Saturday, July 26, 2014

Two White Tops

Nothing is easier to wear than a nice white top, right?

I made two versions of Simplicity 1693 in white linen and a white cotton lace.  Actually, I've made several versions of this pattern now, but these two are the first that will definitely be worn.  My first version was that blue floral number that was hanging on the wall in my photo of all my recent duds.  There is technically nothing wrong with that top, other than a slight snugness across the upper bust.  But I am very meh about the fabric.  I used a rayon I thrifted that obviously came straight from the early 90's.  And I just don't love it.  I was trying to work from my stash.  But it does make a good muslin!  Let's just pretend that was what I intended it for.  I'll keep it around in the closet, but I doubt it will get much wear.

I decided to try another version of Simplicity 1693 since I have been digging the swingy blouse here lately.  I figured it was a really good contender for work appropriate wear which I mentioned that I am in dire need of in my last post.  Thank you all, by the way, for all of your awesome suggestions.  When I read through that post again, I realized how frantic I sound.  And I am, really.  But not about what I'm going to wear to work.  I am anxious about actually having to go back to work after spending my summer with baby Jane.  Ugh, I can't even talk about it.  It makes my stomach hurt to think about it.  I have really enjoyed being home with her.  And don't get me wrong, I feel very fortunate to have this time with her.  And I feel fortunate to have the fulfilling job that I have.  But, you know, it's your baby.  I wish I knew what the right answer was.  So... misplaced anxiety.  

However.  Work clothes.  I made two more versions using the swingier view.  I made a few tweaks after my muslin.  I cut a size smaller initially than I normally wear after reading the finished measurements.  My muslin fit great in the shoulders but I did feel a slight pull through the upper bust.  This pattern doesn't require any fitting at all except through the upper bust and shoulders.  So I did a small broad back alteration and also lengthened the pattern by one inch.   I even traced my new pattern on to swedish tracing paper because I was feeling fancy.  And I'm glad I did.  Because I've made several versions (with alterations) now and I have a couple more in the pipeline.

I made the version with the peter pan collar first.  I can't say I'm in love with the collar.  In fact, it was one of those things I swore I'd never make.  It's a little too cute, if you know what I mean.  The main fabric is linen an the collar and trim is quilting cotton.  I had one small scrap of this black and white print from when I did some appliqué for a friend's baby shower.  It felt good to use it.  The underside of the collar is a slippery black synthetic to keep it from being to stiff.  The big, swingy shape is not the most flattering.  But man, do I love wearing tops like this.  They are so easy to throw on in the morning even if they are a little reminiscent of maternity tops.

I finally splurged for a camera remote.  I haven't mastered hiding it or making sure I'm in focus yet.  Who I am kidding, I probably won't ever try to hide it!  It sure does make taking pictures quicker.   

And can we just take a moment to appreciate this button at the back opening?  It's a vintage button from my stash and it's just perfect.  A friend gave me a jar of vintage buttons from a family member who obviously cut them off of all her old clothing.  I have a bunch, but these perfectly round ones are my favorite.  I have two more.  The back opening here is non-functional, though, since I can slip the top on over my head.  Just for looks.  The neckline and armholes are finished with bias which I flipped to the inside (is that considered a facing?).

I made this cotton lace version next.  I used my favorite drafting book, Winifred Aldrich's Metric Pattern Cutting for Women's Wear, to help me visualize how to add a cut on cap sleeve.  I love that drafting book.  It seriously is the best.  It has every thing you could ever want to draft.  Even though it's metric, sometimes you just need to see a picture.

I love the cap sleeve.  I traced a new pattern when I made this one so I could use it again.  I also eliminated the center back seam and opening.  It's a very simple shape and one I know I will use again.  Not the most exciting top but it will definitely see lots of wear.  The lace was easy to sew since it is cotton.  I finished the sleeve and neck openings with a strip of the white linen from the first top.

So yay for pull on tops with no fasteners.  These were both quick and easy makes.  Both made during one nap each!  That's my kind of sew.  I've gotten some really good sewing time since my last post.  I've got a few other things to show yet.  And I'm still on my sewing bender for two more weeks so I'm hoping to crank a few more pieces out.   Trying to take advantage of that misplaced anxiety- ha!

And one last picture, just because.  I have been playing around with my camera and trying to control more of the settings.  I feel much more comfortable behind the camera instead of in front of it.  And of course my favorite subject is...

