A Coat in Central Park

I’ve recovered from a trip to NYC celebrating my 30th birthday, and I’ve got a few photos to share.  I was warned it would be cold there, but no amount of warnings prepared me for just how truly cold it was.  It’s not exactly that it was so much colder in NYC than anywhere else I’ve been, but the amount of walking outside we did was exponentially more than the norm for me.  I was never all that bothered by the cold in Texas this winter when I’d hop from one warm building to the next.  But it only took a minute for my hand to become icy cold in NYC when I was standing on a sidewalk trying to use my iPhone  to navigate the direction to the next tourist attraction.  We quickly learned the value of layering clothes, I bought fleece lined tights at the local Duane Reede, and we took turns taking gloves off to use our phones.

I had four wonderful traveling companions…and I didn’t manage a photo of all of us.  So here are 3 of the 4 beauties I spent most of my time with.  My twin sister is on the left, little sister in the middle, and my Spanish friend Ruth on the right.  Ruth’s sister also joined us.

I won’t recount all the details for you, but we had a lovely time in the city.  I do intend to tell you all about the coat I made for my trip and the sewing blogger I met.

As for the coat, it’s a vintage Vogue Paris Original, # 2575.  I was drawn to the shape of the collar and the yoke details.  It lacks pockets, but after much searching for the perfect pattern, this was as close as I could get to a shape that I liked.  The side belting made adding pockets inconvenient, so I planned to wear gloves and not worry about pockets.


The pattern was interesting to work with because there are no side seams and there were 1.5″ seam allowances at several points.  I couldn’t disregard the instructions since the shape and construction were quite different than any other jacket or shirt I’ve made before.  So I completed all the written instructions, one step at a time.  The shoulders are intentionally dropped, and there are no shoulder pads or sleeve heads.  The yoke is stabilized with horse hair canvas, and all pieces are underlined with weft interfacing which added subtle stability and a nice layer to anchor hand stitching. This was my first time using weft interfacing; it’s kind of like cheesecloth–loosely woven, and it definitely requires the use of a pressing cloth.  I cleaned my iron twice and used multiple cloths while working with this stuff–it was icky and awesome at the same time!

The lining is a nasty poly fabric with an adorable Russian nesting doll print.  This fabric was awful to work with, but it’s nice and slippery as a lining.  I underlined the lining with a thick flannel for warmth (there by “interlining” the coat).  The flannel helped stabilize the poly lining and made it tolerable to work with.  Even with the interlining, I’m not sure this coat is exactly winter weight.  The outer fabric is an unknown wool that was given to me.  I think it’s on the lighter side for wool though and maybe not the stuff winter dreams are made of.  But hey, it was free, and it pressed and sewed beautifully.  Plus I just layered a sweater or other long sleeves underneath–isn’t that the point of a loose fitting coat, being able to wear layers under it?!


The sleeves are a tad long, but I’d prefer a long sleeve to a short one any day.  And that kind of sloppy fitting is bound to happen when you skip the muslin fitting, right?  I can live with it.



I doubled up on thread for the topstitching, not that you can tell.  I couldn’t find a topstitching thread in the right color, and after trying a couple different darker shades of brown, I decided the stitching looked best in a matching shade.



I used brown buttons from my vintage stash (same source as the wool) for the front closing and the cuffs.  I couldn’t help but wonder if the lady who bought the wool picked these buttons to go with it, or if she had other plans.  The only problem with vintage buttons is that I didn’t have enough… So I used some from my local fabric store for the belting.  The fact that they don’t match doesn’t really bother me.  11 buttons is kind of a lot, and I don’t care to spend another $20+ for matching buttons.


Central Park was a great place for taking photos.  It’s beautiful even in winter.  But I’d sure love to see it all green too!

The final highlight of my trip that I’d like to share with you was meeting one of my sewing heroes, the blogger behind Ginger Makes.  Sonja is one of my favorite bloggers, and I regularly buy patterns based on her recommendations because she sews garments that are practical and spectacular.  She was kind enough to meet up with me and show me around Mood Fabrics too.  Thank you Sonja!!  I did buy two lovely fabrics at Mood, and I hope to share those as finished projects with you sometime this year.

