Thursday, April 17, 2014

More Circle Maxi Skirts

My half circle leopard print maxi skirt from Jungle January is in heavy rotation these days.  Despite not being a leopard print kind of gal.  I get a ton of compliments every time I wear it.  I think it has something to do with all that swish when I walk.  It really does have a satisfying swish.  Anyway, I decided I needed another half circle maxi in my life.   In plain old boring black.

  It's impossible for me to twirl and make a normal face at the same time.  Again, I used this post from By Hand London to make my pattern.  Out of all the circle skirt formula posts out there, this one made the most sense.  I used a rayon knit I found at Joann's.  It seems to be pretty decent quality and really soft.  I was a little worried that it was a tad see through.  There is nothing worse than seeing through a skirt when the light hits it.  So I sewed a separate short tube skirt and attached it at the waist.  It took a little bit of engineering but I am super happy with how it turned out.  I don't have to worry about any issues with the fabric being see through or too thin.  No VPL.  I used the same wide elastic for the waistband as before out of laziness.

After making the black version, I decided I wanted to try a quarter circle maxi as well.  Making the pattern took longer than sewing the skirt.  It was a really quick project.  I used another rayon knit I found at Joann's with a funky print.  I did have to cut the skirt in two panels, so I was careful to keep the print straight at the front and back when cutting it out.  I used the same wide elastic for the waist but this time I covered it.  I am much happier with this waistband than the plain elastic.  It looks much more finished to me.

And guess who got a pair of leggings with the leftover fabric?  This sweet girl.  I used this legging pattern again- same one I used for my crawling baby pants.  It was another super quick and easy sewing project.  And a great way to use up leftover scraps.  I may be addicted to making baby leggings.

There was a bit of tickling going on in these photos.  She's ONE by the way.  As of this past Monday.  I can't believe it.  We are having a party this weekend so I've been spending my spring break getting ready.  I hope everyone has a happy Easter!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

A Special Skirt

I made a skirt.  I couldn't come up with a more creative way to introduce this post, so there it is.  I sewed a skirt.

Holy cow that's some pasty skin.  Spring is arriving in my neck of the woods but I've yet to be out in the sun.  I am pretty pleased with this particular skirt, mainly because the fabric is special to me.  The fabric was given to me by Carolyn of Diary of a Sewing Fanatic.  She sent me a box of fabric after pledging to give away some of her stash.  I wrote at the time that Carolyn sensed I needed a pick-me-up but I don't think I've ever told her the whole story.   Carolyn emailed me about sending this package the same week that J was being diagnosed.   During that terrifying week where we knew that he had some form of cancer, we just didn't know exactly what type.  I was driving back and forth to the hospital trying to take care of him as best I could as well as a three month old baby.  It was insane.  I have to say, that was the worst part of the whole ordeal- the unknown.  The email I got from Carolyn was just the pick-me-up I needed.  It was a little slice of kindness and normalcy that I really needed at the time.  It sounds silly, I know.  It's just fabric.  But I really needed something positive right then at that exact moment.  And who wouldn't be excited about free fabric?  Am I right, or amiright?

Ok, so enough of the sappy stuff.  I want you to know that I am most definitely NOT a sentimental person.  But our crazy life experiences have changed that about me a little bit.  As they would anyone.  So yes, this silly little piece of fabric is very special to me.  I decided it was high time to sew it up.  I planned on finishing this skirt in time for Sew Grateful week, but you know how time management goes with a baby...

I originally thought this fabric was black.  I kept looking at and thinking that there was something strange about the color.  I finally saw it next to something black and realized that it's not black.  It's a super, super dark brown.  Like dark espresso brown.  That made me like it even more.  I decided I wanted to make something simple with it to focus on the fun border print.  I went for a skirt since I can't wear any of my old handmade skirts anymore.  I'm not sure I'll ever be able to either.  I am back down to pre-pregnancy weight (ok, well, close enough... :D) but my mid-section is most definitely not the same as it used to be.  So some new skirts are in order.  I need to quit harping on the post baby body issues, but it's just so weird to me.  That so much can change in such a short amount of time.  

