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2021 Sewing Bee – Round 2 – Recycled denim

When a round of the sewing bee is announced, I carefully read the announcement, all the while mentally scanning my list of things to sew. I have maintained a list of things I would like to sew for several decades. It started while I worked and raised my family. Back then sewing time was precious and very limited. It allowed me to hit the ground running when I did find time to sew. My list is not just a written list of projects – it consists of patterns, pictures of garments, swatches of fabrics, and notes on techniques. These are the seeds of my inspiration. When the sewing bee round is announced, I pull my ideas from my list and formulate a plan that incorporates the theme of the contest while also tackling as many “to sew” actions from my list. Now that I am retired, I pick away at my list pretty steadily. When I am participating in the sewing bee I go into warp speed. I try to incorporate as many of my sewing to dos as I can. Luckily inspiration is bountiful and my list of things to sew continues to grow faster than I can keep up with even during sewing bee.

Recycled denim was a bit of a challenge. I am an avid quilter, but quilted or patchwork clothing never appealed to me. The patchwork garments I made over the years never made it out of my closet. I admire the artistry of fashioning new garments from the pieces of clothing. But, I would not wear a Frankenstein garment that was obviously comprised of sections from other garments. Recycling is about minimizing waste, using resources efficiently, and repurposing. Making something I knew would never be worn was a non-starter. I finally settled on the Tuxedo blouse and a corseted belt. These two articles have been languishing on my list for far too long. Although I love sewing for family and friends, when it comes to the sewing bee, I could never ask someone to put up with the many try on sessions, so the garments would be for me. I immediately dug out two pairs of store bought stretch jeans in dark navy denim that I purchased just before lock-down. One of the pairs still had the tags on it. I had hoped the stretch would help to accommodate my unique physique, but it was not to be. A friend donated a beautiful faded light denim shirt. I went to a local thrift shop and purchased two more pairs of dark navy stretch jeans, and a denim skirt in a medium blue. These six garments would be the source for my projects. The Tuxedo blouse would be made from the four pairs of dark stretch jeans. The belt would be lighter in color adding more shape and contrast to the outfit, using both sides of the denim skirt. The beloved denim shirt from a friend would be used for lining in both pieces.

While formulating this plan, I took careful inventory of the fabric I had available. I did not cut the denim from the pants or skirt, until I could pin all the necessary pattern pieces on the denim. Some of the pieces had to be cut single layer, requiring extra attention to make sure I cut an up and down version of a pattern piece. This added a lot of stress to this project as I had very little margin for error. In some cases, I would sew test pieces out of other fabric to fine tune the fit, before the final pattern pieces were cut from the denim. On the back inside of the cuffs, you will find a dark spot of denim, which originally fell under the back pocket. I was so tight for dark denim I had no other choice for the cuffs. I think it adds authenticity to my recycling efforts. Also in the lower hem facing I was forced to use a piece of denim that originally had a pocket on it, and you can still make out the pocket outline. I am proud of how little was left of my original garments. I included a photo of the source garments before and after. Among the cast offs, there are useful sized pieces left destined for other projects, so I will have to find them a home.

The Tuxedo blouse made it on to my list several years ago at a sewing class. A fellow student was wearing her creation and I kept staring at the design lines and searching for construction clues. I finally asked her about the pattern. It is the Tuxedo shirt from Sandra Betzina’s book, “No Time to Sew”. It is a winged collar blouse, with simple relaxed long sleeves with no cuffs, and the bottom hem line was like none I had seen before. It would flatter a variety of shapes and sizes. I bought the book, and the patterns. The reason this project lingered on my list was the pattern accommodated small, medium, and large. The largest hip measurement was 24” smaller than my hips. The bodice would also need grading, and the original pattern had no shaping in the way of darts or princess seams. Also, the pattern called for lighter fabric with more drape. But, I thought the denim would add structure to garment accenting its strong design lines and being more flattering to my figure.

