I am social media stupid. I kinda don’t get it, but sorta feel like I’m catching on? Perhaps I’ve watched too many 19th c. period movies. My mind just seems to be off in other eras a lot!
But, great things can come out of social media. Leila from the Three Dresses Project came up with the term #sewcialist for people who sew & do the whole twitter/social media thing. Fun, right?
Then, Another Sewing Scientist came up with the brilliant idea to make a google map of where we all live- no not our exact address, just general cities & neighborhoods. You can also add your favorite local fabric stores to the map.
Finally, a Chicago sewing blogger meetup! Yes! When I first started blogging I felt so isolated. I realized one of the blogs I had been following was run by a Chicagoan & I commented on her blog about how excited I was to hear about another Chicago sewing blogger as I hadn’t heard of any others. She never replied.
Since then I’ve met Rhonda, this past weekend meet up with Sally (more on that to come) & randomly met another blogger while we were both on our way back from Vogue. OK, maybe not so random, but in all my fabric store trips (& you know there have been too many to count) I’ve never started chatting with another person who both sewed & blogged.
So, this is a shout out to all Chicago area sewing bloggers (or just people who like to sew but don’t have blogs), talk to me! We’re looking at late March at the Vogue flagship store in Evanston for the meet up date. Come on out of the woodworks & I’ll cc you in on our long e-mail list for the meetup.
One final note, this blog looks wonky! That’s because I’m switching servers. My fabulous, talented & professional friend Kim, who owns a web design company, is handling the switching. But, the templates I’ve been using were chock full of bugs & when she switched over to the server things went a bit cuckoo. Debugging that thing would take too much time away from building my new site. Yes, I’m getting a pretty new blog layout sometime in March or April!
None of these problems are Kim’s fault, just the fault of bad code in free templates. So, if you’re looking for a good web designer who has blog & WordPress experience, so talk to Kim.
One final note- an upcoming podcast will be on why & how we choose patterns. E-mail me at disparatedisciplinesATgmail with tip son how you choose patterns for your body type.
Leila was in town for a short visit when we recorded the podcast. And good blogger that she is, she already posted about our little get together. Now, we didn’t just gab about what we call ourselves as people who sew. We also hit up the Vogue Fabrics flagship store with her costuming friend Kate.
As you can see, there were a lot of pretty things that wanted to come home with us.
Sigh, I don’t know how I was so restrained. Actually, I don’t know how we were all so restrained. Our wallets largely remained intact. Kate didn’t even get anything- can you believe it?! I think I need some of that amazing fabric self-restraint.
Leila & I hope to do more podcasts together, but that’s all dependent on when she can next make it back to Chicago. In the meantime, what would you like to hear me talk about on the next episode of Stitches? How long do you like a podcast to be? Shorter like parts 1 & 2 of episode 1, Steam. Or longer like episode 2 with Leila?
Leila was so excited to be on the show she was aflame. And Mari was a burning ball of fiery enthusiasm to have Leila as a guest star. Much giggling occurred during this chat about what we call ourselves as people who like to sew.
It seems the most well known term among people sew & those who don’t is ‘sewer’. But when written out it looks like the ‘sewer’, as in those subterranean pipes that carry all manner of sludge & ickiness.
Because of that people- bloggers especially- started calling themselves ‘sewists’, but when seen as a cross between ‘sewer’ & ‘artist’ some people (Mari) think it’s pretentious.
‘Hobbyist’ can also rub people the wrong way if people use it demeaningly, as a way to say you’re not serious about your craft.
The worst term might be ‘Becky Home-ecky.’ How are we to be taken seriously about handmaking our clothes when Tim Gunn is freely using this term on Project Runway?
‘Dressmaker’ & ‘Seamstress’ seem less controversial but also imply that someone is making clothing for other people for a living. The word ‘dressmaker’ suggests someone who makes fancier & less practical things like fine dresses. ‘Seamstress’ implies someone who does more utility sewing- as in everyday clothing & mending.
