dresses for things I don’t drink

Even though the theme of this year’s Day and Night Dress Challenge, hosted by the super-talented Elizabeth, was “Coffee and Cocktails”, I’m really Team Tea all the way. My gut reaction was that I haven’t been to anything resembling a cocktail party since the last wedding reception I went to– my life, friends, and family gatherings are quite casual. But since Elizabeth stated that anything that could work for a nice dinner counts, I figured I’d go for it.

Seamwork MesaFirst up, my dress for meeting friends at a coffeeshop and drinking chai lattes, since that’s usually the best tea option. Or, more likely, going from chasing little boys around the house to my flute teaching. I’ve had this teal and olive knit print in my stash for about two years. I’ve known for awhile that it wanted to be the Mesa dress from  Seamwork/Colette, but pregnancy and lack of nursing access kept making me put it off. I knew I’d need an easy project to finish this challenge in time, so that bumped it up in the queue. My original thought was to try and add some kind of front panel for nursing. Then I realized that turning it into a Henley tee look would be much easier, and be more wearable whenever my nursing days are done for good.

IMG_5834I followed a tutorial from Melly Sews, and did the closure with sewn in snaps and stashed buttons on top to hide the visible stitches. I really didn’t want to deal with buttonholes in a knit with a time crunch, and I didn’t have any set-in snaps that aren’t the leftover plastic ones from my diapers. I’m overall quite pleased with how well this worked, especially since I’ve already worn it for a full day and tested it for nursing. The only other change I made was to add 3″, because I’m getting up and down from the floor a lot and extra length is extra security. The construction of the main dress was simple, aside from some wresting with my coverstitch machine. Hopefully the hem will hold. I can see myself using this pattern again for sure. Without the added length, it’s pretty much perfect for a knit tunic!

Side note: the teal Espresso leggings that I’m wearing with these are my first “refashion redemption project” of the year. I made them last January, but the lack of vertical stretch left them sitting way too low. So I finally got around to adding another wide waistband piece to the top so I can actually pull them up all the way.

IMG_5833For my cocktail look, which is admittedly really more of an afternoon high tea dress, I decided to finally tackle the Deer and Doe Reglisse dress that I’d been hoarding for about 4 years. Since this is the first chance I’ve had in 3 years to actually dress for Easter, I wanted something that screamed spring without being too pastel. So this Art Gallery voile that I got this past Christmas was perfect!

I did make a few changes. I left off the front bow tie collar bit, because I didn’t think that would really fit my general style or this fabric. The fabric is thin enough that I underlined everything. I essentially redrafted the skirt to accommodate the width of the fabric, since it was a little too narrow for the pattern. I added 3″ to the length as well. I’ve been super paranoid about shorter dresses ever since discovering last fall that my Darling Ranges dress is scandalously unwearable without leggings, even for things like bending slightly to deal with car seats. Yiiiiikes. I also added pockets, because pockets make everything better! (I thought about adding them to the Mesa as well, but decided the jersey was too thin to hold up to things like carrying my phone.)

IMG_5810Finally, I added 3/4″ to the bodice to lower the waistline, and shortened the dart a little. I should have lowered them, since even though I did some basic tissue fitting to check, I completely failed at that and they sit too high. But the bodice is loose enough that it’s not a big deal. Honestly, in this picture, I can’t even see the darts. So I really doubt anyone will notice except for me.

Part of me does wish I’d had the time to make a muslin of this, because aside from the dart issue, the armholes are a little too low. Hopefully it won’t be too noticeable, since it’s not like I walk around with my arms raised over my head, and the angle I have to hold them at for flute playing is probably okay to hide any visual bra. I’m also not sure how I feel about the look of the elastic, waist, but I do have a belt that works with it.

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One last outtake, in which I display what happens when I try to look sophisticated. I’m undecided about using this pattern again, since I only need so many dresses. But I might be able to hack it up some, like use it to make a fuller elastic waist skirt than my Rae skirt. And I did see a tutorial for using it to make a blouse. So maybe?

