Quilting for the Birds

I used to be a quilter, and I have lots of scraps left around from those days. So when The People’s Sewing Army put out a call to sew for the wildlife rehabilitation program with the Audubon Society of Portland, Oregon, I had to sign up.

The wildlife rehabbers needed small quilts for songbird cages and larger quilts for cages of raptors and other large birds. I had fun sewing these up:

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Scrap quilts for the birds
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Scrap quilts – other side

Fabric scraps are such a trip down memory lane for me. There were lots of scraps from a cat-themed quilt I made my mother years ago, and more from a garden-themed quilt I made for a friend. I sewed up some scraps from quilts made for my nieces and nephews (the oldest of whom is now in college) and from a batik dolphin quilt I made as a wedding present for dear friends.

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I also had some library-themed fabric leftover from pillows I made my brother-in-law. And then there were scraps left over from various apparel sewing projects, such as these:

The Audubon Society also asked for cloth napkins for its volunteers, so I raided my stash of linen scraps. Whenever you make pants, you end up with long, skinny scraps left over, so they were perfect for making napkins:

The fabric came from these projects (it cracks me up how inefficient I was with that yellow linen when I made the clamdiggers – live and learn!):

I took apart this muslin I sewed a couple of years ago out of some damaged linen and added that to the project also, saving the buttons to use again:

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Muslin of a skirt I drafted based on the Maria Denmark Yasmin Yoke Skirt

In the end, I made 18 napkins of various sizes. They were simple to construct – I just cut squares and finished the ends with a rolled hem on my serger.

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I used up some thread I didn’t need, too. The bright blue serger thread wasn’t great quality, but it was fine for a rolled-hem project like the napkins. I also used up sewing machine threads on spools and  bobbins of lesser quality in colors that I probably won’t need again.

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And I used up some odds and ends of premade bias bindings, including a few thrift-store finds. And I didn’t sweat these – they’re not perfectly rectangular, and the quilting is a bit wavy in places. I don’t think the birds will mind:

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Altogether, I used up 1 pound, 10 ounces of scrap fabric and quilt batting, oddball threads and leftover bindings – all getting a new and much needed life, instead of going to waste in my stash.

I get a lot of satisfaction about sewing for others from time to time. If you’re interested in helping out in the future, follow the link to The People’s Sewing Army or see my previous blog post.

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I Hate to Put a Label on It, But…

I finally did. Behold:

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Style Arc Jasmine trousers – with my label.

It wasn’t easy.

This is my second pair of Style Arc Jasmine trousers, with custom-made labels I got at The Dutch Label Shop. I bought 100 of these labels back in December 2017. The cost was  $33.70, including shipping. (I bought them during a 30% off Black Friday sale. The normal price would have been $46 with shipping.)

I chose red – my favorite color – the Distaff name and my city, New Haven, Connecticut (USA). You can also choose a logo, and I decided after some hemming and hawing to put the astrological symbol for Venus on the labels too, just to drive home the whole “female” point.

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Custom-made labels – ready for projects!

I put the labels in a drawer in my notions and threads organizer. I looked forward to using them. And then I didn’t. I even used a label the Islay Woollen Mill gave me when I bought fabric there to hide my labels, so I wouldn’t have to think about them.

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Lonely labels

I can’t say WHY I didn’t use them. Sometimes I think it’s a bit of an affectation to put your own label on something. Sometimes I am not proud enough of a garment to label it. Sometimes I just don’t want to do the tiny bit of hand sewing necessary – lame excuse, I know.

This week I finally said the hell with it and promptly sewed a label onto three items. Besides the Jasmine pants, I sewed one onto this top from Vogue 9246.

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Label matching – oooh!

And the Osaka skirt from Seamwork Magazine:

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Labeled, bitches!

I am going to label everything from now on. Promise. Three labels down, 97 to go!

