Thursday, 17 April 2014

My Leather Slouch Bag

Leather Slouch Bag

I think this is probably the coolest thing I have ever made! I can't believe I have sewn something with leather and it looks like a real bag! Am I talking this up too much? Take a look while I tell you all the details...

Leather Slouch Bag

Ages ago, the lovely Chris from Chris W Designs sent me her Snazzy Slouch pattern to review. I had a thought in the back of my mind that it would be really cool to make it out of leather. I've never sewn with leather before, but the idea stuck in my head.  As is my usual style, if I'm going to do something, I want to do it right, so I started reading about how to sew with leather.

I came across this Craftsy class, Making Leather Bags and it was just what I was after! It's full of fantastic tips for working with leather and leads you through every stage, from picking your leather to different seams, setting up your machine, designing your bag and how to finish it off so it looks great! I learnt so much watching this course, and it really gave me the confidence to cut into my leather and get sewing! The bags made by students of the course are quite inspiring!

Leather Slouch Bag

As I mentioned in my last post, the leather for this bag came from an old jacket of my Mum's. Upcycling the leather added a few extra challenges, because I had limited leather to work with, but it was such a fun experience and I learnt so much!

This was also the first time I've used rivets. I'm not sure why I was worried about them because they were easy to add and made finishing the strap off so easy. They also add a professional touch to the bag. Next time, I'll make more of an effort to line them up... mine are a bit wonky.

Leather Slouch Bag

Ok, so onto the actual pattern. My ideal handbag has about 284 pockets, one for each thing in my bag and this pattern has almost that many! There are 4 pockets on the outside, a zippered divider inside giving you two sections and 4 patch pockets. Ahhh, handbag organisation heaven! Actually, all of Chris' patterns have lots of pockets. The pattern itself can seem quite intimidating when you first get it as there are 56 pages, but that's just because the instructions are nice and thorough.

I love the style of the bag, but went for a short strap as I didn't have much leather left and I always wear my bag on my shoulder.

I changed the construction in a few places, just to minimise the numbers of layers of leather. The bag was all sewn on my home machine. It's a Pfaff and pretty tough, but still just a home machine. It coped really well and there were only two spots that it skipped stitches (there were 6 layers of leather).

Leather Slouch Bag

I've never had a real leather handbag before and I'm sure I will never be seen without a hand made leather bag again! The leather feels amazing and was lovely to work with! I still need to put the base in the bag and stitch the turning hole closed, but I couldn't wait to start using the bag!

Have I talked you into working with leather?

Please note that links to Craftsy above are affiliate links.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

No Sew Leather Jacket Makeover

Leather Jacket Makeover

Wondering why there are pegs all over my leather jacket? This was a quick little makeover/upcycling project and I'm thrilled with how it turned out. Best of all, there was no sewing involved!

Leather Jacket Makeover

This jacket was my Mum's when she was in her 20's. She hasn't kept many clothes from her younger years, but this jacket has survived. As you can see below, it was quite the impressive jacket!

Leather Jacket Makeover

In its full trench style, it was a bit much for me, so I turned it into a cropped jacket. There was a seam at the waist, so I simply unpicked it separating the top from the skirt. I glued the seam allowance down with fabric glue and clipped it with pegs to let it dry.

For the lining, I trimmed it in line with the bottom of the jacket and then sealed it with some fray check. Finally, I used some iron on hemming tape to turn up the lining edge.

The little makeover took me about 30 minutes all up and I've been busy working on a project using the skirt part of the jacket. If you follow me on Instagram, then you will have already seen a sneak peek, otherwise I'll show you next week.

Have you ever upcycled a leather jacket?

Leather Jacket Makeover

Monday, 7 April 2014

20 Tips for Writing Good Quality PDF Patterns

I love that there are so many indie pattern designers around these days. Modern day sewists are really spoiled for choice! You can find patterns and tutorials to suit any taste to make almost anything you want.

