Sunday, December 21, 2014
Until recently, I had just one pair of pants in my wardrobe: outlet store jeans that I loathed but wore out of spite and necessity. Enter the StyleArc Elle Pant pattern and a fabric shopping spree.
This is the first pair I made, imagining dress pants that were "secret pajamas." Secret's out, y'all. These look like sweatpants and are about as flattering. It's my own fault for using ponte knit instead of the recommended stretch woven. Also, that ponte (which was not cheap), is already starting to pill!
These pants are never seeing the office, though I do wear them around the house and to the grocery store. Thank goodness my subsequent Elle pants weren't such a disaster. More on those later.
Saturday, December 6, 2014
When my mother-in-law showed me this lovely midnight blue corduroy someone had given her, I had only one thought:
Fortunately for me, Mom didn't have any use for it. Getting to see that gorgeous color on my kid is almost as great as wearing it myself. He chose bright green pockets for this pair of Parsley Pants. The bright color looks fab...for now. He went directly from this photo shoot to playing in a giant hole in the backyard.
Sunday, November 23, 2014
A young friend of ours had a birthday this week. It wasn't until I saw his mom's rainbow-birthday-cake-in-progress pictures on Instagram last night that I realized we forgot to RSVP to his party. Which started in 12 hours. Some weeks are like that.
Enter the 10-minute pencil roll tutorial. When paired with some of your husband's old-fashioned pens and nibs, it makes for a spiffy little gift package. Our son approved of the idea and helped choose the appropriate fabric.
Making a pouch out of a single piece of material felt a bit like magic. Cintia's tutorial instructions are very clearly written and illustrated. The only change I made was to attach the cord when I serged (overlocked) the side vs. serging first and attaching the cord with my sewing machine. I had to clean and rethread my serger, so this took longer than 10 minutes. But probably not more than 30.
Thanks to this quick project, we made it to the party on time, gift in hand for a really cool 11-year-old. We weren't the only ones who had forgotten to RSVP. And that rainbow cake was really something.
Sunday, November 16, 2014
I wish I were as easy to fit as my kid. It took just one pattern adjustment to improve the fit of this season's second pair of Parsley Pants. Eyeballing the first pair, I figured the next ones could be taken in an inch. I slashed the pattern at the tuxedo stripe line, overlapped the pieces by a half inch, taped them back together, and redrew the waistline.
And that's it!
There is the matter of the pockets. Aren't these enormous fish ridiculous and wonderful? I didn't think I could use this fabric scrap for anything. I don't even remember where I got it. But when I pulled it out of my blue/green scrap bin, it coordinated so well with the corduroy. My kid thought they were great. (Despite the look on his face in the pic below.)
|Pants in action at the end of a school field trip. Note the jaunty walk and nascent preteen glare.|
Hoarding. It's how the magic happens.
Sunday, November 9, 2014
Last winter, just before my son's school concert and Kid's Clothes Week, I realized he had outgrown his dress shirts. What a perfect opportunity resize one of my husband's castoffs into an adorable and practical item!
Or not. As the shirt came together (Burda magazine 9/2008, 142), I realized it would be too small. Much. Too. Small. (Again!) I couldn't bring myself to finish a shirt my kid would never wear and bundled the whole mess away.
It took just an evening to complete. The shirt looks great, aside from one ugly buttonhole and a couple of lumpy seams. An utter failure for my intended purpose, but maybe some little guy can put it to use.
Do you abandon projects you know you won't use or finish them up to give away? Or, like me, do let them sit for eight months while you decide? :)
Sunday, October 19, 2014
I've been sewing bags and fabric shopping instead of making my kid pants. Nothing like a sudden temperature drop to make those gaping holes at the knees a priority. (Seriously, even the patches on all his pants had holes!)
Though there are many cute patterns to try, I'm sticking with Made by Rae's Parsley Pants. I love them. My kid loves them. And they go up to size 10.
As always, my kid chose the fabric and top stitching thread. It's a good way to make sure the pants will get worn. And he can't blame me later for dressing him funny.
My kid is slim, but his measurements were close to the size 8 so I didn't adjust the pattern. The fit is much too baggy. These pants look like scrubs with bright red topstitching. (Unnoticed by him, making this a PASS.) Next time, I'll make the pattern narrower, adjusting at the
pintuck tuxedo stripe line.
