It’s Snow Dyeing Season

When the snow falls I get the itch to do some snow dyeing.  The colors are so vibrant, the patterns fascinating and the result always a surprise.

This year I had two fabrics set aside for dyeing, though I’m sure I could find more in my stash.  This a piece of brown rayon jersey I previously put in vat of spent indigo.  I’m not sure what I did, but it turned out green and streaky but beautifully soft.  Because the fabric had such a nice hand, it was worthy of another “dye job”.  You have to admit, it looks barely salvageable.

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Now, after snow dyeing, I can’t wait to use it for a t-shirt or sweater.

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What are the steps for Snow Dyeing?

  1. Prepare fabric as for any other dyeing project.  In a plastic bin or container, scrunch the dampened fabric.
  2. Add a layer of snow, approximately 2″ high, making sure that all of the fabric is covered.

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3.  After the fabric is covered with snow, begin to sprinkle with dye powder (my choice is Dharma Procion dye).

4. Use a tea or other small strainer to assist in spreading the powder evenly and to avoid clumps which would cause spotting on the fabric.  Spread one color at a time, trying to have spots of dye in similar sizes.  (Note: I use 3 or 4 colors).

5.  Prop up one end of the bin so melted snow will drain away from the fabric.

 

6.  Place the cover on the bin and wait 8-24 hours.  Obviously, more time is better if you want deep colors.

7.  Rinse and final wash the fabric as with any other dyeing project.

8.  Enjoy your creation – or if it’s not to your liking, dye it again.

 

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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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Super Secure Travel Pocket DIY

In the past I have posted about a “safe travel pocket as an option for dissuading those pesky pick-pocketers whose life skill is to victimize travelers.

Since we have twice been the victims of thugs; once pick pocketed getting onto a bus and once held up at gunpoint, we are probably more conscious of this travel risk than some others. The resulting emotional pain can easily ruin a vacation and it’s associated budget.
Several years ago we began to use the internal security pocket explained in the aforementioned post along with a money belt. It worked well in that it made theft extraordinarily difficult, however Kevin complained that he still needed to carry money in a pocket. To address this we came up with the solution described in this post. It’s a secret zipper-access pocket behind the existing side-entry front pocket of pants or jeans, and Kevin loves it. For those of you who aren’t in love with your sewing machine, do not fear. This is a hand-sewn pocket.

Here’s a photo of the final product and then a tutorial.

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Notions: 7″ zipper, 10 x 10 fabric scrap, straight pins, needle and thread.

Tutorial
1. Determine where in the side facing your leg of your side pocket you would like the secret pocket. Tips: place it at an angle that makes it easy to open it with your hand, long enough so your hand can fit and place it so it can’t be viewed (i.e. hidden)
2. Draw a line where you want to place the zipper, approximately six inches long.

3. Turn the pants inside out to check the placement. Now is the time to make adjustments.

4. Cut the pocket on the line. Reminder – the part of the pocket which faces the leg.

5. Pin the cut edges to the back of the zipper so when stitched it looks like the following photo.

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6. Using a back stitch, stitch the zipper to the pocket, securing the ends well.

7. Cut off end of zipper if too long.

Note: You now have nothing more than a zipper sewn to the existing pocket.

8. For the security pocket, using the pants pocket as a pattern, cut a piece of fabric ¾” larger than the pocket ( in this example I used black mesh).

9. Fold seam edges under and pin fabric to the back side of the pants pocket.

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10. Using a back stitch, sew to pocket sides and bottom. For the top of the security pocket, sew several inches from the waistband. This may vary with the type of pocket. It should look something like this. You can see the zipper through the mesh.

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Give this a try. It’s cheap and easy, and could save you a lot of pain. You can get into your pockets but it’s pretty difficult for a pickpocket.

From “My Fair Lady”

As a Valentine’s Day special, Avignon University and the Avignon Opera had a real treat for us today.  Members of the Avignon Opera performed a selection of songs from “My Fair Lady”. Of course they sang in French but that made no difference because we were familiar with the music. What a wonderful way to promote the Opera, though I’m not sure how necessary that is in a city that already had a vibrant “arts” community. In fact there’s a theatre around nearly every corner.

While the performers were not in costume for this noontime performance, they did have some of the costumes from a recent production of “My Fair Lady” on display. As you can see below, they are gorgeous.

Wish I could post a short video clip, but WordPress and mobile devices are not a very good combo, so you’ll need to settle for some eye candy.

Enjoy!

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Never Say Never: When a Shirt is Too Small

The Problem

We’ve all been in the situation where we have a garment we absolutely love but it’s too small.  In the case of a T-shirt, there are few ways for the garment to be enlarged and yet fashionable.  That’s what most of us sewists think, anyway, but for my 11 year old creative GD, she created a way to enlarge a favorite shirt and my job was to make the alterations.  Here’s the story.

The Back-Story

Last summer, Mira and her mother were shopping at a second-hand store when Mira found a shirt she loved.  Although when she tried it on, it was barely large enough for her, much less having the required wearing ease and length.  Despite the fitting issues (and there was always an opportunity to give it to younger sister Caitlyn), they purchased the shirt for a few dollars.

Unfortunately I didn’t have the sense to take a before photo, so bear with me.

On separate occasions, Mira’s mother Angela, and Mira told me about the beloved shirt.  Angela said she didn’t think I could alter it but maybe I could make a pattern from the shirt.  Mira said “Mom doesn’t understand what I mean” and proceeded to describe the alterations she wanted.

