Saturday, September 30, 2017

Kalle and Fen in the Big Easy

Do locals refer to New Orleans as "the Big Easy" or "Nola'? I know that here in San Francisco people don't really say "Frisco." Maybe it's the same thing. Anyway, whatever name you want to call it New Orleans is a magical town, full of lovely people and amazing music, art, and food. Beej and I just returned from our first visit and absolutely loved it. Adjusting to the heat and humidity was definitely a challenge for us, though, which is why I made a few things that were suitable for warmer weather but that will still be appropriate for life at home.

I'll start with the Kalle shirt.

Man I love this pattern! The blue popover version I made in August is one of those magical garments that always makes me feel fantastic when I put it on. So it was a no brainer to make another, this time with the full placket. I should note that even though I'm wearing it open, it buttons up just fine. I'm afraid that the fabric I chose--a rayon linen voile in ivory by Blackbird Fabrics--is just too sheer to wear without a camisole. Since I didn't have a white camisole, I wore it over a chambray Ogden Cami. (BTW, I had an idea while on vacation to try hacking the Ogden straps and soft v-neck, which are just perfect, with the Cashmerette Springfield. With the better fitting bust of the Springfield, it seems like it would be the best of both worlds. Hope to try that soon.)

Next up is a pattern that I really struggled to make work for me--the Fen by Fancy Tiger Crafts.

I've been obsessed with day dresses for a while now. I was never much of a dress person before I started sewing, but these days I really like casual dresses that make getting dressed so fast and easy and seem so effortless. I became fixated on the Fen because of the loose shape and casual vibe and went through a number of steps and adjustments. Unfortunately, I don't think it's quite right for me so I'll be moving on to another dress pattern. I think the wide neck and shoulders of the bodice and lack of fullness in the skirt emphasize my top heavy/inverted triangle shape. On the bright side, it was very comfortable for walking around in 90 degree weather. Also, the color is gorgeous, and I think it will get a lot of wear over leggings this winter with my black Blackwood Cardigan. I think a dark, close-fitting cardigan will help to visually bring in the wide neck.

In the interest of learning and recording my adjustments, here are the details:

  • Size 18 with 1.5" FBA. 
  • Changed dress neckline to V-neck by tracing V from top pattern piece onto dress bodice.
  • Made a facing for the v-neck. The pattern calls for binding. 
  • Shortened skirt by 1.5 inches.
  • Straightened skirt hem. Sara, who made an absolutely gorgeous Fen, posted how to do this here
  • Hemmed sleeves as instructed but shortened skirt hem--1/4" fold fold followed by 1" fold.
  • I actually made a wearable muslin in an inexpensive challis and narrowed the v-neck on the second version by 1/4". Should have narrowed even more. 
  • Fabric is a stretch linen from Blackbird Fabrics. I think it's gone now. One thing to note about stretch linen is that it's not quite as cool as other linens. I assume this has to do with the synthetic content that gives it stretch. It would have probably been more suitable for pants. 

One final note about vacation clothes before I start dreaming about coats and sweaters: the Vogue 1247 Rachel Comey mini I made way back in 2015 deserves an honorable mention because it's the perfect travel garment. Not only did it go with everything and takes up very little space in my suitcase, but those inseam pockets, which admittedly look a bit like a cafe apron, were perfect for my phone and glasses when we visited NOMA. I'm wearing it here with Ignatius Reilly from "A Confederacy of Dunces"--one of the funniest fictional characters ever.

Well, that's all I have today. Back to reality on Monday, but until them I'm still in vacation mode. Thank you very much for reading and have a fantastic weekend!

Sunday, September 10, 2017

The World's Easiest Tee: Hey June Santa Fe

Hello! A more accurate title for this post would be "How I Screwed Up the World's Easiest Tee." (And now I can hear my mother's voice in my head, "Say 'messed up.' It sounds nicer.") So, the recent spate of hot weather, along with an impending vacation, led me to notice that I desperately need some short sleeve tops. I recalled the Hey June Santa Fe as quick and easy, with the kind of swingy shape that I like to wear, and decided to knock out some quick tees.

