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!  

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.
:)