Monday, March 30, 2009

Pant sew-along - Progress at last


Fabric cut: Check
Fabric notched and interfaced: Check
26 buttonholes sewn: Check

Okay, I still got miles to go, but at least the ball is rolling again. There are some question marks regarding some things now that I've cut out the pants in the dedicated fabric, but I will see this thing through. A few of my fellow sew-alongers has also been out of the rut for a while so this is a shout out to all of you as well. We can do it!

Also I want to give a little shout out to my new partner in crime, the Bernina 1230, for making 26 buttonholes (well, almost) a breeze thanks to the automatic buttonhole function. It took a while for us to get comfortable with each other but now I think we'll stick around for a very long time.

Move over Ipod. The Swiss engeneers also got some tricks up there sleeves.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Fabric Fact Friday - Silk

Bridal silks from the fabric store Gårda textil in Göteborg.

Last week I was too busy to write an installment of Fabric Fact Friday, much to my dismay since I don't like missing a deadline, even when it's self imposed. So here comes a new one and the subject this week is silk, which is a pretty weird way of producing a fabric when you think about it. But not as mind boggling as the latest trend in knitting yarns - i.e. threads made out of milk protein. I touched a ball of milk yarn the other week and it was wonderfully soft and luscious, though I still think it'll take me a while to get used to that concept. Anyhow, enough about the milk and over to the luxurious insect fabric. No one knows for sure how long silk has been used for fabrics, but scraps dating back to 2700 BC has been found in China .

How is silk made?
Most silk fabrics are derived from the cultivated bombyx moth. During the silkworm phase the moth feeds off mulberry, hence the name mulberry silk. The silkworm eats and eats for 35 days until it's stuffed with a liquid silk protein. After that they start to spin a silk filament that can be up to a mile long. After that the silkworm is generally killed by heat and the silk fiber is extracted. It takes 36 000 silkworms to produce 12 pounds (5,4 kg) of raw silk.

Should I hand wash or dry clean silk?
It depends on the fabric. Some silks change it's structure and surface when they comes in contact with water and to avoid this they should be dry cleaned.
Also sometimes hand painted silk fabrics can start to bleed when wet, so they should also be dry cleaned. But many silks can be washed by hand according to my textbook. Cold water and a gentle detergent is a must. Also all excess water must have been removed before drying, preferable by rolling the fabric into a towel and pressing out the water.
Silk generally don't shrink much, but some creped fabrics with twisted yarns can apparently reduce it's size up to 50 percent when wet. I have never encountered this, but as always it's a good idea to testwash a sample before washing the whole fabric in water. Ironing should be done
n the wrong side with a press cloth with a low to moderate temperature setting.

What is the difference between wild silk and raw silk?
Wild silk, or Tussah silk as the most common version is called, is derived from silkworms that are left unattained in their natural habitat. In order to produce wild silk the silkworm doesn't have to be killed which is why some ethically aware companies have started to use ethically produced wild silk fabrics instead. Wild silk has a more linen like surface, a tan natural colour and cannot be bleached. Raw silk on the other hand is made from domesticated silkworms, such as the mulberry worm.
But the outer layer, the silkworm secretion, has not been removed which creates the slightly knotty surface.

What is the difference between Thai silk, Indian silk and Chinese silk?
Apart from the fact that they are made in different countries, the major difference is the structure which is due to both different silkworm species and different production methods.
Thai silk has a coarse texture with uneven and knotty threads. Chinese silk on the other hand has a smoother surface and a more satiny look, silk satin is typical Chinese silk product. Indian silk is mostly seen in sari fabrics and is generally very soft and a little crinkly.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Next time I'll take two

My favorite sneakers from PF Flyers. In a style that has now been discontinued.

Do you sometimes buy more than one piece when you find something you really like? I seldom do, but often regret it later since a lot of things that I like seems to get discontinued really quickly. But I guess it's just the way the market works in general, creating a buyers urge with a constant flow of new products. I suppose that's also the reason why I don't stock up - because I fear I might be bored with more of the same and loose some of the excitement that comes with finding new things to wear.

But I've come to realize that the possible buyers excitement doesn't weigh up the frustration of not finding a new pair of jeans or a bra that fits as well and looks as nice as the last one.
So maybe I need to rethink my shopping strategies?

