A Carry-On for Me

Carryon Bag CollageThis summer has been filled with carry-on trips. My mother’s memorial service near Asheville, NC, required a Saturday morning flight down and a Sunday afternoon flight back with a knit dress, a pair of heeled sandals, and my cosmetic bag tucked into a carry-on bag. The next weekend I flew to Dallas on Friday afternoon and returned Sunday morning—another carry-on trip with the same knit dress and sandals so I could play a half hour of old hymns for my girlfriend’s husband’s memorial service. And a fleece jacket and closed toe shoes so I could watch my firstborn son play hockey. This was a great treat for me, my first game since he took up the sport about four years ago. ashI also got to meet and be scratched and bitten by his three-month-old kitten, Ash, who’s got a lot of learning to do about bonding with grandma! The next weekend was another short trip, a drive up to Lake Erie to attend a friend’s son’s wedding. A carry-on and a garment bag sufficed for that trip.

I’ve been getting a lot of use out of my Cleveland Orchestra Chorus backpack during these trips, but it’s not chic. And the space inside isn’t great. I wanted a me-made bag that I could tailor to my own needs.

I had had a couple of yards of Cotton + Steel/Moonlit/Tangrams in Indigo hanging around for over a year. I got it in a kit from Craftsy, but decided I really didn’t want to make the dress from that kit. Sometimes the fabrics you get from Craftsy are discounted so deeply you just can’t resist “investing.” (My son always scoffs when I call it investing. He doesn’t realize how much money he’ll make on the sewing yard sale after I die.) I looked at the size of each bag on the Swoon Patterns site, and decided Vivian, in the traveler size, was just the bag for me. My objective was to make this bag without a trip to JoAnn’s for any extra supplies. Alas, I needed navy zippers, so grudgingly made the trip and also stocked up on interfacing. But that was going to be the only trip. (Oh, stop laughing.)

IMG_3011I put in the zippered pocket, and it was the finest zippered pocket I had ever inserted into any bag. Until I looked at the pattern again and realized it belonged on the inside of the bag, not the outside. If my knees weren’t so riddled with arthritis, I would have kicked myself! (Really—just look at that zipper. Look at the topstitching. Now it’s got to hide on the inside of the bag.)

So after posting and asking for advice on the Swoon Patterns Facebook group, I decided I would use a solid navy for the exterior fabric and choose a color from the tangrams for belting for the straps and handles. I was looking for canvas, but JoAnn’s didn’t have navy canvas and the nice sales associate directed me to the 100% cotton duck. Perfect! Looking at the belting choices, I selected hot pink.

A wise shopper would have checked her hardware supply before leaving home, but I was obviously not having a wise week. When I got back home, I discovered I didn’t have any rectangle rings. But I did have some nice D-rings and snap hooks. So I made the straps with D-rings and put the snap hooks on the handles. I thought about putting a long adjustable shoulder strap on, but refused to make any more trips to JoAnn’s!

IMG_3012One other addition to the interior was also a mistake. As I was assembling the bag, I found one more pocket piece, but could find no reference to it in the instructions. It’s fortunate that the bag designer, Alicia, prints the names of each pattern on each pattern piece. I’ve got a new music tote bag, Alice, cut out, and one of her pattern pieces got mixed up with my Vivian pieces. (Holy Mother of Lost Needles, if I don’t clean up and organize my sewing space soon, I’m going to have to impose some sort of penalty!) So I had a lovely little patch pocket ready to go on the inside of Vivian, and decided to use a little leftover belting to hang a keyhook from the bottom of the patch pocket. I’m great at losing keys, and this way I can hook them in as soon as I get on the airport shuttle after parking my car and retrieve them a couple days later on the way back to the car. Brilliant! (I left the photo clickable so you could see the patch pocket—I don’t know why it’s sideways. But you can see it clearly!)

What dummy bought the wrong kind of zipper?

What dummy bought the wrong kind of zipper?

One more giggle for you about this construction project. You know how on your suitcases you can zip from either end of the zipper and if your pulls are together, the zipper is closed?
But isn't that a great amount of space when fully opened?!

But isn’t that a great amount of space when fully opened?!