Sew Edgy Trousers

I am continuing to work on my “Sew Edgy” look for the office. Check out these trousers in black wool stretch twill:

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Not your everyday work trousers

(Sorry about the backdrop – our shittily stained fence is as close to “edgy” as my home looks.)

The trousers are a deep black, so it’s hard to see the detail, but trust me when I tell you the fit is just about PERFECT.

The pattern is Style Arc’s Jasmine trousers. This is my second pair. The first ones were pretty good, but I still needed to work out some fit issues. I also wanted to try different fabric, because the first pair, in a wool gabardine with 3% elastane are a little too stretchy. This time I used a black wool twill that I got at B&J Fabrics in New York. Gorgeous stuff! The fabric has 1% elastane for just a little stretch recovery.

I started again with the size 16 because the fit was perfect at the hips, and I took in the rest of the pants a bit from there:

  • 1 1/4 inches at the waistline
  • 1 1/2 inches at the waistband
  • Tapered the sides in 1/2 inch starting 1″ above the bottom of the pocket bags and ending at the knee. (The first pair tend to fit a bit like jodhpurs on me, given my waist-hip-thigh ratios.)
  • Sewed the entire side seams at 5/8 inch instead of 3/8 inch
  • Scooped out the back crotch 1/2 cm and extended the back crotch the same amount
  • Added 1 cm to the top of the center back of the yoke, tapering to nothing at the side seam, so the pants would not dip down a bit in the back.

I sewed a blind hem, hemming at the length the pattern comes in because I wanted to wear with patent-leather loafers for a menswear look. It’s a fine length for me, at 5’6″. I think they might be a bit long – we’ll see.

Also, this time I stay-stitched the back yoke curves because the last time that bias curve stretched out a bit during construction. And I tacked the pocket bag seam allowances down to the insides of the pockets to keep them in place.

One big fail, however, was the button. The pattern calls for one button in the waistband. Last time, I opted for a hook-and-bar closure instead. This time I wanted to do a button because I had a special one in my stash – a heavy gold button with an enameled black band around the outside. I like metal trims for work clothes as part of my Sew Edgy workplace look.

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I sewed TWO practice buttonholes on mocked-up scraps identical to the pants – same fabric and interfacing. They both came out great. When it came to the actual pants, however, no dice. The buttonhole went in wonky and started sewing in place. I ripped it out but accidentally ripped up the fabric of the pants a bit in the process. So now I had a hole in my fabric and no buttonhole. I adjusted the buttonholer to sew less densely and fast, and tried again. Same problem. I ended up doing two hook and bars on the inside and sewed the button as a faux button to the outside to cover up the little hole (which I darned closed). GRR! Tell me the truth – does the button look stupid?

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These pants are a TNT for me for sure! I am delighted to find a pair that fit and wear well yet have all the details of RTW trousers, such as a real fly and pockets. If you’re shaped like me – a bit of a pear – you may also like the way these work for you.

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Obligatory back view  complete with photobombing dog

I want to try a pair with some denim next to see if I can get a jeans look out of them.

Workin’ on the Railroad

I feel all fancy when I can use an arcane textile term like “railroading” a fabric. What’s railroading? Allow me to demonstrate.

With printed fabrics. the print design typically goes from selvage to selvage. So, typically, you cut your pattern pieces on the straight of grain, meaning the grainline marks on the pattern pieces run parallel with the selvage.

Let’s say you have a one-yard cut of fabric like this 54-inch-wide cotton jacquard from the fashion design house Milly. The selvages are at the top and bottom of the picture:

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Milly cotton jacquard I bought at Banksville Designer Fabrics in Norwalk, CT

That’s a pretty big print motif. It’s hard to work it with a simple skirt pattern, such as this one, the Osaka wrap skirt from Seamwork magazine:

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A straight of grain pattern layout won’t work.

There’s not enough room on the straight of grain to center the pattern motifs and squeeze in all three pieces – a right front, left front and back (upper right) which is cut on the fold.

Does it work better railroaded, where I lay out the pieces on the crossgrain?

