It's both surprising + satisfying to see actual useful pieces come out of a pile of scraps.
Every so often, I like to try to make useful things out of my leftover bits + pieces from past sewing projects. Sometimes it's patchwork quilts, but this time it's purses + bags. In the past, bags like these made fun (+ free) birthday gifts for Jo's + Julia's friends. The girls could help me pick out all of the scraps in their friend's favorite color...and we'd design some kind of bag out of what we had. Patchwork skirts, doll clothes, tea party blankets, and the girls' projects were also great consumers of the scraps.
These days, I need a different approach. I think these bags will go to a thrift store that provides jobs + merchandise to a predominately refugee + immigrant population. The shop's profits benefit an organization that provides English as Second Language classes + other training programs. My hope is that the bags will be useful + generate a bit of income as well.
Waste fabric holds a lot of potential, but making it into something useful does involve a bit of work + creativity. The combinations + shapes are not often the ones I would at first envision, but the available materials provide the constraints. I enjoy the challenge, but a challenge it is.
It's both surprising + satisfying to see actual useful pieces come out of a pile of scraps.
Clothing used to be so prized that it would be stolen right off dead bodies. The soldiers crucifying Jesus cast lots for His clothes...not because it was deemed holy, but because it was cloth.
In the book Farmer Boy, Laura Ingalls Wilder writes of Almanzo's mother weaving cloth for a suit of clothing she would sew. The Wilders struck me as decidedly more wealthy than the Ingalls, because the Wilders were able to own that weaving device. Imagine how prized that suit would be, for the one who wore it would surely know of the time and effort it took to keep the sheep alive, shear them, comb and clean the wool, spin it into fiber, weave it into cloth, and sew it into the garment that fit and kept the body warm.
Fabric no longer holds such value in our minds, but maybe it should. Cotton is a thirsty crop. Tencel, rayon, and viscose require trees. Polyester guzzles oil. Fabric ends up in the landfill by the ton...because we can always get more...right? But new materials need to be mined, clearcut, planted, watered and harvested constantly. Each of these endeavors not only requires natural resources, but creates pollution through manufacturing, dying, transport, and disposal.
While focusing on sewing additions to my fair wardrobe this year, it's been interesting to note how much clothing can be made out of what I already have. Clockwise from top left: A seldom worn top that I loved too much to let go became a top that I wear once a week now (another Bantam). Scraps leftover from other projects, a worn garment + a worn tea towel became a little jacket. A cover for our fireplace became a pair of pajamas. Two existing garments + the scraps left over from their making became a new jacket.
Scraps leftover from previous projects or worn garments could be used to purposefully sew a well put together top or dress. Sewing meets zero-waste. Obviously, this is not a new principle...people have been creating clothing + quilts out of their scraps + used cloth for probably all of time. I'm simply rediscovering this save-it-from-the-landfill...and maybe even the thrift store (where they often are not sold)...way of thinking. It's been interesting to reinvent pieces of fabric whose previous shapes no longer appeal.
Once pieces in the wardrobe or linen closet are past their presentable or desirable state...reinvent them. They might end up becoming part of a whole new favorite!
I wrote the bulk of this post mid-February...with the intention of it having a different conclusion. It still applies...mostly. Tomorrow's post will reveal the next chapter in this saga. ;)
Like a broken record, I've been mentioning Kamm pants for a long time (years). I'm sorry. But...well, a bit more affordably priced clothing companies have obviously heard me + are now offering this shape! :)
I actually tried on the Madewell's versions this fall + really liked them. I just didn't know where + under what conditions they were made, so I couldn't quite make them mine. Everlane's version is so very tempting...and again...I tried them. I know...weakness. I really like that both Madewell + Everlane added a bit of stretch to the fabric, but I don't exactly like how wide the legs end up being at the ankle (on me).
Lacausa's California-made version is my current favorite. Esby also offers a USA made pair.
But...I made a commitment. (What am I doing even looking at these sites? Please don't ask. I am weak...er, um, just looking for inspiration...right.)
So yes...sewing. My first sweep (early this year) turned up some good pattern options. New Look 6459 looks like a good one + this version over at Tessuti is lovely. True Bias's Emerson Pants are great too, although I'd like mine to have a higher waist and maybe a little less volume in the legs (doable, I think).
