this bird has flown

I’m back! With multiple projects to catch up on, believe it or not. Taking pictures has proven to be even more of a challenge since Padawan came along, mostly because he spends most of his nap time strapped to me in a carrier. Not very conducive to outfit photos. So this was just grabbing a few quick photos of my latest project after church today, and hoping that I can catch up on the rest later.

IMG_4939The skirt is the Sewaholic Rae, and there’s really nothing to say about the construction by this point since this is my fourth version.  It’s funny that this has become my go-to skirt pattern, since I probably would have avoided it in the pre-kid days. But when you’ve got limited time to sew and 30 pounds to lose, I guess elastic waists that can be easily adjusted are the way to go. Especially when I can hide them with my constantly untucked shirts. (I’m wearing it here with an old Burda top and my Plantain cardigan.)

IMG_4942Let’s talk about the fabric, shall we? Yes, I’m back on the quilter’s cotton, but I couldn’t pass this print up. It’s from a collection called “Hello Love”, all loosely inspired by The Beatles’ music. I grew up regularly listening to The Beatles, and so I fell in love with several of the prints. The one I ended up choosing was inspired by “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)”. One thing I’ve been attempting to do for awhile is bring some warmer colors into my wardrobe, since I do have a tendency to fall into a rut of ocean colors and black. And the cheerful gold with Elven looking trees seemed to be just the thing. Plus that meant that I actually managed to fit the month’s bird theme at The Monthly Stitch! It was a little challenging making sure that I didn’t end up with hearts centered in iffy places, but I think I managed it. As well as pattern matching as best as I could with angled seams.

So that’s that! And hopefully I’ll get to those other pictures soon.

IMG_4948Ok, one more with this cutie. Can you believe he’s 2 months old already?

the skirt my husband designed

IMG_3843So, May in a nutshell, this skirt. I really wasn’t expecting something this relatively simple to take me almost an entire month, but such is the nature of my sewing life these days.

I say that my husband designed this, because it was basically his idea. We had a conversation somewhere during my third trimester that went something like this…

Doug: So I saw this girl at the mall today…

Pregnant me: Why were you looking at this girl?

Doug: I liked her skirt. I thought it would look good on you after you’re done being pregnant.

He went on to describe it as a long sheer skirt over a shorter skirt. It sounded simple enough to make, and it’s not often that he notices women’s fashion, so challenge accepted. I bought a couple of yards of black chiffon and some wide elastic and waited for my stomach to shrink enough to make the skirt that he liked.

Like I said, I wasn’t expecting it to take so long. On the one hand, it’s essentially two rectangles gathered into a wide elastic waistband. On the other hand, I ended up with a wider tube than the elastic would stretch to, so I ended up having to do a bunch of little pleats to gather it in. That took me a couple of tries to get the spacing right.

IMG_3854The outer layer is just black polyester chiffon from Fabric.com, purchased specifically for this purpose last summer. The inner layer is a silky polyester from Joann’s, bought years ago with a more workwear-type top in mind that I never got to. I put it shiny side in for a more subtle effect, but I really like how the print looks underneath. The background is a rather stark white, and going through the Wardrobe Architect process made me realize that ivory tones are better on me anyway, so I’m pleased to have found a use for it that better suits my palette. Now I just need to figure out a use for the leftover 2/3 yards.

I’m still trying to sort out how best to handle these wide exposed elastic waistbands. The stitches skipped and wobbled less on this one than on my refashioned plum skirt, but the waistband itself is more rippled. I guess it’s a good thing that I rarely tuck anything in. I also wish the hem was a little neater. Fighting for these little scraps of sewing time is really doing a number on my finishing skills. I just get so desperate to actually get something new into my wardrobe. Especially since a good chunk of things still don’t fit. And I don’t expect that to improve for awhile.

