Summertime tote bag – a big one!

It’s Memorial Day, the official flip into summer. But summertime always starts early in Florida – it has been hot hot hot and humid. And the last thing I want to do is carry a leather handbag with all its metal zippers and whatnot’s. Too much!

Solution – a fabric bag. About five years ago I drafted a tote bag pattern, very much based on the Amy Butler Birdie Sling.

There are a ton of inspiration pics of the Birdie Sling on the web, and lots of tutorials as well. So drafting my version was pretty easy. I’ve made over 20 of these bags. They were both gifted and sold, back when Ashley and I were doing the craft fair circuit.

But I still have and use the first one I made. I love it. It’s roomy, about 26 ¾” tall, including the handles, and 18” wide, and it has some incredible physics going on. Load it up, and the weight is barely felt on one’s shoulder. Seriously! I’m sure it has something to do with the inside bag hanging freely from the top band. Whatever it is, I’m amazed every time I use it. I don’t know if that is characteristic of the AButler bag as well, but I’d be interested to know.

BTW, this one has been through the laundry several times. Yes! machine wash and dry. 

Time to make some more. It’s a great way to use remnants, since each piece – shell, inside bag, bands/handle – uses a yard or less of fabric. Calico, quilting cotton, and light canvas all work well. This cute black/grey number is the first one I’ve done without contrast fabric on the bands and handle. And it works perfectly with just about everything in my closet.
Keepsake Calico Cotton – Black Lines, from JoAnns
On the inside: Nothing bugs me more than a bunch of loose stuff on the bottom of a hand bag, hiding my keys and making me crazy. So the inside of this bag has a pocket on each side. One is stitched down the middle, the typical phone & glasses accommodation…
Lining Fabric, Buttercream Bicycles – Gray & Metallic – JoAnns
And the other is zipped – a catch-all for lip balm, nail file, comb, tissue, the jewelry I take off when it bugs me… I used a purple zipper because it’s easier to see than a black one would be. And I’ll put helper of some kind – a ribbon or charm – on the pull.

On the clothes front, my latest pair of Love Notions Sabrina Slims:

Black/White Ethnic Glyphs Cotton Spandex Knit, from Girl Charlee

Top – Butterick 6024

Parting shot: Zebra butterflies and a giant swallowtail roosting in the guava tree at sunset a couple days ago. They’re in the tree almost every night now, just six feet from my porch. Beautiful.

This little guy is not so little – 5″ wing span!

Ciao! Coco 

Butterick 5533 Knit Jacket

In the spirit of my epic run of posts this holiday – the Butterick 5533 jacket. Another of my favorite patterns.

I haven’t see this sewn a lot, but I jumped on it a couple years ago because I just love the back detail. I’m a sucker for swing cuts and details coming and going…

I used the front of View A, and the pockets and back of View B. And so far, I haven’t put on any buttons – that decision is still up in the air.

I thought the front was a bit plain, so I drafted it in two pieces, split across the upper bodice, and topstitched the seam to accent it a bit. If you squint, you’ll see it…

On the pic below you can also see the two-part sleeve. Such a nice design detail. I didn’t do the curved/faced hem on this sleeve, mostly because I think it would weigh down the fabric and not sit well.

This fabric is 12 oz. stretch denim from Girl Charlee – 63% cotton, 33% poly, and 4% spandex. It has 4-way stretch and curled like crazy on the edges when I was sewing it! I expected it to be more denim-like than it is. It’s definitely woven, but it feels and sews like a knit.

And here’s a version of the jacket that I made in 2013! It was gifted and never blogged. It’s done in poly fleece (JoAnns), with cotton trims and facings (Kaffe Fassett Roman Glass from Westminster Fabrics). It has the same gathered back, but I added the hood from Burda See & Sew 5807, a hooded cape pattern. So cozy. And the hood fit without any alterations to the neckline! I’m sure I’ll do another one with this variation.

