Embellishment, Part 2

Some recent embellishment projects.


As part of my “mend, don’t spend” goal, I’ve been trying to make my thrift store shirts more interesting so that they don’t just sit in the closet. I also want an opportunity to do more embroidery and such, even if there aren’t any holes or tears to mend.

The first shirt is one I found in Montana a few months ago at a second hand store. In fact, it is the same style as the shirt from my earlier embellishment post with the tie-dye strips. It started out a very boring off-white, which made it a perfect candidate for dyeing. I used a gold Rit dye on it (at the same time I was dying the fabric I used to line my tote bag), and then wasn’t sure what to do next. It sat in my work pile for a while, until I came across a fun salmon-colored ruffled ribbon and pink flower at Joann Fabrics. Some simple machine stitching, and I had a fun new shirt. I love the colors, which are not really what I would normally wear, but they remind me of sherbet ice cream.


My second project was a pink and grey striped shirt that I recently found at ReTails thrift store (it supports the local humane society). I liked the shirt as it was, but I have been really enjoying my hand-sewing and embroidery projects, so I decided to add some elbow patches. I got some iron-on black patches from Joann Fabrics, and cut them into a heart shape. I marked my elbows, and ironed them on. I hand stitched the outside edge with pink embroidery thread to finish the project. Overall it was really easy, but embroidery inside of a sleeve is a pain.


My final project for this post was a basic sweatshirt I also found at ReTails thrift store. It still had its original tags, and looked like it had never been worn. I used four colors of blue embroidery thread to create most of the designs, using water ripples as inspiration. My boyfriend suggested creating a contrasting design in pink as well, and I think it really completes the shirt. I feel like the embroidery really makes this simple sweatshirt more stylish, and I have hardly taken it off since I finished it.

Middle Mountain Mushrooms

We found a huge variety of mushrooms this weekend.

I spent the weekend outside of Hood River, OR, with my boyfriend and his parents. Lovely views, fuzzy cats, and loads of pretty mushrooms. What could be better?

There were some mushrooms that appeared in large quantities, spread around the property:

There were some mushrooms that I only saw one, or a single clump, of:

Lots of mushrooms growing on dead logs and stumps:

And several mushrooms smaller than my fingernail:

I’ve never seen so many mushrooms in this location, and it was so much fun walking around taking pictures. The colors, the variety, and the crisp air made for a wonderful walk, accompanied by a cat.

More Mending

“Mend, don’t Spend”

I have been reading tons of sewing and upcycling blogs lately, and one of them (I don’t remember which one, now) had a slogan that really stuck with me: “Mend, don’t Spend”. I have decided to take this as my clothing motto for a while, and see how it goes. I’m really into the visible mending I’ve seen lately, and also want to save my money for buying fabric and making my own clothing.

I have two pairs of sweatpants that I bought at Fred Meyer when I moved to the Portland area back in 2009. They have an elastic waist, draw-string, and loose open legs (I hate the ankle elastic). I have worn these pants into the ground. The drawstring has finally ripped out the top of the grey pants, and the black ones are a close second. I haven’t been able to find replacements, and while I did try to use them as a template for PJ pants a while back with limited success, my lack of ability at sewing knits means that I am unlikely to be able to make my own replacements any time soon.

On Tuesday I decided to mend my grey wool sweater, and it inspired me to hunt out other clothing that needed mending. First up: the two pairs of sweatpants. I have some leftover knit fabric from my sewing experiments last week, and decided they would be perfect for the waistbands. Since I (and my boyfriend) are the only people likely to see these, I didn’t worry too much about appearance, but rather focused on the functionality of the repair. Good thing knits don’t fray – I didn’t have to finish the edges. I worked on these while watching How to Steal a Million – a great movie to give half my attention to while mending.

Both pairs of pants are now back in rotation, and possibly more comfortable than they were before. Next project: reinforcing a beloved pair of jeans before I accidentally rip out another belt-loop.

Late-Fall Colors

Reds, Yellows, and Greens around the Clark College Campus.

Here in the Pacific Northwest fall has mostly fallen, and winter is on its way. There are a couple trees holding out, however, and their colors are stunning, especially with the grey background of the cloudy, rainy skies. Fall is my favorite season, and I’m so glad that we still have some of the vibrant yellows and oranges making a statement around campus. I took a walk around campus today between my meetings, and had to slow down and take some pictures of the following views.

Tuesday night mending

Decorative mending on a wool knit cardigan.

I’ve been on a hand-sewing kick since I had such difficulty sewing knits with my machine, so last night I decided to do some (long overdue) mending. I’ve been inspired by sashiko boro and visible mending, so I started with that.

