Leaves, Frogs and Lightbulb Moments

This tee is a departure from the usual in a couple of ways. First I used a different pattern, the Love Notions Laundry Day Tee, which has a different shape to the classical tee pattern I normally use, the Burda Lydia, a very old pattern that now seems to have disappeared from both the German and English-speaking websites. Probably time to move on, and I rather like the more defined waist and swing hem of the Laundry Day Tee.

The LDT has a lot of variations, and the details of which version I picked and how I modified it are on PatternReview.

The more exciting innovation is that I tried a new block printing technique after coming across ApartmentTherapies ‘How to block print the easy way’. What a great idea!. Instead of carving the block out of Easycarve (a medium similar to the white erasers used to erase pencil), you cut your shape from an adhesive-backed foam sheet. You can use a craft knife like she did, but for simple shapes it is even faster to use a pair of scissors to cut around the outline, stick it to a backing — and done! Below is an example I found to illustrate what I mean.

Wow, that idea was a lightbulb! In my case I started with a leaf outline and perspex as a backing. You can cut a simple shape in a jiffy because instead of digging away all the superfluous medium with your carving implement you simply cut around the outline with scissors. So much easier! And printing is fast too.

The perspex is great as a backing because you can see where you place your motif on the fabric. I beg my perspex pieces from a a friendly business acquaintance who is left with small scrap pieces in the course of his work, which I am only too happy to take off his hands. Nothing like a win-win!

The second improvement was that I finally started to use a brayer, as recommended in the ApartmentTherapy blog. This is a hard rubber roller like this:

Previously I used a foam roller, which deposits less ink on the block, but has the advantage of not clogging up intricate lines. Horses for courses. If there are no intricate lines a brayer works much better, because the ink sits on the surface of the rubber and after rolling the ink on the block there is a thicker layer and therefore a better print.

After my first try with the leaves I made one discovery, however: it is quite difficult to get the ink evenly on every bit of your printing block, but nothing on the backing. You have to be so careful, and sooner or later there will be an oopsie or two which will spoil things. Darn! There are a few right on the front of this shirt.

Using the foam shape without a backing is not really an option, it is too soft, and neither is cutting the perspex around the outside of the shape, it is too hard. So finally I decided that instead of cutting one shape of the foam, I would cut three and stick one on top of the other. That makes it easier for inking and doesn’t take too much work cutting out. The lower layers don’t have to be too precise, just enough to lift the top layer higher off the backing.

I was also very careful to wipe any extra ink off the backing with a cloth before printing each motif.

So here is the result, my froggy shirt. Ribbip!

Making a Silk Purse Out of a Sow’s Ear

Well, sometimes it works… possibly often enough for me to keep trying. Intermittent reinforcement, as they say.

This wool double knit was ordered on the interwebs and shipped at great expense from the US, only to find that I really hated the colour. Don’t ask me why. Sometime you just do. I tried to dye it, but found that it must be a wool mix, as some bits dyed and others didn’t, which meant the dyed version wasn’t much of an improvement.

So after much wrinkling of brow and using words best not repeated, I decided to make a jumper and print it with a combination of abstract paintings I found online. It looks like a burnt landscape (quite topical for bush fire ravaged Oz in the middle of an epidemic) with a moon, or sun, or whatever. I didn’t manage to get the heavenly body quite in the right place on the front (b*gger!). That’s what happens when you print it before the rest of the stuff, which unfortunately is necessary if you want it behind the burnt timbers.

Much better placement on the back.

So here are some more pics. You decide if Operation Silk Purse was a success. 🙂

For the print I combined two abstract paintings. This is the first one. Unfortunately the artist was not mentioned on Pinterest, only that it was from Thepaintart.

I turned this upside down to reassemble charred logs and cut a stencil which i printed on the back of the top. I like starting on the back when I print, because I can learn from any oopsies and avoid them on the front, plus they don’t stare me in the face every time I look in the mirror.

The colours seemed a bit dour after the first print, so I added a white circle. Then I thought the top still needed more black to dominate the brown and some extra trees would be nice, so I overprinted with a stencil cut from this painting. Again no artist, only that it is sold by CZ Art Design.

I used to ink my stencils with a foam roller, but found that a bit cut from a cheap plastic sponge works better. I use waterbased Permaset screen printing ink and work from the edges of the stencil towards the middle to avoid getting leakage outside the stencil lines. Usually I need to let it dry and do a second coat, especially if the fabric is not perfectly smooth and quite thick like this wool double knit. A hair dryer helps to speed the drying process.

The pattern I used for the top is the Tessuti Mandy, which has proven to be such a great canvas for my printing. This time I kept the long sleeves. The sewing details are on PatternReview.

