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!

Wednesday, October 16, 2019


Hi! Hope you're having a splendid week. So I spent last weekend sorting and organizing my scraps which I REALLY needed to do. There were random bags of fabric taking over my closet, and it was starting to stress me out.  The best part of sorting is all the ideas that started formulating as I remembered I had a piece of this and piece of that and started looking at colors and textures next to each other. Then, of course, I think of the amount of time it takes to actually sew up all this stuff in my head, which then brings me back to reality. 

I did, however, manage to do a bit of scrapbusting in the form of two pillows. I love my kilim rug pillows, but they're not the softest.  Beej and I always have to turn them over to the non-kilim side to avoid scratching our faces. 

First up is my foray into proper quilting. (I did make a patchwork blanket many years back, but I knew even less then, and I wasn't really following any kind of directions or pattern.) This is the Kalaloch pillow from the book Simple Geometric Quilting, by Laura Preston. (By the way, not promoting or monetizing, etc. Just randomly found it on instagram.) This is a great beginner project because it's easy yet yields an advanced-looking result. It's also great for scrapbusting because, with the exception of the background color, it doesn't require very much fabric at all. I used a natural colored linen for the main fabric, purchased from Stonemountain. It photographs a  little lighter than it actually is. Upon receiving it,  I quickly decided it wouldn't be a good garment color on me—would totally wash me out—so I'm happy to have found another use for it. The colored scraps include some linen/silk blend from my DnD Nenuphar jacket, a linen/viscose noil from an unblogged top, and tweed pieces from a coat I bought in Hong Kong nearly two decades ago. I really need to purge more often.

The triangle pillow was something simple I just winged because I loved the way the Nenuphar fabric looked with the gold corduroy scraps. 

I created a pattern like so: 

And just added a 1/4" inch SA. I also interfaced the pink and natural linen so that they would stand up to the corduroy. I continued with the scrapbusting and made insert pillows out of other, less desirable, scraps. Overall, very happy with both projects. 

Now I just have this left to bust...

Sigh. I know, that's a crazy amount of scraps. But at least they're logically sorted so that I can find what I'm looking for easier or grab the tub of knits when I'm in an underwear-making mood. I think I will return to my past system of building scrapbusting projects in between full stash projects to keep things under control. I'm excited to learn more about quilting, and I have an idea for a wall hanging and some new pillow shams for the bedroom. It's also time to cool it (again) with fabric buying for a while. 

I did joke with Beej that I should open an Etsy shop named Scrapbustin'. In my case, though, I'd have to fill it with pillow covers and underwear which seems super specific. :)

I would love to know if anyone out there has any scrapbusting tips—particularly for heavy (ponte, etc.) knits and rayon wovens. 

Thanks for reading and enjoy the rest of your week!

Friday, October 11, 2019

Sewing Baby Stuff

Hello and Happy Friday! Wouldja look at that, another post so quickly following the last. Amazing.  Actually, this is just a quickie post to catalog my experience with a new craft book, Handmade Animal Dolls, by Melissa Lowry. (By the way, I'm not on some kind of promo tour. No one "reached out" or "offered to collaborate" with me. I just had a baby shower to go to and wanted to make a cute baby gift.)

First off, the book is so stinkin' cute. It includes 20 animal patterns, from simple to complex with all kinds of animals such as sloths, koalas, pandas, badgers, etc. I had SO much fun just looking through all the adorable patterns. For the past 7 or 8 years (at least), I've eschewed buying craft/sewing books due to both money- and space-saving concerns. I live two blocks away from a great library, from which I can reserve for pick-up any books I want from the City of San Francisco's collection. However, since this is a new book and I had a party to go to, I went ahead and bit the bullet. I have lots of felt leftover, and it's great for scraps, so I'm hoping to make some more animals around the holidays. Maybe the People's Sewing Army will coordinate a mission for kids in need where I can participate.

The book is divided into three sections, starting from small and simple to larger and more complex. I chose from the middle section. It makes for a small toy, approximately 10 inches, which is a good size for babies and toddlers. Sewing the pieces together was very straightforward, but, man-oh-man, were those 1/8 " seam allowances tough. I was quite happy to return to 3/8 and 5/8 SAs afterwards.

