Aug 7, 2014

three new skirts

We are t-minus 12 days until Cara starts kindergarten, which means I have twelve days to get her first day of school dress finished up.  However, I understand that, realistically, the girl is going to need some play clothes for school.  Since she is still aspiring to be a princess when she grows up (in fact, she told me yesterday that when she grows up, she's planning to build her castle right next door to my house), she much prefers skirts and dresses--my goal is to make her skirts and dresses perfect for the playground.  I decided to whip up a few skirts to mix and match with Cara's array of t-shirts.  A skirt plus a t-shirt seems like a great play time outfit, if you ask me.

Skirt #1: 

This is another layered skirt based on this tutorial from Made.  Cara loves her polka dot layered skirt so much that making another was a no-brainer.  This skirt is great stashbuster as it takes less than a yard of fabric.  Cara's t-shirt is also handmade.  I used the Oliver and S School Bus T-Shirt, and Cara added the sparkly stencils.  

Skirt #2:

If something works, why not repeat it?  This is another reversible Oliver and S Hula Hoop Skirt in another batik print (see the previous version here).  It's actually the leftover fabric from my third Cambie.  This skirt is such a clever, yet simple design, and the flounce adds quite the satisfying twirl factor.

Skirt #3:

Never fear--not all of Cara's back to school skirts are repeats.  This one is the Oliver and S Music Class Skirt.  I scored about 3 yards of this polka dot stripe fabric at a yard sale.  I love the little pleated inserts on the sides of the skirt, and there are slightly hidden pockets right above the pleats.  This was a really quick project, maybe two hours at most. 

Of course, if Cara's going to wear skirts and dresses to school, she has to stay covered up on the playground.  I went back and forth with myself about whether I should buy a pattern or just draft my own for some leggings.  In the end, lazy won out, and I bought the Oliver and S Playtime Leggings.  This pattern was totally worth the money to me.  Not only is the fit awesome, but I also whipped up three pairs of shorts in an hour!  You can just barely see the bottom of these peeking out from under the Hula Hoop Skirt.

The best thing about these little shorts is that again, all I needed were scraps from some previous knit projects.  I'm thinking we might not buy leggings ever again.

Jul 31, 2014

the butterfly blouse: v1247

Sewing with the Big Four is a very different experience than sewing with independent patterns.  I learned to sew for my kids from Oliver and S, and when I began sewing my own clothing, the Colette Sewing Handbook was the perfect place to start. I have lots of love for Sewaholic patterns these days too.  Independent patterns (at least the ones I've work with) seem to focus more on detailed instructions with diagrams and clear explanations; in fact, this seems like a requirement for success in the independent pattern market.  Obviously, this is a huge benefit to a beginning sewist--when people ask me how to get started sewing, I always recommend that they start with a Colette pattern instead of a Simplicity or Butterick.  That's not to say that all independent patterns are easy, but there seems to be a lot more help in the instructions and on the internet to help someone who gets stuck.

However, I have quite enjoyed sewing my last few projects from Vogue patterns.  Each one presented a new construction method and unique design, and I liked doing something a little different.  For example, this blouse has a pieced section that was interesting to construct, especially with french seams, along with shoulder pleats, bias cuffs, and a narrow curved hem.  I've done all of these things in separate garments before, and combining them meant that this blouse became a bit fiddly--lots of little details to take care of.

Overall, I like this blouse.  The v-neck is dangerously low, but the loose, drapey fit is cool and comfortable in the summer heat.  After reading the many reviews and posts about this pattern, I decided to cut a size 8 instead of the 12 I actually measure for, and I almost wish I had gone with a 6.  To be honest, the fit is not that great.  The bust darts are at least an inch too low, and I think I could stand to take up the shoulders half an inch or so.  The fabric saves the day.  This is an Anna Maria Horner rayon challis, and it is heavenly.  I did a lot of stay stitching on the bottom sections and on the neckline, and I think that helped the bottom section come together easily and drape pretty nicely.  I'm afraid I still managed to stretch out one side of the neckline a tiny bit, but it's not very noticeable.

I'm not sure why there is a seam down the back of the blouse.  Maybe to save fabric?  I'm not sure I will make this blouse again, but if I do, I'll probably eliminate that seam.

