Top 5 Hits and Misses

It’s time for my favorite year-end series! Thanks for hosting this yet again, Gillian!

Top 5 
of 2017! (1).jpg

I have to say, it was a rather mixed bag this year. I wasn’t the most productive in terms of finished projects. And I do have two currently unfinished things that seem to be turning out well, but I don’t want to hold off on this post in case I don’t finish them in time. That, and time to write on the computer instead of my Kindle is rare and must be taken advantage of. Let’s start with the hits, shall we?

nursing bras

1. The award for most worn definitely goes to my nursing bras. I only ever really blogged the ivory one, but I made three. It did get a little better as I went along, and the black one is the best by far. I’m happy to report that they are holding up far better than the RTW ones I used with Hobbit, since those were falling apart by the time he got to the age that Padawan is now (7 months). The fit is decent enough. I’m still thinking through whether bra-making is a field I want to dig further into. On the one hand, I do have a Craftsy class on them that I haven’t gone through yet, and I do get annoyed at continually paying for bras that start falling apart after a month. (Seriously, every non-nursing bra I had for the few months between weaning Hobbit and being too pregnant with Padawan to keep wearing them lost their underwires in that short time, and I’ll have to buy all new ones again when he’s done nursing. Argh.) On the flip side, this was super fiddly, and I really do prefer wearing the smoother foam-cup bras. Either way, this won’t be anything that’s happening next year. Maybe once I finally get my wardrobe in better shape again.

Cake Espresso Leggings

2. The “best wardrobe builder” was my grey Espresso leggings. It’s nice to have a pattern that works equally well for maternity and normal clothes! And since I pretty much exclusively wear leggings as tights instead of pants (except for that one time where I was 9 months pregnant and even my maternity pants weren’t fitting anymore), they’re pretty versatile. I still need to fix the teal ones I made at the same time, since that particular ponte just didn’t have the vertical stretch needed to make it work, but I’m hoping to add to that waistband sometime before the end of the year. We’ll see if I get to it.

IMG_5267

3. The award for “cutest project” definitely goes to the boys’ Halloween costumes. I mean, come on. I’m also gratified that Hobbit still pulls out the scarf sometimes to play with, since that was the most time consuming part of his costume.

Matcha and shorts

4. The “best salvage job” goes to my Wonderland Matcha top. Even though it started out ridiculously huge on me, I’m very happy with the finished result and wore it quite a bit when the weather was warmer. I’m still hoping to get the sizing on this sorted out, because I really do like the style and want this pattern to be a go-to.

IMG_5400

Incidentally, here’s a couple of projects I never got to blogging– I made a quick infinity scarf with the leftovers of this top, and a second one from a fun print I purchased specifically for this purpose. (I mean, tiny horse plaid!) I haven’t gotten to wear these much, since I spend a lot of time with a baby carrier on right now and they would just get soaked in drool, but I’m looking forward to mixing these in more soon.

IMG_4939

5. And the best “just for fun” project goes to my Norwegian Wood Rae skirt. The Sewcialists blog recently did a series on TNT patterns, and while it’s a little embarrassing to admit that my current TNT skirt pattern is an elastic-waist beginner pattern, it’s nice to have one thing that I can just whip out with fun fabric and know it’ll fit.

Now, for the not so good projects…

IMG_5145

1. The “fabric fail” award is a 3 way tie. The first is my nursing-hacked Renfrew. The concept was good. But the rayon jersey just drapes too much for having that kind of opening in the front, and at this point, it’s pretty much unwearable until I sew those nursing openings shut. Which pretty much defeats the entire purpose. I think that the sizing on this was also off– I made the largest size because nursing chest, but it’s just too long and saggy and baggy all over. I would like to do some more work on the Renfrew and figure out my new size, since this used to be one of my TNTs and I miss it.

IMG_5408

2 & 3: My black and ivory nursing camisoles. (Ivory only pictured, because the other is the same pattern. Plus bonus Padawan photobomb.) This was another fabric fail. It was the same rayon jersey as the Renfrew, and the weight of the elastic pulls it down past the opening band. I still wear them under other things, but I have to tuck the elastic under my bra band to hold it up. It’s definitely a fabric fail and not the pattern, though, because I made a grey one from a different remnant, and it has much better recovery, and works great.

20170703_141316

4 & 5. The “bad fit” award goes to both pairs of shorts that I made over the summer. I’m only showing the print pair here, since the solid was in the same picture as the Matcha top. At the time, the issue was that the largest size of the shorts were still too small for my postpartum body. By the time the summer ended, I’d lost enough weight that I could wear both pairs. But since the drafting still left the knit and solid meeting halfway down my butt and it always felt like the shorts were falling off, I really don’t think this is salvageable. The print in particular makes me sad, because I like the fabric for this one.

I have one bonus project that I’m not really sure which side it falls on.

