Organic Cotton- Because It Feels Divine

I love working with organic cotton.  My husband is an ecologist; we were both brought up to believe in the importance of conservation.   So for me, organic cotton is a no-brainer consumer choice- almost a requirement; expected.

When I bought those first few meters of organic cotton bottom weight canvas, I pre-washed and ironed as I would for any cotton.  –Now that I know organic cotton wovens better, I would recommend several wash/dry cycles because it tends to shrink slowly over time.  I usually throw a length in with my towels several weeks in a row.

Organic cotton handles like regular cotton, initially feels like regular cotton, and even smells like regular cotton but it’s a completely different fabric.  As my husband wore his shorts made from organic cotton, and I noticed the fabric changed nature over time.

Noooo… I’m imagining it, I said to myself.  I continued to use organic cotton when I could find it, for everything from hats to Blueberry Parfait’s midriff to my beloved Jean Ross pants.

Those pants have worn very well.  They’re not what I would call “smart” for work, they’re more like the softest, coolest pair of jeans imaginable.  They live in the “sweat pants” or “blue jeans” slot in my wardrobe.

After several years of sewing with organic cotton, I know it’s not my imagination.  Like linen and hemp, organic cotton ages spectacularly well.  The fabric changes over time.  It becomes almost plushy, or “buttery.”  Smoooooooooth, soft, delicious and surprisingly hard-wearing.  The “warm fuzzies” from wearing an ethical fabric is far outstripped by the delight of this soft fiber against my skin.

Information on the ethics:

Information on US Organic Cotton

Why Organic Cotton

Have you worked with organic cotton?  How does it behave for you?  Do you notice the difference?  Where do you like to buy your organic cotton?  I like Funky Fabrix and NearSeaNaturals, but a simple google search shows me the market is exploding so I’d appreciate some leads!

(I added t-shirt pattern sizes 40V and 45V today.  “Birds on the Wires Tee” is rather cumbersome, so I labelled these “Blank Canvas Tees” because it’s shorter and describes a purpose of the design- to showcase pretty fabric!  That’s how I’ll refer to the pattern in the future….)

Edited to Add, December 31, 2012: Check out this post for a great online shopping guide to eco-knit fabrics.

Finished Object: Birds on the Wires Tee


Here’s my finished Birds on the Wires Tee.  We played with color and perspective a little bit, before settling on some inside shots.

This is the basic t-shirt I am offering as a free pattern.  It comes in two “types” of sizes: V and II.  A “V” size has a difference of 8″ (20cm) or more between the waist and bust measurements.  A “II” has a difference of 8″ (20cm) or less between the bust and waist.

This pattern is intended for a nice medium weight knit, like the Birds on the Wires print I made for Spoonflower.  I hadn’t looked at their fabrics for years; they now offer a rather nice variety of apparel fabrics.  This is the organic cotton knit- very yummy.

However, I think this pattern will work for a variety of fabrics- I’d love to see the variations possible.  I’m not much of a t-shirt wearer myself, but I do have an active and generally casual lifestyle.  For some reason, I find that my beloved “button-down” shirts read as “dressy” even when I don’t feel dressy.  This is one attempt to bridge that gap.

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Finished Object: Jean Ross Pants

K.Hep pants sit close to nudity in terms of comfort, at least in my book.  I made these from Wearing History’s Smooth Sailing pattern, but my heart was with Jean Ross of Weimar Berlin:

I’m one step closer.   I wish I could slip a note in her hand letting her know that in 80 years another unsmiling brunette would find her photo and take inspiration.  I can’t easily remove the demon eyes, and don’t have the time to invest figuring out how.  So I’m possessed…

Pockets courtesy of Oliver + S Ice Cream dress.

The pants came out too big because I over-compensated for my fat holiday ahem in the alterations.  I’m not bothered and suspect that only the most critical eye would trip over my wrinkles.

I used an over sized loop and a leather covered shank button at the side.  With limited free time, I could sew like a mad thing or take excessively detailed photos.  Sometimes the photos win, but not this week.

Unbleached organic cotton, one of my favorite fabrics to work with.  It becomes soft and buttery, almost velvety with repeated wash and wear.  If I had to choose just one bottom weight to wear the rest of my life, I’d choose this.

My alterations:

I shaved off a little wedge in the CB waistband seam, added a little to the high hip at the side (for my muffin tops) and scooped out the bottom of the crotch curve.   I knew I was trying a scatter gun approach; it worked well enough.  The pants are comfy with no visible camel toe.  In the future, I might straighten the side seams and re-draw the grainline.  I’m indebted to SewistaFashionista and Sherry for your advice– it worked, I have wearable pants!

I must press on with my work wardrobe project (girdle jeans tomorrow from Burda 08-2009-106), but I’m already planning the Jean Ross top and knitted beret.  I finished the Smooth Sailing Blouse today, in a double gauze.  She’ll appear directly.

(Photos of these pants taken on a chair, though not necessarily as elegantly as others…)

Finished Object: Short shorts! (And the wardrobe contest)

Oh man, it’s a slog and a half sewing and blogging and getting everything in order for the wardrobe contest deadline.  I’ll need a few days off after this.  These shorts are from Wearing History’s  “Smooth Sailing” pattern.  It isn’t actually vintage, but drafted by a master of the art of 1930’s sportswear.  I like it.  I thought the shorts would turn out longer and looser, a little dorky, but dorky they ain’t.

