the best-laid plans…

Oh, hi, internet! So you remember that great sewing plan I had for the winter? Well, it’s pretty much out the window by this point. The one thing I did manage to do out of my Seasonal Sew 3 was the Grainline Archer shirt that I’d already been putting off for 2 years, but wow, getting it to happen was a massive struggle.

The main reason? Guess what… pretty much as soon as I posted that plan, I found out that I’m pregnant again. And so far, this has mostly been a repeat of the first pregnancy where I was sick all the time, except now I’ve also got two active boys to watch, so I don’t have the luxury of spending extra hours nursing myself in bed. So between the nausea and the fatigue, I just haven’t had it in me to sew much at all so far this year. But I really wanted to try to get this shirt done while I still fit into the jeans that coordinate with this best (which ended up not happening), so here I am.

20190221_083824I did make a few changes, after a careful examination of my previous Archer. Like I added about 3/4″ to each seam on the hips, and I shrank down the sleeve cuffs because those last ones were ridiculous. I used a RTW flannel that I liked the sleeve fit on as a guideline, and ended up taking something like an entire inch out of the cuff, and then tapering the sleeves down from the seam allowance to fit. I can only push these up to a little below my elbow when buttoned now, instead of fully over it, so I think it went much better. While I feel like I could stand to add some length in here, as I like my shirts on the longer side, I’m overall much happier with the fit this time!

img_20190106_152940This shirt almost got derailed right at the beginning. I thought I was being very careful about the plaid matching, even cutting the front single layer and lining the second piece up with the first on the fabric. But somehow, it got shifted off just enough to be super obvious in the front. After some panicked Instagramming and some good suggestions (thanks, ladies!), I managed to salvage it by trimming a little off the shoulder seam on one side, and evening out the front hem. Somehow, the plaid still matched at the armhole and side seams, so I have no idea what happened, unless I just blame it on early pregnancy brain.

20190221_083903From there, it was pretty smooth sailing, for the most part. I suppose that being forced to slow down and really take my time with this shirt was not the worst thing in the world, since I was able to focus on being really precise. I did run out of thread just before the buttonholes, and discovered that Gutermann apparently changed the number codes, because the same number thread was not the same shade of teal at all! Thankfully, I suspected something was off in the store, and bought two more spools of other shades as backups. It’s not like I won’t use them at some point, since teal is basically a neutral for me. I think I probably could have made the buttonholes a little larger, but I can still button it all right. So even though this ended up taking the entire winter, at least I have a nice, cozy, nursing-friendly top for this fall! It’s the Robert Kaufman Mammoth flannel, in the “Lagoon” color, and it’s so thick and luscious. I want to make all my flannel stuff out of this now, even if the thickness did make some of the buttonholes a pain.

20190221_083900And at least the shirt itself fits, for now. The baby bump showed up pretty quickly this time, I guess because this is the third time, and I was forced back into my maternity pants around 8 weeks. I think I took these photos around 10 weeks, but it’s taken a little while to get some editing/writing time! So I’m right on the cusp of the second trimester now. Hopefully I’ll manage to get back into the mustardy gold jeans that I have by the end of the year, because I think they’d be great for styling with this shirt.

Coming soon: The new, revised sewing plan for the next few months. Because guess what… I actually legitimately need maternity clothes, believe it or not.

 

the year-end wrap up and some upcoming plans

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First off, my last sewing projects of 2018. I had enough free time the day after Christmas to whip up another matching set of Brindille & Twig ringer tees for the boys, in long sleeves this time. I made Hobbit’s in the 4/5 size, and Padawan’s in the 24 month size. (He’s a bit of a peanut, and not quite out of the 18 month clothes even though he’ll be turning 2 in the spring. I strongly suspect I may have to sew several pairs of pants for him this fall, since he seems to be pretty slender for his age.)

And now, all the nerdy number things!