I got this lovely Italian wool cardigan a few years ago in a clothing swap, and over time it has developed some moth holes. I was planning to try to repair them invisibly, but changed my mind. I recently got some beautiful embroidery thread for a different project, and the red and gold seemed like a good combination with the dark grey.

I think it turned out well (the puckering goes away when worn), and now I can wear it again, which was the whole point. I also enjoyed the mending, so I’m kind of looking forward to the inevitable future holes that occur. I kept the tags for the embroidery thread so that I can match colors when the time comes.

Learning the Hard Way

My unsuccessful attempt to sew with knits.

I’ve been wanting to try sewing with knits, and, well, my first attempt at a Lane Raglan didn’t go so well. Not due to the pattern, but due to (perhaps) my fabric choices and stitch choices.

Fabric close-up. The black is fairly heavy, and the red is so lightweight as the be see-though in places.

I used a fairly heavy, low stretch, patterned black knit for the front and back (scuba, maybe? It is from Joann’s, and I am not very good at determining the type of fabric yet, unless it says specifically on the bolt. I also need to get in the habit of taking a picture of the bolt end for my records.) and a very lightweight stretchy red knit for the sleeves. I think this might have been the first issue, as they handled very differently.

I tried several of the “stretch” stitches with my sewing machine, and despite trying not to pull the fabric, ended up with wobbles and waves at the front seams, the neckline, and hems. The neckline was particularly bad. I watched some videos, and they said to stretch the neckband to fit the fabric, as it would be too small. I did this, but must have also been stretching the body/sleeve fabric a bit, accidentally.

I also cut it, as directed in the pattern, along the direction of greatest stretch, but maybe should have cut it on the bias? Top-stitching just made it worse – I cut out my narrow zig-zag-stitched top-stitch, and partially replaced with with a wider zig-zag-stitch, but it didn’t help.

At this point I could tell that this was not going to be a shirt I could wear outside the house, so I tried two different methods of hemming the sleeves. The regular zig-zag-stitch puckered less than the suggested vari-overlock, but still had some issues.

I think I’ll wait to do another attempt until the frustration wears off a bit. My boyfriend said that maybe I just need to get a serger… Christmas is just around the corner…

Also, if anyone has any suggestions for helping me avoid these issues in the future (without a serger), please share in the comments! I’m trying to learn and could use the help.

Proof of concept

Trying out a new craft project for the first time.

I imagine almost everyone who sews has seen the eHow “soup bowl hot pad” video tutorial at this point. Today was a long day, and I wanted to relax and do some non crucial sewing when I got home, so I decided to try and make my own soup bowl hot pad. Of course, I didn’t have any cotton batting in my stash, but I did have some leftover fleece from my blanket to jacket refashion, so I used it instead. I also used some of the lovely flannel left over from my prior shirt-sewing failure. The corners on the result were too thick for my sewing machine (so I just avoided them, causing the corners to lie flat, which I actually quite like), but otherwise this was a fast and easy project.   My boyfriend has already tried it out and declared it a success (“My hand isn’t burning!”). Family members should expect to see these in their stockings this year…

Pajama Month – Part 1

My first three PJ projects of November.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I have declared November to be “Pajama Month”. Not one to wait around after making a decision, I got started right away this weekend and upcycled three flannel sheets into PJs:

Up first is my (comfy) wearable muslin for the nightgown pattern. Very easy to make, super comfy to sleep in, and just big enough to be able to move without getting tangled up in extra fabric. I really like this nightgown actually, and the flannel is a perfect weight (made from an old sage green flannel sheet that I no longer use on the bed). I skipped the interfacing for the collar, and like how it turned out. My boyfriend says it looks like a hospital gown, so I’m trying to dye it and add something (ribbons? embroidery? pockets?) to make it less reminiscent of the hospital.

Sheet -> nightgown (hospital gown?)

Once I knew that my muslin fit, and I spent a night sleep testing it, I used a lightweight flannel sheet with a winter-esque pattern that I found at Goodwill to make a second version. The flannel is actually very lightweight, and I don’t think this nightgown will get as much wear as the first one, at least until the weather is more transitional (i.e. spring and warming up). The fit is the same as the first one, though, and I did ok with pattern matching the border pattern, except I ended up with some truncated reindeer at the side seams. I might use the remainder of the sheet to make a pair of pants, which would make this outfit wearable in cooler weather.

