Wednesday, April 15, 2015

An Easter - no, make that "Vernal" - Geranium.

Geranium Easter Dress

Oh, my sweet Miss Margaret Joy! Since I last blogged a Maggie dress, she got her first haircut! A cute almost bowl-like bob. I held out for a while, but Maggie's long hair was getting a bit straggly and she never lets me put it back in a ponytail or barrette ... or comb it ... so finally I decided we'd all be happier with a cute short cut.

I didn't mean for it to be quite so bowl-like, but with kid haircuts you just pretty much get what you get - the style of the haircut is determined by how long your child will sit still and how much they are hating the process. Which for my kids is quite a lot (of dislike, that is). We went to a local place called "Queenie's," walking distance from our house, where all of the hairdressers and customers were speaking Cantonese. I was skeptical of a place that advertises $7 cuts and doesn't specialize in kids, but Steve told me they did a nice job with Joe, and he was so right! Queenie herself fussed over Maggie and was so sweet and patient with both Joe and Maggie while they were enduring their haircuts, and then gave them tamarind lollypops as a reward! They were pretty thrilled by that.

Here's an action shot for your amusement.

Look at that face. That is Maggie's "I'm putting up with this right now, but make no mistake, I am NOT ENJOYING IT" face. My hand firmly on her shoulder and around her neck? Necessary in order that she not get poked with scissors. Sorry babes.

Geranium Easter Dress

Of course, Maggie would be adorable with any type of hair, but look how her new bangs frame her pretty brown eyes! Of course she wakes up with it looking pretty much this adorable. I don't know how she does it - I wish I had this problem! This girl's hair naturally falls into a default mode of "artfully unkempt hipster."

Geranium Easter Dress

Onto the dress. This was intended to be an Easter dress, and was finished in plenty of time, but then, alas, Maggie came down with a fever right before Easter and couldn't participate in the festivities. Joe and I went to the egg hunt on our own, and this dress sat until last weekend, when I finally pulled it out and asked Maggie if she'd like to try it on and take pictures. Thankfully, she said "I like it!" and readily agreed to my plan.

Of course, this is the well known and rightfully popular Geranium Dress by Rae, in size 18 months, with a plain neckline, gathered skirt, flutter sleeves, and no pockets. I used a pretty calico I bought at A Verb For Keeping Warm, a small Oakland shop with a lovely selection of quality yarns and a beautifully curated selection of fabrics (including Liberty, Nani Iro, and gorgeous linens as well as some quilting cottons like this one). I liked that while it has pink flowers (sure to please Maggie), it has lots of yellowy cream and spring green and doesn't read predominantly pink (which pleases me). It has a stripey (wallpaper-like) floral motif, and I ran the stripes horizontally on the bodice and vertically on the skirt.

Geranium Easter Dress

I wanted to "fancy" the dress up a bit for Easter, so, inspired by this version, I embellished the waistline with a simple spring green grosgrain ribbon and sewed a little bow on the front. I sewed the ribbon on with pick stitches before whip stitching the lining down by hand (thus hiding my ribbon stitches inside the bodice).  

Geranium Easter Dress

The back closes up with green buttons (maybe they could've been placed better, shrug). The size of the dress is just right for petite Maggie, with no growing-into required. I finished the flutter sleeves with a simple zig-zag and they have a charmingly raggedy look.

Geranium Easter Dress

I lengthened the skirt pattern pieces by a few inches and then turned over and handstitched a 3 inch deep hem. The skirt ended up a bit shorter than the pattern is drafted for (it just clears Maggie's knees). I love a deep hem on little girls' dresses. It has an old-fashioned look to me. Traditionally, I think such a deep hem was done with an eye to letting the dress out as the child grew, but as Rachel and Alicia Paulson have both recently mentioned, a deep hem also adds weight and substance to the hem that help a gathered skirt to hang better.

As you can probably guess, Maggie chose her own hosiery and footwear for this photo shoot. 

Initially I was a little disappointed that Maggie didn't get a chance to wear this on Easter (and, let's face it, be photographed in it holding an Easter basket), and after all that hand-stitching, I wasn't sure how much wear it would see, but do you want to know the best part about this dress?

She loves it! Look at her testing the "twirl"!

