Category Archives: Sewing

Mending–above and beyond edition

There came a time recently when some pretty major mending came along. First this shirt was found in a bag in the shed (where to judge by the company it was keeping, it was intended, for a time, to be a rag) and it came back into the house as a much beloved shirt of my beloved, which it certainly had been for many years prior to its trip to the shed and long stay there. Could I mend it, because the holes were substantial?

Yes, I could–in this case by machine stitching a thin piece of reinforcing fabric on the inside, in several places.  With the end result on the right, above.

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Then, this pair of linen trousers. I got a new job a while back, and it demanded some smarter clothes (it’s one thing to be judged less than stylish personally, but it’s another to let the team down). The Salvation Army and other op shops, plus some home made tops got me through winter, but summer was a whole other issue. So these pants (and a blue shirt to go with them) were a rare new purchase, and this is how they are faring after one and a bit summers. Not as well as you’d hope given price tag and materials. Not as well as the linen pants I made myself (though they have their faults)–just saying.

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I decided on another machine mend–in which there is a lot of stitching that will show, so choice of thread matters more than it would in a seam. Sometimes when it comes right down to it, you have a preconception about the colour of the garment that you need to discard to do a good mend that won’t yell out. Sometimes using two different colours is the right thing to do. Choice made with thread laid across the fabric on the right side, I chose some thin fabric that will reinforce but not make the patch rigid (once stitched–the stitching adds some bulk).

Patch 1 pinned, tacked and then stitched, patch 2 begun. Here I’m using a three step zigzag as my mending stitch.

And, finished.  The texture and colour are slightly changed, but I’ve asked my beloved if she can tell me where my pants are mended and she can’t (when I have them on). Because the truth of the matter is, my friends, that the reason my pants wear out in this spot is because friction. And the reason there is friction is because two surfaces are in contact. And because they are in contact with one another–they don’t show a whole lot. These pants are no longer for best, sure.  They are still comfortable and shapely though, and will last a bit longer.  The big job is done with and the clothes I bought for it and didn’t care to keep have returned to the op shop for some other woman trying to pass herself off as a professional.

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Finally, a drum case.  Being a drummer involves hefting a lot of kit, and doing it regularly, and doing it ingeniously.  In the case of the wonderful drummer in our band, I’d noticed the snare drum case was looking pretty sad. So I offered to mend it. I threaded up a leather needle, the most sturdy needle I can use on my machine.  First I trimmed off the frayed sections. Then unpicked the binding. Then realised I could not insert three layers (especially tatty layers) into it neatly, especially because the edge had shortened through fraying and disintegration.  I found some black seam binding tape in the stash (thanks Joyce!) and neatened up the edge, then finally reinserted it with considerable difficulty, into the binding.

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It’s far from perfect.  But it is much better.  If this fails I told my friend the awesome drummer I’d be prepared to try again.  But for local readers it has occurred to me that the industrial strength option would be The Luggage Place, 108 Gilbert St, Adelaide. I’ve had various repairs done to suitcases there and they do a good job. They are not paying me–there are just so few places left where you could get something like this repaired, every one is worth sharing. In one instance, I’d given up completely and bought a new suitcase, and then realised I could take it to The Luggage Place. They sewed the carry handle back on a fair sized suitcase and in fact that case has kicked on for some years since then. They also replace wheels and suitcase innards!

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And there you have the above and beyond edition. As all manner of lovely books on mending come out, Tom of Holland’s Visible Mending programme becomes a hashhtag, and the beautiful, ingenious work of India Flint in converting one garment/s to another/s and such spread more widely, mending is having a resurgence. It’s a wonderful thing!  And with the encouragement and occasional shock response to my mending of you all, dear readers–I’ve continued to be a prosaic and practical mender in the main.  But I am now more able and more likely to look for a lovely way to mend garments and items that are not quite so thoroughly damaged as these!IMAG2337

Just a little public service announcement. Age no barrier.  Striking school students are calling out to everyone to join them. In Australia, University students are coming. Grey Power for Climate Action are coming. Parents are coming. Our Climate Choir and local Extinction Rebellion will be there, honouring the leadership of the student strikers and standing behind and beside them. I will certainly be there.  So join us!  Wherever you are!

