Jan 29, 2014

a tale of two blouses {Simplicity 1693}

Taking pictures of handmade clothing is a funny thing.  I am the most awkward, uncomfortable person ever in front of a camera, and I do not take direction well.  As in, my husband will ask me to turn a little bit this way and I turn 90 degrees.  I doubt I will ever be effortless, but it's a sacrifice I'll make for the sake of documenting my handmade clothing. :-)  Going through the pictures is definitely worth the awkwardness because it does provide a different perspective on what is flattering and what isn't.  I actually started this post with the idea that I liked the fit and style of the second blouse better, but the pictures may have convinced me otherwise.

Blouse #1 is Simplicity 1693 sewn pretty much exactly as the pattern and directions indicate.  I used a smooth, lightweight cotton lawn, which, I think, is perfect for this type of blouse. 

photobombers make me marginally less awkward

I actually finished this top months ago, and even though I've worn it several times and I don't hate it, I had a list of issues that I wanted to correct in a later version.  For example, the neckline is finished with bias tape.  I normally don't mind this finish, but I think I didn't cut my bias strips perfectly on the bias because I have to iron the crap out of the neckline to make it lie flat after this top comes out of the dryer.  I'm not crazy about the hem either...I can't pinpoint where it's wonky, but it seems off somehow...I don't know. 

I am quite a fan of the sleeves, especially with this drapey fabric, but the bust darts are a little bit too low.  Again, the fabric keeps this from being very noticeable, but I wanted to fix them so that I would be able to use thicker or stiffer fabrics too.

I wasn't crazy about the buttonloop in the back either, although it doesn't look as bad as I thought now that I've seen the pictures.  In spite of the list of changes I wanted to make to this pattern, I think Blouse #1 is absolutely wearable as it is.  I started tracing and redrafting around Christmas, and I finally managed to construct Blouse #2 last weekend.

The fabric this time is still lightweight but much stiffer.  Also lots of bright colors.  Whoa.  I drafted facings for the neckline, raised the darts a bit (maybe half an inch?), and lengthened the whole thing by two inches.  However, the biggest change I made is in the back.

I loooove how the buttons in the back turned out!  The buttons are coconut buttons I found on Etsy.  I think I added two and a half inches to the back pattern pieces and extended the neckline facing down the back.  I actually got this idea from the Oliver and S Library dress, and I'm sure other button back patterns use this method.

Don't get me wrong, I like Blouse #2.  I thought I liked it better than Blouse #1, but that was before I saw both in pictures.  I think I like the fabric I used for #1 better--#2's is just too stiff but maybe it will soften up with a few more washings. 

This is what happens when my husband tries to give me direction.  Awkward.

Jan 26, 2014

this is why I can't have an Etsy shop

Back in October, I offered a custom handmade dress in a friend's adoption auction.  Another friend won the dress, and we emailed about styles, patterns, and fabric, and then...*crickets*

Bless her heart for being patient with me because she didn't get her dress until mid-January.  Fortunately, her daughter's birthday isn't until April, so it all worked out fine.  Every now and then, someone will ask me why I don't take orders more often or have an Etsy shop, and I think the real problem for me is deadlines.  I'm terrible at deadlines.  I guess my real job is another good reason.  I know it may look like I was quite the productive sewist in January, but really, I was productive while I was out of school after Christmas.

Anyway, my friend chose the Oliver and S Bubble dress in two coordinating fabrics.  I love the earth tones for this one--it's pretty and girlie without being over the top.  So sweet for a first birthday!

I really love those buttons.
I added a herringbone stitch to the bodice to keep with the earthy vibe.

The bloomers are from the Tea Party dress pattern, and I usually hate making diaper covers, but I really like how this pair turned out.  I think it's the tiny ruffle at the waist. :-)

Jan 23, 2014

reverse applique onesie

One of the reasons I love sewing is making and giving baby gifts.  I've been so inspired by Alabama Chanin lately that I have been itching for a good excuse to practice a bit.  A teeny tiny onesie is the perfect excuse!

The reverse applique color in the pictures is a bit darker than it is in real life; it's actually the same purple knit from my Renfrew.  I left the knots on the outside to keep this soft against the baby's skin and because I like the texture in the center of the flowers and at the ends of the leaves.  This onesie is actually the final draft after two rough drafts...cutting away the top layer is more difficult than it seems.  One big lesson learned here is to knot off frequently--this makes it much easier to *ahem* replace sections when the scissors misbehave. 

