A New Me-Made Upcycled Sweater

 

blue upcycled sweater looking side

 

Hello all!  I’ve been making and mending just about as much as physically possible around here (in between making hundreds of these little fuzzy hats) ever since I got back to my studio a few weeks ago.  Not much has made it up to the blog yet, and I decided to just start with the thing I’m most excited about: my new sweater!  I really, really need some more sweater layers for this winter, and I’ve had a plan to make a couple of upcycled ones from various bits and pieces since the spring.

So, here’s the first one!  The main part of it came from a deep navy blue, super soft, slightly felted, merino sweater that some friends gave me (on the right below).  The fabric is lovely, but the shape was classic sweater that doesn’t work for me—baggy on the sides, gathered in at the bottom—in other words the least flattering possible design for a small pear-shaped girl such as myself.  I also have this knit top which I love the shape of, it has princess lines (flattering—yay!) and interesting side panels, it fits me well and since it seems to be on its way out (the problem with thrift store finds) I had already traced a pattern from it.  So . . .

 

sweaters on line

 

piecing sleeveThe biggest lesson I have learned so far when recycling/refashioning something old into something new, is to treat the something old as fabric.  Unless the alterations you want to make are super duper simple, take the whole thing apart and press it flat and see what you’ve got, and it will be so much less frustrating.  You do end up with some odd shaped pieces of fabric, which can lead to interesting piecing and seams.  I folded the pattern for the new sleeve to accommodate the fabric from the old sleeve, leaving me two parts to cut from another fabric. I just have to remember to allow for seams when I cut the pieces to add on.  I had allowed 1/4″ seam allowances, so I cut the top and bottom sleeve pieces 1/2″ longer than the lines where I cut the middle piece, so there would effectively be a seam allowance on both sides.  Make sense?  I have screwed up the math on that before . . . but not this time.

It probably won’t surprise you if I point out that I have a lot of scraps of cashmere lying around here, plus old sweaters friends have given me, etc.  I chose a dusky purple for the extra sleeve pieces and extra at the back, which also didn’t quite fit on its corresponding piece of ex-sweater.

flat sockI chose the purple because it matched my material for the sides: socks!  My mom was nice enough to buy me these super soft alpaca socks at a fiber festival.  I loved the knitted pattern, I love knee socks, I carefully followed the instructions, which were to machine wash and line dry.  That’s my default washing mode anyway, so I thought I was good to go . . . but by the second wash they had shrunk to the point where fitting over my calves was no longer an option.  (Short strange tangent: this opened up sock reminds me of those animal pelts you see in museums, as if socks ran wild and were hunted for their fur.)  Once pressed flat, there was just enough material in each sock leg (including the ribbing) for one side panel of my sweater!

I experimented with sewing the seams flat, and I really like how it came out.  I overlapped the two pieces I was sewing together by 1/2″ (the same seam allowance as if I had sewed the seam 1/4″ from each edge, see what I mean?), feeling with my fingers for the edge of the layer underneath, and pinning in place.  I sewed a narrow zigzag close to the edge of the top layer, and then again about 1/4″ away, using parts of my machine foot against the edge as guides.  I used a walking foot, which I nearly always do for knits.

This method turned out to be only just slightly trickier for the curved seams connecting the sides to the front and back, so I did it there too.  I really like the slightly deconstructed look this gives it.

 

flat knit seams

 

I didn’t do the flat overlapped seams running down the sleeves, it would have been too much scrunching the sleeve up under the machine.  I did do it to attach the sleeves to the body though, and because of the raglan construction (not having to put in the whole sleeve in the round) it was pretty easy.

For the neckline, I kept the “v” of the original blue sweater, although in future I might add in some there just to make it a little cozier.  I knew that a section of scrap cashmere ribbing wouldn’t do anything much to keep the neckline from stretching all over the place, so I attached 1/4″ clear elastic first, stretching it to ease in the extra fabric and get the neck to lie flat, especially across the top of the shoulders.

 

sweater neckline

 

blue upcycled sweater back(By the way, I think the colors are truest in the two pictures above.  I’ve had trouble getting my white balance and purples to get along.)

So, I zigzaged on the ribbing at the hems and bottom of the sleeves as well, and there you have it.  I actually cut pieces for another purple section around the bottom, but I decided that I really liked the sock ribbing as the hem, and I liked the length when I tried it on, it allows another layer to peek out below.  And winter is coming, so I’m going to be wearing lots of layers!