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Festival of handkerchieves

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I love the humble hanky. The way it accompanies me through life in a pocket, ready to assist when pollen is too much, when I’m moved to tears, when the wind is chilly enough to make eyes water or when genuine misery leaks out of me. The way it supports me through illness time after time. The way it saves me from single use napkins, means I never find a tissue that has gone through the washing machine, and rescues entire trees from being turned into tissues. I love the way it can be called upon to wipe up spills, deal with sticky fingers at unexpected moments, prevent chafing, or (if clean) wrap a small item at short notice.

The latest festival of the hanky was generated by a friend whose hanky collection had shrunk to zero. But needless to say it didn’t stop when I’d made a collection for him. Soon I had some made from cotton voile and some made from muslin that had a past life wrapping a baby. Then a fine cotton scarf which has been in the cupboard unused for over a decade became four lovely hankies. Then the main parts of a striped shirt that belonged to a friend, who gifted it to me, which had a superpower of making people in shops address me as sir for many years–was converted from a very worn thin shirt to some lovely fine hankies.

And then some fine cotton I’d dyed… and some brand new fine cotton voile… and there it stopped for the time being.  And now I have so many opportunities to share the hanky love…

 

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Lotta Jansdotter’s Esme Top

I found I could not resist a delightful print from The Drapery.  I saw it when I went there to buy denim for the jeans making project and I did resist it twice (as I really do not need more fabric) before investing.  The Drapery don’t give me anything, by the way–I am just keen to support such a lovely, local, independent business when I can.

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I decided I would make the Esme top from Everyday Style by Lotta Jansdotter. First tracing off the pattern, then cutting out… and finally, after a long wait, the sewing.

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I love the watercolour look of those big dots! And I have no idea how I selected these points in making it up to photograph. It is a delightfully simple and quick top to make compared to my classic long sleeved, buttoned down the front shirt with collar stand, collar, cuffs, buttonholes, plackets and all. Which is also to say it is a departure from a lot of other garments in my wardrobe.

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Now that it is complete I can say two things with confidence: for once, I did not make it too large.  If anything, it could be a little broader in the shoulders and a little wider across the back. Perhaps I’ll make the next size up, next time. But it fits much better than many of my clothes because I do tend to wear roomy and baggy. And, it has attracted a lot of positive comments, which is rather lovely…

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Sashiko samplers

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While I had shingles earlier in the year I spent a lot of time doing very little, sitting in front of the TV for hours at a time too unwell to do much.  There were weeks when it was hard to choose what to watch and I couldn’t knit. Subtitles were too much.  I had so much trouble planning that I didn’t see one kind friend who offered because I couldn’t imagine being able to do any of the things we usually do together (or something!).  But eventually I remembered I had sashiko samplers I had bought in Japan, and I turned out to be capable of following the dotted line.

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I also braided my sashiko threads with some kind (online) help from India Flint.

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It’s quite inexpert sashiko but I found it very satisfying and spent hours and hours stitching this way without having to plan or decide on colours or anything.  Eventually I realised that I had bought two cushion cover blanks, not just random samplers.  So I decided I may as well turn them into cushions.  The op shop provided as always:

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(Eeek!  Not my thing)–covers stripped off and contents washed, I have two cushion stuffers without any new plastic being created. Polyester fibrefill is not good stuff–and this is my current solution to having more of it come into existence on my account. I’ve given up making cushions stuffed with fabric scraps as I did in the past because it just couldn’t be plainer that there are industrial scale amounts of this material already in existence and headed for landfill.  This is a small diversion. And yes, wash them in their covers or in a guppyfriend if you have one or in a bag to keep plastic waste out of the sewerage system.

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A little bit of simple stitching and–

 

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Finishing

I have a pile of projects that need to be finished.  But this week I finished someone else’s project. My mother-out-law has entered a stage of life where pain and confusion are her almost-constant companions.  She let me know that she had a denim skirt cut out in the chest of drawers.  Twice. I talked it over with my beloved and we decided that I would offer to finish it for her.

