Archive | March, 2012

Oh, Shirt!

27 Mar

I’m venturing into shirts.

This one is Butterick B5497, made out of cotton jersey. I was so proud of myself because I got a double-needle, and felt so pleased, sewing real stretch stitches with very professional-looking seams. Until I broke rule 1 of sewing, and crashed right over a pin (rather than removing it just before it went under the presser-foot) whereupon one needle skewed into the other needle and everything mashed with a terrible grinding sound, and well…I ended up finishing the shirt sewing regular old straight-stitch and zig-zag stitch, with a regular old needle, old-school style. That’ll teach me, for getting fancy!

It’s a cute pattern, though. I like it. And I’ll buy another double-needle next time I’m at the sewing shop…or perhaps a couple, seeing how I am rather hard on things like needles.

Why, yes, I *have* made a jumper!

26 Mar

I finished a sweater I’ve been working on for almost two years. It’s from Susan Crawford’s book A Stitch in Time, one of my favorite knitting pattern books, where old sweater patterns of many vintages are reworked for modern yarn weights, clothing size, and with more complete, specific instructions. The one I’ve been working on has the beguiling title of “Have you Made a Jumper Yet?”

So although it sure took me long enough, I can know say with certainty that I most definitely have.

This has been a lot of knitting–and crochet. About half of this is crochet, the lacework panels on waist, sleeves, and around the neck. I’d say it’s about half and half. And on size 3 needles, well, it takes a whole lot of stitching to make fabric, and it’s a fairly loose, flowing design, so there’s a lot of fabric to it.

I love how it turned out. I especially like how the 1920’s flavor came through, it looks properly vintage. I also like the way the yarn (Elsebeth Lavold’s “Silky Wool”) worked up, the varying nature of the crochet and knit together. The crochet is flatter, more stiff, while the knit parts are drapey and luxuriously springy, with more stretch to the fabric. (I converted it from stockinette to moss stitch, and I love the texture of moss stitch in vintage patterns.)
This has been such a major project, and it has been on the needles for so long that I admit, finishing it, I am a bit at a loss. What to knit, next? How can I sit down to watch a movie or television show, with no “Knitted Jumper” to slave away at on teeny tiny needles?  (Don’t worry, I’m sure I’ll find something.) 🙂

I do think this has been one of my most intensive knit projects ever. (I call it “knit” even though it’s half crochet. That’s another thing I like about old-fashioned patterns, there’s less of a divide between the two crafts, and they often appear companionably in tandem with one another.)

There are a few more pictures over on my Ravelry page, for knitting-inclined people.

Picking up a new craft

25 Mar

Apparently, knitting and sewing and crochet and jewelry-making are not enough for me, because I started something else.  Inspired by the brilliant patterns over at Stitch Diva, I started teaching myself hairpin lace.



It’s pretty, in progress.  I’m not sure I’m a total convert, yet–it still feels cumbersome, and my first attempt at a project turned into a slippery disaster of a tangle. But it seems that if there’s one more way to turn yarn into something wearable, I should at least give that a chance.

Progress Report

24 Mar

It’s been about three months since I decided I wouldn’t buy any clothing retail, and that when I wanted something to wear, I would make it myself. So, “How’s it going?”

Oddly enough, I have a lot more clothes.  More, perhaps, than had I been shopping for them. Rather than feel limited in my options, as you can see, I’ve been making a lot. One of the good features of being in this mindset, I’ve found, is that it’s given me an incentive to finish projects I started long ago. I’m finding that many of my earlier craft intentions are still interesting to me now, so I might as well finish it. I love this side effect, it’s been a delight to rediscover creative projects long left buried or passed over for other distractions.

The other big change is a newfound immunity to retail stores and websites. Years ago, I cut out sugar and white flour from my diet for a time, and I remember the most remarkable thing during that period was that I would be on a street lined with restaurants and bakeries, and I would think, “but they have no food!” What I meant was that they had no food that I could eat, on that particular diet, but it was peculiar feeling, of being immune to all the options that surrounded me.

I feel that way now with my former shopping temptations. I haven’t set foot in a retail boutique in months, I’ve unsubscribed from endless email marketing newsletters, and recently I pondered a storefront with a little odd detachment, like “what are these places filled with endless copies of the exact same garment done over and over again?”

The third effect I have noticed during this time is a renewed creative focus. I had forgotten how soothing I find the “making” process, how engrossed in the process I become, and how happy it feels, to be fully in that state of creative “flow”. I  can be working on something small and simple, meaningless–but it’s still immensely satisfying. I find it very calming and restorative, and I realize I’m using this project very much as an excuse to prioritize this hobby, for now, and take time out just to be by myself in this comfortable state.

And that is why I’m ending up with all these brand new clothes!

I also feel I should confess here that I have purchased one wearable item, a hand-made and hand-dyed scarf, which I bought directly from the maker. I was inspired to support the craft of other creative designers and workers, as well, and hers is a craft I have yet to attempt, let alone master, so I thought for that reason I would make an exception.

Although, unlike my inspiration, Natalie Purschwitz, I am continuing to wear my ready-made clothes right along with my handmade clothes, these days I find I wear something self-made nearly every day. The the head-to-toe handmade outfits happen more and more frequently without intention. But even more days are about 2/3 handmade–if I spent a week or two focusing on little tops and tees for layering, I could likely remedy that in short order, one of these days.

Someone asked me recently “So are you going to do it all year long?” and I found myself replying, quite before I had time to think about it, “at this rate, I may never buy retail clothing again.”  We’ll see!

American Craft Favorites, Part 3

23 Mar

One other “Maker of Fine Clothing” that I admire is textile artist Leni Hoch.