I was delighted to discover that the parents-to-be had chosen a pink and gold theme because I happened to have some small pieces in my stash that were perfect. The body is made from a pink with gold polka dot cotton from Fabric Worm that I bought ages ago. The skirt is made from the softest, smoothest organic cotton lawn with an early Lisa Congdon design. I bought both pieces back before I had really come to understand my personal palette preferences (say that three times fast). I also had bought such a small quantity, that I couldn't really do much with them. 

The facial features (eyes, nose, mouth) are created by felting on wool roving so as to avoid any small parts that could fall off, be swallowed, etc. I was a little intimidated since I'd never felted before—and the book doesn't offer any felting instructions—but it's actually quite easy, and kind of relaxing. I worked on this while sitting in bed on a Sunday morning. 

While it's not quite perfect (I can see that one arm is longer than the other), I still think it's sweet. 

I made a matching sundress/top because the idea was so cute I just couldn't stand it! The pattern is by ShakaLaka Patterns, which can be found on Etsy. There are options for a dress, top, and romper to choose from. I found the instructions super simple and like that there are no fastenings. My plan was to make a pair of bloomers in the leftover polka dot, but I ran out of time. 

So that's a little unselfish sewing for you. I can now go back to making tons of clothes for myself, right? :) Thanks so much for reading and if you're off on Monday like I am, have an awesome long weekend!

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Papercut Patterns: Stacker Jacket

Well, hello! It's been a while, hasn't it? So long, in fact, that I'm bypassing my summer sewing projects in favor of this fall jacket I just made. I plan to catch up this month, though, and need to record my mods for the CCP Rome collection and talk about my summer travels. So hope to be back with more posts soon. 

I made the Papercut Patterns Stacker Jacket from their recent Rubix collection. I've had mixed results with Papercut Patterns in the past, but I do love their pretty patterns/packaging/styling and could not resist the pull of a cropped corduroy jacket for fall. I mean, corduroy just screams autumn to me—totally reminds me of back-to-school clothes that were always a little too heavy to wear in Southern California September and October but I just couldn't wait to wear my new clothes. I also really needed an in-between jacket. I have my DnD Opium coat for cold weather and my CCP anorak for rainy/windy days, but I didn't have a light layer to wear over a light blouse or sweater on crisp fall days.

And I sewed this up on my new/used Pfaff sewing machine! I'd been thinking about getting a Pfaff for quite a while and finally bit the bullet when I recently found one on Craigslist. My Singer sews a pretty nice-looking seam, but it doesn't handle thick layers very well. I've already christened my Pfaff "Hans the Mountain Climber" because it effortlessly climbs over anything. I plan to write an extended review on my new Pfaff and how it compares with my Singer once I have a few more projects under my belt.

The fabric is a lovely soft black corduroy from Blackbird fabrics with a bit of stretch. I shopped my stash for the entire project, using wooden buttons and blue voile (for the lining) from my stash. As the project started coming together and I realized how cute it was going to be, I started thinking about custom details to make it a bit more special. My major change was to redraft the pockets because as soon as I put on a jacket, the first thing I want to do is thrust my hands in the pockets, and as-drafted the pockets don't allow for that. I also made a custom pocket for my phone, which I LOVE!

So, without further ado, here's a full-length toilet selfie followed by the deets/mods. 

The deets:
  • Size 7 (second to largest). There is quite a bit of ease in the jacket and, I find, in Papercut patterns in general. So I made a quickie muslin of the bodice and found that the 7 worked well. 
  • Shortened the sleeves by 3/4", which is a standard mod for me. This is a really cropped jacket, even for my 5'2" frame. If you're tall, I would recommend lengthening the torso and sleeves.
  • Changed buttons from 4 to 5. (I tend to like the way odd numbers look better.) The wooden buttons were a compromise based on what I had in my stash, but now I really like them. I like the definition they give to the jacket. 
  • As mentioned, I changed the pockets so that I could put my hands in the pockets. I went through a couple of different versions before finally just tracing a rough outline over my anorak pockets and adding seam allowances. I ended up making them a bit smaller to fit onto the jacket and placed them far forward for easy access. 
  • This comes together very quickly. There's no collar stand or separate placket piece. Just a fun, simple little jacket. 
  • Sleeves are slightly dropped and very easy to insert. I didn't need to baste and gather the sleeve head or anything, but maybe that's because my fabric has a bit of stretch. 
So that's the story on my new fall jacket. Hope you have a fabulous week and hope to be blogging again very soon. Cheers!