Skin Traps

1 Embrace your inner evil

1 SleeveIn the last two weeks I’ve been busy with two projects, both picked on the spur of the moment and causing other plans to be put aside.  Both turned out to be epic fails.   The first –  a Renfrew hacked into a dress – I will go into on another occasion when I’ve dusted myself off the defeat and remade it.  The second is this self-drafted T-shirt with leather elements, initially inspired by this gem I found via Pinterest.  Of course, I had to experiment and make the design more complicated and that’s when things went wrong.  Twice (that is, in two places)!  But I’m glad I didn’t jettison the whole thing into the bin.

1 Wested Leather bundle of offcutsI don’t suppose you’ve ever wondered where Indiana Jones‘ brown leather jacket came from?  Well I’ll tell you anyway.  :-)  It was made by Wested Leather, a company and workshop near here, in Kent.  I bought online one of their £5 bundles of off-cuts.  I wasn’t sure what I’d get; I was told to expect a mixture of black and brown.  I ended up with this: the biggest piece being a half (front?) bodice in thick brown leather and the other pieces smaller and finer.

The industry that produces leather is a notorious pollutant and – being a hippyish type –  I take no pride in being mad for it.  But to me, there is no good-enough substitute: the shoes and boots that with wear adopt your shape; the feel, warmth and durability of a leather jacket or jeans.  The look of the grain; the softness of suede.  Most of all, I love how leather smells.  Is there anything more heady?  When I opened the package, my living room turned to nirvana and all the time I was working on this project, the cat (who stalks me) and I operated at a heightened level of exciement.    8O

1 Back viewFor the pattern I drafted a blouse from my block.  A bust dart provides shape and ease replaces the front waist dart.  The back has contour darts (the back looks a mess!)

I used my corner-pleat sleeve tutorial to draft the sleeves, then made another pattern with added style lines that would enable the insertion of some small leather pieces from the bundle.

But just as I thought I was done, I looked in the mirror and saw…. the love child of an American Football player and Darth Vader.  My shoulders were HUGE and not in a sexy Alexis Colby way either.  I sewed down some of the corners, thereby ruining the square geometry but just about getting away with a less conspicuous look: – the result you see here.

t 1 Floppus EpicusSewing the neckline caused more problems.  The needlecord and the leather wouldn’t fold under equally –  and it didn’t help that I could press the cloth but not the leather.  This is what the shirt looked like last week, when again I thought I was done.  Each photo accentuated the dog’s dinner of a neckline, with a pulling to the side.   I simply couldn’t take the risk of wearing it like this and having people say: “Did you make that yourself?” while wearing a disgusted expression.  But I couldn’t throw away, not after all that work.  Besides it still smelt good!  So I unpicked the neckline, exposing holes in the leather that would never heal. :roll:   I trimmed off some of the distortion (you may notice an unevenness in shoulder width) and made bias binding out of needlecord  as I didn’t have enough matching leather for the purpose.

1 sideIt was an adventure!

I’ll be wearing this next week to a gig, when one of my favourite bands rolls into town.  No one will see the imperfections – it’ll be too dark.  But boy, will those jutting shoulders smell good as I push through the crowd!

A Simple Dart Throw

1 Skirt back

1 Back on dummyIf you’re playing around with your basic skirt block and thinking of moving the back dart from the waist seam where it’s typically found, there aren’t that many places it can go.  This is why so often we make the dart just disappear into figure-hugging princess seams!  In making this pencil skirt, I moved the dart onto the centre back, halfway between the lapped zip and the kick pleat.  It’s very long and the angle is sharp: not a particularly attractive feature.  So why did I bother?

The answer is: this is a muslin and the first step towards something more difficult.

1 fishtailA couple of posts ago, I asked for your ideas on skirts and Ruth suggested I make a close-fitting pencil with a fish tail.  I went straight to Pinterest to look for mermaidy images and found one particular design that appealed, which you see on the left. Unfortunately I haven’t the original source for the picture.  My version will, I hope, be subtler with less fabric involved: more like what you see here in fact.  But first I needed to be satisfied that the simple elements work and give a good fit.

1 Pencil skirt1 Front darts

Hm, I might need to make it longer and more narrow at the knees but that’s easy enough.

This makes a useful addition to the wardrobe and cost nothing.  The zip was salvaged; the fabric a leftover (from Vogue 1247) and the lining fabric just appeared as I was trying to stuff some drawers shut!

Check this out: something weird happens when I put the skirt front down on the table. See how it refuses to lie flat? It’s like this skirt wants to turn into a wok!

1 Skirt back on tableI suspect this dart placement is  good choice if you want to hug a fashionably big bottom.

It’s all about that bass, I’m told.

