Sewcialists Tribute Month – The Project!

Yay! I managed to fit in another project this month! I surprised the hell out of myself by knocking out one more thing this afternoon. To be fair it was more of an alteration, but I think it counts just the same.

Last month I posted my plan for the Sewcialist‘s tribute month. To summarize, I’m paying tribute to Mrs. Mole from Fit for a Queen by altering a much too small skirt to fit my current figure. Like, the skirt was 7-8 inches too small in the waist. Whoops!

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Success!!!!! This turned out to be a really simple and fun project.

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First I took the old waist band off very very carefully as the silk is so thin the seam ripper could easily slice right through. Then I folded the skirt in quarters and turned to my trusted copy of Patternmaking for Fashion Design to find out the waist radius for my current waist size. A quick snip to enlarge the waist and I was on my way.

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The next step was to insert a side zipper. The original dress had a front waistband that wrapped around the back and hooked, then a separate back waistband wrapped to the front and tied. There were 5 inch openings on each side to allowed room to pull the skirt on. I closed one of the side openings and enlarged the other to make room for a zipper. I used an invisible zip because that’s what I had on had, but a lapped zipper also would have worked well.

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I discarded the original front waistband that hooked because it was too short to reuse and stabilized with a material that would have been hard to find today. The back waistband/tie was gloriously long! I picked up some purple silk organza at The Fabric Store (the same outing as my previous LACMA excursion) and inserted a double wide length into the new waistband to stabilize the original silk. Lucky me, the silk pressed like a dream and the original 60 year old creases made sewing the new waistband to the skirt very very easy. It was shocking how nicely those creases agreed with the alteration process. I hand stitched the waistband down on the inside and now all the raw edges are completely inclosed.

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The only problem is figuring out where I can wear a hand-painted Mexican silk skirt with piggy banks. Church? Date night? Work? Back to School Night? It is totally fabulous and feels wonderful in this summer heat, but it is a lot of look if you know what I mean. And should I stick with the white blouse? I’m kind of tempted to whip up something in hot pink or teal instead. A simple Cashmerette Springfield might work without overwhelming the beauty of the skirt. Anyone want to throw out an opinion? In the meantime I’ll keep playing dress up and spinning around my yard.

 

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The Laneway Dress

Oh August, you really got the best of me. I had plans for at least two items this month, but it looks like I’ll only finish one. Thank goodness for deadline sewing? I thought I’d have more free time, but instead I got all wrapped up in back to school preparations for both home and work. I had no idea getting Lu though the first two weeks of kindergarten would be so exhausting for me!

My lone August project is The Laneway Dress from Jennifer Lauren Handmade. Back at the end of July, Jennifer put out a call for pattern reviewers. I don’t usually volunteer for such things, but I love her clean and classic vintage vibe. I also sympathized with her problem. Pattern testers are great for making sure your pattern is well drafted and error free, but test versions are not always great for promotional purposes. When looking to purchase a newly released pattern I always look for examples, but I don’t want to see tester versions. Test versions are not using the final product, the one I’m paying good money to purchase. It seems I’m not alone in my desire to see final versions of the pattern before making a purchase. A quick glance in Facebook groups, blogs, and Instagram will give you a sense of how well a pattern works in the hands of other home sewers, but that only works if those patterns get sew up right away.

I volunteered for a selfish reason too. Jennifer recently started including cup sizes up to D in her patterns and updated her drafting. I definitely wanted to see if the drafting changes would work in my favor! When The Laneway Dress came up for review I frantically emailed Jennifer from the terminal in LAX hoping I would be selected as a reviewer. Success!!!

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Oh the finished dress is so lovely, but it took a little work to get here. I started with a muslin in size 16D at the bust and 18 for the waist and hip. A couple problems were apparent from the beginning. 1) The shoulders were too wide. 2) I needed more room in the front waist and less room in the back waist. Both of these fit issues are really common for me.

