Friday, February 5, 2016

The Isabelle Top...and a surprise!

Remember my whiny, I-don't-have-time-to-sew post from a few weeks back? I wasn't being entirely forthcoming. Yes, two kids are keeping me twice as busy as one, and that's definitely cutting into any "me" time. But there's more to the story.

Isabelle Top

That's right, baby #3 is on its way! Hence the extra fatigue, the lack of motivation to do more than feed my already-born children, and the downturn in my sewing. But I'm officially in the second trimester and feeling so much better. Now I know what you're thinking...wasn't she JUST pregnant? Yes. Yes I was. I'm having serious deja vu about it too. And your second though must be...not MORE maternity clothes! And I'm right there with you. Since I was pregnant this time of year last year, the thought of sewing more maternity clothing made me barf (or maybe that was the hormones). Instead of more ruched tshirts, I decided to sew a few tops that do double duty. (And yet again, I'm sewing black, so these photos are really blown out so you can see detail.)

I'm embarrassed to say that I bought this pattern when I was pregnant last year, and never made it. Since I got a second chance I thought I'd better use it! This is the Isabelle Nursing and Maternity Top from LouLouJames Creative on Etsy. The pattern is truly genius, because you can wear it front or backwards! One side has a zipper and modesty panel for nursing. The other side has pleats to accommodate a pregnant belly. Since I'm nursing and pregnant, well, I can wear it either way!

The fabric I used is a black modal jersey, and it's yummy. I believe it's from Mood. I had two yards I was hoarding and it turned out to be perfect for this pattern.

This is a lesser-known pattern designer so I do want to give a good review of the pattern itself. I had no issues printing and assembling or cutting. The sizing is generous because that's just the design. It's possible I could go down a size but it would lose the slouchy look. The instructions were excellent and all the notches matched up. I believe there is one omission in that the neckline binding is never sewn closed at the short ends. I just did that, RST, then turned the binding back out and sewed it to the neckline as instructed. If you're using a serger, I recommend basting the modesty panel shoulder seams to the front bodice shoulder seams before sewing to the back. The instructions have you do it separately, which doesn't really work once the shoulder seams are already serged.

The only complaint I have is about the zipper insertion. I don't like how the facing doesn't cover the zipper tape. In other words, when it's unzipped and flops open, you see the zipper tape. I'd rather that was covered. I puzzled over how it could be done and also studied some RTW tops. I'm sure the way this pattern is constructed is the easiest method, just not the most finished. Sometimes you have to choose one or the other.

One other thing to look out for is the sleeve length. These are cut loooooong and then ruched on one side only. Meaning the un-ruched side is still looooooong. You may want to take some measurements and shorten the sleeve before sewing, or be prepared to cut off at the end.

It took forever to sew this top, back in November when I was really struggling to just exist (by the way, I do not recommend back to back pregnancies unless you have a live-in nanny or something). But somehow not dying of exhaustion can probably whip one of these up in a day or two.

I also have the Jenna Nursing Top/Dress pattern from LouLouJames so I'm sure you'll be seeing that one pop up sometime. It's much more practical to sew nursing tops than maternity, but they rarely get any attention.

So now you know my big secret and the real reason why it's been quiet around here! Hope you're ready for some itty bitty baby sewing, because that's in full swing!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Jamie Jeans

Remember a hundred years ago when I promised a post about my first pair of jeans? Apparently I didn't remember, since it's taken me until now to write about them! But you know how it is to post about complicated items. It's time-consuming, and I wanted to make sure I was accurate in my review. So here they are, Jamie Jeans!

All my favorite colors, pink, navy, black, and grey.

I completed these back in September, for the Momiform MAKEover tour. The tour was the kick (in the pants, as it were) that I needed to tackle jeans for the first time. I readily admit, however, that these ended up a bit more like jeggings than I intended, and I took plenty of scaredy-cat shortcuts like matching topstitching. But still, I made pants, from denim, with a fly. I think that counts!