I feel like I should at least mention Me-Made-May, even though we’re halfway through June now and everyone’s moved on. I played along loosely via Instagram, while trying to pull out older stuff from the closet and see what still works and what doesn’t. My overall takeaway was a good news, bad news sort of situation. The good news is that I still have more workable me-mades than I thought. The bad news is that a lot of what I’m having to let go of are the majority of my basics, which is making the whole outfit thing tough. I’m especially hurting for pants and jeans, and even basic tank tops and tees. But I’m honestly not really sure what to do about it, given that I’m averaging about 1 project a month right now, I’m so dissatisfied with the styles and fit of store bought clothes these days, and (hopefully not TMI) there is talk of when to start trying for a sibling for Hobbit. It seems pointless to go through the pants fitting process just to end up with a closet full of pants that I can’t wear anymore again…any suggestions for my dilemma, mom-types?

On a happier note, this skirt busted 3 2/3 yards. It’s progress, even if just a small step.

Hopefully it won’t be weeks before I post again. Photos were the delay in sharing this one, and this month’s project is for a much cuter model!

 

 

flower power

20160501_152644One of my sewing goals for this year was to think more about mini-capsule outfits, in an effort to avoid closet orphans. Since a lot of my old clothes still aren’t fitting well, this is so important right now. So I was excited to see that The Monthly Stitch’s theme for April was to do two or more coordinating pieces, one of which was a floral. It just so happened that I had the perfect combination in my stash. Especially to line up with a couple of other sewing challenges– I love when I can multitask this way!

Both of these pieces were from Seamwork Magazine– the same issue, in fact. I made the Astoria top first, because I needed a solid pastel top for my flute choir’s spring concert, and this piece of fabric was literally the only thing I owned that fit the criteria! It’s a lightweight acrylic sweater knit that I’ve been dithering over for a couple of years now, due to the sheerness. (Incidentally, the theme for the Stashbusting Sewalong this month was “feared fabrics”, and sweater knits do make me a tad nervous. Especially since it’s hard to find them in not-wool, and the unraveling factor!) This one came together pretty quickly, and fit nicely straight off of the pattern. The length threw me for a loop, since I’m not used to cropped tops, so I might add some length if I make it again– unless I find more good sweater knits for layering over some dresses!

20160501_152843_LLS(Baby photobomb, because he was getting fussy.) The accompanying Bristol skirt took me longer than anticipated. That’s mostly my own fault, because the floral print is a little on the sheer side, and so I lined it. Which meant that I had to sew and finish everything twice, aside from the pocket. I’ll admit I was kind of frantically trying to finish this yesterday, both so I’d have it to wear to church this morning and so I could definitely count it for April, and so the hem on the lining is rather wonky. I rushed the pressing a bit more than I should have, and the fabric was all shifty. But I’m just going to roll with it, because no one will see it but me. (And maybe occasionally Doug, when he does the laundry, because he’s great like that.)

20160501_152830_LLS
What I like about this skirt:

  • Pocket! I wouldn’t use it for my hands, since it’s kangaroo-style, but it’s perfect for holding my phone.
  • If I hadn’t lined it, it really would have been a super-fast project.
  • The elastic waistband is definitely good for my need of flexible fitting.
  • The print, obviously.

What I didn’t like:

  • I should have read the waistband instructions more closely before sewing, and then done it completely differently. It called for basically basting the elastic into the waistband, and then sewing that whole gathered mess onto the skirt. Which took forever, and was a total mess to finish. (Mostly because I was too lazy to change my serger thread.) I think I’d make this pattern again, as it was a nice switch-up from the Rae skirt, but I’d definitely sew the waistband casing in flat and then insert the elastic.

In other news, I never made my official Me-Made-May pledge for this year. I honestly don’t think I can do every day right now, since I’m highly dependent on my RTW transitional jeans. And I definitely can’t do the me-made jewelry like previous years, because the grabby little Hobbit has me limited to stud earrings and my wedding rings. So for this year, I’m going to just aim for wearing something I made 3-4 days a week, and seeing if I can get a better idea of what clothes might still fit me again after I drop a few more pounds vs. what it’s just time to let go of.

