the Valentine’s day skirt

Finally, something sewn! There has been a lot of knitting around here lately, which isn’t too strange considering that I’ve been without my sewing machine for months over the summer, only to play a repair waiting game with an airline, an insurance company, and a repair shop.

So, fed up with waiting, I did what any normal person would do. I finished this skirt by hand.

Eking every last centimeter out of this remnant. And yes, that makes me ridiculously proud!

The pink lining, the graphic ribbon, the silk organza, and the wool suiting.

Yeah, this skirt has been waiting for completion since sometime this spring. I started patternmaking around Halloween (I clearly remember my co-worker talking about the scant and tacky clothing she was planning to dress up in, and me drafting this pretty demure pencil-skirt. I pick pencil-skirts over scant and scandalous any day!). I posted about my muslin and the fitting changes back in December last year, and was really determined to finish the skirt for my Valentine’s Day date (John and I went to the Museum of Science and Industry in the morning. Then I went  straight to class. It was lovely). That obviously didn’t happen!

The Valentine’s Day thing seemed appropriate because of the rich pink silk that I lined the skirt with, and I got pretty close to finishing before it all came to a screeching halt. I really wanted this skirt to be full of lovely touches, so I’ve been taking my sweet time and doing things thoroughly and nice. I interfaced the waistband with organza; I bound raw lining edges with more organza to prevent the crazy fraying I knew would happen otherwise (I used the same silk as a lining for another skirt, and when I took a look at the inside for some reason, it was such a mess! Just silk-fuzz everywhere!); and I french-seamed all the lining seams I could.

Binding the edges of the silk used for the pocket and the lining with strips of bias organza. That should keep the silk from fraying, and I think really increase the durability and lifespan of the skirt.

I had sewn in the zipper already and was all set to attach the lining to the waistband when I realized I had closed up the wrong side of the lining. I had just messed up which side was supposed to be open when looking at the right side – and since the right side of the lining was facing my body, it wasn’t the same as the shell where the right side faces outwards. Ops! Undoing painstakingly made french seams on silk charmeuse? Yeah, it went in the waiting pile.

Where it stayed. I graduated. I went on a cross-country road-trip for several months. I moved back to Bergen and Norway. And I was without a sewing machine. And really missing my sewing.

The insides of the pockets are the same pink silk as the lining. So lovely to put my hands into!

So I redid my french seam, and attached the lining to the waistband. I used this black and white graphic ribbon in the transition, and I love the way it came out! I also used it at the bottom – it made sense to me in how I needed to sew this thing by hand. Look how narrow that hem is! On the one hand I’m a little perturbed – hems aren’t supposed to be that narrow – but on the other side, I think the flash of black and white and pink is pretty cool!

The waistband facing, contrast ribbon, and the lining. And the same at the hem.

And I love the pink charmeuse best of all. I adore putting ont the skirt and seeing all the pink just hiding cheekily! Oh, and happy Valentine’s day everyone!

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using the fabric scraps

I can’t stand waste. More specifically, I can’t stand being wasteful.  I don’t know if the mild hoarding is the source, or the consequence of this aversion to throwing away anything that could possibly be useful, but here I am – constantly with drawers and boxes and surfaces covered in things that surely will be useful – somehow, sometime.

fabric scraps

Setting up in a new apartment always feels like a new start, so spurred on by that, I’ve come up with a way of making at least some of my hoarded materials turn useful. I’m sure I’m not the only one with scraps of fabric left over after sewing projects – too big to throw away (too beautiful!), but too small to be put to use in a garment. Some people make small things; pincushions, coin-purses, soft toys – but I mostly make garments, and these pieces aren’t even large enough for pockets. I finally realized the perfect use for these scraps was to make bias tape!