I relied heavily on the Jamie Jeans sewalong over at Indie Sew. I found it to be an amazing resource and possibly more helpful than the instructions, especially when it came to fit. The sewalong uses a baste-and-fit method with plenty of hand-holding. The pattern itself, being made for stretch denim, is forgiving anyhow. It's the whole reason I chose this pattern for My First Jeans. Every pair I've seen end up looking great. I particularly like that there isn't any under-the-butt fabric pooling.

The fly/jeans button is pulling a bit, but oh well.
I'll never wear a shirt untucked.

I think mine also look great, but you must forgive the fading that has happened to the fabric in the last few months (I've also lightened these photos so you can see more detail). It's a black organic cotton/spandex denim from Nature's Fabrics. It's thick and super stretchy. Let's just say that you might confuse it with a knit until you turned it over to see the twill weave (the reverse side is the contrast on my front pockets). It's pretty much perfect for Jamie Jeans, though, so no fabric-regret here. The only thing not to love is that the jeans bag out over the course of a day, I can pretty much get one or two good wears in before they go back in the wash (probably why they've faded).

Here follows boring fit stuff...

The sewalong and other reviews mention sizing down. I sewed up a size 6 and I *think* this was either a full size down, or I was between sizes and went down. My hip measurement has changed a lot (thanks babies) and apparently I didn't write down the exact number, just the size I intended to make. In any case, sizing down is a good idea.

Seam allowances are 3/8" but I ended up increasing that to 5/8" below the hip on the outer leg seam, and all the way down the inner leg seam. The hips fit without changes, however I took wedges out of the waistband in various places. Luckily, following the sewalong made it easy to baste and check fit, and I had enough fabric to cut an altered waistband.

The biggest issue I had with fit was the length. These are ridiculously long. The pattern is designed for someone 5'8" and I'm 5'4", but I removed 6". I'm long-waisted so I guess I must also be short-legged? Unfortunately, I had to take it all from the hem, but it ended up looking okay anyway. I made a note to myself to take 3" from the upper thigh and 3" from the hem next time.

Here ends boring fit stuff...

The topstitching was done on my vintage machine, with black topstitching thread. This was my first project with this machine, despite having had it for (gasp!) a year, and I was not confident in steady stitching. Since my denim was very stretchy, it had a tendency to move around under the tiny presser foot, so it was a good thing I went with matching thread. I ended up stitching two rows along the vertical center-front seam because the two legs didn't match after my first pass. But y'know, "design detail" and all that jazz. I definitely want a different kind of foot for any further topstitching with this machine.

This was quite a project for me, I had three machines set up at once (regular machine, serger, and vintage one for topstitching) plus my ironing board in my somewhat packed sewing room. I actually quite enjoyed the luxury of three machines, not having to rethread for topstitching is *amazing*.

The only trouble I had with the pattern assembly was the pockets. I feel like the pieces could have had a few more notches to make it easier to tell how they all went together. I also left off the belt loops since I'm never going to wear a belt with these. They have a slightly higher rise than all of my other jeans and I'd rather keep a smooth line under my shirts.

I've been wearing these a lot because they're so stretchy and comfortable. There's nothing worse than spending a lot of time on something and having them sit in a closet or drawer. I might even be ready to tackle a more traditional jeans pattern (like Jalie 2908 which has been languishing in my stash forever). If you're afraid of jeans I highly suggest nabbing a copy of the Jamie Jeans and giving them a try!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Get Your Crap Together // Organizing in the New Year

The year-end reflections are over, we're done patting ourselves on the back. Now it's time to face our messy post-holiday sewing rooms and make plans for 2016. Even though my sewing time has dwindled a bit recently, I still make time to take notes and keep records of what I'm doing. There's nothing worse than having 10 minutes to sew, and spending 8 of them trying to remember where you left off!

