Sewing Top 5: Real life highlights

It’s the year end roundup season again, hosted as always by the fabulous Gillian! This is an odd one to start with for me, but since I’m in the middle of a project, I’d like to reserve judgment on my best and worst makes of the year. So instead, here’s what has been occupying my (mostly) real life in 2018.

20180507_1927431. The Two Toddlers. (Can you tell I’m on a Lord of the Rings bender again? Technically, I guess Hobbit is really more of a preschooler than a toddler now, but since he started this year as a 2 1/2 year old, I’m going to roll with it.) Seriously, it has been a lot of fun to watch their personalities and relationship with each other growing this year. Hobbit is super-chatty and enthusiastic about learning, especially when dinosaurs are involved! We’ve actually slowly been starting to work on learning letters and numbers since the summer, starting with the ones in his name, and he’s been doing very well with it so far. I even caught him writing the first letter on our chalkboard wall downstairs recently, so not bad at all for a 3 year old! As for Padawan, it’s crazy to think that at the beginning of this year, he was just starting to pull himself to standing, and 12 months later, he’s not only running and climbing all over everything (so much climbing!), but he’s also starting to put together two word sentences. They mostly play very well together, aside from when one of them has a toy the other wants, so I’m thankful for that.

2. Facing challenges. While I wouldn’t exactly call this a highlight, it was a major part of our family life this fall. We found out at the beginning of October that the banking corporation that my husband works for would be outsourcing his job to India, and he would therefore be laid off in 45 business days. It was a scary prospect, especially the thought of losing our health insurance with two young and very active kids. But the whole experience really did help to strengthen our faith in God as a family, and it was good to see how our families and closest friends were so willing to step up to help, both by praying and with some financial support. Doug worked his tail off applying for everything he could find in the area that he thought he was remotely qualified for, and had a string of interviews, and even considered a major career change (trying out for the police). In the end, he got hired back for a different position at the same bank, in just enough time that he was able to end his old position on the last day and start at his new one the following Monday. And he even got a raise! Plus the process of getting ready for the physical test that he was required to take before being accepted for police training did make him take a very serious look at his health habits, which I think will be beneficial for both of us in the long run. I can hardly ever motivate myself to exercise, because frankly, I hate it. But I think if it’s something we’re able to do together or as a family, it’ll be easier to take care of myself, too.

20170122_162433The other sad/challenging event in the fall was having to put one of our golden retrievers to sleep. We discovered back in April that he had a tumor growing in his leg, and it was already huge enough that there wasn’t anything we could do, other than make his last months as comfortable as we could. I’ve lost pets before, but I’d never been in the room, and that was really hard. (I’m tearing up just writing this, and it was 3 months ago already.) So we’re a one dog family now. Hobbit still comments out of the blue that he wishes we could get Malkin back, which is so sad.

3. Sewing community involvement. It’s sometimes hard not to feel isolated from it when you’re not a very prolific blogger, or you can’t participate in challenges, or even sew the new popular pattern that everyone is making. But I did get to do a few things this year that I’m proud of. Like participating in Elizabeth’s Day and Night dress challenge, and Instagram challenges like #sewphotohop and #bpsewvember. I also got to write a guest post for the Sewcialists blog (something I didn’t think I’d be able to do, since I am ridiculously average by sewing community standards), and even got a response read on the Love to Sew podcast! (The Sewing Struggles episode, if you’re curious.)

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4. My reading life. Reading was my first hobby love before sewing was even an option due to my age, so I spend a lot of time being torn between the two. It hasn’t been quite as much of an issue this year, since I’ve gotten greater audiobook access, between LibriVox classics, library app loans, and when a good friend with similar taste granted me access to listen to her Audible account. (Though now the issue is distraction by podcasts and music!) I also had the opportunity to join a book club this year, mostly made up of women from my church, Though I wasn’t able to attend every meeting, I think it went a long way towards both diversifying my reading and helping me finally start making some better friends there (always a challenge for a shyer introvert). There was only one book I disliked, and several that I ended up continuing the series on my own, or plan to when I can. I’m ending the year with a Tolkien reread, since that’s a comfort book for me and it was a hard autumn. I’m feeling pretty good about how many books I was able to read on my own, on top of the many, many picture books!

20180707_1043155. Outdoor adventures. So you know how I just said that I hate exercise? Hiking is the exception. Doug and I decided to start a tradition with the kids early on where one of their Christmas gifts is an experience instead of a thing. We weren’t sure how to handle it last year with a toddler and baby, so we got a state parks pass, because being outside is good for everybody. It ended up being a good choice! We did some family hikes, attempted paddleboating (we’re saving the next attempt for when the boys are older!), and discovered a new to us beach park that was actually amazing, and we wished we’d gone earlier in the summer. We’re not doing that as the experience gift this Christmas, but I am planning to get the parks pass again for next year so we can do more exploring!

I think that pretty much sums it up! I’m still involved in music things, of course, like the community orchestra and the flute choir (though I’m taking a hiatus from the latter at the beginning of the year, because the next concert is scheduled for the day of Padawan’s birthday and I’m not missing that entire weekend with him.) And I’ve kind of rediscovered one of my older hobbies this year, as I’ve been teaching myself digital scrapbooking on a dinosaur version of Photoshop Elements. It’s actually made it so I’m starting to catch up again, because it’s so much easier to sit down for 15 minutes and work digitally than to haul out tempting glue and scissors with the boys around. I’m actually very strongly considering doing one of those 100 days challenges early in the year to knock some more out! I’ve also discovered a site that lets me download 5 free supplies every day, and does monthly themes where people who enjoy designing create digital papers and stuff that they give away for free! All of that stuff except the zoo pictures came from there. I’m thinking that redoing my blog header may have to be a thing next year, now that I’m starting to get the hang of this better. I don’t share about scrapbooking much on here anymore, but here’s a recent page that I’m proud of, from a morning we spent at a zoo with Doug’s family over the summer.

