Tuesday, March 31, 2015

What I'm Reading: BurdaStyle Wardrobe Essentials

Ah, the great and mysterious world of BurdaStyle. A while back I treated myself to a 3 month subscription to the magazine, and enjoyed it immensely. Of course, I haven't made a single garment from any of those issues, despite the fact that I pin BurdaStyle patterns all. the. time. Perhaps I should have joined the Burda Challenge? Anyway, I wondered if I would be more inclined to try a pattern from the recent BurdaStyle book, Wardrobe Essentials.

I was surprised to find that my local library had a copy, considering it just came out late last year. However, there was a long line of people waiting for it and it was a few months before it became my turn to check it out. I think it was worth the wait, and probably the fact that I had to return the book pushed me into actually tracing out a pattern.

This is the only BurdaStyle book I've read, but I can highly recommend it as an introduction to someone who knows nothing about Burda. You know how you can flip through the magazine and be totally confused about how the patterns work? How you'll find yourself wishing that there was more detail? This book gives all that detail that seems to be missing from the magazine. It's also spiral bound and lays flat for easy reading.

There are pages on measuring and size charts, how the pattern sheets work, and thorough instructions for each pattern. It's kind of what you wish the magazine would be. I hesitate to say that the claim on the front cover is accurate (21 looks) because some looks just have a second variation. Most (all?) of the patterns seem to be from previous magazines and not anything new for this book. For example, I KNOW I've had this blouse pinned for a while:

But pinning it and sewing it up are two different things! Just keep in mind, if you decide to pick up this book, that there is nothing particularly new about it. It's not necessarily a bad thing, especially if you've had your eye on one of the patterns. Ultimately, I ended up only tracing off one, this draped-front wrap top:

It's also one I saved a long time ago. I think it will work perfectly for nursing and can be an all-season top if I shorten the sleeves. Plus, it was only three pattern pieces! One benefit I can see to obtaining the book over using the magazine or online versions is that the book includes seam allowances. I don't know about you, but saving me one big annoying step is a huge plus. At 33 weeks pregnant I can barely put my shoes on, let alone stand over a table and add seam allowance to a pattern.

Have you tried one of the BurdaStyle books? Do you prefer a book or a magazine?

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Throwback Thursday: Butterick 5211

Today I'm looking back at an old make that has come back into my wardrobe rotation, for one simple reason: baby bump!

Wow I look skinny...I miss my waist.
But I'll keep my mommy arms.

Take a look back at my previous post about Butterick 5211, a simple knit boatneck dress. I'm not crazy about orange, so it fell out of the mix when I made it two years ago. But it is the ultimate in preggo comfort and I can't stop wearing it! If there are any expectant mommies out there, add this pattern to your list.

This is why I never throw out me-mades...has this ever happened to you? Do you abandon a garment only to come back to it years later?

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Is it pool weather yet?

It's not quite time to hit the pool yet in Indiana, but I can tell it's coming soon! I've got swimsuits on the brain, thanks to a few random sunny, window-open kind of days. I know what you're thinking: Beth, you're 32 weeks pregnant, doesn't that throw a wrench into your spring and summer swim plans? Or maybe you're remembering last year when I made a Bombshell swimsuit and ranted about it.

I have answers to both of those questions that nobody asked. In case the opportunity arises for swimming before my due date, I'm currently testing the Bahama Mama swimsuit from Peek-a-Boo Pattern Shop. The non-maternity version is out now (tankini and boyshorts sold separately so you can mix and match as Amy adds more swim patterns) and after testing there will be a maternity add-on pack. I have to tell you, this suit is coming along amazingly, and with a surprisingly low amount of curse words. Much easier than the Bombshell. I can't wait to show it off!

Most of the public pools around here won't open until Labor Day, or after my due date. Last summer AB and I could frequently be found poolside in a nearby state park, while my husband mountain biked. I'm dying to get back to the peace and quiet of the 2 foot toddler pool, sun shining, nothing but trees all around...happy sigh! Even if you add a newborn to this scene, I'm still looking forward to it. And part of the fun is having a zillion swimsuits to wear!