2 Archers + Black Shirts

December is the perfect time to appreciate a long sleeve button up shirt such as the Archer pattern by Grainline Studios.  The weather suddenly turned cold (like, seriously, overnight freezing) in Texas, and I was in a hurry to make something long sleeved to wear to work.  The Archer button up shirt fit the bill perfectly.  I made it up in black cotton sateen.  This was my first time working with cotton sateen, and I am in love!  What a beautiful fabric.  The slight sheen makes it a touch fancier than plain cotton.

Please overlook the wrinkles–this shirt has been working hard.

This is my fourth black work shirt.  I’ve been using different patterns and buttons to add variety to an otherwise drab work attire.


Here we have red ladybug buttons.


I was quite pleased with my top stitching on this particular shirt; while not perfect, it’s one of my best looking shirts so far.

I didn’t want to write separate posts on my other black shirts, so I will just show them briefly here to record their existence in 2013.

I made Gertie’s blouse pattern from her book:

Complete with novelty buttons down the back:

I never thought I’d find a use for cute novelty buttons, but black work shirts are a great back drop for fun buttons (It helps that I work at a fabric store where these buttons are totally appreciated!)

I made my second slouchy blouse from Burdaystyle in a light suiting fabric:

This one has kitty cat buttons (which didn’t photograph so well–my fault).


And the first of my black shirts will go undocumented–the buttons are unremarkable as is the design.

So without further ado, here is my second Archer:

This one is made of a soft and cuddly flannel, finished just in time for the second cold spell this winter.


The plaid matching went fairly well.  For both my shirts, I left the buttonhole band attached (cut as one piece) to the right front, and I folded the band to the outside of the shirt (the right and wrong sides of both fabrics are indistinguishable from one another).  This method made matching the plaid across the button bands a breeze since I had one less piece to worry about.


I attempted to match the back yoke as well, but of course the pleat throws the pattern off, so maybe I should have cut the yoke on the bias instead?  I’m undecided.  Any thoughts??  The collar matched up nicely at least, so there is a continuous line down the center back.

I was disappointed that the topstitching did not go as smoothly on my second shirt.  The biggest problem was that I couldn’t get the tension on my stitches balanced correctly, so the bobbin side looked very sloppy.  I adjusted the tension to no avail, so I think I might need to take my machine in for a servicing.  It’s probably over due…


On both my Archer shirts I added sleeve plackets for a dressier look (I like sewing plackets!)

The placket adds a little width to the sleeve, so I made my pleats deeper to gather in the extra width to fit the cuff.  The cuff is quite large on my wrists though, so I think I will resize the bottom of the sleeve and the cuff on future shirts for a better fit.


Other than grading out to a larger size on the bottom half of the shirt, I did not make any fit adjustments to the pattern.  The shoulders are very slightly dropped on me but I decided not to change them at all.  The sleeves went in so smoothly (I didn’t even need to gather the sleeve head), and the overall look of the shirt is loose and casual anyway, so why mess with a good thing.

Sewing up two Archers was a pleasure, and I’m definitely appreciating the addition of two long sleeve shirts to my wardrobe.

Quilt Inspired by a Saddle Blanket

A couple of years ago, Erin (Miss Crayola Creepy) pinned a fabric on Pinterest that stole my heart.

It was “Charras” by Alexander Henry, and I finally decided to buy a few yards for a quilt.  With an ever changing plan, I went to my local fabric store to get some coordinating fabrics, and I left the store with a completely different color scheme than when I’d gone in.  Here is the result:

The pattern is inspired by Navajo blanket designs, specifically from a saddle blanket I have lying around the house. I used this tutorial to make flying geese blocks, and then I just played around with the pieces to make the bottom two designs.  The diamond shaped blocks are made using bias cut strips.



I quilted the blanket in straight (sort of) lines.