2018-07 Cape May Zoo 2

So that’s it! I’m looking forward to reading about more of what’s been going on with all of you this year!

Back on the jeans wagon!

Jeans have long been a defining staple of my style, and I’ve honestly missed making them (and wearing ones that fit) since the boys came along. So when I saw the Mountain View pull-on jeans by Itch to Stitch— and particularly a tester shot that showed off just how well they don’t gape in the back– I was sold. I haven’t been feeling ready to go through the fitting process for, say, the Ginger jeans that I’ve been hoarding, but elastic waist stretchy jeans? That, my mom bod can handle.

I do have to say, this took a lot longer than I expected. I actually started this project back in August, and intended all along to do a fit check before working on all of the details. But then I heard a Love to Sew podcast episode just after cutting it out where Brooks Ann Camper was talking about hand-sewing and not overly handling the fabric, and kind of on a whim, I decided to hand baste the jeans together. I still think it was the right move, as the denim I used was one that had been sitting in my stash for a few years because it was a lot lighter weight than I wanted. But it does have the 30% stretch that this pattern calls for, so I figured it would be the perfect test fabric. The machine basting and ripping out process probably would have weakened the fabric quite a bit, since I had to make some significant changes.20180917_085635

The back is where it’s the most noticeable. The dark stitching was the original seam lines, and the yellow is the changes I had to make. I ended up having to pull the back in about an extra 1/2″ starting from the back and going through the yoke, and then taking an additional dart in the waistband that is actually in the finished product. I’m going to see if I can smooth that out in future versions. I also ended up changing the rise slightly by reducing the seam allowance between the yoke and the waistband, and while wearing them and sitting down to write this, I think that was a good move.

Additional changes I made: I added a little extra width to the hips (about 1/4″ total, I think), and pulled it in around the knees to give it a little more of a flare effect– bootcut/flare jeans are still my favorite, and the straighter leg that this originally had just looked really baggy and ridiculous on me when I tried it on. A nice feature of these jeans is that there’s an additional back leg seam to help with fitting adjustments, so I was able to take it in at the back of my knee quite easily.

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Once I figured out the fitting changes and adjusted my pattern (look at me, being all smart and doing the adjustments right away, the actual assembly process went quite smoothly. Figuring out what to do with the pockets was a little tricky. I did all of the topstitching in the same color thread with the triple stitch, but I ended up deciding on a design from one of the templates in a free download from Closet Case Patterns. I’ll be honest, the pockets were my one quibble about the instructions for this pattern. The order of assembly on there has the pockets as the last thing, after the legs are all stitched together and the waistband is on, and that seems unnecessarily difficult to me. I went ahead and sewed them just after the center back leg seams, before doing the crotch or inseams or anything, but I can see that being a tricky point if you’re more of a novice in sewing pants.

So are you ready to see the results?

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20181120_080711  Here you go! Overall, I’m pleased with the fit, though I think that maybe I should have made the elastic just a little bit smaller. We’ll see if it ends up bothering me enough to remove the waistband and fix it later. They’re actually quite comfortable for a high rise pant, and the elastic content means it won’t restrict my breathing (crucial when your instrument is a woodwind!)

 

 

 

The back view. I think that in the future, I might move up the back pockets about a half inch or so, because they seem just a little low to me. But look at the flare!! The back seam blends in really well here due to the tone on tone stitching, but I can see that being a fun detail to highlight.

I would definitely make this pattern again, and am now curious about some of the other patterns from this designer. She has some really lovely tops! I do have one other piece of denim in my stash, in the more typical indigo color, that seems to have the right stretch amount for this pattern. But it’s also more narrow than the typical denim, so I’ll have to see if I can tetris it out. Honestly, I think that is probably the most difficult part of this pattern, aside from just working out the fitting– finding the right fabric! It seems like most denims cap out at around 15% stretch, and with the nature of the wide elasticized waistband, I’m not sure that just sizing up a little would be sufficient. So I may have to branch out to some corduroys and twills to see what I can do.

For the record, I’m still planning to try those Ginger jeans at some point, once I’m certain that we’re done with kids and my weight is stable. But this works well to give me my fix now. And I think that the color will help to brighten up my winter wardrobe very nicely! (Now I just need some print tops with this color, because how do I not have this happy turquoise?!)

Also, the other reason that these jeans took longer than expected is because I took a break in the middle, which is not typical for me on a project. But the opportunity came up to write a post for the Sewcialists blog’s Sustainable Sewing theme, which went up yesterday. So if you want to see my latest Refashion Redemption Project piece, go check it out!

where my wild things are

As much as I used to dream during my first pregnancy of making adorably elaborate Halloween costumes for my kids, I think I’ve settled into realism. And the facts are:

  1. So far, my boys’ idea of dress-up is “stick a scrap of fabric on my head and say I’m a pirate”. (This literally happened on the day I started writing this post.) We have a very select few thrifted dress up items, and they never get used.
  2. Sewing time is hard to come by.
  3. I just don’t have time to make one-wear items right now.

So this is the story of a lot of plans getting mostly simplified.

