Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Parsley Pocket Skirt: PASS

Do you read the Pantone Fashion Color Report? Part fashion forecast, part consumer psychology report, it's like reading choice excerpts of a stylish magazine.

Pantone introduced deep teal in fall 2011. It wasn't the hottest color that season, or even the one I was most likely to wear, but suddenly I had to have it in my wardrobe. I bought a pair of white thrift store corduroy pants (egads!) and hit the RIT website for the color formula.

It turns out deep teal goes with almost NOTHING I own, but I wore those pants anyway until they were saggy and threadbare in the rear. I was just wondering what to do with them when I saw Rae's post about upcycled Parsley Pants. Hooray!

Unfortunately, my kid has outgrown the possibility of pants made from my cast-offs. When I realized there wasn't enough material, I told him I could make two-tone pants or a skirt. My son quickly quashed the color blocking idea. He said he wanted a skirt for himself. Deep teal still has a powerful draw.

My son calls this his "old fashioned farm outfit."
The finished skirt is straighter than is practical for an active kid (I added a side slit for running) and a bit bunchy in back. But I do love the Parsley Pants pockets with baby blue trim. (Why didn't I think to make a shirt that color when I still had the pants?) And though he didn't seem to enjoy wearing it as much as his proper Parsleys or his dress, my son says this skirt is a PASS.

What do you think of Pantone's colors for spring? So far none of them have overpowered me, but I have a new pair of rubber gloves for dying just in case.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Fringe T-Shirt Scarf: FAIL

Last time I checked, I wasn't a member of Aerosmith (or one of their mic stands). But if opportunity knocks, I have just the scarf in my wardrobe. When ThreadBangers posted a how-to video with Megan Nicolay from Generation T, I immediately went to my t-shirt bin and snipped up this scarf.

It's been four years now and I've worn it twice. This scarf is just too much, figuratively and literally. After a few minutes of wearing, the copious fringe separates out over my boobs like a waterfall over boulders. Yeah, that feels hot.

Have you successfully worn this look? And if so, would you like a new scarf? I'm afraid I'm wearing this one no more, no more.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Crazypants Workout Leggings: PASS

Sometimes overbuying works out. I certainly didn't need more than a yard of this crazy purple print from Stretch Text Fabrics in Montreal to make short workout pants. Perhaps my subconscious knew I'd have an unprecedented desire to for full length leggings when I returned home.

Or perhaps I have a problem buying small quantities in large warehouses. You can see the temptation I was facing:
I only just now realized that cardboard sign says "employees only."  Whoops.
This latest pair of leggings is from my self drafted pattern (à la Cal Patch) with a wide waistband (à la Oona). This time I extended the length by 5 inches so I could gather the sides, following the instructions in Dana's ruched leggings tutorial. The result is delightfully comfortable to wear. I like workout pants that end right below my knee, but a simple hem in that area can pinch. The ruching adds a bit of give and is so easy! Two lines of stitching on each side of the leg opening with elastic thread in the bobbin and you're done.

I'm hoping to use the rest of my Montreal fabric before it feels like stash. Most is accounted for, but I'm not sure what to do with this gray stretch lace. Got any ideas?

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Purple Parsley Pants: PASS

My son was so excited when I asked him if he'd like pants from the leftover minidress material. He was thrilled to have purple pants, specifically purple Parsley pants with bright yellow curvy pockets. "Can you make those?" he asked, eyes shining.

Do you ever sew something that you know will be ugly?

I knew this would be a barfy color combination. I knew because I helped design a website in the early 2000s with the same awful palette. But unlike most of the computers of that era, my kid is extremely cute. Cuteness can go a long way to make something horrid look good.

The November Southeast Michigan Crafty Meetup was this week, perfect for a straightforward project that doesn't require me to sew in my underwear. I packed up my supplies and headed to Pink Castle Fabrics. (I like to pretend the retention pond that separates it from Costco is a moat). There I enjoyed the hilarious company of seriously skilled sewers and cutting on a table instead of the floor.

Constructing Parsley pants is so easy that taking time for nice finishing feels luxurious instead of overwhelming. I used a double topstitched hem for the crotch seam and a flat fell seam on the inseam. I had never tried a flat fell seam, which is smooth inside and topstitched on the outside. My kid isn't overly sensitive to clothing texture, but I think the smooth inseam will feel nice.

While I sewed, my son started his tunnel to Nunavut in the backyard (currently a two-foot hole). He was busy, so I didn't show him the pants until it was time to hem. And that's when he realized that purple and yellow can look kinda barfy.