I used Rae's super seams tutorial to make these pants good and strong. So even if the knees blow out, those crotch and leg seams will stay together!
Monday, October 6, 2014
This adorable little bag has a big surprise...
A HUGE INTERIOR FULL OF POCKETS! I spend a long time at the beginning of a sewing meetup or class locating my materials and the rest of the session trying not to lose them. Enter The Bionic Gear Bag by RipStitcher.
This pattern includes four zipper pockets, generous space in between, and a huge stable work area (aka "The Box") at the front for keeping track of things you set down. You can also download instructions for a fabric pouch that snaps in place to create temporary upright storage for seam rippers, etc.
Seriously, go check out this video of all you can fit in this bag.
The instructions are written in a chatty tutorial style and provide many helpful construction tips. There were times when I could have used more explicit instruction (e.g., cut the side panels as mirror images, make sure the bottom zipper stop is within the 1/4 inch seam allowance), and the photos end about 2/3 of the way through. That said, this would still be a fine project for an advanced beginner.
I used some of my favorite stash/scrap fabrics and zippers for this project and it makes me happy to look at them. Another surprise benefit!
Sunday, September 14, 2014
I've taken several yoga classes over the years, but always at studios where mats were provided. Naturally, I hadn't considered the logistics of carrying a yoga mat in a thunderstorm. As I trekked to my workplace yoga class across campus last week in the pouring rain, struggling to keep my mat dry and upright in a backpack covered with a plastic bag, I thought, "There's got to be a better way!"
Enter the Sewaholic yoga mat tutorial, duck canvas and strapping from my stash, and Scotchguard Fabric and Upholstery Protector. Caroline's tutorial is very easy to follow, with detailed instructions and lots of photos. It took me just an evening to put together.
My only changes were using ready-made strapping and adding a key loop to the pocket. If I were making this again I would remember to add the key loop before I attached the pocket and sew it in the seam instead of attaching it to the flap. I might also plan ahead and treat the fabric with Scotchguard before cutting out the pattern pieces instead of after the bag was assembled.
But then, if I were 100% awesome at planning ahead, I would have made this project before the start of the session!
Sunday, August 10, 2014
Last spring I acquired a beautiful Hawaiian floral print that flows like a waterfall and feels absolutely delightful. On an impulse, I also picked up this sheer polyester border print that is itchy and sweaty when you hold it close. Apparently, I bought it so I could try out a maxi dress pattern before cutting into my cherished Hawaiian print.
My original plan was to extend the Polly Top to the floor, but I lost my nerve once I laid out the pattern pieces. I just wasn't sure I'd wear a column shaped dress without more shaping. I set my (enormous!) pattern pieces aside and started to improvise.
Since the print runs along the selvedge, I turned the yardage sideways. Then I measured up from the floor to my waist, added a few inches, marked the fabric, and cut. I made a deep hem at the bottom, folded the piece in half, and sewed up one side.
I cut the Polly Top out of the remaining fabric. It wasn't enough for a full-length top, but that was fine. I assembled the top as usual, omitting the hem and leaving the finishing for last.
Now I had an assembled bodice and a big, rectangular skirt. The waist opening of the skirt was at least twice my waist measurement. The next step was to take in the skirt and attach it to the bodice. I tried gathering (by zigzag stitching over a piece of yarn, SO EASY), but it was a terrible look for my backside. Instead, I folded deep pleats and basted them in place. I slid on the bodice, pulled up the skirt, and marked the spot where the two should attach.
Either fashion is changing or I'm going through a phase, because I thought this drop waist look was pretty cool. I sewed the skirt and bodice together and pulled the assembled dress on over my head. And then scratched my head, because now the dress was too long. Huh?
Oh, well. I pinched the top of the shoulders to bring up the hem and neckline, marked with pins, and made new shoulder seams at the marks. Then I finished the neckline and armholes with bias tape and swished around the yard.
The fit is very, very loose. This is perfect for the material, leaves plenty of room for a slip, and makes me feel glam. However, it's not the most flattering look from the side and the length is comically difficult to maneuver on a bike.
Although I'll wear this dress for these last weeks of summer, a Polly Hawaiian print maxi is a no-go. I'll have to make a new plan for that fabric. Any suggestions?
