Xerea!

Hi, guys! I’m writing to you on a super sticky Saturday in New York– it’s a scorcher out there! Luckily, the sure-fire way to beat the heat, besides eating popsicles for every meal, is a new summer dress!

Pauline Alice Xerea dress | Ginger Makes

This is the Xerea dress pattern by Pauline Alice, view B. I keep telling myself that I will never buy another pattern, never ever. But somehow, despite my best efforts to stop myself, this one landed in my cart! 8 euros and 21 pages for the PDF wasn’t too prohibitive, so here we are.  Plus, a swingy, 60’s-inspired mini dress? Be still, my beating heart!

The design lines are really fun- front and back yokes, a deep inverted pleat, and cool curved pockets. Of course, these details are totally obscured by the print, but trust me, they’re there. :) And lucky for me, the crazy print also hides a terrible secret… I made a huge mistake when I was cutting this out! I was squeezing the dress out of 1.5 meters of narrow fabric, and for greater efficiency, I was cutting the pieces flat instead of on the fold. I trace one half of the pattern, flip it over, and line it up with notches on the fold line before tracing the other half. However, instead of lining up second half with the CF notch at the bottom, I accidentally lined it up to the pleat line notch, so my front piece was about 2″ too narrow and was tilted off grain. Noooooo! There wasn’t enough fabric to re-cut the piece, so I had to do a crazy patch job, basically filling in the gap with scraps of fabric. Not ideal, but the mistake isn’t noticeable unless you’re close up, and everything is back on grain and hanging correctly. I’m calling it a good save and not getting hung up on the mistake! YOLO, dudes!

That topstitched seam isn’t supposed to be there… ooooops!

The pattern is a very straightforward sew. There is a small error in the pattern that’s been addressed in a new version of the PDF, but basically, the pleat line isn’t marked in the correct place. I didn’t see Pauline’s post until I had already made the dress, and I assumed I had accidentally stretched out the yoke, so I just eased the seam to fit. Next time I make this, I think I’ll do a small narrow shoulder adjustment. I usually skip them, but I should get in the habit of doing them… they definitely improve the fit of my garments.

The wind wasn’t helping me in all the pics with the back view, so it doesn’t usually hang like this, but I wanted you to see the back neckline!

Let’s talk about the fabric! Isn’t it gorgeous? It’s a cotton barkcloth from Miss Matatabi. It’s got this great texture and weight, but it’s still really drapey… perfect for apparel! There’s a pink/yellow/brown colorway on sale- you should totally buy it all so I’m not tempted to! Good work, team! You bought it all! :) The fabric was a gift from the lovely Gillian… I sent her some stretch denim and she surprised me with this beautiful print! Isn’t it perfectly my style? Orange, blue, and mint? I love it! Thanks, G! Also: why is it so hard to find nice denim in Canada? What gives, dudes? And, do Canadians use the term “Canadian tuxedo” for denim on denim, or is that just a rude Americanism?

Pauline Alice Xerea dress | Ginger Makes

I know this is a simple dress and it’s basically a muumuu, but I really, really like it. It turned out just how I’d hoped! Well, with a minor detour to fix my scissor mishap! :o Tell me– what’s your favorite sewing pattern this summer (or winter)? Any new favorites in your collection?

Pauline Alice Xerea dress | Ginger Makes

Marianne Dress x 3!

Hi, guys! Hope you’re all having a great day! It’s funny… now that I’ve got a couple of frustrating projects behind me, I feel so free and easy and I’ve been so productive! It’s such a bad feeling when your creativity is all bottled up after a few failures, so it’s nice to shake loose of that and just happily make things again!

Christine Haynes Marianne dress | Ginger Makes

This is the Christine Haynes Marianne dress, and it’s a dress that I didn’t mean to sew (for myself, right now). My brother gave me the pattern for Christmas (thanks, Tim!) and I’d planned to make some cute long-sleeved dresses, but didn’t have time before the weather warmed up. Fast forward to a Friday evening in late June, when I had that horrible “OH NO I’VE FORGOTTEN A BIRTHDAY!” feeling. I never know what day it is, and so I’m always running behind in life… I just can’t figure out any way to stay on top of my calendar! So Friday night I realized my sister Cam’s birthday was on Monday, and I wanted to sew her something that I could mail out before the post office closed at noon on Saturday.

