Monday, September 7, 2015

Block Printed Akita


Hello there! If you live in the states, I hope that, like me, you've enjoyed a lovely long Labor Day weekend! We had great weather, saw a terrific performance of Eat the Runt at the Altarena playhouse in Alameda, and ate a lot of delicious food. No complaints here whatsoever.

So, much like last month's Mojave, I found myself seized with an immediate need to make the latest Seamwork pattern - in this case the Akita. I think what I like about these quick projects is that I can feel free to get creative and not worry about investing too much time into something that might not turn out the way I like. I had a piece of leftover black linen from Beej's shirt that I've been wanting to use up, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to experiment.

Planning #block print #seam work #sewing log

I've done a fair bit of printmaking in different forms over the years, but I've always been disappointed with printing on garment fabric because it can be too stiff.  However, I thought that creating a border print along the hem might work because it doesn't sit directly against the skin. As you can see by my finished project, it didn't turn out exactly like my sketch. The Akita pattern calls for a little over a yard, and while my fabric wasn't long enough it was very wide. So I had two longish panels of fabric to block print and decided to use them to create a gathered bottom piece.


Final verdict: I love it! The block printing, which I will detail in just a bit, is far from perfect, but I love the overall effect of the gathered bottom panel. It reminds me a little of the Marthe blouse by Republique du Chiffon, which is a pattern I've been admiring but so far have only seen on lovely slender ladies. I assumed it wouldn't look nice on lovely curvy ladies, but then again I've never paid attention to the rules of what I should and shouldn't wear based on my size. I think we should all wear what makes us happy.

I even love the gloppy elephants #elephantsareawesome #Akita #seamwork

My printing didn't turn out perfect; some of my elephants are gloppier than others, but I still like it. The Indian carved wooden block was a gift from a very dear friend, Ilene, who died almost three years ago. I love making something that reminds me of her. I've always had a thing for elephants and, as a result, Ilene was always giving me elephant-themed gifts. In addition to a warm, loving heart, Ilene had a fabulous eye for design. She was one of those people who would always find the best stuff at garage sales and thrift shops. I think she would enjoy this top.

Indian wood block #printmaking #sewing #seamwork #elephantsareawesome

If you've never printed with wooden blocks before, here are few pieces of advice:
  • Unlike carved stamps that have a bit of give, wooden blocks are completely rigid. You'll get a better result if you put a few pieces of fabric underneath whatever you're printing. 
  • Spend a lot of time getting the right consistency for your ink - not too thin, not too thick. I used water-based fabric ink (Jacquard textile) and plan to wait a week before washing it so that the ink will cure.
  • Let go of any perfectionist tendencies you might have. Or screenprint if you're after a more precise result. One of the best things about this type of printmaking is that there is always an element of surprise and excitement at the end. 
polka dot bias tape makes me happy #ilovepolkadots #sewing #scrap busting

Just a few more details about my new top...I made bias polka dot bias tape to finish the neck and the sleeves! This small detail makes me very happy. The pattern calls for a double turn for the sleeves, but based on my past experience with this heavy linen I knew I didn't want to fiddle with that. Plus, since the sleeves sort of wing out a bit, I thought the polka dots would be cute peeking out. I cut a size 16 and WAS planning on an FBA, but I got so excited that I forgot. This is a very boxy top, so in this case I don't think it's necessary.


Okay, I think I've said enough about this project, but let me know if you have any questions. It's one pattern piece (or would have been if I'd made it as it was originally designed) so a super quick project.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Anniversary Outfit


Hello Hello! I woke up far too early for a Sunday morning, so I thought I'd catch up on the ole' blog rather than pacing around the apartment. Last week, Beej and I had our wedding anniversary and decided to have an afternoon date - lunch and a museum exhibit. Even though we spend almost all our time together, we don't get out that much, which actually makes it more special when we do go out. And, of course, I wanted to wear something new...


The top is the Tessuti Mandy boat neck top and the skirt is the Vogue 1247. Unfortunately, (or maybe fortunately for you) this is the only halfway decent photo of me wearing my outfit, but I promise you I felt cute and was comfortable wearing it even if you can't tell by my pained expression.