20181031_132014Hobbit is completely obsessed with dinosaurs. It’s lasted over half of his life so far. Padawan is pretty much into just taking whatever toy his brother is most interested in at the moment (ah, the joys of toddlers), so I haven’t picked up on any particular preferences. So my original thought was to make Hobbit a dinosaur costume and dress the little guy up as a Jurassic Park ranger or something. I even have a sewing pattern for a dinosaur costume. But the time just seemed to get away from me, so I decided to go the route of a Halloween costume that could be worn over and over again, to make it more worthwhile. I’d been hoarding this coat pattern from Twig + Tale for a year or so (it was called the Wild Things coat when I downloaded it, though it seems to have been changed to the tamer “Animal Coat” since then), and knew I wanted to make it before the boys were old enough to think Mom is being lame for trying to dress them like that. Deciding to make the dinosaur version for Hobbit was a no-brainer. Padawan took a little more consideration. I have a pants-length of a khaki-ish corduroy that is completely outside of the colors that I generally wear, so my initial plan was to estimate the yardage and dye it to whatever colors I needed, and I figured I might be able to get a decent fox color out of that. As you can see, this plan also did not happen, also mostly due to time, but also because my opinionated 3-year old was adamant that he wanted his coat to be in his favorite color. The best red I could probably dye with that base would be rust. Also, fleece is generally very easy care, which is always important for kids. But I did stick with the fox.

After I decided to go outside of the stash and get some fleece, things proceeded more smoothly (aside from the only orange fleece available being basically neon. But at least I won’t lose Padawan in the woods.) I lined both coats with flannel, since my hope is that they’ll be warm enough to get from the car into buildings, and the coats aren’t so bulky that they’re dangerous for the far seat. No, they will not be playing in the snow with these, assuming we even get any, because Mid-Atlantic winters are unpredictable that way. I also did bust a tiny bit of stash by adding some lining fabric onto the top of the sleeves, so they’ll slide more easily over shirts and such. I didn’t go all the way down, because the sleeves are purposely sized long to make turned-up cuffs. Also, the instructions specify that the coats and sleeves are both on the longer side, with the idea that a child should be able to get at least two years’ worth of wear out of the same coat. I really appreciated that they built growth considerations into the design and made it so it can last longer!

20181031_130820Another thing I like about this company: They make stuff that’s also for BOYS. It’s honestly ridiculous how hard it is to find sewing patterns for boys compared to girls, but everything I’ve seen from them is pretty gender-neutral. And a lot of animal themed stuff, and what kid doesn’t like that?

20181031_130634Anyway, here’s a slightly more in-depth review, since this was my first time making one of their patterns. Construction was straightforward, and aside from some page-flipping to jump around to the different directions, since some skipping is necessary depending on what animal is made, I didn’t have any trouble following the directions. Probably the most difficult part was the dinosaur spikes*, mainly because I had to do a little extra work and seaming to get everything where it was supposed to go, and the directions didn’t entirely reflect that. I didn’t have any trouble figuring that out, but a more beginner sewist might need that clarification.

*The other difficulty was having to go back later after I’d finished the coat and rip the  back spikes apart, trim down the fleece scraps I used to help them stand up better, and hand-stitch them back together. But that’s not the pattern’s fault, that’s Hobbit being difficult about wearing it in the car. The spikes were a little bulky at the tips, since they were two layers of flannel and one of fleece, so I guess I can see how that would bother him. But still. Frustrating.

20181031_131049Trying to figure out how to close these coats up took some consideration. There are some nice instructions for some loops to go around large buttons, but getting these two to stay still long enough to actually work a buttonhole is a feat of Herculean proportions. So after some discussion with my usual sewing sounding board (aka my mom), I settled on giant snaps with buttons on the outside for the aesthetic. It does make closing the coat very quick, which is helpful, since the whole process of getting shoes and coats and all the other things together to get out of the house usually involves at least one wrestling match and/or high speed chase! #boymomproblems

20181031_130457I know Hobbit likes the coat, at least outside of the car, because the couple times we’ve been to a playground since I made it have generally included a lot of stomping and showing off his roar and telling everyone that he’s a T. Rex. (Though he did make a point of telling me early in the process that T. Rexes didn’t really have spikes. Part of me wishes now that I’d left those off, but I doubt the tail alone would have conveyed the dinosaur element.) Padawan just doesn’t like putting a coat on, but so far, it doesn’t seem to bother him once he’s outside, most of the time. The tail is admittedly a little long for him, since he’s on the small side for his age, but hopefully he’ll grow into it soon. And so far, they’ve gotten a ton of compliments on their coats, at least from adults that we run into. Overall, I’m feeling good about our little everyday wearable costumes. And I’m glad that Halloween turned out to be a pretty nice day weather-wise, so I could get these photos while letting them burn off some energy in my parents’ backyard!

falling for coats

Simplicity coatI’m finally showing the 8th project of my 2017 Make Nine list. Yeah, that’s right, I’m well over half a year late in blogging this! I actually started writing this post last winter, but didn’t have an opportunity to get pictures before yesterday. This coat had been on my list since the previous fall/winter, when I ran into a big chunk of days that were ridiculously hard to choose outerwear for. You know those days where it ranges somewhere between a low in the 40s and a high in the 60s Fahrenheit? We get those pretty frequently in the fall and spring around here. And it always ends up that my Thinsulate-lined winter coat is too hot by the afternoon, but my unlined jacket is too cold for the mornings. I have this vintage leather jacket that was my mom’s in the 70s that I used to wear on days like this, but alas, it’s too snug now. Plus something I can wash more easily is helpful these days, with my messy little boys. So it was time for another coat.

