Blaire Shirt Number 2 – The Avocado Edition

After finishing my first Blaire shirt, I knew immediately I wanted to make a second version. This was exactly the piece of clothing that was missing from my summer wardrobe. With a short trip to Italy coming up, I had some pressure to finish this quickly.

This time round I wanted to try something new: natural dyeing. I’ve been following other sewists on their adventures and was particularly intrigued by dyeing with avocado skin. First of all it would be super easy to source (I love guacamole) and second it produces the prettiest shade of pink. This blush colour is one of my favourites (I’m such a millenial!). I did some research online and came across this tutorial here by Rebecca Desnos. It’s very thorough and uses soy milk to increase the absorption of the plant dye, which sounded like a simple method. I didn’t follow the instructions exactly, due to time pressure, and skipped a couple of steps. So here is what I did. Please keep in mind that I am no expert at this and I haven’t tried any other methods, so there might be better approaches out there.

I started with some plain white linen that I got from Ditto Fabrics, they don’t seem to have the exact one online anymore but it looks like this is a similar linen. When it arrived it was a little bit heavier than expected, which wasn’t an issue for the design but meant that I had to collect more avocado skins. According to the tutorial, you should use the same weight in avocado skins as you have in fabric. After collecting avocado skins for a couple of weeks (storing them in the freezer) I was still shy of the 300 grams of skins that I needed. Since dyeing with avocado pits works as well, I decided to just use 5 dried and cut up pits together with the skins of 10 avocados.

I prepared the fabric by first putting it through the normal wash and drying it. Then I let it soak in a mixture of soy milk and water over night as instructed, put it through a spin cycle in the washing machine and let it air dry. Next I dipped the fabric again in the same soy milk mixture (only a quick dip to avoid washing out the first layer), put it through a spin and dried it. The instructions then tell you to repeat this step a second time. Since I didn’t have the time for a second round, I skipped that step. I also skipped the step of storing the fabric in a plastic bag for a week before using.

Then on to the avocado dye. I defrosted the skins and chopped up the pits, which I had peeled first (probably not necessary but easy to do when the pits are dried). I added them to an aluminium pot and filled it two thirds with water. Next I put it to a boil and let it simmer for roughly 2 hours. The skins quickly broke down and the water turned a brownish red. After letting it cool down, I put the mixture through a muslin lined sieve. Once heated up again, I added the fabric and a little bit more water to cover it sufficiently. As you can see the pot was a little bit small for all the fabric, so I made sure to move the fabric around a lot to avoid blotches. The fabric quickly turned pink and after an hour or two of boiling the fabric in the dye bath I let it cool down again and sit overnight in the pot with a plate holding the fabric under water. The next day I took out the fabric, put it through the spin cycle in the washing machine and let it air dry.

The colours turned out beautifully. The linen didn’t take the dye as much as some pieces of sand-washed and dupion silk, which I had thrown in to test the colour on other fabric. Since I was more going for a blush colour on the linen I was very happy with the outcome.

Before rinsing it the fabric is supposed to sit for a week. Impatient to start my shirt, I worked with the unrinsed fabric, which wasn’t a problem, it only slightly smelled of avocado skin. Below some pictures of the process and the final swatches.

Construction-wise I sewed up the Blaire shirt with exactly the same alterations as my first version. Again I was short of fabric and thus had to simplify the design. As in the other version, I finished the hem with a contrasting facing. This time a Melody Miller cotton that I got from Miss Matatabi. The buttons this time were reclaimed from one of my husbands worn out work shirts.

If you’re interested in the colour fastness. Once the shirt was done, I put it through a gentle hand wash and a week later through a 20 degree cycle in the washing machine. Both times it didn’t loose a noticeable amount of colour.

I love this shirt so much! It was the perfect thing to wear on scorching hot days sightseeing in Venice (below a photo in action, a little bit rumpled from carrying around a backpack all day). I also really loved the fabric dyeing process, I now want to avocado dye everything! Unfortunately there is only a certain amount of pink garments a closet can take and I fear I have reached that point. I might have to do some research into other natural dyes next.

This is also my first finished garment for the Summer of Basics, a make-along initiated by Karen Templer of Fringe Association. The idea is to make 1 garment a month for 3 months, June through August, with the goal of filling in basic wardrobe gaps. This definitely filled one. I’m now trying to decide on my other two pieces. I’m thinking Closet Case Ginger Shorts and a pair of espadrilles but I’m not 100% sure yet.

Blaire Shirt Number 1

I didn’t officially take part in Me Made May this year but I used the month to analyse my day to day outfits and identify any gaps in my wardrobe. One thing that I’m definitely lacking are loose summer tops to wear with slim fitting shorts or trousers (my go-to silhouette). Lately I’ve been in particular drawn towards boxy button-up shirts. One of the patterns I’ve seen pop up a lot is the Style Arc Blaire Shirt & Dress and have to say I loved every version I’ve seen so far. So when I tried to decide what I should use this pretty Kokka Leaf Print fabric for (from John Lewis but unfortunately they don’t stock it anymore) I realised the Blaire would be the perfect match.