Sunday, August 3, 2014
The summer heat and Oonapalooza arrived together in July. To celebrate, I sewed up the Polly Top from By Hand London. For those who missed it, Oonapalooza was the Sewcialsts theme last month. It called upon sewers to emulate Oona, one of the best sewing bloggers around, by trying something daring and fun.
Though the fabric is sedate, the Polly Top pattern is daring for me. The front contrast panel and lack of darts made me worried I would look like an overweight Care Bear. "Should I make a muslin?" I wondered. "heck, no!" said the Oona on my shoulder. "you've got mad stash. just cut into it and GO!"
I decided to go all out and make this top reversible, using the Polly dress tutorial for guidance. One side is gray linen, the other is gray cotton voile and a lovely cotton print from Pink Castle Fabrics. It came together fairly quickly, though I could use more practice sewing curves. I had to pick out the front seams more than once.
I'm pleased with this shirt, inside and out. The contrast panel doesn't look like a costume. There is enough shaping to avoid fitting like a tent. Like with most low cut shirts, I need to wear a close fitting camisole underneath if I don't want to flash my entire torso when I bend over. Which undermines the cooling properties of a loose top in natural fibers, but is better than wearing only high necklines.
Now that my top and Oonapalooza are finished, I'm not sure what to do next. I had planned to extend the Polly Top into a maxi, but think the fit might be too baggy on that scale. I asked the Oona on my shoulder about it, but she had already left to have cocktails and sew something fabulous.
Sunday, July 20, 2014
I fell in love with this stretch lace at Haberman Fabrics last spring, but didn't know what to do with it (other than drape it around myself, admiring all the pretty dots). Inspiration struck a year later when I saw a young woman on campus wearing a sweatshirt with lace inserts and elbow length sleeves. Eureka!
I had never sewn stretch lace before. Researching techniques and sewing test swatches were helpful steps to take before making up this Renfrew. I was surprised to find French seams were unnecessary. Trimming the seam allowance, pressing to one side, and topstitching looked very neat and was easier to accomplish.
The only problem with this shirt is that it's hard to determine the right and wrong sides with a quick glance. I met a dressmaker/designer at work one day. I could see her looking at the seams and didn't realize until afterward that my shirt was on inside out!
Once I had my lace shirt, thoughts turned to what to wear underneath. I like the look of a contrasting color, but also wanted a nude camisole for when I want to put the focus more on the lace. Out came the bolt of swimsuit lining from last year's trip to Montreal.
I cut a slightly deeper neckline and a dramatic scoop in the back, but you would never know from the final result. I clearly need more practice applying elastic! The neckline is gathered too high to wear with my lace shirt, so I wear this backwards and stuff the shoulders into place (repeatedly). How can anyone focus on the pretty lace when I'm fidgeting with my undershirt? Good thing I've got more swimsuit lining.
Sunday, July 13, 2014
If you spend your days in an office, you can appreciate my summer work wardrobe dilemma: dressing for my commute means I freeze once I get inside. Enter the fabulous Jalie 3248 drop pocket cardigan. This cardigan has everything: big pockets, simple design lines, and clever construction that hides all the raw edges. Plus, it doesn't wrinkle when you stow it in your bag.
I made this up with the last yardage of gray mystery knit from Fabric Warehouse (as seen in these leggings and this skirt) and ponte from JoAnn's. (OMG PONTE IS THE BEST! I think everyone who reads sewing blogs knew that already, but this was my first time working with this incredibly soft and easy to sew fabric.)
This cardigan hangs just beautifully. Plus, when you pair it with a matching pencil skirt it makes for a classy and comfortable suit.
Sunday, July 6, 2014
As soon as I spotted this adorable little animal print, I knew it would make a lovely Renfrew tank. It's from an equally adorable little fabric shop called Sew to Speak in Columbus, Ohio. The store is packed with treasures and the staff is super friendly and knowledgeable.
This knit has a beautiful feel to it, soft and springy. I wanted to showcase the print with a delicate finish, so I swapped out the bands for narrow hems. I also scooped out the back neckline (sidestepping my gaping problem) and narrowed the straps a touch. To preserve the shape of my hems, I applied clear elastic before folding them under.
I'm still not sure what these little creatures are (donkeys? rabbits? aardvarks?), but I sure am delighted with the result!
