May 10, 2015

seersucker charlie

I have no business sewing right now.  I am drowning in essays, quizzes, and the dreaded Independent Literary Analysis (an assignment as torturous for me as it is valuable for my students), and as a reasonable professional, I should be spending my weekend grading.  However, I am not entirely reasonable, and it is Mother's Day weekend.  One of my favorite things about being a mom is sewing for my kiddos.  Seriously, it's on my top ten list.

Because I know I shouldn't be sewing right now, I've compensated by becoming obsessed with planning my summer sewing projects.  How silly.  Yards and yards of beauties have arrived at my house only to be washed, folded, and stashed out of sight until June 7.  Except for this lovely bit of seersucker that I just couldn't put away.  I ordered this plaid seersucker with the Mingo and Grace Charlie dress in mind, and I figured that I could make an exception to my sewing moratorium for a dress so simple and adorable.

Cara is a big fan of Charlie.  It meets her criteria of 1. being a dress; 2. being a twirly dress; and 3. being pink.   I went with a size 6 width/7 length based on Cara's chest measurement and other reviews I read of this pattern.  I was worried that her dress might turn out too short to last through the summer, but she's got plenty of room in both length and width.

The construction of this dress is pretty simple.  I used my own method for the bias facing at the neckline and armholes.  I really like that the ruffle on the bottom is drafted to have a slightly curved shape; I think this gives the ruffle a nice drape.  I'm also quite tickled with my center back seam and it's horizontal stripe matching.  And that little flower button.

 Where did my child's teeth go?

This is a perfect dress for summer in South Carolina.  You can't go wrong with plaid seersucker in the south, and it's airy shape should keep my girl somewhat cool and comfortable.  And, in case you need to know, Cara tested the twirl factor extensively and awarded her approval.

Apr 25, 2015

v8574 goes to prom

In case you missed it, I teach high school English, and in high school, there is no bigger deal than prom (except for maybe graduation, although I think that's a bigger deal to the parents sometimes.  That's a post for another day...).  My school requires gently asks all teachers to attend prom for at least an hour, and I look at this as an opportunity to sew a fancy dress.  I'm not sure I can ever top last year's dress, but I think this dress holds its own.  And it gave me a good excuse wear red lipstick.

This is Vogue 8574, a dress Vogue likes to call "Very Easy Vogue."  I absolutely disagree with Vogue on this point.  While this is not a difficult dress to sew, I can't say that it was very easy.  The curved neckline and the precision required for the pleats definitely take this dress up a notch, but I'm really happy with the way everything turned out.  I should point out that this is not a fitted dress.  I cut a size smaller than my measurements call for and still ended up using a one inch seam allowance in the center back seam.  The end result is flowy and loose but still quite flattering, I think.

I used a lovely Joel Dewberry rayon challis for this dress, and it was delightful to work with.  This dress has a lined bodice, so a completely opaque fabric is necessary unless you want to add a skirt lining.  I found this fabric to be perfect for this dress.  It drapes and folds perfectly, and I love the vibrant reds matched with the subtle grays.  The large print lends itself well to a floor-length gown. 

The only issue I encountered was with the neckline.  I originally interfaced only the facing as the pattern instructs, but I found that the outer layer pulled and stretched a bit with the weight of the skirt.  I'm afraid I became a bit of a promzilla and recut the neckline, interfaced both sides and reconstructed the bodice.  In the process, I shortened the bodice maybe half an inch.  The bodice ended up fitting better than before, so I'm calling it a win.

I also decided to add a hand-picked zipper instead of an invisible zip just because.

I'm pretty excited to wear this dress tonight, and I have a few additional occasions in mind for this lovely.  I feel quite elegant wearing it, and really, isn't that what prom is all about?

Apr 12, 2015


At the end of my Spring Break, I realized that my closet had gotten a bit out of control, to the point that I couldn't close the doors anymore.  It was tough, but I sent two big garbage bags of clothes, shoes, and purses to Goodwill, and I even included a few of my handmades that didn't make the cut.  Admitting that something I sewed needed to leave my closet was particularly heart-wrenching--I'm so emotionally attached to those pieces.  I think I have a bit of guilt in admitting that I just don't like to wear a particular handmade garment.  If I spent the time and energy to plan and construct the garment, then I feel like I have an obligation to wear it.  I'm aware that this is not an entirely rational argument.

After the pains of purging came the joys of a clean closet with pretty much every item visible.  The doors can now be closed, which, interestingly, has lead to other changes in my morning routine.  I've never been one to make my bed (just ask my mom!), but having a clean, organized closet makes me want to have everything else in the room neat and tidy.  My husband was really confused at first, but I think he has appreciated that small step in housekeeping.

