Week Four: A T for All!

WOW!  What a whirlwind August has been!  Not only trying to keep up with the flurry of T-shirt projects, but life took off on a bit of a tear as well!

Since the beginning of the month  I have enjoyed an "Outstanding in the Field" dinner at a fruit farm in southwest Michigan...(you can read more about this amazing event HERE.)

...Traveled to Eastern Washington State to join my nephew's wedding celebration, which took place in the small community of Mazama, that was surrounded by wildfires!  Everything was enveloped in an eerie cloud of smoke and ash.  Quite dramatic...

...Spent a short day and a half in Seattle, which was also experiencing smokey air, so we opted for the Pike Place Market and the Chihuly Gardens rather than the Space needle...


...went to Chicago to pick up my sister-in--law who is visiting from Italy and took in a performance of Hamilton...

...AND...contracted pneumonia, just in case I wasn't convinced that I needed to slow it down a bit!!!!

Fortunately, because I knew I had a packed up schedule at the end of the month, I worked on my final T-shirt project before the pneumonia part of the program kicked in. (and kicked my butt!)  So I do have some things to share for our final week of the woven T challenge.

A few observations about the Woven T project before I share my final week's work... Each week I have had literally dozens of ideas rolling around in my head and scribbled on scraps of paper.  I had trouble narrowing down to just one or two.  It was great!!!!  I had been in the "idea doldrums" for most of the summer so having the challenge has been a true jump start.  A boost in creative energy is always a good thing, I'm sure it will carry me right into fall sewing projects.

Rhonda's gift box of fabric was such a treat and catalyst.  It also elicited a reaction that was a total and wonderful surprise.  Each of the gifted fabrics held emotions and memories and price tags and possible projects....but not for me!  They came to me totally unencumbered!  When I pull a fabric from my own stash it comes with all the years of baggage that it has been collecting while waiting patiently for me to decide.  Often these attachments make it difficult to actually use a piece of fabric.  "It was sooo expensive...it was going to be for a wedding in 2002...my grandma gave it to me...and on, and on...."  But, the fabrics that came to me from Rhonda had no little voices whispering to me, they came as pure potential.  I could cut and stitch with abandon!  It was incredibly freeing and fun!  It made me realize how many pieces I have that could get passed along and be freed of their emotional chains and become a catalyst for someone else.  Hmmmmmm...

Thank you Rhonda for all the amazing fabrics, the reintroduction to raglan sleeves and your generous spirit.  It has been such a fun month and seeing your creations continues to inspire new possibilities.

So, on to week four, with abandon!...a "T-for-all!"  We decided we would each do whatever took our fancy for our last week.  😳  Cue the dozens of ideas!

One of the ideas that was inspired by the raglan sleeve pattern was to 'outline' all the seams.

I love using my bias binding foot because it makes a small (3/8") tidy bound edge that can actually be used for seaming.  I also had a tea towel with black and white bikes on it that had been a contender for week 1.  I toyed with adding other colors, but in the end stuck with a black and white theme. 


To use the binding foot, I cut 1" bias strips of black cotton that were fed through the bias binding foot along with the "edge" getting the binding.  I put the wrong-sides of the pattern pieces together and bound them together so the black binding was on the outside of my garment.  The foot folds and stitches the binding all at one time.  It's pretty slick!


The tricky part is figuring out which seams to do first so that all the joins get covered in binding.


I extended the pattern to make a T-shirt dress (since I have 3 new shirts already this month!) and added some pockets.

It's cute, it fits...and, maybe it's because I'm recovering from pneumonia, but it feels a lot like a hospital gown!  We'll see....I think it was better in my head than on the dress form.

Number two idea was way more successful in my book!  Again, the starting point was a tea towel.  A gorgeous tea towel that Rhonda had made from one of her paintings.   It was included in my fun gift box.  I apologize for the miserable color in the pictures, it was difficult to photograph, just imagine the palest of greens and vibrant purples!

I realized that I have been lusting after a Susan Eastman style T all summer and hadn't actually made one for myself.  Rhonda's painting, Susan's style...

The towel needed to be extended and the fabric had quite a bit of body, so I decided to slice it up and add linen strips to soften the hand and create the extra yardage needed for a shirt.  The purple fabric is actually over-dyed kimono fabric (echo week 2), the hand dyed colors are just perfect with the painting on the towel.

I was worried about just chopping into the towel so I made a photo copy and cut that up to try out my idea before whacking into Rhonda's lovely towel.


The striped result makes me think of seeing a flower garden through a picket fence.

And finally, when my sister-in-law saw the blue cotton lawn print that was also part of the infamous gift box, she loved it!  She had asked if I would be able to make her a dress like one she has that is getting a bit worn.  She continues wearing it because it is made of very light weight cotton and is perfect for sweltering late summer days.  The blue print was just the type of fabric she had been looking for...so we whipped it up!  It will definitely be comfortable when the temperatures hit 90 this week!

