Sunday, September 30, 2012

Washi Dress or Tunic, what will it be?

I am very excitedly printing my washi dress pattern as I write this! I've been eying that dress since Rae first blogged her "original" washi dress, some time this summer. I even made a copy based on what I saw in the pictures, and had the muslin sewn up and everything. But then she said she'd be doing a pattern, so I let it sit and decided I'd just wait for the pattern instead of doing all the work of figuring out the design myself. This will be very exciting...

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Perfect skirt lenght

I came across this cool little thing today on a blog called The Sewing space. Check it out! And while you're at it, see all the cool garment making tools this blogger offers!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

"More Grey" - in white

I just wanted to quickly show the latest T-shirt I made for Chiquitin. It's cut from the same “More Grey” raglan T-shirt pattern in Ottobre 4/2011 that I've made before. Here, I used the white knit from a T-shirt given to my hubby from our internet provider. It featured a huge "Orange" logo on front and back, and hubby didn't feel like advertising them by wearing the shirt, as we're not too happy with the service that comes and goes with no warning. So I figured... let's not let this nice knit go to waste!

The sleeves are cut from an old shirt of my hubby's. And since my kid's such a star, he got a star on the front of his shirt. I really love the fit of these shirts. The ones I've made are size 98, and they fit perfectly on my two-year-olds. They are SO easy to make, ESPECIALLY if re-purposing fabric that's already hemmed, like t-shirts. All I have to do is sew the sleeves to the front and back, and attach the neckband, and pronto!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Fabric shopping in West Africa

Where I live in Guinea-Bissau, the fabric stores are few and far between (Read: there are none). That is, if you define “fabric store” as a business that sells apparel or quilting fabrics of the kind we are used to in Europe or America.  In our town, there’s no reliable electrical supply, so all the local tailors use foot-powered Singer machines that only have straight stitch. That means that sewing with knits is out of the question, something that obviously causes the demand for knits to be nil, which means nobody sells them. 
One of the great tailors of Gabu, working on a borrowed Singer while his buddies enjoy a cup of Warga, a local favorite tea with enough sugar to keep a soccer team hyped for a whole game. Just sayin'...

So what fabric CAN you find here? You can find African wax prints. In abundance!  Most women around here wear elaborate hand made dresses cut from these colorful, large printed fabrics. What’s interesting, too, is the way these fabrics are woven and sold. The print runs perpendicular to what I’m used to from fabric shopping in the North.  The width of the fabric is 43 inches or 110 cm, which is the average height of a wrap-around skirt. So if you wanted to make a wrap-around skirt (AKA “pano” in the local jargon), all you had to do was finish the side edges, preferably with a fancy ribbon, and sew some darts around the top edge, attach some ties, and voila! You have a skirt! Wrap-arounds are not normally hemmed around here, the selvedge is left on, and that’s how it keeps from raveling. 

Women at a wedding
The way it’s sold, too, is different. You can’t ask for any length of fabric you want, as it’s not sold from rolls or bolts. It is sold in lengths of 2 meters. Usually, a precut “package” is six meters of fabric, all in one length. You can sometime negotiate for just one “pano , or two meters, but it is generally frowned upon.  This is because, the sales person will then have a harder time sell the remaining two “panos” (or wrap-around skirts) to another customer. Most people have a whole outfit sewn from their three panos, including a wrap-around skirt and a fitted blouse, as well as a rectangle to use for head wear. What they do with the leftovers, I’m not sure, but I’d say “childrens’ clothing” is a good bet.  A lot of embellishing is used, and elaborate designs are made from satin bias tape and all kinds of colored lace ribbons and ric-rac. 
Me wearing a "pano" wrap around skirt with 

fancy trim

There are other kinds of fabrics available too, but so far, I’ve only seen them in very large quantities, so I’ve never purchased any myself. These are cotton fabrics with a kind of shiny surface that is used for fancy African clothing, both men’s and women’s. 

