Sewing dare completed: my shibori romper

Here she is, my shibori romper! Internally, I refer to her as the Shibromper. | McCall's 6083, shibori romper

This was an incredibly fun project, largely due to the fact that it was on a sewing dare from Gillian. The dare was pretty literal – make a romper and dye it using shibori techniques – but I still spent a good amount of time thinking about how I wanted it to look. I used McCall’s 6083, a romper pattern that I’d used a few years ago to make a dress.

Rompers seem both comical and decadent to me (perhaps because I tend to sew basics so much) and I found those qualities very appealing. | McCall's 6083, shibori romper

Rompers can also evoke the seventies quite strongly. Another mark in their favor!

The only adjustment I made to this pattern was lengthening the bodice by 1.5″. Bloggers of all shapes and sizes seem to agree that this pattern is too short through the waist. The curve for the rear seemed a little flat and could probably use some bootifying, but the fit is relaxed so the end result isn’t terrible. I think I could have also lengthened the pants hem an extra inch or so, because I plan to wear this with heeled shoes. | McCall's 6083, shibori romper

The fabric is more of the tan linen that I’ve used for my Purple Plum dress, Shibori Satsuki, a tunic, an unblogged skirt and two unblogged tanks. I’ve almost reached the end of it! | McCall's 6083, shibori romper

I documented a bit of my shibori process, for those of you who are interested!

I sewed up the romper almost to completion, including the elastic waistband casing, but didn’t insert the elastic.

I had decided on a loose pattern of what I believe is called kanako-style shibori, with designs created by binding discrete areas with string (or rubber bands, in my case). Once you start binding areas, it’s easy to lose track of your overall pattern, so I marked mine with pins. Now that I’m writing this out, I’ll bet tailor tacks would be an even better option than pins.

I wrapped the sections I wanted to stay tan tightly in the rubber bands. I scrunched the rubber band strands together tightly since I was hoping for a solid doughnut shape.

This is what my romper looked like after I finished binding my fabric. The romper has neckline facings, which I didn’t find with the neckline.

The next step was dyeing my romper. I’m trying to use up some Jacquard’s Procion MX dyes, which are for cellulose fibers like linen and cotton. I didn’t include instructions here, but I mostly follow the immersion dyeing instructions from this PDF provided by Jacquard. I do not, however, use Synthropol to rinse my fabric. I can give a couple of tips on dyeing, from my own experiences:

  • The dye is strongest when you first put your piece of fabric or garment in, which is why it’s important to stir your dye bath constantly for 20 minutes.
  • It’s really easy to create unintentional resists to the dye. I left out the elastic because the gathers probably would have given the waist band a pattern.
  • Wear gloves and a mask! It’s very easy to breath in dry dye particles or absorb the wet dye chemicals through your skin.

The patchy spots on the legs are because I wasn’t able to stir my dye bath very well! I’d added in a few other shibori projects into the dye, and I think the bucket was too small. I’m not too worried about them, but would have been bummed out if I’d been aiming for an evenly-dyed piece. | McCall's 6083, shibori romper

Now, the big question: where do I wear this?

Something for my sister

My sister (formerly my co-blogger at Crab&Bee, who now blogs here) and I have pretty similar taste in a lot of things, but we’re both quite aware of the finer points of taste in which we differ. Perhaps that’s a holdover from being so close in age and needing to find some ways of differentiating ourselves.

When we were teenagers, I always wanted the most basic version of everything: plain black shorts, plain khaki pants, plain red jacket, plain purple backpack. If you think I like basics now, you should have seen me back then! My sister, on the other hand, wanted neon multi-color everything, with a heavy dose of feathers, beads and clashing prints. Things have swung the other way, with my sister loving calming neutral colors (so much navy, grey, white, and beige) and subtle patterns, and me mixing in bright colors and bold prints with my basics.

I decided to make a little something for my sister and dug through my gigantic pile of scraps. I came up with a gorgeous batik scrap harvested off the top of a skirt I bought in Laos that didn’t end up fitting me, as well as a bit of stretch denim left over from my blue-grey bustier.

Scrap pouch,

I added a tan denim zipper, because nobody loves tan more than my sister, and it looked nice with the mottled tan in the batik print.

Scrap pouch,

The lining is a quilting cotton I found at SCRAP on my Portland trip earlier this year.

Scrap pouch,

If I’d been making this for myself, I probably would have used a white contrast fabric and maybe a red zipper! It was a fun design exercise to think about what my sister would really like. It was also quite gratifying to use one of my most treasured scraps.

