Friday, May 30, 2014

Me Made May '14: Week Five

Home stretch y'all! I struggled this week. The weather warmed up and all I wanted to do was wear tank tops and dresses, but I'd already worn all my me-made versions this month. I guess I know what I need to get busy sewing, huh?

As you can see, I totally fell off the wagon and wore pajamas once this week. I was NOT having a good day, trying to fit a new pair of Thurlows that had been going really well but went downhill quickly. I was coming to terms with the fact that I'd put on 15 pounds in the last six months and it was ugly. Hey, at least my pajamas were completely me-made!

Tomorrow is the last day of May, and spoiler alert I'll be wearing my Victoria Blazer. I'll be out of town all weekend at the Sewing and Quilting Expo, and then to my brother-in-law's graduation, so expect a complete MMM wrap-up sometime next week!

Day 24: blue knit top from...Kohl's?
Day 25: belt, thrifted
Day 26: shorts idea
Day 28: grey tank from Old Navy
Day 28: black tank from Wal-Mart
Day 29: black eyelet shorts, thrifted

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Pink! Ponte! Blazer!

All the titles I could come up with for this post were lame, but somehow lots of exclamation points seemed necessary. Why? Because this post contains all of my favorite things!

Pink, of course. A new pattern (By Hand London Victoria Blazer). Knits. A success story. And a new favorite thing, silk!

So let's get right to it shall we?

A pink ponte blazer has been weighing on my mind for quite some time. Pink is one of my colors for my spring/summer wardrobe, and I own exactly 0 blazers. I managed to find the perfect fabric and then mysteriously only ordered one yard. I tried Butterick 5926 which ended in a failure (in a BLAZE of glory you might say). It seemed like the project must be doomed. But I couldn't get it out of my head.

I searched for an easy blazer pattern, and I found it with the BHL Victoria. There is a thorough sewalong here, and I dare you to read it and not immediately order the pattern. If you can! It was on backorder...I got just about the last one in the States from Sweet Little Chickadee, who sent it in this lovely package:

A partial lining (the sleeves are unlined), a simple collar and separate lapels, an oversized fit, three-quarter length sleeves, and a clever dart; the pattern has all the things that will make sewing a blazer easy. And trust me, it was  as easy as it seems in the sewalong.

The fabric is a 100% cotton ponte (try finding THAT online!) from Mood. It's the perfect weight for a blazer. As I said, I accidentally ordered only one yard, but I managed to order another and make my blazer from two 1-yard cuts. The pattern is intended for wovens but ponte or another stable knit should work as well.

And just look at that lining! It's a stretch silk charmeuse, also from Mood, which was one of their 50% off daily sale fabrics a few weeks ago. I had been agonizing over what to use as a lining (another knit? a woven? no lining? what color?) and as soon as I saw this beauty on sale, I knew it was meant FOR ME!

The internet is surprisingly quiet about what to use as a lining when using a knit for a shell. Due to the oversized fit, the stretch factor wasn't terribly important, and I found that these two fabrics worked really well together. I had never sewn with silk before, and was VERY nervous, especially since it contained lycra. All I could hear was Dimitry from Project Runway saying that charmeuse was the hardest fabric to sew and all your mistakes will show. Well, one of my mistakes certainly shows, I accidentally clipped a damn HOLE in the lining near the armscythe. Cue copious weeping. Anyone know a good way to fix that?

I did prewash my silk using this method. When the silk was almost dry I tossed it in the dryer on low for a final fluff. I doubt I'll be washing this blazer but I wanted to be prepared. Also, I used pins in my silk and not just in the seam allowances. As I said on Instagram, I hope the sewing police don't come to get me.

I found sewing the pocket bags to be the most difficult. Two pieces of charmeuse on a curve? No fun. I had to use tissue paper to stabilize the area while sewing. But they look cool peeking out of the side seams.

I have a lot of tips for sewing this up, enough that I thought it warranted a separate post. So stay tuned for that!

Action shot: "hey AB come here!"

