Sewing with a (tentative) plan

I didn’t have any particular project- based goals in mind for this year, but I think I may be stumbling into something.

A more cohesive wardrobe has been a wish of mine for years, but I’ve also found it difficult to get inspired since I also love brighter colors and prints. I’m also finding it hard to put outfits together lately, period, due to having to get rid of so many clothes last year.

So I started off this year with some badly needed pants, a second version of the Itch to Stitch Mountain View pull-on jeans. These are still in progress due to having to do some serious fit- checking, which I’ll talk about more when I actually finish them.

Meanwhile, in the Sewing Sphere community, we’ve been discussing something we could work on together as an open sew-along. Many of us have had jackets and blazers on the brain, so I decided that for my first Year of the Jacket project, I’m going to tackle a classic jeans jacket pattern that I’ve had queued for a year or so. The fabric that I have to test it with is a black denim, and the pants I’m working on are a black and blue print, and I realized that this is the beginning of a complete outfit project.  All I need is a shirt.

So this led to the idea of centering my sewing this year around chain reactions. I’ve struggled in the past with planning capsule wardrobes that actually work together in the end, and successfully completing one is still a long term goal of mine. But if I start with a jacket that works with the pants, and then a shirt that works with the jacket and pants, and then, say, move to a skirt that works with the shirt and jacket, that’s basically six outfits right there depending on whether I wear the jacket or not.

I feel like this approach just might be the ideal thing for now. It’s not so big of a project that I’ll be overwhelmed at trying to fit in an entire capsule in a reasonable amount of time, but will hopefully curb the closet orphan problem. I could also use a garment (or even two) that I already have as a starting point, or center them around community challenges like the jackets. If I keep the chains relatively small, like 3-4 garments, I’m less likely to get bored of sewing all the same colors. Plus then I can still take time for side projects as needed. (My oldest already has quite the creative costume mashup in mind for Halloween this year!) And this could be a good way to build up to a larger capsule project in time, as I rebuild my TNT stash.

My plan for blogging this is to still do the individual projects, but then I’d also like to do a roundup post to mix and match the pieces as I feel that the chains are complete for now. So stay tuned!

Goals, goals, goals

Do I need to rethink these posts? After all, last year, I commented that I made a bunch of goals and got derailed quickly by pregnancy and a newborn. This year, I made a bunch of goals, and then got hit by a global pandemic and a massive loss of desire to sew. But it is helpful to see how these turn out, so here goes…

To review last year’s:

  1. Embrace the slow and steady. Well, I got the slow part down. Not so much the steady.
  2. Attack the refashion/scrap bins. I did make one scrapbust project, but didn’t do much with this otherwise.
  3. Bust some stash. Given my generally low output this year, I’d say that I didn’t make much progress on this. Though I did get to some things within a year of when I acquired the fabric, which is very good for me.
  4. Have a plan, but hold it loosely. Or, you know, throw it out the window and read a book instead?
  5. Work on my styling. After the fit- induced closet purge, my entire wardrobe is a mishmash and full of holes. So this was a big nope.

But with this in mind, here’s my hopes for 2021:

  1. Find a better time balance between sewing and scrapbooking, so I can continue to progress in both. I definitely want to make a more intentional effort to get sewing in on at least a weekly basis, even though digital scrapbooking is admittedly easier for me to work in with the minions running around.
  2. Make some “cake”! My wardrobe is overall lacking in basics at the moment, between the closet purge nd a lifestyle that is fairly different (read: even more casual) than it was at this time last year.
  3. But don’t forget some frosting. Seriously, I stare at my closet for way more time than I should when I need/want to dress up a little, like for church or even our homeschool co-op day.
  4. Figure out the “mom wardrobe” styling thing — more on that in a moment.
  5. Mostly, I just want to regain the joy that I used to have in sewing. And what community in that looks like for me now, since I’ve been feeling quite disconnected from the larger Instagram community. I am enjoying the Sewing Sphere so far, and Elizabeth from Elizabeth Made This recently started a Facebook group that I’m liking as well. I did also end up joining a more local Facebook sewing group (!) near the beginning of the year, but haven’t been too involved with that yet since I honestly just haven’t made much/little kids prevented me from attempting any of the pre-March meetups.

