Thursday, July 23, 2015

Maggie's Birthday Hanami.

Birthday Hanami Dress

Maggie turned three years old earlier this month, so of course I had to make her a special birthday dress, and of course it had to be pink! After all, when I asked Maggie what she wanted for her birthday, she had only one word, "PINK!" Okay ...

Birthday Hanami Dress

Having recently made Maggie two Geranium dresses, I knew I wanted to do something different and a little more complex for her birthday dress. Birthday Hanamis have been a bit of a thing with a few of my bloggy friends this year. Rachel made one here, and Carolyn made one here (and an earlier birthday Hanami here). They all looked so great, I guess I just succumbed to the peer pressure! I made a cross-back Hanami dress for Maggie about a year ago, before her second birthday (sensing a trend?) and it is one of my favorite dresses I've made for her. Unfortunately, since it's not pink, Maggie won't wear it now, alas. Moving on!

Birthday Hanami Dress

Lately, I've been allowing Maggie to choose which fabric out of several she would like as a dress. That way, she gets to be involved, but since I am the one buying the fabric, it hopefully means that I also like the print! I did take her to the fabric store once, and had to say "no way" to various princess/giant cupcake fabrics (I actually said, "that won't work for a shirt" which wasn't strictly true, but really meant "I will not sew you a shirt in that").  But luckily we both like florals and geometric prints so there's still quite a bit of common ground. Maggie and I both loved this bright Scandinavian inspired tulip fabric (it's Art Gallery Geometric Bliss Vertex Tulips, here it is in a different colorway).

Birthday Hanami Dress

I opted to cut this dress out in 2T based on Maggie's chest measurement. I actually think I could have added a little bit of length to the bodice and skirt because while Maggie is small, she's taller than the average two year old, but it works.

Birthday Hanami Dress

When I first started planning this dress, I opted to use black piping on the white collar, which would have been quite dramatic and graphic. But Maggie saw the little pile I had made and ripped the black piping away, saying "I don't like black!" She then busied herself in my bins finding every pink bias tape, piping, yarn, and ribbon she could, and piled those onto the heap. Message received, thank you very much, Maggie! I was a little disappointed at first, but I switched to hot pink piping, which I made myself using some of the bias tape Maggie had pulled out of my stash. This was the first time I've made piping, and it was refreshingly easy and straightforward. It also goes a long way! A couple yards of piping was all I needed to do the waist, collar, and sleeves of this dress. Maggie, the pink piping looks great. I hate to admit that you might have been right, but ... you might have been right.

Birthday Hanami Dress

With that, it's probably obvious, but I chose the flutter sleeves, Peter Pan collar, and zipper back version of this dress. #pipeallthethings #allthepink

Birthday Hanami Dress

The invisible zipper gave me a little bit of trouble and there was some unpicking (as per usual) but it all worked out okay in the end. I wish it zipped all the way to the top, but in looking at other Hanami dresses online, I don't think I'm alone in my struggles here, and it's not that big a deal. I do love how the invisible zipper ends at the waistline so you don't have to match that up (or deal with piping there).

Birthday Hanami Dress

I think I did an okay job of matching the print horizontally across the back of the dress and along the sides. I also tried to create a vertical line of white tulips down the front of the dress. Meh. I did okay.

Birthday Hanami 

But the most important thing: Maggie loves her new dress and the pink tutus (which I made using glitter tulle and now my house and sewing machine is permanently covered in glitter and I never, ever want to speak of it again) and other pink things she got for her birthday! There's a lot of pink in my house right now! But hey, the girl asked for "PINK!", right? What can you do?

Birthday Hanami Dress

I spend a lot of time kissing these sweet pink cheeks. Happy third birthday, sweet Maggie!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015


Super Joe!!

OMG, so behind on everything!!! Whew! Things have been busy around here. Maggie's third birthday was last Thursday (party on Sunday, photos to share!) and Joe's last day at Peter Pan Cooperative Nursery School was last Friday. He had an extra year there (we held him back from kindergarten a year), and now he's going to kindergarten. Of course, Maggie still has a couple more years in preschool, so we are not saying goodbye as a family yet, but seeing Joe "graduate" is still a bit emotional for me.

