Thursday, April 28, 2016

Baby Shower Bundle: PASS


Remember the wedding gift coasters? The happy couple is expecting a baby any minute next month! For their baby shower, I bundled up basic baby pants with some of my favorite books, toys, and baby items from when our emerging tween was just a little guy.

The pants, a free pattern from Made by Rae, are simple to sew and get lots of "oohs" and "ahs." The adorable prints are de-stash fabric from my friend and my mom. Both are lightweight quilting cottons that are soft to the touch. I used French seams to avoid scratchy seam allowances on the inside.


The drawstring bag idea came from the Village Haberdashery's Genuinely useful new baby makes with Zoe series of posts. I took Zoe's advice to heart, right down to applying a line of trimming. (Thanks, Zoe. Your design sense is brilliant!)

Now, I could have figured out the construction just from Zoe's photos. (Smart idea, cutting out one big rectangle and folding it over so you don't have to match up the trim on two pieces. Wish I had done that.) But instead, I sought out a tutorial and was pleased to find this one from Carpe Creativity. The directions are easy to follow and the steps are well illustrated.


The exterior bag fabric is from my friend (the same de-stash that yielded the baby pants and these shorts), trimmed with thrift store rick rack. The lining is a repurposed crib sheet. (Yes, I've been hanging on to that sheet for nearly 10 years. Don't judge. That interplay of the exterior and lining prints was amazingness waiting to happen.)

Will these baby makes be genuinely useful? Still to be seen. Mom-to-be was happy with her gifts, though, which makes this bundle a PASS.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Birthday Lady Skater Dress: PASS


Birthdays are a day to act like royalty at our house. The person of honor is exempt from all responsibility and can do whatever they want. And I wanted a lot: a cycling class, lunch with my sweetie, dinner with friends, roller skating, birthday cake, and hours and hours in the studio for sewing!

When my guys gifted me the Lady Skater pattern from Kitschy Coo, I knew how I'd spend that studio time. I set out to make a Lady Skater for my evening at the roller rink. My measurements are between size 3 and 4 in this pattern, so I traced between the cutting lines to create a size 3.5. I also cut the sleeves to elbow length and made a square shoulder adjustment (a life-changing suggestion from M.T. in my Lane Raglan post).



Kitschy Coo Amanda offers sound advice in her pattern instructions to make a bodice muslin before cutting your good fabric. I'm so glad I listened to her. The muslin showed I needed further tweaks. A cheater FBA and a sway back adjustment improved the fit immensely. I referenced the Lady Skater fitting and adjustments post for guidance.

The Lady Skater is a close fit on top, which can be disconcerting if you are making the dress in a thin fabric. My muslin showed off some less-than-lovely lumps on my back. I had already decided to underline the bodice of my final dress with swimsuit lining because the fashion fabric was too sheer to wear alone. Adding a second layer also created a smoother look on my back. (At least the upper back. This picture shows there's still some work to be done.)


I also needed a second layer in the skirt to stay decent. I've tried underlining swishy skirts before and been unhappy with the results. A lining that hangs freely gives the skirt more movement. In this pattern, the assembly instructions are to sew the side seams of the bodice, skirt, and sleeves in one go. This is super quick.  Unless, of course, you realize AFTER you start assembling that this method doesn't work if you plan to line your skirt. Then you spend a lot of time with the seam ripper.



So, did I finish in time to wear the dress roller skating? I did not. But I had a wonderful time giving it a try.

The dress was ready by the next evening and I wore it to work the following day and to a fashion show on campus that weekend. (These photos are from a nearby computer lab, where my friend and I warmed up after spending three hours watching models in a TENT while it snowed.) This dress feels great to wear and I'm sure it will be in heavy rotation through spring!

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Dress to Nightgown: PASS


Remember that dress that I didn't like wearing, even though the green gumdrop print fabric felt so lovely? Well, now it's a nightgown.

I hacked off the bodice, which was beyond saving, and held the skirt at various heights to decide whether to make a long skirt, mini skirt, or dress.



I kept the side seams and ruffled hem as they were and used lingerie elastic from my stash to gather the top and make simple straps. It would have been more flattering to make an actual bodice instead of just an elasticized tube. But when compared to my usual sleep attire -- one of my husband's giant t-shirts from the 90s -- any nightgown looks fantastic.

I've worn this more in two months than I wore the dress in eight years. Which makes this former FAIL a new PASS. (Woot!)


Sunday, March 6, 2016

XYT Workout Top: FAIL


I've been wearing the same tank top to the gym for 10 years. It's gone from looking broken in to downright shabby. Part of why I keep this shirt in rotation is that it's modest cut covers my incredibly supportive sports bra, which looks more like a spandex vest. When Fehr Trade's XYT Workout Top came out, with its cute back options and built-in bra, I thought I'd hit the gym shirt jackpot.

I sewed up the XYT as a bikini top this summer. The built-in bra, fine for the beach, won't cut for me in the gym. This time I took Melissa's advice for busty gals and made a version to wear over a sports bra. (I tried a new bra, too. It's pretty and works for low-impact exercise, but I'll stick with my super vest for running and jumping.)

