Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Sewing Ruts and Safari Raglans ...

April has been a "meh" month for me, sewing-wise. I had such exciting plans! But I can't quite seem to motivate myself to work on them. I started swim suits for the kids, but then it rained and I got stuck, realized I had to unpick some seams, and put them aside. Since then, I've had a bad case of "WIP-itis" - you know, where you avoid sewing because you feel guilty about an unfinished project? Ugh. It's lame. And I'm still there, stuck in a bit of a sewing rut, still avoiding those darn suits! Super lame!

Anyway, a couple weekends ago, it got pretty hot - April in Oakland is generally really beautiful, one of my favorite months in the year, weather-wise - and it became pretty apparent that my kids are lacking in warm-weather clothing. Both of them have grown a lot in the last year, especially Joe. Meanwhile, the lovely Rachel at Stitched Together sent me a piece of this gorgeous Evelyckan Design Fairytale Hummingbird fabric with Maggie in mind a couple weeks ago. Sewing friends are TOTALLY the best! Maggie and I literally "squeed" when we saw this fabric! I thought perhaps one way to address my sewing funk would be to whip up some fast and easy items - palate cleansers, so to speak.

I started out with a vision for the hummingbird fabric - I wanted a simple knit dress with a drop waist for Maggie. I looked through my Ottobres and considered several different options, including an Oliver + S Sailboat Top hack, but most of them required more fabric than I had. Ultimately, I settled on a a really simple option - a Safari Raglan with a gathered skirt.

I tested the Safari Raglan Dress for Titchy Threads about a year ago, and the pattern has sat in my stash since. This time I cut the dress in size 2 with short sleeves for Maggie, and used the fabric I had leftover from cutting out the dress to cut a narrow rectangle for the skirt. The dress has a little bit of an a-line shape, and I liked the way that looked with the gathered skirt attached. I finished the neckline with heather gray bamboo ribbing from Stonemountain - a self-finished neckline would not have worked in this not-that-stretchy cotton jersey.

Unfortunately, the kids were SERIOUSLY not in the mood for a photo shoot! Ha! There was a lot of refusing to look at the camera while making funny faces!

Well, the dress turned out cute! The fabric is GORGEOUS, people. So pretty. I feel like the photos do not do it justice (well, especially with Maggie refusing to look at the camera and/or making silly faces). This was a really simple sew, with only one minor hiccup. The first time I made it, I felt like the skirt was attached too low and the dress looked like a nightgown, so I cut the ruffle off at the seam allowance, shortened the dress a bit more, and sewed it back on. Now the dress is definitely on the short side - almost tunic length - but the proportions look better. Maggie likes to wear shorts or leggings under her dresses most days anyway.

"So, Maggie, are you having fun?"

Uhhhhh ...

For the first time ever, I used the "ruffle" function on my serger to gather the skirt. This was especially convenient because I wasn't trying to gather a specific size rectangle into the width of the skirt. I ruffled a width of fabric piece, and then pinned it to the skirt and cut off the excess. It was really simple, and it gathers about 2x, which is perfect for this style of skirt (but you might like a more gathered look for other kids of skirts). All of my hems and the neckbands were done with the double needle on these items - hopefully the hems will hold up!

At least this one will look at the camera ...

With the Safari Raglan pattern out, I decided to try it out in Joe's size. Although the Oliver + S Field Trip raglan has been my go-to for the past couple of years, I thought it would be fun to have another pattern to compare it to. I used this really nice Cloud 9 organic cotton jersey in pale blue that I bought from Imagine Gnats a while back (also used in this project) for the body of the shirt. Light blue is Joe's color, big time - it makes his eyes really "pop"! Thankfully, blue is one of his favorite colors too, and he loves geometric prints, so when I see fabrics in light or medium blues, I grab them. The sleeves are plain white (I believe the white is a Laguna knit) and I used more of my favorite bamboo ribbing for the neckline, this time in aqua.

Joe told me that he likes shirts with  pockets. Not necessarily to hold things in, but "to help me figure out which way is the front." I don't usually put tags on my hand sewn t-shirts and I notice that Joe often puts his plainer t-shirts on the wrong way. A front pocket helps him know which way is which! That is functional design, huh?

The Safari Raglan has a pattern piece for a front pocket and it can be cut out in either a knit or a woven fabric. I decided to make the pocket from a plain chambray I had in the stash. I thought the different blues looked nice together. Because the pocket was in a woven fabric, I could use straight stitch to top stitch it, which reduces the "wobble" factor of sewing two knit fabrics together.