Jan 20, 2014

an upcycle for the boy

PJ and I did a pretty significant cleaning out of a few closets in our house right before the new year, which meant that he handed me a pile of old t-shirts and asked if I could use them.  What a silly question.

I fell back on a favorite pattern, the Oliver and S Sailboat top.  I've made this pattern in both knits and wovens, so I was pretty sure it would work well with t-shirt knits.

For this first shirt, I drew bit of inspiration from Alabama Chanin and handstitched the facings and applique with gray button craft thread.  I didn't bother to hem the sleeves, and I skipped the hem facing because I used the original hem of the t-shirt.  Occasionally, laziness pays off. :-)

 This "cheese" face kills me!  Cutest boy ever.

Shirt refashion #2 began life as an iconic PJ shirt that he wore until the side seams were full of holes.  I really think I remember PJ in this t-shirt when we were dating.  Anyway, the super soft fabric and the holey seams made this t-shirt a perfect upcycle candidate.

This time, I wanted to keep the stripe in the chest of the shirt and also keep the number on the sleeve, literally just shrink this shirt into a toddler boy shirt.  In the same spirit of laziness, I still left the sleeves unhemmed, but I did use the hem facing this time. 

Colin's newest model pose

 Or maybe he was just trying to ignore that camera in his face.  Doesn't matter--STILL CUTE.

Jan 19, 2014

the stash

Over the past few weeks, I have been slowly working through Jen Hatmaker's book 7: an Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, and whoa.  It's a good thing I've been s-l-o-w-l-y working my way through this one because it requires some processing time. 

I don't even know what to do with that passage; all I know is that I have never felt more ashamed of my ease and privilege.  Never in my life have I considered myself a wealthy person, but in the grand scheme of the entire world, it's embarrassing how much more than my share of the global resources I consume, simply because I am an American, simply because I have a little bit of disposable income, simply because it's in front of me, simply because I CAN.  And it's not like my addiction to Target's cheap t-shirts and jeans and shoes is creating jobs or income for other people.  In reality, all that cheap crap, because it is so cheap, means that someone else (probably in Bangladesh or India or China) was cheapened with unsafe working conditions and minimal pay.  When I start trying to process the depth of this cycle of cheap labor and cheap consumption of everything (food, fuel, clothing, and all manner of STUFF that clutters my house), it becomes a rabbit hole, a problem so complex that I can't really think through the cause and effect and my role in it.  All I know is that I am a participant and what can I do about it?  I need concrete steps, ACTION.  (And this is for me-->) Redefine the word necessary.  Stop buying things are not necessary.  Donate things we currently have that are not necessary. 

So where I am going with this?  I always thought that sewing was a way to take a baby step off the mindless consumption train, but I have found that if I'm not careful, it can become another way to consume because the fabric is so pretty and soft.  It's a way to accumulate more clutter and stuff because those fabric scraps could be useful one day...except I'm buying more fabric and not using what I have.  I need some strategy and planning.

Step one for me was going through my ridiculous fabric stash and being honest with myself about what I will use again.  It was tough to let go of some of those pieces, but there were others that I wondered why I held on to them at all.  A few scraps went into the trash because there really wasn't much left (again, why did I save it?), but the rest are going to be donated.  I hope that someone else can see the potential and give these pieces a new life.

to be donated
I decided to hang on to a some pieces because one of my goals for this year is to make a quilt, but more I thought about it, the more I realized that I myself do not need a quilt.  I'm hoping to find someone who does though.  

to be quilted

I kept pieces that are big enough to be used for garments and tried unsuccessfully to get my stash down to one big tub.  I ended up needing two, but at least now I can also stored my sewing books, traced patterns, quilt batting, and other random sewing odds and ends in the tubs AND I can put the lids on them.

to be sewn

To be honest, vowing not to buy anymore fabric is completely unrealistic.  Sewing still needs to be fun and creative, although using what I have is for sure a priority, but now that I know exactly what I have and how much I have of it, I think I will be able to see the potential more clearly.  When I do go fabric shopping, my new requirement is going to be planning.  I haven't been too bad about randomly buying fabric without a project in mind, but I want to be more strategic about planning projects.  Cara made it very clear to me that she likes to wear dresses the best, so when my sweet friend invited me to do a little shopping with her, I made a list of four dresses I would like to make for Cara with the idea that these dresses will be more "big girl" for kindergarten and will transition from the current cool weather to spring/summer and back to fall (if I can keep her from growing too quickly {haha}).

to become an Ice Cream dress, Library dress, Jump Rope dress, and a Fairy Tale dress

I'm pretty sure that sewing up my current stash, taking on a quilt, and making four new dresses, in addition to the baby gifts and random projects I take on when the inspiration hits, should be enough to keep me busy for quite a while. 

