Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Double Duty Duster Round Two Fabric Mart Challenge!

Thanks so much for your support of my dress called "Harvey". Because of your votes, I won round one of the Fabric Mart Challenge! The second challenge is to take a basic t-shirt dress pattern and transform it into a transitional piece for fall. We are encouraged to hack the pattern to change it in some way. Here is my entry and you can vote for it on the Fabric Mart page here.

In Pearland, Texas, Fall arrives around Thanksgiving and is pretty much indistinguishable from Winter. The weather requires long sleeves, light jackets and long pants or skirts. With the high Summer temperatures, buildings are cooled to shivers requiring transitional dress on a daily basis to account for the shift. I usually have a hoodie, or kimono in my car to throw on for a trip to a store or movie.

I made a maxi length duster to serve as a topper to jazz up everyday jeans and a t-shirt. I found a wonderful Vlisco African Wax with a bold floral motif.

It looks great coming

 And going

and everything in between.

To add to the transitional element, I made it fully reversible with the other side in a luscious black linen.

When worn on the black side, the cuffs and lapels can be turned to show the contrast print. 

The wax side has side seam pockets. What's the point of sewing if you can't put pockets in everything? 

the black side has crescent-shaped pockets positioned on the outside.

For this challenge, I hacked the pattern we were given. My pattern stash is large so I rarely pattern hack. I will generally explain what I did here:

This pattern has very little ease and is designed for knits. To modify it for the duster, I looked at the finished garment measurements that coordinated with the amount of ease I wanted. 

If I was making the dress,I would have chosen the size 12/14.  For this conversion from dress to duster, I went with the size 20 and graded out the hips and increase the length to a maxi length. I did the same for the sleeves and graded them down to get to my appropriate size. I omitted the front fold and cut it open. I used a retro pattern that had a similar width and length as my guide for increasing this pattern. 

To make this duster reversible, I constructed both sides individually leaving an opening in the sleeve of one for turning to the right side. 

With right sides together, I stitched completely around the edges joining the linen fabric to the wax print fabric before turning it right side out. To finish the edges of the sleeves, pull them out as high as the armpit keeping them free of twists. Make sure the duster is right side out (ask me how I know!), then pull the sleeves out through the opening. Match up the seams then fold each sleeve end back to reveal the right sides. With raw edges even, pin in place and stitch the sleeve ends together.  

 After turning the sleeves inside I hand-stitched the opening closed. 

I lowered the neckline and added four hook and eyes to serve as closures to the front.   

I really enjoyed playing with the placement of the flower motifs on this duster. I print matched the front and centered a flower on each arm.

Come on Fall! I am ready for you!

Happy Sewing,

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

A Dress Called Harvey: Flour Resist Painted Fabric for the Fabric Mart Challenge

As you may have read in my previous post, I live in Pearland, Texas, and we were affected by Hurricane Harvey. We experienced 51 inches of rainfall in 4 days, and we watched as flooding devastated our community. Following the directives of city leaders, we hunkered down, and we hoped, prayed, and watched the rising water. Though it was touch and go with the rising waters, my home ultimately did not flood like the hundreds of thousands impacted in my community.

I was notified of this challenge's rules as Hurricane Harvey was a developing into a tropical storm in the Gulf of Mexico.  I told Fabric Mart that I would participate in the challenge until I was unable to do so. The water rose, and my anxiety and fear rose alongside it. We were told not to leave our home, so I retreated to my sewing room. 

This first challenge is to transform a 2-yard "blank slate" of cotton muslin. I chose to use the muslin as a canvas to focus some of my emotions (i.e., fear, gratitude, grief, and guilt) related to the storm and the aftermath. 

I am not new to embellishing fabric in fun, playful ways to express what is in my heart and mind. I have ice dyed cotton jersey for a maxi dress. I have airbrush painted my Afro diva dress, Peace, Puff, Afro Love bag and Afro Puff Diva dress for Little Miss. I have used multiple hand embroidery and applique techniques in my embellished shower curtain skirt.

