What I’ve learned from 30 days of less

dining room

In an effort to simplify and reduce, I started a little challenge last month. The challenge itself was simple: give away or discard an item I don’t need, everyday, for 30 days. I could discard more than one item if I could, but the challenge itself was creating a habit of reducing items that are not useful, not beautiful, not essential.

Some days I went through an area of my house, like a drawer and looked for items I didn’t really use, need or like. Other times looking for things to discard got me into a full day or deep cleaning my kitchen, adventure from which I am still benefiting weeks after it happened. Oh, the beauty of less.

Because I wanted to be able to later learn from this (and also as a way to further collect all the things I didn’t really need) I made a page in my bullet journal on which I listed everything I let go every day.

two handmade t-shirts detail
Two of the basic t-shirts I made this year. The fabric is thick and soft and they fit just right

The firsts two weeks were easy, in a sense that it was easy to find things to get rid of, but they were also more time-consuming, as there were areas in my house that were just drawers or boxes of miscellaneous stuff I didn’t remember I had or even kept. On these days I would get rid of anything from 10 to 20 objects or more.

The first two weeks I went through:

  • my kitchen and removed all duplicates, tupperware and canning jars I was saving for some imaginary moment in the future when they would come in handy
  • bathroom: cosmetics, hair accessories
  • yarn stash: I gave away some yarn to a friend who wants to learn knitting and donated some I knew I wasn’t going to use with pleasure anymore
  • books and magazines
  • wardrobe
  • office supplies and all kinds of non-important papers

During the third week it became more challenging to find things to remove because I had already tidied the most cluttered areas of the house and I removed fewer items everyday, 2 or 3 on average. But I noticed that now I had a very good idea of what I owned and where it was stored. The question I asked myself most during that third week was “Why am I keeping this?”. It seems like a simple question on first glance, but the truth is sometimes you just don’t know the answer.

The last week was maybe the hardest, because I was trying to find a balance between reducing the things I owned because I didn’t need it and getting rid of stuff to satisfy my self-imposed challenge. It’s the week I removed some of the items I was most stubborn about.

What now?

Well, I will take a break from the challenge for a month and revisit it in October.

The most striking realisation I had during this challenge is how little we really need to buy. Chances are, we have everything and most likely more than we need already.

As an effect, I felt it was very difficult to buy new things (apart from groceries and replacing essentials around the house). I am still on a ready to wear shopping fast since last March, which had already reduced the number of clothes I bought in the last year and a half. Not shopping for clothes pushed me to sew the things I really needed and wanted and get the right cut, fabric and feel. As a result, maybe more than half of my wardrobe right now is made by me. Probably 80% is either made or altered in some way by me.

The 30 days of less challenge also affected my sewing and making. I started more challenging projects and embraced the idea of slow craft (not at all natural for me).

I’ve sewn a lot from my stash. I’ve reduced my scraps stash from three big bags to one little bag by making gifts, toys, reusable bags and even a quilt-like thing (definitely not my thing, but I really to appreciate the work (art?) and love some modern quilts out there).

Last but not least, my house looks better (cleaner and airy-er) and I also feel better about creating space (both in a pragmatic and a figurative point of view).

So, if you feel like you need a breath of fresh air this September, why not create a similar challenge for yourself?

 

 

 

 

Pattern Drafting: How to draft a leg of mutton sleeve

pattern hack leg of mutton sleeve

I noticed some time ago that drawing – even if it’s a 5 minute sketch – really helps me understand the construction details of a garment or a pattern. It also helps me remember more. In a way, for pattern drafting, sketching is like note-taking. Today, I wanted to share this interesting type of sleeve: the leg of mutton sleeve. That name!

The idea for this sleeve, comes from my go to pattern drafting bible, Helen Armstrong’s Patternmaking for Fashion Design.  I talked about this book before in these posts on the how to use flat pattern making to draft a bodice front and a bodice back.

Her drafting technique, based on creating shape and volume from your own measurements is really the best way to create made-to-fit garments, but I know many sewers don’t have the patience and the time to create their own bodice blocks. The techniques Armstrong details in her book can be applied on any basic pattern piece, in this case, a sleeve.