Now, if you’d like to sew with something more western-like, you’d have to go to the fuka, or open-air second-hand market. There, you can find vintage bed sheets and clothes, including t-shirts made with knits. Those are the only knits available here. My kids run around in several t-shits made from repurposed fuka finds. It’s ok for making clothes for toddlers, but I guess it would be harder to make anything other than t-shirts or tank tops for adults since the sizes require more yardage.  This is why I travel with fabric in my suitcase when I come here… 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Wiksten Tova Tunic 1, 2 and 3

I came across this pattern at the “Spring Top Sewalong” hosted by Rae this last spring. I saw many people had made the top and got curious about it for myself. So I purchased the downloadable pdf pattern and (after printing and taping the pieces together) started to sew. Since I don’t use a lot of sleeved shirts around here, I decided to make a sleeveless version, and bound the shoulder seams with white bias tape. After posting it on my favorite Norwegian sewing forum, the Sykroken, somebody told me how, when nixing sleeves from a pattern with sleeves, one should ideally adjust the curvature of the sleeve opening so it goes a little higher than the sleeved version. You need that extra wiggle room when you wear the sleeve, but not for a sleeveless. So I learned something new that day, but of course, the tunic was already finished, so I didn’t have a chance to incorporate it then. 
Tova # 2

This first tunic was made with a white sheet from the “fuka” also known as the open-air second-hand market here in the African town I live in. The contrast panel is cut from a pillowcase found at the same market. The pillowcase was from IKEA, which I find hilarious, as I have always loved IKEA, and growing up in Norway it was a household name. So when I find linens in the second-hand shops here that originated in IKEA, it feels like a little bit of home is catching up with me. 

The second Tova was started right after I finished the first. For this one, I got bolder, having finished my “muslin”, and decided to cut into some Denise Schmidt fabric for the contrast panel, and even chose a second print for the inside of the neckline and the center front. But then I started on Tova # 3 and number 2 got stuck in the pile of UFOs. You see, a neighbor pointed out that one of our new friends, who was seven months pregnant, had a urgent need for maternity wear, and I offered to make her a blouse. So I took my  Tova pattern and added some extra with to the front, and this time used short sleeves. This Tova  is also made from a white vintage sheet and Denise Schmidt’s Hope Valley collection. This is actually the only Tova I’ve made that features the original gathering in the front, as for the other two, I chose to pleat instead. I quite like the gathering, and now wish I’d done that for one of my own… I’ll just have to make a fourth version, I guess!
Tova # 3 - the maternity version

This was the very first time I ever made something with set-in sleeves. And I was really happy with the result.  It’s so easy to sew for people who are slim and actually fit in the “standard” measurements. For myself, I usually have to grade the pieces up somewhat, and for a newbie like me, that can prove a challenge. I did three different tries with different sleeve shapes for my third Tova (actually number 2, but it was finished  third), and was never successful. I ended up doing a cap sleeve, but while it looks ok when my arms are down, it’s too tight for comfort when I raise my arms.  I’ll have to work on my alteration skills some more!

I will post the picture of the final Tova in a little bit. For now, my kiddos want to go outside and play!
I have now posted the picture of Tova # 2.  (The kids did not stay outside playing until now, two days later, but you know how it goes...)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

A material adventure

I said the other day that I’d write a post about the retacerías where I went fabric shopping in Mexico. A few months back, we travelled to Mexico with our kids to visit my husband’s side of the family and our friends there. They live in the border area of Baja California, and one of the upsides of living that close to the US is the amount of stuff you can buy there that you don’t necessarily find further inside the country. That goes for all kinds of things, not just fabric, but for the purpose of this blog, my focus are the fabric stores. 

I had been looking forward to going out to buy fabric as I remember from my days of living in Mexico how cheap fabric was and how many people actually made their own clothing or had it tailored for them. At the same time, I also remembered that most of the fabrics I’d seen were made of synthetic fibers, so I was a little wary that I wouldn’t find a good selection of cottons to buy. Since I have been living under the  African sun, all I ever buy are natural fibers, as I prefer clothes that breathe and allow humidity to escape.   