When we were younger, I think my sister and I used to compare ourselves to each other in a detrimental way; who was more interesting, smarter, more successful, had better taste? Now that we’re out of our teens and early twenties, we enjoy discussing our similarities and differences in a positive way and appreciating each other’s interests and tastes.

Do you have someone in your life you compare your taste against? Or perhaps you compare your current tastes with those of your past self?

Quilt for baby girl

There’s been a lot of talk on this blog about making a quilt. Two things finally made it happen: our dear friends are having a baby girl this summer and I got a walking foot!

I ended up using the Japanese linen from my great-aunt, as well as a bit of the black-and-white cotton floral, that I received the same weekend I got the walking foot. I was saving it for something really special, and this was the perfect occasion. I loved that it was a bit girly with the pinks and oranges, but not over the top.

I machine-quilted in straight(ish) lines and then bias-bound the edges. I was very taken with the striped binding on the quilt that Kirsty made, so I wanted to give that a try.

I bought a bias-tape maker, which was a huge timesaver.

I was glad to use some of my most beautiful scraps, some of which you might recognize! The new parents are artists, a dancer and a poet, with really modern tastes, so I thought they might like some bolder colors and prints.

I gave it to them last week. The crazy thing is, they had just started researching quilts the night before!

Swap shirt and MMM pledge!

This is a knit shirt I made awhile back, with fabric gifted to me by the lovely Heather B (thank you, Heather!) from the Stashbusting Challenge swap! It’s a hemp/cotton blend, somewhere between t-shirt weight and sweatshirt weight and not too stretchy. I love it. It’s unapologetically bright. Also goes well with one of my many 2451 skirts.

I was inspired by Andrea’s take on McCall’s 6288, where she transformed a fitted raglan knit top pattern into something more pullover-ish. I happen to own the same pattern, and added an inch to the side seams and the bottoms of the raglan sleeve seams as well as lowered the arm scye. I used the Renfrew techniques for the waistband, arm bands and neck binding. There’s a bit of waviness in the waistband. I’d like to try adding some paper between the fabric next time to see if I can’t get some of the waviness out.

Waviness or no, expect to see this little green shirt during MMM ’13! Because I’m doing it! I’m going to stick with one item per day because, as I’ve mentioned before, I love purging unsuccessful projects. Repeats are ok in my book, but I’ll try to keep it interesting!

One of the unexpected things I loved about MMM last year was that it usually got me up a couple of hours earlier during the work week. On bad days, I won’t get up until 8:45am (I get to work at 9:30). So! My extra challenge to myself on every weekday (except for Wednesday – Tuesday is my night class) is to get up around 7am, get dressed, document, and do something – draw, read, walk to work or just enjoy a cup of tea. I’ll share what I wore and what I did in a weekly recap. Wish me luck!

Has Me-Made-May or another sewing challenge impact your schedule or lifestyle?

Shibori Satsuki

So… I have a gigantic pile of natural-colored linen (used in my tunic) that I was going to use to make a couch slipcover with. I’m getting really sick of it. It’s an awkward weight (definitely too flimsy for a couch and maybe even outerwear) but it’s not quite lightweight and floaty. It’s also low-quality and seems to have been made with shorter, weaker fibers.

It’s become kind of a trial fabric for semi-fitted garments and fodder for shibori experiments.

I completed two such garments during my week off, the Satsuki tunic by Victory Patterns being the first. I’ve loved the design since the moment I laid eyes on it, and can’t believe it took me this long to make it! I used up some of the questionable linen and then dyed the crap out of it. Victory Patterns Satsuki

I did Version 1, with shoulder cutouts and a waist tie band that’s inserted through the sleeves via buttonholes (no awkwardly exposed skin). Victory Patterns Satsuki

I placed the buttonholes for the tie myself instead of following the pattern because I have a lower waist.

There isn’t much to fit, but in the dress version I’m making for my sister, I removed 1/2″ of with between the shoulder cutout and neckline. Given my broad shoulders, I expected to have to move the shoulder cutouts out, not back in. The bust on mine is a bit too commodious as well. The only other changes I made had to do with the construction of the neckline facing; I overlocked the trimmed raw edges and held the facing down with a couple tiny tacking stitches in the front and back as well stitching in the ditch at the shoulder seams. Victory Patterns Satsuki

I used Procion MX dyes, which are best for plant fibers. I followed the instructions on the package for tub dyeing. I dyed the whole tunic orange first, rinsed it out, and then scrunched the fabric up, bound it with string, and submerged it in a blue dye bath. I was nervous the dye would permeate the whole tunic, so I took it out a bit too soon. I draped the tunic over my dye bucket so only the bottom and sleeve hems were in it. The colors were not what I expected, but I like the final effect. I think the purply color is even better than the blue would have been. Victory Patterns Satsuki

Let me just note that dyeing garments in buckets in a bathtub is a young woman’s game. Lots of hunching, stirring and rinsing can really aggravate a person’s back! Especially when said person is picky enough to repeat the process three times to get the right color.

