Friday, May 25, 2012

.45 ACP Magazine Pouch

How about something completely different!  This is a belt-held magazine holder for 8-round .45 ACP magazines for a 1911.  Probably not something you'd expect to see on a sewing/craftsy website -- but it's useful, functional, and solves a problem!

Here's where we start -- with magazines (by the way -- they are not clips).  I like to shoot a .45 ACP 1911 semi-auto pistol.  It's a proven design, easy to shoot -- especially if you have small hands.  The 1911 is a single-stack magazine -- not a double stack like many 9mm pistols.  This means the magazine (and pistol grip) is thin.

I typically use Wilson Combat magazines -- they work great and rarely have feeding issues.  I prefer the 47D model,

The problem is -- carrying multiple magazines in a pouch.

Why carry multiple magazines at all?  Well, if you're in a shooting competition, you'll need to carry several magazines.  If you're punching holes in paper at the shooting range, it's convenient to have easy access to multiple magazines.  If you're hunting in the woods, you'd like easy access to multiple magazines.

Most magazine pouches I've seen store the magazines with the wide side against your body.  This works well -- but it takes up a lot of space!

Suppose you wanted to carry 4 or 5 magazines.  You can see how much space they take compared against these 8 1/2" dressmaker shears.

Plus, it's hard to find that long a space on my belt where I can attach something.

Note what happens when we stack the magazines with the narrow side down!

Much less real estate required -- plus I've got plenty of room to add a fifth magazine if I want!

So -- what I want to do is construct a belt-attached magazine pouch -- but with the pouches designed to carry the magazines with the narrow side against the body, not the wide side.

I could sit and do some measuring and math, but this one is easier if you figure it out as you go!  I know I'll need two pieces -- a back which will attach to my belt and an "accordion" holder for the magazines that I'll attach to this back.

I started with a piece of canvas about the size of a sheet of typing paper -- 8 1/2 x 11.  Canvas is strong and stiff -- it'll work fine as it is.

I sewed a double-fold hem along three sides of the canvas, then set five magazines on it to check the fit.

Looks like the 8 1/2" width works great for five magazines!

I'm going to fold over the top of the canvas to make a flap -- a belt will slide through this flap to hold the backing.

Hmm ... I want a strip of velcro on this flap ... but there's not much room for velcro, belt, and a fold-over hem here (I had left this side raw).

Okay, I can fix this.

(BTW -- note that I did a small piece of embellishment along the bottom of the backing.)

I'll move the fold a little close to the middle of the back ... plus I'll just do a zigzag stitch over the raw edge rather than a foldover hem.

The canvas is thick and stiff enough that it takes about 1/2 inch of fabric for each fold!  By doing a zigzag over instead, I'll save some space for the fit.

Great -- this fits just right!  I've got the fold moved over a bit ... it's about 6 inches from the bottom, 3 inches from the top.  This gives me space for the belt (you can just barely see it under my hand), the velcro strip (that I'm holding), plus a little play.

I'm using sticky heat-attached velcro.  One word of warning -- after you iron the fabric to set the velcro, wait till it cools before you try and open it up.  Open it when it's still hot and the glue is all gummy.

Here's how I attached it:  I unfolded the flap (by the way, note that we're looking at the back-side of this piece.  The back-side will go against the body), then cut a strip of velcro that just fit in between the two hems.  Place the hook side velcro on the top of the flap (IMPORTANT!  You'll have to sew through one of the velcro pieces -- if you sew through the hook side, your thread will break constantly.  If you sew through the furry piece, your thread will only break some of the time!)

Now, cut a furry piece of velcro to the same length and press it against the hook piece to lock them together.  If you're using sticky velcro, be sure and remove the plastic backing strips first.

Now, close the flap.  Be sure and fold it along the fold line you've identified.

Iron the vecro from both sides to set the heat-activated glue.  Get it good and hot.  Once you're, done, set the folded piece down to cool.

While it's cooling, we can get ready for the next piece -- the accordion-style magazine holder.  I slid my belt through the flap to check the fit (works fine).  I then set a magazine against the backing to check the sizing.

I'm using 1911 .45 ACP magazines -- if you're using another size magazine, you'll have to experiment here to get your sizing right.

First, I turned the backing so that the front side faces up.  Then I positioned five magazines to see how to fit them.  Note that I positioned the magazines in the proper orientation -- with the baseplates up.

