Friday, April 21, 2017

Boy Tees

I've been making good progress on my spring wardrobe plans, but I had to take a break when the weather warmed up and I realized that G had only two short-sleeved t-shirts that fit him.  I pulled out my trusty Oliver+S School Bus T-Shirt pattern and my knit fabric scraps and got cracking.

These are a size 5 with 6 length for my tall but lean 4-year-old.  I only have the larger size range, otherwise I would have added length to a size 4, but these fit fine.

I decided to make some fun appliqués for the tees.  The star and the lightning bolt on the Flash tee were just drawn free-hand on the paper side of some Heat n' Bond.

The Flash tee is made of a scrap of cotton interlock and the neckband and appliqué fabric are cotton/Lycra jersey.  All the other tees are also made of cotton/Lycra jersey.

The triceratops and Batman appliqués were traced from online images, using my computer screen as a lightbox.  I appliquéd the gray bat (fused to Heat n' Bond) to a scrap of yellow jersey, and then applied Heat n' Bond to the back of the jersey before cutting out the oval free-hand.  It turned out so much better than I expected!

The gray shirt is actually cut from a tee I made my husband last year, (which he ripped a big hole into).  The jersey, a lovely 10 oz cotton/Lycra from The Fabric Fairy, was too nice and too spendy to just throw away. I'm glad I was able to reuse it.  Bonus, I cut G's little sleeves from the original sleeves, preserving the original hem, so that saved time too.  I didn't actually hem the bottom of this one because I wanted to make sure he could wear it next year too (assuming he doesn't rip a hole in it also).  And because I wanted to be done with the shirt.

Here are some rotten iPhone photos of G in his tees.  You can see how long the sleeves are, and that is after I shortened them by at least an inch (I don't actually remember).  The sleeves on this pattern run quite long.

G is thrilled with his new tees.  I'm thinking of making a Robin tee for Niko so they can be Batman and Robin.  But really I just want to get back to sewing for myself.


Sunday, April 9, 2017

Zip-fly Ginger Jeans

Last month I found myself very inspired by the way my striped Blackwood cardigan seemed to invigorate my wardrobe. It goes well with several skirts I had made over the previous year as well as with my first pair of Ginger jeans.  I decided it was time to inject my wardrobe with some versatile basics.  I knew I wanted to use up a cut of navy and cream houndstooth twill that was in danger of languishing in my stash if I didn't sew it soon, and quickly, a capsule wardrobe plan emerged.

These jeans were a piece that I threw in because I knew that I needed them, but I frankly wasn't looking forward to sewing them up.  My first pair of Gingers was a rousing success - they weren't angsty to sew, and I wear them several times per week.  But somehow I had convinced myself in the two months since I made them, that making another pair was going to be hard and arduous.  Especially as I planned to sew them with a proper zip fly, a button and rivets this time.


I began these on a Saturday and I finished them on a Thursday.  My kids did eat the contents of random cans in the pantry and half-finished freezer items on two of those days, so there's that.  Mama needed some new jeans.

These are View A of the pattern again - the low-rise, stovepipe leg version.  I cut these in a size 16 with a scooped out back crotch curve and a higher yoke (I raised it 1" at the highest point).  (With the higher yoke modification, I don't find these to be overly low in rise.  I think any higher would feel restrictive on my tummy, actually.)  They were tiiiiiight.  My previous pair, which I took in considerably, was made out of super-duper stretchy denim.  This pair was made out of a more respectable Japanese stretch denim that holds it shape spectacularly.  I had to let out the waist and hips 1/2" on each side.

I tried the full inner thigh adjustment that I fudged on my last pair.  It didn't seem to help my back knee wrinkles much, but it did cause some crazy inseam migration to the front of the leg.  I actually topstitched my inseam with navy thread instead of gold because of how much it twists to the front.  The side seam is perfectly straight, so I know it's not leg twist caused by cutting off-grain (plus I was very, very diligent in cutting my pattern pieces on grain).  Anyway, I guess full inner thigh isn't the main problem.  I ended up letting out the back leg only from the knee down, and that took care of a lot of the wrinkles.  After I did that, I took in the legs evenly at the side seams, from the lower thigh all the way down.  Looking at these photos, though, I think the lower leg is still a little baggy for my taste.  I may go back and take the seams in a bit more.  Like last time, I also found that I needed to shape the side seam to follow the weird curve of my knee, in below the thigh and back out again to the calf, to get rid of some of the wrinkles. Maybe my issue really is knock knees, and not full inner thighs?  Next time I plan to lengthen the inseam by 1" to try to address a possible knock-knee issue.