I think the saddle shoulders may be my favorite part.  I’ve got plans for another franken-sweater using something I knit years ago.  I’m really pleased with how this came out, and looking forward to a DIY cozy winter!

 

blue upcycled sweater front

 

 

 

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A Hot Weather Sundress, and Making Spaghetti Straps

 

hot weather dress hollyhocks 1

 

I’m catching up here.  You know how sometimes, if you prepare carefully for something, it doesn’t happen?  I made this dress for Me-Made-May, but didn’t end up wearing it until the middle of June, due to unseasonably cool and rainy weather all month long.  This year I wanted to up my pledge for May, so that I wore at least two items of me-made clothing at all times.  When it’s really hot out, I like to wear only two items of clothing period, one of which must be a sundress, which allows as much heat to escape from my skin as possible.  My airiest one in particular was 1. wearing out and 2. not me-made, so I clearly needed to replace it before May.  It had a couple of features which I wanted to replicate in my self-stitched version: just about the lowest neckline I am comfortable wearing in public, layers of very light fabric, and gathering at the empire waist.

 

hot weather dress hollyhocks 2

 

I used my self-drafted sundress pattern again, altering it this time for a cross-over gathered front.  Each time I make a new version of this dress, I change the back in an attempt to make it not pull up at the center back, and both times so far it has not worked.  Any ideas?  I’m pretty happy with how the front came out though.  One thing I’ve learned: the key to keeping the bodice from immediately gaping open when I bend forward is to ease the top edges into a slightly shorter binding, so that I take some of the fullness around the bust out again. It’s especially important since I replaced the darts on this version with gathers.

 

hot weather dress fabrics

 

This fabric is a cotton batiste, I’m sorry to say I have no recollection of where it came from, I just remember it being in my stash for a long, long time.  My first idea was to use plain white for the lining layer.  As I was cutting out the main fabric pieces, I dropped a piece in my fabric scrap pile, and it happened to land on top of a piece of felt in this light minty green color.  I suddenly remembered that I had another piece of lightweight cotton in a really similar color, which might look great as the inner layer.  It turned out there was just enough of that fabric for the lining and bindings, and I really like how the green adds a little hint of color under the main fabric, and how it looks peaking out at the hem, a detail I added to show off the second color.  Even though I decided not to join any of the official fabric stash-busting challenges going on this year (despite this cool anime dinosaur logo) I have been making a conscious effort to use the fabric I already have, and making some good progress, in part inspired by all the other sewers who are doing the same.

 

hot weather dress spaghetti straps

Click on this picture (or any of the others) to enlarge for easy reading.

 

With all the sundresses and tanks I’ve been making the last year or so, I’ve gotten a lot of practice making thin “spaghetti” straps, and come up with a method that I like.  If the fabric is lightweight, like this one, I’ll use two fabric layers for each strap.  Since the dress will hang from the straps for most of its life, I want them to be fairly sturdy.  I cut each one 1 1/4″ wide, and a couple inches longer than I think I’ll need.  I get the best results when I zigzag the two strap layers together first, with a narrow zigzag right on the edges.  It keeps the layers from shifting as I sew, and from unraveling as I turn the strap right side out.  Then I press the strap in half, to get a clean even fold.  I stitch the strap seam with a short straight stitch, 1/4″ from the edges.  Then turn it right side out.  I use a long wire, as explained here.  The straps come out about 1/4″ wide, and somewhat thick and rounded.  If you do the math, the extra 1/4″ in the width becomes the “turn of cloth”, the extra fabric needed to go around the seam allowances which fill the middle of the strap.

 

hot weather dress hollyhocks 4

 

I decided to use light blue thread for topstitching the bindings and hems on both layers.  I topstitched over the straps as well, to go with the look of the bindings.  At one point, I started to wonder if I was going overboard using up things from my stash and adding more colors.  But if I took a step back, I realized that if I saw this dress in a store window, I would want it immediately.  So that was a good imaginary test!  Since I’ve been wearing it, I’ve noticed that all the colors in the print go with lots of other things in my wardrobe too.

