Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Maternity sewing

So it finally warmed up around here, and as I am on the home stretch (likely less than four weeks until the baby comes - eep!), I was not itching to spend a ton of money on spring maternity things.  Back in February we took the kids to Disney World, and at that time I made myself two knit tops and a skirt.  I didn't want to buy a new pattern, so for these tees I just took my beloved Plantain pattern and tweaked it.  I cut the back as usual, but added a few inches of length to the front.  I used elastic to ruche the front to be the same length as the back (starting at the narrowest part of my rib cage and extending to the hem) and then sewed them together per the pattern.

This is what I ended up with.



The red top is made of a modal/lycra knit that is a gorgeous color, feels wonderful, but has the crappiest recovery I've ever seen in a fabric that has lycra in it.  If this fabric went to school and had a recovery class it would totally fail.  By the end of the day I feel like a saggy elephant ... so I don't reach for it much.



The purple top is made of a rayon/lycra knit from Joann's.  It also does not recover overly well and is pill-prone to boot.  It's a bit long in the front but at least I know it will fit all the way to the end of the pregnancy without the dreaded bottom-of-the-bump peekaboo that I always rock the last few weeks before baby comes.


I also made this skirt for the trip.  I cut an a-line skirt pattern using my hip measurement, and scooped out the front to accommodate the belly. Then I grafted a yoga band onto it.  This knit is a medium/heavy weight, very adamantly synthetic fabric that had been advertised as a cotton blend.  I was hopping mad when I realized after washing it that it wasn't cotton. It had been intended for kid wear but I only use natural fibers for my eczema-prone daughter.  Sadly the retailer was not interested in changing the information on her web site ... needless to say I won't be shopping there anymore.

It works fine for this skirt.  But I don't know what I will do with the remaining 1.3ish yards of it.


I made the elephant shirt using Maria Denmark's Kirsten Kimono tee (it's free!).  I love that pattern.  I tried on the last Kimono tee I made (size medium) and noted that the, ahem, girls could use a little more room.  So I cut a large and lengthened it by four inches.  I also made my usual mod of scooping out the neckline.  That's it.  I didn't do any ruching because I wanted this shirt to be wearable after the baby is born.


I got the elephant print cotton/lycra at Girl Charlee awhile back.  My knit necklines have been pretty bad lately so I decided to finish the neckline with some shiny burnt orange foldover elastic from the stash.


Don't mind the lint - this fabric holds on to it like crazy.

I made another maternity Kirsten Kimono using the same method, out of this drapey Girl Charlee fabric left over from a previous Plantain.  I don't think it will look as cute over a postpartum belly as it does over a belly that has an actual baby in it.  But I wanted to have the option.  We'll see.


I had this cotton/poly burnout knit in my stash that wasn't what I thought it was when I bought it.  It barely stretches.  I wanted to use it up, but knew I could not make a straight Kimono tee with it because of the lack of stretch.  So I altered the pattern, trapeze-ing it out a couple inches from the narrowest point of my rib cage to the hem.  I can't believe it, but it actually worked and it is my favorite of the maternity items I've sewn.  While pregnant, I usually gravitate towards fitted tops (like the four above) but I feel more comfortable in the trapezy top this time around.


I opted to use stashed FOE for the neckline again, this time in silver.


The skirt is a very simple a-line that I "drafted" using my hip measurement.  I added two darts in the back so that it wouldn't stick out over my hind parts.  Again I cut a small scoop out of the front panel and added a yoga-style knit waistband.  I made it out of a yard of stretch sateen from the stash.  You can't really see in these pictures, but the sateen is a light taupe with little white speckles all over it.  It's my go-to church skirt now.


The baby has dropped a bit since i took these photos at (two weeks ago), so I'm starting to get a little belly peek-out.  I plan to make another top like this one, as I think the trapeze shape will be perfect for camouflaging the postpartum tummy.