Design errors can be hard to get over. But kids are resilient, and my son says that event though the color combination is "not his favorite" the pants are a PASS.  I think with a more colorful shirt they might even look cute. Especially if he strikes a ridiculously adorable pose like this one.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Purple Pocket Minidress: PASS

This dress should not have taken a month to complete. (Or six years, if you start counting from when I purchased Simplicity 3835, now out of print.) Admittedly, I was a bit distracted in October with my book group's selection and a new time sucker app. When I did dedicate time to sewing, pattern modifications and silly mistakes really slowed me down.

I've sewn a lot of Built by Wendy, enough to know better, really. Her patterns are adorable and simple–and completely wrong for my body type. There was no way this dress was going to fit without modifications. I took down Fit for Real People for guidance on how to make a FBA in the dartless front. After hours of tracing, taping, and trying on pattern pieces, I had a new pattern piece that included generous side darts.

While I was at it, I decided to replace the plain rectangular pockets with Rae's cute pleated pockets and axe the sleeve ties in favor of a simple hem.

Tissue fitting revealed no other issues, but I knew that might not hold true in the dress itself. I was too impatient to baste the entire dress together before sewing up the final seams. (Maybe if it were a standard bodice, but raglan sleeves and a neck band? Are you kidding?)

Sure enough, the back is a bit wonky with too much width at the top and possibly not enough at the bottom. Maybe because I used an invisible zipper instead of the lapped zipper that was called for? That might be the problem, come to think of it.

The most hilarious fitting issue is in the sleeves: the entire dress becomes shockingly short when I raise my arms. Instead of a slip, I'm going to need some silky hot pants to wear underneath.

Even if it's not a perfect fit, this dress fun to wear and perfectly acceptable. Not my best work, but not the worst. And that's enough to pass!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Wacky Self-Drafted Leggings: PASS

I visited a store in Montreal this summer that had the largest selection of stretch material I've ever seen. It was on the third floor of a warehouse somewhere on Boulevard Saint Laurent, in a concrete colored part of town across from a bus yard. I'll have to look up the name and address. This place was too good to keep to myself. [UPDATE: Stretch Text Fabrics, 9320 Blvd. St. Laurent #300]

There were bolts of spandex, stretch lace, and swimsuit fabric as far as the eye can see. After a good hour of pawing through the aisles, I came away with this wacky print and a few tamer selections. The salesperson chided me for my sedate fabric choices as he sliced yardage with the world's largest scissors. "No neon? We have lots of neon. That's very big right now," he told me. I assured him that this fabric was bright enough for what I had in mind.

I had intended this print for short workout pants to match my purple uniform shirt at the Y. When it came time to cut them out, I realized I wanted more. It had to be full-length leggings. (Created using Cal Patch's tutorial and Oona's waistband technique, naturally.) 

To tighten up the tall waistband, which was loose on my gray workout pants, I took in about two inches at the top fold. How did I know it would work? Because I basted the waistband adjustments before I made any cuts or permanent stitching. Yeah, baby! Proper technique! (Is there a term for giving yourself a fist bump? I totally just did that.)

I have a feeling I'll be making more crazy leggings and then a bunch of mini dresses to layer over top. I'm about five years late to the party and don't have anything to wear. What about you, are you over leggings or still churning them out? And do you leave room in your suitcase for fabric souvenirs?

Monday, September 30, 2013

Quick-Stitch Pillow: PASS

I am a slow sewer. Not slow as in Slow Sewing, where one takes time to savor the experience of creating a well-made project. I'm slow as in so. dang. slow. Half-remembering an inspirational quote about learning taking place outside of one's comfort zone, I registered for Craftsy's "Quick-Stitch, the Challenge" at this weekend's American Sewing Expo. When only two of us showed up to compete, I dragged Mom (aka Slakerella for you Ravelry folk) and Mom W (aka my mother-in-law) into the contest at the last minute.

The lead judge announced our challenge and let us loose on tables of assorted fabric, notions, and trims.  She said ours was the easiest assignment yet: make a pillow cover for a 12-inch form. GO!

I have to admit I breathed a sigh of relief when she said, "pillow cover." I've made lots of these, though never quickly and never without a hitch. I found fabric I loved right away, but knew I had to combine it with something to make an interesting entry. Most of the choices were floral prints, not great foils for this African pattern. I spent 10 precious minutes wandering around trying to put together a winning combination.

Inspiration struck when I spotted some pre-cut denim rectangles and looked down at my denim mini. I half-remembered another inspirational quote and decided to "sew what you know." The frayed edge denim pillow was born.