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A little pant sew-along update: I've been AWOL for a along time, this moving thingie has taken so much longer than I had imagined and I have not done a thing with my pants in almost two weeks (except ironing the fabric). I feel so behind. But my sewing area is at least fully functional now and March is not over yet!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Day dreaming


Maybe one of these posters could hang in my new sewing area?

Currently my days revolves around work, moving/packing up and not much else. I'm getting pretty exhausted so to keep my spirits up I've started to day dream a little about how I would like my new sewing area to look like. A nice poster is one option, another would be an inspiration board. A wall decoration was impossible in our last place since my table was facing the window, so I would like a little something this time. The blog Inspiration boards has collected many nice inspiration boards with accompanying interviews with the owners.

Yvestown's inspiration board.

From Simply photo.

And maybe it's a bit of an overkill, but I am also tempted to make something out of a sewing themed fabric, perhaps a little drawstring bag to store the current project and it's notions?



Fabrics from Superbuzzy and Repro Depot

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Moving

Even better than coffee.
Really looking forward to start the day with a little manual labour.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Pant sew-along - Part 4

The pattern

The front pattern pieces. The middle piece is the button facing. I use the same facing piece for both sides. The waist will be pretty low so I don't need any darts. I will use a side zipper or hooks for the closure. Hooks are my secret weapon, since I find side zippers really hard to get right,

The buttoning up-close and reversed. The notches at the top of the facing piece marks the fold lines. I also use notches for the buttoning since I will just mark the start of the vertical buttonholes with an awl or a pen and then use the automatic buttonhole function on my Bernina which keeps all holes the same size as long as I don't turn off my machine.

The pattern notcher. A very useful tool that I bought from an Ebay seller. Children will also appreciate the notcher since it's doubles up as a great train ticket puncher.

The back crotch. I don't know why, but this slanted L-shape is the thing that works best with my butt. As you can see the back pattern piece is not very wide around the hips. That's because I'm using a very stretchy material. This slim shape worked well on my skinny jeans so I think it will be right for this project too.

All the pattern pieces. Now they are ready to be put away in a black plastic bag and moved to a new address. Hopefully I will be able to unpack them next week and cut the fabric.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Fabric Fact Friday - Linen

The flax plant. Isn't the blue colour of the flax flowers beautiful?

Yes, it's that time of the week again. This time I'll talk about linen which is a wonderful fabric to wear on warm summer days, but it can also turn all wrinkly and baggy. Linen is categorized as a bast fiber since it's derived from the bast that surrounds the stem of the flax plant. Other bast fibers are hemp, ramie and jute.
Flax is probably the the first fiber to be used to make textiles in the Western Hemisphere - the oldest linen findings are around 10 000 years old.

Linen Q&A
Why do linen grow during wearing?
The flax fiber is actually fairly stable. The reason linen fabric changes is more due to how tightly the yarn is spun and how the fabric is weaved. Tightly woven linen grows less, but the fabric is also stiffer which makes it less suitable for clothes. Rayon/linen blends grows more than 100% linen fabrics because rayon has very little elasticity.

Should I wash or dry clean linen?
The feel and surface of the linen changes after water washing. It becomes softer and gets a slightly nappy surface - the technical term for that is cottonizing. To avoid this slightly fuzzy look don't put the linen in the dryer and wash at lower temperatures. This fuzziness and wrinkling is the reason why some manufactures suggest that linen should be dry cleaned. But water washing is still a good idea, since repeated washings actually gives the linen a higher luster!
Also linen can take a lot of heat during ironing, but repeated hard pressing on creases and pleats might cause the fabric to break.

Why do linen wrinkle so much?
The reason linen wrinkles easily is that it contains a lot of small rough fibers that easily intertwines with other fibers. This causes the chemical bonds to reform and thus give rise to the wrinkles. All cellulose fibers have this tendency to some degree, but linen a bit more than others.

Which linen is the best?
Belgian linen is considered to be of the highest quality and linen from Ireland, Scotland and Italy are also held in high regard. But the majority of flax for clothing is produced in Eastern Europe.
Linen made of short fiber feels softer, but looses it's luster faster and wrinkles easier. Most linen fabrics sold today are made of shorter fibers.

