Monday, May 20, 2019

Striped Plantain Tee Dresses

I've been eyeing up the uber-popular McCalls 6886 pattern lately.  If we lived in the States, I would have picked it up at a Joann's sale by now. As I've been too spoiled by the $1 sales to pay mail-order prices for Big 4 patterns, I decided to use my Plantain t-shirt pattern to make the dress.

I took a look at the finished measurements on the pattern and noted that there was no ease in the bust and 1.5" in the hips.  My Plantain pattern has 5 inches of negative ease in the bust, which I kept intact (I probably should have reduced the amount of negative ease).  I drafted the rest of the pattern with the 1.5" of positive ease in the hips, and then fit the side seams to my body.

I was a bit worried that the sleeves would be tight because the fabric wasn't as stretchy as fabric I'd previously used to make the pattern.  I ended up adding 1/4" to the front side seam of the sleeve while I was cutting. I also sewed the top of the sleeve seams together with a 1/4" seam allowance instead of 3/8" to give myself more room. I could still use a smidge more room.  I was reminded after I finished the dress, that I think the Plantain sleeve has too flat of a sleeve cap.  I think it would fit me better if I raised the cap a bit; I'm going to play with this alteration in the future.

I put a seam down the middle of the dress.  On this version, I forgot to add the seam allowances for that center seam, so the back is a bit tight. I also have some fabric pooling that I could use the center seam to address in the future.

The fabric is a poly/lycra "famous dress designer" Ottoman knit I got from FabricMart last month.  I rarely ever buy or sew with polyester, and this project reminded me why that is.  I don't love the fabric. It doesn't breathe at all and is slightly scratchy. It also looks very pill-prone; I don't think the dress is going to hold up very long.  Thankfully it's the sort of dress that I'd only wear to work (part-time) or church, and then would take off as soon as I got home. That might help its longevity.

While trying on the dress, I noted that the armscye is at the perfect height for a sleeveless version. So I made a summer version using the last of some striped rayon/lycra jersey from my stash.

It's a little shorter due to lack of fabric.  I scooped the front and back shoulders a bit - I think it may have been a whole inch off the shoulder, tapering to nothing at the bottom of the armscye in the front, and tapering a bit higher in the back.  Of course I neglected to take notes.

The fabric isn't super forgiving - it shows every lump as well as VPL - but it feels like I'm wearing nothing and I think it will be comfy for humid days at home this summer.  Which can't come soon enough. I was not at all dressed for the actual weather during this photo shoot ... Bogota has been overcast and chilly for months.

And I think that's all I have to say about that. As always, thanks for reading, and see you next time!

Monday, May 13, 2019

Pink Crepe Drop-Sleeve Top

I'm not sure how I feel about this top.

It is the free Drop-Sleeve Top pattern from The Avid Seamstress.  I was wanting to make some woven tees with cut-on sleeves to replace ones that are now too big for me, and this looked like a good contender.  I also had some pink poly crepe in the stash that seemed like a good match for the pattern.

I consulted the finished measurement chart and decided to try out the size 4 (38-31-41) - my measurements are 36.5 (high bust)-40-31.5-41.5. I made a short sleeved version by leaving off the sleeve piece.  I figured it would be a good wearable muslin for a long-sleeved version using some rayon challis that's been marinating in the stash for years.

But I'm not sure I will make this one again.  The fit is just ok.  The neckline was far too wide which is a common problem for me in woven patterns.  I took a 3/4" pleat out of the middle front neckline, but it is still too wide.  And the fabric is very sheer, so between the facing and the pleat, it almost looks like a Peter Pan collar.

Before I took the pleat out, I decided to add a bit of stashed lace to the bottom of the sleeves to avoid having to draft a facing or make bias tape to finish them.  They ended up a bit too tight.  And after I tried on the finished shirt I thought it looked too twee between the lace and the faux collar.

I French-seamed the whole thing due to sheerness, except for the back seam. I decided to sew the back pieces wrong-sides-together, and then fold the seam allowances under and topstitch them down for some interest.  I used some pretty purply-pink mother-of-pearl shank buttons for the closure.

After seeing these photos, I actually like the top better than I thought I would.  Styling them with my army green jeans and sneakers tones down the twee effect a little. I can't decide what to do about the lace on the sleeves, though - I don't love it, but I also think the top is just a huge expanse of pink without some accent there.

