Just call me Goldilocks

I’m going to do a little time traveling today. Not too far back, just to May. I was able to get back to sewing surprisingly fast after this baby, and managed to knock out three projects within the first six weeks of bringing him home. Unfortunately for me, the results have been less than stellar. But I do like to keep it real around here, and not every project is a success, so I’ll share them anyway. Hopefully the photos are OK, but the phone photos that I had to resort to are better than none, right?

20170703_141316My first project after Padawan was born was to knock out two pairs of shorts from Simplicity 1367. Shorts are legitimately the big hole in my wardrobe– I don’t particularly enjoy wearing them because I’ve never been all that confident about how I look in them, but skirts aren’t  always practical for life with young kids, and our summer is way too hot and humid for jeans. And I only had one pair of shorts to get me through the entire summer. I thought this pattern would be good for post-baby wear and (hopeful) weight loss because of the knit yoga-style waistband. Theoretically, I still think that. The problem is that I cut them out while I was still pregnant, and either I remembered my measurements from after the first pregnancy wrong, or I underestimated what size I might need, considering that I started this time with a few pounds more. They’re too small. I recently checked my measurements to cut a different project, and I probably should have gone two sizes bigger, though I made the largest size for the envelope that I had.

Matcha and shortsThey fit enough to be wearable, barely, but they fit me like maternity jeans after the halfway mark or so–the woven part rides too low in the back, and the knit panel is necessary to cover the rest. It feels awkward. It looks awkward too, if this backside shot is any indication. I’m hoping that as I lose some of this baby weight, that they might work better. (Assuming that I can, because I’ve been trying to up my exercise and drink more water and stuff steadily for two whole months, my best streak of consistency in my life, and guess how much weight I’ve lost? NONE. I’m so upset at this.) In the meantime, I bought a second pair at the thrift shop on a $2 sale day. (Along with jeans, because I needed those too.)

Some other details: the solid pair is made from nonstretch lightweight denim and an interlock knit, and the print is a rayon-blend twill that I got in an online fabric swap several years ago, plus a rayon jersey. The rayon jersey, which I bought second after deciding to also make the denim pair, works much better for the waistband. Or it would, if the print pair fit. The interlock is thicker, and I actually basted a fisheye dart in back to keep it from gaping away from me, but once I figured out that the shorts were going to be too small, I decreased the seam allowance on the denim pair, so it works a little better to squeeze them on. IMG_20170428_105621I did add patch pockets to the front of each pair with the intention of holding my phone when I’m dealing with the boys. It’s hard to squeeze it in since the shorts are tight right now, but it helps me tell the front from the back. It would definitely need a tag or something otherwise. I also added several inches to the length, I think around 6″, because the idea of my thighs in short shorts is uncomfortable. That’s exactly why I prefer wearing skirts in summer, I can cover more of my legs without looking frumpy. Anyway. Did I mention that the lining on the denim pockets are geeky fun? My mom let me raid her quilt cotton scraps, since I pretty much do all my cutting out at her place while she gets grandson time, and this piece was from Spoonflower.

Matcha and shortsNext up, I made the Matcha top from Sew Liberated. It popped up on my Instagram feed as a breastfeeding friendly shirt, so in a highly unusual move for me, I bought a brand new pattern and sewed it nearly right away. I should have made a test version. But stupid me, I decided to dive right into the Cotton & Steel challis that my mom gifted me with in lieu of hospital flowers. (Note to my husband, if you ever read this: I will never complain about you buying me fabric instead of flowers that will be dead in a week.) I rounded up on the size to go with my current bust measurement, but the pattern didn’t mention any finished garment measurements. (My one criticism of the pattern, since this company is new to me.) It was huge. What I probably should have done, once I realized this, was unpick what I’d sewn up to that point, retraced the pattern in a smaller size, and recut from what I had. But since I was in the middle of Doug watching the boys so I could sew and I have nowhere good to cut at home for now, I just started tweaking what I had. A lot. So I took in the side seam in the back, took a tuck under the back of the shoulder detail, turned the back into a large box pleat (okay, so that one was a  case of not reading ahead to see that it was supposed to be gathered), shifted the collar down about 2.5″ in the front, and so on.

