Sunday, January 27, 2013

Birthday T-Shirt: PASS

Last week I asked myself, "What if I broke the birthday shirt post into two? I could use photos from last year, the writing would be quick, and I'd have time to sew!" I congratulated myself on being clever and efficient. Then I went on a six-mile family bike ride and promptly forgot about this idea.

Ah, well.

On Birthday Eve 2012 my son presented me with a crayon drawing of a rainbow-striped shirt with a silver six in the middle. "Mama," he suggested, "I think you should take the day off work tomorrow and make me a rainbow six shirt." After my heart melted and reassembled itself, I said of course I'd make him one.

Skipping out on short notice is frowned upon at my workplace, so from 8 till midnight I cut t-shirt strips, sewed them together to make fabric, traced around one of his shirts for a pattern, and constructed the new shirt using instructions from Built By Wendy Sew U Home Stretch. In the morning, the boy and his papa sent me this photo, a response to my note asking if he liked his rainbow six shirt.
"I do like it."
This year I thought I'd get a jump on the process. Birthday shirt design began a week in advance. I really, really wanted to use Made By Rae's Flashback Skinny Tee pattern. I suggested a close fitting shirt with long sleeves this time, which were approved. (Yay!) Then I sketched a rough outline of a long-sleeve shirt and asked my young designer to color it in. Surprise! Rainbow stripes, this time with the addition of pink and black. My son has always had an eye for color and was very specific about the order of the stripes. Design orders in hand, I got to work.

The fabric-making process was much the same as last year. I cut strips and sleeves from old t-shirts to take advantage of the prefab hems. If you look closely, you'll also see velvety purple stripes cut from scraps from my failed wrap dress and black ones from my "perfect" knit dress.

Even with all this advance planning, I was still sewing late into the night. Many seams had to be unpicked and re-sewn as a result. Choice words were uttered to a serger. An iron slightly melted a vinyl seven, damage which may have been camouflaged by green Sharpie marker. But in the end it all came together beautifully (and on time).

The Flashback pattern comes with clear, well-illustrated, instructions and tips on construction. The only adjustment I made was to let out the sleeves, which were pinching at the elbow. I'd love to whip up another one of these shirts before the boy grows to the next size. This time in a solid fabric. I think I can only do rainbow stripes once a year.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Ruby Shorts: FAIL

When temperatures hit 60 in Ann Arbor, the college women bust out their shorts. Our January heat wave is the perfect time to show you my busted version of BurdaStyle's Ruby shorts pattern circa 2009 or so.

"Aw, c'mon," you say. "Those aren't so bad." That's because you haven't seen the back.

Yikes! This is not the bootylicious version on BurdaStyle. The fact that my ass has apparently flattened when viewed from the side isn't the pattern's fault. But something must not be right in the back. No butt, pancake or otherwise, should be seen greedily munching fabric.

Perhaps my old vice, poor fabric selection, is part of the problem? When I bought this king size sheet at an estate sale in 2007, I thought it was perfect for my summer sewing. (My first project was an ill-fitting shirtdress, which has long since been donated and probably turned into rags.)

Also on display are my early attempts at welt and flap pockets. I failed so miserably that I've been too shy to try welt pockets since. (Though these beautiful pockets by Sunni are inspiring me to try them again.)

I do love the buttons on these shorts, even if the buttonholes are a bit sloppy. Maybe I'll use them in another project, though likely not shorts. I think I have some fitting/fabric selection/squats to work on before I try those again.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Curtain Panel Cape: FAIL

It's hard sometimes to find the line between trying something new and trying to be something you're not. Take capes. Seriously, who wears these besides superheroes? (And Jon Pertwee's version of the Doctor, who you may or may not count in that category.)

I'll tell you who: yoshimi. When I saw her rocking her take on the BurdaStyle Sarah cape back in 2007, I knew I had to try it.

yoshimi's super version
Key differences between super seamstress yoshimi and me:
  • yoshimi has impeccable taste in fabric and selected a smokin' hot animal print for her cape. I have a history of inappropriate fabric choices. Like this discarded curtain panel.
  • yoshimi appears completely comfortable and stylish in a voluminous cape. I can't stand extra fabric around my arms and sides and so I added elastic to the back and sleeves (instead of choosing not to make a voluminous cape in the first place...)
And finally:
  • yoshimi is a microbiologist.  I fulfilled my college science credits with Practical Botany and History of the Atomic Bomb.
No more capes for me. I ever see phone booth, I'll only try to use it to make calls.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Napkins and Kitchen Towels: PASS

It took me a few years of failed New Year's Resolutions for me to realize I didn't really care about annual resolutions. Now I pick one or two things to work on throughout the year and go until the accomplishment/habit makes my life better or I decide the pursuit is not worth it. (I ditched using a daily fitness/calorie tracker this way. The stress of calculating the calories in each homemade meal made me miserable.)

Last year I resolved to use more of my stash fabric, which had grown to an embarrassing size. One of the lovely pieces in my collection was this charming cotton print.

I had hung onto it for years, waiting for the right project. Then my dad asked me for kitchen towels and napkins for Christmas. It turns out one of his resolutions is to stop using paper towels.

I gathered up a few stash fabrics I thought he might like and tried some new techniques, using these nine-minute napkin and tea towel tutorials. The results? Not perfect, but at the very least I'll use them without hesitation when I visit!

In case you're wondering, my current sewing goals are to make a great pair of jeans and to mend something before staring each new project. I'm also continuing my commitment to trying new things. I figure there must be something to this approach if Penelope Trunk is writing about it.