Hello Spring!

Yes, obviously it is winter in the Southern Hemisphere, but these tops were made for my European trip, where it was emphatically spring with fantastic sunny and warm weather. Travelling between the hemispheres really brings home to me how much we are influenced by the seasons in our colour choices without realising it. After a few times feeling drab and out of sync during my visits, this time I wanted to have at least a couple of garments in my suitcase that would blend in with the happy spring atmosphere at my destination.

This was my inspiration, you can’t get any more light, airy and suitable for spring than those beautiful light blue flowers on white.

But I didn’t really want a tunic, my voluminous Arthur pants demand something much shorter. Like a cropped Mandy with cuffs instead of sleeves.

It was difficult to judge how dark to make my blue dye because it always looks quite a bit lighter after it has been washed out. So I used too much dye powder and my flowers ended up much darker than intended. Never mind, there is always the next project to improve on the mistakes of the last one.

I have always found it difficult up until now to do a pattern of randomly scattered motifs. It doesn’t really work to use a stencil for a single motif over and over, the way you can do when you arrange your motifs in an orderly grid pattern.

I solved the problem with a stencil that covers the whole pattern piece of my garment. To start with I drew four slightly different flowers on scrap paper, cut them out and used them as a template for my freezer paper stencil. It was then easy to space the flowers out randomly in a pleasing manner, without awkward holes or crowding. Once I had traced around the flowers with pencil I could cut them out with a craft knife and ironed the finished stencil to my fabric. I coloured in the flowers with dye thickened very heavily with sodium alginate gel. This stops the dye from running under the edges of the stencil.

My fabric was again a repurposed cotton/viscose Ikea sheet, pre- prepared with soda ash solution and dried. The soda ash treatment is necessary because it takes a while to stencil the flowers, and if I add the soda ash solution to the dye it will weaken before I am finished, risking an uneven result. I didn’t want the flowers on the front of the top to end up paler than on the back.

Being a bit lazy I did not make white centres on my flowers, as this would have meant cutting out little circles from the freezer paper to keep the dye off. As it happens this is fortunate as with the darker blue I think a black or dark blue centre will look better.

So here is the altered version, with the freshly added dark blue centres, still on newspaper on my cutting table.

I am not sure if it really is an improvement, somehow the plain version has a charm of its own.

As a minimalist I think I have two fears, cutting off too much fabric and putting on too much paint. Not sure if I haven’t done the latter with this top.

No such doubts with the second top, which was painted freehand. I used a thick stencil brush and heavily thickened dye to prevent the dye from running. This time I added soda ash powder to my dye mix because I thought I would need less time to get my painting done. I first did the lighter blue circles and let this cure overnight, then added the darker blue accents the next day. This way the dyes don’t mix. Dye painting is not for the impatient and I hate that side of it, but the results keep me coming back for more. The colours are so much more vibrant than screen printing ink and the hand of the fabric does not change at all.

The pattern for both tops is once again the Tessuti Mandy, with the boat neck changed to a round neck and cuffs instead of the long sleeves.

Stencilling notes

  • Cotton viscose fabric briefly soaked in soda ash solution and dried
  • Freezer paper stencil, joined to yield required size. This is easily done by overlapping and joining with hot iron. Sticks well.
  • Cut stencil with craft knife and ironed to cut-out garment pieces
  • Painted flowers with stubby brush and heavily thickened dye, approx 2.5 teaspoons of sodium alginate per 250ml of water
  • Cured overnight, washed out and sewed up
  • Added dark blue centres later with straight dye and soda ash, no thickening

Painting notes:

  • Cotton viscose fabric
  • painted circles with stubby brush, on cut-out garment pieces
  • Dye heavily thickened with sodium alginate, approx 2.5 teaspoons per 250ml and soda ash added
  • Painted light blue circles first and let cure/dry overnight
  • Painted darker accents the next day, let cure/dry
  • Washed and sewed up

Soft-Shell Jacket

I wanted a light and weather resistant jacket for my travels in Europe and discovered quite a nice range of soft-shell fabric hidden away at my local Spotlight. The attendant told me they don’t sell much of it, and indeed I haven’t seen much worn where I live, which is surprising as soft-shell jackets and coats are ubiquitous in Europe.

So it wasn’t surprising that I didn’t find any patterns at my two favourite pattern companies, StyleArc and Tessuti, which are both Australian. In the end I cobbled something together adding a hood to a Vogue Katherine Brenne pattern, V9135, which I have used before, making a couple of jackets I like to wear all the time.

The main feature of soft-shell fabric is that it is double faced, with a nice fleecy wrong side which is warm and looks good without a lining. To make this work I decided to flat fell the seams and change the inseam pockets to patch pockets on the outside. This worked really well and the inside of the jacket looks as good as the outside.