Matcha and shorts The result is a pretty close approximation of the pattern, thankfully, and it’s very comfortable on our summer days with 3000% humidity. I couldn’t let this lovely fabric be a failure, because it feels so nice (and cool) to wear. Also, Alice in Wonderland print. This makes my literary geeky heart so happy. I actually do like the box pleat in this, too. And the neckline is really unique. There’s a hook and eye that helps hold it closed, and it has worked out very well for nursing so far. I keep thinking I’m going to add another hook and eye so that I don’t have to keep wearing a camisole underneath, but since my new necessary sewing setup means I have to go to the basement, haul a wire shelf out of the closet– most likely while wearing a baby and trying to keep a toddler from grabbing craft supplies and running– dig out the hooks and return everything else, it hasn’t happened yet.Matcha and shorts

Since this experiment gave me no real indication of the fit, I pulled a piece from my stash and cut out the sleeved version for the fall, about two sizes smaller. I haven’t gotten to sewing it yet, so stay tuned.

It’s admittedly frustrating that these three things had so many fit issues, since I have to fight for every scrap of sewing time that I get these days. That’s a large part of why I splurged on the fabric for the Rae skirt from the last post– I just needed something quick and simple that I knew would get good results. I did finish another project recently that seemed to work out, so I’m hoping that means that I’m back to a better streak of sewing. After this run, I could use a few more projects that are just right.

First summer essential: done at last!

Ok, technically I finished these last Thursday. But I haven’t had a chance to actually post until today.

They’re rather wrinkled-looking in this pic, which doesn’t really do much to show the fit. This was after wearing them for the entire day on Friday, both to work at my retail job (mental note to self: not the best shorts for clipping the 2-way radio to) and for helping my brother with a project that involved sitting down at a keyboard and banging out chords for an hour or so.

To help offset the welt pocket gapping problem, I took Joy’s suggestion and made some buttoned flaps to cover them up. I think they would have looked better if the pockets had been at an angle, or if I’d been able to sew them into the pocket and not just topstitch them onto the existing welt, but hey, it worked. And it looks a lot better than the gappy pockets! So thanks, Joy!

I’ve mostly gotten the pants pieces traced out and altered now, though I ran out of time on Saturday and haven’t been able to get back to it yet. I have an idea for how to handle the pleat, and hope it’s going to work. But I’m going to put that on hold for a little bit, because I have another project I’d like to knock out first– a laptop bag! My computer’s a desktop, and I’m still going to be using it as my main computer, but I thought it would be nice to have something a little more portable–I do need that at times, and my phone isn’t always the best option. I need to get that done by mid-July since I’ll be away from home for a dogsitting job and need to transport it safely! And I’m excited, because this project will allow me to use up a chunk of some stash fabric that I have been stumped on for quite some time. More details to come, since I have some students on vacation and therefore some time to get started tonight…

Also, thanks for the feedback so far on the random question in the last post. If anyone else has anything to add to that discussion, I’m all ears!

Good news, bad news (and a random question)

The good news: The test shorts are basically done. I finished sewing in the waistband facing today, did the button and buttonhole, and hemmed them.

I like the way the facing turned out–I was able to use up a nice chunk of a “fat quarter” piece in my scrap bin. I think I got these Celtic knot pieces in my Christmas stocking several years ago, and I’m finally finding ways to use them! I decided to hand-stitch it in, because I figured it would look nicer than topstitching it from the other side.

The fit is pretty good. Not too many wrinkles in the front…

…and though this picture is terribly blurry because the lighting in here kind of sucks for photos and I was holding the camera behind my back and taking the picture in the mirror, hardly any wrinkles at all in the back. And no gapping at the waistband! This is huge for me!

