Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Flirty Hinterland Dress

Last summer, I made two Hinterland Dresses and wore them regularly. I knew I wanted more of them, and when I saw this pink leopard print rayon challis at La Mercerie, I ordered it ASAP. I mean, pink leopard print? My dream.

Shortly after I purchased this fabric, Jess decided to stop carrying fabric and to exclusively sell yarn, so I'm sorry, you can't get any more of it! The fabric is so beautiful. It was a typical rayon challis, shifty as all get out. I made sure I staystitched like a good girl and I'm happy with the sewing results. The hem is finished with a rolled serger hem.

My previous Hinterlands felt a bit too big in the skirt, so instead of a size 10 skirt, I cut an 8. It's just a gathered rectangle so I had no problems sewing it to my size 4 bodice. I omitted a front placket because I wanted to elevate the dress a bit, and because the print was busy enough as-is.

I cut the shorter length skirt and when I tried it on, I felt like it was too short (I'm only 5'4"). I took a risk and decided to add a ruffle to the bottom. It's a gathered rectangle cut the full width of the fabric. I call it a risk because skirt ruffles can easily take a look from "cute" to "nightgown". I did include the waist ties on this version so that I could pull in the silhouette and define my waist.

Styling is the most important feature of this dress. In these photos, I went with a full face of makeup and heels. I've tried a few necklaces, but they just get lost in the print. Some bangles on my wrist would help. Anything to keep you from thinking "nightgown"!

I think you can tell, I love the way I look in this dress. Unfortunately, I haven't worn it anywhere yet! Maybe I shouldn't have sewn a sleeveless dress in January. I've raided my closet for cardigans or jackets I could wear on top, and I just don't have any that work. I close-fiting pink cardigan would look cute, or a solid black blazer. By the time I get around to sewing either of those, it will be spring/summer and I won't need them. So, this lovely dress gets to hang in the closet, waiting for a special day.

The only issue I have, and it's not specific to this pattern, is the tendency for my bias tape facings to flip outward. It's most obvious in the above photo on the neckline. What's the solution here? Stitch closer to the edge of the tape? Use narrower tape? Help me out!

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Icicle Creek Top

Instagram followers will already know that I recently spent a warm, sunny afternoon frantically photographing six months worth of garments. I definitely sew faster than I blog! So if you notice similarities in the next gazillion blog post photos, you're not imagining things, I did take them all on the same day! I'll start with the oldest garment just to make sure there's some kind of order. First up, the Icicle Creek Top!

Holy guacamole, the Maker's Retreat was five months ago! That's where I was when I made this shirt. Originally a retreat-exclusive pattern, Kimberly has recently released it for everyone to buy. She also added a second tunic-length view. At the retreat, Kimberly provided 2 yards of white rayon knit (I *think* she said it was from Dharma Trading Company) for all of us to either indigo dye or ice dye. I opted to ice dye mine. We did sew up the shirt before dyeing it, although we had a chance to practice the ice dyeing process on some tea towels first.

The Icicle Creek Top is a dolman-sleeved shirt with a half button placket. I made a size 2 graded out to a 4 around the hips. Per usual, the placket was the only challenging part of the top, mostly because knits can be fiddly to press neatly. I recommend trimming away as much bulk as possible before trying to topstitch everything together. The top can also be made without the placket altogether, and I think that's what my next one will be. I sewed my buttons directly through the placket so they are not functional on mine.

For such a basic design, I really, really LOVE this shirt. Not just because of the memories of sewing it up surrounded by an amazing group of talented ladies, but the fit is spot on for me. Kimberly is tall and drafts that way. I am 5'4" but long-waisted and I prefer my tops long. I did not remove any length in the bodice or the sleeves. I'm particular about how long sleeves fit me, I like them at just the right length and tight enough to push them up, but loose enough to not feel constricted. These sleeves are just the way I like them!

As I said, I sewed the shirt and then dyed it at the retreat, but I opted to bring it home to do the hems with my coverstitch machine. The rest of the top was sewn on a regular machine, we had no sergers at the retreat. A super quick explanation of ice dyeing: you put ice on your fabric, then powdered synthetic dye on the ice. It melts and dyes the fabric.

