Sunday, July 20, 2014

Lace Renfrew and Renfrew Cami: PASS/FAIL

I fell in love with this stretch lace at Haberman Fabrics last spring, but didn't know what to do with it (other than drape it around myself, admiring all the pretty dots). Inspiration struck a year later when I saw a young woman on campus wearing a sweatshirt with lace inserts and elbow length sleeves. Eureka!

I had never sewn stretch lace before. Researching techniques and sewing test swatches were helpful steps to take before making up this Renfrew. I was surprised to find French seams were unnecessary. Trimming the seam allowance, pressing to one side, and topstitching looked very neat and was easier to accomplish.

The only problem with this shirt is that it's hard to determine the right and wrong sides with a quick glance. I met a dressmaker/designer at work one day. I could see her looking at the seams and didn't realize until afterward that my shirt was on inside out!

Once I had my lace shirt, thoughts turned to what to wear underneath. I like the look of a contrasting color, but also wanted a nude camisole for when I want to put the focus more on the lace. Out came the bolt of swimsuit lining from last year's trip to Montreal.

I cut a slightly deeper neckline and a dramatic scoop in the back, but you would never know from the final result. I clearly need more practice applying elastic! The neckline is gathered too high to wear with my lace shirt, so I wear this backwards and stuff the shoulders into place (repeatedly). How can anyone focus on the pretty lace when I'm fidgeting with my undershirt? Good thing I've got more swimsuit lining.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Drop Pocket Cardigan: PASS

If you spend your days in an office, you can appreciate my summer work wardrobe dilemma: dressing for my commute means I freeze once I get inside. Enter the fabulous Jalie 3248 drop pocket cardigan. This cardigan has everything: big pockets, simple design lines, and clever construction that hides all the raw edges. Plus, it doesn't wrinkle when you stow it in your bag.

I made this up with the last yardage of gray mystery knit from Fabric Warehouse (as seen in these leggings and this skirt) and ponte from JoAnn's. (OMG PONTE IS THE BEST! I think everyone who reads sewing blogs knew that already, but this was my first time working with this incredibly soft and easy to sew fabric.)

This cardigan hangs just beautifully. Plus, when you pair it with a matching pencil skirt it makes for a classy and comfortable suit.

I looked very profesh in this outfit when interviewing job candidates last week. No one on the hiring committee could tell I had a big ol' carrot stashed in my pocket until I ate it during our debrief meeting. Now that's good pattern design!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Mystery Animal Tank: PASS

As soon as I spotted this adorable little animal print, I knew it would make a lovely Renfrew tank. It's from an equally adorable little fabric shop called Sew to Speak in Columbus, Ohio. The store is packed with treasures and the staff is super friendly and knowledgeable.

This knit has a beautiful feel to it, soft and springy. I wanted to showcase the print with a delicate finish, so I swapped out the bands for narrow hems. I also scooped out the back neckline (sidestepping my gaping problem) and narrowed the straps a touch. To preserve the shape of my hems, I applied clear elastic before folding them under.

I'm still not sure what these little creatures are (donkeys? rabbits? aardvarks?), but I sure am delighted with the result!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Knit Pencil Skirts Three Ways: FAIL/PASS/PASS

These stretchy knit pencil skirts are a direct result of reading my pulmonary specialist report. My lungs are gonna be fine. But before writing that I don't have lung cancer, the doc documented my "soft, protuberant abdomen." WTF? Is that really relevant? I got an urge to show up to my next appointment in full riot grrrl mode. But I need summer work clothes, so I made figure hugging skirts instead.

All three are all self-drafted following the Simple Simon and Company tutorial. I highly recommend it! It's not a complicated process and using your own measurements means the skirts fit well when made up in the right fabric.

The striped version follows the tutorial to the letter, which calls for a fabric waistband in place of elastic. This works well with a less stretchy fabric, but the green rib was not a good choice (again). Though it would make a heck of a maternity skirt...or weight loss advertisement costume.
OMG, that one weird tip really works!
For the other two skirts, I decided to give my waistband more heft. I headed over to Delia Creates and her tutorial on drafting pencil skirts. I didn't recreate my sloper, but skipped right to her excellent waistband application instructions.

The black and gray skirt has a 2-inch exposed elastic waistband. The band is finished so nicely, in a simple way I never would have put together on my own. The finished skirt is super classy and comfortable. It's my favorite of the bunch.

