Thursday, October 16, 2014

A Little of This, A Little of That: Coming Up With a Fall Dress

My older daughter is 10 years old now. That puts her in the "tween" age category. When trying to come up with sewing plans for her, I felt a bit stumped. This is new territory. Combining her preferences, my "guidelines" (leggings are not pants!), and this new age category in a successful way is a challenge. We talked through some options together and looked at fabrics together and we have a bit of a plan. This dress was the first part of the plan.

We had an idea of what the dress should look like and then combined a couple different Ottobre patterns to get what we wanted. There was a fair bit of basting and fitting as we went and in the end, we both think it was successful.

She picked out the fabric - a purple pique knit. It's pretty stretchy with very good recovery, so it wasn't too difficult to handle. The black trim is a cotton/lycra jersey. I added the keyhole at the front neckline for interest. The binding was done on my sewing machine with a double needle. First I zigzagged the binding to the neckline, then turned it to the back and topstitched with the double needle. I trimmed off the extra on the inside close to the stitching line. The zigzagging and double needle stitching both allow plenty of stretch for getting this on without a zipper or button closure.

My initial plan was to have this ruched waist piece sit on top of the dress and just be attached at the side seams. However, I made an error in tracing the skirt pattern and the front piece was two inches shorter than the back piece. I didn't want a short skirt on this dress, so I decided to insert the back piece to gain back some of the length. It worked well enough.

The bodice back piece is a bit too long and she gets some pooling above the inset piece. Not enough to make any changes on this dress, but it's something I might watch for in the future.

She would like for the skirt to be fuller. She's a big fan of the circle skirt. I'm not such a big fan of buying enough fabric for a circle skirt.

We're both happy with this dress and I think our first real foray into tween clothing was successful. The Oliver + S blog has been doing a series about tween style (specifically related to their patterns) and I've been enjoying following it and picking up some inspiration.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Ottobre 6/2012 #37 - Chambray shirt

Since moving back to the US, I've done some experimenting with ordering fabric online. I had only dabbled with it while living in Canada because of shipping costs, duty charges and the nuisance of return shipping. As expected, it's a bit of a mixed bag. Some purchases are better than expected and some are disappointing. The corduroy for these pants was the former and the chambray for this shirt was the latter. The chambray is nice fabric, it's just different than what I had envisioned. I went ahead with it anyway.

This shirt is for my son and is the partner piece for these pants. I like how the shirt looks with the sleeves rolled up. He will have none of that.

The pattern is just a classic collared button-down shirt from Ottobre (6/2012 #37). I like the two-piece collar, the lined yoke, and the properly scaled front pocket. Breast pockets that are "off" (to my eye, anyway) in size, scale, or placement really bug me.

I used a plaid shirting for contrast on the collar stand, under collar, inner yoke, button placket, inner cuffs and sleeve plackets. I've been doing this with most collared shirts I make lately and I like the small amount of interest it provides.

My plan was to do the topstitching with navy blue thread, but it looked terrible. After trying some other options (gray, tan, white) I chose an off-white. The buttonholes looked too bright with that shade, so I used a light beige thread for them.

I'm such a sucker for a bit of bias plaid.

My son is happy with both of these pieces for fall - how they look and how they feel. I started with these because they are more involved than most of the other things I have planned to make. I know that if I start with the easy things, I'll run out of time for the complex ones. I find it easier to squeeze in the easy ones later.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Ottobre 4/2011 #38 - Rust Corduroy Pants

It happens every September. You'd think I would catch on. The air feels especially chilly on a Sunday morning and my kids still only have their summer clothes for church. Find some tights! Do you have a decent looking sweater? Put a shirt under that! And off we go, looking kind of patched together. Seriously, every year. That was last week Sunday. So, last week I was busy getting some dressier clothes together. I started with my son because I find his clothes takes longer to make. It's easier to squeeze in the faster dresses at the eleventh hour.

I always have success with Ottobre patterns for my son, so that's where I started. This is pattern #38 from issue 4/2011. They are called "Algebra corduroys." Ottobre pattern names are always interesting. I like the narrow legs, the curved yoke and the angled pockets on the front.

They are a bit rumpled from being folded up waiting for their shirt partner.

All of the topstitching is done in tan thread. I copied the rear pocket top-stitching from the pattern.

The waistband turned out to be a little too big, so I added some elastic to the back half. The inner waistband edge is bound with tan bias tape, matching the zipper and stitching. My kids don't like buttons on their pants. Snaps are still their preference, but we've been burned by snaps before. I have yet to find some that are both heavy duty enough for pants and work well consistently. I hate getting all the sewing work done and then ending up with a bum snap. Grrr.

So, for these pants we put in a hook and bar closure. He's had this on other pants and it works fine for him - both fast and secure. The button on the front is just decorative.

