Celery stalks and cerulean tops

I was about to start in on cooler weather items last week, feeling quite proud of my summer output, when we had a sudden heat spell. Well! A perfect opportunity to go back to the Alexandria pegs for a pair of shorts. I’d been berating myself (sort of) for not having made the pants out of this celery green linen in the first place.

IMG_1268

I’m not being entirely truthful. I do like my red Alexandria pegs and they’ve already gotten a lot of wear. This is a comfortable pattern. I had to discipline myself with whips and chains, though, to cut these legs down to shorts length. I had enough fabric to make pants! Why use less fabric than you have?? Well, having made four pairs of light weight summer pants in the past few months (see them here, here, here and here), I was short shorts.

The Alexandria offers a shorts version, which has some kind of weird curved bottom edge. I didn’t use it. Instead I simply widened the pants leg at the inseam, in accordance with the shorts version. I gave myself enough fabric for just below the knee shorts. It’s odd that I’ve discovered that the best skirt length for me is about 3 inches above the knee, but I haven’t won shorts that short in decade. I like my shorts long.

IMG_1270IMG_1269

I also decided to eliminate another couple of knit pieces from my stash, pieces I’ve been collecting from various discounters since I purchased the pattern magic books. I came that close to trying a couple of those items. But not yet. The avant-garde is calling me, loudly, but I need to tiptoe my way to it. So I tried a new t-shirt pattern, McCall’s 7093. I wanted a raglan-sleeve pattern, and this was the nicest one I found. It’s meant for wovens, but i didn’t see why it couldn’t be used for knits. The front is composed of three pieces, so there are opportunities for colour-blocking, and also for mix and matching woven and knit.

IMG_1272IMG_1271

For this version I added a ruffle (yes, me, a ruffle!), which I secured to the neckline with picot elastic. I also widened the sleeves a little and inserted elastic into a casing.

These two tops were really more experiments in working with mysterious knits. I think they’re both bamboo, both with 4-way stretch. The first is a feather-weight. It’s a joy to put on in the heat. The long-sleeved one is h-e-a-v-y. When I tried it on for the first time, I swear it hit the floor and bounced back up. I’m pretty sure it’s bamboo yarn wrapped around guttapercha. I doubt I will ever wear it with these shorts (though I love the two colours together) because it’s very warm.

So that’s it for this week’s production. I’m off to sing in a 240-voice choir tonight, a concert of Mozart’s Requiem. That should be a blast.

Of bras and breasts

I hate bras. I didn’t wear one until I was 45. I was so disappointed when women began strapping themselves in again after the great bra-burning of the ’70s. I do realize that larger-breasted women needed some kind of support. And then there was Madonna. Sigh.

When I came across the free Mallori Lane “bralet” pattern, I thought that might be something that would work for me, so started collecting scraps of knit fabric and mesh fabric. The pattern calls for a short back panel, with two horizontal strips of elastic above that. I decided that would be murder to pull on and off, and so subbed a full back panel.

Instead of a vertical dart, or pleats, under the breast, the upper front panel has a wavy bottom. That attaches to a rectangular band. This two-piece design means the unit doesn’t totally flatten the breasts. I might as well say I quite like the flattened look — it was in vogue, I believe, between the no-bra and the Madonna periods, when lots of women were trying camisoles and tight tank tops under their blouses and sweaters. Still, I liked the idea of getting the little bit of lift provided by this design. Here are the two front pattern pieces.

IMG_1263

And here’s the finished product.

IMG_1264

I shortened the lower band and omitted the called-for elastic because it seemed more comfortable that way. And I should have used black picot elastic, but didn’t have any. On the other hand I do have a commercial-sized roll of white, so that’s what I used and will continue to use if I make any more of these.

The pattern called for any kind of mesh at all as an inner liner. I know nothing about mesh. My favourite discounter had some scraps of something with holes in it, which I assumed meant it fell under the category of “mesh”. Here’s the inside.

IMG_1267

I had to improvise the straps as there was no black bra strap elastic available in Vancouver, or Bellingham (I hopped the border this weekend with a friend who wanted to do some shopping there. I wanted to check out the Bellingham Joann’s Fabric store. They had Vogue patterns on sale for 4.99 USD — about $7 CAD, so I picked up four!)

