Monday, November 17, 2014

Style

I am not one of those people who can use style to keep life fuss-free. My coworker is.
Exhibit A: She announced her wedding date a week in advance.
So, I wanted to make something that would suit her (or my impression of her) in a very short amount of time.

The morning of the wedding came and her book was on my desk ready to be wrapped.
And I spilled coffee all over it.

In Greece, this is actually a good luck sign (brings money to the union) but in my personal culture there was no way I could give her a sodden book.
Besides, it wasn't her style anyway. The two quick books I made in record time were. Since time was short, the binding was kept simple-3 hole binding modified to give a closing tie.

but I added some style with hand-rounded corners (my first successful ones I may add) and embroidery on the cover

this is her favorite clothes color combination-she pulls it off. yes, for lack of anything else, I hand-drew the patterns on these covers

grid paper insides and the inside of the embroidery

Monday, September 1, 2014

Wine Colored Mountains


More wedding presents-heh. These covers are different kinds of fancy paper that were all dyed in the same wine (leftover). The different kinds of paper soaked in the wine differently creating very different colors. Natural tearing creates a cragged mountain like edge which layered up creates the above. The back cover was also wine dyed. The base of the front was a printmaker's blue ink and the whole thing is sealed in homemade modge podge. I, of course, bound it with a zig zag coptic binding.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Maps-Making your own wall art

I make no secret of the fact that I move. A lot. Via airlines. This means that all your belongings for living somewhere for a year must fit in exactly one suitcase of 20kg and one carry on. I can't afford to ship my belongings and I don't actually know how long I'll be where I'm moving.

That means things like wall art are really low priority. I can slip one or two posters in there but otherwise I face stark (usually) white walls bearing down on me.

So as an after work creative activity my first months in Greece, I spent my time drawing maps. Since I'm me, they are actually set to a Mercator projection and have mostly accurate coastlines. I chose to do Cuba, Spain, and the United States-the three pillars of my heritage.




The base is a black lined fine art pen with water soluble colored pen delineating the political boundaries. Along all the water boundaries are fine blue short lines. Land boundaries are done in brown. I think this lends the maps a subtle dimension. Cuba got mountains but the inaccuracy of them bothered me so Spain and the USA had to go without. Very fine pen was used to write city names approximately where they are in reality. The size was in reality constricted by the size of my paper (A5 pad of sketch paper) so they're really not in scale. If I was living somewhere permanently (or more permanently than a single year) I'd think about framing them with wood and glass but as a temporary 'framing' the edges of the paper are colored.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Peacocks and Music

 The cover is triple layered to create a dimensional effect to the peacocks (the blue is a lower layer). The background is tea stained and the rest hand inked. This was a wedding present so it takes its cue from the theme. Both the groom and bride are musicians so I thought it was an appropriate poem.
 This is a rare closed spine book for me. It's 3 3 signature bindings set into the same spine but I set one of them (the green one) upside down to really overlap the bindings.
The interior pages are quality paper and the end papers are the rest of the poem by O'Shaughnessy.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Elbow Patches

This is one of my favorite sweaters. It started out rather like a granny sweater but it has been improved with a new set of mismatched buttons and upon the elbows...dala horses. Cut out of dressmaker's felt and embroidered to mimic the typical mane, saddle, and bridle decoration, they are were then stitched on (checking with the sweater on to make sure they're in the correct place). They have survived for two years and several washes so I can attest that it's a pretty durable but quirky change.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Haitus

Ok, I seriously underestimated my ability to pack up my life, deal with emotional upheaval, move to a different country amidst paperwork problems, and post to this blog.

Yeah...about that. I know, I know, it's been ages since there was a post but hopefully there's one or two of you who still have the RSS feed or however you like to read this. I am still working on my top hat amidst this craziness so that's a definite future post.

So, apologies but posts are temporarily suspended. Hopefully see you in October when I am sitting at a new desk in a new country and slightly less worried about the future.

In the meantime I am still active on my photography blog as I work through a backlog of a month spent on trains traveling to places few natives (not to mention tourists) go to but I did anyway due to some stunning churches and manors. So keep an eye on mongoosenamedt.blogspot.com

Monday, July 22, 2013

Heat Waves aka Summer

I apologize for belated and missed posts.

Every year I forget just how much I dislike summer. Don't get me wrong-I also was confused to be wearing wool sweaters during the last summer I spent in the UK-and there're nice things about summer. But summer for me means headache and migraine season. Everything about me slows down-my brain, my speech, my walk, my intellectual faculties. My ability to see projects through.

I always forget this because I actually do so much every summer-I step outside my established habits, routines, and culture. I spend months in hot climates struggling to think about the implications of uneven slip application even as the sweat drips into my eyes and lugging 31 pounds of material as I follow the shade. I become the sort of tourist who spends hours next to fascinating things to see in foreign cafes planted in front of the fans instead of on my feet for 19 hours straight-feeling just as exhausted at night. I spend more time in bed and less time asleep. And despite all this, my creativity increases-I think of more things to do, more things I want to do, could do, and try to will myself to do.