Monday, April 27, 2015

KCW Day 7: Paisley Boho Maxi Dress

Pinterest is driving me crazy.  Has anyone else noticed this?  All of a sudden my feed has blown up with "chosen for you" pins selected, apparently, by an algorithm that doesn't take into account whether I have already pinned said item.  It's super-annoying, because in at least half the cases, I HAVE already pinned said item.  This a) tells me that Pinterest has kind of become a closed loop and b) I don't check it much anymore.  I do still use it to pin things (mostly sewing related) that I find online, but the feed is kind of useless to me now.


BUT, yesterday I logged on and saw, at the top of my feed, the Boho-Maxi Dress tutorial from Scattered Thoughts of a Crafty Mom, selected especially for me.  I had actually pinned this ages ago, but had forgotten about it.  My girls have been dying for maxi dresses and I wasn't sure what I would sew for the last day of this KCW.  It was serendipitous.


Anyway, as this dress requires nearly 2 yards of 45" wide fabric in my girls' sizes, I had to dig into the mama fabric stash box.  I found this paisley pima cotton lawn I got over a year ago at FabricMart.  When it arrived I immediately regretted the purchase - I couldn't think what I would possibly make myself with it.  So it went into the bottom of the stash box.  When I presented the girls with their fabric choices, though, little sister immediately grabbed it and called dibs.  I'm really glad she did because this stuff was a dream to sew.  It gathered perfectly, pressed crisply, and didn't make my machine crazy.

The pattern is very cute and sews up quickly.  The straps are a little wide for my taste but that is easily remedied in a future version (and big sister has also chosen fabric from the mama stash box, destined for the same pattern).


Six sundresses, two pairs of pajamas and the completion of a pile of WIPs later, this KCW is over!  I am not quite sure what I will do with myself now.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

KCW Day 6: Two more comfy knit dresses

So the first fish dress I sewed ended up stretching horribly in the bodice due to un-stabilized shoulder seams.  I tried to fix it but I completely botched that.  I decided to scrap it and make one last fish dress   (again using my modified version of the Comfy Knit Dress tutorial) out of the remainder of my mom's old blue dress.  I didn't have enough fabric for the whole bodice, so the lining and the back bodice are aqua Laguna Jersey knit.



I made another out of some cotton/lycra jersey I just got from FabricMart.  I have a ton of this jersey now because they mistakenly sent me one yard instead of the 1.5 I ordered - and then to make up for the mistake, they sent two more yards in the mail.  If you like it, there is still a ton left on the site.  The jersey curled like mad but it seems to be very nice quality - supple and stretchy yet quite lightweight. The rest of it might make capri leggings and/or new pjs.


I actually did attempt pattern matching on the front bodice this time, and I'm pretty happy with the result!  The bodice is lined with a scrap of Free Spirit cotton/lycra - another jersey I like to work with.


The skirt is quite long - the proportions are actually nightie-esque - but this way it should fit her again next year.  The girls would not pose for photos today.  It wasn't actually warm enough to wear the dresses outside so they went on photo strike.

Little divas.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

KCW Day 5: More stripey boy pjs

I made another set of summer pjs for my 2-year-old using stash scraps.  The top is made of the last of my dreamy Land of Oh striped interlock.  Even my machine likes it - see that hem?



Don't mind the loose thread.

The top is another super-lengthened size 12-18 month Oliver+S Field Trip Raglan.  As the interlock isn't very stretchy I probably should have drafted the next size up.  It should fit for the year though.

For the pants, I used the Oliver+S Playtime Leggings pattern in 3T - for no reason other than that the pattern piece was sitting on my ironing board and it was faster than digging out the Growing Up Sew Liberated Sleeping Johns pattern again.  I just cut off some of the length and came up with these breeches.  The fabric is some very bright yellow cotton/lycra from Girl Charlee awhile back - the color wasn't quite what I thought when I ordered it and so it has languished in the stash several years.


For the waistband I used my new favorite finish - serving the elastic directly to the edge of the fabric, then turning it to the side and topstitching right through the elastic using a three-step zigzag.  It looks so much better than my knit elastic casings, and seems to be holding up a bit better in the wash.  I have read that this approach only works if you use woven elastic or knit elastic - braided elastic apparently is weakened by sewing through it (oops, I used braided elastic in the legs of all my cloth diapers!).


