Fashion · Whimsy

Party Dress: Homage to Bauhaus

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Starting Point

Staatliches Bauhaus, commonly known simply as Bauhaus, was a German art school operational from 1919 to 1933 that combined crafts and the fine arts, and was famous for the approach to design that it publicised and taught. Wikipedia

I recently attended the 2018 DesignXri Designer’s Ball. The theme was Bauhaus Bash in honor of the Bauhaus design movement’s 100th anniversary. Predictably, if you give talented, creative people a spark of inspiration, you get remarkable results. I knew I would have to come up with something good!

To achieve this look, I went shopping in my closet. The dress was just a simple black knit dress that has been hanging around waiting for warmer weather. When you look at Bauhaus designs, you see a lot of simple shapes, primary colors, high contrast and humor. That inspired me to make a pattern of bold stripes and circles. Easiest (and most reversible) way – duct tape. I applied the stripes just by eye. The circles are made by layering strips of tape on my cutting mat and using a utility knife to cut out the circular shapes.

Bauhaus13The element that really makes the outfit is the “sleeves.” The sleeve apparatus is made from two inexpensive plastic IKEA placemats, some ribbon, some cable ties, and one strategically placed safety pin.

Add some slicked-down hair, red lipstick and a sense of adventure and the outfit is done!

The whole thing took about 4 hours to put together – or 8 if you count all of the time I spent browsing the internet.

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I really can’t say enough about this great event. For some great photos of how other people interpreted the theme, check out JTJ Photography. For more information on DesignXri, check out their website:http://www.designxri.com

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General · Home Dec · Vintage · Whimsy

Hand Embroidered Dishtowels

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I’ve taken a small break from fashion sewing to work on a few just-for-fun embroidery projects. Over the holidays I had rediscovered how much I love old hand-embroidered things for the home when my Mom showed me some items she had embroidered when she was a girl. They were so charming and sweet.

I thought about the trend for adult coloring books. Coloring as an adult is supposed to be a relaxing activity that relieves stress and restores calm. I think working on simple embroidery projects can do the same. You choose the colors you like and the designs you like. It’s easy and something you can do just for pure enjoyment.

One of the easiest ways to get started is with dishtowels. I love using flour sack towels to dry my dishes.  As a child, my mother embroidered many of these and I was eager to make some of my own.

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A scrap I saved from one of Mom’s well-worn towels. They were always machine washed in hot with bleach! The embroidery outlasted the towels.

My first effort was the kitten in the knitting basket. I found the design on a google images search and just printed it onto regular paper. I already had a stack of plain unembellished towels in my drawer, so I grabbed one of those. Using my favorite sewing notion, blue painter’s tape, I taped the printout to my table. Then I positioned my towel above it and taped it down as well. Since my towel had such an open weave, I was able to trace the design onto the towel with a soft lead pencil. I had a 6-inch embroidery hoop, embroidery needles and needle threader already, so all I needed was some thread. I bought a variety pack of good quality embroidery floss and was good to go.

Once I got started, I had a lot of fun playing with different colors and types of stitches. Some of them I knew already. Others I found in my Reader’s Digest Complete Book of Needlework or in one of the many online resources out there. The kitten uses back stitch, french knots, lazy daisy (my favorite), stem stitch and satin stitch. I consider the final embroidery a success although I would have used a more tightly woven dish towel if I had thought about how much the reverse side would show through.

Now that I knew a little bit, I was ready for more. I researched dishtowels and landed on Mary’s Kitchen as my choice. They are large, hemmed, on-grain (!), tightly woven bright white cotton towels. For patterns, I decided to go the tried and true iron-on transfer route. People have been buying iron-on designs since the late 1800’s and they are still a great option. The Aunt Martha’s brand seems fairly easy to find in retail stores and online. I bought a selection of patterns that I thought I might like – they were less than $2.00 each, so why not? I also got a little more organized with my materials by adding a floss box, plastic floss bobbins, winder and ring. My total investment so far was about $35. This is one inexpensive hobby!

Supplies in hand and fully committed, I stamped 7 flour sack towels with a days of the week birdhouse series. It was a fun project to work on whenever I wanted something small and portable. It went surprisingly fast and I love the results! I will definitely have one or two hand embroidery projects ready to go from now on.

