Rusted On

Rust might not be everyone’s favourite colour, but I’m sure I will be making lots of lovely rust-coloured garments this summer. All Ikea’s fault, because they specialled off their rust coloured linen curtains for a ridiculous price. Was there a palace revolt of bean counters against the designers or was it just some sort of embarrassing mistake? Whatever the reason, I couldn’t help but go berserk and buy several packets. Each pair of curtains is 5m of linen, which makes …. uhm … let’s not do the maths, too embarrassing! Suffice it to say that I love the colour (which is just as well), and the price of around $8/m allows me so much more freedom to experiment than if I had to shell out the usual $25-40 in the fabric shops. So it’s a win-win, Ikea gets to get rid of stock they clearly don’t want and I get to get rid off my fear of ruining expensive fabric when trying out new ideas.

I started making inroads into my stash of many meters of red-brown linen with a tunic painted with a super simple abstract in black. I really like the colour combo even if it is not particularly spring-like. But with the long sleeves it will be just the right weight for the change of season and in any case, autumn is sure to come again. 🙂

The pattern is the Tessuti Athina, what else, this time in the longer length, meant to be worn over loose pants. The motif was painted on with a brush with screen printing ink and the signature had to be stencilled as such fine lines are hard with a brush on the rough texture of linen. Too easy to spoil the whole thing at the last moment with some gluggy blobs. I used screen printing ink because I was too impatient to wait the 8 hours or overnight you need with dye before being able to sew this up. In all my impatient enthusiasm I forgot to peel away the newspaper under the fabric while the ink was still wet, so now I have bits of newspaper permanently stuck on the inside. Serves me right, but I could always claim that it adds to that ‘artisan look’. 🙂

I modified the Athina slightly by installing slits at sides, to about high hip level. Makes more sense with something this long and allows easy access to my pant pockets.

Next in my line up of rust coloured linen garments is a calf-length tunic with short sleeves, again split at the sides to the waist.

This could be worn over pants or possibly even a skirt. I have tried this look before with a knit and long sleeves in winter, but when you need a jacket over the top to keep warm the super long tunic can look awkward. So short sleeved for summer, when jackets are not necessary, is probably a better idea.

The pattern here, surprise surprise, is not the Athina but the Georgia dress by Elizabeth Suzann Studio. More about the sewing details and modifications are on PatternReview.

The stencilled motif is an old favourite, one of the Matisse cut-outs, stencilled with freezer paper and this time I took my time with thickened dye, to preserve the soft hand of the fabric.

I had a brief flirtation with using these giraffes, but I am a bit wary of animals on my clothes.

Too cutesy? Maybe not if it is sufficiently stylised and the safari theme suits the colour. I might still try it if I find I like wearing this new silhouette of a long tunic with split sides over pants. Apparently we are in for another cool summer on the Australian east coast, so I won’t be wearing sleeveless dresses all that much.

This is linked to MMM.

Stencilled Stuff

This must be a very boring blog for anyone wanting to see different patterns as I am using always the same ones right now, and mostly a modified version of the Tessuti Mandy. My attention is focussed completely on the painting of the fabric, with no real thought other than producing sweatshirts and long sleeve tees. Not all that silly as it is winter in the Southern Hemisphere, so sweatshirts and long sleeve tees with a cowl, or skivvies as they are known here, are just right with my pants to keep me warm.

Here is the latest crop. They are all stencilled with freezer paper stencils, using various techniques to produce these.

The stencil for this one was cut on the Cricut at work, because I thought the rectangles needed to be exact for the pattern to work. The middle and sides are on separate stencils, as the whole front or back would not have fitted the maximum cutting width of the machine. The two parts needed to line up exactly. Hard to do manually.

It turned out quite well, but because of the large amount of painted areas the skivvy feels a bit plasticky. Unfortunately on dark colours it is not possible to use lighter dye, and with screen printing ink several coats are needed or alternatively supercover inks, and both options have the same heavy slick feel. At least the jersey is a double weight viscose and there is enough unpainted fabric to let it breathe.

Next is another viscose jersey skivvy, with much thinner fabric this time. At least the screen printing ink stabilised the flimsy stuff a little. The design is good, but I am not really happy with the fabric.

It looks a bit short but goes well with my high waisted Arthur pants.

With randomly scattered motifs like these black tulips I draw a few versions of the motif first on paper or thin cardboard, then cut these out and use them as a template on the freezer paper. This way I can rub off my pencil outlines if I need to rearrange a motif to produce a nice even look of scattered flowers. After I am satisfied with my arrangement I cut out the motifs with a craft knife. Fortunately I like large prints rather than small ones, so this is not too labour intensive. If I ever wanted a Mille Fleur fabric (which I won’t), I would certainly use the cutting machine.

