Thursday, August 28, 2014

Make Groovy, Wide-Leg Seventies Jeans

You can make groovy, wide-leg jeans for a costume party, play, or retro dress-up day at school. A few supplies and about an hour of your time are all that is needed. Bring back the style of the seventies without spending a lot.

Supplies for Groovy Jeans
You will need a pair of old jeans, sharp shears for cutting denim, sewing thread thread, a denim needle for your sewing machine, and 1/3 to 1/2 yard of outrageously colorful print fabric. Large flowers or psychedelic designs are great.
Cutting the Groovy Jeans
Cut off the jeans legs at the knee. This is a great way to recycle a pair of jeans with torn knees. Next, measure the circumference (distance around) one leg of the jeans. Multiply this measurement by two, since the new, wide legs should be about twice as full as the knee circumference. This is your width measurement, W. Now measure the distance from the knee to the desired finished length of the jeans and add 2 inches for the top seam and the bottom hem. This is your length measurement, L. Cut two rectangles from your print fabric. Each rectangle measures W by L.
Sewing the Groovy Jeans
You are essentially making two miniature gathered skirts and attaching one "skirt" to each jeans leg. Sew the sides that measure L together to form two tubes of fabric, one for each leg. Press seams open. Gather the tops of the tubes with two rows of basting. Pin the right sides of the gathered tubes to the right side of the jeans knee openings, adjusting gathers to fit. Stitch around legs just outside the gathering stitches.
Try on the jeans and mark the hem. Machine hem the new flared legs. Your groovy jeans are finished!
Additional Ideas
Use leftover print fabric to make a groovy headband to wear with your new jeans. Just cut a strip of fabric long enough to tie around your head. Either hem the raw edges or just fold the fabric to hide the raw edges before tying the headband.
Patches were popular on seventies jeans. Make your own patches by cutting hearts, squares, or big flowers from scraps of the print fabric. Sew patches on jeans by topstitching ¼ inch from edges. Let edges of patches fray.

Finally, waste not, want not. Save the denim legs cut from the old jeans. Use the worn denim fabric to repair old jeans or keep saving denim until you have enough scraps to recycle into a patchwork blanket.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Can You Sew a Dressmaker Suit?

Although I have not yet learned the art of men's tailoring, I have made several of what the old sewing books call "dressmaker suits."  These suits are not as structured as a man's suit, but still require sewing skills beyond the ordinary dress or blouse.

A dressmaker suit or tailored suit is not a project for beginners; however, it is certainly a project within the reach of anyone with strong sewing and pressing skills. With quality materials and the proper pressing tools, a patient home tailor can produce a suit she will be proud to wear to office, party, or church.

To begin, one must know that quality suits are not made of shoddy materials. The best fabric for tailoring is wool. Wool can be easily molded and shaped with steam. Proper interfacings are also essential. Consult your pattern envelope for recommendations. Websites selling sewing supplies are also sources of information when choosing the right interfacings for lapels, waistbands, and collars.

Once quality materials are on hand, carefully cut and mark all patterns pieces from fabric, lining, and interfacings. Tailor's chalk comes in white and colors, and is good for marking smooth fabrics. Tweeds and other textures are better marked with thread tacks. Use different markings for small dots, large dots, and squares, because you will have to match all those markings in order to fit the pieces of your suit together correctly. Tailoring leaves no margin for guesswork; mark accurately! One of the most important markings is the "roll line" which is the line on which the lapel of the jacket folds back against the jacket front. Use a line of basting to mark the roll line.
Carefully follow all pattern instructions, in order. Don't try to "wing it" until you have made a dozen suits or more. Press as you sew. Your pressing is at least as important as your sewing. With wool, use a damp press cloth and press on the wrong side of fabric. Use enough steam from your iron to shape the fabric, but not too much. Overpressing can cause shine or shrinkage. Press curved edges over a pressing mitt or a tailor's ham to get the correct shape. Use the wool setting on your steam iron and do not touch the iron directly to the wool. For fusible interfacings, follow the manufacturer's instructions. Proper pressing tools are available in the notions department of most large fabric stores.
Careful attention to finishing details is the final step on the way to your suit. Consult a sewing book for directions for bound buttonholes or follow the instructions for your sewing machine's buttonhole feature for worked buttonholes. Make test buttonholes using scraps of your fashion fabric, making sure to add the same layers of interfacing and lining as that of the actual suit. Test your buttons to be sure you have sized the buttonholes correctly, then make the buttonholes on the suit. Finish any exposed seams with seam binding, overlocking, or a Hong Kong finish. Sew on buttons, hem the pants or skirt, and enjoy a suit that looks like it came from a custom tailor.

