Friday, 12 February 2016

Several small problems solved

This week has not, overall, been a good or easy week. In order to keep my mind off larger and mostly intractable problems I decided to try to try to solve some smaller and more manageable sewing problems, which turned out to be a surprisingly good way to occupy myself. The other way I occupied myself was with stress buying fabric, so I was also keen to shuttle some of my stash out the door as garments to make up for my sudden attack of retail therapy!

Problem #1: What on earth shall I do with this green and white linen blend I've owned for 4 years?

Solution: Buy a box of Dylon dye in Navy and throw it & the fabric in my washing machine.

Outcome: Outstanding!

The original fabric
The long version of the story:

I bought this linen blend fabric during my initial series of Bad Fabric Decisions back in early 2012 and when it arrived I didn't like the yellow-y green colour of it AT ALL. It wasn't crazy expensive, but it cost enough that I have been resisting the idea of donating it, using it for muslins or trying to sell it. I kept thinking surely I would think of something I could do with it, but with very little actual success in thinking of anything. However, I have had some success with washing machine dying using Dylon dyes. I woke up the other day and had the lighbulb moment that I should try dying this fabric as well, even though all I knew about fibre content was "linen blend", which could mean anything.

Fabric after dye and in close up
Obviously the green threads in this linen blend were pure polyester or something that entirely resisted the dye. The overall colour is lighter than I expected as well, so I think the poly content of the white threads was also pretty high. However, overall I LOVE LOVE LOVE how this came out. The light is very poor at the moment so I struggled to get a photo (even with my good camera) of how nice this fabric looks, but the denim blue it ended up as is a great colour, and the threads of green make it really visually interesting. It's a huge improvement on the starting fabric, anyway. My current thinking is to make an unlined linen jacket for summer with it. I just need to work up the courage to work on a shoulder princess FBA.

Problem #2: What to do with 2m of semi-opaque white tactel (a nylon knit)?
Solution: Make vest tops to wear under blouses etc.
Outcome: Pretty good, for a definition of good that includes going into this knowing the neck bindings would not come out well.

The long story: I bought a pile black and white tactel at the very end of 2014 and it was a mistake. Tactel is a nylon knit, and when I was thinking about buying it I read somewhere that it was extensively used in activewear because it wicks moisture away from the body. Well, I don't know if it's used in activewear but after making a few things with it I can tell you it absolutely DOES NOT wick. Instead the synthetic fibre content just makes you sweaty and then traps the sweat against your body. Yuck. Plus, the fabric scorches horribly at anything above a lukewarm iron which makes it difficult to get a really good press or finish on my bindings and hems no matter what method I tried.

I have attempted a few garments with these fabrics, and in the end I have gotten some wear out the two plain tees I made mainly by using them as insulating bottom layers on cold/inactive days. As I knew the bindings and hems would end up being ugly, I decided making sleeveless tops to go under blouses and shirts that won't be visible to anyone else seemed ideal. In the end I managed to squeeze three tops out of the 2m of fabric, but two of them are identical so I didn't bother with a third photo.
Two of three white vest tops in tactel, using a pattern from Diane Moden 66 (Spring 2008)
I traced out this sleeveless top pattern from the single random issue of Diana Moden (yet another German pattern magazine) that I own. The original pattern is on the left -- you might be able to tell that the neckline has a subtle sort of squared shape. I then traced the front bodice piece again and drew in a scoop neck instead for the other two versions. I spent what felt like AGES on the bindings, but alas, they did indeed come out badly, even on the much-easier-to-bind scoop necklines.

Despite the fabric and the binding problems, I'm sure these will get quite a lot of wear as layering garments, I got rid of my 2m of fabric and I have learned my lesson: no more nylon knits under any circumstances!

Problem #3: The knit trouser patterns I have been using are very loungewear/casual and I'd like something a little smarter.
Solution: Try out the StyleArc Barb pattern.
Outcome: Needs some work.

I like knit trousers and I wear them all the time on days when I am not leaving the house. They are are warm and much more comfortable to sit around the house in than jeans or cords with fixed waistbands. However if I am going out in public I don't really like to wear the sort of baggy knit half-a-step-away-from-pyjamas trousers I've made in the past. I also dislike getting changed in the middle of the day if I realize I need to go out somewhere unexpectedly. I decided recently to see if I could find a more refined looking knit trouser pattern that I could wear around the house but that would also look OK out in public.

StyleArc Barb

Enter StyleArc Barb. The description claims they are ideal for work which I am not 100% in agreement with (but I am also not Australian and I haven't generally worked in very casual or even 'business casual' environments, so who am I to say). Regardless of work suitability, however, they are clearly much less pyjama like than the patterns I have previously used. I made StyleArc size 12 straight from the envelope in 2m of a micro-striped black ponte knit.

Note: I ramped the light all the way up to try to show the stripes and fit on the photos, so my bare arms are an alarming shade of white. Be assured I am not actually a ghost. Readers of a sensitive disposition should look away now, as the rear-of-body fit straight out of the envelope is truly appalling. Also, I should really have put shoes on for this shot because (a) I hemmed them for shoes and they look stupid when I'm in socks and (b) I am wearing socks with yellow toes.

Front of trousers: not bad. Back of trousers: EEEEK.
The front fit is pretty good! There's actually a weird little vertical fold thing going on at the crotch which is really not super attractive, but which I think I know how to fix. The back is a whole other issue: GIANT MASS OF BUTT WRINKLES. There's a lot going on there, fitting wise, but I think most of the problem is caused by my very flat behind in StyleArc's very curved crotch seam. I NEVER go out the house in knit trousers with my butt on show like that, so I am not actually overly concerned that it's unflattering and I'll still wear this pair, but there is definitely some fitting adjustment to be done before I make this pattern again! Realizing this caused me to fall down a rabbit hole of re-reading my collection of trouser fitting books, so maybe I will do more with this soon. However, assuming I can figure out the butt problem, I will definitely make these again. I really like how they look and they are a perfect match to my requirement for a smarter but still comfortable knit trouser.

Next up: Problem solving session complete, I am now working on a Knipmode blouse.


  1. Love the denim colored linen. I think it came out great.

    1. Thanks! I'm so happy I gave dying it a chance!

  2. Sorry to hear about the problems, but Cingrats on the sewing productivity. That dye job came out beautifully. I love texture it gives the blue fabric. Your singlets look nice and practical and I actually think the trousers look better than you think. I am no fitting expert but I wonder if the back crotch should be lowered.Add it to the tings you're considering, anyway. Will be interested to see what you come up woth, pants fitting is such a journey.

    1. Yeah, I don't even know where to start with that pair of trousers. They are somehow too big in the butt, and also at the same too high and tight? And then what on earth is going on around my knees? Trouser fitting is such a challenge, I'm sure it will end up being a big use of my time this summer as I am mad keen to make some shorts!

  3. What a great win on that fabric! I love it.

    I am no help on fitting pants/trousers, but I don't think they look as bad as you think they do. But your opinion is the one that matters. 8-)

    1. So glad I went with the dye idea with that fabric! As you say, total win!