Wednesday, January 30, 2019

The sea of seven colors (and Simplicity 1887)

I'm a beach girl. Always have been.  I was lucky to grow up in a family that vacationed regularly.  Not anything fancy; we always drove, and it was pretty common that all seven of us would squeeze into one hotel room.  But we got to vacation, nonetheless.  For a period of my young life, we would alternate our summer destinations - one year by the sea, the next up in the mountains. At some point I convinced my siblings to make a full court press, begging for beach vacations only.  We were successful at some point in my junior high school life, and I've been going to the Outer Banks (on the Atlantic Ocean) almost every year ever since.

Most of our overseas homes have been pretty far from any coastline, so when we learned our next assignment would be Colombia, which has both Pacific AND Caribbean coasts, I was overjoyed. And then when I learned that Colombia has an archipelago in the Caribbean Sea, I told my husband that we were going there.  And I started planning our trip to San Andres Island - my first trip ever to the Caribbean.

San Andres is a tiny, 10 square mile island off the coast of Nicaragua.  It's the largest island in the archipelago, is shaped like a seahorse and is protected by a 20-mile long barrier reef.  Although it now belongs to Colombia, the locals are a mix: descendants of English settlers, African slaves and mainland Colombians.  The island is surrounded by what's known as the Sea of Seven Colors - this name was actually used as far back as the 17th century by pirates and smugglers. San Andres continues to be a smuggling waypoint, to get drugs from mainland Colombia to Central America.

The whitecaps indicate the barrier reef. The northeastern tip of the island - the seahorse's snout - is visible in the photo.
We went for five nights in January and had a fantastic time. The sea really does have (at least) seven colors, thanks to immense shallow pools of sparkling light turquoise, darker greener patches where sea grass grows, darker blue where the coral is, and deep deep blue beyond the barrier reef.  It is absolutely stunning in person.  

The view from our apartment balcony.
The island is small enough that you can drive all the way around it in less than two hours, which we did on our second night there.  We didn't stay in the main town, which is quite crowded and touristy, but in a smaller, quiet neighborhood on the island's east coast, in the belly of the seahorse.  We rented an apartment in a house that was right on the not-too-crowded Rocky Cay beach, and enjoyed swimming and snorkeling and just hanging out. It.was.awesome.

Driving through the town of San Luis, San Andres Island.
But you're not here for a travel report, are you?  Thankfully, I have some more vacation-related sewing to show off, though I had to retake the photos when we got home since the ones I took on the beach didn't show the skirt that well.

I consider a black skirt to be a wardrobe staple, and when I bought my clothes, I always had at least two in my closet. But for awhile now, my only black skirt has been a ponte pencil skirt that I sewed nearly four years ago, and which has the pills to prove it (note to self: sew a new black knit pencil skirt).

So I took the opportunity of the pre-vacation sewjo surge to whip up a quick Simplicity 1887. I used the black linen that I had leftover from a Portfolio dress.  I sewed two skirts and four pairs of shorts from this pattern in 2016. They still constitute the backbone of my summer wardrobe, though several of the pieces are looking a bit the worse for wear.

I sewed the size 16 again (my pattern size is a 20; this pattern has insane amounts of ease), but I unlike the last two times I made this skirt, I didn't make any alterations to the side seams; I just sewed them with a 5/8" allowance. I did add 2.5" in length so that I could take a 2" hem.  I had thought about making some fancy rows of topstitching at the hem in a gold or yellow thread, but decided at the last minute to keep it simple so that it would go with everything.

I somehow lost half the instructions in the pattern.  So I pulled out one of the other skirts I had made in 2016 to remind myself how to do the elastic in the waistband and it worked perfectly the first time.

Not much else to say about a pattern I just sewed for the seventh time, so I'll leave it at that.  As always, thanks for reading, and see you next time!

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Gelato on vacation

We went on vacation, which meant that I got that have-to-sew-something-new-for-vacation itch. And it just wouldn't sit there and not be scratched.

I had in my head a woven tank top, but I have zero woven tank top patterns.  I perused Lekala but didn't find anything like the idea in my head. Being cheap, and not seeing anything exactly like my idea, I decided to start with the Sorbetto pattern.

The Sorbetto was recently updated. I had sewn the old Sorbetto way back when I first learned to sew. It was one of the first things I ever made for myself, and I never wore it because it was horribly unflattering. I wasn't a huge fan of the new Sorbetto - I find the neckline too high and the shoulders too wide - but I lack the skills to draft for myself, so I needed to start somewhere.

