save it for a rainy day – umbrella and tent upcycling

I had been rather busy with broken umbrellas this summer and autumn.  It really got started after I helped at the Galway repair cafe, and met Cathy from An Mheitheal Rothar (its a community bike workshop which helps repair and service bikes, run on the principals of ‘Meitheal‘ – and I am a huge fan of theirs).

Being such a fan, I suggested to Cathy I could run a free sewing workshop which reused rain gear someway, especially as being in the west of Ireland, there is a shocking amount of umbrellas that become single use items, and she came up with the catchy title ‘save it for a rainy day’. So I was off, gathering umbrellas from anywhere I could. I did pick up some from the street, my sister put a shout out in her workplace and I did a shout out on ‘freecycle’. After all that I got

  • 10-15 umbrellas (mainly black)
  • 2 tents (one had a ripped carry bag now repaired and tent still a tent and the second was donated without poles to Cope Charity Shop so got repurposed)
  • 12 high viz jackets
  • 2 shower curtains
  • 1 rain jacket (already had this from the €1 rail in charity shop)

When I got to working the umbrellas, my main ideas were a backpack cover, shopper and saddle cover and my idea for shower curtains was rain poncho. When I got to working the fabrics, the shower curtains were polyester so soaked and contained water so not much use there, but I did notice the umbrellas shape lent itself well to a kids poncho.

The Play Poncho

The poncho was quick to realise, and I used the black umbrellas to test the pattern. I had to use the high viz jacket to give some ‘interest’ and the reflective strips were reused to make it visible and suitable for safe play. I was quite chuffed with how it worked out and decided to enter it to an upcycle competition in September but wasn’t sure how it would get on as the black appeared a bit dowdy (and I wasn’t going to remake it as I had a load of other ideas to try out). I don’t have many photos of the making as the ones I took ended up in some ‘ether’ as I had computer issues last month. The pattern for the hood and guide to the make are in the pattern section of the blog.

child play poncho image 2

From the other umbrella I made a shopper, which was rather basic and not really anything to write home about so I was on to the tents and other fabrics to see if I could make backpacks.

The Backpacks

Vogue denim lunch-bag

I had been meaning to make some backpacks for a while as I needed a new lunch-bag and also wanted to try and use up smaller pieces of fabric.

The first backpack was from scrap denim and the hardware straps and zips harvested from a ‘stiga’ ping-pong ball bags used in retail ‘point of sale (and would have been discarded when empty except I worked in the store and took it home about 6 years ago).

Its a vogue pattern and not much to say on it except I thought using the pattern would get me making up a bag with detail and save me the hassle of drafting and measuring. It worked out fine but as the instructions became a bit fiddly at the end I took some short cuts to finish! Overall, it was a very useful make and worked well through August and September as my work lunch bag.

Repurposed tent/Japanese Bag Making Book

The second back pack was all tent, which had been donated to Cope charity shop without the tent rods. It took longer than it should as I sewed it twice, or so it felt as I kept sewing the fabric back to front! The other tricky part was the nylon was a fine weave so I had to use a 70 needle so it would not skip stitches (I didn’t have a 70 when I started sewing and took me a while to figure the finer needle would give a better stitch).

japanese bag book

I used a Japanese bag making book pattern as I like the detailing of the 3-way wear. Its a very useful bag (now my current waterproof work lunch bag). The bag made up in a day or so and you can wear 3 ways, as bag, as cross over and as backpack. The zip was from the tent and the red gross-grain had been on a dress and the sliders came from a soon to be upcycled coat, and I gave the bag some reflective strips. The lining is the tent lining.

 

Upcycled rain jacket backpack

The third back pack was the simplest. It is really just 2 rectangles and a zip. I had been meaning to make a bag like this for a while as I did need an ‘overnight’ bag, and had been reluctant to buy one, especially as each time I saw one in a shop the ‘stop shop’ reflex took over (ie don’t buy unless you really have to).

