Monday, September 18, 2017

Last bit of vacation sewing

I know it's September 17, and evidently Target thinks time is nigh to throw the ol' Christmas lights up on the shelves.  (It's not.)  Because, guys, summer isn't quite over.

Here in my part of the world, we've had a few lovely 80-degree days recently.  Today I realized that I hadn't blogged the Pony tank I am wearing with my newly shortened Alberta Street skirt, so I decided to get a few photos and put them up here for future reference.

The tank was one of those it's-almost-vacation-and-I-need-to-make-something-new impulse sews.  Like my previous Pony Tank (the blue and white one, as I ended up giving the other one to my mother-in-law in July), this one is a straight size 16 with the exception of the armscye depth, which I cut on the size 8 line.

I once read a review of a dramatic hi-lo top on a blog (I can't remember which), where the writer described the back part of the top as a "butt cape."  Wearing my first Pony makes me feel a bit like I have on a butt cape, so I decided to shorten the back a bit.  I think I actually shortened the whole thing, but the drapey rayon sprang up higher than I had expected, so I ended up leaving the edges raw. I like these proportions better than the ones on my other Pony.

I also recently shortened my denim Alberta Street skirt.  I love this skirt and wear it all the time, through all seasons.  This summer, however, the length suddenly seemed a little frumpy.  I was really surprised; I've always been a knee-length-or-longer kind of girl when it comes to skirts, usually feeling uncomfortable in a skirt any shorter.  But I think my style is changing a bit, influenced no doubt by the legions of sewing blogs I read.

I'm digging a shorter skirt these days, so I took off about 2.5 inches and I'm really pleased with the results.  I almost can't wait to try it with tights and boots.  Except, I can.  Summer, don't leave me yet!

Thanks for reading, and see you next time!

Monday, September 4, 2017

2017 Outer Banks Collection

This summer I ended up making four full swim suits (each consisting of a rash guard + bottoms), two unpaired pairs of swim trunks, and one unpaired rash guard - 11 pieces in all.  Fair warning - this is a long read, as I've decided to cram them all into one post.

I sewed rash guards for the girls as well as the boys this year, because I've had trouble with the neck ties stretching out on the Cosi swimsuits I've sewn in the past (1, 2 and 3, 4 and 5, 6). Also, rash guards = less sunscreen, which is a plus in my book.

Natasha was in the most dire need of suits, so I started with her.  We decided color block it, using these daffodil and melon shades from The Fabric Fairy. I made her rash guards (and all the others) using the Oliver+S Field Trip Raglan pattern.  The girls' swim bottoms were made using the high-waisted bikini bottom from the Cosi Swimsuit pattern with a somewhat shortened rise.

Her bottoms are a size 6 with 1/2" taken off each side seam.  I cut her leg elastic at 14.25" (should have made it shorter, it turns out), and her waist elastic at 20".  The top is a 3T that I narrowed by moving the front and back patter pieces 1/2" off the fold.  My girl is nearly 8 but very skinny and the straight 3T would have been too baggy for a rash guard.  I also added 2.5" extra length.  I cut the neckband for this and all other suits about 3.5" wide, to finish at 1.5" or so.  I also lengthened the neckband a little bit to make sure they'd go over the kids' heads, though it turns out I only really needed to lengthen the girls' neckbands because I had sized down their rash guards so much.

I also underlined the front and back panels with swimsuit lining.

I'm not super pleased with either of the solid fabrics I used for Natasha's suit - the daffodil yellow fabric, in addition to being very sheer, ran pink-colored streaks both on this suit (visible in the above photo near her right armpit), and on the rash guard I made for G using some of the yellow scraps.  And the melon fabric faded to a light peach during our two weeks at the beach.  You can see some of the fading in the color below, which was taken towards the end of our trip; the melon is actually even lighter in person now.

I have found that the swimsuit fabric I have purchased from The Fabric Fairy has been very hit-or-miss - as in, either it's fabulous quality, or incredibly pilly and prone to fading after just a few wears.  While the wins have been true wins, I need a bit more consistency in my life and I'm hunting around for another swimsuit fabric source.  Please leave any suggestions you have in the comments!

I made a second suit for Natasha as well, using fabric scraps from suits I'd sewn her the last two years.  I'm expecting the bee print to fade quite a bit based on the condition of the last suit I made her.  The stripe (which isn't yarn-dyed) is the only print I've purchased from The Fabric Fairy that has held up well.