I set my alarm to go off every 15 minutes. Each time it sounded, I got a little more jumpy. I felt an old anxiety creep in that I hadn't experienced since college exams.

When the judges started the 10-second countdown, I still had one seam to complete. Fortunately, I could sew this on the right side (aka outside) of the pillow cover because of the frayed denim design. I cut the last thread right as the countdown hit zero. Yikes!

The judges liked all of our work, and one offered to take my pillow home if I didn't want it. But the clear winner was my mother-in-law. She's creative, precise, and sews every day. Not only was her pillow cover beautifully designed and well-pressed, but she also inserted a zipper, and finished with time to add embellishments. Way to go, Mom W!

Mom said the pressure was too much like work (she's a pastry chef who regularly makes the impossible happen in short order). Mom W didn't seem to mind. Once the adrenaline stopped coursing, I realized I had a great time. (The free Craftsy class I received for participating didn't hurt.) I'll definitely try it again next year if they'll take me.

Have you ever entered a sewing contest? Did you like challenge of creating quickly? Or did the pressure outweigh the fun?

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Self-Drafted Workout Pants: PASS

After last week's failed attempt at new workout pants, I decided to search for leggings tutorials instead of using a pattern. I found a winner in 0.33 seconds: Cal Patch's 2012 tutorial on Etsy.

I haven't worn leggings much since junior high. This tutorial was such a joy that I might start. These were so easy to make.  I credit Cal Patch's clear instructions and illustrations. Having ONE pattern piece made to measure also helps!

This project was a breeze until the waistband, which stymied my spatial relations skills. Once again, I copied Oona's technique. But somehow I forgot the basic steps for constructing a fold-over waistband. I folded and sewed it incorrectly four times before I got it right. Then I tried to get fancy with an inside pocket...on the outside.

When I stopped sewing for the night, the waistband was still a bit loose, but I was too eager to wear the pants during today's workout and bike commute to go back and fix it. They held up great and felt so good that I kept them on all evening. Is this how the whole leggings-as-pants thing got started? This might be a slippery slope.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Laugh-In Workout Pants: FAIL

When I wore these to class on Tuesday, one of my students asked if I had ever seen Laugh-In. Shocking as this print might be at 6:30 in the morning, it's not the reason for the failing grade. 

A one-dollar sale lured me into the trap of trying to make a pattern into something it's not (like with my flowery party dress). One look at the fashion photography for McCall's 6404  tells you these aren't workout pants. I cut a size medium thinking they might even be a bit small after my summer sloth. But no, they were baggy as all get-out, even after taking in the outside and inside seams.

My other mistake was lining them in swimsuit fabric. The print fabric was too sheer to go it alone, but adding a thick layer really keeps in the heat. It's been nice on my chilly bike commutes this week, but not during my workouts.

One thing I did do right was to swap out the elasticized waist with a mega fold-over waistband à la Oona. That woman is a genius!

The idea is to use a folded piece of your fashion fabric, so that the nice side shows when you fold down your waistband. I had to chop a lot of fabric out of the back waistband to eliminate sagging and gaping, which made the inside too ugly to show. But let's be real, I'm not going to be folding down my pants (or wearing body paint and a bikini) any time soon.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Classroom Chair Pocket: PASS

On Wednesday my son's school is back in session and his teacher will be handing out these classroom chair pockets. The students keep their pens, whiteboards, and other supplies stuffed inside. After years of use, about half the pockets were in disrepair. I volunteered to replace them over the summer. A brilliant (but unknown to me) parent came up with the design. All I had to do was copy it. Simple...

...or maybe not. It took me an embarrassingly long time to figure out how to accurately copy the design. Then about 2/3 of the way through, I realized I had been finishing the hems improperly. The hem on the pocket was beautiful, but the hem on the back panel was was ugly side out.  How annoying!

To save you any such hassle, I've put together a tutorial for making your very own classroom (or playroom) chair pockets. I claim no design credit, only authorship of the not-to-scale drawings and the instructions. This is my first sewing tutorial, so let me know if it's useful!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Candy Stripe Button-Down: PASS

I swear, my son hasn't seen any James Bond movies yet. Does the act of shooting things innately inspire this pose? (Even when shooting a nonthreatening tool like this infrared thermometer checked out from the library?)

At last! Here is the completed pink-and-purple striped button-down shirt for my son (Burda magazine 9/2008 number 143). I think he's got at least a month before he outgrows it.