This is the vented and faced sleeve from the pattern. Beautiful.
Sewing Notes:
  • All the suggested fabrics are wovens, like corduroy, tweed, lightweight denim, etc. But both my versions are knits – I just went down one size to a 12, and the fit is great.
    • Those back gathers. There’s just way too much fabric in them as drafted, knit or woven. On the denim knit, I removed 2″ from the center back, and on the fleece, which is much thicker, I removed 4″.
    • A caution: the sleeves are narrow and, if you’re tall, they might be short. 

    The jacket is unlined, which I like for Florida, but that presents a couple finishing ‘opportunities’.

    •  I drafted a back neck facing for the grey knit – I cannot stand to turn under the upper collar edge on un-banded collars. The faced hood on the fleece version served to finish the neckline, no facing needed.
    •  And I faced the back yoke on both versions. It was kind of like sewing a squid…

    Buttons? No buttons? I pinned some on this afternoon, and I think I’ll add them.

    I’ve thought a lot about this pattern and how it might be used. Maybe as a cropped swing jacket in french terry, with some gathers under the front yokes, a hood, a separating zipper – it has so many possibilities.


    This is my last post of 2015! Thank you for spending so much time with me this year, for sharing your life, and for enriching mine. I hope you and all your loved ones enjoy a happy, healthy, safe, and fulfilling new year.

    Bye for now – Coco

    Sewing for the girl…

    They don’t grow up or leave home or exit your heart. Children…

    I love this pic with my daughter – she was ten, I was 34. That expression on her face is her signature look even now. Happy girl, girlish, and fun. And my best friend.

    Ashley is 43 now and has a planned surgery at the end of the month. Of the female order, menopause issues. She’s anticipating a two week leave from work and recovery at home, and of course I’m going over to lend a hand in the first days after she leaves the hospital. And to give Darrin company also. This is hard for him as well – they are so very close.

    (Of course Ashley and I talked about including her plans in this post. She feels very strongly that women need to listen to their bodies and prioritize their health needs. So she’s happy to be a second voice here. Thank you, love).

    I was thinking about what I could make that would be helpful to her. And a robe came to mind immediately. Do you have this hospital memory – they get you up and out to walk the halls, pushing your IV stand with your gown flapping open in the back. Well, got that covered! I found this lovely pattern, Butterick 5544 Rachel Wallis robe and gown. (Club BMV has it in both envelope and download, but I’m impatient and downloaded it from Sewing Patterns).

    Pretty! and easily transformed to a button front robe with roomy patch pockets.

    This fun flannel is from JoAnns, and yes, it’s mosaic skulls. She’ll love it.

    The front of original pattern is slightly overlapped and closed with two inside buttons along the skirt/bodice seam. I redrafted it to have a faced button placket. And I simply echoed the placket in the turn of the skirt facing.

    On the inside…

    All the seams are finished and felled for maximum comfort, and because flannel becomes somewhat fragile with repeated laundering. I don’t want a seam to pull out.

    I want one! which means I’ll make myself one before long. Hers is so soft and easy to wear.

    Still thinking of Ashley, I also sewed a muslin of Simplicity 2031. I hope it’s a wearable muslin, because the crinkled gauze knit is really cute. I found the pattern by chance, on Honey Pie’s blog. She mentioned that it looks like a popular dress sold by Torrid – one of Ashley’s fav stores!  And I downloaded it from Sewing Patterns as well. I think it’s a sleeper. It has no reviews on Pattern Review, and Honey Pie’s pics are the only ones I’ve found. Now that I’ve sewn it – it’s so pretty and easy to sew, definitely repeatable.

    Fabric from Fabric Mart

    Such a nice sleeve. So many cut-on kimono sleeves are overdone. This one is pretty and falls about halfway down the upper arm.

    Because Ashley is 5’9″, I added 1.5″ to the bodice front and back length. On my Emile, which is my height, it looks like the elastic casing hits on the waistline. But on Lizzy, Ashley’s dress form, it is higher, as intended.

    Such a long rambling post.


    My thoughts are with all those touched by the events unfolding in France and Belgium. Bye for now, Coco

    Coloring Books…it’s playtime!

