Thursday, April 12, 2018

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter! I know it has been a couple weeks since Easter (unless you're on the Orthodox calendar, in which case Easter was just this past Sunday) but I'm just now getting around to sharing pictures of my kids in their handmades on Easter. We kept things pretty quiet this year - we went to church, then we had a little Easter "egg" (plastic, filled with candy) hunt in the back yard.

A couple weekends before Easter, I decided I wanted to make Maggie a dress for the occasion using some of the fabric I've stashed for her. I picked out a Robert Kaufman London Calling lawn, "Flower Buds in Sorbet," which I had about two yards of, and started planning. Such fun! I had a pile of gorgeous yellow vintage notions that were gifted to me by a dear friend last Christmas, which worked perfectly with this print, and I felt like this lovely pastel floral fabric wanted to be made into a pretty little dress reminiscent of dresses of the 20s and 30s with a piped white peter pan collar and low waist. I also felt like it should have sleeves, since the weather at that time was still pretty gloomy.

Unfortunately, I do not own any patterns that fit this criteria ... or do I? I broke out my Oliver + S Building Block Dress book and got to work!

The Building Block Dress gives you a basic dress pattern (which is super well drafted and fits perfectly in its own right) for a dress with a natural waist, peter pan collar, short sleeves, and an a-line skirt. The book also provides instructions for variations on the pattern, which allows you to make practically any dress you can imagine. So cool, right? So cool.

And here we are! For anyone keeping track, I added length (and flared out) the bodice and added long sleeves (bell sleeves, shortened to elbow length and gathered slightly into bias binding), as well as a gathered skirt with some growth pleats. I sewed yellow piping into the collar and the waistband. If you're really keeping track, the bodice is lined with a soft cream cotton, matching the collar.

The back is closed with five yellow buttons, and there is a very small placket beneath to help Maggie get dressed easily.

This was a slightly fiddly but mostly enjoyable sew. The piping at the collar needed coaxing (ahem, my trusty mallet) to keep it flat, and I didn't have time to handsew the bodice, so the inside of the dress could be nicer. In my mind, the bell sleeves were going to end up a bit more gathered and poofy than they turned out in real life. But when I put the completed dress on Maggie, it was like, "Ahhhhhhhhh." Essence of vintage childhood here! She was a vision on Easter.

While looking absolutely adorable, Maggie was very serious in her egg-hunting, trying to beat her brother to every last egg if possible.

Her brother, thank goodness, was more chill, allowing Maggie to get more than her share without much complaint (if anything, he was pointing out eggs to her! at which point she would swoop them up and try to grab even more, reducing her brother's share, cue eyerolls).

But he's a good sport. He was most pleased with the little puppy with bunny ears that came with his Easter basket.

He wore his Buttoned Up Button Down shirt, which I made for him last year, for at least two hours, so we could go to church. He insisted on wearing it with sweatpants and took it off as soon as he could, but he did wear the shirt, and that's all I asked, right? He's not a huge fan of "nice" clothes.

Although it would be wrong to say his sister's competitiveness never gets on Joe's nerves, more often than not, he handles it with a little shrug and sweet generosity. He is able to remember, better than I am at times, that she's still a bit younger and we can't always expect her to stay cool under pressure. Also, candy is yummy, but you only need so much (we totally hid most of Maggie's!). He's such a sweet kid. And when she's not trying to rob him of candy, she's a loving and sweet little sister.

Did you sew for your kids this Easter? Are you making spring clothes? What are you sewing this season?

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Playtime Dress, Kitty Shirt, and Happy Birthday Oliver + S!

I'm back with some Maggie makes! Continuing on my stashbusting quest, I have had a one yard piece of this adorable printed corduroy in my stash for a loooooong time. It has a little bit of stretch, and I believe I bought it from Mabel Madison, a great (warning: not inexpensive by any definition) online fabric store that sources those super cool European fabrics you see in Ottobre magazine and the like.

