Sometime it’s the Little Things

Several years ago when our daughter Megan lived in Japan, even with all of the adorable Japanese clothing,  the cutest clothing items she wore were on her feet. Socks of all types:  socks with toes, split socks for thong sandals, unusual designs, bright colors, etc.  Of all of her footwear, the item I coveted was low-cut lace slipper socks or footies to be worn under casual or dressy shoes; an alternative to peds or some other ugly footy that in the USA, you can only purchase in the drug store. The advantage is obvious – if a part of the sock shows, it’s lace and not nude colored lycra.

from Ebay seller

In the US, I searched everywhere but wasn’t able to come up with anything close to these lace footies.  Nope, not even the Dollar Store.  How about Ebay?  There was/is one who likely imports the item from Asia.  They were dirt cheap and looked like the real deal so I hit the “buy” key.  I got them in a few days however they were sized for Cinderella — surely not for my feet.  The sewer’s creed, “I can make that” came to the rescue and the following is the result.

Low-cut Slipper Socks Tutorial and Slipper Socks pattern (pdf)

Materials:

  • Two 9″x9″ pieces of stretch lace:  Stretch should be at least 25% across the grain.  I chose black and off-white/ecru.
  • Lightweight lingerie type elastic.   Approximately 28″ for each pair of slipper socks.
  • Slipper Socks pattern (this pattern is for an American shoe size of 8-9)

Instructions:

1. Cut slipper socks on the fold.  (Note, stretch goes lengthwise on the foot)

2. Cut two 14″ pieces of elastic

3.  Serge or zig-zag the front and back seam.  The seam should be narrow  (Zig-zag of 2.5 or serger knife set at 6-6.5).  Roll your fingers over the seam to assure that the entire seam is stitched.

4.  You are now ready to add the elastic.  Mark the elastic at 6″ and 12″  (the other 2″ is a handle to make sewing easier.  It will be cut off and discarded)

5. Starting at the heel and using a zig-zag stitch, sew the elastic to the slipper sock.  Apply more “pull” on the elastic in the area closer to the heel and to the center front area.  Use 6″ for each the right and the left side of the slipper sock.

6.  At the heel, secure the elastic by stitching back and forth a few times.  Cut off the 2″ tag.

Oh so cute and comfy, even if they peak out of your shoes.

How to Sew Convertible (Zip-off) Pants: Tutorial

For by DH and me, zip-off pants fall into the category of “better than sliced bread”.  They offer an option to pack one less item when traveling and are great for day trips, especially during the fall when there are weather changes.  Then there’s the “petite” issue.  Rarely have I been fortunate enough find them in a size that doesn’t require alterations.   For Kevin, zip-off’s are easy to find but the configuration of pockets just hasn’t matched his preferences.   You know where this is going…..

Now that I have much more time to sew, I set off to make a pair of Kevin (shorts) and one pair (capris) for me.  After scouring the internet for a tutorial, I ended up purchasing out of print Kwik-Sew 2406 from an Etsy seller.  There may be other patterns available however I’ll save you the trouble.  All  you really need is a pants pattern and this tutorial.  

Preparation:

1. Pants pattern and fabric

2. Decide on where you want the zipper to fall on the pants.  i.e. above the knee, at the knee or below.

3.  Notions – snaps, additional zippers or cord.

4. Zippers – purchase one for the fly and 2 light to mid-weight separating zippers for the legs.  I used a 27″ zipper for Kevin’s knee-length pants but would reduce that to 26″ the next time.  For my capri-length pants I used a 18.5″ zipper.  Note:  Purchase zippers at the exact length if you can, or you can purchase a longer zipper than you need and reduce the size by removing and replacing the zipper stop.  Archer Zippers in NYC will cut zippers to your desired length – you will need to call them.  Their color palate is amazing.

Tutorial:

1.  Start with a pants pattern that fits well and which has fairly straight or wide legs.  Avoid fitted pants.

2.  Cut the pants from the pattern, cutting the upper legs 2″ longer than the desired length of the upper pant leg.  Note:  To accommodate the tapering of the sides when you turn up the hem, remember to cut an outward flare on the hem seam allowance.

  • In addition to the pattern pieces, you will need 2 strips of fabric for the zipper guards.  Cut them the length of the zipper by 2-1/2″ wide (cut on the grain)
  • Do not cut the lower legs at this time. (but do make sure you have enough fabric left for the lower leg pieces).

3.  Sew the pants.  Stop before finishing the hem.

4.  Overcast the hem edge.

5.  Turn the 1-7/8 hem to the inside and pin in place. (If you started with a 2″ hem, you likely lost 1/8″ when overcasting the edge.)

Zipper Application: 

Note:  If you need to cut your zipper, do not cut it until after you have completed the next step.

1.  Pin the zipper to the hem with the right side of the zipper facing the hem.

The zipper start and end:

  • Should be at the inseam – zipping the pant legs is too difficult if the start is on the outside seam.
  • Should barely meet. The zipper will not work if there is an overlap, but it is OK if you have a small gap between the start and the end.   Note:  Zippers will zip in opposite directions, as in the following photo.

Zippers pinned to the hem, going in opposite directions.

2. From the back side of the zipper, stitch the zipper to the upper leg, approximately 1″ from the bottom of the hem.

2.   You’re getting there.  Now you will stop sewing and cut the lower leg pieces from your remaining fabric.

Cutting the Lower Pants:

1. I would recommend that you make a pattern.  Measure at the line where you sewed the zipper to the hem of the upper leg, you need the top of the lower pants to be the exact circumference as this measurement. 