This year, I’ve made:
20181226_160928Pajamas, just pants- 1 (I had a top to go with this)
Pajamas- 4 sets (3 with knit tops instead of pj pattern)
Tops for me- 5 (refashions- 2)
Dresses- 3
Boy shirts- 4
Toys- 2.
Quilts- 1
Shorts- 1
Swimsuit- 1 (3 piece set)
Coats- 3 (1 for me and 2 for boys)
Jeans- 1 (yaaaaaaay!)

Total: 26 projects for the year. Not too shabby!

Yards of fabric used: 51.5 on record, probably closer to 55. I did have to purchase some fabric to make the boys’ coats, and it never quite made it into my spreadsheet. Neither did this dog jersey.

Total yards in my stash currently: I started the year with 342.5 yards, and now have 394.49.  So that’s a net gain of about 52 yards. Oops. Admittedly, most of this was Christmas gifts from my mom (I just added it up and got nearly 73 yards!!), all tagged for specific projects, as we spent quite a bit of time over the fall chatting about what I needed most in my wardrobe. I love every single piece, and they all fit very well within my color palette that I’ve slowly been refining my closet to, so I know they’ll get used. It’s just a matter of having the time to make them up!

I also had to buy some quilt fabrics, as I kind of got suckered into agreeing to assemble some quilt kits that my mother in law bought several years ago. But I know I can’t just quilt for months without losing my mind, so my plan is to use any sewing time I get at my parents’ house where I don’t need to cut projects out will be dedicated to this until it’s done. (And I totally plan to reward myself with a fun sewing treat when I’m all done, since she’s paying me.)

I also wanted to reflect on some of the long term challenges I took part in this year.

First, the RTW Fast from Goodbye Valentino. I did get through the entire year without purchasing any clothes for myself, aside from some desperately needed bras once I finished nursing, and that fell into the guidelines. I was gifted a few things, though. Like my mom surprised me with several knit skorts over the summer, because I had virtually nothing to wear on my at home days where playing on the floor in skirts isn’t the most practical/it took so long to just make one pair of shorts due to fitting. I think that there was some value in participating, but I don’t plan to continue in 2019. For one thing, it’s bothered me the whole year that the restriction extends to purchasing secondhand clothes. I’ll admit that in the past, I’ve binge-shopped at the thrift store without much thought between “oh, that’s cute” or “I can use this as fabric!” And this did prevent me from doing any of that this year. But given that sewing time is a precious commodity for me, I can see value in supplementing my handmade wardrobe with a few carefully chosen thrifted pieces, especially in categories that I’m not necessarily interested in sewing like exercise clothes. Also, from a sustainability standpoint, it seems ridiculous to force people into feeling like they need to purchase fabric to make some basics if you can save a perfectly good existing piece of clothing from getting incinerated or thrown in a landfill, provided that fit isn’t an issue.

I also didn’t particularly enjoy the Facebook group. I’m not on there as much as I used to be, and that was the sort of group that was constantly filling my news feed because of the sheer number of posts. Plus I didn’t like that people were getting called out/kicked out for things like, one example I remember from early in the year when I was following more closely, one woman getting surprised by a ski trip and needing to buy a coat because she didn’t have one that would keep her warm enough. It just seemed like a lot of ridiculous policing and no grace for life happening, so I stopped following it partway through the year. I think I’ll stick with the Stashbusting Sewalong for my Facebook sewing fix, since that one is all about cheering each other on and laughing when we end up getting more stash anyway.

The 2018 Make Nine was a more positive experience for me. Since I decided to swap out one top for jeans, I got 7 out of 9, which is very good! I also like that that one is more about celebrating the wins, and any projects that get done. I’m also going to let that one go for next year, though I would participate in this one again in the future. I think that after the unemployment scare this fall, and all the derailing of plans that happens with young kids, I’m feeling very reluctant to plan too far in advance. And since I’m also trying to be realistic in my goal making/more carefully build my wardrobe, I think I’ll be better off if I take it season by season rather than a year at a time. So after much consideration, I’ve decided to do the Seasonal Sew 3 challenge instead.

So, here’s my winter plan!

