Thursday, October 6, 2016

The Fur Backpack -- It's a Wrap



Fall, Folliage and FUR!




It's finally done, my Michael Kors knockoff fur backpack. There's not a whole lot to say, other than I'm totally loving how it turned out. Perhaps the best part of the project was how much FUN I had working on a non-apparel project. It was really refreshing, and I'm already collecting materials for my next bag! (This one has to stay a secret).



To recap, this is essentially the Lucy Backpack from Swoon Patterns, enlarged an inch in each direction; otherwise it looked a little too childish. I left out some details that I didn't like (or were never going to work with my materials), and personalized the interior to suit my needs.




I love a little "bag bling", so a big shout out to Lauren's Creations. If you're a steampunk lover, check out her Etsy shop here.



And while I'm shouting out......thanks to my beautiful daughter and equally beautiful son's fiancé for helping with the photo shoot. Without you, I would have been back in my yard with the tripod, setting the timer, running in front of the camera and hoping for the best. It was so much fun doing this with you!


(Apple picking, Rocky Ridge Orchard, Bowdoin, ME)





Photo location -- Derecktor / Robinhood Marina, Georgetown, ME


So it's a wrap! Time to head home and start a new project.


As always, thanks for all the support and encouragement I get from the sewing community. Be well!


Monday, September 26, 2016

Pantone, Progress and Problems

Clearly the Pantone prognosticators were watching me last March at the MPB Winter Frolic! Were they hiding behind the rolls of faux fur at NY Elegant? Did they watch me pick out this fur, knowing that I'm always way ahead of the fashion curve?


I picked this.....



Low and behold.....what do they pick for this Fall's color trends???


Potter's Clay and Sharkskin!


Of course, I'm being silly here. But I do find it amusing that my current project fits in with their color predictions. Truthfully, I would never have known about their color selections if Peter, over at Male Pattern Boldness, hadn't just finished a great work jacket in Aurora Red. Or is it Cranberry? Maybe Tomato?


In the end, who really cares? Certainly not me.





I completed the lining, which includes the scavenged swivel clip for my car keys.





I took my readers' advice and added a handle. It's not visible here, but the folded ultrasuede is held together with Wonder Tape (another gift from Kyle over at Vacuuming the Lawn). It's " secret weapon #2". It made the assembly so much easier. I added a couple of rivets for added reinforcement (plus, I just love using them).


The Janome had no difficulty sewing through all the layers here, which are considerable!




The drawstring is also attached with rivets. It's actually easier than the directions, which say to sew through all layers along the stitching line of the drawstring.





The upper band of ultrasuede is interfaced with a midweight fusible Pelon product that I picked up at JoAnn's. I have to say that I've been spoiled by the interfacings from Fashion Sewing Supply. However, the ones I had on hand all fuse at high temps, and I was worried about melting the faux suede. JoAnn's was the expedient choice, but it's hard not to feel that I paid a price "performance wise" with what I purchased there. When I make my next bag (I'm sure there'll be another) I'll take the time to order in some better products.




Setting the grommets was much easier than I had imagined. I bought this set on Etsy. Basically... Punch hole, insert the hardware, place on base and pound with a hammer. Tout fini!





I took my new backpack on a test drive this afternoon. I had a service appointment for my car which would take about 1 hour. I packed my iPad, Kindle and ear phones into their appropriate slots and headed out. A pretty significant problem became immediately noticeable.


Because the lining is only attached at the very top edge of the bag, the weight of items in the pockets allows them to shift around, mostly front to back. When than happens the top of the pack gets pulled down. It gives the impression that the backpack is collapsing in on itself. Not a good look!


Upon returning home I went to work correcting the problem. I secured the lining to the back panel of the exterior bag with four rivets. Not the easiest thing to do with the bag all assembled, but where there's a will there's a way. No more shifting lining, (and it looks good too!).



Next time....the completed backpack. Here's a little tease.