Then when you move one of the pulls, the zipper is open between the pulls. I thought that was the kind of zipper I got. Nope. I have no idea how this zipper is intended to be used (probably a jacket—duh on me!).

This was my first experience with Alicia’s “drop-in” lining, and I was very impressed with how easy it was to attach. If you haven’t used any Swoon patterns before, I highly recommend them for the clear instructions. Many of you know I had a long career as a technical writer and legal writer and editor. Alicia is an expert at turning sew-ese into clear, easy-to-follow instructions.

IMG_3022So that’s the story of the riddled with oopses bag. I wasn’t sure about the cording as I was inserting it, but once it was in, I loved it. I will probably make my own on the next bag, rather than using a purchased product, but I think this looks pretty fine.

And the finished bag. My new Vivian will be put into use in two weeks when we head to Detroit to catch a Louis CK performance and do some exploring for the weekend.
Finished bag

Blessed Sewing Time!

Vogue 6136Finally! I was able to sneak fifteen minutes here and a half hour there over the past week and get a tunic top made, clearing one piece of yardage out of my stash. I’ve rescheduled my life for the next school year, and will have three weeks in a row mostly to myself in late July/early August, along with a two-day workweek throughout the school year. My goal for the summer is to reorganize my sewing room with a major declutter. But this accomplishment—the new top which I finished today—just whetted my appetite. That was sorely needed!

6136The pattern is Butterick 6136, another drapey, flowy tunic from Katherine Tilton’s marvelous brain and imagination.

The fabric is a rare acquisition from JoAnn’s. (Rare means I rarely buy fabric there—it doesn’t live up to my quality standards.) I really can’t even remember why I bought it. I must have had some event or trip that I wanted a new top for, and then it didn’t happen in time. It’s a rayon/lycra blend with what is referred to as a “wet hand.” I don’t really know how to define that for you, except to say it kinda feels like it’s wet when you touch it. I imagine I’ll get some comments here to clarify that. I love the colors in this print—black, brown, rust, deep red, and a touch of olive green or teal tucked in here and there. rustThe photo from JoAnn’s website does not show the colors well.

What should I have done differently. Well, this fabric has a lot of stretch. The pattern envelope wants the sewist to choose a knit with just over 25% stretch. Grab ahold of the fabric with your thumb and forefinger, hands held 4″ apart. Stretch the fabric. It should stretch another 1¼”. This fabric easily stretches three more inches. Walking backwards through the cobwebs of my mind, I remember the Stretch & Sew classes I took when my boys were two and four years old and I made all their little tee shirts and pull-on shorts. If your fabric has more stretch than the pattern calls for, you want to go down a size or two—depending on the amount of extra stretch.

With this pattern and this fabric, I should have cut a 14 instead of a 16. Because I didn’t, the tunic hangs loosely on me. I think that will just make it cooler in the few really hot days we have every summer. At least that’s how I’m going to justify what I did.

I actually made a 3″ box pleat in the middle of the back, around the bra line. It shouldn’t really show, as drapey as this fabric is, and it should pull out some of the excess.

(After writing all this and after dressing for dinner, I ran downstairs and took another 2″ out of the left and right side seams at about the line of the bottom of my bra. Better. Not perfect. But not so tent-like.)

And next time I’ll cut a smaller size.

But now I have a new top to wear out to dinner with friends tonight. And that makes me happy.

Bali Ready

M7020-neckbindingAm I ready for next week’s Bali Fiber Tour? No, I am not. I have several pieces of fabric to make into cute tops, and I think they will not be made before I leave. And you know how obsessive I get about my travel wardrobes.

What happened, you might ask. Life and school happened. Back in March I had six mini-opera performances, preceded by several rehearsals. And I accompanied and played in the pit for seven performances of My Fair Lady in Sharpsville, PA. Then there was Cosi fan Tutte at YSU, which has taken part of five days of each week since mid-January. We finished Cosi the 24th of April. Then there was a senior recital to accompany for a trombonist. His program included a Very Nasty Hindemith sonata. Then, right on target, I got the text from my brother than our mother was failing, so the first week of May I spent two days driving to and from Hendersonville, NC; a couple of hours practicing with all my voice students for their juries; one day playing for juries; and then on Friday I flew to Vegas and drove to Kingman, Arizona, where I met my new sister. (If you’re not up-to-date on this tale, it’s written here).

