silk, a guilty pleasure.....

I've been making silk t-shirts lately after I was introduced to silk knit sometime last year.  If you don't know, silk makes a wonderful and sturdy knit that withstands regular old washing and drying, perfect for glorious t-shirts.

You may have noticed that I pretty much just wear t's and jeans most of the time.  I will occasionally throw in a button down shirt but not very often.  Mostly because I haven't had time to sew them lately and I'm a bit bored with my current selection.

Silk knits very in price considerably from around $12 way up to over $80.  The standard set of colors can be had from many sites including ebay.  You'll recognize the color chart as you shop around and really you'll find there's very little choice when it comes to sources.  What I've found so far is that generally speaking the higher the price the heavier the silk knit.  Obviously if you see the same color chart like the one on the right but the prices very likely it's the same fabric being sold for different prices.

One of my newest and relatively undiscovered sources for silk knits is  The good: The site is flashy, well done, and easy to order from.  The design wall doesn't work when trying to add things to your cart so watch for that.  If you google silk knits you might not find this site, I'm unsure how I found them, they are really well hidden which is not good for online commerce!
They have hundreds of knits to pick from and the prices are the best I've found online with free shipping over $75.  Now the bad:  On my first order my fabrics were cut really sloppily, all crooked and uneven.  Not something I expected and caused me to not have enough fabric for a few of the shirts.  My second order took forever to be shipped, why?  because they never filled it.  Finally I emailed and they eventually got my order out but it took around three weeks..  Also not good.  I am happy to report that the cuts were very even and even a bit on the generous side which was appreciated after the first set were some were even a bit short.  So order with a grain of salt.  The website give the appearance of a highly polished and professional outfit however I have not found that to be the case so far.  For the price I'll continue to order and keep my fingers crossed.

Silk is not guilt free!  Lots of moths are killed in the making of silk, often being produced using child and slave labor.  While it's not as awful on the environment as rayon, see posting, it does carry with it a whole different type of blood, sweat, tears, and...  death?  Anyway, obviously I'm still wearing it but I do so without choosing to be naive to where it comes from.  There is an "cleaner" option I found but it'll cost you.  sells what she calls Peace Silk.  This is silk which is spun from the cocoon after the moth has emerged.  It is grown and processed without the human rights issues that most other silks carry.  Check out the site for more information.  I've never done any business with them but the entire site is a very interesting read.

My current t-shirt pattern is a bit different than the one I was using previously.  I used the jacket pattern from Wild Ginger and simply modified it to include a V neck and no front closure.  I like this pattern because it has a lot of shaping in the seams which allow a form fitting shirt yet not be skin tight.  You would almost never see this in RTW because of the highly personalized fit.  Notice there is even a seam down the back of the shirt which is the left side of the green pattern piece.  Something that is a little weird with this pattern is that it flares out too much at the hips on the back (green) pattern.  This was before I knew how to use the Pattern Editor so I just cut it down after it was printed.  I can make a T out of exactly 1 meter of fabric which includes shrinkage.

Here's the video where I talk about all this in a bit more detail:

I was just reading over at F-I...  People ask me almost every day if I don't just love Project Runway, my answer is that I've never been able to sit through an entire episode.  Disappointed looks usually follow.  Kathleen has ranted up a storm about Project Runway and her thoughts mirror mine so completely that I wouldn't even try to explain it better myself.  Read her posting here.

tribulations of jeans

Using Wild Ginger I thought the button down shirt project was difficult, that was a cake walk compared to the current jeans project.

My standard draft using my actual measurements looks like this photo on the left:

Those don't look quite right do they?  It took me quite some time manipulating the numbers to get a draft that looked right on paper, then 15 muslins later I had a wearable pair pictured here at right.

My next goal was to manipulate the side seam to create a perfectly straight line and have all the shaping done only in the inseam.  This simply could not be done using the any of the standard setting in the Wild Ginger software and necessitated the learning of the pattern editor feature of the program.  Why go through the trouble of changing the side seam?  Three reasons really.  First, almost all RTW jeans I've encountered have a straight outside leg seam.  Likely for manufacturers it's a cost and time saving measure.  If it saves them time and money maybe it will for me as well?  Second, I wanted to see if the fit was altered by moving the seams out creating a less knock kneed look.  I happen to be a little knock kneed and find jeans that taper from the hip and crotch toward the knee and ankle amplify that look.  Third, I picked up some selvage denim in NYC, in order to create jeans that incorporate the selvage in the outside leg seam I need a perfectly straight seam to work with.

As a side note, I have never seen any sewing pattern for home use that utilized a straight outside leg seam.  After cutting three pairs of jeans I can absolutely say it saves time and fabric.  The straight seam allows you to place front and back leg along the same cut.  I flipped one pattern piece so it was cut ankle to waist as you can see here shown on 60" wide denim.  Most of what I use is closer to 72" wide so the flipping isn't really necessary.  What's not shown is the waist, pockets, belt loops or facings.

Here's my progression of patterns in my first attempts using the pattern editor features.  The pattern editor for those who don't use Wild Ginger is a basic cad program that allows you to move lines and curves around the screen.  It's really quite easy to use if you're willing to invest a few hours learning the software.

#1 is the pair of jeans you see up on the right.
#2 I straightened the leg seam but failed to reduce the crotch extension to compensate for the extra fabric in the hips I was creating.  I also figured out how to move the fly extension to be cut on instead of a separate piece which is what I prefer.
#3 I reduced crotch extension and also modified the yoke to avoid having a peak at the hips.

The next pair I plan to make a little wider in the thigh and possibly straight leg from the knee down.  I may also increase the center back seam length just a touch.  All in all I'm really happy with the results.  I did a video showing each pair of jeans, actually 4 in all.  There was a first attempt that I didn't save the pattern from.  They ended up being very very skinny in the legs.

In making these test pairs I went ahead and experimented with some different techniques and finishes.  I bought myself a used embroidery machine for Christmas and I've been fully immersed in the learning curve of that piece of equipment.  Speaking of equipment...
 I picked up a wide format printer on craigslist for $100!  It's an HP DesignJet from 1997 which seems really old right?  This allows me to print my patterns without all the gluing together of letter size paper I was doing before.  Saves me some good time and somehow feels very professional.  I made a paper roll holder using PVC pipe.  Both these machines live in the fabric room and I connect them using a 50' active USB cable.

You can preview some of the projects at the picasa gallery but I'll be talking about them soon here as well.

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