For my electric blue skirt, I tried a 2-inch concealed elastic waistband. I've used this with 1/2-inch elastic for leggings and liked the result. Thought I wear it plenty, this skirt would look and feel better with a narrower elastic and a bit more ease to accommodate the less stretchy fabric.

So maybe I should thank my pulmonary specialist for his positive influence on my wardrobe...or not. Have you ever made clothing out of spite? How did it turn out?

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Renfrew Tank: PASS

Summer hit just after I finished my long-sleeve Renfrews. Isn't that always the way? So instead of fixing the holes that have suddenly appeared in all my child's pants, I made myself a tank top. Sorry to shatter any illusions you might have about my selfless sewing. Mama's got to have some new shirts.

My favorite tank top of all time had a scoop neck and wide straps, almost exactly like a Renfew without sleeves. Could I recreate this fit? I grabbed two cast-off t-shirts to find out.

The first time I made tank tops, I used the pattern and instructions in Sew U Home Stretch, which calls for narrowing the bodice at the shoulders. I wanted this top to have wide straps that stayed put, so I left the bodice unaltered.

I did use the instructions in Sew U for applying the armhole binding flat before sewing the side seams. This isn't a big breakthrough since the Renfrew instructions already call for applying the sleeves flat. But I thought I should mention it here since the neck and waist bindings aren't applied this way. 

The results are just what I hoped for: a sleeveless shirt I can wear all summer at home and my (admittedly pretty casual) office. Patching those pants may have to wait. Isn't it shorts weather, anyway?

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Dino Jammies: PASS

It was two days before my husband took off for a visit with friends and the Maine Comic Arts Festival. He poked a finger through the giant hole in the crotch of his pj pants and said, "So, I'm going to wear these if you don't make another pair."

That hole was only the latest issue in this raggedy pair of Simplicity 2823 pants. I had made several repairs, but the pants were just too far gone to mend again. Instead of going back to the pattern, I cut open the piggy print pants and laid them directly on the fabric. This meant I could cut just two pieces (right and left sides) instead of the four called for in the original pattern. This is how Made by Rae's Parsley Pants are laid out and it is a real time saver. I skipped making a casing (which I suck at) and applied the elastic directly (like in this Cal Patch tutorial). Start to finish, the project took maybe two hours.

I was just about to pat myself on the back when my husband tried on the final product. "Hmm. Were these legs always so balloony? And the waist so saggy?" he asked. Uh, oh. I had just stolen the elastic stashed away for pj's for leggings, so I had reused his old elastic. Guess it had lost some of its elasticity. And maybe his old pants had stretched out, making for a larger pair when I traced them?

I busted out my serger. We pinched out the excess in the legs and waist, then I ran new lines of stitching. Elegant? Not at all. Effective? Absolutely. My husband had a decent pair of jammies for his trip. And he says that they are the best fitting pair he's ever had!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Striped Renfrew: PASS

As soon as I finished my first Sewaholic Renfrew, I wanted a striped one with a superhero-sized waistband and cuffs. When I found this aqua and spring green striped jersey knit at the thrift store, a perfect match for the baby rib knit in my stash, it was too perfect.

Not for long! I spaced out and forgot to cut the front on the fold. I didn't even notice until it was time to attach the neckband that I had an unintentional cardigan on my hands.

I wasn't going to let one mistake foil my plans. I cut a stripe in the rib knit to join the right and left sides together. The Sew Ann Arbor ladies said they liked it even better that way. Yeah, design element...

The rest came together quite easily.


If I were paying attention to seam allowances, I would have noticed the bottom stripe would be reduced to a sliver in the final product and adjusted accordingly. You'll see I stretched out the center strip of fabric when applying the neckband, which could probably have been prevented by using a double layer of the baby rib.

I should also figure out my back fitting issues. There's an extra flop of fabric at the neckline and some bunching at the waist. Swayback? Rounded shoulders? Does anyone know what's happening here?

Despite its shortcomings, nothing can stop me from wearing this shirt. Well, maybe the crush of indie comic fans at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival or a similar heat-producing crowd. I was roasting in my long sleeves and wide cuffs. Thank goodness it's not a dressing up kind of convention. Neoprene-wearing superheroes probably would have fainted.