Handwoven Pouches

Even after finishing that alpaca jacket (by the way, did I mention that got a FIRST PLACE at the NC State Fair?!?! Okay, done bragging, back to the point) I’ve still had a bit of fear of sewing with my handwoven fabric. For months now, I’ve held onto a stack of samples I did for a different project. These were woven of super lovely organic cotton yarn, and so soft and textured. But it was just few inches of this pattern, a few inches of that color. There wasn’t enough fabric to do anything serious with, but just enough to cobble together some simple zippered pouches. I figured this project would be the perfect way to ease myself into sewing with more obviously handwoven fabric.

I picked out some scrap fabric from my extensive stash of bits that were too big to throw, and a coil of leftover zipper. I also had on hand some scraps of leather that I purchased by the weight at a local place that re-sells the bits leftover from manufacturers.

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I meant to take more photos as I went along, but to be honest this project was so easy and fast and fun I was practically done before I remembered.

I cut two rectangles of handwoven fabric, and two identical rectangles of lining fabric. I sandwiched the zipper between one of each, and then added two tiny rectangles of leather at each end of the zipper to act as stops.

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Putting rights sides of handwoven against handwoven, and lining against lining, I went all the way around the edges. Then I “cut in” on the corners to give the pouch more depth and shape.

And – TA DAAA – I had a ridiculously gorgeous handwoven zippered pouch. I mean, I fell in love with this one instantly. It’s the occasional problem with deciding to become a professional maker and artist, I occasionally fall in love with one of my items and can’t bear to sell it.

This pouch is now the home to my “weaving planning” notebooks and pens. I love the small little Field Notes notebooks because they’re pocket sized, and come with graph paper, and make planning not to intimidating. And now I can keep it and my GLORIOUS new fountain pen together with other bits and bobs I use to keep track of current projects.

Don’t worry though, considering this project was such a gratifying success, I’ve been making a lot more similar pouches to sell. I’ve got plenty of more weaving samples and leftover fabric scraps to use up.

You can check out my etsy store or square store to see what unique recycled handwoven pouches I’ve got in stock!

Alpaca Reflective Walking Coat

I’ve been working on this coat, in some form or another, for almost a year. I’ve been planning it for even longer. I think my New Year’s resolutions for two years ago included something about “sew a garment with my handwoven fabric.” And now I finally have!

The fabric for this jacket was hand woven on my 54″ 8-shaft macomber loom. In fact, this fabric is the only thing I ended up weaving on that loom before reselling it. There was nothing wrong with the loom, but it was simply too monstrously large for my needs. It worked great for this one project though.

I used a simple tabby draft, and counted on the fun colors of the yarn to make the fabric work. And the reflective strips of course! After weaving, I wet-finished the fabric to encourage a bit of felting. It “blurred” the colors of the yarn together, but I’m still quite satisfied with the results. The reflective bits show up nicely, and don’t affect the drape of the heavy fabric.

This coat is very imperfect. I ended up rushing a bit at the end, because I decided at the last moment that I wanted to enter this piece in a textile art show at a local gallery! Which is super cool, and which hopefully I will mention again if the coat gets accepted, or even if not! But yes, I had a hard deadline for photos to submit, so I was definitely trying to get some of the bits done at the very last minute.

I’m still incredibly happy with how it turned out. The lining fabric is Spoonflower’s satin, in a fun patchwork-like design I was excited to find just for this project. The pattern is McCall’s M6800, it had good instructions and a decent fit, though as mentioned I was moving fast and not paying a whole lot of attention.

Embroidered Moon Shirt

I started this shirt about two years ago. It was one of those crazy ideas — hey, this would look so pretty if I  hand embroidered the fabric for the cuffs and collar! Yes, a great idea. But soon after I started, it became very clear that it was going to be one of those projects. Yep, the ones you get a little bit into before you realize how tedious an idea it really was. Do I really want to wrestle with this stupid thread and needle, or would I rather go do those dishes I’ve really been meaning to get to. Organize the sock drawer, yeah, that definitely needs to happen!

Okay, well, I’m not sure I ever organized my sock drawer, and many many sinks full of dishes were washed, but I eventually finally finished this project. There are plenty of projects I’ve dropped and never picked up again, but I was too excited to actually wear this shirt to let it moulder on the “in progress” pile forever.

