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

Saturday, February 27, 2016

KCW - Sherbet Surplice

I've been dying to try a knit Library Dress ever since I saw this tutorial. I love the knit version so much that I didn't even buy the size range my girls really fit into - I bought the smaller on intending all along to make it in knit.  This week I finally pulled it out.  I didn't reference the tutorial because I figured I knew what I was doing.  Famous last words - I didn't think things through, so I made a few mistakes along the way.

I used the pattern pieces for the front and back bodice and for the sleeves.  Only I neglected to cut two mirror images of the front bodice the first time round.  I didn't have enough fabric left to cut a new piece on grain so I had to bias cut it.  I slid that piece under the other one so it isn't super noticeable, and it's knit, so it's forgiving.

I cut a size 2, lengthened to a 3 (this was three sizes down from Z's normal size 5).  I sliced the back bodice piece vertically at the notch and then cut one piece on the fold.  I shortened the back bodice to match the front bodice, since I wanted my waistband to wrap all the way around the shirt.  I cut the band 2.5" wide.  The neckband I cut 1.25" wide.

Then I made my second mistake - for some reason I only attached neckbands to the front bodice pieces.  When I went to attach them to the back bodice I realized I needed neck binding there, too.  Oops. So the binding is attached to all three bodice pieces separately.  Next time I will remember that I need to cut one long piece and do it all together.  For now Z's hair hides the seams :)

I used my coverstitch to topstitch the waistband to the upper bodice and the skirt on the back.  I had a hard time keeping a straight line because it was tough to squeeze the fabric through between the needles and the side of the machine.  Another reason I am beginning to wish I had bought a Janome, which has a lot more room there. Anyway, now that I'm looking at the photos I do wish I'd coverstitched the band on the front too.  I may still go back and do that, but it will be a pain in the neck

But I digress. I cut the skirt pieces twice the width of the bodice. It is cute as is, but next time I think I will cut them a bit narrower for less poof.

The fabric is I used the last bit of my orange City Weekend interlock knit and my ever-versatile Art Gallery knit in Sahara Sun for the accents.  Mistakes notwithstanding, Z is thrilled with her new shirt and I am too.  Now to make one for N...

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

KCW - Snow White Peplum Tee

I think my kids must do most of their growing during the winter.  Because it always seems that the spring Kids Clothes Week comes around right as they are busting out of their old clothes.  I don't always participate in the fall, because they don't tend to need as many new things then.   But they are pretty much guaranteed to be flashing belly buttons and ankles by February.

So yesterday I sewed a new top for N. I used a hoarded length of Lillestoff jersey in this adorable Snow White print and set out to sew a School Bus T-Shirt.

I only had the larger size range for the pattern, and I only had the size 6 cut out.  So I just went with it.   I lowered the front neckline about half an inch as I find it a little high as drafted.  I did not think to add more length to the shirt until it was too late.  A cursory fitting after I'd sewn the shoulders together confirmed that it was a smidge too short.  Lengthening the sleeves was easy enough - I just added cuffs using the same red cotton/lycra I used for the neckline.  I love the pop of color there!

For the rest of the shirt, I lopped 6.5" inches off the bottom and added a peplum. I cut the rectangle for the peplum's length a little less than 150% of the circumference of the bodice, and 8" high. I wish I'd added another inch or even two.  As it was, I ended up doing what turned out to be the rolled hem from hell to preserve all of the length.

I had all kinds of problems with that hem - I even broke a needle on my serger while doing it.  I've rolled dozens of hems before with no problems; I have no idea what the issue was.  I also somehow managed to give the shirt a slight hi-lo hem (seen only in the blurry photo below; it is a dreary day here today and my model is gone for the afternoon so no do-overs).  Not sure how that happened either, but I actually love it.

But what really makes the shirt is the adorable fabric, don't you think?

Friday, February 19, 2016

Step into my cave

We are fortunate to have several "extra" rooms in our house. In addition to three bedrooms upstairs, there is a main-level bedroom and a sunroom as well as a family room and a living room. We also have a partially finished basement. So when we moved in, it was not immediately clear where to set up my sewing machines.

First I tried sharing the sunroom with the kids and their toys.  That was kind of a disaster (my husband says "I told you so!"). We considered setting me up in the spare bedroom, but it is right next to a full bath, whereas the basement does not have a bathroom.  I didn't want to make guests sleep in the (not very nicely finished) basement when there was a bedroom with attached bath on the main level, so even though our guest room is only used a few weeks a year, I moved into the basement.

I've been down here more than a year now, but I recently cleaned up and moved in some rugs, so I thought I would take photos.

The basement used to have a ceiling, but when we briefly thought we were going to turn it into a guest room, we tore out the ugly tile ceiling to put in recessed lighting and drywall. We then decided that we would like eventually to finish this part of the basement properly and expand the space into half of the storage room that is next to it.  So it didn't make sense to partially wire the basement.  For now I'll just live with the exposed ceiling beams (which aren't near as bad as the industrial fluorescent lighting!).

