Thursday, January 29, 2015

Woolly Oslo Cardigan

What do you do with a fabric that you can't press, pin, wash, or mark? That frays, gobbles up stitches, stretches in ways you don't want, and creates glitter once cut? Oh, and it's striped. If you're me, I guess you make an Oslo cardigan!


You know how Mood has a Deal of the Day fabric, something at the crazy price of 50% off? (If you didn't know, I apologize now, as you're about to spend more $$ there than you've planned.) I previously bought one of those half-off fabrics (pink stretch silk charmeuse!) and loved it, so when I saw this wool blend knit I had to have it.

It's wool, acrylic, and lurex. It was listed as a knit that doesn't stretch. I didn't even bother trying to press it because of the acrylic and lurex. The weave is SO open that pins fell out. The cut edges frayed and the lurex disintegrated and left sparkles all over my sewing room (and me). I also didn't wash it, probably a first for me. It's hands-down the craziest fabric I've ever sewn.

All of that said, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with it. I couldn't wait to sew this up in an Oslo cardigan, one of the December patterns from Seamwork magazine. After a mere 5 months, pregnancy sewing is boring me to tears, but I knew that a cardigan would be useful now and for years to come. Seamwork provided an excellent article about sewing with sweater knits, and that gave me the confidence to plow ahead with this beast (you can read the articles for free, it's $6/month to subscribe and receive the patterns).

I'm not entirely sure how I feel about the completed garment. The fabric was a real challenge (in a good way, I learned a lot) and I don't know if it works well with the pattern. It's a bit stiff and I think it makes the cardigan look enormous on me (I made a small). Normally I'd give you my measurements for comparison, but they change every day, ha!

It looks particularly...fluffy...from the side. You can't even tell that I'm pregnant in the above photo. Ooo, but if you look closely, you can see my stripe-matching on the side seams!

I'm not crazy about this color ON ME. I love it, but I think silver and white kind of wash me out. I styled this with the brightest maternity shirt I could find (a modified Renfrew, blogged here) to help bring some color into the picture, but still all I can see is OLD MAN SWEATER.

I omitted the buttons (for now, I might sew some on next winter) but here is how it would look if the cardigan closed:

The pattern is very well drafted and the instructions are excellent. Good thing too, because every stitch completely disappeared into the weave. If I had made a mistake I would not have been able to rip it out. I was even able to sew the sleeves in flat without issue. The seam allowance is only 3/8" so choose your size wisely. I did a LOT of test sewing to figure out the best stitch for construction. I ended up following the guidelines in the Seamwork article, a zig-zag stitch with a length of 2.0 and a width of 1.5. Yes, you read that right, I assembled the whole thing on my sewing machine even though it's a "knit". All the seam allowances were finished on my serger.

I sewed the hem by hand after serging the raw edge. With white thread you can't see the stitches at all, so I didn't have to be particularly careful with it.

Next time, I'll add some length to the sleeves. It's probably a personal preference but I'd like them longer than the above. The shoulders are dropped and it made it hard to know exactly how long they'd end up. I'm also not sure my cuffs are done correctly.

Again, I think it's an issue with my fabric, but the cuffs are crazy big compared to the sleeve and looked stupid before I cuffed them. I turned them down and tacked them just over the seam. If I could unroll them maybe the length wouldn't be an issue, but like I said they looked bizarre since there wasn't the right stretch.

Above, on the left, the cardigan with the collar unrolled. On the right, folded down.

I don't know...your thoughts? Do I need a size x-small? Is the back too wide? The fabric not right? Too long on me? Some combination of those things? It's such a pretty garment, I hate to stick it into the closet, and I'm not going to fault the pattern if the fabric was the problem. With a standard knit this would be a quick sew and could keep you cozy all winter!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Two Year Blogiversary!

Woohoo! Happy Blogiversary to me! Two years ago I started blogging about my then-newish sewing life and projects. I've worked hard to grow a blog of which I'm proud, and it's such a fulfilling way to share my garments with the world.

My most popular post in the last year was this Plantain Tee Hack. That was a fun one! I like that top a LOT but it ended up a bit tight across the bust, and I don't wear it as much as I should. It's funny how hesitant I was initially about the Plantain, as I LOVE that pattern now.

In the last year I did a lot of fun things with my book, which I never would have published without this blog. I released the kid's version, appeared in Threads magazine (!!!) and partnered with the Coletterie/Wardrobe Architect project on a free download.

In May, I redesigned the blog with new artwork from my talented friend Janelle at re:find joy. After all these months I still love the work she did and my cleaner, pretty blog design.

