Slap-Dash T-Shirts

I have been sewing away these past few days and been averaging a shirt a day or so, making good headway through the big pile of knit fabrics I got on sale at Beverly's a long time ago. I was on a strict budget back then and I remember I bought 3/4 of a yard of each one, which turns out to be more than enough for a shirt. And at about $2.50 a yard you cannot complain, right? I think I could have gotten away with a half yard. But I am using the scraps to piece together sleeves and ruffles for a few more tank tops in the works, and I may even turn some of the larger ones into socks and undies.

I was thinking it would be really fun to explore shoe and undergarment making and see if I could have a completely handmade outfit by the 31st. No promises there though. Anywho... Making t-shirts seemed the obvious place for me to start since I like to wear different ones all the time and therefore need a lot of them. Also, from what little I had read on the net it seemed like one of the easiest projects. All you have to do is take one of your favorite shirts, turn it inside out, trace it, and sew it. I find it is best to not trace right next to the shirt, but leave yourself maybe 1/2 an inch all the way around. Also, be sure to leave room on the sleeves since those always seemed to turn out small for me even when the rest of the shirt fit. It may have had something to do with which direction the weave of the fabric was going, but I am not sure.
To sew the pieces together I used a zig-zag stitch with the edge of the fabric lined up with the edge of the presser foot, then I went back and sewed a straight seam about 1/16 of an inch away from the zig-zag, always using the largest stitch setting. I worry about wardrobe malfunctions so I made sure the seams were sturdy, though I bet I will end up carrying a sewing kit around with me this month just to be on the safe side.

The first shirt I made came out pretty cute, but has some fit issues that are not noticeable to anyone but me. The sleeves are a bit too tight and even though I wanted the collar to lay flat, it sticks up all the way around, but it looks like I meant to do it that way so I will not bother changing it. I ended up tracing the bodice of one shirt, the sleeves of another, and then I kind of just made up the collar as I went along. I do not know why I didn't start with the simplest possible shirt design, which I ended up doing for my second shirt instead:

Number two is a much better fit through the sleeves, though still a bit on the tight side. And I just traced one of my favorite long-sleeved shirts and sewed it together and left the edges raw. It is super-comfy and I am sure I will be wearing it a ton this month.

Number three was one of the simplest shapes but the details were a little hard to sew. I traced my favorite t-shirt and decided not to do any seams at the shoulders which made it very quick to sew up. I will make another just like it but with a round neck instead of the v-neck and just leave all the edges raw, shouldn't take more than ten minutes to make. But for this one I decided to use this sweet little car trim from Japan to bind the collar and sleeves, which was kind of weird because it is not stretchy at all:

But luckily I measured correctly and the sleeves fit just right, perfectly tailored to my beefy arms, lol. The collar does not lay perfectly flat but I do not mind. And on the back I added one little box pleat in the middle of the neckband since I did not have quite enough trim to go all the way across, and it came out really cute! Then I just did a big hem on the bottom and appliqued the only two leftover scraps of the precious trim on the front. It was too expensive to waste even a little bit.

And lastly, after I finished the car shirt I found an old scrap of material my mother had given me, and it was already sewed at the sides so it must have been a shirt or most likely a nightgown in its previous life. There was something I really liked about it, so I made this cute, flouncy top with wide handmade Victorian lace for the trim and wide red satin ribbon for the straps. On the back the straps are sewn on top of the lace and the long ends of the ribbon flow down freely. I adore this top and the way it fits me, tighter at the top and then it flows away from my body. One of my best yet I'd say, though the pictures do not do it justice. Just have to wait till I take a picture of me wearing it.