I thought about making a couple of Renfrews, Plantain tees, or Briar tops as I’ve already made those patterns for her, but for some stupid reason I wanted to try something new. Suddenly, I remembered Heather’s Marianne dresses and thought they would be a quick sew, so I grabbed the pattern and went to work!

The pattern is a breeze to sew, especially if you omit the sleeves and collar, like I did. :) I am not a quick sewer by any standard (I’m way too easily distracted), but these two dresses were both done Friday night in a super painless manner. Shoulder seam + clear elastic, neck band, side seams, sleeve hems, hem! It just doesn’t get easier than that!

The fit of the dress is quite nice. I liked the two dresses I made for Cam so much that I decided to make one for myself, oops! I don’t like to wear tight knits, but I also don’t want to swim in them, but the ease included in this pattern lets it sort of skim over the body. I also thought the skirt might be kind of saggy or gross, but it really looks nice! The neckline is higher than I’m used to wearing, but it could easily be scooped out if you prefer a lower neck. I never really wear knit dresses, with the exception of very beefy knit dresses in the winter, so I was really shocked that I liked this! Now, you could easily size down for a closer fit, but like I said, I’m not really into that, so my fit may be a lot looser than you prefer. Just check the finished measurements! :)

OK, let’s talk fabrics. The raspberry polka dot came from Girl Charlee ages ago, and in a big order purchased to make back-to-work clothes for Cam. It took me a while to sew through all that stuff, but now the only thing left is the blue and white stripe… it’s much more sheer than I thought it would be, which kinda limits the garments you can make out of it. :( Anyway, this polka dot knit is kinda stiff and not very stretchy, so I was worried that it wouldn’t work well, but it seems to be working. The pink floral is from Fabrics for Less on 39th St., bought a while back for $5. Either it shrunk tons or was cut wrong, but I was shy of a yard by a few inches. I toyed with the idea of just making a top, but I really wanted it to be a dress, so I just shortened the dress until I could squeeze the pieces on the fabric. My sister is 5’2″, I think, so I figured she could get away with it! I’m so happy it worked and really glad I could use fabrics that have been in my stash for a long time!

Christine Haynes Marianne dress | Ginger Makes

The peach fabric for my dress was also bought for my sister, I think from Girl Charlee as well, but I forget. It was intended for a Moneta, which she liked the looks of, but then she changed her mind so it’s been in my stash for a while. It’s not really one of her favorite colors, either. Now, if you’re wondering why my dress has a non-contrast yoke, it’s definitely not because I got too involved in my audiobook (guys, would you believe I’ve never read Pride & Prejudice? I feel like a dope for avoiding it because it’s so much fun!) and accidentally cut the front with the stretch running the wrong direction. I also definitely didn’t sweat and sweat until I figured out I could make it work using the pieces for the version with the yoke. DEFINITELY NOT WHAT HAPPENED.

Christine Haynes Marianne dress | Ginger Makes

Long story short, this is a sweet little pattern and works really well for gift giving since it doesn’t have to fit super precisely. I’m looking forward to making some Breton-style dresses when the weather gets cooler… won’t that be fun? And it’s nice to know that next year, when I lose track of the time and have to make a last-minute gift for Cam, I can crank out a few of these babies overnight! ;)

What have you been sewing? Whatcha up to these days?

Carolyn Pajamas!

Hi, guys! I hope you all had a wonderful weekend, and if you celebrated Canada Day or the 4th of July, that your weekends were extra festive!

