Four Strategies for Sustainable Sewing

Home sewers typically waste 30% of their fabric. Shocking, right? That’s according to Patrick Grant, judge of the Great British Sewing Bee. As the Saville Row sort, I imagine he knows what he’s talking about.

Patrick Grant
Patrick Grant, voice of authority

Still, 30%? Surely we home sewers can do better than that! Here are my top tips for sustainable sewing with minimal waste:

  1. Piece it together. Many projects have you cut on the fold to avoid a seam. That’s important for the line of the garment in the front, but less so in the back. Projects such as my recent Vogue 9246 top could be easily pieced in the back to save fabric.
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Pieced in the back – who cares?2.

2. Avoid cutting in two layers. A lot of cutting layouts expect you to fold the fabrics selvage to selvage and cut, so you get two of everything in one go. Except that the cutting layout can get wasteful that way. In my experience you can often cut a few things on the fold and other things single-layer, to get the most out of your fabric. For my recent Vogue 9246 top, the pattern called for 2 yards but I squeezed it out of 1 1/3 yards.

Here are the leftover scraps from some creative cutting.  As long as you follow the grainline, you should be fine. And remember to flip over the pattern pieces if they’re meant to be cut in a double layer!

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Scrappy!

3. Try kinda-sorta bias. Bias-cut facings and other details can sure hog fabric. If you cut on the true 45-degree angle, you can go through a lot of fabric quickly. But sometimes you don’t need true bias. You can get away with kinda-sorta bias on a lot of fabrics, as long as they provide decent stretch.

bias

Play around stretching the fabric at various angles until you see something that you think might work. Try it! Baste it in place to see if it works before you commit. It beats buying and wasting a lot of fabric. Out of the scrap pile above I was able to fashion the neckline facing and two sleeve facings for my top.

4. Stash with care. The biggest waster of fabric, in my opinion, is fabric that never gets sewn but rather sits in stashes forever. It may get ruined in storage. Tastes may change, and you may regret buying it. You may forget you even have it, and buy more fabric when you didn’t need it. Or you may choose the fabric for a project, only to realize that you have too much – you may make a top when you have enough yardage for a dress, for example, and the leftover never gets used.

What’s worse, you sew up stash fabric because you feel bad about it lying around, but the project is crappy because you were using oddball stash fabric, and you never use the item…

A few unfortunate “stash” projects that wasted fabric and time:

Treat your fabric like the precious commodity it is! It used up water, plus animal or plant matter, or petroleum products if it’s polyester. It also used up your precious time to buy, treat and store.

 

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Trying New Shapes and Styles for an Edgy Spring and Summer Wardrobe

I tend toward fitted garments. When you’re curvy, you gotta really work your assets, amirite?

But I see all these breezy, loose looks for summer and I think, “Why not me?” Here’s a try at this look:

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Top from Vogue 9246

This top is from Vogue 9246, a “Five Easy Pieces” wardrobe pattern package that also includes two jacket options and two pants options.

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Vogue 9246

(Aside: Every time I see the “Five Easy Pieces” Vogue brand I think of that Jack Nicholson movie of the same name. As if you’d wear any of these clothes to work as an oil rig roustabout. Except for a jumpsuit. Maybe.)

This top hits “edgy” looks for me for a few reason:

  • Deep color and high contrast with the piping
  • Exaggerated shape with cut-on sleeves

It’s not super edgy. I mean, my mom would probably wear this top, but not in this blood-red color. The pattern collection also has wrap pants and a duster, which I like, but I don’t want to get ahead of myself.

Back to the top…

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The yoke seam detail is the only thing that holds any interest for me. I got this in a pattern swap, and it’s normally not my jam, truth be told. I thought that some detail in that yoke seam was essential to make the top work for me. When you’re curvy as I am, you need a detail at the shoulder to balance out a look that would go all boxy otherwise.

I played around with piping that seam. I had some faux leather piping, but it looked a bit much with the red. Same with some black satin piping. But white piping made the top look a bit preppy, which is a whole ‘nother look I am trying to avoid.

Then I found some white twill tape in my stash, and I thought, “Why not?

OK, here’s why not: twill tape is pretty thick, has no stretch or give at all, and just isn’t the sort of thing meant for such a treatment.

So of course I had to use it!

I basted the twill tape onto the yoke pieces, lining up the tape so that the seam would hit at exactly the middle of the tape, where the chevron of the weave breaks.

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Twill tape taking one for the team

I then sewed the seam and topstitched 2 mm above the seam so that the twill tape would lie properly. I like that the tape has this texture and isn’t flat but rather has a bit of movement in the seam.

Let’s talk about fit issues, howevs.