  1. IMG_20181205_124507I’ve had a plaid flannel Archer shirt on my Make Nine for 2 years straight, and failed to make it both times. But I still love the fabric, it’s one of the prettiest plaids I’ve ever seen, and I want it in my closet. I was procrastinating because of sleeve alterations, but I finally got it cut out yesterday, and am hoping to start sewing it up in the next day or so. I think it’ll be a great option to go with my gold jeans that I wear for work, and maybe even those turquoise jeans that I just made!
  2. New Look 6417. I’ve been drooling over this one since I bought it last winter, because it’s so unique looking. I was gifted some cream ponte knit to make it this year, and I’m going to see if I have enough of this leathery looking fabric left from my old Gabriola skirt to make the binding. If not, I have some brown interlock left over from my first Tiramisu dress that I can probably make work. Given that this would go with basically every pair of pants I have, except maybe my grey jeans (I guess grey and brown can work? I mean, that’s the entire winter landscape here, but BLAH), I think this could be a good one to wear either for teaching or home days, as long as the boys aren’t getting into paint or I’m not cooking pasta sauce.
  3. Since I’m most hurting for stay at home clothes, I think the third thing will be to try out the Hudson pants. I have some stashed grey ponte that I got to try out a sewing dare project from Gillian from at least a year ago, but haven’t been able to get to, and maybe I need to rethink what to do there. So I think I’ll try the fit out with those, and if it works, whip up a second pair with a funkier knit that I got for Christmas.

Bonus project: some matching Twig & Tale Trailblazer vests for my guys, to go along with the Sewcialists’ upcoming menswear theme month. Doug is really excited about this one, because my mom made the boys some matching vests a few months ago and he was half-joking about why he didn’t get one, so she bought him some fabric with his favorite hockey team logo plus some corduroy for the outside for Christmas, enough to make matching vests for him and the boys. Since he’s turned down every offer I’ve ever made to sew clothes for him in the past, I’m going to prioritize this one for the season, and plan to start it as soon as I’m done with the Archer. So if I do have to drop or swap something in my plan to something faster, I’ve already decided that the sweater can be pushed off. (Especially since I’ll have to make all of the bias trim before I can do that anyway.)

Sewing top 5: 2019 goals!

As is tradition, I’m going to begin this post with a review of my goals for this past year to see how I did.

  1. I’d like to work towards developing a nice stash of TNT patterns. I think I’ve made good progress on this! I think I’ve got my new sizing figured out to the point where I can use my old beloved Sewaholic Renfrew again. The Stasia tee/tank by Sew Liberated looks like it will become a favorite, and I look forward to trying the dress sometime. I have high hopes for the Helen’s Closet Blackwood cardigan. And both the shorts version of the True Bias Lander pants and the Itch to Stitch Mountain View jeans were a success, which fills a huge hole in my TNT pattern stash!
  2. This may be the year I finally have to tackle one of the few garment types I haven’t tried: a swimsuit. Done. See this post.
  3. I need to restock my pajamas. While I still feel like I could probably use another pair of pj pants in not-flannel to pair with a tee for those middle temperature nights, I’m in much better shape for the solstice seasons now.
  4. I’d like to start building towards some smaller capsules within my wardrobe. I wouldn’t say that I necessarily sewed for that in this year, but I did spend a lot of time evaluating what I have, and that’s a good start. See this post.
  5. In general, I want to be more creative in using what I have. I really didn’t buy much fabric this year at all! Which made the experience of shopping for the few carefully considered pieces that I did buy (and used right away) more special. I also got a few things out of my refashion bin, so that’s a good bonus.

My bonus knitting goal was to finish my Gnarled Oak cardigan. Yeeeeeah… that didn’t happen. I basically spent the entire year knitting two sleeves and no yoke, but at least I made visible progress. Still, I think my days of knitting this in the car while Doug drives are over, because now I have to read charts and I am cursed with very swift motion sickness when reading in a car. (My lifelong sorrow, as Anne Shirley would say, since I could have read SO many more books in my life otherwise!) Maybe third year will be the charm?

