Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Leather, Zippers, Buckles, and Straps--It's Not What You Think

Oh wow, has it really been over four years since my last post to this blog?  I haven't stopped making things, but I have been busy.  As I mentioned in this blog previously, I had been taking a long leave of absence from work just because I needed a break.  At some point I went back to my previous job (surprising many coworkers who thought I'd never come back), and I got back to writing professionally.  As a product manager, I write presentations, white papers, documentation, lots of explanatory emails, and blog entries for a corporate blog, so my general urge to write is pretty well satisfied.

But enough about me...

My most recent project was a leather fanny pack for my older daughter.  Like me, she likes to keep her hands free, so she avoids carrying purses.  She likes leather fanny packs instead.  She has had a couple that worked pretty well for her, but she breaks the zippers on them because she stuffs them too full.  So this time, instead of just buying her a new one (leather fanny packs are not cheap, even if you can find one you like!), I decided to make her one myself.

One of her favorite fanny packs was from Libaire, a company in Berkeley, CA (search libaire.net for fanny pack).  It's a great pack, elegant and well made of unlined sturdy leather, but she overstuffed it and eventually broke the zipper.  Here is the original:





I copied the general design of the Libaire pack with its four zipper pockets, but I modified it, of course.  I made a paper pattern for it that was a bit bigger in all dimensions.  I also planned to add a lining to the main section of the bag that would include a few organizer pockets.  My daughter has a set of stuff she always carries, such as headphones, highlighters, and a small pencil case, so I wanted to tailor the pockets just for her.

For materials I used four sturdy zippers I had salvaged from old jackets and backpacks, along with the remains of the same crocodile-embossed cowhide I used for a previous iPod case.  I had fabric scraps left over from making a slip, so I used those for the lining.  Once I made the pattern and cut out all the pieces for the new pouch and the lining, I had a nice pile of bits.


My mom recently gave me her old industrial sewing machine.  It's a Bernina 217, almost 50 years old, and it can sew through pretty much anything.  It has a heavy-duty clutch motor underneath the table, and the motor stays on, humming, the entire time you are working at the machine.  As I was working on the project, I realized that the sound makes me feel warm and secure--I have a happy association with the humming sound from all the times my mom would work at the machine while I was playing nearby, or in bed, when I was a kid.  


Putting in zippers is one of the early steps in fanny pack construction.  I started by sewing the zippers into their respective panels (front, top, and the two triangular side pockets).


For the side pockets, I discovered that it was important for the little metal clamp at the closed end of the zipper (the top end in the picture above) to be on the same side of the seam as the rest of the zipper (so that there were no zipper teeth or clamp in the seam allowance, only the fabric tape part of the zipper).  When you turn it right side out, you cannot bend the zipper itself, but the tape can bend.  I sewed the polypropylene webbing into the pockets as well at this point.  Here are the zipper pocket pieces before and after turning right side out through the zipper opening.


I sewed the triangle pockets onto the back panel of the pack, making sure the zipper slide was not hanging out in the seam allowance.  The two triangle pockets are connected by the webbing strap at this point.  Once the triangle pockets were sewn on, I could cut off the excess zipper length.






I assembled the lining separately.  I made the pockets to fit specific items she carries.




And then a miracle happened...

Once all the sub-assemblies were assembled, I sewed the whole thing together to the accompaniment of much swearing and a bit of rework.  It seemed like a Moebius bag, and I'm not quite sure how it actually finally went together.  I'll probably have to reverse-engineer it to make another one!  At the very end, I cut the webbing strap and sewed on the buckle and slider.  Here is the finished bag:

 Here is a view of the lining with organizer pockets in the main section:







Here is the fanny pack in use.  Stuffed, of course!



And of course, the obligatory dog shot with Lacey and Tulip:





Tulip figured she'd better make sure there weren't any goodies lurking in the bag.  Something sure smelled interesting in there!



Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Harnessing the Power of Recycling--Green Project Entry for MAKE Magazine

Click on the MAKE icon to vote for my Recycled Jeans Dog Harness project! Tag Your Green

Introducing Tulip

Here is Tulip in her cool new harness:


I adopted a really cute dog from a rescue organization over the summer (does that make her a "reused" or "recycled" pet?). Her name is Tulip. She came with a collar, but she clearly needed a harness for "walkies" or she'd choke herself pulling on the collar.

Tulip's hair was cut very short, so Tulip looks pretty good in a T-shirt or harness. Tulip is practically a rag doll--floppy, mellow, and pliant--and she is very tolerant of being dressed and undressed repeatedly. So another project began...

