shirt shortening, round 2

OK, now to the good stuff – stuff for me!

I bought these two linen shirts on sale (a few weeks apart) two, maybe three summers ago. My regular size seemed unusually narrow in the shoulders so I went up a size. Perhaps this is why the sleeves and body are so long. I’m not too fussed about the sleeve length because I usually wear them rolled up anyway. If I do wear them down, it’s to keep the sun off, and when the cuff comes down to my fingers, it keeps the sun off even better!

But the body was much too long:

I didn’t even steal this from my husband.

This was a little trickier than round 1, as I didn’t plan to take the same amount off evenly all the way around. I did the white one first because I wear it less often so I’d be less busted up if I mangled it. Bonus: the pencil line (2B) showing the new cutting line shows up quite well. I was happy enough with how it turned out, but not so happy that I wanted to trace the hem, which turned out a little too horizontal. Also, strangely, the white shirt was somewhat wider than the navy one. I suspect that the rough flat-felled seams on the white shirt due to insufficient SA may be connected to the width issue.

I wanted to be careful about how much length I took off at the sides because raising my arms will raise a boxy shirt more than a fitted one. On the other hand, I wanted to get a nice diagonal line from the higher sides to the lower front and back. A horizontal hem is not so flattering on me. I think the post-alteration navy shirt is about the best I could hope for.

Now it at least looks like this is actually my shirt.

I’m pleased to have managed to convert these two shirts from mere cover-ups for hot and sunny weather into items that I can wear in their own right. This provides some relief to my overworked and underfilled wardrobe, and makes me almost feel like I have new clothes.

More shortened shirts.

(I am fully aware that my photos are not going to win any awards.)

how not to use yarn

I am not a knitter but I’ve had a couple of projects using different sorts of yarn. My experience is very limited and quite sporadic, which is probably why I’ve made inappropriate choices and had more failures than successes.

Euroflax, 100% linen, sport weight, 4-ply

Exhibit A: some undyed, greyish linen yarn with a utilitarian, minimalist feeling. I’m a sucker for linen and bought this without a purpose in mind. I had a medieval clothing project and, thinking the yarn looked handspun, decided to separate the plies and use it as sewing thread.

The lesson: Don’t. Having never handspun thread, my idea of the appearance of handspun thread was not helpful, in the same way that some costume designer’s idea of the look of medieval clothing is not necessarily useful for building actual medieval clothing. The resulting thread was nowhere near strong enough and I had to restitch everything (I chose to use cotton quilting thread the second time around).

Briggs & Little Sport, 100% pure wool, 1-ply in "red heather" (orangey-red), "bleached white" (ivory) and "seafoam" (heathered slatey-green). Not quite so yellow in real life.

Exhibit B: some nicely coordinating sport-weight, 1-ply wool. I had tried my hand at tablet-weaving on a short length of crochet cotton, which worked well and inspired me to make another piece. I wanted a long woollen belt, which would be more appropriate for medieval Europe than cotton. I worked out a pattern, cut the yarn into 4m lengths, threaded it all up, and began to try to weave, at which point it fought back vigorously. (Actually, it probably started fighting back at the threading stage or earlier.) I left it for years, because what can you do with a pile of cut yarn? I couldn’t imagine anyone wanting it, and I wasn’t going to throw it out because waste like that drives me nuts. So it sat in the basement, quietly mocking me.

The lessons: The texture of the wool is grabby, so it didn’t want to do anything but tangle. If one strand can tangle by itself by simply being dropped on the floor, imagine what mischief 100 or so strands can do. This suggests some kind of a “one-strand tangle test” before blithely cutting yarn for the entire project.

The wool is single ply, which I suspect makes it want to ply with (i.e. twist around) its neighbours. The different colours are all the same brand and type, but the off-white seemed to have a little more stretch than the other colours, which made it impossible to keep even tension.

The colours, although beautiful, are warm rather than cool and so they don’t even really suit me.

The other day, some of the folks from dance got together to discuss tassel belts and make some tassels. Aha! Tassels would be a good way to use pre-cut (i.e. otherwise useless) yarn, and if I don’t want to use what I make, someone else may be able to put the tassels to good use. I’ve finally disassemblemd the failed weaving project, which turns a UFO into materials, and that pleases me. It happens that I have another skein of the same yarn in a colour (mulberry) that works with a current project. My aversion to waste sometimes gets in the way of necessary experimentation, but I can use the pre-cut yarn to work out the kinks (so to speak) and still feel like I’m ahead of the game.

DMC Tapestry Wool, 100% pure virgin wool, 4-ply

Exhibit C: black tapestry wool. I was looking for some yarn to repair a thin spot on the elbow of a black sweater, so I went to the yarn shop and asked for advice. I wanted cotton because the sweater is cotton-like (secondhand, no label), but the cotton yarn available was rather thin. The clerk suggested wool because it was a better weight. My careful stitching on the elbow has become a felt patch. It’s not terrible, but it’s certainly not what I was going for!