Why does linen feel cool even in warm weathers?
The flax fibers are very long and smooth which makes the fabric lie close to the body which in turns creates a cooling effect - unlike cotton who generally has a much fuzzier surface (flannel and jogging fleece being the most extreme examples). Linen also absorbs moisture quicker than cotton, which also contributes to the cool feeling.

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Also I want to give a bit thank you to NGLaLALa, BeeBee and Cindy who nominated me for the Sisterhood award. I feel very honored. I am currently over my head in everything (moving and stuff) and don't want to exclude anyone so I'll just give a big shout out to all the amazing DIY:ers that populate the net and are a huge inspiration to me.

I think a lot of non-surfers don't understand how instrumental Internet has been in boosting the current craft boom. I interviewed a very crafty and talented woman the other day and she gave me the routine complaint speech on how being on-line is such a time waster yada yada. So I just had to tell her that the sort of craft communities that she says is lacking in today's society still exists, it's just that some of them thrive on-line instead. Which is a very cool thing if you ask me!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Pant sew-along - Part 3

My stack of muslins. I think there are six of them in there, or maybe seven. I lost count after the third.

Fitting the pant
My body shape is best suited for skirts and dresses. But my mind wants to wear pants. It's a constant battle and as you can see in the image above, sometimes there are causalities involved.
I've spent so much time this week trying to crack that elusive code of well fitting pants and I nearly lost my mind in the process. Well I've finally made some progress. But let's start off with were I left you last time:


My first attempt. Too much fabric, going in all sorts of weird directions.

The muslin after a zillion trials. Depending on how I stand there are some diagonal folds going towards the inner thighs, but I still think this muslin is good enough for me.

After my pledge for help in my last pant post I got loads of great suggestions. I actually ended up trying them all and the end result is a mix of these alterations. Please read the comment section for great suggestions on how to alter pants.
Goodworks1 suggested I'd scoop out the back crotch, I did that and it improved the fit.
Debbie suggested I shorten the back inner seam, which was very helpful and took away excess fabric under the tush.
Geek sewing suggested pinching some fabric from the back leg, so I took in the back side seam a little which removed even more excess fabric.
Berry and Mary Nanna suggested that I lengthen the back crotch. The lack of room in the crotch was definitely a problem, but since I wanted the pants to be tight I ended up scooping the crotch instead. Normally that would make the pants too tight around the hips, but since I'll use a stretch fabric that contains both rayon and linen (both notorious for their growth abilities) I don't have to worry about that this time.


4 steps towards better fitting pants


  1. I scooped out the back crotch, using another (well-fitting) pattern as a guide.
  2. Lowered the back crotch seam 1,5 cm (3/5 inches)
  3. Took in the back seam 1,5 cm (3/5 inches) in order to reduce some of the excess fabric in back.
  4. Then I scooped out the front crotch a little to eliminate a slight camel toe. See Kathleen Fasanella's tutorial.
As you can see it took a lot of tweaking, and I also found that some alterations had a counter effect on stuff that I had improved on before. That was the most frustrating part of the process and the reason why it took so many muslins. The pants are still not top notch, but I will settle for this. After a day of wear they will probably bag like crazy anyway, so fretting over it more is just not worth it.

I'm about to pack up my sewing machine, since we are moving next week and I wanted to get a head start with my pants before the chaos begins. I don't know when I can resume the sewing, but in my next update I will have transfered my messy pattern pieces to cardboard so that I can show you the finished pattern and talk a little about the drafting process.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Fabric Fact Friday - Wool


Thank you all for the great response for my first installment of Fabric Fact Friday! Regarding quality in knits I can only second what others have said, the challenge is to find the good stuff. I'm having a lab day later this month, so I'll ask the teacher if he can give some hints on how to spot good quality knits. Meanwhile here comes some interesting facts that I've learned about wool.
  • Wool fibers are very elastic and have great recovery. Actually only lycra and nylon are better than wool when it comes to keeping it's shape. That makes me think that wool/lycra blends must be like a super fabric.

  • The reason wool is so warm is because the fibers are crimped. The crimps creates little air pockets that when filled with air gives a fantastic thermal effect.

  • It takes wool combed from 30 kashmir goats during one season in order to get enough fabric for one coat. This explains why cashmere is so expensive.

