Saving the planet... one garment at a time!

... and one upcycle at a time... Welcome to my blog: A place to have an "over the fence conversation" about sewing, altered couture, upcycling, and all kinds of crafts using found objects, beads, ephemera and other vintage finds!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Completed Project: Armistice Blouse

Today's reveal is of the Armistice Blouse by Folkwear Patterns.  I was inspired to make this blouse as a 1912 Titanic Anniversary commemorative piece, with a little Downton Abbey envy thrown in for good measure.  Specifically, this was a dry run of Lady Mary's beautiful cream version of this blouse.  I plan to do another now, more closely resembling the one worn by Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary.

I made several modifications to this pattern.  First, I did away with the front button closure.  I wanted a more casual version.  Second, I did go with shorter sleeves, and will go even shorter next time as I try to recreate the Lady Mary blouse.  Third, I did not use a self fabric waist tie, instead opting for grosgrain ribbon in a coordinating shade of lilac.  Fourth, Instead of using gathering stitches at the back of the blouse, I used elastic.  Here's my blouse.  I really did try to take pictures of myself in it, so to prove that here's one... when I get the skirt done I'll get a long suffering family member to take pictures, honest.

And now, here's Betty with the remainder of the modeling duties.

Here is the detail on the back elastic.

And here are some shots of the inside of the blouse, so that you can see the french seams.  Here's the side seam.

And here is an internal view of the armscye.

I know, if I didn't tell you what it was, you might not know, right?  And here's the inside of the blouse front.

So, I will definitely be making this pattern again.  It came together easily, though I admit to ignoring most of the sewing instructions because of the modifications I made.  Please let me know what you think, and as always, I appreciate you reading what I am doing.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Armistice Blouse Progress

It occurred to me today as I worked along, how much I really love to sew.  Time just flies by, even though the work may be very time consuming.  Like basting lace into place prior to machine stitching it down.

I hope to have the blouse completed tomorrow.  Then, I'll be skipping my usual UFO project to do an Edwardian skirt to go with the blouse.  I'd like to have the emsemble completed by the Titanic anniversary, even though I'm not attending any themed parties.  How do you feel about anchoring current day celebrations around past events?  How about when the events are unhappy ones?  I'm curious to hear your opinions.  Thanks for watching my progress!

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Diva of Overdye?

Ok, maybe not so much.  There were mixed results for the overdye fabric rescue.  The primary fabric I was trying to save out came out nice.

The flowers are still visible, but the background is now a soft grey.  The dye camouflages the fade damage (which was the reason for this fabric rescue experiment), but it is still visible in spots.  I'm hoping that the camouflage is enough that the damage will not be apparent in the finished blouse.  So, I went ahead and cut it out (on the plywood protected table this time - I wasn't up for the more aerobic, crawl around the floor method).

However, the other two pieces finished with less satisfactory results.  The T shirt remnant came out light grey, alright, but to my eye it just looks like a really dingy, ready for the ragbag, T.  So, more intervention will be required here.  Likewise, the synthetic material of the curtain panel absorbed very little dye, so it just came out looking a little worse for the wear.  However, I still plan to use both of these items in upcoming projects, so stay tuned!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Adventures in Over Dyeing

If you've been following along you know that my intention earlier this week was to cut out the Armistice Blouse from Folkwear Patterns.  However, as I laid out my fabric, I discovered that it had a regular pattern of fade marks along the lines on which it had been folded.  This stopped me in my tracks for that day and left me pondering what to do to save the fabric.  I decided to try overdying.

You might be curious as to why I refer to the process as "overdyeing" and not just "dyeing".  When dyeing a fabric or garment one usually starts out with unpigmented cloth, or removes the dyes already present through a chemical process.  With overdyeing, you just dye over whatever is already there.  This process can be somewhat random in its results - you never know quite what you're going to get.  Now, my fabric was pretty much ruined, so what harm could be done?  Right?

And, what about environmental harm, or human hazard from using the product?  Well, I consulted the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for the product to be sure.  According to the MSDS, the main hazards would be by inhalation or ingestion of the product, or to those with skin sensitivity to any of the ingredients if the chemicals were not properly washed out of the fabric.  The product contains no known carcinogens.  It does contain surfactants, which are a known environmental hazard, hence extra dilution should take place prior to discarding the solution.  While using the product, I never handled it directly in any way, and I took care not to inhale the powder.  All of that said, dyeing is not something I do frequently, due to potential for unreported hazards. 

When I do dye, I try to do multiple items to minimize waste.  This time I had my faded stash fabric (the fading is slightly visible in this photo),

The top from the T shirt I used in the T Shirt Upcycle (I promised at the time that I'd do something with the remaining portion of the shirt),

and the other panel from the curtain I used in the T Shirt Upcycle project, thinking that perhaps I could use it in the next project as well. 