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She was delighted!  Happily the skirt was not denim but perhaps chambray.  I couldn’t immediately follow the way she had cut it out but decided in the end that she had adjusted the pattern (and it worked very well, by the way).

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There was some ribbon apparently intended as the interfacing for the waistband. I was really not sure it was appropriate, but since it was her choice, I adjusted the width of the waistband to fit and went with it.

The feature pockets were a must!  I figured them out in the end after some initial puzzlement.  Sometimes you just have to follow the instructions and trust them and wait for the penny to drop (for understanding to arrive).

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Once the skirt was all but complete, it was an overnight hang prior to hemming as the skirt was cut on the bias.  I have not encountered her strategy of weighting the hem with pegs before!  A second try-on was out of the question on the day so we chose another skirt with a length she liked and similar fullness, and I matched the hem to it and machine sewed it in hopes of being able to complete the skirt.

I didn’t actually manage to hang it straight to take this picture–and although pronouncing herself delighted she did not try it on. But–whether she ever wears it might not be the main thing as we accompany her through this stage of her life.

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Sewing jeans, and imperfection

So, when my best jeans went through in the knee, I decided it was a sign from the universe–make some new jeans!  I had decided a while back to try the Morgan Jeans from Closet Case Patterns.  I settled on using up some topstitching thread I had from taking up Dad’s jeans (I needed to buy a second reel part way through), some traditional style Japanese cotton bought in Kyoto for the pocket linings and waistband facing, and part of a dead shirt for interfacing.  The denim came from The Drapery (yes, a local bricks and mortar store!) and as they had Closet Case jeans hardware kits, I invested in one of those too. The staff were kind and gave sensible though understated advice, like confirming my sense of which size to make. I like that place and the fine women who run it very much, even though in my heart of hearts I think I should just STAY AWAY and never buy fabric again.  Well.  I’m not going to be free of contradictions anytime soon.

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I made these while I was quite unwell.  Pattern assembly and cutting out took me 4 hours!  However I discovered that the extremely slow pace of my progress did result in some good looking topstitching and a lot of close attention to the pattern, and ill as I was, switching between threads for seams and topstitching did not trouble me like it often would.

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They came together really well.  I have made jeans before (with mixed success) and I have made button fly pants before, so that was a help too. I decided on washing the fabric three times prior to cutting, ten degrees hotter than I usually would–as my most successful previous pairs of jeans shrank to impossibly small after being made, despite pre-shrinking.

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Now, there are some things that I notice I am prone to when I make my own clothes, and I believe other people who sew might be prone to them as well.

It’s easy to notice all the things you did badly when you are the maker.  News flash: while some clothes are made in a factory far, far away by someone you have never met, mistakes do happen and imperfection results.  I have had plenty of purchased clothes that have defects, including some that required mending I could easily accomplish, and some that had a defect that became apparent after one or two washes that was not really capable of mending without wholesale reconstruction.  Needless to say, I’ve had loads of secondhand clothes that require mending as soon as they get to my place. Well, sometimes I make clothes that are imperfect.  And sometimes I do something stupid that requires mending soon after they are completed–in this pair I machine tacked the front pockets closed during making to prevent wiggling, and then managed to rip out the tacking and the top stitching.  Oh, joy.  But you know?  Imperfection is part of life and there is really no reason clothes you make yourself will or should be perfect.

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Then there is the question of fit.  I doubt I am alone in finding that jeans sold in stores don’t fit me all that well.  One fine reason to make your own is skipping the bit where you try on 20 pairs and hate them all, and maybe also notice you don’t like yourself much.  Oh, sexism, you make appearance the measure of a woman in a way my mind refuses to accept but that evidently has a grip on my feelings, and consequently you make self-kindness so challenging to accomplish. Oh, sexism, you make it seem that a woman should care more about how she looks than how healthy she is, and that alone makes me hate and resist you.