On to 2019! So here’s what I’m thinking…

  1. Leave room for frosting. I’ve been all about practical garments and filling holes ever since the Mom Wardrobe became a thing for me. But one of my favorite garments that I made this year was a colorful, gorgeous, unnecessary dress. I was also having a good deal of FOMO over the #sewfrosting challenge that happened last month, especially since my life just didn’t allow me to jump in. So yes, I need to work on filling those wardrobe holes that I feel are in my life, but I also need to remember that sewing is supposed to be fun, and I don’t have to have slow fashion guilt over just making something because I want to.
  2. That being said, my next goal is to work on the “Mom Wardrobe”. The struggle is real, people. I think I’ve got a pretty good grip on what to wear on days that I’m teaching, or to go to church. Where I’ve been having trouble all year is what to wear on the days that I’m just at home! And now that my teaching is consolidated to 3 days instead of 4, there’s more of them. Since the boys are getting to the ages where art supplies and dirt are a bigger part of everyday life, I need things that are easy care, but hopefully not embarrassing to wear out on errands or to the playground. Right now, I’m living in mostly badly fitting blue jeans that I bought in postpartum desperation, and inadequately warm knit tops. So I’m thinking maybe some Hudson pants (I know, last indie pattern sewist on earth), maybe another pair of pull-on jeans if my stretchy enough stashed denim is enough yardage, and cozy tees and layering pieces. And a lot more tank tops for summer!
  3. Get creative with some #sewingleftovers. Since the fabrics I often use just aren’t the best for rough and tumble boy clothes, it’s not often that I can just make smaller clothes with what’s left. So I’m looking for inspiration for adult garments that involve elements like patchwork or print mixing, and hoping that maybe I can use up some of these smaller pieces in a stylish way.
  4. Work on my styling. I know that’s not quite a sewing goal, but I feel like it’s related. Knowing that separates are my favorite things to wear, I’ve been saying for years that I want a more mixable wardrobe (without having to go full out neutral Pinterest capsule, ugh). I did enjoy doing Me Made May and the Slow Styling challenge that happened in October on Instagram, and think it’ll be a good way to help me be more thoughtful about what makes sense to add to my wardrobe. I’m just not sure how to do this yet, like whether I should document the outfits with me-mades (or even including my RTW) on IG stories, or what. Any suggestions?
  5. You know, the first four goals were easy to come up with, and I’m drawing a blank on this one. So instead of a sewing goal, I’m going for knitting and will say that it’s finish up my Gnarled Oak cardigan for real this time. And then think through some smaller projects that I can mostly tackle with my existing yarn stash, because clearly I am not in a life stage where knitting sweaters is a good idea! I’m thinking maybe I should finally try socks. I have enough for 2 pairs, though my continued ability to make those will depend on the availability of non wool sock yarn. But since the cardi may very well take all of 2019, given my record lately, I won’t stress about that right now.

I did decide to do one little side goal this year. I’ve been interested in the 100 Day Project for awhile. I honestly don’t feel like sewing is necessarily a realistic way for me to participate in that right now, as I have things like orchestra rehearsal nights where I can’t leave the boys unsupervised long enough during the day for even a short sewing session, or I have to sometimes wait to have time to cut my next project out in my mom’s sewing room. But since I can usually grab 15-20 minutes on a computer every day by letting the boys watch one of the irritating preschool cartoons that they like, I’m going to attempt to do a digital scrapbooking project for that this upcoming year, starting in January. I don’t know yet if I’ll share that here or not, but it is a creative project, so I might do that on IG stories or something. We’ll see how I feel next week.

I’m still feeling torn about specific project goals and how to plan them (like Make 9 vs seasonal or something else), though maybe I’ll have more clarity after Christmas and a nice little stash tidy. And Gillian had an interesting suggestion on Instagram that I’m mulling over. So I’ll keep you posted. How do you plan your sewing? Any goals or plans that you’re particularly excited about for 2019?

