General, Sewing, Uncategorized

Wool Coat Repair

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My unflattering but entirely toasty “Super Cold Weather” winter coat, saved for playing in the snow and days of excessive windchill. 

I live in Atlantic Canada, and it gets super cold and snowy here. A proper winter coat (or two or three) is key to survival. I have a big multi-layer water proof wind proof snow proof movement proof coat that I use for REALLY cold days (-30 and below) but for just normal cold days I generally wear my wool coat.

Oh how uninspiring this coat is. I got it at the Gap maybe 3 years ago for maybe 40$, which is NOTHING for a winter coat, but I guess you get what you pay for…

Behold….

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Such a snore! And totally unflattering! Where is my waist?!

It is outstandingly boring and not very flattering. It has always been a bit big on me (not generally a bad thing for a winter coat because that allows you to layer under it) but the main problem is the utter lack of any sort of tailoring/shaping. Believe it or not, I have a waist but damned if you can see it when I’m wearing this coat!!!
At the end of last winter this coat finally gave up the ghost. The lining had been in tatters for a while, and the pockets had holes and I had to reattach most of the buttons at one time or another, but when the entire shoulder seam split open I declared it dead. “FINALLY!” I thought to myself, because I am much too cheap to buy a new winter coat unless it is truly necessary. Also, plus size winter coats are just… ugly. And unflattering. I’m sorry, but no plus size woman wants to wear big giant shapeless puffy coats with tacky faux fur lined hoods, and yet that seems to be the majority of what stores offer.
M6800_aSince I’m getting into sewing my own clothes, my genius plan was to make my own winter coat. This coat specifically (McCall’s M6800). I had a brilliant plan to make the version with the hi-low bottom and have a truly fabulous lining that would show, making the coat spectacular in its eye-catching-ness and general beauty. But I’m cautious. Wool coat material is pretty expensive and I didn’t want to spend the money only to have it turn out awful, so I asked my sew talented mother if I was being nuts to think this was a good idea.

Long story short, yes, my mother thought I was nuts.

Heartbroken doesn’t quite capture my sadness, but I trust my mother’s judgement on this. I’m sure in time it will be a task I could take on, but maybe not yet.

So what to do about a winter coat! I refuse to be saddled with an ugly coat all winter (again), but I also hate spending money needlessly, so I have come up with the following solution:

I am going to fix my old coat. I’m going to take it all apart, do a bit of tailoring to bring in the waist a bit to give me some shape, I’m going to remove the annoying button tabs on the shoulders that my purse gets stuck on every single time, and I’m going to re-line it. I got the lining fabric today, and it is FAAAAAAAAAAAABULOUS. Or ugly. Can’t decide, but either way I love it. It is bright purple with red blood splatters! Shockingly, it was in the clearance section of my local Fabricville, but it is appropriately slippery for a lining, and just stupid enough of a pattern to crack me up and make this whole endeavor a lot more appealing. Plus, only 6$.

The way I see it, if I screw this project up the worst I am out is 6$ and some time because if I don’t fix the coat I’ll have to buy a new one regardless, right?

This weekend is going to be fairly sew-heavy it seems. I want to at least get a start on my coat, but I also have to sew a shirt dress for myself. It is a test run before my “Sew Spectacular” weekend with my cousin next weekend where we’re both going to sew up a storm.

DIY Projects, General, Redecorating, Sewing, Uncategorized

Chair recovering finished

All four chairs are done and over all I’m happy with the end result. Clearly, the new recovered chairs do NOT match the table or the original chairs, but they never were going to. Someday it may be a nice to strip the new chairs and stain them to a more similar colour, but for now they look okay. Also, the table itself is looking pretty worn and haggard these days and really needs to be refinished, but that is a project for another day.

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227.JPGI had a bit of leftover seat cushion fabric, so I made a suuuuper basic table runner. The idea is that by having the fabric also on the table it will make the whole set look more cohesive. I also chucked on the crystal bowl we got as a wedding gift to fancy the whole thing up a bit. End result? Passable. The runner actually looks good and does help to make things a bit more matchy matchy, but I still feel that the original chairs look fairly out of place. A good idea may be to do some slip covers for the backs of the original chairs (Jonathan doesn’t want me to make cushions for them…) to bring it all together, but then I worry that maybe it would start to look too busy and fussy.

So overall, this project was worthwhile and very easy. I also like how easy it is to change the fabric, so as our style changes I can VERY easily adapt the chairs to match. And this was seriously easy. The seats/cushions came off very easily. Taking the old fabric off along with all the staples was a bit of a pain in the ass until I decided to just be lazy and use an xacto knife to cut it off. Leaving the staples there and the thin strip of original fabric made things a lot faster and it didn’t seem to make any difference in the end. Cutting the fabric for the seats was as complicated as laying the fabric down, putting the seat on top of it, cutting out the general shape plus an inch or two on all sides. I then used my trusty staple gun and attached the fabric. I trimmed the excess fabric, reattached the seats, and that was that. Done. Absolutely a beginner level project.