But the reason these aren’t the final photos yet is this:

I had an unforeseen problem with the welt pockets: I underestimated my hips. 😛 I wasn’t expecting them to pull apart quite this much, and frankly, the inside of the pockets just looks bad. To the point where, as it stands now, this is only wearable with the longest shirts I own, and I don’t think that would necessarily look good with such a long pair of shorts. I think I can salvage these so I can actually wear them (I mean, shorts that fit!)– I have fabric left, and I’m going to try hand-stitching a patch into each of the pocket linings so that the outer fabric is showing instead of the wrong side of the pocket lining fabric. But this also means I have to rethink my pockets a bit before I can do the pants. So here’s what options I’m looking at:

  • I can change the placement of the pockets, perhaps moving them a bit more off my hips and more onto my thighs. (But then, my upper thighs do tend to protrude a bit too, as I learned from the many, many jeans muslin fitting issues I had. So this may just move the problem elsewhere, rather than fix it.)
  • Theoretically, I could change the pockets to horizontal welts. Except that would pretty much kill both the lacing and the pleat, which is what makes these pants awesome.
  • I could eliminate the welt altogether, at least for side pockets, and instead just do regular side-seam pockets. Right now, this is looking like the safest, and therefore the most likely, option. And if I really want to do the welts, I could add a back horizontal welt pocket or two.
  • Theoretically, I could also eliminate the pockets altogether. But pants without pockets are dumb, IMO.
  • I could leave the pockets as is, and cut the back side of the pocket out of the linen so that all you see But I don’t think that will eliminate the gapping problem (unless adding the pleat adds enough fullness back in that it closes it up.) Part of whether I consider this is going to depend on how my patch job looks, I think.
  • I’m not sure that widening the welts themselves will help. That might just make it harder to sew in.

So perhaps the lesson here is that curvy girls shouldn’t have vertical welts on their pants?  I’m sure there’s got to be a way to make this work…

Ok, random question time. I’m thinking it’s about time that I did another blog giveaway. So I’m wondering, what sort of thing would you all like to see? Something handmade by me? A book? A gift certificate? Some kind of craft supply? I know the focus has changed a bit this year–still primarily a sewing blog, but I seem to have picked up some knitting bloggy friends since I picked that up. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Ah, my sewing nemesis, we meet again.

Do you ever run into a technique that you just don’t seem to get, no matter how you try? I’ve been sewing for most of my life, and I still have trouble with zippers. By this point, I’ve gotten regular centered zippers and invisible zippers down pretty well, with special thanks to handbasting. Lapped zippers are a little trickier, since I don’t use them very often.

And then there’s the fly-front zipper. I don’t know what it is about them, but they just are ridiculously hard for me for some reason. It must have something to do with my horrendous lack of direction.

The last time I tackled one of these was about 2 years ago, with the ill-fated jeans. And admittedly, it wasn’t the best zipper job ever. (None of my fly-front zippers have been so far.) And it was very, VERY tempting for me to just stick with the side zipper that the original pants pattern had. But I wanted those welt pockets, and wasn’t sure if a zipper would interfere with those. Or the fit at the side, for that matter. And since a successful pair of well-fitting jeans is pretty much my search-for-the-Holy-Grail project, I have to learn it sometime, right? The most annoying thing about it is, it seems like I always make the exact same mistakes.

So my process today went something like this:
1. Sew the facing that’s supposed to go on the right side on, trim excess fabric out of corner, and press.
2. Realize that I actually sewed this onto the left side, despite having held the leg up to myself to double-check before sewing. (Which is “mistake I always make” #1– apparently, I still can’t tell left from right.)
3. Re-cut and re-interface the piece, repeat with the opposite side.
4. Realize that I don’t actually have a zipper that’s the right color. Grab the closest one I have anyway so I don’t have to run out to Joann’s while I could be sewing. (Truth be told, I think this might be the zipper I originally got to go with this fabric anyway–my original plan was the Nichola pants. Guessing the right color just wasn’t there.)

