Sunday, December 6, 2015

Abstract Print Lane Raglan: FAIL

Love the fabric, hate the fit of this Lane Raglan. I attempted a FBA (full bust adjustment), which gave me more room in the bust, but also a pool of fabric where the sleeve joins the bodice. I pinched out the excess into a dart on each side. This took care of the bagginess, but left me with a pair of creases that point straight to the nipples. My husband says he can't notice a thing. But it makes me uncomfortable enough to keep this one in the closet until I can figure out a retrofit. Possibly a series of gathers? Or maybe just cutting this apart for another project...

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!

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Tania Culottes: PASS

Hooray, my Tania Culottes are finally finished! I've taken them for a three-week test run before posting them the blog. Because I'm thorough. The fact I've been reading Y the Last Man is purely coincidental. 

There is plenty of good advice to be found about this pattern, which was released in 2013. Warnings about how short these run abound. I cut a size small based on my measurements, but extended to the XL hem line. Even so, these are juuuust barely long enough to wear to my casual workplace. And there have been some near Marilyn moments when the breeze picks up...

What's lovely about these culottes is that they are impossible to tell apart from a full skirt. That is, until I can sit down on the ground cross-legged without flashing anyone. So happy for that.

I made these up from estate sale mystery yardage. I suspect it's polyester, perhaps intended for thin curtains. The drape is lovely, but the hand doesn't quite feel like other apparel fabric I've used and it wrinkles like crazy. Still, it's very pleasantly swishy to wear and the busy print distracts from the need for pressing at the end of the day.

If I make these again, I'll compare the crotch line to my jeans so I can get a better fit. It's a bit snug. Also, I'll take better care when installing the zipper. Mine looks pretty shabby. Fortunately, I usually wear a shirt over top. Specifically, this navy Renfrew. Maybe I need to make up one in coral? I'll get right on that. Right after I finish those last two volumes of Y the Last Man...

Sunday, June 14, 2015

First Edition Morocco Pants: PASS

When Celina of petit à petit and family put a call out for pattern testers for her Morocco Tuxedo Pant & Shorts, I couldn't resist. (Even though it was right before a long-distance vacation and I still hadn't made a successful pair of underwear, let alone the cute pair of Tania culottes I imagined wearing on our trip.)

Have you ever helped test a pattern? I had no idea what to expect and enjoyed both the actual testing and observing the way it was organized. Celina used an online survey to collect the measurements of the children we were sewing for and our sewing preferences. (There are so many variations included in the pattern!) Then she assigned each of us a size and view to sew and set up a private Facebook group for our discussion and to distribute the pattern. As we worked, we asked Celina for clarification on pattern instructions, discussed the construction process, provided each other with suggestions and support, recorded pattern errors, and uploaded photos of our progress. It was exciting to work on a project with all these avid sewers I had never met. Meeting the deadline was challenging, but it was rewarding to be work with others toward a common goal.

Though I love the pattern design and the color scheme my son chose, it took some last minute alterations to make these pants a useable garment. My kid's hips are two sizes smaller than his inseam calls for. Celina recommended making the size that matched his hips, leaving out the rear darts to make the waist larger and adding length in the legs by slashing and spreading at the knee. Though my son likes to wear his pants low, these are about two inches too low. The waist was also seriously gapping. (Made me wish I had taken the option to add button elastic to the back waistband.) And though I loved the look of the legs, my kid said these were way too long. (Celina has redrafted the waistband for the final pattern, but I will probably sew a larger size next time.)

Side view before alterations.
I couldn't raise the waist at this point, but I could address the gap. I pinched out a massive dart in the center back and sewed it shut. (No, I didn't remove the waistband first. That is the kind of detail I wasn't ready to commit to right before vacation. :) ) It was so sad to cut off the hem facing I had so painstakingly constructed. I didn't reattach it, deciding to fold up a simple hem instead.

I would have loved to use a hook and eye closure, but my son really wanted a button. Here's a shot before we added it. Maybe it's better with a button, so as to direct attention away from my wobbly waistband.

Let me tell you, participating in the pattern testing process has given me an even greater respect for designers. There are so many details to attend to! And technical writing is no joke. How one person explains a process may or may not make sense to another. And did you know there are several ways in English to describe cutting a mirror image (or reverse, opposite, flipped, etc.) of a pattern piece? Linguistically fascinating, but what a headache to sort out. Mad props to Celina and all those pattern designers out there. You've got brains of steel. (Is that a thing? Let's make it a thing!)