Thanks for hosting this challenge, Elizabeth! It definitely gave me a morale boost to know that I can still manage to participate in some community challenges, even though I don’t usually finish things quickly. And knowing that my Easter dress is already finished definitely takes some pressure off!

sneaky snacky stripes

So I made another Plantain top, which is the third one I’ve made within the last two months. (The first being the sequin top from the last post, and the second being a pajama top that I have yet to photograph. Soon, I hope.)

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By this point, there’s really not a whole lot to say about the pattern, given that this shirt has become one of my TNTs. The finishing is another story, because I could not get my coverstitch to cooperate for much longer than it should have. After some fiddling with the dials, and some DMing back and forth with Brooke, (thanks, Brooke!) I realized that the reason it kept skipping stitches had more to do with the stitch length than the tension, and that I’d been reading the diagram next to that dial backwards for the entire year or so that I’ve owned that machine. *facepalm* But hopefully now that I know that, using my coverstitch will go more smoothly! I can be excused for sleep deprivation on this learning curve, right?

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Outtake photo time! (Hi, Padawan!) My biggest complaint for years when it comes to my winter wardrobe is that everything is so drab. And then somehow, I still end up wearing a lot of black and grey and looking like an unhappy little raincloud. (Because rain in the winter is the worst, and that’s the precipitation we get much more frequently than snow.) So I made a shirt out of happy, springy colors instead. With trees and birds and squirrels. Take that, winter! I got this fabric for Christmas about two years ago, and originally meant to make a nursing-hacked Renfrew out of it. But then my experiment flopped, and I realized that the Plantain would be a better fit anyway because I’d have to do much less pattern matching without the bands. As a result of the switch, I have about a third of a yard left of my original two. And that was after some very careful stripe matching.

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Yes, stripes! I’m totally counting this for the Sew Stripes theme on the Sewcialists blog.  They’re just subtle, that’s all. Board games are a favorite activity around here, when the boys let us, and we’ve started collecting a few preschool games now that Hobbit is getting closer to that magical age that they actually start making games for. One of the ones we’ve gotten is called The Sneaky Snacky Squirrel. We haven’t played that one with him yet, since we’re still working on the concept of taking turns and figured our one cooperative game would be less frustrating for him in that. (He is only 2, after all.) But it turns out that sneaky snacky squirrel also lives in this fabric print, munching acorns under the plain trees, and that makes a stripe!

Speaking of Hobbit, he was pretty fascinated by this shirt when he noticed the print, while I was wearing it today. The conversation went something like this…

Hobbit: (Pointing at my shirt) Trees!

Me: Yes, there’s trees. What else do you see?

Hobbit: Skirrels and acorns!

Me: Good! Is there anything in the trees, too?

Hobbit: Chickens!

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Last outtake shot, since Padawan was much happier for this photoshoot with me holding him. And Hobbit decided my lens cap was an eyepatch. Anyway. I suspect I’ll be wearing this shirt a lot as I drag my feet through the rest of this winter, both for the happy colors and because it’s one of the few long-sleeved things that seem to go with my teal jeans. Weird, since teal is basically a neutral for me. I’ve been thinking a lot about capsule wardrobes over the last few months, and that it would be fun to try one of those 4×4 style ones. And this whole teal/seafoam/ivory color scheme seems like it might be a good one to build off of! Especially since I also have another jersey that I got at the same time that builds on these same colors, with a little brown and mustard thrown into the mix. Now that one will become a Renfrew, I think, though I’m not sure when. Silly me, I’m trying to do deadline sewing again for the #dayandnightdresschallenge, and running out of time! (At least I need the one dress I have cut out anyway.) This idea may need to be revisited.

Also soon to come, I hope, posts about the other multiple projects I have yet to photograph! Specifically, a coat and three sets of pajamas. I’ve been shockingly productive so far this year!

bling a ling

Just in time for Valentine’s Day…let’s talk about a Christmassy project! Because I’m super backlogged like that.

