Monday, October 26, 2020

Wool Oslo Coat

 After a year of planning, sourcing, hemming and hawing, my hand-tailored Oslo Coat is finally here!

I had this coat on my 2019 Make 9 plan. It was the only project I didn't complete. I spent most of the fall of 2019 sourcing all the supplies (fabric is wool/mohair/nylon boucle from Fabric Mart), reading the books, making the plans...only to chicken out from the sewing. I know I'm not the only one who backs off from a project that feels too daunting. Fast forward a year, and my sewing confidence is higher, the timing is right, and the coat is complete.

I made a coat two years ago, but it has a hood and doesn't work that well with scarves. I have a decent collection of wool and cashmere scarves and it drove me crazy to not be able to wear them. I also didn't have a coat that felt nice enough for a dressy occasion. My husband made my day when I put the coat on with my fluffiest scarf, and he said that I looked like an old lady on the way to a funeral. Success!

The pattern I used is the Oslo Coat from Tessuti Fabrics. There are not a lot of reviews out there for this coat, but I read what I could. It seemed that nobody had any issues with the pattern and only recommended moving the pockets up (which I did). I love sewing raglan sleeve coats (like my Yuzu Raglan from two years ago) because you don't have to ease in a set-in sleeve. So, if you're trying to choose a pattern for your first coat, I recommend a raglan.

This was my first Tessuti Fabrics pattern and I have no complaints. The instructions were thorough, contained LOTS of real-life photos and finishing details for a great coat. There were no drafting problems, no mismatched notches, none of the frustrations I've encountered with more well-know patterns. I had my pattern printed at PDF Plotting in large format. I cut a size 8 for my bust of 33" and hip of 38". I'm 5'4" and made no length adjustments. The shoulders feel a touch narrow, but I believe that is because I put in raglan shoulder pads. I do not believe the pads are necessary, I only did it to get the full tailoring experience.

I took my time with this coat (hand-tailoring has a way of being time-consuming) but it was still complete in about 2-3 weeks. I did read one review that said the sewist finished the coat in one night! So again, I can recommend it for a beginner who doesn't want to take a ton of time.

The hand-tailoring aspect requires its own post. Despite a thorough explanation in the book I used, I still came across questions and had to make some things up as I went. It was a good experience and I'm pleased with the results, but I'm not sure I'll do it again! Look out for two more blog posts about this coat, one with the supplies I used and one with the tailoring details.

Initially, I bought a grey silk habotai for this coat, but halfway through the project decided it was too thin. I ordered this anti-static pongee from Vogue Fabrics, and although it is polyester *gasp the horror* it was easy to work with, actually feels less static-y, and of course the color is a gorgeously perfect match. 

I had fun adding some details but didn't go too crazy with changes. The pattern is so well done it didn't need much to make it special. The hem is even drafted with a purposeful pleat for movement within the lining, something I've never seen before.

I think this project puts me at five coats all-time, including a few for family members and not counting anything in the jacket category. To be honest, I have at least two more coats planned and materials already purchased! As scary as they are to make, how many other handmade items do you put on almost daily for months at a time? An investment of sewing time and money can net you a huge reward in terms of usefulness. If you've never made a coat, I challenge you to give it a try!

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Arthur Pants and Indigo Dyed Strata Top

NBD, It's only been 85 years since I wrote a blog post. I'll spare you the technology woes and just use the most sensible excuse: 2020 man. To make it up to you, I have not one, but two amazing new projects to show off!
Meg at Sew Liberated teased us with the Arthur Pants pattern for quite a while before it dropped, long enough for me to know I needed it. My elastic-back Winslow Culottes are on heavy rotation, so I knew I would love that feature on the Arthurs. It also made me happy that I could reduce the appearance of bulk on the front by installing a flat waistband and pleats, rather than gathers. Though harder to sew (due to the zip fly) it's worth it to me for a smoother silhouette.

The most distinguishing feature of these pants is their balloon-leg shape. Reminiscent of MC Hammer's famous pants, it works much better with linen instead of that scary glittery polyester of the 90s. Speaking of linen, this beautiful navy fabric is from and it's exactly the color I wanted. It's actually a linen/cotton blend, which made it kind of sticky feeling. It's hard to describe any other way, except to say that pet hair sticks to it like crazy.