 

hot weather dress hollyhocks 3

 

Special thanks to my aunt Barbara for taking the pictures of wearing the dress, and for letting me use the beautiful hollyhocks in her garden as a backdrop!  That was the first time it was warm enough to wear the dress, as you can probably tell from my lack of tan here. . .   What about you?  Are you making anything for your current weather, or the coming season?

 

Three Long Sleeve Tops, and Experimenting with Sewing Knits

brown silk front piece

 

So, here is the sewing update I promised! I finished all three of these shirts months ago, but I haven’t got around to photographing and putting this post together until just recently.  The snow you see here has all melted away, in fact it’s almost warm enough to wear just one shirt outside!  Well, some days yes and some days no.

After I finished my fabulous purple pants, I was ready for a faster and easier/less fitted project, and also getting desperate for some long sleeve knit shirts of any kind in my wardrobe.  I had one looser, comfy knit top in cotton with a little lycra, definitely on its way out, but I liked the fit and decided to copy it.  It also helped that I found two big pieces of cotton knit fabric in the stash I share with my mom.

 

grey shirt on

 

I made this grey version first, and was overall pretty pleased, the fit isn’t totally perfect, but it’s, um, a knit shirt!  Since it was something I needed, I started wearing it right away and it’s lovely to have a soft new long-sleeve top.  It went together like lightning, no edge finishing, some double needle stitching for the hems and it was done.  And I thought it was close enough to what I was going for to try in silk.

I bought this silk knit fabric at Promenade Fabrics in New Orleans.  That store is such a treat to explore, it’s full of the loveliest wools, linen, ribbons, it’s very NOLA in that it’s unusual, but high quality.  There aren’t rows of the same thing next to each other in different colors, I swear each bolt I looked at was totally unique, so naturally I had to dig through as many as possible (which was a lot, since luckily I had all morning).  I knew I wanted to make more long sleeve tops, and I was hoping to find some wool knit, which I didn’t really, but I did find this rather amazing silk, knit in two layers, shiny inside, heathery soft and slightly fuzzy outside.  “Where did you find THIS?” the owner’s son asked when I went to have it cut.  Score!

 

brown silk sleeve

 

So, having tried out the pattern, and curious to see the differences, I got out the silk.  Only three problems; one, it raveled!  I guess I’ve been spoiled in a way by stable cotton knits, you can imagine my horror when I pulled on one edge and tiny runs immediately started down the fabric, as the two layers peeled apart!  Fortunately, if I zigzagged the edge it seemed to hold everything in place, even when I tugged on it, so I decided to play it safe and overcast all the edges of all the pieces, before sewing them together.

The second problem wasn’t really a problem, more like me being thorough/not having enough knowledge of silk knits to dive right in – I just took a lot of time making samples.  Since this fabric is incredibly slinky, plus stretchy, I knew that it would be easy for the seams to come out either baggier or tighter than the rest of the fabric, which would make my finished shirt look decidedly amateur.  So yeah, I made a LOT of samples.  I definitely recommend making as many test seams as it takes, especially if you are working with an unfamiliar fabric!  I decided to tag all these with a little bit of muslin so I could write down what I changed.  I think the most interesting thing I learned was that by increasing the stitch length, I could get the seam to pull the fabric in a little more, shortening the seam.  The colored stitching is my first, just to make sure the silk would not get runs as I washed it (by hand).  See how the other edge goes from stretched out to pulled in?  I also found that some stitches worked well on one layer, but not as well on two.  Eventually I settled on using a mock-serger stitch to overcast around the pieces and sew seams, and a regular zigzag for topstitching.  Although I have to admit that I decided matched seams and a total lack of skipped stitches were too much to ask for in this project, overall I’m really pleased, the seams neither draw in nor pooch out, which is exactly what I wanted to achieve.

 

brown silk samples

 

Oh, the third problem?  I totally didn’t have enough fabric.  This seems to be a theme of mine lately . . . I ended up cutting the sleeves in three pieces each.  Eight more edges to finish, four more seams, but the first thing that Bryan said when he saw it was, “I like the sleeve seams!”  Still, next time I’ll try to remember to just get two yards, having enough for full sleeves and a matching tank top is NOT a bad thing.

 

brown silk shirt on

 

When I first finished it I couldn’t decide if it was worth all the extra effort for the fancy fabric.  But, the more I’ve worn this top, the more I’ve been bummed when it’s in the wash.  It has the kind of drape that makes wrinkles disappear or just look elegant, it feels divine on my skin, and it looks like something just a little special.  In short, I’ll be hunting around more fabric stores for unusual silk knits.