For this one, I added an extra inch of length to the rash guard, and I removed the 1/2" from the side seams instead of the center of both front and back pieces, which I think works better.  I also lengthened the sleeves and I LOVE them in the longer length.  I thought she might resist wearing a "long-sleeved" swimsuit, but she didn't mind it at all, so I will be sewing these longer sleeves on future rash guards, as well.

Z also got a rash guard suit.  I didn't think she needed a new suit at the time, so I didn't include any fabric for her in my Fabric Fairy order.  But then one of her old Cosis bit the dust, and I ended up getting these fabrics from Joann's. I can't recommend them - the seat of the bottoms are already pilling, and the fabric is a bit shiny for my taste - but at least the fabric hasn't faded.

Z's rash guard is a straight 3T with 2.5" extra length.  Her Cosi bottoms are a straight size 6 with a shorter rise and with the same waist and leg elastic as Natasha's.

Niko's set is probably my favorite of the bunch.  The fabrics (from The Fabric Fairy) have held up spectacularly well, and I just love the way the suit looks on him.   This is the navy fabric, which is very thick and substantial and seems to be very high quality.  The floral has also held up nicely so far.

His rash guard is a size 18-24 month with extra length.  His trunks are size 2 of the Euro Swim Trunks pattern, with about 1/2" taken off each side seam.  I also lengthened the bottoms a couple of inches, as I'm digging a longer trunk for my boys these days.

I also made Niko two pairs of board shorts, though I only managed to get photos of one.  They were both made using the Oliver+S Sunny Day Shorts pattern (it's free!) in a straight size 2T.  I added a patch pocket to the back of the gingham pair.  The unpictured pair is just a bright yellow.

G didn't need much.  He is still rocking the gingham trunks I made him two years ago, which match Niko's gingham trunks, though they are now quite faded and likely won't be passed down.  Plus he has a bunch of thrifted and gifted trunks.  He did need a new rash guard, so I sewed up a quick one a couple days before we left for the beach, using scraps from Niko and Natasha's swim suits.  I used the size 3 with a ton of extra length for my tall four-year-old, and made elbow-length sleeves.

And that wraps up Beach Collection 2017!  

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Four Fairfields on vacation

I was very busy the first two weeks in August, sewing up vacation button-downs for my brother, my father and my husband.  After my brother saw the bula shirt I sewed for J in June, he requested one.  His birthday was coming up, so we picked out two cuts of rayon fabric from Hawaii Fabric Mart. I did not want to make the Negroni pattern again because of the front facings, and I suspected that my brother would not be inclined to iron (spoiler alert, I have already been proven right).  I decided to try the Fairfield Button-Up from Thread Theory.

Now here is where I mention that I could have saved myself a lot of annoyance if I had a) muslined and b) taken the time to really work out where the pattern was going wrong, fit-wise, before sewing three more of the shirts.  Because, although I like the pattern, and although I will definitely sew it again, I have come to the conclusion that this pattern is not just "slim-fit," but actually runs small.  Obviously a Hawaiian-type shirt calls for a more relaxed fit than a dressier shirt, but I think the sizing of the Fairfield is too tight even for a modern-cut dressy shirt.

I cut a size L for my brother's first shirt.  The size chart says an L fits a 42 1/8" chest, 37.75" waist, 45" hip.  My brother has a 42" chest and a 37" waist.  It should have fit well, but I had to forego flat-felled seams and sew the side seams - all the way up through the sleeve - with a 1/4" seam allowance to avoid it being super-tight.  I admittedly forgot to measure my brother's hip, but I had planned to do a split hem anyway, and his hips are not disproportionate to his chest and waist.  And as it turned out, the side slits were not optional, due to tightness.

We didn't try to button the shirt up all the way (in fact, I didn't even put a button at the top because I knew it would always be worn open), but you can see in the above photo from the way the fabric is pulling at the top button, that the shirt is too small across the upper chest despite the fact that my brother fits into the size range exactly.  That shoulder fit, though, is spot-on.  And he loves the shirt, and received several compliments on it from waitstaff at restaurants while on vacation.

Next, I went to work on a shirt for my dad.  He is not a fan of anything even remotely flamboyant, and actually poked a little fun at my brother's fabric choices.  But after seeing the first shirt, he did mention that he might like a linen shirt for his birthday.  We chose a beautiful blue from Fabric Mart's designer-quality line.  (Fabric Mart is not to be confused with Hawaii Fabric Mart - two different sites/stores).  The fabric lived up to its name.  It is gorgeous - with a satisfying heft and beautiful drape - and lovely to sew.  I will definitely buy it again in the future.