I could only find half-straps in Vancouver, so slipped some satin ribbon through the rings to add the extra length. I wore this thing for a bit this morning before taking the pics, and this puppy is warm! Okay, here it is.

IMG_1266

That’s a pretty bright picture, isn’t it? You think I like red?

I’ll wear this thing a lot to see if it’s comfortable enough over the long term. If so, I foresee lots of colourful versions coming up in the future.

 

Free Tree Tees and more

I’ve been surfing the learning curve this week, figuring out my new serger, plus trying to nail down exactly what constitutes a knit. Most of the knit fabrics out there are things I never had anything to do with until I started sewing. I have the feeling new knit fabrics are being invented daily. So, I’ve got a stash of about half a dozen pieces from half a metre to five yards, all scrounged from discounters or thrift shops, all fibres unknown. Some have crossgrain stretch only, and some have four-way stretch. Those are two different animals entirely! Two-way stretch fabrics are at least somewhat familiar. They float. Four-way stretch fabrics sag.

I started with a small piece of something with four-way stretch, figuring the top would be short enough that the fabric’s sag would not be a factor. I used Grainline’s free Hemlock pattern. This is a pattern I tried about six months ago and didn’t like. Since then I figured the fabric had been a bad match — too drapey, not enough body for the boxy shape.

I added an inch to each side, front and back, and took a couple of inches off the bottom.

Here’s the result.

pink striped

I like it. The fabric looks familiar — I think I’ve seen men’s golf shirts made out of it. I actually got sleeves out of the piece, which was not even a yard long. That’s the advantage of a pattern like the Hemlock, which has a really shallow sleeve head.

I decided another piece of fabric also had enough body, so made a second one right away.

IMG_1253

I had a nice piece of white fabric (two-way stretch) that I intended to use for a sleeveless version of the Hemlock, but after I pinned the pieces together and tried it on, I realized there wasn’t enough body. There was nothing to like, so I recut the pieces using my TNT self-drafted top/tunic/dress pattern.

I suppose two pix are redundant, but I’m showing off the blue wide-leg pleated pants that I posted about last time. I shortened them about an inch, and hand-hemmed them because I didn’t like the visible stitching line. I was heading in the wrong direction with them, thinking I needed a short or tucked-in top. I like both the blue Hemlock, and this white tee with them.

I’ve decided to christen the white one. Although it started out as a pattern hack, I think I’ve made it my own by now. So, allow me to introduce the Great Lakes Tee. Named in homage to where I grew up, always within spitting distance of one or other of them.

Here’s another.

IMG_1256

I really like this blue fabric. It’s a cotton heathered blue, two-way stretch. It’s really airy. I found a crumpled bundle of it at a thrift store. There’s still about two metres left.

So, all those fabrics were pretty easy to deal with. What’s left are four-way stretch pieces that I find pretty unfamiliar. I did burn tests on most of them, and discovered that they’re all largely natural fibre, which was surprising. So here’s the last Great Lakes tee  for now, made from the saggiest of the pieces.

The sag doesn’t seem to be a problem. But  I can’t imagine making anything tunic length or longer from this type of fabric. It’s almost a beautiful colour, isn’t it? So close, but …. let’s just say that it reminds me of a beautiful colour 🙂

Just call me angel . . . in a napkin

I ended my last post by saying I’d be refashioning a table cloth for next time. I just can’t use that horrible, horrible phrase, “and now for the big reveal”. I can’t. You know?? It must be the ugliest phrase in the English language.

So, anyway, this is me, dressed in a table cloth.

angel4

Pretty angelic, yes?

angel1

It was a huge tablecloth, which I found at the local Sally Ann (does everybody know that nickname for the Salvation Army?) I almost left it behind (afterall, I didn’t know its provenance) but it was a fabulous, floppy, snow white cotton jacquard. It’s so hard to find nice cottons in Vancouver. Ninety percent of the cotton fabrics in town are quilting cottons, and maybe 8 percent are standard, basic, boring shirting fabrics. Which leaves the odd nice bolt scattered among the six fabric stores. So, I imagine it covering the long rectory table in some vicar’s cottage next to the oldest church in town, lilacs and violets in chrystal vases on its surface. Provenance, done.

