Tagged: sewing

Supporting Sewing through Kiva…

This I Wear | Support Sewing Through Kiva

Sewing skills have largely been lost in the United States as manufacturers moved overseas. We hear that over and over, so sometimes it’s easy to forget that so many people (many, if not most of them women) around the world still rely on sewing as a primary means of income, whether through their own business or through work in a factory setting.

A finished garment is a mystery to many of us. It’s hard to understand all the work and skill it takes to make something when all we see is the finished product. But a really good seamstress knows exactly what went into the garment. She’s both a surgeon and a visionary.

When I was little and shopping with my mom for clothes, I would get so upset whenever I picked up something I liked, and she would say “but I could make that for you.” Now as an adult, as I see my mom’s wheels turning as she imagines how to go about creating something she’s seen or has only imagined, I’m in awe. I feel the same sense of awe (but perhaps also jealousy) for my sister who always says “yes” when I send her a photo and ask if she can make whatever it is for me.

There may not seem to be anything romantic or creative about sitting at a sewing machine in a factory, but I believe there is something bigger that the ability to sew opens up for individuals who have the skill. A world of possibilities opens to creating anything, bringing something unimagined to life, making something with your own hands (and sometimes a machine) that you can be proud of, and knowing that you have a skill that can always open doors and provide for you.

So when I discovered that Kiva’s micro-lending platform allows lenders to support women around the world who are building their own sewing businesses, I was pretty excited. I think I may have had lots of misconceptions about Kiva, but I’m realizing that there really is something for everyone. Even if you’re not inspired by encouraging sewing, it’s easy to explore the site and connect with someone who needs a loan to take their livelihood to the next level as they work to support themselves and their families.

Since I had already decided this week is a “want free” week for me, I’m spending my money instead on supporting Rosa from Colombia as she seeks a $425 loan for sewing supplies in her workshop where she already employs other women. There’s something simultaneously tough and kind about her when I look at her photo, so I went with my gut and supported her campaign. Maybe with your help, we can get her loan up to 100% funded. (Support her here!)

This is the first loan I’ve made through Kiva, and what’s really exciting about it is the 98% repayment rate means that I can loan the money right back out to another loan seeker once this one is repaid, so the creativity, passion and empowerment can keep flowing.

[All photos via Kiva.org]

It’s Not Your Sweater’s Fault Winter Is Terrible

This I Wear | Don't Give Up On Winter Just Yet

It’s always at the end of a season that I start to hate everything in my closet. Nothing feels new or exciting! I’m so over it all. And winter is the worst season for this feeling, of course, because I’m as tired of the cold as I am of every sweater in my closet.

But we are resilient! We can turn moments of desperation into moments of great creativity! As I remember New York still being cold in April of last year, I know I’m going to have to put up with my winter weather clothing for longer than I would like. To make this easier and more exciting for us all, here is a little DIY guide on embellishing a sweater from our costumer-in-residence, Lisa. Whether you just need a little extra sparkle or you’re hiding a hole or stain, a few beads and sequins can make an old sweater new again.

Here’s the how-to from Lisa:

Materials and Tools
A vintage, thrifted or well-loved sweater
Small seed beads
Short bugle beads (like these vintage ones!)
Beading needles

This I Wear | Sweater DIY

(1) First, lay out your sweater flat, and start playing with the design of your beads and sequins. For my pattern, I chose something relatively easy. Starting with my sequins – I chose metallic blue sequins with a center hole – I placed 4 sequins on each side of my cardigan’s neckline, about an inch apart. Then I chose how my bugle beads (the long, skinny beads) will be arranged around the center sequin. I chose to go with 5 silver bugle beads fanning out from the middle of the sequin.

(2) Thread your beading needle and knot the two ends together. With thread folded on the double, start sewing on the backside of the sweater by making a stitch horizontally through the sweater immediately behind where your first sequin will be: start from the back so that your knot is on the inside of the sweater and make a small stitch to the front of the sweater and back in. This gives a good foundation for stitching and means the knot will not pull through.

(3) Now point your needle through the center of the sequin and pull through to the front of the sweater. Add 1 small seed bead to your needle and let it slide down the thread to meet the sequin. Without going through the seed bead, go back through the hole of the sequin to the backside of the sweater.

(4) Next, start attaching the bugle beads. Push your needle back up through the front side of the sweater where you’d like the bead to go. Then slide a bead on the needle and go immediately back through to the inside side of the sweater. Repeat until all the bugle beads in this cluster are secured.

