Thursday, August 9, 2018

Dyeing Wool Interlock

As I write this post (Wednesday) it's the first day back to school for my oldest. Life should finally calm down to a routine, which includes more regular blogging! I have such a pile up of projects!

While my oldest is off to first grade, my middle will be starting her first year of preschool. She will be attending an outdoor forest school two days a week. She is extremely excited, but this mama wants to make sure she is properly clothed for the elements. My kids wear wool pants almost exclusively (yes, even in the summer, they wear wool shorts) so naturally my mind turned to wool when I was thinking about my daughter being outside. I decided to make some her some leggings from wool interlock. I knew they would be hard-wearing, and warm. She will probably still need some sort of rain/snow-proof layer on top, but I want her base to be nice and toasty.

Just before we moved, I ordered some 97/3 feltable wool interlock from Nature's Fabrics. It is 3% spandex for amazing stretch and recovery. There are instructions on the NF website for how to felt this wool (yes, on purpose!). Once felted, the wool is super dense, but still stretchy. It comes in a natural color so that it can be dyed.

This was my first time dyeing anything. I tried to read as much as I possibly could about dyeing before starting, as well as asking for help in the Nature's Fabrics Facebook group. In the end, I learned more by doing, which is not super surprising. The one piece of information that seemed the most important was that just any old dye would not be the most efficient for wool. Silk and wool are animal fibers, not plant fibers, so they require an acid dye like this one from Jacquard. I ordered mine from Amazon.

The amount of dye you need (it comes in a powder) depends on two things. First, the color you wish to achieve; and second, the weight of the fabric. For example, light colors such as yellow, grey, and pink do not require as much powder as dark colors like navy. Additionally, if the weight of your fabric is high, you need more dye. As an example, 16 oz of fabric dyed pink only requires .25 to .5 oz of dye, but 16 oz of fabric dyed navy requires up to 3 oz of dye. These ratios weren't exactly clear to me until I dug deeply into the directions from Jacquard (see page 2). Furthermore, I learned that other variables can effect the color (more on that in a bit).

In total, I have done 4 different dye sessions. Here is a brief overview of the methods I used. I purchased a stainless steel pot (cheapest I found was online through Wal-Mart) and wooden utensils that are only used for dyeing, not cooking. Rubber gloves were also useful to have, as well as tongs (I didn't have any for dyeing but I will be getting some!). I used Synthrapol, a special soap, for washing the fabric after dyeing.

Session One
Item: Already sewn wool/spandex interlock soaker 3 oz
Dye: 1/2 oz of 626 Navy Blue
Method: stovetop

If my math was correct, this amount of Navy dye with this size of item should have resulted in a true color. However, the soaker turned out to be almost black. I was dyeing it to cover up some staining and dinginess, so I'm fine with it, but I do with it were navy. I forgot to measure the cover before I dyed it but I do not think there was any shrinkage. The thread and tags, presumably being polyester, look tinted but not completely dyed. If you look closely at the inside back waistband in the photo below, that is the only portion that looks navy.

Session Two
Item: 1/2 yard of felted wool interlock (forgot to weight it!)
Dye: 1/2 oz of 608 Pink
Method: stovetop

I was absolutely thrilled with the way the color turned out with this piece. What was not thrilling was the amount of shrinkage (in length only). The piece had already shrunk significantly during the felting process (we're talking 10"+) and it felted another 3" while dyeing. After dyeing this piece I realized I did not have enough material to cut two legs for the leggings I wanted. I ended up ordering another bottle of dye in the same color to use on the other half yard.

Session Three
Item: Pair of light blue machine knit wool pants from Sloomb plus interlock scraps, roughly 16 oz total
Dye: 1/2 oz 638 Silver Grey
Method: stovetop

Due to the amount of shrinkage the previous time, I was reluctant to turn the heat up to near boiling. If I shrank the pants in length they were not going to fit my daughter. I kept the heat at medium. While it was successful in preventing shrinkage, this was the only time I had uneven dye. Either I did not mix it into the water well enough, or it was due to the lower temperature.

Session Four
Item: 1/2 yard of felted wool interlock (forgot to weight it...again)
Dye: 1/2 oz of 608 Pink
Method: stovetop

In an attempt to color match from Session Two, I did everything the same. Except that I forgot to add vinegar. Face palm. I do not think it affected the color although it will probably effect how well the dye sets. I was incredibly disappointed to see that the color was nowhere near the same as before. The shrinkage was the same, but the color was not. My only theory as to why, is the amount of water in the pot was different from one session to the next. The instructions simply say to make sure there is enough water for the fabric to move around freely. Nothing exact. I'm fairly positive I used more water during Session Four, and the color seems more diluted. I'm very frustrated that a variable like this could so dramatically affect the outcome and yet NOT be noted anywhere in the instructions.

