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.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Hello Kitty Pajamas



Elena has NO summer pj's yet. I have no fabric budget (especially for jammies) right now, so this set came all from scraps. In fact, the shorts are actually pieced together at the top of one front piece. I matched it up pretty well though so it's very hard to see. There are scraps of the hello kitty cotton that came from Walmart last year and then a former volleyball camp t-shirt of Olivia's, and a bit of another t-shirt too.


I did my best to reuse parts and hems to make this as quick as possible. The applique took the most time. The shirt pattern is my TNT Get Your Crap Together Tinley Tee in it's most basic, no frill version. The applique is my first time trying this with the machine. It's rough to say the least but hey, it's pajamas and Elena isn't much of a critic yet. She is thrilled with it.


The shorts are the free Oliver & S Sunny Day Shorts. I had never used this pattern before even though I already had it printed and taped together. It worked out well and I have no complaints. I'm sure I'll use it in the future. It can be hacked in a million ways. Can you see the small triangle piece on the wearer's right at the center seam and waistband? I was so close to being able to make shorts from the scraps and I couldn't let missing that little bit stop me from making Elena so happy. The waistband is jersey knit for added comfort. I added ruffles and cut those from the bottom of the factory hemmed t-shirt. Smart huh? What time was saved in not hemming, was spent on gathering though so not much difference time-wise, but definitely added to the cute girliness.





 So cute jammies out of scraps. I'd like to make a nightgown too but can't decide what style, what fabric, etc. Waiting for the inspiration to hit and hoping it happens this week still. Any suggestions?

Monday, May 23, 2016

KCW: The pony dress

I avoid the mall like the plague, and I avoid taking Elena to the mall like I avoid plaque diseased zombies on Mars. So after a short but unavoidable trip into the mall recently, we walked out with a really cute H&M dress for $5. Things like that are hard even for me to walk away from, let alone a 4 year old. Of course it's cute, but it's made under questionable circumstances in Bangladesh so I try not to participate in that scene. I don't know a lot about H&M's practices actually, but I'm guessing that if you can sell it for $5, they didn't pay the worker much at all by the time you factor in materials, overhead, and shipping.

So I ordered one yard of pony print jersey from Girl Charlee Fabrics for $6.50. This fabric is made in Los Angeles and I provided my own slave labor for only the price of her smile and a hug. The bindings are cut from an old t-shirt her big sister didn't want anymore. (With 13 years between them, I don't save a lot of hand-me-downs for her unless they are really classic, basic pieces that won't go out of style.)




 The bodice is made from the Willow & Stitch Gumnut Dress pattern. I've used it before here so I know it fits well and has exactly the shape I wanted. The skirt is from Simplicity 1435, but lengthened. It's almost a full circle skirt cut in 2 pieces. Because I was working with directional fabric, I couldn't cut a basic circle skirt or the ponies would be upside down on the back. I've used this pattern before and knew it had the fullness I was looking for and already came in 2 pieces. It's easy enough to measure the bottom of the bodice and use whatever size skirt matches up best. Then you can make it any length you want. I went for a high low and gave it plenty of length to grow into over the summer.




 She absolutely loves it and so do I. We have plans for another one tomorrow, but I have a little less fabric to work with so we'll see if it works out. It is unhemmed and with neck and arm bands, the whole thing was done on the serger meaning this is 30 minute dress to construct. If that. So quick and easy.





 It's such a playful little dress and really comfortable. It will see lots of action. It'll be hard to get her take this one off. She has worn it all day since getting home from school and wants to wear it to bed too. So I guess I really better make another one tomorrow.


Be sure to check out the project pool over at KCW. It's always inspiring to see.


Sunday, May 22, 2016

Second Verse Same As The First


Turns out Olivia really needed at least one more dress. All of her other dresses and skirts are maxi length, but she can't wear those to her Commencement ceremony this coming week or it will hang out from under the gown. Not only would that look bad, but it's not allowed and since she will be up on the stage giving the Valedictorian speech, she wants to look good. We shopped a few stores but everything in the juniors department was too sheer and too short (for her taste). Everything in the women's department was too old and business-like. We stopped at Joann's and picked up 2-1/2 yards of black ponte knit not knowing exactly what we would do with it.


