Funghi Legs

Having successfully made leggings, I looked at the two jersey prints I had, and considered whether to make more or use it for skivvies and tops. I decided the latter, but I did want to make more leggings. The pattern I had traced off an old pair was slimmer at the ankle and lower at the waist than the Style Arc pattern, and I was curious to see how well it would fit. So I went online looking for organic black cotton jersey, and somehow some two other fabrics fell into my cart.

I always wash fabric before sewing it, just in case it stretches or runs or behaves weirdly. When I went to cut out a pattern I found that both new and old fabric was distorted where they had hung on the line, so I stuck all five pieces in the rinse and spin cycle and then into the dryer. Now, we barely ever use the dryer. Call me old fashioned or hipster, but if I can save money and avoid producing carbon by drying on the line or a clothes airer, I will. The only reason we have a dryer is because I adopted Nana’s one when she died in 2009 for emergencies, like the house flooding (which seems every house I own will do at some point) and we have an excess of wet towels to dry. I think Nana’s dryer was bought in the 80s. It worked fine until recently, when it started making a burning smell whenever it was on the warm setting. This meant it took about three days to get all the fabric dry, helped along by me ironing it now and then to speed things along. Cotton sure goes suck up moisture. Anyway, it all dried eventually and…

I sewed up some black leggings first. The pattern worked fine – a teeny bit tight around the legs. When I cut out the next pair I gave them a few mm extra room, but that pair came out a little loose, despite feeling a little less stretchy. That just seems to be the luck of the draw with jersey.

I have another pair of leggings to make, but I’m moving on to skivvies and tops next because they’ll use black thread. No sewer changes the thread on the overlocker until they have to!

One From Two

Earlier this year we spent a weekend in Castlemaine, and at one of the local tourist attractions, the Mill Market, I bought a second hand jacket:

I love how three different knit fabrics have been combined to make it. This came to mind when thinking about how I might make garments out of Late Lucy’s knitted skirts at around the same time I culled some knitwear from my wardrobe. Could I make another jacket out of the navy skirt and an old jumper?

I had a perfect match colour-wise, though that only gave me two fabrics.

So I made a rough pattern from the jacket using calico, and laid pieces of it on top of the skirt and jumper. I had enough fabric to make it, if I eliminated the pockets.

The jumper I’d cut up had been sewn so the purl side faced out. This meant the knit side was in really good condition, so I put that one on the outside.

The next day, despite not feeling 100%, I got out the scissors, too a deep breath, and started cutting. The pieces from the jumper were cut first, then I turned to the skirt, and that’s when I got distracted.

It occurred to me suddenly that if I flipped the side pattern piece over it would fit right down beside the collar piece. I should have then made sure I still had room for the sleeve pieces, but I didn’t, and only went to cut them out did I realise my mistake.

I didn’t fancy making a vest, so I’d have to find more fabric. I packed everything up and put it out of sight. Then, a few days later, a possible solution came to me. The cuffs on the original jacket are extensions of the sleeves, that fold up. What if they didn’t fold up, but were attached halfway up the forearm? The main sleeves pieces could be shortened. I measured and tweaked and made it work, though it meant the sleeves would be bit skinnier so I had to hope they wouldn’t be too tight.

Once cut out, all of the pieces were overlocked around the edges except where I’d taken advantage of already existing hems. I sewed the bottom hem of the side pieces on the machine, but though I’d done a test on a scrap I wasn’t happy with the way this stretched out the fabric. So I hand sewed the rest of the seams, using thread unravelled from the waistband, until I got to the zipper, which is a non-stretchy part of the garment, and the inside of the collar, which benefited from the reinforcement of a straight stitch.

The sleeves are a teeny bit short, but I don’t think I’ll notice. It took quite a few weeks to make it, and a lot of hand sewing, but I’m chuffed to have made something wearable from two tired old garments.

Skivvies

So of course, having chosen and started another filler project, the skivvy pattern arrived. I decided to continue with the filler project, then I stuffed it up big time and packed it away in the hopes I’d stop beating myself up over it. Out came the skivvy pattern and my test fabric, and I quickly whipped up a garment:

The fit is almost perfect – only the neck is a little tight when putting it on. I was so chuffed, I cut out the pieces for another, out of a mercerised cotton from a friend’s destash. This time the fabric was a one-way stretch, so it would be a test of whether the pattern works without vertical elasticity. The cutting required matching the pattern, but what made that extra challenging was the pattern was denser at the sides than the middle, as if the centre area had been stretched. I tried steaming the fabric to see if it would even out, but it didn’t help. Fortunately I had enough fabric to place the front and back at the centre, and the sleeves at the sides.