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Railroaded fabric with a great pattern layout and room to spare.

Yes! With room to spare! Hooray!

Depending on your fabric, the railroaded cuts might behave just as they would have on the straight of grain, or maybe not. It depends on how drapey the fabric, whether it stretches at all, and how it’s woven. You can play around with the two grainlines to see if it works. For this fabric, it’s fine either way.

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Seamwork “Osaka” wrap skirt laid out flat.

Here’s the skirt all laid out – notice how I was able to match the motifs pretty well by railroading the fabric. The white sections and the coral sections line up, including that band of coral that runs down the middle. Keep in mind, I wasn’t trying to match up the motifs exactly, because that’s not happening without a lot more fabric – wasteful and not necessary, as you will see.

Looks pretty good on, too:

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I arranged the overlapping front pieces so that the motifs would scroll along at the hem and hip. Excuse the photobombing dog!
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Same in the back

This was a quick and easy make – Seamwork said it would take about 3 hours, and that was right, even with the modifications I made.

The original skirt includes a seam halfway down to color block or otherwise change up the design. It’s also reversible, so in theory you can have two different skirts using up to four fabrics. You’re meant to basically make two skirts, sew them together, turn out and topstitch. Here’s the technical drawing:

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Osaka line drawing from Seamwork magazine Issue #4

I just wanted to use the one fabric, and I didn’t want to line it or make it reversible because the fabric was a good weight as-is. I made these changes to the pattern:

  • Eliminated the colorblock seam by butting the top and bottom pieces together at the seamline.
  • Widened the back darts 1/4 inch each.
  • Made a bias facing for the waist that finishes at 1.5 inches wide (the skirt has no waistband).
  • Lengthened it 1.5 inches and did a narrowish hem.
  • Eliminated the snap closure inside because I don’t think I need it.
  • Added 1 inch to both ends of the skirt to allow for hems and as some added insurance against the wrap popping open.

Also, I mitered the hems, ’cause like I said, I am fancy like that.

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Mitered hems, bitches!

I got the button from a bargain bin at Len’s Mill in Ontario, Canada when I was at PatternReview Weekend last summer. To secure it, I made a slim rouleau loop and secured it between the skirt and facing.

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I got a big button and I cannot lie…

I wore this skirt Saturday night to dinner with friends. I was inspired to sew with this as part of The Sewcialists’ mini challenge to sew up something using one of the group’s logo colors. There’s a spinner to help you choose a color, and I got coral. I am glad the challenge gave me the little push I needed to find a solution for this bold, unusual fabric.

Sad-ass Menopause PJs

Here’s my latest glamour-filled sewing project:

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Menopause PJs to the rescue!

This is what happens when desperation + 2 hours + very sheer fabric = project.

Let’s overlook the tunnelling and unevenness of the coverstitched hems, the stretched out neckline and the fact that one leg is slightly shorter than the other, and focus on WHY these PJs came to be.

Damn menopause night sweats are keeping me up. Every night. I was desperate for some lightweight PJs in cool cotton jersey. I bought 4 yards of this featherweight stuff online.

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The sheerest cotton jersey ever

After a particularly bad episode last week, I got home from work, scarfed down dinner and got to work. Two hours later I had a set of PJs. The top is from New Look 6330. The pants are McCall’s 7297. The pants originally were enormous so I cut two sizes smaller and the fit is great.

I have never sewn so fast. It actually took longer to change my BabyLock Evolution from serge mode to coverstitch mode than it did to make the shorts. Let’s say I was motivated. I also didn’t sweat the details – enough sweating going on as it is.

They’re pretty successful so far – definitely better for adjusting temperature than my old PJs. I like a 3/4 sleeve because my shoulders and arms get cold above the covers, while the wide neckline affords easy venting when I sit up in the middle of the night, drenched in sweat. The shorts keep my bottom just right. And the fabric is so light it wicks away moisture pretty well without getting soggy.

