Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Project Runway All-Stars recap

I totally fell off the wagon here with Runway recaps. But never fear, I have been watching! Somehow the holidays have engulfed all my free time, and I'm not even sewing gifts for anyone. I did love last week's episode of All-Stars, with the coats, though I was sad to see Benjamin go. But on to this week!

Highlights: Dmitry even talking about a silk velvet jumpsuit was a highlight for me. *swoon* Dare I try the same thing with the recently-released McCall's pattern? Can you imagine that in silk jersey?!


Lowlights: Gunnar was right, this is the time when everyone starts getting snippy. However, most of the criticism I heard was correct. Even I had my doubts about the pink "brocade" and I was nowhere near it! 

Also, I feel badly for all the people who rolled brocade. It wasn't my first Fear Fabric for nothing!

By the way, "silk" is not a fabric type. It's a fiber. Am I the only one who goes crazy when people talk like that? Am I snob?

Best garment: In loooooove with Dmitry's jumpsuit. And if Sonjia's was a jumpsuit instead of a dress...could have been my favorite piece all season. Wouldn't it be fun to be in shorts instead of a skirt at a bachelorette party?

Michelle's lace design really was incredible, but she always chooses green and shades of chartreuse that nobody can wear. I know that's her thing, woodsy colors, but didn't Nina once say that you will never see green on the cover of a magazine?

Worst garment: Justin's was so boring. And short (again). Helen's was too tight. Helen was right about Jay's, it was not Sunday brunch. But what do I know. Later Gunnar! Thank you for not being too annoying.

Next week: Waaaaaaaaaah everyone cries about doing menswear. Grow. Up.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Sweatshirt Fail

We all have fails occasionally, but rarely does that happen with a pattern I've already sewn before! A month or so ago I made Simplicity 1317 with a slinky sweater knit. I added 2" for maternity wear and it worked out great. I decided to make another in sweatshirt fleece, which is what the pattern was designed for in the first place.

I opted to color-block with grey and navy. The grey was from the remnants at Jo-Ann's, and the navy was from Girl Charlee. A few things went wrong. First, the grey had ZERO stretch. In general, I think it's just a poor quality. The navy from GC did have a small amount of stretch. Somehow I didn't notice the stretch issue until I'd already cut my pieces and tried attaching the neckband (in grey).

The second problem was that I tried to lower the neckline. That, combined with using a no-stretch fleece for the neckline, totally f*ed it up. I cut it off and redid it with some ribbing cut from an old shirt. I also used that ribbing for the sleeve hems since the grey fleece wouldn't stretch enough. Sadly, the ribbing had no recovery. Fail #3. 

The only way to reasonably wear this sucker is with the neckline stretched WAY out, in an attempt to make it look purposeful and off the shoulder. But the cuffs on the sleeves don't stay in place, so the entire garment feels awkward and annoying. And somehow the sleeves feel way shorter than my previous version.

I tried coverstitching the neckline
but it still looks bad.

I tried wearing the sweatshirt and gave up after two hours. It was uncomfortable and not that warm. I'm pretty bummed because the navy fabric is nice, I wish I would have ordered enough to make a whole sweatshirt with it.

The hem band barely stretches around my hips.

This garment goes into a wad in the corner until I decide how to recut it for my daughter. And a word of warning: don't waste your time on the sweatshirt fleece at Jo-Ann's, unless your pattern requires no stretch and you have decent ribbing to go with it!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

"Maternity" Plantain T-Shirt

I think I may have created the perfect shirt!

Deer and Doe Plantain

Whomp whomp, right? Hahaha. It does look pretty boring in photos. Sorry about that. But this t-shirt is SO soft and cozy that during my in-progress-fittings I almost couldn't take it back off to keep sewing it! And honestly, what's more versatile than a grey t-shirt?

This is the Deer & Doe Plantain pattern, which you can snag for free here. I've been doing a lot of browsing on Pinterest for maternity wear, and over and over again I saw plain grey and black t-shirts. After rifling through my stash, I realized I had enough yardage of my favorite fabric ever--this grey modal knit from Girl Charlee--to make a Plantain. There was some happy dancing involved, for sure! This is probably the softest fabric I've ever owned (you can see my previous make with it, here).

The side view shows that my 4 month pregnant belly is pulling the hem up in the front. I love this fabric so so much that I couldn't bear to make a true maternity shirt that wouldn't be worn for more than 6 months. Instead, I simply lengthened the Plantain 3". That gives me enough coverage and when I'm no longer pregnant I'll still have a great shirt. Win!

For reference, this is a size 36 (in my previous Plantains, in non-pregnant days, I usually graded to a 34 at the waistline) but with the highest neckline in the pattern. There were no lengthen/shorten lines so I added the 3" below the side seam notches. I also traced the pattern out to the longest hem, which is size 46. I used a 1/2" seam allowance on the sides, rather than 5/8". So, y'know, totally customized to me and one of a kind.

