Sunday, June 18, 2017

Mandy Boat Neck: A Cautionary Tale




Hello, Hello! Hope you're having a fab weekend. Due to a busy week that led to weekend napping--along with a certain someone's snoring--I find myself wide awake in the middle of the night and in a blogging mood.

I consider the Mandy Boat Tee by Tessuti to be one of my TNT patterns. I love the boxy shape, and it looks so classic when sewn up in stripes. My favorite elements are the turned back neckline (no unnecessary drama with a neck band) and the slightly fitted sleeves, which serve as an anchor to help hold the oversized top in place. So when I bought this lovely 75% Polyester/17% Cotton/8%Linen Knit from Blackbird Fabrics with the perfect stripe I confidently set out to make another fab, striped Mandy tee. (It's funny how sewing changes the way you look at things. I only became obsessed with stripe proportion once I started looking carefully at textiles.) Anyhoo, I was so focused on the stripe aspect that I neglected to think about stretch percentage. This particular fabric doesn't have a lot of stretch (maybe 10%?) probably due to the linen content, and, as a result, I ended up with a top with uncomfortably tight arms and an awkward fit around the shoulders. I've definitely gained weight in the last year (Some people call it the Trump ten; it's probably more like the Trump twenty for me.), but the thing is my other Mandy tees still fit me just fine. I figured it had to be the fabric.



To ensure longevity, I had taken all the extra steps--e.g., stabilizing the shoulder seam and hem with fusible bias tape, conscientious stripe matching, and adding a side split hem. (Aren't side split hems the best? I want them on all my tees these days. If you're like me and tend to forget how to do them, here's a good tutorial from the Creative Counselor with lots of helpful close-up pics.)

After all that extra work and finding the perfect stripe and all, there was no way I was going to give up and throw it in the Goodwill pile. After unpicking the serged sleeves (bummer), I dug out my recently sewn Hey June Santa Fe tee pattern and used the sleeve bands. The nice thing about knits is you don't have to worry about exact measurements. Even with this fabric's limited stretch, I was able to ease them on just fine.

So all in all it worked out just fine. In fact, we're having a spate of warm weather here in my usually foggy neighborhood, so the short sleeves are perfect right now. A note for my future Mandys: They tend to hit a little too high at the neckline, no doubt due to my large bust pushing the neck up. I will lower the neck by 1.5 inches and also extend the length by 2.5 when sewing a side split hem.

Here's a goofy pic of me on the street car because blog posts are no fun without pictures.. (Yes, another on my way to work pic.)  Have a fantastic rest of your weekend. Cheers!

Monday, May 29, 2017

Blackbird Knits: Tees and Undies



Hello! Look at me blogging two weeks in a row.  I'm on a roll! So this is going to be a quickie (I think) as I take advantage of the three day weekend to get my blog caught up with projects. Namely, some tee shirts made with some of these absolutely lovely knits from Blackbird Fabrics. In addition to the knits shown above, I also bought some tencel twill and even a satin jacquard. I kind of went a little crazy, to be honest, and do not need to do any fabric shopping for while. (Yeah, right.) See below for a picture of the whole lot.


One benefit of my recent splurge is that Blackbird has a curated collection based, I assume, on the owner's taste. I love the understated colors that she chooses--the deep blues, charcoal, almond, and burgundy--and feel like they will become clothes that I'm more likely to wear in my real life.

So I kept it simple and made one Hey June Santa Fe top and two Closet Case Ebony tees. It was good to compare the different styles to help me figure out what works best for me. All three tees are made from a Slubby Organic Cotton and Bamboo Knit. All fabric arrived individually wrapped, affixed with a low tack sticker that explained the  composition and country of origin, which was so very helpful. Even if my clothes look like I bought them at Gap, at least I know I'm wearing knits that are 55% organic cotton and 45% bamboo rayon.

For this version I made size 2X of View C, which, when cut on the fold, is essentially a front and back sewn together. For my next version I will size down to a 1X since there's so much ease. It fits large all over and that can feel a little sloppy. The neckband feels a bit skinny and the neck seems overall a bit too wide. Maybe that won't be a problem when I size down. On a positive note, it has great drape and the sleeve cuffs are such a nice finish.