Super Joe!!

Super Joe!!

I really can't say enough good things about our Peter Pan community. Since Joe started attending as a three year old, I have never worried that he wasn't wholeheartedly loved and accepted, with all his quirks, strengths, and weaknessess, just the way he is. His teacher Gail (the kids call her "Gay-Gay") is just the best. I secretly wish Joe could stay there forever! Who cares about reading and mathematics, right? It has truly felt like such a blessing, and I'm so glad that Maggie gets to spend another couple years there.

Super Joe!!

Because Joe was speech delayed, we are getting Joe assessed by the school district to see if he might benefit from additional services in kindergarten in the fall. I've shared some of Joe's journey here on the blog - Joe was a late talker and is a shy and reserved child with a quirky "Joe logic." He's also a fantastic builder and engineer and shows natural aptitude for spatial reasoning tasks and puzzles (and having fun). We are hoping to learn more about what makes him tick and what we can do to support him in school. Of course, no matter what we learn from these assessments, Joe will always be our Joe, and he'll continue to delight us with his unique humor and logic. Joe was pretty much a superstar for the testing sessions, and actually seemed to enjoy the intellectual challenge!

Super Joe!!

He's funny, he's understated, he's kind and smart as a whip. He's SuperJoe!!!

Super Joe!!

Wait. What's this awesome cape, you ask?

Super Joe!!

Well, that's Joe's new Superman cape, which he specifically commissioned from me and helped to make. Joe requested a "Superman Cape" from me a while back, and then he helped me pick out this lovely (but tricky) red poly satin at Stonemountain. Although it's polyester, I must say it has a really nice feel and isn't too statc-y or grabby on the fingernails, if you know what I mean. Still, I was a little alarmed at the prospect of having Joe helping me sew something so slippery.

Super Joe!!

I ended up using a friend's kid's cape to cut a pattern from, which was awesome. I do a monthly "craft night" with some mama-friends, and one of them just so happened to have a kid's cape laying around. I used that as the starting point for the shape of this cape.

Super Joe!!

I decided to use some fleece to make a Superman logo. I had to get a little creative with the coloring, because the old Superman comics show a plain red cape, with a blue shirt with the logo (in red). Joe is a stickler for authenticity, so he insisted on a red cape like the original comics, but then wanted the logo on the cape. So I decided to play with the colors and do a yellow "S" on a blue field. Not perfectly authentic, but looks good.

My mom was in town while I was working on this project and she and my brother gave me invaluable editorial assistance on the logo. I printed out the Superman logo and then, since I didn't have a copy machine around, enlarged it by eye. They helped me adjust the proportions until it looked right. I used double-sided fusible web to stick the blue onto the red satin (I'll tell you right out it was only going to hold temporarily to this slippery satin and furry fleece, it was not a strong attachment), and then I sewed around the shape with embroidery thread in a simple running stitch. The fleece holds to fleece pretty well, so I just used embroidery thread on the yellow fleece and didn't need the web (which probably wouldn't have adhered to two layers of furry fleece very well, anyway).

Super Joe!!

After I sewed on the logo, Joe help me sew up the sides of the cape outside and lining (pillow case-style). As I've mentioned before, Joe is great with my old knee-lever Singer 99 and goes nice and slow! I handled the curvy edges but he turned the corners just fine all by himself. We turned the cape right side out, and I topstitched the edges. Although this fabric is slippery and shifty, Joe went slowly and it turned out great!
Which brings us to the topic I know you're all thinking about ... this cape does not fasten around the neck, but has backpack-pack like straps instead ... what's with that?

Super Joe!!

Well, of course, there's a story. My first version of this cape had a velcro closure at the neck. After I finished sewing the velcro on, I excitedly handed it to Joe. He put on his new cape and jubilantly ran around like Superman for about 30 seconds before his hands went to his throat and tried to adjust the neck and then a couple minutes later, he wanted to take it off and went to go pout on the couch. I was so disappointed, it was such a great cape! Yet another promising make that Joe refuses to wear. I must have looked dejected, because Joe said, "Mama, I know I'm making you sad."

