Sunday, November 22, 2015

Boring Sewing

I am a little embarrassed that I am even writing this blog post.  Actually, not that I'm writing this blog post, but that I actually took pictures of all of these this afternoon.  Prepared to be amazed!  I made a bunch of slouchy tees again. This time I used Simplicity 1071 and I believe it deserves mention because it is a great and easy pattern.  Which is really why I'm writing this post.

Pattern Description: The pattern is an easy to sew sportswear pattern.  I made the top, obviously.   I'm kind of intrigued by the vest/cardigan.  The top really is just a bunch of rectangles with maybe a little shaping at the sleeve.  I haven't sewn Grainline's Hemlock tee, but it looks just the same to me.  I know that the Hemlock tee is free, but I have come to the realization that I absolutely loathe taping together pdf patterns.  Nothing will stop me from sewing faster than having to tape a pdf together.  I think that's also another reason I use a lot of Big 4 patterns.  And they are cheap and readily available where I am.

Pattern Sizing: XXS- XXL.  Big size range.  I made a small.  My bust measurement is actually in between a small and medium.  Not that sizing is a big issue with this pattern.

Fabric Used:  Lots of different knits!  My first black and white (super long) version was done in a super cheap rayon knit.  Next, I used a grey quilted sweatshirt knit that I found at Joann's, believe it or not.  It actually has batting quilted in between layers so it's warm.  The grey and black striped version is a cotton/spandex knit that wrinkles like crazy.  The pea green version is a silky bamboo knit.  And the navy stripe is a heavy ponte knit.

Alterations/Deviations:  I changed the length on almost every version, adding length.  The only version that is close to the original hem length of the pattern is the grey and black striped tee.  I only added two inches to that one.  I wanted all of these to be super long and slouchy.  However, after looking at photos I realize that these are not the most flattering tees I own.  That's ok.  They are not supposed to be.  I may shorten the black and white printed version, though.  Or at least get rid of the longer back.  I also added side seam splits to several versions just because it seemed appropriate.  The navy striped version has extra deep side splits and I like them a lot.

Likes/Dislikes: I like the neckline on this tee.  It's as close to perfect as it gets.  Not to wide and not to high.  It's the perfect depth.  I did not use the neckband pattern piece, though.  Actually, I truly have made six versions of this pattern.  The first version I made was done in a textured knit and I used the neckband pattern piece.  It was too short for the textured knit I used (not a lot of stretch) so I ditched it in all subsequent versions.  For all my other versions, I sewed the neckband on, stretching as I sewed except for the last two inches or so.  Then I measured and sewed the ends of the neckband together before sewing it on to the neckline the rest of the way.  That way I didn't need to guess at length depending on what type of knit I was using.  It was a little fiddly, but I prefer that to sewing on a neckband that isn't the right length.  I still might try and fix my original wadder but I am not inclined to unpick stitching in that textured knit.   I can't remember if sleeve bands are part of the pattern or not, but I used them on all versions.  I guesstimated length on the sleeve bands, too.  I leaned toward a little tighter to keep my sleeves up

Here's a photo of all the different neckbands.  I used self fabric for most, but used a grey rib knit for the quilted version and a navy jersey for the ponte version.  It was good practice to do all these neckbands in different knits.  The rayon jersey and bamboo seemed to work the best and lay the flattest.  The navy jersey with the ponte knit is all sorts of wavy.  The grey and black version is not the best either since I cut on the cross grain.

Conclusion:  Wow, I wrote a lot more than I thought I would about this simple pattern.  Great, easy pattern, if slouchy tees are your thing :)  I think I'm done making knit tees at this point.  These definitely filled a gap in my cold weather wardrobe, so I'm pleased with them.  And they have all been worn in non-stop rotation since I've made them.  But it's time to make something a little more difficult, I think!  Winter coat, maybe....

Sunday, October 25, 2015


There! At last.  My patience was rewarded as the elusive Toddlersaurus Rex entered the clearing, seemingly unaware of my presence.  I held my breath, careful not to make a sound and scare her away.  She was a beauty!

I moved silently, closer to the bushes.  She was foraging for food, happily humming her ABC's.  I inched forward with my camera trying to get a close up.  The shot of a lifetime.  I was determined.  But then, my foot slipped and....