For this version I sewed up a size 18 of the crop version but lengthened it by three inches. I also used the jewel neckline. Overall, I prefer this to the Hey June because it's more fitted at the neck and shoulders while still retaining the swingy shape that I like to wear. Next time, though, I will lengthen another two inches. Even though I prewashed, the fabric shrunk a bit more. Also, the swingy shape means it billows up like a parachute at every gust of wind. That wouldn't bother me as much if it were a little longer.

This charcoal is the exact same as the burgundy, so nothing to add. However, I would like to blog about my favorite way of finishing the bottom hem and sleeve. I haaaate breaking out my walking foot. It's always such a pain in the ass to get back on. My hands are just too big and can never get at quite the right angle. Anyway, so for knits like this that do not have negative ease in the hem or sleeve, I like to use 3/8" fusible bias tape stabilizer. (Not an affiliate link.) Basically, it stabilizes so that the knit isn't stretchy anymore. Because it's not stretchy, I can sew with a hem and not worry about stretching it out or puckers or any of the other problems that can occur.

I bought a bit too much of the burgundy and charcoal fabric (2 meters), while the blue was the perfect amount (1 meter). So, of course, I made a couple of pairs of my latest favorite bikini--Celeste by Ohhh Lulu. I'm always trying to reduce clutter, and sewing up underwear with my scraps helps me get rid of the excess fabric quickly. Otherwise, it will end up in a bag in my closet never to be seen or heard from again.


Normally, grey underwear makes me sad, but this fabric is so soft on the skin it HAD to be made into undies. Fortunately, I still have some fold over elastic from a Peak Bloom grab bag I bought in September of 2014. It felt good to use up a few more bits and bobs. I didn't have matching thread, so I just picked a pretty salmon pink. If you're like me and always forget how to sew foldover elastic, Ohhh Lulu has a really great resource of video tutorials on youtube.  In the future, I would like to figure out a way to avoid the doubling of stitches on the underside, but these will do for now.

ETA: I almost forgot the reason why I wanted to blog the Celeste undies again: Sarah Norwood (Ohhh Lulu) has a couple of videos that show a different construction technique so that you sew the elastic before joining the sides. I definitely need more practice joining the sides evenly, but overall I love this technique. No measuring, no worrying about running out of elastic toward the end, no bulky joins. Game changer!

Whew! That wasn't a quickie at all! If you've made it this far, you deserve a medal. Thank you for reading and have a fantastic week.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Just Like Ina



Hello sewing friends! I hope that wherever you are, you're enjoying yourself on this lovely day in May. I'm enjoying and honoring the weekend by ignoring my to-do list and letting myself be lazy on a Saturday AND Sunday. Yay me.

First off, I would like to note that this is the first time I've ever used a "guts" pic as the lead picture for a post. Mostly because I'm not careful enough in my sewing to have tidy guts, but, damn, isn't it so satisfying to have pretty insides?

Here's the right side on Ava. The fabric is not exactly a polka dot—more like two teeny tiny horizontal lines that form a tiny square, but it looks like dots from a distance. I'm sure I was drawn to it because I love dark blue.  So much so that it's all I ever want to wear these days.


I suspect many of you can tell that this is the Lodo dress, which I always want to call "Lodi" for some reason, by True Bias. If you've read my blog before it's not a surprise since I'm always using her patterns. Which brings me to the title of my post. I'm referring to Ina Garten, a.k.a. the Barefoot Contessa, because while I was making this dress I kept thinking about how Kelli and Ina are so alike. Besides the fact that they're both good looking ladies, they also both specialize in a kind of easy style based in simplicity to achieve consistently polished results. Sidenote: Beej and I love cooking Ina's recipes. We even have a running joke that we're just like Ina and Jeffrey, except without all the money.

The pattern itself is the easiest thing in the world to make Just four large pieces, which could even be honed down to three pieces if you chose to cut the back on the fold.  I'm sure there are hundreds of similar patterns, but since I like other TB patterns so much, it was an easy choice to hit that purchase button. What I love most about this particular pattern is the elegant shape of the v-neck and the fact that it's designed for ponte. A ponte cocoon/shift dress means that if you're like me and sit at a desk all day, you will not be wearing a wrinkled dress by the end of it. At least, not nearly as bad as wearing a woven shift all day. To paraphrase Ina, "How bad is that?"