The final verdict for me is that I enjoyed the process of sewing this blouse, and I'm sure it will get it's fair share of wear.

This is my awkward model pose.  Enjoy. :-)

Jul 27, 2014


July has been a month full of travel for my family.  We've been to the beach twice, and my husband and I have both traveled for work.  I very rarely travel for my job, but of course, if I'm going to do it, I may as well do it in the same week as my husband.  My poor children spent almost two weeks away from home, but they had a blast at Grandmama Camp and on a family beach vacation.  However, I think we're all about ready to resume a semi-normal schedule.

All this running around means that I've been away from my sewing machine for quite a while (*sob!), but I managed to finish up a dress before I left for my travels.  Here is Vogue 1395, also seen around the web here, here, and here.

This is a fantastic summer dress.  I wore it during one of my presentations at the HSTW conference in Nashville, on a date night in Myrtle Beach, and to church this morning.  Basically, it can go anywhere.

I found this lovely rayon crepe de chine at Wanderlust fabrics, and I can't recommend the fabric and the shop enough.  I've been on a rayon buying kick lately anyway.  It's just so comfortable in the heat and humidity.  It can be a little shifty though--I cursed a few times when I was trying to get the binding on the armholes.  I love wearing it though.

The design of this dress is fun to sew.  My mom always said that she would never sew a Vogue pattern--I guess Vogue used to be pretty stingy with the directions or something--but I found the directions easy to follow.  After checking out the amount of ease in this dress, I decided to size down and cut a 10.  I took up the shoulders 3/8" and used French seams instead of the double stitching recommended by the pattern.  All in all, this dress was fairly easy to construct.  I love how the back overlay wraps around to tie at the front waist.  It's a cool design feature, but it also means that this dress is really comfortable and practical.

The back overlay does seem to pull down a bit.  I actually went back and tightened the elastic at the waist to keep things where they are supposed to be, and that helped a bit.  I have caught my reflection a few times and thought that I spotted a dip in the hem, but I think it's due to the movement.  It hasn't bothered me enough to try to fix it, and it looks straight in the pictures.  I do wish I had considered pattern placement across the center back seam when I cut the back bodice, but oh well.

There's an interesting gathered detail near the top of the back bodice.  I felt sure I would botch it, but I followed the directions, and it turned out fine.  I also really like the way the skirt lining hides the elastic casing at the waist.  The casing is basically sandwiched between the dress and the lining--this would work really well for the Sewaholic Saltspring if you wanted to add a skirt lining.

This was my first time working with a Vogue pattern, and I'm quite pleased with the result, especially since I caught a $3.99 sale on it.  I'm not sure I need ten of these dresses in my closet, but I could see this dress looking wonderful in a solid color in a fancier fabric like silk.  

Jul 1, 2014

cambie #3

I really love Sewaholic Patterns, enough that they are becoming my go-to for a successful, stress-free sewing experience.  I mean, I did make three Belcarra blouses in quick succession.  It's just nice to know that these patterns (at least Renfrew, Cambie, Saltspring, Belcarra, and Alma {post coming soon!}) will fit me right out of the envelope and the final product will look professional and awesome.  I guess I'm just trying to justify my third Cambie dress. :-)


I love this finished dress.  After my last failed batik project, I wanted a project that I knew would end in a successful, lovely, wearable dress.  This fabric is another batik, pretty similar in weight to a quilting cotton.  I originally bought enough fabric for the gathered skirt version, but the more I touched this fabric, the more I realized that the A-line skirt would work better with the weight and drape.  I'm presenting at a conference in a few weeks (my first time, and I am so nervous!), and I think this dress will be perfect for my presentation.

Folding laundry is my enemy. 

Since I've now made this pattern three times, I thought I would detail a few of the construction changes I made this time around.  I think this version is the most well-constructed, which means that it will hopefully last for quite a few years.  

Check out my photo bomber. :-)

On my first version of this dress, I think I over-fit the sleeves and I used my lining fabric for the sleeve lining.  When I wear that dress, my movement is a little bit restricted, which is not cool when I am trying to help my giant two-year-old in and out of his car seat.  However, the beauty of fitting the sleeves last is that this helps fix any neckline gaps (at least for me; all bodies are different).  On this newest Cambie, I added some stay tape leftover from my many Renfrews to the neckline to keep it from stretching out.  I used the batik as the sleeve lining, and I fitted the sleeves with hand basting before I used my machine.  This gave me a little more control over the placement, and I pulled the inner side of the sleeve a little tighter than the outer edge.  This means that the sleeve sits pretty closely to my chest, but there is more ease for movement at my shoulder.  Win!


