All posts by caroline

The Ultimate Travel Bag – Nearly Finished!

Phew! I had intended to take photographs as I worked may way through the construction of this bag which I have to say has been a labour of ‘love/hate’! However, the desire to get on and stitch through to the next stage meant that I totally forgot to take a breath – and a photo.

The process of construction is complicated but as with all Annie Unrein’s projects, the instructions both written and video are comprehensive and do help to make up this project. There were a few hiccups along the way – nothing to do with the way of the instructions or the project itself – much more to do with my desire to change the sizing and also to use materials that were to hand rather than the correct products as per the materials list.

But the bag is almost complete – I could use it as it is now but there are a few things that still need to be addressed. Firstly I have not bound the inside seams. This is not earth-shattering and I will definitely be hand stitching a binding to the internal seams once I return from my trip but for now it would be another time-consuming activity for which I simply do not have time. Secondly, at time of writing I have not made the pad for the carrying strap. I will sit down and make that tomorrow afternoon as I feel that it is an essential part of the carrying strap. Thirdly, because I used a thick heavyweight drill fabric for the straps and they are filled with cotton webbing, my machine really struggled to stitch the carrying strap ends. I have brass rivets and plan to install them before I leave. If not, I shall just have to be careful with weight distribution and hope that my stitching holds up.

Notes on construction:

The bag is made in sections. This is great as the front,back and side panels are constructed with their pockets both inside and out before the bag is put together.

Front Panel Prepared with Zip & Slip Pocket

Slip Mesh Pockets inside the Front Panel

Zipped Mesh Pocket inside the Back Panel

The straps and handles are reinforced by the insertion of webbing. I have not used this method before, hence my use of the incorrect webbing. I will certainly use this method again in the future and have already ordered the nylon webbing to use in other bag handles and straps.

The use of Bosal ® wadding helps to make the bag stand upright. Additional stitching helps to compress the foam and makes it easier to stitch the component parts together.

Below a few more photographs that I did remember to take during the final stages of construction.

One side of the side strip attached to the Back panel

Back strap with Velcro to slide over Trolley

Preparing to Stitch the Second Panel to the Side Strip

The bag measures 49 cms across x 38 cms high x 17 cms deep at its widest part and weighs in at just 800 grams. Thus I have achieved the objective which was to make a bag that fit within the dimensions quoted by the Airline and weighs considerably less than the carry-on bag that I almost purchased from Antler.

Construction of the bag was a steep learning curve. I love the end result but don’t think that I will be making another anytime soon.



Sew Sturdy: The Ultimate Travel Bag by Annie Unrein

Those of you that follow my blog will know that I am very excited. I am going on a Fly/Cruise to the Caribbean! There has been a flurry of activity over the past couple of months. I have gradually assessed the wardrobe requirements for two weeks in the Caribbean climate – very different to what we are experiencing here in Hampshire UK at present! It has seemed a little strange to be thinking of cotton tops and dresses, cut off trousers and last but not least – evening wear as the snow gently flutters passed the window!

As this is to be a Fly/Cruise I need to be aware of weight restrictions for my luggage. I checked the allowances for hold and cabin. The hold baggage can be up to 23 kgs but the cabin must not exceed 5kgs and be contained within a case measuring no more than 55cms x 40cmsx 20cms. ‘That’s OK’ I thought, ‘I can buy a small case to fit those limits’. How wrong I was! The smallest case that I could find was great size-wise but oh dear, it weighs in at 2.2 kgs! That does not leave much scope for the contents. So…. I am making my case using the Sew Sturdy: Ultimate Travel Bag pattern by Annie Unrein.

I have previously made the Sew Sturdy: Sewing Organiser Bag and the Essential Back Pack by Annie which turned out to be exactly what is says on the tin – sew sturdy.

I had hoped to be able to buy some more Linen/Cotton blend fabric from New Threads that would match the handbag that I intend to take with me – but unfortunately having visited the shop, discovered that the last of the roll had been sold – probably to me! Instead I purchased 2 metres of a beautiful patchwork print Linen by French General together with coordinating quilting cottons.

