Tuesday, August 25, 2015

A change of scenery

Hello loyal readers! Long time, no see. I have been sewing, sewing, sewing and not blogging. I have lots of excuses, none of which are interesting! Instead of explanations, here is a photo of a recent make:

Nice lighting, eh? But to see more, I'm going to make you travel all the way over to my new blog space: http://errantpear.wordpress.com. I know it's a pain, but if you are interested in continuing to read about my sewing pursuits, you'll have to update your blog feeds, readers, bookmarks, or links. I hope you do, because I have lots more projects to share and other exciting things to reveal. See you over at the new digs!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

A Jacket For Josh

Earlier this winter, when I was feeling uncharacteristically generous, I told Josh I wanted to sew him a new jacket. I picked out some wool and some rayon satin lining for Denver Fabrics, and once the materials arrived in the mail I set them in a pile in my sewing room and ignored them for several months. There are many good reasons for this. For one, sewing for myself is more fun. Secondly, Josh is a pain in the a** to fit. He won't sit still. He doesn't give meaningful feedback. And sometimes he takes off running because it's more fun to play chase around the house than have someone stick him with pins.

unrelated photo
Then last week, I begrudgingly admitted to myself that I should avoid purchasing new fabric for a while and make good on some projects I've planned. I started looking around for a suitable men's jacket pattern - not a suit jacket, but a winter jacket/short coat. And we all know how easy it is to find good men's sewing patterns. (And if you don't know, the answer is NOT EASY. IT IS NOT EASY AT ALL.) Then I discovered this pattern on Etsy...

Look at that sexy side-eye this guy is giving! I want the pattern for the expression on his face alone. Sadly, Butterick 2656 was going for $18 not including shipping (and still is) which is pretty steep for this cheapskate. Then I remembered that box of vintage patterns that I picked up off of Craig's List years ago, and how I shoved the children's and men's patterns aside as being totally uninteresting at the time. After rooting around a little I found them, and low and behold...

Simplicity 7744 - you are not as sexy as Butterick 2656. I don't know why, since your style lines are almost exactly the same, minus the elastic waist which makes 2656 somewhat questionable. Maybe it's because there is a little boy in the illustration. Thankfully, I know how to see past cover art. Josh does not, and even looking at the style lines he was dubious. Then I compared it to his existing Woolrich jacket (the one I am trying to replace) and discovered that it is almost the EXACT SAME, right down to the snaps at the hips.

Headless shot because it's Sunday, and we don't comb our hair or really try to to look presentable at all on Sundays.
The only differences I can see are that the original jacket has a regular collar and set-in sleeves, while Simplicity 7744 has a stand up collar and raglan sleeves. Oh, and S7744 has one-piece sleeves, while Josh's jacket has two-piece, but that's easy enough to change. So I painstakingly traced all the pattern pieces (to preserve the old pattern) and then whipped up a muslin.

Ugh. That photo is blurry, and I'm very sorry. It is easier for me to look at these two photos to compare fit, however, than to try to get Josh to hold still while I assess the fit. So far as I can see, the only issue with the muslin is that the sleeves are a little too big. In fact, when I laid the two jackets on top of each other, they are almost exactly the same.

So I'm feeling pretty lucky! This might actually be a fairly simple project. Except that I plan to complicate it by underlining it with old cut up sweaters... the ladies at Sewing.PatternReview said I could!

Anyone want this pattern when I'm done with it?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Butterick 5559

Whenever I return to blogging after several weeks away, I feel like I owe everyone finished products to make up for my absence. So here you go! Butterick 5559, a knit sheath dress with starburst pattern:

Butterick 5559 pattern envelope

This pattern has been reviewed many times - 51 in fact! - on Sewing.PatternReview. One thing I love about that website, despite how very outdated it looks, is the way you can search the review according to the type of fabric used. If you have a length of fabric but aren't sure what to make, it's a fast way to get inspired. Since I became familiar with ponte this year, I've been checking out what other people make with it. This dress is way up on the list, and that's one reason I chose it. Check out all these beauties:

And that's just a sample of the ones I grabbed before I got too lazy. This dress looks pretty fabulous on anyone who makes it, so I kept it in the back of my mind until a sale on Butterick patterns came around at Joann's. Then I had 51 reviews to read for advice before sewing up my own. I didn't read all of them, but I got the gist: it's a little short but otherwise perfect, and the tucks are time consuming. Got it. So I went ahead and made my own, using some rayon ponte knit for FabricMart.