I like my clothes to express elements of my personality or emotions. That usually results in happy-looking pieces. Sewing usually lifts my spirits and allows me to shift focus in moments of sadness. I currently feel broken. I am living in a broken city around broken friends and neighbors. With nowhere to go, I took to my sewing room. I contemplated how to show brokenness on fabric and to find a sewing pattern reflecting putting pieces back together. 

Because of the storm, I was unable to shop for supplies to transform my fabric. I decided to use what I had on hand in my sewing space and pantry. It gave me a chance to try a "flour-resist" technique (see below for further details). A paste is applied to the base fabric. The fabric is dried overnight and cracked to expose the fabric beneath. Fabric paint is then applied, and it seeps between the cracks. After the paint dries overnight, the flour is removed to show the painted fabric beneath. This is a labor-intensive process involving saturation, breaking and cleansing.

The colors in the fabrics are black, blue, and gold. Black and blue represents the devastation left by Harvey. The paint effect is stronger in some areas and varies in strength throughout the fabric. I did this to represent the wide continuum of impact of Harvey on people who have been affected. The crackle can be interpreted as rising water and escalating emotions during the slow progression of the storm. 

First responders and ordinary people with boats and trucks risked their lives to save people in immediate danger as the water rose. They are represented in a layer of gold painted directly on the muslin. 

A second layer of gold overlaps the blue and black to represent love and out-pouring of local, national, and global support. It recognizes those who provided food, shelter, clothing, and ongoing cleanup in the aftermath of Harvey. 

The McCalls 6028 pattern does not reflect my everyday style, but it communicates what I feel. I wanted a pattern with multiple seam lines to represent separation, structure, connection, and regrouping. 
The black piping represents the common thread we share, the boundaries of overrun banks, and released reservoirs. The piping also reflects the inaccessibility of streets and the need to feel supported in difficult times.  

This fabric is unlike anything I have made before. It is chaotic. It is messy. It is confusing. It is hard to look at, but it has more to show. This dress is organised, structured, detailed, and precise. It is purposeful and serves to calm the disorder.    

The fabric is designed using the "flour-resist" technique described here:
  1. Make a flour paste with a 1:1 flour/water ratio. A good starting point is 1 cup of flour per yard of fabric. Stir until there are no lumps and it looks like melted ice cream. Lay your fabric on a protected surface and smooth the paste over areas to be treated on the right side of the fabric. 
  2. Allow the fabric to dry completely overnight. Do not dry outdoors unless it can be protected from insects and vermin. 
  3. The edges will curl, and the fabric will become board stiff.
  4. Bend, fold, and twist the fabric to crack the flour surface. The more cracks you make, the more the paint will permeate to the base fabric.
  5. Paint the fabric with fabric paint using a sponge dauber.
  6. Check the backside to see if the paint is showing through the backside sufficiently. If you are not satisfied, add more. If you plan on using multiple colors, apply the light colors first. Allow that layer to dry, re-crack, and apply the subsequent colors drying in between. Allow the paint to dry completely before the next step.                                                                     
  7. To remove the paste and paint layer, submerge the fabric in a bucket or kitchen sink of water just until you can scrape it away. 
  8. Wring excess water out of the fabric and lay it on a protected surface. Using a blunt tool like a spatula, or putty knife, scrape the flour and paint away and dispose of it in the trash. 
  9. Lightly hand-wash any remaining flour from the fabric and dry. Heat set the paint with an iron or the method directed by your paint instructions. 

This is a labor-intensive, slow process involves layering, saturating, breaking and cleansing. I thought it was an appropriate metaphor for my experience. This was a wonderfully therapeutic exercise for me. My family provided encouragement and guidance along the way.  The waters are receding, schools and businesses are reopening and people are on the road to recovery. It will take time, but HoUSton is strong.

To see what the other contestants made and to vote click here.

Healing sewing,

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Hurricane Harvey: A Good Cry and Sew Therapy

Hello friends, I just want to write a quick note about Hurricane Harvey. This will be brief because I am overwhelmed and still processing it all.

