If you follow me on Instagram you already know that I'm starting to experiment with color(s) in my closet. It is my firm position that black is the most colorful color of them all, it's all of the colors mixed together. Like a rainbow. Sort of. I don't dislike color. In fact, I'm highly drawn to bright, bold vibrant colors, especially jewel tones. However, I'm puzzled and confused as to how I should wear them. My tendency is to default to neutrals.
I know this about myself. Yet, it doesn't stop me from bringing home bright colored fabrics, especially when I find them at estate sales. I bought this piece of orchid hued fabric at a sale last summer. There was a lot of it ~10yards. And, it was $2 for the whole piece. Based on a preliminary see/touch exam, I knew that it was a natural fiber. It's hard to know exactly what you're buying when you shop estate sales. Often, you're shopping in a poorly lit basement and digging through baskets. A few of you have interest in estate sale shopping, so I thought I'd share some of the things I look for while I'm on the hunt. With this particular fabric, I could see small slubs in the weave and a slight halo. both of these indicated to me that it might be natural fiber. Also, when I rubbed/agitated the fabric, I could feel lanolin coming from the material, a very familiar tactile sensation for most knitters, and I knew there was wool in it. At home, I did a burn test and confirmed that it is completely natural in content. I'm not able to determine with 100% accuracy what the content of this fabric is, but my educated guess is that it a silk/wool blend. There is a luster to this fabric. That shine, along with the slubs and the burn test indicated that there is silk in this fabric. However, I didn't get a lace-like or beaded ash. My ash is more irregular, which in combination with the other pieces of information I gathered, tell me there is wool. Additionally, this fabric is light weight, somewhat translucent when held to the light, and very drapey- characteristics I would expect from a blended fabric containing each of these fibers.
Typing fabric isn't always an exact science. Some fabrics are easier to identify than others. Without encouraging you to become a pyromaniac, I advise you to start burn testing fabrics you already know the content of, doing so will give you a great basis for comparison (be warned, burn testing store bought fabrics will sometimes infuriate you, because you will learn, overtime, you're not always getting the product you think you're buying). If you decide to do this. Please be safe. :-D It's also helpful to closely examine visual characteristics of fabrics so you have a reference point when you're out in the wild.
Being that I rescued this gorgeous fabric from the depths of one basement, it seemed cruel to fate it to a lifetime sentence on the stash shelves in my own basement. I started exploring ways I might possibly wear this color. I was surprised to realize that I have been (subconsciously?) pinning colorful garments and outfit inspiration to my Pinterest boards for a while now. In particular, this outfit worn by Ulyana Sergeenko served as my primary inspiration and launching point. After a bit more digging, I found a pin from Folake Huntoon in my same color scheme and felt ready to take the plunge.
I used vintage Simplicity 9172 View2, a two pattern piece, half circle skirt (YAY #VINTAGEPLEDGE). The width of my fabric, "45, required that I cut this skirt in two separate pieces. This worked just fine. Instead of having a single center back seam and zip, I have side seams and a side zip. Initially, I installed an invisible zipper at the side, but I swapped it out for a lapped zip. I don't trust invisible zips in bottoms. My only modification was to reduce 2 1/2 inches from the length prior to cutting. In total, this skirt used approximately 6yards of fabric (due to my limited fabric width and necessary layout modification). She's a bit of a yardage hog, but she's swishy, and swirly, and gorgeous, and totally worth it. I hemmed an additional inch from the total length, and I'm wearing it in these photos with a 2inch heel (I'm '5"2).
For up top, I sewed a Grainline Studios Archer. The shape of this blouse is perfect for emulating Ulyana's outfit. The fabric is another estate sale find. I used this chambray previously to sew my Tova Dress; I might be able to squeeze one more garment out of it before all is said and done. Based on my first two renditions of this pattern (1 & 2) I decided to decrease the width of the shoulders by 1.25inches each and shorten the sleeve length by 2 inches. To reduce shoulder width, I slashed up the length of the grain line arrow then overlapped and angled the pieces. On the yoke side, I only slashed the yoke pieces.
