Sunday, August 24, 2014

New Makes


Well hello there. I'm leaving for Hawaii on Monday, and I'm so freaking excited. I'm also sewing sorta kinda frantically so I'll have some things to wear. I wrote about planning a vacation wardrobe here, and with the exception of one item, I didn't end up with anything similar to the polyvore I made. Ah well, I find those polyvore moodboards too aspirational, too luxe, for me.

So above are the Grainline maritime shorts from last weekend. This was the second attempt. I hate how messy the front waistband part looks, but I just needed to be done with this project. There were a lot of new steps and skills for me to practice like clipping curves for the pockets and the front zip.  I must say I really loved that about the experience. Especially on the second try when I could already see  improvement. 

Here's a picture of me wearing my new makes - white legs and all. Remember, this before Hawaii. :)  Ugh, this is hard... here we go.


Now I'll distract you with my pretty pocket bag - a pink Hawaiian print.

Very much what I envisioned, so I'm pleased even though I made some mistakes. See the patched waistband on my new Renfrew? I didn't have enough to cut one piece on a continuous fold, so I decided to patch some shorter pieces together. While most sewists are obsessed with stripe matching...hell, I don't even match the bottom. And strangely enough even though it's not ideal, I'm kind of okay with it. But here's something I'm actually proud of...


I followed this tutorial for a mitred v-neck from Cake's blog.  I love it. It's not as sharp as it will be the next time, but I think this is how I want to finish my v-necks from now on. The Renfrew is turning into a TNT for me. I already want to make another one.
Here are my notes:
  • The button is sewn on to cover the mangled area where I could not seem to make a buttonhole foot. I think the interfacing was too thick and so the feed dogs weren't moving. It was like picking at a zit the way I kept making it worse. 
  • The shorts seem to run really big. I will definitely go down at least one if not two sizes. I wound up pinching out 5 inches from the back seam, although I think I did something wrong for it to be so much. That or it could be because I'm only 5'2" and the waist sits higher on me than on a person of average height.
  • Also...1/2" seam allowance...must remember that.
  • Love the contrasting pockets and will do that with the inner waistband as well. These shorts were a lot of work because of all the basting, clipping, and grading, but they're super fast to cut and easy to handle - i.e. no big. floppy/slippery pieces to work with. The second time I made them I was more organized, clearing my workspace, laying all the pieces out. and interfacing in advance ...of course it made a huge difference. Nothing revolutionary, just a nice reminder.
Finally, here's a scrunchy faced one of me since I decapitated myself in the full body shot.

So not a complete vacation wardrobe, but I will be sharing a few more makes very soon. In the meantime, Aloha!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

One More Baby


I wasn't planning another blog post so soon, but I just picked up my last piece from the ceramic studio so I thought I'd share it. I took a six week beginning clay course at The Clay Underground, which is an awesome working space for many fine artists, as well as a class/studio space for novices like myself. I had a lot of fun playing in the mud and finished with a pretty impressive haul. :)


If you live in the Bay Area and you do decide to take the class, I would recommend that you take advantage of the studio hours because six weeks really flies by. My teacher was super knowledgeable and helpful and definitely there to show us different techniques, but I appreciated the loose structure of the class in that we could move in whatever direction we were inclined to go. To me, ceramics class feels like Montessori for grown ups and just made for such a soothing way to end my day.

 It's funny because, on one hand, I felt a little split because I'm putting so much time and energy into learning to sew garments, but I also appreciated being creative in a different way. Sarai from Coletterie wrote quite eloquently about the similarities here, which I found fascinating, but I also really appreciated the differences. With clay I got to be a little messy and loose. Whereas the mess of sewing stresses me out  - can't find pattern pieces, scraps of fabric and thread everywhere, etc. Also, sewing requires a lot of planning; clay can start off as one thing and very easily turn into something different.*

 I think, overall, it's just good to obey the call or desire, or whatever you call it, to make. When I was younger, I wasted a lot of time worrying about whether I was good at this or that. Now I worry less about that and care less what other people think and just appreciate all the joy making things brings to me. I guess I am learning as I get older after all.


 (Just to be clear, I'm in no way saying that ceramicists or sculptors or any other artists act like children or don't give their work a lot of forethought. I'm merely describing my own approach as someone dabbling in a new form of making.)

Monday, August 18, 2014

Claybabies - not the creepy realistic ones

Hello Hello! I don't have a new sewing make to show today. I spent a ridiculous amount of time this weekend working on a pair of Maritime shorts by Grainline. I hope to blog about them just as soon as I can get the damn things to fit properly. They're ginormous at the moment.

Above is one of the bowls I made recently at my beginning ceramics class - more pics here. I guess it's actually a failure because I wound up rubbing off too much glaze, but I still like it and couldn't bear to throw it away. They're my babies! So now it holds some French salt that a friend recently brought back for me from Paris. It just makes me so happy to see useful little things I've made.


