Slow Fashion Week 1: You (and Me)

I'm off to a tardy start in Karen Templer's "Slow Fashion October"... but it's a start!

First let’s introduce ourselves: Where are you at with all this / What first got you interested in Slow Fashion / What are your skills / What do you hope to get out of Slow Fashion October / What are your personal goals for the month / Do you have a special project you plan to tackle this month?

The most important people in my life are family and almost all of them -- to some degree -- are/were also makers.

  • Textiles, fiber and reed
  • Rocks, gems and metal
  • Wood, clay, and glass
  • Paper, graphite and paint
  • Seeds, dirt and water

Resulting goods (and motivation) range from utilitarian to decorative, executed by novice makers to highly skilled artists... but there's always been making and doing.

My mother taught me to knit when I was six. I knit on and off in high school and as a young adult in the world (I found knitting needles, yarn, and a slightly challenging pattern to be a great antidote to loneliness), but it's been in the last 15 years or so that I became a truly avid knitter. Thankfully, about 10 years ago, knitting blogs were a Really Big Thing and I became part of that community where people actually thought about knitting and thoughtfully wrote about knitting, yarn, tools, technique (and life), and I learned so much.


Dresses sewn by Mom (including her own).

Though my mother was an excellent sewist, she was also a very busy single mother & student, and I didn't learn to sew (more than a button) until I took Home Ec. in high school! My stepmother actually owned a fabric & craft store when she met my dad, and I made a couple of skirts under her tutelage -- but mostly I knit angora hats and made macrame plant hangers for her to sell at the store; she gave me the sturdy used Husqvarna sewing machine that I've used for the past 35-40 years.

I've written a little about sewing and fashion -- and slow fashion -- and quality last April. I am not a crusader, but I am aware and quietly help to make others aware.

Mostly, I just do. I make and do because that's what I've always done -- it's one of the ways I know I'm alive! The day I stop making and doing, I'll be dead.

I became interested in/aware of slow fashion when I began learning about Natalie Chanin and her company, Alabama Chanin in 2012. One of the things I admire about Alabama Chanin is the open source concept. Because as much as I'd like to own, wear, and love a $4,000 handmade dress, it is just never going to happen; but there are resources and tools available for me to make one myself.


Or something.

Anyway, I'm participating in Slow Fashion October because I love seeing what others are doing. Just as I learned so much about knitting from the knit-blog community, I am inspired and in awe of what's happening in the larger "maker" community. And I will learn things.


I actually have a couple of goals for the month. One of them is to mend an already mended tunic. Shown above is a visible (embellished!) repair made a few months ago near the hem. Now, there are two small holes in the tummy region. I do not want to give up this garment just yet!! So I need to figure out a way... and am open to suggestions!

Alabama Chanin Wrap Skirt


I finally finished my "muslin" of the Alabama Chanin Wrap Skirt! I used three thrifted t-shirts for the main skirt pieces (one black and two mismatched-but-close green), stenciled the fabric using my airbrush and compressor set-up for the first time, and used a variety of techniques to finish.

A skirt is a tricky garment for me to wear, and I'd make mods* next time, but I was comfortable enough to wear it out to lunch yesterday!


Alabama Chanin Wrap Skirt

  • (1) Black T-shirt
  • (2) Green T-shirts (mismatched but close in color)
  • Angie's Fall stencil, gray fabric paint (I mixed the color)
  • Button Craft Thread - double strand of Black throughout
  • Running stitch for construction & embellishment
  • Back Panel: Black outer layer, Green inner layer; large motifs stitched, no cutting, knots inside
  • Inner Front Panel: Green for both layers (same t-shirt); large & medium motifs inked & stitched inside, large motifs cut, knots outside
  • Outer Front Panel: Black outer layer, Green inner layer; large motifs stitched & cut, knots inside
  • All seams inside felled
  • Waistband and ties using Alabama Chanin 100% organic cotton jersey fabric - Blue Slate
  • Unfinished hem

*Because of my body shape, and this is whether or not I'm packing 30 extra pounds -- it's just structure/posture -- I would make an adjustment to the front (shorten) or to the back (lengthen), and probably play around with the darts a little. Some people make a Full Bust Adjustment (FBA) when they sew... mine would be a Full Belly Adjustment. Haha.