Geranium Easter Dress

Geranium Easter Dress

Geranium Easter Dress

She actually wore this dress two days in a row, and I had to convince her to take it off on the third day. So I think it will get plenty of love, and there is no better feeling for me than making something that my kids love! Oh my sweet girl.

Friday, April 10, 2015

KCW and some Spring and Summer Pinterest planning.

Well, I signed up for this Spring's KCW. As usual, it's a busy week for me, so we'll see how I do, but I thought it would be a good motivator to focus on whipping up a few things for the kids this month. So right now I'm in planning mode.

I love Pinterest, don't you? My friend and I were talking recently about how we think it might be our favorite social media. I have groomed my feed pretty well (for me, this means I religiously unfollow boards that deal with dieting, working out, getting or being skinny, and, I admit, collections of religious and inspirational quotes) so it's mostly filled with lovely things. I like to open it late at night after my kids have fallen asleep, and go to my "happy place" of pretty things, sewing and craft projects. I also use it to keep track of great things I see on blogs or elsewhere on the internet and want to remember later.

I have a board of general children's wear but it has grown to ungainly proportions, so for purposes of more practical sewing planning for the next few months, I started boards to collect photos or ideas for items that I would like to do sooner rather than later. I have one board for Maggie, and one for Joe (I also started one for selfish sewing, but that will have to be the subject of a different blog post). It's still an ambitious collection and I'll never sew all the things, but it's definitely more manageable. And since I'm on a budget, my focus with these boards was to find items that could be made with patterns and materials that I already have.

Click on my little Pinterest widgets to go to my boards, and then click on the images to see the source. I hope no one minds me using these inspiration images (if so, please let me know!). I know that different bloggers, etc., have different comfort levels with being "pinned" and I try to respect those wishes. Let me know if I messed up!

So let's talk sewing planning for Joe for KCW and beyond!

Joe's Spring/Summer theme is ... wait for it ... you'll be shocked ... t-shirts and shorts! Hahaha. As in, the only clothing he ever wears. Crazy, right? But there are some other concepts here as well:
  • Color blocked t-shirts. Not only is color blocking fun and lively to look at, but it will help me use up scraps! Yay! I have two TNT t-shirt patterns for Joe these days: a rather squarish Ottobre tee (scroll to the bottom of that post), and the Field Trip Raglan. These two patterns pretty much cover all of my t-shirt needs and they are already traced out and ready to go in Joe's size. 
  • Pockets. Joe likes shirts with pockets so why not make that colorful contrasting pockets? Maybe with flaps and buttons?
  • Henley - I would like to try a henley tee for Joe one of these days, Ottobre has a really great looking pattern.
  • More knit shorts with ribbed waistbands. Joe is wearing his bright rainbow shorts everytime they are clean, so that was a huge win! I need to make more pairs, hopefully with more colorful details. I am also wondering if Joe might be willing to try woven shorts if I put a knit waistband on them. I am considering trying that with the Sketchbook shorts pattern in a soft fabric to start.
  • Raglan sweatshirt. I want to use the Field Trip pattern to make Joe a classic raglan sweatshirt. I have some plain navy sweatshirt fleece, but it definitely needs "something" to make it more fun and interesting. Thoughts?
  • Flannel shirt. Ambitious and may not happen, but I would love to sew Joe an oversized flannel shirt to wear over his play clothes using the trusty Sketchbook shirt ... 
Okay, that's a lot, and look, Maggie's board is even more ambitious! Haha, allow me to dream, okay? Girls are fun to sew and to Pin for, clearly! I will never be able to make all of these things, but it sure is fun plotting and scheming.

Maggie's board is more specifically pattern-themed, with a focus on patterns I have - there are an embarrassing number of little girls' patterns I have bought but not yet sewn as well as many old favorites I really want to make again. Let's put a dent in that pile, shall we?