It would look really posh on an evening gown and fun on a structured jersey knit top. It can turn a simple top into a fancy garment, no matter the fabric, with just a little bit of cut and slash magic. The more you open the slashes, the more volume you are going to create.

The leg of mutton sleeve, also known as gigot sleeve, appears in fashion during the 19th century and gets its name from the voluminous gathers of fabric from the shoulder line to the elbow, and, of course, it’s resemblance to the elegant leg of a mutton 🙂

If you’re not convinced yet,  I wrote an inspiration post a while ago, focused on exactly this kind of leg of mutton /puff sleeve.

 

The unfortunate saga of the little crochet tank top

green crochet top

I actually made this crochet tank top last year, but I didn’t get the change to post about it. I was also very excited about the project in the beginning, but the fit was… meh.

I first sewed a lined crop top in a green rayon. I bought this fabric with plans of making a beautiful evening dress for a wedding last year, but after many hours of frustration I ended up with no dress and lot of small pieces of fabric. This is what happens when you don’t plan sufficiently and just cut by eye. Alas, a year has passed and I got over it 🙂

The crochet tank top is a self-drafted pattern I use for silk tank tops and it works great unlined because it moves and it’s light enough not to gap at the armhole, but when you line it, the fabric becomes rigid, and without any darts the top doesn’t fit right. I think this would fit well someone with a smaller cup size. Mistake not to be forgotten.

I could have added some little darts to fix the gap in the armhole, but at the point when I noticed it, I was already frustrated with having ruined the dress and didn’t have the emotional strength to rip the seams and start over 🙂

After sewing the top I sewed an edge with blanket stitch, to which I added the crochet trim. I didn’t use a pattern, just played with double and triple-crochet stitches, then added some rows of simple netting. Six (what!?) years ago I did something similar, when I added crochet trim to the neckline of a RTW tank top.

crochet tank top scallop point

If I would do this again, I would make the crochet part more dense. I am not sold on the whole showing your midriff trend, so that’s another mistake in the design of this top.

So things to remember:

  1. If you’re lining a bodice, always use darts in the construction of the pattern, especially if the garment is sleeveless.
  2. If you’re crocheting the lower part of a top, pay attention to the density of your crochet stitching.
  3. When unsure, take some time away from the project and rethink before it’s too late to save it.

Fitting and personal preference aside, it was really great to experiment with mixing fabric and crochet on this crochet tank top experiment. I really like the texture and how the garment feels and falls. I might try this again in the future.

I also notice how I always gravitate towards the same colours, green and blue.

Designing a simple wardrobe

blue shirt on a wooden floor watercolor by sky turtle

One of the things that’s on my mind lately is how do I reduce the number of garments I own to the smallest number of clothes I need to enjoy all the seasons and activities I participate it.

Reducing the amount of clothes you own is not a big deal in itself. But what do you do when you hobby is making clothes? I already own much less than I did two years ago.

So the questions I will need to answer in this quest are:

  1. What do I do with the garments I make and realise they don’t actually fit me or my lifestyle as I thought they would? How do I give them a new life without creating more trash and maybe, even maybe having someone else enjoy my careful, loving sewing 🙂
  2. What is the smallest possible number of garments I need in a season/year/ever.
  3. What are the essential and favourite garments that I would love to be able to keep/wear for a long time?

That last question has a special purpose. Last year I’ve experimented with more pattern drafting and It’s a good feeling to see that some things are starting to look like they should. Like this peplum top.  I would like to make myself a set of patterns for basic garments that I love, so I can, in time, replace the non-ideal garments I already own and replicate them in the future if I need to.

The great advantage to this way of doing things this way is that I could reduce the number of overall items I own, but still have the possibility to make them again, in the future, as I need them. Instad of having two favourite dresses, let’s say, I would only need one and my blueprint for making another one, when the one I have can’t be worn anymore. Of course, finding the same fabric wouldn’t be a guarantee, but that’s ok with me.

What about you? Would you consider owning just a few garments and the “data” you need to make more as you need them? Or do you need to have the actual garments remind you of their stories?

Also, what do you think is that smallest number of garments you really need?

