Sunday, October 11, 2015

High-Low Hem Lane Raglan: PASS

I've been toying with the idea of an asymmetrical hem for a while now. Wouldn't it be nice to have a slightly higher hem in the front without having to tuck in just the front of my shirt? (Which makes me feel ridiculous. Though not as silly as tucking in just one side.)

But how much to raise the hem in front and lower it in back? I looked to the Hey June Lane Raglan pattern hacks blog post for guidance, then decided on a more rounded look for my back hem. 

Husband/Photographer: Are you sure you want a photo of the back? It's pretty wrinkly.
Me: [Sighs] Yeah. Go for it.
The hem, if you can find it amid the wrinkles, is just the right length and shape. The rest just hammers home that I need a sway back adjustment. 

I also cannot understand what's making my necklines gape. (Maybe not having done a FBA, full bust adjustment, is part of the problem? Or maybe I've got a rounded back?) I tried a new technique, gathering it slightly with elastic thread, but that turned out lumpy. Here's what I came up with instead.

My coworkers say this tuck looks like a design element. That is now my official story.

Intentional design elements included shortening the sleeves and using narrow sleeve and hem bands (same width as at the neckline). I thought this gave a more dressy look to what is essentially a double-knit polyester sweatshirt. There wasn't nearly enough fabric to match plaids, so I didn't even try to come close. I took in the side seams a bit at the waist (after the fact) to give the shirt more shape.

Overall I'm happy with the result, but know that I need to suck it up and make some pattern adjustments next time. Then maybe I can spend more time sewing shirts instead of fiddling with each one after the fact to try to make it fit!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Chartreuse Parsleys: PASS

We've gone through a lot of Made by Rae Parsley Pants in our household. My son loves the style better than anything else and will wear them down until they're threadbare cutoffs. Even then, it's hard for him to let go. Of course, it's easier if he has a bright new pair.

And these are bright! My kid chooses the wildest color combinations and the results are fabulous. I only wish I had the time to Scotchguard these before he wore them to an outdoor party last night. They're not filthy, but are definitely a bit grubby around the knees.

I traced a size 9 based on his height and outseam, then made adjustments to fit his skinnier build. I slashed my traced pattern along the tuxedo stripe line, then overlapped it to reduce the width to that of the size 8. (You can do this right on top of the assembled pattern pieces, which is why it pays to trace instead of cut out your pattern.) I cut the back elastic one inch shorter for a snugger waist fit.

These came together quickly, which was good because I was sewing to a deadline. I used Rae's super seams blog post instructions for finishing the crotch (fold down and stitch) and inseam (flat fell seam). Sewing faster than usual led to some shabby looking stitching. Fortunately, I don't think anyone will notice because of the color combination.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Fehr Trade Swimsuit: PASS

After two years of getting used to the idea of sewing my own bathing suit, I finally dove in with this sporty two-piece.

Melissa at Fehr Trade has been inspiring me for years with her sewing skills, workout pattern line, and all-around coolness. (She runs marathons, has researched exercise fabric sources worldwide, and sews in a secret room behind a bookcase on her London houseboat. Yeah, kind of amazing.)

I had the XYT Workout Top and Duathlon Shorts patterns in my stash, waiting for new workout clothes to take top priority. Inspiration struck when I saw these Duathlon swim shorts and this low-cut XYT maxi dress.

The shorts came together swimmingly. The pattern instructions are very well organized and easy to follow. Just like my inspiration pair, the side panels are shortened by 6 cm, with front and back pieces gathered to fit. I underlined my fashion fabric with swimsuit lining for modesty.

Experienced sewers, can you spot my mistake?

Underlining (basting lining fabric and outside fabric together and then sewing them as one piece) instead of lining (sewing two garments, one from lining and one from outside fabric, then attaching them together) was a painful mistake. Look at these gnarly crotch seams. Fortunately, bathing suits grow a bit when they're wet and so this is only uncomfortable before I hit the water.

Like my XYT maxi dress inspiration, I lowered the neckline of the swim top by 1.5 inches and used one layer of power mesh in the bra. Unlike the dress, there are no bra cups. Attempting to insert them was a disaster. The cups I purchased in the notions aisle were stiff, the wrong shape, and too small. The cups I cut out of an old bra were better, but I couldn't insert them properly. No matter how carefully I positioned them with pins, they were in the wrong place when I sewed them in.