5. Start sewing in the zipper. Wonder what on earth possessed me to follow Burda’s instructions for doing so, since it involved trying to accurately stitch the zipper from the wrong side for half of it.
6. Be pleasantly surprised at how well the zipper went in, and proceed to sew the left side backing piece in with renewed confidence.
7. Draw in and then stitch the fly front topstitching.

8, Realize that, once again, I’ve done “mistake I always make” #2: Stitch the entire opening closed. Face, meet palm.

I did rip it out and restitch it with better results. But this is the other reason I wanted to make a full wearable test version of these pants first!

Aside from that, I did get the waistband sewed on, as well as getting the facing partially sewed in. I was hoping to get a little further today, but the zipper slowed me down quite a bit. Oh well– assuming all goes well with the buttonhole, I should be able to knock the rest of these shorts off in an hour or two!

I did another quick project yesterday as well, this one a refashion. On my last Goodwill excursion, I found this top:

(Picture lightened quite a bit to show what’s going on.) This top had a lot going for it– it fits great, I really liked the print mix, and I found out belatedly that it’s silk instead of polyester like I thought. Of course, the way I found that out was that after I took it out of the dryer, I found out that the outside had shrunk about an inch shorter, while the synthetic lining had stayed the same length. (Thus the lighter brown band at the bottom in this pic.) It also had some awkward flutter sleeves–I do like interesting sleeves, but these were just a little weird. And then the little panel in the front of the V-neck was still too low-cut to really function well for hiding cleavage.

I got the urge while I was at work yesterday to have something new to wear for going out to a local festival with some friends last night, so I pulled this one out and got it all fixed up just in time. I didn’t really feel like rethreading the machine, and didn’t want to mess up the outside with obvious stitching lines so I did it all by hand. I took the sleeves off, cut the panel out, and then hemmed up the lining about 1 1/4″:. And ended up with this:

Not the best pic– I was hoping to get one at the festival, but it didn’t happen. So this was me using the self-timer with the camera sitting on the trunk of my car just after it got dark. Anyway, I think it’s much cuter as a sleeveless shirt, and will function much better layering over various tank tops, like the brown one I’m wearing here.

How to (possibly not) put pockets into vertical welts.

It’s been a rather experimental week here at Casa de Sew-and-So. First up was trying to get the pocket bags into the shorts, which I’ll go into more detail with in a moment. I’ve also got a yarn-dying experiment going on as I type, and my wrap that I finished a month or two ago (finally) blocked and drying out in the yard. So hopefully those will turn out well.

I found it surprisingly difficult to find suggestions and/or tutorials for getting the pocket bags into vertical welt pockets! It seems like everything I checked out–books, blogs, Google–was geared more towards the little rectangular ones that get attached to horizontal jacket pockets and such. Nothing on pants pockets. And BurdaStyle instructions being what they are…yeah. No help there. So here’s a little mini-tutorial on how I did it– both so I can remember it once I get to the pants, and so if anyone out there is having a similar problem, hopefully I can help you out a bit. (Note: This is not a tutorial on making the actual welt part of it, because there’s a bajillion tutorials on that already, and this was only my first set. And therefore not as clean a finish as I’d ideally like–hoping I can avoid the corner puckers next time!)

(Second note: With everything being dark on dark, this isn’t the best tutorial pictorally. But if people are interested, I can redo this later with more and better pictures once I get to the pants. Since they’ll be lighter, things might be easier to see.)

So here’s one half of the front of my shorts, with the welts all sewn in and basted shut and ready to go. The first thing I did was to pin one half of the pocket (not sewn together yet) onto the shorts, wrong sides together. (In retrospect, I probably should have done the right side of the pocket to the wrong side of the shorts, so it would look a little better inside the pocket. Oh well, you live, you learn.) I pinned all around the welt to hold it in place as firmly as possible.

The next thing I did was to baste along all of the long edges of the pocket– both the outer edges where they joined the shorts, and the inner edge where the two welts meet–through to the pocket layer. This was to hold it in place, and to give me a cut line. (No picture of this step, sorry!) I did it by hand since I’d have better control that way, and the longer stitches would be easier to rip out later.