2.  Following the same taper as the upper leg, cut the lower leg pieces, adding 1″ to the top of each lower leg piece.

Making a pattern for the lower leg. Click to enlarge.

3.  Sew the sides of the legs together.

4.  To reduce the chance of making an error, mark the inseam and outer seam with your favorite marking tool.

5. Turn under 1/2″ at the top of each lower leg.  Pin or press in place.

6. Now pin the wrong side of the top edge of the lower leg to the right side of the zipper.

Pinning the lower leg to the zipper

7.  Carefully unzip the zipper.  Toss the pants aside for a few minutes.

8.  Check the pins to make sure the zipper is in place.  Folded edge of the lower leg should be close to the zipper teeth.

9.  Working from the right side, sew the lower leg to the zipper.

10.  Zip the lower to the upper leg to assure that it looks correct and to take pride in what you’ve done!

11.  Repeat with the other leg.

12.  Remove both lower legs in preparation for sewing the zipper guard.

Zipper Guard

You could probably stop at this point however all of the zip-off pants I’ve seen have a zipper guard on the inside.  I’m thinking this is for comfort.  It’s the last step and a fairly easy one, so pull out the two  2-1/2 by zipper length pieces of fabric.

1.  Check the zipper guard length against the zipper length to confirm that it is the same length.  If not, adjust.

2.  Fold the zipper guard in half lengthwise and overcast the edges.

Zipper guard

3.  Turn pants inside-out (remember, lower pants are removed).

4.  Pin the zipper guard to the inside of the zipper.  Cover the zipper and check to be sure that it is at least 1/4″ from the hemline (so it doesn’t show when wearing with the lower legs zipped off).  The zipper guard should meet at the ends rather than overlapping (creates bulk).

5. Turn pants right side out.  Removing pins as you go, sew 1/8″ from the zipper stitching line (the one you sewing back when you sewed the zipper into the pants).  You will sew through all layers of the fabric and the zipper.

Sewing the Zipper guard

Finished zip-off pants

My Capri Zip-off’s

I’d love to hear if this works for you.  What is missing in the tutorial?

Inside Pocket for Safe Travel

Over the years Kevin and I have had the good fortune of traveling to quite a few countries.  In terms of personal safety, I’d say we’ve experienced most segments of the continuum.  Or is safety a misconception?  Travel to any large city makes one a target for pick-pockets and other petty crime.  We’ve heard about it, witnessed it and more disturbingly, have been the victim of a skilled pick-pocket and have been robbed at gunpoint.

Our Central American trip earlier this year consisted primarily of countries that are wonderful to visit but on the low end of the personal safety continuum, so we had the opportunity to acquire vast knowledge on keeping valuables (passport, credit/debit cards, cash) safe during travel.  When gathering with seasoned travelers or staying in hostels, safety was consistently a topic of conversation as there was always someone who had a personal story or two.  While sparing you the details, I think we all agree that it’s important to keep one’s passport safe when traveling.

Money belts: Pro’s and Con’s

During our Central American trip both Kevin and I wore a lightweight money belt where we carried our passport, an extra credit card and most of the cash from the most recent ATM visit and a small amount in American dollars.  While  this is much safer than carrying these items in a small bag or purse (can be left behind) or in a wallet (eeks – easy target for a pick-pocket), we learned of another option.  The downside is that pick-pockets and thieves know that travelers wear money belts. On a few occasions we heard about travelers whose pockets and money belts were emptied.

Inside Travel Safety Pocket

The Alternative: Inside Safety Pocket

Joe T., whom we met in Guatemala and traveled with for a few days, fits into a category of his own.  For 40 years he’s traveled in Central and South America for 2-3 months each year, staying in hostels and lower end hotels.  When on the go, he keeps a low profile, carries few items of value and he doesn’t wear a money belt.  Instead for 40 years he’s had “an inner pocket” sewn into each of the pants he wears on the trip.  This is such a simple option.  After telling us about the pockets and learning that I sew, one evening he brought me a pair of his jeans so I could check it out.  

Pattern and Tutorial:

Materials:

  • 7″x21″ strip of cotton or mesh fabric.
  • 8″ strip of narrow elastic

1.  On one of the narrow ends, turn over 3/4″ of fabric to make a casing for the elastic.

2. Run one line of stitching to form the casing.  Note:  If using fabric which ravels, you may need to zig-zag or serge the edge. In these photos I use one fabric of each type to demonstrate the differences. 

3. Slip the elastic into the casing.

Making the elastic casing

4.  Stitch back and forth several times across the elastic to keep it in place.

5.  Pull on the unsecured end of the elastic to form a gather as in the next photo.  (Elastic should be 1″ shorter than the width of the pocket).

6.  Secure the second end of the elastic by stitching back and forth several times.

7.  Fold the fabric to form a pocket about 7-8″ long.

8.  Stitch the sides of the pocket, backstitching on both ends of the seam.  Note:  Very important to back-stitch to prevent the stitches from letting go on the first wearing!

9.  You are now ready to hand-sew the pocket into a pair of pants or a skirt.

Pocket Placement

The pocket should be on the inside of the existing front pocket of the pants (or skirt) and at least several inches from the waist of the pants.  When in public the pocket will not be accessible to either the wearer or a would-be thief. 

Hand-sewing the Pocket into Pants or Skirt

1.  Fold over 3/4″ on the top edge.

2.  Pin in place

3. Hand sew with a double-strand of thread using small stitches.

You are done!  Travel safe.