Monday, October 20, 2014

You Win Some, You Lose Some

I'm starting off with a cute picture, but let me go in to the 'losing' part first.

I'm embarrassed over how much time I spent working on this sad, droopy, horrendous skirt.  It's Simplicity 1366 in case you are wondering.  It's almost totally complete except for tacking the bow in place.  It's so, so incredibly frumpy.  I can't even believe that this amount of frump is possible out of such a cool looking pattern.  Just don't.  That's my only advice.  To be fair, I did some grading to make the pattern fit just using the flat pattern measurements.  I accidentally bought the lower sizes and I needed to grade up just a bit.  It is entirely possible that this sad, droopiness is my fault.  But, eh.  I'm still a little miffed.  I think the skirt would probably work in a wispy, super light-weight silk.  Anyway.  Moving on.  I am having a go at the top from the pattern.  That one seems to get pretty good reviews.

I'm still having lots of sewing fails.  I can't really put my finger on why I'm so dissatisfied with so many things I've made lately.  There are more but I'm not blogging them all.  My ratio is less than fifty percent right now.  Ugh.  However, when you need to rebound fast from a sewing fail- make something for a cute toddler (win!).

I have been hanging on to this blue watch plaid linen for several years now searching for the right project.  Which is why the skirt fail hurts so much.  I pulled out the teeny, tiny narrow scraps I had left and cut out this Oliver and S Pinwheel tunic for Jane to try and save some of that precious linen.  I had so little left that I had to piece the front and use the midnight blue for the back.  Which I really like.  And no matching of plaids here except for the center front seam I had to create.

Oliver and S patterns are just fantastic.  I can't gush enough.  Especially after sewing the monstrous 1366.  I cut a size 2 which is pretty big on Jane right now.  She's eighteen months.  I originally sewed the binding around the neckline without thinking and turned it inside like a bias facing.  I realized my mistake and decided I wanted to fix it to match the bindings on the sleeve hems and flounce.  So I unpicked it (after it was under stitched and serged) and completely stretched it out.  Hence the inverted pleat.  I put the pleat in the neckline as a save.  And I like it ok.  I thought the inverted pleat sort of matched the vee of the flounce.  I think it ended up pretty cute.  Doesn't hurt that the most adorable toddler in the world is wearing it.  She looks ready for fall in her blue plaid and boots.  I also just extended the bias binding to make the ties at the back instead of sewing ribbon to close the keyhole.

And now for picture overload.  Sorry (not sorry :D)

I love sewing, obviously, which is my main reason for keeping this blog.  But I also love that my blog documents all these little moments in time.  This was just another weekend that I snapped these photos of Jane.  I know I will cherish them forever.

She is a doll.  And just for fun, here is a photo with illustrated sound effects.

No.  No no no no no.  If I only had a penny for every time I heard that word come out of her mouth.  We have to try very hard not to laugh and encourage it even more.  It is hilarious.  But it is just about all she says these days.  I've been trying to teach her 'yes' but then it just sounds like we are arguing.

Happy sewing!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Dance With Me Tunic

Oh my goodness.  I have to look away, it's almost too much.  The cuteness.  My baby is not a baby anymore.  She really looks like a little girl in these photos.  I can't believe it.

I won a giveaway for both of Lisa Lam's new children's patterns over at Scruffy Badger Time recently.  I know you probably saw the blog hop going around.  I entered a couple of different giveaways hoping to win as both patterns are incredibly cute.  So I was super excited when Winnie emailed me.  I planned on making up the Happiness Halter Playsuit first, but when both patterns arrived I noticed that the Dance With Me pattern included a pattern for a matching purse.  Yes, that's right.  A matching purse.

The way the patterns are packaged may be the most awesome I've seen.  The whole booklet is a pocket folder.  There are full color pictorial instructions first and then the pattern tissue is tucked neatly inside a pocket at the back.  The whole thing lays flat and is easy to use and refer to while sewing.  It is some seriously fantastic packaging, which I am a total sucker for.   It makes me want to somehow put all of my patterns in to pocket folders for storage.  I might have to look in to that.  I am lost in a sea of pdf pattern pieces at the moment.