Not one to give up, I formulated a plan. I would use a self-drafted princess seam bodice, that I can fit easily, and I had already drafted a pattern for a flip cuff sleeve for the bodice. These had the benefit of using many smaller pieces which could be cut from the legs of jeans. I used the winged collar pattern piece from the original pattern, adjusting it to fit on my bodice’s neckline. For the bottom I had no existing patterns that would approximate the shape. I started from a circle skirt, reducing the flare to just skim my hips. In the original pattern there is not a waistline seam. The need to keep pattern pieces small forced me to add a waistline seam and to increase the number of panels in the peplum. To approximate the original pattern I wanted the peplum to flow smoothly from the waist. The bottom hemline was drafted as close as possible from the original pattern. Not being a fan of buttonholes in denim, I changed the front button placket on the original pattern to a cut-on hidden button placket that ended at the waist. This resulted in a garment with sharp crisp, clean, classic design lines, similar to the original pattern.

Once I had drafted the pattern, the construction was fairly straight forward. All seams were finished with a serged edge. I minimized topstitching to where it was needed and did it in matching thread to keep the look clean and sharp. I made covered buttons to maintain the design uniformity. The button loops on the cuffs are made using soft elastic covered with a two pass rolled edge done on my serger using matching thread. Gail Yellen has an excellent video demonstrating this technique. It results in a perfect matching elastic. Grading was extremely important to complete the collar and button stands. I recommend Muna and Board’s sew along for the Noice Jeans as my all-time favorite demonstration of how to grade denim. I used the lighter denim from the gifted shirt, to make the hem facing. The shirt was pretty stained and paint splattered, so I used the wrong side to get a more uniform look. The peplum consists of 10 panels, which was necessary to be able to cut them from the jean legs. When cutting, I managed to maintain grain-line on the top portion of garment. The sleeves had to be pieced. The bottom pieces had to be cut off grain, but the bias I think actually enhances the drape of the peplum. I absolutely love slipping this blouse on. The denim is soft with a slight stretch. The garment offers coverage without being oversized. I truly look forward to making another of these with ample fabric to allow combining some of the many pieces, so it is back on my “to sew” list. The blouse had the correct proportions for my body, and it would be perfect to showcase my accessory, a belt.

A corset was on my “to sew” list as well. I knew my first corset should not and could not be rushed, but a corseted belt would be an excellent way to familiarize myself with some of the techniques needed to someday make my own corset. View D from Simplicity pattern 8626 caught my eye, but I liked the back of it. Starting with that pattern I drafted a pattern which featured a front centered zipper to allow easier on/off. I added a laced section in the back. I added 4” to the pattern to accommodate my waist. Adding sections while reducing their size allowed me to add a lot more boning, which is installed in the seam allowances. The laced panel was designed to allow me to cinch the belt in or out up to 1.5 inches, which makes it versatile when pairing with lighter or bulkier outfits. The lacing is a thick cotton cording, and my husband saved the day by suggesting heat shrink tubing to seal the ends of laces to prevent fraying. The belt buckle was repurposed from a belt purchased at the thrift store. I also backed my sections with Peltex 70, ultra-firm stabilizer. It is 100% polyester and machine wash and tumble dry. This resulted in a very comfortable supportive belt. The amount of work to install a zipper, a belt buckle, 16 pieces of boning, 13 grommets, 2 rivets, throughout the 9 sections of the belt, has given me a new found appreciation for accessories, and I will never complain about the price of a well-made belt again. I used the denim skirt for the belt. I used the wrong side of the denim for the two front belt pieces to add a bit more contrast. I used the rest of the denim shirt to line the belt sections. I love this belt, and look forward to wearing it with many of my outfits. I could never purchase a belt that is this comfortable to wear while giving me the shape and support I want. I plan on making another of these too, which is why my “to sew” list never stops growing.

As for my list, here is some of the “new to me” techniques that I used during this project: making covered buttons, making matching elastic loops, drafting a cut on hidden button placket, installing grommets, lacing a corset, installing a belt buckle, shortening a metal separating zipper, and adding boning to a garment to name a few.

Once again, the sewing bee has done its magic, and in record time I have boldly challenged myself to draft and make a garment and an accessory for myself. Thank you to all those behind the scenes that make it possible, and thanks to my fellow participants who not only understand the joy and excitement of sewing bee mania, but who also inspire me with their creativity and willingness to share!

