Sunday, January 18, 2015

Pattern repeats are awesome

Recently I made up new versions of two patterns I've used in the past, the Sewaholic Renfrew and Colette Beignet. It was a good reminder of just how much I like returning to old patterns. You're really free to enjoy the experience when you take the sizing guesswork out!

First up, I made this Renfrew out of an impulse addition to my Girl Charlee cart. It's completely ridiculous and makes me laugh every time I wear it. Best $6.50 ever spent.

I think I've got the Renfrew fit alllllmost perfect. This time I did a size 8 in the shoulders, a 6 in the bust and then blended to a 4 in the hips. I also did a 1/2" broad back adjustment using Sunny's method like I have in the past, but somehow it still felt really tight in the shoulders/armpits and I had to let it out. I saw a different method in the most recent issue of Threads magazine that I'm going to try next time around.

I also tried interfacing the hem with lightweight Stitch Witchery before I used my twin needle, and it came out so much better than the hem on my Lady Skater did with Wonder Tape. I'll be sticking with interfacing in the future, especially for lighter weight knits. 

I was inordinately proud that I was able to squeeze this out of a single yard of fabric without sacrificing pattern matching. I did a Breakfast Club-style air fist when I was left with my teeny tiny pile of scraps. I felt like such a cutting wizard! Or, maybe more appropriately, like a Boss Witch.

Secondly, I finished my Colette Beignet do-over! I was gutted last fall when my special birthday outfit turned out to be such a bust. Luckily I had enough corduroy left over to give it another go, and this time it came out much, much better!

The first version came out too big, and in attempt to make it fit better I cinched the waist and ended up with crooked buttons. This time I sewed up a straight size 4, and the fit is much improved. I worked really hard to get the buttons straight and even, but they're still not perfect and my eye starts to twitch if I look too closely. My machine has a 4 step buttonhole, and it's hard to be 100% consistent every time no matter how carefully you make your markings. Still, it's at least not in-your-face wonky like the first version, so I'm calling it a win.

I'm still not convinced that this is the most flattering silhoutte for my figure, but it's nice to know that I am capable of sewing this intermediate pattern. Sometimes I just need to prove to myself I CAN do a thing, so that I know in the future I'm choosing not to do it because I really don't want to, not because I'm afraid to fail.

It's funny looking back at how difficult I found this pattern to be a year ago. I really struggled with the lining and the waistband, and this time I didn't find it that challenging, just time consuming. It was a really gratifying, tangible example of how much my skills have grown in the past year, and it makes me even more excited to take on new projects and new challenges. Next up, Ginger Jeans in stretch corduroy!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

2014 Year in Review

It's been a while hasn't it? I'm almost finished with a do-over Beignet skirt I've been working on for ages, and I made two new pillow covers to go with our new couch. Home dec is boring so I decided to get fancy and make my own piping, despite my recent pledge to never make piping again. I am a liar. I'll have pictures soon, but for now I wanted to check in to do my year-end wrap up!

This has been a really great year for sewing. I only made 9 garments, but amazingly all of them (all of them!) were hits. I'm a slow sewer and have several other hobbies, so I'm thrilled to have a few well-made and well-loved garments over a bunch of quick "meh" ones. Here are my Top 3:

3. Spider-Man Dress

I only got to wear this for one night at DragonCon, but oh, what a night it was! I had such a good time doing the Retro/Pin-up Superheroes group costume with my girlfriends. Plus, this was the most technically challenging thing I've ever made, and I was so relieved that the weeks of effort, ripped stitches and fabric indecision paid off. I felt like the fit was spot on, and aside from some collar issues I'm proud of the construction.

2. Strathcona Tee

It's just a simple tee shirt, but Brian LOVES this thing. He swears it's the most comfortable shirt he owns, and brags to everyone who will listen that I made it. It's touching that he is so appreciative of the time I spent working on the fit. I already bought fabric to make more.

1. Buffalo Check Shirt Dress

Hands down my favorite thing I've ever made. The pattern, fabric and fit alterations came together to make the world's most perfect dress. I wear it when I'm feeling a little nervous and need a boost of fabulous.

As far as misses, this year I really only had one: the Miette Cardigan.

