My beloved ran in the Mothers’ Day Classic fun run this year. It’s a fundraising run for breast cancer research, which is great. However, as with many such events we have participated in, it comes with a lot of marketing merchandise. We are not fans of acquiring stuff we don’t want or need. So at an in person event, we have become quite good at bringing anything we need with us, so that if it’s on offer in a wasteful way (like water that comes in zillions of plastic cups) we bring our own. And we are better and better at saying “No Thanks!” to offers of merch. Under pandemic conditions though, all this came in the mail with no way to turn it down! What to do? I first trued offering it on our local Buy Nothing group. No interest at all. Then, I gave the backpack to a friend who swims a lot. Perfect for the pool. The ribbon/sash went to a kindergarten teacher. Anything capable of being recycled, to the right bin. Then I turned the scarf into four hankies. The best I could do. At least it’s cotton!
Three cheers for the roll hemming foot, and the return of the humble hanky.
The grandbub is not a bub anymore. Her outdoor lifestyle and high level of energy continue, and mix and clash styling is in the genes!! The very fine and extremely generous Marion from Beautiful Silks sent another Moko Trews for me to assemble, so these have been added to the wardrobe!
Then there was the matter of the hat. I could not resist these zebra finches and a very nicely matching wattle print when I was accompanying a friend to the fabric shop (ahem).
There is no doubt that there is a lot of faffing in making a hat! This one has a heavy duty drill layer of leftovers from overall construction inside. The pattern is from Justine Online.
I may even have done a better job of following the instructions this time! It never fails to amaze me, to attempt a pattern and come across an entire section of the pattern I skipped over or missed completely…
I am just so happy with the outcome!
The “koala hat” in the first picture has gone out into the universe seeking independent adventures (AKA “lost”), so just as well I made a new one!
Well, dear reader, another long silence has passed. Occasionally someone says they have been worried about me because of the silence on this blog. Please don’t worry, I am not ill. I just don’t seem to be feeling to urge to write for the blog. World events (and those closer to home) sometimes have me feeling that I should write about something more important, and at a loss as to what to say without extended ranting… And my lifelong efforts to warp the space/time continuum seem to be continuing, meaning that I am destined always to be a busy person. Anyway, here I am today, In Brisbane under lockdown, sharing an apartment with my beloved and her elderly parents, and suddenly everyone is sleeping, and here am I looking at something I drafted in about October. Maybe this blog is destined to end sometime this year, but let’s see how things unfold for now… with this months-old post. For those outside Australia, we are now in our autumn and this post was written before our summer began in all its heat.
My daughter has turned down almost all offers to make things for the beloved grandbub, until very recently, when she said she wasn’t able to find cool, sun protective clothing (long sleeves, pants with long legs), and the grandbub is on the tall and slim side for much store bought (and hand me down) clothing. So, I started with a pattern I already had, and a pillowcase that came my way via a Buy Nothing group interaction.
These were the same kind of thing: a pattern I had, and some fabric I’d been given. I sent them over, and the shirt pretty clearly was not ideal, while the pants were “perfect” (with maybe a bit less elastic). This was stash elastic too–an elderly friend who died left me some of her stash and each time I use her seam binding or elastic, I send Joyce a thank you, wherever she may be.
As the pants worked out well, I knocked out some more. The top two pairs are made from the edge of a high quality doona cover I was given by someone on Buy Nothing–we were talking about something else when she offered me fabric scraps for Boomerang Bags. I think she would approve of some of it going to this! But the two on top. Well. I do not need more fabric, and I was interested to see that I felt ungenerous making all the grandbub’s clothes from what I already have. None of it is especially cute. None calls out “small child”. So I, um, bought some more. Not rational. But there it is, I invested in some more fabric in small quantities because I want my daughter to know I think she is special and her child is special. Even though, if she does not know that already–it seems unlikely this purchase will solve the problem!
I got another “commission”. This time, for a pair of bib and brace overalls for a friend who works as a gardener. After some consideration they chose Simplicity 8165, which is a vintage pattern with updated photos on the packet. I felt the “vintage” part really showed in a few places… like the patch pockets at the front! But these things are soon remedied. They brought round their favourite workwear and I did my best to create pockets that match their favourite shorts. They chose a green cotton fabric, and off I went!
[Yes, that’s just a random garden image from our backyard.] I’ve never made overalls before. I just tried to assume I could, since my friend did! The pattern was clear in almost every respect–and it’s a common thing for me to hit a snag in a sewing pattern. I think it is pretty often a place where I am unaware that I have such a strong picture of what is or should be happening–that I can’t actually really see what the instructions say. Mmm. That really only happened once, in a part of the garment that regular pants don’t have. Recently I have begun to think that I should just embrace these places, and provided it will be retrievable–act on my mental model (tacking the seam if necessary to reduce the pain involved) and then, when I see it doesn’t work–ripping it out and going again. Recently I tried this when I was making a friend two “U pillow” covers and it was quite satisfying to puzzle over the detail less, and resolve it more quickly, by doing what I really wanted to believe would work. I could see it did not work very quickly, and rip it out without regret. Perhaps I have identified a new part of my sewing fantasy life?