The curtain panel is made of a synthetic material, so it's uncertain how much, if any, dye it will absorb.  I'm in an experimental mood, how about you?

As you can see above, I'm using Pearl Grey dye.  This happens to be a box I had on hand, but I think the color might look nice with the flowers on my ruined fabric, and, it may end up appearing more period (Edwardian) correct than the original fabric.

Next, I assembled my supplies:
  • Dye Packet and Instructions
  • Bucket and measuring utensils not used for food prep
  • Detergent (1 Tablespoon)
  • Salt (1 cup)
  • Vinegar (2 Tablespoons)
  • HOT water (2 cups plus 3 gallons)

I dissolved the dye powder in two cups of very hot water.

In the 3 gallon plastic bucket of very hot water I dissolved 1 cup salt,

1 Tablespoon of generic laundry detergent,

and 2 Tablespoons of white vinegar.  The vinegar was not called for in the package instructions, but vinegar is great at setting colors - the Ostara (Easter) Bunny uses it, and I can't think of any more glowing testimonial!  Next, I added the dissolved dye to the larger bucket with the salt, detergent and vinegar.

The next step was to add my fabrics.  These were wetted in plain warm water prior to being added to the dye bath.

Once all the fabrics were added, the stirring began.  I stirred the fabrics in the dye bath for about 20 minutes.  The instructions on the box indicate that the longer the materials remain in the dye bath, the darker the color result would be.  The instructions recommended keeping the materials in contact with the dye for up to 30 minutes.

Once the time had elapsed, I poured the entire bucket, water and all into the washer, and washed the materials to remove any excess dye. 

I'll be sure to let you know how this all turned out in an upcoming post after everything is dry!  Please stop back to find out what color the Armistice Blouse is going to be!  And, as always, your questions and comments on this process are always welcome!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Sewing Aerobics

I was raised Catholic in the sixties.  For me, this meant a lot of standing, kneeling and genuflecting - something my sister and I came to later refer to as Holy Aerobics.*  For some reason I am reminded of this every time I cut sewing patterns.  HUH?

I am fortunate enough to have a small sewing room.  Somehow, even though I have a room of my own, there's just no room in there to cut.  So, I have two options.  The first is to spread my fabric and pattern out on the dining room table, and use it as a cutting table.  This works ok quite a bit of the time, but it does mean removing the table cloth (so as not to cut through) and shoo-ing cats from the work surface about every thirty seconds.  My second choice is to lay out the fabric on my bedroom floor.  This option requires crawling around the floor and assuming positions a nice lady of my age has no business getting into (and has a really hard time getting out of).  Today, I used option two.  Ow.  I'm really coveting a cutting table at this moment.  Like this one:

I set out to cut three patterns. Generally, if I'm going to cut, I try to cut two or three patterns, because of the effort involved.  The first, the commissioned clergy robe I mentioned; the second, a Colette Meringue; and the third, the Armistice blouse from folkwear patterns (as you'll recall I wanted to do some Edwardian sewing).  One and two went fine, though I worked up quite a sweat.  It is very unseasonably warm here on the edge of the Adirondacks right now, but I am NOT complaining about an early spring!  When I got to the third pattern, I had an unfortunate discovery.  The pretty calico print was now sun damaged!  I'm not sure how that happened because it was folded in a box until I pre-washed it yesterday.  So, now I have to consider how to save the project.  Have any of you ever tried overdying?  I was thinking I could still use the fabric if I tried it.  Any suggestions?

* No disrespect intended to my Catholic readers.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Economics of Sewing - Part 2

Last time we talked about free and low cost options for acquiring sewing patterns.  Today, let's look at interesting sources for low cost sewing fabrics, trims and notions.
I don't need to tell you that full priced fabrics are very expensive.  My first suggestion here is something that many of us shy away from:  harvesting fabric from items that no longer fit, or that were never garments in the first place.  Did any of you see Blast from the Past, starring Alicia Silverstone and Brendan Fraser?  One of my favorite scenes takes place on Brendan Fraser's character's birthday.  Having lived in a fallout shelter for the past thirty years, his family is running out of nearly everything.  As a present, his mom, played by the awesome Sissy Spacek, makes him a new sports jacket from old curtains.  Now, it looks quite unconventional, but it was made with love (see below) - and who wants to look strictly conventional anyway!  Dated drapes become a new dress, and old round table cloth is a new circle skirt, and an oversized dress can provide the fabric for a new blouse.  In this instance I'm not talking about item restyling, but actually using item number one's fabric to make item number two. Of course, thrift and consignment shops are a bountiful source of these "harvested" fabrics, as are yard and estate sales.  Basically, anyplace where you can see the condition of the fabric you plan to harvest, can be a great source, if the price is right!

