Archive | March, 2012

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.

Materials:

3/4 yard fabric of choice

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

thread

Directions:

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.

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After a long, long, wait: Cream Silk

18 Mar

I don’t have much of a fabric stash, particularly not considering how long I’ve been sewing. I usually buy fabric intended for specific projects, even if my intention arises right there on the spot. I buy fabric with a specific garment in mind, even if I don’t yet know the pattern.

Which is what I did nearly 15 years ago, when I bought two pieces of dupioni silk, one a very pale tan and one a blush pink, with pintucks.  I thought I’d make either a simple skirt or a shift dress, something smooth and straight, and then a little pink bolero jacket  to wear over it.  And that’s exactly what I continued thinking, for years and years, every time I saw the fabric on its shelf (or packed it into a box and moved it from one house to another). I couldn’t decide if it should be just a skirt, or a full dress. And I couldn’t decide which specific pattern to use to make it, either way…and so I didn’t make anything.

Until this week, when I decided the reason I couldn’t decide between a skirt and a dress was because I actually wanted both. And that I had enough fabric to pull it off, in a way.

I made skirt with just bit of texture, and a simple shell top, so that they could be worn together or separate, and used with other garments for infinite layering possibilities.

I used my basic A-line skirt pattern and divided into sections and cut it cross-grain, so that the slub and texture of the dupioni catches the light with just enough variation to give the simple shape some slight variation.

You can see that “shifting biases” effect best in this picture from my workroom. The sunlight outdoors floods out the variation in shading from the fabric’s nap. Also, you can see here that I finished the waistband very simply, with just a row of fold-over velvet elastic. The skirt has a side zip, and then the elastic smooths it off at the top. (I haven’t cut into the pink, yet, but I know just what I’m going to do with that, now, too!)

I used my “Wear the Shift” dress pattern for the top, and simply cut it off at the waist for a basic, sleeveless sheath-style blouse.  I think the two pieces together work well as a background when I want to feature hand-knitted layers.

This is my “Sophia” cardigan, from one of my very favorite pattern books, French Girl Knits. Which actually makes this yet another “head to toe handmade” outfit…a thing I am finding more common, these days, three months into this project.

Déjà Vu

13 Mar

Fabric shopping.
My eye is caught by a bright green lacy Indian cotton eyelet, with border scallops.  It’s available in about 40 colors. Many of them are beautiful colors, tan, rose, deep red, brown, navy– but my eye keeps going back to that green. Why? It’s not a color that looks great on me…but the color makes me happy. It’s bright, and cheery. I impulse buy 1 1/2 yards–it’s not expensive, and “I can make a skirt out of that.” (That’s my default fabric buying excuse. I can always easily make and wear one more skirt.)

Plus, if I make a skirt out of that, I’ll wear it with some other color that looks better on my skin, next to my face. (Yes. I rationalize. But that green!)

At home, I pin the fabric to my dummy. (I’m calling her “Long Tall Sally”, because that’s the song that popped into my head one day when I walked into my sewing room and saw her standing there.)

It looks good, but looking at it, I realize that I’ve been down this path, before. Why, yes–I might have been seduced by citrus green fabric with an embroidered scalloped border design, before, in my sewing lifetime. Even, before, thought the same thought: “I can make a skirt out of that!”

And indeed, it turns out, I can, and I already did.

(vintage “handmade mess” sewing project, circa 2000.)

Why, look at that.

Apparently, it is a color for which I have a lifelong affinity, particularly when there are little stitched-on leaves and flowers. And my go-to solution is to put it in a skirt, where it won’t be next to my face.  So I’m rethinking my plans for this fabric. How many scalloped-edged, lacy green skirts does a person need?  (Stay tuned to find out what becomes of this year’s length of lace…)

Trepidation

11 Mar

Sometimes I spend so much time in the “planning” stages of a project, I can hardly muster up the courage to move into “execution”.  Like, I have an idea, and I’ve tested it with scraps of fabric, and I’ve matched the idea to a particular fabric, and I’ve measured, and I’ve drawn out the pattern, and I’ve gotten all the things I need together in one place…and then I get stuck.

Like, “What if I’m forgetting something?” or “What if this idea would really work better on a slightly different item?” or “maybe I would like it better, in the end, if I added some other variation or detail to the design that I just haven’t thought of, yet.” “Maybe I should think about it, a while longer.”