The hard-won end result: the perfect garment to wear when this movie comes to town.

Natural blocking

I finished this tunic a few weeks ago and I’m pretty smitten with it! My sis took these photos of me.

I used two pieces of linen from my stash (yes, another stashbusting project!), and I like the gentle contrast between them. The tan linen was going to be my couch slipcover, before I gave up that idea. Now I’ve got lots of it and big plans to dye it to suit my projects. Perhaps a pleated skirt in a denim-ish blue? A yellow Minoru?

Speaking of dyeing, my initial plan for this project was to use its simple lines to showcase some shibori. I cut my pieces out first so I could control the placement of the pattern better. All of the agitation during the dyeing process made the fabric unravel and I was left with no seam allowance. Also, the pieces themselves were beautiful but they would have been a little much all together. (As my sister says, it was a lot of look.) I will be using the shibori fabric for something else; luckily I had more linen in the stash!

The pattern is Vogue 8816, which I bought in hopes of making some basic tops. I traced my normal size on top but widened the hips a bit. I’ve noticed Vogue patterns run smaller through the hips.

The pattern was totally fine with the exception of one construction method that had me scratching my head. For View A, you’re supposed to clip into the seam allowance of the upper front piece where the facing folds onto it and then wrap it around the shoulder sesam in some weird way. I’m not doing a great job describing it because I’ve since discarded the confusing information, but I think the idea is to ensure that the seam allowance at the shoulder seams lies towards the back instead of the front. I won’t be doing that next time. I’m also not 100% sure that the upper front pattern piece needs to be cut on the bias for such a minimally draped neck. Perhaps my fabric made a difference as well, being an exceptionally stiff linen.

Even though my glasses kind of ruin the effect, there’s something about this tunic that makes me think “cool nun” or “austere priestess” in a really good way. Maybe it’s the neutral colors or the nubby linen. I read The Mists of Avalon last year and I’ve been pining for that world ever since. I totally think this could be anachronistic Avalon priestess garb.

Let’s end on an undignified, un-priestess-like blooper shot, shall we?

Silkscreenin’, Stashbustin’ and Prancin’

I’d done screenprinting in both high school and college for class but got around to making my own crude printing setup a few years after graduating college. I printed my designs and illustrations on thrifted shirts and textiles and even set up a little etsy shop to sell them. I forgot to mention this in my Wayback Machine series, but silkscreening was a major factor in my decision to get a sewing machine. I needed to hem my printed scarves and I thought a machine would open up a lot more possibilities for what I could create.

I still have a bit of printed fabric left over from those days. Yesterday was my good friend’s birthday and I wanted to make her something special! I remember she loved a particular graphic eye print of mine and that I had a bit squirreled away. Since she’s a designer/artist and a traveler, I made her a pouch similar to mine but a bit larger as the graphic is about 10″ wide.

As I’m prone to do, I’ve saved every last scrap from my silver dress and used some here for the contrast. I added a silver “fashion zipper” (what does that even mean?) from Joann’s that I actually had to smooth down with sandpaper myself because it was machined so poorly. I would have gotten another zipper but it was the only silver sparkly one!

Rough zippers aside, I’m pleased with how this turned out! It looks great and used more scraps than I had originally thought because I used some unappealing-colored stashed lawn instead of using interfacing to add more structure to the pouch. This project also reminded me of how awesome it is to print one’s own fabric.

Just for funsies, here are a couple of photos that my sis took (of course) for my etsy shop.
My illustrations screen printed on thrifted shirts; photo by my sis

This last photo has nothing to do with printing; Kirsty requested a pic of me in my Failure/Mullet skirt, which topped the list of my  Top 5 Misses of 2012 post. I’m not sure if she remembers, but the idea made me chuckle and I’ve been meaning to post one for awhile. It all came together when I used the same fabric to test out my silver dress bodice and found myself prancing around in a shabby little red outfit. Kirsty, this one’s for you!
Ooh la la…

How’s your stashbusting going? I’ve got a lot of projects in the works that involve stashed fabric but I’m having a hard time focusing on which ones I want to make!