I didn’t think that different coloured zips rather than matching would be a good idea until it was too late. Neon orange green or purple come to mind. The navy zips are boring, lesson learnt.

Still, I pick this up and wear it all the time, even after getting home from my trip. I might well make another one with a bit more colour.

For those interested, the sewing details are on PatternReview

New Love

After my Henri Matisse phase I now have a decided crush on a Japanese artist, Samiro Yunoki. This is the second time I have used his art, this time more of a copy than mere inspiration. I hope he doesn’t mind.

I repurposed a top which is quite a few years old and the style was looking dated. But the fabric is an absolutely wonderful crinkle linen I bought in Europe, the type you can do anything you like with and it won’t ever look rumpled. Far too good to get rid of even if it is almost 10:years old.

So I re-fashioned the top to something similar to the Tessuti Athina, to make the style more current. Then I stencilled it and here we are.

Japanese artists are often minimalist, which is right up my alley., and Yunoki definitely is. Here is another one of his paintings which absolutely speaks to me.

I hope he doesn’t mind my appropriation. After all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

The pattern for the second top was the Tessuti Mandy, with added funnel neck.

Stencilling notes

  • Stencilled with black screen printing ink, this time NOT supercover. Works better for black, not as gluggy and easier to apply.
  • Blue is white supercover screen printing ink, tinted with blue acrylic

Linked to MMM.

The Arthur Pants

I enjoy quirky stuff, especially in pants. Cynics may say this is because I don’t have the figure for pants, and classic styles will never look good on me, but why not think outside the box and forget classic styles?

When I came across the Arthur pants by Sew Liberated I couldn’t resist.

However, voluminous styles need to be adapted to make them suitable for my short stature. 161cm is not exactly model height, and as much as I wish I was 10cm taller, it is not likely to miraculously happen.

So I reduced the ease quite drastically. A lot of this is due to my fabric choice, quite a hefty bottom weight cotton, which is not recommended by the designer. Something more drapey like a mid weight linen recommended for the pattern could have taken more volume. The sewing details are on PatternReview.

I have been wearing these pants enthusiastically for quite a few days in a row, so they are not exactly freshly ironed, like you see in the fashion shots.

Quite forgot to take my elegant slippers off in the last photo. 🙂

Painted Lady

Looking back on my recent makes i think that I like my dye painted tops best, like this one.

So why not keep going into this direction and make some more? I saw this painting by Samiro Yunoki and thought it could be adapted.

I drew something similar, turned 90 degrees and multiples of it, on my fabric with pencil.

Then I filled it in with thickened dye, front, back and sleeve pieces.

I used heavily thickened black dye which made nice sharp outlines, then filled in between. It probably took about 2 hours. Of course, if I had screen printed this it would have taken mere minutes, but I like the hand painting. Plus I only need one garment for me to wear, not lots to sell.

The fabric is cotton and meant to be a ‘muslin’, not one to try out a pattern but to try out a painting idea. I have a piece of linen in the same light grey colour which will be my ‘real’ project. I like the painting as shown above, with just the black, and think this is what I will do with the linen. Maybe only make the black design a little larger.

But for the trial piece I have added a colour wash to see what this will look like. This was in the interest of gaining more experience, as colour washes are a bit unpredictable, but of course I also don’t need two tops the same. Then there is the issue of cotton versus linen. With the simple black design there is a real difference in the final look of the garment between an upmarket fabric versus something more humble. The cotton wouldn’t look nearly as good ‘naked’ as the linen, so I thought maybe more colour would help.

It does, but as a certifiable fibre snob I still think the cotton looks a bit cheap. Fair enough when I am using a recycled doona cover. Maybe a heavier cotton would give a more upmarket looking result.

The colour wash turned out quite well, except for the spotty look that I suspect is due to water drops.

Never mind, let not perfection be the enemy of good. 😉

The sewing pattern used is once more the Tessuti Athina and the sewing details are on PatternReview.

Painting notes

  • Painted on light grey cotton soaked in soda ash solution and dried
  • Black abstract shapes outlined in pencil, then painted with heavily thickened black dye and a stubby brush
  • Dye was thickened with sodium alginate powder, 2 teaspoons to 250 ml of water
  • Cured for 48 hours and washed out
  • Soaked briefly in soda ash solution
  • Painted wet with large brush, using red and blue dye powders dissolved in plain water, no thickener
  • Cured for 24 hours, washed out, dried and sewn up

Linked to MMM.