  • Total cost was 50$ for the chairs and 16$ for the fabric, for a total of 66$.
  • Total time taken was about 10 minutes per chair (remove the cushion, remove the old fabric, put on the new fabric, reattach the cushion).

So 66$ and 40 minutes, we finally have enough chairs to seat more than 4 people at the table. Well worth it.

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General, Making Things, Sewing, Uncategorized

How I sew clothes with no special supplies aside from a sewing machine

It would appear the novelty of my having a sewing room hasn’t worn off yet. I came home from work last night, tired as hell, but after a hasty cabbage filled supper I immediately wandered into my sewing room. I think my intention was cleaning up the space a bit, since the mattress for my daybed in there is arriving tomorrow, but instead I came across a swath of old yellow polkadot fabric. Well, that would make a cute skirt, amirite?

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TA DA! Only took about 30 minutes. I’ve had different people ask me what my “pattern” was, which I do not have. Everything I have sewn to date has been winged. But I do have a general broad-strokes process.

Note: this process assumes that I already have fabric I want to work with

Step One: Assess the amount of fabric I have to work with

ariel.pngThis whole “assess the fabric” is entirely unscientific, and I look sort of like Ariel with the sail. This step would be a lot easier if I just had a damned dress form, but I don’t, so I have to use my own body. I open up the whole piece of fabric I have to work with and sort of wrap it around my body in different ways. I have a full length mirror in my sewing room, allowing me to better see how all my various wrappings, gatherings, and floofing abouts actually look.

  • Does it fit all the way around my body? One thing I always check for is if the fabric were to be sewn into a tube whether I could fit my whole body inside that imaginary tube without stressing the seams.
  • Does the fabric have any stretch? What direction is it the stretchiest?
  • Is there slack, especially around my hips? How much slack?
  • Is there another direction I can wrap it that gives me more slack/length?
  • Is this fabric really drapey and flowy or is it a more stiff fabric?
  • Can I see my clothes through the fabric and therefore will my underpants be visible through it?*
  • Do I have any other fabric kicking around that might work well with it?
* this is only slightly relevant because I never wear dresses or skirts without some sort of biker short underneath. 

Step Two: Decide what type of garment the fabric is destined for

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I had enough of this albeit ugly fabric to make a dress, a skirt, and a top! The top sorta sucks, but the skirt in particular I get a moderate amount of use from.

After all the messing about from step one I have the info I need to decide what I want to make. My decision process is not complicated or special. I just do whatever looked the best during my Ariel “throwing the fabric on my body until I can kinda sort invision something that would look okay” process.

If there is a lot of fabric and there is stretch, good choices are:

  • maxi-dress
  • maxi-skirt
  • pencil skirt
  • flouncy a-line/skater skirt

If there is a lot of fabric but NO stretch

If there is not a lot of fabric but it is stretchy:

  • pencil skirt
  • mini-skirt
  • pair it with another fabric and use the fabric as a stretch waist/top
  • pair it with another fabric and use the fabric a stretchy panel in a shirt to give it some movement and comfort

 

Step Three: Cut and sew!

Time to dive in and do it! Sew things and see how it looks! I recommend frequent breaks to “try on” the garment, or at least hold it up against your body to see how it kinda sorta is looking.

Actually, if this is an unfamiliar fabric you may want to cut a bit off and sew it. It is important to know what kind of stitches to use when. For example, you’re reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeally going to want to use a zig-zag stitch (or some other stitch that works with stretch) if you’re sewing with knits or fabric’s with stretch.

In the case of my yellow skirt I made last night, I cut the skirt out into 8 rectangles, and then cut those rectangles into identical wedges so that it was about 2 inches wider at the bottom than at the top so that when I sewed them together it created a bit of an A-Line.

Step Four: Make adjustments.

There are ALWAYS adjustments. My adjustment period is usually the longest period of my whole garment sewing time, a huge part of it being my putting the garment on and pinching/folding/draping it different ways until it looks better and then pinning it, taking it off carefully, and sewing. Frequently adjusted things for me are:

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There was a “Buy one, get two free” sale at Fabricville… I took advanage of it. I wore these skirts constantly and got a lot of compliments on them.
  • adding darts to give a bit of shaping and better fit. When I made my pencil skirts I had to add darts at the waistline for all of them.
  • redoing the hem
  • bringing in the waist (I perpetually make my waistbands too big and loose.)
  • adjusting the bodice of a dress to fit around my breasts and look better in that way.
  • Using my seam ripper and taking entire pieces off/apart and sewing it again.

Step Five: Assess the final project.

  • My normal thing is to put it on. Look at it in the full length mirror. Does it look passable? Cool.
  • Try sitting down. Does it pull or get uncomfortable? No? Cool.

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    This is me, last night, trying it on as a full outfit to see if I liked my skirt. I did! And I liked the outfit so much that I am wearing this exactly today. 🙂
  • Time to go model it to my husband. What does he think? If he complains about the colour or pattern I ignore him, but sometimes he has issues/complaints about certain elements that are easily fixed and often very good suggestions.
  • Try it on as part of an outfit, complete with shoes and accessories. Look good? Cool.

