Sunday, 24 May 2015

Alabama Chanin skirt and top

This has been a long time in the making and an even longer time in the blogging pile. It's an Alabama Chanin outfit, that was not really planned as an outfit, just worn as such for this blog post.

Both pieces are made from patterns found in the Alabama Chanin books. The skirt is from 'Alabama Studio Sewing and Design' and is a simple, four panel skirt. The top is from 'Alabama Studio Style' and is a more fitted style with princess panels and a flared hemline. The edges are encased with a folded strip of fabric hand stitched in place and the hemlines are left raw.

I used two different Alabama Chanin stencils. The top is made with the 'Large Medallion' stencil and the skirt with the 'Bloomers' stencil. 

The top was made with two layers of white knit fabric. The stencil was applied using watered down acrylic paint and a sponge brush. I used mostly grey thread for the stitching, with the occasional bit of orange thrown in when I got bored. I did the stitching with a double strand of thread and used a running stitch for the reverse applique and the seams. A criss-cross stretch stitch was used for the neckline and armhole binding.

I initially didn't like the fit of the top as the lower half was quite tight and unflattering. I eventually unpicked the stitches and redid them making the seams as tiny as I dared. It now flares out more and I'm happier with the fit.

I made the skirt before the top and used two colours of knit fabric, purple underneath and grey/black on top. I used black thread and wished later that I'd chosen a contrasting colour for more interest. I also only used a single strand of thread for the applique and I worry that the skirt is too delicate to wear. 

The 'Bloomers' stencil was far more labour intensive than the 'Medallion' pattern, but I happily sewed it on holiday last year and enjoyed the process. I always think it's funny how AC garments don't pattern match at the seams when usually, we sewing bloggers, do our utmost to get that pattern spot on!

I really like the slight A-line shape of the skirt. It is very comfortable to wear.

I have had both pieces finished for ages and have never worn either of them. I feel like I should save them for a special occasion in case they fall apart after the first outing. I would be interested to hear how others have fared in their Alabama Chanin garments. Do they stand up to real life wear? It does seem a shame not to wear them after the hours of work put into the making.

Monday, 11 May 2015

Fun times felting - One Year One Outfit challenge

As I've mentioned before, I'm taking part in the 'One Year One Outfit' (OYOO) challenge. This involves creating an entire outfit this year that has been sourced only from locally grown and sustainably produced materials. I bought supplies for felting a skirt a while back, but had suffered too much from newbie felting nerves to actually make anything. I mentioned this to fellow OYOOer, Sue of Fadanista, who made the excellent suggestion of getting together for a felting session.

It was a bit of a case of the blind leading the blind, although we both had a tiny amount of felting experience. Sue wrote recently about a felting session she had with a textile artist friend and we used her notes from that as our guide. We decided to begin with my felt and work on it together. This turned out to be an excellent strategy as the rubbing and rolling process was far easier with two people. However, my piece took so long we will need to reconvene to make Sue's felt.

We began by pulling off thin fibres from the wool roving (above) and laying them on a piece of bubble wrap, which was placed over a towel. I had drawn my skirt front and back on a piece of vinyl as a guide for the size. This worked well as a guide, but I should have made it bigger to allow for shrinkage - oops!

The fibres were placed over the pattern guide, the first layer in one direction, the second at 90 degrees to the first, and so on until we had four layers. I had three colours of wool roving, which I separated and placed, lightest to darkest, to create an ombre effect. I also added a few tufts of my dog Truffle's fur between the third and fourth layers at the bottom. Non-wool materials can be felted into wool felt in small amounts.

So fluffy and lovely!

The next step, once I'd laid out the front and back of the skirt, was to cover the wool with netting. We used tulle, but apparently flyscreen also works well.

Then we rolled up our sleeves for action. Using scrunched up plastic bags, we scattered hot water and rubbed olive oil soap (other soap can also be used, but this was local) over the netting until the wool was completely wet. We then did a sustained bout of circular rubbing all over the piece. The netting holds everything in place, but we checked from time to time that it was not felting to the wool. It wasn't.

It was lovely working with the olive oil soap, soft wool and warm water on a cool morning, not to mention the good company. The fibres began to felt together fairly quickly so we neatened up the edges by pushing them towards the main piece. The imprint of the bubble wrap could be seen on the felt at this stage, but this disappeared after further steps. 

