for sale

March 16, 2012

Here is a collection of cotton Kanga dresses. And they are for sale! I am working on coming up with dress designs, and am testing out fabrics, sewing techniques, etc.

These four dresses are made with traditional Kanga fabric brought to me by my sister. She and her mother, who lives in Tanzania, pick out the different designs for me, and then I get to make things!

The bodices are lined with another layer of Kanga fabric, and the skirts are lined with a layer of cotton lawn.

The sleeves are left unlined. This design is loose-fitting and perfect for warm summer (or spring…) weather.

Each dress is unique, with the patterns carefully selected and matched for each. The seams are all finished with zigzag, and I tried to cut all the ends off, but I am sure that there are a few hidden here and there. The hems of the sleeves and bottom are the finished edge of the fabric, except for the white and black dress, which has a raw edge.

The material is thin and not too refined. There are imperfections, and I feel that this adds to the character of the pieces. Each piece of Kanga fabric has a quote on it, and I left the quote on the bottom of this dress.

The fabric comes quite heavily starched, and after a few washings and wearings, it softens and relaxes a lot. I always take care with laundering, and machine wash delicate, cold, and always hang to dry.

The dresses do usually need to be ironed a little, or else they end up looking a little bit rumpled.

Let me know what you think!

spring flannel

March 10, 2012

This dress is flannel, but doesn’t have sleeves…a little bit of a contradiction, and I will see how it wears.

I bought a dress recently that I really liked, and drafted this pattern from it. The original had a short front, and a long back, and was a little bit more fitted through the middle. I wanted this to be a bit more simple, and have a looser fitting top.

The neck and arms are all stitched by hand, which takes a while, but I generally enjoy doing hand stitching. I made bias tape out of scraps, sewed it to the edges with the machine, and then folded it under, pressed and pinned it, and then stitched it down. One of the best things about making dresses is being able to finish them carefully and by hand…

The hem is also hand stitched. I love a wide hem, turned under and sewed. There is something very substantial about it, and the dress seems to hang better that way.

The waist is elastic. I inserted an elastic band into the dress, tied it tightly at about the right spot, and cut the ends.

Overall, the dress is comfy, cozy, and can always be worn with a sweater if the weather turns cold.

denim jumper

March 10, 2012

This started out as a dress. When I added the sleeves, it turned into something that I wouldn’t wear. So I had to cut them off…

Now it is a jumper. Which works well with things like long-sleeved button up shirts, and short-sleeved blouses. I might be taking a turn for dorky…

The front and back  both have stitching around the edges. I had to undo the entire top a few times to figure out how to accomplish this.. It was a bit tricky, but worked out in the end.

I ended up finishing the edge of the armhole by hand. A few little stitches tucked in there to take care of the last raw edge!

The seam at the bottom of the dress was sewn by machine. I generally tend to make the seams by hand, but with the denim I have been sewing the seams, with good results. I think that it might have something to do with the stiffness of the fabric.

I am meaning to put some pockets on the front, but haven’t gotten to it yet.

 

purple and blue vest

December 31, 2011

Another vest for my dad. Modeled off of a navy blue zip up vest that he wears all the time. This one is made with three different yarns. A super bulky malabrigo in purples and blues, a worsted weight malabrigo in bright blue, and a lace weight madeline tosh in navy blue. All hand dyed yarns. I just love this particular combination. Both the texture and color combine and contribute to the beauty of the finished material. And knit on size 15 needles, the material knits up quickly, and has a particular firmness that is quite lovely.

The border has a few rows of garter stitch, and then the rest of the vest is stockinette stitch. To edge the front and armholes I picked up stitches (3 out of ever 4) knit a row, and then cast off. Quick, tidy and simple.

My dad chose the purple zipper, and I attempted to sew it into the knitted  material. My current method for sewing in zippers is to: 1. pin the zipped up zipper into the sweater/vest. 2. unzip and hand baste the zipper on both sides. 3. machine sew the zipper from the right side of the material, taking care to back-stitch at the beginning and end of the line. 

I know that there are different sewing machine feet for sewing in zippers, but I haven’t been able to figure them out yet, so I wrestle through with the normal foot…hoping that I don’t break anything.

denim workhorse

December 9, 2011

I have made a lot of these dresses. They are comfortable, easy to wear, and easy to make! (The pattern is a slightly adjusted version of the schoolhouse tunic.)

I usually take over a spot in the house to lay out the fabric. My current favorite is the floor in the bedroom. I place the pattern down and trace it onto the fabric with a chalk spreader tool.

Then cut the fabric…baste, and sew. Below are the sleeves, basted and ready to pin into the bodice.

I really enjoy the process of pinning the sleeves. I have found that fabric is much more malleable than I would think, and pinning the sleeves allows for all kinds of adjustments and refinements.

I started sewing the bodice with blue thread, but it was the wrong color, and so I switched to orange. The contrast was pretty with the dark blue.

I hemmed the bottom of the dress and sleeves by turning the material inside out. I actually have enough fabric to make another dress with the reverse side out, and I might do that. I had a hard time deciding between the dark and light sides of the fabric..

The hem at the bottom of the dress was a little funny, and so I added some tucks around to even out the seam. I guess that they add character..

My brother found this little beauty for me a few days ago. It is a Singer 306W, and works for sewing denim, canvas and leather. Seriously exciting.

This particular machine was made in the 50s, and comes with a motor and light, and a nice little cabinet in good condition. Plus, it seems to be built like a tank.

I have been testing it out on one of my denim scraps (I have a collection now, and am planning some sort of project with them all..)

The motor is in good shape, and once I am able to tune it up (with help from my friend Pat) should run easily. The stitch length/backstitch lever was frozen and we had to do a little tinkering with oil and wd40, but we got it working.

The underside is pretty cool. The belt (far right) is in good shape, and all the parts are built to last! No plastic down here.

The cabinet is in good shape. There are three drawers on the right hand side, and the machine folds down into the cabinet.

The top has burn marks, and the machine and cabinet smell like cigarettes. I can imagine the former owner sewing late, getting tired, and letting the cigarette fall from his/her hands onto the cabinet top…

Today was beautiful. Misty, and almost rainy in the morning, then breezy, cool, and sunny all day. I was working at home, and wearing this dress, which I made a few months ago, but haven’t been able to wear.

This dress makes me feel like baking bread, or picking apples. Or roasting pumpkins. Things to look forward to!

The pattern came from a garage sale, and was a little bit too small. So I added a bit of fabric to different spots, experimenting to increase the size.

 The fabric is cheap flannel. There is something satisfying about making a dress for $12, plus time. I am hoping that the flannel will hold up to a little bit of wear though…you pay for what you get!

The front of the dress is gathered, and I added some fabric there to increase the size. I also changed the placket a little, and had to adjust it quite a bit more when I realized that the lines of the pattern weren’t matching up well…something more to worry about with plaids!

The sleeves are long, but need to be worn pushed up past the elbows. Otherwise there is just too much green going on! I never put buttons on the cuffs, and if I push them past my elbows and then pull some extra fabric down they seem to hold up well enough.

The pockets are awfully handy. They are conveniently located on the front of the dress, and can hold quite a number of things. The only problem is that the fabric isn’t too strong, and I am worried about the corners of the pockets tearing. I suppose I should have put some interfacing on the underside of the dress for reinforcement, but I didn’t think of that while I was making the dress.

The back is simple, with a bit of shaping at the neck. I was hesitant about putting that in, but I did anyways, and it seemed to work out all right. Again, I was having a little trouble adjusting the fabric so that the lines matched. I am going to need to be a little more vigilant about that!