    OK – adult coloring books, the latest craze. I’m in. I love coloring books and admit to a collection of doodle art and mandala art coloring books. And I can hardly pass up a new collection of felt tip pens or colored pencils in a store. I also pick up crayon boxes just to smell them, remember how they smell? I think the best is the box of 64 colors. Some of us just never grew up when it comes to playtime.

    Coloring is so relaxing, the same way knitting is. One just sits and does it and the mind wanders.

    This morning I happened across a post on Facebook referencing coloring books from McCall Company’s blogsite. How did I miss this for so long? I quickly found and printed four, which I think is all that they’ve published so far. I included links on each of the pics below.

    Butterick Summer 2015
    Vogue Fall 2015
    Each PDF ‘book’ has 8 – 10 patterns, basically large-scale line art, from what McCalls’ considers the most talked-about patterns in a collection.

    McCalls Summer 2015 
    Vogue Summer 2015

    They’re really nice! and they include a lot of patterns I’ve sewn or seen on other blogs. And some I might sew, particularly with all this inspiration. Meanwhile, I can color, and I hope they do more.

    All of the above was totally unsolicited…

    On the sewing front, I’m waiting for a new pattern to arrive. Something different – a sunhat. I haven’t done a hat in a couple years, but I have lots of cotton scraps that would be perfect for one. And I have craft-weight interfacing in the loft. I’m thinking about combining the pattern with Vicki Welsh’s free sun visor pattern.

    Kwik Sew 4107
    Vicki’s Sun Visor

    And hope to end up with something like the sunhats I wear all the time, the ones from CVS Pharmacy. They haven’t had any this spring or summer. I was bummed, but now I have a plan 🙂

     Ciao! Coco

    Butterick 5954 Knit Top – OOP but shouldn’t be!

    OK, I am in love with this knit tunic pattern. And I had to wait to get it – it’s out of print and has been in my wishlist for a long time because OOP patterns are so expensive. Finally, BMV put all their OOP’s on sale. And it’s mine!

    I think all the choices are wonderful – something for every season and time of day. And lots of opportunity for mixing things up.

    With a nod to my fellow sewists on Pattern Review, all the lovely versions there really helped me envision what I might do with the pattern. For the most part, I was after a little less fullness in the skirt, particularly in the back. And I wanted to avoid an FBA. But I also wanted to keep the sculpted effect that is so figure-flattering. Sewing notes:

    • I sewed the size Medium (12-14), my usual in the Big 4.
    • The fabric is Goldenrod Sew Classic cotton/poly interlock knit from JoAnns.
    • I removed acreage from the center back seam and both side seams, from the bottom edge and cured up, to take out a bit of the swing in the skirt.
    • And I added a bit at the mid-torso for ease in the bust and waistline.
    This is an uncomplicated redraft, because the swing is so apparent on the pattern pieces.

    A note on the hemline. It has a lot of curve – it’s all curve – so I turned it up 1/2″ with Steam-a-Seam. Having the fabric secured, plus the little bit of extra heft from the tape, made topstitching so easy.

    Here’s my muslin, the sleeveless version, done in a very lightweight rayon/cotton knit. What a fun change from a tank or tee. IMHO the higher neckline and swing in the skirt really add punch to this pattern.

    If you look closely, you’ll see a PATCH on the skirt back 🙂 I got the whole thing sewn and found a small hole in the fabric. Made lemonade…decided it’s a design feature.
    I’m so happy with this pattern – I’ve already cut out 2 more with the sleeves. It’s incredibly comfortable, a great length, and I feel pretty in it. 
    Other news…
    I got turned out of bed at 3:30 this morning to take Darrin and Ashley to the airport! They’re half-way across the country by now, sleeping I’m sure. 
    I’m writing in company with Kitty Nikita and Kitty Callisto – we have Wimbledon tennis on the tube. Perfect day. Wishing you one as well.
    Ciao! Coco
    Edited 7/11/2015…it’s back in print! Just saw it on