My son is the most tactile-aware of my kids. He loves soft, fuzzy clothes. He really likes these pants, even though he said he would prefer that the soft part be on the inside. :)

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Mega Gift Card Wallet

A few years ago I made these little wallets for the gift cards that I used regularly. The new school my kids attend participates in the same program, but it is much bigger here. That little wallet I had wasn't cutting it anymore. Some searching on Pinterest (it'll cure what ails you every time) led me to this tutorial for a pretty large gift card wallet. Mega even! I thought this might be more than I really needed, but I liked the concept of it.

I had been playing around with this braided-look patchwork and decided to incorporate it in this project. I backed the exterior wallet piece with upholstery fabric to give it some extra heft.

You can see some smudges on the back part. I've been using this for a couple of weeks already and can say that I'm really pleased with it. It is indeed more than I need, but I like having the space to keep everything sorted and also keep the loyalty/coupon cards with the gift cards.

And the last page with room for growth!

The tutorial includes instructions for a velcro tab closure. I used this elastic and a button that I had. Not sure that it's an improvement over velcro, but it's working well for me.

I know it takes a lot of time to create these tutorials and I've benefited from many of them. I'm thankful for people that are generous with their time and ideas!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Back to School Sewing

My kids start school tomorrow. The first day at a new school. They're all excited. It seems like I'm the only nervous one. The backpacks are packed, the lunches made, the clothes laid out. Everything's ready to go!

These two little items are the only back-to-school sewing I've done this year. My younger daughter and I worked on this pencil case together. She sat on my lap and did some of the steering while we were sewing the seams. The fabric choices are hers.

This is a boxy zippered pouch made with this pattern, A Little Duffle Do It. The pattern gives cutting dimensions for four sizes, but I needed one to fit a set of colored pencils and based the dimensions on that. So, this one is longer and thinner than any of the four given choices.

I quilted the outer fabric and lining together with fusible fleece in between. The pattern gives good instructions for cleanly finishing the inside seams using binding, but I was trying to be quick and just zigzagged them instead.

I like how wide it opens and the ribbon tabs on each end make it easy to open and close the zipper.

My son needed a set of ear buds to have at school. They didn't come with a case and I thought we could do better than a ziplock bag. I nabbed this Straight Stitch Society pattern when they were on sale recently and gave my son his choice of animals.

As with all the Liesl + Co patterns, this one is well designed and has great instructions. It is cleanly finished on the inside with only a couple inches of hand stitching to close it up.

It doesn't show up very well against the white background, but I love the little bone zipper pull. My son picked all the fabrics and buttons for the eyes. I wasn't sure I could get that little red one to work inside the orange one, but it was really important to him. And it does look pretty cool, doesn't it?

The finished size is about 4" in diameter and 1.25" in height. I wish the edges were a little crisper. There is a layer of batting between the outer fabric and lining. The batting was trimmed from all seam allowances, but maybe using a canvas or upholstery fabric would provide the heft without the bulk.

In the side view pic above, you can see the small stitches used to keep the ears folded over. It looks like a rabbit before that step. It sure turns out to be a cute little pup!

There will be some school clothes sewing coming up, but for now I'm happy to be sending my kids off to school with these fun little projects of their choosing.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Simplicity 2406 - Black Cold-Shoulder Dress

This dress was a very quick project, made shortly after my new sewing room was unpacked. I had this project in my mind for awhile, but the need for kids' clothes and then the moving project meant that it got pushed to the bottom of the list. This was a wardrobe-driven project, meaning neither the fabric nor the pattern are new or compelling, but I knew I would appreciate having it in my closet.

This is the third time I've used this pattern, Simplicity 2406 (first here, second here). For this version, I used a drapey knit. I modified the sleeves to be longer and have slightly more of a slit sleeve than a cut out shape. The pattern instructions would have you line the sleeves, which makes for a very nice finish, but I wanted to maintain the drape of the fabric and not add bulk, so I just hemmed the edges of the slit and finished the neckline edge of the sleeve piece with bias tape. I included lingerie guards as described here. Such helpful little things those are.

In terms of construction, this dress was very easy to make and it is very easy to wear. I feel like it hits the right spot on the casual-dressy continuum for my setting and lifestyle. Win!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Kaleidoscope Quilt Top

A couple of years ago I started assembling these quilt blocks with my daughter. It was a good project to work on together and my scrap bins were over flowing. We worked on it on and off in between other projects, usually eight or ten blocks at a time. I figured we'd do it until we had enough for a twin size quilt and then see if we wanted to keep working on it.

This is twin size and we are done. The original inspiration is here and the accompanying tutorial for paper piecing the blocks is here. We made our blocks 8.5" square because we used the 8.5" x 11" printer paper we had on hand. I just eyeballed the placement of the white strips, so those don't all line up precisely, but I'm okay with it.

I really like the variety of colors combined with the white strips. The diamond shapes and variety of stripe widths keep the eye moving, but the white provides some grounding, too.

