Thursday, August 25, 2016

A Gathered Skirt Comparison

How full do you like your gathered skirts? I suppose it's not that easy of a question. It really depends on the fabric (thickness, drape, etc), the age and shape of the person perhaps, and your personal preferences. I often have trouble deciding which rule of thumb to follow: 1-1/2 times width or 2 times width.

Olivia was in need of 2 black midi length skirts as part of her uniform for her upcoming aspirancy program as a Passionist Nun. It's not exciting sewing for sure but it was a great opportunity to try out both widths and see what we like better. With the exception of the fullness, these skirts are identical in construction having elastic back waists, flat fronts, inseam pockets, a deep machine sewn blind hem, and use the same fabric. The fabric is a polyester/rayon blend suiting from Joann Fabrics.

First I want to show you pictures on the hanger. And by the way, photographing black skirts isn't actually all that easy. I am still wishing for a real camera some day. So take a look and see which appeals more to you. And keep in mind that while these are black midi length skirts this style can just as easily be made in cottons, rayons, chambrays, etc in any length desired.

Ignoring lighting issues, I prefer the 2 times width on the hanger. How about you?

Now let's look at them on Olivia and see what you think. She is wearing them with a t-shirt just for simplicity.

2 times width
1-1/2 times width
2 times

1-1/2 times
So now I have no idea which one I prefer. I think that the 1-1/2 times is probably better. It's a bit lighter feeling and therefore more comfortable for her. She feels better in the 1-1/2 also. I think the 2 times looks very nice on the hanger and pretty good on, but if we had to make another we'd make it only 1-1/2. How about you?

(P.S. Thank you for your prayers for my brother-in-law. The tumor has not spread and is holding steady. In fact, we get to wait 3 months this time until next MRI and follow-up.)

Friday, August 19, 2016

Middle Age, Minimalism, and Decision Fatigue

My brain has been overwhelmed for some years now. Being in my later 40's brings all sorts of life challenges. There's age and tiredness to start with. There's the challenges of raising teenagers which is enough in itself, but throw in a 5 year old too and you'll see just how rare it is to please all of them at once. There's my and my husband's aging parents and his brother with brain cancer (appointment next week to see if it has spread to the right hemisphere so prayers please). Kindergarten, high school, swimming all the time, what the heck to make for dinner, yada yada yada....

The best way I've come up with to make things more manageable in my life (besides coffee, prayer, and more sleep) is to reduce the amount of decisions that need to be made throughout the day. I've got certain routines as far as what housework is done on what days and what dinners are made. I've simplified my "beauty" routine by washing my hair only twice a week and quitting make-up altogether. I've decluttered the house except for Elena's gosh darn toys that are still everywhere, not that it was ever all that cluttered but it helps my inner peace to see the outer spaces neat.

The capsule wardrobe I've been playing with for the past year has narrowed down even more and is getting more and more minimalistic. I've reduced the number of colors and prints because I find that solids and neutrals are more soothing and chill. I'm using a comfortable to me but possibly boring to others range of black, gray, cream, teal, and blushy pinks/corals. Everything fits easily into my narrow 1950's closet with space to spare. I'm keeping the clothes' shapes simple too.

I do sometimes still crave something new though so this simple tee is the result of a last minute sew before leaving for a weekend swimming meet for Andrew last month. I had leftovers of this rayon spandex knit from the Imagine Gnats shop. (Gone now but here are some similar fabrics.) There was just enough to make a Maria Denmark Kimono tee (free pattern) as long as I didn't hem it. That's how close it was. It's drapey, easy going, and neutral while having a fun on-trend print. It goes with many things in my wardrobe so it's useful too.

For anyone new to sewing or maybe new to sewing knits, a tee like this is the easiest thing you can do. There are only 2 pieces, that's 4 seams and some hems. The armhole and neckline and just turned and topstitched with a double needle. It's a 20 minute sew and approximately $6-$7. I'm wearing it here with my knit joggers from last year and my sunhat. 