So about that styling thing… even though I didn’t sew nearly as much as I’d hoped this year, I did spend some time doing research. (I’ll admit, I was that girl who secretly enjoyed research papers in high school and college, I really love deep diving into a topic that interests me. I even spent two summers of college doing paid music- related research projects through a program at my university. Geek alert, right?) I finally read The Curated Closet, and am strongly considering adding it to my collection. I would like more time to actually work through the exercises at some point than the library allowed, but things like trying on a bunch of different styles at the thrift store just wasn’t doable this year. I also spent some time reading Life Styling, after finding it via my library’s Hoopla collection. My short review of this one is that the color analysis/palette chapter was quite interesting and helpful, but I honestly didn’t finish this one because I couldn’t relate to the second half of the book at all. And I found that I had a year long outfit guide specifically for moms buried on my Kindle, from a book bundle I bought years ago. I’m still trying to figure out how helpful this will be, since it’s basically a lot of outfit “formulas” for a largish capsule wardrobe, and I feel like I’d have to basically draw out a set of paper doll clothes to fiddle with in order to make that work for me. The palette is far enough outside of my own (soooooo much neutral and solid) that I’m having a little trouble visualizing how to bring my beloved prints into it, but I do think it could be useful in plotting out some styling options.

I have other thoughts floating around, like making Halloween costumes again this year (there’s talk of a potential Star Wars theme), I’d like to make something for the girl to play with smocking while she’s still young enough for it to be cute, and the boys could really use cases for the new Kindles that they got from my parents for Christmas. I also got the new Itch to Stitch pattern book, and want to make basically everything! So I do need to narrow down some project options for after I finish my current cut out project. I did spend some time earlier this month purging some old patterns that I’ve sized out of or won’t work, and am hoping to curate my fabric stash better soon. So that should help.

Looking back, looking forward

Now that the end of 2020 is in sight, I figure it’s as good a time as any to do some reflecting about the year and my sewing life.

I didn’t really feel great about my sewing productivity this year. I felt the same about the outcome much of the time, but writing this out actually helped my outlook on it. Here’s the list of everything that I’ve managed this year, starting with the things I’ve showed:

  • Visby Henley (Itch to Stitch, fairly successful. I think it could use some fitting tweaks, but I overall liked it.)
  • Mila shirt (Itch to Stitch, successful)
  • Mimi G chambray shirtdress (McCall’s, flop. I wore it once and it’s been sitting in my refashioning pile since. )
  • Lucy dress (Peekaboo Pattern Shop, successful, though not for its intended purpose. The update is that I used it for an at home first birthday photoshoot, since the opportunity for her baptism still hasn’t happened yet.)
  • Colorblocked Pony Tank (Chalk & Notch, one of my most worn me-mades for the remainder of summer)
  • Shenanigans Skort (5 Out of 4 Patterns, successful, though could probably use a bit of a fuller butt adjustment)
  • Chemainus top (Itch to Stitch, see last post.)

And a couple of things that I didn’t show here yet:

  • Two Blackwood cardigans, from Helen’s Closet. I already knew that I liked the pattern fit, though I haven’t worn my first iteration much due to the extremely light weight/ limited coordinating options. I had fabric for two more that I got last Christmas, and sewing them up within the year is actually good, for me! I cut both out near the end of winter. I made the charcoal one from a hatchi knit, near the end of summer, while my serger was still appropriately threaded. The ivory one is my most recent make, from this cabled quilted type knit. In retrospect, I should have added a little more ease to the sleeve on this one, since it doesn’t have nearly the stretch that the hatchi does. But it’s still quite wearable, and so warm!
  • I made dinosaur tails for the boys, instead of full Halloween costumes since I wasn’t sure if going out in any form would be an option. We ended up cobbling together costumes from things on hand for our church’s trunk or treat, and a spaced out Halloween parade with our usual trick or treat buddies. The Harry Potter costumes from a few years ago made a reappearance. And though I seem to need to add a little more velcro on the waist ties, the tails have seen some use for play at home. Also, not pictured, the boys were so excited about getting to pick out the fleece for their tails that they also requested blankets. So they each have one of those no-sew tied edge blankets made from these fabrics, too.

As I said, I haven’t been feeling great about my sewing, largely due to the timing/time suck of making my big flop of the year. But realistically, 10 projects over 11 months with 3 little kids in the house really isn’t bad!