Closet Case Files Carolyn Pajamas | Ginger Makes

OK, while I have, overall, a really serviceable wardrobe that’s starting to reflect my style, I have to admit that when it comes to the “unseen” items, the situation is dire. Socks, underwear, pajamas… they’re all in sad, sorry shape! Since I began to sew very seriously a few years ago, I just haven’t had the interest in shopping, but it’s also seemed quite silly to spend time sewing things that will never be visible outside my house! So when evening rolls around, you’ll usually find me in a shabby t-shirt and a pair of nearly-transparent men’s pajama bottoms. Sexy stuff, I know! So when Gillian #sewingdare-d me to sew a pair of pajamas, I was excited! Just the kick in the pants that I needed to sew up some respectable jams!

I decided to make myself some fancypants PJs for the Mood Sewing Network*, so I picked out this crazy cotton poplin because, well, it includes: dogs, cats, cows, rabbits, birds, frogs, chickens, and farmers in straw hats! How could I say no to that? Then I opted for a bright lime-green shirting to use for the piping. No reason to wear boring pajamas!

Closet Case Files Carolyn Pajamas | Ginger Makes

The pattern I used is the Closet Case Files Carolyn Pajamas. The pattern was a gift from Heather– thank you!!! These are classic, vintage-style pajamas with a modern cut. The pants are fitted a bit more through the hips than other pajama patterns I’ve made in the past, and the rise hits me right where I like it to in pajama pants, so they are really a much nicer fit than any of my RTW pajamas. There’s a notched collar and chest pockets on the top, and slash pockets in the bottoms. You have the option to do cuffs with piping, if you like, or you can sew plain hems. There are short- and long-sleeved tops, and you can choose from pants or shorts. Because the pants are more fitted and less unisex, trust the size chart and don’t size down.

Closet Case Files Carolyn Pajamas | Ginger Makes

The pattern instructions are very clear and easy to follow. The notched collar construction was a bit different than others I’ve sewn in the past because there isn’t a back neck facing, and while I found it quite difficult to attach the collar neatly at the neckline (by “quite difficult”, I mean, I had to unpick the collar approximately ten times, no exaggeration!), but I finally got it done and it looks pretty good. If you haven’t done piping before, Heather walks you through the steps quite clearly. Let’s see… I used buttons from my stash and I went rogue, using 1″ elastic instead of 1.5″, because that’s what I had in hand. LAWS ARE MEANT TO BE BROKEN! I made no attempt to pattern match because life is too short… they’re PAJAMAS. Oh! One last thing! I’ve never used a copyshop pattern before because they’re so expensive to print at chain office stores, but I discovered Flash Blue Printing in Brooklyn- you email them the PDF, and they print them out for $5/sheet, regardless of the size of the sheet. Even better, they understood me immediately when I told them I needed them printed without scaling. They’re pretty far off the beaten path, but it might be worth it to go when you have a few to print out at once. Definitely worth the price to avoid sticking together a million sheets of letter paper. And folks in other towns, try to find a blueprinting shop!

Closet Case Files Carolyn Pajamas | Ginger Makes

Here’s the funny thing about the piping… now that I’m doing fancy upholstery, I spend SO MUCH TIME making and applying piping. So it’s kind of goofy that I would elect to do it in my free time, no? But instead I was excited to use the technique for a garment, kinda like when my job was sewing with faux fur and then I made a faux fur coat. Maybe I’m just nuts. ANYWAY, piping isn’t hard to do, but it does take some time. I made my own using cotton cording, which I covered in bias-cut strips of shirting. Don’t forget to pre-shrink your cording if necessary… it would be a real bummer if you went to all that work and then things went crazy in the wash! Also, there are special cording feet that you can purchase to make piping with, but personally, I just use the adjustable zipper foot that came with my Juki (it looks like this). You can stitch very close to the cording with it and you don’t have to worry about using a certain size of cording… one size fits all with the zipper foot! If you’ve never made your own piping before, I really recommend giving it a go- it’s fun to sew and it really adds a nice touch to your finished garment!

