Dec 29, 2013

Alabama Chanin inspired Renfrews

It has become a tradition for the past few years that I ask for a sewing book for Christmas.  One year was the Colette Sewing Handbook, another year was Little Things to Sew from Oliver and S.  This year's book might be my favorite one yet:  Alabama Studio Style and Sewing by Natalie Chanin.  This is the third book from Alabama Chanin, and I love that Natalie Chanin wants to make her couture techniques available to home sewists.  And I am now obsessed with all things Alabama Chanin. 

The amount of hand sewing did seem overwhelming to me at first--how would I ever finish a project?  I decided to tentatively dip into Alabama Chanin style by working with something comfortable and familiar first: the Sewaholic Renfrew.

I made a gray long sleeve Renfrew with the cowl collar right before Christmas, but tragedy struck.  I snipped into the shoulder of the shirt while trimming a seam allowance.  I was really, really sad about this mistake because the fit and fabric were perfect.  I applied a pitiful little patch and decided I would just wear the shirt in spite of the mistake.

However, Alabama Chanin presented the perfect solution in the form of reverse applique, so I bought some fabric paint, a stencil, beads, and button craft thread and completely fixed my mistake.

I was amazed by how long this project didn't take.  I painted on the stencil in about 10 minutes, let the paint dry overnight, and stitched around the design while I drank my coffee the next morning.  Cutting the top layer of fabric was nerve-racking, but I managed not to make another tragic mistake.  I was so enamored with the final result that I decided to make another Alabama Chanin inspired Renfrew.

I confess that I didn't hand sew every seam, but after I sewed each seam with my machine, I felled it using silver-gray button craft thread.  Again, this did not take nearly as long as I anticipated, and there was something very soothing and deliberate about sewing a seam and then stopping to add the decorative touch.  This is what sewing adult clothing is all about--these are the personal, one-of-a-kind touches that make a garment truly special. 

I know I'm really late, but...

...I just have to share these pictures of my kiddos in their handmade Christmas outfits.

They are decked out in their Oliver and S finest.  The challenge for a mama of a little girl and a little boy is coordinating the outfits without matching them exactly, so I decided to unify them with the red gingham.  I made Colin's Art Museum vest and trousers back in November with the intention of using them for his Christmas outfit, and I added the red gingham Sketchbook shirt, finishing it at the very last minute.  The only issue I came across with Colin's shirt was that I couldn't add a button and buttonhole to the cuffs on the sleeves because they ended up being a little bit tight.  No big deal though--he's worn the sleeves rolled up for the most part.  Cara's dress is the Library dress again, except with red gingham flat piping on the bodice instead of the collar.  The gingham is also on the cuffs, but they aren't flipped up here.  

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas!  December was quite a busy month for us, so I'm hoping for a bit of a slow down for the new year.  I feel like I'm always saying that, but it never happens--such is life with two kids and two parents with full-time jobs!  To be honest, I couldn't imagine things any other way. :-)

Nov 28, 2013

a confession and a cutie

Let me begin with a confession (because it makes me feel better): I am terrible at balance.  Not only do I frequently fall over with only a slight push, but I also allow one part of my life to take over at the expense of other parts of my life.  I am deeply thankful for Thanksgiving because it has given me a much needed break from my job, which has been rudely demanding more than its fair share of my time and attention lately. When this happens, there are other things that get pushed to the back of my skull.  One of those things happens to be haircuts.  Cara can go for a while without incident, but Colin has this crazy mass of stick-straight blonde mop that really needs a cut about once a month.  The other thing that I forget about is picking up toys.  Why should I pick them up when I know without a doubt that the children are going to wake up too early the next morning and pull them all back out?  Insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different result or some other pithy something-or-other...anyway, there are other things I would rather do than spend my time putting away toys.  I say all of this to explain the pictures that follow.  The boy is cute regardless.

Even though being a teacher is sucking away my time, I have stolen a few moments to sew up the Art Museum Vest and Trousers by Oliver and S for my boy.  This might be my favorite Oliver and S pattern yet, and it's not just because the resulting garment is amazingly professional.  It's all about the welt pockets.