I don't have plans to finish this in the immediate future because I haven't decided exactly what we'll use it for. That might affect how I want to finish it. For now, I'm happy we got it to this stage. Believe it or not, it didn't seem to make much of a difference in the size of my scrap collection.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Back at it...

July was a busy month for our family. We moved back to the States and have been busy getting settled in our new community. It's been a good move so far but the changes and adjustments have consumed a lot of time and energy. I am very grateful to once again have a dedicated sewing space and have that all unpacked. There is still some arranging to do and things to get to make the space as efficient as I'd like it. That will come in time.

After not sewing anything for six weeks, I was honestly a little stumped by the question of what to sew first. My older daughter needed some more warm-weather pajamas and I could do that with stash fabric, so that's what I did.

I used two Ottobre patterns for this set, both of which were designed for knits. To make them work for this woven poplin, I sized up before cutting and then had to do some tweaking during assembly.

The top is Ottobre 3/2011 #33. I like the envelope-style neckline and I loved doing the bias binding. The yellow looks like a better match in real life. I preferred a grey binding, but my daughter liked the yellow better.

After I basted the side seams, the top was too loose under the shoulders and too tight at the hem. So, we took it in at the top and added a 1.5" gusset to the lower part of the side seams. It makes it much more comfortable and easier to get on and off. If it wasn't pajamas, I maybe would have worked harder to make it an interesting design feature, but plain is fine for pajamas.

I did a fair bit of modifying to the shorts pattern to make them work for this fabric. Since these were completed, I came across a link to this free (!) Purl Bee pattern, which would give very similar results.

I don't have any pictures of these on my daughter, but they look pretty cute on her. Perfect for warm summer nights!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Ottobre T-shirt blitz

Much like I did for my son, I quickly made a handful of T-shirts for my daughter to meet her clothing needs for the season. They were all fast and easy.

Ottobre 3/2013 #32

Ottobre 4/2012 #28

Ottobre 1/2014 #28 
(I thought I could just eyeball that button placement. Yes, they are crooked and no, I probably won't fix it).

Ottobre 3/2013 #39 (Birthday shirt!)

My sewing room has been packed up for a couple of weeks now. We're moving next week. So, this space will be quiet for awhile (intentionally this time!) until I get my new sewing space unpacked and set up. 

Friday, May 30, 2014

Taking a Risk (or I Made Harem Pants)

My sewing lately has been quite intentional, planned, and purpose-driven. I typically work well that way, but last week I needed a bit of a break and wanted to just sew something for fun. If it didn't turn out to be a runaway success, I wasn't going to worry about it.

I pulled out a piece of black ponte knit fabric that was in my stash. I know it isn't the best quality and I didn't want to be tempted to use it for something that I would invest a lot of time in or would want to last awhile. It's a fairly heavyweight knit, but has quite a lot of stretch and decent drape.

I don't know made me want to make harem pants, but after I had the thought I really wanted to go ahead with it. After looking for a pattern to download from Burdastyle, I remembered that I already had an issue with a suitable pattern in it (1/2011 #124).

I didn't think I would like that deep yoke, so I modified that to be narrower and straighter across and also changed the front and back leg pieces to compensate. I do like pockets in pants, so I added those. I chose the pattern size based on my hip measurement, but I don't think it really matters in this style! I did decrease the fullness at the lower CF/CB seams. There's still plenty left! 

Burda would have you interface the yoke and insert a zipper. I didn't like that idea. Instead, I added elastic at the top of the yoke so they would be easy, comfy, pull-on pants.

Here they are slightly "in motion" (head cropped because I was making a funny face).

They are indeed very comfortable. They are not conventionally flattering, but sometimes it's fun to try something different. I wore them this week with a black top and this jacket and got a few compliments. I also got a few puzzled looks. :)

Whatever you think of the pants, I'm convinced that the top is a winner. This is the Maria Denmark Kirsten Kimono T-shirt. This is a free pattern (you need to sign up for the newsletter to get it, but it's a good newsletter!) and it couldn't be easier to make. It's also easy to make and looks good on just about everyone.

The harem pants pattern will probably not see the light of day again, but I'm sure I'll make more of these tops.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Filling the Gaps

My son didn't have major wardrobe needs this season. A quick assessment showed that a few T-shirts would do it. Last week was a busy week and T-shirts were about all I could handle in the sewing room. I finished four (from two very basic Ottobre patterns and stash fabric) and hemmed a pair of pants with holes in the knees - one project for each of the weekdays.

The navy stripes are fused and then topstitched.

I just eeked this out from an old T-shirt of mine. The neckband had to be pieced.

I love this little gecko. It's from an Ottobre pattern.

Back view:

Finally, a new age number T-shirt. I like the baseball style shirt, but the sleeves ended up an awkward length. The pattern had narrow bands at the hem. I left them off and added length to compensate, but it isn't quite right. Still wearable, though.