Studying these photos has also helped me see that I really did need an FBA, and I need to make the sleeves bigger.  At the same time, the neckline needs to be smaller.  I might revisit this one in the future and try to make those changes, but then again, I might not.  You can't win 'em all.

As always, thanks for reading, and see you next time! Hopefully with a more successful make.

Monday, May 6, 2019

The altered wardrobe

So I have been whining here and there about how nothing from my handmade wardrobe fits anymore, and how alterations haven't worked out the way I want them to.  I think maybe I was indulging in some bad-attitude moments, because lately I've been very motivated to alter existing pieces to fit, with a good deal of success.

I did, at first, think I would just start sewing new clothes. But then I realized that I was going to have to redraft and/or refit every single pattern just as if I were starting over.  That knocked the sewjo right out of me.  I had built up such a reassuring repertoire of TNT patterns before I lost weight, that I had many options to choose from when I was hit with the urge to sew something fast and well-fitting.

Not anymore.

So I've been hitting the sewing machine with a few old makes that I wanted to salvage.  Today I want to share my newly altered Josephine tops. These were made in 2017 from a Made By Rae pattern that I modified a bit. They've gotten a lot of use in the summers.  But with my changing shape, the tops had not only become too wide, but the armholes were too low and they now seemed much too long.

This top was made from a long-hoarded Kaffe Fasset rayon challis.  It was actually my second go at this pattern in the fabric; the first one suffered a horrible washing-machine death. Here's a photo of the second version when I sewed it about two years ago:

Before (original blog post).
I took in the sides of this one from the armhole down, thereby raising the armhole, reducing volume and eliminating the side slits all at the same time. I made an elastic casing and inserted 1/2" elastic to create a blouson top.  This is what it looks like now:

I'm so happy with these changes and think this one will go well with jeans, shorts and skirts when I'm home this summer!

My gingham version of this pattern was one of my summer wardrobe all-stars.  Here's a photo from my original blog post about it:

Before (original blog post).
To alter this one, I ended up sewing the tucks all the way down to the hem (they were previously only about half-way down the bodice). This removed 3" of ease from the bodice. I also took up the shoulder seam about 3/4" to raise the bust dart, which was now too low.  At first I couldn't figure out why the bust dart would suddenly be too low, since my bust measurement hasn't changed that much compared to my other measurements.  I guess maybe the volume is distributed differently, or maybe a little goes a long way when it comes to bust circumference and dart position.  As a bonus, this modification also raised the armholes to a more modest location.  Then I cropped the whole top about 3".  It's still boxy, but not so overwhelming in the shorter length.

I think I'm more excited about these modifications than I have been about any recent garments I've made. There is something so satisfying about salvaging previously loved pieces that I was feeling sad about losing.  I"m feeling invigorated to go through my closet and figure out what else I can refashion.

As always, thanks for reading, and see you next time!

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

April 2019 and my Me-Made May Pledge

I don't have a focused Me-Made May Pledge this year.  I've gone from nearly everything in my closet being made by me, to not having much that fits, and even less that is me-made. I'm hoping to continue losing weight, so trying to sew a new wardrobe quickly doesn't make too much sense either.  So I will document my outfits on the days that I wear me-made, try to repeat outfits as rarely as possible, see if I can alter anything else to fit, and sew a few new things that I really need - like a pair of jeans and long-sleeved tops.


I made two Plantain Tees.  Both are made from the original (non-updated) pattern in a size 40 shoulder widened to a 42 under the armscye and size 42 sleeves.  The one on the left is in a rib knit I got a year ago.  Used 2 yards.  Hemmed at 1", sleeves at 1/2".  The teal one was made using 1.5 yards of a cotton/lycra I bought here in Bogota this month. I hemmed it at 5/8" and the sleeves at 1/2".  I also took in the side seams on this one about 1/2" on each side at the hem, tapering to nothing under the bust.

Yasmin Yoke Skirt: 1 yard used of cotton stretch twill. Blogged here.

All-Day Shirt for my husband: 2.5 yards of cotton poplin. Blogged here.

My daughters made their dad four handkerchiefs: 30" used from scraps leftover from his birthday shirts.

Bell-Sleeve T-Shirt Dress: I made Zoia a dress to wear on Good Friday using remnants of fabrics from this bolero and this cardigan. It used up 38" of fabric plus some stashed trim.  I used this free pattern in a size 8 without mods.  I think it turned out so cute! I'll be blogging this one soon.