M7020-sleeveOne of the sweetest two hours of that crazy week was the opportunity to substitute for the Stambaugh Chorus accompanist and play the Fauré Requiem with them, a precious-to-me work that was sung at my late husband’s memorial service eighteen years ago.

So … insanity around here.

But I managed to scrounge up fifteen minutes here and an hour there over the past 10 days to finish one top for the trip. The pattern is McCall’s 7020, which I’ve made three times already. Those posts are here.

Backview, showing different stripe widths and orientations.

Backview, showing different stripe widths and orientations.

The fabric was one of MarcyTilton.com‘s “Cool Combos.” Marcy’s exquisitely curated site makes some really fabulous fabrics available to the home sewist. The combo I picked up was gray and white – a quarter inch stripe, a skinny stripe, both in very lightweight jersey. Then a heavier jersey printed with small white dots. I decided to use just the stripes for this top. Both fronts and one back were made from the wider stripe, the other back and the sleeves from the skinny stripe. And they were alternated horizontal/vertical on each piece—i.e. right front and left back stripes go up and down, left front and right back go side to side.

This pic should prove how lightweight the knit is. Yes, I will wear a tank under it!

This pic should prove how lightweight the knit is. Yes, I will wear a tank under it!

This was not a knit with a lot of give, so when I tried it on after applying the sleeves and sewing the side seams, the sleeves were too tight. I tried taking a narrower seam allowance, but they were still too tight. So I just cut the sleeves off, leaving 1″ of sleeve fabric. Then I cut ⅜” strips of fusible tricot interfacing, fused it on, folded, pressed, and double-needle topstitched. The hem was finished with the same method, 1¼”

I love it. What do you think?

And it’s super-duper cool for the heat and humidity of my Bali adventure. My flight lands in Depensar on Saturday afternoon, May 21.

Worn here with a pair of Eileen Fisher stretch crepe crops in "silver." I think the top would go just as well with white.

Worn here with a pair of Eileen Fisher stretch crepe crops in “silver.” I think the top would go just as well with white.

En Français

imageThe good news is I finally found some time, amid all my music-making, to get back into my sewing room. The bad news is this garment will probably never be worn again after its two minutes on the runway.

You may remember my posts in the past about my many enjoyable sewing experiences with my heart-of-my-heart grandson, Boston. Just to clarify: He now prefers to be known as Celeste and referred to with feminine pronouns. So here we go …

Belt with French-ish metal rose buckle. Denim casing with 1-1/2" elastic threaded through.

Belt with French-ish metal rose buckle. Denim casing with 1-1/2″ elastic threaded through.

I always feel elated when Celeste texts me and says she has a sewing project she wants to work on with me. So while my initial reaction to her text the day before her spring break was elation, my next thought was WHAT?!

Celeste enjoys her French class at Ursuline, but this practical if cynical grandma is questioning the real benefit of the project their teacher assigned to tide them over for spring break. (Wait. Isn’t spring break supposed to be about the break?)

Company logo

Company logo

Here’s the way I understood this project: The students were each to come up with a concept and a name for a fashion company, create some designs, create a look book, then make one of the garments, which would be presented during a class-time fashion show the Friday of the week after spring break.


Hem - interfaced with 5/8'  strip of fusible tricot, then folded, pressed, and 3x to-stitched.

Hem – interfaced with 5/8′ strip of fusible tricot, then folded, pressed, and 3x to-stitched.

Celeste named her company L’Usine de Denim. It would be garments and accessories made from denim. Her first designs were a sleeveless shift dress with belt and a hairbow. (At this point in her personal discovery, she’s all about the bows.)

Armholes with bias binding sewn on, then folded to inside and 3x top stitched.

Armholes with bias binding sew on, then folded to inside and 3x top stitched.

We talked about how to proceed. I searched through my pattern stash, chose the Textile Studio Basic Dress as something easily customizable, and then headed to JoAnn’s, where I spent $36 (!) on fabric, thread, a zipper, and thread. [I’m the grandma; I’m at a point in my life where I have some disposable income. What about these parents who are paying to put their kids in parochial school and they have other kids at home and typical family expenses. How tough to have their kids assigned a project such as this where they’ve got to spend time and money to accomplish it. I’m shaking my head ….]

