A sewing blog about building a functional, cohesive handmade wardrobe, one garment at a time.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

In defense of the stash

I do not consider my stash huge - in its entirety, it fits into four plastic tubs.  At some point I'd like a more display-able stash storage system, but for now this will have to do.  The downside of my system, as many of you know, is that out-of-sight fabric is often out-of-mind as well.  So I started keeping a running list of all the cuts I buy, along with the date purchased and the price paid, in a draft file in my email.  (A quick tally before writing this post found that I currently have roughly 130 yards of fabric!  It is a lot when you look at it in numbers.)

My stash tally has proven to be very useful.  A quick glance at it before hitting "place order" on a cart full of goodies often is enough to pare down my purchase, or cancel it altogether.  It's also handy when I am thinking about a potential project and whether I have anything suitable on hand.  And most useful, I have found that tracking my purchases (and deleting them from the list after they have been used) has allowed me to see what I use quickly and what tends to collect dust in the stash tubs.

What I have found is that cotton knits (especially those with lycra content) don't last long at all in the stash.  I guess I like sewing knits even more than I thought I did.  Wovens, however, linger on and on when I am not doing much sewing for myself.  I have a number of larger shirting cuts that are earmarked for projects for myself, and once I drop a few more pounds, I hope to use those for some new Lisette Traveler shirts and tunics.  When I'm not sewing for myself, I tend to sew wovens for the kids mostly during the warmer months. Basically I should not buy any more woven fabrics, but I can pretty much always justify purchases of knits.

I was very happy earlier this week to have a stash.  Natasha is in her ballet school's performance of the Nutcracker this week (dress rehearsal is tonight!) and she needed a robe to wear backstage.  I hit up some brick and mortar retailers looking for one, but there were no little girls' robes to be found.  Everything online was more than I wanted to spend, so finally I gave up and decided to sew one.  I used the free Sleepy Robe pattern from Melly Sews, and found a yard of this drapey cotton rib knit in my stash.  I didn't love this fabric at the time of purchase - and I would not have bought the fabric if it had not been 100% cotton and only $2.97 a yard - but now I am glad I did because nothing else I had stashed away would have worked as well.

The pattern comes in four sizes.  I sewed the 5/6, which as you can see, is really roomy.  Natasha is skinny but I would say that the 5/6 fits more like a 7/8 - the sleeves are much too long too.  But it was a quick and satisfying sew.  And it's cozy and will do the job, and should fit for another two years, so that's something.

This is also a case where I like the fabric sewn up so much more than I liked it on the bolt.  I love the play of the stripes cut in both directions.  I should have bought more of it ...

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Seven free patterns for a complete American Girl doll wardrobe

List of free patterns for American Girl doll clothes.

My girls asked for American Girl dolls for Christmas this year.  And, as you probably already know if you are reading this, it can get really pricey to outfit an 18 inch doll in stylish duds.  Lucky for me (and you), there a ton of free AG doll clothing patterns online.  Here's a round-up of seven free patterns to sew a complete doll wardrobe. I have personally sewn each of these patterns, most more than once.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Kimono slippers

I don't know how it happened, but somehow, the year that I had the least amount of time to sew ended up being the year that I made the most handmade gifts.  I think that probably has a lot to do with our incredible fairy godmother, who continues to send packages stuffed with gorgeous handmade clothes for my kids.  This has freed up my limited sewing time for other pursuits.  

I decided to make slippers for my sisters, who always wear them around the house.   I started out looking for some free tutorials, and sewed up a whole slipper using one of them until I realized that the sizing was way off.  In the end, I bought this pattern.  The sizing seems pretty on, but the instructions are kind of hard to decipher - I am guessing that the designer is not a native English speaker.  The construction is pretty easy once you figure it out, though. And for less than $4 on sale, I got a usable pattern.  

I sewed this pair using a scrap of novelty cotton left over from a beloved dress I made for Z when she was 3.  I bought some faux sherpa at Joann's for the interior.  The pattern calls for a ton of interfacing, but I skipped it and I don't think anything is lacking for it.  

The pattern leaves raw edges on the inside where the sole is sewn to the uppers.  Then you sew a separate sole pad, incorporating some batting, to insert into the shoe.  I'd rather have the slipper all be one piece, but my attempt on the second pair to do so didn't work too well, so I went back to the pattern instructions.