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Project 2: Days of the Week Birdhouses on Flour Sack Towels

If you would like to give embroidery a try, here are a few resources to get started:

Patterns and Transferring
  • Iron-on transfers: I found Aunt Martha and a variety of others on EtsyCreateforLessAmazon and EBay
  • How to transfer designs – Here’s a nice overview of various methods from Mary’s Kitchen
Skills
Materials
Contest · Fashion · Vintage

2018 Match Your Shoes Contest Entry

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Simplicity 1012 View C

I spent way more time than I expected working on the Marfy blouse in January, which didn’t leave me much time to put together my entry for PatternReview.com’s 2018 Match Your Shoes Contest.

Fortunately, I already had a plan in place, so I hit the ground running when I finally started.

The black stretch fabric I used for the main color was challenging to cut. To get the best result, I used my sharpest scissors and put a fresh blade in my rotary cutter. When cutting stretch fabrics with a rotary, it is especially important to apply pressure from directly above where you want to cut. If you apply pressure at an angle, the fabric will stretch away from you as you cut. The greater the angle, the greater the distortion.

To make sure that the lace pieces would come together in a pleasing way, I first laid the lace over the pattern piece. Then I identified where the “X” stitching lines would fall. I shifted the piece until I was happy, then marked the placement with a couple of pins. I put the pattern piece on top, then cut it out. I used this process for all four lace sections. After all that, cutting the gray background fabric was a breeze!

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Checking the position of the flowers before cutting.

Before getting to the directions in the pattern envelope, I basted the lace and lining pieces to each other. Because my serger was ready to go, I used an overlock stitch (with the knife up) to put them together.

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One of the midriff pieces serge-basted

The next part was assembling the four pieces making up the front into a single piece. I have never done any quilting, but I imagine that the process is very similar. First, I sewed the top section to the right side triangle. Then I sewed the bottom section to the left side triangle. I pressed the seams open. Then I carefully pinned the two pieces so the “X” met exactly in the center. I measured twice. Then I stitched the third and final seam, pausing a few times to check and re-check my alignment. Success!

The only problem was the fabric itself. I once again needed to help the machine along by adding strips of wash-away stabilizer.

The back was made of two pieces, joined by a 22 inch zipper. So assembling the back did not require matching an “X.” Sewing those pieces was much less nerve wracking.

From this point, putting the dress together goes the same as any other back zip dress. I changed the neckline from using a facing to using bias tape, but everything else was the same as the pattern.

I put it on ready to be amazed at its awesomeness. After all, it looked great on the hanger. Alas, the fit was far from amazing. Although the fitted part of the dress (bustline and up) looked good, the loose fitting lower half was boxy and unflattering. It did not have the gentle waist curve and drape I expected from looking at the pattern illustration. Part of that was because the heavy black stretch fabric did not drape well. But I felt that the dress would be more flattering if I took in the sides a bit below the bust.

So, it was back to the sewing machine, the seam ripper and the iron. Still not happy, I added a few small darts in the back, between the waist and hip. A little while later, I had my modified style.

I trimmed the seam allowances, it hung a lot better….  but….

I still had more fitting to do. I took the sides in some more and took the darts out. Finally, it looked like I had imagined.

A quick hemming session, a final press and it was done!

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That’s better!

I think if I make this pattern again, I might try doing it in a mid to heavy weight knit omitting the zipper. It would be really flattering in complementary colors with topstitching. Maybe in a long sleeve version? It would also be nice in a lighter weight woven in the sleeveless view for spring and summer.

Hey – why don’t you vote for me? The voting period is from the 17th to the 22nd.

Even if you don’t vote, it’s worth taking a look at the other contest entries on patternreview.com. I’m really impressed and also have serious shoe envy.

Here is the finished look for my contest entry.

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Missed the first part of this post? Check it out here: 2018 Match Your Shoes Contest Begins.

 

 

Home Dec · Useful Thing

Quickie Serger Coasters

While Mom and I were were picking through her fabric stash last November (see where I get it?), She came across some upholstery scraps.

Me: “That piece is pretty small. Do you still want it?”

Mom: “I always wanted to make coasters out of this.  I was going to just serge around the edges. But I don’t have my serger anymore.”

Me: “Do you still want coasters out of it?”

Mom: “Yes, but I don’t have my serger anymore.”

I took that as a hint that Mom wanted coasters for Christmas, although I suppose I could have also taken it as a hint that Mom wanted a serger. I took the piece home with me, fairly confident that she would forget all about it. Then I got to work.

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Start with a couple of tiny scraps.

It really was a small piece. I was able to squeeze just  8 5-inch squares out of it.

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Cutting 5-inch squares is easy with a 5-inch quilting ruler
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Ready to begin

I had read about using wooly nylon to make decorative edges. The little coasters seemed like a good way to test out the idea. I looked through my collection of stretch serger thread. I have a few different kinds. Some are Wooly Nylon, some are textured nylon, some are textured poly. The tan color that matched the best was textured nylon.