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I am so glad I powered through and finished this shirt. It is everything I hoped it would be. The pattern is the Archer Button Up shirt by Grainline Stuido, and I used Sprout Patterns printed fabric to make life easier. The shirt uses two designs from Spoonflower fabric, poly crepe de chine, by designer Marketa Stengl. You can see why I was inspired to add embroidery to these gorgeous designs, I wanted to add a bit of depth and texture to the lovely embroidery inspired designs.

I got the effect by doing a simple straight stitch over top of the drawn design in sulky silver thread. Given that the fabric is so fine and drapey, I interfaced the cuff and collars. I love the texture it adds to the garment, and just that little subtle something special. I love that using Sprout Patterns takes out the irritating parts of sewing, leaving me more time to add unique design details.

Blue Flowered Birthday Dress

I think I’ve mentioned how every year I like to sew myself a birthday dress. This year was no exception.

I used Sprout Patterns once more, and this time chose a dress I’ve had my eye on since the very beginning. This pattern is the Anna Dress by By Hand London. It is super simple to put together, but still feels elegant without being intimidating.

I think my favorite thing about this dress is that I made mistakes all over the place, but because its got simple lines and a relaxed flow you can’t even tell. Most obvious, I wasn’t paying attention and bought the wrong size zipper. Which I didn’t even notice until midnight the day before I wanted to wear it, no craft stores open now! (As a sideline, I’ve always wanted to start a business that makes craft supply vending machines for moments like this.)

What do you do when you only have 9″ of zipper to close up 22″ of back seam? You modify the dress to have an open key hole back! I simply inserted the zipper in the 9 inches of the narrowest part of the waist, cut out a curve in the rest of the back seam, and put a button at the top! Its even a self-fabric covered button, because I had a few left over from a previous project.

Its not a perfectly fitted alteration, but it works for the casual look I wanted anyways. And besides, thats not even the worst of it. Halfway through I mixed up the skirt panel pieces, and discovered way too late that I had attached them in the wrong order, with the front three halfway around the back. Can you tell? Not a bit! I’m pretty sure the front seams were supposed to line up with the pleat lines in the bodice, but oh wait, I kind of screwed those up too.

And yet, with all that, I love this dress. Its obviously hugely forgiving of mistakes, you can put it together half asleep and still look incredible.

Christmas in the 80’s

Our work party this year was themed “The 80’s.” And snarky costumer that I am, I said to myself “I don’t really want to dress like the 80’s. I was alive for them, they weren’t all THAT long ago. I’d rather do something crazy like…. the EIGHTEEN EIGHTIES.” Luckily, I have a boyfriend who was totally willing to go along with it.

I was so pleased with myself that one of those photos became our New Years card. The party was truly wonderful, and the team who put it together did a great job. They even had little instant polaroid cameras everyone could play with. These now have proud places on my desk.

I promise you some excellent real quality photos of the actual costumes whenever I get a chance. But to tide you over, here’s some sloppy shots of my hair, which I was actually pretty proud of doing all on my own.

Halloween Fun

I was a little worried about Halloween this year. What with life being so busy, and spending all of September in Berlin, I hadn’t had time to come up with another brilliant amazing idea (if I do say so myself), much less SEW it. But it all turned out well in the end, even if I did cheat a little bit.

If you remember, I sewed a pretty amazing pickle dress for the Science of Sour event. It was such a beautiful dress, it needed to get worn again. So, I decided to be a pickle fairy!

What’s a pickle fairy, you ask? Its an excuse to wear a pickle dress with pickle themed jewelry and wave around a pickle fork as a wand, and hand out sour pickles to people at parties which are usually devoted solely to consuming as many overly sweet things as possible. With glitter. And yes, that is dill in my hair, with a tiny cocktail fork.

The pickle fork was actually the trickiest part of this costume. Who would have thought that such a specifically useless piece of flatware would be so difficult to find? Luckily there’s a place nearby called Replacements, Ltd whose purpose in life is to supply you with an exact match for that teacup you broke from your grandmother’s teaset, or the silver fork that got lost, etc etc. If you’re ever in central North Carolina you need to go find this place. It is part gigantic warehouse of old plates and forks and cups, all documented and findable, and part MUSEUM OF THINGS. Like collectable teacup sets with Elvis Presley on them, or strange porcelain people, or fantastically expensive wedgwood things. Anyways, go there.

