Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!

2010 was a good year, in part because I was able to make clothes for myself that I actually want to wear!

I’ve learned a lot, but I’m not making any sewing resolutions for 2011 nor do I feel the need to revisit my 2010 projects. I know, I’m denying myself the annual ritual of self assessment…I’m ok with that.

There are no 2011 sewing goals or resolutions because, well, there are just too many variables. I mean, how do I know how much time I will have to sew, what fabrics will come my way or what events will dictate the type of garments I will need?

I don’t. As a result, my sewing of simple (and comfortable) garments will continue and I expect that the quality and fit of my garments will improve with new-to-me techniques and equipment. Also, I am getting closer to creating a wardrobe plan, though I’m not ready to set it in stone yet. I’m just gonna keep on sewing the clothes I need and the rest will take care of itself.

I wish you a very happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year! Make your dreams come true!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Monday, December 20, 2010

Kwik Sew 3431 – The Dog Gets Presents Too

Little by little, we are sorting through the boxes that are stored in the garage.  Last week, one of the boxes I opened was filled with fabric scraps. I don’t have a clue as to why a box of scraps survived the brutal moving process, but it did. 

So this year, thanks to the scraps discovery, I’m helping Santa out a bit.

Just like everyone else in the family, Santa always leaves something for our dog as well.  It might be a new collar and some treats; each year it is something different.  Among the scraps was a piece of denim just big enough to make a little jean jacket for him.
The pattern is Kwik Sew 3431 and it went together without any problems.  All of the topstitching kept it from being a speedy project but with the short seams, I can’t really say that it was a time hog.

I’ll try to get a picture of him wearing it.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Holiday Cardigan - A Frankenpattern

There was just enough of the paisley stretch velvet leftover from the cowl top (Simplicity 3634) to make a cardigan.  I wanted to try the cardigan from that pattern, but there is a seam at the center back and I didn’t want to break up the large print any more than necessary.
I’ve enjoyed wearing the cardigans that I had made from Simplicity 2474.  They are very comfortable and the pattern goes together so quickly that I decided to use it for my holiday cardigan.  However, I felt that a long sleeve would be more appropriate for the fabric.  To guarantee that the sleeve would fit, I kept the sleeve cap but borrowed the bottom sleeve portion from the Simplicity 3634 cardigan sleeve. It worked just fine and I am tickled!
The tank dress is from Chico’s.  I’ve had it for years and it really pairs well with anything – summer or winter.

DD#2 will be home in a few days.  She wants me to make her a dress.  The Burda’s will get another chance…

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Holiday Top - Simplicity 3634, View B

I bought this paisley stretch velvet from Fabric Mart last December. With the large print, I knew my garment design needed to be basic.  I considered sewing another cowl top like the one I had made at the beginning of November (Vogue 8634), but I haven’t actually worn it yet.  Each time I put it on, I change before leaving the house.  The low neckline just isn’t working for me.  Really, it is modest enough, but if I am uncomfortable, I'm not going to wear it.  So, in searching for another cowl top pattern, I found Simplicity 3634. It is OOP but still available on the Simplicity website.
Before cutting the fabric, I compared the necklines.  The center front neckline on the Simplicity pattern is about three inches higher than the Vogue neckline.  Better, much better! I cut a size 20W except for 22W side seams and shortened the sleeve length an inch, but uncharacteristically, did not lengthen the hem. This top went together quickly and it is partially due to my becoming more at ease with the coverstitch machine. I really appreciate being able to sew stretchy, nice looking hems on knits. Why did I wait so long?
There is still a large piece of the stretch velvet left.  I probably should make something else while the machines are still loaded with black thread...

Friday, December 10, 2010

Jalie 2445 – Yoga Pants

My first born always has difficulty in finding pajama and lounge pants that are long enough for her legs.  Recently, while searching for her jeans pattern on the BurdaStyle website, we saw a yoga pants pattern, Corrine #6021, that she liked enough to download.
BurdaStyle - Corrine #6021
I made a muslin out of some unsightly knit fabric and though the sizing was correct, she was unhappy with the tight fit at the knees.  A yardstick and a pencil could easily change that, but she realized she was really after a less curvy/more angular style of lounge pant.