  • Wool from the merino sheep is softer and warmer than other wools, but the fibers are shorter and it's less resilient and wears out quicker, so that's a definitely a trade off when choosing merino wool.

  • Worsted wool refers to long wool fibers that are ring-spun in a particular way. Worsted wool is generally of better quality than regular wool fabric.

  • Washing wool at home can be problematic since the wool starts to felt when it comes in contact with water. This is the best way to hand wash wool according to my textbook:
    - Low temperatures of course, not higher than 30 degrees Celsius, or just below lukewarm.
    - Use detergent made espicially for hand laundering wool.
    - The garment should be immersed in water a very short time, just enough to remove the soil.
    - Gently squeeze the fabric, don't rub or twist!
    - After washing roll the garment into a towel and press out the moisture, then dry the garment on a flat surface.

  • Wool deactivates the smell of sweat, which is why it's takes longer for wool than synthetics to become smelly.
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And a little pant update: I'm very grateful for your suggestions on how to alter the pants. I decided to try Debbie's method (see the comment section) and shorten the back seam. I made a quick muslin last night and it looks promising. Also I might need to tweak the crotch shape a little too, so I'll try that next. The thing is that my original pant sloper (the one I did in class) has a substantially shorter back inner seam (almost 4/5 inches / 2 cm), but in my attempt to tweak and true the cropped pant pattern I managed to chop away that difference.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Pant sew-along - Part 2


The muslin
I guess I should have known it was coming. Just because I have been successful with my last few attempts at pant drafting it doesn't mean that those methods will work on a completely different design in a
completely different fabric. The front looks okay (apart from the wrinkles, but that just the fabric). The back however, does not.

The good.
I'm very glad I did a muslin.
The bad.
Making a pant muslin out of a light weight cotton/lycra shirting is however a bad idea. There is no shape or hold in this fabric whatsoever and it wrinkles terrible.

Even though the fabric is partly to blame, there are a lot of other things wrong in the back. I don't know where to start.

The good.
It looks like my design and construction ideas will work. I also like the shaping of the pants and they fit perfectly around the waist and knees.
The bad.
The crotch/butt/back thigh area, it's horrible, horrible! I hope that someone can give me suggestions on how to improve the fit. One obvious mistake was that I used a crotch draft for a regular straight leg pants, that clearly doesn't work on these fitted stretch trousers. The crotch is not extended enough for instance. I should have followed Mrs Stylebook's crotch draft instead, which is also similar to the fitted jeans pattern that I have. Also my poor choice of muslin fabric probably makes it look even worse. I'll make the adjusted muslin in a more stable fabric.

The side looks a bit better, but still suffers from the same problems as the back, i.e. loads of twisted excess fabric.

The good.
The button placket solution will most likely work, there is no gaping involved, which is probably due to the interfacing and the close placement of the buttons.
The bad.
It looks like I won't be able to topstitch the placket since it distorts the lycra fabric. I hate sewing lycra wovens! I'll try machine blind stitching instead and hope that will work. It doesn't look like there is any
topstitching on the original pants either, so I assume that it's done in a similar way.

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The good.
I'm a very stubborn person. I will pull this off.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Pant sew-along - Part 1

The pants I plan to make.

So it's the first week of March which marks the start of Clevergirl's pant sew-along (where you also can see links to the other participants). As I've blogged about before, I'm planning to make a pair of fully buttoned cropped pants. They are a copy of a pair that I found in an Anthropologie store when I visited NYC back in 2004. They have been on my mind since then, but I've been waiting for both the right fabric and a new sewing machine, since my beloved Husqvarna/Viking from the late 60's makes terrible buttonholes.

Now both things are in place: Last year I won a wonderful pale blue rayon/linen/lycra fabric when I placed in the Timmel swap and I recently bought a used Bernina 1230 that makes pretty good buttonholes.




I will draft my own pattern, using a trouser block that I made in a pattern making class and a Mrs Stylebook instruction for the cropped pant adaption.


There are some additional details to figure out, especially around the waist, which is why I did a drawing of the pants. Also we are moving in two weeks and have not packed a thing yet, so some slight chaos might ensue, but I still feel optimistic that I'll be able to finish the pants by the end of March.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Birthday kid

Here is a photo of my daughter in her new outfit - the present went down very well! The balloon photo shoot was styled by her sister, and I love the vibe of this picture.