A Birthday Grab Bag

Today being my birthday, I decided to take the day off from work to spend time on my sewing and blogging.

I had to share the unexpected gift I received from my partner’s mom, Judy.  She did quite a lot of sewing back in the ’70s, on her mechanical Bernina (which is still in fine working condition today and is in use by her grandchildren). She had some vintage menswear patterns she’s no longer likely to use, so she passed them down to me as a very kind birthday gift.


Check out these lovely Simplicity patterns (click/tap for supersize versions):

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All jokes about the Bruce Jenner outfit aside, the other swimsuit patterns in Simplicity 5046 would look quite contemporary if made now, especially views 1 and 3.  The ties in Simplicity 9400 are wider than Montana, and I probably won’t make this pattern for my upcoming Tie project because I’m not sure the “E-Z” approach is going to lead to a nice-looking result.  Still, it’ll be fun to study the pattern to see how they went about constructing it.

Simplicity 6693 looks like it could be a winner; I haven’t thought about making a western-style shirt before, but this one has some nice details including an embroidery transfer sheet.  I’m curious to see how embroidery was done before we had machines that stitch out a fully-baked design at the push of a button. I have some cuts of Chambray fabric that I’ve been storing for a future project, so some of those might go towards this pattern.

Mr. Knit ‘n’ Fit

I also got some sweater patterns, which look like a real treat.

IMG_0039I had sort of thought about making a project with sweater knits, and I was impressed by MainelyDad’s recent experience making his Phony Missoni sweaters at his blog, The Japanese Pattern Challenge.  So maybe now I have some inspiration to make my own sweater!  The raglan-style sweaters look the most interesting.

Stretch & Sew

If that weren’t enough in the way of sweater patterns, I also got two vintage Stretch & Sew patterns along with a full instructional guide to the Stretch & Sew technique.

From what I gather, Stretch & Sew was a popular pattern brand in the 70s that specialized in knitwear.  Ann Person developed her own techniques for sewing knit garments on a conventional sewing machine – in the days when zig-zag machines were less common, and before sergers were available to home sewers.

The centerpiece of Person’s technique was to use a longer-than-normal straight stitch, and to stretch the knit fabric as it went through the machine.  After the fabric recovered from the stretch, the stitching also had some “give” in it to stretch along with the fabric when the garment was worn.

IMG_0028I got two patterns, a sweater pattern with set-in sleeves and a dress shirt pattern.  The sweater pattern also has design variations to sew it up as a cardigan.  I’m not sure if the dress shirt pattern uses knits or if it is in fact for wovens.  The pattern instructions are not definitive on this matter; the yardage chart has a note about extra fabric needed for bias collars, but the instructions contain fabric care advice for knits.  Clearly a muslin is in order to sort this out.

(Update: The front of the envelope says “This pattern designed exclusively for knit fabrics”.  A dress shirt pattern for knits?  This sounds like a sewing adventure in the making.)


Instructional Handouts

One thing I have heard from Judy is that we have it good in the age of the internet when it comes to sewing instruction; in her heyday, she got a lot of her sewing knowledge from pamphlets and photocopied handouts. She included some period instructional materials that are fun to leaf through.

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I also got a really nice dictionary of fabric and textile terms. IMG_0038 IMG_0037

All this stuff is fascinating from a historical perspective, as well as being instructional and useful.  What fun!

Next Time

I’l pick up on the Weekend Duffel project.  Major progress to report.


The Weekend Duffel Part 3: The Yellow Duffel Moves Forward

I thought it might be good to give a progress update on the Weekend Duffel project.

I went to Fabric Outlet to find new lining fabric for both bags. For the yellow duffel, I found a gray quilting cotton that was a shade lighter than the gray cotton-poly which shrank to the point of being unusable.  For the rocket blue duffel, In place of the navy blue lining I opted for a royal blue cotton-poly quiliting fabric which is a little bit lightweight, but was okay once interfaced.


I ran both cuts of fabric through the washer/dryer twice, and ironed them with steam. I also pre-shrank the fusible interfacing, following the instructions given in the book Tailoring: The Classic Guide to Sewing the Perfect Jacket. Basically, you soak it in warm water, press between towels to get out the excess moisture, then lay aside to dry.

With everything preshrunk, I went through the tedious task of re-cutting the lining pieces and interfacing, and fusing them together.  This time, there were no incidents and everything turned out satisfactory.

Interior Pockets

Part of the reason I signed up for the course is that the bag pattern is a good one; I spent some time looking for downloadable patterns on the Internet and didn’t find anything as nice as this duffel pattern.

I started work on the yellow bag first, with the gray lining. One side of the lining has a series of divided pockets; these were easy to sew. One thing I did that the instructor did not do was to reinforce the tops of the pockets with a bar-tack stitch.  The Juki F600 has a bartack mode that works well and can repeat the same settings, but as far as I can tell you do have to watch it because you must manually signal the end of the stitch.

IMG_1779The other side of the bag lining has a zippered welt pocket. The procedure is pretty much identical to the zippers I made for my hoodie project, where I sewed kangaroo-style pockets with zipper openings.

The instructor has you shorten the zipper, then cut the welt; I decided instead to cut the welt first, then measure the zipper to fit and then shorten it.  Zig-zagging in place across the zipper teeth created a new zipper stop on the open end.


