Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Novelty Scrap Busting!

I have a tip for all you scrap busters out there -- check with your local library and/or early education teachers to see if they have a use for your scraps. My coworker who runs children's programs recently asked me if I had any fabric scraps with varied textures for a learning module she's creating. The key was texture -- the children would be feeling the fabric and sharing their experiences, even comparing it to things outdoors during outdoor programs as well. 

Well. Do I have any scraps? This request took on a fun journey through my remnant bins, where I found lots of silky lining and rayons, crisp cottons, canvas, rougher linens, varied wales of corduroy, velour, burnout velvet, fleece, felt, wool, jacquards, cotton gauze, seersucker, scuba, soft stretchy jerseys, metallic knits, suitings, ultrasuede, and more. I cut a block of each one, in varying sizes depending on my remnant, but big enough to run through the hands and get a good sense of the tactile nature of each. 

I used my pinking sheers to trim some of the more prone-to-fraying bits, but overall they weren't hard to gather and sort. And they can be thrown into a lingerie bag to be washed when necessary. If there are some that fray away she can ask me for more ;) 

It was a fun exercise, as I saw bits from my many previous projects, and even discovered quite large remnants of a few fabrics that I'm now planning to make some summer tops from! I was able to create two baggies of exactly the same bits so that they can be used by multiple families. This was an unexpected request that cleared nearly a shopping bag full of small scraps from my stashes and got me to organize a bit too. Definitely a new and useful life for some of my remnants.

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Weekend Review: Love the Great Ruler


Love, the great ruler / Valentyn Moisenko
Kyiv: Double A Publishing, c2015.
137 p.

This is a little book I found thanks to my library's online collection. It examines and explains the sources and meanings of a handful of the most frequent embroidered symbols used for clothing in Ukraine -- as noted in the subtitle! It does cover just a few, but goes into them in great depth. There is a hint of this history discussed in the intro to The Art of Ukrainian Embroidery as well, mentioning folklore and myth. But this book goes much more into that history.

The book examines four main motifs, what he names as the Cross, Rake, Cossack, and Berehynia-Rozhanytsya (mother). The first three are mainly male, while the Berehynia is obviously the female principle. There is discussion of the roots of these symbols, and the beliefs that gave rise the them. Berehynia has always been one of my favourites and there is a good discussion of the female goddess with arms upraised that is found way back in Trypillian art, and how that image transmogrifies in to a more abstract version of a V with a dot or square above the open end. There are also tons of clear, close-up images of embroidered clothing to illustrate each discussion -- this makes it much easier to clarify what images and symbols he's referring to, and how they show up in modern embroidery. The rake & cossack are images that are much more spiky and linear, and the cross shows up in different ways - a long cross is apparently more masculine, and the solar cross (even arms, in a circle) more feminine. 

This author is a bit mystical for my tastes, being very attached to the male and female principles of symbols and myth. There is a section where he states that the symbol of the cross is used differently in men's and women's clothing, since "the main earthly mission of a woman is to give birth". Well, this might be so in a general mythological perspective but as a comment situated in the modern world, I strongly disagree with it and all that it implies. If you consider these kinds of references as more of a general mystical statement and not rooted in reality today, you can overlook it. It did make me take this book less seriously though. 

Still as an overview of the development of symbolism in Ukrainian embroidery, and the power of these symbols in the tradition of embroidered clothing, this book is really thorough. At least in discussing these four main symbols and their permutations. I enjoyed the focus on embroidered clothing as a strong element of nationhood and belief, and I did learn quite a lot about the different ways that embroidery interprets varied signs for different purposes. There is a lot more to Ukrainian embroidery than just these four symbols - there is really no mention of florals or free-style embroidery, and just a passing reference to the ubiquitous tree of life, for example. But still an interesting read. 

Thursday, May 19, 2022

International Vyshyvanka Day!

 Happy International Vyshyvanka Day! 

The third Thursday of May is International Vyshyvanka Day. The idea of Vyshyvanka Day was suggested in 2006 by Lesia Voroniuk, a student at a Ukrainian university. The day of celebration was intentionally set on a weekday and not in the weekend to emphasise that the vyshyvanka is "a component of the life and culture of Ukrainians, and not an ancient artifact" (Wikipedia)

It's a day to wear one's Vyshyvanka (embroidered blouse) and represent Ukrainian tradition. I pulled out my vyshyvanka, a store bought one -- someday I will make my own. Could that be why I've been reading so many books on traditional Ukrainian embroidery? Why yes. I decided to wear this with one of my favourite new skirts & masks. 

Maybe next year I'll be wearing a Me Made!