Simplicity coatMy sewing process over this last year or so has been to keep one project going at home and one at my mom’s sewing room, and this was the latter project from last September through January of this year. I was hoping to finish this by November, but obviously that didn’t happen. I used Simplicity 8262, which is a design by my favorite Project Runway winner, Leanne Marshall. I just couldn’t resist that huge double collar! I’d originally thought to do the longer version with the asymmetric hem, but decided that the shorter version would work better with the lack of drape that I’d be working with. My workaround for my skin’s lack of wool tolerance was to underline a cotton twill that I had on hand with fleece. It was quite the process; first I hand basted the fleece to the outer pieces, then I trimmed down the seams, then I catch stitched the seams down to the fleece since the thickness wasn’t pressing as flat as I wanted. I ended up topstitching down the lengths of several seams because of this as well, and I like the sort of corded effect that was the result.  (You can see it on the back princess seam here.) For the record, I traded the fleece for the best quality woven interfacing I can buy around here on the collar and facing pieces, to avoid the bulk. Then the whole thing was lined with a gold Bemberg that I’d originally purchased for a Reglisse dress lining, before the size I’d traced but not cut yet became too small.

There were a couple of things in the directions that I really wish had been written differently. It’s hard to plan ahead for changing the steps when a project takes a solid 4+ months. The flared hem was tricky to navigate, with its partially bagged lining. That’s not a technique that I’ve really had a chance to work with, but I think it would have sewed better if the hem had been completely by machine and the lining got closed up in the back seam or something. I also wish I’d sewed the toggles on before putting in the facing, both for ease of installation and to avoid the obvious mess of stitching inside.

Simplicity coatThese toggles literally brought me to tears, though thankfully I like the finished look, at least from the outside. The last time I tried to sew leather was several years ago, and it did not go well for me at all. So many stitches got skipped that the resulting bag was unusable. I’d hoped that this time would go smoother, since the toggles were mostly a single layer of leather and I had access to an actual leather foot and needle this time. But nooooooo. I realized quickly that the stitching was still skipping, even when I switched to a triple stitch in hopes that it would catch more. I ended up just sewing over it to punch holes in the toggles, then having to go back and hand stitch over at least half of the edges to reinforce them. The inside looked like such a mess after this that I ended up sewing small patches of the twill inside to hide the stitching. So I didn’t get pictures of it, but it makes the facings and lining look a little odd in those spots. I do wonder if not having the extra layers of twill and interfacing inside would have helped it sew better, but I’m also wondering if maybe I just wasn’t meant to sew with leather. (So frustrating, since a project I’ve been plotting for a few years now involves stashbusting some pleather I bought and never used for a costume that didn’t work out. I’d still like to make it, so any tips? Especially from Bernina users?)

Simplicity coatI didn’t get to wear this a whole lot last season, since our spring warmed up very quickly. Just a couple of random warmer days in February. But it did prove to be the perfect weight for those days, so I’m hoping to get some good use out of it this fall. It’s been the go-to coat pretty much this entire week, and I didn’t freeze or sweat during an extended time on the playground, so I think I nailed what I was going for! As a bonus, I already had the perfect set of hand-knitted accessories to coordinate, with this hat and handwarmer set that was one of my first successful knitting projects. Since it is taking me ages to knit anything these days– seriously, I’ve been working on the same cardigan for over two years now, and though I do have a scarf I’ve been leaving at my parents’ house, I really haven’t been working on it more than one row every few months– it’s nice to know I can pull from my accessories stash on this one. Thanks, past me.

With the exception of the toggles, I did enjoy the process of making this coat. I do like doing those really involved projects every so often, since those are the ones that often help me the most with building skills. And with all of the hand sewing that seem to accompany my coat builds (and the lack of opportunity to wear more formal dresses in my life), they’re the best way to practice my couture techniques! This was a good stashbuster as well. The twill was actually free, destashed onto me from my husband’s grandmother. The fleece was all remnants I had on hand, so if this Instagram shot actually links (I have the worst luck with IG embeds on here, the pictures always show up blank), you can see some of the weird hodgepodge of the underlining. There’s something like 3 different colors in there! And, as mentioned, the lining was from a dress that ended up not happening. So now I just need to figure out what to do with the outside fabric for that, haha. The toggles were from an Etsy shop based in the UK, and were the only thing I had to buy new other than the pattern. And though the pockets are useless for hands, they’re a good size for my phone. So overall, I’m satisfied with this project!

 

On long range wardrobe planning

I’m trying out a new method of bringing some more cohesion into my wardrobe, and since I didn’t manage to finish anything in September, I figured I’d write about that instead while I keep working on my projects!

I’ve known for awhile that I’m not a minimalist capsule wardrobe person. I honestly don’t feel like that 30 piece wardrobe is too doable with my climate. Especially since we have very sudden changes– it’s still in the 80s this week, and by the end of the month, we’ll likely be barely hitting the 50s! So I do need a fairly substantial wardrobe for both our sticky hot summers and our cold, damp winters. Plus layers to transition between the two.

I recently heard an inspiring interview on the Clothes Making Mavens podcast with Emily Hallman, about how she sews in mini collections to create pieces that can easily mix and match with each other and other pieces already in her wardrobe. So I started following her on Instagram, and love what I’ve seen! I’ve struggled to find inspiration on places like Pinterest, since all of the capsule wardrobes are full of taupe and other solid neutral blahness. And I have rather strong opinions about the place of neutral blahness in my life. Ahem. But she uses color! And prints! And still manages cohesion! I may have finally found a style icon, even though my mom life necessitates a more casual, washable take on things.

So, I’ve been creating palettes on a Trello board, and combing through my wardrobe to see what I already have that fits these color stories. I’ll need to go through my fabric stash at some point too, and see about what I have that can fill these out. It’s actually been a fun process so far, especially since it’s a way I could bring sewing into things like sitting through Friday night orchestra rehearsals where I don’t play for the first half hour of the piece. (One reason I didn’t finish anything this month, but Hobbit loved the family concert and getting to see what Mommy does when I’m not home on Tuesday nights, so it was worth it.)