I did not interface the waistband and I used self-fabric for the facing because I wanted it to be stretchy.  I forgot to lengthen the pattern, and so I ended up adding fabric to the bottom for a total of 1" added.  I topstitched it right where I added the fabric, and the addition isn't at all noticeable.  I need to remember, if I ever boot-cut-ize this pattern, to lengthen another inch beyond that at least.

I have to mention how easy it was to install this zipper.  When I read in the instructions that I would likely have to shorten the zipper, I panicked a bit.  I remembered reading blog posts where people had talked about using pliers to remove the metal teeth from the zipper so they could sew a seam and I was intimidated.  But the instructions noted that I could just sew through the zipper - and I did.  And then I shortened it by cutting it with scissors, which blew my mind.  Metal zippers = not so scary.

My machine did not like the topstitching thread I ordered from Taylor Tailor - one ply of the thread kept breaking, and then bunching up through the needle.  I did not have this problem with the navy Guterrman topstitching thread I used for the inseam.  I gave up on topstitching thread when it came to the buttonhole and just used regular thread.

I think I want to try Heather's larger pocket pattern piece the next time I make these.  I think my back view would benefit from larger pockets.

I put three rivets in these jeans at the front but I didn't get any photos of them so you'll have to take my word for it.  They were not difficult to put in, though I found it tedious and time consuming to make a large enough hole through the coin pocket corner, to push my rivet post through.  That probably took me 30 minutes, while the actual hammer-and-cast-iron-pan installation only took five.  No longer afraid of rivets and jeans buttons!

I'm feeling pretty good about the rest of my capsule spring wardrobe - now that the most difficult and time-consuming project has been completed, it should be smooth sailing for the five remaining pieces I plan to make.

When I took these photos, I had worn these jeans for two full days with zero bagging out.  I didn't put belt loops in because I prefer not to wear belts unless absolutely necessary, and I find that tees lie smoother over a belt-loop-less waistband.  Based on how well this denim has held its shape, I don't think that I will need to add them.  Might have to pick up some more of it - do you think it's acceptable to make two pairs of jeans out of the exact same fabric?  If I did, I'd probably try a mid-rise bootcut variation.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Striped Blackwood

I've mentioned that I don't normally buy patterns the second they come out.  Turns out that I make an exception for cardigans, as this is the second one (the first being the Lisbon) that I have bought the week of its release.  I knew immediately upon seeing the Blackwood Cardigan that it would get a workout in my wardrobe, so it jumped up to the top of my queue, along with a recently-purchased rayon/cotton/lycra striped pre-cut from Fabric Mart.


I chose the shorter view without pockets.  I have a 36" high bust and a 42" full bust, so I sewed a medium at the shoulders, extending out to between the L and XL at the bottom of the armscye.  I graded to an XL at the waist and kept the XL the rest of the way down.  I didn't really know how long to cut the front band given my mods, so I just cut the XL and then tried it on my fabric at the end.  I wanted to match stripes, so I just kind of fudged it.

The neckband seems to sit a bit higher on my neck than on the testers, so I think I probably stretched it too much around the back of the neckline.  Also, I accidentally cut the neckband on the fold, so it's all one piece.

I cut the sleeve and bottom bands a tiny bit longer than called for since I wanted to continue the stripe pattern from the body of the cardigan. Sleeve length doesn't tend to be an issue for me one way or the other, but on this patternI found the sleeves very long - I cut 1.5" off the sleeve before attaching the cuff, and they are the perfect length.

The armscye is super high on me - it actually hits above the fold of my armpit.  Surprisingly, it's not particularly uncomfortable, however, I will lower it for next time.  I've already ordered some rayon/lycra knit in taupe for my next version.

