Wednesday, March 31, 2021

A Few Basics

It's more fun to begin a project with star potential. You know, the piece that outshines whatever sits under it, over it, or around it. But there are times when I discipline myself to make some basics. And the truth is that it satisfies my creative cravings equally well.

Navy cotton-lycra knit Urban tee with Helix pants in a fairly beefy rayon knit.

Recently, I finished two successful tees that I will undoubtedly wear a lot. First up was a cotton knit tee in navy blue. The fabric is inexpensive, easy to sew and comfortable to wear. I returned to the old Urban tee shirt.

I tried to use it recently as just a basic tee - front, back, 2 sleeves - and I failed. My calculations went awry. So this time, I kept the basic design and eliminated the front cascading drape. I was a bit gun-shy in the drafting of my new size with the added adjustments for a simple asymmetrical center front seam. And it worked!

I am fairly certain I'll make the Urban tee shirt this way again, perhaps with cap sleeves for warmer weather. It works on its own or as a layering piece. I am extremely fond of the little pocket though it's only deep enough for a tissue. 

Even the neckline worked out great. I used Linda Lee's 7/8 rule for measuring the neck binding and it fit beautifully. 

With knits, the stretch and recovery varies widely. I find it daunting to sew with them. This cotton-lycra knit from my favorite local fabric store - Gail K - has good recovery and sufficient stretch. It does not have sufficient stretch to consider pants, but just right for a tee shirt. 

I used the same fabric in a yummy chocolate brown for a swing tee, blogged previously. It's a bit long for layering under every jacket it matches, but a great shirt nevertheless.

Next I made a black rayon jersey tee using a favorite pattern - the Odette - also from the Sewing Workshop. I have mixed feelings about rayon, but it looks and feels great. It was easy to sew too. I washed the fabric on cold and dried briefly. I know that it will not remain black long if I continue to machine wash it. But I do hate to have it dry-cleaned, which is neither dry nor clean. And it's not low maintenance. For now, I love it.

The Odette is a good tee shirt pattern because it has interesting lines but still fits nicely under a jacket or vest. I made a white one a while back and constantly reach for it. This will be a favorite too.


I had to carefully label the front side of my fabric after cutting each piece of each of these tee shirts. Both are jerseys and so the horizontal stretch curls to the right side. Also both have different left and right fronts. The Odette is more complex than the Urban, with many more pieces. 

I am also continuing to recycle pants that are too big on me. I find that very satisfying . The red ponte knit pants were not only too big, but they were faded. When I took them apart, I used the other side for the front and now they look fresher and brighter. 

I no longer had any remnants from it (what was I thinking?) so I had to use a different ponte for my added waistband. Since my waistband never (ok, almost never) shows, that's OK. They are so comfy!

Here are the red Helix pants - the cropped version - with a favorite layering piece, Hearts A Flutter from Cutting Line Designs.

I thought I had the Helix pants just right. I added a waistband and adjusted the rise to accommodate that. But just when I think I have got it, I use a ponte with different amount of stretch. I was thinking that ponte is ponte, but not at all. This one has about 5-10% stretch (I now realize).

This ponte is from Marcy Tilton. I love the muted multi color design, black, navy with a touch of light brown. It works with many of my tops and even jackets. Now that I've worn them a bit, I know I need to make further adjustments. I will start by scooping the crotch because that is where it is uncomfortable. Fingers crossed.

Lastly, I uncovered some nice wool knit in stash, probably from Gail K. I stitched them into super comfortable and slimming Helix pants. These are a success all around. And the weather is up and down, so even though it's April tomorrow, I can still wear them some. I'll be happy to pull them out again when it turns cooler. 

I washed a piece of this wool knit and even dried it. It does not look bad but I do think I may take these to the dry cleaners. There is just something about wool that makes me leery of machine washing. I think over time they may become wimpy with less recovery and more wrinkling.

These are hemmed with a bias strip of black silk dupioni, one of my go-to trim fabrics.

There is enough left for a topper of some sort. I was sad to discover that the fabric contains moth holes, another reason I washed it. It was pretty easy to cut out the pants and miss the holes. Making a topper with the damaged fabric will give me an excuse for some boro or kantha mending.

I am ready to sew for spring. It is still that in-between time here when you need a jacket in the morning and short sleeves in the afternoon. Perfect time for these basics, but my creative juices are ready for color! Perhaps we all are ready for bright color, as the promise of a post-COVD time seems possible.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

So What are You Making Today?

On our daily walk, he asked me, what are you making today? Mistakes, said I.

after my second round of goofs began

That is the way it seems some days. Not often and never for long, but there are days like that, right? And it's tempting to avoid blogging about it.

I think it happens when I let my thinking get too far ahead of the project at hand, especially when making something that should be straightforward.

