Grateful Giveaway Part 1

Hello!  I am back at home, and feeling pretty good about things.  First of all, I just spent a week with some of my favorite women in the world, making all kinds of amazing things and stretching myself to a rare extent (more about this a little later).  If that’s not enough to be grateful for, I came back to flowers and a love note from my amazing husband.  Overall, I’m feeling pretty good about the life I’ve chosen.  So I thought I would share the love by giving away two of my Fiddleheads hats (and two more to come later)!

 

 

I have these extra hats because of a bad situation which is slowly resolving.  A long time ago now I sent some of my wares, including these hats, which were a brand new idea at the time, to a store in another state which turned out to be scamming artists and taking the money for their own pockets.  The slightly better part of the story is that artisans, communicating through Etsy, figured out what was going on, and the shop was shut down and contents seized by the attorney general of MO.  The much better part is that after much, much time in bureaucratic limbo, I was finally notified that they had “determined some of these goods to be” mine (maybe because they had my name and phone number on the tags?).  And after so much time had gone by that I had given up again, I received a box in the mail with a fair number of bags (appearing on Etsy this fall) and hats inside!  I doubt I will ever get any money out of this, but getting my unsold stuff back feels like a huge win.

 

 

When I first started making these hats, I didn’t realize how stretchy they would be, and I had more sizes.  Bryan always laughs at me for forgetting things I’ve made, I forgot that I used to make four sizes instead of three, and I forgot that I started out writing all the fabric tags myself!  I now think these two would fit around 3 – 9 months, on average of course.  As you can see there’s a classic blue and pink, each one with two tones, and more texture in the lighter color.  They are made from all recycled cashmere, making them super soft, eco-friendly, and washable.  I have made every one of the now many many of these that are around the country and the world, and I still love this design.

One of these would make a perfect gift for someone having a baby soon, as it should still fit when winter rolls around up here in the Northern hemisphere.

 

 

All you have to do to win is leave a comment!  Tell me which hat you would like and (yes this is for my marketing, small biz needs it too) what change having one of these would bring to your life/experience.  Open to anyone around the world, so tell your friends!  I will close the contest in just over a week, at 9 am Friday June 6 Arizona time.  I’ll choose a random winner for each hat and ship them out soon thereafter.

Hope you’re having a grateful week!

A New Month, A New Challenge – Spark Your Summer

The thing I love about setting a particular goal or participating in a challenge is that it can push me to take something I am vaguely thinking about doing and make it something I am actually doing and concretely thinking about.

I loved participating in Me Made May’12 this last month.  I was surprised by how much pride and self-sufficiency I felt wearing at least one me-made garment every day, even though I didn’t make anything new for the challenge!  It also got me thinking about what I really wear and how I want my style to evolve.  Although I’m not sure I would want to spend as much time thinking about my wardrobe all the time as I did in May, it really pushed me to better define my style (see this post), to figure out what I really need to make (pants!), and to meet some other sewers/thinkers/bloggers, all of which has been wonderful.  In another unexpected spillover, after MMM ended I found myself coming up with new combinations of my not-self-made clothes to better fit my style – bonus!

 

 

So when my new friend Alessa, along with Ali and Sarah, announced a new challenge for June, I was pretty much in at the word go.  Plus, this one is a little less involved, you just sew one special garment in June, something you’d like to wear all summer.  It’s good timing for me, since I have fabric I batik dyed last summer that’s supposed to become a dress in time for a special event which starts June 20!  I’ll be making my self-drafted sundress, with a few modifications from the first one.  And, I’ll be home late tonight!!  One thing I have really missed during MMM is my studio – sewing starts tomorrow!

 

 

Again, it seems to me that there’s no reason you have to sew to set yourself a helpful challenge for this month.  What about a cooking one?  An art one?  What are your broader goals and how can you set a specific goal to help you get there?  What would you like to do more of?  Why not set aside a specific amount of time for that every week?  Whatever you decide to do, I’d be willing to bet you’ll get some unexpected lovely side effects.

Personal Style, Me-Made-May, and How the World Sees Us

Oh, never mind the fashion. When one has a style of one’s own, it is always twenty times better.