IMG_5136 So, my Jalie Vanessa pants. On the one hand, first successful pair of pants I’ve had since I started having babies! On the other hand, I’ve been kind of stuck on how to style them, particularly since the weight of the fabric and the bagginess mean they really only work for warmer weather. Any suggestions on shirt patterns or silhouettes that might make these more versatile? I mean, I’d hate to toss out a pair of pants that actually fit just because I’m not sure what to wear them with at this point.

Advertisements

New year, new space

I know, I know, it’s well over a month into 2017. But I’m not moving fast these days, both physically and in terms of crafting. For those of you  who are just tuning in, my sewing room is becoming baby #2 (aka Padawan’s) room. We’re finally getting to the point where Hobbit is starting to sleep through the night more consistently, thank God! But that means we also don’t want to have another little guy in the same room waking him up at this point, and vice versa. (Even though he’ll really be spending his first few months in the bassinet in our room, since the less walking I have to do for late night feedings, the better.) Anyway, the point is that I’ve officially gone from a sewing room to a sewing nook in our closet, with my fabrics and less frequently used supplies moving to the basement. And clearing this room out has sucked up a lot of the time in which I would otherwise be making things.

img_4632

Ignore the crappy lighting, since I can’t do anything about it, but here’s the new space! My machines live at the wall that is shared with our actual bedroom, and Doug drilled a hole for a power strip so I could plug everything in. My must-have supplies are in an IKEA cart that tucks nicely under my skirts and dresses. And nearly everything else is in a large downstairs closet that connects to the finished part of the basement.

And look, new machines! I finally have gotten the Janome coverstitch machine set up and tested, and I think this is the beginning of a much more beautiful friendship with my knit projects. In addition, my mom generously passed one of her extra sewing machines on to me, so I have a newer Bernina to play with! While my old machine has more decorative stitches, this one actually has that lightning bolt stretch stitch, and a machine light that functions. Both of which have been handy already. (Let’s be honest, decorative stitches aren’t something I’ve used much  since my teenage years anyway.)

Along with the rearranging, I’ve also been trying to declutter as much as I can stand to, including being really honest with myself about project leftovers I can’t find a use for after years/free fabric people have dumped on me that isn’t my taste/etc. I’ve still got some work to do on scrapbook and miscellaneous craft supplies, but here’s a sampling of what I’ve managed to let go of. (Understanding that I’m a pack rat by nature, and the thought of doing that Konmari extreme declutter horrifies me.  So this is huge!)

  • 65 yards of fabric, which was well over 10% of my stash. (The Stashbusting Sewalong group is trying to collectively get through that much this year, so yay team!)
  • A stack of scrapbook paper that was around 5″ tall. That’s a lot of paper. (This actually  went to my best friend, who uses it for a particular item she creates for an annual craft fair at her church.)
  • A bunch of stickers, including several unopened packs that were clearly from the 90s. Sandylion, anyone? (Too obviously girly for me to save for the boys, since my one naturally gravitates towards things like trucks and dinosaurs and safari animals all on his own.)
  • Most of my really cheap-feeling acrylic yarn/yarn with alpaca, since my skin has made it very clear that wearing any animal fibers against it for longer than 20 minutes is a no-go. (I did keep some cheap acrylic for kids’ crafts, and one alpaca yarn for some boot toppers, since it’s a versatile color and I’d be wearing those over jeans or leggings.)

And, for the sake of catching up, here’s a quick summary of everything I sewed in January.

Cake Espresso Leggings Since it was the only thing on my #2017makenine list that is actually wearable for me at the moment, I made another pair of Cake Espresso leggings, this time in a grey ponte. Technically, I made two, though I finished the second this month. Unfortunately, the second pair is currently unwearable– while this grey ponte from my Christmas haul had a four way stretch, the teal that I used for the second was more of a two-way stretch. As a result, at the risk of TMI, I can’t get them pulled up enough to fully cover my backside. I do have enough fabric left over than I can add some length there, but I’m going to wait until after the bump to try them on again and make sure that’s not the only issue. But I’ll probably just unpick the folded-over waistband and stitch on a new one to give me the coverage I need to be comfortable wearing them. I did get to play with my new coverstitch for both of these, so that was fun!

The rest of my sewing was rather utilitarian. Part of rearranging the closet to accommodate my sewing machines was needing to figure out what to do with our dirty laundry, since our washer and dryer are two floors down from our bedroom. So I recycled one of my old handmade curtains into two new laundry bags. Having something that closes is definitely a must, since one of our golden retrievers is a total kleptomaniac and our socks will be all over the place if he gets a hold of them.

I also have been playing around with a more old-fashioned paper planner this year, since writing things to do out seems to help me remember better. The particular one I purchased is a print-at-home, and one of the major perks for me was having lots of note pages so I can treat it like a bullet journal, and therefore have all of my lists of projects to work on and books to find and whatnot without having to write out my calendar every month. But my binder was boring, and I needed a way to keep my pens with it, so I used up most of some leftover quilt cotton from an apron that I made several years back to make a cheery cover for it. (The button is part for looks, and part to keep it closed in a way that Hobbit hasn’t figured out how to get past yet! He’s starting to figure zippers out, so that was a no go.)

