When I send out my patterns during the testing stage, I always make sure to tell my testers that they should go ahead and make any changes that they want to the pattern. I do this so that my testers can end up with a finished product that they actually love and will actually use! I also do this because I find it so inspiring to see all the different ways that people can take my patterns and make them their own.
This blog post is going to highlight some of my testers, their bags, their thoughts on their bags, and some of the changes that you can make to The Huxley Bag!
Along with having a baby in July, we also moved apartments. I'll spare you the long dramatic story of the stressful moving. Here's the short version: newborn baby + postpartum packing + new apartment issues + cockroaches + moving everything we own three times + breaking the new lease + living out of an empty apartment + finding a new apartment last minute. Fun stuff. But the end result is that we now have a great new apartment in the suburbs of Indianapolis. And it has TWO BEDROOMS. Yaaasssss!
With all of my business stuff taking up so much room in our apartment, we knew that adding in Finnegan and all his baby stuff would mean needing more space than our downtown one bedroom. And because Finn is sleeping in our bedroom, and doesn't actually need his own space yet (we rarely tell him to "Go to your room!") the second bedroom is officially the craft room! And I cannot be more excited. I've never actually had a craft room before!
Between lots of feedings and nap times, I've finally managed to put all of my stuff into some sort of semblance of organization, and I'm ready to give you a tour!
Starting off on the right side of the room, I've set up my industrial machine, along with giant cork boards on the righthand wall. The space in front of the wall is where I'll put up my 6 foot folding table when I need to, for cutting and paper patterning days.
To the left of my industrial machine is the desk, which is actually a shared desk for both me and my husband.
Just to the left of the desk, I have my large paper patterns. These are my own designs, and also the printed out PDF patterns that I've bought. I roll them up, rubber band them, write the name of the pattern on the outside, and store them standing up in this laundry basket, along with my large roll of patterning paper.
I also have my new magnetic sweeper stored here. It's a telescopic pick up tool meant for nails and screws that I got from the hardware store. I use it to sweep along the floor and pick up any loose pins that I may have dropped before I vacuum (or before Finn comes in to play).
Next is the big utility shelf in the corner. On the bottom I have all of my sewing books and magazines, along with my camera. The next shelf has my serger and our filing box. Up one more has four cute baskets full of different odds and ends (one is full of zippers, one is full of everything I need to tag and price my physical products, etc etc). The top shelf has my Huskystar sewing machine, the printer, and the large basket full of all my shipping supplies.
The setup to the left of the utility shelf is kind of a catch all storage unit. Anything from needles to rivets to chalk paint to elastic to buttons to glue is stored here. The top part is a hardware organizer that I picked up at the thrift store and the white middle section is actually a shoe cubby, and my colorful boxes that I use for drawers? Kleenex boxes. It's the only thing that I could find tat was the right size when I first set it up.
To the left again, we have the kit shelf (also I store my rulers in between these two shelves). All my DIY kits that are ready to go, along with the supplies I need to put the kits together are stored here. And then also my notebooks and my enveloped sewing patterns.
The last wall of my craft room has my mannequin, my spinning wheel, and the rocking chair (according to Eddie it's so that he can feed and rock Finn while visiting with me while I work. Or vice versa.)
Hidden behind the rocking chair is the closet for this room. Which is STUFFED with all the rest of my sewing supplies. It actually reminds me of this dorky show I used to watch as a kid called Zaboomafoo with this now-terrifying puppet lemur. The Kratt brothers would always have to get into this closet to find something and everything would fall out every time. I'm not QUITE at that point yet, but I'm gonna have to watch myself. Here's a peek inside. The baskets have different types of fabrics in them that go to specific products, and the hangers are full of the rest of my selection of fabrics (that I have here with me. I have a ton more at my parents house. Sorry mom! I love you!) The top shelf of the closet is full of already made products ready to be shipped out or head to a craft show.
Whew! That's the deep dive into my current organizational setup. I'd love to answer any questions you guys have, or hear how you organize things like fabric and patterns. I love to get new ideas from other people, and I'm sure that we will be completely reorganizing once Finn actually needs his own room. But for now I'm super excited to have this space to keep all of my work in one place and keep it from taking over the entire apartment again! Ok except for my rolls of fabric. Those are under the bed. But that doesn't count, right?