Choosing colors for ice dyeing was SO hard! There was a tendency to want to choose all.the.colors. I tried to channel the ocean as my inspiration. It was difficult to keep any cross-contamination of color off the fabric, so there are some tiny spots of colors I didn't intend. But it all leads to a one-of-a-kind garment.

I have some drapey pink rayon knit picked out for a second Icicle Creek and can't wait to sew it up!

Retreat photos were not taken by me! Used with permission from Kimberly Payne.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Lightweight Morgan Jeans

Happy February! Or, as I like to call it, Birthday Month. My oldest daughter and myself both have birthdays this month. To counteract the fact that February is the worst month for a birthday, we just celebrate for weeks on end. Sounds about right.

I've been on a pants-making kick lately, with two dressy pairs of pants (unblogged so far, sorry!) and a pair of Morgan Jeans. I finally came to terms with the fact that I did not in fact need a 3,000th Union St. Tee, and that having only two pairs of pants that fit might be a problem.

One of my Make 9 for this year was a pair of stretch Morgan Jeans. The pattern is drafted for non-stretch denim, and that's what I used for my first pair. But I was frustrated by the amount of Morgan Jeans I saw on IG that had a slimmer, IMO more flattering fit, and I realized they MUST all be made with a stretch denim. I already had some fabric set aside but then stumbled on this super lightweight, very stretchy, perfect color denim at Hobby Lobby.

I know this fit is bad, keep reading!

I don't usually buy fabric at Hobby Lobby, in fact this was my first time. The price was reasonable (and on sale) and despite only 2% spandex there was a great amount of stretch. I took a chance and I'm pretty satisfied so far, although time will tell about the quality.

I made a size 8 with the same changes as my previous pair (a wedge from the yoke and shortening the legs), but I had to hack at the waistband quite a bit to get it even close to fitting. I think I need a size 8 hip and something like a size 4 waistband. Because of the shape of my body (swayback but with a mama pooch) it's tricky to snug up the waist without making it too tight. I found that taking small darts all over provided the best fit, BUT caused the grainline on the waistband to be all kinds of wonky. Parts of it were basically on the bias, which made it stretch out, which was the opposite of what I wanted. Add to that the lightweight nature and these are just plain loose.

I have a third pair cut out (I will solve this puzzle damnit!) which has a four-piece waistband. There will be seams at CB and the side seam to help me fit but also keep the grainlines from getting crazy. I also plan to interface the waistband AND the facing to keep the shape. Fingers crossed that helps. I also noticed that the yoke pieces are cut differently than they are on the Ginger Jeans. I think that made them stretch more than necessary and I will also change that on my next pair.

For now, I can wear a belt or just lean into the saggy plumber look. When spring hits I may narrow and shorten the legs because I think that looks cuter. Again, that's not something I could do with a non-stretch denim. I liked the raw, frayed edge of my cut fabric right off the bolt, so I went with that look on my finished pants. I sewed a single line of stitching at the hem to halt the unraveling. I did use a regular weight grey thread for all the topstitching because I could not get the tension to behave on my vintage Singer.

I finished the waistband facing with bias tape instead of pressing it in and catching it with my topstitching. I hardly ever do a good job with that and I like the way the bias tape looks. The pocket fabric is from Stone Mountain and Daughter and I specifically ordered a 1/4 yard for making pocket bags. The fabric is super dreamy though and would make an amazing top.

I used a Kylie and the Machine label on one back pocket, and a scrap piece of pink leather on the back.

I originally installed a jeans button but it fell out when I washed the jeans. I went ahead and sewed a regular button on instead.  I do have an extra button on the fly placket because these are a teensy bit smaller than what the pattern intends.

Despite the fit issues, I do find myself reaching for these over and over. I love how lightweight they are compared to other denim I've bought, and they're super soft. I may find myself wandering back over to Hobby Lobby and picking up some more of this fabric.