You all know that feeling where you look in your closet and you feel like you don’t have anything to wear, right? That was me at the end of December. (Well, honestly, it’s been me a lot since I started having to purge so many of my handmade clothes out of my wardrobe.) But anyway. My husband and I got invited to a couples’ party between Christmas and New Year’s, and while we were discussing possible babysitting arrangements and such, I realized that I literally had nothing to wear to this party. It’s not like they specified formalwear, but I’ve been so focused on basics, and nursing-friendly tops, and things I could wear to teach in, that I did not own a single thing that would work for a party in the freezing cold dead of winter.

IMG_5651So I decided to do something risky, especially given my usual sewing pace these days (see name of blog): attempt to sew myself a new garment before the night of the party. And I actually did it!

Thankfully, I have one knit TNT left to me after all of my baby-induced sizing changes: the Deer & Doe Plantain top. And I remembered I had a half yard of sequined mesh that was gifted to me during a fellow sewists’ destash. (I’m honestly blanking on who it was, since mommy brain is totally a real thing, so my apologies to the lovely woman who sent it!) I’d paired it off with a piece of this grassy green polyester jersey almost right away, thinking to make it into one of the now out of print Simplicity tops from their Project Runway line. That top never materialized (no pun intended), but I thought I could maybe get the Plantain to work. After a quick Instagram poll to get some suggestions on how best to utilize my precious shinies, in which the consensus was the front of the shirt option, I figured out a way to make it work with the mesh’s 2 way stretch that wasn’t wide enough to cut the front.

IMG_5657So I cut the mesh into wide strips, overlapped them slightly, and used the stretch stitch to sew them into tiers on the front of the jersey. I didn’t bother to hem any of them, as I wanted to avoid drawing attention to the piecing. The result does make me think a little of flapper dresses, but it worked. And I only broke one needle doing it! Then I trimmed the sequins out of the seam allowances, cut a wider strip of the jersey to sew to the bottom so I wouldn’t have to worry about hemming through the sequins (inspired by the Renfrew, though I just cut the piece to measure with no pattern), and got to work.

IMG_5653This was a refreshingly quick sew for me. I think, including the embellishment phase, I got this done in about 4 sittings. The most complicated part was honestly just trying not to catch too many sequins in the seams. I paired it with my one pair of black pants, though they’re a little loose at my current sizing, and it worked out great for the party! The only thing I wish I’d done differently was overlap the mesh a little more around the bust, since the extra curves there do pull it apart to the point where the solid green shows if in don’t carefully arrange the fabric. Oh well, it’s not drastic. And I did get a lot of compliments on it at the party.

So, official last make of 2017 is now in the books! Moving on…

the berry Bruyere

I’ll just say up front that this took forever. My plan was to make this shirt for the Sewcialists’ TNT theme month, to see if it would work well in a second iteration. Considering that ended over two weeks ago, obviously that didn’t happen. Between little boy sleep difficulties and rehearsals all over the place, it feels like I’ve barely been able to spend any time in my little closet!  But finally, I have a finished project to show again.

IMG_5448The pattern is the Deer & Doe Bruyere, and while I’m not sure it’s quite a TNT yet, I think it’s well on its way. Since my first iteration was a fabric that I have to wear a camisole under, it’s much easier with this one to see potential fit issues. The one thing I did know would need to happen was dealing with the bust darts. I lowered the horizontal bust darts about an inch (the gauze I used for the first version pressed nicely, so it works, but those darts were not designed for the post-nursing chest!) It didn’t cross my sleep-deprived mind that lowering meant I’d also have to shorten both darts. That took a couple of attempts at ripping out and restitching to point in the right place, but I think I got the horizontal ones sorted. The vertical ones still need to be about 3/4″ shorter, I think. The lengths are written down, so I just need to transfer that to my pattern. I think I’m also going to have to mark the point on the cuffs to gather to better, because there was more overlap on my green one and it made the plackets lie better.

IMG_5451Another thing I think I’m going to have to do is lengthen the bodice just a bit. Maybe 3/4″ or so. I discovered quickly that the undergarments are important with this one, because I initially wore it with one of my old nursing bras that the underwire fell out of ages ago, and everything lay sooooo much better when I switched to one of the more supportive me-made ones. But it still feels like the waistband is sitting just a tiny bit high.

