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DENIM BLEACHING & DISTRESSING EXPERIMENTS

April 29, 2019

After putting together some summer sewing plans, I decided that I really wanted to play around with bleaching and distressing denim in order to achieve the perfect worn in look for a pair of 70s inspired Landers and a Closet Case Patterns Fiona Dress. I wasn’t really sure where to start, but after digging deep into pinterest I finally found two great blog posts that I relied heavily on (Megan Nielsen and Alina Design Co.). I ended up combining them along with some trial and error for my own method, but I do recommend checking them both out if you want to give this a try for yourself.

I started with three different types of Denim from my stash. Because they were from my stash I am not certain on the weights, colors, brands etc… of the denims, but they are all stretch denims and two were cone mills. I was interested to see how the spandex would be affected by the bleach but also knew that I wanted the clothing made from these to have some stretch recovery so I stuck with them. Before I go any deeper I should say that every denim reacted differently and so I do not recommend you going forward with bleaching an item without first doing a test like this one. It’s simple and worth the experiment.

MARK YOUR DENIM

The first thing you need to do is mark each of your swatches. You will be surprised how hard it is to differentiate between the denims once they are in the bleach bath so it is very important that you mark them all with a permanent marker on the back. Be sure to have one swatch for each denim type that is the original, meaning that it will not go in the bath at all, so you have something to compare it to.

I wrote some initials to give me an idea of which denim it was, along with how long that swatch would be in the bath. So, each denim had an original swatch and one for 15 min, 30 min, 45 min, 1 hr, and 2 hrs.

I also decided to sew a few seams in some. If I were being more thorough I would have sewn seams in all of them, but I was being a bit lazy so I just did it on the 15 min and 1 hr swatches for each type of denim. I wanted to see how the bleach took to the seam edge and also wanted to play around with the seam later during distressing.

BLEACH BATH

Unfortunately I forgot to take pictures of this part, but it’s easy enough to explain. I used a 4:1 ratio of water to bleach so that I could replicate it easily on a larger scale once I do my bigger ones down the road. So for me this meant 16 cups of water and 4 cups of bleach stirred up into a large plastic bin. I grabbed a spoon that I could ruin and kept a timer close and went to work.

I dropped them all in at the same time and tried to stir them all for the first 15 minutes. I wasn’t as vigilant after that. The first thing that I noticed right away is that some of the swatches wanted to roll up. I think next time I would wet them all first which I am hoping would help with that. I ended up getting a few uneven spots as a result of the rolling. If I had gloves on I probably could have done a better job of getting them flat though.

One thing to note is that the water began to get pretty yellow pretty fast. I have been told that it has something to do with the spandex in the fabric so consider yourself warned.

Once the first 15 min. time went off I pulled out the three 15 min swatches and plunged them into a big bucket of water. Then I just continued the timer until all were done.

As soon as they were all out of the bath I put them into a washer with detergent and ran a cycle. Then I dried them all on high. Here is what I ended up with (The top one is the original and then its 15 min, 30 min, 45 min, 1 hr, and 2 hrs) :

I find it interesting that almost all of the change happened within the first 30 min. If I were to do it again I would probably do 5 or 10 min increments instead of 15 for the first 45 minutes. Another thing of note is the color undertones you get with the different denims. The true blue denims stayed within the cool hues even in the most bleached swatches, while the blue/black denim in the middle starts to take on a yellow tint as it gets lighter. I don’t necessarily prefer one to the other, but it is something to think about.

DISTRESSING YOUR DENIM

Now that the swatches are all bleached it’s time to play with distressing the denims. I grabbed three different weights of sandpaper from my garage – 60, 120 and 300 grit. The 60 is the more coarse sandpaper while the 300 is more fine. I thought I would prefer the 300 but was surprised that I actually liked the 60 the best. I just found that the sandpaper really began to pill the fabric so the fewer swipes the better. The 60 grit did the job right away.


I havn’t tried the distressing with topstitching yet but I was told that you shouldn’t let the sandpaper touch the topstitching at all. This makes sense of course because it will destroy the thread. This may be a little tricky since I plan to bleach and distress once my garments are all sewn up, but I am guessing I will just have to be super careful.

I did find out right away that the softer denim with the most amount of spandex could not handle the distressing. It just ate the fabric. But both of the cone mill denims with minimal spandex worked great. I am assuming an all cotton, no stretch denim would work even better.

