Sew Everything Workshop: Tokyo Tie Bag

Tokyo Tie Bag from Sew Everything Workshop
Tokyo Tie Bag from Sew Everything Workshop

My first project from Diana Rupp’s Sew Everything Workshop was the Tokyo Tie Bag.  The Tokyo Tie Bag is a simple but very cute pattern.  It had the added bonus of looking like it would be something that I could actually make.

And I was pleasantly surprised (OK, astounded) to find that I actually made the bag successfully!

The Tokyo Tie Bag does not have an included printed pattern in the Sew Everything Workshop.  The book says to cut out the pattern for the bag on blank pattern paper.  Unfortunately I could not find pattern paper, and my local fabric store, JoAnn, does not appear to have any employees so there was no one there for me to ask for help. (I made up a new slogan for them: JoAnn: A Horrible Place to Shop.)

I cut my pattern out of wrapping paper, which lent my project a festive air.  I read the instructions thoroughly, and was cautiously optimistic.   I was a little skeptical about the whole put-this fabric-piece-into-the-other-and-it-will-magically-turn-into-a-bag thing, but lo and behold it worked!

I did find that unfortunately, the bag is a little… petite.

Sorry, but I think that it is seriously too small for a woman to wear without looking ridiculous!  If you are  above the age of 6, this bag will be too tiny for you.  On the other hand if you have small kids who want to play dress up then this bag will work.

I can appreciate that the small size of the pattern lets the novice sewist avoid spending money on fabric for a project that can potentially be ruined due to naive mistakes. Also, the small amount of fabric is easier to work with on the sewing machine.

Tokyo Tie Bag Size Comparison
Tokyo Tie Bag Sizes: Tiny and Regular

I did like the pattern over all, so I decided to try again by making the pattern bigger.  I increased all the measurements by 50% or so.   I rounded down any weird numbers, since this pattern is simple and does not have any weird pieces that need to match up.  Then I drew this pattern on my new blank pattern fabric that I found at a different fabric store in the next town over.  This fabric store has employees!  I also found pattern tracing material at Nancy’s Notions.

Using this pattern helped me understand a French Seam. As the book notes, this seam seams strong, so I don’t feel like the bag is going to fall apart if I put something in it. I also found this explanation of seam finishes from Sew, Mama, Sew! helpful.

My second bag was a much more comfortable size, hanging easily off my shoulder and not making be feel like a giant. I added an inside pocket, but forgot to do the quarter turn of the inside fabric first, so the pocket is in the side of the bag instead of the front or back.  I don’t care, I deem it a success!

Tokyo Tie Bag Pockets and Lining
Tokyo Tie Bag Pockets and Lining
Tokyo Tie Bag Bigger Pattern
The Tokyo Tie Bag Pattern, Enlarged

Simplicty Sew Simple 1971 Reversible Apron… Success! (Eventually)

I am happy to report that my first experience with using a sewing pattern was… eventually… successful. I used Simplicty Sew Simple 1971 Misses Apron to make a straightforward, no-frills apron. And, I definitely learned some new skills along the way!

Simplicity 1971 Sewing Pattern
Simplicity 1971 Sewing Pattern

As I was determined to make the most of this pattern, I actually made three aprons, making adjustments along the way. The first apron was made to the specifications of the pattern. The second apron was adjusted a little for a better fit. The third apron was made using the better fit and also with nicer fabric. Thankfully the third apron looked much more presentable and was better constructed than my first! So here is some proof that I can make progress!

I have two main critiques of this pattern:

  1. The pattern instructions state to turn the apron right side out at the top of the apron, and to stitch the top closed. Of course for a novice sewer this will look horrible. I turned the apron right side out on the side, where the stitching is not too noticeable.
  2. Simplicity 1971 Sewing Pattern (Sew Simple)
    Adjusted Pattern for Simplicity 1971 (Sew Simple)

    The apron waist ties hang too low, unless you are seven feet tall. Add height to the apron wrap around area to bring the waist ties up around your waist. I am short, and this adjustment made the apron much more comfortable.

Working with this pattern 3 times also helped me understand some details on the pattern instructions which improved the construction of the apron. As a novice, I did not sew the neck strap correctly on my first try.

Apron Neck Strap First Try
First Try: Ugly Topstitching and Neck Strap

I put it on the outside rather than on the inside, leading to a pretty sloppy look.  Additionally, the pattern instructions said to turn the apron out at the top, which is not such a great idea when I can’t even sew a straight line. Invisible seams are definitely the way to go for now!

By my last try, I had improved a lot. I placed the neck straps close to the edge of the fabric to sew them on, so the ends would be entirely inside of the apron once it was turned right side out after the two sides of the reversible apron were sewn together. I think that and experience (and common sense, which I apparently lack) helped me understand this.

Simplicity 1971 Reversible Apron Neck Strap
Third Try: No Exposed edges and no visible stitching

Additionally, I turned the apron out on one of the sides. I don’t see why a beginning sewing project would purposefully have exposed stitching. They should know I suck at sewing and adjust the instructions accordingly. The adjustment made for a much better looking apron.

