Monday, October 31, 2016

Halloween Post

I am so proud of myself. I  sewed an ensemble, a complete outfit.  It included a statement jacket with trim details like this Givenchy jacket currently available at Pert-A-Porter,  a top with

the gathers and  ruffles that are so on trend, and a pair of loose fitting cropped pants.  Unfortunate it is not for me, but for a client that want to look like this for an event.

Yes, my client wanted a Captain Morgan costume.  Captain Morgan being a brand of rum that features a rather dandified “pirate” on the label. But I did find similar coats on historic figures of the early 18th century
Wardrobe of Peter I Russia
Admiral Edward Russell (1652–1727),
I used Simplicity pattern  4923 , a still available, still very popular pattern for costumes and historical garments.

The jacket is knee length with gores inserted at side and center back.  The sleeves are shaped, and have gigantic cuffs.

Captain Morgan Jacket

Captain Morgan Jacket side

Captain Morgan Jacket trim detail
The fabric I used was poly cotton (JoAnn’s).  The  pattern called for 6 yards of 45" wide fabric. I used  5 yards with the only compromise being that  pocket flap and cuff linings were cut  on the lengthwise grain.  The trim is gold, medium weight linen/rayon strips with finished width = 1”.   For trim used on front button area, the fabric was cut on straight of grain.  The trim for all edges where there was curvature,  hem, neckline and hat brim, was bias cut.  I used the bias maker for the straight grain strips too, in order to speed up turning under the  seam allowances. Needless to say, my 1 inch bias maker and edge stitch foot got a workout on this project. 22 large buttons were needed for the version of the  coat I made. Big buttons are expensive and any store in my area only has a couple cards of the same style. My solution: I found a large bag of cheap white plastic buttons. There were 25 buttons of the same size, but not the same face design. Disregarding that, I strung them all on a  piece of cotton twine between two deck chairs,  spray painted them all gold, let them dry and sewed them on. 

Spray Painted Buttons

The shirt was very loose fitting with gathers everywhere, neck edge,  and on the sleeves at both shoulder and cuffs.  The fabric for shirt was a 100% cotton twin size sheet.  I purchase white cotton sheets, when they are on sale,  for muslin, costumes and curtain linings.   My client could not tie the collar closed on his 16” neck so he wore the shirt open. However the front slit is 14” deep which revealed a bit too much hairy man chest, so I tacked the slit closed for bottom 6”. The client could still pull shirt on over his head.

Shirt Simplicity 4923

The pants or breeches are calf length with authentic bagginess in the front and back crotch area, and buttons on lower side seams.  The front closure is a flap that buttons to front waist band.  Fabric used was a navy medium weight rayon/linen.

Captain Morgan also has a hat. Not a plain black pirate  No, his is red with gold trim. A bit to matchy, matchy for my taste, but my client wanted it.  Researching "make your own  pirate hat" on the internet, I found  the easiest ones  started with  a woman's brimmed  hat. You cover them with felt or leather look material, and turn up and tacking the brim to the crown in three equal sections.  I found the hat below in the sale bin at JoAnn's.

I attempted to spray paint the hat red, starting with the upper brim and crown. It looked like a spray-painted straw hat. Time was running out, so in the end we settled for a black brim with gold trim.

Captain Morgan Pirate Hat

Boot covers were planned, but  there was no time for them either so Captain Morgan wore tall leather work boots. My client was very happy. He got lots of compliments and requests for photo's.

Captain Morgan and swashbuckling sidekick

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Flamboyance of Flamingos

While waiting for the weather to cool and inspire me to sew some of  the patterned boiled wool  that jumped into my stash recently, I sewed a blouse.    I chose a pattern with a asymmetrical front band.

 I have always wanted to make this Burda pattern from June 2007, style 111 and why not in a bright pink cotton fabric printed with white flamingos.  Are there white flamingos I wondered? Yes.  The feather color of flamingos is dependent on pigments from the algae and crustaceans they eat. And the lack of pigmented food during feather-growth results in white or very pale feathers.  Flamingos  lose color in captivity if they were not fed Flamen Oil or some other dietary beta-carotene color additive. Hmm. I  guess you could say the  flamingos on my fabric are "in captivity".