The information on pressing I learned from a 4-H book published circa. 1976. Rupel, Annabel J., "Clothing V, VI & VII," Cooperative Extension Service, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN

Thursday, August 21, 2014

FiberFrau Waxes Philosophical about Knitting

In knitting, as in life, there are some who enjoy the journey itself and others who are more focused on the destination. Thus, there are "process knitters" and "product knitters." I would call myself a product knitter who is learning to slow down and take joy in the process.

I learned to knit in the usual way, making a garter stitch scarf out of worsted yarn. I was quite bored by the time the scarf was cast off, so I next tackled a cardigan sweater, knit in pieces and sewn together during my daily commutes on the Chicago Northwestern trains. While I enjoyed the process, I also had so many things I wanted to make that I wanted to become faster. I discovered continental knitting, a.k.a. German knitting, in which the yarn is carried in the left hand. For me, this technique increased my knitting speed tremendously. Teflon coated needles also helped me knit faster. I cranked out products as fast as I could for years. I discovered Elizabeth Zimmerman and mastered her seamless sweaters. I learned to knit socks on tiny needles. I learned to do color work holding a different color yarn in each hand. My products went to county fairs and baby showers and Christmas parties. I knit mittens and scarves for my six children. I knit enough cotton dishcloths to last a lifetime.
I knit everywhere. If I found myself in a waiting room or carpool line without my knitting, I almost went mad! Then, finally, I realized that all the time I was cranking out those products, I was falling in love with the process! That wonderful process, with its rhythm and color and texture, was helping to keep me sane in a world that was increasingly fast and impersonal. That process was giving me an outlet for my love of texture and color, as well as fulfilling my need to do something with my hands. That process was even nurturing my brain, as I was constantly trying new techniques and reading about knitting. I was learning that I could enjoy knitting even if it took a long time to finish the product.

I now understand why really big projects, e.g. bedspreads and intricate lace shawls, are most often done by older women. It takes some of us many years to learn to enjoy the journey. "Process knitters" have learned that the journey is a reward in itself; and the finished product, however long it may take, is a nice little bonus.

Sewing Supplies from the Kitchen

Parchment paper is great for baking. Its heat-resistant properties also make it an ideal pressing aid. When pressing seams open, place parchment paper between the seam allowances and the garment to prevent imprint lines. Parchment paper can also be used to protect areas of the garment you don't want to expose to heat while pressing the rest of the garment.
Freezer paper is used by quilters as an aid to cutting and pressing small appliqués. Be sure the shiny side of the freezer paper faces the fabric and the paper side faces the iron, or you will have melted plastic on your iron. For illustrated instructions, see: freezer paper appliqué .
Table knives or cans of tuna make great pattern weights. There is no need to spend more than $10 at the fabric store for a set of pattern weights. Just lay out your pattern, placing just enough knives or cans on each piece to hold the pattern in place for cutting.

An empty coffee or tea tin can be used as a cone thread holder by placing the tin on the floor behind your sewing machine, putting the cone of thread inside, then pulling the thread end up and threading the machine as for a regular spool of thread. I improvised this myself after my son used my pricey cone thread holder as part of a science project!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Vintage Sewing: A Nineteenth-Century Trousseau

Laura Ingalls' trousseau is described in These Happy Golden Years, the eighth book in the children's series that describes Laura's childhood. Pa buys Ma a sewing machine to expedite the preparation of the bridal trousseau. Compare Laura's preparations to those of the modern bride-to-be.

White Goods
Laura buys yards and yards of white muslin, which she and Ma fashion into "...chemises and drawers, petticoats and nightgowns, two of each" (p.240). Heavier muslin is purchased for sheets and pillowcases-again, two sets. Laura trims the white muslin garments with the yards of lace she has knitted and crocheted over the years.
While the modern bride has a choice of many fabrics and colors, she still needs to take care of basic items first. Replace worn items from college with new lingerie. Select quality sheets with a high thread count to ensure long wear and good looks. Get the best towels you can afford; cheaply made towels will need replacement too soon.
Laura had two good dresses: a brown poplin outfit for cooler weather and a flowered lawn (a lightweight fabric) for summer. She is not sure what else she needs, but Ma knows what she lacks. "I think every woman should have one nice black dress," she declares (p. 266). They go to town and buy black cashmere, from which Ma fashions a grown-up dress appropriate for almost any occasion.
Like Laura, today's bride needs to be prepared with appropriate clothing for a variety of situations. Married life may include religious ceremonies, graduations, dinner with the boss, and funerals. Such occasions are less stressful when you already have the appropriate clothing in your closet. A dark dress or conservative suit is important for serious occasions. For celebrations, have one or two festive outfits in your best colors.
Final Thoughts
Laura, like most girls of her time, had spent her days wisely. After school and chores were done, she used odd bits of time or long winter evenings to prepare items for her trousseau. If you sew, knit, or crochet, you may do this as well. Even a few embroidered pillowcases or a pretty slip can add a custom touch to your trousseau. If you are not a do-it-yourself type, shop wisely. When white sales are on, look for special items to save for your future home.
While some things change, the wise young woman will always do what she can to be ready for the future.