This is the third Mandy tee I've made but first blogged. It's free and easy - so no reason not to give it a go. I like the absence of a neck binding - not just because it makes it quicker to sew, but I also like the clean look of it. As other bloggers have noted, this is similar to the Hemlock tee with its boxy shape. The big difference is that the arms are more fitted, which keeps the top from moving around the shoulders too much - so fewer chances of bra straps showing. I did, however, have to lower the neckline an inch because my first one cut too high at the neck, which I think was caused by my bust pushing the neck up too high. I also shortened the first one a lot (maybe four inches) but then found that it didn't really need to be shortened that much (maybe only 2 inches - I'm 5'2"), which is kind of amazing for a one-size-fits-all pattern.

I've been wanting to make the skirt for a while now since I've seen so many adorable versions all over the internet. The pockets look a bit droopy in the above pic, but it's not an issue when I wear it. I've been working on my first pair of Ginger jeans and had bought some cheap denim remnants to practice on. This remnant wasn't big enough for jeans - so, a no-brainer to turn it into a denim skirt, right? Since my waist measurements put me outside of the pattern size, I followed SuzybeeSews advice and just added an inch to the side but made sure to move the pockets out a little bit. Here's the obligatory inside shot...

Neon pink and yellow and black - it's like an 80's dance party up inside my skirt. I think the denim is too heavy for binding, and I might have been better off serging the seams, but I wanted the full Vogue 1247 experience. Plus, I bought a bunch of bias binding when I first started sewing because every beginner sewing book I read said it was the best thing ever. I didn't know anything about the different size folds, etc., so I made a bunch of "oh, pretty colors" random purchases. It was nice to use up some bits and pieces that have been sitting around.

So that's my outfit. Now if only I could get some sleep... I'll leave you with some pictures of my favorite piece from our day at the museum - this awesome metallic tapestry by Ghanaian artist El Anatsui that is part of the deYoung's permanent collection. I love the texture, the traditional influences from a modern perspective, and how it's made from discarded items- yet it looks so lush. Stunning!




Saturday, August 15, 2015

Mojave Tunic


Hello there! Hope you're doing great. Every year I complain about how foggy the summers are in my neighborhood but not this year. It's been unseasonably warm. The only problem, and this is not a complaint,  is that I don't have a lot of clothes suitable for warm weather. So you can imagine my delight when I saw the Mojave pattern from Seamwork - a loose, airy caftan/swimsuit coverup that can be sewn up in a couple of hours.

Okay, so my caftan turned into a tunic, and I spent more than a couple of hours on it because I'm slow. I can't even make a pair of underwear in less than two hours. But it was super fun to make, and it allowed me to get a little creative. I spend a lot of time thinking about how I would like to use special textiles (lace, embroidery, etc.) for collars and yokes to make unique garments and this seemed like the perfect pattern to try something like that. Below are a couple of process shots via instagram. (Yes, I finally fell down the rabbit hole that is instagram. So many amazingly creative makers out there.)


The collar is a really lovely Guatemalan textile from Britex. It's heavy like a twill, which is nice because it worked almost like using interfacing. The dark blue fabric, also from Britex, was on sale for $5 per yard and is some sort of cotton blend. It has really nice drape. I had planned to use some leftover black linen from a shirt I made for Beej, but there wasn't enough. Good thing, too, because I think the weight of this fabric is much more appropriate.


Overall, I'm happy with how it turned out. I added a little panel of fabric underneath the collar so that I could wear it as a top instead of a swimsuit cover up. It's still too low cut, but I think I can just re-adjust the panel or wear a cami underneath. Sizewize, I think I made a 16 or an 18 - I don't remember. It was too big in the shoulders and back so I ended up cutting it down the center back and taking it in something like three inches. It's designed to be a caftan, so I knew it would be oversized. An FBA would've been better than sizing up, but I had no idea how to adjust the bust for a style like this. I guess it's sort of like a princess seam, but then there's the gathered center just seemed easier to hack it down.


Here's a shot of the back. (BTW, I'm not sure if my photographer was trying to be creative with this angle or if it's the result of day drinking. ;))


So that's all I've got. I just bought some nice knits and am looking forward to some fall sewing/planning next month. Enjoy the rest of your weekend and thanks so much for reading.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

V1247 To the Rescue


Hello and Happy Hump Day again. I guess Wednesdays are a good blogging day for me. So, as you can see, I've made another Vogue 1247 top. You can see my first one here and my second one here. The one I'm posting about tonight, though, didn't start out as a V1247. It was a McCalls 6436 blouse.


I'd been wanting to try a pattern with different cup sizes. RTW button-up shirts that fit me without straining buttons and pulling across the chest are really tough to find, so I thought this pattern would be ideal to try. Pretty early on, unfortunately, I could tell that it was not going to work for me. This is a shape that really deserves a muslin, so (I'm putting it in writing here) if I ever try a similar style pattern I will, for sure, make a muslin of the bodice.


