Saturday, June 9, 2018

Sewing Knits: Coverstitching and Some Undies

Hey there! Hope all is well with you and you're enjoying your weekend wherever you are. Last weekend Beej and I did some heavy duty (and much needed) spring cleaning, and Thursday I worked from home, which meant I was able to get my laundry done while working. So with so many chores completed, I'm really excited to have a guilt-free weekend of doing whatever-the-hell-I-feel-like. I've been sewing a lot lately, and when I'm not sewing I've been thinking about sewing. I feel like I've got a pretty good balance going right now of TNTs and challenging projects on my table. I've been muslining pants the past couple of weeks, playing with my new coverstitch machine, and replenishing my undie drawer while simultaneously scrapbusting. It's been a good flow.

I guess I'll start with my new toy: the Janome 900 CPX coverstitch machine. I think the three needle Janome 1000 and 2000 models are more popular because of the additional option to sew three lines of stitching for not that much more money. Makes sense to have options, but since I don't sew high-performance athletic knits, a two needle version is just fine for me. I will probably only use it for hemming knits. I must confess, though, that after seeing so many cool binding tutorials on YouTube I was ready to order the binding attachment. But once I saw the price—upwards of $200 for a metal attachment—I decided to slow my roll and wait and see if it's really something I want.

A coverstitch machine is definitely not a sewing must-have. I just happened to have a bunch of Amazon gift cards and decided to go for it since I sew with knits so much, and hemming is really my least favorite part. I gave up on twin needles a while ago and was using a combination of fusible bias and zig-zag or straight stitch (for loose-fitting knits) to make a satisfactory hem. For the most part, this method worked out well for me, although I felt it looked a little janky on the underside. Also, my knit hems almost always required a light pressing after laundering to smooth out the ripples. Who wants to spend time ironing knits, amiright?

I practiced on a cheap t-shirt knit before breaking out this gorgeous striped bamboo rayon from Blackbird fabrics. I went for my favorite striped knit T-shirt pattern: the free Mandy Boatneck Tee from Tessuti. Here's what the coverstitched neck and hem look like, respectively. 

Overall, not bad! I used my hot hemmer and masking tape to make the hem length more precise, although it does overlap here and there. Better to overlap a little than not catch the edge of the hem, though. Coverstitching feels more like sewing than serging. I'm used to whizzing things through my serger at breakneck speed but found I needed to slow down a bit for sewing on the coverstitch. Also, removing your fabric from the machine after stitching takes some getting used to as it's not very intuitive. 

Aaaand here's one of my super classy toilet pics. I love how this top looks with my new red clogs. 

I ended up downloading a new copy of the Mandy Tee, so I'm adding a few notes here:
  • I lowered the neckline 1.5 inches so it doesn't hit my throat uncomfortably. My guess is this is a large bust issue. The adjustment is perfect and my bra straps don't show. Bonus!
  • I've learned the hard way to only use nice stretchy knits for the Mandy that contain some spandex/lycra. This bamboo rayon from Blackbird is perfect, and the quality is excellent—soft, stretchy, and luxurious with excellent color saturation. 
  • I did not lengthen or shorten at all, and I really like where it hits me.
Since I like this fabric so much, I wanted to be sure to use up the scraps. These are the Acacia undies by Megan Nielsen. Bamboo rayon is really great for underwear since it's so soft and stetchy.

The Acacia undies were released around the holidays as a free pattern. (Yay for free Aussie patterns in this blog post!) Since I seem to be compelled to try every single free undie pattern out there, I, of course, had to make a bunch. They are a little trickier to sew due to the extra curve in the bum (see photo of pattern piece below), but said curved bum is what makes them so incredibly comfortable to wear. They just seem to hold on better if you know what I mean. 

The pattern is not halved to cut on the fold, so I just folded mine. I don't see how it makes much of a difference and I'm more likely to cut it symmetrically on the fold. Size goes up to XL. I made size L and like the fit. I used my favorite Ohhh Lulu techniques for assembling and enclosed the crotch seams.

So this post was a lot longer than I had planned. I've got more makes to share—hopefully soon. Maybe I'll even finally complete some trousers. In the meantime, have yourself an absolutely lovely weekend!

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Scrapbusting: Ida Clutch

Hey there! Hope you're having a great weekend. It's been a perfect spring weekend for Beej and I. We went to the Giants game yesterday, and they won so yay! I got to sew last night, and then I spent most of today learning how to use my new coverstitch machine. So much fun stuff. With the coverstitch, there's definitely a learning curve, but fortunately, we live in the age of YouTube. I'm muddling through. Now I'm just relaxing while Beej makes dinner—in other words, I'm living the life.

