Tag Archives: sewing

Applying knitting mind to sewing projects

7 Apr

I’m a lot more patient when knitting than when sewing.

I know, starting out, that knitting a garment one stitch at a time takes a long time. I go in with a patient, long-term expectation. But for some reason I have it in my head that no matter the complexity of a sewing project, if I just sit down and devote a whole afternoon/day/weekend to it, it’ll be done. This has no basis in logic. Yes, I can knock out quick projects like a skirt or a simple dress in an afternoon, day, or weekend. But there’s no rule that I have to–and just as in knitting, sometimes two steps forward follows with a big step back.
For some reason I routinely sit down with a knit or crochet project telling myself “I’ll just do a few rows of this lace before dinner” or “I’ll carry this scarf with me for the train ride, maybe I’ll get a half-inch finished today.” I take small bites, and am satisfied with small progress.  Maybe it’s because with sewing, I have to set up the machine, cutting table, ironing board, etc. and I feel like that effort should be rewarded by a completely finished item. But I’m going to practice changing those rules. I’m going to bite off only small parts at a time. “Tonight I’ll just cut out the pattern pieces.” “This afternoon, I’ll just add the zipper.” “Maybe tomorrow I’ll set in those sleeves.” Small, attainable, goals focused on process.

OmSm

This is my hobby, after all: something I endeavor because I enjoy.  So doing it over and over, multiple days (weekends) in a row (even working on the same project) should be no problem for me. And when I find myself rushing through a hem or an interfacing, I’ll remind myself of a current work-in-progress in yarn, and try to make the mental transition.

Black on black

13 Jan

I’m working on a little black dress. You might remember from last year that this is where my “make all the things” intention ran into its kryptonite: I just could not get inspired to sew a solid black dress, and so I bought one instead.

I thought I could remedy that rather simply. I thought I could just take one of my tried and true patterns, one from this sewing challenge that resulted in one of my most oft-worn garments, and whip it up into a simple black dress. Then, I would photograph it, and post it for my readers: “ah-ha! My sewing challenge has been conquered!” I would say. “What I made a mess of in 2012, I will right in the New Year.”

Alas, here I am, a couple of weeks (and three sewing days) into the new year, with no black dress to show for it. The trouble has been a variety of things: at first, I intended to make it with French seams, so I laid all the foundation seams “wrong sides together” before realizing my chosen fabric was too thick for that. So then I ripped all the seams. Black stitches hiding tight in black fabric, inch by dark inch.

Next, I turned the (rather square-shaped) sleeve pieces the wrong way, not noticing how the dark fabric also hides the grainline, if the seamstress is not paying very close attention. Out came the seam ripper once again.

Now, I have attempted to understitch a black lining beneath a black fabric, and something is just “off”. My seam ripper is brought into service one more time, to remedy this difficulty.

So in summary: it’s not just an aesthetic difficulty, getting inspired to undertake a black sewing project. I believe it is objectively more difficult to sew, as black fabric presents inherent challenges to the process.

One day, I will post “ah-ha!” pictures. Until then, all I have to offer is my trusty seam ripper, picking out stitch by stitch.

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Crafting with kids

27 Aug

Even vacations are not entirely craft-free.  One of the projects I did this summer was a fun fashion design project with a young friend. It’s fun to see the “do it yourself” bug catch early, and creativity naturally expressed.
My crafty friend had cut off a pair of jeans into shorts, but the removed pant legs had embroidered gold stars, which she felt (and I agreed) were too fun to simply throw away. Her quest: to make a handbag or tote bag, out of the leftovers from her previous project.

The fabric, typical of re-purposed scraps, showed some wear, and required us to design around the frayed cuffs. So I trimmed off the most  worn pieces to see what size and shape this bag might want to be.  The following photo shows the embroidered star detail  that my young fashion designer friend wanted to preserve, in her design:

Then, we set about making all the choices inherent in up-cycled sewing designs: what  shape should the bag be? What kind of strap should it have? One strap or two? How long should it be, where do you want the bag to hang, on your body, as you carry it? What kind of closure: velcro, snap, or zipper? What fabric to use for the lining?

Of course, as with most projects, we were limited in the amount and styles of supplies we had on hand. But we went through the process step by step, and ended up with a bag.

Click to see how it turned out!

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Make your own biased mess

15 Jul

I got a gadget: the Clover bias maker. It’s nifty. The whole internet offers handy tutorials on the wonder of this gadget, and how it can simplify my sewing by allowing me to easily make my own bias tape at home using the same fashion fabric as the rest of my project.

I’ve had it a while, but it wasn’t until last night that I felt I had the right project for custom, fabric-matched bias tape. So I cut up my strips, stitched them end to end, and started pressing and pulling…and whee! wasn’t it fun!

All that neat, crisply pressed bias tape just spooling out of my gadget, and under the welcoming steam of my hot iron (at right).