I did a 5/8-inch hollow chest adjustment and a 1-inch high round back adjustment to make this top lie correctly. It sits nicely against my back, but I should have done something to correct for my uneven shoulders. Also, a forward shoulder adjustment could have helped even out the hem line – you can see how it dips up slightly in front.

Overall, though, I like this more than I thought I would. This was a “wearable muslin” top meant to try the fit out. I am planning to make another in a striped white shirting.

 

Don’t Raise Your Hand, Part 2

Some recent interactions at work have inspired me to the list of “don’ts” as a woman dealing with in a male-dominated office. (See here for the original list.)

Don’t provide food. I have been in a series of training classes that wrapped up this week. I am the only woman taking the class, with a group of six to eight men. I have been trying to integrate a little better with the men, since they’re a close-knit group. I have to work with them once in a while.

I thought about buying doughnuts for the last class, as a way to celebrate getting through it, and to ingratiate myself a bit with the guys.

donuts

I actually stood in line at this fancy doughnut shop to get a $25 box of doughnuts. And then I thought, “What am I doing? Why am I spending my own money to kiss up to these guys? If the situation were reversed, would it occur to them – ever – to buy anything out of their own pockets?” Of course not, sister. So I went to the meeting empty-handed. All the men did too. Of course they did. We finished the training and said goodbye.

Speak up when you’re not spoken to. A male project manager I work as part of a larger group ignores me. A few times a week he drops by our desks to shoot the breeze with the men and absolutely never includes me in the conversation.

One day I posed a question to a male coworker (we’ll call him Tim) who responded that he didn’t know the answer. Tim then asked me what the project manager had to say about it. “Nothing,” I replied. “He doesn’t talk to me. He literally never acknowledges my presence.”

Tim had a strange look on his face that said, “this bitch be crazy.”  So I thought I’d do a little test. I told Tim: “Don’t say anything, but the next time the project manager comes over, you watch what happens.”

Sure enough, the PM came by later that day, gabbed for a while with Tim and another guy about a project that I am involved with, never once turning toward me or including me in the conversation.

Wow,” Tim said when the project manager left.

Yep,” I said, “people think women make this stuff up.”

I wondered – just wondered as I said this – if it would get back to the project manager. Of course. A couple of days later, the project manager came by my desk and asked how I’m doing, what’s going on, blah blah. Not talking about work, mind you, just talking to show the other guys that he does talk to me.

Of course the PM reverted to ignoring me after that most of the time. Occasionally, he realizes he’s ignoring me and he makes a show of including me. One time when he came over to talk to Tim and the others, I looked up and listened in. He apologized for not coming closer to me, saying it was too far to walk. I sit right next to Tim. I just gave him a look – hey hang yourself with your own rope, dude.

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Now, this is a shitty passive-aggressive way to deal with the problem of being ignored. Going all Glenn Close from “Fatal Attraction” isn’t the answer. The second I realized this was happening, I should have told the project manager, “Please include me in conversations about this project, as I am on the team too.” And if he “forgets,” I should remind him, this time in writing: “Hey, I asked you to include me, but you didn’t just now. Why not?” If it happens again, escalate to his manager.

 

Cheap and Easy Mock Wrap Dress for an Edgy Spring Wardrobe

I like to start each wardrobe plan with something from the “cheap and easy” quadrant at bottom left – those projects that promise not to take up too much of my time, energy, materials or money.

spring edgy wardrobe 2019

Of the three projects, I only had all materials in hand for the Mirri faux wrap dress from Wardrobe By Me, so that was the obvious place to start. A few hours later, ta-da:

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Mirri dress front view

This is the fastest easiest dress I think I’ve ever made, and I really like the results!

The dress is very simple – a skirt you cut twice on the fold (same front and back), two front bodices (one with pleats that overlays the other plain bodice) a back bodice, and some sleeve cuffs. The front bodice pieces use cut-on facings that fold in to form the collar, and cut-on cap sleeves. It’s a clever design that sews up quick and offers very modest coverage for the style.

The dress has only a 1/4 inch seam allowance, which is a bit skimpy for handing three and four layers of fabric where the bodice meets the skirt. I expanded that seam allowance to 1/2 inch and basted before sewing it with the serger.

The dress comes with four length options, from maxi skirt to a short top, where the wrap detail forms a kind of peplum.

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I went for the midi length, as I wanted to play with something a bit longer than my usual. I don’t know about this – we’ll see how it wears. Also, I was a skosh short on fabric, so I pieced together the back skirt.

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Mirri dress back view

I cut a 10 bodice and graded to a 12 at the hips. It’s still a bit tight back there, pulling at my hips. I lengthened the bodice, as the pattern states the waist sits 1.5 inches above the natural waist. I often have to lengthen bodices, and when I measured the pattern against an RTW mock wrap dress I like, it seemed like the waist would sit way too high. I think this was a mistake, however, or I also should have graded out the hips more. Anyway, some different underwear would help. (And losing a few pounds of winter weight!)