I had no clue where to begin shopping, and just told the taxi drive to take me to a big fabric store. My expectations were mostly met there. It was enormous and had an awe inspiring notions section, but most of the apparel fabric was synthetic, and while beautiful to behold, not anything I’d venture into wearing for now. I still bought heaps of fabric, of course, and probably miles of ribbons and buttons in all the colors of the rainbow. For several days, I lived in the deception that this was all I was going to get out of my Mexican fabric shopping experience. Until. I. found. The. Retacerías. 

Oh. My. ! Turns out there are a whole bunch of stores, all conveniently located next to each other, that specialize in selling leftover fabrics. I never asked, but I presume they come from clothing factories either in the industrial frontier zone of Mexico or the south of the USA. There’s nothing wrong with the fabric, but since it’s end of bolt and leftovers, you don’t get the very long, continuous yardage. But boy, do you get your money’s worth!  Per meter price runs from 20-35 pesos, or 1.50-3 dollars. Once I got bitten by the bug, I never wanted to leave! 

There were mostly knits, single jersey as well as thicker sweater-kinds of knits. I also found lace knit fabrics and awesome stretchy denim. It was a fabric shoppers paradise! Of course, in retrospect , I’m kicking myself for not taking pictures of this glorious place, but the reason was that I didn’t want to carry my big DSLR camera around, as that would have been one more weight to carry… I preferred carrying fabrics home!  If you are ever going to travel to the northern cities of Baja California, check out the retacerías!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Mary Poppins and her twin brother

Ok, so maybe Miss Poppins doesn’t actually have a twin brother, but little Princess K looked oh-so-Mary-Poppins-ish  toting this umbrella around our neighbours’ yard last Saturday.  And since she does have a twin brother, I get to use this title today.

Both kids are wearing t-shirts that I made from the “More Grey” raglan T-shirt pattern in Ottobre 4/2011. The original design features long sleeves, but where we live, long sleeves are not needed, so I just cut the sleeves short. 

After a very unsuccessful first attempt at this pattern (I had no clue how to attatch the ribbed collar) I have to say I LOVE these t-shirts! So much, I made one more, which will be featured some time soon when I get around to taking a picture of it. 

Princess K’s shirt is part refashion. I got a ladies’ knit top at a flea market and used the fabric for the bodice. I love how you can save so much work by taking advantage of the existing hems when refashioning a garment! The pink sleeves are from a knit I sourced in one of Mexico’s “retacerias” or “leftover shops”. Those shops are worth a post all to themselves, as they are SOOO much fun for fabric lovers! 

Chiquitín (pronounced Tshe-kee-teen, meaning “little one” in Spanish) is also wearing a refashion fabric. I got the orange fabric at the same flea market, come to think of it. It was a men’s t-shirt. Sadly, when I went to wash it the first time, it got mixed with a tie-died blue top that totally stained all the other clothes I bought that day, and there are some visible stains, but since I can’t get new knit fabric around here, I decided to use it anyway. 

His bottoms are made from one of the Tie Dye Diva’s patterns. The “way cool” shorts. I love this pattern and have used it twice already.  Princess K is also wearing a Tie Dye Diva bottom. I made this diaper cover back when she still wore (fabric) diapers, so they are way too big now that her bottom is diaper-free. But they’re still cute, though! 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

My very first sewing blog post

I have been back and forth, back and forth for a while on whether I was going to start a sewing blog or not. The biggest con was wondering if I'd have enough time to maintain it, but on the pro side, I wanted to be able to connect with the other creative bloggers out there. I have been sewing "actively", if I can use that word, for about a year now, and most of my learning has come from reading sewing blogs.  I feel like I owe so much to those creative and sharing human beings around the world who take the time to photograph and share details about their work that others can enjoy and learn from! Without them, I wouldn't know most of what I do today about making clothes....

So here goes... here's to hoping this will be a fun adventure!