Monthly Archives: June 2013

Adventures in dyeing – plus Hawthorn sew-along!

I’ve had some plain organic cotton in my stash for about half my life. I tried sewing as a teenager and planned to make an entire wardrobe out of organic cotton. Back then, you could pretty much only get organic cotton undyed (not that it’s that much better now), and I had big plans for dying it all myself with natural dyes. Unfortunately, reality got in the way. I found out that natural dyes are actually more toxic because of the heavy metal mordants, and sewing patterns were so frustrating because of all the extra ease, so I soon gave up on sewing altogether. But I just couldn’t part with my two bins of plain organic cotton, thinking, one day, one day!

Undyed Organic Cotton

Indie pattern companies have solved one half of the problem (thank you to all of the amazing designers out there!), so I decided to give dyeing another try so I could finally use up this fabric. I ordered some Fiber Reactive Procion dyes from Dharma Trading Co. (such a hippie store – I love it). The basic idea with these dyes is that they react to the fibers at a molecular level when the dye bath is made alkaline enough.

I started with a piece of color-grown green cotton. I meant to take a picture of this before I dyed it, but I forgot. It’s not so much a green as a light muddy greenish brown – not the nicest colour, in my opinion, but I prefer blues over earthy tones, so I’m biased. You can see a piece of color-grown brown in the picture above.

Anyway, I started the dyeing process in the washing machine, as they recommend for the most even results. I poured everything in and most of the water was below the basket so my piece of fabric was not fully submerged (I used 1 lb of fabric, 3 gallons of water). It wasn’t possible to pull it out at that point, so I decided to forge on. I set the washing machine to agitate, but after two minutes, it started draining! I tried to salvage it and reset, but the washing machine just kept on draining!

I didn’t know what to do at that point, so I tried to find a bucket to transfer the cloth and add more of everything else. The only bucket big enough had been sitting outside for ages and was beyond nasty! So my boyfriend ran out to buy a bucket while I stirred the fabric in what was left of the dye bath.

I started the process again in the new bucket, but I wasn’t sure how much dye to add since there was still some left in the fabric. I guessed 3/4 of the original amount. So I stirred the fabric for a solid hour (so boring!) but at least it was a nice day, so I could just sit on the back porch instead of in the basement watching the washing machine. I wish I had pictures of the process, but it was just so chaotic!

Here is the final product:

Dyed Organic Cotton

Dyed Organic Cotton Dyed Organic Cotton

I’m amazed it actually turned out smooth and not blotchy, considering all that went wrong! The only thing I don’t like are the “lint-ball” type things all over the fabric. I can’t remember if the fabric was like that before, or if all the agitation caused it, but it makes the fabric look old, which I guess it is! I used Peacock Blue, but I have no idea how much 😮

I do plan to try this again sometime since it wasn’t so bad once the washing machine was out of the equation. I will at least dye the fabric I already have so that I can actually use it!

Hawthorn Dress Sewalong

I could not be more excited about the Hawthorn sew-along! As soon as this pattern came out, I fell in love with it. It’s so “me”. Fitted bodice, flared skirt, and buttons (I’m one of those crazy people who actually prefer buttons to zippers)! There’s another contest for this pattern, but I’m not even going to think about that this time because I really want to take my time, follow the sew-along posts, and get this pattern right so I can make many more in the future. For my first version, I’m just going to follow the pattern exactly for version 3 (the sleeveless dress below) using the fabric I just dyed. I can’t wait!

Pyjama Party!