It was my first time using a Style Arc pattern. I love many of their designs and was curious to try them out. I already knew that their instructions are quite brief, but since i learned sewing with BurdaStyle patterns, I didn’t have any issues. It of course helped that I made a couple of shirts before.

I only had 1 metre of fabric, which is my default fabric length when I’m planning a top, but for a boxy shirt that was quite a stretch. To save fabric I omitted the horizontal seam at the waist and left off the overlay at the hem. Both are really cool design features if working with a stripe or different colours, but they would have been lost in this fabric. To have a decent hem at the side seams I lowered the curve by 12 cm, which still resulted in quite a pronounced curve.

The construction was relatively easy. The only slight issue I had was that I attached the sleeve cuffs in the wrong way, which resulted in some bunching of fabric. After consulting Instagram I realised the cuffs were supposed to be folded in half, rather than at the seam, which gives a slimmer cuff and allows the the fabric to lie flat. I deviated from the instructions to finish the side and shoulder seams with flat felled seam. Due to the 1 cm seam allowance this was a little bit fiddly but thanks to the thinness of the fabric they still turned out alright. (Of course I should have thought of increasing the seam allowance before cutting.) Due to the extreme curve, I decided to finish the hem with a wide facing. I just love the neat finish and it’s a great opportunity to use some contrasting fabric.

In terms of sizing I opted for a size 10. I fell between an 8 and a 10, but really wanted a boxy look. I think the size is spot on. Tight enough but not too tight at the collar and wide enough for a loose look.

Once everything was done I realised I didn’t have any buttons in my stash that would do this fabric justice. However, I’ve been lusting after ArrowMountain buttons for ages and finally decided to splurge on a couple of sets. Since they had to be shipped from Australia, I had to wait a while for them to be delivered but they were well worth the wait, I love how the bamboo goes with the navy fabric!

So the verdict? This pattern is definitely a winner. It’s a cool silhouette and has nice design details. I actually loved it so much that I immediately made a second version with some avocado dyed linen. Stay tuned!

A shirt for the man

shirt_01This selfless sewing thing, it really not that easy when sewing time is so limited and most of the self-less sewing time is used up for baby presents. Still a shirt for my boyfriend had been on my list for ages. He’s been so supportive of my sewing adventures (he takes all the pictures for my blog) and the only thing that I ever sewed for him was a wonky, oversized T-shirt.

After having dabbled in shirt-making (the birthday shirt for my brother and blouses for myself) I knew that I wanted to make him a shirt next. At one of the Minerva Crafts Sales I got the Burda Style 6874 men’s shirt pattern, which looked like a good basic shirt that could work for proper work shirts as well as something more casual. While I really liked the Colette Negroni shirt, as an introduction to men’s shirts, I wanted something less retro and this fit the bill perfectly. When I was looking for a suitable fabric I came across this blue and black double-gauze plaid from Ditto Fabrics (unfortunately I don’t think they sell it anymore), which I first saw on Flossie Teacakes blog, made up into a beautiful shirt. It’s not the most usual fabric for a shirt, but I liked the idea of using both sides of the fabric with the larger and the smaller check.

After discussing the design options with my boyfriend, we decided to go for subtle contrasts, using the smaller check for the collar stand, the lower collar piece, the lower button band, the sleeve plackets and the gussets. We also decided on one invisible front pocket and a single box pleat in the back.

Having never sewn a shirt for him before, I checked his measurements against the chart and then the pattern pieces against one of his shirts. Amazingly I didn’t have to make any adjustments, except for shortening the hem by maybe 3 centimetres.

The construction itself was quite straightforward. The double-gauze made it a little bit difficult to sew super-accurately but with the texture of the fabric, slightly wonky seams are not noticeable anyways. The only changes I made to the construction, compared to the pattern, were to use the Negroni Shirt sleeve placket and fold the lower button band over instead of under, to show the back side of the fabric. For the collar, I used the Granville shirt instructions (though I am not convinced by the neatness of this method, I still might have to try other methods to find the ideal one). I also finished all the seams with flat-felled seams for a neat and sturdy finish. Again I realised how much I enjoy sewing technical details. Shirt-making is so much fun and sleeve plackets might actually be my favourite thing to sew.

The fit of the shirt is actually pretty good, considering that this is the first shirt I made for him. Next time I will shorten the sleeves a smidge and maybe bring the collar in slightly as the gap in the middle seems quite wide.

Overall, I absolutely love this shirt on him! It’s a lovely casual shirt which, thanks to the contrasting details, is not too boring. It was also amazing to have him in front of the camera for a change. Doesn’t he make a dapper model? In real life he also does smile a little bit more, we took these pictures just on a very cold and gloomy day. Let’s see how well this shirt will integrate in my boyfriend’s minimalist wardrobe. Maybe there will be some more of these shirts in the future.

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