I had a nylon jacket in the sewing room picked up from a discount rail in the charity shop. I don’t have the before photograph due to a tech issue (long story but end result was lots of various data now lost)

I was rather pleased as I got to use all of the jacket (with some velcro tabs and cord stops left over). I did have the bag strap already and as red, it added some colour. The bag is lined with a shirt, and tied with one of those clips which was ‘found’ at home. The d rings came from tent 1. The back of the bag ‘rectangle’ shape is made from sewing the 2 fronts together, and the pockets were left! – To cover the lower seams, I used old brown canvas scrap fabric. As this bag needed some structure, I used heavy sew in vilene as the interlining.

The pattern was really cutting 6 rectangles

  • 2 rectangles from jacket
  • 2 rectangles from shirt
  • 2 rectangles from sew-in vilene

I did add to the outer layer by putting a front pocket, the band to hold the backpack strap and the d-rings, as well as the strip of brown canvas at the base.

Once the rectangles are sewn 3 sides, the corners are then sewn across to make the bag stand up.

I did use 2 strips to bind the top raw edges and also attach the zip.The rectangles are approx 70 cm x 45  and when rolled down the bag measures about 45 cm high. Once the rectangles are sewn, the bag has a depth of approx 15cm (by sewing triangles at the corners).

I put 2 small loops to the side so it can be worn as a ‘record bag’ if needed, and also a d ring at the top in case the bag needs to be filled up and worn cross body with one strap or over shoulder.

The Workshop

After the samples were made (including a bike saddle cover, and produce bags from the linings), I did the workshop with my friend Cathriona in An Mheitheal Rothar, and enjoyed it a lot. There was a mix of age groups and abilities, and a lot of ambition. 2 of the makers did get the play ponchos made, and some tried shopping bags, but the most useful make was the produce bag as it was the better introduction to the sewing machine for beginners, as well as using up some of the tent cord!

The Upcycle Competition

So in the midst of preparing for the workshop, I got a call from the competition, and it turned out the play poncho was selected as one of the 8 prizewinning entries.

Below is a chair made from a redundant whiskey barrel, and a runner up in the peoples choice (these patchworks were amazing)

Anyway….the Play Poncho got the EPA Award in the mywaste.ie competition. I was well pleased, and had to go to an award ceremony at the national museum and hold a very large cheque!

 

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Wishing you all a very happy Christmas and thank you for all your comments and reads over the year. Really looking forward to remaking a wool coat and skirt after all that nylon and hopefully getting to do more posts in 2020

here is this years hand drawn card.

card

 

 

five minute frock and blinged bag

The frock and the bag are not a set, and the only thing they have in common was that I rushed them off before my 5 day work week routine began.  I was a bit frantic trying to ‘finish’ projects before part time work status ended, and I got these two out of the way.

 

The five minute frock was pretty much that! I had found a wallis maxi polyester skirt on the reduced rail (€1) in the charity shop and picked it up with the intent of maybe making another skirt, for the new job.  Some days later I wondered if I cut armholes in it would it make a dress? I did and it was.  I wore it for the day to see if it was comfortable to wear – it was – so shaped the armhole cuts to curves and hemmed them, and sewed down the elastic waistband which gives a slight structured boat-neck collar.  It also can technically be converted back to a maxi skirt later …..should it be needed!

 

 

The blinged bag was a whim.  I had picked the bag up for €3 in a reduced bin.  I figure it was reduced as the lining was shredded and the bag, while being a functional black, was also a vinyl bag.  I had been rather inspired by Kate’s cross stitching (at our knitty-stitchy group that meet up in Carrolls pub, Dominick St Wednesdays if anyone is in Galway and wants to pop in!) and Lulu Guinness Handbags when I planned this bag.  What I had not realised is that Kate makes cross stitch look easy, which it is not.  I had trialed a few cross stitch hearts and they were disastrous…..so resorted to a few hours on the embroidery machine and did this one!