I didn’t try much to pattern-match this fabric. I just tried to line up the main horizontal motifs on the bodice and center a strong motif along the back bodice. I also ran the small black squares on the front along the left, to balance out the pleats on the right.

The dress doesn’t come with a belt, but I think it needs one. I mocked up a self belt and a black belt made of leftover jersey. What do you think?

Other changes I made were just those little details that come from experience with knits. I reinforced the shoulder seams with a bit of clear elastic, topstitched the sleeve cuffs, and coverstitched the hem.

I think this will get a lot of spring and summer wear, with some black sheer hose and a jacket or sweater for the office. I look forward to making another version of this, and maybe the top too.

I got this pattern on sale for $10 (normally $12). It’s produced with a .pdf that doesn’t require trimming the margins, and it offers nested views of the sizes, so you can just print what you want. The pattern itself goes together quickly, and all the pieces lined up nicely. It’s worth the price!

Sewing Patterns and Fabric Choices for Spring Edgy Wardrobe

I did something today I have literally never done. I went through my stash and could not remember where some of this fabric came from. And then I found some fabric I forgot I had.

It’s a good news, bad news story. On the good side, I have lots of cool fabrics for the Spring Sew Edgy projects. On the bad side, I worry that the stash is getting out of control.

I guess I will need to sew some up! Here’s the plan:

spring edgy wardrobe 2019

(For more on this Magic Quadrant for Sewing Projects, see this.)

Yeah I have 10 projects on here. I will probably get five done. I picked out these fabrics for these projects:

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Four white shirtings. Why?

 

I found four white shirtings in my stash. I forgot about the one at the top – a bamboo poplin. I also have two kinds of pique and a striped lawn. I have earmarked a pique for Butterick 5526. The stripe is destined for the Vogue 9246 top.

I found this in the stash – a silk georgette in a suitably edgy print. I need something flowy for it, but not feminine, or the edge will be all soft and rounded and flowery. Ugh.

I got the Sewaholic Alma blouse pattern as a gift from PatternReview.com for volunteering to run a contest last year. I think I could edge it up in this silk georgette, using the neckline from View A with a metallic element. And no puffy sleeves or bows, natch. This will be the most difficult of the tops – never worked with silk georgette before. I will need to psych myself up for it.

For the plan’s two dresses, I had two great knit options in geometric gray prints.

The Mirri dress from Wardrobe by Me seems pretty simple, so I have picked out this rayon jersey for it. It’s going to be a close call with the fabric, though, as it’s only 54 inches wide. I will need to estimate to be sure I have enough.

This batwing dress McCall’s 7465 isn’t a shy retiring kind of dress (unlike that bitch Mirri). It’s making a statement, and needs a fabric to match. I worry this might be a bit too much. But sometimes too much is not enough, right? Besides, for some reason I can’t fathom, I bought four yards of this crazy print. So I literally have nothing to lose.

For suiting, I have some gorgeous Armani wool I got on a crazy sale at Mood Fabrics. It came in two odd cuts – almost 2 yards and a little more than 1 yard. I could squeeze a suit of out it. I think. If I dare:

I have decided to try the Vogue jacket. If I have fabric left, I’ll try the  skirt. The panels would work with a contrasting fabric if I run short.

I decided I would sew these before buying fabric for the other projects. That probably means that I won’t get to the other projects. But maybe I will. We’ll see!

Spring Sew Edgy Work Wardrobe Plans

It’s easy to look edgy in the winter, at least where I work. Dark colors and a somewhat gloomy aspect are the norm. But when spring arrives, with its fuzzy yellow chicks and pink tulips, must we edgy dressers retreat into our coffins and draw the curtains, or can we make it work?

vampire

Let’s find out!

To review, I came up with several guidelines for edgy dressing. For full details, check out this blog. Here are the highlights:

  • Metal hardware and details
  • Leather and other animal inspirations
  • Asymmetry
  • High contrast
  • Exaggeration
  • Bold colors
  • Element of surprise

I like to start with the cut and shape of garments and then pair them with fabrics, but sometimes it works the other way around, too. Here are a few things I have picked out for spring sewing for a work wardrobe:

McCalls 7465
McCall’s 7465 Batwing Dress with Side Ruching

This McCall’s 7465 batwing dress with asymmetical side ruching option ticks several edgy boxes. The batwing look offers an animal inspiration (duh) and an exaggerated shape, while the ruching to one side plays well with asymmetry. I can imagine wearing this with a belt to get some metallic detail in there, too.

The Mirri Faux Wrap Dress from Wardrobe by Me looks pretty simple, with a bit of  asymmetric detail, achieved this time with pleating.

