Paisley Park

 

Handmade knit tank top and dirndl skirt / Wanna Be Sewing Something Blog

One afro, two elbows, and a UFO walk into a park…

The start of a curious joke? Or the list of accessories for the paisley knit tank top I made?

It’s the latter, of course. Though a suitable punchline for my setup is still a goal.

With help from a quirky, patchwork paisley printed stretch knit, I executed the binding technique I wrote about in July to sew a companion for a chambray dirndl skirt that waited a year to be hemmed.

Handmade knit tank top

Even though I still have to draft new sleeves for it, my beloved fitted t-shirt pattern (debuted here last winter) is officially operating as a block now that I’ve got the shoulders and armholes fitting just right. I traced it to create a tank top pattern with a lower neckline.

Unfamiliar with drafting for knits, I referenced my Helen Joseph Armstrong book. The section on patterning kids clothes made with knit fabric covers how to measure and plot a lowered neckline.

Had I attempted it on my own, I wouldn’t have accounted for the bit of contouring that seems to build in just the right amount of negative ease at the chest.

Handmade knit tank top and denim dirndl skirt separates

The position of the neckline on this tank top is EXACTLY where I want it. Plenty of skin showing to give the eyes a place — other than the obvious one — to land. With a shape that isn’t too scooped…but soft and rounded. Like my hair. Which I styled carefully for a look in the middle of the spectrum between Angela Davis and Pam Grier.

Examining the symbiotic link between neckline and hair shape… is for another blog post.

Let’s enjoy a photo collage tribute to binding construction instead.

Knit binding with mitered seams

From left to right: (a) When I sew wovens, I cut patterns from a single layer of fabric. For this pattern, I folded in the selvedges to the middle and used my rotary cutter. (b) The 45 degree line on the grid of my cutting mat and chalk-marked stitchlines kept the mitered seams of my binding looking sharp. (c) I know it’s overkill, but a steamy iron and my tailor board got in on the action. (d) I always get a little nervous before attaching freshly cut bindings. Did I get the ratios right? I can usually tell if I’m off by laying the seams next to each other.

knit tank top, chambray dirndl skirt

About the skirt. My usual dirndl. It’s origin story is ancient.

95% of it was sewn over a year ago!

I even lined the skirt and the pocket and Instagrammed my results to the world before noticing there wasn’t enough fabric for the waistband.

A small tear was shed before I hung it up in a corner to display it as an unfinished object (UFO) in distress.

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Lined denim pocket or smiling muppet mouth.

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I picked it up a few months later after I learned a machine sewn technique for interfacing a waistband with petersham in my Skirt Skills class.

I tried it out on a straight waistband cut from bottom weight denim that happened to match my chambray.

 

Handmade knit tank top and denim dirndl skirt separates

After admiring the results, I abandoned the dirndl AGAIN so I could use the denim to sew that game-changing pencil skirt.

By the time I returned to finally hem and fasten the chambray dirndl (last week), it was three seasons later and I was ten pounds lighter.

If its muppet mouth could speak, it would’ve cursed me out.

Handmade denim dirndl skirt: waistband, lining

Even though the waistband was a bit thicker than I’m used to, and the hook placement had to be sewn an inch deeper, the peterhsam interfacing performed like a champ.

My waistline did not grow like it did in the un-stabilized, chocolate linen maxi version of this skirt.

After a day of wearing and eating, and through the weight of keys and phones in pockets, my waistband was a solider.

Handmade knit tank top and denim dirndl skirt separates

These separates are a uniform silhouette for me that leave me feeling comfortable and confident. I may not be able to craft a swift punchline for a joke, but I can certainly craft a slow, wonderfully wearable outfit for my body.

Maxi Mom Returns

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When I found myself cutting out yet another maxi-length skirt, I worried for a moment that I’d never see my ankles again. And, then in the next moment, I was OK with that. I mean, the gals in the 19th century rocked maxi skirts and dresses everyday, all day. Playing tennis, riding bicycles, running after children, running households….basically saving the world.

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It’s too bad I’m a klutz when I wear long, full skirts. Tripping over or stepping on my hem, getting it caught in car doors, letting snacks melt in my pockets —like a stylish anti-hero. So, this may be my last 35-inch skirt of the season. A great occasion for a wide, mudcloth waistband. And an even better one to make the basic white tee that eluded me all summer.