A refashion and a pledge!

It’s amazing what a little waistband can do for a shirt, isn’t it? I found a sweet woven lace shirt at the thrift store a few months ago. It was really inexpensive and I liked the lace itself. I could never bring myself to wear it on account of its shape (or lack of shape), however.

Enter a waistband (from le stash, of course)! I cut off the bottom few inches of the shirt and added a folded-over waistband of a black wool blend knit. I made sure not to repeat the mistake I made with this dress, where I strained the waistband because of how big the difference between the two circumferences were. I did a zig-zag stitch to sew the waistband in, then finished it using my overlock foot.


This was a tremendously simple project – less than an hour’s worth of measuring, fussing and sewing – but I’ve worn it a lot already. I’m fascinated by lace but don’t have a particularly girly style, so the athletic-inspired waistband is a nice tonic.

I made this in January, intending for it to be part of the Stashbusting Sewalong but couldn’t get it photographed in time. I still feel the need to say that my refashion bag and fabric stash have ever-so-slightly reduced in size.

Speaking of challenges, I decided earlier this year to join the Seamless Pledge (inspired by Gillian) but haven’t yet blogged about it! So let’s make it official:The Seamless Pledge

I, Morgan of Crab&Bee, am taking the Seamless Pledge for 2013.

While I mostly abstained from new clothing purchases last year, I did buy a few things. I’ll also admit to considering squeaking in a purchase before signing up, because my winter coats are failing me right now and I’m scared to sew one… but I decided to buck up and face the possibility of making my own. Also, Ginger’s Anise!! I’m so inspired by her wonderful project.

Finally, I’ve thoughtfully included the photo below because I thought you should see my paper-doll arms and quizzical expression. There’s nothing funnier than failed posed photos, don’t you think? There are lots more where this came from!
Blooper reel!

Commence stashbusting: January project

As I mentioned on Tuesday, I got so excited about working through my fabric scraps that I already finished a project. Using scraps from my Anna K skirt, my Grey Days dress, a blue-grey stretch denim seen here and here, and a salvaged zipper, I made a pencil case.

I’ve already started using it and it’s just right for my drawing supplies!


I still have some more tiny scraps of the Ty Pennington fabric left. Don’t be surprised if they make an appearance in another project! There’s a part of me that wants to make 100 of these little pouches, but that could get unwieldy. They do become less useful and turn into clutter as their numbers grow.

Do you have a standard of how large of a scrap you’ll keep? I know some people are very strict about the size of scrap they’ll keep. I tend to be a little freer with tossing out scraps from the poly-cotton blend sheets that I thrifted before becoming a bit more discerning. I’ll also throw scraps into the yard waste/compost that I know are 100% natural fibers. It’s the beautiful graphic prints that sucker me into keeping their absurdly small scraps!

I’m joining the Stashbusting Sewalong!

Stashbusting Sewalong Challenge Button with TextI’m really amped to join the Stashbusting Sewalong, hosted by Cation Designs and . Even though I did a pretty good job last year buying fabric on a per-project basis, I tend to keep tiny scraps of fabric around. It’s overwhelming my tiny fabric closet, it’s verging on hoarding, and I think it’s making it hard for me to start new projects. So, my approach to this challenge may be a little different than other participants since I’ll really be trying to use up my scraps! I’ve signed up to make 6 projects over the course of the year, but I think I may be able to do more. The challenge also comes with monthly themes, which I find exciting!

In preparation for this challenge, I took all of my fabric out and took a picture of it, to see what I’m working with. I knew I’d let my scraps build up but hadn’t realized they’d grown to 5 bags.


The larger pieces (on the top right of the photo) are:

  • 1.5 yards of silver linen (2 months old)
  • 2 yards of white linen (1 year old)
  • 2 yards of African waxed cotton (a favorite gift from my parents this Christmas)
  • 2 yards of cotton shirting (2 years old)

The rest of the bigger pieces (bottom right of the photo) are sheets that I’ve been using as muslin or interfacing substitutes. On the top left of the bureau and in the bags are pieces slightly or dramatically under a half-yard as well as garments for refashioning. Instead of ear-marking pieces for projects ahead of time, I will be gathering inspiration over the course of the challenge.

Since my stash is scrap-heavy, I’m really excited that January’s challenge is Itty Bits! I may have gotten so excited that I made a quick scrap project last night during my study breaks. I may have.

Are you joining or considering joining the Stashbusting Challenge?