My sewing this month has been pretty slow so far, since I wasn’t able to sit down in the closet cave for over a week. But hopefully I’ll at least finish what I’m currently working on before this month is out! I’ve got a few things that I’d really, really like to finish before Padawan makes his appearance, since I have absolutely no idea how much luck I’ll have in getting both boys sleeping at the same time for awhile. Wish me luck!

March in Review

Wow, I didn’t intend to just skip from one monthly summary to the next. But this has been a month where I just didn’t finish anything large enough for individual blog posts. I have a couple of other things in progress, but they’ve been going rather slowly. (Fitting for this blog name, I guess.)

So without further ado, here’s what I did manage to get done. Mostly via instagram pics.

Le Dane HatsThis was actually a pretty good month for knitting. I finished my second hat of the year, this time for Hobbit. And this was actually me planning ahead pretty decently! The hat size for him was 9-24 months, so this will be put aside for next winter. (He just turned 9 months this month, and is currently in a stage where all hats get violently ripped off his head within seconds anyway, so there was really no point in trying to finish it for this winter.) So now he and Doug have matching hats.

The pattern is Le Dane, which is free on Ravelry. Doug picked the colors, and I knitted them out of a soft acrylic. I added extra length to the ribbing on Doug’s at his request, because he wants to make sure he can cover his ears. I knitted Hobbit’s as is, since there’s no guarantee he’ll even leave it on!

Once I finished that, my intent was to do a second gauge swatch for my cardigan. But then I got distracted by pretty variegated yarn at Joann’s, bought two skeins, and immediately started knitting! This is the Garland Cowl, also free on Ravelry, knitted from Lion Brand Landscapes in the Apple Orchard colorway. (I’ve woven in the ends since this picture, but I haven’t tried blocking it yet.) It’s acrylic, so working with it was no problem for me, and I really enjoyed watching the colors change as I worked! I’m trying to simplify my knit accessories, since several of my older scarves are starting to look ratty, and I think this will really pop against my mostly black peacoat! I have about 100 yards left, so I’m thinking I’m going to reknit my Whittier hat. The alpaca in it does make my head itch if I wear it for longer than about 30 minutes, sadly, but I did enjoy the pattern, and it took me less than 100 yards the last time.

I did start that gauge swatch. But going down one needle size wasn’t enough, because it was ending up the exact same size! So I’m trying two sizes down, and hopefully that will be enough.

Also, this happened.

In the world of sewing, I’ve been working on a (hopefully) wearable muslin of the Deer & Doe Bruyere blouse. But I was only working on it at my mom’s sewing machine while she watched Hobbit, so it was slow going. (It’s done now, but in April. More on that later.) I cut out an Appleton dress with the intent of making it for The Monthly Stitch’s “Sew Hot Now” theme, but only got as far as modifying the pattern and cutting it out. I did finish two things, though.

The first was a second pair of the Cake Espresso leggings, from a rayon knit that’s been in the stash for some time. I did lower the waistband from the last time, and it worked much better. The only problem is that it doesn’t seem to go nearly as well with my existing cold weather wardrobe as I thought it would, so I’m having trouble finding things to wear them with! Maybe if we have a cooler day in May, I’ll find an outfit to use it in for Me-Made-May. Which I haven’t pledged yet, but I think I might on a biweekly basis or something. I don’t think I have enough clothes that fit yet to do more than that. Until then, have an instagram pic that at least shows the color. (Man, I look tired.)

I had about 3/4 yard left over, so I made a basic tank top based on McCall’s 5015. The largest size was medium, and I wanted to make sure it will fit, so I did a little FBA and added about 2 inches to the hem. It seems to have worked. I also changed the neckline and armholes to a binding rather than just turn under and hem, because we all know that never, ever works on a regular sewing machine without ripples. It did still ripple, and pressing it out without the fabric going shiny has proved difficult, despite using a press cloth and low heat. But I’m sure it’s still better than the other way would have been! (I’ve pressed it since taking this bathroom selfie, and it does look a little better now. Also, for the record, the leggings picture is closer to the color.)

So that’s my month. I used 1 3/4 yards of fabric up, and bought 1 3/4 to make a gift for a cousin who is expecting a baby this summer. (I also bought 3 yards of silk organza, but it’s for interfacing instead of stash. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.)

Hopefully April will be a little more productive. On a personal note, we finally resorted to letting Hobbit cry it out at night as of last weekend, and it’s actually working much better than every gentler sleep method I’ve tried. So now that I’m finally catching up on some sleep myself, I’m hoping that some of this evening time can start getting used for making things instead of desperately trying to catch what little sleep I can before he wakes up.

espresso and wine (FESA, part 2)

As promised, my other two Fall Essentials Sew-Along projects for this year! Both named after beverages that I don’t drink– when it comes to coffee, I’m Team Tea forever. And while I will drink the occasional glass of wine, I’m the type who would rather play it safe and abstain while I’m nursing. So I haven’t had a drop of that since the France vacation last year. But that’s a good way to end it, no?

