Holiday Surprise Cooper – Complete!

Good evening out there!

After lots of waiting around for materials and trying to find uninterrupted time to sew, I finished Tom’s surprise gift this morning! Today happens to be our wedding anniversary (#6 of marriage, and also the 8th anniversary of our first date!) and while we were out to dinner, I casually asked him when he wanted to do our gift exchange. Usually we don’t do it on Christmas, since we have family to visit that day; he suggested Christmas Eve, which I said was fine. I told him I had one thing for him that was here and that he could open, but that I needed him to leave me alone when we got home so I could wrap it. At that point he decided he’d rather open presents tonight, so we did! I am very pleased to say that he was thrilled with his new bag, and that he honestly couldn’t believe I’d made it! (Trust me, that’s a compliment.) Wanna see?????

Proudly modeling his new bag!

Proudly modeling his new bag!

Cooper bag, just chillin' on the couch

Cooper bag, just chillin’ on the couch

Peek at the snaps and pockets

Peek at the snaps and pockets

Lining and cavernous insides!

Lining and cavernous insides!

Back! (Sorry about the color--forgot the flash.)

Back! (Sorry about the color–forgot the flash.)

Pretty nice, if I do say so myself! I used gray and orange for this bag; the shade of the latter can only be described as “Construction Vest Orange” or perhaps “Screaming Bitch Orange,” but Tom likes it. Orange is sort of his thing! My canvas arrived on Tuesday Dec. 16th, so I washed it that night so I could sew on Wednesday. When I stopped for the night on Wednesday (at the hanging loop installation step), I had a flat front and back piece, and my two straps. The front piece had the snaps attached, too. I was feeling pretty good about being able to finish it in one more workday, and planned to get back to it this weekend. I got up at 6AM today (ugh I know) and started up again, and was done by 10. I would definitely say that this pattern is suitable for an ambitious beginner, because I was able to execute the entire thing without any real trouble.

The hardest part for me was sewing through all those layers, especially at the bottom gusset piece when squaring the sides of the bag. At that point, you have installed the straps on the bag, and are working with about 5-6 layers of material at that spot. In my case, I opted to interface the bottom gusset; that was a decision I made on a whim, and I nearly paid for it in the worst way. As I started sewing my new seam at the bottom to square off the bag, my machine suddenly shuddered and made the beeping noise that it makes when there is an error. I was afraid I’d broken my Janome!! Fortunately, the worst of it was that the machine just couldn’t force the needle through all the layers, not even when I turned the handwheel manually. Having no other options, I skipped a couple of stitches here and there on that section and went back to the foot pedal once the worst of it was over. The handwheel saved my ass. I am wondering whether it would have been easier with a larger denim needle (I used a 14), but I’m glad things worked out!

This was the first thing I’d ever lined, and holy hell was that easy!! The instructions and sewalong made this process very easy to understand, and I am pleased to say that I didn’t have to redo any part of that section. The only possible issue with this bag in the future is that the rivets I got are just a liiiiiiiiiiiittle bit too short for the thickness of my fabric; I struggled to get the second half of the rivet to really mold over the first part and had to do quite a bit of extra tapping with my mallet. I warned Tom that those may not hold up well, but that I could get longer ones if that happens.

So there you have it! My first total surprise project was a rousing success, and Tom LOVES it. He wants to wear it on his motorcycle, which wasn’t my intention (the opening of the bag doesn’t have a closure, and I didn’t modify the pattern to add one; it relies solely on the magnetic snaps on the flap). I am going to order a bar of Otter Wax and test it on scraps, because he is intrigued by the idea of waxing the bag. I nearly did that on my own, but wanted to see what he thought first. :-) I’m so excited that this worked out, and that I was able to make something for someone I love that will get a lot of use!

Happy Holidays to all of you–may your season be merry, your travels safe, and your hearts and minds at peace in the days and weeks ahead. <3

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Holiday Surprise Progress

Hi!

I’m pleased to say that I’ve made a little progress on Tom’s Cooper backpack. Not much, but I’m trying to do what I can with what I’ve got!