All of this closet-focused energy is quite timely as Me Made May is just around the corner.  I really enjoyed participating last year, and of course, I want to raise the bar a bit for this year's challenge.  My wardrobe is not 100% handmade, actually not even 50% handmade.   I have never made pants or knitted a sweater, so those items are all store bought.  My percentage of handmades is quite high for skirts and dresses; 71% of my skirts are handmade, along with 63% of my dresses.  I've made quite a few blouses this year, but still, only 31% of my tops (shirts, cardigans, blouses, across seasons) are handmade.  I started to wonder how much of my wardrobe I actually want to be me-made.  As much I might love to have passed every item in my closet through my sewing machine, I don't think that's a realistic goal for me.  I work a full-time job, I'm a mama to my two precious babies, and I want to have time to hang out with my husband and maybe even have a few friends.  While my sewing skills have progressed significantly since I started sewing in earnest five years ago, sometimes I'm still unhappy with the way my garments turn out.  I don't think I should force myself to wear things that I don't love.

Is it hard for other sewists to let go of handmade garments?  How much of your wardrobe is me-made?

Apr 5, 2015

Happy Easter!

Happy, happy Easter!  My babies looked so sweet in their fancy outfits today, all courtesy of Oliver and S. :-)

They just can't help it.

Cara's dress is the Oliver and S Fairytale Dress, my client's favorite pattern.  Her favorite feature is the twirly skirt, but I'm partial to the petal sleeves.
 Love that little bit of pink peeking out of the sleeve!

For this dress, I used purple lace for the outer layer and hot pink broadcloth underneath.  Initially, I planned to use the pink broadcloth as a true lining as the pattern intends, but I'm not that experienced with lace, and I was afraid that the negative space in the lace would create weak seams, which is not a good idea in children's clothing.  I decided to use the pink as an underlining, treated the two fabrics as one, and serging all of the seams (ps--I finally got a serger, and it is a game-changer!)  I finished the neckline with bias tape.

For sizing, I used a size 7 for the width of the bodice, sleeves, and length of the skirt, but I used the length of the 5 for the bodice.  The result is a slightly looser fitting dress, but I think it's more comfortable for Cara and it will likely fit longer, especially since I put in a nice, deep hem.  I'm incredibly pleased with the way this dress turned out--I think it's one of my handmade favorite dresses.

Colin has started to come back around to mama-made clothing, so he is wearing a Sketchbook Shirt with the Art Museum trousers, both in a 3T.

I went with the short sleeves and the band collar for the Sketchbook Shirt.  This was my first time trying the band collar, and I really like how it turned out.  I chose it because I thought it wouldn't get in Colin's way or be a bother the way a regular collar can.  I think I was worried about nothing though--he's been happy in his shirt all day.

Colin was very excited about this fabric.  He loves anything transportation, so ships are right up his alley.  This is a Robert Kaufman chambray, and it is lovely.  Just crisp enough but also lightweight and comfortable.  As much as I love the shirt, I am most proud of the trousers.  I know they don't look terribly impressive--just like regular navy pants, but I take some pride when I sew garments that do not look handmade.  Basic pieces can be just as exciting as fancy dresses when the details are there.

 Belt loops!  And welt pockets!

The very best thing about these outfits is that they are adorable and functional.  Children's clothing just has to be.  I love seeing my kiddos having a blast in clothes I've made for them.  All the love, babies; just don't spill bubbles on your fancy clothes.

Apr 4, 2015

a farewell to spring break and a Tova

Greetings from the end of Spring Break!  In my last post, I was lamenting the lack of warm weather, but spring finally delivered.  In a weird sort of way, spring break seems like mean trick.  I have enjoyed the free time, but it only lasts for a week and then it's back to the grind.  Don't get too comfortable, she says.  You'll be back to the morning rush and the evening catch-up in no time.

In spite of my love/hate feelings toward spring break, the kids and I have worked hard to squeeze every drop of enjoyment we can out of this week.  We've played with our friends at the park and jumped in every bouncy house we can find.  I've dumped the kids into the yard in the afternoons, decked out in their dress up clothes, and they've transformed their bikes and playhouse into fire trucks and castles.  It has been a wonderful summer preview.


Trunk picnics are our fav.

Spring break sewing has been a welcome break from my usual fits and starts.  It's nice to have two to three hours of naptime to sew pretty much uninterrupted and without the weight of school work on my mind.  I've finished Easter outfits for the kids, nearly finished a fancy-ish dress for me, and then there is this lovely blouse:

Since my last Tova didn't really get a proper post, I thought I would give this one its due.  I love the Tova.  I sewed a size small, and after chopping 2.5 inches off the length, the fit is perfect, particularly across the shoulders.  The Tova (at least for me) achieves the coveted balance between ease of movement and aesthetics.  

This fabric is a Japanese cotton voile I ordered from Miss Matatabi.  It was lovely to sew and has a texture almost like seersucker or gauze.  Japanese fabric feels like such a treat--I have a few more cuts that will eventually become little girl dresses.  The print has a watercolor look to it, especially with the muted gray and pop of green and yellow flowers.

