Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Sewing for Summer in Cool Blues and Whites

I've been dreaming about summer sewing since the first hints of warmness came in on the wind this spring. The color palette was embedded in my mind... cool blues, whites, and stripes, all in linen. Blues the color of the Atlantic ocean-- just a bit moody, tending towards gray. A classic summer palette.

Interestingly enough, I have never owned a pair of white pants. NEVER. Always seemed a bit too risky. Khaki yes, but pure white, never. Adding white shirts to my wardrobe has made me bold... 6 months and counting, and I haven't ruined one yet. Maybe, just maybe, I can manage to keep a pair of white pants respectable for at least awhile.

I've had a rather large piece of natural colored Cone Mills denim in my stash for ages now... I had thoughts of dyeing it, but that hasn't happened. So, I made some of it up into a pair of Ginger Jeans

This is my now TNT jeans pattern, and it will be the 5th pair I've made. The first two had significant flaws, but the next two were pretty darn awesome, and I think the fit on this one may be the best yet. The toughest thing about jeans is that darn break-in period. If they're too small and they don't break in... that's the end of it. Lately I've been making them just a bit big, then having to go back in and take them in when they break in and end up too loose (which is a tedious task with jeans). So with this pair, I made them just a tiny touch tight. We'll see how that goes. 

You can read my other jeans posts here and here, but to summarize I've modified my pattern with a full bum adjustment, deepened the back crotch curve for additional butt fitting, and done a HUGE sway back adjustment. I interface the waistband with weft interfacing cut in the stretchy direction, which creates a nice firm but malleable waistband. 

New for this pair... I created a bit more space for my calves. I just widened the side seam a bit where I needed the space, but I might try a full calf adjustment next time, because I totally love the effect. I think that tightness in the calves might be encouraging my jeans to ride down over the course of the day.

I decorated these with copper hardware and gold bar-tacks. I added a little striped "label" over one pocket for a faux designer touch. 

I hemmed these jeans just a bit on the short side. I sort of hate the trend towards cropped pants because I hate having cold ankles for the 9 months of the year that it is chilly here, but I suppose white jeans are really summer pants, and I can wear boots in the winter. 

I made the pocket stays with striped linen left over from making the shirts. In certain lights, you can see the stripes right through the denim, yikes! I didn't think that was going to be a problem with denim, I would have expected it to be completely opaque. Next time I'd be more careful to use a light solid for the part of the pocket stay that is in contact with the denim. I also used the striped linen to do a bias tape finish on the waistband, borrowed shamelessly from the Sasha Trousers pattern. 

The shirts are all from the Liesl Classic Shirt pattern, you can read my post about the pattern here. I made these shirts with extra ease, for summer breezy-ness. The pattern only comes with long sleeves, but I'm experimenting with making a short cuffed sleeve. I think the sleeve on the 1/2 inch striped shirt is a bit long, but it can easily be rolled.

The blue striped shirts are both made from linen from the The light blue long sleeve one is made from a finer grade linen that is just dreamy, and I used real shell buttons that I bought in Italy. It has a wonderful casual, luxurious feel. I love the menswear vibe of the blue and white stripe, especially when glammed up with the white denim and a red lip.

I was noticing that some of the collars on the linen shirts I was wearing constantly all winter had puckered a bit. Not so much as to make them unwearable, especially since I usually wear them un-ironed with a bit of linen rumple. But it bothers me. I was using Fashion Sewing Supply's Pro-sheer Elegance Medium fusible interfacing, which they swear doesn't shrink, and I pre-wash all linen fabrics 3 times on hot with 3 times in the hot dryer. After sewing they are always hung to dry. Something has obviously shrunk though, because I can't think what else would cause a pucker like that on only the interfaced portions of the shirt. 

What to do-- use sew in interfacing! So these new linen shirts use sew in interfacing in the collars and cuffs-- Fashion Sewing Supply's Lightly Crisp sew-in. We'll see how that holds up. Using the glue-stick baste method, it is even easier to use than the fusible. I still use the fusible on the plackets though. I could probably switch there too, come to think of it...

I finish the hems with handmade bias tape. I just love the bias finish with the stripes!

The beige and blue shirt is made from a double gauze that I brought back from Rome. I'm not totally convinced on double gauze for summer, it seems rather clingy to me, but it is wonderfully soft. The buttons that I used are super-thin shell buttons and I'm sort of regretting using them, they pop open all the time. I guess I should have made the button holes just a touch smaller. I guess I could replace the buttons... but sewing on all those buttons all over again is not an enticing task. 

