Saturday, November 26, 2016

Red patent leather tote

Thank you for your comments and support on my last post--I really enjoyed reading them, and how we support each other.    Thank you!
Front, no tassel


Dad and I didn't celebrate Thanksgiving until today, which meant that Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday were total play days for me!   And of course "play" means "sewing"!

I bought this red patent pig leather from Fishman's Fabrics during PR weekend in Chicago this year.  When I bought the leather, I had not sewn with leather before except for a hands-on workshop I took with Kenneth King at the ASE in 2014.  I found those notes this summer, and did some more research into working with leather, which resulted in the aqua lamb leather bag I made at the end of July--copious details are in this blog post.  I have used that bag a lot, but I had not interfaced the handles and they have stretched significantly.  So when I made the Blue Calla Boronia bag for the PR contest, I fused interfacing to the handles.  Those handles did stretch just slightly, like 1/8", but you know I notice those things!  So this time I interfaced the handles with buckram, that I bought at Kashi's.  I'm thinking they are not going to stretch at all but I will report back.

My main leather advice (after making 2 full-leather bags and one partial leather) is:
  1. Use a new rotary blade and made as continuous a cut as you can (quilting rulers really help)
  2. Use a fresh leather needle (size 18 for this project) for the main bag sewing and yet another fresh leather needle when it's time to stitch the topstitching
  3. Use a teflon foot and put tissue paper that matches the leather between the leather and the machine bed to stop the leather from sticking to the machine.

Planning it out

Planning out the rough positioning of the front /back of bag, the upper interior lining and the straps....ballpark idea here which wasn't the final positioning as I wound up initially cutting the handles extra long)

Everything cut out and lining interfaced. At this point I wasn't sure if i was going to use the 9" white zipper for the interior zipper pocket or cut down the 30" red one....

The exterior
I wound up using a cutting mat as my template--which was 18.5" long x 14.75" tall.  I used a 1/2" seam allowance.  This time I boxed the corners so that the result is a 4" box.

The lining

The lining is a Liberty of London Xante Sunbeam cotton voile that I bought from Mood specifically to coordinate with this leather.  I interfaced it with interfacing from Fashion Sewing Supply to beef it up a bit.  I only had the light proweft in stash but would have preferred to use the medium.

Patch pocket

I cut the pocket 8" long by 6" high, then folded over the top 1" and stitched down.
Then I applied Wonder Tape around the three edges, peeled it off and centered it on the lining.
I used this silver pen (purchased at SIL Thread in NYC) that writes on this leather to draw the stitching line and mark the pivots for the corners.  This pen happens to wipe off the patent leather with a wet cloth, so it is easy to remove the markings afterward--but always test first!

I stitched a triangle at the upper right and left corners for security.

The zipper pocket


And I added an interior zipper pocket using my favorite tutorial.

I had a double-pull "girl with the ponytail" 30" zipper custom made at Botani, because I was thinking I was going to use this leather to make a Boronia Bag.  But after making the Boronia bag, I doubted that the patent pig leather would survive the "bag birthing" process.  So, I shortened the zipper down to 9" in the most wacky way possible, sigh.  It is not pretty but it's all hidden by the lining and is functional.  And now I have ~19" of the other side of the zipper to use for another project.

Bag Bling and Peltex
I applied the bag bling (here you can see what it looks like from the inside--it's like a big clasp) and cut a piece of peltex to fit in the bottom of the bag.
bag bling

Attaching the lining to the exterior
I used wonder tape to hold the interior to the exterior....along with a lot of wonder clips

I topstitched along the top of the bag, and used my 1/4" foot with tape on the bottom to prevent it from sticking to the leather, and with red tissue paper underneath to keep the leather from sticking to the bed of the sewing machine.  This was at 3.5, 3.5, 4.8.  Honestly I didn't like my first attempt and cut it off then tried again.

