Sentimental sewing // Vintage leather bag repair

My Father-in-law passed away recently. It was a little unexpected and obviously very sad. We will all miss him a great deal. Living so far away meant that it wasn’t possible for our whole family to make such a huge trip on a moment’s notice. However, my husband was able to return to New Zealand and he was fortunate enough to make it home in time (21 hours of travelling later) to be there with his Dad and to spend time with his Mother and siblings.

My husband is very sentimental, so I suggested that he look through his Dad’s wardrobe and ask his Mum if he could bring home a suit or jacket that I could alter to fit him. I was expecting one nice item (his Dad wore a lot of quality RTW and designer brands). He came home with an extra suitcase brimming with shorts, pants, jackets, shirts, an old leather bag, and a particularly fabulous collection of belts (I’ll post some pictures of those belts on Instagram as soon as a day passes when they aren’t being worn).

The clothes fit near enough that I haven’t needed to do any immediate alterations, although everything is a tiny bit bigger than what my husband would normally wear. With plain T’s, casual shorts, and business shirts, this hasn’t really mattered. He’s been wearing at least one of those items every day and I know it makes him feel closer to his father, especially when I know he still feels so much sadness.

I will definitely need to take a closer look at the suit pants and jackets in the future. They are too nice to make do with a less than perfect fit. The bag, however, required immediate attention. The lining was disintegrating on the touch and leaving everything in it’s path covered with a powdery white residue.

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My first step was to cut out the lining. I left 1/2″  of lining still attached to the bag. I wasn’t quite sure at that point whether I would want to stitch though the bag leather or re-stitch the lining to the top most portion of the existing lining. In the end, I unpicked it all, and hand-stitched it in exactly the same position as the original lining.

Once the lining had been removed, I was able to copy the pattern pieces. There were four pieces in total; two sides, a bottom, and a pocket bag (it was incredibly simple). I was also able to see what a disgraceful mess of inner construction there was hidden beneath the original lining.

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The fabric I used to line the bag was a mix of cotton shirting and heavy silk twill. Both fabrics were leftover from previous projects (here and here) and I had to do a bit of piecing to come up with the amount of fabric that I needed. I put a silk twill panel in the sides of the bag and used the same silk for the pocket bag. There’s one extra seam in the striped shirting, but my stripe matching game was strong and you can hardly see it.

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Once I’d finished sewing the lining, I pressed down the top seam allowance and glued the lining to the inner leather (in the same manner as the old lining had been attached). I then hand-stitched the lining to the outer bag. I tried to avoid adding new stitching holes, but it was difficult to see where I was going in the old stitching line. The old seam line was quite stained and creased because of age. In the end, I somehow managed to finish with what resembles a modified prick stitch on the inside and a running stitch on the outside. The outside stitches don’t look out of place, and I really like the vintage feel of the tiny inner stitches.

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It’s actually really difficult to photograph the lining of a bag. Perhaps I should have turned it inside out but I didn’t think of that at the time.

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Cropped black trousers

I’m sure there is a pattern out there for pants like these somewhere, but I couldn’t find one for the life of me. There were a few criteria I wanted to meet: hipster rise, side pockets, big front pleats, real fly front, semi-fitted and tapered legs, and back welt pockets. I skipped the back welt pockets on mine because this was just a test run. I also planned to crop them to the length  you see in the photos, but I cut them too long and I quite liked the rolled up look instead.

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These pants are a very wearable muslin in inexpensive cotton sateen. I just wanted a pair of pants that would fit me so I used my trusty TNT crotch curve and drafted around that. The fit is quite good, but there’s something a little funny going on in the front. I suspect it’s because I spent so long stuffing around with the front fly and my zipper extends too low into the crotch curve. It could also be something to do with the pleats. Shortening the zipper should at least partially solve this for next time.

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I also need to widen the pocket bags and shorten the pockets quite a bit. They are impractically narrow and too deep at the sides. I really like the rise though, and the waistband width. With hipster pants, you need a curved waistband rather than a straight one. I’ve always had the problem of significant back gaping in the waistband of RTW hipster pants/jeans and I think this comes from the waistband being straight, or too straight for my figure. It was a nice feeling to get a good fit in this spot.

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A Grainline Archer and refashioned RTW trousers

This is my second Archer. My first Archer fit reasonably well, but this one fits a lot better. I made a few extra changes to better accommodate my broad shoulders. This consisted of lengthening the shoulder seams by 1/2 inch and spreading the back by 5/8 inch (without changing the neck width). However, next time I think I’ll shorten the shoulder seams back again by about 3-5mm on each side. The armscye sits a little wide in this version.

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I might consider adding fish-eye darts to the back if I decide I want to change it to a more streamlined fit. Right now I’m happy with the relaxed look. This is probably how I’ll wear the shirt in Fall.

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I most likely won’t be wearing it with the collar stand buttoned, but the fact that I can (and still move my arms) is nothing short of a miracle. Well, it would be if we were talking about RTW. Another great thing about sewing for yourself is the fact that you can position the buttons pretty much anywhere you want. I have no idea what the actual pattern recommends. I focus on the third button down and position that in relation to my body. The rest of the buttonholes are measured equally apart from there with this neat tool. The third button down is generally the top button I keep buttoned so I want it to be at a modest height but not too high either.

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My favourite thing about the Archer is the collar. It has such a lovely shape. My least favourite thing about the design is the sleeve placket. A sleeve placket is very easy to change though. I used a very standard sleeve placket pattern piece, pilfered from my husband’s TNT shirt pattern, Simplicity 6138. I used white cotton as a contrast for the sleeve plackets, inside collar stand and yoke facing.

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The grey wool trousers belong to a Herringbone Sydney suit that I’ve owned for ten years. The original shape was a long, boot cut. However, they’ve never quite been long enough on me and the boot cut style is now quite outdated.

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Oh dear, look at the not-so-blind stitching on the left hem. I machine blind-stitched the hems and will have to re-do the left leg. I knew I’d left the tension too high on that leg but was hoping those puckers would iron out.

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The following diagram helps to describe my modifications. I narrowed the side seams and re-hemmed the legs. I tried to keep a deep hem in case I want to lengthen them again in the future. The picture below shows the shape of my modified seamline (red).

pantsMy main concern with these pants was in getting the leg length and width correct, particularly towards the calf and ankle. I wanted them to be narrow and tapered but not too tight around my calf. I’m quite happy with the shape I achieved.

I have another pair of trousers planned, but next time I will sew them from scratch in black cotton sateen. I’m working on the pattern right now. It’s nearly drafted, but I want to mull over the pocket design first. I like to sleep on a design before I cut into the actual fabric. More often than not, I’ll wake up with the idea I couldn’t quite grasp the night before.