I learned a lot more than I expected to with this little project.

I’ve become fairly proficient at setting up my serger. I’ve figured out that the best way to thread the fluffy nylon is to use a needle threader. It’s faster to bend the little wire on the threader to go through the serger’s tiny holes than trying to pull it through with another thread.

I set up the machine with a two-thread wrapped edge overlock stitch, with the needle in the wide position. The nylon is in the lower looper and coordinating regular serger thread is in the left needle. Luckily, my machine has a preset tension setting for this purpose, so I didn’t have to mess around with that.

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How do I cover those corners?
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Ugh. Another view of my first attempt.

The first attempt was pretty discouraging. The edges didn’t get covered completely and the corners were not covered at all.

Part of the problem was that the textured nylon is not as fluffy as the woolly nylon. But I thought I could still make the edges fill in by making the stitch length as short as possible and being careful. But those corners? Hmm….

When I thought about it, following my manual’s instructions for turning around a square corner probably worked exactly as they intended. They probably assume that the stitch is to be used on the inside of a garment, so it doesn’t matter if the coverage is less.

For my next attempt, I changed my strategy.

  1. Stitch the edge to the end
  2. Keep going past the edge for about .25 inches, making a short “tail.”
  3. Lift the presser foot and reposition the square, wrapping the extra bit of stitching around the corner.
  4. Place the needle in the down position close to the to edge. Lower the presser foot.
  5. Stitch the next side, stitching over the tail

This method worked pretty well for me, although the first few coasters made with it look pretty rough. It took some practice to get the hang of it.

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Edge filled in nicely after second pass and shorter stitch length
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Some corners are better than others, but they all got some fray check to prevent unraveling

Finally, I wrapped them all up and placed them under the Christmas tree.

Oh, and Mom? She did not guess what was in her gift. And she thinks the coasters look nice. Thanks, Mom.

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Fashion

Marfy Blouse 2 – The Valentine Toile

velentine_toile15The Marfy blouse, my personal challenge for January, is coming together. After creating my own pattern from the pieces Marfy supplied, I was ready to make a toile (or wearable muslin) to test my construction method and make any necessary fitting adjustments.

For the toile, I chose a woven fabric from my stash that I wasn’t particularly attached to. That way, if things work out, I’ll wear it. If they don’t, I haven’t wasted special or expensive material. The striped heart pattern isn’t my usual taste, but I do like the red and white combination. Also, it might be fun to wear on Valentine’s Day.

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My initial construction notes

Before I even cut into the fabric, I made notes on to sew it together. I update my notes as I go along. When I’m done, I’ll have a good set of instructions to put in the envelope with the pattern.

After washing, it was obvious that the hearts fabric was pretty flimsy. I knew it would need interfacing to give it some structure, especially in the collar and button bands. I had four different possibilities on hand, so I made test swatches of each of them to see what worked best (or if I needed to get something else).

  • Pellon SF101 Shape Flex , woven fusible: the winner. Provided nice support without stiffness.
  • Pellon 950F ShirTailor, non-woven fusible: too crisp. This one would be better for heavier fabric, men’s shirts and cuffs, etc.
  • Pellon 845F Designer’s Lite, non-woven fusible: very lightweight interfacing kept the fabric from fraying and losing shape, but added no stiffness at all. Better for silky fabrics or the body of the garment (not the collar).
  • Heat n’ Bond Lightweight, non-woven fusible: very similar support to SF101. This one would have also worked well, but since I had more of the Pellon on hand, I went with that.

Since the original Marfy pattern pieces have no seam allowance, they are ready to use as pattern pieces for interfacing.

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SF101 for the collar ready to cut with original pattern piece. (Presser foot pattern weight)

Section by section, I assembled the parts of the blouse. I left out the pockets but otherwise kept to the design. I saved a little time by using the serger to overcast the raw edges instead of doing any “nice” seam finishes. As the parts started to come together, I pinned them to my duct-tape double. Once all of the components were prepared (collar, back, yoke/sleeve, and fronts), I was able to get a good idea of how the final version would fit. Some of the things I checked were the position of the darts, whether the side seams fell straight down or not, and where the hem should fall for a comfortable length.

I had expected to adjust the darts, which I did. What I didn’t expect was that I would need to let out the bottom so much. Apparently my posterior does not conform to Italian standards – who knew? Because I needed to let out more than my seam allowance would allow, I went ahead and drafted an entirely new back pattern piece. After making another back section from the new pattern, I pinned it in place on my double.