The handles

Above is how I made the handles, clockwise from upper left:
1)  applied three rows of Wonder Tape (WT)
2)  removed the adhesive backing and layered on the buckram
3) applied three rows of WT
4) removed the adhesive backing and layered on the other strap

In between each step I used the brayer (that rubber roller thing ) to flatten out the WT and help it adhere.  It also gets any "bubbles" out.

You can see the thread tails on the left side of the pic....and where I *carefully* unpicked the stitching to shorten them down. You can also see on the right side of the pic how holes made in leather always stay!!!

The handles were originally 34" long--i made them extra long with the idea that they would extend way down onto the bag yet still have 27" of clearance.  I wound up shortening them down to 30" by carefully removing the stitching I had already stitched, moving them out of the way, then used my machine, starting and ending with long thread tails and with the needle in the previously made hole, stitched across (to make it look like I had stitched, pivoted, stitched across, pivoted, stitched back up) using long thread tails on each end and stitching across with the machine, pulling the tails to the back and knotting .    They were topstitched using my 1/4" foot at 3.5, 4.0, 6.0.  I really had to crank up the tension to get the stitching to look good on the front and back--but somehow they looked the best fro the back!.    The thread is regular Coats and Clark thread, color #2250.

Making a sample (at the top--used red tissue paper between the handle and the machine bed because the patent leather was sticking to the machine bed otherwise) and the two final handles....

I know I said that last time (with the aqua bag) I wouldn't make the handles as wide, but I did!  I cut them 1.5" long and after stitching them, I cut them down so that the stitching is only 1/8" away from the edge.  this gets them down to about 1.25" but really I should start with 1.25 and then cut them down to 1".

The  rivets
Instead of sewing the handles into the bag like I did with the aqua bag, I decided to use rivets.
Used my silver pen to initially mark the position--too bad i didn't take another pic, I really had a lot of lines to mark the locations!

I attached the handles to the bag using the small sized double capped rivets from  Since they are double capped, they are pretty on the inside, too.  The "handmade (with a bird)" bag  bling is also from Emmaline Bags.

Boom! Rivets!

The tassel
I made a tassel using the instructions from Laura Bennett's Handmade Chic book, but made cut the original rectangle 14" x 4" to result in a longer, wider tassel.  However, I'm not sure the bag really needs the tassel, as the tassel obscures the rivets when the bag is upright.


The completed bag!


So I kind of want to make a leather backpack!  Not now, but early next  year. Well, probably not now.   Stay tuned!!

Be well!

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Part 1: Devastation. Part 2: Doris.

Iris, me and Doris Rigg
Me with my Great Aunt Iris (left) on her 100th birthday (1/1/2016) and her best friend Doris (right).

I've been feeling devastated since the election results, just like how I felt when my mother died.   I try not to use catastrophic language, but it is how I feel.  It was shocking and surprising, even though looking back, for both events, the signs were there all along.  During the year, I was feeling anxiety that he might win, especially after Brexit.  I started donating to Clinton's campaign, the first time I ever directly contributed financially to a political campaign.  Ultimately I was comforting myself with the NY Times Election forecast, which put Clinton's chances of winning at 65% at the lowest point during the summer and at 84% on election day.  The NYT forecast also included forecasts from other entities, and they all predicted a Clinton win.  My dad said that she was going to win and when is my dad ever wrong???

She lost the electoral college.

It's like I'm feeling all the stages of grief all at once.  I went to work, but I didn't shower for 3 days.  Suddenly I felt this power inside me, my 18 year-old feminist self, who chose to attend a women's college, crying and screaming at once, totally outraged at our choice of president-elect.  I suppose as much as his supporters feared Clinton, I am fearing the next administration with a Republican controlled house and senate, 2-3 possible Supreme Court appointments, and a person at the helm who has never held public office before and who encourages his supporters to engage in discrimination and violence.

Out of this feeling of devastation, another feeling emerged: an urge to "do good things".   I want to write about one of those good things here.

