Saturday, April 7, 2018

Hot Patterns Milano Dolman Top

Hello, Hello! Hope you're having a great weekend. The last few work weeks have seemed endless to me, and all I can think of during tedious, uncomfortable commutes and hurried or nonexistent lunch breaks is the precious weekend ahead when I can devote my time to creative pursuits. But then something funny happens: I get to the weekend and become paralyzed by indecision. What should I spend my time on? I have a painting I've been repainting over and over in my mind, a Chalk and Notch Fringe top to cut, some True Bias Emerson pants, underwear ready to sew up, a half pieced quilt...and on and on.

So, since I can't decide what project to work on, I thought I'd talk a bit about this knit top instead. Hot Patterns is an interesting pattern company. If you can get past their cheesy tagline,"So hot they're smokin," without inwardly cringing too much, you will find that they do fill a void in the indie pattern world: knit tops with interesting seaming and construction—more akin to RTW, actually. I can never have enough comfy knit tops that look a bit more dressy than a tee shirt for work. Also, since I was in the midst of sleeve hell with my anorak, I decided to take a vacation from sleeves entirely with an easy dolman.

Even though I like the version pictured here, with the hip band, I went for the second, shirt-tailed hem version, which is a good thing because the hip band uses a lot of fabric, and I barely eked this out with 1.5 meters of a fantastic bamboo rayon from Blackbird and had to use black ribbing for the cuffs and neckband. The blue is no longer available, but I've linked here to another pretty color. (I'm still sewing through my Blackbird purchases from last year.)

The thing to remember about Hot Patterns is that they're kind of like Big Four in that there's a ton of ease. I sewed up a size 20 based on my bust size, but I'll definitely size down to an 18 for the next version. The pattern has no overlap in the armscye, or anywhere else for that matter, so cutting the next size down will be easy and drama free. 

My first version ended up being way too long, more like mini dress or tunic length. While I don't pay a lot of attention to the "rules" about what plus size ladies should wear, I knew instinctively that the dolman sleeves, combined with the length, would overwhelm my short frame. As a result, I ended up cutting the shirt tale bottom off and shortening a whopping 4 inches to make it a top rather than a tunic. FYI: I'm 5'2" and usually wear a 2-3 inch heel. The version on the left shows how it looked before I shortened it. I also shortened the arms by 1 inch. I wonder if the length is necessary for the hip band version so that the top can blouse over but, maybe, not necessary for the shirt tail version.

So here's a super classy and off kilter ladies room pic. Please excuse the hair; I'm way overdue for a cut. Also, it was casual Friday, hence the jeans.

Overall, the neckband is a bit too wide, and the arms could be shortened another half inch. I have to say, though, even though this is kind of a meh review,  I've been reaching for this top every week. It's so soft and comfy with the high quality knit. I actually wore this on Monday and Friday last week, hoping to use my superpower of being an invisible middle-aged woman so that no one would notice. If you're interested in making this top, Thornberry wrote a much more comprehensive review here.

Well, folks, that's all I've got. I hope you're able to find some time to do something creative this weekend. Have a fantastic week and thank you very much for reading. All the best!

Monday, March 26, 2018

Viva Gigantes! Viva Thread Theory!

Hello! Happy spring! Of course, around these parts spring means baseball season--one of the few sports I can actually get behind. Since Beej liked the Thread Theory Finlayson I made for him for Christmas, I eagerly promised to make another one, telling him I would have it for him before opening day. (I definitely work better with a deadline.) I needn't have worried about making my deadline; everything comes together so much faster the second time around. In fact, I wasn't going to blog this since it's a repeat, but I do have a few notes to record. Also, look at that cute furry face. I had to share.

Like my last version, which you can see here, I made a size large, grading out to an extra large in the tummy area. This time, though, I shortened the arms by 1.5 inches and used the regular sized cuffs instead of the alternate cuff, which is designed for fabrics with very, very little stretch. 