Can we talk about the fabric? It’s a raspberry colored chambray from Robert Kauffman, and it was a delight to work with. It presses so well, and held up really nicely to the seam ripper. I’ll need to see how it fares in the ironing department, but I’d not mind using this quality of chambray again at all.

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The only downside of the chambray was the occasional thickness of the layers, despite my efforts to trim and grade. There were a few buttonholes that I had to redo multiple times as a result. If I do get my hands on this fabric again, I think I’d better find my rubber mallet that I got for jeansmaking. I know it’s in the downstairs supply stash somewhere… but anyway, look how crisp the pleats are! (Please ignore my derpy face. This really was the best shot of the back of the shirt.)

I think I’ll end up having to replace the buttons at some point, because the ones that were the closest match to the color at Joann’s were in a package labeled as craft buttons, and the quality is awful for garments. Despite my efforts to allow for buttonhole space when sewing them on, I discovered that they’re really hard to work. They’re so thin that I feel like I’m going to snap them in half every time I shove them through the buttonholes. Not to mention that it literally hurts my fingers to do so. It’s really impractical for what’s supposed to easily be a nursing-friendly shirt in particular!  I’m just not sure what to replace them with, since my color matching difficulties means I’ll probably have to go with a contrast. Any suggestions?

IMG_5456I do have ideas in my head of how I can use this pattern for at least two more garments, so I do think it will be worth getting those last few fitting tweaks worked out so I can start hacking. Especially because, in spite of the waistband feeling a little high, I feel good about how I look in this shirt. It’s been a really long time since I’ve been able to say that, with all of the weight fluctuations and lifestyle changes over the past three years. Honestly, I feel like the opacity of the fabric makes it more flattering than my green voile version, even though I do still love the color. Since there’s a fairly good chance that this will be my last finished garment of 2017, though I’m very close to finishing another, it’s good to go out on a high note.

 

it’s not easy being green

Deer & Doe Bruyere shirtI’ve been eyeing the Deer & Doe Bruyere for quite some time, and I finally got around to trying it out! It took me basically an entire month, both because I had to schedule time to go to my parents’ early on teaching days so my mom could occupy Hobbit while I sewed, and because the cotton voile that I found to use as a wearable muslin was sheer enough that I had to French seam everything. (Except for the armholes, because I have never found a way to make that work.) But I think the effort was worthwhile, because I’m overall happy with how this turned out! Which is nice, since I’ve been feeling pretty meh about my finished projects for some time now.

 

 

 

IMG_3655I did make a couple of changes to the fit. For one, I finally managed a successful FBA! The bust darts will need a little adjusting, because as you can see here, they’re sitting too high. But I’m going to hold off on making that alteration to the pattern until I’m done nursing and can see where they end up when wearing a bra with actual support. (The underwires on my third and final nursing bra fell out about a week ago, so I have literally no options for a decent one now. Nursing bras are a special kind of lingerie hell.) I added a bit of length to the sleeves as usual, and made the bottom the length of the largest size. It’s a change I’m definitely keeping, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it looks with pants that actually fit!

The cream buttons aren’t ideal, but I couldn’t find anything at Joann’s that was a match for the green. So I did the best I could with the options that I had. It’s so nice to have something in such a happy color for the spring!

IMG_3656I’ll admit that there is a part of me that can’t help wondering if this just makes me look huge. The bright white cami underneath doesn’t help that, I’m sure, but I had limited options that are actually wearable right now for me. I’m having a little trouble reconciling myself with my new, bigger size, even though I’d decided long ago to wait to actively try to lose the extra weight until I’m done nursing. Extra calories and all. But at least my older clothes are starting to somewhat fit again, even if they’re leaving me with obvious muffin tops that I didn’t have before. And I do like the style of this shirt very much! I’m thinking a flannel version for this winter would be lovely, though I’m wondering if not plaid might be the best way to go. All of that matching would be a pain with the pleats and waistband! But would a more solid or non-plaid print flannel just look weird? I don’t know.

On a slightly related note, to go back to those nursing bras, I did use some birthday money to buy the basic bra fitting/construction class on Craftsy. I still need to get a supply kit, which has to wait until I can figure out my post-nursing underwire size, but that will be an interesting project for the summer!

