Saturday, May 30, 2015

StyleArc Fern Top - Phase I

This muslin turned out "okay" but it may not be my most favorite pattern to date. I did not find it as intuitive as I would like...or it was just one of those mentally impatient sewing days. 

 It's a nice cool cotton. Perfect for the summer. 
Here is the print up close. Fabric from Gorgeous Fabrics.

We had this weird heat spell in early Spring...then it felt like late Winter all over again...and now it's back to Spring at a comfortable, but windy 73 degrees today. I'm starting to wear my summer clothes but not without my wool socks and a sweater. I haven't put away my hats and scarves, and the evening chills has itched my fingers to knit again. Knitting in June? 

The only thing that's not getting used this year are my rain gear. I'll not complain too much except for lack of water. As far as I'm concerned, a mild Summer means we can all save a pint or two of water without our gardens drying up too quickly. Global warming might one day turn California into the tropics. Will that mean black rain and flooding in June and July coupled with humidity? Wouldn't that just change everything in my closet? Or worse...we will become the Mojave Desert. Even without the draught, we have never been a lush state. With the exception of our Northern California...we are a state of more desert than green.

Four new StyleArc patterns in the mail today. The top left was FREE with my order.
It is a raglan sleeved tunic.  My two favorite styles together!
Of all my paper patterns, I pay the most money for StyleArc. I don't mind waiting for them to arrive from Australia. Because I like their single, thick sheet of pattern paper folded into a decent A4ish size paper package. I detest tissue paper. I also detest taping patterns together more. I abhor taping patterns together, and then having to add seam allowances. As much as I like looking at Burda Patterns...I don't download many, nor have I transferred a single pattern from one of those magazine. The Japanese pattern books at least have seam least I think so. 

Happy sewing!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Shibori Smock - My Summer Clothes Collection

What could be more satisfying than sewing a tried-and-true pattern? I made two recently: my Japanese smock and another StyleArc design. The smock pattern was made from a piece of hand-dyed Shibori cotton I found on Ebay. Look how beautiful the fabric looks...

I managed to actually match the pattern in the front.

Not so successful in the back, but it difficult to tell. The cut on this smock
does not really allow pattern matching very well. 
 The cotton is extremely comfortable, and the blue is vibrant on every complexion. I was a bit surprised that even after washing before cutting the fabric, my hands still turned slightly blue. Well, not as blue as a true Shibori artist. Look at the two pattern pieces for the smock...

I am still working down the huge stash of bias binding I shipped over from the UK. But we can always use more bias tape right? I couldn't let this beautiful fabric go to waste, so I made more from the leftovers.

I have a couple more Shibori pieces left, and I'm planning on making another Asian-inspired pattern. One idea I have is a Chanel-cut quilted jacket. I saw one ever-so-briefly one season at J. Crew and fell in love with it.

Here is the other piece I completed on the same day as the smock...another remake of SyleArc's Peta Pants. I was inspired to do it in a black cotton because of the pair I recently made for my stepmother. This is an embroidered cotton that I picked up many moons ago at Stone Mountain Fabrics. Look closely at the second picture for the embroidery print.

See the actual pattern HERE.
The first couple of pairs of Peta pants were sewn in ponte, and another double knit. Both were too long, and too big due to the added stretch. Both pairs were gifted to my sister. The Peta pants are cut for wovens. After shortening the length, my woven pair turned out just fine.

Frida Kahlo's birthday is coming up in the first week of July. Anyone interested in joining me in a sew-along tribute? This would be my third year of sewing something for Frida. Last year I made a Victory Pattern dress using Sari fabric. I still believe that a modern Frida would be multicultural, and appreciate fashion from around the globe. If you want to join me...shoot me a message or post. You can make anything...just post it on my Google Plus community board on July 6th or send me a link or photo of your post before July 6th, and I'll post it on my blog. If Frida were alive today, she would be turning 108 years old. Let's celebrate together!

Frida Kahlo RIP
Happy sewing! 

Friday, May 22, 2015

Wardrobe Staples

Sewing was really at an all-time low during early Spring. My dreams of creating some fun clothes bursted from having too much work from my day job. Maybe you don't know this...but I am a licensed acupuncturist by profession. My husband pokes fun at this (pun intended), because of my general fondness for needling, be it in the textile or healing arts.

It's been a slow work week, which seems to happen around a holiday, and this being Memorial Day weekend, I thought I could sew a bit more. I took a good look at my aging wardrobe, which consists of really old corporate work clothes, and really raggedy things I kept from my graduate school days. I used to pride myself on dressing well, but given the opportunity to choose, I prefer to live in sweats, t-shirts, and clogs. Obviously, I need better staples.

