Saturday, February 27, 2016

Sailboat and Sketchbook.

Hi again! As promised, I'm back to talk about the outfit you saw a sneak peak of on the Oliver + S blog this past week. I made the Sketchbook shorts lengthened into pants primarily for that post, to show how versatile and gender neutral this pattern is, but of course I couldn't stop there - it had to be a whole outfit! So I also made a Sailboat Top. All in pink, of course, for my pink-loving girl. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em, I say. I've made enough items that don't get worn to know how little I enjoy that experience, so now I try to make items that will get worn, even if that means they are mostly knit fabrics and super soft on the inside and out (Joe), or entirely pink (Maggie).

First up, the Sketchbook Pants: I talked a little bit about these on the Oliver + S blog, so I will try not to repeat myself too much. These are the Sketchbook Shorts in size 2, lengthened into pants and tapered to the ankles with little cuffs, in this lovely Kaufman 21 wale corduroy.

Some sewing deets: I usually lengthen the Sketchbook Shorts by measuring the inseam and outseam on the child, and then simply extending the side seams of each leg vertically. If you do this, you will get a fairly wide/straight trouser like these. To taper these little trousers, I first extended the pants straight. Then I measured around Maggie's ankles, added some ease for her to get her feet in and out, and decided that the bottom circumference of the pants at the ankles should be 10 inches. That meant that the front and back pieces should be about 6" at the bottom (allowing for 1/2" seam allowances). I marked that width on the pieces at the bottom. Then I freehanded the tapered shape, starting at the hip (about the bottom of the pocket opening on the side seam), gradually tapering at first, and then a skosh more sharply from the knee to ankle.

The back piece is a little wider in the shorts than the front piece, but I tapered that difference out up to the low hips, making that back piece only wider at the waist and bottom, where you need a little extra width because of the elastic back. I didn't want to mess with one of my favorite features of this pattern, the roomy, full-coverage tush. I tapered the inseams straight from the crotch seam allowance to the ankles. If you try this modification, be careful not to reduce the amount of fabric at the crotch seam or at the waist, or you risk messing up that great fit around the bottom that the Sketchbook has.

(Her hems got a little wet when she started playing with the garden hose. It was off, but there was a little water left in it!)

Otherwise, besides the standard pocket-opening mod I make to this pattern, to widen the opening to the pockets, these are made exactly according to the pattern. I omitted the button, mostly because I didn't have anything suitable, and I think this pattern looks great with or without the non-functional button. This lovely baby-wale corduroy sews up so wonderfully and presses really well. Although occasionally linty, I stand by my advice that beginners try sewing a garment with corduroy. Like chambray, it is easy to handle and sew, and just tends to make everything look good. It also wears really well for kid's clothes and is multi-seasonal in my climate.

I expected to have to go back and adjust the fit, but I didn't! My little modification turned out great, and it was so easy! These would be really cute in a linen or cotton for summer, too. After I put them on Maggie, I turned up the bottom hems, and liked the look so much I tacked them up as little cuffs. They aren't proper cuffs, because they flip up at the hemline rather than extending further up, but you'd never know that if I didn't tell you, right?

To complete the outfit, I sewed a Sailboat Top in a Riley Blake pink striped knit. Although I've made a lot of Sailboat Pants in my time, this is only my second time making the top, which is now available as a separate pattern. I love the maritime vibe of the pattern and the neck and hem facings, which make it a bit more complicated than most knit tops I sew. This is also a size 2, but it turned out too big, alas! It's not just the sleeves, which are too long, but also too big around the neck. I thought about rehemming the sleeves, but haven't yet ... like the pants, this top is pretty multi-seasonal in our cool-summer climate, so perhaps I'll just let her grow into it (assuming she does actually grow - sometimes I worry, she is so tiny!). I don't remember if the Sailboat runs big ... it might just be that Maggie is so small.

It was fun to break out two "oldie but goodie" Oliver + S patterns for this outfit! These were the very first Oliver + S patterns I ever bought! And the Sketchbook is definitely my most-sewn, with the Sailboat Pants coming second. When I bought these patterns, it was for Joe, and boy patterns were hard to come by. Now there are lots of boy patterns to choose from in the indie pattern world (something I love!) but these two really have stood the test of time. And how cute do they look on a little girl?

Maggie is three and a half now, and while she is small for her age, she is overflowing with personality and ... um ... executive leadership skills. She's cute as a button, but don't be fooled. She knows what she likes - chocolate and pink! And what she doesn't like - almost everything else! This can be a challenging age - sometimes it feels like an entire day can go by where I remember nothing but whining and arguing and negativity from this little sweet muffin. But she loves to snuggle and tell me how much she loves me and give kisses, which is pretty much the best thing in the universe - and that happens enough that I don't completely despair.