Jan 14, 2014

"but Mom! This is not a dress!"

I promise that Cara originally approved this tunic.  She liked the polka dots and she picked out the buttons for the shoulders.  She was enthusiastic about the pockets.  And the girl loves a good decorative stitch.  However, when I showed her the finished tunic, she was disappointed that it wasn't a dress.  In fact, her biggest complaint was that it looked like shirt.  It took a bit of explaining for me to convince her that a tunic is like a shirt plus a dress, maybe the in between.  Eventually, I won her over.

This is (what else?) the Oliver and S Sailboat top lengthen to a tunic.  I've made this top approximately one million times, so there's not a lot to say about the construction.  It's pretty much always awesome.

I borrowed the pockets from the Hopscotch skirt.

And added a scallop stitch for a little bit of extra fancy.

Jan 9, 2014

Simplicity 2451--conquered

I really loved my previous version of Simplicity 2451, but I found that it was just too tight in the waist to be comfortable.  I passed it along to my itty bitty sister because I didn't want it to sit in my closet, getting its feelings hurt every time I passed it by.  However, I figured all I needed to do was add a little bit of width, and the skirt would fit.  I ended up sewing all of the side seams with a 3/8" seam allowance instead of 5/8", and the problem was solved.

The fabric for both the skirt and the lining came from my stash.  I think the lining was left over from my summer Cambie, and the skirt fabric is another gem donated to me by a friend.  (Isn't that the gift that keeps on giving?   This is my third free garment from that donation, not mention Colin's three pairs of shorts and a dress for Cara.)

I switched out the pleats for gathers this time.  I was afraid the pleats would made the stripes look funny if they weren't perfect, and this fabric has a loose weave that might not hold the shape of a pleat very well.  I like the way the gathers turned out though--gives this skirt a more relaxed vibe.

Pockets!  And a machine hem because it was getting late.

There's the kick pleat and lapped zipper.  I don't have any special feet for my machine, so invisible zippers never seem to turn out very well.  I don't like the look of centered zippers, but lapped zippers are durable and fabulous.

And a look at the insides.  I've always been afraid to include any shots of the inside of my handmade garments because I have never been particularly proud of that part, but this time, I am. :-) I added a lining and attached the lining to the zipper by hand.  I should have used a different color zipper, but it's not that big of a deal since it's nicely hidden.

Overall, I'm really pleased with how this skirt turned out, and I think I'll get a lot of wear out of it now that it fits well.

Jan 6, 2014

a fairytale princess dress

One of Cara's requests for Christmas was a mama-made princess dress.  Can I just say that I LOVE it when she asks me to sew for her?  Anyway, I originally had these grand plans of pattern alterations and fancy embellishments, but I didn't actually get to start on her dress until two days before Christmas Eve.  I decided to use a pattern that I have been wanting to get my hands on for a while, the Oliver and S Fairy Tale Dress.  The only alteration I made was to use the length of a 12, but the rest of the dress is a size 5.  I found some shimmery sheer purple something-or-other and a little silky polyester and just went for it. (Wait, I lied.  I also left off the collar and used a centered zipper instead of an invisible zipper.)

The shimmery sheer whatever was not so much fun to work with.  It's not all that sturdy or durable, and I was really afraid that I would melt it; however, I like the effect of it layered with the lining fabric.  Originally, I added the tulip sleeves, which are just gorgeous, but Cara hated them.  She refused to wear the dress at all because she said the sleeve seam was itchy.  She was probably right about that--every other seam in this dress is sandwiched between the outer fabric and the lining, and I'm sure that shimmery sheer plastic didn't make for a comfortable armhole.  I ended up taking off the sleeves and binding the armhole with more silky stuff to please my client.  And she is now pleased, especially because she has many purple princess accessories to complete the ensemble.

I really like the Fairy Tale dress pattern--you end up with a classic, fully lined dress that can be fancied up or dressed down depending on the fabric.  I can't wait to make a few more of these when the weather starts to warm up, although I'll probably use a size 6 for the bodice in the future.  This dress is much more fitted in the bodice than other Oliver and S dresses I have sewn, and while the 5 fits fine, I think Cara will be more comfortable with a slightly looser fit.

Jan 2, 2014

happy new year!

