I ♥ reupholstery class: layers upon layers


I’m getting closer! By the end of this post, there is actually real fabric on my chair! Well… just the top side of the seat though… but it’s a start. In the picture above from the previous post I had gotten as far as covering the wood-wool seat cushion with another burlap-like fabric.



Here my teacher is showing how to stuff the sides of the chair seat with wood-wool, to help create shape and stability. The fabric on the sides gets stapled to the wool, while the front gets folded and sewn in place.



Next comes the step that makes the seat look all fancy and professional! There are three rounds of a sort of blanket-stitch, which define the edges into those sausage-looking rolls, and keeps the seat from sagging and sliding sidewards. All this work with sewing with twine through tough materials is absolute murder on your hands! I was getting cuts and rugburns on my fingers from pulling on the twine to get it all taut enough.


Look, look! It’s a chair! It is really exciting to get to this point, since you’re really seeing the end product being just a few steps away. The greyish mass is wool shoddy, which basically is shredded wool. There are companies that are sent discarded clothes and fabric, who produce this stuff. It makes a lot of dust. Next time I do this I think I might use a mask for this step, since you have to tear and fluff the shoddy before putting it down. Lots of dust.



Distributing the wool shoddy to create a smooth and even surface is *hard*. I think it’s the most frustrating part of the entire process! The only other thing going over this muslin fabric is the final fabric itself, so any flaws and bumps and dips at this stage, will most certainly still be there with just a thin layer of fabric on top. I think I spent two whole course nights filling and rearranging the shoddy before sewing and stapling the muslin in place. It’s a test of patience, but at the same time you really want to make sure you do this step well!

In the top picture there is a hide of leather being cut – one of my coursemates is recovering his rocking chair with leather, and it’s looking really good. In the bottom picture, to the left, a dining room chair is being recovered. It will have a textured grey fabric for the seat and back, but with a contrasting striped fabric for the outside back of the chair. She has also sanded and re-lacquered the woodwork, so these chairs are looking all modern and in good shape again.



I haven’t shown my fabric before, but here it is! It’s a tweedy and subtle plaid wool blend fabric. In the fabric store I kept gravitating towards the wool-type fabrics and a vision of a British country home library setting. So I went with it. The fabric is soft and just a little hazy, and I really like that there is a subtle pattern to the fabric so it’s not to plain. The seat cover is sewn to the layers underneath with a simple running stitch, with a small inverted pleat tacked in place at the front corners.



The bottom fabric is just pinned in place here, but that’s the next step – to staple down the side fabric to the wood, and sew the bottom to the top. Here I’ve also (finally!) stripped the old red fabric from the chair back, so I can start working on that. Initially I was keeping the old wool shoddy that is in ok shape – it’s not pushed down too much – but it’s actually quite sticky and gross to the touch, so out it goes. That means I’m keeping all the burlap layers and wood-wool and springs underneath, but they’re not as icky. I’m excited to get the last of the seat fabric in place and nail in some decorative nails – it’ll look nearly done! If you don’t look at the seat back of course. But that’s next!

Me-Made-May 2012

It’s getting close to May, and in the sewing/blogging world, that also means Me-Made-May!

I, Birgitte of indigorchid, sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May ’12. I endeavour to wear at least one self-made or refashioned garment or accessory each day I get dressed and go out and about for the duration of May 2012.

Last time around, I said I would probably not participate in another challenge such as Self-Stiched-September or as I am now doing, Me-Made-May. So what has changed? One thing I ended up really enjoying about SSS was how it helped me hone in on something close to “my style” – something I felt comfortable in and excited by. It’s been a rollercoaster of a year since moving from Chicago back to Norway, and I like the thought of MMM reviving my sense of style that seems to have gone a little by the wayside.

