Me-Made-May’14 Thoughts and Drawings

 

mmm'14 day 6

 

Hello, all!  I’ve been keeping up with my pledge for Me-Made-May’14; wearing, and drawing, and working on some sweater.  You can see some of my sketches and sweater progress on Flickr.  I think it’s fun to check out the whole MMM’14 group and see what everyone is wearing.

Also, in case you missed it, my thoughts for sewing/dressing in May were on ‘So, Zo …’ this past week!  Along with a bunch of other people’s from around the world.  One thing we mostly seem to agree on: spring is a time for layers, and a good pair of pants!  Check it out …

Happy Sunday!

 

 

Things I’ve Sewn: Blue Stripe Trousers

 

blue stripe trous and wool knits 1

 

So, after talking about these tops last time, it’s time to talk about the pants!  They’re more of a trouser style (which is good since folks on both sides of the pond can agree what “trousers” means, right?).  I bought this fabric last summer at Nob Hill Fabrics in Albuquerque.  I wasn’t 100% sure about it for trousers, but it looked promising.  In truth, I am not 100% sure about it for trousers now.  But, after the untimely demise of my fantastic purple corduroys (so sad!) I really needed a new pair of pants nice enough to wear at shows (in public where I am supposed to look somewhat professional, or at least not like a bum off the street).  The odds of my finding a pair to buy that fit and that I like are close to zero, so I pulled out the blue fabric.

 

A pattern epiphany

While I was cutting it, something pretty cool happened.  As I looked at the back waistband pattern, I got a sudden flash of insight: this piece is trying to take in too much curve, and it would be much better as two pieces, with a seam in the middle as well!  So I traced it into two pieces which matched the existing width at the bottom of the waistband, and took in a little more at the top.  If you do this, don’t forget to add seam allowances to the edges at the new seam!  This approach fit the shape of my body so much better that I ended up doing the same thing on the front, so that I now have four waistband pieces instead of two.  A step forward in fit.

 

pants waistband back pattern pieces

 

Fitting

This is the next evolution of the traced from-existing-pants-and-extensively-altered pattern I used to make the grey pair.  The main problem with those is that they are a little tight around the crotch seam, especially when I sit down.

I will say that I’ve gotten a lot better at diagnosing what needs fixing in the fit of my trousers in the last year or two.  At first, the fact that every part of the fit affects every other part made it nearly impossible for me to tell what I should change.  But now, after fitting a few pairs, when I try some on I can feel which seams need more or less fabric in order to be comfortable and fit my shape.  So I already knew (from wearing the grey pair) that I needed to let out the front inseam a fair amount.  I wanted to cut the fabric outside of the pattern to make sure I would have enough in that area, so I decided to trace with thread the outline of the pattern.  That way I’d be able to see where my new seam is in relation to the pattern, and transfer my changes back to it for next time (I can always add more paper to the pattern using this method).  This worked great, I could see right where the pattern line was as I worked on the fit.

 

blue stripe trous cutting inseam

 

So, I let out the front inseam until it felt comfortable, and then played around with the crotch seam and back inseam to get the look and fit I wanted.  I want the trousers to show that I have a bum, without hugging it too tight, and then drop into a wide leg somewhat reminiscent of 30’s style.  I got pretty close!  To be honest, I may have overdone it on the amount of added room around the inseams, these feel so comfortable that they border on I’m-wearing-my-pajamas-outside.  But when I put them on and sit down it’s sooo nice!

 

blue stripe trous and wool knits 3

 

Those back pockets

The back welt pockets are pretty sweet, yes?  This is something I’ve really been wanting in trouser-style pants.  I have one old pair of thrifted Gap wide-leg pants that has them, with little flaps on top too, and I love them.  I almost skipped them for this pair though, just because I was running a little short on time before we left for Texas, and I really needed to get these trousers done.  You know how sometimes, these decisions are made for you, just by the circumstances?  Well, as I got close to finishing the fit, two things became inescapably apparent: I could not figure out any way to get the tips of the back darts to look good (hidden by patch pockets in earlier pairs), and under some conditions, you could see the line of my undies through the fabric.  So, pockets it was, and since patch pockets don’t go with the trouser style I wanted … I basically just kept those Gap pants next to my sewing machine and figured out the steps from looking at them inside and out as I went.  Fortunately, I didn’t hit any major snags.  I have to admit, when I first tried the trousers on after finishing the pockets, my reaction was “no one told me they would look THAT cool!”  I have a few tweaks to make next time, but overall, those back pockets are probably my favorite thing about this make!

 

blue stripe trous and wool knits 5

 

Fabric verdict

I had a hunch when I went to add the pockets that it wasn’t the fabric being pulled tight that was showing my undie-lines, it was the fabric being just a little thin and just a little clingy.  I was right.  Now that the pockets are in, you can see that there’s plenty of room for them.  Sometimes you can see a shadow from the pocket lining, but that’s much better!