There are other factors, though. There’s been a lot of grieving this year, and it’s definitely affected my enjoyment of this craft. Thankfully, everyone I know personally who got sick during the pandemic has survived, including an aunt who caught it while working as a hospital nurse. My entire immediate family has stayed healthy, thank God. But my flute teaching career vanished overnight, since neither of the two remaining students I had after my last maternity leave were situations that worked virtually. At this point, I still don’t know if I’ll get any students again, or if the tentatively planned involvement I’ll be allowed to have in my community orchestra this season will even work. I’ve never lived in a world where simply being a musician makes me considered to be dangerous. And since there’s always been ensembles to play with for the entire time I’ve played the flute, there’s been a lot of mourning over that loss, as I try to figure out how to learn to enjoy playing alone. (And trying to brush up on the piano, as the kids let me.)

My husband also lost his job suddenly. That one turned out for the best, as it was a constant source of stress for him, and he’s since found a new job that he’s much happier in. But it still caused a lot of uncertainty.

I’ve spent a lot of time on school this year. I’d already been doing preschool at home with my oldest, and had already planned to continue with him for kindergarten. It’s a good thing, because my state ended up being completely noncommittal to a plan for the current school year for a really long time, like until 2 weeks before school started, and I know I would have been panicking if I’d had to make the decision about what to do at the last minute. It’s been a bit of a learning curve, and it’s not all idyllic days at home, but I do think it’s been the best choice for us. We’ve also still been able to meet with our small co-op community in person, and that weekly interaction with other kids has been so good for him.

There’s been other stressors, too. Our remaining golden retriever died, and we’ve been having to adjust to not having a pet for the first time in our marriage. (Hopefully in a few years, but we want to wait until we’re done with diapers.) I didn’t see my closest friends in person for over half a year. The kids have obviously been affected too, as I’m constantly being told that they miss going to playgrounds/library storytime/playdates. It’s just a lot, as I know it’s been for everyone.

More specifically about sewing, I also had to get rid of a lot of favorite things that just don’t fit anymore, and it’s left me struggling to put outfits together on a near daily basis. I realized that a huge portion of what I sewed was for things like church and teaching, and both of those were gone for months. On days we’re just at home, I’m mostly just being the stereotypical frumpy stay at home mom in joggers and tees, because that’s what fits and can hold up to messes. But I’m not really enjoying getting dressed these days, which is having a major impact on my desire to do the thing that will help me fix the problem. Go figure.

To be perfectly honest, the Instagram sewing community was a tough place for me this year, too. Between the endless chatter about masks back in the spring, and all of the shaming of people that wanted to keep politics out of our sewing, I had to take a big step back from it. Frankly, I think it’s inexcusable to shame people for needing one place to have a break from all the chaos, given how many of us use sewing as a mental health aid, and I’m still irritated about it. I’m not entirely sure where this will lead, as I’ve still had very little desire to spend much time on my sewing Instagram account, though I’m still using my private one regularly to share photos with family and friends. I do know that I’m feeling more of an urge to write here instead, like I used to. I started this blog more as a project journal for myself, and the interaction was a nice perk. It’s hard to get that on Instagram now anyway, with algorithms and the hashtag disabling they did, so I haven’t missed being on there like I once expected to. I’ve also been helping my friend Brooke to get a new community off of the ground on Locals, and while it’s not very active yet, it’s been nice to have that smaller community feel again. What can I say, I’m an introvert, I get overwhelmed by all of the crowd noise. But I’m still hoping that it will pick up.

So in lieu of sewing, and aside from the obvious things like raising kids and homeschooling, I’ve been reading lots of books. I’ve gotten really into digital scrapbooking this year, to the point where our family album pages are pretty caught up most of the time and I’m starting to work on redoing some of my old paper albums. I also got asked to join a designer’s creative team on Pixel Scrapper, which is where I’ve been sharing my pages. So that’s been a fun challenge, and a good craft for me on days where I don’t have much brainpower at the end of the day, or want something creative to work on that I can do while the kids are awake and I can’t have sharp objects out.

I think this step back was needed for me, since this year has basically been a forced midlife crisis for me. (No, really, as I’m turning 40 in a few months.) I’m beginning to feel more motivated to get my wardrobe back into a better place again, that hopefully fits both my new stay at home lifestyle and my personal style. I’ve also been taking baby steps to get myself physically in better shape, since between the last sedentary-out-of-necessity pregnancy and quarantine weight gain, it’s not been a great combo. I have plans formulating, and I hope to share more soon.

The Chemainus Event

For my most recent finished project (finished in October, I just haven’t gotten around to adding the pictures until now), I did something unusual for me — I got so smitten by a newly released pattern that I bought it and sewed it up almost immediately. Or, at least what passes for immediately in my slow sewing world!