Last time I did a really detailed muslin process I was just making it up using common sense, logic, and internet tutorials. This time I purchased a copy of the popular sewing book, “Fit for Real People“. What I learned is that a lot of my instincts were good.

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To address the too wide shoulders I put on the muslin bodice and drew in a line where I wanted the shoulders to hit. Turns out they were 1 inch too wide. With a new armscye  the whole bodice sat much better.

The sleeves miraculously fit pretty dang well right out of the envelope. I almost always need to do a bicep adjustment, but this time there was enough ease! The only alteration done to the sleeves was to increase the height of the sleeve cap to fit the new armscye. I have never had sleeves sew in so smoothly. Not a single pucker!

Next I altered the waistline to give me more tummy room. A lot of people make this adjustment at the side seams, but I prefer to alter the darts. I just made the legs of the darts .25 inches wider in the back and .25 inches narrower in the front. The circumference was perfect out of the envelope. I just needed it distributed in a different way. Thankfully I remembered to alter the skirt too by adding .5 inches to the front skirt piece. Technically I should have also removed .5 inches from the back skirt, but I always need extra booty room so I left the back skirt the same width and eased the extra skirt width in at the waist.

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After altering the shoulder width and darts there were just a couple tiny fixes to make. 1) I squared the shoulders and 1)  I did a slight sway back adjustment.

This probably sounds like a lot of adjustments, but in reality the only major adjustment was the shoulder width. Everything else was just drawing slightly different lines on the pattern pieces.

In full disclosure, Jennifer sent testers the pattern for free, but she asked for complete honesty, so I’m giving it here. Aside from the fit alterations things went really smoothly. The pattern was easy to download and I liked the way it was tiled so I  only printed the pages needed for the D cup dress. The biggest gripe I have about taping the pattern pieces is there is no grid of notches to help you match pieces. I found it easy enough to match things on the bodice, but with so much blank space the skirt was a bit more of a challenge. I hope in the future Jennifer will add some sort of feature to ensure better accuracy during the pattern taping process.

The construction was pretty straightforward. I’ve made a lot of dresses so I took a glance at the order and then took off without having to give them another glance. If you’ve made any other basic woven dress, you can make this one too.

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Stylistically I think it is a cute basic dress. I love the three different necklines and it would be easy to adapt another pattern to include this detail or use your sloper. That had been my original plan until Jennifer Lauren’s review announcement. I also really like how the pattern has open ended darts. It is super bust friendly because you don’t have to worry about the darts ending in exactly the correct place.

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And oh look at that fabric. I think it might be my favorite part. The print was purchased at The Fabric Store back when Jenny from Cashmerette came to LA for a visit. It is hard to tell in the picture, but the background color is a deep navy, my favorite neutral. I always find myself drawn to darker colors as fall approaches, but it is still rally damn hot here. This fabric is super light though and incredibly similar to a Liberty of London lawn.

My husband thought it was “a lot of print” before I added the contrast facing. The facing fabric also came from The Fabric Store, but was purchase specifically for the Laneway Dress. Lu and I took a side trip to look for fabric on our way to LACMA and after walking the whole store I just could not get this sheer stripe out of my head. The color matched perfectly, but I could not figure out how to interface such a sheer fabric. In the end I flatlined it to a piece of the main print and that method worked really well. Both fabrics are also cotton so laundering should be easy.

The finished dress fits pretty darn well. Is it perfect? Of course not! But I wore this dress all day to work and the ease and fit suited my lifestyle well. If I’d taken out all the ease and wrinkles the dress would have been too tight for carrying children, buckling car seats, and using a desktop computer all day. I also got multiple compliments on my Laneway and who doesn’t love compliments?!?! Now I’m thinking I should make another. Maybe with a different neck treatment?