I still have the leftover jeans parts from my jeans circle quilt, dining room chair covers, and other jeans projects. Since most of these used leg pieces, I have plenty of waistbands and upper sections handy. Time for some serious seam ripping!

I started with the one waistband and the attached upper back section of the jeans. I removed the back pockets to save for some other project. I cut the section to get a rough fit under and around Tulip's chest.

I also used a waistband from another pair of jeans.


Here is the chest part after stitching to fit Tulip. The separate collar section on the right is sewn closed, so the jeans button is now just decorative. The collar part just slips over Tulip's head.


I salvaged the buckle and webbing strap from one of my kids' old lunchboxes. My kids go through at least a couple a year by doing things like leaving spilled milk in them over Spring vacation (mmm, yum!), dragging them over concrete, and other things, so I regularly scavenge useful buckles, hardware, zippers, and straps from them (the picture shows a newer one).


I used part of another waistband to make the strap that goes between the collar and the chest strap, and sewed on a reused belt loop to hold the scavenged D-ring.

Done!

Here is the finished harness. The second button has been replaced on the chest strap so I would have two matching waistband buttons. It is also sewn closed and is now just decorative, since the lunchbox buckle provides the adjustable fastening. If you look carefully, you can see that I completely removed the waistband that goes around the chest and then sewed it and the belt loop back on so the button and buttonhole would be in the right place! Tulip is fortunately much smaller than the original 36-inch waist. The triangular section goes on the dog's chest.


Here is the finished harness looking down at the top (the dog's back).


The buckle strap goes through a loop on the D-ring section.

The Finished Product


Here she shows off the D-ring on the belt loop:


Lacey and Tulip: Out and About


Yes, Lacey needs a matching jeans harness too. Maybe later...


Let's go!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Harnessing the Power of Recycling


If you came here from the MAKE Magazine Green Project page, please go here:
Harnessing the Power of Recycling--Green Project Entry for MAKE Magazine
(same project, slightly different writeup)--Thanks!


I adopted a really cute dog from a rescue organization (NARF) two weeks ago. Her name is Tulip. She came with a collar, but she clearly needed a harness for "walkies" or she'd choke herself pulling on the collar.

Tulip's hair was cut very short, and it's a different type from Lacey's hair, so Tulip looks pretty good in a T-shirt or harness (unlike Lacey: "Does this make my butt look big?" "Huge!"). Unlike Lacey, Tulip is very tolerant of being dressed and undressed repeatedly. Tulip is practically a rag doll--floppy, mellow, and pliant. So another project began...

I still have the leftover jeans parts from my jeans circle quilt, dining room chair covers, and other jeans projects. Since most of these used leg pieces, I have plenty of waistbands and upper sections handy. Time for some serious seam ripping!

I started with the one waistband and the attached upper back section of the jeans. I removed the back pockets to save for some other project. I cut the section to get a rough fit under and around Tulip's chest.

I also used a waistband from another pair of jeans.


Here is the chest part after stitching to fit Tulip. The separate collar section on the right is sewn closed, so the jeans button is now just decorative. The collar part just slips over Tulip's head.


I salvaged the buckle and webbing strap from one of my kids' old lunchboxes. My kids go through at least a couple a year by doing things like leaving spilled milk in them over Spring vacation (mmm, yum!), dragging them over concrete, and other things, so I regularly scavenge useful buckles, hardware, zippers, and straps from them (the picture shows a newer one).


I used part of another waistband to make the strap that goes between the collar and the chest strap, and sewed on a reused belt loop to hold the D-ring.

One thing I should mention is that I used a really simple-but-useful little gadget called the "JEAN-A-MA-JIG" by Dritz to sew over the really thick parts where the jeans seams and the belt loops were. This helps to prevent the stitches skipping when the presser foot is going up or down at a steep angle when you go over the big hump in the fabric.



The sewing still wasn't easy, but it was better. It actually turned out that for my machine with the "walking foot" (that contraption that includes the presser foot and sticks out behind the presser foot--it helps keep multiple layers from sliding out of place), I needed a thinner version to put under the foot in the back, while the thicker "JEAN-A-MA-JIG" fit under the front side. I made the thinner version from a plastic soft drink cup that was languishing in my recycling bin.


Done!

Here is the finished harness. The second button has been replaced on the chest strap so I would have two matching Levi's buttons. It is also sewn closed and is now just decorative, since the lunchbox buckle provides the adjustable fastening. If you look carefully, you can see that I completely removed the waistband that goes around the chest and then sewed it and the belt loop back on so the button and buttonhole would be in the right place! Tulip is fortunately much smaller than the original 36-inch waist. The triangular section goes on the dog's chest.