A lot of bloggers who like to sew are turning to designing patterns as a way to explore their creativity and earn a little income from what they love to do. It's always great to see an idea you have in your head come to life! It's even more exciting when you see other people making them too!

I have one pattern for sale, The Big Tote Bag and another pattern in the works. Does that make me an expert? No, but I have used a lot of PDF patterns...some are great, some are terrible! If you're thinking of writing a pattern, I've put together a list of tips that will make your pattern easy to read and understand which will make your customers very happy indeed! 

1. Use a plain, easy to read font. Sure, they look boring, but they are nice and easy to read! Save the fancy fonts for your cover page. Also, align your text to the left, not centred. Centred text alignment takes more brain processing and is slower and harder to read.

2. Group your steps into logical sections. This can be tricky, but the more prototypes of your pattern you make, the better idea you get. Think about things like grouping some topstitching together so that you wont need to be changing threads so often.

3. Number each step. If anyone ever needs to email you with a question, it's much easier for them to say 'I'm lost on Step 5 in Section 2' than 'I'm trying to insert the placket and I don't understand the bit where you fold it through'. Numbering your pages also helps.

4. Clearly lay out each section. Keep it ordered neatly with the steps next to their photos and leave a bit of white space between each step. The white space makes it easier to read and is handy for adding annotations.

5. If you're using abbreviations, make sure you use the full term the first time or list them in a glossary. Just because you know that RST means 'right sides together', it doesn't mean every one does. 

6. Include hyperlinks to techniques. These can be helpful where you don't want to explain a technique or you feel it should already be known by the user.

7. The more prototypes of your item you make, the better your pattern will be. You may find a better way to do something the next time you make it or you may pick up a simple mistake in your instructions or pattern pieces. Also read your steps as you are sewing through. Read every word! You'll be amazed what you pick up, missing words, extra letters...all these things that our brains fill in for us, especially when we've read something so many times.

8. If your pattern includes printable pieces, make sure you include a printing test square. This square can be measured up so that the user knows the pattern has printed out the correct size. Many times I have printed out a pattern, stuck it together, cut out the paper pieces and then thought, I should check the test square, and guess what, it was wrong! Thankfully I hadn't cut into my fabric. A quick reprint, making sure no page scaling was set in the options and my pattern was perfect! If the test square wasn't there, I would have no idea if my pattern was wrong and would have wasted my time and fabric making something that was never going to fit.

9. Include full size pattern pieces. There is nothing more annoying than printing out a pattern and then realising the pieces need to actually be printed at 200%. I don't even know how to do that!

10. Make sure your pattern pages will print on both A4 and US Letter sized paper. These papers are different sizes and there's nothing worse than printing it all out to notice that the sides (or tops) are chopped off and your pages are useless. Also remember that you can't print all the way to the edge of a page. Keeping your pattern pieces within 19 x 25cm (7.5" x 10") should ensure that your pattern pieces will print on most printers.

11. Include grainlines and notches on your pattern pieces and a pattern layout diagram in your instructions! These are one of the things you find in the Big 4 patterns that are missing from a lot of PDF patterns and they are so helpful!

12. Put your pattern name and logo on every pattern piece if you can. It's so frustrating finding a rogue pattern piece on the floor during a clean up and having no idea which pattern it belongs to.

13. Include a large format/copy shop version of your pattern. I'm so excited that designers are starting to include these with their patterns. For just a couple of dollars you can print out the pattern at the print aligning and sticking taping of pages needed! Also, this is more personal preference, but I don't think it's a good idea to overlap pattern pieces. The beauty of a PDF pattern is that you can just cut the pieces out of the paper and not bother with tracing. But when the pieces are overlapped (the lines of one pattern piece go over/intersect another, think burdastyle or ottobre) then it needs to be printed out many times or traced off the PDF).

14. Use contrast coloured thread when stitching. It makes your seams and stitches much easier to see in any photos. I have used white thread with blue fabric in this tutorial. Much easier on the eyes than a matching thread colour. 