 

 

Summer skirt and linen tank top

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Linen is wonderful. Like cotton, linen, a textile woven from flax fibres, is one of the oldest and most popular textiles in history. It comes in different kind of weaves, looser or tighter, unbleached or dyed, and when washed, it wrinkles very easily.

There’s an old proverb that says “Never choose your women or your linen by candlelight” (Oxford Dictionary of proverbs) Apparently, it warns agains the deceitfulness of things in the light of the candle. Thankfully we don’t live in the sixteenth century, but sexist remark aside, it does talk about the importance given to choosing the best linen.

This particular linen I chose, has some cotton in it, so it doesn’t wrinkle as much as pure linen. It’s also softer and the loosed weave makes it very airy and breathable.

I’ve been thinking about making this linen top the moment I saw Seamwork Magazine’s Catarina dress. The original sewing pattern is created for soft fabrics with some drape, so I knew this was going to look rather boxy and structured, but I wasn’t sure just how boxy and whether it was going to be wearable.

Pattern and construction

I initially cut out a size larger for the tank top (or the bodice), just to make sure it would be wearable, but it was too boxy, so I ended up taking that one size off from the sides. I also made the straps much wider shorter, which brought the neckline higher. I lengthened the bodice, adding a few inches to the waistline.

In retrospect, I maybe should have lined it with a softer fabric, maybe a cotton batiste to make it less rigid. But I quite like that it looks very different from any other top I have. Even with the double layer the top is breezy and easy to wear.

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The linen top can be worn tucked in or over another garment, like a pair of jeans. It’s not quite a crop top, but it’s shorter than I usually wear, to balance out some of the boxiness. I am also looking forward to colder weather, I think this could look good layered over a blue shirt I have or under a cardigan.

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The skirt is the same floral one I posted about before. I’ve already worn this more times that probably any other skirt I’ve ever worn, so I’m considering it a great success. For a skirt 🙂

I used a rectangle of fabric I had for the skirt, then created the pleats and added the waistband. Pretty straightforward.

Last thing about the top: look at the back straps and the backline of this garment, and how perfectly they align. What a beautiful pattern.

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Garment notes:

Sewing pattern: Catarina dress, altered

Things I wish I’d done differently: Use a bigger piece of fabric to remove the center seams, maybe line it in a lighter fabric.

Fabric: half a metre leftover white linen from another project.

No notions, thread from my stash.

Final cost = CAd $4 pattern (with the subscription) + $10 fabric = $14

How to make a Turban-style headband

how to make a head band

Summer. You pour a glass of cold water and the surface of the glass instantly turns opaque, then melts into thin, transparent paths. You wait for, and enjoy even the mildest breeze in the hot air.

Summers are for keeping what your wear airy and fluid and your hair up and away from your face. They’re also a good time to start simple and useful projects, like a turban-style headband.

It’s easy to make one. All you need is scrap fabric and a piece of elastic. I started by creating two wedge shaped tubes of fabric, that I stitched on both sides and turned inside out.

The length of the pieces is the distance of your head, from one ear to the other, going over your crown. It’s up to you how wide you make your headband.

IMG_4965s

I then arranged them to form a loop, like so:

IMG_4967s

IMG_4969s

Once the loop was formed and shaped, I prepared another tube of fabric, somewhat thinner than the main loops and with the length corresponding to the distance from one ear to the other, going around the nape of the neck, plus 2.5 cm (1 in) on either side. Then I inserted elastic in that fabric tube and pinned it at both ends. then stitched it securely.

IMG_4973sI then sewed the loops side to the elastic side as neatly as possible. Here, I folded towards the inside the elasticated tube and pushed in the two loops from one side, then stitched by hand using tiny stitches.

IMG_4984

Repeat on the other side and you’re done!

IMG_4981s

Now you’ll want to make another five of them and that’s ok 🙂

On style, sewing and the usefulness of beautiful things

flower vase f

Like many bloggers who sew garments, I sometimes feel that this passion for making clothes is a shallow passion. I see how the idea of a hobby that is focused so much on the outside can be seen as shallow.