At that, of course, I bucked up a bit. "No, no! It's not comfortable! I'll fix it. I can fix it. Will you let me try to fix it?" Historically, once Joe gets his mind made up about a garment, it can be so hard to change it, and all subsequent efforts may be in vain. But he said, "I don't like the neck!" "Okay! I can fix that!" So he gave me a chance.

Super Joe!!

I thought about different solutions (ties that cross over the chest and tie or velcro behind the back?) and decided that simple "backpack straps" were the simplest, most elegant solution. I added little extensions to the existing neck ties, which required only minimal seam ripping, and then I folded the edge of the extensions down and sewed them securely to the cape under the arms.

Super Joe!!

And it worked!! He loves it now! Huge sigh of relief on my part! It does fall off the shoulders a little bit, but it doesn't bug his neck anymore, and that's the big thing. (As we know, I hate turtlenecks with the passion of a billion burning suns, so I am familiar with "bugs my neck.")

Super Joe!!

While I don't think I'd ever want to do "costume" or dress-up sewing all the time, it is a really fun way to connect with my kids right now, and I'm pretty proud of this cape! Look at Joe! It really makes him feel "Super," which he is, in every way that could possibly matter, of course. I love to see him full of confidence and power!

Do you sew costumes or dress-up clothes?

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Testing: Titchy's Safari Raglan.

Hello again and happy July! I'm working my way through a backlog of sewing in an attempt to catch the blog up with my recent output. Miss Margaret Joy, soon to be three years old (on July 9th! verklempt!) has been the recipient of several recent sewing projects that have yet to be blogged. Today I'm sharing a dress I made as a pattern tester for the lovely Laura of Craftstorming a.k.a. Titchy Threads Patterns. I present the recently released Safari Raglan!

Safari Raglan

The Safari Raglan is a unisex t-shirt pattern with short or long sleeves, with a dress option. I made the raglan dress option for Mags in size 18-24 months. After I made this shirt for Joe, Maggie requested "a shirt with a pink pocket" but a pure copy of Joe's shirt didn't sound that interesting to me (variety is the spice of life and I'm a fickle seamstress) and I was postponing that ... until this project came around and I thought ... I could make a raglan dress with PINK pockets! Yes! Funny how that works, right?

Safari Raglan

I don't do much pattern testing these days, mostly because I really don't need any more obligatory sewing/deadlines in my life. But I will make exceptions for a few of my favorite indie pattern-makers. Laura fits solidly in this camp. In addition to being cute (and mostly unisex!), her patterns are extremely well drafted and precise. One example of the precision - Laura gives specific measurements for children who are one size in width and a different size in length. In an email exchange, I told her "You obviously have the mathy/spatial reasoning brain." (Can you tell I don't? Haha! Cuz "mathy" is totally a word, right?) Anyway, she responded, "I have a maths degree and used to be an actuary, haha. It was such a great moment for me when I realised how mathematical pattern drafting is!" I believe it.

Safari Raglan

This is such a versatile pattern, and the dress version is just the sort of thing that girls love to wear - a simple, comfortable, knit dress. There is also the option of puppet sleeves for a fun detail! It doesn't get much more practical and wearable than this - Maggie has worn this dress frequently since I made it.

Safari Raglan

The fabric for this dress came from the stash - Riley Blake stripes and a basic cotton lycra in pink, with some lovely purple ribbing (with lycra and good recovery!) I bought from Stone Mountain recently. This pattern is a great basic, and a great stash buster. I bought some pink striped Riley Blake and I think I might make another of these (as well as some leggings) for more practical summer wear.