I decided to pull out a long-time favorite pattern I haven't sewn in a while, the Oliver + S Playtime Dress. I didn't have enough fabric to make sleeves, so I decided to make a cap-sleeved jumper.  I drafted facings for the sleeve caps to echo the neckline facing, sort of like the Marilla Walker Maya Top. It made a really cute little jumper that can be layered over a shirt, under a cardigan, or worn alone.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again, corduroy is such a pleasure to work with! It is a great fabric for a beginning sewist, because it behaves so well (just make sure to cut all your pieces going the same way and use a pressing cloth), and it has a lovely soft drape.

Maggie loves the soft fabric, the pink flowers, and, of course, THE POCKETS. "These are the best pockets in the world!" she announced on trying this dress on. I'll take that as a win!

I wanted my topstitching to stand out more, so I used two pink threads threaded through a jeans needle to topstich the facings and hem. Because of the busy pattern of the fabric, the topstitching doesn't stand out as much as I had hoped, but it's definitely bolder than it would have been with just one thread.

Did you know that Oliver + S is currently celebrating its 10th anniversary? They've had a series of great blog posts celebrating ten years and 50 patterns! I was first introduced to Oliver + S in 2010, when Joe was just a tot! My first Oliver + S pattern was the Sailboat Pants (check out this ancient blog post! baby Joe!). At that time, the pattern seemed so advanced and intimidating! But they went together so well, and looked so professional! I was so delighted! I went on to make many more pairs, as well as a million pairs of Sketchbook Shorts. It is not exaggerating to say that Oliver + S patterns kickstarted my passion for apparel sewing. Liesl's instructions are so clear that sewing with her patterns feels totally doable, even as you're picking up tons of new skills. Plus, the community that sprung up around Oliver + s, on the blog, the forums, Flickr, and now Facebook, is truly extraordinary. I have met some of my dearest internet friends through Oliver + s patterns! (As I like to say, anyone who thinks internet friends are not "real friends" clearly does not have the amazing internet friends that I do!)

I calculated that I've sewn at least 33 separate Oliver + S styles, counting separates individually, and my blog has 75 some posts tagged "oliver and s." Several Oliver + S patterns are TNTs that I've made over and over and over. Eight years later, I still love sewing Oliver + S patterns. The patterns are reliable and versatile, and although not cheap, they are a great value. My kids have grown up in these patterns, and I love to see them still wearing them.

Happy Birthday Oliver + S! I know the sewing world has changed so much in the past ten years, and the terrain is different now than it was in 2008 (I continue to believe that the great recession was the impetus for so many of us picking up sewing - we could no longer afford our old hobbies!), but I hope we'll continue to see more patterns from Liesl in one way or another for another ten years (and beyond).

The August 2017 issue of Mollie Makes came with a package of pretty vintage-style buttons, which Maggie has been asking me to put on a dress for her since they arrived. This jumper was the perfect opportunity to use them, and the dark pink flower buttons echo the flowers on the fabric perfectly.

(Incidentally, I subscribed to Mollie Makes for a year, and Maggie and I enjoyed perusing the issues, which are full of adorable and colorful projects. I tried a couple of the projects and there are lots more I'd love to make someday. But the international shipping costs are really high, so this year, I discontinued my Mollie Makes subscription and subscribed to Ottobre Family and Women instead, figuring that I would get more use out of sewing patterns than crafty stuff - plus they ship less frequently so the shipping costs aren't as extreme - but we'll see! I definitely enjoy getting some fun sewing-related mail to break up all the bills, but all the good publications seem to come from Europe!)

After I finished the jumper, I realized Maggie needed a long sleeved shirt to go under it, and annoyingly, I didn't have enough of the dark pink fabric I made these leggings from to make a shirt (I made a shirt for her from the same fabric two years ago, but it is basically in shreds now). So I went to Stone Mountain for another couple yards of raspberry cotton lycra (a staple in my sewing for Maggie), which unfortunately led to a hard fall off the no-fabric-buying wagon and I came home with 9 yards of new fabric! ACK! I blame this t-shirt, people.