My one decent photo that I managed before the minions showed up…

The pattern is the Chemainus top, from Itch to Stitch. I think that by this point, I can safely call ItS my favorite current indie pattern company. It’s nice to have one again, since I haven’t fangirled so regularly over any pattern company since Sewaholic essentially vanished overnight. I’ve been wanting something along the lines of a loose woven tee for awhile, and this one caught my eye for both the pattern/ color blocking possibilities, and the nursing friendliness. (Of course, by the time I finished, Baby Girl was weaned! But I’m admittedly not sorry to be done with that life stage.)

Also pre-haircut, since by this point, I hadn’t managed one in about 13 months.

One thing that did slow me down a bit was that my finished top is my second attempt. I initially decided to play with this border print crepe that a friend gifted me with ages ago, thinking that it might work well to highlight the print. I was hoping that it would show more of the black, gray, and ivory. It didn’t work out that great, though. The polyester refused to hold a press for the neck binding, which made it quite fiddly. And when I tried it on, aside from sizing issues, all I could see was the taupe framing my face. Now, I have very strong feelings about taupe, and none of them are positive. So I called it a wearable muslin and moved on.

And the photobombing begins!

For my second try, I used a rayon challis that I’d bought for a dress years ago, but never got to. It’s probably for the best, because I would have had to fully line it if there had been a skirt involved, but as a top it doesn’t seem too sheer.

In the crepe version, I graded two sizes larger for the hips, based on my measurements. That turned out to be huge, so I slimmed it down approximately one size in the rayon. I ended up having to rip a large section of the side seams out and take it in even further. Also, oddly, the dart placement seemed fine in the first version, but I had to move it up nearly 2″ in the second one! (Which was admittedly good for my ego, after 3 rounds of breastfeeding.) That meant the top leg of the dart is basically in the armpit curve now, but it’s probably one of those things that only I notice when it’s on. It’s not affecting the comfort, so I’ll roll with it.

Overall, I like this pattern enough to keep playing with it, though that will likely wait for warmer weather plans. I think it’ll be a nice breezy style for wovens for our hot and humid days. And there’s definitely fun potential for stripe placement, though I botched that on this one. (Note to self, cut on the regular grain instead of the cross.) I think next time, I’ll do an entire size smaller overall, and check the dart placement again. I’m also considering both narrowing and shortening the placket. As it is, it’s ending at my navel, so I think it could benefit from going an entire button shorter.

I do have some leftover yardage that I need to figure out a plan for, too. I don’t think this will be a good candidate for a mommy and me look, given that my daughter has steamrolled into the toddler stage over the last few months, and a basically white dress would never survive her messy ways!

Sewing Shenanigans

After my second son was born and I needed some postpartum summer clothes, my mom gifted me with several knit skorts. They’ve become a summer staple for me, since they’re very practical for things like getting up and down off the floor with the kids, but still a little dressier for when I need to go out. I’ll need to work on some sleeveless tops to go with, since most of what I have left doesn’t quite work with the silhouette of the skorts. I’ve been wearing them anyway since I’ve mostly been at home for months now, but I feel pretty frumpy about it. Anyway. I had the thought a couple of years ago that I should try to hack some patterns together to create something similar. But then I was browsing Maternity Sewing, and discovered someone had done all of the work for me! And it’s overall better than I could have done myself.

The pattern is the Shenanigans Skort, by 5 Out Of 4 Patterns. I didn’t get to the pattern last year as the maternity wear I intended, but that may be for the best since I didn’t have to factor in the third trimester waistband fit. It has several options in lengths and skirts, so I made the longest length in both skirts and shorts, the mid-rise elasticized waistband, and a straight size L.

My sewing this summer has still been at sloth speed (more on that later), so it took a lot longer to make than it probably should have. But on the days where I did have both time and motivation to sew, I was able to get large chunks done. So with a few tweaks, I think this has strong TNT pattern potential.

What I liked:

1. The sizing is very forgiving. Whenever I make it again, I’d like to add an inch or so to the back rise. I think I’ll just have to accept this as a standard pants alteration by this point, just like my long sleeve length adjustments. But it’s still wearable.