Closet Case Files Carolyn Pajamas | Ginger Makes

Not gonna lie, now that I have these, I’m pondering a second pair of summer bottoms and a nice flannel-y set for the fall! I feel pretty fancy swanning around the house in them! Thanks for the pattern, Heather, and thanks for the dare, Gillian! Alright, guys, ‘fess up: what sad items lurk in your wardrobe, begging for an upgrade? Saggy sweatpants? Stained t-shirts? Come on… tell me I’m not the only one with dark secrets hidden in my closet!

Just add coffee!

*Once a month I receive a fabric allowance from Mood to make something fun! I blog it first on the MSN blog, then over here. If I use stash materials or things purchased from another source, I’ll let you know in my post. :)

Françoise: A Story of Failure

Woe is me, gentle reader, and woe is she who heeds not my words of warning! Do not make ye a dress from fabric which wants not to be that dress! Warning: the following tale contains fabric abuse and a gratuitous amount of self-pity. Proceed with caution!

It all started out so innocently! Ages ago, when the pattern was first released, Tilly sent me a review copy of her cute Françoise dress. Now, I love the look of French darts and the yoke detail is extra cute, so I was looking forward to sewing this, especially since I tried and failed after a couple of muslins to fit both a vintage pattern with French darts as well as Burda 7031 (I’ve seen some cute versions of the latter, but when I tried it a few years ago, my fitting skills just weren’t up to the task of making lots of changes without screwing up the shape of the darts). So I figured, a chance to redeem myself! What could possibly go wrong?

When I first saw the pattern, my immediate thought was, “ORANGE!”, followed by, “ORANGE ORANGE ORANGE ORANGE ORANGE!” I desperately needed an orange shift dress! Since it was winter when I received the pattern, I searched high and low for a winter-weight wool crepe with a hint of stretch (suggested by Tilly for comfortable close-fitting sleeves). No dice, friends! This perfect fabric existed only in my imagination! But it had to be orange, so I waited for summertime and resumed the hunt. I found this fabric at Mood and POUNCED on it! A crisp, bright, beautiful, deep orange! EXACTLY what I wanted! Only… it has the feel of, I dunno, like, a windbreaker? An umbrella? THIS WILL BE PERFECT FOR A DRESS, YES?

A student of classical mythology may interject at this point in the saga, wondering if there was, perhaps, a wise soothsayer who, rising from the mist, predicted my downfall. My Tiresias was Oona, who tried in vain to save me from myself. “Are you sure that you really want to wear that?”, she queried. “I love it and it will be great!” “Don’t you think it’s a little… stiff?” “It will soften in the wash”. Oh, readers, the folly! The hubris! As you can see, this fabric just doesn’t want to be this dress. It doesn’t want to mold into soft, shaped darts, instead forming a big hot mess in the chest region. And I didn’t slow down to check the fit before sewing away, hence this fantastic look:

Let’s sidebar from the tragedy a bit to talk about the pattern. The instructions are clear and detailed, with photos accompanying each step, so even the most timid of beginners should feel confident going into this project. I didn’t bother making a muslin, instead opting to make a straight size 3, even though my waist and hips fit in a size 2. Why, readers, why? This was a huge mistake. I should have made the smaller size and done an FBA, but because I didn’t, the dress was huge through the back shoulders. I pinched out 1″ darts on each side of the back neckline as a quick fix, but it looks pretty messy. I thought the flare of the skirt looked pretty costume-y, so I slimmed it down a bit from the waist to the hem, which probably brought it down to the size 2 lines, which I should have cut from the get-go. I’m still on the fence about this shape, but honestly, I never wear anything a-line, so I think I’m just not used to it. But just because I jacked up the fit doesn’t mean it’s not a good pattern. Smarter, better, non-risk-taking seamstresses made adorable versions of this. See: Lorelai, Marie, Roisin.

