Monday, April 10, 2017

Flower Print Eggs: A Natural Egg Dying Tutorial

Easter is just around the corner, and I was just thinking about how we would color eggs this year. This worked so well last year, and it was so fun for the kids, that I think we'll do almost exactly the same thing! It's sort of a relief that I can walk by those chemical food coloring egg dye kits with confidence that we won't be missing out on any of the fun. We'll do onion skins for a rich red-brown, turmeric for yellow, and purple cabbage for blue. This year I want to try beets to see if we can get a nice rich red.

Read on for instructions for this easy natural dye project, and have fun! 

Flower Print Eggs with Easy Natural Dye
using ingredients you'll find in the kitchen and pantry

I've been a bit obsessed with decorating eggs with natural materials and dyes this year. It's great to do with my four year old daughter. I also love how they capture some of the ephemeral beauty of spring!

The most beautiful results have been with flowers. I had no idea they would turn out so beautifully!

Here's how you do it. It's very easy, a great project for kids or adults.

You need:
--Nylon pantyhose
--Eggs (You can use blown eggs or raw eggs)
--Natural dye plants-- this year I used red cabbage (1/2 head), yellow onion skins (from 3 lbs of onions), and powdered tumeric (about 2 tablespoons).
--White vinegar

Where to get flowers in early spring? This year in the Finger Lakes we found hellebores, crocuses, and snowdrops in the garden and in the nearby woods. If you are gathering wild flowers, make sure to only pick a few so that there are lots left to make seeds. You can also use store bought flowers-- supermarket bouquets that are a bit past their prime (and on sale) would be perfect.

Position a flower on your egg. Use water to moisten the petals and help them to stay in place.

Wrap the egg with a piece of nylon pantyhose. Pull it tight around your egg, holding the flower flat against the surface. Tie with a piece of string.

Prepare your natural materials. For the onions, peel off the outer papery layer. For the cabbage, tear the leaves into chunks, or roughly chop.

Purple cabbage and the nylon wrapped eggs in the stock pot. Those blown eggs want to float!

Place the dye material in a large stock pot, and fill with cold water so that the eggs are covered. Bring to a boil. Allow to simmer for at least 1 hour. After one hour, turn off the heat, add 2 tbsp of vinegar per pot and allow the eggs to sit in the colored water until the desired color is reached. If you want a dark color, you might need to let it sit overnight.

The added benefit of this method is that your raw eggs will be hard boiled without an extra step. If you are dying blown eggs, you might need to put something on top to keep the eggs submerged-- a lid from a smaller pot might work.

Then, cut the nylon and peel off the flower to see your beautiful results!

Alternate method (or a method to keep the dying fun going): Boil the dye materials in the stockpot until reduced to about 1 quart of liquid. Strain and reserve the liquid. To dye your eggs, submerge for a couple hours or overnight, depending on how concentrated the liquid is and how dark you want your eggs.

Dying eggs in canning jars with the strained liquid. Left to right: onion peels, tumeric, purple cabbage.
Here are some results to give you an idea of how your eggs will turn out.

Above: Crocuses with purple cabbage, Crocus on an egg dipped in the onion skin dye then soaked in tumeric, snowdrows on an egg soaked in onion skin dye, hellebores on a egg simmered in onion skin dye. 

Above Left: grass in red cabbage dye, Above Center: leaves in tumeric dye, Above Right: Crocus in red cabbage dye.

Other natural materials work well too! The left egg is myrtle, the other two are weeds in our yard. All of these eggs were simmered in onion skin dye.

It is fun to experiement! This was a very unexpected result... we soaked some eggs in cranberry juice, and they came out not at all red, but etched, looking almost like fossils. Must be some kind of reaction at work, anyone know the chemistry of this? I can't really recommend it thought... the eggs in that batch are very fragile, three have broken already!

Another lovely flower egg: Hellebores in red cabbage dye.

Have fun! I would love to see your results, post them at instagram and tag @unlikelynest, #flowerprintegg.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Just in Time For Spring: Velveteen Rabbit Pattern in Love Sewing Magazine

It's been a long time coming, but the Velveteen Rabbit Sewing Pattern is finally available! I've collaborated with Love Sewing Magazine, and you'll find it in Issue 37 which is available now.

This rabbit sewing pattern is inspired by the story by Margery Williams. It enchanted me when I was a child, and I love reading it to my own children. There have been several editions published, but I especially love the original version illustrated by William Nicholson.