She's fifteen months old now and walking everywhere.  Finally.  It took her a while to walk but as soon as she took that first step, she was off.  She won't let me hold her anymore.  She wants to do it all herself.   She is just the best.  Happy weekend!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Dud City

Of the last twelve things I've made, only three of them are real life wearable (my beach bum shorts and skirt and my white Luella tunic in case you were wondering).  Three!  Three of twelve.  Twenty five percent.  Those are not good odds.  My friends, I am officially in a sewing rut.  A deep sewing rut.  I have made the occasional wadder in the past, of course.  But never this many in a row.  I'm discouraged.

I've sat looking at the duds (no pun intended- ha!) for a while now trying to figure out why.  Why so many?  Why have I lost my sew-jo?  What is it that makes each piece a failure?   In the past, I figured there are two main reasons a piece doesn't work.  The style of something is just wrong.   Either the fabric doesn't work with the pattern or the shape just doesn't work for me or my lifestyle.  Or there is some technical issue that makes me not want to wear it.  Like a floppy collar, pointy darts, a pucker or something weird about the fit.  In the case of every single dud I've finished recently, it's the style that I don't like.  I'm making things that I don't like!  What's wrong with me?  I spend hours making something, then put it on and think... meh.  I feel like I used to have such a good handle on what I liked and didn't like.  Now I don't know.

To be fair, some of those pieces above are okay.  The crazy kimono is growing on me.  The green skirt is a refashion of this dress.  I wasn't going to wear it again and I didn't want to waste that pretty dip dyed linen.  And I am planning on fixing my Nicola dress bodice at some point.  I don't have the confidence to do that now.  Someone asked me a while ago if I thought my style had changed since becoming a mom.  I hadn't really thought about before then, but now I can answer with a definite yes.   The problem is that I don't know what it has changed in to.   

I am delving in to this now because I desperately need clothes I can wear to work.   I teach art in an elementary school, so I can get away with work wear that most people can't.  I don't need corporate work apparel or anything.  But I do need to look put together.  I need nice work clothes that make me look like I know what I'm doing (i.e. things with real waistbands, buttons, collars, etc.).   When I went back to work last school year, I bought a bunch of stuff in a hurry because nothing fit.  I was four months postpartum.   I bought several skirts and a pair of black pants with an elastic waist from j.jill.  I do love that pair of pants, but it's hard to wear them without looking like you have your pajamas on.  I didn't care at that point.  I was just trying to figure out how I was going to eat lunch and pump at the same time.  Then by winter, I fit back in to my old clothes.   Yet I didn't find many things I wanted to wear.  I wore weird things last year.   I think I wore the same pair of corduroys about seventy-five percent of the time with different blouse-y tops.  Moms of little ones, help me out.  What do you wear on a daily basis?

Anyway, this is an incredibly self indulgent post.  I am halfway through my summer which is why I have the time to think.   I really have been sewing a lot.  Baby Jane (or maybe I should call her Toddler Jane) is consistently taking a two to three hour nap in the afternoon.  Which is awesome for me and my sewing machine.  I just wish I could actually produce things I want to wear! So help a girl out.  What do you do to get out of a sewing rut like mine?  What can I do to figure out what will work and what won't (ahead of time)?  I want to put on something I've made and think yeeeessssssss.  You know what I'm talking about.  I need some sort of plan.  I am not a planner by nature.   I have one more month of summer so I want to take advantage of this sewing time while I have it.  And pants!  I need pants.  Real pants with waistbands and zippers.  But mom friendly, too.  That's a tall order, isn't it?  I think I also just need someone to commiserate with me and all my duds...

And because I want to leave on a positive note...

 ... here is something I made that ended up perfect.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Beach Bum

Schooooool's out for summer!  I got out a week ago and spent the first week of summer lounging at the beach.  THE beach.  That would be Myrtle Beach to all you non South Carolinians out there.  It is a crazy Atlantic coast tourist beach for those of you that aren't familiar with it.  It's like the Vegas of beaches, only replace casinos with miniature golf courses and club wear with air brushed tee shirts.  It's a lot of fun.  Great place to lounge on the beach, hang out with family and people watch.  J's mom was kind enough to treat us to an awesome vacation (thank you!).  Baby Jane thoroughly enjoyed her first time playing in the surf.