  • T-shirts. I have never made a Flashback Skinny tee for Maggie! She's small for her age but I think I can work with the 2T now. I'm thinking a "ringer" style tee or maybe a simple tee with puffed sleeves.
  • Pants/Trousers. I would love to make Maggie some simple Sailboat pants in denim (if she can tolerate the lack of pink), and I really want to try a pair of Sketchbook pants for her, lengthened and pegged a bit.  She is also almost big enough for some Parsley pants, which I would like to straighten into little patterned stovepipes like this.
  • Knit dress. I really want to revisit the Little Betty pattern for Maggie, and make it into a dress. Did you see the gorgeous one in Stylo a while back? Or what about a lengthened Sailboat top?
  • Never-sewn patterns to consider: The Hide and Seek, the Franklin Dress, the Garden Party, the Hopscotch Skirt, oh my, the list just goes on and on! 
  • Pinnies. Oh, the cute pinafores!! I can't stand them! I would love to make one or two of these for Maggie, and they can double as sundresses.
Okay, now I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed! Too many wonderful ideas, not enough time! I'll probably pare this down to, I don't know, two or three garments for KCW.  I do have a job, after all!!

Are you planning for S/S (F/W for you Aussies) 2015 kid sewing? What's on your to-make list?

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Noodlehead Divided Basket and misc.

I've been a busy seamstress the past few weeks. I actually made an Easter dress for Maggie, but then she came down with a fever on the night before Easter and couldn't participate in the festivities, so she hasn't had a chance to wear it yet. Boo. Don't worry, though: it's just a simple cotton dress, I'm sure it will get plenty of wear and I will get some photos soon and share it here.

I am also working on a quilt top and I cut out a blouse for myself, so ... right, in other words my sewing area is a hot mess now! I really need to stop sewing and focus more on getting our house ready to sell, but ...  sewing is one of my favorite forms of procrastination and denial.

Since I don't have any more recently finished objects to share, I'm taking this opportunity to share a gift I made last month for a dear friend who just had her second daughter. I wanted to send something for the new baby, but also a little something for mom. She's a fellow seamstress, crocheter, and lover of all things textile, which, by the way, makes it even more fun to sew gifts! I know that she reads many of the same blogs I do, and consequently, recognizes and lusts after fun fabric lines just like I do!

Noodlehead Divided Basket

So while Noodlehead's Divided Basket does work to store all kinds of baby things, I definitely made this with mom in mind! I thought she might like to use it for hand-sewing, yarn, or bits and bobs. It can't hurt that the use of Cotton + Steel fabrics automatically elevates the hipness of any article by at least 10 hipster points, right? It's rare that I fall head over heels for a designer quilting cotton line, but there is something irresistible about this one, probably the super hipness, what do you think? I dunno, this stuff is just cool.

Noodlehead Divided Basket

I don't usually do a lot of bag sewing, and this was first time using a Noodlehead patterns, and my first time using fusible fleece. I'll be honest with you, this was the project that broke my sewing machine. (I was trying to sew through many thick layers of fabric and interfacing and fleece, and I think what happened is that I bent the needle, which then hit the bobbin case and messed up the timing - it's all fixed now thank goodness!) I finished it up on my Elna, which is tiny and quiet but could sew through giant logs unfazed, I'm telling you. Machine damage aside, I thought the pattern was well drafted and affordable and the instructions were great. It was not a difficult pattern to sew, I just need to learn how to sew box corners with so many layers of fabric!

If I do another one of these baskets, it will be on one of my older, sturdier, machines.

Noodlehead Divided Basket

For whatever reason, "bag sewing" remains a challenge for me! But I do love the final results and I definitely need one for my yarns and crochet hooks, so chances are good I will be trying it again. I think my favorite part of this pattern is the use of cotton webbing in the handles. I don't know what it is, but it just looks so clever and professional with that partial covering/binding.

Inside the basket were a few gifts for baby. A simple baby blanket made from Nani Iro double gauze. The fabric is so nice it really didn't need anything fancy, I just sewed two yards right sides together, turned them and topstitched. It's so light and fluffy! Perfect for wrapping a baby in during the warmer months.

Nani Iro baby blanket

I told you my sewing space was a mess. Sigh.

And I whipped up a couple of pairs of little baggy baby pants on the serger using some knits from the stash. 

Ottobre 3/2013 #7

These are from Ottobre Magazine, 3/2013, #7. My friend uses cloth diapers so I was looking for something with a nice generous fit around the tush.

Ottobre 3/2013 #7

So I have no idea how these will work in real life (it's weird sewing for a baby now that I no longer have a baby in the house to try things on!). I did do things a bit differently with these than the pattern called for. The pattern had me hemming the waist band and cuffs. That just seemed ... uh, a little weird, so I doubled over the cuffs on both pairs, and did the same with the waistband on the yellow ribbing pair. I have no idea! I can't wait to hear how these work out. If they are a success, they are easy as can be and I'll be making more!

