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?

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Two Nova Totes and Yet Another Sewing Machine.

Here's something you can make entirely on a vintage straight stitch machine while your regular machine is in the shop: ThreeOwls' Nova Tote.

Nova Totes

These are actually belated Christmas presents. Yeah, yeah, it's the end of February. I'm not great with deadlines, as you know. Better late than never, etc.

Nova Totes

These were really fun and fast to make, just like my first one. The best part is choosing fabrics for the pieced front. For the one on the right, I made a size "medium" and chose a mix of fabrics with pinks and blues in them to provide a pleasing visual contrast to the red canvas. My favorite part of that one is probably the awesome Dewberry gray woodgrain binding. Faux bois all the things!

Nova Totes

For some reason I didn't get a great in-focus photo of the second one, but I probably don't have to even mention that I used Sarah Watt's Cotton + Steel fabrics for that one. Y'all knew that. I really love how the darker colors compliment the pink canvas I used for the straps and bottom.

Nova Totes

I bound the raw edges with double fold bias tape on both bags. These aren't particularly fancy bags, but I use mine all the time for packing picnics, farmers' market produce, and bringing projects to my occasional ladies crafting parties. It's a simple and practical tote.

My new old machine - Singer Touch and Sew

In other news, I have a "new" old sewing machine! Remember Mr. Grumpy, my eccentric animal-loving neighborhood sewing machine repair guy? When I dropped of my regular machine for him to look at, I had seen an old 60s Singer taken apart in his workshop and said, "Oh, I learned to sew on a machine just like that!" Before my current machine, I sewed on a 70s Singer Stylist for more than a decade.

Well, Mr. Grumpy told me that my recent model Singer wasn't worth the money and time it would cost to fix it, what with all of the crappy plastic parts, etc. I was disappointed but I said I understood.  I know a lot of sewing machine purists, and I can appreciate that Mr. Grumpy doesn't like working on newer machines.

When I went down there to pick up my old machine, I brought my Elna Grasshopper to show him.  As I mentioned in my last post, it stitches great but it's a bit sluggish and I have to turn the fly wheel to get it started, so I thought he might be able to get it going a bit faster. Even though he's a Singer guy, I figured that these things are like a VW Bug: anyone who knows about sewing machines should be able to figure out such a basic straight stitch machine.


When I got there, Mr. Grumpy (whose name I may have to change one of these days) had pulled out this lovely old Singer "Touch & Sew," complete with its original manual and accessories. He said it had been sitting in his shop for almost a year, and that since it was similar to my first machine and I was comfortable sewing on it, I might be the "perfect owner." And then he offered to sell it to me for a great price considering everything was there and he had already tuned it up and put it in great working order.

I'm no fool. I bought the machine and bashfully took it home, where I think my husband rolled his eyes so hard it hurt. 


It is not exactly the same as my old machine. The bobbins are different, and the bobbin actually winds in the bobbin case! This would be especially convenient for piecing a quilt and other operations where you're likely to need lots of bobbin winding all with one color thread, because you barely have to interrupt your sewing to wind the bobbin (the needle stays threaded during the whole process). That's why this was called the "Touch and Sew." The only down side to this is that I will need to buy some new bobbins for this machine, it does not take regular Singer bobbins.

The other "big" difference is that this machine used cams for hem-stitch and other non-basic zig-zag stitches, instead of having a dial on the face of the machine. I'll be honest, I use those stitches so rarely it may be a while before I even try out the cams. 99% of my sewing calls for straight stitch and basic zig zag (varying length and width, of course).


It does have a free arm, which comes in handy now in then.


And THIS. This was worth the cost of the machine alone in my opinion. These old Singer buttonhole attachments make the best buttonholes, better than anything a modern machine can do in my experience. This is the holy grail of buttonholes, and this particular buttonhole attachment actually looks like it has never been used!

What this means is that even though my regular machine is still in the shop, I am back in business for apparel sewing! With a basic zig-zag and buttonholer, there's nothing I can't sew at this point. Wahoo! I'm almost excited to make something with a lot of buttonholes now.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Green Machine.

In lieu of a more fancy blog post this week, I am sharing a few cell phone pics and WIPs. Thursday night, Maggie went to bed early and I delightedly sat down to do a little sewing (uncommon on weeknights). Unfortunately, I also seem to have done something bad to my sewing machine, which won't take a single stitch now. The upper thread is getting stuck in the bobbin contraption below. So instead of spending a nice evening sewing and relaxing, I spent the evening tinkering and swearing. Friday I reviewed some YouTube videos on Singer bobbin case issues and did several more hours of cleaning and tinkering, to no avail. The machine still wouldn't stitch one single stitch.

