Friday, June 30, 2017

Upcycling: pillow sham to apron

After reading many apron books, and thinking of sewing one for the Monthly Stitch's May challenge (but not getting it done in time - thank goodness for general amnesties!) I began looking at fabric bits a little differently.
Meet Dotty, my new dress form!

I saw a large pillow sham at the thrift store made out of a heavyweight cotton, yellow with a herbal print -- Eureka! I decided to upcycle it as it seemed just perfect for a simple bib apron.

Dotty in an apron in front of my pattern storage system...

It was a simple upcycle -- I cut the front and back apart, and used the front complete with piping for the apron bit. Then I cut up the two pieces that made up the overlapping back; one into the bib and the other I cut up into strips for the waist and neck ties. The neck was just finished with some D-rings.

I had to do some hand stitching after I'd cut the two apart, to remove the excess stitching lines from the flange which no longer existed but otherwise it was very simple. It just needed a good pressing to smooth it out after all that! 

Someday I'd like to make a "real" apron with a few fancier details, but this one is pretty, fits perfectly and is heavy enough to stand up to cooking. Yay for upcycling!

Piping left in place at the waist

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Fashion Committee: a novel

Time for another "Text Talk" book review! The Fashion Committee is a great book for sewists who are also readers, especially if you love teen fiction. 

I've read many of Canadian author Susan Juby's other teen & adult novels and enjoyed them, but this one has quickly become my favourite! Maybe it's because of the theme: fashion. In this book fashion design & enthusiasm for Making takes top billing.

The chapters go back and forth between the viewpoints of Charlie Dean, a fashion-obsessed teen dying to get into the fancy local Green Pastures Academy of Art and Applied Design, via this year's fashion scholarship contest, and John Thomas-Smith, a young man whose first love is really metalwork but reluctantly throws his hat in the ring for the fashion competition because it's his last chance to get into the Academy.
Charlie is a bit of an oddball in her school; she dresses "like an old lady" according to others. To herself, though, she is stylish and chic, following the dictates of Diana Vreeland, fashion diva (which just made me love her more). Her chapters open with a "Thought" which is part Vreeland, part Stuart Smalley -- and the tone is perfectly attuned to vintage style books.

Charlie designs a glorious, architectural dress for her father's new girlfriend, who she is slowly warming up to. Charlie's dad is a rehabbed drug addict, and so Charlie is always on edge about the possibility of him returning to the drug life alongside his usual sketchy girlfriends. The uncertainty of Charlie's life, emotionally, financially, practically, is drawn clearly, and her strength of conviction comes through in her determination to get what she wants. 

John, meanwhile, lives with his grandparents who are sweet and supportive. He doesn't know his father, and his mother works in a city far away, seeing him just once in a while; he has a few anger issues as a result. He has a best friend and a long-time girlfriend & the three of them are a solid trio of average teen life. As this fashion competition ramps up, though, and John gets serious about actually competing, his vision of what's possible in his life changes. And this necessarily changes the relationship between the three of them; they don't want him to change, to leave the world they've all constructed. John sees other artists of all disciplines at the Academy and realizes he does have ambitions and that artsy people are not the dorks he and his friends have always made them out to be.

So these two manage their complicated home lives even as they are rhapsodizing about fashion and ambition and possibility. The voices of each character are distinctive, realistic, and enjoyable. Juby studied fashion design herself (briefly, as she notes in the afterword) but as a result, the love of fabric and texture and design is authentic and absolutely real. I could feel my stitching mind racing after some of the descriptions of what people were making -- what fabric did they use? How could I copy that? And so on. 

It's a fast-paced story with lightness and warmth, despite the serious issues of class, drug use, domestic violence and more. There are some really touching moments, some well-developed emotional connections, and bad decisions by both characters actually have consequences. There is no fairy tale ending but there is optimism and hope nonetheless. 

I found this book uplifting and engaging, and I really loved it. Highly recommend to teens who are searching for their artistic path or who are really into the Maker scene, especially those who love Project Runway and similar things. Susan Juby is an honest and empathetic writer whose portrayals of the two unusual teens in this novel are complex and replete with understanding. It really hit all the readerly high spots for me.

(this review first appeared at The Indextrious Reader, in slightly different form)

Friday, June 9, 2017

Paisley Butterick Tunic

I just finished this lovely, flowy tunic made from some paisley print 100% polyester that a friend gave me for Christmas... in 2015!  I couldn't decide what in the world to make from it - I didn't want to waste it, and had to find just the right thing - but finally settled on this pleated tunic-like top, Butterick 5388. I love it!

There are a number of fairly distinct views in this pattern -- different sleeve and neckline options -- and I'd like to make them all. I chose View C this time as I thought it suited this fabric best. 

I really like how this fabric floats out from the front and back pleats. It's very comfortable over the hips, even though I cut 14 at the neck and just a smidge wider at the hips -- let's call it a size 15 ;) There are double pleats in front and one in back, and the sleeves are finished with an elastic casing. 

Front neckline with nearly invisible pleats
Back with single pleat
You can almost see my matching earrings in this back picture - they have the same shape and colour as the yellow motifs in the print - so weird to get such a random exact match!