Burda 6 2007 111

The asymmetrical  bands are easy to apply. They are sewn to the wrong side of the fabric and turned  to the front.  A couple thing to watch out for on the bands. You will need to make a separate pattern piece for each both the left and right band from the front pattern pieces. The bands are asymmetrical and shaped differently at the neckline. Yes, I tried the shortcut method it and it doesn’t work.   Watch the grain line of the band. I didn’t, putting the long straight side of the bands on the straight of grain. This was probably a benefit when sewing the bands to the bias cut edge of the left and right fronts but it means the flamingos on the front band lean a bit .  Only a close sewing friend would notice this.

I have been pursuing other creative  endeavors lately.   A 6 week Natural Dyeing of Yarn and Clothing class at the local art cooperative  has been especially fun.   For the  dye, I have been collecting plant materials from my yard and other nearby sources. Color is extracted by simmering the plant material in water for an hour, removing the material from the liquid   and using the liquid to  dye wool and silk fabrics. Black walnut husks from my own back yard created a rich brown. Mushrooms collected in the heavily mulched beds under the trees at work  yielded golden and dark browns. A coworker asked me if I was gathering my dinner.  Golden Rod flowers collected under the right of way of the power lines dyed the fabric a beautiful golden yellow.

 Tobacco leaves yielded a pale olive green color and Harlequin Glory Bower vine flowers (a houseplant that became invasive when planted in the yard) a great verdigris green.  I treated my son and his girlfriend to dinner at a local Mexican restaurant that makes table side guacamole, so I could ask for all the trashed avocados seeds (dyes fabric pink). All of these dyes work especially well on protein fibers like wool and silk, not as well on cotton.  Other class members had to scour the 2nd hand shops or order online for their wools and silk.  The local JoAnn's certainly didn't have any.  I wandered down to my stash cave and pulled out yards and yards of off white wools and silks. I knew there was a good reason I bought them long ago. Stash to the Rescue!

Hopefully I will have enough dyed  fabric to create a garment of some kind by the time class is finished.  What can I do with this new  knowledge? Well, perhaps I can dye and sew authentic historical reenactment garments when I retire. DH and I are currently doing some financial and lifestyle planning for our upcoming retirement. I will probably  become "that crazy old lady" who does odd stuff! You have been warned!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Knit Knack

A lot of sewing has happen since the last time I posted.  I will start with the most recent activities since they are fresh in my mind. This past Saturday I gave a presentation “Using self-fabric to embellish knit garments” for my local ASG group.

  Awkward and unexciting name, but I couldn’t come up with a better one. Every year I volunteer to do a program presentation and I choose a topic that is something I want to learn about or explore, but that will appeal to the whole  group.  This is not always an easy task. The small ASG group I attend is called Fashion Focus, but of the 30 attendees maybe 6 regularly sew garments. A program on some  topics I would like to study, such as  armhole drafting, would probably not be well attended.  So where did my topic come from?  I was on Pinterest one day and saw a picture of a unique textured fabric.

I followed the link back to the picture source and found a post with lots of different knit embellishment techniques. The info was on one of the Russian internet blog sites. The text was in Russian but I was so interested I took the time to translate it with Google. The title  translated as Decorating Knitwear,  by Irinka Prosto. Thanks for sharing Irinka!

The techniques shown used strips, circles or random shape to add decorative trim and textures to knit wear. The techniques utilize some of the unique characteristics of knit fabrics,  non raveling, soft texture, and for some knits the tendency to roll up on cut edges. These embellishment applications are especially effective when the fabric for the trim is the same fabric as the garment. I showed  many examples of RTW  garments embellished in this way.



For my presentation samples I used T shirts. I bought two of the same T shirt on sale. I used one as the garment to be trimmed, and the other as the source of matching fabric for the trim.  Here are some samples I made using strips for embellishment.