This project started with the desire for a simple turtleneck tee. I remembered the Urban tee from the Sewing Workshop and thought I could quickly convert it to a simple tee. I'm thinking I misidentified the center front, so important in this adaptation. 

the Lark by Grainline Studio

I measured twice and cut once but you cannot uncut. After cutting most of the pieces I realized that something was wrong. The front piece was entirely too narrow. I've given up trying to figure out what I did.

So I pulled out my trusty Lark Tee pattern from Grainline Studio. It is a winner, IMO. This one fits me nicely with a slight curve at the waist. I have no idea why I did not start with the Lark. Anyway I was very lucky. I was able to fit the pieces onto the remnants of my screw-up including the turtleneck piece.

I worried over whether or not I needed to change the neckline before committing to a specific turtleneck piece. So I sewed the shoulder seams and slipped it over my head. Just right.

I cut the collar piece using Linda Lee's 7/8 rule, rounding up. Then I stitched it without aggressive back-stitching (I've learned to avoid that) and slipped it on over my head. Also just right.

The rest was easy. I'm in love with this yummy fall layering piece, even though it's now spring here in the southeastern US. I suppose it's not a real turtleneck as it scrunches, but I like the way it feels up against my neck.

For my next round of mistakes I used another knit fabric purchased from the Sewing Workshop, a cotton-lycra black and white jersey with 1" wide stripes.  I fondly remembered their Trio pattern that included a simple top with raglan sleeves. I carefully started cutting out each piece single layer to make sure that the stripes did not drift, matching the stripes using the notches. I worked my way around the garment, carefully matching notches as I went along. And then.

That required some very careful piecing, not an artful touch, but OK.

Well, oops. I should have matched the stitching line, not the notches. The seams are angled in such a way that the notches do not relate well to where the seam is sewn, especially with such wide stripes cut at an angle. Yuck. 

I was also working in a make-shift sewing space while my sewing room was being painted. So, for once, I realized I needed to just stop. Stop cutting. Stop ripping. Stop sewing. It was a good idea.

Now back in my sewing room, I returned to the Lark tee. I managed to cut two fronts and two backs, with two different black and white strips. The narrow stripe was a remnant from my leggings. Just enough. whew. That eliminated the issue of matching and I like it better anyway. Really.

I did not have much left for sleeves and so opted for cap sleeves. Somehow my first round with these went badly and I had these puffy places on my shoulder blades. I could not bear to take pictures. 

So I once again ripped out seams. I went back to my original Lark pattern (the taped together PDF version) and recut the sleeves. Since I had added CF and CB seams, and this fabric curls like crazy, I decided to reassess all pieces with the original pattern too. A little re-cutting was more-or-less successful.

Next I worked on adding a little color to the neckline. I imagined a double binding that I've seen Linda Lee demonstrate. No problem in the first round of sewing. Then I could not decide how to finish the edge of the neckline binding. Machine stitching looked terrible, so I thought, OK, sashiko to the rescue.


So the next and final step was to invisibly under-stitch the binding down. That worked.

Now the shirt is too short.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Jesus is Laid in the Tomb

Each year parishioners at St. Patrick's Episcopal Church in Atlanta volunteer to create a 24x30 inch piece of art to hang in the Nave (called the sanctuary in some churches). The work centers around Lent and there is usually a Starving Artists' dinner of soup and bread. Each artist describes the piece to be presented, explaining what it meant to them personally and how they proceeded. These are primarily paintings. Later, after the pieces are hung, there is a formal Stations of the Cross service in the Nave and all parishioners are invited. This has been going on for more than 20 years now. Last year, due to Covid, we never took our pieces to church. But we still made them and we shared over zoom.  Our church has been closed for more than a year now. This year, as we see the light at the end of the tunnel, the pieces will be hung in the church, but without the in-person Starving Artists' dinner. There is hope that we will meet inside our church again before too long and can see one another's pieces in person. My piece is for the last station, Jesus is Laid in the Tomb. What follows is my story:

When I try to imagine Israel, I see sharp rocks, layers of sand, and shades of brown, with a bright sky above it all. When I try to imagine Jesus laid in a tomb, I imagine barely visible caves, deep shadows, and dark curves. As I began to create my station of the cross for this year, that is what I tried to create by piecing fabric together, with some curves and some sharp edges.

 It felt chaotic, as I imagined the minutes and hours following Jesus' death on the cross. 

I tried to represent that frightful time with swirls of quilted hand stitch, in shades from bright white to dark brown, nearly black.

And then he is laid in a tomb, wrapped in a shroud, still, quiet, dark. 

As he remains there, something begins to happen. 

His shroud becomes transparent – ethereal, I hope. He begins to transform. I hope you can see his shroud in the lower left-hand corner, made with French knots to maintain the layering of the story. 

As he rises, a wing opens, in the middle. Another wing is forming.


In the upper right-hand corner, he takes flight in the form of a dove, still transparent and continuing to change. 

Rise, Jesus, rise.