Thursday, October 6, 2016

Embroidery...?

Sorry, it's kind of lame how I show up here with zero consistency, and don't post pictures. Well today I have a picture, it's one sad little picture, but it's a picture so it counts. 

I decided to try my hand at embroidery, it's always had a spot in my heart. I love the thick floral embroidery, that gives off a hippy-dippy vibe. I feel like I have to be careful though, because too much floral embroidery can start to look old; I'm all for a granny chic look,  I just don't want to feel like I can smell mothballs when I put something on. 

For this shirt I used  McCalls 7093, with redrafted sleeves to mach the sewn on bias strips.  The embroidered design is a floral motif I found through google, and it filled up the space on the sleeve nicely. Initially I really liked it, but it took me nearly 6 hours to complete and by the end I wasn't feeling it anymore. It feels like the time I put into it just wasn't worth the end result. Honestly when I look at the shirt I get a country western vibe and not the hippie vibe I was going for. My husband just tells me I need time away from it, which is probably true since I don't like a lot of my hand sewn items until they've sat in the closet for two weeks. So for now it will sit in the closet until I change my mind.



Since I hate having a failure (or in this case what feels like a failure since technically the shirt is fine), I try to force myself to figure out what went wrong and think of how I could avoid it again in the future. I think with this shirt there were a couple problems. First, the embroidery design was a bit more complicated than it probably should have been. In such a small space like the sleeve, I really needed a simpler design. Second, it was my first time doing hand embroidery so my stitches weren't even. The whole design was done in a seed stitch, and while the stitch itself is fine, I think it would be better to practice a couple different stitches to see what looks best for the design. Lastly the printed bias tape seems to clash with the floral design. In my eyes it might have been better if the the bias tape had a small floral design, right now the scale on the bias tape feels too big and wrong. 

There are some good parts to this project, it wasn't all bad. The fabric I used was incredible. I got it here, and it is top notch. Silky, but not slippery or difficult, soft, didn't wrinkle, and it's the nicest saturated black. Also I I've played with this pattern a lot so it fits really well. 

I'm working on a Grainline Studio Linden right now. I keep thinking I want to try embroidery again, but I haven't fully decided. I've included a quick sketch of my idea for now, nothing floral just some small dots and some detail to the hem. 

Maybe I'll actually post again in the future, and we can see what I decided. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Life, Sewing, and Trying

I created this blog a while ago. I love to sew and I love to read sewing blogs, and I thought the natural progression of that love would be to have my own blog; yet life happened and I've never really done anything with this space.

Having since immersed myself in the life of adulthood (ie: work, bills, cleaning the house, telling myself I'll be healthier and routinely not being healthier) I find that I'm now going through a bit of a lonely patch. Nothing altogether bad or terrible, and most likely a result of my hermit like tendencies, but it has all made me think that coming back here might be a good idea. My writing skills could use some help since I've pretty much stopped writing anything other than work emails, and maybe telling myself that I need to be accountable here in some way will help me improve my sewing.

This could be like many other things in my life, where I say one thing and then do another, but for now I'm going to say I would like to try. I would like to try and use this space to help me become better in some way.

With that being said, lets talk sewing. My current project I'm working on now is creating a capsule wardrobe. I sketched out ideas for four tops and four bottoms, all of which can be mixed and matched. If you do the math that ends up being 16 different outfits. My sewing time can be limited so this seemed like a good way to maximize the usefulness of what I do sew. Plus I can have two weeks of outfits all planned out, outfits which I'll hopefully feel good wearing. It's ironic that I love clothes and thinking about creating clothes, but I dread deciding what to wear in the morning. Ideally I would like to finish the items listed below by mid November.

Tops:
- Simplicity 1377, made from some embroidered fabric I found at the thrift store.
- Grainline Studio Lark Shirt (modified to have a henley neck), in a black clover print knit.
- McCall's 7093, in some hand dyed shibori rayon.
- Vogue 8793, in a white perforated knit my mom gave me.

Bottoms:
- Ginger Jeans, in black twill (I completed these on 9/6/15)
- Ginger Jeans (I really like this pattern if you can't tell), in a dark black denim (I completed these on 10/5/15)
- Burda Paneled Pencil Skirt (09/2010 #116), in a thick black ponte.
- Grainline Studio Moss Skirt, in light blue woven fabric


Saturday, February 22, 2014

Shameless


Taking pictures of yourself is weird, what do you do with your hands, how do you pose, and why does the mailman always have to walk by right when I’m feeling comfortable …but that’s not what this post is about. This post is about how I shamelessly copied one of my sewing idols.

