I love button down shirts and blouses. Short sleeve, long sleeve, doesn’t really matter. But I’m very very picky about them. They’ve got to be the right color – bright, unfaded solid, or quirky-but-not-TOO-loud print. They’ve got to be the right material – usually 100% cotton, rarely poly-cotton blend, always heavy enough to NOT be see-through (WHY are so many shirts see-through?!). They can have a bit of interesting detail, but on the whole, no extra weird tabs or pleats or zippers or…bleah.
And…they’ve got to fit perfectly. My top half is smaller than my bottom half, and I love showing off my actual waist, so I like a more fitted top. I hate, hate, hate boxy-looking shirts. At the same time, the shirt CANNOT be binding at the shoulders (I raise my arms over my head all the time at story hour, and I hate flashing my bellybutton), nor gaping at the buttons (just…trashy).
All these requirements make thrifting my button downs very very difficult. However, I think I can do something about the last requirement (fit) by learning how to sew darts. Most of my favorite button downs have small darts, which give the shirts a feminine shape without relying on spandex.
Figuring out how to pin the darts correctly will be tricky. There’s a lot to consider: does it make the fit better? does it mess with the print, if there is one? However, construction-wise, darts are very simple – just a curved seam. I think I can handle it!
I’m always finding button downs that look great except for being a bit too big/shapeless. Next time I thrift, I will pick up a few and try experimenting.
so now I have a larger surface (other than the floor) to measure and cut on. Also, I realized when I made the unwearable pants that I’m not very good at cutting fabric with shears and really hate doing it (that’s kind of a big part of sewing). Joann Fabrics had rotary cutters and mats (usually pretty pricey) at 50% off, so I sprung for a large mat and cutter, and I tried it out on a project yesterday.
I made myself a two-tone a-line skirt out of two old men’s t-shirts from the Salvation Army. I chose it because it was simple, cheap, and would result in something I’ll actually wear but not in circumstances where I’ll care what it looks like.
First of all, the rotary cutter is awesome and I will be using it a lot. Secondly, the skirt turned out fine! I’m wearing it right now and it’s insanely comfortable. I haven’t added a waistband to it because it stays up fine without one (yay, I measured correctly), but I might add one in the future for looks. I trimmed off the triangular ends at the hem but the hem is not really even; that’s ok because the way the skirt folds and the way t-shirt fabric rolls hide a lot of unevenness. Plus it’s a skirt made out of old t-shirts and looks like it, so I don’t feel like it has to be 100% even.
So yep, very comfortable and not constricting at all – the sort of skirt I could bum around in all summer. I love wearing skirts in summer, but it’s hard to find skirts that I can treat like jeans or shorts (run around in, get dirty, stay cool). I think I might make more in several colors; I have 2 more t-shirts already that I can use.
I’ve decided that in addition to pillows/curtains (the basics of which are very easy), I’m going to keep doing projects where I re-work existing clothes. Fabric is expensive, used clothing is cheap. It just makes sense to develop my skills first by making something unwearable into something potentially wearable; and if it doesn’t turn out, I’m only out a couple of bucks.
I bought this book and this book for the teen section of our library, I can use both for ideas. Maybe I’ll find one I can use for a teen program.
It was sewing only a straight stitch (no zigzag). By adjusting a screw or two I was able to sorta-kinda fix it. I can now get it to do a zigzag stitch, although I’m not sure it’s 100% tuned the way it should be. Probably I should take it in to have it serviced at some point, but since I can get a decent straight stitch out of it, I think I’ll try some projects first and see if I can live with it.
The first project I’m going to try is a pair of flannel drawstring pants, made from an old sheet I had lying around. I live in drawstring pants at home, and I feel weird paying money for them (since they are relatively easy/cheap to make and don’t last long). I used a pair of sweatpants as a pattern. The pieces are all cut out and I’m going to try to stitch them together tonight. I’m even going to finish the seams so they (hopefully) don’t fall apart in the wash. Wish me luck!
If these work, I have a ton of other projects I want to try: curtains, pillows, skirts, etc.
ETA: Bwahaha, well, the pants kind of worked and kind of did not. They are wearable but they are a little tight and obviously poorly constructed. I think this is b/c the pants I used as a pattern were made from a fabric with more stretch than the flannel I used (and also because I threw them together with no pinning/pressing). No matter; I’m not discouraged. This gave me some decent practice with the machine. I’m going to make some pillows and then maybe look for some easy patterns.
I can’t really use my machine until I get myself a sewing table (or just any ol’ table), but meantime hand sewing is not a bad thing. It’s teaching me patience, as well as giving me intimate knowledge of how fabric and thread behave.
This weekend, I did three minor hand sewing projects.
1. I changed the buttons on two newly-thrifted jackets (14 buttons total).
2. I repaired a great cardigan/cape sweater that I got for a song from Marshall’s several years ago…but haven’t worn until now. I hadn’t worn it b/c the snaps at the neck didn’t work and the buttonhole was unraveling. I replace the snaps and stitched up the buttonhole (not particularly nice-looking stitches, but the thread matches so perfectly it doesn’t matter much).
3. I also stitched a rolled hem all the way around this fat quarter of really great fabric that I’ve had for years. It’s really beautiful, but it wasn’t big enough to use for anything but a neck scarf…and it had unfinished/fraying edges. So I trimmed it up and learned how to do a simple rolled hem. Again, not a particularly great-looking stitch job, but the stitches are secure if a bit uneven and now I can show off the lovely fabric instead of leaving it in the closet. Also, I can now repair thrifted or owned scarves when the hems come loose!
Whew! I’m done sewing for a bit. But it’s a nice feeling of accomplishment.
...but I understand machines and I have an old Kenmore that’s just been sitting in the closet doing nothing. I’d like to put it to use!
I think I’ll start with hemming my curtains. They are just sheets tacked up right now.