I absolutely love the way both the bleaching and distressing turned out. I realize it weakens the fabric so I need to be careful, but it gives such a beautiful, lived in look that I can’t wait to try it on actual clothing. My plan for now is to go with a bleach time in the 30 – 45 min range, knowing that the fabric will naturally get lighter and more distressed over time with wear. I am hoping to get to sewing up the clothing some time in May or June and will post more about it then.

DIY MAKES SEWING

SHIBORI DYED KIMONO ROBE

July 22, 2016

Allie of Indiesew hosted a little shibori dying get together and I decided to take the opportunity to dye some fabric for a bathrobe that has been on my list forever. I’ve done quite a bit of dying over the years, but always use whatever RIT dye or whatever is found at the local craft store. This was my first time to use actual shibori and it was pretty fun. I loved that I didn’t have to boil it as that is always such a mess. Allie said she just bought this shibori kit from Amazon and it worked great for us.

For fabric I just ordered a bunch of this white linen. I love sewing with linen and wearing it in the summer. It’s breezy and natural and I embrace the wrinkles.  And as far as a bathrobe goes, even better.

I used two techniques when dying the fabric. For the main part of the kimono I knew that I wanted it to be mostly blue so it wouldn’t be see through at all, even when wet. So I used a simple clothespin technique that I found on pinterest. Pretty much I folded it into an accordian and then put clothespins every few inches. Here is a pic on instagram that shows what it looked like prior to dying. I’m pretty obsessed with how it turned out. It kinda reminds me of some African mudcloth that I have. I love that it is geometric and repetitive, but still not perfect.

For the accent pieces I went with a pole wrapping technique like this one although instead of putting it on a pvc pipe I used an old fabric tube from Allie’s basement. I think if I went with a thicker tube (mine was probably only 3 inches in diameter) then there would be less white. I love how this fabric contrasts with the darker and more geometric main fabric. This one resembles waves to me and ended up being ombre because the inner fabric got a lot less dye to it.

For the pattern I used vintage Simplicity 0017 from 1985 that I picked up at the thrift store for 25 cents. It’s perfect. I wanted something that was a true, boxy kimono style like this one. A lot of the robe patterns that I have seen have thinner sleeves resembling more of an oversized mens shirt instead. If you are looking for a similar style, Erin of Sewbon has a free kimono pattern on her site that looks almost identical.

The robe was a breeze to sew up. I think the only change I made was to shorten the sleeves a bit. I’ve already worn it a ton and it will probably end up being one of my most worn sewn items ever. That being said, I want to make another one already. This one ended up a bit heavier than I was planning. The linen is more medium weight than lightweight like I was expecting. Now I want to make one in a bamboo knit for serious comfort and maybe even a silk one to wear in the evenings. I’m a little bit addicted.

I also want to copy Sewbon and Indiesew and dye a set of cotton napkins. Wouldn’t that be such a great holiday gift? Or even a set for yourself for summer bbqs. Hmmm. I think I need to do that soon.

DIY TUTORIALS

SHIBORI TUTORIAL

May 6, 2016

I am so obsessed with shibori right now. Just another layer of being creative and making my own clothing. I recently tried a new technique for the Mini Colfax Dress above and photographed along the way so that I could show you.

As for materials, I used a linen rayon blend from JoAnn fabrics. It’s on the lighter weight side, and would be slightly see through in white, but the added dye makes it perfect for everyday wear.

For dye I just used RIT dye in navy. I also recently bought some black to try and I am also intrigued by the cobalt. The navy tends to lean a little purple in the lighter areas so be warned but I like how dark it gets.

I did two different shibori techniques, since the Mini Colfax view B calls for contrasting fabrics. For this first one you are going to need a marking tool (such as chalk or a disappearing marker), a ruler, thick string such as embroidery thread or yarn, and a bunch of little round objects. I used beads that I found in my daughters art bin, but you could also use pennies or marbles or anything else that will hold it’s shape in the water.

First, lay your fabric out and mark a repeating pattern for every place you want to tie up a bead. How close they are is completely up to you, but I just did a 4 x 4 inch grid to keep it simple. Use your marker to mark every spot.

Now you are going to take a bead (or whatever you are using) and place it on a dot.

Now take a piece of string (about 8 inches long) and wrap it tightly around the end of the bead. Tye in a tight knot so it doesn’t come undone.

