Facings Be Gone!

A few years ago, I made what turned out to be a really cute skirt. It fit well and was really comfortable. There was just one problem – the facing I’d attached to the waist wouldn’t stay in place for love nor money.

I understitched the seam allowance to the facing, like you’re supposed to. I tacked it to the side seams. I even tried to hemstitch it to the main body of the skirt. It both showed and wouldn’t lie like it was supposed to. I still wear the skirt, but I hate futzing with that flap of fabric.

A couple years later, I’m analyzing a few tops and some pants that had been commercially made for some other purpose, as I recall. But then I realized that not one of the items I was looking at had a facing. Nor had anything else I’d seen in a store. Not dresses, not tops, certainly not skirts.

Some of that was due to the style of the item. The cut edges were finished by waistbands, collars and the like. Some of them were lined and the lining attached to the facing. But, by and large, there are very, very few facings in commercial clothing.

Well, shoot. If the verdamnt things did not enhance the look of my finished garment, why was I making myself crazy by installing them? Believe me, I’ve got more interesting ways to make myself nuts.

No more facings

So, how do you finish the armhole edges on a sleeveless top, and the neck edge, as well? What about the waist of a skirt or a pair of dress pants when a waistband will just curl and be uncomfortable? I use bias binding. So there’s some top stitching on the right side. Why not?

A nicely bound neck edge – way easier and neater.

There may be the occasional use for a facing. I think I used one with my light spring coat that I made last year. My tops look just as neat. The skirts are comfy, and since I don’t tuck my tops in, who’s going to see the bias binding at the top? Frankly, if you’re physically close enough to me to notice that I used bias binding to finish my waist, then we had darned well better be on the kinds of terms where it’s not going to matter to you.

So, it doesn’t hurt to re-think how you do things. You never know when you’re going to discover a technique that makes everything easier.

Look, Ma! I Made Farn!

Image of old jeans and finished farn from tutorial on how to make fabric yarn,

This is a little tutorial on how to make fabric yarn. It’s also a bit about why you would want to.

Fabric yarn, or farn, is yarn you make from large pieces of fabric. There are any number of ways to do this, but, basically, you make long strips that you eventually knit or crochet just like you would any other yarn. Except that farn is really, really bulky. You’re not going to make socks with this stuff. Maybe not even slippers.

What got me into making farn was that I have boxes and boxes of old, holey jeans that can’t be donated because they’re too ratty and thrashed (fashion be damned). So rather than adding to our waste problem, I’ve been looking for creative and fun ways to turn them into something else.

The problem with re-making clothes is that you generally have way more clothes than you’ve got useful projects. I’ve made several bags out of the seats of worn pants, but how many bags does one need in a lifetime? Certainly more than the seats of worn pants that I have.

The good thing about farn is that you need lots and lots of it to make anything. The bad thing about farn is that it is very time-consuming to make. On the other hand, it’s a very soothing thing to do when you’re about ready to do something violent to, say, the computers at an overly automated medical provider (not that I ever would, except virtually, but today it’s been very tempting).

How to make fabric yarn

You need some really sharp and solid sheers to make this easier. And the first thing you do is cut the seat off the jeans and save that to make a tote bag at some point. Or something else. Then you cut off all the seams and hems.

Cutting off the seams and hems of a pant leg for making farn.

The process is really pretty simple. At the short edge of a piece of fabric – in this case, the leg of the jeans – you start cutting a strip, about half an inch wide (it’s okay to eyeball it), off of the long edge of your piece. You cut all the way to the other short edge, but you do not cut through to the edge. You leave about half an inch of uncut fabric at that edge. Then, on that same short edge, you start cutting from that edge all the way to within half an inch of the first short edge. You can use a rotary cutter, and you can draw lines first, but it doesn’t really speed things up any.

Now, you may notice there’s a bit of a problem with pant legs. They’re not an even rectangle. There’s the point that kind of sticks out that forms the crotch. And most jeans legs get narrower at the hem because your ankles are narrower than your thighs – and should be. There are two ways to deal with this. One is to even things up and use the scraps for patches or some quilting project. Or you can treat the curved edge like you would a short edge and just not have really long parts before you start cutting from the bottom. Play around and see what works for you.