At this point we rearranged the felt so it had a piece of netting on both sides. It was placed back on the bubble wrap and the towel, then the whole lot was rolled around a pool noodle to make a cylinder. I haven't got a picture of this as Sue and I took one end of the noodle each and rolled back and forth 1000 times, while moving our hands in and out to cover the length of the noodle. Obviously this was far more cumbersome with my largish piece of felt than with the small pieces we'd done in the past and I was especially glad of Sue's help here. I was also glad of her Fitbit wrist pedometer, which made counting the back and forth rolls so much easier!

My front and back skirt pieces partially felted together in the middle, but that was fine.

The wool was well and truly felting by now. We rinsed it well in cold water and microwaved it for 2 x 30 seconds. The felt was then placed in a plastic bag and whacked down on to the table a few times. This caused much hilarity as it kept bursting out of the bag and showering droplets everywhere. I guess that was a good test of its integrity!

This is the felt before we hung it over a chair to dry.

The full piece. I love the way the ombre effect turned out and the little black Truffle speckles.

The striations of different colour wool add interest too.

I did make my skirt pieces approximately 8-10cm larger than the pattern pieces, but the felt shrunk by more than this amount once it was completely dry. I am not letting this concern me and will simply make more felt at our next session to use as strips along the skirt's sides. I only used about half the wool roving that I had bought (approximately $8 worth) so have plenty more to play with in the future. 

My felt did end up quite thin and translucent in places so I returned to Bilby Yarns, where I bought my wool, and asked the opinion of the very knowledgeable lady there. She said it was fine, but may need lining to stand up to being worn as a skirt. Not knowing how to find locally-produced lining material, I may just ponder that problem for a while before finalising my skirt plans.

In the meantime I have other things to take up my time. I've started knitting for the first time in 25 years! Well I have to wear something on my top half for the OYOO. While at Bilby Yarns, I bought some beautiful West Australian wool in my felt colours to make a jumper. Progress is slow. Better get back to it!

Thank you Sue for the fun morning and the use of her beautiful garden.

Friday, 1 May 2015

Jasper Sweater crossed with Alabama Chanin with some natural dyeing thrown in

I had agreed with myself not to buy any more patterns for a while and then, what do I see, but this gorgeous Jasper Sweater by Paprika Patterns. Well, I couldn't help myself and, what's more, I don't regret it!

The main fabric I used for this was hemp/cotton knit, bought on a recent excursion to the Margaret River Hemp Co. in Fremantle with the One Year One Outfit (OYOO) Perth crew. This fabric has a lovely natural colour and feel. Unfortunately it doesn't pass muster for the OYOO challenge as poorly thought out local laws don't allow hemp to be grown here. I hope this changes as hemp is fantastically sustainable and has a very low environmental impact. The fabric is also really nice and smoking it doesn't get you high, or so I'm told. This one metre length cost me $12.95. It wasn't quite enough for the Jasper, especially after some pre-washing shrinkage, so I hunted around and found a piece of cotton knit fabric that I had dyed with Eucalyptus leaves during a natural dyeing course some time ago.

During the dyeing process the fabric was folded, clamped with popsticks (from ice creams) then dyed, Shibori style, in a pot of boiling eucalyptus leaves (species unknown). I forgot to take a photo of the uncut piece, but it was similar to this onion skin-dyed sample I made on the same day:

I used the dyed fabric for the collar, the welt pockets and as a backing for some Alabama Chanin style reverse appliqué on the back of the jumper. I used ribbing fabric for the cuffs and bottom band.

I used the Angie's Fall stencil from the Alabama Chanin website. When I last looked it was free to download, but it now costs $8. I traced a flower from my computer screen at the size I wanted, cut the stencil, then placed it here and there on my back pattern piece. I used watered-down acrylic paint applied with a sponge brush to stencil the pattern on the fabric. This is a quick method that I've used before with good results.

I took the back piece on holiday with me recently and stitched away in a very relaxed manner with coffee or local wine to keep me going. Lovely! I used a double strand of brown thread for the stitches. It was fun to cut away the appliqué and see the Shibori pattern emerging underneath.

Once the back was done and I was home again, I made up the jumper. I was impressed with the drafting and the instructions and I'm pleased with the fit.

The epaulet on the collar is a nice touch. I found a handmade clay button in my button drawer that was perfect. I can't remember where that came from, but possibly my Mum made it during her pottery spree.

You can see the eucalyptus dyed fabric on the collar in these pictures. I'm hoping it doesn't look like I spilt my breakfast.

So, a new pattern, unfamiliar hemp fabric, natural dyeing and reverse appliqué. So much creative fun packed into one garment! Sewing is the best.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

New York, New York - Vintage Butterick

Wandering through Textile Traders, this New York print fabric caught my eye. It was a bit polyestery, but I thought the print would make a cool dress, so I went for it. It is all black and white buildings with yellow taxis and red other things.