 

 

Kinder Cardigan

There was a big transition for our family this week as our oldest daughter started kindergarten! Lu was just thrilled to go to elementary school and start learning big girl things. I really wanted to make her a first day of school outfit, but she is required to wear a uniform. Sure, I could have made her a blouse and skirt, but I have to admit uniform sewing is super boring. While I try to make a good chunk of the kids clothing, for uniforms I was happy to put in an order from Gap and use my limited summer sewing time for other projects.

This seems ridiculous since we live in Southern California, but I opted to knit Lu a first day of school sweater!

Gosh, she is so cute. Sure it was a high of 85F on Monday, but it was grey and cool-ish in the morning. She happily donned her new cardigan which looks quite nice with her new school shoes.

I’ve been trying to knit up some of the patterns in my library and yarn in my stash, so I shopped both to achieve a nice traditional sweater. This is the Wee Wildflower pattern from Alana Dakos. There is actually an adult version too, but I don’t think I’d ever knit it for myself. A little too twee. The yarn is Madelinetosh’s Twist Light in the color Care. Twist light is 75% wool and 25% nylon which is a good combination for a kids garment. Technically it is machine washable, but I’ll try to remember to wash it by hand. Care is a wonderful color that includes nearly every shade in the rainbow. It was a limited release color sold to benefit Doctors Without Borders. I took the time to alternate two skeins so there is very little pooling of the colors. Yay!

Choosing a size to knit was a bit tough. Lu has a 19 inch chest, but is average height for a 5 year old, so I ended up knitting the size 2 sweater with a size 6 for the length. It worked out pretty well everywhere except the sleeve caps. The sleeve caps as written have almost no height, just a lot of width. I added some extra height and it was still tough to fit the sleeves into the armcye. Lu also have very thin arms and the sleeves are tight. I cannot imagine shoving a 2 year old’s arms into such a small circumference. Could be my gauge was off, but still I found the sizing odd. The pattern also has no shaping for the shoulders in the back, so I added that too.

This finished sweater is pretty great and fits Lu well right now, but I don’t think this one is going to last long. I have a feeling Lu is going to shoot straight up this year with all the running and learning she’ll do. Just one day into the school year she’d figured out how to swing by herself and by Friday Lu was all atwitter over recycling, the solar eclipse, and science! “Mommy, I want to be a teacher when I grow up.”

Caftan Season

I’m about 3 years late on the caftan party. You’ve seen the memes and gifs and click bait articles on how to get your body ready for caftan season. I saw them too and giggled. I should have made a caftan in 2014! Three years ago I was pregnant in the summer and was so damn hot all the time, yet 2017 is the year a caftan entered my life.

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My biggest hesitation is that I’m not a fan of maxi dresses in general and I like shapeless dresses even less. But then Closet Case Patterns put out the Charlie Caftan pattern a few weeks ago and the sample sucked me in. It looked glamorous and had some shape to it. I bought it almost immediately and spent a hurried lunch break racing through Michael Levine’s finding the perfect fabric.

And then in took a week for the pattern to arrive and I was having second thoughts. A caftan? Really? Me?

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As you can see I went through with my plan. The fourth of July was so damn hot. It always is, but somehow year after year the heat is surprising in its intensity. I made the Charlie Caftan while sweating and swearing in our non-airconditioned kitchen in the days leading up to Independence Day. The swearing in my opinion was justified. Most of the pattern goes together sweet and easy, but the inset center panel made me want to light my caftan on fire. I was so mad. I figured out how to stitch it in correctly, but it felt like there should have been an easier way. Or at least a clearer way to word the directions.

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Because I don’t love it when strangers ask me if I’m pregnant, I lower the inset panel by 2 inches to my natural waistline. In hindsight, 1 inch would have been perfect, but that’s okay. One caftan is all my life requires. I didn’t make any other adjustments other than blending sizes starting with a 16 at the shoulders and a 20 at the hip. Based on the finished garment measurements this seemed necessary, but again it wasn’t in the end. The pattern said there are 5 inches of ease at the hips on the size 20, but it feels like more.