Left, Session Two
Middle, Session Four
Right, Session Four and a Half

Session Four and a Half
Item: interlock scraps
Dye: remains of dye bath from Session Four
Method: stovetop

After removing my yardage from the dye bath, I tossed in some scraps of natural interlock (dry). I didn't heat it. I stirred it a bit. I did wash with Synthrapol after but I forgot the vinegar here too. These scraps turned out great although a lighter color entirely.

After all that dyeing, I was left with some really random pieces of fabric that I wanted to turn into pants. I attempted to copy a pair of interlock pants I already had, but I should've just used a pattern because I was constantly futzing with my version. With some fancy cutting and slightly off-grain maneuvering I got three pairs of pants from one yard+scraps. The grey pair was actually fabric that was cut for another project (a sleep sack) and I pieced it back together to make pants. They're just about the most ugly thing I've ever sewn, but since they're just going to outdoor preschool I'm not that concerned! The last pink pair, I prepared some cuffs for extra length and I'll add them when needed. Right now the hem is raw and they're plenty long enough.

Now I want to hear from experienced dyers! Does the amount of water matter as much as it seems? Any tips on even color? This was a fun experiment but I'm probably not jumping back into it anytime soon unless it's NOT with wool!

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Hey June Woodstock Tee

Confession: I don’t really like sewing for my kids. They constantly change sizes, they have nonsensical opinions, and they’re tough on their clothes. But I often end up with small cuts of fabric that need used up, and making kids clothes is the best way to do that. Recently, I tried out the free Woodstock Swing Tee pattern from Hey June to stash bust some of my favorite rayon knits.

The Woodstock Tee comes in sizes 6-16. My oldest daughter is 6 so she’s just moving into this range. She loves a good girly dress (see here!) but she also likes simple tees. This one is right up her alley. I made the size 6 with no alterations except to leave the hem raw.

The fabric is a lightweight rayon knit from Mood. The color is to die for, but sadly the piece got a run and a hole in it during my prewash. It also looks like the color ran? Or perhaps that’s just the heathered effect? In any case, I’m not sure I can recommend it even though I love the color and weight. I made myself a Union St. Tee from it, as you can see here (unblogged because it’s like, my 8th one).

This was a quick, easy sew. The high-low hem is fun and the little cap sleeves make it more interesting than a T-shirt. Honestly, I might try to bust out the size 16 to see if it fits me!

I made a second one from another lightweight rayon/poly knit, leftover from this dress. I lengthened this one into a dress by adding 5 inches in the middle. The neckband is a little wonky but it doesn’t seem to bother her any!

With school starting up again in a mere three weeks (sob) I’m starting to think of back to school clothes. This is a great pattern to bulk up her wardrobe!

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Hey June Phoenix Blouses

Remember that time I was super stressed about selling my house, and decided to channel that frustration into three Hey June Phoenix Blouses in a row?

I am probably the last person who is interested in woven tops, but for some reason the Phoenix really appealed to me when it was released. Even though I prefer knits, I still have lots of lightweight, gorgeous wovens in my stash, and no go-to patterns for them. There's nothing Earth-shattering about the design, but the proportions seemed right for me. Not too much volume. The front yoke wasn't too low. There are sleeves for fall versions. Lots of potential.

My high bust is 31" so I made a size 2. The first version was this chambray polka dot one, fabric is from Robert Kaufmann. I tacked down the corners of the slit on the yoke to prevent flopping. Fit was pretty good, but for the next version I did make alterations.

For this version, I lengthened the pattern 1" (lengthening is a typical alteration for me). I removed 1/2" on the fold from the center back (1" total). I do have narrow shoulders but this change was mostly to reduce the blousing through the bodice, not to fit the shoulders.

The second version is a cotton/linen blend woven from Jo-Ann's, and I cannot say enough about this fabric. It's probably the nicest I've ever bought there. Lovely and soft. It did fray like CRAZY though. After one wash I had to hand-sew the center front slit closed because it had unraveled.

On this version, I also lowered the underarm. I felt like it was way too tight.

