Thursday, January 9, 2020

2019 Top 5

Hello! As usual, I'm tardy to the Top 5 party. 2019 was stressful and didn't start off great, but I'm happy to say I got through it and hit upon some personal and creative growth along the way. I also made some pretty nice things. Although I haven't counted, I think I sewed fewer garments. I think this is because I really like my current wardrobe and how it has developed over the years. I'm less likely to feel like I have to make every little thing. Black leggings? No way. A well-fitting bra? No thanks, I'm happy with my favorite brand. I'm also trying to be mindful of fabric purchases, my stash size, and the accumulation of scraps.

Top 5 Sewing Hits

Clockwise from top left. 
  • This is my third pair of CCP Carolyn Pajamas and definitely my favorite pair. Flannel is such a joy to sew and is so comfortable. I finally understand why it's so popular. 
  • My Papercut Patterns Stacker Jacket in a soft, wide whale corduroy from Blackbird. This is a great little pattern, comes together like a dream, and is such a great everyday jacket. I also like that I made a special pocket for my phone that fits perfectly. So slick!
  • My Paper Theory Zadie Jumpsuit. I am definitely on board the Zadie love train. I love how this garment looks fabulous on everyone, but more importantly, it's how this makes people feel. Of course, I can't speak for everyone, but just google image or hashtag the zadie and look at all of those confident, smiling faces. It's also never a bad thing to be swathed in linen. 
  • My Seamwork Carter Tunic. I reach for this about once a week. I'm wearing it now! I love how the square neckline (my first one) mirrors the ikat squares. Just a nice marrying of fabric with pattern. 
  • My Paper Theory Kabuki Tee.  This is another one that I reach for on a weekly basis. I took it slow with the square sleeve and it paid off. 
Top 4 Misses

Clockwise starting at top left

  • Cashmerette Cedar Dolman top. To no one's surprise, the misses don't always make it to the blog. I had been wanting a tie top for a while and think it's a great look, especially if you're like me and have round tummy, but it's a bit too casual to feel special. I tend to wear it on weekends when I'm doing my laundry and don't mind looking kind of sloppy. To be fair, this is part of an active wear group of patterns. I may make this again in a knit and see if I like it more. 
  • I actually made three Cielo tops and two pairs of Pietra pants, and none of them made it to the blog. I like the pants and the tops are certainly wearable. I was excited about a fast and easy sew and didn't take the time to fit it for my height, etc. Also, the viscose noil doesn't work as well with a facing. I should have used a binding instead.
  • My Sew Liberated Matcha top. I made this pattern in a black crepe, and I absolutely love it. With this version, I don't hate it or anything, but I wish I had not serged the neckline facing. It tends to flip out and show and isn't a worthy finishing for such a pretty fabric and neckline. 
  • My Klum House Fremont Tote. I really loved this when I made it, but, sadly it hasn't held up well. A few of the rivets have fallen out, and the wax never fully cured. Also, the beautiful indigo ikat I used for the lining bleeds a bit, which isn't ideal for a bag that I can't wash. Eventually, I will salvage this project and re-set the rivets. They came off during a busy time for work, so I ended up just buying a bag from Madewell, which has held up fabulously. 
Top 2019 Experiences

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, 2019 was a banner year for growth and while challenging particularly at the beginning, there were many rewarding personal experiences. 

  • Becoming interesed (actually obsessed!) with modern quilting  remains one of my most rewarding creative endeavors.  Sorting through all my scraps really impressed upon me how much fabric I consume, and how many lovely pieces were still usable. Be warned, there will be more quilting stories around here. 
  • I never blogged about it, but this summer Beej and I went to Berlin and Prague. I love traveling with Beej. We always come back from our trips invigorated by all we've seen and the adventures we've shared. I didn't do any fabric shopping in either city, but I did happen upon a super cool textile exhibit at the Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague.
  • I fell down a big ole rabbit hole this summer making surface design patterns and uploading them to Spoonflower. That sort of fell by the wayside once I got caught up with quilting (I guess I only have the time and brain space for one obsession at a time.), but I'm grateful for picking up some new software skills and getting back into a regular drawing/artmaking practice. I hope to create some more patterns this year. 
So that's 2019 done and dusted. Looking forward to a brand new year filled with creative endeavors and more personal growth. I wish the same for all of you. Thank you for reading and Happy New Year!

