Patchwork Weekend

This weekend I got into a serious patchwork frenzy. I recently organized my fabric stash and leftovers, and this made me want to play with all these tiny pieces that are useless on their own, but that I couldn’t bare to throw away. I started out with some little patchwork pieces that later became little drawstring bags, and then went on to make a bigger piece for a pillow case. I made use of even the tiniest piece of fabric! I also used up some leftover sleeves from vintage shirts, and it is incredible how much fabric comes out of a shirt sleeve when you cut it open! Cutting and arranging the pieces, sewing everything together was a lot of fun and actually felt more like a creative practice than anything else I have made in the last months. Maybe that’s why I can’t stop!

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small patchwork bags that just need strings now…
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Patchwork pillow in good company

While doing that I binge-listened to all the Have Company Podcasts, instead of watching/listening to random TV-shows as I usually do. In the podcast episodes Marlee of Have Company interviews resident artists and friends about their art, practices, how it is to be a small business owner and other things. It’s great! At the end she always asks people what they are excited about and I just wanted to write what I am excited about at the moment: A few days ago I received a little package from Little Red Tarot, including the Herbal Homestead Journal, a queer Tarot book called She Is Sitting in the Night and the beautiful Moon Angel Cards by Rebekah Erev. I am so excited about all these little things! The Herbal Homestead Journal includes simple and accessible ways of working with plants for every month and I am already looking forward of going back to this book over the course of this year.

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The first card that I drew from the Moon Angel Cards is Nr. 5 Go!

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I am also excited about this Coldcream from Weleda that I bought because I have these red dry spots in my face from the cold and it smells so good (and helps)!

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Beach tee made from leftover cotton and linen

I also made two patchwork t-shirts in my Patchwork Weekend, and reused some shirt sleeves, random leftovers from other projects and small pieces of fabric from my collection. I was inspired by this woven Geodesic Top and these Wabi Sabi tees, and again, just piecing the squares together was so satisfying. I cut 30×30 cm squares from the fabric, pieced it together and then cut out the neckline, easy! I will probably make more for summer (that will come at some point… we just have to stay optimistic).

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Patchwork tee made from all recycled silk

Simple Wool Jacket

Some weeks ago I stumbled upon this beautiful charcoal grey boiled wool fabric on sale in the fabric department of my local department store, I bought some and started a truly spontaneous little project. It rarely happens that I buy the fabric and spontaneously sew up a garment in an afternoon, but when time and opportunity come together it’s such a nice feeling! No planning, no overthinking.

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I drafted the pattern for this kimono-sleeved cropped Jacket last year and haven’t come around to test it before. The boiled wool gives the perfect opportunity for a quick project as the edges don’t need finishing or lining. I used some vintage buttons that I had in my collection – and done!

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A Weekend in Paris

Last weekend I was so lucky as to spend a few days in Paris with my girlfriend and besides enjoying the time together and stuffing us with viennois chocolat and brioche I got the chance to dive in the magical world of Paris fabric shops and find some new treasures and supplies.

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The first stop was La Bien Aimée, a tiny wool shop that sells hand-dyed yarn and an exquisite choice of magazines. I couldn’t resist buying the Stitching Up Paris guidebook of sewing and knitting stores in Paris, it’s a really great and updated overview and very tempting.

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The area around the Marché St. Pierre is definitely my favorite! It is situated on the quiet side of the Sacre Coeur and there is a beautiful café in the old market hall.

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I got a flashy blue Field Bag at La Bien Aimée! I currently hosts my almost finished No Frills Sweater. I found some beautiful leather pieces at Sacrés Coupons, some lingerie elastic at Tissus Reine and fabric at Dreyfuss. I can’t wait to sew some mini pouches and finally make a Watson Bra. The shops are all in Montmartre, it’s really nice! You can’t miss anything…

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Beautiful vintage buttons from La Bien Aimée.

And last but not least… The feminist bookshop! I went to the queer feminist bookshop ChickLit in Vienna and since then I am constantly on the hunt for more of these amazing places. Berlin doesn’t have a feminist or queer bookshop (shocking! I know! I should open one…), so every time I am in another city I try to find one. Violette and Co is a great little shop with an exhaustive french-international selection of books (no English books sadly…) on all things feminism. I got a great book on lesbian separatist communes in the US (so hard to find books on that in Germany!), two issues of revue WellWellWell, an excellent and entirely volunteer-run lesbian magazine and two issues of the Barbi(e)turix fanzine. On Saturday evening we went to the Wet For Me (organized by the Barbi(e)turix team), and that was hands-down the best lesbian party I have ever been to. What a successful weekend!