Wilder, Laura Ingalls. (1971). These Happy Golden Years. New York: Harper & Row.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Create a Designer's Idea Scrapbook

Scrapbooks are most often used to help us remember important events in life. The clippings and pictures in a scrapbook help prompt the memory. Home fashion designers can use a scrapbook to store ideas and inspiration. Just as an artist quickly sketches ideas as they come to mind, the designer can put reminders of ideas on paper for future reference. Here are some of the possibilities for starting a design scrapbook.

Keep swatches of fabrics in your scrapbook. If you have a large fabric inventory, you might forget about the blue batik or the black silk in your stash. Write the yardage next to the swatch, so you know if you have enough for a blouse or an entire dress. Paint chips can be helpful, too. Include a card of paint chips with an interesting color combination.
Recycle sales flyers and catalogs by cutting out pictures of appealing designs. An interesting collar or pocket, an unusual ornament, or a fine example of heirloom sewing may inspire you when you design next year's graduation dress. If you see something inspirational in a magazine that is not yours to clip, just sketch the design on any available paper and make notes about color, fabric, and other important details.
Play with color by doodling in various color combinations. Make photocopies of a sketch and color the copies in different colors before deciding on a final color scheme. Sketch entire outfits or just a sleeve idea. The point of the scrapbook is to leave a visual record of ideas you find intriguing.
Maintaining a Scrapbook
While many people will tear a page from a catalog or jot an idea on a scrap of paper, those snippets are easily lost. Small scraps of inspiration are more accessible when bound into a scrapbook. A method the author has found useful is to have a sturdy pocket folder for collecting clippings and swatches. Spend an hour or two every few weeks placing the scraps into an inexpensive, spiral bound sketchbook. Be sure to jot a few notes as you glue pictures and swatches in place, e.g. "ideas for Jane's prom dress" or "try this pattern in black lace."

A design scrapbook can be useful for quilters or home decorators as well as those who sew their own clothing. Not only is the scrapbook helpful; it is also just plain fun! Look through the scrapbook on a rainy afternoon and dream of projects to come.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Sewing Your Own Scrubs: Pattern Suggestions

Scrubs are simple in style and made of basic, easy-care fabrics. By making your own scrubs you can achieve flattering fit and use fabrics and colors beyond what you find in ready-to-wear styles. Look for pattern sales at your local fabric store and get several of these simple and useful patterns.
McCall's 6473
This is an excellent pattern for women who want a more fitted scrub top instead of relatively shapeless unisex tops. There are four variations of a pullover scrub top with set-in sleeves in two lengths, in-seam or patch pockets, and flattering princess seams. An elastic casing gives more definition to the waist.
This pattern is especially good for full-figured ladies because it offers three different front pattern pieces: one for A or B-cup sizes and others for C or D. The sewer can easily get a good fit through the bust area without changing the waistline or altering the bust darts of a standard pattern.
The pants have elastic in the back and a variety of pocket options. A top and pants can be made with four to five yards of 45" fabric.
McCall's 6107
This pattern for unisex scrubs includes an easy scrub top with sleeves cut onto the body, two different scrub caps, a lab coat, and comfortable scrub pants with a full elastic waist. A scrub dress with a tie belt is also included. The top and pants are very easy to make and require four to five yards of fabric. A matching cap can also be cut from that yardage.
Simplicity 3542
Women's pull-on pants, empire waist tops and scrub jackets are all included in this pattern. Short or long sleeves, pockets, and contrasting trim options are included. The pattern comes in misses andplus size ranges.
Simplicity 4378
This pattern includes men's and women's mock-wrap and V-neck pullover tops, a snap-front scrub top, and drawstring pants. Instructions are included for sporty stripes down the sleeves if desired. Simplicity 4107 is the plus-sized version of this pattern.
New Look 6634
New Look patterns are known for a little extra style and this scrubs pattern is no exception. A pullover basic scrub top is included, along with pull-on pants with cargo pockets, a scrub cap, and a cute wrap top or dress for ladies. The size range includes teens, men and women.

One or two basic patterns can provide the foundation for a complete working wardrobe if you are in a medical profession. Any of these patterns would be appropriate for nurses, pharmacy technicians, doctors or medical office personnel. Enjoy making one-of-a-kind scrubs that are custom fit just for you.