My shell fabrics and magnetic snaps will arrive this Tuesday, so I’ll be able to really get to work later this week. Nothing like cutting it close, eh?? My webbing and hardware arrived this past week, so I went ahead and worked on the straps today. I expected the straps to be much more complex than they turned out to be, but hooray for surprises!

Lining and straps!

Lining and straps!

The webbing was very easy to work with; I even finger-pressed the required folds rather than mess with my iron, and it was all that was needed. I got my webbing from AGraffSupplies on Etsy; it’s cotton and feels very sturdy, and this shop offers various yardages of it in a very wide array of colors. I definitely recommend looking there if webbing is something you need for a project! (I also got webbing from another source after my post office said that this first package was returned to the sender. Imagine my surprise when this package showed up later that day, LOL! I had a good customer service experience with the other vendor–Strapworks–as well, but haven’t used their webbing yet.)

After I cut the two long pieces of webbing, I realized that I really ought to get a heftier needle in my machine before I started with the sewing. I had planned to do that once I got to the shell, but it was absolutely necessary for handing this webbing. I opted for a size 14 denim needle, and it had no issues punching through the straps. My machine did struggle a bit with three layers of this material (at one point, you sew through a folded section and the main strap section to secure that end of the strap), and my presser foot couldn’t really lower due to the thickness. As a result, the rectangle of stitching on one of the straps is a little, uh, off. :-) Fortunately, this appears to be the heftiest section of the sewing for this project in terms of bulk under the presser foot. From cutting to finishing, including the futzing around with changing the needle and thread and bobbin on my machine (and the digging for the correct thread color!) and walking to the living room to check the sewalong posts, I was finished in under 30 minutes. Not bad for a bag-making n00b, huh?

Unfortunately, this is all the progress I can make until my shell canvas and snaps arrive and get washed, etc. But I’m really excited for this project, and hopefully the end result is something that makes Tom very happy. I’m determined to finish this before xmas, since everything else I ordered for him is going to arrive after the new year; the company didn’t bother telling me that half of my order was out of stock until I contacted them this week to ask about shipping (which I paid to have expedited when I ordered at the end of November). Needless to say, I’m not happy about that, since that was everything I’d planned for Tom for the holiday. :-( I’ve never been happier to execute an impulsive sewing project, LOL!

Hopefully I will be back with updates next weekend–wish me luck, and no broken needles!!

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Another Holiday, Another Surprise

Hello there!

I hope everyone is having a good holiday season. Here in the US we’ve had one holiday already–Thanksgiving, aka “EAT ALL THE THINGS” Day–and shopping for xmas is in full swing as December advances. For the most part, we “Mads” house residents tend to buy our gifts for everyone rather than make things. I even bought most of the things I’m giving to Tom rather than go to the trouble (and stress, and time) of making something. Well, earlier this week I got a bright (read: fucking stupid) idea: I should make Tom a thing!

What “thing” have I decided upon for my husband? The Cooper bag from Colette Patterns! I have never made a bag before, but this one seems simple enough for a newbie like me with the instructions and sew-along. I ordered 2 colors of cotton canvas–orange and gray–for the body, magnetic snaps, strap sliders, webbing, and rivets, and now I’m just waiting. But rather than just sit on my ass and think about this bag (and agonize over whether or not to order Otter Wax and wax it), I decided to go ahead and make the lining. I figured it would be good practice for the real thing and save me some work as the holiday approaches and I run out of time. Here it is:

Lining!!! With pockets!!!!!!

Lining!!! With pockets!!!!!!

So I opted to make the lining out of muslin. The pattern recommends ripstop of some sort, or general waterproof fabric. I’m not really worried about this being waterproof particularly, though I am considering getting Scotchguard or something and spraying the lining down if I opt to wax the outside. The idea behind this bag is that it will be something Tom can take with him when he and Mulder (dog) go for their nature-y walks, or if he takes a trip to the store for something small and portable. It’s not like I expect him to take this on outdoor camping trips or anything! I just didn’t see the need to go out and get ripstop when I had this suitable (for my purposes) material at home. Plus I can press and manipulate this stuff without trouble; I can’t feel as confident about ripstop!

