A gathering of t-shirts

For about a year now I have been collecting knit prints.  I am very particular about prints— a lot of them do nothing for me but when one appeals to me I tend to like it a lot.  I had only about a yard of each of these four fabrics so I thought a short-sleeved top would be ideal.

I stole the idea for this design from a RTW top of mine, but made the pattern from a basic Burda t-shirt.  I started with this sketch:

Next, I traced the pattern front and back and extended the shoulders to make sleeves.  I experimented with a couple different versions of the gathers:

The left-most was my first attempt, where I sliced the pattern straight across and spread.  Something didn’t seem right about this one and at dinner that night it occured to me why this wouldn’t work.  Next I made the slice lines radiate out from the gathered side of the pattern to the un-gathered side (like in the sketch).  I used this pattern for the blue top at the far right in the first picture, but after I had cut out the fabric I thought maybe I had added too much fullness.  So for the last version I narrowed up the slices a little and changed their distribution so the top of the pattern is relatively unaltered.

What I didn’t count on is that the extra fabric sags because of the weight of the knit, so my gathers are more droopy than what I had envisioned in my sketch.  It occurred to me afterwards that the RTW version is cut with negative ease and this must be so that the gathers stay taut and straight.  I would love to work through a real pattern drafting textbook (or take a class) one of these days.  Once again it strikes me that I like playing with patterns more than the actual sewing.  I have a suspicion that this is because it is basically math in disguise.

In the past I’ve had some struggles with sewing gathers but I’d read about using clear elastic for this and checked out a few tutorials on the web before starting.  After experimenting with both the serger and the straight-stitch machine I settled on a method.  First I cut the elastic to the finished gather length plus an inch on each side.  I marked both the fabric to be gathered and the elastic in fourths to make them easy to line up.  I used the my regular sewing machine to attach the elastic, using the longest stitch length and a narrow-ish zig-zag (narrow enough that both sides of the zig-zag fell within the width of the elastic).  I took a few stitches at the end to anchor the elastic to the fabric, then stretched the elastic as I was stitching to line up the marks I had made.  Perfect gathers!  So awesome!  And inherently stretchy (because of the zig-zag).  After gathering I could then serge over the gathered piece + elastic + the un-gathered back for a nice clean finish.

The only problem I have with these T’s is that the neck bands on some are a bit loose and so sag a little.  I’m not sure why this is since I cut them all the same length.  Very likely it is the difference in stretch between the different knits.  I’m tempted to go back and fix them but also tempted to just let things be.  Overall I am very pleased with this set of tops, which I find to be flattering and an easy way to introduce variation in spatial frequency into my wardrobe.

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Cities of the dead

I am a sucker for ruins.  The idea of cities of the dead was the inspiration for this print I did several years ago.  This most recent series was inspired by reading Jared Diamond’s Collapse last winter, especially the section about the Anasazi.  These four were painted in the opposite order but this sequence more closely matches the narrative in the book.

I painted these mostly with these silicone palette knives— since I am also a sucker for new painting tools, and always on the lookout for ways to add texture to my paintings.  I like them a lot.  I keep meaning to try to bring this kind of texture back into larger or more realistic paintings. I had the idea of trying to rework some of my earliest oil paintings, which are rather anemic, and look (accurately!) like the work of a watercolorist who is afraid to use too much paint.  I think I’m still afraid of using too much paint which is why these small paintings (each of these is about 4″ by 10″) are so useful.

 

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A blazer

I think it is a mark of aging that I can now wear a blazer without feeling totally ridiculous.  Mind you, I made this jacket to wear to job interviews this past winter and I did not land any of the jobs for which I wore the blazer, so maybe I look more ridiculous than I thought.

I used Burdastyle 01-2011-127, a cropped blazer with a neat wrap-around peplum.  The muslin fit well with only a small shortening of the sleeves.  I followed Sherry’s wonderful RTW jacket tutorial to alter the collar, lapel, and facing pieces so they would fold and sit correctly.  The jacket is made from a high-end remnant of black ponte knit from Marcy Tilton, unlined, the corners and collar parts interfaced with some black tricot interfacing from Pam Erny and the facings finished with olive bias tape.  Because it is knit and unlined, it stretches and wears well.  I can wear it easily with the sleeves pushed up and it doesn’t feel (too much) like wearing a jacket.