‘Tailors’ are the male counterparts to ‘dressmakers’ & ‘seamstresses.’ Can a woman be a tailor? It seems nowadays there’s more cross-over when it comes to tailoring & gender roles.
Can calling yourself a ‘couture sewist’ be snooty or does it just describe the kind of sewing you do?
In the fashion industry the people who sew clothing are called ‘stitchers,’ a more gender neutral word. But, the industry delineates what each person does more specifically for the purposes of clarity. At home we do everything: we’re pattern makers, drapers, cutters, etc. Is calling yourself a ‘stitcher’ implying you only sew?
Historically we haven’t heard of anyone using special terms to label themselves as someone who sewed unless they were sewing for a living. Sewing was something you had to do because you were alive- it helped shelter your body from the weather.
Sewing was an everyday thing & an expectation. Brides were given a basket with basic sewing supplies to mend and make the clothes they had last longer.
As bloggers we’re taking on more roles as we branch out into business. What do we call ourselves when we’ve got a professional business, but didn’t go to fashion school or have an apprenticeship? What about when we only sew for ourselves & don’t do custom projects for clients, but own things like pattern companies or teach sewing classes?
To celebrate all these emerging indie pattern designers Leila & I are having a giveaway of Steph’s patterns from Cake Patterns. Now, Leila works for Steph & Steph graciously offered to donate these patterns to the giveaway for free. But we’re the ones who will be sending you the patterns. Leila & I aren’t doing this as agents of Cake Patterns. We’re doing it because we just recorded a podcast & because we love indie pattern companies.
Dear reader, I believe there is something we can agree upon. Neither of us wants my nipples to be flashed across the internet.
However, I have no compunction about exposing the lovely Esmeralda to the world. I’m not certain you’ve been formally introduced. This is Esmerelda, the dress form I received for Christmas. Esmerelda, this is everyone. Say hello to the lovely blog readers.
Now that introductions have been made, I have a Chinese New Year present for you.
A video tutorial! How to make a lace bandeau. Just in time for that ‘V’ word, that greeting card holiday I don’t like to celebrate even though I now have a significant other.
But you may be asking what lace bandeaus have to do with Chinese New Year. Recently, I was looking up ancient Chinese undergarments (ah sewing, how you make me interested in the most random things). And during the Tang Dynasty there were types of underwear called hezi & moxiong, which have apparently been updated to suit modern tastes. I had trouble finding the site again, but during my research I found a picture of a lace bandeau that was called a moxiong. So this could also be called a modern moxiong tutorial.
If you can’t watch the video because of low bandwidth or, cough cough, you’re at work here’s the skinny.
Wide 4-way stretch lace elastic the length of your bust measurement- as a C cup bra I like mine to be 6″ wide
Clear elastic 1-3/4 times the length of your lace
Rotary cutter & mat or scissors
Instructions– see my video for more detailed instructions
Pin the lace around yourself- different laces stretch at different rates so I’m not going to tell you to cut a certain length minus your bust measurement. Walk around & adjust the tightness until it’s comfortable. Mark where you want your seam to fall.
If using scalloped lace mark your seam to fall between two scallops & add the width of your seam allowance to the side. Cut there.
Cut clear elastic the length of your lace.
Starting with the clear elastic 1/2 – 1″ off the end of your lace, sew it along the bottom edge of the lace. Keep the clear elastic taut- not too tight & not loose.
Cut clear elastic the length from your underarm to underarm going along your back. Sew to the top of the lace in the same manner as the other clear elastic.
Sew up your side seams.
Optional: serge or overcast the seam. You may want to check the fit of the bandeau before serging.
Thread a tapestry needle with the tail end of the serger chain of thread & work that through the loops your serger formed on the edge of the seam. Repeat on other side.
Snip all threads & you’re done!
Now I would love to hear your comments. Did you enjoy this tutorial? Will you make a lace bandeau or is it just not your style?
This was a good lesson in how fabric affects fit. My first version was done in 4-way stretch jersey (stretches horizontally & vertically). All my adjustments were based on using 4-way stretch fabric, This version is in 2-way stretch (stretches horizontally). Because the red fabric does not stretch vertically, the back does not lie as smoothly.