So I want to talk today about the Ida Clutch, an awesome free pattern by Kylie and the Machine. I was inspired by Shauni of The Magnificent Thread's post (and her whole #sewingleftovers hashtag) and straight up copied her idea to use the pattern to make a cross body bag. Beej and I are going to Europe this summer, and I think it would be great to have a small bag to carry the essentials while sightseeing. 

With the exception of the zipper, everything I used for this is a scrap or taken from an unsuccessful project. The strap and D-rings are from an old purse I found in the back of my closet.

I had so much material that I ended up making an additional bag without the strap, which I'm giving to my boss for her birthday next week. She travels for work all the time, so I think it might make a handy travel bag. I will resist the urge to point out the various mistakes I made—like the wonky zipper— when I give it to her. :)

Sorry if the above pic is giving you vertigo.  I had trouble getting a decent shot of the lining, which is an April Rhodes rayon that I absolutely love. Before I forget, here are the deets:

  • Much like the idea that it's just as easy to make two lasagnas as one, I constructed these simultaneously, which is something I've never done before. It worked out fairly well, though it also meant that when I did make mistakes I had to rip out twice as many stitches. 
  • The instructions are incredibly clear, accompanied by many, many photographs. The ripping of stitches, mentioned in the previous bullet, was entirely down to me trying to watch SNL last night and quickly construct and sew during the commercials. 
  • I interfaced both the lining and the outer material. For the lining I used featherweight; for my crossbody bag I used a very heavy interfacing that one would use for craft projects; the travel pouch is made with midweight. Mainly I was focused on using up old supplies in my stash. 
  • I purchased my zippers from Zipit Zippers. The package arrived super quick, and the price was much better than what's usually available in brick and mortar stores—5 zippers for $7.50.

In other news, I made another Chalk and Notch Fringe blouse. If you're interested in making this top, I recorded my notes in this post. Here are few more quick notes.
  • I added 1" waist darts for just a teensy bit of shaping. Overall, though, I like the fit to be relaxed. 
  • Fabric is the last of my Blackbird Fabrics tencel. I just need to remember to keep it out of the dryer. My kalle has a slightly sandwashed quality from the dryer. 
  • I'm not finished with this pattern yet. I still want to make a dress AND try the other sleeve and collar options.

Well, that's all I've got today. Hopefully, I'll have some slick new coverstitched hems/knit projects to share next time I blog. Have an absolutely lovely week and thank you very much for reading. 

(P.S. The tee shirt in the first pic is the Plantain reboot by Deer and Doe. I need to practice a bit more with my coverstitch before hemming.)

Monday, April 30, 2018

Something Different (But Also Kinda Related to Sewing)

Hello! I don't have a new make to share, but I also don't think I should only blog when I've created a new garment. I finished this painting, which I personally think is quite lovely, a couple of weeks ago.  It's based on a memory from when I traveled around Mongolia. I've actually painted on this canvas for years, almost a decade. I could never get it quite right, so I would paint a bit, feel dissatisfied, and hide it away under the bed. It finally feels resolved to me, which is a wonderful feeling.

Yup, that's me. I had so many camera issues on that trip and lost whole rolls of film.  I traveled around  Mongolia with a super cool Swedish woman, whom I met randomly, and she sent me this picture, otherwise, I wouldn't have been able to memorialize the experience. It's amazing the kind of connections you make while traveling.

So what does this have to do with sewing? After I completed this painting, I started to think about having it digitally printed on fabric. I got to the point of uploading it onto Contrado. I changed my mind at the last minute. It was really expensive (like $50+ per yard), so I decided to wait and  take more pictures and put more thought into my overall design. I wanted to print on silk to make a scarf for my mom and for a dear friend who's going through a tough time. I also wanted to print some cotton lawn and use it to make a kimono-robe for myself. So, hopefully, I'll update this blog soon with my own custom fabric. 
In other sewing-related news, I finally pulled the trigger and bought a cover stitch machine. I spend almost every weekend actively decluttering my home, so I resisted bringing another object into my sewing space. However, I had amassed a bunch of gift cards from my very generous bosses and decided to go for it. 

So that's all I've got. Thank you for indulging me in a non-sewing/but-somewhat-sewing-related blog post. Peace and love and have a great week!

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!