Looks like five magazines will fit fairly well.  I don't think I could squeeze in a sixth on this size backing piece.

I'm not cramming them tightly against each other -- I want a loose pouch fit so that I can slide magazines in and out very easily.

Now -- the fun part.  Frankly, I cut a waste piece of canvas and played with it for a while to figure out: 1) How wide should a pouch slot be, and 2) how closely should I sew the edges against the backing piece.

Here's what I did -- I took my waste piece of canvas and pinned together a couple of accordion slots.  I marked the boundaries of the pouch sides with a marker ... and also marked the distance of these sides on the backing piece.

I ended up with accordion slots widths of 3 1/4 inches -- and noted the sides needed to be sewed one inch apart on the backing piece.

If you're using a different caliber magazine, you can use the same method to figure where your sewing points should be.  If you're using double-stacked magazines (like a Glock), then you probably won't be able to fit 5 magazines on a 8/12 wide backing piece.

Before you make your backing piece really wide, make sure it'll fit in between your belt loops!

I figured I wanted 5 slots, each 3 1/4 inches (total 16 1/4 inches), plus a double hem on each side (need an inch for each hem), so an 18 1/4" should do.  I cut a rectangle 19" by 7" for the accordion piece.

I then double hemmed the top and bottom.

I also single hemmed the two sides.

Now, the tricky part -- attaching the accordion (and hoping my measurements and math would work out!).
We're going to attach it to the front of our backing piece.  Be sure and open the flap!  Since we're sewing down the face of the backing piece, we'll end up sewing the back flap closed if you don't open it first!

Also, we're going to be sewing through once piece of the velcro.  If you applied the pieces right, you'll be sewing through the furry piece.  Don't be surprised if your upper thread breaks a couple of times -- it always happens to me when I sew through velcro.  If you mistakenly put the hook piece on the bottom, your thread will break every time it goes through the velcro.

To attach the accordion piece, position it on one side of the front of the backing piece.  Since the backing piece has a double fold hem on one side -- and since the accordion has a single fold hem on the side, I decided not to place the two hems on top of each other.  Instead, I placed the edge of the accordion piece just inside the double fold hem of the backing piece.

I also made sure that the bottom of the accordion piece ended just above the embellishment stitch I had sewn on the bottom hem of the backing piece.

Sew a seam to attach the accordion side.  I sewed one seam down the hemmed portion -- and then sewed another seam just inside the folded hem.  This is where the accordion piece will bend.

Lock this stitch in really well at both ends of the accordion piece.

Now, note a point on the accordion top 3 1/4 inches away from your last seam.  Note another point on the backing piece 1 inch away from the last seam.  Fold the accordion top so that these two points match -- and sew a seam down the accordion piece.

This is what it'll look like.  You've sewn a pocket that's about 1 " wide, but that contains 3 1/4" of canvas.  This'll give you just enough fold to easily hold one magazine.

I left the bottom of the pockets open -- this will let dirt and such fall out.  The baseplates of the magazines are wide enough so that the magazine will not slip down inside the pocket.

Now, measure off your remaining sewing points.

Each accordion top seam will be 3 1/4" inches in from the next; each backing piece seam will be 1 inch away from the last.

This will make the accordion pockets fold so that they can hold your magazines.

Again, if you're sewing for something other than a 1911 magazine, you'll likely have to alter your measurements.

Here we are sewing the second pocket in place.

Continue sewing -- measuring in 3 1/4 " for the top, 1" for the bottom.

When you get to the last pocket -- let's check how it fits.

Uh-oh -- I've got an "oops".  My top accordion piece is about a half-inch too wide.  If I sew it like the other pockets, I'll attach it too far to the side.

Solution --

Just fold that single hemmed side under to make it a double-fold!

If I do that, then the accordion piece ends just inside the double-fold hem of the bottom backing piece (just like it began)

Sew two seams -- once down the edge of the folded over top piece, and then again just inside the folded down hem of the top piece.  This will then match the two ends exactly.

And that's it!  We're finished!

Here's the magazine pouch in use -- I've folded the flap over my belt to carry it by my side.  The five magazines fit just right; they're easy to grab and easy to remove for a magazine change.

The individual pockets are loose enough so that they can be pushed to different angles.  I think I like this -- but if it turns out to be a problem, it'll be no trouble to handstitch the sides of the pockets together so that they stay in place.

Five loaded magazines has some weight to it -- but a good sturdy belt helps hold them up.