 Before we left, I bought some beach-y looking rayon at Joann's to make up the pants version of Simplicity 1887.  Only when I got home to cut the pattern out, I chickened out.  I was worried that all that print would make the pants too crazy to wear.  So I opted to make the shorts instead.  I am so glad I did because they are awesome.  I wore them nearly every day of our trip.

I read a few reviews of the pattern before I started and all of them noted the enormous amount of ease in the pattern.  I went a size down and the fit is great.  They are still loose but I tend to like a little more ease anyway.  I made them up just as the pattern directed.  No changes other than using a one inch elastic waistband instead of making the two channels and putting in two skinnier pieces of elastic.  Is there a reason two pieces of elastic are preferred over one thicker piece?  Just curious.  I also shortened the hem two inches.  The seat is just a tad bit snug but using a drape-y rayon makes it not very noticeable.  If I made these again in a more stable fabric I would do an aptly named full seat adjustment.

I cut the shorts with the stripe running vertical.  I tried not to over think pattern placement too much.  Just tried to make it symmetrical.  I don't think there is anything too unfortunate going on.  Maybe.

After I made the shorts and they were such a success, I decided to try the skirt since I had so much fabric left.  Again, I made the skirt up as directed except for shortening it a couple of inches (I made the longer version and probably hemmed it up to the mini version.  The skirt has a cute tulip shape.  Not really noticeable in my drape-y rayon.  I cut the skirt so the stripe ran horizontal.  The shorts are unlined but the skirt is lined in a navy rayon challis.  I treated the lining more like an underlining, basting it to the front and back pieces before sewing the side seams.  My hem is a little wonky because of that but not enough to bug me.  I'm wearing the skirt with my grey circle tee and I am really liking the laid back combination.  My circle tees are in heavy, heavy rotation by the way.  I think I'm going to have to make another in the same cotton jersey as the grey one.  It sees the most wear of the three.

Not really anything else to say except I really enjoyed making this pattern up.  It was straight forward to put together and the finished product is easy to wear.  

And one more gratuitous baby photo...

Baby Jane loved the beach.  She played in the surf for hours, picking up seashells and putting them in her bucket.  She had no fear of the ocean.  I'm not entirely sure that is a good thing since I couldn't take my eyes off of her for a second or she would have crawled in to the waves.  She is walking like a champ if you hold her hands but the moment you let go, she falters and sits.  I know she'll take off any day now so I'm trying to enjoy these last few moments of crawling baby.  She is such a joy!

Sunday, June 8, 2014


The more I stare at this the worse it gets.  I almost didn't post about this.  It's pretty bad.  But I am hoping maybe someone has a good suggestion for fixing this kimono.  Or whether it's even worth fixing.

I used the other crazy print fabric from J's trip to China.  You can see my failed Nicola bodice still on my dress form.  I'm not removing it until I come with a brilliant idea to save it, by the way.  I had no idea what to do with this particular fabric.  I mean, it's pretty wild.   Feather flowers/dream catchers/psychedelic floral?  I don't know.   There's not a whole lot you can do with a fabric like this. 

I decided on a kimono after being inspired by Kat of Petticoats and Peplums.  She has made a couple of kimonos that I have coveted in the past year or so.   I also just happened to catch a blog post by Julia Bobbin this week where she made a beautiful silk kimono using the same tutorial.  Anyway,  I was not successful like either of the ladies of mentioned above.  Most likely due to my fabric choice.  I was hoping for a groovy Free People sort of vibe.  But...

It's like a bad Hawaiian shirt.  I originally took some photos of me wearing it with shorts, but they are so bad I won't be showing them.  It looks marginally better with skinny jeans but definitely still has the same touristy shirt vibe.  The tutorial I used tells you how to measure a bunch of rectangles to make a kimono.  I made it up as the tutorial specified but was not happy with the finish.  So I tried to beef it up afterwards.  It looked like a bad robe.  I put a big inverted pleat at the back neckline because the shoulders hung so low it looked ridiculous.  Then I finished the neckline and sleeve cuffs with wide bands instead of just turning under and hemming.  Maybe taking out some of the width in the back contributed to the Hawaiian shirt look.  Using a wild printed fabric didn't help.  I think a kimono like this should be made up in a more delicate fabric.  Sheer.  I also think the length is all wrong.  Either it needs to be shorter or longer.  In fact, I'm thinking about cropping the front up super short like so.