And speaking of warm happy feelings...Kollabara added my pinch bowls to their superstar showcase and featured member faves. This means I currently see them in the slideshow whenever I visit the main page, which is a lot because I absolutely love to see what folks are making, discover new bloggers, sewists, jewelry designers, etc.

So that is all. I hope to have new makes to share soon. Have a lovely week.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

On Not Being a Perfectionist


I spent a sizable chunk of my weekend making this shirt for my husband, and I'm pretty happy with the result. Notice I said pretty happy? It's not perfect, and of course all the little flaws stand out to me, but I'm also  happy and proud because I just really love the whole accumulative skill building aspect of sewing. I guess I could go back and redo that pocket. If I was a perfectionist, I certainly would....and maybe I will (it's not like it's going anywhere)...or maybe I'll move on. I don't know what I'll do, but I will say that making a button-up shirt is a LOT of steps. I'm just grateful that he ended up with something wearable.

So Beej and I were having this conversation, and he was saying something about me being too critical of what I'm making - basically saying I'm a perfectionist. I actually don't think I'm a perfectionist and I see that as a good thing. Because if I was a perfectionist, I would never have finished this shirt. I would have gotten hung up on the pocket or some other detail and would not have let myself move forward. There were a lot of first-time steps, and I think when you're doing something for the first time it's good not to break up the flow too much by starting over. It's best to look at the big picture.

So here are my notes:
  • This is the Colette Negroni. I like the pattern a lot in terms of fit and style. I started with a medium on top and graded to a large towards the bottom. That's what's so cool about sewing, right? Customize. 
  • I took an informal poll with my men friends about shirt pockets. It seems that a lot of men are fairly indifferent. I debated leaving them off all together but didn't want to cop out, so I added one pocket.  Double pockets only highlight a lack of symmetry. And those double pockets with the pleats are the worst, according to some male friends. I think they're usually found on vintage shirts- probably for holding smokes back in the day. My one pocket  doesn't look so great if you were to look closely. 
  • Flat fell seams are not my friend. At least with this shirt. It may have to do with my beginner/wonky seams, or because I chose a lighter colored thread which highlighted my beginner/wonky seams, but I ended up ripping them out and serging off the excess. i.e. I started by attaching the sleeves with the 1/4 fold and then serged the fold off.
  • Using the correct needle really does make a difference. I forgot and started sewing with the jersey needle attached. My sewing machine freaked out and skewered the linen test fabric into something unrecognizable. 
  • Oh yeah, the fabric is linen. Beej picked it out, and I think he did a great job. Not only does it match his eyes, but it was on sale. Double bonus. (If I were at my pretend job where I write descriptions for a catalog or house paint, I would describe this color as Stone Blue.)

So that's my first men's shirt. I learned a lot, like figuring out my buttonhole attachment, the yoke, a collar. I'm afraid I might have driven my husband a little crazy as I worked through the pattern. "Look, I just made a collar, and it looks like an actual collar!" "Sweetie could you try this on again? Nice, right? Do you like it? Be honest." He's a trouper, that man.
Anyhoo, that's my experience with the Negroni. Have a lovely week!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Perfect Marriage of Pattern and Fabric


I wasn't going to blog about this Renfrew by Sewaholic because I'm not particularly proud of the sewing job. The neckband actually started as a v-neck but ended up as some kind of scoop/vee hybrid, and the striped band at the bottom is pitiful.   But what I've discovered after wearing it four times now is that I feel absolutely fantastic in it. I think it has to do with the fabric - just the right weight and amount of stretch - combined with a really flattering shape. I did a FBA for knits - basically just copied this Cashmerette post - to give myself a little more room at the bust. Overall, it's form fitting but in a really good way.  (By the way, I had planned to take a picture wearing it, but the light was dreary and awful when I got home.) So now I want to start keeping better track of fabric type, blend, stretch, etc. The information isn't always available (at the fabric store), but when it is it would be cool to come up with some kind of chart to match knit types with ideal patterns and/or silhouettes. (Oh, I do love making charts.)


Hey here's something new to share. In addition to learning to sew, I've also been taking a ceramics class. These are pinch bowls - one of the oldest forms of pottery. I wasn't expecting much, so  I was actually happily surprised with how they turned out. I underglazed in red, then another glaze in white.


These I threw on the wheel, and I think they look a bit more like what I sort of expected to make in a beginner ceramics class... if that makes sense. I like them, but would definitely like to try making some more column shapes, also some planters to hang and some shallow pasta bowls. So many things to make.... For this class, I tried to focus on trying a number of different techniques to see what I liked best. Sort of like a ceramics taster.

Getting back to knits, I have some fabric but the knits I have on hand are pretty drapey and not quite right for another Renfrew. Despite my unfortunate Moneta, which is still crumpled in a ball(sad face), I'm thinking of trying another Colette dress - the Myrtle this time. The thing is, though, I'm just not much of a dress-wearer.  Has anyone seen any Myrtle tops? Seems like it would be a pretty easy hack.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Undies and Other Things



Prepare yourself for a lot of green in this post. I wanted to experiment with wooly nylon, and once I got the machine set up it seemed logical to maximize my sewing time by combining projects.