While we're on the subject of harvesting, don't forget that this can also be a great source for notions and trims.  My grandmother, raising her family during the depression, saved everything!  Even the buttonhole twist from one coat's buttons to use on another.  Having learned from the master, when I take apart an article of clothing that I intend to either refashion or simply harvest fabric from, I always take off any reusable trims, buttons, and even zippers.  While you may not want to reuse a zipper for a high wear garment, you might want to use one in a fitting muslin rather than using a brand new one!

If you want more traditional yard goods, but want to pay a lower price, you have many options, including some of the ones we've already mentioned, those thrift stores, consignment shops, yard sales and estate sales also sometimes have uncut yardage which can be purchased at a fraction of what would be asked in a traditional fabric store.  Just this past weekend, Sue from Sewin' Steady scored a huge box of fabrics and notions for just $11! Of course, those traditional stores do have sales and extensive couponing programs which can help considerably at the register.  Online shopping is another great option here.  Many traditional fabric stores have an online presence, and coupons will usually apply to online purchases as well.  Also, many of these stores will have swatching services so that you can see what you're getting before making a commitment.  Additionally, one can obtain fabrics on Craig's List, eBay, Etsy, Freecycle.  By definition, what is offered on Freecycle is free, but when using the other sites, it helps to have a sense of what the same fabric would go for in a variety of different settings.  In other words, comparison shopping is required if you are going to come up with a bargain.

Thanks for reading this little series.  Please comment and let me know if you have other favorite sources for low cost fabrics.

Linked to The Thrift Home.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Sister Support

One thing I notice about the sewing blogging community is how really supportive we are of each other's successes and failures.  We all struggle with learning new techniques, wrestling slippery fabrics, and days where not a single thing goes right.  But, I've found, when I'm having one of those days, all I need to do is post about it.  The simple act of spilling my guts helps process whatever is going wrong, but sure enough, someone will be there to suggest an alternative, point the way to a great tutorial, or just comiserate!  You rock, ladies!

As I previously blogged, I'd really like to do some Edwardian sewing, and I have a few things picked out, but I may need to wait for some patterns to arrive.  Meantime I have a commissioned clergy robe to work on, and some more UFOs to tackle, as well as a basket full of restylables.  I haven't quite decided what the week will bring, but I'm glad you'll be here with me!  Thanks to you, I know I'll get it all done, one step, and one post, at a time!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Versatile Blogger Award

The very sweet and supportive Sue from Sewin' Steady has nominated me for the Versatile Blogger award.  Thank you so much, Sue!  Here are the rules for the award:

  1. Add the badge to the winning blog page.
  2. Thank the blogger who gave it.
  3. List the rules.
  4. List seven (7) random facts about yourself.
  5. Pass on the award to fifteen (15) deserving and conscientious bloggers who are nominated for their diligence, demonstrated skill, and achievements in the world of blogging and specifically in the sewing related category.
  6. Contact the nominated bloggers and let them know they are recipients.
So, I guess I'm up to number 4... Hmmmmm... seven random facts about myself.

  1. I'm really shy.  Though I can make myself known when I have to, or when it's part of employment, I always have to push myself out there.
  2. I love dragonflies.  I collect them (art, fabric, etc.) and they collect me (watching them makes me feel calm and collected).  They tend to find me when I'm out in the summertime.
  3. Dee is my nickname... only my mother gets to call me by my real name.
  4. I'm engaged to marry a wonderful man.  Between us we will be parents of nine.  Shoot us now.  Five (and one more is on the verge) are grown and won't be living with us thank goodness.  We hope to get married late this summer.
  5. My education is in nursing.  I have a Master's in Maternal-Child Health Nursing.  I'm not using it right now.  Right now, I sew.
  6. I dabble in all kinds of other crafts besides sewing.  Sometimes you'll see some of it here.
  7. I'm a crazy animal lady.  I have four cats (Esmeralda, Buddy, Jonny and Murphy), two Flemish Giant rabbits (Gwendolyn and Guinevere), and a Jack Russell mix puppy (no, we don't know what he's mixed with - do you?) named Horus.  Here's my baby:

Handsome, isn't he?  Back to the business of this award.  It was very difficult to come up with a list of new recipients, as I didn't want to duplicate the love (and the bit of work that goes along with the nomination), I wanted to try to get some unsung folks recognized, and probably failed, however, now, my list of newly nominated recipients (drumroll, please):

Angry Chicken
House on Hill Road
Camelias and Crinolines
Adventures in Dressmaking
The Blue Gardenia Sews
New Vintage Lady
Vintage Girl
The Naked Seamstress
The Sewcratic Method
Seamless Blog
A Sewing Odyssey
What Would Nancy Drew Wear?