I bought some non-skid utility fabric to use for the soles.

And I finished them with some labels that a friend bought me last year.

The second pair has a mink interior, so it's not as plush as the first pair. The minky feels awesome on the feet though.

I hope they like them!

*In other news, Blogger is doing this weird thing where it wants to center all my text, and I can't seem to un-center it.  Really annoying!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Gifts for sports fans

My little brothers, like most guys I know, are crazy hard to shop for.  This year, the gift budget being a little smaller than in years past, I decided to experiment and make some gifts for them.  

So I went to Joann's in search of sports team fabric.  I found their favorite football teams' logos printed on cotton, but I had to steel myself to buy the fabric.  Ugh.  It is without a doubt the worst quality cotton I have ever felt.  

I love Parks and Rec.

Anyway, the fabric is super-stiff, even after washing, and printed totally off-grain.  It actually made me kind of mad how much they charge for it.  Thankfully I did not need much, and it was on sale.

My 26-year-old bro, who has the wherewithal to buy himself whatever he wants, likes to cook and recently got all excited about a deal on a set of Rubbermaid food containers from Amazon.  I made him a pair of Dallas Cowboys potholders.  I have to admit, I'd never really considered potholders a reasonable gift until a very thoughtful friend gave me a set from Sur La Table for my birthday.  Besides matching my kitchen curtains and being completely adorable, they are the cushiest, least-burn-y potholder I've ever owned.  And I've owned a lot of crappy potholders.  So I decided to model my Cowboys potholders on those.

After doing a fair amount of research on the Internet on the best way to make potholders heat-resistant, I still distinctly had no idea what to do.  So I picked up some Insul-Brite and batting at Joann's.  I pinned the fabrics together and used them to grab on to my hot iron to test their heat resistance.  One layer of Insul-Brite was not enough, so I used two for the main potholder (the part that will touch the hot pans) and two layers of batting for the pocket (though I could easily have used just one.  I quilted the two layers and hand-finished the binding (only because with all the bulk, it would have been really hard to stitch evenly through all the layers).  Also I accidentally did not put the hanging loops on the same corners of both potholders. I doubt he will notice that, though.

My youngest brother, who is 23 and about to get engaged, is getting a gag gift along with a meat injector (he also likes to cook).  We all poke lighthearted fun of the fact that he likes to sleep with an eye mask.  It's nothing froofy, just something that he got on a flight way back when airlines actually gave you stuff to make your flight comfortable (anyone remember those days?).  I knew he would not appreciate potholders, nor really anything I could make him, so I decided to go funny.  I used his favorite Steelers fabric and a scrap of cotton velveteen to make an eye mask (free pattern).

I left out the batting because I don't think it's necessary.  I also shortened the fabric part of the strap because it was way too long, especially in this horrid stiff cotton.

I can't wait to give it to him.  It is going to be hilarious.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Gray + mustard

We're headed to visit the inlaws over New Years, and it will be the first time that all six grandchildren (three of whom were born since last December) will be in the same place.  To celebrate, we will be doing family photos.  The colors are navy, gray and mustard.  I wholeheartedly supported my sister-in-law's suggestion of this color scheme because my family happens to have a lot of gray and navy clothing.  But when I surveyed my girls' closets, I realized that I wasn't in love with most of their existing options.  Oliver+S to the rescue!

First up was a quick Lazy Days skirt using gray cord that has been in my stash forever (I used most of it to make tiered Lazy Days skirts about two years ago).  I added an improvised pleated tulle detail to the hem for festive-ness.  I really love the way it turned out!

Miss Z will wear it with a RTW dotted cardigan I bought her a couple years ago, a pair of yellow Hanna Andersson tights snagged off eBay, and her black patent clogs (not pictured).

I knew I wanted to make a mustard-colored skirt for N, but I couldn't find the right color locally.  I located some mustard corduroy at Miss Matatabi, ordered it, and held my breath that it would arrive before our trip.  I was so surprised when my order showed up less than two weeks later!  I decided to make a Hopscotch skirt.  I sewed a size 4 with 2" extra length.  There is quite a bit of excess fabric in the back - so much that it juts out strangely.  I probably should have cut some of the width off.  I used some thrifted black and white buttons and love the 70s vibe.

