Fall-Winter 2014 SWAP … batch 1 designs

I had these design & inspiration posts lined up for ages now, but got distracted then lost the mojo to finish them. But as Me-Made-Tote the Second is from this batch, and possibly the next two projects, maybe it’s time to finish them.

batch 2 designs
- SWAP2014aw-2-inspirations

So you’ve seen the tote already.

The fake fur shawl should be dead easy. But I’m not sure how useful it’ll actually be. I love the glamor & already bought the fake fur ages ago. On the other hand, it’s so fiddly to wear & isn’t really that warm as it only covers the shoulders. I’m not one who need only spot protection from the cold. Chunky short sleeve sweaters have never made any sense to me either. The other fake fur (shearling) shawl I made a while back has been languishing in the closet collecting dust. So maybe this one can wait.

The fake shearling aviator hat on the other hand would be so timely as height of Winter approaches. This would help me use up the rest of the fake shearling.

But I think I’ll probably make the two white ‘sweaters’ next. I’m losing my sewing room to visiting relatives over the coming month. And for these two I plan to add knitted ribs to the woven gauze bodice. So I can do the knitting while the sewing room is out of commission. I would have loved for both garment to be made from knits entirely. But I couldn’t find any plain mohair sweater knit in a neutral off-white color. What I ended up getting was loosely woven mohair gauze from Moods in NYC, and matching mohair yarn to knit the collars and ribs for the sleeve and bodice hem. The sweater proper is to replace a RTW I loved that I mistakenly shrunken in the wash & dry. I’m hoping there’ll be enough left of the gauze to make the long sleeve shrug.

Lastly are designs for the loveliest double-sided mohair sweater knit I got from NY Elegant. I love both sides of the fabric. And I could really do with some black garments. I’ve been going all browns & colorful lately that my black wardrobe is in seriously neglected state. But it would be a sin to hide the sumptuous orange mohair side. So more reversible garments it is. I’m thinking princess pencil skirt to cut down on the bulk. But I wanted a bit of variety in my pencil skirts. So this one will have asymmetrical front & slit. I haven’t decided on the top. I was originally thinking another cowl sweater, but now think a sweater jacket would be more versatile. Either the Burda option which is quite simple and potentially boxy, or the Vogue option which is more shapely, but might not be as versatile as it might not look as good worn unbuttoned. The other problem with the Vogue option is that it has waist pleats. That might look weird reversed. In any case I won’t have to decide until I get my sewing room back post-holidays.

Me-Made-Tote II

Yes, more straight line sewing coming up. And looks pretty much the same as the self-drafted tote I showed you a couple of years ago. How exciting right!

Me: Sweetie, how do you like my new handbag!
MR: Erm, isn’t that the one you already have?
Me: And? So?
MR: If you’re making another why would you make it exactly the same?
Me: Why because it was such a huge success! Why change something that ain’t broken!

I did not lie. The first one I’ve used almost every day for the last two years. I’m obviously no Fashionista. The same neutral handbag does me just fine regardless of the outfit.

the old girlBut that first one is now tatty. It was sort of a muslin. Most of the ingredients were from the Stash and not bought specifically for it. It frayed and peeled. The peeling got so bad that I cut away the bottom corner patches (only to discovered adhesive residue which now attracts all sorts of gunk). Even a Non-Fashionista has her limit. So sadly MMT the First was forced into retirement.

MMT the Second is the same basic design. But I took the opportunity to improve on a few details and on the construction process after learning a few tricks from Don Morin’s Making Leather Bags Craftsy class.

Mug Shots

Fabric & Notions Used

The Design & Pattern


The design is pretty much the same as MMT the First. The only changes I made were:

  • Made the bottom corner patches one-piece (rather than 3-pieces). This was to avoid really thick seams since the fake leather this time is thicker than the vinyl I used last time.
  • Simplified the lining pattern following Don’s example. So only front & back pieces that extends T-shape-like to cover the sides and bottom.
  • Simplified & change the internal pocket sizes. I found of the two pocket methods I used last time, the patch method with minimum ease worked better. And the phone size section was the most useful, so this time I went for 4 of those. I also added a section for a pen.
  • Added detachable elastic loops to hold the soup thermos upright on cold work days!
  • Used the fake leather for the handle this time to avoid unsightly fraying.