 

I used a screwdriver to loosen the bag, and made a new lining.  I then embroidered the vinyl, and then got the gutterman glue, put it together again and hoped I did it right.  I get a bit frantic towards the end of fixing the bag into the clasp again as i am always convinced it will fall out or I will have missed a bit, but this is the second one ever I have done and both have been fine.

 

The motif I downloaded for free (and edited it to make the single smaller hearts) and when I find the link I used, I will post it here!

 

 

 

finishing old jobs – and fashion revolution day

When we moved here 4 years ago – I was in such a hurry to set up my work room that I hurriedly put up temporary shelves.  The walls are painted beauty board on minimal studs and the shelves were pretty dismal and it was in the corner of the room that was to become a bit of a glory-hole full of stuff propping more stuff up and hiding other stuff.  Inspired by a post in Sewing at Damgate, I moved my folded drawing desk to another room, gave James my Bobby trolley (5euro buy in charity shop) and he was so happy to get the trolley (had been vying for it for a while – and I don’t really use it) and also happy to help with a shelving solution for the workroom, that we got these sorted in a day! We used a simple slot in system and some pine boards and all of a sudden – complete organisation!  All of my sewing books are now finally together and while I hadn’t intended on any floor storage – I simply have too much craft stuff.  The floor boxes contain yarn, the next two shelves are sewing machines (the two white baskets are current projects to try and limit myself).  The shelf above is sewing supplies (the ikea drawers are full of spare re-used zips and other haberdashery) and books, next shelf is a mix of favourite patterns and other supplies and there is a top top shelf are boxes of less used supplies (christmas decorations, old belts, dyes) file folders and some empty spare shoe boxes (always handy).

It also gave me a chance to organise my projects a bit better and try and take a critical look.  I rarely get anything in the charity shops now as I have more than enough to work on here.  One thing I did come across was this bag.  It has been hanging on the door for a whole year.  When I saw it in the charity shop last year, my thought was to clean it, take it apart, reline it and re-sew it…….honestly, I sometimes think the woman in my head sews a hell-of-a-lot faster than me.  So I got real – and looked up best ways of cleaning leather, and decided to take my chances on hand-washing and soaking with wool shampoo!  I only soaked it the first time for about 20 minutes rinsed, and let it dry and saw most of the stains came off so I soaked it a second time and scrubbed it with a soft nail brush and then soaked for about 20 minutes again, rinsed….. and then when it dried put some leather conditioner on it!

BEFORE……leather bag before

AFTER

WIN_20170424_09_42_50_Pro.jpg

I have since put some dubbins on it and its now the same colour/tone as the rest….. the lining is still turquoise but cleaner – Job done!

We also did a fashion revolution mend day – it was a lovely day and I always meant to do something to mark the day as very little ‘fashion revolution’ events happen in Ireland and I thing only a few in Dublin and Cork this year.  Myself and Maureen and Helen (SewlastSeason) did a mend event in a community room/hub and met some lovely people who dropped by  and of course I have only a few blurred photos!

Singer 99k and some bags

I always had the idea, that straight stitch machines were ‘better’ to sew on and had better control.  Sometimes when I am making, I am often on a race to the finish so I can get extremely slap-dash, and I thought a straight stitch machine could help me get the neater finish (spoiler alert – it didn’t).  Anyway, there were three potential straight stitch machines  – a 99k, a 201, or a 221/featherweight.  As the 201 and 221 were too expensive, I got a 99k.

Singer 99k

 

Its made in 1953 according to the serial number and for a 3/4 machine, its plenty weighty – lord only knows what weight a 66 or 201 would be.   I really like the mock alligator case – seriously these old sewing machine cases are like air-hostess luggage – so cute!