I had it cut and about one third assembled on Saturday, attaching the hood, sleeves, and cuffs on Sunday morning. It was so little effort on my part compared to how happy it makes him! He has barely taken it off since I snipped the last thread. I lined the hood in a fabulous orange sweatshirt material from Britex that is wonderfully soft. It's as close as I could find to a true San Francisco Giants orange. The black is the softest, loveliest merino/polyester sweatshirting from the Fabric Store. It's like a french terry in that it has loops on the wrong side--around $19 per meter. I started out on the Los Angeles store's website, so I was a bit surprised when my fabric arrived from New Zealand. I guess that's where they fulfill orders. I probably will limit my future Fabric Store merino purchases to in-store whenever Beej and I do a weekend in L.A., though, just to try to be a bit more eco-conscious. No regrets, though, because the quality is amazing. Seriously, it's SO much more special than a regular cotton sweatshirt material. (And, of course, I also included some beautiful Marsala premium merino for myself, which served as a  little travel buddy.) 

I finally got around to ordering some labels from Dutch Label Shop. Had a very positive experience with them. When I updated my order, the system automatically defaulted to a larger quantity right as I was sending the order. I contacted them right away and they responded quickly and adjusted my order. No drama.

Last note, there are instructions to finish the back hood seem with twill tape. This picture serves as a reminder that it's always a good idea to keep a couple of yards of twill tape on hand for such occasions, as well as for reinforcing shoulder seams. It would look SO much better than that serged seam. Ah, well, next time...

Thanks so much for reading about my dude sewing. Admittedly, I don't do a lot of unselfish sewing, but maybe I should...I love to see Beej proudly wearing something I made for him!

Hope you're enjoying the changing of the seasons wherever you are! Have a fantastic week. (It's only Monday, pace yourself.)

Sunday, March 18, 2018

CCF Kelly Anorak: Crossing the Finish Line

Hey there! It's been a while hasn't it? I started this Kelly Anorak, which is part of my Make Nine (not that I'm taking that list all that seriously), on January 20 and only finished it last weekend. I think it could have gone a lot faster, especially since it's not lined, but I didn't work on it every single weekend. Also, I hit a bit of a snag when I met my old nemesis—sleeves. After basting the sleeves on 5+ times, I finally muddled through and could not be happier with my final project. Right after I finished it last Sunday, it rained all the following week. I don't think I've ever been so excited about rain!

This isn't the kind of project one makes multiples of—maybe some would, I suppose, but I don't need more than one anorak—so I tried to be more thoughtful in my approach. I had been imagining an olive twill that looks so good on so many skin and body types and is so versatile, but ultimately I decided I should have at least one waterproof jacket, so I went with a poly/nylon blend in stone gray from Britex. I like that it doesn't look or feel plastic-y and doesn't make a lot of swooshing sounds, but it's still legit waterproof, handling its first deluge last week with flying colors.

I like many of the details like finishing the hem and hood seam with bias tape. I purchased the Kelly Anorak hardware kit with the tools so that everything would match. I made a TON of little mistakes and, as mentioned previously, I struggled with the sleeves, but overall I'm happy. The only thing I would do differently is omit the hood. I wear my bag cross body, which means I have to pull the hood up and over every single time. The biggest bummer so far is that my placket snaps don't snap. I put them in the same way as my cuff and pocket snaps, so it's a mystery.  

I ambushed my husband on the way to the bus stop and had him take a few quick phone snaps.  Posting modeling pics is still not my favorite part of the process, but I think it's helpful for folks to see what the pattern looks like on a curvy/plus size (whatever you want to call me) who also happens to be short. 

I'll probably wear it open more often than not, so I don't want to dwell too much on the front snaps. 

Here are my final construction notes in case you're interested in making this pattern:
  • Shortened bodice by 1" and sleeves by 3/4 sleeves. I'm so pleased with the length for both.
  • Shortening the zipper means removing zipper teeth at the top with pliers.  I thought I would need to order a zipper stop, but then I found a tutorial that instructs sewing across the top several times. If you don't provide some sort of barrier, the zipper just goes off the rails. 
  • The water repellent fabric was super challenging to work with. It didn't hold a press very well and, obviously, I couldn't do a lot of shaping with a hot iron and steam. I ended up melting a hole in one cuff and had to recut a new one. Great tip: To remove sticky stuff (like melted nylon and polyester) from your iron, sprinkle salt onto a piece of paper and pass your iron over it several times. Worked like a charm!
  • Originally traced a size 18 bodice and FBA'd, but because of my waist measurements and the close-fitting sleeves, I ultimately decided to go with the size 20 and no FBA. 
  • Did a lot of research about sleeves when I was having trouble and found this video of an interesting technique called finger gathering. It didn't really work with my fabric, but it's something to keep in my mind for future projects. Switching from a denim needle to a finer needle might have also helped as it wasn't pulling as much. 

