Saturday, May 10, 2014

Trying something new

Ever since I got the Alabama Studio + Design book, I've been obsessed by every technique (well, almost every) in there.  One thing I especially want to try is stenciling.  A few years ago I stenciled my dining room, entry way, and family room.   I used a variety of different stencil types and really loved it.  I imagine that doing it on fabric will be a lot of trial and error as well.  The difference is that when you mess up on a wall, you can just paint over it and try again.  Fabric is another story.

Well, the Alabama Chanin stencils  are all very cool, but also very expensive!  The great thing is that a lot of those stencils are available as free downloads on her website!  I downloaded the Anna's garden stencil and took it to Kinkos to have it printed since it is quite large.  I could not find stencil film locally on a roll, so I bought a package of 12 X 18 sheets.

I laid the pattern down on my cutting table and taped a stencil sheet over it. I used a Sharpie pen and traced the design.  Since my pattern is bigger than the sheet, I had to alter the design a little to make it fit on the edges.  The other thing is that this is a forgiving pattern, so it doesn't matter if the tracing is exact or not.

I overlapped the next stencil sheet over the first and decided where to split / overlap the designs.  I also had to shorten the design on the opposite edge since it was still larger than my two sheets.

The first obstacle was that it says to cut over a sheet of glass.  Well, I don't have any sheets of glass that I'm willing to give up  for this, but I did find an extra floor tile in the garage.  I think this will work perfectly.     
My original trepidation over cutting this stencil was the idea of using an exacto knife to do this.  I have bad arthritis in my hands and knew that it would not only be painful, but that I also might not be able to do it carefully enough.  When I was in hobby lobby the other day I saw a heat tool for cutting stencils.I decided to give it a shot. 

Day 2
Well, I am getting better with the heat tool, but I am still not happy with the results.  The heat tends to melt the plastic beyond where you want.  The edges are rough and sometimes curl up or warp.  I tried heating it with the hair dryer and put something heavy on it to make it flatter.  This helped.  You can see the difference below where I cut one stencil with the heat tool and started the other with  an exacto knife.  The knife gives a much better, cleaner cut.
cut with xacto knife

cut with heat tool

I've done some looking around on the internet, and I'm thinking it may be due to the template material that I used.  I'm going to try ordering some different types of template film and see if that makes a difference,  It certainly is easier and faster to use the heat tool, but the knife gives a much better result.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

It's May - and I almost forgot!

I almost forgot about Me Made May!  I just signed up this morning, but I think I actually have worn something each day that I have made.  Yesterday it was my purple dress and Tunisian shawl.  I usually don't remember much before whenever "yesterday" was!  But I do know I've worn my hand stitched skirt this week and a couple of other things I've made.  I haven't gotten dressed yet today, so I better go find something!
Also, lately I've been intrigued with zentangle.  I'm going to find a way to incorporate a little of this in my sewing!

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Sewing by Hand

I have always loved sewing by hand.  When I was younger, I learned to embroider, and I embroidered tea towels, shirts, table runners, and lots of other things.  There's just something nice about making stitches by hand.  As I became more confident with garment construction, I incorporated more and more hand stitching.  I enjoy putting in a hand picked zipper.  Of course, when I was first learning to sew, there weren't all of the tapes and fusibles available today.  Facings were sewn down by hand as were linings, hems, and basting.  My mother hated hand sewing, but I kind of liked it.  She loved to knit but hated sewing the pieces together.  I didn't like to knit (I do now although I'm painfully slow) but I like hand piecing.

A few weeks ago, I ordered a copy of Alabama Chanin's Studio Style + design.

 I had seen several reviews from garments made on Pattern Review, and I thought I'd check it out.  I had known about the Alabama Chanin books for years, but I guess I didn't really understand what they were all about.  Well, now I'm hooked!
I was first inspired by the fitted top, but I'll write more about that later.

I was surfing the internet looking to see what people had done with either the AC patterns or from inspiration from her techniques.  I ran across this post by Rice, and was inspired.  I HAD to make that skirt!  The next day after work, I ran over to the Bargain Basement (or whatever that place is called in Exeter) and bought three size 3XL T shirts for $6.99 each.  I would have gotten 4XL if they would have had it.  The only fabric store around here is JoAnns, and we also have a Hobby Lobby.  Neither one of them carry cotton jersey.  I took those shirts home and threw them in the wash.  Then I traced the skirt pattern out of the book and cut up the black Tshirt.  The pattern just fit on that shirt (I cut a size large according to my measurements.)
These are the materials that I used:

  • 3XL cotton T shirt from bargain store
  • Alabama Chanin short skirt pattern from Alabama Chanin Studio + Design book
  • button hole thread from Wawak.  (I love this thread, but it is very thick and may be slightly waxed.  I had a hard time finding an appropriate needle)
  • large eyed embroidery needle (I'm still looking for a better needle choice.  This was the only thing I could get the thread through, but it was also like pushing a nail through the fabric)
  • 1" wide fold over elastic in black from JoAnns.
  • cotton all purpose thread for basting also from Wawak
  • DMC embroidery floss for hem trim (I think I got it at Hobby Lobby or Michaels)
  • Pins
  • Tailors chalk
After tracing the short skirt pattern from the book, I chalked around it on the fabric and cut it out.  I basted it together and saw that the fit was pretty good, but that I needed to take it in at the waist, which I did.  I probably should have taken it in a little more, but now it sits about an inch below my belly button, which is actually pretty comfortable.  

The skirt is a 4 gore and I stitched them together with a running stitch using buttonhole twist thread.  The stitches are longer than you would use with regular thread.  I pressed them down and then topstitched them using the same type of running stitch.  The AC book calls this an inside felled seam, but this is not what we typically call a felled seam.  Mock-felled is more like it.  BTW, the seams on these patterns are 1/4", so that makes it pretty easy with the hand stitching.

After stitching the skirt together, I realized that I had the wrong side as the right side.  Jersey rolls to the right side.  Oh, well, I was not going to undo all that stitching and do it over.  I decided to make it work.

I sewed fold over elastic at the waist edge.  I had it 1:1 at first, but that was too loose, so I shortened the overall length about 2 inches.  I probably could have gone more than that.  First I basted the elastic on because the pinning left too many gaps.  I used a stretch basting stitch that I made up!

I sewed the elastic on with buttonhole thread using a herringbone stitch (also a stretch stitch)

I tried pinning a couple of different trim styles at the hem but was not happy with them.  I finally decided on just using a flat piece of the fabric (right side facing up!) and using a cretan stitch.  I used embroidery floss (2 strands doubled) for this.  I wanted something right at the edge that would keep the hemline from rolling under.  I also wanted something to give it a little extra weight to hang better.  I thought about beading, but decided to save that for another project.  I wanted to wear the skirt!

I really like the effect of this, especially since I washed it, and it was able to roll and deconstruct a bit.

All in all, I'm really happy with this skirt.  It is super comfortable and cool.  (It's already been in the 90s here!)  The only bad thing about black cotton knit is that it attracts animal hair like a magnet!  I know there will be a lot more of these in my future!