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.

Feb 2, 2015

January in Review--all the plaid

2015 is shaping up to be a pretty busy year so far.  As usual, I'm up to by eyeballs in real life stuff (cooking lots and lots of Whole30 compliant meals, reading stories to my kiddos, tripping over all the toys, and of course, grading essays), but I've really missed the old blog world.  It's quite overwhelming to consider documenting all of the garments I've made since, oh, SEPTEMBER, so I thought I would choose my favorites from January to get me back into the blogging swing of things.

(in no particular order...)

#1: Oliver and S Jump Rope Dress in flannel for Cara

One of the skills I feel I've been missing lately is matching prints.  Winter is the perfect season for cozy plaids, so I jumped into plaid matching with gusto.  Surprisingly, it's not really that difficult after all.  I found that cutting out my projects on a single layer of fabric helps tremendously, as does a long ruler to help keep notches lined up with the print on the fabric. 

I also found that love plaids on the bias for details like collars and plackets and pockets.  I wish the bottom of this placket was a bit more sharp and centered, but it'll do.

I really enjoy looking at the side seams on this dress, with their perfectly matching horizontal stripes.  And that pocket was a labor of love.  I finally figured out how to keep the curves smooth, and I think they turned out beautifully.

And there's my cutie pie in her warm, cozy dress.  She fits perfectly into an Oliver and S size 6 these days, although I think I may start lengthening her dresses as I make them so that they will last through an extra season.

#2: McCalls 6613 in cotton shirting for PJ

My poor, patient husband finally got a shirt that fits (and one that he will wear with minimal coaxing!).  His Negroni wasn't awful, but it was missing a lot of the details that he likes in a shirt, mainly a collar stand and separate button plackets, and I chose a size too big.  However, McCalls 6613 is a perfect fit for him.  I didn't have to make any changes to the pattern, which was a pleasant surprise. The only big detail that this shirt is missing are tower plackets at the cuffs.

I don't hate the way these sleeves are constructed.  The pattern includes a two-piece sleeve, and the seam allowance is turned and stitched to finish the opening at the cuff.  This is waaaaaay easier than a tower placket, and my husband tends to wear his sleeves rolled up year round anyway.

I did goof up the collar just a bit, and now there's no way for that top button to close.  Again, not a deal-breaker since my husband says he's not planning to wear a tie with this shirt, but it's something I want to get right on the next version.

And there's the yoke on the bias just because.

#3: Wiksten Tova top in flannel for me

This top is all over the world of sewing blogs, and now I know why.  It's easy to make and comfortable to wear, especially in this snuggly flannel.  I originally bought this fabric intending to make a shirt for Colin, but he isn't interested in wearing mama-made clothing right now.  "Isn't interested" is putting it mildly...there was a tantrum at one point, and the very last thing I want to spend my precious sewing time on is something that will not ever get worn.  I thought about another shirt for PJ, but I was about a quarter of a yard short.  Lucky me!

I went with a size small, and the fit on this top is perfect.  My shoulder movement isn't constricted, and I don't feel like I have too much volume around the hips.  The bottom seam of the inset even falls just under the bust for me.  I have some teal flannel that is begging to be another Tova.

Thanks for sticking around all the way to the end of my favorite January projects!  There are quite a few that didn't make the list here, but I've been sharing my sewing projects on Instagram quite a bit lately; I'm jessicakcooper over there if you're interested.

Sep 7, 2014

rule breaker

Remember how I was wondering if I really had to give up white after Labor day?  I've decided that I don't.  So, here's another summer skirt just in time for the end of summer.

Don't mind those wrinkles--I had been sitting for a bit before I got around to making my husband take these pictures.  Besides, I get bonus points here for wearing one of my Belcarra blouses too.  This is the ever popular Vogue 1247 (see my version of the blouse here), and I can see why everyone loves this skirt.  It's a flattering A-line, but not too bell-shaped (and mine is lengthened FOUR INCHES), and it has some awesome secret pockets.

This is actually my second go around with this skirt.  I made a plain navy version at the beginning of the summer that hasn't made its way to the blog (yet?) because it's pretty basic.  It's a wardrobe workhorse though, and I highly recommend making a few of those.  I liked the fit and shape of the first skirt so much that I decided I wanted to do something with a print, and I thought playing around with the direction of some stripes would work well for this style and force me to figure out how to match them.  I'm happy to report that I did, in fact, manage to mostly match my stripes.  I've decided that the secret is to cut out the pieces single layer.  Why didn't someone tell me this three years ago?

You may notice that my zip isn't exactly perfect, and I blame it all on the seam binding.  The pattern calls for bias binding to finish all of the raw edges inside the skirt, and boy, does seam binding in a stripe look pretty.

It looks lovely but creates some really thick seam intersections, to the point that I actually couldn't sew over the yoke/skirt back seam at the zipper.  Also, seam binding is absolutely infuriating.  See where I gave up on the side seams?  I hated sewing it on, and I will not be doing it again.  Pinking shears for life.

I have plans for two more versions of this skirt pattern, so I hope the internet isn't tired of seeing it yet.  I'm finding that I like sewing multiples of the same pattern lately.  I like the challenge of making each version look a little different.  What patterns do you enjoy sewing over and over?
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