Sunday, June 22, 2014
These stretchy knit pencil skirts are a direct result of reading my pulmonary specialist report. My lungs are gonna be fine. But before writing that I don't have lung cancer, the doc documented my "soft, protuberant abdomen." WTF? Is that really relevant? I got an urge to show up to my next appointment in full riot grrrl mode. But I need summer work clothes, so I made figure hugging skirts instead.
All three are all self-drafted following the Simple Simon and Company tutorial. I highly recommend it! It's not a complicated process and using your own measurements means the skirts fit well when made up in the right fabric.
The striped version follows the tutorial to the letter, which calls for a fabric waistband in place of elastic. This works well with a less stretchy fabric, but the green rib was not a good choice (again). Though it would make a heck of a maternity skirt...or weight loss advertisement costume.
|OMG, that one weird tip really works!|
The black and gray skirt has a 2-inch exposed elastic waistband. The band is finished so nicely, in a simple way I never would have put together on my own. The finished skirt is super classy and comfortable. It's my favorite of the bunch.
For my electric blue skirt, I tried a 2-inch concealed elastic waistband. I've used this with 1/2-inch elastic for leggings and liked the result. Thought I wear it plenty, this skirt would look and feel better with a narrower elastic and a bit more ease to accommodate the less stretchy fabric.
So maybe I should thank my pulmonary specialist for his positive influence on my wardrobe...or not. Have you ever made clothing out of spite? How did it turn out?
Saturday, June 7, 2014
Summer hit just after I finished my long-sleeve Renfrews. Isn't that always the way? So instead of fixing the holes that have suddenly appeared in all my child's pants, I made myself a tank top. Sorry to shatter any illusions you might have about my selfless sewing. Mama's got to have some new shirts.
My favorite tank top of all time had a scoop neck and wide straps, almost exactly like a Renfew without sleeves. Could I recreate this fit? I grabbed two cast-off t-shirts to find out.
The first time I made tank tops, I used the pattern and instructions in Sew U Home Stretch, which calls for narrowing the bodice at the shoulders. I wanted this top to have wide straps that stayed put, so I left the bodice unaltered.
I did use the instructions in Sew U for applying the armhole binding flat before sewing the side seams. This isn't a big breakthrough since the Renfrew instructions already call for applying the sleeves flat. But I thought I should mention it here since the neck and waist bindings aren't applied this way.
The results are just what I hoped for: a sleeveless shirt I can wear all summer at home and my (admittedly pretty casual) office. Patching those pants may have to wait. Isn't it shorts weather, anyway?
Sunday, May 25, 2014
It was two days before my husband took off for a visit with friends and the Maine Comic Arts Festival. He poked a finger through the giant hole in the crotch of his pj pants and said, "So, I'm going to wear these if you don't make another pair."
That hole was only the latest issue in this raggedy pair of Simplicity 2823 pants. I had made several repairs, but the pants were just too far gone to mend again. Instead of going back to the pattern, I cut open the piggy print pants and laid them directly on the fabric. This meant I could cut just two pieces (right and left sides) instead of the four called for in the original pattern. This is how Made by Rae's Parsley Pants are laid out and it is a real time saver. I skipped making a casing (which I suck at) and applied the elastic directly (like in this Cal Patch tutorial). Start to finish, the project took maybe two hours.
I was just about to pat myself on the back when my husband tried on the final product. "Hmm. Were these legs always so balloony? And the waist so saggy?" he asked. Uh, oh. I had just stolen the elastic stashed away for pj's for leggings, so I had reused his old elastic. Guess it had lost some of its elasticity. And maybe his old pants had stretched out, making for a larger pair when I traced them?
I busted out my serger. We pinched out the excess in the legs and waist, then I ran new lines of stitching. Elegant? Not at all. Effective? Absolutely. My husband had a decent pair of jammies for his trip. And he says that they are the best fitting pair he's ever had!
Sunday, May 11, 2014
As soon as I finished my first Sewaholic Renfrew, I wanted a striped one with a superhero-sized waistband and cuffs. When I found this aqua and spring green striped jersey knit at the thrift store, a perfect match for the baby rib knit in my stash, it was too perfect.
Not for long! I spaced out and forgot to cut the front on the fold. I didn't even notice until it was time to attach the neckband that I had an unintentional cardigan on my hands.
