Saturday, 20 January 2018

Where Our Recycled Clothes End Up

Last night, CBC's Investigative Consumer program Marketplace did a episode, "Clothing Waste:  Fashion's Dirty Secret", on retailer's recycled clothing programs. They travelled to New York and interviewed Elizabeth Cline, author of Overdressed:  The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion. Although they did touch on the quality of the fabrics used in ready-to-wear I think they missed the mark on a very important underlining story. It is not missed in Cline's book though. They did focus on Clines definition of the clothing deficit myth. Many of the clothing items that we think are going to clothe the poor are in fact getting resold and ending up across the ocean where many are destroyed in landfill fires. Charity shops and now clothing retails are over run by our cast-offs that they can not recycle because of the blended fibre content.

It is easier to recycle a 100% cotton t-shirt but most t-shirts today are made with fibre blends that are not easily recycled. It is cheaper for a manufacturer to produce a garment with petroleum based synthetic fibres and that is why we see the trend of having these fibres mixed with natural fibres and sold as a "cotton" shirt.

As described in the investigative piece, the clothing industry is built on a flawed business model dependent on over consumption and a society not willing to repair or mend their clothing. Instead, we're encouraged to discard them for a retailer discount or because they were purchased initially so cheaply that we do not see the value in taking care of them.

So how did this story become an investigative journalism piece in light that Cline's observations have been out there since 2012? East African nations are imposing tariffs and in some cases a ban on second hand clothing imported from North America.

Contemporary clothing and house hold products are having another negative effect on our lives as seen when this story came out this week. Vince MacKenzie, a director with the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs points out that "fires today grow more quickly because many furnishing and consumer products are made of plastic and other petroleum products." Yeah, that includes all those clothes stuffed into closets made out of synthetic fibres or coated with fomaldehyde finishes.

I agree that we need to take care of our clothing and mend over discarding but we also need to consider the impact that the petroleum industry is having in our textile choices and the impact it has on our lives.

Does fibre content impact your fabric or clothing purchases?

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Simplicity 8529: Wool Sweater

Okay, before you faint. Yes, I made a pink sweater.  

I'm not willing to say that it's my favourite colour but I will admit that I actually like this shade of pink. Sometimes I surprise myself. The fabric actually made it into my stash a few years ago because it is the most gorgeous wool knit that ended up at Northwest from an upscale dress shop that had closed down. They were selling used bolts for $3.99 / metre for cuts or $0.99 / metre if you purchased what was on the bolt. You just don't see bargains or this quality of fabric everyday. So, I came home with 4.2 metres of pink knit fabric. 

It sat in my stash all this time because I was scared to cut into this beautiful fabric. I had to find the perfect pattern first. And that is where Simplicity 8529 comes into the picture.   

I've made this sweater pattern before and I really like the fit. With all the adjustments made to the pattern, I was ready to cut into this wool knit. The sleeve and hem length were shortened. And it was easy peasy from there. This is a great pattern for beginners or anyone looking for an easy-to-wear (and sew) sweater pattern.  

The Stats:

Fabric:  1.4 metres of 130 cm wide wool ($0.99 + taxes = $1.57)

PatternSimplicity 8529 (previously used)

Thread:  4 spools used on the serger and 1 spool used on the sewing machine (average out $3.00 for this project)

Sewing machine needle:  1 - ballpoint needle ($2.75 / package of 5 + taxes = $0.62)

Time investment:  5 hours total

Additional Tools & Supplies:  Cutting table, pins, scissors, thread clippers, measuring tape, measuring gauge, iron, ironing board, sewing machine, walking foot, serger, brush, and mini vacuum.  

Happy Sewing!  

Monday, 15 January 2018

Vogue 1247: Navy Skirt

Back in 2012, I made a navy version of the Rachel Comey skirt, out-of-print (OOP) Vogue 1247. It was made with a denim weight fabric with some stretch.

I would still be wearing it, even though it faded over the years, if it didn't have a mysterious stain on the lower right front. I've tried everything I could think of to get out this stain with no success. Now, it is onto plan B, make a replacement.

Vogue 1247 is hands down in my top ten patterns list. Sadly, it is currently out-of-print but if you search Etsy, Ebay or other online sellers, you might be lucky enough to find a copy. Mine is staying here. If you haven't already, I would recommend giving this skirt pattern a try. It's so comfortable. It is basically a semi-fitted A-line skirt. What makes this pattern a keeper are those front pockets. They are the best. They're not small, dainty pockets, these are functional, make-you-feel-so-happy sized pockets that Rachel Comey is known for designing.