While this fabric turned out fine, next time I will look for some with just a little more body for making trousers.  I wouldn’t want it to be stiffer, just thick and soft enough to hold its own and skim over curves a little more.

And, did you notice it wrinkles like all get out?  I swear, I pressed the trousers before setting up to take photos, but 10 minutes of adjusting the camera, kneeling by the tripod in the sun and moving around, and it was pointless.  I do think that wrinkles are less noticeable in real life than they are on camera though.

 

blue stripe trous and wool knits 7

 

Have I mentioned before that fitting and sewing trousers is a journey, not a destination?  (Hint: yes.)  I’m glad to get these under my belt, and to have a new pair to wear in public this spring.  Happy May Day to all!

 

Things I’ve Sewn: Merino Knit Tops

In which I find some truly lovely fabric.

 

blue stripe trous and wool knits 2

 

I’ve made a real effort to make the things that I really want to do (mainly creating for myself and for fun) a priority.  No matter what, (unless I’m so busy I can’t think straight) if I’m home, I’m working on sewing something.  And if I’m on the road, it’s knitting and drawing, etc.  So sometimes it surprises me when I look back at posts here and realize that nothing I’ve made for myself for a while is visible!  It’s time to catch up a little bit on sewn projects, especially with Me-Made-May’14 right around the corner.

I think I’ll talk a little bit about the tops here first (and save the pants for another post) mainly because there’s not a whole lot to say, except about the fabric.  Last fall, I stumbled into the fact that a fabric store called The Fabric Store, based in Australia, had just opened a store in LA.  This meant that a whole bunch of New Zealand merino knit fabric was suddenly within reasonable shipping distance of my house!  And, AND they had organic merino knits, something I have been searching for, as a way to hopefully buy wool which is raised responsibly.  (If any of the lovely USA-grown-made-processed yarn folks are reading this, some of you should mill some fabric!) Anyway, The Fabric Store doesn’t have direct online ordering, but if you call or email them, they will find out what you’re looking for, and send you several lovely cards of generous swatches.

 

blue stripe trous and wool knits 9What lens flare?  Clearly I am floating in a sea of magical bubbles …

 

I chose organic merino knit in the “mushroom” color, and I love, love, love, this fabric.  It’s soft, it has drape but it also has body, and great stretch and recovery.  There’s something substantial about it that just says “wool” (I love wool) and it has a subtle sheen to the right side which makes it look just a little special.

When it arrived, I was in desperate need of a few more long sleeve tops for winter, so I made a simple T-shirt style first.  In this fabric, my pattern (the same one I used for these tops) is just the tiniest bit tight/clingy (you can see my cami straps, which is not my favorite thing) but boy, it is a terrific layer for winter.  And spring—I’m wearing it as I type this!

 

blue stripe trous and wool knits 8

 

The second shirt I made just a little more complex, using another pattern that I copied from one of those lucky thrift store finds with fit and style I love.  In an ongoing experiment to see if I can get knit shirts to more closely follow, and still flatter, my shape, I tried dividing the pattern into princess lines in back, so that I would have two extra seams to add width over the hips.  If I do this again, I’ll curve the lines more so that they come in at the waist, and then out again, yes?

 

blue stripe trous and wool knits 6

 

And I have fabric leftover!  Somehow, despite an earlier failure to squeeze one uninterrupted long-sleeve knit top out of one yard, by careful placement and a somewhat generous cut, it looks like I will get 3 tops out of 3 yards of this.  I was debating maybe dyeing the last top’s worth, until Bryan mentioned that he liked the way this color looks with my skin.  That settles that—I’m looking forward to making another style, same color, this coming fall.

I wore this exact outfit, new top and pants, on both our way out to Texas AND my flight back.  It’s just really versatile, comfortable, and perfect for the varying temperatures of spring.  More about the pants coming soon!

 

blue stripe trous and wool knits 4

 

 

Me-Made-May, My Wardrobe, and Drawing

Plus, I pledge to knit a sweater!

 

mmm14 logo drawing

 

So, you guys know I love Me-Made-May, right?  This challenge was a major motivator for me to start really building a handmade wardrobe, especially two years ago, the first year I had this blog and the first year I took part.  Last year, I upped my challenge to wearing two me-made garments every day through May, which was great and gave me a kick in the bum to make at least one thing I had been thinking about for quite a while, but it didn’t have quite the feeling of realizing new things about what I make and wear, and opening up new horizons, which the first year did.

This time, I’d like to bring back a bit of the self-discovery element.  Also, documenting my MMM has been a challenge, we’re usually on the road during much of the month, and it can be hard to find a time when Bryan and I are both not busy to take a picture.  Plus, I am always looking for ways to bully myself into doing more drawing, just practicing drawing … so I’m going to keep a mini visual journal (pictured above) for May.  I’m leaving the exact format of what I’ll put in it purposefully vague, to see how it works out, but it will definitely include drawings of clothing, words about what I wore and thought, etc.  I’ll photograph and post at least some of what I put in it on Flickr and/or here.