Anyway,  I opted to make the tunic in a linen/cotton blend.  I made up a size 2 without any changes except for lining the bodice instead of using the facing pieces.  There is plenty of room for Jane to grow.   She is almost 18 months now, by the way.   I really love the pattern design but I have some major criticism about the pattern instructions.  They are craaaazy all over place.  The order of construction is super wacky.  I didn't follow it because it skipped around so much.  Instead, I constructed the tunic in the order that made the most sense.  You know, front placket, bodice, skirt, sleeves, hem.  I think the pattern instructions have you start by gathering the sleeve heads and hem (since there is a cuff) but then you just set them aside until later on.  It was really confusing.  In fact, I noticed in the illustrated photos that the example wasn't sewn up in the order that the instructions called for.  I'm being nit picky, I know.   But the instructions could really be simplified.  They are incredibly wordy, too.  That may just be my personal preference.  I like simple and concise.  There is a so, so, so much information included.  I think for a total beginner, it's too much information.  It's a little overwhelming.  

I also found the pattern to be pretty challenging.  The continuous placket, tiny sleeve cuffs and curved front placket.  I had to stretch my precision sewing muscle a little.  Which I am not very good at.  I followed the instructions for sewing gathering stitches to turn under the curved front placket.  And it came out sort of smooth.  I sewed it on the bodice anyway thinking it wouldn't be that noticeable.  But when the tunic was complete, the uneven placket stuck out like a sore thumb.  So my solution was to sew a close zig zag stitch over the lumpy edges.  It's a little rustic but a hell of a lot better looking than it was.  The continuous back placket was hard, too.

The purse is my favorite part.  Kitties!  Jane is obsessed.  That little grey stuffed kitty goes everywhere with her.  I think we may need to get another one on backup in case anything happens to this one.  Any guesses as to what her Halloween costume will be?  I was originally going to sew the tunic in the kitty fabric also, but decided it might be too much.  I did the purse lining in the linen.  She loves the purse.  She walks around with it and stuffs anything and everything in to it.  It's incredibly adorable.

All in all, I really liked sewing this tunic up and I especially love the end result.  I'm psyched to add both patterns to my library.  I know they will get used a bunch.  I am already working on a dress version of the Dance With Me pattern and you better believe I'm making some playsuits in the spring for Jane.

Now, I know this looks like the face of a sweet, little angel.  But let me set you straight.  Taking these photos?  Hoo boy.  To say it was a battle is an understatement.  While I definitely got some good ones, most of the photos looked like this:

That's her running away from me while yelling, "No!"  Her new favorite word.  She has also taken to slapping things out of my hand when she doesn't want them.  She likes to do that in public places when strangers are commenting on how sweet she is.  Ah, toddlerhood.  She's a little tyrant.

But a cute one, at that.  I am enjoying every minute!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Alder Angst

So, this is where you tell me I should have made a muslin.  I know.  And to make matters worse, I have have seen so many awesome, awesome versions out there in the interwebs.

Argh.  Look at this beauty.  I used a beautiful warm grey linen from my stash that I have been hoarding for ages.  And neon green buttons.  I love them.  This dress has all the makings of being something really fabulous.  And yet, it's not.  I finished this the other week and put it on.  And even J, who compliments everything I make no matter what, wrinkled his nose.  I'm not willing to put it on for blog photos.  Sorry.

