-tape twin (more about her some other day). She made me realise a few truths.

  1. My shoulders are lopsided.
  2. All those massage therapists weren’t lying, I do have shoulders of concrete.
  3. My neck sticks forward like a chicken, which is why all those RTW shirts gape at the back of the neck and choke me in the front.
  4. And finally, all those fitting experts weren’t lying either, if it doesn’t fit at the shoulders it won’t fit right elsewhere.

Here’s the muslim on Big Bertha…Back shoulder seam has been let out at the neck base to accommodate my concrete back shoulder muscle.  Similar amount has been removed from the front shoulder at the neck base…

All of a sudden the whole things hangs much better. Even the weird lumps at the upper arms seem less noticeable and the arm holes less restrictive.

But I decided to smooth out the lumps anyway and move the  arm holes as planned so I can gain some useful pockets.

I also let out a bit at center front for my chicken neck to roam freely.

Here’s the final patterns…

On the left are side-front & front, on the right are back & side-back. The new lines drawn on the old Burda patterns for comparison…

So the shoulder points have been moved inward & upward. I also increased the hem width of the sides by pivoting from the shoulder points to make the cape feel less constrictive.

The double-welt arm-hole and the pockets are my additions too. The arm-holes now align with my arms naturally at my sides. The top of the arm holes are about 2″ above my elbows to accommodate bent arms without bunching up above, and they extend just far enough  so I can comfortably stick my hands in my spanking new in-seam pockets! See…

And of course I can’t possibly commit to just one way of wearing it. So belt holes have been added in the front side seams just above the pockets.

Here they are, tried on with my Topshop trench belt for size & positioning.

So, with the patterns happily settled, the sewing commenced.

All cut out and…Oops!

Here are the fabrics all cut out, and reinforcement interface ironed on. Now for the oops…What is a sewing project without an Oops right?

In the dim light after work I stupidly forgot to check the direction of the nap. This fabric has texture a bit like pony skin with furry nap running downward. I cut the fabric upside down, so the nap runs upward. Great for catching crumbs! At least all of the pieces are in the same direction. Anyway, too late to cry over spilt milk & all that. So soldiering on…

Double-welted arm-hole slits



  • The arm hole slits being on the bias I thought I better interface it to cut down stretching.
  • Bulk was a bit of a worry. I allowed a bit extra width for the welt than I would on thinner fabrics. So 2 welts added up to 5/8″ width. I cut separate fabrics for each welt and staggered the seam allowances so that when finished, they’ll be graded for a gentler slope rather than one hefty 3 layer 1/4″ cliff.
  • Machine basting some guidelines followed by hand-basting kept the seam-rippers at bay. And voilà, here’s the finished welted slits.



And now for some Pocket Magic!

  • The original in-seam slits have been converted into in-seam pockets. They sit just below the waistline and I made sure they’re big enough for my hand. And my Oyster card. And my smart phone. What after my expensive disaster with Lilliputian Topshop trench pockets I was taking no chances.
  • They actually sit just inside the seam. I had cut 3/4″ seam allowance to accommodate the thick fabric. The pockets are sewn to the bodice with 1/4″ seam allowance, leaving about 1/2″ of coat fabric acting as facing. This prevents the lining fabric pockets from poking out, but without the bulk factor of a separate facing.
  • The pockets are actually backed by fitting muslims. I was paranoid that keys & co. will poke holes in my pockets no sooner than I finish the cape. So preventative reinforcement was patched on. OTT I know. Here are some lovely views of the innards….

What do you think? Should I just wear it out like that – yes, inside out? 😉

The state of the affair…

Look rather dashing don’t you agree? 😉

Just wait till you see what I have planned for the leftover! Yes, I’ve managed to squeeze enough for a handbag from the scarp. But plan for how to put that together is fuzzy as fuzzy can be.

One thing at a time. First get off this blog and get that old Viking Sapphire cranking!

Cape of Hope

I’m deflated. I thought for once I’ll be able to whip out a bought pattern design quickly then move on to fight my war with the moths. No such luck.

I traced the cape pattern 112 from Burda Style 2011-08. I then decided to make a muslin fitting first just in case. I reckon I can reuse the muslin as underlining for the cape itself, wool being generally too scratchy for my sensitive skin and an extra layer between the fabric and lining helps greatly.

So yesterday, I got the muslin basted together, tried it on. Shock horror, I look like a…

…fully padded out American footballer.

And here’s me & my cape…

See what I mean?

Worst yet, with all that extra room in the shoulder area, I still couldn’t move my arms freely if the cape is buttoned up. The holes for the arms are too close to center front for comfort. I want to rest my arms by my sides. I don’t want to walk around with my elbows glued to my waist and hands folded!

I don’t know if it’s meant to be that way – I’ve never wore a cape before. Anyway, it’s not comfortable. And I know I won’t wear it if it’s not comfortable.

I’m so glad I haven’t cut into the fabric yet. But what to do now?

I was feeling so flat last night I thought I’d ditch the cape idea and find another pattern for this fabric.

But then I found these cute capes on Asos this afternoon, and they gave me some ideas…

I’ll convert the original arm slits into in-seam pockets and make a slash on both side front panels for new arm slits where it’ll be closer to my sides and more comfortable. I might even raise the slit top a bit like the bottom two pictures, or maybe add welt to the slits like the top picture. That should fix the comfort problem and give me two useful pockets to boot! (It’ll definitely be lined, unlike the Burda original.)

That footballer shoulders will still need to be fixed somehow.

And I’m hoping I’ll have enough fabric left to make a handbag.

Like this Queen of Heart Bowling Bag from Hot Patterns:
(…which supposedly is inspired by a Vivienne Westwood handbag)

Or the Hepburn Handbag from Aspinal:

(I don’t know why it’s so difficult to find patterns for classic structured handbags. All the patterns I’ve seen tend to be oversized, or too casual. Crafty quilty country totes just aren’t my cup of tea.) Orange wool with the hand of cowhide + brown faux leather trims. What do you think?

Anyway, here’s to hoping that I’ll be back on track this weekend!

Hopefully there’s method in the madness

What do you do when you can’t decide? Go to Plan C of course!

In this case, a back-burner project that has sort of been in the planning for a while…A chemise type top, to be worn mostly under something else. I’ll show the inspirations & styling plans when it’s done. But the work-in-progress look so ridiculous that I just had to share…

Mad innit! Hopefully when the elastic is in it’ll look  sane again. I had to go to this extreme because I tried this gauze fabric – which used to be window drapes, though I think I bought yards of it in the dressmaking fabrics department…erm, where was I?

Oh yes, not limp enough nor crisp enough gauze. I tried to make a kaftan out of it. But it just made me look too well-fed as it was neither oversized nor fitted. So this time I’m betting on the gathering to actually making it look slimmer even though the ungathered state is way wider. I hope I can pull off this paradox. One things for sure, this one won’t be a No-Breathing Oops!

The pattern is sort of a Frankenstein’s monster – a mix of Burda Style 2010-02-117/118 and this simple instruction for Italian Renaissance raglan chemise I found online.

I’m just hemming it by hand now and waiting for the mail-order elastic to turn up – I couldn’t find any nearby, ridiculous isn’t it?

Stay tuned to find out if it goes onto my TBA pile or if you can really turn water into wine!