Monday, December 30, 2019

Wardrobe by Me: Men's Tropical Shirt

Hello, Hello! I hope you're enjoying some time off with family and friends this week. For me, the holidays are an exhausting mad dash all the way up to Christmas Eve, and then everything stops and gets very, very quiet. 

Today I'm blogging about one of my last garments of 2019: the Men's Tropical Shirt pattern by Wardrobe by Me (WBM). It's been a while since I made Beej a shirt and he's been super patient. Personally, I like a camp or "convertible" collar. I think it has a retro-vibe that somewhat suits Beej's style. And, bonus, it's easier to sew than an oxford version with the collar stand. I liked this pattern very much. It was a straightforward sew, and the technical illustrations were very simple and clear. 

In the past, I've made Beej a few Colette Negroni shirts, and I was trying to figure out the main difference in case someone is reading this to decide which to make. There isn't a huge difference. Mainly, the Negroni has a lot more variations—long sleeves, different pocket styles, etc.—but also, I think the Negroni tapers in at the waist more. Take a look at the two flat drawings to compare. The Negroni is the first set of drawings. 

The WBM shirt is more basic, but it has all the elements I was looking for. 

This was my first WBM pattern. I've purchased a few women's patterns but never got around to making them. My experience was positive enough to warrant a second look at this company. 

I always try to bring something special to my garments for Beej. Otherwise, it's just a shirt, and, honestly, not sewn as well as something you could get in a store. I hate to say that, but it's true. I just don't have the set-up or shirt-sewing expertise that comes with lots of practice and a precise eye that you get in a professional garment-making situation. Funny, though, I just learned this last month that my Granny worked in a shirt-making factory for years. Somehow, the experience didn't kill all her joy in sewing, and, apparently, she made beautifully tailored shirts for my cousins, dad, and uncles. So maybe there's hope for me yet! :)

For this garment, the special bit is the fabric and the buttons. The fabric we purchased two years ago in the Paris Montmartre district where they sell all the coupons of fabric. It's a very nice brownish-gray linen with some subtle woven stripes. Beej loves linen, and I think the fabric choice suits the vacation-look of that particular style shirt. If you sew a lot, the buttons are probably immediately recognizable as Arrow Mountain buttons. I  just love her stuff. 

A few more details:
  • Size XL. Beej has narrow shoulders, long arms, and a bit of a tummy. He has compared himself to an orangutan in the past. Personally, I think orangutans are adorable! 
  • The shoulders are a little too broad, but I don't want to do a narrow shoulder adjustment because he often layers three, sometimes even four, shirts at a time.  
  • I regret that I did not french seam the sides. I wish I had started a little earlier and also that I had at least changed out the magenta thread in my serger. Oh well, not so gorgeous on the guts for this one, but hopefully for the next. 
  • Beej likes the length of the sleeves and hem, so this is straight out of the packet. Yes!
So that's it from me, probably for the year. I'll be back soon with top 5 reflections/hits/misses. Wherever you are, whatever you end up doing, I wish you a happy, safe, and peaceful New Year. 

Monday, December 23, 2019

A Couple of Seamwork Brits

Hello and Happy Holidays! I thought I'd record a few recent makes before the end of the year. 

I had to go to Harrisburg for work the first week of December and noticed that I didn't have a lot of long-sleeve knit tops, so I whipped up a couple the day before I left. (What IS that all about? The last-minute frantic sewing before a trip!) Anyway, I decided I wanted something a little closer fitting and slightly more upgraded (i.e., less like a t-shirt) and have been eyeing the Seamwork Brit dress, which is a cute, not-too-body-con, knit dress with bishop sleeves. I just shortened the pattern to make tops instead of dresses. 

For the second version, I added a channel and elastic for something different. I ended up not loving that, though, so now the channel is gone. 

I think this pattern has a lot of possibilities. I'm not a talented hacker, but I could see how it wouldn't be hard to make the sleeves more dramatic or add a ruffle or make it into a maxi. In fact, if anything, I think I would add some volume to the sleeves. As is, it's a little middle-of-the-road, but it makes for a good basic top. The neckline is turned under like the Tacara, which keeps it in the "nice top appropriate for work" category for me; however, I've never been able to do a nice job turning under with bamboo rayon, so the wine-colored version has a t-shirt band. 

