Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Striped Strathcona

My husband often jokes, "When are you going to make me a suit?" And I tell him that I will never make him a suit.  Never say never, but honestly, few sewing prospects excite me less than the idea of tackling a full men's suit.

But a t-shirt? That I can do.


Last year I bought the Thread Theory Parkland Wardrobe Builder. I love all three pieces and am looking forward to making the Jedediah shorts this summer and a Newcastle cardigan for fall.  But first I tried out the Strathcona Henley.


I measured J carefully, this being the first time I have ever sewn for him, and he fell squarely into the medium size.  I was concerned, having read reviews that recommended sizing up, that this might be too small, but decided to go ahead and as you can see, it is fine.  I read over the instructions for the placket, noting that those without much experience sewing knits were encouraged to hand sew the placket.  I have a lot of knit experience, though, so I figured I could handle it.  Plus, I wasn't sure that hand-sewing through six layers of fabric and two of interfacing at the bottom of the placket was going to be all that easy.


Well.  I had a beast of a time with that placket. I lost count of how many times I ripped out my top stitching, how many times I re-pressed the placket, how many times I tugged at it to get it to sit right. And finally I gave up.  It's a t-shirt.  It should not take 5 hours to sew.  The placket looks ok from a distance, and I guess that is fine, as no one but me should be getting that close to my husband anyway ;)

J is 6'1" but his height is all in his legs.  So I cut 3" off the hem before turning it up 1". I probably should have cut off just 2".  I cut the short sleeves per the pattern but ended up taking 3" off those, too, and I like the length they ended up.


I asked him how he liked it and he was kind of blasé about the whole thing.  It turns out he's not particularly fond of the fabric I chose.  The Cloud 9 organic cotton interlock is dreamy to wear (I know, I tried the shirt on to see how it would look on me - and it's definitely cut for a man, in case you were wondering), but he does not like the color.

I may have told him to suck it up.  I think the color really suits him, and it is a nice neutral to go with some of his more colorful shorts. But I have ordered some rust orange, charcoal and light blue knits to make him a couple basic tees from the pattern.  The man loves orange.


I don't think it is super-noticeable in these photos, but J's left shoulder is lower than his right.  This is a result of the stroke.  While his left shoulder and arm are no longer entirely immobile, they are still vastly weaker than the right side.  So his muscles don't hold his left shoulder up the way they do his right.  As I was writing this post, I noticed that the neckline of the shirt shifts over to the left until it is stopped by his neck.  In addition to making it look like the shirt is too big on the left side, it makes the left sleeve does hang funny off his shoulder and it looks as though it is longer than the right sleeve, when in fact they are exactly the same.  

Going forward, I wonder whether there is an easy fix for this issue.  I've heard about sloping shoulder adjustments but don't know exactly what they entail, nor whether it is possible to do the adjustment on one shoulder only. If anyone has any thoughts, I'd be happy to hear your ideas!


Thanks for reading!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Palm Sunday green

Today is Palm Sunday on the Julian calendar.  It is customary in our church to wear green to Palm Sunday services.  On Friday, Zoia noted with a twinge of melancholy that she did not have a green dress in her closet.  I told her that I would try to sew her one, but cautioned that it would be a tight squeeze to have a dress ready by Sunday morning. In her typical, sweet, undemanding way, she said "Mama, I would really love it if my dress is ready on Palm Sunday.  But if it is not, I will wear something else."

There was no way I was going to fail this child.


Last year I bought the Oliver+S Roller Skate pattern in the larger size range.  I had had my eye on it ever since the pattern came out, but was waiting until my girls outgrew the smaller sizes to buy it.  With only two pattern pieces to cut, it seemed like the perfect.quick sew.

I cut the dress in a size 5, lengthened 1.25".  After it was sewn up, I tried it on her and it was just long enough.  I had planned to add lace trim to the hem anyway, so I just stitched my 1.75" trim to the hem with a 1/4" seam allowance for a total of 2.5" added to the length of the size 5 dress.  I'm really glad I did this as it is a great fit now and should last through the season.  As I was sewing the dress, I thought I might like to add some embroidery to the bodice (or maybe the skirt, I'm not sure).  I didn't have time before the deadline, but I still might go back and add it.  Though the dress was plenty cute without it, and got compliments at church.


The fabric is a Japanese shot cotton shirting purchased from FabricMart a year or so ago. It is iridescent and lovely, though you can't tell from the photos.  The perfectly matching button was a thrift store find, part of a giant bag of buttons that cost about $1.50.  I love buying thrift store button bags - but at this point I've bought enough of them that I need to go through and cull to make my own button bag to donate to the thrift store!  The dress is lined in a very light white cotton shirting, also from the stash.


The dress was an easy and enjoyable sew, but I struggled quite a bit getting the elastic threaded through the casing.  I had had to go out earlier this week to buy 1/2" elastic for Niko's Easter pants, and I guess it had been awhile since I had shopped for elastic.  I didn't pay attention to the type that I bought, and it is some horrid flimsy curly braided stuff that twists like crazy when you stretch it.  I actually did not even end up using it for Niko's pants because it was so awful.  For the dress, I had no other options, and it took me about 40 minutes to get it threaded through the casing, untwisted, and sewn in.  