You might remember my failed first attempt and successful prototype from earlier posts. Too bad I let two months go between sewing sessions on this project. I made several embarrassing goofs (e.g. sewing the cuff ends together) and completely forgot how to attach the sleeve binding. Thankfully, I keep a well-stocked sewing reference library. After reading several sets of instructions, including the set I used last time, the ones in The Sewing Book by Ann Ladbury made sense.

There's still plenty of room for improvement. I need practice inserting sleeves, placing buttons, and using bias trim. But none of these shortfalls will stop my son from wearing the shirt. Unfortunately for me, I am sick to death of the picky details of shirt making and will probably forget all I've learned before I try it again. Maybe I'll take some notes and slip them in with the pattern.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Prototype Whiteboard Pouch: PASS

You know the start of the school year is almost here when your kid's teacher emails you about the sewing projects you volunteered to complete over the summer. One of these was designing and preparing kits so the students can sew felt pouches for their whiteboards. Having successfully made pillow cases, I knew I could handle this basic geometry and set out to make a prototype.

The whiteboard measures 9x12 inches. I cut a 10x26 strip of felt, folded it in half, whipstitched the sides, and added velcro closures. Almost too simple to post.

The interesting, challenging, and fun part was figuring out the best way to structure the project for 2nd and 3rd graders. After completing one half of the pouch, I enlisted the help of my son and led him through the steps. We came up with these key elements for the kit and instructions:
  1. Machine sew the Velcro beforehand.
  2. Use a sharp needle, not a blunt one.
  3. Kids should decorate the pouches before they sew them up.
  4. Kids might need to work in pairs to measure/mark a stitching line so the ruler doesn't move. A Frixion pen works for light colors. Chalk is better for dark colors.
  5. Tie a knot at the needle end of the embroidery floss (I usually just fold it over).
  6. An adult's help might be needed for threading needles, separating floss strands, and securing stitches.
These seem obvious. But since it's been 15 years since my days as an arts & crafts counselor, I'm out of practice anticipating the needs of kid crafters. Maybe I can get more experience on project day.

Embroidery by me and my son. Can you tell who did which? Me neither. My hand sewing skills are no more developed than a seven-year-old's.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Halter Top: FAIL

I'm starting to run out of old projects to blog when I'm not sewing. Maybe next time I'm exhausted from a busy week at work, I should whip up a quick project instead of letting my brain slowly melt over a B-movie.

For example, I could make a billowy sack that I never wear, like this halter top (circa 2009) from Sew U Home Stretch. You might recognize the fabric from my PASS version of the 1 piece kimono tee. The original fashion fabric ties were too stretchy to hold up the neckline. This white twill tape keeps my shirt up, but can't save unflattering fit. Wendy says, "This daring, shoulder-baring, silhouette can look totally different depending on  the fabric you use." Something tells me that no fabric can make this pattern work for me.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Simple Shorts: FAIL

I've been too scared to make pants since my capri disaster. The Maycie After Five blog offered a simple alternative: make a pattern by tracing a pair of shorts I already own.

Now is when you should click over to see how adorable Maycie's shorts are.

I know, right? So what went wrong with mine?

Obvious mistake #1: fabric choice
Or as my husband puts it, "I don't understand how you could not know those would look like clown pants."

Obvious mistake #2: over simplifying
By now I should know that making anything from a single pattern piece without shaping is a bad move for my body.

While these are not making it out in public, I will say they are quite comfortable as I sit in an 80+ degree house. Looks like I got a new pair of jammie shorts.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Everyday Napkins: PASS

We're staying with our friends in Montreal this week, who are always so welcoming when we come crashing into their lives to keep the kids up past bedtime and stop up the toilet. As a preemptive apology for whatever we break this time, I sewed up a batch of Gingercake's nine-minute everyday napkins. If you're looking for a well-illustrated, speedy quick, napkin tutorial this is it. My imprecise cutting and folding made for some funky corners and uneven hems. Nothing a couple extra rows of topstitching can't camouflage, though!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Pleated Neckline Shirt: FAIL

When I was first learning violin, I imagined I was a strolling minstrel during practice time. I played eight-bar songs while sashaying up and down the hallway. I didn't realize it at the time, but I sounded utterly awful. My parents, bless them, didn't tell me this. They said they were glad I enjoyed playing and could I please practice in my room with the door closed?

I knew I made plenty of mistakes when I sewed this shirt version of Burda Style Magazine 8/2007 101A in 2008, but thoroughly enjoyed wearing the final product. But as my sewing improved, it moved further and further back in the closet. The lumpy fit and wonky bias tape trim got harder to overlook.

