Sunday, April 2, 2017

Ottobre Mini-Wardrobe, Joe Edition.

After Maggie's mini-wardrobe, I immediately cut out an Ottobre mini-wardrobe for Joe.  As you will recall, all fabrics are from my super-swollen knit stash. Joe is super sensitive about clothing textures and really only wears soft knit fabrics (le sigh), so his daily wardrobe basically consists of t-shirts and sweatpants or loose shorts. When I cut everything out, it was still basically winter. Since then, spring has arrived and the weather is warming up! (Joe also stopped wearing a hat all the time, YAY!) Time for Joe's summer mini-wardrobe of short sleeved shirts and shorts already?

On the bright side, it is easy to sew for Joe! He is a reasonably appreciative audience and wears me-mades that meet his stringent tactile requirements frequently. But on the other hand, it can feel boring, sewing the same things over and over again. I think this is the challenge of sewing for boys, at least for me - it can get a little boring or unchallenging at times! Enjoying sewing for boys requires that you appreciate subtle differences and details, whereas girls' clothes can be as splashy as you'd like.

This is one of the best things about Ottobre magazines - the cute boy patterns. Somehow, Ottobre includes basic t-shirt and knit pants patterns in every single issue, but always with some fun twist or details that raise it to "Euro cool" rather than "same old same old."

This spring mini-wardrobe consists of three t-shirts (from two patterns, 1/2017 #16 "Raw Edge Details" and 6/2015 #15, "Steampunk," and two pairs of the "Super Basic" sweatpants  (6/2016 #12). You can look at old issues of Ottobre here. All of the patterns were cut in a straight size 122, which fit Joe perfectly with room to grow and move.

Incidentally, for a long time I thought Ottobre patterns were a bit short and wide on Joe, but we seem to have hit a sweet spot where he fits the size perfectly. Joe is almost eight years old, wears a RTW size 6 in pants, and is average height (50%) but has a longer torso and shorter legs relative to RTW sizes. For a taller boy, you would probably want to add length to these pants.

Everything was pretty easy and straightforward to sew, and my coverstitch machine got a good workout. I think I'm finally learning how to sew SLOWLY with the coverstitch. It wants to zoom through everything, and it's hard to slow it down! I've now rethreaded it over and over and I'm feeling more comfortable with it. So far, it's very unfussy and easy to use, easier than the serger. And I do love the results.

First, let's talk about the "Raw Edge Details" t-shirt, which is in the most recent issue of Ottobre. This pattern features a fun raw edged neckband that allows a contrast neckband to show just at the edge. So I will say, I'm a little mixed about this detail and wondered if it just looked "home sewn," but Joe is a FAN. The comfort level is great and I'm noticing he tends to fidget less with this neckline than the standard type.  After a few washes, the jersey will curl up and I think it will look more intentional. In the meantime, it definitely gets Joe's "sensory seal of approval," and I like that the finish uses up small scraps of the contrasting fabric!

In terms of fit through the body, this is my new favorite t-shirt for Joe. I love the slouchy, slightly boxy fit on him. Joe likes it when I put a pocket on his shirts, because it helps him distinguish front from back without scratchy tags. This shirt has a basic, square patch pocket on the front that can be in a contrast fabric, which is always fun. 

The fabric for the blue star t-shirt was leftover from this project.  This is an European jersey and the quality is really exceptional. I often balk at the price of high quality jersey, but when I actually buy said jersey, I have to say, I rarely regret it! In some things, you get what you pay for, and knit fabrics seem to be one of those things. The stripes are a rayon knit from Stonemountain & Daughter in Berkeley. I couldn't find this one on their website but I noticed that Imagine gnats now has this fabric as well! Although I don't normally use rayon knits for the kids, this one feels pretty substantial and sewed up pretty easily. We'll see how it holds up in the wash!