The first job the machine had was to remake a mock-suede bag.  I made this last year, but the singer excelle didn’t really ‘get along’ with the mock suede and the final finish was a bit rough, and either way I didn’t even use the bag as the pink didn’t really tie in with anything.  The other side of the fabric was plum so I just took it apart and turned it all around.  The second time I did not do as much top stitch, but what the machine had to sew, it did very well.

 

I also ran up some more purses and bags in an effort to use up scraps, and old belts and zips.  These purses are from Noodlehead.

noodlehead pencil cases.jpg

 

The back pack is still a work in progress – I had a raincoat last year I was remaking and it was quickly going south as I didn’t have enough fabric, but I did manage to use it up in this back pack along with some old belt pieces – I will probably make a fabric strap or use old belts as the shoulder straps.  I think its slightly too big and also could so with some interfacing so I will be tweaking it over the next few weeks.

 

I also made a bag from some denim scrap and used a belt cut in 2 to make the handle.  the machine even sewed through this thick belt.  I was turning the wheel by hand for going though the belt, and even then I was beginning to feel like  a person that was deliberately cruel to sewing machines…

I then got a bit carried away and started on this butterick blouse and used some of the white fabric.  I was a bit quick and overconfident and the top-stitching is rather nasty so I have put it to one side and will redo it next week- reverse engineering my bad sewing habits will take more than the singer 99 I think.

 

 

 

Peppermint bag and Elna Lotus ZZ

I have been doing a few change arounds the last few months, and with all the reviewing, too-ing and fro-ing I ended up buying three new-old sewing machines and selling the novum and brother sewing machines from last year/year before.

I was a bit up to high-doh anyway as we are planning some works on the house and was getting easily distracted.  I also had decided that I did not really use the novum or brother as I don’t really like sewing on them, and then somewhere in this (twisty) logic was the decision to buy a machine I did want to sew on – at this stage I was also having the feeling that whatever about buying vintage dress patterns,  I was really in the big leagues here (and also glad I stopped at three machines, as I was getting carried away).   Anyway I sold my machines locally and some patterns (and a dart board!) and started a bit of a wish list…..

One of the machines I got was this Elna, and got rather suckered into the idea I was buying a design classic.  This one has a zig zag option, and I think from 1968.  Such a cute machine, and it was in great condition.   I decided to sew a small project on the machine to try it out.  ‘The project was making the ‘peppermint bag’ as I will be showing others how to make it in next weeks workshop.

Its really gorgeous, has a lovely motor sound and so beautifully put together.  Its only as  I was sewing on it I appreciated it more.  All the levers work as you would expect and the tension is preset and quite perfect.  I kept checking the stitch on a white bit of fabric as it was so tidy.  Its a bit heavier than I expected, not quite what you can put in your handbag, but it is incredibly compact and has the novelty/convenience of the accessory tray (there were 2 pieces missing -seam ripper and oil tube- so I filled them with my own seam ripper and a chalk pencil).    It is not the fastest but fairly nifty all the same , but it does sew so well, I kept admiring the stitch, really beautifully balanced.

The peppermint bag went together well – cute pattern and got to use up some liberty pieces I had been hoarding for a while, as well as some of the wool gabardine from the christmas dress….

Peppermint Bag

And just to illustrate how small this sewing machine is ….

It also came with a mystery tin and curious and all as I was about the machine, I was dying to see the contents of the tin (machine was bought on ebay).   Not sure what some are for but did justify the machine purchase in part by the pack of  singer machine needles which was tucked in there as well!  I have put the little black dust brush on the shelf ready for work (its a good brush) so forgot to put it in the other photo.

The plastic box is half the workings of a stitch marker of sorts, there is a single turn foot, zipper foot but not sure if the other is an embroidery foot – any clues on the black screw end? Its the thing-a-majig in-between the gold thread and small screwdriver!

a month of swatches – fat quarter shopper and the start of the tablet cover

So another bag – and another unknown quantity of time spent on pinterest (sometimes I feel like Alice in a pinterest rabbit hole).  Anyway, I have also sorted some boards so now one board is only for pinspiration and is edited as each project is done.