I can’t believe I’m posting pictures of myself in pyjamas on the internet, but I didn’t want to be left out of all the fun of Karen’s Pyjama Party! So, here they are:

sewaholic tofino pants

Pattern: Sewaholic Tofino Pants
Size: 0 (my measurements didn’t quite match the chart, but they’re pyjama pants, right?)
Fabric: Organic cotton interlock, my own design on Spoonflower, trim: turquoise organic cotton jersey from Harts Fabric

These pyjamas are by far the comfiest I’ve ever had! My old ones were getting pretty ratty, and they didn’t even stay up properly anymore, so it was definitely time for a new pair. I designed a fabric on Spoonflower for the main part of the pants with positive affirmations because, really, who doesn’t need little reminders to look on the bright side? Plus, you can only wear a fabric like this around the house, so pyjamas were a perfect use for it!

sewaholic tofino pants

A copycat picture like Tasia’s – turquoise accents and all!

The bow and piping are done in a lightweight organic jersey. I decided to do flat piping for comfort (and because it seemed easier). The two side seams are a bit bulky, but that’s probably because of the thicker fabric I used. The pattern recommends lightweight fabrics, and now I know why! I had a few problems with the thickness of the interlock, but nothing major. I trimmed the waistband pretty aggressively, so it doesn’t feel too thick, but my needle really struggled going through all those layers. I have a lot of skipped stitches, especially at the hem where the needle had to go through 9 layers of interlock plus 6 layers of jersey where the piping was. My poor needle just couldn’t handle it, and I couldn’t find any heavier ballpoint needles at the store.

sewaholic tofino pants

The pants are a bit long because when I looked at the finished measurements, it said inseam: 32″, so I thought, oh good, that’s the length I get in jeans. It didn’t occur to me that the inseam starts a bit lower on loose-fitting pants. Oops.

sewaholic tofino pants

I made a matching top out of the same turquoise jersey I used for the contrast on the pants. I decided to try Maria Denmark’s Kimono Tee since I like a looser fit around the shoulders for lounging and I was curious about the pattern. It’s super comfortable for lounging, but I don’t think it’s really my style for wearing out of the house.

Pillow fight! Thank you, Karen, for hosting the pyjama party! I’m looking forward to checking out everyone else’s creations!

Cream cardigan with seamless set-in sleeves

Everything I “invent” already exists. Does that ever happen to you? First my seamless cast-on for toe-up socks that turned out to be almost identical to the Turkish cast-on (which has existed for a very, very long time), and now my seamless, top-down cardigan with no picked-up stitches at the set-in sleeves apparently already exists. My method is slightly different, but not enough to call it original. Anyway, here is the finished product:

seamless top-down sweater with set-in sleeves

The basic idea is to start at the shoulders where there would normally be a seam and do a seamless (Turkish) cast-on, then knit the back, sleeve, and front at the same time, increasing for the sleeve. Each shoulder is started separately, then joined together to continue down the rest of the sweater. Here’s a diagram that hopefully will make more sense:

how to start a seamless top-down sweater with set-in sleeves

seamless top-down sweater with set-in sleeves

This was my first attempt, so there are a few things I would change for next time. First, the sleeve tops were not actually supposed to be gathered, but I was so worried the increases wouldn’t be enough that I did a lot of them. Next time I’ll distribute the increases more evenly around the sleeve. The other major thing is shoulder slope. I avoided this on purpose because it added an extra layer of complication and I wasn’t sure I could handle it on my first attempt (plus I have straight/broad shoulders, so I don’t need much shaping there anyway). Next time I’ll add in some shoulder sloping which will hopefully draw less attention to the broad shoulders. Also, I probably should have started the sleeve decreases a little earlier, just after the elbow.

seamless top-down sweater with set-in sleeves

A simple eyelet detail

I did a simple eyelet detail along each side of the button band because the construction was complicated enough to figure out! This was my first time doing twisted rib, and although I love how it looks, it took forever – I’m not sure if it’s worth the effort. My button spacing looks a bit wonky, too!

seamless top-down sweater with set-in sleeves

seamless top-down sweater with set-in sleeves

seamless top-down sweater with set-in sleeves

The yarn is organic undyed merino and the buttons are tagua nut. Ravelry notes here. Anyway, at least this sweater will go with everything – it’s a basic that fills a gaping hole in my wardrobe!