2. I’m not much of an “athleisure” person. I’m not a fan of the term either, tbh. But I will admit that the athletic cut of this pattern works well. The shorts are much more fitted than on my RTW pairs, but this also eliminates the slightly nagging problem I have with those, of the shorts riding up under the skirts. The length was good, and the shorts are surprisingly comfortable. I’m seriously considering a shorts only hack of this as a project I’ve been meaning to get to for awhile, to make something to wear under other skirts and dresses to avoid that irritating thigh chafing.

3. It’s a good stand in, at least for the warm seasons, for the basic black skirt that I haven’t had in awhile. We’ll see how the ponte holds up.

The one thing I didn’t like as much: the pocket instructions for the version that I initially used were really confusing. I couldn’t tell if I was supposed to just leave the edges raw, or how to sew it with any finishing since it was a very curved shape. So I ended up ditching it, making two rectangular patch pockets that were easily large enough to hold my phone, and sticking one on each side. Patch pockets on adult clothes aren’t my favorite look, but it works. I think in future versions, though, I’d take some ideas from some of my RTW versions to make it look more polished.

Overall, I was happy with how this came together, as I needed a sewing win. My motivation is starting to return, finally, since I saw a new pattern that caught my attention. It’s already assembled and ready to cut! The time is a little trickier, mostly due to the kids. Sometimes lengthy bedtimes aside, we’re continuing with homeschooling this year, and this time for both boys as kindergarten/ basic preschool. So I’ve been spending a lot of my evening time preparing for that, since we’re planning to start later this month. I’m really excited about the main curriculum that I found, as its main focus is lots of fairy tales and fables, and I can use it with both boys. I’ll have to do math and literacy stuff with them individually, but having most of it more one room schoolhouse style will help immensely. (I’m a little nervous about trying to teach Hobbit to read, since I want him to love it, so hopefully that will go well.)

catching up

I have two projects to share today.

My goal for Me Made May was to focus on the making end of things, and specifically to experiment on using up some scraps and refashion bin items. In typical fashion, I overestimated how much I might be able to handle, and pulled out probably 5-6 options so I could follow my whims. And then I only sewed one thing. But I am pleased with how it turned out, and I needed an easy win.

It’s the Pony tank by Chalk and Notch, which I already made twice last year. (Though I only recently got to check the fit without the baby bump!) I made this one two-tone to use up some remnants. I’m pretty sure the black was from my nursing tank, and the coral was a piece that I snagged from my mom’s leftovers.

I didn’t have quite enough of the black to cut it as a full piece, so I pieced it together at the straps. My original plan was to make it so either side could be the front, so I cut it with the v on both sides. I also originally intended to make the black side solid, but I underestimated how much extra length I’d need to add for the extra v. And even though I pieced both that and the armholes, I didn’t even have enough left to add to that! So I recut it with the coral. Aside from the “design details”, the construction was straightforward, with the main difficulty being my usual kid-related time constraints.

Speaking of the kids, the other project was for my daughter. This is the Lucy dress, by Peekaboo Pattern Shop. It’s a simple little dress, but it took me several months to make. I added appliques from the leftover lace from my wedding dress to make it extra special, since I was planning to use this as her baptism dress, and I had to hand stitch those down. I also changed the hem to a faced one, to protect the stitching inside. Whether I can actually use it for her baptism is TBD, since my church hasn’t been able to reopen yet. And that admittedly slowed me down, just like with the chambray dress, since I was mentally struggling with that probability.

Aside from the lace, I didn’t have anything appropriate in my stash, so the rest of this was part of my one fabric purchase this year. The fabric is the “Manchester” cotton from Kaufman, and it’s a lovely textured yarn- dyed shirting. I ended up buying a couple extra yards of the blue, and still have quite a bit of the minimum order yard of white left over. I’m not really sure what to do with it yet, but I’m sure I’ll figure something out. Eventually.

Since then, I’ve been slowly chipping away at a rather basic knit project. My sewjo is pretty nonexistent right now, between current events weighing on my mind, coming off another round of sudden unemployment (for my husband, the pandemic has destroyed the little bit of flute teaching that I had left), baby sleep regression, and trying to plan for the upcoming school year. (Today is my oldest son’s birthday, and I’m wondering how I already have a kindergartener!) It’s hard to not feel guilty about not sewing much, when I look in my closet and see the shelves of fabric waiting to turn into fun new projects. But I’ve been in this place of extended lack of sewing motivation before, going into my senior year of college with multiple stress factors happening at once. I think it’s safe to say this year qualifies! So it’ll come back. Eventually.