Do you use extra special materials when you sew for other sewing/fabric/crafty people?

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Lisette Skirt: Butterick 6182.

Lisette Butterick 6182 Skirt

Hello readers! Today I have some selfish sewing to share with you. When Liesl announced the release of new Lisette patterns under Butterick, I really liked the looks of Butterick 6182, a boxy top and a-line skirt with a high waist and inverted pleat. I took advantage of the fact that Butterick patterns are steeply discounted at my local JoAnns, and nabbed it on a notions run.

Lisette Butterick 6182 Skirt

This skirt has a fun 1970s safari vibe, am I right? It's just a great, classic, but not boring skirt. I went hunting in my stash and found this maroon stretch "denim" - it looks like denim but feels like it has a good amount of synthetic content. It's nice and heavy and it hangs well. It has a nice sheen, and although the weave looks like denim, the color and shine make it acceptable for non-Friday business casual wear.

Lisette Butterick 6182 Skirt

Unfortunately, I have no earthly idea where I got the fabric or what I was planning to do with it at the time. Finding decent bottomweight fabrics for selfish sewing is a challenge for me. Most fabrics are either too light, or wrinkle horribly, or collect lint, or all of the above. As much as I prefer natural fibers as a general rule, fabrics with some synthetic content and some stretch seem to make much better, more wearable skirts. So, finally, this is one of those great bottomweight fabrics, and I don't even know what it is! *Cry.*

On the bright side: Stash busting!

Lisette Butterick 6182 Skirt

The pattern labels this pattern as "easy" and I think that's right, although it's not a rank beginner project. It went together pretty quickly and smoothly. The hardest part was (as usual) determining which size to cut. Finished garment measurements are listed on the pattern tissue, which is really helpful when you're unsure how much pattern ease there will be. I ended up cutting a size 12, grading up to a little more than 14 in the waist. In order to facilitate fitting, I cut the waistband in two pieces rather than one. That way I could install the invisible zipper in the back first, and then baste the side seams to check for fit.

I was so glad I did it this way! I cut the two waistband pieces with plenty of room to spare, because I was nervous the skirt would be two small, and then basted everything, tried it on, adjusted it, tried it on again, etc.

Lisette Butterick 6182 Skirt

The only other change I made was to remove some of the ease across the back of the skirt (a "flat-derriere adjustment" haha). I'm not 100% content with how the back of this skirt lays, though - this is something I would like to work on if I make this skirt again. But overall I think this turned out really well! Most of finishes were done by hand - I slip-stitched the waistband in place and hand-hemmed it - but not out of snobbery, more because I struggle with stitching in the ditch and machine hemming a-line skirts! My hand-hemming technique could stand some improvement, but it beats trying to hem a steeply a-line skirt by machine (if you've tried this, you understand my pain).

Now that I am set on size and fit, I can see a lot of customization possibilities with this skirt, and it would go together fast. I think this would make a really great basic black skirt, perhaps with inset pockets rather than patch pockets. While do I like the super high waistband, I would also like to see a more "normal" width waistband on this skirt, I think it would be a bit more comfortable. And is it just me, or is this skirt just screaming to be made in a nice corduroy or tweed for autumn? Maybe a bit longer for that 70s midi look ... 

I am also planning to try the boxy blouse pattern too, although I'm still pretty skeptical of anything "cropped." But that will require a FBA, so it may be a little while yet.

This was my first time trying a Lisette pattern, and it was great! I've already worn my new skirt to work and I was happy with how it held up over the day. I feel like I'm finally starting to figure out this whole "selfish sewing" thing - making clothes that I enjoy wearing and which don't stick out like a sore thumb in my (admittedly quite conservative) workplace. That's a good feeling. With each item I sew myself, I learn something new and (hopefully) gain a little confidence.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Flower child.

Flower Child

Here's a simple little project I whipped up in a couple days: a little sundress for Maggie, using  Simplicity 5466, printed circa 1982. It's very muu-muu like, isn't it? We have had some really warm, glorious days here in Oakland and my mind has turned to light summer clothing.