(5) To complete a cluster (or once you’ve run out of thread), tie off your thread by stitching horizontally on the inside of the sweater and (6) double knotting the thread. Cut the thread, leaving ¼” of extra thread above the knot.

Repeat all steps until the neckline (or anywhere else you choose) has been fully embellished, completing one cluster of beads and sequins at a time. The pattern does not have to be perfect, as mine clearly displays, to turn out beautifully. These steps work well for anything you are looking to embellish, from clutches to collars to sleeve cuffs.

Here’s to hoping you and your sweater survive this winter together!

Know Your Tacking

This I Wear | Know Your Tacking

Clothing construction is a mystery to most of us. How a bolt of fabric becomes a tailored jacket or your favorite perfectly draped blouse is hard to imagine. It seems like the seamstresses, tailors and knitters who make our clothes have a million and one sewing tricks up their sleeves to keep us looking good.

Tacking is one of those sewing tricks, and I like to think of it as one of the most polite ones. Tacking refers to using large loose stitches to hold pieces of the garment in place temporarily. It’s commonly used on any type of garment slit, so that the garment stays flat while folded during shipping and looks perfect when it reaches you.

You’ll find these “X” shaped stitches on your suit coat back flaps, on the kick pleat or slit of a skirt, and on your winter coat’s back vent. You’ll also find similar stitching inside pockets that were stitched shut for the same reason.

It’s a special little touch by a clothing manufacturer to say “hey, I wanted your clothes to travel safely and nicely to you.”

But a lot of us don’t realize these stitches are intended to be removed after a garment is purchased. I often catch people in the subway with skirts and coats that bunch up and pull in the back because the tacking has not been removed. (You’ll start to notice it now because it makes a garment look very restricting!) Or someone mentions that their jacket pockets are fake, only to discover that they’re real – they were just nicely stitched shut.

So this is my little polite PSA to you to get to know tacking and make sure to do a little snip to remove those stitches before you wear that new item out.

Photos via The Joinery and Of a Kind.

Finding Quiet: Style + Craft

This I Wear | Finding Quiet: Style + Craft

I understand that this is not objectively scandalous, but I have never felt more rebellious than when I recently turned off my phone for approximately 10 hours and said no to noise and distraction. It feels important to note that I was not flying in an airplane but just hanging out.

Of course, I made sure to let certain important parties know that I would be unavailable so they didn’t assume the worst. Once these precautions were taken, I felt liberated…and a little uncomfortable. That moment when I see something I want to remember? Oh well, Instagram is inaccessible. The moment where I think of something I should Google? Not possible. Suddenly, the world was quieter and my mind was clearer. And though I was hyper-aware that my phone was off, I did not want to turn it back on at the end of the day.

Strangely, I feel a similar sense of quiet liberation as I’ve attempted sewing. Around the time that I started this blog two years ago, I started my first quilt – machine sewn patchwork but with the intention of hand quilting. I’m not a maker or an artist or a professional crafter, so this unfamiliar experience surprised me with an awareness of a more peaceful mind and a feeling of doing something almost counter-cultural, i.e. sitting still. I’ve recently started the hand quilting process (the project collected a little dust I’ll admit), and it’s been so incredibly enjoyable.

The craft of quilting itself encourages this type of peace. Through quilting, I’ve been able to engage in an extraordinary craft passed down through generations that both encourages thoughtful quiet moments when alone and connects and builds community when shared together. I didn’t know when I started that the added benefits would be an almost meditative state as I move the needle in and out of the fabric and the sudden empowerment that comes with knowing that I can make something out of seemingly nothing.

These two examples – turning off my cell phone and making things with my hands – might seem unrelated. But they both take me to a quieter world where it isn’t so hard to fight off distraction. And believe it or not, it’s not unrelated to our style either.

Once I became interested in quilting, I discovered that there are some amazing young people continuing the tradition too. One of my favorite people to follow is Maura Ambrose of Folk Fibers. Maura is a full-time quilter based in Austin. She uses natural dyes on all of her fabrics and then creates beautiful traditional quilts by hand. (Her recent feature on design*sponge made me all the more interested in her work.)

Her personal style too is as inspiring as her craft. Few people wear denim as well, and what I love about her style is that it seems so effortless and simple. She’s not trying too hard. Like her quilts, her style has no distracting details but lets herself shine through.

