Selfless Sewing: Christmas 2021

Christmas is over, which means now I can share my Christmas makes with you! I have done completely Handmade Christmases in the past. Mostly because I didn’t have money, but I did have time and yarn. As I started to earn more over the years I also started being more strategic about which gifts to buy and which to make. Some years I didn’t make any presents at all. This year I decided to sew gifts for my two sisters.

My middle sister does the most incredible Jack Sparrow cosplay. It seemed obvious that she needed a pirate shirt in her life and repertoire. I used the same basic pattern and instructions as for my own pirate shirt, but with a few modifications. My sister’s shirt is made in a mid-weight linen, where mine is made of handkerchief linen. I also made her shirt slightly narrower – the entire shirt circumference is one Width of Fabric. I did a lapped shoulder seam on her shirt, where mine has no shoulder seam at all. And I sewed her shirt on the machine with French Seams.

Most of the visible stitching, such as at the collar, hem, and cuffs, is done by hand. The buttonholes are done by machine. Doing so much of the work by machine made this shirt MUCH faster than mine, which I sewed completely by hand. My sister was beyond thrilled, and that made me happy.

For my youngest sister I made a pair of plaid pants. Truth be told, I started these for her birthday in August, but then I got bogged down with fitting, and gave her something else for her birthday. It was nice to pull these out a few days before Christmas and have them almost done already! I based her pants off my modified pants pattern (which is based off the Cigarette Pants from Gertie Sews Vintage Casual), and then adjusted them to her measurements. The fabric is from Hobby Lobby. I really wanted to make pants from this fabric for myself, but I had already made myself a pair of grey plaid pants earlier in the year, and two pairs of plaid pants in one year seemed like overkill. The pants turned out fantastic! I accidentally cut them too short for a double-fold hem, so I finished them with black fold-over elastic instead.

Do you make Christmas gifts or do you prefer to buy presents?

Handkerchief Musings

When I made my linen bedsheets I cut squares out of the corners for the corner boxes. Instead of wasting the linen scraps I decided to make handkerchiefs! Handkerchiefs have been around in some way, shape, or form for as long as people have needed to wipe their hands and faces. I was surprised to learn a few years ago that mens’ and womens’ hankies are not the same size (a standard man’s handkerchief is 12″ square, while womens’ hankies vary from 8″ to 10″ square). Was this yet another subtle sexist thing? Why weren’t women allowed to have hankies as big as those men used? One of the joys of being a maker is the ability to make things just as you want them. I resolved to make myself a 12″ hanky.

I had 4 offcuts from my sheets, and they were roughly 19″ square. But they weren’t actually cut square. I didn’t draw a thread when I cut the corner boxes out, and the pieces turned out pretty ragged. To make my first hanky I drew threads to create a true 12″ square, then cut my hanky out, and hemmed around all 4 sides with whip stitches. Easy peasy. But I was annoyed with the waste cutting a 12″ square caused. The remaining pieces were 6″ wide and 12-18″ long. I could piece them to create a second 12″ hankie, but it just wouldn’t be as pretty (or fold as nicely) as a piece with no seam.

For my second offcut I cleaned up the edges, and divided the piece in 4. I followed the same finishing steps as for the larger hankie: small double-fold hem secured with whip stitches. These hankies turned out between 8-9″ and almost square. The lack of waste (other than cleaning up the ragged edges) was very satisfying.

Then I started using the linen hankies instead of my regular Kleenex. I was surprised to find that I actually preferred the smaller size hankies instead of the larger. I guess this is one of those conventions that is actually due to personal preference instead of being a result of sexism.

I love my new hankies. I’m considering embroidering initials or flowers on the corners, but that is a project for another day. I learned an important lesson, though: sometimes I make assumptions about things, but once I learn more I find that my assumptions were wrong. There are a lot of things wrong with this world, but just because something seems unfair doesn’t always mean it is, or that it was meant to be. I don’t believe that people are inherently good, but if you let yourself see things in a positive light you can be amazed by the goodness of ordinary people.

Tackling the Mending Pile

This week I am tackling my mending pile. If you, like me, have a pile of mending to do, why don’t you join me? Let’s see how much we can get done.