Have you heard of Sallie (who hasn't)? I love Sallie Oh in a way that only an online sewing blog junkie could, everything she makes is incredible. When I read her blog I see someone who is able to express part of themselves through the clothes they make, and that inspires me to no end (of course there are thousands of other sewing bloggers who are equally amazing and inspiring, but I’m focusing on Sallie today because she is the one who inspired me to dye my own fabric).
Have you seen her hand dyed garments, they’re beautiful! When she posted on how she did it all, I was so inspired I went straight to Dharma TradingCo. and purchased everything needed to dye my own fabric. Sure I’ve used Rit-Dye on an old Dress or two, but Sallie’s fabric was art, stunning, incredible art, and best of all it seemed doable by someone like me who hasn’t taken an art class since high school.

You guys, the whole process was really fun and cool, but there were certainly moments of panic, like when I first placed my paintbrush on the fabric. The first few paint strokes looked bad, like sad sperm bad, I kept going though, telling myself I could make it work. Then my sister walked in and said “yeah that’s weird, and it kind of looks like sperm, or tadpoles.” I wanted to cry, this was nice silk fabric, and I couldn’t just un-paint what I had done. All I could do was change my mindset and tell myself I was trying something new and that in itself was pretty cool, and if I really failed I could just dye the whole thing black.  

But guess what, as soon as I relaxed everything was easier, and the process became fun. I tried painting all sorts of things, flowers, dots, words, and somehow by some miracle it all worked out.

With the finished fabric I made a Scout shirt, mostly because I’m daring like that (ha!). No really because the Scout shirt is a great pattern, that sews together beautifully, and beautiful silk deserves to be partnered with a beautifully drafted pattern.

I really love this shirt, I love how the print is different everywhere, how none of it is perfect or manufactured. I love wearing it, and I love feeling like I’ve made something that feels like me, and I love that I’ve made something I use to only dream of finding in a store.
So thank you Sallie, for letting us all shamelessly copy you, and thank you sewing community for being so darn inspiring.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

A Beastly Teacher of Humility


The more I sew the more I feel like sewing itself is a constant lesson in humility.

When I was younger and first started sewing I used to think everything I made was awful because the sewing machine hated me, or because I was destined to do much greater and grander things then finish Home Ec. with a perfect pillow case. Now I see that I was the problem, I needed to be humble, and for years my mother’s sturdy Bernina was an unflinching teacher, never once letting me have a win so long as my pride was pushing the pedal.

 Even now, no matter how many hours I log, or how much better I get, every time I approach a project thinking I know best it fails; and not just fails in a small “I have a few imperfections” kind of way, but in an epic and horribly awful kind of way, where I can hear Michael Kors snickering in my head, telling me I look "borderline teletubby."

I have to constantly remind myself to slow down, to read directions, and to listen to the fabric (Am I waxing too poetic? Does no one else hear fabric talk to them? J).

I have to constantly make myself submit to the fact that I don’t know everything, and even though I don’t first see the point, there are reasons we are given instructions.
“I don’t think I should have to iron. I mean really, does this garment need to be ironed, can’t I just iron at the end?”
I end up with lumpy seams, sloppy finishes, and it just doesn’t look right.

“I don’t need interfacing, it will just slow me down, and I want to wear this shirt now!”
 I get floppy, pitiful looking garments that don’t last five minutes.

 “I don’t know about this whole grading seam allowances thing, I don’t think it’s necessary, and obviously I know everything.”
Suddenly my seams are too bulky, impossible to sew, and look awful. 

When I picked up sewing again, I found that nothing had changed, I couldn’t be successful if I assumed I knew everything. This time however I was a bit wiser than I was at 15, I decided to start trying to read the directions, to turn on the iron, and to just listen.  

Once I listened I suddenly found myself having some success.


This shirt is what I call a “humble success.” Humble because it’s a simple t-shirt, but also because I managed to force myself to be humble while making it, I made myself shut up and it turned out great! I can wear it in public and people don’t even know I made it, it’s comfortable and fits, and I couldn’t be prouder! Before I start getting too proud though, and entirely ruin the humility that has allowed me to succeed, let me give credit where credit is due. I purchased a Craftsyclass, and that is the real reason I have this shirt today.

In my throes of frustration that I couldn’t get anything right I decided to try a Craftsyclass. I think a small part of me hoped that even with the class it would fail, so I could blame the fabric, the pattern, and my sewing machine. It didn’t fail though, and it’s been one of those instances where being wrong is a wonderful rewarding thing. 