Friday, May 23, 2014

One Winner, One Loser

More spring kids' clothes! It sure has been nice having these clothes done and ready for the warm weather. Beautiful new clothes that are ready to go make warm, sunny days all that much nicer. These two pieces are for my older daughter.

I modified Jalie 2908 slightly for these cuffed capris - straightened and shortened the legs and curved the waistband. Sadly, I don't have a picture of them on my daughter, but they fit great. The fabric is pretty lightweight and stretchy. It looks like denim, but my daughter finds these more comfortable than regular denim would be.

These were actually a pretty quick project. The fabric was easy to work with and I just used regular thread and a standard straight stitch for the topstitching. I'm happy with how all the details came out.

The insides are PINK! Pink fly guard, pocket bags, and waistband binding. I really like the flower print on the fabric also - a little abstract and stylized, but still feminine and fun.

It looks like there is some strange pulling across the yoke and waistband, but I think that's just how the pants are laying in the picture or maybe it's from shadows. They look smooth when they're on.

These are one of my favorite things that I made this season. Love them! But, the top I made to go with them is quite the opposite...

This is the Oliver + S Music Class Blouse made in a low-quality pink shirting fabric. I was determined to make things only from stash and did accomplish that, but this shirt was "forced" and I can't call it a success. The pattern is good and it fits well, but the fabric is terrible. It is stiff, wrinkles like crazy and feels a little scratchy. It will need to be ironed every single time it is worn. Also, the collar turned out pretty badly. There are some puckers on the inside neck edge and the curved edges at the front don't look very smooth. It's hard to make icky fabric look good!

I added a band across the bottom because it was looking too short. My daughter has worn this a couple of times and doesn't mind it too much, but we have fabric for a soft and easy-wearing T-shirt lined up to take this shirt's place.

Ah, well. The pants are a winner!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Navy and White for Spring

Today was a beautiful warm, sunny day - just how I imagined late May would feel back in March when I was sewing these pieces. This year I intentionally sewed spring/summer clothes for my kids ahead of the season. So, I have a number of things to post, but will likely not have too much to say about them (March was a long time ago!).

These cropped pants were supposed to be for my older daughter, but they turned out much too small. Happily, they were just the right size for my younger daughter.

The pattern is Ottobre 4/2013 #16 and I used an "engineer" stripe cotton (leftover from these pants). I played with the front pockets a little - cutting them on the bias and inserting a strip of rickrack. I like the small feminine touch it adds.

Most of the waistbands I've finished lately have included bias tape. I think it is less bulky and the pop of color and clean finish are fun. The waistband closes with a button, chosen by my daughter. The snap on these jeans frustrates her, so she wanted to try a button instead. I made a generous shank, hoping that makes it user-friendly.

The back has a traditional yoke and patch pockets. The waistband fits without elastic added, but I can't remember if it is drafted with a slight curve or if I modified it for that.

The top to go with it is also an Ottobre pattern, 1/2014 #28. This is a very easy pattern with short cut-on sleeves. Bands finish the neck and armholes.

The daisy applique across the side seam is the result of me being inspired by Boden. I like their designs and usually check out their offerings at the beginning of each season. My daughter wasn't so sure it was a good look ("why isn't it all on the front so everyone can see it better?").

I'm really happy with both of these pieces. And everything came from stash - yay!

I'm hoping for lots more of these wonderful spring days!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Oliver + S Music Class Blouse and Ottobre 3/2012 #38 Trousers

My older daughter does not always sit appropriately when she wears a skirt or dress. She doesn't loooove skirts and dresses like my younger daughter does, so when she wears one, it's usually to church or another setting with a dressy/formal feel. To say that she does not appreciate my reminders to sit appropriately is quite an understatement. When it was time to make her new Easter duds, I gave her some choices. I told her I didn't want to continue on with the reminder/scowl exchanges anymore so she could have a new dress if she would sit appropriately or she could have pants. To my surprise, she chose pants. And I think it was a good choice!

I wanted to only work with stash fabric, so we came up with this combination. The blouse/jacket (pattern: Oliver + S Music Class Blouse) is one of those notorious linen-look fabrics with an all-over embroidery pattern including a scalloped border. The photos aren't great, so you can't see the texture of the embroidery.

Without thinking about the overall plan first, I matched the print across the center front and then just barely had enough to cut out the back along the border edge. To make it work, I left off the gathers at center back and the scallops at the side seams don't come close to matching.

I did pay some attention to placement of the flower motifs, trying to avoid having them in seams. Because of their bulk, they wouldn't allow for a flat seam. I also determined the button placement based on the flowers. There was no way I was going to try to put a buttonhole through one of those flowers. That means the bottom button is pretty low and looks a little odd, but I'm okay with it.