As for the job search, sadly I can’t give you any updates as the whole thing is still up in the air.  If anyone out there is looking for an academic job in science I highly recommend the following guide:

David and I borrowed this from the library to read to Joey this past winter and both independently concluded that it was about the job search.  Let’s just say that at the moment we are having some issues with a key-slapping slippard.

Here’s the inside, pre-buttons, -buttonholes and -shoulderpads.  I think leaving out a lining was a good move in terms of flexibility and wearing ease although it did get chilly for a few visits to Chicago.  Will I make another one?  I guess it depends on whether this job thing comes through…

 

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Wardrobe sewing

This is pretty off-season, but I finished my first sewn wardrobe last winter.

I wish I could say this was due to careful planning and discipline but the truth is I was just too lazy to change the thread in my serger.

From left, boatneck top (M6571) in soft gray rayon knit print with charcoal jeans (pattern copied from RTW and modified to fit and have a flare leg).  Middle: black/gray wool stripe cowlneck dress (M6612, cowl reduced slightly and length cropped).  Right, 2 pieces made from rectangles of fabric: 40″x40″ elastic-waist skirt in ITY knit print (double the fabric length-wise, seam, stitch 1″ from the edge to make elastic casing, thread elastic, serge back seam) and cotton knit print scarf.

The most-worn are the jeans, although the most versatile might be the elastic-waist skirt.  Can be worn in the winter over tights or in the summer with a tank top.  Indestructible, washes well, and stretches to accommodate seasonal weight fluctuations.  The trickiest to wear is the stripey dress.  I was so pleased with it I wore it out twice to meet friends— and found that they were wearing essentially the same dress.  That should teach me to sew something because it is trendy!

 

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Donks

Thank you thank you everyone for your comments.  Joe is doing great (for those who asked).  And so are we!

If you look closely you can see that he is wearing his first-ever mama-made garment.  Which also happens to be her first-ever refashioning project: a pair of soft shorts made from an ill-fitting jersey skirt.

I’m not going to show you a close-up because there is nothing nice about the finish on these.  However since I expect them soon to be appliquéed in dirt, yogurt, and peanut butter I decided not to stress the waistband topstitching.  I do like the adjustable button and elastic although joe tells me “don’t like button!”

He’s very particular about his pants, which I guess is not surprising given that most of those he has don’t fit him.  Since these seem to fit well enough and since I was foolish enough to buy 3 of said ill-fitting skirts he will soon have three pairs of shorts.  Just as soon as I find some more waistband elastic.

(The good pictures are by David of course.)

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Hello again

It’s been a long time since I updated this blog.

My reasons for stopping were probably not that good, although they seemed compelling at the time.  And then it became harder and harder to start again.

Since it’s been nearly a year since I posted anything the things I was making when I left off are in season again.  So here we go.  I derived the need for this skirt a year ago last spring by pulling all my most-worn handmade items out of the closet and seeing what was missing.  What was missing was this skirt: A-line, neutral, pocketed, in washable cotton twill.

I think this skirt marked a turning point from ooh-shiny! sewing to thinking like a designer.  On it own its not spectacular, but it goes with and complements most of my tops, and the dark neutral color can make brighter tones pop.  As drafted the Burda pattern I used came to mid-calf.  So I scaled the whole thing down, changing the hem and the pockets too to keep proportions similar to the original skirt but that fit my shorter frame.  I also realized (finally) that the same alterations I usually make to pants need to be made for skirts too.  So I added some fabric at CB and shaved some off at CF.

Since I often feel like making these kind of basics is boring I added some details for fun: orange topstitching with two threads on the pockets and a printed orange quilting cotton for the linings of the waistband and pockets.  The linings were a great way to use an irresistible print that would never work as a whole garment.  I think these more rational approach to project selection worked well as this skirt has gotten a lot of wear in the last year.

