Sequel Jeans and Skelly Tutorial Part 1

Talking more with Danielle of Sequel Jeans:

“My mum will say I’ve been making stuff out of my jeans since I was a teenager. I made my skirt for my high school graduation out of jeans. I’m sort of self-taught, but a big part of my sewing education comes from my mum. She and I spent endless hours sewing together. These skills so rarely get passed down anymore; I’m so grateful to her for letting me mess around in her sewing room while she was trying to concentrate.

“My stock comes from any place I can get it. People love this idea so I often get messages offering their old jeans. Please raid your dad’s closet – they’re always amazing. Thrift stores always come through for me, but the bulk of my inventory right now comes from one single locker full of denim. It was like I won the lottery. I bought the entire thing – a thousand pairs – and never looked back.”

Danielle’s designs are very size inclusive, and Sequel is very celebratory of different body types.
“Size inclusivity is central to my business. Fat phobia is a serious problem and I’m trying to be the best ally that I can. We should pick our clothes because of how they make us feel, not because of how they make us look. When you put your jeans on and they just fit, it helps us get out of our own heads for a few sweet moments. You’re not thinking about how they’re digging in at the waist, or squeezing at the thighs – you’re free to think about chasing after your kids or finding flow at a job you love.

“My design process is pretty simple: you place an order, you choose from a selection of fits, and then we make them work for you! A lot of my clients will send me inspo pics and I do my best to make it happen for them.”

I obviously had to ask what Danielle’s fave denim style is.
“Oh, it’s constantly changing. Right now, I’m loving a high waisted baggy fit. Maybe it’s all the years of skin tight denim, but the comfort of a pair of jeans that I can Netflix in is just so good.”

I was also interested how the denim is treated.
“I tend to let the denim tell the story. Most of the jeans have amazing fades and rips already. Sometimes I have to reinforce the denim if it has thinned out too much, but for the most part, I want them to have that worn-in vintage look.”

It seems like there is a resurgence of old-style denim – including jackets. I have realized that there is a gap in my wardrobe – the perfect jean jacket. I tried to steal my dad’s way back when, but I have no idea where that ended up. I asked Danielle about jean jackets, and the come-back of real denim.
“It definitely seems like vintage denim is becoming more mainstream, which I attribute to the move away from stretch denim and back toward non-stretch. As far as jean jackets go, there’s nothing like a vintage Levi’s Trucker jacket and if you buy it oversized, you have arrived. I haven’t dipped my toes into the world of jean jackets but that is definitely something I would love to do in the future!”

I asked Danielle what advice she has for artists/designers who would like to explore sustainable/upcycled materials.
“This space is growing exponentially right now. There are more courses and online schools popping up all over and schools like George Brown are receiving major funding for sustainable fashion initiatives. One surprising thing I’ve learned is that the upcycling space can often be problematic for size inclusivity – especially when it comes to denim. There are only so many pairs of jeans or jackets made for bigger bodies and when we cut them up to make clothes for mainstream sizes, we are creating an equity issue. Solving one issue often creates another, which is something to be really mindful of when you enter this space.”

I asked Danielle what kind of things are inspiring her right now.
“My clients. I see them developing compassion for themselves, to accept themselves exactly as they are. How brave they are, how countercultural that is. It’s hard living in a world that focuses so much on how we look, but the fact that they pay me to make their clothes fit them and not the other way around, gives me hope that it’s beginning to change.”

Spoiler: This may or may not have given me an idea for a collab with Sequel that would also be a fun tutorial for y’all – watch this space.


How I Am So Productive

Let me ease your mind: it does not come naturally. If I had the choice to lay around and play video games and sleep all day like a cat, I would. But that doesn’t actually feel very good after awhile. Generally, if we feel like we have good ideas that we want to make into existing real life art, and we continually don’t do it, it makes us feel crappy and guilty and Bad At Being An Artist. And it’s compounded when we see other artists just blithely humming along, completing piece after piece like it’s just all flowing out of them from the gods and all they have to do is hold their brush to the paper.

I didn’t make anything at all for ten years. I mean, I made stuff. But it was all for work. My job consumed my life, and I was so exhausted mentally and physically that I made no art for years. I did not call myself an artist. I didn’t feel like I deserved the title.

I turned this around in a very simple, deliberate way.

Daily habit. I decided that if I wanted making art to be a part of my life, if I wanted to be An Artist, if I wanted to improve in all the ways I wished I could, then doing was the only way. I have an app on my phone called Streaks. I actually use it to manage my day-to-day life. You set up the tasks/activities you want to do everyday, and you get a little gold star for every day that you complete it. You can customize the frequency – it doesn’t have to be *every* day, it can be three times a week, whatever, and you can pause it. If you don’t want to ruin your streak but you have a week where you know you won’t be able to keep a normal schedule for whatever reason – going camping, being in hospital, etc., you won’t ruin your progress.

Some days I don’t sit down and paint or stitch. Some days, I do the bare minimum to earn my badge – like putting down a rough sketch of an idea or brainstorming something. As long as it ostensibly contributes to something I am creating, flexing my brain just a bit – it counts. The key here, especially at the beginning, is not to be too hard on yourself. Showing up is the important part. Creating the habit in the first place. They say it takes 21 days to create a new habit. In the beginning, this is the only thing you’re aiming for. You don’t need to block off 4 hours everyday for art. Just 15 minutes can be enough to get your badge. Over time, momentum will take over. My longest streak by far – even longer than remembering to take my very important autoimmune medication every day – is my art streak. I’ve hit my weekly goal 174 days now. *This* is how I am so productive. Go easy on yourself, create a daily habit.