Lest ye think the tragedy ends here, take a look at this awfulness. In haste and foul temper, I accidentally ripped it under the arm when I had only the hem left to do. This happened over a month ago, and the dress has been in a timeout ever since. I could fix it, for sure, but dealing with a patch, interfacing on the wrong side, and redoing both the dart and the armhole binding has just been a bigger task than I can think about. Moreover, I don’t really like the looks of the centered zipper that I put in… I just didn’t have a matching invisible zipper in my stash so I went with the regular, and I’m not very happy with it. Considering my general bad feelings about this dress, even if I fix it, I doubt that I’ll ever wear it. So it will probably be chopped up into a happier project. UGH, am I right? But, you can’t win ’em all… especially when your project is just a string of bad ideas! Sorry for butchering your pattern, Tilly! :(

But… can we at least all agree that this shade of orange is PERFECT?

A Summer Linden Sweatshirt!

Hi, guys! Hope your weeks are going well! I’m back again after my interview with O! Jolly! to show you the sweatshirt I made with her locally-produced sweater knits! Check it out!

Olgalyn asked me if I would like some yardage from her new collection to review, and of course I said yes! I’d already been planning to save up for some, and after sewing with this, I’m saving my pennies for some of the color-grown cotton!

Grainline Studio Linden in O! Jolly! sweater knit | Ginger Makes

I chose the New Hudson knit, a natural white jersey (in other words, it’s unbleached and undyed) in 100% cotton. She also sent me the Magical Unicorn of the sewing world, MATCHING RIBBING! I’ve made so many cut and sew sweaters before (I think this is my 7th raglan in the last year?! They weren’t all for me, though!), but I’ve never had matching ribbing- I’ve always had to cut the cuffs and bands out of self-fabric. So this was a fun and new experience!

Fun fact: I totally screwed up my ribbing application and nearly ruined the entire sweater. See, here’s the thing- the ribbing is very stretchy, so when I cut the bands using the pattern pieces, they were too long, and the sweater neckline (and waist… and sleeves) stretched out terribly. Also, I’d forgotten to change the differential feed on my serger to the knits settings, so that also made the seams wavy and stretched. Yuck! The sweater looked like it had escaped from Flash Dance! Yikes! I was so stressed out thinking about fixing it that I set the project aside for a couple of weeks until I had calmed down completely.

Olgalyn suggested using a gathering stitch to bring the neckline back to its proper size, and then steaming to set it. This worked really well! I carefully unpicked the neckband and measured the pattern pieces to make sure I would return it back to the right circumference, then I gathered and steamed away. I just cut off the cuffs and hem bands and reapplied them… I wasn’t concerned about losing that tiny bit of length.

Grainline Studio Linden in O! Jolly! knit | Ginger Makes

The Easiest and Smartest Way to Apply Neckbands/Hem Bands/Cuffs:

You know how sometimes your neckbands are too long and stand away from your neck, or they’re too short and they pull? I know some people set them in flat, just stretching them the amount that feels right, but that’s just not my cup of tea. Olgalyn told me a new and mind-blowing way to make sure that they sit correctly. You measure the neck (or hem/sleeve) opening, then stretch your ribbing until it reaches that length. Then you add the seam allowance to the stretched length and cut that as your band. So, say your neck opening is 25″. Let’s say 18″ of your ribbing fabric stretches comfortably to 25″. You add your 1/4″ seam allowance to the 18″, and you cut a piece that’s 18.5″ long. Then you just sew the neckband seam, steam it back into shape, and sew it onto your neckline. This is SO much easier than any other method I’ve ever tried! Thanks, Olgalyn! She told me she read about this technique on another blog, but couldn’t remember where, so thank you to whomever originally posted this! :) EDIT: this tip came from Sewing with Knits by Connie Long. Olgalyn highly recommends it! I haven’t read it, but if it’s as thorough as her book, Easy Guide to Sewing Linings, it’s probably great!

Grainline Studio Linden Sweatshirt in O! Jolly! knit | Ginger Makes

OK, let’s talk about handling the fabric. I washed and dried it at the laundromat before I sewed anything… I felt a little naughty doing this, but Olgalyn said it was OK and it seemed smart to make sure any shrinkage happened before sewing. It was good as new when I pulled it out of the dryer! The cut edges do want to fray a bit, unlike your standard jerseys, so you’ll need to finish the edges. I serged mine, but I’m sure a zigzag would work, too. One thing to keep in mind is that this is 100% cotton, so the stretch is mechanical (comes from how it’s knitted) rather than from added spandex content or something like that. So a relaxed sweater works great, but probably not a bodycon dress.

