Japan Travel Wardrobe – Part 2: The Raspberry Rucksack

For our Japan trip I wanted a light backpack that could be folded up easily when not in use, so when I saw that Sarah Kirsten was working on the Raspberry Rucksack I knew it would be a great fit. Luckily the pattern was released just in time and I finished my Raspberry last week.

I’ve sewn all sorts of things over the last few years but somehow I’ve never made a backpack before. My main issue is sourcing all the notions without any good shops nearby. I was really intrigued by this design though and decided to bite the bullet and order online. The trickiest bit was to find an o-zipper (with the two pulls in the middle) but I found some metal zips at Schneidereibedarf Werner. They offer zips in 1 cm increments, which was super handy in this case. The zip though is a little bit heavy and a clear white, whereas I would have preferred a cream colour. However, since the zipper isn’t that visible when the backpack is closed it’s not such an issue.

I also got the rectangle rings and slide adjusters from the same shop. The webbing that I had ordered there too, turned out to be too flimsy so I had to get a different option from Amazon. Since I could only order 12 meters I decided to order a plain white figuring that since it was cotton I could dye it in the right colour for each project. When it arrived it was clear that the contrast of the white against the dark brown fabric was too stark so I quickly tea dyed it to get more of an off white. Two bags of Earl Grey made a strong enough brew to dye all the webbing. I love an easy natural dyeing solution!

Speaking of fabric, I knew from the beginning that I wanted to use the leftovers from my Persephone pants to make the backpack (#sewingleftovers). The fabric is sturdy but still relatively thin and I just love the brown colour. To make it more weather resistant I decided to wax it myself using a Merchant & Mills re-proofing bar from Juni Design. Applying it was really easy, you just have to rub it on and then iron between two sheets of baking paper. Just be aware that an untreated fabric like this will soak up a lot of wax. I used up a little bit over one bar to wax all pieces. Still it’s an easy and affordable way to create your own oilskin fabric.

The Raspberry Rucksack comes in two sizes, Little and Big. I went for the Big version and think the size is just right.

As this was my first backpack ever, I was glad that the instructions were so thorough. It’s clear that Sarah has put a lot of effort into figuring out the best construction and the diagrams are super clear. Nevertheless, this is not an easy project. It really requires you to pay close attention to the instructions and be very accurate. Also in some places, especially the corners, your machine might struggle to get through all the layers. My machine is quite powerful but still I had some issues, especially when it came to attaching the pop-up pocket. Luckily my topstitching thread was a perfect match so any wonky seams are not really visible. My main recommendation for the trickier topstitching parts is to use a glue stick to attach the pieces first. That gives you much more control and nothing moves around.

Despite these struggles, it was a really enjoyable sew. I like when I have to be super focused and can learn some new techniques. The construction of the fully lined pop-up pocket, for example, was really mind boggling but really fun (make sure to check out the sew along on Sarah’s blog if you are having issues).

The one change I made to the pattern was to add a pocket on the side for a small water bottle. I always have water with me when I travel and prefer to have easy access to it. To do that I just cut a piece of fabric with the width of the middle panel, lined it and topstitched it on.

Construction-wise I followed the instructions in most parts. One thing I had to change was the order of attaching the back panel. The instructions tell you to first attach the top and the bottom and afterwards the sides. However, if you are like me and are not the most exact sewer, then your side seams might not match. I had to unpick the top seam and shorten the back piece a little bit to make it all work.

As for the inside of the backpack, I decided to line it with this fun duck print from the flea market (which somehow reminds me of my childhood in the 90s). Again the finish is super clean as the inside seams are bound with bias tape. I decided to make my own bias tape in the lining fabric. While it’s always a bit of a pain to make, it’s so worth it. To not disturb the clean finish on the inside I even decided to stitch the bias tape down by hand (I love a bit of hand sewing).

As you might be able to tell from the pictures, this little backpack makes me very happy. It’s a perfect size and still very light-weight. Obviously it’s not super ergonomic but I’ve used it a couple of times now and it’s surprisingly comfortable to carry. I love that the front flap opens all the way so it’s really easy to pack. In a next version (I’m sure there will be one) I’ll further round the top corners at the zip as it’s quite difficult to open the zip without folding back the zipper flap. I read beforehand that others had the same issues so I already rounded them more than I would have based on the instructions, still the curve is a little bit too tight. Next time I would also try a plastic zipper that opens more easily.

Despite these struggles, this backpack turned out great. It’s cute and should be perfect for our trip. I’ll report back once I’ve lugged it around Japan for a month.