I've been so excited to write this blog post because it's about my first time helping someone test a pattern. I didn't know people in the sewing community did that for each other! I've been discovering a wonderful group of people on Instagram and one of the people I follow is @GoheenDesigns. One of her posts said: "Pattern Testers Needed!!"
So I thought to myself "what's the worse that could happen?" and decided to write and said I'd be willing to volunteer. My fear was that this bag looks soooo complicated to make, and as y'all know - I'm still a beginner-ish at the art of sewing. But even with that, Madeline (owner of Goheen Designs) said she would love for me to try it.
I received the instructions on May 4th and she said she would be interested in getting all feedback back by the 28th. With me going on a trip to Orlando on the 24th for the rest of the month, I needed to get working on this right away. I wanted to make sure that if I found it too challenging, I would have that feedback for Madeline before I left for Orlando.
THE PATTERN FILE
I received an email from Madeline with a ZIP file. Within the Zip file, there were 8 files: 2 A0 format files, 2 Tiled, and 2 Wide format files. There were 2 files of each because the Huxley bag gives you a Large and a Small version of the bags. In addition to the patterns, there was a file with instructions (all 47 pages of it!), and a file with testing parameters.
I decided, based on the suggestions in the instructions that I will go with the View A in Large. Why? Because the instructions had the View A as the primary, with the zipper option as the alternative view. And Large because I wanted to use it for my Mac laptop and the instructions suggested to use the Large version if I wanted to make one that fits a laptop. Once I find some free time, I might try the alternate view and make the one with the zipper, I've seen some pictures online already of this view and it's also oh-so-pretty.
PRINTING THE PATTERN
The next day, I went over to FedEx office to get print the pattern out in wide format. I've never done this, and I don't even remember the last time I went to FedEx/Kinkos to get something printed. It was probably 10+ years ago when I had to do a school project. Anyway, the rep knew exactly what to do with the file I provided and soon after, I was walking out of the store with this really long print out that was rolled very nicely. Wow, did this exercise just saved me an hour of printing out, cutting and taping the pattern? Yes it sure did! Totally worth it! FedEx charged me like 12 bucks for it, so yes, definitely worth it!
When I first started reading the instructions, I got really scared! I've never seen sewing instructions that would take 40+ pages to describe, so it was really overwhelming. But when I showed it to the beau and he said in a nonchalant tone of voice: "this will be so great for you babe, you'll learn so much going through it", this alone encouraged me to move forward and instead of overwhelm feelings, I was now super excited! I immediately went upstairs to my fabric stash to see which fabrics I will be using for the bag, soon to realize I didn't even know how much I needed of each. Oopsie - back down to read the instructions. :)
Once I started with the instructions page by page, it didn't seem as scary anymore. It's like when you have a huge project and if you look at the big picture, it can get very overwhelming. But if you break it into sub-tasks, you're like "I've got this". This is how I tackled this pattern testing as well. I started thinking - "ok, let's do page 1 and 2", and next thing I knew, I was done and onto page 3. The directions were super clear and easy to follow. I did have a small hiccup with the handle reinforcement, but a quick email to Madeline and a fast response, straighten my confusion and was able to move forward in no time.
MATERIALS I USED:
THE HARDEST PART
Believe it or not, it was the rivets. I've never used rivets before, and I didn't know which tools to use. I googled and youtube'd several resources and at the end, I was still confused. I purchased a set of snap and rivets setters kit on Amazon based on this YouTube video on How to Set Rivets, but when I tried using the tools, mine didn't come out good at all. When I used the hammer alone, it came out ok. I mean, it totally makes sense to use a tool that's concave so that when you hit the rivets with the hammer, it doesn't flatten the cap. Perhaps I had rivets that didn't need the concave tool? Or maybe I had the wrong tool? I don't know, I'm still confused about this one...
And here is the result of this pattern test - I am in LOVE with it. It's super cool that you can switch how you wear the bag from one shoulder (messenger type) to backpack to hooking it on your bike and go! I've gotten so many compliments already from my friends and I'm sure this pattern will be such a good seller! In all honesty, it's a really good challenge and I feel like I've learn many more useful skills now that I've gone through this. Yes rivets - I'm looking at you!