Last Sunday, I decided to sew staples that I could wear at home and at work. There's nothing like elastic-waisted bottoms for complete comfort. And if I can find a pattern with no more than two major pieces to sew together...then it's gold.

Enter...another successful StyleArc Pattern...the Rita Ponte Skirt. Believe me, I've got a lot of ponte fabric in my stash. This easy skirt is cut in short and long lengths. I chose the long length for my first choice, but I might go back and make the shorter version as Summer kicks in. I did not add any decorative side bands, which is very in-style, but not in my "lazy" style I'm afraid.

I made three skirts in total...and it gets much faster after the first one. I serged all my skirts, and was able to churn out one in about an hour. I made the first out of a black and ivory striped print, the second out of my grey velour (which would go great with tennis shoes), and the third is in basic black. Ponte is pretty much wearable year-round in California (with the exception of those 100-plus degree days).

I felt slightly guilty that I was not challenging myself to make something more difficult. But seriously, I don't need fancy clothes. I just need clothes that are a step-up from sweats, and decent enough to wear to work. Luckily, being an acupuncturist does not require me to wear a suit. Although it's great to look professional...but I move a lot, and physically work with patients. Stretch and breathable fabrics are key for me.

With a few bottom basics completed, I am left with the task of finding things to match. The one thing I need to do better at is buying fabric stash that coordinate. I only did this once...and I managed to use up all except one piece of fabric in that collection. BTW, sewing with ponte and velour really shrinks down stash space. Happy sewing!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Pavlova Blouse - My First Try

I've been eyeing this pattern for a while. Since it was available for download on Etsy now, I decided to try the blouse. As of the making of the Pavlova blouse, the matching skirt was not available for download. It's overall fairly easy to sew. There's only two things about the pattern that calls for some extra attention.

1. On the PDF version, some of the sizing lines were difficult to discern. (Please be very careful!)
2. The second is a technique that helps stabilize the wrap, and calls for some interfacing. No biggie, but certainly something I have never done before.

I have noticed that I'm always wrapping tops to the right, and most patterns fold over on the left. I do this all the time with patterns!

This knit fabric was a Red Tag remnant. I think I paid a few dollars for it. The print looked a little funky on the bolt, but I think the colors are super cute. Don't you? This was my muslin. I call the first run of any pattern using inexpensive fabric my muslin. But stretch fabric is very forgiving, so even with a few fitting glitches, it's still wearable. This top is extremely comfortable to wear.

Since completing and giving the muslin a test wear, I decided that it was too short for my torso. I have added about three inches to the bottom. The bust area is too big for me too, so I'm going to be shaving a bit of the wrap around coverage to lessen the bust bulk. My problem is a thick waist and small breast, which equates to tree trunk body. Everything else fits okay.

If you're interested in the download, you can get it HERE for $7.44 (US).

This might be the first muslin that has received so many compliments! (Personally, I think it's the colors.) I might have enough of the muslin fabric to make a second one. Happy sewing!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Something About Sock Darning

This sewing basket was an out-of-the-blue gift from my sister J. who lives in a town filled with antique and vintage shops. This was a little something she picked up during one of her treasure hunting weekends. The basket is in pretty good shape, giving away its not-so-old age.

Interior is still nicely intact.

One of the things that I really like in the basket are the green wooden darning tool, and various wool threads. This is the one sewing gadget I do not own. I have never given the task of darning socks much thought. But with the new tools at my disposal, I thought "why not?" I certainly have quite a few pairs of socks with holes.

Commercial sock thread is much thinner than what we use for hand-knitted socks. It makes more sense to darn handmade socks, but not so much for ordinary RTW ones. I wear primarily SmartWool socks, and the non-hiking versions wear down quickly in the heel and toe areas. They are also on the expensive side ($12-30+ a pair), and for the price, I feel like they should last longer. A couple years back, I wrote an email to SmartWool about purchasing darning thread from them. I knew it was a long shot, because if their customers started repairing their socks, it might eat into their sales revenue right? Of course they said "sorry, we can't help you."

Bundled with my vintage sewing basket are several types of darning thread...all are too thick for a perfect match for SmartWool socks, but doable.