They also had pickle forks, thank goodness. I couldn’t decide between two forks, so I got both. One from 1910, one from 1900, both silver plate, and long, and shiny, and curvy. Perfect for wands.

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My favorite part of this costume turned out to be the jewelry. The best part about working at such a creative place are the trades. Yes, I will absolutely trade you a woven scarf for a pretty hand carved hair piece. I’m looking for some pickle jewelry, of course I’ll do some sewing for you… So yes, I got to commission some hand made themed jewelry on the spot. And oh did they ever turn out PERFECT.

Yes, she printed out tiny vintage pickle labels. And yes, she molded each individual tiny pickle. And yes, the jars have real liquid in them and the pickles move around a bit when you turn them. I can not imagine more perfect and beautiful jewelry. I mean look how tiny they are, that is my THUMBNAIL in the picture, compared to the jar for this earring.

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Altering the Alder: Sprout hacks

I wrote a post for the Sprout Patterns blog where I dramatically alter a garment using their service. I’ve wrote about it before, but Sprout Patterns is a really cool project and product I’ve been able to work with. They use Spoonflower to print a sewing pattern directly on the fabric. Think about that, no pinning tissue paper, no tracing lines, just simply cut out the pieces!

You should absolutely go read what I wrote in the two part blog posts here:

Altering the Alder: Part 1, Adding Darts

Altering the Alder: Part 2, Adding Sleeves

But if you really just want the eye-candy, here’s some awesome photos of the dress I created. You can also read my review of this pattern here: Grainline Studio Alder Shirtdress ★★★★

Here are three photos that show the stages of alterations I worked with. The first is the shirt directly following the pattern. The second photo shows the difference some added darts can make. And the final dress has drafted petal sleeves.

I frequently wish I could see the INSIDES of dresses that inspire me. So in the future I’m also going to try to include construction photos, and inside out photos of garments I’m really proud of.

Monet’s Water Lilies

A few months ago I saw a random image on pinterest of a model posing in an artist’s studio, and I absolutely fell in love with the dress she was wearing. After searching the internet for awhile, I could find nothing about the dress in question. Even with no information to go on, I wanted to recreate it, so I did.

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Artist Marc Chagall posed model Ivy Nicholson in his studio.

There weren’t many higher quality versions of the photo, so I couldn’t get a whole lot of details about the design on the fabric. I chose to make my version out of a print of Monet’s water lilies. Its not exactly right, but I love the effect it creates.

Finding the right pattern was tough too. I eventually settled on heavily modifying the Vogue 8997 dress. It closed with a zipper in the back, instead of buttons down the front. But the neckline was close enough, and it had the fitted bodice with wider skirt I was looking for. I reviewed this pattern here: Vogue Dress V8997 ★★★★★

Since I was going to be changing this dress’s structure in a fairly dramatic way, I did what I so rarely do and actually made a muslin first. Madness, I know! I didn’t actually use muslin fabric for my muslin, haha. Since I have spoonflower, I created a “graph paper” design that I really thought would help me layout the pieces, check that everything is on grain, measure it right on the fabric. It helped a lot, and its an idea I think I’ll keep using in the future when I effectively want to draft a dress from scratch, or modify a given pattern.

Please forgive the horrible lighting in the next few photographs. I was trying to get this dress ready to wear to a friend’s wedding, and didn’t actually take the time to take good pictures while making the dress.
First I laid the stupid tissue pieces out on my mock up fabric (I’m so spoiled by Sprout Patterns at this point). I traced my modifications in permanent marker, and then cut out the pieces.

Then I basted all the pieces together, and played with the fit until I liked out how my button band modifications worked out. Then I used the mockup pieces to cut out my real fabric.

I am well and truly pleased with this dress. Its not perfect, it has some sloppy places that I wish I’d been able to take my time to do right. But it is gorgeous on its own, and I like how close I was able to get to my inspiration dress.

Sprout Hacks with the Alder Shirtdress

So the one big fear everyone has with Sprout Patterns is that since the pattern is directly printed on the fabric, you feel like you can’t make alterations, can’t fit it exactly, can’t sew “outside the lines” as it were. Dramatic alterations? Maybe not, but you can definitely get good sizing, and make modest alterations with sprout patterns. These dresses prove it!