I also made two more altar boy sticharions for my sons for Pascha, at our priest's request. He gave me the fabric so I don't get to count this as fabric used from the stash.

Three pairs of Ohhh Lulu Celeste panties (free pattern here).  I made these a couple of years ago but did not keep any notes on the blog (this was before I was doing monthly round ups).  I won't blog these, so I'm going to list the deets here: This time I cut an XL according to my measurements. I kept the front waistband height of the XXL, and I raised the waistband 1/2" at center back, tapering to 0 at the side seams.  The free pattern doesn't give instructions for using lingerie elastic, so I did it my own way, basically just stretching it a little bit as I sewed it on, then turning and topstitching. I made three pairs from knit scraps.  After sewing these, I narrowed the narrowest part about 1/4" on each side on my pattern for the future.  Though I used scraps, I feel like I can take credit for using 1/2 a yard of fabric for this.

A pair of Simplicity 1887 shorts, which I will be blogging at some point. I can't claim yardage for these because they were made using the scraps of the cupro twill I used for my last pair of Calyer pants, and I counted all the yardage used in those pants.

A pair of Oliver+S Art Museum Trousers for my oldest son, in a size 5 with the length of a 7 (I was able to make a 2" growth pleat using this length so hopefully they'll last for awhile).  I used 1.25 yards (the last bit) of a cotton pique bottomweight that I have used to make this same patterns four times previously.


I was a little down on attempting to take in more of my clothes after a few failures last month. But I decided to try again.

I altered my blue check Bonn shirt by taking it in through the sides and most of the way through the sleeves. As the shoulders were always a smidge too big, it's not going to be my favorite shirt at this size.  The bust darts are now a bit too low, as well.  But it's wearable and that's what I'm going for right now.

I also took in my rayon French Terry Lisbon Cardigan through the sides and sleeves.

1 yard rayon crepe challis for a shell top
3 yards striped Ottoman knit for a dress
2 yards striped rayon/lycra for a Plantain
Two 2.5-yard cuts of plaid shirting which will become button-down shirts or shirt dresses.
1.5 yards of lace knit that I couldn't resist - either a skirt or a top.


April Fabric In: 12.5 yards 
April Fabric Out: 10.63 yards
YTD Fabric In: 34.17 yards
YTD Fabric Out: 28.51 yards (12 yards of which I bought in 2019).

Monday, April 22, 2019

Pink and Flowery All-Day Shirt

For J's birthday this year, I did some secret sewing and made him two new shirts.  This one was made from the Liesl & Co. All-Day Shirt pattern.

My husband didn't know I was sewing this shirt, so I couldn't measure him.  I decided to just sew a straight medium, which is also his shoulder size in the Fairfield pattern.  I had faith that Liesl's pattern would be a bit more consistent in sizing, so I felt ok about trying the medium as drafted.  As it turns out, it fits him quite well.  The neck is spot-on.  I do think the shoulders are just a touch wide; I probably could have narrowed them 1/2".

The All-Day Shirt has two views - View A with cut-on plackets, one pocket and pockets for collar stays on the underside of the collar; and View B, with separate plackets, two work-style pockets and a button-down collar.  I went and examined his store-bought dress shirts, and noticed that he never puts the collar stays in them.  I was thus tempted to sew the View B collar, but ultimately decided to pull out all the stops on the pattern.  I'm glad I did, because the collar stay version really doesn't add too much time to construction, and it feels really fancy on the shirt.  I didn't make collar stays because he has a whole bunch from his RTW shirts that he doesn't use because the shirt collars stay straight on their own.

The Fairfield is the only other pattern I've ever sewn with a two-piece collar, so I didn't have much to compare this pattern to.  But I really like Liesl's collar sewing method.  It made it much easier to get a clean finish when topstitching the collar stand, as compared to the construction method in the Fairfield pattern.  Every time I've made the Fairfield, I've had trouble getting the ends of the collar stand (and the bottom of the cuffs, actually) to tuck all the way under cleanly.  I didn't have this problem with the All-Day Shirt.