Sorry about the picture quality. The sun has barely shown its face for the past month, so I was reduced to hovering near a window to capture what little light there was and then boosting the brightness of all my photos in Photoshop. On the plus side, bad picture quality makes my hair look better! It also hides the fact that I failed to match up my tucks on the side seams...

Ohhh well. Unpicking seams in knits is NOT my favorite, so I'm living with the little imperfections on this one. I was very careful to thread trace all my tucks, just like people suggested, but I think things went awry when I cut the wrong pattern size. I can't remember how I decided what size to cut - all I know is that I ignored the envelope because I don't trust the Big Four not to build in ridiculous amounts of ease. By the time I noticed that there are finished garment measurements printed on the pattern pieces, I had already cut them out. So I did something sketchy like adding a little on here and there just by eye-balling it and then also reduced my seam allowances in certain places and not others and in the end it's no wonder that my tucks didn't match up. If I want to make this pattern again, I'm going to have to buy another copy and pay better attention.

All the other reviewers were right about this pattern being time consuming. And it's not just the tucks. There are actually a whole lot of darts hidden underneath those tucks (very clever, Butterick). And they were also right about the length. I'm 5'8". I added five inches to the length, which allowed me to turn up a generous hem and still have it hit around my knees.

One reviewer noted that the neckline of this pattern dips lower in back than in the front. I don't really get this as a design feature, since it's not really enough of a dip to look intentional. Since I wanted this to be a warm dress for winter, I kinda wish I had raised the back neckline, but it's not that big of a deal. I also made the sleeves full length, for max coziness.

Other comments about this pattern - there is a secret waistline seam hidden under one of the tucks. And the waistline isn't level. It angles up on one side, which made me pause and stare, confused, when I cut out my pattern pieces. The neckline is finished with a facing, and mine didn't want to stay hidden, even with understitching. The tucks save the day - I tacked down the facing in four places to the body of the dress, neatly hiding the stitching underneath the tucks. Oh, and a few reviewers seemed perturbed that their tucks wouldn't lay flat. Mine don't either, but I don't think they're necessarily supposed to. I think they look fine sticking out a little. It gives the dress dimension.

People like to say that knits are super easy to sew, and I have to disagree. This dress gave me hell when I tried to use my serger. I thought my serger and I were friends finally, but now I don't know. It hates going over thick seams, so it would mess up every time I tried to sew over a tuck. I also can't figure out how to avoid making my side seams all lumpy. I've messed with the tension, and yet I still end up with gnarly bumps over my hips like you see in the photo above. This is highly annoying, because while I know my hips are curvy, they are definitely not lumpy. If someone can tell me what I'm doing wrong, I would love to know. I actually ended up undoing all my serger seams and redoing them on my regular machine with a zigzag stitch. Lumps are still there, but less offensive than before.

On the other hand, I am very pleased with my hems! I attempted my first blind stitch on the sewing machine and I like the results very much:

Those stitches could be a little smaller, I suppose, but not bad for a first go at it! Here's the inside of the cuff:

And the scandalous knee shot, featuring my scar from falling over in my driveway seven years ago:

Blind hems mess with my brain a little, but once you figure out where to fold and where to stitch it's smooth sailing. Maybe I will throw together a little how-to. I even managed to do this without a special foot on my sewing machine, so it's really not so bad.