Look at how sad that thing looks just hanging there. The fabric, a combed cotton, was a remnant from Britex. I went in to buy some fusible interface and snatched it up on impulse. I blame the store for keeping the fusible and the remnants on the same floor. It's like putting fancy chocolates next to the checkout register. Anyway, I could tell right away that it was not working. The fabric was too crisp and it was going to be tight. Plus, the cut just wasn't doing it for me. I try to see past the styling on the envelopes with the Big Four, but I could just tell it was going to end up ill-fitting and I wasn't going to enjoy wearing it.


But I just love that color so much, so I salvaged the back and the sleeves (they had been cut but not yet sewn) and made myself a sweet little Rachel Comey top.  For the top part of the bodice, I used some pretty Cotton and Steel fabric from Fabric Worm. I love the fabric at Fabric Worm, but three times now I've ordered something only to get an email a few days later notifying me that they sold out of my order. Three times is a lot considering that I've only ordered from them three times. :) In fact this fabric, though pretty, was a substitute for something they didn't have.

Here's an "action shot" of me wearing my new top. I'm in the act of going to work, or waiting for my streetcar to be more accurate. The photo is a phone snap I asked my hubby to take very quickly. I know that you can't see much of the top with my enormous satchel, sweater, etc., but you get the idea.


Sewing-wise I did a much better job than my first one, which I eventually had to toss due to an olive oil stain. I really love this pattern because it's such a fun sew with the french seams and the panels. I would make more, but then I'd have a bunch of the same top and that might be weird. So that's the latest with me. Hope you enjoy the rest of your week and thanks so much for reading!


Wednesday, July 22, 2015

An Engineering Feat


Hello Lovelies! Happy Hump Day and all. As you might have guessed, I've made a bra and underpants. I can't believe how much of a lemming I am. Of all the sewing trends, bra-making is probably the most expensive and challenging. I dunno... RTW bras (especially in the larger sizes) are quite expensive and hard to fit so worthwhile to learn how to custom make, but then again maybe some things should be left to the professionals? Hmmm.


.... So, first things first, the fit is off in the upper cups, which means I have to start over. Bummer. But not completely unexpected.... I had been warned. I'll start with the details: I took the Craftsy course with Fairy Bra-Mother, Beverly Johnson. I really, really enjoyed her class. Her teaching style is mostly earnest and the lessons are straightforward, but she also reveals her charming, droll sense of humor every so often. I loved it and found her easy and enjoyable to listen to, which made it easier when I had to go back and rewatch some steps. 


For next time: increase band by 1/2 inch. zig zag followed by three step zigzag.

My plan is to salvage most of my scraps and begin again with another bra. On the bright side, I did learn a bit for the next one. It's a shame I can't practice with an old sheet, though, as that would be more economical.

And speaking of salvaging scraps...


So the undies pattern is the Seamwork pattern from Feb. It's just a really good, basic, comfortable brief that I like to wear. I was using a free undie pattern from a blogger (Thank you, Indigo Orchid, for your generous spirit and for making it easy for me to get started and explore this DIY.), but the Seamwork pattern is closer to my size. I actually felt nostalgic about sewing underwear the other day and was able to trace back my last RTW undies purchase to April 2014. I know, weird that I would know that. The only reason is because I had to jump on an emergency flight cross-country to my parents' house and hadn't had a chance to do laundry. (BTW, everyone's okay at home) I love making my own underpants now. Mostly, I use scraps, but I also raid the Good Will bag for old tee shirts. The purple and back pants are from an old GAP tee and the red stripeys are from a, mostly unsalvageable, wadder.

So that's it for me. Have a great week and thanks so much for reading! Cheers!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

My First Burda


Hello There! Look at what I've got - a dog-eared Spring/Summer issue of Burda Plus. An impulse purchase, for sure. Yes, I've heard all the horror stories - the tracing nightmares, plus adding seam allowances, plus very limited instructions...but a whole magazine full of patterns that I don't have to grade to fit me. Not that I want to make them all. Some are pretty fugly, made fuglier with hilarious styling, props, and textile choices, but I think I can see some possibilities. The question, though, is what patterns will be worth the tracing, marking effort, cutting, frustration, etc. Hmmmm


THIS, I least on the model. It would be lovely in a drapey rayon. I would have to make sure the sleeves didn't turn out too puffy. Puffy sleeves are not a large busted lady's friend.