~Margaret Oliphant

I’m so excited about this post, because I’ve recruited some awesome fellow participants in Me-Made-May’12 to share their photos and their thoughts about personal style with us!  I was so inspired by clicking through the Flickr group and checking out everyone’s photos, and by the thought-provoking comments they sent me!

I’ll start with my own style, which is definitely still a work in progress.

When I first started making my own clothes, quite a few years ago now, I chose what appealed to me most, (if you don’t want to know how much of a nerd I really am, please skip to the next paragraph) which was mainly historical styles.  If no one cared what I wore, I could happily wear long skirts, petticoats, 1940’s style dresses, etc. every day for the rest of my life.

But what I wear does affect how people see me, and how seriously they take me.  Sometimes what I’d like to wear doesn’t broadcast the message that I’d like people to get when they see me.

I still love historical clothes, and wear lots of long skirts in the winter, but now I look for ways to incorporate silhouettes I love with more timeless, modern designs and details.  I’d like what I wear to say, “I am unique, interesting, capable, beautiful, feminine, grounded, elegant.”  As I said, it’s a work in progress.

 

My first new friend for this project is Alessa.  I love the playful element her outfits have.  Check out her lovely blog of her handmade adventures by clicking any of her photos, or here!

 

 

 

She says:

I wouldn’t know to put a name to it, but there’s definitely a trend there. I think pretty and comfy sum it up best. I like dresses, because they are less constricting than jeans and I guess I also don’t like to be part of the “uniform” (jeans and t-shirt) wearing masses. Also, they make my stumpy legs look longer. 😉 A lot of people put labels like “nice” and “cute” on me, which I guess I generally am, and which is also reflected in a large part of my wardrobe. I like that I can also dress up to other facets of my personality, though, like “girlishly nerdy” (skirts and sciency graphic tees) and “playfully sexy” (that would be a black polka-dot dress with a red belt, red lipstick and a bowler hat).

 

Next is Oona.  I love how much body language is in her photos.  If you need a laugh in your day, you MUST read her blog!

 

 

 

 

She says:

i’d say my style is schizophrenic, vivacious, and a bit colorblind.  i like to think i make other peeps smile when they see me, especially strangers.  as a whole i don’t feel we dress up anymore, and peeps seem to take happy note of bright colors and thoughtful (if clashing) ensembles.

 

Finally here’s Sallie.  I love how sleek and put together her outfits are!  There’s lots more pictures and witty comments about the outfits on her blog.

 

 

 

She says:

I think personal style is really complicated because it involves a certain amount of self-awareness. Sometimes the things we love, sadly, don’t love us back. For me this translates into my love for vintage, an unrequited love that I think I’ve finally given up on. But the great thing about fashion and making your own garments is that the possibilities are endless. So instead I’ve focused on more modern looks that make me feel lady-like and put together. I like my clothes to fit well and to maybe have a touch of drama – like playing with texture, color or volume/structure. I think other people see me as someone who always looks laid back, but still elegant, and maybe a touch prissy – I’m taking this from compliments and comments I’ve received over the years (and I just asked my husband and thats what he said! haha!).

 

I can’t help feeling like I don’t have much to add here!  These ladies have summed it up and given me a lot to think about.

One last thing I will say, I know many of us who sew (or make anything else for that matter) do it at least partly so we can have just what we want, what’s not available anywhere else.  It’s a great feeling when you can be creative, and make something that you’re proud of, something that broadcasts the message you want to send.

So, how does the world see you?  What would you like your style to say?

Me-Made-May Thoughts So Far, and my Cartoon Summer Wardrobe

Ok, I realize that it’s the middle of Me Made May, and I haven’t said anything about it!  I have been thinking about it a lot though, and keeping a daily log of what I wear and my thoughts.  So far I have met my goal of wearing one me-made article every day, and on only one day has underwear counted.  (I have one sundress, not a me-made, that I wear when it’s just too hot to wear anything else.)

 

 

I wanted to make some kind of visual record so you could see what I’m thinking about for this project.  I loved Tilly’s photo collage of her me-made wardrobe, although photographing mine during several days of camping didn’t seem very practical.  But one of my goals for this summer is to draw more, a perfect activity for unplugged time.  Then I saw the book Information Graphics on Brain Pickings, and was inspired to make my own graphic for Me Made May.