In other news, the image above was included with permission in a recent Alabama Chanin Journal post about The School of Making (#theschoolofmaking)! I am rubbing Instagram shoulders with some very fine company there. Check it out... it's an inspiring community.

Sew, the weekend

All of my knitting was in the dog house over the weekend. I may have been suffering a post-project slump after a) "Catamount," my Alabama Chanin A-line Tunic, and b) those busy and productive few days off with the boys.

A slump is the perfect time for hexagons, and that's exactly what happened on Saturday morning at the farmer market.


Later on Saturday, I actually made an attempt at laying out and assembling a strip quilt that I've had cut for ages. That ended up in the dog house, too! I think I'm forcing it and need to do some editing (I think there's more than one quilt happening there).

Needing some craftual satisfaction, I turned to my potato chip project du jour, a romper for Junah! I'd recently picked up a Green Bay Packers t-shirt at the thrift store (new, with tags) for just that purpose, following the same method as for Baby Captain America!


Drawing lines.


Three hours later, I'd finished everything but snaps, and added those on Sunday morning. I was able to get all but the front facing from one t-shirt (size XXL, I believe). There's still plenty of room for a diaper butt, but I left off the snaps at the crotch this time.

Sunday was the first day in a while that I didn't have to be somewhere or take care of someone, and it seemed like a good day to play around finally try airbrushing. It was windy outside, so made part of the garage floor my work space (the part that isn't taken over by the indigo operation, art gallery displays, and bicycles) (also known as where I normally park my car but haven't in months) (and all that stuff will relocate by the time the snow flies!).


I chose two old mismatched green t-shirts and one new black one to provide the fabric for my "muslin" of the Wrap Skirt and to test the airbrush/compressor set up.

I mixed paint, fitted everything together with our little air compressor, laid out some old towel-rags on the garage floor, and had at it. I painted one piece at a time, the stencil being large enough to cover each piece without having to reposition. Some time ago, I'd purchased the large all-over mylar stencil in the Angie's Fall design -- it's one of my favorites, and I'm not sick of it yet!


Inside front, Back, Outside front

All the while I was thinking that it would be really great to learn the finer points of stenciling (from start to finish) and, thanks to my $5 for Florence campaign, that might will happen someday.

The design is a little soft in the middle of the back piece (where the stencil was not adhered to the fabric very well), and it was while spraying the outside front piece that I was running out of paint, so it's splotchy in places and sparse in others.

I had barely enough paint, having first mixed my color concoction (a little black, a little white, a little silver) in a small 2-oz. jar. Turns out that the mouth of that jar is too small for the airbrush fitting, so had to dump it all into a 4-oz. jar and there was a fair bit of waste.

Clean up was interesting...


That's the towel upon which I did the first scrubbing of paint off the stencil. I win for fanciest rag bag contents! I finished cleaning up in the bathtub and "sticking it" on the tile wall. Clean up sure takes a while.


I've already begun stitching. I'm not sure how far I'll go with that... it would be nice to have a wearable piece, even just for running around, but it is just a "muslin" and my time might be better spent. We'll see. I'm content for now.

Thoughts & things: I made a slight cutting mistake on the inside front piece (it should have been mirrored with the outside front, and was not). I might try a button (something other than a tie) on the inside. One of the old green shirts is so soft and worn that it feels like velvet against my skin (it also has a few holes - the straight pins show where not to cut!).

Alabama Chanin Tunic: Catamount

I travel on occasion, and when I do I like to fly. One of the things I like most about flying is viewing the landscape below, which is why I always choose a window seat (and sometimes arrive at my destination with a sore neck). Wisconsin, and much of the USA, divides land using the geometric Public Land Survey System and I am endlessly entertained by the patterns and design of our land, both natural and man-made.


Somewhere between Wisconsin and Mexico, February 2015.

