Sunday, November 22, 2015

Basic Baby Pants: PASS

I attended a baby shower recently for a coworker and his wife who are expecting twins. TWINS! That's twice as cute as just one baby! So, in addition to books (because reading to babies from birth is a good thing), I sewed up two pairs of baby pants. Which are twice as cute as just one pair.

It's been a long time since I sewed baby pants. I don't own a pattern for anything smaller than size 3T. An internet search led me to Rae's basic newborn pant sewing pattern, which she generously offers for free on her blog. I make the Made-by-Rae Parsley Pants and Flashback Skinny Tee on a regular basis, so I knew this pattern would be good.

You guys, this PDF pattern is adorable. It's so tiny! It's also easy to make, has instructions for extras like contrast cuffs and pockets, and uses barely any fabric at all.

I chose two flannel prints from my stash. The blue pair is a remnant I bought five years ago and have had tucked away ever since. The green pair is leftover lining fabric from our laptop sleeve.

I used French seams to prevent fraying and roughness. This made the crotch seam a bit thick, so maybe I'll rethink that for the next pair. I also had to cut away some of the seam allowance that was folded on itself at the waist in order to leave enough room for the waistband elastic.

This was definitely a small effort, big payoff kind of make. I can't wait to sew another pair. The next office baby arrives in May, so I don't have to wait long.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Rayquaza Costume: PASS

Pokémon is a powerful force in our household, making up at least 60% of our daily discussions. (There's been a decrease due to new guidelines such as "reciting Pokémon statistics does not qualify as conversation.") So it only follows that my kid broke his four-year inanimate object costume streak this Halloween by dressing as his favorite Pokémon, Rayquaza.

We spent an afternoon searching for inspiration and sketching up ideas. Though there are jaw-dropping, intricate, and even sexy Rayquaza costumes out there, this simple version was the most helpful when planning our design.

Projects like this one make me so grateful to be married to an artist.  While I figured out the construction for the tail, he drew templates for the head pieces and painted boxboard for those head extension thingies. I have no doubt that would have taken me ages on my own.

All the materials were harvested from my stash and my kid's dresser. Sewing the felt headpiece to the painted boxboard extensions was the best part. It's fun to see what kind of materials my sewing machine will tolerate.

No, the BEST part was seeing how excited my son was to wear his costume. Maybe he'll even get another year out of it. Or perhaps by next Halloween another obsession will have taken over.

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!