Now here's where I'm stupid a second time - I didn't make a muslin for my dad's shirt.  I also really should have chosen a different pattern - my dad likes his shirts relaxed and I now knew this pattern was skin tight a slimmer cut.  I measured him, and he is 42-39-41 1/2.  The XL is supposed to fit a man of proportions 44 1/8-40-46 5/8. I cut the XL with an extra 2" of length (because my dad likes his shirts long as well as roomy), and added an extra 1/2" to the side seams on both fronts and back for good measure.

In any case, again, the fit was no bueno.  I couldn't even put the button placket together at the bottom, and my dad's hips are supposedly 5 inches under the XL hip measurement.  My dad said "I think I need about eight more inches across the shirt." I said "I can give you 1"."  And then I felt really badly because I hadn't given enough thought to sizing.  An inch extra of ease wasn't going to result in a shirt that he would feel comfortable in.  That night, I lay awake thinking what to do.  I ended up cutting 3" panels and inserting them at the side seams, all the way from the shirt hem to the sleeve hem.  I flat-felled all the seams.  This added about 4" of ease and made the shirt fit much better.  I was all ready to discuss the concept of a "design element" with my classic-style-loving dad, but his eyesight isn't great and I don't think he has even noticed the panels!

After I was done with that shirt, a little ragged but determined to finish the job, I went back to the second cut of rayon for my brother.  I forgot to jot down sizing notes while I was sewing it, and I'm typing up this post after two weeks of beachy bliss, so I don't remember exactly what I did.  I think I sized up to the XL everywhere except the shoulder, which I cut to a size L, because it was a perfect fit on the first shirt.  

Sizing up did the trick, and allowed me to flat-fell the seams.  You can see in the below photo that the upper chest/neck fits much better despite the fact that I kept the L shoulder.  And, yes, he proved me right on the ironing.  Although I presented him the shirt on a hanger, he decided it was better stored in a ball on the floor until he wore it to dinner ...

I used coconut-shell buttons on all the shirts in this post; after I exhausted my Fiji-sourced supply, I started looking for more on eBay.  I was surprised when I found them at Walmart while buying thread, but they look pretty much exactly like the ones from Fiji.  

I didn't think about how I was going to make a split hem whilst utilizing flat-felled seams until after the pattern pieces were cut, so I ended up fudging it with a bit of seam binding.  For a casual shirt, it worked fine.

On to the last shirt.

I hadn't planned to make J another shirt, but it seemed silly barbaric to order fabric from Hawaii and not even let him pick out a cut of fabric.  And then I had a week left before our trip, so, naturally, he had to get another shirt, too.  Having (finally) learned from my previous errors, I had him try on the shirts I had made for my brother and my father, and we decided to make him a straight size L despite the fact that his measurements place him squarely in the M size.  This worked well for him, and I was even able to flat-fell all the seams.  And after sewing three shirts in two weeks, I had his made, cutting to buttons, in four hours, even with having to recut one of the front pieces.

His is also in rayon, with coconut shell buttons.  I washed his shirt while we were on vacation, though, and sadly, the collar is now fraying at one of the points.  I actually tried not to trim that point too closely, and now I'm not sure what to do.  Probably Fray-Check and some zigzagging.

Gripes about the sizing aside, I enjoyed sewing these shirts.  The pieces come together well and the instructions are quite good.  I do think there is an error in the way the collar is sewn.  The instructions instruct you to clip the shirt neckline, and not the collar stand.  If you do this, though, the neckline becomes much too wide for the collar stand.  I actually needed to clip the collar stand where it attaches to the neckline, in order to make it fit, so that's how I sewed these shirts.

I will definitely be sewing more of these in the future, just making sure to size up.  For now, though, I'm glad that my shirt-making marathon has ended!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Bonn Fever

I've been sewing a ton the last couple of weeks in preparation for our upcoming annual beach vacation.  I've made four men's short-sleeve button-down shirts,  two girls' dresses andthree swim suits with another in progress.  But I haven't had time to get any decent pictures.  I'm hoping to remedy that with the ocean and the sand dunes as my backdrop. For now, I leave you with an overdue post about my latest Bonn shirt, sewn back in May.

So it's official, I have Bonn fever.  I haven't had any good button-down shirts in my wardrobe since I got pregnant with Niko and outgrew the Lisette Travelers I made in 2014.  I'm rapidly filling those holes, and now I present Bonn #3!

I should note here that I tried to photograph this shirt a number of times during an overcast spring.  I still haven't found a good spot for photos in or around the new house, so here's a bunch of blurry images featuring a wrinkled shirt that I refuse to iron it single time I try to photograph it.  And also I wore it a lot before it got too hot.

