Thursday, March 5, 2015

A lot of little upcycles

What HAVE I been doing with myself lately? You may have noticed a lack of large projects on the blog. I seem to have finally lost all mojo to sew for myself in the last three months of my pregnancy (so. over. it.) and instead I've been directing my attention to tiny people clothing. And underwear.

My recently-turned-three year old is not that fond of wearing pants, so my go-to for days around the house is a simple pair of lounge/sweatpants. I've been waiting ages and ages for my favorite designer to release her Essential Sweats pattern (these are affiliate links, because I somehow have to recoup the large amount of money I've spent on Peek A Boo patterns!). I've had a stack of mine and my husband's old PJ pants just waiting to be upcycled for this pattern. Using the original hem and omitting the pockets makes this a ridiculously quick and easy sew. That is, once my muslin was done!

essential sweats
(Read on for more about the red soaker.)

I ended up with a size 2T waist and graded it out to a 4T length. She's recently potty trained so for the first time ever I didn't make any adjustments for cloth diapers. Once I knew that the muslin worked, I quickly sewed up two more pairs.

Excuse the pet hair!

With all three pairs I used the original elastic too! The hearts and footballs I painstakingly picked out the elastic, but with the solid black pair made use of the original waistband and drawstring (any interest in a tutorial? I took pictures but it's too long of an explanation for this post.)

After finishing up the pants, I muslined the Gloria Play/Party Dress. It's the perfect knit dress so if I can get the fit right it will be a great basic. Sadly, I'm still working it out. My daughter apparently has a giant head, small chest width, and long body. But I did make this adorable peplum version from a Target shirt of mine (so pretty and barely worn--not my color).

Moving on to baby #2 is the super-cute Tiny Tunic (free pattern, in size 3-6 months here) by iCandy Homemade. We don't know if we're having a boy or a girl, so this is one of the few things I've made. To be honest, we have SO many gender neutral clothes from baby #1 that it's completely unnecessary for me to make more. If we have another girl, she won't need clothing for at long time, if ever. I just wanted to try this pattern and see if it translated into gender neutral, or if the A-line shape was too girly. This would be a fun pattern for baby shower gifts.

I omitted the pocket and used the front of an old shirt of mine. I was totally stupid and cut two back pieces instead of a front and back, so it's very likely this shirt won't go over the head of my next giant headed baby. It's still cute though!

We'll be cloth diapering again for the new baby, and I still have some wool sweaters in my upcycle bag that I bought ages ago for repurposing. I used the free Katrina's soaker pattern to make this wool diaper cover. I purposefully felted the sweater (washed it on hot to shrink and compact the fibers) but it retained just enough stretch for a pull-on style cover. The placement of the gold (it looks like a pocket!) was accidental but is so adorable. This one is a size small. If you're looking for more tutorials on cloth diaper upcycles, check out my Baby-make this board on Pinterest.

And as I mentioned, underwear (for me)! Luckily my fit issues haven't affected that area so I can still use my TNT pattern from So, Zo... I got crazy one day and tried the double-fold binding attachment on my Brother 2340cv coverstitch machine (check my Instagram feed for some in-progress testing). I used leftover crochet lace and bound the legs with black jersey, since it's not vital that the legs use elastic. I did use some on the waistband. It's fold-over elastic but I sewed the entire piece directly to the outside and did not fold it over since the lace is so open. I coverstitched the elastic to the waistband and it was 8 million times better than zig-zagging on my regular machine.

The binding attachment worked...okay...but next time I'll use a knit with spandex. The cotton jersey bagged out over the course of a day. With the attachment you can't stretch the binding like you would elastic for a snug fit. The binder would be amazing for a woven fabric, but with a knit it's a lot more tricky. I'm still working it out.

I've also been adapting the So, Zo... pattern into a version with a fuller cut over the bum. I split the front into two short pieces (instead of one long piece) in order to make it easier to use scrap fabric, and so I could incorporate the burrito method of sewing the crotch/lining (in other words, no exposed seams). Anyone want more info on how to do that?

Normally I'm not the type of person to work on more than one project at a time, but I kind of like walking into my sewing room and having a choice about what to do. I've still got a stack of WIPs to keep me busy until I feel like making clothes for me again.

These projects range from more underwear, to cloth diaper repairs, to wool pants. Sewing all these tiny items is my version of nesting!

Have you ever worked on a bunch of small things at once? It's a bit chaotic but also very satisfying to get so much done!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Mood Board of the Month: In Like a Lamb

There may be 7 inches of snow outside my door, but that doesn't stop me from thinking SPRING! It's March, time to start getting inspired for warmer weather and sunshine! I've got a new spring color palette based on marsala, the color of the year.

