Wednesday, July 31, 2013

What I'm Watching: Sewing with Nancy

I think I'm probably late to the game on this one, but I've been DVR'ing Sewing with Nancy for months without watching it. I finally got around to a few episodes, and it's fantastic!

Sewing with Nancy is hosted by, you guessed it, Nancy. Nancy Zieman to be exact, who also runs the website Nancy's Notions. A lot like It's Sew Easy, Sewing with Nancy covers a few different projects each episode. I watched a two-part series on making travel gear, which included tote bags, jewelry pouches, and luggage tags (among other things).

Nancy has samples ready for each step in the process, so the show moves quickly from project start to finish. Along the way, Nancy (and her guest, if she has one) throws out tips and techniques that you can apply to all kinds of sewing.

If you see an episode with projects you can't live without, there is a pattern book available for a fee (these PBS shows have to get along somehow!). And if you miss an episode, you can watch tons of videos online.

The episodes conclude with a segment called Nancy's Corner, where Nancy interviews someone about something sewing related. If you're a total sewing junkie like me, you'll love the diversity of topics covered in this portion of the show.

After only one episode, I could see why this is the longest running sewing TV show (30 years!!). I watched a bit of the 30th anniversary episode, and the clips from the previous decades were pretty hilarious. Is it weird to say that I can't wait until I've been sewing for 30 years?

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Tuesday Tips: men's shirt

Today kicks off a new series here on ze blog, Tuesday Tips! The next few months will be pretty busy, with almost every weekend devoted to a cookout, party, or wedding. I still plan on one project a week, but any more than that and I might go a little nuts! Any less than that and I'll also go nuts!! Funny how sewing needs that perfect balance, no?

Today I want to share a few tips I learned while working on my husband's Negroni shirt, which I'll be showing off on Thursday.

The first tip is one I've read a bunch of times, but never got around to trying until now. After using it, I may never go back! Rather than buy a seam guide like this one you can use a piece of masking tape on your machine.

It's SO much easier than trying to eyeball where your seam should be sewn, or to see towards the back of the machine where the guides are on the throatplate. It's also easy enough to unstick and move as needed. The Negroni used many different seam allowances, and I found that using the tape forced me to be aware of what size seam I needed, rather than speeding around at 5/8" no matter what. I was able to be more precise as well.

The second tip is about collars, and it's one I learned the hard way on Simplicity 2447. Whether your collar has a collar stand, or is attached directly to the bodice, it may stretch out if you sew it on from one end to the other.

It's not exactly centered.

Instead, start sewing at center back and work your way out to one end. Then start again at center back and sew out to the other end. That way, if there is any stretching, it will (hopefully!) be uniform and each end will be balanced.

Do you have any tricks or tips for sewing button-up shirts? Leave them in the comments below!

Fold-over elastic on Pick Your Plum today! This is a great deal, so hurry before it's gone!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Mend It Monday: pleated skirt

I don't know about the rest of the country, but we're in a little bit of a cold snap here in Indiana! Yes, 70 degrees is cold (to me). I've started thinking a bit about my fall wardrobe, and I remembered I had this army-green corduroy skirt that will go great with tights in the fall.

Unfortunately, it had a few holes in it. Even more unfortunately, the holes were more like rips, right along the fold lines for the pleats.

I also didn't have any thread that matched. I decided to embrace a distressed look, and went with brown thread for my mending. If you can't completely hide a repair, you might as well make it seem purposeful!

This repair only took about 10 minutes, and now I have a good transitional skirt when it gets cooler for realz. 

Are you thinking of fall sewing yet?

Thursday, July 25, 2013

First world problems

Someone really doesn't want us to have Internet.

As you might have read, our house was hit by lightning on Tuesday. All our TVs, AT&T router, Wii, coffee maker, and air conditioning motherboard were fried. I mention the coffee maker because I loved it the most (don't worry, we had a backup).

