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Sunday, July 11, 2010

A Corset of Course (or A Flair for the Dramatic)

McCall's 8832 blouse/ corset pattern
I have been meaning to try out this pattern and style C (corset) is the one we are going to try today.  I have a black with hot pink embroidery fabric picked out, along with a lightweight black fabric for the lining, and a tiny smidge of black interfacing. I am not a big fan of boning as I find it uncomfortable, so I am going to skip it, and the pattern is vintage and calls for buttons up the side. I think I am going to replace the buttons with another type of closure running up the side, but since this is the first time I have made this item, I am going to think about the closure when I am nearing the end of the project. 

I have cut out the pattern,  (made myself a backup copy), ironed the pattern pieces, ironed the fabric, cut the fabric, and now we're ready to get started sewing. A few tips if you are a beginner sewer-follow the directions, read them thoroughly, and read the text that is printed on each pattern piece as well. As with all crafts, if you take your time, the chances of your project turning out well are greater. 

Now, many people prefer to try a sewing pattern out first with an inexpensive fabric such as muslin -this is perfectly fine and I always recommend it. The human form, and especially that of a woman, is the hardest to dress so practice makes perfect. I have a few favorite little devices I keep at my side while sewing and they are a stitch cutter, and a sewing marker and or fabric chalk. The stitch cutter is great for all sorts of sewing projects and the sewing marker is great for lighter colored fabrics but you can basically draw all over the fabric and then spritz the fabric with water and the marker will disappear. I prefer to keep the use of pins to a minimum in my craft shop if I can so after I have cut the pattern and ironed the pieces. I lay out the pattern accordingly and then this is where I would use my fabric pen or chalk (chalk pens are recommended for darker fabrics), but you can also pin and then cut the pattern pieces. 

For this particular item, the directions have you sew the lining pieces to the front pieces individually, and then sew the pieces together vertically. This way you know the front and the lining will fit perfectly and offer a nice tight fit. In order to make sure your corset pieces are the perfect sizes in relation to one another, once you have sewn the front pieces to the lining pieces,  press and lay the pieces (now front and lining pieces basted together) out on top of one another and trim the pieces so the right and left side of the front pales are pressed together and he same exact size, the side pieces are the same sized pieces, and again for the back pieces. If when trimming down the pieces to make sure they are exact and find you have trimmed the stitching from an area, go back and touch up the area by sewing the edges together again before proceeding. You don;t have to be a nut about it, but taking the extra time to make sure each panel is exact in relation with it's opposite side and making sure each front and back panel is stitched down really makes a difference between a really nice top and one that looks like it was handmade. 

Once the pieces are all cut out then simply follow the instructions, in this case basting the front and lining pieces together and trimming, sewing the panels vertically together (*except of course the right side where the closure is going to be). The pattern had me add a small panel folded over on each side (one of these pieces with interfacing), then I added the top inside bodice piece of fabric and the corset together, and then pressed and hand sewed the top inside flap down. After that I took the skirt piece and turned it inside out and stitched the ends up. I flipped the piece right side out and stitched the opened end up, gathered, and then added the gathered skirt to the corset part, stitching wrong sides together, turned the top inside out, added hook and eyes to the inside of the side closure, and wha-la! You now have yourself a fabulous new top to wear out, or in this case, a fabulous new styled corset top I now feel confidant remaking and offering on my clothing site @ www.SpohiaDeLaMer.etsy.com. 

So all in all, this pattern is definitely a keeper in my book. I plan on making more and introducing different colors and variations as Spring approaches. Unfortunately this top turned out too small for my sewing doll,  so I don't currently have a model for it. Instead, I have taken photos with it laid out flat, and that makes it look like the torso is shorter in relation to the image but in fairness, the image in the picture looks like it has also been drawn out Barbie doll styled to a certain degree. 