 

color grown cotton shirt and samples

 

While I was at it, I decided to make one more shirt from stash fabric, and play with the fit a little.  I narrowed the back around the waist, and flared it out again over my hips, to try for a little less puddle of fabric at the back high hip area.  It did help some, but I’m left wondering if I need a center back seam to make a big difference, and if so, wouldn’t princess lines work better and look better?  Or should I just reserve this pattern for slinky fabrics – this one is decidedly not.  It’s a lovely color-grown cotton, but the fabric has very little recovery from being stretched, meaning it tends to hang a little bit loose, and it’s kind of thick.  I made a few more samples before sewing it, mainly to try for a stitch that wouldn’t stretch out the seams.  I like this shirt and I’ll definitely keep wearing it, but it’s not a perfect match of pattern and fabric.

Since I was playing with different fabrics, I thought it would be fun to show the tops with a similar contrast in pants.  They’re the same pattern (another one I copied from an existing thrifted garment) of no-side-seam drawstring pants.  The green pair are a textured cotton, I wear them to yoga a lot, and sometimes to lounge around in.  The blue pair (which aren’t quite as electric blue in real life) are wool crepe – the result of a time when I really needed some new pants, hadn’t fit regular ones well enough yet, and had some lovely wool just hanging out in my stash.  I’ve worn them teaching a lot, and to swing and tango dancing, and they’re great for travel, but I would definitely not wear them to yoga!  Again, I think it’s the drape and the body of the fabric that makes them look so much more elegant.

Next up for sewing: summer stuff!  Especially a dress, for Me Made May ’13 . . .

 

All’s Well That Ends Well, but Please, Don’t Put Your Wool in the Washine Machine

 

 

 

viola outfit 2

 

At one point, I considered not writing this post at all, because I’m pretty embarrassed about how this skirt got to the point where it needed remodeling in the first place.  But in the end, there was no way to not write about it, especially since I ended up wearing this once-shameful skirt to dressy Flagstaff event (maybe the only dressy Flagstaff event? We always joke that people here wear jeans to everything) . . .

I made this skirt, as near as I can figure, about 10 years ago!  This was a time before I knew much at all about wool, other than the basics; it comes from sheep, it’s been used since ancient times, people say it’s lovely, etc.  It may be worth pointing out that this was also years before I had felted anything, on purpose or otherwise.  You probably see where this is going.  I put a sample of the fabric though a normal cycle in the washing machine.  Nothing happened, the fabric looked just about the same as when it went in.  “Great!”  I thought.  I made up the skirt using the Folkwear Walking Skirt pattern, one I love and have used a lot.  And, I continued to wash it in the machine.  It never went in the dryer, thankfully, or what happened next probably would have been a much shorter process.  As it was, the fabric continued to look like nothing happened, for many years, for dozens and dozens of washes.  But eventually, all that agitation inevitably started the fibers felting together.  By last winter it was impossible to ignore.

 

pinstripe skirt remodel 1

 

Since I now know quite a bit about felting, once I could look past my obvious horror since I had ruined some lovely fabric, I found it fascinating that the places on the skirt where small parts of the fabric were stitched to each other (the waistband, hem, and back placket) were still unfelted, while the big skirt pieces were noticeably felted, thicker and fuzzier.  Actually, it was the contrast between the two parts that made the skirt look weird, especially the unfelted hem, which looked almost gathered against the felted skirt.  My current theory is that since the hem and placket fibers couldn’t move as much, they couldn’t interlock to felt like the others did.

The skirt sat in my to-fix pile until I figured out a plan, actually a pretty simple one, which I think is essential to not spending inordinate amounts of time remodeling something.  I would cut off the not-as-felted hem, waistband, and placket, fit the remaining felted skirt to a wider and lower waistband facing, make a new placket, and re-hem it.  Above you can see my chalk lines for what to cut in the back, I continued the line of the wider side of the placket down to the hem, and cut a symmetrical amount from the other side of center back, to keep the back pieces the same size.  I got little pieces of felted fabric to use for my new placket from the extra cut off below the old placket.