I won't dwell on it because it makes me supremely cranky to think about the dozens of hours I put into this bat-winged wadder. People keep telling me it's not that bad, but I can't bring myself to wear it around the house, let alone in public. Lesson learned: Sometimes  a pattern just doesn't work for your body and you should accept it and move on immediately, instead of a year and thousands of stitches later.

I feel like this year was a turning point where I went from stumbling around in the dark to feeling more confident and ready to take on new challenges. My big goal for 2015 is jeans! I have been having the worst time finding jeans that fit, so I decided to be brave and give it a go. I recently bought the Ginger Jeans pattern and denim, so wish me luck!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Lady Skater

I've been trying to up my knits game recently, and after success with the Renfrew and Strathcona Tees, I decided to take the full on plunge into a dress. I waffled for a while between the Colette Moneta and the Kitschy Koo Lady Skater, and eventually went with the Lady Skater, because, reality check, I suck at gathers. And I have to say, I think I made the right call.

Although it was an uphill battle the whole way because of my fabric choice. I always have to make things difficult for myself don't I? I bought this rayon knit impulsively from when they had a free shipping deal and I was feeling too lazy to drive to the burbs. When it arrived in the mail, I was disappointed to discover that it was thinner, stretchier and more sheer than I was expecting. Womp womp. Still I liked the print and I hate letting things go to waste so I decided to just go for it.

I made a bodice muslin out of the leftover fabric from Brian's Scracotha Tee, and it fit remarkably well. I usually need to add an inch to the waist because I'm tall, but this pattern seems to be pretty long-waisted and I ended up taking it out. I was also very pleased that the sway back adjustment from the Kitschy Koo blog worked like a charm.

My muslin was a straight size 3 in a stable knit, and it was a little clingy at the waist so I decided to grade out to a size 4. Big mistake. My thin, stretchy knit just grew and grew and grew as I sewed this up and I had to take it in twice. I have no idea what size I ended up with, but I think in general this dress (at least on my body) needs a pretty fitted waist. I also had to take in the underarm by a good inch and half and narrow the sleeves. Looking at these pictures, it looks like maybe I could have taken it in a little more.

The hems on the skirt and sleeves were a nightmare. I used about a mile of WonderTape, and still had some tunneling with my twin needle. I think a really stretchy knit like this needs a full on fusible web tape. I managed to smooth it into submission with a combination of steaming and pressing, but I'm a little nervous to see how it looks when it comes out of the wash.

As frustrating as the process was, I am pretty happy with the pattern and the finished product. I think the neckline is very flattering:

 And I LOVE the swish of the skirt. It's perfect for playing in the leaves on a fall day.

 Here are the details:

  • Pattern: Kitschy Koo Lady Skater PDF - This was a reasonable number of pages and easy to put together, but I was slightly annoyed that the sizes were distinguished by color because I don't have a color printer.
  • Fabric: 2 1/2 yards of rayon blend knit
  • Sizing: 3 in the shoulders, and probably a 3 in the waist and skirt as well.
  • Alterations
    • 1/2" broad shoulder adjustment
    • 1/2" swayback adjustment
    • Added 1" to length of sleeves instead of using cuffs.
    • Added 1 1/4" to length of skirt but later cut off 1", so really no change
  • What I'd change for next time
    • Cut a straight size 3.
    • Don't add any length to the bodice, and maybe make it a smidge shorter. It's hard to tell where I landed with how the fabric stretched out as I sewed.
    • Don't add any length to the skirt.

I'm already planning another version in a ponti knit, this time a Lady Skater-Renfrew mash up with a cowl neck, like this one and this one.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Cat Lady Tofinos

I once again broke my never ever, ever - unless the the house is on fire - go outside in my pajamas rule for you guys. I guess it's not so ironclad is it? But that's how much I love you, sewing community. Not only did I go outside, but I spent 15 minutes traipsing around my apartment complex looking for sunny spot as the sun rapidly set, earning many strange looks from the dog walkers.

I was just like, what, you've never seen a grown woman at dinnertime in flannel hipster cat pajamas before? Don't you know that October is the Cat Lady Sewing Challenge, hosted by the fabulous Erin of Miss Crayola Creepy?!