Most of the problem is that it's way too big.   I think this is a combination of making a size too big and also the linen I used.  I should know my measurements, I know.  But they have changed so much in the past couple of years.  I erred on the side of too big and I got it.  The linen I used is a heavier 100% linen.  It's one of those linens that kind of has a life of it's own.  I spent a lot of time trying to tame it and make it do what it was supposed to do.   It was difficult to work with.  It's the kind of linen that will age nicely but is stiff and unforgiving at first.  And forget about gathering (don't look too close).  I had to zig zag over heavy thread and I still snapped the thread twice.  It took me several attempts to gather the skirt.  The armholes ended up too low, which only reinforces the fact that I need to size down.  I didn't make any other changes except for lengthening it two inches.  It could also be because I'm just not supposed to wear dresses without waist seams.  Didn't I learn my lesson last time?

However, for posterity, I did want to post about the experience.  Also because I refer to my own blog for info, too.  I'm not finished with the pattern yet.  I'd like to make it again and I will definitely size down.  I am proud of those pockets.  I used the side with the facing for a little more interest.  The instructions were great and everything fit together just as it should.  It was a fun sew, although more labor intensive than things I have been sewing lately.  I did have to brush up on some skills I haven't used for a while.  Precision sewing is not my strong suit.  That collar- I give myself a C-.  But I'll do better next time.  I am patiently waiting for Jen to talk about the v-neck shirt variation.  I can handle the no waist look in a tunic or shirt.  In the meantime, I've got to figure out if there is a way to save this one.  Do I want attempt to alter it?  I was thinking about taking out the armhole binding and then taking in the bodice above the gathered skirt.  That should give me a closer fit and make the armholes a little smaller.  I'll just put it in line behind my Nicola ;)

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

A Tipi, Two New Tops and a Baby

J is getting ready to set up his tipi for the fourth graders at my school.   He was getting everything out the other day.  So I decided it was a good time to venture down in to the backyard to snap a few photos of my latest make.  Hence the title.  Nothing like a change of scenery, right?  So excuse the messy hair and paintin' jeans.  But please enjoy the gratuitous cute baby :)

I know I mentioned that the black pom pom top in my last post was my favorite make ever.  But I think it's already been surpassed by this little black and white number.  I know.  More black and white.  I told you I went on a black and white fabric shopping spree.  It really has made getting dressed in the morning easy, but I need to add some color in soon.  

This top is a modified Jacqueline crop top, another pattern from Tina Givens.  I bought several of her patterns this summer during a sale.  I bought this particular pattern on a whim because the crop top reminded me of my favorite Free People blouse.

I made the spotty version first.  The fabric is a printed linen I found at Joann's.  The first version is made up exactly as drafted except I lengthened the back skirt by two inches and I only used two pieces to make the skirt.  I don't know if my linen was wider than what the pattern intended, but cutting three pieces the width of the fabric seemed overkill.  Isn't there some magic ratio where you can no longer gather fabric?  So I only cut two. Then I matched side seams when sewing the skirt and bodice together.  Just beware that if you do the third skirt piece, your ruffle with be very ruffly.  The crop top is intended to go over a longer slip.  I love the volume but I'm not sure how I feel about the volume and all the layering.  I may try the slip but I really just bought the pattern for the top.  I didn't take any photos of me wearing the printed linen version but I am really digging it.  The sleeves are great.  Three-quarter length, easy at the top and narrow at the wrist.   I made the front skirt the length the pattern specified (8 inches, I think).  And it really is cropped.  It looks good with a higher waist skirt but with pants it shows a little bit of belly.    So I need to figure out something to wear under it.  I'm thinking I may make a black linen camisole to go under.  Or maybe I should try the slip.  I'll work on it.  The photo below is to show the difference in length between the two tops.

I made the black and white version next.  This time I lengthened the front skirt three inches and the back six.  I wanted it to be a top I could wear with regular waistlines.  And I did a cut on cap sleeve (same way I did it here) instead of the long sleeve.  I love this top.  It is the perfect swingy top.  I know it looks like a big rectangle, but it isn't.  There is some subtle shaping which really makes the linen hang well.  Givens patterns are big and voluminous but I feel like they are done very smartly.  That is a really funny word- smartly.  Anyway, I feel like her patterns are drafted thoughtfully even though the instructions and technical drawings are sub par.  I've made a couple other things from her patterns which I've yet to photograph for le blog.  But I do have to modify a little bit.  I like the volume, but I also need a leetle bit more shaping if you know what I mean.

