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!

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Athletic Lace Hoodie

I am SO excited about today's post! It's been so fun to be a part of The Fabric Fairy blogger team. The group is very creative and I'm always inspired. A few months back, Sarah from Sewing With Sarah posted about a new fabric, a super cool stretch mesh/lace suitable for athletic wear (it also comes in black!!). She used it as an accent to a top and leggings. I wanted to try the fabric myself, but to mix it up and not directly copy Sarah. I settled on a hoodie and I think I've got a pretty cool piece!

The texture of this fabric is great, and since it's a mesh, it allows air to flow through it. It's 80/20 poly/lycra, so a stable stretch and recovery. To make the hoodie, I used the Sloane pattern from Love Notions. It's a basic pattern that easily transforms depending on your fabric. This is View A, with a slim fit and and shirttail hem. My bust is 33" and I made the XS. I made the S once before and felt it was a little baggy for the look I wanted here.

I did a lot of test sewing before I started working with this fabric. The seam allowance is only 3/8", so my ideal choice of French seams wasn't an option. I would have used my serger but didn't have four matching cones of purple thread (it's not a color I wear often). I ended up using a zig-zag stitch and a walking foot for most of the construction. The exception was the hem, where I used a slightly longer straight stitch. There is clear elastic sewn into the shoulder seams for stability. I lightly pressed all seams with a press cloth on low heat.

I hemmed the front of the hoodie a little more narrow than the pattern suggested, which meant I had some extra length that I could transform into a crossover hood. I also took advantage of the cool pointed motif that runs along the selvedge, and created a pointed cuff on the sleeves.

This is the most accurate color depiction

To make that work, I did narrow the sleeve from the elbow to the wrist. I cut around the pointed motif, and essentially faced it with scraps of the mesh, also cut from the selvedge. I wasn't able to sew the cuff into a complete circle, so instead I butted the edges together and basted them before sewing the cuff to the sleeve.

I love the cool superhero vibe of the pointed cuff! I made sure to sew a Kylie and the Machine label into the side seam so everyone would know it's one of a kind.

Some mornings, you want to throw on a hoodie but not be too warm or sloppy-looking. This hoodie fits the bill perfectly. I also ordered a swatch of fleece-backed knit to see how well it coordinated color-wise. I wish I would've just gone ahead and ordered yardage, because it's a great match for the mesh and it's warm and luxe. I predict a matching pair of leggings in my future!

I received a credit from The Fabric Fairy in exchange for this review. Fabric and project choice were my own, I purchased the pattern. All opinions are my own. 

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Sew Liberated Hinterland Dress

The summer snuck away from me, it looks like it's been a month since my last post! Truth is, I wasn't even sewing for most of that time. Daily swim lessons, a weekend away with my husband, and back to school were taking up all my time. But I'm here today with two new dresses to make up for it!


I've been following Meg from Sew Liberated on Instagram, but this is my first pattern from her. I just LOVE her honesty and style on IG, she's one of those people that you secretly (okay not secretly because I just told you) want to be. The Hinterland Dress is one that she wears constantly, but styles it in such a way that it's always fresh. I resisted as long as I could, but I finally broke down and bought the pattern.

(Side note, the photos of the natural colored dress are way blown out, and now the dress is in the wash...sorry!)

I have been on a knitting spree lately and with two Soldotna Crops in my cedar chest, I wanted a very basic, sleeveless dress to wear under my cropped sweaters. I really wanted a dress without a waistline seam, because if I can see two horizontal lines across my torso I basically die. Short of making another Ogden Cami dress, I couldn't find exactly what I wanted, which is how I ended up with the Hinterland.

Turns out, the waist seam isn't visible with a cropped sweater, as long as the sweater is long enough in the first place. This isn't a knitting blog, so I'm not going into a ton of detail, but my first Soldotna Sweater is too short and I'm fairly certain I'm going to add more length to it. I already have a few thrifted dresses to wear with that one in the meantime, and they do not have waistline seams, so it's fine.

But back to sewing. For my plain Jane dress, I ordered my beloved Avery Slub Linen from La Mercerie, this time in the color "natural". It is TO DIE FOR. It's the perfect texture, the perfect color, the perfect weight and drape. You know I now have four garments in four colors of this fabric, right?

I followed the measurement chart, which meant I sewed a sized 4 bodice and a size 10 skirt. The skirt is a gathered rectangle that simply increases in width with each size. The waistline is not fitted and is meant to have ease, both for stylistic reasons and so that you can get the dress on without a full zip. You can add a partial (bodice only) or full (bodice and skirt) button placket, and there are directions for both. You can also omit the placket entirely because the dress does slip over your head. You can also have a sleeveless or sleeved version, and there are different bodice drafts for each one. There is a long or short skirt option.

All things considered, this is a pretty stellar pattern. It's got that perfect amount of ease that I like. It's simple but allows for lots of hacking and customization. The fabric you choose changes the look. For my second version, I used this vertical striped crinkled linen gauze from Blackbird Fabrics.

I found a Hinterland from the same fabric on IG, so that took away my nerves when selecting this fabric. It's super cool (read: it was $$$) and I didn't want to screw it up. It wasn't too bad to sew, but I did forget to staystitch the neckline and it stretched out just a bit. The stripes are NOT symmetrical in any direction, so I used the right and wrong side at will to make the front bodice look symmetrical. The skirt is not because I didn't care. Instead of sewing in-seam pockets, I made one single patch pocket, which I find is a much more secure way to carry my phone.

The striped dress is sewn in the short skirt version. I also cut the front skirt narrower than a 10 just to conserve fabric. The linen gauze does not have the same drape as the linen/rayon version, so it stands away from my body a bit more. I'm hoping that with time and washing, it softens up and drapes better.

My only warning about this pattern is the armholes. On my natural version, I sewed the armhole facings as drafted, and it dips down low enough to show my bra band. On the striped version, I sewed the facings with a 1/2" seam allowance instead of 5/8", which effectively raised the armhole. Both are fine for what they are and it's nice to have options.


I enjoyed using pretty bias facings on the necklines and armholes. It wasn't exactly the same as making double-fold bias tape (which I hate), since it only needed one center fold. The yellow was purchased from Banberry Place a million years ago, and the black and white was made from leftover scraps from this dress. Labels are from Kylie and the Machine.

My hem on the natural dress is a nice deep 2 1/2". I'm 5'4" but most of my length is in my torso. On the shorter dress, I used bias tape to finish the hem.

After a day of wear, the linen gauze was definitely softening up, so I'm excited to see how it changes with time. The natural dress is 100% amazing and I will be wearing it with everything all year long. I'm eyeing every woven fabric in my stash for possible Hinterland dresses now!