The space we have in the truck for clothes is quite limited.  Every year I try to pack less, leaving out the things I don’t end up wearing much, but a little more of the most versatile, the things I can wear a lot of different ways and the things I know I wear all the time.  This also leaves me with a small enough wardrobe that my drawing project seemed practical.

 

 

I circled the clothes I made in yellow.  Somehow, this didn’t seem to represent the amount of effort that it feels like goes into what I wear.  So I circled things I had dyed or otherwise substantially altered in green.  Due to the careful selection of these clothes discussed above, there are only a few things here that I haven’t worn a lot.  I circled them in blue.  All four of these I included this season as a change from wearing mostly the same clothes I did at art shows last year – too much of that and it starts to feel like a uniform, which makes me start to hate even clothes I really like.  Still it looks like I have a little tweaking to do to make these pieces fit, and a couple of them may not fit in my summer wardrobe.

I was surprised to see how many tops I had in relation to pants and skirts, especially since I have been thinking I need to make some more.  I even have one about half done at home, based on the shiny top but in a linen fabric more suitable for every day.  Then I remembered that all three of my me-made tank tops are not exactly spring chickens, in fact, they are getting to the only-suitable-for-camping stage.  I circled everything that is wearing out in red.  After that, I does look like I could use a couple more basic tops, and sundresses, I live in those when it’s warm and it would be great to have a couple more.

One of my favorite things about a challenge like Me Made May is that it asks us to take a look at what we are really using and what we need.  For example, you can tell that pants that fit are the hardest thing for me to find ready-to-wear.  And making my own is still a journey, every time I wear those grey ones I think about what’s wrong with them, but I also get inspired to make better ones this fall!  In fact, with the cool weather we’ve been having so the past week or so, I’ve renewed my vow to make pants I like.

I’ve thought a lot the past few weeks about how what we wear is a compromise between what we’d ideally like to wear, what’s available (due to funds and time), and circumstances like the weather, what we have to wear to work, etc.

What do you think?

What’s in your closet?  What do you need, and what do you have but don’t wear?

 

Recycled Elisabethan Shirt

 

 

Note the “s”, we’re not talking the era of Queen Elizabeth I today, but rather fabulous upcycled clothing made by my friend Beth!  She has been my confidant and mentor in the world of recycled fashion for a while, and when we saw her last week at the Fiesta Arts Fair in San Antonio, I decided it was high time to add a piece from her Elisabethan line to my own wardrobe.

I totally love this shirt!   The design is what makes it for me, those flattering and interesting curvy seams, and the fabric choices.  Me Made May is coming up fast, and while I didn’t make this shirt, it exemplifies what MMM is all about; making choices that reflect who we are and who we want to be.  It’s sustainable, made in USA, and did I mention fabulous, and comfortable?  Head on over to the Elisabethan site for lists of stores and shows where you can get your own!

Another Way to Rip Seams

 

pocket seam ripping 1

 

If you’re going to make anything, it’s fairly certain that you’ll have to un-make and re-make part of it at some point.  It’s not bad, it’s just part of the process.  In sewing, this involves seam ripping.  It’s an essential skill for makers, and especially those who are interested in refashioning, repairing, upcycling, etc.

Although some folks rip stitches fast and furious with razor blades, I have always stuck to my trusty seam ripper.  Recently I’ve been using it in a slightly different way on straight and zig-zag seams, with really good results.

seam ripping 2014 0

 

The photo at left shows classic seam-ripper technique.  Slide the seam ripper into the seam, use the pointed part to pick up a stitch or two, and slide them into the blade in the middle of the ripper to cut.  Once you have a couple of stitches cut, pull the seam open and you will be able to see and cut more without harming the fabric.

 

 

 

seam ripping 2014 1For this technique though, everything stays flat, which is especially nice if you have a delicate fabric or it’s hard to see the stitches in the seam.  Use the ripper to cut a stitch, and then another one 1 -2 inches away, creating a small thread section with cut ends.  Then use the long prong of the ripper to pull a few stitches up and out of the back thread without cutting them.  You may need to do this one by one if the stitches are small.  The object is to get a little tail that’s long enough to hang onto with your fingers.