But seriously, this knit is super nice. Thicker than a Laguna knit, it has a good amount of lycra for stretch and recovery, but a nice beefy feel to it. I bought two yards, which goes a long way for Maggie, and I expect it will make nice sturdy leggings.

My home printer is super slow and tedious to use these days, which has meant that I've been turning more to patterns I just have to trace, rather than ones that have to be printed out. I decided to try a new Ottobre t-shirt pattern for this, and went with the "Black Cat Tee" from Ottobre Kids 6/2016, #11. I chose it because it was a simple and basic long sleeved shirt, but Maggie noticed that the example in the magazine has a cat applique, which, of course, I was planning to skip!

But my kitty-obsessed girl was in love! As she explained, "Everything is better with a kitty on it, mama!" Um, who can say no to that? So I agreed to do it, and we decided to make it a girl cat in a purple dress.

I used fusible web to stick the pieces to the fabric, and then attempted to stabilize the back of the applique with Sulky Sticky + Stabilizer. This did a great job of stabilizing the area while I was sewing the applique on (I used a basic straight stitch), but unfortunately I did not read the instructions and didn't realize I wasn't supposed to apply heat to it. I ironed another piece on my applique with the stabilizer adhered to the back, and this caused it to super bond to my fabric. When it came time to "tear off" the tear-off stabilizer, it wouldn't budge in the areas that had been exposed to heat, i.e., most of the head and torso of the cat! UGH!!! And the stabilizer was pretty thick and stiff, although Maggie was willing to look past it and wore the shirt all day anyway!

I was hoping that a wash would loosen the adhesive, and thankfully, it did. When I pulled it out of the washing machine still damp, the stabilizer peeled off pretty well, and even better after it air dried (I didn't want to risk having the heat of the dryer adhere it even more). Now there are only a few small spots where the stabilizer is bonded on. I'm hoping it will eventually wear off, and I can iron some interfacing/backing over the applique to remove any roughness.

That drama aside, Maggie loves this shirt! I like the relaxed fit of this pattern and will use it again for sure, and she loves kitty!! She's right - everything is better with a kitty on it!

All the leggings shown in post were made by me, from Ottobre 1/2017 - #3, "Baggy." This is a great one-piece legging pattern with a slightly baggy bottom. I've made a million pairs mostly becuase it's so easy and I have the traced pattern sitting out on my sewing area! The largest size in this pattern is Maggie's size (size 98) so I'll have to find a new leggings pattern soon (the Playtime Dress comes with a great one, I just didn't happen to have the tracing sitting around!). 

I'll leave you with some epic hair shots - Maggie bouncing on our new trampoline, which the kids got for Christmas! It's really seeing action now that the weather is warming up. Maggie's hair is still baby fine, but she has a surprising amount of it! (The white blobs flying around are her socks, which she took off to bounce.)

Chances are good that if you comment on this blog, I met you through the Oliver + S online community! Most of all, I am so glad to know and follow all of you! What was your first and last Oliver + S pattern?

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Two tops and two skirts.

Hello! My stash busting and blog catching up continues. I wanted some nice knit tops for chilly days that were work appropriate (business casual) and I have been meaning to try out the Grainline Lark Tee Expansion - this expansion pack includes a dress view and a two different neckline options, a regular turtleneck and a "cowl" neck. I was hoping for something like the Renfrew Cowl neck but without having to purchase another t-shirt pattern when the Lark fits me so well.

You may have noticed that this shirt doesn't actually fit me that well .... Well, both the regular turtleneck and the cowl neck use the crew neck Lark, which I haven't ever made before, so I went ahead and cut that out. Problem being, I forgot my size and cut it out in a size 12 instead of a size 10 like my former Larks - size 12 is definitely a bit large, although still wearable.