The quilting part was definitely awkward with so much blanket to feed through the machine, but it got easier as I went.  I didn’t have a walking foot, and there are lots of wrinkling spots where the fabric is pulled a little.  After washing the quilt though, the whole thing seemed to fluff up a bit, and I love the way it looks.  The wrinkles seemed more fluffy and less obvious.  It may not be perfect, but I love it anyway.  Mostly I just love the fabrics and enjoy looking at them.

The back is pieced together with a leftover strip of flying geese blocks.  I had at one point planned to use four strips of that particular block pattern, so I had made a lot of extra flying geese.  It worked out… I like the back almost as much as the front.

I liked attaching the binding and making mitered corners.

Sewing the blocks and strips can be a bit tedious, so I’m glad I went with a simple pattern that came together quickly (before I lost interest!)  I’m already planning another simple quilt.  The planning and math that go into a quilt design is quite fun and very different from garment sewing.  It’s a good change of pace.

Right now I’m finishing up a few Christmas gifts, and hopefully I’ll be sewing an Archer this month too!  And just as soon as possible, I’m planning to make a winter coat.  It’s gotten quite cold here in Texas this week (below 30), and I wish my coat was already done!!

What are you working on this month?

1940’s Jacket: Details and References

I want to share some close-ups of my jacket because a lot of work goes into the little details.  More importantly, I want to share some links to blog posts that were very helpful with the jacket construction.


This story was not supposed to include Mr. Jay Catsby, but let me explain how he made his way into this post.

He looks sweet, no?


Well he’s devious when he’s not sleeping!  After washing and pressing my jacket, I left it hanging on the door to my sewing room.  I intended to photograph the insides for this post.  Jay found it at night and decided to stretch his claws in the soft flannel; my hubby caught him!  Ugh, never leave anything precious within his reach.  Lesson learned.

Eek!  See that big thread he pulled up?  Ugh :(  And little claw marks all over.

Thankfully, I very recently read this post by Rosy at Sewingadicta on how to fix snagged threads.  It only took a moment to pull that loop to the interior, out of sight.  A little pressing minimized the other claw marks and snags.  Good as new.

So, back to making this jacket.  I made a coat once before, when I was a naive beginner.  I used a BurdaStyle pdf pattern, and without detailed instructions, I put together a floppy jacket that was a little too big.  I finished it just before starting this blog, so now I’ve got almost two more years of experience and blog reading behind me.  Now I know better.  Jackets need some interior structure to shape and mold the fabric into a proper jacket.

I’ve followed several bloggers through their coat escapades, learning as I followed along. And most of those adventurous gals used pad stitching.  I knew I didn’t want to do all that interior hand stitching, and the thin flannel fabric I selected was not a good candidate for pad stitching anyway (just look at my hand stitched hem–little marks all along the bottom).  I knew I wanted to use fusible interfacing for structure, but I didn’t know what kind of interfacing to use, or where to put it.  Also, what are sleeve heads/wadding, and how do those go in?

A little research helped me find my way.  I’m no expert, so rather than explaining every step, let me share the posts that I followed.

Sherry at “Pattern ~ Scissors ~ Cloth” did a sew along with tons of helpful information.  Here you can find the links to all her posts for the “Ready-to-Wear Tailoring Sew Along.”  I read through the whole process, but my pattern already included many of the alterations she made, so I skipped ahead to the interfacing process.

This post discussed interfacing as well as shoulder pads and sleeve head wadding.  I found a cotton interfacing at my local  Hancock’s that worked well enough, and I used a little bit of fusible horse hair canvas that I already had on hand as well.  I decided to make my own shoulder pads and wadding, using cotton batting and interfacing.  The shoulder pads worked fine, but in the future I would order sleeve heads… My hack job is a little bumpy along the sleeve head.

