An Athletic Wear Tunic: Great for Hiking

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Sedona, AZ

Hiking Tunic:

This year we did the crazy thing and planned a winter trip to the Southwest USA to visit some of the National Parks.  Oh yes, and that was during a shutdown of the National Parks.   As I was thinking about what to wear, I only knew that my attire would be something between short sleeve shirts and 3 or 4 layers of warm weather clothing.  Enter a hiking shirt that covers my bum and could be layered.

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A not so pretty photo of my back side (with an underlayer for additional warmth)

A day after downloading the BeeKiddi BeeWave  pattern, I received an order of lightweight Polartec/lycra knit athletic type fabric and immediately knew this was the  perfect union of pattern and fabric.

What’s Right with the Pattern:

  1. The design of this top is brilliant and the designer kindly provided pattern pieces and photos of options for design elements such as a cuff with a thumb hole and trim options.
  2. The high neckline can replace a scarf and the tunic length with a hemline band covered my “bum” for warmth.
  3. The method for attaching the collar at the front center is pretty cool and one I’ve not encountered previously (too complex to describe here). It produces a nicely sculpted finish. My V-neck has less definition than the pattern shows but that’s because I ripped it out a few times and stretched out the neckline.

What’s Not Quite Right with the Pattern:

  1. There is a small and large neckline choice with 3 collar styles however the pattern doesn’t differentiate between the small and large neckline.  Through trial and error I was able to make the collar fit but either something is missing in my ability to understand the pattern or with the pattern itself. I have emailed the designer and am awaiting a reply.  On my first attempt I tried the large wide collar and it was too much fabric for the neckline so I took it out and used the small collar.
  2. Some of the steps aren’t clear in the instructions which I attribute to the translation of a German pattern into English.

A Home Sewist’s Attempt at RTW Details:

One of the things I love about RTW athletic garments is the abundance of construction and design details (likely produced by underpaid employees in developing countries) and coverstitching, most of which are difficult to replicate by the home sewist.  For this garment I wanted to stretch my skills a bit.

Collar Center Back Trim:

The pattern called for a zipper or other contrast trim.  Because I didn’t have anything suitable in my stash (yes, hard to believe) I created RTW-ish trim with 1/8″ and 1/2″ grossgrain ribbon.

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Collar Center Back Trim
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1/2″ black grossgrain with 2 strips of 1/8″ aqua grossgrain

Aqua Contrasting Trim:

The pattern describes and has photographs of ways to use special stitches to make the top look like RTW. First I tried a triple zig-zag around the neckline and it stretched the neck so badly that it was unwearable.  Of course that was followed by an epic seam ripper workout, removing every one of those stitches. Alternatively I topstitched a tube of aqua tissue-weight poly knit to the neckline which worked out well.  To do this I cut a piece of fabric 1-1/4″ wide, sewed it into a tube and turned it.  Note that I did not press the tube as the heat would have distorted the shape.  Then I topstitched it using a narrow zig-zag stitch.  It looks quite nice.

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Top-stitching the Neckline Trim

Then I decided to add aqua piping to the hem band and the cuffs but it looked ripply so I removed that too. By widening the strip of piping and sewing it into the seam, I could topstitch the trim to the body of the garment. This was also a win.  For these pieces, I cut the fabric 1-3/4″ wide and sewed it into the seam, leaving 1/2″ exposed.  The other edge was then topstitched with a narrow zig-zag.

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Top-stitching the Hem Band and Cuff Trim

In Summary:

Due to all of the trial and error, this project took 3 or 4 times as long as it should have but I really like the end result.

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Polar Vortex: Children Need Warm Leggings

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PowerStretch Leggings

Because the midwest USA is experiencing very cold weather, I am reminded of how important it is for children to have warm leggings.  While regular leggings are great, they just aren’t warm enough for bitter and cold midwestern winters.

Each winter for the past 8 or 9 years, I’ve sewn winter leggings for my grand-daughters using Polartec Powerstretch. This year I sewed about 10 or 11 pair as requested by my son and daughters as they’ve come to rely on these leggings as essential winter fare.  Sixteen year old granddaughter Mira still requested new leggings this year, as last year’s were too small.  With a 3 year old grandson in the mix, I also made leggings for him.  Because I’ve acquired a new embroidery machine in the past year, I added pockets and embroidery this year.

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Patterns:

The patterns for these leggings were Go To Leggings and Ottobre Funny Legs .  The $10 for the Go To Leggings pattern was a wise expenditure as I’ve used it more than 25 times in a variety of sizes.  Or your favorite leggings patterns would work as well.

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Go To Leggings
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Ottobre Funny Legs

Fabric:

For all of the leggings I used Polartec Powerstretch, which a smooth outside, fleece inside and has both horizontal and vertical stretch.  This makes the leggings easy to wear and the fleece inside is so cozy.  This year I purchased the fabric at Mill Yardage and The Fabric Fairy.   Powerstretch comes in light and medium weights and either will work for these leggings.  Of the two types I purchased this year, Mill Yardage had medium weight and the yardage from The Fabric Fairy was lighter in weight but also stretchier, which is always a nice feature for leggings.