Morocco pants in action.
But back to the pants. My son loves the finished product. And now that the pattern has been updated for the release (and on sale for 20% off right now!), he calls his version "first edition." He thinks we might be able to sell them for a high price, à la Pokémon cards. I told him probably not, but that I was glad he had a pair of pants to wear on our vacation that wasn't threadbare.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Purple Pants: PASS

These purple Style Arc Elle pants put a smile on my face every time I wear them. This photo doesn't do the color justice. It's like wearing a bright purple crayon. How can that not make you smile?

Not sure my smile would last if I saw myself from behind. Eeesh, those wrinkles are intense! 

These are made up in a cheap stretch twill with surprisingly good recovery and are comfortable to wear. The only annoyance is that the leg openings tend to ride up my calves. I slide my pant legs down with each foot from time to time (unconscious muscle memory from junior high). Maybe next time I need to make the calves a bit larger. Could be I need a size up all around, as the seams are strained everywhere. Not sure anyone but me notices, so I keep on smiling and putting these on.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Basic Undies: FAIL

With Me-Made-May'15 coming up, it's time to take the pledge.
I, Vanessa of, sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May '15. I endeavor to wear me-made items each day for the duration of May 2015. I will also make a wearable pair of underwear by the end of the month.
That's right. A wearable pair. Unlike my last attempt. And definitely not these latest pairs.

Jalie has produced a beautifully drafted pattern with a great fit. A great fit, that is, if you apply the elastic correctly. My first pair was terribly tight in the legs from over stretching the elastic. The second pair is coming apart at the waist from popped seams. Time to visit the Internet for tutorials. I clearly don't know what I'm doing!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Purple Stripe Raglan: PASS

The idea of wearing this soft purple stripe knit as a cozy shirt has been kicking around my head for at least a year. Enter the Lane Raglan pattern from Hey June to finally get the job done.

The Lane Raglan is a sewing community favorite and I can see why. It's quick to sew and comes with fun variations to play with: hood, thumb-hole sleeves, tiny pocket. (Though I chose the basic model here. Matching stripes was fun enough.)

The pattern sizing is based on finished garment measurements. Somehow I missed the instructions to use a size with no bust ease for stretchy knits. I selected a size bigger than my bust and hip measurements and spent an hour pinning out the excess and re-serging the seams.

The resulting neckline is higher than intended, with some bunching at the back. But at least I don't look like I'm wearing a sack anymore!

One thing I wonder about is stabilizing the seams. Are these going to stretch out? Should I be using twill tape or stay tape as I would in the shoulder seams of a standard knit shirt? If you have knowledge or opinions, please share!

Monday, March 30, 2015

Holy Grail Jeans: PASS

Jeans are my holy grail of sewing. Seriously, is there anything more difficult to shop for and more intimidating to sew? (Well, besides bridal gowns, swimsuits, bras, and couture jackets?) It's taken years to work up the courage to even attempt this project and five months of planning, shopping, studying, and (finally) sewing to reach the end goal. I'll go into more detail below, but the basic idea is HOLY SHIT, I MADE JEANS!

I originally intended to use the ever popular Jalie jeans pattern, but fitting jeans on my own was too terrifying. Fortunately for me, American Sewing Expo was offering an all-day jeans fitting class with Jennifer Stern. WORTH ITS WEIGHT IN GOLD! I left with a perfectly fitted muslin and an altered paper pattern. I had never felt so good in a pair of pants. Ever.

I kept the boot cut leg, but opted to raise the waistline to just under my natural waist. Fit adjustments were shifting the crotch back, taking in some length from the back side, drafting a bias waistband, taking in the yoke, and adding room for my killer thighs. I decided to add a zipper pocket to protect my phone from crashes to the bathroom floor.

The denim is a non-stretch variety from Mood (bought in person!). I used scraps from my son's button down shirt for the pockets and pink thread in the serger. They match the zipper pocket, though no one knows but me (and now you).

