A Cool Top for a Hot Climate

Seersucker topYou know how I get when a trip is upcoming; I want to sew-sew-sew and wear all me-made garments on the trip.

For my upcoming trip to Bali, the travelers on the tour have been warned to be prepared to be dinner for lots of mosquitos carrying lots of “bugs.” I’m taking a strong DEET mosquito repellent spray, plus mosquito repellent wipes, plus a repellent with eucalyptus oil, plus a product called Permetrhin that you spray on your clothes before traveling.

Here’s the description of Sawyer Permethrin Insect Repellent Spray:
“Permethrin, is a synthetic molecule similar to pyrethrum that is taken from the chrysanthemum flower. When applied to clothing, Sawyer Permethrin Clothing Insect Repellent binds to the fabric, eliminating the risk of over-exposure to the skin. Permethrin is odorless when dry and will not stain or damage clothing, fabrics, plastics, finished surfaces or any of your outdoor gear. This 24-oz container of Sawyer insect repellent employs an easy-to-use trigger spray for effective, effortless application. Applied to clothing and other fabrics, each application lasts through six washings or 42 days of UV exposure.”

Although the literature indicates Permethrin will not harm fabrics, even silks, I’m hesitant to spray it on expensive tops. So i wanted to make a couple of lightweight cool tops that I didn’t care about damaging (if the literature lied).

I dug a couple of old pieces out of my stash—a lightweight turquoise and white pinstripe seersucker and a white linen with a tiny black pinstripe running lengthwise. More on the linen in a couple of days.

I dug through my pattern stash and chose StyleArc’s Courtney top to make in the seersucker. It sews up quickly and as soon as it was done, I threw it on with a pair of white cropped knit pants. I was instantly in love.

Here’s the pattern review:

Pattern Description: An everyday top with interesting design lines

Pattern Sizing: Misses 4-30. I ordered a 16.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Yes

Were the instructions easy to follow? Typical StyleArc instructions – short, sweet, and to the point.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? The design lines on the top front and the cut of the neckline make for a very flattering top.

Fabric Used: Pinstripe Seersucker from my stash.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: I’m 5’8″. Added 2″ to the length. I’m a 38DD and did not make any changes to the bust! Yea!!

You may have seen that I wrote a review of this in January when I made it up in a knit. After wearing the knit version a couple of times, I really felt like I was wearing my pajamas. Go down a size when making it in knit.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? This is my second time around and I’ve already cut out a third in linen.

Conclusion: Perfect lightweight top for my upcoming Bali Fiber Tour. Easy make – cut it out the night before, and have a new top before noon the next day. This is a keeper!

A Little Evening Bag

Black Evening BagI’m heading to Southern California next week for a special wedding on April 15. The bride is my great-niece, my half-sister’s granddaughter. The mother of the bride, the grandmother of the bride, and I will be traveling together on Wednesday, and the aunt of the bride will be following on Friday evening. My sister has been most gracious in including me in all the planning—including turning to me for wardrobe consults. You know I loved that!!

Today I whipped up a little evening bag that might be used by either the MOB or the AOB. It’s based upon the Big Bow Clutch tutorial by Melissa of Polka Dot Chair.

Black Evening Bag liningI wanted a solid black, but wanted the bow to be in a different finish than the bag itself. I ordered a 100% polyester Shantung Sateen fabric from fabric [dot] com. This is, effectively, a satin-back shantung. The bag was sewn with the shantung finish as the right side; the bow was made with the satin finish as the right side. I stuck my hand deep into a stash of silks, and came up with a fat quarter of white china silk that I had splotch-painted with a bunch of different bright paints many years ago. It had been resting, just waiting for an opportunity, like this, to bring some pizazz to a simple little black bag. All pattern pieces were interfaced with Pellon SF-101.

I made the bag much smaller than Melissa’s tute bag. The fabric pieces ended up being about 5½” x 9″. After a lot of pfitzing with it to come out with the finished bag, it’s about 5″ tall and 7″ wide. I love the explosion of color when the bag is unzipped.

