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?