The baby woke up super-cranky from his nap and although he was thrilled to try the pjs on, posing for photos was not high on his priority list.  Check out those teething cheeks.

I think I'm just about out of boyish knits now.  Whenever I am shopping for knits I get seduced by florals so that is mostly what is left in the stash.  I have checked out the usual suspects but I'm having trouble finding anything other than stripes or solids - and while I love those, I feel like I should branch out.  Where do you get your boyish knits?

Friday, April 24, 2015

KCW Day 4 - The siblinghood of the traveling pjs

For Christmas, my husband got me a gift certificate to a fancy fabric store in the area.  I don't shop there much because the prices really are quite high - I've seen the same $4 cotton poplin that I bought at Fabricmart on a roll at the shop for $18.95.  But this store also has a table of fabrics - many designer remnants - for $2.97 a yard.  It's hit or miss at the bargain table but last week I scored big.  Among my purchases were this cotton striped rib knit, destined for toddler boy summer pjs.


For the t-shirt, I used the Oliver+S Field Trip Raglan pattern.  This rib knit feels like a 100% cotton (fabrics on the $2.97 table are not labeled so you have to figure them out by feel) and doesn't have much recovery, so I used the 18-month size, which I had traced out the last time I made raglans for my son.  I added a ton of length and hope that these will last more than one summer.  The neckband is cotton/lycra jersey from the stash.


I have been having a lot of trouble with knits on my regular sewing machine lately, but I wanted a proper hem to the t-shirt so I took a deep breath, set my machine to the three-step zig zag, and ... miraculously ... it worked!  Check out that straight, non-wavy hem up there!  I didn't even use my walking foot!  (Note: I am starting to think the quality of the knit has something to do with it - I started another pair of pajamas last night and the same machine simply refused to hem some thin cotton/lycra jersey the same way - or at all.  I was so frustrated!)


The bottoms are sewn from the Sleeping Johns pattern from Growing Up So Liberated.  I made 2Ts, which is the same size I made for him about a year ago - and those pj bottoms are still going strong!  (They are actually among the most durable items I have ever made, given how much use they have seen).  I cut the pattern to make shorts and banded them at the bottom with the same orange jersey from the stash.  I serged the bands to the pants wrong-sides together and then topstitched the serged hem down with a narrow zigzag to keep the insides soft.  And check out that cloth-diapered behind - plenty of room in these pjs!


The boy was still napping when I finished the set, but big sister wanted to try them on.  And ... they fit her perfectly too. 


I always joke that all my kids are the same size, but it proves to be close to the truth.  So I guess I know what size to make hers ...

Thursday, April 23, 2015

KCW Day 3 - Fish Dress #3

My sister requested the black fish dress fabric for my niece.  She wanted the whole dress made out of the black fish fabric.  I used the same Comfy Knit Dress tutorial I'd used for the last two dresses, but I extended the bodice upwards about 3/4"(I had already lengthened it about 3/4") and only sewed one tier this time. This dress is about a size 5.


I'm much happier with the bodice fit now.  I am planning some (non-fish fabric) Comfy Knit Dresses for the remainder of KCW with the new mods.

I couldn't bear to just leave the dress black and white so I added some teal buttons I bought before we left Georgia and finished the hem with a teal zigzag.


And that's all there is to say about that.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

KCW Day 2 - Fish Dress #2

Last night I sewed up the second fish dress out of my mom's old clothes using the Comfy Knit Dress tutorial.  I am much happier with my fabric choices this time.  I used a jegging fabric (left over from these jeggings) for the bodice and some scrap cotton/lycra knit for the lining.  Then I used the green fish dress for the bottom.  I had some thrifted buttons in the exact right shade of green.


I remembered to reinforce the shoulder seams this time, and I also shortened the straps a bit from my last dress.  I still feel that it is a little low-cut, so for the next dress I plan to redraft the front bodice.  I didn't notice it looking too low cut on the model when I first looked at the tutorial but upon reexamination I do think it is just drafted a little low for my taste. I plan to go back and add a green ruffle peeking out of the top of the bodice to fix the situation.