Note where my belt loops are -- I'd have to do some redesign to make the pouch wider.   I think five magazines will do fine for me, though.

Also discovered that the pouch makes a handy way to carry magazines when I'm throwing them in a range bag.  Rather than toss them in loose, I stick them in the pouch and put the entire pouch in the range bag.

I think I'll add some more embellishing stitches on the edges of my next one.  Can also see different canvas prints (camo?  pink for the ladies?) coming into play!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Removable Decorative Holiday Pillows

We like to decorate for holidays -- one of the things I like to do is have throw-pillows made with holiday fabric.  Pretty simple -- get one 14" square pillow form, cut two 15" square of fabric, sew them together, insert pillow, slipstitch closed.  Result -- one holiday pillow.

Sounds great -- until it's time for the next holiday.  Then, you've got to store the old holiday pillows and haul out some more.  Until the next holiday, when you've got to store the pillows again.  Repeat and rinse.

With maybe 8 pillows per holiday -- and 10 or so holidays a year -- that's 80 or so pillows I've got to find a place to store!

So -- I decided to try a different method -- rather than sew single-purpose pillows, why not make a pillow-case -- insert pillow form when you need it, remove when you don't.  A lot easier storing 80 flat fold-able pillow cases than 80 full-size pillows!

One half-yard of decorative fabric (for the front) ... plus one half-yard of complimentary solid color (for the back) ... will give us two pillow cases AND fit our one yard of fabric requirement!

I'm using 14" pillow forms that I got at Hancock's (I like them better than the ones at JoAnns) for my pillows.  These two pieces of fabric will make us two St. Patty's Day pillows.

To do one pillow, cut a 15 inch square of decorative fabric.  This will be the front of the pillow.  Next, here's a "pillow trick".  If you leave the corners square, they'll stick out like little points when you insert the actual pillow.  To remedy this, "round" the corners a tiny bit!  I don't know why this works, but it does.  Trim all four corners of your top fabric.

Now, let's cut the fabric for our back piece.  We cut a 15 inch square for the top -- but we're going to cut an 18 inch by 15 inch rectangle for the back.  You'll see how we use this extra length in a second.

Once you've cut the rectangle, cut it into two pieces.  I like to cut them a little bit side of center -- giving me one piece about 11 inches by 15 inches and another about 7 inches by 15 inches.

We need two quick hems on these back pieces.  Both hems should be on the "just cut" side of the fabric.  Do a double fold-over hem along the 15 inch sides.  After this, each back piece has one hemmed side and three "raw" sides.  The hemmed sides should be facing each other (so, one hem is on the right side of one piece, another is on the left side of the other piece).

Now, let's assemble three three pillow case pieces.  I'm going to use French Seams, so match the wrong-side corners of the front to the wrong-side corners of one of the back pieces (I like to start with the narrower piece).  Since the front corners are "curved" and the back corners aren't this won't be an exact match.  We'll fix this when we do the French Seams.

Now, set the wide back piece in place.  Have the hemmed edge overlap the hemmed edge of the thin piece.  You'll probably find that if you match the corners of the wide piece, you'll have a pretty large overlap.  To narrow this overlap to two inches of so, just slide the wide piece over.  It's okay if the edges don't match with the edges of the front piece -- again, we'll fix this when we do the French Seams.

I did a lot of pinning to get the pieces just the way I wanted them.  Now, it's time for the French Seams.  Sewing with the front piece uppermost, sew a straight stitch down one side.  We want a fairly narrow seam allowance.  Try for a 1/4 seam allowance.  When you get to a corner, leave the needle down, raise the foot, and pivot the pillow-case 90 degrees.  Then, continue sewing along the next side.  Sew all four sides.  Note that you'll "curve in" your seams when you get to the corners of the front.

Once you've sewed all four sides, grab your scissors and trim those seams to about 1/8.  This is where we trim away any extra from the back fabric ... and also where we make the back fabric match the "curved corners" of the front piece.

Now, invert the entire pillow.  If you want perfect French Seams, use your iron to press the seams flat.  If you want "good enough" French Seams, use your fingers to push the seams as flat as you can get them.  Now, sew along all four side again -- using about a 1/4" seam allowance.  This will enclose the edges and result in a French Seam.

The sewing's now all finished.  Turn the pillowcase right-side out again; use your fingers or a turning tool to make sure the corners are opened out.