// Patterns //
This month I've got a mix of transitional clothing. For lounging around the house you can't beat these stretch pants (Vogue 8859) with a cozy Renfrew cowl neck t-shirt. Need to run out for ice cream? (Oh wait, am I the only one who does that when it's cold?) Try the brand new Josephine cocoon coat from Style Arc. When you're in need for something dressier, brave the temps with a dress like Butterick 6169, and top it with the coordinating moto jacket from the same pattern.

// Fabric //
Stretch pants are perfect for ponte, and this grey fabric from Emma One Sock will work perfectly. Coordinate it with the color of the year, marsala, making your Renfrew shine with an ottoman knit, also from EOS. Take your cocoon coat to the next level and color block it with navy and grey wool melton from For your easy pull-on dress, go bold with a floral print rayon challis from Hart's Fabric. Keep warm with the moto jacket made from navy twill, from Mood.

This post is not sponsored by any pattern designer or fabric seller. I wish. I just have too much time on my hands and love planning wardrobes! Check out my Mood Board of the Month Pinterest board for all the links to my inspiration.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Happy Birthday to me, happy sale for you!

Today is my birthday--and it's a big one. Let's just say I've been enduring a whole lot of teasing about bifocals, hearing aids, and whether or not I can get around the house. To help take my mind off of my astronomical age, how about a BIG sale?

Today only, not only can you receive FREE SHIPPING on A Sewist's Notebook, but it's also 20% off! This is the biggest sale I've ever had, so order now and treat yourself on my birthday. Use code DBS15 at checkout for free shipping, and the 20% off has already been applied. Stock up now, these make great gifts! Offer ends at midnight eastern!

(font enlarged since now I'm too old to see straight)

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

What I'm Reading: The Fashion Designer's Textile Directory

If you love garment sewing, you are addicted to love fabric. Soft and squishy, furry and structured, fabric=possibility. But as easy as it is to love, it's actually very difficult to master. There are SO many different kinds of fabric, with such a range of uses, that you can spend years (decades?) studying it and still have more to learn.

I've read a ton of books about fabric, as well as trained extensively in the good ole fashioned method of pet-and-learn (fabric, not people). My favorite book for a beginner is Fabrics A to Z (reviewed here). Just enough info to get your feet wet and not be overwhelming. For a more advanced schooling, I really like my most recent addition, The Fashion Designer's Textile Directory

There are a couple things about this book that make it unique (in my experience). The reason the title aims it towards fashion designers is that the book divides the fabric types up by function: structure, fluidity, ornamentation, expansion, and compression. In other words, broadcloth, challis, embroidered fabrics, tulle, and swimsuit knit would go into those categories, respectively. Within each division, the fabrics are then ordered by weight. For example, the structure category covers everything from lawn to leather.

book about fabric

This kind of organization is useful for a fashion designer who might have a sketch and not be sure of the best fabric for accomplishing it. The home sewist might use it in a more backwards fashion than that, coming across a specific fabric (in a store or perhaps on a pattern envelope) and looking up its properties. Not sure which is heavier, poplin or sateen? This book gives you a great, quick reference.

The second strong point of this book is the extensive information on fabric weaves and knit patterns, a particular weak point in my knowledge. I mean, I've only been sewing for 3 years, it's taken this long just to get a handle on fibers and fabric names! In the book, there are icons with each fabric to show you the weave type. There is even a fold-out flap key that you can keep open if you're reading a lot of pages at once and need a quick reference. Each of the weave/knit types are explained in more detail in the opening pages of the book.

Lastly, there are a TON of pictures, both of fabric swatches and actual garments. I have a hard time getting into a book about something creative if the design is ugly, but this one is gorgeous. Getting back to the fashion design suspect, the garment photos are mostly from runway shows, which is fun and inspiring.

I only found one drawback, and this is probably just me. The book had a pretty heavy tone on being environmentally responsible with all aspects fashion design, from sourcing fabric to changing your designs so they are more eco-friendly. I'm not saying that I disagree with this sentiment, but the concept was so repetitive throughout the book that it felt like being preached AT instead of being given an option to use my own brain. Not a huge deal, but if that kind of thing bothers you a lot then keep it in mind.

If you're looking for a book that covers the function of a wide range of fabrics (homespun, film, buckram, power mesh to name a few I haven't seen in other books) this is a great one to get! I know I'll be turning to it a lot in the future.