Maybe this whole sewing thing isn’t completely hopeless…

Sewing Machine Time!


brother cs6000i sewing machine
The Brother CS6000i Sewing Machine

In order to start this whole “sewing” thing, I needed to get a sewing machine.  Wrong already had an old Singer Merritt 4530 that she was using.  I wanted to get a basic-but-modern machine.  For me, getting a fancy machine would be a waste what if learning how to sew didn’t work out? But, I didn’t want to go too basic, which would just be frustrating, and it did not make sense to not take advantage of advances in sewing machines.

I went with the Brother CS6000i, since it has good reviews and was economical.

I can really appreciate the modern features of my sewing machine, since I had to deal with my sister’s old machine during the second pajama pants debacle. Loading the bobbin in her old machine was a terror, and one of the main reasons she almost stopped sewing. Loading the bobbin in the Brother CS6000i was so easy that I was skeptical, and spent about an hour reading the manual and trying to make it more complicated. (“It can’t be this easy. No. It should take like an hour, at least.”) Loading the top thread is easy, and it has an automatic needle threader.

One thing I am not happy about is the width of the free arm. To me, it just seems too big to fit things with a smaller circumference things around. I could be making incorrect assumptions about how it is used, but I can already tell that it is too small for me to fit my sleeve cuffs around. I am sure I will be able to figure out how to use it correctly, though.

The Brother CS6000i can do 60 types of stitches, and 7 types of buttonholes. I haven’t really had to use these features yet, but am glad to have them. It comes with standard accessories (several different presser feet, a few bobbins, et cetera), which is great.

Compared to my sister’s new Elna 5300, the fabric seems to feed a bit less straight, and I am jealous of her machine’s ability to adjust the height of the presser foot to deal with fabrics of different thickness, especially denim and knits. Her machine also has 3 different settings to deal with different fabric weights (ie, something gauzy vs something heavy, like canvas). But, my machine is good! I think it is a good quality, economical learner’s machine, and I think I will be happy with it for several years, at least. Plus, since her machine specifically says it can be used for jeans and t-shirts, I can ask her to make them for me!

So, the Brother CS6000i is the ideal choice for me- a perfect intersection of economy and functionality.

Grandma’s Sewing Box

A few days ago we were at our Grandparents’ house.  My grandparents were very neat and organized, so when a white vinyl storage box caught my eye, I suspected that it was likely to be something worth keeping.

I grabbed the sturdy box off the shelf, and looked inside. It was exactly what I was hoping! It was my grandmother’s sewing box, full of notions. I didn’t even know that she used to sew.

Vintage Sewing Box

The box was a nice surprise, because I have been thinking that I need to order a sewing box. My notions and supplies are either scattered around my dining room (and apparently look like delicious dog toys), or they are crammed in a storage box where they are at risk of being lost forever. I resisted buying a sewing box from my local Joann’s because they all look so flimsy. Who wants a fabric snap button closure? That’s just dumb and is going to break.

Now I have a sturdier box, plus a lifetime supply of hand sewing needles, some extra scissors, lots of old thread and pins, and a bunch of aged seam binding/hem tape (great for practicing with). My new sewing box needs a bit of repair work, but its a great way to remember my grandmother. Thanks, Grandma!

Vintage Sewing Notions
Sewing Notions

Failed Project #1: Pajama Pants Without a Pattern

We are truly novice sewers. We don’t know anyone who sews, and have no source of guidance or advice. Thank God for the internet, and all the great sewing blogs that serve as inspiration!

My initial interest in sewing was actually about two years ago, when I found that my favorite source of pajama pants, Old Navy, had decided to put a bunch of uncomfortable and impractical snaps and ribbon on the side of every pair of pajama pants. Gone were the straight-legged, regular length, comfortable and affordable pajama pants! Replacing them was horribly over-complicated and over-designed cargo roll-up-leg pajama pants, which came at a substantially higher price. I knew that the stupid snaps and cargo design were intended to seem to justify the price increase, when in reality it was no added value at all. And thus began my Old Navy boycott.

old navy pajama Pants
The Most Uncomfortable Pajama Pants in the World

I visited my local sewing store on a whim. I ended up buying an old Singer Merritt 4530 sewing machine. Visions of beautiful silky pajama pants began to materialize in my imagination.

Sadly, it was never to be. I found instructions on the internet to make pajama pants without a pattern, using deconstructed old pajama pants as a guide. I hadn’t worked on the waist yet, but the pants I made looked OK. Sure, the legs were a little uneven and don’t get me started about the weird crotch (!), but I was proud. I went to put them on, and discovered that these pajama pants would never fit an adult woman.

This disappointment didn’t completely stop my sewing enthusiasm. I tried and failed yet again. This defeat, combined with losing the tension adjustment knob on my machine (plus the unspeakable trauma of countless unsuccessful attempts to raise the bobbin thread), served to stop my desire to sew in its tracks.

Why didn’t I get my machine fixed? Why didn’t I just buy a sewing pattern like a normal person? I don’t know.

Luckily, a visit from my sister (aka Right), during which we again lamented the horrible quality of clothing and also inspected my sewing machine inspired the hope that we can learn how to sew together.

This blog is our way of helping each other through the ups and downs of learning how to sew. And if we are successful, we hope that this blog might help someone else learn how to sew too.