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?

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

"Are you making my pink dress, mama?"

Cotton + Steel Geranium dress

As you know, little Maggie has become increasingly opinionated about the clothing she wears. Namely, she wants everything to be pink, pink, pink! Initially I resisted the pink-everything trend, and to be honest, I am still looking forward to a time in the future when I can sew blue, or red, or orange, or green, or yellow things for Maggie. But in the meantime, when I see a pink fabric that I like, I've been picking up a yard or two, because you know, Maggie might like a dress from it. This Cotton + Steel Cookie Book Mini Flowers was one such impulse purchase. I love it and it's pink, so, BOOM. Two yards please. Kthxbai.

Maggie has also recently become a lot more interested in my sewing, and frequently stops by to ask me "What are you making, mama? Are you making a dress for me?" And by "frequently," I mean, "once every five minutes for days." This can make a selfish sewing project seem like it's taking a lot longer than it actually is. When I find myself repeating "No, I'm still making a shirt for Mama" a hundred times in one day, I start to feel like I must be pretty darn slow at this sewing business. 

At one point, to buy myself some more time, I gave Maggie a little stack of pink fabrics in stash and asked her to pick her favorite for "a pink dress." She happily busied herself with the pile and the Cookie Book Mini Flowers emerged a clear winner for a "pink dress for me." Great! No problem, Maggie, I'll make you a pink dress ... soon!

Well, that predictably backfired because after Maggie had chosen her fabric, her question changed to "Are you making my pink dress, Mama?" And when I'd explain that no, I was still making things for myself, she would respond with disappointment and a "When will you make my pink dress?" Rinse, repeat. Every five minutes for days. You have to love toddlers and their persistence, right?

Well, you can guess how this ended. I got to work on Maggie's dress! Persistence pays off! I chose the Geranium Dress for a couple reasons: (1) Maggie loves the last one I made her and chooses it every chance she gets; (2) I already had the pattern cut out in her size and I knew it fit; and (3) I have been wanting to do another "fully piped" Geranium since the one I made for Maggie as a baby and this fabric just really seemed to cry for some piping.

Cotton + Steel Geranium 

And look, she loves it! While being asked about Maggie's pink dress repeatedly can get to be a bit tiresome, I am thrilled (THRILLED, I tell you!) to sew for such a grateful and enthusiastic recipient! It's definitely very different than sewing for Joe has been in recent years (although he has softened a bit as of late, I notice). It's hard to understate how fun it is to sew something to order for an appreciative kid. 

Cotton + Steel Geranium dress

If I had let Maggie choose the piping and buttons, you know how that would have gone, right? PINK PINK PINK PIIIIIIIIIIINK!!!!! So I did not consult with her on these points, ahem, and picked a dramatically dark navy piping and red buttons, to bring out the primary colors of the flowers in this fabric and play down the pink-pastel-ness.

Cotton + Steel Geranium 

At this point, I'm thinking this isn't the first Geranium you've seen on a sewing blog (I've sewn a half-dozen, I think!), but just for good record keeping purposes, this is view A (gathered skirt), sleeveless, with patch pockets and piping all around the neckline, back facings, waist seam, and armholes. The only modification I made to size 18-25 months was to lengthen the dress by about three inches, and then make a nice deep three inch hem. The end result of this was slightly longer than my last version. 

My love affair with piping continues, obviously. It provides such a nice, clean finish. It does take a little bit longer than a regular finish, but it also prevents linings and facings from peeking out and gives a bodice like the Geranium bodice a bit more body and firmness. Plus, it just looks very sweetly traditional. As with my last version, I slipstitched the bodice lining to the waist and hemmed the dress by hand. It's such a small dress, it really doesn't take very long, and it gives a much more traditional look than topstitching, which I think is in keeping with this style of dress. So far I haven't had any problems with hems ripping out on the dresses I've made for Maggie.

Cotton + Steel Geranium dress

This girl loves to spin around on the lawn in a new dress! Can you guess what else she loves?

Cotton + Steel Geranium dress

POCKETS. Maggie is now at the age where pockets are all the rage. She's been filling up these pockets with softies, Lego minifigs, cars, and other useful and necessary items.  

Cotton + Steel Geranium dress

I finished your pink dress, Maggie! Now can I get a little time to sew for myself?

Friday, May 22, 2015

A couple of awesome basics, or "I sew all the cropped things."

Linden Sweatshirt and Lisette Top

Today I'm here to share a couple of pieces that I've made this month but haven't blogged ... mostly because I've been wearing them all the time! Isn't that the best? Especially since it's Me-Made-May, and I need all the comfy and practical me-mades I can get right now.

First up, above, is my new Linden Sweatshirt. Since I made this a couple weeks ago, I've been wearing it as often as I can! I love it!