Let's insert a pillow!  Turn the pillow-case over.  Open the overlap enough so that you can insert a pillow.  I like to stick it in the wide part first -- just find it a little easier to do it that way.  Once you've got the pillow inserted as far as it will go, grab the other part of the overlap and pull it over the remaining part of the pillow.  Fluff it and push it to get it all straight ...

And here's the finished product!  Note how the corners don't stick out -- that curving thing really works well!  You can now easily store gobs of custom pillow cases -- plus you can easily remove them for washing ... and you don't have to store as many pillow blanks!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Gift Card Bags

We find we're using gift cards more and more come holiday and gift-giving time.  I've been making these little "gift card bags" the last few years -- thought I'd share them since they definitely fall under the "one-yard-or-less" guidelines!

The bags are pretty simple -- the handle can be kind of special if you have a serger with holiday-colored thread for the bag handle.  Or, you could just sew a handle with some ribbon or scrap bias tape.

I like to stock up on holiday fabric -- after holiday season when the prices fall!  Plus -- I found these nice holiday "napkins" for .25 cents each -- bought a bunch of them to cover mantels and such.  They make good gift-bag makings, too.

You can see my Christmas fabric rectangle overlaid on top of my Christmas napkin.  I'll make two bags -- once from each source.

It doesn't take much fabric for a bag -- use a gift card or a credit car for a guideline.  I'm using my Metro bus pass here -- it's about 2 inches high by about 3 1/2 inches wide.  I didn't measure it with a ruler -- I'm just setting it on the fabric to get an idea of how much to cut.  Leave about 3/4 of an inch on each side.  The length should be twice the card's width plus about 2 inches.

After sizing and cutting a rectangle, fold it in half.   Place the card on the fabric near the bottom fold to check the sizing.  Trim the fabric as necessary -- a little too big is good, a little too small is bad!

Again, you want about 3/4 inch on each side of the bag -- and about an inch at the top of the bag (we're going to hem this with a double foldover -- hence the extra.)

Begin by sewing a "hem" on each end of your rectangle.  I used a simple double fold-over and hemmed it down with a straight stitch.

You can see I've already hemmed the left-hand portion of this piece -- I'm hemming the right-hand side right now.

Once done, fold the bag back up -- and sew a straight stitch down each side.  The bottom is already closed because of the fold, so we'll have a "bag" closed on three sides when we're done.

Don't worry about finishing the sides -- we're going to use the serger to both finish and for handles in the next step.

If you're not serging, you can sew some ribbon or some bias tape along the sides (and curve it over the top of the bag for a handle).

If you are serging, begin from the bottom side of the bag and serge up towards the top.  When you get to the top, DO NOT cut off the serging thread like you normally would.

Instead, keep serging -- even after the bag side passes the needles -- so that the thread tail continues to grow.  Then, curve the bag around so that you're serging down the other side of the bag -- going from the top to the bottom.

I've probably made the thread tail a little too long here -- my "handle" looks a little stretched!  Still functional, though!

I made a second bag using my Christmas napkin the same way.  Using a card for size, I cut a rectangle from the napkin, hemmed the tops, sewed the sides, then serged a tail that crossed from one side to the other for a handle.

And -- here are the results!  Use some holiday colored serger thread for more interesting handles (I was too lazy to rethread the serger!)  

Let me know if you give this a try -- I'd like to hear what you think!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Fleece Beret

fleece beretMy wife's a huge LSU fan.  We have tiger-striped decorations all over our house.  When I found some tiger-striped fleece, I knew I had to do something with it.  I've been looking at jaunty sports caps lately, so I decided to do a jaunty tiger-striped beret.

This takes way less than a yard of fleece -- a single strip about 14 inches high by 50 inches wide should be plenty.  The hard part is drawing the pattern -- here's how you do it:

Draw a single straight line 8 1/2 inches high.  From the top of this line, drop down 4 inches.  Draw a crossing perpendicular line 3 1/2 inches long where the tall line bisects the shorter one (that means 1 3/4 inches on each side of the 8 1/2 inch line)  Now, drop another 2 inches and draw a 4 5/8 inch line that's bisected by the 8 1/2 inch line.  Finally, at the bottom of the 8 1/2 inch line, note where the endpoints of a 3 3/8 inch bisecting line would be.

If you need to, click the image on the right for a closer look.
This sounds more complex than it is -- look at the diagram and see how the straight lines are laid out.  

