Puns N Needles

Dispatches from my adventures: sewing, knitting, and otherwise.

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After she looked at pictures of some purses I made, like this one,


my friend Alex, who’s a talented sewist in her own right, asked how I did the zipper.  So, while sewing a few more similar purses, I decided to document the process. I followed the instructions given by Anna Graham, in her envelope clutch pattern.

I have never created a sewing tutorial before, and I’m usually so involved in making the things that I make I don’t take the time to get pictures of the process. But this time, I wanted to show Alex how I did the zippers in the purses, so I present to you a mini-tutorial.

First, I placed one pocket piece on top of a lining piece, and I used either chalk or my erasable ink pen to draw the pocket opening. It should be about 3/8 inch tall by 5 1/2 inches wide (though the length depends on your zipper length*). Feel free to use really fancy fabric for your pocket lining.


Then, I sewed around the outside of this rectangle. This attaches the pocket to the purse lining at the zipper opening.


Now the zipper opening must be cut.  Use sharp scissors or a rotary cutter to cut a line in the middle and then use small snips to get close to the corners, without cutting any stitches. This will give you a very clean edge.


Once the opening was cut, I turned the pocket to the back side of the purse lining and pressed.

To attach the zipper, I first used a glue stick to place the zipper; then I used a zipper foot and long stitch length to top-stitch. That’s it. It’s actually quite straightforward.


*I started with 7 or 8 inch zippers, which is a common size for both clothing and accessories. And you can always shorten a zipper, which is what I did with several of these purses — I prepared the opening and then cut the zipper to fit.  However, I have since purchased 5″ zippers, and plan to make the zipper opening slightly shorter now.

I am a bit opinionated about zippers.  Confined to what I can get with a quick run to the store, my choices are in the small Coats & Clark zipper rack in Walmart.  Where I live, it requires at least a 45 minute drive for more fabric and notions selection. Lucky for me, the Machinist both loves shopping at antique malls and yard sales, and believes in having the proper tools and materials available.  So, when we see vintage zippers, trim and buttons, he strongly encourages me to snap them up. Thus, I’ve amassed a selection of vintage zippers – some used, but mostly new; some nylon, but mostly metal teeth; and some in the package, but mostly loose or grouped together.

Here’s one of those in action in a knitting case I made for my mother-in-law.  It fits her needles and current project, which is normally a dishcloth:


For my wedding last May, my mother helped a TON with all manner of projects, sewing and otherwise. One of the greatest things she did for me was to make two bridesmaid dresses. Neither bridesmaid lives close to me or Mom — so other than a fitting at a shower that the bridesmaids helped host at Mom’s house, it was a distance sewing experience. And Mom did a fantastic job. Look at those dresses (I made the vest – no zippers there).


I did a final fitting with bridesmaid Kyla (left), whose dress was created with a typical invisible zipper, as per the dress instructions. We found that the dress was really hard to zip. Partly this was due to a slightly tight fit — but partly, the zipper didn’t work great. And I had, in my stash, metal zipper of the proper length, white cotton tape, and hand-picked it into place. Vintage notions to the rescue!

But when planning to make a passel of purses with zippered pockets, one can’t rely on a stash of vintage zippers (most of which are long enough for a dress), nor is it practical to spend retail prices. I have found a few internet stores, including this etsy shop that have good quality zippers if you are looking to bolster your stash.

And  while Brad’s vest doesn’t have any zippers, it does have buttons – and you can expect a post on those soon.


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Sewing for profit

I lived in Seattle from 2002-2007. It was five fantastic years – Seattle was a great place to live out the later part of my twenties. I made some wonderful friends and look forward to visiting in April when the Machinist and I go for a friend’s wedding.

Not long before I left Seattle, my bartender friend Gayle, who was also moving away, said she was going to have a craft fair at the bar, and did I want to participate. “Sure!” I said, and then started scratching my head about what to make.  I had sold some knitted scarves before, but this would be in the summer, and I knew nobody would buy knitted scarves. I looked around and realized I was surrounded by cyclists. Many of my friends were also part of a casual group called “Pub ‘n’ Pedal.” They would gather on bikes and ride to happy hour, or do Critical Mass. And some of them wore short-brimmed close fitting hats… I thought to myself, “I can make those.”

So I did. I sold a few, and then when I packed up to move back across the country, the rest came home with me. Not long after that I started an etsy shop, I attended some craft fairs, and sold some hats wholesale to an independent bicycle shop.   At the height, the “shop” had inventory of more than 100 hats in several sizes. My parents bought me a new sewing machine that would keep up with production-level sewing. And when I moved to Virginia, my hats came along.

I am not a salesman. I do not enjoy long days in a booth, and craft fairs usually make me want to spend any money that I may earn. My favorite venue for selling my caps was the bike shop – he bought them wholesale from me! Last summer, a woman I know who quilts opened a shop in town – it’s part community space where people can take a class or ask for help with projects, and part space for selling hand-made items. So I brought some hats there, and some people have bought them!

A couple weeks ago, I shared pictures of some bags I made with a distant friend of mine from college. She was interested in buying one for her friend who’s about to have a baby. All this to say, my etsy shop has re-opened at https://www.etsy.com/shop/aceMade with more hats and bags to be added soon.

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More makes

There was still quite a bit of daylight when I got home this evening around 7:00 and so we took some more pictures.

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Busy and quiet.

I have been busy sewing, and knitting, and cooking (have you tried no-knead bread? Wow!) — yet quiet on this blog about what I’ve been making. I sew and I knit for various reasons (more on that in a later post), and I struggle with finding the motivation to tell the story of my creations.

But, I did recently finish several projects and also had a warm sunny day when I convinced the Machinist to snap some pictures.

That bread I mentioned – so simple, I could tell you the recipe from memory, and I’ve only made it twice.

No knead bread

No knead bread

I’ve finished two pairs of socks for me: one for work (black, to go with my uniform) and one with leftover yarn from socks I made for the Machinist.  Both patterns came from Cat Bordhi’s book on new “pathways” to socks. If you’re a sock knitter, check it out – outside the box sock construction based on your own measurements.

I finished knitting this sweater vest on a long afternoon at a truck stop, and I finished the sweater on one of our many snow days.

And now for the sewing.

First, Colette Laurel.  I decided to make this plain dress out of a lovely silk ikat for a fancy event in November. To get the fit right, I tried it first as a dress in bargain cotton, then in two shirts. Unfortunately, I don’t have a picture of the final product.

Shirts, shirts, shirts.

I told my mom yesterday about all my new shirts and my never-ending (or so it seems) quest for a good pattern for well-fitting pants — she said “You are going to need something to wear with all of those shirts!” I made several pairs of pants back in 2000, and it seems I have a different body now!  I have turned to Craftsy for some lessons on pants-making and pants-fitting.  To be honest, I think I have bought all of the pants classes on Craftsy!  Most intriguing is Jeanius, where I’ve learned to copy a garment (i.e. my favorite corduroys that I own in 3 colors, most of which are starting to wear out) to make a pattern.  I’m stuck in the fitting stage, but here are some photos of “thread-tracing.”

I know that making new jeans/cords or getting the Vogue 2948 pattern (used in some other Craftsy classes) to fit well is going to be a challenge.  And now that I’ve worked through most all of my shirt stash, and mostly cleaned up my sewing room, there’s no excuse!  Stay tuned.