Here is the finished harness looking down at the top (the dog's back).


The buckle strap goes through a loop on the D-ring section.

Introducing Tulip

Here is Tulip in her cool new harness:


Here she shows off the D-ring on the belt loop:


Lacey and Tulip: Out and About


Yes, Lacey needs a matching jeans harness too. Maybe later...


Here's the whole doggy-infatuated gang! That's me in one of my favorite gaudy tie-dyed T-shirts.

That original 36-inch jeans waist might be just the right size for Moxie the giant schnauzer...

Friday, July 30, 2010

Big Wide Brown Sandals

Everyone's feet are different, but some feet are more "different" than others in a world where standardization and mass production are the norm. Very wide flat feet, for example, are hard to fit in standard shoe sizes, so they are good candidates for custom sandals. And since the particular feet in question belong to my husband, they are perfect candidates for my sandal experimentation.

Padding

I had tried, unsuccessfully, to find the padding that Michael of Island Sandals uses. Rob at Tandy suggested I try using a blue foam sleeping bag pad, which made sense to me, so I got one at REI and started hacking it up.

Once I had cut the strap holes and finished the top piece (Tandy Eco-Flo dye, Bison Brown followed by Carnauba Creme finish), I glued the blue foam to the top piece with Fast-bond 30 and wrapped the straps around the foam through the holes, as seen below:

I cut the sole pieces a bit oversized so I would have room for stitching and trimming later.

I'm working with quite thick leather again, like I did for my first pair of sandals: 13-15 oz. saddle skirting for the sole bottoms, with an extra layer for the heels. I used 6-7 oz. leather for the upper layer of the shoe, and 10-11 oz. leather for the straps (no way is he going to wear through these straps!). In hindsight, I should have used thinner leather for the straps, maybe 6-7 or 8-9 oz., because these straps are awfully thick, stiff, and bulky. Besides, the nice thing about the free-floating straps (that is, they are not permanently fastened to the sole anywhere so they can be infinitely adjusted) is that they are relatively easy to replace if they wear out or break.

I glued the top sole to the bottom sole (carefully not gluing where the straps are), then used a drill press with a small bit (around 1/16") to drill the holes around the edge. It worked pretty well, so long as I kept the straps out of the way! It was definitely easier than holding a power drill by hand like I did for my daughter's thong sandals.



Stitching by hand around the edges took a while, but I eventually finished them.



I like the wood-grained appearance of the hand-dyed leather. I got that by using a small paintbrush to apply the dye to the upper sole pieces.



Sole Bottoms

I glued a layer of SoleTech 3.5 onto the front part of the bottom, and glued a section of rubber chevron-patterned soling (also ordered from Louis Birns & Sons) onto the heels, as in the picture below:


When I took the picture above, my husband had already been wearing the sandals for a while (several months), so some wear is visible on the soles. The SoleTech 3.5 is a little too thin and dainty for this purpose. When he eventually wears all the way through it, I'll replace it with more of the chevron soling. Meanwhile, the sleeping-bag pad foam has held up pretty well so far and is still pretty resilient.
Lacey Too?

Lacey wants to know when I'll be making a pair of shoes for her, but she points out that she has much daintier little feet than my husband!



Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Another Case for an iPod Touch

As expected, my younger daughter got an iPod Touch too, and of course she needed a case before we went on vacation. I made her a case similar to her sister's case, with a few modifications now that the first one has been in service for a bit.

I used some alligator-grain embossed leather from Tandy. It was about the same thickness as the black leather I used for the other case, so this time I glued a layer of the black onto the front piece for extra stiffness. This time I also sewed the loop side of the Velcro onto the pocket before putting the case together.




As before, I stitched around the main screen opening.


For the previous case, the front and back pieces were about the same width. This time I want the seam to be more to the front of the iPod, so I made the front piece narrower and the back piece wider. The seam at the bottom of the picture is where the pocket is sewed to the back piece.



Here is the pocket sewed to the back. The pocket opening is in the center of the picture.


Next I sewed the back to the front.

I did the strap the same way I did it on the previous case, with fleece binding, plastic twine, and a buckle. I opened the binding, sewed one side to the front of the case, then closed the binding over the case edge and sewed the back of the binding on (through all the layers including the front part of the binding).

Like before, I trimmed the flaps to fit once the case was all sewed together.


I made the pocket a bit bigger this time so it would be easier to put the headset in.


It's a little easier to see the flap construction on the patterned brown leather.





Another "quick" project (though it still took me several hours). Done!