I picked up this vintage swimsuit pattern on ebay a few weeks back. I LOVE the cut on the leg, and also the back.

The little keyhole in the front is pretty adorable as well. I'm a little hesitant to work on a vintage swimsuit, but the directions are very thorough. And then of course there's this beauty, recently released from Named Patterns, the Beverly Twisted Bikini:

I haven't purchased the pattern yet, as I'm having a hard time getting past the price tag for a single-view PDF. But again, I love the cut, especially of the bottoms. Anything that gives plenty of booty coverage (without being high-waisted) makes me happy, and the unique top would be so fun. Not to mention nursing-friendly, though I doubt that feature was what they were going for!

When it comes to fabric, I'm hoarding two special pieces. One I've had since last year, from The Fabric Fairy.

The colors are so vibrant and interesting in person! The Fabric Fairy has the BEST swim fabrics, I seriously want them all. This one has potential for the vintage pattern, since it's a one piece it can show off the print. The other fabric I purchased recently from Mood:

Yes, friends, this is a neon pink stretch nylon lace. Commence swooning. I have some neon pink lining in the mail to me, but I'm dying to make this in to some sort of paneled suit so I can play with lined/unlined sections. Kinda like this suit from Nordstrom's that I found via Pinterest.

Am I the only one with swimsuits on the brain? I'm not going so far as to say that they're easy to sew, but they are fulfilling and MUCH cheaper than buying RTW. Any other patterns I should check out?

Thursday, March 19, 2015

TNT Pattern Hacking: Aber-frew

Isn't it funny how as soon as you have a TNT pattern, you can't wait to start hacking it up and changing it into something else? Or is that just me??

I honestly didn't intend to make another Aberdeen top right away, but then I wore my grey one three times last week. It seems that I'm I'll-prepared for the combination of warmer weather and my third trimester (my first child was born in the month of February). Honestly, nothing is fitting well or even the same as my last pregnancy, so I figured if I had a winner I should make another one. But I tweaked it to see if I could work out some of the issues with the neckline. I mashed the Aberdeen with the Sewaholic Renfrew, and now I present, the Aberfrew!

I started with the Seamwork Aberdeen, size XS, same as my previous. I again added 3 1/2" to the length, which flared the side seams as well. Because I had so much trouble with the sharp V-neck as-drafted, I traced the shape of the V-neck Renfrew onto my Aberdeen. Then I used the neckband pattern piece and construction method from the Renfrew, cutting two (instead of one on the fold) and extending the length since the neckline is much longer.

The green line is the Renfrew neckline. The pink line is the neckline from my previous version, where I had dropped the point 1". You can see that the Renfrew is more scooped and less severe. It's also considerably lower. I had some concerns about being able to pull the grey top down for nursing so I went even lower this time. Maybe too low? Thoughts?

The second adaptation from the Renfrew is sleeve cuffs. 

If you're working with a slinky or lightweight knit, hemming can be a pain. A cuff is a great way to hem a sleeve as long as you have enough fabric. These cuffs are cut slightly smaller than the armhole opening and were stretched to fit.

I'm still in love with the back of this.

I'm not 100% happy with this hack because my neckline ended up very wide. The Renfrew is drafted with a 5/8" seam allowance, so I sewed on the neckband that way, rather than the 3/8" for which the Aberdeen is drafted. I think I need to use the smaller seam allowance going forward, to help keep the top from dropping off my shoulders. Maybe I'm only annoyed by it because my house was kind of chilly the day I took these photos...on a warm day I might be fine.

It's just bothersome enough that I will probably add a tie to the back, or perhaps bra strap carriers inside. This fabric is heavier than my previous version, so the weight might also be part of the problem. Or maybe I just should have worn a black bra.