I used this a-line skirt pattern, Simplicity 1717.  I went up a size from what I used to sew.  Since I can't be sure of any alterations I need anymore, I decided to follow the "amazing fit" instructions where you baste everything together and then check the fit before you rip it all out and sew up the skirt.  I did all the basting, tried it on and.... it fit. Ha. It fit well enough for me not to worry about any alterations. That's the way it goes.  I did err on the side of being too big which I think contributed to the issue I talk about below.

I bet you are wondering why my skirt is not very a-line if I used an a-line skirt pattern.  I finished this skirt one night last week and was really excited about wearing it to work.  It's just the sort of skirt that fits my job description.  It's easy and casual but looks a little more put together than wearing corduroys and a tee shirt.  I put it on in the morning and went about a my routine.   I started to notice that if I bent over I felt a draft.  Like a major breeze.  The skirt pattern is a very exaggerated a-line.  I love the fabric I used but I'm not sure it was exactly right for the pattern because it is so stiff.  So when I bent over the back lifted up like one of those cones you put on a dog when they have surgery.  That's the best way I can describe it.  It was quite comical.  Not the sort of skirt I want to wear when I have little kids sitting on the floor underneath me.  So I had to reduce the sweep of the hem.  I undid my beautiful hand stitched hem and took out almost five inches of sweep from the side and center back seams.  I got rid of the front seam when I cut out the fabric so I didn't break up the print there.  But I wish I had left it in because that would have helped when I was reducing the sweep.  As a result, the front flares out a bit more than the back.  So the final shape of the skirt is kind of weird.  Would you call it straight?  Tulip shaped?  I don't know.  It's a little off.  It still has a little bit of the dog cone effect (see above), but nothing like before.  It'll be nice and breezy for summer :)

I lined the skirt in muslin.  The skirt pattern does not include a lining.  I just cut the skirt pieces and sewed them to the yoke facing.  I'll definitely do that again if I make this skirt pattern up again.  The lining makes it feel a little more polished.  Nothing like a pretty lining to make your handmade makes special.  I went with muslin to keep it cool for summer.  I put in a regular dress zip by hand and slip stitched the hem (not invisibly).  The finish is pretty nice on this skirt if I do say so myself.  I still have quite a bit of this particular fabric left which I'm thinking I want to make in to a pair of shorts.

I definitely want to make this skirt pattern again in a fabric that has a little more drape.  This was the knee length hem shortened a couple of inches.  If I make it again I may go for the short length with the patch pockets.  The curved yoke is a nice feature.  All in all I'm really happy with the skirt and I know it will get worn to death.  Thanks so much Carolyn for taking the time and effort to send me such an awesome, awesome package.  It was exactly what I needed :)    

Friday, March 7, 2014

Crawling Baby Pants

What do you do when you have a crawling baby and nothing but hardwood floors in your house?  Make some crawling baby pants--- with padded knees!

Baby Jane has been crawling around for a while now.  But when she first started crawling, her little knees would get so red and raw.  In fact, after her first big day of crawling I noticed that she took it easy the next couple of days because her knees hurt.  We have a couple of big area rugs in our house, but otherwise it's all hardwood.  Pretty tough on little baby knees.  My mom and my aunt both bought her an adorable pair of knee pads.  I don't have a picture of them, but the actual knee pad looks like a piece of foam (or maybe neoprene?) and they are attached to a knit tube.  They have some grippy stuff printed on them, too.  Anyway, the knee pads were so perfect for this newly crawling baby that I decided to sew her some pants with knee pads sewn on.

I made five pairs but I tweaked them a bit with every pair.  The first couple pairs I made aren't great.  I changed around how I sewed the knee pads.  So bear with me while I post a picture of each and talk about the pads.  I want to remember what worked best in case I decide to make some of these again.  Which I might.

  I used this baby legging pattern by Melissa Esplin.  I shortened the legs and rise a little bit. The legs were really long, even on my long baby.  And I shortened the rise because I added a waistband.   The picture above shows the first pair I made.  The pads are made of two layers of fleece with one layer of quilting cotton on top.  I basted the layers together and then serged the edges.  And yikes, these knee pads are homemade looking.  It's really hard to serge a round patch, too.  Hence the pointy bit on one of the patches.

