Entries in sewing (12)
There is no better or funnier or more apt introduction to Liesl Gibson than Heather’s. You really should read it. I can just see Liesl swishing around in her perfectly-hemmed skirt while still prepared for the blizzard.
Liesl is the genius behind the Oliver+S sewing pattern line. And she’s getting some very well-deserved attention right now for her amazing new book Little Things to Sew. But of all Liesl’s recent endeavors, the one I am most excited about is her new line of patterns for adults (finally!). Her classic and snappy Lisette line is now in Jo-Ann’s stores.
I’ve been lucky enough to get to know Liesel at a couple of Heather’s sewing workshops. Liesl is the girl who sticks it out late-night in the sewing barn, teaching us how to make our clothes fit better from her deep knowledge learned at FIT and then Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren.
I swear, one of the most indulgent-feeling moments in my life was standing in a muslin version of the dress I was making as Liesl evaluated the fit. She took a few steps back, cocked her head, and then helped me move the shoulder seams so they would sit better and opened the neck a little wider to flatter more. She has skills, people. And an amazingly bright, sunny, generous personality to boot.
At one of those workshops, a fellow attendee told me that following one of Liesl’s patterns was like taking a sewing class, because her instructions are so detailed and accessible. I plan on taking that class, as I make her Portfolio tunic for my summer uniform.
Also, in other news: I'll be leading a workshop making leaf prints next Thursday at Hayes Valley Farm with Homegrown. Come on by from 6-8 pm if you're in San Francisco to hang out at a farm in the middle of the city and get crafty.
Chambray is whispering sweet nothings in my ear right now. And while I love the look of those short little skirts with the wide elastic waistband, I feel the need to wear tights and a tucked in shirt to pull them off. Which is not an everyday look for me.
Instead, I grabbed a skirt from a thrift store and made some modifications.
It came with a ruffled selvedge hem that felt a little too grungetastic to me. After a little howdoyado with a seam ripper, it was gone, revealing a perfectly fine hem that I didn’t need to mess with.
I drew up and cut out an elaborate flower stencil but then ditched it because it felt too overwrought. Instead, I added happy gold dots from a Lotta stencil in glittery textile paint.
Apparently the dog is hypnotized by the sound of a camera shutter. She wouldn't budge.
I love happy chaos and productivity of the holiday build up. But I also love the post-holiday sloth. After a few days of doing absolutely nothing but eating and drinking and eating more and padding around in my slippers, I like to have a slow, low-intensity project that I might work on around the fire.
STC Craft offered a lovely roundup of projects with free instructions from their beautiful crop of books this year. I didn't get to any of them before Christmas, but I just might try the one from One More Skein by Leigh Radford (and re-learn how to knit...yet again!). I can’t get enough of these slouchy-graceful cowls.
Sometimes I get a little cocky. Like when I was still coasting on the fumes of Heather and Liesl’s tutelage and decided to modify a dress pattern based on a muslin mock-up I made. Both of those sewing ladies insist that good seamstresses make everything in muslin first, to make sure it works and to see where to adjust the pattern.
While this makes enormous sense and makes you feel like a bona fide seamstress, you might be tempted to skip this step, like I was. But after witnessing the wisdom of their ways (many, many sewists with perfectly fitting garments), I vowed to do the same once I got home. So I tackled a dress pattern, made it up in muslin, and didn’t investigate further when I tried it on and the instructions had not yet called for the front to be sewed to the back. Huh, I thought blithely, I guess I’ll just sew them together now.
Well, it fit well enough but I decided I wanted a scoop neck instead of a straight-across neckline, so I cut a scoop into my muslin and transferred it to the dress fabric. Then, as I plowed through the rest of the pattern, I realized my mistake: As I sewed the sleeve, I realized that the sleeve itself was part of the shoulder, instead of merely sewing the front and back pieces together at the shoulder. The upshot of that construction is that it adds about five inches to the drop of the scoop. Which turned my classy scoopneck into something altogether different.
Ladies of the night leave more to the imagination.
Thankfully, I was also present when Heather and Liesl demo’ed box pleats, so I added a big wide one to the front. The neckline was already supposed to be a channel of elastic, so I pleated the sucker and added tight elastic to save the day. After all that, forgive me for not ironing:
I have a great friend (who shall remain nameless) who used to say that adorable little baby kids things made her “ovaries twitch.”
Well these little bloomers have got to be the twitchiest things around. This is one of Heather Ross’s patterns from Weekend Sewing. The strange thing is that – all the times I flipped through that book, referenced it, made garments from its patterns – I sort of never noticed this pattern. Or really absorbed it. But then, this summer at Heather’s workshop, Amanda made a pair and I happened to walk by as she was finishing them. Their cuteness stopped me dead in my tracks, with their fluttery edges waiting to cinch around chubby little legs, and the empty seat waiting to be filled out by a be-diapered little bum.
