Seam Allowance: Travel + Designing a Handmade Wardrobe

Posted by Kristine Vejar on October 08, 2015 10 Comments

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.

Drumroll....

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.

 


Nieve.
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.

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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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Pre-order The Modern Natural Dyer and receive a fun, interactive gift.

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

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Seam Allowance: Update and Invitation

Posted by Kristine Vejar on October 05, 2015 0 Comments


Good god! It has been crazy in the Verb studio. The Modern Natural Dyer comes out October 20th. We leave for NY on the 15th. Nearly every minute is scheduled up until I leave. There is series of exciting new products we are making and are hoping to announce next week. Let's just say this - it is going to make using The Modern Natural Dyer a whole lot easier - so stay tuned!

All of this said, I am going to pause for a moment in book-release land to talk about something very close to my heart and reason of being. Slow Fashion. Every decision I make at Verb, I consider and weigh its social and ecological impact. Exciting news. Karen Templar over at Fringe Association has begun Slow Fashion October. Where each week she poses a series of questions and discusses various themes associated with slow fashion and a handmade wardrobe. It is very exciting to see so many people drawn to this subject and talking about it. 

So here are a few thoughts I have on slow fashion. I consider slow fashion to be clothing and shoes made by anyone and everyone working to create a more fair environment when manufacturing clothing. It can be easy to judge - to think that one person is doing a better job than another - but really, all steps towards a fair(er), more conscious, labor and ecological environment matter. This is a progression. It is alive without easy answers. It is a movement towards the mind's eye.

Four year ago, I started Seam Allowance. I wanted to create a handmade wardrobe. And I took the pledge to wear at least 25% handmade on a daily basis. I think of an outfit as a top, bottom, socks, and shoes. So 25% would be any one of these things. I invited others to join me. We meet the second Sunday of every month to discuss and to show what we have made, are making, and want to make. We share tips and tricks. Ask each others advice. It has been amazing to watch members of the group create and wear handmade. There are members of Seam Allowance who have gone from barely knowing how to sew, don't know how to knit, to making their own dresses and sweaters - which fit. I find it incredibly inspiring and remarkable. Some members now wear 75% on a near daily basis - shoes are that last remaining 25%. That's a pretty tricky one to get around - however, the members of Seam Allowance are so devoted, I imagine that resolving itself in the near future...I have a teacher in mind.

I learned to sew and knit as a child from my Grandmother. She lives in rural Illinois and many of the social activities revolved around these two activities. I was more than happy to sit around a table with my Grandma and her friends, eating homemade coffee cake, learning to stitch and listening to conversations about stitching. It was like having 10 grandmas. Many of them have now passed, including my Grandmother. I think of them on a daily basis. And give them credit to my desire to re-create this scenario in a slightly different fashion here at Verb. Wish they could be at my book party - or at a Seam Allowance meeting!

Things shifted for me quite a bit when I traveled to India. I went there to study Art and Architecture but ended up working with a group of nomadic herders named Rabari, and who add exquisite embroidery to their clothing, and applique to their quilts and camel covers. The Rabari's embroidery and applique takes the form of motifs which symbolize objects, ideas, and attributes which they find powerful and important. They taught me to really look at cloth and clothing. To think what it can communicate and what it does communicate. I went back to California upon completing my semester. And poured all of my waking moments into learning about textiles. Upon very good advice from the director of the Mills Art Museum, I learned to weave instead of taking a job at Christie's Auction House. I worked at a well known, now closed, fabric shop and began making my own wardrobe. I worked at the Textile Museum in Washington DC, documenting their Indian textile collection, relishing in the work for sure, but also wanting to learn about what it is like to look at textiles from a museum / academic perspective; beautiful, important, but I desired a more hands-on, grassroots approach.

I returned to India on a Fulbright grant to continue my work with the Rabari. And I did, but I also poked around - a lot - with the sole of intention of seeing how people made textiles. Looking at everything from large scale manufacturing to cottage industry. Meeting people and hearing their stories. Without getting into the nitty gritty to much, because there is a lot of grit, it changed my life. I decided that I would, for as far into the future as I could see, work in textiles, and work to even out the playing field. If you would like to see a first hand account of what manufacturing textiles looks like, and what people's lives look like who create most of the fabric and clothing available to us, and to see the farmers lives who grow the materials which make our clothing, there is a documentary titled The True Cost. Grab a glass of wine, it is on netflix.