Look back at one of my most popular posts about organization, How I Organize My Sewing with Evernote:

Don't forget the ultimate organizational tool, A Sewist's Notebook (on sale today only, use code JANFLASH20):

Last but not least, by far my most popular pin on Pinterest is this great one with loads of tips for organizing your sewing (source: The Domestic Diva):

What about you, are you getting organized in the new year? As for me, I hope to get a jump on my spring cleaning and do some purging in my sewing room. I think I have more buttons and scraps than I could ever possibly use!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

This Post is No Fun

There's only one thing worse than not blogging, and that's not blogging because you have nothing to blog about. You may have noticed a large dip in the amount of posting I've done. It's not you--it's me. At first, adding a second child into my routine/life wasn't too bad. Newborns really do sleep a lot (it's SO awful but it is true...comparatively). But age has caught up with both AB and Baby H. Nap time, that most sacred time to any stay at home mom, is elusive. AB is almost 4 and doesn't nap every day. Thus, she is awake and loud and temperamental when I need the baby to sleep. "Nap time ping-pong" is what I call it, bouncing between children so that they sleep in 20 minute increments.

No surprise, but sewing has taken such a backseat that it's not even in the vehicle anymore. I think I've made one garment in the last month. I've stopped buying patterns. I've stopped buying fabric. I've stopped reading blogs. And obviously, I've stopped blogging myself.

This is not even mentioning the weeks I've spent sick this fall. I swear I'm going to start sending AB to preschool in a bubble.

It's not fun. It's not glamorous. But it is a season. I waver between packing it all up and forcing myself to forget sewing, and feverishly ignoring my housework so I can find ten minutes of sanity. Like all parts of mothering, it's mostly an exercise in expectations.

Can I sew as much as I used to? No. Not even by half.

Can I blog? No. What is there to blog if I'm not sewing?

These are hard realizations. Sewing found me at a time in my life when I was redefining my identity. It's been a passion for almost four years. The thought of putting that on hold, however

You may think that you're raising children, but really, becoming a mother means raising yourself quite a bit as well.

So it's time for adulting. That terror of terrors. Time to pull back on me and focus on my family. When your plate is too full, you have to take some things off. That's just how it is. And I like sleep, when I can get it.

If you see less of me in this corner of the internet, please forgive me. It's not that I don't want to be here. I just can't right now, emphasis on the right now.

Use your best Arnold voice..."I'll be back."

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Holly Hobbie Vintage Toy Sewing Machine

Thanksgiving brought me some very tasty food, but also a new toy (literally?). My in-laws enjoy going to auctions and shopping for antiques, so they're always picking up vintage sewing items that they think I might like. May I present my new machine!

Okay, so it's not super impressive haha. You can see my Brother machine in the background for scale, and the squares on my cutting mat are 1". The decal says Holly Hobbie and I assume this is a toy. It's dated 1975 and is mostly plastic. The sad thing is, I cannot figure out how it works. Google isn't even helping me. If you're familiar with toy machines I would love some help! As you can see above, the bottom separates from the top once you loosen about 7 screws.

Here it is without the throat plate. There are feed dogs and a place for a needle. There was a broken needle in it when I got it.

The reason I can't figure out how it works is because there is no bobbin. No post for a bobbin (that I can see). There is only this weird copper piece below the feed dogs.

I don't see anything that would hold bobbin thread or move it up to connect with the needle.

Any ideas? Of course, there is the notion that it doesn't work at all. But it seems like it has all parts for a functioning top thread. There's even a tension knob. When you turn the handwheel, the whole thing appears to be doing SOMETHING. 

I would love to get this working and have AB use it. She's going to break my machine if she keeps trying to sew on it. I like the idea of it being hand-powered so it can't run away from her.

I also scored a box of vintage presser feet.

A few are duplicates of what I already have for my Singer 15-91, and a few appear to be for a different type of machine, But still fun to have!

