Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Why I Sew My Own Clothes and Clothing for Others

Three years ago, a building in Bangladesh that housed a garment factory collapsed killing more that 1,100 people.  With all of the publicity many people vowed to change the way they shopped.  Although, it is hard to say whether or not much in the industry has changed.  You can read about three years after the disaster in the article "Three Years After Rana Plaza, Has Anything Changed?"

One quote in the article really hit home was about the environmental impact of our clothing choices.

"...the clothing industry has been cited as the world’s second biggest polluter after oil. Its businesses churn out clothes at an alarming rate — Americans now buy five-times as much clothing as they did in 1980. According to the WWF, it takes up to 2,700 litres of water to produce the cotton needed to make a single t-shirt. And many simply go to waste: in the US alone, 10.5 million tonnes of clothing is sent to landfills each year..."

 Yikes!!!  I will repeat, "It takes 700 gallons of water to produce the cotton needed to make 1 t-shirt!" It takes a front load machine between 15 and 30 gallons to wash one load depending on how full the washer is.  Plus, now we have to think about the pesticides in the cotton.  For conventionally grown cotton, it takes about 3 ounces of pesticides for a 9 ounce t-shirt.

So in addition to the working conditions that the workers have to endure for our cheap clothes, we also need to think about the raw materials that are used to make the clothing.

I have been thinking about these ideas for a while, but I have not really acted upon them in my sewing.  Yes, I rarely if ever use polyester which we know takes a really long time to degrade, but I have not spent a lot of time figuring out where the fabrics come from, or what their impact on the environment is.  It is not an easy task to undertake.  There is not a huge amount of information on impact.  However, I did find one report that was helpful.  According to the Stockholm Environmental Institute, it takes almost 10,000 liters of water to produce 1 kilogram of cotton, whereas hemp requires only about 2,400 liters of water per kilogram.  Plus, it has half the CO2 emisions that cotton does.  The harder question is hemp or linen better.  The only thing I have been able to learn is that you can get twice as much fabric per plot of hemp than of linen, but not good numbers.

As a result of this research, I have decided to try hemp.  I have ordered several yard to try.  I have also ordered organic cotton because it is hard to get reasonably priced lining fabrics unless you use organic cotton muslin.  I will be hand dyeing these fabrics at home using as little water as I can, and will eventually move to using natural dyes.  However, right now I will be using low impact procion dyes.

In the meantime, I am using up the stash of fabrics that I have as I move to a more environmentally sourced fabrics.  As I have done with my vests and coats, most of the fabric I use is found in second hand shops.  However, it is getting harder to find good quality fabric in these shops.  More and more of the fabric I find contains polyester, or is low quality.  In the transition to moving to more environmentally sourced fabric I am now trying to use up my stash of fabrics that I have collected through the years of sewing.  Here are the new skirts that I have designed which will help me use up my stash.  I designed the pattern which is a cross between a straight skirt and an a-line.  I don't really like a-line skirts, but I know most people look better in an a-line, so I have taken a straight skirt moulange, then lowered the waist, added some flare in the skirt bottom, but half as much as normal for an a-line.

The waist band is my one nod to a fabric that is not environmentally friendly.  I have used fabric with lycra in it to give a little ease in the waist.  It sits just above the hips, but below the waist.  I have found a design that sits here gives the wearer more leeway in weight changes.  I have been able to wear skirts using this design through my ups and downs in weight changes as opposed to ones that sit very low on my hips which fall off when I am at a lower weight or ones that fit around my waist which get too tight when I put on a few pounds.  I decided that it would be better to use something not quite an environmental if it allows the skirt to be worn a much longer time.  I also added pockets because everyone loves pockets!  I hope this design will become a favorite that will get lots of wear.

Each skirt is lined and is zipped up the back.  They are really comfortable and are good fun to wear in the summer with sandals or a pair of tennis shoes, or you can wear tights or leggings and wear them into the fall.  I am in the midst of putting together several of these skirts from my stash of fabric.  

Here is another in oranges and browns.
This skirt is harder to show in a flattering way as it doesn't fit on my dressform so I pinned it to the hangar, but it looks lovely on and is shown in a size Large.  It is also lined and has great pockets.

I will continue to sew these skirts for the next few weeks.  Then I will turn to dyeing fabric and making shirts, and finally to vests.  I am getting ready for the next Bainbridge Island Studio Tour.  If you are in the Seattle area, come by and see all of the lovely pieces for sale around the island.

Friday, April 15, 2016

A Long Hiatus

It has been a long while since I have posted.  One excuse I have come up with is that my son has taken our camera.  He is taking photography in high school and has the camera most days.  Also, after the studio tour, I think I was a bit burned out from sewing so many clothes.  The holidays came up quickly and then next thing I know it was spring.