The Velveteen Rabbit pattern makes a soft toy that is about 14 inches high, not including the ears. It is approximately a life-size standing rabbit. You can make it with any soft, woven fabric such as velveteen or quilting cotton. The instructions include pattern pieces for making weighted bags to give the toy a realistic weight and to help it stand upright.

If you are in the UK, you might be able to find Love Sewing on the newsstand! If you are in another country, shipping is quite reasonable, or you can get a digital copy for instant gratification. I was not previously a subscriber, but I've been really enjoying my copy, it has some really great patterns in it and stories by some members of the sewing community that I really admire.

There are also new Velveteen Rabbits in The Unlikely Handmade Store. There is a burgandy and pink velvet bunny (the very last of this fabric!). Also a very special floral bunny made with an organic cotton from Cloud 9 called "Secret Garden"-- this is my daughter's favorite, I might be making another for Easter for her! And my personal favorite, a dark chocolate colored bunny made in a super soft silk-rayon velvet. The pictures really don't do it justice. All of my bunnies are sewn double-layer for durability, and stuffed with wool for cuddly warmth! They are limited edition, so don't wait if you have fallen in love with one!


Monday, March 20, 2017

Blackwood Cardigan Giveaway Winner!

Congratulations to Danielle Bilder!

Thanks to everyone who played, and for all of your generous comments!

Saturday, March 18, 2017

How to Tailor a Coat or Jacket with Fusible Interfacing

While I love a beautiful padstitched lapel, sometimes the circumstances call for other methods. With some fabrics, it's really hard to hide a stitch... for example, I'm currently working on a trench coat with a smooth cotton twill that would be difficult to padstich, but I still want beautifully curved collar and lapel. Or, perhaps I just want to move forward on a project, rather than spending hours with a needle and thread.

The method shown here is from Anna Zapp's book, "The Zapp Method of Couture Sewing," with modifications from my own experience.

The first step is to cut out your pattern pieces from your interfacing. Trace your original front jacket or coat pattern piece, and cut it on the roll line. Add 1/4 inch at the roll line to both new pieces. Remove the seam allowances. On the lapel piece, trim it by 1/4 inch at each side of the roll line, narrowing to nothing at the tip of the lapel.

Cut the lapel piece from heavy-medium weight fusible interfacing, ON THE BIAS. I used fusible horse hair canvas from Fashion Sewing Supply. Cut the body piece from medium weight fusible interfacing. Depending on how much structure you want in your jacket, this could be more horse hair canvas, or a lighter more flexible interfacing, such as weft interfacing.

Fuse the front body interfacing piece to the as you normally would, following the manufacturer's instructions for applying the interfacing.

For the lapel piece, start fusing at the roll line. The lapel piece should be a total of a 1/2 inch shorter at the roll line, so stretch it to fit the roll line of the body interfacing piece. Since it is cut on the bias, it should stretch to fit.

Fuse the roll line of the lapel piece into place wile holding it in its stretched position.

The interfacing should naturally want to curl. Continue fusing your lapel around a curved surface. Here I'm using the edge of my ironing board, with extra padding (which happens to be an old wool sweater).

Then apply twill tape at the roll line, if desired. Twill tape is usually cut 1/4 inch shorter than the roll line. This can be machine stitched, but I usually hand stitch it. 

Use steam to finish shaping the lapels.

For the under collar, a similar technique can be used. Use the under-collar pattern piece to cut your under collar interfacing from horse hair canvas, on the bias. Trim the seam allowances. Further trim the edges by about 1/4 where you want the collar to turn.

Stretch the interfacing along the approximate roll line, and fuse into place. Use the edge of your board or a sleeve roll so that the iron contacts the interfacing just on this line.

Continue to fuse the interfacing around a curved surface. When you are done, the collar should hold its curve by itself. Apply your collar-stand interfacing, if you are using this piece.

Finish shaping the under collar by curling it around your ham and pinning it in place. Apply liberal amounts of steam to perfect the shape.

And your collar and lapels are done, ready to be sewn into your coat!

These lapels were from my asymmetric zip coat. I'm currently working on a trench coat, and I think I'll be using fusible tailoring again, since I'm not fond of the idea of pad-stitching on a smooth twill. 

Have you tried tailoring with fusibles? Please share your experiences and tips in the comments!