 

mmm'13 day 11-1And, about the sweater.  I’ve had this particular soft blue silk and cashmere cardigan since I started traveling with Bryan.  I got it at a clothing exchange/naked lady party right before we left that first summer, so really, it’s held up amazingly well, that was 10 years ago (egad—really?) and it’s been an indispensable summer wardrobe item that whole time.  I’m wearing it at left, in a pic from MMM last year.  It doesn’t have another summer in it though, the fabric under the arms and around the cuffs is totally shot.

I do have some light blue yarn, which has been in my stash longer than I care to remember, and it occurred to me that, in the spirit of making my own, I could knit a replacement sweater.  It won’t be exactly the same, in fact I would like the style of it to be a little more interesting, but it must have the following characteristics, which I figure are key to indispensable-ness: soft, lightweight, cardigan (easy to layer), washable (at least by hand), go with most of my wardrobe.  I’m thinking of starting with the Talamh pattern (links to Ravelry).

Here is my official pledge for Me-Made-May ’14:

‘I, Tasha of Stale Bread into French Toast, sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May ’14. I endeavour to wear as many me-made and handmade items each day as possible, minimum of two, for the duration of May 2014.  In addition, I pledge to keep a wardrobe journal for May, and to share it via flickr/blog.  And finally, I will knit on, and attempt to finish, a much-needed sweater during this month!’

If you’re thinking about taking part, I definitely encourage you to do it!

 

Make Your Own Retro Pro-Style Camera Strap

 

dad's camera strap finished 2

 

How to make your own camera strap, using the same hardware and webbing you’d find on one at the photography store, and practically anything you want for the strap!

When I got my new (used) camera, I just carried it around in the crook of my arm for quite a while, because I knew exactly what I wanted for a strap, and I couldn’t find it in any camera shop we visited.   The new camera is heavy (by my standards anyway) and I did not want a thin strap that would dig that weight into my neck all the time, I wanted a wide soft strap that would cup around my shoulder and hold the weight there.  I got this idea from Cat Bordhi (have I mentioned that she’s a mad genius?) specifically from knitting one of her mobius sling bags (in A Second Treasury of Magical Knitting), and it stuck with me.

 

camera strap on

 

You will need

I got the 3/8″ webbing and hardware to go with it from SewingSupplies on Etsy.  She made me a package deal like this one, which includes enough supplies to make two straps (each end of a strap takes one piece of webbing, one slider and one keeper).  I’m assuming that your camera has a ring or loop which 3/8″ webbing will fit through (most do, but some small point-and-shoots don’t.  You might be able to substitute something lighter, I would take your camera to the fabric store and see what you can find).

You will also need sturdy material for ends of the strap, where the strap meets the webbing.  I used Ultrasuede (faux suede leather) for my strap (above), and some scraps of real leather on a strap for my dad (the one at the top of the post).

If you want your strap to be adjustable, you’ll also need one slider and one loop of hardware, in a size that works with your strap material.

My strap is cut from a length of soft cotton textile woven about 2  3/4″ wide, which was in my mom’s stash.  I suspect that my parents brought it back from somewhere in their travels in the 1970’s, but neither of them remembered where, and they both said I could use it, so I did.  Dad’s strap is one his mom (my grandmother the weaver) made, which I put new ends and a slider on.  I found some similar straps by searching for “handwoven band” or “handwoven strap” on Etsy.  You could also start with a belt, or a guitar strap or anything else you like, as long as it’s sturdy enough to hold your camera and thin enough to sew through (which leather belts aren’t.  You might be able to use rivets though …).

 

Prepping the pieces

Cut pieces for the ends from faux leather or leather, a bit wider than your strap (allow extra width if your material is thick, so that it can come together and cover the edges of the strap), continuing that width for about an inch, and then tapering to an end to cover the webbing.  See below to visualize how the ends cover the strap and the webbing.  You will need two leather end pieces for each end of the strap (four total).

 

camera strap transparent

 

Cut a piece of the 3/8″ webbing about 7  1/2″ long for each end of the strap.  If you cut the ends of the webbing on a slant, it will make it easier to thread them through the slots on your camera.  I like to sear the cut edges of the webbing (to keep them from fraying) by passing them quickly through the blue part of a candle flame.

Either figure out where you would like your camera to rest on your body and cut the strap to that length (accounting for the ends and webbing) or plan to make your strap adjustable.  I knew exactly how long I wanted my strap to be (so that the camera would rest on the top of my hip), but I made Dad’s so he could adjust it (keep reading for how to do that).

If your strap fabric is prone to fraying/spreading out all over the place, you may want to stitch over the ends before putting everything together.  You can even use that stitching to gather in the end of the strap a bit, which I did for Dad’s strap.

