As I’ve mentioned numerous times, my obsessive passion for knitting has taken a nosedive over the past few months. I think that this is partly due to becoming a highly competent knitter. I don’t feel particularly challenged by prospective knitting projects. Another part is dissatisfaction with some of the garments I have created. Since you are creating shaped fabric as you knit, once an item is finished, it’s finished. If there’s something you don’t like about it, often that’s a case of tough luck.
There’s also a limit to the number of knitted garments that a wardrobe can take. Realistically, I don’t wear knitted jumpers that often. They are a bit casual for workwear, and if I’m looking for comfort, I usually reach for a RTW sweatshirt or hoodie rather than one of my creations.
I think this is why sewing has started to interest me so much more. You can create a much wider variety of clothing, and home-sewn items are less radically different to shop-bought than handknit to machine knit.
However, the experiences of knitting and sewing are vastly different. For me, sewing is highly immersive and addictive. I fly through the steps, desperate to discover the result of my fevered work in front of the machine. I scarcely breathe. This is partly my personality- being outcome- rather than process-oriented (something I try to work on). It’s also a side-effect of my being a relative novice. When I first started knitting, I would occasionally stay up all night working on a project. However, I also think it’s partly due to inherent differences in the two activities.
This is a very long-winded way of saying that I miss knitting. As an attentionally impoverished millennial, I am basically incapable of sitting still. I’ve noticed that I’ve started playing stupid games on my phone while I’m watching TV. This used to be knitting time.
I haven’t forced myself to do any knitting during my fallow period. But recently my interest in yarn has started to pick up. After reading a very interesting blog post by Tom of Holland, I picked up a copy of Indigo Knits, a wonderful book about working with denim yarn.
I also bought Inspired by Islay, Kate Davies’ most recent publication.
This jumper is everything to me. I’m holding off on starting because I need to consider whether there is a gap in my wardrobe for her. I would like a cropped sweater to wear over skirts and dresses, but I’m not sure whether this is the right candidate.
I also bought some of Kate’s Buachaille wool. I’ve been wanting to try it ever since it was released. So far I’ve just made a swatch.
So, some stirrings of wanting to knit, and a small project to work on are positive signs. I think that even holding off on starting Port Charlotte represents progress. A mistake I’ve made over and over is starting projects without sufficient thought and research. Knitting a garment is slow, labour-intensive and expensive. I owe it to myself as a craftsperson to put in the legwork to have the best chance of ending up with something I love.
I managed to finish my Wrangler denim shirt-ultimate shirt sewing mashup recently. Overall, I’m quite happy with how it turned out, though I think I will make this shirt in a smaller size if I make more in future using heavier fabrics.
When I wrote my previous post about modifying this giant Wrangler shirt, I had actually nearly finished it. One step remained. The curved hem. As I have previously documented, curved hems are not my friend. My makes normally end up having a slightly stretched-looking bit that I have to ignore. Doing a curved hem on denim? Ugh.
I previously attempted this twice, spending at least half an hour carefully pressing and pinning the fabric, and both times the hem ended up twisted. A lady on my Ultimate Shirt course recommended starting the process at the highest point of the hem- where it hits above the hip. This turned out to be a top tip!
There are a few little tucks and untidy bits but overall this is the best hem I have managed so far. Ignore the fact that I didn’t bother to finish any of my seams. Sometimes I am a very lazy crafter.
Because of the way the original shirt was cut, the patch pockets on the front have come out a bit high. This is actually quite useful as it means my phone sits nicely against my chest, but it looks a little strange.
I got a little bit of time to get some pictures of this shirt. I definitely think it looks better worn tucked it, but I’ll take it on holiday with me and see how it works thrown over other things in the evenings. In this picture, I am trying to figure out the ‘remote operation’ feature on my camera.
Here I am still not understanding how it works.
Basically I was only able to take decent pictures of my back.
Pattern: Ultimate Shirt by Sew Over It. Size 14 at bust graded down to 12 at the waist
Fabric: Reclaimed from an oversized vintage shirt
I bought this cool patterned shirt in a vintage shop in St Albans a while ago. I initially planned to wear it oversized, but that’s not really my style so it’s only been out of the wardrobe a few times.