Trello(Serious work in progress here, as I’d love to eventually add photos of the things I actually have done.)

The most thought-out one is the one on the left, based on that funky leaf-ish print that I have tagged for a maxiskirt. I already have several things that would work in that color family — a cream top, a plain brown skirt (and the thrifted top I’m wearing with it, actually), my Gabriola skirt, some RTW teal jeans and an olive Blackwood-esque cardigan.  I do have some solid plans for things I can add to it.

  • I have an olive green jersey in my stash that I have tagged for a top, I just need to figure out what pattern to use that won’t bore me since it’s solid.
  • Cute

I’ve had this outfit saved on my Pinterest for awhile, since I like the simple detailing of this button-down with tucks at the waist and the rolled-up tab sleeves. I don’t have fabric for this yet, but I’ve been thinking about hacking the Deer & Doe Bruyere blouse to make this look, since I have the upper part of the blouse fitted well at this point and would just need to figure out how to turn the darts into pleats and morph it into one piece instead of having that waistband in the middle. I think I actually would make this in a solid ivory, because it would go with literally every single pair of pants I currently own.

  • Black Knitted Sleeve Faux Leather Biker Jacket

Another picture I’ve had saved for ages. I even have fabric to make this, in the form of a yardish of a creamy sweater knit and 3 yards some brown faux leather that I picked up to make a costume for DragonCon that I ended up ditching long before I got to the leathery bits. So if I can figure out how to sew that without my machine making me cry (I have not had good fortune with leathery things), I’d love to make something similar to this. Though I also find myself wondering if the jacket would have more style longevity if I just make the sleeves out of the brown too, and use that sweater knit for something else. (Though I’m not sure what, since I only bought a yard. Any opinions?)

I’d also like to throw in a pair of Jalie Vanessa pants, since the one pair I have is very comfortable, but I’m not really sure what color. Maybe brown? Or olive?

So that’s my first one so far, though I have no idea when I’ll actually get to those few projects. I also am trying to figure out a good summery capsule, since I was definitely hurting for things like shorts and sleeveless everything this past summer. And the major capsule hole I’m stuck on is what to wear on my more casual at-home days, especially during the cold season, since I’m not really much of an athleisure girl but I also don’t want to wreck my jeans with a preschool art project or anything, so it would have to be easy wash. Maybe some Hudson pants? And some kind of long-sleeved tees because pretty much all I have are geeky t-shirts and those won’t keep me warm all winter? Mom wardrobes are HARD.

I think I probably will be posting more about wardrobe planning on here between projects, since it’s something that’s become increasingly important to me with my more limited time, and as I learn more about the sustainability aspect of sewing. I’m definitely able to slow down the actual sewing easily enough, but if I want to make the most of my time and fabric, I need a plan to avoid the wardrobe orphans I’ve been struggling with ever since my first post-partum days. And I reeeeeally need to have a plan when it comes to including knitting, because I have literally been working on the same mustard cardigan for over two years now. (Thus the mustard capsule, I need to make sure I have something to wear with it whenever I actually finish that!) So how have you been planning your sewing, or do you plan it?

Summer pajamas, just in time for fall

Most of my August sewing time was dedicated to the continued restocking of my pajamas. My lightweight ones were getting particularly ratty, as they bore the brunt of both third trimesters and the most frequent nighttime nursing sessions. So I made myself two new sets, featuring some of my favorite things!

20180830_075432Since I’d already worked out the fitting adjustments for the Closet Case Carolyn pants back in the winter, I figured I’d keep rolling with that. Plus they have pockets. So I just copied the exact same backside adjustment when tracing out the shorts, and went for it for both pairs.

For the first set I finished, the most challenging part was forgetting to sew the back piece to the cuffs and having to unpick it. Oops. But it had also been awhile since I’d done a project with piping, so it was good to refresh my memory on how to handle that. The fabric is a quilting cotton that my mom gifted me last Christmas specifically for this purpose, with tea mugs all over.

20180830_075428The accompanying shirt is the tank version of the Sew Liberated Stasia tee, which I’d wanted to test anyway. I was hoping that I could have this one do double duty for wearing in public, since basic color tank tops are something I’ve found myself lacking in this summer. But alas, while this (rayon?) jersey knit is super comfortable to wear, it just didn’t have the right recovery, and adding the binding to the armholes stretched them out. You can see it a little better on the left side of the picture. Pajamas it is. That being said, I’m quite happy with the results otherwise, and will have to try this again with a less drapey knit. I think it just might be the basic tank pattern I’ve been looking for! I really seriously considered adding a stencil to the tee with a cute tea-related slogan, but it reached the point where I just needed to get it done.

20180831_090744For the second set, I made the Carolyn pajama top, which was new to me. It seems to fit very well straight out of the envelope (I made a size 14). The only changes I made were doing 4 buttons instead of 5 (I misplaced one during the sewing process and couldn’t find another in the stash to match), and swapping out the trim.

Flute pajamas close-up

When I went to Joann’s, they were completely out of white piping, and I didn’t want to spend my precious sewing time making plain piping. So I bought rickrack instead. It might have been too cutesy little girl on another fabric, but I think that it ended up complimenting my funky flutes well! The resulting scallops echoed the keyhole shapes in several flutes on the print very nicely.

20180831_090819Since this was a project I made in my mom’s sewing room and I didn’t want to rethread her serger, I did take the time on this set to finish the insides very nicely– French seams and hand stitching the facing to the shoulder seams and such. It’s another quilting cotton, and I was wearing this overnight before I took the pictures, which is why it’s a little wrinkled. It’s a very comfortable shirt to wear, though I generally prefer tees for sleeping. I’m actually quite tempted to try making one in a regular shirting fabric for everyday wear, though if I ever do that, I’ll definitely have to do something about that pooling in the back. The width across the back is good, though, so I don’t think it would be an issue for when I’m actually playing the flute and not just wearing them!