Herringbone Shirt

Yes, I can do a proper sleeve placket. But it is time consuming and by the time I get to the end of the sleeve in my sewing process I am almost finished. Spending another hour faffing around with a minor detail does not appeal. Besides, this is MY hobby and I do what I want, so if the sewing police should turn up to drag me off to sewing jail I will tell them politely where to get off.

Lately I have been making the Tessuti Jac shirt, which has a 3/4 sleeve with a notched cuff. This can be folded down to reach the wrist when worn under a jumper. https://www.tessuti-shop.com/products/jac-shirt-pattern-print-at-home-or-copy-shop-pdf (For some reason WordPress does not let me make a normal link, so I have to insert the address.)

But I thought I would have a go at a more conventional shirt pattern as I wanted to repurpose something that doesn’t have quite enough fabric for the Jac. So I dug out an old Burda pattern, Burda 8367. I also wanted long sleeves to wear this shirt under jumpers. Unfortunately the pattern is OOP, but still around on the interwebs. https://sewing.patternreview.com/patterns/9742

The fabric came from a repurposed set of cot sheets which had plenty of holes, which meant I had to use two different prints to have enough for the shirt. If you look closely you can see the smaller and larger herringbone pattern on the front pieces and sleeves.

This pattern is a nice, quick sew, economical with fabric and I like the roomy collar. Sewing details of the collar and faux shirt cuffs are on PatternReview. https://sewing.patternreview.com/cgi-bin/reviewgallery.pl?c=4

Textured Stencil Print

Somehow with my textile printing, I have always subconsciously aimed at the flat solid colour areas achieved with screen printing. Consequently I have been frustrated when my block printing and stencilling has not produced the same thick and even ink application. But I have started to realise that both techniques not only have a charm of their own, but have possibilities that screen printing does not have. So it’s horses for courses I suppose.

Specifically it has finally dawned on me (slow learner!), that I can make a textured, or even a textured multi coloured print with a stencil. I have not tried the latter yet, but here is my first mono coloured textured print. I am rather pleased with the effect.

The fabric is a cotton viscose mix with a slight sheen, a repurposed Ikea sheet, and I have copied a painting by Australian artist Kristina Sostarko, modified to suit my purpose. I hope she doesn’t mind, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery after all.

The pattern used is yet another Tessuti Mandy hack, with the armscyes widened to accommodate a woven fabric and piecing on the sleeves to accommodate a lack of fabric.

The skirt is a variation of the Kaliyana skirt in a previous post. This time I used elastic in the hem instead of gathering and applying a hem band. I think I prefer the hem band, but alas, no more fabric. Not a bad yield for a single flat sheet in any case, so no complaints.

I crushed the skirt by twisting it into a bundle for storage, instead of keeping it on a hanger. To do this you bunch up the waistband and hem into each hand, pull the skirt tight, then twist it as hard as you can. Without letting go, allow the skirt to twist into a bundle, tuck in the hem end and nestle in a draw amongst other clothes to stop it from unraveling. I crush some of my scarves and other garments that way, and you can steam the bundle to set the creases in more permanently. Usually I crush without steaming first to see if I like the effect, then steam if I do.

In this case I think I prefer the skirt uncrushed, to match the top. This means ironing but hopefully not too much or too often. I also took down the height of the cowl by half and widened the neck opening a little. Picture below.

How to Get Better Photos for Your Sewing Blog

Having a fabulous setting when you photograph your sewing creations is great. But…

Having to recruit someone to take the photos, hoping for good weather and braving other people’s stares is not so great. I sew quite a lot and at times I blog relatively often. You can’t blog without photos, and if I had to go through a major production every time I would never get around to it. Even taking photos in your own garden is a bit embarrassing, in case the neighbours are watching and wondering what sort of vain idiot is posing for selfies all the time.

Inside the house, where it is private, taking photos can be another sort of problem. You need to find a neutral background without pesky furniture and pictures in the way, somewhere where you can sit the camera at the right distance and height and where there is good light. I don’t want to have to do a complicated set up each time, moving stuff, setting up lights and generally faffing around.

So I have designated picture taking spot in my house.

Plain background. Check.

Convenient window sill for the camera? Check.

Good bright light? Check.

Tadaaaa!

Doesn’t that look great? Maybe not.

Ok, so clearly bit of a tidy up is called for: Hellooo Photoshop!

I use Photoshop Elements, which is much cheaper than the full version and just a good for my purposes. It really is an excellent investment if you want nice photos. But if you prefer to hang onto your cash, there is a free image editing software called gimp. Plus a gazillion apps you can get for very little, which do at least some of what Photoshop does, such as cropping and lightening. I can’t help you with any of the latter, although there would be lots of online tutorials if you search a little.

