Week Two: Oriental T

Here we are...week two of our "month of woven T's".  Week one's inspiration was the humble tea towel.  For week two we decided to start with kimono fabrics.  So, 'oriental tea' if you will.

Rhonda graciously offered up some vintage kimono pieces for us to work into our designs.  

 Kimono are a series of fabric strips connected to make the traditional Japanese garments.  The fabric comes from a single bolt called a tan that is about 14 inches wide by about 11 yards long.  All of the fabric is incorporated into a single garment.  You can often find pieces of the fabrics that have been scavenged from worn out kimono... and that is exactly what Rhonda sent to me in an incredibly generous and inspirational package.

The gift included four different kimono pieces, an African print and an Indian stamped piece.  When I opened the package my brain immediately went into high gear.  The Kimono pieces were not big enough for a whole shirt so I started trolling around in the 'ol stash and went a little crazy pulling fabrics and making combinations.  I haven't had that much fun for a while and that was just the first step!  I know...I got a bit carried away!

I have been drooling over the work of a designer called Susan Eastman.  She uses Kimono and other Japanese fabrics to create simple, elegant garments.  I knew as soon as I saw the fabrics that this would be the perfect inspiration for my "Oriental T."

I have to admit that the package from Rhonda made me feel a wee bit guilty.  (...only after the squealing and gleeful giggling subsided!)  One of the piles on my table had a very definite blueness about it, and if you have seen my closet you know that blue is not a big component of my wardrobe.  I knew that would not be the T for me, but it felt an awful lot like Rhonda.  So the first Oriental T I made was for her...

Along with the blue floral print Kimono fabric, I collected bits of blue silk and linen, a silk and wool blend with an interesting weave, a couple of indigo/batik square patches that my husband brought back from a trip to Japan.  For a pop, I added a fuschia pink scrap.

I wanted a simple drop shoulder shape with a cut-on sleeve (a la Susan Eastman), but often with this style there is too much fabric that collects under the arms and makes the garment look sloppy.  I decided to 'tighten up' the design by starting with my woven T pattern with set in sleeves.  I added just enough to create the 't-shape' without the extra roominess that usually accompanies this style.

The white pattern pieces are my woven T pattern, the brown paper is my new pattern.  By continuing the shoulder line I created the cut-on sleeve that I wanted.  

I snooped around on Rhonda's blog and noticed that she works on a size 10 dress form, the same as I do...I hope that the size will be OK for her...I did shorten it up a bit!  πŸ™

I let the fabrics dictate the sizes of the strips that make up the shirt.  It was a bit like putting together a puzzle or a quilt.  I was careful to put the softest textured fabrics for the sides/sleeves so they would drape around the shoulders nicely.

I cut the last scraps of the kimono fabric into strips to use as the neck binding...just eked it out.

I popped the blue oriental T into a package for Rhonda...I was feeling inspired and having sew much fun...I moved on to my second T.  It was very hard to decide between the two remaining piles on my table, I really wanted to make them both...but having a deadline relegated one to the back burner...for now! (there will be another Oriental T post in the future!)

I chose the piece that has a deep raisin color that is one of my favorites.  I also liked the over lapping blocks and thought that would be a great element to work into my T.

The rest of the fabrics came from my stash.  I realized as soon as I thought about stitching the kimono fabric to anything that it would need to be reenforced to handle the stresses of a garment, so I underlined it with a silk charmeuse. 

 It's always a bit scary to cut into a unique piece of fabric...no going back to the fabric store for an extra 1/2 yard!  So I spent time trying out different arrangements on my dress form to get a combination I like.  As I started to cut and assemble the pieces, it became clear the I would have several 'panels' in the finished shirt and that too much stitching on the Kimono piece would not be a good idea.  I figured out ways to line and secure hems to the lining so eventually the only 'raw' seams on the inside were the sleeve seams.  It got a bit convoluted before I got to the finish line, and there were a couple of 'unsewing' moments along the way, but I'm pretty proud of the results!

The zebra print charmeuse is underlining the Kimono piece.  I self lined the silk stripe for the other parts of the top.  The striped sleeve I cut double with the hem on the fold so it is hemmed and lined all in one go.  
I liked the pop of color from the red silk at the front neckline and repeated it on the back neck and sleeve facings.  I used the overlapping block idea for the back embellishment.  I hope I did justice to the beautiful piece that Rhonda 'donated' to the cause!

