Thursday, January 30, 2020

Back to My Roots

This past Christmas, I celebrated (okay, posted on IG stories) my sewing machine's tenth birthday. Mr. Cation got me the machine for Christmas in 2019, and the first thing I did was sew a whole slew of zippered pouches. I started out with unlined pouches, then added appliqued cats, then graduated to lined pouches and then even pouches with little "windows" that gave a hint as to the contents. It was good practice for sewing in straight lines, being precise, and thinking about how one would need to arrange right and wrong sides of outer and inner fabrics in order to get the correct sides showing and raw edges hidden, and the mass output was fine because you can always use more containers for things and they made for nice little hostess- or stocking-stuffer-type gifts. Then I discovered garment sewing and, with the exception of some forays into plushie- and quilt-making, I pretty much stopped sewing non-wearable things.

Now that I have small human beings, though, I need more zippered pouches to contain all the miscellaneous things that they "require." Requirement being a loosely applied term, though, because the other day SHB#2 "required" that I bring for her 1) a reusable ice cube, 2) two unopened packets of hot sauce, 3) a small pair of tongs, 4) a slap bracelet, and 5) an old hotel key card. Kids and their treasures of the day: you never know what piece of junk will be indispensable! At any rate, it's much easier to contain all these little things in a zippered pouch instead of in three tiny pockets or two tinier hands or one enormous diaper bag that also contains changes of clothes and washcloths and restaurant toys and water bottles and sunscreen and hats. So, more zippered pouches it was!

Coincidentally, at around the same time that I realized I was going to need more zippered pouches, C&T Publishing contacted me about trying out Kraft-Tex, a leather-like fabric that is made from mostly paper and a small amount of synthetic latex. I was intrigued, because I don't love using leather (when I do, I try to source it from thrifted items) OR pleather/vinyl (which is terrible for the environment), but there are some costume items that kind of require leather or leather-looking materials. I agreed to try out Kraft-Tex, thinking that if it worked out, I would be able to use it for the "leather" sections of the Pozu-knockoff Rey boots I'm theoretically trying to make. C&T Publishing has a color-of-the-month program for bloggers, where they send you a different color 18.5" x 28.5" sheet each month in exchange for a blog post about a project made with it. January's color is Crimson, which worked out because you know, Chinese New Year! Much red! So lucky! Very fortune! Wow!

Tiny toddler hand sneaking in to grab a pouch because this girl loves bags. She is forever running off with my make-up bag, my pattern weights bag, my pencil case, etc. 

I was able to get three zippered pouches out of my piece of red Kraft-Tex, and I learned a lot in the process. I've had some experience sewing with trickier materials, but this still felt like a pretty steep learning curve, mostly because, like leather, once the needle goes through the Kraft-Tex, the hole is permanent. The Kraft-Tex is very stiff, so while it is bendable, it's not easy, so manipulating around curves on a non-flat object was tricky. It's also quite thick, so my (admittedly cheap) machine didn't have enough power to get through multiple layers and I had to resort to using the hand wheel. Also, I still haven't been able to get the thread tension right (although that might also be because of my machine, not the material, since my machine is oh, two years overdue for a tune-up), so there's a pretty visible gap between the pieces when there's tension on the seam. All that said, I do really, really like the look and sturdiness of Kraft-Tex, and the fact that I don't need to interface it, so I want to try again after my machine's been serviced and see if I can't figure out a better way to sew with it. Anyway, here are the details!

It's hard to photograph this bright red material with an iPhone,
but hopefully you can see that it does have a nice leathery-looking texture.

Wonky hand-stitches on the bias binding, because by
that time I couldn't be bothered with keeping things
neat while sewing with pliers. 
The first pouch was Aneela Hoey's Zip-Up Tray Pouch, which I first heard about from SewBrooke. It's a tray that zips up into a nice little carrying case. I originally planned to give this to my son for putting Legos into so that he could bring them to different places to build, but since it doesn't close up all the way, tiny pieces can still fall out. I'm using it for my sewing stuff instead, since I really do like how it zips up somewhat compactly, but still allows for opening up to see all the contents without having to rummage to the bottom. In retrospect, this was a poor choice of first project for a new material, since there's a lot of tricky maneuvering to get around the corners, and the bulkiness and stiffness of the Kraft-Tex made for hideous stitching on my bias binding. It's kind of embarrassing to look at, but it's functional? I think I forgot that, just like with garment sewing, it's important to match the material to the pattern and not assume that you can force any material to work for a particular project. 

Fat and happy taco cats! And burger cats. 

I then made the Noodlehead Open Wide Zippered Pouch two times, thinking that less weird maneuvering would be better suited to the Kraft-Tex. Since my machine didn't like sewing through multiple layers of the material, I used a different coordinating fabric for the part that would actually be sewn to the zipper. My sister was planning to donate this sweatshirt with cute junk food cats all over it; the print is cute but the fabric is 100% polyester and feels pretty awful. I figured it would work for a non-garment application, so I fused a some light interfacing to the back to increase stability since it's a knit. I thought everything would be pretty easy since I wasn't manipulating strange shapes under the presser foot, but I realized when I flipped the pouch right-side out that my thread tension was all off, so the bottom looks pretty bad. It's still functional, but I wouldn't want to say, gift it to anyone. I made one more pouch with the same combination of fabrics but without the boxed corners on the bottom, thinking that that would reduce the obviousness of the thread tension issues, but it was only partially successful. The gaping is less noticeable, but still present, so I wouldn't quite call this a win. 

Top pouch, lined with a fruit-print quilting cotton from the stash, has been claimed by SHB#2 for holding her random treasures: a garbage truck, two magnetic pigs, pink and purple Duplo blocks, some Trader Joe's stickers, and her "phone," which is actually a random remote. The flat pouch, which I keep in my backpack, has extra utensils for if we go places that only give out disposable ones. The fold-out tray has all my essential sewing stuff for bringing to class: paper scissors, fabric scissors, pencil & eraser, fabric marker, tracing wheel, chalk, seam ripper, awl, tape (for flat pattern manipulation), hera marker, French curve, and extra bobbins. I should have a box of pins in there too, but I took it out to use. 

In the end, I do have three serviceable pouches that have already been corralled into holding things, and I love the look of the red with the cats (which vaguely remind me of the similar-colored Chinese lucky cats). It's very appropriate for a Chinese New Year set of projects, although cats are probably inappropriate for it being the Year of the Rat and all... Also, I'm feeling more motivated to actually take my machine in for its tune-up, which always seemed a little silly to me, seeing as how that costs as much as the machine itself originally did, but then I remember that I'm all for making things last as long as possible. 


  1. So what's the laundry situation like? I did a bit of googling after reading your post, and all the stuff I found was on washing it to adjust the texture. (I also found someone who said that this is what
    Levis makes its jeans tags out of.)

    If I were to use this, I'd want it to survive the washing machine and resist stains somewhat. I don't know about the SHBs, but IndoorKitten can trash virtually anything.

    1. It actually feels the same as those jean tags, and I did try washing it just to see how it would hold up. It feels maybe a fraction softer and less stiff, but is otherwise essentially unchanged in its sturdiness. I would feel fine throwing it into the wash over and over. As for stains, I'm not sure yet.


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