Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Turtle Batik Shirt

Catching up on blogging about garments here, this shirt was made in late April. I've been waiting for a modeled photo, which just hasn't happened, for one reason (bad hair day) or another (husband's schedule not meshing with mine). So I'll forge ahead with this post anyway, as the shirt is but a fading memory in my sewing mind.

For this artistic expression, I chose the Nuevo shirt pattern from Revisions (again), a rayon batik from my collection, a solid royal linen from Marcy Tilton, and Diane Ericson's turtle stencil. 

Printing with the stencil was lots of fun. I added it to the back yoke and a re-shaped pocket, after cutting the pieces out but before sewing them. This is my favorite method of printing, as I can easily determine where the printed image will fall on my body when wearing the garment. 

After sewing, I added some hand sewn backstitching in embroidery floss. I like how this added some definition to the pieces. 

Some really great buttons from Sawyer Brook were a perfect match. They're carved and dyed coconut shell disks.

I've decided this is my take on the proverbial Hawaiian shirt. I'd never wear one right off the rack, but I'm a bit more comfortable in this version. It's not something I'd wear everywhere, but it's perfect for a barbeque, picnic, or casual night out at a seafood shack. Here's a shot of my husband and me at a function during our week in Hawaii:

P.S. Eric never drinks sweet drinks, so he must have chosen that green concoction because it matched my shirt!

I just celebrated my third blogiversary! I haven't been as prolific or regular a blogger as I had initially envisioned, but I love having this place to share my creations. Thanks to all who visit here, especially those who have supported me with your comments!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Refashioned Men's Shirt

Here's a shirt I refashioned as a gift to my sister, done on a couple of afternoons in early May. She has been meaning to get some selfies of her wearing it, but as that hasn't happened yet, I'm going ahead with this post. {She's a professional photographer, by the way. You know, it's that old saying about the cobbler's children never having shoes to wear! (Check out her website and SmugMug for some beautiful portraits and nature photos!)}

Lisa sometimes wears men's shirts, as she is large and garments to fit are difficult to come by. She complained to me that the shoulders are always way too wide, and the sleeve heads fall to the middle of her bicep. So, the first thing I did with this shirt was to take in about 3 inches at the sleeve head by forming darts that extend down the front and back of the shirt. Sorry I don't have a detailed photo of this, but if you look carefully, you can see a dart on the right shoulder and front of the photo above. I haven't seen the shirt on her - we live far apart - but she said the darts went a long way to improve the fit.

I dug into my scraps and remnants and found two fabrics that looked good with the fine black and white plaid of the shirt. One is a seersucker woven check, the other a lightweight cotton tropical floral print.

Removing the buttons and the pocket gave me a blank canvas to work with. To create a slimming, vertical element, I made an elongated patch from the check fabric. I pressed the edges under and edge stitched them in place, sliding one edge under the placket edge. Easy peasy.

I made a long double-sided strip of the floral print to tuck into the side of the patch. I also cut the collar off. I left about a quarter of an inch of it to use as a base for the floral print, which is wrapped over the edge and stitched in place. I love the look of the collar!

Cardiac stitching adds accents to the placket. This is done with regular sewing thread and the stitch on my machine that sews each stitch twice. That gave a bold look to the stitching. The buttons are squared corozo nut disks, from Sawyer Brook (naturally). The shirt still buttons opposite of women's styles, because I wanted this to be an easy project, and remaking the placket would be a lot of work. Buttoned, no one will notice.

There is a lot of visual activity on the left side of the front, so I balanced it by placing the pocket on the lower right side. First, I added a double sided strip of the floral fabric, then I made a tuck in one side as I stitched around the edges.

The sleeves were full length. I cut them off and faced them with the floral print. They can be turned up to show the print, or not.

A couple of patches were added to the back yoke, along with more cardiac stitching on the collar stand.

This was an absolute blast to make. I haven't had so much fun playing with a garment in a long time! It was one of those projects that come together easily once you get going.