The above photo shows where I added interfacing.  The black stabilizer is a light to mid-weight fusible cotton, and the horse hair canvas is on the lapels (layered), creating the roll line and making crisp lapels.  I cut the horse hair canvas without seam allowance because I used it on a shirt in the past and found it difficult to turn and press.  If you really know how to work your iron, maybe you could tame that canvas, but I found it easier to keep it out of the seams.


I also layered the under collar with some horse hair canvas for greater support and shaping.  I didn’t quite know where the roll line on the collar would be, so that’s why I left some open spaces.  It worked out, but in the future I would more precisely measure and mark the roll line.  Here Sherry talks about where to add fusing, but I would recommend reading through all her posts because she covers fusing in several of them.

I followed the Coletterie tutorial on bound buttonholes and was pleased with the results.  I didn’t expect to like bound buttonholes so much, but they really do add a professional touch to a jacket.  Plus they make buttoning my jacket a breeze!


This is the interior view of the buttonholes where I hand sewed the facing down.

This project was also the first time I worked with stripes/plaid where I actually cared that the lines matched up.  Sunni wrote a fantastic post on where to match and where to let go of matching at A Fashionable Stitch.  It took some effort, but I’m pleased with the horizontal match ups I made!




The collar was the one vertical match up I went for, and you can see it’s quite off.  The stripe at the back was off-center, and I think I over compensated the wrong direction on the collar.  Whoops! :)

The lining is a quilting cotton that I had in my stash for a project that I never got around too.  I only had a yard, so the sleeves were cut out of a cotton batiste I also had on hand.


Here’s a close up of the narwhales; they have rosy cheeks!


Ok, enough pictures.  But let me share a few more links that helped me on my way.

Here Sherry goes over the sleeve head insertion.  I didn’t take photos–my sleeves aren’t the best, so look at Sherry’s!

Also, check out Tasha’s jacket here at “By Gum, By Golly–“those are some beautiful sleeves.  Her’s is one of the jackets that inspired me and provided a wealth of information on construction.  One of my favorite posts Tasha has written was on patch pockets; the same technique applies to collars and lapels.  Sherry covers altering the collar and lapel pattern pieces to cause the seam line to roll under in the same manner Tasha covers.  The beautiful thing about vintage patterns (at least the one I used) is that it already included these details in the pattern pieces.  In the past when notches and edges didn’t match up perfectly, I assumed it was a mistake.  Now I know that a little bit of easing is in order to make the notches match–it’s part of the intentional design and creates nice curves in the garment.

I think this is a record for the longest post I’ve ever written!  Hope you don’t mind.  I want to have notes to refer to, for my own use, and this is my way of sharing a little of the knowledge I’ve gained from so many other wonderful bloggers.  I hope it is a useful resource to someone else.

1940’s Jacket: Fall for Cotton Sewalong

I haven’t felt like blogging lately… And I keep putting off this post, even though I’m super excited to share my jacket with you all.  But the Fall for Cotton Sewalong is coming to an end, so here goes!

The Fall for Cotton sewalong combines the use of vintage patterns or styles with cotton fabric.  I chose Du Barry #5233 from 1941; I think the jacket style is classic and easy to pull off when mixed with a modern wardrobe.  I don’t own any vintage clothing, so it’s important to me that any vintage patterns I use coordinate with what’s already in my closet.

I found cotton flannel at, and for the lining I used some quilting cotton from my stash.

I will share some detail photos and references that I used tomorrow.  For today, here’s the jacket from the outside:

It is still too hot in Texas for wearing a jacket, even a light one.  Fortunately, last week I went to CA to visit my family and run a 5k with my mom and sisters.  I took my jacket and camera along, and the stars aligned for my photo shoot.  My twin sister is a hairstylist and makeup artist, so I asked her ahead of time if she would do my hair and makeup for a 40’s styled photo shoot of my jacket.  It just so happened that she also needed to bathe the horse she rides the same morning, so I jumped at the chance to take my photos with a horse.  I figured the jacket could easily be styled as a “riding jacket.”


The mare’s name is “Prada,” and she was quite the model.


She was drying off from her bathe at this point, so you can see some wet spots on her.