My self-designated favorites from SSS’10

However! I don’t want (or need) for this challenge to make me frustrated or unhappy. Last time, things started to feel a little forced and less enjoyable by the end of the month, so in line with Zoe’s call to really challenge ourselves in a way that makes sense to us, these are the parameters I’m setting up for myself:

Lessons learned from last time:

• Only real outfits, worn out and about! I don’t see a point in getting dressed up only to take a photo, if I really spent the day in my pjs reading the newspaper and doing laundry. I need this to reflect the daily life I am leading right now, so no outfit = no picture. And no guilt.
• Which also means I won’t be challenging myself to wear all the self-made things I have, like I did last time. Through doing SSS I actually discovered some clothes I didn’t really care for any more, and it’s totally fine if that happens again. I just won’t make myself wear the potentially offending clothes this time.
• I’ll be doing weekly MMM updates. I did every four days last time, and that was too often for me.

What’s the same:

• The challenge for me lies not in incorporating a self-made or refashioned garment, but to incorporate it in my style, but my one rule will still be at least one self-made or refashioned garment or accessory every day.

I made a pie-chart last time to look at what I had worn during SSS’10. I’m already scheming for this years pie-chart!

This year’s challenges:

• My work has a dress code, which feels limiting. In all honesty, it’s nothing worse than “dress neutral and neat and nice, and no shoes”, but it caps how creative I can get with what I wear to work, which is where I go most days. And the no shoes? It’s a bridalshop, meaning we have to keep the floors super-clean, so shoes become part of my outfit only on my way to and from work.
• Between doing a major culling when we left Chicago last summer and the subsequent road-trip/transatlantic-move/unemployment/settling-in-trickery, I’ve had no energy/interest/money for making or buying clothes. Which means, I’m a quite underwhelmed with the state of my wardrobe at the moment, and I’m a little unsure how I will find outfits I’m happy with! But… that’s the point, right? That there is a challenge!

So there it is, let May start! Actually, let it start in a week or so – I have a pile of unfinished stuff that could use some finishing. I’m looking at you Beignet skirt and Minoru jacket. And Marie skirt. And… oh, let’s just leave it at “pile of”, ok?

Amanda fra Haugesund

The premiere has come and gone – who wants to see what I’ve been working on for the last two months?

© Harald Nordbakken/Haugesund Teater (2011)

Costumes, costumes, and more costumes! Haugesund Teater put on a newly written musical, called “Den (halv)sanne musikalen om Amanda fra Haugesund”. Dealing with story of a woman in the 1920s who is bootlegging to provide for her family, as well as a story of a contemporary woman, this show has close to 60 people on stage! Several of them have lots of costume changes too, so the costume count was very, very, high.

© Harald Nordbakken/Haugesund Teater (2011)

I worked mostly with the costumes for the “grey people” – see those folks in the background? I patterned the sailor pants and shirts which were needed in different sizes, and had some help cutting and sewing them. We ended up needing almost 50 sets, and all I could see when I closed my eyes, was pant construction! It really was a lot of work, but they looked great on stage, and that is always such a reward in working with costumes.

© Harald Nordbakken/Haugesund Teater (2011)

I had a lot of other sewing tasks too – we needed to make 10 different girls’ dresses, and of course there were the clothes for the lead actors; coats, dresses, skirts, and blouses. I certainly didn’t do it all of it – and that’s the interesting thing about costumes; often you have a part in some stage of construction for a lot of different clothes, so instead of just some costumes feeling like they are “yours”, they all feel like they are!

There are some costumes I worked on that I can’t find any pictures of at the moment – in the meanwhile, see more of Haugesund Teater’s pictures here. Janne Robberstad was the costume designer for the show, and she also has some pictures here.

the object of my attention

I thought I’d share the project that is responsible for my relative radio-silence, and is taking up most of my attention at the moment! The cap-stone class in my fashion design degree is the senior collection. Two semesters are spent designing, developing, prototyping, producing, and promoting a collection.

The starting point for my designs was a “bunadsliv”, a part of the Norwegian national costume, that my mom and I found in our attic a couple of summers ago. The national costumes I’ve grown up with as ‘special occasion dress’ is quite clear in the silhouettes of the outfits I’ve designed, with a touch of the Victorian era for some nostalgia.