As casual as this pattern seemed to me, something about pairing it with this striped knit almost feels blazer-esque to me.  I think I could easily wear this with a black skirt and heels and look professional on the couple of days a month that I work out of the house.

I'm very happy with the fit.  I might grade all the way out to the XL under the armscye next time, but that is the only modification I am planning.  You can expect to see more of these from me!

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Green Laure

I think I've mentioned that I am not usually quick to jump on a new pattern.  When I saw the Laure dress, though, I was instantly smitten with both the qipao and the pussy bow views.  I haven't historically loved a dropped waist dress, but I think it looks so nice with the bow.

I showed the pattern to N, and she also loved the bow view.  We agreed that I'd sew it out of some shot cotton shirting I had in the stash (previously used here and here; I'm down to my last half-yard, which I am saving for pocket linings on future jeans).

N is seven years old, super-skinny and tallish for her age.  I sewed a size 5 with the length of an 8.  Even going down to a 5 width, the bodice was much too wide.  I ended up taking in the bodice side seams under the arm a full inch on each side (4" total removed in circumference!), tapering to nothing at the skirt seam.  The size 8 was just a bit short for my taste, so I ended up cutting out a hem facing to preserve length.  I'm quite pleased with the fit now.

I sewed the cap sleeve, which I found a little fiddly to set in as there is no easing at all.  A tiny bit of easing would have made it go in more easily, I think, and I'd like just a little poof at the sleeve cap.  This is a really minor detail, though, and I still love the dress.

I ended up adding some velvet/crochet lace trim from the stash to the front of the bodice.  I bought this trim in three colors, ages ago, probably from, and it was perfect.  I recently gave away more than half my stash in a decluttering frenzy, but finding this trim post-purge reminds me that it's not a terrible thing to stash a really unusual bit of trim or fabric when I see it.  I just need to be a bit more selective in what I choose.

My invisible zipper went in pretty well ... because, as it turns out, my regular zipper foot ... is actually an invisible zipper foot.  It came with my machine (an eBay purchase) six years ago.  I didn't really know what invisible zips were at the time, nor that they had their own special foot, so all this time I've been using that foot as a regular zipper foot (i.e. not stitching through the hole down the middle), and then killing myself when I do try to set in an invisible zip ... because I'm not using the foot the right way.

The construction of the dress was straightforward yet elegant.  The bodice is fully lined for a clean finish and the lining is attached at the zip by machine, not by hand.  I could have French seamed the skirt for a clean finish there, but the seam allowances are only 3/8" and I didn't think ahead at the cutting stage. The sewing did take some time, and so it was one of only two makes I eked out for Kids Clothes Week this year.  I think it was well worth the time, and N loves it.  And really, that's the most important thing.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Mismatched stripe Appleton top

So right after I sewed my second Appleton dress, I decided to try making a top.  After the increased wrinkles that resulted from my original pattern mods, I decided to go back to the size 14 E/F bodice, but I kept the sliver that I added to the back pattern piece, and the size 16 sleeve.  I have similar wrinkly issues with this top so I think I really need to do a proper full-bicep modification on the size 14 sleeve.

To make the top, I cut the bodice 6.5" inches below the hip notch and hemmed it up 3/4".  The Cashmerette tutorial has you cut it at the hip notch, but I knew I'd prefer it much longer. I also cut both front pieces the same width, and used the tie pattern from the dress pattern rather than from the top tutorial.

The fabric I used was an unknown knit (rayon/lycra, I think) purchased several years ago from the $2.96 table at the now-defunct G Street Fabrics.  It is lovely to wear and has fabulous recovery. I only had two yards of it and it has these crazy wide stripes, though, so I had to think hard about where to put them.  I had made a t-shirt last summer out of a similarly wide-striped fabric, and I never wore it because the stripes were placed very unflatteringly relative to my bust.  I decided to eliminate the potential for that problem by using the widest dark teal stripe at the top.