However, my projects often get finished in the frenzy of September and October. My headaches ease and I feel more like myself-a human being- and less like an unintelligent blob of discomfort. One day I will reconcile these extremes of my motivation and ability. Until then, you'll find me napping uncomfortably on the buckram I had every intention of turning into a hat today. Check me for tell tale grid patterns.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Hacking a Top Hat from scratch-The Brim

This is a multi-parter. There're a lot of steps in making a top hat-part one is the brim.

Now I'm not a milliner or a hat expert. I made my first top hat as a last resort with no pattern and no real idea of how it's supposed to be done. I had some experience with flat construction hats (hats made of cutting and sewing together flat pieces into a 3d shape, no moisture, no blocks, no heat, etc).  I merely looked up patterns (to see what shape my pieces were supposed to be), peered into my fedoras (I have 6 of them) and a friend's top hat to see how they were done (mostly felt steamed over a block...), and looked at every description of millinery buckram I could find to see if I could garner any tips. Because of course, with my excellent skills of pre-planning: I decided to make that first hat without being able to A. assemble all of the necessary materials and B. buy a pattern.

It came out alright but slightly too small. My attempts to attach the brim to everything else failed and I had to jerry rig the attachment which added just enough bulk for the wearer to complain, constantly, that it was just slightly too tight.
And then it got sat on. All thoughts that this hat looked ok despite the flaws and glue stains went out of the window.

Whoops. So in my sewing queue has been "make new top hat". I figure if I manged to make it once, I can make it again. Right?!

I made some changes from my original 'method' because I learned from that trial.
I. I added a layer of water resistant fabric to the hat-not to make my life harder by adding a slippery element-because this hat lives in the UK where it rains fairly regularly. The mull/felt protects the buckram to a certain extent but not enough as I found out when an entire pint got spilled on the brim causing the buckram of most of the hat to collapse. I'm hoping that adding a water resistant layer will help me avoid the whole holding a hat brim into shape for more than an hour thing.
II. I still haven't found the sweet spot for proper millinery wire because there is nowhere local where I can talk to someone in real life about it. This hat uses jewelry wire wrapped around a clear type of millinery cord to enhance stiffness.
III. No glue goes near this hat once the outside fabric comes into play.
IV. The trimmed ribbon gets sewn on. It's harder to switch out ribbons to use the hat for multiple purposes but it also won't migrate upwards, like in the old hat, exposing the join of side and brim.
V. I figured out that most hats with sides like this create the cylinder with an angled join thus allowing the fashion fabric to neatly get sewn inside the hat instead of a bulky outside seam as I had before.
VI. Crown tip. Less ugly and more draped. Wider bias tape to ease the ugly in this area.

Materials: What do you need to make a top hat?
-Thicker paper, pencil, tape measure, ruler because you're going to draft a simple brim
-Millinery Buckram (I use the cheapest option, no adhesive at all. Keep in mind, this stuff is not the same as curtain buckram which can be called thickener. Avoid these.)
-Wire for the brim edge (thick. top hats traditionally have a curved up side brim and flat front and back-the wire is what creates that shape)
-Mull or Felt (I use quality dressmaker's wool felt.)
-PVA
-optional: double sided fusible (I invested in some "interweb")
-optional: some sort of water resistant fabric
-Lining fabric for the interior. (fat quarter?)
-Fashion fabric for the outside (best if opaque) (1/2 meter?)
-Bias binding-for the brim I use 1", the crown and interior brim had 2"
-Ribbon for trimming
-Strong Straw Needles (I've tried using book binding needles and various other weaker sorts and they all broke. Invest in some hardcore straw needles, you'll cry less. Straw needles tend to be heavier metal and have an eye that is the same width of the shaft unlike most other needles.) Get multiple needles-they have too many opportunities to dull (that wire)
-Iron

1. Draft your brim. I turn you over to Sempstress whose tutorial is far better than anything I could come up with.


Remember that the brim has 3 ovals. One is the outer oval (mine is 2 in wide) for the proper brim, the brim interior and a smaller clipping oval (mine is 1/2 in).

2. Cut out your brim out of the buckram twice. Then cut 2 of the brim proper out of the felt/mull (that is, only the outer oval). Then cut 2 out of the water resistant fabric.

Keep track of front and back (since these layers get covered up, I just write it right on the fabric.)
Note that since you want no extra bulk in the clipping part of the brim, any extra fabric and felt is cut only to fit the brim. If your clips contain any excess bulk, it will make the hat smaller. (The bonus is that the ovals you cut out of the middles of the water resistant and of the felt can be used for your crown so cut carefully and save them)
If your buckram is buckled (mine got folded), you can flatten it by lightly steaming it (lift the iron up and blast) then pressing flat.