The aerial view of Wisconsin in the warm months can be stunning, reminiscent of a giant quilt -- with every shade of green you can imagine, sometimes striped or blocked with brown or yellow, full of texture, contrast, and pattern. It gives me a thrill every time I see it. In autumn, add the reds, golds, and oranges of turning leaves. In winter... not quite as thrilling. There is still geometry, texture, interest, and it can be quite tranquil and lovely; it can also be bleak, raw, and desolate (not to mention cold).

I often view the landscape below me and think about it in terms of textiles: how could a particular design be used in quilting, knitting, or lately sewing (mainly surface design/embroidery).


My main inspiration came from Snow Drawings at Catamount Lake, Colorado, 2013

When I decided to make an Alabama Chanin A-line Tunic/Dress using the lovely gift of organic cotton jersey from Margene a couple of months ago, I knew I wanted something special to honor the gift. I'm not sure when I first saw Sonja Hinrichsen's snow drawings -- sometime in the past year, a photo or article shared via social media, no doubt; I was immediately struck by her work, and I swear to god, the choir began to sing! The concept of her snow drawings blows my mind, and even after some intimacy with her work, I continue to be utterly amazed... the vision, the design, the execution, the perfection.

Mosaic1My  normal mode of operation is to dive right in, but I did do some testing to figure out some particulars.

The first step was to choose the particular areas/motifs I wanted to document on the fabric and then manipulate the images to correct the angle (so that circles were circular instead of elliptical).

Mosaic2Wow, that stuff really works!

Chosen design motifs were printed on an adhesive-backed wash-away fabric stabilizer (such as Sulky or Pellon), then cut out and arranged on the fabric. I was interested in a deep design at the hem... at first, I was going to do the entire dress, but quickly decided to do only the front.


Some of the motifs are very labyrinth-like, peaceful and meditative, contrasting with the high-energy, whimsy, and unabashed fun of other parts -- and I felt all of those things while stitching, but mostly excitement! It was so much fun to do and I looked forward to sewing time everyday!

A million progress/process photos were taken along the way.


The dress was assembled after embroidery was complete. (Construction details below.) I modified the neckline a bit, then bound my first V-neck. The Wonder Clips are amazing, of course, for holding things without piercing the fabric, but it occurred to me that basting the neckline might even be better. I had recollection of the neck gaping a bit on Maddy's Hootie shirt and it occurred to me that there would be a better chance at correcting that if I basted first; it would also eliminate weight from the clips that might stretch the fabric a bit more than I'd like while sewing up. I did, in fact, make an adjustment at the back neck before finishing, and the basting lines made perfect guidelines for sewing the beaded binding.


Front and back - finished!




That's my name in Morse Code beaded into the hem on one side; the year is beaded on the other side.


I finished the dress on Sunday, and decided on Tuesday that I wanted a Bolero to go with it. I really want to make a gray & red version to go with the dress, but some "quick" slow fashion was called for, as I wanted to wear it on Thursday evening. I made a single-layer cap-sleeve version using a thrifted men's XL t-shirt. The fabric is off-white, I used Slate thread, binding the neck edge with parallel stitch and finishing the sleeves with a random ruffle -- a nod to and coordinating with the tunic, but no beads.


Alabama Chanin A-line Dress: CATAMOUNT

  • Alabama Chanin 100% organic cotton jersey fabric - Blue Slate
  • Button craft thread - double strand of Black for construction, single strand of Slate for embroidery & beading
  • Backstitch embroidery
  • All knots inside
  • All seams inside felled
  • Customized length to between tunic & dress length (hits just above the knee)
  • Customized neckline to make slightly deeper V
  • Parallel binding stitch at armholes
  • Beaded parallel binding stitch at neckline
  • Beaded random ruffle at hemline
  • Seed beads: clear and red
  • Bugle beads: dark gray, satin gray, and red
  • Chop beads: dark gray and red
  • Sequins: silver and dark gray

I've shared my project with Sonja Hinrichsen, whose work inspired the embellishment, and I'm happy to report that she loves it!

There are a few more photos (if you can believe it) in a Flickr Collection/Alabama Chanin A-line Tunic: Catamount.