It was worth it, though.  Zoia is thrilled with her new dress.  I was reflecting as I sewed this how irritating, and likely frustrating, it would have been to have to run out this weekend searching for a green dress in the stores.  One of my very favorite things about sewing is being able to fill a wardrobe need with my sewing machine and my stash.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Parachute pants and the boy on the pink bike

G recently turned 3 and ditched the diapers.  He also got huge, and consequently outgrew his favorite pants. They were the sweatpants from a 2T Elmo hoodie-and-pants outfit that my mother sent him for Christmas, four months before she died.  They were the last item of clothing she gave any of my children.  So G wore them as flood pants for quite awhile before I could bring myself to retire them.


The Oliver+S Parachute pattern seemed like a perfect replacements.  I have had my eye on it since it was released, and I had even mentally reserved a piece of stash fabric for it.  It is a super-soft forest green cotton/lycra French terry, purchased from Fabric.com ages ago when I was curious to know what exactly French terry was (and was overseas and not near any stores that sold it).  I cut the pants' stripes from a scrap of cotton interlock leftover from a yet-unblogged blanket I sewed G a couple months ago.

I veered off the instructions when it came time to sew the waistband.  I truly abhor sewing elastic casings in knit fabrics, so I first sewed the waistband to the right side of the top of the pants, then serged my 1" elastic directly to the wrong side of the top of the waistband.  Then I folded over the waistband and coverstitched from the right side.  Doing it this way meant that I had to trim off some of the waistband at the bottom, as it was drafted wider than the elastic to make room to stitch the casing.  Next time I should probably measure the waistband piece and trim it before sewing.


And yes, my boy rides a pink balance  bike.  Having two older sisters will do that to a guy.  He is a beast on this thing, though - my husband takes him to a BMX course where he competes with other kids in the 3-and-4 age group.  While watching him today I realized that all that practice has paid off; he is nearly ready for a proper pedal bike now.

These balance bikes are great.  After about a year of riding on it, Natasha graduated to her big girl pedal bike (no training wheels) before her 4th birthday.  It took Zoia a little longer, but she was still riding her big girl bike by age 5.  And G seems on track to beat N's record.


Back to the pants.

As directed, I made casings for the elastic at the ankle and it really wasn't bad at all with the coverstitch machine.  I think maybe I should reevaluate my thoughts on knit elastic casings now that I can use the coverstitch to sew them.

I sewed the size 4, which is still a bit long on him.  I cut the ankle elastic 10.75" as directed in the pattern, but the first day he wore them the bottoms kept slipping down over his heel.  So I had to rip out some of my coverstitching (ugh) and shorten the elastic.  I shortened it to 9" and sewed it together with a 3/8" overlap.  This works much better for G.


I coverstitched the rise seam after sewing it together for extra durability, and I'm glad I did - these are going to get worn out before they are outgrown!


G was nothing less than thrilled when he saw the pants back in his drawer after my fix.  They are his new favorites, and he wears them whenever they are clean.  I like them too.  Though comfy, the slimmer fit makes them smarter than many RTW sweatpants I have seen.  They're really the perfect pant for this age group. 

Making clothes my kids love (and of which I approve) is some of the most satisfying sewing.


Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

First quilt

A good friend of mine is due any minute with her fifth child (and first boy!).



This happy turn of events coincided with a recent longing, quiet at first but growing persistently louder, to make a quilt.

I used this tutorial at Cluck Cluck Sew and fabrics from my stash for the quilt top and binding.



The piecing went relatively smoothly.  I read roughly a billion tutorials online about all aspects of making a quilt, and was feeling pretty confident when it was time to make my quilt sandwich.  So one night while J and I were watching TV, I taped the backing to the dining room floor, layered my batting and top, and stuck 90 pins into my 39"-ish square-ish quilt with what I thought was the greatest care.



When I started quilting, though, it was pucker city on my quilt top.  I kept going, thinking that the quilt would just look "organic." But with each new quilting line, the quilt appeared ever less "organic" and ever more "assembled by chimpanzee."



So I grumbled a little about how hard quilting is, but ultimately ripped out the stitches, pressed the heck out of the top and the backing, and started over.  This time I used twice as much duct tape to tape my backing to the dining room floor and took a lot more time smoothing the backing, the batting, and finally the quilt top.  Then I stuck 170-odd pins into the quilt.


And I guess you really need a mass quantity of pins to successfully pin a quilt because this time it was much better.  I quilted the vertical brown rails first, by stitching in the ditch.  Which, by the way, is really not so easy.  I've done a bit of stitching-in-the-ditch in garment sewing, but that's never more than a few inches at a time.  These long lines were a lot harder.  I kept popping out.


Then I quilted the horizontal seams on either side of the center rail, starting from the inside of the quilt and sewing out to the edges.  That worked well.  At the end I did the horizontal quilting lines on the "flipped" portion of the quilt, between the rails.  In retrospect, I probably should have started quilting those lines from the middle of the flipped portion, and then moving up or down.  Instead I started at one end and you can kind of see how the strips got distorted towards the purple and brown end.


The backing is a white with black crosshatch quilting cotton I got at Joann's.  I should have taken a close-up of the fabric, but I think it's a perfect contrast to the print-crazy quilt top.


I hand-stitched the binding to the back of the quilt in front of the TV over an evening and an afternoon.  Just like with my second quilt, I found that process immensely satisfying.  Up until that point, I don't think I quite believed that I was really going to end up with a quilt.


I am pretty happy with the finished product, but I wish I had used flannel or something thinner for the inner layer.  I used some Warm and Natural cotton/poly blend batting that I had in the stash and it seems a little thick for this size quilt.  A thinner quilt would drape a bit better and be easier to wrap an actual baby in.


But I think it will make a nice play mat.