The shirt is a size 6 with a little extra length. Joe is long in the torso, so that is a standard modification for me. I would say that the fit of the Safari is a bit slimmer and longer in the body than the Field Trip raglan. But otherwise, yeah, they are pretty similar! Let's be honest, you probably don't need BOTH in your pattern stash, but the Safari Raglan does have some fun options (a dress for girls, long sleeves and puppet cuffs). Either pattern will get a major workout if you like to sew basics for your kids.

Speaking of patterns that get a workout, Joe is wearing some color-blocked Sketchbook shorts that I made him last year. At the time, they had tons of extra length, but now they are one of the few pairs of shorts in his bins that hits him at his knees instead of way above! This boy is growing! I definitely need to make this guy some more shorts as well.

Sheesh. What did I tell you? Worst photo shoot ever. They were just not having it!

After I made these two raglans, I actually turned around and whipped up a couple of Rowan Tees for Joe as well, using thrifted shirts. Titchy Thread t-shirts are quickly becoming my TNT kid's t-shirts. Joe has already worn them both to school, but I haven't gotten photos of those yet. Soon, hopefully! I always feel really virtuous when I can put a dent in my knit scraps and thrifted shirts to upcycle, so this was a good run for me. I find that once I get the double needle set-up, I really might as well whip up more than one knit item, because they go so fast once you have the equipment ready to go.

Alas, I wish I could say this t-shirt spree did the trick and broke me out of my sewing funk, but it didn't really. This last weekend, I spent a few minutes finishing the last of the Rowan shirts, and then avoided my sewing area for the rest of the weekend. Ugh! I know I just need to get in there, unpick those serger seams, and finish those damn swimsuits, in order to get out from under this WIP-cloud-of-blah, but somehow I just can't seem to motivate. No bueno!!

How do you break out of a sewing rut? Help!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Mossy Maritime.

Hello readers! I have been busy sewing, and I'm running behind with my blog updates.  I'm not going to win any awards for photography on this post, but here's a selfish-sewing project I finished last weekend - a Grainline Moss Skirt and a Liesl & Co. Maritime Top.

This skirt felt like a pretty big deal, people! This was my second project using a zipper fly (the first was a pair of shorts for Steve). Learning how to do a zipper fly is one of those skills that really opens up a new world to the sewist - suddenly, all the things seem possible! If you haven't yet, try it! (P.S. It's more confusing than hard. Study the instructions and read all the tutorials, and it's totally do-able.)

I was a little nervous about fitting this skirt, so this version is a "wearable muslin" using leftovers from another project. This maroon cotton twill is a nice bottom-weight, but picks up an annoying amount of lint and creases a lot, as you can see in these photos. But I didn't want to cut out my first version out of really nice bottom-weight, so I used this for my first skirt. I do really like the color and despite my quibbles with this fabric, expect to wear this skirt a lot!

My process of fitting was (as usual, and this is a sad, sad thing) quite inexact. My waist measured as a size 12 but my hips at size 8. I knew that I would need more room around the waist, especially in the front, and that I probably wouldn't need nearly as much fabric around the hips and bottom. So like any really careful, precise seamstress, I totally winged it - I cut out a size 10, but added a little extra width between the hip and waist. 

After I had constructed the skirt, including the pockets, back yoke, the side seams up to the hip, and the zipper fly, I tried the skirt on inside out, and pinned the side seams to fit. I ended up taking the back yoke in a half inch near the back waist, and pinning out most of the excess fabric on the sides. I think next time I can definitely cut a size 10 with just a half inch extra on the front pieces and a slightly longer waistband. My conservative/sloppy approach worked but I definitely cut this much larger than I needed to! The nice thing about doing a "wearable muslin" is that if I make this skirt again, I can measure the actual skirt to guide the process (yes, yes, I realize I should be making the changes on the flat pattern pieces - do people actually do that?).

I used a silver southwesterny button from my stash for the front waistband. I find that the waistband creases a lot after sitting in this skirt - I'm not sure if a better interfacing would help that? It happens with a lot of RTW clothing too, so perhaps it's just the reality for this style of waistband? Obviously this fabric does tend to crease a lot.