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Well, it was better, but not good. I needed to pinch away about an inch horizontally across the small of the back. I made yet another pattern piece and tried again. Ideally, I would also take out a little from the center seam, but I was concerned that the stripe pattern would look too distorted if I did that. So, I went with version 3 and moved on.

Once I was done with the back, I needed to adjust the front a little bit by adding side darts.

One thing I wasn’t able to test-fit on the double was the sleeve. I had to wait until the body of the blouse was complete to see how much gathering I would need. I frequently need to adjust sleeves for myself, so I knew I didn’t want to commit to the bias tape edge until I was sure the fit would work.

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And…. this is how I learned that I needed to clean the lint from under my sole plate.

The instructions for the sleeve edges were a little mysterious. The sleeve was not pictured in detail on the illustration. The pleated parts were clearly marked on the pattern, but the only detail about how to handle the sleeve edges was “Reduce to cm.” There was a pencilled in (!) number 8.5 near it. Reduce 8.5 cm? One side? Both sides? Reduce to 8.5cm? I had to guess. I measured the edge of both sleeve pieces on each side. I ran a couple rows of gathering stitches and pulled the bobbin threads until the total edge measurements were reduced by 17 cm in total (8.5 for the front, 8.5 for the back). I basted the gathers, then tested for fit. It seemed a little snug, so I let them out until I was happy, then sewed on my matching self-made bias.

The final sleeve looks pretty good, but dips a little too low. Unfortunately, there wasn’t any good way to raise the bottom of the sleeve opening once the pieces had been cut, so I did not incorporate that necessary modification to the toile. I did adjust the pattern pieces, though.

The collar was next. Finally, something that just worked!

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I’m getting better at buttonholes.

Then it was time for the part I was dreading: the buttonholes. My buttonhole skills are improving, but they are far from perfect. But I think these will do unless there is a close inspection. The buttons are just old ones I found in my stash, except for the top button. I thought it would be cute to put a little red heart button at the top, so I did. I could have probably put a row of hearts down the front, but it was getting a little too cute for a grown woman already!

The blue line in center of the buttonhole is where I marked the buttonhole placement using water-soluble marker. It comes right out with water – you can take it off with a damp rag in a pinch.

I turned up a simple blind machine hem and pronounced it done!

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The back is finally done and ready to hem!

I’m really glad I made a test version. Now I can cut into my “good” fabric with confidence. And I may even wear the test version for more than just Valentine’s Day.

Here are some pictures of me wearing my “wearable muslin.” Click the images to enlarge.

Missed Part 1? You can find it here: Marfy Blouse 1: The Pattern

Next time: Marfy Blouse 3: Pulling it all Together

Contest · Fashion · Vintage

2018 Match Your Shoes Contest Begins

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I’ll be reviewing this pattern for the contest and making View C.

One of the resources everyone who sews should check out is patternreview.com. There you will find a huge database of user-submitted reviews for just about every pattern out there. It’s a great place to check out what others think of a pattern before you shop – or when you get stuck.

Pattern Review runs a bunch of contests and challenges over the course of the year. I’ve never done one before, but 2018’s first challenge sparked my imagination. Entitled The 2018 Match Your Shoes Contest, the idea is that entrants use a pair of shoes as inspiration for building an entire outfit. Everything except foundations and accessories has to be sewn by the entrant (although not necessarily for themself).

Oh boy! Who among us doesn’t have a pair of shoes they couldn’t resist, but then never wears?

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The Cloud Footwear Janna Tall Bootie, from Nordstrom (2017)

Last year I bought these calf-height boots so that I could be stylish in the cold weather. That has happened exactly once. I still love the boots, but I just don’t know what to wear with them. So they became my inspiration piece.

Now I have until February 15 to pull together my shoe-inspired outfit.

The boots have an interesting combination of simple black leather topped with a black snakeskin-textured band. They have an easy sensibility. These are walking-around shoes – not night at the opera shoes. So my ideal outfit would be a little special, but easy to wear strolling around town. I would also like it to reflect the boots’ interesting monochrome textural differences.

I admit I puzzled over this one longer than usual. But inspiration struck when I came across this vintage pattern re-release from Simplicity.

Here was an easy, loose dress with color blocking possibilities that could showcase different textures in the same tone.

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Oh, the possibilities!

Usually I can find something in my stash that will work, but not this time. I spent a fun time shopping for fabric and finally came up with a really neat combination.

The main color will be black and the side pieces will be gray with a lace overlay. All of the fabrics are either 100% cotton or cotton/poly blend, so they can be washed by machine.