I also love how the woven facing keeps the neckline nice and crisp. No dealing with sloppy looking bands, here. 

So before I forget, here are some deets and more musings:
  • Size: 18. Rather than doing an FBA, I went with the largest size. I wanted it to skim not cling, so I think I will continue at that size. As you can imagine, there's tons of ease. 
  • I shortened by three inches at the "shorten here" line. Three inches seems to be the magic number for me when making alterations. 
  • I used a ball point needle and my serger for the whole thing. Does anyone have a definitive answer for which needle to use for patterns that combine knits and woven? It seems to me that it should depend on which fabric the needle is first piercing. In other words, maybe I should have switched to a regular needle when I sewed the facing. 
  • I think it's really important to use ponte de roma instead of a lighter knit since it's a very structured design. Must find more quality pontes.
  • For the hem, I used a gadget called a hot hemmer. (Not an affiliate link, by the way, I just didn't feel like taking a picture of a boring-looking gadget.) I don't think it's a must-have, but to me it was worth ten bucks since it made hemming easier and more pleasant. I used a small and nearly invisible zigzag rather than a double needle. I am OVER double needles. Not worth the trouble, and I've grown to appreciate the home-sewn, unfussy look of a zigzag. 
  • Ponte is from Britex. I think it was around $20 per yard. 
So that's all I have for the Lodo dress. Because I've been thinking a lot lately about how important it is to be brave, I'm posting a pic of me wearing my new dress.  It's just a rushed phone pic on my way to work that doesn't give you a very good idea of the dress, but it's a step for me. Please excuse the hair. Thanks for reading and have a fabulous week!









Sunday, April 2, 2017

Spring Sewing and a Couple of Blackwood Cardis



Hey there! Hope you're having a good weekend. Spring is definitely here, and I'm loving it. Summer and Winter don't have a lot of variation here in San Francisco weather-wise, but Spring and Fall never fail to delight me. You can just feel the energy of things coming to life, the quality of the light, the brighter colors. I find myself looking out the window at work and thinking things like, "I should take sailing lessons"or "I wish I was 25 again, hanging out in the park with my friends, and making daisy chains or doing something spontaneous like deciding to explore a new neighborhood or trying to find a hidden stairway or a mural or even a favorite tree."

Okay, so in addition to pondering my misspent (or brilliantly spent) youth, I've also been thinking about Spring sewing plans somewhat, but these thoughts only stay in my head for a moment or so before I move on to something else. Seriously, my attention span is shot. I'm definitely not the same woman who read all three volumes of Proust's Remembrance of Things Past. (ETA: My husband read this after I posted and thinks this sounds like I'm bragging, being pedantic, etc. I can see that...now, after posting. SO did not mean it that way. Just can't believe I once had that kind of focus.)... So instead of talking about future plans, I'm going to focus on a couple of completed projects and hope I can remember all the details.

The Blackwood Cardigan is the latest from Helen's Closet and it's a very practical and versatile close-fitting cardigan pattern. I like Helen's blog and her energy a lot. She also uses such lovely fabric, and her makes always feel fresh but still practical...if that makes sense.  I initially hesitated because I already have the Oslo cardi pattern, by Seamwork, but am so glad that I finally caved. The Oslo makes for a more dramatic, oversized sweater, which I do like to wear with a handful of things, but most of the time it sort of feels like it's wearing me. The Blackwood, on the other hand, is a bit more unassuming and therefore more versatile. It also comes together super quick--especially if you have a serger.


I picked up two inexpensive sweater knits from Fabric Outlet for around $10 per yard plus 40% off. (A pic of my most recent haul is posted at the top of this post.) It's a thin knit that snags easily. It's also perfect for this pattern. I went for the long version on both. I had a little trouble with the collar on the army green below. You can see how the bottom curls up because I stretched it like mad to get it to meet. It was just sloppiness on my part and looking at this picture makes me want to grab my iron and steam that shit out. For the black version, I took the extra step to baste the collar before serging and it really paid off. Basting is the best!