To get to this silhouette from the Sorbetto, I:

1) Made a 1.25" FBA (for a total of 2.5" added) to the size 8.  My measurements fit the size 14, but FBAs are generally not optional if I want to get a good fit.  I cut the back at a size 8, but graded to the 14 in the waist and hips.  I ended up taking in the side seams from the armpits down about 3/4".  There is a lot of ease built into this pattern!

2) I lowered the neckline a bunch, and turned it into a v-shape.

3) I cut in those wide shoulders by 1.25" on each side.

4) I lowered the armholes, but that was a mistake; they are too low.

5) I added side slits and facings so that I wouldn't have to bind the neck and armholes.

6) I cut the back in two pieces due to lack of fabric, but this ended up being a blessing because I needed to take the back neckline in about 1/4", tapering to zero about 6" inches down the back center seam.

The top is sewn out of roughly a yard of linen leftover from a shirt I sewed my dad in 2017. This is the designer quality linen stocked by FabricMart, and it is good stuff.  I didn't have enough of it to make self-fabric facings, so I had to use scraps for those.

The top turned out really well.  If I make it again, I'll widen the straps just slightly as they only just barely cover my bra straps as is.  I also need to raise the bust darts just a smidge.  I'd probably lower and widen the V neck just a bit, and raise the armholes.  The side slits could also be about an inch deeper.

It's not quite a Sorbetto anymore, but it is a top that I am happy to have in my closet for warmer weather.

Thanks for reading, and I'll see you next time!

Sunday, January 13, 2019

December 2018

December began without much hope of sewing. As I keep saying, I've had trouble carving out that time for myself.  I think that part of it, to be honest, was feeling a bit blah on living in this huge, crowded, polluted city. The weather was particularly awful in November and the first half of December - overcast and smoggy with very little sun.

I attempted to  jumpstart my sew-jo with a tiny project.  We had a Girl Scout campout in mid-December, and bandanas were on the packing list.  I used to have a drawer full of bandanas, but it turns out that only one survived my ruthless pre-move purge - I forgot about the fact that maybe my kids would need bandanas at some point too.  Hoping that it would jumpstart my sew-jo, I decided to make a couple the day before the campout.

The bandanas were never actually worn, but I didn't really care. The campout was fabulous. It was in Nimaima, which is two hours away from Bogota.  Nimaima is 4000 feet lower in elevation than Bogota, which brought with it a delicious warming to about 85F (it's usually about 60F in Bogota during the day).  The site was more a glampsite than a campsite - complete with a pool which we took full advantage of. And the drive there, descending through the Andean clouds, was absolutely breathtaking. It was exactly the antidote I needed to the crowded, smoggy city. 

So maybe it was the bandanas, or maybe it was the break from Bogota, but I was able to get a good amount of sewing done in the two weeks after we returned from the trip. Details below.


Two bandanas from the scraps of my fourth Bonn shirt - .83 yards used.

An altar boy sticharion for my son, so that he could finally serve in the altar of our new church - 2 yards used.

Runners for my dining room and coffee table. I used a checked cotton shirting that I bought two years ago in the hopes of making myself another shirt (it's a different colorway of the fabric I used to make my third Bonn shirt). It's not the best fabric for runners as it's very lightweight; I should really go back and line it.  But it was the only black-and-white checked fabric I had in the stash, and I was set on black-and-white checked table runners. - 3 yards used.

Lastly, I sewed up a make-it-up-as-I-go dolman tunic in the glittery eggshell fabric I bought in November. I was hoping to wear it to a New Year's Eve party but, sadly, it turned out just a bit too tight. - 2.3 yards used. (Note: However, I've been on the Keto diet for a week now, and I tried it on today and now it fits! Which is why there's a photo. Guess I'll finish the sleeves after all.)

I completed the tunic on Dec. 31, but didn't add it to my year-in-review post.  So my yearly fabric use stats are a little off on that post.


Fabric In: I didn't buy any fabric this month.
Fabric Out: 8.13 yards.

YTD Fabric In: 107.78 yards
YTD Fabric Out: 93.97 yards


Thanks for reading, and see you next time!

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

2019 Sewing Goals

I wasn't planning to make a sewing goals post this year.  I actually wasn't really planning to make any sewing goals, since my time at the machines has been so limited.  But while browsing Bloglovin' this evening, I was energized and motivate to lay out some priorities and plans for the next twelve months.  I think this may actually help me to maximize the sewing time that I do have, since I won't be floundering around wondering what to do.

