Archive | Accessories

Accessories I’ve made

April 4, 2016

On being a beginner; also, I made a hat!

There’s something thrilling about being a beginner. As a classic ENTP personality type I’m always looking for new things to do, but it’s only recently that I realised that a big part of the reason for that is that I really enjoy being a beginner, starting with absolutely no idea of how something works and facing a steep learning curve.
Brooklyn Tweed Fjord Hat

Sure, it’s gratifying to be intermediate or advanced at a craft, honing your skills and able to produce things which people swoon over. But as a beginner, there’s so much potential to get excited about, and so many new ways to think about the world that rarely come up when you’re experienced. Every time I do an art class I find myself quite literally seeing the world differently. When I’ve moved to a new country (9 times!) I’ve found it’s so exciting discovering a new neighbourhood, and knowing you have tons of exploration and surprise to come. Perhaps this reflects my optimistic nature, and the fact I tend to relish change rather than resist it (for the most part), but nothing fires me up quite as much.

And so, to knitting. After my triumphant but massively chunky purple scarf, I asked for advice here and was thrilled by all the suggestions pouring out of my knitting compadres. The general consensus was that I should make a hat, on smaller needles, so I pootled over to basically the only other knitting company I know, Brooklyn Tweed, and found the Fjord.

It seemed EXTREMELY HARD but everyone reassured me it was actually easy (p’shaw!), and thus it was decided. Pattern downloaded, I got my supplies over at the all-new Gather Here (just round the corner from my studio – so convenient! so dangerous for the wallet!) – I chose some Quince & Co worsted wool in cream, and picked up the various needles. Which makes it sound like I actually knew what I was doing – no, the kindly assistant in GH did it for me. Needles attached with plastic tubing, no less – all very high tech.

Brooklyn Tweed Fjord Hat

Carrie started me off with the long-tail cast on – so wondrous! Like a cat’s cradle in the playground. I then proceeded to knit, rip out, knit, rip out and knit a good two dozen times. Ah, learning. By the time I got to using Double Pointed Needles I was ready for a panic attack, but I watched a variety of Midwestern ladies on YouTube demonstrating the technique and just went for it. I adopted the very sophisticated approach of randomly doing decreases when I had too many stitches; I am led to believe that this might account for why my hat is slightly wonky. But there you go. I also had to learn to crochet for the top bit! How delightful.

And here we are, my lovely Brooklyn Tweed Fjord hat with tons of dropped stitches, wonky decreases and a bit of a hole at the top. But you know what? I’ve been wearing it nonstop. And there’s yet another joy of the beginner: even though you know that what you’ve made is pretty shoddy, quality wise, there’s an irrepressible joy at creating something for the first time. I love my amateur hat! And I look forward to being a knitting beginner for quite a bit more.

What are you a beginner at? Do you enjoy it as much as me? Also, now I have made A Scarf and A Hat, what should I do next?!

Brooklyn Tweed Fjord Hat


February 15, 2016

Wool & The Gang teach me to knit (sort of)

Ah, knitting. I never learned during my geeky adolescence (surprising, I know), but in recent years have been faced on a daily basis with incontrovertible proof that all the cool girls are doing it. First off, I just want to be in the cool girl gang. Second, I do see the appeal – having something you can do without an heavy machine in front of you, being able to craft and watch TV,  lots more lovely things to buy and pet and stash.

And thus it was that for Christmas, I asked for a Wool and The Gang kit… and as chance would have it, I ended up with a Rushmore scarf kit (I KNOW!).

TA DA! A monster purple scarf, just like I like them.

Wool and the Gang Rushmore scarf

I eagerly started on Boxing Day, on absolutely mahoosive wooden knitting needles that I’ve never even seen before. Plus side: I love chunky knits. Down side: they’re a little unwieldy, and I ended up contorting myself to stop them flying off in all directions.

Pretty soon, though, I, errrrr… realised something was up. Yeah. This was meant to be seed stitch, but turned into something else every foot or so.

Wool and the Gang Rushmore scarfLuckily I am surrounded by ladies who knit, so I popped over to my friend’s house, she frogged the whole thing, and I started again. I was pretty confused because I thought I’d followed the instructions, and surprisingly it turned out that several steps of the instructions were actually wrong and that was messing me up (not that it should have looked like the above photo, regardless). Has anyone else found this with Wool and the Gang? They have such a cool brand and beginner-friendly image that I was surprised (and even now I wonder if it was me, but several knitting friends have confirmed not)… but something to bear in mind if you’re starting with this one!

Anyhow, once I started… I didn’t stop! Yep, I sat in front of the TV and knitted this in probably about 5 hours, which was pretty satisfying for someone used to sewing timelines.
Wool and the Gang Rushmore scarf

The verdict? I’m not sure. I don’t think I’m bitten by the knitting bug yet, but I also feel I’m very close… But over to you, dear knitting readers. What would be a good second project? I like the idea of trying something harder than a scarf, but knitting jargon also freaks me out!

