Thursday, July 21, 2016

Product Review: Snap Source metal snaps

It can be intimidating to order sewing supplies online from somewhere new, or to try a new-to-you sewing notion. I recently had that happen with a site called Snap Source, and since I had a mixed experience I thought I would share and hopefully help out some others. I was not paid or perked for this review and I spent my own dolla bills, so no conflicts here!

Some of the most useful sewing suppliers have the worst websites. Obviously, they're more interested in quality of items and service than making it pretty, which is fine, but it can make it harder for my tech-conscious generation. Don't let their homepage fool you, Snap Source has a great selection of snaps and the tools to help you use them properly.

I came to this site after making clothes for my newest baby, specifically the coveralls from Brindlle & Twig. I typically use plastic KAM snaps in size 20, but the B&T pattern recommends metal snaps in size 14. I considered using sew-on snaps, readily available at Jo-Ann's and in my stash, but after considering the labor, I decided to buy. Snap Source sells metal snaps of all sizes and also a specific tool for quickly installing them. I ordered the tool (without a hammer) and metal open ring snaps in size 14, various colors. The tool came prepackaged with practice snaps, which I wasn't expecting and was a nice bonus. There was also a full-color instruction sheet.

I really wanted to like these. It seemed simple. Using the SnapSetter tool, make a sandwich with the snap parts and fabric, bang away with a hammer and viola. Although that WAS the process, in practice it took too long (probably not much faster than sewing by hand) and the results weren't worth it half the time. I'll explain further.

The first part of the sandwich is the bottom of the SnapSetter tool. Next comes the prong, then the fabric, then the middle of the SnapSetter.

This only works if your fabric stays perfectly still, if the thickness is even, if the thickness of the fabric is correct, and if you pre-smoosh (technical term) the prong through the fabric. In the above photo with a single layer scrap, of course it looks easy. But the only way I could get my snap and fabric to stay still was to insert the tip of my tweezers through the second layer of the tool and hold the snap/fabric in place. It was super awkward and annoying, but if I didn't use the tweezers it would all slide off and I'd have to start over.

Here is reality, with a completed garment, with the snap on the leg opening of my coveralls. In this example, the lumps and bumps prevent the force from the hammer being distributed evenly. I seemed to have about a 50% success rate of getting the snaps installed correctly the first time. If you bang away at it and one prong gets bent too far out, you have to pop the whole thing apart and start over with a new prong. In other words: buy lots of extras.

I did eventually figure out that once I had the snap together the right way, even loosely, I could reinforce it with only the top part of the SnapSetter.

This method only required that I center the top part of the tool on the snap. I didn't have to keep everything even between all three parts. It wasn't ideal but it worked and kept me from tearing my hair out.

One other obvious note: setting these is loud. You're banging with a hammer. It's not something I could do during naptime, and ideally it needed to be done without kids around due to the small, sharp parts. If you're a stay at home mom like me, good luck finding a time that meets the above requirements.

I had approximately 4 kimono tops and 3 coveralls that needed between 2-5 snaps each. And of course, that was doubled when you take into account that you need two sides for each snap. I worked on this on and off for weeks and by the time I got down to the last coverall, I had had it. I didn't even bother to finish the last coverall, which probably was a good decision since the snaps I DID install have popped off a few times since baby M was born. I now have a box of snaps and a tool that I don't even want to touch. If I sew these patterns in the future I'll change the pattern to accommodate larger KAM snaps, which are much easier to apply.

This was just my personal experience, your mileage may vary. I know from the B&T Facebook group that plenty of people use these snaps, apparently without issue, but they're just not for me. If you've used them, and I'm doing something wrong, please inform me! I'm happy to learn if I'm making some sort of mistake.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Post-partum Review of Simplicity 1469

A few months ago I wrote a review of Simplicity 1469, which is a maternity/nursing pattern that is supposed to do double-duty. Ideally, it can be worn during pregnancy and also after baby arrives. Well, baby #3 is here (finally! a week late!) so I thought I'd give this top another try.

When I googled this pattern or looked at reviews, I didn't find a single photo of someone wearing it post-partum. My guess is that new moms are just too busy to blog about a garment after baby arrives, not that this pattern is particularly bad for after pregnancy. In fact, I'm quite pleased with how it looks compared to other stuff I have in my closet.

In these photos I'm five days post-partum, with the lovely no-longer-a-baby-bump and giant nursing boobs. Basically, a lumpy mountain range. I think the cut of this top, combined with a busy, colorful pattern, is doing a lot for me. In a solid color the lumps would be more obvious, but you can't help feeling cheery in this print. When I was pregnant I felt like this top was a bit tent-ish, but seeing it on the other side I'm so glad I made one. I wish I would have taken it to the hospital with me to wear home!

One downer: it was washed with a swimsuit and the dye bled, even though I had already prewashed the suit alone. So now it looks like I tried some stupid tie-dye effect on the blue part. Waaaaah. At the very least, I can wear this shirt around the house and feel more put-together than I would in sweats and a baggy tshirt.