How to:

If you’re not familiar with moving darts using the slash n’ spread method, you might benefit from this crude tutorial.  The process is really easy.  You do need 2 large lots of paper.

Step 1.  Make a copy of the skirt back.  Extend the waist dart so the dart point is at the base of your bottom.

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Step 2. Draw a line from the dart point to the centre back seam.  Cut along the new line, then cut along one of the original dart legs.

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Step 3. Close the waist dart.  The new dart will open.  To complete the pattern, pin in this position onto another paper layer.  Draw around.  Remove original.  On the new layer, fold the dart closed and pin in this position (I like to pin darts down).  Draw seam and hem allowances all around and cut out pattern.  Unpin dart.

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1 Got it

Links:  Excellent Lapped Zip Tutorial: Part 1 and Part 2.

Skirt One, Skirt Two

1 JCrew Cheetah Wool ScarfRecently I’ve  noticed some very tempting Ready-to-Wear pieces of animal print labelled ‘Cheetah’, such as this ferociously expensive scarf from JCrew.  I assumed Cheetah was a just a fashionable way of saying Leopard and wondered if this faux fur I bought could be called Cheetah too.  faux leopard

But there’s an obvious difference I find, very scientifically explained here.  Cheetah fur – which looks slightly dishevelled compared to that of a sleek leopard – has spots of solid dark brown whereas leopard spots are ‘rosettes’ with a paler brown pooled inside.

Purry furry skirtThe interesting thing about my fabric is that it’s imprinted with a wavy texture which takes the nap in different directions.  I can’t help but being reminded of a certain IKEA mirror often present in student houses or in speedy home makeover programmes.  It’s called Krabb.  Oh look!  Like a right opportunist, I’m in IKEA standing next to Krabb and smiling cheesily while wearing my finished skirt!

I once snapped up a mere remnant of this fabric and made a mini as one of my first ever blogging tutorials.  It wasn’t my favourite garment but it was tactile, cute, the colours were warm and pleasantly glowing and I wore it till the lining shredded and the zip went.  This time, there was a whole bolt of the stuff in a shop on the Tesco side of Goldhawk Road.  I could have gone all-animal and made a long, curly wurly coat (and maybe I should) but instead, I bought a 1.5m and went A-line.

And there was enough to make a gathered skirt with a waistband for my daughter too.  Like the Krabb product, this was cheap, cheerful and in a pair.  But best not to be seen side by side!Leopard girl

1 cheetah hil

You want to get some meatballs now

A Dress with Teeth…

Galarija Mestrovic… and a back story too.

1t SharkeezMy son turned 4 just after my daughter was born so the preparation for his birthday party in the year 2004 were somewhat bare bones.  Luckily, in the supermarket I found the best birthday cake ever!  It was very blue with the icing made to look like the sea and, swimming in it, a shark!  And dotted around, arms and legs.

The cake was very popular, not just for the torn limbs and the shark.  If you ever find yourself entertaining and want to drive your guests wild*, may I recommend you serve artificially coloured blue food?!  Wanting to repeat this serendipitous success, I’ve looked for Shark Attack Cake many birthdays since but the supermarkets no longer sell it and the shop assistants, when asked, look doubtful that it ever existed.

1 dress with teethHowever, a while back in Goldhawk Road, I found a fabric that immediately made me recall the fabled, gruesome product.  I bought it to make my son a Hawaiian shirt or some Bermudas but after suggesting this a couple of times, I got the impression he was totally indifferent to the idea.   So instead, for her 10th birthday I made my daughter a dress.

It’s basically two rectangles, the total width at least double the waist measurement plus seam allowances.  The dress is held up by two sets of rouleau  strips. The top edge is first finished with a rolled hem (I used a zigzag stitch, which looks like little teeth!).

Rouleau strips and zigzag roll hem

 The shirring begins 1.5cm below bodice edge, though with a toddler or a smaller person, you can start at 1.2cm and if making for an adult, then 2cm might be more in proportion, depending on the person.  The rows of shirring here are spaced 1.5cm apart, though once again, you should keep this in proportion if you’re making a dress for an adult.  And there’s no reason why the same ‘pattern’ couldn’t be used for a shirred bodice of a maxi dress.

Shark dress with extra teethYou might want to trim your dress with some teeth like I did.  I used two strips of bias in a silvery grey and bagged them after lots of zigzagging.  It added a few hours to the project which were worth it as this definitely gives the dress an edge!

If you’ve never tried shirring, it’s easy: normal thread on top, shirring elastic wound into the bobbin.  Experiment with scraps to get the right tension then draw your lines onto the right side of fabric and sew.

Tip: to keep the elastic inside bobbin when you begin winding, affix the end of elastic thread to the top of the bobbin case with a tiny sliver of Magic Tape.