In a passage of Les Miserables, the poor and kind Bishop is asked by Madame Magloire, who is in charge with all domestic duties, why he insists on planting flowers on a piece of land where vegetables could be planted. “The beautiful is as useful as the useful”, he replies. “Perhaps more so”.

It can be thus said, that making beautiful things is as useful as making useful things. Yet making beautiful garments, being preoccupied with them and wearing them is often considered the equivalent to having, or being preoccupied with, style.

The beautiful is as useful as the useful”, he replies. Perhaps more so

And what is style?

According to the Oxford dictionary, style is one of the top 1000 most used words in English. We care about style.

It is also defined as the particular manner in which something is done. Style can be observed in painting, writing, music, architecture, language and way of speaking. The numerous definitions of style all seem to indicate a way that is recognisable.

In fashion, it is often called iconic. Who are the era’s most iconic fashion leaders? What do Anna Wintour, Grace Coddington, Iris Apfel and Frida Khalo have in common? There may be many other things, but here I’m referring to their personal style, they manner of acting, talking, being thinking. It’t not just clothes. They are symbols, they are objects to communicate ideas.

Many of the most popular style books, talk about “dressing like” and the “clothes you need to look stylish”. But they don’t spend too much time on values and principles.

As a maker, I feel a need to talk about texture, fabric, form, fit, how a garment is cared for and how it ages. This is fun. The idea of having to own a pair of stilettos, a specific type of cocktail dress or a trench, or sunglasses, or purse, just because they are stylish, or in fashion, seems a bit silly. I have nothing against sunglasses or heels. What I am saying is that nobody can prescribe style.

Style is what you choose from all the options out there. Is what you already like. It’s what you feel most comfortable with. No one else can tell you what your style is.

 

 

 

5 things I’ve learned from Modernist Cuisine at Home

cooking modernist cuisine raw egg in a pile of flour grana padano and fresh pasta

This blog is about sewing and knitting, and other DIY, yet today I wanted to share what I’ve learned from reading, Modernist Cuisine at Home, a book by Maxime Bilet and Nathan Myhrvold. I’m only 20% through the book, but I wanted to make a note on some things that I thought were worth remembering and sharing! Do you cook as well? (If you do, there are more links to places on this blog, where I talked about food, at the end of this post)

1. Corn is not the only cereal you can pop in the microwave, you can also try quinoa and wheat! You can make your own microwave popcorn bags by using a clean paper bag sealed with toothpicks! Purple Kappa even tested a muslin bag she made for popping corn in the microwave – genius! Lately I’ve been adopting some new habits that have to do with reusing and repurposing and the idea of a reusable popcorn bag sounds really good.

2. You can steam veggies like bok choi, carrots, peppers and potatoes in a ziplock bag, in the microwave. The sealed environment inside the bag is great for perfect steaming, and it takes less time than the stove top. Tested! I still use my bamboo steamer for this, but if you’re out of time and in need of tasty food this works.

3. The idea of sous vide (which means cooking ingredients in a sealed plastic bag or canning jar and then placing them in a water bath) might be trendy, but it is not new. Preserving and cooking food preserved in leaves (like tamales), canned in fat or salt or sealed inside animal intestines is actually a cooking technique found in almost every cuisine. I personally don’t love the idea of using plastic bags for cooking, but I like the idea of cooking sous vide. I would like to experiment with leaves, like plantain leaves or cooking marmalade or sauce in a mason jar.

4. If you’re going to store cooked food, cooking it quickly in a bath of cold water or ice will help maintain juiciness and the flavour of freshly cooked dishes. To me this was surprising as I thought it was better to leave food cool down naturally and then freeze or store in the fridge.

5. If you want to give your barbecue meat a touch of smokiness, you can throw a few chips of wood over the burning coal, as the meat is cooking. It won’t have the same effect as smoking meat for hours, but it will give it a hint of flavour. The authors don’t say which types of wood you can use, though.

cooking modernist cuisine grana padano and fresh pasta

What about you? What are your top cooking tips?

Please note: In the spirit of full disclosure, this post contain an affiliate link, which means that I may get a commission if you decide to purchase this book after following the link. I only recommend products that I use and love myself, and I have not been compensated to write about this product. Any potential commission earned goes back into supporting this website and creating more content. Thank you!