This took forever

It really did feel like it! I started this dress way back in February, intending for it to be part of the Sewcialists’ Denim month. Clearly, I should not try to sew clothes for challenges with deadlines during my current life stage. It took me over 3 months to make this thing.

This is Simplicity 8830, a shirtdress and tunic designed by Mimi G. I’ve been wanting a simple chambray dress that could be styled in different ways for awhile, and genuinely needed something new and nursing-friendly that I could wear to church. (You know, a long time ago when we could actually go places and be around people.) I thought the fit on this one would be pretty forgiving while my body is still trying to figure out where it wants to settle after this last pregnancy.

Things started off well on this one. I genuinely enjoy projects that have a lot of nice details, so I was having fun with all of the topstitching. I did initially change a few things on purpose. Aside from my usual inch added on the sleeves, I borrowed the yoke instructions and sleeve tab from the Itch to Stitch Mila shirt that I made right before this, so that I could enclose the yoke with my contrast fabric and give the sleeves a good roll when I want them to. I also decided to do bias bound seams on the sleeves for that same reason. I used a scrap of blue floral quilt cotton for the binding, the inside of the collar/ pocket flaps/ yoke facing, the in seam pockets, the facing for the epaulets, and had enough bias binding left to make a narrow faced hem. It was part design decision, but I really ran out of the stashed chambray that I’d chosen, and so I had very little fabric left over from either piece!

I did run into an issue with the fitting. It took some serious thought to choose a size to sew, because the ease given was ridiculous. My current measurements for the big 4 put me in an 18, but I sized down to a 16 so I wouldn’t end up with 8″ of ease around my chest. I really wish that the pattern had given the finished hip measurement as well as the bust. After I sewed the side seams and tried it on to figure out the button placement, it barely pinned together over my hips! I had just enough in my chambray scraps to cut two wedges out, which I inserted from just above the side pockets to the hem to give it a little more of an A line shape. That didn’t show up that great in any of my pictures, but I wanted that to blend in, so mission accomplished?

I do remember having to add a similar wedge in the last time I made a woven McCall’s pattern, so I guess grading up a size or two in my hips is going to have to be my thing now. But seriously, I could have avoided that whole process if they’d just given that one extra finished measurement.

A closer up of the contrast fabric, in the hem.

Aside from the fitting, this dress suffered from a severe loss of sewing motivation. I was working through all of those topstitching details when the world started shutting down, and once the hip issue showed up, my sewing slowed to a snail’s pace. Part of it was just the usual kid stuff, like the baby is teething and not always easy to get to sleep. But I thought that, without my usual 1-2 rehearsals during the week, I’d be sewing more. That hasn’t been the case.

It took me several weeks to realize that making this dress, as well as the baby dress that I’ve been hand- embellishing on the side, was suddenly making me sad. I don’t know when I’ll actually get to wear it, because I don’t feel like I’m in a place right now where I can dress up, even in a casual piece like this, to just stay home. My life at home is messy, with baby spit-up and purees, and a sticky-handed toddler. (I guess he’s kind of a preschooler now, since he turned 3 recently.) There’s been lots of extra baking, since bread supplies aren’t reliable and homemade bread is a comforting thing. My older boy wants to do crafts and science experiments often, which is good, but still messy. And there hasn’t been anything that I normally dress nicer for, like church activities or music lessons. So I’ve mostly been living in graphic tees and jeans/ stretchy pants. I couldn’t even be bothered to dress for Me Made May this year, since there is only so many ways one can style already-pilling gray Hudson pants.

I think that I’m having a little bit of a sewing identity crisis. I know that we’ll get back to going to church, hopefully sooner rather than later, because streaming services for months has turned out to be a sad substitute. What is more questionable is my music life. I’ve read reports on how vocal groups probably won’t be able to meet again until a cure or vaccine is found, and the flute is very similar in air production. Plus, unlike all of the other wind instruments, you blow across the mouthpiece instead of in, so it’s the most difficult wind instrument to contain. So I don’t know what this means for my community orchestra. I don’t know if my teaching will recover, since my student count had already taken a huge hit during my last pregnancy due to students graduating or just being too overwhelmed with school activities. (Oh, the irony.) So all that I had was two students left, and Zoom lessons weren’t great for either situation for various reasons. We had already decided to continue homeschooling in the fall, since preschool with my oldest has been working out well. So I’m wondering, if I’m “just” a stay at home mom now, what do I sew?