  • Tops
    • Bees shirt – fix gaping neckline
    • Burnt Orange shirt – sew up side slits
    • Blue Adrienne – adjust sleeve elastic (possibly replace sleeves with linen)
    • Green Adrienne – add strap guards, remove small stain
    • Edwardian Blouse – add peplum and closures
    • Bruyere Shirt – adjust waist
    • Embroidered linen top – fix loose embroidery
    • Black Long-Sleeved shirt – fix hole in front
    • Cream Lace Top – hem thread is coming out
  • Bottoms
    • Cream Shorts – finish internal seams, add waistband OR hook and eye closure
    • Herringbone pants – add waistband
    • Floral Plaid pants – adjust waistband
  • Other
    • Patch quilt

The first item I worked on was a burnt orange t-shirt. This was a recent thrift store acquisition and I fell in love with the colour and the interesting cut of the back. Unfortunately, the sides were slit all the way up to the natural waist. I’m not sure if this was where the slit was meant to be, or if it was so high because I’m long-waisted. I sewed the slits up with a whip stitch leaving just under 2″ open at the bottom. This took 10-15 minutes before I started work one morning.

Item number 2 was my Edwardian blouse. I only got to wear it once before it was shrunk in the wash. I unpicked the closures and cut off the neckband and hem. I cut out a peplum using a half-circle skirt pattern, and pleated the bodice to fit. Then I sewed the closures back on and hemmed the new neckline. I won’t say this was an easy fix, but I think it turned out quite nicely. This fix took 3-4 hours.

Item number 3 was my Plaid Floral Pants. I was a few pounds lighter when I made these pants earlier this year, and they were tight in the waist even then. I unpicked the stitching holding the waistband closed on the inside, unpicked the zig-zagging holding the elastic waistband down, then cut the waistband and inserted 2 more inches of elastic. Then I reversed the process: I zig-zagged the waistband elastic onto the waistband, then folded this down and stitched the waistband down on the inside. The pants are still fitted, but are much more comfortable to wear. Bonus: I like where the stitching holding the inside of the waistband down is located better now than where it was before. It’s less visible, and thus provides a slightly cleaner finish. This alteration took 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Item 5 was my Bruyere shirt. I meant this to be a wearable toile, so I went with the size listed on the pattern envelope and didn’t make any major alterations. The shirt turned out a bit tight at the waist. I think this is partially because the waistband sits too high on me – it sits on top of my rib cage rather than just under it at the true waist. I let the side seams out by 1/4 inch each, resulting in a gain of around an inch at the waistband. This took maybe 15 minutes.

Item 6: My black long-sleeved Alabama Chanin shirt had developed a few small holes in the front. I closed these up with a few whip stitches on the inside. I was able to sew these vertically to align with the ribs in the fabric, so the fix is nearly invisible from the front (The small mark you can see is a mending job for a horizontal hole. It’s amazing the difference in visibility!). This was a simple mending job that took 5 minutes or less.

Item 7: My green Adrienne blouse was too loose in the shoulder elastic. I could have unpicked the seam that joins the sleeve to the body and shortened the elastic, but that seemed way more complicated than it needed to be. Instead I added strap guards using twill tape and a few sew-on snaps. This was a fiddly fix that took about an hour and a half (but only 4 needles-full of thread).

Item 8 was another new (to me) top. The hemstitching on the lace shell had come loose. I did a quick running stitch to tack this back into place. This took 5 minutes or less.

I imposed a time limit of a week to work on my mending, knowing that I would not make it through my whole list. I am really happy with the 7 garments I mended or altered (or edited, as my husband termed it), though there are one or two more that I wish I had gotten to. The time limit was helpful in keeping me from obsessing over mending to the point where I lost all the joy in it, especially since I have quite a few new projects in my mental queue for this Winter. I would highly recommend tackling your mending or alterations pile. I now have 7 garments that are more wearable and that I will not pass over when getting dressed.

Finally Finished: a Burgundy Linen Dress

Two years ago in the summer of 2019 I started a dress. The fabric was a linen/rayon blend in Burgundy from JoAnn’s. I hacked Very Easy Vogue V8926 to be a dress instead of a top by adding length and skirt gores (I had made a vest version of this pattern about a year earlier, and it is one of my favourite things to wear). This was before I had a sewing machine, so I sewed the main seams with a mix of running stitch, running back-stitch, and full back-stitch. By the time the seams were done, I couldn’t stand to look at the dress anymore. I put it away for a long time.