Heavy duty stitching

Sewing the strap is actually pretty simple, it’s all about how to join two things which you really don’t want to come apart.  My camera is the second-most expensive and precious piece of equipment I own (sewing machine being #1 ) and as I said it’s kind of heavy, so I definitely want some heavy duty stitching here!  Basically you’ll do this by adding extra stitches to reinforce the critical areas.

A good way to attach straps for extra strength is to sew a rectangle-and-X pattern (I just realized I have no idea if there’s an official name for this … but here’s how to do it anyway).  Sew a rectangle just inside the edges of the strap, basically as big as you can inside the area where the strap and end overlap while catching all the layers (illustrated above).  When you get to the point where you started (this is the point with the curved arrow, where the illustrated stitches change from yellow to blue below), sew to the opposite corner.  Keep going, overlapping the stitches on one side, then diagonally back to the other side.  Overlap one side’s stitches again, to come back to where you started.

 

camera strap square and bar tack

Another way you can add stitches to an area that will get stress is to make a bar tack (that is the real name for this one) by using a wide stitch and a short stitch length.  Just keep in mind that every time you make a stitch it also makes a hole in the material, so don’t make the stitches so close together that the holes touch and make a weak place where the material could tear.

I used a mini version of the rectangle-and-X to attach the webbing to the ends.  A bar tack would work well too.  As usual, it’s a good idea to try out your planned techniques on some scraps to see what works.

Once you’ve attached the strap and webbing to the ends, I like to sew around the edge of the ends to keep everything neat.  Bury the thread ends wherever you can, and you’re done.

 

camera strap in progress

 

Leather 

I’m not a leather sewing expert, but I can give you a couple of tips if you decide to use real leather for the ends.  Although it’s more difficult to sew than the faux stuff, it’s wonderfully strong and malleable.  First, you will definitely need a leather needle.  The main difficulty is getting the machine to punch through the leather, and everything that would normally make your machine want to skip stitches (sewing over different thicknesses of materials, etc.) does so even more.  Go slowly, go over skipped stitches again or pick up the foot and go back.  Use the hand wheel if necessary, get the weight of the machine on your side.  Try switching between a regular foot and a zipper foot to sew around the edges of the ends.  I still ended up with some skipped stitches and broken/restarted threads to hide, but I was overall pleased with how my machine handled the leather and all the layers.

 

Adjustable straps

It’s not much harder to make an adjustable strap, you just have to wrap your head around how it works.

I’m such a visual learner, I need to draw it or better yet, lay out all the pieces to see how they’ll go together, as below.  One side is a simple length of strap that goes through the loop and back to the end.  The other side goes from the end, through the slider, through the loop, and back through the slider (inside the first pass).

Sew the strap end down so that there’s a short loop of strap inside the slider, covering the raw edge with the extra suede piece.  You can use the rectangle-and-X method again.

 

 

dad's camera strap layout

 

 

dad's camera strap finished 1

Special thanks to Bryan’s first 35mm camera for modeling.

A note if you’d like the strap to hug your shoulder like mine: I used two lengths of the strap fabric so that I could separate them to either side of my shoulder.  It turns out that it works even if I don’t separate them—I think as long as your strap is fairly wide and soft it will work to wear it on your shoulder.

Make any strap you want!  Nice, right?

 

Recycle Fabric Scraps and Worn Out Clothes at Goodwill

 

fabric scraps for recycling

 

I like saving scraps of fabric from my sewing.  They usually come in handy for other projects.  However, there is a point when a scrap is just too small to be worth saving, and I don’t want to clutter up my storage space with tiny little bits.  On the other hand, I feel like the scraps are perfectly good clean fibers, and I hate to just send them to the landfill.

A while back, Zoe mentioned that in the UK, the charity she used to work for (TRAID) sent scraps on for textile recycling—to be turned into insulation and stuffing and whatever else uses short mixed fibers.  I wondered if any of the thrift shops on my side of the pond were doing the same thing.  I started saving a (large) bag of just the fabric scraps too small to keep, which took a surprisingly long time to fill up, considering it had all the scraps from this fall’s batches of Fiddleheads.  (Probably due to the fact that I can’t bring myself to part with any piece of slightly felted cashmere big enough to be remotely useful.  Want some cashmere pieces? Let me know!)  I also had a few garments that weren’t really fixable any more, but I figured had life left in at least some of the fibers.

I thought about contacting charity shops every once in a while, but basically put it off until the scrap bag was too full to ignore, and then sent out emails.  Good news, USA-dwelling, fabric-cutting folks: Goodwill will take your scraps!

 

This was my message:

Hello,

I have some worn-out clothing and fabric scraps which I don’t think a thrift store would be able to sell.  However, I would still like to keep them out of the landfill!  I know that some thrift stores pass on worn out clothes and scraps to recyclers so that they can be remade into something else, and I am wondering if your store does this?

 

And this is what I got back:

Yes, most fabrics that cannot be sold continue to be recycled in the manner outlined below at all our locations.

