Blue boxy bag

Once upon a time, around 20 years ago, I bought a bag off a street vendor in Athens. I ended up using it so much, that the loop for the handle broke off! That’s what happens when you put page-a-day Moleskines in there, and carry them around all the time.

A few years ago, I was at my parents, wanting to do something, but they couldn’t leave the house. It must’ve been either too cold or too hot.

So I decided to make a pattern of that old bag. I’d loved it so much that I’d kept it, despite it being old and broken.

Yes, I did it on baking paper. That’s what the parents had at home…

Then I cut the pieces out of leather, and glued two on either side of bag-cardboard, to make a hard bottom. No photos of that.

Next I started sewing the sides to the base, to make sure they’d be in the right spot.

The bag is only made of 3 pieces: bottom and 2 sides. It of course also has a strap and 2 strap-holders, but the main pieces are only 3.

After attaching the sides to the bottom, I added the zip on top. I really wanted to avoid the bag being somehow horizontally distorted.

I may have worked on the side seams while trying to focus at work. You’d be surprised what some manual work does for your listening focus sometimes 🙂 It really helps anchor a wandering mind!

In case nobody’s noticed, the bag was being sewn with inner seams (inside out), like a garment. After the three main pieces were all sewn together, I had to flip it.

Piercing the strap-holders was a bit stressful. Would they line up right on the end bits of the bag?
One saddle-stitch at a time!
Done!! Also stitched the bag strap.
It works!!
The boxy blue bag

It is very soft and very light. If those two metal rings weren’t on it, it might fly away!

I haven’t filled it yet. But I did try to get one of those fat A5 moleskine annual diaries in, like I used to 20 or so years ago. It fits!!

How to replace high heel insoles and add a hidden platform

I bought a pair of shoes at London Fashion Weekend sometime around 2009. Their shape is lovely, they have ankle straps to stay on, and they are made of funky fish skin dyed nude.

But they are old and a bit too large. The insoles were knackered despite me not wearing them too much. I decided to replace them.

It’s actually very easy, replacing insoles.

All you need is a piece of leather, a scalpel, a pen and UHU glue.

In 2017 I took the shoe making course at Cordwainer’s and I was surprised how easy some parts of making a shoe are. (Also I LOVED that course. My alternative career is definitely shoe maker.)

So I ripped the insoles out.

The nails sticking out over the heel needed something thick to cover them.

I decided to add something thick to the front too a bit like a hidden platform. Just one thick piece of leather.

Then I saw some foam I had lying around… so with the shoes being very roomy, I decided to add some padding in the front.

All you need is glue. No joke. I use UHU.

Foam went first.

Then more glue and the leather front soles.

Then I again used the old insoles as pattern pieces, traced them, then carefully cut new insoles out of baby blue leather using a scalpel.

I prefer putting insoles in suede side up. I find it more comfortable and grippy against the soles of my feet. The shiny leather can give blisters and is slippery so shoes move around. Not a good look, a shoe slipping off and a twisted ankle on a London sidewalk.

Getting the new full length insoles is a bit harder but it’s very doable if you get your hand under it (and covered in glue).

Ta daaaa!!

They are aaaalmost ready to wear. I put them on and stood for maybe ten minutes to put pressure onto the glue and warm it up to help it stick.

All done!!

They are now super comfy. And they hide my favourite colour (blue) in the insoles. Yay!

Watch strap (going nuts here)

I’ve been wanting to try this for ages, and I finally did!! I made a watch strap.

This isn’t a typical watch for me. I have been wearing swatches near-exclusively since 1985.

I got the withings watch to track my activity and sleep during lockdown, because I wanted to have some reason to walk around and some reason to go to bed and get out of it. And an awareness of moving and sleeping “enough”.

It came with a silicone strap that wasn’t breathing. It was really unpleasant. So I bought a leather strap from amazon. That was a lot better. And it motivated me to try making my own.

Well, ok, if I am honest, work motivated me to make my own. I am on a project right now (which is awesome, because there aren’t that many of them for designers), and it has 2-6 hours (HOURS) of calls every day. For most of them, I mainly need to listen. And pure listening is hard for me, I am very visual. So while someone was talking, I thought it might be wise to do something with my hands so I don’t go nuts.

And that’s how the watch strap got started.

One small piece of leather with two lines
Slice it up
Check the width
Thin the leather where you’ll fold & glue it
Glue it all up and let it rest a moment
It’ll need a bit of stitching in a few spots
And it fits like a … watch strap 🤣

End to end it maybe took 2 hours.

It is blatantly imprecise, and rough, cut with a scalpel by hand without instruments, out of plain undyed leather.

It will get darker and tanned with time, as it spends time in the sun, just like my skin.

In a world where there is no reason to get up in the morning, and where the only accomplishment (aside from staying on top of work) is keeping oneself fed every day, and preventing the flat from looking like a tip, it feels good to make something.

So I made a watch strap.

Splatter dress!

There is a dress that I love and have four of.

The Myla from the pretty dress company.

