Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Joy of Wearing my Ombré Shirts

I'm ready to wear these shirts everywhere!


Thanks to Brian and Martin for being my fashion photographers. I hope they're not too upset that some of the whacky photos didn't make the cut.


For anyone who wants to know the specifics....

Fabric for both shirts was purchased from Denver Fabrics. They always have a large selection of cotton shirting at very reasonable prices. Frequent sales, frequent free shipping. Horrible pictures on their website.

Both shirts are interfaced with Shirt Crisp fusible interfacing from Fashion Sewing Supply. Simply amazing stuff. On sale right now so hurry over there!

The buttons are also from Fashion Sewing Supply. They're a great value and come in a variety of colors. I used the Black Cafe Caramel on the stripe shirt, and Choco Toffee on the floral.

The dyes are from Pro Chemical and Dye. Colors are Dusty Purple and Bronze.




The Rene Magritte pose!



I'm thrilled with how these shirts came out. Hopefully my experience will convince some of you to give ombré dyeing a try. It's a great way to bust an ordinary garment out of "dullsville" into something fabulous and totally your own. Gotta love that!


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Ombré dyeing, Taking two shirts to the next level

I'm a huge fan of Claudine and her blog Rolling in Cloth. Maybe you are too? She's out in her backyard, gloved up and fearlessly spraying dye with abandon. Her results are truly inspirational, and she'd be the first to say it's not all that difficult. I'm so glad I had the chance to meet her at this year's MPB day, where she convinced me to give fiber reactive dyeing a try. I finally have a project that's "dye worthy" , so here goes!


So what I'm working with is Procion MX fiber reactive dye. This is industrial strength stuff, nothing like the stuff that comes in a little box next to the laundry detergent in the supermarket. Because I live in New England, I ordered my supplies from Pro Chemical and Dye, which is in Somerset, MA. They have a great website with lots of PDF tutorials. The online ordering was easy, and my supplies came quickly.

It takes surprisingly little by way of supplies, and none of it is particularly expensive. Gotta love that! I got several 2 oz. containers of dye (prices vary depending on color), a detergent called Prosopol and a pound of dye activator, which is sort of the secret ingredient that binds the dye to the fabric fibers.



You will need some other supplies. Glass mixing containers, measuring spoons, a face mask and gloves. These are NOT friendly substances, so safety is really important. I do not use any of this stuff for food preparation.


As you can see, I'm doing this in my kitchen! I covered the floor with plastic sheeting. The plastic tub I picked up at a discount store. I specifically went looking for one as wide as a shirt hanging on a hanger.



First the shirt gets washed in hot water with a little of the Prosopol and some dye activator. This preps it for dyeing. This is the only part of the process that requires hot water. The rest is all at room temperature, which really simplifies things. Simple is good, especially when you're doing something new for the first time.



The dye bath is 2.5 gallons of room temp water, to which 3 cups of plain table salt has been added. (I wonder what the cashier thought when I checked out with 4 boxes of salt?). Dye activator is then added to "turn on" the reaction. To create an ombré effect I gradually increased the concentration of the dye as I dipped the shirt. Claudine was right! It's ridiculously easy and fun. Plus, the whole operation is much less messy than I imagined. You, too, can safely do this in your kitchen!



It's virtually impossible for me to hold the camera and the shirt, but I think you get the gist of what happens!




After countless dippings the shirt gets well rinsed, and then hangs to dry over the sink in the pantry.


A couple of tips here... Because the dye only works on natural fibers you will want to sew the garment with 100% cotton thread. Otherwise, the buttonholes and top stitching will resist the dye. I DO add polyester threads spaced down the placket as a way of marking where I want the color transitions to take place. It's a control freak thing.



A sneak peek of what's to come!


Sunday, November 17, 2013

Falling for Floral - Round 2

The floral trend continues in Milan and also here on the coast of Maine. I started this latest shirtmaking project with two lengths of fabric, one floral, the other a stripe. Each piece was adequate to make a shirt, but just barely. After adding some striped accents to the mostly floral shirt, I naturally don't have enough striped fabric to make a whole shirt. So I'm adding some floral touches here and there to make up for the lack of fabric.




