Saturday, 26 September 2015

Bags, bags, bags

Ever since I can remember, I've loved bags. There was always a reason to have just one more, for a very specific purpose. You couldn't possibly use the 'folk festival' bag for a weekend trip, for example, and the weekend trip bag wouldn't possibly work for the 2-month jaunt around Europe. And we're not talking luggage here, but tote bags, hand bags, book bags, shopping bags...the list is endless. Needless to say, over the years I've accumulated quite a collection. Funnily enough (and luckily for my husband), I never developed an obsession with expensive leather handbags, but I have discovered the joys of sewing my own bags.

A few years ago, a close friend in Edmonton introduced me to the Amy Butler diaper bag pattern and I was hooked. As luck would have it, when I returned to London, I found more Amy Butler bag patterns on sale, which I of course had to buy. I've since made myself the Reversible Sunday Sling as a swimming bag, lined with water-resistant fabric. I've also made it as a diaper bag for a friend, and as a knitting/sewing bag for my mum. 

Both those bags have lots of nice details and pockets, but my current favourite is the Swing Bag, which seems to be discontinued as I can't find it on their website. I've made it three times with slight variations each time. The first I made with Amy Butler prints, but those are hard to find in Singapore. 

This one was made with a lovely Japanese cotton canvas (found in Chinatown at Malin Textiles), thick enough that I didn't have to line it with canvas as suggested in the pattern:

The black and white one was a gift for a friend, and she suggested a pocket for a phone would be a good addition, as well as some way to close the bag. so I made this one:

I added a button closure tab and cell phone pocket. In theory this bag is reversible, but the pocket would end up on the outside, so I suspect whoever ends up with the bag won't be reversing it very often! I didn't intend on keeping this bag for myself, but I might just give in to temptation...

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Boxy Pouch...Take 2

After the mathematical miscalculation that resulted in the first boxy pouch being rather small (although perfect for small toiletries or golf tees!) for the friend who requested it, I had to try again. I'm sure there is some sophisticated method to calculating exactly how big your rectangle of fabric has to be cut based on the desired height, width and depth of the finished pouch. I am not that way inclined, however, so I used my own method, and luckily, it's just the right size!

I used the tutorial at Make It Modern as a guide.

If you cut your fabric 5" x 7 1/2", the finished pouch measures 4 1/2" long x 2 1/4" high x 2 1/4" wide. The corners are mitred 2.5cm in from the corner, and approximately 5cm across to get the boxy look. 

For a bigger pouch (finished dimensions 6 1/4" long x 3" high x 3" wide), you'll have to cut your fabric in a rectangle measuring 10 1/2" x 7 1/4". I also discovered through some trial and error that you need to mitre your corners 4cm in from the tip to get the right boxy effect. And you'll need a longer zipper, of course. 

I used medium-weight interfacing on both, but because the small one is lined in plastic-coated fabric, I think it holds its shape a bit better.  

Off to make yet another boxy pouch - this time a small one with an outer loop for my father who wants to use it for his golf tees!

Monday, 21 September 2015

Puppet Show Shorts

Moving to Singapore a little over two years ago meant my knitting slowed down dramatically (who needs sweaters in the tropics?!), but I did start sewing a lot more, largely for my children. I soon discovered that, a little unsurprisingly, sewing patterns for little boys from the major commercial pattern makers were...well, ordinary. So began my exploration of what more lay out there in the great world of sewing, other than what I could find in big fabric stores (like Spotlight, here in Singapore). And this is how I discovered Oliver + S. I admit I was first attracted to their cute paper doll graphics on the patterns, but after spending far too much time going through the blog, the shop, and reading reviews, I was convinced to buy a few patterns to try for my two little ones. Living in Singapore meant the shipping costs for paper patterns were quite high, so I opted for digital patterns. I'm still not sure if I like the process of printing, cutting and sticking together the patterns myself. My local print shop apparently does not have the large format paper needed to print all the pieces on one page, so every so often, my floor is covered with little strips of paper. Luckily my children seem to find these great fun to play with!

One of the first things I made with an Oliver + S pattern were the Puppet Show Shorts for my daughter.

The pattern directions are really clear, and other than the time it took to assemble the pattern pieces, these were really fast to make. I love the pockets and they fit really well. I'm inspired to make lots more, and in this weather, shorts are a year-round wardrobe staple!

Friday, 18 September 2015

Sewing, knitting and writing about it all....

My great-grandmother taught me how to knit when I was 7 years old. I still remember trying to get a consistent row of knits and purls while my great-grandmother, my grandmother, my mother and several great-aunts sat in the room, busy with their own knitting projects. I dreamed of the day when I'd move beyond the slightly wonky rectangle to an actual project that looked as intricate as everyone else's, with cables and lacy patterns. I'm proud to be a fourth-generation knitter, although I still haven't perfected the art of watching TV while knitting (and actually watching TV rather than just listening to it while keeping my eyes on my needles!).

My mother taught me to sew when I was 8 (late, in her books, since she was sewing her doll's dresses when she was 7!). After many hours of lessons in hand-sewing, embroidery, using the machine, and several mishaps with the serger (one which led me to swear off sewing for several years), I am happy to say that I not only love sewing, but spend far too much time hunting for new and exciting patterns, and am trying to learn the more technical details of modifying patterns. I also seem to have inherited my mother's inability to pass over a beautiful piece of fabric ('I'm sure I'll find something to do with that!').

Living in a tropical climate means that I am knitting far less these days, but sewing a lot more. In some ways, this isn't a bad thing...sewing a garment is a lot faster than knitting it, but it is harder to watch TV and sew!

Over the years, I've knitted, sewn, and cross-stitched more for others than for myself. I'm hoping that by writing about my adventures in 'making' that I'll have a way to document and remember all the things I give away, as well as all those I do end up making for my family or myself! project #1: a little boxy pouch, yet to find a home.
Little boxy pouch - thanks to for inspiration

It was meant to be a lot larger, but thanks to my poor engineering skills (more on that later!), it's a bit tinier than expected. I'm sure someone (maybe me?!) will find a good use for it...