Wednesday, January 9, 2019

A Project with Not Pretty Fabric

I finished my first project of 2019 a few days ago. 2019! It feels so weird to type that. I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and a happy start to the new year. Christmas went by in a blur and the season felt both agonizingly long yet surprisingly short. Anyway, I'm relieved the stress of the holidays is over with and we can focus on getting back to a regular routine and rhythm of life. Except, it still doesn't seem much like winter.

It's been very warm and yesterday we all went out without needing coats - it was sixty degrees! - and had a wonderful time puttering round in the woods and enjoying some fresh air and sunshine. Benjamin and Rose had an impromptu sword fight using sticks as their weapons. Little Rose gave her big brother a run for his money. 😁 I really do need to get back into the SCA. I've been away from it too long.

Anyway, my first project of the year. My sewing machine jammed right before Christmas and no matter how many YouTube videos I looked at and how many careful and frustrating hours I spent with tiny screwdrivers and soft brushes, I could NOT fix it on my own. Eventually defeat was admitted so it currently sits at a Husquvarna dealer/repair shop. In a few more days I will have my beloved machine back and I have a lot I want to sew when that happens.

Meanwhile, I had another, older machine I could use. It belongs to my childrens grandmother and I have been keeping it for her until she needs it again. I pulled it out and fiddled with it enough to sort of fix the tension issues. I was going crazy from not having something to work on. Handsewing has been really painful lately, due to some (hopefully temporary) nerve issues from where I had my IV back in November. I decided I was going to use that older machine to make a simple project to get me by, creatively, until my good machine was repaired.

Since the stitching was still less than ideal I didn't want to use any super nice fabric. I had a long length of a brightly colored, large floral cotton or cotton blend that my kids 4-H group leader gave me awhile ago. It had been in her garage sale and not sold, and had been rained on, so parts of it were holey and spotted when I got it. She wasn't sure if it was salvageable but I was determined to at least try. A few hot washings and dryings later, it seemed ok. The large floral pattern seemed to tell me it wanted to be curtains for the girls room, but then I found some pretty sequiny curtains for them instead, so the fabric still sat unused. It seemed absolutely perfect for a quick project sewn with not-so-great seams. If the project failed, I wouldn't be out anything but some time.

I really don't know exactly what this fabric is. It is lightweight but feels cool, smooth and heavy when lifted. It has a great drape. It feels a little rayony, but certainly isn't all rayon. Maybe it's a blend? I don't know. I do know that any off grain areas stretch out REALLY badly. I learned this the hard way when making a fleece cloak for Anne earlier in December and used this material to line it with. The lining stretched out so bad! So for my project I wanted all simple shapes, that could be tore across the width. I tore out all the pieces for a 4 tiered skirt, with each tier 1.5 x larger than the one above it. This resulted in a hem about 170". Now, a tiered skirt is a simple project but this one drove me insane. It was SO frustrating to gather all the tiers, pin and sew the wiggly fabric with a machine with not-great tension and then remove the gathering stitches - I about gave up. I wondered if the seams between the tiers would be strong enough to hold the weight of the skirt below it. I will probably go back and hand top stitch each seam with a coordinating, strong poly thread. Finally the skirt was done and I finished the waist with a simple elastic band.

I still had a lot of fabric left so I thought well why not make a top? A kaftan top is just a giant rectangle or square with faced slits for the neckline and belt openings, so perfect for this fabric. I quickly sewed the top, but the finished outfit just. . .was not pretty.
Bad quality phone pic!
Pink and purple and turquoise and bright yellow are all very well, but all together in that big print looked a bit too much for my tastes. As a beach cover up? Sure. But I don't want or need clothes like that, especially this time of year. I was about to give up on this again when I thought well, why not try to over dye it? I never know what kind of color I'll end up with when I overdye, but with a project like this it was worth a shot!

Late at night I used a box of color remover and anxiously watched my skirt and top swish in the washing machine for a half hour. Finally the water spun out and I was really pleased with how much color was gone! The large floral motifs and leaves were still yellow and green but so much better than before!

I then dyed the skirt with a full bottle of dark green and half a bottle of brown, and again, anxiously watched and stirred and checked it as it chugged in the washer. The color came out more blue-green than I had imagined, but I loved it! I finally had a pretty tiered skirt! The design of the print still showed through, but subtly and I was very happy with the effect.

The top was dyed with the remaining brown dye and came out exactly as I had hoped. And together, the top and skirt looked natural and nice and definitely more to my tastes than the pink and purple it had previously been!

I had the opportunity to wear my new clothes yesterday and I really liked wearing both pieces. I had pants and a shirt on underneath too, not knowing quite how cold or muddy it would be (it was not cold, but it was definitely muddy!). One nice thing about unfitted garments is that you can layer up as needed and no one will know! I find I'm really preferring these loose styles, which is kind of weird considering now that my babies are growing up I don't need loose fitting clothes for the figure changes that pregnancy and breastfeeding bring (and I am very happy for that! 😂). It is interesting to see how my tastes have changed over the years - growth and change is a good thing! Always forward, always progressing. Life is not static and we should not be, either.



  1. That kaftan is so brilliantly simple - the longer I look at it, the better I like it. Did you use a commercial pattern, or draft it yourself?

    1. Thank you so much! The kaftan truly is just a big rectangle of fabric (as wide as the width of the fabric, and long enough to reach from front to back hip at center front and back; the sides drape down much longer, of course). There is a faced slit that forms the neckline, and faced slits at the waistline for the belt that ties at the back. There is no shaping whatsoever to the kaftan; the body gives it shape when the kaftan is put on. I LOVE these and love how easy they are to make!


Thank you for your lovely thoughts!