My husband and I were invited on a special trip to Southeast Asia, so I spend most of February and March renovating my wardrobe.  I spend most of my time in jeans and equestrian gear, plus since moving to the Seattle area, I have not needed hot weather clothing.  So, I remade two pairs of linen pants, sewed a pair of light denim pants, made a sleeveless shirt, and several other pieces for dinners out.  In between remaking my wardrobe, I took a class on pattern drafting.  It was really fun, and I learned a lot.  My patterns have definitely improved since taking the class.

Now that we are home, I am looking toward the August Bainbridge Island studio tour.  I sent in my application late last night, and now I have to get sewing on some new pieces for the summer tour.  I have decided to put less handwork on them, so I can have a broader range of pricing on the clothes.  However, I will still have a few pieces with lots of handwork.

Here are the photos I submitted for this year's tour.

This is the back of a jacket made from a men's cashmere jacket.  I mixed it with some Italian wool that I had stashed for a few years for a coat.  The back is appliqued with pieces from the leftover fabric that I had when I cut the coat into a more feminine form.  This coat is a L/XL in sizing.

This tunic is made from men's linen/cotton trousers.  I lined it with the purple fabric which shows on the collar.  The front and the back panels are handstitched with color circles to echo the fabric used at the waist.  This tunic is in a size XS.  It looks great over leggings.

This shirt is a new piece that I made for my trip.  It is a longer shirt/tunic with high cut slits on the side seams that can be worn over pants or leggings.  This shirt is reversible with a beautiful cotton lawn on the reverse side.  The blue raindrop side is hand-dyed with a subtle ombre, and the raindrops are machine appliqued and then handstitiched.  The raindrops go all the way around the bottom of the shirt.  This is my own personal shirt that I made just to test the pattern and see how people liked it.  I have gotten positive response from this design.  I am now pursuing some ecofriendly fiber that can be hand-dyed.  As always for all of my designs, the applique pieces will be different on every shirt.  Because of the labor involved in making the design reversible, I think most will be made as regular shirts, not reversible, but if anyone is interested of course I can always make a reversible shirt.

This is a short tulip jacket that I made last year.   It is a mix of several different fabrics and embellished with a Laura Foster Nicholson ribbon in the front.  The main jacket is made from a khaki twill, and is quite heavy, the same weight as a heavy denim.  This one-of-a-kind jacket is sized XS, but can be made larger.  Due to the labor in this jacket, unless there is interest, I will not make many more of these.

Here is the back of the jacket.  It has a faux corset look in the back.   I love this fun jacket.  I think I might try making one out of denim.  It would be a fun look.

Monday, October 26, 2015

On my to do list: Cleaning

I have been weaving this week.  I wanted to get a couple of tapestries off my loom in hopes of submitting them for a show, but I am unhappy with the way they look right now.  I am not sure if I will submit them at this point.  In the meantime, I guess I need to clean my studio.

Who can be creative in this mess?  This is mess left from sewing my coats and vests for the studio tour in August.  

After the brilliant, blue summer we have had, it is back to the northwest weather.  Although, it has been so dry this summer, I am sure the plants are very happy to have some rain.  Good day for cleaning!  Here is today's "view" of Seattle.

Friday, October 16, 2015

A break from sewing

I have been taking a break from sewing.  I worked really hard to finish several pieces for the studio tour on Bainbridge Island, but then the end of the summer came.  I had been ignoring my children a bit, so we did some things together and then got them ready to go back to school.

School has been in session a bit over a month now, and I still haven't cleaned out my studio, but soon...maybe.  In the meantime, I have been weaving a bit to give myself a break from sewing.  If you are interested, you can see what I have been weaving.

I finished another vest a couple of weeks ago.  The floral material for this vest came through a gift.  The fabric is a wool cotton blend, and was part of a Laura Ashley dress from the 80's.  The original color was beige, so I dyed it a cobalt blue.  I thought the color came out beautiful, and really updated the fabric.  I then selected a denim colored cotton to complement it.

You can see in the photo above, I embroidered the plain fabric on the sides with a flower to mimic the flower in the print.  

Because several people at the studio tour asked about reversibility of my vests, I decided to make this one reversible.  The fabric inside is a textured fabric.  I thought the vest came out beautifully.  Hope you enjoy the pictures.

Also, just wanted to say thank you to Heather for including my comments on CraftLit and putting a link on her blog to this one.  If you have not listened to Craftlit, you should head on over and check out her podcasts.  I love listening to the books she selects, always classics, many I somehow never got around to reading.  I especially enjoyed Dickens' Bleak House, not so bleak, and with wonderful characters.  I really miss listening to that one.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Best Summer Cake EVER!

I love to bake, but my pies and scones are my specialty.  My cookies used to be good until we moved to Seattle.  Not sure why, but every cookie I have made here has been sawdust.