I made this one in the long-sleeved view.  I think I will probably make them all long-sleeved from now on.  I like a full-length sleeve in chilly weather, and when it's not so cold, I just roll them up, so this will make them more versatile.  The sleeves did end up a bit short so I will need to lengthen it about 1.5" on my pattern piece.

Again I sewed a 10DD graded to a 12 at the waist and a 14 at the hip.  It fits well, though I think if I ever make this as a dress or a tunic (which I am planning to do), I should probably grade out to the 16 hip if not the 18, as I think the 14 will be too tight if I continue it all the way down.

Like on my second Bonn, my bust darts are an inch lower and an inch shorter, the shirt is lengthened 1.5" and there is a 5/8" forward shoulder adjustment.  This time I also deepened the V in front by 1".  I forgot to do this on the pattern, so it was an afterthought alteration after my pattern pieces had already been cut.  I need to redraft my pattern to include this change.  I am forever lowering necklines as I usually find a lower neckline to be more flattering on my large bust - it seems to have a minimizing effect.

The sleeves are pleated to fit them into the cuff.  I didn't read the instructions carefully enough, and I stitched my pleats closed rather than basting them.  It doesn't really matter, though, given my predilection for rolled up sleeves.

I am scratching my head a little on the forward shoulder adjustment.  I've read a number of different tutorials on the forward shoulder, and I see two different methods - the first calls for shortening the front shoulder all the way across, and adding back to the entirety of the back shoulder.  The second method, which is the one I use, calls for subtracting from the front outer shoulder edge only, leaving the neck edge as is, and drawing a diagonal line between the two.  I use this method because it makes sense to me that only my outer shoulders are forward - the part attached to my neck can't really migrate forward because it is attached to my neck.  But maybe I need to do it the other way, because the adjustment I made hasn't totally worked on this shirt - it still migrates backwards.

I didn't mention hemming in my other two Bonn posts, but I had quite a difficult time making the small hem on the curved shirttail.  I ended up with a flippy hem on the linen one even after I redid it.  This time I used a triple-stitch method that now I can't locate to link for you, and it was better, although I still find that the hem flips up after I wash it.  It's really annoying, but I have had RTW shirts do that too.  Does anyone have any tips there?

As it's summer now, I haven't worn the shirt much lately.  But I'll be pulling it back out for heavy rotation later this fall, and I even have this fabric stashed away in the black/gray/white color (100% cotton shirting, from Walmart of all places!) to make another one.  It's definitely a winner.

Thanks for reading, and see you next time!

Monday, July 31, 2017

Gifts for little people

I recently acquired a brand-new nephew, and my youngest niece just turned two.  It was time to make some wee little things.

For the little guy, I wanted to sew a collared romper, but did not have such a pattern in my stash.   I did a little Googling, and found the Button-Up Baby Romper pattern, here from Peekaboo Patterns.  The free pattern comes in a 0-6 month size.

I used a length of mustard yellow cotton I found at the thrift store a few months back, trimmed with scraps of the gingham linen I used herehere and here.

I didn't initially intend to add an appliqué, but when I had finished, the romper, perhaps because of the color, was looking a little prison-jumpsuit to me.  I thought about using a whale appliqué (my favorite for little boys), or an elephant, but ultimately decided the colors of the romper were more giraffe-esque.  I found an outline on Google and used my computer screen as a lightbox to trace it onto my fusible web, then created the appliqué from there.

The pattern went together easily and all the seams match up, however, it only includes 1/4" seam allowances which mean it's hard to get a clean finish without thinking ahead (or seam binding).  That's my only quibble with this otherwise very nice (and FREE) pattern.

For my niece, I pulled out my Oliver+S Library Dress pattern, which I've used once before, and not in the way it was intended.  I had in my head that the dress would take awhile to sew, but it wasn't bad.  The cutting was a little less tedious than usual, because I block-interfaced my facings for the first time.  I cut out the pattern pieces in interfacing first, then turned them sticky-side up on my ironing board and laid my fabric wrong-side down on top of them.  Then I pressed.  It seemed to save a good amount of time and I'll use the technique again.

The actual sewing took me two evenings.  Not bad at all.

I made a 6-12 month size with the skirt lengthened to the 12-18 month.  My niece is a little peanut of a thing and I have always found O+S dress patterns to run quite large.  I think the resulting dress will be a good fit for this fall.

I used some quilting cotton from Spotlight, which was sent to me by a thoughtful Australian friend.  I love the print, and I don't at all mind using quilting cotton for little girls' dresses.  The waistband and sleeve facing was cut from gray shot cotton scraps from my stash.  Instead of bias trim on the waistband, I used black pre-made piping, also from the stash.  Looking at the photos, I wish it had occurred to me to trim the sleeves with the piping as well!  Maybe next time.