I bought a Mary Frances beaded bag for myself around Christmas. Then when we were working on pulling the perfect GOB outfit together for my sister, I found the ideal little Mary Frances bag for her, also. (Suzanne’s boutique in Boardman carries this brand locally; I can’t stop eyeing her entire stock every time I’m in the store.) These bags have snake chain straps with lobster claw connectors that I love. I looked high and low online to find a chain strap that was the right size and would be delivered quickly. I found it on eBay from the vendor Deeliciousee. Ordered on Thursday of last week, it arrived on Monday of this week.

And how is the strap attached, you might ask. I took a 4″ x 1″ strip of the black fabric, folded it in half, right sides together, and sewed down the middle of the strip. Using the tiniest FasTurn tube, I turned it right side out. The seam allowance fills the finished fabric tube to make a very nice strip. I cut two pieces about 1½”, folded them in half, and sewed them at each end of the zipper. (There’s more to the process, but I’m only going to tell you if you’re a sewist and seriously interested in trying to replicate this fastener loop. PM me.)

So the bag is finished, and tomorrow I’ll run over to Medina to visit my sister and deliver the bag for my nieces to squabble over. (Don’t worry, I’m taking a couple other evening bags for them to choose from, if they’d rather. This auntie aims to please.)

Little Bags for Old Friends

BagsIn mid-March, I attended the 50th reunion of the Class of 1968 of Forest Lake Academy, near Apopka, FL (Orlando outskirts). I grew up in Orlando and attended Orlando Church School (now Orlando Junior Academy) from 1st through 8th grades, and Forest Lake Academy from 9th through the first six weeks of 12th grade, when I dropped out of high school and started college a semester early. I was a rather lost soul. It was the 60s. I had no clue what I wanted to be when I grew up.

Bags - LiningFor years I’ve attended the reunions of the Class of ’67, as my BFF was a part of that class, and that’s the class I started college with. This year I decided to attend the ’68 reunion, as those were the “kids” I had started first grade with. In fact, many of the students in both the class of ’67 and ’68 were people I had known since I was three or four years old. Orlando had a large Seventh-day Adventist community, and everybody knew everybody.

Bags - pullsMy reunion weekend schedule included arrival on Thursday afternoon, then dinner with my brother, his wife, my best friend, and another couple, the husband of which I had known since I was four years old. On Friday I would have lunch with a dear friend from before first grade, and on Friday night would attend the opening reception of the reunion.

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If you’re not an Adventist, let me tell you how our reunions differ from the standard high school reunion.
A) We don’t dance.
B) We don’t drink.

So rather than just getting together for a big expensive one-night event including lots of music from the 60s and a catered meal, we hang out for an entire weekend, including a Friday night reception where all the classes in attendance are acknowledged, church on Sabbath, a noon meal, an afternoon of visiting, an evening meal, and maybe a boat ride or a picnic on Sunday. Very different from “Romy & Michele’s High School Reunion” or “Grosse Pointe Blank.” Very.
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Continuing with my schedule—On Saturday (Sabbath) morning, I would attend my brother’s church and provide much piano music for their enjoyment. Then we’d have lunch and I would then drive up towards Mt. Dora to visit with a college suite-mate from my time at University of Central Florida. After that visit, I would go back to the meeting venue where my classmates were hanging out. I’d see my second college roommate, and then have dinner with my classmates. Sunday I would drive to Tampa, spend the day with my college piano duet partner, then have dinner with my middle brother and his wife.

Two bagsI wanted to have something special from my hands for these friends. When I’m giving my little zippered bags to friends in a group, I like to have one more bag than there are friends, so they can pick and choose their favorites. So the giftees would be (#1) my sister-in-law in Orlando, (#2) my BFF, (#3) the wife of my musical friend from elementary school, (#4) my college roommate, (#5) the woman who spearheaded all the planning for the reunion, with whom I had been texting and talking nonstop for the previous four weeks as we attempted to find as many missing classmates and faculty members as possible, (#6) my college suite-mate, and (#7) my piano duet partner. Seven bags, made in about three days while answering all of the ongoing demands of life. That concept of one more bag than there were giftees? Not happening this time around!