February 8, 2016

I made my own sandals! Woop!

Welcome back to part two of making my own sandals! (need to catch up? Part 1 is here).

So, once all the pieces were cut and dyed, it was on to construction, and losing whatever was left of my fingertips after all that skiving (it’s seriously hard work, people!).

As I am soft and tender of feet, I decided to add a bit of padding which was as simple as cutting down a foam insole, and worked really well.

A vat load of toxic glue was used to wrap the gold toe-bit around the toe of the sole area – it’s super difficult to make it smooth and wrinkle-free (lots of prodding with an awl and sore fingers), and clearly I could improve those skills… But hey, not bad for my first pair! I also wrapped the edge of the sole in gold leather too, and then had to gouge out little bits where the straps wrapped around underneath.

We used masking tape to make patterns for each step, which was really effective. For the step below, I was making a pattern for the insole….


… which we see here!


Back to the straps, I decided that I wanted a smooth look with no stitching, so I basically created leather bias tape. Easier said than done! It involved skiving the leather down until it was very thin, then glueing, folding it over, and hammering with a soft mallet. I loved the final look, and luckily had more dye on hand to patch up all the mallet dings.


When I went to put the buckles on the straps I realised that I’d made a bit of a measurement error.. but managed to work around it by cutting a bit off each side of the strap towards the end, and I think it isn’t too noticeable.


First strap to go on was the vamp strap over the toe:

IMG_5010And then the ankle ones went on!


Next up, shanks went on the back of the heel to stiffen the sandals – these were actual fiberglass which we cut off a roll, heated up, and left to set so they go super hard. Then, tons more skiving and insets of leather to make the bottom of the sandals flat.


Then, on with the final soles! To make the edges nice, we used sandpaper, and then a piece of paper and water, which surprisingly polished them up into a lovely gloss. I nailed down all the straps with little tacks, and glued the insoles in; then, cut a little flat heel out of very hard plastic, and glued and nailed that on.

Oh, and then there was tassel making! I used a bit of purple suede and made little gold leather rings to hold them on.

IMG_5045Et voila! My entirely hand-made sandals! Honestly, they came out much better than I expected, and while I learned a *lot* which I’m sure would mean I’d do much better next time, these are surprisingly wearable for a first go.


They even look quite a bit like my original sketch:

I left my sandal-making week totally exhausted but happy at having learned a new skill. Throughout the class, I was constantly comparing shoe-making with sewing, and here’s where I netted out:

Ways in which making shoes is  like sewing clothes:

  • Sewing! Well, personally I didn’t sew my sandals (IRONIC) but many of the other people in the class did, and accurate skills are clearly required.
  • Seam allowances. They’re different, but the same concepts and processes basically apply, except for the fact you have to skive them all down… goodness knows if you had to do that in sewing I’m not sure I’d still be at it.
  • Using dangerous stuff. I’m used to the Perils Of Sewing by now (haven’t chopped my finger off on a serger blade yet, but it’s only a matter of time) but the Perils of Sandal-Making were no less scary – razor blading things, using a *massive* pincer/saw cutter thing to cut the heavy leather, toxic glue. Man, we are adrenaline junkie crafters!

And… ways it’s not

  • It’s physically hard work! No doubt that sewing can be tiring at times, but nothing compares to shoe making. It’s grueling!
  • 3D design & construction. In many ways sewing is 3D, but most of us are used to using 2D flat patterns, and a lot of sewing is flat. Comparatively, shoe-making makes you think in 3D the entire time, and I enjoyed the process of “pattern drafting” directly on to my foot – in that way, it was a lot more like draping.

I’m looking forward to wearing my sandals this summer! And when people ask me where I got them, enjoying the bemused look on their faces when I say I made them. What other crafty hobbies do you think are great for sewists? I’m really keen to expand my skills and see if there are other things I can find that I’ll love as much as sewing!

September 5, 2014

Swimming ladies everywhere

Remember that mental Amy Butler bag I made a while ago? Well I wasn’t totally honest with you. Although the instructions were undoubtedly as batty as an extremely crazy bat, it was also frustrating because… I was making 3 at the same time! 
Any sewist can tell you that is madness, with or without nutbags directions. However, I was practically FORCED to do this undertaking by the sudden appearance on my Instagram of the Swim Team collection by Windham Fabrics: 
I mean, really.
Who wouldn’t?
So I broke the no-fabric-buying rule that I had arrived upon that very morning in my car, and immediately ordered a bunch of it, to make a birthday bag for my best friend in the UK, and one for myself as well, because this was too good to be entirely selfless. 
Here is the one side with the delightfully rotund front crawling ladies: 

And here’s the other with bodacious sunbathing babes!

Needless to say, the Crafty Foxes were *literally* foraging in the scraps bin when I was cutting this out, so expect to see these ladies popping up elsewhere in the future! I also have some little bits left here and there so I have to figure out some little projects that would showcase them in their full beauty. Any ideas, dear ones? 
The final bag came with me to Nantucket, and served well as a beach bag, not to mention being stuffed into my bike basket all day. It was a touch grubby when we got back, but a quick go in the washing machine and it’s good as new! Those ladies are invincible.