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Mirri Faux Wrap dress

I also can see either dress as a top. I have loved an RTW a black cashmere blend batwing sweater for a few years now. I wear it often with this high-waisted Simplicity 8058 skirt, black tights and boots, and a long silver necklace:

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Skirt from Simplicity 8058 and the StyleArc Creative Cate Top

I have an idea to make another of these Cynthia Rowley designed skirts. You can see from the line drawings that there are two large darts on either side of the center panel. In the version above, I cut the panel even with the waistband and added a belt and hardware detail.

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Simplicity 8058

For version 2, which I’d make in a lighter ponte or scuba for spring and summer, I was thinking of adding zippers into those darts and eliminating the back zipper. And I was thinking of trying this with a print, to wear with a light-colored top from the McCall’s dress.

I need some new jackets for work. Most of the jackets I have are from Ann Taylor. Hardly an edgy look. They’re good quality, so I have kept them, but I really need something less traditional.

Vogue 7975 offers a wealth of ideas in a high-quality and well-reviewed pattern:

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Vogue 7975 with five trim options

I think a collarless look is more modern than the traditional notch or shawl look (and easier to sew, truth be told). I think View D could go edgy, either with the right buttons or with a zipper. View E could look cool with faux leather trim. I could make a muslin out of the lining fabric to check for fit.

I also really need a suit. I love this La Mia Boutique suit by the Italian designer Sara Poiese:

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La Mia Boutique Aug/Sept 18 line drawings

That skirt offers lots of edgy options with its princess panels and exposed zipper. The jacket also sparks ideas, but it’s hard to read on my shape. The shrunken look doesn’t do us pear shapes any favors, but maybe a strong shoulder element, such as leather trip or epaulets, could balance it out. Also, it needs a zipper and not buttons to coordinate with the skirt, right?

In any event, this is a big project and I would want to make a muslin first, both to test for fit and because I am not the greatest with Italian translation.

I really need new pants for work. What else is new?

 

I started this winter on another version of the Style Arc Jasmines in a rather pricey wool-rayon black pique with some metal belt and zipper details, and then set them aside after I made a bad cutting error. They sat in the UFO pile all winter. Let’s just say I was pissed. I need to get more fabric to complete them. I really like the ones I made, and with some tweaks, they could be TNTs.

I’d also like a pair of wide-leg pants out of a drapey material. Simplicity 3688 fits the bill nicely, with no drama, but it’s a fabric hog so I must find something economical.

Finally, some tops are in order. I really need a basic white button-down. I could edgy it up with some metal buttons, like these square-in-the-round ones I bought at Pacific Trimming in New York last fall. I’d need a fabric that can stand up to the buttons’ weight.

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Edgy buttons?

Everyone loves this Butterick 5526  pattern, which includes lots of design options. I have been meaning to try it. I think a collarless princess seam (center bottom), without the decidedly un-edgy frill, would work.

Butterick 5526
Butterick 5526

I also like this Vogue 9246 top for the cut-on sleeve and yoke detail, which could do with some black faux leather piping to edge it up.

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V 9246

Another version of my Magic Quadrant for Sewing Projects seems to be in order!

 

What Do I Do with This Crazy-ass Fabric?

I picked out this cute red and white French terry to make a casual spring sweater. It was on sale online from Fashion Fabric Club for $4.40 a yard. 100% cotton, 50 inches wide. I grabbed two yards. Here’s what it looks like on the website.

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Fashion Fabric Club sweater knit

It’s since been discontinued. I wonder why…

I earmarked another version of New Look 6330 for it. I had a plan to put the neckband on the bias to make the sweater kinda sporty. Little did I know that the fabric itself was on the bias, kinda. When I laid it out to cut, it looked like this:

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Something’s off here

I thought, “Do I need to straighten the grain? On a knit?” I fussed with it a while and concluded it wasn’t me – it was the fabric. I laid it out with the stripes parallel to the cutting mat and got this:

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Hmm

The true bias line is marked on the mat at the 11-inch mark.

Here’s a close-up of the knit – right and wrong sides – so you can see that the stripes are woven somewhat on the diagonal.

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So, I have a problem. If I lay out the sweater on grain, it’s going to have somewhat diagonal stripes. They will go one way on the front, one way on the back, and the stripes will wrap around the sleeves in a potentially weird way.

If I ignore the grain and lay it out with the stripes parallel, won’t the sweater sag and stretch strangely?

Then I thought maybe I would make a cardigan instead, but matching those stripes looks to be the devil’s work, and I would end up with a chevron effect in the front and back. I played around with the Jalie Drop-Pocket Cardigan (not enough fabric), the Muse Jenna Cardigan (the waistband would look very odd).

Bah! I messed around for a while with various options and finally draped the fabric on Ruby for the night to see if inspiration strikes tomorrow.

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I need some inspiration, Ruby!

What would do you with this crazy-ass fabric?