Construction:

Serging has always been my preferred stitch for this type of garment and for stretch fabric however you could use a narrow zig-zag or a stretch stitch on a regular sewing machine.  For the waistband, I serged 3/4″ elastic to the top of the pants and then turned it over and top stitched with a narrow zig-zag stitch.  To finish the hems I turned the hem under and top-stitched with a simple zig-zag stitch.

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So if the children in your life are in need of warm leggings, consider using Polartec Powerstretch.  As for purchasing the fabric, snatch it up early in the season as the color selection sells out quickly.

Happy sewing.

Sewing with Knits: A Better Patch Pocket

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Recently I made a wearable muslin for the Blackwood Cardigan and learned that I really love this pattern.  The sweater is long and has cuffs for warmth and style, has pockets and is very easy to sew.  The lower band addresses the hemming dilemna that sometimes occurs with hand-sewn sweaters.  What’s not to love.  I’m eager to make another out of a different fabric.

The Muslin:

I used a wool, poly and bamboo knit that’s cozy warm but which has poor recovery and pilled after a single washing, making it the perfect fabric for a muslin.

As for the pattern, I made a few changes:

  1.  The front band is 2″ wide and hangs nicely down the front however it doesn’t overlap, which is a personal preference.  So I removed the band and thankfully had enough fabric to cut a new band, doubling the width to 4″.  For the next try I’ll go with a 3″ band.
  2. The patch pocket is topstitched, which isn’t my favorite method on this type of knit.  Even after using iron-on tape, the top-stitching looked wavy and uneven.  And that’s the point of this blog post.  Here’s my try at topstitching the pocket (sorry about the poor color but you get the point).

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The Solution:

In a creative moment, I decided to try attaching the pocket using a very narrow zig-zag stitch (after using iron-on fusible tape to keep the pocket in place).  Here’s the result, which I really like:

 

To do this, I used matching thread and a stitch width of 1 (out of 4) and a length of 3 (out of 4), just catching the edge of the pocket with the needle. For the navy band I switched to navy thread.IMG_1030  After it was sewn, I gave the pocket a little tug to make the stitches disappear into the fabric.  The pocket has of a 3-D look and appears more like ready-to-wear.

I’ll give this pattern another try soon and will see if this method works with different fabric.

From Bedsheet to Morris Jacket

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This Grainline Studios Morris Blazer had a previous life as a twin bedsheet that was made from a twill jacquard Egyptian cotton. Unfortunately the previous owner had a bleach accident and donated the sheet to St. Vinnie’s.  I found it in a bin for $.50 and was enamored by the quality and weight of the cotton and by the lovely jacquard design. Hence it came home with me. I removed the elastic and casing and it lived on my “to be dyed” pile for a while.  Here is the orphan sheet:

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Snow dyeing: 
This winter when I was snow dyeing a few items, the sheet received it’s new life. Actually I snow dyed it twice as the first time it turned out too light for my taste, but the second time it came out beautifully. Here’s the link to the first dyeing and one more for the second dyeing.

The Dreaded Muslin:
Most often I don’t make a muslin but because this pattern is intended for stretch woven fabric I used a worn-thin bedsheet to make one and it was worth the effort. Based on this sample I made a narrow back adjustment, my usual sway back adjustment and added a French dart in the front along a fairly large wrinkle line. In the end I probably should have made a size larger as the dyed fabric had minimal “give” whereas the muslin was fairly lightweight and not very stable; a case of over-fitting. As mentioned in some patten reviews, I also scooped out the armhole about 1/2″. Last of all I lengthened the jacket 1.5 inches which is uncommon for me, a height-challenged person.

Jacket Construction: 
After the fairly easy jacket construction, I added 1/8″ of uncorded piping to the edge. The inside seams have a Hong Kong finish, made from the lining of a prom dress. Because of the weight of the fabric, I did not use a interfacing, which turned out fine for this jacket.

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Pattern Description:
The Grainline Studios Morris Blazer is: “… a mixture of drape and structure, bracelet length sleeves, and a gentle shawl collar, it looks great dressed up or down. It sews up well in fabrics with stretch making it comfortable for everyday wear.”

In Summary: 
This was a really fun project. If you’ve never tried snow-dying or ice-dyeing, it’s really quite easy and fun as you’re always surprised by the outcome.  And it’s a great example of how you can find great fabric in a variety of ways.

Serge de Nimes or Denim?

Recently we took a day trip to the lovely city of Nimes, Fr (the “i” is really suppose to have a ^ over it but I’m not that accomplished with an iphone keypad). At any rate, Nimes is a huge city with a historic quarter where there’s a massive Roman coliseum from the first century AD.
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Immediately after this photo was taken it began to pour buckets, so I have no more photos to share but there is some interesting fabric history in this city.

Denim fabric got its name from Nimes. Twill fabric began to be manufactured from wool in the 1600’s, both in Italy and in France. In France and specifically in Nimes, or was called “serge de Nimes”. In the 1800’s, the fabric was made from cotton only and continued with the same name, but was shortened to “de Nimes” (pronounced “neem”) or “denim”. In the world of Google Translate, “serge de coton” translates to “twill”, of which one type is denim, the most commonly worn fabric in the western world.