The lining is turned inside-out for this photo (which I took before I pressed anything, in typical Mads fashion), as the pockets will need to be inside the bag rather than sewn up against the inside of the shell. I admit to having a moment of panic once I finished squaring the bottom of the lining–a point of no return, since you cut stuff–and doing what I usually do, which is to turn the seam allowances to the side that isn’t facing me to have a look at my results. I had to wrap my head around this whole bag thing and remember that the ugly side of my lining would be up against the ugly side of my shell, and the pockets would end up where they should be: facing into the cavernous interior of the finished bag. A big sigh of relief was heaved, let me tell you!! The actual shell is more involved, what with the straps and hardware, but I feel prepared for it now that the lining is done and looks good. The squaring of the bottom was the scariest part, and I was able to accomplish that successfully. Attaching the bottom gusset was confusing at first, but I took my time and figured it out. Bring on the shell (as soon as all my shit arrives)!!

Are you making any gifts for xmas?

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Mads vs. Glazed Linen, Round 2

Good Morning!

Thanks to a planned cut-back in my hours at my second job and a well-timed wife-less outing on the part of my spouse, I was able to venture into my sewing area last night. (Well, let me amend that: I was able to venture into my sewing area to WORK rather than just add new patterns or fabric or someone else’s circa-1950s UFOs to my sewing area and then back away slowly…)

My original plan was to start a muslin of my much-beloved vintage pants pattern, which I have never gotten around to messing with since it came to me many months ago. But then it occurred to me that I had never gone back to the black glazed linen version of vintage Simplicity 1281 that I’d tried to make a while ago, and I felt guilty and blah blah blah. So after about 5 minutes of frantic digging and hunting, I found the rest of the linen and started ironing. (I. FUCKING. HATE. IRONING.)

I was really careful when cutting this time–didn’t want any stupid mistakes like the last time I attempted this project, or the time before that…

After cutting 4 measly pieces of fabric, it is clear to me that I 1) need to lift more weights or 2) need a new blade for my rotary cutter, because I had to basically retrace my cuts for the whole first piece and then make sure I pressed really hard for the last 3. I mean, this linen is beefy, but this seemed unnecessary.

I sometimes (okay, often) wonder what the fuck I was thinking when I made past decisions. I think I ordered 4 yards of this linen, which is about 60″ wide. My original plans for it were a sheath dress (thank hell I decided against that…) or a pencil skirt and jacket, neither of which would have required nearly that much yardage (thanks, acquired sewing knowledge!). So not only have I now cut 2 skirts out of this stuff, here is what is STILL LEFT OVER:

One actual fuck-ton of linen, coming right up...

One actual fuck-ton of linen, coming right up…

Plenty for a jacket, so I guess that part of my original n00b plan will come to fruition. And once that is done, I am probably setting the remaining bits of this fabric on fire because I am just over it and its abundance and its linen-y-ness. OVER. IT.

In interesting (well, to *me*, anyway) sewing developments, that joke above about other people’s vintage UFOs wasn’t a joke at all. A lady brought lots of her mother’s hand-made vintage clothes to the shop a couple weeks ago, and her mother was very excited to learn that we all sew; her daughter returned with piles of sewing patterns and several unfinished projects in tow. Most of the patterns were circa-1970s but I did take a few home. The UFOs were all from the 50’s, and were wool. Very finely made, even in their incomplete states. I was given custody of the UFOs, and they’re hanging out until I feel brave/stupid/worthy enough to attempt to finish them. Apparently my house is now the Mads Home for Wayward Sewing Bits and Bobs…

Anyway, this skirt will be the first item of winter sewing for me this season–have any of you (in the Northern Hemisphere) started winter projects? Or are you just cuddling your winter-weight fabrics for warmth?

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Let’s Go To The (Blog) Hop (Plus Fabric Photos!)

(Is that awful song stuck in your head now? Good.)

Today at the Mads House, we’re serving a blog hop entree with a side of juicy fabric photos for dessert–how’s that sound?