The third t-shirt is the "Steampunk" pattern from 6/2015. This t-shirt has a cool "saddle" raglan neckline and bands at the cuffs and hem. I sewed this up in Joe's favorite colors - blue and green. I think both of these fabrics are Kaufman Laguna knits. I used the same pocket as the "Raw Edge Details" shirts and used the same raw edge finish on the neck (but with only one band of green). This turned out .... so so. I would probably say "this is not my best work," but I know Joe will wear it plenty anyway! I also wasn't as thrilled with the fit of this t-shirt as I was with the Raw Edge Details pattern, but it's pretty good and the cuffs and hemband make this is a great project for someone who does not like hemming knits. I also think this pattern would make a great sweatshirt with a more substantial knit fabric.

Now let's talk about these fantastic sweatpants, shall we? I puffy heart this "Super Basic" knit pants pattern. There are simple rib knit pocket openings, and rib knit is used to make the drawstring. The pattern calls for grommets, but I can't seem to install a decent grommet to save my life, so I made small buttonholes instead.

There's a cute rounded pocket on the back (Steve raised his eyebrows at this outfit, but I reassured him that Joe was unlikely to wear these two pieces together very often), and the waist is simply folded down and stitched. I put elastic through the waist, and the ribbing is also in two pieces with elastic holding it together in the back, so the drawstring is more decorative than functional.

And the fit!!! Is so good, right?!  This first pair of sweatpants uses the leftovers from yet another project, a very soft navy sweatshirt fleece. I was thinking that these would be too long, since Joe's legs are a big short for his size, so for this pair, I turned the hems up and inserted elastic into them. They turned out a tad short (but totally cute!) so I opted to use ribbing at the ankles of my second pair as provided by the pattern. 

I didn't get many detailed shots of the second pair. These are made of the same wonderful and well-behaved hemp/cotton french terry I used for this sweatshirt (which has held up extremely well in the wash, btw - this fabric is the bomb!), with gray ribbing details and a plain self-fabric back pocket.

The length of these pants is perfect with the ankle band. 

 Joe signalled his approval of these pants by running around and doing ninja moves.

Yeah, I think these will work!! Ha!

By the way, check out our backyard! As I mentioned last autumn, we had some serious work done to grade and improve the drainage in our backyard last year, and we have a new (flat!) lawn area and a new gorgeous patio (terraced!). We are installing all new landscaping ourselves, so it's still really "in progress." Steve installed those lattice screens, to create a separate "room" in the back of the garden, and to screen the storage shed we are planning to put in. We have had SUCH a wet winter here in Northern California, everything is still a bit soggy, but the lawn is really happy! Anyway, it will hopefully be an epic gardening year for us!

We have additional house projects lined up. We need a new roof, for starters. We actually got the estimate last year, and we were set to have the work done this winter, but the heavy rains delayed the roofers so much that we are still way down in the queue! After the roof is done, I want to have the exterior of the house repainted. I'm tired of looking at old, peeling paint. Big projects! 

Joe turns eight next month! He's finishing up first grade and doing fantastically. His reading fluency seems to improve every day, and he reads outloud to us every night (I also read outloud to both kids every night, usually one or two picture books as well as a longer chapter book). He isn't yet reading books independently to himself yet, but he's getting there and can read most signage and captions himself now. He obviously takes pleasure in being able to read, which is wonderful to see! His favorite book is My Father's Dragon.

Joe is really helpful and agreeable these days (although he still has a stubborn streak like you wouldn't believe - I don't even bother to engage in battles of wills with this kid anymore, I know I can only lose!), and continues to dote on his little sister. These early grade school years are really wonderful. His current obsessions include Minecraft, Mario, and Pokemon. I have to drag him away from screentime to do things outdoors, but once he's outside, he is always happy! He asks the best questions and is just such a kind, smart kid. Although he's definitely a shy, reserved kid, his teacher loves him and he has a couple of buddies at school, so my mama-heart is happy and at peace. My mom told me that these "latency" years were great, and she was so right!

As far as sewing goes, I desperately need to make some simple, basic things for myself next! Sewing t-shirts for myself is also a little boring, but really necessary as I have officially worn out a lot of my me-mades. Hopefully I'll be back here with some selfish sewing shortly.

What are you working on right now? Do you find you sew less during prime gardening season? How do you feel about boy sewing?

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Ottobre Mini-Wardrobe.