So this top pic is a beach cover up - a freebie from Sew Caroline. I know it doesn't look like much on the hanger, and I'm supposed to be trying to be more brave and body-confident and model my makes, but...not this time. Maybe I'll get a shot when I'm in Hawaii in a few short weeks. It's meant to go over my new bathing suit from Mod Cloth. A polka dotted Esther Williams number that looks similar to this one, but mine is green with navy dots.

Speaking of body confidence, my upcoming vacation, and bathing suits, I would love to share some recent inspiration: I'm a big fan of the Curvy Sewing Collective and was initially motivated to give sewing another try partly due to awesome blogs such as Cashmerette, Idle Fancy, Mrs Hughes, etc. It was heartening to see women sharing their passion and looking so cute and feeling so proud. It's empowering to make clothes that fit us instead of berating ourselves for not fitting into RTW clothes. Sewing garments really does change how you look at your body. Anyway, I've been planning this trip to Hawaii, but I wasn't going to buy a bathing suit because I just couldn't face the shopping experience.  Yes, I know - ridiculous.  I was willing to miss the opportunity to swim with pretty fishies and hang on beautiful beaches because I felt too fat and ugly. Unbelievable. Then I read Mary's article on curvy swimwear recommendations, which basically helped me pull my head out of my ass.
So...happy ending...I've got a cute new bathing suit and plan to do lots of swimming in a couple of weeks, which will be a welcome change from July in San Francisco - i.e. blustery, foggy, depressing, un-summer-like weather where you just want to stay inside the apartment and bake muffins and sew leggings and t-shirts.

Okay, on to undies...

I had this green cotton/rayon knit earmarked to make a light Julia cardigan - a summer version of this, my favorite make so far - but plans change. Since I was going to attempt another rolled hem for the cardigan, I had all this green wooly nylon. I decided to try sewing with it and, of course, experimenting with all those leftover scraps of green. Here are my notes:
  • I think I like the three thread overlock better for undies. It seems less bulky.
  • I haven't worn these yet, so I have yet to see if the stretch thread helps. I used the wooly for both lower and upper loopers since I had two spools. Tension settings were set low: 4 for the needle and 2 for both loopers.
  • My previous undies were comfortable to wear, but I fear that they are not long for this world. I think the tension was too loose. The green ones already feel sturdier.
  • Hand winding a bobbin is SO not worth it. Maybe if you set up a bunch of bobbins while watching a movie, it would be bearable. I used the wooly when sewing the elastic on a test pair, but the result didn't seem to match the extra effort, so I used regular thread for these. 
  • Thank God for the internet. Otherwise I would still be trying to thread the wooly through those loopers. The trick is to push some regular thread through the needle's eye, tie a loop and loop your wooly onto that, and then use the regular thread to pull the wooly through.  
  • The free IndigoOrchid pattern makes a nice brief for me.
So that's all I can think of. I'll continue to practice making undies - and other forms of sewing - and log any helpful tidbits. By the way, expect to see a lot of undies with the blue picot edge elastic. I found it on sale at my local shop (Discount Fabrics) for ten cents a yard!

Sunday, July 27, 2014



I spent part of this weekend making undies, which is kind of addictive. In fact, I could have made so many more pairs, but I think I should really take these for a test drive before making more. I want to make sure they're super comfy.


I really hate waste, so I love being able to use up all of the scraps that were too small for a tank or tee shirt but too large to throw away. Here were my takeaways to remember for next time.
  • I might try cutting a bunch in one sitting. They're already fast to make, but why break up the flow?
  • Serging the pieces together is fan-fucking-tasticly fast, but I'm not sure if I should serge the elastic on. I tried it on the white ones, and I think the thread might make them too bulky and/or uncomfortable. I love serging knits because they trim everything so neatly, it's nice to get everything locked in before it all curls up. If I do try serging again, I think next time I should switch to a three thread overlock.
  • JoAnn's foldover elastic is a ripoff. I remember experiencing sticker shock when I picked up a couple of packs, which doesn't really happen to me there, but I bought it anyway. I paid 3.99 per yard, and it wasn't even enough for 1 pair of underwear (at least for me). I never think of this sewing hobby of mine as a money saver, but I'm sure glad I was able to look to sewing blogs to discover other options. I wound up purchasing some suuuuper cute patterned elastic, plus the solid grab bag cuz I'm a sucker for grab bags, from Peak Bloom. Can't wait. 
  • I looked at a bunch of tutorials, but hands-down THE best tutorial was from A Very Purple Person. Clear to follow, great pictures, and it covers three different types of elastic. I need more practice with elastic. I haven't noticed it covered a lot in tutorials - maybe because it has to do more with getting a feel for how much to stretch or just something that comes with practice, which can be tough to explain in a tutorial.  
Anyhoo, thanks for reading. I hope you have a lovely week. I also hope these undies make it through their test drive.