If you read many sewing blogs, you’ve probably seen the blog hop going around right now–it’s focused on why we bloggers write. I was nominated by the enchanting Rosie at sparkleneedles, whose entry will almost certainly be funnier than mine. To see more about why/how I write (and for fabric photos after), read on! (Otherwise, go look at cute cat videos or something…)

Why do I write?

Well, my degree is in History, so writing things was basically my job for 4 years; I enjoy writing (luckily) and it comes easily for me (more luckily). I started this blog to chronicle my progress as a maker of clothing. I’ve blogged before, but it was always more of a general journal exercise. My goal for this blog was to write about sewing, what I learn (if anything), and to be a part of a larger community of people who are also passionate about sewing and related things; I may include non-sewing stuff occasionally (like vintage posts, or maybe life-ish stuff) but mostly, this is a sewing blog. I don’t really have any IRL sewing friends (though one or two pals are getting into it–yay!), so it’s nice to be among others who will get excited about fabric, techniques, etc., and who will understand the kind of effort that goes into making something 3-D from a 2-D piece of fabric. I suppose I could have just started an Instagram with no blog behind it, but I enjoy reading about other people’s makes and wanted to have something similar for myself; I don’t assume that anyone would enjoy reading about my creative travails, but I wanted a more detailed and involved chronicle for myself than just a bunch of pictures with hashtags.

How do I write?

I don’t have much of a process, actually. (Actually, that’s probably really obvious if you’ve ever read my blog…) Most frequently, my posts are triggered by me working on or finishing something. Sometimes I post about fabric I got, or inspiration and plans for future projects. I try to include details about projects, since I personally do not care for “I made a thing, here are photos of it, the end” posts as a reader; and since this blog is supposed to be a way for me to chronicle my adventures as I learn and progress, not including details or challenges would kind of be a waste of my time. I try to include photos most of the time–even if it’s not an FO or in-progress post–but sometimes don’t, which is something I’d like to be more conscious of in the future.

I do most of my blogging from the office (sorry not sorry) so I tend to put a post together very quickly. I don’t draft–never cared for it–and am able to just sit down, write a thing, and post the thing. I’m a grammar enthusiast, so I usually end up having to do edits after I hit “publish” in order to correct a silly error that I missed on my first few read-throughs, but what I post is essentially exactly what I sat down and spat out into the post editor tool in WordPress. Usually my heater is running at my feet and there’s a bottle of Coke and some type of sweet nearby for good measure, but those things are not required for me to write. :-)

How does this blog differ from others of its genre?

Honestly, I don’t think it really does: I’m yet another young, slim, white, cis-gendered, coupled, hetero, middle class woman in the sewing blogosphere. That’s about as typical as it gets in the online sewing community, isn’t it? I suppose that, if I had to pick something that’s a little different about my blog, it’s that I’m not afraid to talk about mistakes I’ve made or projects that I struggle with; I know that’s not something everyone does. But even that is such a small thing! I like that there are so many people blogging about their sewing, though–that was one thing that encouraged me when I first started. This isn’t a dying art: people are out there making things and talking about them and sharing with the world! So while I am pretty willing to admit that I have little or nothing new or novel to offer the sewing world, I am enthusiastic about the craft and want to contribute to the chorus of voices.

What am I working on?

Currently, I have one project cut out, and it’s for Tom: McCall’s 6613, view C. I have big plans for myself as well, but nothing is started yet. I’d like to make another vintage Simplicity 1281 and some shirts, at least! Most likely, my next project will be a pair of pants. I’ve been dying to crack open a particular vintage pattern since I got it, and due to an unfortunate turn of events, I’m a bit short on casual pants–this is my moment, right?!?

I honestly have no idea who to nominate next, so I’m taking a rain-check on that. My blog, my rules. xD

So if you’ve made it this far, here’s a treat: my box from Fabric Mart arrived today, and I’m a happy camper!

Neutral ponte knit; no plans yet really, but we'll get there!

Neutral ponte knit; no plans yet really, but we’ll get there!

The coveted cheetah print silk twill! *swoon*

The coveted cheetah print silk twill! *swoon*

Then there's this crazy shit...