I took a break, had a cuppa, considered other things I could be doing… and went back to the craft room and sewed this one up too. It came out fine – a little tighter at the neck but still comfy once on:

My plan now is to alter the pattern to make a round or scoop neck top. But by then I’d figured out a possible fix for the filler project I’d messed up, so I returned to that.

Flexible

A while back I stumbled upon a website that sold organic cotton jersey in fabulous prints, and I snapped up two pieces – one with navy and white stripes, one of flowers on a black background – imagining them as either leggings or long-sleeved tops (or both). The navy stripe was supposed to be my test fabric, because I wanted to make my own patterns by cutting up an old pair of leggings and a skivvy. Like I used to do in my 20s. Of course, my 20s was a looong time ago and when the fabric arrived I hesitated, and I put everything aside until I gathered some confidence.

Eventually I did, starting with cutting up a pair of leggings and making a pattern. I compared it to a leggings pattern I’d received free along with other patterns I bought from Style Arc. It was waaay different and after I had other problems tracing a skivvy pattern, I put everything aside again.

Since buying the fabric I’d become rather fond of the navy strips fabric, so I decided to buy some organic jersey from Spotlight to use as my test fabric instead. I also bought a double needle, after watching videos on how to sew stretch fabrics, for top stitching.

Recently I got enthused again. I brought out both patterns and laid mine over the Style Art one to see how different they were… then flipped it over. And they matched bar a few small variations. Duh.

So, using the Style Arc pattern, I cut the pieces and got sewing. In a anticlimactic short hour or so they were done.

I wore then the next day and they didn’t fall apart. Two tiny areas of sewing came undone – a tiny hole in one leg seam and a bit of waist overstitching that had snapped when it was stretched – but they were easily fixed. The legs were too long, which I’d anticipated, the calves too loose, and the waist was a bit high at the front. When I laid the traced pattern on top of the Style Arc one again, these were the areas that were different, so I figure I’ll use the traced pattern next time.

The Style Arc pattern worked well enough that I decided to buy a skivvy pattern from them. When I’d traced the skivvies I cut up, I found they were quite different in size and the fabric pieces were really distorted, leading to more guesswork than I was comfortable with.

Distortion in commercial garments is a bit of a gripe of mine, and one of the reasons I want to make my own stretch fabric garments. Since I started photographing clothes to put in Stylebook, I’ve been amazed at how badly cut the fabric pieces of commercial clothing are. Leggings nearly always twist around a leg – just one so it’s definitely not a design feature. T-shirt side seams twist around the body. Even the really expensive organic and ethically made leggings I bought are badly cut and twisty, and the fabric is really flimsy.

Hopefully the skivvy pattern will fit me, or at least be easy to adjust. Because if I can make my own stretch fabric garments, I could possibly make most of my clothes. Not that I’d have to be whipping them out constantly – just replacing garments as they wear out.

Wool Skirt to Wool Dress

Remember the wool skirt I turned into a jumper?

It’s had heaps of wear this winter, because it’s so cosy and comfortable. However, first time I wore it was to an art class where everyone helps out setting up and putting away props. I discovered several holes in it when I got home. They could be moth damage, but I reckon I would have noticed as I put it on. A bit of mending later and the jumper is fine to wear at home, and I now don’t wear knitwear to classes.

The skirt was one of six from Late Lucy’s wardrobe. Of the other five, one I wear as is, one was 100% acrylic and was donated, and the other three are too big for me. I reckon most op shops would send them straight to landfill or recycling, so I’ve kept them with an eye to refashioning.

My simplest idea was to turn them into pet blankets for the RSPCA, but the buttons Lucy had added to the split at the back of two skirts looked so much like button bands that I turned one of them upside down and put it on the dress form.

Could I make a cardigan or jumper? I played around but it was clear there wasn’t enough fabric to make sleeves, and the idea went into hibernation.

Then my latest winter dress idea had me looking at the skirts again. Without removing fabric for sleeves, they were long enough to be dresses. Lots of pinning and sketching later, I had a couple of different approaches to consider, depending on how brave I was going to be about cutting into the fabric, and how confident I was that I could sew it on the machine or overlocker.

The brown was my least favourite so I decided to experiment with it. I took out the elastic in the waistband, but found the band still pulled the hem in so it would have to be cut off. There were a few holes at hip level, so I cut there finished the edge on the overlocker, which produced a slight ‘lettuce’ effect. I found I could tuck and dart and avoid cutting at all on the top part, but the bottom hem would require top stitching… across a very stretchy fabric. The prospect of that and the distraction of weaving had me put the project aside for a while.