And of course, the baby.  Or should I say, the toddler.  Jane is almost seventeen months now and is absolutely hilarious.  She has the best sense of humor and makes us laugh out loud all the time.  And you should see the girl dance.  She is a trip!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Some Basics

This may be my most favorite item I've ever sewn.  And it's so simple.  In fact, it was a really unexciting thing to sew.  A black sleeveless top.  Except for the pom poms, of course.  Yes, pom poms!  On adult clothes.  I'm a rebel.

I took all of these photos the same time I took photos of my Zoe dress. And I have to say, they are all pretty terrible.  I think I'm going to have to go back to the self timer if I can't figure out the focus with the remote.

Anyway, this black linen top is another version of Simplicity 1693.  Nothing much to say about it except that I absolutely love it.  I eliminated the center back seam and added the pom pom trim at the hem.  It has been worn once a week since I made it.  It has made me think a lot about the things I sew in terms of what actually gets worn regularly.  This top- check.

I also made a grey cotton jersey version of the Comino Cap Dress pattern by Kitschy Coo.  I like it, but I don't love it.  It's a simple cap sleeve bodice with an a-line skirt.  I think my fabric choice makes it a little frumpy.  However, it will get worn to work a lot.  I added in-seam pockets which was probably a mistake.  The skirt is not tight by any means. But it is also not full enough to hide the outline of the pockets.  I did not use the grey jersey for the pockets by the way. I am not a fan of knit pockets.  I used a black and white striped super stretchy twill.  I didn't get a photo, but you can see the stripe peeking out from the side.  Which is a fun little feature.  I added three inches of length since I am three inches taller than the height the pattern is drafted for.  I added one inch to the bodice and two to the skirt.  If I make this again, I'll scratch the length in the bodice and add it all in the skirt.

The neckline is pretty.  When I wear it to work, I will wear it with a little cardigan over it to dress it up.

After I made the Comino Cap dress, I had a big piece of grey jersey left.  This jersey is really thick and beefy.  Really good quality stuff from Mood.  My favorite kind of knit.  I really wanted a jersey skirt so I pulled out my half circle skirt pattern and sewed this up in about an hour.  Talk about instant gratification!  Elastic waist and a slight high low hem.  This skirt has also been worn once a week since it came off my sewing machine.

Notice a theme in my color choice lately?  When I wrote that post about all of my duds someone suggested sewing with fabrics that work together.  I know that is really just common sense advice, but it was sort of a light bulb moment for me.  I make a lot things that don't work together.  So I went on a small fabric buying binge (shhhh, don't tell J) and bought a bunch of black, white and grey fabrics.  And you know what?  It has worked.  A lot of my recent makes go together and are being worn regularly.  Anyway, I'll stop with all the black and white soon but it has been a nice way to beef up my wardrobe for going back to work.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Zoe Dress

I really wanted this dress to work.  Like really, really wanted it to.  But I think this is a case of trying to fit a square peg in to a round hole.  The style of this dress just does not suit me.  And I knew that before I made it.  I pushed on anyway.  I so desperately want to be able to wear sack dresses.  You know, dresses without a defined waist.  I know that is not everyone's cup of tea, but I love that easy, laid back, bohemian sort of vibe.  They look so cute on some.   I am realizing that I really need a waistline when it comes to dresses.  I can do a shapeless tunic, but not a dress.  I guess maybe it has to do with length.  Also, the armholes on this dress are not doing me any favors.  The back of the dress has dropped armholes and a slight racer back.  I seem to store nice little pouches of fat there under my arms (for winter ;) Not my favorite place to highlight.