I’m doing an experiment during May that I hope will help. And I know that better fitting jeans are a wardrobe hole. But I may need to seriously rethink how I’m going to use my fabrics now.

Just in time for early spring…

(Note: I wrote this post before the the pandemic stated shutting everything down, I just hadn’t had a chance to add the pictures. My computer time is currently very limited, as my husband is working from home, so I’m just doing the best I can to finish this on my phone. Stay well, everyone. (And stay home!)

I finished a snuggly flannel shirt that I may or may not get to wear again this season. (It’s been hovering in the 50s and 60s since the beginning of the month!)

The details: I cut a size 10 in the bust, with a DD cup size, and graded to a 14 in the hips. I’m having to accept that after 3 babies, this is just my new normal! I also added an extra inch of length to the sleeves, as has been my normal for pretty much my entire sewing life. I added an extra button to the placket, since 3 just was not enough for where I had to center it. Aside from that and the plaid matching, which was a minor fail on one sleeve, it was pretty straightforward. I do wish that I’d put the pocket lower, it looks oddly high on me (thanks, nursing and gravity), but I’m not bothered enough to take the time to move it.

The pattern is the Mila shirt, from Itch to Stitch, since I’m apparently fangirling over her patterns like I used to do with Sewaholic back in the day. It’s made from a rather cozy flannel plaid, I think maybe a Kaufman, but I’m not 100% sure since this was a Christmas gift from my mom during the massive stash build of 2018. I’m much more pleased with how my size guesstimate turned out here, since this was also a shirt that I cut out while pregnant.

I was really happy with her instructions overall. The bottom of the placket was a bit fiddly, and probably would have worked better in a thinner fabric, but the burrito yoke was magic. I’ve tried the technique before, but it worked so much better on this one. So much so, that I’m reusing the instructions to add a facing on my current project! I also really like how the collar turned out, and I’m glad that I used the sleeve tabs (also to be reused on the current project), as I think that will give me a better chance of wearing it into the spring. Really, my only true regret with this project is that it took me 6 weeks to get through it all, but that can’t be helped with my current limits. I think that once I get through the projects that I’m currently making, I’m going to have to seriously consider sewing a season ahead of the current one. Depending on my wardrobe needs, I may just skip the summer clothes this year and dive right into some fallish things!

A Fine Feathered Visby

My first 2020 project is in the books! This is the Visby Henley from Itch to Stitch. I’m hoping to start doing better at utilizing my Pattern Review account this year, so here’s my official review:

Pattern Description:
From the website: “The Visby Henley & Top will become your favorite wardrobe staple. Wear this long sleeve pullover by itself on a warm day, or as a base layer underneath a snuggly sweater on a cool night. The Visby comes as a classic henley, but you also have the option to add a hood or skip the buttoned placket altogether. You also have the choice to add a bottom band!”

Pattern Sizing: 0-20. I made a 14, graded to 16 in the hips.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Yes

Were the instructions easy to follow? Yes! The biggest struggle I had was with the placket, as the length ended up being over an inch off from where the slit was cut to. But that easily could have been user error rather than a drafting error, as having a baby around means I’m rather tired all the time.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? What I like: The length of the shirt is great, especially for not riding up too far when I’m having to get down on the floor. The cuffs are a stylish touch, and overall, the shirt is very comfortable. As mentioned, I did have a small struggle with the placket, but since this shirt also has a plain front and a hoodie view, I don’t think that’s enough to stop making this one.

Fabric Used: Two fairly heavy cotton jerseys. I’m fairly certain the bird one is Art Gallery.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: As mentioned, I did grade the hips out one size, and I also lengthened the arms about 1″ (a standard change for me). I also sewed the buttons on non-functionally, because once I realized that the placket wouldn’t look right if I made it deep enough to be nursing friendly, I didn’t want to bother sewing buttonholes into jersey.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? Yes, and yes.

Conclusion: A nice wardrobe builder tee, with lots of potential for fun fabric mixing.

Now for a few unofficial thoughts:

  • I really do think I’d make this again, as I like the raglan style and don’t have much else in my wardrobe that fits that for a tee. But whenever I do get around to making a second one, I think I may size down in the bust and sleeves. I guessed at my sizing based on previous nursing-era measurements while I was cutting this out, since I was still pregnant at the time, and I do feel like it’s a little too baggy up top.
  • I know there’s a giant swayback puddling in the back, but that’s just my figure, and it’s not something that bothers me so much that I’m going to do a lot of fiddling with darts in a knit tee.
  • The disapproving-looking owl right there near the back makes me happy.
  • I really need to work on my model poses, don’t I? I actually had someone to take the pictures this time (my husband), and he was just snapping at random while I didn’t know when the pictures were being taken. Thus the “staring epically into the distance” pose, since it was honestly the best one.