But I kept the proto-dress on the dress form and every few days would examine it and think, and so eventually the solution hit me: sew it by hand. I unravelled some of the yarn from the waistband to use as thread and got sewing, and a few days later I had this:

Which I’m wearing as I type this. It’s warm and cosy and comfortable and I’m pretty chuffed with the result. I’d probably wear it only in casual settings, but since I spend most of my time at home that’s not a problem.

I’d like to turn the purple skirt into a dress as well, maybe taking the cut and machine sew approach instead, but I have other ideas for the navy one.

Winter Wardrobe

As the weather has grown colder and I’ve started dressing warmer a feeling has crept over me.

I’m SO over my winter clothes.

Not with individual pieces. There are garments I love in there. It’s more the general look. Cotton tops and skivvies under hand knits because I can’t wear wool against my skin. Skirt or pants. It feels like a uniform.

How to change that? Adding other kinds of clothing to the mix seems the obvious answer. But before I got too carried away, I took stock of what I had in case I’d forgotten something or saw new potential in the old. I’ve been making clothes more lately and that inevitably leads to too-tightly-packed wardrobe, too. I decided to be ruthless and remove anything ‘faded, jaded, worn, torn, smelly or pilled’. Which was… a lot more than I expected.

Then I updated Stylebook so I had an overview at my fingertips. It had already occurred to me that I have one good outside-the-usual winter garment that I love: a black wool knitted dress with a big cowl collar. I wear it with leggings and the combo is different enough to be refreshing. The only down side was that if I get too warm, there’s no taking it off. Leggings are definitely NOT pants.

Still… a dress. A winter dress. I don’t have many dresses, and only this one is winter-weight. A lighter dress could still be part of a layered outfit, though. Looking in Stylebook, I noted that I have a black, jersey sleeveless dress that might suit.

So I gave that a try, layering over a skivvy and leggings and throwing a loose handknit cardigan on top. Comfy. Cosy. Looked good. A bit snug around the waist with two layers beneath, however. Still, it proved the theory right, and I’m now thinking about making more winter dresses to my wardrobe.

I swear every time I sew a garment, three more add themselves to my to-do list.

I Fell Into It, It Seams

In the middle of making patterns for my next sewing project, a friend invited me to a Regency-era costume picnic the next weekend. That sent me off in a bit of a tangent. I have a dress I made some years ago that I’ve only worn twice. While it’s cotton velvet, so should be warm, I was suddenly obsessed with the idea of having the right underthings. Stays were probably not achievable in the time I had, but I could try making a chemise. The garment, from what I recall, goes under the stays to protect the skin and soak up sweat.

And sweat was likely, if we had a hot day. If we had a cold day I’d appreciate the extra layer. So I searched the web for instructions, and after sending my friend lots of questions about fabric and length, cut up a bed sheet and made this in an afternoon:

Some adjustments were needed to match the neckline to my dress the next day. If I hadn’t been in the middle of a sewing jape, I probably wouldn’t have tackled this or got it done so quickly. Though it’s a simple garment to make, all seams are flat fell seams, so it’s rather slow and finicky.

I rather fancy making a full Regency corset now, but I knew I wouldn’t get one done in time for that weekend so it’s low on the to-do list. Probably I’ll get keen again next time I have a Regency-era costume event to attend.

Corduroy Shirt

These days I like to make a calico version of sewing patterns I haven’t tried before, so that’s where I started in my quest to reduce the fabric stash. Over three days, I traced off the size 12 version of the Style Arc Stacie denim jacket pattern, cut out all the pieces in calico, then sewed them together. What I wound up with a jacket that was just a bit too small around the chest and hips. I wasn’t surprised about the hips – I am wider there – but I was a bit perplexed by the general fit of the chest.

When I laid the jacket out flat I realised why. The fronts don’t even meet. It’s not just that there’s no allowance for boobs, the back is wider than the front.

I kinda wish I’d known this before I’d bought the pattern and spent three days making a calico version. Though I’d be much more annoyed if I’d not made a calico, and had cut into my fabric.

Well, I do want to be able to button up jackets on cold days. The front is made up of several pieces and to adjust the pattern would be really complicated, so I moved on to option two: make a pattern from a 20+ year old shirt I already have and love.

Over two days I carefully traced off the pattern pieces, using calico so I could easily spread the fabric into corners where I couldn’t arrange the shirt to lie perfectly flat, and sewed them together. I’ve only ever done this with tracing paper before, and I think calico worked better. I used longest stitch on my machine so the seams could quickly be pulled out. A few adjustments were needed, and the collar was especially tricky, but eventually I had a mostly made up test shirt to try on and confirm it fit right. Then I pulled out all the seams and cut out the pieces in corduroy.

