Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Sewing Projects, plus Random Thoughts on Research and the DIY Mentality

For me, having a DIY mentality is a bit like being a 2-year-old, especially when it comes to making clothes. I'm awfully prone to insisting on "doing it myself". (Why buy a pattern when I can draft it, or copy an existing garment? Why buy something ready-made if I can sew it? I will Do It Myself!)

Unlike most 2-year-olds, however, I like to bolster my efforts with copious research. If I'm going to Do It Myself, then by golly I want to get it right. This means Consulting the Experts.

When I was younger, there were few Experts to consult. Luckily I had (and still have) an older sister who was (and is) better at nearly everything. She was my resident Expert throughout my internet-less childhood. Since then, the field of available Experts has expanded into a world-wide web simply crammed with crafty wisdom, all just a keyboard-tap away.

So now, my sewing projects tend to follow this pattern:

Step 1: Preparation. I get out all the tools and materials I might need and display them prominently in the dining area. (This is meant to spur creativity and encourage diligence.)

Step 2: Research. I waste all kinds of time online read all the blog posts, tutorials, and online magazine articles I can find on the subject in question, not forgetting to check the comments sections for good ideas that might otherwise be missed. And I look at project photos. Lots of project photos.

Step 3: Action. This is where I ignore much of what I just read and decide to come up with my own method. (Do It Myself!)

Moment of Crafting Honesty: I like to think of Step 2 as research, but maybe it isn't. Maybe it's really procrastination, caused by a subliminal fear (born of previous experience) that the project won't turn out the way I hope. Or maybe it's a control thing - seeking power through knowledge. Or - gasp - maybe it's just more fun to look at other crafters' projects than it is to start my own (procrastination again).

Meanwhile, piles of fabric sit around, cluttering up the dining table, forcing us to eat our meals in the living room in front of the laptop while watching the replay of that day's Tour de France stage. (Which isn't actually a bad thing. Watching someone else exercise is almost as good as doing it yourself. Rather like looking at other people's craft projects. But I digress.)

Even the weariest river winds somewhere safe to sea, says the poet. Translated into crafting language: even the most determined researcher (or procrastinator) eventually produces something. Here are a few recent projects of mine:

Green Tee

The green fabric is a rayon-spandex jersey knit; the purple slub and grey print are blends. All are from JoAnn. I dreamed of putting together a really arty and amazing tee, à la Marcy or Katherine Tilton, but when it came down to the actual construction, a contrast neckband turned out to be enough. Anything more and it wouldn't have been me. (Aside: how do you figure out what's you? Is there a quick and easy way to make sure that you only wear what you like, and that you like everything you wear? If so, do tell.)

The grey print had very little stretch, and the neckband didn't want to lie flat, so I added four tiny darts evenly spaced around the front neckline curve. The darts are neatly camouflaged by the print:

I love the softness and drape of rayon jersey, but its slinky and crinkly properties can make the cutting-out process a real hassle. What with making sure things are on-grain, and trying to keep the fabric layers smooth, it takes me longer to cut out the pattern than it does to assemble it. But the results are worth it. (If only it didn't pill so quickly....)

Bonus tip for hemming soft, stretchy fabrics with a regular sewing machine: When cutting out, add about 1" extra length to the standard hem allowance. When it's time to hem the garment, fold at the desired hemline (the hem allowance will look really wide, but that's okay). Stitch at the desired distance from fold, then carefully trim excess hem allowance after stitching. This method gives your presser foot a more stable area of fabric to sew over, with no cut edge to get sucked into the path of the needle.

The pattern for the Green Tee was copied from a favourite purchased tee, using a method I read about in Threads magazine some years ago.

Copying an existing garment still counts as Doing It Myself, right? :)

Popsicle Top

The colours in this fabric - another rayon knit found at JoAnn - remind me of a Big Stick, the favourite popsicle of my childhood.

For this tee, I converted the Green Tee pattern to a dolman-sleeve version by folding the sleeve piece in half and pinning it to the front and back pieces in turn, matching the underarm seam points and lining up the folded sleeve edge with the shoulder edge. The underarm corner was rounded slightly during cutting to give a smooth underarm curve.