One change that I wished I had made was to have cut-on sides for the exterior pattern too so that there’s a side seam like Don’s example. It would have made sewing the zipper so much easier. I’m not sure the side front / back style lines are really worth the hassle.

Construction Notes

  • I highly recommend Don Morin’s Making Leather Bags Craftsy class. Even though I’m unlikely to use real leather (too heavy) I still found the class very useful and informative. The construction order was especially helpful. And the bag he demonstrated looks more like the type I’d buy. I find most other bag patterns a bit too crafty for my taste.
  • Orb Decoration: This should have been done before sewing started. But I didn’t have all the stamping bits then. So the illustrations show this step on a the mostly made tote.

    Ink-wise I tried stamping directly with the gold paint I wanted (on a scrap of course). But that left no mark on this fake suede. Neither did other pigment metallic gold inkpads I ordered nor fabric dye solutions from the Stash. The only ink that seem to work was the normal office inkpad I have lying around. I wonder if it’s a solvent based ink, which you’re not really suppose to with the polymer clear stamps that I got. I reckon once is not going to destroy the stamp. So I used it to transfer the design onto the fake suede, then paint over the design with the gold paint. Not perfect, but at least neater than my freeland drawing on MMT the First.
  • OK, I said I don’t do tutorials. But since I took some photos along the way to remind me how to make it next time I might as well share these…
  • Someone mentioned in Don’s Craftsy class that Fiebing’s Edge Kote + Mod Podge are used to create the professional sealed edge finish you sometimes find on RTW leather bags. I tried Fiebing’s Edge Kote on the trimmed Handle edges. But it didn’t create the sealed effect I was hoping for. Maybe it’s Mod Podge that does the trick. Or maybe my fake leather is too absorbent. Must track me down some Mod Podge next time and try again.

The Verdict

I’m fairly happy with the result. The sewing is neater than last time though by no means perfect. The orb design is also neater, less amateurish looking thanks to the stamped guideline. I do prefer the old bag’s coloring. But this one being brown again should still be neutral enough to go with almost everything. I’m hoping the furnishing grade fake leather will stand up to wear a bit better. At least I won’t have fraying handles.

So here’s to 2+ more years of unfashionable pairing of the same bag with every outfit days in & days out!

Me Made Holiday Report Card

In the suitcase…




  1. McCall 6078 Cowl Neck Sleeveless T-shirt
  2. Franken McCall 6078c Cowl Neck Leopard Print Sleeveless T-shirt
  3. Burda 2012-09-123 Painted (Byzantine) T-shirt



  1. Burdastyle 2012-05-113 Draped Leopard Print Skirt
  2. Refashioned RTW Leopard Print Skirt
  3. This is the only non-Me-Made item in my suitcase. Or is it? I did shorten then turn up the hem to wear it as a capri. So can I be cheeky and count this as Me-Made as well? ;-)
  4. Refashioned RTW Heidi Skirt. Not blogged. But it’s pretty much the same make as my Improv Embroidered Taffeta Pleated Skirt



  1. OK, another borderline cased. RTW Victoria Secret Dress altered to fit me better. Does it still count?
  2. Improv Tent Dress. Not blogged yet. This has got to be the Happiest Oops & my favorite make. Ever. It has gone on almost every holiday with me since I made it – I think that was back in 2003.
  3. V1159 Donna Karan Twist Front Dress

Keeping Warm…


  1. Wrap Cardigan based on Burda 2011-06-139 Bluemarine Wrap Dress, planned a while back, but only finished during this trip. So not blogged yet. I was actually finishing the hemming just before checking my luggage in for the flight to Ohio! But boy was I glad I finished it. I wore it so many times during this trip.
  2. Franken Burda 013-02-121 Sweater
  3. Improv Faux Shearling Stole




Actually worn….

I got to hand it to you Me-Made-May girls. I don’t know how you manage a whopping 31 days. Even with just 14 days I couldn’t keep up with the photo-documentation.