I considered converting this shirt into napkins last month, but my husband suggested I keep it around. He was right. It's a great shirt of last resort, keeping me cool in this sweltering heat when all my other summer clothes are hanging on the laundry line. It's also a nice reminder of a time when I was pleased just to finish a project and wasn't so picky on the details.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Madame Butterfly Dress: FAIL

Unintentional duck face, I swear.
Here it is, the project that makes me wring my hands ever time I see it: the Madame Butterfly dress variation from Sew U Home Stretch. Sewn up in a lovely designer knit. Almost never worn (and even then, with a cardigan). The problems fall into two categories:

1. Body issues. We all know that lots of ladies wish they had more, less, or different curves. I'm not usually 100% confident in my particular combination and this dress leaves no room for apprehension. Had I paid attention to the ease included in the pattern (none!), I could have corrected for this. But I sewed up my size without a second thought.

2. Construction and design errors. This dress, from 2008 or 2009, was one of my first forays into knits. I wish I could say my skills with necklines have improved! Not only is the facing flipped over (despite my attempt at understitching to keep it in place), but the neckline has stretched out over time.

Some of my disappointment stems from following the fashion illustration vs. the technical one. The ruffle, about half the size as the one in the illustration, looks a bit like an afterthought. The sleeves are longer than pictured in the book, ending in an unflattering place right below the bust. If I had paid more attention, these errors would have been easy to spot and fix.

As it is, I keep pulling this dress out of my closet and putting it back in.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Tübingen Bag: PASS

I really wanted to show you a failed project this week. It's been looking far too rosy around here. Rest assured, not everything I touch a needle to turns to gold. But you'll have to wait until Sunday to see the fail that makes me wring my hands the most.

In the meantime, isn't this cute? I keep this purse, made from machen/machen's free Wasp Bag pattern, at work for trips when I don't want the extra weight of my beautiful quilted bike bag. The pleats make this bag very roomy. Roomy enough to carry whatever I'm toting plus my actual purse (which is too shameful to be seen on its own). 

I bought this fabric as a souvenir from a delightful store in Tübingen, Germany, one of Ann Arbor's sister cities. I used the wrong side for the contrast at the top of the bag. The Wasp Bag pattern includes an interior pocket and a strap for your keys, which is so useful. If I were to make it again, I might add a zipper to the pocket to keep my phone safely inside.

Blue and yellow were a hot color combination the summer I sewed it up. I had no idea I'd be carrying it around the University of Michigan campus years later!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Denim Mini: PASS

Last week my son tapped his pink and purple striped fabric and asked me, "When are you going to make this into my shirt?" The kid has a valid question. The fabric for his promised garment has been hanging on the banister for a over a month. 

I wish I could have answered that I wanted nothing more than to make his shirt. But I did want something more: a denim miniskirt. I told him, "Oh, soon," and went off to the studio to cut up a pair of jeans.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Parsley Pants: PASS

My kid is growing like long, skinny, weed. Two days before his school concert, I realized ALL of his pants were too short in the legs, too big in the waist, and sporting holes and/or dirt stains. As this wasn't a production of Annie or Oliver Twist, we needed new pants, fast.

Enter Made-By-Rae's Parsley Pants. I'd been eagerly eying this pattern, which claims to be both easy and spiffy. Rae delivers the goods. The download includes the pattern in sizes 2-10 and suggestions for several variations, all with easy-to-follow instructions, clear illustrations, and valuable tips on construction.

For the concert pants, I used pink denim out of my stash. (It is not quality stuff. Perfect for the short, hard, life of kid's pants.) I added front pockets, pin tucks, and this ridiculous homemade contrast piping. The combination looks like it came straight off a 70s lounge singer, or perhaps Super Fly. My son absolutely loves them. Finished just in time for concert day...and completely filthy by the time the concert started. (Sigh.)

Knowing the pink pants wouldn't hold up long, I made up another pair in a lightweight red denim. (Yes, I made my son red trousers.)  This time I left out the pin tucks, remembered to lengthen the legs, and used a larger pocket. My son says they seem a bit snug, which I think means they'll stay up when he runs. If needed, I can pick apart the waist seam and adjust the elastic to make more room. But with such a nice finish on the inside (if I do say so myself), I'm hoping I don't have to. Maybe I'll learn how to work with button elastic for his next pair. With as fast as this kid sprouts, I'm sure there'll be many more Parsley Pants to come.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Ram Button-Down: PASS

We're getting closer to the long sleeved shirt my son requested in pink and purple stripes, just in time for the return of winter (seriously, snow on Mother's Day!?). For test shirt number two of Burda magazine 9/2008 number 142, I used a printed cotton/poly from my stash. I think it's the same vintage of Paul and Linda McCartney's Ram. It has that "heart of the country" vibe, anyway.