SNAP!  I stepped on a branch and surprised her.  She was startled!

She lunged for me and let out the most ferocious roar I've ever heard!  It was terrifying.  Just when I thought I had met my demise, she turned.  She ran back in to the foliage.  It seems she was just as scared of me as I was of her.

My later research has revealed that the enigmatic Toddlersaurus Rex is not a meat eater, lucky for me and that fateful encounter.  They seem to prefer things like cookies and apple juice.  And bananas and croissants, too.

I really had a ball making this costume, if you can't already tell.  Especially this year since this was completely at Jane's request.  I asked her what she wanted to be for Halloween.  Her first response was, "cow" followed by "dinosaur."  And then dinosaur it was.  She has talked about this costume for well over a month.  And sorry for the picture overload.  We had fun taking pictures.  There were too many to choose from. 

It's really an unoriginal costume.  I got the idea straight from the internet.  Actually, I first saw the dinosaur tails on House of Lane and mentally filed it away for my dinosaur loving girl.  So when she requested a dinosaur, I looked up those dinosaur tails and found umpteen etsy shops that sell them along with dinosaur hoodies.

But of course, I am a die hard DIY-er.  And a handmade Halloween costume is going to be my tradition. So I made it.  I used McCalls 6782 for the hoodie.  My original plan was to use real apparel fabrics (nice sweatshirt fleece) and make this something a little more sophisticated that she could actually use after Halloween.  But after ordering two lengths that didn't work (bad color and really thin) I gave up and went to Joann's to buy the cheapest fleece I could get my hands on.  My toddler came with me and picked the colors.  She was very specific!  And there's not a whole lot you can do to make lime green and hot pink fleece look polished.

The McCalls pattern is a good one.  I chose it because it was on sale.  But I was impressed with the fit.  This is a size 2 and it is spot on my two year old.  Usually I find Big 4 kids patterns to be huge.  I cut the back piece down the middle to add the dinosaur spikes.  And then I lined the hood and back to cover up the ugly seam that sewing the spikes made.  Actually, I planned on lining the hood all along to add a drawstring just like the poncho I recently made.  I used a Pellon product called Flex-Foam for the spikes instead of stuffing them.  This stuff is really cool.  I kind of want to make myself a bag with it.  Great structure but it's soft and squishy.

The tail was just free handed. It's about 20 inches long.  I traced a salad plate for the circle that sits against her bottom.  The straps are 4 inches wide and 10 inches long.  For a child any bigger, they would need to be longer.  I placed the straps slightly higher up so the tail would sit right.  The tail is so adorable, I almost can't stand it.  It will make a great play item long after Halloween is over.

She loves it.  I sewed it all it one day, too, if you can believe it.  I sewed like a maniac and am so glad I finished it.  Anybody else sewing costumes?  I've been kind of m.i.a. in the blog world lately.  And no, I'm not apologizing for that, but I miss it!  I'm going to have to spend some time with my blogroll soon.  I've been swamped at work and my free time is nil right now.   I'm kind of proud of myself for sewing this costume (and blogging it!) this weekend.   I have a huge art show at the beginning of December, a really formal one.  I'm very excited about it but it is eating up all my time.  I'll be thrilled when it's over.  I'll catch up one day!  If I can make it to Thanksgiving when all the art is due, I'll be good.

Happy Halloween, friends!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

I No Like It

Y'all.  My child.  Look at her.  She is figuring it all out.  Soaking it all up like a little sponge, making her own decisions and forming her own opinions.  I can't tell you how many times a day I hear, "No, I do it!"  It honestly is pretty awesome to watch most of the time.  However, not so much when this happens.

I made this really cute poncho using McCalls 6431 in a blue check fleece.  It's adorable.  I even made pom poms for the drawstring.  That's right, pom poms that I made.  I'm not sure why it's such a dud with her.  It's soft.  It has a hood.  Her response to it: "I no like it" and total refusal to wear it.  That was before even trying it on.  I took these photos the other day under heavy, heavy coercion.  And bribery with a tootsie roll pop.