The skirt was lengthened twelve inches and this time I opted to finish all of the seams with my serger. The only other change I made was to the sizing. Since my other skirts fit a little snuggly, I stitched the side seams with a 1/2" allowance instead of the 5/8" seam allowance called for in the pattern. This gave me an extra 1/2" ease.

The fabric is a cotton sateen with some stretch. It was pre-treated with a tumble through the washing machine, then the dryer and finally a steam pressing before moving onto the cutting table. I'm a firm believer in pre-treating fabric before sewing for a few reasons. No matter how clean and careful a store tries to be with their stock, bolts always get dirty in the handling process whether they get knocked over on the floor or handled by many others. And it would be heartbreaking if I put in so much effort into the creative process to have it shrink afterwards just because I was in a rush to sew. So, I always make time to pre-treat my fabric. Do you pre-treat your fabrics?

The Stats:  

Fabric:  1.1 metres of 150 cm wide cotton sateen ($28.00/metre - 50% off + taxes = $17.40)

Interfacing:  1 metre ($6.00/metre - 50% off + taxes = $3.39)

Zipper:  8" invisible zipper ($2.80 - 20% off + taxes = $2.53)

Threads:  4 spool of serger thread ($8.99 each x 4) and thread for the sewing machine ($2.48 + taxes. I'll average it out to $5.00 for this project).  

Snap:  1 - 1/2" snap, recycled from the previous version.

Pattern:  OOP Vogue 1247 (previously used)

Value Analysis: Priceless, I would never find a cotton sateen skirt with pockets that fits me like this in the length I like.  

Time invested:  6 hours and 20 minutes.

Techniques Used:  Covered snap, hand-stitching, stitching in the ditch, and blind hem.    

Additional Tools & Supplies:  Cutting table, pins, measuring tape, laundry supplies used in pre-shrinking process, iron, ironing board, scissors, thread clippers, sewing machine, zipper foot, invisible zipper foot, blind hem foot, regular foot, serger, hand needle, and a cup of tea with honey and lemon.  

Happy Sewing!  

Friday, 12 January 2018

Which Winter Coat Held Up Best?

I have officially finished my winter coat this week. My latest version ended up back on the sewing table to add some interfacing to the sleeve hem. And this week, now that the temperatures took another dip into uncomfortable conditions, it is ready for it's official deep freeze test drive. Like much of North America, we here have been experiencing freakishly cold wind chills. Being a hardy Canadian who actually enjoys winter, my new winter coat and I are up for the challenge.   

Coat #3

Yes, I have already made two winter coats in the past, so you might be wondering what's the challenge in making another winter coat. Well, this winter, I'm also trying to steer away from man-made fabrics such as polyester, rayon, and mystery "unknown content fibres" so what's a gal to do when Kasha lining is out of the question. Now, don't get me wrong. I think that the Kasha lining that I used in the previous two coats has held up very well. And I would recommend using it if you're making a winter coat. I, just because of this current man-made vs. natural fibres experiment, chose not to this time.  

Let's take a look at some of the things that worked and didn't work in the last three winter coats that make it worthy to withstand a prairie winter deep freeze.  

Fashion Fabrics

I love wool. To me it has been the warmest fabric to wear. It's breathable, it has anti-bacterial properties and did I mention that it's warm?   

Coat #1 was made with a 100% wool fabric. It's a thick fabric with a large weave and when I held it up to the light, you can see light through the weave.

Coat #1

I honestly didn't think that it was going to be very warm because of the weave. But it is, and it's held up very well in that department. Where it didn't hold up as well was in the shedding department. I leave evidence everywhere that I sit while wearing this coat. A few fibres that rubbed off here and another few fibres there. It's like my calling card.

Every now and then I have to give it some tender loving attention with the sweater shaver and remove the collection of fibres that gather on the surface.  

Coat #2

Coat #2 is made with a Melton wool from Italy. But it is not a 100% wool, it is actually 70% wool and 30% polyester. You have to be careful when you picking up fabric because often how it is displayed on the table is not necessarily the full picture of the fibre content. Melton is a dense and tightly woven fabric that has been felted and brushed to produce a soft hand. This conceals the weave of the fabric. This coat is no where as warm as the first coat that I made even though both have Kasha lining and are underlined. This fabric is perfect for an autumn garment, a jacket or lined cape but it's not the one that I reach for when the temperatures really take a dive.

Coat #3 (first photo) is also made out of 100% wool with a nap and it's oh so stroke-able if I could bare exposing my hands in this deep freeze. This fabric is lighter than the other two wool fabrics and it does have more of a drape. I will admit that I wondered if it would hold up in the cold. And yes, it does.  

Underlining or is it Interlining?