This is three sizes larger than the stars and stripes (fail) version and my son says the fit is just right. I decided to spend quality time with my old-school edition of Reader's Digest Complete Guide to Sewing to figure out the sleeve vent binding. Burda's text-only instructions are a bit cryptic. I faked it last time. This version's bindings are constructed correctly, if not precisely.

The contrast binding on the front is another story. No amount of reading and YouTube videos has made proper application understandable to me. I think I've got a good approximation here, but something is off. As you may know, I'm geometry impaired.

Instead of a wrap-up paragraph, I'm going to leave you with more cute pictures of my goofy son. Yes, it's a cop-out. But so is putting two versions of the same song on your album, and it didn't hurt McCartney. (Oh, snap!)

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Refashioned Prairie Skirt: PASS

I put the "or altered" clause in my Me Made May pledge with this skirt in mind. After years in the refashion pile, waiting until June seemed suddenly too long.

I bought this skirt at a yard sale four years ago and have been mulling over its future ever since. I loved the pinkish beige color and the tiers of ruffles. But dang if it wasn't too small in the waist. What to do? Make it a billowing strapless dress? Insert a contrasting panel? Neither seemed right. The skirt sat through summer after summer in my closet.

Recently, I had a "duh!" moment. As in, "Duh! Just pick out the zipper, sew up the back, and insert an elastic waistband." Twenty minutes later, I had a new zipper in my collection and a skirt I can actually wear. It's delightfully swishy, perfect for beer-and-hammock evenings.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Announcements: Me Made May '13


Hooray for May! May is one of my favorite months. It means we've spent another fun year in our house, students are moving out leaving all sorts of treasures behind, Ann Arbor is holding its annual Commuter Challenge, and (more relevant here) Zoe is hosting Me Made May!

Every May I secretly strive to wear more of my handmade clothing while admiring the efforts of the folks who post their daily handmade wardrobe pics online. This year I'm taking it out of my closet and into the real (virtual) sewing world with an official statement of participation. (Of course, it may not count because I missed the signup deadline. Yes, I left it until the end of April to sign up. Yes, I got sick and didn't use a computer until May 2. Oh, well.)
I, Vanessa of pass/fail sewing, sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May '13. I endeavor to wear at least one item I've made or altered each day for the duration of May 2013. I will also challenge myself with projects that build my skills, attack my stash, and generally scare the crap out of me for attempting them.
Let the fun begin!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Blue Pleated Skirt: PASS

Sometimes I get hung up on the small stuff. For example, are the inserts on this skirt pleats or godets? After 15 minutes of research, I'm not 100% sure. If I hadn't caught myself, I could have spent my entire blog time down the rabbit hole. And really, is the terminology that important?

I started this turquoise denim (let's say) pleated skirt in 2005 (Simplicity 9823, view F). It came together pretty quickly, but a fear of hemming kept me from completing the project before my pregnancy belly made it obsolete. Really, it was all done but the hem! Two years later, I applied fusible hem tape and this skirt went into heavy rotation. In 2010, I garnered the courage to rip out the (now not quite adhesive) tape and put in a line of stitching around the hem. 

And just like that, an unfinished project becomes something I wear every week. Am I the only one who lets little details like a hem stall a project? With all the talk of UFOs (unfinished objects, for those learning sewing lingo) in the online sewing community, I think probably not.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Stars and Stripes Shirt: FAIL

It almost seems cruel that fresh on the heels of (finally) selecting the right size shirt pattern for myself, I should get it completely wrong for my son. He's requested a purple and pink striped button-down shirt without a collar. I thought Burda magazine 9/2008 number 142 would fit the bill.

When the only pink and purple striped fabric available is $8.98/yard, you can bet I'm making a practice version. This was the only striped fabric in my stash. I bought it at Wal-Mart 10 years ago for a sleeveless shirt. Why, I have no idea. I am not a theme shirt kind of person, nor what you'd call overtly patriotic. (Unless you count tearing up during the national anthem at baseball games.)

Measuring is not my strong suit. But this time I thought I was meticulous! I took my son's measurements according to the size chart (instead of sizing by height, which is common for kids' clothes). I even used metric, thinking I might get a more accurate match. So why, then, does this shirt look two sizes too small?

I'm pretty sure it's not Burda's fault.