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

A Honey Bloom Butterick Dress

For my latest Spring/Summer Fabricville project, I decided to make a dress. Shocking, I know ;) I found this glorious cotton, Honey Bloom, designed by Laura C Mayer for FIGO Northcott fabric, on the Fabricville website and just couldn't resist. It says it's perfect for quilting, home decor, or children's garments, but I also thought it would be perfect for an adult garment! 

I matched it up with Butterick 6725, as I was looking for a dress with a straight silhouette that would use this fabric well. With a crisp quilting cotton, I always prefer a design that has no gathering or drape. A sleek pattern takes advantage of the qualities of a cotton and so this dress, with panels and a slight A-line skirt, seemed perfect. I made View A with the sleeves from View B.

It was a very easy pattern to put together! There are princess seams in the front, and the centre panel is cut as two pieces as well, because there is supposed to be topstitching along all those seams. However, I didn't use the topstitching in the end -- on my samples, neither the black or green topstitching I tried were visible from more than a few inches away so there was not really a point on this busy print. I wish I would have figured that out before cutting the pieces out, as I would have cut the centre panel on the fold otherwise. But I think it still worked out. Also, I'm relieved that I got the patch pockets placed with the print near to matching as well.

The cutting was the longest and most intimidating part. When I laid the fabric out I realized that the print was both large and regular. I wasn't too worried about matching up the print in the sense of having a flower carry across a seam, necessarily, but I did want to be sure that the pattern was balanced across the whole of the dress and that the clear horizontal repeat was not askew. 

It took a fair bit of placement and moving pattern pieces around, but I got to it in the end. The bust point isn't marked (it's on the seam) so I had to figure that out and be sure a giant flower didn't end there - that was my starting point. Then I basically used the hemline as the plumb line to be sure each piece was sitting on the same plane. It worked well, and the larger flowers are all in line around the whole of the dress, nobody is off balance or drooping, whew! 

The adjustments that I made were mainly my usual ones for a petite person. I cut 14 at the neckline and shoulder, and 16 at bust, grading to 18 at hip. I shortened it by an inch above the waist, and raised the bottom of the neckline slit by an inch. I often raise neckline features, since I am shorter between shoulder and bust. I made View A but used the sleeves from View B. The only change to the sleeve was to cut 14 at the shoulder cap but 16 at the underarm seam. That small adjustment usually works for me. And I added on 2" to the View A hem, as I prefer a slightly longer skirt - my legs are too short to have hems much above my knee, as it makes me a bit uncomfortable! 

This was a fun project, and I really like the silhouette. The fabric is colourful and fun - I love a black floral. It was a pleasure to sew, taking pressing and manipulation well, and it is heavy enough to wear without worrying about see-through. Also, I've worn it twice now, and haven't had any bad creasing to iron out. I'm never one to shy away from using quilting cotton in garments. Just avoid anything fussy or gathered. As long as you remember to use the properties of a fabric to its best effect, you can make nearly anything work for you. 

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Weekend Review: The Art of Ukrainian Embroidery: techniques and technology


The Art of Ukrainian Embroidery / Olena Kulynych-Stakhurska
Lviv: Misioner, c1996.
155 p.

I found this book via Interlibrary Loan - such a privilege to have access to it, as this book is nearly impossible to get one's hands on otherwise. As it is, I was only able to find it at one location in all of Canada. 

That limited access is really too bad, as this is an excellent resource book. The author has an interesting foreword, in which she explains why she thought that travelling around Ukraine to many villages and towns, talking to the remaining experts in embroidery (this was during and just after Ukraine's experience under the Soviet government) was so important. She believes that "the art of embroidery...reflects the spirit of the Ukrainian nation. Popular wisdom filled its work with innermost feelings of the soul, a deep philosophical idea that through symbols imprinted itself on the cloth." 

She also says that there are more than 100 distinct stitches in Ukrainian embroidery but that many of them are being lost to the easier and faster cross-stitch (she's not a fan). She feels that the beauty and soul of Ukrainian embroidery are entangled with these traditions and so doesn't want them to disappear. In the intro, she explains that she has been working on this project for over 25 years, and that the "techniques and technology" of the title are based on her own collections, museum collections, and the  ethnographic work she did with individuals across Ukraine. It's a book intended as a record to aid researchers, and I think it accomplished its aims very successfully.

The book itself is structured stitch by stitch, with a clear diagram of the stitch, followed by the name of the stitch -- often different depending on what part of Ukraine you're in, and those names and variations are all noted as well. Then there are basic instructions on how to complete it - I think that if you are already an embroiderer you'll have much more luck deciphering the instructions, but then I always find written descriptions of stitching harder to figure out that someone just showing me :) There are many clear images of the stitch as worked, too.

