stash, sustainability, and little dresses

To me, an outstandingly successful make is a trifecta of: using materials suitable for the design, both of which suited to the recipient (which honestly, is most often me). In addition, I get really excited when I can use a piece of material to the utmost of its capacity. Sewing a skirt with barely any scraps left over? Love it! Knitting a little hat with colorwork using up the last little bits of four different skeins of yarn? Makes my heart patter! There is something thrilling about getting the most out of a skein of yarn, or a piece of fabric (or honestly – the contents of my fridge even!) which often is a driving force in my making.

This all ties in to sustainable living as well. Zoe of “So, Zo…” actually had a recent post about unsustainable sewing that touched on some of what I have been feeling lately. For me I guess it started with the Kondo-ing of my belongings prior to my move a year and a half ago. I purged some, I kept the things that gave me joy, and I had a pretty intense feeling of having enough. I have enough clothes. I have enough craft supplies. I have enough books. I have enough yarn, and I have enough fabric. I have no need for any more.

Now, this doesn’t mean I haven’t bought more fabric in the last year and a half – I definitely have. But there has been a slight shift, where I am quite selective and buy only cuts of fabric that I truly can picture making into a garment I love. Up until that point I have definitely bought fabric without a plan, because – you know, it might come in handy some day! Not every piece of fabric I come home with nowadays has a plan, but I am much more sure of my abilities to turn it into a successful garment.

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And here comes the intersection of the fabric and the pattern, or design – and the recipient. I think part of maturing as a creater is to understand what materials are suited for which purposes. A slubby and thin t-shirt knit is not going to make a good knit blazer. I have mentioned several times before about having “conversations” with my fabric, figuring out what to do with them. What I am trying to do, is to figure out the window of suitability – to call it that. What garments will be a successful match with this fabric? Will the seamlines and structure work with the pattern of the fabric – and with the sewing pattern? I am approaching pretty much my entire stash with this mindset now. Not only looking at how I can best pair a fabric with a type of garment, but how I can get the absolute most out of the cut of fabric that I have a available. It is like a creative challenge on top of the creative challenge of sewing!

At the moment I am finishing up a maxi dress with a large scale palm print that I first thought I would make a t-shirt of out. I fell in love with the fabric in the store, rolled out a few yards and draped myself in it in front of the store mirror, and realized the print was too large to make sense in a short garment. I bought the fabric thinking I might make a jump suit was born, before realizing some months and a muslin later that the fabric doesn’t quite have the heft needed for something pants-like. A maxi-dress however lets the jersey float, as well as showing off the print. Cutting out the dress I had to piece both the back bodice and skirt, and the skirt is every inch of length I could manage, but I *loved* making that pattern puzzle piece and cutting it all out, and you know why? Because I believe in the matching of fabric and pattern, and also because the scraps left over were tiny. I used ALL of that fabric!

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All of this is to explain why I am so damned pleased with this little toddler sleeveless dress. I picked up a little remnant pack at my regular fabric store, and was really pleased with the colors and prints of the cuts – one piece has already been turned into cloth napkins, while others are perfect for little lined zippered pouches. Then there was this piece of soft cotton measuring about 100 by 60 cm. Not large enough to make anything useful for myself, and big enough to have potential for something more exciting than… lined zippered pouches. The daughter of a good friend came to mind, as I thought the print and colors would be up her alley. Looking through my one magazine with kids’ patterns (Ottobre 6/2012) I found a cute sleeveless top. The front bodice is pieced, the gathered piece lengthened as much as possible, and the fullness of the skirt is a little less than planned. But I managed to be left with just tiny scraps again, and I think the shape, and color, and print of the dress will suit my favorite little 3 year old so well. Trifecta. Sewing bliss.

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DSC_7877Other things about this tiny dress that makes me happy: I didn’t have to rethread the serger, the contrast bib is from the softest corduroy remnant in my stash, the sewing looks awesome also from the inside, I had perfectly matching warm grey bias binding on hand, and the three buttons from my stash were the last of their kind.

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