I’m starting off well, at least– besides the two Seamwork pieces, I’m also wearing my latest pair of Espresso leggings and the McCall’s tank top I made last month.

To quickly sum up my stashbusting for April: Besides these two pieces, I have one more finished clothing project that needs to be photographed (yay!), and a gift that I haven’t showed at all yet because the family member that it’s for follows my Instagram. All together, 11.25 yards out, and nothing in. Finally, a decent dent!

return to refashioning

It took a lot longer than I felt like it should have, for such a simple change. That’s the story with all of my sewing projects these days, to be honest. But once again, I’m quite happy with how much more use I’ll be able to get out of this garment now.

skirt 1Meet my new maxi-skirt. I finished this one a couple of weeks ago– before the blue shirt from the last post– but I had to wait for a chance to take some photos.

 

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The before: This is actually the dress that my mom wore to my wedding! (My mom doesn’t like pictures of herself on the internet, so I hope this is acceptable if you’re reading it, Mom– I swear I took a before picture on my mannequin, but I can’t find it on my hard drive!) She gave me the dress after the wedding to chop up, because she said she’d never have occasion to wear it again. We’re a very casual family as a whole, so cocktail parties and holiday dresses aren’t really our thing. (We’re more the jeans, sweaters and homemade pizza for Christmas type.)

My initial plan was to shorten the dress and maybe wear it for a fancy date with Doug or something. But we don’t often go on fancy dates– again, casual family– and post-Hobbit, I honestly wasn’t sure if the top of this would fit my embiggened figure anytime soon. But a maxi-skirt is always useful, and the dress was a jersey-type fabric, so I decided to go more of the everyday wearing route. The dress had a slit up the center front that I didn’t feel comfortable leaving in, knowing I’d have a little boy tugging on my skirts in an effort to stand up before I know it. So I unpicked that, sewed it shut, and made that the new side seam. (There was only one other seam, conveniently in the center back.) Aside from that, it was pretty simple– just cutting some excess length off the top, and gathering it to an exposed elastic waistband.

This was my first attempt at such a waistband, and it’s a bit messy. (Thus the lack of picture.) The stitching got kind of jagged when I had to release the elastic to stretch to match the next section of fabric. But the gathering is mostly even, at least. And the insides are nice and tidy, thanks to this tutorial. I do have plans to make at least one more exposed elastic skirt, hopefully for next spring/summer, so hopefully that will go smoother.

skirt 2Overall, I’m happy with the results. The skirt is very full, so I have no trouble walking in it with my usual longish stride. The color makes it great for all seasons, possibly with the exception of the muggiest summer days due to the fiber content. It’s basically secret pajamas! I’m wearing it with boots and leggings here, which is probably what I’ll do all winter for warmth, but I know I have at least one warmer-weather top that it will look great with. I’m still hoping I can come up with something for that beaded waistband section of the original dress, too!

So that catches me up on finished projects, for now. I’m currently in Christmas mode, trying to finish up a toy for Hobbit. I’m also hoping to get his stocking made before we pack up the decorations this year. We’ll see. In the meantime, I’m excited that Gillian posted the categories for the Top 5 year-end review today! That’s always fun. Are you going to be participating this year?

 

 

 

Rae, a drop of golden sun…

Yeah, I made two more of the Sewaholic Rae skirts, in two very different fabrics. Since I already briefly talked about the construction before, this is more to show how they ended up– and also my monthly post for Gillian’s #betterpicturesproject!

IMG_2736This month’s assignment was to find a new spot to take photos, ideally 5 minutes or less from your house. Admittedly, the thought of setting up a tripod somewhere while lugging around Hobbit’s car seat (and quite probably listening to him scream the whole time, since the car seat is one of his least favorite things EVER so far) was not very appealing to me. So my big brave move was out to the back yard! I’ve avoided it so far, because we’re in a central townhouse, and pretty much all we ever do with the yard is mow it and let the dogs out to do their business. That, and that tan strip behind the trees just happens to be one of the busiest highways in the state. But the lighting really is better out here than in my sewing room, and Doug was kind enough to take some pictures for me. Which is much easier than running back and forth between me and the tripod. I just may have to reserve my outfit photos for weekends for awhile, that’s all.
Recycled Rae 2I also experimented with setting the camera to portrait mode. I think it turned out well, and the bonus was that keeping it on a more automatic setting made it really simple for Doug! So I’ll save the more manual settings for when I’m the one behind the lens, I think. (Mastering that really is something I’d like to do sometime, but I think that will be better for trying to get artsy with the kid photos and landscapes while traveling.)

