Friday, December 18, 2015

Intro to JypsieDesigns & a pile of t-shirts

Hello! I'm Julia, and most of the time I make costumes for professional theatre (or I'm on running crews dressing actors backstage). I've been doing this for over 20 years, the last decade or so in Seattle, which has an awesome theatre community. Of course, theatre work is an uncertain affair, seasonal at best, so about 6 years ago I started a business as a Tailor and Seamstress, making custom clothing and costumes, mostly for the Burning Man community here in Seattle.

I can't remember when I started sewing, but I first used a sewing machine when I was 8 years old, and since then there's been no going back. I was raised wearing hand-me-downs or play clothes my Mom or Grandma made for me. With only the money for one new school outfit every September, church dresses for Easter and Christmas, and a few items on my birthday, I quickly figured out how to turn my clothing into something better. As a kid in the 80's, I turned thrifted bell-bottoms into pegged slacks. Inspired by Cyndi Lauper, I sewed the tops of old jeans onto tie-dyed petticoats. I dyed and re-dyed, added patches, painted flowers with fabric paint, and generally kept my Mom guessing what I would walk out of my room wearing.

Now I rarely have time to tweak my own wardrobe (beyond necessary fit alterations and basic repairs). I spend most of my time doing this for my clients, or occasionally for a play with unusual needs.

Recently a client came to me with a pile of t-shirts and some pictures pulled off the internet of ways that she had seen t-shirts re-fashioned. She told me just to use the pictures as inspiration, they didn't have to be direct copies, and her only rule was no slashing (the classic punk technique of cutting your shirts to ribbons and wearing them with raw edges until they fall apart). I could get behind that; as a professional Seamstress with extensive training in couture techniques, I am not fond of unfinished edges as they don't hold up to use and washing very well. As Edna Mode says, we don't need to wear hobo suits.

Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures of my client wearing the original unaltered t-shirts. She bought them because she liked the colors and silk-screened designs, but they were all different sizes, mostly all too big for her. My first goal would be to make them fit her better, and show off the shape that she works so hard on (she works out and has great shoulders, and is also quite petite and busty - about 5'1" and a 34D).

I had her try on all the t-shirts, and I pinned them to fit her at the shoulders, armhole, and waist. Then I padded my size 8 dress form out to the measurements I had taken of her. I marked the t-shirts with tailor's chalk where I had pinned them, then put them on the dress form, and compared them to the research pictures I had. Based on the size and shape of the silk-screened motifs on each shirt (which I was asked to preserve), and how much extra fabric I had to play with, I decided on re-designs for each shirt, using the research as inspiration.
From there, solving the jigsaw puzzle was relatively easy. Every shirt had to have the armscye re-cut. If you have shirts that hang like sacks on you and make you look bigger than you are, I highly recommend removing the sleeves, adding bust darts (if you are bigger than a B cup), and cutting down the armscye (the armhole is on your body, the armscye is the hole in the garment that fits around your arm) so that it sits exactly where your armhole is.
The fun part was adding decorative details like lacing and ribbon. For the lacing holes, instead of fussing with grommets, I fused strips of interfacing to the inside of the edge, and then cut the holes. This stabilizes them; stops them from ripping. For the lacing, I cut strips of extra t-shirt knit, and stretched them until they looked like cording.
My client loves them, and thanks to the time I took with measurements, they fit her well. T-shirts are usually not fit very well because they are a knit, and they stretch. Because I was making alterations that would limit the amount they could stretch, I had to make sure the fit was right, and I had to make sure the shirts had openings and closures so that she could get into them.


Furgie Murray said...

You certainly seem like one of the most interesting seamstresses on this blog. Look forward to seeing more of your creations!

Sandy said...

Wonderful adaptations! Will look out for more of what you do.
Sandy in the UK

Dee said...

Welcome. I look forward to more of your creative posts. This one is great. ��

jennifer elliott said...

I love the Asian-inspired shirt. All the refashions are cool. Welcome to the site! I look forward to more of your refashions!

Jennifer, EOD

jenny_o said...

These are wonderful!

Dee said...

Hi Julia, do you have a web or blog that we could follow?
cheers, Dee

Kirrily Chris said...

Wow. Beautiful and inspiring. I'd also love a link to your website.

Nina said...

Well done!