Then there’s this crazy shit…

Marc Jacobs, biotch!

Marc Jacobs, y’all!

"Mads" goes mod...

“Mads” goes mod…

Plaid brushed knit

Plaid brushed knit

Modal/silk jersey in two colors

Modal/silk jersey in two colors

I love/hate you, Fabric Mart

I love/hate you, Fabric Mart

Pretty sweet, right? Can we talk about that silk twill for a second, though?? Because holy hell, it is even silkier, dreamier, and sexier than I imagined. It’s also not opaque, but I’ve got that covered: I got some china silk from Dharma Trading to line it. I’m having a total “Wayne’s World” moment–I am not worthy of this luscious material!!

The crazy-ass blue/zebra combo is sufficiently insane in person, but it is LIGHT. I’ve never messed with an ITY knit before, so maybe it’s my inexperience talking, but I did not imagine this material to be semi-sheer and virtually weightless. Guess I’ll be wearing a slip under whatever that becomes, eh?

The Marc Jacobs bottomweight cotton is destined for my ass…as a pair of pants. =) It’s hard to photograph color-wise, but it’s a weird mix between gray and taupe.

The mod checkerboard knit, purple plaid knit, and almond-y ponte are things I liked a lot and figured I’d use at some point. I have no plans for any of them just yet, though. The modal/silk jerseys are perhaps the most heavenly knits I’ve ever put my grubby mitts on; my t*ts are gonna love them.

Thanks for reading! Hopefully I’ll be back in a few days with something new under construction!

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Fabric Stashing With Mads

Hello again!

Predictably, I have not started any new projects since finishing the ultimate cat lady outfit. I haven’t made any progress on the one thing I’ve got cut out, either! Again, totally typical of me. The outlook for productivity in my sewing room is bleak for the next week or so: my in-laws (who I actually really do adore–they’re wonderful) are visiting us this weekend, so I am in CLEAN ALL THE THINGS mode…

Like a fuckin' adult

Like a fuckin’ adult

This means that my sewing area will likely be reverting back to its original dining room-like configuration in the event that we cook (LOL) or get pizza one night (probably). Think of it like those rooms in movies/tv shows where a wall spins to reveal something totally awesome, like a mid-century bar, and then spins back into Middle Class Wall mode again as needed. Except, you know, without the automated capabilities and with much more swearing and sadness…

Per my title today, I was very bad. Very, very bad. But I can explain: it’s all Fabric Mart’s fault!!!! They had a 40% off sale for Halloween, and I went a little nuts. I bought 19 yards of fabric. :-( One of them is an AMAZING silk twill with motherfucking cheetahs on it. Seriously: where was that stuff when I was doing it up Cat Lady style? Oh well, better late than never. Hello, future feline dress!

I also got some modal/silk jersey so that I can use it to line eventual bra cups. My boobs and I are very excited about that prospect, in the event that I ever get around to sewing anything ever again. I also ordered some Marc Jacobs bottom weight cotton for a pair of late 50’s/early 60’s high-waisted skinny pants (duh), and a lot of knits, which is weird for me. Weirder still, most of the knits I got are bold. Like, REALLY bold. I have ideas for all of them, otherwise I would never have pulled the trigger on something like a zebra print knit with bright-ass blue floral border action. (Hey Fabric Mart: let me know if you ever have a job opening for naming fabrics on the website, k? ;-) ) Nothing for Tom (or Gretchen Weiners), but so it goes. I’m sure I’ll post photos instead of links once these beauties arrive at my house, so check back in several days if you’re into that sort of thing!