Background information: I have a dread of fabric touching the hollow of my neck. I hate it. I like a nice cowl that falls away from the neck, or a loosely wrapped scarf or collar, but no tight turtlenecks for me! Welp, the expansion cowl is very, very tall. Very tall!

When pushed down, it is also very heavy, and quite tight. This is the face of a woman being strangled by her own collar.

Okay, now some people might really love this neckline! I could see it being very warm and cozy in a cold climate and, obviously, not everyone has my weird neck issues. But it wasn't going to work for me!

I cut the cowl off, shortened it by half, and sewed it back on. Ah. Now my neck can breathe! A much better garment for my climate, too.

This change made this top wearable, but I wouldn't say it's my favorite make. It's a bit too large, and the neckline, while better than before, wasn't the cowl neckline of my dreams.

Sidebar: This is a Mabel Skirt I made last year in mustard ponte, which I am only now blogging but wear all the time. I lengthened the skirt to a midi-length and used the plain front version of the pattern. I added wide elastic at the waist, too. This is one of my most sewn patterns, I believe this is my fifth skirt and I would love a few more! I've really personalized this pattern and I love this version.

 I retained my favorite part of the pattern, which is the lovely kick pleat. It's an easy feature to add, and it definitely adds some polish to this basic knit skirt.

Back to my quest for the perfect cowl ... after conferring with Masha, who has sewn the Refrew many times, I decided to try altering the Lark cowl to more closely resemble the Renfrew. I used the scoop neck version of the t-shirt (in size 10) for a much lower neck, and made a much wider, somewhat shorter cowl than the Lark expansion piece. In looking at these pictures, I actually think I could have made the cowl taller and fuller without it becoming claustrophobic at all. I think a larger cowl would balance out my large bust really nicely too. Well, it's a continuing journey! 

Unfortunately, I initially put the sleeves on backwards, and had to redo them! They still look a bit messed up to me, but I have been wearing this top a ton so it's obviously not worrying me too much.

The fabric for both these tops came from the sales that Britex had before its move to a new space. This olive green rayon lycra is really knit perfection - so buttery soft and drapey.

And yes, I made this skirt as well! More precisely, I refashioned it. I found a Gap minidress at the thrift store, and was immediately drawn to the firm, stable fabric! The dress fit me in theory but it was unflattering with a high neck (again!) and mini length. I simply chopped it off below the bust, folded the top down, and added wide elastic to make it a skirt. I didn't change the angle of the skirt, so it's slightly a-line and hits just above my knees now. I have been wearing this skirt to work (on more casual days) frequently, it's comfortable and goes with all my solid colored tops.

All of these fabrics came from the stash (and one came from the pile of "mend or refashion" items).In the month of February, I sewed up about 6.5 yards from the stash, which was pretty good! Unfortunately, I also went to Stonemountain and fell off the wagon pretty hard, buying 9 yards (in my defense, some of that was on sale?). Oof! But I'm still ahead for the year and I'm still trying to make a dent in my stash this year!

I have a few more pieces of fabric that would make great cowl tops if I want to continue on my journey of drafting the perfect cowl for the Lark tee. But at some point, I might switch to spring tops instead, we'll see! (Of course, our Bay Area summers are colder than our winters a lot of the time, so there's that to consider too!)

Are you still sewing for cool weather? Or have you moved on to hot weather sewing? (Realizing my Southern Hemisphere friends are considering the reverse!)

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Loungewear for me.

 Hi everyone! Ugh, how much do I hate posing for photos? AWKWARD, right? But I'm sucking it up for the sake of y'all and posterity.

As I mentioned in my last post, I'm trying to sew down my stash. And a lot of my stash was bought to sew things for myself, so sewing down my stash is going to require me to do quite a lot of selfish sewing! The timing for this is good, since Me Made May is coming up and I have had to donate or throw out some very worn out me-mades. It's good to think I've been sewing for myself long enough that some items no longer fit my style, fit well, or have been worn to shreads! It's hard to let my sewn items go, but I'm telling myself it's a good thing overall!