The photos are hilarious.  I have snorted quite a few times while editing.  To be fair, the poncho is way big.  I think the main issue is that she doesn't know what to do with her arms, much like myself when I'm wearing my cape I made.  It's kind of like a toddler straight jacket.  If it was shorter so she could stick her arms out of the bottom (or if she was taller), it would work. Or maybe a poncho is just not a good idea for a toddler.  I made a size XS, which is listed as a 3-4.  And it definitely is.  She is wearing a 3T now in rtw, but just barely.  So I will put it away in the closet until next year.  Or possibly the year after when she's 4.  Maybe she'll change her mind about it by then.  She does like the pom poms.

The pattern is really simple.  Three pieces- front, back and hood.  I did deviate a little and line the hood so I could sew a casing for a drawstring.  I used a scrap of bamboo knit for the lining.  I knew it would be nice to be able to cinch the hood in.  Also because I wanted to add pom poms all along.  I made them with my pom pom maker and some really soft black yarn.  Not sure how they'll do in the washing machine, so they are just tacked on to the end of the drawstring and can be removed really easily.  I'll probably try washing them once just to see what happens.  I added two button holes at the front of the hood where I sewed the casing for the drawstring.  I did that before I sewed the lining to the hood.  I also made the button holes at the bottom of the poncho per pattern instructions but they are pretty crappy in fleece.  I should have stabilized them with something first.  They flop open and slip off the buttons easily.  I think I'm going to sew the button holes shut and sew snaps instead.  I'll just sew one of the buttons on top to cover up the button hole.  However, no rush since she's not likely to wear it any time soon.

She is a trip.  She's almost two and half and full of personality.  This picture below is me threatening not to give her the tootsie roll pop unless she smiles.  Cute little pattern.  I recommend it.  I actually am a little jealous of this poncho and would like something similar for myself.   I've been plotting one, maybe in some grey sweatshirt fleece.  Would that be ridiculous???

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Two More Versions...

...of McCalls 7115.  What is it with me and making things in threes?  It seems the last few projects have been done in threes.  The second and third versions are always easier than the first.  And I can apply some tweaks here and there.  Anyway, I won't write a ton about these two pieces since I reviewed this same pattern here- my denim dress.

 This is a simple, relaxed fitting pattern.  Once I tweaked the shoulder seam, I didn't have to really fit anything else.  There isn't any waist definition to this dress but for some reason it works.  Maybe because there is a seam there?  I love this version I made using a rayon poplin fabric.  I also just made my black culottes in the same fabric.  This was my first time using it, though.  I would say it drapes just like a rayon challis but is heavier and more opaque.  And there is almost a slight sheen to it.  I ordered this from on a whim and was pleasantly surprised by the weight of it.  I don't need any sort of slip or anything under this dress.

I made view B, with the tiered skirt and cold shoulder detail.  Both of those design features get kind of lost in the psychedelic print.  But I like both nonetheless.  I did add an inch of length to both tiers.   The bottom tier of the dress is actually three pieces instead of two.  That wasn't apparent to me at first but I figured it out as I was sewing.  So my print placement is all over the place.  I also screwed up the print match at the front button placket a little.  I didn't stay stitch the neckline (and I can't remember if that is in the instructions- if it isn't, be sure to do it!) and it stretched out some from handling while sewing.  I had to shave a little off the front center to make the facing fit right and in the process messed up my perfectly matched print.  It's close enough.  I sewed the facing with a triple stitch again.  And I added pockets again, too.  This dress definitely needs pockets.  

I put a filter on these photos because the colors were so washed out for some reason.  The light is changing.  But this photo below of the shoulder splits doesn't have a filter on it and is a good representation of the colors in the fabric.

I did notice on my denim version that something was up with the hem.  There was a height difference in front even though I knew my hem was straight.  I thought maybe it was just the dress pulling backwards or something.  Valerie helped me figure it out and it makes perfect sense now.  When I made that shoulder adjustment to straighten out the shoulder seam, I removed a wedge of fabric.  I need to add that wedge back to keep the skirt from tilting up.  However, by the time I talked to Valerie about it, I had already made this dress and cut out my blouse below.  So both of these have that same tilt, though I think it's less apparent in fabrics with more drape.  If I make this again, (a fourth time!) which I might,  I'll fix it.  I'll add that wedge back in to the center front to make the skirt hang evenly.