I really love this fabric and I’m so glad that it’s such a nice alternative to traditionally-produced fabrics. Like I mentioned in Olgalyn’s interview, the knits are made with organic, GMO-free cotton that’s grown, ginned, spun, and knitted in the U.S., and they’re made without dyes or bleach. So the knits aren’t cheap. But when compared to the cost and time required to knit a similar sweater by hand, it’s worth it to splurge from time to time. Also, the thought of hand knitting a sweater in cotton yarn this fine makes me shudder… this is the kind of garment I would want to wear, but not knit myself!

Grainline Studio Linden in O! Jolly! knit | Ginger Makes

Oh, the pattern is the Grainline Studio Linden Sweatshirt, which I’ve made four times previously, so I won’t remark on it too much. I think it’s time to put aside this pattern and my beloved Papercut Patterns Undercover Hood… I’ve got plenty of raglan sweatshirts on hand, which is good because they’re my favorite thing to wear in cool weather!

What have you guys been working on lately? And does anyone have any sources for better-for-the-earth textiles? I’d love to hear, if you do!

Interview with O! Jolly!, Knit Textile Designer!

Hi, guys! I hope you’re all well! OK, I know that most of us who sew are into fabric, but I’ll speak for myself and say that while I like sewing, I LOVE fabric. But I struggle a bit because I’ve learned that the textiles industry isn’t very earth-friendly and doesn’t have a great track record for human rights. Of course, not all fabric is produced in an unethical way, but it’s really hard to know where each bolt of fabric comes from. So I was really excited when I heard that Olgalyn Jolly was producing a line of cotton sweater knits that are grown, ginned, spun, and knit in the United States! The knits are non-GMO and they’re not dyed- the beautiful brown and green are grown-in color! It’s exciting to see fabric options that are healthier for the earth and for the producers. I’m guessing I’m not the only one who’s excited to learn more about healthier fabric choices, so let me introduce you to Olgalyn!

Here’s Olgalyn in a gorgeous Grainline Morris blazer made from her color-grown Mesa plaid… click on the picture to go to her blog post!

Olgalyn is a knit textile designer here in NYC; she creates beautiful sweater knits for fashion designers and now for home sewers! She also blogs as O! Jolly! I’ve gotten to know her through the large circle of sewing enthusiasts here in New York and I’m really glad that I have. She is gracious, kind, and warm, and is the kind of person with whom you can feel instantly at ease. But for those of you who are far away, I encourage you to get to know her through her Instagram. Her photos always inspire me, whether she’s snapping pics of her own designs, cool knitwear she sees in her travels, or her neighborhood. Her journey to becoming a knit designer is an unusual one, and her love for knits is so exciting that I’ll let her tell you herself! Take it away, Olgalyn!

Q: I’d love to hear about your journey to becoming a knit designer! What was the path that led to where you are now? Did you study textile design? And why knits?

A: I had a career in show business; I was a dancer who also sang. Dancers can have quite limited careers. The body simply gives out or acts up one body part at a time. I’d been dancing since I was three and wanted to find something else that I was passionate about and had been thinking about my next career for a couple of years before I left the biz. I was on tour in Japan with the international company of a Broadway show in the mid 80s at a time when I was also becoming aware of the Japanese fashion designers who were achieving international fame. I fell in love with the color combinations and concepts from from Kansai Yamamoto and the shapes and textures from Yohji Yamamoto. I especially loved the sweaters.

I appreciate knits in their many forms. Knits can be form fitting without darts or they can be extravagantly draped. I enjoy the process of designing knitting stitch patterns. There’s a formality; it’s a grid. You can build texture, play with color, or even shift the grid.