I modified the long sleeve to make it a 3/4 length bell shaped sleeve with a cuff. The cuff was a happy accident - my original mod was too long. The other significant change from the pattern was that I added a full lining. This fabric is a bit coarse and the embroidery adds to that so it wouldn't have felt great against the skin. This was a pretty easy modification to make and it really adds to the wearing enjoyment for my daughter.

The pants are also a linen-look fabric - white, with a black pinstripe (that doesn't want to show up in the photos). I debated about lining these also, for the sake of opacity but decided they were okay enough as is. The fabric isn't very thin. I did use a beige lining fabric for the pocket linings to prevent show through there.

The pattern is Ottobre 3/2012 #38 - a pair of boys' narrow leg trousers. I added quite a bit of width at the hem, but wish that I had added more. I was hoping for a real wide-leg look. Apparently, the original pattern has very narrow legs. I'm happy with the fit otherwise. Deciding on the length did give me pause. I would like them to fit for awhile, but I don't think white pant hems dragging on the ground would be good.

My daughter has gotten so many compliments on this outfit, including women saying they'd like one just like it. It did take longer to make than a dress would have, but it's unique and suits my daughter well. It's a winner!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Oliver + S Garden Party Dress

For my younger daughter's Easter dress this year, I used the new Oliver + S Garden Party Dress pattern. I'm always tempted to buy the new Oliver + S patterns when they come out, but usually resist unless I have a real "need" for one. An Easter dress seemed justifiable. I found the bodice shirring very appealing and a bit different than many of the girls' dress patterns out there.

I used an embroidered chambray fabric that I had in my stash. It is soft and lightweight and very easy to work with. The combination of an "easy" fabric and an excellent pattern made this dress a pure pleasure to sew.

The dress looks more complicated to make than it actually is. The instructions are excellent and the methods used make it easy to get a good looking product.

Rag curls! Boing, boing!

I slightly altered the pattern pieces to make it work with the border print - mostly just straightening out the side seams.

I expected that the dress would have a zip closure, but it doesn't. I would have liked a slightly more fitted bodice, but it has to slip on over the head, so a bit of extra room is a good thing. A zipper would have been difficult to insert neatly with the band and the gathering.

I like the eyelet border on this fabric. Most of the other versions of this dress that I've seen have the bands and yoke made out of contrast fabric. I felt like there was enough going on with the border, so I made the bands out of the same chambray. I had just barely enough of the border portion to make this work and didn't have the luxury of matching the pattern at the side seams.

I really wish that the dress was longer. I added two sizes in length when I cut it out, but it still looks short to me. It does look like the pattern envelope picture, I guess. I wish I would have checked that more carefully. To preserve as much length as possible, I did use bias tape along the hem. For the sake of modesty (some of those eyelet holes are large and high up on the legs!) I made a very simple slip for my daughter to wear with the dress. Adding a lining to the dress seemed way too complicated to me.

This is definitely another winning pattern from Oliver + S. The sleeveless top version is quite cute. I'm sure I'll use this pattern again in some form.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Burda 02/2014 #128 (Desert Moto Jacket) in White Denim

Last spring I decided I wanted to make a white denim jacket in the traditional jeans jacket style. I never got around to it, but returned to the idea this year. My plan was to use this pattern and when I went to the site to download it, I saw this moto-style jacket and was quite taken with it.

The fabric I used was a lightweight denim with a lot of stretch. Too much stretch. In hindsight, it's clear that I should have interfaced the bodice pieces to control some of the stretch. I think it will be comfortable to wear, but it was frustrating to work with.

I quilted a block of the denim before cutting out the shoulder insets and upper sleeve pieces. I'm happy with how it turned out. I used a heavyweight thread and was pleased with how well it worked. When it came time to topstitch, it didn't work nearly as well and I had to do some switching around between machines, types of needles and thread. Eventually, I found an arrangement that worked, but a lot of the topstitching on this jacket is sub-par.

The inset corners on the shoulder pieces were a little tricky, but not impossible. With good marking, stitching to reinforce corners, clean clipping and precise stitching, they come out fine. The pieces are drafted well and fit together nicely.

Now let me tell you about this sad little pocket. The other one is pretty sad, too. This pocket is supposed to be a rectangle with 90 degree corners. That isn't really complicated. But, this stretchy fabric would not allow it. This picture doesn't really tell the whole story, but the bottom corners of the pockets wing out a bit, producing more of a trapezoid than a rectangle. My stabilizing efforts were too little too late and also made it difficult to rip it off without ruining the jacket front. The bottom edge should be parallel to the hem. It's not.

Then there are the snaps. I bought some snaps for this project, but they were just too small. So, I went with these heavy-duty ones that I had in stash. These snaps caused some heavy-duty heartache. That big dent in the one snap is just operator error - pounding it on the wrong surface. Doh! But, once that thing is in, it's in. The other snaps are dent-free, but they don't snap! I can't get them closed! I have no idea what the issue is. I've used these on kids' clothes and they aren't ever fabulous, but they do close!