So, the sewing!  I have a long IKEA table that fits my sewing machine, serger and coverstitch. The drawers in the drawer unit, also IKEA, hold, from top to bottom: machine manuals and extra feet; sewing WIPs;  knitting WIPs and empty project bags; and elastic of all types.

To the right of the sewing table there is a sweater organizer hanging from the ceiling beam, which holds all the knit fabrics that I bought with myself in mind.  They tend to be larger quantities, so they take up a lot of room in the bins.  And this way (I hope) I will be inspired to start sewing for myself again more.

Above the sewing table hangs a shadow box containing bits and bobs from my Babushka's sewing stash.  She was a professional seamstress and made lots of things for me and my siblings when we were little.  I incorporated a lot of her notions into my stash, but chose a few things for the wall art.  I love this little bit of heritage hanging on the wall, and I look at it and think of her every time I am down here.

To the left of my sewing table is my dress form and a random built-in shelf and cabinet unit (the door to the left of the cabinet leads into a closet that contains all the stuff that won't fit into our kitchen cabinets).  The built-in cabinet holds interfacing, fusible web, my bolt of tulle and my roll of Aida cloth - things that are unwieldy and too messy to store in plain view. The binders on the bottom shelf hold my PDF patterns, and next to them are the sewing and knitting pattern books I own as well as my snap press and a bag holding the girls' embroidery projects that need to be finished and hung up. My paper patterns are on the top shelf, and the little bins hold notions. 

Along the back wall is a blue table that was my original sewing table when I first learned and had only one machine and no stash. It now holds piles of mending, a telephone and a small lamp that helps warm up the harsh lighting in the room. The bin underneath holds interlock knits.  

Next to this a large square wooden trunk that is the bane of my existence, and on top of the trunk are my bins of fabric.  

The table on the right wall is our old IKEA dining table that is a perfect size for my 24x36" cutting mat.  Underneath is more fabric and my old sewing machine. I have a (badly installed by yours truly) hanging shelf above the cutting table to hold my cutting and marking supplies.  It helps keep my rotary cutter out of the reach of wayward children, and lessens the clutter on the table (that lump on one side of the table is a cut-and-pinned blanket for G that just needs serging up).

So the trunk (which you can see a bit in the below photo). Basically, it is too big (nearly 4 feet square!) to put in any other room in the house, but my husband loves it.  All it does down here is take up space.  It is not practical for fabric storage for a few reasons.  And if it wasn't so darn heavy I'd have hauled it out to the curb by now but I will need several people to get it out of here.  Then maybe I can get some nice shelving for at least some of the fabric in the bins.

Here's the view from the back of the room up the stairs.  The door on the left goes into the storage room.  The rugs previously lived in our family room because there was nowhere else to put them.  I actually used to hate them.  Both were my husband's - the larger one he bought on a trip to Istanbul before we met, and the smaller was a memento from his time working in Panjshir, Afghanistan, early in our marriage.  I was surprised, though, at how they transformed my space and now I quite like them.

So that's my space.  It is not Pinterest-able or particularly cute or clever, but it is big enough to hold all my stuff, and out-of-the-way enough that I can leave my messes when I have to.  Hope you enjoyed the tour!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Secret Valentine Exchange

I felt compelled to join this year's Secret Valentine Exchange hosted by Sanae and Ute, despite a clear lack of time. 

I suspected that it would be really fun to sew some little luxuries.

Like pretty luggage tags for a traveler to exotic locales.

Or a stack of rustic linen coasters embellished with hand embroidery.

And a roll of homemade bias tape.

Photographed with care, in good light, using my fixed 50 mm lens.

A few hours spent making things that are unnecessary and pretty. Unnecessarily pretty.

Time I did not have, but time, as it turns out, that was well-spent. Sewing these was so very therapeutic.  Even with only a few hours to sew, making little things like this meant that I could take my time.  Get those corners pushed out properly, make sure my edge stitching was straight.  It was thoroughly satisfying.  I do not think the package has reached its recipient yet (it package had quite a ways to go), but I hope she likes them!

In the meantime, I have already received my Secret Valentine Gift, from Jessie.

She made me this beautiful little pouch.

I absolutely love the colors she chose - those pops of orange are so great.

Inside were a box of pins (am I the only one who gets a kick out of poking brand-new pins into my pincushion?), some super-cute bobby pins and a coffee cup cozy.  I have a Starbucks gift card from Christmas in my wallet, so this will definitely get a workout soon.

I feel thoroughly spoiled. 

Monday, February 8, 2016

A tisket, a tasket

When we bought this house, I searched high and low for an organizational piece for the entryway.  We have a hall closet but it is inserted very tightly between the upward staircase and the front door.  It's not particularly user friendly in a house with this many kids, so I needed some place to hold the kids' most accessed coats and accessories (and, let's face it, a place to dump things when we walk into the house.