Speaking of large busted, I think I would feel self conscious wearing this in white, but with a little bit more ease in a dark colored swiss dot, I think it would be super cute. I do love wearing tunics.


This is what I was talking about when I mentioned questionable textile choices. Ew. There are a couple of variations of this basic top without the feather thing around the neck that look okay, and as an added bonus, they include pockets.


Just going to get up on my soapbox for a moment to say how cool it is to see a plus-sized dress modeled in a joyful, non self-effacing kind of way. Curvy ladies like to rock the party, too.


A nice basic shape. I like it, but I think I could do the same thing with a Deer and Doe Plantain so maybe not worth the tracing effort.


Basic, maybe a meh, but I do like the fluttery, asymmetrical overlay of fabric as a design detail. Maybe a good first Burda.


The model looks great, but look at the line drawing. It looks rather complicated for a basic top. Also, dolman sleeves are not my friend.


Very pretty. Makes me wish I had a wedding to go to.


This is another variation of the boa-trimmed one above. I like it much better. Reminds me of a plus-sized Grainline Scout Tee so it might make a good basic.

So what do you think? Do you see any WTTE (worth the tracing effort) patterns here?

Thanks so much for reading. I've got some new projects I'm looking forward to sharing very soon. Also, tomorrow night I will be at How-To-Nighlife presenting some basic hand sewing/embroidery techniques at the California Academy of Sciences, so if you're in the Bay Area I hope to see you there. Have a great week. Cheers!

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Happy Fourth!


Hello! If you're in the U.S., hope you're able to enjoy the holiday and  have some fun. We didn't really get it together to get out of town, so we're hanging out in the fog. So far it's been nice, but now I'm up in the middle of the night  - probably due to random, illegal fireworks action happening not too far away by the sound of it. I'll take this opportunity to catch you up on my sewing learning, obsessing, etc. But first... how about some unselfish sewing in honor of America's b-day.


This handsome fella - AKA Beej - is modeling his recently completed Christmas present. On Christmas morning I presented  him with the World Series SF patch (for the SF Giants baseball team), along with a note that it would go on a shirt that I would make for him. Only 6 months later...Beej has a new shirt.

The details:
  • Pattern: Colette Negroni, I made my first men's shirt last year. You can see it here
  • Fabric: A robust, heavy linen - like burlap in its loose weave and tendency to fray -  purchased from Discount Fabric - probably around $10 per yard. Random thought: whenever I sew with linen I daydream about Medieval Times because it's an old textile. I also love ironing it. That said, now that the shirt is assembled, it will be the owner's responsibility to press it.  
  • Flat felled seams - booyah! I understand the concept now - much easier after completing a few projects involving French seams such as the True Bias Sutton blouse.  I'm satisfied with the shoulders and am pleased that everything is encased - especially considering how much this linen loves to fray.
  • I had the patch professionally sewn on at my local drycleaner. Is that weird? They've done such a nice job on Beej's jackets in the past, and even though I'm all about learning, I thought I should leave this part to the professionals. I actually learned a bit when I got the pocket back. The tailor had applied a ribbon-like fusible around the entire pocket for added strength. She also re-pressed and re-folded my pocket, mitering the corner in the proper manner. I tried to emulate her technique with the other pocket, but, of course, hers is much better. So I learned a bit from her.
  • I may eliminate the curved hem next time. It was difficult with this heavy, coarse linen.

More details:
  • I love these buttons I purchased at Britex. They're encased in brass rings. I wanted something to pick up the gold/metallic accents in the patch but not be too blingy. I also learned how to use my button sewing foot. It was pretty easy because my machine defaults to a standard size, which I think these are, so there was no adjusting. Best tip so far: from What Katie Sews (Have you seen her sewing room? So cute and beautifully organized.) She recommends taping buttons in place and sewing directly on top of the tape. Tape peels right off. Awesome.
  • Although sewing and opening the buttonholes was drama-free, I'm always disappointed at how they turn out. This heavy linen was a bear and probably didn't help matters. Also, reminder to myself because I can never remember if I'm starting at the top or bottom of a buttonhole - it's the bottom, Donna, remember that!
So that's my unselfish sewing done for the year. ;) I'm thinking about making Beej this shirt each year to track my progress. Currently, I'm fantasizing about sewing with luxurious knits and making a bra AND making jeans - i.e.  way overbooked with sewing plans. Hope you're having a great weekend and thanks so much for reading!