Repeat for every dot. This is going to take longer than you think, so plan on doing the part when you are watching a movie at night. It’s not hard, just time consuming.

Now it’s ready to dye. Let me show you the other technique.

This one is super simple and will create a boho stripe look. You are just going to need your fabric and a bunch of rubberbands.

First you need to fold your fabric. You are going to do this accordian style. So take one end and fold it at about 1 inch and then fold back the other way at another inch. Just like the fans you would make out of paper as a kid.

It doesn’t have to be perfect, just do your best. If you have a ton of fabric it might be easier to rip your fabric into pieces and do it in chunks. I was doing about a yard here which was fine. Continue until the whole thing is folded.

Once it’s folded, use some weights or something to keep it from coming undone. At one end, wrap the whole thing with a rubberband several times so that it’s pretty tight at about 1 inch in. Continue to do this every inch. You can of coarse do whatever distance you want. Each rubberband will create a wobbly white stripe once dyed.

Continue for the entire length of fabric.

Once all of the rubberbands are on you are ready to dye both of your fabrics. There are lots of different methods for dying and these will be included on your dye packaging so I won’t go into the details, but I like the stove method as you can see in the pic below.

Once everything is done make sure to clip the string and and rubberbands. Be super careful when doing so to make sure that you don’t clip your fabric as well and create a hole. Rinse the fabric thoroughly and wash it separately from your other clothing the first few times to prevent any bleeding.

I have to admit that I am obsessed with the way that these turned out. Really quite simple to do too. I have plans to do some more for me and some pillowcovers shortly.

If you want to see some other shibori tutorials that I have done in the past, check them out here and here.

DIY MAKES PATTERNMAKING SEWING TUTORIALS

ROSCOE – OFF THE SHOULDER HACK

April 27, 2016

 

With all of the off the shoulder love everywhere in ready to wear right now, I realized that the Roscoe Blouse and Dress is the perfect pattern the easily hack for this look. With just a few changes you get an easy to wear boho / beachy dress or blouse and it takes just a couple of hours to sew up.

Can I just say how much I love this new trend? It’s pretty friendly to those of us who want to hide some problem areas like the tummy or hips. And yet it’s still super sexy and natural. I’m a big fan. So much easier to pull off than the crop top trend of the last couple of years. I really think that almost anyone can pull this look off.

Materials:

  • Roscoe pattern pieces 1, 2, and 3
  •  1 ” elastic
  • fabric (I’m using rayon challis)
  • matching thread
  • safety pin

 

First you will need to print off pattern pieces front, back and sleeve (you won’t need any of the the others unless you want to add a ruffle or bind up the bottom of the armhole). I printed off the dress length, but you can also trim at the line for blouse length if that is what you are making.

Next, take your front piece and make a mark about 4 inches down at Center Front. Go lower or higher depending on your preferences, but remember that there will be a 1 ” elastic casing above this marking.

Make another marking about 1″ above this one, but on the armhole. Make the marking perpindicular to the armhole curve.

Connect this marking to the CF marking, curving naturally between the two. This will be your cutting line for the front of your dress or blouse.

Put your sleeve pattern piece on top of your dress front pattern piece, lining up the armhole notches. Transfer the point where your cutting line on the front piece hits the armhole, to your sleeve pattern piece at the same point.

Draw the line out, perpindicular to the armhole, for about an inch. Curve the line naturally until you can go straight across (perpindicular to the grainline) until you are close to the back armhole of the sleeve and then curve up a bit so it is perpindicular to the back armhole curve. It should look something like this. It will be the cutting line for your sleeves.

Put the sleeve pattern piece on top of your back dress pattern piece. Line the back armhole of the sleeve up with the back armhole of the back dress (matching notches) and transfer the marking of the line you just made to the armhole of the back dress.

Draw the cutting line of the back dress to CB like you did the others. (Draw out for about an inch perpindicular to the armhole and then straight across to Center Back.)

Now, cut all of the tops off of your pattern pieces along the cutting lines you just drew.

Draw a stitching line 1/2″ below the cutting line on all pieces.

Measure all stitching lines and add them up. Multiply this number by 2 and then subtract  3″ for seam allowances. (Mine was about 58″.)

Take this number and cut a piece of fabric that is that width and 3 1/4″ tall.

Cut out your dress front, dress back, and sleeves as well.