Unrequited Love

Don’t you just drool over the elegant simplicity of plain linen garments? I was totally seduced by this symphony in linen:

So I thought, rather than all that busy printing, stencilling and painting, why not make a plain linen shirt for a change? I liked the style of this one, from the same website of a Hobart designer, calling itself ‘the maker’.

Not having a lazy $350 lying around, I got out some mustard linen and my Tessuti Jac Shirt pattern. This is my go-to, but I always lengthen it by 5cm at the line provided for this purpose in the pattern. This time, with my eyes firmly on the my inspiration, I went a bit more extreme and lengthened by 8cm. I also put more swing in the back by putting the back pattern piece at an angle to the fold, touching the fold at the collar end but about 5-10cm away from the fold at the bottom hem.

The traditional method is to slash and spread the pattern piece, but this has always worked just fine for me.

Again following the lead of my inspiration shirt I also widened the neck circumference by 12cm and lengthened the collar stand by the same amount to fit the new circumference. Leaving out the actual shirt collar piece, this makes a nice grandpa collar which now sits much further away from the neck, although possibly not quite as wide as the original. I not only like the look, but find it more comfortable when the collar doesn’t rub against my neck.

So here we are, showing off by trying to imitate the professional poses of my inspo, probably not all that successfully. 🙂

And back to the usual same old same old poses…

See the side vent and the swing at the back? I like that. Without the extra width it is much more flat, like the front. It also does not work lengthened if it is not widened at the same time. Ask me how I know.

Sadly I cannot manage to maintain that freshly ironed look sported by the models.

All photos were taken after a day’s wear. Just look at the back.

The photos don’t show the wrinkles well on the front, but look at the sleeves.

Even after treating the linen for a couple of weeks with soda ash, it still does not wear nearly as well as linen where I have used dye or screen printing ink. Apart from the additional chemicals, it is probably the prints/painting that distract the eye and make garments appear so much less wrinkled that a plain fabric.

So I don’t think this shirt/jacket will make it out of the ironing basket all that often. What a shame. As much as I love gorgeous plain linen, it does not love me back. Sniff!

Not Quite Zero Waste

Inspired by the Birgitta Helmersson zero waste dress featured on the Sew Tessuti blog, I thought I could easily do something similar.

I thought all that volume needed a very thin fabric, but otherwise it looked great. The only thing that made me hesitate was the V neck finished with a straight cut band, which according to the blog does not sit flat.

I thought I would ditch the band and just add extra at centre front of the bodice for the button holes and buttons. This meant no V neck, but I prefer a round neck anyway, plus this would leave my options open to add a shirt collar at the last minute if I wanted to.

Instead of the plain rectangles for the bodice and sleeves of the original zero waste dress, I decided to use the Tessuti Athina bodice and cut on dolman-type sleeves. No longer zero waste but still close.

Now here is a philosophical conundrum: is it more ethical to make a garment that is cut to achieve zero waste, therefore basically made from rectangles. Or can you shape parts of it a little more, generating some waste. The amount of fabric you use is the same for both, only in the zero waste dress the extra fabric, which you would otherwise cut off, remains part of the garment.

I sound as if I want to rubbish zero waste, but not at all. When I read that hobby sewists waste about 30% of their fabric I absolutely cringe. So zero waste is an admirable concept and totally to be encouraged.

But unfortunately my whole zero waste intention with this project fell apart at the first fitting. While the dress looked much like in the Tessuti blog picture from the front, — big, but stylish. —, it was HUGE looking side-on. And definitely not in a good way.

Imagine this on short, stout me.

Of course I always knew that at 161cm tall, much shorter than the model, I would need to adapt the proportions to my stature. But I thought the Athina bodice looked not quite as wide as the one pictured in the original and would be ok. Silly me. It took up the full width of the fabric, so was far too wide to look good with that very voluminous skirt.

So in stages, testing each time how it looked, I ended up taking a full 32cm out of the circumference of the bodice. That’s a lot and sadly the end of any claim to zero waste.

But I returned to the zero waste concept with the skirt, which is two rectangles the entire widths of the fabric. I worried about whether the skirt would be huge too, being 2x the 150cm, a full 3m in circumference, an awful lot of fabric. I had pleated it into the bodice, not gathered it, and made a fabric fold over the join, which thankfully prevented the skirt from puffing out at the top. And because the cotton I had chosen is whisper thin and therefore also quite drapey, the overall volume of the skirt looks ok. A normal weight cotton would have been too much.

My conclusion after finishing this project is that the zero waste concept works, but only for the tall if you use 150cm wide fabric. You don’t have to be skinny, methinks, a plus sized person could make this work very nicely. But not a petite plus.