The pockets and collar don't need to close, so that isn't a deal breaker, but I do need the cuffs to close. Rather than risking more bum snaps, I used jeans buttons and put buttonholes in the cuffs. Certainly not ideal for overall cohesiveness, but much better for function.

This jacket is so riddled with mistakes and frustrations that I nearly abandoned it a few times. I haven't worn it yet, but I'm hoping that I can get over the issues. I'm not perfect and I don't make perfect things. I do really like the style.

A few notes about the pattern...
This is a tall pattern, but it is a cropped jacket. I added 1 3/8" to the bodice length at the waist so that it would match the zipper length and I wouldn't have to deal with shortening it. The sleeves are just long enough without alteration. I actually wouldn't mind another 1/2" in sleeve length. (I'm on the low end of Burda's tall sizes, but have very long arms). I shaved off 1/4" from the back yoke along the armscye as the shoulders were too wide in the muslin. I also raised the armhole 3/8". Low armholes are kind of a deal breaker for me.

When the jacket is on me, there is a slight bit of extra fullness between the bust and shoulder. I've removed that already from the pattern pieces, because I think I'd like to make this again - in black with leather at the shoulders and sleeves. I should probably wear this one a few times and see how I like it first!

Friday, May 2, 2014

Big Bids on Baby Bibs

Every year at about this time I get invited to donate something handmade for a silent auction fundraiser for the private school my children attend. I'm always happy to do so, but sometimes the decision about what to give stumps me for awhile. This year I decided to go with baby bibs. Donations of previous years: pillows, pillows, placemats, apron.

Three girl bibs, sold as a set:

Three boy bibs, sold as a set:

I like the monster bib and wish that I had thought to make a girly monster. It didn't occur to me until they were all done. The daisy bib is nice, but doesn't feel quite as inspired as the others.

I'm happy to say that these were a hit at the auction!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Patchwork Pouch (of good cheer)

It's finally (finally!) feeling like spring here. The sunlight, warmth, and blue skies are doing wonders for morale and energy levels.

I made this little zippered pouch back in February, when I was starved for color and cheer and needed a simple project.

The patchwork is done using the fusible interfacing technique. I had not tried this before, but I liked it. It simplified maintaining the placement of the squares. There was no need to come up with a system for remembering the order of the arrangement when moving back and forth from the machine to the iron. Each square finishes at 1".

The patchwork pieces were quilted to fusible fleece. I like the texture of all the stitching lines and the contrast of the white thread against the colors.

The text fabric for the lining has lots of sewing and quilting words. I used the Open Wide Zipper Pouch tutorial from Noodlehead for the pattern, adjusting the size slightly. This pouch rides around in my purse, corralling some small items and offering a bit of cheer when I see it.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Jalie 2908 - Little Girl Jeans

My younger daughter had her sixth birthday in January. I purchased some clothes for her as a gift. One of the items was a pair of jeans and they were a terrible fit. We took them back and tried a different size, but they were all bad. She was bummed about that, so I told her I would make a new pair for her.

Awhile ago someone gave me a few cuts of denim. They're all too short to be used for me and I don't really care for the finish of most of them, but they're great for kids' clothes. The fabric I used for these jeans does have a bit of stretch and a very soft feel, making these actually quite comfortable.

I used Jalie 2908 and am really happy with the result. The only modifications I made were for length (adding some), leg shape (straight vs. boot cut) and the waistband. I wasn't impressed with the waistband the last time I used this pattern, so this time I did my own thing. I made a pattern piece to match the circumference of the top of the assembled jeans and then cut out a few small wedges from the top edge down. After I overlapped the cut edges of the wedges, I had a gently curved waistband piece. Adding seam allowances and center front overlap finished it off.

I left off the belt loops and rivets in the name of speed and efficiency. The pocket bags (overexposed in the photo) and fly guard are made from a pink animal print cotton. The inner waistband is finished with bias tape - shocking pink, of course!

At our house, we have a bit of a love/hate relationship with buttonhole elastic in waistbands. Love: the adjustability. Hate: the buttons seem to really irritate hip bones. The waistband of these jeans was pretty close to being just right for size, but I suspected they would bag out and droop a bit due to the stretch in the denim. So, instead of the buttonhole elastic, I just added elastic to the back half of the waistband and fully enclosed it rather than making it adjustable. Since the waistband wasn't too much too big, I didn't make the elastic much smaller than the back. It seems to be working well.

For a fun detail, I used my daughter's initials on the back pockets - JB. The right pocket is the mirror image.

I'm happy with how they turned out. She likes that they're comfortable with lots of PINK and I like that they've got some room for her to grow. I don't like that she's already 6! Wah! How does that happen?!?