All in all, the project took me about 10 days from start to finish. But it's not like I worked on this bag every single day. I didn't have all the materials, so some days I'd be sitting here just waiting for the items to arrive. And other days - well, I got distracted with other sewing projects. :) I would say though, if I did this continuously - it probably took me 3-4 days to finish.
What do you guys think? Like the bag? Want to join the challenge? If you're interested in sewing your own Huxley bag, head over to GoheenDesigns|Huxley as she has now officially launched the pattern! Hurray!
It's here!!! The Huxley convertible bag sewing pattern is here!
A cross-body bag, a backpack, and a bike bag all in one.
Combine that with the two different sizes, and the two views (one with a lid flap and one without) and you have here in this pattern 12 possible bags. All the options you need for going from bike, to hike to car. You can create the perfect bag to keep up with you on all your adventures. The larger size fits a 13” laptop, while the smaller size is perfect for carrying a tablet. Just enough room for your essentials, without so much room that you are tempted to bring the whole kitchen sink (over-packing is a serious problem for me).
Wear it on your back to keep your hands free. Throw it over your shoulder as a cross body for quick access to your essentials. Or snap it onto your bike for easy sweat free riding.
As adaptable as you are.
The perfect bag for all your adventures.
This pattern started out as me solving a problem for myself. I wanted one bag that I could use in several ways, depending on my mode of transportation for the day. Backpack for walking around, cross body for getting in and out of the car to run errands, and a bike bag for when I'm riding around downtown. I also wanted the transition between these options to be easy to sew, and easy to use. And I think I succeeded!
After making this bag for myself a few years ago, I decided to offer it as a finished product in my Etsy shop. And while I had a TON of people loving it, the bag didn't really sell because I had to price it so high for my time and materials. Then, as I started building up my pattern line, I realized that it would make the perfect bag pattern for other sewists! As I worked on it, the bag kind of took on a life of it's own as I gave it two sizes and two views, a ridiculously in depth instruction guide (it's seriously like 45 pages), and then even an option for hardware kits.
Part of what I love about the Huxley bag is that when you use the right materials and hardware, it looks so impressive. People are always so surprised when I tell them that I made the bag myself. And yet, it's not a super complicated bag. There are a lot of steps, and a lot of pieces to keep track of, but all the sewing itself is straight lines, and you don't need to worry about fitting at all.
This blog post will continuously be updated to let you know where and how to get your Huxley Kits!
I've just released my Huxley Bag pattern! It's a convertible backpack that can also be a cross body bag and a bike bag! I absolutely love this pattern, but I know that finding all the hardware for a project like this can be intimidating. So I've set up some kit options for you!
A few weeks ago, in the midst of a lot of long term projects, I got the itch to sew something quick and simple. So I looked through my bin of patterns and pulled out Butterick Fast&Easy 3383.
It's a really boxy, oversized t-shirt pattern with three sleeve length options, a pocket option, and the option for side seam slits. I'm not usually a fan of really oversized t-shirts, and I considered altering the pattern from the get go. But I wanted to see what it was going to be like without alterations, and figured oversized was exactly what sewing for my bump called for.
I picked out some scraps I had in a sturdy navy mystery knit, and some bias tape that I'd had laying around for ages (seriously, I think I've had it since I was like 12) and went to work! Of course, being scrap fabric I didn't actually have enough to cut the pattern out as it was intended. So I decided to split the front into two, and try to make it look intentional. To make it look more like a design detail, I used 1" seam allowance for the center front, serged the sides separately, and topstitched each side. I think it turned out pretty well!
Actually, the whole shirt turned out better than I expected. A lot of times when I jump into a project and finish it really quickly it ends up turning out pretty terrible for one reason or another. But this boxy look is indeed super comfy for being pregnant. And the slits in the sides help give even more room as I go into the last few months of my pregnancy. I really like the stability that the woven bias tape gives to the scoop neckline, and I love the pocket detail. The only thing I'd change for next time around is to make the sleeves shorter, since every time I wear it I end up rolling them up a turn or two anyway.
I can't say that it's my favorite make ever, but it was the perfect pick for a quick and easy project, and it's a great basic to have in the closet!
Oh! And p.s. this is my Retro Topknot Headband in case you were wondering :)
Sometimes it is so exciting to create a totally new me-made garment! That excitement can get other things pushed to the bottom of the list, like repairing the clothing I already have.