I don’t wear shorts, these are my only pair.  I feel exposed.  They do have a redeeming quality- vintage cut, tiny bit of fabric.  Good.  If I’m going to show some skin, I want it to be in an odd way.

I made them from a skirt that lived its life.  It had all these pleats in the front- I had to press it aggressively each time I wore it, and eventually stopped wearing it.  Then I noticed picky little construction things about it as my skills improved.  So I chopped it up for shorts.

(RIP old friend.  I can’t bear to spend any more time photo editing, so it’s dark.)

When recycling clothing, sometimes the seams from the old garment end up on the new one.  I decided to embrace it and not drive myself insane pushing for symmetry.

I’m not one of those who religiously matches overlocking thread at the best of times.  I use cream, white, or black.  Besides, I was screaming through this (about an hour and a half from cut to hem) and didn’t want to lose momentum by changing threads.

Like I said, they were a little snugger than I anticipated.  I used the correct waist measure, the pattern hip measure was 1.5″ smaller than my own measurement.  I trusted to ease, but there’s very little ease.  No problem, I gave myself some extra width by playing with the darling front pleats.

These are short as I made them.  Had I used the recommended hem allowance, they would be downright cheeky.

Bonus: Husband has a pair of shorts made from the same fabric.  So we have “matching” linen shirts and organic cotton shorts.  Wicked.  I’ll get pics when he lets me.

The pattern itself is very nice high quality, easy to read on thick white paper, in a huge ziplock bag.  I like good repros for just that reason- I can slip in pattern pieces and scraps of fabric easily.  The pattern is organized much the same way I would organize if I made a pattern, though I didn’t really follow the instructions.  It would be good for a beginner, I think the more you sew the more you develop your own ways of doing things.   I bought this for the pants and the blouse, they’ll show up sooner or later.

Finally! It’s all finished!  Master Review.  Do you like my composite?

Finished Object: (Burda) Virgin Pants

Finished!  I love them.  I apologize for any previous remarks disparaging Burda.  I based that solely on somewhat intermediate students bringing me a Burda pattern and all the work I had to put into their finished garments.  To be fair, I should also hate Vogue for the same reason, but since I knew Vogue from my teenage years it never got under my skin as much.   I don’t know that Burda is appropriate for beginner/intermediate sewists, but if you have some experience under your belt, I say go for it.

From the April issue, model 119.  I call them the Virgin Pants, because they are my first ever Burda not made by proxy.  Please notice the cuffs, and my lack of cuffs in the photo.

The instructions say “stretch gabardine or trouser fabrics with or without elasticine.” Yes, ok, thanks.  I used some of my beloved organic cotton canvas, thrice washed for shrinkage.  It feels stiff now, but I know it will soon soften to an almost velour-like texture.

The instructions also indicate it is cut to hang a little below the waist and to make a tighter fit for high-waists.  I like high-waists.  They smack of Katherine Hepburn.  I made a straight 38, though my hips say 40, with plenty of trepidation because I never used their size system and I didn’t intend to muslin.

Pretty scraps of quilting weight cotton from an old skirt, used for raw-edge bound edges (I’m not sure if a raw edge qualifies as Hong Kong finish), applied with my binder foot.  The crotch edges must be bound before sewing.  I trimmed down the inside waistband lower seam allowance and bound it, too.  I used a “catch stitch” to secure the inside bottom edge of the waistband.  I’ve been doing so much pad-stitching lately that it came out like a lateral pad-stitch, visible in the photos.

Pocket.  It took great restraint for me not to top stitch every seam, but I did under stitch where appropriate.  I basted the pockets shut during construction.  In the next pair, I will also tape the pocket edges (thanks K.King).  I’m sure I screwed up the hip yoke pockets, they didn’t come together as nicely as I wanted, but in the end they work and they look good.  That’s all I care about.

Invisible zip applied to the front rather than a fly.  I read in a vintage sewing source that flies for women were superfluous.  Women do not need flies or use them in the same way men do and furthermore flies on women’s trousers are ugly and vulgar.  I don’t exactly agree, but I can’t seem to get it out of my head.

Button detail.  I would have used three if I could find the other ones, but two suffices.

I had a brain blank on the cuffs, I saw all the excess fabric and trimmed it down.  Immediately I realized I trimmed off my cuffs.  Oh well.  No use crying over cut fabric.  They’re nice anyway.

Interesting, I never noticed my little belly shape.  I’m cool with it, reminds me of the boxer’s girlfriend in Pulp Fiction who talks about how she wishes she had a “sexy pot.”

I was watching Persephone, our pet duck.  She seemed rather disturbed by the proceedings.

Parting shot.  I should cut my hair or start pinning it up.

I want to make them again, right now.  I have a piece of lilac linen, I think these (with cuffs) in the linen would be just delicious.  They feel great to wear, I guess I’m used to high-waisted and I like something that hugs me this way.  I have a few curves I didn’t realize I have, but somehow it just makes me feel lovely.