I went in for a close shot, and Prada wiped her nose on the jacket.  Typical horse behavior… And that’s why in real life, people don’t wear nice jackets to ride in (except for in the show ring).  The nice thing about a cotton jacket is that I easily washed it at home in the washing machine!  Of course it needed a serious pressing afterward, but it survived.

And here’s an outtake for laughs:


I think I was trying to tell the photographer what to do ;)  Many thanks to my sister Jessi for all her help with the photos, as well as my mom and dad who helped out.  My dad is a professional at waving his hat in the air to get a horse’s attention.

Seersucker Sundress

I made another sundress out of seersucker, this time in green gingham.  Cotton seersucker has earned a special place in my heart this summer–it really is quite comfortable in the Texas heat.  Don’t be surprised if you eventually see a dress in every color of seersucker that I can source.


I made it back around to Pattern Runway’s Gathered Sundress, and this time I made some fitting changes to the pattern and even made a muslin!  I basically kept the medium size shoulder straps but graded the rest of the bodice up to the large size.  My muslin had some gaping at the armholes, so I ended up reducing the curve in the side bodices (front and back) to eliminate the extra fabric.  I redrew my pattern pieces for the sides of the bodice and tested the fit on the lining.  The fit was great!  This is the best fitting dress I have made yet!!


It is so much more comfortable to wear a dress that fits correctly through the bust and shoulders, not to mention the waist.  I don’t have to suck my tummy in for the dress to hang straight ;)


I decided to change up the skirt and pockets this time around.  I cut a half circle skirt, a straight waist band, and drafted patch pockets.  I’ve been crushing on patch pockets; I see them a lot on skirt and dress patterns from the 40’s, and I wanted some for my own.  I found Tasha’s post on pockets quite helpful, but I may go back at some point and topstitch the pockets down.  Who am I kidding?!  I doubt I’ll actually ever fix these pockets, but I do think my hand stitching isn’t super strong.  On future projects I would consider topstitching patch pockets instead of sewing them on by hand.  When I put my hand in the pockets, the littlest bit of weight or pressure reveals a little space between the skirt and the pocket.  So maybe I just need to pull my stitches tighter?



I’m quite happy with the overall look of the pockets though, and they are functional.  I intended there to be a larger pleat down the middle of the pocket, but it looks more like a small tuck at the top.  A little ironing might help, but part of the fun of seersucker is the bubbly texture that defies ironing.  I added a strip of green bias tape to the pocket to help make it stand out a little bit.  The green of this dress is so subtle, I was desperate to add a little more color in.


I hemmed the skirt using my machine’s blind hem stitch.  Since discovering the gauge that attaches to the presser foot to help perfectly align the folded fabric, I have been quite satisfied with the results of the machine stitch.  I’m not big on hemming wide skirts by hand, so as long as the machine can do it consistently, I’ll skip the hours of hand stitching.


I’m thrilled with the results a little fitting and muslin testing can produce.  But now that I have a dress that fits well, I find myself shunning the older dresses in my closet that weren’t quite right.  Does anyone else have that problem??  I think it’s just part of learning…  And I seem to like learning the hard way since I generally pass on muslins ;)

Second Life Button Up

I’ve owned very few button up shirts that fit correctly, and they seem pretty elusive to shop for.  But even the few ill-fitting RTW button up shirts I’ve owned over the years have had a hold on me.  There’s something about the collar and buttons that I love.  Comfortable, yet a little more professional looking than a t-shirt.

I’ve wanted to make my own for some time now, but my journey didn’t start with much success.  I tried the Violet shirt pattern last October, but it was too boxy, and despite all the extra room, I still couldn’t move my arms comfortably.  So I tried it again last week, going down one size and doing a full bust adjustment.  From the bust down I had plenty of room, but the shoulders and arms were much too tight, and I didn’t quite know what to do next…  A bigger size wasn’t gonna solve any problems.