I'm pretty good at repairing anything me-made, I think because I really appreciate those pieces more. But I've been trying to get better at repairing, altering, and refashioning not just the things I've made, but the rest of the clothing in my closet as well. I've been doing better (see my invisible jeans mending post) but there is still a lot of room for improvement.
I would say that about 80% of my closet is second hand clothing, which I love, but they often come with little things wrong with them that, if I fixed them, would make me love them even more. A lot of them are easy fixes too! But my intentions to fix them often end up leaving me with a pile of mending that sits there for months at a time.
Me Made May has been very inspiring for me in terms of finally getting these things mended and altered. I decided that since my me-made wardrobe is pretty limited while I'm pregnant, that I would include
wearing things that I've mended and altered as well as the completely self made pieces. And I'm loving it! It has really motivated me to do those
alterations, and to appreciate those pieces more!
Here are a few examples of my alterations:
The polka dot top:
I got this shirt at a second and shop, and I love the color and pattern, and the style of the shirt! Whenever I go swing dancing, it always pops into my head as a perfect little retro looking top to wear. The problem is, with swing dancing (as with many things in life) you have to be able to raise your arms with ease. And this shirt did not allow for that. What an easy fix! I just had to take off the sleeves, and turn under the raw edges. And yet... it sat in my mend pile for about a year before I touched it.
The Striped Dress:
This dress is another second hand piece of clothing that just wasn't quite right. It was a strapless dress, but had absolutely no support on top, which led to a lot of yanking up to make sure everything was covered. On top of that, the white of the bust area was not only slightly see through, but also had some staining in the pits.
Solution: take off the top!
This was another really simple fix. I seam ripped the top from the bottom, cut the zipper down, (safety pinned the zipper down so I wouldn't accidentally pull it off during alterations) and then hand tacked the zipper in place and a hook and eye at the top of the elastic. Voila! Skirt.
Altering the ready to wear clothing that I already have is such a quick easy sewing project. Sometimes it's nice to sit down and be able to accomplish an entire project in a half hour. I also feel like RTW clothing often gets the short end of the stick. I know the quality isn't always great, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't be using all the discarded second hand clothing that already exists. Wear it out. And then repair it! RTW deserves to be repaired too! I just need to make it more of a priority....
I've got a great little downloadable freebie for you guys!
I've always loved the idea of Me-Made-May, but I've always been intimidated by it. For those of you who don't know, MMMay is a challenge started by Zoe Edwards of SoZo to help sewists develop a better relationship with their handmade wardrobe. It is a huge deal on instagram every year, because most people pledge to wear all handmade for the entire month, and post a selfie every day on instagram using the #MMMay18
Which is super intimidating right?? My handmade wardrobe is not nearly filled out enough to wear only handmade all month. And posting a picture of myself every day to instagram is quite a commitment for me.
But then, I listened to episode 38 of the Love to Sew Podcast, which featured Zoe and the MMMay challenge. And Zoe emphasized that this challenge is NOT a photo challenge, and it is NOT the same challenge for different people. You get to choose what you want to challenge yourself to do. You don't have to wear me-mades from head to toe. And you don't have to post an instagram selfie every day. You can track your challenge however you want!
So of course, my mind jumped straight to bullet journaling!
I'm obsessed with my bullet journal, and I love creating new spreads to help me keep track of my life, so I whipped up a few pages to help me track my newly inspired MMMay!
I made a page for writing down my pledge, and another with a space to review at the end of the month. I also created a fun spread for cataloging my handmade closet!
I made a monthly overview spread, to make sure I had a place to mark off each day that I succeeded (I love crossing things off) and to write out any big events that may affect what I'm wearing that day.
Lastly, I created spreads for the individual weeks. Each day gets its own space where I can draw up a little flat sketch of my daily me-made, and write a couple notes, like the weather for the day, what the rest of my outfit was, or what I did that day. And there is even more room for notes at the end of each week, to jot down some ideas on how to fill in wardrobe gaps, or record your favorite outfit of the week!
I love my Me Made May spreads, and I think it is going to really help motivate me to stick to my pledge this year!
I started wondering if other people may want to use a fun tracking system like this too, and I decided to throw them up in my shop as a free printable for you! It's a fun way to participate in the challenge without the added pressure of selfies! I'm still gonna try to put pictures up on instagram, but somehow it seems more doable if I don't HAVE to do it.