I actually made a second pair of white pants. These are 7.1 oz linen, with a knit waistband. My own pattern, so comfy. These will definitely be my go-to pants for lounging about this summer. I need a few more pairs!

Is anyone else in love with cool blues and stripes this summer?

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Fabric Shopping in Rome

Can you believe I haven't bought a SINGLE piece of fabric in 2018! Well, that ended today.

The fact is, my fabric buying is a bit more selective these days. I have a substantial stash that is very well stocked in lovely prints and knits, and quite a few special occasion fabrics for projects that I just haven't gotten around to. I also have developed sources in the US for many of the basic fabrics I use on a regular basis, and it doesn't make sense to buy things in Rome that I can easily obtain at home.

However, Italy produces some of the most lovely fashion fabrics in the world! Therefore, I resolved that I would buy a few special pieces of fabric, and they would be fabrics that are difficult for me to buy in the US or things that I am super excited to sew immediately and don't already have fabric for.

Fabric shopping in Rome is super easy because the best fabric stores are all clustered around Largo di Torre Argentina, which is right in Rome's historical district. It is only a short walk from there to the Pantheon or Piazza Venezia, and it is also a major bus and tram stop. Largo di Torre Argentina is famous as the site of the ruins of three ancient Roman Temples and hundreds of cats.

I decided to go to Francesco Longo e Figli first. Longo is actually split into two stores. The easier one to find has a store front right on Via Florida, which is the street on the southern side of Largo di Torre Argentina. This store is filled with silks and wools.

Technically Longo's address is 50 Piazza Dell'Enciclopedia, which is actually where their second and larger space is.

See that 50 up on the wall near the left pillar? That's as much as a sign as you get. Fortunately they were nice enough to walk me over here (it's across an alley and 20 feet away from the first store). If you go into this huge, unmarked entry, you'll see this little, deeply inset door on the left. 

This is where they have all of their linen, cotton, denim, and knits. It's not as large as some other stores, but it is packed with bolts of fabric from floor to ceiling, and they are very nice and speak quite good English (at least the person who was helping me did!). The prices went from very reasonable to quite pricey (for some really lovely quality linens and wools that I looked at). Sadly I didn't end up purchasing anything here, but I was really tempted, and came back twice. They also have remnants stacked on the counters if you are just looking for a little fabric souvenir!

Passed the Turtle Fountain in my wanderings. I just love how whimsical this fountain is.

Next I went hunting for Fatucci Tessuti. After wandering around in the general vicinity for awhile, I finally looked up the address from the Selfish Seamstress's Blog, which is where I first learned about this shop. I thought perhaps that it was no longer there, but lo and behold, when I found 64 Via dei Falegnami, I saw the telltale shape of bolts of fabric through the open door!

Last time I was in Rome this was the jackpot for me, and I purchased some gorgeous wool suitings and beautiful prints. I'm glad to say the shop is practically the same as it was 4 years ago! In the back are a couple of shelves of gorgeous and reasonably priced wool suitings. Gorgeous, soft, thick wool/cashmere blend heavy suiting (or light coating) for 18 Euros a metre. This was my first fabric purchase of the day. The proprieter of the shop, who spoke English and had a lovely sense of humor, says it was from a lot he purchased from MaxMara. Perhaps it is, it is lovely! I'd show you a picture... but really, it is just black!

Next I had my eyes on the lovely prints he keeps right behind his cutting table, but alas the ones that I wanted were 3 meter panels sold by the panel, which was a bit more than my suitcase is willing to hold right now, even at the bargain price of 10 Euros a meter. They were quite unique though, supposedly McQueen and like nothing I've seen elsewhere.

They do have a sign, it is just hard to read:

But here's their business card:

Next, I tackled the biggest fabric store in Rome: Fratelli Bassetti Tessuti. It's right on Corso Vittorio, to the left if you are standing in Largo Argentina facing Feltrinelli's (the large bookstore on the north side with the big red sign.)

It's actually sort of hard to see right now due to scaffolding covering the storefront.

Fashion fabrics are up the stairs. There is room after room filled with fabrics, from floor to ceiling. It's pretty overwhelming!