I’ve started my fall sewing now, but it’s still warm enough around here that I am getting at least some use out of these pajamas this season. I don’t think I’m quite done with this pattern yet, as I could use a pair of pajama pants that are lighter weight than flannel but warmer than shorts. But since I have other things to make that need to take higher priority, I seriously doubt I’ll get to it this year!

On a more personal note, since our two golden retrievers liked to photobomb me on here fairly regularly, it’s only fair to pay tribute to the one we had to put to sleep yesterday. The photo I have further up with the tea pajamas is one of the last ones I have of Malkin (the blonde retriever). We noticed back in April that he had a tumor growing on one of his front legs, but by that point, it was too late to try and do anything about it. So we’d just been trying to make him as comfortable as we could over the last several months. He took a turn for the worse this week, though, so it was time to end his suffering. He’ll be missed greatly, though, especially by Crosby (our redhead retriever) and Doug, who had both of the dogs before he met me. Rest in peace, boy.

Refashion Redemption Project: The nursing tee salvage job

This summer has felt a little weird for sewing to me. It’s not that I’ve lost my sewjo, but I seem to keep running into stretches where I just can’t do anything at either of my sewing locations and it’s taking forever to get anything done. Also, since I do most of my cutting out at my mom’s sewing room due to lack of space/kid-free time around the pointy things, I’ve been also running into situations where I finish a project at home and don’t have another project cut out and ready to start here yet. The good thing about that is that I’m finally getting back into some more refashioning as a result. 20180624_083423

I finished this tee a month or so ago, a self-drafted mashup of the complete fail that was last summer’s Sewaholic Renfrew nursing tee hack, plus the yardish of not-that-stretchy jersey left over from a Cake Hummingbird tee that I had to ditch pretty much immediately post-partum, because my waist will never be that small again.  (I should retrace and sew that one again

sometime, though.)

Making this tee was a pretty quick process. I didn’t really take any pictures while I was doing it, since I was trying to knock it out in one evening where I only had to worry about one kid for the night. (It was Hobbit’s birthday weekend, so he and my husband had a little overnight camping trip at his parents’ house, while I went home with Padawan because we didn’t want him anywhere near campfires or tent entrances in a backyard with a pool.) So the process was more or less the following:

  1. Put on the black tee and hold a tape measure around my chest where I thought the seam should go. (This was after a previous session of goofing around with the fabric and holding it in different places with the tee on to see where it would suit best.)
  2. Chalk the line in the front.
  3. Lay the tee flat on my cutting mat and cut through both layers at the line plus seam allowance. This resulted in a mildly curved cut line.
  4. Lay the fabric out, folded double, and trace that cut line from the tee directly onto the fabric, then trace out a flared sort of shape for the body of the tee.
  5. After I sewed the seams for the bodice and sides, I tried it on and decided a curved hem would be best. So I trimmed that and hemmed it on the coverstitch. And done!

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Overall, I think I like it. This usage definitely showcases the print better than the project it was left over from, I think. And somehow, in the course of my weight shift and subsequent closet purges, everything I owned in this kelly green type color left my closet, even though I still love green. So I’m glad to have some back! I can’t honestly say that I’ve been wearing it a ton this summer, though, because I’m also in this weird wardrobe place where my remaining separates just don’t seem to be going together, and I’ve been struggling to put outfits together all summer as a result. (Thus the two different bottoms in these photos where both are not-quite-solid denim.) That’s something I’m definitely going to have to work on remedying for the next warm season, though I’ve been feeling like it’s a bit too late for this year. (I’m currently wrapping up some needed summer pajamas, and then I’ll have to start thinking fall.) But I am hoping that this tee might see a little more use when jeans season rolls around again.

 

girl on fire

Back during Me Made May, one of my takeaways was that I should stop sewing things that aren’t my favorite colors, because I usually am disappointed with the results. Well, two months later… I completely threw that out of the window for this dress. But for once, I think I like this!

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See, I’m really not a pink girl at all. (Though, to be fair, this really looks fairly akin to the berry color of my last Bruyere top up close.) And I feel like orange is iffy on me, though I’ve gotten some surprising compliments when wearing it in the past. But when looking for some fabric for this maxi pattern that I’d just picked up, McCall’s 7350, this ITY that was on clearance at Fabric.com just screamed to me. It seriously helped that the colorway was called “Katniss”. Associations with fandoms that I enjoy never hurt if you want to take my money. And I thought that this pattern had sufficient drama to suit the Girl on Fire, at least in one of her more casual moments out of the arena.

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It’s a good thing that this fabric was so inexpensive, because I bought 5 yards of this stuff and used all but maybe half a yard. But I got the whole lot for just under $16, and it doesn’t feel like cheap polyester at all– it has a nice silky feel to it that kept me quite comfortable while wandering around between my side and the New Jersey side of the bay. But it is a fabric hog, at least as the maxi version. It’s hard to tell with the print, but there is a lot of gathering in the back. More than it would have had due to some fitting issues (more on that later), but it does give the skirt a nice swishy fullness. The cut-on cap sleeve worked nicely to keep my shoulders from getting burned while walking around, and while the skirt is a wrap in the front, I didn’t have too much difficulty with keeping the wardrobe malfunctions away– I just had to hold the one edge down every so often. I was pleasantly surprised at how well the ITY sewed on my coverstitch machine, too, after all of the issues I’ve had hemming the same type of fabric on my regular sewing machine. So since I have two more cuts of it in my stash, sewing them up seems much more accessible now.