She showed me a picture of some Juicy Couture velour pants and instantly I understood. After all, one must be comfortable when stretched out on the sofa, sipping tea and interneting. I felt that it might be faster to find a pattern that already had what she wanted rather than experimenting with the BurdaStyle pattern. Jalie 2445 (OOP but available as a download) had all the desired features:

• Young, feminine styling – in no way to be mistaken for men’s pajama pants
• Snug, but not tight, fit through the hips
• Straight legs
Jalie 2445
Based on the measurements of the BurdaStyle yoga pants, I went up one size on the Jalie muslin.  They fit, though were almost too snug.  The stretch velour she bought, from JoAnn’s, did not have as much stretch as the knit muslin fabric so I went up another size when cutting the fabric.  They went together quickly as the ¼” seam allowances meant that I was able to use the serger for most of the construction. For built-in stretch, I chose to coverstitch the casing to the waistband and, of course, I coverstitched the hems, too.
Instructions - Jalie 2445
I don't understand why the instructions have buttonholes placed on the backside of the waistband and so I skipped that and put them on the casing instead.  Actually, I didn’t make buttonholes but simply snipped the casing fabric (a knit mesh) where the buttonholes needed to be. However, I did sew buttonholes in place of grommets on the front of the pants.
The pants fit her very nicely and the styling is exactly what she wanted.  Really, it has taken longer to write about than it did to sew them up.  There is a good chance that I will use this pattern again - for me… J

Monday, November 29, 2010

BurdaStyle 6006 Anita Jeans – Completed

Here are a few photos of my daughter wearing her new Anita jeans.  The morning sunshine was very bright and I was granted but a brief minute to snap the button on the camera before she got in her car and drove away for the day.

She is pleased.  We both would have preferred a non-printed denim but really, that was the best choice for an impulse buy.  There is a very slight gap at the center back area of the waistband.  Not bad and she has this same gap in her RTW jeans, too.  The yoke is fine – it is just the upper edge of the waistband.  If I use this pattern again for her, I would alter the back waistband pattern a smidge by placing a tiny dart near the center back and then redraw the pattern.  Other than that, she likes the style and the fit.  I would also add more to the seam allowances of the yoke and center back seams to be able to sew flat felled seams.  Not only would it look more like RTW, it would also give strength to those seams.  It will be interesting to see how (and where) the non-stretch denim relaxes after wearing them all day.
I ruined several sets of the rivets by being overly aggressive with the hammer.  I had fun, but my rivets supply has needlessly dwindled.
The Anita pattern is well drafted and the fit is nearly identical to Gap’s “Sexy Boot” jeans.  In looking at some of my daughter’s jeans, I see that two or three different colors of topstitching thread are used on the same pair.  Also, the rivets and buttons will be different colors.  So, I think you take the basic pattern and just have fun with it. Well, first I need to find a bolt of dark denim….

Sunday, November 28, 2010

BudaStyle 6006 - Anita Jeans

Last week, I offered to sew my first born a pair of jeans. She has been content with her Gap “Sexy Boot” and True Religion jeans, so I was surprised when she accepted.

To start, we reviewed the jeans patterns in my Burda and Ottobre Woman magazines. She declared each of them to be “Mom” jeans due to their high waists.  My other patterns weren’t considered as the sizing is much too large for her.  Besides, she would not have liked the styling of those any better.  Also rejected was the popular Jalie 2908 jeans pattern.  We ended up on the BurdaStyle website and found the Anita jeans pattern.  She liked the design, and for only $4.00, I felt it was a good place to begin.
Based on the measurements of her Gap jeans, I made a size 40 (equivalent to US size 10) muslin, lengthened the legs by ½” and made the pattern slightly boot cut by adding 1” to each side of the leg and tapering to the knee markings.  She liked the two back pocket styles that came with the pattern, but I didn’t want to spend a lot of time making a fancy pocket for an unproved pattern. After all, I don’t know if the jeans will fit or if she will even like them.  So, I drew a traditional back pocket pattern and used that instead.  I also made a fly shield pattern for the zipper.  It wasn’t included in the Anita pattern but I felt the jeans would have a higher chance of acceptance if they looked like “normal” jeans. 

The denim came from JoAnn’s. This particular denim wouldn’t have been my first choice but the stretch denim was way too stretchy and the rest was too thin, or had some other issue (like ugly embroidery). This was the only dark, and appropriate for jeans, denim that they had.

I cannot say how well written the Anita pattern instructions are.  I printed them out but the font was small and irritated me, so I set them aside.  I constructed the jeans front and the back; sewed them together and attached the waistband. Easy. This was a great project for the Thanksgiving weekend – nothing too complicated and lots of natural stopping points.

I finally had a chance to use a new-to-me technique for the jeans zipper.  Debbie Cook has a jeans fly/zipper tutorial on her blog, Stitches & Seams.  It is easy to understand and the results are wonderful!  Thank you, Debbie!

The Bernina 930 is handling the layers of denim with no problems.  I love that machine!  I still need to topstitch the waistband.  Also, the belt loops, rivets, and waist button need to be attached.