So now I really need to get cracking on that cape to keep me warm. I cannot believe that day after tomorrow I will have to abandon all my comfy jeans and favorite shirts. But hopefully I will become more comfortable in my own skin and learn that it is okay to stand out a bit.
I am kind of in a panic because I realized that since I am wearing only handmade accessories as well as clothing, I really need to make myself a purse since I cannot use my backpack and tote bag I take with me every day. I also realized that since the fabrics I have been stashing to make clothes with were chosen with the idea that I could pair them with a neutral top or bottom that already exists in my closet, everything is patterned with bright colors and if I wear a handmade top and bottom at the same time I will clash so bad! So I wanted to buy some of that yummy cream or white organic cotton they sell at CVS but they only had the green left, so I got it anyhow and I will make a solid green skirt. And I got a big length of way-too-expensive black stretch cotton to make yoga pants so I can keep going to the gym this month. I almost *almost* made a pair from scraps, but going to the gym is awkward enough without having to wear Technicolor-dreamcoat-patchwork yoga pants.


Another couple pieces...

I wanted to show off the last two pieces of clothing I had made pre-crazy-decision. I will show off new pieces on hangers instead of on me so it will be interesting to see my portraits every day through the month! Last summer I made a cute little tank top and I'm not sure why I never posted it on here:

It is made from a vintage pillowcase I had in my stash for a long time. I even left the old pillowcase care tag inside the shirt for giggles. I love the colors and the pattern, and while the fit is not the most perfectly flattering kind for my body shape, it is hands-down one of the most comfortable tops I have. I made it using a tutorial over on Betz White's blog, so thanks to her for sharing it. Her blog is full of a million wonderful ideas and she is all about using recycled materials, so if you have not seen it yet go check it out and get inspired!

And the last piece of clothing I have had finished for a bit is my crazy 1950's skirt:

This came out slightly different than I had envisioned it, but I am still pretty pleased. My friend Ivy from the stitch & bitch group is a fabric sales rep and is always bringing us fabric samples and such, which is so awesome! And one day she came in with a big bag of off-cuts from a woman around here who makes dresses. All the fabrics were amazing, and I snatched up a bunch of them. I was looking at their shape and I realized that they were the perfect dimensions to be skirt panels, so I sewed them all together just as they were, then I made a placket and waistband out of some vintage red velvet. I was hoping to have the skirt sit at my hips, but somewhere along the way I mixed up my measurements and the waistband ended up coming out too small, but it was fortuitous in a way because the design of the skirt, apart from the loud fabric, is decidedly 1950's, so wearing it at my natural waist and having the hem fall between my calf and my ankle is spot-on for the style. I know I could have ripped out the waistband and redone it, but I did not have much velvet left and it is precious because it is so old. So I just went with it, made some button holes and sewed on some vintage buttons and there you go, I will look like a 50's housewife who was punked by modern artists, and I like that ^_^.

I guess now I really have to start working hard on the necessary pieces I am still missing before May gets here. I really need a simple white button-down top to wear with that loud skirt... Also, I have been toying with the idea of sewing undergarments and even making shoes. I found a tutorial for how to make sneakers out of old jeans and an old tire on the Craft Magazine blog, here. And I happen to know where I can easily get an old tire, and I have one other pair of jeans from Dennis that are ripped in such a way that I cannot make them into pants for me but there is still a lot of usable fabric. Hmm... I better not get ahead of myself. I will do clothes first, but if things go well, who knows...


Magic Jeans

In one of my first major efforts for the upcoming Me-Made-May, I have learned a lot about what it takes to make a pair of pants. No, I have not sewn a new pair from scratch (though I plan to sew at least one pair), but what I did is still pretty cool. I took a pair of my boyfriend's size 40 pants and remade them to fit me. I am actually really proud of this project:

On the left are my boyfriend's jeans, and on the right are my favorite pair from the gap. Now, I have seen tutorials online for how to make boot-cut jeans into skinny jeans and things like that, but I have never seen anyone try to convert the top half of too-big jeans without taking them completely apart, which was not the way I wanted to spend an evening of sewing. I am more of an instant gratification kind of person really. You may be wondering why Dennis let me scavenge this pair of jeans...

He buys them long and then wears out this perfect semi-circle at the back of both legs. He was going to throw them away but I thought maybe I could just do someone out there a service and hem them and donate them so someone wide and short could have them. But then I got the crazy idea to try and make them fit me instead.

So first, I laid my favorite jeans on top of the old ones and traced them all the way around. (Keep in mind here that I have never been able to wrap my head around the mechanics involved in pants construction.) And I had to remove a couple of the belt loops because my little old machine can barely sew through all that denim, and it would never have been able to sew through the loops, plus it would give a cleaner seam.