Sewing goal #1: Sew more for my children. I did sew a few things for them this year, but nearly everything was rushed and, if I'm being honest, a little sloppy, because I just wanted to get back to sewing for myself.  The above photos are some of my favorite things I sewed for my kids in 2016 and 2017.  I didn't make anything like them in 2018.  In 2019, I'd like to make Easter and Christmas dresses for my girls, and get back to my tradition of my boys wearing vests and trousers from the Art Museum pattern for holidays (they used to just wear whatever set still fit them; I didn't necessarily have to make new ones for each occasion).  In order to accomplish this, I'll need to start early, at least six weeks before each holiday.

Sewing goal #2: Sew at least as many yards as I buy.  Last year I was more mindful in my fabric purchasing, but I still grew my stash. This year I'd like it to at least remain the same size, if not to decrease in size.  I will continue to keep track of fabric in/out and try to post it on the blog each month to keep myself accountable.

Sewing goal #3: Sew myself another pair of lounge/pj pants. One of my sewing goals for 2018 was to sew two pairs of pj pants for myself. I only sewed one, and I wear them all the time, but I need another pair.  I didn't love the pattern that I used for that pair, but I think I have another pattern in the stash.

Liana Stretch Jeans PDF Sewing Pattern Product HeroGinger Skinny Jeans pattern // Envelope Front // Closet Case Patterns

Sewing goal #4: Try another jeans pattern. This was actually last year's Sewing Goal #1, which was never fulfilled. I bought the Liana jeans pattern last year, but every time I make a new pair of jeans, I chicken out on trying a new pattern and just make another pair of Gingers. The Gingers do work, obviously, but I think it's time to see what else is out there!

Sewing goal #5: Be open to inspiration. I didn't plan to sew myself a bunch of dresses in 2018, but I'm very glad I made room in my sewing time to do just that, as I've gotten a ton of use out of them, and I expanded my style horizons in the process.

Those are all the goals I have for the moment. I hope that they are as helpful as last year's goals were in setting direction, but leaving space for flexibility. Happy sewing, everyone, and I'll see you next time!

Friday, January 4, 2019

Top 5 Hits of 2018

Though the move to South America hampered my sewing production somewhat, I think what I did make was fairly successful.  2018 was, in particular, the year of the dress for me. Counting my pinafores, I made seven dresses this year, and three of them are in my top 5.

Both Lisette Portfolio dresses made the cut. They got a lot of wear this year and I have really enjoyed having them in my wardrobe. 

I also really enjoyed my Calyer Pants. After the below photo was taken, I ended up elasticizing the hems, which made me like them even more. They got a lot of wear in the spring and summer before the rayon gave out and I tore a large hole in them. If I remake them in rayon, I'll need to add a bit more ease.

I've worn both my Bobbins and Buttons pinafores a good amount this year, but I think the black is my favorite.

Finally, there's this tote bag that I made up as I went along.  I loved it so much, but ended up giving it to my sister after she admired it, thinking I'd make myself another sometime in the future. I still miss it, but I haven't made any attempts to remake it. I think that's because, as successful as it turned out, I don't really like making up my own sewing patterns. I'll need to find a tote bag pattern with all the features I want and just buy it, before trying this again.

Top 5 Misses of 2018

My 2018 sewing wasn't particularly interesting, but I ended up with a lot of pieces that got a lot of wear.  Choosing my top 5 misses was relatively easy, then, as a few things I made just didn't get worn very much.

My Blank Slate Catalina dress.  I made several muslins but just never got the fit worked out to my satisfaction. I wore this dress exactly once. Pity too, because the fabric (tencel twill) is lovely and wasn't cheap.

A cropped Blackwood cardigan. This fabric just has a bit too much body for the pattern, I think, and the sleeves are a bit tight. I often put this on only take it right off again. It's still in my closet because I haven't given up hope that I will stumble upon the right way to style it.

The sleeves of this cotton/lycra Plantain tee came out too tight. I wear it to sleep sometimes but it's not very comfortable.

The mustard Plantain tee isn't my color, plus the fabric is just kind of icky. I wear it once in a while but always feel sloppy in it.

This Plantain tee looks better in person than it does in these photos, but the color is a bit blah for me.  Plus the fabric is a bit thin, so it shows all the lumps and bumps. The tee makes me feel exposed, so I don't really wear it.

All my fails came down to fabric choice or poor fit - and four of five are knits.  I made five Plantain tees last year and they all fit a little differently because of the difference in stretch percentages and fabric content (and three of them made it into the "fails" category).  I find sourcing knits to be very hit or miss, because I do most of my fabric shopping online.  That won't change anytime soon, so I guess I ought to expect more knit fails in the future.

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