I also liked the way that the shoulders are finished - it's not the burrito method, but everything is still neatly enclosed.  I did not read through the pattern instructions before starting to sew, so I was surprised to see that the armscyes, side seams and sleeve seams were all just finished together and pressed to the side with optional topstitching (which I did).  I really like the flat-felled seams of the Fairfield, so I think the next time I make the All-Day shirt I will add 1/8" to the seam allowances so that I can flat-fell.

The sleeve placket on this pattern is cut into two pieces before being attached, which allows you to make a contrast under-placket if you so desire.  I found the instructions a bit confusing, though, because they say to stitch the plackets to the sleeves at a 1/4" seam, as marked on the pattern.  But the pattern markings have the stitching line drawn at a 3/8" seam allowance. I went with the 3/8", but my under placket is teeny and I couldn't fit a button on it, so I think it is actually supposed to be 1/4".

The cuff instructions. Oh man. I did have some difficulty figuring this out. It's the same method as the collar, but for some reason, the collar seemed much more intuitive to me.  I found the cuff method super-fiddly, but it did solve one big problem I always have on the Fairfield, which is getting the bottom corners of the cuffs folded over and stitched with no raw edges poking out.  Hopefully Liesl's method will get easier for me after I've done it a few times.

I sewed the pattern completely as instructed, with no adjustments. The only thing I did differently was to use one layer of interfacing for the collar and collar stand (I believe you are instructed to interface both pattern pieces for each element, though I don't have the pattern instructions in front of me right now).  In any case, I find that the interfacing I use for shirts is plenty stiff with just the one layer.

Oh, you want to know about the fabric? It's nice, isn't it?  I used 2.5 yards of this Telio cotton poplin.  I have been greatly influenced over the years by the stunning floral shirts Nicole makes for the men in her family (this and this are just two examples). J doesn't own any floral shirts and I could tell when I presented this to him that he was a little unsure. But I think he totally pulls it off (and it doesn't hurt that pink is a great color for him). What he needs now is a nice gray tie to go with it.

I'll be back soon with the other shirt I made him.  Until then, thanks for reading, and see you next time!

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Yasmin Yoke Skirt

Back in January, I decided to try the keto diet. Although I hadn't been happy with my inability to take off the baby weight since Niko was born in 2015, I had begun to accept my shape, and had sewn enough clothes to wear 100% me-made every day.  Sewing really helped me accept the shape I was then, and I had put thoughts of weight loss on the back burner.

I wasn't super gung-ho about this diet, but a friend had convinced me to try it with her.  I'm really glad I did - I lost 25 pounds in three months and have been able to pull out some the clothes I made in 2013 and 2014.  I'm hoping to lose another 10 or 15 pounds.  I also learned that the chronic back pain I have been dealing with for years was greatly exacerbated by my sugar habit.  Cutting out sugar and most carbs (as is required by keto) also eliminated about 80 percent of my back pain.  This is huge, and may have cured me of my sweet tooth for good.  That piece of cake isn't so tempting when I know I'm going to wake up stiff and sore after eating it.

So, recently my weight loss got to the place where everything in my closet was just too big to wear.  I tried my hand at altering a few pieces, and learned that not everything can be altered.  Since I'd lost the weight, none of my TNT patterns fit anymore, so I couldn't even whip out an already drafted pattern and sew something up.

I wanted to make myself some new skirts and had a few hours on my hands. The Liesl and Co. Extra Sharp Pencil Skirt is on my Make Nine and I do plan to sew it, but I only have the digital version and hadn't printed it out yet. My kids had made off with the clear tape dispenser and forgotten where they had left it.  Just as I was about to give up hope on sewing a skirt that evening, I remembered that I had bought and assembled the Maria Denmark Yasmin Yoke Skirt pattern years ago (but never sewn it).  It was still with the rest of my PDF printouts.  Sold.

Sewing this skirt felt like getting back to my style and sewing roots.  This pattern is exactly the style of skirt I was always drawn to in RTW back in the day.  I love the wide waistband and slight a-line shape.

The fabric is a stretch twill leftover from my green Ginger jeans.  Since the fabric is pretty stretchy and since I know from making my Ginger Jeans that it will bag out, I decided to go down a size to the 42 (30.5-40 waist/hip), even though my measurements (31.5-41.5) put me in the 44.  It worked fine.  The pattern is drafted to sit at the belly button; mine sits just slightly above it.