3. Bind the water resistant to one of the buckram pieces-sandwiching the buckram between the water resistant fabric.

If you don't have interweb, you can start with the gluing. For hat making you want to dilute your PVA heavily so it's more water than glue. Brush the fabric with glue and set buckram on it and smooth as flat as possible (I use my bone folder). Prepare to get glue all over your hands. Give it a quick little press with the iron to make sure it's flat and dry up some of the moisture. Set the brim between two books larger than your brim to dry (you want it to dry flat and not buckle). You should probably let it dry overnight.

4. Some flat hand sewing time! Stitch the wire to the outer edge as tight as possible with an overcast stitch-sewing felt on at the same time. (Don't even think about using a machine)


I have never managed to make the felt sew flat on so I clip out tiny little mini wedges to let it lie flat.

5. Whipstitch the other piece of buckram to the other side. Tack down the felt to the inside edge.




Press it as well-it's a bit curved/curled at this point but that's ok, top hat brims are always curved up at the sides so you're just half way there already.

6.  Cut out your full brims (clipped section included) out of the fashion fabric. Tack them down at the clipping line. Whipstitch over the brim to join them together.




(If you're capable of using glue and not dripping/spreading it over everything in a 5 mile radius, you can of course cut the fashion fabric at the same time as your brims. I am assuredly not, so I cut them later after all the glue has been cleaned up and put away.)

7. Get out your bias binding and stitch it closely over the wire edge.



You want to have a tight stitch against the wire to get the bias binding taut.
You have three options for the edges. If you're glue confident, you can glue the edges down with a light coat of pure PVA applied with a brush right at the stitch line. If you have a favorite double sided interfacing, you can use that. If you are hand-stitching confident, you can stitch that edge down.

8. Clip the inner oval. Try it on to make sure it fits the wearer! You want it to be slightly loose but snug enough to be an obviously fitting hat.

If it's far too big, don't worry at this stage-it's easy to add bulk.
If it's snug, clip off half of the clips of one of the buckram layers and see if it gets it loose enough.
If it's tight, clip off the clips of one of the buckram layers and deepen the clips overall.


See you next week for some cylinder building!

Monday, July 1, 2013

My Love Has Only Grown

I hesitated before posting this project. It's a very personal project full of personal symbolism and is difficult to photograph since it hangs in a narrower hallway than my lens but it incorporates a number of my skills and perhaps highlights my main fault: pre planning. For a more professional look I'd definitely have done some things a bit differently but this was the culmination of one of those ideas I have before getting asleep and I wake knowing I'm going to do it and I was going to do right now. You see, my main planning time was spent sleeping-great planning skills right there!

I made this as a last-minute one year anniversary present. Last minute? Erm...yes. Well, we'd said that due to our budgets, there'd be no presents but at the last minute I decided, for chrissakes I can afford a large piece of watercolor paper! My time is my own and the 80p watercolor paper wasn't going to break the bank! Certainly I've got enough supplies for any number of print projects! It got finished 2 days after our anniversary (see, that pre-planning thing meant I didn't give myself time for making sure the thing dried.)


So we've got a blue wash for the background out of acrylic (I seem to only have green watercolor paint). The branch poking up at top is deliberate-there's a message up there in tiny script. Anyway, so the bulk of the drawing is done in ink and pen. The sepia tree is an oak tree and because we're in the beginning stage of our relationship it's to the left. The layout of the various elements was only vaguely planned, most of it is free hand. In the branches are black stencils of major aspects of our relationship (castle,  fiddle, cakes, baglamas, mandolin, ceramics, church architecture, Keity the car, the guitar in our room with my heart garland, and an archaeological trowel). The dancing couple is traced from an old woodcut illustration and on the ground are the Black Hares and Polly. Underneath the ground is a lino-print of an anatomically correct heart and fancy script in teal. 

I wanted the whole thing to have texture to complement the huge bulk of intentional image choices. Hence all the linework contrasting with the rather heavy stencils. There's nothing in this picture that is not directly related to our activities together and so I wanted to imply that our activities added texture to our lives together.

So the main techniques are that of pen and ink which I'd never really used on such a large scale. To be honest, I had no idea what size this was going to be until I drew out the tree-I ended up trimming the piece of watercolor paper. The whole thing had to be worked on sideways to avoid smearing because I didn't really have the time to let things dry before working on the other elements. A few of the stencils were made by hand especially for the poster (others are merely masquerading as stencils and are actually drawings) but the lino-cut was from my valentines so that was just inked up and printed-literally the easiest part of the whole thing. I took the precaution of penciling the letters first and embellished them during the inking. I'd say all in all, it took about 8 hours plus drying time=4 days.

To redo, I'd say it should take at least a week, if not two. I failed to do proper layout work which is why the heart, text, and groundline are bit off as is the blue background to a certain extent. The stencils should not have been done in pen and ink as the paper got quite saturated needing intensely long times to dry.