I already have this pattern that I've tried + tested...and it has a simple elastic waist...so there's that too. I could widen the leg a bit a la Lauren Winter. No zippers to insert + a more forgiving fit make this a simple option.
More recently, Megan Neilson came out with Flint. A closer look reveals the lack of a zip closure...so clever + much less intimidating! I also found the Strides in this book (and traced the pattern). I think they'd be amazing with a cropped leg.
I'm not exactly sure that my clumsy ways or my rear view can handle the creamy glory of my imagined (creamy white) pants. Murphy's law has never been quite so pertinent as when I put on something white. Do I ever miss my mouth + drop a raspberry down my front or overtip a cup of tea up to my mouth any other time? Nope. But put on something white + all bets are off. The great thing about white, however, is that it can handle bleach + can be dyed if necessary. Believe me, I know...so white is quite a tempting choice.
Here's where I planned to try making the elastic waisted pants in some creamy white linen or cotton. But I didn't...
All photos via links.
I was excited to finally receive the Merchant & Mills Workbook via interlibrary loan last week. On the first flip through, I knew I wanted to try the Bantam with its narrow straps + racerback shape. I was intrigued by the idea of forgoing bust darts in favor of a looser fit. It sounded like just the shape for pajamas (which I were on my list).
This Shabby Chic voile adorned the fireplace cover in the living room until recently, + I thought there might be just enough for some pajamas. I really wished that the print was a little bit more muted, so I used the reverse side of the fabric as the right side. With some creative positioning of the shorts pattern, I was able to just eek out the set. :)
I have to say that I think I have finally found my signature tank pattern! I feel that the thin, close-set straps are very flattering. The loose fit is so breezy and just the sort of simple that I love. A few more Bantams will be just the thing for summer in the form of tops + dresses.
This tank will inevitably be worn not only as pajamas, but also with jeans or shorts...and the shorts are so comfy that they will do lots of lounging outside of the bedroom too! It's the perfect minimalist set!
top pattern: Bantam from Merchant & Mills Workbook
shorts pattern: my trusty vintage Esprit Simplicity 6487
fabric: old Shabby Chic voile (I don't see it offered on their website any more.)
As with most things around here, my pledge to first try to make my clothes this year reveals the intersection of many of my values. As I think about what I want to make, I'm considering not only my wardrobe needs + desires, but also budget, zero-waste, and minimizing. I've made a jacket from a loved dress, a project that wasn't going to see much wear + the leftover scraps from both. I've looked at the fabric I already had to make a little jacket + pants + shorts + pajamas. The "projects" that prove this intersection most, however, are probably the ones that involve Liberty of London fabrics.
This fabric is often seen as the pinnacle of treasures in the fabric world. There are only a few prints that truly speak to me, but when they do, it's loudly + with passion. :) This top has shown up in this space before. Its scraps became little drawstring bags...the perfect size for bulk cookies or brussels sprouts. This top though...it's gone from top...to pajamas...to a little bit more cropped top...to a little bit more roomy top.
This weekend I spent hours unpicking seams and grafting in just a little bit more breathing room. It got me thinking about how valuable all fabric is...the resources that go into the materials, labor, and energy used to grow it, make it, dye it, and print it. What if I treated all fabric like Liberty?
It is a realization that disappoints me. It's embarrassing really. I value clothing less, if I've made it. I realize that this is not the case for all makers. I truly hope it is not the case for anyone other than me, because making things with your hands is important + valuable. This is one of those truths that is easier to tell someone else than it is to believe for myself.
I look and look at other's creations. I love the look of their architectural linen pants and floaty gauze dresses. I fall in love with the bright white and the earthy natural tones. The shapes are simple and the fit is forgiving. I could make something similar, but...
But...it won't be the same. It won't make me feel the same. I won't be able to find just the right fabric.
But it will probably cost less. I will know whose hands made it and under what conditions.
Why do I feel that it won't make me feel the same? Is it simply the attractive branding? Am I that shallow and taken by what they are selling...sunshine and smiles and soft shadows and warm breezes and sea spray? It's not just a pair of pants or just a dress, it's a feeling.
All of this makes me feel weak and silly.
Why do I only see art on another's page? Why do I only respect craft from another's hands?
No answers...but I hope recognition is the first step.
The best way to combat those feelings...that I can think of...is just to try again. Yesterday's release inspired me to attempt some shorts I'd been considering for a while. That same weird looking vintage Esprit pattern + some tencel bought in January...a muslin and a bunch of adjusting...followed by using the pattern pretty much as it was to begin with...a trip to the fabric store for wider elastic...and I think I might have some shorts that I quite like.
