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Ripping what I sew…

Slowly but surely, I have been working towards a wardrobe that will be a fair mix of my own creations and store bought items. I regularly wear the clothing I sew, but I realised that if I were to try wearing only self made clothes for a month ala Me-Made-March, I would pretty much have to go topless. As attractive a prospect as that is, this country won’t allow me to go hatless or gloveless let alone topless for better part of the year.

I only sew things that I’m inspired to, either by fabric, other garments or vintage designs, but I’m usually only attracted to skirts. I absolutely LOVE skirts and I love sewing them. But I am trying to branch out and the possibility of participating in Me-Made-May is egging me on to complete some long intended blouse designs.

I’m playing it pretty fast and loose with the word ‘design’ for this creation however. It’s so simple, it’s laughable. The idea has been kicking around in my head since forever and I’ve just left it aside, partly because it posed no challenge and partly because skirts kept seducing me away from it. I’ve seen them in stores and actually laughed out loud because I’m pretty sure a 6 yr old could sew this kind of blouse up with a toy sewing machine.

So when a lazy Tuesday off presented itself as did laundry and cleaning, I chose to take up this 2 hour project and spread it across the day. In between organising shoes, hand washing hand washables and lounging in my jammies I started work on this previously cut and readied fabric…

From Sew What

I had cut two almost square pieces from this fabric you might recognise from my Sewing Star audition video. I then abandoned it for a while, but it’s always nice to come back to an already cut project. Thank you past-self!
Having worked with this fabric previously and feeling I might need every inch I could save, I chose to zig zag stitch, rather than hem the raw edges. When done just right, the fabric rolls under and makes a smooth finish.

I started with the top edge – neck and shoulders. I edged both pieces and marked, on the fold, my shoulder measurements from centre and neck measurement from centre.

From Sew What

Several things went a bit wonky hereafter, even though this was the simplest of simple designs. I blame the TV, the dishwasher and my boyfriend who was not home at the time.

Firstly and most idiotically, I went and sewed both pieces together, a nice straight seam, without leaving an opening for the neck where my head could get through. Then, once I’d unpicked it, and tried it and failed to try it because the opening was too small, I unpicked some more. And then I FINALLY remembered that this is to be a pop-over top. No zips, no fasteners. So the neck opening has to be as big as my big head! Once that was sorted, I checked to make sure no fumes were leaking from anywhere that might have been the cause of this sudden bout of oafishness.

So yes, I sewed the top edge, leaving an opening wide enough for my head.

From Sew What

I then pressed the seam open and edge stitched as close as possible to the neck opening, to secure it and make it all neat.

Now, this top was supposed to be somewhat of a kaftaan blouse and so the seams are to be on the right side. So, taking into account my own girth, the length of the sleeve opening and the amount of fabric I had I marked a line about 9 inches long, 3.5 inches in from the edge and about 8 inches down from the shoulder.
I pinned my edges to avoid any slipping and hand basted the line first.

From Sew What

I did this on both sides and tried it on to make sure the seams were long enough and everything was in place. I also made a note of where I would like my sash to go through.

Once I was sure I pinned along the hand basted line itself and finalised it with my machine. I also marked and sewed an inch long buttonhole on each side with the trusty buttonhole setting on my machine to allow a sash to run through and through rather than go over and around.

From Sew What

I then just heat sealed the edges of a navy blue satin ribbon, called it a sash and was done!

From Sew What

Here is another view so you can see how the sash threads through.
I’m super pleased with it and once the starch washes out, I’m sure it will fall better. It’ll be perfect with a pair of olive/khaki shorts I plan on making. Summer harbour cruise here I come!


La…a note to follow sew…

Lets start at the very beginning…a very good place to start…when you read you begin with A-B-C…when you sew you begin with…well…fabric.

Clearly I’m in a Sound of Music phase. And clearly, rhyming isn’t my strong suit.
Nonetheless, we’ve gotten here.