Monday, June 24, 2013

"the treasure of a honeymoon"

So my cousin got married and I couldn't go. I decided instead, I had to do a present. As I'm poor, I couldn't get them something off their register or whatever so instead I made them a book.

It's meant as a scrapbook for the honeymoon. The moon and star stab bindings are golden to evoke a "honeymoon" literally. There are real constellations in there though the moon is definitely not in the right place. It's 8x10 with a glittery dark blue cover. The star stab binding is another of Becca's designs. The binding has accordion folds to allow the book to expand. That means you can paste stuff on the pages and it won't turn into

overburdened binding
If a stab binding becomes overburdened, it breaks. Most bindings will break eventually (the above spiral binding included) but stab bindings are particularly inflexible and might crack off in the first month of being overburdened. (Yes, I know this from experience.)

To accompany the honeymoon was this map.


This map of Greece (where their honeymoon was) is hand drawn with dip pen & brown ink. Certain islands are labeled as is Athens and Thessaloniki and it is fairly accurate to a Mercator projection. Along all the coast lines are woodcut-esque lines to make it seem old fashioned and particularly hand drawn. I know not everyone is as into documenting their geography and making story maps as I am but I think my cousin is the sort to appreciate it.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Sewing Machine Review: JS110 SE



I've had my machine for a year and a half now and I quite love it despite it being a partially plastic department store branded modern machine that so many disdain. With the exception of a few “I bought it for my niece” reviews, there's not much online about it.

First, I'd like to establish my sewing machine credentials. As an undergraduate I gained a lot of experience on three machines. One was a computerized Brother (something similar to the BC2100) which I ended up pretty much hating what with its crazy computer faults, bad automatic tension and its general inability to handle medium weight fabric not to mention anything automatic. One was a fairly modern slightly above beginner level Singer which was alright but I found had tension problems in the bobbin which no tune up could fix. The final one was a fairly modern Janome which was my favorite and the one I ended up using most of the time. While I was lusting after a sewing machine of my own and using the faker, I took a special trip to Rotherham to spend a day at Lennox Sewing & Knitting Machines shop where I learned a bit more about machines.

Brand and Model:
So my machine, Audrey, is a JS110(SE) from John Lewis. The special edition refers to the color (solid purple).

I ended up getting it more through restrictions and price rather than research but since then have given a good amount of research. Quite frankly, it's remarkably close to Janome's USA-only 2212 in look and capability.

How much did it cost? £99 is the list price, mine ended up being £70 because of sales. (They switched to a color blocked one a few months after I bought mine.)

What do I sew? In general I mostly sew clothing.

How much do I sew? Practically everyday. I've sewn over 10 triple circle skirts on this baby. 

Fabrics:
I sew a lot of knits of all weights. I also sew a lot of clothing weight and quilting cotton. It has failed to snag on lace fabrics. It sort of swallowed some of the felt and chiffon but quickly recovered when I started a bit further in. The home dec fabrics that I make my tote bags out of have also gone through this machine without much of a problem. The corduroy and thicker suiting fabrics have also not really given it a problem. 

The only fabric it's ever really had a problem with is this awful completely synthetic slippery stuff that really was so horrible to cut that I wasn't terribly surprised no stitch would stay on it.

User Error
Every time it has given me problems was completely user-error. Like with most machines you have to thread it correctly every time. The three times I've been genuinely worried I'd broken it, it was just late and I'd threaded it wrong.

Stitches:
I use primarily the straight stitch and zig zag stitch. I've had no problems with needle positioning and twin needle use. I like the buttonhole-I practiced it a lot before using it on a garment and find it nice and easy though it's tricky if you have particularly thick buttons and need a wider buttonhole. I've used the tricot/three step zig zag on knits without a problem. The blind hem stitch takes a bit of practice but also works well when needed. The applique stitch is close and tight.

Bobbin:
The machine recommends plastic bobbins but takes metal ones too. Elastic thread for shirring runs through just fine.

Other Advertised Functions:
Obviously, you can make it into a free arm for sleeves. And the free arm has a little storage compartment for your extra feet. The drop feed is a little plastic plate that you snap above the feed dogs and it stays in place.

The Good: (that they don't really tell you about)
A. Snap foot. I love snap foots because they make switching feet a cinch.
B. Bobbin tension is good and steady. Top stitch tension is easy to control and tweak. I've managed to troubleshoot all tension problems with just top tension tweaking.
C. Handles knits pretty well. I've sewn with machines that hate knits and whine & tug more than they should. This is not one of them. Also didn't swallow my felt or thin fabric.
D. Reverse button is well positioned. You're not going to accidentally press it.
E. Though John Lewis doesn't sell any branded accessories, it works with the general snap feet and general needles. This does not lock you into branded accessories.
F. Easy to maintain. You can easily reach the feed dogs to clean out the fuzz. It's simple to reach the moving parts for oiling. I've not needed to replace the bulb but I checked that it's simple to unscrew.
G. The warranty does include tune ups. I sent it in out of paranoia because the warranty was about to end telling them something vague like “oh, it was sounding a bit...odd”. They tuned up the tension dial, cleared dust out of the engine, and gave me some oil.