Joe was a very different sort of three-year-old - affectionate but rough, and not very demonstrative (and not nearly as verbal as Maggie so he was quiet and stubborn rather than wearing us down with chatter). He was, and remains, a more reserved child, although he is free with "I love yous" and hugs now that he's six, he still thinks "Mama kisses me too much" and squirms away when I hug or snuggle him for more than a minute.

Maggie, on the other hand, would prefer to be ON a person at all times, preferably climbing on their head or jumping on them or, in the case of family members, caressing them or showering them with kisses. She is also chatty and crazily persistent. I used to joke that Joe was like the ocean - he knew where he wanted to be, and there was no shifting him. He wasn't even interested in the possibility that there might be other options besides the one he chose. What did he care? He was the ocean! He would (and still does sometimes) seem to shut out any conflicting noise in the background (e.g., his parents telling him what to do) in his determination to pursue his own path.

Maggie, on the other hand, is more like a small running stream. Generally agreeable and well behaved, but when she decides she wants something, active and unrelenting, this girl can wear down mountains. Unlike Joe (but like many other three year olds) she's proficient at the "slow trickle" method of getting what you want - just annoy them so much that they concede just to get you to stop talking. Never, ever, give up. Exhibit A: the Grand Canyon.

Both of my kids would make great (albeit different in style) lawyers. I can't think where they got this from.

Like many parents, I comfort myself that disregard for the mainstream, clarity of purpose, and exhausting persistence are great qualities that will benefit my kids for a lifetime. In the meantime, I am going to need a lot of dark chocolate (and yes, Maggie, you can have some, WHATEVER IT TAKES).

Then Maggie will hop on my lap and shower me with kisses and say "you are a wucky mama, Inder" (yes, she calls me Inder - heaven help me)!

Parenting is hard work but it's also pretty fun.


Which brings us back to the Sailboat Top: Although Maggie gave me permission to do blue buttons at the shoulders (perhaps I pushed a bit too hard for consent), she later complained about this feature. She said she wished they were purple. Now, I like pink (especially warmer shades), and I even (sort of, sometimes) like purple, but please tell me I'm not the only one who finds the combination of pink of purple to be over-the-top nauseating girly? Sigh. These kids always find our buttons, don't they? Maggie would love if everything I made her was "pink and purple!!" I'm willing to sew all the pink things in the universe, but even I have my limits. Sorry, child, those shoulder buttons just WANTED to be bright turquoise! I hope it won't be an obstacle to Maggie wearing the top. If so, I will probably buckle and change them out (shudder) because when you have a three year old in the house, you need to be very clear about which hills you're willing to die on! When it comes to pink (and purple), I'm waving the white flag.

This was my favorite shot in this photo shoot. Joe came out, and I encouraged the kids to make silly faces in hopes of getting Maggie to smile. Maggie's side-eye in this photo just kills me. I really do have the greatest kids, even if they are a trifle demanding when it comes to what I sew for them, full stop!

Now, please comfort me with stories about your EVEN MORE STUBBORN three year olds, or failing that, send dark chocolate!

Thanks for reading! 

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

My Favorite Oliver + S Pattern!

Today I'm posting here, on the Oliver + S blog about my favorite pattern, the Sketchbook Shorts, which I've made (at least) fourteen times! Go check it out! There's even a new outfit for Maggie, which I will be back here to blog about in more detail shortly.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Practical sewing.

Hello friends! It's already halfway through February!? Crazy! After weeks and weeks of rain, we have been enjoying a spell of really beautiful weather, and I have been outside, enjoying it as much as I can! Seriously, Joe is wearing shorts again and for once, it's appropriate. It's so nice here! The weather experts tell us that El NiƱo is not gone - the little guy is just taking a break. So I'm trying to get the most out of it!

But I have done some sewing in the past couple weeks, of course. My biggest project was this Market Bag from (Noodlehead) Anna Graham's Handmade Style book, which is totally awesome and drool worthy, by the way. So many projects I want to do! At this point in my sewing career, I don't buy as many books as I used to - I am more inclined to buy patterns, which have better instructions, less errors, and more complex designs. But this book really has such a variety of projects and so far, the instructions and patterns are great. So I'm a fan!

Since I'm now taking public transit to work most days, I find myself schlepping huge amounts of stuff on buses and BART, and I've been mostly using canvas reusable shopping bags. Don't get me wrong, my Farmer Joe's canvas bag is pretty great, and I'm representing Oakland for sure. But I felt a need to step up my game a bit! Reusable shopping bags are the bomb, but they're not exactly professional or polished. So I decided to make myself a nice tote bag.

 I really loved the Market Bag pictured in the book - the quilted natural linen makes the bag look more like a rattan basket, and the chambray and soft earth tones in the patchwork are so pretty! So I pretty much copied the original, and chose a natural colored linen that has been in my stash FOR-EVER (I made some pants for Joe out of this stuff in 2012 and the fabric had been in my stash for ages even then!) for the main body of the bag. Felt pretty good to use some more of this stuff up, but unfortunately I still have quite a bit. #fabricyoucannevergetridof I used stash linen, chambray, and Cotton + Steel quilting cottons for the lining, patchwork, and inside pocket.