Apologies for the poor colour. This fabric and my camera did not get on, and I do not understand why. After reconstructing every pocket in the garment and adding a few, I moved on.
Eventually I had both the front and back constructed.
Then they were ready to fit! This image does better on the actual colour. To my dismay the vintage quality of the pattern showed when I tried to get hardware. Bib and brace overalls are just not an item made at home much anymore–with corresponding limited choices in hardware and none in the size required. I was none too sure of my capacity to revise fit but we did seem to get by!
And there the story ends. Apparently I finished these overalls and handed them over without taking another picture. My friend had not been able to buy any that fit. Now they have overalls that fit, that they wear a lot… so much so that they asked for a second pair. We are swapping gardening for sewing. I love it!
In the time since I studied an online version of The Alchemist’s Apron with India Flint, in which I was introduced to the use of a rusty-object-solution iron mordant in a way that I understood freshly… there has been some time where I still felt no interest in using it. I have created some very black items with it, and some not so great prints. And then, there have been times when I thought that perhaps, I could put some effort into coming to grips with it and build my judgement. This apron was a turning point for me, where I began to see I might be able to do exciting things with it. And, I love any approach to textile dyeing where the main components are found, free and non toxic–which is why I enjoy India Flint’s approaches so much. Over time I have done quite a few experiments, including some where I created my mordant on holiday from found local objects and any leftover parts of lemons we happened to have, and combined it with the leaves available where we were staying and some calico from the local op shop. Ah, the pre-pandemic age. Maybe not my best work… but the time scale was ambitious!
What often happens as I accumulate various bits and pieces of bundle dyed fabric is that over time, a thought about what they could become forms. At first, I thought a shirt would be perfect. I asked a sewing friend and I don’t think she liked the idea as much as I did–after all it would be a grey shirt. I reconsidered. More months passed, and one day I was at The Fabric Store trying to get fabric in a specific colour for a beloved niece, and there it was, hanging on the wall in the perfect colour of a beautiful linen: The Lucie Robe. The kind of sample garment that must sell a lot of patterns and fabric, I reckon. I thought about the 20 year old terry toweling dressing gown hanging at home (a gift from my beloved now well past its best), and how many times in the last year I’ve thought I should try to make a new one. I considered the glorious (and of course, expensive) linen and then thought… I might use my iron mordanted cottons instead.
I did have to do the epic jigsaw-cum-collage that is assembling a pdf pattern. But then it was done and I was off, cutting out where the shapes of the dyed fabric worked for a pattern piece; patchworking together enough fabric for larger pieces as needed. Bits of old sheet and cast off calico, fast becoming a garment.
Somehow even the not so glorious bits work, I think–and what if they don’t? This won’t be out on the streets.
I like the E Nicholii leaves from the tree I planted myself! I also like the generous, elegant pockets.
But for me the bit that pulls it all together is the rose-leaf collar. I’m a fan. When I saw it, I had to check whether this was a silly whim. I did all that thinking about whether I really need another pattern, and even more than that–whether I need more fabric. I don’t need more fabric! But I am very happy about having chosen this to make with the fabric I already had.
In 2020 I began to receive what I have been laughingly calling “commissions”. It began with some socks and some mending, but it seems to be increasing in a rather interesting and pleasing way!
It is a rare kind of person who asks if you will reproduce their favourite cotton shirt, but in denim from old jeans. Yet, this happened! I admit, I was a bit intimidated at the thought of constructing plackets from denim, for a start. But I called to ask the questions I needed to reassure myself about attempting the task, and then I began. I ripped a LOT of jeans into component parts. I ran out of those I had been given and called out on the local Buy Nothing group, and got a pile of someone’s husband’s cast off jeans.
Step 1: draft a pattern. This is not my first attempt to draft a pattern from a finished garment, but it is always instructive to make things for other people. It tells me about the limits of my confidence, for a start. And, it is fair to say I don’t make perfect things! After a lot of checking and re checking (I love how I’ve written my reasoning on the pattern as I go here), I had a pattern. Step 2: cut out the component parts from jeans, and then patchwork jeans together to create pieces big enough for the bigger components. This is not a small shirt, it’s a really big one.
Eventually it started to come together. One of the big design decisions was settling on how to finish seams inside, to prevent fraying and ensure strength–but also, given the huge number of seams–to ensure they would not be too bulky. Solution: zigzag the layers of the seam allowance together, then topstitch flat. Honestly, another design decision was taking the person whose shirt this was to become seriously. Taking seriously what they wanted and what they cared about. Surely this is at the heart of a bespoke garment…?