Hello, readers! Did you know that this coming week is Kid's Clothes Week, and the theme this time around is "capsule wardrobe"?

Uh, I didn't.

But a couple of weeks ago, reminded of how much I love Ottobre and inspired by the latest issue (which is totally killer), I traced and cut out a big pile of items for Maggie from my Ottobre magazines.

Okay, time for some honest talk: My knits stash has gotten so big it won't fit in the two designated bins in my Ikea Kallax unit anymore. I had to move part (ahem) of it into large, laundry basket sized, plastic bins, and those bins have been piled in my living room (remember, I have no garage or closets) for the past four months. Toys got piled on top of them, other bins were shifted in front of them, and they became, literally, pieces of furniture that no one even saw anymore (except our guests, who were probably thinking "um, you have a problem," but were too polite to say anything about it, which is why we like them)  Except that when I look at them, I do feel a bit ashamed and disgusted with myself. I mean, seriously, my fabric stash is taking over the living room, people. This is not good. Plus it undermines my authority with my kids and husband:

Me: Toys don't belong in the living room. Neither do golf clubs.
Kids: Mom, you have three giant bins of fabric in the living room.
Steve: *shrugs, raises his eyebrows meaningfully, and walks away*

On top of that, I've been embarrassed to see Maggie wearing clothes that are too small or completely tattered with holes. We have been operating under a chronic leggings-shortage. (We are also operating under a sweatpants shortage with Joe, so that's next on the list.)

Time to stop feeling bad about the piles of fabric and sew some things!

It was really fun to comb through my Ottobre Magazines after long days at work, and pick out some things to sew. I ended up focusing on two issues: 4/2015 and 1/2017.

The latest issue, 1/2017 is excellent. So many patterns I want to try! I fell in love with this long-sleeved t-shirt with shoulder ruffles, #9 "Sun Ruffle." You know me - I'm a sucker for shoulder ruffles! This pattern intrigued me because the ruffles are inserted into slashes in the shoulder of the t-shirt. I've never inserted ruffles that way - they are almost like little darts. I had to use navy thread for the rolled edges of the ruffles and it doesn't match the purple binding, but as an awesome online sewing friend recently said, "you wouldn't notice it on a galloping horse." All I can say to that is: AMEN!

I made the top up in a pretty pink and purple lace-print cotton lycra that I bought at Stonemountain with Maggie in mind a while back, and just so happened to have the perfect purple contrast ribbing on hand (advantages of a giant stash, yo).  This is a size 98 (basically a size 3), and I added a little bit of length to the top, since Maggie often ends up wearing tops with only leggings. I used the coverstitch to sew the binding on the neckline and sleeves and to hem the top. Lots of coverstitch action in this post!

The leggings are also from 1/2017 - #3, "Baggy." These are described as having "narrow leg bottoms and added ease around the seat." Basically, these are comfortable, basic, one pattern piece leggings. I made three pairs! Easy peasy. The size 98 is a big long on Maggie, but I'm pleased there is some room to grow.

The other issue of Ottobre, 4/2015, attracted me with some great tunics/knitwear which you'll see below. On a whim, I cut out this cute mini skirt as well. This is #8 "Mini Dots," made from a small piece of purple corduroy I found at the East Bay Center for Creative Reuse. This pattern is great for using a teeny-tiny piece bottom-weight! I admit that the final product--a tiny miniskirt for my four-year-old--is probably one of those articles of clothing that is more cute than useful, but it's sure cute! It might come in handy on those days when Maggie wants to pair a cropped tee with too-small leggings. And it took less than a half-yard of fabric to make!

So I asked Maggie what she liked best about this outfit, and she said "the shoulder ruffles!" She is my child!

 Next up is a make that is not exactly from my stash (cough cough) because I bought the fabric only a couple of weeks ago. This is Sarah Jane's "Magic Folks" knit in navy. Maggie fell in love with it at the fabric store on our last visit, because ... pink unicorns, duh!! 

Me: Because everyone needs more unicorns in their wardrobe, right?
Maggie: Well, I need them.
Me: Here, just take my credit card.