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The fabric I selected is Cloud 9’s Batiste in the Frolic collection. I loved the scale of the print. Tiny, but also sort of patriotic. One of the employees at Trader Joe’s complimented me on my subtle nod to the 4th of July holiday. The fabric really is light as air but a tad see through so I do need to wear a slip underneath. I picked up two more slips a few weeks ago so I was plenty prepared.

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In the end, caftans just aren’t my thing, but I am glad I experimented. In the last month I’ve worn it twice and it feels like a costume. I think I’ll hold onto my Charlie Caftan as a bathing suit cover up or my next trip to Palm Springs, but for my daily life…just not my thing. Though if my sister reads this…want one? Now that I know how to sew the damn inset panel I could make one again with less swearing.

Sewcialists Tribute Month – The Inspiration!

After going silent for a couple of years the Sewcialists are back and holding tribute months on their site. While I’ve been helping out a tiny bit behind the scenes I will not be a contributor this month. And that’s a good thing because we just returned from vacation this evening and I haven’t even started my project for Tribute Month. For August, sewing bloggers and Instragrammers will be picking another sewer as their inspiration and complete a project in tribute. However, having just returned to town and the summer heat I’m taking a slightly different path. Instead of sewing a project from scratch, my tribute project will be all about altering an existing garment.

Ever bought a garment only to find out it is a tad bit smaller than you’d expected? HAHA! Yeah. It happens to the best of us. Enter Mrs. Mole from Fit For a Queen. She writes a blunt, hilarious, and informative blog about her business altering bridal gowns and other garments. It is my very favorite blog because I learn from her techniques, but also have to laugh at all the poor decisions and delusional behavior some of her clients exhibit.

For Sewcialist’s Tribute month I dug back into the closet to find a too small garment to alter. I have about a dozen beautiful but tiny things tucked away that I cannot bear to give up to the donate pile. Some of them would take major re-working, but I don’t have time to tackle a big project. I ended up choosing this stunning 1950s Mexican handpainted silk skirt.

I have zero recollection where I acquired this purple pig adorned beauty, but it is in excellent shape. No holes, perfect stitching, and just one tiny rust stain that no one would ever notice except me.

Size 14 in the 1950s is not exactly the same as today’s size 14. That’s probably where my  problem began. I would guess I found this skirt either online or in a vintage shop, saw the size, and then assumed it would fit. Or maybe it did actually fit. Either way this sucker is best suited for Marilyn Monroe’s waistline over my current waist circumference. I need to add 7-8 inches.

So here is my plan.

  1. Remove the current waistband. Save the tie to refashion a new longer waistband. (Any tips on acquiring interfacing for vintage silk?)
  2. Recut the waist opening to fit my current waist. This will make the skirt shorter, but not by a lot, slightly above the knee
  3. Add a side zipper. This skirt has no closure currently.

I’m hoping the hem won’t need to be re-done since it is so perfect, but I can always re-access once steps 1-3 re completed.

What do you think? Am I ruining a precious item? Do you also find Mrs. Mole’s writing hilarious? Are you making a tribute project as well?

Easing into Motherhood

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Today I’m writing about something a little different, motherhood and sewing. I regularly read Seamstress Erin‘s blog. She has a fun and eclectic style that I admire even though it isn’t my style. This month Erin (along with Jodi from Sew Fearless and Monserratt from Mexican Pink) are hosting a celebration on motherhood, our bodies, and sewing called Easing into Motherhood. So I thought I’d write up my own story. I’m sure to many women parts of it will be so familiar as it seems like many mothers experience similar stories even if we many only hear about them through the magic of the internet.


Sewing came into my life a long time ago. I have few memories from the days before I picked up a needle and thread and started creating. I felt like as oddball child with my interest in girls lives from previous time periods both historical and fictional. My early sewing days were filled with making costumes such as a Victorian dress made with table clothes and something resembling a Southern belle.