Sewing Top 5: the 2018 misses

This was a little tough for me this year. Honestly, I feel like I’ve had a good sewing year overall, and even the things that weren’t 100% the way I wanted them still got worn multiple times. And I don’t want to be the person who’s critically nitpicking apart my own projects, you know? But here’s what I do wish had gone a little better this year.

2018-03-03_08-55-56 1. Taking time for muslins. My Easter Deer & Doe Reglisse dress was wearable, and I’m actually really happy with how my hacks went (lengthening the skirt and adding pockets!) But there were some fitting issues around the armholes, and they’re a little deeper than I would like. I was sewing this on a deadline for the Day & Night dress challenge, so I didn’t feel like I had time to test anything out, but if I had taken that time, it might have resulted in a better dress. I still wear this during the warmer weather, but I might need to take a second look at that area and see if I can fix it.

 

 

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2. Notions sourcing, specifically for my swimsuit. Again, I was overall happy with this project, particularly the shorts. The only foam cups I could get around here were awful, though. I couldn’t figure out how to sew them into the meshy pockets, the shape of the stiff foam was completely unnatural, and they were a real pain to deal with whenever I washed the suit. I’m coming to find that I’m having trouble finding even notions that I need at Joann’s, as they’ve been cutting back on buttons and trims and such. It makes me sad, as it’s literally my only sewing store around. As for this suit, I did find an older swimsuit with softer sew-in cups that I can recycle, if I can just figure out how to stitch them in. At this point, my only guess is to put the swimsuit on inside out and literally hand-sew them to the mesh so I can mold it to myself. Which means it’ll probably wait until a warm spring day next year, because I can not sit around in a strappy top during the winter.

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3. Leaving room for my hips. Oh, hi, Akita! (I had to get at least one picture of this on my own blog, since this was from a Sewcialists post.) To be honest, this wasn’t really so much of an issue for my from-scratch projects this year, as I’ve gotten better at blending between sizes. But for my refashions lately, it’s like I’m forgetting that my hips are a full 3″ bigger than they were before childbirth, and it’s not looking like they’re ever going to go back. The print camouflages it well, but I ended up having to go back and insert a triangle in the sides to give myself a bit of extra room, despite checking the pattern sizing. I had a similar problem with this top, though I used basically the entire width of the print fabric so there really wasn’t much I could do. It’s wearable, but a little more snug in that area than ideal. So that’s something I’ll need to do a better job of factoring in.

4. Overplanning. This is honestly something I do in every area of my life– I always think that I can do more than I have time for. And then I get really down on myself for how lazy and unproductive I must be. Yes, I could probably do better on things like actually cleaning something instead of scrolling Instagram, but a big chunk of this is just my life stage, and I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. As far as sewing goes, this manifested in pulling out more patterns than I’d have time for in a season, planning projects for challenges that I didn’t even have time to start, and in a few cases, not actually finishing a project until the season it was wearable in had passed. Lately, I’ve been feeling like it’s ok to cut back and slow down and try to simplify things, especially since I’m in a season where I really do need to focus more on things like building relationships with my kids (and making sure they’re not scribbling on the walls while I’m distracted.) So while I did pretty well with things like my Make 9 board, as long as I stick with having switched a dress hack out for the jeans, I’m seriously wondering if this might not be a bad year to skip that long-range planning and just focus on something more like the Seasonal Sew 3. And then I can just focus on what I need or want to make now, rather than tying myself to a list that might not end up working for me.

Hmm… I think I’ll just leave it at 4, actually. Because the only thing I can think of for #5 is maybe keeping my sewing closet neater, but let’s be honest, that will probably never happen!

Next up, my favorite of the roundups: Goals!!! (Though, due to #4, I’ve been having trouble evaluating that. And I’d really like to see what sewing goodies I get for Christmas before I try to do any actual sewing plans. 🙂

Sewing top 5: 2018’s greatest hits!