Vintage Simplicity 5466

The problem with older patterns is that most of them only came in one size. This is especially inconvenient for children's patterns because they grow so fast. One of the reasons I chose to sew this pattern right now is that it's size 1 and I was worried that Maggie might grow out of it before I had a chance to sew it. I figured it would likely fit her fine width-wise, but I added a few inches extra length to the skirt because she's tall for size 12 months clothes.

Flower Child

Well, I needn't have worried! I actually had to take the straps in a little bit to fit her! And it's almost ankle length! It definitely has a "flower child" look to it, doesn't it?

It doesn't get much simpler than this pattern. I used self-bias to bind under the arms, and the straps attach on the inside with hidden buttons. Construction wise, the pattern is similar to the Oliver + s Popover Sundress but it's gathered across the front and back instead of flat (which would be a really easy modification to that pattern, actually). I decided not to do the cinched waist and went with the muu-muu look on this version, but the cinched waist is simply an elastic channel on the dress with a little sash, very easy. Similarly, I opted not to do any trim, but this dress screams for some trimming. I was thinking to myself it would be really sweet in a plain light blue chambray with eyelet trim across the yoke and around the pockets (with a sash).

Flower Child

Maggie is obsessed with picking flowers right now. Every time we go outside, she runs to pick some oxalis (sourgrass), nasturtiums, salvia, or lavender flowers. Then she clutches her little bouquet tightly until it literally falls apart in her hand, showing it to anyone who will listen, saying "Look! I have yellow (orange, blue, purple) flowers! Pretty flowers!" with earnest seriousness.

It is very sweet and keeps Maggie happily entertained while Steve and I pull weeds (including nasturtiums and oxalis!) and plan the garden.

Of course, it is not as convenient when we're trying to get somewhere and Maggie insists on stopping to pick flowers. Or when she tries to do this in other people's gardens. I try to steer her towards dandelions, oxalis, and other common weeds that most people don't want in their yards. But seeing Maggie walking down the sidewalk with a serious expression and a fist full of flowers is almost unbearably precious.

Flower Child

This fabric is a lovely pink and purple irregular woven stripe. I could've sworn it was Kaffe Fassett, but I can't seem to find any links? It is a very soft and breezy (almost gauzy) shirting weight, easy to sew and the colors almost seem to glow.

Flower Child

I put the pockets and the yoke on the cross grain for interest on an otherwise simple dress. Guess what Maggie put in her pocket?

Flower Child

My little hippy child!

Well, okay, let's be honest here: actually, things were not quite as idyllic as they first appeared.

Flower Child

Maggie was not feeling this photo shoot. She was having fun running around, and I was bugging her. She did not want to look at the camera and she definitely did not want to smile. When I tried to redirect her to look at me, I got a nice sampling of Maggie's characteristic furrowed brow and scowl.

Finally, she threw me a bone with this shot.

Flower Child

"You want me to look in the camera? FINE, here's my face, in the camera! Sheesh!"

I got the message loud and clear. I didn't try again after that.

Flower Child


The other day I was at the park with Joe and Maggie and my sister's kids, and Maggie determined that she would climb the highest curved/arched ladder, the one that leads to the tallest tower at the playground, in order to go down the tallest, scariest slide. Of course!

So I was standing below her while she climbed, hopelessly attempting to spot her many feet above my head and trying not to have a panic attack, when I heard Maggie muttering to herself, "I go up. I go up. I go up," with each rung of the ladder she climbed, like the little engine that could!

She may be small and love pink and flowers, but watch out for that core of steel.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Selfish Sewing Week: Grainline Archer.

Hi everyone! Thank you so much for your good wishes for a speedy recovery on my last post! We are all so much better now. I can even breathe through my nose for the first time in four weeks. Wahoo! It's the small things, right?

But things actually took a turn for the worse early last week, when Joe complained of pain in his eye, started running a fever, and then half his face dramatically swelled up, giving him the appearance of a gargoyle (poor kid!). When we took him to the doctor, it turned out he had a infection working its way through his sinuses and behind his eye, and the doctor was pretty concerned. She sent us home with antibiotics, with the caveat that if the infection worsened, or did not improve quickly, we were to admit Joe to the hospital immediately for IV antibiotics. I guess she was concerned that the infection might spread to Joe's eye, which could permanently damage his sight or who knows what. EEEEK. Not what a parent wants to hear!