I added a LOT of length. The Grainline has two views, a mini skirt (and it is mini, like no way would I wear it as is without leggings underneath) and a longer view with a hem facing. I am only 5'4" so I think I can say objectively that this pattern is SHORT. I decided to lengthen the mini view, but I did it by placing the hem facing next to the main pieces on the fabric and cutting them out with that extra length (seam allowances added to the length as well that way). So this was adding something like five or six inches to the length. Even so, the skirt skimmed my knees and I did not want to fold up a hem, so I made a bias hem facing from the same fabric I lined the pockets with. I love the length now but must admit, the width of the skirt does not allow me to take great strides. Getting off the bus in the morning, which often requires a decent leap from bus to curb, might be a challenge and require some hiking up. So while I love the narrowness of the skirt, I might have to make it more A-line if I want to do this length again in the future.

As an aside, I am taking the bus and BART to work now, and I love it. I have an inexplicable love for the bus. I resisted taking the bus for years, thinking it would be a horrible hassle and take much longer than driving, but it's just not a big deal. It comes frequently, picks me up a few blocks from home, and drops me off right at the station. It should be noted that although I live in a big city, the San Francisco Bay Area is not exactly noted for its amazing public transit. But I have an app on my phone with real time updates so I can time my departure from home so as to avoid long waits. And instead of driving and feeling stressed, I can walk and read my book more. It is a surprisingly awesome part of my day and I have been getting back to almost pre-kid levels of reading lately, which is freaking wonderful, people!

I had another, harder to articulate and more embarrassing fear, which was that the bus would be "squalid," which I can now see for the ridiculous race/class privilege that it was. Look, at least I am working on it, right? I am recording it here in hopes that others will see and recognize the bias and perhaps take a chance on the bus. I believe that the perception that public transportation is only for the poor and down-and-out is one that was encouraged by the oil companies who transformed California into a car-centric environment back in the 30s and 40s (a fun albeit somewhat controversial piece of California history, see conspiracy theories here) and endorsed by later white-flight suburbanites, and yet the idea persists. I am delighted to report that all sorts of people ride the bus and it's great. I love seeing a sample of the folks who live in my neighborhood and that is one of my favorite parts of the experience. That, and reading my book, of course.

(Don't get me wrong, I am a Californian, through and through, and I love my car. I still have to drive for work quite a lot, to visit my client cities. But I do not love driving my car across a congested $6 toll bridge and paying between $18 and $40 to park my car per day. Amazingly, a lot of people do exactly this, and resistance to the bus and public transportation is one reason they do.)

Forgive me that digression! Now I will get back to sewing. The top is another pattern I've had in my stash for a long time - the Liesl & Co. Maritime Top. It is a very simple boat neck tee with a faced neckline that has a maritime/French Briton top vibe. The fabric is a lovely, heavy rayon (or bamboo?) navy stripe that I bought from Imagine Gnats a month or two ago which does not appear to be on the website anymore. It was a little bit shifty to cut (and my stripe matching is not great, partially as a result), but feels really nice on.

I cut out this top in a size 10, based on my bust measurement, and it's clear that it I could go a size (or two) down on future versions, but I actually really like the boxy shape of this top. It reminds me (in a good way) of my Hemlock Tees. That said, the neckline is a little too wide, and tends to fall down and expose a bra strap, or drape a bit too much in the front, so I probably will size down at least in the neckline next time. The only change I made to the pattern was to shorten the sleeves quite a lot

This pattern is the woman's equivalent of the Oliver + S Sailboat Top and it's awesome! I really like the facing around the neckline - it feels substantial and stays put. I must say, I have not been a big fan of the "serge then turn over and stitch" method of finishing necklines that you see in some (quite a few) patterns, at least for me. I feel like the neckline is constantly trying to flip over, especially on curly jerseys (and especially where the neckline is a bit too wide). This faced neckline is a lot more secure. I may start drafting facings for non-bound necklines in knit!  Because the neckline is plenty wide, you can use straight-stitch to stitch down the facing because it does not need to stretch a lot to get over your head. The end result feels very stable and comfortable - no worries about what your neckline is doing at any given moment.

In other news we are going to be doing some substantial work on our backyard this summer, pulling up the ugly concrete to address some drainage issues (that became especially apparent during this rainy winter) and hopefully improving the function of the space. I finally came to terms with the fact that landscape design is not my thing, and we are hiring a lovely lady to help us come up with a vision for the space - especially to help us create some hardscape areas and seating areas. I am so excited to see what she comes up with! Whatever we end up doing, I promise to post some before/after pictures.