Today we received the replacement router from AT&T. Shiny and new, I pulled it out of the box, plugged it in...nothing. We received a bad box. It will be 2 more days before a technician can come to our house to give us a new box.

Our new TV won't be here until next week.

I say all that to cover the blog business, namely that I won't be rehashing Project Runway tomorrow.

But I'm also taking this as a sign. A sign to lay off the Internet, lay off the TV, forget about my email.  A little technology vacation, whether I like it or not.

I should also mention that my husband had an accident with his smartphone within 15 minutes of the lightning hitting the house. I don't have a smartphone. My 4 year old "dumb phone" is literally the only thing "connecting" us to the world.

I'll let you know how this involuntary break goes. Today has been easier than yesterday. Maybe by tomorrow I'll forget that Facebook even exists :)

Men's shirt pattern adjustments

Confession: I've never blended two sizes on a pattern. When I sew for myself I cut the smallest size and adjust as I'm sewing. When I sew for AB, if something doesn't fit just right I don't bother to fix it because she'll grow into it eventually. So when it came time to draft customized pattern pieces for my husband's Negroni, I was oddly terrified. 

Yesterday I talked about David Page Coffin's book, Shirtmaking. The book is fabulous and mentions that the most important part of a well-fitting shirt is the shoulder. The rest can be adjusted based on personal preference. 

My muslin was certainly too short in the shoulder point, and too tight through the chest, but fit fine through the torso. Here's how I developed my new pattern pieces, starting with piece A (shirt front).

I already had a Large pattern piece traced because of my muslin. I traced the XLarge and placed it behind my Large pattern piece. This photo shows the bottom of the armscythe and the top of the side seam. Checking where I marked on my muslin, I needed to grade from XL to L starting about where the notches are in this photo.

I don't have a French curve so I freehanded a line starting at the end of the armscythe and blending down to the notch. Then I cut on the line, as you can see in the photo above. I repeated these steps for the back pattern piece, double checking that the line I drew was the same shape as the line from the shirt front.

Here's how the new back pattern piece looked once cut it out. Since the whole chest area is XLarge, I did not have to make any adjustments to the yoke pieces, I could use an unaltered XL piece. However, I did have to change the shirt front facing piece because it runs the full height of the shirt, which was now slightly different.

I really only needed a bit more length in the shoulder area, which I added on to my original Large pattern piece.

To recap:

Piece A (shirt front) is a blended XL/L.
Piece B (back yoke and yoke facing) are XL.
Piece C (shirt back) is XL.
Piece D (front facing) is a blended XL/L.
Piece E (collar) is XL.
Piece G (long sleeve) is XL.
Piece J (cuff) is XL.

If you make any adjustments to a Negroni or any shirt pattern, make sure you track the domino effect that it will have on all the pattern pieces. Since the chest was XL, that meant the sleeve needed to be XL, which meant the cuff needed to be XL...on and on. Go slowly and double-check your work, especially before cutting into your real fabric!

At this point, it might have been wise to make a second muslin...but I'm not all that wise. I got to work with my real fabric. Check back next week for the big reveal!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Shirtmaking: Developing Skills for Fine Sewing

Yesterday my house was hit by lightning. And not the metaphorical, I-had-a-great-idea kind of lightning. The literal, white-hot, loud-doesn't-begin-to-describe it kind of lightning. We're all okay, but I can't say the say for many of our electronics, including our wireless router. So please forgive a slow response on comments and possible technical glitches for a few days as we put our technical lives back together!

I can't decide if sewing for men is easy or hard. It's easy, because their fit issues are more simple. It's hard, because there aren't a lot of resources for learning how to do it well. Need information on a full bust adjustment? Boom, 80 zillion Google results. Need help fitting a tall man? Crickets.

Thank goodness for David Page Coffin! This book is exactly what I needed while sewing my husband's Negroni shirt. I definitely can't complain about the pattern directions, they were spot-on, but the book provided some extra diagrams and explanations to help a Nervous Nellie like me feel confident in what I was doing.