I sewed a lot more indie patterns in the last year, which was a goal of mine. Click the tag "indie pattern project" in the sidebar to see the full list.

Looking ahead, I've got a TON of stuff planned with my book (check back tomorrow!) and I'm looking forward to sewing more wovens once I'm not pregnant. I have no idea how my blog and sewing will be impacted with a second little one, so I might sew up some summery items well before s/he arrives. I'd love to continue working on my photography so my photos are as pretty as my me-mades :)

A BIG thank you to everyone who reads regularly, and to those who comment. This blog means a lot to me and it wouldn't be possible without you!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Project Runway All Stars recap

I assume people watch QVC, right? So this week's episode was relevant? If you are one of the people who watch QVC please comment and tell me. Is it just a fancier version of AS SEEN ON TV?

Highlights: At first I was glad to see some RTW ideas, since those are more accessible to us lowly home viewers. And then nobody did true RTW and it sucked.

Lowlights: Am I the only one getting sick of Helen's excuses? "I'm not a _____ designer" seems to be her line every week. If you only want to design wedding dresses that cost 5K then you should have stayed home. Maybe the reason you're doing client meetings in your kitchen is because you haven't diversified enough.

Hey, ringing the closing bell is a big deal. In case you didn't get that. It's not like it happens every day. Oh wait...

I would have liked more information about the QVC client. I was pretty confused about what they were looking for, and it would have been nice to see a dossier on the other items in the line they mentioned. In the past, production cost has always come up in a "business" challenge, but they never talked about that. Hey Fabio, I doubt QVC is going to dye fabric for your RTW garment.

Best garment: To be honest, the only garment I liked this week was the top that Jay ended up ditching. I wanted to like Dmitry's, but once Helen mentioned Street Fighter that was all I could see!

Worst garment: I was really excited by Jay's sketches, but I feel like the garments themselves didn't pan out. Fabio was disappointing again, Sonjia's yellow dress hurt my eyes, her RTW garment was only interesting because of the fabric, and Michelle did use too much print, no matter what she thinks.

Of the five designers left, I'm not sure who I would choose to see a collection. I think Dmitry, Michelle, Nobody? What about you?

Next week: MARCHESA!!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The One with all the TMI

My husband and I have been watching a lot of Friends lately (thanks Netflix!) hence the title of this post. Why so much TMI you ask? Because I made my first bra!

Well, y'know, not my FIRST bra, as in, training bra. You know what I mean. And I'm sorry these photos are lame, but I don't have a dress form. You'll notice that I had to tape the crap out of these to get any recognizable shape. I did NOT have the best time with the elastic application (more on that later).

The WAVES on this...oh my eyes!

The pattern for the bra is the Anna Crossover Bralette from Ohhh Lulu. The undies were made using the free pattern from So, Zo and this has become a TNT for me. The ones I've made using this pattern are my favorites in my whole top drawer.

Wanna hear something crazy? I actually made a muslin of the bra! The pattern is designed for a C cup, but Sarah has provided an excellent tutorial on her blog for both a small bust adjustment and a full bust adjustment. Right before I got pregnant (because of course) I did some extensive bra shopping and ended up being most comfortable in a 32D. Specifically, this one from Calvin Klein (I bought a few in different colors). I went ahead and muslined the pattern as-is, but I realized I did need an FBA. Sarah's tutorial made it very easy.

The original pattern piece is on top, the adjusted piece on bottom.

If you know anything about being pregnant, you know that your boobs change size every day. I prefer my Calvin Klein bras for leave-the-house kind of support, but looking ahead I knew I'd need some new bras for nursing. I still have the ones I used for my first child, but I'm also sick and tired of them. Nursing is a beautiful thing, but being restricted to the same few bras for years is not.

The Anna Crossover will be perfect for nursing, since it...crosses over (duh). Until the little one is here, it's a great bra for wearing around the house. I know people hate on underwires, but I'm thinking that some bloggers have yet to experience the havoc that pregnancy can bring to your chesticles :) Underwires trump gravity, mmmkay?

Back sewn closed

I did make a few changes to the pattern besides the FBA. Rather than include a back clasp and regular bra straps with sliders, I sewed the back closed and used straps made from fold-over elastic (I folded it together and sewed it closed). I also did not have pretty elastic for the bottom band, so you can see above my sad regular 1/2" elastic from Wawak.

With these adjustments it only goes on by stretching it over my head, which is fine, and more comfortable.

Something about a matching set feel so grown up, am I right? I ran out of the brown FOE, hence the orange elastic in the waistline. It looks kind of dumb, kind of okay. Meh.