Maura is a great example of simplicity and quiet through her style and her work, and I admire her so much because the idea of quiet and focus in our daily lives, in the things we do for fun (or imagine, what we do for work), and in our style still feels revolutionary. It feels rebellious and empowering. It also feels joyful, as if the quiet leaves more space for happiness to flow in.

I’m thinking more and more about how to treat myself to the luxury of focus and distraction-free time in every aspect of my life, and I’m seeing it reflected in the things I want to spend my time doing and the people whose style I admire. I’m curious if you’re looking for this too, and even more curious if you’ve found quiet and its many benefits in an unexpected part of your life. What are you doing to remove distractions in your life?

The Monthly Mend: Fix A Ripped Belt Loop

TIW | Fix a ripped belt loop
Last week, my mom/seamstress fixed a ripped belt loop that had created a fairly large hole on one end of the loop. I had no idea if it was even repairable, so I was amazed when it not only could be fixed by hand but also looked like nothing had ever happened. This week, our seamstress-in-residence, my sister Lisa, is back sharing how this sort of magic can help you out if you too have done the “skinny jean jig” one too many times. – Rebecca

It happened to me one day as I was getting dressed for work. I was doing my usual skinny jean jig and, whoops, there went a belt loop. Now being a seamstress doesn’t mean I will fix everything right away or even within a month. Cut to six months later and I’m finally digging through my Ziploc full of iron-on patches ready to fix these pants.

For those of you new to the mending scene, iron-on patches are pieces of fabric (usually a twill or jean) with an adhesive backing that can be ironed onto the underside of any rips or tears to stabilize the torn fabric and hide the rip. It also gives you something to sew that ripped belt loop back onto.

Once I find a matching jean colored-patch and plug in the iron, the fun begins:

You’ll need:

– An iron-on patch in a similar color (these can be found at drugstores as well as sewing stores)
– An iron
– A long needle (big can be better when it comes to thick fabric like denim) or a sewing machine
– Thread to match the thread of your jeans
– A few straight pins or safety pins

Start with heating up the iron: high heat is fine – a cotton setting if you have it – since the patch is made of cotton. If you are ironing onto a non-cotton fabric, adjust the temperature of the iron to the setting for the main fabric. In general, it’s smart to avoid any steam. A little bit is okay, but the steam can prohibit the adhesive from sticking as well as it could.

Next step is to prep for ironing by placing the patch. I trim my patch down to about a half-inch bigger on all sides of the rip.

01. Then, I pin the patch in place with the adhesive side facing down on the wrong side (i.e. the inside of the jeans) and flip over to the right side (i.e. the exterior) to make sure it’s covering the rip.

Once everything is lined up on the right side, flip back over to the wrong side, making sure to keep everything in place as best as you can (that’s why the pins are super helpful!) and take the iron to the patch. For this situation, it was imperative to catch the ripped jean and the ripped belt loop with the iron even though the belt loop has a thick bottom. That means iron as hard as you can.

02. Finally, let’s reinforce the patch with some stitching. I was anxious and did my first stitches very quickly on my sewing machine with a tight zig-zag stitch above the original belt loop stitch.

03. The stitch is still holding, but I can still see the rip.

04. So I decided to strengthen the stitching by hand with a “slip stitch” (or blind stitch) by running the needle and thread through the belt loop end and into the patch at the back and then repeating this loop until I’ve got a secure stitch connecting the belt loop back to the jeans and patch. Really there is no wrong way to mend as long as it holds! Just be sure to tie off the thread on the inside of your jeans after you’ve finished stitching with a knot as close to the fabric as possible.

05. Sometimes your rip may have left some frayed threads. If that’s the case, now is the time to cut these away for a clean, finished look.

06. You’re done! The belt loop is now securely fastened to the patch.

Tip: If your iron-on patch comes unstuck in the wash, Stitch Witchery is a great iron-on adhesive tape found at your local sewing store that will re-attach the patch to the jeans. It can be cut down to fit around your patch and ironed on using the same method as you did with the patch before.

While the belt loop may look as good as new, it’s best to do your future skinny jean jigs while pulling up the whole waistband, and not relying on belt loops.

More mending questions? Find Lisa on twitter @lisammagee or follow her tumblr, Stitched History, for her inspiring look into costume and fashion history.

All photos by Lisa Magee.

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