The sleeve length was dictated by the amount of available fabric - which was 1 yard. (I am a fabric Scrooge.) We will gloss over the ridiculous amount of time spent in anguishing over how to make the best of this print - which has stripes running in both directions - or in dithering between set-in sleeves and dolman. Dolman won out, mainly because there was no way to match such irregular stripes with a set-in sleeve (the shirt back has a completely different stripe pattern than the front).

This tee was cut on the cross-grain (a first for me when working with a knit), and the selvedge was used as the hem.

Once cut, the tee came together quickly, and I'm really happy with the way it turned out. It's fitted through the shoulders and chestal area, and slightly slouchy around the waist. I was afraid the underarms might be baggy, but they came out just right.

Some Other Small Projects

Brace yourself....

Yes. They're exactly what they look like. And I'm surprised to find that I like them. 'Nuff said.

(Okay - just a few words more. Some of you may be absolutely horrified by this. If so, I'm sorry. I'm not trying to shock anyone. Others are probably wondering how anyone could possibly want to make and re-use things like these. In my case, it started with a leaflet from my doctor advising only 100% cotton products in the body area involved. Other factors included: the prohibitive cost of disposable 100% cotton products, an abundance of cotton fabric scraps in my stash, and a sewing machine at the ready. Environmental concerns also played a role. If you'd like to learn more, there are plenty of articles, reviews, patterns, and tutorials on the net. Some are embarrassingly gushy, but here are two that are soberly and thoughtfully written:

To my fellow sewists: even if you wouldn't use these items yourself, would you consider making some for donation to girls and women in other countries who either don't have access to, or can't afford, the disposable products we take for granted? If you'd like to help, here are two links to get you started:

Embarassing Topic concluded.)

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Wow - this post turned out much longer than I planned! Next time I'll have a month's worth of cycling photos to share.

What have you been making (or researching) lately? :)

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  1. Wow! I love your shirts. Is there anything you can't do? You have been truly blessed with many talents my sweet friend. So good to see you posting again. Blessings to you always. :)

  2. You sound remarkably like me when I'm about to start something new the amount of research that goes into the planning stage is ridiculous and like you I usually end up doing it my way anyway. I'm most impressed with your sewing prowess your tops are fabulous, my attempts at sewing something for myself always end in failure, I have however made lots of pads and little bags for the to fit into it breaks your heart to think that these poor girls don't have access to the things which we take so much for granted. :) xx

  3. You are delightful! Not only can you crochet and create crochet patterns, but I thoroughly enjoy your writing. I am pretty sure I laugh out loud when you hope I will :) Aside from all of that you are thoughtful, and accomplished in many other areas. I enjoyed seeing your latest sewing projects and learning more about your process in sewing. My husband had a complicated sewing machine that I never mastered threading. I sewed very little with it and no longer have it. In the last few years I have learned about Featherweight antique Singer machines and a friend is going to sell me one as soon as I have the $$$. I dream of stitching all sorts of projects with it... Meanwhile I have been "researching" on line, and single crocheting another simple baby blanket and knitting another dishcloth. :) xx

  4. Oh Sue, I think you are wonderful! I actually wrote about a man who invented a new kind of pad in India.(Can't remember when I wrote this, will have to go and look.)
    If I could sew, I would love to make these pads and send them where needed.
    I love the blouses/shirts you made. You are so talented. xx

  5. I bought a new sewing machine after my old one caught fire; that was three years ago and I have made only a lining for my fabric handbag! So you see, procrastination is alive and well.

  6. I think your sewing is wonderful Sue. Your talents are many and your kindness is amazing.

  7. I love your new tops, they are so pretty but look like they'll be useful too. It is lovely to see them in the flesh after you mentioning your plans in the past. I haven't thought of sewing pads but I'll look into it more now thst you've opened my eyes! Juliex

  8. Wonderful sewing! I love the fabrics. I too have gotten lost in "research" many, many times! Haha

  9. Really? I LOVE the pads. So sad that I don't need them anymore .... :-))) Your shirts are a full success. Hugs, Regula

  10. Hmmm! .... I think I need them anyway. :-))) Thanks for sharing the idea.

  11. I made some. :-)

  12. What a great idea, to make some for women and girls who don't have access to what we have here. And I'm SO thankful to say I don't need to make any for me now!!! Ha ha ha! Can you see my huge smirk?!?


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