Wine Country Cowl longLet’s talk about the knitting first, shall we? This is the Wine Country Cowl, which was a free pattern that I found via Ravelry. The great thing about this pattern was that it was super-easy to memorize, which meant that it was a great pattern to ease me back into knitting while totally sleep-deprived.

The yarn I used is the now-discontinued Ella Rae Latte, which I bought for the top part of a sweater that I abandoned because I could not figure it out for the life of me. I thought it would be a bulky enough yarn that I could burn through all four skeins by making some slight modifications to the pattern–mostly knitting it on smaller needles than it called for (size 11 vs the original size 16) and adding 10 more stitches to every row. But I’ll admit that math is not my strong point– I often joke that, as a musician, my math skills extend to counting to four repeatedly– and so I ended up using just over two skeins. Doh. I haven’t figured out what to do with it yet, but I’m guessing a hat shouldn’t be it. I was ok knitting it, but the yarn is admittedly a bit itchy to wear on my neck due to the 30% alpaca content. Maybe I should avoid alpaca in my future yarn purchases, along with all of the other wool. Sigh.

Wine Country Cowl short The cowl itself isn’t quite the big, long, chunky thing that I wanted it to be. But it should be warm enough. And the color goes pretty well with my Darling Ranges dress!

The final component of this outfit is the leggings. I used the Cake Espresso pattern this time, and it went sooo much better than the Manila leggings that I tried earlier this year. Mainly because I wasn’t surprised by the length being cropped. And my fabric actually stretched the right way. Imagine that.

Darling Ranges Back I’m recycling one of the photos from the last post, because it really does show the leggings the best. At least, as much of them as I’m willing to reveal. I’m sorry, but the internet doesn’t need to see my postpartum pudge, ok? Plus the fabric ended up being a little too sheer for me to be comfortable showing the upper portion.

As you can see, they’re not perfect– there is a little extra fabric around the knee. But I’ll let you in on a little secret: they weren’t 100% done when these pictures were taken. Hobbit didn’t quite nap long enough for me to hem the legs, but I figured they were done enough for these photos, since I’ll most likely end up always wearing them as tights with boots anyway. I’ll have to check the length again before hemming it, because I’ve already made some alterations!

It somehow ended up very high-waisted when I connected the dots. Like maternity high waisted. I cut off an inch before even sewing the waistband, and after wearing these for much of the day on Sunday (still unhemmed), I decided to take off even more. The waist elastic also ended up being too loose, so I just cut the whole thing off, tightened up the elastic, and sewed it again. Though I haven’t tested it in the real world yet, since I still need to hem it (hopefully today) it’s already much more comfortable. It’s probably something like 3 to 3.5″ lower than where it started. Hopefully I’ll remember to do these adjustments to the actual pattern the next time I make these. I do have fabric that could make a second pair, and I can see how these could be addicting to make. Once I got the pattern drafted, it was so fast and easy, and that’s just what I need for layering pieces right now.

I do need to figure out what to do with the rest of this knit. I bought extra with the thought of making up the skirt of a second Cake pattern (the Red Velvet dress), but the fabric I had in mind for the top wasn’t wide enough. I have about 3 yards of it left, since the leggings ended up taking less length than I anticipated, so the obvious choice is some kind of black dress. After all, a musician can never have too many of those, and I don’t know when or if my old performance dress will fit again. But it’s kind of slinky and drapes heavily, so I’ll have to be very careful with my choice of pattern. I haven’t had a chance to look through my own pattern stash for possibilities yet, but any suggestions?

CloseupI’m going to leave this one with one of the outtakes from the cowl pictures, just because I like it.

And that wraps up my FESA for this year! For once, I picked a perfectly reasonable number of projects. And I’m quite happy that I actually finished my list, and ended up with three versatile pieces that make one cute outfit. Bonus: since I’m technically finishing these in November, I may be able to actually participate in this month’s theme at The Monthly Stitch (capsule wardrobe), if I choose my next project wisely. I should plan all of my future seasonal sewalongs like this!

it’s that time of year again!

Woohoo! I just wanted to take a few minutes and talk about my FESA plans for this year. Due to my current time constraints, I’m keeping it simple this year, and only committing to a handful of projects– after all, I also have a little Halloween costume that I’ve been mentally planning since, oh, last Christmas. So here’s what I’m hoping to accomplish…

Fashionable Foundations for Frosty Weather 
IMG_2813//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.jsI have fabric that I think will work to finally try out the Cake Espresso leggings in two different colors, though after the disaster that was my last attempt at sewing leggings, I’m definitely double checking the stretch first this time! Assuming all is well, I plan to sew the black pair, because that will go with nearly all of the skirts I own that currently fit.  I’m most likely to wear them as tights with boots. (Honestly, based on my initial fiddling to check the stretch, I think this fabric will be too see-through to use them as anything else!)