Yeah, so I actually bought the same print in flannel, in the white colorway, to make Maggie a nightgown? Because my girl needs unicorns.

With the navy knit, I made Ottobre 4/2015 #13, the "Busy Forest" tunic. This is an A-line tunic with raglan sleeves, a center-front pleat and patch pockets (that extend across the side seams), which is is intended to be made in a sweatshirt fleece or french terry. It worked great in this single jersey, though I could see it looking great in a heavier fabric too. This busy print doesn't show off the details at all, plus I couldn't get Maggie to stop spinning and being super happy/blurry in her new tunic, but this is the kind of simple dress/tunic that Maggie all the time. The front pleat adds a little shape and interest, and the pockets, as always, are a hit! The neckline and cuffs could be done in a contrast ribbing, but I used self-fabric on this tunic.

The leggings are the "Baggy" leggings again, but in a pink Kaufman Laguna knit. I have already made a top and leggings with this fabric, and even after this second pair of leggings, I still have tons of this stuff! So much for putting a noticeable dent in my stash, right? (Note to self: 2 yard of 60" wide knit goes a LOOOOOOONG way.)

But I am addressing the leggings-shortage, so that part is good.

Finally, I made this cardigan from 4/2015. It's #11, "Super Sweet" and is intended to be made with merino wool, with exposed raw edges down the front. That didn't work with this cotton blend french terry I grabbed out of one of the designer sale bins at Stonemountain. This fabric feels like it has some poly content, and is dark pink on the inside, and this lovely mottled peach on the outside. To avoid any raw edges showing and give the collar the body it needs, I cut the collar pieces out on the fold (with the stripey texture going lengthwise) and serged the folded piece onto the front of the cardigan. 

This is the type of garment that I wear all the time. Now Maggie has a cozy cardigan like the ones that Mama loves to wear!

Okay! So here's the full mini-wardrobe!  One pair of leggings went unmodeled - it's a purply blue Laguna knit.

It's a little funny to me that Maggie's "capsule wardrobe" is all pink and purple, but hey, that's what Maggie loves, right? Either way you look at it - (1) Who needs neutrals when you can have pink and purple? or (2) Pink is the new neutral! - this is the perfect Maggie mini-wardrobe! Not bad for a couple weeks (intermittent) work. All of these were very fast, fun sews, and I got a lot of time working with my coverstitch and learning the ropes with my new machine.

This was so much fun that I'm now back to the Ottobres, planning a mini-wardrobe for Joe (keep in mind this is basically all sweat pants and t-shirts!). I probably won't be participating in KCW this time around in the formal sense of an hour a day, since I have two - count them, two - freaking night meetings this week, but I do plan to sew! We'll see how far I get! Maybe I can consolidate my three living room fabric bins into two? A girl can dream!

Two prompts for the comments:

(1) Please tell me I'm not the only sewist with fabric in the living room.

(2) Are you working on a capsule wardrobe? Does the idea appeal to you? Dish!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Winter sewing.

Hello readers! January got completely away from me! And half of February too! Argh! I made this outfit a while ago, but it took a while to photograph it (badly; winter light does not make for good blog photos!) and here I am, finally blogging it, almost a month later! Ah well.

I haven't been sewing as much as usual lately. During January, I tried to follow the Apartment Therapy "January Cure" and spent a lot of time scrubbing various parts of my house. And bought myself lots of flowers, which was my favorite part. Now it's mid-February, and my life has passed by in a blur of work and night meetings. I am up to my eyeballs in contentious projects and late-night meetings, which is hard, and the state of our national politics sure isn't helping with my mood. My house has completely reverted to its prior disgusting self, and after I get home from work, I find I have no energy for anything except watching escapist TV curled under a heated throw with a beer in hand. I'm strugging to find the energy to crochet a few granny squares before falling asleep with the kids! I blame a heavy workload and the rainy days and long dark nights and, you know, Donald Trump - hopefully the vernal equinox will bring with it new energy and motivation.

We did get a trip up to the mountains in there, though, and that was really fun! It turns out Joe is a born snow kid! He would spend the whole day outside in freezing temperatures sledding and digging and making forts if we let him. Gotta get that kid on the slopes!