Maggie is almost three now, and I think she's pretty much decided she is three (I base this on the severity of her recent tantrums - it is my opinion that anyone who complains about the terrible twos just hasn't had a three year old yet).  She is talking all the time, and in full and complex sentences, which is very unlike her older brother, who was barely talking at all at her age. Her answer to "what would you like for your birthday?" is "PINK! I want PINK!" Um, okay. Also very unlike her brother, Maggie has been potty trained for several months now! And by that I mean, undies all the time, zero accidents. Lest this sound like a brag, let me remind you that Joe only finally pottytrained when he was almost four, so clearly Maggie's aptitude in this area has nothing to do with our parenting. If anything, I was so traumatized by Joe that I was willing and happy to just change diapers rather than deal with potty struggles again! But Maggie had her own plans, and pottytrained herself with very little help from us. It just goes to show: Every child is different, and they all figure this stuff out on their own schedule! When they are ready, they do it!

With the second kid, I feel like, wow, parents are way less important than I used to think. Not that they aren't important at all - they obviously are. But we do not mold our young nearly as much as I imagined parents do; rather, their personalities and temperaments are pretty well set from the beginning. This is both slightly alarming and a huge relief.

Safari Raglan

During this photo shoot, my brother Harpal came out to join us and have a beer. Maggie and Harpal have a special bond. Harpal was here when Maggie came home from the hospital, and he held and carried her as a tiny newborn. Harpal and Joe are pretty close and tight too, but I see his bond with Maggie as special and unique. They just adore each other.

Safari Raglan

It's especially special for me to see this because my brother Harpal was 13 years younger than me, and I cared for him as a baby and just adored him in a similar way. I still do! This will probably embarrass him, poor guy, but he'll always be my baby brother who I showered with kisses as a baby. He was the cutest baby. Seriously - red ringlets! And he's grown up to be a strapping, handsome lad who is kind and fun to hang out with, even if he does beat me at Hive almost every single time.

Safari Raglan

Not every child likes being tickled. I did not, and neither does Joe. I hated it, in fact. But Maggie loves it - she begs for more!

Safari Raglan

Safari Raglan

Could they be any cuter? I think it has been really great that my kids have grown up around their Uncle Harpal; he's a pretty fun uncle! He's always down to spin the kids around, rough house, or help with Legos. And his knowledge of Star Wars and Batman is nothing less than expansive!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Shorts for Steve-o.

Hi everyone! The past couple weeks have been such a whirlwind. After some bureaucratic wrangling, Joe is getting assessed by the school district to determine whether he might benefit from additional services when he starts kindergarten this fall. This is both wonderful and nerve wracking, and we've been scrambling to get to the appointments. Luckily, most people who work with special needs kids for a living are like, the nicest people on the planet and know how to get children to warm up, and Joe has been really cooperative. He reports that "I am SO GOOD at puzzles." Yes, yes, you are!!! Love it!

We've also had visitors and lots going on and I have been hopping busy at work (a generally good sign for my city). Whew!

So once again, I have actually been sewing plenty (it helps keep me sane), but blogging is taking a back seat. I'm here today to share a really exciting make, though - actual men's sewing, with an actual functional zipper fly!

Jutland Shorts

Don't mind Steve's grimy shirt. He's a hard working guy! That's manly dirt right there. ;-)

For years I've wanted to sew something for my wonderful husband Steve, but ... well, I didn't. For a variety of reasons, including that he is a guy of simple but particular tastes. He likes his clothes to be just so. About six months ago, I asked him if he would like me to sew him a shirt, and he said "No, I'd like some pants. You know, like real pants." Um. I was like, "I've never made real pants. Not for Joe, not for myself. Like, never!" I showed him the Thread Theory website, and tried to steer him towards the Strathcona Henley but it was a no-go. He wanted pants. The Jutland Pants, to be specific, a pair of work pants with all the bells, whistles, and pockets a man could want.

So I bought the pattern, but then it sat for a really long time while I contemplated the zipper fly and all the little details. Then, earlier in June, I saw Meg's version of the Jutland, made as shorts for her guy, and a light went off. I was like, hmmmmm: "If I make these as shorts using some fabric from the stash, and they don't turn out, it won't be such a big deal. And Steve does need shorts! And I've been wanting to try a zipper fly one of these days!"