This was not my first welt pocket experience.  I attempted two single welt pockets on my Sweet Shorts, but they felt too complicated and the final result was far from perfect.  Wearable, but not perfect.  However, the Oliver and S method for welt pockets is perfection.  Trust me on this, you can do it.  Even though I knew some of the basics of sewing when I started out, I feel like I learned to sew from Oliver and S and developed the confidence to start sewing for myself.  Liesl Gibson is a genius at writing pattern instructions.


Colin is a big fan of layers.  I cannot believe that this boy has clothing opinions at 20 months, but he does.  In fact, his teachers at daycare have to bribe him to take off his coat in the mornings.  I placate him with old man cardigans and now, vests.  A whole new world of layering.  We love it.

The vest is definitely the wow factor in this pattern, but the trousers are not too shabby.  They have lots of professional details like back welt pockets (!!!), front slant pockets, and even belt loops, which I skipped because Colin does not yet own a belt.  

The details:  I used a super soft corduroy for this outfit, and I'm really happy that I bought way too much...Simplicity 2451, I'm looking at you.   I cut a 2T because Colin's last little fall outfit is just barely hanging on at 18-24 months.  This vest would not have buttoned if I had not sized up, but Colin is a delightfully chubby toddler these days.  I chopped off three inches from the length of the pants, and they fit perfectly.

One word of warning...little boys who know they are cute will get into lots of mischief.  Just so you know.


Nov 2, 2013

a princess and a tiger

I spent most of October resolved not to sew any Halloween costumes.  Costumes are too temporary for me to feel justified spending hours and hours putting them together, right?  Well...guess what I ended up sewing at the very last minute?

This is what I like to call an "Ariel-inspired" princess gown.   After Cara and I went to see my school's fantastic production of The Little Mermaid, Cara was sold on Ariel as her Halloween costume.  I assumed we would be able to find a lovely Princess Ariel dress at a reasonable price, but I was sadly mistaken.  None of the Ariel costumes we found were lovely or reasonably priced, and then PJ pointed out that if I made Cara a princess dress, she could wear it again when we head to Disney World later this year.  Cara loved that idea.  And so the brainstorming began.

Cara made it all sound so simple.  "Mom, all we need is a green fish tail and little purple seashell boobies!"  *Ahem.*  I decided I wanted this to be a full gown that hinted at the mermaid tail without looking too fishy.  I ended up hacking the Leila and Ben Sweet Dress pattern, adding an elastic casing at the waist and just below the knee.  I also left out the elastic at the bottom edge of the sleeves.

I used about half a yard each of teal satin, purple satin, and some sheer sparkly purple stuff.  I layered the purple satin and the sparkly stuff for the bodice and left the sleeves sheer and fluttery.  

At the bottom, I used about a yard of tulle, layered and lightly gathered.  I used some ribbon to create the casing for the elastic and cover the itchy raw edge of the tulle.  This ended up being a quick, easy project, and I was quite pleased with the results.  

Cara was quite the happy princess.

Colin got a hand-me-down tiger costume, bless his heart.  When he can tell me what he wants to be, I will gladly sew up a custom costume, but he was perfectly happy to be a tiger this year.

a slightly drooly tiger...blame it on those tiger teeth

Oct 23, 2013

perfect timing

I am in the midst of piles of essay rewrites and grading deadlines right now.  I spend hours sitting at my desk (or dining room table) reading 11th grade brilliance until my eyes are bleary and my brain is fried.  But every now and then, I get a reprieve from the monotony of grading and the pressure of the deadline.  Today, it took the form of a delivery from the FedEx gods...a Stitch Fix box!

(In case you haven't heard of Stitch Fix, I explained the process and service here.  Basically, it's the most awesome day ever.)

This is my fourth Stitch Fix box.  I kept everything from my last two boxes, and I really should have posted about those because they were amazing.  All I'm doing here is prolonging my break from my work.  Humor me, please. :-)

#1:  Wilam Zig-Zag Print Top by Fiancee

The rest of the world is chevron crazy, and while I like it as much as the next person, I was not impressed by this top at first.  However, I was sold once I put it on.  It's a flattering cut and there's a pleat in the back that makes it hang in a different/interesting  sort of way.  Keeping it!