The fabric is a rayon/spandex knit from Girl Charlee that I've had forever. I rarely wear brown (or glasses, FYI) and I bought a yard of this just to use for accents on other projects. It's been collecting dust until now but it was perfect for another Aberdeen. I'm SO excited that I can get one of these tops out of one yard of fabric!

Now, since I've been harping on this for a week, about the V-neck. I am MUCH happier with the Renfrew version. I think I only basted it in once or twice instead of six or seven times. You can see a tiny bit of pulling/wrinkles at CF but only if you're looking for them. Even with the updated directions that Seamwork sent out, the very drastic V was just too hard for me to sew. This isn't a couture gown, it's a t-shirt. It's meant to be fast and easy. I'm now happy to say that it is. I opted not to topstitch around the V. I had plans to do some cool reverse coverstitching but it looked stupid, so I tore it out.

I must say, mashing two TNTs is fun! With a few small tweaks my Aberfrew will be its own TNT. So should I make 30 more of these to get me through the last 9 weeks of my pregnancy?

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

V-neck Tutorial Round-up

Last week I vented my frustration with sewing a V-neck tshirt, and vowed to find a better/easier way to do it. I think a V-neck is feminine and flattering and I would hate to remove it from my repertoire just because it's hard. I decided to scour the internet and my favorite books and find the very best tutorials for sewing a V-neck.

First of all, there are quite a few different ways/looks that you can achieve and still technically be a V-neck. Facings, lapped neckbands, continuous neckbands, and mitered neckbands are the ones I came across during my search. Take a look at the following photos and links and choose the one that works best for you!


Lapped Neckbands

Continuous Neckbands

  • How to Sew a V-neck t-shirt by Seamwork Magazine
  • Not a tutorial, but there are great directions in the instructions for the V-neck view of the Sewaholic Renfrew pattern.

Mitered Neckbands

This technique works better with a more gentle curve to the neckline, you can even try it with a scoop neck pattern.

In addition to these links, there are a bunch of videos on YouTube if that will work better for you. After doing this a few times I would highly recommend staystitching the V of the shirt, reinforcing the V with some scrap knit interfacing, and basting. Practice helps! And don't forget topstitching to help control unruly seam allowances.

Have you sewn a V-neck, or avoided it? What's your favorite method?

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Seamwork Aberdeen

***Update! I received an email from Seamwork with a revision to the Aberdeen pattern. The illustrations now match the photos given in the March issue. No more confusion! Hats off to Colette Patterns for making the change.

Hello there! Spring is on its way, and what better way to celebrate than with an easy dolman top? Kimono sleeves are one of my all-time favorites, mostly because I'm lazy and I prefer a relaxed fit. When I saw the March Seamwork included a pattern for a V-neck (!!!) dolman top I almost peed my pants. I'd like to say that's just an expression, but I AM pregnant so no guarantees.

This is the Aberdeen top. If you don't subscribe to Seamwork then I believe you do have the option of purchasing the pattern separately. The March issue came out on Sunday the 1st, and I had a muslin done THAT NIGHT, that's how excited I was! Yes, I printed the pdf, assembled it, cut it and fabric, and had a rough version sewn together all in that short amount of time.

The green and white chevron is the muslin, a size XS with no adjustments, unhemmed. I opted to leave off the "cuff" (the sleeve) just to save fabric. If I had gone by the sizing chart I would have fallen into a size S (or maybe even medium, my bust size is out of control). I stuck with XS and made a muslin because I have narrow shoulders, because I've made many kimono tops with too much ease that end up looking ridiculous, because I wanted to practice the V-neck, oh, and because I'm almost 7 months pregnant! I knew I'd need adjustments one way or another.

Wearing my navy Hudson pants,
a pregnant woman's dream.

I'm happy to say that the XS fit very well through the shoulders. There is a center-back seam so if you need to narrow it you can easily, but I didn't. The amount of ease is just right for my tastes, and to accommodate my bump all I did was add 3 1/2" at the legnthen/shorten lines. The amount I added was arbitrary and corresponded to how much fabric I had (a lightweight rayon knit from Fabric Depot that was only $4/y!).

