Friday, August 17, 2012

Wardrobe Basic: Denim

All your wardrobe basics should be made as beautifully as possible, should fit as well as possible, and should be items that last!  That means that if you're buying, it's worth spending a bit more money to get quality (make sure that you are getting quality for your money - you don't always) or if you're making your own, that you spend a bit more time on the details.

Today I added a beautiful basic denim skirt to my wardrobe.  It's made off of a pattern I know to be quite flattering.  I'm pleased to announce that I did my own resketching of the pattern pieces - I made the original two-piece skirt into a six-gore skirt.  It's nice - it uses a great deal less fabric, the subtle vertical seams are slimming, and it gives me the option of adding topstitching.

I'm mad for topstitching right now - I find that it adds a very professional touch, and makes your garments look much less homemade. 

I also added ornamental stitching at the hem.  It has some function*  because I find that my homemade denim skirts have an unfortunate tendency to flip up at the edge, and I'm hoping a bit of stitching will hold it down where it belongs.  But you can see the subtle look even on the picture above...

All in all, I'm very pleased  - and I intend to wear this basic for some years to come.

* The function of the topstitching (in addition to beauty) is seam finishing - I flipped the seams under and got rid of any pesky raw edges, so I can be as proud of the inside of my skirt as I am of the outside.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Hemming Jeans: Tutorial

This is a quick tutorial for how to hem jeans - this is pretty much just for shorter hem-jobs.  If you were going to cut off more than 5" or so, you'll want to also taper the leg of the pants (use the side that doesn't have the topstitching - I did that last year for my son).

First, get your victim to put on their jeans, and mark the desired hem.  I'm hemming jeans for a 12yo boy - so I want them to be as long as possible while not getting walked on.  I figure he's going to grow, you know?

Having marked the hem....

I then measured the distance between the bottom of the pre-made hem and the fold line, and cut off the pre-made hem.  (I might have been persuaded to seam-rip this out if it was very close or a fine bit of fabric - but I'm shortening them quite a bit and they're jeans).

After I trimmed off the unwanted bits, I put a quick faux-serged hem finish on my raw edge. 

It's stitch #7 on my machine, but anything that covers the raw edge would be fine.  Zig zag would be fine:

After finishing the edge, turn the pants inside out and fold up the hem the desired distance. 
It was at this point that I realised that it would be terminally UN cool to have a hem that far up the pant leg - so I set my hem stitch to about 1/2" from the fold.  Of course I'd made a gold-colored bobbin, so I wouldn't give the whole thing away with the wrong color topstitching.  (Okay.  I bought the topstitching thread for my own denim project - but I'm sharing).

I then finished the jeans with a quick blind-hem to hold the top of the hem up. 

And then I realised that - although I've followed the correct procedure for pants that one might wish to re-do the hem on  (12yo boy, remember) I'm not sure about the quality of the fabric (see pictures one and two - the jeans developed frays during their first wash cycle.  Oh well, it's never a bad thing to do things the right way - it's good practice if nothing else.  And hopefully this will keep the bottom of the jeans from doing that annoying little rolling over thing that denim always does to me when I sew it myself.


Hemming two pair of jeans probably took me less than an hour, start to finish, including taking pictures.


Thank you, Elizabeth Cline.  You've given me blogging (and ranting) material for the next month. 

I just finished my copy of Overdressed:  The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion ( - no, I don't get kickback). 

I'm a little bit sick to my stomach right now, to be honest.  Obscenity is the only word I can use for the state of fashion these days.  Oh sure - I knew that the cheap shirts at Target and JCP and ... were cheap, not just inexpensive.  But I didn't understand that they were made with planned obsolescence in mind.  The environmental cost, the human cost... oh my.

I am even more committed to my sewing after reading that book - and even more committed to my ideal of building a wardrobe of beautiful, well-fitting basics that will last, filled in with butterflies that bring joy to my soul. 

You want green fashion?  Forget trying to figure out what the carbon footprint of your rayon shirt is.  Buy the best (natural fiber) you can afford.  Make it yours (if you don't sew it, have it tailored).  Take exquisite care of it (which will be easier if it's higher quality) and make it last.  When you are done with it, repurpose it.  That's green. 

Items should be useful, beautiful or both.  If it isn't  useful and/or beautiful... it should never have been made in the first place. 

My head is reeling after this book... it's not just clothes, I know it's everything we consume, and it's repulsive in the extreme. 

Read it, but be ready to be changed.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Fabric Snobbery

I am a huge natural fabrics snob... I very seldom use synthetic fabrics.  I thought I was at the extreme end of the fabric snob line - turns out that's quite untrue. 

Linking a couple of articles from the Dreamstress (who should get her own link on the sidebar, for sheer coolness):
I thought the discussion about the short-term utility of synthetic fabrics was very interesting.  I think it's absolutely disgusting, the way we waste resources.  It's one thing to use something intelligently - even to use resources somewhat extravagantly... if what you produce will last and be beautiful, useful or both.  But to spray nasty chemicals into our environment, waste perfectly good water and thread... for something that will last less than a year, perhaps only months?  Awful.  And if it's something that can never be truly savored at all?  Even worse.