Watch this space for more updates as the project progresses.

 

 

 

Fashion

Giant Stripes Two Ways

The one piece of fabric from my Sincerely Rylee mystery box that I had no idea what to do with was this brushed sweater knit with a giant horizontal design.

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Big. Progresso soup can for scale.

While the quality is excellent, I have to admit that this is one I would never have chosen for myself. My initial reaction was just BIG BIG BIG.  I could have given it away, but as you know, I love a challenge. Also, it was so fluffy that it was taking up a big space on the shelf. If I used it, I could fill that space with more fabric!

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Front View

Like most knits, the material had a wide width: 58 inches after washing. I had almost 3 yards of it, so I had a lot of options. I thought a long time about how I could best use the vivid pattern. There was enough yardage to do almost anything, but I was concerned that the pattern would be overwhelming in anything long – so sweater dresses and dusters were out. So I started looking at my casual top patterns for a good match.

I came up with hallå patterns’ Slim Dolman. Hallå seems to have a loyal following and I’ve seen a few sewists online list the dolman as one of their go-to patterns. Bonus: Hallå gives you a code to download the pattern and tutorial free if you join their facebook group. I liked that the pieces did not have darts or any details that might disrupt the pattern.

I can see why people like Hallå. Their tutorial has a really nice, clear set of instructions that shows how the simple pattern can be modified for different necklines, sleeves, lengths, and even curviness.  I chose to make it long-sleeved, regular (instead of tunic) length with a banded bottom.

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Same pattern back

Unlike traditional patterns, all of the purely rectangular pieces such as cuffs and bands are just given as dimensions for you to cut. You are also expected to be able to figure out the pattern layout unaided. The most unusual thing is that the pieces only have a 1/4″ seam allowance. If you don’t need to do any fitting, that’s perfect for sewing on a serger. There is absolutely no wasted fabric with this one.

For those reasons, it might not be a good first pattern for a beginner. But otherwise, it’s about as simple as it gets.

When I actually started placing pattern pieces on the fabric, I was surprised to observe that I could only fit one complete repeat of the design on the large front and back pieces. I decided to maneuver the pieces so the large dark stripe would go across the body so the shoulder and hip would be coral. For the bands, sleeves, and cuffs, I played around with different combinations until I found what I liked the best.

When I put it all together, it turned out to have a kind of sweatshirt vibe. It’s really perfect to wear with jeans and super warm and cozy. The crazy stripes were starting to grow on me!

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Version 1 – Sweatshirt-y

Because I had so much fabric left over, I thought it might be interesting to see how it sewed up in a variation of the dolman pattern. I was really curious about the batwing modification. I don’t have anything with a batwing sleeve in my wardrobe and wondered how it would be to wear. Also, it gave me another opportunity to experiment with those stripes!

There is no pattern piece for batwings. Instead there are directions on how to modify the pattern to achieve it. I simply made a new pattern piece with a shallower underarm curve. Because the slim dolman uses the same piece for front and back, I only had to do it once.

I really like the way stripes look when they are joined at an angle. I was already changing the pattern, so I made one more change and cut right and left pieces (plus 1/4 inch) for both the front and back.

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I used the guides on my quilter’s ruler to place the pieces at a 30 degree angle (or 60, depending on how you look at things). To make sure the stripes aligned, I cut the first piece then used it as the pattern piece for the opposite side. When you place the piece wrong side down, it’s easy to see if the pattern lines up.

Sewing the pieces together along what would have been the foldline results in a front and a back that are the same dimensions as the original pattern pieces.

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To minimize adding anything that would disrupt my now beloved pattern, I also changed the neckline from a neckband to bias facing. For the same reason, I hemmed the bottom and sleeves instead of using cuffs.

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Version 2 – 1985 and 2018 mash-up

I discovered something neat about 99% of the way through this project. I wan’t really happy with the way my machine hems were coming out. I just couldn’t find a thread color that would blend well enough to not be distracting. Solution: after securing the edges with an overlock or zig-zag, hand finish the hem with lace-weight knitting yarn. I know not everyone has yarn on hand, but my medium-gray wool yarn turned out to be perfect. I only did the sleeve hems this way, but they are absolutely invisible.

So… the stripes don’t line up. I guess I should have measured twice and cut once. I don’t hate it though. I think it worked very well as a proof of concept, and I’ll definitely wear it as a casual top.

It looks like I have another pattern for the keep pile. Which one do you prefer?

Up next, I begin working on my entry for the patternreview.com 2018 Match Your Shoes contest.

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