March 2014

A very quick project

Well I was wrong, the next project turned out to be super-quick.

My favorite pencil case (which travels everywhere with me) finally broke earlier this year.  It’s been sitting very sadly on my desk waiting for a replacement.  If I’d known how easy it would be to do I would have gotten around to it much sooner.

I started by measuring the case: 5.5″ around and 8.5″ long.  I cut a piece of leather slightly wider (it broke because I was trying to stuff too much in it) and longer: 6″ by 9″.  I folded the leather as it would sit in the final pouch and used a glue stick to attach the leather to the zipper at the correct place.  Note that zipper is quite a bit longer than the pouch.

Next I opened up the zipper and topstitched through the leather and zipper.  I got a little bit of practice sewing with this leather in the last project, and found that it works best if I stitch on the slowest setting and use a slightly longer stitch length.  I did a bit of practice on a scrap to see where to align the foot.

Now I opened up the zipper all the way.

And turned the pouch inside out.

I used a bit more glue to keep the  open ends of the zip aligned properly and stitched across the top and bottom.  I also added a little leather loop to the top like in the original pouch— also placed and stabilized with glue.

Et voilà:

I think what made this so easy was the gluestick.  Seriously, why hadn’t I tried this before?  The number one thing I find myself fighting with on the sewing machine is fabric slipping out of place as it goes through the machine.  Can I use the gluestick on ordinary fabrics and zips?

I am so pleased with this pouch I might try making a leather bag next.  Also requires no fitting.  And I love being able to make a bag that exactly fits the things I carry.

Thanks to everyone for your very nice comments on my free-form tunic!  I was really happy to have something finished to share.


Comments (4)



For a while I’ve had this image of a garment pieced together in layers like geological strata.  But I put off making it because figuring out the pattern (all those seam allowances!) seemed daunting. Then one day in the shower it occured to me that I didn’t need to make a pattern at all— I could make it in stages (“organically” as Myrna calls it) and fit the pieces together as I went.

“Geological” is still a good metaphor though because this might be the slowest garment I’ve sewn yet.  I started by going through my fabric closet and picking out a bunch of fabrics with similar weights.  I cut these into long strips about 4-5″ wide so I could piece together the inset.  I did the piecing very freely, letting the inset gradually curve, and occasionally holding up to myself to see where it would fall.  At the end I redid a couple of seams to adjust the curvature:

Next I cut the basic pattern pieces from a ponte knit.  (I traced the pattern from a favorite Old Navy tunic/minidress thing.  I made the back and front almost the same with just a little more room in the shoulders on the back.  The sleeves are symmetric.)  In a sketch I’d made I had a contrasting stripe at the bottom, so I auditioned various fabrics before selecting a lighter-weight knit in a similar (but lighter) muddy taupe.  Here’s the inset laid on the front of the tunic:

Next I drew (with tailors chalk) on the inset where I wanted it to show and trimmed the edges to the correct width (plus 1/4″ seam allowance).  I drew the same shape on the tunic front and cut that out, marking where a couple of the pieces should fall to help me line up the curved seams.  Keeping the seam allowances narrow was key to all of this working out.  Also, careful pressing.  Here’s the front with the inset inserted, before final pressing and topstitching:

Because I was going so slowly, I thought to add a lining to the back of the inset (made from the same lightweight knit as the hem-band).  This should keep the wool bits of the inset from scratching and it allowed me to finish the bottom edge neatly.

After that it was pretty easy to sew front and back together and add the sleeves.  At the moment the sides are only basted— it does fit, but I don’t really want it to get stretched out by my 7-months-pregnant belly.  Sometime next winter, after my shape has stabilized, I’ll serge the sides.

Overall this was a fun slow project.  I got to use a bunch of fabrics that I love but aren’t all that practical for me for a full garment (i.e. wool suitings).  I enjoyed piecing together the inset and solving various construction problems without worrying about how it might fit.  And it nicely brought together some of the things I’ve been playing with in art (abstraction, variation in spatial frequency, earth tones) with garment sewing.

The pace of this project was also well suited to writing up a manuscript (which we finally submitted last night, hooray!), being generally pregnant and sleepy, and paying attention to a 3-year old.  Which is to say I expect there to be more “geological” projects in my future.


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