Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Orange and Purple

I volunteer each Wednesday at a food pantry. It's quite a large operation, providing a market-style experience to about 200 families each Wednesday. Several times a year we volunteers participate in city-wide activities that raise money for our operation and others providing a similar service. And we receive brightly colored T shirts. This year's is bright orange and last year's was purple.

These T shirts are sized for men, wider through the shoulders and more narrow through the hips. I am not shaped like that and I never end up wearing these shirts. But I do like to combine them into a shirt that fits.

I was not terribly adventuresome with this project, using Grainline Lark T shirt pattern pieces. This is a basic (ladies) T shirt pattern that fits me. I cut the front and back from the body of orange T shirt (sized XL), and the sleeves from the body of the purple one (sized M).

Orange and purple is a cheerful color combination, I think. Makes me smile.

This is a good reminder to always have fun while sewing. This was all fun.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Blue Green Machine

Now that spring seems to be here to stay for a few weeks, I find myself wanting blues and greens in my wardrobe. When I finished my latest Tabula Rasa (Fit for Art) jacket in a blue-green cross dye, I wanted more.

Just about a year ago I finished a pair of Fit for Art Eureka Pants in green linen. I pulled the remnants out and realized I could just barely squeeze out a MixIt Top from the Sewing Workshop. This is my go-to top, especially when I make pants and have enough left over.

Since I've made it so many times, it goes together quickly. I fiddled around with the closure and may still come back to it. I also made the collar a bit taller.

I had always thought this green linen was a cross dye. It reads that way, but when I cut a square for the back I saw that it is not. I guess the threads are just multi-colored so that it reads less flat that a solid colored linen.

It looks a little stubby in this picture, but I think it'll look fine with the matching green pants. Or maybe it's too much green!?! Hope I don't look like Mr. Green Jeans.

Sewing with these colors is quite soothing. I think I'll make something else blue or green next, continuing with the spring theme.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Tabula Rasa Indeed

Tabula rasa means blank slate. And that is how I used it with this garment.

the plain version
This wonderful piece of fabric has been marinating in my stash for a number of years. It is a cross weave in light green and bright royal blue. It was purchased from Spanglish Fabrics. She travels to Guatemala and brings back gorgeous hand-woven fabric to sell. It's perfect for bags. There is not a lot of drape and it feels just a little coarse. But this piece needed to be a garment.

the cross-weave needed to be highlighted
Often I find that my sewing goal is to feature the fabric, even though this one is essentially a solid color. The Tabula Rasa pattern involves mostly narrow pieces, so it was just right for this 36" wide fabric. The sleeves on the pattern are the largest piece and I had to be careful to make sure I'd have enough for them. I did end up piecing the collar band with a small patch at the center back. You see it in the above picture because it is cut cross-grain and the rest of the band is cut on the length-wise grain.

Once finished the jacket was quite plain. It needed something. My first step to was to add the square patch at the back neckline. I had already added the little bias loop in the collar band seam.

I love working with bias binding and bias tubes and often look for spots to use them. Because this fabric does not have much give, I had to make some samples, particularly of the tubes. Below is a picture of my tubes and tools. I always start by trying to turn the tube with the Fasturn tube turner. It involves a metal tube and metal wire that slides inside the metal tube. There is a sharp pointed corkscrew shape on the end of the metal wire. So you cut the bias stripe and then stitch it together. For this particular fabric, I settled on a 1.25 inch wide bias strip, a 0.4 zig-zag stitch (otherwise the stitches pop when you're turning the tube), and I stitched it 3/8 inch from the fold (not from the raw edge).

Because this is hand-woven, the cork-screw end of the wire slipped out when I was mid-way through turning it. Dang. Luckily I was able to use the hemostat to reach inside the tube, grab the end and pull it the rest of the way out. I used both tools on every tube.

Then I fetched my favorite instructions for making a Chinese knot: Sandra Betzina's Power Sewing. I find her instructions to be the easiest to follow. And I never remember how it's done in advance! Here you can see how it starts:

The long end is off to the left.
This is how it looks after an *over* and an *under* with the long end:

At this point it's symmetrical and rather pretty, I think. I've been tempted to transfer this shape to a garment for embellishment, but I never have. The final step is to draw it up into a round knot. This take some finagling because it wants to draw up unevenly. It helps to have finger nails.