So that's it! More than you probably ever wanted to know about this dress! Overall, I'm a big fan and would like to make a second if I could pick up another copy of the pattern. It was a hit at our office holiday party too, and now my coworker wants me to help her make one. WE'LL SEE.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Good Fabric Gone Bad

I was happily sewing along yesterday, thinking that I was going to be super clever and whip up not one, but two dresses in an afternoon. Dress number one is for a friend. It is a copy of a super simple dress she already owns and loves that is made out of a cotton knit. I didn't even both with a pattern for this one, just laid her dress down on my fabric, eyeballed, cut around it, and stitched it up.

It still needs bindings and a hem, but this is definitely the fastest dress I've ever made. I hope she's pleased with it, cuz I think it's pretty cute.

Then I moved on to a dress for me, using Butterick 5780 and the same fabric (which is a knit blend from Joann's).

I'm making version C. Or I was. Because once I tried on the bodice, my heart sank.

I love the shape, but that fabric - it's just not right. 1. It kinda looks like a couch. 2. It's kinda scratchy. I thought I could forgive a little poly content, but in long sleeves I just can't ignore it. 3. Josh saw me in it and said I looked like a matador.

Yep. I can see the similarity. It's such a funny thing that this fabric could look cute in dress number 1, but give it long sleeves and all of a sudden it just doesn't work. I wish I had a Tim Gunn to take fabric shopping with me, because I just don't anticipate these things and now I have half a matador costume (days after Halloween is over) but no dress. Do you run into these kinds of problems when you sew? Do you have tricks for envisioning the end product and avoiding disasters before it's too late? Please share!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Minoru II

I don't know why, but lately blogging feels like homework, hence my procrastination on posting many new makes. Hopefully it's just a phase that will pass. Oh well. Surely you'll forgive me if I present with a photo of this guy:

Little twerp is back home! He was missing for six weeks, but after talking to a lot of people during my search for him I discovered it's not uncommon for cats to turn up months after they go missing. Still, it was hard not to lose hope. I kept getting false alarms when people would call me about lookalike cats in the neighborhood. When I got a call about a week ago from a woman out walking her dog, I was pretty dang sure it was going to be the same cat down the street who I'd discovered after numerous previous tips. (That poor cat must have gotten tired of seeing my face turn all downtrodden every time I found him and realized he wasn't mine.) But I rushed to spot anyway, and I couldn't believe it when I called his name and he started meowing. I didn't know for a few seconds whether he was my cat or not, it had been so long. It was even stranger to pick him up and feel how much lighter he was - he had definitely lost some weight in his time away. Now he's back home, and we'll never know how he spent those six weeks. Besides acting hungry ALL THE TIME, Pidgin is pretty much back to his old self - waking me up at 5 am by biting my hair, chasing rubber bands, taking lots of naps. It's nice to have him back!

Okay, hope you all didn't mind the cat update. Now for sewing. I was badly in need of a spring/fall weight jacket to replace one lost last year. The weather around here started getting cooler, and I had nothing but an old jean jacket which was not gonna cut it. I get in this position too often lately because I hate buying clothes new and don't seem to sew fast enough to fill the gaps in my wardrobe. Wow. I have deja vu just typing that. But thankfully, I'm getting faster! So I threw together this Minoru (by Sewaholic Patterns in case you're new in town):

Minoru number one was a big undertaking for me, largely because I changed a zillion things about the design and made it harder than it was supposed to be. This time I respected the integrity of the pattern a little better, and sewed it closer to how Tasia intended. Turns out, patterns work better when you sew them with the recommended fabrics and don't make a zillion design changes. Who knew! 

I'm trying to show you it's cold enough to see my breath, but it's not working. The fabric is Robert Kaufman Hampton Twill in "stone" for the main fabric and "charm" for the facings. I've had pretty good experiences with Kaufman fabrics, although it can get confusing when he has five different twills and twenty types of chambray. I'm exaggerating a little, but I wish someone would tell me how to choose among all the options when I'm shopping online. This twill is pretty lightweight, almost too light for my liking. It also wrinkles quite easily. I compensated by doing both an underlining and a lining, which gave the extra weight and warmth I wanted. So I guess I didn't exactly do things as the pattern instructed, since it doesn't call for underlining.