At Verb, we try to teach as many people as possible to knit and sew, with the hope that it might change their lives as it has for those of us who work at Verb. Perhaps they too will see their clothing in a new way and want to create their own wardrobe.

Materials, I am obsessed with materials, makes sense that I would own a yarn and fabric shop. My obsession lies in sourcing materials where I can follow the supply chain. I want to know who is making the materials we offer at Verb and where they are sourcing the fibers. I want to know how socially and ecologically sound the practices are which create these materials. Just like when I was little, sitting around the table with my Grandma and her friends, I like a story. I like to meet people and learn about their journey. I actually enjoy hearing about problems and I like the process of problem-solving. There's a lot of problems and problem-solving when it comes to meeting those who are invested in either growing their own materials like wool and cotton, or sourcing these materials to make yarn or fabric. Witnessing the complexities, as overwhelming as it can be, gives me a larger frame of reference as to why we don't have access to certain materials, such as the dearth of US made fabric, and provides inspiration, motivation, and goals toward which I can work to make that change.

I might dye something with natural indigo extract. I am happy because I know that the indigo came from a plant. I can trace that. But I would like to know who the farmer is. This desire led has led us down a three year path of working towards that goal. I began to work more closely with Rebecca Burgess at Fibershed, who grows indigo, helped to build an indigo composting floor, learned to make a fermentation vat based upon the traditional style of Japanese indigo vats, and now have two at the shop. We also grew indigo this year in the Capay Valley, 90 miles from Verb, and have a patch at the shop for people to see. We have learned that a lot of people don't know where indigo comes from. It's kinda fun to learn that it comes from a plant! People like plants. They are beautiful and provide oxygen! Yay plants!

Two years ago, at Verb, we hired Tasa. She went to school for pattern drafting and helped us to create our own line of sewing patterns. I wanted to create these patterns so we would have a curriculum to teach people how to sew garments - patterns we know in and out, like the back of our hand.

So when it comes to my own Seam Allowance goals - I want to make and wear handmade on a daily basis but I also want to use materials - yarn, fabric, and dye - which I can trace to the best of my ability. And am in the process of doing so. That said, for me, it is as much about supporting others who I feel are doing good work, as it is about not purchasing from those who I disagree with in terms of ethos. So I support other makers and small businesses who are working very hard to create beautiful clothing and shoes - made from natural, consciously sourced materials, in the United States. Feral Childe, See Sun, Ali Golden, Voices of Industry, and Pansy Co are just a few that come to mind. I have a beloved pair of Cobra Rock boots from Marfa, Texas. I have also been following the Palatines for some time. Clogs can be found made in the U.S. - like Sven, No. 6, and SF based Bryr. And to always remember, this is a process. I slip. I fall (ahem, nikes).

This upcoming Sunday at 5:30pm is October's Seam Allowance meeting. I would love it if you joined us.

If you are not local, perhaps you can make your own Seam Allowance group. Let me know if you do, and I will add it to our website to help spread the word.

What does slow fashion mean to you? Are there questions you have about making a handmade wardrobe? Do you make your own clothing? Or have a favorite small label? 

One more quick thing - for a moment we had a Seam Allowance blog - and then life happened, so as of today we are archiving the Seam Allowance blog, which can be accessed here, and creating a new category on the Verb blog named Seam Allowance. Hopefully, this year, we will be able to highlight a few of our Seam Allowance super stars! 

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Coming up: One of the most exciting things about traveling is deciding what to make and to wear.

Pre-order The Modern Natural Dyer and receive a fun, interactive gift.

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

 

 

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Stitch Exchange: Alabama Studio Sewing Patterns - We have a winner!

Posted by Kristine Vejar on June 20, 2015 1 Comment

Thank you for participating by leaving comments on our previous blog post as to how you would modify an Alabama Chanin garment - and for entering our giveaway. It was fun to hear about your progress within the Alabama Chanin genre of work, and to hear about what kinds of changes and alterations you'd like to make. One of the most enticing things about Alabama Chanin is the never-ending ways a garment can be made just through simply changing out color of fabric, paint, or embroidery floss. It makes it all the sweeter that now, by using Natalie's newest book, Alabama Studio Sewing Patterns, I can expand my skills of garment construction and modification.

