2 skirts in one: a reversible Mabel

REVERSIBLE-MABEL-HEADER

One of the coolest things about double knit fabric is that it can actually be made reversible. Because there are two right sides to the fabric, you can sometimes find double knits that have patterns on each side.

reversible-mabel-fabric

I bought this reversible striped double knit while shopping with Christine at Mood in LA. One side is narrow navy and white stripes, the other wider stripes. I knew I needed a reversible Mabel.

reversible-mabel-sarai

Mabel requires a few changes in order to make it reversible. There are three things that need to be changed so that the skirt looks similar both inside and out: the seams, the waistband, and the hem.

Seams

My favorite way to make reversible seams is to make them flat felled.

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This is easier than you might think with the Mabel because the vertical side seams really don’t require much stretch. All I did was the usual flat felled seams, but using a narrow (0.5mm width) zigzag instead of a straight stitch on my sewing machine.

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While I used a fabric that was already reversible, I do think you might be able to use two fabrics and simply sew them with wrong sides together, like a lining. In that case, you wouldn’t need to do special seams, as they’d be hidden between the two layers. I haven’t tried this, but let me know if you do!

Waistband

The waistband is another area that should be altered for reversibility.

I decided to cut the stripes vertically on both the waistband and hem as a design detail. Since my fabric had 4-way stretch, I could cut it either way.

reversible-mabel-waist

Normally, you would serge the waistband to the skirt. But this leaves a serged seam on one side of the skirt.

Instead, I essentially sewed the waistband to the skirt like you would on a woven garment, by folding the seam allowance under on the underside and edgestitching it down.

Again, I used a narrow zigzag for stretch. If you have a coverstitch machine, you could do a chainstitch instead.

Another option would have been to serge the waistband to the skirt as normal, then topstitch the serged seam allowance down for something that looks similar to a flatlock. Depending on your fabric, this might not be all that noticable, but I wanted something a bit neater and less sporty looking.

Hem

Finally, there is the hem.

On the original skirt, the hem is finished with the twin needle technique (or you can use a coverstitch machine). This leaves a pretty clear right and wrong side.

reversible-mabel-hem

Instead, I did a band hem (instructions are in The Colette Guide to Sewing Knits). I installed it just like the waistband, folding all the seam allowances under and edgestitching with a narrow zigzag.

That’s it, 2 skirts for the price of one! You can use these techniques if you come across your own double sided double knit fabric. Here are a few 2 sided double knits I found on fabric.com, for example.

What I really wanted to share here is how versatile knits can be when you’re willing to switch up your techniques and get creative.

You don’t need to be limited by your fabric or the way a pattern instructs you to sew something. Take that as a starting point and try out different hem finishes, seams, and edge treatments for totally different results.

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Weekend reading: Pre-spring, Hedy Lamarr, and basket weave insets

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I’m getting pretty excited about this new pattern we’ve got lined up for you in July. I’ve just finished editing all the photos (we shot them in Palm Springs along with Mabel and Moneta, so you’ll recognize the gorgeous models).

I’ve also been working on some tutorials to go along with it, but I don’t want to share too much until it’s a little closer.

In the meantime, check out this beautiful African wax print cotton I got this week! I picked it up from this etsy seller. I’m not sure what I’ll do with it yet. It’s quite stiff, so I need to wash it and see how it feels. I’ve been reading up on wax prints since I got it, and want to learn more.

Have a great weekend, and enjoy these links:

Inspiration: Vintage Travel Photography

Today, Kristen is chiming in to give us a little inspiration for the Knitcation contest we’re currently running. Remember to enter your travel wardrobes by the end of the month! Now, here’s Kristen with some fun vintage photos for us. -Sarai

vintage-travel-10[A flight attendant aboard a Boeing 707-121. PanAm Historical Society]

I have a terrible case of wanderlust right now. This is pretty typical for me since travel always seems to be somewhere in the back of my mind, but at the moment my condition is amplified because I just returned from vacation.

vintage-travel-11[Herat, Afghanistan. July 1972. Vintage National Geographic]

You might think taking a trip would help me get the travel bug out of my system, but seemingly without fail the minute I’m home I start thinking about my next few years worth of adventures.

vintage-travel-06[Miami Beach, Florida. January 1930. National Geographic]

Since I just spent a week in the Caribbean I’m currently in the middle of some very serious imaginary vacation planning.

Vintage-Travel-02[Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique. 1960's. Huffington Post]

Sometimes I get a little carried away. I’ve been known to check the price of airfare, research activities and local attractions, browse hotel websites, and even plan my wardrobe for a trip I am probably not even going on any time soon.

Vintage-Travel-04[1946. Untapped Cities]

One way I keep my itchy finger from clicking “buy” on a ticket to Thailand or Peru is to look at vintage travel photos. I find it so interesting to view the world how other travelers saw it decades ago.

vintage-travel-08[Furka Pass, Switzerland. 1956. National Geographic]

I love the idea that no two travel experiences are ever just alike. It could be because of where you stayed, the year you visited, or the people you met; you will always have a unique story to tell.

vintage-travel-07[Grand Palace, Bangkok, Thailand. June 1961. Vintage National Geographic]

These are some of my favorite images I’ve come across. They never fail to inspire me.

vintage-travel-09[Swiss Miss]

What’s on your upcoming travel itinerary? Are you actively planning or dreaming of your next vacation?