Neckline, bound with bias denim strip.

Neckline, bound with bias denim strip.

Celeste had chosen or been assigned a model for the fashion show, and I had no idea of her size. How could I make a dress for an unknown body? And the model didn’t know her measurements. The most I could learn was her bra size, from which I discerned her “full bust” size. I grabbed an old sheet from my “rag bag,” an extra zipper from the stash, and quickly made up a “muslin” Celeste could take to her model for her to try on. I heard back from her on Monday afternoon that the size was okay, although it needed to be shortened, as she’s only 5’1″.

I finished the dress Wednesday night, whipped up the belt after my opera rehearsal on Thursday, and ran it to Celeste’s house. I’m still waiting for a picture from the fashion show and reassurance that all was well.

P.S. Friday afternoon report: The model was sick today, so another, much smaller girl wore the dress for presentation. These model for whom the dress was made will be there on Monday to wear it. I am told there were lots of compliments on our work. Yea.

P.S. Monday morning report: The model made it in today, and Celeste took a photo for me. I think the dress looks pretty darned good on her, for my only having known her bra size and height!! Happy Grandma.

Keep Calm and Sew On

imageI hate how busy I’ve been this semester. I’m preparing a full-length “Cosi fan tutte” for late April. A kids’ version of Cosi, with its own abbreviated score, will be presented the morning of that event’s opening. I have not yet seen the kids’ cuts, but know that I am the orchestra for that production, where I believe I’m only accompanying the recitative (but the entire score for all the rehearsals over the entire semester) for the full evening opera. A 45-minute opera for kids, Billy Goats Gruff, is to be presented today at Stambaugh Auditorium and then five times this week at local schools. And tonight starts tech week for “My Fair Lady” in Sharpsville [PA]. If you’re counting, that’s two major productions and two hour-long productions. A lot of black dots. And I accompany four voice students who have at least five pieces each in their repertoire, along with two senior recitals to play.

That leaves no time for sewing. And a big hole in my life.

imageYesterday morning I was exempted from the MFL rehearsal (big sigh of relief), so I snatched two hours and ran downstairs. Back in October or early November, I saw the pattern for the Bendy Bag from Lazy Girl Designs. It looked cute and quick and easy, and I whipped up several to take along to Thanksgiving in Amarillo to gift to my dinner companions. One friend of my Amarillo family wasn’t able to be at dinner that day, but I have been wanting to make another bag to send out to her. So yesterday I dug into my scrap stash and found enough leftovers from Gayle’s bag to make a Bendy Bag for Maria.

imageNow that I’ve made a bunch of these, I’m able to whip through them pretty quickly. There’s only one change I’ve made. At the bottom of the zipper, a tab is attached to extend the length of that piece to the bottom of the bag. But the way it’s attached leaves an opening that would allow small items to escape (Imagine a beader toting part of her stash in this cute little bag, or a jeweler with loose stones ….). So instead of edgestitching the folded end of the tab to the end of the zipper, I rotate the tab to place the folded end at the bottom. imageI turn in the raw ends ½” and press, then sandwich the stitching line of the zipper (where the instructions tell you to place the folded end of the tab) and edgestitch to hold it in place. Then I edgestitch down both sides of where the zipper tape is sandwiched and trim the sides of the tab (as instructed). The only difference is that you won’t see the zipper for your edgestitching. A quick chalkmark or a deftly placed pin will tell you where to run your edgestitching. And the resulting look on the inside is more elegant, to my way of thinking.

The only other thing I don’t love, but am willing to live with, is the zigzag finish on the seams inside. But honestly, not one person to whom I’ve given these bags has complained. 😉

I carry a Bendy Bag with me at all times in my big music tote. It contains all my chargers for page-turning pedal and iPad Pro and phone. I can imagine lots of uses for it, and know more iterations are in my future.

imageimageAnd finally, for your viewing pleasure, a B.B. I made two weeks ago for my granddarling’s high school French teacher. She likes foxes. I hope she likes the bag half as much as she is liked as a teacher.

If you’re interested in the fox fabric, it’s from Robert Kaufman’s “Creatures and Critters 3” collection, designed by Amy Schimler.