I should note that I did lengthen the straps originally, per the tutorials instructions for sizing up, however, that was necessary to ensure that the armhole was deep enough.  So I will need to just draw the top of the bodice about an inch higher for the next version.


I do still really like this pattern - it sews up quickly and it is so perfect for a little girl's summer dress. After I complete the fish trilogy, I plan to sew up another couple of these dresses using some stripey knit I got at the G Street fabrics $2.97 table.


Perfect playground wear and I know it will get a lot of use at the beach later this summer!


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

KCW Day 1 - Sentimental Knit Dress

After my mom's funeral last year, my sisters and I cleaned out her closet.  We donated a bunch, kept a couple pieces that we wanted to wear, and I squirreled away a few things that I thought I might repurpose into clothing for her granddaughters.

Among the latter items were my mom's infamous fish dresses.  Over the course of the last 10 or so years of her life, I think she bought at least five of these dresses.  When we cleaned out the closet there were three remaining.  They all had different labels and were bought at different stores at different times, but other than color, were pretty much exactly the same.  All are made of non-stretchy knit t-shirt material, are printed with a rather unattractive ocean themed pattern, and are shaped like tents.  These dresses were a running joke among my sisters - we couldn't understand why mom gravitated towards them.  But they were part of her summer uniform (although sadly I have been unable to find any photos of her actually wearing one).


I have a great memory associated with the blue dress in particular, though.  We spent a few months in the States in 2012 between our overseas postings.  During that time, dress-obsessed big sister would not tolerate her "Baka" (how she pronounced "Babushka") coming downstairs in anything other than a dress.  If Baka were to descend in pants and a shirt, big sister would take her by the hand, lead her upstairs to the closet and pick out a dress.  The light blue fish print was her favorite one.

When I took away these dresses, I had in mind summer beach clothes for Baka's three granddaughters.   Yesterday I pulled the dresses out and spent some time thinking about how to do it. I decided to use the Comfy Knit Dress tutorial from lbg studio, pinned ages ago but never attempted.

After much hemming and hawing I decided to use a number of different fabrics from the stash.  I was going for a cute boho effect but I'm not really sure how much I like the end result.  I don't think the fish fabric really goes with the other prints.


 I extended the pattern to a 4/5 size per the tutorial but I neglected to reinforce my shoulder seams and as a result the weight of the skirt pulls the bodice down.  It's almost indecent, as you can see, so I need to go back in and shorten the shoulder straps (and reinforce that seam).


Though I had planned the blue fabric for big sister's dress, the bodice ended up too large for her.  Little sister was happy to take the dress, though, and although I'm still not quite sure how I like it, it will work for play this summer.


I'm still planning to sew two more of these dresses using more of the fish fabric.  On the cutting table right now is a version using denim jegging fabric for the bodice and the green fish for the skirt.  Not certain how to use the black, if at all, for a little girl's dress. I have enough of the blue for the third dress so I might just turn the black into a beachy skirt for myself.  It's funny how the ugliness of the fabric doesn't seem to matter anymore ... suddenly the butt of years of jokes takes on enough sentimental value that I'm willing to wear it.  Funny how that happens.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Easter sewing

Preparations for Easter and Holy Week church services occupy a lot of time around here. So this year I decided to make it a little easier on myself by only sewing what was absolutely necessary.  A dapper outfit for the little man was at the top of the list.  So I pulled out my trusty Oliver+S Art Museum pattern.  I've made this pattern in its entirety three times before (here and here), and also sewed the vest separately this year for Christmas. It comes together fairly quickly given all the neat little details.


I used a pinstriped linen from Joann's for this set.  I have used their 100% linen before (as opposed to their rayon/linen blend, which I'm not a huge fan of) and find that it has a lovely hand and holds up well.


I really like the way the stripes turn slightly on the welt pockets.  I liked the effect on the gingham vests I made for my sister-in-law's wedding, too.  Enough that I think I will always gravitate towards pinstripes or checks for this vest!


For the back and the lining, I used a scrap of brown chambray I had in my stash. The chambray was significantly stiffer than the linen, so to avoid any weirdness on the welt pockets I used the linen for all the pocket pieces.  I did use the chambray for the pants' waistband lining and I think it helps lend a little structure to that piece.