I've actually made the Santa Fe a couple of times before, incorrectly that is, and even blogged a velvet Anthro-knock off version here.  My last version was a little too big, so I decided to cut down to a 1X at the top, grading to the 2X under the sleeve. I also went for view C instead of view F, which is a raglan. I love sewing up raglans, and love the fit of my Claire coat, but the last few raglan tees have looked/felt sloppy on me.

Even though version C is the world's easiest tee, I decided to make it even easier by eliminating the center seam (there's a line in the pattern to cut for this-- no measuring, Yay!) and cutting both front and back on the fold--ideal for striped fabric.

Since I was going down a size, I made this practice version in some inexpensive green knit from Fabric Outlet. I think because I was dealing with something as simple as a tee--a type of garment I've made many, many times before--I didn't look at the instructions carefully. However, I did have the instructions open and when it was time to add the sleeve bands noticed the illustration which showed the band being sewn to the wrong side of the garment. I assumed this was a mistake and disregarded the instructions.

I was even going to post on instagram, "Hey, be warned! There's an error here." Yeah, glad I didn't do that. Later, when assembling my second version (the magenta and black stripe), I revisited the instructions to confirm that the illustration was incorrect, but this time I actually turned to the next page only to find that the illustration wasn't a mistake at all. Turns out, the sleeves are cuffs meant to be turned up, which is why they're sewn to the wrong side first. Also, the neck is not a band but rather a binding. Subtle but important distinctions here.

Since I had done some pretty decent stripe matching, there was no way in hell I was going to unpick my serged threads and change course for the magenta/black version. I can live with the sleeve bands; they're actually more cardigan-friendly anyway. For the neckline, I used some black ribbing that I keep in my stash because I love, love, love tees with ribbed bands. Seriously, I would keep ribbing in more colors if I thought I could accurately match it with my tee shirt knits. But as I mentioned previously, the neck pattern piece is a binding piece instead of a band, so I lopped off about 15% (I just eyeballed it) and turned it into a band neckline. The instructions offer this as an option.

For the navy/gray version, I went with the instructions as written. I really like how the cuff turned out.

I did, however, make one tiny change to the neckline. Instead of having the binding show on the front of the garment, I sewed it to the right side, turned the binding inward, and topstitched it down. I made this decision based on a distaste for striped necklines. When it comes to neck bands, or bindings for that matter, I never know what to do with striped fabrics. Do you go with stripes running the same way and risk that it might look uneven or interrupt the pattern and scale? Or do you cut the neck piece so that the stripes run in the opposite direction? I don't really like either option and tend to avoid it at all cost. (That's why the Mandy boat neck tee is one of my favorite patterns for stripes. )

Here's another reason why this is the World's Easiest Tee (even when sewed together correctly): With a wide neckline and very wide hem, there's no need for a double needle. I simply lengthened my stitch slightly and sewed a straight stitch for both. I used fusible binding tape to stabilize the hem but didn't need it for the neckline. Also, even though this pattern has a swing shape, it's not so swingy (like the the Closet Case Patterns Ebony) that stripe matching is difficult--even for less-than-fastidious sewers such as myself. 

One last note about the striped fabric. Both are from Blackbird Fabrics (I feel like Blackbird is achieving cult status or something. It's definitely becoming quite a habit for me.) Both color ways are comprised of 66% bamboo rayon, 28% cotton, and 6% spandex. Whenever I touch these knits, the word that keeps popping into my brain is luscious. They are soft, stretchy, opaque without being too thick, and have excellent drape. And they're just...luscious. 

I'll leave you with a modeling photo. The fit is oversized, and probably not for everyone, but I think I'll wear the hell out of both of them. Thanks so much for reading and have a wonderful week. 

Monday, September 4, 2017

Underneath It All: Claudia, Frankie, and Celeste

Hey there! Happy Labor Day to those in the U.S. We had a heatwave for a few days in San Francisco with temperatures reaching 104 degrees. No bueno in a small, top floor apartment without AC.  I'm thankful for the inevitable fog that's cooled us down now and will try to refrain from complaining about foggy summers in the future. While I impatiently waited for a white rayon linen voile to arrive so that I can make another Kalle shirt, I made up some frilly knickers. You would think that with my many posts about making underwear, I wouldn't have anything new to say. Well, my friend, you would be wrong. I even had to draft a rough outline so that I could remember all of my links, tutorials, and random musings.

