My Unofficial Me Made May 2013 – Week 3

Hey, I made it to Week 3 of Me Made May 2013! As I mentioned in my previous post (“My Unofficial Me Made May Participation: Weeks 1 and 2“), I’m unofficially participating in this handmade wearable challenge.  So far I’ve only had one repeat – wearing my red hat twice. But I think I’ll be running out of things I’ve made pretty soon. Meanwhile, here’s a recap of what I wore on days 15 through 21.

Day 15 - Wool cape made from a 1980s Vogue pattern I got for 25 cents
Day 15 – Wool cape (fabric from Britex Fabrics). I used a 1980s Vogue pattern 1980s I got for 25 cents.

Day 15:  The mornings can be chilly in San Francisco – so on this work day I wore this as my coat. The hat is a cotton Kangol my youngest sister got me for my birthday a few years ago.

Day 16 - Wearing my trench coat, which I made from Christine Haynes book Chic & Simple Sewing
Day 16 – Wearing my trench coat, which I made from Christine Haynes book Chic & Simple Sewing

Day 16:  I wore one of my favorite jackets. I got the wool fabrics from the East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse – the bias tape is a wool houndstooth. I love the big pockets on this coat. I like to wear this wool hat with it. I got the hat on sale for $1 at Urban Outfitters about six years ago. Now I wish I bought more!

Day 17 - Cotton print bias cut skirt - fabric from Britex Fabrics
Day 17 – Cotton print bias cut skirt – fabric from Britex Fabrics in San Francisco

Day 17: I love the fabric on this skirt. I wore a thick-brimmed black vintage straw hat and a vintage bracelet with this skirt.

Day 18 - knit top
Day 18 – knit top

Day 18: The fabric for this top was an imported cotton stretch knit from Italy, which I bought as a remnant from Britex Fabrics in San Francisco. It was going to be a really hot Saturday and I wanted to keep my arms covered. (I wore this sun hat all day – keeping my face in the shade as I listened to a lot of good performances at the Malcolm X Jazz Festival in Oakland.)

I initially had a piece of wide elastic at the bottom of this top but it didn’t look very good on me. It was too poofy on the hips so I took out the elastic and I either belt it or tie a knot like I did here.

Day 19 - My repeat day - I wore this hat again.
Day 19 – My repeat day – I wore this hat again.

Day 19: I also wore this hat on Day 4, More details on the hat are in my first Me Made May post.

Day 20 - Knit tunic and bolero - pattern from the book Alabama Studio Sewing + Design
Day 20 – Knit tunic and bolero – pattern from the book Alabama Studio Sewing + Design

Day 20: I wore my red knit tunic (hand pleating on the neckline!) with the black knit bolero, which I wore on Day 10. The hat is a really lovely vintage hat with wool lace that was made in France. I use a hat pin that I stick through a pony tail in the back to keep it in place.

Day 21 - Vest I made from home dec remnant I got a Britex Fabrics
Day 21 – Vest I made from home dec remnant I got a Britex Fabrics

Day 21: I wore this vest with a vintage velvet hat.

And that concludes Week 3 of my unofficial Me Made May 2013 participation. I’m not so sure how much longer I’ll be keeping this up but it’s been fun so far. It’s also been a good opportunity to show my hat collection. I’ve worn 18 different hats over the past 21 days!

I’ve drafted people at work to take my picture at the office. On the weekends, it’s been hubby or a mirror. ;o)


My Test Results: Pre-washing Silk Chiffon

Silk ChiffonEarlier this month I did a little online research on pre-washing silk (see “Prewashing Silk Fabric“) because I was trying to figure out how I should treat this fabric before sewing it: dry clean, pre-wash by hand or machine, what soap or detergent to use, etc. I decided to limit my tests to hand washing because the fabric is rather delicate and I think a washing machine would be too rough. Here are results of my tests for pre-washing silk chiffon.

I did three tests using 4-inch (10 cm) squares of fabric, hand washing each piece in my bathroom sink using 1/4 teaspoon (~4 ml) of Johnson’s baby shampoo. I picked that amount because I guessimate that you use about a teaspoon or tablespoon to wash your hair. (Note: It takes about 1.5 gallons (5 liters) of water to get my sink 2/3 full.)

Here are the three tests I did:

  1. Wash and rinse in cold water and the iron on silk setting
  2. Wash and rinse in lukewarm water (barely warm) and iron on silk setting
  3. Wash in lukewarm water and rinse with water mixed with 1/8 cup (30 ml) of vinegar. I just picked that amount because it was half the amount Steph mentioned in her post about washing silk in the washing machine (see “This Is how I Care For Silk“). I also ironed this square on the silk setting.