The lesson: even a little bit of wool needs to be laundered in a wool-appropriate manner. Better yet, use the same fibre to patch – which is what I intended to do in the first place. In other words, trust my instincts.

bread bags

Dusting out the drafts folder today. I knew I hadn’t posted in a while, but yikes – 3 months! Christmastime, prepping for a trip, going on the trip, tediously blogging about the trip, etc etc etc, all of this prevented me from posting here. So without further ado…

Having seen this project on the website, I thought I’d give it a try for Christmas. The idea is that a linen bag regulates the humidity of the bread inside more effectively than paper or plastic. I haven’t actually made myself one yet, so I don’t know for sure how well they work. I suppose if they don’t work, you could always just put shoes in them!

bread bag 1

Bag finished dimensions 11″ x 17″, side fold, french seams, medium weight sky-blue linen. Drawstring made using 18mm tape maker, light weight orange linen.

bread bag 2

Bag finished dimensions 10″ x 16″, bottom fold, french seams, medium unbleached linen (rough texture). Drawstring made using 18mm tape maker, muslin (cotton).

Ideally I suppose the dimensions of the bag would depend on the size of the bread you want to put in it. So far, I’m just letting the dimensions of the scraps dictate the final size and whether the fold (if applicable) is on the bottom or side. Likewise, I’m not fussy about the length of the drawstring as long as it’s at least about 8″/20cm longer than the casing.

blue drawstring trousers

OK, so trousers haven’t been going super well for me. If you’re keeping count, you’ll know that I have one grey pair (too loose), one purple pair (too tight), and a stripey pair (too not done – though not actually abandoned). I figured the next project should be simple (in the sense of fewer variables) and practical for summer (because it was summer when I started).

I’ve been thinking that I want to be able to make all my own trousers, and I think I’ve finally deeply accepted the fact that (a) trousers that fit me cannot be bought off the rack, and (b) altering store-bought clothes is a pain in the ass (no pun intended). A corollary to the principle of “make my own” is “don’t buy any”. This part I have down. The making-my-own still requires some work though. As a result, I currently have 3 pairs of summer-only trousers and they’re all wearing out – in my world, that means not worth patching again. I do get my money’s worth, anyway.

Linen drawstring trousers/pants seemed to fit the bill as they’re super comfy but dressy enough for work (unlike my mostly worn-out cargo pants with the plaid patches). And I’ve got linen in the stash. I’ve got an existing pair (soon to be retired) that made a good reference and starting point.

Old on the left, new on the right. The length is very similar, but the crotch curves are different. I believe that the old pair is supposed to sit below my natural waist. The new pair actually does.
Another comparison.

The first – and most time-consuming – step was to develop my regular trouser pattern into a version that will work for drawstring trousers, which involved a muslin and numerous fittings. I got it working, cut my good fabric, and had even more fittings.

This is the fabric I used for this project: 5.3 oz linen in "blue bonnet" (IL019) from

Still trying not to get bored and frustrated with fitting, but at least the crotch curve ended up not needing any adjustment – win! Once I got it working the way I wanted, it was time to figure out a seam finish. I was not going to disassemble it and start again to facilitate French seams, no matter how much I may like them. I chose to flat fell, and when I was done they looked better inside out, so that’s how I finished them.

CB: note the angle of the grain.
Drawstring at CF.
Seam finishing at cuff. Right side at top of photo, wrong side below. Slight wonkiness to right of seam is from hang-drying.
The waist at front isn't worth seeing (fabric ends up a bit bulky), though it's not bad from the back. They're freshly washed but not ironed, hence the wrinkly lower leg.

I have fabric for more, but September 1 has come and gone and it’s now fall. Although I’ve cut one more pair I’m not counting on being able to wear them this year – not at the rate I sew, anyway.

stash: -1.5m

a little history: medieval clothing

As I mentioned previously, much of the sewing I have done up to this point has been medieval. Please note that medieval doesn’t necessarily mean complicated – this ain’t no Tudor or Elizabethan wardrobe.

10th c Norse

This is a Norse (a.k.a. “Viking”) outfit. I think this can be remarkably modern looking, if you skip the jewelry. Actually, if you skip the undertunic, it’s practically a sundress.

I made all the textile items: lilac tunic with two apron dresses over top. All three pieces are linen. I bought the tortoise brooches (named for the shape, not the material) do up the straps. There’s a festoon of beads (with a couple metal pendants added on) suspended between the brooches. One friend of mine made the festoon in exchange for sewing; another friend made the metal pendants in exchange for money.

back view

Here’s a close-up of the festoon and pendants. All handmade, folks! (Just not by me.)

festoon and pendants
10th c Norse(ish)

I made my husband’s white linen undertunic, navy wool overtunic, linen trousers, and leg wraps (a.k.a. winingas, wickelbinder).

“Does this tunic make me look fat?” The overtunic is rather bigger than it needs to be: I copied the dimensions from an earlier tunic I had made, but this fabric drapes a lot more than the other. And I couldn’t be arsed to fix it.

back view

So, for those who were curious, this is the type of stuff I spent my time on before I decided that if I’m going to make something, I want to be able to wear it more than a few times a year.

red linen skirt progress

I’m pleased to report that the red linen skirt project is proceeding nicely.

I last made one in 2008, and I seem to recall thinking at that time that I wouldn’t want to make more than one per year because of the labour involved. I doubt it’s gotten any easier in the interim, but somehow it seems like much less of a chore this time around.

Perhaps that’s because I spent as much time dicking around with the fit on a couple of recent and theoretically straightforward projects (the purple trousers, and an earlier iteration of that same project) as it takes to construct a whole pleated skirt.

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