I hadn't appreciated how pretty the details are on this pattern before now.  That notched sleeve is really nice (though maybe it would have been tough to trim it in piping after all), and I love the little pleats on the front and back skirt.  I might have to buy the next size up to make this for my own girls!

Thanks for reading, and see you next time!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Linen pants

This year I started making seasonal sewing plans, trying to both use up some fabric from my stash, and create coordinates that I could mix-and-match.  Most recently, I sewed what I guess could be trendily termed a "micro-capsule," which involved the two Pony tanks I posted about here, and this new pair of linen pants.

They are McCall's 7364, sewn out of this always-reliable slub linen from Joann's.  I had in mind a particular idea for the pants I wanted, and this basic pattern seemed something that was pretty close and that I could tinker with until I got them where I wanted them.  I liked the shape of the pant on the pattern envelope, as well as the front pocket on the shorts view.  I knew I didn't want a drawstring waist (I never find that they stay up), but I planned to put a knit yoga waistband on the pants anyway.

So I made view E, the long pants, but with the pockets of view A, and I ended up cropping them a few inches.  I cut a size XL according to my measurements (which correspond with a 20 - the XL is 20/22) and they were way too big.  I should have taken a photo because my muslin looked like legit clown pants.  I ended up cutting down the side seams to about the size L and then continued trying on the pants, pinning, and resewing the seams.  From the size L, I made the following adjustments, some in the muslin phase, and others to the final pants while in progress:
  • Took in the side seams evenly at about mid-hip down to my knee by 3/8". 
  • Took in just the back piece side seam about 1" starting at mid-hip and ending a few inches above the hem.
  • Raised the back by 1" at center and shortened the front rise by 1".  
  • Scooped out the back crotch curve by about 3/8".
  • Took in both the front and back center seams by about 1" at the top, tapering to nothing halfway down. 
  • Took in just the back inseam by 1" at the crotch curve, tapering to nothing about 8" or so down.

I realized after washing and putting on these pants again, though, that I had done a lot of my alterations after the pants had already bagged out quite a bit - being linen, there is no recovery.  So the just-out-of-the-wash pants (photographed with an olive green tank top) are a touch tight in the thighs. They do relax into the shape I want relatively quickly (see all the other photos).

My finished yoga band, made of cotton/lycra rib, is about 2" wide, and threaded through with 2" wide elastic.  It's very comfortable and stays put.  I originally tried to make a knit-fabric-only band that was wider (you can see it in the photo below, of the pants after I've worn them a bit), but they didn't stay up.  So I had to cut the band down to fit the elastic I had.

I loved the shape, the length, and the breezy linen.  The bum is a little baggy as seen below, but I always wear a longer top with them, so no one is looking at this view.

The back pockets are a bit too small; if I make these again I should enlarge them.  But I really like the shape of the front pockets.

Since finishing these pants about four weeks ago, I've worn them at least twice a week.  They are very comfy for our hot and sticky weather, and if I had time (I don't), I'd make another pair.  I'm halfway through three men's shirts I need to make before we got to the beach in 2.5 weeks, so it's unlikely I'll be doing any more selfish sewing this summer.  Luckily, I've already kitted my vacation wardrobe out pretty well this summer (see here, here, here, and here).

Thanks for reading, and see you next time.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Gingham Josephine

Immediately after finishing my replacement Kaffe Fassett Josephine, I sewed up another one.  I had a yard of this rayon challis in my stash (what else does a girl like me - or you - do with an Amazon gift card, anyway?) and it was just enough to squeak out the pattern (this was helped by the fact that I had previously modified the back to have a center seam). piece.  I think I had to cut the front bodice piece slightly narrower at the hem to squeak the top out of a yard.

The modifications are the same as the floral version, but this time I sewed the release tucks a couple inches longer.  The rest of it is exactly the same.  And just like the last version, I used some cotton shirting to make bias tape to finish the armholes and neckline.

Rayon challis is a great fabric to use for this pattern.  It keeps all the volume of the fabric below the tucks in check, so you get a breezy top that doesn't look like a muumuu.  I am also an eternal fan of plaid in general and gingham in particular (as evidenced by several recent makes), so this has been getting a lot of wear in the past month.

My pattern matching on the back isn't perfect, but I'm digging the slight wonkiness.  And I'm so glad I took the time to get this pattern to where I wanted it.

Thanks for reading, and see you next time!