I am happy to report that after a couple of days of giving antibiotics around the clock, Joe's eye visibly improved and he started feeling a lot better. No hospital stay required! Whew! Antibiotics are miracle drugs, people. As a culture, we are so spoiled by modern healthcare. We forget how serious an infection like this can be, and how even 75 years ago it very well might have been life threatening. With doctors increasingly concerned about antibiotic-resistant bacteria, we got a little reminder of what it's like to NOT feel confident in the powers of penicillin, and, er, it was not enjoyable. We have been so blessed that our kids have been so healthy, with hardly an ear infection between the two of them. While I hope that breastfeeding my kids well into toddlerhood helped a little, I realize this has primarily been just good luck (after all, many of my friends breastfed their kids just as long and have had more issues). I am so grateful for our good health, and also, very grateful that when we needed antibiotics, they worked, and worked so quickly.

Joe was sick enough to welcome some "doctor medicine" as he called it and was a sport about taking it at all hours. After a couple days, he reported that "I like doctor medicine, it works quick!" It didn't hurt that our doctor at Kaiser was the very best in the entire universe and had Joe giggling and joking through his appointments! That is a big deal for our shy and cautious boy!

We are now seven days into a ten day course of antibiotics, and Joe is by his own account 100% better, and has started to complain about taking the meds because "I'm all better, I don't need it anymore!" Oh happy day. But, also, take your "doctor medicine," kid, we're not going to be breeding any superbugs on my watch.

Anyhoo, I spent several days home with poor Joe last week, during which we watched all the bad/good kid television and movies, spoiled Joe with new hot wheels and legos to help keep him entertained, ate a fair number of popsicles, and administered medications. When I wasn't ministering to the Joe Bug, I was plugging away on my sewing project for Selfish Sewing Week: the Grainline Archer buttondown shirt.

Grainline Archer Shirt

So let's talk sewing. Excuse the decidedly unglamorous photo shoot here. What, dirty dishes are not your preferred backdrop? Whatever. Look, Ma! I made a buttondown shirt! In PLAID. PLAAAAAAID. And I kinda/sorta/pretty much/totally MATCHED THE PLAID. Dudes. This from the lady who can't match stripes to save her life. I am so proud!

Grainline Archer Shirt

Check it!

Okay, so I am pretty much the last person in blogland to sew up this pattern. Look, even Carolyn beat me to it by one day! Yup, I'm a laggard. I bought the pattern sometime last year (even then I was lagging), but I was definitely a little intimidated by all the details. I'm currently on a bit of a temporary pattern/fabric fast, just because we have a lot of other things we want or need to spend money on right now. So I've been going through my pile of patterns and rethinking some of the ones that have been put aside. After making the Alder Dress and the Linden Sweatshirt, I am a definite fan of Grainline Patterns, so Selfish Sewing Week seemed like as good a time as any to finally make an Archer. The best fabric I could find in my stash just happened to be this plaid, which I think I initially bought with a dress for Maggie in mind back before she developed such strong opinions about her clothes (like, they must all be pink). I honestly don't remember where I bought it, it was either Stonemountain or Piedmont fabrics, but it's definitely a nice shirting weight cotton with a woven plaid, similar in weight to quilting cotton but much smoother to the touch.

Based on my measurements, I cut out a size 12. Okay, let's take a moment:


Ahem. Sorry to raise my voice there. I am trying to get this notion through my impossibly thick skull. Apparently I will have to learn this lesson the hard way 5 million times before I will start making better decisions.

Lesson # 1: Make a muslin. Hahahaha. Ain't nobody got time for that!

Lesson #2: If you insist on ignoring Lesson #1, at least have the sense to choose a non-plaid fabric for your first version of a pattern.

Yeah, after I sewed the side seams, I tried it on and ... it was way too big! I know it's supposed to be a roomy "boyfriend style" but ... no. I ended up removing the sleeves and shortening them by almost 2 inches (!), slicing off some of the shoulder width and a little off the top of the sleeve, and taking in the sides about 1.5 inches, and ... it's still a really roomy shirt. I am seriously impressed with myself that I managed to make such significant alterations and still managed to kinda/sorta match the plaid on the sleeves with the body. It's not perfect but it is way better than I ever dreamed when I was hacking away at the fabric trying to size the thing down. Yay me!

Grainline Archer Shirt
Because of the way I'm standing, everything looks a bit crooked here, but it's not in real life.

