A sewing blog about building a functional, cohesive handmade wardrobe, one garment at a time.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Mixed-print Sewaholic Renfrew

So, not only am I late to the Renfrew party, but it appears I actually had no idea what kind of party it was.  All the Renfrews I had seen on Flickr looked awesome and effortless, but I hadn't done much more research beyond that when I ordered the pattern a few months back.  After it arrived, I did a little Googling and learned that Sewaholic patterns designed for the pear-shaped (which I am not - at least, not as pear-shaped as the woman for which this pattern was designed).  I also found many, many bloggers who had to do multiple test-runs before getting the top to fit them properly.  I wasn't expecting this (because I am dumb) so the pattern sat around for awhile.

Renfrew, looking unspoilt for a brief few minutes before my kids wake up and
embellish it with their snot tears fingerprints love.

This week I finally cut into my Renfrew pattern.  The size chart would have me cut between a 14 and a 16 if I were going by bust size, but all my selfish sewing the last few months has taught me NOT to do that.  I am always happier with the fit through the shoulders if I use my high bust and then adjust the pattern pieces to make room for the girls below the armscye.

So, after reading a million and one blog posts about it, I decided to cut a 10 in the shoulders, widening to a 14 at the bottom of the armscye (to make extra room for the bust), then grading to a 12 at the waist.  (My measurements are 39.5-31.5-41.5).  My hip measurement coincides with the Sewaholic size 10, however, the finished measurement of the hem is less than the hip measurement for the same size.  I believe this is because the pattern is drafted to hit higher than the hip, but I felt like I could use a little extra room.  So I kept the size 12 all the way down.

The pattern calls for "stable knits."  I wasn't sure what that meant.  But I did have 1.5 yards of a French terry I had bought on a whim from fabric.com awhile back, and I thought it would make a cute cowl-necked top.  1.5 yards wasn't quite enough for view C, though, so I dug through the stash and found a striped mystery knit for one of the cowl pieces. Originally I had planned to hide it on the underside of the cowl, but on an impulse I decided to have it be the part of the cowl that shows.  The plaid print would have been a little much on the cowl too, I think.

(I should mention that I did not realize there was an errata until I'd already serged the two cowl wrong-sides together as instructed in the printed pattern.  I didn't feel like unpicking the overlock so I left it.  But actually, you can't really see the serged edge when I wear the top anyway.)

I ended up sewing the sides up with a 3/8" seam allowance instead of the prescribed 5/8" allowance; and I'm glad I did.  This French terry has almost no stretch so I needed a little more wiggle room.

Once I got the pattern traced, this sewed up FAST.  I was finished in the time it took my girls to watch two episodes of Sofia the First (on Youtube, no commercials in between).

Pattern matching?  Ha.  My official excuse is that I was working with limited fabric.

After some overnight consideration, I have concluded that I like the top.  It is comfy to wear and I like the pattern mix.  I think it could use just a hair more length.  I also think that a wider and lower neckline (and slightly longer/drapier cowl) would be a little more flattering on me. I want to try again, but my next attempt will be with a stretchier knit, so I know I will have to start from scratch on the sizing (and I really don't want to ... maybe I'll just make another Plantain and add a cowl to that!).

I should note that my husband, he of the silver tongue, proclaimed it "cute." Hopefully that means it will get more wear than my last Washi dress, which I put on the other day only to take off and change into something that looked less Amish.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Costume gift sewing for boys

Recently I've done a bit of birthday-gift sewing for some of N&Z's friends.  Being in the 3-5 year range, these kids are all very into dress-up.  Sewing dress-up clothes for little girls is easy - a long princess dress, and you're done.  But some of the recent recipients have been boys, and since my own little boy is not quite 1, I needed to do some research to find out what the 4- and 5-year-old set is into.

The first gift was a Davy Crockett set.  I thought about drafting my own pattern, but in the end ordered the Oliver+S Nature Walk set.  I hadn't gotten it before because I knew my girls wouldn't be keen on it, but now that I have a boy, I knew I'd use the pattern again.

I redrafted the sleeves to make them one piece since I wouldn't be color-blocking.  I attached the neck facing to the outside of the pullover, so that I could insert some of the faux suede fringe trim underneath it.  I also redrafted the pant legs to make them each two pieces, again to facilitate the insertion of the fringe.

The fabric was a faux suede from Fabric.com and it was a ginormous pain in the patootie to sew. Toward the end my machine all but gave up and I had to finish part of it by hand.

