Seam Allowance: Travel + Designing a Handmade Wardrobe

Seam Allowance: Update and Invitation Reading Seam Allowance: Travel + Designing a Handmade Wardrobe 8 minutes Next In the Dye Studio: The Modern Natural Dyer Blog Tour

The Verb dye studio is buzzing with excitement in preparation for the upcoming release of The Modern Natural Dyer - and our trip to New York! Adrienne and I will be leaving a week from today. Pretty much the second I completed the purchase of my plane tickets, I started planning what I would wear. So when Slow Fashion October was announced - I thought perfect timing to talk about what I handmade garments I plant to bring to NY! Pictured above is a section of my naturally dyed, handmade wardrobe.

Getting to leave my dye studio, where I am often wearing pretty ratty clothes, is very exciting because I can turn it up a notch and wear beautiful clothing. I made my clothing when I worked at The Textile Museum in DC, to travel in India, and for a trip to Belize. This is a long-time, sometimes, brutal habit, as it can already be a little stressful when planning to travel. That said, it feels great to wear handmade, and to really be able choose one's own fabric and patterns. So I thought I would share some tips and tricks, and relate it to what I am planning on wearing in NY.

1. Consider the Weather

This can be tricky as the weather these days seems so unpredictable. This Summer, I was caught off guard while visiting Minnesota. I looked at the 10-day forecast before leaving, and the weather more or less said it would in the 70s. Nope, it ended up being much hotter and much colder. Being from the Bay Area, where the temperature doesn't fluctuate much, it is a little hard for me to imagine what 40 degrees really feels like, as I sit here in my tank top, knitting on the front stoop. So I am going to dress in layers. I will have everything from a short-sleeved t-shirt to a bulky sweater - which I can also use as a pillow on the plane!

2. Take Inspiration from Your Current Wardrobe

In the shop, I commonly hear customers, when planning a new garment and choosing materials, say "I want to try something different". I say - don't do it. Because in the next breath, the other very commonly heard comment is "I never wear what I make".

When it comes to choosing materials and patterns, especially when making a wardrobe for travel, choose patterns and materials which you know you will wear. While traveling, your clothing can be your secret weapon to feeling comfortable in your new environment.

Look at your outfit right now, consider your most well-loved garments, and choose something similar in material, shape, and color. If you have a lot of cotton jersey, aka t-shirts, in your closet, make a t-shirt for your trip. In the shop, I often talk about Chanin-fying a pattern. This relates to Alabama Chanin's body of work - the act of hand-sewing cotton jersey. You can take any sewing pattern and use this method to make it which results in a beautiful, one-of-a-kind, dare I call it, t-shirt. Quite a step up from my raggedy t-shirt I wear in the studio!

If you want to try something different, like a teal sweater, go and buy it, and see if you really will wear it. Or make a teal cowl or shawl. There is so much time and money spent on this process, I really want to see you wear your finished garment and it be your favorite thing in your closet.

I pretty much wear jeans, t-shirt, and a sweater - or a dress with leggings on a daily basis - and considered this when choosing what to make and to bring. The wardrobe I have designed for NY is a mix of handmade garments and clothing made by local designers. I designed the Prism pattern with a raglan sleeve because that style of sleeve evokes the classic raglan t-shirt. Knowing that I will wear this silhouette, I have chosen to make two pieces using the Prism pattern: a shirt and a dress. For the shirt, I used fabric made from Sally Fox's organic cotton, which I have over-dyed with California-grown indigo. The dress, I made from a cotton double-gauze. The fabric was originally black and white, which I indigo dyed using my California-grown indigo vat. I am also bringing a Nell shirt made from Sally Fox's white organic cotton. I wanted this to look almost like a tuxedo shirt. Very simple. Can't wait to see how long it stays clean! But hey, that's what the dye pot is for, right? I decided to have less gathers and a straight sleeve sans cuff. I think the real feature of this shirt is the collar. So really wanted to simplify all other aspects of the shirt.

3. Choose Simple Patterns

I imagine you might work full time like I do, that sewing and knitting might fit into your down-time. So let's keep it simple. Especially since there is a deadline, the flight departure. Choose a sweater pattern which is fairly straightforward so you can knit a few rows when you are on your daily commute, waiting for xyz. I like to knit in the round. I can try on the sweater as I knit to make sure it fits like I want it to. Before you know it, your sweater will be off the needles, ready to wear! I specifically made two pieces based on the Prism, because it is so darn simple. There aren't very many pattern pieces. Most of the sewn lines are straight. It can be completed in a day. Right now is probably not the best time to sew something really complicated - or use silk you've never worked with before. Go with what you know!

4. If you care about wrinkles, select your fabric with discretion.

I was raised by a woman who cares deeply about wrinkled clothing. While I am more lenient about wrinkles than she, her voice resonates through my head and I can see her point. Linen, one of my favorite fabrics, wrinkles easily. So, it has not been invited on this trip. There is a lot planned for my trip to NY, we will be staying at multiple places. I can imagine I will packing quickly (shoving) clothing into my suitcase. And having to make public appearances, I figure the less wrinkle, the better. So I have chosen fabrics made of cotton and wool.

5. Draw it out!

Sketching and making a diagram of how the pieces you plan to bring fit together can be tremendously helpful. Due to the fact that I have limited space i.e. carry-on suitcase, I go for simple, classic, silhouettes. I chose the Prism pattern because the sleeves are narrow, so they easily fit inside sweater sleeves. Color is a great way to connect garments. My favorite color (and dye) is indigo. So many of my pieces are blue - the big question is - will I look like a big blueberry walking around? Oh well. A blueberry isn't the worst thing I suppose. With that thought, I've thrown in a few neutrals to even things out. So maybe more like blueberry crumble. I must be hungry.


My Handmade NY wardrobe - pending last minute decisions of what won't fit in my suitcase!

Prism Dress.
Pattern by A Verb for Keeping Warm.
Double-gauze from Japan. 100% cotton. Indigo dyed.


Prism Shirt.
Pattern by A Verb for Keeping Warm.
Broadcloth from Japan. 100% Organic Vresis Cotton. Indigo dyed.


{photo coming soon}

Nell Shirt.
Pattern by A Verb for Keeping Warm.
Broadcloth from Japan. 100% Organic Vresis Cotton.

The Wedge.
Pattern by Cocoknits in The Modern Natural Dyer.
A Verb for Keeping Warm Horizon. 100% organic, California merino. Indigo dyed.


Pattern by Cocoknits.
A Verb for Keeping Warm Horizon.
100% Organic, California Merino. Natural brown color.


Francis Sweater.
Pattern by Cocoknits.
A Verb for Keeping Warm Big Sky.
100% Montana Targhee. Dyed with pomegranate.


Do you have any tips or tricks when it comes to making a wardrobe for travel? Do you have a favorite, versatile handmade garment of which you would recommend the pattern?


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Join me on my New York book tour:
Oct 17 - 18 NY Sheep & Wool, Rhinebeck
Oct 19 Textile Arts Center, Mahattan
Oct 21 Haven's Kitchen

Party with me and the Verb crew in Oakland:
Oct 24 - A Verb for Keeping Warm