To close out this post I could show you a boring photo of denim, or a photo of the amazing Pont du Gard aqueduct which was also built in about the first century AD, to carry water to Nimes.

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Lyon: A Gastronomic and Visual Feast

Yesterday we took the train to Lyon, Fr., for the explicit purpose of visiting the Musee des Tissus (Museum of Fabrics) and to have dinner in France’s gastronomic capitol. It was a delightful day. We started with dinner at La Picadilly, a block from Place Bellecour.

From the 16th – 19th centuries, Lyon was the European center for silk manufacturing. At me time more than 18,000 looms were in use.

As the silk industry changed in the 19th century, this museum was created as a way to maintain Lyon’s commercial advantage however eventually the purpose became preservation of the art. Currently the museum owns more than 2.5 million textile specimens covering more than 4000 years. Only a small percentage of the holdings are on display, focusing on the 16th-19th century.

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On display were gorgeous silk dresses and men’s jackets, silk wallpaper, upholstery and drapery samples and of course religious garments.

Here’s the disappointing part – to protect the fabrics, rooms are dark and no photos are allowed. Ugh. In preparation for this post I looked for Internet images and there are few with high resolution. The following are a few photos and a link to items on display.

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A dress currently on display
While I visited the museum, Kevin walked through the beautiful “Old City”.

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What a wonderful day.
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French Fashion (to be Copied Later)

This past week, the 8th week of our France experience, our DD Angela and family visited us in Avignon. What fun we have had, visiting the sites and simply experiencing Avignon. Kevin’s sister, BIL and niece were also here for the week and stayed in a nearby apt.

Angela celebrated her birthday, a memorable one for sure, with family and a bottle of Chateaunauf de Pape from her SIL and brother. They left it for her when they departed several weeks ago.

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Mira and Cait wanted to buy some “French fashion” while they were here, as did Angela. Size 7-14 clothing is a bit difficult to find but at their favorite H&M they each found fashion galore. Mira got floral leggings and a black tunic, and Cate bought glittery high tops and a dress.

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As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, the markets have been a great source for many types of dry goods and fashion is no exception. Angela found a beautifully styled cotton knit and woven linen dress with a pieced skirt. You can bet I’ll be copying this pattern. As seen the the photo, the sleeves, a front panel and back are ribbed knit while the remainder is linen.

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Mira and I found a lace top with the split back, a common style seen in French clothing stores.

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Mira loved it so much that she asked if I could sew one for her. For €18 I purchased the top and although I love it, I will likely take it apart, resize it and surprise her for her birthday. Of course I will also copy the style using a TNT pattern. Stay tuned for that post.

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Buying Fabric in the French Markets (again)

By now it’s no surprise that Kevin and I love European markets. This week our DSIL and BIL visited us, so we had to take them to two of our favorite markets – Arles and L’Isle Sur la Sorgue. Both had lots of fabric vendors with fabrics of every type.

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Oh, darn, how did that photo of our new GD, Genevieve, get into this post?

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After all that shopping we had a picnic on the canal in l’Isle Sur la Sorgue.

Antique Sewing Supplies in a Very Old French Town

Last Sunday it was Spring in Provence, so we took a short bus ride to the gorgeous little L’Isle Sur la Sorgue, which like all Provincial towns, can clearly be classified as an antique. With it’s many canals and water wheels, some have called it the Venice of France.

I’ve previously referenced the tradition of town markets but this Sunday market was incredible – not only meat, fish, olives, cheese and other delicious things to eat but also it had a huge number of vendors with every possible type of fashionable clothing. In addition there was a large antique market.

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Unlike most antique markets, this one had numerous sellers with antique sewing supplies. While I wasn’t in the market for these items, they gave me a glimpse of France’s lost sewing industry. Here’s a look at some of the lovely items. From top down; shiny thread bobbins (rayon?), huge wood print blocks, cording and miscellaneous.

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Enjoy this look into the past.

Where to Buy Fabric in Provence

Considering that we’re living in a city of approximately 100,000 people, sewing supplies and fabric are amazingly difficult to find in the Avignon area. There is one fabric store in Avignon (Tissu Rotonde I think) which has a reasonable supply of all types of fabric and some patterns but no notions. In our neighborhood in the old city there is one sewing machine shop that sells zippers, some needlework supplies,
nylons and tights. There’s also a haberdashery with adorable buttons and trims. For better or worse, as far as I can tell there are no national chains stores. The important question is: “Are there no home sewists or ???”

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You may know about the amazing European tradition of holding markets in small town. We have visited quite a number of these markets, which are the source for fresh fruits, vegetables and meat, but also the place to buy sewing notions and some fabric. At the Arles market there’s even a sewing machine repair man (above picture). Some vendors have notions.

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Fabric is also sold in the local markets. Vendors have a van loaded with rolls of fabric, which are unloaded on market days. The vendors of course, have a limited supply of fabric and most is home decorator fabric.

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As far as I can tell, the sources for fabric in Rural France, just like in the US. What a sad situation for home sewists. While it’s great that there still is a fabric source, it’s less than ideal. What’s a sewist to do?