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Twirly skirt drama! And now for more of an actual pattern review than I’ve had a chance to give for awhile, as I did end up making several changes. For one, knowing the Big 4 ease issues, I had a really difficult time figuring out what size to even cut out. After much debate and studying of the finished measurements, I decided on a 16 for the bodice and an 18 for the midriff and skirt. But then after trying it on partway through, I ended up taking a full inch out of either side of the midriff and tapering that up into the bodice. (Just like old times, since I always had to take stuff in at the waist pre-kids, so I actually felt good about this!) This meant that the front skirt overlapped more than it called for (which was probably a good thing for wardrobe malfunction avoidance), and the back skirt was more gathered than intended, but I think it worked out well.

20180720_184848I also raised the armscye half an inch after reading some reviews that said that it was a little too open under the arm, and this was a good change to make. It’s still a tiny bit low, as you can see from my selfie here, but my bra isn’t showing. It’s probably not quite visible here, but I did also add some additional zig zag stitching on the ruched midsection to help keep that a little more in place. The last time I had a ruched jersey piece on a dress, the weight of the fabric just made it look all weird and saggy around my waist, and who wants that? Part of me wishes that I’d added a line down the middle, since it still has a bit of that droopy cummerbund look, but I am glad that I added it where I did (around the more internal set of notches).

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One more selfie, to give a better view of the neckline. I did overlap this more than intended, because I was fairly certain that my bra would have been hanging out as is. At the very end of making this, I also added a hook and eye to keep this more closed. Too bad I didn’t have this last summer, because this view would have been quite nursing friendly! The way the collar was constructed was kind of funky, and I ended up having to hand stitch it in place inside because I could not figure out a better way to do it, but this sort of drapey shawl collar actually turned out pretty nice.

A few quibbles about the pattern, aside from the couple of things I mentioned:

  1. This was ridiculously long. I am not short (5’7″, so I’m on the slightly taller side of average), and I still had to chop a whole 6″ off of the bottom in order to not have a dramatic train happening. Which would have been cool, but also super-impractical with two little boys running around.
  2. The aforementioned collar construction, since I’m a little concerned about how my hand sewing will hold up in jersey, despite trying to give it a fairly stretchy stitch.
  3. I wish there had been some alternate way to add the elastic to the inside waistband mentioned. The instructions they gave to make a casing within the seam allowance, would have worked fine if I’d been constructing this entirely on my regular sewing machine, but since I’ve mentioned that my machine tends to not get along well with ITY, I was using the serger rather heavily. Which meant that I had to just zig zag the elastic to the overlocked seam, and it looks super messy inside and barely keeps the weight of the skirt in place. (I probably could have tightened it more, and may have to go back and fix that in the future, but after ditching a full 2″ from the circumference, I was having to guesstimate with the elastic pinned around where I thought it would land as it was. And the cardinal rule of dressing for anything where a wind instrument will be played is not to cut off your ribs’ ability to expand.

So would I make this again? I’m not sure I would as a dress, as there honestly isn’t a ton of room in my wardrobe for dresses these days. Making this one just felt frivolous and fun, which was a nice change after working on several wardrobe holes in a row. But now that I have the fitting more or less worked out, I could see myself making the shorter version as a tunic top of sorts, because I bet it would look great over some skinny pants or a more fitted short. And if I have learned one thing this summer, it’s that I definitely could use more sleeveless-ish things in my life. It’s been super-hard dressing for all of the humid, 90+ degree days lately!

I’m never wearing a bikini bottom again

IMG_7006Because I have shorts!

Seriously, this is really exciting for me. I have a lifelong hatred of swimsuit shopping, and the biggest reason is that the bottoms never quite matched my coverage comfort level. I’ve always felt that I had to get the boy cut to cover my entire backside, because the thought of my cheeks hanging out does not make for a relaxing beach day, but still wasn’t happy with the thigh coverage or how wide they make my hips look. So I’ve spent a lot of beach time in my life wearing my (often jeans) shorts over my suit, which was much more mentally comfortable for me than physically comfortable. I’m also super picky about the top. I generally like tankinis, because I get the coverage of a one piece without having to fully strip every time I need to use the toilet, but it’s hard to find those with bottoms that I’m happy with.

I knew a swimsuit would have to be attempted this year. I just didn’t have one that fit anymore, except for a hand me down, unsupportive one piece that was frankly embarrassing to wear. When I saw that Jalie has a shorts pattern with a built in swim bottom, it sounded like a dream come true!

So I bought the pattern, along with a one piece that looked a little more interesting and supportive than their tankini top. And the rash guard top, because I am descended from all of the palest people on earth and I’m tired of always missing a spot somewhere on my back or shoulders and getting burned! (I’ll be honest, I was seriously tempted to just use that as the top, because I will never wear just the tankini top outside now, but I wasn’t sure how to build the necessary bust support into that.) And a few pieces of swim knit from Cali Fabrics. I was hoping for an SPF fabric, but couldn’t find anything in colors and prints that I liked, and this blue and green abstract print was singing like a Siren. Of course I couldn’t resist.

IMG_7007The shorts came together pretty easily, especially for a first attempt at swimwear. The hardest parts were wrestling the elastic into something resembling submission, and that I still haven’t quite worked out tensioning on my coverstitch machine. But I think the finished results look good, at least when it’s on. (Thankfully, you can’t see the elastic stitching on the built in briefs, because that is a mess. My elastic technique needs practice.) The waistband construction is pretty clever, and it has pockets! I never want a normal swimsuit bottom again.