My 'tea recipe' this time is crazy simple!!!

...that would be cinnamon sticks simmering in water.  Yep, that's it!  I was at a yoga retreat center last summer and the food was all vegan and amazing.  Every afternoon they would put out 'cinnamon tea.'  I couldn't get enough of the stuff!  I finally asked the chef how to make it and..."put cinnamon sticks in a pot of boiling water for a while!"  That's it!  (not only delicious, but the house smells delightful!)

I like it hot or iced, but my favorite way to have it is 1/2 tea, 1/2 milk(whatever kind you drink) a bit of honey to taste, over ice.  It's like an iced chai latte!  So yummy and refreshing.

P.S.  It fits!!!   Whew!  Rhonda received the package and the ninja bunny T fits.  You can see her wearing it HERE. πŸ‘


Week One: Tea Towels to T-Shirts

"In 18th century England, a tea towel was a special linen drying cloth used by the mistress of the house to dry her precious and expensive china tea things."

I love tea towels!  And I'm so glad that they are popular again.  I have been collecting them for years, usually from antique shops, but recently I have been finding new ones everywhere.  True confession...I do not dry my dishes with them.  (I have a dishwasher that works just fine!)  I think of them as 18" X  24" pieces of fabric.  They are usually cotton or linen (my fav!) and printed with everything under the sun!

To start off our "Month of Woven T's" Rhonda, over at "Rhonda's Creative Life" and I are each starting with the tea towel of our choice.  Should we call them Tea-shirts?  😝  (You can see Rhonda's pick HERE.)  My pick was a towel that I spotted on my recent trip to Taos, New Mexico...

What's not to love?!

It's got chickens, and a vineyard and herbs and WINE!

It's actually printed on an old cotton flour sac so it has a soft rustic texture.  And it is a bit bigger than the standard 18" X 24" towels.

Snapped it right up!

I headed out to Oregon at the end of July for the International Pinot Noir Celebration!  (yes, it is all wine all the time!!!) πŸ˜‹ I have been looking forward to this trip since a friend and I started planning it a year ago.  She retired at the end of June and we decided it was a great way to get her launched into her new life as a carefree retiree!  It was an amazing event.  Not just lots of Pinot Noir to try, but fabulous food prepared by 80 different chefs from the northwest region.  The finale is a outdoor salmon bake for 1,600 people!  

I thought a wine shirt would be just the thing!  My traveling buddy was a bit dubious about the idea, but I figured it would be kind of like the 'camp t-shirt' for the weekend.  And, the guazy texture of my tea towel was the perfect weight for the predicted (and actual!) 90+ degree days!  So I surged ahead!

For some reason my towel reminded me of the Mexican peasant tops with all the colorful embroidery on them.  Maybe because I was in New Mexico when I found it...?  Anyway, that was the picture in my head as I started working on my Tee.

Square neck line, blanket stitched edges, loose, cool, comfortable...

I wanted to keep the image intact so I had to come up with something else for the back side of my shirt.  I pulled a light weight turquoise cotton and a cotton madras from my stash.  Both had the light summery texture of the towel.

I chose a drop shoulder style "T" to use as much of the towel as I could.

I did add some embroidery, but tried not to get too carried away.  Just a bit more wine on the back yoke!

It turned out so light and summery that I actually got a pair of white capris to wear with it!  I can't remember the last time I had a pair of white pants!!  Maybe a mistake with all the wine...

I gathered the plaid into the yoke and dropped the back hem a bit.  The white edges have turquoise blanket stitching and the turquoise edges have white. 

The embroidery on the back yoke took me right back to seven years old and the outline stitched pillow cases that were my first sewing projects.  I even got out my embroidery hoop!  ...no I didn't embroider wine bottles on my bedding!  😝 Just lazy daisies.  🌼🌼🌼

I'm not sure I transformed it completely.  It still has it's original 'tea-toweliness' about it.  But it was totally fun to make and makes me smile when I wear it.  

You might think that with all the wine going on that my recipe would involve a bit of Pinot, but, no, I decided to go with the travel theme for this one.