I am a total sucker for sewing tools. Anything that makes creating more fun and enjoyable, or cuts down on tedious tasks is A-Okay with me. These Pilot Erasable FriXion markers came highly recommended by a fellow sewist, and I had to try them out! I figured I'd share my findings with you too!
So these markers are not actually intended for fabric. They are actually erasable markers for paper! Which is pretty cool too! Your writing disappears when heat is applied to the ink. Which is why they come with a little rubber tip on the end, so that you can "erase" with the tip, which actually creates heat from the friction, which makes the ink disappear. Obviously, they recommend not trying to erase on very delicate paper that might rip from erasing, but other than that, they really work well!
But what my fellow sewists have discovered, is that you don't actually HAVE to "erase" with the tip. It's really just any significant heat that will do the trick. Like..... an iron!! Which of course is so perfect for sewing!
I've used a wide variety of marking utensils on my fabrics over the years. And some I like way better than others. Honestly, I do sometimes just use a normal pen or marker when I'm 100% sure it will never be seen on my finished project. I also use chalkboard chalk, tailors chalk, and tracing paper. ooh and I do love a good clover chalk wheel. It gives such a nice thin line. But what about if you are experimenting with where a line may go, and you want to be able to change it? Or if you don't want to have to wash your work to get all that chalk out? I've used some fabric markers that disappear with time, and that is a good option too. But honestly, I'm the queen of finishing a project 2 months (or years) after I've started it. And I'd rather not have to remark everything I do every time I find time to come back to it! Which is why I'm loving these Frixion markers!
They easily draw on your fabric, stay until you WANT them to disappear, come in a squillion colors, and.... some colors even show up on dark fabrics! Look at the black knit in the picture above! I'm not saying that it's super obvious on black, and may not show up on all fabrics, but you CAN see it on this if you have good lighting.
Obviously, not every sewing tool is right for every situation. You should test your marker, and it's erasing abilities on a scrap piece of fabric before you go all gung-ho coloring on your project. And remember that this marker only disappears with your iron IF your fabric can be ironed without melting (once again, test it!) The biggest drawback is the cold! I've tested the fabric by throwing it in the freezer to see if the ink comes back in the cold. And unfortunately there is a ghosting effect. The color doesn't come through as strong, but it does come back some. It can be reheated and disappear again, but that's a bit annoying to have to redo! Note to self: don't use these markers for a winter coat! The last drawback is kind of a funny one. Be sure not to accidentally apply heat to your markings before you are ready. A friend warned me that she'd used these markers for a beautiful bullet journal page, and then unthinkingly set down her cup of coffee on the paper. And then found that she had a coffee cup sized blank space in her writing haha.
A few weeks ago, I saw in instagram post by Closet Case Patterns that completely blew my mind! She was sharing an interview she did with Rain from Indigo Proof. She is a specialist in denim repair, and you absolutely have to take a look at Rain's before and after photos. The ones below are just a small example of the amazing work she does. It is complete magic!
Along with the interview, Heather (of Closet Case Patterns) also put up a blog post about how to try this invisible mending technique for ourselves. I can't tell you how excited I was when I discovered a giant hole in my husbands jeans over the weekend...
I don't think he's ever seen me so excited to mend his clothing.
The process was actually really simple!
I used some scraps of fusible interfacing (lucky for me they were black to match the pants!) to interface the holes, and the area around the holes. Then, using a matching thread color (also lucky for me, because I of course have black thread) I sewed over the holes along the grain of the denim weave, imitating the fabric itself.
Heather recommends that you use a darning foot, and that you mix up the top thread color to imitate the many hues of your worn jeans. Well, I don't actually own a darning foot for my machine, so instead I just used a regular foot, put the stitching length at about 1.5, and it seemed to work just fine! I also only had one color of black, so I didn't vary the hues at all. My repair work definitely isn't as invisible as Rain's is from Indigo Proof, or even Heather's attempt, but they look pretty damn good to me! It's a lot less noticeable than your underwear!
creative business owner. designer. hoosier. crafter. runner. sewer. swing dancer. outdoor enthusiast. entrepreneur. wife. material hoarder.
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Madeline Stage firstname.lastname@example.org
"Never give up on a dream because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway."
- Earl Nightingale