Sunday, 6 August 2017


Well hello, beautiful.

That's what I kept saying as this gorgeous bag came alive, piece by piece, in my hands.

It was only fitting that she should keep her name.

This is the first truly involved leather project I have worked. I've made a belt, a clutch, oversized bag and sandals. But in all those cases the patterns were drafted for me and provided at full scale, or in the case of the clutch, a very simple shape.

This bag came about after the utterly delightful and generous Jen contacted me to say she'd found this wondrous leather workbook on her opp shop circuit adventures. She thought of me, the clever woman, and much to my delight this amazing treasure trove of 70's leathercrafting and how-to's became mine.

Let me tell you, I devoured it as soon as I received it. My delight grew when I discovered it was published in the year of my birth. The projects are diverse ranging from bags of many sizes and shapes, sandals, belts, hats, neckties, aprons.... the list honestly goes on and on. And the introductory how-to chapters are fabulously informative and helpful.

I pretty much saw that bag on the cover though and thought you will be mine. My love of veg-tanned leather shoulder bags has a history. One where my amazing hubby drafted a bag pattern exactly to my specifications and then went on to make me the Bespoke Bag of Love which you can read about here. I use that baby every. single. day. She needs some serious leather-conditioning love. She's been loved almost to death. But because she is so beautifully crafted she'll be rejuvenated and live another day.

In the meantime, I felt this bag calling my name. Loudly and incessantly. A trip to Birdsall Leather later and a single shoulder of this beautiful cognac veg-tanned leather was mine. And coincidentally it matches my boots!

The most time consuming part of this project was drafting the pattern. As you can see from the book images above there was a tiny, pretty poorly detailed sketch of the pieces needed and their suggested scale. I'm fussy. I like certain curves. I like certain dimensions. I like certain strap lengths. So of course I went off piste... and prayed that when it came time to lace it together that everything would meet up. Spoiler alert! It did.

I used beautifully matching (I didn't like the contrasting lacing on the inspiration piece) cognac-coloured glazed roo (as in kangaroo) thong for the lacing, because unlike my other leather projects which were either sewn by hand or machine, this bag is laced.

Just like a children's lacing game you say? Not quite. I banged every single one of those 300 odd holes into all that 2.2mm thick leather. My forearms and hands will attest to it. I had to do it over several sessions of 60 or so holes each time. And no, the lacing wasn't simple like a child's lacing game. Bending and coaxing and cajoling that leather gusset into submission around those curves was freaking difficult, especially since you need to get that lacing super tight. I did use a lacing "needle" which helped feed the lace into the holes.

I did not line the bag, I actually prefer the rustic interior. The lacing is simply tied in a knot to finish and secure it or threaded under the lacing line.

In the end, strap length was determined by the maximum length I could cut out of my piece of leather and I'm actually really happy with it. I wear my other shoulder bag cross-body and I knew I wanted this to be different. This length is great, proportionally, on me.

The flap is secured by a strap that slips into a brass ring. The leather has some softening up to do before it sits low and perfectly in that ring, but that won't take long.

And those curves? I used some very hi-tech curve drafting devices. They included a glass tumbler rim, a round bottomed toothpick container and my Merchant & Mills Tailor's Beeswax box.

That very same beeswax was used on all raw cut edges which were then burnished with a wood slicker, which heats the wax and allows it to absorb into the cut edge. I chose this as my finish of choice instead of beveling the edges as directed because my edge beveling tool was getting a bit blunt, consequently dragging and warping the edges instead of cutting a lovely soft edge.

Those slightly fuzzy edges with smooth with loving use, so I didn't fuss too much.

To say I'm a little bit pleased would be a gross understatement.  This bag with be by my side for many years to come. There might even be some sibling rivalry with that bespoke bag going on.

Please excuse the shitty images placed by Photobucket all over my blog. I'm working on fixing all the images. Thanks Photobucket, you're so classy.

Thursday, 11 May 2017


No more easily accessible photographer (hubby) means it's back to the trees with me.

Is the enthusiasm palpable?

But don't let that face fool you about how excited I am by this dress/tunic thing!

Is it a tunic? Perfect to wear with my ever-present skinnies?

Is it a dress? A look I'm much less likely to wear often, but I love that I have the choice.

And I do have the choice. Which is so new to me.

