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.

TUTORIAL: Leggings to jeggings, Part 1


My four-year-old recently began to profess a preference for tight pants.  As in, she refuses to wear pants that aren't tight (and soft).  Skin-tight.  She likes leggings and jeggings.  And that is about it.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Not-so-baby pajamas

My baby turns 1 tomorrow (sob), but he outgrew his 12-month clothes, like, five months ago.  He is a big boy.  We are down to two pairs of cotton pajamas that fit, and the frequency of laundry around here is not such that this always works for us.  I've been wanting to try out some of the patterns in my Growing Up Sew Liberated book for awhile - and it's a good thing I started now because they only go up to 5T.


I wasn't a huge fan of this orange Jay McCarroll knit when I first saw it on sale.  For one, the fabric line is called "Germania" and is not, as I had originally thought, an homage to Germany.  It's inspired by germs, folks.  I bought it anyway because it was only $4.50 a yard and I didn't have many (any) boyish knits in my stash.


I only had a yard of it, and after I aggressively washed and dried it six times, that yard became less than 30 inches. (Yes, six times through the washer and dryer. I hate when knits shrink after they are already sewn up, so I often will put them through the wringer before even cutting into them.) I managed to squeeze a 18-24 month envelope tee and 2T sleeping johns out of the yard and I even have a little leftover for appliques later on.  For the trim, I went against good judgment and used some cotton interlock.  Even though the fabrics don't match, or even really coordinate, I really love how they look together.  But of course, the interlock doesn't have as much recovery as you need for a good neck binding.  I figure it's just pajamas, it will be fine.


The pieces sewed up really quickly.  The sleeping johns pattern has just one pattern piece, of which you cut two mirror images.  I added the leg cuffs because I wanted to have some of the trim on the pants too.  They are nice and roomy for a cloth diaper.

I tucked a folded over scrap of knit in the back waistband so that my husband would know which way they go on.  I didn't use ribbon because I wanted it to be really soft.


In this photo you can see that there are tiny bright teal dots sprinkled here and there throughout the print.  I think they would really pop if I had a bright teal knit to use for the trims.


The envelope tee was easy to sew up, too.  I really like the way she has you finish the binding - you zigzag around the seam join for the binding and the main fabric, catching the raw edge in the zigs at the back.  Like a mock coverstitch.  Unfortunately, my machine won't do a regular zigzag on knits anymore - I don't know what the problem is.  I used a 3-step zigzag but it skipped a lot, so the finish isn't that pretty.


I kind of love these pjs.  They are so soft.  I want a pair for me.  I hope that all my pre-shrinking means they won't shrink much more, so that they will last through the fall.  The pants are definitely long enough; he might outgrow the top, though.  Maybe I should order some more of the fabric ...

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Little ballerinas

I came across the Heidi and Finn Ballet Sweater pattern well over a year ago, and pinned it immediately.  It is the type of item that, to me, it makes sense to sew, as it's not something I could easily find in toddler and preschool sizes, and dance items like that tend to have an insane mark-up in my experience.  This weekend I finally bought the pattern and sewed up two for my little ballerinas.


I had two yards of a soft pink rib knit in my stash, picked up from the $2.97/yard mystery pile in the back of G Street Fabrics' Falls Church, Va., location.  Normally I would choose a cotton/lycra knit for something like this, but I already had this in the stash, in the right color, so ...

Excuse the dirty tights please!
I opened the pattern, read through the first couple pages of instructions (including the admonishment to measure your child before choosing a size), and then flipped around to find the size chart.  Except there is no size chart, not in the pattern, nor online.  I wrote to the email address in the pattern, and sent a message through Etsy, but didn't hear back and I wanted to sew them rightaway.  That was a bit annoying, but I found a post on the Heidi and Finn blog that said they are working to get size charts in all their patterns - hopefully they will do that soon.  In the meantime it would be nice if they had one online somewhere at least.

Anyway, without a chart, I guessed on the 3T for both girls. It worked, but I definitely need to lengthen it.  I think I might do a sleeve cuff next time too, to bring it in a little more, since I get wavy hems even using my walking foot (I feel like maybe it doesn't work right).


The sweater is a very easy sew, especially if you have a serger.  I did most of the work on mine, only heading over to the sewing machine for a couple instances of basting and top stitching.