I lowered the neckline by 1" and will probably lower it more in the future for nursing. I did not alter the shoulder, I just redrew the neckline (with a straight line) to a point 1" lower than the pattern. I added 1" into the neckband piece and that was plenty. The extra was cut off in the center back seam.

I love the V in the back!

Originally I planned to gather the side seams for a more traditional maternity look, but I like how it looks without ruching. I will probably wear this a lot even when I'm not pregnant. The seams were sewn with my serger and the hems with my coverstitch. The V-neck was done on my sewing machine, so all three machines got in on the action.

My experience with Seamwork patterns is well-documented on this blog (Oslo, Manila) and so far it's been frustrating. Poor fit has been my biggest issue. Finally, I have a pattern that fits well, but unfortunately there are still some negatives about this pattern that I have to mention.

First, the pdf is enormous. It's 30 pages. Because I made the XS, that would have led to a lot of wasted paper. I meticulously went through the document and wrote down exactly which pages I would need for the XS. I hope I can save someone else the trouble by noting them here:

Page 1 (test page), 3-7, 9-10 (cuff, optional), 11-15, 17-18 (cuff, optional), 20-23, 27-30

Since I made the version without the cuff, my XS ended up being something like 17 pages instead of 30.

My second complaint is with the directions. Colette patterns have such a good reputation for their directions and I hate that the ones for the Aberdeen, a remarkably simple pattern, were bad. The general model for the magazine so far has been to teach a technique and then to apply it within that month's patterns. The V-neck is a tricky beast to sew, and I was looking forward to learning a better way. Unfortunately, neither the magazine article nor the pattern directions did anything other than confuse me.

The magazine article (read it for free here) shows a method that's completely different than the pattern. It uses photos of an actual garment, while the pattern uses illustrations. I am fairly certain there is an error in the illustrations regarding where raw edges are in the neckband and how it is sewn to the shirt. Regardless, there are no tips or tricks such as stay-stitching the V, or using a scrap piece of knit interfacing, two methods that I came up with on my own in a previous Renfrew. No clipping of the neckband or the shirt, which are both done on the Renfrew.

While we're talking about the Renfrew...I much prefer it in terms of the instructions and the drafting of the V-neck. The Aberdeen has a very sharp point compared to the gentle V of the Renfrew, and it was very difficult to sew. The Aberdeen is marketed as a 2 hour top, but you need probably 45 minutes just for sewing on the neckband using their method. I've done it twice now (the muslin and the grey top) and I will not be using their way again. Here are a few different methods covered on the Craftsy blog.

You can see that I have a bit of a bubble/gathering at my point and that I sewed across it. This is infinitely better than how it looked the first four times I tried it. The inside is a hot mess due to so much basting and rebasting.

It was a bit better on my muslin (sturdier fabric) but not much.

Do I like this top, will I be making more? Yes and yes. Do I feel like I got my money's worth (in a bad way)? Yes. A subscription to Seamwork is $6/month and generally includes two patterns. The Aberdeen feels like a $3 pattern. I expect more from Colette and am disappointed that I struggled so much. Could it just be me and my lack of practice? Perhaps. But I've been sewing nonstop for 3 years, mostly knits, and mostly t-shirts. It should not have been this hard.

Have you tried the Aberdeen yet? Did I scare you off? It's unusual to find a V-neck dolman top, so I think it's worth trying if you love a V-neck (I do). Am I alone in my experience?

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

How to Replace Elastic in Workhorse Diapers

Today I have a very unique and specific tutorial to share, one that's a bit outside of my normal garment-sewing focus. I'm writing it because I think it will be useful and because apparently there isn't one already on the internet! The tutorial is How to Replace Elastic in Workhorse Diapers.

Workhorse fitteds are 100% cotton diapers sold by the company Green Mountain Diapers. They're incredibly popular for their low price and excellent quality. I've bought a few used ones in preparation for baby #2, and one of them needed the elastic replaced. After Googling around, I couldn't find a tutorial, so I made up my own process and documented it in case anyone else needs help.