What you do with your farn is up to you. You can crochet rag rugs with it. I’m going to knit a really long jacket based on a Kaffe Fassett pattern that I’ve been wanting to make for years. I’ve made a seat cover with some farn that I made from an old, dead bed skirt. The options are pretty much endless. Unfortunately, so is the supply of ratty jeans.

Old Shirts to New Dress: RePurposing Clothes

Repurposing clothes, sewing, waste-free living

Repurposing clothes with scraps and old shirts

I’ve been really getting into repurposing clothes of late. Never mind that I have piles and piles of fresh fabrics all waiting to be made into nifty new outfits. But the one problem with sewing is that it does create a fair amount of waste. I have tons of scraps that I’d like to do something with besides throwing them out.

Then there’s the problem of all the clothes that we wear out around here. You can’t give ragged shirts to Goodwill or others. They can’t sell them. And I’ve had a heck of a time trying to find out if they can send what rags they get to fabric recyclers.

But when I’ve messed up a project (a fairly frequent occurrence), what do I do with the fabric that should have been a shirt or a pair of pants?

The How I Did It of RePurposing Clothes

One option is to turn those fabric scraps and old shirts with ragged collars into a new garment. In this case, I experimented with a dress. I’d also gotten a quick lesson in draping a pattern, too, which gave me some confidence to give it a try.

repurposing clothes, waste-free living, sewing

Shirt pockets as dress pockets

I used for my base a shirt I’d made for my husband, or it would have been for my husband if I hadn’t made the neck way too big. I decided to leave the front and back intact for style reasons and to avoid having to sew in new buttons. The other fun thing I did was take an old shirt that already welt pockets and use that for my waist pockets. Because I’m  not going to make anything that doesn’t have pockets.

Doing it Again?

It took some math and I think next time I’m going to stitch any fabric I add to the sides of the shirt so that they cover the armhole first, then cut a new one. But here’s the finished version. It does look a bit busy, even for me, so I’ll probably wear it as a casual dress for at home. I did wear to a Repair Cafe event and that was fun. But I’ve already got one more project in the queue that will use a more traditional pattern, but more shirts. My husband does tend to wear them out. Oh, and here’s the finished product:

repurposing clothes, sewing, waste-free living

The finished dress

Bonding Through Sewing

sewing, clothesmaking, sewing classes.

All the sewing stuff I’m working on

When Paul and Michelle each tried on their new pair of shorts, I was stoked and then some. You see, they’re my first sewing students.

I’m still not sure how my Repair Cafe team decided I could teach sewing, but they did. Paul wanted to learn and so did Michelle. Now, there aren’t pictures of them because I was so excited, the photos turned out all blurry. Argh.

But the best part of the sewing lessons is that the group, over the past year, has expanded and this is wonderful. For years, I was about the only person I knew who made her own clothes. Or wanted to sew with other people. A couple years ago, two other friends, Hilary and Elizabeth, thought it would be fun to get together to sew, and we managed about three days spread over a year or so. The problem was, we didn’t keep it up, nor did we set a regular time to meet.

Well, I made a point of doing that this time. Between my two students, I’ve got about five other ladies (I do wish we could get more guys interested), who regularly show up and we’re building some really good friendships. We’re meeting about once a month.

I’m sewing more, too, although not on meeting days. I’m too busy supervising. But on other weekends, I’m hitting the machine. That mess in the photo? I’ve started assembly-lining again – which is cutting out a boatload of projects and working on them all at the same time. More time may elapse between start to finish, but the time per item is remarkably reduced.

This is will never be a how-to blog. But I do like sharing what I’m currently working on. And right now, I’m working on teaching two people how to sew. Who knew?

Bib Overalls Skirt

This is a project I’d had in the back of my mind for… Well, years. My husband had worn out the legs on a pair of bib overalls, but the bib, itself, was in pretty good shape. Thinking about what I could do it with it more or less got me started on my latest “thing,” if you will: remaking new clothes out of old ones.