It’s always fun to look back over the year and see what worked (or didn’t) out of the things I made. So here’s the 5(ish) projects that were the biggest winners of 2018.
2018 top 5 hits

1. Pajamas for days. The most used pattern this year was undoubtedly the Closet Case Carolyn pajamas, as I used it to make 3 pairs of pants, 2 shorts, and 1 button up shirt. I’ve been happy with the fit right out of the envelope (minus the one butt adjustment I made before the first pair and kept), and having pockets puts this firmly in the camp of favorite pj pattern ever.

2. Bring on the frosting! Admittedly, my sewing over the last 4 years has been focused more on filling holes, mostly practical kid stuff, and just restocking utilitarian pieces. But this McCall’s maxidress that I made over the summer was just fun, and bright, and happy. And even though it reads more pink than I usually ever go for, I wore it quite a bit between the time it got finished and the time it got cold. (And I’m plotting a winter styling attempt.)

3. As cake as it gets. On a whim, after finding a cable textured ivory knit at Joann’s, I decided to make a basic tee to test a new to me pattern, the Sew Liberated Stasia tee, and hopefully replace the Kirsten Kimono tee that was too sheer and didn’t quite fit my hips. It certainly delivered, and became another frequently worn piece since it goes with most of my bottoms, solid or not.

4. JEANS! I don’t have a ton to say since the Itch to Stich Mountain View Jeans was one of my most recent projects, but I will say that I’ve liked the comfort level of pull on jeans more than I thought I would. And just because I don’t necessarily have a lot of tops to go with at this time (though that vanilla cake top will, lol) doesn’t mean I won’t shamelessly plan a mini capsule wardrobe to go with!

5. Hacking for the win. One of my long standing goals has been to improve my pattern hacking skills. The Seamwork Mesa dress that I hacked to be longer and nursing friendly was a definite winner, that got worn a lot from the spring though the fall. Apparently the community at large thought so, too, because that showed up twice in my Instagram top 9!

Bonus: the transitional coat. I have trouble counting this as a 2018 make, since the only sewing I did on it this year was to finish the toggles. But my Leanne Marshall Simplicity coat did exactly what I hoped it would, keeping me more comfortable on those 40s-60s range days. And rather stylishly so, I think.

Coming soon: the 5 things that didn’t quite work out as well.

an unseasonal Blackwood

I’m trying to wrap a few projects up so I can take some time to do some year end things like tidy up my sewing space and my stash closet. This one had been in my queue all fall, and I’m glad I finally got to it.

20181213_133626The pattern is the Blackwood Cardigan by Helen’s Closet, and though this was my first time making one of her patterns, it won’t be the last! The most difficult part of putting this one together was attempting to do some vague pattern matching with this big abstract zigzag. I’m not sure how successful it was, but honestly, it’s large scale enough that no one will probably even notice. Once I got it cut out, I was able to get it sewn together in only three sessions, which is really good for me these days.

To be honest, I don’t think this particular sweater will get much use for the next few months. The fabric is a very lightweight and sheer sweater knit that my mom gave me last Christmas, specifically for this pattern. I love the colors and the boldness of it, and I think it’ll be a great pairing with the Mountain View jeans that I recently finished. But it’s not a very warm knit. It wasn’t quite as cold today, so I was able to get away with it over a tee for its debut outing. But I can’t wear it over long sleeves very easily, as the fabric is rather grippy, so I think this will be a better layering piece for the spring and fall.

20181213_134005That being said, there were several features I love about this pattern, so whenever I get another appropriate knit, I think I’ll make another! Aside from just the fast sew, there’s the fact that it has pockets. (Which I cut on the cross grain to avoid pattern matching problems, but I’m also hoping that they won’t sag as easily that way. Though this honestly might not hold up to the weight of my phone!)

Also, the sleeves! I’m used to having to add at least an inch to all long sleeves. But since these were designed to be longer, I didn’t have to adjust for once. I’m also a fan of the cuffs and bands to avoid hemming (see my enduring love for the Sewaholic Renfrew.)

Overall, I’m happy to have this to look forward to wearing, like if we end up with some random warm February days again in 2019!

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.

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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!