Skelly Top Tutorial!

The first part of the tutorial is relatively chill. Collecting materials. Straight out of the gate, you’ll need more beads than you think you do. But you can get really creative about where they come from.

For buying new, if you’re still in lockdown like I am, I recommend checking online shops, local shops, craft stores like Michaels or Joanne’s. But I strongly encourage you to disassemble old jewellery, repurpose embellishments from clothes you’re not using, etc. Get creative. Pull things from anywhere that seems like it might be good for this project, stick it in the pile, baby. I have pearls left over from years of creating bridal stuff, and at this point a lot of them are just a random assortment in an overflow bowl. If you work with beads often, you have one of these bowls. This is a great place to use those!

I bought a tube of various-sized pearls from Michaels last fall for $5. You can try AliExpress – I get some items there when I can’t get them in my neighbourhood. They won’t arrive for like, two months, but that’s ok – this tutorial is giving you time. Our goal is to have our tops done for October. You will also need a top to embellish. If you have the requisite knowledge and skills, you can create one from scratch, but I am going to embellish one that is already made. I ordered a plain black sweatshirt online. You will need a sewing machine and very rudimentary sewing machine knowledge for this part.

An assortment of pearls, beads, sequins, rhinestones. A lot of ’em. I have these old broken necklaces that I love too much to pitch and this project is the perfect place to make sure they have a wonderful second life. I have some chain, and some french bullion.
Sweatshirt (you can dm me for a link to a decently priced black crewneck sweatshirt if you can’t find one)

Sewing machine
Hand-sewing needle
Embroidery hoop/frame (size doesn’t matter, I will show you how to cope with whatever size you have, tho bigger is recommended. Tips on choosing a good frame.
You can find more details of my fave basic embellishment tools here.

Optional (but recommended):

Next month’s tutorial will include all the set up steps plus an adaptable pattern for you to transfer onto your shirt.

How to Choose a Good Sewing Machine:

Buying a good sewing machine can be a bit intimidating. There are a *lot* of models on the market that vary wildly in price, doo-dads and options. These tips are for novices who just want to sew straightforward things. A lot of people get a little overwhelmed when faced with machines that offer two dozen different stitches, button-holes, embroidery options, digitized screens, and built-in coffee maker.

You don’t need any of that. I have three sewing machines. An industrial Singer from probably the 60’s that I got for $300 from a friend’s gramma, an analogue domestic singer that I got from my own gramma, and a serger that I bought new. About five years into my bridal business, I was chatting with one of my suppliers and mentioned I was thinking of upgrading my machine. He told me that if my old industrial worked well, to never ever replace it. “Just maintain it well. You’ll never find a machine that works better or harder for you.” I asked around my other suppliers, including the guy who services my machine, and they all agreed. Things were built to last in those days. It doesn’t do anything fancy. Just a straight stitch. It doesn’t even have a backstitch. I’ve used it to create every wedding gown I’ve ever made.

I did have to learn how to maintain my machines properly. It was absolutely worth the time and effort. Which brings me to my first tip: buy a machine you are capable of understanding. It means you will be able to maintain and fix it yourself. I don’t understand tech stuff. I can manage, but I can’t fix something digital if it breaks. All of my machines are mechanical. I can see how they work, and therefore I am able to know what is going wrong if they don’t work.

Tip two: more expensive doesn’t mean better. I made the Hard-boiled Wonderland collection on a $25 metal domestic bernina I got from value village (a thrift shop) because my industrial was stuck out west and I couldn’t get it shipped back to me in time. The important parts: it runs smoothly, keeps good tension, doesn’t jam with thread, has a decent straight-stitch, and the feed-dogs don’t mark your fabric.

My sister was trying to use her mother-in-law’s machine and believed she was a terribly unskilled sewist – her stitches were wonky, the tension didn’t look right, and its was really difficult to keep her lines smooth. Turns out, the machine was just not good. I never saw it, but maybe the timing was off, maybe the bobbin was loose, who knows. She bought a new one – a good analogue heavy duty Singer with straightforward stitches and not bells or whistles. It performs so well she was astonished. She immediately messaged me about how much easier the whole process of sewing was.

Tip three: machines have personalities, and you need to get to know them. I love my machines dearly, but they probably work better for me than they would for someone else, because I know them so well. Give yourself time to get to know your machine. You can check online for troubleshooting issues like adjusting tension by sticking the model number/version in google. Now, important to keep in mind – these guides were likely written by someone who knows nothing about slick web design, so they will appear very ugly, probably be dry and boring, and often not contain enough photos – but they will be informative if you can push through. I’ve been told by more than one person that they judged the information based on the page design and unfortunately, this is one area where that approach will not help you.

If you buy a new machine, you will get the manual (also probably ugly), but often it’s still worth some googling if something is frustrating you. Like I said, mechanical things are far easier to understand, and therefore to learn and fix. Somewhere, someone has made a really dry YouTube video or plain text description of what to do. I know, because that’s how I learned.

Final tip – what about the buttonholer? It can be tempting to get reeled in by a buttonhole option. I have tried sooooooo many. They don’t work well. Even if you are really good, they will never look great. If you are just home sewing, they might be good enough for you, but if you are a designer looking to create professional looking button-holes, contract them out. There are services that used a special machine to create them. If you absolutely have to do them at home, make bound buttonholes. They can be tricky but they look much more polished and professional.