This outfit got a lot of wear during Holy Week.  I snapped the above photos on Palm Sunday, and it was worn three more times after that.  Our church's actual Easter service starts at 11:30 p.m. on the eve and runs until about 2:30 a.m.  The below photo was taken when we woke the kids up at 1:30 a.m. to get ready for church.


My only beef with this pattern is the length of the vest.  I know to lengthen it, but this time I did not lengthen enough.  I sewed a 3T with 4 length, and while the vest could really use another inch at least, the pants were way long.  I left a 2" deep hem for growth but even so I had to chop off a few inches.  Better too long than too short!  I think I will need to slash the vest pattern the next time I use it to lengthen it, rather than just lengthening to the largest size as I have done in the past.


I am not sure whether the vest will get much more use since it is a fight to get him into it each time.  The pants will see heavy rotation as church wear, hopefully for another year as I take the hem down.  The outfit only cost me about $11 to make (linen was on sale and everything else was from stash), so I'm ok with that.  


The only thing to add is a note about the welt pockets.  I've never topstitched around them before and it hasn't been a problem.  But when I washed the pants this time, the pockets came out significantly and will need a sturdy pressing to get back into shape. I may not have sewn them properly, but I suspect that the linen fabric has something to do with the problem.  So I will go back and topstitch this time.



Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Mod shift dress for spring

I last left you with images of little sister's new dress for spring.

When it was older sister's turn to choose fabrics, she picked out a rose-print woven cotton pique, purchased for $4/yd during a FabricMart sale last year. I was curious about the fabric's lineage, and thanks to the magic of Google, discovered that it was from a Land's End dress line a couple seasons back.


It's funny, if I had seen this dress at Land's End, I would have thought "meh," and scrolled past it.  I don't think the lines of the dress make the best use of the fabric.  But when I saw the fabric swatch at FabricMart, I couldn't stop thinking about it until I had purchased it.

During my Google investigation, I also found a few projects using the same fabric, including this incredible ball gown.  I think it is stunningly beautiful, so click over and have a look!

It took me a few days to figure out what pattern to use.  Big sister is so skinny and the print was so big that I didn't want it to overwhelm her.  Ultimately I decided on a simple silhouette.


I got Simplicity 4927 at a thrift store for 50 cents.  View A, with sleeves, looks very Becky Homecky to me.  But View B, a sleeveless a-line shift, is a classic design that reminded me of the dresses my Babushka made for me when I was a girl.  


The dress is simple enough - three pattern pieces if you don't count the facings.  And I didn't.  I wanted the dress to be cool and summery and facings felt a little fussy for that.  I decided to try an invisible bias finish on the neck and arms instead.


As you can see, I did not achieve a perfect finish.  Though the neckline does pucker slightly against the stitching, it now lays flat against the body when worn.  Not so with my first attempt, which was poke-out city.  I had to take it out and redo it, helped in large part by this great post from Grainline Studio.  I had neglected to clip the neckline sufficiently the first time around, but another go-round with the scissors fixed the problem.


After it was all sewn up I decided that it needed something.  I searched the stash and found some trim that I had picked up at the grocery store (yes) when we lived in Georgia.  I think it suits the lines of the dress and the fabric perfectly, and it further reminds me of things my grandmother used to sew.


A big yellow button from the stash to complete the mod feel, and I was done.


I searched for a photo of myself wearing the dress that I was thinking of when I sewed this, but I couldn't find one.  However, I do still have the doll dress that my Babushka made to match.  When I pulled it out (after the dress was all sewn up) I couldn't believe it - it was exactly the same dress with exactly the same construction.  Granted, this construction was not at all difficult.  I did have to modify the back opening after I opted out of the facings, and it makes me smile to know that I did it the same way Babushka did when she made this little doll dress.


A-line shape - check.  Cool structured fabric (in this case cotton faille) - check.


Invisible bias neckline - check. Seamed back with simple button closure - check.


However, Babushka's bias-finished neckline and armholes didn't pucker at all.  And she finished them by hand.  I could have learned a lot from her.


She would have loved the dress.