Kids have restricted me from much antique shopping or thrifting, so I always appreciate when someone gives me items like this. Do you shop for vintage sewing items?

Monday, November 30, 2015

Cyber Monday sale on A Sewist's Notebook!

Today only, save 25% on all versions of A Sewist's Notebook! Use code ONEMOREDAY at checkout. Valid until midnight eastern. Need some convincing? Check out Very Purple Person's recent review of the book, here.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Belle-inspired Halloween costume

Did everyone have a good Halloween? Yes, I know it was two weeks ago. But how am I supposed to post about something I'm sewing if it's not done until the last minute? AB is quickly approaching 4, so she finally is old enough to understand "dress up day" (thanks Daniel Tiger). For weeks leading up to the 31st, I grilled her about what she wanted to "be". She kept saying things like Spider-man or Iron Man or The Hulk. Those weren't exactly costumes that I wanted to (or could?) sew. We settled on buying her a Spider-man costume, complete with fake muscles and mask. Immediately after we dropped all that money on it, she became obsessed with Beauty and the Beast and asking for a Belle dress. This mommy couldn't say no, and I ended up sewing her exactly what she requested.

Don't worry, Spider-man served her well at her preschool "pumpkin party" and I was glad that she had a more, er, janky costume to wear there. Let's just say I'm not a fan of letting my creations out of my sight and into the paint-splattering hands of her preschool. Anyway, the Friday before Halloween, our city had a really cool event where local businesses had candy to hand out. We could walk around our town square in broad daylight, with lots of other families, and with reputable businesses handing out the goods. Since our neighborhood doesn't have many kids and we have no family in town, this kind of event was perfect for a worry-wart mama like me.

To make this Belle dress, I used Amy's tutorial and pattern here. I did make some modifications. I color-blocked the front bodice so that I could use a nude fabric for the shoulders, giving the illusion of an off-the-shoulder dress like Belle's original.

I also cut the skirt differently since I wanted more fullness. I almost made a circle skirt, but after chatting with a good sewing buddy she suggested just adding more skirt panels. Genius! I did narrow the top of each panel to accommodate the fact that there were more of them needing to be gathered and sewn to the bodice.

I also added a crinoline underneath, because what's a Belle dress without a lotta lotta poof? I admit, I took a shortcut here and used the crinoline I wore when I got married. It had already been borrowed one additional time after I wore it, so I figured it had been used plenty and could be sacrificed to the cause. I ended up simply cutting off the bottom tier and finishing those hems with my serger. Then I gathered the top portion and sewed elastic to it in order to fit my daughter's waist.

Even more brilliantly, I added snaps to the top of the crinoline and the skirt seam allowance, so the crinoline could snap to it and stay securely in place.

Finally, my last change was to NOT ruche the center-back of the skirt with elastic. This decision meant that the dress had a slight train. Any excess gathering that I was having trouble easing got put in the back of the dress as well.

I also made gloves. I can't say I followed a good tutorial, I kind of just hacked away at them until they fit. I did a combination of tracing a snow glove and tracing my daughter's arm. The gloves are made from jersey knit so they can stretch and move. The knit was in my stash and the color match isn't exact, but it's close enough for horse grenades (Parks and Rec anyone?). The costume satin I ordered from Mood and they sent me approximately 38 extra yards for no reason, which was awesome. I still have a ton left in case I want to make an army of Belles. With a matching yellow ribbon in her hair and her enchanted red rose, this costume was pretty much to die for, if I do say so myself.

Don't worry, baby H got in on the fun and wore AB's old Robin costume. Daddy dressed like Batman (I was sewing him a mask up until right before we left!) and I think most of the kids thought he was the actual Batman. Mommy...failed and didn't make anything for herself. Next year I won't be so neglectful of me!

Did you have a me-made Halloween or go the store-bought route? I can't say I'd blame anyone for buying a costume, they are so. much. work. to sew!