Both of these dresses are made with Grainline Studio’s Alter Shirtdress patterns through sprout patterns. Now, the Alder Shirtdress is a very straight silhouette, almost smock-like. I, however, have lovely wide hips, and without a little definition around the waist, a dress like that would look like a tent on me. But I still loved the concept of the shirt dress, light and summery, and I thought it would be amazing in the poly crepe de chine. So I when I ordered in through sprout patterns, I ordered a size larger than my hips would normally dictate. After constructing the dress, I added four vertical darts in the bodice, two in the front and two in the back.

This added just enough definition around the waist that the dress curves with my curves that instead of hanging awkwardly and making me look wide, it looks like a lightly fitted shirt dress. Just what I wanted! The contrast fabric in the collar is perfect and adds that little detail that makes this feel like a custom made dress, not something I’d find in a store. And check out those buttons I found! (Fabric design byrochelle_new)

“Just added darts” you say?! That sounds hard! They’re not even in the pattern! How did you draft them? I didn’t. Does that sound wild? Its really not that crazy. I learned this method from a friend, and it is truly so obvious and easy. Want to add darts in any garment ever? Simply put it on inside out. Find where you feel like the dress has extra fabric, isn’t fitting right, or could do with some structure. Pinch that extra fabric between your fingers, move it around, shift until I feels right and then pin it together. (Sometimes its easier to do this WITH a friend, especially if you’re trying to add back darts.)

Once you’ve gotten enough pins in place, you’ve got effectively folds of fabric sticking away from the dress, but its not too tight and moves well, puts some basting stitches along those pins. Pull out the pins, and put the dress on right side out. Does it look like what you wanted? Excellent, sew along the basting stitches, you’ve now draped your own darts! Does it not look quite right? Back to inside out and shift-y pinching, draping fabric. Do it until you feel good.

“But how do you make both the darts exactly the same?!” I don’t. My body is not exactly symmetrical, why should my darts be? It takes a little practice to be sure, and sometimes my first try ends up with weird puckering, or a skewed dart. But in general, this method works GREAT for me for minor alterations, fitting well, and good structure.

This method worked so well for the first dress I made (the purple one) I had to have a second Alder dress. The first dress was out of poly crepe de chine, its flowy, its light, its a dramatic piece. But I felt like this dress could also be completely different. A different fabric, with a little more structure, a different design style, this could be a completely different dress. So I ordered it again, out of the cotton lawn, with an adorable design I’ve had my eye on for awhile with a crumpled paper texture and cute line-drawings of cities. (Fabric design by leighr)

I used the same method as the first time with adding darts to the front and back of the dress, and I liked it, but the dress was just missing that something different. I wanted this dress to have a bit more, structure than the first. With the fabric design, I almost wanted architecture. I decided, what I wanted was sleeves. Wait, the Alder Shirtdress pattern doesn’t come with sleeves! So? The armsyces are pretty basic normal armsyces. I’ve got a basic short sleeve pattern piece around here, yep, it looks like it’d work. Yep, there’s definitely enough printed scrap fabric included with the Sprout Patterns fabric, I can fit two short sleeve pieces out of the extra. Will it work? Let’s find out!

In the end, yes, I love it. The short sleeves add that just extra bit that makes this dress feel very different than the first. The cotton lawn has more body and the dress stands out and holds its own shape while still being soft and comfortable.

These dresses prove to me that you can still modify Sprout Patterns dresses and make them your own. You’re not stuck “sewing within the lines.” You can take a basic pattern and modify it in crazy different ways. It doesn’t take much to change the “attitude” of a dress.

I also wrote a review of this pattern here: Grainline Studio Alder Shirtdress ★★★★

Sprout Spring Birthday Dress

So every year I sew a birthday dress for myself. The weather starts turning warm, spring flowers bloom, my favorite daffodils turn their faces to the sunshine, and I have a new fun dress!

This year I decided to take advantage of an awesome Sprout Patterns promotion, and try out the Colette Monetta at a discount! (They’re running this discount for the full month of march! Go get it!)

This dress was so fun and so easy to sew! With the fancy sprout product, I was able to take this dress from un cut fabric, to a fully finished garment in just two hours and six minutes. Slice slice with a rotary cutter, zoom zoom with my serger, out pops a dress!

I wrote a review of this pattern here: https://dressinsouciantly.com/2016/03/25/colette-moneta-dress-pattern-review/

Happy birthday to me!

I also spent some time playing with chalk art to create a cute sign for the kegs we got for the party. Mm, local beer!