When I make, I make with an entire outfit in mind. Not an item of clothing. Not a question of how many ways can I wear this? Often what you see here on the blog is what you get when you see me on the street. Because I never mess with what works. Not even to experiment. Some might call me boring, I call myself happy with the norm.

But this garment is a pretender. I can channel my slightly more stylish side (perhaps undertaking a bit of pretending) and work it like a dress with tights and boots.

I can chuck it on first thing in the morning with skinnie blue jeans and metallic sneakers and work my day to day magic. Much more... me. Less pretending.

But pretending is OK. And choices are great.

And stripes! Matched beautifully at the shoulder and side seams (you'll have to believe me re the side seams). I pinned at every single stripe, I machine basted every single seam and then I overlocked. Overlocking slightly pushed the stripes out of alignment, but good lord - if you're going to look that closely at my seams we have bigger problems. I finished the hems with a twin needle.

I love that this dress/tunic is made out of a lovely soft and slinky double knit (I think it's a ponte but since knits are not my thing, I'm not sure). It's got a lovely weight and drape and its smooth finish means it skims happily over opaque tights or jeans without riding up. Win!

I sewed clear elastic in with the overlocking on the shoulder seam and reinforced the back neckline with the very last of my fusible knit stay tape.

It's holding its shape beautifully and if it launders well I may well have reached a knit happy place.

I'm loving the funnel neck which sits close to the back of my neck and drapes to more of a cowl shape at the front.

A typically amazing fit, as all Japanese patterns afford me, means that back is looking great.

This is Pattern 02: Tunic from the May Me Heart Warming Life Series. As it's untranslated you'll have to make do with the shots below.

I sewed a medium at the shoulder and bust and graded out to a large at the waist and LL (extra large?) at the hip according to my measurements.  It's a good fit, but I probably could shrink back to a large at the hip next time. I'm always paranoid about tight fitting bottoms.

If I can find some more well-behaving double knit fabric, I can see a whole lot more of these in my future. Comfy knits might just become my thing.

Sunday, 12 March 2017


Now that's a corny, very unoriginal take on a title, right?

Somedays you got it, some you don't.

Today would be a don't day.

But: Yay! I'm blogging, so all is forgiven.

I've been making a little less this summer and far more thoughtfully. I don't know what's happening to me with age, but consumerism and the whole having for having sake/making for making sake is bugging me. It doesn't sit comfortably with me. I do love to make, but not so much that I have to make incessantly to feel my creativity is sated.

I wear a uniform 4 days out of 7. How many dresses/skirts/tops/insert item here does one person need? I'd rather have a thoughtfully created wardrobe that serves me well on those days I need one.

So my output and blogging has not been as great. Or when I've sewn it has been uncharacteristically unselfishly so: lovingly created swimsuits received ecstatically by the Monkey, teacher gift Genoa Totes, a much needed winter cowl (never mind that it's the middle of summer). And on those days I chose not to create I ran.

And I feel good. I feel healthily balanced and creatively satisfied.

This is an awesome wrap skirt. A remake of what has become a TNT. The delightful vintage Simplicity 7395 first made in hot air balloon fabric (because... novelty fabric) back here.

This time I kept the length as drafted, which incidentally is well below the knee. I must have chopped a fair bit off last time. But after my recent midi dress love I felt compelled to continue the theme. I think this may be ever so slightly too long to make it truly flattering. I have a very slight heel on these sandals and with flats it's a bit meh. Time will tell.

I do love the result. The fit is still superb (with no adjustments at all). I am, however, a bit disappointed with the Ikea fabric I used. The print is stunning, but...

Unlike the fabric I used for The Shrinking Violet this one is printed on a stark white base. This means needles holes are visible and permanently so. I did need to unpick once and then had to re-sew the seam with a deeper seam allowance to avoid seeing the white dots from the unpicking. Topstitching was dicey for the same reason. Pray you don't have to unpick and redo. Oh and when that skirt wraps gets blown about you get this...

Also the surface has got some weird wear going on. On its first outing, I thought I leant on something dusty. But when I tried to sponge the "dust" off it didn't budge. It was like it created a wear spot/line immediately. I notice that the waistband is subject to the same fate where is wraps over itself. But really, it's meant as a home furnishing fabric, and at $7.99/m what can one expect?

It irks me that the fabric quality means a short-lived garment (grrrrr to throwaway fashion), but it's a lesson learned and I'll simply enjoy it while it lasts.

And it is rather lovely.

Meanwhile, I'll just be over hear holding up this pole.