Then I cut on the wrong side of the pocket–first along that center basted line, and then the two little triangular snips at either end, just like for making the welts. So it looked kind of like this:

>—–<

Again, you can’t really see the basting, since I used light blue thread against that mottled green background. But I promise you that it’s there.

The next thing was to fold the cut edges back along the basting, like I’m doing here. Not quite all the way to the stitching, since I did my basting right up along the edge, because you want the machine to catch the stitches. (Otherwise, it’ll be like the second pocket I did, when it was much later at night and I was just trying to get this step done, where I almost entirely missed it and had to hand-sew things.)

I pinned from the right side of the shorts, just to make it easier to get them out–you just have to check to make sure the fabric is being caught by the pins underneath. Then I just did a basic “stitch in the ditch” all around the pocket.

This is where I should have taken a picture of the underside with everything stitched up. But I didn’t. Again, sorry.

Next step was to layer the outer pocket on top and stitch it up. I did regular stitching on the curved edge, followed by a zig-zag right on the edge to give it a nicer finish. And then I just machine-basted it to the top and sides, a little within the seam allowance.

Then I undid all of the basting that was holding the welt edges closed, and was left with this. (See what I mean about the puckers? But at least I have a nice pocket to shove my hand into now.)

So there you have it. There’s probably a better way to do this, and if anyone knows of one and wouldn’t mind sharing, I’m all ears! Otherwise, again, if this is something people are interested in, I’ll redo the tutorial with more pictures when I make the pants. Just let me know.

90 degrees and rising…

…makes it a good day for sewing shorts! Especially since I actually had some time to sew today! And the Summer Essentials Sew-along officially starts today!

First thing I did today was trim those seam allowances down to my usual 5/8″. This picture is the center back seam, and you can see what a drastic change I had to make here! For the majority of the rest of it, though, it was just a case of trimming off the extra 3/8″ I added to get a full inch seam.

Once those were all trimmed down, I took off what was left of the waistband seam (had to undo it partially already for the trimming), then the side, inseam and crotch seams. Next thing I did was sew the darts and the seams that run down the middle of the front legs. The twill seems more prone to fraying than I thought it would, so I’m edge-finishing the seams with the overlocker-esque stitch on my machine. I don’t have anything close to the right color thread for my serger anyway, and was feeling too lazy to bother setting it up and rethreading it as a result. Plus this twill also seems to show marks when pressed, if the back darts are any indication, so it’s probably just as well that I give it a lighter finish. Incidentally, this has me thinking that for the linen pants, I may Hong Kong-finish the seams on that, since linen will fray even worse. But I’d rather save such a time-consuming process for the pants.

Next thing I decided to do was tackle the welt pockets. A first for me! I marked the pocket on one side of the shorts, and then decided it looked like it was awfully low. So after holding it up to myself to confirm this,I ended up moving the welt about 2″ higher. (The red line is the new one.)

Then once I had the new pocket line marked, I interfaced where the opening was supposed to go. The tutorial recommended pinking the interfacing, but I decided to use some really lightweight stuff so I just tore it. I didn’t want to mark the actual cut line on the outside (not sure how well this chalk pencil will wash off), so I hand-basted the line instead, using the pattern as a guide.

Next up was doing the actual welts. Which turned out to be much more simple than I thought, thanks to some nice instructions in one of the books I have here. So here they are, all basted shut and pressed and everything. I wish the corners were laying just a bit flatter, but overall, I’m thinking not bad for a first attempt. (And that I maybe need to press the one on the right a bit more.)

The only thing is, I’m not entirely sure how I’m supposed to put the actual pocket pieces in! Burda’s directions are being typically hard to decipher, and all of my on-hand resources seem to focus more on welt pockets for jackets, so they just have small rectangular ones. So this is going to be my stopping point for the night, in order for me to do some more internet research. I need to switch to knitting now anyway, since I’m going to be hanging out with my crocheting friends all weekend and would like to get a few more rows done on the tank top first. That way I can just do a more brainless pattern and be social!