Saturday, September 17, 2016

Backpack progress and.... Saying hello to Magnolia

My Singer 301 came back from the repair man cleaned up, but still very temperamental about sewing the ultrasuede. I think part of the problem was the jeans needle I was using. I believe that a ball point needle is required. But even with a new needle it was unpredictable at best. Sometimes it worked, other times it would skip an occasional stitch, and at times it didn't stitch at all. There was no figuring it out. Considering the expense of the fabrics involved, and to preserve my sanity, I moved on to Plan B.





Say hello to Magnolia. This machine has been sitting in my attic for a couple of years now. It belonged to my mom, who rarely used it. It was way too complicated for her, so she sent it in my direction. I honestly never felt the need to use it, so off to the attic it went.


Long story short, it took to the ultrasuede like a duck to water. Underneath all that white plastic it's amazingly powerful, and it truly rescued this entire project. Thanks, Mom!!





Speaking of rescues..... Wonder Clips!!! They made assembling the lining a snap. Thank you Kyle for sharing your bag making "secret weapon".





Working with the faux fur was surprisingly easy. Just the tip of the scissors are used. Slide them just under the backing fabric and snip maybe a 1/4" at a time. It's slow going, but the pile is preserved. After cutting, any loose fibers can be pulled away from the edges with your fingers. It's not anywhere near as messy as I feared it would be.




Wonder clips to the rescue again. Here a strip of ultrasuede is sewed to the fur. The pile of the fur is poked down into the seam allowance. Easy.





This is the suede flap, which is lined with a gray cotton quilting fabric interfaced with both a fusible and sew in interfacing. Two layers were required to obtain the body I wanted. Magnolia had no difficulty topstitching the assembled flap. (Even more Wonder Clips).





Slipping the lining into the fur section I can start to dream about the finished backpack. Still lots more to do though! Straps, a handle and grommets (which I've never done before).




The same goes for the boat. This is a pattern for the seats, set in place so I can dream about them. The mahogany boards for them should be delivered this week. Clearly the backpack will be done WAY before the boat!


I hope your projects, whatever they may be, are going well.


Monday, September 5, 2016

Rethinking my hardware choices, and launching into it.

I cut out some of the ultrasuede backpack pieces and did some test stitching on the scraps, only to find out that my trusty Singer 301 decided not make a single stitch. Arghhhh! It refused to pick up the bobbin thread, so it was essentially just sewing into thin air. I fiddled with the tension, cleaned out all the fuzz, gave it a good oiling, changed to a different needle, but nothing seemed to work. it went to my sewing machine guru Mr. Klaus Heimann in Newcastle, Maine for some TLC.


While I was at a standstill I began to question some of my choices for this project. The only gray webbing I was able to find is on the narrow side, and the finishes on the hardware don't match. With time on my hands I decided to order some new components on-line. So here are the results.



The new webbing is 1.5" wide, charcoal polyester from It's much more substantial that what I originally bought. It came in just a few days from Oregon.


The new hardware is solid brass with a matte nickel finish from Infinitely better than what I had originally purchased, and it matches. This is substantial hardware, identical in weight to what's on a Fossil messenger bag that I own. Mr. Buckle guy is in Massachusetts, so this was in my mailbox the next day.


Side by side one can really see the difference. I'm much happier with these small changes. (Which in the end are really big improvements)




The old webbing won't go totally to waste. It fits perfectly on this swivel snap that I scavenged off an old Lands End canvas briefcase. It will become a clip for car keys somewhere inside the bag.


I'm not wild about the "innards" of the Lucy Backpack as designed, so I set out to make it more closely meet my needs. I'd like a large padded pocket along the inside back of the backpack to hold my iPad or Kindle. The Lucy has a zipper pocket on the outside of the back which would drive me crazy. I'd much prefer any zippered pocket to be on the inside.



My plan is to make a little zipper pocket on the outside of a bigger pocket / sleeve. The zipper pocket was a breeze thanks to "backpack queen" Kyle over at Vacuuming the Lawn. She not only sent me the link to a great tutorial, she also sent me a roll of Wonder Tape and a box of Wonder Clips to make the job easier. Sewing people are the BEST, are they not. Thank you, Kyle!



So here's how it turned out. A pocket on a pocket. The lining is made with a quilting cotton from JoAnn's which is printed horribly off-grain, making everything look cockeyed. Grrrr. The top of the sleeve is finished off with some homemade bias trim, because...why not.