Not ideal that the only pic I have of this shirt is Anna’s Instagram photo of my semi-ironic hipster posing, but that reveals how seldom I have worn this garment despite falling in love with the pattern.
I decided to try putting my new shirt-making skills into effect by transforming this oversized shirt into a fitted shirt.
Since the shirt is fastened by studs, I was a little limited on what I could do without way more effort than I was prepared to expend. This meant no attempts at pattern matching. The pattern is very odd and the diamonds seem to be in a fairly random pattern, so matching would have been difficult anyway (I tell myself).
I vaguely hoped I could just modify the shirt by running some new lines of stitching down the side seams and sleeves, but that would have resulted in something very amateur looking. This meant I had to cut out new back, fronts and sleeves from the existing fabric.
I was lucky in that the collar and cuffs are pretty close to the size in the Ultimate Shirt, which cut out a hell of a lot of labour. Weird to think that these little details are what makes creating a shirt such a challenge.
So far I am very happy with the result I have achieved. This modification took me around six hours, and helped to solidify my understanding of how to make a shirt. I feel confident that the Ultimate Shirt would work and look cute in a heavier fabric.
Once I finish the hem, I will see how often I wear this shirt. Though I like the fit, I think that the oddness of the diamond pattern is more obvious now that the shirt is smaller. Might not be as much of an issue if I wear this tucked into a high-waisted skirt. Dyeing could also be an option. I’m going to take this shirt to class tomorrow as I would consider making a smaller size in future.
I have a feeling I will still wear it as long-sleeved work shirts that don’t gape at the bust are a massive hole in my wardrobe. Now I need to tackle the SOI Pencil Skirt pattern…
Pattern: Ultimate Shirt by Sew Over It (size 14 grading down to 12 at the waist)
Fabric: Salvaged from an oversized vintage Wrangler shirt
I finished my upcycle project! Check these bad boys out.
After my last post, I got some time with a sewing machine, so I re-did the stitching I undid before and made up my ears.
While I was playing around with ear placement, I thought it looked much cuter to have the ears on the pocket rather than the bib of the dungarees.
I liked it so much that I went ahead and stitched the ears in place.
Sewing through so many layers of denim was a big challenge for the machine. I found I had more control winding the stitches by hand rather than using the foot pedal on the thickest parts. My stitching is not totally straight but it’s the best I can do.
The next step was to dye the denim. I didn’t do it in this order for any particular reason, it was just when I got a chance to sew, or when the dye I ordered arrived.
I was a bit worried that the dye job wouldn’t go well because the things I dyed indigo didn’t come out how I imagined. I even dreamt that the colour had leached out of the denim overnight. However, I followed the instructions more closely this time and that made a big difference.
As I had suspected might happen, the stitching didn’t take any dye so now it really pops against the black, but I think I quite like it.
I was starting to sense the finish line of this project at last. I took some time to practise different cat faces on paper to decide what I thought was cutest. I think moustache cat was the most fun, but in the end eyelash cat won out in a tight race.
The next step was to shape the curved patch pocket. I read a couple of tutorials that recommended using a cardboard template to press it in place. I did this while I ironed the cat face design to make it washable.
I then carefully pinned the pocket in place and checked it lined up before stitching. I checked the alignment in the mirror and added another line of stitching for strength.
Last week was half-term, which gave me a little extra mental space for creativity (even though I was still working, boo hiss). I was looking in a box of stuff I don’t use much for some rubber gloves and happened upon these dungarees that I bought years ago for a Halloween costume.
I’ve also been mourning not discovering this awesome pinafore before it sold out.
While desperately searching the interwebs for a site where it was still in stock, I happened upon a tutorial to make a lookalike.
I got the Mario dungarees cheap on eBay so I didn’t mind running the risk of ruining them with ham-fisted customisation attempts.
Here’s a before shot.
I decided to remove the front pocket as this would interfere with the cat face.
I also decided to dye them black. Since I was dyeing some clothes navy anyway (this is why I needed the rubber gloves), I tossed in the dungarees to give them an under-dye.
I made a hole in the front while removing a stud from the pocket, and I also noticed several other small holes in the dungarees while examining them, so I decided to do some patching before the second dyebath.