No, worse, Mother Nature intervened (too hot AND too cold). So despite packing enough for 15 outfits ((3 tops x 4 bottoms) + 3 dresses) I keep sorting to the same few comfortable outfits. Here are the few photos I did manage to take…

What I’ve learnt…

I need to stop making tight fitting summer clothing! Skin. Wants. To. Breathe…And. Feel. The. Breeze.

And watch out for grainline, stretch, & gravity! The two sleeveless cowl neck tops were based on the same pattern. But the yellow one was cut on the crossgrain while the turquoise leopard one was cut on the regular lengthwise grain.  As stretch is greatest in the crossgrain on most knits, the yellow one’s armholes have obviously stretched thanks to gravity and feels comfortably loose. The turquoise one didn’t. So was a bit too binding for hot NY summers.

The Final Score

I think that will have to be a B at best.

I did force myself to wear everything at least once. But some days I just had to change midway through the day. There is only so much I’m willing to suffer for fashion!

Improv Tote: Finished!

OMG! I finished something! And it’s made purely from stuff in my stash! What’s more is that although it’s not perfect, I’m OK with it! Miracle. So, picking up where we left off…

Tarting It Up for the Big Day

As you recall, this Vivienne Westwood tote bag was sort of what I was aiming for. And I briefly flirted with the idea of finding a similarly graphic print and image transfer using one of those printable transfer paper or image transfer medium.

But it seemed way too much hassle. Especially with the fabric being faux suede, I wasn’t sure that (a) the image would transfer well, and (b) the fabric could handle the heat required. So I resorted to my tried and tested Jacquard Lumiere 561 Metallic Gold Fabric PaintJacquard Lumiere Fabric Paint.

Next question is what design.

Derwentwater Golden Hearts Blackwork Embroidery KitI wanted something stylized, and thought this Derwentwater Blackwork Embroidery design would look great. Boy was I over ambitious or what. On the faux suede I just couldn’t get fine enough a line to attempt anything so complicated. (I do love these Elizabethan looking blackwork embroidery kits though – I have 6 of the 7 Derwentwater kits. One of these days I will find a way to incorporate them into my fashion sewing. Just you wait!)


Ambition hampered, I went back to variations of the royal orbs. I ended up with this slightly wonky VW style orb.  I threw in a few more flourishes inspired by the real deals to compensate for the lack of fancy branding.

What do you think? Chav enough for you?

Coming Altogether Now

Next up, sewing the bag and lining bottoms together.

WIP-17Zipper foot came in handy for getting as close to the seam line as possible without being hampered by the bulk of the bag and lining.

I sewn three sides first, then inserted a piece of 7-count plastic canvas to stiffen the bag bottom. I got this tip from U Handbag’s great bag-making tutorial blog.

The last side is then sewn up, and the bag flipped right-side-out over the lining.


The top of the lining is then sewn to the underside of the zipper. (I slip-stitched it by hand for better control, then edge stitched again for reinforcement.)


I stitched across both ends of the zipper before covering the ends with faux leather tabs like Longchamp Le Pliage tote bags.

Now the tabs, what a pain they turned out to be!


With faux leather on both sides and a bit of bulk in-between, they were rather difficult to sew on the machine, even with tissue paper underneath to help the feed dog feed properly.

In the end I resorted to hand sewing. So thank God for my thimble and hand-sewing needle grabber.Hand sewing needle grabber

I would have had blood spilled on my lovely new bag otherwise trying to cajole the needle through the bulk – and the gunk from the double-sided tape!

WIP-22The resulting tabs aren’t brilliant. With my thin and somewhat stretchy faux leather you can see the zipper bulk striking through clearly. Longchamp Le Pliage tote bags tabs also shows a bit of bulk, but with proper leather and professional stitching they stick out much less like a sore thumb.

But you know what, who in real life is going to get close enough to notice this little blemish? So for once I’m declaring this project Plenty Good Enough!

So here you go, the finished result:

Done-01 Done-03 Done-04

What do you think? Good enough for a Gym & Grocery Bag? :-)

Improv Tote: WIP 2

Lucky you! An update within a week of my last post! ;-) Yes, a bit more progress was made on the tote. So, where were we?

The Handles Of Course


So I went with the D-Ring option in the end. I also removed the stiff woven interfacing from the cording – it was too stiff – and instead went with naked cording inside double layer of faux suede.