Even though I stumbled here and there, it was a very satisfying project, and I'm proud that I challenged myself a bit. The tutorials and instruction helped a lot and served as a reminder to not be overwhelmed and just break things down into small steps. At the risk of sounding trite, that approach could be applied to most anything in life, right? I hope to post again within the week because I found myself needing a quick project halfway through this, so I've got a new pattern to post about. 

Have a fantastic week and thanks so much for reading!

Monday, January 15, 2018

Top 5 Everything for 2017

Hey there! I'm finally getting around to Gillian's Top 5. I love taking this time to look over a year of makes. I learn something from all my endeavors, and the long view is so helpful for figuring out where I want to take my sewing. 

So, let's get this started. 

Top 5 (in no particular order)

Painted Silk/Rayon True Bias Sutton Blouse

It's not uncommon for my favorite thing to be the last thing I made; in this case it's a TNT pattern made in fabric I love. I hand washed this yesterday, and today I lovingly steamed out the creases from the air drying. I love it as a useful garment and enjoy wearing it, but with the french seams, simple and elegant shape, and the luxe-feeling fabric, I also appreciate it as a beautiful object. It's very much in line with where I want to take my sewing.

True Bias Lodo Dress

This one never made it to the blog, though I did blog my first Lodo here. Clearly, I'm a True Bias fan. I think she's a master of proportion. Also, I really think this pattern is just so clever. It's designed for heavier knits like ponte, so you can sit at a desk all day and still emerge at the end of the day relatively wrinkle-free. Also, the woven facing makes for such a lovely neckline that doesn't get stretched out. It looks simple, but it's a pretty ingenious design when you think about it. 

Chalk and Notch Fringe Blouse

I'm proud that I took the extra time to get the fit right on this. It was totally worth it. Also, I discovered rayon crepe, which is such an awesome fabric. I'll definitely make at least one more top this year and, hopefully, a dress.

Closet Case Patterns Kalle Tunic

I love this pattern. It's sort of unassuming but also just a little bit special, and there are so many variations. I love how I feel when I where it, which is pretty much the ultimate outcome I can strive for when I sit down to make a garment. I plan to make a black crepe version with the sleeve extension in the next couple of months. Also, another white version in a less transparent fabric.

Seamwork Jill Coatigan

Coats and jackets always provide more bang for your buck. To date, I've worn my coatigan every day since I snipped my last thread. This just fit perfectly into my wardrobe and satisfied my desire to mimic the kind of unstructured outerwear I was seeing fashionable women wearing on the subway. It looks great over leggings, jeans, or work clothes, and the aubergine color seems to magically go with everything in my closet.

In addition to my top 5, I have two MVPs—workhorses that made getting dressed every day so much easier. 

Helen's Closet Blackwood Cardigan
I made four Blackwood cardigans this year. Much like the TB Lodo, I think it's a really clever pattern because it fills a void for a close-fitting cardi that can be worn comfortably under a coat, is perfect for the office or for knocking around in leggings, AND is a quick and easy sew. 

True Bias Emerson Pants
I made four pairs of Emersons yet I never got around to blogging them. The pair in the above pic is the perfect bottom fabric match; unfortunately, the color just doesn't go with anything else I own. I used a fabric from my stash that I had purchased years ago, well before I consciously shopped with a limited palette in mind. I do love this color, though, and hope to wear it with sandals and a white tee this summer. I made three additional pairs in tencel (olive, black, camel) from Blackbird Fabrics. Tencel has excellent drape, but the wrinkle factor isn't ideal for work and it doesn't wash and wear beautifully. I'd like to make a lined pair in a light wool trouser fabric. I think that would provide better wearability.

Top 5 Misses (Actually, I only have 3)

Closet Case Patterns Charlie Caftan

I let myself get caught up in the new pattern release splash. I'm just not a caftan person. In addition, I picked the most uncaftan-like fabric possible. The fabric lives on in a more appropriate form now as dinner napkins and oven mitts.