Lesson #3: When sewing with plaid, put everything on the bias that can be put on the bias.

This was all very avoidable, of course. I am small through the shoulders and arms (and legs), and since the Archer has plenty of ease through the bust, I could have looked at the finished garment measurements and safely gone with a size 8 rather than size 12. Even then I would need to shorten the sleeve. Next time! You know, the Grainline Linden has really long sleeves too, and when I looked back at pictures of Jen modeling it on the Grainline site (like here), the sleeves look super long on her too, so maybe it's a style thing. Anyway, even after removing close to 3" of the Archer sleeves, the cuffs still hit halfway down my hand, like so:

Grainline Archer Shirt

Which brings me to my biggest real boo-boo with this shirt: I put the buttonhole on the wrong side of the cuff!!! DOH! Rookie error, but completely unfixable once I'd opened the buttonhole. Oh well, it's not something anyone else would immediately notice, and I'll probably wear the sleeves rolled up most of the time anyway.

There were a few other minor hiccups. Initially I had two pockets, but they looked really low on my body (again, probably because of the large size), and I didn't like them at all. So I picked those stitches and ended up going with only one pocket, which I adjusted to the proper place on my body. The final result is a fun, casual look, but I am not a huge fan of the rectangle pockets on my body. These big boxy pockets seem to draw attention to and emphasize the bust, especially when there are two of them. Next time I think I will either do no pockets, or use the more flattering (in my not so humble opinion) Alder Shirtdress pocket shape (which is a little smaller and pointed at the bottom) instead.

I also attempted to do cute little sleeve tabs as described in DixieDIY's great tutorial, but with the alterations I made to the sleeves (specifically, the alteration I made to the head of the sleeve when I decided to cut off my serged seam rather than unpick), the button ended up too high on the sleeve and isn't useful. The shirt looks great with the sleeves just rolled up without the tabs, so I haven't decided whether to just take the tabs off and forget about it or try to relocate them now that that means sewing on a sewn sleeve.

Grainline Archer Shirt

So let's see. I think I would rate this project as intermediate and "somewhat challenging." It was an adventure! I have sewn a handful of buttondown shirts in my career (most recently a Sketchbook shirt for Joe), but never in plaid. Because of the plaid, it took me longer to cut out this shirt than it would for me to make a simple sundress for Maggie! Similarly, this is not a sewing project that you can really rush through. There is a certain amount of precision and care that you'll want to take. That said, it was a good project to dip into for a few minutes at a time while caring for my sick boy because there are so many separate and discrete steps to follow. It is the kind of project where you can easily do one or two steps a day, and put down for tomorrow. And because it was time-consuming and required a lot of care, finishing it was super satisfying. I know I've complained a fair bit but you'll just have to believe me: when I saw how well the plaids matched across the front, I wanted to squeal with delight! I have finally conquered plaid matching! (This post really helped.)  And now I have a cute plaid shirt to throw over jeans or leggings on the weekend. Win! There is a place for quick and easy sewing (I do a ton of it, let's be honest), but it's fun to sink your teeth into something more challenging now and then.

While I was sewing this, I had both the Grainline instructions and the Archer sewalong blog posts up on my computer screen to consult, and I spent a lot of time perusing reviews of the pattern. One advantage of being a laggard is that you get the benefit of a great deal of information about your pattern before you even start. With this project, I learned a lot about making shirts in general, and finally figured out that special Grainline collar stand technique that everyone raves about (watch the videos on this post). It really is a great technique, and one that I will use on all stand collars from here on out. This was a great learning experience. For better or worse, I don't think I have any more excuses for not making Steve a couple of buttondowns!

Next time (and I'm pretty sure there will be a next time, although I need a break from shirts for a little while), I would love to try a "popover" model, with a button placket that ends halfway down the shirt. The back ruffle might also be a fun variation - I didn't like it at first but I've seen some really great versions. I also think a sleeveless version would be really cute. And although I'm kind of terrified of slippery fabrics even for much simpler projects, a soft flowy buttondown would be a work wardrobe staple for me.

For now I think I will make a few fast and easy things before tackling my next "learning experience." What about you? Do you prefer quick and easy sewing, more challenging projects, or a combination?

Friday, March 6, 2015

Back in knits: Ottobre 1/2014.

