Monthly Archives: March 2014

Sewing without fitting: the Cooper Bag


This was a really fun project for me, and one I’m pretty proud of. In addition to the fact that this is the first bag I’ve made (besides a basic tote), I’ve been feeling down about the quality of my sewing lately; fitting issues… zipper woes, etc, and this project really helped me get back to basics & focusing on improving quality of the basic skills, while still challenging me with learning new skills.

One of the main new skills I learned was working with waxed canvas. I couldn’t find any pre-waxed in the colours I wanted so I decided to wax my own. It was fun – time consuming but worth the time & effort; I used a particularly heavy washed canvas and I thought it was really cool how the thick, stiff canvas changed colour & became more supple once cured.

Working with this very thick fabric was a challenge in itself. My machine is a trooper – it handled 4 layers fine, but as soon as there was more, or a thick ridge (which happened often) it needed help. There was a lot of hand cranking and I went through 3 denim needles in the process lol.

Another thing I learned is that you can’t press waxed canvas, even from the inside; I was gentle & used a press cloth & low heat but the waxed surface blotched & I had to re-treat that area; afterwards I pressed using pressure only; only heat from my hands and in cases with thick seams, I used a hammer to pound seams flat or open.

I’ve worked with some hardware before (boning, belts, eyelets, etc) but this time I got to install rivets & magnetic snaps too, as well as assemble the bag strap using sliders. I find working with hardware in conjunction with sewing oddly VERY satisfying!! so that was fun 🙂

I reinforced the straps with a double pass of zigzag stitching because I find those tend to go first on my bags – I must carry a lot of heavy stuff! lol

Shot of inside:


I’ll be using this for my carry-on on my upcoming trip so I’ll get action shots while we’re in transit – for next time! 🙂

The Gertie Pencil Skirt – Take One



Over & above all else, this project reminded me how much I LOOOOOOOOVE wearing pencil skirts: these are ME! I’ll wear an A-line; that’s ok, or definitely a flowy maxi skirt (I love me a maxi!!) but i always feel mildly imbecilic & twee in circle or full skirts, for some reason LOL.



So a skirt should really be the easiest thing to fit, right? But apparently I’m a bonehead & I messed up way too many things for me to not be fully embarrassed… let me recount the steps of my fitting demise:

  • i first traced according to my measurements: an 8 at waist tapering to 4 at hip (12″ differential?? who has that? not me, that’s for sure!! not that i mind being a 4 in ANYTHING, even one body part – i can tell you that never happens in RTW lol), but the first draft was too tight, so i added a smidge in the hip overall (so much for being a 4 – that was a nice five minutes LOL)
  • i then realized later, i had missed tracing the outer dart on the pattern pieces, hence the reason the first draft was oddly tight in the hip but a little big in the waist, which confused me cause normally I’d have the opposite problem
  • i didn’t figure out the above epiphany until after all pieces were cut, so i added a small piece to the waistband at each side to compensate (I didn’t have enough heavy fusible to re-cut the whole thing, and the waist didn’t seem big enough to add the extra darts… but DERP I didn’t think of the fact that it was a HIGH WAISTED skirt, and that I was trying it on without the waistband, BELOW the waist *facepalm*)
  • even after all this, the waistband was still too short at the back closure, so i did a pants hook & bar instead of the more vintage called-for button
  • now the waist is too big but it’s high waisted and I can cover it with a shirt, and the dark navy wool suiting hides a multitude of sins lol

So the end result is that if i make it again, i will add the second set of darts and the original waistband pattern SHOULD work, and it SHOULD fit me at the waist LOL.

So… let’s talk zippers for a sec. When I first started sewing, I was able to put in a reasonably invisible zipper and a reasonably tidy regular zipper no problem. I haven’t changed machines, and nothing else has changed but somehow I’ve lost the ability to install a decent zipper!!! I’m not gonna lie – this has been really making me down on my abilities, as I never seem to be able to complete a project without problems, and the zipper is the worst of them, despite how hard I try.

Honestly, I’m not sure what the deal is but I have decided to SLOW DOWN, focus on doing the basics really really well, and enjoy the process instead of thinking ahead to the finished piece. Perhaps that will help me discover where I might be going wrong. This isn’t easy for me, because I have SO limited time as it is, with my heavy work schedule, but if I’m not making things I love at the end of the day, even that limited time is wasted anyway, so it seems like the right thing to do.

So I did a lapped zipper and revisited my much loved hand picked stitches, learned from Gertie’s Bombshell class. I still have a slight bubble at the base of the zipper but whatever lol – it’s better than most of the zippers I’ve done lately. I did a lot of hand sewing on this skirt and I really have to give a shout out to Sunni’s silk thread – it’s so fine it’s almost invisible, and lovely to work with.

gratuitous bum shot! LOL

gratuitous bum shot! LOL

I decided to add a lining (this was my first time doing this without full-on instructions – they’re not included in the pattern, although basic steps are included separately in the book). I’m glad I did – because I will only be wearing this skirt with tights, the lining makes a big difference in comfort and smoothness.

I also did a hand sewn invisible hem & catch stitched the lining to zipper & vent.

inside of waistband, lining, and zipper

inside of waistband, lining, and zipper

Overall, this project was very time consuming (particularly for being a basic and relatively simple garment), mostly because there were some pretty dumb mistakes made, but in the end I got a nice basic out of it all, and now that I’ve learned my mistakes, I will probably make this skirt again 🙂