In the past, my underwear making has been more closely tied to frugality and practical purposes. I find having too many fabric scraps overwhelming, so I often make up a pair of undies right after a knit project since both machines are already threaded with matching colors and the correct needles. In fact, I'm so good about using up my scraps that sometimes when I'm in an underwear-making mood (more on that in a minute), I have to find fabric by cutting up old jersey tops and failed/unworn sewing projects like I did here.

Recently I found myself between projects in just such a mood. As usual, I didn't have a lot of large-enough scraps, but I had picked up some stretch lace at Fabric Outlet and decided to focus less on practicality and more on pretty. To my delight, I also discovered a new pattern in my stash that I'd forgotten about.  Then, while looking at sewing tutorials online, I discovered a new lingerie pattern maker. So many discoveries on a Saturday.

First up are the Claudia Hipster Panties, by Ohhh Lulu. It's a super cute pattern. The finished result always looks so much bigger than RTW, but then you put them on and they fit great. I love that you can use lace for the back and the sweet, feminine shape. For the fuschia pair, I cut up a worn-once tee in a lovely bamboo rayon. The white pair is made from a stretch knit (poly and rayon, I think) I had initially purchased to line a long-abandoned knit project. I covered the middle piece with sheer lace, dabbing a little with a fabric glue stick and then basting together. They were starting to look a little bridal, so I trimmed with black elastic.

Whenever I make undies, I want to make a million pairs. Not exactly like assembly line style, more like I want to spend hours and hours experimenting and then throw them all on my bed and admire them. (Kind of like in heist movies, or when people hit a big jackpot when gambling, and they throw all the money on the bed and roll around in it.) I didn't actually roll around in my undies, but I did gaze admiringly. 

These are made with the Ohhh Lulu Celeste pattern. I used the free version. I only had a little of the fuschia bamboo rayon and one maroon scrap, so I experimented with mesh lace for the back. They turned out so cute, and I was so happy that I had randomly bought some stretch lace. Sewing bloggers talk a lot about sewing with intent and out-of-control stashes, but sometimes it's really nice to have a collection to play with when the mood strikes you. As for laundering, I was concerned that the mesh would fall apart immediately, but so far they've held up well. I wash them inside a lingerie bag so they don't get too manhandled in the main wash. I've also kept them out of the dryer.

When I blogged about the Celeste undies before, I mentioned discovering a treasure trove of underwear-making youtube videos. In fact, I'm reposting this video about sewing leg elastic that rocked my world. This time I discovered videos by a new-to-me lingerie pattern maker--Evie La Luve. Her aesthetic is similar to Ohhh Lulu, and she has a ton of helpful tutorials. Here's a link to a free high-waist undie if you want to check her out. I decided to try the Frankie pants. They have a few cute lace overlay pattern pieces and include instructions for a multitude of variations. I made an unblogged practice pair out of an old jersey top, wore them all day, and found them to be very comfortable. (BTW, I made the largest size for all patterns mentioned in this blog post. Ohhh Lulu recently expanded her size range to XXL (43" hip size). I'm hoping that we'll see that trend expand to become more inclusive.)

The neon lace pair are lined with the ivory poly I mentioned previously. They feel a little like swimsuit bottoms with the double layer. I had to try. It's so easy to experiment when the projects are on such a small scale.

The main thing I want to say about these knickers is this: Enclosed crotch seams. Total game changer. Here's a link to her very excellent and clear video on how to enclose crotch seams. It's similar to the burrito method in shirt making but even easier. The bottom photo shows another pair from the back view. They were sewn from an old, well-loved and well-worn, Anthro tank that had shrunk up over time.

I thought a lot about the colors I'm drawn to and the notion of indoor/outdoor and seen/unseen clothes while I made these. The clothes I choose to wear on the outside are very different from my underwear palette. I would never wear neon lace on the outside, but underneath it's so appealing to me. At some point, I'd like to explore this aspect of my personal aesthetic further by making some colorful pajamas and a luxurious robe/kimono.