The planning part of the project is full of fantasy. In my imagination, beforehand, every project I undertake quite naturally ends up wonderful. Taking a fantasy and making it real comes with risks. Sometimes things don’t match up to my imaginings. It’s this point just in between, teetering  between what’s in my head, and what might come to life on my sewing table….that’s the root of all my crafting procrastinations.

I could teeter here, for ages.

Head-to-toe Handmade

10 Mar

It’s not technically a “suitcase challenge” because I didn’t spend the night, and hence, no packed bags…but I took a day trip, and I wore things I made.

I’m so crafty, I wear hand-knits on my hand-knits.

The green shell is my “Minimalist top“, in Knit Picks lace weight. Over that is my purple “Whisper Cardigan“, knitted up in The Best Yarn Ever, a.k.a. Madelinetosh Tosh Merino Light.  The skirt is one of my many basic A-lines, patternless, made from whatever yard of novelty fabric I’ve fallen in love with most recently. (I made this one last summer, and wear it a lot, because there are a lot of lovely, subtle colors going on in there, so it goes with every other color.)

Even the bracelets are my own, one is knitted and one is one of my fabric-wrapped bangles:

Uniquely Me

9 Mar

Thinking about The New Butterick Dressmaker‘s formula for making a dress form (“on which you can try your clothes as you make them”), I found two commercially available dressmaker’s dummies that function this way, today. One is the “Fabulous Fit”, where one starts with a smaller-sized dress form and builds it up with “contoured pads” (which beats 1927’s “tissue paper, cotton rags, or wadding”, in my opinion). The other is the “Uniquely You”, which has two components, a polyurethane foam body that comes in various sizes, and then a canvas cover, much like the 1927 Butterick guide’s “close-fitting lining reaching down to the hips, cut from unbleached muslin, natural-colored linen, duck or similar material of firm, strong quality so that it will not stretch.”  Basically, just like in the 1927, the “Uniquely You” has you fit this linen lining very closely to your body, and then pull it over the foam base, where instead of wadding and rags, the pressure of the foam fills it out. The “Fabulous Fit” does much the same thing, with their own patented contours.
Either way, one results with a form the same shape and dimensions of your body, and either way, it sounds like the system has been helpfully standardized for the modern era. The Fabulous Fit is available in sizes up to a 43 1/2″ hip, where the Uniquely You is in sizes up to 51″.   Since there is also a considerable cost difference between the two, I went with the “Uniquely You” for my first trial at a custom-fitted dress form.

It arrived very quickly!  I’ve read about the…um, supremely curvacious form of these foam bodies, before squishing into their canvas linings, and I was looking forward to checking it out in person.  Happily, shipping was incredibly fast, and my “mini-me” did not disappoint.

Er, wait, it’s full sized…so I can’t call it a “mini-me”. “Headless, armless me” perhaps?   The feminine, limbless but soon-to-be-well-dressed body that has begun occupying my sewing room. It probably needs a name.

Customizing it is a quite interesting project in its own right. The instructions warn that the fitting process is quite different from fitting a regular garment, so follow the instructions “no matter how much experience you have had as a dressmaker.” I’m okay with starting from basic steps, so I think this might become quite fun.

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Let there be trousers

4 Mar

After playing around with my odd, tight-yet-baggy, marker-ridden muslin pants some more, I decided to return to my green pants (Butterick 6833). They fit well enough to wear out in the world, after all. I decided to use those as an already-started “muslin” to  experiment with.  I was intrigued by Connie Crawford’s “flat tush adjustment”, which is about 1000x simpler than comparable “flat butt adjustments” found here and there on the internet. It seemed like a good place to start, and if it didn’t work, I could easily rip out the seam and return the pants to their previous shape.

I liked it.

And so I proceeded to sew an entirely new pair of pants, using the same pattern, that one adjustment, and adding a partial lining (to reduce visible panty line, and to protect my delicate flesh from the hard metal teeth of the side zipper.)

They look like this:

Although I may just be the last woman in the developed world to discover my pants don’t fit, and trying to make pants that do might be a bit of a sewing-blog cliche, I’m posting all different views of my new trousers, anyway, toward getting better at making them fit.

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