The top is the first pattern I ever purchased through Pattern Review, because of reviews I saw at the site. When I received the pattern, and saw the envelope pix, I realized I would have overlooked it in the pattern book. It really doesn’t look like much. It’s Butterick 6024. I made a few changes. I raised the front and back neckline a bit. I replaced the elastic at the sleeve ends with a flat cord. I changed the hem design. The pattern has the front hem straight across, with a dip occurring only in the back panel. I cut the front and back to have the dip start in the front. A much nicer look, if you ask me.

This was my first pintuck operation, and my first woven bias binding neckline. I’m happy with how they both turned out. I love this top 🙂

The pants (shortened because I couldn’t get the whole length out of the table cloth after I’d cut out the pieces for the top) are burda 7400, which is a pattern I used once before. As I was laying out the (two) pattern pieces, I realized that I had mistakenly cut one of them for a size xxxxl! No wonder the previous pants I had made just weren’t right.

The pattern shows wide ribbing folded over at the waist. I didn’t do that the first time, and I didn’t do it this time either. Instead, I cut a rectangle and made a casing for elastic, sewing the casing to the top of the pants. It worked well. I have such a small difference between hip and waist that there isn’t much bunching. I may add belt loops so I can wear a belt with them too.

angel3

I was so happy with these pants that I immediately took apart the previous pair I had made, cut away about an inch and a half from each of the two back pieces and sewed them back together. I like this pattern because it’s a great compromise between fitted pants and elastic waist pants. The pants fit pretty close to the body, and a belt hides the elastic waist casing. The side seams are not at the sides, but closer to the front. That means the pockets lie flat and won’t bulge out at the sides.

green stripers

These are obviously not “good” pants, but they are a general utility pant more comfortable for me than blue jeans. I love the green “railroad” stripes. For my next pair, I may put in a fly.

Refashioning chubby Chinese dress

IMG_1013

This is not a post about a coat. You may have noticed that from the title. My next post was supposed to be about a coat, but I’ve been waiting and waiting and waiting to finish the coat so that I can blog about it and this morning when I read the remaining instructions I realized that although I’ve sewn up the whole coat, and the whole lining, there are still about half a dozen steps and they’ll take me daaaaaaayyyyyyys to finish. I’ve been dying to write a post. I realize I could write a WIP about the coat, but it’s kind of too far along for that. So I was gloomily pondering how to write a post about a non-existent garment as I took my daily stroll this late afternoon.

I stopped into a second-hand clothing store, not to buy anything, but who knows they might have something that I might like for its fabric, I thought. It was late afternoon and a staff member was vacuuming around my ankles when I saw a pretty nice looking sweater. I’m allowed to buy a sweater, I figure, since it’s still uncertain about whether I’ll tackle any knitting this winter and if I do knit a sweater, it’s a toss up as to whether it’ll be wearable.

So I was looking for the label to find out what it was made of when I saw a “TOPSHOP” label. I wouldn’t know anything about that, except that I’ve seen my British blogging compatriots occasionally mention “going to the High Street and stopping for a look at Topshop”. I’ve never been entirely sure what that sentence means. So my pulse starting racing a bit because it reminded me that I blog internationally (we all do, of course, but doesn’t that sound just so ‘wow’?) and if only I could write a post about something ….

Well. I tried the sweater (jumper to you Brits) on and it felt fabulous but was too big overall, and too short in front. But it felt fabulous. It’s a great wool fabric. A brilliant colour. And it’s from Topshop. So I began to think that maybe it was charmingly oversize, you know, maybe it was the “boyfriend look”? I bought it. For $12 CAD —  about 4 pounds British I should think — I could wear it indoors when the house is chilly.

Then I really wanted to blog about the sweater, but this is a sewing and sometimes knitting and refashioning blog, not a “what I found at the thrift store” blog, so I considered what I could put with it that involved sewing. Then I remembered the  pair of Chinese dresses that I bought a few years ago at a thrift store sidewalk dollar rack. They were both obviously handmade out of fine British woolens, with China silk linings. For a woman about my height but somewhat chubbier. Possibly never worn, smelling a bit mothballish.

I wondered what had led them to their sad fate in a rack of ragged, worn-out, desolate cast-offs. I wondered if the previous owner had had a few fine dresses made in Hong Kong before immigrating to Canada, but once she got here, decided she’d rather purchase a brand new wardrobe from Holt Renfew. I imagined her in flashy high-end labels smoking cigarettes in an ivory holder at the mahjong tables. Or else she died. Relatives, cleaning out her house, boxed them up and brought them to a thrift store. Either way, there’s a story to those dresses and I didn’t want to leave them to the sidewalk trash. It seemed to dishonour whoever they belonged to to leave them there.