My great-aunt Iris has been best friends with Doris for ~75 years.  They met when they were nurses in their 20's.  I know Doris from family parties.  While I visit Iris in assisted living from time to time, I had never visited Doris.  Last year I called Doris and she said I could visit at any time, but I never did.  Post-election, I decided now is the time to get out of my introverted hermit shell and do good things.  Last Sunday, I saw Iris in the morning, saw my uncle (who I had not seen since 1999, and was visiting from TN), put flowers on mom's grave,  and then surprised Doris with flowers and a visit in the afternoon.  She is in a different assisted living facility not far from Iris.  

Doris was SO excited and SO happy to see me.  She was SO talkative too!  She had a lot she wanted to tell me.  She celebrated her 99th birthday in early October, and said she was so pleased I was there, so that I could see a card that someone had sent her--it was so creative and she felt that out of everyone she knew, I would appreciate the creativity of the card the most.  She talked to me about other people who had visited her, including one who "used the device that tells you to turn left at the blinker light" (Wouldn't it be fun if Google Maps actually used such terminology?!) 

I brought with me some of the things I had sewn, including the denim jean jacket, the bag from the PR contest and my aqua leather tote, to show her.  She loved the bags and wanted to know if chintz fabric still exists.

The newspaper with a headline about our president-elect was next to her the entire time, but we did not talk about the election.  We did talk about being and staying positive.  I told her I loved all the things she wrote to me on cards over the years, like "Do what makes you happy", "Keep on keeping on", and "You're a gem!".  That last sentiment I frequently used when writing back to her, and when I write to other special people in my life.  She said that staying positive is the only way to live.  I agree and later I was thinking,  I want to do positive things in my community, and donate to causes that will be impacted by the new administration.  I can't change the administration, but I can do positive things for those around me and within my community.

She stood up to hug me goodbye.  She said she hated to shoo me out, but that she had some things she needed to do before supper.  

On Monday, I went to NYC to spend the day with my friend James and to have dinner with James and Tomasa.  That night, on the bus ride home, my Dad texted me.  Doris died that day (Monday).  

Rest in peace, Doris.  You're a gem.

Be well and be kind and be gentle to yourselves and each other.  

Thursday, October 27, 2016

I won the Pattern Review Handbag Contest 2016!

Me and my handbag on Tuesday night.

I found out on Tuesday morning (from velosewer, who commented on my IG feed around 7:05am that morning) that I won the Pattern Review Handbag Contest 2016!   As I wrote on IG, I am excited, thrilled, and filled with gratitude.  Thank you for your support, kind words, encouragement and votes!

It has been a longtime dream of mine to win first place in a PR contest and I'm so excited that my dream has come true.  One of my coworkers asked me how many PR contests I have entered.  I counted 10 between the online contests (coat 2008; sewn hat 2009;  refashion 2010; activewear 2015; handbag 2016) and in-person contests at PR Day (LBD in NYC 2013--second place)  and PR weekends (badge holder in Chicago 2011, bag in NYC 2012, bag in LA 2015, accessory in Chicago 2016--second place).

It's also the perfect early birthday present--my birthday is on Saturday.  :)  My prize is a $100 credit to the PR site. I will have fun spending it!

My coworkers have been asking me what my next project is and while I have several ideas percolating (gray shrug, piped pajamas, red patent leather tote, denim dress with contrast topstitching), I'm just enjoying the moment and the win for now!

The full gallery of all entries sorted by votes is here.
My blog post about my completed bag is here.
And the post with the pix of the bag under construction is here.

Thank you again for your support, encouragement, and votes!

Be well!!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Construction photos of the Blue Calla Boronia Bowler Bag + Voting is Now Open!

Blue Calla Boronia Bowler Bag Me Holding the Bag

Voting is now open til Oct 24!  I would be beyond thrilled if you would consider voting for my entry in the PR handbag contest. If you've been a PR member (free or paying) for at least 3 months, you can vote.  The gallery of all 33 entries is here.