Bag interiorAfter the first three gifts, I picked out the bag I thought my piano duet partner would like, then texted pictures of the three remaining bags to my college roommate, who lives in Sarasota. I knew I wouldn’t see her until late on Saturday, and wanted her to have her pick. Both my suite-mate, who chose from the two remaining bags, and the reunion planner, who didn’t get a choice, said the colors they got were their favorite colors. Cool how things work out, huh?

Last bagThese bags are again crafted from Jedi Craft Girl’s “My Favorite Zipper Pouch [Tutorial].” (BTW, Jedi Craft Girl’s real name is Amanda, just in case you were wondering.) I’ve probably made at least forty of these by now. Here’s the link. If you’ve made this pattern and would like to see more of Amanda’s brilliant ideas, just search for “favorite zipper pouch” on her website and you’ll get more inspiration with version 2 and version 3.

The fabrics were mostly from designer Allison Glass’s Chroma collection, with a few fabrics rescued from my stash.

The best part of this story? Several friends have emailed and texted me since the reunion weekend, telling me how much they love their little bags and how the bags are getting constant use.

I have a lot of great friends from years gone by. #luckyme

Honing my shibori knowledge

Fabrics on displayUp-front warning: If you’re already a knowledgeable dyer, this post will be of minimal interest to you. I’ve written it with a lot of explanation for my friends who are not fiber-addicts or have never thought about dyeing fabrics beyond the occasional box of Rit from the grocery store.

Are you saying to yourself, WTF is shibori? Glance at this blog post, discovered while writing this post. xo to Erica, executive editor of HonestlyWTF.com.

Some of you know that I’m traveling in late June to the International Shibori Symposium in Japan. I’m mostly self-taught in fabric dyeing and shibori techniques. I’m at the experimenting and dyeing stage. I have not moved to the chemistry stage, where I treat the preparation of the fabric in a more scientific fashion, weighing the fabric to determine the required amounts of dye and other chemicals. Right now, I’m still in the hobbyist phase.

My Bali travel partner, Tina, and I each have 4+ yards of “prepared for dyeing” (PFD) cotton lawn to make pajamas for our Bali trip. She is very experienced and knowledgeable about shibori. (Visit her Etsy shop filled with gorgeous hand-dyed fabrics.) She has dyed her fabric and finished her jammies. On Sunday, while at a standstill on the duffle bag I’m making—in a distance sew-a-long with Tina—I dedicated time to dyeing the fabric for my jammies.

PFD cotton is natural cotton, after weaving and washing. It has had no sizing or finish applied, and is an off-white color like a light shade of ecru or cream.

For this learning exercise, I relied heavily on Lynne Caldwell’s “Shibori: A Beginner’s Guide to Creating Color & Texture on Fabric.”

I use Procion MX Fiber Reactive dyes, manufactured by Jacquard Products (or Dharma Trading’s equivalent house brand). Fiber reactive dyes are designed to work on cotton, silk, linen and rayon fabrics. They are colorfast, washfast, and lightfast and create a chemical bond with the fiber. They work with room temperature or warm water, and don’t require any special processing to set the colors. (An acid dye requires a steam bath to set the colors.) And if you live in Ohio or a midwest area that has a Pat Catan’s store, they stock a small selection of Procion MX colors. I can run pick up a bottle and get right to work, rather than having to order online.