I know my modeling pics are not what's bringing you to the blog, but I feel I have to offer an extra apology for what I'm posting here. It's an all-black ensemble, in my dark hotel room in Harrisburg. But maybe it helps to get a sense of scale or if you're similarly built to me...

Just a few details for the Brit tops:
  • Size 18
  • Black top is made with a linen/poly knit from Blackbird that's been in my stash for ages. It's JUST opaque enough to wear and the drape is soft and light—excellent for layering. It's my favorite of the two. 
  • Wine-colored top is a bamboo rayon from Blackbird. 
In other sewing-related news, I made another set of CCP Carolyn pajamas in leopard flannel I picked up from SF Fabric Outlet for 4.70 per yard during a 50% off sale. I absolutely LOVE wearing them. Sewing flannel is a dream—my first time, I think. For modification details, please see my previous PJ post. The only change I made was a bit of a cheat: Since the top slips easily over my head, I skipped the buttonholes and sewed the buttons through all the layers. 

Well, that's it for now. I hope to have one more post before the end of the year. Have a very happy holiday. Wishing everyone peace and love. Cheers!

Monday, December 2, 2019

Cheap Thrills: Custom Undies

Hello, Hello! I'm just waking up from the four-day sewing/sleeping/snacking marathon that is the Thanksgiving holiday break for me. This is the closest I've ever come to a "sewcation" and it was freakin' awesome!

Over the summer, I started playing around with some artwork that I had created a few years ago and learned how to create seamless repeats in photoshop for printed fabric. I decided to give Spoonflower a go and opened a little shop to post some fun—and very, very brightly colored—surface designs. The exercise reminded me of how much I love drawing and having a daily drawing practice as way to unwind and relax. I'm slowly getting back into it, but you know how it is. So many hobbies, so little time...also, probably too much scrolling...

One thing I've noticed, though, is that the colors I'm attracted to for artmaking aren't necessarily the colors I want to wear in garments. Except for underwear, that is. I love fun, feminine, playfully patterned, and brightly colored undies. The black, navy, and grey that I'm drawn to for outer garments tend to make kind of sad-looking underwear. Way. Too. Serious.

So a month or two ago, Spoonflower had a 50% off fat quarters, which was a perfect opportunity to make some custom-printed undies and also test out the difference between the two types of knits: Modern Jersey and Cotton Spandex Jersey.

The blue pattern above is printed cotton spandex jersey and the pinkish one is modern jersey. I used the Frankie pattern, by Evie La Luve, which is basic but also cute. Here's what I've noticed so far:

Cotton Spandex (Blue)

  • 4-way stretch, so better for undergarments, naturally. 
  • The 4-way stretch also helps to get the most mileage out of the fabric. I cut two pairs (size XL) out of one fat quarter, although I did have to piece the front of one pair. 
  • The texture is a bit rough. I will have to see if it softens up with washing and wears. I don't think I would use it for baby clothes. 
  • Very stable to sew with, little to no curling, generally great to work with.
  • (ETA: Folks, we have a winner! Great stretch recovery and very comfortable. Launders well.)
Modern Jersey (Pink)

  • 2-way stretch only
  • Smoother finish
  • Drapier than the cotton spandex. Would be a nice fabric for a knit top, wearable but not ideal for underwear. (ETA: Now that I've road tested, I definitely would not use this fabric for underwear. Not enough stretch recovery.)
  • A little bit of curling when cutting but overall not too bad.
  • I think the printing detail is a bit finer due to the smoother surface. 
I also ordered some poly crepe de chine of my favorite pattern, but I've yet to cut into it. To be honest, I'm used to sewing and wearing such nice fiber contents, it's hard to get jazzed about sewing up a poly. I will say, though, that the detail and color saturation on the crepe de chine is really gorgeous and is the closest to my original artwork.  See below. 

Thinking of designing your own fabric? Go for it! The monetary risk is so small, and the quality of the materials will only contine to improve with time. Also, it's really fun! The process of setting up a shop and uploading patterns is very easy. Much like Etsy, however, Spoonflower is supersaturated with users, requiring lots of marketing and a large pattern library in order for consumers to find you. That said, it seems like there are some successful sellers out there and lots of people making wonderful designs, so it might make a good side gig for a motivated designer. You have to pay for a test swatch, but there are tricks to getting the most out of this. I recommend Oksancia's youtube for tips on how to do this, as well as some of the technical aspects of working with psd and illustrator to create textile patterns. She also seems very sweet and encouraging. 