I used the Chelsea Raglan pattern again with selvedge edges on the sleeves and a facing at the neckline topstitched to the outside.  It's so light and easy, I may need to have one for myself.

My final 'tea recipe' is one that I learned from a friend who practices and teaches ayruvedic yoga methodologies.  Whenever things get a little too crazy this simple warm drink soothes and calms me inside and out.  This week as I have been struggling to regain my strength and rebalance after my mega-dose of antibiotics, it has been the perfect remedy.

Juice a lemon or a lime, it ends up being about 1/4 cup of juice.  Add the juice to about 2 cups of hot water along with several slices of fresh ginger.  Let it cool slightly before adding 1 to 2 teaspoons of honey, finally add a very small pinch of coconut oil.  Namaste! 🙏


Week Three: Wranglin' Raglans

Please excuse the delay in posting for this week...both Rhonda and I ended up otherwise distracted on Tuesday, but back on track today....

Week Three of our Month long T-Fest is all about the raglan sleeve T.  This week Rhonda and I are both starting with the Chelsea T pattern from Fabric Store.com.  It is a free pattern that you can download and tape together, easy to do and not many pages to deal with.  Rhonda did a post about using the pattern HERE.  She also used it for her tea towel T in week one HERE.

For most people, raglan sleeves are flattering and easy to fit and sew.  But, for a broad shouldered person like moi, not so much.  There never seems to be enough fabric to fall nicely over the cap of my shoulder.   I was a bit worried when Rhonda suggested the pattern because I have kind of given up trying to get a raglan sleeve to fit me, usually opting for a set in or other type of sleeve.  But I took the challenge....

I made a 'trial balloon' of the pattern, once I got it taped together, and sure enough, I got plenty of wrinkling and pulling between my shoulders.  The front and back of the T fit OK and the length of the raglan seam was good, it was just the amount of fabric over the shoulder that was off.  To create the needed room, I did a 'fisheye' adjustment at the shoulder point, which added room without changing the length of any seams.

A second 'trial balloon' confirmed my suspicions, I did need the extra bit of fabric and once it was added, the fit was very nice.  Thank you Rhonda for nudging me into raglan sleeves!  (She is the Queen of Sleeves after all! 👸)

With my adjusted pattern in hand, I started looking around for fabric.  I liked the idea of a good old striped T-shirt.  I thought making the front and back in stripes with contrasting sleeves would be a sporty, fun look.  I found a black and white striped scarf in my drawer and liked it with a beautiful sheer gray silk crepe over it.  The scarf was  not big enough to cover the need, so I went shopping, hoping to find a black and white stripe, preferably silk, to match the drape of the sheer overlay.

I came home with several pieces, one small stripe, one dot and no silk!  I laid the gray over them, along with the striped scarf and still wanted those stripes...and silk!!!

Not giving up, I decided I would make my own stripes!  ...And here's where I got totally carried away!  It sounded like a simple idea...just make some stripes...out of silk crepe de chine...yeah?!

#!@&!!**### (no need to elaborate on that part of the process! 😬)

I did manage to get my stripes and loved them.  The black has a lovely jacquard pattern and I used the matte side of the white.  

Once I got the pieces together, I realized that the simple turned neckline finish recommended in the pattern would not work with the sheer sleeves.  Instead I cut a facing from the black silk.  I turned the outside edges, applied some fusible seam tape and laid it under the neckline on my dress form.  I steamed it to activate the fusible tape and hold it in place and then sewed the right side facing in place.  Worked like a charm!

So my 'sporty' striped T got a wee bit over the top and decidedly schmancy!  But I really like it!  It feels very elegant and refined and I have no idea where or when I will ever wear it!


Since I ended up with such a fancy T-shirt, I thought a fancy recipe would be in order....

The last time my son and his girlfriend visited she and I took a baking class together.  I'm not much of a baker, but she is very accomplished, so I was following her lead.  We made french macarons, which I love but never imagined ever making myself.  I got out the recipe and dove in!  

First the meringue:  stiff peaks

Then add the dry ingredients and fold to make batter that flows off the spoon like "slow lava"
(the dark flecks come from very finely ground Earl Grey tea. Yum!)

Use a piping bag to make a whole slew of little cookies...the paper templates under the parchment paper make the spacing easy. (hint: take the templates out before baking...and don't ask me how I know this *#!!)

Bake, cool...fill with yummy butter cream and enjoy!

This recipe is very similar to the one we used in the class, with the following changes:
Skip the coloring and the flavoring and add 2 teaspoons of very finely ground Earl Grey tea.  I don't care for Earl Grey when it's made into tea, but when you put it in a cookie...yummy!

Even if you never make French Macarons you will want to make this butter cream!  It is totally divine.

2 sticks unsalted, room temperature butter (oh yeah!)
2 cups confectioners' sugar
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 tsp salt

Whip it all together until smooth and creamy. 

A silk raglan sleeve T and Earl Grey Tea Macarons...totally schmancy!


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!  🙏

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. 👍