 

Hooray!  Now I don’t feel like an idiot for saving a big bag of tiny fabric scraps can be a good citizen and recycle.  I also took some things I was ready to part with that I thought Goodwill would be able to sell—seems only fair as they are providing this service.

A note: if you don’t have a Goodwill store in your area and decide to contact local thrift shops, I’ve had much better results via email than over the phone.  The people I got when I called were more likely to assure me that they try to sell everything before sending it overseas, etc., than to have the answer I was looking for.

Good luck!

 

How to Mend a Small Hole: Sewing a Patch by Hand

 

 

small hand sewn patch 5

 

Here’s another way to fix a small hole in a shirt or a sweater—especially a hole that’s a little too big to simply sew back together without causing puckers.  No sewing machine required though, it’s more invisible to sew a little patch like this by hand.  These examples are in woven fabric, but this technique also works on knits.  I sewed a patch like this on the front of this sweater, which because of the fuzzy knit fabric is too invisible for pictures!

I’m going to demonstrate on two skirts, which happen to both be made of linen, cut on the bias, and have small holes.  The difference is, the blue one at the top I fixed for keeps—it had a little tear, but the rest of the fabric is still in good shape.  I bought the pink stripey one for a dollar on the sale rack at St. Vinnie’s, and it followed me around the country on our summer travels for years.  I even tried out two different ideas for adding pockets to bias skirts on it.  By now it’s on its way out, the fabric across the back has a few tears, and is super thin and ready to tear in a lot more places.  It’s ready to retire, but I can get one more use out if it by fixing one of the holes with bright green thread so you can see what’s going on.

To start, cut a circular patch, about three times as big across as your hole.  Making it a little bigger will make the sewing easier, and you can trim it later.  If you have a piece of the garment fabric, cut the patch from a section that matches up with where the hole is, in terms of color, pattern, or wear.  If not, just try to find something that matches as well as possible.  Hold the scrap behind the hole to see how it looks.  If your fabric is very loosely woven, you may want to sew around the edges of the patch to keep it from unraveling.  Otherwise, a circular patch should be ok as it is through normal wear and washing.

Click on any of the pictures to enlarge, you can see more detail here than I could while sewing the patches!

 

small hand sewn patch 1

 

Carefully center the patch behind the hole.  Match the grain (the direction of the grid of threads) of the garment and the patch.  This is especially important if the garment is cut on the bias (with the grain at 45°) like this one, because I want to avoid changing the drape of the bias cut.

Pin the patch in place through the front of the garment, sticking each pin in and out of the fabric twice.  Check to see that the patch is centered over the hole, and re-pin if necessary.  If the fabric is slippery, it may be easier to sew a few temporary basting stitches, and pull them out when you’re done, than to get the pins to hold it.

 

 

small hand sewn patch 2

 

Knot your thread, and bring it up from the back.  Sew around the hole a couple of times, sewing through both layers using small backstitches.  Don’t pull the stitches too tight, or the fabric will pucker up.  Try to catch each thread that is cut by the hole on one pass or the other.  If there are intact threads in the center of the hole, tack them down to the patch too.

The goal is to keep the hole from unraveling any further, without adding so many stitches that it makes the patch stand out.

When it’s done, secure the thread with another knot or a couple of backstitches just through the patch on the back.

Here’s the finished patch on the front:

 

small hand sewn patch 4

 

And from the back.  You can trim the patch, but leave some around the edges so that if it unravels slightly, there will still be enough fabric to hold it in place.

 

small hand sewn patch 3

 

Here’s the back of the blue one:

 

small hand sewn patch 6

 

Hopefully this adds another option to your mending toolkit!

Recycled, Naturally Dyed Silk Camisoles

Plus My Favorite Method for Sewing Knit Fabric Straps, and Self-Fabric Binding with Elastic

 

pink silk cami dyed hangingThe pink top before re-purposing, hanging with other materials dyed the same day.

 

Last fall, my friend Zuni invited me over for a day of dyeing with natural materials at her house.  I have an informal craft exchange going with some of my fiber friends, and it’s fantastic to have Zuni as part of this group.  All the mess and calculations for dyeing stay at her house, and we just bring home the colorful finished products.  The day in question, one of the dye materials was indigo.  Most of the craft exchange members tend to dye yarn.  I’m pretty militant about not letting my yarn stash exceed the capacity of one big plastic bin (after, ahem, seeing what happened to my fabric stash), plus I sew more than I knit, and I’ve sewn for longer, so I tend to be the one who shows up with odds and ends of fabric or garments to re-purpose.  This time it was a silk long underwear top.  I inherited two of these from my grandma’s stash.  The fabric is really lovely, but I hardly ever wore the tops, they were kind of baggy for layering, and looked awkwardly like underwear when visible—picture your classic long undies, but maybe a bit looser.