And here’s my documentation of the process:

Two silk chffon squares before washing in cold and lukewarm water.
Two silk chiffon squares before washing in cold and lukewarm water.
The lukewarm water got very bubbly
I soaked the fabric for about 10 minutes for each wash. The lukewarm water was the most bubbly.
I soaked and rinsed each square in the temperature I washed it in.
I rinsed each square in the same wash temperature. I put it under the spigot and then soaked in rinse water for 10 minutes.
Left: after cold water wash and rinse; right: after lukewarm wash and rinse. Note: Cold water barely shrunk but lukewarm had slight shrinkage (I didn't cut these squares as precisely as I would have liked).
Left: Silk chiffon after cold water wash and rinse, then ironing at silk setting, only a little shrinkage 1/16″ (1.6 mm). Right: Silk after lukewarm wash and rinse, and ironing, shrinkage was about twice that of the cold water square – 1/8″ (3.2 mm)

My third test (washing in lukewarm water and rinse in vinegar solution) was with this square of chiffon.

Silk chiffon before lukewarm wash and rinse with 1/4 cup (60 ml) vinegar in water
Silk chiffon before lukewarm wash/rinse with water & 1/8 c. (30 ml) of vinegar. (Note: I was off in cutting this square!)
After lukewarm water wash and rinse with a little vinegar, and ironing the square, you can see that this test had the most shrinkage - about 1/4" (6.4mm) - of all the squares.
After lukewarm water wash and rinsed with water mixed with 1/8 c. (30 ml) vinegar, and ironing the square, you can see that this test had the most shrinkage – about 1/4″ (6.4mm) – of all the test squares.

The hand of this silk chiffon is very soft and has a lovely drape as you can see in the photo below (see “The Hand of Fabric” for more on the hand of fabric). So I really didn’t want to change the hand significantly by washing it. Note: I held each square in the center, with the front edge parallel tome. I didn’t want to hold it on the bias, which would make each square more “drapey” than usual.

See how this square of silk chiffon (no wash) drapes?
See how this square of (unwashed) silk chiffon drapes? It just fall straight down from my fingers.
The hand of silk chiffon washed/rinsed in cold changed the most. It's doesn't drape as much.
The hand of silk chiffon washed/rinsed in cold changed the most. See how it doesn’t drape as much? 
The hand of silk chiffon washed/rinsed in lukewarm also changed but it had slightly more drape than the cold.
The hand of silk chiffon washed/rinsed in lukewarm also changed but it had slightly more drape than the cold test.
Hand of silk washed in lukewarm/rinsed with water mixed with vinegar. This square had a lot more drape than the ones rinsed in plain water.
Hand of silk washed in lukewarm/rinsed with water mixed with vinegar.This square had a lot more drape than the ones rinsed in plain water. However, the texture of the fabric seemed slightly rougher than the unwashed version.

So what will I do? I’m leaning heavily toward prewashing in lukewarm water and rinsing in lukewarm with a little vinegar. Though this version shrank the most, the hand changed the least – and the hand is more important to me than a little shrinkage.

I envision this silk chiffon floating over a lightweight cream wool skirt. My next step is finding or modifying the right pattern or drafting my own skirt pattern.

Test results from prewashing silk chiffon in cold and lukewarm water -

Prewashing Silk Fabric

Silk Chiffon

I have nearly three yards of this lovely silk chiffon – a beautiful remnant I got at Britex Fabrics in San Francisco. I’m thinking of using it for a skirt and pair it with a solid silk underskirt (cream or some other color). But before I start sewing it I need to prewash it or take it to the dry cleaners. Prewashing silk fabric in the washing machine may seem wrong but it’s not something you should automatically rule out. I’m trying to decide what I should do.

I’ve done a little research and here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

StephC of Sewing Cake patterns washes silk in the washing machine. Here’s what she says in “This Is How I Care for Silks” on her blog 3 Hours Past the Edge of the World:

This is how I care for silk fabrics:

  • Serge/overlock the raw edges of the length of silk fabric to be turned into a garment
  • Put into washing machine.  If desired, add a few other garments of similar weight and color.  Make sure to zip up any zippers.
  • Wash on a cool setting with a small amount of mild detergent.  I make my own.  DO NOT USE POWDER.  In a pinch, use a capful of shampoo.
  • I like to add a little bit of vinegar to the rinse water.  Try 1/4 cup.  It freshens the silk and removes any soap residue.
  • If desired, use fabric softener.  I think of it the same way as using conditioner on my hair.
  • Remove from the washing machine immediately.