Gathered strip trim
 The ruffle at bottom of the T shirt is made from a 2 inch strips attached by machine to the  bottom edge of  the T shirt. For the front embellishment I drew curves on the T shirt using a wash away marker.  I sewed down the middle of ½" wide strips following the guidelines, pushing pleats randomly under the pressure foot with a stylus. I added coordinating beads for more texture.

 The 2nd T shirt sample was embellished with strips that curled in on the sides and resembled cording. I drew guidelines on the garment where I wanted to apply the trim. I pushed the curled sides apart and stitched  each strip down the middle following the guidelines.


 The third sample was a T shirt trimmed in fabric flowers made from, you guessed it, strips and circles of fabric. I picked my favorite fabric flowers from the  wide variety found on the internet, made samples and shared them with the attendees.


 There are so many kinds of flowers you can make.  I was inspired by posts showing similar flower embellished garments by  Jane and  Sherril    The flower embellishment appealed to my audience. In fact there were requests for me to teach an ASG member mini class in flower making.  We will see. I still work full time, and I do not have a good ‘teacher temperament”. I was told “No, you cannot choose which students can attend the class.”  The  mini classes, being very inexpensive, can attract attendees that want a morning out for the social aspect, rather than the learning opportunity.

The top I wore while presenting the program was a knit and the embellishment was from self-fabric, however the application was a bit off topic for my presentation. I traced a favorite RTW top to get the front and back shapes.  The fabric was a rayon lycra stripe knit.  I cut circles out of the front in various sizes.  I cut corresponding circles from scrap fabric. I sewed the circle shapes into the holes  in the front using a 1/4 inch seam allowance, rotating the stripes slightly to create some visual interest.

And those circles break up the stripes in the tummy area. 

Then as an example of where you can really go with  knits and embellishment, I showed the group my recently completed Alabama Chanin corset top made from the instructions and pattern in the Alabama Studio Sewing Patterns book.

Gardening is such hard work1
Right now I am taking a break from sewing knits, waiting for the weather to cool and inspire me to sew wools and silks for fall.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Read the Instructions - Simplicity 1376

This is posted in my sewing room to remind me not to begrudge the time and energy spent on preparation. It is good advice for all kinds of sewing situations, like applying fusible interfacing, learning about your new sewing machine, choosing the correct fabric for a sewing project, and entering contests. And I obviously need reminding based on my latest sewing project.

This year, my American Sewing Guild (ASG) neighborhood group challenge is to sew a garment from one of the Simplicity ASG special collection patterns. It has to be completed for the November meeting.   And ASG was having their annual Anyone Can Win contest, which also requires sewing a garment from one of the Simplicity ASG patterns. The contest deadline was July 1st.  One sewing project to meet two goals. Wonderful. Full steam ahead.

 I decided to sew the dress and jacket from Simplicity 1376.  This pattern includes a cropped jacket, ankle length hi-lo dress, knee length dress, scarf and knit leggings with elastic waistband.

 I cut the jacket out first, from a knit remnant with horizontal color variations. The front band was cut on the bias. "Hmm a bit surprising for a knit" I thought, but no warning bells.

 For the dress, I selected a cotton/rayon print jersey knit from my stash. It was purchased 16 years ago and nicely aged.  It had very little stretch. I cut out the main dress pieces first, and left the bands  for the neck and armhole trim until last, to be cut out of the remaining remnants of fabric.  The grain line arrows on the bands indicated they should be cut out on the bias.  I thought “Why would Simplicity recommend that for a knit?  For a knit, the greatest stretch is usually in the width of the fabric.” At that point I decided to read the fabric recommendations on the pattern envelope. For the dress and jacket, B & E, the recommendations were for woven fabrics.