However, I just made the best cake EVER, in my life.  We had a bunch of plums from my CSA at the farmer's market.  They were a bit overripe for eating, but I couldn't throw them out and wasn't up for making jam.  I searched and found:

Plum Tatin!

This bit of heaven has a tender vanilla cake covered by sweet/tart plums.  I used Ina Garten's recipe with a couple of minor changes.  I used my 9 inch cast iron skillet.  Made the sugar and water syrup in that, then placed the plums in the skillet, covered it with the cake batter and baked.

It came easily out of the pan onto the plate.  Can't eat it all right away?  No worries, just wrap it up and put it in the refrigerator.   Cut a slice, microwave for 13-15 seconds and eat.  Still amazingly delicious after two days, especially with french roast coffee.  Now that I am all sugared up, I have to get sewing!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Sewing My Heart Out ?

The Bainbridge Island Studio Tour is coming up quickly:  August 7, 8, and 9th.  I have been pretty well chained to my dark studio under an ott light sewing my coats.  At first my goal was to have 20 coats for sale, then my number revised down to 15 as family circumstances had me elsewhere for a few days.  (Here is a view from the ferry as I make my way to the airport.  This is rush hour on Thursday evening at Eliot Bay.  And on this ferry trip I got to see 3 orcas and two dolphins, no kidding!  It was amazing.  My husband was flabbergasted.  I rarely take the ferry, he commutes to and from work on it every day, and he still can't believe that I got to see orcas before him.  Must have been a sign of good things to come!)

Then camps started, and I started driving hither and yon.  Fourth of July arrived and we spent the day watching the parade and hanging out (Cute parade with the hit of the parade being Tiny the Lamb, she even has her own Facebook page.)  Then drove down to the harbor to watch the fireworks.  The harbor was filled with sailboats.  It was twice the fun (pun intended) as the lights were reflected in the Sound.

Then we had guests for the weekend. They were our first since moving here in December, and it was great to have them and a real motivator to get those last few boxes unpacked and get the guest room set up.  Now we are ready for more visitors!)  

Now my goal is to have 12 coats/vests with at least two of each size (XS, S, M, L).

Each coat or vest is made of some recycled piece of clothing be it a pair of pants, wool slacks or a men's coat.

I then make up the rest in new fabric that complements the old, and then each piece is lined with beautiful new fabric.  Each coat or vest has something unique be it ribbons (my favorites are from LFN (Laura Foster Nicholson, and if you haven't found her yet, click now and don't wait!), but sometimes something a little plainer works), wool appliqué pieced from leftovers from another coat, or embroidery.

Hopefully, people will be so intrigued that they will order their own coat using unused items out of their closet they can't bear to part with?  You know those items, like the first tailored blazer that I made in my twenties with awesome Italian wool, and lovely Japanese fabric lining, but sewn in with gold thread (really?  Yes, what was I thinking?)  It has sat in my closet for years but I just can't part with it, but I will NEVER wear it again.

I have been so busy sewing that I have not updated the blog in ages.  Just wanted to take a quick moment to update.  I having been listening to old podcasts about crafting and one woman talked of her documentation of her process of making yarn from sheared wool on Instagram.  So, I am trying to document the process of making some of my coats and vests.  Take a look at Instagram and see the men's wool cashmere coat being cut apart and remade.

If you are near Seattle, come to the Bainbridge Island Studio Tour and look for With Needle and Stick!

Friday, May 29, 2015

An Early Morning

I heard this weird thrumming sound, hrmmmm, hrmmmm, hrmmmm, but very deep.  It woke me up; I looked at my phone, 3:45.   What was that sound?  I walked around the house, then out on the deck.  It was some medium-sized cargo ship thrumming its way up Puget Sound.  The thing definitely sounded like it was out of whack.

Out comes the kindle with its little glow light.  Check cellphone, 4:25.  The birds are chirping; light is creeping around the blinds.  Off goes my kindle, I lay down trying to go back to sleep.  I check my cell phone again, 4:55.  Oh what the heck, it is just too light to go back to sleep now.

I finally get up, turn on the computer, put some tea in the microwave, sorry, I was too lazy to brew a pot of loose tea, look out the window to see two cruise ships heading back from Alaska.  I bake a batch of scones for breakfast.

Sunrise is now officially 5:18, but let me tell you, it is light waaaayyyyy before 5:18.  The photo above was taken at 5:15.  The birds were singing at 4:25.  The light is very different up here from Virginia, I am naively thinking of Sweden.  Nope, not even close, we are on the same latitude as northern France, Bern Switzerland.  

Today, we have the sun sparkling over the Puget Sound, no marine layer this morning.

I have cut out six coats.  Now it is time to get pinning and sewing.  I foresee the need of coffee this afternoon.