She searched Pinterest for another design that could work for graduation plus some graduation parties and still meet her minimalist aesthetic. These wide trapeze dresses with the handkerchief hems are popular so we made up a pattern. The top is basically a Love Notions Laundry Day Tee with the neckline cut nearly straight across. It is just turned and topstitched with the double needle.


We wanted the overall length at the center to be 39" (from shoulder point to hem) and for the drops to be 5". We drew the bottom line across first and then went up 5" and connected that to the armscye. Our front and back pieces were identical. I had Olivia do the cutting as practice for when we make those skirts soon. Side note: We planned on not hemming it because ponte is thick and I didn't think we'd like the points hemmed. After adding the sleeves, I basted the sides together so she could try it on. Then she took it off and we removed the basting and cut 2 inches off the bottom and the side drops.

The lower chalk line at the neck represents where the pattern's back neckline should be and the higher one is where we cut both the front and back.


We added side seam pockets in a lightweight woven to reduce bulk and not stretch longer when putting something heavy like a phone in there. That is definitely an extra step worth taking. Sometimes I get lazy with those things, but with Olivia standing over my shoulder, no way could I skip it.  





She is super happy with this dress. She wore it today to mass and then to a friend's graduation party. She is currently out getting coffee with another friend so I'd say this dress is proving to be the new favorite and is likely to get worn plenty in the next couple of months. The fabric cost $22 with a coupon. That's way less than any dresses we saw in the stores.

Thanks for checking in. I'm going to try my best to participate in Kids Clothes Week for Elena so I should be posting a lot this week. When it rains it pours with me. 

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Olivia's New Dress


My oldest daughter, Olivia, is 18 now. She is finished with high school and graduates next week as the Valedictorian of her class of some 450ish students. She has really earned it. She has never received less than an A on any report card in her whole life. She already has 50something college credits. Of course we are super proud of her for that major achievement, but I'm even more pleased that she knows herself so well and never compromises her ideals for the sake of fitting in. She is full of wisdom, creativity, kindness, and determination. She is one of a kind for sure. So I let her order some fabric and design a dress. Sometimes these things don't end up getting worn with her, but this time was a success. She has worn this lots of times, in lots of different ways.


The fabric is rayon spandex from the Imagine Gnats shop. (The shop is temporarily closed while Rachel recovers from surgery but will reopen soon. The price shown in that link - which isn't what I paid by the way - may not be accurate anymore because she had a blowout sale before closing.) Anyhoo, it is great fabric for a simple swingy dress. Soft, lots of drape, heavy enough to not be see-through - perfect. We didn't really use a pattern. We laid out the top of a basic T pattern and then laid down her favorite maxi skirt at the length she wanted it. We cut the back in 2 pieces in order to be able to add a little shaping through the back. 


Our weather is in the 60F range so she has mostly been layering it for now. She is always cold so today she had on a long sleeved black tee underneath and another over the top. (The one on top happens to be a Lane Raglan I made her last winter.) I sewed bindings at the armholes, but just turned and topstitched the neckline. It is high on the neck because Olivia likes things really modest. She also loves nature so taking pictures outside with her distracted is the best way to get pictures of this camera shy woman.




I'd make her a dozen more of these and some more Lane Raglans too but she won't need them where she is going. As Valedictorian with a lot of college credit already, it would be natural to assume that she would be heading off to college in the fall, maybe even an Ivy League school. Instead, Olivia has chosen a convent (technically a monastery because it is cloistered) and wishes to become a Nun. The first step is an "Aspirancy" for 3 months and the uniform will be white buttondowns and black midi skirts. We will be making those together over the summer when all the graduation hubbub dies down.