The blouse version is the same view, but just one tier instead of two.  It's a new favorite.  It's been worn to death since I made it.  In fact, one of my students pointed out that I had worn the same top the week before when I wore it this past week.  I see classes once a week, so they notice if you wear something twice in a row.  It's made in a rayon challis I found at Joann's that I love.  I tried to just balance the print on the front since it's so patchwork-y and failed.  Look at that yellow section that almost matches.   It think it looks fine, though. 

Anyway, nice and easy pattern.  I think I'm done with it for now that the weather is changing.  But maybe I'll pull it out again next summer.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Ahhh! Culottes!!

Love them or hate them, right? Yes, the culottes zombies came for me.  And I've been bitten.  I seriously love all three pairs of culottes I've made.  I made the two shorter pair this summer and just finished the longer black pair.  They are all made from McCall's  7131.  I actually made the first black and red printed pair very early on the summer.  They have been worn almost every other day since.  And I think they've held up pretty well!  Despite using a fairly cheap rayon challis. 

 This pattern is a good one.  I would call these actual culottes, meaning they look like a skirt but aren't.  A divided skirt.  I have seen other patterns called culottes that I would probably call wide leg pants.  But the pleats and the width of each leg on these put them firmly in the culottes category in my book.  Now that I've made this same pattern three times, I think it's time to review it.

Pattern Description: Loose fitting pants have front waistband and pleats, back elastic casing and side pockets.  Different hem lengths in pattern, including very short and very long.

Pattern Sizing: 8-24.  I cut a 16 but ended up using the back elastic guide for a size 12.

Fabric Used:  My first black and red version is a rayon challis.  The brown and black check version is a mystery rayon blend I thrifted a long time ago (with crinkle-- ugh).  And the black version is a crisp rayon poplin.  Which I struggled with.  There is quite a bit of puckering along my seam lines in the rayon poplin.  I am guessing I needed to adjust stitch length or maybe use a different needle?  Maybe a microtex needle?  The puckering looks very noticeable in these photos but I don't think it's as noticeable in real life.  I'm wearing them anyway.  I'm hoping those seams will loosen up a little with some wearing and washing.  The fabric has great drape but the weave is a lot tighter than regular rayon challis.  It's very opaque.  The back view is not the best in the crisper rayon poplin, also.  I did an extremely mediocre job of matching prints and checks on my first two versions.  So don't judge me.  My red and black version are ok, except for that one stupid mismatched stripe on the front.  Hasn't stopped me from wearing them, though.  The brown and black check fabric has a crinkle to it which caused all sorts of issues when matching up plaids.  I did my best.  My pleats match pretty well but my hem is off from front to back.  The outside leg seams match but the inside leg seams don't.  I swear that crinkled fabric was just messing with me. 

Alterations/ Deviations: None, other than using a smaller elastic length.  I tried the original elastic length and the waistband was much too loose.  The first black and red version is the length of view B.  So imagine how short view A is!  The brown and black pair is view B again with about two inches added to length.  And then the black version is view C minus two inches.  

Likes/ Dislikes:  This pattern has a lot of great design features and is easy to make with the elasticized back waistband.  There is one front pleat that is done after sewing up the front center seam which helps hide the pants leg split.  I think this might be my favorite feature and is what makes them look so much like a skirt.  The back waist casing is done by sewing four channels for narrower elastic instead of one big piece.  I like this, although it is very fiddly to feed all four pieces of elastic through.  Kind of a two steps forward, one step back process.  I tried to get a good shot of where the front waistband meets the back elastic casing.  I like how this is sewn as well.  The pants are totally constructed with side seams sewn last.  I like the way the waistbands are sewn together with the front waist facing.  It's a nice clean finish inside.  I'd explain it but I think I'd just confuse people.  My only complaint with this pattern has come after viewing all these photos.  I did get the feeling that the front hem would dip lower while wearing these.  I figured it had something to do with tightening the back elastic and having all those pleats in front.  However, I have noticed on all three pairs that my side seams pull forward.  Can anyone tell me why?  Is it a fit issue?  Or just a feature of the way the pattern is drafted?  It doesn't bother me enough to not wear these.  I do tend to readjust the back elastic casing throughout the day and pull up on the front waistband to keep the front hem from dipping lower.  The front, with all the pleating, is heavier than the back if that makes sense.