French General Outer Fabric

Lining Fabric

Combined with the cost of Annie Soft & Stable wadding, mesh for pockets, nickel hardware, zips and thread the total cost is in the region of £75 – but hey, this travel bag is going to be unique and I am sure will see a great deal of travel over its lifetime so cost per use will workout to be inconsequential.

This morning whilst the snow converts the landscape to a chocolate box picture, I have cut out all the pieces ready to start quilting this afternoon. I will keep you posted on progress……

Second time Success – The Lady Skater Dress in Ponte Roma

After the previous iteration – a non-fitting toile – of this Lady Skater dress I have adjusted the pattern and intended to make another version of the dress. I WILL have a Lady Skater dress in my wardrobe!

Adjustments made to the pattern were:-

1)Add 1 inch to side seams at bust,

2)re-draw neckline by bringing in shoulder seams at neck edge by 1 inch,

3)re-draw armscye to make shoulders narrower,

4)Add 1 inch to underarm seam on sleeve to match additional width added to bodice,

5)make sway back adjustment,

6)add 1½ inches to the side seams at waist,

7)add 1½ inches to side seams of skirt

8)add 6 inches to the length of the skirt.

These are all fairly minor adjustments but in the final analysis made a world of difference.

I used 3 metres (total cost £15.00) a lovely Snakeskin print Ponte Roma purchased in March last year from M.Rosenberg & Son at the Sewing for Pleasure show at the NEC, Birmingham. Although the colour appears Black/Grey/White in the photographs it is actually various shades from Olive Green thru’ to Ivory. Even after lengthening the skirt by 6 inches, I still had some fabric left over – possibly enough to make a cap-sleeved top to wear with the Cream circle skirt.

So, onto the construction. I mostly used the overlocker for stitching the dress. At first fitting I reduced the length of the back bodice. The disadvantage of a very upright posture is that I always have to make a sway back adjustment which can sometimes lead to strange centre back seams but fortunately for this dress I had cut the back bodice on the fold. The fact that the waistline is now cut slightly on the bias is lost in the intricacies of the print. I also graded away some of the length on the front bodice. I felt that the sleeves were a little too short and added a narrow double-folded cuff of 1¼ inches. The centre back seam of the skirt and top-stitching of the neck band were straight-stitched on the sewing machine. For the hem on the skirt I used Sian of Kittenish Behaviour’s suggestion: Having run the hemline through the overlocker I then turned the scant ¼ inch to the wrong side and top stitched with a single row of straight stitching.

The dress has gone together very well and now fits perfectly. Notice how great it looks with my ‘feature’ wide belt.

  It was not until I tried on the completed dress and ‘swished’ about in front of the mirror that I noticed how I had achieved a lovely chevron effect at the side seams of the skirt and that the pattern matched thru’ from front bodice to front skirt. A complete accident!

Not quite wearable Toile – The Lady Skater by Kitschy Coo

I regularly follow several sewing vlogs and a design that has appeared many times is The Lady Skater by Kitschy Coo. I could see that it was my sort of style so would give it a try.


To be fair, it was always going to be an uphill struggle for the dress as I made my first version using some thick heavy scuba crepe that I bought from Cheapest Fabrics UK on eBay.

When I opened the parcel of this fabric I was immediately disappointed. It is very heavy and ‘spongy’ with not a great deal of stretch. The colour on my screen at home made it look more sort of Duck Egg Blue rather than the Grey it is called in the description box. I admit that buying fabric over the internet can be a lottery and on this occasion my £19.80 investment was definitely not for a winning ticket.

However, I decided to go ahead and make up the pattern as a wearable toile, just to see how it turned out.

According to the measurement chart I needed to cut a size 8 and add 1½ inches to each side seam at the waist point to allow for my chubby mid-section. I lengthened the skirt by 6 inches but apart from that made no alterations to the pattern.

The dress was stitched on the overlocker using a narrow seam. At first fitting I could see immediately that the top was too wide for my shoulders. The neckline was quite low but that could be remedied with a neckband. I needed to reduce the length at centre back of the bodice to allow for my sway back and remove the additional length at centre front that I had added to account for my bust. The sleeve length was fine but the biggest problem was how it squashed my bust!