I made a size 8 to go with my 38" hips. Many of the tester versions featured a cropped leg, which I felt was more flattering. I was disappointed to find that a cropped length was NOT included in the pattern. Normally, I wouldn't be concerned about shortening length, but I did not want to wreck the silhouette. The pattern did include finished garment length, which helped me figure out that I needed to remove 6". The pattern is drafted for 5'7" and I am 5'4". I removed 3" from the hem and 3" from the Lengthen/Shorten line. It did not fold out neatly and I wasn't sure how to true the lines. I ended up shifting the bottom portion of the leg towards the outseam in order to preserve the balloon shape.

Other than that, out of the metaphoric envelope the fit is excellent. The elastic is super tight in the back but the front lies flat. I used a hoarded four leaf clover button from Arrow Mountain for the closure. Looking at these photos, I think I need to move the button over a touch to make the fly meet in the middle the correct way.

The back isn't super flattering (I feel like square pockets rarely are) but again, for comfort and style I'm willing to accept it.

This pattern took much longer than anticipated to put together, due to French seams, flat felled seams, and a fly zip. You almost have to pay me to sew flat felled seams, I dislike them that much. But, I felt it was in the spirit of Sew Liberated and slow fashion to do them as instructed, so I did. It does turn me off from making the pattern again in the same way. Also, how many Hammer Pants do I need?

And in case you missed it, I made a fantastic video of myself doing the Hammer Dance. I have such good moves, I should've been a dancer.

The second part of this outfit is a hand-dyed Strata Top (also from Sew Liberated). The fabric started as an undyed linen/rayon blend from Dharma Trading Company. I previously dyed this exact fabric at the Maker's Retreat last year, and ordered five yards of it for my own dyeing purposes. 

I made a quick muslin of the Strata to check fit and then went ahead and sewed it up totally undyed. After the top was done, I got my indigo vat ready, wet the shirt, folded it, and started dipping. 

There was a lot of trial and error, dumped out vats, failures, and frustration before I ended up with an indigo vat that worked. I used all natural ingredients for my vat (google the 1-2-3 indigo vat method for more info). Needless to say, unfolding this top and seeing that the dye job worked was an amazing feeling! There is something quite magical about the process. I'll surely go into more in a later blog post.

I love it when two patterns from the same designer go together as well as these two. This is such a fun look but also comfortable!

Thursday, July 2, 2020

McCall's 6711 Dress Pants

***This blog post was written in March, before the covid-19 outbreak, and has been waiting to be published for more than three months! I plan on making this pattern again soon.

In case you guys didn't know, winter is cold. And when you need to look a little nicer in the winter time, pants are a good option. I know what you're thinking, "Beth, this is obvious." Well, it took me like 7 years to sew myself some dress pants.

I used to have many pairs of pants like this, back when I worked in an office. Only one of those still fits now, and even that is a stretch. I didn't want to spend too much money or effort on a pair of pants I knew I would rarely wear, so I dug up a pattern I already had, McCall's 6711. It must be out of print now, so I'm linking to the Pattern Review entry. This pattern has a top, pants, dress, skirt, and a blazer. That's a lot! I made the dress previously, and when I find the right fabric I think I'll make the top, to go with these pants.

The fabric is a polyester/spandex stretch suiting, from the Spot the Bolt bin at Jo-Ann's. There was just over a yard of it left, so I wasn't sure I could get some pants from it or not. I ended up using a stash stretch woven for the waistband facings.

The pattern calls for a center back zipper. For whatever reason, I decided I knew better and put an invisible zipper in the side seam. It ended up being dumb because there are pockets there, and the zipper running along the pockets pulls it in a weird way.

I like the pattern, it has a nice tapered leg and pockets. Those were basically my only two requirements. It was a pretty easy sew as long as you're comfortable putting in a zipper.

I sewed a size 10 which seemed to fit everywhere except through the seat. I used the smallest possible seam allowance, instead of the 5/8" drafted.

I'm happy enough with these to wear them to church. My top choices are limited since I don't gravitate to fancy/shiny/synthetics. If I had a solid black blazer (made from this same pattern perhaps?) there are a few things lingering in my closet, again from my working days, that would work. For now, I'm pairing it with this thrifted sweater from The Limited.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Allegro Gardening Pants Hack

I recently listened to the Love to Sew podcast episode about TNT patterns, and today I'm bringing you one of my favorites!

I've made the Allegro Bottoms in shorts four times, and the skirt once, but this is my first stab at the cropped pants. I don't know why I waited so long! Please note, right after I made these, the pattern was updated with a slightly different fit and higher rise.

My very first pair of Allegro shorts were an XS and were made about ten or fifteen pounds ago. Last summer I batch-sewed three pairs and went up to a size S. For reference, my hips are 38". I adore the fit of these pants, they are just loose enough to be comfortable but not sloppy.