Monday, March 13, 2017

Personalizing the Blackwood Cardigan by Helen's Closet

I know it's been a long time-- I have so many posts to write, and so little time! I'm hoping that life will calm down a little so that I can share more with you in the near future. Today I have an extra-special post with an exciting giveaway at the end!

I'm currently really enjoying the Blackwood Cardigan by Helen's Closet. To be truthful, I've been waiting for the right cardigan pattern to come along. I have a trusty cardigan pattern that I pull out when I need a new one, but it is basically a poor attempt tracing a favorite cardigan, and the fit has always been just a bit sloppy and I've been too lazy to fix it.

I was a pattern tester for the Blackwood. When Helen revealed that her new pattern was a cardigan, I was thrilled-- it's just what I was looking for!

I also have a few other favorites from Indie designers that fit certain needs. The Coppelia Cardigan by Papercut Patterns is a cozy wrap design (I've blogged that here and I have another one that I love even more in a simple merino knit that I apparently never blogged). For a classic button front cardigan there is the Lisbon Cardigan by Itch to Stitch (see mine here).

What's nice about the Blackwood is that it is a simple, no closure design. It is designed to fit closely, and has cuffs, a neck band and a bottom band, so you can sew the entire thing on a serger. This is the line drawing from the pattern, so you can see it is a pretty straightforward design, with a long and a short view.

My first version is View B, unaltered except to shorten the sleeves by one inch. It's a little longer on me than in the drawings, probably because I'm 5'4", but I like the extra length. I made this one in a stretchy wool knit. I can't recall the exact composition of this fabric, but it definitely has some spandex in it.

I just love the super-wide bottom band on this cardigan, it feels so decadent to make a band so wide, and it also gives the bottom of the cardigan a bit more weight and substance which improves the drape.

I interfaced the bands with a lightweight knit interfacing, just to give them a touch of structure and to encourage my very stretchy knit to behave properly. I also put a strip of interfacing in the shoulder seam to prevent stretching.

I followed the directions as written on this version, and everything worked out beautifully. I did have a bit of fun with this all black cardigan by binding the seams with a fun black and white lace print knit. I did all of the construction on the serger, except for the seam binding.

After wearing this cardigan a few times, I decided I wanted a bit more coverage in front-- my office is super drafty, so I like to be able to wrap the cardigan around me when I feel a bit of chill. I added about 1-inch in the center front, fading away to nothing at the neckline. The pink part is a sketch of the part that I added to the front pattern piece, and the gray is what I added to the bottom band.

I made my second Blackwood from another wool jersey knit. This is a wonderfully soft wool knit, but it has only mechanical stretch (no spandex). So I also decided to do a full biceps adjustment-- Jenny at Cashmerette has a nice description of how to do this on her blog. I used a lovely wool ribbing for the bands... I have a couple of roll-end pieces from Emmaonesock that have been in my stash for years, and this was the perfect application for one of those pieces.

To show off this lovely ribbing, and to maximize coziness, I made the neck band the same width as the bottom band. This simple change also really makes this cardigan look totally different from my first black cardigan.

Attaching neck bands to cardigans is always a bit of a dilemma for me. I just hate to have that seam exposed, it looks so unprofessional to me. So on this cardigan, I decided to fold under the raw edge and top stitch it down. This is sort of hard to do neatly since you need to top stitch from the front side and catch that folded edge on the underside. I've tried various methods to keep that back side in line, including using tons of pins and wash away tape. This time I tried hand basting.

The end result isn't perfect, but I still prefer it to a serged edge.

This has become the cardigan I reach for on chilly days. So cozy, but the ribbing gives it a bit of structure so it doesn't look sloppy. I especially love the wide bottom band done up in the rib, it really accentuates this design detail.

So, my next version I decided I needed to break up my black streak. I've had this lovely Missoni knit in my stash from Emmaonesock for awhile. It is really quite lovely, mostly viscose with a bit of brassy sparkle, in a bold color scheme from the height of Missoni's chevron craze. I was thinking I'd make it into a dress, but I think it will get much more wear as a cardigan.

This very special knit really needed a very special fabric for the bands. I definitely wanted a solid that would pull out and accentuate one of the colors in the fabric. Rayon ponte would be the obvious choice, but I've had some trouble with rayon pilling in hard wearing locations. Silk jersey would be decadent, but the price tag is pretty steep, and I'd also have to work out how to give it enough structure to not look floppy. I ended up going with a navy wool boucle from Emmaonesock. I just took a risk and ordered a yard, and the color was perfect but it was a bit thicker and a touch scratchier than I had expected.