This is not a paid or sponsored post, but I have used a few affiliate links. I received this book as a gift from a family member after lusting for it for ages :)

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Manila Leggings Fail

The alternate title of this post is: Why You Have TNTs.

Let's get this straight right off the bat: I love Seamwork magazine. The patterns are cool, the articles are in-depth and unique, and I learn something each month. But I've had no luck actually making the patterns (see my Oslo cardigan here). I've made a ton of leggings from my TNT, McCall's 6137. That pattern is only one piece. The Manila Leggings have a front, back, waistband, and the super cool petal cuff. I wanted to try a pattern with more pieces to see how it would affect fit and maybe provide more opportunity for fun details.

I'm now 6 months pregnant. My other pairs of leggings actually fit fine, I just have to yank the rise way down under my belly. I prefer a low-rise legging anyway, pregnant or not. To determine the right size for my Manila leggings, I extensively studied a pair of RTW leggings as well as my me-mades. I ended up tracing off a size small, though my 38" hip put me at the top end of a small/lower end of a medium. I then removed 1" from both the front and back rise (to match my RTW pair). I tested my fabric against the stretch guide provided with the pattern and it worked.

Oh the is an AMAZING poly/spandex ponte from Mood, with an almost embossed floral pattern. Nikki from the Mood Style blog made a great dress with it here. It's thick and what I imagine scuba fabric to be. I'm beyond sad that the leggings didn't work out because the fabric is insane.

Anyway. I'll spare you photos of the leggings on me (I'd have to be fairly uncovered and showing too much preggo belly) but they are far too tight in the legs, too baggy around the waist, the front rise is too long and the back rise too short. The finished dimensions match my RTW leggings but the stretch of the fabric doesn't, so they're too small. They might work when I'm not pregnant, so until that time they're going into the UFO pile. No sense messing around with either the leggings or the pattern in the next three months.

A note about construction: my fabric was so thick that I used a flatlock stitch on my serger for all the construction. A flatlock stitch butts the cut ends of the fabric together rather than creating a seam allowance. I noticed that my RTW leggings use that stitch on the waistband to reduce bulk. I did a few test samples with grey thread before switching to black.

I love the way the flatlock turned out, especially on the waistband, and since it's not difficult to do I'll try it again in the future. For reference, my settings on my Brother 1034d were: left needle 1, right needle (not used), upper looper 4.5, lower looper 6; stitch length 3.5; differential feed 0.

I can still get the benefit of the Manila leggings if I use the petal cuff pieces on my TNT. It's likely that I'll do that in the future, rather than messing with the fit of the Manila. Ain't nobody got time for making TWO TNT leggings patterns!

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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Project Runway All Stars recap

So this is the end to a mediocre season. I'm kind of grateful, to be honest!

Highlights: Sonjia designing for herself was smart. With such a limited amount of time, she couldn't afford to get distracted.

"If you're not young, you can actually die from exhaustion." --Dmitry

Lowlights: I'm not sure it's fair to have the helpers drape. I know that in an atelier situation, there are lots of people who do that work on behalf of the designer, but there is so much emphasis on OMG ALL STARS that it seems inappropriate.

I have a real problem with the amount of time the designers were given. Dmitry and Helen both work in intricate details and Sonjia relies on color and fabric. That puts her at an advantage. And we will NOT see their best work in 4 days.


Sonjia: Too much reliance on special fabrics. Too many lace pieces we've seen before. I am glad she made a glam swimsuit, and her jumpsuit was cool (but didn't Fabio drape that?). Even if it was the same swimsuit she made before, at least this one looked finished.

Dmitry: Did skew old and mostly fall. Loved the pink dress (of course). I wasn't into the 80's looks as much as the judges were. Overall I was disappointed.

Helen: Pleasantly surprised. More lace, blah, Sonjia ruined that for me. I didn't love everything but some pieces were very nicely done.

I told my husband before the runway show that it would be between Dmitry and Sonjia, and I truly thought they'd give the win to Sonjia. I was honestly surprised he won, although I believe he's the most talented designer. Dmitry was my fave in his first season and in this one, though I wish he would design for a younger woman (me). He's the only one who seemed to keep his cool throughout the season, which surely helped him succeed.

Your thoughts? Were you disappointed, are you glad this season is done? At least we don't have to see any more poorly-dressed preggo Alyssa Milano!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

How to Print a PDF Pattern at a Copy Shop

Today I'm guest posting over at Sew Mama Sew with a how-to about printing PDF patterns at a copy shop. I recently went through the experience myself, and I hope I can give a few tips and tricks for making the process run smoothly. Head over to SMS for the full post!