Holiday pattern nightgown

Finally I made a pair of pants from a fairly heavy plaid flannel sheet, also from Goodwill. I wasn’t concerned about pattern matching, but since I used the existing hem for the bottom of the legs, it almost came together anyway. The plaids don’t line up at the front and back seams, which my boyfriend made sure to point out (eye-roll). I added a cell-phone pocket that is partially sewn into the side seam, which was fun as I’d never done it before and was just seeing if it would work. I also flat-felled the inner leg-seams and the crotch-seam, but when it came to completing the legs, I couldn’t figure out how to flat-fell the outer leg-seam. I need to look more closely at my jeans – maybe you can’t/don’t flat-fell both leg seams in a pair of pants? The seams I was able to flat-fell came out very lovely, and will add strength to the inner parts of the leg, and help them lay flat which will increase their comfort level. The pants sit high at my waist, but I like that in PJs, and are really quite comfy. I managed to get the elastic length right, too. Not sure what I’ll do with the rest of the sheet. Maybe a pair of pants (with no plaid matching) for the boyfriend.

Super cozy flannel pants, and I didn’t even have to hem them!

I had planned to use a pretty pink and brown polka dot flannel for something, but it isn’t actually very soft, so I think it will go back into the stash for the time being. I’ve got several cotton sheets/curtains that will make good summer-weight PJs, but I might make them now anyway since I’m on a roll. I want to make some more flannel pants, and maybe another nightgown. I’m thinking of using a patchwork of leftover flannel pieces for the remaining nightgown, but I’ll have to figure out how to deal with the seams so that they don’t fray and don’t leave marks when I’m sleeping due to bulk.

I declare November “Pajama Month”

It is time to replace my old, increasingly transparent, nightgowns and pajamas.

I’ve been feeling a bit blah and lazy about sewing – things are busy at work, and I made my first official failure (couldn’t get the collar right on a blouse made of a lovely blue Sashiko-inspired flannel, and it has already made its way to goodwill, so no photos. I may need to get more of the fabric for something, since it was so pretty and soft). I did notice, however, that all of my nightgowns and PJ’s are pretty much see-through, and starting to develop holes. Not a problem at home, but family holiday visits are coming up, and I want opaque clothing.

So, I decided November will be the month when I restock my PJ’s. I’ve got several sets of cotton and flannel sheets and curtains (courtesy of various thrift shops) that I plan to upcycle. I found a pattern that includes a t-shirt top, nightgown, shorts, and pants, so I’m ready to go. I made a muslin of the nightgown that fits well (and sleeps well, which is important), so the plan is to make a couple of those first, and then some pants.

I plan to use the following sheets/curtains, as well as some other fabric scraps for fun embellishments (pockets, trim, etc.). Nightgown in polka dot and holiday flannels, pants in plaid flannel (heavier fabric), and nightgowns in the cottons for warmer weather. The white cotton has a lovely embroidered pattern, and the double sided comforter cover has large and small roses that remind me of the Mackintosh Rose pattern.


McCall’s M7322 with Glitter!

My first attempt at a simple 3/4 sleeve boat-neck shirt.

Being new to sewing, I look for patterns that say things like “easy!”, or “learn to sew”, and this McCall’s pattern looked like a good basic shirt to start with, as well as being designed for both woven and knit fabrics. I found this cotton/spandex blend at Joann Fabrics, and fell in love. It is really hard to photograph, but the fabric is black with bits of glitter on it. The glitter catches the light and shines in a rainbow of colors. I knew I had to make myself a shirt out of it.

So, I had a pattern and fabric, time to get to work. I picked size XL based on my measurements. I’m not sure if it is the “ease” that I keep reading about, or the stretch in my fabric, but it came out huge on me. Like, tent huge. So, I took it in about an inch at the side seams, and inserted a french seam in the back  to remove another 2 inches or so. It fits pretty well now, and I think I’ll make the large next time (I’d have to buy the pattern again to get the medium size, which would be even better, but I’m too cheap) and plan on some adjustments.

This pattern was easy to follow, and easy to make. I made view F, which has a boat-neck and 3/4 length sleeves – perfect for fall. However, it was my first time using fusible interfacing, and I hate the stuff. Not because it got stuck to my iron or anything, but I don’t like how the final neck band turned out. Too stiff, lays funny, and looks strange. I had to sew the neck band down inside the shirt (which might just be a characteristic of the pattern, as you only attach one edge of the collar to the shirt and fold the rest down inside where it just, hangs out?), and when I washed it the interfacing curled up and just looks bad. Can someone explain the point of interfacing for the neck band? I’ve made two other tops using this pattern since, and used bias binding instead, both hidden and visible, and I like it so much better.

Ugh. I think I’ll have to iron this every time I wear it. Darn.


Anyway, I am mostly happy with the end result. I love the fabric, and it would have taken a real disaster for me not to wear anything I made from it. Luckily no such disaster occurred, and I’ve got a nice new shirt that makes me look like a disco ball if there is even a hint of sunlight.