Let's be honest, I'll never wear it as is.  I'm kicking myself for not using this fabric to make another quarter circle maxi skirt. What do you think?  Is it worth trying to save?  Am I just wearing it all wrong?  What on earth do you wear something like this with anyway?  Or should I just admit defeat?

Monday, June 2, 2014

Luella Tunic

Back in the day, pre-blog, I made a simple skirt from some Tina Givens quilting cotton.  It was one of my favorites for a long time.  I actually wore it out, though that was probably from shoddy sewing more than anything else.  I have another cotton print of hers that has survived a couple of stash purges now even though I don't sew with quilting cotton anymore.  I've always liked her fabric prints.  They have a cool, global feel.  But really, I like that you can tell Givens' original designs were most definitely done by hand.  That they began as an actual physical brush-and-paper artwork.

I came across Tina Givens' sewing patterns one day while browsing the interwebs.  I am fully aware that they are not every one's cup of tea.  I can admit that they might look like something an aging art teacher would wear.  But I say that with love.  There is something about about her patterns that I really like.  I like linen, especially rumply linen.  I told you in my last post that I am drawn to volume here lately.  And I just so happen to be an art teacher- ha!  Maybe that's it. 

I made the Luella tunic twice.  Both from some fantastic, rumply, medium weight linen which was so much fun to sew with.  The first version was the midnight blue one which I made up exactly as it was designed except for a change to the neckline.  The white version I made next with a few more changes.  I shortened the back skirt, as you can see.  I also shortened the sleeves some, reduced the width of the bindings and widened and lowered the neckline. I found the v-neck to sit high on me when I sewed it up as drafted.  When I realized the neckline was too high on the blue version, I just lopped off the binding and scooped out the neckline pretty haphazardly.  I probably should have left it alone because I ended up with a great big sloppy-looking neckline.  My solution to fix it was to put in an inverted pleated at the front before finishing it with bias.

After looking at these photos, I think I'm going to back and tweak the blue version.  I'd like to try and bind the neckline like the white version even though it will be deeper.  And I'd like to shorten the sleeves.

I do, however, love the crazy sweeping ruffly hem.  And I'm not normally a ruffly sort of person.  Don't be fooled by the ease.  Yes, this is an over-sized pattern but it is not a bunch of rectangles.  The seams are curved and unusual.  And those funky little pleats in the side seams are really something special.  I think, anyway.  I made a size small, which the pattern says fits a 2-8.  I normally wear a 10 for reference.

I finished my ruffles with a rolled hem on my serger.  They kind of remind me of napkins.  The instructions tell you to serge the edges or zig zag and let them fray.  I almost wish I had done the frayed edges.  Seems fitting on a top like this.  There is quite a bit of ruffling to do!  I found the best way to do the gathering was to zig zag over a piece of upholstery thread.   I love how the ruffles are sewn on the outside of the top. 

I do have a couple of negative observations to make.  I ordered a printed pattern because I hate, like hate with a passion, taping together pdf patterns.  So imagine my disappointment when I got my printed pattern and still had to tape some of the pattern pieces together.  I got over it, though, when I realized that it was only a minimal amount of taping.  I think there were two pattern pieces that had to be pieced.  It was really not a big deal.  Also, the instructions are pretty vague.  You have to know your way around a sewing pattern to sew this up.  There are a couple of technical drawings included in the pattern instructions, but no finished pattern line drawing.  I use pattern line drawings more than anything when I'm trying to figure out how to sew something.  

I am thrilled with both finished tops.  Especially the white one.  I know I will wear it with shorts for the summer like above but it will transition perfectly in to fall with jeans and boots.  It's different and swingy and fun to wear  It's a weird and wonderful pattern!  I bought another Tina Givens pattern that I plan to make up this fall, but her Zoe dress pattern is calling my name for this summer.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Circle Tees

I've made some swingy tees.  I actually traced a rtw shirt I bought recently. Here is a photo of the original shirt below.  The brand is Sophie and Max.

 I don't do a lot of shopping anymore.  Not since I started sewing five years ago.  However, I have slipped up lately.  I'm sure it has a lot to do with not having any time to sew.  I'm trying to get back on the 'no shopping' wagon again.  Sewing these tees was a good start.