I finally decided to shelve the Violet pattern and go with a TNT pattern that was already a comfortable fit.  Why go through multiple muslins and frustrations?  So, my TNT pattern is my Sew for Victory dress pattern: Du Barry 5947.  I got rid of the vestee and just lengthened the bodice pattern.  Adapting this pattern to a shirt pattern was a cinch!

I made up a muslin and used a sleeve placket pattern piece to make a wider and longer pattern for a shirt front button placket.  It worked!


The button placket is hard to see with this floral print, but it’s there, minus any buttons.

It provides enough of an opening to easily get the shirt on and off, and with one button, it would be held closed, without any gaping or pulling.


I did pinch out a little bit of fabric at the neckline so that the collar would lay flatter, and I added a little more length to the bottom, but otherwise this pattern was ready to roll.

I had a worn out shirt of my husbands that I wanted to refashion into a shirt for me; the sleeves were a wreck, but the rest of the shirt seemed fine.


I traced the shirt pattern onto my hubby’s shirt, using the buttons as my center front.  I cut new sleeves from the old sleeves (I had lots of fabric to work with–my hubby is the big and tall type), and I cut the collar pieces out of the back yoke.


It was pretty smooth sailing from here, and I’m thrilled with the results!  It doesn’t hurt to have the button holes and buttons already finished.


Jay and Lucy love to hang out on the balcony, so they were all up in my business while I was taking photos.

I did not adjust the pocket placement at all, so the outer corner is practically in my armpit, but it doesn’t bother me. I don’t find chest pockets to be all that practical for ladies, but I don’t mind a decorative pocket.

Although the fit is loose, I don’t feel lost in this shirt.  I love the gathered shoulder details, and it is comfortable to move my arms in–win!!


I can’t wait to make more shirts with this pattern.

Do you like button ups?  Have you found the perfect shirt pattern?

Swimsuit in Navy

I’ve joined the ranks of the bombshell wearing ladies of summer!  Here she is, my first me-made swimsuit in striped navy blue.

This was not my first foray in sewing lycra.  I attempted to sew some high waisted swim bottoms before my trip to Europe in May, but I was short on time and the first two muslins needed more work.  I abandoned my sewing and picked up a swimsuit at Marshalls instead.  I had work to do, friends to visit and needed to pack–I couldn’t stress over swimwear.


Well, I was pleasantly surprised when I returned home and had a chance to read some blogs.  The bombshell was popping up everywhere, and I was stoked to find out Heather Lou did us all a favor and published her lovely swimsuit pattern!!


It was tough deciding which version to make first.  While I went with version B, I still think about version A and what might have been.  But ultimately, I really like the plunging neckline of B.  But here’s where I ran into a little trouble:  I think the waistline might be a smidge to high and/or loose for me because it was riding up and causing a little bit of gaping around my girls.


I didn’t want to unpick the elastic and layers of zigzag stitching, but that’s what I did.  I completely took apart the front waistline and reassembled it, stretching the elastic tighter the second time around.  It really helped, and the top is laying a little more flat and secure now.


Looking back on the pattern and measurements, I realize I probably should have graded to a smaller size for the upper waist–I’m definitely pear shaped.  And if I shortened the bodice a half inch or so, the top of the waistline would sit a little lower.  The bodice length doesn’t seem too far off though, until I tie the halter straps.  The straps need to be quite snug in order to prevent gaping, and I think that is partly why the waistline is pulling upward.  SO, I think I would start by narrowing the waistline on any future versions.


The only other area that did not fit satisfactorily was the back bottom.  The outer fabric is kinda just hanging loose back there.  The lining fits snuggly, but the outer fabric is cut wider than the lining, and the gathers are droopey.  One reason I can offer for this is that the side seam is pulled toward the back where the front lining ends.  I used a thicker navy lycra to line the back piece, and I think it’s stronger than the skirt panel where there isn’t lining in the front, resulting in the seam shifting towards the rear.  It’s disappointing since the gathers over the bum are such a cute design!  It wasn’t until after I finished the leg openings that I realized how much that hanging fabric bothered me.  And I really didn’t want to rip all that elastic out and start again.  So, I’ll just live with a little sagging in the bottom.    Next time I think I’ll trim the outer fabric a little closer to the width of the lining–I don’t see the function in having the outer fabric significantly wider.  It would be easy enough to add a lining piece to the bottom of the front skirt to help stretch the side seams evenly too.  Working with lycra is like tug-of-war!  I’m just a tad imbalanced, but I am stoked on my new swimsuit and plan to make more.