At some point I'll probably make the shorter version, but, like a lot of people, I've been loving cozy, long cardis these days. For me, this is really a year-round pattern since I live in cardis at work. (Of course, I wouldn't wear it to work with only a bra underneath like my saucy dress form. :))

Okay, here are the deets before I forget:
  • I paid close attention to Gillian's testing post because we're close in height. She shortened the sleeves by 2" and left the length as-is. The khaki version is just a tidge too long but still definitely wearable. For the black one, I cut sleeves by 2", shortened length by 1" and it feels like a better length. 
  • FBA: I tried that cool "dirtycheater" method even though I'm most definitely a candidate for the full version; I just wanted to try a new method. Verdict: Definitely a good one to have in your backpocket for knits. Also, I'm thinking it might work well with striped fabric since you would still have a chance of the stripes matching. Actually, I don't know that for sure. Any seasoned FBA'ers out there that would like to share their thoughts?
  • Sorry to not have any pictures with a human. I think this is a step backwards for me, but hopefully I'll feel like getting in front of the camera sometime soon. 
  • Size XL with the pattern adjustments noted above.
I had other things I wanted to talk about--Spring sewing plans, some ideation for long-form sewing experiments, etc.--but hopefully with the lighter days and renewed energy, we'll talk soon. 

Have an absolutely lovely week!

Monday, March 13, 2017

Celeste Undies


Hello and happy Monday to you. I had a very relaxing weekend and hope you did as well. The seemingly nonstop rain has finally stopped, and it's starting to feel like spring. Spent a mellow Saturday afternoon replenishing my underwear drawer with Ohhh Lulu Celeste undies. (You're going to have to endure an entire post of me trying to dodge the "p-word." I'll say drawers, knickers, undies, smalls...anything but (shudder) "panties.")

Ohhh Lulu offers a free version of this cute bikini, and I can never resist a free underwear pattern. This one is super easy and fun. So fun that I was a bit bummed when I discovered that I didn't have a lot of large-enough scraps and was frantically going through my clothes, looking for t-shirts I never wear that I could cut up and repurpose.


So, the blue ones are from scraps, and the two green pairs are made from t-shirts that were heading for the Goodwill pile. Last week I took BART to the Mission on my lunch hour for a quick shop at Fabric Outlet--that's Cali-fabric to you online shoppers. I've decided that foldover elastic is overrated and what I really love is picot edge elastic. So I bought 10 yards each of of cream and black for next to nothing. I like having it on hand when I'm in an underwear-making mood.


I guess there's not that much else to say. Here are the deets:

  • Started with the XL and wound up cutting the side seam (between XL and L) in half on all pattern pieces. 
  • I like the full bum and full crotch coverage. Sorry if that's oversharing. 
  • I need to practice sewing the picot so that only the edge shows on the other side. I think they're still cute, though
  • Sewed the first pass at 3.0/2.5 zigzag and the second pass at 4.0/3.0. Seemed to work out okay
I'm already looking forward to making more. In fact, I picked up some super skinny satin ribbon today to make little bows. I think that would look really pretty at the center front. 

Have a lovely week, everybody! 


Sunday, March 5, 2017

Ebony Swings


Hello, Sewing Friends! I'm sorry to have stayed away so long. I missed blogging, I really did, but I've been having trouble motivating myself to do much of anything. I'm just going to be real, here, and say what's on my mind: Living in Trump's America is a big fat bummer. Seriously, every day there is some new fresh horror--immigrants and refugees attacked, our environment attacked, truth and facts attacked. It's overwhelming and demoralizing and, frankly, exhausting. Sigh. Okay, political rant is over. Thanks for indulging me. By the way, I fully understand and respect that people have differing opinions. I just don't think our commander-in-chief understands the concept of respectful communication. Now on to the sewing!

Two things. First, I have a major fangirl crush on Heather of Closet Case Patterns. I love her style, her intelligence, her humor, her realness, so it was a no-brainer that I would snatch up her easy, swing tee knit pattern. Second, an alternative title to this post could be, "Just use the good fabric, already." So let's begin with the pattern first. 