15. Choose your fabrics carefully. On some fabrics the right side and wrong side look the same, which can make your instructions confusing. Try and pick a fabric with an obvious right and wrong side. Patterns on fabric can also make photos and instructions confusing. Fine stripes can be a real problem.

16. If you feel your photo may not be quite clear enough, feel free to add arrows, lines or notations to help get your point across. These can be done in fancy programs such as Adobe Illustrator or even just in MS Paint. You can see how much easier the image above is to understand with some measurements on it.

17. Use lot of pictures! Many people prefer to learn visually and they can make some confusing instructions crystal clear! You may also find that diagrams and drawings are better than pictures in some cases.

18. Test out your instructions by printing them in black and white. I also print mine out '2-to-a-page' (at 50%) to make sure that they are still easy to understand when small. If they look good like this, then you know they will be easy to read if someone prints them out b&w (I only have a black and white printer at home) and also if viewing them at a reduced size on a mobile device.

19. Make your pattern cutting lines different. And not just a different colour, but patterned too. Making each line style different  makes each size easily distinguishable when printed in black and white, not just colour. There's a great example in the test square photo above.

20. Get the pattern tested!! I cannot stress this enough. Your instructions make make complete sense to you, but could be very hard for someone else to understand. If your pattern is simple enough that you don't think the pattern itself needs testing, at least have the instructions proof read by someone who knows how to sew. 

If you're after an in depth course showing you in great detail how to create PDF patterns using Adobe Illustrator, then I can recommend Lauren's course over at Pattern Workshop. It's very comprehensive and Lauren has a great teaching style.

Alright, that's enough from me... Have you got any tips to add? Anything that drives you nuts in PDF patterns??

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

10 Refashion Projects Using Wool Blankets

Wool Blanket Upcycling

This post was originally blogged on House of Estrela as part of Refashion Month. With all the Fashion Revolution stuff going on, I thought it was perfect timing to bring it back home. Don't forget to join us on April 24th and take the Fashion Revolution pledge.

I get great satisfaction out of being able to give an old item a whole new life. It's thrifty, eco friendly and great for the creative imagination...I will warn you though, if you're new to repurposing, refashioning and upcycling, you may find it hard to throw anything away. Everything now has the potential to be something else! I will never pass up a wool blanket, they have so much potential.

Blanket Coat

1. Make a Coat! I made this coat from one Queen size wool blanket. It it the warmest thing I own and is affectionately called my 'blanket coat'. You can read all about it here. I think a kids Bomber Jacket made up in a wool blanket would also look amazing. I don't find my jacket itchy, but if you're worried, you can always line it, particularly for kids.

Sleeping Bag

2. Baby Sleeping Bags! No one seems to use blankets for babies or toddlers these days, it's all about the grobag. These sleeping bags keep your baby nice and warm even if they roll around or kick about. I have made up quite a lot of these over the years, from lightweight Summer bags to these warm Winter bags. I love using wool blankets for the batting because the wool is breathable, which is perfect if your baby is a sweaty sleeper like my boys!

3. Ironing Board Cover! Ok, this one isn't very exciting, but if your ironing board needs a new cover, why not make it instead of buying one. Use your favourite crazy print fabric on top (the one you bought because you had to have it, but it's too crazy to use on anything) and then use one or two layers of an old woolen blanket as the padding underneath. The wool can withstand high heat from the iron and is great for holding in the steam.

Cathedral Window Pincushion and thread basket

4. Pin Cushion! Did you know you aren't meant to put the polyester toy stuffing into pin cushions?! It can rust your pins! I also find that pincushions stuffed with hobby fill tend to be too light and move around a lot when I'm trying to stick the pins in. My solution is to use the scraps from my other wool blanket projects. I cut them into little pieces, about 1/4" square and use them as my stuffing. I will admit my hand can get cramped up doing this, so I usually give the job to hubby! The wool has a bit more weight to it, so my pin cushion stays still and my pins won't get rusty! All the details for the Cathedral Window pincushion above and matching thread catcher can be found here.