Now that I have finished the test and have deemed it worthy of remake in the clothing shop, I'm off to make more. Just a few little notes before I head off to the craft room here. When remaking this item (or any corset pattern really as you will probably not be using this exact pattern I have here), make sure to expand each of the pieces equally in width, and each piece slightly longer. If you are going to add a zipper at the side then you're going to want to add another side piece on the right hand side of the closure area inside to cover the right hand side of the zipper seam. I would do this by placing the left side of the zipper facing up and facing the right side up on the left side panel. Sew those together and then do the same for the right side. When stitching the inside flap down you can hand stitch that zipper down a little bit or pop in a zipper foot and stitch it down flat. Just remember when picking up a zipper that you go with one that opens at the bottom. These are usually marked as parka or coat zippers. If you wanted to add lacing and holes you can do so. I would probably switch the closure to another area in the garment if I were going to add lacing to the front or back seam. Here is a photo of the back lacing on my new Romantically Involved Dress. I added the lacing to the back zipper area by sewing down some of the lace I used throughout the dress to the right and left hand size of the zipper vertically, and then I took a satin type twine and used the holes in the lace to lace up the back with a bow at the top. This style will work in front or back really well.

Lindsay ;)

Friday, July 9, 2010

Weaving a Throw Rug

When I started weaving I found I had years worth of fabric scraps that I could use to make rugs and improve my weaving skill before I moved onto more delicate woven projects. It was exciting because I finally had a craft that used those previously useless scraps and with over 4 huge bins full of scraps at the time I had a lot of material in which to work with! Today, I usually collect at least one if not two big bins worth of fabric scraps and then make a bunch of fabric balls so as to condense my sewing scrap pile. I have also found that sometimes the colors and patterns that you would think would not look good together end up looking really cool together so definitely feel free to experiment. In many cases when I am gearing up the loom I plan one rug and then go completely freestyle in design with the other. The results are really interesting and completely different and you can see this currently in my shop in that The Waves in the Sand and the Color Me Happy Woven Rugs are from the same reel but the Waves in the Sand was planned and the Color Me Happy was not, but I was very happy with the way both rugs turned out.

There are a series of basic steps when setting about making a woven rug and those are as follows:

1) Warp the board-check how many slots per inch your heddle has before you determine how many strands of warp you need looped up. Once you have that number, multiply it by the number of inches you want for the width of the rug and the resulting number is how many loops you need.
2) Gather/ sew together waft (fabric balls)
3) Thread the machine (bring your crochet hook)
4) Wind the machine (bring along brown paper and a pick)
5) Re-thread the machine and tie off the ends (bring your crochet hook)
6) Weave
7) Tie off and retie the warp for the next rug

The woven rug is comprised of the warp, the thinner strands that run through the heddle, and the waft, which for this particular project is comprised of strips of fabric that are sewn to make long fabric strips that are then woven through the warp. The fabric strips for the waft are cut to about 1-2 inches wide (2.50-5.1 cm) or, when the fabric strip is twisted in your hand, it is as wide as a pencil, if not a little wider. If the fabric strips are too thin then the rug will end up being too thin. You will also find you want the strips to be of similar thickness so as to keep the thickness of the rug constant throughout.

Sew all of the strips together and wind around into a ball until it about the size of a softball, maybe a little bigger. If you want a rug made from all one color, the fabric balls will be comprised of all the same fabric, or at least the same color. If you want to make a rug similar to the white and red All You Need is Love Woven Rug pictured above, you will cut random sized pieces of white fabric and mix in a few pieces of random sized colored fabric as you sew the fabric strips together. I say to go with random sized pieces of fabric specifically because it is the element of randomness that gives the red and white blended look. When you go to tie more waft on make a point of making a soft knot as that will flatten out but a hard knot feels tough on the feet.