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The pairs of jeans I’ve bought over the years new and secondhand often don’t fit all that well, but for some reason they get a pass and my handmade clothing doesn’t. Nothing rational about that.  I measured myself up, selected my size and resisted the urge to make a size larger.  I made just one adjustment, right at centre back just below the waistband, where jeans normally stick out a whole lot, requiring a belt. I have been told by my mother that this is because I have a sway back, whatever that is, and by sales assistants it’s because I have a big butt.  Whatever, this minor adjustment meant these jeans were the right shape for my particular body, three cheers!  They did wrinkle under the seat, which my pants fitting book tells me is due to “thighus giganticus”.  Oh, internalised sexism, that has women talking to one another this way! I don’t like you much. If feeling bad about ourselves could make us better people, more confident sewers, or even slimmer, the world would be a different place.

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I was so happy about the fact these fit me better than any pair I’ve bought in years (that’s the test, right?) that I made another pair, very slowly and over several weeks.  This time, I decided on more ease, provided by making the same adjustment at CB but stitching the main outer seams with 0.5 cm seam allowance rather than the 1.5 cm allowed in the pattern.  They are even better, as I seem to have come home from Japan smaller than usual and returned to my customary more generous size since. I also decided on a different colour of topstitching thread.

And by this time I knew that I’d had a user fail on the hardware kit the first time and noticed another thing: why had I bought this (admittedly lovely and functional) hardware rather than using what I already had?  Still invested in consumption and overlooking the fact I never show my waistband off and I’m the only one who sees these fastenings?  On the second pair I used a hammer-on jeans button from the op shop (more in the pack if I have done a bad job of installing it) and some almost matching buttons for the fly, from stash.  And there we have it, the top end of my regular-wear wardrobe restored!

 

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Silk cot quilt

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Back before March, maybe even last year!  I took out a silk cot quilt kit I bought from Beautiful Silks remnants section and dyed the silk cover.  I’ll be honest with you, Marian (the fabulous proprietor at Beautiful Silks) persuaded me to buy this kit and I didn’t know where it would go.  Then the moment for me to give it to one pregnant friend passed without it being finished.

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I was very happy with how the dyeing turned out.

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I was intimidated by the next steps.  It was just too beautiful.  Silk is just a bit too precious for me to relax about. In about March, still not sure where it would go, I decided to add the silk batting and stitch the quilt edges together.  Then I safety–pinned and tacked the quilt layers together before losing my nerve again.

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Then it emerged that my daughter was expecting!  She wanted to wait until after the third month before being really confident that it would, as she put it, “stick”.  And when that date passed and all was well with the foetus, I started to think about this quilt again.  I didn’t know how to quilt it, and to be honest, I like the patchwork part of making quilts but not the quilting part.  I’ve never made a whole cloth quilt. Finally I decided to stop waiting for it to be perfect and just stitch.

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Suddenly I made my peace with this cone of thread that really wasn’t what I had thought I was buying on some previous mail order, and chose a needle. I finished the stitching after we arrived to visit my daughter, now visibly pregnant and beginning to multiply plans for her life as a parent.  She did rather seem to love it, wonky stitching and all, to judge by all the stroking and patting and cheek-placing–and we’ll have to see how it stands up to the rigours of an actual baby.  Or perhaps it will end up as a new mother’s comforter!

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Drawing down the stash, or, more Boomerang Bags

The stash of fabrics that will never become clothing has dwindled very much in the Boomerang Bags period, my friends–this time, some metres of an open weave black fabric became many handles and a few bags. The little ?indigo? patch featured here appeared on the Guild trading table the other night with a little label about how it had been resist dyed with pegs.  Cute as a button!

This fabric was a gift from a person I used to work with many, many years ago.  It had years of use covering a small table and hanging on the wall, but had been tucked away for some years. Now it will be out in the world again in all its glory.

I had evidently patched together leftovers of my last Boomerang Bags episode, (and not only for linings–lots of these bags have jeans pockets from jeans that are no more, patched together with other scraps into linings).  So there are some bags with a black front and a patchwork back, or vice versa.