 

viola outfit 3

 

While I working on this project, I was also trying to figure out what I would wear to the Viola awards.  They’re Flagstaff’s yearly art and science awards for teaching, exhibits, and community outreach, and they throw a big Oscar-like party to give them out.  Bryan was nominated for one this year, for the exhibit of his In a Big World Wandering work, for which we also made the giant silk cyanotype.  I’d never been before, and I wondered what would everyone wear, what should I wear, should I borrow something, is it more like a costume party, should I wear something shiny?

I am not a shiny person.  In the end, I decided not even to go to my friend’s and try on formals to borrow, but instead to wear something that reflects who I really am.  Not only that, but I realized I could actually wear the lovely tailored skirt I was working on – if I went ahead and finished it!  I took the photos of my outfit right before we left, and I think you can tell I was pretty thrilled with my decision.  If what we wear tells everyone we meet a lot about who we are and where we stand, shouldn’t it be even more important, at an event where people are actually paying attention to my clothes, for me to wear something that shows my values and my heart?

 

pinstripe skirt and top

 

So I wore the rescued skirt, in it’s newly tailored glory!  Note the buttery folds.  And a nubbly cream silk tank top I made to wear to a wedding last year (same copied pattern as this linen one) which has proved more useful than I thought it might.  The shawl is something I started knitting for our wedding, realized would never be done in time, and eventually finished later.  (It’s a longer and wider version of the Fiber Trends Cocoon Lace Wrap, in a wool/alpaca blend lace weight yarn.)  It’s drapey and surprisingly warm, enough to keep me comfortable outside while I took the photos.  The pin holding it closed was my grandmother’s.  I didn’t make the tights or shoes, but I still love them . . . topped off with my winter coat, and I felt like I had stepped back to the ’40’s.

 

bryan and tasha viola photo booth

 

Proof that we went and I wore this outfit!  If you are curious what others wore, or what the event looked like, there are lots and lots more photos on the Facebook page for the organization.   We didn’t win (Bryan’s photo exhibit was up against the opening of the Discovery Channel Telescope!  And the winner, a recycled art exhibition that’s been going strong for 10 years here) but it was a really fun party, and I got lots of compliments, especially on the shawl.

 

pinstripe skirt remodel 2

 

But back to the skirt, and I might as well confess one more thing, I feel slightly guilty but I can’t help it; I like this fabric more now than I did in it’s new/intended state.  It’s so soft but with so much body, and it tailors like a dream.  In fact, making the new placket and waistband gave me the itch to sew with wool again, it’s just a pleasure to work with.  This has got to be the flattest-laying, easiest-pressed-in-place placket I’ve ever made.  And the buttonholes – I made them by hand with a single strand of waxed black cotton sewing thread, and it was as if I sealed the cut edges with a magic wand.  Not only can you not see the stitches here, I couldn’t see them in my studio while sewing in broad daylight.  Note the pockets!  Another benefit of me-made formal wear.

 

pinstripe skirt remodel 3

 

I also thought about how much I’ve learned in the last ten years.  I was able to add several refinements to this second round of the skirt, including using rayon ribbon on a lot of the edges to reduce bulk, adding a contoured waistband that fits my figure, and using catch stitches to secure the hem and placket so they wouldn’t show from the outside.  Now that it’s on a strictly hand-wash-only plan, the new and improved version should last me another ten years at least!

 

viola outfit 1

 

Morals of the story: please wear your heart on your sleeve, especially to formal events.  Sometimes a silk purse is lurking inside the sow’s ear of your mistakes.  And people please, no wool in the washing machine!

 

 

Me-Made Purple Corduroys—How Life is Like Fitting Pants

purple cords 1

 

Where to begin?  I think I could talk about these pants and all their glories and implications well past what you would read.  Well – I think I’ll begin with why they are purple, which will lead right into why they are fitted, which will lead right into why they are the best pants I’ve ever had.

So, a few years ago now, my aunt got this pair of purple corduroy pants, and for some strange reason I fell in love with them at first sight.  I’m not usually into purple, or brightly colored trousers, nevertheless I’ve wanted my own pair ever since.  I found 1 1/2 yards of, get this, lavender hemp and organic cotton corduroy on the NearSea Naturals clearance page!  (It had a “stain” on it, which washed right out.)  Update: although I love love love the idea of this fabric, the color of this fabric, and the resulting pants, the fabric is just not sturdy enough.  I got about a year of good-looking wear out of these before the corduroy pile started coming out, even with washing them inside out and not once putting them through the dryer, and that is just not enough for something I made.  If anyone knows of a source for sustainable, long-lasting fabric, please let me know!  The good news: all the work I did on fitting (keep reading) is already transferred to the pattern and waiting for me to find the next fabric! 