Fabulous Frocks
IMG_2811//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.jsFor the third year in a row, I am putting the Megan Nielsen Darling Ranges dress, in this very fall-appropriate rayon challis print, on my list. And I am determined that this is the year I’ll actually make it, dangit!!! After all, it looks like the perfect style for postpartum and nursing. I have managed to get the pattern traced, the fabric cut out, and the darts sewn so far. So third time is the charm, right?


Baby It’s Cold Outside
IMG_2812//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.jsThis may be cheating, since I’ve been working on this particular project for over a month already. But I’ve been knitting a cowl (the Wine Country Cowl) out of some bulky yarn that I originally bought as the top part of a sweater that I’ve since abandoned the plan to knit. I could not figure out the very first steps of the pattern at all, and decided I didn’t like how the two yarns coordinated after all. “I can’t wear wool” substitution problems strike again. Anyway, I’m over halfway done this cowl, I think–it’s been one of my methods for coping with Hobbit’s penchant for napping best when on my lap and leaving me chair-bound for long stretches of time. Sadly, I think that my plan to use up the entire stash of this yarn isn’t going to work out, given its current length. Any suggestions for what else I can do with one or two balls of this stuff?

The nice thing is that if I finish all three of these projects, I’ll have one complete outfit! If I can get those and the costume done and still have time left, I have a fairly substantial mental list of additional projects that I could add in. But since I am unsure at this point what the greatest needs in my wardrobe will be, or what I’ll be most motivated to work on (SO important right now), I’ll just see how this goes first.

dressed to the max(i)

Maternity/nursing maxi-dressThat’s right, I finished another maxi-dress! No camouflage baby bump for this one. It kind of looks like I just have no waist at all. (I guess I don’t right now, really.) Honestly, I don’t really feel like there’s a whole lot to say about construction, since this is the third time I’ve used the Tiramisu bodice and the exact same skirt modification that I made on my last dress. And I already detailed the nursing-friendly alteration in my last post. Really, the biggest issue I had with putting this one together was my iron–it had been acting up for awhile, and I finally hit the last straw with it while trying to press the skirt seams the other day. After all, an iron that keeps turning off while you’re actually pressing with it at the moment, and then taking forever to turn back on (and usually some unplugging and replugging–really annoying when the power strip is on the floor and you’re 7 months pregnant!) So I ordered a new iron. Hopefully this one will hold up better, since the one I’d been using lasted me less than 2 years. It’s supposed to arrive today, and none too soon, because it really shouldn’t take me half an hour to press a hem because I have to keep waiting for the iron to turn on!

side viewIsn’t this print fun? It’s one of the pieces I treated myself to when I visited Mood in NYC a little over a year ago. I’d gotten 3 yards with a maxi-dress vaguely in mind, though I certainly wasn’t expecting that it would have to be a baby bump-friendly one at the time! But I do expect that I’ll be wearing this one a lot over the coming summer. Even though the two patterns didn’t quite come together as smoothly as I’d hoped. The back seems pretty loose to me in comparison with the black dress, and it is so tempting to try to take it in around the empire waist a little. Or fake in a back seam with the serger. Or something. I have to keep reminding myself that I still have the rest of this pregnancy/the belly only getting bigger to go, I have no idea what’s going to be up with my bust size after that, and it would be better not to over-fit. I can always try to take it in a little later if needed, though it might be nice to have a looser dress when the Mid-Atlantic summer humidity kicks in. (I did tweak the sleeve/underarm area, though.)

front viewThis will probably be the last garment that I make for myself until after Hobbit arrives, to be honest. I’ve got less than 8 weeks to go before my due date now (yiiiikes), so despite the fact that I have nearly no pants that both fit and are weather-appropriate, it seems a little pointless to take the time to sew any more maternity-type clothes. I am starting to think ahead to just straight-up nursing-friendly, or things that will work with another period of my figure changing around on me, and I do have some patterns in mind for when I’m feeling up to trying to sneak in sewing time post-baby. Is it weird that after so much time sewing knit garments over the last several months, I’m really starting to get the itch to dig into my wovens stash? But since that has to wait until I have a better idea of what size to sew, any projects that show up here over the next several weeks will probably just be a big babypalooza. I know that’s not the most interesting thing for a lot of people, but honestly, this blog is pretty much just my personal craft journal anyway, and this is the stuff I need to be making right now. So, sorry not sorry, I guess?

On a slightly related note, I’ve decided that I’m going to be sitting out of Me-Made-May this year, though I will happily follow along with what others are doing! Honestly, pretty much everything I’ve made that fits right now and works for the season has already been shown on here in the last couple of months, I really only have enough of that to do about one outfit a week, and there’s other things I need to prioritize over stressing about outfits and taking pictures. Like continuing to stuff the freezer with as much pre-prepped food as possible, the mental list of baby sewing projects that I’d still like to finish in advance, and getting some music together for a couple of my flute students to work on while I’m out of commission for teaching. Not to mention that by the end of May, I’ll be in the range of “could potentially pop any time”. Hopefully I won’t go that early, especially since a couple of my students are participating in a recital two weeks before my due date, and I’d like to be there to support them. Plus, the only date that worked for everyone involved in planning my baby shower is the last Saturday of the month, and I’d really like to not miss that due to being in labor!