June 20, 2014

Bag making with Organic Cotton Plus

When Organic Cotton Plus offered me the chance to try out some of their fabric, I was happy to give it a go after seeing Lladybird and Lucky Lucille’s fantastic makes – not to mention the sustainable angle, which is what I do for my day job.

So I made a bag for Cashmerette Lauren!

I chose the Evelyn & Janette twill, being a print lady and all. My original plan was to make a skirt. However, when I got the fabric, it wasn’t quite as I imagined – instead of being black and white, it was brown and beige on a canvas “natural” type background, and also a bit heavier than I was expecting (they do have an oz weight listed, but I’m useless at understanding what they mean). Moral of the story: best to order a swatch first.

However, though it was no longer really Jenny-skirt material, it immediately announced itself to be precisely up the alley of dear Lauren, and perfect for a summer-to-fall bag!

Left: photo from Organic Cotton Plus website; Right: my photo of the fabric
I used Amy Butler’s Reversible Sunday Sling pattern. Gosh. Well. I haven’t made a bag in a long time, but it seems to be the kind of thing a beginner would think “hey! I’m not really confident enough to make a dress yet, so I’ll make a bag instead!”
For I swear the instructions for this bag were more complicated than for an evening dress. Crikey! I think partly it’s because Butler’s patterns don’t follow many clothing pattern conventions – for instance, there are no notches;  instead you have to measure various lengths on your actual fabric pieces and mark them with chalk as you go along (inefficient much?).
There is also yard and yards and yards and yards of interfacing in there, of three different types. I was super glad to get my Singer Magic Press out of the cupboard and into action. I will say though, once all the cutting and interfacing was done, actually putting it together was fairly straightforward. For the sake of expediency I left off all the various pockets.
It has cute tie handles:

And little pleats where the handles meet the bag:

All in all, a nice make! The cotton was great to work with, and clearly high quality, and I would definitely use Organic Cotton Plus again, but make sure I swatched next time.

Do any of you make bags, dear readers? Any favourite patterns? Has Amy Butler ever boggled *your* mind?!

August 7, 2011

An ever-so-nearly-professional-looking yoga bag

I was in downward dog the other day, and was suddenly struck by that most un-prana of emotions: envy. Envy for my adjacent yoga practioner’s splendid yoga bag. But while standing on one leg in tree pose, pondering all the things in the world I may never have, I had a splash of inspiration: why, I learned to sew for moments like these! I *was* planning on taking some photos of said cute bag, but my iPhone unfortunately takes about 7.5 minutes to turn on and I thought it might be particularly stalkerish to accost the poor woman when she was already halfway down the street.
So, instead, I decided to make it FROM MEMORY, PEOPLE! Oh yes. I did try to download an Amy Butler pattern from the interwebs, but apparently they were out of service today. And I figured, how hard can it be to make a cylindrical yoga bag that fits my mat, sweaty-towel (it’s hot yoga), dry-y towel, water bottle and keys? Exactly. So, a first: an actual Jenny Design ™.
First, I made a cunning plan. Presented here:
Then, I tried to construct it in my mind, but kept getting confused. Especially with the tricky sewing-a-straight-line-to-a-curved-line challenge. So I decided to play on the safe side, and make a muslin. This is a handy way to do a test run without messing up one’s lovely fabric (from Gather Here, of course). Here’s the piece I made for the bottom of the external water-bottle-pocket:
Here’s the curvy bit sewn to a straight bit (apologies if this is getting too technical):
And here is the proof of concept! Done.

And given it was a day for firsts, I thought: why not finally learn how to make binding tape? It looks pretty. And adjacent-yoga-practioner’s bag had green binding tape. So I bought the widget (three guesses where, readers) and followed the helpful instructions.
First, cut some fabric on the bias (i.e. at a 45 degree angle to the grain):

Then you pin it to your ironing board, feed one end into the bias-tape-widget and then put it along and iron what comes out the other side. Then, you have to iron *that* in half so that it’s a v-shape that you can put over the two sides of your fabric edge.Getting pinned on…

Et voila! I was quite pleased with myself at this point. Next step: sewing the pocket onto the main bag. Some hot topstiching action for you here:

Then I decided to go a bit mad with the green-trim-theme. I made the drawstring holder out of the nice green Kona cotton as well, and threaded through a rope that’s apparently meant for making piping (I do not know how to do that. One day.).

Sewed up the sides (including putting another green panel in.. because I measured too small, I hear you say? Never!), sewed on a circle at the bottom (very hard), and here she is! One home-made yoga bag. And if only I hadn’t forgotten to leave a space for the strap, and hence had to unpick and re-sew seams, it would be almost-professional-looking. If I say so myself.

Right, I’m off to do a Happy Baby and Chatarunga Dandasana.


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