Ta da! Pretty insides. The lining is bemberg rayon, and the interlining is cheap cotton flannel from Joann's, except in the sleeves, where I used up the leftover flannel from the shirt I made Josh last winter. Thrifty, eh? Almost to a fault. I hope I don't regret my scrimping later, but it's just underlining. What's the worst that could happen by using cheap fabric? And actually, it's the lining that's underlined rather than the main fabric, since I didn't realize til the outer was already sewn up that it was really too lightweight. Judging fabric weight really does seem to be one of the tougher parts of sewing for me.

 If you're wondering why there's a stripe of pink through the middle of my lining, it's because I was worried that the bemberg would be too delicate to serve as a casing for the drawstrings (oh, btw I swapped the waist elastic for drawstrings). I feel like a dummy for going through that trouble, because the flannel underlining would have protected the rayon. I just didn't realize it at the time. Oh well.

This photo is kinda cheesy, but also it makes me think of a 1950s model pose. Here we go...

Nailed it! I'm trying to show off my pockets with their contrasting under flaps. I stole the idea for these off of Peter and his amazing parka.

Sheesh. What a good looking dude. And he makes such beautiful clothes. I'm pretty sure that's an entirely self-made outfit he's sporting. That parka is killer. My pockets are smaller than his, and thus slightly less useful. Here is a blurry, unhelpful photo:

Even though they're a bit small, I can fit my phone inside no problem. I don't think I could have made them much bigger and still fit them on the jacket, especially since I shortened it (whoops - is that another change?)

Okay, I better just confess to all the rest of the things I did differently from the original pattern. I made the collar pieces shorter in front, as I did on my previous version. They curve downward, and thus don't cover my face even when the coat is zipped all the way. You can see the altered pattern piece below.

I used drawstrings instead of elastic at the waist, and I hammered in some big eyelets for the cords to poke through. 

Here's the back view. I'm not a huge fan of the way it looks when the drawstrings are gathered, so I wear it barely gathered at all. As a pear shaped lady, I just don't think gathered waists are my favorite. I originally thought I would put some cord stops on my drawstrings to keep them from pulling through the hole, but I kinda like my little bows tied on the side.

Finally, I got rid of the elastic cuffs and used the tower plackets and cuffs from a men's shirt pattern.

I still need to pick out some buttons, so these are just tacked closed for now. Tower plackets don't seem very appropriate on a jacket, but I wasn't sure how else to put a vent in the sleeve. If I had been a smarty, I would have redrafted the sleeve in two pieces, which seems to be the way most jackets are sewn. I was not thinking that far ahead, however.

This coat is exactly what I needed to get me through til the real cold weather starts, and I'm very happy with it. But I also think I'm done with Minoru, unless my sister or mom requests one. It was satisfying to make it up again and do a better job matching fabric to pattern, but for my next jacket I'm ready to try something new. It's just nitpicking, but the gathered waist bugs me. Minoru also has quite a wide neckline, and unless you stuff a scarf in there it's quite drafty. Anyone else notice that? Still, it's a great pattern and I'm happy I've finally done it up a second time!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

One Week, One Pattern 2014

Here at last is my wrap-up post for One Week, One Pattern 2014 - or more commonly known around the sewing blogosphere as OWOP. I'm on a crusade against acronyms lately, but I'll let this one slide. This is my first year participating in OWOP, although I've enjoyed watching others participate in years past. After falling in love with Colette Patterns Lily as a pencil skirt, it was an easy decision to make it my go-to for OWOP. I was a day late and dollar short to the festivities, starting on Sunday rather than Saturday because I never really know what day it is lately. Here is my line up:

OWOP Day 1
OWOP Day 1 - Lily bodice with simple gathered skirt out of stretch cotton pique from FabricMart. Accessorized with a braided coral belt from the thrift store and a lackluster Sunday blues face (anyone else get depressed on Sundays?) This is the only dress version of Lily that I've completed, and I have to say I'm less enamored with the top half of this pattern than I am with the bottom. The fit just wasn't as good. The princess seams fall a little too close together for my bust, the straps ended up being way too short (I had to cut new ones), and overall the bodice just seemed too short for my torso. I couldn't figure out whether I wanted to tug it further up or further down, but probably I could extend it a little both ways for a better fit. However, after sewing in some foam bra cups to the lining it is quite comfortable. It also requires very little fabric - I think I eked this out of 1 1/2 yards. Not bad!