Pair number two is two layers of fleece with one layer of flannel on top.  Rather than serge the edges together I decided to bind the edges with some rib knit.  My stitch-in-the-ditch could use some work, I know.  I didn't like this pair at first but they have become the most worn pair of the bunch.  The patches are extra soft and squishy.   I should also mention that there is elastic in the waistband.  I tried a couple pairs of these leggings with just a knit waistband (like a yoga waistband) but found that they really needed the elastic to stay up.  Jane managed to crawl out of a pair that didn't have elastic in the waist.  The cuffs are just a knit band.

Pair number three I used one layer of fleece underneath some crazy fluffy minky.  Instead of serging or binding the edges of the patch, I zig zag stitched over the edges.  I sewed this pair in a hurry.  I was sewing while listening to baby Jane on the monitor stirring from a nap.   Nothing makes me panic more.   Just one more seam, baby please.... :)  There are some puckers around the patch that I'm not happy with.  As a result, this pair hasn't been worn yet.  But I think the fuzzy patches are pretty cute.

 The last two pairs I feel like I got it right.  The patches are only two layers.  The black patches are just two layers of black fleece.  The striped patches are self fabric with one layer of fleece underneath.  The patches are sewn on with a zig zag stitch set with a smaller stitch length.  I also rotated the position of the patches towards the outside of the knee.  I noticed on the other pairs that the patches ended up sitting slightly inside of the knee after some crawling around.  Not sure why.  Using a stretch fabric for all layers of the patch made a difference, too.  Both pairs are made from the same fabric, some sort of reversible knit.  Dots on one side, stripes on the other.

Can I just tell you how hard it was to get pictures of baby Jane for this blog post now that she's mobile?  It was nearly impossible.  I had to get her attention with kitchen items.  She doesn't sit still for her toys anymore.  It takes something new to pique her interest.  In this case it was the salad spinner.  And even then she only stayed in one spot for a moment.  Gone are the days where I lay my sweet little baby down on a blanket and snap two hundred photos.  She's on the move.

To prove it, check out this stop motion video of crawling baby pants in action.  It's pretty darn cute.   A good way to remember this crawling phase down the road.  Baby Jane is ten months old now and she's just the sweetest thing I've ever laid eyes on.  Can you guess why her first word is kitty?

Friday, February 14, 2014

Snow Days

We are digging ourselves out of the snow and ice here in SC.   It snowed for two days straight, which is unheard of around these parts.  What's up with all the snow this year?  Not that I'm complaining.  Four snow days this week.  It's been an awesome unplanned winter break.  I'm trying to ignore the fact that we'll have to make up these days in the spring when the weather is beautiful.

I thought I'd turn my 'snowcation' into a 'sewcation.'  But I didn't.  I wasn't motivated to sew.  I stayed inside where it was warm (my sewing room is in an attached sun room not connected to the central heating system), managed to eat almost everything we bought during the pre-storm frenzy and took lots of naps.  Oh, and played with this little rug rat plenty, too.  She's crawling now, by the way.  She is in to everything.  Ten months old today.

Anyway, I had to share some snow twin pics.  We had a blast playing in the snow but now I'm ready for spring.  Snow, you were fun but now begone!  Stay warm my northern hemisphere friends.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Do-si-do Dress

Look at my lovely autumn dress.  Made just in time for early spring!  I guess I could just call it a spring shirt dress.  I started this project at the beginning of October and I have been slooowly working on it in between other projects and all the distractions around the holidays.  When I started it I imagined I would finish it in time to take photos with all the changing fall leaves.  This fabric has some pretty fall colors in it.  But eh.  You know how it goes.