I chose this vintage pattern, Butterick 5208, that I have made once before in gold fabric. The two dresses turned out completely different, which is a good thing for wardrobe variety.

I omitted the pockets as I thought the fabric was a bit lightweight to hold them. Shame, I liked the pockets. I also left off the collar. I used the all-in-one facing that I had drafted last time. This finished off the neckline and armholes nicely. I had to take in the side seams a bit too.

I cut red knit fabric out for the side panels, sewed it together and then decided the red was a bit much. I recut the panels in black, inserted one and changed my mind again. Not being able to decide whether I preferred the black or the red panel, I left one of each.

I like the squared off armholes in this pattern.

And the front zip feels quite edgy, even though it's a vintage pattern.

I wore my wellies for the photos just for fun. It was warm enough today for sandals but I'm planning to wear this though the winter with tights and boots.

A bit of blurriness and you can almost believe I'm from the 70s!

Monday, 20 April 2015

A technicolour blouse - She Has a Mannish Style

Voluminous and multicoloured, perfect for hiding the effects of too many cakes, both outside and inside!

This is the 'Gathered Blouse' from the Japanese pattern book 'She has a Mannish Style' (also known as 'She Wears the Pants' if you buy the English version).

I was immediately drawn to this blouse, I think in part because the model looked so gorgeous in those leggings and high boots! Ignoring the fact that I would never wear leggings without extensive bum coverage and I can't walk for more than two minutes in high heels, I decided to go ahead with the blouse. That I would wear, although with what, I had no idea.

I'd been having a bit of a sewing room sort-out and had piled some scraps from a recent remnant bag purchase from Potter's Textiles on my cutting-out table. I wandered in and was absently patting the pile when it struck me that I could make a patchwork version of the 'gathered blouse'. The scraps were already fairly well colour matched, as the Potter's remnant bags tend to be, and mostly big enough for the blouse pieces. I added in the orange polka dot cotton from my Wenona Shirt dress and undyed beige cotton from my Wenona shirt and I was ready to go.

When I say 'ready to go' I actually mean 'ready to trace the pattern sheet from hell'. Seriously, I think it might have been worse than Burdastyle! Had it been in English, rather than Japanese, this may have helped, but only slightly. Anyway, I got there in the end and worked out a few tricks that helped with the tracing.

Here's what I worked out, just in case you have this book and are yet to begin tracing:

- to find the pattern you want, look for the pattern number in large text around the edge of the sheet, or, less often, in the middle. The number is written in English, then Japanese and a line is drawn from the English or Japanese label to the pattern piece;

- all pattern pieces for one garment are on one sheet, just keep looking! However, occasionally a piece is not on the sheet and needs to be drawn eg. if a simple rectangle. You can see the pattern pieces on the layout diagrams on the instruction pages;

- the smaller text refers to the grainlines for each piece;

- the half circle symbol seems to indicate to cut the piece on the fold;

- you need to add seam allowances (SA). The diagrams on the instruction pages indicate what size SA to add. It seems to be 1cm unless otherwise indicated.

So, back to the patchworking. All the pattern pieces fitted on to my scraps except one front and the back piece. No problem, I just joined two fabrics together until I had a big enough piece of fabric. The choice of which fabric to put where wasn't completely random. I used the orange polka dot for the add-ons and the left sleeve. It seemed better that way than swapping the sleeves. I cut the back yoke in half to achieve a chevron effect with the print. Obviously I had too much to think about as that was a total fail.

I used grey on the shoulders and one button placket and pink stripes on the other placket. After playing around with the pockets, I decided on one only in polka dot. The sleeve cuffs match the front and back pattern.

I am pretty happy with the overall look of the fabric placement and I love the style of the blouse. I did add 5cm to the length, as I am 5'9, and this seems about right.

I wore this for the first time on a cool and windy day for an outing to a skateboarding competition (yes, I was just watching). The blouse did tend to billow, parachute-like in the wind and I was pleased I'd worn a camisole underneath.

For the construction, the instructions in the book were ok, well I mean the diagrams were ok, since I can't read Japanese. It helped a lot that I have made shirts before, especially as the instructions seemed to peter out before getting to the really tricky parts. I think they picked up again for another shirt in the book, but not being sure, I just used instructions for another shirt pattern I had.

The blouse was worn on this day with my latest Jamie jeans and boots to suit the weather. I feel the need to play around a bit with other options to get a better overall outfit. Otherwise, I'm really happy with my Mannish Style.


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