A religious vocation may seem like a strange choice to some people. I'm never sure what to say when people ask what she is doing after graduation. We didn't push it on her. We didn't even suggest it. She came to it on her own and has spent the last 4 years discerning, visiting different convents and orders, and meeting with a spiritual advisor. She already attends daily Mass and prays the Divine Office. (If you are Catholic that will mean more to you.) I actually think she will be supremely happy with the one she chose spending her days praying, working and continuing to create art (but mostly praying). I'd like to end with a few pictures of some of her more recent makes to show you where her heart lies.








Monday, May 16, 2016

E&M Patterns: Girls Shirt & Dress #6

About a year ago I won my choice of a couple of E&M Patterns. I immediately chose Girls Shirt & Dress #6 knowing that it would be a versatile, cute, comfy pattern to use over and over again. This is the first time I made it, and I liked it so much I made another for Elena's friend, "B", right away.


It happened in a moment of boredom on a cold April day while dreaming of warm weather that I found a way to use this sparkly teal fabric Elena loves. I bought it as a remnant at Joann's and had only this much left. I searched through my patterns and landed on this dress. Everything else came from my stash so in about an hour, there was this adorable dress ready to try on. Later that morning, Elena came home from preschool and her friend came over to play. Elena wanted to try on the dress and both girls loved it. "B" said she would love a dress like that too. I said that sure I could make her one and that I'd really like to do that. They ran off and played some more, and I went about my work around the house. About an hour had gone by when "B" came and asked if her dress was ready yet. Oh my goodness, how cute! I totally meant it when I said I'd make her one, I just didn't realize she thought I would right then and there.


So after Elena went to bed that night, I went through the stash and whipped up this one for "B". The fabric is from Joann's Doodles collection at least a year or 2 ago and it is paired with white ribbing. I should mention that the rest of Elena's is a lightweight pink interlock with glitter elastic for the waistband.

The pattern gives you a multitude of options: gathers, pintucks or pleat, top or dress (a-line or with a waist), flutter sleeve or not, a keyhole back that is either closed or ties closed, and different hem options. So many good options and ways to be creative. That keyhole back is really cute.


Both dresses got some kind of embellishment. "B's" has a repurposed little pearl and flower bauble tacked on and Elena's has little flower beads I took off a bracelet someone made for me a long while back. I'm pretending that I intended for the Elena's pintucks to be squiggly. I did mention that it was thin fabric right? It really was a tough technique for this particular fabric, or maybe just for this particular sewist.  ;-)


I made them both the same size - a 3 for the top, and for the skirt a 3 width with 5 length. These girlies have legs for days. I love the fit. I think the ribbing worked better for the waistband. The elastic was tough to sew and looks a little ripply. I also noticed Elena touching her belly a couple times this afternoon and asked if it bothered her. She said no, so I don't think it's scratchy, it's just noticeable. 




These 2 will be off to kindergarten together in the fall. Their little friendship is so cute to watch grow. I hope they will be friends forever. "B's" mom and I are good friends too and went through these pregnancies together. The girls are just 2-1/2 weeks apart. It's so good to have kind and supportive friends in this ever-increasingly crazy world.

And speaking of crazy.... Goodnight from this little nut!



Friday, May 13, 2016

Greenstyle Taylor Shorts & Modified Liesl & Co. Gallery Tunic

I finally took some more bad pictures of myself and thought I'd share them to the whole world or at least the 120 people who read this blog. I question my blogging every single time I do this. Why the heck do I do this anyway? I hope that it is helpful to see an ordinary person like myself make clothes. That is the whole point. Making is such a worthwhile activity so I hope that my awkward attempts may inspire someone else to attempt something too.

So here we go. Ugh.


I used the Liesl & Co. gallery tunic pattern to make a summery blouse. The changes are minor - I shortened the sleeves and shortened the overall length. I did a full bust adjustment and then narrowed the sides about an inch at the bottom tapered to nothing at the darts. It just felt too wide otherwise. I really love the look of it. It's sort of camp shirt meets Japanese sewing pattern. Is camping much of a thing in Japan?