I guess I should say something about the actual sewing, right? This particular skirt is half a refashion. Several years ago, I made a dress for my brother’s wedding that was a complete and utter disaster from start to finish. Once the wedding was over, I promptly threw the dress into my refashion bin, along with an extra yard and a half or so of the same fabric that I purchased later, with the intention of turning it into something else. I was originally thinking maybe some kind of longer, fitted, belted vest. But that never came to fruition. I’ve finally redeemed it with this skirt, though. The fabric itself is a polyester shantung, and I was able to cut half of the skirt out of the original dress. I didn’t have the extra piece on my original stash list, since it was out of sight in the bin and I’d honestly forgotten it was there. But I have about 2/3 yard left, so I’m estimating I used half a yard for the other half of the skirt.

recycled RaePardon the slightly derpy face here– I’m including this one because it’s one of the best for showing the skirt detail. I had forgotten how absolutely awful this fabric frays, so I French seamed the whole thing. And since it’s polyester, of course it didn’t really press all that great, so I also ended up topstitching over all of the seams to give it more of a flat-fell look. Honestly, the effect makes me think of nylon parachutes. But since I’m coming to terms with the fact that my generally casual lifestyle doesn’t necessarily fit the shiny fabrics that I often adore, I think it’s for the best here, because it definitely helps the skirt look a lot less formal than I originally intended the dress to be.

I can also say that this skirt was for the Monthly Stitch’s August theme of twos, since this was my second Rae skirt that month. (I finished it on August 31!)

exploding TARDIS RaeThe third skirt sewed up a lot faster, since I made it out of quilt cotton and could just serge all the seam edges to finish it off! I kind of like this artsy black top that I bought for our Paris trip last fall with this particular print, and will definitely use this combo again when it gets its out-of-house debut. (I was waiting until I got pictures, mostly because I didn’t want to have to iron it again first.)

exploding TARDIS!A closer-up view of the print. Why, yes, that is a print designed around Van Gogh’s lesser-known “Exploding TARDIS”. And this little Whovian is rather psyched that the colors just happen to fall into the realm of the palette that I’m overall attempting to work with for my future wardrobe cultivation. (Especially because yellow/gold is one of the ones I’ve been meaning to add more of.)

dog photobombFinally, even though this is an attempt at better pictures, and I’m fully aware that the flash went off and left a weird shadow behind me, it seemed fitting to continue the tradition of golden retriever photobombing!

a study in improvisation

Sometimes, I feel like I’m not a very creative person.
Sure, I look creative. After all, I have a music degree (two, actually), and I mange my own clothes. I also enjoy cooking, most of the time. But here’s the thing: I’m a classically trained musician. Which is basically the equivalent of not being the author who creates the story, but the translator who takes a different language and rewrites it into English. The times I’ve gotten the most nervous performing have been the times I’ve been told to just make up a part. And I see this in the other things, too. I can follow a recipe well, but I struggle to take a handful of ingredients and turn them into a tasty meal without one. And I choose the fabrics and tweak the fit, sometimes I mash together two patterns if I’m feeling brave, but it’s almost always someone else’s design that I’m just interpreting.
Self-drafted wrap skirtThat being said, this skirt was definitely out of my comfort zone. And it’s certainly not perfect. If this was Project Runway and Michael Kors was still a judge, he’d probably pull out that Becky Home-ecky phrase, furthering my dislike of him for making my name synonymous with bad sewing. But I made it, without a pattern, and it did what I wanted it to do. And that’s pretty huge for me.
So here’s the details: it’s two yards of quilt cotton that should be all wrong for me–mint green? Pink? Really? But the flamingos called to me. I cut it to the length I thought would be good, plus seams and hems, then cut that piece into thirds. The back is adjustable, with buttonhole elastic courtesy of Brooke, who kindly sent me some from her own stash when she learned via Instagram that I didn’t have any. Aren’t sewcialists the best? The front waistband is flat, and secured by two buttons– one inside, one out. I fully lined it with some white polyester from my stash, which took my totals down another 2 yards.
Self-drafted wrap skirtI think my favorite detail is the front curve. I had to wing it, because I didn’t have anything in the room that was round and large enough, and our plates aren’t round either. But I think it turned out really nice!