making bias tape

I make my bias tape by measuring the same amount (say, 3 inches) along two sides of a triangle – along the weft and the warp grain. Connecting those two points gives me the bias, and then I can just use my ruler to draw new diagonal marks. This works well on oddly shaped scrappy pieces, but I’ve found that my lines can get a little skewed after four or five repeats – best to double-check my lines every so often!

making bias tape

making bias tape

One trick to getting perfectly aligned seams when joining pieces is to make sure the short ends are at a 45 degree angle to the long ends, which they will be if they follow the grainlines to begin with. Sometimes it’s easier to trim the scrap piece of fabric first. The other trick is to mark the seam allowance, and offset the two pieces so that it’s the stitching line goes edge to edge on both layers.

self-made bias tapeIt’s kind of amazing how many yards of bias tape you can get out of a fat quarter sized scrap (or smaller!) of fabric.

I think I’ve been fooling myself with my mindset of “this can be useful somehow!”. Sure, most of the things we having lying in drawers and boxes can be useful, but are they useful to us – in the way that we use things? Like I mentioned, I don’t really sew or make small things, so smallish scraps of fabric don’t hold any value to me, at least not in how I craft. So while someone else might have found a million things to make with my scraps, I didn’t. By making these remnants into bias-tape, I’ve turned them into something I will actually use  – something that makes sense with the kinds of things I craft. And that is the whole point, isn’t it?

And what will I use my bias tape for? I took a workshop a while back where I learned lots of finishing techniques, like hong-kong hemming, bound seams, and decorative uses. Quilts can be finished with some home-made bias tape; use it for a decorative piping touch,  and my favorite, a really nice edge finishing from Tasia of sewaholic.

stashbusting: beach blouse

Summery, breezy shirt? Check. Sunshine? Check. Beach-day? Check.

This beach-friendly blouse is my latest effort in busting my fabric stash. I decided, in trying to utilize an oddly shaped yard of this cream-colored poly/linen blend, that a simple shirt would be my best bet. Originally this fabric was bought nine years ago (goodness! Am I a hoarder, or what?) intended for a peasant-style blouse. It was not a success.

So the fabric lay around, waiting for something to turn into. It’s a polyester/linen blend, unfortunately with the linen making up only 5% of the fabric. It’s an oddity for me to have a nearly 100% synthetic fabric in my stash, but it does have some redeeming qualities. It has a really nice crinkled texture, and feels nice and breezy. The fabric is too sheer to use on its own, so I doubled the layers. I think it made the blouse drape a little more stiffly, but I’ve decided that it came out quite nicely regardless. And best of all? There were hardly any fabric-scraps left over!

I based my shirt on this one, which I think is from Urban Outfitters. I cut the image out for a school project a while back, and studying the shirt, I decided I could pattern it fairly easily. This is what I discovered:

• There is a front piece, a back piece, and a yoke.
• There are gathers at the neckline, the shoulders in the front, and the back, beneath the yoke.
• The shoulder-seam is dropped a couple of inches to the front
• The neckline and sleeves look to be made up of completely rectangular pieces

The envelope sketch: Dotted line is the original block, green lines are alterations for ease and gathers, and squiggly lines indicate gathers.

And for those who are curious about the patternmaking part, this is how I did it:

• I dropped the armholes about 2″ and scooped out the neckline for both front and back pieces.
• Dropped the front shoulder piece by about 2″ – which was added to the yoke.
• Added 1 1/2″ to the center front for a looser fit and gathers at neckline
• Drew a straight line from armhole to hem
• Cut a yoke from the top back piece
• Slashed and spread the top of the new (shortened) back piece for gathers
• Turned the shoulder dart into gathers instead

Sewing the blouse together was quite easy – maybe because of the few pieces, and particularly because the sleeves and neckline were rectangles I folded in half, turned under the seam allowance, and stitched on. It’s a similar technique I’d use to sew on binding, say, on a quilt, a shirt collar, or a cuff, and it makes both sides look really nice and neat. I’m planning a ‘how-to’, so stay tuned!

Successful stashbusting!