I have to give credit to Diane Ericson for inspiring me through a video Marcy Tilton filmed of her. She explains how she refashioned a shirt here. This is a must-watch for anyone wanting to do work like this. Once you see it, you'll recognize some techniques I incorporated in this shirt. Thank you, Diane (and Marcy)!

Lisa loves this shirt and says she gets lots of compliments when wearing it. I'll be sure to add selfies when she sends them. In the meantime, keep an eye out for the lower sleeves, as they're sure to show up in a future project!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

What I Sewed - And Didn't Sew - Over Memorial Day Weekend

I had four days to sew last weekend, so I gave myself a design challenge. I wanted to make something really unique, using the Nuevo Shirt pattern I've been working with this spring. I wasn't going to use any of the design elements given in the pattern - the collar, pocket, inset, etc. - and I thought I had all the fabrics lined up. This print was to be my key fabric:

It's a remnant of a crinkled blend of shirting, from Sawyer Brook. I love the colors, and it paired well with a solid black linen and a tiny black and white plaid shirting that looks gray from a distance. I had everything planned out, but something about this fabric kept gnawing at me. Then I realized what it was. The words. They're noisy. They're bold. They're anxiety producing. RUSH. URGENT. OVERNIGHT. These are not words a laid-back introvert wants to put on her body. Ever. The piece of fabric went into the red remnant box. (Yes, I keep my remnants sorted by color. It's the only way I can keep track of what I have on hand! And it's just about the only organized thing in my studio, for sure.)

So, I switched gears, and took another look through my boxes of remnants. Mind you, I had purchased black linen from Sawyer Brook and had the main shirt pieces cut out, so I wanted to continue with my plan. This time I chose this printed linen:

It, too, is bold and loud. But in an arty sort of way, one that I could live with easily. This is a huge print - the strings of green triangles are 6 to 8 inches or so long. I found a textured solid in the neon green color, and was on my way to make this awesome creation. I thought the giant print would give me great options for placement and topstitching on the solid black and all, but in the end it just befuddled me. The printed fabric is now laid out where I can look at it often, so I can figure out how to make this fabulous shirt. I'm not going to force it, because I know the key to making it work will come in time. Tomorrow I'm going to pin the fabric up on my design board so it's even more in my face. There's no giving in on this one!

So, you ask, what did I make over the long weekend? Not something unusual at all, but a very sedate, follow-the-pattern, solid color tunic.

This is Katherine Tilton's Butterick 5925, made from a bamboo jersey from Marcy Tilton (gotta keep it in the family, ya know). I like the details on this top, specifically the cool lower side pockets and the twisted neckband.

The band on the pocket uses the same technique as the neckband for making it look as though the fabric is twisted. In reality, the long edges are simply offset by a couple of inches. In other words, when folding the neckband and matching the markings, the markings are about two inches from where they normally are. It's simple to do and the look is quite chic.

I shortened the sleeves to 3/4 length. After wearing the tunic today, I wish I had made them an inch or two longer. The only other change I made was to cut the armscyes and sleeve heads a size smaller than the rest of the pattern. I'm really pleased with the fit, and it's a really comfortable top to wear. 

I'm not giving up on that arty Nuevo shirt, so keep watch here because it will be showing up eventually!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

An Unlikely Favorite

One of the best things about working at Sawyer Brook is easy access to small fabric remnants. The floral print I used in this shirt was just such a remnant. Small enough that I used nearly all of it. I combined it with a white linen and a cotton stripe. The print and stripe had caught my eye while both were still on rolls, but I didn't buy them then as I thought I'd never wear a garment using the two of them. Too busy. The addition of the white convinced me to go ahead with what is now one of my favorite shirts.

The pattern I used is ReVisions' Nuevo Shirt, one of my favorites from Diane Ericson. I love the design ideas Diane included in the pattern, as well as the cool pocket inset, the two piece sleeves and the bias-cut asymmetrical collar that lays beautifully.