Now, about the elastic. I previously wrote a post about using fold-over elastic to finish edges. Knowing the right way to do it (stretch the elastic, not the fabric) and actually being able to do it are two different things. Even if I thought I wasn't stretching the fabric, my presser foot went ahead and did it for me. Boo. I should have followed my own advice and used glue to baste the FOE before sewing. I wised up by the time I got to the underwear and as you can see, it's nowhere near as stretched out.

In general, I hate sewing knits on my regular machine, but that's the only way to sew FOE. I think I need to experiment more with the size of my zig-zag stitch. A wide stitch seemed to work better. If I had the ability to lessen my presser foot pressure, I would have done that. Lastly, tissue paper between the feed dogs and the garment helped. After making this set, I made another pair of underwear with an extremely lightweight knit and ruffle elastic. I glue-basted the entire thing and it went MUCH better. And look how pretty!

There is one thing I want to mention about the Ohhh Lulu pattern. The back band pattern piece did not line up properly with the side of the cup piece. The pattern only has three seemed kind of odd that two did not go together correctly.

That said, the directions were sufficient, even for a novice bra sewist. If you don't follow Sarah on Instagram DO IT! She makes/sells the most beautiful lingerie. I have some stretch lace that I want to use for my next Anna Crossover, and one of these days I'll order proper notions. Sewing underthings can be scary, but seriously, what else are you going to do with those 1/4 yard leftovers you've got hanging out in your stash?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

What I'm Reading: The Sewing Machine Attachment Handbook

This post contains affiliate links.

Once upon a time, I had a dream to sew jeans. I bought denim, rivets, and patterns. But one thing was missing: a sewing machine that could handle the task. These shorts that I made last summer showed me the limits of my primary machine (a Brother cs6000i UPDATE 2022, I now use a Brother Project Runway machine), and I started drooling over vintage machines on ebay. Once I started looking, it didn't take long for one to find its way to my door.

This Singer 15-91 is from 1951 (easy to remember, right?). As it stands, it's simple to use. It only sews a straight stitch, after all. But this box of attachments that came with it?

They might as well be trinkets from a lost civilization on Mars. 

Singer 15-91

Shortly after receiving this box of mystery, I discovered the book I'm reviewing today, The Sewing Machine Attachment Handbook. I reserved it at my library only to be told that it was missing. Whomp whomp. Miraculously, after a few months the book was found! And thank goodness, because there is a wealth of information about vintage presser feet, and about vintage machines in general.

vintage Singer

I highly recommend this book if you have a vintage machine and a box of unidentified doodads. I have the original manual for my machine, but full-color photos are far superior to the line drawings in the manual. The author, Charlene Phillips, does an excellent job explaining how to attach each foot, how to use it, and even a variety of practical ideas.

Using this book, I was able to identify all the feet that came with my machine (yes, they were named in the ebay listing, but that didn't help me know what they were when they arrived!).



foot hemmer
Hemming foot

Adjustable hemming foot

Edge stitcher (also for joining lace)

Gathering foot

Adjustable zipper foot


This story ends, sadly, without much use of my vintage machine. Just after receiving it, I got pregnant and jeans went out the window. I elected not to make a coat this winter and I've been sewing mostly knits with my serger. But armed with the knowledge of how all these feet work, I can't wait to sew more with this beauty. Y'know, whenever I find my waist again!

UPDATE for 2022: Since the original post, I have used my vintage machine on many projects, usually on jeans. Click here to see blog search results for "vintage machine". Happy reading!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Project Runway All Stars recap

Wait a minute. Ariel was inspired by Alyssa Milano? That was so weird how awkwardly she mentioned it, but it made me love her forever. The Little Mermaid was and is my favorite Disney movie of all time. Of course, now I won't be able to watch it without thinking of Alyssa Milano...

Highlights: Everybody was being nice to Justin, which was sweet.

Zanna's hot pink lace button-up with white jeans? DIE! This summer when I'm a mother of two can I wear that? No? Sad face.

Lowlights: So, up to this point, did the two former winners (Dmitry and Michelle) not win a challenge? Odd.

I was disappointed by every sketch. Nobody's sketch looked like crazytown, which is what I expect from avant garde.

Best garment: Most of these were disappointing. The only one I could say I liked was Jay's. It was interesting and chiffon+vinyl is something I hadn't seen before. Dmitry, well, Fabio was right.

Worst garment: Helen. You bombed with ruffles before. Did you forget about that? She's a one-way monkey, as Dmitry would say. She took the most simple shape (a shift dress) and added ruffles. Blah. Judges, you're crazy, and you have short memories.

Michelle's was a hot mess, but her girl's makeup was cool. What is it with Justin, he either makes a short-short skirt, or some longish granny skirt.