The Ebony is a swing tee/dress/tunic. You could really just take your favorite tee shirt pattern and slash and spread to make your own. However, CCP provides some advantages for purchasing the pattern. To begin with, she offers a raglan version, which is pretty cool. She also has a crop top, dress, and tunic length, as well as various sleeve lengths to stretch your pattern-buying dollar. I sewed up both the raglan tunic and the dress (see below) and found them both to be such a pleasure to sew. Everything fit together perfectly. Also, you can see how differently two different types of knits look. 


So for my first version, the acid yellow raglan tunic, there was a bit of learning curve. Because of my impossible bust, I followed the sizing chart and went with the largest size -- a size 20. Turns out that was unnecessary. There's TONS of ease. I made the tunic to wear for a weekend getaway in Portland in February and the whole time it felt oversized and sloppy--like sleeping in your boyfriend's oversized tee shirt.  I brought the side seams in an inch when I returned, and I'm liking it a bit better, but it's still not my favorite.

I actually fall outside of the sizing chart and still very easily fit into the size 18. That's the size I made the purple version. I can throw it over my head and go. LOVE. This is a seriously easy quickie pattern and you know what? It's an excellent opportunity to use the good fabric, already!




I have yet another Britex gift certificate to spend from my generous bosses, so I've been working through some of fabric I'd been holding onto. First up, this crazy yellow Impressionistic rayon--like Monet on acid. I purchased it from Britex in January 2015, using a gift certificate Beej gave me for Christmas. It's a very drapey stretch rayon that was $25 per yard. I saw it and was obsessed. Unfortunately, this isn't really the best color with my pale complexion. I think I liked the idea of the fabric without considering how it would look on me. 

This purple ponte is another story altogether. I love this knit so much and can't believe I let it languish for so long in my stash. I don't remember how much it was per yard (though my guess is around $35-40), but I do remember that it's a Marc Jacobs fabric. I lightened the photo to give it a little pop, but in real life it's a rich deep plum color. It is definitely a color I lean toward. This fabric has such a wonderful hand. It's substantial without being stiff, has structure AND softness. Seriously, I need more high-quality ponte in my life. 


Finally, here's a few sewing details of note:
  • Ebony Raglan: Sewed a size 20, but brought in by an inch side seams. Since I'm short, I followed Gillian's tack and shortened at the "shorten here" line by 1.5 inches. 
  • Ebony Raglan: Didn't bother hemming the bottom or sleeves. This is a really thin rayon, and I was worried about puckering. Sometimes a clean cut looks best, in my opinion. Also, I was flying to Portland the next day. :)
  • Did something unexpected and interesting with the neckband. Since I cut all pieces on the fold, I inadvertently cut two neckbands and (I must have been on autopilot) sewed them together. Because I didn't want to rip out stitches, I decided to go with a doubled up neckband. In this case, it turned out great. Sometimes drapey rayons can result in floppy neckbands, so I like that there is a bit of underlying structure to help hold its shape.
  • For purple Ebony dress: Sewed size 18 but cut length considerably. (My guess is four or five inches.) I also didn't shorten the torso length because I thought that might serve as a cheater FBA.
  • For purple Ebony dress: Hemming this project was a breeze. It's sort of like a circle skirt, so since I knew I wouldn't be stretching it to put it on, I didn't bother with a double needle or even a zigzag stitch for the matter. I did use fusible bias tape because I love the stuff. It helps keep the hem measured. I considered a zigzag for the sleeves,  but they are a little oversized. I'll let you know if that was a bad decision or not down the road.
So that's all I've got. Hope all is well with you. Have a fabulous week! Don't forget: life is short, use the good fabric! :)