My hard work was worth it, though - the recipient was so thrilled with his gift that he insisted upon wearing it to church the next day.  Warmed the cockles of my heart.

My next giftee, D, already had  a Davy Crockett costume, so I was back to the drawing board.  I had gone over a few possibilities in my head and was going to go with Luke Skywalker when I learned that D had recently taken to tying a blanket around his neck for use as a cape.  So I pulled out my Growing Up Sew Liberated book - a Christmas gift from several years ago which I had yet to actually sew from - and made up the Reversible Hooded Cape.

It was a very easy sew.  I used two fabrics from my stash that I had originally purchased for clothes for G - a cotton/poly velour blend from fabric.com, and a green knit.  The green knit I was sent by mistake - I had actually paid a pretty penny for a cotton interlock but I guess I didn't inspect the fabrics very carefully upon arrival or I would have quickly realized that it was a synthetic rib knit.   Unfortunately this order was placed 18 months ago so I can't really complain now.  I'm glad I was able to use it for the cape though.

The only modification I made to the cape was to omit the topstitching.  Since my fabrics were unevenly stretchy I figured my topstitching could only make the thing wonky.  I think it looks fine without it.

I made the large size, which is meant for ages 6-8.  It's a bit shorter than I had expected.  Here's my tall 4-year-old modeling it.  She wears size 5 pants for length and as you can see the cape only goes down to her knees.  I think I'd add another 6 inches to the length if I were to make it again.

D didn't really care about length, though - he was too busy running around the playground looking behind him to see the cape stream out in the breeze.  It was a hoot to watch.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Plantain #4 and this business of taking good photos

I have always loved stripes.  My wardrobe always contains at least one striped tee.  But now that I have discovered the liberating world of successfully sewing my own knit tops, I think I am headed for stripe overload.  This is my second striped Plantain, and I have two more cuts of striped cotton/lycra jersey in adult tee quantity.  I need to buy more solids.

I wore my new tshirt to church on Sunday so that we could take some photos on the way home.  This city definitely offers some interesting backdrops.

My husband is getting better with his photo composition, but today I realized that I need to tell him to look critically at the clothes and tell me, for example, that my skirt is lopsided (that seam is parallel to the hem, I swear).  Or that I'm pulling one side of my striped shirt down with my hand so the stripes look wonky when I assure you they are not.

I actually made the skirt two years ago out of old jeans.  But now that I am thinner I need to take in the waistband a bit so it doesn't go lopsided when I wear it.

I also didn't realize that I was wearing my hair draped over my shoulders in every picture until I got home and saw that there was not one good photo of the neckline.  So I had to resort to bathroom pictures after putting the baby to bed.  Man, I look tired.  It was a long weekend.

So we have a little to work on, when it comes to photos.

But back to the pattern.  I guess this is now officially a TNT pattern for me.  My final fit adjustment was as follows: I cut a straight 40 for the back.  For the front, I cut a 40 in the shoulders, and graded out to a 42 at the bottom of the armscye, then continued as a 42 all the way down, but with 40 length.  I cut a 40 neckband and a 42 sleeve.  I am very happy with the fit, so I'm done tweaking.  Yay!

I used a cotton/lycra from Girl Charlee.  It is very comfy and silky, but the fabric did pill a bit after I prewashed it (six times).  For the neckband I used a purple rayon-lycra from Joann's.  It doesn't quite match - but I wanted a solid neckband and it did not occur to me until afterwards that I could have done so with my striped fabric if I had done a little math and centered the purple stripe under the pattern piece.  I really love the color combination, and I will definitely wear this a lot, but after looking at it some more I think maybe thinner stripes are more flattering on me.

Not much else to say about this one.  Love it!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

TUTORIAL: Leggings to Jeggings, Part 2

Hi!  Welcome back!  We're very excited to show you how to sew up these super-awesome jeggings. (Part 1 of this tutorial, wherein we made our pattern pieces, is here.

Yesterday we made our pattern pieces; today we will cut them out of our fabric and sew them up.  It won't take long.  I am posting directions for both the no-waistband version and the waistband version in this tutorial.

Note: I did most of this on a serger, but you can do it on your regular sewing machine.  Use your stretch stitch if you have one - if not, you can use a narrow zig zag.  You can leave the seam allowances raw as they will not fray, or finish them with a zig zag.