As a young adult sewing continued to be a for fun activity. Even though my hips were a different size from my bust I could still shop for clothing in regular stores as long as I was careful to select dresses with gathered skirts or separates. I was also very scared that if I didn’t dress trendy enough I’d never find a boyfriend. Silly, but true.

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My pre-marriage sewing consisted of 1950s and 1960s dresses made with quilting cotton. I didn’t make a lot of dresses as I was super super broke. I also didn’t know anything about buying fabric aside from wandering the aisles of JoAnn’s and picking up things I liked. Some times my dresses turned out awesome, sometimes they did not. As long as I picked styles with full skirts I could cut a straight size and sometimes I would design my own styles. Everything was still purely for fun or for a specific purpose (like Halloween).

Then I had baby #1.

By the time I was pregnant with my first daughter I had discovered sewing blogs, local sewing stores, and started buying fabrics other than quilting cotton. I distinctly remember getting pregnant and searching the internet for vintage maternity dresses. I was SO SURE I was going to make all my maternity clothes. I’m sure you can see how this turned out…I made 2 elastic waisted skirts for work and that was it. Morning sickness was unrelenting for the first trimester, I lost a lot of weight, and then I spent the rest of my pregnancy sick from undiagnosed gallbladder issues.

I also spent my pregnancy dreaming of the perfect breastfeeding wardrobe I was going to create. I even commented on the (now discontinued) blog 3 Hours Past the Edge of the World. Here’s a screen shot of my comment. I’m laughing at how naive I was back then. Also, the comments section on that blog are absolutely filled with people I recognize today. Hilarious blast from the past.

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After having Lu I was hit with so many issues. I mostly got my waist back, but my breasts were huge so none of my pre-baby clothing fit right. I also continued to have gallbladder issues that lead to surgery at 3 months postpartum, issues with creating enough breast milk, a full time job, a baby who never slept more than 2 hours, and a husband who was working on the road when Lu was 6-12 months old. Somewhere in that first year I managed to fit in a sewing class on making your own custom sloper. I squeezed myself into my me-made pre-pregnancy clothes for sewing classes, but I can’t remember really sewing myself any everyday clothing to fit my new body. My husband bought me a fabulous new Janome and I retired the Brother my parents bought me as a teenager.

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I did manage to make multiple historical dresses. How crazy is that? I was too out of it to make myself a work dress, but I made a 1930s dress, a full bustle gown, and a few other things for when I volunteer at a local museum.

And while I wasn’t doing much sewing when Lu was a baby, I was doing a hell of a lot of knitting. In 2013 I knit 35 projects (14 accessories, 8 baby items, and 13 sweaters for myself). I knit while I breastfed, while I was pumping milk at work, while I was between tours at the museum, in line at the post office, when I was a passenger in the car, and basically anywhere and everywhere I could hold the needles. Sewing meant setting up my machine and finding my place in the project. Knitting could be picked up and put down at nearly any point in the process.

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I knit this while I was in labor!

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During pregnancy #2 I didn’t even bother trying to sew maternity clothing. I bought a few things and wore them on repeat. Instead of sewing clothing I took up quilting starting with a quilt for the new baby.

After Charlie was born sewing came back into my life full force. Only this time I wasn’t sewing for fun, I was sewing for a purpose. Two children had left me with a body that no longer fit well into any clothes I could buy. I stumbled through 10 months of breastfeeding with a combination of Cake’s Tiramisu pattern, and Sewaholic’s Yaletown dress. Wrap dresses were my jam. So practical for nursing and those endless pumping sessions.

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When Charlie weaned it was like my body was handed back to me. Knowing she was my last baby I could move forward making clothes I’d love to wear. Things with zippers and made from woven fabrics with no elastic. Magical. IMG_4311

Being a second time mom was also so very different. I was so much less anxious all the time. Charlie slept better than her older sister and my husband did less traveling. I started sewing most nights from 7-8:30pm and with 90 minutes per night plus nap times on the weekends I could actually dedicate my mind to figuring out fit issues. I started making muslins instead of diving straight into a project and it was so worth slowing down to have better fitting clothing.