I didn't want to interface the slit on this one because I felt like you'd be able to see it through the fabric. Instead, I cut the inside yoke piece on the opposite grain. Unfortunately, you can see the stripes going the opposite direction. I also used a serged rectangle of self-fabric between the layers, but as I mentioned, the fabric frayed anyway. Lesson learned, use interfacing!

After two versions, I felt confident enough to tackle a unicorn hiding in my fabric stash: Nani Iro double gauze. I got this ages and ages ago with a gift certificate after contributing an article to a blog. And yeah, sorry, it is just as lovely as everyone always says!

I stuck with the changes above but also screwed around with the underarm and side seam even more. Now, it's way over-fitted. I think I should go back to the original and redraw the underarm and side seam from there. The above is the only photo I have in the Nani Iro version, from my oldest daughter's Kindergarten graduation (wahhhhh). I look a little pregnant, right? (I'm not.) I lengthened the pattern and graded it out slightly around the hips. It's a little tight around the hips, which is causing it to ride up a little and give that pregnant look. Honestly, despite the cost of the fabric, I may cut it down to a shirt. I'd hate for this to hang in the closet the same way the fabric hung out in my stash.

If you like woven tops and don't have a pattern like this already, I can definitely recommend the Phoenix. The instructions were great and I somehow managed not to royally screw up the front yoke corners on any of my versions. It's a quick sew too! Working on these three items helped me keep my sanity while we were going through home inspections and all those kinds of stressful things. And now look, I get to live HERE on this amazing property. Yes, I'm standing in our very own creek. Gorgeous, right??

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Morgan Boyfriend Jeans

Woohoo I'm back! It's been too long, friends in blogland. At the beginning of June I had to pack up all my belongings, including my sewing room obviously. Mid-June we moved, but it wasn't until two weeks later that we had internet at the new house. My sewing room is still a disaster but I have a big backlog of projects to discuss in the meantime!

I showed lots of peeks on IG of these Morgan Boyfriend Jeans. I might venture to say that they are the best-made pants I've ever sewn. I love the fabric, the color of the topstitching, the details I added. The fit was surprisingly great. Those are all the good things, and honestly they are not minor so I don't want to downplay them. But I have a long history with Closet Case Files and I found the same problems cropped up here as with past projects.

I'll get the details out of the way first (thank goodness for my Sewist's Notebook or I definitely would have forgotten everything by now!). My measurements put me pretty squarely at an 8, so that's the size I cut. I was almost positive that I removed some length in the leg for my 5'4" height, but I didn't make a note of it and I can't find my paper pattern at the moment. I might be mis-remembering and confusing these pants with my in-progress overalls! The fabric is a 10oz 100% cotton Robert Kaufmann denim, in Bleach Indigo Wash. The brass notions are from the Button Fly Making Kit, packaged by CCF and sold via various retailers. The fabric and notion kit were both purchased from Fancy Tiger Crafts. Rivets and snaps were set with tools I purchased on Amazon and I've mentioned them a few times, most recently in my short overalls post. The leather patch was cut from a purse that was damaged by water, that my mom graciously gave me.

I think this is the first time I've made pants from a non-stretch fabric. No fudging fit here! I was pretty nervous as I was sewing, but like I said, the fit ended up pretty darn close. I have some back gaping in the waistband, some wrinkles indicating a flat pubis adjustment is needed, and when the legs are unrolled there seems to be some twist to the leg. I have bow legs and I think I need an adjustment for that to eliminate the twist. CCF has a GREAT fit guide for jeans that I've referenced many times for all kinds of pants. The photo below is the best to see the wrinkles I mean (pants are uncuffed).

On the fly to adjust the waistband, I used this tutorial from It's Always Autumn to insert elastic into the back waistband. It's not super pretty, and in retrospect I wish I would've just cut a smaller waistband, but I was over it at that point. I highly doubt I'll ever tuck in my shirt so it shouldn't be noticeable (and I could cover it with a belt). I raised the back pockets 3/4" per a recommendation from Novita's review at Very Purple Person (actually she was reviewing the Ginger Jeans but I assume the placement is similar). The back pocket design was chosen from the ebook CCF provides when you sign up for their newsletter.