I remembered to add seam allowances (necessary with this pattern), and added a 1.5" hem allowance.  It turned out that wasn't quite long enough, so I finished the hem with a 3" facing sewn on at 3/8" to preserve length.  The front skirt panel is meant to be one piece, but I cut it out in two pieces so that I could seam the middle and add some extra topstitching detail.

I didn't have an invisible zipper on hand, but I did have a khaki one that matched my topstitching thread, so I decided to sew it in as an exposed zipper.  I faced the pockets with the last scraps of a beloved gingham linen that I used here, here and here.

The skirt turned out just as I'd hoped (though I think I would rather have a metal zipper in the back).  I'm considering making another one in denim with an exposed metal zipper. I also have a couple more cuts of printed stretch bottom weight in the stash that are destined to become skirts, though I do want to try that pencil skirt pattern as well.  I think this pattern has potential to become the sort of wardrobe builder for 2019 Masha, that Simplicity 1887 was for 2016 Masha.

(Note: I'm wearing the skirt here with my favorite Traveler shirt, sewn back in 2014 and which only now just fits again.  Though I had to take out the back darts to get it to button, and the sleeves are still a bit tight.  A few more pounds and it should fit just right.  I'm so glad I didn't donate this shirt!)  

This is a fast and cute skirt pattern that doesn't take much time or fabric - the official fabric requirements are 110 cm (43"), though I think I used less fabric even after adding hem facings. 

And that's all I've got to say about that. Thanks for reading, and see you next time!

Sunday, April 7, 2019

March 2019

I made some good progress on my Make Nine goals this month.  I don't know that I'll make it all the way through my Make Nine, as my priorities are already starting to shift, but I'm happy with the things I've made so far.

I'm not sure I will get to that Yuzu Coat after all, and I'm less interested in the Cynthia Rowley dress than I was when I made this list.  I do still definitely want to make the Extra-Sharp Pencil Skirt and the Classic Shirt, as well as a new Traveler shirt dress.


My first item from my 2019 Make Nine list: The Calyer Pant in sandwashed cupro-nylon twill from Halston by way of Fabric Mart - I bought the fabric in February for the purpose of making these pants.  I actually only ordered 2.5 yards, but I got the end of the bolt and ended up with 3 yards - I used all but a large scrap.

My second item from my 2019 Make Nine list: The Lonetree Jacket in red organic cotton twill from Mood fabrics. I bought the twill fabric in February for the purpose of making this jacket and used up all 3 yards. I used a yard of plaid flannel voile from the stash for the seam binding.  Total yardage used: 4 yards.

A birthday Fairfield for my husband. I used up 2.5 yards of a shirting I bought last month from FabricMart for the purpose of making this shirt.

Sweatshirt fleece hats for my oldest girl and oldest boy (using scraps).


I have lost 25 pounds since early January, and have just reached the stage where many of my clothes, especially all my Ginger Jeans, are too big.  So I altered a few pieces:
  • My purple corduroy pinafore - it was a bit big when I made it but recently I was swimming in it, so I took in the side seams about 1" on each side for a total of 4" decreased, tapering to nothing at the hem.
  • My denim Alberta Street Skirt. This is the second time I've altered the skirt. I took about 3/4" off each side and tapered to nothing a few inches down. As I was working on it I noted that the fabric has seen better days. I sewed it more than two years ago and it has been worn and worn and worn some more. Probably time to make a new one!
  • My houndstooth Alberta Street Skirt.  This is also the second alteration for this piece - I took it in 1/2" at the waistline tapering out to 3/4" at the hem. I'm so pleased with the fit now!
  • My green pull-on Ginger Jeans. I took a wedge out of the back center seam, about an inch at the top, tapering to nothing towards the curve at the bottom.  I also took in the outseam pretty significantly at the hips and thighs by putting the jeans on inside-out and pinning them to fit.  Finally I removed the stretchy waistband and took it in an inch.

4 yards of black Cone Mills stretch denim from Fabric Mart (on sale - about $8.50 per yard including shipping!).
A yard of Ponte from a local fabric store.
2/3 yard of twill from a local fabric store.
2.5 yards of floral cotton poplin from to make another shirt for J for his birthday.
1.5 yards of cotton/lycra jersey from a local fabric store.


March Fabric In: 9.67 yards.
March Fabric Out: 9.1 yards.
YTD Fabric In: 21.67 yards
YTD Fabric Out: 17.88 yards