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sewing travel accessories

ellgie | Posted in General Discussion on

I am planning to spend several weeks in Austria and Italy this spring. A good part of the time I shall be travelling solo (brave middle-aged woman!!) using trains. I want to travel very light, yet the image of

55-year-old backpacker does not appeal to me. Does anyone have any idea where I can find some ideas for travel accessories that will make my packing and carrying functions more easy and secure? In particular I wonder if there is anything out there in the way of an under-the-clothes moneybelt. I also recall seeing an article somewhere, perhaps and old Threads, for a travel jacket with tons of pockets and hidey-places. One more thing: where did I get the idea that there is such a thing as a little fleece blanket that folds up into a travel pillow or unfolds into a little blanket? Thanks to all, any suggestions gratefully accepted.

Edited 1/15/2005 12:43 am ET by ellgie


  1. katina | | #1

    Oh, what fun! I have done several such trips and am in your age group.  I'm never without a reversible vest; each side has many pockets which are functional as well as decorative.  I sew these myself so I can tailor the pockets to my precise needs.  The passport and money pockets always have zips.  I put a grommet into one pocket and clip a keyring through it - very useful.  I sew a small pocket to hold a train ticket, etc and then sew a larger pocket over it.  I use pockets over pockets quite a bit.  To avoid resembling a war correspondent, choose fabrics like linen, linen/cotton blends, ethnic fabrics such as ikat weaves, mudcloth and the like for one side of the vest and a plainer fabric for the reverse.  A small bag from the remnants, worn across the body and under the vest will keep a camera, etc. secure.  For these, I've found a strap of about an inch, rather than a narrow cord, is more comfortable.  Dressing like this, particularly for day trips, means I have both hands free.  If you can limit yourself to one piece of wheeled luggage (I like Eagle Creek very much) and with all valuables on your person, train travel will be very enjoyable. 

    I hope this helps - good luck.

  2. suesew | | #2

    We were in Italy in March and it rained a lot. Hope you don't get that kind of weather. I never carry a purse. I use a fanny pack under my coat (ok I look 7 months pregnant sometimes, but who cares) My jacket, which I made, has six pockets with zippers, two on the outside and 4 on the inside. Every garment I take has pockets. I use a backpack with wheels. I carry basically one change of clothes, an extra t-shirt. I can wash out underwear every night and I wear the shirts more than once. If you bath every day your clothes really don't need to be washed after each use. I also have a little flat zippered pouch made of t-shirt material that I pin to the bottom front of my bra under my t-shirt. This contains my ATM card and driver's license for ID and a credit card. I originally sized it to carry traveler's checks but they aren't necessary anymore. This keeps these important items and extra money out of view. It may sound inaccessible but it really isn't that hard to reach under my t-shirt and I've done it many times in public with no one noticing. I originally made this when travelling by train with my children and wanting to be able to sleep without worrying about my money in my purse. I wear it all the time and I only have to pat my tummy to know it's still there. It is amazing how little you can get away with for a week and still feel well dressed.

    Edited 1/15/2005 12:43 pm ET by suesew

    Edited 1/15/2005 1:34 pm ET by suesew

    1. ellgie | | #3

      Thank you Katina and Suesew, I am getting "sew" excited just thinking about the possibilities now. I see that pockets are an absolute must...zippers the security feature. Thanks again. More tips always welcome.

      1. cafms | | #4

        Check Clotilde's catalog either on paper or at www. clotilde.com.  On page 51 there are several patterns for vests and jackets with pockets for travel.    Just happened to page through the catalog after reading your post earlier this morning.  I did check the website and you can go to  page 51 and look at the patterns online or request a catalog in the mail.  Some really look kind of cute.  Have fun on your trip.

  3. carolfresia | | #5

    Take a look at http://www.saf-t-pockets.com. All the patterns are designed with interior secure pockets.

    My favorite large piece of luggage is a good rolling suitcase with very reliable wheels. But for daily travel, a reasonably sized purse and many pockets are terrific. Have a wonderful trip!


    1. Jean | | #7

      Carol the Saf-t-pockets site is awesome.  I had to buy a pattern even if I'm not planning to travel.  LOL.  Maybe my DGD would like a vest though.

  4. QE2 | | #6

    What is wrong with looking like a war correspondent? They are seasoned travellers, never get hassled or ripped off. Personally I favour the travel or photographers waistcoat or what you in the US would call a vest and have made my own from a Burda magazine pattern in cotton drill.  Pockets with zips are a must. Check out Rohan.Co.UK for travel fashion ideas mainly in microfibre. These are easy to copy to your own taste and they have some very useful ideas on packing and comfort.