If you like making underwear, I would suggest keeping a box of elastic, lace, colorful and interesting fabric scraps, and stretch mesh to play with. Let yourself go crazy and choose colors that you might not choose for a top or dress. At the end of the day, this sewing thing shouldn't feel like a chore; it should be fun.

Thanks so much for reading and have a great week!

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Charlie Caftan: This Was Not the Plan

Hello and Happy Hump Day! So I wasn't going to blog this Charlie Caftan for a couple reasons: First, I ended up being kind of meh about this project. It's cute but not really something I'm clamoring to wear. And second, I felt a little like a lemming for purchasing this pattern. It's well documented here at the Duckndam that I love Closet Case Patterns. I've made a ton of Ebony tops, proudly wore my Claire coat all last winter, and, of course, I showed you my Kalle shirt last week, which is one my happiest recent makes. But I guess caftans don't really fit my lifestyle and personal style. I just got caught up in seeing so many lovely caftans and wanted to play along.

So, yeah, why bother blogging about something that is probably going to end up as a pair of dinner napkins? Well, I ended having a caftan-appropriate place to wear it. Beej and I went to Lake Tahoe last weekend to celebrate both my birthday and our 9th wedding anniversary. It was handy to have a cool, airy dress to wear while walking around.

It looks pretty good from the front, with the inset panel providing the optical illusion of a smaller waist. It doesn't look very good from the side, though. Partly, I think, because my fabric is a bit stiff and sits too far away from my body. It's actually an interesting fabric--double sided linen with solid navy on the other side, which is the side I used for the inset panel. It's very similar to a double gauze with a very loose weave. So loose, in fact, that I ended up snagging it on a wooden chair. But like I said, this will probably be a set of napkins by the end of the summer, so I'm not too heartbroken. I did enjoy sewing the inset panel because it was an interesting construction. Be warned, there's hand sewing involved. I made the largest size (I think) and shortened it by a few inches. 

In other news, Beej gave me ceramics classes for our anniversary and a Britex gift certificate for my birthday. It makes me so happy to have creative endeavors to look forward to, and I love that he encourages that part of me. After our walk on Sunday, I was so happy and content to have the afternoon to draw in my journal and let my mind wander while feeling inspired by the beautiful mountains and trees around me. 

I have a backlog of projects to blog right now, so hopefully I'll be able to share some more makes soon. I hope you're able to find time doing something that puts you in your happy place. Thank you for reading and have a lovely week. 

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Kalle Love

Hello there! Hope you're having a good weekend so far. Beej and I went out after work last night--a rare occasion for us--and feasted on Chinese food (at Fang) and improv (Binge Watch and Pockets at Piano Fight). Now I'm just kicking it and drinking my third cup of tea as I ease myself into the weekend. 

So, obviously, I'm here today to share my notes about (and enthusiasm for) the Closet Case Patterns Kalle Shirt/dress. What a popular pattern--and with good reason! It's so versatile with three lengths (cropped, tunic, dress), band or full collar, popover placket, full, and hidden. Everything is interchangeable, so you can choose your own adventure. I went, of course, for the tunic length, in dark blue, naturally. Hey, my choices may not be exciting but at least I know what I like. 

I began this project feeling slightly overwhelmed and reluctant to spend a lot of time on the first go, so I chose the band collar and popover placket because it was less work. However, due to the kimono style sleeve and generous amount of ease it comes together pretty quickly, so next time I would like to try the full collar and placket. I find shirtmaking a little scary but ultimately very satisfying. I tried to push away the paralyzing notion of perfection and just kept moving forward. My final version is definitely not without flaws, but I still feel proud, and rather stylish, wearing it. I love, love, love the curved hem. It really helps to balance the length/oversized design and keeps it from looking tent-like. I used a fabulous tencil twill from Blackbird fabrics. It's a little heavy for a blouse, but the weight makes it drape so nicely. 

Here's a classy bathroom pic for you. 