Design journal pages

The connection to past generations not only through these special garments, but also through hand-work, has become more and more important to me lately. And because of that, I’m planning on incorporating knitting, embroidery, leather work, and silk-screen printing into this project.

Technique samples, color stories, design journal pages.

The start of this project came about in a class prior to the senior collection was begun, so the designs have changed a bit since then. Especially the color palette has been updated, with some magenta and green-brown-yellows in addition to the more “vintage” look of dusty grey-blues, charcoal, and parchment colors. I’m really excited to see how this comes together in the next handful (hmm.. a big handful) of months, and I’m especially excited to start making all of these things. I’ll make sure to keep sharing little snippets of my work as they happen!

self-stitched-september: round-up & break-down

Phew! I made it! A whole month with a self-made garment every single day. Actually, there were two days that were unsuccessful; one spent in biking gear, and another in lounge clothes as I didn’t leave the house (a third day is not photographed because I left my self-made jacket at work before documenting the outfit).

Favorite outfits:
There were quite a few outfits this month that I wouldn’t have come up with if I wasn’t challenging myself in the SSS way. I was really happy with some of them, and I will say that days 13, 16, 21, and 29 were my favorites (see pictures below). 1, 15, and 23 are practically the same outfit, but it’s such an easy and successful outfit that I think it will become a staple (also see garment usage).

Garment type distribution:
Breaking down by garment types, I find that the distribution is like this:

Dresses: 4
Skirts: 4
Pants: 0
Blouses: 4
Cardigans: 2
Shorts: 2
Jackets: 1 (wait, I forgot about the trench! Make that 2)

Since I have my perfect pants project going (click the widget in the sidebar to learn more!), I hope to eventually have some pants that I’ve made. And even though I have four tops or blouses or shirts I’ve made, I found (like many bloggers out there participating in SSS) that I don’t really have any plain tops, or actually any kind of garment. I don’t think I mind this fact. I enjoy making garments that aren’t just basic, but if I ever decide to have a completely self-made wardrobe, that’s a hole that needs to be filled.

Garment usage:
I made a chart of how much each of my self-made garments were used this month. The chart is made with chartpart, and I cheated just a little bit since I counted the two Marie-skirts as one:

I was a little surprised towards the end of the month to realize that I’ve used the Marie-skirts so much. Thinking about it however, it’s makes sense. They are incredible easy to build outfits around – since they have enough visual interest in themselves, I just need to add a plain top and I’m good to go! Other heavy rotation items were my mustard cardigan and the beach-blouse. Making this chart, I was quite surprised to see exactly how many self-made items I actually had available!

Enjoyable aspects of Self-stitched-september:
• Seeing what outfits work, from documenting them nearly every day.
• Being pushed to put more effort into making interesting outfits. I came up with combinations I’ve not considered before, and some of them I felt were quite successful, and will go in my little mental round-up of “go-to” outfits. I’m usually too lazy to use make-up on a regular basis, but I found that when I’d put thought into my outfit, I wanted to have my face look nice(r) too.
• Self-stitched-september coincided with the start of my school semester. This meant that since I’ve been making an effort to look nice and put together, I’ve set the expectation for myself and those who see me often. It’s already a motivation to keep it up, and it feels good to not slide into jeans and nondescript tops that renders the outfit a little “meh”.
• I managed my self-inflicted goal of wearing every self-stitched item I had available to me! (Except for the trench-coat that I forgot I had)
• I am very happy that I’ve felt like I’ve stayed true to my evolving personal style during this month – and even discovered more about what I feel comfortable in, what looks good on me, and what can be combined into successful outfits.
• Rediscovering what necklaces and earrings can do. I think this will make me reach for them more often.

Favorites. Click to see larger.