Tip: don’t use grandma’s shirring elastic that you inherited with her haberdashery box.  Elastic has a shelf life so buy fresh!

My daughter wore the dress so much all summer that its red has begun to fade!  She wore it on the day of my son’s 14th birthday when we visited the Aquarium in my home town.  And look what happened there!  My dad got eaten by a shark…

Nice to be back!

1 Tata

* Note: in some countries, blue artificial food colouring is illegal!

And Add Sleeve

1 Sleeve quarter1 Royal crescent curveDo you like this: instead of a sleeve, a cap is formed from three 25cm strips of fabric in a kind of braid-arrangement looping over or under each other?  I wanted something unusual-looking to complete the asymmetrical blouse and the idea came from a cheap jersey top I bought from H&M  – don’t judge me –  probably in 2011 and which had similar sleeves.  It’s a top I kept in a rag drawer long after it wore out with the idea of copying it some day, but guess what?  I decided during a recent clear out that I was never going to find the time to copy it so I chucked it.  Oh, what a plonker!  1 Sleeve plan

Last week I spent hours puzzling over how to size the pieces and how to fit them to resemble the original’s grace and harmony.  This is Draft #1.  It looks fine but takes some adjustment (fiddling) in order to do so.

1 MaybeA tartan diversion: the pictures above were taken by my mum outside the apartment in which we were staying in Edinburgh last week.  We went there for her birthday and for me to run the Edinburgh Marathon.  Check out my pre-race bin bag couture:  no cheap black stuff for me…1 Binbag Couture

Simple Human bin bags are probably more expensive than some of the fabrics that I buy but they were all I could find under the kitchen sink on a wet Sunday morning.  Besides, the drawstring made such a handy waistband for the skirt!

You might find interesting this sample of Tartan I found in Greyfriars with the explanation of why certain colours made it into the weave.  Click to enlarge the text: it’s a good read.  I wonder what my tartan would have.  Black, of course, then green, turquoise and blue of the Dalmatian coast where I’m from.  Shocking pink is nice too!  What would you choose?  I found my recent hunt for tartan rather disappointing with all colours on offer reminding me of school kilts.

1 Greyfriars Tartan

Sister Salamanca

1 Sister SalamancaThe shops are full of cowboy-style shirts with pearl stud openings and breast pockets, usually in denim or check.  For months I’ve been meaning to make my own version; one that’s a bit badass, like something  the Salamanca cousins would wear with their skull-tipped boots while on a (probably murderous) Saturday night out.

1 Guess whatCue experimentation with designing a cheerful, kitschy sugar skull motif.  I made a copy of the yoke in a pearly-silver fabric and sandwiched it between the yoke and the shirt back (which is in a fine Italian needlecord from Fabric House, again).  The skull and the flowers are cut away from the yoke which is zigzag-stitched to the foil.

1 Salamanca shirt yokeThe sparkly pink and magenta bits used to be the fabric wings of my daughter’s Barbie Mariposa doll: yes, I’m mean!!  The green, sew-on jewels were from one of the haberdashers alongside Walthamstow market and I also used some Gutermann metallic thread.

1 Close up

The inspiration for the design of the actual shirt came from an altogether different telly source: Madonna!  Remember her super video for the equally excellent Don’t Tell Me?  I’m not talking of the check shirt she wears at the start but the clingy  leather (or probably even  latex) number she wears just over half-way through, during the line dancing routine.  Click hereMadonna Don't Tell Me.

Oi, eyes off the cowboys!  You’re supposed to be looking at Madge’s shirt.

Oh I see…. You were admiring the dancing.

Me too :-)

1 PipingFor the body of the shirt, I used an old Butterick 4607 pattern, which I have some reservations about as it’s way oversized (I’m a 12 but made an 8) and a bit on the dowdy side – Madge would not approve.  I changed the bottom edge of the yoke and gave the collar a 70s look.  The sleeves are completely different to the original.  I made them leg of mutton (I wonder if Madge, like me, winces at the mention of the word!), kept the width but then put 5 equally spaced pleats between the bicep and the elbow so that they’re narrowed before widening out again.  I’m particularly pleased to have worked out how to make piped cuff plackets – that was a brain-draining afternoon or two, I can tell you.  1 Cuff

The pearl press studs match the piping and the foil.  To finish off the project, I took a trip to Soho and had the studs inserted professionally at  a cost of £4.40 for 11 by DM Buttonholes.  Much better than hammering them in myself on the chopping board using the steak tenderizer!

Whatcha think?!  If you were a cowgirl broken bad, how would yours look?

1 Reculver Cowgirl

Location: Reculver

Admin

Draft 2 Slashes Sleeve TopHere’s the second draft of my slashed sleeve top.  I improved on one feature: the cuffs; but I worsened two!  The sleeve head now hasn’t enough fullness and the bodice is too long.

