Chain Reaction 1, finished!

Since I didn’t manage to get pictures of my fourth finished piece before I finished my most recent project, I have two things to share today.

The first is a pattern that I’ve made before, the Stasia Tee by Sew Liberated. Since I’ve already talked about this pattern, I made it basically the exact same way as before, except I did add a little extra width to the lower section to compensate for the mom tummy that I’ve gained since the ivory version. I made a coral tee years ago, and it ended up being a surprisingly versatile piece in my wardrobe. But given that it was two kids and a quarantine ago, it isn’t fitting that well these days. So this one was to function as both a replacement for that, and a much needed pop of color in this particular chain.

I had quite a bit of this coral left over, so I did make a second little side project, which I’ll put in a different post soon.

The second project, and what I believe will be the last piece in this particular chain for now, was the Carlsbad Vest from the recently released Itch to Stitch book. As you know, I’ve become quite a fan of her patterns in recent years, and I can honestly say that I want to make every single pattern in this book! Which I haven’t been able to say about other pattern books that I’ve acquired in the past. To be honest, this vest wasn’t on my immediate radar, but I found a fabric during my birthday mini-shopping spree that I thought would be perfect for it. And since it happened to work with the pieces in this chain, I just went for it!

The fabric is a double-sided knit from Joann’s — black and white stripes on one side, and white dots on black for the reverse. Initially, I was wondering if I could make this fully reversible, but that’s a lot of flat-felling on a stretchy knit. So in the end, I decided it wasn’t worth the risk of rippling all the seams. I did think that the reversible quality would make for a fun contrast with the waterfall effect of the front, and I do believe it worked out well. I also ended up using the dotted side for the arm bindings — partially for the style, but also because this knit was surprisingly hard to cut straight and all of my stripes for those pieces ended up slanted!

I made the size 14– I probably could have done the 12, but I wanted to make sure that it wasn’t pulling over my hips. The instructions were really nicely done for the mitered corners and the collar, so I had no trouble sewing this together. Honestly, the part that took the longest was the hemming, since it’s on all four sides and the way the corners are constructed made me think that my coverstitch machine wouldn’t be the best finishing choice. I ended up doing a folded hem (as per the instructions), with a narrow zigzag and tear-away stabilizer. It worked like a dream, with nary a ripple in sight, except the ones that are supposed to be in the front from that long rectangular piece. I could see myself making this again as an alternate silhouette to the Blackwood Cardigan, with a nice drapey knit.

And now, here’s how all five pieces in this chain mix together! As a reminder, the other three patterns involved are the Itch to Stitch Mountain View Jeans, the Itch to Stitch Atenas Jeans Jacket, and the Paprika Patterns Jade Skirt.

So, six looks from five pieces, which I can likely mix up more with different shoes (though my choices are admittedly limited there), or jewelry. Especially once I get to the point where Miss Grabby Toddler lets me start using my necklaces and dangly earrings again!

Overall, I’m quite pleased with how this chain-style sewing experiment worked out! My plan is to take a brief break from that for another project (I very badly need some pajamas that are between flannel pants and summer shorts), but plans for the next chain are definitely in the works. And, of course, I’m fully planning on mixing these pieces in with other things in my closet/future sewing projects as much as possible!

Chain reaction 1, The Jade Skirt

Not that you can see any details here, because black fabric.

My third piece in this first chain is the Jade Skirt, by Paprika Patterns. I’ve had this pattern/fabric pairing in my stash for a few years now, along with fabric for a second version, so it was time! And a basic black skirt is something that I’ve been lacking for awhile anyway.

The chair models it better than I do for details.

This was definitely a pattern that needed some brainpower on my part, more so than the pants (a pattern repeat) and the jacket (other than the welt pockets.) The front of this skirt is basically fabric origami, and I’m very glad that I took my sewing time one night to watch the video tutorial on her website! The folding process really wasn’t bad after that, though I think it would have helped if I had any quantity of more than two pin colors. I did find it a little tricky to wear for its first outing today, because even though it’s stitched under the folds to secure them, things tend to shift around when I’m in the process of sitting down. The other knit that I have for this one is a spongier, textured one. So I’m seriously debating topstitching the folds in place for that one, whenever I get to it. We’ll see how I feel after a couple of wears.

Pattern alterations!

The fitting was a more challenging process than I anticipated. I started out with a size 8, and the longer length. I’m not sure if I ended up making this higher waisted than it was supposed to be. The way that the skirt is constructed means that the bottom is finished off by the lining before the waistband is attached, and putting the finished edge at my preferred knee-area skirt length does make it high waisted on me. So then I ended up having to take quite a bit out of the back darts and side seams— I think I ended up grading it in about 6”-7” all around from my hips! And if I do succeed in flattening out my third baby tummy any, I may need to take it in even more. In anticipation of that, and also because me and stitching in the ditch with stretch stitches don’t get along, I hand sewed the waistband lining in so I can more easily access those side seams again.

I still love these crazy statement sleeves.

Just for fun, I paired this newest addition to my wardrobe with the oldest surviving member of my handmade wardrobe. I made this shirt back when Lord of the Rings was still in theaters, and I was trying to incorporate as much Middle-earth style into my wardrobe as a broke student could manage. (Side note, how am I looking at 20 year anniversaries of these movies now? I guess I’m old or something.) Anyway, this shirt alone has managed to survive the wardrobe purges since. And while I hadn’t really been able to wear this one in awhile, between babies/nursing and just lacking basics to pair with it, I think it works well with my accidental high waisted skirt. So I’m happy to have a way to get this back into a more regular rotation.

For my 100 Days Project update, I’m at the halfway mark today! And I haven’t missed any days yet, though I had to get creative with things like a recent late night at book club. I’ve used a few here and there for things like rethreading machines and washing fabric, which still counts for me because they’re parts of the process. I’ll admit that I’m starting to get some evenings here and there where I just want to take a night off and do something else, but knowing that I only need 15 minutes has helped a lot with keeping me motivated.

I’m actually already mostly done with my next project in the chain! So I’m thinking that one more project after this will probably be good for this set. I’m strongly considering knocking out a quick filler project or two before starting the next one, as I’m still plotting it out. Summer clothes will likely be involved!

Sewing with a (tentative) plan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sewing Shenanigans

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

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

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

What I liked:

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

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

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

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

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

This took forever

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Fine Feathered Visby

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now for a few unofficial thoughts:

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

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!

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.