 

Once you get a tail, grab it with one hand, hold the fabric with the other, and pull the the thread section out in one go!  Pulling close to the plane of the fabric, instead of straight up, will make it easier.

 

pocket seam ripping 3

 

If you flip the fabric to the back you’ll see that the stitches on the other side, which were held in place by the ones you just pulled out, are now free.  All you have to do is cut a stitch a little way down the seam and you can use the free thread to pull out another section.  Every time you pull out a section, flip the fabric over and you’ll find a tail ready to pull out the next section.  I find this quite fast, and it also creates fewer tiny thread ends that you’ll have to clean up.

 

pocket seam ripping 4

 

If you are ripping out a specific part of a seam, such as between the pins here, you may want to have a longer thread to work with when you get to your stopping point, so you can tie a knot to hold it in place.  In this case, pull up the last inch or two of stitches without cutting either side.  It may help to turn the seam ripper so the stitches don’t slide into the cutting part.  Once a stitch is loosened, you can also use your fingers, the whole handle of the seam ripper, or another tool to pull the stitches up without cutting them.

 

pocket seam ripping 5

 

When you get to the new end of the seam, pull on the thread to get the last stitch from the back side to pop through onto your side.  Slide the point of the seam ripper into this new stitch and pull it up so that both ends are on the same side.

Tie a knot or use backstitch, and bury the ends if they’ll show.

 

pocket seam ripping 6

 

Again, this last part is only necessary if the end of the old seam won’t be crossed by or stitched over with a new seam, and so you need to secure the end.

This way of seam ripping works great on zig-zag seams, too, although it won’t work with seams where the thread crosses back over itself.  Sometimes I’ll get lucky and pull the right thread on serged seams, but I don’t have a sure-fire formula for those yet.  Maybe you do?

I’m sure that others use this technique, I just discovered it recently and I’ve been using it all the time …

 

Me-Made-May 2012!

What is that, you ask?  It’s a fabulous idea from Zoe of the blog ‘So, Zo…’ wherein participants make a pledge to wear one or more self-made garments every day for the month of May, and/or to interpret the challenge in their own way.

 

 

What I really love about it is the idea of spending a month thinking about what we make and wear and why.  Does what you wear suit your personality and what you want to say about yourself to the world?  Why do you choose to make things?  Do you wear/use the things you make?

My pledge for May is to wear at least one thing I made everyday, and document my experience here in a way that’s also relevant to those of you who don’t sew, and addresses some of the interesting questions above.

If you do sew, I encourage you to head on over to Zoe’s blog and check it out!

If not, what about coming up with your own Me-Made-May challenge?  Maybe pledge to cook one new recipe or make one up yourself each week, or finish your woodworking project, or even the mending!  I think anything we make has the tendency to push us towards, as Zoe puts it “a more self-sufficient, sustainable and authentic life.”  I love that phrase – I couldn’t have described my own goals better!

The last part of my personal pledge for MMM’12 is to make more friends in the blog world and reach out to the other creative types out here, so I’d love it if you let me know your ideas, and pass on the spirit of Me-Made-May!

Wire Turns Fabric Tubes!

The other day I was making fabric straps, and the time came to turn them right side out.  I never bought one of those proprietary tube-turning things, and I don’t do this very often, so usually I just tie the seam ends to a blunt needle and slide it through the tube bit by bit.  It’s kind of a pain but it usually works.  However, on this day my studio was somehow completely devoid of blunt needles.  I don’t know where they went, but I suspect karma is involved, since I always tell even my knitting students to buy sharp ones for burying ends.  I tried it with a sharp one, but that was clearly the wrong idea, of course the needle point kept piercing the inside of the tube.

After stewing it around in my brain for a while, I remembered that I had some millinery wire left over from another project.  I twisted one end into a loop, tied the thread ends to it, and pulled it through – viola!  Then I tried it with beading wire, which is much thinner and more flexible, but also worked just fine.

This is why we invented pliers, so you can make a loop smaller than your finger.  You may need to squash the loop flatter with the pliers to get it to be narrow enough to go through your tube.

Twist the wire around itself – it’s more secure if you twist both the end and the main wire around each other, not just one around the other.