I will be honest: at this point, tears were shed. Steve told me I was upsetting Joe and needed to pull it together. I took myself to bed.

The next morning, feeling a bit less fragile, I researched sewing machine repair in my area, and decided to try someone new, a notoriously eccentric local guy known for his abrupt (some would say rude) demeanor. I decided I could handle abrupt and rude if the man would just fix my machine, so I dropped it off with him. He was indeed quite abrupt and eccentric, and informed me that the only decent Singers were made between the years of 1940 and 1965 and that everything since then is a "plastic piece of shit." Which I freely acknowledged is probably true. One of my gifts in life is an appreciation for and an ability to charm eccentric grumpy old persons (make that an appreciation for and ability to relate to eccentric people, full stop; I myself plan to be very eccentric when I am older) and when I discovered that his adorable cat was named "Peaches" I knew he wasn't all bad. (When faced with a highly eccentric older person, you can never go wrong complimenting their pets.)

Alas, it was not to be, and he called me yesterday to say that fixing my machine wasn't worth it and basically, did not interest him. So now I'm stuck with the other local place that takes weeks and weeks and charges $90 minimum and last time, didn't actually fix my machine on the first try. Sigh.

I am not naming Mr. Grumpy by name because I actually quite liked him, gruffness and all, and the poor guy has enough negative Yelp reviews. If I had an older Singer I would go back to him in a heartbeat. I have long appreciated vintage sewing machines and sewed on a 60s Singer for years before getting my more modern machine. I must say, my current machine may not be as sturdy and long-lasting a machine as the oldies, but I do love the automatic needle-threader, stretch stitch, and other modern conveniences it offers. I also do not believe it is hopelessly broken; I think it probably needs a few new plastic parts and it will run for another few years. But I can appreciate that Mr. Grumpy prefers to work on older machines and I don't necessarily begrudge him that. He was at least quick in getting back to me and did not charge me anything for his opinion. 

So my regular machine will probably be out of commission for a good while, a very sad thought. Yesterday I pulled out my "backup," my little 1951 Elna #1 (a.k.a. the Grasshopper) and got her running.

She's a bit tedious to thread, and a bit slow and pondering (you can see I was trying different drive belts to see if I couldn't speed her up, but I think she was over-oiled and the motor parts may be slipping; I hope she'll sew better as some of that oil burns off).  But you can't complain about the stitches themselves, the tension is absolutely perfect. She's a solid little straight stitch machine.

The "problem" is that the Elna doesn't do zig-zag, and I don't have a zipper foot or buttonhole attachment for her. So this will limit my options as far as apparel sewing considerably. No knit fabrics (can't do zig-zag or a twin needle), nothing with buttons, and unless I hand sew them in, no zippers. But she's great for quilt piecing and sews through canvas and denim like it's butter, so I think I can enjoy sewing on her for a few weeks while I wait for my other machine to hopefully get fixed.

And here's a sneak peek of the project I just finished, a gift for a friend. I am in love with Sarah Watt's designs for Cotton + Steel. I'm not normally that into designer lines, but this one just really tickled my fancy. Watch out, I might have several projects using it in the works!

Maybe my next machine should be a Singer made between 1940 and 1965, eh? 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Procrastination Sewing: Linden and Manila.

Linden Sweatshirt and Manila Leggings.

I took a long weekend (Monday is Presidents' Day here in the US) with the purpose of starting to dismantle, sand, prime, and paint my kitchen cabinets. It's a huge job. My cabinets are old and janky and most of the hardware is rusted or painted shut. It took me an hour just to pull off three doors and some of the screws are just stripped beyond use (Steve has magic ways of dealing with stripped screws; or at least, it seems magic to me!). The insides of the cupboards are all painted as well, and let's just say I've never really given them a good scrubbing in the eight years we've lived here, and I doubt the prior owners did either. You can imagine. I don't mind painting, but the prep (especially in detailed areas) is blaaaaaaah.

With a nice four day weekend and that giant and dirty task facing me, I did what any redblooded creative would do: I procrastinated. First by sewing up a shirt and shorts for Joe, and then (while the walking foot was hot) by sewing a few comfy items for myself.

Thrift Score - Izod Sweatshirt 2x Mens

The other day, I was sent to the grocery store on my own (always a mistake), and I just couldn't resist stepping into the neighboring Goodwill, which was advertising a Presidents' Day Sale. I found a cute pair of pants and cardigan that I will wear as-is, and I got also got a pile of clothes to refashion. One of my best scores was this gorgeous gold Izod sweatshirt, in Men's 2XL. I don't even have words for how beautiful and soft this sweatshirt fleece is. It is a sad fact that most yardage still pales in quality to really good RTW. In addition to being my favorite shade of "glorious yellow," this fleece is like golden fluffy clouds. When I grabbed it, I think I uttered a gutteral "MIIIIIIIIINE," to the surprise of my fellow Goodwill customers. 