View of the completed welt zipper.


Here’s a view of the back, before sewing the pocket bag.IMG_1782

I didn’t need to, but I used an overcast stitch on the pocket bag to keep it from fraying, and I did an extra round of seaming to reinforce it.  I don’t want to have to repair the pocket bag after the duffel is completed.


Exterior Pockets

The bag has two styles of pockets to choose from.  One is pleated, the other is a bellows style.  I like the bellows pocket because it has a cleaner look.  I also opted for magnetic snaps to close the pocket over a twist lock, again for the cleaner look.

I won’t go into the details of making the pockets and installing the snap hardware, because I don’t want to give away essential details of the course.  Here are the bellows pockets, completed except for outside pleats and installation on the outer side panels of the bag.


Attaching the bellows pockets to the bag was easily the most difficult construction step to this point.  I discovered the limits of my sewing machine – it refused to sew through somewhere around twelve folded layers of canvas, lining and interfacing at the corners of the bellows pocket.  (I’m using a size 90 jeans needle).


Here’s one of the two completed bellows pockets, with the pocket flap basted into place.



I recently placed an order for 50 sew-in tags from LabelsAndRibbon.com.  I found them on the forums at PatternReview.com.  Compared to some other label places I’ve seen, their prices are really competitive and their online app to create your own designs is really superb.

Their basic “Woven Label – Text and Symbol” designer allows you to choose background and text colors, font, and provide up to three lines of text.  You can also add a symbol from a library of icons.  I discovered that you can create a divider line graphic nicely by entering in a row of underscore characters as the middle line of text.

They claim delivery in three weeks, but they were faster than that; my order arrived yesterday, less than two weeks after I ordered it. I chose 50 tags rather than 100 because I wasn’t sure if I would like them, but 100 tags is a much better deal price-wise – $34, not incl. tax and shipping.


I stitched a tag inside one of the bellows pockets.


Next Time

I keep pressing ahead with the duffel bag project. I think I want to get these things knocked out before going back to work on the pants.  But rest assured I will; I’ve purchased David Page Coffin’s new Craftsy course Pant Construction Techniques: In the Details and I’m looking forward to some pant-making soon.

Always Pre-Shrink

I spent all of this afternoon fusing fabric pieces for the Weekend Duffel project. Here’s all the pieces of the yellow bag fused, right before starting work on the blue bag.


I approached all this fusible interfacing with trepidation, because fusible interfacing has a tendency to bubble and ruin projects. I was especially worried about the fusible fleece, after reading this article that was really critical of the stuff, showing a picture of a handbag ruined by bubbling fleece interfacing.

It turned out the fusible fleece didn’t give me trouble at all – it fused to the canvas pieces without causing any problems. The lining pieces, fused with Pellon SF-101 woven interfacing, were a different story. I didn’t pre-shrink the interfacing because of the yardages involved, but when I misted the cut pieces of SF-101 interfacing at the ironing board, I could actually watch them shrink.

The gray lining fabric gave me minor problems with bubbling, but the navy blue lining fabric gave me some significant bubbling on the wrong side. Here’s how one of the pocket flaps bubbled:


What was odd, was that the bubbling wasn’t visible on the right side:


Then I noticed that the fabric was smaller than the interfacing – this wasn’t the case before fusing them.

That was the moment I discovered the ugly truth.

Not pre-shrinking the interfacing was the least of my mistakes. The interfacing was bubbling because the cotton-poly lining fabric had shrunk significantly, in one direction, under the steam from the iron.

This gray lining endpiece is supposed to be the same size as the yellow end panel beneath it:


The blue fabric piece below shrank from 20 inches wide to 19 inches:


And it’s twin in the gray lining fabric shrank from 20 down to 19.5 inches:


The shrinkage makes all the lining fabric unusable for both projects.

Fortunately the canvas, which I cannot replace, did not shrink.  And the lining fabric is easily replaced from the fabric store.  But it is a setback in terms of wasted time and effort.

The Weekender Travel Set

Once again, I’ve decided to expand the scope of a project.  What started as a duffel bag project is expanding into a coordinated travel ensemble.

The idea came to me while I was considering what to do with the scraps of canvas, in yellow and rocket blue, left over from cutting the duffel bags. There’s not much left, especially the yellow, but there was enough left over to make some wallets using this tutorial from Purl Bee.

Then I realized I have plenty of the black canvas left over, enough to make a dopp kit that would complement the duffel bag nicely.  From there, the idea of a coordinated travel set was born:

  • A Dopp Kit. Made from black canvas using bits of leftover colored canvas as accent.
  • A Travel Wallet. Fellow blogger David at Design Closeup has a nifty tutorial for sewing up a passport holder, which Wil at Thin Man Sewing also made up with embroidered designs.  Again, I plan to use the black canvas with colored canvas accents.
  • A Laundry Bag. Here I’ll depart from canvas. I’ve always been intrigued by ripstop nylon – it seems so technical – and so I’ll make a laundry bag from it.  The ripstop nylon will contain used underclothes, while packing up small so it will fit in a pocket of the duffel when not being used.

Together, I’ll have everything I need for a weekend getaway, or a short business trip.

Pants Fitting Update

Tomorrow, I plan on shifting gears back to the pants project, to produce a new pattern with the alterations I know are good to make.  More on that soon.