If you are interested in making a backpack, I’d definitely recommend this pattern. Be prepared to unpick a few times and make your machine work hard (which I guess is true for any backpack pattern). But Sarah really has you covered every step of the way and the result is clearly worth it. I’m glad I gave backpack making a go, it’s such a useful skill!

Japan Travel Wardrobe – Part 1

It’s official, my husband and I have finally booked our holiday to Japan. We’ve been planning to go for two years now (it was supposed to be sort of our honeymoon) and we finally managed to find a date. We’ll be there from the beginning of April until the beginning of March, travelling around the country. I’m very excited!

So what is the first thing a sewist does when they booked a holiday? Dream up a travel wardrobe of course and make a list of things to sew. This list I’ve sketched out focuses on some key pieces I felt I was missing. Clearly I’m already dreaming of warm weather sewing. No worries I’ll take thermals and jackets too.

This list got me so excited that I’ve already sewn half way through it. Today I’m showing you the Claudia Dress and the Stellan Tee. The leather fanny pack is done too (check out my Instagram for a preview) and I’m currently working on the Raspberry Rucksack.

The Claudia Dress by Tessuti has been on my to-sew list since it came out. I love the neckline, the length, the side slits; basically it’s my dream summer dress. I used a Robert Kaufmann cotton-linen mix that I got from Ray Stitch a while ago. It’s a beautiful fabric but it took me a long time to decide what exactly to make with it. I’m glad I decided to pair it with the Claudia dress. It’s the perfect weight for this dress and the stripes work well with this simple shape.

Talking of stripes, I totally copied the idea of playing with stripe direction from Ellen (@ejc______). I saw her version of the Claudia on Instagram and immediately wanted to make my own. I broke up the front pattern piece into two (actually just at the place where you would stick the two pattern pieces together) and cut one piece on grain, the other one cross-grain. The back stripes are aligned with the ones of the lower part of the front. I made sure to pattern match just above the slit where both sides meet and love this little detail.

In terms of sizing I graded from a size S at the top to a size M in the hips. The amount of ease around the hips is perfect, at the top though I had to take the dress in quite a bit through the side seams. Now it sits close enough to not show any boob but it’s still relatively loose so that I can wear a T-shirt or turtleneck underneath. I tried to be super careful with the armhole stitching to not stretch it out (I stay stitched instead of using tear-away vilene as suggested in the pattern), still it gapes a little. Something to improve on the next version.

For the facings I used the main fabric, but decided to also invert the stripe. I figured rather than trying to match up the stripe I would create a sort of checkered pattern if the fabric was to sheer. And indeed you can see a faint pattern in the right light, which I think is quite fun.

The dress has pockets that are topstitched to the front. While I like the construction and the fact that they are there, I feel the pockets are really tiny, and I don’t even have big hands! Something to keep in mind if you ever make this pattern.

While I like the dress loose as drafted (unfortunately I forgot to take a picture), I also sewed up a tie to cinch in the waist. It breaks up the front bodice and adds a little bit more to the stripe play.

All in all it’s a wonderful pattern. For my next version I might hack it into a top for summer.

Next up is the Stellan Tee by French Navy. It’s a FREE pattern and a great contemporary version of a tee. I love the high neck and the relaxed fit.

The fabric is the ochre merino from The Fabric Store. I don’t really wear yellow/mustard colours, but it suits my husband so I had ordered some to make him a T-shirt. While the fabric was sitting in my stash, I got curious and decided to give this colour a try. So I stole a piece to make the Stellan Tee (don’t worry, there is still enough left for my husband).

It’s a simple tee, nevertheless, the instructions are nice and thorough. I’m not much of a T-shirt sewer, so this was actually the first time that I used the technique to enclose the back neck seam allowance with tape. I love how clean it looks and will definitely add that to any future T-shirts.

I don’t have a coverstitch machine, so I used a small zig zag stitch to finish the neck and hems. I always thought it looked a little bit amateurish though these days I actually really like the look of it.

The sizing for me is spot on. I made a size S based on my bust measurements and there is plenty of room even at the hips.

The hem is drafted as curved, which was a bit fiddly to sew. It’s a cute detail, though I might straighten it out next time to give it an even cleaner look.

Such a quick and satisfying sew and this merino is a dream to wear! My husband only wears merino shirts these days and I can understand why. It’s perfect for any climate and will be great for travelling.

Stay tuned for more holiday sewing!