In a flash of inspiration, I remembered that I had some black silk jersey scraps from a previous project. Instead of cutting the neck band and wrist bands in a single piece and folding, I cut the pattern piece into two pieces and added a seam allowance to each piece. This allowed me to use the silk jersey on the inside of the bands, and the wool boucle on the outside. The two are perfect together... the wool provides structure and a beautiful color and texture, while the silk jersey reduced bulk and is wonderfully soft on the neck and wrists.

For the bottom band, I just used the boucle folded over. On this sweater, I decided to make the bottom band and the wrist bands the same width as the neck bands, and made the body of the cardigan longer to compensate. I should have made the sleeves longer to compensate also, but I forgot to do this. It turns out though that this crazy loose knit wants to grow, and the sleeves are plenty long. 

I went up a size for this cardigan, from a large to an XL. The Missoni knit is considerably thicker than the fabrics this pattern calls for, and while it is a loose knit, it doesn't have the kind of stretch and recovery that a knit with spandex has. I kept the shoulder width of the L though, since I thought this was perfect on me, and I didn't want the drop-shoulder look.

However, I think there was also a bit of lateral growth when I was working with the pattern pieces, and I might have overcompensated, since it is a bit roomier than I expected. I may take it in a bit at some point, especially if it continues to stretch out, but a bit of extra room in a cardigan isn't such a bad thing.

Since this is a very loose knit, I fused strips of bias-cut weft interfacing in the shoulder seams and the armhole seams to prevent the sweater from stretching out of shape over time.

For finishing the bottom band and neck bands, I hand sewed the back of the band to the sweater. Hand sewing isn't my favorite thing, but I wanted a truly lovely finish on these somewhat fickle materials so I conceded gracefully.

While it's not perfect, it is a fun piece to wear and it is both practical and luxurious. In my mostly dark-colored wardrobe, I enjoy having a few quirky garments that I pull out a couple times each season, and this definitely fills that role.

There you have it, one pattern resulting in three very different cardigans. The possibilities are endless... and I haven't even cracked open view A!

Dear readers... how will you personalize your Blackwood? With special thanks to Helen, enter the Rafflecopter giveaway for the chance to win your very own PDF copy of the Blackwood Cardigan Pattern. The giveaway will be open until Sunday March 19th at 12am, and I'll contact the winner by email.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, December 29, 2016

A Tale of Two Coats: Part 2, Simplicity 2508 and Burda Larissa hybrid

When I'm working on a project, I can't help but dream up other variations and possibilities. Does this happen to you too?

I envisioned the gray herringbone coat in Part 1 as my real winter workhorse coat. With its length and warm interlining, it would be the coat I'd reach for on snowy day and it would be great over slacks or skirts. But more often than not, winters here are sort of mild and I'm headed out in jeans or joggers... so I was thinking that my next coat would be a bit more casual and would skip the extra warm lining. I was thinking about a peacoat with military details, maybe in navy. How classic is that? On the other hand, it isn't so creative, and I was already playing it safe with the gray herringbone coat, so perhaps I should be a bit more adventurous with this coat!

As chance has it, someone passed me by wearing an orange coat. The coat they were wearing was obviously RTW in a cheap, overly bright orange, but it sparked my imagination. The color I imagined has a visual impact similar to red, but more earthy. Not halloween orange, but something more towards amber, rust, or burnt orange. I scoured the online fabric stores for coatings in this color family. The pickings were slim... either this wasn't a fashionable color this season, or it was popular and they were all sold out. Finally I found a couple options at, but the one I was most interested in-- a cashmere blend-- had no swatches available. The phone rep was unable to supply a swatch but suggested that I buy yardage, which I would be allowed to return with free return shipping since they hadn't had swatches available. What an odd system. But it ended up working out... when the yardage showed up it was the perfect color and the hand was lovely.

I am also in love with the asymmetric moto jacket trend. I made one several years ago in a blazer, but I'm glad to see that motos are still out there, because I'm not done making them! In fact, Heather at Closet Case Files and Novita at Very Purple Person just recently posted gorgeous asymmetric zip jackets. The closest pattern to my vision is Burdastyle's Larissa jacket which has been on my short list for a long time. But I wanted more of a classic coat profile, so I decided to merge the collars and front zip of the Larissa with Simplicity 2508.