Now, freehand draw in the teardrop shaped sides.  It doesn't have to be perfect -- fleece is very forgiving!  At the very bottom of the pattern, draw a concave shaped base that joins those two 3 3/8 inch endpoints.  That means it curves in a little bit.

That's the only pattern we need!  Since our teardrop pattern is a bit less than 5 inches wide -- and since we need 8 pieces cut, lets start with a piece of fleece about 44 inches wide (we'll give ourselves a little cushion) and about 9 1/2 inches high.  Fold it in half so that it's 22 by 9 1/2.  Now, lay the pattern piece on the fabric and start cutting.  Since the fabric is doubled, you'll be cutting two pieces at a time.  Once you've cut a piece, shift the pattern over and cut the next.  When you finish, you'll have 8 pieces for your beret.
Note that fleece has a right side and a wrong side.  Lay your pieces out so the edges all curl the same direction.  Keep them oriented like this.  Decide which side of the fleece you want on the outside.

 Now -- start joining the pieces.  Match two pieces (matching the same side) and sew them together with about a 1/4" seam allowance.  Keep doing this until you have four sets of two joined pieces.

Now, join the sets so that you have two sets of four joined pieces -- or a "right half" and a "left half".  You don't actually have to do this -- you can keep joining single pieces together one at a time -- but I found it a lot easier and less confusing to do it this way.

Note how the tops of your teardrop pieces will stick out in a little tuft.  This doesn't affect anything since they'll be on the inside.

Now that we have two halves our beret -- let's join them together.  Be careful to keep your seams on the same side!  When you sew the top tufts together, it'll get a little squirrely -- not a problem, this doesn't have to be perfect at this point.

When you're done, you have a beret that will fit VERY loosely.  We need a band around the bottom to make it fit and lay properly.

To make the band, measure the circumference of your head, then cut a piece of fleece of the same width, but between 3 1/2 and 4 inches tall.  The fleece will stretch -- and we want the fit to be a tiny bit snug (so the beret won't fall off), so we're not adding any cushion to the band.  However, after you make the band and try it on, you might decide to cut another one and make it looser (or tighter) as you prefer.

Once you've cut the band, fold it in half width-wise (keep the good side on the outside) and sew along the length to close the band.

Note that we now have a seam on the good side!?!?!  This is okay -- because we're going to hide it in the next step.

If your seam allowance is a little ragged, you can trim it off now.  I used a rotary cutter -- made it really easy!

Now, join the two ends of the band together.  You can get fancy here -- like a felled seam -- but you don't have to.  You can simply straight seam the ends together -- we'll put the seamed part on the inside when we join the band to the cap.

Check the band for fit -- if it's too loose, you can sew another seam.  If too tight, then cut another strip a little longer and try again.  Normally, circumference of your head will give you a good fit.
Now -- here's the neat part.  We need to join the band to the bottom of the cap.  If you look at the two, the circumference of the band is much smaller than the circumference of the bottom of the cap -- or, the circle made by the band is much smaller than the circle made by the bottom of the cap.

This is exactly how we want it!  Since fleece will stretch, we'll stretch the band to fit the bottom of the cap.  This will also "pull" in the sides of the wider bottom and give us that "mushroom" look of a beret.

Start by turning the cap inside out -- all seams to the outside.  Now, set the band inside the cap and match it up with the bottom of the cap.  Have the seamed part of the band matched up with the bottom of the cap.   When we later turn the cap right-side out, the seams of both the band and the cap will be on the inside.

I started by pinning at two positions -- 12 o'clock and 6 o'clock.

This positions the band and puts half of the band on one side of the cap and half on the other side.  Now, pin the middles of the band to the cap at the 3 o'clock and 9 o'clock positions.

If you want, you can add more pins -- but four should position the band properly if you're careful.

Now -- stretch each individual segment (between the pins) of the band so that it's the same length as the cap bottom -- and sew the band to the cap.  If you find this hard to do, you can add another few pins.

And ... you're done!  Turn the cap right-side out -- note the neat "mushroom" beret shape!

I left my beret just as it was -- but you might want to consider adding some sort of pom-pom to the very top where all the teardrop segments meet.  You could even cut thing strips of matching fleece to make the pom-pom.  That's kind of girly, but it might work just right in the right situation.

fleece beret

And -- here's my model again.  I think she's practicing how to flop the beret in just the right way for her fashion statement!