Friday, July 30, 2010

Making it Myself

I came across some interesting posts this week on the subject of past shopping habits and how to be a more ethical shopper. First, I found Zoe's post about her shoe prohibition and from there I found Hayley's post on over consumption. Since I learned to sew last year, my shopping habits have been very different. I've realized that I get so much satisfaction from making something I can wear rather than buying it and I've been reevaluating my past shopping experiences. I am an artist and have always enjoyed making things so I should have known this earlier. I have a terrible history with being an impulsive consumer when it comes to clothes and shoes (and debt to prove it). So, I'm turning over a new leaf. I've decided that I am not buying any clothing at a mass retail store for the next year. Bye bye, Belk! Sayonara, Steinmart! Adios, Ann Taylor! "K"atch ya later, Kohls! (couldn't help myself)

If I come across any sort of clothing that I have to have (which oftentimes is not because I actually need it) I will try my best to make it. Do it yourself- that's my mantra. My reasons for doing this are not as altruistic as they sound. I really consider it a little more self-indulgent because of the satisfaction I get from making things, but I do feel that this will not only benefit me but other people as well. Now I know that in Hayley's post she writes about not forcing yourself to do something because then it becomes a constant inner struggle, but I feel like this has been in the works for a while. I've grown up having art in my life and wanting to be an artist and the desire to make things has always been a part of me. The main thing I love about sewing is that it is truly a utilitarian art- an incredible skill. I mean, my husband sewed a 16ft tipi, for goodness sakes! Talk about being self-sustainable---you can sew your own shelter! So, this is the point I'm at right now. I could delve in to this subject further, especially when it comes to making art, but I'll save more for another time.

I am making a pledge to stop being a mindless shopper and to try and make things myself because making things makes me happy. I'm rounding up to August 1st since it's so close, so until August 1st, 2011, I will not purchase anything at any mass retail store. If I can't make it, I will find someone who can and who makes it by hand. I took The Handmade Pledge as well.
I'm looking forward to this year. I'm exciting about all the new things I will learn. I'm sure it will be difficult at times and there will be circumstances that I wish I could buy something, but the satisfaction of doing it myself is worth more. I'm including a picture of my new yellow skirt in this post not because it is the most spectacular thing I've sewn, but because it is my first achievement in this arena. It's made from a pair of yellow pants that I bought on an impulse two years ago and wore once. I think I'll get a lot more use out of it now!



Monday, July 26, 2010

Stenciling as a Glazing Technique



I made these tiles at the very end of the past school year because I had some extra space in the kiln during the last firing of the year and free samples from Mayco. (Art teachers love free samples by the way Mayco!) I actually took a glazing workshop at a mini-conference in March and made the one tile with the blue flowers. We did it step by step in the class, so it's not the most creative thing I've ever done, but I was really pleased with the result and it was a good learning experience. They had a lot of left over materials so I claimed two more bisque tiles and I made the other two tiles using the same techniques.

Here is what I did; first the entire tile was coated twice with a brown Foundations glaze. Then different types of string, twine and raffia were laid down on the tile and also coated with the brown Foundations, enough so that the items would stick where I wanted them to. The flowers were created using that yarn with all the curly pieces shooting off of it. Mayco provided everything in a little kit, so like I said, not the most creative thing I've ever done. You could use anything as a stencil that is thin enough to take a layer of glaze and stick to the tile. The string and raffia became the stencil. Then I used several Stroke and Coat glazes on top of the Foundations glaze; antique white, orchid, hot tamale, dandelion, and the blue I can't remember, and a little bit of a Jungle Gems blue on top. When all the top coats were almost completely dry, I pulled up the string and raffia revealing the brown glaze underneath. I fired the tiles at cone 05, which is pretty much what I always fire at.



They turned out so lovely! I put some felt pads on the bottom and use them as coasters. They look great on the coffee table and I've received lots of compliments. I'm brainstorming some sort of stenciled glazing project that I can do with my students this year and different materials we could use. It would be a nice way to talk about positive and negative space.


Thursday, July 22, 2010

Home Improvement: Jewelry Storage






I hope to post some pictures of various things I do around the house. My husband and I bought our home a few months ago and we are slooowwwwly working on getting everything the way we want it. The house is great, but the inside needs a lot of TLC. For instance, no one removed a nail from the walls for the past 28 years. Seriously. I estimate that I took out about fifty nails and screws just from the den walls. And then my super house painting hubby has to go around and putty and patch and sand and prime everything. That's no fun when you just want to see some results. I could rant on about many other things that need fixing, but I won't. I will plan on posting pictures of things we finish that are artfully done.