 I don’t want to do a full review of the Craftsy class, because the truth is I hardly feel like I qualify to be part of the online sewing community, let alone give a helpful review. I found the Craftsy class to be great, a little slow, but I need slow so that shouldn’t count as a mark against it. I learned a lot about dealing with knits, and the importance of tissue fitting, as well as fitting while you sew. I loved how I could pause and come back to the videos when I had time, and it would remember where I was! (No skimming through the videos trying to remember where I left off.) Overall I thought it was great and exactly what my prideful self needed.

Now every time I wear this shirt I feel a glowing sense of pride that I know everything there is about being humble, (just kidding . . . kind of . . . let’s just say I’m a work in progress and my sewing machine is a good teacher).


Tuesday, January 7, 2014

My Dress Form



I made a dress form and I’ve wanted to write about it for a while. I know there are others out there who have done this same thing, and I’m hoping I can add to the pool of knowledge for anyone who thinks they may want to try making one. 

When I first found the online sewing community I was amazed by all the talented people out there. I have always liked sewing but I was never very serious about it until I saw that there were people who made their own clothes, and not only that but their clothes looked way better than anything I could buy at the mall.

I felt inspired enough to try my hand at making clothing . . . and I was terrible. But I kept on reading all the lovely sewing blogs I found, and kept feeling like I could do it I just had to keep trying. Eventually it crossed my mind that a dress form would be really helpful, for fitting and generally getting a sense of how clothes fit the body. Trying to fit your own clothing can be difficult; as I’m sure many of you already know.

When I looked into buying a dress form I found that the nicer ones were out of my price range, and I didn’t like the purple Dritz ones I had seen at JoAnn’s. I also struggled with the fact that even if I bought a dress form it wouldn’t necessarily help resolve my own fit issues with my body, since it couldn’t mimic everything about my shape. With all this in mind I began looking at making my own dress form.

In the area of DIY dress forms I found there were mostly two types, Duct Tape forms, and paper forms. I decided to try out the duct tape one, but while talking with a local fabric storeowner she advised me not to go the Duct Tape route, and instead try a plaster and foam form. The more I thought about the foam idea the more I liked it, the problem was I didn’t know anyone who had done this (the fabric storeowner hadn’t done it, just read about it), and online I could only find two people who had done one (1,2). (I need to note that I made my form November 2011, since then I’ve found more tutorials from others doing this same thing as I mentioned above, this blog, and this blog both have great instructions and I’m sure there are more people out there who have done this same thing.)

Eventually this is what I did, and what worked for me. (*I didn’t take that many pictures when I did mine, but recently my mom made a form so the pictures below are mix of both her form and mine.)

First I created a plaster cast of my torso. I went to Amazon and ordered a bunch of plaster bandages, and I probably used about 8 rolls for my whole torso. The bandages themselves are pretty easy to use, you dip them in warm water and then mold then around whatever you want a cast of. In the case of making a dress form, the biggest thing to think about was what I would wear under the plaster. Obviously I needed to wear what I would normally wear under my clothes, but I also wore an old tank top and some old biking shorts. I figured by wearing a tank and some shorts the plaster would come off easier. (Ultimately I’m glad I wore the tank and shorts, when cutting off the plaster we cut the tank top too, and it helped the cast stay together in some of the weaker spots and made the inside a lot smoother.) Once the plaster was on I let it dry about 15 minutes, aided with the help of a blow dryer.

I did the cast in November so it was too cold to go outside.


My mom did her cast in August so we took the mess outside.


Waiting for the plaster to dry.

Cutting off the plaster is a little harder than putting it on. When I did my cast my parents, who helped through the majority of the project, marked the cast and cut up the sides using a box cutter and some scissors, by the end we found that an old steak knife worked the best. When my mom did hers my dad pulled out his Dremmel tool and used that to cut the sides, it worked the best and went super-fast. (Some of the blogs I mentioned above cut their cast through the front and back, I think this is probably a better option, and I wish I had done that instead, since I couldn’t raise my arm cutting the cast under the armpit was hard and uncomfortable.)

It really wasn't as bad as my face might suggest.


We tied the cast together with some string and let it dry overnight.

The Second part of making the form was the first layer of foam (I got my foam at Lowes). I found that doing the foam in two layers worked the best (my first attempt doing the foam all in one go was horrible, foam oozing everywhere for days. This was just my experience and was probably related to my impatience with the foam I used, so if foam in one go works for you go for it!)

This was the foam I used, I found it to be denser and a better alternative to the Great Stuff Foam.

