Monday, 9 September 2013

Making Something Useful

Hello webby mates!
Sorry for the 3 week gap. I've been on holiday for a fortnight with extended family, then spent this last week getting the remaining school stuff ready and doing all the unpacking and other post holiday chores. I thought I was looking forward to returning home to my garden and pets. However, with low temperatures, rain, one important pet death, 2 hens going broody, the rats peeing all over my favourite sweater and dress and my (formerly) favourite cat having diarrhoea in the laundry hamper I felt less than thrilled to be home.

On the bright side I have LOADS of chillies on the chilli pepper plants in the poly tunnel, the other hens are laying well, the apples, raspberries and plums are ripening and Joss Whedon has a new TV show starting this months. That's all worth being home for.

The most significant event this week - aside from the death of Slinky the skink - was my lovely 11 year old son starting high school.  He was so keen to make a good impression he got up super early to have a shower and get dressed in his shirt, jumper and blazer. He wanted everything to be just right. Unfortunately this translated to a certain pickiness when it came to a school bag, lunch bag and pencil case. We found the first two eventually but all the pencil cases he saw were girly or babyish. Come on, stationery suppliers, please stock less gendered stuff!

I thought I could make something myself that might do. I am trying VERY hard not to spend any money this month (beyond the essentials. I'm not making the kids fast or anything. Yet.) so I hoped to use things I already had.
I found a spare 10 inch zipper in my sewing box.  I'd bought it for a project last winter I ended up using buttons on instead. Then I had a good rummage in my fabric bins. I have two of those Tuff Crates you can get from Costco stacked next to my sewing machine desk. In theory everything I own for sewing would fit inside them. In practice they are bulging with fabric, batting, interfacing and so on, there's a huge stack on top of them in addition to 2 shelves full of books, thread spools and other haberdashery notions.  I LOVE an excuse to furtle about in the fabric bins. It gets me all inspired for projects. It's so hard to stay focussed when I'm there.
Anyway, I had several pairs of old jeans the kids had grown out of as well. Denim is a nice hard wearing fabric that would do a decent job as a pencil case. I chose one of Z's own pairs as I thought that would be more cool for him.

The lower part of the leg looked to me the most suitable. Well, easiest, anyway. I trimmed off the tatty hem and measured enough to make a roomy pencil case. This meant using the rather worn knee section of the jeans. I could either cut out a rectangle from the back of each jean leg or keep the nice side seam as part of the pencil case's look and reinforce it some way. I really liked the idea of the finished item looking as 'jeansy' as possible so I stuck to using that once leg. Plus, as a lazy wench I was happy to take the option that left me with one fewer seam to sew.

My next step was to cut the tube of denim open and trim off the unwanted second side seam. The legs tapered in so I also used my metre stick and my handy dandy rotary cutter to make it a more even rectangle.

To resolve the issue of the worn knees I remembered Z's Scout Camp badges. They kick about on bookshelves or in drawers being unloved clutter but too important to him to throw away. I stitched them across the worn bit and across a small stain.  Incidentally, I don't know why that photo is upside down. I've reformatted it several times but it just keeps flipping back.

  Next up, installing a zip. Here goes the "Do what I say not what I do" bit of the post.

Line up the wrong side edge of the zip with the right side of the fabric. Pin  and then tack into place. Tacking is the bit I forget. It holds the zip and jean edge more securely while I'm faffing about getting the presser and needle in the right position. As my zip is slip-sliding about I always think Drat! I meant to tack this in place.
Sew them together at a consistent gap from the teeth of the zip - you'll probably find the ridge the teeth make force your sewing machine foot a certain distance away.  As you get near to the zip itself - you know, the bit you pull to do it up - stop sewing.  Leave your needle in the fabric, lift your presser foot up and ease the zip past it to a part you've already sewn.  This bit is VERY IMPORTANT (and I forgot this too). If you try to sew past the zip pull its width will make your nice straight line in to a nice straight line with a blooming great swerve in it. Like, for example, the left hand side of the zip in the picture. 

As you see I went a bit wrong. I sewed a second line nice and evenly after that. It's on the inside of a pencil case; no one is going to see it. Except you guys, and I trust you not to point it out to my lad. 
Oh yeah, if you did the tacking that I forgot - dumb me - pull out the tacking stitches once you've finished. Their mission is complete. 

I did the same with the other side of the zip so I had a tube of denim with a zip running down its length. I then undid the zip about halfway so I'd have a nice easy way to turning it the right side out.

I drew a line across each open end of my pencil case from the end of the zip teeth down to the fold at the bottom. I am a firm believer in drawing lines to guide my sewing. I make a pig's ear of attempting straight lines without some guide to help keep me on track.

To prevent the denim fraying inside the case, I sewed a zigzag stitch right alongside my seam. I trimmed the excess denim as close to the zigzag as I could without actually cutting any of the stitches. I did a quick once-over checking for untrimmed threads then turned the finished pencil case the right way out.
There we go - a customised pencil case cobbled together in about half an hour from bits already in my house. My lovely 11 year old was delighted, I stuck to my promise of not spending any cash and I had a nice time doing it. 

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