 

If after all this it is terrible or weird, well, there you go. Sometimes it can be salvaged, but sometimes it is just… done. And that’s fine. I am a strong believer that even failed projects have value if only so that you can learn what NOT to do. I have had many failures. In general I keep them because the fabric can often be reused or re-purposed, either by disassembling it using my seam ripper, or just cutting it up. Or sometimes I just keep it to remember how effing ugly something turned out. 🙂

This is why when I’m experi-sewing I use inexpensive fabric. I don’t want to get upset if I end up making something horrible because of all the wasted money. Once I get better or more confident I will invest in better fabrics and be more careful.

But that’s it! That is all it takes!

I’m going to soon start trying to make some fitted tops. I fully expect the first few to be disasters. 🙂

 

General, Making Things, Outfits, Sewing, Uncategorized

Super simple dress success

Sunday I took a break from unpacking and painting and decided to play around in my sewing room. You know.. because I have a sewing room now.

This dress was the end result!13308202_10156976664410603_8415474443722113402_o.jpg

I got the skirt fabric for super cheap at Fabricville – it was a “buy one get 2 free” thing – and the top was just left over material from my pencil skirts I made earlier this year. All in, this dress cost me maybe 6$, which is just ridiculous. It was incredibly easy to make too. I just made a fairly snug tube top type thing out of the yellow and sewed the blue skirt material into a tube as well. No measuring, I just used all the fabric I had. I attached the blue skirt material to it the tube by sort of tacking it around the edge and then stretching the tube to the size of the blue skirt material. The end result is a pretty simple gathered edge, which is fine but… bleh. Not so flattering. The tube top, though, is long enough that I can fold it down over to make a better defined waist and top area.

Frankly, I’m really digging this dress. Considering it was just an experiement and me playing around I think it worked out really really well. It is comfortable and summery and kind of fun. I don’t think it looks blatantly homemade. Sure, if you look closely you’ll see my hem isn’t super straight or even, but it isn’t suuuuuuuuuuuuuper obvious. And even if it is, who cares. I like it.

 

Honestly, I have no idea why more people don’t play with fabric and making their own clothes. Just experiement! Play around! Try it out, make adjustment, see what works and what doesn’t. If this dress hadn’t worked out I would be out only 6$, but I guarantee I would have learned a lot about what does and doesn’t work, so the next time I tried to make a dress I would have more chance of success. And since so much of plus size clothing is outrageously overpriced, dowdy, and ugly, I feel like I have no choice but to make my own clothes if I want something a little more interesting and fashionable that doesn’t break the bank.

 

General, Making Things, Sewing, Uncategorized

Sewing my own clothes

My love for pencil skirts may be fairly recent, but it runs deep. I wear them most days because:

  1. they are extremely comfortable
  2. easy to dress up/dress down
  3. minimal effort to put together a snappy outfit

I have quite a few skirts already:

  • black pencil
  • leopard print pencil
  • black and white  houndstooth knit pencil
  • black and gold(ish) fingerprint patterned pencil
  • black skater
  • grey skater

However, what I really wanted was some brightly coloured pencil skirts. I have so many black and white sweaters/tops, a lot of them really don’t work with my patterned skirts. Also, the black pencil is such that when I wear it with black leggings it can be hard to tell I even have a skirt on, which… isn’t a good look.

I looked online and bright coloured pull-on pencil skirts weren’t common, nor were they inexpensive. I also didn’t feel super comfortable buying them sight unseen because an XL/16 may fit me fine in all the ones I have now but who knows what size the ones online would actually fit.

Pencil skirts are just tubes with a bit of shaping at the top, so why the hell can’t I just sew my own? I have done some sewing in the past, I’ve made quilts and whatnot, so how hard can making pencil skirts be? So off I went to Fabricville and got some fabric. There was even a big sale – buy one meter, get two meters free – so I got 4 different fabrics. Total cost? 40$.

 

Turns out knitting pencil skirts was exactly as simple as I hoped. I hauled out my sewing machine which is actually my mom’s hand me down sewing machine. It is a super fancy Husqvarna machine, but the embroidery doesn’t work anymore. It is still a totally wonderful “normal” sewing machine and perfect for me. Anyway, I used my black pencil skirt as a bit of a template, sewed a tube, hemmed the bottom, hemmed the top, and then put in some darts along the top hem to have it come in at my waist.

Bam! Skirts!

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Modesty aside, they frankly look fabulous. I am so happy with them. They are EXACTLY what I wanted, and I was able to make all four in one morning. AND I have quite a bit of fabric left, enough for two more skirts if I wanted. As it stands I spent 40$ and got 4 awesome pencil skirts, averaging to 10$ per skirt. No complaining about that!!

 

That night I asked my husband to take me out for a date so that I’d have an excuse to wear one of my skirts out. 🙂

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