Things to Consider:
A. This is not a machine that sews at 120mph like some machines. Foot to the floor on the pedal at 2 stitch length this machine takes a few minutes for every foot of sewing. This is a relatively slow machine which suits my style just fine since it forces me to actually think about what I'm doing (I used to sew at 120mph and spent a lot more quality time with my unpicker). You don't need a max speed limiter.
B. Stitch length gets a bit vague. It's difficult to get a good machine basting stitch (I baste by hand). Similar problem is regulating the zig zag width. Nice and vague so you need to test it out if you have specific width needs. Buttonholes can also get a bit difficult if your button is not the average width.
C. Stretch stitch has tension problems and often snaps. Really annoying because it means you're often going to have to do some troubleshooting. This works fine for me because I've familiarity with what to do but I can imagine that beginners would have no idea what is going on.

Some Nitpicks:
A. Requires long threads at beginning. Maybe it's because I often get down to the very last 3 inches of thread and hate having to buy a new spool of thread for the last seam but I get a bit frustrated that the machine seems to want such a long tail. If it's even the slightest bit too short, it pulls out of the needle. I'm not entirely sure if this is a general oscillating hook problem though.
B. You need to keep an eye on it while winding the bobbin as the motion can pull the spool of thread right off its spool and catapult it across the room.
C. If you're planning on carrying this machine on the bus, keep in mind the free arm will fall off the instant the bus hits a pothole. Simple solution is to take it off preemptively and put it in your bag of course.

The conclusion:
This is a beginner's entry-level machine and so has all the basic capabilities. If you're relying on one step buttonholes and crazy stitch options and mechanized convenience, this is obviously not the machine for you. However, it is an excellent beginner's machine as it relatively behaves itself and is surprisingly tough. I use mine much more than its description described and it gives me little problem.

I should also mention that I'm the sort who reads the manual which has probably saved me a lot of grief. It's only 27 pgs of a lot of white space so it's no chore in this case.


If I were to buy a new machine, I'd probably go one step above. I'd like a variety of buttonhole styles and the ability to be more specific about my stitch widths and the like. However, I'll happily use this machine until it fully dies as my complaints are minor and are mainly of convenience rather than function.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Countryside? Fabric

I made a trip down to London and then thought the fateful words: maybe I'll just pop out to Walthamstow Market to see if there're any cool deals and/or blue flowery paisley suiting (don't ask).

Of course I ended up with over 30m of fabric and loads more of ribbon/trim, etc.

Among them was this mystery fabric.

It is exceptionally soft and burn tests show it has some organic fibres in it. And it's cute, it has horses, hares, and stags...and some random blotches of what-is-that. It's probably meant for small children with its...woodland? countryside? theme and the soft lilac background on which the purple animals repeat in a small scale random pattern. It frays easily, drapes lightly, and gives a little.

So! What to do?

First up was a box blouse. I made it for St. Patrick's Day to go with my green trousers.
All the hems and neckline are narrow rolled hems. I added little side slits to make the box blouse shape fit my figure without too much fabric overuse. Soft and comfortable.

The fabric got re-rolled and put back on the shelf. Until I had sewn two more knit triple skirts for my rapper team. And I thought to myself, I should definitely do a woven circle skirt!
 If I do say so, it looks good.
the Successes: I successfully installed my third zipper ever. That's piping going on below the waistband-my first successful piping attempt (I need smaller cord is what I learned). I got the buttonhole right the first time and that rolled hem worked a treat.

the failure (and some optimism): Of course, I should've thought to check my math. The problem with circle skirts is always the math. I forgot that my current working formula was for knit fabric which allows for a huge bias stretch. Yes, bias stretch this fabric completely lacks. Eurgh! This ended up 4 inches too narrow with the waistband being exactly my waist width. I had to add a panel on the side to make up the extra width. Not a problem for non sewers who all have told me it looks so lovely but an annoyance. Luckily the pattern is random so that's not an obvious flaw and the panel is exactly the width of my side. The skirt looks unseamed from the front and from the back and the panel hangs exactly the same way as the rest. So I've kept it.

some more failure: This last minute panel used up much of my last bits of fabric but I still had some largish pieces. So like with the zig zag fabric, I decided undies were the order of the day. So I tried out the Amerson undies. There's no photo because I ended up making a pair that was joined at the wrong point. *headdesk* Seems like many who got the first version of pattern did the same. Then I finally got them right and I tried them on to find out...they didn't fit me. The style didn't suit me either. But don't let me scare you off, it's a free pattern, forces you to learn some new techniques, and has other people who love them.
Mine ended up pulled apart and harvested for the elastic back.

A success: So now I had some former undie pieces and random rectangular pieces. The fabric frays too much and is surprisingly weak so it wouldn't work as handkerchiefs. But then I was reminded again about tea cup pin cushions.