Here are the deets:
  • Size 20, no FBA. This is an easy, oversized fit, so I would probably be wise to cut a size 18 with an FBA next time. In fact, I was surprised at how high/low my high/low was (although I didn't mind); however, I'm sure it wouldn't be quite so pronounced if I had done an FBA.
  • I shortened at the "shorten here" line by 2 inches. I think I'll shorten another 1.5 next time.
  • Used self fabric (bias strip pattern piece included), which helps to make a nice smooth curve. It was still really hard to fold the fast fraying twill under by 1/4 inch. I suppose a lighter weight fabric would be easier. I also may just use store-bought bias tape next time. The packaged stuff is pretty stiff, but I've noticed some handmade tape on Etsy that might be softer. Or, of course, I could make some.
  • Slowing down on curves: I don't know why, but I have this habit of speeding up when sewing curves, like I just want to get it over with or I think it's going to go smoother if I do it faster. I used to drive this way, too, until my dad--naturally a concerned passenger--brought it to my attention.
  • I had some trouble getting the sleeve cuffs to fit. It might have been a cutting error because I sewed them together pretty carefully. Also, catching the inside fold while topstitching the outside cuff didn't work out so well. I will probably just hand stitch a few missed spots.
  •  I went for the inverted pleat in back--my favorite. 
So that's it. For my next version, I'd like to make one in white. I would shorten the back because even though I like the high/low, I think it would be a bit odd to have another shirt in exactly the same style. I'd also like to take a crack at the hidden button placket. But right now I've got day dresses and vacation sewing on the brain. Another Kalle will have to wait.

Have a fabulous weekend and thanks so much for checking out my project. 

Monday, July 24, 2017

My Little Sewing Space

Hey there! Hope you had a nice weekend. I spent mine getting organized, something I've been wanting to do for a long time, and it felt soooo good! Even though I love seeing other people's creative sewing spaces, I never planned to share mine because:  a.) I don't have a sewing room so my work is spread across my apartment, and b.) It's always been a messy disaster and not beautiful and perfect like so many sewing studios I find myself gazing at. But I'm proud of the work I did to make my space more organized this weekend and, like William de Vaughn says, "Be thankful for what you got."

So my sewing happens in three parts of my apartment: Ironing in the bedroom, serging, cutting, and pattern adjusting in the living room, and stitching in the kitchen. Part of this has to do with the fact that our building was built in the 1920s, and we often blow fuses if we overtax any one outlet. Our living room is actually pretty spacious, and I can have a little cutting table in it without encroaching too much into our living space. There was just way too much visual clutter; I mainly wanted to do something about this eyesore below. 

I found the table on the street (yay, street treat!). If you look at the legs, you will see that they are a good four inches off the floor because of the storage unit below. It means I couldn't move things around and almost tipped over my serger more than once. 

Ta da! So. Much. Better! I can even throw a tablecloth on top and set up a bar if I decide to have a party. The table's cutting space doubles by lifting up the other hinged side. Also, it's on casters so I can move it easily. Here's what it looks like full size -- i.e., with the hinged half of the table up.

The cabinet space really helps to reduce the clutter. I've got my serger, interfacing in the Britex bag, small pieces stash (for small projects, natch), iron, bag of elastic, and a current project all folded up waiting for when I'm ready to work on it some more. I purchased the table on Amazon. I can't in good conscience recommend it. It's what you would expect for less than $200 bucks - cardboard/particle board, etc. For my space and budget, though, it works really well, so I'm happy even if it is a little janky. Also, I have to personally own some of the jankiness since I'm the one who assembled it. It took most of the day on Saturday. (Hilariously, the instructions estimated 50 minutes to assemble.)

The great thing about tidying up, is that it motivated me to organize some other areas. Here's a before and after of my stash. I organized by fabric type -- knits, rayons, cottons, special fabrics (e.g., lace, etc.) This isn't quite everything as I had a number of new additions in the wash. 

The white cube-thingy is mostly filled with patterns. 
I also have one of those Ikea trolleys that everyone else has. I don't have a before and after, so just imagine a "before" with a bunch of crap hanging off it. The dresser is almost entirely filled with craft supplies and scraps of fabric. Crazy, right?