I wanted to try Itajime Shibori for the pajama top. I had cut the 4+ yards into two 2+ yard pieces, one for the pajama top, one for the bottoms. I have a Pinterest board for shibori ideas, which primarily amounts to resist techniques for dye application. I also have numerous books. But what I saw recently that inspired me was a different method of folding for the triangle application. I thought. And yesterday I folded and wrapped according to what I thought I saw. Instead of making one great big stack of folded triangles, I folded one continuous length of 3″-4″ folded fabric into triangles, then made two equal-thickness conjoined stacks.

Once I had the fabric folded as I wanted, I needed a resist to force the dye solution to the folded edges of the stack of fabric. I had a very nice cutting mat I purchased in a set of four at Sur La Table. Then I sacrificed the vegetable mat in the great bat-trapping incident. Afterward, even with much scrubbing and bleaching, I knew the mat could never live in my kitchen again. (The bat? He revived quickly when I moved him outside. May he never return!) I was able to take my heaviest Fiskers upholstery shears and cut the mat into eight triangles that I could use in and on the stack for the resist. I needed a bucket of clamps that’s somewhere in my disorganized basement. When I couldn’t find the clamps, I grabbed some light twine and wrapped that around the conjoined stacks to hold the resist triangles in place. Looking at the stacks after I was done wrapping, I wished I had placed the two rectangles more centered across the “bridge” between the two stacks. But when one is experimenting, there are no errors.

For this piece of fabric, I wanted the edges of the triangles to be an orange-rust shade. Then I would dye a second time with a lighter, orange-yellow shade. For the orange-rust, I used Procion MX Rust Orange, 16. For the orange-yellow overdye, I used 50:50 Procion MX Soft Orange, 5, and Golden Yellow, 10. What you see in these two pictures is the Rust Orange. The white is where the triangle-shaped resists prevented the dye from penetrating the fibers.

After rinsing the fabric with Synthrapol to remove any excess dye that had not bonded with the fabric (and to prevent bleeding on subsequent washings), I prepared the second dye bath. I wanted a yellow between the rust bars. There are numerous steps one must complete when dyeing fabric: wet the fabric and “scrub” it (if it’s not PFD) to prepare the fibers to accept the dye; immerse the fabric in the dye bath; after half an hour, add a soda ash solution to further open up the fibers to absorb the dye; rinse until the water runs clear; run through a short washing machine cycle with Synthrapol. The amount of dye powder used in the dye bath depends on how saturated a color you want. If you want a light shade, use one teaspoon of dye powder in one cup of water. Medium, 3 teaspoons. Dark, 6 teaspoons. My rust bath was dark—6 teaspoons of dye powder dissolved in a cup of water, mixed into the two gallons of water required to fully immerse the fabric. For the overdye I used one teaspoon of Soft Orange and one teaspoon of Golden Yellow.

After removing the overdyed fabric from the dye bath, rinsing it in my big cast iron sink, and throwing it into the washer with the Sythrapol, I turned around to the work table and saw my measuring cup of soda ash solution waiting to be added to the dye bath. Oops. How much of the dye would still be on the fabric after the Synthrapol rinse removed the excess?

Look for the good. The beauty of this inadvertent error was that my dye bath was still usable for my second piece of fabric. Because I had this great geometric print on the top, I decided to just scrunch the fabric into the dye bath for a mottled look. I put it in, let it sit for fifteen minutes, then picked the whole mass up and turned it over, letting it sit for another fifteen minutes. Then I pulled it aside, stirred in the soda ash solution, and shoved the mass back into the dye/soda ash liquid. After about ten minutes, I squeezed some of the dye out, put it in the big sink, and rinsed it several times.

The first piece was sitting in the washer, waiting for its partner to get out of the bath. By this time, the first piece had been through two Synthrapol rinsings. The rinsed second piece was placed on top and a kitchen towel I had been using to wipe up spills was thrown in on top, then I ran another short cycle with another teaspoon of Synthrapol. When that was complete, I ran a full cycle with detergent.

Returning an hour later, I stretched it on my basement clothesline for pictures. I was a little sad to see that more of the rust lines had dissipated, so that the grid wasn’t as prominent to the design. Compare the second grid picture, above, pre-overdyeing, to the top picture, post-overdyeing, after three Synthrapol rinses.

