Happy New Year! I hope that 2017 will be better, kinder and more mindful for you and me both.
During the holidays I received a navy sweatshirt from a person I respect and admire a lot. The only thing is the sweatshirt is a bit (just a couple centimetres) too small for me at the waist and at the sleeve cuffs. I’d like to keep the sweatshirt and wear it as much as I can so that it would remind me of the beautiful person I’ve received it from, but I’d need to do some modifications.
For now, here’s what I am thinking about:
Cutting the sleeves off and inserting a knitted panel. Either knitting the cuffs. Or inserting the panel at the bicep area. Or adding a fabric panel in the same way.
The Oslo Cardigan pattern from Seamwork was the first I bought and even though I didn’t blog about it I made five versions of it: one is this longer version with shorter sleeves, another is a micro-fleece house robe, a third, another longer cardigan made of suede (it was not stretchy so it turned out one size smaller), a fourth, a short wool cardigan that was too itchy to wear and a fifth garment, a kimono style wool cardigan with knitted sleeves and a belt.
The version here was the first one I made. One of the mistakes I made was eyeing the pattern when deciding how long this cardigan was going to be, without really stopping to think whether a really long cardigan would really be useful/comfortable/flattering. In the end I had to cut off a big chunk of fabric from the bottom. This mistake also led to not having enough fabric for long sleeves.
Now I measure first and cut second.
I added two fabric loops at the waist level, on the back seams, slimmed the collar and shortened the sleeves.
The fabric is a mystery knit I found as a bolt end at Fabricland. Most of the time mystery knits (where the percentage of each type of fibre is not described on the label) tends to be polyester with some cotton or rayon, but this feels like it has a lot of cotton and it doesn’t feel like plastic to the touch.
At the counter, a very elegant lady, waiting in line behind me also touched the fabric and complimented me on my choice. She also noted with a smile that everything I had bought was dark blue.
She was buying ultramarine buttons and a zipper and was wearing a dark blue trench coat and indigo trousers. It was love at first sight.
The denim dress I am wearing underneath is made with the Adelaide Seamwork pattern, a dress that I completely refashioned after I taking those photos.
I recently flipped through a sewing book written more than ten years ago by Céline Dupuy, Simple Sewing with a French Twist and I wanted to make note to some of the ideas in this sewing book I really liked. Céline Dupuy is an artist and a designer and you can also find her on her Instagram or her website, where you can find this book and another one focused on reconstructing denim, as well as sewing patterns and other of her newer creations, like this repurposed denim bottle:
The whole book is filled with simple and beautiful ideas for making lounge garments and homeware like duvet covers and embroidered pillowcases, aprons, tote bags and drawstring pouches. It’s the perfect companion for slow fashion October (#slowfashionoctober) and the idea of slow craft in general.
The construction of the items is very simple, but each item is given a lot of thought and care to make, like the shoe tote (p.44), which is made from a beautifully printed silk and adorned with a silk tassel or the velvet flip-flops (p.102), which are made by sandwiching cotton batting in between soles made of beautiful fabric remnants and hand-stitched (I suppose you could also use felt instead of cotton batting if you wanted to make them a bit sturdier, but these are delicate pieces).
Many of these ideas could be implemented with reclaimed or repurposed items, like the chair decorated with buttons (p.73). A found chair could be repainted, then decorated with lots of buttons. The buttons are first sewn to a piece of fabric, and the fabric is then affixed to the back of the chair with spray adhesive. Instead of buttons, other small pieces could be used, like seashells, fragments of broken CDs, pieces of leather or wool felt, and the list can go on.
I really liked all the handmade bedding, the duvets and the pillowcases. They could also be made by repurposing fabric from garments that are no longer worn, like old kimonos, dresses, even fabric scarfs. Old cotton sheets or tablecloths could be made into new pillowcases by embroidering simple designs on them.
Bonus! Mitered corners!
I’ve tried making mitered corners textile napkins before, but they were never perfect. I think the illustration is this books makes it very easy to remember what to do. She suggests, for example, to press first, then cut the excess fabric from the corner, then press again into a mitered corner shape and finally, sew.
I might give mitered corners another go, after all!
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.
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
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.
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?
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!
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 🙂
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.
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:
If you’re lining a bodice, always use darts in the construction of the pattern, especially if the garment is sleeveless.
If you’re crocheting the lower part of a top, pay attention to the density of your crochet stitching.
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.
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:
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 🙂
What is the smallest possible number of garments I need in a season/year/ever.
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?
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.
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.
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.
I then arranged them to form a loop, like so:
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.
I 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.
Repeat on the other side and you’re done!
Now you’ll want to make another five of them and that’s ok 🙂
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.
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.