The book covers construction techniques of nicer men's shirts (i.e. not a t-shirt) including flat-felled seams, collars with and without stands, plackets, etc. There is a section on fit, as well as drafting a pattern with draping. I doubt I'll ever convince my husband to stand still long enough to drape fabric all over him...but it's a nice thought!

As an added bonus, there are pages and pages of templates to use for collars, pockets, and plackets. And they're even full-size! No running off to a copy shop to enlarge them (has anyone ever actually done that?).

If you plan on making a dressy shirt like these (for a man or woman) I highly recommend this book. Someday I want to make a pair of pants for my husband, and when that day comes (in 20 years...) I'll be looking into Making Trousers, which is by the same author.

Do you have any good resources for sewing for men?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Men's shirt muslin fitting

I know everyone says that when you make a garment, you spend the least amount of time actually at your sewing machine, but sheesh! I've been working on a Negroni shirt for my husband, and it takes to mark and cut out. Not to mention adding a muslin on top of it.

Plus I'm being extra careful because I'll be devastated if he doesn't like/wear it. I might have to move out.

I kept my muslin very simple. I used pattern pieces A (shirt front, I cut 2), B (back yoke, I cut 1), and C (shirt back). Trust me, you don't want to assemble the facings, collar and the inside back yoke just for muslin fitting. You could cut sleeves if you wanted, but the pattern contains a finished garment underarm measurement, and you can easily compare that to a well-fitting shirt you already have.

Sorry all the photos aren't on a live model. I could barely get him to put it on for fitting.

I drew on the pocket placement, buttons, and marked the hem so I could get a visual on those.

My husband is tall and muscular, and RTW shirts that fit him in the chest are baggy through the rest of the torso. For my muslin, I cut a straight large and prayed for a miracle. I was disappointed. Stupid. I've been shopping with him for almost 7 years, I should have known better!

The length and bottom half of the torso were fine, but the chest/shoulders area was too small. After fitting him I knew I'd have to cut an XLarge in the chest and yoke, but grade it down to a Large everywhere else. Because the upper torso would be XL, the sleeves would also need to be XL too, unless I felt like messing with the armhole (I didn't).

It was from roughly the middle button up that needed to be bigger, so I marked that on my muslin. I must say, muslins are a pain, but being able to make notes right on my fabric was fun. Made me feel like a naughty child drawing on the wall.

Thursday I'll be going over how I adjusted the pattern pieces. It involved advanced math and a graphing calculator. Just kidding!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Inspiration: Men's shirt details

I did it, finally. I started a shirt for my husband! I've had fabric and a pattern (Colette Negroni) and now I'm actually working on it! I told myself I wanted to wait until I had my serger, so that my seams would look all nice and pretty. If I had bothered to read the directions in the pattern, I would have seen that all the seams are flat-felled or enclosed. No serger needed. Whoops.

This week I'll be sharing my muslin process and the pattern adjustments I had to make for my husband. I've also been browsing men's button-up shirts and found a few that really inspired me!

To start, you MUST click over to Colettire and look at their post of men's shirt inspiration. I love them all!

I guess Urban Outfitters sells one-of-a-kind vintage clothing online? Who knew. I love the shoulder tabs on this shirt and the pretty grey color.

Also from UO (but not a vintage shirt) this one has a loop on the collar like the Negroni. There's no way my husband would wear a print like this, but I think it's fun!

This "beach shirt" from Rag and Bone looks so soft I want to grab it through the screen! I particularly like the contrast color for the inside of the collar and the shape of the shirttail hem.

This linen shirt from J. Crew is the most similar to how my Negroni will look, since I'm using a navy linen/rayon fabric.

Here's hoping that the shirt for my husband turns out better than a similar one I made for myself. I definitely learned some things from that project! Like how to sew a collar on to make a shirt too thick for NOT to cut plaid...