Baby Captain America (Romper #2)

There was a lot of sewing during my at-home mini vacation... a lot! Mending, seaming, hemming, embroidery, applique... both by machine and by hand.

I've had another attempt at a romper for Junah on my list (here's the first), and that happened on Monday.




This time, I used the same old Simplicity pattern (#5049... which I've since acquired in 2 more sizes) mashed up with a modified & upsized Simply Summer Romper, a free pattern (12-mo size) on Craftsy.

The things I love most about that Simplicity pattern are the facings (possibly my most favorite thing), the shoulder snaps, and the 2-piece back.


The free pattern offered a little guidance with shaping for the one-piece front, and I was excited to try the snap crotch.


Seven snaps total, top & bottom, are possibly a bit of overkill... haha!


The fabric came from a thrifted t-shirt.


Centering the design on the front meant that I was a little short of fabric for the straps. That happened with the giraffe romper, too, but my fix then was quite rushed and haphazard.


This time, I took the few extra minutes needed to do it symmetrically... and nicely. Top stitching even.


I also did just a bit of top stitching under the each arm to secure the facings. And, this time, I also hemmed the legs.

Forgetting to make corresponding adjustments to the facing pattern pieces, but not discovering that fault until after cutting, meant that I didn't have enough t-shirt fabric. I dug through my scraps and found some fabrics that corresponded well enough. I quite love how that worked out.


I'm so happy with how it turned out. It's at least a hundred times better than the last. There's still room for little tweaks & improvement, but I feel like I'm on track.


Baby Captain America doesn't do windows (unless you like fingerprints!), but he's happy to help sweep the deck!

Also, I'm dying over those shoes...

Why wait?

The summer bucket-filling commences today with the start of an Alabama Chanin A-line Dress!

A-line Dress-1

I'm making a custom length between tunic and the shorter dress, using a single layer of Alabama Chanin medium-weight organic cotton jersey in a color called "Blue Slate."

A-line Dress-2

I'll be using black thread to sew it all together.

A-line Dress-3

If there's one step I'm likely to skip in this process, it's basting the neckline and armholes... but not this time.

I've plans to embellish with embroidery and beading, inspired by some photos that I ran across on the WWW last winter.

Drip, drip, drip...

Giraffe Romper for Junebug


Stop! Stay back, yoga mat!

Every once in a while a company called Artsonia sends me a notification that one of my nephews has had new artwork from school uploaded on their site. It's always fun to see the boys' projects and I am able to order their artwork printed on all sorts of items, from mouse pads and coffee mugs to tote bags and t-shirts.

Until now, I've appreciated their creations but never ordered anything. Then, a few weeks ago, I received notice of this:


...and my heart skipped a beat. First of all, ADDISON! Second of all, GIRAFFE!! And third of all, HAVE YOU EVER IN YOUR LIFE???

I immediately ordered as large a t-shirt as I could, with the idea of refashioning it and making something romper for Junah. Unfortunately, I was so excited that I didn't read the full description of the shirts and ended up with a shirt made of 100% polyester instead of 100% cotton.


Going in head-first, I pulled out this old pattern that was Mom's... I'm not sure why I have it (and just a couple of others), but I do. I knew I was in for it right away because the pattern has two pieces for both front and back, with shaping for the legs, and I wanted the front to be all one piece. Without thinking too hard, I made some adjustments that I thought would compensate.


I muddled my way through and posted the "finished" photo above to Instagram.


The original photo shows that I hilariously cropped both the messy top part and the terribly wonky bottom/crotch area in that photo. I wasn't too broken up... because polyester shirt. I was (and continue to be) all about THAT AMAZING GIRAFFE! If the romper didn't work out, I'd reclaim the giraffe and put it in a frame.

Experimental as it was, it would still be nice if Junah could wear it! I did a little after-the-fact research and concluded that some sort of gusset was in order. The seam ripper appeared & fixing commenced:




I had done some weird cutting and couldn't come back from that. I also had no idea how it was even going to fit him so I just did some stitching instead of hemming. The whole thing was sewn on the machine using a stretch stitch and Maxi-Lock thread.