I wasn't going to let one mistake foil my plans. I cut a stripe in the rib knit to join the right and left sides together. The Sew Ann Arbor ladies said they liked it even better that way. Yeah, design element...
The rest came together quite easily.
If I were paying attention to seam allowances, I would have noticed the bottom stripe would be reduced to a sliver in the final product and adjusted accordingly. You'll see I stretched out the center strip of fabric when applying the neckband, which could probably have been prevented by using a double layer of the baby rib.
I should also figure out my back fitting issues. There's an extra flop of fabric at the neckline and some bunching at the waist. Swayback? Rounded shoulders? Does anyone know what's happening here?
Despite its shortcomings, nothing can stop me from wearing this shirt. Well, maybe the crush of indie comic fans at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival or a similar heat-producing crowd. I was roasting in my long sleeves and wide cuffs. Thank goodness it's not a dressing up kind of convention. Neoprene-wearing superheroes probably would have fainted.
Thursday, May 1, 2014
When my friend's son was a teenager he used to say he couldn't imagine a life where he wasn't famous. Sometimes things just don't turn out as planned. Like these spring tops.
Last year I took a chance on a pattern with a drape top and loooooved it. But within a month, the facing curled up at the bottom, making a prominent line right across my chest. No amount of pressing could straighten it out. The shirt sank further and further back into my closet until I had to admit it was time for the refashion pile.
Last month I tried the Sewaholic Renfrew and was unimpressed with my results. The shirt grew to enormous proportions while I was sewing, yet stretched across my bust in a schlubby (vs. sports bar waitstaff) kind of way. I discovered a trip through the dryer would stabilize the fabric long enough to wear for a day. A trip to the bra store took care of the rest. This shirt has been in heavy rotation ever since.
Which is all a big lead-in to Spring Top Sewalong 2014 and Me-Made-May 14. I'm hoping to make at least one more spring top before the sewalong ends next week. And I plan to wear one piece of me-made or me-rafashioned clothing during the month of May. My intention is to give some items I haven't worn in a while a chance to shine. Like my friend's fame-seeking son, who is now in his 20s, there's plenty of time left for surprises.
Sunday, April 13, 2014
It's been a couple decades since I wore leggings regularly. So I didn't know until the cold weather hit that spandex leggings would be no good for winter wear. I had to wear a pair of tights underneath, which defeats the purpose of leggings, no?
I finished this pair, in a heavy mystery knit fabric, just in time for the last few weeks of winter. They're a bit hot and itchy, and you can see the fabric recovery isn't stellar. But, hey, gray leggings!
This time around I wanted a smaller waistband and so applied the elastic directly to the top of the leggings, as suggested in the Cal Patch tutorial. Sewing casings is the worst. This method is awesome.
Tuesday, April 1, 2014
I've had my eye on the Renfrew top from Sewaholic Patterns for a good long while. Renfrew is the Swiss Army Knife of patterns. This fitted knit top comes with three sleeve variations, three neckline variations, and is easy to modify into a dress or cardigan. (I'm pretty sure there is a toothpick in there, too, if you can figure out how to open it.) There are a bajillion lovely Renfrew examples out there. Go ahead, take a look and come back.
My mom sent me this pattern for my birthday. In older-not-wiser fashion, I made the same silly mistakes I've been repeating for years:
- Picking the wrong fabric. Though it seemed fine when I tested a swatch, this baby rib knit stretched like silly putty as I handled it, growing with every seam. My finished shirt does not offer the close fit that I would have gotten in a less stretchy material.
- Not paying attention when applying the neckband. It was only after I'd serged the neckband into place and topstitched (!) that I discovered it was too long. Removing it stretched the neckline beyond saving.
I've gotten some helpful advice on PatternReview.com (lurker no more!) on how I might salvage this shirt by applying stay tape to the back neckband. If I can keep the neckline from stretching, I might be able to wear this shirt out of the house without having to stand perfectly still so it doesn't droop off my shoulder. Of course, in the time it takes to fix, I could sew another...maybe even two.
Sunday, March 9, 2014
One of my friends is decorating her baby's nursery in a space theme. Awesome, right? But in all the space prints she found that featured little kids, the kids were ALWAYS boys. Decidedly not awesome.