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2021 Sewing Bee – Round 1 – Uniquely you pajamas

I am a “nightgown or nothing” kind of gal, so two piece pajamas were a stretch for me. As I pondered my options my 7 month old German Shepherd puppy nuzzled my leg, and it came to me. At 58, I never thought I would adopt another dog, let alone a puppy. We lost our beloved Tilly several months into lock down and social distancing. The sheer silence and loneliness overwhelmed me. After much soul searching, I started to consider, plan, and train for the physical demands of a puppy. My latest love, Miss Lotte, came home October 7th. One thing I did not properly plan for was the many middle of the night and early morning trips outside. On more than one occasion, I surprised a delivery person, with me sitting on my steps in my nightgown. Those early morning moments spent sipping coffee, tossing sticks, kicking balls, and wandering the woods were so very special, but I could not help thinking I wish I had a more appropriate outfit. There is no time to waste when puppies have to go. I needed something that was comfy to sleep in, but would allow me to roll out of bed and be out the door in a flash. It needs to be warm, presentable and have pockets, lots of pockets. I searched the internet for a solution and stumbled upon Pajameralls, a combination of pajamas and overalls. As good as they were, they had some drawbacks, the buckles and hardware did not seem comfortable to sleep in, and would add unwanted excitement to my own middle of night bathroom trips, fumbling with buckles and buttons. So, out of this was born my version of Pajameralls.

I started with Jalie Pattern 972 Overalls. This pattern is unisex, and actually extended into my hips range. I made the following modifications: eliminating the front fly, replacing the side button and buckles with snaps, adding elastic to the straps for comfort. I added a contrasting internal cuff for added strength and pizazz. I compared the area between waist and crotch to my favorite fitting high waist-ed pants pattern, and made the necessary adjustments, which also required reworking the pocket pieces a bit. The effort was worth it as the initial fit was very close. At the same time I replaced the front fly with a simple center seam.

The next area of concern was re-designing the straps. I wanted to avoid the metal hardware, and needed fast on/off straps, that had to stay in place without being so strong that they dug into my shoulders and gave me my first wedgy in years. Much laughter accompanied this part of the project. The straps are two layers of fabric. There is a 3/4 inch elastic in a channel running down the straight side of the strap. The elastic caused a ruffle effect on the straps which I really liked.

I chose a Linen/Cotton blend fabric that is butter soft, lightweight, and breathable. For contrast, I chose a half yard piece of printed linen, which was actually one of the last pieces of fabric I bought before lock down. I loved the color and design, and I used every bit of that fabric in these overalls. The original pattern calls for a heavy weight fabric, so my choice meant I had to consider where I would need to add interfacing, stabilizers, and extra layers of fabric for reinforcement. This made the instructions a solid starting point, but I would have to determine where and when to apply the necessary interfacing, stabilizers, and extra layers of fabric. I added interfacing to pocket edges, twill tape to some seams on the bias, and doubled the fabric in the straps, as the original pattern called for a single layer of fabric. I also wanted to make sure I did not go too far, making a stiff garment which would not be comfortable to sleep in. I also added inside openings to the side of the front waistband, to allow the possibility of adding a drawstring or belt in the future should the need arise. Here is hoping that it does!

I decided on a 3-thread cover stitch for the top-stitching, using a thick 30 wt cotton thread for needle threads, and Poly Yarn in the chain looper, which is strong, soft, and more tolerant of heat. This results in a soft, clean, durable inside of the garment. Last Christmas I received a KAM snap setup for installing jeans buttons, grommets, rivets, and last but not least snaps. Never having used snaps before, I was delighted with how easy to install, attractive, and durable these size 24, fashion snaps in gun metal were.

For my second piece, I made my fitted for me T-shirt. Last spring, I took a two day online class with Deb Canham, in which she talked us through drafting and making a pretty near perfect fit t-shirt. We started with McCalls 6964 pattern, in a size closest to our bust size. She has great tips for applying the neckbands (both V and crew), fitting the sleeves, grading out, and just so much useful information. Even after years of sewing on serger and cover stitch machines I learned so much, and I live in my made for me T-shirts. For this outfit I wanted something more special that made me feel a bit more feminine. I used the Cashmerette write up for bishop sleeves and modified my long sleeve pattern to result in this pretty sleeve. The sleeve would drive me crazy if I were trying to cook, or sew, but it adds a bit of fancy when winding down at the end of a long day, and pulling on this t-shirt. The fabric is a very lightweight cotton knit. I am also very proud that no fabric was purchased for this project, so a considerable amount of stash busting has occurred.

Overall, (get it) I am delighted with the outcome, and look forward to rolling out of bed, and quietly stealing off with Miss Lotte in the early morning hours to share our quiet times before the world gets going.