Speaking of the fabric, it is polyester with a touch of linen. While I usually try to buy fabrics mostly made of natural fibers, I was just too curious about using a jersey containing linen. It is surprisingly nice- not quite so wiggly & difficult to cut out as some thin jerseys can be. Most importantly it feels good on- i.e. not like I'm wearing a bunch of plastic.
For a long time my boyfriend would deride the tiny pockets in my RTW jeans & I’d always snarkily reply. I did not like it implied that my pants were somehow not as good than his. Silly, no?
Unsurprisingly, I was jealous of his longer pockets & frustrated that the pockets in my jeans were almost useless. I was trying to convince myself that my pockets were perfectly fine. See! My phone fit in them, even if it was bursting out. And I could fit my ENTIRE hands in them, even if I had to curl them up into fists to do it.
I could concoct silly stories about why women’s pockets are so much shorter than men’s- like they make them shorter to force us to buy purses & become dependent on this capitalist system we love! Or it could just be due to it being cheaper so they don’t have to spend as much buying extra fabric for longer pocket bags & we’re already so used to it that we don’t complain, whereas indignant men would lead an uprising against the entire fashion industry if their pockets were suddenly & systematically shortened because you know men are inherently violent & women always & only want peace so they silently put up with such indignities as short pockets.
But that would all be wildly gross speculation based on beliefs I do not espouse. Although, it would be fun to see a little video or comic of men around the country running after pattern makers & clothing manufacturers as they tore oak tag & rusted scissors while swinging at dress forms like they were pinatas. Oooo, someone should make a dress form pinata for their birthday!
Ahhhh sewing. Thank gosh I have you as a hobby. My first few pairs of pants didn’t call for pockets. But my first two pairs of jeans, those I bequeathed with wondrously long pocket bags.
But after having sewn jeans, I’m wondering if there’s not a purpose to the shorty short pockets in women’s pants. My jeans with the longer pockets have one failing- the french seam at the bottom of the pocket bag shows through my pants. This does not a happy Mari make. It falls right across one of my largest stretches of thigh.
But none of my RTW pocket bag seams show through. None of my boyfriend’s pocket bag seams show through.
Is it possible that pocket bags are shorter because a longer bag would show through our tighter cut jeans? The bag is so short it often ends right where our hips bend to meet our legs- a spot that tends to a have a little more ease than the thighs do. Does that extra ease hide the pocket bag seam?
Men’s jeans do tend to be looser overall. Is that why they have luxuriously long pockets? When you’ve had to deal with teensy pockets for years & suddenly have usefully long ones, it feels luxurious, glorious even.
One thing I don’t know is where men’s skinny jeans fit in. One of the many reasons I’m with my boyfriend is that he doesn’t wear skinny jeans, so I can’t just go raid his closet for answers.
Do men’s skinny jeans also have ridiculously short pockets? I no longer work in the part of downtown Chicago that’s home to most of our art schools (universities to you ladies across the sea), which means I’m no longer surrounded on a daily basis by skinny-jean-wearing-chain-smoking hipsters. And the most I can remember from that time is being appalled- like looking at a train wreck- of pants so tight that you can see every part of a boy’s anatomy. I wasn’t really paying attention to where their pockets might fall, only thinking with horror about how even I didn’t own pants THAT tight.
Do any of you have access to or have noticed the pockets on men’s skinny jeans? Do you agree with my theory on why women’s pocket bags might be shorter due to less ease in the leg of pants patterns? Will someone make me a dress form pinata & fill it with buttons, lace & silk thread?
Now for the latest installment of Stitches, episode 1.2, the final episode in our little series on steam. If you missed the first episode, catch it here.
I promise I’ll be on itunes soon. For now, give your browser a moment to load the podcast widget & if it’s still having trouble reload the page. You can also check out the Stitches podcast on podomatic.
Here are the show notes:
A common way to steam shrink wool is by hand with an iron, a steam brush, or a steamer. But, this takes a long time & can produce uneven results.