There are 155 stitches here, ranging from simple ones like backstitch, running stitch, stem stitch or chain stitch to drawn work stitches (in the style known as Merezhka) There are many variations and unusual techniques included. Interspersed are full page colour plates of examples from her collections; clothing, household linens, both overviews and details. And it's published as a fully bilingual edition, with Ukrainian and English text side-by-side.

The book is thorough and inspiring. It's really a must have if you are interested in the history of Ukrainian stitching. I'll be looking for my own copy, and hope that I will someday come across one! 

Friday, May 13, 2022

Bunting for Ukraine

I took a break from garment making after my last few projects in favour of some home decor of a sort. I had some blue and yellow cotton left over from my recent spurt of mask making, and my husband suggested that I could make bunting to hang on our porch for the summer. I was immediately taken with this idea and measured it out to see if it would work. 

It did! I had just enough to make two small strings of 7 bunting flags each, just the right size to hang in our small porch windows. I also had two packages of wide double fold bias binding in blue -- I always pick up bias binding when I see it at the thrift store, and I was lucky to find enough of just the right colour to easily attach my bunting flags to. 

I estimated the size of the bunting by looking online for examples. I went with a finished size of 7" across the top and a length down the centre of 7.5". This was easy to sketch out, giving myself a 1/2" seam allowance at the top edge and 1/4" on the sides. I sewed two triangles to each other, being sure to take one horizontal stitch at the point as I was turning up to the other side, which usually makes getting a clean point a bit easier. 

I then pinked the edges and turned the bunting inside out, pushing out the point carefully. Once I pressed them the shape was quite nicely triangular. Then I just pinned them 2" apart, between the folds of the bias binding and topstitched along the whole length. Just had to be a little careful that the edges weren't slipping as I sewed, but it wasn't hard at all. 

I am really happy with this bright bunting that is just the right size for the space. I think it's important to not "get tired" of what is happening in Ukraine, and to keep focus and attention on the situation. So having my bunting up will show my support for Ukraine, and keep it from disappearing from public consciousness, I hope. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

My Kyiv Jacket: Jalie Tania in blue and gold

Well, I made it to Round 3 of the Pattern Review Sewing Bee! This is farthest I've ever gone in this challenge, and I'm enjoying it so far. The challenge set was to make the Jalie Tania coatigan, and make it your own. I've made the Tania previously, so didn't have to do much fitting or tracing, which was a definite benefit as the week-long sewing challenge fell on a week in which I was very busy and short of time. 

I ran a number of ideas through as possibilities, until I finally decided on making a lightweight coatigan from some navy and black wool challis in my stash. I was taking Kyiv as my inspiration: it is sometimes known as the City of the Golden Domes, and so instead of the bright yellow and blue of the Ukrainian flag, I went with navy and gold in a nod to both. 

I cut my navy wool, and the gold lining I had in mind. I was planning on doing some embroidery and/or stencilling in gold, but when I was making samples I just couldn't get it right. It all looked too "homemade" and not what I was going for. So I decided to make a change.

 I knew I had some gold-toned fabrics in my stash so got them all out and changed the lower part of the Tania. I decided on some bronzey stretch fabric so had to interface it with lightweight interfacing to keep it from stretching out. Matching up those "V"s meant some fussy hand basting to begin with, something I experienced on my last go-round when I was matching up piping points. This bronzey gold seemed to go nicely with both the navy and the more golden lining. 

But I still didn't think it was enough, it needed a little more design. So I made the interior of the collar also in bronze, to highlight it when the collar is turned down. And more importantly, I decided to make a slashed sleeve, both to show off more gold and as a tribute to the church domes that were my inspiration - the oldest churches in Kyiv were built in 1037 and kept getting added to up to the 1850s and beyond, so that stretch of years includes the European fashion of slashed sleeves and doublets somewhere in there ;) 

 I used a strip of 2.5" wide gold fabric, attached to the sleeve which was split down the middle (it's a symmetrical sleeve) with a 1/4" seam, and then folded back together with edges touching. It's stitched down by about 3" at top and bottom, while the middle is left to open and reveal the gold insert. 

This wasn't too hard to make -- the pattern is quite straightforward. I didn't have many fitting adjustments to make, both because I am a fan of the boxy shape, and because I've made it before. But all the additions and changes did mean I had to start over a bit and think about how to put it all together most efficiently. 

While I don't think this was really out-of-the-box or terribly unique (no real changes to style lines or overall appearance) I enjoyed making it. I was pleased with my inspiration, and was also happy to have been able to once again make the entire project out of stash materials. I knew that gold lining would have a perfect project some day!