Last but not least, my sweatshirt is another one of my Make 9 items! This is a second French terry Pinnacle Top. I've been wearing my first one TO DEATH and now I am thrilled to have a second in the mix. I'm not sure of the fiber content of this fabric, I bought it at a store in Indianapolis called The French Seam. It was a designer overstock and although I found her line at Anthropologie, I couldn't find this fabric. In any case, it's also lighter weight than other French terry and the color is dreamy. Yes, I'm rocking a blue-on-blue look here but I think the flowered shoes break it up nicely ;)

Monday, January 13, 2020

Learning from Mistakes: A New Pencil Skirt

A lot of beginner sewists are easily frustrated when they make mistakes. I know I was, when I was first learning how to sew. I want all beginners to know--you absolutely cannot improve unless you make mistakes! Today, I have a good example of a failed project that was valuable anyway.

I made this cardigan just over three years ago. I had been inspired by an image I saw on Pinterest, but the final result did not at all match my idea (original blog post here). I probably wore the cardigan once or twice, but that was a shame considering how nice the fabric was. For no particular reason, I pulled it out of my closet last week and realized that it would make a fantastic pencil skirt.

Luckily for me, the seamlines on the pattern were few and far between. The back piece was huge with large kimono sleeves. I sewed the front closed (after removing the draping parts) and the shape was just right for my body. I chopped off the top/sleeves, and made a waistband with them. I added clear elastic to the top edge of the waistband for stabilization. The bottom was already coverstitched.

Making a mistake feels icky. I didn't like to think about this sad cardigan. But when I did, when I analyzed what went wrong, I realized some important facts:

1. Cardigans need pockets
2. I don't like cardigans make from heavy knits like ponte
3. I don't like weird drapey fronts
4. I prefer cardigans that are not super long
5. Short sleeve cardigans are not that useful

Right off the bat, I think you can see that these stipulations remove a LOT of cardigan patterns. In the future, I can avoid the same mistakes and save myself time, effort, and fabric. Luckily for me, I was able to rework this cardigan, and I absolutely LOVE this skirt.

A second piece of advice, about my sweater. It's handknit by myself!

I started it a few years ago, when I was just learning how to knit. I got a few rows in and then became completely overwhelmed by the directions. They made no sense. I literally did not know what to do next. I set it aside for TWO YEARS. When I finally came back to it, I had multiple sweaters under my belt. The directions made sense. I finished it in only a month! Sometimes you fail. Sometimes you're stumped. But these roadblocks can always teach you something, and they don't have to be permanent. Ask yourself, what did I learn?

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Geodesic Sweater and High Waisted Ginger Jeans

We're nearing the end of the year, and I have about fifteen things I've sewn and haven't blogged about. So there may be some doubling up moving forward! Today, I've got a scrap-busting sweatshirt and some more Ginger Jeans.

The Geodesic Sweater is a pattern from Blueprints for Sewing. I'm not familiar with this company at all, but I've seen this top floating around Instagram. I decided to grab it from IndieSew during their final days of selling patterns (sob!!). I have to say, I was impressed with the pattern itself. The directions were thorough, including detailed steps for grading out at the hips and maintaining the right shapes (which I needed). There was a page with outlines that you could print and color to plan your top. The PDF went together quickly and the directions were great. One tiny gripe is that the seam allowance was only 1/4". Not a lot of room for error with a design that requires great precision.

The pattern has two views, a long one with pockets and a cropped one. I made half of a long one and not only put the pockets on inverted but also managed to sew my rows together incorrectly. I called it a muslin and moved on! I was between sizes A/B and C/D and made an A/B. I'm particular about how my sweatshirts fit, and with a tiny bit of grading out at the hips I'm quite pleased with the size I chose.

As written, the Geodesic has a pieced back as well as front. After assembling my muslin, I traced the shape of the back onto paper so that I could skip all that if I wanted. That's what I've done here, I used a plain back instead.