Above you see two workhorse diapers, both size small. On the left is a diaper in good condition, on the right is a diaper with worn out elastics in both the leg area and the back. You can see that even though they are both size small, the one with worn out elastic is much bigger and won't properly fit since the elastic is relaxed.

Relaxed elastic on right

Relaxed elastic in top of photo

The elastic in my diapers has been sewn inside the cotton layers with a straight stitch. From what I've read, there may be other production methods but this is how mine are sewn.

Since I cannot "get" to the elastic (it's not in a casing) I'm not entirely sure what kind was used. I decided to replace it with 1/4" polyester elastic that I had on hand (from Wawak). You will also need a bodkin or safety pin to thread the elastic, a seam ripper, small sharp scissors, and a sewing machine. The photos show the elastic being replaced in the back of the diaper, but the process is the same for replacing leg elastic.

First, I made two small snips in the fabric in order to insert new elastic. The snips are on the outside of the diaper, just below the original elastic, at both ends, and only in the first layer of fabric.

The above photo shows where I snipped a hole and how small it is (just big enough to insert 1/4" elastic). Make another snip on the other end. Next, locate the two lines of straight stitching that run perpendicular to the original elastic (in other words, from front to back instead of side to side). These two lines of straight stitching need to be cut in order to create a casing for the new elastic. Just below the stitching that holds the original elastic in place, use your seam ripper to cut one or two stitches.

At this point, you should be able to take your bodkin, or anything long and skinny, and push it through one of your snips until it comes out the other side. This is where you will insert the new elastic.

I measured a piece of elastic at 4 1/2". Again, this is the SMALL workhorse and it is the back elastic. Always cut extra so you can handle the elastic! I didn't know how much I needed and I ended up cutting off 1", so the finished elastic piece was 3 1/2".

Using the bodkin or a safety pin, thread the elastic through one hole and out the other. You will now need to tack down the elastic and deal with the holes you created in order to insert it, since the fabric will fray otherwise. I found the easiest way to do both of those things was to use a zig-zag stitch and go over the hole/elastic end all at once. Completely cover the hole so the fabric will not fray.

If you use matching thread you can hardly even tell. Next, pull the elastic at the other end until it gathers the fabric and tightens up the back of the diaper. I used my good condition workhorse to compare and eyeballed it until they looked similar. Once I had it stretched as far as I wanted, I secured the end with a safety pin.

Now I had my hands free to zig-zag on the second end of the new elastic and close up that hole.

This end doesn't look as pretty as the first because the elastic was under tension while sewing it down. You can snip off the end and sew over it again if desired. The final step is to sew the bottom of the new casing (the top is the old line of stitching).

Sew a line of straight stitching parallel to the old elastic stitching line, but beneath your new elastic. Do not catch the elastic in your stitching. Stretch the diaper as you go so that the fabric is flat. Make sure that you sew over the two perpendicular lines of stitching that you previously cut, this step will secure that those lines of stitching so they do not unravel.

Repaired diaper in top of photo

Then you're done! The only visual difference between the repaired diaper and the good condition diaper is the second row of stitching which created the casing. The work has all been done on the outside of the diaper, the part that does not touch baby. Ideally, the elastic would be in the middle of all the layers of cotton, but I didn't want to risk cutting through too many layers and making a hole straight through. Baby #2 will not be here for a few more months, so I haven't had a chance to test the durability of this repair, but I will update this post if it all falls apart :)

Questions? Please leave them in the comments and I will respond!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

A lot of little upcycles

What HAVE I been doing with myself lately? You may have noticed a lack of large projects on the blog. I seem to have finally lost all mojo to sew for myself in the last three months of my pregnancy (so. over. it.) and instead I've been directing my attention to tiny people clothing. And underwear.