Time for new measurements, both of the boy and a shirt that fits him. Anyone have a five-year-old who loves 'Merica? Once I get the buttons on this baby, it's off to a new home.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Roller Shades: PASS

Not long after we bought our house, we held a yard sale to offload the random junk left behind by the previous owners (and the stuff we unpacked and then wished we hadn't). I was eager to rid my home of roller shades, mini blinds, and their ilk. Seven years of crummy student rental housing will do that to you. Into the sale they went. I felt like a real grownup.

A few months later, I realized we needed window treatments on the first floor. More specifically, we needed fabric roller shades. Then I felt like a real, real grownup, the kind that gripes about paying full price for things. Those rods are expensive, yo! As I shelled out 70 precious dollars for hardware, I remembered the hungry look in the eye of the garage sale customer who bought our shades for $1 a pop.

After the sticker shock faded, I started to enjoy the project. I found this mustard color home dec print on sale and bought a boatload. Using the Hamlyn Book of Soft Furnishings as my guide, and the dining room table as my ironing board, I went to work. (For all you dining room crafters, I recommend putting something down on the table to protect the finish. Don't tell my former roommate, but I think his table wasn't quite as shiny after I pressed 10 yards of Fuse-A-Shade on it.)

The process was pretty straightforward: measure, cut, press, hem, staple to the rod. I decided to reverse the direction of the roll so that the pretty side would face in when the shades were down. (Picture the toilet paper coming out over the top of the roll.) Getting the tension right on the rods was tricky. Some of the shades spring right back up, others I have to roll by hand. I'm willing to live with that.

These shades are less than perfect, but good enough to PASS. Fabric roller shades are definitely a step up from white vinyl. And they come in handy when I feel like a real, real, real grownup, the kind who doesn't want passersby watching when she tries to keep up with Cassey Ho.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Announcements: Pass/Fail Sewing, Powered by Pecha Kucha!

I'll be presenting pass/fail sewing live and in person next Wednesday! If you're in the Ann Arbor/Ypsi area, come on out to the Exposure Series, powered by Pecha Kucha. Yeah, I know, the photo in the poster is a bit creepy. I promise the room will be better lit and brimming with positive energy. There will also be delectable coffee from Roos Roast. Because nothing powers sparkling conversation like evening caffeine.

In case the Facebook event link doesn't work for ya, here's the event info:
Wednesday, April 17: 6-8pm
Space 2435, North Quad
105 S State St, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Draped Neckline Top: PASS

I usually think I'm right. Except, of course, when I'm not. I try to recognize when I'm wrong in enough time to gracefully accept the fact and move on. I began working on this attitude adjustment in the second grade after I spent an entire walk home from school arguing to my friends that "butt" is absolutely spelled with one "t." (Sadly, Homophones Weakly was not yet in existence.)

I've had a lot of practice in humility and grace since then, but remain oddly stubborn on things like sizing. Fitting experts and sewing instructors advise women, especially busty ones, to select a shirt and dress size based on high bust measurement. (This is taken around the chest, just above the bust.) My high bust measures 34 inches, so I should make a size 12. For years I've made a size 14 based on my full bust and hip measurements. Two measurements matching are better than none, right?

And this is why it's good to write a sewing blog. Because in reviewing my projects, and seeing the same fitting issues over and over, I started to think maybe I should follow the fitting experts' advice. For McCall's M6612 (view A, shortened to shirt length), I decided to cut a 12 and see how it turned out.

Of course it worked wonderfully. The fit is lovely with no drooping shoulders or excess fabric at the back neckline. Since it's a knit, I didn't bother with a full bust adjustment. I stabilized all the seams with clear elastic and used Steam-A-Seam for a non-wobbly hem.

My reward for admitting I was wrong is a cute new work shirt and the promise of better fitting clothes in the years to come. It makes me wonder, though. Has anyone else been making the wrong size out of stubbornness (or fear of full bust adjustments)? Or held onto another completely wrong belief just because they were certain they were right? Do tell!

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Strapless Knit Dress: PASS

I was hoping to debut a cozy knit shirt this weekend, but the hem is still woefully wobbly. Instead, I present my version of the Tiny Bubble dress from, you guessed it, Built by Wendy's Sew U Home Stretch.

This is not the straight-up version, which has a bubble hem (duh) and a shortened bodice. I need more room up top than a B-cup gal, so I left the bodice alone. (No, I can't lie to you. I shortened the bodice according to instructions, realized the handkerchief-sized pattern piece wouldn't do, and taped the cut-away piece back on.) While bubble hems have resurfaced in recent years, I still associate them with the smell of burning hairspray on a curling iron. So, yeah, straight hem for me.