Jutland Shorts

Sometimes when I'm facing an intimidating project, it helps to find ways to reduce the emotional/financial stakes associated with the project. It's an example of my perverse reasoning that one of the reasons I don't make muslins as much as I probably should is that I don't want to buy - or waste - a ton of muslin! I know, it's nuts and completely wrong-headed. I'm working on it. But it always feels good to use every last scrap of a stashed piece. So I cut out version 1 (with no cargo pockets and welt pockets in the back) from this maroon or burgundy (or according to Joe, pink) chambray that had been sitting in my stash for a very long time. I cut all the facings and pocket pieces from a soft plaid flannel. This turned out to be a mistake, as I'll explain later, but it was a thrifty choice.

Jutland Shorts

Although it had been a pretty long time since I did welt pockets on a pair of Art Museum trousers for Joe, that project me taught that welt pockets are not something to fear, so I dove in again. These shorts were actually easier than that, because the welts were larger and less fussy to work with. Chambray also creases and irons really well, which makes welt pockets go together more smoothly. I am pretty proud of these lovely, deep, functional welt pockets, and I love how the tops of the pockets are neatly buried in the waistband.

After I sewed up the back crotch seam, I did have Steve try the pants on briefly. Based on that fitting, I carved out a bit more room in the seat of the pants to allow more freedom of movement. After years of doing this, it still always amazes me that increasing the seam allowance on the crotch actually makes the pants bigger! Weird. But anyway, I seem to have improved the fit with that one small change.

Finally, it came time for me to try my first zipper fly. I used a nice brown metal zipper I got from YKK Zippers (zipit on Etsy). Did you guys know about this shop? My friend Mahriam told me about them and it's incredible! Beautiful zippers at amazing prices! And the selection puts my local shops to shame (sorry, but it's true!). You know you've been sewing for a long time when you can get super excited about zippers, but sure enough, I couldn't resist! I ordered a couple dozen zippers (so cheap!), and they were at my house two days later! It was like zipper Christmas! Check these folks out! They have really nice metal zippers and a crazy selection of every other type of zipper too.

I did a lot of internet research first, and read through several tutorials trying to wrap my head around the process of installing a zipper fly in advance. In the end, after reading several sets of instructions and several tutorials, I ended up following Thread Theory's video tutorial, which they developed for their Jedediah Pants sew-along. At this point, I'm such a newb that I cannot really weigh the respective merits of different methods for installing zipper flies, but that video is very clear and it really helps me to see the process in action. From what I've read and picked up from the online sewing community, it seems that there are several different ways to install a zipper fly, and it's probably best to identify one that you like and can understand, and then maybe do that every time instead of trying every different type of pattern instructions ... would you agree?


Okay, yeah, I'm pretty proud of myself! It turned out pretty well and I only had to unpick a tiny bit! Haha! For all of you sewists out there who feel like zipper flies are a big hurdle, I'm here to say, you can do this! Like so many things with sewing, the intimidation factor is the major hurdle. Once you sit down and start working and following instructions, it's not so bad at all. I had built this one up to be such a big deal in my mind (after all, zipper flies are not intuitive, and looking at a RTW pair or pants, I couldn't for the life of me imagine how it was done), that I was actually happily surprised at how easy it was! (In addition, I have never conquered the lapped zipper, but after this I'm thinking that's worth another try.)

It is possible that I jumped around and squealed a little bit after I completed this, much to the confusion and bemusement of my husband and brother. (Also, yes, i bound the waistband with brown double bias tape from my stash, which looks really nice.)

Jutland Shorts

And they fit pretty well! There are a few things I would change (and I might go back and do a little post-sewing surgery), like the back of the waistband gapes a little bit and starts to sag after a few hours of wear. Basically, Steve needs the guy-equivalent of a swayback adjustment, to accommodate his (totally cute) bubble butt. (Oh, the things we we sewing bloggers are forced to write about! I am so sorry Steve!)

Jutland Shorts

Other things I would do different - I'd pick a different fabric to line the front pockets. The flannel is too grabby, and wants to get all bunched up around the pocket opening. You can see that just a little bit in this photo, even though Steve had pushed the pockets back in right before this.