What I do is take my photos with the timer and flash, load them on my PC and open them in Photoshop.

First I crop the photo.

Because my photo was not taken in a proper studio with professional equipment, I need to lighten it up, by going to the Enhance menu and clicking on Auto Levels.

I even lighten it up further on the Enhance menu by selecting Adjust Lighting>Brightness/Contrast. Lighten up your photo with the brightness slider until you are satisfied with the result.

Next I use the eraser on 100% opacity to get rid of the outer edges of the photo.

Then I turn the eraser slider at the bottom to 60% opacity and go around the edges multiple times until I have faded out most of the remaining background.

And voila, here is the finished photo. You may also notice that compared to the earlier photo I have smoothed my face out a bit to get rid of the worst of my wrinkles. (I use the blur tool, and there is lots more you can do, but that is a whole other tute.)

For now, I just reduce the size of the image. The bigger the image, the clearer your face will be with every little line and blemish on display. You don’t need any of this to show off your garment and give readers a good idea of what it looks like. I reduce the size of my photos to 40% of the original, sometimes even smaller.

Go to the Image menu >Resize

Set it to 40%.

Save your finished image and select the file size. A low resolution means a small file size, but this will still display just fine on a screen. However, if you think you may want to print the image or do something else with it later, you may want to select a higher resolution. I usually go for medium.

There are ways of removing the background completely and I used to do that with my photos, but found it far too time consuming. If you are interested, the are lots of tutorials on the web on how to remove the background in Photoshop. For my purposes the vignette style with the faded edges is just as good and much faster.

Good luck with your own photos!

Boule Skirt Inspired by Kaliyana

Seems I am going to mop up quite a few ideas that have been languishing in my imaginary sewing queue for years, if not decades, while at home during this pandemic. I have been a fan of the Canadian designer Kaliyana for a long time, but I could never afford her creations and even if I could, the proportions would be all wrong for me. At 161cm and now 67kg (thank you, home isolation), I am a long way from the models who look so fabulous in her fashion shots. That doesn’t mean that I can’t wear this type of thing, but it has to be adapted for my height and figure in terms of ease and proportions. Very doable when sewing even if impossible with RTW.

This skirt has been on my to-do list since forever.

I have used a dark grey striped jacquard of unknown fibre content which reminds me a bit of nylon taffeta, although not as shiny, not as stiff and not as noisy. Maybe a nylon mix of some sort? It is a nice quality, but at best only part natural fibre.

The skirt consists of 2 straight fabric rectangles, 150x75cm each and sewn into the round. Then I made 8 deep box pleats at the top to absorb the fabric volume over the hips and a gathered hem at the bottom 1:2 with a band to finish it off. The circumference at the hem is about 1.5m, much less than the original Kaliyana skirt, but that huge amount of volume would swamp me. The top of the skirt is pleated to a circumference that just fits over my hips and a waistband is added with elastic inside. Sewing details are on PatternReview.

The fabric is not as light weight as the original and I didn’t crush it (other than to sit on it) because the self stripe looks nice. Still pretty happy with the result and will be fun to wear with my Doc Martin boots for winter. (Note the super elegant ughs for the photo shoot. 🙂

Surely Not Plaid!

I’m not a great lover of plaid, I have to admit. So why on earth did I make a plaid winter coat? This is one of the deep mysteries of buying fabric online. I saw black and white wool, I thought of a jacket I once owned and loved with a black and white pattern (not plaid!), I bought the fabric and then I was stuck with it. The covid bug came, I was bored, and so here we are, with a plaid coat.

That said, I find that I probably like black and white buffalo plaid better than any other, with the possible exception of black watch tartan. So the coat might actually get some wear. Hope springs eternal.

The pattern I used is Marcy Tilton V8934, which I bought principally for the bubble shape.

But perverse as I am, once I got to the hem I decided to skip the darts and leave the coat as a classic a-line. And being even more perverse, I am now considering putting them in after all. Of course I have removed all the markings, which will make doing this much more difficult. Serves me right. 🙂

The sewing details are on PatternReview.

Katherine Brenne Jacket

What? A completely new pattern? Not the Tessuti Mandy again? Whatever has gotten into me?

— Well, a few years ago I found this jacket on Pinterest and really loved it.

Initially I was too chicken to try and wing a copy, but then, — great excitement –, Vogue published V9135, a Katherine Brenne pattern that was very similar. Yes, it has taken me years and a pandemic to actually get around to making it, but better late than never.