Actually, I'm really pleased with the finished dress even though it took forever to finish.  The fabric is one of those cherished stash fabrics that I have been saving for something special.  It's not a particularly nice fabric or anything, just a crisp cotton shirting.  But I absolutely love the colors in the print.  I love complementary colors together.  I used the Lisette traveler shirt dress pattern, Simplicity 2246.  I made view C with the gathered skirt but with the three-quarter length sleeve.  This pattern has been around for a while now and I've seen lots of great versions on the interwebs.  It's a great easy shirt dress or tunic pattern without some of the more difficult parts of a button up shirt.  Although I kind of wish there was an option for a sleeve cuff.  I struggled with how to finish my sleeve hems as I didn't like the pattern instructions to just turn up the hem and stitch.  I ended up adding a sleeve facing using a scrap of lightweight denim.  I rolled it about a half inch towards the outside so you can see a strip of it even when the sleeves aren't rolled up. You can see what the sleeves look like unrolled in the photo on the left below.  The photo on the right shows the facing from the inside.   I pretty much always keep my sleeves rolled up, though.   I added the facing before I sewed the sleeve seam and then ironed some fusible web around the top edge to keep it in place.

I've been struggling with fitting recently.  I'm pretty darn close to my pre-pregnancy weight but boy am I a different shape now.  Things are in different places than they used to be.  It's not necessarily a bad thing, just different.  I kind of feel like I'm starting all over when it comes to fitting sewing patterns.  I don't know what size to cut or what alterations to make anymore where I used to have some routine adjustments.  I ended up making a lot of alterations on the fly while sewing this up.  Some were on purpose, some were from my screw ups.

I did a broad back alteration before I cut my fabric.  I did the one where you cut a right angle and then pivot out.  I added about an inch.  I probably went a little overboard but I like to have free range arm movement if at all possible.   Luckily the busy fabric hides some of the wrinkling.  It also hides the fact that the bust darts are way too high.  Thanks, gravity.  If I make this again, I'll definitely lower those darts.  I also reduced the sleeve cap ease using Joy's explanation.  Worked like a charm.  I saw a lot of versions that had some puffiness at the shoulder, which is not a bad thing but just not what I wanted on this particular dress.  I added pockets.

You've probably noticed that I don't have a normal shirt collar on my dress.  Yeah.  That would be from all my screw ups.  I think this bow blouse collar was my fourth or fifth iteration.  It was a last shot before I threw in the towel.   I'll save you all the boring details, but I seemed to have lost my touch when it comes to precision sewing.   I'm a little out of practice.  I screwed up two or three collar attempts and distorted the neckline from all the unpicking.  I cut it down and tried binding it, which looked terribly homemade.  Then I had the bright idea to try a bow blouse collar as a last ditch effort to save the fabric.  And it worked.  At least I think it did.  I seem to be channeling Colonel Sanders more than a sexy secretary, though.   But it was a save no less.  I went with pearl snaps instead of buttons, hemmed it above the knee and put on my cowgirl boots.  That's why I'm calling it the do-si-do dress.  I feel like I should be at a square dance for some reason.  It's a little country.  Yee haw!

It's a great casual dress which will be worn often.  Perfect for work.  And I'm happy I used a fabric I loved so much.  I'm on a mission to sew some of the special fabrics I've been hanging on to these last few years.  I like the Lisette pattern I used and I'd like to attempt it again after making this dress.  Maybe the tunic version.  It was fun to sew a crisp woven, too, after all the knit sewing I've done lately.   Hooray for more sewing!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Rawr... And A Late Review, Too.

Well, hello and Happy New Year!  Hope it's been a good one for everyone so far.  I've had a decent start to the year.  I really enjoyed the recent long weekend as I actually got to spend some time in the sewing room.  I made a skirt.  In a weekend.  Can you believe it?  I can't remember the last time I saw a project through start to finish over a weekend.  Not since before baby.

I bought this leopard print double knit fabric some time ago with a different plan in mind.  This was a case of not checking the ruler on the screen shot when ordering fabric online.  I thought the print was going to be much smaller.  Much, much smaller.  When the fabric arrived, I looked at the enormous spots and wondered what the hell I was going to do with it.  I caught a glimpse of it draped around my legs while I was folding it to put away and I though maxi skirt.  Big, swishy maxi skirt.  Sometimes you just have to let the fabric tell you what it wants to be.  And since it's Jungle January, I figured I better go ahead and do what the fabric told me to.