I thought that maybe I could then just sew along those lines I drew, including the reduced inseam, and everything would fit better... Nope. I tried them on and the inner thighs were way too tight, but the outside seam I made seemed to be a better fit, so I ripped out the entire seam on the inside of the leg and tried them on again, and they fit really well all through the leg and thigh. So I cut off all the excess seam fabric and did a makeshift kind of surging with some heavy weight upholstery thread. Then I cut off the crappy part of the bottom cuff and did a rolled hem:

And ta-da! I rolled up the cuffs so they would not look like silly little high water clam diggers and instead would look like every other pair of capris I own. I tried them on and they fit nice and snug in all the right places and were surprisingly comfortable. I am still truly amazed, since I was going into this expecting it to be a complete failure or at best a learning experience, but I had a bonafide wearable pair of jeans! But they are far from perfect, though it is hard to tell when I have a shirt on over them:

Lol. Because of the large inseam that I did not posses the sewing know-how to alter, I have to wear them way up high at my natural waist. My co-worker Lydia wears a pair of skinny jeans that are high-waisted and she can totally pull it off, but I just do not know if I will be able to. Maybe if I sew a cute 1950's style blouse reminiscent of something Marilyn Monroe would have worn then maybe I will show off the high waist, but until then I will camouflage it with my shirts.

I was pounding the high-waisted style that was prevalent in women's pants in the early days and it makes total sense: women were not allowed to wear pants for such a long time in our history, so when they started to they only had men's pants as a pattern to go by for constructing their own pair. I can imagine that if designers used to making men's pants started to make women's, the easiest way would be to do what I did to these jeans. Very interesting...
So, I have a pair of pants for May. I still would like to sew from scratch at least one pair of long pants, mostly because I have never made a proper pair outside of renaissance fair costumes before, so it will be a nice challenge. Plus I know there will be a situation during the month where I will probably really not feel like wearing a skirt. I have a couple more pieces of clothing to show off on here, and then I will be making everything as I go. *Gulp*



Alrighty, big announcement! I have officially decided to participate in the Me-Made-May Challenge. I was wandering around the internets and stumbled upon the blog of the woman who hosts the whole event, So Zo... , and I thought it was an interesting idea. Then I found a link to the blog of Canadian fiber artist/clothing designer Natalie Purschwitz and her amazing MakeShift project, and I was absolutely smitten with what I found. She runs an art space called Make Shift, and she has taken on the hugely daunting task (to me at least) of wearing nothing but handmade items for an entire year. And I'm not just talking about clothing: she made shoes, bras, undies, socks, hats, everything. Her style is undeniably beautiful and somewhat quirky, and I completely love it. I think I love the way everything is slightly asymmetrical but evokes an almost proper Victorian-Era feel as well:

After looking at every last picture and speaking about it with my ever-inspiring and ever-encouraging co-worker Aubrey, I knew I had to give it a try.
Now, I know that I most likely cannot go as far as Natlie did, though it would be quite an accomplishment if during the month of May I was able to explore ways of making shoes and bras for myself. But I will participate as dictated in the rules laid out on Zoe's website. I will wear nothing but clothes I made by hand for the entire month of May. And after reading the rules, I have decided that repurposed clothing will count for me in this challenge as well, because even though I would like to pretend that I make things like altered t-shirts all the time, it is truly a challenge for me to find a chunk of time wherein I posses the necessary energy and inspiration to do even the simplest clothes sewing. But, I am making up for that fact by upping the anty: I will also wear only handmade accessories, like jewelry, gloves, hats, and scarves. I will take a picture of my outfit every day and post it on here too.
And by far my biggest goal of the next month is that I am going to knit a sweater. Probably does not sound like a big deal to most knitters, but I am new to the game and making anything bigger than a hat seems terrifyingly large. I have chosen the simplest, easiest pattern I could find, and I already have the yarn in a stash box under my bed, so I am ready to make a go at it. I am going to start knitting it on May 1st, and my ultimate goal is to have it completed and to wear it on May 31st. And if all of this goes according to plan and I manage not to give up or cheat or not finish the sweater, I have thought of a reward: if I complete the challenge in full, I am going to buy myself a dressmaker's dummy. Yup. But I have a feeling I may loose steam on the sweater and save myself some money, so either way it will all turn out in my favor, but I want the dummy really really badly, hopefully badly enough to make this thing happen.