Be sure to read the rest of her post for more of her experiences on washing silk.

I also tweeted (@csewsalot) for advice and StephC (@SewingCake) advised: “when in doubt, just wash a 10cm sq of fabric to see what happens. don’t use hot or cold water. Gentle cycle. Should be ok.” [Note: For the metrically challenged (like myself) 10cm is about 4 inches.]

I found this blog, How to Clean Stuff, which had this helpful post “How to Wash Silk.” Be sure to read the comments for more advice. This site has many, many posts on cleaning a variety of clothing and fabric, from “How to Clean Antique Lace” to “How to Whiten Yellowed Wool.”

I also called a local fabric store to see if they carried anything that you could use to wash silk. The woman I spoke to seemed a bit appalled that I would consider putting silk in the washing machine, suggesting that I dry clean it because washing it could really change the fabric. BUT she said if I really wanted to do that, I should use baby shampoo.

So I’ll definitely prewash a test swatch and see what happens to the fabric and then I’ll decide if I want to prewash all the yardage or just take it to the dry cleaners. I’ll be sure to post my results!



Choosing the Right Interfacing

V2984I’ve been thinking a lot about interfacing lately because I’ve been trying to figure out if I want to use what this Vogue pattern (V2984, now out of print) recommends (60″ nylon fusible knit interfacing) for this wool crepe jacket — or use something else. I’m not sure what that “something else” will be so I thought I’d take a moment and write about what I’ve learned about choosing the right interfacing.

The most important things to keep in mind is:

  • the hand of your fabric,
  • the weight of your interfacing,
  • and your pattern.

For example, if you’ve got lightweight fabric, such as cotton voile, and your pattern calls for interfacing for the collar, you don’t want to use a heavy-weight interfacing or you’ll have a really stiff and uncomfortable collar. Plus you’d change the hand of your fabric from something that’s light and flowing to something thick and stiff.

What does interfacing do? It provides additional support for your fabric; it’s most commonly used in areas that get a bit more wear and tear, such as a neck facing or a waistband.

Earlier this week I tweeted (as @csewsalot): “Do you use fusible interfacing? If so what are your faves? Any that you avoid?”

Erin Erickson (@yorkiemischief), who blogs at Dog Under My Desk, replied: “It depends on what you’re using it for. For quilting cotton in bags I use SF-101 (Pellon’s woven fusible) + sew-ins”

She followed that up with a couple more tweets: “I’m sure there are good applications for non-woven fusibles, maybe clothes, but definitely not on quilting cotton.”

and then: “This is what happens when you fuse non-wovens to quilting cotton”

(photo courtesy of Erin Erickson of Dog Under My Desk)

As you can see, selecting the right interfacing is really important. (Thanks to Erin for sending a bigger photo!)

I bought the above Vogue pattern in 2009 and I remember reading the back of the envelope and thinking — uh, what’s nylon fusible knit interfacing? I went to Britex Fabrics and looked at some but they didn’t have any that was 60″ wide. I wasn’t ready to make the jacket and hadn’t bought my fashion fabric yet so I put it away.

Not long after that, I was reading Anna Maria Horner‘s book Seams to Mewhich has many lovely projects and patterns, and she mentioned that she didn’t like interfacing. In fact, she recommended using flannel or some other fabric for some of the projects in her book. This made me rethink interfacing.

I went through a brief anti-interfacing moment. Here’s what I made during that time.

Knit top - no interfacing
The result of not using interfacing in the yoke of this knit top

I decided not to use any interfacing on this rayon knit top, which as you can see, was a mistake. Knit is very drapey and the yoke really needs additional support. I had made this top once before and used a medium-weight fusible interfacing that was too stiff so the yoke didn’t look quite right. When I made it again, I went in the opposite direction and so I got this saggy front. Though I can wear the top I need to pair it with a turtleneck, which gives it something to stick to, and I have to remember to sit up straight so it lays right. So I don’t wear it very much even though I really like the fabric.

White dress - flannel interfacing
Using flannel as interfacing on this dress

On this vintage dress pattern (a Vogue reissue of a 1953 pattern), I used white flannel as my interfacing. But I think it was a little too thick. The white cotton fabric was of a lighter weight and had a different hand than the flannel. However, I got the five yards of fashion fabric for about $10 at the East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse in Oakland and  I was experimenting. It was sort of my muslin but I’ve worn the dress a couple times a year with a vintage black straw hat so I guess it worked out. It was a good learning experience!