Since my last post focused mainly on the finished bag photos, I thought I'd show some "construction" photos here.

Blue Calla Boronia Bowler Bag: the embossed pig leather
Printed the pattern 4x and taped it together....ha ha for printing pages double sided.  Here it is on the pig leather from Kashi
Blue Calla Boronia Bowler Bag: Connector strap samples
I made a lot of strap samples before sewing "the real deal"
Blue Calla Boronia Bowler Bag: Connector strap excitement
Connector strap assembly line--As far as I can tell, I am the only entrant who used contrasting thread for topstitching on leather (it's gray to match the crosshatch pattern)
Blue Calla Boronia Bowler Bag: Making sure the straps are 5" apart with a 5" quilting ruler
Trick for making sure the connector straps are really 5" apart--used a quilters ruler (which I use a lot in garment sewing) which is 5" and lined up the middle of the ruler with the middle of the fabric
Blue Calla Boronia Bowler Bag: I used 0.75" tape to know where to stop stitching
How I knew where 3/4" from the edge of the rectangle ring was--with 3/4" scotch tape.  Also because the connector is folded around the rectangle ring and then under, I used a scrap of folded leather under the back of the presser foot as a "hump jumper".
Blue Calla Boronia Bowler Bag: Pulling the thread tails to the back with a hand needle to then tie them off
If I stitched up, over and down on my strap samples, the corner stitching kept popping out, so I stitched up, kept long thread tails, pulled them to the back.  Then I stitched down, kept long thread tails, pulled to back.  Then I stitched across with long thread tails and pulled to the back.  By "pulled them to the back" I mean I threaded the tail on a leather handstitching needle, brought the tail to the back and then tied it off.
Blue Calla Boronia Bowler Bag: Pellon Flex Foam wonder clipped to the exterior
Wonder Clipping the Pellon Flex Foam to the bag.
Blue Calla Boronia Bowler Bag: installing foam with a walking foot
Walking foot excitment (cue "walk this way" played over and over and over again in my head)
Blue Calla Boronia Bowler Bag: Exterior construction.  Pellon Foam Flex already installed
With rivets and feet and bag bling--installing all of that is SUPER easy.
Blue Calla Boronia Bowler Bag: this lining didn't work out; not on grain and too thick overall
The lining that was an utter fail (too thick, heavy, and off grain to boot)
Blue Calla Boronia Bowler Bag: Lining in stages
The lining that did work out!  Silver quilted brocade with NYC subway map interior zipper pocket of course!

Blue Calla Boronia Bowler Bag: Making straps
Making straps with a piece of tape on my 1/4" quilter foot so that it doesn't get stuck on the leather
Blue Calla Boronia Bowler Bag:  Rivet installation for the straps
Just add more rivets!! and done!
  Blue Calla Boronia Bowler Bag ECU straps
Take shots of the sexy straps
Blue Calla Boronia Bowler Bag Purse feet and close up of the "girl with the ponytail" zipper pulls
Take photos outside
Blue Calla Boronia Bowler Bag: Front view
Rejoice! The bag is finished! :)

There are more pix in this Flickr album.

If you'd like to vote (and have been a member of PR (free or paying) for at least 3 months), the gallery of all 33 entries is here.  Thank you for your support, y'all!  I really appreciate you!

Be well!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

My Entry for the PR Handbag Contest: Blue Calla Boronia Bowler Bag

MAYBE angle YES?
I clearly remember one time when I was looking through picture albums with my mom.  There were so many pictures of me when I was little--for the standards of that time.  She said that my great-grandfather remarked, "She is one well-documented child".  And this, my sewing friends, is one well-documented bag!
I created a Flickr album for this bag--it's in reverse chronological order, so if you only want to see the finished photos, they are at the front of the album, with construction pix toward the end.  All photos are captioned.  Depending on screen size, you may need to scroll down to see the captions.  You can use the left and right arrows on your keyboard to quickly move through the photos.  Or you can use slideshow mode by clicking on the "toggle slideshow" link in the upper right corner, but you can't see the captions, unless you use this link which launches the old-style Flickr slideshow and click on "Show Info" in the upper right corner.