Cover the pokey wire end with some tape to keep it from catching on the fabric  – I used artist’s tape, electrical tape or painter’s tape should also work, duct tape is too gooey.

Ok!  Slide your new wire tube turner inside your tube.  Take the ends left from sewing the seam and tie them securely around the wire loop.  If your knot is not secure it may pull out part way through the turning process – terrible!  I pushed two thread ends through the loop one way, and two through the other way, and tied them in several square knots on top of the loop.

Pull the wire into the fabric tube, and the tube should start to turn inside itself.  Sometimes it’s a bit hard to get it started, you can try using your finger nails to pull the scrunched up fabric over the end.

General tube turning tips:  Don’t get so much fabric bunched up right where the tube is turning that it gets packed in and won’t turn.  If you get stuck, back the bunched up fabric away from the end and try moving a smaller amount through the turn.  Pull on the wire threader and the turning point, stretching a bit can help.  Once you get going, pull on the fabric end inside the tube instead of the wire, so there’s no danger of the thread breaking.

It’s much easier if you have a slippery fabric!  Mine at the moment is two layers of cotton, not slippery at ALL, but it still worked without too much fuss.  I wanted my straps to be as thin as possible, the limit with this fabric was a 1/4″ seam.  With a slipperier fabric smaller could work, keep in mind though that you have to have enough seam allowance so that your finished tube won’t unravel, and that seam allowance has to fit inside the finished tube!  I zigzaged over my SA since I absolutely do not want to take my dress apart later due to straps coming apart.

What am I making with these tubes anyway? A sundress!  I took this picture on Sunday during our giant spring snowstorm, which is now melting like crazy.  Whatever the weather says, it’s time for spring/summer sewing!  I used the fabric tubes for the straps, and also button loops at the top.  I’m glad to have my new wire turner, I can make some more straps for tops and dresses for the upcoming season.

Here is my sketch of the finished sundress.  I haven’t decided whether to do the big patch pockets or not.

What do you think?  What are you making now?

10 Tips for Drying Laundry Outdoors

 

The last post was all about how I felt about hanging the laundry out to dry, and not so much about how to do it if you never have before.  This blog is supposed to have lots of information, so here are some tips:

  1. You can string up a rope just about anywhere and use it to hang up clothes.  Two trees, a tree and a porch rail, a hook on the side of the house . . . I had a small clothesline on an upper story balcony once.  In Italy, everyone still hangs their laundry on a line just below the window (and, their downstairs neighbors return the socks they accidentally drop)!
  2. My trees are about 20 feet apart, a rope looped around them so I can hang clothes on both sides holds a large load of laundry.
  3. You don’t need special “clothesline”, any rope or cord thin enough to get a clothespin over will work.
  4. A really handy knot to use to tie your clothesline is the taut line hitch, you can cinch it up after it (inevitably) sags after you tie it the first time.  There are clear and concise directions at netknots.com.  If those don’t work for you there are a lot more to be found by searching for “taut line hitch” – if you are a sailor or otherwise knot-preoccupied, look out – good thing I have this post to write so I won’t get too distracted by learning new knots.  Hopefully.
  5. If your clothesline has been out of use for a while (maybe it was abandoned by a previous resident?), run a damp rag along it before you hang anything up, to keep from getting any dirt on it onto your clothes.
  6. You can take your clothesline down during the time of year you’re not using it, it will last longer, and won’t rub bark off your trees in the same place all the time.
  7. I highly recommend keeping your clothespins inside and bringing them out with the laundry each time.  You can store them in a bag, or a jar or whatever.  It keeps them from rotting and/or being new homes for tiny spiders who build their webs in the “tunnels” made by the spring.
  8. Hang shirts and tanks from the bottom (see pic), that way the clothespins won’t leave a visible mark or make a crease in the top.
  9. If your laundry is in the sun, hang things you don’t want to fade inside-out, and/or with the back facing the sun.  Hang things you want to bleach in as much sun as possible (more about that in another post soon).
  10. If you, or possibly other members of your household, prefer laundry as soft as it comes from the dryer, you can always throw clothes in for just a couple of minutes when they come off the line.  You still get your mid-day laundry hanging meditation, and save money and gas for the dryer!

Do you have more tips?  Please share them!