The winner of the giveaway is Romy. She posted this on June 3rd:

"Thanks for doing this giveaway! I’m obsessed with the Alabama Chanin aesthetic and have been since meeting Natalie at your shop. I would love to draft a long dress – a sleeveless boat neck fitted top grafted to the wrap skirt. Rose stencil traveling diagonally up the wrapped part of the skirt, across the shoulder, and a small bit on the back of the neck. I would call it my Wrapped in Roses dress and I would wear it everywhere and be fabulous. :)"

Yes! Fabulous!

Stay tuned! Natalie is coming to the Bay Area at the end of July - and we have a trunk show in the works! I will post here once I know more!

x!
klv

 

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Stitch Exchange: Alabama Studio Sewing Patterns

Posted by Kristine Vejar on May 27, 2015 54 Comments

Let's create a scenario. You and I are sitting together, enjoying an afternoon cup of tea, and let's say that the topic of sewing comes up (hopefully), one thing is certain, I will begin to enthusiastically discuss the work of Alabama Chanin. And if you are unaware of what Alabama Chanin is, I will begin to describe it to you. Natalie Chanin is the founder. It is a style of sewing: the pieces are made by layering organic cotton jersey, the application of paint in various designs, the stitching - all done by hand - form clothing and home wares. I will most likely pull an in-progress piece of Alabama Chanin inspired work from my bag - or show you samples of clothing, if we are in my shop.

I will struggle internally with how much I can tell you within a time frame in which will keep your interest, as this is a topic I can wax poetic for quite some time. But really, I don't want to spoil it for you, for much of the fun lies in the discovery of Alabama Chanin's past, present, and glimpses into the future as Natalie transverses her path through the US terrain of textiles, fashion, manufacturing, and cultivation of materials in which her clothing is made.

Natalie shares this journey through her blog, The Journal, through story telling when she teaches, and through the publication of a collection of books - all which teach how she makes garments. Natalie's first two books, Alabama Stitch Book and Alabama Studio Style, give a glimpse of what it might be like to live in Natalie's world - the Alabama Chanin lifestyle. There are gorgeous photos of the country side, of beautiful, rustic homes - adorned with hand-stitched home wares, and models wearing garments which are both elegant and wearable. I daydream of sitting in a Alabama Chanin dress, in the sultry south, sipping a (spiked) lemonade - while stitching a new Alabama Chanin dress! 

Natalie's third book, Alabama Studio Sewing and Design, focuses on sewing garments, and there is a strong focus on the myriad of ways an Alabama Chanin garment can be adorned: cloth color, paint color, stencil design, thread color, bead color, etc. The models in this book wear multiple Alabama Chanin pieces at once, giving the reader an idea of what a wardrobe of Alabama Chanin might look like (amazing), and inspires the notion that there are endless opportunities within the Alabama Chanin repertoire to explore surface design.

So, when I heard that Natalie's fourth and newest book, Alabama Studio Sewing Patterns, focuses upon garment construction and pattern modification, it seemed like a natural next step, as Natalie has progressively become more focused upon technique and garment, and I was (am) very excited. That said, when I first opened the book - I felt a pinch of pain - this book is chock full of the nitty gritty of sewing. It is a technical manual (hello slashing and spreading). This is good - this is great - this is ideal - but whoa! I think this would be very hard to write and it takes an extraordinary amount of discipline and focus. Whether it was or wasn't painful for Natalie, I do not know - but I do want to use this space to recognize her work, effort, and diligence. Looking through the book, I feel like I am sitting in the studio, I am a member of the Alabama Chanin production team. And we are designing a custom garment.

As I was dreaming away, thinking of what I would do first with this book, much to my utter surprise, Alabama Chanin contacted me, and asked me what my custom garment would look like - and they offered to make it for me! This was easy, as there are thousands of variations of Alabama Chanin that I would happily accept - and also incredibly hard - which one do I choose?! I am used to helping the customers at verb make these decisions - but when it came to me - I was tongue tied. So I listened to my own advice - choose colors and shapes you know you love.