And finally, since I'm in a sharing mood...Here's a pic of the other side of the living room where Beej and I chill. I'm standing next to the couch when I pose in new outfits or position Eva in front of the French doors. The kilim pillows were a fairly recent Etsy purchase, and I absolutely love them. They're a little scratchy since they're made from rugs, so I turn them over to the other side when I'm curled up and it's just perfect.

Thanks for checking out my humble abode. Have a great week! 

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Cashmerette Webster

Hey there! Hope you're having a good week. It's pork chop Wednesday here in my house, which means that Beej does the cooking (usually pork chops -- hence the name), and I get to relax, look at blogs, work on projects, etc. I spent some time cleaning my serger and modifying a pattern and decided that was enough work for a Wednesday night. Then I realized that it's been a while since I wrote about my latest projects so here I am.

So, the Webster by Cashmerette...what a cute pattern! I was immediately smitten. When Jenny first announced her pattern company for curvy ladies that would include different cup sizes, I was beyond excited. I mean, I think I'm in the key demographic since I really need to FBA everything I make. Strangely, though, I haven't made a Cashmerette pattern that's really thrilled me yet. There was this very well fitting, albeit poorly sewn, Springfield and a couple of Concords that I didn't even blog about, but overall I haven't made anything I'm super pleased with. I have a couple of theories: First, since it's a new company, she's been designing a number of basics that fill a hole in the market but are not the most exciting to make. Second, and more importantly, you really need to consider your comfort level in terms of how close fitting you want the bust to be. The patterns are designed to fit curvy plus ladies close to the bust, providing an alternative to the many oversized tent-like patterns in the plus size market, and I definitely prefer not to have my bust featured too prominently.  I've probably been conditioned over the years to gravitate to looser clothing--both from growing up in the oversized '80s and from trying to escape the unwanted attention and unsolicited comments that can come from having a large bust. Now that I'm middle-aged and invisible this is less of an issue, but old habits are hard to break. And finally, there are also just certain styles that we gravitate towards, and personally I like the look of clothes that are loose and flowy and a bit oversized. So with Cashmerette patterns, I think I'm still figuring out the ideal silhouette and amount of bust ease for me.

With the loose fit and opportunity to use silky fabric, the Webster seemed more like something I would be interested in wearing. For this version, I could tell pretty early in that it was going to be too big, so I rushed finishing and pretty much botched the back. It's okay, though, because once I realized the size was off, I knew it would only be worn under a cardigan. You might wonder how it is that I made a well-fitting Springfield and then managed to get this one so wrong. Apparently, I didn't bother to read my own blog to check the size I used previously and made an 18 GH instead of an 16 EF. What the hell was I thinking? Total brain fart, I tell you. Good thing this was an inexpensive voile from Fabric Outlet and only intended to be a wearable muslin.

So now that I've chastised myself for spacing out over the size and relived humiliating high school memories, I want to talk about something else--marking fabric with printed pdf patterns. Those little tracing wheels just don't work for me with the thick copy paper. Hell, they barely work with thin pattern paper. I've tried punching holes with an awl and using different types of mark-making tools such as chalk, those white pencils that barely make a mark, and frixion pens, which are no bueno for dark fabrics. None of these have worked very well for me. I'm not sure if this is "legal," but I had this idea to cut out the dart and trace the inside with a chaco pen. I think I'm on to something. Can anyone think of a reason why this might not be a good idea? I've been teaching myself to sew from sewing blogs, so I really value input from experienced seamstresses on stuff like this.

Finally, here's a pic of me wearing it as intended--i.e., covered with a Blackwood cardigan from Helen's Closet. I've been making lots of cut sleeve styles lately, so it's actually great to have something without sleeves that fits so well under a cardi.  I like that there's very little gaping despite the size goof and that it's designed so that your bra doesn't show. Very clever.  Will definitely make another version in the next cup size down.

Nothing says glamorous blogger like ladies room phone snap at work.  I should really quit trying so hard. :)

Thanks so much for reading about my project. Hope you have a fabulous week!