As you have likely seen, the Gulf Coast has been devastated by catastrophic flooding due to the Hurricane. I live in Pearland, a suburb of Houston. Our family decided to shelter in place and ride the storm out. We stocked provisions and prepared for the worse we could imagine. We did not expect 57 inches of rain and days of worry and anxiety. In the end, our family came out better than most. The nearby streets are flooded, but thankfully no water entered our home.

Today the rain has stopped and the sun is shining. We have limited access beyond 2 or 3 streets and the lines at the few open businesses are out the doors. With all we have experienced and watched others go through, the clear sky brought me to tears. We are all balls of emotion feeling gratitude, grief and guilt all at the same time.


We are anxious to be useful, but are limited in what we can do physically. We have made monetary donations to send some support to those displaced. If you wish to do so, here is a list  of organizations that can use your support. When we are able, we will get out and help where we can.  In the meantime. I will do some soul-mending with sewing for myself and others. A friend has lost most of her first floor to flooding. All of her soft surfaces, curtains and cushions will need to replaced. We will get together to restore her home and spirit.

If you follow on Instagram or Facebook, you may know I was one of six sewing bloggers selected as contestants in the Fabric Mart Fabricista Fashion Challenge. It is a month long sewing competition with specific challenges each week. I was excited to be chosen, but considered withdrawing as the storm approached. Now that it is over, I have decided to continue in the challenge. I have this tension and nervous energy that I hope I can channel creatively. This contest may be welcome distraction I need. 

Thank you for your prayers and support for HoUSton. We feel them and I appreciate it.


Thursday, August 24, 2017

Craigslist: A Source for Vintage Patterns, Fabrics and Sewing Supplies.

A big thank you to those of you who tuned in to my interview on "That Sewing Blab". I had a good time chatting and answering questions. As promised, here are the steps to get up to the minute alerts on Craigslist for patterns, fabric, machines of whatever you like.  I have also included items I have recently purchased at a recent estate sale. It is proof that these alerts pay off. (I am so sorry for the photo quality. I was having trouble with my phone for clear screenshots. I went old school and took pictures of my monitor. You will get the idea.)  

Open Craigslist for your city and enter the search terms you want.

Your search results will open.

To the right of the search bar, click "save search". 

Log in or create an account

Your search criteria will be confirmed as saved

Your alerts will remain in your account until you delete them. If you want a break from alerts, you can turn them off and on.

I have built my fabric and pattern stash at reasonable cost over the years through my Craigslist purchases. Last month, I received a late night alert about an estate sale for a seamstress in a nearby city that was happening the next day. After reading the details of merchandise, I knew I had to go and be there when it openned.

I ended up making two trips to the sale and scored big! The first trip was to be sure I got what I wanted. The second trip was a leisurely one without my kids. Because I was friendly, enthusiastic and made friends with the staff the day before, I got great deals on the second trip.

I love this iron! I suggest you set an alert to snag one of these if it comes available.

Wiss brand scissors, pinking shears and sewing pins.

Rare (and awesome) June Tailor Pattern Weights and an expandable Gauge

Sewing Books for $1

This is just one of the fabric tables I took my pick from.

There were hundreds of patterns and I looked at everyone!  Scroll below to see what I got. 

There was a wealth of items that I admired, but decided to pass on. I set a budget and wanted to stay within it. I had to consider the available space at home and my mortality. This Bernina Cover-stitch/Serger combo however, was hustling hard to join my family. I have a serger and have been wishing for a coverstitch. I had to utilize my "phone a friend" option to have her talk some sense into me. She wisely advised against the purchase. Apparently, owners prefer separate machines and don't like switching between the two. It was still available on the second day at $200 less than the day before. I have no regrets passing on this one.

As I shopped, I chatted with other sewists. We admired the sellers stash and vowed to honor her with our makes. We all reflected on the fact that someday we will leave our stashes behind. We promised to try to pass our passion onto others so our treasures can bring joy to our loved ones. Knowing that is not always possible, we delighted in the thrills we will bring to bargain-hunting sew sisters like ourselves.
Happy sewing,