UFO sighting

Once upon a time, I used to binge cut fabric for upcoming projects. Cutting out isn’t my favorite part of the process. Something about the permanence of it freaks me out a little, especially if it’s fabric I really like. So I’d cut out two or three things at a time, sew them all up, and then repeat. I don’t do that so much these days, mostly due to not having those big blocks of time. But in this case, that habit resulted in something relatively rare in my sewing world: an unfinished project.

Deer & Doe Plantain Raglan hackIn this case, I never made it past the cutting and marking stage. I realized that I cut part of the front wrong, and set it aside to figure that one out. And then I lost interest in the pattern altogether. So this made it the perfect (and only) clothing candidate for both The Monthly Stitch’s UFO theme, and the Stashbusting Sewalong’s scrapbusting theme. After all, those pieces were mostly pretty small.

The original pattern was something Vogue. I don’t remember the number. It was a fitted enough top that I didn’t think it would fit my post-baby body in the size that was cut out, so I threw it away.  I do still love this print, though. I mean, turquoise, teal and purple? That is right in my ocean colored wheelhouse. The largest pieces were the raglan sleeves, and size-wise, they matched up pretty closely with the Deer & Doe Plantain tee. So I decided to give hacking that pattern into a raglan a go. IMG_3584

Overall, I’m happy with how it turned out! I had a smallish piece of teal rayon jersey (oddly, left over from my other Plantain tee), which I used to fill in the main part of the body. I did decide to break up the front some so I could feature the print more, and trying to accommodate that did make things a little less symmetrical than I’d probably like. But I do think this is definitely one of my most successful pattern hacks yet!

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If I were to further alter this version, just for my future reference, I do think I’d change a few things:

  • The sleeve should probably extend a little more into the back. This was just all I had to work with.
  • A little more width at the bottom probably wouldn’t hurt, if it was long sleeved. Fortunately, my wrists are skinny enough to accommodate the overall lack of give in this cotton jersey.
  • I guess I should probably consider starting to add a swayback adjustment to my knits, yeah?

IMG_3566I did finish this on the 25th, just in time to wear it on my birthday. So it still counts towards participating in both themes, I think! And I do still have enough scraps left that I think I can try to squeeze a lingerie experiment out, finally. I even printed some Seamwork patterns off to do so, but then I discovered that it printed too small. So I’ll need to retrace those. Which means I’m probably going to push that off for another month or so while I try to knock out some seasonal transitional clothing… oh, look, another UFO!

And, yeah, I know these aren’t fitting well with my attempts to follow along with the Better Pictures Project. Stupid portrait mode, insisting on flash. But this was the best I could do while leaving Hobbit fenced in on the floor, with a dog who was very insistent on helping, and stuck inside to supervise them both (along with the not-pictured goldie.)

happy accidents

Trying to catch up a little here, and I figured it’s better to have phone photos than none at all, right?

Anyway, this month’s Stashbusting Sewalong theme is knits, and since I’ve been pretty short on sewing time lately, I thought it would be good to try and knock something out. I had a striped ivory knit tee on my capsule wardrobe list, and decided that it might be more useful as a layering piece rather than a more traditional tee. So here’s what I ended up with!
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I still based this on the Plantain pattern, as originally planned, with a few modifications. I got the fabric from Kerilee in last year’s Sewing Surprises swap, and there wasn’t a whole lot of either piece. So I used Heather‘s yoke modification again, so I could work in the polka dot mesh and use that to stretch the stripes. (I’m print-mixing! It’s a start.) Short sleeves, obviously, which are bound at the edges with the striped fabric.

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The polka dots look cooler from the back, obviously. I like that it lets some color from whatever tank top I’m wearing show through, and I think it will be a very versatile summer layer as a result.

