Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Returning to My Roots

In 1957, at the age of 10, I took my first sewing class at Fryback's Singer Sewing Machine shop on Second St. in my hometown.  It's a parking lot today, but I'm still sewing and this past week driven by frustration with ready-to-wear options, I returned to my first sewing venue -- making garments.
I have a undergraduate degree in clothing construction and retail business and a master's in textiles, but once quilting turned my head in 1972, I've rarely made clothing for myself.

Earlier this fall, I tested the waters by making this version of Indygo Essential's Easy Top and Tunic pattern. I've had lots of compliments (though I think the fabric is responsible for much of that) but I love the fit and enjoy wearing it!
So last week, it was time to try something more detailed and fitted.  I found this pattern via @Indie_sew on Instagram and it caught my eye as it is so similar to my favorite summer blouse which literally feel apart this summer.  The designer is Kennis Wong and her website is www.itch-to-stitch.com
It is a downloadable PDF so I didn't have to wait for it to arrive, but I did need to tape sections together after printing out my size.  The size range is extensive and the instructions on how to print out "my" size taught me a new Adobe Acrobat Reader skill!!  It has four sleeve variations and can be made as a blouse, tunic, or dress. I can get lots of mileage out of this pattern!!

I found this cotton/poly blend window-pane fabric on a recent shopping foray and bought enough to try out the pattern before using the Liberty lawn that I have hoarded.
To begin, I needed to change the thread on this bad boy.  I'd like to take a moment here to thank all the confused customers who bought Bernina sergers from me back in my dealership days.  You forced me to show you how to thread a serger so many times that I have no fear of changing threads!!
Here's a quick tutorial that might help you with this task.  Cut all the threads above the machine so you have at least 9" to 12" loose above the first thread guides. 
Then tie on the new threads with a square knot (right over left and left over right all you Scouting alumni).  That knot doesn't slip apart. 
After making a notation of where the tension dials are currently set, turn all of them down to 1 (no tension to speak of). 
Now hold the thread chain behind the presser foot, and run the machine very slowly
Gently pull the thread and soon you will begin to see the new threads appear.  The needle thread doesn't always come through the eye of the needle but even if that happens, it's still through all the correct thread guides.  Occasionally a knot gives way and I have to re-thread manually, but it's rare.
Don't forget to reset the tension dials!! 
I fused all the interfacing in place as needed and I was ready to stitch!!
I made steady progress, even used pins again (rarely do that with my piecing).  
I had a few ripping and restitching encounters while setting in the sleeves -- ah, the memories that brought back of sewing with my Mom -- "I think you should rip that out" meant do it right! 
And there was a major set back when I realized I'd made two right sleeves???
I'm blaming the fabric -- no apparent right or wrong side.
Fortunately, I was able to stay calm and remove one end of one cuff, undo the underarm seam, restitch and get back on track in about 15 minutes. 
Always do a test button hole -- my trusty Bernina 1031 does a beautiful buttonhole every time but one must be sure the length is right BEFORE stitching up a half dozen of them. 
It's getting late, but once the buttonholes are finished, I can stitch the buttons on while watching the first episode of Crown on Netflix!
Years ago, another seamstress taught me to "paint" the backside of my buttonholes with FrayCheck -- good tip for making them more durable.
And here we go!!  A finished blouse!  It took about 4 and a half hours to stitch -- that counts correcting mistakes and final hand stitching details.
Next up is either a batik version or that lovely Liberty print? 
If you haven't discovered all the young Indie clothing designers out there, Instagram is a great resource for finding them and checking out lots of sewists' versions of their patterns.  Try checking out #bonnshirt to see some lovely variations of this pattern.  While writing today's post, I discovered that Kennis has a tutorial about the collar construction for this blouse which I've bookmarked for the next time I make this -- my results were fair but could be improved.

I'm excited about making more of my own clothes.  In addition to creating my own look using all the wonderful cottons we already know about (think batiks!!), I have a stash of fashion fabrics that need a review -- there are likely some gems I've forgotten I own.  I'm also noticing a movement towards nice quality interesting fashion fabrics among manufacturers like Art Gallery Fabrics, Birch Organics (who print the Charley Harper fabrics), Cotton and Steel (check out some of the 900+ Instagram posts from earlier this fall #cottonandsteelcloset), and Spoonflower (probably should make a pot of tea before you start exploring this website!!). 

The blouse was a nice break from the quilting project that is now my focus.  My APQS George and I are trying to get a vintage quilt top finished into a usable quilt for a young friend's new home.  More about that in a week or so (I hope)!

Raining here as I finish -- leaves coming down rapidly -- fall is waning in the northern hemisphere and winter is close at hand.  I'm looking forward to many pleasant days in the studio!!



  1. Like you I learned early to sew, and made my clothes for year. I applaud you on this re-adventure!

  2. Same here. First thing I made was an apron and went from there. Made a blazer for the Band Director of my daughter's school way back when. I've been looking for pajama bottoms and they want an outrageous price for them, plus the fabric is really ugly. So I'll be making some pretty quick.

  3. Turned out beautifully. Have not sewn garments of any kind in years, may need to start again.

  4. This is a great shirt! Make the Liberty version next! Liberty fabric is so beautiful.
    I used to be a dressmaker. In my high school years it was from financial necessity as much as anything. Now, it is so much less costly to buy than to make, and I am a fairly standard size (although trousers can be a bit hard to find because I have a high hip-to-waist ratio). I also had a few fashion disasters - beautifully made clothes that suited my colouring and shape not at all. They would have never made it past the changeroom if they were shop bought!