Today is the last day for Craftsy's Summer Sale! ALL classes have dropped their prices (sewing, knitting, quilting, jewelry, etc.). I watched a few lessons from Beginner Serging over the weekend, and I can't wait to try out the techniques I learned!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Project Runway rehash!

Warning! If you haven't watched last night's premiere, then stop reading! Spoilers ahead!

You guysssss...I'm a genius. I mean, if you've been reading then you already know that. But now I mean it in relation to Project Runway. What did I say about Angela? I'll remind you: "She likes to plan and collaborate. Sounds like a time-sucking strategy, I don't think she'll get too far in the competition."

See? Genius.

Things I loved:

Heidi at the airport. How do I make myself look like her?? Not just kind of. I mean exactly. Minus the Seal tattoo.

Zac Posen. When he called out Timothy for wearing high heels even though he made his model go barefoot, and for burning nylon. Hehe.

All the new changes (except a returning contestant). The "blind" runway show, the judges getting a closer look at the garments, the Mood budget system, loved it all!

Timothy's model bailing on his "performance art" and doing her regular walk. Hehe!

Things I hated:

Timothy's high heels.

Helen's bad attitude.

Kate showing up instead of Ramon. Guess I should have voted...

Best line of the night:

"She looks like a slutty cat toy." --Zac Posen about Sandro's model

Tonight's reason why I love Tim Gunn:

"Timothy..." Long pause. "What are you doing to your model?"

Favorite garment:

Ken's orange and pink dress (photo from Rate the Runway here). His was the only garment that didn't look like parachute material, which I THOUGHT was the point of the unconventional challenge?

Least favorite garment:

Angela made a parachute out of a parachute. Boring.

Random thoughts...

Jeremy made pants! Dom made three pieces! Why were they just safe?

I love Ken. On The Road to the Runway special he said he's been homeless 4 times and had to just keep going. He's got some spunk!

 Sandro and Alexandria might just be crazy.

Your thoughts on the premiere??

Free Pattern Friday on the Craftsy blog, plus the Sweet Summer Sale on classes!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Project Runway: designer portfolios

If you couldn't tell already, I'm a wee bit excited about Project Runway starting tonight. Yesterday I posted a quick rundown of fun facts about the designers, and today I pored over their design portfolios. Here are a few of my favorites (all photos from Lifetime website):


Love this dress! Looks like she keeps it simple but mixes in a surprise fabric every now and then.


She may like Twilight, but there isn't any dark, sad vampire black in this dress! What a fun use of print!


Remember when I said that Ken didn't say much about himself? I guess it was part of a marketing campaign. Hehe.


Pretty pretty!


Whoa. I seriously feel like a wedding dress challenge should be mandatory every season.

So there's what I'm loving from the designer portfolios! CANNOT WAIT until the premiere tonight! And don't forget, one designer from a previous season will be in the mix, too! I'm about to drink an afternoon cup of coffee in order to make it to 10:30 : )

Sewing Project: McCall's 6744

Sooooooo I don't own any maxi dresses. Didn't. I think that's some sort of sin in the sewing world, especially for someone who loves knits (me). I felt dumb buying a pattern when they seem so straightforward, but then I was too chicken to draft/try my own and ruin 2+ yards of fabric. Dumb. Last week when I found out Hobby Lobby was selling McCall's patterns for $1, I zoomed over there and picked this one up!

I combined two views, the cross-over top of View C/D, with the maxi skirt of View B. The fabric is some kind of jersey (maybe rayon?) from Girl Charlee. I got it in a Bargain Box and I haven't been able to find it on the website to know what it is. It's thin, semi-transparent, almost a sweater knit. It was kind of a B to sew on my regular machine AND my serger, though the serger was a zillion times better.

If I had a choice, I would make the bodice a little bit smaller. Not an uncommon complaint from me for McCall's patterns (I always cut the smallest size). By the way, AB has learned that when I push the self-timer button on my camera, that it's time to walk over to the wall and pose. Sooooo yeah, she's going to be in all these photos. Ten seconds isn't long enough for me to get her out of the way AND pose.