    I travel extensively in the Middle East and Europe often alone and find a long, loose skirt and long sleeved shirt or tunic invaluable for those uncertain places in hot weather. For Italy I recommend a mini umberella (fold up) which will cater for rain and shade you in hot sun. Choose a plain colour to avoid attracting too much attention to yourself. Watch out for young gypsy children hassling you when carrying a 'bum bag' around your waist  and exposed- I have seen several tourists robbed this way at the major sites of interest. Is a bum bag a fanny pack in US speak?



  5. PamelaD | | #8

    I am a new poster.  What fun you will have!  I have just returned from living in Spain and France for the last 2 and a half years.  My advice would be to blend in with the natives.  The thing that makes one unsafe when traveling is looking like an American tourist.  Believe me, they know how to target us.  You are targeted based on how you look.  Sometimes it's mere ethnicity, for example, Asians are targeted in Spain, so are blonds.  Usually, it is dressing like a tourist which will give you away. Dress like a European and they will more likely ignore you in the first place.  First of all go to this website of the US State dept.


    and read the pertinent info for the countries you are visiting.  Heed it well; every scam that is listed under crime has happened to some poor soul who later showed up at an embassy, with perhaps only the shirt on his back.  Knowing what  to expect is the best defense.  Wear city clothes in the city; for example, if you are wearing shorts or sloppy clothes in Madrid, they know you are a American tourist.  Sneakers are a giveaway too.  Find comfortable walking shoes.  I was never pickpocketed, really rather amazing, since I know many people who were.  I had a good (meaning thick) leather bag with a zipper and a flap, with a shoulder strap so that it stayed between my arm and my side.  The leather was too difficult to cut with a knife and it was impossible to get to the zip.  Yes, they will knife a wallet right out of your purse or even cut the pockets on men's trousers.  You may not even realize it is happening.  I think a money belt to go under your clothes is a good idea, but I would never wear a fanny pack.   It screams American tourist and isn't that hard for a skilled pickpocket to remove.  I have seen money belts in the past in the Norm Thompson catalog. I have traveled all over Europe with a good handbag and a suitcase on wheels.  If I was sleeping on a train, I would sleep on top of my purse.  I would have copies of all important documents in different places, one set in my purse and one on my person for example.  I always keep my most important documents, for example, my passport and residencia, in an inner zippered compartment of my purse.  In a city one can never lose physical touch of one's bag, even when eating or trying on shoes.  A friend came to visit me in Madrid and walked away from her handbag while trying on shoes, despite my warnings.  I spent the day watching her bag.  She was careless by European standards.  But all women carry bags, so you won't stick out to begin with, like you do with a fanny pack.  Fit in with the natives and you are less likely to be a crime target.

    I think being prepared and knowing what to expect will make your trip easier.  You need to be on high alert in the typical tourist areas, like around museums.  Austria has much less petty crime then Spain and Italy, which are basically safe, but there are a lot of pickpockets & they can ruin your trip in short order. A good leather bag, a money belt and a suitcase with wheels will be easy enough to handle.  My friends who came to Madrid couldn't believe how beautifully the Spanish women dressed!  Make yourself a nice fashionable outfit!  Edited 2/1/2005 11:47 pm ET by Pamela

    Edited 2/2/2005 12:03 am ET by Pamela

    1. ellgie | | #9

      Thank you Pamela for the weakth of informations and food for thought. I am printing out your message and will continue to reread it as I prepare for the trip. Thanks! ....I am getting "how-many-more-sleeps" excited..... Ellgie

  6. user-120418 | | #10

    Can any of you send me some pattern numbers for these jackets with pockets?


    1. ctirish | | #11

      Hi,  I don't know the numbers of the patterns but you can search through them online and then you know what you are looking for when you go to the store. I would check out the major pattern makers and I would do a search on patterns because there are many small designers who sell their patterns online.  I know Nancy Zieman has at least one book with directions on how to make travel accesories and other handy items. Sandra Betzina may have a book also. I use the free project directions from the major fabric stores; Jo-Anns, Hancock, Malden Mills, and others. I also go to the major sewing machine manufactures; Bernina, Pfaff, Baby Lock, Viking and others, for free project directions.   

      Good luck, if I find anything specific I will let you know.

      1. user-120418 | | #12

        Thanks.  I'll give that a try.  What fabrics do you use for travel i.e. France?