I searched the Internet for a quicker way to steam shrink wool & found a great tip from Pam of Off The Cuff, a tailoring blog with a store attached that sells high quality interfacing. She said to toss the fabric in the dryer with a slightly damp towel or two & let it spin! The steam that’s released from the towels as the dryer heats up will be just enough to shrink the wool. It might seem sacrilegious to put wool in the dryer, but since you’re putting the fabric in dry & not using soap it won’t shrink down to a tiny piece of felt.
Next was a review for the Smartek st-80n 3-in-1 steam brush. It’s small, has three different attachments & is available in Joann & Hancock Fabric stores in the US. Unfortunately, it spurted out white puffs of powder onto what I was trying to steam. They eventually went away, but came back when I tried to steam again.
Another way to steam garments is to put them in your shower. Hang up the wrinkly (or stinky) garment in the bathroom as you bathe & the wrinkles will smooth out. If the garment is especially wrinkly or stinky it may take a few showers to clear things up, but some only need as few as one or two sessions.
Clothing steam presses have two large irons that clap down on your fabric & emit a bunch of steam. This makes pressing quick work. Some are even electronically programmed & automatically turn off so you don’t burn your fabric.
The Reliable company builds vacuums right into their ironing boards & calls the product the ‘vacuum + blowing table‘. They claim that getting the steam out of the fabric is just as important as getting it in & that in ye olden days people would beat their fabric with sticks to get the steam out. Not only do these ironing boards suck the steam out, they also blow air through the garment, inflating parts of it so you can iron right on top of a pocket of air.
Pam also provided us with a little sewing trivia: “Did you know that in the “garment industry”, they apply interfacing with a dry-press rolling machine, that applies the interfacing to the fabric with much more consistent pressure and generally higher temperatures than can be achieved at home? That is why most interfacing on the market today for those who sew at home is instructed to be applied with steam….steam is hotter that than the temperature of the sole-plate of an average iron, and as it shoots out of the holes in the iron it actually increases the pressure needed to create and hold the bond between the fusible interfacing and the fabric!”
Rachel from the blog House of Pinheiro said: “Pressing is the most important process step to create a garment that looks well made, so my tip for pressing is you should avoid resting the weight of the iron on the fabric and let steam do the job, however sometimes that’s not enough to avoid impression marks, so what I do is get a strip of paper (better if doesn’t have anything printed on it) and position that between the seam and the garment. In most cases it will avoid leaving a mark on the right side.” This prevents exactly the problem I talked about in the first episode of Steam.
What would you like the next episode of the Stitches podcast to be on? Cutting things? Semi-synthetic fibers like rayon? Different kinds of pins? What other ideas do you have? Leave me a comment below. Hope you enjoyed this episode & see you next time!
I seem to be in the habit of making jeans not in denim. This lovely material is a mix of 50% Cotton, 26% rayon, 20% wool & 4% lycra. I like to think the wool helps keep me extra toasty, but don’t think it actually does. But no matter, the foggy December day on which these pictures were taken was unseasonably warm in the 60’s.
For these jeans I used the same pattern as my first pair. Black hides a multitude of sins. And there’s too much Lycra in this fabric. Issues may have been present in my first pair that I just didn’t see. Again, they look good when you first put them on, but after a day of moving about they develop saggy-bottom-itis. As well as saggy-crotch-itis. You can see that in these pictures. My next pair of jeans will not contain any spandex. Although, now I’m looking at all the photos, the sagging wasn’t as monstrously horrible as I had remembered.
And the saggy/bagginess has gotten better since I did what you’re not supposed to do & put wool in the dryer. Actually, putting both of my jeans in the dryer helped solve a lot of problems. It took both pairs from ‘EeEeEeeEeeee!’ to ‘oh, that’s not so bad’.