I also have to admit that I’m going to be a little sorry when the Small Human Being Sewalong wraps up at the end of this month. It’s been fun getting to know a couple of new-to-me bloggers, and helpful to follow along with the discussions of what ends up being useful vs. not/how to find sewing time after baby, and so on. But I’m super-close to finishing another project for that, and may be able to knock out at least one more. In the meantime, I’ll just enjoy this dress and all the pretty, swirly blues.

Tutorial: Nursing dress adaptation with an invisible zipper

I was so pleased with how my last maternity/nursing maxi-dress turned out that I decided to make a second one. This time, I made a tutorial for how I did the zipper part, in case it helps any sewists who may be expecting in the future!

SuppliesYou’ll need:

  • A knit dress pattern with a seam under the bust. I’m also intending to wear this during the remainder of my third trimester, so I’m using the top of the Cake Tiramisu dress with the midriff band and skirt of the out-of-print Simplicity 3678, since I already adapted that skirt pattern both for extra belly room and a maxi length. But if you’re making this just to wear for nursing and have an idea of what size to do the waistband, the Tiramisu or Red Velvet dress would be a great option as is.
  • An invisible zipper that’s long enough to fit across your ribs from one side seam to the other. (A few extra inches probably won’t hurt. Mine was a 22″ length, and I ended up chopping off somewhere around 2″ at the end.)
  • Clear elastic
  • I used both an invisible zipper foot and a regular zipper foot to do this portion of the construction. 

Before beginning the zipper (these three steps were completed before I started taking pictures, and you can see the results in the first picture):

1. Sew the bodice pieces, including side seams. Depending on the pattern you choose, you may need to alter the order of construction. (Normally, the sleeve and side seams of the Tiramisu are sewn all at once after the front and back of the dress are constructed flat, but I went ahead and finished the sleeves/sewed the side seams together before taking this picture, since constructing the side seams around the zipper would be much more difficult than the other way around. It may take a little more effort to get the side seams to match up between pieces this way. For my current fitting needs, the big advantage to this was that I was able to put on the mostly-finished bodice and adjust the gathering and the overlap of the neckline to the larger bust size that I’m currently working with.Which meant that I was able to use my already-sized pattern from before I was pregnant as-is.)

2. Sew the midriff/waistband pieces together at the sides, or skirt pieces if your pattern does not have an extra band. Depending on the length of your dress, you might be able to do the waist and skirt pieces together. I’m only working with the midriff band for mine, since I’m doing a long skirt and don’t want the weight of it to distort things as I sew. (Plus it’s a lot easier to take pictures that way!)

3. Finish the lower edge of the bodice and the top edge of the waistband/skirt. I know knits don’t unravel, but it does add some stability to the edge. And since we’re working with stretchy fabric and a non-stretchy zipper, that is never a bad thing.

To add the zipper:

Front bodice w/ zipper1. Sew one long side of the zipper across the bottom of the bodice, as you normally would for the right side of a vertically-inserted invisible zipper. I started the teeth at the side seam on the left side, because I’m right-handed, but you could easily flip this around if you’re left-handed. I also brought some of the extra length past the right side seam and into the back, just to give myself a little more give for opening. I probably could have done this for the left seam as well to make the whole thing more centered, but I really don’t want to have to be reaching behind me with one hand while trying to wrangle a squirming baby with the other! Better to leave the zipper pull where I can more easily see it.

Front waistband w/ zipper2. Baste the other side of the zipper onto the waistband, being careful to align the top edge of the teeth with the correct side seam. Close the zipper, check to make sure both seams are lining up on either side of the zipper, and adjust if necessary. Once you’re satisfied with how the sides are lining up, stitch over the basting line. When opened, the two pieces will look kind of like this.

Back bodice/waistband3. Sew the back of the bodice and the back of the waistband together. I added clear elastic here, both to help support the weight of the maxi-skirt and to allow it to bounce back if I need to stretch the dress to get it on over my chest later. (I had to do two rows of stitching here–to get the seam closed as much as possible, I used my zipper foot on a longer stitch length. But my machine doesn’t have a stretch stitch, and I can’t zig-zag with my zipper foot, so I added a second row of a narrow zig-zag close by, just in case some of the straight stitches pop. I know it looks a little ripply when it’s flat on the table, but the other dress is like that too, and it’s not really noticeable when wearing.)

4. Shorten zipper if necessary, and press back seams up towards bodice.

5. Continue on with the dress from here– I still need to add the skirt pieces and hem it, but that’s it!

Zipper when closedWhen the zipper is closed, it looks like a normal seam, except for that pull tab…

Zipper when opened

…and then once you open it, easy breastfeeding access without having to stretch out your neckline!