For me, it's been a fun way to get back into drawing and a way for my interest in sewing to splinter off into another creative direction. Between this and my newfound interest in quilting, I'm going to need a lot more sewcations! :)

Thank you for reading! Hope you enjoy the hazy crazy holiday season.  Take it easy, have fun, and be good to yourself!

Monday, November 11, 2019

Segundo: Adventures in Quilting

Hey there, hope you're doing well. Ever since I sorted through my scraps, I've been more focused on scrapbusting than ever. As a result and as you've no doubt surmised, I made a quilt to abate my scraptastic situation. 

In looking for quilting projects, I discovered a whole world of beautiful, modern, minimalist quilting on (where else?) Instagram. I've become a bit obsessed, checking out dozens of books from the library and trying to learn everything I can. 

I wanted to start with something simple, so I found a pattern in one of the books I'd checked out—Brave New Quilts, by Kathreen Ricketson—based on four triangle blocks. I ended up inverting two of the triangles and added a border of strip piecing on either side for added interest. I like the look of strip piecing, and it's an easy technique for beginners. There was some weird distortion when I added the pieces on either side of the triangles, perhaps due to the fabric stretching out on the bias. Other than that, my only problem was wrestling the quilt through the neck of my sewing machine for the actual quilting. I sewed it up on my new/used Pfaff because of its built-in walking foot.

For all its imperfections, I'm proud to say my little quilt is made entirely from scraps and repurposed fabric. (Pats self on back for being environmentally conscious while entirely diregarding the fact that so much fabric was amassed in the first place.) Rather than traditional quilting cottons, my throw is made up of linen, cotton, a bed sheet (that's the grayish-blue background, quilt back, and binding), and even some printed gauze off an old blouse from Target.

It's going to live on my bed for the next few months. Perfect timing, too, as the temperature is starting to drop.  That's it for now. Thanks for reading and have a great week!

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Hackish: True Bias Lodo and Seamwork Tacara

Hello and Happy Halloween!  I'm here on the blog for a quick minute to share two recent makes. And I'm using the term "hack" quite broadly here, since, really, all I did was shorten two patterns designed for dresses into tops. Does that even count as a hack? 

I made both of these before I put together my fall/winter wardrobe planning list, so you can't accuse me of being distracted just yet...except,... I'm totally and hopelessly distracted.  It seems that since sorting through my stash, all I want to do is plan, read about, think about, and look at beautiful modern quilts. I am seriously smitten. 

Anyhoo, moving along...back to my hackish tops for now. The first one (pictured above) is a shortened True Bias Lodo. I've hacked this pattern before, so I knew it would work out. The key is just to make sure you have a very stable fabric. 

This top was all about the super special fabric I stumbled upon at Britex. It was one of those "I'm just going in to buy some thread" trips, and I ended up walking out with an expensive little treat for myself. The pattern is composed of a type of triskelion from Sicily known as Trinacria—a three-legged woman symbolizing Sicily. To be honest, I was unfamiliar with the motif. When I brought it home and showed Beej, he told me what it was. I sometimes forget what a smartie he is. 

Here's a closeup. 

Cool, huh? Okay, just a few details. 
  • The hack is pretty self-explanatory: You shorten to the desired length. 
  • Size 18 (largest)
  • The Lodo has one of my favorite necklines. It's a nice clean finish, doesn't warp or stretch out with washing, is not too low nor too high. 
  • Fabric was more than I usually pay for a knit—$39.99 per yard! Britex has a lot of Italian fabric. They tend to be pricey but of good quality. I'm keeping it out of the dryer so it, hopefully, doesn't fade too fast.
  • I purchased 1.5 yards and only have a few small morsels leftover. It's too stable for undies, so I'm not sure what I'll do with it. 
  • I used some black and white polka dot from my scraps for the facing and binding. 
  • Didn't bother with cover-stitching since the hem is nice and wide and doesn't stretch or flip. Just serged, turned up, and straight-stitched. 
  • Such a quick and easy make. Great for wearing under cardigans, comfy, and cute. 
Next up is a shortened Seamwork Tacara. I made this because I wanted a little knit break after working on my corduroy Stacker jacket. I had been thinking about making a new Tessuti Mandy Boatneck, but was feeling too lazy to put together the newly updated pdf pages and had tossed my old version out. That's when I remembered that I had made a Seamwork Tacara last year and that it was pretty similar. The rest is hackish history. 