And in addition to the twitch factor, they're superfast to make for all the wee little ones in your life.
Not only are they super-charming and relentlessly upbeat, they are kickass sewing instructors. And I’m realizing this is a very rare combination of qualities: people who are generous, big-hearted, laugh-until-your-stomach-hurts funny, and scary good at what they do. Heather and Liesl know the best way to do something -- but more importantly, they know how to teach you how to do it. And not just so you can do it with their help, but so you understand well enough to do it on your own (even though it’s way less fun without them).
Plus, the weekend takes place at a quintessential Vermont inn, complete with quilts on the beds, endless lemonade and chocolate chip cookies from the kitchen, a spring-fed pond ringed by blueberry bushes and Adirondack chairs, and a big wooden barn that we turned into a happy little sewing sweatshop.
This year, Heather hauled up her Orla Kiely teepee from New York. And decorated it with a working chandelier, a Denyse Schmidt quilt and sheepskin rug to set the mood for afternoon naps and cocktails (Heather does not have ideas in half measures).
There was also a visit to a neighboring barn stuffed full of amazing costumes and props. A townwide yard sale. Hiking to a secret Vermont lake. And beaucoup de sewing, surrounded by blazing greenery during the day and a chorus of crickets and bullfrogs at night. All in the company of a bunch of funny, creative and sassy women.
Till next year, Blueberry Hill.
You can see some of the projectrs and people right here.
This has happened to me before. Something comes over me when vacation brain takes over. The sewing urge hits hard, as I imagine flouncing around warmer climes in a new skirt. Amy Karol has a prefect five-minute skirt how-to posted right here. But I have to confess that my deadline sewing takes on an almost reckless, devil-may-care quality. There are other times and other projects that require me to be careful and precise. But the night before leaving, as I sit at the sewing machine and simultaneously pack in my mind, is not one of those times.
This glittery knit fabric caught my eye – maybe because it looks like sand. But it's on the thin side, so I folded it twice so I had four layers. Then on top of the folded fabric, I lay down a skirt that I like the fit of. I pinned and cut, adding about ½” all around for seams.
Pin the sides, sew with a zig-zag stitch, and you don’t even need a waistband if you’re using fabric that stretches. Just fold it over. However, I had this lovely, vibrant green fold-over elastic and thought it would look nice with turquoise thread. But get this, everyone: I didn’t even fold the elastic over. Sacre bleu! I simply pinned it along the inner top of the skirt waist and zig-zagged. It looked like this as I sewed:
And I have to say, I really like the result. Not that I plan on wearing any midriff tops to show off this detail, but the unexpected green and contrasting thread is like a little secret. Notice this weird contorted angle so I could show you the waistband in closer detail:
As for the bottom hem: no thank you. I have bags to pack.
Because it’s coming up on July Fourth (which happens to be one of favorite holidays) I’m posting not one but two craft projects today. Yeehaw! First up is a project from Maya at Maya*Made. Maya and I realized we are living sort of flipped lives: she grew up in San Francisco, and now lives out in the country on the East Coast; while I grew up in the country on the East Coast and now live in San Francisco. You have probably seen Maya’s beautiful burlap buckets and a range of hand-printed wares. Over on her blog, she is savoring summer in simple ways that completely inspire. Here she is:
The picnic/potluck season is now in full swing. Bringing a special "dish to pass" is always a favorite summer tradition. Before you cover up that bowl of potato salad with a sheet of foil or plastic wrap, consider whipping up a re-usable bowl cover strap! You'll transport your dish in eco-style and highlight pretty linens at the same time. Make your own with any fabric scraps on hand, or here's a super fast method I'm excited to share with you, using a thrifted men's shirt. The one featured here uses a red checkered shirt that has picnic written all over it.
Scrap of fabric or large button down shirt
Seam ripper (for button removal)
Strip of elastic
Thread and needle
1. Create a simple fabric tube. The strip that holds the buttons on the shirt is a perfect channel for housing elastic. Slice it off neatly from the body of the shirt. Strip off buttons and cut off any loose threads.
2. Insert a little length of elastic.
3. Connect the two ends of elastic with a few stitches. Don't bother to sew the fabric tube together, as this gives plenty of room for stretching over larger sized bowls.
Now, isn't that ingenious? Thanks, Maya!
I am someone who loves seeing a work in progress – sometimes even more than I love seeing a finished work. Sketches are my favorite kind of artwork because they emit such an energy of creation, if that makes sense. You can almost feel the decisions being made by looking at the page. The same is true for dance: a friend and I once got to see the San Francisco Ballet in rehearsal which was far more thrilling than seeing a polished performance. I love seeing and feeling the work that goes into creating something. And sometimes, sewing can reveal the same thing.
I meant to post these photos as part of Natalie Chanin’s Q&A last week. But in my enthusiasm for her work, I forgot. So here is my process so far of cutting, stenciling and readying my tunic. My own dress rehearsal in a very literal sense.