Am I the only one who thinks that Justin's personality takes him further than his work? Which is fine, there's more than one way to "get ahead" in this world. But during his season, his nice-ness landed him at Fashion Week, which didn't feel particularly fair. I'm not that interested in seeing another collection from him, so I don't mind his elimination.

Next week: Um, business? IDK, that promo was confusing.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Mood board of the Month: Baby It's Cold Outside!

Feeling a little ho hum about your sewing lately? Having trouble making outfits from your individual pieces? I'm here to help! Welcome to my new monthly series: Mood board of the Month! Each month I'll be rounding up a few silhouettes for you, selecting a color palette, and matching up sewing patterns and fabrics. Not feeling particularly inspired by your current queue? Don't worry, I've got a capsule collection just ready to go!

capsule sewing collection

To create these looks, check out the Closet Case Files Ginger Jeans. Pair them with the Perri Pullover from CaliFayeCollection and the Scarves and Cowl pattern from Make It Perfect. But of course you need fabric, right? How about this teal sweater knit for the pullover, and the cowl in this unique grey double knit, both from Hart's Fabrics? For the Ginger Jeans, try this Marc Jacobs stretch denim from Mood. The wintery jumpsuit (McCall's 7099) would be perfect in black wool jersey, also from Mood.

This post is not sponsored by any pattern designer or fabric seller. I wish. I just have too much time on my hands and love planning wardrobes! Check out my Mood Board of the Month Pinterest board for all the links to my inspiration.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

How I Organize my Sewing with Evernote, part 2

It's a new year, time to get organized! Last week I briefly reviewed the app Evernote and how I use it to store information about my fabric and pattern stashes. This week, I'll be going over my "check-in" system for staying on top of the new arrivals into my sewing room. Stay tuned until the end, because I need your help!

As I mentioned, I have one notebook for fabric and one notebook for patterns. Each notebook contains one note for each pattern or piece of fabric. Making a note for the patterns is simple, I open a new note and snap a few pictures of the envelope. Then I file the patterns in storage boxes. Until I've entered a note in Evernote, I do not file the patterns. They sit around on my sewing table being a nuisance until I log them. Side note: this only applies to hard copy patterns. PDFs are stored in my Dropbox and not in Evernote (let me know if you're interested in a post about Dropbox).

The fabric is more complicated, but again, having a system that I repeat every time works. When I order fabric online, I always take a screenshot of the fabric on the website.

On my iPad, I take a screenshot by clicking the home button and on/off button at the same time. It takes a photo of my screen and automatically saves it in my photos. Generally, this one screenshot will contain most of the information I end up putting into Evernote. If you think you're going to remember all this info by the time the fabric're probably wrong :) I also recommend taking a screenshot before you complete your order, in case you've bought the last of it and the website's listing disappears (ask me how I know). 

Just like with patterns, I do not shelve/store my fabric until I've logged it in Evernote. Until then, it resides in a large cardboard box or on my sewing table, and just generally annoys me because it's not in the "right" place. That way I'm motivated to log it quickly. If I purchased the fabric in person, I keep the receipt with it until it's time to log it. I always keep my invoices from online orders.

The "holding zone" for fabric: a giant Wawak box.

First, I unfold the fabric and check it for flaws. Most online retailers will accept returns on flawed items, but only within a certain time frame. Check your fabric as soon as you can upon arrival to avoid heartbreak. Next, I measure the fabric to make sure it's at least as much as I ordered. I have been shorted before and I actually received the wrong fabric once. On the flip side, a lot of places cut generously, and I want to note how much fabric I actually have rather than what I ordered.

A large cutting mat makes measuring yardage a breeze.

After entering the size of the fabric into Evernote, I consult my screenshot (conveniently right there on my iPad) and/or receipts to fill in the rest of the info. I take a photo of the fabric and include that in the note. Finally, I roll it up and shove it onto one of my overflowing shelves of fabric. Unlike a lot of people, I don't prewash immediately. I like to wait until I have a lot of fabrics of similar content and color and then wash those together. Kind of like grouping sewing projects by color so you can save time changing thread.

I mentioned last week that one of the reasons I use Evernote is because I like to take a photo of my fabric, rather than cutting a swatch. I LOVE Evernote, but storing 200+ photos of fabric on my iPad takes up a lot of memory. In an effort to cut down on photo storage, I'm considering developing a physical swatch book. I like the system I have now, but if I keep purchasing fabric at the same pace soon I'll need an iPad just for Evernote! This is where I need your help. 