And bonus! For the elbow patches I used the scraps from one of my favorite prints, a neon feather jersey (leftover from this tunic). I've been hoarding these for ages.

Because of my fabric limitations, I cut the back in two instead of on the fold, so I have a seam there. I promise it's straight in real life, I'm just standing weird. Also because of fabric limits, I added cuffs to the sleeves instead of hemming.

I ADORE the cuffs. They keep the sleeves in place and keep me much warmer than a hem would. On the shirt hem I used my coverstitch machine, which was threaded with navy, and I was too lazy to change it.

I don't think you can even tell that it's navy. I considered adding a pocket to the front, but decided to leave it plain for maximum versatility. I can always add a chunky necklace or scarf.

If you haven't tried a Plantain yet, what are you waiting for?!?! It's very well-drafted (setting sleeves in flat with the serger is a breeze) and the flare at the hem is super flattering. I'm already itching for another in black modal.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Wardrobe Architect goes maternity

I'm a bit of a planner. I don't usually buy fabric without a pattern in mind (otherwise I would buy all the things) and I plan seasonal wardrobes pretty extensively. But that all changed when I found out I was pregnant. All my pretty plans went out the window along with my ability to wear regular clothing.

Without a plan, a queue, I've been pretty rudderless. For a while I was working on a coat, but I completely lost steam. I packed it away once I realized I was avoiding my sewing room because of it. The truth is, I like mini-collections, capsule wardrobes, seasonal making. Thanks to the Wardrobe Architect series, I've gained skills to choose silhouettes and color schemes that both suit me and excite me.

The first time I was pregnant, 3 years ago, I didn't know how to sew. Maternity clothes are not cheap yo! I ended up thrifting some things and buying new and hating most of it. It would have been nice to pull out my old clothes and have a ready-made wardrobe, but that just didn't happen. There are a few things I'll wear, but sewing has taught me to be picky. At that time I was also working, so my lifestyle is different now as a stay at home mom.

After suffering through this funk for the last three months, I finally pulled my head out of my you-know-what and did what I love most--made a plan! (Also, I was very inspired by this capsule wardrobe I saw on Pinterest). 

I'm going to be pregnant for 6 more months. I'm going to sew. Why not take the time to thoughtfully plan a mini-maternity wardrobe? Sarai and her infinite wisdom taught me to take it in steps. First I chose silhouettes that I wanted to wear while pregnant, keeping in mind the seasons (I'm due in May...it just occurred to me that Me Made May will be very tricky next year!). The silhouettes are defined as "nice, nicer, nicest" meaning casual to dressy. Then I dedicated one category to "lounge". Yeah, that happened.

Next, I wrote down how many of each item seemed ideal (the numbers next to the drawings). Then I wrote down any items I already own that fit in those categories. That left me with a few blank spaces to fill in with new makes.

These are the new makes, or my new queue, if you will (with one "to buy" pair of maternity skinny jeans). I browsed through my patterns and chose ones that matched my silhouettes. There are some I will need to alter for maternity wear, but thankfully I've already been pregnant once and know what I like!

The one big deviation from my regular wardrobe planning is with color. I generally stick with pink, navy, grey and black. But for my maternity wear I want to use as many stash fabrics as possible, so I didn't hold to any strict color scheme. In particular, I'd love to use up anything that ISN'T pink, navy, grey or black! Make room for new stuff, right?! And yes, they're all knits! Sorrynotsorry.

On top of this stuff, I'd like to ramp up my underwear sewing and also try a bra (I purchased the Anna Crossover pattern from Ohhhh Lulu to make some nursing bras). So that's what I'll be up to the next few weeks! Have you ever had to quickly ditch your plans to make a new wardrobe?

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Sale on A Sewist's Notebook!

This weekend save 35% on all three versions of 110 Creations: A Sewist's Notebook!

Use code WQT32 at checkout to receive the discount. Offer ends December 3rd at midnight eastern. Makes a great gift for all your sewing friends, or yourself! Check out my About the Book page for additional photos, information, and reviews from around the sewing world!

Photo courtesy of Shannon Cook, via Very Shannon.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Tutorial: Adding Elastic to the Side Seam of a Maternity Tee

Last week I showed off my new maternity Renfrew, which I sewed using this tutorial from So, Zo...

The tutorial is great for showing you how to modify an existing pattern, but a little skimpy on the details of how to account for all the extra length in the front when you're sewing the thing together. There is something like 5" extra in the front, which to me is just too much to "push forward" and gather on the machine whilst sewing. For my top, I decided instead to gather with clear elastic (3/8" but 1/4" would be fine too). It's a bit tricky since you're only gathering a small portion, not an entire seam, and I kind of just winged it. But I'm here to say that it worked, and you can try it too!