In terms of color, last year, I dyed a t-shirt with golden flowers of the coreopsis plant and dipped it into a bath of iron water. I love the color - a warm brown that borders on grey. So I decided to go with a similar color with matching paint. Plus, in the back of my mind, I am toying with the idea of overdyeing this dress - this light color will allow me to do that but is beautiful even if I don't decide to dye it.

In terms of shape, I have a black, cotton jersey empire waist dress I adore - which I tend to wear often in the summer. The shape of this dress is similar to the A-Line Dress - one of the new patterns released in the book. So I felt safe to choose this shape and pattern. I also love a v-neck!

I chose the Magdalena stencil pattern as I love how the motif curls and winds it way around itself - like a meandering vine of ivy. Now for the modifications!

Pockets! I adore pockets - lipstick, keys, phone. Enough said. And directions can be found on page 28.

Sleeves. In the Bay Area, I am never too far from the breeze (wind) blowing off the Pacific Ocean - or the damp, chilly, layer of fog rolling in or out. Don't get me wrong, I love living here - it is beautiful - and I love not having to use an air conditioner - but goodness! It can make wearing sleeveless garments challenging. So I requested sleeves on my A-line dress. Even today, taking these photos, though the sun is shining brightly, there was a slight nip in the air, and I was grateful for my sleeves - while giving my legs some sun time. And in the event that it is even more chilly, I can always throw on a pair of leggings. I asked how they made this modification and this is what I was told, "Take the armhole from the casual, fitted top and draw it in place of the armhole in the A-line dress. Then, use the sleeve pattern included in the book." Brilliant! For me, this is the million dollar answer.

So, here's my question to you - say we are still sitting side-by-side, drinking tea, though now you have purchased her newest book, which pattern would you make, and how would you modify it? Leave a comment below, by Wednesday, June 3rd, midnight PST, and you will be entered to win 2 yards of Alabama Chanin medium weight fabric (from our current stock).

My adoration of Natalie as an artist, an entrepreneur, and an activist knows no bounds. And to you, I give gratitude for sharing in this journey!

-- Kristine

 

 

 

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Stitch Exchange: Introducing the Nell Shirt!

Posted by AVFKW Staff on December 29, 2014 0 Comments

Hello everyone, we have a new sewing pattern

 

Nell is a beautiful, softly-shaped shirt with unique collar and cuff details. This shirt draws inspiration from a variety of places. We looked at classic button down shirts, tuxedo shirts, and vintage shirts for both men and women. We wanted an easy-to-wear top that could be made up in many different fabrications for different looks. It was also important to us to design something with some details that would set this shirt apart from other sewing patterns on the market. We love the collar and cuff details we settled on!

The V detail is very flattering and offers a lovely line to the neck and wrist. The collar can be worn standing up or folded down, with very interesting lines created by both wearing options. 

The front panel is another visually interesting element of this shirt, and it's a fun puzzle to sew! It is fully lined so that you can wear the collar folded down and still have a very sleek look. For the cleanest look you will want to line the front panel with the same fabric you are using for the shell of the shirt. For a fun detail you can line the front panel and cuffs with a contrasting fabric -- a perfect time for a little secret Liberty!

We also love how Nell can be sewn from a wide variety of fabrics. Make this shirt up out of a naturally dyed linen, double gauze, or a shirting fabric for a casual look; or make her up out of a silk or silk blend for an elevated, evening look. Nell also works out of a light garment weight wool for a wonderful cold weather layer! 

 

Another perfect fabric option is our handspun, handwoven, organic khadi cloth! The khadi is a great alternative to a shirting fabric for the Nell, it's a little more casual but still has a sophisticated feel. 

Nell is our most advanced pattern thus far, it's a great opportunity to stretch your sewing abilities with some more advanced construction. However, if you are feeling hesitant we will be doing a Nell sew-a-long in the coming months! Stay tuned for more details! 

Nell is available as an immediate download, as well as a printed pattern.

We hope you like this new addition to our pattern line! As a reminder, we have samples of all of our patterns in the full range of sizes sewn up in the store. Please come in and try them on if you are feeling hesitant about what size to make for yourself. 

As always if you have any questions or comments about the patterns please feel free to contact us!

Happy sewing!

-- Tasa

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