In the end I decided on a single Chinese knot closure, with a plain loop on the other side. I made sure that the Chinese knot finished with long tails. Then I opened up the collar band seams and inserted the raw ends of the Chinese knot on the wrong wide of the band, wrapped it around and hand-stitched in place.

To create the loop, I simply used one bias tube. I opened up the collar band on the other side, inserted raw ends of the bias tube on the outside, and hand-stitched it in place.

I don't know if I'll ever actually close it, but it was fun to make.

I had a Chinese knot left over. So I added a patch pocket with the extra knot attached.

You can also see that I created a vent in the sleeve that is bracelet length. A sewing friend said in a recent presentation that Coco always liked her jacket sleeves bracelet length since that's the skinniest part of a woman's body.

The inside of the jacket also has its own story with much bias binding in a very light weight Indian cotton. Stripes are so great on the bias. And I love the look of the Hong Kong finish when the inside is flashed.

Or if I want just a little flash, I can turn the sleeves up in a slight cuff.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Biased, in the wrong direction

For a number of years now, I've paid fairly close attention to grain line in woven fabrics, much more so than when I first started sewing. It's interesting to me that cross-wise grain is different (and more stretchy) than length-wise grain. Today I had a tiny ah-ha moment when I realized that bias actually has two very different directions.

I began to consider this as I wore and enjoyed my most recent Chateau jacket, constructed from a thrifted bedspread. Although each front piece was cut on the same length-wise grain line, the neckline twisted in two different directions. Now that I look back I can see the twisting beginning right after I finished it.

You can just barely see the torque. The left side of the picture shows the corner turning under and the right side shows the corner turning out. Over time it became more pronounced and so it bugged me more. No amount of pressing and steam-setting eliminated the torque.

The neck edge is of course finished with bias binding. So I wondered - was it the bias-binding that was causing the torque? Of course the answer is yes. I tried to draw a picture to help understand how the bias created asymmetry in the front closure. Bias loves to twist and this is how I visualize it twisting in the original neckline.

So I recut the bias-binding. This time I put a seam in the center back of the bias binding. This allowed me to flip one bias piece to mirror the other in terms of the way it wants to twist.

Voila! Mystery solved.

Just for fun, I added a knot at each corner.
I am so easily entertained.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

The Stowe Bag

A few years ago, Grainline Studio and the Fringe Supply Co jointly published a pattern for the Stowe Bag. I think it was conceived as a handy bag for knitting projects. I knit from time to time but it is not a passion. I'd much rather be sewing (or drawing).

I've been meaning to make it for a while now just because it looks interesting. I finally made it because my reusable grocery bags evaporated. I keep them in the back of my station wagon and one day - poof - they were not there. DH believes I left them somewhere.

The Stowe comes in two sizes and has an interesting shape, I think. My first one was made in the smaller size. I followed the instructions carefully and learned a lot about its shape.

Version 1 with the flat pleats
The overall shape of it is the same as the ugly plastic bags handed out at my local grocery store. It has inner pleats that make the shape flat and regular when stored. In the case of the Stowe, the pleats are sewn on the same side; in the case of the plastic bag, one pleat is created on each side. The effect is identical from the outside. You can see one pleat here on my plastic grocery bag turned wrong-side-out.

I had never noticed how clever the construction of a plastic shopping bag is. It folds nice and neat and it fits on the metal hooks at the check-out stand. Cool engineering, IMO.

The instructions were straight-forward with the possible exception of steps 13 and 15. In step 13, the flat pleats are created and then in step 15, it is boxed. I *think* it is boxed on the exterior but I cannot be sure. The picture provided makes no sense. The step 15 picture is a boiler-plate picture for conventional boxed corners which is not possible after the pleats are stitched down in step 13.

Grainline Studio created a short video to illustrate step 15 but I'm still confused. I sure would love to see one of these bags in person. The only way I can see to create boxed corners after the pleats are stitched down is to top-stitch them in place from the outside of the bag. You can sort of mush it into the shape shown on the front of the pattern and top-stitch in place.

