Sometimes when embarking on a new project I convince myself that I am going after low-hanging fruit, or the path of least resistance, to ensure success. I have found in reality that often the greater my assumption that something will be easy, the less straight and narrow the path to completion truly is.
I found myself in need of a project to get myself back in the swing of things this month. I moved to a new apartment, had my job eliminated in layoffs the next week, unpacked box after box to set up my new Sewing Lair and began transitioning to a new position they put me in at work… I was glad to have a job of course but the prospect of packing and moving my office elicited much sighing and an eye roll that would make a pinball machine jealous.
Sometimes I know I will benefit from some time spent sewing to make myself feel focused, productive, creative…or at least more at ease with myself. However when there’s this much going on in my real life, a complicated sewing project just adds to the sense of overwhelm, and inspiration is a rare thing to find. Also, after so much time purging, packing, unpacking and organizing my clothes (and saying “holy shit I’ve got too much stuff!”) I was hesitant to embark on anything I didn’t truly need.
In that vein of thinking I eventually got motivated by seeing the entries featured on Makery for The Refashioners 2016. This is sewing contest which encourages people to remake/remodel/recycle clothes based on a theme. As you will find in the link above, this year it’s #jeanius… a clever tag for an even more clever idea. Almost everyone has denim in their closet which has seen better days, or hardly worn denim items bought under the fog of wishful thinking… and so many things can really have a new look when fabricated in denim. So it was a seemingly easy combination to ease me back into my sewing routine… i had on hand a couple sad shirts I hadn’t talked myself into purging in the move (the things we insist on keeping!) and a little pullover dress that I had relegated to “housedress only” status… but really, how many housedresses does a woman under retirement age need??
Since only portions of the garments were fit for consumption in a new make, I perused my patterns and was quickly reminded of the project I featured in my last post, the Paneled Tunic Top from BurdaStyle. I now have a version of this dress I am most happy with, naturally after learning the make of it so well, but also because I put some clothes to work that otherwise posed diminishing returns where style is concerned!
Now this will bring us back to my introductory musing in this post… I thought “how simple will it be to just cut up this and that and patch it together in that dress style that’s already a patchwork of sorts??” Ummm… well, not that painless as it turns out.
One thing I know about this pattern is how important it is to cut the pieces exactly on-grain so the tunic hangs nicely without twisting. Well, the nature of well-loved clothing is that all that washing and wearing can put some serious torque in the fabric over time. So one of the first “labors of love” I found myself embarking on was to identify the true grain of each panel I chose to work with (this means setting the lengthwise and crosswise yarns in the fabric at a perfect perpendicular arrangement so each corner is a right angle). How do you begin this process in light weight tencel twill denim? By pulling individual yarns out of the fabric of course! Followed by trimming the wastage away along the grain line which the pulled yarns reveal. Totally not tedious… could spend many long afternoons doing this… not!
Another exciting (read: time consuming) discovery is finding areas of the garments you’re salvaging that are so perfect to work with but are just so not the right size… so we get creative with the seam ripper to eek out every last quarter inch of fabric. Oh the long list of things I would rather do than unpick individual stitches on used clothing… but in the words of Tim Gunn, make it work!
The upside to all this careful work is that you get to incorporate all the nuances of washed out indigo dyed fabric as new design features. I found I liked the look of the old seam lines especially when I removed the existing top stitching…
I used the entire placket front of one shirt as the main panel in the new dress. I sewed it shut and took off the buttons… I feel like it gives it an interesting re-purposed look since I didn’t need the function.
The feel-good aspect of this project was worth it, and it’s always fun to find new motivations for projects. Lesson re-learned is not to be afraid of taking the long road to be happier in the end. 🙂