Here’s the pattern:

Vogue 1953 Dress Pattern

And here’s my last example. On this vintage dress, I didn’t use any interfacing. The red cotton fabric has a crisp hand to it and it didn’t need any additional support.

Red dress - no interfacing
The bodice, front detail and reverse side (finished with seam tape)

I’ll be writing more about fusible interfacing but if you have any interfacing nightmares or successes, let me know. Or if you have any suggestions for interfacing alternatives to nylon knit fusible (organza perhaps) for wool crepe jacket, please comment below!


Pre-washing Fabric

Prewashed fabric

I usually pre-wash cotton woven fabric in cold water and tumble dry low before I cut it. Pre-washing fabric ensures that your fabric will not shrink after you wash the completed garment. It would be really awful to spend a lot of time cutting and sewing something only to have it shrink after your first wash. If you want your fabric to last longer, then don’t put it in the dryer. You’ll also be saving energy by line drying.

Sometimes I’d rather skip pre-washing because I just want to start sewing. But I tell myself it’s better to pre-wash.

You can even pre-wash silk, as I learned from Steph at her 3 Hours Past blog here.

The only exception I make is wool, which I don’t typically pre-wash. However, I might consider dry cleaning it before cutting. For example, I decided to dry clean some wool crepe fabric because I’ve read that it shrinks.

You can certainly throw wool fabric in the washer. Then it’ll be machine washable when you’ve completed the garment. I wouldn’t put it in the dryer though. My guess is that it would shrink more in the dryer than in the washer.

If you have a more delicate wool or an expensive wool, you might not want to put it in the wash because you’ll be putting more stress on the fabric and the fabric may get worn out more quickly.

When you pre-wash your fabric, be sure to finish the cut edges by either pinking the edges or just sewing a zigzag stitch close to the edge.

I pinked the cut edges before prewashing my fabric.
I pinked the cut edges before prewashing my fabric.

This will prevent any unraveling of the fabric as it goes through the wash cycle. If you don’t do that, you’ll end up with a mess of tangled strings.

If you are washing a piece of fabric that’s more than two yards long, it’s a good idea to sew then ends together in one big loop. Then the fabric won’t get all tangled up with the other fabric you’re pre-washing.

I forgot to do that when I did a load of pre-washing earlier this month. I had two longer pieces of fabric – one was about three yards and the other four yards –  that I was washing along with other cotton prints that were one or two yards each. So when I took the load out of the washer and the dryer, the longer yardage was all tangled up with the rest of the fabric (as you can see in the photo above).

If you are using fusible interfacing in a project that you intend to put in the wash after you’ve finished the garment , you may want to pre-wash it in the washer or soak it in hot tap water for 15 minutes and letting it air dry (as mentioned on Fabricland’s site here). I haven’t experienced interfacing shrinking but I have read about other people having problems, such as in this post here.

Do you pre-wash your fabric before you sew?

Holiday Gifts – Fabric Covered Button Brooches

I saw this post “How to Make a Fabric Button Brooch Tutorial” on Sew Delicious. I immediately thought, “Oh, I have to make some of these. They’ll make great presents!”

You just get some flat-back covered buttons, fabric scraps, pin backs and glue, and voila you’ve got some great holiday gifts.

Pinback with loop to string on a chain

The first thing I did was buy a few pinbacks from Britex Fabrics, the kind that have the little thing that you turn to keep the pin in place. (Britex is just a couple blocks from where I work.) I got the smallest size pinbacks they had (3/4 inch) and I also got a few 1-inch pinbacks that had a loop at the top so you can string the brooch on a necklace. So the brooch can be worn as a pin or hang on a chain.

Britex didn’t have any flat-back covered buttons, only covered buttons with a shank, which makes sense because you can’t sew flat-back button on anything. They are a craft item, not a sewing item.

So I followed Sew Delicious’s advice and searched Etsy. I found plenty of vendors selling flat-back buttons. I ordered a size 45 covered button kit from Cutiestuffs for $3 (link here), which included six size 45 covered buttons. I ordered 100 size 45 flat back buttons for $26 from Yes to Me (direct link), the cheapest price on Etsy – at least as far as I could tell.

Note: The buttons from Yes to Me are for heavy fabric. The buttons arrived in two ziplock bags – rounded fronts in one bag and the backs in another.