Am I forgetting anything? Oh yes, baby spam! We ended up having another girl, which makes three. That means all my lovely girl clothes I've made over the years get to stay in rotation, yay! And here she is, Baby M.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

"Closing" Up Shop

Twas the week before my due date, and all through the house
Not a sewing machine was stirring, or even a computer mouse

After my second child was born, I joked around that I couldn't have any more kids, because then I'd have to give up the third bedroom which was my sewing room. Joke is on me, since baby #3 appeared on the horizon. I haven't given up my sewing room completely, but it's looking much different these days.

My bookshelf of novels isn't here anymore. The desk portion of my Ikea Expedit is against the wall and therefore slightly less functional. My coverstitch is basically inaccessible. I've purged a lot of sewing notions and fabric. And now this room features a diaper changing station and baby swing (and yes, that is a baby doll in the swing, my 13 month old likes to put it in there and it's crazy adorable).

I've written before about the challenges of sewing consistently when you have small children. It was an adjustment going from one child to two, and I expect just as big of a leap going to three. The baby swing effectively blocks me from sewing at all (but if you've ever had a newborn and a swing then you understand how vitally important a swing is!). I have a few small projects already cut and waiting for any snatches of time I might have, but I'm not going to get hung up on it. Expecting to sew and then having those expectations not met is quite a bit worse than having low expectations. That might sound depressing, but I have a feeling that fellow mothers will know what I mean.

Thanks to the diaper changing area, I will have an excuse to come in here multiple times a day. I can look at my pretty fabric and the room I painted and decorated myself and feel happy. I can remember that this time is fleeting and I'll be back at it soon. If the blog gets a little quiet, I know you'll understand, and you can check in on me via Instagram. I will still be taking special requests from sweet 4 year olds.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Refashioned Kimono Dress

The last month of pregnancy is weird. It's this strange combination of nervous energy and complete exhaustion. Sometimes you find yourself going a mile a minute and then the next day you crash out on the couch. I have a to-do list, and I'm methodically working through it, but I've been getting sidetracked into the most random projects (the day I went into labor with my oldest, I HAD to hang this crazy photo collage and change the vent covers in our bathrooms). Earlier this week I saw a cute nightgown while I was out shopping and right then and there I NEEDED one. I have never owned a nightgown in my life. But it suddenly seemed like the perfect item to have with me at the hospital after delivery. Y'know, when people are visiting you but you can't really wear pants.

I considered buying one, then making one, then forgetting the whole idea. Then I decided to check my closet and see if I already had something that would work (sadly this happens to me a lot). It turned out I DID have something, this chartreuse kimono dress that I made a gazillion years ago, back when I first started sewing.

The biggest flaw in this garment is the size, it's too big. But the fabric is nice (a cotton/spandex knit) and the style lines are interesting. In other words, it could be hacked up and made new. I especially like the crossover front (yay for nursing access!) and the kimono sleeves. Plus, cotton. I went ahead and cut off the skirt portion, which allowed me to redo the front wrap. I basically just wore it and fiddled with it and basted it until I had it where I wanted it.

You can see the chalk marks under the bust.

Then I reattached the skirt under the bust. This shortened the torso and moved the waistline up, but that was what I wanted. I need the skirt portion to skim over my middle rather than hitting at my natural waist. Luckily the skirt was long enough. The skirt was apparently just a rectangle the width of the fabric, because it only had a center back seam. I kept the back with a 1:1 ratio and then gathered the front. With the gathering I can actually wear this now! I did add elastic under the bust between the princess seams for extra stability. This isn't intended to replace a bra or anything, I plan to wear a nursing bra underneath, so it's not a full shelf bra.

I also tightened up the back neckline as some of the previous gathering there had come undone. Overall, not too shabby for an afternoon of work. Maybe I'll even hem the sleeves this time! (No, I won't...I ran out of my chartreuse thread.)

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Hey June June Santa Fe Top

This is the first time I've heard of #heyjunejune but granted, I haven't been much into Hey June patterns until recently. With so many basic patterns, though, I can see why this would be such a fun, easy event in which to participate (there is no challenge, right? you just wear Hey June?). Of course, I can't WEAR any of my Hey June garments until baby arrives, but I thought you'd still like to see the second Santa Fe Top I made.

After finishing my floral and lace version, I knew I wanted a more traditional one with more breathable fabrics than the polyester floral knit. I'm on a fabric freeze for now so I dug through my stash and came up with scraps of these two rayon knits. The blue was originally used for some leggings and the green for a bridesmaid's dress. I didn't have enough continuous yardage to cut the back on the fold, so there is a seam there. Otherwise no changes to the pattern, this is a Small as before.

I had fun color-blocking this top and using up stash fabric. The drape and weight of these two fabrics are very similar, so they work well together. I left the bottom unhemmed as with my previous version. To secure the serger tails at the side seams I just pulled them up and zig-zagged them to the seam allowance. I do recommend basting the side seams at the point where the insets meet, I had to do this a couple times to make sure it all matched properly.

I topstitched with grey thread as I've heard that grey blends the best with all colors and I had two colors going on here.

This top went together even faster than the first. I'm fairly certain this one will be going into my hospital bag to be worn home over my lumpy no-more-baby-inside-me belly.