Springtime photo shoots might be harder than winter because there aren't so many leaves on the trees yet so finding shade isn't always easy. I know these outdoor pics are a bit bright and I'm a little squinty but it is what it is folks.

The back of the shirt has a nice pleat. This is the most comfortable woven blouse I have ever owned. The fit and the design of it seem made for me. Nothing pulls, rubs or feels tight anywhere. It doesn't shift around and need to be pulled back into place - ever. This fabric is AMAZING. It is a double gauze from CaliFabrics    (even cheaper now I see) and is light as air. It's practically like being naked because it just floats and feels so good. This fabric is double sided with a magenta and black opposite side. I ordered 2 yards not being sure what I was going to make with it exactly, but it accidentally got left off my first shipment. A quick email, a super quick response from customer service and within days I had the 2 yards plus an extra 1 for the trouble. How nice of them. So I have about 2 more yards and can't decide what to make with it.

Are you ready to see my doughy, white legs in shorts? Here we go.


I've made the Greenstyle Taylor shorts before so I didn't question which pattern to use when I needed more shorts for this summer. It's a really great pattern - easy to sew, well drafted, curved waistband, nice zip fly with a video tutorial on the website - what more do you need? Plus it's so much faster to reuse a pattern that you already have printed, taped, traced and fitted before. I briefly considered adding welt pockets to the back, but decided in the end that I wouldn't really use them anyway and since I rarely wear things tucked in no one would even see them. One of these days I will make welt pockets just because.


For my body, the only adjustments I make to this pattern are to taper the waist in a little more. From the top of the pocket upward I draw a tapered curve taking out a 1/4" from both front and back pieces at the sides and a scant 1/2" at center back. I therefore also changed my waistband piece slightly by folding out a bit in the center and taking 1/4" off each side.

My fabric here is Montauk twill in charcoal from the Imagine Gnats shop (which is temporarily closed while Rachel recovers from surgery). It is very nice stuff too. A sturdy bottomweight perfect for shorts. The pocket linings are leftover scraps of the gray tencil cotton chambray from my Granville buttondown. Nice and  lightweight. My hips are definitely a size bigger than my waist so that's why the previous mentioned adjustments are necessary, but just to make sure there would be no waistband gaping, I tried something new and added some elastic to the back waist. So after attaching the main waistband piece and then attaching the waistband facing to that, I measured the back from side seam to side seam. I cut a piece of 1-1/2" elastic 1/2" shorter than that so that I could have some seam allowance and wind up with my elastic being 1" shorter than the fabric. I then laid the elastic on the main waistband piece and pinned to the side seams witha 1/4" overhang and stitched in the ditch from the top to hide it. I continued sewing as normal and it adds just a little stretch back there without looking like an elastic waist.


I'm about 8 pounds heavy right now while I'm coming off winter so these are a little tight in the hips. You can see the smile lines at the crotch. But they are still comfy and will be great within the next month when I get to my summer weight. At least I hope so because we have a beach vacation coming up in June so I better put down the chocolate and get serious.


And here's the blouse with jeans. A good look too and how I started off this day before I realized I could blog both at the same time. Yay me for making my mix and match capsule wardrobe work out so well. I am super happy with how it's coming together in time for the good weather. This has been the easiest Me Made May yet for me, though you'll have to take my word for it because I haven't documented it at all. The pressure of documenting took the fun out of it for me in the past so I decided to just not this year. I liken it to the good feeling you have when you do something nice for someone but you don't tell anyone. It's like an anonymous gift or something. Only I know it and it makes me happy and doesn't really need any attention.


Up next on the blog should be a couple of dresses made for Elena and her little friend. That should be a fun photoshoot I hope. The plan is to have that for you next week so in the meantime I wish you all a great weekend full of fun times with family and friends and hopefully a little faith in there too. I know that for me the best days all include a little Work, a little Pray and a little Sew.