2019, wrapped

Now that I have completed my first project of 2020, I realized that I have several things I never actually blogged from the end of last year. So even though I’m still mostly limited to phone photos, I’ll go ahead and get caught up on that.

20191209_120440First up: the Harper Cardigan from Sinclair Patterns. This one was a rather spontaneous make. Those of you who listen to the Love to Sew podcast regularly probably remember when Helen and Caroline suggested adding hashtags with your city/state/whatever sews in order to make some local sewing friends. Well, I did do that for my state with a couple of Instagram posts shortly after, but for a long time, no one actually ever used it but me. So I stopped. And then, well over a year later, I suddenly got a comment on one of those posts letting me know that there was actually a Facebook group for local sewists in my state! Which I joined immediately, and then also convinced my mom to join, lol. Shortly after, some people in the group thought it would be fun to do a virtual sewalong, and after some discussion, we chose this pattern. It’s a free one, so easily accessible. What drew me to it was the duster length, as I do like the drama of a long cardigan, and this one is still fairly practical with the kiddos since it’s not down to my ankles or anything.

I used one of the fabrics that I picked up years ago on my Paris trip, as it is a rather sheer knit and therefore inappropriate for any shirt or dress type projects. It may have been a tad too lightweight for this particular pattern, but it works ok. This also ended up being a quick sew, which is good. My main issue with it was the split hem, as I wanted to use my coverstitch and it doesn’t navigate the pivots very well. I’ll have to see if I can find some tricks for that. Either way, I’m happy to finally have this out of the stash and in my wardrobe! Overall, I don’t think this will replace the Blackwood Cardigan as my go-to, even though I’ve also only made one Blackwood to date, but it was a fun alternative. I did get a length of sweater knit for Christmas that I’m considering turning into a second one of these at some point, since I already did cut two more Blackwoods out from the rest of the haul!

20191221_194428The project that ended up taking most of my December sewing time was these 4 skirts. A friend at church asked me if I’d make some skirts for her two daughters and two nieces from some Ankara that she’d picked up during a trip to Africa during the summer. (She also offered immediately to pay, which was nice!) I’d never had an opportunity to sew with wax print, so that made it more exciting for me. The pattern is the skirt portion of the Ainsley dress, by Made For Mermaids. It’s a straightforward pattern, though I had a few hiccups– mostly in the form of not quite having enough length to finish cutting the skirts for the two older girls. My friend was very understanding and accommodating, so I just used a similar weight black woven in my stash to make up the extra length, and finished this shortly before Christmas. It looks like a cute pattern, and I can see myself using this again in a few years when my daughter can fit into it.

20191225_060448Speaking of my daughter, my last project of the year was for her first Christmas. Back when I first started planning those wolf sweatshirts, my older boy suggested that I should also make something reminiscent of Little Red Riding Hood for her. Then I spotted the red crushed velvet at Joann’s, and decided to go for it. The pattern is the same Ottobre hoodie pattern that I used for her a few months ago, with a few tweaks. After several weeks of trying to sort out how to handle the edges, since I was concerned that the fold-over elastic treatment that the original pattern used would make the velvet look cheap, I decided to just add some extra hem allowance and coverstitch those edges instead. I also scooped out the front neckline a bit more and eliminated the front zipper, both for time and for not having to deal with those edges.

In retrospect, I think I probably should have sized up a little more– I made this just one size larger than the original, since that one still fits her– but I suspect this one isn’t going to fit her for long. But it was a very cute, casually fancy first Christmas outfit for her. I’m considering keeping this one and cutting it down some, because I still have the American Girl doll that I saved up for as a kid, but only one outfit for her.  It’s obviously too early to say if she’s going to be into dolls at all, but if she is, I don’t mind the idea of recycling some of these things into some new doll outfits for her to play with.  (Now that I have a daughter, I’m kind of kicking myself for not keeping the things my mom made back in the day from the official AG sewing patterns to beef up her wardrobe, but I’ve since learned that someone shared the original sewing patterns as free pdf downloads. So I can reconstruct the historic-based outfits, too!)