I thought she sent me the wrong backs because they didn’t hold the fabric in place. I emailed her and that’s when I found out that they were indeed the correct size but they were for heavy fabric. She also made the excellent point that you can see the metal of the button through lightweight fabric so she suggested doubling the fabric or using a very light batting as backing. I used some white flannel, which worked well with lightweight fabrics. 

I already had a glue gun and I have a huge supply of gluesticks. I have no idea why I bought so many  so many years ago but they sure come in handy when project like these come up.

Here’s what the back of a completed fabric covered button brooch looks like. The ones pictured above are for my nieces and nephew. These are fun and easy to make and a great way to use up fabric scraps!


The Hand of Fabric

The half-finished red crepe jacket

When I first began sewing as a young girl, I sewed mostly woven cotton fabric and made pretty basic clothes. So I never really had to be concerned about the “hand” of fabric. What is the hand of fabric? It’s how a fabric feels when you touch it – soft, stiff, flowing, crisp, and so on.

But over the past few years, I have delved into making clothes from fabric I had never used before – stretch knits, wool crepe, silk, herringbone tweed, dupioni, and home dec textiles. And now I’ve discovered that hand is really important – especially if I decide to deviate from what a pattern suggests.

Patterns typically list fabrics to use and let you know whether obvious diagonals are OK. They also take into consideration the hand and how it would work with the design. For example, when I made The Trench from Christine Haynes’s book Chic & Simple Sewing, I used a wool fabric that didn’t quite work. I needed something with a stiffer hand so the top part wouldn’t flop. When I made it a second time using a more heavyweight fabric, I didn’t have that problem (see Sewing Another Trench Coat).

I bought a remnant of some beautiful red imported Italian wool crepe from Britex Fabrics a couple years ago. It was one of the more expensive remnants I’d ever purchased (even at 30 percent off the remnant price it was still more than $50 – I’ve conveniently forgotten how much it was).

At the time, I had an Anne Klein jacket pattern in mind but soon realized that I didn’t have enough yardage – luckily I figured that out before I cut it. But I wanted to make a jacket so I flipped through a Vogue pattern book and found a cute cropped jacket. The pattern didn’t list wool crepe but it did say “crepe” so I thought, why not?

Well, after I began sewed the main body pieces, I realized that the hand of my wool crepe and the silk lining was too soft for this pattern. I really don’t like the way the front horizontal seam looks. The fabric just isn’t very forgiving. Maybe if I’d chosen a lining with a stiffer hand, it would look better. But what I should have done is really considered my fabric’s hand and the pattern – and how they would work together.

So it’s been hanging in my closet for months as I try to figure out what to do. I really don’t want to take it apart because it’s pretty hard to pick out the thread. I bought a red silk thread that matches really well. Plus I clipped the seams in some areas in the hopes that that would help.

Now I ponder placing some ribbon or lace over that darn seam but it’s hard to decide what will look best – a black grosgrain ribbon? some grey lace? a red moiré satin ribbon? In the meantime, it hangs in my closet waiting for my decision and for me to attach its cropped sleeves….


Fabric at the East Bay Depot

The East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse in Oakland, California, sells all sorts of things, including art supplies, fabric, notions, and sewing patterns. All items are donated to this cool nonprofit organization whose goal is to “divert waste materials from landfills” and to increase awareness about the benefits of reusing materials. Teachers get a discount for things they buy for their classes (paint, paper, etc.).

Toward the back is the section where you’ll find all sorts of fabric in varying lengths that people have donated. I’ve seen wool, cotton, brocade, knits, velvet, and vinyl rolled up in the cubby holes here. And sometimes rolls of fabric are donated. The price per yard? $3/yard for fabric on the bolt, $2/yard for fabric in bundles, regardless of the type of fabric. I’ve also spotted leather scraps and belt buckles here at one time or another.

Fabric section at the East Bay Depot

Sometimes the fabric selection isn’t so great but you never know when something new will turn up, such as a collection of home dec fabric donated by a furniture upholsterer.

And if you have too many fabric scraps and remnants, it’s an excellent place to donate some of your stash. Someone will put them to good use.

The Depot sells notions and patterns as well. They aren’t particularly well organized but if you’re willing to spend the time to hunt through the bins, you could be rewarded with something unique. I’ve found vintage patterns, zippers of all kinds, a vintage fabric belt kit, and buttons. Patterns are just 25 cents. Loose buttons are sold by weight – about $8/pound, which isn’t very much when you’re only getting a handful.

Happy hunting!

Notions at the East Bay Depot







Buttons are sold by weight
Patterns for sale at the Depo