My recently-turned-three year old is not that fond of wearing pants, so my go-to for days around the house is a simple pair of lounge/sweatpants. I've been waiting ages and ages for my favorite designer to release her Essential Sweats pattern (these are affiliate links, because I somehow have to recoup the large amount of money I've spent on Peek A Boo patterns!). I've had a stack of mine and my husband's old PJ pants just waiting to be upcycled for this pattern. Using the original hem and omitting the pockets makes this a ridiculously quick and easy sew. That is, once my muslin was done!

essential sweats
(Read on for more about the red soaker.)

I ended up with a size 2T waist and graded it out to a 4T length. She's recently potty trained so for the first time ever I didn't make any adjustments for cloth diapers. Once I knew that the muslin worked, I quickly sewed up two more pairs.

Excuse the pet hair!

With all three pairs I used the original elastic too! The hearts and footballs I painstakingly picked out the elastic, but with the solid black pair made use of the original waistband and drawstring (any interest in a tutorial? I took pictures but it's too long of an explanation for this post.)

After finishing up the pants, I muslined the Gloria Play/Party Dress. It's the perfect knit dress so if I can get the fit right it will be a great basic. Sadly, I'm still working it out. My daughter apparently has a giant head, small chest width, and long body. But I did make this adorable peplum version from a Target shirt of mine (so pretty and barely worn--not my color).

Moving on to baby #2 is the super-cute Tiny Tunic (free pattern, in size 3-6 months here) by iCandy Homemade. We don't know if we're having a boy or a girl, so this is one of the few things I've made. To be honest, we have SO many gender neutral clothes from baby #1 that it's completely unnecessary for me to make more. If we have another girl, she won't need clothing for at long time, if ever. I just wanted to try this pattern and see if it translated into gender neutral, or if the A-line shape was too girly. This would be a fun pattern for baby shower gifts.

I omitted the pocket and used the front of an old shirt of mine. I was totally stupid and cut two back pieces instead of a front and back, so it's very likely this shirt won't go over the head of my next giant headed baby. It's still cute though!

We'll be cloth diapering again for the new baby, and I still have some wool sweaters in my upcycle bag that I bought ages ago for repurposing. I used the free Katrina's soaker pattern to make this wool diaper cover. I purposefully felted the sweater (washed it on hot to shrink and compact the fibers) but it retained just enough stretch for a pull-on style cover. The placement of the gold (it looks like a pocket!) was accidental but is so adorable. This one is a size small. If you're looking for more tutorials on cloth diaper upcycles, check out my Baby-make this board on Pinterest.

And as I mentioned, underwear (for me)! Luckily my fit issues haven't affected that area so I can still use my TNT pattern from So, Zo... I got crazy one day and tried the double-fold binding attachment on my Brother 2340cv coverstitch machine (check my Instagram feed for some in-progress testing). I used leftover crochet lace and bound the legs with black jersey, since it's not vital that the legs use elastic. I did use some on the waistband. It's fold-over elastic but I sewed the entire piece directly to the outside and did not fold it over since the lace is so open. I coverstitched the elastic to the waistband and it was 8 million times better than zig-zagging on my regular machine.

The binding attachment worked...okay...but next time I'll use a knit with spandex. The cotton jersey bagged out over the course of a day. With the attachment you can't stretch the binding like you would elastic for a snug fit. The binder would be amazing for a woven fabric, but with a knit it's a lot more tricky. I'm still working it out.

I've also been adapting the So, Zo... pattern into a version with a fuller cut over the bum. I split the front into two short pieces (instead of one long piece) in order to make it easier to use scrap fabric, and so I could incorporate the burrito method of sewing the crotch/lining (in other words, no exposed seams). Anyone want more info on how to do that?

Normally I'm not the type of person to work on more than one project at a time, but I kind of like walking into my sewing room and having a choice about what to do. I've still got a stack of WIPs to keep me busy until I feel like making clothes for me again.

These projects range from more underwear, to cloth diaper repairs, to wool pants. Sewing all these tiny items is my version of nesting!

Have you ever worked on a bunch of small things at once? It's a bit chaotic but also very satisfying to get so much done!

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