The part below the D-Ring ended up being a layer of vinyl leather over faux suede – for that fake leather thickness. I went for a Vivienne Westwoodish diamond shape cut out with the aid of a cardboard template. WIP-06

As you can see, plenty of double-sided tape was used in the process to hold the pieces in place. May not be what the professionals use, but it does the trick. And this bag is totally an exercise in using up the stash – decades old double-sided tape included!

So here are the finished handles. Don’t look too closely though. The sewing is all a bit wonky. But hey, for once it’s “Good Enough”!


Next up I sew in the zipper opening before attaching the handles to the bag.


As you can see, it goes from middle of one side panel to middle of the other side panel. I plan to finish it off with two vinyl leather tabs like the ubiquitous Longchamp Le Pliage tote bags.

WIP-09 WIP-10

And the handles were “baste” in place again with double-sided tape before being edge-stitched. BTW, the Teflon Feet comes in really handy for these faux suede and leather! But it’s a bit wide, so luckily my machine can swing the needle either way up to 3.5mm.

Where the handles are attached I reinforced the bag panels with the stiff woven interfacing. Because I’m paranoid about handle failure, especially with those heavy bottles of Coke Zero that my Other Half have me buy for him from time to time.

Bottom Up!

Next up is attaching the bottom. I did the two long sides first, then clip the corners (reinforced with Dritz Fray Check wherever I clipped), and finally sew the two shorter sides.


Now the Lining & Inside Pockets

Again in a stash-busting move I used whatever was in my stash no matter how inappropriate it might be. So standard dress lining it is then. Something tougher would have been better. But I’m being disciplined.

As a compromise, I fused the stiff woven interface to the lining instead of the bag fabric. I was going to use the stiff one on the faux suede and another lighter one on the lining. But extra layers means extra weight, however imperceptible it may seem while the bag is empty. Fusing the stiff interfacing also forced me to use up decades old Aleene’s Original Iron On Fusible Web.


The pockets are double layer lining interfaced with decades old Pellon Soft Shape interfacing. On one side I experimented with pleated pockets sewn into  the side and bottom seams. On the other side are flat edge-stitched pockets. We shall see which gets used more often!

WIP-15Rest of the lining construction is like the outer layer. With the addition of the stiff interfacing the bag stands up all by itself! I’m very proud.

And here’s a shot of the inside pockets. No zips inside. I don’t like too many hurdles to get to my junks.


Stayed tuned for the next episode, where the Bag and the Lining get hitched!

Improv Tote: WIP 1

Happy New Year all! Hope you all had a lovely Christmas and maybe even managed to get a fair bit of sewing done.

Sadly over here, hardly anything was achieved sewing-wise. Apart from over-eating induced coma I suffered a bout of Perfectionism. Hence the lack of activity here – it was just too depressing to write about!

But as the Sewing Princess reminded me, there’s a wonderfully supportive sewing community online, and I need not wallow in my fitting woes alone. So I’ll take some pictures of my Whack-a-Mole fitting problems on a sunnier day and maybe you’d join in with my Name That Fitting Gremlin Game. But not today. Today I want to talk about my first bag making attempt.

inspiration_originalA while back when I was traveling a bit, I wanted a replacement carry-on bag. The one I had was getting tatty in places and was a bit heavy once laden with all the modern-day gadgets. So I started cutting out fabrics for a replacement.  But when I measured the weight, my fabric pieces was working out heavier than the original bag. Some sewn products are best left to the professionals, who have access to special material that better meet the practical needs which we can’t easily get hold of in consumer fabric stores. Sigh.


So, what to do with the cut out fabric pieces? As they were originally destined for a rectangular bag, I decided to make a tote a bit like this £114(!!!) Vivienne Westwood tote bag:

Vivienne Westwood Battersea Print Bag Khaki

As my fabric is a polyester faux suede, I’m not sure how easy it would be to transfer printed images onto it. So I had to look for alternative ways of adding visual interests.

Hot Patterns Queen Of Hearts Bowling Bag & Hand Bag PatternI’ve always like corner patches like on Hot Patterns’ Queen of Heart Bowling Bag Pattern. So I thought I’d use some of scrap vinyl I have in my stash for this.