I thought this was the perfect amount of fabric.  I planned to make another pair just like my grey pants, even though I wasn’t sure that wide leg would be the best look for purple corduroys, I would figure out that fit first, and save more close-fitting pants for another day/next fall maybe.  Well – it turned out that all the wide leg pattern pieces would not fit on this much fabric.  To fit them in I had to narrow the legs quite a bit.  Well.  I just tapered the tops of the pattern pieces from the grey pants into the narrower legs, cut them out, and this is what I got.

 

purple cords fitting

 

Clearly those fabric saddle bag areas on the sides had to go straight away, that was the easy part.  Getting a better fit through the seat/inner thigh area took a lot more work.  Every day for weeks, my sewing time consisted of: ripping out and re-basting in a slightly different position some part of the crotch seam and/or inseam and/or side seam, trying the pants on, deciding what to rip out next (often the same part).  Although I worked on these only a little bit each day (partly to keep myself from getting frustrated and doing something hasty/stupid), I thought a lot about how life is like fitting pants.  The baking equivalent might be yeast bread, or even macarons.  There are a lot of variables, and each one seems to affect all the others, so that a small tweak in one area can change all kinds of things I would not expect.  But, if I just keep plugging away, trying things, seeing what happens, I will eventually reach a place where I am very happy with the results.

 

purple cords side

 

Well – I really could not be happier with this result!  Although I have tweaks to make in the next version (pants are clearly a journey, not a destination) they are the first pair I’ve ever had that really fit and flattered my figure, they’re incredibly comfortable, and I’m ridiculously satisfied with myself when I wear them.

If it wasn’t for the fact that things need washing, (Ok, and I do love skirts, and some days are for grubby clothes, etc.) I might conceivably wear these straight through until they wore out.

 

purple cords sewing table

 

Some sewing and fitting things I figured out while making them:

I took out all that extra I added to the back inseam of the grey ones, and then some.  Clearly a different fit requires a different shape.

See that diagonal wrinkle across the back hip in the first fitting?  I tried all kinds of things to get rid of that; letting out the side seam, unpicking the waistband and pulling the pants up, but nothing worked, until I saw something in Patternmaking for Fashion Design by Helen Joseph-Armstrong (which is one of my all-time favorite sewing books, expensive but worth it, I asked for it for Christmas one year).  It was one of my cousin’s textbooks at FIT in San Fransisco, and it shows you how to draft a pattern for just about anything you could ever want to make, plus all kinds of construction techniques.  It’s designed more for the fashion industry that for home sewers, and there’s not a lot about fitting, so I guess it says something that there is a section on pants fitting, where I found an illustration of a similar wrinkle with this note, “insufficient dart intake for dominant buttocks.”  That’s not how I’d like to think about my derriere, but the part about the dart totally worked!  I had been leaving that dart alone since I fit it in the last pants, but clearly it’s not a good idea to start think of any part of the fit as “finished” when I am changing the rest.

 

purple cords back

 

purple cords edgestitching

 

I used my edge stitching foot for the first line of top stitching (with a size 100 topstitching needle, moving the needle slightly to the left), and it worked great!  It was much easier to get an even stitching line with that little guide riding right on the edge.  I am now trying to figure out how I can use a similar guide for for the second line of topstitching, further to the inside..  Anyone know of a foot like that?  I used two colors topstitching and I really like it, one pair of Bryan’s jeans has that look and I decided to try it out.

 

purple cords inside

 

I trimmed a bit of the waistband lining before applying the rayon ribbon to the bottom edge, next time I’ll trim a bit more, but I like this finish.

If the legs look a bit long, I left them that way on purpose.  I keep noticing that the hems of cotton pants tend to creep up just a bit over time with washing, usually after I fix them just how I want them.  I’m not sure what the shrinkage of hemp is, but if these don’t get any shorter after a while I can always hem them up a bit more.

By the way, the above shot of the inside waist is probably the closest I got to the actual color, for some reason this purple seems to be hard to capture.