When I got it home, I immediately set about trying to coax a Grainline Linden Sweatshirt out of it, which was tricky considering the original sweatshirt was not raglan, and even a 2X men's sweatshirt sleeve isn't as large as your average raglan sleeve. I managed it by shortening the sleeve significantly (preserving the cuffs as-is), which turned out totally fine and makes me wonder why the Linden sleeves are like five inches longer than this - clearly too long for my short arms. Otherwise, this is a straight size 12.

Izod to Linden
The little Izod logo was preserved.

I reused all of the ribbing from the original shirt, which was great. Ribbing is another fabric you can't seem to find in decent yardage. I have ordered a variety of ribbings from different sites, and they mostly ... pretty much suck. My local fabric stores have nicer quality, but only carry black and white. Whereas the ribbing attached to cheap clothing at Target is so much nicer. What is going on there? Anyway.

The final result .... well, I'm not going to pretend this is the most flattering item of clothing that I own, but ahhhhhhh, fluffy cozy warm golden cloud! So comfortable!

As far as the Linden pattern, this was my first time sewing it up. I bought it, somewhat against my better judgment considering it's just a simple baggy raglan after all, basically because I want to be Jen when I grow up. Her style is just so cool! She just looked so comfortable and hip in her boxy sweatshirts and skinny pants (and super great hair, and ... and ... I think I have a bit of a girl crush here), I couldn't resist. True to my expectations, this was an extremely easy and fast sew on the serger, and the shape is really cute and relaxed. I can't speak to the instructions, because I barely followed them; this is not my first raglan rodeo. I am looking forward to trying the pattern out with a softer jersey for a more figure-conscious relaxed tee. If I were to be perfectly honest, the pattern is probably a bit overpriced; then again, I tend to use simple patterns like this so much, I get my money's worth from them. The same can't be said for more fussy styles.

Given the cost of sweatshirt fleece these days, I was glad to try the pattern out on a $3 thrifted sweatshirt. The fact that said sweatshirt was about 500X nicer than any fleece I could ever buy by the yard just sweetened the deal! This was a very thrifty make!

And the virtue doesn't end there. I also grabbed this Merona turtleneck (another $3) because I liked the striped knit.

Thrift Score - Turtlebeck

And made it into this:

From Turtle to Tee

This was a simple upcycle. I cut off the turtleneck, lowered the neckline a smidge and used the turtleneck fabric (pieced) to bind the neck. Then I shortened the sleeves, took it in a bit at the sides, and reshaped the hemline to a curved shirt tail style. I can't stand wearing turtlenecks, I'm super weird about things touching my neck (and you wondered where Joe got his sensitivity?). Plus I feel like they look frumpy on me (but maybe that's just because I feel so squirmy and uncomfortable). Cowl necks are okay, because they're loose and don't touch the front of the neck, but real turtlenecks are ick.

Manila leggings and repurposed thrifted top
The kitchen walls are painted now. Next I'm working on the painted cabinets. Eventually I want to paint the wood ones as well.

And finally - yes, I know this post is long, but all of these were really quick sews! - a pair of Manila Leggings from Colette's "Seamworks" magazine.

Manil leggings, cuff detail.

For these I used some black rayon ponte de roma I bought at Stonemountain to make another Mabel Skirt. The good news is that I still have plenty for the skirt! (I chronically overbuy, I know.)

Again, this was my first time sewing this pattern. Based on my measurements, I cut out a size Medium, but graded to a Large at the waist. That turned out to be unnecessary, and you can see that the waistline actually gathers a bit. I could have done a straight medium.

Manila waistband

What I love about this pattern: The nice high rise, the cute cuff detail, how fast it sews up. The inseam length of this pattern was perfect for me, which was awesome. (I'm only 5'4" and have short legs, so if you are taller you definitely want to make sure these will be long enough.)

What I don't love about this pattern: It is obviously not made for my body type. The thighs and bottom turned out too roomy for me, and the calves are weirdly tight! Now, I grant you: I do have freakishly muscular calves for someone who barely exercises. And pear shape I am not. So if you are a pear shape with more ample bottom and thighs and narrow calves, this is your pattern! But I had to trim down the hips and thighs considerably to make these more wearable, and if I were to make these again I would forget about grading out in the waist and grade out in the calves instead. Ha! Luckily knits are very forgiving.

But hey, awesome new leggings! The ponte is thick and sturdy enough that I feel I could get away with wearing these in lieu of actual pants, at least on weekends (I admit I am not yet at the point where I feel comfortable wearing leggings instead of pants to work). Yay for comfy weekend clothes!