I think that's all the positive praise I can dish out before getting into the negatives. I tried to keep this list as neutral as possible (and also, I wrote it out immediately after finishing the jeans). I feel the need to say that I don't have it out for CCF (in fact, I bought the Morgan Jeans pattern even after swearing off the company!). But I can't let other sewists spend their hard-earned money and time without giving a proper warning of what's ahead.
  • Fabric cutting diagram for 58" size 0-6 single layer has incorrectly labeled pieces (I and H are both labeled F). There may be more errors in the cutting diagrams but I didn't look.
  • Pocket lining/bag, it's never specified how the pockets will turn out by following the directions. They will be done with the print of the fabric facing your body. When you look into the pocket you will see the wrong side of the lining fabric.
  • When sewing buttonholes on the fly front placket, there is no direction on whether or not to use topstitching thread. Most people use it in the top and regular thread in the bobbin, so it does matter which side is the "right" side of the placket. If you follow the directions and diagrams, you will end up with your topstitching thread facing your body, instead of out/under the buttons when they're done up.
  • Before adding the waistband, the instructions say to stay stitch the waistline and ensure the fly front is flat. For me, this resulted in sewing the fly front closed, which makes it impossible to put the waistband on correctly. The diagram does not show the front to verify either way.
  • The alternate waistband method on the Closet Case Patterns blog is MUCH easier (worth noting that it was lifted from Lauren Dahl's Birkin Flares).
  • The terms "left" and "right" are used differently depending on the situation, without explanation. For example, the coin pocket is sewn on the right, but then later the buttonhole is also sewn on the right. One is correct for which leg it is when the jeans are being worn, one is correct when looking at them from above.
  • If you order a hardware kit it is not obvious that there are two different sizes of jeans buttons. Nowhere in the directions does it make mention of two sizes. Apparently, they are 3/4" for the waistband, and 1/2" for the fly front. I didn't know there were two sizes until after I installed them so now mine aren't right.
Aside from all of these issues, I simply do not jive with the flow of the directions. I had the same problems when I made the Kelly Anorak. I kept making silly mistakes I don't normally make, I had to read everything four times, and consult photos and online tutorials when things weren't clear. Now that I've made one pair, I can easily make another with only a brief glance at the directions, but it shouldn't have been so difficult. I don't know if it's just me, or because most people don't like to point out flaws in indie patterns.

All of this said, I could see myself making this pattern again, and MAYBE MAYBE purchasing the Ginger Jeans pattern, ONLY because I feel I fit decently well into the size chart, AND because there are very few patterns with a low rise option (it's an extra cost add-on though). Next time I want to make jeans, I'll be giving serious thought to Megan Nielsen's Ash Jeans instead. But for now, I'm exceptionally pleased with myself for how nice these are. They're the kind of jeans that will just get better with age, wear, and washing, and they're 100% unique.

Pocket bag fabric is from Organic Cotton Plus and is leftover from this dress (which is now on its second child!!). The bottom button in this fly is the larger one.

Coin pocket stitching was meant to mimic the back pockets. It's my favorite part!

Do not make this back pocket design. It is WAY more time-consuming than it looks!

So those are my Morgan Jeans. Perfectly imperfect. As much as I love summer, I won't be too disappointed when fall hits and I basically have a brand new pair of jeans to wear!

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Burda 6599 Overalls

If we've been living in the year of the romper (for what, three years? ha!) then I think we're finally entering into its newest incarnation: the year of the overall. Pour a cup of coffee because this post is a long one!

Back in March, I became totally obsessed with finding the "right" overall pattern for me (Pinterest board here). I had some specific details I wanted: button-up side opening, pockets on the back, bib not too high, available in a printed pattern, and more than one view in the envelope. I read every review I could find and was just about to pull the trigger on the Ronja Dungarees from Named, but I was quite hung up on the price tag. At $25, it would have been the most expensive pattern I've ever bought, and it only had one view. I couldn't imagine making it more than once, putting my cost per use pretty high. Perhaps that's too analytical, but when your resources are limited, it's better to be selective. I ended up with Burda 6599, which I bought at Jo-Ann's for $2.50. Win! Even better, I had a small cut of denim in my stash (from Mood, a million years ago) that was just barely enough (okay, not quite enough). Win win!

The notions list was quite long, so I placed an order with Wawak. I planned this short version and also the long view in black, so it made sense to order everything at once. I also got a buttonhole/circular punch cutting set. It was tricky, because everything labeled as Antique Brass did not actually match. There were also various sizes of overall buckles, but no notes on the pattern about what size I needed. As drafted, the pattern has straps that are 1 1/2" wide. My buckles are for straps that are 1 1/4" wide. There was no way to know that until I got the package. And no way to know the strap width unless I got out the pattern piece and measured. Just be aware!