The staff is very nice, if you ask politely (they spoke both English and Italian to me). They have just about every kind of fabric! The wall of silks was very tempting... and many of them were very reasonably priced. However, I had decided that I was going to try to buy a high quality cotton shirting here. To give you a sense of the range, in black shirting they had choices from 6 to 45 Euros a meter. I chose a really lovely cotton that feels as fine as silk for 25 Euros a meter. That's my fabric being cut!

Next I went across the square to Azienda Tessile. They are they easiest fabric store to find since they have a huge storefront that covers most of the eastern side of Largo di Torre Argentina.

Azienda is less like a giant warehouse and more like a nicely arranged fabric store. The fabric tends to be stacked behind the cutting tables, which is a bit intimidating if you are just browsing. But if you ask, they will let you go behind the tables and touch, and they are happy to pull out bolts for inspection. Several people in the shop had excellent english, they probably get a lot of practice being located in such a high tourist traffic area.

They also have large displays of luxury fabrics. I noted a gorgeous display of designer silks-- unfortunately it was behind a table and I didn't ask to see them since I wasn't really silk shopping. But the display of Chanel fabrics (actual Chanel brand fabric as well as fabrics for Chanel-style jackets by other designers) was in easy reach, and I really enjoyed seeing those lovely, complex fabrics in person. However, 60 Euros a meter and up was a bit out of my budget-- besides, tackling a Chanel jacket is not something to undertake lightly. Also lots of linen and linen blend fabrics, and of course a whole section of suitings, and I didn't even venture upstairs where the home fabrics were.

What caught my eye, however, was bin filled with rolls of double gauze. At least, I think it is double gauze... it was only labeled as "cotton" but the construction looks like double gauze. As I had in mind a summery shirt, I ended up picking up this fabric:

It is luxuriously soft, and I've been thinking about making a striped summer shirt. I was also tempted by a blue and white stripe... I'm trying to exercise restraint here ;). The price was pretty good, at 23 euros per meter for a 60 inch width fabric, that's just about the same as I'd pay for a quality double gauze in the US, and I love the color palette and the stripe width really appeals to me.

All that fabric shopping makes one hungry, so I had a light lunch at Su'ghetto in the Jewish district.

Carciofi alla guida

Fried Baccala (salt cod)

Then I headed off to check out Casa del Tessuto (House of Fabric) which is in an entirely different part of town (Via Dello Statuto 64). It took me a good 40 minutes to get there, I walked to Piazza Venezia (you could also take tram 8 or one of the many buses that goes that direction), caught the 51 bus to Labicana, and walked north on Via Merulana to Via Dello Statuto.

They were very friendly, and when I asked about printed linens, they took me down this tiny staircase to a basement with more bolts of fabric! It isn't a large store, but it is really packed in there and every nook and cranny is filled. They have a whole rack of various designer fabrics, tagged with an example of the designer's work on the runway, a rack of Liberty cotton lawns, and I saw some Missoni tucked away on one shelf. They also had some juvenile themed prints.

If I wasn't already quite well situated in designer fabrics (I have both Missoni AND Liberty in my stash... did I mention how large my stash is?) I would have been tempted. However, as it is, I didn't buy any fabric here on this trip, but I was glad the venture took me to another part of the city that I've never been in, which is always interesting.

There was one store on my list that I didn't make it to: Valli Fabrics. If I make it there on another day, I'll add it here! Anywhere else I should go?

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Flower Print Eggs: A Natural Egg Dyeing Tutorial

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

Dyeing Eggs in Rome, Italy, Spring 2018

When I was growing up, we always used those supermarket kits with little tablets that dissolve in water and give brilliant colors. But after having kids, trying to do things in a way more inspired by natural materials and processes became really important to me, and dying eggs with chemical dyes just wasn't appealing. 

So, I first made nature print eggs using natural dyes two years ago, when my daughter Lily was 4. She's now 6, and I have a son who is 3... and we're still using natural dyes to do our annual egg coloring! 

This year we're in spending the spring in Rome, Italy... and we dyed eggs using our favorite methods here! It worked beautifully.

The cheapest pantyhose I could find was 2 euros a pair. I could only find brown eggs at the supermarket! After the fact I've seen white eggs in other stores, but the brown eggs came out quite lovely. 

Unwrapping is the best part.

The original post from 2016 follows... read on for the photo tutorial!


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.