Channeling desire into creativity

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Maybe I’m weird, but shopping stresses me out. Yet, I seem to love window shopping.

In part, this is why sewing is such an appealing hobby for me. I love clothes. I love the colors and textures, the creative possibilities in building a particular look, the small details that make seemingly similar pieces really interesting and special.

But there’s something about the act of actually shopping and spending money on clothing that is emotionally loaded for me. I feel overwhelmed by all the choices. I feel manipulated by the marketing tactics and advertisements and trends. I feel guilt over spending on something so frivolous. I fear the disappointment of buying the wrong thing.

When you sew, there’s a way to “shop” while you avoid most of that. Instead of shopping for something to buy, you turn your attention to shopping for inspiration.

Still, I wondered: Why does shopping bring up all these emotions? And is “shopping for inspiration” really all that different?

Your brain on shopping

The answer to these questions turned out to be even more complex and fascinating than I’d thought.

First, let’s look at why shopping is so pleasurable.

Our brains have been wired over the millennia to encourage us to do behaviors that will increase our chances of survival, or the survival of our species. Our brains find sex pleasurable because it leads to procreation. High calorie and fat laden foods are pleasurable because eating more of them makes us less likely to starve. Acquiring things in an environment of scarcity is also more likely to lead to our survival.

We didn’t evolve in a world where french fries were plentiful, so what was good for our ancestors isn’t necessarily good for us now. It’s the same with the desire for material goods. As early humans, it was advantageous to gather resources whenever possible. But now we live in a world of constant desire, of sophisticated marketing, and of cheap and plentiful goods.

It’s all very confusing to our acquisition-oriented brains. There’s just so much more to acquire.

The Pleasure of Shopping

So if our brains are wired to seek the thrill of shopping, and if shopping today is so easy, why do I feel so crappy about it?

Let’s first look at how the pleasure of shopping works. When you are window shopping, your brain is being flooded with a chemical called dopamine.

You’ve probably heard of dopamine before. This is a part of the rewards system in the brain, and it’s often referred to as a pleasure chemical. Dopamine makes you feel good.

At least, that’s what I’d always heard about it.

What Really Goes on in Your Head

It turns out, dopamine works in a much more complicated way. Dopamine’s job is not merely to make you feel good for some action that you’re taking, but to actually create a desire to continue doing it.

The difference might seem subtle, but it’s important. Animals that can’t produce dopamine can still feel pleasure. But they are not capable of anticipating that pleasure and pursuing it.

So yes, dopamine produces pleasure. But it also produces an intense feeling of want that can be extremely uncomfortable. That combination of pleasure (“that thing is beautiful and will make me happier”) and discomfort (“I feel uncomfortable not having that thing”) spurs us to action (whipping out the credit card).

The problem is, we mistake the pleasure of this dopamine response for real happiness. Humans are actually really terrible at predicting what will make them happy, and this is just one example.

If you’ve ever witnessed someone with an addiction or compulsion, you know that dopamine is not responsible for happiness. Even when the drug or behavior brings temporary pleasure, there’s nothing happy about feeling compelled by constant desire.

View More: http://deathtothestockphoto.pass.us/brick-and-mortar

You might have seen this in more subtle ways with friends and family. If you’ve ever had a friend ignore you while compulsively checking facebook on their phone, they are essentially prioritizing the immediate jolt of dopamine over the true long-term friendship that could make them sustainably more happy.

Sidestepping the want

So how do we avoid this compulsive trick of the brain, especially in a world that’s designed to exploit it?

The answer is clearly not to try to suppress the flood of dopamine entirely. After all, desire certainly has its place, and can be a great motivator for all kinds of good behavior. Without desire, we wouldn’t create anything.

Instead, I believe we can be mindful about what our brains are doing, and change our behavior to channel the dopamine response in the right direction. For me, that direction is creativity.

This is one of the ways being a sewist has improved my life. Instead of looking at pretty clothes and feeling the pangs of desire and the confusion of choice, instead of giving my energy over to the temporary buzz of material acquisition, I can direct that desire into a creative act.

And creativity, I believe, is one of the greatest sources of happiness. I really believe that using your individual creative powers to make something, to learn new skills, and to develop your identity is one of the most powerful things we can do for ourselves.

When I choose to use my pleasure in looking at clothing for creativity instead of acquisition, I am choosing the life-sustaining source of happiness over the short-term high.

Just like that real friend who will be with you always versus the quick and satisfying Facebook “like”, you have the choice.

When I sew, I am choosing a lifelong friendship.

How does sewing affect your desire for things? Does it change the way you shop, and the thoughts that go through your head when you do?

Weekend reading: vintage sewing, painting your upholstery, and the Chanel supermarket

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The other day, I shared this gorgeous spread from a French pattern catalog from 1956 on Instagram.

It made me realize that Instagram is the perfect place to share some of the gorgeous vintage patterns, books, and illustrations that I’ve collected over the years. This catalog in itself is absolutely stunning and brimming with inspiration.

If you want to see more, head on over to instagram and follow me. I’ll be sharing way more images from these books over the next few weeks. They are pretty incredible and I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to share:

Follow me on Instagram for more vintage inspiration all month!

Here’s some reading for you. Have a great weekend, friends!

By the way, how is everyone doing on their knitcation plans?

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