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The top is ok. Hacking it into a tankini top was easy, all I did was cut it off right at the leg hole. I like the twist front, but wish the cups were better. The swim cups I was able to find (from Joann’s) are a bit unnatural in shape, at least for me, and I honestly couldn’t figure out how to sew them in with good placement and the very open mesh I was able to find to line things. I’m telling myself that since they’re still removable, that will help with washing. But I do think that whenever I need a new swimsuit, which hopefully won’t be for awhile, I’ll look for a different top pattern. Like one with cup instructions. And maybe more bust support.

The other two changes I made to this were to hand stitch the twist so it would stay in place, since it kept slipping below the seam it was meant to cover, and to cross the straps in the back. I had the length, and figured it might help with support.

IMG_20180613_223737I did a little hacking on the rash guard, too. My main reason was that the zippers were all too long or too short. Every time I’ve tried pulling plastic teeth off, the edge is a frayed mess, so I decided to go with shorter and change the neckline to compensate. In retrospect, that was probably the best move anyway, because I’ve never liked clothes that are too tight around my neck. The turtlenecks I sometimes had to wear as a kid were torture. So I basically shortened the neckband, drew a sort of curvy V neck down to meet the zipper, and topstitched around the whole thing with the coverstitch machine. (See that whole triangle of the wrong side of the fabric? That’s all filled in on the original pattern.) I initially had a lot of trouble with the zipper installation, since the fabric was soooo stretchy, but a little piece of this roll of interfacing-like stuff that I found in my cart of sewing essentials made it sew in like a dream after that.

IMG_7013As for the fabric, I was very happy working with the print, as it had just enough texture to keep it from sliding all over the place. The solid black does have a shinier finish, and was a lot more slippery. I also used some meshy stuff for the lining bits, but severely overestimated how much I needed since I was basing my estimate on a fully lined one piece! So I’m not sure what to do with nearly 2 yards of beige powernet… I guess I’m set for life if I ever want to make skintone bras. Sigh.

Aside from the top, if I were making this again, I think I’d loosen the elastic around the internal briefs just a bit. And buy as little of the mesh as I could have. But aside from that, I’m overall pleased. I made this without any size alterations (using size Y). It’s a little whiskery in the shorts, but since they’re just meant to get wet and that will probably straighten it out anyway, I’m not going to sweat it. I did test this out yesterday for an Independence Day gathering at my in-laws’, who have a pool. It didn’t fall apart (yay!), the shorts didn’t do a lot of irritating riding up like the boy cut bottoms I had before often would, and I did successfully avoid sunburn (except for one teeny bit I missed near my scalp. Arrrrgh. #palepeopleproblems)!

IMG_7017 I can actually see myself getting some extra use out of the shorts and rash guard patterns, to be honest. The shorts could easily be used for workout shorts/bum around the house shorts, if I’m ever so inclined to make those, with the brief left out. (The pattern does actually suggest that, as tennis shorts.) And if I could find an appropriate fabric, the top could work out very well for hiking, I think! Which is something I’m trying to get back into, as much as I can with the age and listening abilities of the boys.

 

The long awaited Landers

IMG_6959As promised! I’m very pleased at how these turned out, especially since this is the first garment I’ve made that has a fitted waistband in about 3.5 years. Fitting pants has been a scary thought for me, with all of the changes that my body has gone through. I’ve honestly been having trouble resigning myself to my increased belly curviness and waist measurement, even if it’s for the best possible reasons. (One of whom is photobombing me here.) But since I only had about two pairs of shorts with varying degrees of actually fitting, by which I mean belts are a must, this was a necessary experiment.

I did have to make quite a few fitting tweaks, as you know if you follow my Instagram. (See above for an example.) My original plan was to make a wearable muslin before cutting into this super fun denim, but it quickly became apparent that it needed too much work. I had to take a  small wedge out of the center back seam to avoid the gapping, which I expected. But I also had to take some serious length out of both the front and back crotch curve altogether. I know it’s supposed to be high waisted, but it was just soooo saggy. I think that I’ll add a tiny bit of length back into the front crotch the next time, though, because these are just a little uncomfortably snug when I’m sitting, particularly in the car. Not enough to be a dealbreaker for this pair, but still. I also had to let out the hips quite a bit, so it’s a good thing that allowances for that were included in the pattern. I added several inches of length to the legs as well, because short shorts aren’t my thing.

IMG_6989But look at the results! I’m a fan of the patch pockets on these, the size is perfect for my phone and I like the 70s vibe. I also am digging this fabric. It’s an Art Gallery denim that my mom gave me at Christmas, and just basic/neutral enough of a print that I can experiment with some print mixing. I actually have about 2/3 yard left over, so I’m debating whether I want to try to squeeze out a skirt or mix it with another denim to make a jacket. The jacket would be cooler, but coordinating the denim could be tough. We’ll see. I like the texture of the fabric and it seems to be good quality so far, so I’ll have to keep an eye out for more. As for the buttons, they’re vintage, from a collection that my grandmother gave me while downsizing her stuff to move in with my parents.

IMG_6963This was my first time making a True Bias pattern, since I’m probably the only user of indie patterns on earth who hasn’t tried the Hudson pants or Ogden cami yet. I was pleased with how clear everything was in the instructions, especially since this was my first time making a button fly as well. I’ll likely get the zip add on at some point, because these will definitely get made again. In fact, I already have a piece of lightweight black twill marked to make the pants, so I’ll have to see if I can knock them out for the fall. I do think that the cleaner zip look might be good for that pair, since I often wear black pants in music performance contexts.

As the only pair of shorts that fit without constantly hiking them up, these have been in heavy rotation this summer. And it’s definitely a boost to my sewing/body confidence that I can still fit a non elastic bottom piece. Which is good, since I’m seriously itching for some me-made jeans in my life again!