OWOP Day 2
OWOP Day 2 - Navy Lily skirt. My first version, and a good wardrobe staple for work. I'm wearing it with a blouse I made from a 1970s pattern a long while back.

OWOP Day 3
OWOP Day 3 - The third skirt version I made from the Lily pattern, this time out of a ponte knit! I'm quite proud of this one because it's one of my first forays into knitwear, with the exception of swimsuits. I had been eyeballing the Mabel pattern from Colette Patterns, but couldn't fit it in my sewing budget and also had the suspicion that I could manage on my own without a pattern. And then I was struck with a moment of genius when I realized that it wouldn't take much to adapt Lily for knits. I already had a waistband drafted, more or less, in the form of the facings I made for my skirt versions. From there it was a small matter of eliminating the front pockets and using slightly larger seam allowances to account for the stretchy ponte. I am super pleased with how well this worked, and how fast it was. I made this up in just a few hours on a Sunday evening and wore it to work the next morning. Why has it taken me so long to befriend knits? I'm psyched to try a zillion more knit projects, including several more Lily skirts.

OWOP Day 4
 OWOP Day 4 - My bright floral Lily skirt. It's hard to repeat this one without people noticing, but I love it anyway.

OWOP Day 5
 OWOP Day 5 - My navy Lily skirt again, with my Vogue 1387 blouse. I resorted to taking photos while waiting for my bus, which was a tad awkward. Also, I need to replace my broken tripod so I don't have to find stone walls of a certain height to perch my camera on.

OWOP Day 6
OWOP Day 6 - Lily dress again, with green sweater and belt. I forgot/didn't have the heart to take photos of myself on Friday. I did get a few nice compliments for this outfit. It was hastily thrown together because the weather suddenly took a turn for the cooler, which threw my OWOP wardrobe plans awry.

OWOP Day 7
And finally, OWOP Day 7 - Ponte Lily skirt with jean jacket and moccasins for a drive in the country to get apples.

All in all, I had a fun time with OWOP, especially since it's my first time trying to stretch my homemade wardrobe. I've never participated in me-made-May, but maybe next year I'll be ready! On the other hand, I would have liked to stretch this pattern a little further. I'd like to make a version that's true to the original pattern - a full dress without substitutions for top or bottom. I also would like to make a top out of just the bodice, and I actually got 80% done with one. In the end I ran out of time, and the weather got too cool anyway. I love the idea behind OWOP - that you can wring every last bit of usefulness out of a good pattern. It appeals to my inner cheapskate and also my interest in drafting and pattern modifications. I love the variety of beautiful patterns available to us these days, but I also tend to look at every new arrival to check if it could be made with a few tweaks to something I already own. With a little more disposable income maybe I would just buy all the patterns, but then again, using a tried and true pattern means you don't have to go through fitting headaches.

The only onerous thing about OWOP is having to take photos of myself, and I think a lot of other agree that this is the hard part. But it's good practice too and good to remember that no one is really going to judge (and f' them if they do).

A last note before I sign off. One reason I'm late in posting these is that our cat, Pidgin, has gone missing. He was actually last seen last Friday morning, and Josh and I are both feeling the loss. I know he may come back still and also that he might not. Since he made a debut on the blog when we first brought him home and has made a few appearances here and there since, I thought I would say something and leave you with a photo of his adorable face.

We miss you Pidgin.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Two Lilies

I have a new favorite pattern. A new old pattern, as it was released more than two years ago. I know that's really not so long, but in the sewing blogosphere I think we may have short attention spans. Ooh! Anna!  - Ooh! Archer!  - Ooh! scuba knit! - Ooh! Kimonos! I think it's because we have a never-ending flow of inspiration and interesting new patterns and fabrics to try, which is hardly a bad thing. Anyway, I'm always a few years behind the trend, and I'm just now getting around to sewing up Colette Patterns Lily.