I think I had a class that morning, because I came to the indigo day partway through, at which point we literally just dropped the top into the dye bath.  Indigo doesn’t need a mordant, but I learned something important: dyeing something without soaking it in water first leads to splotchy fabric!  Funnily enough, a slightly mottled fabric was what I pictured when I envisioned how this would come out … although maybe not quite that spotty!   I also think not wetting first may have led to some of the color not being bonded with the fibers, and then rubbing off.  This was all an experiment though, and I was just happy to have a dyed piece to work with.

My plan was to cut the top up and make something I would definitely wear: a lovely silk camisole (tank top, vest, whatever you want to call it) for a winter-time first layer.  I used the same pattern as for my summer tanks, which after many alterations, bears almost no resemblance to the starting point: Kwik Sew 3524.

Click on any of the pictures for more detail.

 

blue silk cami on form

 

A couple of things that came out really well: the straps and the elastic binding at the top.  I’ve used this method for straps on a couple of (not blogged) other tanks, and really like it.  Basically I just sew a tube of fabric, using a narrow zigzag stitch since it’s knit fabric.  I turn the tube with a wire, and then slide a piece of elastic through it, using a bodkin or a safety pin.  Then I stitch through all the layers.  The added elastic gives the straps more stretch, recovery, and sturdiness than they would have if they were just made from the fabric.  This seemed essential when working with practically transparent silk!

 

blue silk cami straps

 

For these straps, I used 1/4″ elastic, and cut the fabric strips for the straps 1″ wide.  You need a little more than the elastic measurement for the fabric tube to fit around it, especially once the seam allowances are also tucked inside, and a bit for the seam allowances themselves.  Sewing through the fabric and the elastic holds everything smoothly in place.  I roll all of the seam line to one side of the elastic before sewing, which becomes the bottom of the strap, and the top looks clean.

My favorite thing about these camis (other than the feel of the silk on my skin, or maybe the color) is the way the edging fits at the top.  I used another fabric strip, and plain 1/8″ elastic.  I didn’t stretch the elastic at all when pinning and sewing it on, and the slight negative ease in the pattern (I checked—it’s about 88% of my body measurement at the upper chest) turns out to make just exactly the amount of stretch I want at the top.  It just hugs against my skin, without gaping or digging in.

 

blue silk cami binding closeupThis dress form is a copy of my body in duct tape, and the binding fits just as nicely on me.

 

Below you can see in more detail how the pieces of the binding went together.  After sewing through all the layers, I rolled the binding strips to the inside, and sewed again just outside of the first seam.  The part at the top with the bronze colored elastic is the built-in shelf bra, which I attached at the same time, in the first seam of the elastic and binding.

 

blue silk cami inside

 

For the blue one, I cut the original top completely apart, and used as much of the width of the original hem as possible.  I didn’t want the seams to show at the bottom, so I tacked them down by hand.

Not long after I finished the blue cami, Zuni invited as over again, this time to dye cochineal and purple.  I’m not that huge a fan of pink, unless it’s cochineal, and then I’m all over it.  The particular shades that come from those little bugs really float my boat.  So, excited by my first success, and learning from mistakes, I thoroughly soaked the second top in water and brought it over.  I was also careful to stir while it was dyeing, and the result was an even, beautiful coat of color!

If I could have, I would have cut both tops wider at the bottom.  You can see a little pulling, and stretching in the fabric around the hips.  For the pink top, I decided for maximum width, to keep the hem and bottom of the original side seams intact, and taper my new seam in.  Below you can see this, as well as the construction of the shelf bra and what the binding looks like from the inside.

With this method of binding, I like sewing the straps in at the end by hand, catching just the inner layers.  That way I can try on and adjust them exactly, plus I think it’s more secure and less likely to distort the fabric than trying to catch them in the seam under the binding.

 

pink silk cami inside

 

I got some good practice sewing with delicate petals of silk making these, and it seems less intimidating now.

The other fantastic thing about this project is that, when those long undies were just sitting in my drawer, I thought that maybe someday I would dye them and make them into something useful.  In the same way that maybe someday I’ll spin enough yarn to knit with, maybe someday my studio will be completely clean and neat … things that I dream about, but may never happen.  But this one did!  I’m trying to acknowledge and appreciate this as a victory, rather than just rushing right on to the next project, as I am apt to do.

 

 

pink silk cami on form

 

Plus, I just love having these in my closet!  In fact, combined with two silk camis I already had (one is an earlier take on the recycled silk shirt idea, and one is the original I used to copy my woven tank pattern), I have just enough to wear one almost every day.  That inspired me to pack away most of my summer tanks, shirts and dresses for the first time ever.  I always carefully clean and store my winter woolens over the summer (mainly to protect them from the scourge of moths) but putting away the summer clothes never seemed that important, especially when I still used my cotton tanks as winter layers.  The silk ones are noticeably warmer though, even as thin as they are.  And I love that my summer clothes are getting a break from being on the hanger, and how much more space there is in my winter closet.

Take time to celebrate your victories, people!