If you have some experience weaving, then the rest will come easily to you but for others that might be new to the process, one of the hard parts at the beginning is determining how much warp and waft material you will need for the project. It is always hard to say but I have found when making a woven throw rug that is approximately 25" in width by 40" in length (63.5 cm width x 101.6 cm length), that I will need about 4-5 larger sized fabric balls, and (this is depending on your heddle of course) but for a rug that is 25" in width, that means that I warp each loop on the warp board (this gives us the strands in which you weave between) 250 times, 10 times for each inch (2.50 cm). I also found when making a meditation mat which has a width of about 30" (76.2 cm), I am able to get about 6" of woven rug out of each fabric ball, as an estimate. For a meditation mat, I have found that I need about 2 yards per 30” x 30” woven material. It always helps to have a little bit extra of waft ready to weave before you begin your project as well so you don’t have to stop weaving and go back to the sewing machine to make more for the project.

Now that I have a stand for my weaving loom that’s not such a big deal but for a while I was using a craft table for both sewing and weaving and would put one machine away while I was working on the other. Because of this, I found it to be quite a pain to have to pull the loom off the craft table only to put together another 10 yards or so of waft to finish a rug. You can always use extra waft in another project so in most cases it’s just easier to make a little more. When it comes to the fabric used for the woven rugs, I only weave with cottons for the most part. You can weave with some stretch fabrics as practice but you will see as you go along that the natural fabrics are your best bet and stretch fabrics will end up pulling in the sides and making the finished rug look uneven and a bit warped if you don’t take great care not to stretch the fabric across as you are weaving, and even then, you might find the sides pulling inward a bit

I also take great care as I am weaving to pull the sides out evenly as I go. Every 4-5 woven strips or so I give the sides a tug just to keep them from pulling in, and more often if it looks like it needs it. A lot of weavers don’t really care about this so much because they will block the rug down on a board after they’re done to set it for a few days. I don’t bother doing this however with some of your first projects if you find the sides bow in a bit, blocking the item is an option you might consider. Some knitters also block knitted pieces as well. I am pretty sure there are a few sites out there that provide instructions for how to block an item but if you can’t find one or still need help feel free to let me know and I can put a post up on how to block a piece.

Unlike other weaving projects, woven rugs are also a lot heavier than something lightweight like a shawl and I have found that a pick (I use a metal pronged pick that I just picked up from the $1 store) really helps pull the rug tight as I am weaving. And remember, the tighter the rug, the better. You want this to be machine washable if possible, and the tighter it is the better it will withstand the wear and tear associated with laundering. The pick also comes in really handy when winding the machine when you have to gently brush out all of the warp fibers. I used to use a wide plastic comb but I found the pick to be the best tool so far.

I also use brown kraft paper when winding my loom and save that brown paper because it is reusable. I picked up a few rolls right when I got my loom and still use them today. The rolls of paper are usually 29”-30” (73.7 cm-76.2 cm) in length and my loom is 32” (81.3 cm) in width. If I am going the max width for a rug then I use a wider roll of paper in which I had to tape an additional 2” (5.1 cm) to one side. It is critical that the paper covers all of the strands of the warp as you are winding or the wound strands could intersect and get all intertwined and become unusable.

My warp board allows for a length of about 10 ft in woven material and I have made rugs that long, though I usually make smaller ones as those seem to sell in the shop more quickly. If I were going to make three woven rugs that are about 34” (86.4 cm) in length each, I would expect to have about 5 fabric balls for each rug. If I were going to make one long runner that was 10 ft in length, I would expect that I needed about 20-21 fabric balls total as I wasn’t losing the warp strands I lose when I am tying off and re-tying each new rug. Since the meditation mats are about 30" (76.2 cm) in width I went with warping the board until I had 300 loops, and then you tie it off so the strands stay in place until you thread and wind those strands on the loom. Threading the loom takes about another 45 minutes, and then comes the winding process. My instruction in weaving included the recommendation to have a partner help you wind the loom and this is the easiest way. This last set of rugs I made were wound by myself as my cutie was at work and I didn’t want to wait until he got home to get the loom ready to weave, but if you can have another set of hands for this part it is a lot easier than doing it yourself and your chances of getting the warp wound taut is increased when you have someone holding and brushing the warp as the other person is winding the machine.