Jutland Shorts

This must be why the pattern suggests "pocketing material" for the front pockets and why there was special discussion of this on the blog posts and sewalongs on Thread Theory, huh? I just figured, sure sure, "pocketing material" whatever. Well, the flannel seems fine for the welt pockets and the waistband, but in this case, I think a smooth and shiny cotton would have been so much better for those front pockets. Live and learn.

Having conquered the zipper fly, I am ready to make the Jutland pants (cargo pockets and everything) for Steve, as well as maybe some pants or shorts for myself! (Eeek!!) I'm super pumped to have picked up a new skill. Yay me!! In the meantime, Steve wore his shorts again yesterday, despite their issues, so I am feeling pretty good about these.

What are your "sewing hurdles" - any techniques that scare your pants off (haha, I am so funny)?

Thursday, June 11, 2015

A Brumby Skirt and a Thrift Store Shirt.

Brumby Skirt - Pocket detail

Yeah, so just a few weeks ago, feeling very enlightened by Me-Made-May, I announced to y'all that "I make a lot of skirts. I haven't worn all of my me-made skirts yet. I could probably chill out on the skirts." Riiiiiiight. Famous last words! See, I love to wear skirts, and even more, I love to sew skirts. Skirts are fun, relatively easy and fast to sew, and don't require a full-bust-adjustment. Win win win!

So that "resolve," such as it was, lasted about a week, until Megan Nielsen put out her new Brumby Skirt pattern. Now we all know I love myself a nice gathered skirt, but the Brumby Skirt is a simple pattern. So simple that I thought, for a second, "I could draft that myself." I actually did draft a gathered skirt with pockets a while back. But even though it was a simple drafting job, it was kind of mentally taxing and I missed the comfort and safety of following a pattern (that may sound crazy to some, but others will know what I'm talking about here). And my self-drafted skirt did not have such awesome pockets! Or an exposed zipper! Or a contoured waistband! You get the idea. I'm a pattern addict, and the Brumby was seriously calling my name.

Anyway, I bought the pattern and made the skirt.

Brumby Skirt and Plaintain refashion.

And it turned out great! I pretty much copied Version 1 right off the pattern envelope, including using a dark denim and gold topstitch thread. What can I say? It's a great look, and I needed one of my own. I love the big slouchy pockets. The way the pattern is drafted, they gape open or stand away from the body of the skirt a little bit, which I happen to love. It's casual and fun and adds a little specialness to an otherwise basic skirt. The only change I made to the pattern itself was to add a few inches of length. I prefer skirts to hit at or slightly below my knee.

This "denim" looks like a regular cotton denim on first glance, but it's actually a tencel/rayon blend denim, and it has a deliciously soft hand and drape. It hugs the body more than a stiff denim would, which is wonderfully flattering. It also wrinkles a lot more than a cotton denim would. You can't have it all. Because it is relatively soft, drapey fabric, I interfaced both the waistband and the waistband lining to give the waistband a bit more body and that seemed to work well.

To sew this up, I threaded up my Singer 99 and my serger with navy thread and my newer model Singer with gold topstitching thread. Instead of changing threads, I was just moving from machine to machine, which was so much more convenient (see, you do need more than one sewing machine! you're welcome). My last experience sewing with topstitching thread was absolutely disastrous (yes, it was years ago, it was just that horrible), so I was nervous about using it again, and did a little internet research first. I found this wonderful collection of tips on Craftsy, and followed it to the letter, going very slowly and never backstitching, and it worked like a charm!

Brumby Skirt pocket

One of the other interesting details about this skirt is the exposed zipper. For this, I followed the tutorial that Megan posted on her blog, which worked really well, although I feel duty-bound to tell you that the illustration provided in the instructions (I was following along on Megan's fancy app, which was great btw) is wrong wrong wrong. It shows you lying the zipper face down on the wrong side of the fabric to baste the bottom of the zipper to the skirt (right side of zipper to wrong side of fabric), when it should be the right side of the skirt fabric (right sides together). This could definitely get you in trouble but luckily I had the tutorial open too and was able to figure it out pretty easily.