This particular tee that I copied has a great swishy shape.  I have worn it to death since I bought it, despite it not being the most flattering top in the world.  I have really been drawn to over sized, swingy tops here lately.  I think if you get the proportions right, it can work really well.  Not sure I've done that, but I still like my tees.

The top reminded me of a circle skirt.  I decided to make a copy of the top when I was making my circle skirts earlier this year.  Here is terrible picture of the front pattern piece.  Both the front and back pattern pieces are fitted in the shoulder and then fall away from the body below the armpit.  Shaped a lot like a circle skirt.  The front piece actually has more width than the back, though, so not a perfect circle.  Anyway, I used my traced pattern to make these three tees.

I made the grey tee first.  It is made from a cotton/rayon jersey.  At first, it was the length of the original top.  But the beefy jersey I used made it really stand away from the body and was crazy unflattering.  So I cropped the front several inches but kept length in the back.  It is a really exaggerated high low hem.  I almost feel like I'm wearing a cape, which is kinda cool.  I think cropping the front helped the proportions.  I've worn it multiple times already, which is why it's all rumply in this photo.  With jeans and with shorts- even with my old lady legs ;)-  It's quirky and I really like it.

I made this red poly knit version next.  Excuse the terrible indoor pics.  I made a shorter sleeve but I still cropped the front length.  The fabric is super cheap.  It hasn't held up very well in the wash, so this version will be short-lived.

I made the pink version last.  I used a super soft rayon knit with a lot of drape.  I kept the original length.  The clinginess of the rayon knit helps tame all the volume.  It took quite a bit of fabric to make these tees, as you can see.  I thought I was done making giant, swingy tees but I'm feeling the need for more.  They are so easy to wear.  Maybe a plain white one is my future!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

I Want To Cry

Well, I did cry.  If truth be told.  I'm writing this post because I need someone to commiserate with me.  I have had an epic fail.  Epic.  And it hurts even more because sewing time is so precious these days.  I spent hours working on this.

I may as well have blinking red lights on my chest.  J claims is not that noticeable.  But he's being kind.  I know I can't wear it without feeling super self conscious.  Not only did I end up with red paisley nipples, but they aren't even completely symmetrical.  One is lower than the other, which is not a good look for a bust.   And I tried so hard when I cut out all my pattern pieces.  So hard.  All I could think about was avoiding the purple medallions on the bust.  I didn't account for the alternatives.

The fabric I used is really special.  I go back and forth about whether or not it's silk.  My burn test was inconclusive- how in the world do you tell from that anyway?  It burned, that's all I can say with certainty.  It sort of pressed.  And pins left pin holes.  Anyway, J has gone to China for work a few times in the last few years.  Shanghai and Guangzhou.  The last time he went, he asked me what souvenir I wanted him to bring back.  Like any good sewing enthusiast, I said fabric.  On his last day in Guangzhou, his guides took him to fabric shop for me.  They took him to some sort of fabric shopping mecca about an hour away (he was not happy with me at that point- he really has no interest in fabric shopping) where he picked out a few pieces.  He said he was overwhelmed.  The place he went was like a large shopping mall full of nothing but fabric stores.  Sounds like a dream come true to me :)  He snapped a few photos.  Here's one.

He picked out several pieces using swatch cards and then the shop owner would go and get the bolt.  I ended up with two really wild pieces.  This paisley print and another crazy feather print that I have plans for.  My first instinct was that the paisley fabric was polyester. However, since I've been working with it I'm not so sure.  I'm thinking that it probably is poly, however it is meant to replicate silk which it does very well.  It was slippery, slinky and really difficult to work with.

The only positive to come from this fail was learning how to do a rolled hem on my machine.  I did the bias trim the pattern instructed first, but it was sloppy and really homemade looking in this slippery fabric.  This is Nicola from Victory Patterns by the way.  Won in a giveaway from Sown Brooklyn almost two years ago.  I'm not done with this pattern.  I have no qualms with the pattern.  Just my unfortunate pattern placement.  But I think I have to let this version die.  I love the sleeves, especially after figuring out the rolled hem.  I luckily did not cut out the skirt pieces ahead of time.  I was going to complete the bodice first to make sure the length was right.  So I have a bit of the fabric left that I can make something with, hopefully.  But I still can't tell you how much this fail hurts.  We are going to a wedding next weekend, and now this girl has nothing to wear.  And I hate shopping under pressure.  Someone tell me it will be okay.