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Ugggh, I look so tired in this picture! Anyway, the collar/front was sort of a happy accident. My pattern drafting skills aren’t the hottest, and when I was cutting this out, I had the presence of mind to slope the neckline downward to the center front, but I forgot about silly little things like adding seam allowances! So when I tried this on partway through, the front looked pretty wonky because it was so skinny. I had a fairly largeish, mostly rectangular scrap left. So I cut it in half lengthwise, seamed it in the middle, and basically made it a big wide binding strip. The inner edge is just a fold, so it looks pretty nice and clean. I’m actually really happy with the finished look of it, so one of these days, I might actually draft this as a pattern piece to use for a future pattern hack!

So now I just have one other fairly quick project and a refashion to post, and I’m all caught up. Unless I actually have time to sew something else. We shall see, since I haven’t been able to sew a single stitch this week.

Everybody else was doing it…

In typical fashion, I’m one of the last ones on the bandwagon. Usually it’s either that, or I miss it altogether. But, since I’d already mentioned that I needed a mental break from pants, I made a Deer & Doe Plantain tee!

Plantain FrontThis was super-quick to make up, even with me modifying the pattern. I used Heather’s tutorial for making a contrast yoke, because the busyness of the print made me think that it could use some more solid to tie in the neck binding and elbow patches better. I’d already printed out and taped the PDF together, but I like re-tracing PDF patterns onto thinner paper to make laying out and cutting easier. I was able to get this traced, cut out, and sewn together in the span of one afternoon! It definitely helped that I did the bulk of the construction on my serger, so I didn’t have to worry about seam finishes. But it was still nice to knock a project out so quickly.

I’m pleasantly surprised by this pattern, to be honest. The website describes the fit as “loose but elegant”, and I don’t usually care for a looser fit in my tops. But I figured I’d give it a shot, because the pattern was free, and I figured that as a worst-case scenario, I could just wear this as a bum around the house shirt. But this doesn’t hang off me like a sack, like I half-expected it to–it’s actually a lot more flattering than I thought it would be. If the knit wasn’t as drapey as it is, I don’t think it would have worked as well, so I’ll have to keep that in mind for any future versions.
Plantain BackA shot of the back, modeled with the charcoal version of the latest Thurlows. It makes me look really curvy!

Aside from the modifications to make the yoke, including a little extra topstitching to make the pieces lie flatter, I made this a straight-up size 40. The only other sizing modification that I made was to add an inch to the sleeves, in what I call my “monkey arm adjustment”. It worked perfectly, and I was able to go ahead and use the 3/4″ hem allowance that the pattern called for and still cover my wrists in their entirety. I was also surprised that the elbow patches ended up actually hitting at my elbows without any adjustments.

Plantain closeup

One more shot on Donna, for a closeup of the fabrics!  I love this stylized floral knit–it feels somewhat Asian to me. I’ve been hoarding both of these for awhile, and had been thinking for a long time about using them together, since the teals are so close in color. My long-term thought had been to make some kind of knit dress out of it, but I’ve been putting it off for a long time because the print is on the thinner side, and I figured I’d have to try and line it somehow to keep my underwear from showing through. While working through all of the Wardrobe Architect stuff so far, though, I realized that I’d probably get a lot more use out of this as a top. I’m pretty good on summery dresses (even though I do have definite plans to make more), and this fabric is too thin to make a good colder-weather dress. So I guess this process is helping me make smart sewing decisions!

Infinity scarfI still have enough of the solid teal left to make a short-sleeved or sleeveless top, since I really only used a tiny segment to cut all three pieces. As for the print, I had less than 3/4 yard left of the full width. So I basically cut the ragged ends off, sewed it into a tube, sewed the ends together–instant infinity scarf! Which will be great for adding interest to more solid outfits, and nice to wear. This knit is super-soft. And since all I have left is scraps that are maybe just large enough to make undies out of (I really need to learn to do that), I shall consider this piece of stash officially busted.

Pattern: Deer & Doe Plantain tee – third pattern used this year.

Amount of time it took to make: A couple of hours from start to finish, plus about 30 minutes for the scarf

Fabric used: Two pieces of rayon knit (one used up, for a total of 5 pieces so far this year.)

Amount of fabric used: 2.25 yards of the print, plus a tiny bit more of the solid

Stashed since: Print was from Christmas 2010, not entirely sure about the solid except that it’s been there longer than that.

Current stash total: Approx. 333.25 yards.