I did not have a lot of square footage to work with, but finally I found something that fit the space reasonably well.

Only, lets be honest, it didn't always look like this. Until about a week ago, the top shelf usually looked more like this (only with a higher pile of crap, completely obscuring the light switches).

For awhile I searched for baskets or fabric bins that would fit the dimensions of the shelves.  When nothing presented itself, I just kind of gave up.  Until it occurred to me two weeks ago that, duh, I could MAKE baskets to fit.  Seriously, how did this not occur to me sooner?

I used this free tutorial to make the baskets, only I switched up the dimensions and the way the top of the baskets was finished. Changing the dimensions wasn't as easy as I thought it would be, so the three baskets represent a bit of trial and error.  

The ribbon-trimmed one was the first I made, and it is actually a bit too big for the shelf, but as it is just made of fabric and Pellon Craft-Fuse interfacing, I was able to jam it in there.  (Feel free to skip the boring dimension information - it is just for my reference, should I decide to make more of these later.)  My shelf is 24" long and 8" deep, so I was aiming for baskets with a 7.5" footprint.  For this first basket, I cut my rectangles 16" wide and 15" high, and cut 4.25" squares from each corner.  The resulting basket ended up with a 9"x7" footprint and 8.5" high after a 2" hem.  

So it's too big, but it does hold a LOT of hats (I think there are about eight kid hats in it at the moment).

For the second basket I cut my lining fabric rectangles 15" wide and 13.5" high, with 3.5" square cutouts at the corners.  I cut the the interfacing and outer fabric pieces 12.5" high, though, since I knew I was going to fold over the lining fabric to make the hem.  This basket ended up with a 7" square footprint, but it feels a little too tall.  It easily holds 10 pairs of kid mittens.

I cut the third basket's lining pattern pieces 12.5" high and 15" wide, with 3.5" square cutouts at the corners (again I cut the interfacing the outer fabric a little shorter to allow for hem turnover of the lining).  For this one, I used a gorgeous teal blue wide-wale corduroy that was sent to me by a lovely friend in Australia.  I lined it with some fabric left over from a circle skirt I made Natasha two years ago.  My intent was to make three identical teal corduroy baskets for the entry shelf and use the green ones elsewhere.  But then I lost basket-making steam.

So this is what it is for now.  Looking at this pictures really makes me wish all the baskets were teal corduroy though, so maybe this blog post will be the push I need to make the last two.

Even if the baskets don't match, they sure make the entryway much tidier!  I have found myself happily picking things up around the house - things that, when found lying on the kitchen floor or bathroom vanity, would normally make me grit my teeth and breathe heavily through my nose - and depositing them into their assigned basket with satisfaction.  If only I could get the kids to do the same.

Monday, February 1, 2016

A tale of two Mabels

I sewed these skirts in December, but it has taken until now to get photos!

I needed something to wear for Christmas, and since shopping for myself is so frustrating these days, I pushed through the paucity of sewing time around here and "whipped up" a Mabel.  Two, actually.

First up was a yellow ponte Mabel to wear in our family photos. I sewed Version 3, the same one I made last summer.  I had to take that one in significantly after I made it.  So this time I sewed a size L with a size M waistband.  It ended up a smidge too tight.   It looks OK on but I feel like a stuffed pepper in it.  I did not end up wearing it for our family photos.  I wore my first Mabel instead.  Hopefully it will fit better soon!

Like my first Mabel, I feel like it makes me look a bit saddlebag-y.  I actually don't consider saddlebags a problem area for myself in general, and I don't really see the problem in these photos, but in person it just jumps out at me.  I have the same issue with my first Mabel - and I have a suspicion that this pattern just isn't a good shape for me.

So for my second skirt (because I was determined to make Mabel work), I modified the pattern a little. I cut the waistband and the top of the back skirt the same, but I angled the sides outward, starting at the notch at the widest point of the hip, and flaring it out 7/8" at the hem.  I did the same thing on the outer pieces of the front skirt.

I used what turned out to be a really nice red ponte from JoAnn's.  I will definitely buy more of their ponte (on sale or with a coupon).

I like the shape of this skirt a bit better, but it still screams "Saddlebags! Baggy baggy saddlebags!" at me when I look at myself in the mirror.  I know, you are thinking, "I have no idea what she is talking about."  I think my hands are hiding the problem in the photo.  But my hands rarely hang at my sides in real life.  I'm always holding a baby or corralling a small child or wiping a nose, etc.

All complaining aside, I do wear this skirt - I wore it for Christmas and now I wear it to church regularly.  These photos were taken yesterday (you can see my photographers' reflection in the storm door) after church.  I kept trying to tug down the Josephine blouse I was wearing with it - I seemed to want it to be about an inch longer.  I think pairing it with a slightly lengthened Plantain might make me feel less self-conscious when I wear it.

Now I just need to find time to make another Plantain ;)