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.
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 🙂
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?
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.
Practical pattern making is the book I wish I had read a few years ago, when I first got interested in pattern making. It takes you from zero to hero in under 250 pages. I really like this book because it’s practical, yet fearless.
Written by pattern makers and fashion designers Lucia Mors de Castro and Isabel Sanchez Hernandez, the book is organized in three sections: traditional patterns, geometric patterns and traditional geometric patterns.
The first section, traditional patterns, includes a basic pattern for a skirt and two advanced variations of a tulip skirt: one when the front includes two overlapping sides (like two petals) and another where the fabric is gathered near the waistband. Two quite striking jackets patterns follow and then we move on to the basic dress shape. Once this is explained, an explosion of shapes and transformations follow: the authors play with a multitude of dress shapes, from oval and organic to pleats and striking geometric shapes. I like how quickly you progress from the basic shape and how well each journey to the couture-looking dresses is explained.
The second section, geometric patterns, makes new garments starting with a geometrical shape: a circle is being manipulated in semicircles and circle sections that become fantastic circle dresses. Squares and rectangles are folded like origami and turned into, among others, a batwing top dress and a wrap-around dress.
The last section, traditional geometric patterns, combines the techniques learned in the previous sections. One of the five dress patterns in this section is mix between a block bodice, which is manipulated by moving bust darts, and a skirt made by manipulating a rectangle. The others are as imaginative and as fascinating as this one. At the end of the section, one has the feeling that the possibilities of manipulating block and shapes are endless. And that is easy to do.
What I wished this book had was more commentary and more storytelling. I wanted to be inspired by the authors and know how they started, how they learned, what mistakes they made. The book is very technical and feels almost like a manual. But I missed the teacher’s voice, whispering in my year to love this book and love patternmaking.
For a designer/maker interested in creating and sewing dresses, this book is fantastic. It does not feature a lot of “everyday patterns”, so if you’re looking for basic shapes only tiny steps away from the basic block, it’s possible this book will seem overwhelming. If you’re more adventurous and love shape and fabric manipulation, this book will light up your imagination. If you’re not sure, the book includes basic blocks that you can magnify to use in your own creations, so you can use what you’ve learned to create your own, new garments. The images and descriptions make the book very clear and ready to be put to work.
Note: I was offered a free copy of this book for review, all thoughts and comments are my own.
I’ve been recently having lots of ideas to sew new things. You know how it works: inspiration strikes, you want to go to the fabric store right that moment. Once at the fabric store, you don’t find what you need, and in a fit of despair you buy three-four other fabrics that:
You might want to use someday when you are really going to work on that project you thought about two years ago. This is the perfect fabric for that project. It doesn’t seem important that the project doesn’t seem exciting anymore, this is the perfect fabric for that project. You buy it.
Are simply so fun and cool and you don’t know what you’ll do with them but you love them! (They will stay in your stash for years either because you’ll never figure out what to do with this piece of fabric, or because you love it too much, or both!)
This fabric would be so cute for a shirt (never wears shirts) etc.
You know what I’m talking about right?
So instead, I am trying to force myself to use up my fabric stash. What is the point of keeping all this fabric (and fabric takes space) if you don’t use it?
This is difficult, because sometimes I just don’t have the type of fabric I need for a project in my stash (like a thicker knit) or I don’t have enough. Or the fabric I have doesn’t make sense for the season. Other times I just don’t feel like sewing the project I want to use that specific fabric for. I have this beautiful chambray with tiny white flowers that was a gift from my partner’s mom and I’ve always wanted to make a shirt out of it. But a shirt is still a big investment of time and focus for me.
The second option is to repurpose/fix something I already own, which is not that exciting, unless you have a genius idea or you do a fix that changes your life completely (I might be exaggerating a bit here 🙂 ). The other day I fixed the waistband and took in the sides of a pair of lounge pairs I wear a lot but have always been just 85% comfortable. 10 minutes later they are the perfect lounge pants. Why did I wait six month to do this fix?
I’ve also turned a hoodie into a hoodie-less (?) sweatshirt and sewed in a new neckband. Went from “what’s strange with this hood? Why is it making me feel like I am a giraffe” to “oh, the freedom!” in another 10 or so minutes.
What are the advantages or using up my fabric stash and fixing/refashioning items I already own?
More space in an already small home
Less stuff without a purpose
Less trash (by repurposing/fixing and not throwing things away)
More creativity (by challenging yourself)
More thoughtfulness (less impulse fabric buying)
I am thinking to give myself some rules. Something like keep the stash to just one shelf or one pile. Or maybe make seasonal stashes? How do you manage your fabric stash and what’s your philosophy around it?
I think with knitting, I am always an optimist. I always think everything will work perfectly, even if I don’t swatch and never tried that pattern before. I am a beginner-beginner who doesn’t want to believe it.
No matter how many times I unravel and redo, I always make the same mistake of doing the least possible to make sure my future project will be a success. I just sincerely expect it to be.
And it’s a pain.
I’m trying to remember if it was the same with sewing; if I tried a lot of difficult things that were way too complicated for my skills and failed miserably. I can think of one example at least. I had been only making handbags and altering clothes when I saw a really cool dress pattern in a Burda magazine. It was blue, made with a stretchy lining, a flowy base of Georgette and intricate straps. I remember taking a long trip to buy the fabric, spending quite a lot for a garment and starting to cut the Georgette straight away.
It almost worked. It was wonky and not wearable but it looked like a dress. I haven’t sewn such a complicated dress since this summer when again I tried cutting into fabric without a pattern, trying to redo an interesting drape I have seen on Pinterest and imagining everything will look perfect and that I was a superhero seamstress. It didn’t work.
I must be an optimistic sewer as well then.
I guess this is good, because I am quite brave in my sewing and knitting. But I do fail a lot 🙂
What about you? Are you optimistic or rather pessimistic when you sew or knit?
I the holidays are here this calls for some serious funky dress. We want to look stunning. yet be comfy enough to play with the toddlers and (while) helping ourselves with a second serving of cake.
What a better way to draw attention to your beautiful face and away from your happy belly than some truly radical leg of mutton sleeves. Mm…leg of mutton .. anyway!
The first one is also the most striking. “This is not a winter dress! What is this?” you’ll say. But think about it. You can layer it on top of leggings. Wear a coat. I wonder what Oona would have to say about this 🙂
The second and third puffy sleeves are just as big as they can get without causing too much distress to aunts and uncles.
But this one is just genius! I also love the knitted vest on top and the colour (even though I do not and will not own anything in that colour!)
I kind of want to make this see-through one right away. I will probably never wear it like you’re supposed to be wearing it, but I still like it for some reason!
This sleeve is barely leg of muttony but that extra volume and the sheer fabric? Amazing!
I love everything about this blouse, the fabric, her outfit!
Last but not least, what about a leg of mutton sleeve jacket? It might end up looking like my funny-not-so-funny knitted sweater, but it might also end up looking really good.
Another dress that I love. I always try to do things with velvet and always (but always) fail miserably. But it looks so good.
And last but not least, what about a leg of mutton sleeve lounge top? So cute!
Thanks for reading my puffy sleeve rant :> Would you wear a leg of mutton sleeve top/dress?