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 I had originally made pockets out of a lightweight aqua gingham check, but they stuck out so much that I had to remove them.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.

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.