Actually, there is a difference. It relates to the function of the garment. Underlining is used to enhance the fashion fabric with opacity or structurally by adding more body. Interlining is added to a garment when more warmth is required. An interlining could take the form of a heavier fabric or a lighter weight fabric. It's whatever you like. 

Coat #1 has a micro-fleece interlining. The micro-fleece fabric I chose to interline the coat surprised me with how well it blocks the cold mainly because of it's light-weight and thinness. With a thick wool fashion fabric, these two fabrics worked well together. 

Coat #2 has a dense cotton flannel interlining. It is heavier than that polyester mico-fleece used in coat #1, but no where as warm.

Coat #3 is interlined with wool suiting fabric. Yes, it does seem to be extravagant and it did hurt to put that much expense into something that will never been seen but I have to admit, it is worth every penny. Out of the three winter coats, this one is the lightest one and yet it is the warmest to wear. There is another barrier that has been added for another layer of warmth.   

A few years ago, I recycled this piece of leather from one of my ready-to-wear (RTW) winter coats. It was found hidden in between the fashion fashion fabric and lining. All the years that I was wearing the RTW coat I had no idea of its existence. This piece of leather is called Chamois leather.  Chamois is a porous leather that originally came from the chamois, a European mountain goat. Hence, it's name. Today, chamois is often made from sheepskin.  I have no idea if this piece is goat or sheep skin, all I do know is that it provides an excellent barrier from the cold. I interlined the back from my shoulder to my hip area with this piece sewn to the main piece of interlining.  

Lining Fabrics

Most people when they think about coat lining consider Kasha Satin. The original heavy Kasha satin is made up 51% acetate and 49% cotton and it's warm. It has a satin finish on the right side with a flannel back. Be careful of imitations of the original heavy Kasha satin lining though. There are lighter and polyester versions that are no where as warm as the original Kasha satin lining.  

Coat #1 has been lined with the original heavy Kasha satin lining. It is one warm coat. Coat #2 is lined with a lighter weight polyester Kasha satin lining and it hasn't measured up to Coat #1.

I took another direction with coat #3 and lined it with Dupioni silk. Dupioni silk has a plain tightly-woven weave that is similar to shantung but slightly thicker, heavier and with a high slub count. I do have some concern with how well it will hold over time and the warmth factor but I'm thrilled that my lining fabric is a natural fibre. And so far, coat #3 has kept me warm, even in a minus thirty-five degree Celsius wind chill.    

All three coats have an inner elasticized cuff. I used lining fabric for the cuffs, mimicking the design from a vintage coat I inspected and admired. It was a learning process and by the third coat I achieved the most pleasing inner cuff. There are other methods for making an inner cuffs to be found online, and I encourage you to try any one of them as this feature does keep that wind from blowing up your sleeves. Jenna Sauers wrote a wonderful article, How to Winterize A Coat detailing how she recycled socks for this feature. 

So which coat held up the best. As far as keeping me warm during this chill, coat #3 is my go-to coat.

Happy Sewing!

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Changing My Ways...

Something happened this evening. I was over at the McCall's website because I came across an email about one of their sales ending tonight. Now, I really don't need anymore patterns. I have enough TNT patterns to keep me busy and a few others that I would like to find time to sew. But I was tempted by a couple that recently caught my attention.  

To be completely honest, I didn't give much notice to Vogue 9171 when it came out. It wasn't until I saw this version that I considered it as a comfortable dress pattern. And so it went into my cart.  

Butterick 6509 caught my attention as soon as the latest collection came out. I love a jacket with a hood. So, it also made it into the cart.  

And then it came to check-out. And I couldn't do it. Maybe it was the shock of the conversion from US$ to Canadian that turned me off, or perhaps it was the shipping and exchange combined that didn't make it feel like a sale anymore. Whatever it was, I emptied my cart as I reconsidered these two lovely patterns. Like I said, I don't need anymore patterns. And I was thinking about the RTW Fast that I signed up for again.  

Fasting from ready-to-wear really isn't a challenge for me. I've been sewing all of my own clothes for several years now. And recently, I've been changing my fabric choices. The one department that really would be a change and a challenge is to use what I currently have both in patterns and fabric. So, that's what I'm going to do. Let's see if I can go the 365 with what I have in my stash and still fulfill my creative side. One day down, three hundred sixty-four to go!   

Happy Sewing!  

Monday, 1 January 2018


I don't know if you heard, but baby, it's cold out there.  

And when the cutest little dog stopped by for a visit without boots I had to get to work. Seriously, it's too cold to be out there without boots.

I used the last of the wool from my winter coat and the straps were pieces of suede from my winter boots. When it was decided that the straps were too short, I stitched two pieces together to lengthen the front boots and used twill tape for the two back booties. I also adjust the shape of the boots curving both sides. Once the basic design was figured out it was a quick project since there was already black thread in the serger and sewing machine.