The 'recipe' that I want to share is a bit more craft than cooking, but it is all about making a cup of tea.  When I travel, especially for sewing retreats, I like to have my favorite tea.  It's a loose blend that I get by the pound from my local tea shop.  One trip I was unpleasantly surprised when I opened my suitcase to find loose tea leaves ALL OVER EVERYTHING!!  I had secured them in a zip top bag, but the airplane pressure must have popped it open...😬  Not wanting a repeat of that episode, I decided to bag my tea more securely for future travels.  I made a long tube out of a scrap of silk organza, I measured out the amount I needed to brew a bottleful of tea and put it into the tube, I sewed it shut and repeated the process until I ran out of tube!  I added a string and a tag and Bob's your uncle...I have travel tea bags!  Obsessive? Perhaps?  But it sure beats loose tea leaves in your panties!


"T" with Friends: A Month of T-Shirts

My sewing room has been more of a parking lot this summer than an actual work space.  I have been traveling a bit and finding treasures along the way that I have been piling up on my work table and that's as far as they seem to get.  But all that is going to change in August! (Yikes!  That's tomorrow!)

A little while ago I asked my friend Rhonda if she would like to collaborate on a project.  She said "YES!"  Rhonda writes a lovely blog about her sewing adventures and other creative pursuits HERE.    I was thinking maybe a post about woven T-shirts, which I have been loving the past few summers... but Rhonda took that thought and ran with it!  She suggested that we do a T-shirt every week in the month of August. 😳 And I said, "YES!" 😳😳 So that's what we will be doing.  (Talk about jump starting my sewing!)  Each week we will create a theme or a challenge for ourselves and share the results with blog posts.  One of the things that I love reading on Rhonda's blog is the weekly recipe that she shares, so our posts will include some favorite tea (get it?) recipes along with our woven "T's".

I met Rhonda several years ago when I was working at the American Sewing Expo in Novi, Michigan.  She participated in the "Passion for Fashion" competition (a Project Runway-esque event) several times and always created the most interesting and beautifully executed garments.  (check out Rhonda's blog for a description of the PFF event)  Since the show is no longer happening, I have been missing my annual opportunity to catch up with Rhonda and so we are doing a 'virtual' catching up with our August T posts.  I am so looking forward to seeing what she comes up with...

I have been loving to make and wear woven t-shirts.  They are comfortable, particularly when they are made with light weight summery fabrics, and they are a perfect blank slate for embellishing.  Sometimes I get carried away and end up with something like this...
(read about it HERE.)

Sometimes it is about one 'exquisite' detail, like this linen T with a rick-rack trim...
(read about this one HERE.)

I enjoy 'dressing up' a T with a collar, or putting the fabric on the bias to change up the way it fits...It is a great garment to play around with and see what happens. (Read about this version HERE.)

....and everyone needs at least one 'plain white T' in their closet!
(read about my favorite HERE.)

I'm not sure what kind of T's will be coming up in the next few weeks, but that is part of the fun!  And, knowing Rhonda, they are certain to be inventive and gorgeous!  I can't wait!


Simply Cool

It has finally cooled off a bit this week and feels delightful for porch dining and afternoon biking.  But, the end of June was HOT!  and I was in Taos, which was VERY HOT!  In fact, it actually burst into flames while I was there!  (kind of scary.) 

I attended my third DOL (Design Outside the Lines) retreat with Diane Ericson and guest mentor Carol Lee Shanks.  I really love Carol's approach to clothing design and her commitment to no-waste patterns.  She uses every thread of her fabrics.  She makes simple, utilitarian garments that layer and work in combination to create interesting and elegant silhouettes.  I started working with her ideas last year when I attended the DOL retreat and am continuing to enjoy studying her aesthetic and design philosophy. 

This week I spent some time with cool fabrics and simple shapes (a la Carol Lee).  Summer is all about linen for me....and linen on the bias.....ahhhhhhh! 

There are a few things that I've learned the hard way about working with bias.  They add steps and time to making a garment, but the results are totally worth the extra effort.  I chose a rustic natural linen to make my simple A shaped, bias skirt. 

Lesson 1:  Get the grain right!  Spend the time to cut the pieces on the true bias.  It makes everything easier.  For this project I (of course) didn't have quite enough fabric to cut a single front and back, so I cut 4 panels, one of which I had to piece to get it on the bias. 