Anyway, back to this little sewing project. We've had an unusually cool, wet winter (the drought is over, so that part is good, but the neverending rain and the lake in my crawl space is not so great), and my kids are chronically short on long sleeved mild-winter appropriate clothing. I love putting Maggie in cute little pinafores, or jumpers, as we call them here, so I decided to whip one up in this lovely Kaufman "flamingo" 21-wale corduroy I've had in my stash.

I did a little Pinterest-ing and found this inspiration dress. It has a high bodice/yoke, a front box pleat, and patch pockets. I decided to use the Oliver + S Building Block Dress book to recreate this design. In Building Block terms, I raised the bodice, made the skirt A-line, and added a center-front pleat. I also lowered the neckline and armholes a tad, used bias facing, and added an invisible zipper in the back.

Once I modified the pattern pieces, this was a really easy sew.  After consulting with Liesl and other experts on the Building Blocks Facebook page, I traced the bodice piece first, and cut it off halfway between the shoulder and the bottom of the armhole. Then I A-lined (slashed and spread) the dress. Then I added the center pleat to the front piece. Finally, I drafted the pockets. The resulting shape is very classic and full for a little girl, reminiscent of some school uniforms or an artist's smock. This would also make a cute summer dress in a light fabric!

The finishing on this dress is pretty basic and frankly, not the prettiest.  I used bias binding on the neck and armholes and finished the seams with my serger (a lining in this style would be really nice). I struggled to get the invisible zipper in nicely, and despite multiple tries, it's slightly off.  Sometimes it seems like invisible zippers go in like magic, and you're congratulating yourself and thinking you've finally overcome the dreaded zipper, and other times it's just not easy. This was one of those latter times. It just would not cooperate!

Oh well! I'm the only one who will notice this (well, except you guys, since I pointed it out).

I also made the long sleeved top she's wearing under the dress. This is a Cloud9 organic knit, which is hefty and warm, but doesn't have much stretch. The pattern is from the 1/2014 issue of Ottobre, #11, the "Autumn Forest" top. Because of the lack of stretch in this fabric, I was nervous about doing a neckband, and worried it wouldn't go over Maggie's chunky head very well. So I drafted a little facing instead and used my (STOP THE PRESSES! I GOT A COVERSTITCH MACHINE!) coverstitch to sew it on. It sticks up a bit more than I wanted, I think I need to curve my facing more next time, but it does the job.

I'm still getting the hang of my new coverstich machine, but it does make beautiful, stretchy hems! And so far, it's really easy to thread and use! That surprised me. The only problem is - where do I put all of these machines? My sewing space is now more sewing space than cutting space, and I'm constantly rotating machines around. It's kind of a mess, but it's a pretty fun mess!

So, let's see. I love this t-shirt pattern for Maggie, and I plan to make more for her. It doesn't require much fabric, and the front detail is really sweet. The jumper pattern is perfect, and I would absolutely make more of these for Maggie, with a few minor modifications: real facings instead of bias binding, possibly a lining, and, hopefully, better zipper insertion! But it's such a classic, functional style for a little girl. 

In kid news, Joe got his hair cut in January, and hates it. I don't know if it's the appearance of the haircut (which is totally cute, BTW) or the feeling of air on his scalp and ears that bugs him most. He has been wearing a hat 24/7 since then. Ay yai yai! What's funny is that I used to struggle to get him to wear a hat on cold or sunny days, and now he won't take it off! He even sleeps in a hat. I have to switch it out occasionally to wash it. This child! I wish he would let us all see his cute head! But at least his ears are warm. I thought for sure that his teacher would lay down the law and make him take it off at school, but Joe convinced her that he NEEDED the hat. SIGH!!!!

Maggie, as you can see, is still obsessed with Catwings! She's a flying kitty here.

I cut out a bunch of Ottobre patterns for Maggie, so hopefully I'll be blogging again soon! Thanks for reading!  Have you ever had a kid go on a haircut strike? Or wear a hat 24/7?  I feel like I'm living in a Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle book. This chapter is "Won't-Take-His-Hat-Off-Itis."