This pattern is a little different to the usual in that you are instructed to measure your HIGH bust rather than your full bust. Mine measured 1 inch less than the size chart so it should have been OK – but it most definitely is not. At this stage there was nothing I could do as the sleeves had been inserted and the bodice side seams/sleeve seams sewn. So … I continued with the construction of the dress. The hems on the sleeves and skirt are stitched with a twin needle stitch length 3.5. At final fitting I found that the mid-section was close-fitting but the length of the skirt and the neck binding were fine.

The Lady Skater by Kitschy Coo

I have made adjustments to the pattern and will make this dress again in a finer jersey fabric (probably a Ponte Roma)  that has more stretch. I am sure it will then be a good fit – both to my figure and my preferred dress style.

Cactus Print Scuba Plantain Top

The Plantain Top by Deer & Doe is currently my ‘go to’ pattern for simple tunic-style tops.

This one is made from a delightful cactus print on Scuba that I bought from Fabric Styles. I purchased just 1 metre at £4.50 and the fabric is so soft and silky that it will be a delight to wear.

I cut the sleeves ¾ length and then laid the front and back bodice pieces on the remainder of fabric to cut with a centre back length of 23 inches. The neckline has again been re-shaped by raising the centre front by 2 inches, making a gentle curve that is slightly wider and grading the neck points accordingly. I cut a neckband piece 2½ inches wide.

For construction I used the overlocker which is now threaded up with White. The neckband went on like a dream and the hems of the sleeves and bodice are twin-needle stitched in place. This top sews up in less than an hour.

Whilst in a ‘frivolous’ mood I have also purchased some pretty plimsolls – they are really Caribbean appropriate!

Re-fashioning Paola Tops

In the past few months I have made a couple of Paola tops which for one reason or another have not turned out as I would like.

Usually when this happens I offer the garment for sale on eBay and if not sold it is put aside to go to the local charity shop. In this instance I really wanted to keep the two Paola tops for myself, so something would have to be done.

The first – a Grey Sweater Knit style Ponte from The Textile Centre finished up quite fitted with a polo (turtle) neck that was uncomfortable as it was so restrictive and close to my neck. Also the sleeves, once I had added long cuffs, made them too long. Even though I had intended for them to cover my wrists in the really cold weather, I found them uncomfortable and was forever folding them back.

The second, an Aqua-coloured Paola was made using a cotton jersey bought when on sale from Charlee Girl. The entire garment felt too big, the neckline was stretched, the sleeves too long and the hemline with the twin-needle stitching was very wavy.

For the Grey version I first cut off the collar and re-shaped the neckline to a low crew shape. Using some remnant of fabric I cut a neckband 2¼ inches wide and following my TNT method, applied this to the new shape. The sleeves were also an easy fix. I cut off the cuffs and removed the overlock seam. I removed 3 inches from the length of the sleeves before re-attaching the cuffs. Now they are exactly the right length. Whilst I had the Charcoal Grey thread on the sewing machine I took the time to take in the side seams at the hemline by approximately 1 inch each side, grading to 0 inches at the waistline.


One down, one to go.

Again for the Aqua Paola I removed the collar and re-shaped the neckline. This time into a wider, more scooped line. I used a remnant from the tropical leaf print jersey dress that I made last Summer to cut a neckband. Once again, my TNT method resulted in a great-looking neckband complete with co-ordinating top stitching.

The sleeves were each reduced by approximately 3 inches before adding a cuff, also in the contrasting tropical leaf print jersey fabric. The wavy hem was given a thorough press and it is now ‘behaving’ itself.


I have retrieved possible ‘rejects’ and now there are two new tops in my wardrobe.

This exercise has also taught me how quick and simple it is to re-shape a neckline, apply a neckband and add contrasting cuffs to a tee top. As good quality tees are readily available from High Street stores at very competitive prices, in future I might buy some and refashion to make new ‘originals’.

Drunkards Path Patchwork

When my sister and I go on our travels which has lately taken the form of a cruise, I always prepare a couple of kits of patchwork hand-sewing projects. This year we will be visiting the Caribbean for a fly-cruise so will have to reign back slightly on our packing.