IMG_9305A dreamy chocolate linen from my stash wanted to be a summer neutral, but needed a little something to tame the rich color. Something like the fab-u-lous mud cloth I bought somewhere at sometime in the past that I can’t quite remember. It’s history didn’t matter the moment I attached the skirt to the waistband. The two fabrics were so right for each other, you’d think they’d met on eHarmony instead of in my sewing room.

mudclothwbmaxi_collageThe mud cloth has a canvas weight, so interfacing wasn’t necessary, but the two-inch waistband could’ve used more support, maybe even boning at the side seams or hidden elastic that would act kinda like a snugly interlining to keep it from collapsing. I fastened it at center back with a zipper and a massive sew-on snap. I love the look and novelty of it, but after a hearty meal, that snap has been known to randomly pop open like a jack in the box (scaring the snap out of me), so I think I’ll go back to boring, more predictably behaving closures.

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The volume of this skirt is what I love most about it. It’s also what I have to get used to so I don’t end up face-planting. Maybe I can help someone appreciate the awesomeness of a handmade skirt instead of being distracted and (possibly entertained) by its uncoordinated wearer.

Maxi Mom Fun

Maxi skirts are the new mom jeans. That’s an observation AND a declaration for the summer, my friends. And, I plan to thoroughly live up to it. The summer sale racks are overflowing with maxi styles and my weekend afternoons could be spent playing I Spy a Maxi (on the playground, at the market, crossing the street, etc.). But, the best view of a summer maxi I’ve had so far is the twirl-generating, floor-skimming linen skirt I made a few weeks ago and have already worn a million times since.

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Over the last month, my sewing mojo has been at its peak. I went head first into my wardrobe sewing plan and started plowing through muslins and 1-hour t-shirts like a one-woman factory. For a brief moment though, I was nearly defeated by a streak of wadders and unintentional wearable muslins – garments made with good intentions that lose cool points because of stupid construction mistakes on my part. I channeled that epic fail feeling into a new, scaled back sewing plan (more on that later) that functioned like Ritalin on my haphazard making.

This outfit was the first high-five I earned in weeks. It inspired an impromptu photoshoot at the end of an awesomely productive day at the office that I am certain was influenced by how good I felt in my clothes. I’ll give you the top-down tour.

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The t-shirt marathon that produced this blue rayon jersey top began with a short lesson in twin needle stitching. Where had it been all my life? Constructing the four seams of the fantastically free, Maria Denmark Kimono Tee (get it now if you don’t have it yet) with my serger and then swiveling to my sewing machine for twin needle hemming was the best way to breeze through an already quick sew even faster. Taking the time to hand wind my bobbin with bulky nylon thread slowed my groove a tad, but it was worth it for a functional set of stretchy hem stitches that won’t pop while pulling the shirt on and off.

I lengthened the sleeves of this version of the Kimono Tee using Maria’s tutorial and added a narrow wraparound neck binding, my new favorite way to finish a knit neckline. Everything came together so easily and so fast, I looked around the room half expecting someone to tell me I broke the law.

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Back to this linen maxi skirt with its gorgeous wrinkles and flirty swishyness. I lengthened my go-to dirndl pattern 15 inches and added pockets and a self-drafted waistband. The simplest of simple. I think it’s the light, billowy nature of the linen that gives the skirt life. It catches the air when I walk in such a regal way. During a business trip last week, it was the perfect traveling skirt. I hurried through Dulles and Atlanta airports in my DIY maxi and Keds, letting its soft, rhythmic rustling sound give my strut added purpose.

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Styling it with a wide belt for this outfit was my second high five moment. With so much fabric on my lower half, I didn’t want to overdo the accessories – the right belt was all I needed to tie the two pieces together. Boom. And, I’m dressed.

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The most notable fun factor for this skirt is its universal swish appeal. My daughter instinctively grabs the sides when she’s standing next to me and starts swinging the fabric. And when it’s story time, she cuddles up on my lap like it is the coziest toddler hammock in the world. Because it is.

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What’s your favorite way to wear a maxi skirt? And, why do they always make you feel majestic even when there’s crayons in your pockets and dirt on the hem?