I was going to further improve the sagging pants by lining them in jersey, but after drying them they felt a touch too tight for that. You know when you know something, but it takes a few times of having it repeated before it dawns on you that you already know the solution? Yeah. Years ago I bought those ridiculous Victoria’s Secret butt-bra pants because I thought they were ridiculous & was interested in seeing how they were constructed. The theory is you stick some extra fabric in the behind of a pair of jeans & VS angels will magically lift your buttocks to a higher & more shapely position. What can I say? I had disposable income in high school. At least while those pants didn’t do anything for my butt, they didn’t get saggy.
So next time, when I’m not making skinny jeans, I’ll line my pants in a similar way. Perhaps I’ll use jersey. It needs to be thin, somewhat stable & should probably have a touch of 4-way stretch. Maybe a lightweight but not quite tissue thin cotton? But I think what will matter most is not using fabric with Lycra. That stuff is just not made well nowadays & I am convinced it is the culprit behind our nation’s saggy bottom problem. 😉
Can we talk about my crotch? I’m horrified by those odd folds- not the horizontal ones, but the ones under my crotch. Luckily a friend came to town who used to work in a costuming department. She said this folding mishap was caused by the direction in which the seams were folded. When making pants you have four different pieces of fabric that come together at the crotch. I serged the inseams first. Next, when I serged the crotch seam I started serging from the back of the pants, over the inseams- which had been at right angles to the crotch seam- then finished serging to the front of the pants. Serging over the inseams pushed them in the direction I was serging, towards the front. This forward folding of both inseams caused the wonky crotch. My friend said to solve this I could angle the inseams so one was pointed towards the front & one towards the back. Or, I could point them both towards the back.
There were a few things I did differently with these jeans. The original pair I patterned off had flared legs, the seams of which didn’t run perfectly perpendicular to the floor. The odd thing is the problem is mainly on one leg & only slightly on the other. I’m not entirely certain, but I’m attributing this to scoliosis making one of my hips higher. Maybe that’s also why that weird crotch fold is lopsided. My not so precise copying skills seemed to make this twisting more pronounced on both legs, so that the inner leg seams twisted around to the front of the pants.
When doing up these pants I didn’t change the legs because I wanted to see if it was my cutting or sewing that had slightly twisted my first pair of jeans. But the skewed seams were even worse on these, perhaps because the light color showed it off so well. Then, I tried exaggerating that twist to make it look like a design feature. Not so cute. As you can see, I ended up making them into skinny jeans. I really like this look with this fabric because when paired with a black blouse & Mary Janes it looks vaguely retro. And I dented the hems so the pants are slightly longer in the back than the front.
Because hammering in the button was so difficult last time, this time I used a dungaree button. It’s like a brass tack that you can easily push through the fabric without cutting out a hole, then you snap on the back. No tools needed. Alas! As easily as it pops into place, so does it pop off in the wash. Dungaree buttons also don’t have as long of a shaft as jean buttons. They barely have enough length to get through the thicker button holes that jeans have.
In my stash I had one jean zipper that was the correct length & it was red- which was the only color the short ones at the store came in. For my first pair Kenneth King instructed me to shorten a longer jean zipper. This was very painful to do & was just not going to happen so soon after having done it the first time (bad blogger that I am, I finished these jeans back in November). I reasoned that the zipper would be covered anyway so no one would see how vulgarly red it was. Wrong! Of course you can see it. Big sigh.
To match the pocket bags with the zipper I used red cotton left over from my Drunken Polka Dotted Princess Dress. These pockets are gloriously deep. Now, whenever I wear my RTW jeans I get very angry at how shallow the pockets are. But, you can’t see the glorious depth when I try to pull the pockets out because they’re sewn into the side seams of the legs. However, you can see the French seam I made at the bottom of the bags. My main fabric is so lightly colored & thin enough that the seam is glaringly visible as a horizontal line running across my thighs. Not ideal.
While these jeans aren’t perfect, they did help me learn more about the jean making process in general. And they took me about half the time to finish as the first pair. So I’m counting these as a win, especially since my saggy butt problems have improved with subsequent shrinkage from drying them.
I made this way back in October, when I began my bra making odyssey.
The recent acquisition of a dress form helped make it much easier to take photos & get all the detail shots I wanted.