 Oops! "Recalculating,  With a  firm non stretchy knit, I should be okay" So I kept on sewing.  The dress and jacket turned out fine. In fact I wonder how well they would turn out in a woven fabric.   Note the V neckline on this dress is deep. On the pattern envelope both the top and dress are shown worn over some kind of garment that fills in the neckline. The pattern does not include a neckline insert/modesty panel.  I have no cleavage to speak of,  so I can wear deeper V’s than some folks and no one gets excited as all it exposes is bony chest
Simplicity 1376
Simplicity 1376 Dress and Jacket
Relieved that the two garments were completed and I had decent photos,   I went to the computer to enter the ASG “Anyone Can Win” contest. The last time I participated, 2 years ago, you entered the number of the pattern you had sewn in a text field and uploaded the picture.  This year the process was different. “What’s this, a drop down list of allowable patterns? Only 8 choices. But there are 34 Simplicity ASG in print.  24% chance that …aw crap  1376 isn’t listed. Do I have any of the listed patterns?   One, a jacket, pants and top. How much time do I have? The rest of today. How about tomorrow? What time does my plane leave? I hate it when business travel takes up my weekends!  Did I get TSA Precheck? Nope!  Whatever I sew has to be done today. Guess it is going to be the “quickest to make” garment on the pattern I do have – the T shirt.”

So my contest entry was a raglan sleeve T shirt from Simplicity pattern 1073 out of a textured knit purchased from JoAnn Fabrics.

 And now I have three garments for Show N Tell at the November ASG meeting.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

She's Got Legs - Part 2 Burda Pant 9 2010 108

I loved the clean, preppy look of these Boden pants that popped up in my google search for pants.

Boden is a British clothing retailer selling primarily online, mail order and catalogue. I remember getting a unsolicited Boden catalog a couple years back and being impressed by the bright, modern patterned fabrics used for classic styles of clothing.  At the time the European sizing put me off ordering. They now have a USA website.
This style has a contour waistband, slant pockets, and slim ankle length legs.  They are available in a wide range of colors. The web site  calls this version  the " TIPPED PANT - A fashion-forward take on the definitive tailored pant. Featuring luxurious detail around the curved cuffs and pockets, these  are just that little bit different. "   I particularly liked the two color trim on the shaped hems of the legs and the pockets opening. 

 My best fitting pant pattern, the Eureka Pants that Fit, have tapered, not slim legs. I found a Burda pattern with the style of leg I wanted,  Burda 9 2010 108, and combined the two patterns,  using the Eureka pant pattern above the crotch level and the shape of the Burda pants below the crotch. 
The pattern is downloadable from this link.  Burda pants-09/2010 108
The fabric  I used is “Dress Denim” from JoAnn Fabrics, a blend of poly rayon and lycra navy with a dark microdot weave.
The trim is ¼ inch  red and white stripes of bias binding applied to the pocket opening and the shaped hem.

To replicate the trim I used purchased bias binding.   1 package white bias tape extra wide double fold and 1 package red double fold bias tape quilt binding.  It was super easy to apply and looks just like the inspiration trim. 

First step was to cut the white binding in half along the middle fold line. One side will be ½ inch wide, the other will be slightly wider than ½ inch. It is folded this way to facilitate the application method using the package instructions.  I did not use this method.

First step was to cut the white binding in half along the middle fold line.

Lay ½ in  width  binding with cut edge along cut edge of fabric.

 Top stitch  close to folded edge with white thread. 

 Lay one folded edge of red bias binding ¼ “ from topstitched edge of white binding. 

 Top stitch close to folded edge with red thread.  

 Wrap excess red binding around the cut edge to the  back side of fabric and hand sew in place, using white top stitching line as a guide.

Shaped Hems
I hemmed my pants  and applied the binding to the hemmed edge. I could have eliminated the hem and applied the binding to a cut edge of the bottom of the pants . I kept the hem because I wanted some firmness and weight at the bottom of the leg. The last 3 inches of the outside leg  seam  was left unsewn. After hemming I made a curved template that I used to cut the curved shape at the bottom of the  side seam.   I applied the white and red binding to the hem edge curving around the corners and along the side seams. Where the raw ends of the bias meet the side seam I  treated the bias  like welting on a pocket opening. 

Y cut at end of seam  before trim is secured
Hem trim

Pocket trim

Sewing friends have commented that I have a nice pair of pants whose colors are appropriate for wearing on  patriotic occasions; Memorial Day, 4th of July, and  Military Appreciation Fridays at work.