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Posts from the ‘Clothing’ Category

Seaming up to wear

For those of you who have been weaving in the Saori way for a while, you may have quite a bit of fabric ready to turn into a wearable. You may even get to the ‘another scarf and I’ll scream’ situation.  Please, I’m not rebelling against scarves! I love them and I think they are the most underrated, important piece of clothing you can own, but it is nice to have a break from them at times.


The first process in making garments is overcoming a possible fear of cutting the fabric that you may be harboring. You’re not alone. It took a lot of effort and resources to make it and cutting it seems a wanton thing to do. But you must do it. Work out where you need to cut and stitch two lines of machine stitching about 1cm apart from each other.  I nearly always use a plain stitch but some cloths may require a zigzag. Then (bravely) CUT. Read more

Make loads of clothes with your weaves – start with the Huipil inspired Maya top

Maya Top Handwoven
I think I take my sewing skills for granted. And I image everyone else has the same skills.  But increasingly, because we haven’t had to make our own clothes, we don’t need those skills.  I understand that others have more valuable skills to earn money. But to make your own clothes…that’s a freedom. To weave the cloth for them…even more so. You can save money, value what you make more, choose your fibres,  have less clothes, and have clothes that actually fit you. This year I’ll be taking more about clothing, sewing and how weaving fits in with it all in the Saori way.


This is the Maya top with versions of the huipil overlayed on top.

As a weaver, I’ve always made some clothes from my cloth but I haven’t been as productive in cloth yardage as I am now with the Saori loom. In the ’80s there were many books on clothing from rectangular and narrow widths which are often found in other cultures who use the backstrap loom. One of these is the simple and elegant Huipil. Like the Kimono, the beauty of the clothing is in the design of the cloth rather than the cut. It’s also about not wasting the energy and resources that go into the weaving and making the most out of the cloth without cutting it.

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Saori pattern cutting

Woven garmentI’ve just finished the garment that Masako designed with my fabric in Japan.  There were a couple of moments with it. For one, a double row of fast machine stitching which had to be unpicked on the open weave piece of the garment without cutting the warp or weft threads.  Unpicking can be difficult but I managed it.  Luck in the wind.  I really like the neckline on this piece and the uneven ‘godet’ style slices that form the sides.  When you cut an angled piece from the fabric the bias side will be longer than the straight edge. Masako recommended attaching that edge to the front rather than the back.  The front can do with more flexibility and movement. It’s tricks like these, from experience with how Saori cloth drapes, that are invaluable.

You will notice some small pieces of knop yarn in the front. These were spun on the Saori loom bobbin winder by Terri Bibby from Saori Salt Spring in Canada when I met her in Japan.  I am just so wildly keen on this sort of ‘input’!  Some of my clothing has weaving from the little people in my life in it and also other weavers. It’s a good way to remember  people. This top has to have that Canadian hint in it.

Yes! you can let others weave on the piece you are working on. It breaks down the coveted ownership that we have, at times, over what we create. So get weaving some cloth and ask some little people to do a few rows too.

No end to weaving

SaoriSkirtPatternThere seems to be no end in sight to weaving and making clothes at the moment. This one was made with my 85cm w i d e width cloth. I still prefer the dynamic feel of narrower textiles but the up side is a very short sewing timeframe because there is far less stitching. This skirt is very easy to make.

This is the result of my first cloth on the WX90. It’s a mix of cotton, organic cotton and silk then cram dyed to give a stronger effect. The pattern is number 30, p56 in the Shitate no Hon clothing book. This book really has a lot of great ideas in it.

It has elastic around the waist because of the limited shaping for the waist. I used fold over elastic which is perfect for this type of design. It is exposed but saves sewing a pocket for the elastic.

The measurements are small so I would recommend taking your own measurements and applying them to the design to check that it will fit or use an old sheet or calico to make a quick mock up toile. I also made longer slits in the central front underskirt panel to get more movement.  Otherwise it’s a very flexible style and very comfy skirt to wear. Imagine using an entirely different weave fabric for the central underskirt panel!  I used the weftwise grain rather than with the warp down the body as with a conventional garment cut. I know this can affect the drape on the body but it is fine in this cloth.

The button closure is decorative only. So you could go mad with it or just go conservative like I did! Basically the skirt piece wraps from the front around the back then to the front again to form the crossover closure style at the front. Another panel creates the underskirt which is stitched at the front only.

Onto the next design…


Ragging out in Saori clothing

Green woven jacketDecisions decisions.