I own it in cobalt blue, black and white. And eventually I might own it in all the colours. I adore this dress.

I also love wearing white. As a Greek, it suits me and feels like home. But sometimes, in a town like London, it’s a bit bright. So I decided to buy an extra Myla in white and maybe dip dye it or paint on it or something. Make it different. I wasn’t sure how.

Then my best friend Dana said “hey, I got a bunch of spray paints in colours you like”. And so… the white dress…

Got SPLATTERED WITH SPRAYPAINT!!!

I sprayed some ice blue in the traditional manner at the bottom, then got flicking caploads of spraypaint onto the dress.

LOTS of flicking.

So much flicking, that my arm hurt the next day.

And you’ll notice there are a dozen colours on there, including two pinks, two yellows, and 8 blues and greens!

We clearly didn’t think that crazy splatter dress was enough… because we also made a splatter necklace!! (In the bottom right)

It was a LOT of fun.

And as a bonus I am no longer worried about staining the white dress. Whatever I drop on it will just blend in with the rest of the splatter.

Last week I ran a workshop at work, and wore it. I felt awesome with the swing skirt, the pockets held my work passes, and the splatter gave a colourful crafty creativeness to the bright white boardroom.

It also looks great for going out for brunch on the weekend.

To splatter a dress, spray paint into the cap of the can, and flick the can towards your canvas. That is genuinely it.

Though I did get all perfectionist about it and made sure I changed my angle of flicking to be radial from the waistband to the edges of the circle skirt…. Once a geometry nerd, always a geometry nerd…

Have fun!!!

Got jeans that constantly slip off your bum? Then you need a secret belt!!

Ok, first of all, I haven’t posted anything in TWO YEARS!?!? Sorry. 🤭

I just bought a new pair of jeans from uniqlo. They are the ultra stretchy kind, which in my experience means “we’ll keep slithering down off your bum all day, so you’ll spend all day pulling your trousers up again and again and again”.

Like most sane people, I find it immensely annoying to have to be constantly adjusting my clothes, so I have been adding secret belts to my jeans for the past few years.

This is the first time that I have paused and taken photos at every step, so that I could share the method with others.

First off, get a pair of jeans.

Then, a bit inwards from the button, cut a vertical hole.

How far in you cut depends on how stretchy they are. A lot of stretch, a small distance. Little stretch, bigger distance.

The goal is to leave enough of non-belted stretch / movement to allow for the jeans to flex when you move and sit and stuff. Or they’ll cut off your circulation.

Make the same cut on the other side of the waistband.

Next, take a solid ribbon that you have pre-cut to your “circumference” minus the “gap” of stretchiness you decided to leave, and weave a safety pin onto it.

Then, thread the safety pin with the ribbon through the hole on one end, and slowly move it along through the waistband until you make it come out of the hole at the other end of the waistband.

So now you have a ribbon threaded through the waistband of your jeans. Awesome. Don’t let it slip in.

Next, stitch the ribbon down onto the jeans, both before the opening and after.

And then fold it back and stitch it down so it covers the lumpy and scratchy stitch job you did at first.

Do the same thing on the other side. First stitch the ribbon down as it’s coming out of the hole.

Then fold back and stitch down.

When you’re done, it should look roughly like this.

Which means that when you put it on, it looks like THIS!

You’ll notice the ribbon creating a fold on the waistband. If you hate this, instead of threading the ribbon into the waistband, stitch it down on the inside, all around the waistband. That does make it more scratchy though, so I’ve opted for this solution.

Enjoy having jeans that no longer slip off your bum!!

My first sewing-awl saddle stitch!! Pen roll strap

Over new year’s, I went with my parter to visit his brother in the US. While there, I happened to go to an art store and buy some pens… which I could not fit into the – frankly too small – pencil case I had brought along. So I went back ans bought a pen roll too!

Except the pen roll was so poorly made! The strap felt quite unpleasant and stiff to the touch, and the button was popping off and letting the roll unroll while in my bag!

There are few materials I like less than plastic trying to pass itself off as leather… yuck! So today, as my first project of 2017, I replaced that strap with a leather one.

I had a leather skin, with a convenient straight edge, which I followed to manually cut a mostly straight strap much longer than the one on the pen roll.

Then I had to unpick the bad strap without damaging the pen roll! Embroidery scissors came in handy.

And finally, I stitched it using a sewing awl I bought in Germany about three years ago. My first ever real saddle stitch!! It was very exciting and surprisingly not very difficult at all! I am glad I have a massive chopping board to hand for doing my leather work on, or the cutting mat would be looking like a needlepoint project by now!

Oyster card holder


So a couple of months ago I made an oyster card holder.

I had a tough commute, and needed to be able to find the oyster card more easily. And hold onto it better, because that little thing is very slippery!

This was made with two pieces of leather, very easily saddle-stitched with gold thread all around. Then I stitched the slightly longer piece back onto the blue one, creating a loop. 

I hadn’t expected to make the loop. It sort of just happened. And it has been very good!