I needed a pair of pants to wear on our outdoor treks, and particularly while gardening. I seem to find myself in my garden in the middle of hot afternoons, no matter how often I tell myself to go out in the mornings instead. I'm always losing tools and knew I needed some big pockets.

I decided to order some lightweight poly stretch woven from The Fabric Fairy. I am a part of their promo team and thought it would be a cool challenge to use this fabric in an unexpected way. This is the kind of fabric that most people use for running shorts, it's that lightweight swishy stuff that dries quickly. This colorway is sold out, but there are lots of others here.

I added giant patch pockets on the side of the pants. I didn't really measure, just went with the largest rectangles I could cut from my yardage after cutting the pants.

The back pockets are rounded instead of the rectangle ones that come with the pattern. This is a personal preference that I think makes my butt look better!

I did not have 1 1/2" elastic for the waistband, so I stole a tip from Instagram and zig-zagged some 1" elastic to some 1/2" elastic. It's not perfect, but given the shelter in place order we were under at the time, I made it work.

I added 1/2" elastic in the hem. It was not a part of the pattern originally, but it is a part of the update.

I will say, I didn't love sewing this fabric. I imagine that people who sew a lot of synthetics would probably have an easier time than me, but I almost exclusively sew natural fibers. It took to pressing just okay. I was scared of scorching the fabric! It does hold up well to washing and the outside abuse I've already put the pants through. I love the finished product but I'm not in a hurry to sew with it again.

So there you have it, the perfect outdoor pants for sitting in the dirt, carrying super interesting rocks, or picking mushrooms!

The fabric for this post was purchased with a gift certificate given to me by The Fabric Fairy as part of their promo team. I purchased the pattern. All opinions are my own!

Thursday, May 14, 2020

North Shore Swimsuit

How many swimsuits does one land-locked Midwesterner need? Don't answer that.

The theme for May's Fabric Fairy Promo team is "self-care". To me, that means "sew stuff you like". I LOVE making swimsuits. I have way more than anyone "needs". Somewhere along the way I had to give myself permission to sew them because I like it, not because I need them. I try to limit myself to one per year, but that usually turns into two or three #sorrynotsorry

This year, I went with a new pattern, the North Shore Swimsuit from Greenstyle Creations. There are a TON of options in this pattern, I won't even try to list them. I've had a similar swimsuit pinned for a century and the North Shore seemed like the closest match I could find. I made the Deep V Full Cup Front, with a Pullover U Back. I cut the mid-rise bottoms but used wider elastic, so mine are not a great representation of the accurate mid-rise. My bust is 33" and I made the top in XS. My hips are 38" and I started with a medium, but they were too big. I cut them down to a small and they fit great.

This print is called Abstract Monarch. The last two years, my kids and I have raised monarch butterflies. It's fun and this suit reminds me of that. I like how it's abstract though, you might not know it's an homage to monarchs at first glance. I completely forgot to order any lining fabric, so I made due with some black and green solids leftover from last year's swimsuits (here and here). Construction was done with my sewing machine and I topstitched the elastic with my coverstitch.

I ordered my swim elastic from The Fabric Fairy as well. This was my first time trying "rubber swim elastic". It was a lot like sewing a rubber band. I'm not sure if that's a good or bad thing! We'll see how it holds up over time, but I did think it felt sturdier than the Dritz stuff I usually buy at Jo-Ann's.

I think this suit is super cute and turned out how I envisioned. The pattern directions were great and I could even recommend this as a first-time swim project. Now if we could get the leak in our hot tub fixed...

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Distressed Morgan Jeans+Slouchy Pocket Union St. Tee

***This blog post was written weeks ago, before the covid-19 outbreak. I am publishing it now in hopes of providing even a small amount of distraction for those of us that need it.

Hey look ma, more pants! Yeah, I know, it's been out of control. After my second pair of Morgan Jeans were soooo close, I had to go straight to a third pair to work out the final fitting issues. Of all the pants I've made so far this year, these are the best-fitting. And hey, I threw in a new t-shirt too so don't worry.

The Morgan Jeans are drafted for non-stretch denim, so please note that this pair and my previous ones were made with stretch denim. I like spandex, what can I say? These are a size 8 for my 38" hip. I made significant changes to make the waist smaller than an 8, however. I have a swayback and also a mama pooch, so for my particular shape I need lots of waistband shaping to snug in the front AND back.

Sadly (or not, keep reading) I made a cutting mistake and cut two identical front legs instead of mirrored. I had just enough fabric left to recut...minus a weird, wonky shape at the end of the leg. I opted to put a scrap piece of denim down, pin it to the fabric, and figure it out later.