There’s a hole in one of the back pockets that will be difficult to mend invisibly, so I think I will put a patch over that bit instead.
Denim clothing seems to be sewn using some kind of polyester thread- I’ve noticed when dyeing before that the thread doesn’t get dyed. So I’ve decided to make a new front pocket for my dungarees, on which I will either embroider or draw the cat face.
I also removed some of the original stitching on the bib and I will re-stitch in black, again so the stitching doesn’t interfere with the cat face.
The next step was cutting out the new patch pocket and ears from denim scraps I had left over from my Day Dress. I interfaced the pocket and ear pieces for strength as the denim isn’t very stiff. I’ve been having issues getting the trapezium piece symmetrical. It’s a work in progress. The grainline also looks wonky. Oh dear. I mean, work in progress!
The next steps will be re-doing the stitching on the bib, stitching down the top of the new pocket and dyeing the fabric.
I’ve bought some fabric paint pens ready for drawing my cat face. I think I’m going to go in a slightly different direction to Lazy Oaf rather than doing a straight copy.
I’ve spent quite a bit of time on this project here and there over the past couple of weeks and I’ve got to say I’ve really been enjoying it. Even though the patching was a little dull, I like the fact that I am trying to breathe new life into this garment, which was clearly loved by the previous owner. I felt like I was giving some respect to the woman (or, let’s be real here, child) in China who spent time piecing my clothing together.
If you want to follow my progress I’m using #cateralls on Instagram.
I went to visit my dad in France a couple of months ago, wearing my trusty blue jeans. These are a pair I picked up as a happy accident in TK Maxx. They’re made with a special process that uses less water, so they’re the kind of denim you’re meant to avoid washing. I’ve had these jeans for well over two years and I think I’ve only washed them twice. To some, that’s gross, but I quite like it. For me, these jeans are pretty perfect. I like the fit, they’re long enough for my legs and they’re comfy.
Anyway, to my horror, I discovered that my beloved dirty jeans had developed a hole in the inside leg. I wore them with extreme caution for the next few days as I hadn’t brought any other trousers with me. And since then, they’ve been languishing untouched on my ‘to mend’ pile.
I looked up a few tutorials online for how to repair jeans. I now can’t find the link to the tutorial that I semi followed to patch them. A lot of methods recommend trimming the hole in the jeans to ease the transition to the patch fabric. However, I couldn’t see the sense in voluntarily weakening the fabric further. I don’t mind there being a worn patch that can’t be seen 99% of the time. What I care about is giving my jeans a few more months of useful service.
1. Using pinking shears, cut a patch of denim in a similar colour to your jeans
It should cover the hole plus about an inch all around it.
2. Fuse bondaweb all around the right side of the patch
3. Fuse the patch over the hole
4. Stitch over the patch and jeans
This can be done by hand, by machine or a combination. I hand-stitched mine first.
Here’s how the hole looked on the right side at this point.
If you have access to a sewing machine, you can reinforce the patch by stitching back and forth over it a few times.
This week I am featuring a project I am happy with. Yay! My denim day dress has turned out pretty spot on.
Finishing the zip installation (slightly wonky).
Easing the in the sleeves. So many pins!
Trying to see if they are in the right way.
Sewing the side seams and finally testing the fit.
The biggest difficulty I had was with trying to swap the facings for bias binding. The binding wouldn’t lie flat.
I followed a tutorial to try and fix the binding. It only partially worked. My feeling is that I can’t have the binding visible, so I will probably try and fix it again next time I have access to a sewing machine. However, the dress is still wearable in the interim so I’m not too fussed.
I have two more versions of this dress planned. For one, I am going to use my purple Indonesian silk for the skirt.
I am going to buy a small amount of silk in a contrast colour for the bodice and sleeves, as I think a dress totally in the pattern would be a bit overwhelming. I also have some cream rayon Batik for another version.
The only change I will make will be to grade down to the size below at the waist. The sizing is about right at the bust and shoulders, but a bit baggy at the waist. I will probably do another exposed zip for the Batik dress, but try an invisible zip for the silk one. I will have to get better at matching the waist seams!