The fabric is all French terry scraps from my stash. The bottom band is purchased ribbing from La Mercerie. I know that with all the colors AND the stripes, it's "a lot of look" as Tim Gunn would say, but my undying love of pink means I see no flaws.

The jeans! I'm sorry the photos are so dark, it was either blow out the sweatshirt or dark pants. These are the Ginger Jeans from Closet Case Patterns. I previously made this pattern here. I also recently-ish made high waisted Lander Pants, so I had some idea of the direction I needed to go for high waisted jeans. I also had four yards of precious Cone Mills denim. Deep breaths, and I went for it!

My hips are 38", which puts me at a 10. My waist fluctuates and is also squishy, so I tend not to bother with a measurement there. I knew it would be around an 8. I assume I also have a swayback. I am bow-legged and 2" shorter than the 5'6" for which the pattern is drafted. Here are the changes I made to the flat pattern:

1/2" bow-legged adjustment
1" removed at L/S line
1" removed at hem
1/2" dart removed from the yoke
round pubis adjustment

Once the pants were cut, I removed a wedge at CB, another wedge from CB/edge of the yoke, a wedge from the CB of the waistband. When I sewed the side seams, I slightly offset the front and back of the pants so that a deeper SA was taken from the back than the front. Overall, I used a deeper SA than 5/8" at the side seam. I then removed a matching amount from the side of the waistband. I should note, I only cut one waistband, screwed around with basting and the changes I needed, and then cut a final waistband facing. Phew!

The bow-legged adjustment added fabric to the outseam and removed it from the inseam. In theory, I see why it should work, but for whatever reason it didn't work for me. You can see in the above photo the extra and how it just looks lumpy. I will take that back out next time.

All the other changes resulted in a fantastic fit through the hips and back. I see some excess fabric under the seat but that could be influenced by the bow-legged adjustment, so I'm not going crazy there until I know for sure. I also think they gotten slightly stretched out all over with two month's worth of washing and wearing.

Going back to the fabric, more specifically it is 9.5oz Cone Mills S-Gene denim. It's a cotton/poly/spandex blend. It. Is. Everything. This is easily the closest to RTW denim I've felt before and I want allllll the things in it. Here's my secret source: LA Finch Fabrics often has it for an amazing price and then will add a good sale on top. That's where I got my yardage. The pocket stays are leftover quilting cotton from a Badminton Dress for my oldest many years ago (it's from a collab from Moda and Oliver+S called The Ladies' Stitching Club). Topstitching was all done on my vintage Singer. I used knit interfacing in the waistband. I also added some sneaky embroidery on the guts. These pants have such a potty mouth.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Ruska Knot Dress

I'm alive! It's been an embarrassingly long time since I've posted. When I looked back the dates coincided with when my littlest two started preschool. You would think that would give me more time, and it does, but the time is mostly out of my house and away from my computer. But I'm here today with a new dress, the Ruska Knot Dress.

This pattern is from the book Breaking the Pattern, which was written by the sisters who run Named Patterns. I adore Named. I don't think I've ever had a failure with one of their patterns, and they're always so cool and different. I remember when they took a season off of online pattern releases to write this book, and it felt like an eternity of waiting. I think it was worth the wait! The book is packed with patterns and with variations on those patterns. The dress that I made is also the basis of a t-shirt, a tunic, and a plain dress, so with one pattern I can make 4+ things!

I was lucky enough to check this book out from my library, but it's been on my Amazon wishlist for a while. The paper patterns are included and there are also instructions on downloading them online. I didn't feel like tracing (the patterns are printed like BurdaStyle magazine patterns, on top of each other) and so I printed the pattern. I did end up regretting that choice as there were nearly 50 pages. They went together just fine, but it was tedious.

The construction of the dress was straightforward. There is a complete dress underneath the tie portion, which is a second layer on top on the front only. The edges of the ties are folded under twice and topstitched. I found this process, with my medium weight French terry, to be annoyingly tricky! I didn't want to go too crazy with pressing since it is a bamboo/cotton blend, and bamboo can develop a shine. My ties are maybe a bit wonky, but all the raw edges are contained and that's what matters.