Once I axed the cups, things went more smoothly. The techniques section of the pattern instructions are particularly helpful and Melissa provides instructions on her site for making a FBA (full bust adjustment) on the bra pattern piece. Instead of lining my fashion fabric with swimsuit lining, I used another layer of mesh. Though I didn't need high-impact support, I did need more stiffness in the straps than just spandex gave me. The top holds me up comfortably all day. There are annoying folds near the neckline, perhaps because my fashion fabric isn't stretching at the same rate as the mesh. But then, if anyone is looking that closely at my chest they're probably not examining the neckline finish of my bathing suit.

The result is...pretty good. Not enough to win any awards, but enough to wear, earning it a PASS. Next time I make the swim shorts, I'll sew the waistband a bit tighter. They're fine in smooth waters, but they almost slipped off in Lake Michigan waves. I'll also use a solid or muted print so the gathers aren't obscured. And line instead of underline (DUH).

I doubt I'll make an XYT swimsuit top again, but will certainly be sewing an XYT workout top and perhaps a maxi dress (if I can figure out those damn bra cups).

Now I'm off for one last summer swim!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Prefontaine Shorts: PASS

I sew mostly work clothes, so my off-duty wardrobe is often lacking. Case in point: having only one pair of shorts. (Those cutoffs are too hot to wear on sweltering days, no matter how short I roll them.) Last year I purchased the Made with Moxie Prefontaine Shorts pattern so I could make a more lightweight pair.

And here they are, 12 months later, my second pair of shorts! The delay has nothing to do with the pattern itself, which is very well explained and easy to sew. I particularly liked being walked through the process of making and applying knit binding (cut from t-shirts or jersey fabric).

The only thing that stumped me was choosing a size. Prefontaine Shorts sizes are based on finished garment measurements. This allows you to choose a size based on the fabric you're using and how you prefer your shorts to fit. The standard advice is to use the size closest to your hip measurement. But I had questions. Would a mere 1/2 inch be enough ease? Would I need to alter the crotch? Would the 5-inch inseam look dowdy? Would the low waistband give me muffin top? Following Sara of Sew Sweetness's lead, I made a quick muslin to find out. 

SO GLAD I DID. I dropped the crotch seam by an inch. After that, the shorts fit just right. The ease was perfect and the inseam, now just three inches, looked fine. The sport elastic feels like a dream and doesn't bind, even with a slightly lower rise than called for in the pattern. (I used 1.5 inch sport elastic instead of the 1.25 inch elastic that's called for.) I goofed and cut two back pocket slits before I realized I should have cut just one. But, hey, more pockets! 

These are made from a yard of lightweight quilting cotton from a friend. The binding is a lightweight jersey from a pile of fabric I bought during my last trip to the discount fabric outlet. Next time I'd use a heavier jersey to give the hems more weight.

I finished these up just in time for our end-of-summer camping trip to Sleeping Bear Dunes. They were perfect for hiking, biking, and lounging on the beach. And did I mention all the pockets? Love them!

If it weren't the last hot week of the year, I'd be tempted to make a more cleanly styled, or dressy looking looking pair. Better put it on my calendar for early next summer.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Tumbling Block Coasters: PASS

Do you ever see a tutorial or pattern and are immediately struck with an urgent and insistent need to make it? Even if you don't really need the final result? Purl Soho's simply lovely tumbling block coasters were it for me. They take a traditional quilt block pattern and give it a modern look. And they're made from 100% wool felt, a material I was eager to try.

Too bad we don't use coasters.

But desire is a sneaky thing. It knows I love weddings and gift giving and that, oh look, here is a wedding on the calendar for August. I hit up Etsy for some wool felt scraps and started scheming.

The original pattern calls for each coaster to be a single diamond, which can be arranged to form a tumbling block trivet. But I wanted smaller diamonds that would form a coaster-sized tumbling block. After puzzling over math and Adobe for an embarrassingly long time, my illustrator husband intervened. "It's just a hexagon," he said. Followed by, "This is gonna blow your mind!" Within seconds he had produced a template. (Which you can download here. You're welcome!)

Tell you what, wool felt ain't cheap. Even when you use 3mm instead of the 5mm called for by Purl Soho. I traced the diamond pattern tightly to use every inch of that stuff.

I sewed a practice set using thin polyester felt I had on hand. No way was I going to screw up my felted gold wool. I love the color combo on these.

With careful cutting, these come together very easily. (I was able to trim off the occasional wonky corner that didn't match up.) When I was finished, I wrapped them up with a delicious bottle of gin and headed to the wedding.