Now for my only negative comment on this pattern. The lapels and collar flap around. A lot. Here's a photo:

You can see that the lapels are twisting and pulling the blazer open. It's a complaint I found in other reviews, and the instructions recommend that you tack them down. I tried that, but it was hard to sew and wasn't working and looked stupid anyway. I decided that flapping lapels were going to drive me batty and that it would be better to topstitch everything down.

You may not have this problem if you work with a thinner fabric. The ponte is fairly thick, and the seam allowances in this area are bulky, which caused the lapels to roll a bit. After topstitching, my fabric looked a bit stretched out, I'm not sure if you can see it in these photos or not but it's something to consider. Do what makes sense for your fabric.

I made the smallest size in the envelope and it's pretty loose on me, although the sleeves fit well. The pattern is easily the most expensive one I've ever bought, but with 3 views I think it will be worth it. I particularly like Sally's cropped one, and a sleeveless version would be fun as well. Next time I might try to curve the side seams for a little more definition/shape. I imagine you could also add fisheye darts to the back for the same reason.

I finished this blazer just in time for the 90 degree weather to hit our area, but I'm taking it with me this weekend to the Original Sewing and Quilt Expo anyway. This time of year, you have to go from extreme heat to extreme air conditioning pretty constantly, so it helps to always have a cardigan or jacket around. Wish me luck at my first sewing convention and I'll be back next week with all the details!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

What I'm Reading: Couture Sewing Techniques

Last day to save 25% on A Sewist's Notebook! Use code MEMORIAL25 during checkout. Offer valid in the US only.

I used to think I was too busy for couture. Toddler in the house! No time! Must sew quickly! But aren't all projects, even long ones, made up of short bits strung together? After months of Amazon suggesting that I read Claire Shaeffer's famous book, I finally grabbed Couture Sewing Techniques at the library and gave it a try.

This is the revised edition, which contains different photographs than the first as some were no longer available. I imagine that whichever edition you read, you'll come away from this book completely overwhelmed, inspired, and bursting with new ideas. This book is dense. By the time I got to the end, my brain was saturated with hand stitches, seam finishes and hems of all kinds.

The first half of the book focuses on technique (hand stitches, shaping fabric, closures). The second half shows how to apply these techniques to specific garment types, like skirts or pants. Throughout the book are scattered tips from Claire Shaeffer, sidebars on random topics, and photos of couture garments.

You could easily spend a week looking at the photos alone. I'm tempted to find a copy of the previous edition just to see more! The garments in this book have some truly astounding detail, innovation, and quality.

Honestly, there is a LOT more to say about this book than I can report here. I'll keep it simple: if you're a beginner, you'll probably be very overwhelmed. If you're an intermediate sewist, you'll be challenged (in a good way). If you're advanced, you've probably already learned the value of couture techniques and will find this to be a great reference.

The biggest lesson I learned was this: I DO have time for couture techniques. If there are women in Paris waiting six weeks for a muslin that's being sewn by hand, then I think I can be bothered to hand-sew a hem every now and again. Why not pick and choose the best of both worlds? 

Friday, May 23, 2014

Me Made May '14: Week Four

One more week to go! MMM hasn't been particularly tough for me, the hardest part has been wearing something different every day. I guess I have my favorites! But it's a good thing to get all my lovely handmade goodies out in the daylight. So what did I wear this week?

Perfect Slouchy Tank, S1879 shorts // Coastal Breeze dress (unblogged) // Plantain tee hack // infinity dress (unblogged)

Wow, it looks like I wore "complete" me-made outfits 4 times this week! Did you notice that my super-fail New Look pants slipped in there? I did yard work that morning and just threw them on to run to the grocery store. My husband begged me not to wear them...and he wasn't even going with me! I have actually made some changes to them so they're less awful, I'll get around to blogging it sometime! Along with my Renfrew, and my second Coastal Breeze, and maybe that infinity dress...I've got a bit of a backlog right now! Honestly, I made the infinity dress a LONG time ago and I hate it. Far too fiddly.

Day 18: brown cardi from...I have no idea
Day 19: jeans from The Limited
Day 21: black eyelet shorts, thrifted (they're from Old Navy)

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The shorts have a secret...