But, you say, what’s that on the left? That, my friends, is the same freshly handmade bias tape, on one end of the strip, and how it has uncurled there by the time my Clover magic-maker and iron combination have reached the other end of my strip.

In fact, let me show you my whole piece of so-called “bias binding” so that you can get the whole effect:

Ahem.

 

Yes, there’s a reason I chose to call my sewing blog “Handmade Mess” and I’m afraid, today, that I have run into that reason once again.

It’s okay, I will persevere, as I generally do, and I think it will be perfectly useable for the project at hand. I’m just putting this up there so that you can witness: sometimes the bias maker turns out smooth, crisp lines of tape, and sometimes, with some fabrics (maybe it’s the nature of seersucker to shake out a pressed fold) or in the hands of certain inept seamstresses, it’s not as pretty a process as one might like it to be.

The dress that would not be kept black!

2 Jul

It started as Butterick 4386, a versatile sheath dress.

Actually, it remains very much a B4386, as the only alterations I did were to shorten it and add pockets. Well, yeah, that and texturize the heck out of it with long strips of fabric. But that’s it.

I basically just copied a dress I saw a woman wearing in a restaurant. Hers had the sleeves stripped, as well, which I had a whole idea for doing in a way that would make the fronts wrap around the shoulder and match up with the back. But once I got the sleeves set in, I liked the way they looked, solid–like that finished detail emphasized the texture of the body, even farther.


I like this dress. There’s one strip on the front that I can see, from the photos, curves out of line (how does that happen?! And in such a visible place!) that I have to go back and fix. I added side seam pockets because hey–who can’t use pockets? But they do add bulk to the hips that shows in almost all the photos, and they gap open a lot, in spite of a fair bit of understitching, so I believe I’ll just be picking those out, now. Pockets, schmockets…that’s what handbags were invented for!

I think it would also be just fine in black…if ever I have enough black fabric, and am inspired to do it all over again.

Failing the challenge of the little black dress

2 Jul

My “little black dress” project is coming along quite nicely, apart from one detail.
The thing is, it’s…

*ahem*…er, well, it turns out it’s brown.

Yes, brown.  You see, a while ago I bought some fabric on the internet–the first and last time I ever did so. I was looking for some “ponte knit” and it turns out that one can’t readily tell, from pictures and descriptions, what one is going to get. I mean, it was probably a pretty risky thing to start with, a poly double knit, after all! But when the fabric arrived, it was pretty uninspiring, to say the least–but it had been cheap, and I thought I could use it to practice with, for “wearable muslins” of the stretch fabric variety.
And it’s served me well–I used the blue piece to make my “Marginal Folded Skirt“. (Oh, yes: I forgot to mention I got the fabric in four colors. Four.)

One length was black, and one was a deep chocolate brown.

So I saw this dress the other day, and it was in a stretch fabric (heavier than jersey) and used strips of the fabric, raw-edged, as an all-over striping. Not hemmed, not ruffled, just stripes sewn on, with just a bit of soft irregularity…a look that could be easily duplicated, by cutting long strips of fabric by hand. And it looked really, really good. Textured, but simple. Deconstructed, but not sloppily so.

I wanted to make it, and I figured I could use the length of black double-knit to do so. When I got the fabric out, however, I discovered that I had much more of the brown than of the black. And with the stripes all over, the dress calls for essentially double the amount of fabric than is in the dress itself. I simply wasn’t going to have enough of the black, to make the dress.  But I wanted to try, anyway, so I switched to brown, instead, and here I go, sewing seam after seam of flat, ruffle-less “ruffles” on each pattern piece, in preparation for dress construction:

 

So, ah, yes: my dress, it is coming along great, except for the fact that it’s veered sharply off course from where I started, and become something else altogether, in the process.

Rising to the Challenge of the Little Black Dress

30 Jun

I’ve been thinking, since my retail exception for the black dresses, of what it might take, in a sewing project, to make it appealing to undertake a black dress project. Would it be fabric–something with drape, or an appealing texture? A particularly unique design? Some fun technique that I wanted to try so much, it wouldn’t even matter if the fabric was black?

I couldn’t come up with an answer to that question…until a couple of nights ago, out for cocktails, a woman at the venue wore a dress I couldn’t keep my eyes off of. Hers was green, but it had a decorative detail that was so fun and simple and intriguing to me, I thought “I’d like to try to make that, myself…and that’s a dress that I could even make, in black.”

What’s more, the dress requires a knit, with a bit of stretch, and I happen to have a bolt of a smooth black knit in my stash that I think I could use just for this purpose. I’m going to try it: without buying any new fabrics or patterns, I’d like to imitate the effect of the woman’s green dress, for myself: in black.

(Not even close to the black dress I’m attempting…but a pretty neat one just the same. Those women on the far right, they wish they had a black dress!)