I re-organized my fabric stash about a month or two ago. I had been very proud that my entire fabric stash fit into one big Rubbermaid bin, and it definitely did…until I took everything out of there and tried to put it all back in again. So now I have two bins where things are folded relatively nicely, and both are pretty full. I may have to start looking for someplace else for this new shipment to hang out, because I doubt those bins have any room! On the one hand, I feel guilty and bad for stashing–it sits there and sits there, and it takes me FOREVER to sew anything. Plus, fabric isn’t free, and it’s not like I have an unlimited budget. And let’s be real: my tastes are kind of expensive, and I can be a total fabric snob; it’s not like I’m stocking up on $2/yard polyester (not that there’s anything wrong with that). On the other hand, I will get around to everything eventually, and almost never buy fabric without an idea of what to do with it, and only buy it at full-price if desperate. I also very rarely shop for new RTW clothes, a recent (unblogged) denim fiasco aside. I buy underpants and some vintage clothing, but not often. I definitely want to curb my stashing, since I have a few years worth of material and limited storage space and sew slower than the speed of smell…

Do any of you stash? Do you ever feel bad about it? If you have any fabric organization tips, feel free to share them!

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Completed – Cat Lady Sewing Challenge 2-Piece Set-acular Extravaganza!

(Okay, okay: the title may have oversold this FO post, but whatever.)

After many weeks of occasional work, I have completed my Cat Lady Sewing Challenge outfit!

Early on, I decided to go a little…crazy. I wanted something kind of outrageous, but still wearable. I’m just weird enough that I could envision myself successfully wearing something covered in cats, so when I found this fabric I knew it had to be mine. I was also completely enthralled with and inspired by the 2-Piece Set-Acular over at Ada Spragg a couple of months ago, so when I had a snafu with my first attempt at the skirt I planned to make, I decided to salvage the material and make a crop top. Here is where things ended up:

Ta-da!

Ta-da!

cat lady 2

Crazy Cat Lady 2-Piece

cat lady 3

Mysterious…or insane?

cat lady 4

Skirt in focus

Mads, the cheeky bastard

Mads, the cheeky bastard

I can honestly say that I’m really, really proud of this outfit, despite how unhinged it sort of is. The skirt has already been worn IRL several times since I finished it, and apart from being amusing is actually really wearable. The horsehair braid hem gives the quilting cotton a bit more body and structure, which ended up being perfect. The length is a total accident: I was going for mid-thigh, but wayyyyy underestimated how much I needed to remove. By the time I noticed, the braid was attached and I was all, “Meh…” about having to undo that. But it works, I think, especially if I style it the way I have here with my boots and tights. And let’s not forget about THE BUTTON:

I mean, COME ON.

I mean, COME ON.

The crop top was created by chopping my Scout tee pattern off at the “Lengthen/Shorten” line. This SOB has seams EVERYWHERE because I cannibalized the fucked-up skirt to make it and had to get creative. So I have a center front seam, a center back seam, side seams, and a hem band. (That last bit was added to give me that extra 1/2″ of additional length, which I am glad to have; the proportion looks just how I had envisioned.) The 2nd photo above shows the Scout silhouette of the top–it’s very loose below the bust, but I love it!

I finished these things about 2 weeks ago, but just got around to taking photos today! I took advantage of the fact that this is probably one of the last days this year that I’ll be able to get away with the whole, “Do outdoor photos and wear sunglasses and lipstick so nobody can see you aren’t wearing any makeup” trick, so Tom and I went out to the back yard and did some photos. Honestly, he gets these really good shots of me, and I have no idea how he does it. None. But I’ll take it. (And no, I won’t share him. Sorry. =P)

Now, I wore these two pieces together just for this post–I will likely NEVER do that IRL unless it’s ironic. But I do actually like both pieces, so here is how I thought I might style the top. Warning: this series of photos is basically me doing a cat-itude impression…

Sup.

Sup.

Not nearly cool enough to be standing like this...

Not nearly cool enough to be standing like this…

Too cool (or bored) to care that I'm in a photo

Too cool (or bored) to care that I’m in a photo

Tom called this one, "Floating Jesus Cat Lady." We both agreed it was genius.

Tom called this one, “Floating Jesus Cat Lady.” We both agreed it was genius.

Oh, are you still here?

Oh, are you still here?

High waisted pants + crop top = LOVE. I just wish this was something I could wear to work, because I adore it. But I’ll settle for wearing it in the wilds of Columbus instead.

So I had a really great time with this challenge. Thank you to Erin for coming up with such a cool and relaxed idea! All of the other makes I’ve seen for the challenge have been amazing–check out the Flickr group for more!

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