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Back view  – don’t look too closely.

I have enough fabric to make another pair – sounds like another after-work project later this week.

Ending Me Made May with a Whimper

So, it’s been cold here this May. I’d love to lay some of my summery me-made fashions on you this month, but I didn’t want to freeze my ass off. I ended up repeating a few things, so no point in taking pictures again. I did manage a me-made item every day, even though I had a couple of migraines (thank you – me-made PJs and T-shirts).

Here are a few unique looks. First, for the office:

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Head-to-toe Me Made – Style Arc Creative Cate top, Muse Jenna cardigan and Vogue 1312 skirt
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Style Arc Jasmine pants in stretch wool gabardine
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Simplicity 1202 top made from Nicole Miller fabric

For that last one, I was not having a good day at work – or a good hair day, either – sheesh! I was also wearing navy gabardine pants from McCalls’ 6901, but I couldn’t be bothered to get a full shot. Sorry, not sorry.

Here are some looks for home office and weekend wear:

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Kwik Sew 3452 sweatshirt. Yeah it was that cold!
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Breton tee from the GBSB book
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Tunic from Happy Homemade Sew Chic – I finally took off the black lace at the sleeves. Dog still will not pose for selfies.

My favorite look of the last week:

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Tunic from Happy Homemade Sew Chic

I was headed out to a hair appointment and then a baby shower. The skirt is RTW from the Boden catalog. This was the one nice day all week. I made the most of it!

And my “finish weak” look to finish May:

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Cardigan of shame

This cardigan is from Happy Homemade Sew Chic. It was the first knit item I’d sewn in ages, and it’s pretty… rough. For starters, the high-contrast geometric print is only on one side, so it’s not a great choice for anything where the pale and plain wrong side shows. Then there’s the error in factoring in how the pleats would work at the neckline with the fabric – not symmetrical at all. And finally I sewed on this silver clasp (the style of which has nothing to do with the style of the fabric, or the style of the garment) because I thought it would look better if it closed in front. Sure. Whatever.

I finish weak because I believe in showing the good, bad and ugly of my creations. I am not someone who photographs every garment and look to perfection. And I certainly don’t sew everything to perfection, either!

One Art Form Inspires Another

I was delighted when visiting the Cheekwood Estate in suburban Nashville, Tennessee to find a small exhibit by local fashion students. The museum tasked the students, who are in the class of 2021 at the O’More School of Design at Belmont University, with creating a garment inspired by a work of art in the collection.

Take a look:

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Dress and collage by Amy May, fashion student at Belmont University
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“Windy Day at the Sea” by Martha Walter

While this design is a bit on the nose, I love it all the same. Whenever I see those late 19th -century and early 20th-century paintings of women in flowing summer gowns at the seaside, like in this painting by Martha Walter, I can’t help but imagine the dresses as giant sails, blowing the women to freedom, away from what I imagine were pretty confining lives.

A close-up shows how the artist, Amy May, underlined the gauzy bodice with fabric in an antique map motif, like a secret underneath the proper summer white.

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This coat, by Justice Yberra, was inspired by Georgia O’Keeffe’s drawing “Banana Flower.”

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Dress and collage by Justice Ybarra
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“Banana Flower” by Georgia O’Keeffe

I liked how the artist included her muslin and pattern in the display, so you could see how she crafted the coat’s pleats to mimic the flower’s organic form.

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Design by Justice Ybarra

This showstopper was by Samantha Edington:

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Dress and collage by Samantha Edington

The collage includes imagery from the 1920s and metallic elements, reflected in the organza the artist chose. It creates such a mood!. You can see how the heavy gathers in the skirt were inspired by “The Feathered Hat,” by M. Jean McLane.

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“The Feathered Hat” by M. Jean McLane

I have sought out a few exhibits like this lately. I love the places where art and fashion intersect. I’d love to be more creative with my makes. As I gain confidence, I hope I can create a work of art worth wearing, someday!