In one of the blogs above they suggested lining the cast with plastic saran wrap instead of trying to paint a polyurethane coating on the inside. This was hands down the best tip; the plastic wrap kept the foam from sticking to the cast, and made the whole process much cleaner and so much easier. So I put down a layer of plastic wrap on each side of the cast, making sure there was enough to hang over the edges, and that it completely covered all parts of the cast that the foam was likely to touch.

After lining the cast with plastic I sprayed a first layer of foam in each half. This layer acted as core and helped keep the general shape of the body. When I did this I made sure the foam was just one layer, and I didn’t worry about any holes since I knew I would add more foam later to fill it all in. I let the halves dry for about a day.

The dried halves.


What the core foam looked like when it was dry. All the little holes were filled in with the second foam layer.

Once it was dry I found that the plastic wrap would sometimes peel off and sometimes it wouldn’t. This didn’t bother me since the final product was going to be covered in fabric anyways, and the plastic wrap didn’t distort the shape.

I shaved down the sides of the core foam pieces since the foam would often expand past the cast (when doing this I would recommend wearing a breathing mask of some sort, cutting through the foam produced a lot of little airborne fibers that I can’t imagine are good for the lungs). I also cut a chunk in the center of the back half of cast at the widest point; this is where I placed the top of the stand. When the cores were cut down on the sides and the top of the stand fit comfortably in the center I moved onto the second layer of foam.

For the stand, my boyfriend welded me a stand that could adjust up and down, I’ve seen other people use IV poles, which is a great idea since they often have wheels on the bottom.

The second layer of foam was similar to the first. I lined the cast with more plastic wrap, sprayed down a thin layer of foam, and then pushed the cores into that fresh foam.  I sprayed more foam into the center cut in the back, and then positioned the stand in that foam. To keep the stand level and straight I held it down with bricks and threatened anyone who came near it. Lastly I sprayed a little bit of foam on top of the back half (the front will be flipped over and placed on top of this).

Lining it for the second layer of foam.


Second layer of foam, about to squish the core layer on top of this.

The next part was a little tricky, I was glad my mom was helping me and I wasn’t doing it alone. The back half of the cast was positioned with the stand and the bricks, and the front half had the two layers of foam. I gently flipped the front half of the cast over, placing it on top of the back half, one hand on the plaster and one hand holding the core foam keeping it in place in the newly sprayed foam (I really hope that made sense). At this point we sprayed more foam down along the sides and into the armholes and neck holes. Then I sprayed all the foam I had left up the bottom. 

Next I taped the cast together, this part was really messy (one of the blogs I mentioned above used wire to secure the cast as it was drying, I think this would also work here with the foam. You could lay the wire down beforehand under the cast then bring it up and twist it in the front, I think this would work just as well as the duct tape, and cut down the mess).  I used duct tape and just wrapped it around where I could, I did have to lift up the cast with the stand, but the foam wasn’t set yet so once the tape was on I readjusted the stand to where I wanted it to be. When I made my form we didn’t put a lot of tape around the shoulders and consequently my form has slightly wider shoulders than I do, so when we did my mom’s we made sure the shoulders were really secure. Also as I wrapped the duct tape I continually checked that the back half and front half of the cast were lining up on the sides and shoulders, this seems obvious but I thought I should mention it. 



Once it was taped together we let it dry for 3 days, just to make sure it was really set and dry.



After three days we stood it up, cut off the tape, and wiggled the cast off (the cast got stuck in some places but the plastic wrap preserved it enough that if we needed to use the cast again we could). 

Peeling off the last bits of saran wrap that we could.

There were a couple of spots that needed to be shaved down, the neck, the armholes, the bottom, and a little bit on the sides, we just used an old steak knife to do this, it worked the best.
To cover my form I went to Target and found a turtleneck on clearance (I was little sick of making my form at this point and couldn’t bring myself to sew a cover). When it was on my form I pinned it underneath the bust to help it match the shape more. I tied off the arms and used the extra I cut off from the sleeves to cover the bottom, pinning it all in place. The pins are now a permanent feature of the form and I’ve never had a problem with them, they are secure in the foam and don’t move.

To say I’ve been happy with my dress form is an understatement, it has been awesome! My mom made my wedding dress a little more than a year ago, and the dress form made the whole process a lot easier, and my dress fit me great.  


If anyone has been thinking about doing this, DO IT! It was worth all the trouble and probably only cost me about $100 in supplies. If you have any questions don’t hesitate to ask, I love to talk about it and I’m thrilled when I see other people who have made their own.