One giant gap in my wardrobe was comfortable pajamas/loungewear/workout wear. And one giant pile in my stash is flannel and random knits. So I whipped up a sweatshirt and a pajama pants, both from Butterick patterns.

Let's start with the sweatshirt, I picked up Butterick BP305 on discount the last time I went to JoAnn's. I liked the interesting cut of the sweatshirt/sweater dress, and the pants looked intriguing as well.
I don't know why this says B6388 on the corner? Mine says BP305.

For my first take on this pattern, I used some second-hand cream french terry I picked up very cheap at the Depot and have tons of. It's nice and stable, with a good amount of stretch, but doesn't hang super well - I consider this a wearable muslin. Although I love that dress, I wanted house/weekend/exercise wear so I went with the sweatshirt.

The cut of this sweatshirt is very fun, with a cute triangular side panel, very dropped shoulders, a shawl collar, and a cute u-shaped inset in the back.

Based on my measurements and the finished measurements, I went with a size medium, but there is plenty of ease. If I make this again in a nondrapey fabric, I might size down to size small.

I read about this pattern on Pattern Review and based on some reviews that noted that the collar can be too soft without interfacing, I added some lightweight knit interfacing to the collar pieces. The result was a collar that is a smidge too stiff for my tastes! It stands up a bit more than I think it's supposed to. Next time I will interface only half the piece, up to the fold line, at most. Interfacing can probably be skipped entirely for more stable knits.

Whether it's the color, the size, or the shape, I'm not sure this is the most flattering garment on a top-heavy figure like mine, but it's super cozy and nice to wear. I am hopeful that it would be a little more flattering in a drapier knit. In the meantime, it's perfect for tooling around in the garden or walking around Lake Merritt. I would absolutely try this pattern again, and in fact I have my eye out for the perfect fabric (but I haven't bought any yet - yay me!).

Next up, flannel pajama pants! These are the Lisette B6296 pajamas, which I've been meaning to make since the pattern came out. I generally sleep in t-shirts and pj pants, so I wasn't particularly interested in making a whole ensemble and stuck with the pants. 

If I recall correctly, I made a size 10, grading out to a 12 at the waist. I needn't have graded, however. These have PLENTY of ease. I am debating whether I would go down a size if I made them again or at least slim out the legs, which are quite wide in my opinion.

The pants have a cute little back yoke for shape, a separate waistband, and really generous pockets. They reach to mid-thigh! The extraordinary depth might be because of another issue, though. This pattern is insanely long. The finished side length (as disclosed on the pattern) is 42 inches. I am 5'4" and have a normal length torso but shorter legs. I used the lengthen/shorten line to shorten the pants about six inches! Don't forget about the cuffs as you're factoring in your length, btw. 

This flannel is a really nice quilter's flannel that I picked up years ago and have forgotten the provenance of. I want to say it's similar to a Denise Schmidt print? But I couldn't find it online. It's nice and heavy and easy to work with, and it  has held up well to repeated washes.

I added some dark green piping to the pockets and the cuffs just to add a little bit of definition and because I love me some piping! With the piping on the cuffs, I had to change up the sewing instructions a little bit. The instructions have you sew the cuff to the bottom of the pants and finish the seam allowances, so there's a raw seam inside. I sewed the piping side on first and then folded down the seam allowance on the inside and stitched in the ditch, for a cleaner finish.

All in all, these may not be the most exciting things I've ever sewn, but they have seen a lot of wear, especially as my Victorian house gets quite chilly in the winter and we have to layer up! And although I don't sew all that often with Big 4 patterns, these were both easy and fun sews with interesting design lines - a good reminder that Big 4 patterns are a tremendous resource for the intermediate sewist. But, I do need to remember to size down, because they are notoriously big (on ease). 

Do you sew your own lounge wear? What patterns do you recommend/what are your TNTs?

I am still catching up so I have lots more projects coming to the blog soon!