I haven't worn shorts out of the house for a couple years, but I would like a couple more choices for hot weather...whether I wear them out of the house or not. :) It's 50 degrees F again, so I'll have to wait to see how they really "feel". Fingers crossed that this will be a bit of a turning point in my values.
Pattern :: vintage Simplicity 6487
Fabric :: tencel from Blackbird Fabrics
Shown with :: vintage Flax linen tank found on Ebay + in my wardrobe for years
I took this sew-all-my-own-clothing-this-year challenge on a whim. I thought of it, typed it, and hit "post". It wasn't a well planned decision, but I do hope that there will be some revelations along the way. I want to be a little more intentional about scouting out the lessons and sharing them as well.
Sewing one's own clothing is a great way to learn about the skill and time that goes into the clothing we wear every day. The seams that hold a garment together are as important as the fabric or design. Raveling seams are the reason given for many fast fashion pieces ending up in the landfill. As time progresses, I become more and more disappointed with the more mid-range garment construction as well. The usual ready-to-wear garment today employs overlocked seams, which are much quicker to sew and should keep the edge of the fabric from fraying or unraveling...one zip through the sewing machine + done. Cheaper and cheaper clothing has become the norm necessitating garment workers' salaries decrease and decrease. In order to save time, backstitching at the beginning and end of each seam is often omitted. This back and forth stitching is what keeps a line of stitching from beginning to unravel.
French seams involve sewing a seam twice...first with right sides together and then again with wrong sides together. This type of seam encloses the raw edges and keeps them from unravelling over time and with washing. This results in a much cleaner finish and is much more durable. My own sewing includes french seams as much a possible, and I appreciate them so much on ready to wear garments as well. They speak to the quality and projected longevity of a garment.
The french seam on the top (at right above) that I bought years ago from J. Crew is above the little triangle shape (which also has all of its edges enclosed). It has been sewn down with another line of stitching which adds another detail to the exterior. This top has lasted and lasted to the point of it being worth removing the sleeves and changing the neckline to turn it into a sleeveless top that I wear walking in the summer.
French seams are a great detail to look for when shopping. I often take note when looking inside for the fiber content tag. It's not necessarily a make it or break it ultimatum, but careful finishing certainly scores points. :)
As far as my own sewing goes...I finally tackled the buttonholes + buttons on the shirtdress (up top) and now it's finished! After spending time on all the other elements (including french seams), :) I always sort of feel like a project has the potential to be ruined by my sewing of the buttonholes. I think it worked out ok, though. :)
Fabric :: striped voile by Moda via Fancy Tiger (great garment weight)
Pattern :: (not cute looking, but very useful) 80s Esprit Simplicity 6487 (lengthened top)
This little jacket is a just-for-fun, use-it-up make. The main fabric is fabric leftover from my cream jumpsuit that I dyed indigo a while ago (the fabric, not the jumpsuit). The block print band is from a well-loved + well-worn top. The pockets are the best parts cut from a threadbare dishtowel. I just liked how they all looked together. It's kind of fun to realize that each of these fabrics was dyed with indigo at different times, by different people, with different results. No appropriately colored thread meant that navy embroidery floss was employed for hemming + attaching the pockets.
I used a vintage robe pattern, cut the length at a point I liked, + left the sleeves off. The side seams were each cut in about an inch, since I imagined wearing this piece open rather than tied closed + didn't need so much width.
Perfectly patchy? :)
There are some talented makers out there sharing sewing patterns with those of us who sew. Evidence of their understanding as sewists + as women (these designers just all happen to be women) who wear clothes is all over their work. It is nice to find patterns designed for women with real life bodies. If I find a designer who happens to be shaped similarly to me, I know I've found a real treasure. Independent pattern makers' efforts are greatly appreciated + I'm proud to support them.