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Guest Post: How a piece of clothing changed my life

Exciting times! This is the first time someone else than me is writing on my blog! Eve asked me to write about her favorite jacket, so here we go:

Really honored to be a guest writer, thank you Clara, for giving me the chance to write about my best clothes experience of 2016!

For years I was looking for a jean jacket, but couldn’t find THE ONE. Too big, too short, the blue is too dark, the fabric is not nice, it is too expensive… As you can see, I was picky, but one day the perfect jean jacket crossed my way and since then we are inseparable.

Helsinki, July 2016. On an empty street, shortly before catching the ferry, stood a second hand shop. This is where I fell for what became MY jean jacket.

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One day wearing it and I wondered what I did all these years without it. I discovered the joy – yes the joy – of stuffing my money and my Opinel in the front-right pocket, and my keys in the front-left one. I can even put my smartphone in the pocket inside and still use my side pockets to put my hands when I don’t know what to do with them.

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All of that and still looking stylish!

This is truly a revolution for me, a woman who grew up in a society where fashion is constantly disabling women. Countless pants and jackets without pockets (or worst: with fake ones), sweaters too short and too thin so that women can be cute, but cold the whole Winter. Shoes not made for walking and so on.

BUT time of carrying wallet and keys in a bag is O-V-E-R! I feel independent and free in public space by simply having everything I need at hand. The fear of pick-pocket in the subway is also over. If I have to run for my life, I don’t have to worry for my bag anymore.

AND I slowly learn to take the strict necessary: money-keys-phone, the three winners in a good old jean jacket!

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all photos by Eve Jégou

Slow Fashion October: A Refashioned Skirt

As I was writing in my post for the second week of Slow Fashion October, my main source of great vintage fabrics are full, midi to maxi length vintage skirts. Last year I got some great ones in the sale of my local second hand shop.

If you want to try this yourself, my recommendation is to go for long and full skirts, the fuller, the better. Pay close attention to the seams, the less seams the skirt has the better. Go for the ones that have a seam in the center back for the zipper and side seams. Skirts that have multiple panels or set in parts are not as suitable for refashioning.

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I found this big skirt for 1€ in the sales, I didn’t want to wear it like that, but could well imagine it as a sleeveless summer shirt. It just had seams at the sides and the center back, and when I cut off the waistband I was happy to see the fabric opened up to a perfect rectangle:

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I made a sleeveless Grainline Studio Archer Button-Up with a mandarin collar from the fabric, and even had some left over! I followed the excellent tutorials for the mandarin collar and the sleeveless version, and it worked out perfectly. I made this shirt for my girlfriend, thanks for modeling, Eve!

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Project Summary:

Pattern (Grainline Studio Archer Button-Up): In my stash
Fabric (Vintage Skirt): 1€
Buttons: In my stash

Total: 1€

 

Slow Fashion October: Introductions

Last year I read and followed the articles and publications surrounding Slow Fashion October and this year I will participate! I plan on following Karen Templer’s outline and have some things planned for each week. This is also a little commitment for me to get back to writing after a long summer break and a move, and also a commitment to write and post more. So here we go! This weeks theme is „introductions“, so I will start right away introducing myself. I never really did that here and just recently updated my about page, so it’s time.

I am a general DIY enthusiast and all crafts related to fiber interest me a lot. I am mainly sewing and knitting and started to do so more than ten years ago. In the „day job“ part of my life i am writing my master thesis in Gender Studies and working at Humboldt University here in Berlin. I make time for sewing and knitting here and there, and as making things is very important to me this works quite well.

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I moved to a new shared flat some weeks ago and my new room is finally big enough for a designated sewing corner! These are my sewing machines, a brother serger and an elna, plus a tiny part of my tools and some partly finished knitting projects.

As you can read in my post about my first sweater, what brought me to making my own clothes (and what is still my main motivation), is a passion for making and the challenge to make something that I couldn’t afford otherwise. Especially being a student with a part-time job, this is a very important point for me. This also means that I can’t afford nice fabrics from Japan, beautiful French yarn or all the nice project bags and notions out there. The consequence for me is working with what I’ve got: Buying affordable (but not necessarily traceable or ethically produced) fabric and yarn from natural materials most of the times and sometimes getting something fancy. I think it over and over before I buy a sewing or knitting pattern, and if I am sure I will use it over and over, I buy one. With patterns, I prefer indie ones over Burda, so there is the added bonus of supporting small (mostly) women-owned and run businesses. For the last week of SFO, I have a list of my favorite stores and resources planned.