While I'm still working on unpacking boxes in other rooms, everything is officially unpacked in our bedroom. I found places for clothes and shoes, but I had a dilemma when I realized that I didn't have anywhere to put my jewelry. It was previously thrown in a drawer in a tangled heap so I wanted a more sophisticated way to store it all. I've seen some neat things done with old screens and fabric, but then I came across this blog via craftzine and loved her creative ideas for storing her jewelry. I found some great wall hooks at World Market along with some cute baskets and organized everything in no time at all- just me and the drill.



I also found some great ideas on Martha's website. (I like to think we are on a first name basis, thankyouverymuch.) I especially like the necklaces around the bust and using branches to dangle necklaces and earrings. I think I may have a bust of Beethoven somewhere....

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Pirate Chic




So I made this Built by Wendy top (Simplicity 2865) and then wore it to my nephew's birthday party.... which just happened to be a pirate party. It was kind of funny. It looked like I made just for the pirate party, but I didn't really. I wanted to use a striped fabric because of the side pieces in the pattern and I found this black and white stripe knit at Hancock for $2 a yard. This is also part of my campaign to sew fabrics that I am not comfortable sewing. I've pretty much stuck to woven cottons or cotton blends. I'm trying to use other fabrics and sew out of my comfort zone. I find that when I try something really difficult or just different, I learn so much!




I sew with a very basic Singer from K-mart, so I don't have any fancy ways of finishing seams. I've sewn a few patterns that enclosed all the seams withing a lining and another where all the seams were bound and I really liked the clean finish inside of the garment. It makes a difference when you wear something that is finished on the inside. I just feel better about the construction of the garment- like I won't bend over and rip a seam apart :) So, I wanted to figure out a way to sew a knit but also keep from having raw edges inside. That's when I came across the flat felled seam. It's been one of the most useful techniques I've learned recently. It leaves a nice detail on the outside of the garment while leaving no raw edges inside. I'm going to use flat felled seams in an upcoming project, so I will try and take some pictures of the steps. But, I found tons of great tutorials on the Internet.



I added the flowers after seeing an appliqued tee in a Garnet Hill catalog. I just cut different sized organic shapes and gathered them through the middle. Then I tacked them on by hand. This shirt has already been through the wash a couple of times and it's held up pretty well. That's always exciting for me! Now that I am looking at my pictures, though, I'm thinking I look a little like a referee :).

Monday, July 12, 2010

The High and Wide



Making these pants was a very long journey, even though the actual sewing part was quick and easy. I saw The Kate Jeans by stitchywitch on Burdastyle back in March and fell in love with them. I had been looking around for a high waist pants pattern, but was unsure about how they would look on my hips or just my size in general. I am a size larger on the bottom than on the top. I followed the link to her blog and read all about them. (This was also my first introduction to sewing blogs, so thanks! I've enjoyed snooping around ever since.) I was inspired. I went out the same day and bought the pattern (sale at Hancock, I never buy a pattern at full price) and some navy linen. I think I may have even cut out the pieces that night or the next day. Then, I chickened out. I became convinced that they weren't going to work for me. I think I read some of the comments about how they were flattering on people who are in shape. So, I put the pattern pieces in a stack of things cut out but not made. Am I the only one who does that? I cut things out fairly often and then move on to something else before I've sewn it.

I actually forgot about it for a long time. My husband and I moved in to a new house and so all the sewing stuff was packed up in boxes for two months. Then when we unpacked, I found them and decided to just go ahead and sew them up, whether they looked good on me or not.