Welcome, 2014!  I love a fresh start as much as the next person, but strangely, the new year doesn't feel like that to me.  I tend to do my goal-setting at the start of the new school year since that truly represents something new--new routine, new classes, new students, and this year, KINDERGARTEN for my baby girl (writing those words hurts my heart a little bit).  However, the new year definitely feels like a good time to pause and reflect.

The blog has taken an interesting turn this year.  I started out four years ago writing about my experiences as a new mom and continued that path for quite a while, transitioning from "new" mom to mom-of-two.  I have always written about what I wanted to write about, and this year, that shifted from mom stuff to sewing stuff.  There are plenty of reasons for the change, but a big one is that I feel a lot more competent in my skills, which means I might have a little something to contribute to the world of internet sewing.  I find so much inspiration and guidance from what other sewing folks have shared that I want to join in the conversation.  Does this mean that I have the whole mom thing figured out?  Haha, absolutely not.  My kids are getting older though---there are no babies in my house anymore--and they deserve a chance to write their own stories.  I'm sure I will continue to share a little of their lives here and, of course, many pictures, but I have enjoyed documenting my sewing progress on the blog this year and plan to continue on in that direction until a new obsession steals my attention. ;-)

My reflections for this year's end mainly focus on sewing projects, of which there are many.

Exhibit A:  Kid Sewing (I only included Oliver and S projects here because that has been pretty much my favorite children's pattern company ever in the world.)

1.  Art Museum Vest and Trousers, Sketchbook Shirt, Library Dress (Christmas outfits)
2.  Ice Cream Dress (Cara's birthday dress)
3.  Tea Party Playsuit (Colin has grown so very much since this picture.  Wow.)
4.  Bucket Hat from Little Things to Sew
5.  Sailboat Pants
6.  Tutu from Little Things to Sew (This one never made it to the blog, but it's still pretty cute.)
7.  Ice Cream Blouse
8.  Bubble Dress (minus the bubble hem)
9.  Sketchbook Shirt and Shorts (Even though it's pretty loud and maybe a bit gaudy, I think this is my favorite kid outfit of the year.)
10.  Library Dress
11.  Hopscotch Skirt
12.  Bubble Dress (I love this picture of Cara.  She is too cool.)
13.  Tea Party Dress
14.  Sailboat Top and Pants
15.  Sailboat Top and Skirt
16.  Tea Party Playsuit
17.  Tutu (again)

I already have a few finished kid projects that I need to document for 2014.  I want to do more sewing for the boy since I have a few good patterns in my stash now, and I plan to give Cara more creative control.  She is becoming very opinionated about what she wears (MORE DRESSES, MOM!!), and there's absolutely no point in sewing something for her if she doesn't like it in the end.

Exhibit B:  Selfish Sewing

1.  Alabama Chanin inspired Renfrew (one of my favorite tops)
2.  Simplicity 2451 (This one has already been given away.  I hope my skinny-minny sister enjoys it. :-)
3.  Alabama Chanin inspired Renfrew (another favorite)
4.  Colette Patterns Licorice (I had some issues with the fit of this dress.  I still wore it, but I made another one with the needed alterations that I like so much better.  Unfortunately, the better version never made it to the blog.  Maybe in 2014?)
5.  Grainline Tiny Pocket Tank and Pattern Runway Sweet Shorts (I wore both of these pieces quite a bit over the summer, though not often together.)
6.  Simplicity 2444 (I still love this dress, even though it isn't lined and the bodice is a little big.  It's a pattern I plan to use again in 2014.)
7.  Victory Patterns Hazel (I'm really proud of this dress because it was my first sewing experience with fancier fabric.  I love wearing it.)
8.  Sewaholic Cambie (Love, love, love this dress.)
9.  Another Sewaholic Cambie (Love this one too.  I think these patterns are drafted with my body in mind.)

I have a lot of undocumented garments that I made for myself.  A few were repeats of a pattern I had already used, a few were kind of unremarkable (there are four Sorbettos in my closet but zero on the blog), and sometimes I was just too busy to take pictures and write up a post.  In 2014, I'm hoping to fill in some wardrobe gaps with a few versatile skirts, maybe a button down shirt or two, and lots and lots of dresses.  I am dress lover at heart.  (And what was that I was saying earlier about my daughter... )

Exhibit C: The finished project of which I am most proud

I made a man's shirt.  It's definitely not perfect (and PJ does not wear it), but I learned a lot about precision in my sewing and attention to detail.  I said that I was going to make PJ another shirt for his birthday, but that fabric is still sitting in my stash.  In 2014, PJ is getting another shirt.

Cheers to 2014!  I hope everyone has a marvelous new year!

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