Storing summer shoes

The seasons are changing and I am swapping out summer things for winter things, starting with the hardest things to wear: shoes. Everyone says you should put one pair in one box and stick a photo on it. But those people must have a home printer or a way to take expert photos on white backgrounds. And also, not that many shoes! 
I always consolidate my shoes into IKEA shoe boxes. This year, I added quick illustrations of what is inside so I would find things more easily if I needed them. 

Hand-drawn illustrations are faster to do that photo-print-cut-place. And given they only emphasise the salient detail making the shoe unique, it is easier to recognise the shoe from its illustration than from its photo! 

This is what my boxes looked like last night, before I put them up above the wardrobe. 

    

How to make a reversible shift dress

Recently, I have been making stretchy shift dresses. A lot of them. At some point I realised I needed heavier fabrics, in part because the weather is getting colder, and in part because: undergarment-lines!

But heavy stretchy fabrics are impossibly hard to find. So I settled on a double-layer dress. 

As I pondered making it, it occurred to me that if I am making two layers, and my dress is of incredibly simple construction, then I should be able to make it  reversible!!

Except I wasn’t sure. 

When I googled reversible dress, I found nothing useful. Maybe everyone knows how to do this? Maybe it’s impossible? Or maybe nobody has thought that a shift dress made of simple jersey is something you’d want a two-layered two-in-one of!

So I had to make a prototype. Naturally, the articulated mattel doll came out.    

My pattern making was rudimentary. (In fact I did not leave enough room for her head!)

    
And it was easy to cut four layers of fabric in one shot. It was a barbie-sized proof-of-concept! 

 
This is where the secret is. The order of the seams!!! I did them by hand because the dress was so tiny.

First, good-side-to-good-side of the front pieces (one of each colour).

Stitch  the neck and arm openings. 

Do the same to the good-side-to-good side of the back pieces.

  
Then stitch the side seams of a colour’s front and back pieces, good-side-to-good side. And then do it for the other colour too. 

You end up with a silly-looking tube. 

 
If you wiggle the tube at the shoulder seams, you can also stitch those down (good-side-to-good-side of each colour). It gets a bit tight, but not too much.

Then you’re ready to flip the dress like a sock!

And there we go. A double-sided dress.   
Shame she didn’t fit in it. But it’s ok. Because in exactly that way (plus several dozen pins) I made me a life-size one!!

The only difference: my front and back pieces are a different shape. So I made myself two pattern pieces of the full front and full back, and cut two fabrics (one of each colour) from each pattern piece. 

   
I pinned EVERYTHING like a madwoman. Thin jersey dances around like a jitterbug if given half a chance. It’s thin, slippery and stretchy! 

    
I did all of my pinning of the arm and neck openings first. 

 
Then stitched them veeeeeery carefully, progressively pulling out the pins. Notice I set the pins perpendicular to the seam line, in case I needed to sew over them. 

   
Then I also stitched the long side-seams and shoulder…. Which I completely forgot to photograph!

After the dress was flipped, I had to puzzle out the hem. The one thing I could not be bothered to check on the doll!

Firstly, I let it hang for a few days. ALWAYS do this before hemming to allow the fabric to take its preferred position with respect to gravity. 

I have seen dresses retailing at £500 whose creators forgot to do that, and whose hems were crooked by the time I tried them on!!!

 
After it had rested sufficiently, I pinned it, folding excess fabric inwards and creating a folded flat seam. 

  
I then let it hang a bit longer. 

Eventually, I took it down and stitched the hem down with one neat zig-zag seam. I used black overlocking thread which is incredibly thin, so my stitch is near-invisible. 

I wore it last night to work and then out for the evening! But I don’t have any photos. There will be some later!! 

I am currently working on a lined dress with pockets using the same pattern and principle! Except the “lining” is very thin, and therefore I will never reverse the dress. 

two-piece two-seam jersey dress

This is a two-seam dress IF you have the guts to leave the armholes, neckline and hem unfinished. Some jersey materials lend themselves wonderfully to that sort of look. I personally wanted my dresses to be worn at the office as well, so I finished them carefully.

I cut the fabric on the floor because that was going to be easier than anything else.

The pattern is one I lifted from a knit dress I already own. I wasn’t sure if it would work in a jersey, but it did!

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I cut it very carefully to be sure the stripes would line up when I assembled it.

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The tools. Bernina B330, Guterman red thread (100% Polyester) and Prym metal bobbins.

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Being a bit OCD about lining up the stripes. The machine still made them slip around, annoyingly enough so it’s not flawless. But it’s damn close!

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I was supremely lazy with the armholes and neckline and quickly just rolled them inwards. I did use pins though, to make sure it was nice and neat.

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Ta daa… Easy jersey dress. Two pieces, 4 seams (2 sides & two shoulders) with 3 “holes” (arms & neck) and one invisible hem.

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I liked the dress so much, I have made two more like it. Here is another one, in jersey I bought at Liberty. Yes, it’s a liberty print!!

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Wearing it the next day.

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