Then began the construction process. I have never made a shirt with this kind of front placket, but I figured it was essentially just like the one on a cuff, only larger. Reverse engineering the plackets gave me a lot of pause (by which I mean, anxiety!) But succeeding in generating the pattern and then creating them made me feel highly competent. Just as well I’m not too convinced my emotions should be in the drivers’ seat of my life, or I’d stay in bed every day and sew only simple stuff forever, apparently.
I warmed up on the sleeve plackets.
Then the front placket and the pocket and such…
On with the sleeves… then on with the cuffs. And pretty soon, it was all done. The time consuming jeans-acquiring and -ripping part was a significant part of the entire time I spent making this garment.
I can’t say that I managed a good image of the whole thing. I’ve struggled with images at times on this blog: the things that take most time and effort to create in sewing and knitting are the hardest to photograph well. But here are attempts. I have to say that I admire the grunt of my machine (and the effectiveness of a jeans needle) in getting through pleats set into a cuff in denim and other similar feats.
Happiest moment of all was the review from the recipient, however! What a grin.
And I am all the more confident… because he wanted a second one. Here it is from the back…
The “DIY baby shoes that are too cute to pass up” pattern from Spoonflower is just as good as its name. My daughter is so keen, this is my second attempt to grade it up a little to fit growing little feet. Also, she loved this fabric so much, this is #2!
This attempt was a better fit (despite them looking so little alike, *cough*), so here is another pair, made from pre-loved jeans fabric.
I did a little embroidery, and raided the stash of leather scraps and samples for two more different-coloured soles!
Progress shot of the hardest part, getting them right-side-out.
Out in the thyme patch.
In the sand pit! (this pair came to an early and appalling end, but they did their job, protecting precious little feet)…. the denim pair are clear favourites at the moment. I have been highly entertained to hear my daughter refer to them as “the Van Goghs”!
This year I went wild and dug a lot of the madder patch.
There was the soaking, rinsing, weighing (TWO KILOGRAMS, just quietly) and picking over. There was potting up some plants in case others want some.
There was mordanting (with alum).
There was the grinding up.
Then the heating begins. I am proud to say that for once I did not boil my dye vat. Really, the list of my dyeing crimes is too extensive to list! So I rate this a bit of a triumph.
I must say, that despite the amount of root, and the amount of dyeing (and the difficulty of getting a picture that captures it properly)… there was not actually a lot of red. Grey yarn became terra cotta (not that you can tell in the image), there is a lot of lovely orange, there is fabric that is various orange shades. Red silk embroidery thread and some red fleece. It’s not terrible, but it isn’t quite what I hoped for, either. It may be that it is time for some more research! If more experienced folks have insight to offer, do feel free! This year I really tried for long, slow heating, and came closer to achieving it than previously. But still…
You may have detected that I am not a fan of fossil fuels. Because burning them is driving the intensity of climate crisis and I am in favour of the continuation of life on earth. Anyway–we needed a banner to help us communicate our opposition to fracking in the Pilliga Forest and farmland around Narrabri, in NSW, where First Nations people and other locals have been opposing a gasfield for 10 years already. If you want to know more–check this out.
A LOT of us have written to SANTOS about this issue, me included. The letter that came back was pretty unedifying.
Some people have been putting up stickers. And a bunch of us dropped by to make our point more dramatically. With our banners!
Oh my. Some people, and all the ones I know about are women–have made a LOT of masks. Not me. I stayed out of it for a long while, and masks are still not required in my state, while they are now required in some other states. But eventually–I decided I needed to make some, and I got requests. The first ones were made from offcuts from a friends mother’s stash, and a short of mine that started out as a sarong, spent well over 10 years as a short, and now has ended up as masks and bag linings.
Next, some of the beautiful fabrics I bought in very small quantities in the Nishiki markets in Kyoto. In a different world, a couple of years ago! The ancestral hat elastic (made so it could be boiled!) joined contemporary hat elastic (hand wash only–hmm).
Remainders from a short I made, lined with pre-loved sheeting.
More fabric from Kyoto.
Some more of my shirt… These masks are 3 layers, the centre one made from fine silk.
Fabric left over from my mother-out-law’s frock, and some pretty ladybirds I could not resist… then mostly cut out in the right size fro lining rather than outer layer–uh, oh, user error!
Black linen left over after pants I made years ago (and below, their linings)…
And–some ladybirds. Thanks for the pattern to Craft Passion. She clearly posted mask patterns well before coronavirus came into existence, and has done so much to make them accessible. And if you are not too sure about the science on masks, feel free to go and listen to Coronacast and get the information from experts who know how to communicate. My masks have mostly gone to relatives and friends who live in places where they are required–and some more locally.