I’ve got a version C in mind.  I hope I can get to it before summer ends.  I’ve been distracted this week with sewing a blouse, and I’ve got two sun dresses planned out, amongst other things.

What are you working on as we approach the last leg of summer?

The Oversized Tote

To recover from my rayon dress experience, I made a tote bag.  Easy, quick and perfectly practical–the best kind of sewing project.


I realized I needed a giant tote bag when my husband and I went to Lake Belton.  I didn’t have a tote large enough to hold 2 towels (make that 3 because the dog needs her own!), a water bottle, my phone, wallet, etc, etc.  (I didn’t want to carry my purse and another bag).  I really needed a giant bag to put everything in one place.

So, I whipped up this tote using materials I had in house (except I decided I had to have web handles that I picked up at my local Hancock’s).  I based the size off of two towels folded and stacked, plus a little more room for all my extras.

The exterior fabric is a heavyweight home decor type fabric that was given to me.  I applied fusible interfacing to give it a little more body.  The interior fabric is a quilting cotton.


The straps are attached about 2″ below the bag opening and across the bottom of the bag.  I used a full 3 yards of the webbing material for the straps, bringing the two ends together on the bottom of the bag.

I was debating whether to sew them in place all the way around when my husband noticed that by leaving the straps loose, I could fit a yoga mat under the straps.


I’ve never needed to carry a yoga mat, but I like the option!  It seemed like a practical design feature as well as an excuse to be lazy and leave the handles as they were.

Honestly, I attached the handles last, as an after thought.  I originally planned to make fabric handles and only attach them at the top of the bag.  But I decided a contrasting color as well as the strength of webbing would be better suited to the size of this tote, so I added them on last.  If I make another such tote bag (or if you, dear reader, should like to make one), I would attach the straps to the outer fabric before sewing up the bag.  It would be so much easier to ensure the straps were properly centered on a flat piece of fabric.

I took my tote down to the pool for a photo sesh, and I loaded it up with all the goodies one might take to the pool, lake or beach:  two towels, yoga mat, water bottle, sunscreen, sunglasses, ipad, phone, keys, camera, and room for snacks.

The bag easily accommodated all I needed (plus the yoga mat that I didn’t need!)


An interior pocket would be a nice addition, now that I think about it, to keep my smaller items from getting lost in the bottom of the bag.  But I’m really happy with my new bag, and I can’t wait for the next trip to the pool or lake.  I’m ready now.


Where do you go to cool down on a hot summer day?

The Industrious Sewing Machine

One day I’d like to make leather purses and wallets.  To sell.  I guess it’s because I enjoy purchasing fine leather products, and I’d like to be able to make them to the size and specs that would fit my needs.  And I figure maybe other people would like such particular size and shapes of wallets and purses too. While I may dabble in sewing leather with my home sewing machine one day, I know in order to get serious about sewing leather, I’ll need an industrial sewing machine made specifically to handle leather.

As I give thought to future business ventures and industrial machines, I am more than a little curious to hear how other people have begun their own business, especially as it pertains to sewing.  A good friend of mine, Josh, has been making minimalist running sandals, and he recently opened an online store.  I got the chance to pick his brain a little regarding the business and the industrial sewing machine he is using.  I thought other people might be interested in this little interview, so here it is:

What is the product you are making, and how critical is the sewing machine to the process?

