April 23, 2014

Homemade cat shaped grease bar: A viable lotion replacement

Making lotion is not too hard, and quite interesting from a chemistry point of view. But it does take a little time and it is unfortunate that emulsifiers and preservatives are required. I read about anhydrous moisturizing products at the excellent Point of Interest! blog, and have wanted to try making such a product.

April 10, 2014

Worsted wool skirt, with silk braces

I was up late last Sunday and Monday nights making up this skirt for Child 1 to wear to her singing group recital on Tuesday. It turned out nicely and didn't take all that much time, as measured on the scale of how long it usually takes me to do a sewing project.

The pattern was drafted along the lines of one of the A line skirts in Metric Pattern Cutting for Children. I had Child 1 try on Child 2's black wool skirt which I made for the last singing recital. The waist had turned out much too big for Child 2 but looked pretty good on Child 1. Mainly the length wanted to be increased since Child 1 is a lot taller.

So I started with the pattern I drew for Child 2's skirt, though I could only find half of it. I eyeballed the other half, increased the length, and gave it some more flare which I thought would look nice.

I designed in two inverted pleats, one in front and one in back. On Child 2's, I had simply cut the pleat as part of single back and front pieces, which was highly convenient. The fabric for this new skirt wasn't quite wide enough to do that and get good fabric utilization, so I used a strip for the inner part of the front pleat and cut the front as two quarter panels.

For the closure, I again opted to increase the seam allowance at one side seam and built in a simple buttoned placket type arrangement.

I made up a pattern for the waistband liner, traced off the top of the main pattern.

Having used up most of the black wool flannel and suiting in my stash with Child 2's skirt, I purchased two yards of black 100% worsted wool on ebay from this seller, located in Brooklyn. How can it be the case that I have a closet full of fabric, and still somehow often don't have what I want for a new project?

The wool arrived and was lovely. I washed it on cold with woolite and hung it dry, then pressed it out. I only used about half of it for the skirt, so I probably have enough left to make something else for Child 2 or Child 1.

The waistband is made of 12.5 momme black silk charmeuse from Silkconnection.com, which I keep a stock of. They always seem to have white, but occasionally have black. I find charmeuse quite difficult to work with, but it is such perfect fabric for lining that I persevere and do my best with it.

The braces are made from delicate 24mm wide woven silk ribbon from Dharma Trading.

Buttons are all from the loose button bin at Sew Low in Cambridge. Thread is Tire Silk #50.

First I bound what would become the future exposed edges using white Hug Snug,

Then I formed and stitched down the elements of the pleats. Next, the side seams were sewn together, but I hadn't quite figured out what to do at the closure since I accidentally didn't leave the extra seam allowance when I cut the pieces. Grrr!

I cut doubles of the waistband pattern and sewed them together, then inverted, so it would be a double layer of silk and I wouldn't have to finish the bottom edge.

One edge of this then got stitched to the top of the wool outer skirt. I understiched (sewed the top seam allowance down to the silk liner), then pressed everything very well.

After fussing with the closure and tacking on some afterthought pieces, I then stitched the silk liner down to the wool, about 30mm down from the top of the skirt.

Child 1 tried it on, and it was too loose in the waist, but I had intended it to be held up by braces anyway and this way she can use it for longer (at least that is my excuse for dressing my kids in ill fitting home made clothing!). I marked the hem in chalk while she held the skirt on, then trimmed the bottom and did a simple double fold up and stitch down.

Of course if I was a more conscientious sewist, I would have blind hemmed it by hand, but I was rushed for time and the stitches kind of sink in to the wool to some degree after pressing anyway. Less so with the worsted wool than with the flannel, it must be said.

The worsted wool is just amazing to work with the iron. It is astounding how it responds to steam and heat. It can press and hold a beautiful crease, but can be coaxed into laying flat when the hem is folded up on a flared skirt bottom. It is a real pleasure to make things with fine materials.

One nice thing about cutting the pleat material fully into the pattern piece is that it is easy to hem. On the front where I had used a separate strip for the inner section of the pleat, I had the difficulty of hemming an inverted pleat with bulky seams, which I recalled keenly from this skirt I made for Child 1, which had these in abundance. With aggressive trimming of seam allowances it turned out ok on this piece.

As usual, I put in the button holes with the Greist mechanical buttonholer on the Singer 99 handcrank.

Some small handwork was needed here and there, for instance reinforcement where the pleat goes from being open to closed,

 sewing on 7 buttons, some bits of felling at the waistband/closure, etc.

The braces are made of light silk ribbon, which is a little tricky to put buttonholes in. These are fixed length and pretty quick to make, and I had previously made up a pair to help Child 2's skirt stay up. I'll just make others as the kids grow older.

First I fold them up twice so that there is a triple thickness of material. Then I backstitch the folds in place by hand and press well. With some care the buttonholer has no trouble doing its job. The biggest problem is the rough nubs on the fabric moving foot snagging in the fibers of the silk when removing or positioning the work. Here is Child 1 putting in the final two buttonholes in her braces just before we left for the show.

Both girls also wore the white cotton shirts I had sewn them previously, and Child 2 wore her black wool skirt with white braces. The kids are supposed to be black on bottom, white on top. These outfits looked very fine on them.

Functionally, there is room for improvement. The braces do tend to slide off shoulders. Maybe I should sew them together where they cross in back. The other major issue is that the shirts kept coming partially untucked. I had sewn the shirts originally to be worn on top of pants, so they are on the short side. Now that they are tucked in, they could certainly use to be longer. Perhaps inverted garters to hold the shirt hem down??

Child 2 put her outfit to the test with plenty of high energy play.

Anyway, the kids were proud of their special clothes and had a great time at their show.