Her shirt is an O+S Schoolbus tee, with pieced sleeves due to lack of fabric.  Since I was piecing the sleeves already, I decided to cut the bottom sleeves pieces on the bias into a bell shape.  I left the sleeve hems unfinished, but hemmed the bottom of the shirt.  I topstitched the seam allowances down for all the horizontal sleeve seams.  I also scooped out the neckline a bit.  The jersey I used (Hancock Fabrics) wasn't stretchy enough to bind the neckline, so I used a scrap of Art Gallery knit in Sahara Sun instead.

Miss N will wear her outfit with either gray or navy tights (I am undecided) and her russet brown ankle boots.  I plan to make hair bows for my nieces out of the leftover cord.

I did not have to make anything new for the boys' outfits. They both have gray Art Museum corduroys made by our fairy godmother. Gabriel will wear his with a navy and white checked button-down and a navy sweater vest.  I'm not positive what Niko will wear, but he has ample options in all the necessary colors.  My husband is set too ... just me left now.  I have some navy and white striped knit in the stash that might become a Plantain to wear either with jeans or a gray skirt I recently found at the thrift store.  We'll see.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Cozy Winter Hoods

I recently decided that enough was enough, and dusted off my long-neglected copy of Ripped in 30.  I've been faithfully doing the workout four times a week for the last three weeks (she recommends five to six times a week, but I have trouble enough fitting four workouts in!).  I am still sewing, but my project photography and blogging time has suffered as a result.

I did finally manage to get a few snaps of the trio of Cozy Winter Hoods (from Little Things to Sew) I have been working on these past two weeks.  The first hood, a gift for a baby who lives in cold climes, is sewn from cashmere with a tragic past: When I was in the States waiting for Gabriel to be born, my husband took almost all his sweaters to the dry cleaners (in Georgia).  


Every single sweater came back felted.  Thankfully, he had not sent any of my hand knits, but there were two cashmere sweaters in the lot!  I kept those with the intention of making baby stuff some time, but this is the first time I had cut into one of them.  I lined it with stashed velveteen.  

I sewed the smallest size - 6-12 months, but as you can see it is quite roomy on my six-month-old model.  

So when I made the second hood, I sewed the seams joining the center hood and side hood pieces with a 3/4" allowance to make it smaller.  I kept the 1/2" allowances around the perimeter of the hat though.  This one, which is for Niko, fit him perfectly.  The fabrics are fleece I bought two years ago with the intention of making the same pattern for Gabriel.  Yeah, that didn't happen.  But I'm glad I managed to make it for Niko, because it is just as cute as I had imagined it would be!

I swapped out the ribbon ties for a tab snap closure on this one.  I guessed on the placement of the snap tab, though, and it doesn't quite go under his chin the way it's supposed to.

My third hood is for a one-year-old who lives in a warm climate where it sometimes gets a little chilly.  I used one layer of fleece and one layer of cotton knit for this one. I did the snap tab again put sewed it further back on the ear flaps to get it to sit nicely under the chin.  I should have traced the next size up, but I was in a rush to get it done, so I just used the extra small size again and sewed it with a 1/4" allowance.

It's a bit tight on G, but should fit the intended recipient perfectly.

A very quick and fun sew that I will not hesitate to pull out again for baby gifts!  I think I will keep the snap-tab mod, though, as I find that ties on babies come undone too often.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Yellow Arielle

My little sister turned 28 two days after my husband's stroke, so her celebration got lost in the shuffle.  Once things calmed down a little, I offered to sew her a skirt for her birthday.  I've knit for her before, but have never sewed her anything.  She requested a high-waisted skirt, so I showed her Arielle, which I had been eyeing ever since it came out.

I had to alter the button placement after she tried on the finished skirt, and then she went on a business trip, and by the time I got the skirt back to her it was fall.  I didn't manage any modeled pictures as a result.

Her waist and hip measurements put her in two different sizes, so I cut a 3 at the waist and graded to a 4 at the hip.  She chose a Lisette cotton twill from my stash.

This is my first time using one of Tilly's patterns.  I had previously been intrigued by Mathilde (but wasn't sure it would really work on my body) and Coco but hadn't pulled the trigger until now.  I bought a PDF pattern because a) I didn't want to wait weeks for the printed pattern to arrive and b) when you factor in shipping to the U.S., the printed pattern is nearly twice the cost of the PDF pattern.  At about $30, I just couldn't do it.