Shirt two is sporting a floral inner collar stand and yoke, plus floral elbow patches.




Elbow patches are new territory for me, and I think these flowery ones are kind of fun. They add some much needed interest to what's a pretty bland striped shirt. Once I figured out where they had to be placed, it became clear that I would have to make little stubby sleeve plackets. Otherwise, the placket I usually use would have run over the elbow patches. And, yes, as you can see I'm terrible at making plackets match up. But I'm not losing any sleep over it.



Some goodies have arrived in the mail recently, so here's a sneak peek of what's in store for both shirts. I'm lifting a page out of Claudine's play book and venturing into the world of ombré dyeing. This should be fun. Wish me luck!


Thursday, October 31, 2013

Stop, Start, Stop, Start... And so it goes

It's been weeks since I've posted anything here. Things were moving ahead nicely on the velvet jacket. Maybe you remember? Unfortunately, my mom, who lives in a retirement community in New Hampshire, developed some pretty serious health problems. In response, I've been back and forth from my home in Maine almost weekly for the past month. What sewing I've accomplished has been "around the edges" of a pretty chaotic lifestyle. I did manage to get it hemmed, and the lining is completely finished. It really only needs buttonholes and buttons at this point.

I'm glad to report that mom's doing much better, and things are slowly returning to normal around here. Still, there's not much progress being made on the jacket. Why??? I got it into my head that I want to do handworked buttonholes. I blame the whole thing on Laura Mae and her gala extravaganza! Seriously, this woman is such an inspiration. Is there anything she doesn't have the courage to tackle? What would Laura Mae do? Heck, I've even gone out and bought 2 yards of silk organza because of her, even though I have NO idea what I'd do with it!

So here's the hold up.



In order to do the job properly, I've ordered a buttonhole chisel and keyhole punch. Unfortunately, they're on back order and I have no idea when to expect them.
In the meantime, I made a stab at it.....
OMG, how horrible is this!!!! Needless to say, I have a lot of practicing to do.
On a more positive note, I've been working on a new shirt. Maybe you've noticed, there seems to be a floral trend coming off the runways for Fall and Spring. Flowers are apparently appropriate year round.

So I'm jumping on the bandwagon! Plus, what guy doesn't need a new shirt?
For some reason shirts are easy to sew in little steps, so I've been working on this over the past three weeks. Sometimes I only have time to sit down and do one thing, say, sew a placket. Then it sits until I have time for the next one. Over time it comes together.
I'm using a cotton shirting that I picked up on sale at Denver Fabrics. Total fabric investment $13.82! It's been very easy to work with, and fun to match.
I used a contrasting stripe under the placket, inside the collar band and inside the cuffs.
But there's much more in store for this shirt. Now I have TWO unfinished projects!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

A Little Tailoring

As much as I want this jacket to be unstructured, I keep veering off into "tailoring territory". It's hard to resist. I want this garment to be the best possible that I can produce, considering my abilities and the tools at my disposal. Chances are that I won't make this design again, and I probably won't be working with velvet again any time soon. If I know a technique that could possibly make a better garment, why not go for it? So instead of Breaking Bad, I'm Breaking Out Cabrera!

The left center front panel can be left unbottoned to create an asymetrical lapel, which is how I intend to wear it. Otherwise, all that fabulous metalic brocade is for naught! To beef up the lapel edge I've slipstitched on some 3/8" cotton twill tape. One edge is stitched to the brocade at the seamline, the other is stitched only to the interfacing. The goal is to have all the stitches invisible. I did this only on the left side. It's not difficult, and goes surprisingly quickly.

Then things start to slow down....

What's going on here is what I call the "big seam". OK, so there are some traditional tailors turning over in their graves right now; so be it. This is a process that's given me more professional looking results without all the collar handsewing. The facing/ lining component is aligned and basted to the jacket body. The band collar is sandwiched between the two. The two "halves" of the jacket are then stitched together in one continuous seam; think up, over, down and done! It takes awhile to set this all up. We're talking lots and lots of basting, but this is a technique that's worked well for me. In particular, it simplifies the collar. You do, however, need a machine powerful enough to go through four layers of velvet and two of interfacing.