And then–the motherlode of wide wale corduroy.  This had a $2 tag on it from the Salvos.  I think I had a long period of wistfully looking back to a specific pair of corduroy pants I had near the end of High School and beyond–I remember them as chocolate brown and with a paperbag waist.  I felt like a sensation in them for some years. Eventually someone told me how bold she thought I was I was to wear them–or perhaps the green pair that replaced them in the early 1980s, with, ahem, secondhand suede winklepickers–on a first date with a mutual friend who was stylish and, well, judgmental. At first I was surprised and delighted, if puzzled, to be judged bold. Then I realised I was really being told that I had worn a very unflattering outfit to a first date, and with a style queen.  Sigh.  As it happens the outfit did not kill the date and we went on to have a relationship in which I received quite some instruction on how to dress!

Anyway–I am entirely unsure how I come to have so much wide wale corduroy in my possession, unless it was a wistful longing for my younger self feeling like a million dollars and able even to consider a corduroy paperbag waist as a style statement. But now it is all gone–all the maroon and two different shades of black of it. I do wish I hadn’t given away those suede winklepickers though!

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Misuyabari: the hidden needle shop of Kyoto

In my attempts to research where I should go in Kyoto, I found an intriguing blog post about visiting a needle shop.  A needle shop?  I was fascinated, sitting at my computer at home and reading about this place.

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There was more than one blog post about this place.  And how hard it was to find.  I attempted the search after a few days in Kyoto in which I had begun to understand the several pedestrian malls in the downtown area and had become, frankly, quite fascinated by the Nishiki Food Markets, which is set on a pedestrian mall.  I walked there every day for about five days in a row at one stage, progressively decoding what some of the things for sale were, trying more of them and always returning to a particular mochi stall. But I digress. In my first few days I discovered that Google Maps is quite helpful in Japan, where the conventions for explaining how to find a place or building are different to those I am familiar with. Google maps made light work of finding the secret needle shop of Kyoto. But it was still amazing to walk down a bustling pedestrian mall, find a walkway down the side of a very pink shop (like a dollar shop really), walk down it, through a doorway, and out into a courtyard.

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Surely there are prosaic, weedy courtyards somewhere in Kyoto.  This wasn’t one of them.

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Nestled into it was a small wooden building dwarfed by its bigger modern surroundings.

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Stepping stones led up to the door of the Misuyabari needle shop.

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It was tiny! Most of the room was taken up by this display of needles, snips, scissors, and all kinds of notions with miniature objects modelled onto them– tiny sculptures, literally on pinheads. (This is the reason for the magnifying glass you see on the counter).

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There was also a selection of sewing boxes and mending kits, all exquisitely crafted.

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In the end I bought one of these small mending kits… I feel sure it will be the perfect gift at some future moment. And a pack of needles, of course. They came with a brochure about the needle shop and the history of needles in Japan.  I spent a lot of time poring over it later with Google translate, which renders Japanese into English in a most poetic way but does allow some insight!

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I feel it isn’t every day that a tourist can have an experience that is part magical mystery tour, part practical implement acquisition, and part whimsical cuteness.  Highly recommended, and especially as you really must visit the food markets nearby!

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Waste and avoiding waste at home 1

I tend to think that people who read this blog are already doing whatever they can think of on this issue.  But I find that there are stages, not always in sequence, in the matter of waste.  I learn new things about what I am using and doing. I find out about strategies that had not occurred to me (like those learned in Japan).  I go back to things I used to do. I establish a different level of comfort or dislodge a piece of entitlement. And sometimes a new conversation opens up at home, at work, or more widely–in the case of Australia, The War on Waste has opened new conversations.

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So my best jeans went through in the knee and I decided to patch a bit more thoughtfully, as they are my best jeans, and I have so many fit for the garden already! Here is the patch on the inside.  I had kept my grandma’s pinking shears for well over a decade even though I couldn’t free them up.  I had one more attempt and shazam!  I have mended jeans and functional pinking shears (the new sewing machine oil did it)! So the patch has pinked edges.

