Sewing accessories: the Brooklyn Hat by Elsewhen Millinery and the Panda Bag by Urk!
You can sew some very satisfying accessories with small cuts of special fabric, and even scraps leftover from larger projects.
I've always liked the idea of wearing hats, but seldom found any that suit me. I have, apparently, a big head (yes, very amusing) which means it's hard to find hats that fit in the first place. But now I can make hats, they can be any size and I can tweak to find a style I really like. So, pardon me if I develop a bit of a hat affectation.
In the past I have used the excellent 'You Sew Girl' patterns by Australian designer Nicole Mallalieu. I highly recommend her Flat Cap and Beret patterns. I made a beret from scraps leftover from my tweed jacket - no photos because I gave it away to my son's girlfriend, who looks great in it.
I wanted to try a more 'newsboy' style cap, and bought the Brooklyn pattern by Elsewhen Millinery on Etsy. Excitingly, the Elsewhen patterns fit up to a 25" head circumference, so my considerable noggin wasn't even at the top of the size range. I used just a 25cm cut of our Ciara Donegal Tweed, plus a strip of corduroy for the inside band and some silk from my stash for the lining.
I was a little generous on the sizing of the band, and I feel the large brim has ever-so-slight Holly Hobby vibes, but I really like it and have worn it a lot. (At least I have a face, and it actually offers quite good sun protection.) The method for creating the brim, using felt fused inside, works really well and creates a pliable yet smoothly shaped brim.
I made a second version of the Brooklyn using scraps of our Sinead Donegal Tweed, left over from making pants for my eldest son. I decreased the size of the brim and also the band. The points at the top did not meet completely convincingly so I've added a self-covered button. What points?
The other alteration I made was to create a fully enclosed interior, by using the construction method from the You Sew Girl beret and turning through a gap in the lining. It's a much neater finish in my opinion.
So what next? A handbag! A small remnant of the amazing Orla green tweed (sold out) was calling out to become some sort of bag. After much, much trawling of Etsy for bag patterns, I settled on the Panda Bag by Urk! (I made the Small Panda with Flat Bottom). I purchased leather and some hardware from Adelaide Leather and Saddlery in the city, then discovered that DS Horne at Hampstead Gardens has an excellent range of bag hardware, and purchased most of that, including a zip, from there. I found some structural interfacing and foam online at Brisbane-based Voodoo Rabbit, because if I can't find things locally I at least like to try and purchase from within Australia. Not having much bag making experience, I wanted to use the exact products recommended by the pattern. Now that I've used them, I have some ideas about substitutes I might be able to use in future, but Voodoo Rabbit has a good range if you need.
The Panda Bag instructions were very good and I put it all together over several intense sessions in just a few days.
Even though I used thin and soft leather, and leather needles, it was hard-going on a domestic machine. It's easy to see why there are specialist machines for this sort of thick, fiddly, angular sewing. I broke or bent seven machine needles and one hand sewing needle throughout the process. It's possible I should have used some more heavy duty thread than the regular Gutermann Sew All. Time will tell, as I see how this bag holds up. In any case I reinforced in many places with rivets, for security, and for fun. Sewing with hammers is always fun.
I lined my bag with Liberty Tana Lawn for an extra touch of luxury. I've been using it for a week now and I'm very pleased with its practicality. It's big enough to hold my purse, phone, sunglasses and other bits and pieces as needed, including a novel and small water bottle on one day. Yet it's compact enough to comfortably wear with the cross-body strap while strolling about.
Since a friend mentioned it's hard to picture the dimensions of a bag without seeing it with a human, here's a photo with hat and bag, and bonus doggy in the window, wondering what the heck her human is doing.
All in all, I'm really satisfied with my accessory sewing. I'm not keen to dive into another bag really soon, but I feel a bit hooked on hats, which can be whipped up in a session or two. Hats for everyone!
- Jane xx