As I was mentally composing a blog post concerning my new dress form, the name Esmerelda popped into my head. So, my lovely teal lady, I dub thee Esmerelda. She has quite a different bust from mine, so this Bralette does look a tad different on me.
The construction is very simple. I cut out two pattern pieces in bra foam for each cup & sewed them up the middle. Then, I wrapped some lace elastic around my rib cage & sewed the ends together. After pin fitting the cups to the band I sewed those. together. Finally, I cut my remaining piece of elastic in two & pin fit that to the band & cups. In order to get the sides of the cups to stay secure, I attached the straps along the sides of the cups & anchored them into the front of the band. Because there are no closures, this pulls on & off over my head.
The main difficulty was in sewing the foam cups together. Pretty much any sewing would cause the foam to s-t-r-e-t-c-h. I had wanted to finish the tops of the cups with a zig zag stitch, but that ruffled them out much too much. Ship, snip, snip. So, they're much lower than I had originally planned. I was also afraid my serger would stretch them out too much if I attempted a narrow rolled hem. Now I have cups that clearly look unfinished, but I'm ok with it because I think of this bralette as a muslin. Anyway, it's not like masses of people will be seeing this thing in person.
As for wearability, this gives absolutely no support. To be honest, while I love how bras look, when I get home I rip mine off. Most make my back hurt. I really was hoping to make something that would give just a touch of support without straining my back for traipsing around the house. Bit of a failure, but a good first start I think. Besides, it's pretty…
Last winter I dressed like a slob. Jeans, t-shirts, baggy baggy sweaters. It wasn't pretty people.
Not wanting to repeat the boring horror of fashion victims past I decided to make some winter skirts. This was the first one I completed & I have one more awaiting finishing touches.
Ah circle skirts! I remember why I stopped making you for so long. All that hemming! I used to belly dance (I really miss it) & would make my own costumes. Circle skirts are practically required if you're going to belly dance, so I've made my fair share. Long ago I learned that the easiest & fastest way for me to do this (I'd love to hear if you use a different method) is to stitch along the folding line- what will be the bottom of the hem- then to iron the hem in, sew, iron again. Or, if you're super lazy like I often am, skip the first round of ironing- results may vary. For whatever magical reason this bit of stitching allows the fabric to fold up on that large curve with minimal puckering & buckling. But again, I didn't iron before sewing the hem into place so I still got a fair amount of buckling. Hemming a circle skirt no matter what method you use is going to be a slow process, which is why I like to speed it up as much as possible. Pinning your circle skirt hem is Three Toed Sloth speed (.003 mph). Sewing a fold line & ironing your hem sans pins is Greenland Shark speed (1 mph). Big difference.
The fabric is a lovely wool from Fabric Mart, the softness of which reminds me of flannel, but without the cheap, synthetic feel. I decided to cut the skirt as one big circle so I wouldn't have to bother with matching up the pattern. However, for a waist high skirt this meant I had to cut into the body of the skirt just a little so I could actually fit the thing over my hips. My ridiculously late night zipper sewing job meant things didn't line up perfectly. Ah well, you readers will be the only ones to know. And I'll just have to learn to not grimace every time I see the slightly mismatched plaid.
Circle skirts, especially in the length & fabric I chose, are rather retro. In my mind I imagined having the skirt meet my waist with the waistband being above my waist. Then I remembered I'm short waisted. I figured it was better to have the top of the waistband meet my waist than to look more authentically vintage, but have a laughably short torso.
The only problem (aside from that mismatching zipper seam) I had with this skirt was the waistband. I stabilized it with a light, fusible interfacing which made the fabric bubble. Sad face. It seems to have gotten a little less bubbly with successive wearings though.
Finally, the lining. Ever since I was a little girl & watched Gone With The Wind I've wanted a red, silk, taffeta petticoat like Mammy. It was nicely scandalous for a respectable woman & she carried it well. I, on the other hand, may not be as demure. And this lining may not be silk, but it makes me happy. How can I not be when it makes the loveliest rustling sound as I walk?