The floral and fuchsia jersey is from my husband's late, vivacious aunt. I didn't know she sewed until after she passed and I was honored to receive some of her fabric stash.  There were some delightfully wacky prints and bold colors, in addition to yards and yards of corduroy and jersey. Truly a kindred fabric spirit.

I sewed this dress in summer 2011 and wore it constantly. The loose cut was so comfortable in the heat of July and August. It remains a perennial favorite because I can wear it so many ways. In fact, last year at this time I was wearing this dress every day as part of  the Tilly and the Buttons One Week One Pattern (OWOP) Challenge. I never did get around to submitting my photo links. Maybe this will make up for it...

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Bias Cut Top: PASS

Recently, we spent the weekend helping my in-laws upgrade their Internet service. Let no more be said of those dark times. Instead, let's focus on the happy outcome: a fluid top made from McCall's 6563 that I knew would fit because I could try on my mother-in-law's version. (Did you expect me to say that my in-laws can see pictures of their grandson online now? Yeah, that, too.)

I used a lightweight polyester print from the most amazing estate sale ever. I love the print, even more on the bias. The pattern for this top was straightforward and easy to make. If you're new to sewing, or are nervous about trying a bias cut garment, this is for you. Be warned: this top needs a camisole unless you plan not to bend over. Maybe a bias cut camisole? Hmmm....I think The Undies Book might have one of those. Until then, I'll wear this under a sweatshirt.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Undies: FAIL

My underwear drawer is in a sorry state.  It holds three pairs I can wear without shame and three that are downright disgraceful. (Including handmade mini bloomers that, due to poor seam finishes, have frayed to near collapse). I don't want to pay Target for underwear when I have a sewing machine and 30 pounds of t-shirts. Last week I decided it was time to take action.

Tracing a well-fitting pair I already own would have made the most sense. Instead, I made these:

1. Free Hipster Pattern from makeBra.com. Using foldover elastic seemed easy enough: fold it over the raw edge of the fabric and stitch. Oh, if only. The legs on this pair (sewn while pulling the elastic) are tight and the waist (sewn while not pulling the elastic) is loose. Nothing says "you're doing it wrong" like a simultaneously saggy and binding pair of drawers.

2. Modified version of the hipster pattern, with added height to more fully cover my backside. Aren't they cute? It's too bad they're too small. (Wah-wah.)

3. Rosy Ladyshorts from Cloth Habit. These look delightful when you make them out of the stretch lace that's called for. Unfortunately, I don't have any of that kicking around. (This pair is done up in the same brown wobbly knit as the failed "perfect" knit dress.) I also lack 1" stretch lace trim. Maybe that's why my ladyshorts don't look nearly as pretty as the many, many other versions out there. (And why the elastic popped off after one wearing.)

So I'm back where I started: frequent laundering and a resistance to buying new underwear. You can bet I'll be copying a pair of my good ones soon...before they become too tattered to trace!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Raglan Sleeve Dress: PASS

Son: "Aren't you glad you made a dress from that ratty old bedspread?"
Me: "Is this dress too short for work? I don't want to look racy."
Husband: "There is nothing racy about that dress."
Friend: "It's like you're wearing a menagerie!"
Though not 100% pleased with the fit, I continue to wear this dress in part because of the interesting comments it generates. It's 105 from Burda Magazine 7/2009 and features raglan sleeves, a drawstring "waist," and in-seam pockets. I made mine in 2011 from, yes, a ratty old bedspread I found during student move out. 

The beach-to-brunch magazine version is made up in a flowing cotton-silk batiste that looks so soft and glamorous. The roughly woven cotton in my version is stiffer and not-so-glam. Though I do wear it to the beach!

What I don't like about the fit is the dropped waist, a style that makes me look like a lumpy potato. I was so dazzled by the fashion photo that I ignored the technical drawing (and the pattern pieces!), which makes it clear that the drawstring "waist" is below the waistline.

LESSON: Fashion photos are illusions, technical drawings are facts.

I get around this by hiking up the skirt and tying a self fabric sash I made at my true waistline. Though lately I've been using this gray one that's been kicking around my closet (unworn!) since 1989. The sash option makes it a bit lumpy at the waist, but hey.

I am pleased as punch with the pattern placement. Getting the pieces laid right was no small feat, given the complexity of the print and the number of stains and holes in my fabric. (Eww, I know. HOT water wash when pretreating this baby!) I successfully avoided the classic flowers-over-boobs error and achieved some interesting layouts with the animals. The huge green bird across the back is my absolute favorite.