The XYT comes together quickly, especially when you omit the bra. I went from tracing the pattern to trying on my new shirt in just an afternoon. Too bad I'll never wear it out of the house. Let's break it down.


5 Reasons this XYT is a FAIL

5. Poor fabric choice, a desperation buy when I was scouring downtown Vancouver for wicking spandex in the last hour of our visit (dumb). The pink is too much and the fabric sticks to itself. 

4. Fit is too tight and short for my taste. Which I could have changed, had I been paying attention when I traced the pattern. 

3. Puckers around the neckband and arm holes from uneven tension when sewing in the elastic.

2. Obvious need for a sway back adjustment.

And the number one reason this shirt fails is....

1. THAT HEM!  




What is up with that stiff hem that sits away from my body? It's like Jane Jetson decided to make workout gear.


I think the culprit is weird fabric + band application. It was my second attempt at a hem that lies flat. Here's what I got when I simply folded up the bottom and sewed:


So my ratty tank top is still in play while I make pattern adjustments and figure out whether to go all matchy-matchy with my leggings fabric or suck it up and order a coordinating solid online. Hopefully I've got a few more weeks before it falls apart completely.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Fabric Baskets: PASS


I'm not a big home dec sewer. Yes, I'll make pillows and window treatments when needed. But I don't get a kick out of redecorating. I still like all the paint colors and furniture we chose when we moved into our house sixteen years ago. (Which is why in 20 years our house is going to look like a time capsule.)

The fact that I decided our home needed fabric baskets is a testament to the beauty of Anna Graham's Handmade Style. Every photo is gorgeous. Every project looks useful. I'm even tempted to try the quilting projects, even though our house has an over-abundance of quilts.


Part of the allure was the chance to try out new materials (stiff double-sided fusible interfacing) while using up some of my stash. The bold orange basket uses leftover home dec fabric from our living room pillows and quilting cotton I bought on a whim a couple years ago. The green leaf pattern basket uses home dec fabric rescued from someone's post-yard sale trash this summer and plain fabric that's been kicking around my closet for over a decade. I didn't have leather for the handles, but did have some hand-me-down strapping from my mother-in-law.


The directions were clear and the baskets were pretty easy to assemble. The inside lining seemed to be an inch shorter than was necessary to completely cover (and therefore, fuse to) the interfacing. Other than that, the only snags were a measuring error on my part and the rough texture of the interfacing. My hands were scratched something wicked by the time I was finished.

I intended for these to live separately, one at each of our staircases, to collect the stuff that needs to be taken up/down. That was vetoed by my family, who said the baskets were too big to live on the stairs. Instead, they live on a section of our couch that had been covered with random junk. Now it's covered with sorted random junk. Which makes these baskets essential, right? Just like those quilts I'm thinking of making...





Sunday, January 31, 2016

10th Birthday Shirt: PASS


Birthday shirts broke into double digit territory this year. (Give me a moment to catch my breath.) As we have since he turned seven, we used the Flashback Skinny Tee pattern and recycled t-shirts in his choice of colors. 

This year, my kid opted for solid colors instead of stripes and a reprise of the silver numbers we used last year. I had just the shirt in my stash for the job.


This pattern is always a bit tight in the arms for my guy, so I made them about a quarter inch wider when I traced his new size. They're perhaps a bit large now, but better that than too tight.


I'm so pleased with the construction on this shirt. I took extra care and it really shows. No puckers or wonky stitching. And check out the seam matching!


My kid points out on a semi-regular basis that high school is only four years away. (He knows this gives me a small heart attack.) But for now, he's still somewhat small. Happy 10th birthday, kiddo!



Friday, January 1, 2016

Double Zip Wallet: PASS


I've carried a billfold wallet since my teens. The initial appeal was how it fit easily in my back pocket. But as I started having more to carry (cards and receipts--not wads of cash, unfortunately), my wallet became a bulging mess. I couldn't pull things out quickly. It no longer easily fit my back pocket or even my wristlet bag.

After the umpteenth time struggling to fish out my key card at work, I decided it was time for something new. Something bigger than a standard wallet, but small enough to stuff in my coat pocket. Something where I could easily get to what I needed. It would replace my wristlet, too, and have space for my business card case, change purse, phone, and earbuds. After thinking this was perhaps too much to ask in one design, I spotted the Double Zip Wallet in Handmade Style. Perfect!



Anna Graham of Noodlehead has created a lovely and practical collection of projects. Each is thoughtfully described and beautifully photographed. Despite the mind-bending geometry involved, I was able to assemble the wallet without much of a hitch. Anna knows what she's doing and by following her instructions (saying them out loud when I no longer understood what was happening), I came out the other side with a wallet that works!


I used all stash materials, some of my favorites that I've been saving for a special project. It's wonderful to see and use them on a daily basis. I've been carrying my new wallet for three weeks now and absolutely love it. It fits nicely in my coat pocket or backpack. The only downside is that I may never have a need for the Handmade Style Rainbow Clutch. This wallet works too well to move all my stuff to another bag.