I never took a prescribed course of study, which I regret a little bit now. Instead I took the technical classes I really wanted to take with the people I wanted to study with, kind of an à la carte education. I studied Weft Knitting Technology with George Tay at Fashion Institute of Technology, who’d been highly recommended by my Draping teacher at Parsons when she found out I loved knits. At Parsons I also studied with Susanna Lewis, author of my absolute favorite machine knitting technique and resource book, A Machine Knitter’s Guide to Creating Fabric. I took several other classes at FIT over the years.

I made sweaters for other designers and designed sweaters under my own small label for a little while as I gradually began to understand that the part that really got me excited wasn’t the sweaters. It was designing the knit fabrics — coming up with stitch patterns, trying the patterns out with various yarns and yarn combinations. I didn’t get to specialize in designing sweater knit fabrics until years later however.

Q: How does your design process change when you’re designing for home sewers?

A: My design process changes significantly depending on whether I’m working with a client (fashion designer) who has a strong idea of the type of design she wants or if I’m submitting work to an agent who’s been “forecasting trends” or if I’m designing independently.

Because my new sweater knit fabric line for home sewers was going to be exclusively for cutting and sewing by people who do don’t necessarily do this as a profession, I wanted this collection to be relatively stable. I made certain design choices so that someone who was venturing into the wonderful world of sweater knits would have success their first time. Sweater knits, otherwise, can be notoriously unstable if there’s a lot of openwork or if the fabric is loosely knitted.

Q: Why did you choose cotton for this collection?

A: I chose cotton for this collection because there simply aren’t enough cotton sweater fabrics available to home sewers. I absolutely love wool and hope my next collection will include wool, but cotton is a true easy care fabric, that can make beautiful sweater fabrics and therefore beautiful sweaters.

Q: I’m really interested in natural dyes and more earth-friendly textiles, but before your new collection, I’d never heard of color-grown cotton. It’s such an exciting idea! I’d love to hear more about how it’s grown and processed!

A: As I understand it, cotton grows naturally in various shades in parts of North and South America and Asia, but the strength and longer staple length of white cotton made white cotton more favorable early on for commercial development. Sally Fox is the person usually credited with the breeding of color cotton in this country in the late 1980s. She selected for qualities that would allow the color cotton lint to be spun in conventional mills. Color cotton began to be used commercially in the 1990s by a few commercial brands. I remember that Levi’s used color cotton for a little while. I don’t know if they still do. Sally Fox also has her own line of products.

The yarns I’ve used for my new fabric originate from a different seed stock than Sally Fox’s. I was so excited when I was able to find a source of this beautiful yarn! All cotton used to make these yarn was grown in the United States by farmers who use sustainable growing practices. The color cotton is spun with a natural white cotton to create the earthy pastels I’m using, giving a very subtle heathered look to the color jerseys.

Q: What’s next for O! Jolly!? Do you plan to introduce any new ethical fibers to your shop?

A: I hope so. I was recently introduced to an Oregon rancher whose sheep are the source of the most wonderful wool. The ranch is 30,000 acres and the people who live and work the ranch take very seriously their stewardship of the land, their domestic animals, and the wildlife.
Once one’s aware of the impact that the textile industry can have on the earth and human lives, it’s very difficult to go back to conventionally produced textiles. Right now I’m at the very beginning of a transition to ethical fibers professionally with my fabric design and also in my home life, just asking questions and taking steps, little by little. I’m glad there are alternatives available, but sometimes they’re hard to find and they’re usually more expensive. (Yes, that means buying less!) I hope that the sewing community finds the ethically produced textile a valuable and worthwhile product and will seek it out, whenever possible.

Thank you so much for telling your story, Olgalyn! It’s so fascinating to learn more about you!

If you want to know more about O! Jolly! knits, check out the links below. I’ll also be blogging a garment made with one of her gorgeous sweater knits very soon!

Book Report: The Shirtmaking Workbook!

Hi, guys! Hope you’re all well! It’s been so long since I last blogged- I’ve missed you guys! Between starting a new job, taking an accelerated summer session class at FIT, and teaching a class at Brooklyn Craft Company, things have been really hectic around here! But even though I haven’t had much time to sew, I’ve been missing that part of my life, and so I was really excited when Creative Publishing offered to send me a copy of David Page Coffin’s new book, The Shirtmaking Workbook. It’s really been enjoyable to read through the book, dreaming about adaptations I can make to my favorite shirt patterns!