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Slow fashion means for me being able to control at least one part of the clothes production process: the sewing or knitting. But it also means to me not having to rely on trends and what is deemed fashionable for the season. Another VERY important part for me is that when I make my own clothes I also don’t have to follow the norms of the fashion industry on feminine clothing or clothes for women. Before I made my first Archer shirt for example, I was wearing ill-fitting men’s shirts, because women’s shirts always have some silly ruffles or extra darts or are simply too short to be warm enough.

My most important points or goals with regards to slow fashion, conscious clothing or an ethical wardrobe are the following:

  • Make as many clothes for myself as I can.
  • Buy second hand clothing.
  • Repair as much as I can.
  • Refashion things that I don’t want anymore or refashion second hand clothes.
  • Give away things that I don’t wear anymore.
  • Accept clothes from people, if they don’t want them anymore.
  • Buy ethically when possible and if not, buy something exciting!

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DIY Shoe Wax

 

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freshly polished shoes

The other day I bought beautiful handmade new leather shoes from The White Ribbon, a small indie company with a shop in Berlin. The shoes are all handmade in Budapest and the leather and fabrics are sourced from overproduction in the fashion industry and vintage garments. And the best of it is, that they are totally affordable! Shoes are the hardest part of an ethical (but affordable…) wardrobe, I think, so that’s an extra plus. However, leather shoes are high-maintenance and not suitable for all-year-all-weather walking around… One thing the shopkeeper recommended was treating them once a month with bee’s wax. This in mind, I wanted to try making my own shoe wax – of course! And it’s actually very easy and you might have all the ingredients already in your kitchen.

Ingredients:

1 part bee’s wax
1 part oil (for example olive oil, almond oil…)
1/2 part coconut oil or shea butter
essential oils for a nice smell (I used lemon grass)

Put everything except the essential oil in a small bowl and melt over water. When everything is melted you can add the essential oil and pour everything into small lidded containers. Done!

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Now you just need to polish your shoes with your new wax (that you could also use as a lip balm, by the way…).

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before and after: the shoe on the right is waxed, it really makes a difference!

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DIY Period Panties

Update! You can find a review no on how these held up.

A recent bloody disaster in the office, produced by a leaking menstrual cup, brought my thoughts back to period underwear. Not the one that every woman (or bleeding person, for that matter) supposedly has, in opposition, I guess, to sexy underwear or something. I do not own special period underwear, it all looks more or less the same and my washing machine works fine enough to clean the blood stains. However, after said morning in the office the need for some more protection entered my mind.

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There are several commercially available products out there that made the news in the last years. First and probably most famous the Thinx underwear line, that is supposed to absorb up to one tampon’s worth of blood. Sadly, they do not have resellers in Europe, and after some horrible experiences with shipping fees, picking up packages at the customs control and paying the German VAT on top, I am reluctant to order things from the US. Also, in general, I love a good experimental DIY approach to things, and in this spirit I started my own period underwear project. If you are interested, there are several other DIY period ideas, such as handmade menstrual pads and crocheted tampons…

This sewing project is not really suitable for total beginners, but can be easily adapted for less experienced sewists. What you need is a dark stretchy jersey fabric with matching thread, preferrably with a four way stretch, underwear elastic (I used foldable elastic), a sewing machine and a small piece of some sort of absorbent material. For this I used some leftover cotton padding that I had from a quilting project, but hemp and bamboo are supposed to be an even better absorbent. This is a quite basic construction, and with respect to the characteristics of the fabric you might want to use another leak-proof layer. Out of the urgency of the project, I used what I had in my stash.

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Start with your normal underpants pattern. You can trace your favorite pair or use a free pattern, such as the one by MakeBra. Assemble the pieces, but do not attach the elastic around the edges. Try on your almost-finished underwear and measure the length of the crotch lining. This should be a few centimeters longer than a standard crotch lining. Cut the lining pieces from your fabric and the absorbent lining.