I bought some epoxy glue and grabbed one of my mismatched and very very sturdy stoneware hunting tea cups. I packed in some strange scraps to fill up the cup. I topped it off with fiberfill and glued the woodland fabric as taut as possible to make the pin cushion. I then glued cup to saucer. And you know, I love it. No longer does my pin cushion roll away from me, M hasn't stepped on it driving pins into his foot, and it works as a pattern weight. I was worried it'd take up space on my cramped work desk but the saucer works a useful little catch plate for the little things (like earrings) that otherwise get lost. When I'm sewing, my embroidery scissors, seam unpick, and a hand needle usually end up hanging out on there too, in close reach. Invaluable addition to my sewing life!

Another success: With some of the last little pieces, I whipped up some hair bowties. Made in the same way as the zig zag ones except that this fabric frayed too much so I used some of the last bit of bias binding I used for the piping of the skirt. Two stashes whittled down? Oh yeah!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Zig Zags!

My current thing is to take a piece of fabric and use as much as I can of it before resigning it to scraps.

First off is this 2 yards of knit red zigzag fabric:

It's a delightful knit that is well printed in straight lines. It pills a little and is slightly see through but it is a dream to sew with if a bit dizzying to try to match up stripes.

Success: I bought the fabric with a straight pencil skirt in mind. With my hips and posterior I really prefer my pencil skirts to be made out of knits because otherwise it gets uncomfortable/rides up real fast. You've seen it already as part of Me-Made but here it is again.


Construction is simple. Two rectangles sewn together (and I did quite well at stripe and peak matching. one side is perfect...the other is close) with a waistband made of a rectangle folded over the elastic. Twin needle hem makes this a figure hugging but not tight skirt.

the failure that turned into a success: My second project was born of seeing that fabric on my floor (where I do all my cutting out). I laid down and confirmed that indeed, I should be able to create a long enough dress out of what was left.

I drew up a croquis:
and made a bodice with shirring elastic in the center to ruche the center and then decided that midriff and skirt could be one piece. That was my fatal error.
Here's the skirt cut out and sewn together:
see the potential problem? (other than that I really need to tidy up)
too slim cut through the hips! Oh no! I'd just made it way too tight for me. Plus ALL those zigzags was doing something to my eyes-something quite unpleasant. Why, I thought to myself, didn't I do the method of cutting a rectangle and sewing the sides afterwards instead of cutting for the sewing line.

I lost heart and decided to stitch the top down to turn the fabric inside out as a contrast but not too constrasty midriff section. I then realized that since I sewed for the entire rapper team I have quite a good idea of their shapes/sizes and that this would fit another girl quite well. Oh good, this wouldn't just be a WIP tossed in the corner of my room. She was delighted to get a free dress and was game for a quick fitting. I determined that it was tight on her but did not show every bulge and unseemly fold like on me and redefined the dress in my mind as hers NOT mine. I proceeded to shorten the bodice, shirr the top of the bodice and then bind it with bias binding. I got out the twin needles again to hem it to length. I looked at my scraps and realized that if I put the zig zag vertical I could use up a particular scrap and so it went. I of course looked at my interfacing stash and went WHERE DID IT GO?! and ended up using the stay tape that I won from StephC (which makes it the third time it saved me some hair pulling and lost project momentum) to make them stronger/less stretchy.




For some reason it looks relatively shapeless and baggy on a hanger. But here it is on her!



Still a bit too slim cut but the fabric isn't working hard as when it goes on me (i.e. the zigzags don't straighten out on her).

Some real success! So after that sadness and debacle with a happy ending, I had some largish pieces left. I had already decommissioned a favorite pair of undies to cut up for pattern making but it had languished in my "things I could easily get on with but don't pile". Once I cut them up and traced them I made up my first pair of undies using the flat construction method (sew crotch together, attach leg elastic, sew one side seam, attach waist elastic, and finish off). They were a bit tight but definitely wearable but as I had just enough more fabric if I did some piecing I determined I could do with an extra cm all around and now those are the most comfortable undies I own.


What's left? Strips of fabric too narrow to make much out of but not long enough to wrap around the head, rectangles of odd sizes etc. Some of the irregular scraps got hemmed to be handkerchiefs but that's so routine for me by now that I barely noticed the decrease in scraps amount.
Success: So hair bowties it is! I've been wanting to do more of the hair decoration route of hairdressing so banging up a few mini bowties was in the books. 


The fabric gets interfaced (I had gone out and bought some by this point) and sewn into a rectangle inside out. It gets turned right side out, that little gap stitched up and ironed flat. Then you pinch it in the middle and stitch it pinched. I used some more stay tape against a small strip I fished out of my trash, wrapped it around the pinch and stitched it relatively higher on the back so that the rest of the strip could be used to bobby pin it in.

As for the rest, I'm out of inspiration. Quilt? Does knit even work for a quilt?