A blurry photo of the moment the seams were completed.

Since starting the dress I have gotten a sewing machine. But I wanted the outside of the dress to have no visible stitching, and the seams were already done, so a sewing machine was of little use to me in doing the finishing work. I felled the seams down by hand over the course of the last 2 years. I also worked on fitting the dress to myself. The back pieces are cut straight, and I have a swayback, so I ended up narrowing the back pieces as well as taking a dart along the waistline in back to minimize wrinkling. I had originally cut three gores: one for each side and one for the back. I ended up removing the back gore because it hung weirdly. The front collar is interfaced with fusible woven cotton interfacing. I extended the interfacing to the hem.

Once the fitting was done, it was time to finish the hem and sleeve cuffs. I sewed a coordinating ribbon to the hem, and then turned it up. While working on the sleeve cuffs I had another setback. My sleeve got too close to a candle I had burning and was scorched!!

I refused to let this defeat me when I was so close to finishing the dress. I cut out another sleeve and sewed it up, but realized quickly that I had sewn it backwards. Out came the seam ripper, and I sewed it again. I sewed the sleeve seams by machine, felled the seam allowances down, and finally sewed the second sleeve cuff. After two years in progress my dress was done.

Overall, I am very happy with this dress. It will be a great addition to my wardrobe throughout the summer months, and is very comfortable to wear. There is something about wrap bodices and big collars that I find irresistible. If I made a dress like this again I would make it as a bodice with circle skirt, as that would be a lot easier to sew and fit. In the photos above you can see a white linen underdress I made last year that I am wearing as a slip or petticoat. That little bit of white peeking out when I move makes me so happy!

Sewing Basics

I’ve been sewing a lot this year. This is in large part because I now have a sewing machine, which allows me to complete projects more quickly. As I looked at my wardrobe recently I realized I was missing some basics, and was quite unhappy with my t-shirt collection. I’ve found myself avoiding wearing the t-shirts I have because I just don’t like them. So I pulled out my trusty Alabama Chanin t-shirt pattern, bought some printed cotton knit from Hobby Lobby, and got to work.

I’ve used this pattern before, but last time I used a rib knit, which is much more stretchy than the Stockinette fabric I was using this time. I did not realize this until I had already cut out the whole shirt. It turned out to be too small and too short. I was lucky that I had just enough fabric to cut out another shirt in a larger size. I made sure I was using a Jersey needle in my sewing machine, but it started making a funny noise, so I sewed almost the whole shirt by hand with a running backstitch. I figured out later it was not a problem with the machine. The needle was slightly bowed, which caused it to rub up against part of the machine.

The last piece of the puzzle was hems and the neckband. I chose a Herringbone stitch that I worked around the shirt hem, the sleeve hems, and the neckband. I debated doing a second round of herringbone in either white or a soft green, but ended up liking the single Herringbone better. The shirt was now finished.

One of these days I’d love to add more details, like additional embroidery, appliqué or reverse appliqué, or even beading! These are the techniques Alabama Chanin is best known for, and I’ve never given it a proper try.

**You’ll notice I’m wearing my new shirt with my me-made shorts, making this an entirely me-made outfit! I love wearing clothes I’ve made for myself, and these shorts are super comfortable!

Sashiko!

This year has had a bit of a theme for me: experimentation. I’ve been experimenting with spinning methods, with sourdough baking, and with sewing everything in sight. One of my experiments was with Sashiko: Sashiko is a Japanese method of quilting/surface embroidery that uses (mostly) running stitches to create interesting designs. Traditionally Sashiko is used decoratively as embroidery as well as to mend or reinforce fabrics in a beautiful way.

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I had a bit of an ivory linen-blend fabric left over from a previous project, so I cut it into 2 squares, drew a grid, and started sewing. I love the Persimmon Flower stitch pattern, and I used this blog post from Sake Puppets as a tutorial.

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The first pass of stitching didn’t look like much, but then I turned the piece 90 degrees and started the second part of the pattern, and that’s when the magic happened! It was thrilling to see these beautiful persimmon flower shapes appear stitch by stitch.