Brumby Skirt and Thrift Store refashion (using the Plantain Top)
This skirt was not without its hiccups, however. I cut the skirt pieces out in a medium, but the waistband pieces out in large. Despite some measuring and trying on before I sewed the waistband on, the final skirt ended up being too large. Not hugely too large, but it sat much lower and was much less cute. This seems to happen to me a lot - I think I'm so paranoid about making things too small that sometimes I err on the side of making things too large! Well, it was messy work, but I ripped all of my beautiful topstitching stitches out and took it in on the sides, then sewed it back together again. I do love that the contoured waistband pieces on this skirt really allow for a flat and well-fitting high waisted skirt. Now that I've made this skirt, I would love to go back and change my Kelly Skirts and Lisette Skirt to have contoured, rather than straight-sided, waistbands. Such a small change and it really is noticeably more comfortable and flattering! I think this is one of things that I have long preferred about my quality RTW skirts and pants without fully understanding why. Who knew?

Thrifted turtleneck refashioned with Plantain neckline and shorter sleeves.

In other, less exciting news, the top I'm wearing here was a thrifted turtleneck that I refashioned into a scoop neck top. I grabbed it because I liked the small blue stripes and the fabric felt very soft and high quality, but since I hate turtlenecks, I knew it would be cut up. First I just simply cut the pieces part on the existing seams. I cut off the turtleneck and cut a Plantain neckline. I then used the ribbing in the turtleneck (pieced) to bind the neck. Then I shortened the sleeves to three-quarters length and sewed the top back together, checking for fit. Because this was a relatively formfitting top (and in my size) to begin with, the final result is a rather figure conscious scoopneck tee, perfect for tucking into a gathered skirt. Sometimes the easiest projects are the most satisfying, am I right? Plus it always feels very virtuous to refashion an inexpensive thrifted item.

I am pretty pleased with this new casual outfit, and I know I'll get a lot of wear out of these items. I'll be back here soon to share an outfit I made for Maggie recently, and I know I'm behind in blogging my me-mades.

Skirts: I just can't quit 'em. What is your favorite garment type to sew?

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Me Made May 2015 Wrap Up and a "New" Sewing Machine!

Greetings readers and welcome to June! Me Made May 2015 has, sadly, come to a close, and it's time for my second installment of MMM pics on the blog. I really had a lot of fun Instagrammin' along with so many of you and sharing my me-mades. I was honestly surprised that it was so easy (more of my wardrobe is handmade than I realized) and I am super pumped to continue to sew for myself!

mosaic mmm15 pt 2

1. Myrtle Dress, 2. Lisette B6182 Top, 3. Self drafted rayon skirt (recently altered), 4. Lisette B6182 Skirt, 5. Bess Top, 6. B6182 Top and Linden Sweatshirt, 7. Unblogged Plantain Tee, 8. As-yet-unblogged Linden Sweatshirt and Mabel Skirt, 9. Archer Shirt, 10. Plantain Tee, 11. Lisette top and as-yet-unblogged black Mabel Skirt, 12. Bess top and Everyday skirt, 13. Archer Shirt, 14. Alder Dress, 15. As-yet-unblogged Lisette B6169 Dress (shortened to a tunic).

"June Gloom" came early to the San Francisco Bay Area this year (although I'm told this is "May Gray" - go figure!), and we were more or less fogged in for the second half of May, which changed my wardrobe choices quite a bit - my Linden sweatshirts were in regular rotation (including my latest version of this pattern), and leggings, scarves, and woolly slippers made an appearance in addition to my usual cardigans, much to the surprise and confusion of my inland Instagram friends who are already complaining of heat waves. Yep. This is "summer" in the Bay Area. If you're lucky, the sun finally peeks out sometime in the afternoon. In my parts "layering" is a lot more than a fashion statement and cardigans are a year-round staple.

The beer, on the other hand, is pure fashion statement. ;-) The beer pics started because I just wanted to have a little fun with the photos and then after a while, people began to expect beer in the photos and I had standards to keep up! I do really love my IPA (West Coast IPA, that is, everyone else's IPA is weak sauce). When it comes to beer, the more bitter, the more better ... uh ... the bitterer, the betterer. Or something like that! Just pass me a damn IPA, would you?