First, cut two pieces of elastic the length of the BACK pattern piece between the notches (the notches you get from following Zoe's tutorial). In other words, the length that the gathered portion will be when gathered:

If you look closely, you can see two blue chalk marks at the ends of my elastic. Again, this is the BACK pattern piece which has not been altered. The front has extra length which will be contained between these two notches.

Next, tack the ends of the elastic to the wrong side of the FRONT piece, with the ends at the notches:

You could use pins here, but I'll be feeling sorry for you because they're certain to fly out later. And pinning elastic stinks.

Above shows the elastic tacked at the ends near the notches. You can see all that extra fabric between the notches that needs to be gathered to the length of the elastic.

I did the next part on my serger, but you could use a regular machine with a zig-zag stitch. Stretching the elastic until it's the same length as the fabric, sew the fabric to the elastic. On my serger, I disengaged the cutting knife.

You may need to hold the fabric behind the presser foot as well as in front, since you're probably stronger than your machine. I recommend starting a little so the machine can grab hold, then stretching and sewing the rest.

When you're done, you'll have all these pretty gathers!

A note about seam allowances: if you're smarter than me with my pregnancy brain, you'll notice that I sewed my elastic right at the cut edge of my fabric. Since my elastic is 3/8" and the pattern calls for a 5/8" seam allowance, that was pretty dumb. It means that my elastic will be cut off and removed if I serge my side seams at the required seam allowance. The fabric will still be gathered, but I'll lose that extra stability from the elastic. My solution was to sew with a 3/8" seam allowance on the side seams. That allowed me to keep my elastic and also to give my pregnant self a bit more breathing room. Alternately, you could trim off a bit of fabric from the sides, or sew your elastic on the seam line instead of on the cut edge.

I examined a few of my RTW maternity tees and there are other ways to add elastic to the side seams:

  • Lengthen the front and back bodice a few inches. Sew elastic in the seam allowance using a long straight stitch.
  • Lengthen the front and back bodice a few inches. Sew the side seams with a regular sewing machine, NOT a serger. Use the seam allowance to create a casing for the elastic.

Any other ideas? Questions? Leave a comment and I'll be happy to help!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Maternity Renfrew

It didn't take long for most of my regular clothes to stop fitting me. The scale tells me I've only gained about 5 pounds, but my belly tells a different story. It was time to try out a tutorial that I've had saved for a long time: how to modify a t-shirt pattern for maternity wear.

I used the tutorial from So, Zo... to modify my TNT Renfrew. I followed it exactly except that I didn't go up a size (my normal Renfrew is a size 4 with a slight wedge removed from CB for my narrow shoulders). I did use a 3/8" seam allowance on the side seams instead of 5/8". In case you don't want to click over and read the whole tutorial, you basically add length to the front bodice only, then gather that extra length to fit your unchanged back bodice. How you choose to gather is up to you, either with regular basting stitches, pleats, or elastic. I chose clear elastic because most of my RTW maternity shirts use elastic. Next week I'll post a mini-tutorial on how I sewed this top with the elastic in the side seams. It was a bit lengthy to include with this review and it won't be interesting to anyone who isn't sewing maternity wear!

This really unflattering side view shows that there is plenty of room left in the shirt for an expanding belly. If you follow the tutorial you'll be producing shirts that will fit through your entire pregnancy, I'd wager.

The fabric I used is a very pretty heathered coral cotton/rayon jersey from Girl Charlee. It's been a while since I ordered it so I believe it's sold out. I like the fabric a lot, but it was way off-grain. The heathered effect is sort of horizontal from selvage to selvage but even that isn't straight. After attempting to straighten it, I kind of stopped caring and did what I could to make it work.

What I like about this shirt is that it looks normal in the back, you can't tell that it's maternity wear. I *might* add a teensy bit of length there if I make this again, because all my other maternity shirts are longer in the back and that's what I'm used to. We'll see.

This was my first time making the cowl-neck version of the Renfrew and I like it. A lot. For some reason I was under the impression that the cowl was a folded-over rectangle sewn to the neckline, but in reality there is quite a bit of shaping. Just be warned that it's kind of huge and it will take a bit of fabric. This top took two yards, I can get a short-sleeved Renfrew (non-maternity) out of only 1 yard.

It also took a little longer to sew, due to the cowl. My previous Renfrews were knocked out in two days, one day to cut and one to sew, but this one took three. Still, I paid something like $11 for the fabric. There is no way I could buy a maternity shirt just like this for under $30. My favorite part is how pretty the front gathers turned out. Just need a bigger baby to take advantage of them!