I should probably preface this review with the fact that I really love shirts. I love wearing them, and I’ve even come to enjoy making them. I even love making them for other people! There’s just something so satisfying about the process of making a shirt. So I find this book particularly thrilling because it focuses on the details of shirts. I really appreciate this- sewing patterns can be very basic, especially for things like men’s buttondowns, so it’s nice to have a resource to help you customize your handmade garments.

DPC’s (I should probably just refer to him as David, but that doesn’t seem formal enough and also doesn’t make him sound like a rapper) previous book, Shirtmaking, is a very thorough guide to making elegant, professional shirts. I bought it when I first started sewing shirts, a few years ago, after it was recommended on several blogs. I have to confess, though, that as a new sewer, I was overwhelmed by all the detail and wasn’t ready for such a serious book. I need to revisit it now that I have a better understanding of basic shirt construction so I can finesse my techniques a bit!

The Shirtmaking Workbook feels quite different from Shirtmaking, to me. It is very design-oriented, with lots and lots of photos. DPC investigates a number of RTW shirts and compares their details and construction. I love snooping at RTW clothing, particularly higher-end clothing, so it’s really fun to look at these examples. He also looks at vintage shirts, which I found really interesting and I’m guessing many of you would really be into!

DPC’s approach to shirtmaking is to work from blocks and change up the details. This makes sense to me, especially since most people who have been sewing for a while have a shirt pattern that works for them. He discusses blocks and useful sewing techniques, and after that, the final five chapters each deal with options for a particular kind of shirt: the dress shirt block, the sport/work shirt block, the knit shirt block, the folk/rectangular shirt block, and the shirt jacket.

Also included in the book are profiles of several designers. I really enjoyed seeing their work and reading about them. I found them all very inspiring! And at the end of each chapter, there is a section entitled “Resources”. Here DPC suggests further reading, whether in the form of books, blogs, DVDs, or Threads articles, as well as specialized tools and techniques. Yeah, I can definitely google different techniques, but it’s nice to have a vetted list of the best resources!

Hi, Peter! Hi, Jen!

An interesting thing about the book is the online content. The book was released earlier than anticipated, so not all of the online content is available, but what I saw and downloaded was very cool. There is a PDF guide to all of the resources that are available so you can find what you’re looking for in an organized way. There are large photo sets of the different garments that are featured briefly in the book so you can take a closer look at the shirts. There are lots and lots of patterns for different collars, cuffs, plackets, etc. I wondered how you could have patterns for things like this that could be multisized, but the collars are sized by the length of the neck opening (ex: 12″). I haven’t had a chance to use any of the patterns yet, but I’m looking forward to it. There will be interviews with the designers featured in the book (they weren’t ready for download yet when I last checked the website), and there are detailed instructions for some of the techniques that are briefly discussed in the book. Considering that the retail price of the book is $27 and you can get it on Amazon for less than $20USD, even if you only got the online resources that are available right now, you’d be getting a bargain. So I’m looking forward to checking out the additional resources as they become available!

I found this book really interesting and was really inspired by DPC’s approach to shirtmaking. His attitude isn’t “do it like this”, but rather, “try it and see what happens”. For example, he shows you different collars and photographs how they look when you change the shape up slightly. I’m really excited to drape a couple of different collars and see what they look like! I know in the online sewing world, sometimes it feels like there’s a scarcity of books that aren’t aimed at beginners, so it was really refreshing to find a book that (I think) would be inspiring to newbies and advanced sewers alike (and super inspiring to shirt geeks like me)!

Now, I’m going to take a page (ahhhhh pun alert!!) out of DPC’s book (double pun!!! SORRY!) and leave you with some additional resources:

Now tell me- what have you been up to lately? Sewing any shirts? Feeling inspired to sew any shirts? Do tell! :)

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