I was blown away. First, they were super easy to sew. It may have taken me two hours all together, and I had to change the zipper at one point. Second, they fit without a single alteration. I laughed a little when I read that on stitchywitch's blog because I always have to alter things, but they really did fit. I have a 27.5" waist and 40" hips. I cut a 14 but went to a 12 in the waist and I think I made my darts a little deeper than on the pattern pieces. They are tight in the waist, but I that is what makes them so flattering. The are comfortable to sit in, too, though the linen seemed to stretch out a little after wearing them all night. I'm not sure what I can do about that. And the funny thing is that they don't seem as high waisted in my pictures as they feel when I 'm wearing them. I guess I'm not used to wearing pants like this. My only negative is that there was not enough length for me to hem them to wear with heels. I just barely hemmed them and I'm wearing them with flats. I like the way they hit the ground, but there's not enough there for any kind of heel. I'm kind of tall, though- 5"9". If you are taller, definitely add length.
I wore them to a friend's birthday party last weekend and they made me feel like a million bucks. I like the pattern because it is vintage without be overly vintage, if you know what I mean. I showed them to my mom thinking they were sort of 1940's, but she said she wore pants like this in the 70's with a cropped aviator type jacket. They are definitely from an past era. I felt that they were extremely flattering. The wide leg is what makes them so great. I just wish now I had made them three months ago so I could have been wearing them the whole time! I would definitely make this pattern again. And thanks, stitchywitch for introducing me to the pattern. I would have overlooked if not for your version.


I also made my necklace. Nothing too special, just a cool pendant from Michael's and a flower bead I had on a piece of leather. It was supposed to be a girly, from the garden, vintage sort of necklace. I thought it was great until my husband said it reminded him of Silence of the Lambs. Oh well.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Sweet Iced Tea Top






I made the popular ( and free!) Afternoon Tea Top pattern created by Ichigogirl on Burdastyle. I guess this was my first experience with grading (?) a pattern. The sizing was too small for me, so I added width to each piece until I reached my measurements on the sizing chart. I also added some length. I tend to do that to all patterns I make because I have a long torso. It just kind of worked out, because when I put it on and zipped it up, it fit! I guess I got lucky. I used a bright plaid shirting. I like working with shirting because it seems to be softer and drape better than a regular woven cotton. I read somewhere it's because the weave is tighter. I wish I had taken the time to try and match the plaid at the side seams. I liked the pattern a lot. It was easy to follow and I like the detail of the pleated trim. I've also enjoyed looking at all the variations and interpretations posted on Burda. I've called this the Sweet Iced Tea Top because it makes me feel like I should be at a backyard BBQ drinking sweet tea from a red solo cup and playing cornhole. Anyone from the south knows what I'm talking about :). Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Tipi


I posted this project on Burdastyle back in December, but I thought I'd post it on this blog as well because it is the reason I started sewing--- yes, a tipi is the reason. My husband decided that he was going to make a tipi. It was his dream since he was little. He showed up one day with an old sewing machine and some canvas drop cloths. I had previously told him that I learned how to use a sewing machine when I was little. I think I made a couple of pillows and an elastic skirt. So, I sat down and surprisingly remembered a lot about how to sew. It came back to me, with a lot of trial and error, of course. I decided that I was going to sew some of my own projects and I haven't stopped since.


He worked on the tipi for about ten months. He sewed everything himself. I gave the initial lesson on how to use the sewing machine and helped with all the measuring involved. He made it in my old place, which was a tiny condo. The canvas was 30 ft long and my place wasn't even long enough to lay it all out. We took it across the street to a church parking lot to measure and cut. It is enormous. When the tipi is set up, it is 16 feet in diameter. The poles were made by hand as well. He split two by fours down the middle and then used a draw knife to turn them in to a pole. The poles are 20 feet long- two 10 foot pieces connected in the middle by a piece of pvc pipe which he painted to match the poles. The smoke flaps are functional, so we could feasibly build a fire inside (we haven't tried that yet). It's made to take camping, but we haven't done that either. We think it will sleep 6-8 people. The cover folds up and fits in a big Rubbermaid container.


We recently moved in to a new house, but we haven't set up the tipi in the backyard yet. We're scared that might cause a Home Owner's Association meeting that we're not invited to, if you know what I mean.



The book he used was called The Indian Tipi by Reginald and Gladys Laubin. It has plans and patterns to make a historically accurate 19 ft tipi. He sized all the measurements down to 16 ft, so there was a lot of math involved. There is also a book, Tipis by Linda A. Holley that has really nice instructions for lots of different size tipis and explains how to sew strips of canvas together as you go so you’re not pushing 30 ft. of canvas through your machine. The old machine was burned out during the process and then we got a basic Singer. He used heavy duty needles and thread, but just a regular sewing machine.


I think it's pretty impressive! How many people do you know that have a tipi? It's a great reminder of how I began sewing and also, as someone pointed out on Burda, what a useful skill sewing can be. Thanks for reading.