Here is the whole mess finally ready for the sewing machine. Lots and lots of basting eliminates the need for any annoying pins. Personally, I like that, and so do my fingers!

The seams will be very bulky, so I very cautiously trim away. One slip of the scissors and it's pretty much over. I frequently turn the garment rightside out and feel the seams as I go along. This guides me in where and what to trim.

A reader recently asked about the similarities between sewing and boatbuilding. Well, here you go!

Now I go back to my buddy Cabrera. To control the fabric at the turn of the lapel point, the seam allowances are trimmed a bit and whipstitched back onto the tape. This doesn't have to be pretty (and it's not!). The remaining seams should be pressed open. This was difficult to do with my two fussy fabrics. I steamed them open as best I could before turning everything rightside out.

And so, here we are. Things are coming together.

The brocade facings are still flopping around, so I cross stitched them onto the jacket seam allowance. I'm getting addicted to doing all this kind of hand sewing with silk thread. It almost never tangles. The white basting thread (which also never tangles) is holding the interfacing in place and will be removed after the cross stitching.

While I'm in a handsewing mood, I might as well hem the jacket. This is a technique I use all the time. A bias strip of muslin is sewn into the fold so that 1/2" shows above the hem.

The hem stitch is done between the muslin and the back of the velvet. This will produce an almost invisible hem from the right side of the jacket. The line of machine stitching ends up being the perfect place to attach the lining, but that will have to be another day.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Plodding Along

There's been very little momentum with my velvet jacket project. It seems I just get started and, Bam! Something comes up. Most recently my daughter and her boyfriend visited from California. I had a wonderful time with them and, trust me, lobster rolls and craft beers trump sewing any day!

Lunch at the Kennebec Tavern being posted to facebook no doubt.

Smile, you're in Maine! No visit to Dad's is complete without a corny photo-op at LL Bean. Thanks Meredith and Evan for being such great sports.

But all good things eventually come to an end, and it's time to get back to the Belgian Chef's Jacket.

With the sleeves completed, it's time to tackle the lining. The pattern is for an unlined jacket so I'm just making it up as I go along. It's really not that difficult to do, just a few simple modifications to the original pattern pieces. Anyone who's followed this blog knows how much I hate working with polyester acetate. So it becomes just a matter of "manning up" and getting on with it. Here goes...

Using the pattern pieces I chalk on an additional 1" at the center back for a pleat. I also add some additional fabric at the armscye, knowing that I'll have to handstitch the armscye lining seam. I'd much rather trim fabric away than have too little.

I drafted a velvet back neck facing which is reinforced with Light Crisp Sew-in Interfacing from Fashion Sewing Supply. (Insert rave about their products here).

My worries about cutting the metalic brocade fabric were completely unfounded. It's much more durable than it looks. Just to be on the safe side, I ran the edges though my little Bernette serger to prevent ravelling. Then I basted on a layer of the Light Crisp interfacing, which should provide more than enough body for the "lapel". I'm loving the fluid "floppy" character of the velvet, so I find myself moving towards a more unconstructed look. More shirt, less jacket.

I've attached the brocade facing to the lining just at the top (the neck edge). As construction continues I'll cross stitch the edge of the facing to the back of the jacket's center front panel. This will hold it in place. The lining will then be slip stitched into place. Fortunately, I actually enjoy handstitching.

So here's the completed lining.

And just for fun, here's the lining roughly pinned into the jacket body.

I love getting a little sneak peek of the finished garment, and it always motivates me to charge towards the finish line. I may feel that I'm just plodding along, but there's hope for this jacket yet. This is a very different style for me (almost, dare I say, out of my comfort zone), but I'm genuinely happy with the way things are looking so far. Next step will be adding the collar.

In the meantime, the boat languishes :(