It was really hard to sit down and write this post, because I feel like gushing all over the place!

Tank top blogged here.

Here I am sporting a new pair of shorts (Simplicity 1879). What's so special about them? Oh no big deal, just that they were MADE BY MY HUSBAND!

(artist's rendition)

He said I could blog about this as long as I don't include his photo, so I have provided this fantastic drawing instead. Just picture someone tall, buff and handsome and you'll be fine. Anyway, few weeks ago, out of the blue, my hubby said to me, "I want you to teach me how to sew".



That was the pause while I evaluated my hearing, sanity, and whether or not I was in the Matrix.


But it was real, and I taught him, and he made these shorts. Well, I helped, but a good 75-80% was done by him alone, someone who hadn't used a sewing machine since 8th grade (although he WAS home ec student of the year). My husband has the advantage of being good at everything (it's maddening!), so I can't say I'm surprised at how quickly he learned. He even used the serger! Sorry ladies, he's taken.

I did some of the tricky bits like the darts and the waistband. But he did the zipper, most of the seams, the hem, etc. He even corrected a fit issue for me when I realized I had some horizontal lines on the front of the shorts (apparently my butt is bigger than it was last year when I made this pattern). There are still a few lines but the fit is much better than earlier. Seriously, having someone else to evaluate fit on you is SUCH a big help!

Yes, I'm sucking in my stomach!

What was nice about this project is that I had already made it once, so I had a finished example to show my husband when questions came up. The pattern is pretty simple, yet it has more challenges than, say, a pillowcase. I also already had it cut out, so we skipped that boring stuff. Yes, it's important to be able to decipher a pattern and learn cutting techniques, but it's not exactly riveting.

The fabric we used is the leftover cotton/ramie denim from these terrible no good very bad pants. I didn't quite have enough for both facings, so I had to use some scrap chambray on the back facing.

Inside view.

We also inserted an invisible zipper instead of a lapped one. Since my previous pair of these shorts from last year were...uh...snug...I went with 1/2" seam allowances instead of 5/8". Apparently you HAVE to have a 5/8" SA in order to do a lapped zipper. Now you know.

Front pleats.

We had our share of seam ripping, a jammed machine, and even a broken needle. The shorts are hemmed instead of cuffed, because just like last time I couldn't figure out the cuff directions. But unlike last time, I had a buddy to read them and tell me that they really didn't make any sense. I'm not crazy! (Errr...about this, anyway.)

I felt kind of crappy when we were done with the shorts and they were basically useless to him. He's already expressed an interest in making a t-shirt, so if there's a next time it will definitely be a garment HE can wear.

If any beginning sewists happen to be reading this post, I hope you'll be encouraged! A little guidance and determination go a long way. And to anyone who has become very jealous upon reading this braggy post...well, that was kind of the point : P

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Fabric Indecision--Help Me!

Most of the time I have no problem seeing a fabric, and knowing just what it should be. But sometimes I do get stumped. I need advice!

I recently bought this beautiful polyester knit from Mood (more here). It's opaque, medium-weight, and slinky like a poly jersey. Here's a photo of the fabric draped over me, for scale:

This fabric nicely fits my spring/summer color palette (pinks and blues) yet has interest to it due to the print. I only ordered a yard because I knew if I got more, I'd want to make a dress. Yet I rarely WEAR polyester knit dresses. A top? That's a different story.

So help me decide! A Renfrew (or is that too much FLORAL)? A tank top (perhaps too boring)? Maybe a tunic, like this:

What is this fabric saying to you?

Friday, May 16, 2014

Me Made May '14: Week Three

Last week I spent an inordinate amount of time on my round-up collage (thanks for nothing rectangle-shaped photographs). It was just as much of a pain today. Making collages is worse than taking photographs and wearing me-mades! Who knew.