Leni Hoch makes silk scarves (mostly) but also jackets that start with a very light, transparent fabric, and then are hand-dyed lustrous and brilliant colors, often with a metallic sheen. Then they are intricately pleated. The resulting scarves have more body and form to them, from the scrunched pleats. As you’ve seen, the cloth-as-sculpture thing is a perennial favorite for me.  With a fabric this distinctive, the shapes and styles of a garment can be really simple, as the fabric takes over and makes any resulting item a statement piece that’s hard to imitate. Complex, intensive process leads to strong, distinctive and unmistakable results.

The “Easiest Skirt in the World” ventures out into the world.

22 Mar

Sure, it’s all well and good, when it’s just a crazy zig-zagged fabric in the upholstery store, destined to make over some unwitting beach house deck chair. But when you buy it and bring it home and make clothing out of it, you gotta wonder, “can this upholstery fabric really enjoy civilian life on the street?”

I say, when the sun is out strong in March, and the whole world is blooming unabashedly early, that the answer is decidedly YES:

Shifting Biases

21 Mar

Since I took project photos as I made my silk skirt, I’ll post them, here, with step-by-step directions.

You could use any fabric with a significant nap, directional print, stripe, or texture running along the grain line.  (Note that I didn’t make up this idea, I saw a ready-made garment that had a similar feature.)

1) I started with a basic A-line skirt pattern, which I make as a front plus a back with a size zip. I also usually use a simple waist facing, as well, although on this one I chose an elastic binding for the waistband.  This is a skirt style I have made dozens of times, so I usually just trace one of the many skirts in my closet and make a few adjustments based on how long I want it this year, or whether I need an inch added to or taken in at the waist.

My basic skirt pattern looks like this:

(Curved waist, curved hem, flared from waist to hem but not hugely so.)

2) I cut my pattern in half, and then half again, to make strips. You could make as many strips as you like of your basic skirt shape.

3) I drew new grain lines on each piece, at a 45-degree angle from the vertical, each “slice” alternating in the opposite direction from the one next to it.

4) I used these markings to lay out my new pattern pieces, all the grain lines running in the same direction, and lined up with the grain of the fabric.

I drew my pattern without seam allowances, and then added seam allowances before I cut. Make sure you’ve given yourself not only adequate seam allowances, but also an edge to work with at both the hem and the waist, depending on how you like to do hems and waistbands.

5) Now you put the pieces back together to create a front and a back. I used flat-felled seams to join each segment, and I like these step by step instructions.

6) After sewing all your strips back together, you have a front and back of your basic skirt pattern.

See how the light hits the sheen of each slice of fabric slightly differently?  That’s the variation I was going for, that makes it all worth while.  Now you can just sew your skirt together (right sides together, sew up at the sides, insert a side zipper if that’s your style—you can add pockets, too. Then the waistband and hem. The waist can be a casing with elastic, or a turned-in facing, or I used a fold-over elastic.)

Here you can see how the grain meets up at the seams, creating a nice zigzag effect across the fabric:

The Easiest Skirt in the World (x2)

19 Mar

I’m the queen of cheap and easy sewing projects. If there’s a fun fabric around and I can make it wearable, in garment form, in an hour or less, I’m going to go for it. This weekend I found some fun printed upholstery fabrics at my local shop that suggested immediate and simple fashions with barely any effort required.

There’s no garment more simple to sew than an elastic-waisted skirt, and I’ve found that if I skip the casing and buy elastic that can serve as a waistband, unattended, I can simplify the “simple” even farther. This skirt takes only four seams to make, and requires no measuring.


3/4 yard fabric of choice

1 yard (or waist measurement length) 2 1/2″ wide elastic



1) zigzag the top edge of your fabric

2) cut the elastic to be just long enough to fit around your waist and sit comfortably, slightly stretched, at just the height you want to wear your skirt.

3) fold the elastic in half and mark the center with a pin. Then fold each half in half, and mark each quarter point with a pin. Fold each segment in half once more, and pin for each 1/8 point. Then, repeat the same process along the top edge of your fabric.

4) You will now have the same number of pins in both your elastic and along the top edge of your fabric. Pin the elastic to the top edge of your fabric, overlapping the zigzagged edge by 1/2″, and matching up elastic pins to fabric pins.  Because your fabric is longer than the elastic, the fabric will bunch up between each pin.

5) Sew both layers together, stretching the elastic so that it goes through your sewing machine smoothly right on top of the fabric beneath it. Sew close to the edge of the elastic. The stretch will created a “gather” in the fabric.

This is what it looks like, front and back, when you have finished:


If you have trouble holding the elastic stretched while sewing, you can also run two rows of straight stitches along the zigzagged edge of the fabric (no backtracking) and gather it, first, and then pin it to the elastic, already gathered. Pin, and sew that in place.

6) Sew the side seam: with right sides together, pin the ends of the elastic together, and the sides of the fabric. Sew a 1/2″ seam across the ends of the elastic and all the way along the fabric. I sew back and forth across the ends of the elastic several times, to secure it strongly.  Press seam open.

7) Try on your skirt. Trim your skirt to the desired length, and hem it. I turn up and press a narrow edge along the bottom of the skirt (1/4″) and then turn up and press another 1/4″, folding the raw edge inside. I use the blind-hem setting on my sewing machine to stitch it in place. You can also just top-stitch it. Press seam.

In addition to being easy, depending on the fabrics you find, these can also be really cheap. I paid less than $10 for each of the skirts pictured here.


I also feel I was a little influenced, this day, shopping, by the fact that the Anthropologie catalog came in the mail that morning. I might have been slightly more in the mood for “spring prints” as I embarked, because of the layered patterns and textures I saw there.