Saturday, January 14, 2017

Top 5 Everything: A Final Look at 2016



I know, I know...I'm a little tardy for the year-end-review party. While I haven't been the most prolific blogger this year, I just couldn't let January end without participating in Gillian's blogging tradition of reflecting on one's makes in the top five format. In looking at my top five post for 2015, it's easy to see that 2015 was all about trying a million different things--jeans, bras, coats, sewing with silk--some with more success than others. In contrast, 2016 was more focused on quality or unique fabric finds combined with simple shapes and a lot of TNT, repeat patterns. And I'm fine with that. It's fun to read sewing blogs and see how the various stages of the sewing experience are quite similar for many people. You start off a little overwhelmed, making rookie mistakes with quilting fabric, and experiment a lot while trying to find your style. Then, after your first successful make, you become obsessed and want to make absolutely everything--coats, jeans, lingerie. Then, maybe, you slow down and become more selective and discerning. After all, sewing is time-consuming and you don't want to waste valuable free time trying to make everything or ruin expensive fabric on the latest Indie to hit the blogs...At least, these have been my sewing stages.

Let's start by laying out the positives:

1.) My TNT SJP top

SJP top is done. Glad I didn't hoard this fabric. #frenchseams  #true bias #sutton #suttonblouse

I absolutely love the origin story of this unique fabric and also feel like it really fits my style. It's a TNT for me--a True Bias Sutton, which may be my all-time favorite pattern.

2.) Shibori Knit Mandy Tee

Shibori Knit

This is another example of the fabric really calling to me. I discovered bamboo rayon this year and there's no turning back. Another TNT pattern--the Mandy Boat Neck by Tessuti. I made several Mandys this year and credit the pattern for getting me out of a sewing slump.

3.) Dungarees

IMGP2264

This was such an incredibly fun pattern to sew and the dark blue linen is so nice to wear. I had a lot of fun sewing most incarnations of the Marilla Walker Roberts Collection.

4.) Roscoe Blouse




What do you know, another True Bias pattern. This fabric, a bargain find at Fabric Outlet, really appealed to me and matched the requirements of the pattern really well. I also made a sweet, Pegasus version.

5.) More Undies



What can I say? I like making underwear. It's no-stress sewing and a great way to satisfy the need to make something without buying a new pattern or fabric. I made these using  the Seamwork Geneva pattern.

Now on to the not-so-successful makes...

1.) Hot Patterns Halycon Top

hpwadder

I wrote about my first wadder of the year and my attempt to salvage it. Still not quite sure what happened.

2.) Seamwork Perry Dress

Hope this is the type of dress that looks better on...#seamworkmagazine #perry #sewingblogger #sewingclothes

This never made it to the blog. I really like the look of a lot of Seamwork patterns--the cool styling, variety of body types modeling, etc.-- but I think their block doesn't work for me. I did manage to salvage this by removing the elastic waist and turning it into a tunic. It got a lot of wear after being modified.

3.) Deer and Doe Melilot

Melilot in progress #deeranddoeaddict #deeranddoe  #robertkaufmanrosechambray #sewing

Major disappointment here as I love D&D, but something weird happened after my FBA. The collar was way too short. Also, it feels small around the shoulders, and I hate that it doesn't have a yoke in the back.

4.) Navy Pinup Bra

Bra #2

It looks pretty but doesn't fit me. Now that I found a brand of bras I like and fit me really well, I've pretty much given up on bra making. That just means more money and time for making other things.

5.) Itch to Stitch Zamora Blouse

Sweet pattern, but I don't think it's me...#itchtostitch #itchtostitchzamora #indecisione

I knew from the start that the style wasn't for me, but I'm so impressed with Itch to Stitch patterns I tried it anyway. Good lesson in realizing that I know my style better than I think I do....if that makes sense. At any rate, I'm still incredibly impressed with Itch to Stitch. I posted on her Facebook page, suggesting she post a hack on changing the neckline--i.e., without a bow-- and she followed through and posted a detailed modification. How cool is that!

So there it is, my year of making in 2016. Some things didn't make it to the blog, but I think what did gives me a sense of the direction I want to go. Overall, I'm happy enough with the types of things I've been making such as simple shapes, and I definitely want to continue working with better quality fabrics. What I want to change, actually, is the focus of my blog. I'd like to spend more time in the ideation phase and focus on inspiration and technique, rather than just making stuff and throwing it up on the blog. We'll see what happens. Thank you very much for taking the time to read this and view my makes. I wish you only the best for 2017!