Since my batik is basically quilting cotton, I wanted to protect my seam allowances so that this dress will hold up well, but I don't have a serger.  Instead, I decided to catch-stitch my seam allowances to keep them flat in the hopes that this will prevent some friction and fraying later on.  I'll add an update on the effectiveness of this method after a few wears and washes.


I much prefer lapped zippers to invisible zippers.  I'm not very confident in my invisible zipper abilities, and I think the lapped zipper gives me more control over matching the waistband seams.  My only regret is that I didn't interface the seam allowance before I inserted my zipper.  Grrr.  Maybe it won't make much of a difference; one more thing for me to watch over the next few wears and add to my update. :-)


Even though no one will see the pockets since they are sandwiched between the dress and the lining, I still wanted to finish the raw edge.  I used a narrow pink bias strip, but I applied like a facing instead of sandwiching the seam allowance.  This way, the pocket edge that lies (lays?) against the  dress is smooth.  I also used my stay tape to reinforce the pocket openings on the skirt.

Overall, I'm so happy with how this dress turned out.  Don't be surprised if a few more Cambies pop up here from time to time...

Jun 23, 2014

the story of summer

 I think the best thing in the world is to be a kid in the summer. 
Mine have barely gotten out of their bathing suits, and with good reason.  Our local pool has the best friends and water slides ever.

C and C sandwiching some sweet little friends.

One of the things that has amazed me the most is how quickly my two kiddos have become little fish.  Colin was very hesitant on our first day.  He stayed in my arms or in my lap for at least the first half hour and then would only walk around the kiddie pool holding my hand.  On our second visit, he warmed up to the toddler slide, and by our third visit, he was basically telling me to back off while he handled all the kiddie pool slides by himself.  In the meantime, Cara has been teaching herself how to swim underwater and begging us to take her to the big pool so that she can practice.  She's even mastered the big slides.

These lifeguards are pretty amazing.  They give the kids a color-coded bracelet according to swim ability and then catch the non-swimmers at the end of the slides.  This seems well above the call of duty, but it means that Cara can slide over and over and over, and I can just watch. :-)
little girl, big slide

Last week, Cara participated in a soccer day camp, so Colin and I got a little alone time in the mornings.  We spent some time at the park and at the pool, but Colin really missed his sister.  They have been constant companions, and Colin missed his playmate.  Seeing their friendship grow has been one of my favorite parts of summer break.  That, and not having an alarm clock.

Of course, there is always a bit of sewing going on.  I found this rainbow polka dot cotton on a fabric shopping trip with my mom, and I snapped it up as soon as I saw it.  Is there anything more perfect for an almost-five-year-old girl than rainbow polka dots?  Cara's favorite dress right now is the Oliver and S Fairy Tale dress--this is a match made in heaven.

I think she likes her new dress.

Cara's soccer camp had a pirate/ninja dress up day, so I decided Jake and Izzy costumes were in order as my kiddos binge-watch Jake and the Neverland Pirates on Netflix.  I do love how these dress up costumes turned out.

For Izzy's top, I used the Leila and Ben Sweet Dress pattern as the base.  Then, I added ruffles to the sleeve with a decorative scallop stitch at the edge, and I drafted a scallop hem and facing.  It's not perfect, but with the addition of the matching bandana and pixie dust pouch, the imperfections fade away.

Jake's vest is the Explorer Vest from Little Things to Sew.  I skipped the pockets and added yellow bias tape as trim and gold pirate buttons.  The vest took me less than an hour to sew up, and I have never seen my son so excited about mommy's sewing. :-)  The inside of the vest is lined with Lightning McQueen fabric, per Colin's request.

I can't wait to see what the rest of the summer holds for us.  I'm sure there's lots more fun ahead.

Jun 14, 2014

lemonade out of lemons (and other cliches)

I have pretty good luck with my sewing projects most of the time, especially lately.  Even if there is some frustration involved in the process, the end product is generally wearable.  Unfortunately, even luck isn't going to be able to save this dress.