The stars really aligned for this make. I knew I needed a new snuggly pair of pajamas for this winter and I had been meaning to go back to my Sewaholic Tofino pattern, since I wear my first pair all the time. When I found this hilariously perfect hipster cat flannel on sale at Joann's shortly after Erin announced the challenge, it was just too perfect an opportunity to pass up.

This time I went all-out, and made the tie belt and piping. I love how the piping came out, but oh man is it tedious to make bias strips, piece them together, sew in the cording, and then baste the piping to the pattern pieces. I think I'll probably stick to pre-made piping in the future if I can help it.

The glasses kill me! These pajamas make me ridiculously happy.

Here are the detals:
  • Pattern: Sewaholic Tofino
  • Fabric: 2 3/4 yards of novelty flannel from Joann Fabric, and 1 1/2 yards of plain flannel for the piping and belt. It was suspiciously cheap, so it probably won't wear well over time, but I just couldn't resist those hipster cats!
  • Sizing: 6 at the waist, blended to a 4 for the hips
  • Alterations: I cut off about 1 1/2" inches (I should really write this stuff down) from the bottom. I'm 5'8" and these were way too long, so shorter ladies can definitely save some fabric and made this adjustment from the beginning.
  • What I'd change for next time: Nothing! I'm not fussy about the fit of pajamas, and these are super comfortable.

As a parting gift, here's my impression of Selena Kyle (aka Catwoman), the ultimate Cat Lady. I don't know if you guys have been watching the new TV show Gotham, but her sole purpose in the show seems to be needlessly crouching all across Gotham and stealing milk for kittens. It's kind of a terrible show, in that absurd, so-bad-it's-good kind of of way, and I highly recommend it.

I can't wait to see all of the other Cat Lady makes. Until next time, dear readers!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Miette Cardigan

This pretty much sums up how I feel about this cardigan:

It deserves that side-eye, trust me. This is the Miette Cardigan by Andi Satterlund, and lots of other bloggers have made beautiful versions, so it's definitely not the pattern. It's just that, for some reason, this project was doomed from the start for me. I stupidly persevered, because I am too stubborn for my own good sometimes. I should have given up when I realized I needed a third major frogging, or when I paid a $700 emergency vet bill after my cat got into my project bag and ate a bunch of the yarn. I should have given up after I named the UFO one of my "Misses of 2013", and I even should given up last week when all I could find were crappy 5 for $1 plastic buttons to match.

Did I mention I'm stubborn? You're probably thinking, Emily, that doesn't look that bad. It has sleeves and a button placket and you're not in any immediate danger of a wardrobe malfunction. That's because you haven't seen the um, "dolman sleeves" I added as a "design feature".

On my first go at this pattern, I worried I had made it way too small and it wouldn't fit in the shoulders. I started over in a larger size, and I also added several rows before I joined in the round for the sleeves. Somehow, despite trying it on along the way, I ended up with 2 1/2 inches of excess fabric under my arms. It also doesn't help that I lost some weight over the (many) months I worked on this, so it doesn't have the negative ease the pattern intended.

So, what do you guys think? Dolman sleeves are in, so can I get away with pretending it's intentional or should I just put it into the donation pile and move on? I'm honestly kind of tempted to throw it into the dryer and just see what happens. You know, for SCIENCE.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Spider-Man Dress

 And now for the big reveal: my Spider-Man dress for DragonCon!

My girlfriends did a group costume on Saturday night, and the theme was Retro/Pin-up Superheroes. Although duplicates were allowed, I started telling everyone who would listen months in advance about how I wanted to do Spider-Man, my all-time favorite super hero. Once word got out that I was sewing a dress from scratch, people started acting like sewing was super power! I felt like kind of a badass. Yeah, I can whip up adorable baby shirts by day and custom fit-and-flare dresses by night. I'm your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.

This is me, um, "web slinging."

Okay, back to the dress. I used Simplicity 1755, one of the Leanne Marshall (of Project Runway) designs. I cut a 10 in the shoulders and then blended to 12 in the waist, with my usual SBA and 1" waist lengthening. I had some major fit issues in the beginning and went through two muslins, but looking back I think I was just really tired or temporarily lost my fitting Spider-Sense or something, because it really shouldn't have been that hard. It's probably still a little too big in the bust, but c'est la vie.