Hopefully that was clear enough–let me know if I need to clarify anything! And for those of you who are moms that sew, I’d love to hear if you have any other nursing hacks you like to add into your clothes.

2014’s top 5 hits and misses

Top 5 2014 #sewingtop5
Time for the Top 5 lists, as hosted by the fabulous Gillian! I’m going to start off with hits and misses today.

Top 5 Hits
Looking back over my posts this year, I guess this was the year of pants, coats and dresses.

Grey Thurlows 21. The Thurlow Trousers– all 4 pairs of them I made this year. I’m just showing the grey pair here, since they show up in photos the best. Along with the brown test pair I made in 2013, these got a ton of wear during the cooler months this year. And unlike most of my jeans, I was able to wear these pretty much all the way through the first trimester–it was just last week that I had to resort to safety-pinning them closed rather than buttoning them. So I’m feeling hopeful that, even though I’ll have to retire them for the remainder of this winter, maybe I can pull them out again next fall.

Robson Coat

2. The Robson coat. I love the color, and I’m quite happy with the inside finishing. I will confess I need to do a tiny bit of repair on one of the pocket flaps where the stitching has come out, but aside from that, everything’s holding up nicely. I actually took this with me to Paris and ended up wearing it pretty much constantly, and it was the perfect added layer. Also, dragon buttons!

Tea Cambie3.  The teacup Cambie. I loooove the print on this dress, and I have to admit that this is probably the dress that I’m most nervous won’t fit again post-pregnancy. Here’s hoping, because I really feel like this dress deserves more wearing than I was able to give it in one season!

IMG_13884. The Tiramisu maxi-dress. This one did get quite a bit of wear over the summer, since it’s a little more casual of a dress than the Cambie, and that makes it easy to wear for teaching and such. This one did adapt very nicely to the longer skirt, and I’m glad I got a chance to try this hack out!

peacoat5. Even though it did take forever to make, I’m going to have to say the peacoat. The time I spent on the tailoring seems to have been well worth it so far, as was the investment in the Thinsulate. It’s much less stiff to wear than the old one, and so far, it seems to be keeping me warm.

Top 5 Misses: 
Not all of these are necessarily sewing projects, or even entire sewing projects. But still…
IMG_1583
1. The daisy Sorbetto. It’s not so much that this project was a fail, as that I just haven’t worn it much. I pretty much have this one skirt that it works with and that’s it. Plus it got cold pretty quickly after I made it, and, well…you know, all my clothes starting to not fit. I’ll probably pull it out again sometime, though I doubt I’ll get much wear from it next summer, as it’s not the most nursing-friendly top.

2. My jeans hardware installation skills. I think I would have gotten a lot more use out of the skinny jeans earlier in the fall, if the button hadn’t started to get loose after one wash. My dad used some of his epoxy-type stuff to ensure that it wasn’t going anywhere, and that’s worked. But it’s also made the inside waistband really scratchy right behind the button. I managed a quick fix for awhile by just sticking a band-aid behind the button, but I need to stitch a patch over it for a more permanent solution. I just never got to it, and now that those jeans won’t fit me for awhile anyway, my motivation to do so has been quite low.

Irish cables hat
3. This hat. I think it would have been better for me if it had been about an inch longer. It barely covered my ears at all, and that bugged me to no end. I ended up giving it to my mom, since it fit her much better. I guess I have a big head or something?

IMG_13224. The Tauriel costume, which I attempted to make for the Sewcialists’ “March of the Shieldmaidens” sewalong. A combination of bad choice of fabric and less-than-stellar pattern alterations left this looking pretty awful. And though I love making costumes, I wasn’t having much fun with it, and was just getting stressed at how many more things I’d need to make for DragonCon vs. how long this was taking. So I ended up throwing it out and wearing my old Eowyn costume instead. Which was probably for the best.

5. Honestly, I think the biggest miss for me this year, or at least the last couple of months, has just been sewing time. It’s not that I didn’t want to, or even that I didn’t have any free time in which to do so. It’s just that my “morning” sickness ended up being so bloody awful and I just didn’t have the physical stamina to do it as much as I would have liked.

So what’s your favorite thing(s) that you’ve made this year? Anything you wish had gone better?

Mone-misu? Tir-etta?

Monemisu

This dress wasn’t in my original summer plan, but it was a nice quick make. I cut it out and sewed most of the bodice together on Sunday, sewed the neckline and armholes on Monday, made and attached the skirt on Wednesday, and hemmed it yesterday. It’s also nice and comfortable–the fabric is some rayon knit from Mood that I bought specifically for this project. Not so great for the stashbusting, but at least I used it quickly!

IMG_1411This week’s Indie Pattern Month contest on The Monthly Stitch is Franken-patterning, so that was part of my inspiration.  The top is based on the Colette Monetta dress, and the bottom is based on the Cake Tiramisu dress, though I modified both parts. For the Monetta top, I squared off the neckline and added seams down the center of both the front and back of the outside pieces. Since I wasn’t doing the collar, but I still wanted to line the top, I also had to tweak the clean finish directions a bit–I did that around the neckline, and the lower half of the armholes, but I had to hand-stitch the top of the armholes closed. For the skirt, I cut both halves on the fold instead of seaming it down the middle like the original pattern. It’s a pretty plain and simple dress overall, but I think it’ll be a good one to play with accessories. Especially since the color is much brighter and cheerier than the average neutral solid knit dress!

