Friday, October 31, 2014

fear fabric: leather

This past year of sewing has been all about facing (not necessarily conquering) my fears -- fabric fears being one of them. I mean, just think of how many wedding gowns and bridesmaid dresses I had to work with. That's a lot of chiffon, satin, organza, netting, lace, beading, charmeuse, and many more types of shiny polyester that nearly suffocated me mid-bustle. Nothing's scarier than being trapped under the train of a two-ton wedding dress, swimming upstream through miles of scratchy tulle as you try to find where you dropped that hand needle...

So when Beth of 110 Creations announced her Fear Fabric challenge again this year (I sewed lace last year), I was stumped for awhile deciding what kind of "scary" fabric could top bridal fabrics. The Project Runway devil on my shoulder made me briefly consider neoprene or, ha!, fringe. I don't know where to find those fabrics locally though, or most importantly, where I would wear those garments locally. 

I decided to return to the basics: leather. I've sewn vinyl before, as seen on my beloved Portside Duffel, but never the real deal because it's expensive and I figured my machine couldn't sew leather. The ethical issue I won't really get into here, but I've recently swung my moral pendulum after a lifetime of purchasing cheaply manufactured fake leather items from Target that peel or fall apart before the week is through. Which is now an industry I'm no longer keen to support. Anyway, I bought a black leather hide remnant at a local shop on Fabric Row in Philly. The piece was damaged so I got it at a discount. I know that my machine (and wallet) can't handle much, so I decided to keep it on the small scale and just use it as an accent on a bag.

This pattern is a foldover clutch that students learn to make in Sewing 101 at Butcher's Sew Shop, the studio where I work sometimes. Appropriate that I'm sewing with cow skin in an old butcher's shop? That's dark. I'm at the studio quite a bit, so I'm always getting inspired by what the owner and the students are making. Those newbie sewers blow this bag out of the water, by the way (example here).

This is a lined zippered bag with D-rings on the sides to attach a strap. I did not make the strap shown in these photos, and I know it doesn't really match, but my machine would NOT sew through the layers necessary to make my own leather strap, try as I might, so I swiped this one from my camera bag for the time being. The fold in the foldover clutch is also supposed to be deeper, but I wanted to make it tall enough to carry my laptop/tablet thing.

The upper layer is camel colored wool, also purchased locally at yet another fabric store that is going out of business in this world. RIP PFO. 50% off though, yo. I used a gold metal zipper and lined the bag with a quilting cotton print I bought, like, pre-blog. I applied fusible fleece to the lining pieces because I originally hoped to use this as a laptop bag, but the zipper I used isn't long enough for my laptop to fit through, horizontally anyway. Nice planning!

Other than the strap issue, my machine did okay with the construction. I found it slightly easier than vinyl to sew because it was more pliable and less sticky icky. I used a walking foot, a leather needle, and Wonder Clips instead of pins to keep the layers together. I bought 20 Wonder Clips two weeks ago and I'm already down to 14, with the lost six huddled together somewhere hidden, giggling at me. How does that happen?!

Happy with my bag because obvi I love black and camel as a color combo, so it matches like 85% of what I've been wearing lately. I'm also happy that Corey recognized the genuine leather on this bag and thus assumed I didn't make it. Boomy. I did.

Paired here randomly with New Look 6299 that I made in black and gold stretch denim. Unblogged, like most of what I've made in the past 6 months. Sorry about that. Rest assured that most of what I've made is either black and white, black and tan, or black and brown. Or are undies.

Thanks for hosting the Fear Fabric challenge again this year, Beth. And Happy Halloween, spooksters!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

diana cardigan + magic pattern book giveaway

Updated 10/23/2014: This giveaway is now closed. The winner of a copy of the Magic Pattern book is Ruth Griffeth. Ruth, check your e-mail!

Hallo sweeties. Please (continue to) bear with my blogging infrequency as I learn how to be officially self-employed with a sewing workload of 12+ hours each day. More on that later, perhaps! #stillloveyou 

Pattern: Diana Cardigan from Amy Barickman's Magic Pattern Book
Worn with: Nettie bodysuit (similar blogged here) and buttonlesss Beignet skirt (blogged here)
Size: Medium
Fabric: Poly blend sweater knit

Here I'm showing you the Diana Cardigan, one of the 36 patterns included in the new Magic Pattern Book by Amy Barickman, founder of Indygo Junction. I haven't yet heard much about this book in my corner of the sewing blog community, which is kinda surprising because the book is pretty great and includes many patterns that are cute and wearable.