Cashmerette Webster
I picked the wrong size and fabric. I would like to make this again in the correct size and a pretty, silky fabric. 

Closet Case Patterns Ebony (Raglan)
I've made a ton of well-worn and well-loved Ebony tops and tunics, but the raglan version just doesn't work for me. The fit feels sloppy instead of oversized and comfy. Also, while the fabric is beautiful, the color/pattern doesn't suit me. I wish I could wear yellow...

So, overall, a good year of making!  I think I'm at the stage where I know what I like and want to make. As I mentioned in my last post, I'd like to up my sewing game and seek out more elevated points of inspiration. I deliberately slowed my sewing down by making underwear with scraps, but I still ended the year with some garments that I really like. I'm also pleased to note that two of my top five from last year (shibori mandy and SJP sutton) are still in regular rotation, which seems like a good indicator of a thoughtful wardrobe.

Top 5 Highlights (Well, 3)
  1. Organizing my sewing space has helped tremendously by decluttering my apartment and my headspace. 
  2. Visiting New Orleans and having an appropriate travel wardrobe was awesome. What a truly unique town.
  3. I had a number of satisfying work projects where I took some risks. I'm so happy and grateful to have a job that I love.
Top 5 Resolutions/Plans (Well, 3)
  1. Exploring other interests. Beej gave me ceramics classes for our anniversary, which I have yet to use. Be warned, you may see some claybabies on this blog in the future. 
  2. Save more money. I added up my fabric purchases for the year, and the total amount caused my eyebrows to rise. I pay my bills in full and deposit money into my savings at the end of each month, so it's really not a problem, but it's helpful to be mindful of what I spend on my hobby.  
  3. Travel. Beej and I are planning a vacation this year to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary and an, er, milestone birthday for me. The best way to come to terms with getting older is to celebrate somewhere fabulous, right?
Wishing you all a healthy and happy 2018!

Saturday, January 6, 2018

My Make 9 and a Sneaky Sutton

Hello and Happy New Year! I hope your year is off to a good start. Beej and I spent New Year's day feasting on Japanese food and watching The Last Jedi. It's kind of our New Year's day tradition to hang out in Japantown and see a movie. 

In my last post I did say that I might make another garment. I wasn't really planning to, but then we got invited to a New Year's Eve gathering. Normally, I love staying home curled up on the couch, but I'm glad I made it out for a night with good friends, a French-themed menu, and a lovely view of the city. Seriously, I wish my shitty phone snap could accurately convey the amazing view. 

So since I unexpectedly had a party to go to, I had to make something, right? Around the same time, a package from Blackbird Fabrics arrived with a really beautiful painted silk/viscose. I had been deliberately resisting Blackbird (I have $300 in Britex gift certificates to spend thanks to my husband and bosses), but when I saw a geometric pattern in my favorite blue/black combo I had to go for it. 

Fortunately, Blackbird has been stocking a lot of florals, which aren't my thing, so I'm safe for a while. Whew!

So short story, with limited time (day before party) I made a TNT Sutton turned out smaller than my last version which still fits me. I think I might have goofed on the french seams at the sides and possibly the center and sewed 1/2 " for both passes instead of 1/4". D'oh! The good news is that the Sutton has loads of ease. It will make a nice shell underneath cardis in this size, and I enjoyed wearing it with jeans and these amazing Rachel Comey platforms that I never wear because they're ridiculously high but also ridiculously awesome. 
Other deets:
  • Size 18
  • Shortened by 1.5" at "shorten here" line
  • Lengthened bottom by 2" to eliminate high/low hem
  • Side split was 3.5", but I'd like to go higher next time for more drama. 
  • Elephant in the room: pattern match fail in the center but, fortunately, I'm not too bothered by it.
  • I strayed from the instructions and french seamed the sides, using this tutorial from Cashmerette for split hems with french seams. Hot tip: I used tweezers to roll the silky fabric. 
I felt great wearing it, a bit like Bruno Mars talking about his silk shirts in Carpool Karaoke, "You don't want this on your skin?" Oh yeah, Bruno, I do.  Which brings me to the second bit I want to blog about—elevating my inspiration with luxurious fabrics and my make 9. It's a little out of order to think about this before doing my top five, but it's been on my mind for a while now. 