I don't think they are manufactured in great volume anymore, but I did find a couple of brands. I cannot guarantee the thickness since I haven't actually purchased them myself. I would love to get opinions from others who have. Of course, you can pick up some vintage packs on Etsy and Ebay. Here are the brands I found that still manufacture darning thread:
  • Schoeller and Stahl 75% wool, 25% polyamide
  • Fortissma 75% wool, 25% nylon
After trying out my darning tool on two pairs of socks, I found that some methods work better than others depending upon the shape of the hole. All over the internet, everyone has their own opinion on how it should be done. Here is a picture of one that I like. I didn't do my first few exactly like this though.

You can get these instructions HERE from loveyourclothes website.
Using a weaving technique creates a fresh yarn patch in the worned area of the sock. It also eliminates "some" of the bulk (not all) that I hate when I run into thick seam lines in socks, especially in the toe area. Here are my darning attempts...

Multiple holes in the heel area.
I started from the base and closed the first small hole before continuing to the big one.
All done...and the thread matched pretty well.
Multiple holes in the toe area. 
All done, and maybe a couple more months of wear.
Mending something that I really love to wear was very emotionally satisfying. I am not a fan of alterations or repair...but something about socks feel very different. I hope others will consider doing it too.  Happy sock darning!

Saturday, May 2, 2015

No-Sew Tutu For Baby

This is my first baby gift in years. I thought about making the typical blanket, or even a little tote bag to carry incidental baby items (because there are many of them). But in the end, I just really wanted to make something different while still having a bit of fun. I searched the internet for some ideas, and decided that for a little infant girl...her first dress-up gift should be a tutu. At least for me, it was something I loved playing with as a child.
Tutu Front
Tutu Back
I found several sites with suggestions for a no-sew tutu. You can find instructions on blogs like the Pinning Mama, Instructables, DIY Network, and many, many more. Just enter a quick search into Google using "no sew tutu." This is certainly not a new idea, and honestly, it does not need any complex tutorial. I did do some hand sewing though. I had to stitch the flowers onto the waistband, and attach the ribbon to the elastic ends. But that's about it.

My own version ties in the back. I did not see a tutorial for my version. I wanted the tutu to have more size flexibility. By adding the tie, this tutu also makes a great big pink crown!

All you need is:

2-3 Rolls of netting in whatever width you would like your Tutu to be in length. If you're going to make an adult size, then more netting. I like the rolls because if I buy too much, I can return what I did not use. Start with cutting one roll first for an infant, and then two for a toddler...and so on. Don't cut all the netting out. You may not need it.

Adults...? I'm not sure, but I'm thinking closer to 6 rolls or more depending upon how poofy you want your skirt. Cut the netting into even strips at your desired length. Remember, you will be tying the netting, so you will want to double the length, and add an inch. Example, if you want your skirt to be ten inches in length, cut the strips to 21 inches. An infant tutu is around four inches, so you would need to cut nine inch strips. It's best to use a cardboard strip to keep the measurements equal, but I was lazy, and in the middle of watching television. I just measured (by eye) the length I wanted, and then cut the rest out using the first as a master. If you want a perfectly even tutu, then don't do it my way. Mine looks a bit more organic (uneven at the edges)...but the netting can be trimmed if necessary.

Elastic - I used the non-rolling one-inch elastic. Cut to your desired length. I did mine around 15 inches, which means the newborn won't be able to use it until she starts walking. Since mine ties in the back, I do not waste any elastic inches like I would sewing a connected round band. But if you want to make it a pull-on tutu, then add an extra inch for overlap stitching of the elastic. I recommend getting an actual waist measurement if you want the skirt true to size.

You'll need ribbon if you want my version, otherwise, you can sew the ribbon to the front or back as a nice decoration. You will need to sew the ribbon to the elastic before you begin. If you want the pull-on type tutu, then stitch the elastic together to create your waistband.

Once you're set with the netting strips, begin tying the netting onto the waistband. I decided to use two pieces of netting and double knotted mine. I liked the way it covered the elastic better, and offered more poof. But you could play around with it and see what looks best.

This is what it looks like after knotting only a few strips of netting.
I purchased pre made fabric flowers along with my other supplies. You could make your own, but that would take more time right? Try to keep the flower pieces large enough so the baby does not pick them off and accidentally swallow them. Be kind to the mother of the baby, and stay away from glittery things. Handstitching is preferable to glue, and hot glue might melt the netting.

My whole project was under $20. You can also add a headband, and maybe some wings, a pair of matching booties, and you will have yourself one dancing toddler. My gift will be the tutu for baby, and maybe something yummy for her mommy. After all, the mom did do all the work right?

Happy crafting!