I really like the way this fabric worked with the collar and placket.  It's very lightweight, so it drapes open perfectly.  I made my first Tova out of flannel, and while it wasn't difficult to work with, I noticed that the inset was much easier to sew neatly in a lightweight fabric. 

I love the way the sleeves are gathered and finished with a cuff.  It's a sweet, feminine detail and adds to the easy, effortless look of this blouse.

I think I sometimes take spring break (and summer break for that matter) for granted.  I know it's a big perk of teaching, but I wonder if it seeps into the corporate world.  Do others observe a version of spring break even if they aren't involved in education?

Mar 29, 2015


I am so ready for warm weather.  I'm not sure if this is a true statement, but I'll say it anyway: this year has been the coldest year ever.  And it's still cold, even though I'm convinced that it's supposed to be spring.  I mean, it's spring break right now, so clearly, spring.  I'm compromising here with a long sleeve Sewaholic Alma and a wildly floral Simplicity 1541.  This is actually the same combo of patterns that I used for my first day of school outfit back in August.  It worked then, so I assumed it would work now.  I was mostly right.

Let's start with what works.  I really love this skirt pattern--it is absolutely a TNT pattern for me.  I used an Anna Maria Horner quilting cotton lined with a pale blue cotton/poly blend that I had in my stash.  I'm quite drawn to Anna Maria Horner prints.  There is so much artistry in them that even if the garment isn't perfect, I will love it in spite of the flaws.  This skirt is pretty much a win in all areas, from the princess seams to the kick pleat in the back.

This is my third version of the Sewaholic Alma blouse, which I figured was a TNT pattern as well.  I have made the elbow-length sleeve as well as the cap sleeve version (which never made it to the blog, but will most surely be featured in me-made-May), and I didn't feel like I had any issues with fit in those blouses.  I used an Amy Butler voile for one and a rayon crepe for the other, and I think the light, drapey fabrics provided a bit of forgiveness for the fit.  This time, I used a Robert Kaufmann chambray with just a bit more stiffness and structure.  Everything's mostly fine when my arms are down by my sides...


But if I move, I notice some pulling across the shoulders and chest. 

 I guess it's not that bad.  It hasn't kept me from wearing the shirt, but I know that it would be more comfortable if I fixed the fit issue.  I feel a bit silly considering a FBA when I do not actually possess a full bust, but that could be a potential solution, especially since Sewaholic drafts for a B cup.  I generally find that Sewaholic's drafting fits my narrow shoulders and short waist really nicely. Maybe it's not as bad as I think it is...

I really love the shape of the Alma, so I'm open to any suggestions for fixing that  little bit of tightness.  Also, if anyone has ideas about convincing spring to finally appear, I'm open to that as well.

Feb 15, 2015

v9022 with a dash of Alabama Chanin

This post is entirely inspired by Liza Jane of liza jane sews.  My blogging mojo has been pretty nonexistent for a bit now, even though my sewing mojo has been strong.  I do have the desire to document my lovelies, but time and initiative have been in short supply.  However, when Liza Jane posted her adorable version of Vogue 9022 the other day, I decided that I should really share mine too, not out of any sense of competition but as a way of adding to the conversation.  When I started on this dress back in December, I searched in vain for reviews of the pattern.  I really like knowing if a pattern runs true to size or if it works well in a particular type of fabric or if an alternate construction method produces better results.  I love the sewing internet world for all of these reasons.  So, here's my contribution to the Vogue 9022 pool of reviews.

Liza Jane called this a sack dress, and I agree with that descriptor.  I have nothing against a comfy sack dress, and I think this one has a better built in shape than I expected.  I used the finished garment measurements to decide on a size; I went with a small (which is a size smaller than my body measurements call for) and I shortened the dress at the waist by half an inch.  I like how it fits for what it is.

I used  a double layer of lightweight organic cotton jersey that I bought at Organic Cotton Plus.  The double layer means that those two center seams are very thick, but adding the fell stitching helps keep them mostly flat.  Obviously, I added some Alabama Chanin style embellishment to the center panel.  This is the Abbie's Flower stencil, available as a free download on the AC website.  This is the third stencil I've cut myself, and it's getting easier each time.  Labor intensive and nerve-wracking, yes, but each time I'm more accurate and precise. I used regular fabric paint in a slightly lighter color than my fabric, outlined the shaped with a backstitch, and then cut out the centers for a reverse applique.  I love the texture this process creates.

I eliminated the neckline facing in favor of the traditional AC binding.  I love the look of the delicate binding, almost like a necklace, but I do worry that it won't be strong enough to hold the weight of this dress over time.  I carried the binding out a bit at the back to create a keyhole tie at the top.

Overall, I'm very pleased with how this dress turned out.  I love wearing it, although it doesn't feel as sturdy as my other AC garments--I'm afraid to hang it in my closet, so it stays folded with my sweaters.  I'm okay with giving this one a little extra TLC though.  It's a fair exchange considering its one-of-a-kind nature.

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