I am making minimalist running sandals, and the sewing process is actually very important to all the models that I make.  Without sewing I was really limited in terms of what I could use as a sandal strap.  The best I had come up with was leather that was pulled through the sole and tied.  It would work for a while but it would wear out every so often and the process would be repeated.  I remember one time this happened while we were at the fair with you and Chris.  As I recall the only tools I had to repair it were my teeth, and fingers; needless to say I wasn’t thrilled with the leather knot.  Now I sew three parts on the sandals: the molded toe plug to the strap, the elastic heel strap, and the lace keeper.  Without sewing the performance and finish of the sandal are not possible.


What kind of machine are you using?

I am using a Singer 16-188 on a power table; the motor is a 1991 Consew.  According to what I read on-line this particular model was originally built to sew medium weight leather and upholstery, and it was manufactured between the 1920’s and 50’s.  My father had actually purchased it in the early 1990’s to sew the upholstery on his 1936 Ford pick-up.  That project continues to this day and the machine sat for about 20 years until I started making sandals.  The machine needed some attention when I unearthed it, and it was even beyond Jacqui’s ability to repair.  Fortunately I met a local seamstress who recommended a company in Los Gatos called Save Our Sew that specializes in repairing old sewing machines.  They repaired it and refurbished the table and now it is sewing very strong.  I personally don’t know that much about sewing machines but I actually think this thing is perfect for what I am doing.  I sew leather and Tubular nylon webbing; both materials are quite thick and need a pretty strong machine which this thing is.  It also has one of the first walking feet, so I read, this has been very helpful because it really helps to flatten and sort of press the material as I sew which is great because it makes the finished product stronger, tighter and looks better too.


How does the industrial machine compare to the home sewing machine?

Honestly I was a little bit intimidated when I first started sewing with this machine.  I have only been sewing for a couple of months now and I was just getting the hang of my wife’s Kenmore (which she had purchased when she was in Junior High).  However we were destroying it trying to sew this heavy material–it was simply not up to the task.  Back to the Singer, the motor is probably strong enough to turn a cement mixer, and it is honestly scary because if you really step on the peddle you could blast through your work in a heart beat or injure yourself holding the wheel that is connected to the belt.  In spite of the risk and the power of the machine, once I made the adjustment to it I really don’t want to go back to the home sewing machine.  It is consistent and it is totally unfazed by the material I am working with, and that is really nice because I can focus on the sewing rather than the machine which is what I was doing with the home sewing machine.


How does it feel to be a man who sews?  

Not that great. I was working in East San Jose building a retaining wall for about a month, and I had no time to get to the fabric store, and I really needed a tape measure.  Lo and behold I found one in Safeway one morning while getting breakfast and it was pink.  You can be sure a few jokes were tossed my way on account of the pink tape measure which I eventually gave to my daughter Naomi.  Other than the razzing over the tape measure sewing is simply another skill, and I think a very valuable one to have.  I like making things; in general I have found that I need to learn new skills all the time or I will not be able to realize my vision.  Fortunately for me there have been wonderful people who have been more than willing to share their skills and instruction in order to teach me how to sew and refine the sandals.  Hopefully I will have opportunities to pass on what I know and that can benefit others at some point.  So my answer is yes sewing is very manly don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.


Do you foresee yourself sewing anything other than sandals in the future?

At this point I can really only see myself sewing other models of sandals, but a couple of years ago I would never have thought I would be starting a sandal making company.  I am excited though to continue working with the sewing machine and the sandals because I know if I stick with it new ideas and skills will come, and who knows what the sandals will look like in a couple of years.

Has sewing broadened your horizons in anyway?

Certainly I am learning all about the sewing industry, manufacturing, working with suppliers, and technicians.  Sewing is a whole world unto itself.  One thing it has given me is a greater appreciation for the work that goes on behind the scenes to bring clothing and apparel to market at an affordable price that we can take for granted.  It is hard work and it involves a lot of risk, and my hat is off to all the men and women who have kept us wonderfully clothed. It is truly amazing.

Thanks to Josh for answering all my questions and for letting me try out the machine before I moved far far away.  

If you are interested in checking out Josh’s sandals, you can find Shamma Sandals here.