Luckily I am not starting completely from scratch in this endeavor. I have the short-sleeve mesh sweater I crocheted long ago that does not see enough daylight. I also have the raincloud shirt, the mushroom skirt, and the steampunk skirt. So I am already doing okay. And I have a tank top, long skirt, and a special surprise refashion yet to be unveiled, but that will be coming in the next post. I am going to spend tonight sewing simple t-shirts out of a bunch of fabric from my stash, and if it goes well I should be set for shirts.

But I cannot stop just there. I have a very long, and most often very cold, commute. I need to figure out a jacket of some kind. Oh, did I mention I am also doing this while trying to buy as little new or even thrifted materials as possible? I have enough stuff in my stash to keep me properly clothed for the rest of my life, so I may as well use it. Anywho, back to the coat. A proper coat will take me a while, so unless I want to freeze to death until then, I am going to have to make something else. My mother suggested a cape, and I have a wonderful red wool that would be perfect for it so long as I can find a soft lining. I also want to make myself a hoodie, and I found a great tutorial on how to do it here. And I would like to make some gloves and a pair of yoga pants for the gym. And probably a pair of regular pants too.

I want to spend Me-Made-May not only wearing handmade clothes but also making a bunch of them, so there will be plenty of posts to go around. Wish me luck! Oh, and if you know of any good clothing tutorials out there, either knitted, crocheted, sewn, repurposed, whatever, please let me know!


Crafty Rampage Day

A few days ago I got the most ridiculous surge of energy, perhaps because I had a cold for about a week and a half and was finally feeling better, or perhaps (and this is my favorite theory), because I have a chemical imbalance like the one that makes people depressed except mine works in the opposite way, lucky thing. Who knows. But I got more done in one day that I have gotten done in the previous weeks of the month altogether. I have been finishing a lot of projects lately, and also utilizing my newfound energy to start some big new ones (more on that next post). Anywho, I started my morning off by making laundry soap because I had to do some laundry and we finally finished the old bottle. I found the recipe through the Glenn Family Gardens blog. You can find it here.

All you need is washing powder, borax, and a good laundry soap like Fels-Naptha. I read about the process from the instructions and a few other blogs, and they said that grating the soap was the hardest part. But my mom, whom I believe to be psychic, brought me a little grater with a
container attached to it, and it is the kind with lots of little spiky graters for things like hard cheeses and nutmeg, etc. But I already had something like this in the kitchen, so I decided to try to use it to grate the soap and it worked like a charm. Instead of little strips of soap it turned it into a powder just as fine as the others, and I only managed to grate away one knuckle towards the end.

So I put everything in the pot (plus my own addition of 10 or so drops of tangerine essential oil), and let it cook until it was dissolved, but I think I stirred it a little too much because it got a bit foamy, which you do not really want, but oh well. I was pleasantly surprised at the smell, which reminded me of the inexpensive detergent we used to use all the time when I was a child (Nostalgic bonus!). Then I decanted the mixture into a nice big glass jar and filled the rest up with water. The recipe says that you should wait 24 hours and let it gel a little, but I really needed to do laundry so I tested it right away on the batch of manky towels from the kitchen. I decided to not use bleach or fabric softener just to see what it could do on its own and I must say I am impressed. The towels were soft and smelled very lightly of tangerines and clean laundry!
This is one of the best projects I have done for the house in a while, mostly because of the money it will save us and the fact that we are buying way less packaging. I did the math and we used to buy containers of fancy detergent for about 8 dollars every 2 months. So, 48 dollars a year, which is not that bad. But this recipe costs about 15 dollars for all the supplies, and it will make enough batches to last us a year and a half, plus it is only 2 cardboard boxes and 3 little paper wrappers going into the recycling bin instead of 9 big plastic bottles. Booya.