The Magic Pattern Book includes six styles of garments (tank top, dress, skirt, cardigan, coat and accessory) that each have six variations for you to sew. All patterns are included in PDF format on a CD in the back of the book, or are available to download online with your purchase (thankfully - since I don't have a disc drive on my tiny baby 'puter). The variations go beyond just sleeve length or design accents; they include different silhouettes and construction methods entirely, which is pretty cool. Amy also sometimes includes ways to take existing garments (like men's trousers) and cut fabric from them to make the pattern.

The book is essentially a giant pattern library and that's about it, which is a pretty amazing deal when it comes to the price you're paying. You really are getting THIRTY-SIX patterns. 

When I read about the concept of the book, I first assumed that they give you six patterns and then tell you how to modify them yourself to achieve more looks. Like, "take this pattern piece and shorten it by 3 inches and cut off a wedge here, etc." Little lessons in pattern alterations or drafting. In actuality, they already drafted all 36 patterns for you and sectioned the pieces out by style, so there really is no modification or brain work needed at all. You just download the exact pattern you want and it's all there ready for you to print on its own.

I'll admit that disappointed me a tiny bit at first because I was hoping to learn more about altering patterns properly, but in the end, the time-crunched/lazy-grumpy side of me is much happier to have it all there ready for me so the book will get more use. Part of me loves to hoard patterns so this book definitely speaks to that dark side. I still am nosy, though, and want to see how she actually modified the original cardigan pattern to make the other variations. Like, how do you draft your own jacket lapels?!

For my cardigan, I used a black and tan sweater knit print from a local fabric shop. I mostly followed the Diana instructions except I shortened it by about four inches (it's really long to begin with!) and used my coverstitch machine for the hem instead of a double needle. The Diana is the only pattern in the book that recommends a knit fabric, I think. Kinda a bummer because obvs I love knits. It probably means I'll end up turning to the Diana over and over again because it's such a practical layering piece and whips up pretty fast!

One thing to note, at least for this cardigan, was that a cutting modification instruction was included as part of the sewing directions. So if you're the type of bozo like me who usually cuts all your pieces and THEN looks at the instructions, this may cause a problem. I mean, the modification in my case was that I just needed to add 3/8" of fabric to the back of the neck, so it wouldn't be a colossal mistake if I hadn't, but it's something to look out for in the book's other patterns as well.

An issue with sizing I had when sewing this cardigan was that the book only gives you finished garment measurements for each style, with no recommendations on what to sew for your body measurements. Usually I'm all about the finished garment measurements, but without knowing how much ease is intended, it can be tricky to figure out which size to sew. Like for a drapey cardigan, what do I want the bust measurement to be? Do I want it to be 8" bigger than my actual bust measurement, or 9-1/2", or way less or way more? I have no idea off the top of my head, so I wish the book would at least give a recommended amount of ease so you can do the math. For this, I chose the medium size with crossed fingers. It worked in this case with a stretchy cardigan, but I'd be a little more hesitant when choosing the size of a woven skirt or something.

Normally I don't buy pattern books because the ones currently on the market feature garments that are a little too folksy, twee or retro. The Magic Pattern book does have some rufflage that I'll skip, but with 36 options for women's garments, there are quite a few that I would like to sew beyond this basic cardigan, like the Delia Jacket, Cecelia Dress, or the Bridget Skirt (sans elastic back). 

The options are mostly pretty casual and nothing too complicated. I didn't notice anything with buttonholes, but there are garments with zippers, bias tape, snaps, facings, toggles, pleats, tabs and pockets, so there are definitely details to tinker with if you please. Amy also includes other fabric suggestions for each style so you can get an idea of what else you could use, though the garments are illustrated in this case so you can't see how the fabric actually affects its drape:

I'm happy to have this book on my shelf now because it does have fun options to sew. I really wanna make a coat this winter so I'm thinking of using one of these patterns as a jumping off point.

If you're digging the idea of this book, Workman Publishing has offered to give away a free copy to one of YOU. This giveaway is only for USA residents, though (sorry!). To enter, leave a comment on this post by Wednesday, October 22nd at midnight EST. Good luck, ducks.

And to check out what other people think, hit up the tour:


October 7  WINDY LOU
October 8  MELLY SEWS
October 10  SEW MAMA SEW
October 14  LILACS & LACE
October 20  CUT OUT & KEEP
October 22  CHIC STEALS
October 23  THREADS

Disclaimer: A copy of this book was provided to me for free by Workman Publishing in exchange for participation in the blog tour.