A variety of interfacings were used to give the lining some structure. I worry that the whole backpack could end up being a big floppy mess, so I'm working to avoid that.



Here I've folded all the layers back. The area of the welt is reinforced with a strip of Shirt Crisp Fusible from Fashion Sewing Supply. The pocket bag is also completely interfaced Shirt Crisp. The inner layer of the sleeve and the entire outer layer of the lining are reinforced with Pelon Thermolam, a fleecy fusible. Shirt Crisp was used again on the top trim piece where the grommets will be located.



And here is the lininging for the front of the backpack. It has two padded pockets, one for maps of NYC (invaluable for this country bumpkin), and one for fabric swatches that I always carry with me. A little patch pocket of ultrasuede holds my cards.



Pulled apart to show the interfacing.


Next time I'll finish up the lining (Wonder Clips will be involved), and venture into the unknown territory of faux fur! Until then, happy sewing!


Saturday, August 27, 2016

Backpack Crush!



Oh, MIchael, you may not dig the hairy forearm look, but I'm totally crushing on your hairy / fur backpack for Fall 2016.



Talk about "Love at First Sight" !!!




Even though this backpack is plastered all over MK's website, I can't find it for sale anywhere. NOT that I would ever be able to afford it. The closest thing I can find is a black shearling version at Saks for $798. Yes, people have that much $$$ to blow on a backpack.


My mission is to create my own version which, admittedly, is whole lot more fun. Plus, this will be my first foray into bag making.




I started collecting the materials for this project at Peter's MPB Winter Frolic back in March. (I'm hoping for a repeat in 2017!). I purchased a half yard of faux fur at NY Elegant on W 40th St. They have a huge selection of furry delights up in the mezzanine. Their inventory truly runs from the sublime to the downright ridiculous. Don't, however, expect to find any "bargains" here. Sometimes a splurge is in order. And somehow, having so many furs to choose from can justify the price of admission. I fell hard for this silver tipped number with a rust undercolor that's revealed when the fabric folds. I wish you could feel how deliciously soft it is. Yummy!


I've gradually been collecting the other bits and pieces I'll need. I'm going to substitute gray ultrasuede for the leather portions of the MK bag. The webbing is actually a better match than it appears in these photos. Trust me, it's not lavender! I still need to get a grommet kit and 3/8" grommets. I'm also reconsidering some of my hardware choices. There are lots of options out there! Swivel clips, D rings and slides, Oh MY!


I've also hit JoAnn's for some interfacing and stiffening products I'm not familiar with. Pellon Shapeflex (which is a fusible stiffener for the back and bottom), and Pellon Thermolam (a fleecy fusible that I'll pad the lining with). If anyone has experience with these please chime in!



I looked around on the Internet and Etsy and settled on this pattern. The Lucy backpack from Swoon Sewing Patterns. It has the overall shape of the MK, a drawstring top with grommets and a good sized flap. It has some features I don't like, but those are easy to omit. I'll configure the inside to suit my needs. Basically, a padded pocket to hold my iPad, one small zippered compartment and other open pockets for pens, checkbook, fabric swatches etc.



I picked up a remnant of upholstery tapestry for $2 at Goodwill and banged out a rough "muslin". The directions were well illustrated and very easy to follow. Kudos to Swoon!



I poked holes in the top band to simulate grommets and threaded some SnugHug through to get the gist of the drawstring. It really helps me to work through all this in advance, especially since I've deviated from the pattern in places.



This is just some twill tape to simulate the straps.


Overall, I think I'm off to a good start. The bag may be just a touch on the small side, so I may lengthen it by an inch or two. The next step is to research how to work with faux fur. I hear I'll need a good vacuum cleaner!


My sewing and blogging has really taken a backseat to the boat this summer. I'm really wanting to have the whole project wrapped up before the snow flies, but there are days when I have my doubts. Recently I've been making the spars (mast, boom, gaff and jib club). Basically, planing and sanding square stock into round parts. I'm pleased with the results, but can't honestly say that any of it has been fun.


Bring on the backpack!