Fabric is usually where I get my jolts of inspiration from. I see material, and more often than not, I instantly have an idea or vision of what I’d like to make out of it. If I buy a piece of fabric just because I like it, I wait for inspiration to strike. I try not to force it. I have a drawer full of fabrics my darling mumsie brought for me from India, but since I didn’t have that moment in the store of seeing it and being struck with an idea, I’m waiting.

The skirt that follows is one of those ideas that struck me almost instantly, although the fabric is not store bought. I acquired it for free from the staging department of an events company I worked for. I was always amazed at how much fabric was either thrown away after an event, or just lying in rolls fading and dusty, just aching to be turned into something greater than itself.
One of the senior staging guys noticed that I often salvaged barely used fabric from events- I could not STAND seeing it discarded. He pointed me to the rolls and rolls of unused fabric in different colours and offered me whatever I wanted, since they would EVENTUALLY throw them out – colours aren’t often used for staging. Its usually black or white for the kind of gigs we did.

So I picked this gorgeous cobalt blue fabric that just happens to be suiting quality gaberdine.

From Sew What

From the way it flowed I knew I wanted to make a much fantasied asymmetrical skirt, longer in the back, shorter in the front and pleated on the back for extra effect.
I started by deciding how long I wanted it to be at its longest, and how short I wanted it to be, at its shortest.
I cut the fabric to the longest length and then drew a straight line to the shortest point on the selvage. I then marked some points, interpolating between the shortest and longest marks and drew a curve and cut this on the fold.

From Sew What

I curved the edges on each side and this is what the whole piece looked like:

From Sew What

I then zig zag edged all of it, and then hemmed it all. I should mention here that I had previously marked and measured the back pleats, added sewing allowances and such, and only then cut the fabric. This didn’t stop it from still coming out some what wonky, but we’ll pretend I intended it to be this way.
I knew I wanted it to be a front closure and left enough allowances accordingly, though I made a lot of it up as I went along.
Since the whole piece was curved I took great care to mark out and pin the hem before sewing.

From Sew What

Once it was hemmed I folded and pinned my pleats and hand tacked them down about 3 inches from the top for some definition. I later finalised this with top stitching.

From Sew What

I had left one inch allowances on each side, or rather, the front seam of the skirt. I pinned and hand basted the seam accordingly and sewed two darts on either side of the front seam, to help shape the front. These were also finalised by stitching from the widest part of the dart to the point and making sure to tie off the loose thread. Darts will and do unravel. I then pressed them outwards.

From Sew What

I then ironed on some fusible interfacing to the front seam edges and the waist band piece. This is where it starts to go downhill.

From Sew What

I then moved on to attaching the waist band.
Once again this proved to be my Achilles heel. At the time though, I naively believed my unnatural proportions would fit a straight waist band and cut out a 6 inch strip and, as shown above, interfaced it. This too would prove to be a blunder, as interfaced fabric is REALLY difficult to mess around with after the fact. Also, I should have interfaced only HALF the width. I interfaced it all and hence once it was folded over, it was ridiculous. TWO layers of interfaced fabric might as well be a quilt.

I basted and sewed on the waist band as per usual and since I was going for a 50’s/80’s revival look, I made an arrow shaped tab at the end of the band and used the buttonhole function on the machine to make a horizontal button hole.

From Sew What

I then finalised button placement and while I managed to do the top button perfectly, the second button hole landed up being horizontal instead of vertical, something I cannot fix and sorely regret.
I tried getting over that and the rest of the front seam was sewed shut, with buttons being placed on top – basically a false button placate.
What I couldn’t get over however, was the fact that once again despite measuring and hand basting and meticulously pinning everything, the waist band stuck straight up. AGAIN!
I just didn’t understand it and still don’t to a certain degree. I reached out to my sewing community and basically, my suspicions are confirmed.
I am a mutant.