So then her article on gold-dyed wool was even more fascinating.  Imagine... fewer chemical side effects than a dishwasher and anti-microbial/anti-bacterial/anti-moth/and somewhat flame-retardant... NATURALLY... egads.  The mind boggles.

Always something to think about.......

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Lovely Ladies

We've been talking about modesty on the Traditional Christianity board quite a lot lately.  It's something that any religious woman has to confront on a regular basis - the desire to be thought of as a lady, and not as a tart. 

But if you start making hard and fast rules for what not to wear, you back yourself into a corner very quickly.  Much better to dress, as one of our Jewish contributors offered, as not to incite lust, anger or envy.  How that works out is very individual. 

I think it would be useful to have some visual ideas of people who dress beautifully for their age and station in life.  Since these aren't entries in the Modesty Police, some of their outfits will be immodest, yes.  But overall, we're seeing an aesthetic that has something to say that isn't about sexual availability.

First up:  Casey, of Casey's Elegant Musings.  She's young, petite, and married to a Navy guy.  And her clothing *perfectly* reflects that reality.  

Bringing the thought home:  What does your clothing say about you?  Does it reflect reality?

Next:  Carolyn of Diary of a Sewing Fanatic.   Heavy-set, works in an extremely conservative office setting, a grandmother with loads of time to sew. 

Bringing the thought home:  Carolyn nearly always wears the same silhouette.  Because of her figure issues, she's worked out what looks best on her, and she makes the most of it. 

Couldn't possibly ignore:  Erica of DIY Style.  A mother and grandmother, she decided to take fashion into her own hands and she works it.  A woman in her 40s, she looks her age - but she doesn't look old or out of date.  Not always modest, but always put together.

Bringing the thought home:  Do you completely own your style?  How is your accessorization?  The little details can take teenybopper style and make them read as appropriate for a woman in her later years - and vice versa, making a perfectly rational dress read as out of place.

Next:  Laura of Lilacs and Lace.  So feminine, so beautiful.  If you need to see how to work vintage into everyday without appearing costumey - check Laura out! 

Bringing the thought home:  Check her posture - it's exquisite.  Anyone can look more modest and more beautiful with a straight spine.  Hemlines in balance, and every dress is *beautiful*.  A wardrobe full of butterflies, indeed.

I'll update this list as I have time... but hopefully it helps, seeing beautiful women look beautiful without showing everything to the world. 

Why I could never be on Project Runway

Corollary:  Why I gave up my teenage dream of being a fashion designer

I have great passion for color and fabric.  I also have a great passion for making women beautiful.  You can hardly hang out with me for five minutes and I'm mentally rearranging your neckline and putting you in different colors.  One would think, with this level of intensity, and a passion that I've had from childhood, that I'd have gone into the fashion industry.

I thought so, when I was a child.  And then, one day I started paying attention to what the fashion industry was really about, and my illusions were shattered.  It wasn't about making beautiful clothing to make beautiful women ever more beautiful - it was about status and wealth, and making "fashion" something that wasn't *quite* obtainable for every woman. 

If you watch PR (and I do), you'll see that the side-avenues of fashion are where the real money is - it's not the clothing, it's the shoes and bags and "lifestyle" items.  Not that I'm adverse to a beautiful purse - but I want it to be intrinsically beautiful, not ugly with a tag.  It's not about making the prettiest garment - it's making a "statement". 

I've never cared about that.  If I were a fashion designer, I'd want to be a Madame Gres', who worked intimately with a small clientele and made them clothing that would be beautiful forever.   My perfect closet?  Would be a closet full of butterflies - each and every garment something that made me smile. 

You don't get rid of garments like that every season.  You pass them on or pass them down when they no longer suit you or delight you - but you don't forget them. 

I'd love to have a store with classic, well made forever pieces on one side and butterflies on the other.  You know, the place you could count on to have a pencil skirt, perfect slacks, and LBD... regardless of the season or what was in the magazines.  And on the other side?  Just the prettiest things you can imagine. 

That will never win Project Runway, and I'm afraid it doesn't qualify as "fashion"... but that's what I'd do, if I had the chance.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

A basic

The off-white shell.  Could there be a more basic blouse to have in one's inventory?  I think not. 

Last week I gave you my jade green impractical, I'm goingtohavetosewsomethingtomatch blouse.   This week I give you its match - with a better neckline, better fabric, and a much more practical color.

I give you...

You know, we're all in process.  I'm in process.  Making things that are practical, lovely - and that fit - is not instant.  I've spent weeks fine-tuning the fit on these blouses.  I spent three hours on this blouse alone, ripping out and resewing one of the bust seams. 

The Proverbs 31 woman, who clothed her household in scarlet... I don't think she got there overnight.  I'll keep at it.  Someday everything in my wardrobe will be lovely.