That’s about it, I guess, unless of course you want to talk some more about sewing, body image, and the power of DIY, etc. . . . if you see me around, I’ll be wearing these pants, and feeling happy!

 

tasha in purple cord pants

 

 

Half My Wardrobe in Detroit, and What I Did About It

Not as much as I would have liked.  But, contrary to the impression you may have gotten from this space, I did squeeze in a little sewing for myself the last time we were home.  When we leave the truck somewhere in art show land (otherwise known as the Midwest) and fly back home to get some r&r (or maybe embark on some crazy giant new project) I leave a bunch of my summer wardrobe out there.  This last time, I kind of did it to myself on purpose, packing even fewer of my summer tops than I reasonably could have fit in my luggage, hoping that it would motivate me to sew some new ones.

First, I finished a top I had been working on during the visit home before this one.  I wear a lot of tank tops in the summer, and I have been thinking about how to make some woven ones as well as the usual knits.  This one is a copy of a silk top, the cups of which I found flattering and comfortable.  During Me Made May, I fell in love with linen all over again, specifically this one mm green linen skirt, which is getting to the super soft and drapey stage of life.  I had this natural linen leftover from a long-ago project and thought I would try it out.

 

 

I lined only the cups, with thin soft cotton, catching them in the midriff seam and folding under and hand sewing the other sides, I like how it came out.  The original top has a scalloped satin stitch on the edges, and I decided to try something similar.  I also had some thick linen thread which I loved with the fabric, but no amount of coaxing and bigger needles would convince my machine this was a reasonable thing to work with, so I ended up using a narrow zigzag to hold in on the surface.  Both of the edge treatments are softer and more subtle after a few washings.  I made the straps using a thin piece of fabric from the selvage edge, wrapping it around a thin ribbon.

 

 

I wanted to make sure it came out long enough, and I may have overdone it, but the tunic length is working alright so far.  Funny how I don’t notice things in the original (like the back riding up) until I copy it.  Sigh.  I’ll also check out the front wrinkles before I make another one.

Next, I pulled out some pink knit leftover from another top to make a tank for yoga, of which I desperately needed more.  I had some narrow fold over elastic in my stash which should have been perfect, but for some reason every step of this project fought me tooth and nail and used up WAY more of my precious sewing time than was reasonable for something so simple and small!  I ripped a lot of seams.  I tried adding a self-fabric section for the hem which absolutely refused to look decent with any type of stitching.  Plus, when I tried the top on it seemed too tight and clingy, and I already have one round of tops made from this pattern (a heavily modified Kwik Sew 3524) which are NOT too tight and clingy!  Finally I realized that if I ripped the stitching from the little bit of elastic I had used as a test, I would have just enough to put around the bottom as well.  Which I did, and without even trying it on again, put it in my closet and wore it to yoga the next day (keep reading for a picture).  The top stitching on the elastic is beyond wonky.  But I needed it, I made it, and I was wearing it, and some days that just has to be enough.

After that, I made a pair of dainties, partly because I didn’t have much time left and they were cut out already, and partly to prove that my beloved Bernina and I do actually have a good relationship with knits.  Which in fact we do.

 

 

On our “real” return home for the fall a couple of weeks ago, I decided to make one more tank top before moving on to fall/winter sewing. I had a tee shirt with a hole in it that I had been meaning to convert into a wearable top for ages.  Unfortunately, it was cut so far off the grain of the knit that I couldn’t just use the the original hem, as Zoe suggests, and I had to cut the back and front shelf liner in two pieces each to get them to fit.  But I did use white top stitching, which I liked on the original shirt.

 

 

I liked this picot edge elastic, but it was not exactly soft, so I sandwiched it between the layers, sewing it to the liner first with a zigzag, and then the top layer with a twin needle.  For the straps I used a similar idea to the ribbon wrapping, but using plain elastic, zigzag, and the twin needle again.  This time everything went smoother, and start to finish, including experiments, took less than three hours.  That’s more like it!

 

 

See me being all zen about the pink top.  See how much clingier AND drapier it is than the blue one?  Crazy fabric difference.  I checked and the previous versions have stretched out with wear as well.  I might make the next one just slightly wider to start with.

Next up for my sewing, pants!  What are you making for the coming season? How do you figure out what fabric will do before you sew it?  I’m, um, still figuring that part out apparently. . .