How did you do that?

I love to share knowledge, give out little hints and tips to those who ask.  Recently I have had multiple emails asking how do I make all my up cycled items look amazingly new?

Up cycled clothing, items, and toys are a joy to make and a perfect addition to any household.  Contrary to popular belief, they do not need to look used, worn out, have holes, or stains to be up cycled     The point of up cycling is to give used items new life, not just reuse them.

First step:  Find some thing YOU LIKE, that draws your eye.  If you don’t like it why would anyone else?

Second step:  clean it, wash it, dry it, repair it (is there bead work that’s loose? fix it)

Third step: when possible cut along side the seams to get flat pieces of fabric.  If you cut along the seams this gives the edges of the fabric a smooth, unpuckered edge.  All industrial sewing machines cause visible needle holes in the fabric… not attractive.

If you are reconstructing an item using most of the original seams, such as jeans into a jean skirt, this is a good time to use a seam ripper instead of cutting the fabric. Just sew along the original seam holes when possible.

When reusing lace, avoid ripping the seam.  Just cut the fabric that it is attached to as close to the lace as possible.  If it is a large piece of lace (an adult bodice for example), try to use it as a full flat piece work with the existing seams instead of reinventing the wheel.

Fourth step: IRON YOUR FABRIC.  This step does two things for you; first it gives you a smooth field to work with and secondly it tells you if the former owner smoked.  No matter how many times you wash it, if you add heat to the fabric the smell of cigarette smoke will always be present.  If you are marketing your item as *smoke free*, this is a very important step.

Fifth step: when ever possible work your pattern pieces to exclude holes or worn spots in the fabric…. just turn those parts into rags.

Sixth and the most important, least known step:  Starch. Simple. As. That.

Either before or after you construct an item using your up cycled fabric, starch it.  (1 part clothing starch to approximately 5 parts water)  No biggie.  Use a fine spray and iron dry.  This helps the fabric hold it’s smoothness through shipping and wearing.

Now If you don’t want to use starch (allergies, or for newborns), use vinegar water when ironing.  The vinegar smell goes away as soon as the water has evaporated while ironing.

Viola, that’s how I do it.   The picture below is of the latest set of adult wings I have constructed, on the right hand side over-lapping the rows is the description of what each layer is.  Do they look up cycled to you? Or just plain beautiful?

partsofawing

Parts of a wing

Upcyled, recycled, brand spankin' new wings.

You never know what’s next!

I am always trying something new, there are so many wonderful things out there… how could I not want to?  Most of the time I am just curious about how something is done, made, designed, or constructed.  This also means that I usually end up with alot more respect for an item and artist, just because I now know how it’s done and all the time it takes!  This is one of those times.  There is an artist that I absolutely adore, from her house to her travels!  Katwise!  Take a look at her Facebook fan page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Katwise/320233446531

Incredibly AWESOME, huh?  Well if you take a look at her etsy site, you can see her stuff flies off the digital shelves.  Literally gone in 15 minutes, and she only posts sales once a month.  If you are lucky enough to catch the right day and you are quick at the “purchase now” button you MIGHT be able to snag one.  But just a forewarning:  Her large jackets go for $600+, her arm warmers $60+.   But in the end it’s not the price that attracts me, because frankly they are way out of my price range.   It’s the fact that she changes the most gawd-aweful sweaters into such amazing creations.  So last year Katwise decided to start selling her patterns.  In the first day, I had snagged my very own pattern.  Whoop Whoop.

Humboldt Fog

Now all I needed to do was find lots and lots of wool sweaters.  Well guess what? I live in Florida.  Not to many wool sweaters here… So I expanded my search to include 50% wool sweaters, it only took a year but I finally found the requisite amount needed for the jacket I wanted to make.  My mom even helped by donating some of her “moth” eaten ones…  I know there are some places online that sell reclaimed wool sweaters, but I wanted to do it the “long way” first.  If you want to let someone else do the sweater hunting for you, here is a great site: http://resweater.blogspot.com/ .  After all the sweaters were compiled, it was time to felt them down.  My greatest suggestion is to take them to the laundromat, let them deal with the smell… and the fuzz.  I did 2 super hot cycles, 1 cold rinse, and then dried them out thoroughly in the dryers.

Cutting out all the pieces was the easiest part, and kind of fun.  BUT then… came the sewing.  Granted all you are doing is surging the pieces together, but it took alot of muscle work and concentration.  I started at 8 am and finished at midnight.  Just to give you an idea, the finished jacket is between 5-7lbs.

Full Circle Skirt

Full Circle Skirt

I wanted mine to have a fun hemline, so I made it have a “train”.  The back is about 5″ longer than the front,  it has some fun flow and flounce as I am walking.  Make sure to follow the guidelines on the hood… 4′ is perfect.  My first one hit the ground and kept pulling the hood off my head. Also I do suggest you double stitch all areas with alot of pull- the waistlines, hood, and arm holes.  Otherwise the over-lock stitch is sufficient.  Another suggestion, make the body of the jacket out of the most comfortable sweater (not itchy or pokey), and end at the wrists with your softest fabric.  This hits skin directly.

Will I ever make these sweater jackets to sell?  Only on a custom basis, with lots of caveats.   Katwise is the master, and I bow down even farther after this experience.   Ultimately I think I will stick with my fun fleece pixie jackets… maybe even make a couple for us big pixies?