#2:  Haddon Print Tab-Sleeve Blouse by Under Skies

I immediately loved this top.  The center front seam is sewn to the outside, which reminds me a whole lot of one of  Liesl Gibson's newest patterns, the Weekend Getaway Blouse.  Keeping it!

#3:  Schuyler Short Sleeve Open Cardigan by Fiancee

This sweater is so cozy and soft that I couldn't possibly send it back.  Navy is an added bonus.  Keeping it!

#4:  Ivana Colorblock Belted Dress by 41Hawthorn

I knew this one wasn't going to be a keeper before I tried it on.  I'm not crazy about the color combination, which is strange because I wear a ton of gray and purple.  It fit pretty well, but I just didn't love it and I knew I wouldn't wear it if I did keep it.

#5:  Alivia Ankle Length Pants by Margaret M.

I was so excited when I saw that there would be pants in my box, and my joy multiplied exponentially when I opened my box and saw that they were red.  Unfortunately, they are a size too big.  I almost cried because I don't have very many pairs of pants that fit right now, and I haven't tackled sewing my own pants yet.  I guess it's about time that I order up the Clover and Thurlow patterns.

(In the spirit of full disclosure, if you sign up and order a fix using one of the Stitch Fix links in this post, I'll receive a $25 credit.  Yay!  Honestly, I would encourage everyone to try this service because I love it whether I get a referral credit or not.)

Oct 14, 2013

the Scarlett O'hara skirt (Simplicity 2451)

You may be wondering why I called this skirt "the Scarlett O'Hara skirt."  No, it's not made out of old curtains.  Yes, it is a nice, deep shade of reddish-purple, but there is another reason.  It's a bit tight...

Okay, okay.  It's not exactly as bad as wearing a corset, but it definitely encourages me to suck in the gut. :-)

I used view C of Simplicity 2451, one of the 99 cent patterns I scooped up last weekend.  It's a versatile, easy skirt pattern with lots of room for variation.  I guess I was feeling a little bit brave, so I cut it by a size 10.  (I usually have pretty solid intuition about what size to cut, but I think that only works for independent patterns.  The Big Four trip me up.)  There's a slight tulip shape to this skirt, and I was afraid of being overwhelmed by volume in my hips. I actually think it's fine in the hips, but the waist is just a bit too tight, although I'm holding out hope that my fabric will give with a bit of wear.  I love the design of the curved waistband and pleats--I think this style is very flattering!  Add in the pockets, and I am sold.  

I used a fairly thick fabric from the stash generously donated by my friend over the summer.  It could be considered a fine whale corduroy, maybe.  It's a nice weight and color for fall (and difficult to photograph, it seems).   I subbed a lapped zipper for the invisible zipper recommended by the pattern.  This is definitely becoming my go-to method; I have to watch Sunni's Craftsy video every single time I do it, but it's worth it as the results have been perfect each time.

After a day of wear, I decided that the slight tightness is most certainly not a deal-breaker; it just means I'll wear this one at my natural waist.  I intend to make this pattern again, but I think using a slightly smaller seam allowance on the side seams will give me just enough breathing room. :-)

Oct 13, 2013

a (slightly) selfish weekend

Life is so full right now.  It's awesome because it full of good stuff like ballet classes, dinner with Granddaddy, baby showers, and Bible studies, but there also plenty of mundane things that require some attention.  Laundry, I'm talking to you.  However, I resolved that I would find some rest and relaxation and quality time this weekend.  I'm happy to say that I was quite successful.  My dad offered up some free babysitting on Friday night, so PJ and I got to go out on a little dinner date.  It felt like forever since we'd had time to really talk.  But, a date night was not the only awesome thing to occur this weekend.

My mother-in-law texted me earlier this week to give me a heads up on a 99 cent pattern sale at Hobby Lobby this week, so I found a minute on Friday afternoon to check it out.  I've already whipped up a new skirt to wear to work next week!