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Me-Made May '13 Final Week

Sunday
This skirt was originally a dress. A very unflattering dress. A bit of regathering easily made it into a skirt. I replaced the original navy blue underlining that rode up at any excuse with a bright blue static free lining. 

not me made is the top I grabbed from a charity shop

 
Monday
This skirt used to be my favorite skirt but a few years ago, I realized that I had to tug it down a lot and the fabric was ripping at the gathers. So this went on my mending pile to have the rips repaired and hand sewn arrowheads at every possible stress point. There are probably 14 of those arrowheads that get lost in the floral print. Now that I'm much more aware of fitting problems and solutions, I know that this is too long in the torso for my figure and will never work for me.

The tights have stars on them. I put them there.
 
The bag is a remake of the old version. I got the bag from a dig but it was thin cotton. No match for my bookish lifestyle or tendency to carry sharp things. Once it developed holes I could no longer ignore, it was time to remake the bag. The base bag was created out of drill, I added an interior pocket to hold the smaller things that might get lost in a totebag, and flatter straps that won't dig into my shoulder so badly. The original bag had its tears repaired and then the design half got appliqued to the drill bag base to create a much stronger version of itself.

not me made is the H&M top and Marks&Spencer shoes

 
Tuesday
A couple of months ago, the constellation scarf was making the rounds of pinterest. This is mine. I accidentally stained this scarf with red blotches so I decided it was perfect for refashioning with a row of red constellations embroidered along the blotched edge. Now it seems a little more intentionally reddish...or so I tell myself.

This was a fairly early skirt. Elastic waist and tiered design with the dots getting bigger to the hem. Not much to say there but I love it. The very deep hem makes it swing delightfully.

not me made are the Camper mismatched mary janes and H&M top

Wednesday
My first box blouse and it's made out of non-drapey almost quilting cotton so not the most comfortable. But I love the print and the little standing collar edged with lace-it's pretty much me.

not me made are the oddly sized jeans

 
Thursday
The skirt was made on the faker out of buttery soft mystery fabric. The ribbon was to hide the horrible seaming caused by the faker. It's due for a reworking. Maybe the fabric could lie flatter if it were sewn with a machine that had tension. 

not me made are the Menkes heels and H&M top

Friday
Perhaps an overkill of polka dots. This was my first attempt at a woven circle skirt. Trimmed in ribbon and two types of lace, this was a rushed work of love. Does that make sense? Also due for a reworking.

The bag was made by me out of Ikea fabric. I wanted a tote bag for my books. I carry a lot of library books to and fro and it made sense to make a bag that could hold 8 averagely sized books. It's a simple tote bag but the perfect dimensions for my average library loot haul. I like how it displays the large scale print.

not me made is the slip I grabbed from a charity shop that may have been intended as a skirt. As the fullness is like a petticoat and the fabric is nice and thin, I use it as a slip.

 
Bonus Saturday
I didn't realize it was June! So here is a bonus. I got this dress online and on the advice of reviewers went a size up...which ended up a size too big. Obviously, the reviewers were not sewers who know their measurements by heart. Instead of paying the same amount to send it back, I took in almost every seam and tapered the sides to fit my curves. I couldn't figure out how to remove the collar but honestly, even had I not made some changes to the shoulders, it would've gotten modified anyway. The white fabric is too thick and sticks out awkwardly (at the kickpleat and collar) so the kickpleat had to get sewed together (making this a wiggle skirt, going up stairs at an angle and all) and the collar got pleated. I rather like the collar more than the original vision.

not me made is the hat.

Well, I'm proud of myself. This was my first me-made-may and not only did I manage to make sure I had a lot of pictures, I even forced myself to get dressed every day despite lingering unemployment and bad weather.

Some Things I've Learned:
-I ended up hating some clothes after spending a day in them. Some of these items are leaving my wardrobe.

-My revisit/remake pile is very large. Le sigh.

-I look rumpled something like 95% of the time. If it isn't pull lines, it's wrinkles or whatever. I pretty much always look like I slept in my clothes. Nothing lies flat against my body which makes sense but also...makes me look rumpled.

-I need to remember to wear shoes for pictures. While we're on that subject, maybe I should practice non-weird expressions for self-portraits. I either look sad, weirdly tired, or just...yeah. I think I look way weirder in photos than in real life. Or at least I hope I do.

 

Monday, May 27, 2013

Ribbons!

So the last time I went to NYC's garment district without a plan I ended up suckering myself into a series of crazy purchases...as you do. This last time was getting on 2 years ago and I'm still working on planning what I will do with the fabric I bought then (along with a crazy amount from Walthamstow Market from the last time I went to London).

Some things though, I bought for a purpose. So I was in a trims shop and I fell in love with beautiful ribbon.

You know what I'm talking about. Those $7-$10 a yard embroidered ribbons. (I was being nice on myself-I stayed away from the silk.) Now I like ribbon trimmed skirts but in my world that's usually 3-5 yards of trimming and there's no way I'll spend $50 on decoration (my entire 30yd haul from NYC was less than $40). But I couldn't walk away from them!

