A Peak into Our Creative Retreat of 2013

 

table with sewing machines

 

As most of you probably already know, every year a group of my family (and friends who are like family) get together for a week of creating and sharing.  Different people teach different skills and projects.  Pretty much anything that could fall under the category “fine craft” is fair game, and there’s usually something more “art” thrown in as well.  My grandmother started this idea, and at this point it’s a huge group effort.  My job is to make up the schedule, using the topics everyone votes on as favorites, communicate with the participants before the workshop week, and to try and keep things running smoothly throughout the week.  (Participants, if you are reading this, I’ll get that survey for next years’ classes done, um, soon . . . )

Every year, I leave wishing that I could live in that atmosphere of communal creative energy forever . . . and then I go home and sleep like I have rarely slept before!

 

miette sideThis year, there was actually quite a lot of sewing.  I kind of shoehorned in some garment/project sewing time, I was really excited about sharing sewing with some real-life students again after spending months working on Hello Sewing Machine.  One of my students went to town making drawstring bags, and three made Miette skirts!  I was SO impressed with how hard they worked and how beautifully the finished projects came out.  This is my skirt, which I made as a (definitely wearable) test, to try the pattern and see how the alterations I was thinking of would come out.

 

We also sewed books!  My aunt, who has been making variations of these book binding techniques for quite a while, walked us through the whole process—from cutting board and tearing paper to sewing the whole thing together.  It was horizon-opening for me to take needle and thread to paper—actually, I’m trying to keep that on the back burner of my brain, otherwise I could easily be swamped by more ideas for new things to make than I can handle.

 

sewing wave book

 

If you are interested in trying bookmaking for yourself, our teacher’s favorite resource is the book Books Without Paste or Glue by Keith A Smith.  Quite coincidentally, I came home to find there’s also an article in the latest Threads magazine (September 2013) with a rundown of very similar process to the one we used.

 

wave book two views

 

Probably my favorite thing I made all week (ok, tied with a mosaic sea turtle that I helped to make) is this travel book.  I’m soo excited about having this!  I’ve been thinking about it ever since my aunt showed me the ones she made in a workshop with Gail Rieke (check out her site to see some crazy-cool collage and amazing variations on journals).  I totally love it when “real artists” make practical things as well.

 

travel book

 

Sewing meets books, fabric meets glue, my ideas/techniques/background/expertise meet yours—that’s what really makes the magic of this week.  If you have the chance to get together with other creative types, even for just an afternoon some time, I totally encourage you to go for it!

 

Advertisements

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