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At summer camp


Sorry for the long radio silence.  David, Joey and I have been away at summer camp.

Or rather, we were teaching in the Neural Systems and Behavior course at Woods Hole, which is like summer camp for scientists, complete with nerdy songs and t-shirts, late night ukelele playing, morning lectures, intensive lab work, and a marathon weekend at the beginning where we had to set up a functional neurophysiology rig from scratch in three days.  It was a blast.

None of this would have been possible with my parents, who graciously agreed to accompany us and take care of Joey.  I’m not sure they realized quite how much laundry this would entail.  At any rate we were very grateful they could join us.

I’ve done a little sewing since we got back.  I finished my olive twill skirt (pictures soon) and I’m slowly finishing up a blouse I started before I left.  To be honest, I’ve mostly been thinking about fall sewing.  And buying fabrics for said fall sewing (bad roo!).  Since the weather’s been nice we’ve been taking Joey out for walks in the evening.  I started going to yoga again and taking Joey to a dance class for toddlers.  Which means I often want to collapse as soon as Joey is in bed.

Anyway we are having a great summer and I hope you are too!

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More indecision


Here are al the fabrics I want to sew up this summer.  (Plus a couple of tops from last year that I want to work with whatever I make.)  Is it all going to happen?  Probably not.

A few pieces I’ve already decided on and cut out: a Simplicity 3466 cowlneck blouse (previously made here) in cinnamon cotton voile, the Burda over-shirt in moss green poplin (although this piece of fabric kept insisting that it wanted to be pants.  It might have been right).  I also cut out the Burda patch pocket skirt in olive twill, and it’s even half sewed up!

But lots of pieces I can’t decide on.  The green linen has been made (in my mind) into flowing pants, several different dresses, and a top.  The charcoal cotton could be a blouse or a skirt.  The ITY print was supposed to be a dress and now I think will be a straight skirt.  Which leaves 2 yards left to do something with.

How do you decide what to make from a piece of fabric?  Do you buy fabrics with a project in mind or decide on a pattern later?  How often do you change your mind before settling on a project?

 

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Distractable

My sewing mind keeps wandering…  I keep thinking about these blouse patterns, wondering if I can add a slightly shaped collar to the blouse with the modified neckline.  Bonni sent me some great ideas about drafting the modcloth dress and now I’m eager to try those out.

And even though I know I have far too many patterns and far too much fabric to make use of I keep getting distracted by new things.  Does anyone else think the recent McCalls and Butterick patterns have been super cute?  I love a lot of their casual patterns.  How rooish are these two:

Last month I fed my fabric addiction by ordering swatches.  The pant fabrics I looked at seemed like they were going to pill on the first washing, but some of the knits were yummy:

I’m thinking about the dress above in the red and green flower print with a cardigan made of olive jersey. Item number 104 on my to-make list.

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These are a few of my favorite things

I enjoyed this recent post on the Sewing Lawyer’s blog about which self-made garments she loves and always reached for and which— though well made— often hang in the closet.  Inspired, I pulled out the self-made garments I wear most often. I think you’ll notice some themes.

The most obvious one is color.  Although I like the idea of bright colors, the things I gravitate towards all fall on a spectrum between sienna brown and slate blue.  Not surprising, since this is one of my favorite color axes to paint with:

 

There are other themes too. Wide necklines (boat, scoop, or cowl), cap or long sleeves, A-line silhouettes, few details concentrated near the neckline.  One thing that jumps out is how few skirts and pants made it into this group, although I’ve sewn a good number of them.  Some are in too nice fabrics, some are too bright, some are cut too straight for biking to work, and many were made just after Joey was born and no longer fit.  I’d like to make a couple everyday skirts and pants in workhorse fabrics, but its hard to find casual bottom-weight fabrics I’m excited about.  Believe me, I’ve been looking :)

I do have a piece of olive cotton twill I think would be good for this and I’m trying to think about a pattern.  I love the lines on this one, although from the pictures it looks like its proportioned way too big for me.  Maybe I can scale it down to fit me.

 

 

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