It's not going to win any prizes, but it turned out pretty cute overall. I know what to do to fix it next time (and also found some patterns more in line with what I'm trying to do)...


And seriously, how cute is he?


Ali said that he had a big cloth diaper & cover on and there was still plenty of room; it bunched up a little around his diaper from sitting/standing, but it wasn't pulling anywhere.

It was a great learning exercise. The next one will be a bit more refined, and there will likely be a few more after that!!

New threads

On Memorial Day, another men's 4X t-shirt was on the block (aka, my new worktable). I used a favorite Eileen Fisher tunic to make a pattern template, drew some chalk lines, and started cutting!


The length was perfect, so I kept the already finished t-shirt hem.


I sewed the new side and shoulder seams by machine, using a regular presser foot (since my walking foot blew apart) and Maxi-Lock thread. The thread cone doesn't fit on the machine's spool holder, but it worked just fine to set it on the table right below; I think I knocked it over only once. I felled the machine-sewn seams by hand, a la Alabama Chanin.


It's a "pretty simple" tunic -- square neck, two main pieces, front and back exactly the same.

I finished the cap-sleeve armhole edges with binding attached using a plain parallel stitch.


Then, there was that "simple" square neck to finish. I probably spent twice as much time working on that neckline as I did on everything else! I decided to finish it with a mitered edge and used the instructions given by Nancy Snell, "Miter Corners for a Smooth Finish," included in A Primer on Sewing Knits on the Threads magazine site.


I sewed the corners and attached the binding to the body by machine


Mitered corner neckline detail.

Then I smoothed and basted -- very loosely, because I was flying by the seat of my pants and the possibility of a re-do was looming large -- on the right side, about 1/4" or maybe 3/8" from the edge, hoping for it to nicely curl. And it did.


Very loose basting!

My eldest (rather fashionable and stylish) daughter has coveted my new tunic, so I know it's a good one! It's been washed and worn a few times already (we did not depart for NC until the dryer buzzed)! I love it and will definitely make another one or two.


It's black, so terrible to photograph -- I doctored every single one of the photos above in order to actually be able to see something!Blackmountainself
Trust that I'm wearing it here, last Friday, at an overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway at sunset.

I am still working on my Endless Summer Tunic! I brought it along to NC, and even worked on it... it won't be long. I love that thing!

Baby pants

It felt so good to spend some much-needed KonMari time in my workroom on Saturday. That nice new worktable is wasted if I can't even move around the room!

Over a year ago, when we cleared all of our stuff from the upstairs apartment, I came across some old t-shirts that Kate & Al painted when they were little. I put them aside. Never intending to keep them (the paint is thick, cracked, brittle), I did want to photograph them, though, before I tossed them out.


The date is right there on the sleeve of Kate's shirt -- Sept. 2, 1990! Almost 25 years ago (don't judge)! Kate was 5.5 and Ali was 3.5 and I was pregnant with Maddy, though I don't think I actually knew that at the time. We did this as a group in the back yard at Karen's house and Sharon was there, too; now and then, I run across a few photos of the weekend. Fun.

There were also these:



A year or two later, the last two were done at the cabin with paint and glitter (not glitter paint), and the sparkles were everywhere -- in the grass, the cabin, the outhouse, at the shoreline, on the bridge!

I photographed all of them, salvaged or tossed, then cut and traced and cut some more, celebrating the day's accomplishments by making a pair of Big Butt Baby Pants for Junebug.


It's my second pair of BBBP, and the first in jersey, so I also used my walking foot for the first time (and I am in LOVE with it!).


Everything's humming on the old Husqvarna, except that the stitch selector knob won't budge. This little workhorse will do knits even better when I can change the stitch!

As is... I made a little right-side/wrong-side error in cutting, so one leg is inside-out, but oh well; and fold-over elastic would have worked and looked better, but I don't have any. The stretch made it easier to ease in the "big butt" expansion panel without puckering, but didn't do the waistband any favors.


They were a bit of an experiment and I'm calling it a successful one! I learned a lot and Junah's got a (quirky) new pairs of pants.

Ali sent me some action shots:


They fit perfectly, and I think he likes them!!