Are you participating in Hey June June?

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Non-maternity Patterns that work for Maternity

Me Made May 2016 forced me to branch out within my closet. My goal was to wear one handmade item every day, without repeats. That got tricky when I exhausted all my clothes that came from maternity patterns. But I was pleasantly surprised to find that a lot of other patterns worked for me anyway, even if they weren't specifically for maternity.

I've now been pregnant in every month of the year except July (and that's coming) so hopefully this post will help out all you sewing mamas when building your own handmade maternity wardrobe.

This pattern is just a bit of a cheat to make it work for maternity, but nothing so complicated as a full on pattern hack. The only change I made to this pattern was to lengthen it. The side seams are straight, so you could do it with your eyes closed. Make sure to use a stretchy fabric like this sweater knit. A low-stretch fleece won't cut it.

This Summer Jazz Dress, by Snapdragon Studios, was originally made when I was not pregnant. I found that the flowing drape and drafting worked perfectly with a baby bump, so I've worn it through two pregnancies as well. No modifications needed, but it's worth nothing that mine is made in a drapey knit, not a woven.

Hands down, my favorite double-duty pattern is the Lola Tunic by Victory Patterns. I have three of these, and I even gifted one to my mom for Christmas a few years ago. It can be made in a variety of fabrics, from fleece to interlock. I can't wear the fleece one while pregnant, but this stretchy interlock expands with my belly easily. Secret pajamas, as they say.

An older pattern, Vogue 8950 is drafted long and with some ease around the hips, making it work surprisingly well for maternity. My version is made from sweater knit with a decent amount of stretch. Something less stretchy like regular jersey would probably work earlier in a pregnancy.

I'm pretty sure my husband hates this garment. It's not much more than a sack, really, but that makes it insanely comfortable. I've had it for years and years and it never makes it far from my rotation. This photo is actually from last year's Me Made May, a few weeks before H was born.

This pattern surprised me this year when I desperately pulled it from the closet and prayed that it fit. Another mostly-sack dress from Butterick, it does flow away from the body and gives extra room around the middle. Mine is a tunic and shorter than recommended, so possibly in a true dress it wouldn't look right. All I know is that it will be first out of the dryer and onto my body, every time!

Stylish knit pants with an elastic waistband and drawstring? Yes please! I'm only a little bit preggo in the above photo, but if you're having a winter baby then you need a closet full of Hudson Pants.

McCall's says this pattern is "suitable for maternity" which is a lazy way of putting it. Again, fabric choice is crucial here and you need something with good stretch and recovery. The cowl neck version of this pattern also works for nursing, so it's a win-win-win. 

Any other patterns I've missed? Even though I've spent the last two years amassing a maternity wardrobe, I admit I'm looking forward to ditching it. I'm glad that I have so many pieces that will work even after I'm done with babies. If you want to check out all my true maternity makes, including hacks of patterns like the Renfrew and Plantain, click on the maternity tag in the sidebar.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

New Summer PJs

I've said before that I'm not a fan of making special occasion outfits for my kids. Once in a while is fine, but I get much more joy from making the mundane, every day items like pajamas and play clothes. AB was due for some new summer jammies, so I dug through my stash of patterns and fabrics and came up with some great stash-busting items.

I told her to pretend like she was on Project Runway

I made four pairs of shorts and have cut four tops. So far, only one top has been finished and all the shorts. I'm leaving the rest of the tops for post-baby time, when I may not have time to cut but I should have a few minutes here and there to sew. But all the tops are the same, so you get the idea.

The top is the Classic Cami from Peek-a-Boo Pattern Shop. I've made this once before out of French terry, for wearing under tops during the winter. For this summer version I used cotton jersey, leftover from my bridesmaids' dresses. The blue trim is cotton/Lycra knit, also from my stash. I made a size 3T/4T, deepened the armholes a little, and added 1" to the length, as AB consistently outgrows length before width.

The cami is cute, but I LOVE these shorts. In the past I've always dressed her in knit pajamas, and I usually use the Alex and Anna Summer PJs pattern. But I got this notion to make woven shorts and I had to see it through. I used the free Day Camp Set pattern because it's a simple woven short. I made size 4T and shortened the length so that the inseam is 2". All four of these fabrics had been lingering in my stash for ages, and since I rarely sew with wovens they might have lived there forever. It felt really good to use up these small pieces for something so cute! The blue stripe was a voile from, the orange half-circles is from Jo-Ann's, the flowers are voile from Girl Charlee, and the white eyelet is from a garage sale.

But the best part is these adorable tags I sewed into the back. AB gets concerned when she can't find the back and dress herself, so I knew I needed tags. I randomly found this twill tape at Jo-Ann's, in the quilting section of all places. I only put them into the shorts, not the cami, because the cami is actually the same front to back.

This is her silly face

I know the green tops won't exactly match all the shorts, but kids don't really care about that. There's room to grow in these and they make me happy to look at, and AB seems happy to wear them. Stash busting for the win!

Looking for more woven PJ inspiration? Check out the Cloud 9 Vintage PJ pattern, half off today only for Thrifty Thursday!

This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own.