Our household got hit with yet another wretched cold last week, and I've been hearing a never ending chorus of sniffling and coughing for two weeks. Now it looks like I've caught yet another cold on top of the other one I still haven't recovered from?

WTF, Universe?

I went to the doctor today, where I was told it's a virus, given a flyer on OTC cold medicines (all of which I'm intimately familiar with at this point, thank you very much), and essentially informed that I just need to soldier through. I know I should be glad that I'm not more seriously ill, but I at the point where am really wishing that my mommy would come and take care of me! Whine whine whine.

Thanks for listening. Pity parties aren't much fun if you don't invite all of your friends to participate, right? HA. This is a minor problem in the scheme of things.

So anyway, I'm running a bit behind with blogging and finished this make last weekend. With a fun "new" zig-zag machine to play on (and the repair shop called to say my regular machine is ready to pick up tomorrow!), I was able to sew up this Ottobre ensemble that I cut out for Maggie before my other machine went kaput. For this photo shoot, Maggie was sniffling and coughing, but she's much better now (whereas I am crying "uncle!").

Ottobre 1/2014

This little outfit is from Ottobre 1/2014, patterns number 14 and 15, a cute pin-tucked raglan peasant dress and ruched leggings. Did you see Rachel's awesome tips for sewing with Ottobre patterns? If you're interested in trying Ottobre patterns, that post is a must-read. She and I are on the same wavelength lately, digging into our Ottobre magazines for fun new patterns.

Ottobre 1/2014

This is the first time I've made an Ottobre pattern for Maggie and I wasn't sure what size to choose. Her measurements are all over the place on their measurement chart. For these two pieces, I chose a size 86 with a little extra length.

Ottobre 1/2014

Well .... okay, yeah, that was silly. They're both too big. I'll size down next time. I guess it was wishful thinking that she might be close to size 92, which is the smallest size of many of my favorite girl patterns in Ottobre. Live and learn. She definitely has room to grow into these.

Ottobre 1/2014

The Ottobre instructions called for gathering the sides of the ruched leggings using clear elastic rather than basting and gathering by pulling the bobbin thread. This worked fantastically, was very fast, and has the benefit of being a stretchy finish for knits. Gathering this way requires that you've developed the skill (and it is a skill!) of stretching one layer against another while sewing ... but once you've figured that out, these sew up very quickly. I like the way the ruching looks and it gives an active girl plenty of ease, so I foresee I'll be making more ruched leggings in the future.

The dress is made from a Riley Blake jersey, which is really pretty, has great recovery, but curls up on the edges like the very devil. You've been warned. I just do the best I can with these curly jerseys, ironing them right before sewing and keeping things as flat as I can through the machine or serger. I'm hardly a perfectionist, but luckily knits are really forgiving.

Ottobre 1/2014

I felt like the dress was a bit night-gowny, so I added this little pocket, but the print is so busy you'd never even know it was there!

Ottobre 1/2014

This is the best shot I got of the neckline and the sweet little pleats; it just so happened to be the best shot of Maggie's snotty nose as well. Yeah. Just keeping it real, folks. It's a neverending snot-fest around here.

Ottobre 1/2014

And here are the bound wrists. I haven't figured out how to do a double-needle hem on my old Singer (it doesn't have a second thread spool, and my attempt to improvise one with scotch tape and a dowel did not turn out that well), so I used plain old zig-zag, and you know what? It looks fine. I still don't get the "zig-zag hate" prevalent in the sewing world.

I was really happy with how well with the bound neck and wrists turned out on this dress, and here is the reason!

Ottobre 1/2014

It turns out there are some pretty great instructions for finishing with knit binding in the Ottobre magazine, and I really just needed to follow them! Click on that photo and zoom in if you'd like to read more about the technique. It's pretty basic but for whatever reason I found these visuals really helpful.

This was a fun and pretty fast project for Maggie! And in her color d'jour, of course. I'd love to do some striped leggings like in the Ottobre photograph, and I think a solid knit would show off the pin tucks better. This is a very sweet and useful little pattern.

And now I need some actual rest and recuperation. I'm sure there will be some sewing too! I just spent about five years cutting out and tiling the Grainline Archer pattern, so that may be coming up soon (featuring: the excellent vintage Singer buttonholer attachment)!

Have you been brought low by cold/flu season? What are you working on these days?