This project was definitely a little bit outside my usual comfort zone! As I've moaned many times on this blog, I don't generally love sewing bags. Mostly because so. much. interfacing. Also, trying to sew curved bottom pieces onto the side pieces, with way too much interfacing, ugh. But as the years go by, I am getting better at bags, or at any rate I'm a little less intimidated by them. Still, this bag marks my first experience with this bizarre stuff, By Annie's Soft and Stable Stabilizer. This stuff is really hard to describe, but when my friend said "oh, you can substitute out auto headliner that you buy at JoAnns," I had to laugh in recognition! That's right! It seems like something that would go into a car - totally! It's like a thick synthetic foam that takes the place of batting in quilted bags. Totally industrial, not even a little natural, and very weird, but it works!

This was also my first time sewing leather! I got the leather for the straps at Michael's, which wasn't ideal, and I didn't have any choice in terms of color, but I am happy with the dark brown handles. I topstitched them on with brown thread doubled up on top (I used the extra spool on my machine and ran both threads through the leather needle). It was tough work for my machine and it skipped some stitches, but so far they are holding.

 The inside pocket is extra special Cotton + Steel Lions - too bad I totally botched the pattern matching, right? So wrong. So so wrong. I was confused because of all of the origami instructions. Whatever, it holds my stuff, right? Moving on! The lining is a lovely mustard gold Cotton + Steel "basics" cotton.

Here's a close-up of the quilting. Quilting each of the bag panels was a lot of work and took forever! But the texture of the bag is really special because of it, so I'm not complaining. I really love the soft earth tones! Although this is billed as a "quick sew" - probably for folks who are experienced at sewing quilted bags - I wouldn't call it that for me. It was a lot of work! But I do love the final product.

I've been toting binders, laptops, and books in this bags every day since I made it! It's great! Sturdy, functional, and pretty! I love it! I loved it so much that I started looking around for some easier bag projects to use up some of my heavier stash fabrics, and ended up with this:

I made this basic tote-bag in a couple of hours, using (very loosely) the Purl Bee tutorial for the Railroad Tote. The idea was to make a smaller tote that would be big enough for a book and my lunch for days when I don't need the spacious Market Tote, and I think I pretty much nailed it!

The Railroad Tote tutorial is great, and this thing whips up so quick, you'll be amazed. I will definitely be making more of these for gifts! I did make some modifications, especially to the size, which I reduced considerably to be a book/lunch sized tote, rather than a shopping bag. I used gorgeous Japanese barkcloth (sorry, I can't for the life of me find a link - does anyone know what this is called?) for the pocket, and a regular light blue denim for the rest.

The inside seams are finished off in emerald green bias tape (that's what I had on hand). Next time I will probably put it together in a way that allows me to do the side seams before I hem the top, but this way is surprisingly fine.

Here it is inside out, so you can see the bias-finished seams. Perfect? No. Completely functional? Absolutely.

It's nice to have a lunch-tote that you can just throw in the wash if anything leaks. I think this will do the trick!

 One more project for you today, sorry for the long post! At some point sewing the Market Bag, I realized I had the wrong kind of interfacing for the lining (so. much. interfacing.) - actually, this was a long story, involving an internet supplier sending me sew-in interfacing instead of fusible. I couldn't get to the fabric store right away to get the right stuff, so while I waited, I finally checked off a project that had been on my list for ages: Make kitchen towels from toweling fabric purchased from Stonemountain. I was drawn to this fabric because of the amazing (and perfect for my kitchen) colors, but the pile of (not inexpensive!) fabric sat in my stash for months because ... let's be honest, can you think of a more boring project? So freaking boring, people. The only thing worse is curtains, kill me now.

Well, I did it. I almost died of boredom while doing so, and there was a definite risk of sewing through my own fingernail because I was so zoned out, but they are done. I had to add the little hang tabs in grosgrain ribbon to each towel in order to alleviate the tedium, but I can't say it helped much. Still, now I have a set of matching kitchen towels, people! And they're so nice and pretty! Time to retire some really raggedy towels I've been using for a million years and try to pretend to be a grownup, right? Yay! Please tell me I'm not the only one who doesn't have matching kitchen towels, bathroom towels ... anything. (Please don't tell me if you do have matching everything, that's lovely for you, but spare me!)

So this was quite a lot of very utilitarian sewing by my standards, but I have to say I'm really happy to have some functional and useful pieces that I can say I made myself! It's not always the most exciting sewing, but it's often the most rewarding in terms of sheer use.

Do you sew bags? Do you sew for your home? Fun or tedious beyond belief? Discuss.