As promised (wow, you made it all the way to here, hooray!), here are some of my recipes on this blog:

My mum’s plum cake recipe

A simple bread recipe (no fancy equipment needed)

An easy pear tart

Cherry tart recipe

The first time I had Ceviche 

A day of Italian food in Bergamo

 

 

Knitting WIP: Leftover Cardigan (Inspired by Pegouno)

leftover cardigan

Not too long ago I decided that I would stop buying yarn. My yarn stash was growing bugger and bigger and the number of finished and loved projects was still very small. Some of the knitted projects I have finished lately are:

  • a white cardigan (my first knitted garment!) which turned out cute
  • this vest which is in the unravel pile right now
  • this mint knitted t-shirt which turned out meh and was since donated
  • this cute pom pom hat I wore all winter + 3 other hats I made as gifts (so rewarding <3)
  • and this wool chunky sweater, which I really liked but couldn’t really wear as it was too warm to layer under a winter coat or to wear inside during winter and not enough to wear on its own

At this point I was left with lots of tiny skeins of yarn in different colours, textures and weights. What to do?

leftover cardigan 2

And then, one day I saw the Pegouno (Penguin) cardigan designed by Stephen West, a knitwear designer based in Amsterdam. The pattern (like everything he designs) is really funky and really fun. A sort of patchwork for yarn, which allows you to mix yarn in different weights and textures.

Here are other amazing knit patterns by Westknits: this short-sleeved coat-cardigan, this magical sweater, and this embroidered panda dolman sleeve sweater.

leftover cardigan 3

Inspired by the Pegouno cardigan, I started knitting a similar cardigan. As usual, I am not following a pattern, but rather trying it on as I go. My cardigan – which I am calling the leftover cardigan – is a bit different: first it’s fitted and a bit longer. And I want to make it long-sleeved. But the principle is the same: play with the yarn you have and make something new.

leftover cardigan 4

To knit this, I started with the two square blocks that make the back and then added the rectangular stripes to the sides.

leftover cardigan 5

Then I picked up the stitches from the collar and front lapels and knitted a border. I did the same with the bottom hem and then I joined the shoulders.

leftover cardigan 6

If I leave it as a vest, I could to the same with the armholes, but I would rather like this to be long-sleeved, so I think I will knit another rectangle at the bottom of each armhole and then pick and knit the armhole on circular needles. Unless you have a better idea? 🙂

With the lovely weather outside I am not very inspired to keep knitting this, but it would be nice to finish it before moving to a next project.

 

A pleated floral skirt

floral skirt

I made a skirt! And I actually wore it outside the house, moments which are important in my life as a maker and wearer or skirts 😉

I was never a big fan or skirts because I considered them fussy and higher maintenance than a pair of shorts, especially when you bike, run around and sit in the grass, looking at ducks floating peacefully on the lake. But when I received this beautiful fabric as a Christmas gift, I thought it would make a really pretty skirt. I didn’t know if I would really wear it, but I made a promise to myself I would at least give it a try.

floral skirt back snap detail

Pattern and construction

The skirt itself is just a rectangle of fabric, shaped by knife pleats, with a fitted waistband. I used a zipper and a pressure button for closure.

floral skirt back detail

This is probably one of the simplest garments to make. If you’re not sure about the pleats, you could just sew a tube and gather it with a drawstring or elastic. Since the cotton has a medium weight, I thought the pleats would work better, but if your fabric is lighter, elastic might actually be a better choice for you.

floral skirt sq

I like the skirt because the cotton is quite heavy so it can stand a little wind. It also makes it bicycle friendly (tested!). The overall shape, a bit like an inverted peony looks very pretty, makes it look special. With flat sandals and a t-shirt it looks pretty and casual and it can look quite formal with heels and a silky blouse.

I haven’t lined it yet, but I think I will.

Garment notes:

Sewing pattern: self-made.

Things I wish I’d done differently: love this! Next time, I’ll make sure to add pockets in the side seams!

Fabric: around a metre of cotton, received as a gift 🙂

No notions, thread from my stash.

Final cost = nothing