Challenging aspects of Self-stitched-september:
• Taking those pictures. I knew it wasn’t in my priorities or time-line to find interesting places to photograph everyday, so I settled on a corner of my apartment to be a designated outfit picture location. It made for continuity, but super-interesting pictures? No.
• Taking those pictures. It was a bit of a hassle, and it is awkward to pose and smile to a camera. I think I took 20 pictures the first day, with really really weird poses that I thought would look cool as I was standing there. By the last week, I was down to 4 pictures maximum, and used one of two stances. See point 1 for the answer to “super-interesting pictures”.
• While I did manage to wear all my self-stitched clothes at least once, several of them felt like a contrived effort. Like I wrote in a comment on the subject over on Tasia’s blog Sewaholic, that fact that I’ve made something myself doesn’t automatically mean it’s my style. Or, it might no longer fit into my current style. There’s been some discussion on sewing blogs about parting with things you’ve made yourself, and I’m certainly feeling a resistance to give away these things I no longer wear – only because made it. There are several things I’m putting away, but I don’t know if I can bring myself to get rid of them.
• I feel like I was bombarding the blog with the outfit posts. I knew a daily post was out of the picture for me, but I’m thinking once a week would have been a better frequency for me personally – with some time for other kinds of posts in between.
• I lost steam towards the end of the month. It felt like less of a fun challenge than something that *had* to be done. That feeling also coincided with a weekend-trip to a cabin, which meant I had to plan out my outfits ahead of time. Since I have no plain self-stitched clothes, the outfits were far more stylish than they were appropriate for the cabin-life. Having four outfits pre-planned also took any feelings of creativity and “dressing for my mood” out of it, and ended up feeling forced.

Was it fun? For the most part. Will I do it again? Ehh… probably not. The parts I really enjoyed about the challenge was coming up with new outfits and analysing my personal style and clothing choices. I don’t feel a need to prove to myself or others that I can get by in only self-made garments, but would I do another round of documenting my outfits for a concentrated amount of time? Yes. Was it worth doing? Also yes.

All my self-stitched september posts: pre-post, days 1-4, days 6-9, days 10-14, days 15-19, days 20-23, days 24-27, and days 28-30.

(See the full list of participants here)

self-stitched-september: Days 28-30

And that’s the end of the Self-Stitched-September challenge & adventure! I’ll be writing a separate post on observations, analysis and stats, and other thoughts on this month of wearing something self-made every day. Look for it later today or tomorrow!

Day 28Fall-shorts-outfit: self-made shorts, thrifted cardigan, long-sleeved t-shirt from Mango, tights from Hue, mom’s old boots
Day 29 New-hair-color-outfit: thrifted cardigan, self-designed and -made dress (coming soon as a blog-post!), Blowfish booties
Day 30End-of-a-short-era-outfit: rumpled boat-dress, cardigan from Zara, H&M leather belt, thrifted oxfords

(See the full list of participants here)

self-stitched-september: Days 24-27

As I alluded to in the previous installment of self-stitched-september-outfit-pictures-posts, the boy and I spent the weekend at a cabin with some friends in Michigan. Wanting to pack lightly for the four days we’d be gone, I limited my clothing to a pair of pants, a skirt, three tops and two cardigans. I think I could have done with less, but I had to plan it out so there could be combinations including something self-stitched each day! However, camp-clothes often have more utilitarian needs than stylish needs, so honestly, my capsule travel wardrobe was a little off. Regardless, a departure in location from the red couch:

Day 24Cabin-and-lake-outfit: pants from System Action, thrifted shirt, self-machine-knit cardigan, Bianco flats
Day 25 Waiting-for-the-fireworks-outfit: another Marie-skirt, thrifted shirt, cardigan from Zara, H&M tights, really old Cubus socks, Bianco flats
Day 26Hitchiking-to-Saginaw-outfit: Zara cardigan, beach-blouse, pants from System Action, necklace from H&M, infamous old socks
Day 27Back-in-town-outfit: System Action top, cardigan from the attic, self-stitched shorts, tights from Hue, thrifted oxfords

(See the full list of participants here)

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