It really doesn't get any easier. This style of shirt is such a basic wardrobe builder that you will find a hundred uses for. I wore this outfit all day around home and running errands and now I'm wearing it out tonight to a local brewery. I hope you have a great weekend and find some time to do something nice for yourself.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

A Kimono for Me

Last summer I made myself a Kimono out of black chiffon. I don't know much about chiffon and have very little experience sewing it. I received this piece as a prize from the fabulous Alida of Alida Makes for the original Sew the Show Series last year. I used a basic Simplicity pattern 1620 (which oddly only seems to come in the larger sizes now) and modified it somewhat. I shortened the sleeves and did narrow rolled hems around all the edges. It was alright, just ok. I wore it once or twice, but it didn't feel very cool. It felt frumpy even when worn with a tank and joggers and heels.

So as crazy as this sounds, I was watching the Netflix Full House reunion series with my daughter and I noticed lots of kimonos so I guess they're still in enough. The awesome Gibbler wore one in every episode I think. I pulled my frumpy kimono out of the closet and gave it an update.

I trimmed off all the hems and then cut the front shorter and at an angle. Then I cut strips of chiffon, folded them in half and sewed them around all the edges. I used my regular machine and mock-overlocked the seam allowance and pressed it towards the body of the kimono. I topstitched with a decorative stitch all around. I also shortened the sleeves even more.

I left the back long and flowy and with it's original narrow hem. The back seam and the shoulder seams are all french seams. The underarm/side seam is stitched and overlocked. With a sheer chiffon, the inside finishes were important.

I wore it to church today with my Downton Abbey Lady Skater dress and felt very chic with my salt and pepper hair and silver jewelry. 

How chic? About this chic:

And this chic.

Ha, ha! I'm all posed out and feeling completely silly so that's it. I'm going to go walk around my nephew's birthday party now and try to act normal, but I really feel amazing in this outfit so I think I'll try to keep the attitude. Enjoy the rest of your weekend everyone!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Sally Dress in Waverly Bloom

I wanted to make one new summer dress for Elena so I returned to a favorite pattern. I love the Very Shannon Sally dress and have made 3 or 4 over the years. This time I went with short sleeves, no pockets, and ribbon embellishments for the bodice.

The beautiful and summery fabric was found in the remnant bin at Walmart. I know it's Waverly and I think it's called Bloom in Orange. I suppose it's a premium quilting cotton because it has nice weight to it, but there was not much info on the label. I had originally made pockets out of a lightweight aqua gingham check, but they stuck out so much that I had to remove them. I've made Sally's with pockets before so it's not the fault of the pattern at all, this fabric was just too heavy weight.

Sally is always a quick and easy sew with no closures and nice finishes inside and even options on just how nice you want the inside to be. I took the quick route and just serged the seam allowance on the sleeve seams instead of doing the clean finish.

Some of my favorite summer things: little girls in cotton dresses, books, spending time outside, sun-fried over-chlorinated bleached out hair, and flowers. This hits them all.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

All You Really Need for a Girl's Capsule Wardrobe

I'm pretty sure that Elena could be happy with 3 t-shirts, 3 pairs of shorts and her favorite romper. She has 3 or 4 swim suits and 1 cover-up that she likes too. That is all she has been wearing this summer. It's a little sad for a sewist like me, except that I have become more and more minimalist in the past year so I am happy to see she is too.

I am happy to report that 2 out of the 3 pairs of shorts she wears are homemade from last summer. The tops and romper however, are not. Lucky for me, I have been so busy this summer that I haven't had time to cry about it. I'm pretty happy that she dresses herself and seems to have stopped the multiple outfit changes each day that were happening in the spring.

I want her to have clothes that not only meet her physical needs, but that she loves. I am starting to plan her fall wardrobe and have spent some time looking at Pinterest and also at the websites of lots of my favorite ready to wear brands: H&M, Old Navy, GAP, Tea Collection, Osh Kosh...