IMG_1409
So if you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you know I’m a fan of secretly geeky clothes. Now that I’ve got you thinking this is just a normal knit dress, it’s time to ruin the illusion by revealing that this is also going to be a part of one of my DragonCon costumes! I still have a couple components to make for that, but I’ll give you a clue: Think Disney bookworm who’s fond of teacups.

I’m having trouble with the picture insert, so you can find the picture here. So did I get the gist of it? The idea is to make as many costume bits that can be worn as everyday clothes as possible, so I’m not spending my entire summer sewing things that I’m only going to wear once. And Belle was my favorite when I was a kid–she loved books, she was a fellow brownI’m having trouble inserting the picture, so click here.-eyed girl, and she wasn’t afraid to use her head to help her get out of sticky situations. And whack at the wolves with a big stick, even if she wasn’t very good at it. What’s not to love?
I still need to make a top, apron, and hair bow for this, but I think this dress is a pretty good start.

Speaking of DragonCon, I’ve recently made the difficult decision to set the Tauriel costume aside. It’s been going so slowly, and I’ve been racking my brains unsuccessfully for 3 months to come up with a good way to sew that armor bodice without making the vinyl tear apart the second I put it on, since I never was able to find a closure for it. Given how much I still need to make for multiple costumes, even though they’re more everyday-clothes, and that I’m also going to need to help my best friend with some of hers, it just doesn’t make sense to continue when I have a perfectly good Eowyn costume that only needs a blonde wig. Besides, as surprisingly much as I enjoyed Tauriel in the latest Hobbit movie, Eowyn is still cooler. And, you know, actually in the books.

Tira-max-su

IMG_1388Last summer, Cindy at Cation Designs posted a maxi-dress made from the popular Cake Patterns Tiramisu dress. I’ve been wanting to try this hack since, and finally got around to finishing it on Thursday! I figured that I have made this dress once before, and it’s knit, so it should come together fast, right?

Note to self: If you’re going to go to the trouble of keeping a notebook where you write down changes you’ve made to patterns so you can go back and alter the pattern later, don’t lose the bloody notebook. (I guess it’s time to clean my sewing room again, sigh!)

The first time around, I had a bit of trouble getting the bust to fit right. But in typical fashion, I didn’t actually bother to make changes to the pattern before moving on to the next project. I’m impatient like that. So of course, when I sewed up the neckline this time, it was saggy and sad-looking. Which means I had to resort to unpicking several inches of serging in the middle, overlapping it more, and serging it again.

IMG_1337It’s still not perfect, but at least the weight of the skirt pulls it down enough that it sits mostly flat now! At least, as long as I’m not trying to do the typical Tiramisu pose of bending over to show how much it’s not gapping. (Please ignore the scary Gollum face. And my posture. Rounded back much?) It’s not too big in the chest, just the neckline, so I need to do some research to figure out what adjustment to make for next time. Maybe if I just take a wedge out of the neck or something?

The fabric was a Christmas gift from my mom this past year–the really great thing about having a mother who also sews is that I can tell her my ideas for things I want to make, and she finds great fabric prints for me! And only living in the stash for 6 months is pretty amazing, by my standards. The other really nice thing about this particular print, aside from the fact that so many colors I love are in it, is that it was so abstract, I didn’t have to worry about matching at all. That helped a lot with the speed of sewing things together.

Aside from my fitting quick fix, here’s the changes I made:

  • Lengthened the skirt to about 37″ (95.25cm)
  • Made the skirt panels narrower from about the hips down, for the super-practical reason that they were too wide at the bottom for my lengthwise-folded fabric otherwise!
  • Added clear elastic to both the shoulder seams and the lower midriff band seam to help support the weight

Click to go to voting page

I took a couple of pictures on Friday night so I could get my post up on The Monthly Stitch in time for the Indie Pattern Month dress competition. Voting is open now, so if you’re so inclined, I’d appreciate any votes that I can get!  

Aside from that, I debuted the dress yesterday, when Doug and I went down to Washington, D.C. for the day. The nice thing about living on the East coast is that it’s really easy to get places, and this particular day trip is only about a 2-hour drive one way for us. We were celebrating our one-year anniversary, which is actually today! And, competition aside, I really wanted to get this dress done in time for the trip, because I wanted something that would be breezy and comfortable enough for walking around the city in 80+ degree temperatures (we went to the National Zoo and the Smithsonian’s Air & Space Museum), but dressy enough for the evening’s finale at a performance by the National Symphony Orchestra. It worked out really well for both purposes, I think!

IMG_1355
Also, watching a panda eat bamboo is pretty adorable. Am I right?