 

DIY Crib Rail Covers for Teethers — A Tutorial

 

So apparently, small teething children will chomp down on wooden crib rails like beavers.  I really had no idea until, visiting our dear friends at the end of the summer, I saw the evidence first hand, little teeth marks right through the wood finish.  My friend the mama was thinking about ordering some covers for the crib rails, but I knew we, ok I, could easily make some, and I would get to sew!  In August, after months away from my sewing machine, this seemed like a gift from the universe, plus it would be so useful and cute for friend mama and her little one!  I’m going to share my notes and method, which should work for any crib, below.  This is a fairly quick project, so if you are still looking for a gift for a young family, it could be a good one.

 

crib rail protectors onTo make up for only having quick snapshots of this project (did I mention there was a baby involved?) I’m making it my illustrated post for this month.

 

First things first, I measured the crib.  I wanted the covers to go around the whole rail easily, so I added a little extra ease to my measurements.  The back rail is against the wall, apparently too awkward an angle for little one’s head to chew, so I didn’t worry about that one.

crib rail protector mathI know that the quilt batting (which I want here for padding) will shrink a little bit, probably not enough to affect the width, but for the length I’ll include a bit extra.  I usually use 1/2″ seam allowances, which I did for the width.  I decided to use 1″ seam allowance on each end for the length, since that is where I am likely to want more wiggle room.  To figure out how much fabric I need, I made another diagram, since I’m really a visual thinker.

crib rail protector fabricSo here are the supplies I got, including a little extra fabric for shrinkage, since it’s 100% cotton:

Two yards fabric (Modern Bliss design #13662 by Robert Kaufman)

One yard super wide cotton quilt batting, for two layers of batting in each cover

Eight yards of totally beautiful soft cotton ribbon for ties

All of this came from Stitchin’ Post in Sisters, OR.

 

When getting ready to sew, don’t forget to preshrink your fabric!  Wash the fabric and dry it the same way you (or the recipient) plan on treating the finished project.  I also put the ribbon through wash and dry, in a lingerie bag, just in case it was going to bleed any dye, etc., since a baby might be chewing on it.  I didn’t pre-shrink the batting.  The package it came with says it will shrink 3%, which will give the covers a bit of that puffy quilted look once they are washed.  After washing, I ironed the fabric and ribbon to get rid of wrinkles and make it easier to measure and work with.

Cut or rip the fabric and batting into strips 10″ wide (or the width you picked for your crib), and then divide them for the length of the covers, as in the diagram above.  Take one fabric section with its corresponding batting to the crib, make sure the size seems close, and decide where you want to put the ties and how long they should be.  We decided on 7″ for each tie, which divided fairly neatly into 8 yards, 20 ties with two sides each.  I just cut the ends of the ties at a diagonal to keep them from fraying, and left the other end, which will be sewn inside the cover, squared off.

I pinned the ties to one side where I wanted them to go, and then with the fabric off the crib, folded it in half to match and pin the matching tie. It’s helpful to leave just a bit of each tie sticking out beyond the fabric, so you’ll be able to see where they are when you’re sewing.

Make a fabric stack for each cover, with two layers of batting on the bottom, then one layer of fabric (right side/public side up) with the ties pinned in place (I pinned them in the middle too, so that they wouldn’t shift around and get caught while sewing).  Then top with the other side of the fabric, right side down towards the ties.

crib rail protector sandwichHold the whole sandwich together with a few pins, and sew down each long side with a straight stitch, 1/2″ from the edge—our planned seam allowance.

Each time you come to one of the ribbon ties (which you’ll know because the ends are sticking out) sew over it, then back up and sew forward again, so that there are three lines of stitching holding each tie in place.  Blend back to your seam allowance line, and keep sewing to the next tie.

crib rail protector sewing ribbonOnce you have sewn down both sides, turn the whole thing inside out and tada!  The batting is on the inside and the ties are on the outside.  I had thought I would trim the batting from the seam allowances, but when I got to this stage it didn’t seem necessary.  I just pressed everything in its new orientation, smoothing things out and using the iron with steam.

Check the size of the cover on the crib, the fold the ends to the inside to get the length you like.  I decided to stitch them closed by hand, using a ladder stitch which picks up a little fabric from each side.  It just looks better, and I can also add a line of stitching near the ends when quilting so that the hand stitches won’t take much strain.  The white UFO near my fingers in the photo is the head of a pin . . .

 

crib rail protector sewing ends

 

All that’s left is the quilting!  I don’t usually quilt; I’m too obsessed with the properties of different fabrics, their drape as a 2-D material wraps a 3-D body, and the possibility of walking around all day protected and flattered by garments I made.  I do see how quilting is perfect for something like this though, and I don’t mind the quilted look, but it does bug me when the stitching totally contrasts with the fabric, especially when I like the fabric as it is.  I decided to use the diagonals in the print as guides for my quilting stitching, and not to worry about them being exactly all the same.  It gave the covers more of a modern look, which the mama and I loved.  I did check the batting instructions, which said to quilt no more than 8″ apart, and make sure the maximum distance between my lines was not more than that.  I quilted to one end, checked the measurements and then did a second round.  I didn’t have access to a walking foot, so I spread the fabric and batting sandwich outward from the foot with my hands as I went, and it worked just fine.