This is the Gathered Sundress by Pattern Runway, and it seems to have many features that I thought I would love in a summer dress: princess seams, lined bodice, separate waistband for definition, POCKETS with a cute gathered detail, etc, etc.  I also really love this fabric.  I've been eyeing batiks lately, and this one has so many lovely pinks and purples and greens and blues swirled together plus a dash of gold.  I swooned.

My hopes were quite high.  The bodice seemed to fit perfectly when I tried it on in progress (although I quickly realized that the colors in this dress closely match the colors in my skin--it's not a flattering look for me), but once I added the lining, it gaped quite a bit at the armholes.  Maybe I stretched out the curves as I added the lining?  It doesn't look stretched to me, but who knows.  The waist is quite tight, even though I measure precisely at the size I chose, and I even shortened the bodice by an inch to make sure the waistband would fall at my actual waist.  Sigh.  I expected the skirt to have a little bit of fullness, but it doesn't really, and there's a strange pulling at the side seams--it's like the gathers at the back waist force the side seams to angle toward the front.  That makes no sense, and I can't come up with a way to fix it except to say that maybe I needed to size up from the waist down.  At any rate, this dress makes me look like a tree trunk, and I would love to find someone whom this dress would fit so that I can add the zipper and hem and send this one away with love and well-wishes.

In spite of all the challenges, I still love this fabric, and I had a little over a yard left.  My redemption came in the Oliver and S Hula Hoop skirt, a fun, flippy, reversible skirt perfect for my almost five-year-old.

Cara took this skirt on a playtime test drive this morning, so bless her heart, her hair is a mess and her shirt is already dirty, but who cares.  The Hula Hoop skirt is playtime approved.  I paired my lovely batik with a tiny yellow floral that I had in my stash.  It's quite an unusual fabric combination, but the colors work and I like it.

See that purse?  She really doesn't go anywhere without it. Such a funny girl.

Jun 2, 2014

belcarra blouse times three

May is a rough month for me as a teacher.  The weather is perfect, and the end of the school year is so close we can all taste it.  The time from spring break to the last day of school either drags or flies, and for the entire time, we all feel like there's somewhere else we'd rather be: out in the sun, please.  For me, there is usually lots of grading and make up to work chase down, and I'm a little surprised I managed to make it all the way through Me-Made-May without giving up.  I didn't have much time for actual sewing, but I did whip up three Belcarra Blouses.  This is a nice everyday blouse--it's almost like a fancy t-shirt that I can wear to work--and it's a quick make, even for a slow sewing gal like me.

View A:

View A is the no-frills version, perfect for showcasing special prints.  I had one meter of this gorgeous Nani Iro double gauze taunting me, and I was determined to make it work as a blouse, even though it was maybe three quarters of the recommended amount of fabric.  It took some creativity, but here it is.  Double gauze is a perfect fabric for this blouse.  It's so soft and comfortable, and the drape works nicely with this loose style.  I cut a straight size 6, and, as usual for Sewaholic patterns and my body type, it fits quite nicely.

I accidentally sewed the neck binding at a 3/8 inch seam allowance instead of 5/8 because I wasn't paying attention.  It ended up working out as a benefit because it narrowed the neckline just a tiny bit.  The wide neckline seems to be a concern for some folks out there, so I thought I'd offer this up as an accidental solution.  (Also, you can see this one in Me-Made-May action here and here.)

View B:

View B includes pintucks in the sleeves.  I chose a solid color for this version so that the sleeve detail would stand out a bit more.  This is a basic poly/cotton broadcloth, and it's okay.  It doesn't wrinkle much, it doesn't shrink or fade in the dryer, and it looks like it's going to hold on to the smooth texture for a good long while.  It's a little crisp, but I tell myself that crisp equals better pintucks, and I wear it anyway.  (And this one saw a little Me-Made-May action too.)

View C: 

View C includes fold-over cuffs and a pocket, so I decided to play up these design features with a contrasting print.  The solid is the same poly/cotton broadcloth, but the contrasting bits are an Amy Butler voile.  The pocket directions did give me a bit of a head-scratch for some reason, but there is a very convenient sewalong taking place right now.

It's sort of hard to say which Belcarra is my favorite, and I'd hate to ruffle any feathers or incite jealousy between blouses, but... know. ;-)

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