Long ago, I was asked who my favorite independent sewing pattern designers (for clothing) were and I took the long route to answer that question. I focused on one designer at a time + went a little more in depth with each one. With the challenge I've set for myself to sew my clothing this year...I thought it might be nice to have all of these amazing designers in one place. In case they might be helpful to anyone else, here we are (in alphabetical order):
Alabama Chanin :: unique techniques for hand sewing knits :: patterns in books + online *
Amie Comme Marie :: women's, men's, + children's :: French :: France
Amy Butler :: clothing + bags :: in books + online *
Anna Maria Horner :: clothing + bags :: in books + online *
April Rhodes :: versatile, simple dresses *
Blue Prints :: creative shapes for women
Cali Faye :: women + girls
Christine Haynes :: dresses + a coat *
Citronille :: sweet shapes for women, girls, + teens :: some patterns in French :: France*
Closet Case :: women's, including jeans, swimwear, + outerwear *
Colette :: vintage inspired shapes for women + a few for men :: patterns in book + online *
Deer & Doe :: pretty shapes for women :: France
Fancy Tiger :: versatile basics *
Grainline :: versatile basics :: clothing + bags *
Japanese pattern books :: shop on etsy :: many translated to English :: Japan *
Made by Rae :: women's + children's *
Maker's Atelier :: women's :: patterns in book + online :: UK *
Marilla Walker :: women's :: UK *
Megan Nielson :: women's, including maternity + girls' :: Australia
Sew Liberated :: women's + children's including nursing friendly :: in books + online *
Merchant & Mills :: women's, men's, + girls :: patterns in books + online :: UK *
Named :: women's :: Finland
Noodlehead :: bags :: patterns in book + online *
Oliver + S / Liesl + Co :: children's + women's :: patterns in books + online *
Papercut :: women's :: New Zealand
Pauline Alice :: women's :: Europe
Purl Bee :: women's + children :: most patterns free *
République du Chiffon :: women's + children's :: French :: France
Salme :: women's
Seamwork :: by Colette :: patterns to sew in 3 hours or less :: women + a few for men
Sew House Seven :: women's *
Sonya Phillip :: women's basics :: plus sizing too *
Tessuti :: women's :: Australia
Thread Theory :: mostly men's patterns + a couple women's :: Canada
Tilly and the Buttons :: women's :: patterns in book + online :: UK
True Bias :: women's + kids + one for men *
Verb for Keeping Warm :: women's (+ book on natural dying)
Victory Patterns :: women's :: patterns in book + online :: Canada
Vintage patterns :: try Etsy or Ebay :: great for patterns through the decades *
Wear Lemonade :: women's :: patterns in French :: France
Wiksten :: women's + children's :: patterns in book + online *
* = patterns I've personally made
There are many more talented designers, but these are my personal favorites. I've listed the countries where these patterns are designed (as I've noticed them not being designed in the USA) as a way to know that they may be more (or less) local to where one lives. Most of the patterns are available as PDF patterns (printable at home) as well, so location need not be a deterrent.
I'll put the link to this post along with the link to the fair fabrics post (which I'll add to over time) on the ethical brands page for easy access. :)
Here is the jacket that I made from my well-loved dress + a jumpsuit that wasn't going to get worn. The process of making this jacket truly felt like slow fashion. I used a pattern from the 80s (probably more for nostalgic reasons than for functional ones) + tried to update the fit just a bit. Suiting from the 80s was often angular, like a triangle pointing down. Shoulder pads in combination with tapered side seams made the desired silhouette. Well...it's not the 80s anymore, so I left the shoulder pads out, removed the tapering at the sides, and also sized down quite a bit.
Getting the pattern pieces to fit on my existing bits of fabric was a creative challenge. There are only a few tiny pieces left over though, so I am happy about the lack of waste. The result of using much washed fabric + newer fabric together results in a somewhat patchy look that I love. I was able to line the jacket with a lovely Japanese linen cotton stripe that I already had. I didn't have enough of it to make the stripes match, but I'm not the least bit worried about that. :) Without the shoulder pads I hope it's simply an oversized, unstructured jacket. I think that the shoulders will just relax nicely with wear.
A little slow fashion detail that I added was hand stitching around the edges with navy embroidery floss. I'm thinking of adding more stitching...just like quilting lines here and there as time goes on. I love the idea of an evolving piece of clothing...just being more and more loved as time goes on. I think that this shape lends itself to becoming a classic that can be worn for years to come.
At the moment, I'm leaving the front without closures. I think a long, thin belt made from pieced together leftovers would be great wrapped around a couple of times + tied slightly off center. If at some point I want to add buttons, that can be done too.
I really feel like this is a successful slow fashion...almost zero-waste project. Yay! :)
Love, Jane :)
daring to choose fair one choice at a time