I made a sleeveless jacket out of one of them, but the other has been hanging on a closet hook, waiting for inspiration.

IMG_1016 There’s my cat, finding inspiration. I’ve tried to get her into pictures before, but forgot that all I have to do is lay some fabric on the floor, and she climbs right on board. Way to go, Holy Smoke.

IMG_1014

Earlier in the summer I slid the dress down my hips and discovered the wider tummy part fit my hips, and the narrower part just below the bust fit my waist. I could cut in just above the side zip, right under the underarms, put in a facing and have a skirt. I put it aside for a winter project, and yesterday, with the new sweater under my arm, I pulled the dress off the hook, laid it down and took the scissors to it.

IMG_1019

IMG_1020

I haven’t done any of the sewing yet. There’s enough extra at the waist for a few darts, but that, plus making a facing is all I need to do. I still don’t know whether this fabric is black, or blue and black. In my youth I would never have worn the blue of this sweater — I wasn’t really a fan of jewel tones and blue was my least favourite colour. Today I love it. Maybe it’s the greying hair?

I’ve tried on what remains of the dress, by the way, the sleeves and shoulders, and I think that with the addition of a bit of trim, I can wear it as a shrug. Then I’ll have used the entire thing, wasting nothing.

What kind of store is Topshop anyway? We’ve had Marks and Spencer here in Canada, but that’s the only British chain I know.

The long and the medium of it

I started this blog about a year ago, and my first post was about tops I made from a self-drafted flared pattern with a high to low hem. I’ve returned to the same pattern. I love this pattern. It’s so simple and so adaptable.

IMG_0965  One reason I made this top this “medium” length is because that way it can function both as a top and as an underskirt. This is my Olivia Wrap, which could really use an underskirt, or something, as light does shine through.

IMG_0966

The fabric is a really soft bamboo jersey. I hope it holds up and doesn’t pill right away. I think it was comments by Kate of Fabrickated that I should wear more soft greys that impelled me to actually slap money down for this at this particular time.

When I finished that one, I pulled out some other fabric that I bought recently as a roll end, at a drastic reduction. It’s a merino wool that very few stores in town sell, but that I’ve been drooling over ever since I discovered it last year (and made a short sleeveless version of this pattern with). This fabric was so wide that I could make the front and back panels side by side, and have a more or less maxi length shift with 3/4 sleeves.

IMG_0970

I got the idea for the diagonal zipper after reading a post by Lori from Frivolous at Last, in which she showed some new patterns she bought. One of them had a diagonal zip, and I thought it looked fabulous. I think this magenta zip totally brightens the pea-green of the fabric. I think it’s pea green? Is it pea green? In some light it looks more golden-khakiish. Anyway I love the colour, as I tend to love colours that sort of slant away from the primaries.

I spent a few days mulling over how to cut the fabric and install the zipper. I knew if I just slashed the fabric on the diagonal, it could stretch way out of shape and I’d never get it back together. I’ve read some bloggers who have talked about using fusible non-stretch interfacing on stretch knit closures, so I thought I would try that, but I didn’t know where the interfacing should go — on the part that folds under, on the part that doesn’t fold under, or on both? After some experimentation I decided to put it on the part that folded under, so I cut a one inch wide strip and placed it where I wanted it. But I was really hesitant to fuse it to the fabric, you know? So I dawdled and sewed two parallel lines down the middle. I figured I would cut between those two parallel lines. Then, when I had confirmed and reconfirmed about a million times that this was the right placement for the zip, and that it would start at exactly the right place by the sleeve, and end at exactly the right place by the hip, I ironed on the interfacing, cut the fabric plus interfacing between the two lines of stitching, folded top and bottom pieces half an inch and pinned on the zip.

Whew!

Then I knew I had a problem. The zip, of course, is totally inflexible. The jersey, when pinned to it, looked a little bit rippely, or wavey, as if there was too much fabric for the length of the zip. I knew it would have to be eased in while sewing. I pulled out my walking foot. But the walking foot isn’t designed for zippers, so I had to experiment,again, with a spare zipper, to see if it would march right along on top of the zipper teeth. And it did!  That walking foot as a tank, man.  It’ll march over anything.