There are plenty of free options on the Internet for filing swatches. None of these have ever appealed to me because I need to print a zillion and cut them out and this is already too much work just thinking about it. Personally, I would get more use out of one book with all my swatches. I created A Sewist's Notebook to fill a need that *I* had, and somewhere along the way decided that maybe other people would like it, too. Is there any interest in a swatch book? What information would you record in such a book? Help me help you! I'd love to get some feedback on this topic before I barrel ahead and develop a book. If you have a minute, please comment with your thoughts. Pressed for time? Check out the poll in my sidebar. 

Do you have a "check-in" system for fabric? Or are you more loosey-goosey with your organization?

Monday, January 12, 2015

Project Runway All Stars recap

Yay, Project Runway is back! I certainly appreciated some creativity and inspiration to distract me from this bitterly cold weather we're having. I think it's been a week since I left my house #SAHMlife

Highlights: Bathing suits! Having faced that particular fear myself I was anxious to see how "real" designers would handle it. The not-so-shocking truth: they're human too. I laughed when Michelle mentioned fold-over elastic, as I had been thinking to myself "I wonder if they know to use FOE" and apparently she was the only one who did.

Lowlights: The first ten minutes of this episode were ridiculously stupid. From the staged USA Today to the pool boys to the underwater was dumb. I felt my brain cells dying.

I kind of forgot that Georgina was on this show, which is a crime.

Best garment: I liked Jay's dress and Michelle's swimsuit. She really transformed that "Charlie Brown" fabric. I love a good jumpsuit but I agreed with Isaac that there was something going on with the sides of Samantha's. Did it have wings or something? I give Justin props for making the only thing that could be worn down to the pool and wouldn't require a full stripping routine.

Worst garment: Um, all of the swimsuits can be purchased right now from Victoria's Secret. Originality in swimwear is HARD. They were poorly made (with the exception of Michelle's). No, they weren't at Emilio's level of string-and-washers, but I swear some were just cut raw and left unfinished. Barf.

I think Samantha's time was up a while ago, so no surprise seeing her eliminated. But will someone give Dmitry a win already?!

Next week: avant garde!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Wool Knit Tunic

A while back I posted my plans for a mini-maternity wardrobe, some sewing to keep me occupied over the next few months.

One item on the list was a green wool knit dress, McCall's 6612 which is labeled as "suitable for maternity" likely because of the ruching in the side seams.

I've had this pretty emerald green wool knit (from Fabric Mart) for a while and decided it was high time to use it. Green is not a color I wear a lot, but when FM had some great deals on wool knit, I couldn't resist.

I made a size 12, which is at least one size larger than I would normally make. I think you can tell by looking that it's a little big, but c'mon, I'm growing a human inside me, surely I'll grow into this tunic soon! Might be time to stock up on half pound Reese cups.

I posted on Instagram probably a month ago that I was making this pattern, and one commenter suggested I lengthen the front facing, that as-drafted it cuts across the boobs and makes a weird line. I took that advice and extended the facing 2" (the wrinkly tissue part along the top).

If you go to the trouble to extend the facing you could even sew elastic to the bottom and create some lightweight support across the chest. I simply serged the raw edge before catching it in the side seams.

I also stitched elastic directly into the side seams rather than create a casing with the seam allowances, which is what the pattern recommended.

When I cut out I wasn't entirely sure about the length, so I cut the dress version, View B. I got mostly done and showed my husband, and he wisely suggested that it was the most boring dress of all time. He was right! He gave me some tough-love advice that I make a lot of simple garments and that I might want to up the ante. Partly it's just my style, give me a loose t-shirt over a button-up any day. But that doesn't mean I can't think through my projects and inject some ~designer details~ into them.

After our conversation, I decided to add contrast cuffs to the sleeves, to shorten the length to a tunic (so it's close to View A but that's not how it started), and to add some elastic to the back to gather it there. Even though I had removed a standard amount from the CB for my narrow shoulders (maybe 1/2"?) the back was still loose and sagging. The elastic cinched it in and also provides a nice detail.

The back isn't perfect (I could have moved the casing up higher but I kind of winged it) but it's much better than it was. There's still some pooling there but at least it's not all falling over my butt, which is what it WAS doing! Barf.

Close-up of back casing

This is about the easiest pattern around, with only three pieces. It was a perfect post-holidays sew to get me out of a funk and moving again. It probably won't have much of a life beyond maternity wear, but I'm okay with that. I like the cowl neck and how the shoulders are finished. The instructions call for a 5/8" single-fold hem on the back neckline, but I managed to double-fold it without issue and it turned out well.

Interior shoulder seam and back neckline

How do you handle feedback from loved ones? A few years ago I would have bit my husband's head off, but I've learned that he's usually right. If he's bothering to give me thoughtful advice, I should listen!

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