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Here is my stitching grid (yes, an ordinary drawing pencil in pale pink).  Since visiting Japan, I’ve read more about sashiko (sometimes called Japanese folk embroidery–but to summarise, running stitch made into a higher art form) and realised the simpler thing would have been to just trace a grid of lines.  This worked though! Much more attractive than my previous utilitarian approach, in fact I had a confusing conversation with a gentleman who thought I’d done this just for decoration recently. I had to break the news it was actually mending, not distressed denim–but we shared some puzzlement bout distressed denim as we clearly both wear our jeans out.

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This morning, I went for a pre-work walk and took some years’ worth of our dead batteries (including rechargeables) to a recycling station at the Clarence Park Community Centre. They also accept electrical goods and mobile phones for recycling.  Community Centres are just SO GOOD. Our local Food Co-op at Clarence Park Community Centre has an excellent range of foods including eggs, honey, flours, seeds, grains, nuts, driend fruits, pulses. It is run by lovely volunteers, and has been running with a view to reducing waste and keeping food affordable for many, many years.  National list of bulk food co-ops here.

On the way back, a friend stopped on their bike and asked what I was doing in that spot–and they said Goodwood library also take batteries for recycling.  We went on our separate ways and I collected dye leaves on the way home, and they passed me again and stopped to say it had improved their day to see me and remember there are other people who also care for the earth. Aww! (That was the trigger for this post).  So there were hugs and there was love and then off they rode and off I walked.

Needless to say there has been more spring guerilla gardening, and I always pick up rubbish while I’m at it.

We already do lots of the simpler things like refusing straws (I started on that in the 1980s); taking our own bags to the shop, packing fruit and vegetables without extra bags, reusing plastic bags, recycling, composting, worm farming and such.  But we’ve stepped up to seeing if we can bring less plastic into the house, difficult as that is given the way industry and commerce are now arranged.  I’ve been stopping off at Drake’s Foodland Panorama which has a huge bulk section and is on my bus route home from work. I take pre-loved ziplock bags from earlier purchases with me and refill them. It’s not especially cheap  but it’s accessible and involves no new packaging. When coming home from my parents’ house, I’ve been doing the same thing with a Coles that has a smaller bulk section (each Coles I’ve seen a bulk section in has a different selection). But in Adelaide, the bulk place to go apart from your local co-op or Farmer’s Market is the Central Market.  Needless to say the Markets sell fruit, vegetables, pre-made foods and all manner of other foods. No one turns a hair when I buy bread with my own bags and this is expected by many stallholders. (Random picture of a rosella peeping out of a nesting box–look carefully!).

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The Honey Shop at the Market sells all kinds of unpackaged soaps, tea herbs, ingredients for making your own cosmetics and massage oils, plus bulk oils, cleansers (dishes, bathrooms, clothing, you), shampoo, conditioner, moisturiser–and of course honey. They’ve been doing it ever since I first went to the markets in about 1983. There is also the upmarket and relatively expensive Goodies and Grains which has a huge selection. (Random picture of home made sourdough with whole barley rising).

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Then there is the much cheaper Tardis of bulk shopping The House of Health (every time I go there I discover more things I thought were not available in Adelaide–like sourdough starter–as well as more things I don’t understand, like freeze dried vegetable powder).  You have to be prepared to dance in a very small space here but I can get virtually everything we use for breadmaking, nuts, seeds, dried fruits, FODMAP friendly granola making and more.

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Then there’s hankies.  I’m one of those who never went over to using paper tissues.  But now I make my own and share the love.  These were a small amount of double gauze I just could not resist, bought new and sized for smaller friends who have smaller pockets (and smaller noses!) And then there is this stack: an entire fitted cotton bedsheet worn through–soft and lovely for hankies–and gifted to me by a friend. Then I made some more from a vintage paisley green lawn from Joyce’s stash but I gifted them away before taking a photo.  And some others from fine lovely cotton from Beautiful Silks’ remnants section. What have you decided to do to reduce waste at your place lately?

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