Muslins, muslins everywhere…

…and not a finished garment to show for it! Yet.

I cut out muslins for 3 different things in my mini-wardrobe on Saturday– the jeans 2.0, my pair of shorts, and the bodice for the maxi-dress I wanted to make. (And since I had to find a knit for the dress, that means I’m using up another piece of stash! Ha!) Spent some more time on Saturday sewing the dress “muslin”, and worked on tweaking it again this morning– no band today, so I had a couple hours to sew!

And, well, I’m not sure this dress is going to be happening as originally planned. I’d already raised the neckline a bit, and the front part of the bodice fits really, really well. The midriff part had to be taken in about an inch and a half on each side (which I did after taking these pics), but I’d expected that.

Also expected was that I’d have a bit of trouble with the back, due to the elastic. (And, I’m pretty sure, reading some Pattern Review articles on it.)
I just wasn’t expecting this much trouble…good thing I’m wearing the camisole here, because the back is definitely sagging below my bra! And this is with a mere 3 inches or so of fabric sewn to the bottom. I shudder to think of what an entire maxi-dress skirt would do. After these photos, I lopped off about an inch of the elastic (minus seams) and several inches off the back side pieces. Still was sagging. I’m really doubtful that I can modify this enough to support an entire maxi-dress skirt, even with building in a bra. So I’m thinking what I may end up doing instead is to use what’s left of the knit and the stuff I got to make the built-in bra to just turn this into a halter top. Would be good for July 4th, if it doesn’t clash with my hair too much. And then for the dress, go with a slightly more bra-friendly pattern from my stash. (I’m thinking the bottom right-hand corner with the big print view. At any rate, will make it a faster sewing job, which I kind of need right now. And though I usually don’t pay much attention to it, I think the maxi-dress trend is supposed to have passed.)

No pictures of it, but I did sew the jeans muslin 2.0 together. Took some tweaking, probably due to my slightly oddball pattern drafting (masking tape on newsprint), but I’m glad I allowed 1″ seams. Taking those down to 5/8″ made it fit just about perfectly. The yoke is still a bit off and gapping in the back (and on the sides a bit), but it’s close enough that I think I may just cut it like this and then tweak it in the actual denim so I can make it work with any additional thickness.

Also done over the weekend: Using some scraps from that muslin to finish the first section of my much-needed jewelry organizer. I’ve got 18 necklaces in it so far (9 per side), and it looks like it’s going to work pretty well. I’ll try to get pics soon.

Also also done over the weekend: I spent Friday afternoon playing with my bamboo scraps and dummy to see what I could come up with for that top. So this is what I currently have pinned to my dummy. The straps are just twisted up scraps that I pinned on to determine what sort of straps– they won’t stay that rough.

Honestly, at this point, I’m kind of torn. I like the concept of it. But there’s that tiny nagging part of my brain that wonders if wearing something that looked like this out in public would give off too much of a Tinkerbell vibe?

I guess it would also partially depend on if it would actually fit. There would be a zipper involved, but it would be hard to bring that past the waist at all with this skirt action going on…makes me wonder if I’d even be able to get it on!

So, it stays pinned to my dummy while I ponder all of this.

So I have absolutely nothing that I have to do on Sunday, other than go to church. My evening Bible study and flute orchestra rehearsals are both cancelled due to the holiday weekend. So my plan is to try and get the actual denim for the jeans cut out on Friday or Saturday (we’ll see, since I have plans for both evenings!) I’m hoping that my mom will let me borrow one of her extra machines (yes, she has more than one), and that I can find a place to set those up along with my serger so that I can just go assembly-line style–I forget whose blog I read it on (sorry!) but I remember reading something about someone who made a pair of jeans and used two machines so she could just keep the topstitching thread in one and the actual sewing thread in another and not have to keep stopping to rethread the machine. Which is pretty brilliant, I think. If I can do that, and if the fly zipper doesn’t give me too much trouble, in theory, I might be able to get these jeans done by the unofficial start of summer!