I made the Spider-Man symbol by fusing some heavy-duty interfacing to some black fabric from my stash and then carefully gluing it on with Tacky Glue and a paint brush.

The blue fabric is a poly crepe. For the bodice, I used a shiny spider-web mesh I got on clearance after Halloween last year (yes, that's how far in advance we plan for DragonCon haha!), and underlined it with cheap quilting cotton. I really like the final effect, but the mesh is very delicate and the spider-webs have rubbed away in places. I kept trying to handle the dress like glass as I sewed it up, terrified would ruin it before I even got a chance to wear it!

One of my favorite things about the dress are the cute upturned sleeves with the button closure. I think the instructions have a mistake though. The diagram shows the button loop at the top of gap, but the loop actually has to be in the middle. The marking on the pattern piece seems to be in the right place though, so I'd stick with that.

My other favorite part is the in-seam pockets!

As for things I didn't love so much, I'm not sure that the pleats look any better or all that different than a simple gathered skirt would have. It was a huge pain to mark and baste dozens of pleats, and it took two tries to get the two sides even. Here's a pic without the belt you you can take a look and decide for yourself:

The other thing I wasn't crazy about was how the collar came out, but I think that had more to do with my inexperience and a the multiple layers of fabric than the pattern itself.

Still, though, I am pretty proud of this dress! It's probably the most technically challenging thing I've made so far. I got so into this dress and the matchy-matchy look of the 1960's along the way that I went kind of overboard with the accessories. I made the belt using a vintage belt kit I got at a thrift store for $1, glued the spiderweb mesh onto the headband, and made a matching clutch!

I used a 5" purse frame from Joann's Fabric and this tutorial. It was juuuuuuust big enough to fit my cell phone on the diagonal, which is why the bag looks a little misshapen in the picture. It was fun to make though, even if I did end up with fingers covered in super glue by the end.

So that's my Spider-Man dress! I had a fabulous time, all of my friends looked drop-dead gorgeous in their retro costumes, and I'm already dreaming up plans for next year.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Baby Tee Refashion

Another top secret project I can finally reveal: a baby shower gift! When I first moved to Atlanta I had a hard time making friends and was getting pretty lonely until I stumbled on the Geek Girls of North Atlanta. It sounds a little junior high and cliquish, a grown-ass woman belonging to a club, but it's a really awesome group of ladies and open to anyone.

So anyway, last year we had tee shirts made for DragonCon and I ordered mine based on the bust size and it ended up being uncomfortably tight in the shoulders. You know, that awful, digging in  your armpits feeling? Ugh, it's my RTW bugaboo as a tall, small busted lady. I only wore it once and it languished in my closet until I heard my friend Lisa was having a little girl. Well, our newest (and tiniest) Geek Girl was going to need a shirt too, so I made her one!

I used this free pattern, only I left off the skirt portion and did a smaller hem with my twin needle. I followed the directions exactly and it was a pretty quick make, just a couple of hours. I struggle a bit with the arm bands because my jersey didn't have much stretch. In retrospect I probably should have just recut longer bands instead of fighting the fabric. You can see a little bit of puckering because this. I'm hoping the baby will be so squirmy and adorable no one will notice.

This is the original shirt:

This would have been plenty of fabric, except there was a flirty slogan on the back and it felt skeevy to sexualize an infant. Plus the font was way too big to fit on a baby-sized shirt.

However, in a bit of sewing serendipity I still can't get over, my husband went to an event at work and came home with a shirt by the same company using the same fabric in the same color. He couldn't resist my sky-high enthusiasm for this project (seriously, this has been so hard to keep a secret!), and let me cut up his new shirt.  This was fate, I explained, and one does not anger the sewing gods or they will smite you by breaking the upper looper thread in your serger.

The rest was cake. I traced the pattern onto the front to make sure the design was centered and the text was straight, and then sewed it all up in a jiffy.

I didn't finish the side or shoulder seams because I read somewhere that serger finishes can be rough on on a baby's delicate skin. It's so tiny and adorable I can hardly stand it.

As tiny as this is, somehow, impossibly, it won't fit until next spring or summer, but I had to go with a bigger size to fit the graphic. It's for the best though, because by then, our newest Geek Girl will be a little less hungry and sleepy and ready to take on some geeky adventures.