Lesson 2:  Hang it!  Once you cut fabric on the bias it wants to stretch........sometimes a lot!!!!  My fabric was loosely woven so it started to stretch before I took it off the table!  I always pin baste my pieces together, usually right sides together, so the seams can be sewn without re-pinning once it is hung out and adjusted.  This usually happens in about 24 hours, but sometimes it takes a bit longer.

Lesson 3:  Extra seam allowance!  I didn't have much seam allowance at the center front or back, but I left about an inch at the side seams to make adjustments.  As the fabric relaxes and molds over the dress form, sometimes it gets too narrow and the extra wiggle room in the seam allowances saves the project from the scrap pile.

Lesson 4:  Straighten, then sew!  The straight grain and the cross grain will stretch differently, big surprise!  You can usually see this when a seam, that you cut straight and pinned straight takes a crazy turn between the waist and the hem.  Take the time to re-pin and let the grain do it's thing, 'cuz you will never force it to be straight if it doesn't want to.

If you spend the time up front to work with the grain, you won't be struggling against it as you put the piece together.  No short cuts...just do it!

Because my fabric was soooo stretchy, I decided to go with an elastic waist instead of facings and a zipper.  It's a bit fussy because you have to get the elastic and the waist of the skirt to stretch together, in this case I knew there was plenty to work with.

Elastic trick....to keep an elastic waistband smooth I butt the ends together and sew them to a piece of scrap fabric.  No bulk from overlapping elastic.

I serged the elastic to the waist and turned it to the inside making a self faced band.  It pulls on easily and lies flat over my hips. 

Smooth, bubble-free, straight seams.   Like I said....a little extra effort, but totally worth it! 

To top off my 'simple' bias skirt I made a straight forward white T.  Keeping it cool, I chose a textured woven rayon.  I love the simple lines and naturally cool fabrics.  Ahhhhh!


Lazy Days and Crazy Pockets

Summer at the lake means a different kind of sewing.  

I have a lovely sewing space at the lake house.  It has a my "Mickey Mouse" sewing machine. (it's a Brother machine that has Disney embroidery motifs, which I never use, but that's why I call it my Mickey Mouse machine.)  It has a serger, a great roll around folding cutting table, an ironing board that gets set up with a view of Lake Michigan...pretty great.  But it doesn't have my stash or my dress form.  

Sooooo, the kind of projects I do are much more 'planned.'  No draping several versions of a dress, or pulling out 4 choices of linen from the linen box.  When I'm at the lake I do projects that use tried and true patterns that don't need a lot of fussing or fitting.  I sew home dec projects, or bags.  My swim suit pattern is a perfect lake project, I don't even think I could wrestle it onto my dress form!!

Last week I fulfilled a request from my son for some "t-shirts with crazy pockets." I used the pattern that we tweaked last year which I know he likes.  One of his current jobs is managing a coffee shop.  I found some fun coffee prints for the 'crazy pockets' that I thought would make good work shirts for him.

I have been doing some more reversible projects (more about those later...) and that thinking just carried over to the t-shirts.  One of the fabrics was a printed knit that was plain on the reverse side.  A perfect candidate for a reversible garment.

The print on the black and white piece of fabric reminded me of the heart monitors at the hospital.  The skeleton print pocket is a bit of dark humor that made me chuckle when I found it.  On the reverse of that pocket is the coffee cup pocket.  I turned the plain black to the print side for hems to keep one side solid black.  I serged and top stitched the seams to mimic a cover stitch.

The striped T was a bit fussy!  I cut out the grey stripes and sewed them over the pocket to make it look like the pocket is behind the stripes.  I like the way it turned out, but a lot of matching for one pocket!!!

He's happy with his new shirts and I had a lot of fun making them...total win win!!


Layers of Linen (dishes optional)

I was in my sewing room this week and thinking how I haven't been getting in there as much as I want (and need!!!!), but as I looked around, I figured that I must have been doing some sewing because there were finished projects hanging around...either I have been sewing, or I have an elf infestation!!!  If it's elves I wish they would help out with the vacuuming rather than working on my projects!

One of the things I found was a skirt and top that has been marinating and happening all spring.  I think I was surprised to find it finished, because it has been in stages of progress for several months.  

You wouldn't think to look at it that it took much time, but there were lots of rabbit holes and U-turns as I was figuring out what I wanted to do.

It started with a pile of linen dish towels.  