I made a couple of alterations.  I noticed that the pattern calls for neck binding that is the same length as the neckline.  In my experience, this makes for a floppy neck.  I might have risked it if I were using a cotton/lycra blend, but since my knit's recovery isn't so good, I decided to cut the binding shorter.  I measured my neckline (it was 24" for the 3T), and cut my binding to 20."  I also cut the bottom band two inches shorter than the bottom of the main shrug, for the same reason.  It worked well.


I think I will get a lot of use out of this pattern - I bought the extended size-range one, that goes up to 12 years.


(Little sister is sick and wasn't feeling up to modeling for me.)

Friday, February 14, 2014

Princess sewing

Having a daughter with a bad case of eczema and very sensitive skin, I knew early on that I would be sewing all my girls' dress-up clothes.  We've been gifted some dress-up clothes in the past, but almost without exception, every item was made of horrible, cheap, scratchy fabrics with the bare minimum of seam finishing, which made them thankfully fall apart quickly, since they were very itchy.  

Back in January, when we were in the States for G's birth, I asked the girls which princess dresses they would like for their fall birthdays.  They told me (Tiana and Cinderella) and I amassed all the necessary fabrics. Then I had to come up with a pattern.  I knew that I wanted a very clean finish on the inside of the dresses, with a minimum of tulle and net, and only 100% cotton fabrics next to the skin.  I drafted the patterns myself, using tshirts and my Oliver+S Bubble Dress pattern as a guide to draft the bodices.

N's dress was first.  


The bodice is french-seamed.  The skirt is lined and has a layer of gathered tulle between the lining and the outer skirt.  I constructed the dress in such a way that the bodice-skirt join seam is sandwiched in between the outer skirt and the tulle layer and doesn't touch her skin.


I shirred the entire back bodice for a good fit. The leaves on the skirt are finished with a rolled hem (on my sewing machine - this was before I learned how easy it is to do a rolled hem on my serger).


The girls at their princess birthday party. Sadly, N doesn't wear her dress much anymore as it does not reach all the way down to her toes. I need to add a ruffle to the bottom or something so she will wear it again.


Next up was Z's dress. It was much easier to make.


The most time-consuming part was hand-sewing the sequin trim to the bodice.


I used a sparkly organza from Joann's for the outer skirt. The tulle is the middle layer, and there is a cotton lining.  Again I french-seamed the bodice and hid the skirt seam between the skirt layers for a clean inside finish.


The dress does not reach all the way down to Z's toes but she loves it anyway.  She also wears N's dress.


It is a good dress for getting your groove on.

When it was my niece's turn, she informed me that she wanted a mermaid outfit.


I had all the appropriate fabrics in my stash.  The sparkly blue fabric is actually a relatively soft shot cotton.  I picked it up from fabric.com thinking it would make a dress, but it is actually pretty costume-y looking.  Perfect for mermaid tails.


The iridescent purple stuff is a mystery fabric that my mom found for me at a thrift store.  Rather nasty to work with but again, perfect for this purpose.  I used this tutorial for the tails, but didn't add the top detail and made the elastic casing, then inserted the elastic, rather than the tutorial's method.  Very quick sew.  I used the bodice pattern I had drafted for the Cinderella dress for the bodice, and again hand-sewed the sequins.  I free-handed them and honestly didn't mean for it to end up looking like a bra top, but I guess for a mermaid that works.  I also made one of these outfits for each of my daughters.

Lastly, and most recent, is a gift for one of the girls' good friends here.



I used all stash fabrics that I had bought without a purpose in mind.  The embroidered net overlay was a remnant bin find at Joann's last year.  Again, I sewed the sequin trim on by hand - it is actually a relaxing endeavor in front of a good TV show.


For the bodice, I used this free pattern, but lowered the neckline a little and lengthened the bodice.  I trimmed the neckline with bias, but didn't think a bias-trimmed armhole was fancy enough.  So I zigzagged the edge, then sewed some lace trim to the armhole, right sides, together, before turning the edge into the wrong side and then topstitching it down.



I used Kona cotton for the underskirt, and I found these tacky adorable heart buttons for the back.  My girls love them.  They sell them here in various shapes and colors and they are only about 20 cents each, so I will probably stock up before we head home.