I decided on a half circle skirt for ultimate twirly-ness.  I've wanted to make a half circle maxi skirt for a while now but the math has always scared me off.  I read lots of blog tutorials and online magazine articles on drafting a circle skirt.  But this one by By Hand London clicked.  I intended on only drawing out the waistline circumference on paper and then using that to draw my half pattern piece directly on the fabric.  When I realized I would have to sew the skirt in panels, I couldn't wrap my head around how to divide it up.  So I ended up drawing out a gigantic half of a half circle maxi skirt pattern piece on paper.   I mean, the pattern piece is seriously huge.  At least I have it now and can use it to make any length half circle skirt.

Here's a shot of the skirt panels cut out.  Just for reference as to how much fabric makes up this skirt.  I had three yards of this leopard print double knit, 60 inches wide.  I used almost every bit of it.  Luckily the print isn't directional. The front of the skirt is made up of two panels and the back is four.  The skirt is satisfyingly swishy when I walk and turn around.  Which I tried to capture in the top photo, hence the silly face.  I know double knit seems like a strange fabric to make a half circle skirt from.  This double knit is quite a bit lighter and has more drape than any double knit I've ever used before.  In fact, I would just call it a heavy jersey.  It's pretty stretchy, too.  That being said, the skirt is really heavy with all that fabric.  I planned on putting in a straight self fabric waistband and maybe an invisible zip if I needed it.  But the weight of the skirt was too much.  I used some wide knit elastic as the waistband and left it exposed, which was a very easy finish.  I did a quick and dirty baby hem at the bottom.  I serged the edge first with the differential feed cranked up.  Then I just flipped up the serged edge and straight stitched.

Anyway, I'm glad Jungle January peer pressured inspired me to make this skirt!  Especially since the fabric is not my typical style.  I'm still a little scarred from my last cat print garment.  I ended up with a skirt that I love and will wear often.  I even put on a bit of lipstick for these photos.  What is it about leopard print that makes you want to wear red lipstick?


Ok, so I'm tacking on a very late year end review to the end of this post because I don't think it's worth a post of it's own.  I wasn't going to do this again, but Joy's review convinced me otherwise.  I do love a good pie chart (neeeerrrrd!).

I had some major life events this year.   I made my most important masterpiece to date :).   And all of those life changes, of course, affected my sewing time.  But not as much as I thought.  It was nice to see this little bit of info in graphic form.  I made 30 items altogether.  Didn't make anything in April for good reason.  And then my output majorly slowed since going back to work in August, except for a weird burst of productivity in October.

Like last year, I can see that I like to sew a variety of items.  I'll use that cliche that I'm a jack of all trades, but master of none.  The home decor and craft sewing were all projects for baby.  As were all the baby clothes.  If you include the bag I made to cart around all the baby stuff, that's about fifty percent of my sewing done for baby Jane.  I consider that a pretty good split- 50/50!

I used a lot of knits this year.  A direct result of being pregnant and then being a new mom.  Knits are easy to wear.  I kind of miss wearing some of my woven shirts and things but life just isn't conducive to ironing right now.  Eh.

 And by pattern type.  Not much to say about this one.  I didn't use as many big 4 patterns as I did previously.  Anyway, not too shabby.  Life is good and I am getting in to a groove, with tiny bits of sewing time here and there.  Here's to a happy and healthy 2014!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Pinterest Fail

Ah, Pinterest.  You make it look so easy.

Look, how simple!   I'll just tape some old Christmas lights on the wall and pop my sweet baby up on the bed with some ornaments for a super cute Christmas card photo.

 Nailed it!

Ok, to be fair I did get some really great photos on the plaid blanket, which you'll see at the end of this post.  But this Pinterest pose didn't pan out.  First, I wasn't able to wrangle the cats off the guest bed. Then I didn't want to mess with untangling and taping up lights with a wriggly baby.  Meanwhile I was running out of daylight.  So I decided to throw a blanket outside on the grass and try for a cute tummy time pose.  No such luck!

The ornaments were way too tasty and interesting.  These outtakes made me giggle and I thought they'd make you giggle, too.

I hope everyone had a fabulous Christmas with lots of quality time spent with loved ones.  I know we did.  

Wishing you a happy 2014!