Silky Tunic Top

I wanted to make a silk top to go with my faux leather leggings, but I'm still a bit intimidated by silk (both the sewing it and the living in/laundering it). I'm hoping to get over that (through practice!) when I have better options for sourcing than I do now. So, for now I chose a high quality poly-blend fabric with a silky feel in a print and color that I liked.

I started with my TNT shirt pattern (Burda 04/2010 #114 - also seen here and here) and modified it by adding length, chest pockets and flaps, and a center front placket. The pockets are the same as I used on my denim shirt. I followed instructions from the book, Shirtmaking for the center placket. I wish I had made it a little longer.

The black fabric was harder to work with than the blue - lighter, slipperier and very resistant to pressing. At the beginning of this project, I knew that perfection was going to be the enemy. I didn't want to fight the project the whole way only to end up hating it in the end. The details certainly didn't come out perfect, but I'm quite happy with it.

The leggings and tunic are fun to wear together - stylish and slightly edgy but still appropriate for my everyday life.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Faux Leather Leggings

Back in December, The Preacher and I were passing through Chicago and we had time for a quick stop at Vogue Fabrics. We used to live on the south side of Chicago and I made quite a few trips there during those years. Now we pass through Chicago to visit family, but we're usually on a schedule with kids along. This trip was leisurely and without kids! Perfect opportunity.

When I got in the store I was a little torn about what approach to take - look for the best deals or look for fabrics that I wouldn't normally have access to. I ended up doing some of both. One of the unusual fabrics I picked was a black stretch faux leather. They had several nice choices. All of the faux leather at Fabricland feels pretty plastic-y (stiff and shiny) to me. But, this one is a very good imitation of real leather both in appearance and feel. Of course, that's very hard to capture in a photo.

Inspired by this pair of jeans, I sliced and diced a legging pattern that I've used before (Burda 01/2011 #130). All the seams are symmetrical even though it doesn't look like it in the picture. The back of the legs are made from black ponte knit (also purchased at Vogue Fabrics). For the waistband, I made a separate casing from the ponte for 2" wide elastic. It feels substantial and sits smoothly around my middle.

This faux leather was pretty easy to sew. It is pretty thin, soft, and pliable and it has a knit backing. The backing allowed it to move through the machine without any "stickiness" and it also makes the leggings very comfortable to wear. I did have to let out the inseam a bit, but the needle holes disappeared really well. That was a surprise to me, but I think it's because of the thinness and the knit backing.

I doubt that I would have ever purchased a pair of RTW leather leggings, but I really enjoyed the process of making these and like the end product. They're warmer than regular leggings and more comfortable than jeans. And if (when?) I spill anything on them I can just wipe them clean! Perfect.

Sunday, February 16, 2014


Shortly after Christmas, I got into a bit of a pajama-sewing blitz. The pajama options for all three of my kids were pretty bad - way too small, woefully mismatched, etc. Pajamas aren't ever my first choice of things to sew (which is why the situation had gotten so bad) but I found there was a lot that I liked about this round of pajama sewing:

  • The kids were really appreciate of new pajamas and that always makes the time and effort worth it.
  • I find it really easy to leave the perfectionist tendencies behind with pajamas. "Good enough" is the name of the game for details, finishing and fit. Because they're pajamas!
  • Sometimes I feel conflicted when I need to choose between being resourceful and frugal or getting it exactly how I want. Use the serviceable buttons already in the stash or go buy the ideal ones? Does this ready-made piping "go" or should I make my own out of newly-purchased and perfectly coordinating fabric? When it comes to pajamas, the resourceful side wins every time. No conflict.

These three sleepers are all made from Kwik Sew 2704. I purchased the fleece for both girls' and the boy's is made from leftovers of other projects. My older daughter was surprised by the size of hers (she was still regularly wearing this one!) and shoved as many stuffies inside it as she could.

It looks nicer without the extra fluff inside.

More fleece for the boy...this time a two-piece deal...

I added plenty of length - so much that they fold over the cuff at the bottom. The cuff keeps the pants from covering the feet and dragging on the floor. I think I used Ottobre patterns for both pieces (hard to remember...).

This border print flannel has been in my stash for awhile and it was the perfect amount for this nightgown. For the bodice, I used Kwik Sew 3169 (OOP) and then cut the skirt as one rectangle as large as I could make it.

The final set is repurposed from a set of pajamas that were mine. I think they were a gift after I had a baby. I don't remember wearing them much and they were from Gap. I'm pretty sure I've never bought myself pajamas from Gap. Even though they haven't fit me for quite some time, I have kept them for such a time as this. I couldn't salvage the neckband and had to make that from a different fabric.

Everyone was happy with how each individual project came out and I was happy with the success of each child's pajama drawer overhaul!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Hunter Street Cowl

Whoa! A knit item to blog about! This cowl is what I have to show for many miles traveled during the summer and fall of 2013. I don't knit much anymore, but I do like to have something to take along on road trips.