Also, and probably more reasonably, I have a larger than normal difference between my waist and hips and for any waist band to fit properly, I will most likely have to cut it curved – smaller at the top and wider at the bottom. THUNDERING TYPHOONS!!

The skirt though…its gorgeous and perfect and I just didn’t have the heart to rip off the waist band and start over.

After much hemming and hawing (HAW!), ripping off and re-positioning buttons, whining, fuming, re-positioning buttons some more, talking to mum, talking to burdastyle members, vacillating back and forth in my head and writing half this blog post, I decided not to rip off the band.

I made my usual darts on the side and luckily, since there are already darts in the skirt, it doesn’t look half bad.

From Sew What

Mistakes? I’ve made a few…I’ve had my share of sand kicked in my face…but I’ve come through.

The sides that come around my hips pull a little too much…the pleats are just not deep enough and I cannot even begin to understand why I did that. I measured and pinned and did everything right but all I can put it down to is haste.
I will make this one again. It’s too nice a design to leave without fulfilling it’s potential in entirety.

For now, I will wear it still, with a crisp cotton shirt and exposed seam stockings as soon as it’s more spring than winter, somewhere in the 1950’s.

Sew ready for sale!!

As I feverishly work away on 3 projects at the same time, I need to make a quick announcement…

My Etsy store is up and running!!! WHEEEE!!

Here are the items I have up for sale as of now. I’ll be adding custom garments very soon!!

From For Etsy
From For Etsy
From For Etsy
From For Etsy

Also…I took the handmade pledge!! WHEE!

I Took The Handmade Pledge!

More updates coming soon!

Do, re, mi, fa, sew?

At 25 I’m going through a quarter life crisis.

I have always had a vast amount of creative energy packed into my little self and over the past 2 years, the 9 to 5 has pushed my artistic, linguistic and metaphysical pursuits into a corner of my life so small, it might as well be a postage stamp.

I draw, I paint, I craft, I sculpt, I cook, I bake, I write, I sing, act and dance, and thanks to my mother’s tutelage and an excess of sample fabric in my household throughout my childhood, I sew.

Why among all my multiple interests and talents have I chosen to hand sew for creative relief and more so, blog about it?
The first part is answered simply – I do not own a sewing machine.
As for the second – I am an English Literature major and sooner or later, we all come back to write.

The principal part of the question though – the sewing. Why that?
This is slightly more complicated. And by complicated I mean daft. And by daft I mean easily explained in a series of not at all obsessive compulsive actions and events that were driven by the desire for a very specific sort of summer skirt in my very specific miniature size.

I was fortunate enough to have a joyous occasion to go back home for earlier this year, home being Bombay, India and equally fortunate to get a jump on summer shopping and find some wonderful dresses and skirts. Or rather Dress and Skirt. After having enjoyed them thoroughly I began searching for other skirts and such to fill my summer wardrobe and repeatedly browsed the usual suspects in malls and street stores accross the city. The city being Toronto.
I searched for weeks and nothing fit – neither my size, nor my budget nor my style.

During my pursuit for the perfect skirt, my daily reflections over tea and shortbread revealed another desperate search for…something. Some sort of release of energy. The gym wasn’t doing it and reading wasn’t doing it and putting together lovely outfits to show off on wasn’t doing it. I just needed creative relief – to make something from nothing- and I needed it as urgently as this skirt before the short summer was out.

Before Iconsciously comprehended what I was doing, I was in a fabric store, had bought three different fabrics and had dug up an old pattern I learned in the 6th grade from the bottomless pit that is my memory.

The hunt to buy became tangled up with the desire to make. The two ended up satisfying each other.

Measuring, cutting, pinning and putting needle to fabric calms me down. I withdraw into myself in the happiest of ways and it becomes as much relaxation as it does relief. It focuses the mind and slows down the heart rate and much to the joy of those around me, keeps me quiet like nothing else can.

And so, I sew.

Sew slow…

Coming soon – my adventures in hand sewing my way out of early senility.