Sew your dress up much like the regular roscoe by first sewing each sleeve armhole to the matching front or back armhole. Finish the seam allowances in your desired manner.

Now sew up sides of the sleeves and dress (or blouse) starting at each sleeve end and ending at the bottom of the dress or blouse. Finish the seam allowances in your desired manner.

Sew the two small ends of your long skinny pieces together, right sides touching. So it makes a long loop.

Press the loop in half, lengthwise, wrong sides together.

Pin the raw edges of your loop to top of your dress, right sides touching. Stitch at 1/2″ seam allowance. Leave a 2 inch section unstitched at center back (to insert the elastic).

Wrap your elastic around your shoulders to get an idea of how long your want it. Add some extra length and cut. Using a safety pin, insert the elastic into the loop and all around so that it enters and exits at the opening at CB. Pin the ends together and try on. Adjust the length of the elastic until it’s snug enough to stay up, but still comfy. My experience is that you want it on the looser side. Your arms and chest will keep it up. If it’s tight it will inch up all day which can be annoying.

Sew the two ends together of your elastic, insert it back into the casing, and stitch the opening at CB closed. Finish the seam allowances of your elastic casing in your desired manner.

Check the length of your dress or blouse and also the length of your sleeves. I ended up cutting a few inches off of the length of the sleeves to hit at my elbow for a different look. Trim as necessary and finish in your favorite way.  I am going to simply serge the edges and fold it up at 1″ and then stitch.

You may want to Stitch through all layers of the elastic and elastic casing at CB and maybe a couple of other places to keep the elastic from flipping around with wear.

Give the whole thing a final press and you are done!

Let me know if you guys have any questions. I can’t wait to wear this out and about.

DIY

DESIGNING A REPEATING PATTERN FOR FABRIC

April 19, 2016

Thank you so much for all of the positive responses from all of you about the Colfax Dress and also the fabric that I made for the projects. It’s been really fun working with My Fabric Designs for this launch and I wanted to put together a little post to show you how easy it is to make a repeating pattern using their design tools so that you can make your own fabric too. Creating a pattern that repeats evenly and seamlessly can be a tricky part of designing the fabric. You can do it all in photoshop or illustrator if you prefer. Here are a few youtube tutorials that helped me a ton when I was learning how to do it. Click here, here, or here for the videos or tutorials.

Or you can just do it straight through the My Fabric Designs website. It’s really simple and you don’t need any fancy programs to it. Before we even start I recommend that you watch this youtube tutorial. It goes through their design tool and will give you a great overall idea of how it works. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y5RfnISyCEc

Next you are going to need some images. I made up 5 different shapes or groupings of shapes in illustrator. These could also be something that you draw and scan into your computer. Or it could be online images that are stock or free domain. Whatever they are you need to save them as separately files.  If you are going to be overlapping them or making a colored background make sure that the background of your images are transparent. I recommend saving them at 300 dpi and at a larger scale than you think you will actually print them. You can always scale them down when designing, but you can’t go bigger.

Now, go ahead and open the fabric creator. Click File / New and decide what size you want to start with. Go smaller like 6×6 inches if you want a small repeating pattern like you would use for quilting. I like mine larger so I chose 20×20 inches. You also select the background color at this time. I went for a black.

Hit apply. The middle square will be the one that you work on (light gray background) and the right square will show your finished repeat pattern.

Go to Add / Image and choose your first image to upload.

It will drop it in the middle of your work square and show the repeat on the right. Cool right? Continue to upload all of your images.

Move around the images and scale them. You will notice that as some of your images overlap the edge of the working square that they will create a repeat. The right square makes it really easy to see what your repeat looks like and where to place each object for the best visual affect. You can scale the images or rotate them with the handles on the outside of each object. You can call arrange them by sending them in front or in back of other images. Keep playing around until you like the way that the repeat pattern looks on the right.

Once you are ready make sure you save your pattern to your desktop. Then click order fabric. This will bring you into the area where you can choose the type of fabric you want to print it on and how large you want your pattern to print (it can go down to 150 dpi).

Then order your fabric. Make sure that you use the code TRUEBFS for free shipping on your order this month.

I hope this tutorial made designing your own fabric a little less scary. I have had so much fun playing around with this tool. Just a reminder that My Fabric Designs is providing the prizes for the Colfax Sewalong Contest. So if you want to give it a try this is the perfect opportunity. Click here for more details.