Ursula’s Mini-Pixie

Here is a direct link for some more fun pictures of the Mini-Pixie Cuteness! https://www.etsy.com/listing/91057894/pixie-jacket-polar-fleece-add-a-little

So Congratulations to Amanda Capps!  You guessed correctly in my little Facebook mini-giveaway.  I look forward to dropping off your sweet “little” prize! MUAH♥

A note on finishing…

I love sewing. I have sewn for a long time, and I know lots of people who sew and take pride in their work.  I always love looking at the way things are completed and I am usually the one to fawn all over the finishing details.  I know I love it when that happens to me, so of course I love to share the “kudos” with others.  Today, I was sitting at my sewing machine during an impromptu rondezvous with some industrial seams,  and all I could think was “damn girl, do you think it might be over the top?”.  Of course I just had to laugh.    The finishing seamstress in me was already thinking on how to hand finish the seams down farther, so they looked flush with the quilted fabric.  Basically becoming invisible.  This is where the practical seamstress reared her pretty head.  The item in question is not Couture,  and using such techniques will devalue those items that are.  But man, did it take a lot to walk away.

I think the way an item is constructed tells alot about the designer.  The most talented artist can turn a dog food bag into a gorgeous skirt, a packing box into a corset, or polyester drapes into an evening gown.    The materials do not make the design, they only serve to enhance the product.    I think it is important to look farther than the surface and truly start to appreciate the work that is put into what is made.

I have a friend who makes the most gorgeous clothing, modern pieces and period correct recreations.  She matches fabric patterns along seams, fooling the eye into believing that the material is one continuous length.  All of her internal seams are folded back in on themselves with the raw edges completely encased and flush with the body of the fabric.  All gussets are hand turned so the points are seamless.  I could just go on and on about finished buttons, zippers, hand dyed fabric facing…. ah the beauty of it all.  Each piece is a true art form, a joy to look at on the hanger as well as the body. It’s almost a shame to store them in a closed closet away from view!

So of course I think of her often, and she inspires me on a regular basis!

Now I’d like to share a bit of seamstress knowledge with you.  It is important on all industrial sewn products, be it couch cushions or curtains, that all seams are reinforced.  Some people may think that this entails using heavy duty thread and possibly surging the seams.  This just causes the fabric to rip where the thread is holding the seam together.  You will still have a solid seam but there will be a hole right next to it.  You want to give the individual fibers in the fabric a little extra support against the pull.

You can do this one of two ways, there is the jean method of folding each piece of fabric over each other creating a box and sewing along each side.  Just look at your jeans to see an example.  Quite effective.  Another method, used for more delicate fabrics that fray easily is the french seam.  But not the one you recognize from soft chiffon shirts or skirts, this way is super supportive.

1.  place the wrong sides of your fabric together and surge them

2.  press the surged seam.

Left: surged seam. Right: encased surged seam.

3.  fold the fabric over so right sides are touching and the pressed surged seam is inside the fold.  Press with an iron, to hold the seam in place.

4.  With a regular straight stitch, sew a line 1 mm to the side of the surged edge.

5.  Press the encased seam. Checking to make sure that you did not accidenatally catch any of the surger thread in the seam.

This method traps all the loose threads creating a 4-5 thread internal barrier from being pulled out.  The folding over of the internal seam creates a mechanical retention for the fabric threads.  The second seam secures the mechanical retention while strengthening the original seam.  The chances of this pulling out or tearing the fabric is slim.  It’s perfect for any thin fabric that will suffer lots of abuse, pull, or twist.

Hope I shared some useful information!

The Joys of Pattern Drafting part II

Okay, since my last pattern draft post, I have been able to complete all my pending projects and finish two others. I finally went back to the drawing board… literally. As I stated before, the pattern draft, for my body style, required 3 darts each for the bust area. This caused the fabric and prints to be severely butchered, ruining the aesthetics of the outfit. Granted, the fit of the outfits were perfect, all of the sundresses require no underlying structure for bust support. Amazing!

Now I want to get the fit with out misshaping the fabric or disfiguring the print designs.

I started where I began before, cutting a basic shape from muslin and sewing in all the darts. I then marked lines all the way up the underlying darts and up to the opposing seam. On the back piece this was easy, I only needed one dart on either side, thus the curvature of the dart to the arms-eye is slightly sloped. On the front, in order to figure out where to place my “master” line, I drew lines all the way through each of the three darts. I then picked the one that was most freezable for the fabric, taking into consideration the slope of curvature. I cut the fabric all the way up these “master” lines, giving me 7 pattern pieces, in total.

Now in doing this, one might notice that one or two of the pieces do not lie flat. This is where the iron is very important. On the pieces where there are intact darts, iron out the pieces so they are as flat as possible. (The fabric may dimple or round over, just get it as flat as can be!) Now I transferred these fabric patterns to paper, and Voila! a new pattern, fully fit with NO darts.

These 7 pieces, require more sewing in total, but they allow for the print, fall, and drape of the fabric to stay intact. Finally I feel more confident modifying this base pattern into the different clothing designs that are rattling around in my head.

As a side note, I do have to make a little statement on seam allowances. I never forget to add seam allowance to all my drafts. I had a teacher in college who drilled that very successfully into my head! But I have noticed that I forget to transfer this seam allowance to the sewing machine. On one of my latest projects (the blue striped sundress with black edging), I drafted out 5/8″ seam allowance, but placed my sewn seams at 3/8″. As you can imagine, the final fit was a bit off. Lets do the math… 2/8″ x 14 = 3 1/2″ off of drafted pattern. that is 3 1/2″ added to the final fit of the dress… that is 3 sizes too big, and needless to say, it fell off. Luckily I figured out this mistake early, and only wasted about 20 minutes of sewing and ironing.

Always remember to sew your seam allowances at the correct width… also! when drafting out, if you use a large tip pen or sharpie, to cut INSIDE the lines, or else you will end up adding 1/8″ to all your pattern pieces. The more pattern pieces you have the greater error will occur.

Pictures to come soon!