The Stats:  

Fabric:  0.40 metres 100% Wool

Ties:  1.10 metres suede

Twill tape:  1.10 metres 

Additional Tools & Supplies:  Scissors, measuring tape, pins, sewing machine, serger, thread, and doggie kisses. I'll always sew for doggie kisses.  

Happy Sewing!  

Sunday, 31 December 2017

December (and Year-End) in Review

Happy New Year! Can you believe that another sewing year is coming to a close? And what are you doing reading sewing blogs? Shouldn't you be getting ready to party?

Wondering how much sewing I managed to get done from my list? Not much. I had a pretty ambitious list considering the time of year.
  1. I would really like to work on that Oki Style shirt pattern I picked up last year. This pattern didn't even get taped together. I don't know what I was thinking. I think I was dreaming. 
  2. Vogue 1567 is still on my wish list. If I make it in the red plaid silk I have in my stash, it would be something that I can wear to the theatre in a couple of weeks. And it will be a fun Christmas skirt.  Yup, this one didn't get made either.  And I didn't even make it to the theatre for the Christmas production.  Oh, the grand plans I had!   
  3. I want to finish that wool coat, another version of OOP Vogue 8934. It's cut out and started, I just have to focus on it.  I did manage to finish this one, just under the wire!  
  4. And finish off a jumpsuit, it's almost done.  I did manage to finish most of it and blog about it but I still had to hem it, right up to the end of the month. And would you believe that I did that this afternoon just so I could cross it off.   
  5. And there are some Christmas sewing projects in the works as well.  Oh yes!  This is why my sewing plans were thrown into chaos! All those knickers and Christmas stockings.  
  6. Oh and I have a few posts coming up about Make Something Week sponsored by Greenpeace and Fashion Revolution.  The earlier part of the month was quite fun to participate in Make Something Week festivities. I saved a few items and made myself a cozy little scarf.  Good times.  


There was a whole lot of sewing this year considering that I had a really bad fall at the beginning of the year and couldn't sit without the aid of a cushion and not for very long.  This past year I made 2 winter coats, 1 housecoat, 1 night gown, 1 set of pyjamas, 4 jackets, 2 slips, 1 camisole, 12 pullover tops, 1 skirt, 3 button front shirts, 16 dresses, 12 microwave cozies, 1 pair of pants, 1 apron, 1 infinity scarf, 2 tea towels, 3 reusable bags, and 16 pairs of knickers.  Crazy, I really didn't think I sewed that much!

Here's what was made this month.

Clockwise L to R:  Wool coat, OOP Vogue 8934; cotton sateen jumpsuit, OOP McCall's 6437; wool scarves, no pattern used; cotton knit panties, Simplicity 8229; Christmas stockings, no pattern used.

RTW & Fabric Fast:

Happy to report there was no ready-to-wear purchases made.  Carolyn was right, it does get easier as time passes. I've signed up for the 2018 RTW fast over at Goodbye Valentino. She's allowing socks, undergarments and shoes, I think for purchases. I'm good in those departments but I wish that sweaters were allowed.  I don't knit, and as far as the quality of sweater fabric goes around these parts (lots of fleece but I'm on a man-made fibre fast as well) it will be difficult to resist a cashmere sweater that might show up at the second hand store or get a crazy reduced one at the end-of-the-season sales in a couple of months. We'll have to see how that goes as that will be my only temptation especially with how cold it's been here lately.  And then Sarah does live in the southern states, she likely doesn't understand this dilemma.  

The Stats:

Quantity Used from the stash this Month 
Quantity Used this Year
Added to the Stash this year
Basting Tape
2.15 metres
7.29 metres
Bias Tape
32.95 metres
10 metres

Cord Stopper

36 metres
74.3 metres
38 metres
 18.6 metres
159.1 metres
Fusible Tape

44.26 metres
6 rolls
Hand needles
Hook and Eyes

1.6 metres
12.7 metres
6 metres
Lace trim
2.6 metres
Pattern (new)
Pattern (previously used--TNT)

1.1 metres
5.3 metres
Serger needles

Serger thread
Sewing machine needles


4.2 metres
7 metres


So what do I have in store for next month?

Who knows? No sewing resolutions other than I would like to continue to enjoy my time at the sewing machine. Crazy as it may sound to some people, it's a form of relaxation. But I realize that my health and family comes first. I'm going to go with the flow and maybe surprise myself next month and into the new year.

Until then, Happy Sewing & Happy New Year!

Where Our Recycled Clothes End Up

Last night, CBC's Investigative Consumer program Marketplace did a episode, "Clothing Waste:  Fashion's Dirty Secret", o...