Michael and I will wear our clothes to rags. Donating the old clothes to charity doesn’t really help the charity because who wants to buy a shirt with ragged collar and cuffs? Yet, all too often, it’s just the collar and cuffs that are frayed and messed up, but the rest of the shirt is fine. Or the really ugly hole in the jeans is just in the one impossible to patch spot, but the rest of the pants are fine.

I have been making bags out of jeans where I’ve cut off the legs (working on turning those bits into yarn) and using old shirts for the linings. But a whole dress or something? Not there yet. Or I wasn’t. Frankly, I just finally got off my keister and put together the skirt I’d been thinking about for so long.

It took seven shirts. I used a pattern piece for a gored skirt from an old Burda magazine (August 2007, French Edition, long story). The piece was too big for the backs of the shirts, so I had to squiggle it around on the front and make each of the skirt gores out of two pieces of fabric. Since I was doing that, I decided to add more color and mix and match the different shirt pieces. I didn’t know if it would save any actual sewing, but since the shirts – mostly Hawaiian and other casual short sleeved ones – had pockets, I used the former shirt pockets for my skirt pockets.

I would have liked a fuller skirt with more body, but it still looks okay and is darned comfy to wear. I don’t know if I’ll try this project again, but I do have another dress that I recently finished that I’ll feature here eventually. And another, more structured, dress project, too. Then there’s the crazy quilt top I’m working on. And so it goes.

Skirting the Design with a Single Seam

So I’d had this piece of fabric in my stash that looked like rip-stop nylon, but wasn’t, for a very long time. It was 60 inches wide but less than a yard long. There was a time when I could have made a pair of shorts from that piece – and such was my intent. Alas, no more.

But the piece wrapped around my backside with plenty of room to spare and it was long enough for a skirt, with some extra for pockets. I could have made a pencil skirt, but the extra space for contours might not have fit on the piece. Plus there was something even easier – just sew up the back seam and add an elasticized waistband, with some patch pockets, and hem.

Which is what I did.

Lesson # 1

It doesn’t matter how much it looks like there’s no difference between the right side and the wrong side, there’s a difference between the right side of a fabric and the wrong side. It doesn’t matter which side you choose as your right side. Just make sure that you lay out, cut and sew with everything facing the right way. Like this pocket didn’t. Sigh.

Lesson # 2

When measuring or cutting elastic for a waistband, make it way tighter than you think you’ll need. It’s a real PITA to overlock on the elastic, stitch the fold-over, then put on the skirt and realize that the skirt is going to fall off your backside the second you take your first step. 

Using the overlock (aka serger) to stretch and sew on your elastic, then folding over the waistband and stitching it down is a massive time saver. Unless you cut the elastic too big. Hence all the threads in the photo. The skirt is still a little loose, but otherwise, it came out pretty nice.

Why I Sew

why I sew, mens shirt pattern, sewingI’m sitting here staring at the cut out pieces of a man’s shirt that are not getting sewn together. Admittedly, it’s been busier than usual on weekends, which is when I generally get my sewing done. But, but, but. I’m also wondering why I sew when, in fact, it’s a hell of a lot easier to just buy clothes. And cheaper, too.

The short answer is that my husband and I like to make the things most sane people buy. And it is true that I do get a kick out of that pioneering spirit and self-sufficient feeling that assures me that when the apocalypse comes, we’ll still be able to fend for ourselves. Then I look at the shirt pieces and think, “Do I really want to do this?”

I’m not sure if it’s because shirts really aren’t that big a novelty for me or if it’s because I’m still not that good at making them. Probably a bit of both. I do get bored easily and the construction phase isn’t all that interesting anymore. And it is more than a little frustrating when I know how things should look and they just don’t.

But I’ll work it out soon. That whole frustration issue is probably why I need to just go ahead and start working on the verdamnt thing. Because getting past stuff is also why I sew. For what it’s worth.