UFO busting: When in doubt make a pillow

Pillow bias side

You may have noticed I haven’t spent much time busting UFOs these past couple of months. This doesn’t mean I don’t have any left (if only!), it means I’ve gotten rid of a bunch, which feels pretty good, and simply moved on to creating other things. The new things I made got finished and are being used so I am definitely improving in the “finish what you start” department. Well, apart from that quilt that’s been almost stationary on my design wall since January, but I promise I’ll get to that soon.

Unfinished skirt

I haven’t done much creative things during the past couple of weeks and needed to get sewing again. Preferably with a simple no fuss instant gratification project. I had looked at this unfinished skirt several times already unsure what to do with it. I think I started it over 3 years ago and at the time it seemed like a really good idea to use this fabric for a skirt. Now I think the fabric was never really meant to be used for a garment. It is quite loosely woven and frays horribly. Cutting the pieces on the bias resulted in too much stretch so it ended up way too big. I’m also not so sure anymore that the finished skirt would flatter me all that much. But, what to do with it? Turning it into another garment wasn’t going to work either. And then it hit me.

fraying fabric

Oh the fraying…

When in doubt make a pillow.

Pillows are one of my all-time favourite projects. I should really get a larger couch just so I can properly display my mishmash of pillows in all their glory (you surely must have heard stranger reasons to buy a new couch, right?).

I used the back of the skirt to cut one side of the pillow on the bias and a left over piece of fabric to cut the other side on the straight of grain. To add some stability and minimize fraying both pieces were underlined with some Kona cotton and the edges were overlocked. The bias piece definitely stretched out during this process. Luckily not really noticeable in the finished pillow.

underlined and overlocked edges

I couldn’t find my invisible zippers so decided against making a closure. Instead I sewed all around the pillow right sides together leaving a small gap for turning. Then I stuffed the pillow with the filling of another pillow that was no longer being used because it had become lumpy from being washed too often. Worked brilliantly (and no my new pillow isn’t lumpy!). Finally the gap was closed with some invisible hand stitching.

Pillow straight of grain side

I love my new pillow and don’t care that it doesn’t really match with the rest of our living room décor. It is much more useful than the skirt ever would have been.

UFO busting: It’s all about the zippers

It's all about the zippers bagThe starting point for this bag was my huge stash of zippers. I wanted to create a bag that had zippers as the main feature and all of the zippers in the bag should be functional. After much deliberating I finally came up with a combination of red zippers, black canvas and red cotton fabric that matched the zippers. I must have changed my mind at least a dozen times on the exact design of the bag and which parts should be red and which should be black. This is why it took me more than a year to complete it. My original plan featured much more red fabric on the outside but as I was constructing it I found that it detracted from the zippers. In the end I even had to buy more black fabric because I didn’t have enough left to make the strap that was originally supposed to be completely red. On the inside I added a grey zipper and some grey quilting cotton for the lining of the pockets and I also used it to cover up a stupid cutting mistake.

It's all about the zippers bag

Front (left) and back of bag.

The fashion fabric and lining are both interfaced with medium weight woven fusible interfacing. It gives the bag a lot of structure and as a result it can stand upright on its own and I quite like that.

140221_bag_topThe finished dimensions (l x w x h) are 20 x 7 x 35 cm (8” x 2 4/5” x 14”). It opens with a top zipper.

The front features 3 small zipper pockets and the back one large zipper pocket. (I love pockets!)

The lining has a zipper pocket on one side and a divided patch pocket on the other side. These are great for holding my phone, wallet and keys.

pockets in bag lining

Lining pulled to the outside.

The adjustable shoulder strap is attached asymmetrically to the front and back. I really like this detail because it is a bit quirky. The D-rings that hold the strap are attached to the bag via fabric tabs. I took some pictures during the construction of the shoulder strap so a tutorial on how to make an adjustable strap is coming soon!

Adjustable shoulder strapThis bag is very much me and I suspect that I will use it often. If I want to bring a book or a newspaper on the train I can easily fit it in this bag. In my old bag I can only fit a small paperback. During the year it took me to construct it I often thought that it would have been nice if this bag had already been finished when my other bags were too small or way too big for what I wanted to take with me. I am happy this UFO is finally busted and I call the result a great success!

it's all about the zippers

UFO Busting: Alabama Chanin style cardigan

131006_cardigan3I am in love with this cardigan, it is absolutely perfect in all of its imperfections. It is also completely out of my comfort zone. Who would have thought that I was going to wear an embroidered cardigan and love it? Not me, that’s for sure. I am a no-nonsense girl, my wardrobe consists for more than 90% of solids and typically lacks frilly details. So, how did I end-up creating an all-over embroidered garment?

It all started when Craftsy launched their Hand Embellishing Knit Fabric course that is taught by Natalie Chanin from Alabama Chanin. Alabama Chanin sells completely hand-made embellished garments made from 100% organic cotton jersey. Their garments are very expensive, which is totally understandable once you realize how much work is put into creating each item. For those of us that cannot afford to spend several thousand dollars on a single piece of clothing they sell books and supplies that help you to create them yourself. I became fascinated by this process so I signed up for the Craftsy course and also bought the Alabama Stitch book.

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Would the woman who made this pattern still recognize it?

I decided against using the coat pattern supplied with the Craftsy class (it’s huge and I don’t think I’d wear it) but instead made cardigan 17 from Knipmode June 2011, that I already made once before. I did make some adaptations though. The original pattern calls for some voile being sewn in at the hems and shoulder seams, I had already discarded this detail as too frilly in my previous version and left it out here as well. I added 1 inch to both sides at centre front tapering to nothing at the shoulder. I shortened the sleeve to ¾ length because I couldn’t fit a full sleeve out of my fabric, and I usually push up my sleeves anyway. I also rounded up some corners to make it easier to install the ribbing around the edges. For the closure I used a hook and eye instead of ties.

131006_cardigan1Alabama Chanin garments typically consist of two layers of cotton jersey. For embellished versions a stencil is used to paint shapes onto the fabric. This is then embroidered, (reverse) appliqued and/or beaded.

I used 2m white 100% organic cotton jersey and dyed it with procion MX 128 warm black that turned out more grey blue than black, but I love it anyway. The inside layer is a lighter shade than the outside layer because I used a more diluted dye bath for that piece of fabric. The stencilling was done with white paint and the bloomers stencil supplied with the Alabama Stitch book. For the backstitch embroidery around the painted shapes I decided to use all the different shades of green I had in my stash which is probably close to 30 different colours. I love the effect that this creates.  It also made the embroidery part more fun because I could make some design choices along the way. The ribbing was attached with the whipstitch.

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I’m sure some of you are wondering how long it took me to complete this project. I keep a sewing logbook in which I write down what I do each day to help me keep track. I started this cardigan on March 16 of this year and worked on it during 46 days. On some days I only embroidered one shape, but I think it is safe to assume that on average I probably worked at least 2-3 hours a day, so in total it took at least 100-150 hours to complete it, but that might still be a conservative estimate. Anyway, I don’t really care how much time it took, all I know is that I ended up with one pretty amazing and unique garment that is for sure going to be a wardrobe staple!

131006_detailsI am definitely going to continue on this handsewing journey. It was a very relaxing process, I kept the project in our living room and worked on it while watching television or listening to music. It was also really nice that I could take this project with me to work on it elsewhere because it didn’t require a sewing machine. Talking about comfort zones, I now also want to try my hand at beading, yes beading.

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I just had to add this picture because my boyfriend, who took the pictures, thought it was very funny, so this one is for him!