The sewing went well. Whenever I needed to work out what order to work in I just referred to the original shirt. Finally I had everything but the buttons and buttonholes done. Hmm. Buttons. I’d like to add jean’s style rivet-attached shank buttons like on the original shirt, but I learned from the black denim skirt I made a year or two ago that the only DIY ones you can get are so low quality they come apart again with very little pressure. So I had no choice but to use sew-on shank buttons.

Of course, despite having a big divided plastic storage container full of buttons, there was nothing suitable. I searched online shops but the only metal shank buttons I found were at Spotlight, and I didn’t want to wait weeks and weeks for them to arrive. So I figured it would remain button-less until I had more than one reason to schlep across town – which was likely to be sooner than Spotlight delivery times because I expected the next project on my to-do list to require supplies.

And indeed it did. So by week’s end I had the shirt finished:

I wore it that day, and found it just as comfortable as the original. It was quite a journey getting something made out of the corduroy, but at least I now have a pattern I would happily use again.

Fabric Stash Reduction

My idea sketchbook is getting well used lately, as I switch from brain-storming about one craft to another. The most recent page is entitled “I need to use some fabric!” and has lots of ideas listed.

I’d already concluded that I should use thicker fabric first to maximise the amount of space made in the time I take. Corduroy, denim and velvet are the thickest fabrics in my stash. But what to make out of it?

I have two big batches of corduroy and four denim pieces of varying size and thickness. The pin cord shirt in my wardrobe is a big favourite and I’ve long thought about making a pattern from it. I bought a pattern for a denim jacket a while back that might work for corduroy.

I also have a straight denim skirt pattern that I bought it a while back for some black denim I have, but what made me hesitate to make it is the stiffness and non-stretchiness of the denim. It not make a comfortable skirt, but the corduroy could be a good alternative.

The thinner denim in the stash would work a 50/50 skirt (a skirt with denim on the back and a print cotton on the front. I don’t have any fabric set aside to use on the front side, but I have a few ideas for making cloth using patchwork or embellishment. The pattern is familiar, but I already have two 50/50 skirts and don’t really need more skirts.

The velvet is leftover from a regency dress I made some years ago. There’s not a lot of it, but it might work in combination with other fabric. Like in a bomber jacket, maybe. Or a 50/50 skirt. Or maybe pillow covers.

While not thick fabric, the three knit fabrics in my stash are worth considering, too, because I want to make the same garments from all of it – leggings and long-sleeved tops – so I’d probably do them all at once. My wardrobe will always welcome more leggings and long-sleeves tops, too. However, I’ll have to make a pattern for both, so it’s a project that has it’s own challenges.

Other projects I’ve considered don’t make a lot of space but the patterns are familiar and quick to make, like shorts and pyjama pants. I also want to make a cotton petticoat, which ought to be an easy piece to do. But my mind keeps returning to the corduroy, so I that’s going to be first on the cutting table.

Sewing Upcycle Day

On the weekend a bunch of friends had a refashioning day. We met at 11am then, after I showed them some clothing I’d refashioned as examples of what can be done, we headed to Savers. I didn’t find anything I wanted but I already had a few garments awaiting work so I didn’t mind.

By the end of the day the most sewing I’d done was adding elastic to a skirt waistband and unpicking the waistband of another skirt. However, we did lots of brainstorming. It was a fun day and it was so nice to hang out with friends again.

One friend had filled her car boot with fabric to destash and I picked up three pieces. The next day, while packing things away, I decided I had to come up with better fabric storage than the two big plastic tubs I was using. They are too heavy for me, and though they’re on the bottom shelf of the cupboard and have wheels there’s not enough space in front of the cupboard to roll them out onto the floor.

I did an image search of the internet for fabric storage ideas and one suggestion that kept coming up was keeping fabric in a filing cabinet. That reminded me of the hanging file storage bins I’d bought years ago when we were renovating and I needed to keep certain documents at hand rather than in storage. They were useful when we moved here, too, but had languished in the garage since.

So I brought them inside and washed off the dust and cobwebs. Then I set about taking fabric out of plastic zip lock bags in the tubs and refolding it to better fit the hanging files. I labelled everything and shuffled a few things in the cupboard to fit better. The boxes are light enough for me to carry and I like the result:

They divide the fabric into “heavy”, “light”, “lining and structural” and “projects”. But there is one problem. See that pile of fabric in front of the cupboard? Well, while most of it is calico to use when testing patterns, the rest is fabric batches too big to fit in the filing boxes: a very long length of corduroy and some thick light brown denim.

I may have to switching from refashioning to sewing from scratch, in order to reduce the fabric stash enough that I can get everything in the cupboard.