Winding the machine by myself takes about 30 minutes or so but with that extra set of hands it takes about 15-20 minutes. This process is usually pretty boring for the person winding the loom but the person on the other side brushing out the warp fibers has to go slow and make sure all of those fibers are taut. Once the machine is wound then you are left with about 2 ft (61 cm) of warp strands hanging from the heddle. You have threaded the machine once but you still need to thread the machine a second time, taking one strand from the long slot in the heddle and moving it to the smaller slot directly to the right. Do this for each double strand until every slot from the original slot you started with has one thread in the long slot and one in the small slot. Now, slip the round dowel into the front area of the loom and then tie down about an inch worth of warp strands to the dowel. Make these knotted sections tight and try to get them to be equally taut across the entire width. If some of the knotted pieces are tighter than others, adjust them so they are all tight. You can also wind the loom a notch or two in order to tighten it up a bit as well. Do this after you have tied all the warp strands down evenly.

So, at this point we are going to assume that you have made the waft ready for the project, have warped the board, threaded the machine, wound the machine, threaded again and tied off and you are now officially ready to weave!

This is where it gets fun. In and out, moving that heddle back and then forward and you can see your beautiful rug begin to develop. Wind as you weave until you have wound enough rug and have the length you want, you can pull the rug out from the front area and then pull out the warp through the heddle until you again have about a foot and a half, provide some slack and then clip the warp. For the rug you have just cut off the loom, tie the ends and then for the other end, retie the strands so there is no loop and you are all set. If you have any little scrap pieces sticking out of your new rug you can pull on them a bit and trim them off but just be careful not to cut any of the warp or it will ruin the rug. Once you have cut one rug off the loom you will simply repeat the original process of tying off the strands onto the dowel and beginning the weaving project over again. Do be careful though that you do not pull the warp strands out from the heddle or you will have to take the additional time to rethread the machine before you make the next rug.

Some people like to use a material such as yarn in the beginning of the weaving process with the intention of getting a tight weave right towards the ends of the rug. I usually add a few smaller strips of fabric to the beginning as I have found they are easy to pull out when you are finished weaving and are just re-tying the strands on the ends up again. If you do not add something to the beginning and end you will probably find you will end up getting a bit of a v shaped design from the warp at the beginning of the rug and though I usually even this design out a bit before I send a rug out in the mail, if I were to use a thinner material and weave a few lines at the beginning and end of the rug, I can pull out the knots of the warp after I am finished, pull out the woven material and then retie the ends off again and you get rid of the v pattern. This same concept of adding a thinner bit of weaving material on the ends is similar to the salvage area of fabrics you would buy in a fabric shop from the bolt and would be cut off and disgarded when the pattern for the garment has been cut.

So, to weave a set of 2 rugs that are about 4 ft in length each (121.9 cm), we would have made about 14-16 fabric balls, warped the board 10 loops for every inch (2.5 cm) we wanted for the width, and then threaded, wound, and then threaded again before we could even start weaving. In regards to the time required, I have not documented all of the time for this last set of rugs but I have all of the time up until the actual weaving documented. Well, I have about 4 fabric balls for a meditation mat made so far and I usually whip up some fabric balls when my fabric scrap basket is busting at the seams so after I make the Golden Louts Meditation Mat (and I know I need at least 1 more fabric ball in order to complete that mat), I will hopefully find some fabric balls I can use for the second rug. I think for that rug I will make it a little longer as opposed to shorter and that one is not a custom order so it will most likely be listed in my etsy shop, unless a friend stops in while I’m working on it and decides they want it in which case I try to take a few pictures for the photo blog, but it won’t be listed for sale in the shop.

I have found that the red and white striped All You Need is Love woven rugs are really festive for around Valentine’s Day. I really love the scattered cheerfulness the Festival Throw Rugs offer as well as those are made mostly with white strips of fabric for the fabric balls but I mix in small pieces of colored fabric usually about 5-6” in length (12.7 cm  - 15.2 cm) and I make sure I keep the color sequence random so it blends well. It was only after I had made a number of the Festival Throw Rugs that I wanted a different look, something less white and instead more tribal, or more natural and Tibetan fibers sort of look. I found that by mixing a variety of colored fabrics including navy blue, darker purple and greens-but no black, white or cream-I got the look I had hoped for. I recently made a woven rug that I absolutely love. I have since named it Color Me Happy and it is currently listed in my shop.