I found a minute or two on Saturday morning to give my hair the chop.  I'm guessing I lost four or five inches, but I really needed to lose the length.  I feel so much lighter and bouncier!

One of the most fun things I did this weekend was pass along my old American Girl doll to my big girl.  We got a catalog in the mail, and Cara devoured it with such enthusiasm that I had to send PJ up to the attic for Felicity and all of her tiny dresses and accessories.   My mom sewed a lot of dresses for my doll when I was a little girl, and I loved unpacking them and sharing everything with my girl. 

Oct 9, 2013

two little fall outfits

Now that the weather is beginning to turn a tiny bit chilly, I decided it was time to do a little stash-busting and whip up a few fall outfits for my little chicks.  I went with the Oliver and S Sailboat Top and Skirt/Pants because I was in the mood for a quick, easy project.  These pieces are adorable, and I like that I can sort of make my kids match without making them match exactly.  

These fabrics all came from my stash.  Cara's top is made out of quilting cotton and the skirt is a heavier weight cotton, maybe a twill.  I've made this same top out of a knit fabric before too, and it works equally well in knits or wovens.  The beauty of a well-designed top.

We did go on a hunt for some special buttons for the shoulders.  Cara likes picking out the perfect buttons for her handmade clothes.

I made Cara a denim version of the Sailboat Skirt last year, and she's still wearing it, so I know this skirt will be worn until it's too small or falls apart.  I used a 4T for both of these pieces--that might end up being a mistake because if Cara hits a growth spurt, this outfit might not make it!

For Colin's outfit, I used the same fabric for the pants as I did for Cara's skirt, but the shirt is made of a light, almost gauzy fabric.  It feels like it must be super comfortable to wear.

I used the 18-24 months size for Colin's outfit, the same size as his Sketchbook Shirt and Shorts, but this top is the tiniest bit snug.  I guess both of my kiddos are ready for a size up.

My little models were not in their best model moods when we took these pictures, so of course, we couldn't get them to smile or even look pleasant at the same time.  Oh well.  They're still cute. :-)

Oct 3, 2013

a fall cambie

If you have not made the Sewaholic Cambie dress yet, you are missing out on a fantastic pattern.  I made the full-skirt version back in May and loved it all summer.  I actually had not pictured the Cambie as a fall dress until I saw this version.  Then, the wheels began to turn and the plaid matching began.

This is my first attempt at matching any sort of plaid, and to be honest, I didn't enjoy it and I didn't do a very good job of it.  It's okay though, because the important parts, the parts that matter, are close enough that they don't bother me.  I think matching plaids is a skill I will need to practice a lot more before I can feel competent, but the funny thing about the whole matched-plaid business is that nobody notices.  Except for people who sew.

As I'm sure I've said before, the Cambie is delightfully easy to assemble and looks as lovely inside as it does outside.  I used what I think is a poly-blend suiting fabric with just enough stretch to be insanely comfortable.  It's also soft and smooth enough that I lined the bodice with the self fabric and used a little Bemberg rayon for the skirt lining.  Nothing better, folks.  I made a size 6 again with zero modifications, and it fits perfectly.  Did I mention that I love this dress?  Because I really do.  

This is after a full work day of wear.  No wrinkles = best dress ever

I hesitated to cut the waistband on the bias because I was afraid it would stretch out of shape, but it actually worked perfectly.  I really like the effect of the bias-cut waistband; those vertical stripes needed a break from each other anyway.

I think the shape of this A-line skirt is so incredibly flattering, and look! my horizontal stripes pretty much match up!  Vertical stripes?  Eh.  Whatev.

The bodice back is where things didn't quite work out.  I'm not sure what happened, but I couldn't get those stripes to match up.  It bothered me for about 10 minutes and then I let it go because the nice, clean lapped zipper cancels out the mismatched plaids.  Right?  

For my first attempt at matching plaids, I can't say that I was particularly successful.  I feel like there are more seams where things don't line up than where they do, but you know what?  I got a ton of compliments on this dress, and none of them were "in spite of the non-matching plaids."  

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