I wanted to try some lacework, but knew that I wasn't going to be able to be a slave to a chart. So, the Hunter St. Cowl seemed like a good choice - some lace work, but nothing too complicated. The combination of yarn and pattern made it a pleasure to knit.

I don't have the ball band anymore, so I don't know the exact info about this yarn, but I know it is baby alpaca and I'm pretty sure alpaca is my favorite sort of yarn. It has the best of what wool has to offer without the itch.

No road trips in the near future for me, so it'll probably be mostly dishcloths coming off the needles for awhile again. :)

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Burda 11-2012-127: Grey Blazer

I've been wanting to add some jackets to my wardrobe for awhile now. Back in the fall, I made some plans to get that done. The first jacket has been completed for a few weeks now, but I can't really call it a success and it hasn't inspired me to move forward with other jackets just yet. Sit back and listen to my tale of woe...

I thought I wanted a pretty classic one-button blazer and chose Burda 11-2012-127 because it had the classic elements and it was easily accessible (by instant download at the time. It does not seem to be on the website anymore). My plan was to modify the lapel - I didn't like the peaked lapel and it was overall wider than I wanted. I made those mods and my standard lengthening of sleeves and then made the muslin.

The muslin was too big overall, which I thought was odd because I followed the size chart and Burda doesn't have the excess ease typical of the Big 4. It turns out that I did not print the pattern correctly. We got a new printer and I'm not sure exactly what happened, but the 4" test square was not 4". That would be a good thing to check BEFORE cutting. Lesson learned. After that, I went down a size and then just cut right into my fabric.

A second muslin would have been a really good idea because the end product is still too big overall. The blazer is made up of front, back, and side panel pieces. There isn't a side seam, which wasn't obvious from the technical diagram. With the welt pocket cutting right through the front seam, a side seam would have been really helpful for tweaking the fit. A second muslin would have been worth the time. Lesson learned.

It seems I didn't get the jacket on the dress form straight, making both the lapels and the hem look higher on the right side.

I love the color grey. I know that's a strange thing to say, especially in February. But, it's true. So I thought I would like a grey blazer. I still think I might, but the final product this particular fabric hasn't won me over. I think it has more to do with the texture than the color. Also, this is not high-quality fabric. I thought it was a wool blend when I bought it. Turns out it's a combination of rayon and polyester. Meh. It handled the tailoring well enough, but also had a very unattractive limpness. There's a lot of interfacing in this jacket fighting that limpness.

The very worst part of the fabric is that it is itchy. So very itchy. I don't know if my skin sensitivity is increasing or if my discomfort tolerance is decreasing, but I don't handle itchy clothes well at all these days. Of course, this is fully lined, but the lining fabric is pretty thin and it even feels itchy through the lining! Ugh. Better quality fabric is worth the extra cost. Lesson learned.

I think the fit and fabric work together to give this jacket more of a stuffy vibe than a chic one. I was hoping for a casual, but polished sort of look and I just don't think this does it. It's not terrible, but I want to really like my clothes, not just think they're "not terrible."

This is quite a downer of a report, eh? It's not all bad...

I enjoyed the tailoring work - a combination of machine and hand work, following the guidance in Tailoring and Cool Couture. The work was enjoyable in and of itself, but I also appreciate the additional experience.

Also, I'm happy with how the details of the jacket came out. I think the welt pockets with flaps were successful and the sleeve vents were new to me.

The sleeves went in well the first time and the notched collar wasn't as difficult as I feared it would be.

The back of the collar seems too short, which I think is a result of the pattern printing at the wrong scale.

Finally, I think the process and results have led to better personal style understanding. Hopefully this one helps me make better choices for future projects.

So, overall not a raging success, but several lessons were learned, so I can't exactly call it a complete failure. Onward and upward!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Ottobre 4/2012 #13 - Corduroy Shirt Jacket (+ Twirly Skirt)

One more new niece needed me to make something for her. Her older sister received this coat, and I suspect she will also wear it when she's the right size. So, I thought it might be smart to make something else for her. There is no shortage of Ottobre things I'd like to make, so it was just a matter of picking one!

I love this little hooded shirt jacket and wanted to combine it with this corduroy fabric (also seen here) even though it isn't a knit as called for in the pattern.

The piping helps define the yoke seam and makes the sweet gathers a little more noticeable. I was not intending to line the hood until I started putting the hood together and realized it wasn't going to look that nice with the wrong side so visible. Thankfully, I had this broadcloth that was a pretty good match for the piping.

The skirt is a scaled-down version of this one, made from a dark purple ponte knit. I scaled it down too much the first time, so I had to add an extra tier, making it extra twirly. I have yet to meet a little girl who doesn't appreciate a little extra twirl, so I think it'll be okay.