This is something that I’m not so good with. Any decision is a difficulty and when you get a heap thrown at you when you are sewing a garment from your handwoven cloth it’s not easy. With the six metres of green wool and silk that I wove last winter it suddenly came to me what I should make. I used the number 3 vest design in the Fuku no Katachi ni Suru book but modified it because I made it longer, just because I could with all that fabric. But then I needed more fabric at the front so also added wedge shaped pieces for better coverage. When I’m underway sewing these garments, I soon leave the security of a pattern then trip into something more like a sculpture to fit the body. Adding, cutting, reworking. It can be a feeling of desperation or liberation! Read more

Bias. What’s not to like?

biastowear2Indeed. The Bias to Wear workshop is now over but I leave you with a few photos of the great afternoon.  This bias technique for clothing was one I learnt recently at Saori in Japan. Its beauty isn’t the fact that you can make bias clothing, of course you can in many ways. For me it’s the calculation of the length of fabric needed based on your woven fabric width and the easy process to begin building the bias ‘blank’. This builds the initial form with no wastage or fancy scissor work.

From this point the magic of styling and designing can begin in your own way.  Narrow cloth or wide the stitching works in the same way every time. For example a bias ‘blank’ for a poncho style of garment will require 3.62 metres of cloth in a woven finished width of 28cms. After working that calc  you can relax into the weaving like with assurance about the woven length you’ll need.


We all had a bit of fun stitching a small hat sized bias ‘blank’ in calico to get the idea.

We reviewed how to stitch up the seams on our handwovens to keep away the frays and CUT the fabric. Yes, cutting is part of it, you need armholes and neck openings even if you don’t cut off any fabric in the process.

What can you make. Well anything. Tops, jackets, dresses, pants, skirts, hats and even bags. Bias cut just makes everything drape and fit better and angles the fabric to make stripes diagonals rather than vertical or horizontal.

bias2Although it was a short two hour workshop I think we covered a very good start and what better way to spend a Saturday afternoon than thinking about clothing and weaving, designing cutting and sharing experiences together. Thank you to Dominique, Susie, Emily, Marilyn and Michelle.bias4bias1

The Anatomy of a Flat pattern to 3D

Saori fabric topCreating beautiful clothing patterns are a significant feature of the Saori inspired weaving movement. Handwoven cloth for clothes and accessories is where the Japanese developers have created outstanding  new ideas amongst ‘ordinary’ people. Although the best of the Saori designers, such as Masako, use the body directly to develop the pattern, being the best starting point, my dressmaking and patternmaking accreditation was fixed in the use and adaptation of the flat pattern. This was mainly because I was trained to appeal to industry where economical pattern lays were a priority for any design.  So naturally my love of lines and design on flat paper conjures the 3D outcome in my mind.  To my surprise many younger Saori sewers and weavers tell me they feel more comfortable designing directly on the body which I always think is a higher and more intuitive skill.

So I look at all of the Saori design clothing books with the approach of an industry mind!  Exploring the patterns … from Shitate no Hon, I gleaned the ingenuity of the designer for these types of patterns.  Normally in patternmaking you always have to concern yourself with how to put the garment on. We don’t want to be locked out. In Saori garments we avoid the need for closures in our patterns by using ‘tricks’. For example, a garment with long sleeves  will generally need an opening at the front or back to gain access, but then it becomes a coat or cardigan.  How do we design a top with no front or back openings but no closures? Read more

Design your Clothes with a Pattern Start?

I’m finding that some weavers are struggling with clothing design for their new cloth. The Saori pattern books are great with the Saori Beginner Clothing Design book best for beginner sewers and the others for those who know their way around stitching more. However the cloth is sometimes best when it is draped directly on the body. Some people use a dress form and these are great for shaping up and holding some pieces to your size but nothing beats the flow of the body itself.

I’ve been working on an easier method to get you started in designing which is a combination of pattern instruction and draping. Working with a series of Pattern Starts you can jump off from a half way point to create your own way of styling. You can then stitch up the start with confidence that you are jumping off with some sort of structure.

Make a Twist Top. Pattern by Kaz Madigan.

This start will allow you to try something on… then arrange…then pin into a garment. The one illustrated here was ‘composed’ into the garment shown. The hole became one of the armholes and the garment was joined at one side below the other armhole.  You could make the edges uneven or different shapes, leave fringes or add other pieces of cloth somewhere. Could the hole be a neckline or go around the waist somehow? Just remember that you have to get out of the garment and you can use press studs as a way of opening and closing it where needed.  It’s much easier to work this way if you have a start. Basically it’s a case of building a starting unit rather than working with the cloth as it is.
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