The thing that strikes me the most when I look at these websites is how few different shapes there are. Everyone makes a basic t-shirt, and raglan shirt, a button-down or pop-over style top, some knit dresses of either the fit and flare or swing style, leggings, joggers, and jeans. That's pretty much it and the main differences between brands comes in the colors, fabrics, and graphics (and quality). If I can source fabrics in colors and prints that she loves, I already own plenty of patterns to hack.

So in making my plans for this fall, I am keeping in mind the fact that my girl is happy to wear the same things over and over and also that she will be wearing a uniform to kindergarten 5 days a week. If I'm only going to get to make her a handful of items, I want them to be really great with special details. I will take my time making them and make them special.

This striped tunic from Tea Collection uses basic striped fabric and a simple design, but adds embroidered flowers. I can totally see hand-embroidering some flowers for Elena.

                                                Yumi Embroidered Dress

A floral raglan t-shirt like this one from Carter's doesn't have any special details. It's all about the large print and making sure it's soft and cozy.
                                             Kid Girl Long-Sleeve Floral Raglan Tee |
A swing dress like this one from Old Navy is a simple hack of a basic t-shirt pattern. I was thinking of using a solid white and adding lace and then dying the whole thing one color. Of course I'll have to wait and see what her favorite color is that month and hope it lasts.


A chambray shirt dress would be cute and fun to layer with leggings and a cardi later in winter. I already have some speckled chambray that would be a lot of fun and could use the Sisboom Ethan shirt for a pattern hack.

We will need a few new pairs of leggings to accomodate her ever-growing legs. I hope to add some details to those in the form of knee patches, lace cuffs, or a tuxedo stripe.

For fall, that is all that we will need I think. I don't need to buy any patterns, no matter how cute they are and how many inspiring pieces my fellow bloggers sew up to entice me. I will try to remain strong in my minimalist ways. I will instead make it fun and hopefully blog-worthy by adding artistic handmade touches. And in the meantime, I will be sure to keep myself and Elena out of the mall and Target, etc.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Simplicity 4237 & 1616 Mash-Up Skirt

Jersey maxi skirts have become a staple in most of our closets. They are easy to make and easy to wear. Dress them up, dress them down, but how do you keep them interesting and how do you keep from tripping on them?

I've used Simplicity 4237 (out of print but available secondhand) multiple times to make skirts of different lengths so using it again was a no-brainer. I did my usual change to the waistband piece by halving it's height and inserting 2" elastic instead of doing the fold-down yoga band. It feels sturdier for my mom-belly this way. The other big change was to use the bottom hi-low shape of Simplicity 1616 view B and to shorten the whole thing to a long midi/short maxi. This way I don't have to hitch up my skirt to run up and down the steps all day. I think this is brilliant because I still get all the swish of a maxi skirt but the higher front feels so practical.

Since S4237 isn't easy to come by, you could just use S1616 but cut the front and back pieces in half adding seam allowance. I haven't compared the actual pattern pieces, but I might next time I need to make a skirt. For now, sorry, too much trouble to locate the specific pieces in the envelope and open tissue pattern pieces and fold them back up neatly. Do you forgive me for being so lazy?

This fabric is a medium weight rayon (blend?) jersey from CaliFabrics (but they don't have it anymore). It has held up really well. I've been wearing this once a week since late May and it still looks new. Yes, I'm super behind on blogging. My last post was weeks, almost months, ago. Sorry about that, but summer is NUTS around here. I think it is for most of us so I'm sure you understand.

Did you notice the handstitching of all of the vertical seams? I sewed up the 4 seams and then before hemming or adding the waistband, I used pearl cotton to handstitch x's across the seams to spice it up a little. The goal was to add a little texture while remaining monochromatic and neutral. That's my best suggestion for anyone interested in capsule wardrobing. It really didn't even take all that long.