This is one of the rugs that was completely unplanned but turned out cheerful and completely unique none the less. In fact that rug and the Waves in the Sand Woven Rug were made at the same time with the navy blue warp. When I was making the fabric balls for that project I had a number of cream, beige, tan and blue fabric strips and so I made a series of fabric balls with that blend of fabrics sewn together at random, and I thought it turned out nice with the navy blue warp. In fact, using a navy blue or any color other than white or cream was rather exciting for me and I just happened to find a spool of it at a thrift store for a quarter of the price of the natural off white colored twine I usually get. I have not explored local weaving shops lately so maybe we will go on a fiel1d trip one of these days and see what we can find in the way of weaving supplies. I find a lot of materials at thrift stores and garage sales but I also purchase a lot of the warp at a few local shops.

Working with the navy warp made me want all sorts of colors for upcoming projects and since I have found the cotton twine to be the most durable fiber for the warp while keeping the rugs soft on the feet, I would love to find some colored cotton twine. The Festival Throw Rugs sold in my shop are made with a smooth white acrylic twine and the meditation mats are made out of the cotton twine, but I have also begun to weave a variety of larger rugs with the cotton twine. The cotton twine is a little bit thicker and ends up making the finished rugs heavier but it’s a nice weight and gives a sense of substance under your feet. The cotton warp also launders well. If you like the idea of the bound ends though then I recommend using a thinner fiber for the warp such as a crochet yarn. I have not bound the ends of the cotton twine rugs because I personally like the ends on, but also because the knots are a bit bulky and I don’t know how they would sew down, even when my sewing machine is a pretty good chomper of thicker materials. I would say at this point, if I really wanted it bound, I would pull out the knots and braid the waft strands down the width of the rug until I reached the bottom, and then add one small knot, and then bind the ends in a material that covered that braided spine. Perhaps we will have to try this and see how it goes.

I hope I find some because I feel if I do not I will have no other choice but to dye my own twine, and I don’t really want to have to do that. It shouldn’t be that hard to find colored woven twine.-this is Portland after all-but dying fibers is not a project I really like to do as I find it to be messy, but when it comes to the crafts..sometimes there is no stopping me.

So, now that I have rattled on about some basic weaving concepts for what seems like forever, the important thing to remember is to go slow, have fun with it and remember, keeping it random and trying new ideas really helps you learn the art of weaving, blends new colors together and brings about a whole new world of unique ideas and projects. For those of you out there that sew excessively and have so many fabric scraps you don’t know what to do with yourself, get yourself a weaving loom! I can’t say really why I could never bring myself to throw out my fabric scraps but this craft is the ultimate in fabric recycling. I don’t feel guilty anymore when I have some fabric salvage because it’s not being tossed out. I have been mixing extra fabric scraps into throw rugs, quilts, pockets, quilted totes, baby blankets and so many more little projects but now those itty bitty scraps come in handy as well! And for those of you who do not sew a whole lot but like the idea of weaving, I highly recommend it even if you don’t want to take on sewing. If you do not sew then you can still purchase yarns and other fibers in which to weave with or you can purchase fabric balls at some locations.

This post is intended as a beginning weaving project and for additional instruction on how to set up a weaving loom feel free to email me. When I got my weaving loom it came with video instructions and I followed those on how to warp the board, thread the machine, wind the machine, re-thread and tie the ends of the warp to the dowel, and beginning the weaving process in which you tuck your first strand in after you have woven your second line in. This post is assuming you already understand these basic principles. If you need a better understanding let me know and I can put up a post on how to do that. When I first started weaving I remember being rather intimidated by the entire process and it wasn’t until I had made at least two projects that I really began to gain some self confidence in weaving. You also might have picked up an older loom and it has come with no instruction and you can’t find basic instructions online let me know.

Craft on!