Even after I had a perfectly fitted muslin and top notch materials, I was still too nervous to make the jeans. So I bought Angela Wolf's Sewing Designer Jeans class on Craftsy. ALSO WORTH ITS WEIGHT IN GOLD! She slowly and methodically walks through every part of the construction process. Her techniques were simpler and quicker than the ones in the pattern instructions. And her tips for topstitching and distressing were absolutely essential.

I've worn these jeans every day since I finished. The denim stretches a bit with wear, making the back yoke puff away from my body and the waist slide down. The back pockets, which are lined in cotton for durability (and that zipper), are stiff and so flatten out my bum instead of following its curve. Small issues that don't get in the way of me wearing the final product. Because HOLY SHIT, I MADE JEANS!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Another Navy Renfrew: PASS

Here's the Renfrew (again!) in navy (again!). But this time instead of a sweatshirt,  I made a layering tee.

The fabric is the same as the top layer of my reverse applique Plantain. I thought it was too thin to wear on its own. In fact, today's shirt was originally intended to wear underneath a sleeveless dress at a winter event. (I didn't finish it on time, so wore yet another Renfrew instead.) It has elbow length sleeves and a bottom band that's 1.5 times as wide as the one called for in the pattern. Rushing through the construction process left me with some bumps at the shoulder, but I just finger press them down and forget about them.

This shirt works great as a layering piece or on it's own. Maybe it's the poor lighting of winter, making everything seem more opaque. Or maybe I've been blissfully unaware of showing everyone my belly button and bra.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Welt Pocket Mini Skirt: PASS

Honest, this is the same gorgeous midnight blue corduroy from my son's bight green pocket pants. There was just enough left to squeeze out view B of McCall's M6608. Gotta love a front seam. So great for using stash fabrics!

There is plenty of fitting advice in the pattern and because I'm sometimes careful about fitting I was putting off making jeans, I dove right in. The instructions call for the standard Palmer/Pletsch technique of using 1" seam allowance to allow for fitting insurance. But from what I can tell, the pattern pieces still have a 5/8" seam. WTF, McCall's? I had already traced and cut my pattern pieces when I noticed this, so I didn't go back and add the extra allowance. I did, however try the pattern pieces on and make adjustments before I cut the fabric and as I sewed. I took in the waist and a LOT of extra bulk at the side seams. In this lightweight corduroy, the width at the bottom of the skirt seemed extreme.

The welt pockets also might have worked better in a stiffer fabric. The pockets pull the fabric open so that it looks like two pink slits (which I pass off as a design feature) and also distort the front of the skirt. 

They are, however, supremely useful for stashing my phone and keys. Which is why this skirt, even with its flaws, is a pass. I need more pockets in my life and until I get those jeans done, this is one of my few options!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Birthday Shirt: PASS

The Flashback Skinny Tee pattern + rainbow stripes harvested from my t-shirt stash continues to be a winning combination for my kid's birthday shirt. (In case you want to replicate, the stripes are cut three inches wide and sewn together with a 1/4 inch seam using a stretch stitch. This makes for smoother seams than using a serger.)

The only thing I would have done differently is follow my sewing instincts and go up a size. My kid says the arms are a bit tight and I can see the shirt rides up as he moves around. That hasn't stopped him from wearing it near-continuously since he hit the big oh-nine. I wonder if he'll want a birthday shirt next year or if he'll have outgrown the idea? I hope not. The pattern goes to size 14!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Rocker Pants: PASS

When I made the StyleArc Elle pants last month, I got on a roll... a rock an roll! (Har, har. There's your dorky joke for the day. You're welcome!) Here is my second of three pairs. Unlike the unintentional sweatpants, I think the color and texture give them a rocker vibe.

It's a crime for fabric this cool to have poor recovery. Alas, it's true. These pants start bagging out by midday. On the plus side, they're probably loose enough to wear when I volunteer in prison. On the minus side, well, bagginess.

I have fit issues to solve in the back. I think the fit over my butt is fine, but I've got excess fabric underneath and the back legs are as wrinkly as an elephant's. If you have any thoughts, please share them. Pants are so mystifying.

With all the griping about this and that, you'd think these pants would be a fail. But, no! I wear these all the time. Why? 1. They look just fine with a tunic. 2. It's too dang cold not to wear pants.

With the poor fit of most RTW pants, I bet no one has even noticed the flaws in this pair. What do you think, do non-sewists notice these things? And do you ever put a piece with fit issues in your rotation?