This is the Zoe dress from Tina Givens.  I really enjoy her designs.  But again, not everyone's cup of tea.   I did have a few issues with this pattern.  Most of my issues were probably a result of fabric choice.  The pattern envelope stresses to use a lightweight woven, like voile.  I think most of Tina Given's designs are for natural fabrics, like linen, silk and voile.  I used a drape-y crepe de chine.  It's actually two different colors of the same print- black with ivory dots and ivory with black dots.  The drape works really well, but it is heavy.  Not only did I use a heavy crepe de chine, but I also lined the whole thing with a rayon batiste.  All the bodice pieces are underlined while the skirt has a free hanging lining.  I had to baste the underlining in by hand because of how slippery the fabric was.  It makes for a really nicely finished, but weighty dress.  The weight of the fabric pulled down on the bodice so much that I had to make some adjustments.  I sewed the back yoke/bodice seam in another half an inch to raise the armholes up and bit and then I chopped three (!) inches off the bodice.  To be fair, I believe the pattern is supposed to have a dropped waist.  But that is another design feature that does not work well for me.  I really love how the pattern has a 1920's sort of vibe.  It is totally different from anything I have ever sewn before.  I also turned the neck and armhole bindings to the inside, just out of personal preference.

I shortened the bodice so that the hip yoke piece sat around my actual hips.  When I put on the finished dress, I liked it from the front.  And then I turned to the side.  Humph.  Can't do sack dresses.  See my stank face above.

I was done at that point.  I wasn't sure how I was going to take in the waist seam, or if I even should.  I put the dress on a hanger for another day.  Later that weekend, I saw a solution on someone's top out in public.  It was all I could do not to stop her in Target and ask if I could examine the back of her shirt up close.  She was wearing a long tunic button up shirt.  But the back was cinched in with a button and a loop.  Have you ever seen that before?  I was inspired.  I came home and ripped out the waist seam of my Zoe dress and added a button and loop.  The difference is subtle from the front, but it makes a world of difference from the side.  And I could technically wear it unbuttoned if I decide I want a more shapeless look.  Still not sure how I feel about it, though.

The two photo collages below show the dress unbuttoned, and then buttoned.  It's not a huge difference.

Anyway, I'm on the fence.  Other than my issues with whether or not this dress is flattering, I really liked sewing it.  I love the piecing.   Everything fit together perfectly, except I did need to slightly gather the skirt to make it fit the hip yoke.  Just every so slightly.  For now, I'll wear it with a denim shirt tied around it.  Or a cardigan.  And maybe I'll figure out a  solution for the armholes later on.   Or maybe I'll just change my mind and decide I like it as is.  Definitely a pattern I want to revisit next summer in a voile like the pattern suggests.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Oh Yes I Did

Oona made me do it.  Yes, that is blue fringe dangling off the hem of my crazy kimono.  If you can't beat crazy, you better join it, I say.  The kimono, not Oona :)- 

Also still haven't figured out how to hide the remote.  So it becomes a prop.

I knew my crazy kimono was missing something.  And I actually thought about fringe.  But then Oona solidified my decision with her suggestion in the comments.  I shortened the hem and added the blue fringe.  You better believe I love this thing now.  No, it's not one of those gauzy and ethereal kimonos I envisioned.  But it is fun.  I still haven't figured out exactly what to wear with it.  My aunt suggested some wide legged trousers.  That may be something to consider in the future.  For now I like it with jeans and a tank top.  And this maxi.

Arg, why am I so out of focus?  I thought I figured the focus part out.  Any suggestions?

My other contribution for Oonapalooza is this top.  It's the same pattern from my last post.  I decided to go for a peter pan collar again.  I think y'all boosted my confidence that it was ok.  They are both growing on me.  And I wanted to use three different prints.

Yes, that's right.  Three different prints.  We all know that Oona is a master of mixing prints so I decided to take a page from her book.  Although I feel like this is really safe print mixing for some reason.  The back is that same thrifted rayon I made my first dud version from.  The front is a leftover scrap from my last maternity dress.  And the collar is another scrap in my stash from way back.  I love it.

Happy weekend, friends!