Please give them a visit if you haven't done so already.  Thanks!

Completed Project: An Upcycle UFO

I began this project last summer.  It was planned to be the first tutorial on my blog, but life intervened and I had to put the project aside.  Looking through the stash for the next UFO, I came upon everything to do the project, all in one bag, so I took that as a message that this should be this week's project.  It's a simple T shirt upcycle.  First, find a T shirt that you do not wish to wear as is.  The T shirt certainly does not need to be new, but it should be in good condition.

Cut the torso off the shirt just below the armpits.

Put aside the part with the arms (We'll do something with that later!).  Next, decide how you would like to embellish your top.  I had some old lace curtains in the attic, so I harvested a nice lace ruffle to go around the circumference of the T.

Next, I added some white satin ribbon for straps.  I cut the ends of the ribbon, and finished them with fray check.

Next, I sewed the lace curtain ruffle and the ribbons to the unfinished end of the T shirt tube.  Once this was completed, it seemed to need a bit of color, so I got out some fabric flowers I had leftover from one of my daughter's tutus.  You can find these in the wedding aisle at big box fabric stores and some craft stores.  I also had some organza ribbon on hand, and a tiny button.

And there you have it, a cute summer top, upcycled from a T shirt, an old curtain, and some random embellishments on hand in the sewing room. 

I hope you like it!  With another UFO down, and the Titanic anniversary looming, I think I'll do some Edwardian sewing!  Any thoughts?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Economics of Sewing - Part 1

Making your own clothing is a money saving activity, right? Well, it certainly can be, but it can also be relatively pricey - fabric from big box fabric stores, notions, trimmings, etc. It can all get pretty expensive. So, how does the home sewist keep costs in line?

Let's start with patterns. Full price patterns are prohibitively expensive if you're on a tight budget. With prices ranging from $5 to $25 (or so), for brand new patterns, and vintage patterns sometimes going for over $100 ($100 for crumpled tissue paper, you say!), patterns can be a very big investment. Check this article on New VintageLady if you doubt me! Now I absolutely love patterns, and I admit to having quite a stash, but I am very choosy about patterns for which I am willing to pay full price. For a full price pattern to be worth it, it must be a wardrobe staple which can be made many times in many different ways, or it must be for a very special occasion. Otherwise, I seek patterns from the following sources:

1) Pattern Sales. Big box fabric stores and pattern websites alike run periodic pattern sales which drastically lower the cost of the pattern from full price to a deeply discounted price. Even specialty shops which concentrate on certain types of patterns, such as vintage patterns, have occasional sales, so keep your eyes peeled.

2) BurdaStyle. This website is a treasure trove of patterns, many of which have been featured in the German periodical, Burda Style Magazine. The typical price point for these patterns is $5.50 USD. Readers of the site can also upload patterns to the site, and many of these are offered to fellow readers for free.

3) Online Searches of Independent Pattern Companies. Recently, I posted a series as I sewed the Colette Sorbetto, one of two free sewing patterns offered on the Colette Patterns blog. Other small pattern companies also give away free patterns as a demonstration of the quality of their wares in hopes that if you like their work, you will return and make a purchase. In my experience, if I like the fit and and I find the instructions easy to follow, I do become a loyal customer when my finances allow, because I know a bit about what I am getting.

4) Magazine and Books Inserts. Okay, the patterns are not free, because you are paying for the book or the magazine, but the value added content of the book or magazine often make the pattern(s) worth it. I already mentioned Burda Style Magazine, but other sewing magazines often have free patterns included. Two I can think of off the top of my head are Threads and Sew News. Also, two recent sewing best sellers (reviewed in earlier posts on this site) each included five patterns. These were the Burda-Style Handbook and the Colette Sewing Handbook. Again, these are merely examples of the many fine sewing books which include patterns.

5) eBay and Etsy. eBay, Etsy, and many other online marketplaces are full of sewing patterns at varying prices. When I shop these sites, it is usually when looking for something specific. I search for what I am looking for, and I set a very firm limit with myself on what I am willing to pay.

6) Estate Sales, Yard Sales and Thrift Shops. Spring is coming, and with it comes the yard sale season! Whenever I am out and about at yard and estate sales, or even at the thrift shop, I stay alert for sewing patterns. Often these can be purchased at one low price for a whole box full of patterns.  Be warned, however, that sometimes these patterns are not in mint condition.  The pattern may not have been placed neatly back in the envelope, or it may be missing a piece or two.  Also, if you do not like sewing vintage, the styles may seem a little dated.

I hope these tips have been helpful. If you know of other places to get free or low cost sewing patterns, please comment and let me know. Stay tuned for Part 2 of this article, In which I will focus on fabrics and notions.