And now I should probably get back to scrubbing and prepping those damn cabinets. Procrastination sewing is the sweetest sewing!

Do you engage in procrastination sewing?

Friday, February 13, 2015

"Sporty Pocket."

Ottobre 3/2013 #10

Another special order for Joe, and another Ottobre pattern! As you know, Joe shuns pants and will only wear shorts. No matter how cold it is. Admittedly, Oakland winters are pretty mild, but still, I'm pretty glad to be wearing pants these days!

When we were fabric shopping for Joe's Log Triangle Shirt, this crazy Riley Blake rainbow chevron knit caught Joe's eye. I have to say, Joe really seems drawn to chevron prints! He definitely loves bold and geometric patterns. Of course, I find these rather "loud" tastes to be rather adorable; so different than the sedate navy and gray you find in the boys' clothing department at your local big box!

Ottobre 3/2013 #10

So when Joe saw this fabulous rainbow chevron come up on the screen (he's pretty familiar with the concept of "internet shopping," which cracks me up), he asked me to buy some and make him "soft shorts ... like PJ shorts!" Of course, I am putty in Joe's hand, and two yards were duly ordered.


In all my scrolling through Ottobres recently, I noticed a cute sporty knit shorts pattern in Ottobre 3/2013. It's #10, and called "Sporty Pocket." (Is that model adorable or what? That tummy!)

(I don't know if that singular tense is an adorable mistranslation or refers to the one pocket on the back? Either way, it reminds me of my favorite donut shop on the face of the earth, the Vietnamese-owned "Fluffy Donut" in Davis, California, where I went to law school. Dudes. Fluffy Donut donuts are AMAZING. Plus they also sell pad thai and bánh mì. I love California! But anyway, the pattern actually has three pockets. And there is more than one donut to choose from at Fluffy's. Which totally reminds me of "Waldo's Discount Donuts," a skit by the Red Knuckles and the Trailblazers!! "We have all kind of donuts! Chocolate ... chocolate ... " Okay now I'm deep into inside jokes; if any family members are reading this, they will appreciate that. Moving on.)


I know these aren't exactly "PJ pants"; since Joe pretty much wears the same shorts to school that he wears to bed, I figured it would be fun to add some extra details, like the pockets and racing stripe on the side. This is how I keep myself entertained, right?

Ottobre instructions are minimal, but I managed to figure these out. I have never done a pocket like these cool inset pockets, but it wasn't hard at all. Much easier than a welt pocket (which is what it looks like) and frankly welt pockets aren't that bad (thanks Liesl for teaching me!). While the pattern called for a woven fabric to be used for the side-stripe and back pocket, I used knit and it turned out great.

I'd love to try these shorts in a soft, stable sweatshirt knit, and I have a few thrifted 3X mens' sweatshirts with repurposing in mind. Since Joe won't wear pants, I guess he should at least have warm shorts, right?

Ottobre 3/2013 #10

Ottobre 3/2013 #10

If you thought my stripe matching skills were bad, let me introduce you to my chevron matching skills. Cough cough. But seriously, can anyone match chevrons well? I think it might be impossible to follow a pattern and match your chevrons, because they're always going to be at different heights at the seam. Anyway, Joe really wanted this super loud fabric, and it's loudly NOT matching. That's life.

Ottobre 3/2013 #10

Dang, he's a good model. Where does he learn this? He's like, yeah, I'm just a cool dude, hanging out with the empty propane tanks and astroturf, like cool dudes do.

Ottobre 3/2013 #10

I used a funny overcast stitch on my sewing machine to imitate coverstitching on the front pocket. I don't know how successful it was; I might just do zig-zag next time, seriously. But it was fun to try something new. The waistband is green ribbing from the stash for the full rainbowy effect.

You may notice that the side stripe matches Joe's shirt perfectly. Why yes it does! I used the same light blue jersey for his Field Trip raglan. And I still have lots more!

Ottobre 3/2013 #10

Ottobre 3/2013 #10

The best part? Joe loves his new shorts! He's been wearing them all day!! And doing ninja moves! I could practically jump for joy! I wouldn't say this pattern is difficult, but it has lots of details and I was pretty worried that Joe would reject the final project, which is ... well, pretty discouraging. But he loves his super loud rainbow chevron "Sporty Pocket" shorts! YAY!

Ottobre 1/2015 #11

I also whipped up a rainbow chevron t-shirt using the same Ottobre 1/2015 pattern I used for the Log Triangle Shirt, but I will discourage Joe from wearing these together! For the sake of humanity! And our collective eyesight. Joe may have different ideas, though ...