After chewing on this a bit, I decided that I did not really want pleats AND a boxed bottom anyway. It creates too many little slots for fuzz and debris. So I settled on conventional boxed corners.

Version 1 with conventional boxed bottom
I changed the order of construction on my second bag. The edges of the bag are finished with bias binding, something I enjoy doing. But the two curves on the outside of the handles are quite sharp at the lower end and it's hard to get the binding attached smoothly. I found that by applying the binding before the side seams, I was able to smooth it out more. It does create a little bulk at that seam.

I used a thrifted denim shirt for my bias binding on version 2. My goal was to use this pretty hand-woven cotton from Guatamala (Spanglish Fabrics). I did not have enough for the larger bag so I added a piece of medium weight denim to the bottom.

Right side of the bag before side seams are sewn

I also used the denim for the internal pockets. I considered omitting the pockets but it does give the bag more body and strength.

Wrong side of the bag showing the pockets on each side.

The bias binding was completed after sewing the side seams.

I am really enamored of the way the handles are formed at the top. Also I added a little hook for attaching a coin purse or keys to the inside of my bag.

Inside the bag - check out the way the handles are formed. So clever and much stronger that plain handles.
All in all I really like this pattern. But my new bag is too pretty to use for groceries.

Version 2 - also with conventional boxed bottom (you can barely see the denim peaking out of the bottom

Friday, March 9, 2018

I saw it in the window

and just couldn't resist(*).

Recently I spotted some linen curtains at a consignment shop. They are a color I like and I knew I'd have fun cutting them up to make clothes. And I have - Quincy pants, Stafford jacket (as a vest), and MixIt top. These are all patterns from the Sewing Workshop, of course.
First I made the Quincy pants and added a fun detail to the hems. We were on our way to Havana where the weather was just right for linen pants. I am still playing with the hem detail, trying to get the length just right. These are elastic-waist pants with a narrow leg that I like a lot.

The Stafford jacket is the latest pattern published by the Sewing Workshop. There is a sew-along underway on Facebook right now. Over the years, I have always enjoyed making Sewing Workshop patterns. The details are interesting and the instructions are just right. This was no exception. I hesitated a half-minute because it is quite a boxy looking jacket. And the sleeves seem a bit wide and are right at elbow length. This elbow length sleeve is also found in their previous release, the Frankie. I knew from the Frankie I would prefer longer sleeves, or in this case, no sleeves at all.
I finished the armholes with self-bias binding.

I used a 30 weight Coats and Clark cotton-covered poly for my top-stitching. My machine was not in love with that thread, but it worked.

You can just barely see the collar band in the picture above. The collar band and collar are different from any I've made. The collar band gradually tapers to nothing as it approaches the shoulder line.

I really like those faux chest pockets, as well as the real in seam pockets.

Flaps on the faux chest pockets. Fun detail: buttons that were a little party favor when I attended Sew Kansas. You cannot read it but it reads Sewing Workshop around the outer circle.
The Stafford has no side seam so the in-seam pockets sit slightly forward. I appreciate this because I find it awkward to reach back to the side seam for the pocket.

One easy change was to lengthen the Stafford by 8 inches. I think I'll wear it more than I would a short jacket. I know that the current style calls for layers showing near the hips, but I don't think it does me any favors. It is cute on the models at the Sewing Workshop though!

I made one additional change to the Stafford. The yoke attaches to the back with a small group of gathers at center back. Instead of gathers, I created an inverted pleat. The Stafford is chocked full of top-stitching opportunities and so I added some to the back pleat too.

Next I made my favorite version of the MixIt top out of the remaining linen fabric. I like to make a facing that is part of the design. Instead of flipping to the inside, it flips to the outside and is top-stitched.

This was quick and easy but I know I'll use it as a layering piece. I do not anticipate wearing any of these three garments together (aren't you relieved!?!) but I'm hoping they will fill holes in my wardrobe. Solid colored linen is great for that.

*You may recognize this line from Carol Burnett's classic sketch Went With The Wind. If you haven't seen it in a while, I recommend it for some good laughs.