Persephone and Mandy

Hello there! We are having a couple of warm and sunny weeks here in Germany and I wanted to check in to show you my new spring uniform: the Persephone Pants (by Anna Allen Clothing) and the Mandy Boat Tee (by Tessuti).

I’ve been wanting to make the Mandy Boat Tee for ages, but somehow never really got around to it. Then I was in Berlin in November and visited Siebenblau, a beautiful shop with organic fabrics, where I picked up this striped jersey with the Mandy in mind. I’ve been stalking them online and was very intrigued by their naturally coloured cotton. Shortly after, I came across the new podcast Reverberate by A Verb For Keeping Warm where in Episode 1 they interview Sally Fox who breeds coloured cotton and explains the history behind it. Definitely worth a listen!

In the shop I was warned that the fabric was warped due to the way it was wrapped on the bolt and that I should wash it and then stretch it in place. Unfortunately that didn’t really work. I stretched, I steamed and stretched but the fabric was still far from rectangular. My last resort was to pin it, while damp, to the wood wall of my bedroom and stretch it into submission. That worked reasonably well, not perfectly, but given the loose fit of the Mandy Boat Tee I decided to use it as it was.

The other struggle I had was the fact that I had only purchased one meter of fabric and with the warped ends even had a little bit less than that to use, so it was difficult to fit all the pattern pieces. In the end I had to piece the sleeves and shorten them slightly.

The construction process on the other hand was a breeze, thanks to the jersey being very stable. Another reason for being able to achieve a neat finish was that I finally purchased some flexible seam tape (I used the Vlieseline Nahtband Flexibel T15) that helped immensely with stabilising the neckline and the hem. Why have I not started using this sooner?

Excited about adding a new staple to my wardrobe I put it on but immediately realised that the sleeves were far too tight. Apparently the sleeve is drafted with a lot of negative ease and my fabric did not have a ton of stretch. Since I didn’t have any fabric left over to re-cut the sleeves I could only let out the seams a little bit. Now it’s wearable but still on the tight side. So next time I’ll definitely widen the sleeves. In terms of sizing, I used the new graded version of the pattern and chose a size 2 (S-M).

Despite all the struggles, I’m really happy with the final tee. The fabric is beautiful and lovely to wear. Now I finally understand why everyone loves the Mandy Boat Tee. It’s so easy to wear and I love the boxy fit. Once I have sorted out the sleeves I’m sure I will make more.

This pair of Persephones has been a long time coming. After I had finished my first pairs last summer I knew immediately that I wanted to make a denim pair. However, somehow I just couldn’t find a good heavy-weight denim neither in shops nor online. Then The Fabric Store had their sale at the beginning of the year and in addition to the merino jersey that I came for, I added a length of a 12 oz denim in Indigo to my cart. The fabric is actually perfect for the Persephones. The 12 oz weight is heavy enough to give them the needed structure but still thin enough so that my domestic sewing machine could handle it.

In terms of fit adjustments I made the same as for my first full-length pair (here the blog post with all the details). In summary, I sized down to a 10, shortened the front crotch, deepened the back darts and added a curved waistband with a centre back seam. When I basted them together to check the fit they came out bigger than expected. This was due to a combination of two factors. First, I had lost a little bit of weight after changes to my diet and second this denim, while being non-stretch, has some give whereas the fabric on my previous pair had none. To make them sit a little bit tighter I took them in through the inseam of the leg and some further through the back darts. They still sit a little bit looser than my other pair but they keep their shape nicely and are super comfortable to wear.

While I loved the construction of the original button fly, I do think a zip fly is a little bit more practical to wear. I could have probably figured out how to convert the button fly but decided to purchase the Zipper Expansion Pack that Anna just released. The construction is slightly different to what I normally do (which is the Closet Case Patterns Ginger Jeans method) but it came out beautifully. I love learning new techniques!

I also added some length to the legs. With a generous 5 cm double hem they finish just at my ankle. This makes them a little bit more practical to wear in cold weather, without the need for knee-high socks all the time.

Since I went with denim, I decided to go all out with the top stitching details. I chose an orange colour and loved adding all the details. I also incorporated the pretty selvage by using it as the belt loops. To top it all off I used a white bone button from Fringe Supply Co. The white button with the orange stitching makes me so happy!

So, another pair of Persephones down and I think I’m still not done with the pattern. I might make an off-white pair or one in khaki. I’m constantly inspired by the all the great versions popping up in my Instagram feed (just check out the hashtag).

Hope you are all getting some sunshine, wherever you are!