I was also pleased that I was able to avoid any wardrobe malfunctions, as wrap skirts are prone to. I first wore it for a morning out with Doug and Hobbit, on the boardwalk at one of my state’s busiest beaches, as we had a couple of errands to run at specific stores in that area. It was quite breezy, but my legs stayed covered!

Self-drafted wrap skirtI’m also pleased that I was able to finish it in time for the end of the month, since this fabric just screams summer and probably won’t really work once it starts getting colder. I may have a long way to go to truly get the hang of designing my clothes from scratch, but I think this is a step in the right direction.

(Note: the stupid Blogger app on my phone ate about half of the original post when I was trying to get off of the original draft, so I’ve reconstructed it as best as I could.)

transitional sewing

Sewaholic RaeJust a quick project to share today. This was the only photo that sort of turned out, to be honest, and I’m limited on time while the baby’s napping. I tried a couple of side shots, but I’ll admit I’m feeling a little self-conscious about how I look in those– I know I should be kind to myself, since 8 weeks ago I was just going into labor, and lots of people around here have been telling me that I look great. But I think I’m ready to not look like I have a baby bump on here, you know?

Anyway, the skirt. I’m trying to focus on projects that are relatively quick to make and forgiving on the fit, while I restock my wardrobe with a few basics to help me get into the fall. This is the Sewaholic Rae skirt, which was designed as a beginner skirt, so I figured it would work up fast. Also, elastic waists are my friends right now. I was really happy with how this turned out. It was a fairly instant-gratification project– I think it only took me 3 or 4 afternoon naptimes to sew up, and those have been quite variable in length so far, so that’s not bad. The fabrics are leftover pieces from this skirt and these pants, and I think they pair well together. I’m calling it my Zelda Rae skirt, because I have to admit that black and tan makes me think of German shepherds, and in particular, the very sweet one that my parents had while I was in college and beyond. But I also figured the black and tan combo means that it would go with a lot. Aside from that, there’s not much to say about the construction. There’s only two pattern pieces. Which also makes it quick to cut out, and since that’s not my favorite part of sewing, that’s fine by me.

It’s a little wrinkly looking, yeah. But the tan is linen, while the black is a linen-type. So let’s call this “embracing the nature of the fabric” instead of “I’m too lazy to iron while trying to get us out the door”, ok?

All in all, I think this is a great skirt for both the seasonal transition, and my sizing transitions. I’m definitely going to attempt at least one more of these, assuming the refashion I have in mind has enough fabric. I’m also debating about two more. I used a gift card I’ve been hoarding to buy some chambray, since none of my old skirts that weren’t already elastic waist were fitting. But then last week, I made the happy discovery that I’ve shrunk down enough that my TARDIS skirt fits again, even though it’s snug, and this other denim skirt is also right on the verge of fitting (snugly).  So now I’m questioning whether that chambray would be more useful as another type of garment. I also splurged on another piece of fabric just before the baby was born, because the Whovian in me demanded it, and I was originally thinking a different Sewaholic skirt pattern, but I think I might go with this instead. After all, the sizing is more versatile. And we know we’d like to have at least one more kid a little ways down the road, assuming we can, so I’d rather use my precious sewing time to make things that aren’t just going to fit for a few months before doing this all over again.