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I found this project to be very meditative, and the finished project is quite beautiful. The front and back look different, and both are quite lovely.

persimmon

Once I had finished the decorative stitching, I folded the edges of the squares to the inside and whip-stitched the edges closed.

My First Renaissance Festival!

I have wanted to go to a Renaissance festival since I first heard about them as a teenager. Alas, growing up in Arizona I didn’t come across many. However, now that I’ve moved to the SouthEast, I have more options (also being an adult with a car and spending money helps). A few weeks ago my Sister-in-Law invited me to go to the Renaissance Festival with her. I had already been playing with the idea of making a Medieval dress for Halloween, so a few days after we finalized our plans I finally caved in and bought fabric.

The fabric I used was a deep red Polyester knit velvet – not what they used in the time, but comfortable and it looked good. I used the Alabama Chanin Long-sleeved T-shirt as a base pattern for the bodice and angled my skirt pieces out to the edge of my fabric. I used the remaining triangular pieces as gores to widen my skirt. Pinning took ages, and then I used a simple running stitch to sew all my seams. In a perfect world I would have also felled the seams, but I was sewing the dress completely by hand and running out of time. Miraculously I found a perfectly matching trim for the neck and sleeves. Even though the trim is woven and the dress is knit, the edges lay pretty well. The hem took me ages. I folded it under about 4 inches and just basted it down to the inside. Maybe someday I’ll go back and finish the hem properly, but the important thing is that the dress was done on time and I wasn’t tripping over it all day (although I did end up ticking the train into my belt so other people wouldn’t be tripping on me all day). The final piece was braiding a wire circlet and borrowing a leather belt to complete the look. My SiL and I had a fabulous time and I felt so pretty (and comfortable!) in my costume!

 

Small Starts

This has been a week of small starts and no finishes. Work on the blanket continues. I swatched for socks and a tee, but have to wash the swatches before I can do more. Here is the red blouse I have been working on – languishing in want of a zipper.

shirt

What do you think? I’m pretty happy with how she is shaping up.

I recently bought the Wiksten Tank pattern and this fabric to make it in. Yummy!

fabric

My Sister in Law recently had a birthday. She loves books even more than I do (and I love books a lot), so I made her this necklace. I hope she loves it. I’ve been saving this book charm for a long time.

Restless

I have a bad case of startitis. But I’m trying to be good and not cast on ALL the things. Just some of them. My husband and I watched a documentary on minilamism recently, and it made me think about all the things I have that I don’t use. So I pulled this skirt out of my closet to rework as a tunic. I love the skirt, but I rarely wear it, and a tunic is much more realistic for my lifestyle. (Pattern adapted from Alabama Studio Sewing + Design)

skirt

I needed some thread and binding to start/finish this project, so I went to my local fabric and craft store and fell down the rabbit hole. I have plans to make a project bag from these.

fabric

Making doesn’t just have to be crafting. My husband and I made the most delicious chocolate mousse (recipe courtesy of the Joy of Cooking, of course).

dessert

And here we are in all our mustachioed glory.

mustache

Sewing

If you follow me on Instagram (@dramaticlyric) you will have seen that I’ve been doing some sewing recently. It all started a few weeks ago when I was wandering the aisles of Barnes and Noble and a sewing book caught my eye. Now this was not just any sewing book, this was Alabama Studio Sewing + Design by Natalie Chanin. Most sewing books are about sewing woven fabrics with a machine. This book is about handsewing knitted jersey. My sewing machine is on the blink, and I actually prefer handsewing anyway, so the book caught my interest (also, I had read about Alabama Chanin on Mason Dixon Knitting). I read through it a few times, then pulled out some fabric and thread. Here’s what I’ve come up with:

A very basic but fitted dress out of grey…stuff (the fabric was given to me, so I’ve no idea what the fiber content is). I had just enough to make the dress – I even had to piece it in a few places. This dress is great on its own or as a layering piece, meaning I can wear it year-round. Perfect!

stitch

This next project is something I started in high school, but had not yet finished. A sleeveless vest with tatted lace in the back. All I needed to do was finish the arm holes.

vest

My friend has a horse, so here are some gratuitous horse pictures (also showing my recently finished Perry cardigan).