The pattern has long sleeves with a really cool cuff treatment. I chose to cut them short for summer wear, and inserted bias strips into the seam.

I modified the top edge of the pocket and added free motion topstitching. I really love this pocket treatment, as it's such a good opportunity for combining fabrics. It becomes the focal point of the shirt.

If you enlarge the photo above, you'll see the triangular buttons from Sawyer Brook. I've wanted to use these buttons since they first arrived at the store, and they are a perfect match to the greens in the fabrics.

I recently made another Nuevo shirt, and have yet a third in the works. Keep watch for them here!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Buggy Batik Shirt for My Mom

I've been focused on sewing fabrics from my "resource center" lately. When I came across this periwinkle blue rayon batik (bought from Sawyer Brook a few years ago), I knew it would make a perfect summer shirt for my mother.

The pattern is an out of print McCall's by Palmer and Pletsch. I used it a few years ago for a shirt for my mom, so the fitting was already done. The instructions are excellent, with pro tips scattered throughout, and dual methods for certain applications included. For example, there are two methods for attaching the collar to the garment. The first attaches only the band to the neckline, then the collar and band facing are attached. The second method constructs the collar completely, then attaches it to the neckline. I used the first method and am very happy with the results.

Of course, I couldn't resist adding some paint to this shirt. I used Diane Ericson's Bugs in Flight stencil (which I don't currently see in her web store) to add some dragonflies, moths, beetles, butterflies, etc. I like the touch of color these images add, and the way the lacy quality of the bugs combines with the shadowy batik print.

I found the perfect buttons for this print at - where else? - Sawyer Brook. I like how they blend in with the overall look.

Until my parents downsized their home last year, my mother was an avid gardener. This shirt reminds me of the numerous flower gardens she has tended throughout her lifetime. She loves to wear blue, so this will be a welcome addition to her summer wardrobe. I'll be mailing the shirt to her this week, but it will be a month or so before I get to see her wearing it. If I get a chance for a photo shoot, I'll add some shots then.


I'm still behind in getting photos of shirts I made in April. I'll try to get the shots this week so I can show them. Today I cut out a solid magenta colored bamboo jersey and started sewing Katherine Tilton's Butterick 5925. I expect to finish it tomorrow.

I hope those of you in the States are enjoying sewing during this long weekend!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Hawaiian Top

I recently spent a fabulous five days on the Big Island of Hawaii. It was a company trip for my husband, and I was welcome to tag along. We were at a wonderful hotel, the Fairmont Orchid, located in a lush, 300 acre resort that sits in the middle of a huge lava flow. It's on the arid, western side of the island, and the weather is ideal for resort activities. It's quite isolated (Kona is about 45 minutes away), and we never left the property. An unusual vacation for us, as we like to sight see, but it was a grand opportunity for chilling out, which I successfully did. 
Photo from fineartamerica.com
My favorite part of our stay was snorkeling off the beach, where we saw plenty of beautiful fish and swam with several different sea turtles. They are the Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle, and they're endangered so approaching them isn't allowed. We did find ourselves in close proximity to them at times, and it was just such wonderful play!

This photo was taken shortly before our loooooong trip home. I wasn't eager to leave, so the smile was only for the camera. The top is Vogue 8912, made with a rayon batik from Sawyer Brook that's been in my resource center for a couple of years. We recently got the fabric again at Sawyer Brook, in case you're interested in it.

The top was an easy make, and I had no issues with the pattern. The only change I made was to eliminate the patch pockets at the bust line. They wouldn't have been very visible in this print, so I took the easy route and didn't bother with them. Not that I want to draw attention to that part of my body anyway.

I found some buttons at Sawyer Brook that are a perfect match to the mauvy/berry tones in the print.

The top is super comfy and I enjoyed wearing it out to dinner and on the flights home. I can see myself making another one of these, as it is so easy to wear.