 

 

crib rail protector finished

 

I just loved making these, mostly because at the time I was thrilled for the chance to take a project from idea in my head to finished object in my hand!  I’m sure I could have looked up someone else’s directions, but I didn’t want or need to, and I love how my version came out.  I played with the balance between making something as good as I can, because it’s for my best friend’s baby, and going with the flow, letting it be a bit inexact and show its handmade-ness, because it’s the real world, and because I always think handmade things are the most beautiful.

If you try this project, I hope you’ll agree, and have as good a time as I did!  Happy week everybody!

 

Making a Lining for a Simple Top

In which I concede that yes, some wool is itchy.

 

lined MD top front

 

My grandmother wove the fabric for this top, and she sewed it!  She gave it to me many years ago, but I’ve never worn it much, because when it touches your skin, the fabric is super scratchy.  You all know how much I love wool, and I try to advocate for it, so I usually say that it doesn’t have to be itchy!  But the truth is, of course, it varies enormously with everything from the kind of sheep the wool came from to the way it’s processed, leading to everything from super snuggly high-end next-to-skin layers all the way to heavy duty outerwear.  (And here’s something I can’t get out of my head since I read it, that we might not even want all wool to be soft, we want some to be hard-wearing too.)

Ok, so say that you do have a scratchy wool garment that touches your skin, what to do?  Line it!  I’ve had vague plan for lining this top for a few years, a plan which gradually clarified itself and worked out details in my head, as I realized that I could satisfy my clear need for more sweater layers using almost exclusively things I already had.

 

lined MD top side

 

This top is a very simple construction which seems to have a been a favorite of handweavers in the 1970’s.  It’s just two large rectangles for the front and back, and two more folded over for the sleeves.  It has slits at the side seams for a little more movement, and the edge of the fabric is just turned under to make a bit of a curve at the front and back neckline.

 

lined MD top reinforcementI’ve been storing this in my brain and knew I would use it!  A couple of the older sweaters I’ve re-used for Fiddleheads have a sturdy ribbon reinforcement at the underarms.  I know this is a point of stress for this top, as the stitches had already popped there, and I’m not going to want to undo the lining to fix it again!

 

I thought it would be pretty simple to line this, and I was right.  There is a lot of minor fudging going on here, and it doesn’t really show, since it’s um, the lining.  I measured all the dimensions of the top and cut the lining the same size, plus seam allowances.  I knew that that would make the lining a little bit baggy, since it’s the same size and inside the top, but I didn’t want to make it too tight, or make this project super fiddly.  For such a simple garment this worked well.

Since the issue with the itchy-ness of this top is where is touches my skin, I knew that I needed an edging that would stick out past the wool at the neck and sleeves.  I had two candidates for lining fabric in the stash, both blue rayon.  I really liked how the color and slight twill texture of one looked with the wool fabric, but it was a little heavy for lining and has more potential as a garment on its own.  So I decided to use the first fabric for just the edging strips, and the lighter weight, darker colored rayon for the main lining pieces.

 

lined MD top sewing detailsI’m trying something new here, a lot of the sewing details are in this photo.  I hope that it will both be visually more clear what I’m talking about, and make the main text a little less dense.  Click to enlarge and read!

 

No doubt, this project has a LOT of hand stitching, mainly backstitch.  Fortunately, I love handstitching.  It has all the advantages of knitting in that it’s soothing and portable, I could work on it anywhere, and while talking to people on the phone, etc., so it actually went pretty fast.  Plus, I didn’t want the stitches to show on the outside, and since I could place and pin the fabric as I went, handstitching gave me the most flexibility to see how things were coming out, and pin under more or less to adjust.

 

lined MD top inside done

handwoven by Dottie MillerSo, many little stitches later, there you have it!  Lined garments just feel so finished, and kind of luxurious when you put them on, don’t you think?  And, the itchy issue is 100% gone, to the point where I forget all about it. (Remind me not to cuddle small children while wearing this . . . )

 

lined MD top front cowl

 

Now I just have to figure out how to wear it.  I’m not used to having wide 3/4 length sleeves, and sometimes catch them on things . . .  The first time I wore this into town, I thought it looked better with a cowl or scarf on top.  But looking at these pictures, I kind of like it on its own.  I live in layers, and this one is a bit tricky to layer on top or under, so I think a cowl or scarf will be a good option when it’s cooler.  The weather has been so mild lately that I was really comfortable taking pictures outside in just the top.  It may be a sign of impending doom, but I might as well enjoy it, right?

 

lined MD top side cowl

 

Totally, that’s what I thought.  What are you working on for winter, assuming we get winter?