As you can see I don’t have a proper pattern and instruction to guide me. So I’m improvising as I go along.

One tutorial I am using bits & pieces of is this tutorial for a mini-bowling bag by Qazicat:

Qazicat Leopard Bowling Bag Tutorial …Like its instruction for the corded handle. Or how to stiffen the bag sides and bottom. Or order of construction. Useful stuff and clear instruction.

Love the leopard print example Qazicat shown as well. Would be perfect for Pretty GrievancesJungle January too (which I chickened out from – my slopers not being ready and all)!

Work In Progress

First off, attaching the vinyl patches to the bottom parts of the bag. As both vinyl and polyester don’t like high heat – and I’ve lost the instruction for the various interfaces and adhesive webs I have – I decided to just use standard double-sided tape in my stash. I’ll edge-stitch them as well just in case the adhesive tape lose its sticking power with age.

Here are all the patches – entire bag bottom, small strips on lower edges of the sides, and rounded bottom corners on the main pieces of the bag:

I’m using up decades-old stiff fusible woven interfacing on the back of the faux suede. I think they were for shirt collars and the likes. But again, heat issue with faux suede, so they’ll probably just be sewn in rather than fused.

I’ve also started on the handles. Here are thick piping cord wrapped in the same stiff fusible woven interfacing. The outer layer will probably be the faux suede. But I’m still pondering on whether to beef it up a bit with an extra layer. Or maybe even use thicker piping cord. At the moment it looks a bit wimpy compared to the size of the bag.

inspiration_handleAnd I’m also debating whether to attached the handles directly to the sides or to attach them via a D-ring so that they can hang down when not in use for more compact storage.

That’s it for now. For apart from fretting over fitting, I’ve also been busy stressing over our bathroom renovation, making endless plans and drawings to try to whip the builders in line.

New Bathroom

And of course now the builders have taken over a huge chunk of our apartment with inevitable dust everywhere, any sewing would have to proceed at a tortoise pace.

Hopefully it won’t be weeks for the next installment of this!

UFO Revisit 3: Faux Shearling Stole part 2

Now where was I? Oh yes, getting crafty with the faux fur stole.

Years ago, I was seduced by this Jean Paul Gaultier loveliness:

Again I plotted to make myself one. Again I failed to find the perfect fabric. Now I’m in the neighborhood, though nowhere rich enough to afford yardages for a full coat, I can at least console myself with a pastiche of this (look above), and this (look below)…

My Chinese Painting skills not being what it should be, I had to settle for the ubiquitous dandelion design so beloved of interior designers (and me too)…

So I experimented with some decade old graphic design markers on a scrap. Added a bit of gold paint I bought for the Bird & Blossom Taffeta Pleated Skirt. I even digged out the chinese seal my parents gave me in time long gone. It may look like just doodles to you, but it’s a door to one of my alternate universes.

So here’s the Double A-Side of the Faux Shearling Stole:

Please note the stray faux crack lines à le manteau Gaultier. The dandelions are simple asterisk type shapes, with small crosses & dots at the edge of the pompoms for that distinctly dandelion look. Ok, the leaves aren’t dandelion leaves – more like spider-plants they are. But like with my crooked pseudo Chinese “calligraphy” who’s going to tell? (That’s pseudo calligraphy, not pseudo Chinese. I may not remember how to write Chinese, but I remember how to look it up on Google.)

(PS The words are from a famous Tang Dynasty Chinese poem I learnt as a child. It seemed vaguely appropriate as it’s about spring and falling flowers. You can find out more about the poem here or listen to it read in Chinese here. I almost went for a children’s spoof version about not bathing in the summer and getting mosquitoes bites everywhere, slaps in the night and wondering how many dead. Maybe I should have. Who would have known in London?)

And there’s the back-side for those walking behind me…

It was good fun. But I haven’t figured out how to style this side yet. This is my best attempt so far:

Hmm…Needs a bit more work.

I might add some thread loops at the side waist so I can tie it at the back for a less bulky look.

Or I might add some thread loops at the bottom edges so I can attached detachable faux rabbit feet à la So En stole I showed you earlier.

Oh yes, every sewing project is a big production. I hope the end results will be worth it!