This bag, origami bento, is easy peasy, easier if you don’t line it (which I should have done, and then flat felled the seams to finish them).  The handle on this is a bit clunky looking, as the fabric is doubled but its a minor quibble.  It has the feel of a beach bag, and takes less than an hour to make so is well on the way to top 10 quick-sews.  If I make this again, I will make the side dimensions of the main square 15inch  instead of 17inch and not line it, and consider a lighter cotton strap tie knot!



The tablet cover is for my friend Cathriona, who I am teaching to sew (as she taught me bodran – irish drum), Its should be pretty straight forward.   We were supposed to sew today, but she has her law exams so we are leaving it till they are over.  While she was sewing, she was to bring her tablet so I could work on making a cover.  The idea is to have a fold over wallet.  I have posted photos of the cut out for the moment.


The cardboard will fit inside the wallet, and there will be pockets on one side and the other will hold the tablet.  The tablet holder tabs will either be in the clear plastic from swatch book covers or elastic bands.  Either way, it wont be done till next month and I will post it then.

And finanlly, I tried out google drive for uploads to download (as I want to put up a pattern next week) and I uploaded a 1930s pattern catalogue and the link is in the ‘down-load-able’ page.  I was given this by my sisters mother-in-law. She said it was from clearing out the local church sacristy (I think), and there were some church crochet patterns for tablecloths, and one maudella pattern……………….. for an apron!


The catalogue is so interesting, and I love flicking thru it every now and then,it just seems so curious –  from the patterns suitable for renovations,  the one ones for short lady (you just have to quote ‘short lady’ when ordering), and the nurses uniforms…… (I originally thought it was a nuns habit).  Hope you like it!

a month of swatches – red yy bag and lil cat tent

These swatch books from Kathy are amazing, and coincidentally last week just as I posted the patou top, I got another text from Kathy with the offer of more books – and more fantastic books arrived that evening.  Big thank you to Kathy!  

James has been looking at the covers and is taking them and the metal corners for book bindings (he makes his own sketch pads), so they are slowly being used up.  There are a lot that will be left for cushions and curtain trims, and later in the year.  

upcycle swatch book to sketch book


This week I was playing at a few things themed red and came across the pattern for the yy bag.

The linen pieces in the swatch books had a great tight weave and sheen finish, so were perfect for this bag. The bag made up in no time at all.  I only changed the base as I had cut the brown linen piece in half as I had matched it with last weeks top at one point, but I made up the outside length for the yy bag easily and top stitched it and then lined it with an old pillowcase.  I used an iron-on woven interface on the lining only.

red yy bag made from upholstery swatch


I had also a belt that I could cut the leather strip handle from, so it was all was going so well – until I went to look for eyelets.  There are so many advantages to living in a small town, finding large eyelets and small rivets for your new handbag is not one of them!  Luckily there is always etsy – so they are on the way and I will update the finished bag when they arrive…………… and hopefully the eyelet tool here will work!  The yy pattern is a dream to work up – and I am thinking of enlarging it for a shopper – once the eyelets arrive (its now the chinese new year so the last update via etsy seller is there will be small delay).  I am leaving cutting the handle until they arrive and will update the photo then (assuming my rivet and eyelet tools here work!)

Update – finally finished 22nd April – love the bag, eyelets were messy as I didn’t get tool but improvised with hammer, pliers and plastic lino tool handle!




One book cover was made into a lil cat tent.  I saw this pic, and had to make it.  We have two cats and they are still adjusting to last years move to  town after the previous 4 years living in the woods (we lived beside at 100 acre wood previously) so they don’t spend as much time as they used to outside.  The tent was inspected but it is of little interest currently while there are better seats nearer the fire!  

cat tent



and as its valentines – the anthropologie blog had this instruction, so I made this from some of the wallpaper samples………………….