When I put the laundry in I got the urge to keep making soap, since the kitchen was already geared up for it. So I busted out a package of olive oil soap base that has been sitting in the linen cupboard for literally years. I melted it in a double boiler and added ground flax seeds as an exfoliant and some food-grade vanilla extract for scent. I used snail-shaped sand toys and a moustache-shaped candy mould to shape them. I am so ridiculously happy with the results.

They smell good enough to eat, like sugar cookie dough, probably because the flax seeds add a very buttery note. And the mustaches are super fun to smell as an excuse to hold it up to your nose. I scraped the leftover soap out of the bowl while it was still warm and rolled it into a big ball, a "soap stone" as I like to call it, and then I gave it a try and it is so wonderful! The flax is a very soft exfoliant, and between its oils and the olive oil bas it leaves my hands nice and soft and has a smooth lather. I am leaving the soap stone near the mudroom sink to use when I come in from the garden. I am going to give some of these soaps as gifts, but I will list 4 of each kind in my etsy shop when I finally restock it.

And oh no, I was not done there for the day. As I kept doing laundry, I suddenly got an urge to dye yarn. I had a bunch of food coloring and Kool-Aid in the cupboard for just such an urge, not to mention a whole pile of this:

I found these little 20g skeins of yarn in a thrift store with Dennis one day, and for 69 cents I had to buy all they had, because check it out:

Made in France from virgin wool, and mothproof? Not to mention the feel of it; one would think that cheap little skeins like that would not be very soft, but they have a supple fluffiness that is lovely to touch. So I mixed up the different fruity dyes and cut up a little sponge for each color. You do not need to add vinegar to these dyes because the citric acid accomplishes the same thing, which makes the process smell much better, though it is still some unusual mix of wet sheep and skittles.

So I soaked the yarn in some warm water and mild soap, and then I wiped the counter with a damp cloth and stuck a long piece of cling wrap to it. I painted two little skeins together as one so that they would match, since each one is enough for, say, a glove, so with two matching skeins you could make a lovely little pair of gloves. I did not take pictures of how I painted the yarn because I was basically using techniques I learned when I was working for ArtFibers and I am sworn to secrecy.

But basically you can do whatever you feel like doing, it will turn out pretty no matter what, just do not blend the colors to much and be very gentle when you wrap it up in the plastic wrap. After I was done painting all the skeins I put them in a microwave-safe baking dish and nuked them for 2 minutes, then let them rest for 2 minutes, then nuked them again for another 2 minutes. Then all you have to do is let them cool, unwrap them, and rinse them until the water runs clear, which does not take long.

I also busted out a ridiculously large skein of silk-wool yarn I have been holding on to forever, and I used all the leftover dye plus a couple more packets of lemon-lime. Here are my finished products:

I am going to re-skein them at a slightly different diameter to break up the blocks of color, and when that is done I will post more pictures. I am going to list all of them on etsy except for the big one, which is for me.

Alright, so now I am covered in soap, water, Kool-Aid, and yarn fuzz, and I ran off to the laundromat to dry the laundry, get some dinner, and run some other errands and I didn't end up getting home until about 9 o'clock and I suddenly had the urge to make jam. So of course, still riding the wave of creativity, I indulged the urge. I had marrion berries and bird cherries from the backyard in the freezer waiting to be made into jam, so I thawed them out and set to work sterilizing the jars, peeling and pitting the bird cherries, and cooking them up with sugar, lemon juice, and a pat of butter. In case you are wondering, marrion berries are very similar to blackberries, but they have a lower moisture content, and in turn a stronger flavor, and smaller, softer seeds. I love baking pies with them because they make for a less runny filling than blackberries. And bird cherries are in the plum family. They are usually grown as ornamental trees but the fruits are edible too. They look like tiny black plums, and the trees have deep reddish purple leaves. The peels are super sour but the flesh is always sweet and deep red. If you or a neighbor has one of these trees I highly suggest that you do not let the fruit go to waste. I have a recipe for an open face plum cake I used them in here.
Anywho, the jam came out perfect except for the fact that it is a little soft for my taste; I should have added more pectin. But no worries, because the flavor is a-maz-ing! Pure, intense, sweet, and tangy blackberry goodness. The bird cherries play a kind of backup role, but the flavors go together swimmingly. And the color is the deepest blood red, so pretty! I am going to give a few jars to friends and family (this was a big batch, 12 jars and a little extra), and I am
sure we will devour a few jars ourselves, so I hope to list 6 of them on etsy.
All in all, a wonderful day. I stayed up until about one in the morning making the jam, but it was totally worth it. Now I just need a crazy big urge to take a ton of photos and list all the stuff I made!