Blue Calla Boronia Bowler Bag On my Shoulder
I've been working on my Pattern Review handbag contest entry since Sept 24, finished the bag on the Oct 9, and am planning on posting my review by noon tomorrow (Friday Oct 14), I posted my official entry tonight (10/13) which is due this Saturday night at 11:59pm EDT.

Blue Calla Boronia Bowler Bag Composite photo PR # 4
The pattern is one I found on Instagram, the Boronia Bowler Bag by Blue Calla.  It's a downloadable PDF pattern and I recommend printing out multiple copies so you can tape it full size together and not have to cut on the fold nor trace any pieces.  Although I have sewn bags before, this was my first time installing rivets and purse feet, as well as my first time using Pellon Flex Foam, and I will be using all three again!  It is super easy to install rivets and purse feet (I used this tutorial recommended on which gives the bag a professional looking finish.  The Flex Foam gives really nice shape and support to the bag without being stiff or heavy.
Blue Calla Boronia Bowler Bag Interior (better?)  PR photo #2
I used black pig leather for the bottom and straps, and used a super stable double knit black and gray crosshatch fabric for the exterior, both from Kashi (Metro Textiles in NYC).  The interior is a quilted metallic brocade from    The interior zipper pocket subway fabric is from The City Quilter.

Zippers, rectangle rings, and purse feet are all from Botani in NYC, and the rivets and "handmade" tag are from

Interfacing is in abundance!  The leather and all fabric was interfaced using Fashion Sewing Supply interfacing, and there is also a piece of Pellon Peltex sewn into the bottom of the bag, as well as the Flex Foam attached to the exterior.  The Pellon Peltex and Flex Foam were from Joann's.

Blue Calla Boronia Bowler Bag Handmade Tag
Of course I obsessed over perfecting my gray contrast topstitching!!!
Blue Calla Boronia Bowler Bag PR composite photo # 5

Above you can see the Pellon Flex Foam, and my in-progress top-stitching.
Blue Calla Boronia Bowler Bag ECU straps
Topstitched handles
Blue Calla Boronia Bowler Bag Strap detailing FOR BLOG
Loving these "girl with a ponytail" zippers!
Blue Calla Boronia Bowler Bag Strap Detailing

Sexy 30" zipper.
Blue Calla Boronia Bowler Bag Closed Side View

Pocket for my phone
Blue Calla Boronia Bowler Bag Patch pocket
Back of the bag
Blue Calla Boronia Bowler Bag Back View Angled
Below are some shots of sewing the bag with the interfacing and lining installed, and then "birthing" the bag through the interior zipper pocket!
Blue Calla Boronia Bowler Bag: Birthing and other tricky bits
Below is the "craftermath" or the aftermath of all my samples that I practiced on during construction of this bag.  Practice really does help!  And I had to abandon my initial lining choice because it was way too thick, heavy, and off-grain to boot, so I ripped that out and started the lining over with the brocade.  Also jeans topstitching thread was way too thick for this project, and I used regular Coats and Clark thread instead.  And along the way I accidentally dented my anvil for rivet setting and had to run out to Michael's on Sunday night at 5:30pm before their 7pm closing and hope they had one in stock (they did!)

Blue Calla Boronia Bowler Bag : All the practice samples and the lining that I had to rip out because it was too heavy and bulky
All the details about this bag will be in my PR review which I will link to once I finish writing it and post it  have now been posted in my PR review!   The gallery of handbags currently entered on the PR site is here.   If you are a PR member, (joined PR prior to July 15 of this year), you can vote from Oct 18-24.  Both paying and free PR members can vote!

More pix are in  an album for this bag on Flickr--including detailed "in progress" construction photos.

Be well!