What I didn't count on was that, by doing so, I would end up with a top that looks like I am wearing an apron!  It's especially noticeable when I am wearing my Soviet-cafeteria-lady face (they were the originators of the RBF, you know).

Though you can't tell by looking at it, I actually worked hard to match the stripes for this top.  I laid out my pieces on a single layer, checked and rechecked them.  But what I didn't take into account was that the Appleton has a built-in forward shoulder adjustment.  So my strategy of aligning the stripes starting at the shoulder was a big fail.  I should have aligned them at the bottom of the armscye and again at the hem.  Womp womp.

The result is hugely irritating, but not irritating enough to keep me from wearing the top.  I'm more concerned with the tightness of the top at the back, which illuminates the flab in that area.  It's better with the extra room I added to the back pattern piece after my first Appleton, but it still feels really noticeable.  I wonder if going up to a size 16 in the back bodice would help.  I'm not sure I will test it out any time soon, though - I'm itching to get to a couple other projects for myself.

Anyway, I wear this regularly, and get lots of compliments when I do.  I do have to pin the bodice to keep it modest, as you can see above, but as I mentioned in a previous Appleton post, I don't think that can be helped given the topography of the area.  I really love the wide neckband on this pattern, and might sew it in a contrasting color the next time I make one of these dresses.

Until next time!

Monday, February 6, 2017

Ginger jeans


I know, I've been talking about it forever.  I bet some of you thought I was never actually going to do it.  I wasn't sure myself, so I don't blame you.  But I finally did it, and it was one of my first makes of 2017 to boot.

These are, of course, the ubiquitous Ginger Jeans.  I sewed them in a very stretchy denim purchased a few months ago from Fabric Mart.  I started with View A (the mid-rise stovepipe leg) but ended up closer to View B by the time I was finished with my modifications.

I cut the size 16 and basted it together.  Immediately I knew that I was going to need more coverage in the behind - the seat dropped when I walked up stairs or sat down, and it gaped.  I did two things to remedy this. First, I scooped out the back crotch curve about 1".  Much better.  Then, I raised the yoke height by 1" at center back (tapering to nothing at the side seams), and slashed the yoke pattern in two places to overlap it at the top, creating a much more curved yoke piece than I started with.  Here's a crummy iPhone photo of my yoke (top) compared to the original.

I also omitted the traditional waistband in favor of a stretchy self-fabric band, to create pull-on jeans. I bought a pair of pull-on jeans at the thrift store last year and they changed my world.  Up until that point, I had no idea that non-maternity pull-on jeans existed. At least not ones that didn't have a gnarly gathered elastic waistband and front pleats.  This was seriously a life-changing discovery.  I've always been a big fan of jeans, but lately I just can't stand a firm waistband when my middle section is so prone to changing sizes throughout the month week day.  As I never wear shirts tucked into jeans, this is a no-brainer.

My waistband, which finished at 3", is contoured at the sides, so at the bottom it is 35" around and at the top it is 32".  It is stretched to fit 39" of waist at the top of the jeans yoke.  I think I need a more curved waistband, though, so I will slash my waistband pattern piece in a couple of places and overlap at the top before sewing these again.

When I first sewed these jeans I had some crazy wrinkling at the back knee.  I suspected after sewing my Chi-Town Chinos that I might need a knock-knee adjustment.  I found a very informative post at Stitches and Seams discussing how a full inner thigh (which I definitely have) results in the same fit issues as a knock knee.  The basic idea of the method I used is to shift the entire pant leg towards the inseam.  Having already cut out my pieces, I couldn't do the full adjustment, but I resewed my seams with a 1/4" allowance at the inseam and a 1" allowance at the outseam, effectively moving my legs over 3/8" towards the center.  This actually did help the back wrinkling a bit and I'm curious to see what would happen if I did the adjustment the right way.

So, then I finished sewing them, topstitched them up and wore them.  They bagged out like crazy.  So I took them off and took the side seams in 3/8" inch from waist to calf, tapering to nothing at the hem. That was much better, and lessened the back wrinkles a bit more.  Then I wore them for another day and ended up taking them off and tapering a further 1/2" starting at the bottom of the pocket and ending at the fullest part of my calf.  I actually took the side seam in even more around the knee, curving the seam in and back out again.  That seemed like the wrong way to go about fixing the extra fabric there but it seems to have worked without issue.  I think by the time I was done doing this, I had effectively skinnified the jeans all the way down to View B, with the exception of the ankle, which I prefer to be a little straighter, so maybe I should have started there to begin with!