I spent about fifteen minutes in various parts of the house trying to get true-color photos. We had a rare day with bright sun. Note to self: must set up a corner in the basement where I can get decent photos.

(I think this picture I just took this morning shows the colors the best.)

So what do I think of my results? I’m happy to see the difference with and without the soda ash. Without the soda ash to open up the fibers, the spaces “under” the grid are sort of a flan color—you know, a good housemade Mexican flan. The piece that was treated with soda ash is more pale butterscotch. It’s a richer shade than the sans-soda ash piece.

Am I pleased? Yes, I’m very pleased. I love the colors, and I love the fact that when I hung them on the line after the final wash, they hardly wrinkled. Very soft. Perfect for pajamas for a hot and humid climate. In the day or two before my missing parts for the duffle bag arrive, I’m going to get started on my pajamas.

Shibori Photo Gallery

Hand[le] Me My Laundry

Laundry BasketHere’s a quick Sunday tutorial. You know the big plastic laundry baskets you can get in the hardware or home goods stores? Have you ever felt they were incredibly uncomfortable to carry when returning the clean laundry to its home? Or what if you have it overloaded with sheets and towels and you can’t carry it with one hand? Try walking up two-and-a-half flights of stairs, carrying the basket with two hands and risking falling head over heels down the stairs?

Here’s your solution.

Taking your quilting ruler or whatever straightedge you’ve got handy, measure and draw a horizontal line about ½” above the highest circle. Turn the basket around to the opposite side and repeat. Now using heavy duty shears, cut the handles off along that line. I used my heaviest Fiskars shears that are intended for home decorating projects. Do not use any of your dressmaking shears or any scissors reserved for fabric.

Cut off handlesThe leftover pieces will look like what you see in this photo. You can throw them in the recycle bin. I’ll put mine aside with my other odd things that can be used as a resist in fabric dyeing.

Now you need some webbing or belting in a width between 1″ and 1½”. Cut two pieces about 36″ long. If your webbing frays, coat about ¼” of each cut end with FrayCheck or glue and let it dry. Lace the ends of the webbing through two of the holes. I chose the second hole out from the center hole. I laced mine from the outside to the inside, and then turned the edges out so they matched the concave top of the hole.

Make sure you have laced each piece of webbing through the two holes on one side, not across the body of the basket. If this doesn’t make sense, look at one of your double-handled purses. (Or check out this cool Betty Bowler bag from Swoon Patterns – my favorite bag pattern designer.) You want to be able to carry the basket lengthwise, not crosswise.

Here’s the trickiest part of the project: Arrange your sewing machine in the middle of your table so you can balance the basket on the table.

With the basket balanced to the left of your machine, turn about 3″ of the end up and stitch back and forth over the raw edge, attaching it to the webbing on the outside. I kept angling my presser foot to have about eight rows of stitching covering about a ¼ to ½” near the end.

Et voila! That’s all it takes to make transporting your laundry less painful. Okay, so you still have to deal with the washing, drying, and folding part. But isn’t this a great solution? You’re welcome.

Now I bet you want to know where I got the gawdawful neon coral webbing. My Portland sewist friend, Tina, and I are making duffle bags for our trip to Bali. Tina ice-dyed the canvas (exterior fabric) and cotton (lining). The bag needs handles and I wanted to use cotton webbing instead of sewing and folding the canvas into straps. It required shopping online and trusting the colors on my display to match one of the orange/yellow/pink shades in the dyed canvas. When I went to cut the straps the other night and held the webbing up to the fabric under good light, I realized I had misjudged the color. Grossly misjudged! So I ordered some undyed cotton webbing and a couple of colors of Procion MX dye to make new webbing that will match the fabric more closely.

And what to do with the old webbing? I realized I was sick of hurting my hands on the old laundry basket.

So there you go!