As you know, I made my first Linden from a thrifted Izod sweatshirt, and while it's not perfect, I wear it often. It's perfect for lounging on cool Oakland evenings. So I knew I wanted to make more of these. For this Linden, I used a really nice marbled red hemp/cotton french terry that I bought at Stonemountain. This stuff was not cheap (it's this but in a different color) but it just screams "quality." It washed and sewed beautifully, and had a nicer drape than 100% cotton sweatshirt fleece. I normally could care less about "hemp" in my fabric but this stuff is so nice. The marbled color gives the fabric a lot of depth and it feels wonderful on.

When I saw that Kelly at Cut Cut Sew made a shorter sleeved cropped version of the Linden with what looks like this exact fabric (but in blue), I knew I had to copy her exactly! So this is the Linden Sweatshirt in the cropped length and short sleeves, with a hem band and sleeve cuffs. I know I've expressed some skepticism about "cropped" shirts, but the length of this sweatshirt is just perfect. It dips down so slightly in the back ... very flattering.

This is such a simple, great pattern! I need more! I have already bought another piece of really luxurious french terry, this time a remnant at Harts Fabrics in Santa Cruz (I just so happened to be traveling to Monterey for a business trip, and ... the rest is history), and I'm ready to make another one.

So here's where I pretend to be Jen from Grainline:

Linden Sweatshirt and Lisette Top

What do you think? Not bad, right? Hehe. That was fun.

Linden Sweatshirt and Lisette Top

Okay, next up is another practical cropped item: the top from Lisette's Butterick 6182. I made the skirt recently, and I love it. I knew I wanted to make the top ASAP, in a drapey material. So I went hunting through my pile of rayon challis, and found a yard of Anna Maria Horner's rayon challis "Sinister Swarm" (I can't find any online sources to link to right now, but I think it's still obtainable if you're willing to search). I love this fabric, and figured it would be perfect for a simple slouchy top.


Yeah, well ... not so much. Major fabric choice error here! See, this pattern has seams down the center front and center back, with cute little darts emanating from the center front. I would not recommend choosing a large scale print for this pattern! When I first cut it out, I thought, "no problem, I don't need to match the patterns, random will be fine."

And this is what happened. Um. Not matched. Also not random. At all. DOH!!!

I was really frustrated and put it aside for a while. But the fabric was too good to spoil, so eventually I just sucked it up and ordered another yard of this fabric and actually matched it across the front and replaced that piece. Major waste of fabric here! Argh. Never again!

Then the project turned out to be double-cursed, when I mistakenly serged part of the front onto the CF seam allowance. At that point I just about cried. I carefully unpicked as much as I could, but there was an area with a very small tear. I wasn't about to replace that piece AGAIN, so I decided to iron a little fusible interfacing on the back and call it a day.

Here, I sloppily circled the area of fraying right near the CF seam. It's there, but it's pretty unnoticeable right now. I just hope it doesn't get worse!

Linden Sweatshirt and Lisette Top

Luckily with such a busy print, it's pretty unnoticeable and the top is still wearable. We'll see how it holds up over time ... have you ever had a project that just seemed cursed? This was one of those.

Linden Sweatshirt and Lisette Top

The thing is, even though this particular project was a bit cursed, I really love this top and I will absolutely be making more of these. I used a straight size 12 and made no modifications to the top besides adding about 2 inches to the length. Even with that extra length I would consider this a "cropped" top.  The surprise is how wearable I'm finding it. It looks really great with my high waisted skirts and jeans. When I make it again, I may add a couple more inches to the length, to allow for tucking in, but I actually really like the short length just to shake things up. I already have a really nice piece of solid (!!!) burgundy rayon twill set aside for another one of these tops. I think a solid will really show off the unusual lines of the top.

Once again, sometimes it's the simplest and easiest sewing projects that get the most wear. What I'm learning is that I can make myself a whole wardrobe of relatively simple pieces, and I'm actually as likely to love those pieces as the more complex items. 

Have you ever had a relatively simple project (or fabric) that carried some kind of evil curse?

Monday, May 18, 2015

A Myrtle Dress and Me-Made-May Part 1.

So far, May has been a month of selfish sewing and wearing! Since I'm participating in Me-Made-May, where I wear and photograph something me-made every day of the month, I've been even more motivated to make new things for myself to wear. So far I've made a sweatshirt, a top, and a dress, and I have several more items in the queue.

My first item to share is the Colette Myrtle, a knit dress with a cowl neckline.

Colette Myrtle

I bought this pattern when it was first released. I love knit dresses, and I love cowl necklines, so I was sold immediately. But the pattern didn't get rave reviews - it seems it runs very large and the cowl neckline doesn't sit right on a lot of people.  So when I finally got around to making this, I did some research before deciding on a size. Although I measure between sizes Medium and Large according to the pattern, my knit was very soft and slinky and stretchy, so I cut out a size Small.

Colette Myrtle

And I'm glad I did! I actually think I could go with an Extra Small in this pattern, at least for the bodice. Which is crazy! (I mean, if I'm an XS, then what are the actually really small people going to wear?) This dress has plenty of ease. I wish it had a little less fabric in the neckline, honestly, but it does have a very "Grecian Goddess" look, doesn't it?