Saucepan Handle Cozy

5. Oven Mitt or Pot Handle Covers! Pieces from a wool blanket also make the perfect insulation for an oven mitt or hot handle cozy. The wool works just like insul-bright and you don't need to try and remember which side of the insul-bright goes where!

6. Casserole Carrier! I might be cheating a little bit...this idea is pretty similar to #5 in that it uses a wool blanket for the insulating layer. Take your casserole to the next Pot Luck in style. You can find a round up of free casserole carrier patterns here.

7. Quilt Batting! I've heard of many resourceful people who use the blankets as quilt batting! Second hand blankets have usually been through the wash a lot, so any colour run and shrinkage has been taken care of. I'd suggest trying to get a plain, light coloured blanket for this project as you don't want some bright green tartan pattern showing through your quilts top layer.

(image source, See Kate Sew)

8. Hats! When I think of a winter hat, I usually think of knitting. Sewing is much faster, so why not sew a hat? I love this boys hat pattern from See Kate Sew. It's also available in an adult size version.

9. Slippers! Slippers are often made from old felted wool sweaters, but a wool blanket will work just as well. There are a lot of tutorials around for making slippers just your size. You can find a few here, here, here and here.

10. Christmas Stocking! Ok, Christmas is probably the last thing on your mind, so you can file this idea away for later. A lot of wool  blankets come in traditional tartan colours... think bottle green, reds and gold. These colours are perfect for Christmas stockings! I have a free stocking pattern here.

How would you refashion an old wool blanket?

Friday, 28 March 2014

Sewing 101: Adding Trim to a Seam Without Pins - Tutorial

Adding trim to a seam - no pins needed

Trims are often forgotten about, but are a great way to add some interest to a seam or to break up two fabrics. In this tutorial, I'm adding ric rac (rick-rack) to my seam, but the same method can be used to add pom pom trim, braiding, or lace to your seams. Piping is also a great trim to use, but I find it needs a bit more effort to add. You can see my tutorial for piping here.

The best bit about this method is that no pinning is needed! I like to baste the trim down first, which makes it more secure and saves all that time adding pins.

Adding rick rack to a seam - no pins needed Adding rick rack to a seam - no pins needed

To begin, mark a line along your seam allowance on one of your fabric pieces (it does not matter which one). This can be done with tailors chalk, water soluble, air soluble or heat soluble pens. I've used a Frixion pen for mine as I prefer something that is easy to remove in case it can be seen in the finished seam. For this reason, tailors chalk would be my last choice.

Lay your trim on top of the line.

Adding rick rack to a seam - no pins needed Adding trim to a seam - no pins needed

If your trim comes all the way around and joins up (as in the hem of a skirt) leave a little tail on each end and bend them towards the seam allowance.

Baste your trim down aiming to stitch on top of the line you marked. You may wish to use a slightly longer basting stitch, or just a regular stitch length. I find it also helps to use a slightly different colour in the bobbin so that you can see your thread in the next step.

Notice that I have stitched slightly to the right of my ric-rac so that I get the base of the wave showing in my finished seam. Anything to the left of your stitching line will show.

Adding rick rack to a seam - no pins needed Adding trim to a seam - no pins needed

Place your other fabric on top. Now flip both pieces over. The bobbin thread from basting the trim will now be facing up.

Stitch your seam, stitching on top of the basting stitches or slightly to the left. If you stitch to the right, then the basting stitches will be visible.

Adding rick rack to a seam - no pins needed Adding rick rack to a seam - no pins needed

For a flat seam, press open, folding the seam allowance to the side you want the ric rac to come from. You can experiment here to see which way you prefer the trim to lie.

For an edge seam, press one of the fabrics back (as above) and then the other.

If any of your basting stitches can be seen, carefully unpick them. At this point, you may wish to do some top stitching close to the edge of the trim. And you're done!

Online Sewing Class
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