The hybridization of Simplicity 2508 and Burdastyle's Larissa proved to be quite simple. I traced the front panels of both coats and simply overlaid them, creating a hybrid pattern piece. I used Simplicity 2508 in a 16 bust/18 hip and the Larissa in a 42 (the largest size on the non-plus sized pattern), and they fit surprisingly well. I also had to add a tiny bit to the front of the raglan sleeve since the new front of the coat was higher than before. Using the muslin I had already made for 2508, I figured out how long the collar piece needed to be, and the exact placement of the zipper.

I block fused the body of the coat with Pro Weft Supreme Medium and used hair canvas for the collars and front panels of the coat. I decided to go fusible for this coat, and used the fusible tailoring methods described by Anna Zapp in her book Couture tailoring. While I don't mind pad stitching, I've wanted to try this method. I think it worked beautifully! I couldn't find a good online tutorial, so I'll post some pictures of fusible tailoring in a future post.

I'm not so sure that using hair canvas on the front of the coat was such a good idea though. Since I had Zapp out, I was strongly influenced by her interfacing choices, but perhaps this technique is more suited for a shorter coat, or perhaps it just doesn't work that well for this particular fabric. Or maybe the fusible was my downfall. I really don't like the way the hair canvas holds the creases from sitting, and I'm not in love with how it affected the drape of the fabric. If I were to choose again, I would stick with Pro Weft for the coat fronts.

I love the zipper I used... it is a bright brass metal M6 Riri zipper. I ordered it in specially for this coat from Pacific Trimming. When I ordered it, I ordered extra stops and an extra pull so that I could use the excess to make a matching zip pocket.

I went a little nuts with pockets on this coat. In addition to the brass zip breast pocket there are also welt pockets, perfectly placed to be comfortable places to store my hands on a cold day. Since I had the placement dialed in from my Part 1 coat, I used the exact same placement and technique.

Single welt pockets.

And there are two "secret" interior pockets. I usually put a pocket in the lining when I make a jacket or coat, but recently it occurred to me that I should put interior pockets in the inside facings. Since the facing is made out of a beefier fabric and fully interfaced, it provides excellent support for the pocket.

Interior breast pocket (on the opposite side from the exterior one). 

Interior facing pocket... deceptively deep!

For the lining, I decided I'd use a piece of silk charmeuse that I've had in my stash for ages. It is just a perfect match for this coat! It is what I'd call a medium weight charmeuse, light but opaque. 

After my past bad experiences with silk charmeuse linings in coats, I decided I needed to try a few things to help this lining last a bit longer. The biggest point of failure for past silk linings has been at the seams, so I decided I'd leave generous 1 inch seam allowances. However, this plan was a bit messed up-- somehow I ended up making the lining too small around the armholes and I had to used my extra seam allowances to compensate. So, in a lot of the places that matter the seam allowances are only 1/2 inch. 

My other clever plan to add durability to the silk was to underline it. I decided I'd use plain washed muslin for this since it is reasonable strong and light weight. I based each lining piece to its muslin counter part, then serged around the entire thing for good measure. Then I sewed the lining together as usual, treating the silk and muslin underlining as a single piece. 

I'm hoping it works out, because I really love this print, and I'll be sad if I'm replacing it in a year!

The sleeve lining is just black rayon bemberg... it hardly shows and is nice and slippery and durable.

I drafted a back facing since it seemed like this coat needed one. Somehow did it wrong twice before it worked out. I still don't know what went wrong the first two times. I was in a bit of a rush so I'm sure that didn't help.

I loved this little tutorial on making a chain hanging loop, and decided to make my own on this coat. The chain I used was described as "11mm x 8mm gold chain" on the Pacific Trimming website and it is perfect for this application. The hanging loops are rayon seam binding that I folded over once for extra durability. The links on the chain were large enough that I didn't bother adding any rings.

I haven't yet added a maker tag... I want to use a larger tag than my usual ribbon ones, and I haven't gotten around to making or buying the right size tag.

I went for the extra long cuffs from Simplicity 2508. I really was hoping I'd convince my machine to sew a nice key hole button hole, but even with a single layer of coating fabric, my Janome choked on the task. So I did some quick fake bound buttonholes. The buttons are more of the horn buttons I ordered from ebay.

I LOVE wearing this coat. It is definitely my favorite thing that I've made, maybe ever! On days that aren't bitter cold, it's the perfect coat to dress up a pair of jeans or to dress down a skirt. And I can't wait to take it traveling-- I'm going to love all of the pockets for stashing plane tickets and passports and the like.