Pioneers: In Like a Lion

Today we welcome the FINAL SEWISTS in Top Stichers, Season 1! I hope you've enjoyed this season so far, and I hope you'll be inspired by this pioneer sew-down!

This is our first "Pioneer" sew-down, and easily the most difficult challenge for me to create. The premise of the Pioneer sewing specialty is fearlessness. These are women who see uncharted sewing territory as a challenge, and won't shy away from an opportunity to learn a new skill. But... as "chairman", how do I know what is new and unfamiliar to another sewist? Let alone two! I dreamt up the theme below, but honestly it was up to challengers to translate their prompt into a skill or tool new to them. And they DID! Read on, and let their tales of sewing courage inspire YOU to sew something new, too!

Like most women who sew for themselves, you may have spent the winter months dreaming of sundresses, light jackets, and crafting Spring/Summer attire to compliment your warm-weather shoe collection. UNLIKE the average sewist, your visions aren't limited by what can be made in quilter's cotton or jersey knit. Oh no. You take the seasonal saying "In like a lion, out like a lamb" too seriously for that. Instead, you will be incorporating fur, wool, or leather (or their vegan cousins) into your women's-wear contest submission! 

The objective is to develop a new sewing technique or skill, as instructed in the prompt, and utilize it in this sewing project.

Kara's Entry

It's been said that Kentucky is the state where you can get a sunburn and frostbite in the same week.  Our weather is unpredictable to say the least.  Even when I was taking these photos, a big storm was rolling in with some very cool breezes.  I decide to make an outfit that I could layer for the cool mornings and warm afternoons.  Part of my challenge was to work with materials that I have never used before, and boy did I take that challenge to the extreme.

Let's start with the base layer.  I used the Eucalypt Tank from Megan Nielsen's Breakwater Collection in faux suede from JoAnn fabric.  The suede was surprisingly easy to work with and I even made a decorative border to give it a little interest.    I used Art Gallery Serape in Fervor from Hawthorne Threads for my poncho, so I cut out a geometric border to match the print (I just drew out my pattern and used a pair of tiny, sharp scissors to cut out the shapes).  I love that this tank can go from very casual to a little more dressy since I used faux suede.

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My layering piece for the Eucalypt Tank is the Popover Poncho by April Rhodes.  The first time I saw this poncho, I was in love!  The poncho is perfect for a layering piece for cool mornings.  I used more of the faux suede for the cowl neck and the bias binding.  I was really scared to use the suede for bias, but it was not as difficult as I had expected.  The iron was my best friend through this project!

I decided I would also make a dressier look with the Popover.  I kept the Eucalypt Tank as the base layer, but this is where I stretched myself a little.....  I used Black Faux Vegan Leather from Girl Charlee to make the Jocole Skinny Pants for a dressier look.  I've never used faux leather before either, but now I have no fear!  It's a little slippery but honestly not that difficult to work with.

For my last adventure, I used faux fur for the cowl neck!  I thought I would try a bit of everything on this little adventure (or should I say, BIG adventure).  I will warn you, faux fur is a mess to work with!  I still have fur everywhere in my sewing room, all over my machine and my laptop.

I hope you have gotten a little inspiration but most of all, I hope you aren't afraid to use any of these fabrics because they are all sew worthy.  I will not be afraid to pick up just about any type of fabric from now on!  Challenge and stretch yourself and get out there and sew with a fabric you have never used before.



Starly's Entry

I love to mix a lot of fabrics and prints into an outfit, so I thought this challenge would be right up my alley. Then I got my prompt. Use leather, fur, or wool for spring? I live in Texas y€™all. It's already what most people would consider summer weather here. What did Becca DuVal of Free Notion do to me?

I decided to work with Vegan leather and wool for my outfit. The top is the Greenstyle Cross Back Top. The front of the top is made from a gorgeous peacock wool jersey with leather binding. The sleeves and one of the back panels is Vegan Leather. I paired the top with the Tie Dye Diva Chocolate Chip Skirt done in Stenzo poplin. Both the leather and the wool jersey were a bit of a challenge for me. The leather is very stretchy but only in one direction. It gets thick quickly. I was really questioning my choice when it came to the neck binding, but I worked it out. The wool jersey did not have much stretch at all. I had initially planned to use it in a top suitable for only knits but had to change plans when I found there wasn't enough stretch. I knew the Greenstyle Cross Back, suitable for knits or wovens, would be perfect for some mixing.

I used a Lillestoff knit in Scandifly for the second back panel of the top. I accented the leather panel with Littlestoff Skandifly ribbon. Not only did we get to mix some interesting fabrics but we had to learn a new skill or technique as well. I decided to use this as an opportunity to conquer my fear of bags! I have never made a proper bag before. The hardware, all the pieces, all the interfacing, and not knowing whether my machine would croak going through a bunch of layers has always scared me away. I've been hanging out in bag making groups forever, admiring everyone's work. I decided it was time to take the plunge.

I made the Swoon Ramona Mini Hipster Bag! The straps, bottom, and lining are done in Stenzo Baby Wale Cord, the accents on the outside are Stenzo knit that has been stabilized. For the main body of the bag I went with wool again. I had some loose weave wool coating. It was thick but I thought the weave was too loose to make a bag with. I was trying to decide if it would work with interfacing when I read up on felting! I felted the wool by washing and drying it several times. It pulled those threads up tight and gave me a nice thick super soft bag outer. I have to admit I really loved making the bag. I split it up into a couple of days. I did the cutting and interfacing the first day and then the sewing the next. I felt silly for being scared away for so long. If you are in the same boat, have a go with the Swoon Ramona. It's even FREE! We love free, right?

I'm very pleased with my creation. Everything is very comfortable. I am so proud that I conquered my fear of bags, learned some new tricks, and was able to turn out a top in wintery fabrics that is still open and airy enough to wear in the Texas heat. If you've enjoyed my creation and would like to see more photos and details, check out my blog!  

I am sooooooooo proud of our challengers! Their bravery in the face of new sewing projects and materials is kind of infectious, is it not??

Before we give them their marks, let's have a refresher of the rules, shall we??:

  • Please rate each challenger, and every category. Max of 5 stars, 5 is highest.
  • Challengers will receive an average score for each category, and an average score overall. (You can see an example here)
  • Your feedback helps each challenger recognize areas that they can improve their craft, and celebrate those areas that they already excel. 
  • As such, please submit your feedback for each contestant only once. Admittedly, I cannot enforce this, but the objective is for each contestant to receive a thoughtful rating, not skewed scores. 
  • It is SUPER DUPER NERVE-WRACKING to put work on display for others to judge, so let's remember to leave some love and encouragement for our challengers in the comments!

Don't forget about the sew-along! There are tons of awesome prompts to inspire your entry, whichever prompt you choose, and for whomever you choose to sew for! Check it out!