After yet another day's wear, I wondered whether the pants' migration south had anything to do with the fact that my front crotch was too long.  I ripped open the inseam and sliced 1/2" off the top of it, tapering to nothing about four inches down the inseam. That took care of some of the extra fabric there, but I think I actually need to do a different type of alteration to shorten the crotch - the method I tried also reduces the inseam, which I don't need.  If I slash the pants pattern above the crotch and overlap it, I'll get the shorter rise but keep the inseam intact.  Still doesn't solve the slippage problem, but maybe there's no way around that with these pull-on jeans.

And I'm having one other issue with these jeans, one that I haven't seen in any other reviews.  Can you tell what it is?

My pockets keep moving up out of themselves.  I would assume that this was a result of the jeans being too tight but they're really not too tight.  I'm going to widen the pocket facing pattern for next time, to ensure that the edge doesn't peek out, but I'm not sure why I'm having this issue when no one else seems to.  In any case, my shirt is almost always covering my pockets, so it doesn't affect the wearability of this pair.

I am 5'8", and I didn't add any length, but I did only hem them up 5/8" after serging the raw edge  I'll need to add some length to hem them the way Heather calls for.  No matter - I've been wearing these non-stop since I made them, and they are now my favorite jeans, so I'm calling them a rousing success.

I friggin' made jeans!

Monday, January 30, 2017

The enemy of good

I had forgotten how much I love wrap dresses.  I still own two RTW ones from my working lady days, tucked away as they are in the maybe-I'll-fit-into-it-again-someday box.  They never failed to make me feel stylish and put together when I wore them.  Wrap dresses don't fit into my daily wardrobe anymore, but that didn't stop me from sewing up another Appleton dress the day after I finished my first one.

In hindsight, I think the last one, in a straight size 14 E/F, really came out well.  But hypercritical me just could not leave it alone.  I found the bodice a little low-cut and there were some small wrinkles above my bust.  I also felt the sleeves were too tight and that the bodice was a bit tight across my upper back waist.

So up I went another a cup size, from 14 E/F to 14 G/H. I also added the teeniest sliver to the upper waist on the back pattern piece, and used the size 16 sleeves.  I am not sure which modification is the primary culprit, but I ended up with the same low cut, plus mo' wrinkles, mo' problems.

14 G/H in red, 14 E/F in blue.

Looking at these photos, I think it's got to be the sleeve that's the issue.  I didn't modify the size 14 armhole, but just stretched it to fit the 16 sleeve.  Maybe that's the problem?  I don't really know, so please comment if you have ideas!  The sleeve is also strangely twisty - when I put the dress on I have to shrug my shoulders with my arms straight out in front of me, and turn my wrists inward to get the sleeve to untwist.  I have no idea why.  I did not sew the sleeves on backwards (I checked and rechecked), and I'm at a loss.

On the plus side, my modification of cutting both front pieces the same width (instead of trimming the under layer), gave me more security in the skirt.  I also added 4.5" to the waist tie pattern piece on the fold, which gave me the longer sash that I prefer for bow-tying.  And my 1" lengthening of the skirt allowed me to sew a hem this time.  I didn't lengthen (or hem) the sleeves, though.

This dress does fit better (i.e. not as tightly) across the back.

The fabric is a lovely rayon/lycra jersey recently bought from Fabric Mart.  It was lovely to work with - very stable and substantial.  I think it actually might have some cotton in it too.

The dress is very comfortable to wear.  The neckline really does stay put (with aid of safety-pin to keep the front respectable), even though I don't quite have the bodice fitted properly.  My eyes do go right to the offending folds whenever I look in the mirror (or at one of these photos), but I try to remember that, before sewing, I wouldn't even have noticed the wrinkles when trying on dresses, and I certainly would have bought this one.