Saturday, February 27, 2010

Recycling fabric

This is a story of how I recycled this shapeless turtleneck that I can't believe I used to wear 10 years ago

to this top

It all started when I noticed this top in the February Burdastyle magazine:

I liked the neckline and the gathered bust, and had actually traced out the pattern some weeks ago but then discovered I didn't have enough of a leftover fabric that I had planned for it. I didn't really have anything else suitable, so the pattern lingered for a while.

In the meantime, I sewed some other stuff, including the Eva Jacket and the accompanying skirt from the same fabric.

Then about two days ago, I was rummaging around my long-sleeved knit drawer for something appropriate to wear on a rainy day to work and pulled out that turtleneck. I think I probably bought it in like 1997 or so back when I was living in Connecticut and wore such things during the winters there. Well, I would never wear such a shapeless oversized thing in 2010 in California, that's for sure! That's when the inspiration struck me to recycle that grey knit fabric into the Burdastyle top.

Luckily, the top was so oversized, I was able to fit all the pattern pieces on intact pieces of fabric, the only concession being that I had to make the sleeves half-length. From reviews of this pattern, a commonly-cited problem was the tendency of the neckline to be too large and to fall off the shoulders. So I raised the neckline half an inch, and also re-drew the neck edge of the raglan seams on the bodice pieces to be about 1 inch closer to the center front and center back, grading back to their original positions at the side. Finally, I applied clear elastic to the neckline and this helped a lot with the neckline gaping problem a lot of people mentioned.

Well, I won't say the final top is a great success - it's wearable, but I think it really would have benefited from a crisper knit. That old knit from the old turtleneck had stretched quite a bit. I took in the seams but it still hangs sort of large, probably from stretching out some more. I think a knit with a bit of lycra in it would have held its shape a little better. But this was a great muslin for figuring out how to construct the next top I'll make from this pattern. Maybe something in a bright color for spring!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Eva Jacket from

I've made the Eva Jacket before, about a year ago when I first started sewing garments. In fact, it was the first jacket, and first really complicated garment, I'd ever made that was wearable. I was so proud of it and so impressed with myself that I went out and bought more fabric to make a second jacket from the same pattern on the same day that I had finished the first one! Here is a picture of the first jacket, made of some mystery garbardine fabric bought for cheap, compliments of Huxley Beagle's official web site. (Check out that cute beagle in the picture!) For the second jacket, I initially had a weird notion that I would make it in dark brown with teal piping around the collar and pocket flaps, but I couldn't find teal piping, so I settled for black rick-rack instead of teal piping, which was just as well, as attaching piping would have been too much for my sewing skills at that point and teal would probably have been too gaudy for me. Here is a picture of the second jacket, made of some mystery fabric, again bought for cheap. In those days, I was so uncertain of my sewing skills that I was afraid to spend the money on quality fabric in case I screwed it up!

Anyway, I wore the two first Eva jackets a few times, and but then never really took a shine to them. I now think it was because I had made them out of such cheap fabric I didn't like wearing them. Since those two first jackets, I have made a lot of other garments and improved my sewing skills greatly. I had also upgraded from my very basic Kenmore (bought originally so I could sew curtains) to a Bernina Activa 240, which allowed me to sew with even more precision and with perfect stitches. (I never figured out how to set the tension correctly with the Kenmore, with the result that the stitches always looked sort of home-made, but with the Bernina, I get perfect stitches every time). I had also learnt a lot more about the kinds of fabrics I liked to wear and to have next to my skin.

So it was that one day, while contemplating my problematic fabric-hoarding habit, I decided to make something with the plaided houndstooth 100% wool fabric that I had bought and had done nothing with for over a year. I initially contemplated making a BWOF swing jacket with the fabric, but I had never worked with plaid fabric before and I wasn't sure I would be able to match the plaids up properly at the princess seams. Then I remembered the Eva Jacket, which was made up in a plaided houndstooth fabric in the promotional photos at I checked the pattern, and the pieces even had guidelines printed on the pattern that told you how to match up the plaids! So it was a no-brainer: for my first time working with plaid, I would make the Eva Jacket. I loved the pattern, obviously, but I never wore the two Evas I had made because I didn't like the fabric. This time I would make it out of 100% wool and line it with rayon for breatheability, and I expected that I would get a lot of use out of it and can finally retire my first two Evas.

Anyway, here is the completed new, third, Eva jacket.

I have to say, I managed to match the plaids up alright! (Although, perhaps in another year after more experience sewing with plaids, I might not be as happy with the matching on this jacket; then I'll have to make another jacket with even more perfectly matched plaids to replace this one!) I added the sleeve bands this time (I had left them off the first two jackets because I couldn't figure out the instructions; I still haven't figured out the instructions but I just did my own thing this time). Then and now, I consulted my copy of theVogue Guide to Sewing for installing the flapped pockets. I drafted the lining from the pattern pieces by following the instructions in this great instructional video from Burdastyle.

I love my new Eva Jacket - I've worn it to work every day this week. It's really nice and warm and both the jacket and lining fabric breathe and feel great.

As for that swing jacket I was considering - I'm thinking of attempting it next with some wool with tiny houndstooth (not plaided) in this nice earthy, but bright, color scheme. But as for my very next project, I think it will be to make a matching skirt from the rest of the leftover fabric I have after making the Eva jacket, perhaps this one. I'll keep you posted!