Turned out, sewing down that "patch" looked super cool. Cool enough that I purposefully cut a hole in the other leg, and did the same thing! And I left the hem raw, with only a single line of stitching to prevent further unraveling.

The fabric I used is from LA Finch Fabrics and was called "Famous Maker Stretch Denim Medium Blue" (can't find it now, it must be sold out). I am SUPER happy with it, it reminds me a lot of my beloved Cone Mills Denim. I wasn't sure about the color at first but it's grown on me.

After the last pair, I noticed that the back yokes on Morgan Jeans are cut in the opposite direction of Ginger Jean yokes (with the grain running horizontal to the body). That was kind of a head-scratcher for me, for this pair I cut the yokes with the grain running vertically on the body, like every other pair of pants I've ever made. I also chose to interface both the waistband and the waistband facing. With trial and error, fitting and refitting, I've found that a waistband cut in many pieces, to allow for shaping, works best for me, as long as I interface it to prevent stretching. Honestly, I like my waistband feeling like a belt without having to actually wear a belt.

I am VERY happy with how these fit against my back. I tried crossed belt loops this time for something new.

Lately, I've been finishing the bottom of my waistband facings with bias tape. The whole stitching-in-the-ditch, catch-the-facing nonsense NEVER works for me. I just plain like finishing them this way, and it adds another unique spot of color inside. Yes, my pocket bags are two different fabrics. These are definitely one of a kind!

All seams were sewn on my sewing machine, finished with my serger, and topstitched with my vintage Singer 15-91. Yet another reason why I was batch sewing so many pants at once, after you've gone to the trouble to set up three machines with the right needles and thread you want to take advantage. My topstitching is still not perfect, but it has come a LONG way in just a year.

My shirt is a small Union St. Tee (number 37 million in my closet) made from modal/cotton/spandex knit from Blackbird Fabrics, in a gorgeous, not-this-season autumnal rust color. I used Adrianna's recent slouchy pocket tutorial, and this is the FIRST TIME I have put a pocket on a Union! Incredible!

In these photos, the shirt is not hemmed as I was waiting for a thread order from Wawak. I did not have four cones of brown thread for my coverstitch and couldn't bear to dig up a twin needle. But rest assured, it was hemmed once my thread arrived. Label in the side seam from Kylie and the Machine.

This post contains an affiliate link to the Union St. Tee. 

Monday, April 6, 2020

Linen Willamette Shirt

***This blog post was written weeks ago, before the covid-19 outbreak. I am publishing it now in hopes of providing even a small amount of distraction for those of us that need it.

I am a die hard fan of knits for tops, and it's a rarity that I'm wearing a woven shirt. But I make exceptions for my beloved Hey June Patterns, and for this fun Willamette Shirt!

Disclosure: I am a Hey June affiliate. I met Adrianna in person last fall at the Maker's Retreat and she is awesome. I LOVE her patterns. But I paid for the Willamette and will give you my honest opinion, as always!

I can't remember what inspired me to finally buy this pattern, but I think it was seeing it in person on Adrianna (I'm 99% sure it was this one). We were in the midst of indigo dyeing a lightweight woven fabric and I decided I wanted to use my yardage for a Willamette when I got home. Because that retreat fabric is precious, I made a wearable muslin using leftover striped linen (from this Hinterland).

While I think we can all agree that this shirt fits, I feel like I might make another muslin in a bigger size. The chart says a bust of 33" is a 2, the smallest size. I normally wear a 4 in HJ. I did not grade out for my hips (that would put me at an 8). Finished measurements for a 2 are 44" across the bust, 11" of ease. You'll definitely see this pattern again on the blog, so check back later for progress (spoiler alert, I made another in a 4 and prefer that fit).

Fabric choice is going to be key here. I know from experience that this linen is still stiff after one wash (how it's shown here) but softens up with wear. It may relax and grow a bit. A rayon challis has more drape and will fit differently as well. I was a little concerned that the solid black cotton I used for the cuffs would be too stiff, but it ended up working out. I used it for the inside yoke as well.

I'm wearing a new pair of low-rise Ginger Jeans (I think I'll save that review for a later day) and I think the Willamette looks nice with a half-tuck. I also like it with Lander Pants. The only thing I don't like is that the cut-on sleeve means it's too bulky to slip under a cardigan. I sewed this in January and still haven't worn it out of the house because I can't figure out how to make it work for winter. If you have any ideas, drop them in the comments below!