Crocheted Produce Bag

Well, I thought since the produce bag was something I just made up real quick I should post the pattern. I am sure there are way better ones out there, but most of them end up decreasing at the end to get a smaller opening, but I wanted mine large so leafy stuff that I buy in multiple little bunches could poke out, like baby broccoli or bok choy. So here is the pattern, just in case you want to make a couple as well.

1 skein Lion Brand Organic Cotton Yarn (#680), or similar worsted weight yarn
Size I-9 Crochet Hook
Little scrap of fabric (optional)

Rnd 1: Begin with an adjustable loop, and crochet 12 double crochet (dc) into the loop and pull tight.
Rnd 2: *Chain 7, skip 1 dc and slip stitch in next dc.* Repeat around. It should look like a little flower:

Rnd 3: Chain 7, Slip stitch (slst) into 4th chain (ch) of round 2. You will ch 7 and attach it to the center of every little petal of the flower you created in round 2. At the end of the round ch 3 and slst into the 4th ch of the first ch 7 of the round. You should end up with a round like this:

Rnd 4: Ch 7, slst into the point where the last two rounds meet, then ch 7 and slst into the 4th ch of the last round as well. Repeat all the way around. This is an increasing round, and should look like this when you are done:

Rnd 5: Ch 7 and slst into the center of each "petal" from the last round, and end with a ch 3 and slst into the 4th ch of the first ch 7. The work should look like this:

By now you should be seeing the pattern emerging, just ch 7 and attach it to the middle of each loop from the previous round, and every other round you will have to end in a ch 3 and attach it to the middle of the original ch 7 of the round. You do not need to increase any more, and the sides will slowly form on their own. Work the chain pattern until you finish round 15.

Rnd 16: Single crochet (sc) in every chain around, join with a slst.
Rnd 17: *Sc in next 15 sc, then ch 50 to form the handle. Skip 33 sc and attach the ch back to the work, making sure not to twist it.* Repeat from * again to form the second handle, then sc to the end of the round and join with a slst.
Rnd 18: Sc in every stitch around, join with a slst and weave in the ends. Embellish with a little tie of scrap fabric and voila!

If you have found this or any of my other free patterns useful and would like to help me keep creating them I accept PayPal donations!


In Other News...

Well, here I am. My bosses at the toy store have had me working on the internet social networking part of the business, including Facebook, twitter, and a new blog that I am authoring. It's been swell, but the swelling's gone down, and I have finally found time to finish a few projects. One in particular that I am very proud of is a little bar I put together for Dennis.

He was thumbing through my old book of cocktails and he said he has always wanted to learn to make a few basic ones for when we entertain friends. I am not much of one for alcohol but I do like a sweet cocktail every now and again. So I rearranged the little printer stand that sits next to the dining table and put our ice crusher, martini shaker, alcohol, and cocktail books inside. And my mom and dad came up to visit yesterday and brought me a very cool old bar measure. I absolutely love clear glass that is so sold that it is starting to discolor, and the bar measure is just starting to turn pink. I liked the little bar, but I didn't want the stuff to get dusty, and I wanted to hide it a little too, so I made a little curtain for it:

The hexagon fabric was an old dollar-a-yard bit and I bias pieced scraps of the polka dot material until I had enough length. Then I just staple-gunned the fabric to the stand while adding some pleats, and covered the staples with a strip of twill ribbon. I will also use pieces of the same ribbon to tie them back when we want to use it.

Besides that, co-habitation is still going great, and even though I have been super busy I have some finished knitting and sewing projects to show off shortly. Till later!