Sunday, February 18, 2018

More PJs/nighties!

Oh hi! *Sheepish wave.* It's already halfway through February, and this is my first post of the year! Oops. Just trust me when I say that January kicked my family's collective booty, and February hasn't been much better. So. Much. Sickness. So much. We've just been rotating illnesses over here.

Anyway, here we are! And I have some catch-up to do!

So although I was completely derailed by various illnesses, I nonetheless started out the new year with a burning desire to make a dent in my swelling, exploding, completely ridiculous  fabric stash. I know I've said this before, but this year I started tracking how many yards I'm taking in versus out in my bullet journal, and so far I have sewn up like 15 yards and bought ZERO fabric! So that's pretty great. Plus I did a deep clean of my sewing area and dropped off three bags of fabrics/notions/patterns at the Depot and sold some vintage patterns on Instagram. Yay me!

As I mentioned in my last post, it now takes quite a lot of fabric to make my kids nightwear, so I felt like I needed to use up some of the flannel pieces I have had stashed for a bit, from back when 1.5 yards (or even one yard!) seemed sufficient to make something for my kids. Aw, they are growing up so fast! (Cue bittersweet moaning.)

So I'm very pleased that I managed to squeeze a pair of PJ pants for Joe and a whole nightie for Maggie out of about 1.5 yards apiece!

First off, Joe's pajama pants. These are the Sleepover Pajamas by Oliver + s, this time in size six with a bit of extra length, with no cuffs, but deep hems and a separate waistband piece. I'm realizing I need to take some of the rise out of these for Joe.

Another motivating factor: Who knows how much longer Joe will be totally wowed and thrilled by RAINBOW CHEVRON fabric? Hopefully forever, but alas, life can be hard.

 I attempted to match the rainbow chevrons, but that ain't easy! It is what it is!

 Sorry the photos aren't that great - January shooting is not fun around here! Joe was such a good sport, trying these on so that I could adjust the rise first, and then the hems. I like how the deep hems mimic the cuffs that the pattern comes with.

Maggie's nightie was another, different vintage pattern, which I made once before, years ago, for my niece. This pattern was passed down to me from my auntie, who made it for her kids back in the day (ah, the late 70s, early 80s, my favorite nostalgic age!). Isn't it sweet?

Not the exact pattern I have. Mine is sizes 3/4.

I had a small piece of printed-on yellow gingham plaid flannel which I picked up second hand from the Depot. With good luck (plus prayers and hope), I managed to squeeze this nightie out of it with only tiny scraps to spare! It turned out a scosh big, but it's nice to think it might last a whole year.

I added some stash lace to the front and back yoke. It turned out insanely twee, which is to say, adorable! #ownyournostalgia

The nightie fastens in the back with two buttons, attached with thread chains. I found these soft yellow buttons that matched perfectly. Every single thing came from my stash!

The long sleeves and elastisized wrists are A-DORBS, amiright? Gah. It's like I've gone back in time 35 years, to the time when me and my friends roamed the neighborhoods in unsupervised gangs and got twee nightgowns for Christmas every year from our auntie who sewed. RIGHT? RIGHT? Y'all remember what I'm talking about, I hope!

Thanks to posting this on Instagram, I am now the happy owner of the larger size range in this pattern (thanks Karen!) so I can extend the nostalgia for several more years! Yay!

My favorite part of this pattern is the offset pocket, which is sewn on the gown at a 45 degree angle. I added a little bit of lace to that too. Hilariously, Maggie finds it quite useful, although it must be one of the most impractical (read: cute as all get out) pockets I've ever sewn.

So cute, right? Well, my kids are pretty set for flannel nightwear, at any rate, and these items used up 3 yards of stash fabric! Fabric that might not have been as useful if I had waited another year! As I get caught up here, hopefully I can share the pajama pants I made myself as well as some other stash sewing.

Do you have any sewing resolutions for 2018? Are you trying to sew down your stash?