The shoulder adjustment made for a much nicer fit through the front and back shoulders. I think I can still afford to shorten the sleeves by another half inch, but they fit much better too. I have a strong feeling that this recent version of Archer will get a LOT of heavy use. Chambray goes with everything, doesn't it? I still think I could use a dozen more Archer blouses in my closet. I've also purchased the two new Sewaholic blouse patterns on PDF, but I'm having issues with FedEx's printing center. I really don't want to have to tape together a PDF, so if you know of a print center that is able to print full-size patterns from a secured file here in the U.S., I'd love to know about them. Until I can find an alternative print shop, those blouse patterns are on the back burner.
Bada bing, bada boom. Now that I've gotten this color hurdle out of the way, I can see both these pieces with other garments from my closet. The most exciting part about sewing separates is having the ability to mix and match. My silk Archer is going to look great with this skirt. That chambray is going to be a smash with my black Hollyburn. Etc... I've jumped immediately from not knowing how to wear this color to picturing it as a neutral to wear with other things. Pretty cool. I'm not sure I'm a complete convert, but I'm expanding my horizons. Are you a color junkie? Do you have any tips for me? And, are you doing #vintagepledge this year? There are already some really fantastic projects up on this year's board!
How much practice does it take to make perfect? Perhaps more than I could ever manage. Each and every project I've ever attempted is flawed. And, you know what, I'm good with that.
Often, especially while I'm knitting, I make mistakes. Maybe I twist a stitch, forgot an increase, maybe I skip a repeat. The gravity of the mistake typically dictates whether or not I forge forward. It's easy, relatively speaking, to unravel a few rows to correct an egregious error. Sometimes, I just keep working and accommodate my mistakes by adding/subtracting an extra stitch in the next round, etc... I like to think of my work as well done, quality handicraft. But, I, friends, am not a perfectionist.
I do try to take care. I feel accomplished when I've done good work. I learn from each project. I correct myself along the way. And, I promptly find new ways to make a mess of things, like here, on my latest Hollyburn (only one more, I promise.... for winter, anyway).
I am no stranger to plaid. I LOVE the stuff. Make it a wool plaid, and I can barely contain myself. I've grown accustomed to lining up the horizontal lines across seams when I'm sewing with plaid fabrics. I like the continuity of the lines and the effect it gives to my finished garments. That was my plan when I pulled this yummy wool off the shelf. I was very aware that I had barely enough yardage to squeeze a Hollyburn from my available fabric. I very carefully aligned the grain and found a layout on my fabric using the thickest, center brown stripe as my matching line. I decided that it didn't matter that I had to alternate the direction of my patterns pieces in order to squeeze them onto my yardage, because I had those center lines matched precisely across the notches!
It might have worked. It might have been brilliant say, if the plaid was symmetric. It is, however, not. This plaid is absolutely directional. I had complete tunnel vision when I started, and I lost sight of the big picture. To start, there are thin brown lines on either side of the center brown stripe. To be exact, there are four thin lines on one side and five thin lines on the other. DOH! There is also a light tan and a light grey stripe woven into the fabric. Again. One color happens above the center brown line; one happens below. All this to say, when I flipped my pieces to sew them together, they didn't line up.
If this skirt had been a knitting project, this would be the point where I stopped to ask myself, "Do I care?"; is the error a deal breaker? In knitting, if the answer is yes, then it's RIP city. But this is sewing. Once you cut, you're stuck. As I see it, my choices were to either keep sewing or declare this project a wadder. My aforementioned love for plaid and wool, especially in combination with one another was the deciding factor.
Ultimately, this skirt gets a page in the story of my sewing evolution. I didn't toss in the towel after I screwed it up; I know not to make the same mistake again. Live and learn, point out the mistakes to everyone so we can laugh about it together. Gear up for a new project.
I'm certain I'll never see past this mistake when I look at this skirt (you probably can't either now, can you?!),but it hasn't stopped me from wearing it. The fabric still tickles my heartstrings. It's gloriously warm and it works with a lot of past projects sitting in my closet. Truthfully, I like more about it than I don't- That makes it a victory, right? At what point do you declare a project dead? What do you do with your dearly departed projects?