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I made one pair with just another layer of cotton jersey and one with a piece of cotton padding, that I quilted to the top fabric layer for safety. Hem the front and back edges of the lining and pin it in place. I sewed the front and back edge to the panties with a zigzag stitch, to keep the seam elastic. For elastic fabrics and especially underwear, using a ballpoint or jersey needle is a good idea, as it does not break the fabric and avoids creating holes. The final step is finishing all the edges with elastic. And done!

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I will continue testing my DIY period underwear, but so far it held up some minor bleeding, and washed out really well in the machine. Tell me how it goes for you and leave me recommendations for DIY period supplies in the comments!

Some Thoughts on Me Made May ’16

When May arrived this year, I was quite excited to participate in Me Made May this year, as this is the first „internet event“ that I chose to participate in, blogging. But how life goes, May was an incredibly full month, I went to two conferences, prepared an academic article for publishing, was sick for a week… So in the end it feels like I wore three real „outfits“ (my pyjamas are handmade, but I didn’t really want to show them off online), and I didn’t have the time to publish anything over here. And additionally I have been working with some friends on a secret project that will be revealed super soon (so excited!).

So in the end, all I did was posting four awkward mirror selfies for Me Made May and looking at all the other posts and articles of people who seem to have much more time to photograph themselves in nice positions and with nice backgrounds! However, the whole thing got me thinking as well: I realized my handmade (and general) summer wardrobe is very limited, and I wore the few summer tops that I made last year so much, that I need a break and some fresh things. With that I went on quite a big fabric shopping trip, and will hopefully fill in some of the gaps that I discovered.

So here are my Me-Made Outfits of May 2016, I am already looking forward to #memadesummer and #memadeeveryday anyway, with less pressure…

I really have to work on my self-portrait skills…

I am wearing, a self drafted boxy top from recycled vintage fabric with my improvised alpaca cardigan, an upcycled vintage silk blouse with handmade summer pants, my flower archer button up, and the grand final: handmade pants, with another self drafted boxy top and my freshly made dark grey bomber jacket. Not too bad!

Alpaca Bouclé Cardigan

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This is one of the few knitted garments that I actually made out of real need, both temperature- and style-wise. I made some nice Archer button-ups and bought some beautiful silk shirts this winter, and the only possibility to wear them so far, was with a long sleeved t-shirt underneath and/or a sweater on top, which is not optimal… So when my favorite yarn shop in Budapest announced its yarn sale, i got this beautiful alpaca bouclé Drops yarn for around 2,30€ the skein (which made the price for the whole jacket less than 15€!), and started improvising.

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The yarn is not for beginners, and knitting it can be confusing at times, as it has these tiny loops that make it look and feel really nice, but these loops can be easily mistaken for stitches and you can’t see at all what kind of stitches you made… However, it is very forgiving, seems and mistakes are not visible at all. I ended up with a basic V-neck shape. These are the measurements and the pattern that I used for a medium size:

Cardigan Pattern

The whole cardigan is knit in stockinette stitch, with 5cm 2×2 rib.

Circumference: 95cm, Length: 52cm, Sleeve length: 47cm

Gauge: 15sts = 10cm on 4,5 needles

Back: 70 sts cast on, 5cm rib, 50 cm in stockinette. Place the middle 24 sts on hold, neck shaping: every 2. row bind off 1×2 and 1×1 sts. Bind of at 52cm from cast on edge.

Front pieces: 34 sts cast on, 5cm rib, after 30cm decrease for the front V-neck: bind off 1 st every 4th row (repeat 10 times). Bind off after 52cm.

Sleeves: 26 sts cast on, 5cm rib. Next row pick up 4 sts evenly distributed in the row. Pick up 2 sts every 6th row, repeat 17 times. Bind off after 47cm.

Finishing: Seam all parts together, pick up stitches around the right and left front and knit 5cm rib for the button band, including buttonholes (k2tog, 1yo for the buttonholes).

 

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It was knit super fast, during the last days of my stay in Budapest, which ended in the buttonholes being on the wrong side… The day of departure was one of the first days of wearing it, and I think I haven’t taken it off since (I have changed the shirts underneath, no worries!). I honestly do not know what I was wearing before I had this magic cardigan. It is chic and basic, adds texture to an outfit and pairs nicely with my patent leather shoes and skinny jeans. I didn’t have the time yet to sew on buttons, and I might just leave it at that for the moment.

 

Project summary:

Pattern: my own
Yarn: 15€