The model is wearing a dress with positive ease around the hips. I graded out at the hips to achieve the same look and stick with the size chart, but I ended up taking it down to negative ease for a more fitted look. Baggy hips on the model looked a lot better than they did on me! Other than that, I didn't change anything about the fit.

The size chart was a little confusing only because of how it was labeled. The book calls the sizes 1-9, but when I printed the pattern it omitted those numbers and went with their more traditional UK/US/EUR sizing numbers.

Ignoring the tie part, this silhouette is not one I typically wear. Since having kids, I shy away from overly fitted knit garments, I almost never wear a neckline this high, and a long fitted sleeve isn't my jam either. Because of the overlay with the ties, I can hide my mom tummy and get away with fitted everywhere else. I felt sort of not-myself when I wore this dress the first time, but once I took photos and looked back at them I realized: I look good! There was no reason to feel awkward. And bonus: it's snuggly, warm, soft bamboo French terry, one of the best fabrics on the planet. Secret pajamas!

You can snag some of this fabric from The Fabric Fairy. I used the navy colorway, which I used once before for my first pair of Hudson Pants. That was five (!!) years ago, and those pants are in rotation so often I have to ask myself if I'm wearing them too much. I'm thrilled to now have a dress with that fabric!

I received a credit for my purchase with The Fabric Fairy in exchange for promotion. However, I have been raving about them for years without compensation. All opinions are my own! An Amazon affiliate link has been used for the book. 

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Olive Lander Pants

I've been sewing clothes for 7+ years. In that amount of time, I think I've made three pairs of pants that I would call a success. I can't even tell you how many failures I've had. I say all that to demonstrate that making pants is hard! Or, rather, fitting pants to your unique body has challenges, and it takes practice to get that right. That's why I'm so excited about today's finished item, these Lander Pants!

These are on the short list of successful pants. Sort of cobbled together as a wearable muslin with all stash materials, I'm pretty sure I'll be wearing the heck out of them this fall.

Last year, I ordered this olive stretch twill to make a pair of skinny Ginger Jeans. It was a whole big saga that resulted in a second order of fabric, a pair of bootcut Gingers, and some pants I wore maybe twice. Whomp whomp.

I had a lot of this fabric leftover and decided to see if I could squeeze out some Landers. The only shortcut I took was with the length. Instead of a 3" hem, it's only 1 1/2", because I was 1 1/2" short of what I needed for View B. I also removed 1" at the L/S line because I am 5'4". The fabric has slight stretch with 2% spandex, which wasn't enough for skinny Gingers, but is just right for Landers. The pattern is drafted for no stretch, so that tiny bit of spandex gives me a little wiggle room (literally).

Sewing this pattern is pretty easy. I thought the button fly looked intimidating, but honestly it's easier than a zip fly. Even the front pockets are more of a patch pocket than a traditional sort of jean pocket. There are back darts and 1" side seam allowances so you can fit more easily than jeans as well.

Personally, I'm kind of a pear shape with a mama pooch and sway back. That means I typically need wide hips, grading to a smaller waist, but with the center back scooped in, and the front not too tight but not too loose. As I said, it's taken me a lot of failing to understand that these are my fit issues, and a lot of trial and error to figure out how to fix them. The Landers have the added benefit of a straight, wide leg, so all you need to concentrate on is fitting the hips and waist, not the legs (a big part of my Ginger Jeans struggle).

I started with a size 8, graded to a 6 in the waist, with a size 6 waistband. I cut the waistband with a center back seam in order to shape it as needed. I ended up grading even smaller at the waist, scooping out at the center back above the butt and taking a wedge from the waistband. If you're not sure how your fit is going to go, I would suggest not cutting the waistband until after you fit the hips.

These are my first truly high-waisted pants. I forgot to interface the waistband so they have more give than they should, but I found them easy to wear. Styling is a little harder for me since so many of my tops are long, but I'll keep at it.

I'm very tempted to make a full length pair of these for the colder months. If you have a chance to make these up, go for it!