Saturday, July 24, 2010

Alabama-style stitching - part 1

My sewing plans for the weekend include collecting my courage and diving back into the next pants muslin. Shortly after my last post I got new front and back pattern pieces revised with latest best-guess modifications, then decided to set it aside during the workweek with hopes of returning to it refreshed; I'll report back on how that goes once I've sunk my teeth into it.

In the meantime, I finally stopped just looking at my Alabama Stitch and Alabama Studio Style books and decided to use my play time this week to start making something. However, I'm way past my personal-best mark on the current fabric embargo, and hope to keep on going until my eagerly-awaited Portland shopping binge coming up in the fall. Which means no splurging on lovely new organic cotton jersey until then. Old tank tops will have to do for a foundation.

I agree: it's crazy to apply such an extraordinarily labor-intensive process to old tank tops that are showing their age. But it's what I've got, and I'm not going to shop.

Here's where I am with it as of this morning:
[disclaimer: I did not do this all in one day. Steps 1 and 2 happened weeks ago, then I had to get around to shopping for fabric paint, and then I had to get around to getting back to this project. Step 3 and onward happened Wed-Fri this week.]

All I had to do was look at my lap. Which, at the moment this photo was snapped, was clad in my most-favorite so far Amy Butler print (it's a bit faded, as it has been worn and washed many times):

I disrobed, spread the skirt out on the kitchen counter, placed a sheet of tracing paper over it, and did a quickie capture of several motifs with a ball-point pen.

I photocopied my tracings at 200%, and then made another copy of the enlarged leafy one at 78%. This produced almost as many pieces of paper as one of those downloadable PDF garment patterns, but without the helpful line-up points. Tracings on the right, photocopies on the left:

I'm extremely grateful to be able to do this on the multi-function copier-printer in our home office; if I had to go to Kinko's for enlargements it would probably never happen.

After some fiddling, I got the various motif pieces sorted out and taped together.

My top fabric is a blue "Haines Perfect Tank" size Large, a couple years old and purchased at WMart for around $6. I slid two open file folders between the front and back of the T to keep the fabric paint from bleeding through onto the back. Works out nicely, because they are a good width to keep the T spread flat without stretching or wrinkles. Here's how I laid out my stencil motifs for the front:

When the motifs were in place, I tore off a piece of freezer paper and lay it over the whole shebang, plastic side down, and traced the motifs again. I did a super-quickie slapdash job of this, just as I had with the original tracing:

The freezer paper became a stencil in many short sessions throughout most of the day Friday. My current "real work" project is at a tedious and fiddly stage, the kind of thing best done in short sessions with frequent breaks to prevent brain fatigue and stupid errors. Which, coincidentally, is the best way to approach a large stencil design that you realize (too late) could have been simpler, and which is going to be way more time-consuming and tedious to cut than anticipated. So I spent the day alternating between bouts of tedious, mentally numbing computer work, and tedious, mentally numbing stencil cutting:

I used both a craft knife and embroidery scissors on this, and came to the conclusion that there is no way easy to do it. I cannot imagine doing this with template plastic or posterboard. You'd have to be crazy.

Eventually, I got it done.

Next steps coming up, when I get around to posting Part 2...

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