First cut out your pattern pieces.  You need to cut two of each, and you will be cutting them all (except the waistband and back pockets) as mirror images of each other .  I do this by folding my fabric and cutting two layers at once, like so:

When you're done you will have:

2 front legs
2 back legs
2 pocket bags
2 pocket linings
2 back pockets
(optional) 2 waistband pieces

Now we are going to make our back pockets.  Fold down the top along your seam allowance (mine is 1/2) and stitch it down.  I used a twin needle to make it more jean-like.

Press.  If you want to add decorative stitching across the back pockets, now is the time to do it.  I did not add any.

I really need a new ironing board cover.
Next fold the sides in along your seam allowance, press and pin in place.

Now pin the pockets in place on your back leg pieces.  I didn't mark the pocket placement on my fabric.  I lined up the pattern piece next to the fabric and just eyeballed it.

 Stitch the pockets all the way around to secure them to the pants.  You can use a zigzag, stretch stitch or a twin needle.  Press the wonk out.

Now let's assemble the front pockets.  Stitch the pocket lining to the pocket bag with right sides together, around the outer curve. 

Now pin the pocket lining, right sides together, to your front pant leg.  The curve should match perfectly since we created the pocket lining piece by tracing the pant leg pocket curve. Pulling the pocket bag out of the way so you don't stitch through it, sew the pocket lining to the pants.

Flip the pocket lining to the wrong side of the pant leg and press.  This is what it should look like from the front:

And this is what it will look like from the back.

Now if you want, you can topstitch the pocket opening.  I used a twin needle for the jean-like look.

On this pair, I used a contrasting pocket lining, and as I pressed it I rolled a little of the contrast out of the pocket to let it peek out a little, like faux piping.  I'm super-thrilled with how it turned out.

Now let's make our faux fly.  On the front pant leg that will be on the wearer's left side (the one in the photo above, actually), mark your fly placement.  For this 2T pant (plus about four inches of length) I put mine about 1.5" in from the side, and 3" down from the top, then drew a curve.  If you are making a larger size, you can make your fly deeper and wider.

You can draw it on your fabric or just put that presser foot down and wing it.  Stitch the line with a double needle.

After you have done this, you can baste or pin the pocket bag/lining to the pants at the top and at the side, to keep them from shifting during the rest of the construction process.

Now sew the front pants to the back pants, right sides together.  You will be sewing them together along the straight edge.

OK, we're almost done.


Now, if you are not making a separate waistband, you can return to your regularly scheduled legging pattern to sew up the legs and crotch seam.

After you sew up the crotch seam, if you like, you can topstitch the rise with a double needle to make it look more like jeans.

You will find that there is a little bit of bulk at the top when you make your waistband casing, because you have all those layers of pocket fabric.  It will be ok, just go slow and make sure your seam allowance is wide enough for your elastic.  And when you're done, your pants will look like this:


After you have sewn your leggings together using your pattern instructions, it's time to attach the waistband.

First, take your two waistband pieces and sew the short ends together, right sides together.  If you did not alter the seam allowance, it is the same as the seam allowance as that specified for the rise (crotch seam) in your leggings pattern.

Next, if you would like, you can finish one long end of your waistband.  If you use your serger, make sure you don't cut off any of the fabric.

Now pin your waistband to your pants, right sides together, matching side seams and center fronts and backs.  I found that they weren't exactly the same length - I must have erred on my seam allowance somewhere - but I just stretched them to fit.  It's knit, it's forgiving.

Sew or serge your waistband to the pants.

Now press the waistband and the waistband seam allowance up, away from the pants.  I know you're tempted to skip this step (I was, too) - but don't, or you may end up with wonky topstitching later.

Now fold the waistband over to the wrong side of the pants, making sure to cover the stitching line with the fabric, and pin it in place from the right side.  Take your time with this step so that you can ensure the waistband is an even width all the way around, and that your topstitching will catch the back of the waistband.

Starting an inch or so to the wearer's left of the center back seam, topstitch with a 7/8" seam, leaving about 2" unstitched so that you can feed the elastic in.  Then feed your elastic through using a safety pin pinned to one end, adjust for the wearer's waist, and stitch that elastic closed.

Now close up that unstitched portion in the back by topstitching over it.

TA-DA!  You just made jeggings.

Time to give yourself a pat on the back.

Or maybe do a little soft-shoe around the sewing room.


If you make pants using this tutorial, I would love if you posted a comment and linked me to your project.  Hope you enjoy making jeggings as much as I do ... I've made three pairs in two days and see more on the horizon.