The size chart and cutting diagram are on the tissue, which I found to be rather annoying. My bust put me at a 10, my waist a 16, and my hips between 12 and 14. Kind of all over the place. My denim did have some stretch, and my waist is only a 16 because of my mama pooch. I settled on a straight size 10. Don't ask me why. I'm probably extremely lucky this fits so well. I did check the finished measurements for the hips (I wrote it down, 37 3/4" but I'm fairly positive I had to measure the pattern piece to arrive at that number, which was also annoying).

Besides changing the strap width, the only other alteration I made was to the front bib pocket. I looked at a ton of photos on Pinterest and decided I wanted something more traditional than the boring rectangle included in the pattern. I played around a bit with the shape and size as I was sewing.

I added rivets on the back pockets, and chose a topstitching design based off one I found on Pinterest. All topstitching was done with my vintage Singer 15-91. It's quite a lot to handle, three machines all set up at once (regular machine for seaming, serger for finishing, vintage machine for topstitching). I'm lucky I have the space (just barely!) to keep them all on my tabletop. I can't wait until we move to our new house, I should be able to have all my machines spread out in permanent arrangements.

I did have some trouble with the buttonholes. My vintage machine makes beautiful ones, typically, but they cannot be custom-sized. You have to use a buttonhole attachment which comes with interchangeable cams/templates. I didn't have any that were exact to the size of my jean tacks. Additionally, the waistband portion of the overalls is incredibly thick, and the seam allowances prevented easy movement. I ended up putting some buttonholes in with my regular machine and zig-zag stitches. They aren't super pretty and it was quite a fight. I recommend Fray Check and lots of patience! The buttonholer also seemed to mess up my thread tension so all the topstitching after that looks bad on the reverse side (most noticeable on the straps).

Another thing I would recommend is the buttonhole cutter I mentioned. How have I gone so long without one!? WAY better than the old hold-your-breath-and-use-the-seam-ripper method. I was surprised to find myself using the hole punch as well, it worked fifty times better than an awl when I was installing the jean tacks. As always, I used my anvil and rivet setter that I purchased when I made my Kelly Anorak (it's no longer available on Amazon, sorry!). If you're going to take on a project like this, the right tools really do make all the difference.

A few notes about the instructions:
1. You must interface the top of piece 1 and piece 2. Instructions omit piece 1.
2. Pockets are sewn on the back and THEN darts are sewn beneath. This method leads to gaping pockets. It looks dumb and seems to serve no purpose.
3. There is no under stitching on the hip pockets, but there should be.
4. On the diagram of the fly stitching there are lines denoting the fly, but it's easy to confuse them as stitching lines.
5. Directions to finish seam allowances are random and there is little direction on when seam allowance grading would be helpful.

In short, the instructions aren't great at hand-holding. They are sufficient for someone who knows what she's doing but I found them aggravating at times. These overalls took a LOT of work (two rows of topstitching and SO MUCH topstitching) and I was very nervous about making an irreparable mistake. As I mentioned, I didn't have enough fabric, and I cut the button facings from scrap denim. If I had made any errors, I wouldn't have had fabric to recut. Lucky for me, I didn't! So how about a giant photo dump?

Thread tension was off on the underside of straps

Here you can see the dart and pocket gape

And just a quick note about my tank top, it's a Love Notions Laundry Day Tee (tank). The fabric is leftover from my striped Union St. Tee, I didn't have enough so I color-blocked the back with solid black rayon. I also made a mistake and started to cut the back in two (instead of the fold). To cover it up, I sewed lace hem tape vertically up the back (you can't see it in these photos, sorry!). Design element for the win!

I've tried these overalls with lots of tops and I think they look best with a tank top, or a fitted tee (of which I have none lol). It does get pretty hot, this is a medium weight denim. I also like the look of cuffed short overalls, but the way the pattern is drafted they'd be way too short if I cuffed them. Oh, and bathroom breaks...I figured out I only have to undo three buttons to get them off, but that can take longer than you'd think.

Like I said before, I have another version planned, in full length, in black. I've made some alterations to my flat pattern already (I did that as soon as I was done with this version, because I knew I'd forget!). Primarily I want to shorten the height of the bib, and probably do something different with the bib pocket. The long pant version does have a slightly different cut to the leg that I think will keep it narrow and flattering (the shorts could be narrowed at the hem for a more youthful look, I think). I just got the fabric in that I'm using (dreamy stretch denim from The Fabric Store) but now that we're in the midst of summer (and moving in a month) it will probably be stuck on the back burner as a fall project.

Are you into the overall trend? There are lots of patterns out there to choose from right now! I keep waiting for Style Arc to launch one, because I have a feeling it would be awesome. Which one would you choose?