I'm 5'4" and the skirt was originally way too long. I checked the finished measurements and thought I would be good, but I guess I was wrong! This is a photo before hemming.

I took off a good 3 inches. This time around I did it the wrong way, by cutting straight off the hem. Next time, I'll remove it from the lengthen/shorten lines so that I can keep the wide cut of the hem.

I definitely do think there will be a next time with this pattern. I might stay away from the maxi length until I decide if it's going to drive me crazy. Summer=shedding pets which means maxi skirt=Swiffer.

Oh! I cut the bodice with the stripes on an angle. Definitely breaks up the stripes and gives your eyes a direction to follow. I also liked the detail of the elastic in the shoulders, it's cute and interesting.

Make sure you wear a cami with this dress. The crossover is loosely designed, it won't provide full coverage. You can tell that just from looking at the pattern envelope, I think. If you're looking for an easy maxi dress pattern, then snatch this up during the next $1 McCall's sale. It's well worth it!

Thrifty Thursday is here! If you're sewing for the fall already, then check out the Annabelle Jacket at Peek-A-Boo Pattern Shop, on sale for only $4 today! Trust me, anyone can make a coat using these patterns, I made the Olivia & Oliver Pea Coat with only a few months sewing experience!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Project Runway: predictions!

It's a guilty pleasure for me to stalk the new Project Runway contestants before the show airs. I mean, I know it's not stalking, Lifetime puts up all the info, but still. I especially like the Q&A sections. For some reason, I want to know what the contestants watch on TV as well as what fabrics they like.

I've looked through all the contestants and I've picked out the arbitrary highlights, in case you don't have an hour to pore through the bios like I did #Ihavenolife. (All photos from Lifetime, here.)

Alexander--He says his biggest fear about designing is always needing to learn more. I share this fear! He likes Charlotte Bronte but doesn't want to design for normal people.

Alexandria--Wishes she could design boxers for David Beckham. By far the best answer to "what celebrity would you design for?" of any of the contestants!

Angela--She likes to plan and collaborate. Sounds like a time-sucking strategy, I don't think she'll get too far in the competition.

Brandon--Said he could win PR if all the other designers are blind or quit. Ha!

Dom--Her biggest fear is waiting for bobbin thread to run out. This made me laugh out loud...who doesn't understand that terrible feeling??

Helen--She seems like she might have too much 'tude to stick around for long.

Jeremy--Okay, I'm sticking my neck out here...Jeremy is my predicted winner. He is confident and has experience in the real world with both women's and menswear. I can't tell from his Q&A answers whether or not he's OVER confident...we'll see!

Justin--He likes Chuck Palahniuk. He's deaf so he designs very visually. Should be interesting, much like Anthony Ryan being color-blind made his point of view unique.

Kahindo--The only designer who picked Andriod over an iPhone. And she likes Twilight. Nothing in common with me.

Karen--Looks like she has a nice personality, but her resume isn't as good as others.

Ken--Didn't elaborate much about himself. However, he likes Titanic and that's a winner in my book (for's a better movie than people will admit!).

Miranda--She spent 8 years in the military so is probably disciplined. We have lots of stuff in common, but our styles are pretty different. We could hang.

Sandro--He's a possible dark horse, he has lots of experience but likes time-consuming handwork.

Sue--She doesn't watch PR. Auf wiedersehen.

Timothy--Some of his answers were weird, but I LOVED what he said when asked what is a "fashion must" for him: "You have to be careful about how you approach this phrase, because on the surface it is an oxymoron. Fashion is generally a luxury. We do not need luxury. Therefore, fashion is not a must. But where fashion is needed is for our individual self-esteem. It is needed for temperature regulation. It can tell a story about your personality. The fashion must is to be sure that your clothing says what you need it to say about you."

What's your prediction? I'm sure I'll be wrong...the one you think will win usually doesn't!

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