And don't worry, the plan will have plenty of room for our vegetable garden, which is already mostly planted up for this year. I have been harvesting greens (arugula, kale, chard, and lettuce) all spring and the tomatoes, peppers, and basil are in the ground. Last year was a terrible drought year and it was not a banner year for the veggie garden, but we did still get tons of peppers and tomatoes. This year I decided to "keep it simple" and grow plants that (a) grow well without much assistance in my climate; and (b) we really like to eat. So nothing fancy, given that we will be making changes around it and doing a lot of work elsewhere. My hope is to really expand on our herb garden, since Mediterranean herbs do so wonderfully in our garden with very little work (makes sense, since we live in a Mediterranean climate, but also they are just tough little plants!). It's fun to have a new project to look forward to!

As a pleasant side effect, perhaps I'll have a better backdrop for blog photos? Ha.

I could have titled this "Mossy Maritime and Miscellaneous Meanderings," huh? 

What are you sewing or planting this weekend?

Friday, April 1, 2016

Easter Playtime Dress.

Sometimes, you just drop everything to make your little girl an Easter dress. Because spring is in the air and your step-mom is handling the holiday festivities (thanks Mimi!) and your blog feed is full of gorgeous little girls in sweet little dresses.

Last Saturday was just such a time. I had cut out a big project for myself (more on that soon!) but I found myself powerless in the face of Easter-dress urges. I am still keeping my sewing journal/"rota," where I doodle and organize my ideas for items to make, but over the past month, I was feeling a bit dragged down by all of the unfinished projects I have yet to check off in the journal - I have a tendency to do the more "fun" projects on my rota first, leaving the less appealing ones for later. But then I end up with a bunch of blah projects to slog through. Sewing "with intention" is nice and all, but sometimes I need a little spontaneity in my sewing!

I bought a yard and a half of this gorgeous Cotton + Steel Bespoke double gauze (in coral "Spark") with Maggie in mind a month or two ago, and I wanted to make a long sleeved dress from it. The double gauze is light but quite soft and thick, making it a nice weight for a transitional garment.

Meanwhile I have been seeing some really great Playtime Dresses showing up in my blog feed recently (at Stitched Together, Frances Suzanne, and check out this Probably Actually version that came up after I sewed this, but it's incredible!). A friend just learning to sew (and really just learning to sew knits) asked me for a good leggings pattern and I loaned her my larger size range of the Playtime Dress and Leggings pattern to try out a while back. After conquering the leggings, she made the dress for her daughter in jerseys, and it's so cute - I think she's sold on Oliver + s patterns! So this pattern has been on my mind. I think the slightly dropped shoulder and topstitched facings look even fresher this year than when the pattern came out! (Liesl is ahead of the times!)

I have only made the Playtime Dress once before, and I skipped the pockets and topstitched facings on that version, so I decided to make the dress as instructed this time. I debated whether to use three or four buttons on the back, since my wooden buttons were smaller than what the pattern calls for. I posed the question on Instagram and got more comments than I've ever gotten on a single post! Ha! I love my sewing friends! Most people said four, but there were quite a few "threes" as well. After accounting for the loss of seam allowance on the bottom of the bodice, I decided to go with the three for a simpler look and I'm happy with it, although I think four would have looked really cute too! I will take sewing controversy over tedious election coverage anyday!

Double gauze is easy to sew with and gathers beautifully. This fabric reminds me of a beautiful gauzy Indian sari! Very pleasurable to sew. The final result is a casual everyday dress in the most saturated and beautiful coral.

I made it up in size 2, and the size is just right, with a bit of room to grow. It has been a long time since I made a dress for Maggie that was so bare-boned (no piping, no trim, no modifications) and I really love it. For once, sewing under a tight deadline worked out absolutely for the best. This pattern lets the fabric really shine. Sometimes I need a reminder to "keep it simple" and then I'm just delighted with the results!

We had a little egg hunt at my Dad and stepmom's house. The weather was gorgeous and the Easter Bunny generous. My kids call my stepmother "Mimi" and she goes all out for the holidays and loves to spoil the kids! Needless to say, they love her and had a great Easter at her place! I love celebrating the holidays with my kids, but I love even more that I can rely on family to help create holiday traditions for my kids on some of the big days (freeing time for me to sew more dresses!). I feel very blessed to have my Dad and siblings pretty close by (of course, my brother is just down the hall!) and Steve's sister only an hour or so away. (I wish my mom was closer, but c'est la vie.)

This dress has all of the characteristics Maggie looks for in a piece of clothing - soft fabric, pockets, gathered, full or twirly skirt, and PINK PINK PINK. She's a fan!

Perfect for blowing bubbles in! Very, very serious bubbles.