The inspiration for this stitching came from this pin. 

That's it folks. That's my favorite new skirt I've been meaning to show you for weeks. Summer and blogging just don't mix. I'd like to welcome all my new followers. Thanks for joining me here. I have more to post, just need to find the time to do it.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Experiments on a Tank Top

Sewing should be fun, right? While I am capable of sewing things like buttondown shirts and fitted pants with zip flies, those aren't my favorite kind of sewing. I really prefer the loose, improvisational makes. The ones that grow organically, just like my garden. I just had an A-ha moment. My gardening philosophy is so similar to my sewing philosophy, which shouldn't be too surprising really. Of course our thoughts and beliefs shape our behaviors, it's just funny when you notice it. My garden is definitely informal. It's definitely always changing. My favorite things to grow are flowers that are native and hardy and vegetables that are more expensive to buy organically grown. When I sew I focus on making things in better, more sustainable fabrics when possible (or upcycled) and on casual, practical pieces. Huh.

The point of this post is to inspire you to let loose with your sewing. If you're a beginner and think you have to follow the rules, I say no. Well, some rules are important, especially when working with knits, but you can have a lot of freedom too. You don't have to follow the pattern. You make the rules.

This tank began with some pink jersey from CaliFabrics. I didn't love this fabric. I used it for a cute top for Elena and loved it for her, but for me, I wasn't sure about the color so I figured I'd try it and no big loss if I didn't like it in the end. I think it is called light coral, but it's more pink than orange. It's on the thin side too so I did 2 layers which gave me some cool options. I wanted a tank so I started with the Deer & Doe Plaintain Tee minus the sleeves. I narrowed the armscye by 1/2". I sewed the shoulder seams and then put the outer and lining pieces right sides together and sewed around the neck opening. Then I used the burrito method to finish the armscyes nice and neat. (More on that later.)

Time to embellish. So many choices. I mulled it over and decided to pick one of the decorative stitches on my machine and do multiple rows around the neck. There are 2 rows that go all the way around and 2 more only on the front from shoulder seam to shoulder seam. The plan was to make them each drop a bit in the center, like a necklace. Only I probably could have been more precise and measured and marked lines, but I didn't so you can see it's a bit off. Whatever, just having fun here. We'll see how much people stare at my boobs I guess.

It was seriously looking like granny jammies at this point so I trimmed away the fabric of the outer layer around the stitches to give a quasi-Alabama Chanin feel. That's a big stretch, but that was the inspiration anyway. Then I felt like the shoulder straps were too wide, so I carefully (this time) marked where I wanted to narrow them and trimmed them a good inch at the top tapering to nothing at the arm curve. I have to back up a second. Before I did that I trimmed 2 inches off the bottom outer layer to mimic the layers of the top portion.

That trimming came in very handy because I used it to make bindings for the armholes. Clever, huh? This is why I like to sew in silence. I know some people watch Netflix or listen to podcasts, but I prefer silence or quiet music. It's the only way I can keep focused and get in a creative space where ideas come. Of course that isn't necessary when I'm just following a pattern like I sometimes do. But even then, I might miss out on an opportunity to add a detail or change something little.

The bindings are really my favorite part. I copied something I had seen on a ready to wear dress before. I sewed the bindings into a loop and pinned them to the inside of the shirt and sewed them on. I trimmed the seam allowance a little and folded it around to the front and sewed it down 1/4" from the edge, leaving the edge free to curl. Nice detail, and easy. It aso makes not hemming the bottom make sense too. Win-win.

I don't have any real modeled shots, but I do I have one mirror selfie so you can see how it fits. A little bit flowy because of the Plaintain flare, and rather light and pretty in the end. The straps could still be even narrower, but it's good.

I hope I've inspired you to let loose and have some fun with your sewing. Be creative and do something different now and then so you have something uniquely you.