So I bought 2 yards of 2 different ribbons and told myself I'd make them into belts. Decorative belts with absolutely no holding up function.

Both are flower motifs and both are fantastically useful. I simply hand stitched down the excess of a yard for a comfortable waist belt and then attached what are actually jewelry findings as closures. These actually, which can be found in practically any metal you wish (mine are silver). I thought the leaf would complement the ribbon design and the use of the jewelry finding would mean it would be easily removable if, say, I decided to retire it as a belt and use the ribbon as a skirt waistband. It's not looking likely but the clasps work so well I won't mess around with a proper buckle.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Me-Made-May Week Four!

Sunday

Behold me in my glory filled stay-at-home-all-day-b/c-it's-so-cold-and-rainy outfit. This retro (80s? 90s?) jumper/pinafore is perhaps the least flattering thing I own. It defied any effort to give it dramatic bodice shaping. With the drop basque waist tapering the side seams did not go smoothly and taking it in too much made it look maternity friendly. Darts take the plaid from over-the-top to just plain horrible. So this is how it ended up, side seams taken in, shoulders shortened and still looking just a little bit like a child's jumper made adult sized. I love it for its comfort and the bucket pockets that hold every.thing.

not me made: shawl was gotten at a natural clothing shop, the leggings might be from abercrombie&fitch, I found them in a drawer so maybe they were a gift? or someone left them at my house? whatever, they're useful for home.

 
Monday

This skirt was my first woven project after more than half a year of knit fabric and my math was a bit off. A panel later here is a lovely flowy skirt.

not me made: simple knit shirt H&M, grey tights from...a discount warehouse?

 
Tuesday

This dress was an impulsive clearance buy. It was missing half of its buttons so that was the first change and I thought I'd wear it all summer-after all it has some of my favorite sartorial things: pintucks and lace. A few years later I had to take a good look at why I was not wearing it and I came to the conclusion that I may have bought a maternity dress. The entire back bodice is shirred so it's completely comfortable, not necessarily a maternity detail but the strategic little gatherings that inevitable created a poof for a belly was fairly clear. So I first detached the front of the skirt to angle the side seams to get rid of all that extra fabric. That fabric was to become the thicker straps so a real bra could be worn. Of course, I sewed it all together to figure out I'd somehow used a different technique to attach skirt to bodice on either side of the placket. Much cursing ensued and I turned my attention to the straps to distract myself and found out that they were slightly too narrow to do the job I wanted them to do. A search for similarly tan/beige/whatevercolorthisis fabric and I was proper cursing when I thought of a neat way to fix both. White bias binding to edge the straps and make up that precious bit of width and a white ribbon at the waist to hide the inexplicable different connection. Now it's a lot more wearable and I tend to bring it to excavations for the warm nights of relaxation.

the tights are not me made

Wednesday

I actually completely forgot it was me-made may but later realized I was wearing a me-made undie. Almost an oopsie!

not me made is the Fat Face shirt, random sized jeans, and the boots from clockwork couture.

 
Thursday

Miserable cold and rainy day and here I am dressed up for it. The dress is RTW but I found it a bit dull all in black so I messily embroidered some dotted lines in gray along the hem and front bodice. This makes the dress a lot more interesting and highlights that it's not really a terribly formal dress.The tights have darns (so.many.snags).

not me made are the marks&spencer shoes


 
















 
Friday

It's hard to believe it's spring but it is. This is one of my favorite dancing skirts. For obvious reasons I should think. But it came to me a slightly too small size that made it hit me just too high so that it could only really be worn with something underneath...which is too hot for dancing with all that fabric around me. Plus the waistband was simply not capable of sustaining all that weight because this is a heavy skirt so I would wear it and realize mid twirl that another 3 inches of gathering had escaped from the waistband. So I found a similar green fabric and some matching ric rac and decided to add a slim tier to the skirt. The top panel is meant to be hidden and is fully interfaced with a reinforced seam. It was before I had any zipper experience so it's held closed by a series of buttons. It's a little big on me now so it needs some darts put in but that's short work...right?

not me made: I think both the top and the tights are H&M. The shoes are Clarks brogues.

 
Saturday

This red dress was originally all red. The sleeve ends were so tight they cut off circulation. I cut off the bias binding, regathered the sleeves, and bound them to black so they are now comfortable. The neckline dipped so low I was surprised you couldn't see my belly button. I cinched it up a bit but it was still low. Since it's a great summer dress, I didn't want to have to wear a tank top underneath so instead I put in a modesty panel that snaps closed. The fabric is eyelet lace and the front panels don't have any underlining. If I only stood still, it wouldn't be a problem but the underlayer tends to wrap around my thigh leaving a single layer. Not terribly modest since all those eyelets show off my undies...which I only do on the internet you see. I underlined the front panel with a black linen panel.

not me made are the tights from a Target clearance sale and the Clarks mary janes