Will the coasters get any use? Maybe, maybe not. But they go well with gin and the new glassware the happy couple received from their registry, so I'm counting this a success!

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Tania Culottes: PASS

Hooray, my Tania Culottes are finally finished! I've taken them for a three-week test run before posting them the blog. Because I'm thorough. The fact I've been reading Y the Last Man is purely coincidental. 

There is plenty of good advice to be found about this pattern, which was released in 2013. Warnings about how short these run abound. I cut a size small based on my measurements, but extended to the XL hem line. Even so, these are juuuust barely long enough to wear to my casual workplace. And there have been some near Marilyn moments when the breeze picks up...

What's lovely about these culottes is that they are impossible to tell apart from a full skirt. That is, until I can sit down on the ground cross-legged without flashing anyone. So happy for that.

I made these up from estate sale mystery yardage. I suspect it's polyester, perhaps intended for thin curtains. The drape is lovely, but the hand doesn't quite feel like other apparel fabric I've used and it wrinkles like crazy. Still, it's very pleasantly swishy to wear and the busy print distracts from the need for pressing at the end of the day.

If I make these again, I'll compare the crotch line to my jeans so I can get a better fit. It's a bit snug. Also, I'll take better care when installing the zipper. Mine looks pretty shabby. Fortunately, I usually wear a shirt over top. Specifically, this navy Renfrew. Maybe I need to make up one in coral? I'll get right on that. Right after I finish those last two volumes of Y the Last Man...

Sunday, June 14, 2015

First Edition Morocco Pants: PASS

When Celina of petit à petit and family put a call out for pattern testers for her Morocco Tuxedo Pant & Shorts, I couldn't resist. (Even though it was right before a long-distance vacation and I still hadn't made a successful pair of underwear, let alone the cute pair of Tania culottes I imagined wearing on our trip.)

Have you ever helped test a pattern? I had no idea what to expect and enjoyed both the actual testing and observing the way it was organized. Celina used an online survey to collect the measurements of the children we were sewing for and our sewing preferences. (There are so many variations included in the pattern!) Then she assigned each of us a size and view to sew and set up a private Facebook group for our discussion and to distribute the pattern. As we worked, we asked Celina for clarification on pattern instructions, discussed the construction process, provided each other with suggestions and support, recorded pattern errors, and uploaded photos of our progress. It was exciting to work on a project with all these avid sewers I had never met. Meeting the deadline was challenging, but it was rewarding to be work with others toward a common goal.

Though I love the pattern design and the color scheme my son chose, it took some last minute alterations to make these pants a useable garment. My kid's hips are two sizes smaller than his inseam calls for. Celina recommended making the size that matched his hips, leaving out the rear darts to make the waist larger and adding length in the legs by slashing and spreading at the knee. Though my son likes to wear his pants low, these are about two inches too low. The waist was also seriously gapping. (Made me wish I had taken the option to add button elastic to the back waistband.) And though I loved the look of the legs, my kid said these were way too long. (Celina has redrafted the waistband for the final pattern, but I will probably sew a larger size next time.)

Side view before alterations.
I couldn't raise the waist at this point, but I could address the gap. I pinched out a massive dart in the center back and sewed it shut. (No, I didn't remove the waistband first. That is the kind of detail I wasn't ready to commit to right before vacation. :) ) It was so sad to cut off the hem facing I had so painstakingly constructed. I didn't reattach it, deciding to fold up a simple hem instead.

I would have loved to use a hook and eye closure, but my son really wanted a button. Here's a shot before we added it. Maybe it's better with a button, so as to direct attention away from my wobbly waistband.

Let me tell you, participating in the pattern testing process has given me an even greater respect for designers. There are so many details to attend to! And technical writing is no joke. How one person explains a process may or may not make sense to another. And did you know there are several ways in English to describe cutting a mirror image (or reverse, opposite, flipped, etc.) of a pattern piece? Linguistically fascinating, but what a headache to sort out. Mad props to Celina and all those pattern designers out there. You've got brains of steel. (Is that a thing? Let's make it a thing!)

Morocco pants in action.
But back to the pants. My son loves the finished product. And now that the pattern has been updated for the release (and on sale for 20% off right now!), he calls his version "first edition." He thinks we might be able to sell them for a high price, à la Pokémon cards. I told him probably not, but that I was glad he had a pair of pants to wear on our vacation that wasn't threadbare.