I have been collecting them for a while.  I always check the sale tables at kitchen stores because I don't think linen towels are popular for actual dish-doing.  They are often more pricey than the cotton variety, so they end up on the sale rack...ready for a new crop of seasonal linen dish towels to show up!  I'm not sure exactly where these came from and I am pretty sure that they arrived in my stash at different times, but they came out this spring with the other linen projects.

For a period this spring, every time I wandered into my sewing room my dress form was clad in a different collection of dish towels.  Skirts, tops, dresses...all pinned and draped into Frankensteinish versions of clothing.

I finally decided on a fairly simple wrap skirt.  I wanted to use as much of the towels as possible and I wanted to keep the hems in tact.  

I sewed two towels, at a slight angle to make each layer of the wrap.  The angle was determined by overlapping at the top to get my waist measurement and at the hem to get as much circumference as possible.  The angle basically created a dart at the waist that curved the waistline and help fit over the hips. (oops, forgot to take a picture of that, sorry!)

I wanted the under layer to lie flat so I used a bathing suit hook to fasten it.  The tie on the top layer is made from a tube of cotton jersey.  The skirts sit a bit below normal waistline.

Once the skirt was finished I tried a few tops on and realized I wanted the top of the skirt to show.  Since I'm not much for keeping things tucked in, I thought a cropped top would be a good option.

I found a very light, tissue weight linen jersey that I liked, but it was way too sheer in a single layer.  Another trip to the fabric store for a second layer.  The hems are angle from side to side for almost a 'ruffle' effect.  The serged finish was a total accident.  I had serged the edges before I washed the jersey and the lettuce edge just appeared when it came out of the dyer!  Loved it!

I finished the rest of the seams to the outside to match the hems.

...so lots of layers of linen!  And please notice my major gardening project...my herb pots...that's pretty much the extent of my gardening these days.  They are looking healthy at this point...we'll see what they look like in August!!!


Legendary Linen

On one of the two spring days we have had, I wore my new denim dress (Story here) and decided that I would like a few more comfortable, easy dresses for summer.  The kind that don't really touch your body other than where they hang from your shoulders.  

I've lived in Michigan long enough to know that there will be 90 degree days with 96% humidity at some point in the next few months and those are the days that require a 'no touch' wardrobe.  (am I over sharing here?)  Anyway, I pulled out the linen box! 

I am usually about 3 linen projects in by this time in the year!  But between the dreary weather and my clingy bug, I have gotten a slow start on "linen season."   I love linen season and always have lots of fun trolling through my collection and deciding which precious pieces will actually get turned into clothing.  

Some how when fabric has been 'marinating' for a long time (years in some cases!) it gets more valuable.  It's the same yardage every time it comes out of the box, but it takes on a patina and an aura of grandeur that is way out of proportion!  Some times I take it all out, fold it neatly, put it all back and go to the fabric store for a piece that hasn't taken on legendary status!

One such storied piece, is a mill-end of Eileen Fisher, bird's eye woven, charcoal grey, 100% linen.  (see what I mean about legendary status!?)  I can't recall when I got, where it came from, how much I paid for it, but, I have been hoarding this treasure for a very long time, waiting for the perfect project.  Obviously there is no such thing as the perfect project so, at some point you just have to say "What the H---!" and cut into the darned thing!  

A loose, airy, linen dress made from yummy textured fabric...pretty close to perfect in my book.

I started with my woven T-shirt pattern.  I have been using and tweaking this pattern for years (possibly as long as the Eileen Fisher linen has been aging!)  It is a great place to start and I know I will be happy with the fit.  I lengthened it, added the 'must-have' pockets, draped a funky, asymmetrical collar, played around with the hems and decided one linen just wasn't enough...and there you have it...my 'no touch' summer linen dress.

I used a rustic woven cotton to make the accent pocket facings...one in the waist seam and one in the side seam.  I also used the same cotton to face the bottom hem, the sleeve hems and the inside of the collar.

The sleeve and the hem have pleats to create a bit of a 'bubble' look. 

 The collar was draped after the dress was made.  It is cut on the bias to create a soft standing shape.

I was very reluctant to cut into my precious linen and commit to just one version of the many I have imagined over the years.  But I am very happy and can't wait for a 90 degree/96% humidity day to give it a test drive!