If you are a short person like me and want zero waste, you need fabric 110 or 120cm wide, depending on your bust measurement plus ease. This allows for a bodice of a more modest width without ending up with waste, and the skirt will be less voluminous too, which is all to the good. You could then use a lightweight cotton or linen.

So here is my offering of a dress that could have been zero waste, had I chosen a fabric that was only 120cm wide instead of the 150cm of my recycled Ikea curtain. I am not 100% happy with the neckline, but both a v neck and a grandpa shirt collar would dilute the zero waste concept further. As it happens I have enough of the curtain left over to indulge whatever I decide in the end, but for now I am going to wear it as is.

Pants instead of slip
Simulating V neck to see what it would look like

More sewing details on PatternReview. Linked to MMM.

The Evolving Dress Part 2

Can’t help myself! I had to fiddle with this dress which was not bad, but not really good either.

So I overpainted it in blue. I did this double layered, meaning that I was too lazy to open up the side seams and lay it flat. Note to self: single layered will give a better result! The blue is possibly a little more mottled than I wanted, although not too bad.

I could of course have immersion dyed it, but I wanted some colour variations. Subtle ones, so I could print over the top. This was the motif I wanted to use.

What I didn’t count on was that the criss-cross brush strokes would still be very visible.

I don’t think overprinting would work with this background, too busy, even with low contrast prints like in black.

Do I like the blue better than the green? I do, although that is a purely personal preference. Arguably the blue brush strokes had more impact on the green.

But I didn’t really like that particular shade of green and blue is my favourite colour, so there!

I might mock up black prints in Photoshop and see if it would look good against my expectations. But this is probably the end of the road for this dress. I quite like it, but let’s see if it will get worn or not!

The Evolving Dress?

Experimentation is essential if you want to go on learning, and not every experiment is a resounding success. I have been wanting to try brushing freehand lines with dye onto fabric, something like these paintings:

Black on white looks good, or black on khaki or beige, but the fabric I happened to have available was more of the light green I used for the turkey top. Light green is not an easy colour for this kind of thing and I did not want to pair it with black again. So instead of maximum contrast I tried for low contrast, which meant a mid blue with the green.

The result is sort of ok, but with hindsight I should probably have used a darker blue. Not that there is any guarantee that I would have been happier with the outcome.

A project being ‘ok’ is not really what I am after. I had the dress hanging on the outside of my wardrobe for a week or so, trying to make up my mind what to do with it. When I was thinking about it, I was certain that I wanted to overpaint and turn it into something different. But every time I actually looked at it I thought that it was ‘quite nice’.

You can see from the back view why I thought a darker blue would have been better. I could still add more lines with an indigo blue. But don’t be surprised if this dress is completely mid blue next time you see it, with or without block prints, or whatever.

But there is no rush, I can overpaint any time, so I thought I would let life decide. If it turns out that I am keen to take the dress out of my wardrobe and wear it, all and good. If it languishes unworn, I will have another go at it.

Whether it will be an improvement is anyone’s guess. 🙂

The pattern used is the Tessuti Lily Linen Dress and the fabric is another Ikea Nattjasmin sheet, which is a mix of cotton and viscose.

Dye Painting Notes

  • Drimarene K fibre reactive dye powder Blue RL, mixed with sodium alginate thickener
  • 1 teaspoon sodium alginate powder mixed with 250ml of water in blender — not really thick enough, should be 2-3 teaspoons.
  • Left to cure for several days, very little dye coming out in the wash

Don’t let the Turkeys …

This bird didn’t really remind me of a turkey until I had stencilled a top with it all over.

Not a problem really, I like turkeys, except I happened to have arranged my birds badly on the available space.

Can you see the hole in the middle? I started with the large version, as is logical, but then had problems how to arrange the smaller ones nicely.

The back is better, but not much. What was I thinking?

Idiot! I should have modelled this on Photoshop first. Now I have a big empty space in the middle.

It’s worse when worn on the body and not great from any angle.

The pendant helps a bit, but not that much. Certainly not on the back. 🙂

There are only two options, learn to live with it as it is, or put something into the empty space. Plants? Smaller turkeys? I was really unsure how to fix this.

In the end I thought I would try smaller version of the birds, but cut out two pieces of paper of the size I was aiming for to try out placements. Once you have done the stencilling it’s too late to change your mind.

That made me more confident that I could fill the empty space without making it look even worse. I am much happier now with the look of the shirt.

Stencilling Notes

  • The large and small turkeys are stencilled using freezer paper
  • The medium birds are block printed using adhesive foam on a perspex backing.
  • The ink used is Permaset screen printing ink, black
  • The fabric is cotton/viscose sheeting
  • The ink was initially cured for 30 mins in the dryer
  • For the birds I added later I used a hot iron to set the ink

Linked to MMM.