 When N saw this dress she started to whine that she did not have a pink princess dress.  We are working on gratitude and curing the gimmies, so I won't be sewing her a new princess dress any time soon (though I will probably lengthen the green one).  I am all princessed out for the moment.



Monday, February 10, 2014

Wishy-washy on the Washi

I really want to like this pattern.  I don't know why I want to like it, but I do.  And that is why, after looking at every single Washi dress in the Washi Dress Flickr group, and concluding that the pleated skirt was not the most flattering for my shape ... I still bought the pattern and made a dress.  That was back in June.  I was four months post-partum, had been asked to sing the National Anthem at the Embassy Independence Day reception and I had nothing to wear.  I was good and made a muslin first.  Then I made a second muslin.  In the end, I made the XL with a few modifications - I lengthened the bodice by 3", added tiny pleats at the neckline (because it was gaping), added small vertical waist darts, and took in the skirt by 1.5" on each side. I also made a festive red and white striped ribbon bow belt using this tutorial.


And I wore it exactly once.  The neckline is plenty low, but bodice just seemed frumpy to me.  Frumptastic, as a matter of fact.  And the dress looked kind of weird from the side.



And I just didn't find the pleats flattering.


Sad, because I really liked the fabric (Kaufman dobby stripe shirting, now on sale for half price at fabric.com).


And yet, I recently found myself back in that Washi Flickr pool, looking at long-sleeved Washis.  Rae looks so cute in hers.  I keep reminding myself that she has a different body type than me, but darn it, I want to look cute in a Washi dress too.

So last week, I decided to try again.  I had three yards of this Kaufman Railroad shirting in a black and white houndstooth.  I had bought it to make a tunic but it is a much heavier fabric than I had expected, and it's a good weight for a winter dress.

I tried on my July 4 Washi and noted it was much too big in the bodice (yay!).  I should have started from scratch and fit it again, right?  Made another muslin and all that?

Yeah, no.


I just sliced about 1/2" off the side seams of my existing pattern pieces and soldiered on.  I wanted sleeves, so I downloaded Rae's free sleeve pattern.  I made a bodice lining out of white cotton sateen, pinned everything together and tried it on.  Looked pretty good.  So then I basted it together and tried it on.  I used the same mods Rae used in this dress for the neckline - sewing it with a 1/2" seam around the back and down the sides, and then increasing to a 1" seam at the front neckline.  I was reasonably happy with the fit, but when I got everything properly sewn together, the bodice just looked frumpy.

I concluded that it was still too big, and spent a day thinking through how to make it fit better without having to cut a whole new bodice.  

I ripped everything out, took the bodice in a bit on the sides, shortened the front bodice by 1", and made two 5/8" underbust darts.  Better.  I was happy.  I went to show my husband.  He looked up from his iPad and said

"I like it!"

... wait for it ...

"You look Amish."


Erm.

Not what I was going for.

OK, so there is a bit of the horse-and-buggy about the width of that free sleeve pattern.  I went back and took the sleeves in a bit, and finished them with a band at the bottom.


I sought the husband's opinion again.

He said "It looks better!  You still look Amish, though."


OK, so I don't think this dress looks Amish.  But now the thought is in my head and whenever I look at myself in the dress I feel like I am missing a bonnet.

One other issue here is, erm, the variety of undergarments I currently possess.  My still-nursing son is almost a year old and my underpinnings vary greatly in their supportiveness.  I was dumb and fit the dress while wearing a nursing bra - even though I don't wear them all the time anymore - now I'm stuck wearing that one every time I wear this dress or it fits weird.


Lesson learned.


I quite like it with this belt.


And actually, I do really like the dress.  I don't feel my sveltest in it, but I think I can get a better fit out of the pattern. Next time I will do it right and make a muslin (again).  I also think it might work better for me in a drapier fabric.  I recently acquired a very vibrant floral rayon challis with enough yardage for a sleeveless summer version, so I'm guessing you'll see another Washi here in a few months.  Either there IS more potential to be squeezed out of this pattern, or I am just a glutton for punishment.  I guess we'll see.

(Note: These photos were taken around Tbilisi on our way home from church - on the street where we park, in front of our favorite shwarma stand, and on a bridge over the Mtkvari river.  I kind of like the variety ... maybe Sundays will become modeling days for us!)