After consultation with Catherine, we decided to tackle the Drunkards’ Path block. After browsing various Pinterest boards I came up with two very different arrangements for the blocks.

The first, ‘Drunken Birds’, I will be stitching myself, whilst Catherine will be working on a slightly more traditional arrangement.

We decided that as we would be in the Caribbean we would choose vibrant coloured fabrics to reflect our location. I visited New Threads Quilt Shop and purchased twelve fat quarters which combined with some equally bold prints would be used in our projects. The background colour for my quilt will be Blue and Catherine has chosen a Primrose Yellow.

After careful evaluation of the ‘birds’ I sorted my fabrics and started cutting the various parts. When cutting the ‘arcs’ there is always a lozenge shape of spare fabric and I thought that it would be ideal to use as the ‘heads’ of the birds. Once all the parts had been die-cut, I arranged the blocks

according to the inspiration to check how they looked together. I have used three different shades of Blue for the background ‘sky’ and arranged the blocks so that the lightest ‘sky’ is at the top of the quilt, grading to a medium Blue and then for the bottom row of birds, a much darker Blue. I hope that this will help to give the impression of perspective, that the top row of birds are further away. We shall see.

I cut the lozenge shapes in half widthways and placed on the appropriate Blue fan-shaped piece before using a fine zig-zag stitch to appliqué in place. Gradually all the ‘heads’ were stitched.

Well, now I thought I would stitch a sample/test block.

I was so pleased with the result that I could not stop…. now I have stitched seven blocks on the machine. This means that I shall have to make all 21 of the blocks on the machine as otherwise with some hand-sewn the result on the quilt may look a little odd. I don’t mind.

I enjoy stitching this block and as Catherine has in excess of 100 blocks to sew for her quilt I will happily assist by hand stitching some for her. What are sisters for?

Full Circle Skirt

Back in January I purchased 2 metres of Cream Ponte from The Textile Centre (cost £3.14/m). I knew that I am short of plain-coloured skirts in my wardrobe so a full-circle skirt with elasticated waistband would fill a gap.

To make the skirt I turned once again to McCalls 6754

and using only the skirt front and back patterns with an additional 3 inches to the length I cut out. I omitted the centre back seam of the skirt by placing on the fold. I cut a waistband from the width of the fabric x 4 inches wide.

So with very little seaming the skirt was sewn in less than 1 hour. The waistband is top stitched and a length of Petastretch® inserted for the elastication.

The skirt has been allowed to hang for 24 hours but there does not appear to be any drop in the bias. The hem now needs to be top- stitched in place with a twin needle and given a good press.

This skirt has proved a winner. I was a little disappointed that the colour I had bought was Cream rather than White but provided I do not wear the skirt with any White tops, I am sure it will be fine.


Back to Basic Patchwork – Hexagons

The second Monday in the month is the morning for Patchwork & Quilting at Franklins in Salisbury. We are re-visiting the basics and this month we looked again at hexagons.

Using templates that came free with a quilting magazine and some scraps of cotton fabric, I made 6 hexies with 1 inch sides.

Using Emma’s detailed instructions, these were carefully placed on a quilt sandwich of a fat quarter printed cotton, thin wadding and another fat quarter of plain cotton for the backing. I would normally use a spray adhesive to keep the layers together but as this was a small piece and would be quilted very quickly, I simply basted with glass-headed pins.

Prior to stitching, the hexagons were kept in place with some fabric glue.

In Emma’s sample she had quilted in three directions through the middle of each hexagon. However, as I had ‘fussy-cut’ the print of some of my hexagons, I had to stitch around the edge of each individual one. I then quilted in two directions only as time was getting on, I wanted to have the project finished by the end of the evening!

I completed the bag with a Yellow zip and sugar bag bottom corners. The finished bag measures 15 inches across x 9 inches deep. A really useful item to showcase those hexagons!

Like a Chinese meal, no sooner have you finished making a few hexagons than you feel like making some more. They will have to wait until I have made the full circle skirt which is now cut out and ready to sew….. catch you later!