When I first started sewing about three and a half years ago, I wanted to make cute, Anthropologie-esque tops that would fit over my boobs. After some serious wadders, questionable fabric choices, and also some great skill-building projects, I'm happy to say that I've achieved that goal. As a matter of fact, for Christmas I received an Anthro gift card and as I walked around the store, I kept thinking, "I could totally make that." So since I've finally achieved my initial sewing goal, I want to focus 2018 on taking it to the next level by elevating my inspiration. Looking carefully at sillouettes that compliment my shape, creating garments that fit my lifestyle, and choosing the best fabric I can afford, I hope to elevate my sewing instead of following every sewing trend.  In an effort to sharpen my focus I made a little moodboard of simple elegant shapes that I'm drawn to. 
I'm not so much focusing on designer or even expensive garments—it's more of a vibe I'm going for. Simple shapes, luxe fabrics, garments that make me feel happy and comfortable in my own skin.

Okay, I know this is a long-ass post, so I'll get to my make 9 now, which I'm only tentatively committing to since there will invariably be distractions throughout the year. I feel that this is a good mix of skill building patterns and TNTs that match my lifestyle and wardrobe needs. 

  1. Closet Case Patterns Kelly Anorak. I already own the Papercut Patterns Waver Jacket, which is quite similar, so I felt guilty about purchasing this. I got around this by putting it on my Christmas list. Heh, heh. 
  2. Closet Case Patterns Caroline PJs. Another Christmas gift from my sweet, sweet hubby. I want to play with piping. 
  3. Cashmerette Appleton Top. I love how this wrap top looks and already have the pattern and free extension pack. I'll have to decide my ease preference and choose my fabric carefully since I don't like things clinging to my bust and middle area, but I think it's a good body image exercise for me. Next step, exposing my arms. 
  4. Chalk and Notch Fringe Dress. I already have the fabric picked out—teal rayon with flamingos. 
  5. Sew House Seven Toaster 2. In a white/gray french terry...maybe even this weekend. 
  6. Deer and Doe Luzerne Trench. Yes, another coat. A trench would be great over my work clothes, while the anorak is more casual. Also, it's adorable!
  7. Chalk and Notch Fringe Top. Yes, another one. 
  8. True Bias Sutton Blouse. My fave.
  9. Closet Case Patterns Kalle Blouse. This time in black crepe with sleeves. I'm going to eliminate the high/low for this one. 
Whew! If you made it this far, you deserve a medal. I plan to post my top five in a couple of days so I can continue the reflecting and planning. Thanks so much for reading and happy sewing in 2018!

Monday, December 25, 2017

My Last Makes of 2017...Maybe

Hello and a very merry Christmas to those of you who celebrate it and a fond hello to those who do not. I'm feeling super content in my comfiest clothes, sipping champagne and nibbling on cornichons and cheese. It gets better: Beej is making dinner tonight (his famous roast chicken with spuds and carrots). I'm only contributing one dish--an artichoke gratin--which means I have time for a quick blog post (and maybe I'll even cut out a new project).

First off is this here Ebony by Closet Case patterns in a melange viscose jersey from Blackbird Fabrics. It's no longer available, I'm afraid; I bought it back in August, and her fabrics sell out pretty quickly. (ETA: Just saw this fabric at Britex (in store not online) for $18.99 per yard.) I've been wanting to sew it up for months, but I'm glad I waited because wearing it for Christmas Eve dinner at my inlaws felt special and the fabric seems almost kind of Christmas-ey. And since, amazingly, I didn't spill red wine on it, I'm wearing it again today. It's a Christmas miracle!

I've made this pattern a few times before (here and here), and it took me a while to work out my preferred proportions. I finally found my sweet spot with an unblogged version in black tencel T-shirt knit from Blackbird. (If they ever stock that T-shirt knit again, I may have to clean them out. It's that awesome.) Here are the details so that I remember for future Ebonys.