In any case, the pattern is well drafted and the instructions are good.  I liked that Tilly suggested using bias tape to finish the facing on the unlined version of the skirt.  I don't think that would have occurred to me on my own.  I took the suggestion and made some bias tape out of a deep aqua cotton from my stash.

Having taken the time to do that, it seemed only right to blind-stitch the hem by hand.

My pattern matching on the closure isn't perfect despite careful measuring, but I'm still pretty pleased with it.

At some point I will make one for myself.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Renfrew x 2

It's fall and I am missing my plaid French terry Renfrew!  It is in my closet, but way too small.  So I decided to make a replacement.

After consulting the finished measurements, I decided to make a straight size 16, knowing full well that the shoulders would be a bit big.  It was late and I did not feel like futzing with flat pattern adjustments.  I think it actually turned out pretty well - the oversized look of the slightly wide shoulders is casual and sweat-shirt-y.  It is very cozy for a cold fall day.

The fabric is a nice thick houndstooth-print jersey at the thrift store a few months back.  I am not sure what the content is - it has great recovery, so there is definitely a good amount of lycra in there.  I think it is probably a cotton/poly blend.  The cowl is Laguna jersey.  

We took a bunch of outside photos, but the top one is the only one that did not make me look ridiculously top-heavy.  I have to figure out where to stand in relation to my husband (or daughter) to get the best angle.  The mirror shots are much better.

After that Renfrew, I decided to make a scoop neck.  This time I used a 12 shoulder, widening to a 16 at the bottom of the armscye.  I ended up taking in quite a bit at the seams from the waist all the way up through the arms.  I used a cotton/lycra knit with good (or so I thought) recovery, but it still fit much wider than the cowl version.

I also noticed while sewing this one, that there was definitely a problem with excess fabric at the sides of my chest.  I did not notice it as much with the cowl version, but it's really noticeable in the top photo in this blog post.    After some Googling, I found that I was not the only one with this problem.  The armscye is too high.  I'd like to scoop it out, but then I will have to alter the sleeve too. Instead I think I will just try a Plantain for my next knit top.

After making the top, it occurred to me that perhaps the print was a bit too loud (I had actually bought it with a summer skirt in mind), but I wore it last Sunday and got a bunch of compliments!  I was really surprised.  It's funny how a compliment can make you think about an item of clothing differently.  

My six-year-old took the outside photos.  I didn't realize she had me lined up right in front of the very attractive composter.  After she was done, she requested that I photograph her.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Something I never thought I'd sew

I'm actually not sure how I ended up thinking it was a good idea to try to sew some underwear for my girls.  I ran across a free pattern one evening, and suddenly I was rifling through my knit scraps and the stash of lingerie elastic I bought when I made my nursing gowns.

That was last week, and now each girl has five pairs.  Clearly it was a success because both of them reach for Mama-made first when choosing their underwear.

I am pretty proud of these because I had to do a lot of altering to make the pattern work for my girls.  My version actually really doesn't bear any resemblance at all to the original.  The pattern was ostensibly a size 5/6 and should have fit both girls, but it didn't fit either one.  The rise was too short, the width was too tight, and the crotch was way too wide.  After nine pairs following the original one, I think I now have each girl's fit down.

N's are on the left and Z's on the right. Both needed a much longer rise, which I accomplished by lengthening the crotch.  I found that for Z's bubble booty, I needed to add fabric to the back at both leg openings.  N's needed to be higher-cut so that they wouldn't show under her ballet leotard.  I actually need to scoop out the upper legs a touch more for the next pair.

I changed the pattern up, too, to be more like the Cosi swimsuit.  The original pattern calls for a back, front and two gusset pieces.  I lengthened the front piece to include one of the gusset pieces, thus only needing to cut one gusset.

Eight pairs of custom-fit unmentionables.  The other two are currently being worn.  Turns out, kids' underwear is super-fun to sew and is a great use for scraps of your favorite knit fabrics.  I used cotton jersey, cotton/elastane jersey and interlock.  The latter two worked best.

My coverstitch played a starring role, though I could just as easily have used a zigzag stitch.  

Totally unrelated, but not really warranting its own blog post, I also made Niko a Field Trip Raglan to match the one I made Gabriel during KCW.

I made a size 6-12 months using the same Art Gallery knits I used for G's raglan. It's a little long in the sleeves but otherwise fits pretty well.