I like to think that learning to draft is like learning to drive.  The mistakes and the failures make you better and more knowledgeable than someone who struck lucky the first time around.  I hope to find that thought a comfort when I begin draft three. :roll:

Now for the admin.  I’ll be celebrating my blog’s second birthday by smartening up this site.  The idea is that by making sew2pro more marketable, it’ll hopefully be a little less overlooked.  It won’t be an overnight change because I’m a Luddite who constantly alienates her IT staff by being destructive and unintuitive with the ways of … (*spits on floor*) technology!

So, while I knuckle down, will you please let me know by comment or email if:

- you want your blog included in my list of links on bottom right

- you recommend any sewing or drafting blogs or how-to websites for me to add to my reading list.  My blogroll is currently in the doldrums and a couple of favourites haven’t been updated in months.  Ideally I need tutorials with good visuals, or book reviews (like Pella‘s series on pattern drafting books), or guides on turning clothes-making into a profession.

Thanks :-)

Christmas Pressie 1: Silk Scarf

This is a labour of love, not only in terms of the time the project takes but also the cost of the silk.  Ideally, you should only make this for your mum or yourself :-)  You don’t actually need a lot of silk but do ensure that what you buy is fine and feels sumptuous!

A rectangle of pure silk is first hand-rolled then beaded around the edge.  I estimate this would take an intermediate sewist some 10 hours, including the essential 2 hours of practice that I really recommend you do on a patch of your silk if you haven’t hand-rolled before.  Without a bit of ‘previous experience’, your hem is in danger of looking more professional the further you progress around the scarf.

You will need:

1. A piece of soft silk measuring about 75cm x 55cm.  This amount wouldn’t be enough to wrap around the neck if it was fleece but silk has this way of elongating as if by magic if you turn it on the bias.

2. Thread in as close a match to the fabric as possible (very important).

3. Matching beads.  If you leave gaps of two ‘invisible’ beads between each one, you can use the perimeter of your scarf to estimate the number of beads required.  E.g. in my case:  (75+75+55+55) / 3 = 87.

4. Small scissors.

5. A fine needles.

How to:

Part 1: Hemming

I couldn’t show you hand-rolling better than Ami does in this brill You tube demo.  It’s one of my all-time favourite sewing tutorials. (And Ami, I don’t at all mind you being left-handed; I relish the intellectual challenge of mirroring your actions!)  The video quality and tuition are top notch but Ami also has a calming, gentle manner that had me immediately reaching for needle and thread as if hypnotized.

Be sure to watch to the end to find out how to do corners.  If you want a sample of what I’m on but don’t want to watch the whole thing, skip to minutes 6:00 – 7:00


Part 2: Beading
 

Sew on with a running stitch, making sure you backstitch every 5 beads or so.  That way, if one bead snags, it doesn’t drag its friends down with it.

Tips:

1. Have plenty of light.

2. It helps to keep sections you’re working on flat and taught.  To do so, I sat with my knees up wearing tightish jeans and pinned the fabric to myself.  Er, to my jeans, not thighs!  But you can also put a firm pillow on your lap and pin to that! .

3. The video recommends a product called Thread Heaven with which to coat the thread and prevent slipknots.  I used beeswax instead thinking it would do the same: not a good shortcut as it really made knotting worse.  After one of your reader comments below, I’ll really give Thread Heaven a try.  It might even speed things up.

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Do you have a sewing video to recommend?  Have you worked with silk?  Are you mad and making any presents??  Tell all.

Next time: something much quicker and mum-friendly

Thrift Shop Genie

I’ve been rather teal-curious lately!  So when I spotted this £3 skirt in a Barnardos charity shop (in Bromley), I snapped it up in the hope that there’d be enough fabric to make a toile for a pattern I’ve been designing. 

The skirt is of mysterious origin with the labels cut away.  The original wearer must have been tall with a 24″ inch waist.  A child on stilts?  A member of the Na’vi race maybe?  The fabric is a cheap polyester chiffon but crisp and ultra-clean.  By cutting corners on some of the seam allowances on my pattern, I manage to eke out enough to make the skirt into a generously-sleeved blouse, slashed from centre of the sleeve heads to the cuffs.  The skirt lining was used to block the sheer bodice and both layers were gathered together under the waist in a kind of bubble hem.  

I can think of several things I’d like to change to perfect this wearable muslin but the colour is not one of them.  Ironically, the £14 a metre shot silk in lime green that I bought for the real thing will be more luxurious but not half as vibrant and I suspect won’t give me anything like the oomph I get wearing this lucky-find genie!

Oh, and congratulations to Julie Starr, the winner of the Cocoland Musical giveaway.  I’ll be in touch!