Coincidentally, I just read Meg's new pattern comparison of Grainline's resized Hemlock and the Mandy. She also pointed out the similarities between the Tacara and the Mandy. I have just a few points to add to her excellent post. 
  • The Mandy and Tacara are indeed very similar, but the Tacara is around three or four inches wider. You can see this in my modeling pic where I show off the full wingspan. 
  • Both Mandy and Tacara rely on fitted lower sleeves to balance out the oversized body. You really need a knit with lots of stretch both ways. Bamboo rayon is perfect.
  •  I've been planning to try the new Grainline version, but after Meg's review I might just try the short sleeve as the fitted 3/4 sleeves are my favorite part. Otherwise, I think it would be too sloppy/slouchy and oversized for my short frame. 
  • I ended up, entirely by accident, sewing a perfect t-shirt band. I had planned to cut a narrow band and turn to the inside but was floating along on autopilot and sewed a too-wide band. I swear if I'd purposely tried to sew a perfect band, I would've screwed it up. 
  • Size 18, shortened to top length.
  • Fabric is bamboo rayon in spruce from Blackbird Fabrics that's been in my stash for over a year. It feels wonderful on the skin and has fantastic drape. 
I had enough scrap fabric to bust out two pairs of Frankie undies. Pattern by Evie La Luve and it's a good one!

So those are my hackish makes. Thanks for reading and have a great week.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Fall/Winter Sewing Plans

Hey there! I thought I'd better lay out my fall and winter sewing plans before fall's over. I really do love this time of year. I love the warm golden light, the crispness in the air, and, of course, planning all my upcoming projects. This year, I'm definitely shopping my stash and, after sorting through all my fabric recently, I'm also on a fabric diet until next spring. 0

First off, gotta have a cozy cardi for the fall/winter, right? I haven't tried the revised Blackwood version yet with cup sizes, so I'm excited about that. This fabric pictured here, a ribbed modal from Blackbird Fabrics, isn't exactly what I'll be using. I have a lovely mushroom-colored light sweater knit from Blackbird but forgot to take a picture. (BTW, this modal is on sale at Blackbird, like, right now.)

I'm already dreaming of lazy holidays and weekends spent lounging around in these flannel pjs. I found some red cotton in my scraps that I plan to use for the piping. Fabric is from Fabric Outlet in SF—that's Cali Fabrics for you online shoppers—and was purchased during one of their annual 40% sales. I really should make sure this is high up on the queue so I can prioritize lounging!

I will probably make a top version instead of this dress, but I'm not sure yet because a cozy knit dress is SO desirable in the winter months. If I go for a top, I'm picturing something with a  drawstring waist. Fabric is bamboo rayon from Blackwood; color is spice. 

I've noticed lately that my wardrobe is missing drapey button-up blouses. I've already FBA'd and cut this out and hope to finish up this weekend. Fabric is a cream-colored rayon from Britex with a bit of stretch that I bought ages ago. I think it will make a nice layering basic.

I had this fabric in mind for another pair of Pietra pants, which I have yet to blog about, but I think I want to line them for both comfort and swishability (technical term), and the Emersons seem easier to line. Fabric is a window pane crepe from Blackbird that I purchased over a year ago, I think.

Doesn't this fabric scream fall? (It's actually not quite this bright orange in real life, though.) I would like a simple, notched collar button-up in my wardrobe. Fabric is rayon crepe in persimmon from the Fabric Store. When I offered to make Beej another hoodie in merino, I somehow managed to convince him to buy this for me as well, since we were already paying for shipping. 

I love this linen so much and can't wait to sew it up. I'm not fully convinced that it wants to be a Wiksten, though. I don't even own the pattern. On the other hand, I've seen so many gorgeous Wikstens out there that the magnetic pull is hard to resist. Another option: Make a Cielo top with extended 3/4 sleeves. Fabric is from Blackbird.

So that should keep me busy through the holidays and January. I also have some altering projects and some gift-making as well. Seeing all these projects laid out is getting me excited and also makes me realize that I have a lot of really nice fabric which I'm excited to sew up.

The week is almost over. Have a fantastic weekend and thanks for reading!