Well, this print doesn't feature little kids, but it does have some fun looking rockets. It comes from the mighty stash, circa 2006 when I made a blanket for my own baby. It's got a black and white print to stimulate little minds on the other side and big knots around the edges for chewing.
I feel like a cheater even posting this project. Not only was there no sewing, but the pieces were stacked right sides out and folded together in my stash, ready to be made into a blanket as soon they emerged from cryostasis. Using the massive cutting table at Pink Castle Fabrics during the Sew Ann Arbor monthly meetup made this project even easier. (I was only moderately embarrassed to be working on such a simple project in the presence of such talented sewers...)
To make your own blanket, start with whatever size of fleece you want. Stack one piece on top of the other (right sides out). Cut out a 6"x6" square from each corner, then cut six inch slits around the sides, spacing them two inches apart. Tie the fringe pieces together twice. And that's it. Your baby blanket is ready for liftoff!
Sunday, March 2, 2014
I'm usually too distracted by new projects to sew a pattern twice in a row. So it's with much self congratulations that I present version two of the Deer & Doe Plantain t-shirt. When I saw The Crafty Kitty's brilliant Mockingjay reverse applique Plantain, I had to make my own. I spent a week pondering a "put a bird on it" version, but scrapped that in favor of this star stencil from Alabama Chanin.
The outer fabric is a very lightweight knit of dubious quality (the dye stained my hands even after prewashing). The under fabric is from a sturdy logo t-shirt I've been storing for years with the express purpose of remaking it into something else. The two layers work beautifully together. This t-shirt is comfortable without being clingy and, more importantly, warm enough to wear without a sweater in this never. ending. winter.
I did a clean finish on the neckline and sleeves and left the bottom edges raw. My husband the artist says he likes this because the concentration of reverse applique near the unfinished hem makes it look like I deconstructed the shirt as I worked from top to bottom. To which I replied, "Yeah....that was an entirely intentional choice that carried out my artistic vision."
In my excitement to try a new surface decoration technique, I lost some of my basic sewing sense and forgot to stay stitch the neckline to prevent it from stretching out of shape. When I inserted the neckband, the neckline was abysmally droopy. I also forgot to try on the shirt before serging the neckband in place. Dumb. I spent an hour picking out the stitches, then shortened the band and tried again. It worked okay, though the neckline stretched out enough that this is a camisole-only shirt.
There are also some fit issues happening on the back of the shirt. Which is clear to me in this photo, but apparently not to my coworkers who all raved about the fit. So maybe it doesn't look bad when I'm moving around?
Despite these goofs, I think I'll be wearing this t-shirt regularly until spring. Don't look for another version anytime soon, though. I'm already cutting out pieces for a different project.
What about you, do you sew patterns twice in a row? And do you make similar versions, or alter the look each time?
Sunday, February 9, 2014
I love this pattern. It's got a low neckline, lower than I usually wear, but the snug fit in the shoulders keeps the shirt in place when I move around. The subtle flared shape is flattering without adding too much swing to the hem. The bust is sized for a C cup, which means I can get away without a FBA (that's full bust adjustment) in this stretchy material.
And of course, there's the elbow patches!
|My husband swears there are no drag lines when I'm not twisting around to show off elbow patches.|
Have you tried the Plantain pattern yet? And if not, why the heck not!?!
Sunday, February 2, 2014
This summer my jammie pants wore out beyond all hope of repair. After months of procrastination, I'm finally back to lounging in comfort!
When I pulled out Simplicity 2823, I shook my head. Former me had forgotten to record my pattern alterations. (You'd think unisex jammie pants wouldn't need any, but the amount of space between the crotch line and waist is immense). Instead of figuring it out again, I cut open my old pants and traced around them for the pattern. The original pattern has two pieces, a front and a back. Since the front and back pieces were already sewn together, I cut open only the inside seams. I now had just one pattern piece to trace instead of two. SCORE!
My original pants were too short, so my ankles were always cold. I goofed up the length again on this pair (I blame an off-grain print, but maybe it's my measuring skills), but was determined to fix it. Cue the GIANT CLOWN RUFFLES.
These bad boys are seven-inch tall strips, folded in half and gathered. The double layer really keeps out the drafts. Plus I'm all set if I want to run off to join the circus.