Every time I put this on, I'll be reminded of those colorful fish and gentle turtles!

Photo from fineartamerica.com

Thursday, April 17, 2014

A Triple Duty Tote

My husband and I are going on a company trip to Hawaii in a couple of weeks and I wanted a new tote to take on the trip. Something that would do as a carry-on, shopper, and beach bag. Needing a durable fabric that could handle sitting in sand, I headed to our nearby home dec fabric store. I looked for about an hour and finally decided on a cheery, whimsical floral print. The base was like poplin, so I knew it would hold up to the uses I intended. 

I cut out the bag that evening and was all set to start sewing it the next evening, when I realized what a blunder I had made. This print would be fine in Hawaii, but no way would it play well in the Boston or San Francisco airports. The perfect beach bag, yes. But not, ahem, a sophisticated urban tote.

Sooo, back to the home dec store I went, this time deciding on a quiet gray/taupe linen/rayon herringbone fabrication. I knew I wanted to paint it, and I wanted to make the handles from some dark purple faux suede from my collection. Purple would look great with this fabric, so I didn't think it would be a fail.

I chose the Eucalyptus stencil from Diane Ericson, and went to town painting both sides of the bag. I intended to add some dragonflies the next day. But when I walked into the studio to resume working on it, I saw I had made yet another error. This bag looked so drab, there'd be no way I'd carry it in Hawaii. Maybe in Boston in the winter, but definitely not in April.

Back to the proverbial drawing board. What did I really want? A fabric I could paint. A dark fabric that wouldn't show dirt. A sophisticated look with a touch of individuality. 

Feeling a bit like Goldilocks, off I went to JoAnn's, where I got a yard of black cotton duck at a 40% discount. I took it back to the studio and tried out two new silk screens I got last week from June Colburn. While I love the screens - Lotus Flower and Dragon - neither looked good. They were just not the right size for the large bag. In a last-ditch effort I pulled out my new Calla Lily stencil from Diane Ericson, printed a practice lily, and I knew I'd finally found the right combination.

 I love my new bag! It's colorful without being cutesy, it's just the right size, and it's appropriate for all of my travel needs.

The pattern is the L2 Bag from the Sewing Workshop. I loved making this bag! The pattern is well drafted and written, so it was easy to follow.

There were a couple of tough areas to sew, partly because my fabric was very stiff.

The first trouble I ran into was with the side gussets, which are sewn in after the main part of the bag is lined. That made for three layers of duck and three layers of silk dupionni to sew through. I had to do the best I could with pin basting, as there's no way I could have got a needle through the heavy fabric.

The second trouble spot was sewing the plastic needlepoint canvas into the bottom of the bag (used as a stiffener). It's done by stab-stitching through the center bottom seam, but you have to do it with one hand inside the bag, with no visibility of the plastic canvas. It took a lot of feeling what I was doing, rather than seeing it. Patience and focus paid off, and the task wasn't so bad after all.

I learned a new trick with this pattern: the side pleat on the outside of the bag. I won't try to describe how it's done, as pictures show it much better. But it was easy and I like the finished look.

Yes, I lined the bag with silk dupionni. Extravagant, I know. But I had it on hand, and the color matches the purple paint perfectly. I neglected to take photos before inserting the lining in the bag. Suffice it to say I put in a zippered pocket, and my usual double pleated pocket to hold my phone and glasses case. There was a flat double pocket in the pattern, but I didn't make it because I knew I wouldn't use it.

Lesson learned? Time away from a project can do a world of good. Excited with the idea of a new bag, I had stuck my head in the sand as I forged ahead on the first two bags, not really "seeing" what I was making. In each case, I put in hours of work, only to not like the look of it the next day. After I slowed down for the third one, everything fell into place.

Trial and error is most certainly the way the design process works. But learning to look and see along the way is crucial to being satisfied with the finished product. I'm not saying this bag is perfect or exactly as I would like, but it is good enough for my needs and I'll get a lot of use from it!