I’d say this zipper installation is about the closest I could possibly come to perfection. There’s no gap between the top of the zip and the sleeve and the zip lies perfectly. It’s not, by the way,  on a straight diagonal. I put in a very slight curve. And it’s fully functional!

IMG_0971

I’m not entirely sure what to do about the bottom hem. The missing part of the front is where I cut the sleeves. It created a steep low to high curve. Should I keep it, or make it more gradual? At the last moment I decided the sleeves would be too short if I turned them over to hem them, so instead I made facings which I attached to the sleeves, thereby actuallly lengthening the sleeves a bit.

IMG_0968

Crone robes, yesss. Fashion for the boomer wise-woman!

IMG_0969

Hmm. Looking a little too much like the good shepherd here. The belt is some kind of leash — for a dog? a horse? A yard-sale find. The sandals are a Salvation Army Thrift Store special. They actually have my name stamped on the leather insole — my name is the brand name of the shoe. Can you believe that?

I’ve noticed that among sewing bloggers there are those that love high-low hems and those that don’t. I love them for shorter tops, thigh-length tunics and maxi shifts primarily because they elongate my body. I’m about two inches shorter than I should be 😛 Everyone in my genetic family is taller than I am. And the length I’m missing is from my legs. They’re too short for my torso. So anything that lengthens my legs is good, anything that lengthens all of me is good, and anything that hides where my legs stop and my torso starts is good.

Anyway, I know it’s rude to talk money, but I want to say that this little number cost all of $10 CAD. I’m sure it would be way out of my price range in a store. Just one of the joys of sewing.

harem karate yoga pants

IMG_0905

I was thinking of pants like this — I guess they’re called “harem pants”, but I don’t like that term — before I went wandering around Europe for a few months. I searched online and saw a few basic patterns, but nothing I trusted.

I had done nothing except choose the fabric I wanted to use when it was time to go to Paris. Wandering toward the Eiffel Tower one day I saw a chic young woman wearing an intriguing outfit that included these sorts of pants in black and white, black boots and a black leather jacket. I stared. Then I stared even harder as I tried to figure out how her pants were constructed. She called me on it, shouting at me from across the street. For a minute I envisioned fisticuffs with a chi chi, feisty Parisienne. Not a good idea in a city where I didn’t know anyone who could carry me home, broken and bloody in the aftermath!

Her angry comment to me — it was in French, but I got the drift — indicated she correctly surmised I was staring at her clothing, and not at her, so I really don’t understand why she was upset. Anybody?

A month or so later I was wandering through a shopping district in Florence when I entered a shop specializing in Thai products. They had a rack of these pants, all in assorted Thai printed cottons. I got to take a closer look 🙂

2015-03-10 13.46.24 2015-03-10 13.47.01When I got back home, I pulled out the fabric I wanted to use as the base (it was material I’d bought at a theatre company sale). I used a basic drawstring loose pant pattern, and cut off the crotch points. Then I made pattern pieces for a central triangular panel for the front and back, as well as a dirndl waist, copied from an old skirt.

I had already cut out pieces from the old skirt for the central panels when I went to a nearby yard sale and found the fabric that I actually used. I loved it, it was cheap, and it went with the base fabric better than what I was planning to use.

IMG_0908 IMG_0910

IMG_0909

So that’s it. Some thing’s I’d do differently — I used a too-stiff non-woven interfacing in the dirndl waist. It was all I had in the house. I’ve since stocked up on various weights of woven interfacing, and next time I’ll use something lighter. Also, while I love the central fabric, it’s sufficiently stiff to make the pants a little more “formal” than I would like. I will make these pants again in a lighter fabric, maybe linen, and I think they’ll look simpler and drape more softly. I would like to do piping when sewing two kinds of fabric together (many of the pants in the shop in Florence had piping). But I just don’t feel up to learning to make and install piping yet. Oh, and I’ve got enough of the yard sale fabric left to make a matching vest. That’s a project for some other time.

And in case anybody’s wondering — the pale green vest is a copy of the Marcy Tilton pattern I used for the “web” vest. Her pattern is actually for a jacket, but I de-sleeved both versions. I got the fabric, a wool crepe, in a remainders bin for a dollar or two. I just love those sorts of finds.