Conclusion:  Great pattern!  I'm saving this (I folded it back nice and neat!) to revisit next summer.  I really did wear the first version to death.  They were perfect for hot summer days.  And I know the black version will get worn plenty this fall.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Denim Dress

I'm quite pleased with how this dress turned out, although I will admit it's a little bit frumpy. This was completely sewn on a whim.  I bought the pattern, McCalls 7115 at a recent pattern sale and the cheap denim at the same time.  Then I washed the fabric and cut it out the same night.  I'm not really sure what possessed me since the pattern cover is really not all that exciting.  The cover shows the romper view.  I'm not big on rompers.  I may eat my words one day, but I'm definitely not convinced at this point.  I do like a good long jumpsuit on other people. Anyway, I digress.

I think I was swayed by the view with the button tab sleeves and pockets, although I ended up using the shorter sleeve.   I instantly pictured it in denim and thought it would be the perfect back-to-school dress.  The pattern calls for fabrics with more drape but I forged ahead anyway.  I did use a lighter weight denim.  I think the bolt said it was 6 ounces.

Pattern Description: Pull-on romper and pullover dresses have dropped waist, mock bands (done as a facing), gathers and a front button closure.  All have a cut on kimono sleeve and two views have a split for a cold shoulder look.

Pattern Sizing:  After looking at the finished measurements, I cut a medium and I thought the fit was pretty darn good.  But really, there is not a whole lot to fit.  For reference, I typically cut a 14 in big 4 patterns.  My bust measurement is a 14 but my waist and hip are usually a 16.  Plenty of ease in the bottom half of this pattern, though.

Fabric Used: A 6 ounce denim.  Super cheap.  Hoping it will last a while, though, since I really like the end result.

Alterations/Deviations:  I made a few.  I did not attempt any sort of muslin since I was using such cheap fabric.  When I looked at the bodice and back shoulder line, I thought to myself that there was no way that this angle would work on anyone.  But I shushed that little voice and went ahead and sewed it together, including stitching down the facing with a triple stitch.  Those shoulder seams did exactly what I thought they would do.  They stuck straight up on either side of my neck.  So I have an honest question about the way the shoulder seam is drafted on this pattern- does a shoulder seam with such a sharp angle work on anyone?  I really am curious.  I unpicked all that triple stitching, marked my shoulder point (about four inches over from the neckline, fyi) and then straightened out the angle of the shoulder seam.   See my shoddy photo below where I tried to illustrate what I did.  Granted my shoulders do sit really straight out from neck and I have straightened shoulder seams many times before.  But I still can't see that slope working on anyone.  This made the back neckline sit almost straight across in between my shoulders.  Which weirdly seems to work.  Once I made that change, everything else fit decently well.  I added inseam pockets on the skirt before attaching to the bodice.  Best addition ever.  I also didn't cut open my button holes.  The dress slips right on over my head and I was worried about the quality of the denim.  So I just sewed the buttons on through both layers.  This is the dress I showed on Instagram with the red buttonholes.  I thought the plain denim needed something so I did the buttonholes in red thread.  I wore this on the first day of school with a pair of red shoes.  I also serged the insides with rainbow serger thread.  Just because.

Likes/Dislikes:  I surprisingly really love the dropped waist.  It's not super dropped or anything, but just low enough.  And I love that it is not tight around the waistline either.  I like the ease in this dress.  It's easy to wear.  It is definitely not a dress that you wear to feel svelte.  But I like that about it.  I love the cut on sleeve.  I did raise the opening by a half inch to lessen any bra showing but that was easy to do.  And I love it in denim.  I think this pattern is missing out by not including denim on it's recommended fabrics.  My sewing is not quite on par but it's good enough for a first go.  My buttonhole placement wanders a bit and my hem is not great.  I made the teeniest little baby hem I could to preserve some length.  This is the length that pattern calls for and I could do with one more inch.  There are some strange wrinkles around the armhole but I'm guessing that is most likely due to using a crisper fabric with a cut on sleeve.  Could be a fit issue.

Conclusion:  Great, easy pullover dress.  Perfect for teaching.  In fact, I love this dress so much that I've already made another and I'm adapting a blouse version.  Coming soon!