The "after" photo.
The “after” photo.

The Alterations

The fabric was similar to a slinky fabric – a four-way stretch poly or jersey, so for the alterations I used navy jersey, to give a similar stretch to the garment.  First I removed the sleeves and opened up the sides of the shirt, the sleeve seam, copied the pattern and then made the following 4 alterations:

1, Widen the shoulders – cut (lengthwise on the fabric) pieces of navy fabric a little longer than the armscye and 1-1/2″ wide, and then sewed it to each armscye.

2.  Add to circumference to the top, cut (lengthwise on the fabric) two pieces of navy fabric the length of the top by 1-1/2″ wide, and sewed it to the front and back side seams, creating a navy stripe down the side of the shirt.

3. Add arm circumference, cut (lengthwise on the fabric) and sewed two pieces of navy fabric 1″ wide and the length of the sleeve underarm seam.  As you can see above, this alteration isn’t visible unless the arm is lifted.

4. Shirt length – cut one piece (across the grain) of navy, 2-1/2″ wide by the circumference of the shirt.  Sew onto the bottom.  I left the bottom unfinished.  

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Once again, here is the result, with a not quite finished shirt I made from the pattern I lifted from the design.  In the end, the shoulders were widened, the circumference was increased by 2″ and the length was increased 2″.  A real success, though it doesn’t look as great in the photos as when wearing it.

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What this shows me is that sometimes I need to think outside the box.  Now I know that this method could be used to alter other types of t-shirts that are a size (or two) too small.

Hemming a Tulle Skirt

It’s prom time and one of my dear nieces asked me to hem and alter her dress and to sew a really puffy petticoat for under the dress.    Absolutely beautiful and a skirt of yards of tulle.

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The first and most time consuming step was to remove and replace about half of the lace applique and bead-sequin trim.  While this took time, it was straight forward.  On the other hand, I knew that hemming the tulle was a once and done affair.  If not done correctly the first time, removing stitches would result in damaged tulle.  Here’s what the hem looked like originally – a narrow turned over hem.

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As you can see, it wasn’t sewed all that well when the garment was manufactured.  It was turned over twice and sewed close to the edge.  Originally my plan was to repeat that process after the dress was cut to the desired length.  Fate changed that plan.

On the day that I was finishing the dress alterations, one of my sewing friends came to my house to see how a serger works.  One of the finishes I showed her was a rolled hem. Immediately I realized that’s what I should use for the hem.  Why hadn’t I previously thought of this?  The result was a beautifully finished rolled hem.

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How to Serge a Rolled Hem

While this process will vary slightly by serger, the general process is the same.

1. Remove the left needle.

2. Thread the right needle and the upper and lower looper with thread that matches the fabric.

Note: Because of the limited serger thread color selection, I used one spool of regular sewing thread and wound 2 bobbins in the same color. 

3. Set to a very narrow stitch width.

4. Set stitch length to a very short stitch – some sergers have rolled hem settings.

5.  Disengage the cutting blade.

6.  Place cut edge ~1/16″ to the right of the right needle.  This part will turn under and will disappear into the rolled hem

7.  Sew a sample one the fabric you’re hemming.

Note: The fabric should not pull or ruffle the edge. 

8.  Adjust tension as needed.

Note: This is the part that varies by machine so it’s difficult to provide specific directions.

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The result is an amazingly beautiful hem and it takes only minutes to complete.  I was so thankful that I remembered to use this finishing method, which would work equally well for chiffon, crepe or many other fabrics.

Settings for a Baby Lock Evolve (or similar serger)

  • Remove left or Overlock 1 needle
  • Disengage cutting knife
  • Stitch width 3.5
  • Stitch Length 1.5R (Rolled hem setting)
  • Stitch Selector  – D
  • Upper Looper Selector – Up position
  • Tension – no settings as this is automatic on an Evolve

Sewing a Draped Front Cardigan

Still stylish this year is the draped front cardigan, which is so easy to sew, even if you don’t have a pattern.  One of my sewing friends asked me how to alter a cardigan pattern to make a draped front, so I thought I’d share the information with you too – with apologies for the poor photos.

Literally smiling at the camera, I was wearing a very lightweight wool knit sweater I sewed. (because of the fabric weight, it doesn’t drape as well as heavier fabrics).  Because of the striped design, it is easy to see how the sweater pattern was altered.

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This was Jalie’s pleated sweater pattern 2919 with the pleats removed and without a collar.  In the next photo, you will see that 14-16″ of fabric was added to each side of the center front in order to achieve the draped look.  The neckline was curved slightly as well.

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In the following photo you can see that when widening the front, I kept the edge on the grain of the fabric.  To finish the neckline, I cut a 2-1/2 or 3″ band of fabric (cut on the grain, using the lace pattern in the fabric) and sewed it along the entire neckline. The neckline band was not stretched; it was simply used as an edge finish.  The vertical edge was stitched with a 1″ hem to add weight.  For a heavier fabric, folding over a 1/2 or 5/8″ hem would have worked.

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Using this same technique, here’s one with more draped sweater.  To achieve this, I extended the front center another 2-4″, or so that when pulled out straight, the center front edge was beyond the armpit on the opposite side.

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Hope this helps you to make this stylish sweater without buying yet one more pattern.