Me Made May was definitely an inspiration to me, and I spent a lot of time sewing for myself in May. I'm behind with blogging, but I completed 3 tops, 1 skirt, and 2 dresses/tunics this month. I also finally took apart and altered a skirt that had been sitting in my "fix" pile for ages. Not too shabby! I am feeling really energized to continue to build my handmade wardrobe. I am really going to miss seeing pics of all my buddies in their makes.

Okay! Now that we've completed that wrap-up, I have a little story to share. A couple weeks ago, I came into possession of this locked wooden case ...

This is how it came to me ... locked and no one knew what was inside!

A work friend found it in a pile of things slated to go to the landfill (it is incredible to me that it hadn't been "picked"!), and knowing that I sew, she speculated that it was probably a sewing machine, and nabbed it for me. Well, "nabbed it" is probably an exaggeration because this baby is heavy. More like "slowly lugged it away from the trash pile and struggled mightily to get it in her car."  Then lugged it up the stairs to my job on the third floor of City Hall, where I just couldn't wait to know what was inside the locked wooden box.

The moral of this story: It pays to tell everyone about your sewing hobby, even if this means boring some people to tears, because you never know who will find a vintage Singer in a pile of trash and think, "Who was it that was boring me to death talking about how much they love sewing?" You are very welcome. 

I did a little online research on wooden singer boxes and learned that you can usually open them with a small flathead screwdriver. Well, my coworker just so happened to have some tools in his car, and I was able to open up the case right there.


There was an audible "AAAHHHHHHHHH!!" when that cover came off. It is indeed a sewing machine, and a pretty one at that!

(That's my office table, complete with a couple of tabbed law books and a pink fountain tip pen. Because that's how I roll!)

Rescued from the landfill!

I could tell it was in rough shape and missing a few parts, including the thread spool holder. I wasn't sure what that random metal "crow bar" to the bottom right was, but later learned it is a knee lever! Since the machine didn't have a cord, I couldn't tell whether and how she was running.

So I lugged this lovely thing out to my car and took it straight to my friendly (or grumpy, depending on the day) local Singer repairman, who told me that this is a Singer 99, made sometime in the 1930s or early 40s. Four or five days and $85 later, I took her home, cleaned up, repaired, and running like a top!


Singer 99, back from the shop

As Jim explained, this was obviously a very well-used machine. No "cherry" condition here. You can see where the gold paint is actually worn off in front of the presser foot, from years of pushing fabric over it! Jim touched up the paint a bit here and there, replaced a few parts, and gave it a tune up, and you guys, this thing sews like buddah. Listen to that sound!!! It's music to my ears (don't mind the television and kids screaming in the background - that's my life!).

One of my favorite clever little features is the little bobbin lift button in the bobbin case. Check it out!

And since this machine uses a knee lever rather than a foot pedal, it will be the perfect machine to teach Joe how to sew on. Joe isn't tall enough to sit on a chair and reach a foot pedal with his feet, but he is a very mechanically minded kid, and immediately took to this machine. I was especially impressed with his speed control, because this machine wants to go fast. Watching this video, I realize my help was totally not needed, and he was two steps ahead of me! Ha! Joe is clever with tools and machines just like his father. I don't know how interested he is in actually sewing things (as opposed to just playing with power tools), although he did express some interest in making a "superman cape"! Ha!

He's been pushing for a cape for a while, so I bought some (horrendous) poly satin in red, but I don't think that fabric will make for a very good first project (I anticipate having a lot of trouble with it myself!) ... so I'll have to think about this.

So that's my new toy! I can't believe this was in a trash pile! It is perfect for quilting and straight stitch projects. This brings me up to four sewing machines in addition to my serger. Because everyone needs four sewing machines, right? (Steve's rolling his eyes so hard it hurts at this point.) I really have no defense at this point, except that trying out different machines, especially vintage machines, is really fun! I just really need more space so that I can keep them all set up at once!

Are you a sewing machine collector?