Lily dress pattern - envelope line drawing
Everyone else might be through with Lily already, but I felt like I was uncovering a gold mine when I made this up for the first time.

my floral Lily pencil skirt
I sewed only the bottom half, as you can see. I started a new job this summer and was in need of office attire. Rather than buy a pencil skirt pattern, I looked at Lily and thought it would do the trick. Did it work?

HELL YEAH! Why haven't I seen this elsewhere on the sewing blogweb? I kinda feel like a genius for being the first to convert Lily into a skirt, but I also feel like it's so obviously a good idea that I can't get too much credit for it. (BTW please ignore my obvious lack of styling. I took these after work and couldn't even be bothered to leave my shoes on.)

This thing fit perfectly without any fussing, which was SO NICE. That really doesn't happen often for me. I consulted the finished garment measurements on the envelope and went with the size that would give me just slightly negative ease, since I was using a stretch sateen. As usual, I graded from a smaller size at the waist to a larger size at the hips. No problem. And it worked like a charm. (Like my flowers? That's six years of marriage - So far so good!)

I squeezed this baby out of 1.25 yards of fabric (I think) which required a little creative thinking. I ended up having to make the pockets just slightly smaller, but that's no biggie. They're still plenty big. And I love them.

I didn't make the pocket flaps, but used piping instead. Also, I wore this skirt out somewhere and a man noticed and commented on my piping. Why thank you for noticing sir. I am impressed by your sewing vocabulary.

Now actually, this is the second Lily I've made. Ready to see number one?

I love it too. It is slightly more practical than my loud floral Lily, but it too is made of stretch sateen.

You may notice that is slightly different from my floral version. For one, it is shorter. Another sewing blogger said she thought Lily is a tad short, and I agree. Not too short. In fact, it seems very accurately portrayed in both the line art and the model photos. And I like the length of my navy version. But too be prim and office-y I made my second version a tad longer. Also my floral version is a tad taller in the waist, because I wished it so for the second version. The original isn't too low, I just wanted to have a high-waisted skirt.

Still, it's a dang good fit for what I only expected to be a wearable muslin. I apologize that it's hard to see much detail on the navy.

I swear this looks more wrinkly in photos than it does in person. Whatever. The wrinkles don't bother me so much.

I was inspired to add tabs with buttons after admiring this Betsy pencil skirt sewn up by Melissa of Scavenger Hunt:

I love both these skirts so much, and they are getting plenty of wear at my new job. The stretch woven makes them very comfortable, and I love the princess seams for giving an excellent fit. I like this pattern so much that I'm already working on my third version - this time with the top half. And I'd like to make a few more skirt versions as well... and maybe a version that's just the top. With a peplum? With a knit? Seriously, I feel like this pattern has loads of potential, just waiting to explode all over the place. Nice job Colette Patterns.

Okay, now that I'm done gushing, I do have a few small beefs with the pattern. But really, they are quite small. First is the length of the vent in back - it just seems too short. Not for functional reasons, but just because to my eye the proportions look wrong. Compare the two versions below:

See how the vent on the navy version seems a bit puny? I made it longer in the floral version, and I like it better. It's a small thing, but there ya have it. It's hardly going to keep me from enjoying the skirt though.

The second issue is not the pattern's fault really. As much as I love the princess seams for giving a nice fit, they are a pain in the tuckus for ironing these things.

I don't know if it's the fabric's fault or what, but the seams I pressed open don't want to stay open, and all those seams make for some tricksy ironing. Oh well. Again, it's not going to keep me from wearing them. But I would love to make a version with flat felled seems, which I think would solve the problem nicely. I could also just serge the seam allowances together instead of serging the two sides separately, which might also help. But I thought it'd be nice to be able to let the seams in or out over time, so I did it the hard way. Live and learn.

Coming soon - yet another Lily (and perhaps another), and more swimsuit bottoms!