The pattern calls for "sleeve stays" which confused me at first -- it only states this on the pattern pieces. After reading the pattern instructions through, I realized that it was essentially a self lined sleeve, and with my semi-sheer fabric I really didn't want that. Plus it just seemed like so much extra work for nothing. So I just cut and sewed a regular sleeve and turned under a hem casing for the elastic. It works great and was easy to sew.

Hazy days mean lots of squinting ;)

I really like the fit of this one. It has regular neck facings, and I considered switching them out for a bias strip neckline finish, but thought that with all the pleats there might be some shifting/bumpy issues with any topstitching. As it turns out, the regular interfaced facings have a lot of anchor points thanks to those very pleats, so they are stitched down in many locations. Meaning, no flip-outs and a smooth finish. This time it paid to follow the instructions!

This fabric was a dream to work with - I had none of the shifty, slippery issues I had feared when I began (except for during the cutting out part which was time consuming) and it pressed very well. I pinned a lot and sewed slowly, and fortunately had no troubles with puckered seams or suchlike. 

One very handy tip I picked up from a coworker who doesn't like to use too much anti-static chemical spray - when wearing polyester, place a tiny safety pin in the seam allowance around the hip area. Somehow it discharges a lot of the static that builds up... it really does work! 

You'll see I'm wearing this beautiful new top with my fave yellow tights and flats on a cool, cloudy day. Perfection. I love this one.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

New Look Greenery for Spring, with 6185

Another fun top I made in May, from this bonkers green print -- is it tie dye? Amoebas? Computer sound visualizations?

In any case, it's a lightweight cotton gauze that I picked up from the sale table at the fabric store because it was bright and cheery, and because the hand of it is really lovely. It's quite soft and very light, but not see through, and doesn't cling at all. 

I decided to make a (hopefully) wearable muslin from it, using a 90s era New Look pattern, 6185 (view A), which I picked up while thrifting recently. For some reason I'm really feeling a lack of tops in my wardrobe so I've either made or cut out quite a few lately. 

This one will make a nice summery top, and when I wear it with a skirt and a suit jacket it actually works nicely for workwear as well - it tones down the beach vibes a bit, haha. 

The pattern was very straightforward - two pieces, with cut-on sleeves, and neck facings. I definitely need to narrow the shoulders and/or neckline next go, as when I move this shifts around a lot and I'm doing the readjustment dance too often. I think for now, for this one, I'll sew in some bra carriers to hold it in place... or use these vintage notions I just picked up for their first test!

The pattern is quick and easy, as promised on the cover, and I didn't have to make many adjustments other than shortening it a bit before cutting, as I'm so short myself. This is a great popover top and has a couple more views that could be nice to try. It's nice sometimes to throw together something really simple and new to brighten up the summer wardrobe.

are we done with the photos yet?

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Reusing a Favourite Pattern x2

I didn't join #MeMadeMay this year and one of the reasons, as I mentioned in my previous post, was that I knew I'd have guests for two weeks and that I'd be offline and out of the sewing room for most of that time. 

The guests were my Mom and younger sister, and we had a marvellous time together. It was great fun showing them around my town and its surrounding area; we drove all over the place, ate out constantly, and did shopping, shows, and staycationing to the max. (well, at least for me it was a staycation).

But one of the other things I did was make a blouse for my Mom while she was here. The first day she tried on one of my tops -- the True Bias Sutton Blouse -- and loved it. So I offered to make her one, as it fit perfectly and I wouldn't need to make any fitting adjustments, thus thought it would be quite achievable in a week. And it was. 

She picked a nice drapey fabric out of my stash; I believe it was a rayon challis though I'm not 100% sure. It was a gift to me from a friend's mother who was clearing out her own stash, along with about 10 other pieces of varied fabrics. I received it and washed it a couple of days before the visit, and then it went home with my Mom as a finished blouse. Never has a piece of fabric entered and left the stash so quickly - it must be a record! 

The top went together so quickly and easily. The only issue is that I think I slightly stretched the neckline when attaching the bias binding, but probably only me and other sewists would notice at all. The construction notes can be found on the post detailing the first time I made this -- I just made it the same way, though even faster this time as I did not include any piping or trim in the yoke seams. 

Here it is:

The week before they got here I also finished up a couple of summer tops. Here is one I made from an old favourite, KwikSew 3559. I love this dress-into-top; I think it's my fourth rendition. Nothing too new for this one, which I made from a remnant I couldn't resist buying.

I had to be creative with the layout though, to fit all the pieces, which really made the top in the end. It was a 60" wide piece that was just a metre, so I folded it just enough to fit front and back on it, and then cut the yoke lengthwise on the remaining edge.

Since it was most stretchy lengthwise, that worked very well for the design and for the visuals. I love the contrast direction of the stripes in this shimmery green. Otherwise it would have been impossible to match up the stripes and would have driven me mad! 

Do you have a fave pattern that you use and reuse? I love finding a simple standard to fall back on when you want something in a hurry, especially when you have a special fabric that you want to make sure works out!