  • Size 18, jewel neckline, 3/4 sleeves.
  • Extended length 7 inches from crop top length 
  • Finally got around to making a 1/2 inch narrow shoulder adjustment 
  • I like this length; it's not too long/not too short in the front to expose me (when it billows up with a gust of wind) yet it still covers my butt in the back. 
Finally, a Thread Theory Finlayson sweatshirt for Beej. 

I think he's channeling Luke Skywalker here, albeit less intense.  My sweet Jedi!

I tried to make this hoodie a bit special by using some double faced merino purchased at Thread Theory. They've sold out of the gray/black but still have red/black. The merino side is wonderfully soft, and the polyester side makes it very stable and strong. It was a joy to work with. Since Beej seems really happy with it, I've already promised to make him another and even ordered some black merino swatches from The Fabric Store this morning. The plan is to make a black version with orange hood lining to wear to SF Giants games. Here are the deets:

  • Size large, grading to an extra large from where the belly starts to the bottom of the shirt. This modification means remembering to cut the bottom band as XL instead of L. 
  • Next time, shorten the sleeves by 1 inch. 
  • The pattern comes with two different size cuffs to account for variation in fabric stretch. I used the larger cuff (the smaller version was too small), but I think he would prefer the cuff to be a bit more fitted. I'll have to experiment and try to find a happy medium for the next version. 
  • I messed up on the corner of the front neckline where it meets the hood. It makes me a little nuts when I look at, so I try not to. I ripped out some stitches where it gathered a bit and resewed, which makes it look a little better, but I can't really see what else to do to fix it. Fortunately, it doesn't seem to bother Beej, so I guess I'll just remember to be careful when sewing the front part for the next version. 
Well, that's all for me. I hope you're having a lovely and peaceful day today. I'm looking forward to posting my Top Five Hits and Misses next week, along with some end-of-year reflection. Cheers!

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Holiday Mitts

Hey there! Hope you've been having a relaxing weekend. I had a bit of a Duckndam factory situation this weekend as I sewed up a number of oven mitts for Christmas gifts. Making something pretty and useful out of scraps of nice fabric has to be one of the most gratifying feelings. Some of my scraps feel like old friends to me. Often, I can remember exactly where I bought the fabric, what I had in mind, special textile factoids, etc. For example, the above fabric is a combo of a rustic linen I sewed into a Roberts collection  dungaree dress that didn't work out and a Guatemalan twill (for this project) that I love so much that I think I've now used every little bit. The inside lining is from a  Robert Kaufman rose chambray that I retrieved from another failed project.

It's the free Bombazine pattern. Described as Japanese in style (a half mitt), it's a little smaller than most oven mitts. What I like most about this version is that it's a clean finish with a bagged lining. I even like that the lining sticks out a bit, adding a bit of extra color interest.

I kept it completely casual (and imprecise) when quilting my mitts, but you could totally experiment with sashiko, applique, or piecing to come up with all kinds of fun designs. This is such a great scrap buster. I stopped sewing with quilting cottons a long time ago, but it works really well with linen and cotton chambray. The only thing is that you really need to use wool batting (or some other kind of wool padding) because it's safer than cotton batting. It has a slower burn and conducts heat well. (Wool is a pretty magical substance when you think about it.) Surprisingly, I had trouble finding wool batting locally and had to order it on Amazon. I bought some organic wool that's primarily used for baby quilts. I had to use two layers to get the level of squishiness that I wanted. The Bombazine site recommends using old wool coats, and I did use a scrap from my Jill coatigan for the square pot holder in the first pic, but I wanted the mitts to be more soft and squishy.

I also made a pair of linen napkins and a plaid mitt for me from my CCF Charlie caftan. I used to feel guilty about cutting up perfectly good garments to make them into something smaller, but after being turned away from Goodwill because they have too much stuff I've gotten over that. I'd rather turn it into something useful than have it languish in my closet. 

I've already ordered more wool batting. If it arrives before Christmas, I'll make some more mitts as gifts. If not, I might just make a little arsenal of mitts from scraps to keep on hand. Combined with a nice bottle of olive oil or some fancy salt, I think they would make nice housewarming/hostess gifts. My goal for January is to organize a couple of bags of scraps and take them to a nonprofit in the Bay Area that could use them. Any suggestions? Also, what's your go-to scrap busting project?

Thank you so very much for reading. Have a fantastic week!