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I actually use apparel fabrics and the results are far superior to quilting cotton (even if the prints aren’t as cute). At this point I only own one commercially made dress, a leftover from when I was still breastfeeding that still garners lots of compliments. But I think the biggest compliment is that people don’t even suspect my clothing is homemade. These years of blogging and working on my skills have lead to a wardrobe of custom fit clothing that makes me feel confident both as a woman and as a mother.

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Pajama Party

Last weekend temperatures went soaring into the triple digits, so naturally I spent a good chunk of it sitting on our non-airconditioned kitchen sewing new pajamas for me and the girls! Pajama party!

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First up are these matching doggie pajamas in super soft double gauze. I’m almost done sewing up all the fabric I purchased at Hart’s Fabrics back in May. This double gauze hadn’t been on my list, but Charlie started to get antsy so I let her pick out a fabric. She latched onto this Shiba Inu print. I thought it was corgis like my sister’s dogs but nope! Wrong dog breed.

Since it was the end of the bolt I bought it all instead of the 1 yard I’d planned. It was a good decision because I was able to just barely get 2 nightgowns from the yardage.

I was really torn on what style to make. I wanted something that could pull on rather than zip or button. Charlie is starting to get better at dressing herself and elastic helps the process along.

A quick glance through my patterns and I easily settled on Simplicity 2913, an It’s Sew Easy pattern that is now out of print. I’ve made the dress version before, but in order to save on fabric I used the top pattern and added a ruffle to the bottom. I could just squeak out both dresses by cutting out the original top pattern then accessing the remaining yardage and cutting it into strips for the bottom. Charlie got a narrower ruffle cut on the grain and Lu got a wider ruffle cut from the cross grain.

The pattern runs a tad bit on the large side since both gap in the back. I cut a 2 for Charlie and a 4 for Lu which is pretty in line with their measurements. I’m not fussed about it because they are kids and these are nightgowns. Most importantly the girls love these and have already worn them twice this week.


Next I turned to my own double gauze nightgown.

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It’s another version of the Fifi Pajama pattern only I’ve lengthened the top to make it a nightgown. I really like the top portion of the Fifi and even if it isn’t the most supportive thing ever it is lovely to wear to bed in the summer. I’ve followed the same sizing as my last version and I will say the double gauze is a little stiffer than rayon so I probably could have added a touch more coverage at the bust. Oh well!

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The fabric was also picked up in May at the Birch Fabrics store in Paso Robles. I try to stop in when we drive by because you never know what kind of sale you’ll find. This time I paid full price (boo!), but that’s okay. I tend to pay full price for things I really want instead of impulsing buying more fabric during a sale. Though now that I’ve worked with Birch’s double gauze I am tempted to pick up more for summer pjs.


And last up is another set of matching nightgowns for the girls.

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So silly! Of the two sets I made these simple but soft shifts were the clear favorite. I can’t blame them. The fabric is some butter yellow cotton jersey rib adorned with green pineapples. I got it in a KnitFix from Girl Charlee. I hated my experience with the Knit Fix. Really and truly hated most of the fabrics I received, but this particular fabric is perfect for nightgowns.

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Picking a pattern this time was easy and maybe even unnecessary due to the nature of rib knit. I found my copy of Made by Rae’s Flashback Skinny Tee to trace off the neckline and armscyes then cut a rough shape of a dress. Binding finished the neck and arm holes while the hem is left unfinished. Simple. Fast. Most importantly comfy and cool.

I might make a few more nightgowns in the coming weeks, but we’ll see. I want to make Lu some skater dresses, but she doesn’t need them. School starts one month from today and then she’ll be in uniforms all week. Charlie will be in uniforms as of September first so nightgowns make are logically the right thing to make. Which will win? Logic or my heart?