Colette Myrtle

The fabric I used here is a tomato-red slub rayon jersey. It is a lovely color and feels very soft and light, but it was squirrelly to sew. Very tissue fine and prone to getting eaten up by the feed dogs or stretched out. It also shows every lump and bump on the body. Wearing a little half slips helps a lot with that, though.

Colette Myrtle

The dress has pockets, which I am on the fence about. Yes, it's fun to have a place to put your hands, but in this lightweight fabric, I feel that they flap around and distort the side seams a little bit. And in such a light fabric, they are not useful for actually holding anything. If I were to make this dress again, I would probably skip the pockets.

So that is all the good stuff. Now, onto the ugly: the back.

Colette Myrtle

Okay, yeah. It's bad. Several things going on here:

(1) The back bodice is unlined, and the pattern has you turn over and stitch down the neckline and armholes. Well, that might work for a much more stable fabric, but it was a no-go for this light tissue weight jersey. The hems flop all over the place and look super messy.

(2) I, like other reviewers of this pattern, felt that the back bodice piece was ENORMOUS. Way too big. Part of the issue may be that I am narrow of back relative to my bust size, but remember, I cut out a size Small, which should have been too small on me (going by the envelope). I feel like something was just wrong with that back piece. I ended up taking it in by well over two inches, creating a seamline down the center-back. This contributed to the general disaster that is the top back neckline of this dress. At this point, I am unclear if it is possible for me to fix this. I think I'll just wear my hair down or a cardigan over it.

 Colette Myrtle

Okay, take it from me. If you make a Myrtle, check the width of the back piece compared to your body and adjust accordingly. And I would strongly recommend lining the back piece like the front piece. (The way the pattern is constructed would make this very easy, actually.

More weirdness happened with the cute little shoulder tab. I honestly cannot figure out where the button is supposed to attach on the tab, and anyway, the tab turned out really long (is the button supposed to attach under the dress? total lack of clarity here). I finally just sewed the tab on. I don't get it. Doesn't matter that much, it's still cute, but ... whaaaaaa? What am I missing?

Colette Myrtle

Okay, so that was quite a bit of grousing, I know. When I first finished the dress, I felt pretty frustrated and wondered if I would ever wear it and doubted I would ever try to make it again. Having slept on it and tried it on again, I think I will wear it ... it is a beautiful color, very comfortable, and besides that disaster of a back neckline, looks pretty nice and well made. Perhaps with a few more night's sleep, I'll go back and make a little facing for the back neckline and see if I can improve its appearance.

And then the question of whether I will make it again ... I don't know. Maybe? I still really love the cowl neck, and in a more smooth and stable fabric, and knowing what I now know, I think I could make myself a much better fitting Myrtle. I love this style of dress so much and patterns for cowl neck tops and dresses are rare enough that I might just be up for giving it another shot. I do not think I would try this in a woven, though - even in a very drapey light fabric, I think it would just be way too much fabric on my frame!

So there's my honest review of the Myrtle: Love the concept of this dress, but this pattern seems much bigger than the measurements indicated on the envelope, and the execution was, frankly, not as straightforward as it could have been.

In other news, Me-Made-May!! I haven't had time to do weekly summaries, so here's a mid-month round-up of my Instagram posts so far. Although I committed to wearing me-mades only five days a week, I've actually managed it every day of May so far. I think I had almost forgotten how much of my wardrobe is now handmade. I don't anticipate any problem continuing it for the whole month!

From left to right starting at the top left: 1. Grainline Archer, 2. Bess Top and Mabel Skirt 3. Grainline Alder Dress, 4. Josephine Blouse, 5. Briar Top, 6. Upcycled tee and Linden Sweatshirt, 7. Plantain Tank, 8. Breton Top and Everyday Skirt, 9. Unblogged Linden Sweatshirt, 10. Unblogged Short sleeved Plantain Tee, 11. Long sleeved Plantain Tee, 12. Bess Top, 13. Kelly Skirt, 14. Bess Top and Everyday Skirt, 15. Kelly Skirt and Plantain Tank, 16. Unblogged Linden Sweatshirt.

Mostly for my own notes, here's what I've learned so far: (1) I have a lot of me-made tops, but you can never have too many! I wear my me-made tops very consistently, with Plantain and Bess being my faves. (2) 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. Except the Mabel and Everyday Skirt, that is. I need more comfy elastic-waisted skirts! (3) I don't wear dresses very often but it would be nice to have a few more, especially loose comfy dresses like the Alder dress. (4) Things I love to wear but have not sewn for myself and should: Cardigans and trousers. I am eyeing some of the cute elastic waist trousers out there thinking they might be a good starting point for the ever scary "trouser sewing."

Okay, that's it for today! Hopefully I'll be back later this week to blog my new Lisette top and Linden sweatshirt.