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The things they don’t tell you about the capsule wardrobe

I recently stumbled upon Leslie Price‘s (author at Manrepeller), article about the things people don’t talk about much, when they talk about the holy capsule wardrobe. I recommend reading this piece even if you’re not a minimalist, trying to decide the absolute minimum number of clothes you can own and still feel comfortable and put together (I like this expression, it is as if our normal state would be a jumble of limbs, hair accessories and extra-long scarves).

“I hate my sweater.” writes Price. “It’s a perfectly fine sweater upon first glance: a classic navy wool-blend crew. But I’ve been relying on it a lot recently, and it’s showing the wear. Pills line the front and litter the undersides of the sleeves. I had high expectations for this sweater, an expensive designer purchase that, at the time, I believed was an ‘investment.'”

Lounge pants I thrifted (they were new), wore to death, then mended

In the last two years (with a couple need-or-love exceptions) I have managed to stop buying new clothes. Next week, I will have changed countries and climates three times and with each move there was a purge and the question of “do I REALLY need to carry this with me over mountains and seas and oceans”?(Of course, with modern air travel one does not really carry these things on their back, but they do tend to linger on your mind). I did buy some pre-loved clothes (I like the idea of buying second-hand because you return those items to the consumption cycle and contribute to reducing waste) and I have donated most of them them back to the store I get them from.

(Of course I did buy new fabric and made myself new garments, many which I wore to (their) death, others which I sadly donated to the above mentioned thrift-stores. So I did produce waste, but arguably I did not waste the work of those who make our garments. )

A woven t-shirt top I made last year and didn’t end of keeping

This leaves me with a reduced number of garments I own and most of them are wonderful and special. However, there is a downside of owning a small number of clothes and Price expresses this wonderfully: “I’m like Marie Kondo, but everything sparks meh instead of joy because I’ve been exposed to it all so often for so long.”

What about you? Are you a minimalist or a maximalist? A pro-capsule or an anti-capsule?

What I’ve learned from 30 days of drawing

In January I challenged myself to try and make at least one drawing a day. There were days I felt inspired and in the “flow” and where the pages turned and new sketches were eating the nakedness of the page. There were days in which the drawing challenge felt stupid: I am not an artist, why am I doing this? What is the purpose? There were days in which I didn’t draw anything.

But all in all it was a great thing to do. Here’s what I learned from this and why I would do it again:

drawing-challenge-kiwi

  • I had fun. I like drawing. I liked it as a kid and then I stopped, “because I am not an artist”, but I actually enjoy it for the sake of it.
  • I learned that I am still drawing things the same way I was drawing them when I was a kid (an example is this post where I illustrated my MMM16 makes). So I tried to look at things and draw what I saw.
  • I experimented with some new tools: oil pastels. I learned they allow me to do some quick sketches that are so fun. I tried blending them, and in the beginning this sucked, but I kind of got it in the end.
  • I remembered the time I re-discovered watercolours or when I tried sketching with ink.
  • I found myself to be more observant and more mindful of the things around me: a beautiful blood orange with sunset-like colours, half a kiwi, snow heavy on top of trees.
  • Pinterest was a big inspiration for finding things to draw as well.
  • I also learned that my own sketches inspired me to do new versions, for example I sketch of a bird I did in oil pastels and then in watercolour.
  • It’s ok to sketch the same things a few times until you get it.
  • There are some amazing artists out there whose work is inspiring to me, such as Minnie, or ‘SemiSkimmedMin‘, an artist from South-East London.

drawing-challenge-cat

Do you draw? Why? Why not? Would you consider doing 30 days of drawing challenge?

The story of the sweater that took me 3 years to finish

I started this sweater almost three years ago. I was preparing to move to another country and as I was packing and sorting through my possessions I’ve decided not to buy anything new. Ever. 

As my sewing machines and all my craft items were either packed or given away, I realized I would need a new project that would keep me busy and happy, but also was easy to carry around. I had a gift card that I didn’t know what to do with; when I decided I would make myself my first sweater. 

I remember choosing the yarn. Spending an hour looking at everything in the yarn store, reading labels and touching the yarn to my inner wrist to see if the wool was itchy or not. I bought a light grey yarn, a type of superwash wool that looked pretty. I had knitted two cowls a few months before in a bulky, virgin wool and I was never able to wear them. They were too itchy. I bought six skeins, to make sure I had enough.

I didn’t use a pattern in the beginning. I just briefly researched the construction of a sweater and got started after I’ve seen a loose knitted jumper on Pinterest. I didn’t do a swatch test. I didn’t understand what gauge was and I matched my needles with my yarn weight by guessing. I just started knitting.

I was very slow, but I enjoyed it. I would listen to podcasts or audiobooks and think of the new place I’d live in. When I moved, the long winter nights, the cold and the knee-high show made finishing the sweater even more pleasant. Little by little I had finished it. It looked like a sweater.

When I tried it on, I realized the sleeves were maybe 30% longer than they should have been. In retrospect, they looked a lot like the Pinterest image I saw but they were not practical at all. The sweater fit awkwardly. I was very loosely knitted and just too big.

No worries, I thought to myself, it’s wool, so I’ll just was it in warm weather and dry it and everything will just work out. It didn’t. There was absolutely no shrinking. I tried wearing it a couple of times, but it just didn’t feel right.

It stayed in the back of the closet for a long time, before I’ve committed to using only the yarn I had in my stash before buying any more new yarn. So I unravelled the sweater and started making another one, in bulky wool that looked faster to knit. Again, forgotten.

A few weeks before moving again, I picked it up again. I used a pattern for the first time. I took my time to swatch and get gauge. I then adapted the pattern to my own gauge and started, slowly, knitting. I unravelled parts of it a few times. I knitted them again.

And then it was finished. And it fit.

5 Sweatshirt Refashion Ideas

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.
  • Adding lace like this Anthropologie top.
  • Cutting the bottom hem and the bottom of the sleeves and adding flanel shirt cuffs and buttons in the front, a bit like this shirt from Death by Elocution.
  • Turning it into a cropped cardigan like Geneva’s bomber sweatshirt (A Pair and a Spare).
  • Cutting the sleeves, bottom hem and neckline off and making it a workout crop?

Any suggestions or ideas? 🙂

 

 

Mid-sleeve longline knit cardigan (Oslo)

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.

short_sleeved_longine_knit_cardigan_full

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.

short_sleeved_longine_knit_cardigan_back

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.

short_sleeved_longine_knit_cardigan_full_view

Simple Sewing with a French Twist by Céline Dupuy (book review)

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 likedCéline 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).

fabric-flip-flops

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.

button-back-chair

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.

bedding-handmade

 

Bonus! Mitered corners!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!

 

 

 

 

What I’ve learned from 30 days of less

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

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

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

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?