The pattern is less extreme in body width (note the width where the sleeve joins the body) and the collar is more restrained too, which is all to the good. These days I still like oversized, but much less that in my Lagenlook heyday. That particular insanity has passed.

Having stepped out of my TNT comfort zone I made a muslin first, which got the tick for shape, although the fabric I had used was a pink country print which was a bit off putting.

Confined to the house because of the dreaded lurgy, I thought I would have another go with more suitable fabric. I would have preferred plain black, but the black and silver acetate was all I had in my stash. Problematic with other prints worn underneath, I know, but with this epidemic said to go on for months I will have enough jackets to go with absolutely everything. The only problem will be that none of them will fit me before long, due to my current enormous consumption of chocolate. The Easter bunny has a lot to answer for.

So here is the jacket, unfortunately proof that large prints are much more aesthetically pleasing than small ones, but hey, this print is not too bad and it will be a long time before I can rush off to a European fabric market to get a better one.

You can tell that I am not into shoes!

After I had finished this jacket, and wished very much that it was plain black, I decided to have a go at dying my original pink muslin. I thought that the print would still be visible, only tone in tone black, but happily this isn’t the case. Even a very close look can’t find any trace of it. So now I have a plain black jacket as well as the silver on black print. I suspect the plain will get a lot more wear.

Because black swallows all the light so you can’t see much in photos, I lightened them up quite a lot, which makes them look washed out and grainy, but at least you can make out the bones of the garment. The lightening does horrible things to human faces, so these photos are cropped to the essentials.

The Tessuti Jac

Jackets need a lot of thought, as I have discovered. Not only does it have to look good and be comfortable, but it also needs to go with a lot of your outfits to make it useful. Plain, boring jackets do this best, but who wants plain and boring jackets? Unfortunately I have made quite a few exciting ones, only to discover that they are mostly wardrobe flowers because they only go with one monochrome outfit, which is boring once the fancy jacket is taken off. Or they don’t accommodate the top underneath very well, making the sleeve and shoulder area on my recent linen tops look crushed.

It doesn’t help that I like to wear my jackets open, because anything other than plain black, navy or grey will very likely clash with the top underneath. The cure for that, of course, is to make myself button up, so only the pants or skirt are visible. I wear a lot of black pants, like everyone else, so anything that can be closed and goes with black bottoms should go with a lot of outfits.

So here is my latest attempt at an interesting jacket that will actually get worn. I modified the Tessuti Jac Shirt for an unstructured, unlined specimen that is just the right weight for early autumn, when the temps are still in the mid to low twenties, but the mornings are cool.

As you can see, I took off the collar and only used the collar stand and I made long sleeves. The fabric used is a heavy furnishing cotton from Ikea. Details of the modifications can be found here.

Minimalist’

Lately I have developed a taste for minimalist art and it is influencing my sewing. Simple shapes, simple stencil motifs. I also try to repurpose when I can, and using sheets is my latest strategy. Either good parts of my worn out sheets, or sometimes ‘as is’ sheets from Ikea when I can find something suitable.

This outfit started life as a single size fitted sheet, 100% pure cotton. It was pink, not a colour I can do much with at the moment, but not to worry. I overdyed it in blue, expecting some sort of purple, but instead it came out as a nice denim blue. Perfect.

The pants are elasticised at the top and tapered towards the ankle. The original pattern was changed and adapted past all recognition, so I won’t bother to link to it. The top is once again the Tessuti Mandy tee, with the armscyes changed to accommodate a woven and the sleeves changed to cuffs. Instructions on how to do this are here.

I used this minimalist painting as a starting point for my stencil, turning it sideways and changed the aspect a little to suit the shape of the Mandy and changing the colours from high contrast black and white to low contrast blue and grey.

Perhaps the contrast is a little too low, I am thinking of maybe overprinting with a slightly lighter shade of grey. This will also make the print more even, right now it is a little blotchy. A lesson learnt that large areas of colour are probably best printed with a screen, even a stencil doesn’t do them well, at least not in one go.

I will add some updated pics once I have done the second print, but for now more of this first iteration.

I did do a slightly lighter version. To tell the truth, I was just busting to try overprinting, it’s a great thing to have up your sleeve if the first go isn’t so great. It will make me more prepared to take risks, and without taking risks and having failures you can’t truly master anything.

I’m happier with the lighter grey. The first try was too light and resulted in ragged edges, but I left it after tidying it up as much as possible with a brush. I like the quirkiness of having one motif in a different shade, and it is on the back, so won’t annoy me every time I look in the mirror.

Here is a pic still on my cutting table after printing. You can see that I just cover it with newspaper and it doubles as a printing station.