      2. ctirish | | #16

        One thing I have noticed in traveling in Europe is how many people wear black. I am sure someone will correct me if thigs have changed but I was surprised by the amount of people wearing black.  As for the fabrics, I would use knits as much as you can any wrinkles from packing easily come out when they are hung up.  I have used the Ponte knits(especially pants),  from Nancy's Notions and they work very well.  For tops you can use a lighter interlock knits, light cottons or gauzing looking fabrics. I have always found a light weight wool works in almost any climate if you are doping mountatins and the shore. Totes and things you make I would use either tapestrys and heavier decorating fabric for those. They just hold up so much better.  I would also look at the LL Bean site at their travel clothes and see what features their clothes have that you can incorporate into what ever you create.

        1. user-120418 | | #17

          Have You ever used SUPPLEX material?  If so, could you give me some pointers


  7. Wunmismom | | #13

    An excellent book for sewing travel accessories if Mary Mulari"s MADE FOR TRAVEL.  Visit her website or purchase her books through Nancy's Notions.  Everything you will need will be found in her books.  Excellent!

    Wunmi's Mom

  8. Wunmismom | | #14

    Understanding your need for stylish travel accessories, I felt that you could profit from a more comprehensive reply. For the past 35 years I have been making a near annual trip home to Seattle from where I live in Nigeria. The information I wish to give is based on these years of travel.

    The trip home takes 24 hours, stops included. Such a trip requires a lot of functional and hobby related accessories to keep me happy along the way. And they should look as put together as the dress I am wearing at the time.

    For my last trip, I sewed a tote and other accessories that are found in Nancy Zieman's book, Sewing Express to match a very comfortable linen dress (Loes Hines, Basic Dress #1405) that I wore on the plane. I also sewed a purse from the linen (see p. 130 of Sewing Express). However, I changed the dinensions so that travel documents can fit inside. I made the strap long enough for the bag to hang conveniently around my neck (better than the necklace wallets sold at airports!)

    Caution, though, as seasoned travelers warn that inportant documents should be on your person and never in the pockets of a jacket, shirt-jacket or purse. The garment or purse can be left behind should you take it off or put it down!

    However, using the same co-ordinating concept, you can sew a waist wallet found in Mary Mulari's book listed below. This wallet can also be worn under clothing. Another alternative is to sew big pockets with flaps on to a dress or skirt. See: High-Fashion Secrets by Claire Shaeffer; "Pockets and Flaps", p. 53.

    Here are the names of three books I use as sewing bibles:

    Travel Gear and Gifts to Make (Accessories for Trips Around the corner or the World), Mary Mulari (http://www.marymulari.com).

    Sewing a Travel Wardrobe (Versatile Clothes and Stylish Accessories for Every Adventure), Kate Mathews.

    Sewing Express, Nancy Zieman (http://www.nancysnotions.com).

    Mary Mulari's book has directions for a work horse polar fleece blanket in a pillow that you can keep or take anywhere. Another outstanding idea of hers is a 45" or 60" square of cloth that can be used as a head cover, swimsuit cover-up, light blanket, picnic cloth or as a knapsack to carry things. Included are also a sewing kit, hidden pockets, totes, cosmetic and garment bags.

    Kate Mathews has directions for totes and luggage, a pocket on a string, luggage covers, velvet handbag, jewelry roll-up, "dresser drawers", a sewing kit, shoe protecters with a clear plastic window, a pack-flat hat, sleep mask and a small convenient to carry travel pillow.

    There is also a tip about "swelling waistlines". This alteration combines adjustable side belts with elastic in the back waistband. Thus, the sleek line of the trousers is maintained. The photographs in the book are beautiful making it a delightful picture book for sewers.

    Nancy Zieman describes how to make a set of three triangular zippered totes (small, med., lg.) that can house jewelry, toiletries or clothes. She also gives directions for a large and small square cosmetic bag; teflon lined curling iron caddy; a very practical tote with outside compartments (I added zippers to those on one side of the bag).

    The best of all is her masterful jewelry hang-up that keeps jewelry hidden from view. It is a combination padded hanger and jewelry organizer. The see-through zippered compartments can be folded up and concealed inside the hanger cover. I lengthened the dimensions and further varied the compartment zizes to hold more jewelry.

    Happy reading and sewing!

    Wunmi's Mom

    1. ellgie | | #15

      Thank you for taking the time and energy to write me such a comprehensive response. You have given me some great resources to peruse; I can hardly wait to begin. How thoughtful and kind of you, bless your heart! Ellgie

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