Another skivvy to use up that annoying fabric. With only one motif and using dye instead of screen printing ink, the fabric looks and feels even worse. Not the best purchase I ever made, this is what happens when you buy fabric in a hurry. DH, dear man that he is, can’t understand why three hours are not enough time for me at a fabric market, but we know better, don’t we?

As already mentioned, I also produced some sweatshirts using the same Mandy pattern, which can be worn as a second layer over the skivvies. Nobody takes heating seriously in our part of the country because it doesn’t get that cold, so something warm when I am sitting for hours in my studio either painting or sewing is certainly appreciated.

The rhino shirt is based on a sculpture by Jovan Blat I found and liked on Pinterest. Just the sort of stylised minimalist shape that appeals to me. I used the outline and initially the big rhino was supposed to be white, but the blue just looks better, so blue rhino it is. (Did I mention that I really love blue?) The ink used is screen printing ink and the blue parts are quite thick, but as there is not much of the blue the plastic texture doesn’t bother me as much as with the striped skivvy.

The stencil was freezer paper again as with all the tops shown in this post. I have already gone through a whole roll of the stuff, but even shipping it from the US it is still much cheaper than acetate and getting crisp edges is so much easier with something that actually sticks to the fabric.

More blue here, the shapes are hand drawn on the freezer paper, then cut out with a craft knife, ironed to the fabric and painted with heavily thickened blue dye. The dye leaves the surface of the sweatshirt beautifully soft, much better than if I had used screen-printing ink. Alas, dye is only possible on light coloured fabric.

And last but not least a merino sports knit, an older jumper I refashioned and printed to make it new again. I love the fabric, a sort of French terry with high quality man-made on the outside and merino on the inside. Great for printing and very warm and comfy to wear.

The lighter grey tree silhouette was done with a stencil and once dry I overpainted this with black accents using a small brush. Because the outer surface of the fabric is man-made, dye is not an option despite the relatively light colour. But as I did not need a thick layer of paint to cover a dark background the different hand of the screen printing ink is not very noticeable.

I refashioned the hemline to make it more current but the cowl is still the huge version I liked when I did Lagenlook. These days I am a bit tired of that and have gone to smaller cowls, more a sort of funnel style.

Linked to MMM.

Carbon No More

I am not usually into messages on my tops, but I wanted to try stencilling some writing and this popped into my head. I wanted to try writing as I now have access to a stencil cutter at work (yay!), which has made things possible I could not have done cutting a freezer paper stencil manually with a craft knife.

Not bad for a first try, and I learnt a few lessons. Freezer paper with such intricate cut-outs is not easily reusable, it tends to tear unless you have an extra pair of hands to help when you pull it off the first print. I reused it anyway, with the predictable result of small blobs where bits of paper stencil were missing. Fortunately it’s not all that noticeable when you see the top as a whole.

Also any running writing has floating bits, such as the inside of the a and e etc. These teensy weensy bits are not attached to the freezer paper stencil and would have to be prised lose from the stencil mats sticky grip with tweezers and placed individually on the fabric where they belong. Cripes, what a job! I solved the problem by leaving them off, which looks ok, but needs to be at least considered when designing something with writing.

A successful project tends to fire me with zeal, and as I have one foot in a moon boot right now I can’t do too much running around. Time in the sewing room fends off boredom and stops me from get5ing morose. Making stencilled skivvies is fun and useful in the cold weather we are having right now.

I came across this poster with a stylised face on Pinterest and thought it would work well for a top.

I hope W Art Design in Milano doesn’t mind me using it and here is the finished garment.

I think I should have put the motifs on the left and right closer towards the middle, but it’s too late now. They look ok in the flat, but once they are on a round body they look too far to the sides on a wide boxy top.

For the next skivvy I drew the outline in pencil on freezer paper, then cut out with a craft knife, as it was too wide for the cutting machine. I could have divided it up, but there wasn’t that much cutting to do and it wasn’t intricate enough to bother with the machine.

You may wonder why I drew on a stencil when I could just as well paint freehand straight onto the top. First of all you can alter pencil lines on paper but once you have dye on fabric it is too late for second thoughts. Also a freezer paper stencil makes it so much easier and quicker to achieve clean outlines on my motifs. Because of the roughness of fabric the edges of a brush stroke tend to be uneven, but a stencil fixes that and also prevents dye from continuing to seep into the capillaries of the fabric.

I quite like the colour combo, maybe more than the shapes.

And last as well as least is a top I don’t like all that much. I was pretty disappointed when I first did it, because it didn’t at all look like the idea i had in my head. But it is growing on me and in any case it is quite useful to wear when I am doing messy stuff, because I don’t have to worry about ruining it.

All patterns are the Tessuti Mandy again, with a cowl/funnel/turtle neck as it is the middle of winter here and I like having something to come up a little higher on my neck.

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.