Sunday, September 14, 2014

Yoga Mat Bag: PASS

I've taken several yoga classes over the years, but always at studios where mats were provided. Naturally, I hadn't considered the logistics of carrying a yoga mat in a thunderstorm. As I trekked to my workplace yoga class across campus last week in the pouring rain, struggling to keep my mat dry and upright in a backpack covered with a plastic bag, I thought, "There's got to be a better way!"

Enter the Sewaholic yoga mat tutorial, duck canvas and strapping from my stash, and Scotchguard Fabric and Upholstery Protector. Caroline's tutorial is very easy to follow, with detailed instructions and lots of photos. It took me just an evening to put together.

My only changes were using ready-made strapping and adding a key loop to the pocket. If I were making this again I would remember to add the key loop before I attached the pocket and sew it in the seam instead of attaching it to the flap. I might also plan ahead and treat the fabric with Scotchguard before cutting out the pattern pieces instead of after the bag was assembled.

But then, if I were 100% awesome at planning ahead, I would have made this project before the start of the session!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Polly Drop Waist Maxi Dress: PASS

Last spring I acquired a beautiful Hawaiian floral print that flows like a waterfall and feels absolutely delightful. On an impulse, I also picked up this sheer polyester border print that is itchy and sweaty when you hold it close. Apparently, I bought it so I could try out a maxi dress pattern before cutting into my cherished Hawaiian print.

My original plan was to extend the Polly Top to the floor, but I lost my nerve once I laid out the pattern pieces. I just wasn't sure I'd wear a column shaped dress without more shaping. I set my (enormous!) pattern pieces aside and started to improvise.

Since the print runs along the selvedge, I turned the yardage sideways. Then I measured up from the floor to my waist, added a few inches, marked the fabric, and cut. I made a deep hem at the bottom, folded the piece in half, and sewed up one side.

I cut the Polly Top out of the remaining fabric. It wasn't enough for a full-length top, but that was fine. I assembled the top as usual, omitting the hem and leaving the finishing for last.

Now I had an assembled bodice and a big, rectangular skirt. The waist opening of the skirt was at least twice my waist measurement. The next step was to take in the skirt and attach it to the bodice. I tried gathering (by zigzag stitching over a piece of yarn, SO EASY), but it was a terrible look for my backside. Instead, I folded deep pleats and basted them in place. I slid on the bodice, pulled up the skirt, and marked the spot where the two should attach.

Either fashion is changing or I'm going through a phase, because I thought this drop waist look was pretty cool. I sewed the skirt and bodice together and pulled the assembled dress on over my head. And then scratched my head, because now the dress was too long. Huh?

Oh, well. I pinched the top of the shoulders to bring up the hem and neckline, marked with pins, and made new shoulder seams at the marks. Then I finished the neckline and armholes with bias tape and swished around the yard.

The fit is very, very loose. This is perfect for the material, leaves plenty of room for a slip, and makes me feel glam. However, it's not the most flattering look from the side and the length is comically difficult to maneuver on a bike.

Although I'll wear this dress for these last weeks of summer, a Polly Hawaiian print maxi is a no-go. I'll have to make a new plan for that fabric. Any suggestions?

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Reversible Polly Top: PASS

The summer heat and Oonapalooza arrived together in July. To celebrate, I sewed up the Polly Top from By Hand London. For those who missed it, Oonapalooza was the Sewcialsts theme last month. It called upon sewers to emulate Oona, one of the best sewing bloggers around, by trying something daring and fun.

Though the fabric is sedate, the Polly Top pattern is daring for me. The front contrast panel and lack of darts made me worried I would look like an overweight Care Bear. "Should I make a muslin?" I wondered. "heck, no!" said the Oona on my shoulder. "you've got mad stash. just cut into it and GO!"

I decided to go all out and make this top reversible, using the Polly dress tutorial for guidance. One side is gray linen, the other is gray cotton voile and a lovely cotton print from Pink Castle Fabrics. It came together fairly quickly, though I could use more practice sewing curves. I had to pick out the front seams more than once.

I'm pleased with this shirt, inside and out. The contrast panel doesn't look like a costume. There is enough shaping to avoid fitting like a tent. Like with most low cut shirts, I need to wear a close fitting camisole underneath if I don't want to flash my entire torso when I bend over. Which undermines the cooling properties of a loose top in natural fibers, but is better than wearing only high necklines.

Now that my top and Oonapalooza are finished, I'm not sure what to do next. I had planned to extend the Polly Top into a maxi, but think the fit might be too baggy on that scale. I asked the Oona on my shoulder about it, but she had already left to have cocktails and sew something fabulous.

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?