This week was all over the place! It was nice and warm at the beginning of the week, and it's been cold and rainy the last few days. You can see I was even wearing leggings under jeans one day. I've noticed a big hole in my me-made wardrobe, and that's with warm tops. I repeated the black long-sleeved refashioned sweater from last week just to survive! I typically layer up because I hate bulky sweaters, but it feels like cheating to wear RTW cardigans and pants with one tiny me-made t-shirt. Anyway, let's hope that this fall I remember this problem and sew up my own cardigans and lightweight sweaters!

Day 10: jeans from The Limited
Day 11: tank from Old Navy
Day 12: capri leggings and belt, both thrifted
Day 13: white skort, thrifted (it's thrifting when you take something from a lost and found, right?) originally from Old Navy
Day 14: skinny jeans from Old Navy
Day 15: jeans from The Limited

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Draped Maxi Skirt

Hey! I draped something!

I don't have a dressform, so I've always assumed that draping isn't something I can do. That's probably true for dresses, but apparently I can drape a skirt, because I did!

I've had this skirt planned for over a year. I saw the fabric on Emma One Sock in January of 2013, and placed my one and only order there right away. Linda carries GORGEOUS fabrics, but sadly they're usually out of my price range. Anyway, as soon as I saw the fabric online, it was screaming "hi-low skirt with elastic waistband and rolled hem!!!" at me. It was very vocal. I ordered 2.5" wide black elastic from Hart's Fabrics (no longer available, but similar here and here) for the waistband, and sat. All last summer. Tragic. The guilt finally caught up with me this month and I whipped up this little beauty in two days. What took me so long?!

As you can see, it's not a hi-low skirt, and that's because the reverse side isn't that pretty. Instead I went with a maxi skirt with a side slit. Ooo-la-la!

It was windy when I took these photos, which helped!

To drape the skirt, I basically just wrapped it around myself and pinned it. There is only one seam and that's the one above the slit.

This is my "AB, what are you doing over there?" face.

The fabric is a drapey rayon knit print. It's the perfect weight. It's light but also opaque, so I didn't need to line it.

I think I'm developing "mom arms". Toddlers are heavy!

The selvedge edges are used at the slit, so I didn't have to finish the edges. The print went all the way to the selvedge, so that strategy won't work with every fabric, but it did here!

This shot shows the print the best. I know, it's kind of crazy, but that's why it's paired with a basic black tank top.

The advantage of draping it myself is that I could end the slit in the exact place I wanted. Yay for sewing your own clothes!

Here you can see wide elastic waistband a bit better.

I gathered the top edge of the fabric on my serger before joining it to the elastic. If you've never tried gathering with your serger, then let me be the first to tell you that it is Turn up your differential feed all the way, disengage your knife, and ZOOM in two seconds the whole piece is gathered evenly.

The elastic was cut to fit my waist and then zig-zagged together. I simply butted the edges and widened my ZZ to catch both ends. This finish is much less bulky than overlapping.

Then I used my coverstitch machine to sew the gathered skirt to the elastic. If you look back at the close-up above, the right side of the elastic had horizontal parallel rows on it. The wide two-needle setup on my coverstitch perfectly fit in two of those rows, so the stitching is basically invisible on the outside. Above, you can see the inside, or the reverse side of the coverstitch. Since the coverstitch stretches, it's perfect for this kind of stretchy waistband/knit skirt combo. If you don't have a coverstitch, you could do the same thing with a zig-zag stitch.

Now for something not so pretty: the sewing on the slit. I slightly overlapped the fabric, pinned it, and then handsewed it closed. It was meant to be basting, but it was working well so I kept the long stitches, and went back over with shorter stitches.

In retrospect, this probably could have been done by machine, but I wasn't that sure how it would turn out so I did it by hand.

The skirt is finished with a rolled hem, sewn on my serger. I used Maxi-Lock Stretch Thread in the lower looper to help "fill in" the rolled hem, which is something I've read in many books and saw in my Craftsy class on serging. The only tricky bit was finding something to do with the thread tails, since the hem isn't a complete circle. I ended up handsewing them on the back.

Is there any interest in a tutorial for this skirt? I didn't take pictures as I was draping/pinning/sewing, but I could make another and do a tutorial if anyone wants to make their own! Let me know in the comments :)

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