Maybe she will model the completed jeans for us….we’ll see…

Friday, November 19, 2010

Stretch & Sew 1568 - Oxford Blouse

As you know from prior posts, I had ordered some clearance denim from but didn’t end up with it. Yeah, I still bummed but it wasn’t a total loss as I had also ordered a few other fabrics to meet the free shipping minimum.

This white polyester was one of those other fabrics. It is nasty! I figured it would be, but at $1.95/yd. I also knew that the intimidation factor would disappear when trying out view C of this Stretch & Sew pattern from 1982.
Before I started, I compared my Bernina My Label shirt pattern to it.  Other than lengthening the body and shortening the sleeves, the patterns were similar in size.  However, there are no bust or waistline darts on the Stretch & Sew pattern; also, the collar stand and collar are shorter. I like the smaller collar though the narrow stand was more difficult to sew at the center fronts.  The box pleat at the back yoke and the traditional sleeve plackets are classic shirt details that the My Label shirt lacks. I followed the instructions for the plackets and they turned out fine considering I hadn’t sewn this type of placket before and the polyester would not press into crisp points.
The sleeve cuffs, like the collar, are not as wide as the ones on my Eddie Bauer or My Label shirts.  I can live with that.  And, if I decide I can’t, it would be easy to merge the two patterns.
For buttons, I pulled some from the stash.  I chose these as the white buttons I have were too big or else had a yellow or gray cast to them.  These, at least, were the right size.
Other than the icky fabric, the styling of this shirt rivals the ones in my closet.  However, I’m thinking I need to figure this buttonhole thing out.  Since this shirt was an experiment, I decided it was an excellent opportunity to make friends (finally) with the Bernina 930 buttonholes.  I very carefully marked the shirt, using a fine point Mark-B-Gone pen, and sewed the buttonholes. Yes, they were quite easy to create but after taking a ruler to them, I find I have a variety of sizes…..

I’m sorry, but we’re still not friends and I’m confident that it is all my fault.  I haven’t given up, though I must admit that I’ve paid a visit to eBay and purchased a vintage Singer Professional Buttonholer for my Singer 403A.  What can I say?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

HP Weekender Sunshine Top - The Frankenpattern Version

My plan was to take the leftover fabric from the purple Simplicity 2288 cardigan and make a sleeveless shell.  However, when I laid the fabric out on the cutting table, I saw that there was enough to make a top with sleeves.  I quickly switched gears and pulled the HP Weekender Sunshine Tops pattern from the file.
I really like the neckband on the Simplicity 2598 sleeveless top that I made last week – so much that I combined the neckbands from these two patterns.  I had made changes to the Sunshine neckband pieces when I had made it back in July.  Starting fresh, I traced new neckband pieces, matching them (CF/CB and shoulders) with the Simplicity neckband pieces and then traced my new pattern pieces.  This added close to an inch to the upper edge of the neckband – still feminine but with a more modest, and therefore more wearable, neckline than the original pattern.  By the way, I used a knit interfacing for the neckband and, of course, coverstitched the hems.

The Sunshine pattern offers two sleeve choices: none or a short cap sleeve.  Since I wanted a top appropriate for the season, I borrowed my Bernina My Label t-shirt sleeve pattern and merged it with the Sunshine cap sleeve to create the ¾-length sleeve pattern.

I am delighted with my Sunshine Frankenpattern.  Moreover, the new top is wonderful – it fits!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Another Simplicity 2474 Cardigan

I had a business meeting this afternoon. It wasn’t necessary to show up wearing a suit and high heels, but blue jeans were out. Assessing my dwindling wardrobe (recently, I’ve been tossing many of my clothes for one reason or another), I knew that a desperate visit to Chico’s, Dillard’s, etc. was going to be happening. However, I also knew that driving to Retail Land would be futile because nothing ever fits. Instead, I chose to give the serger and the newbie coverstitch an opportunity to impress. It was a good decision.
The quickest way to a new outfit was to make a cardigan to match the black and white top (Simplicity 2598) I had made on Sunday. I used the same cardigan pattern, Simplicity 2474, that I had for my Tammyriffic Twinset. It took me about two hours from taking the rotary cutter to the fabric (by the way – I love the pattern weights!) to placing the finished cardigan on the dress form. Black pants completed my outfit.

I am finally getting to where it is quicker and less frustrating to sew a TNT garment than to visit a retail store. Now, don’t get me wrong. I love to shop. The problem is finding something that will fit. I am not sewing for budget, political or creative reasons. I sew because I want clothing that fits and sewing is the easiest way to make that happen.

And, even though I need a challenge, it appears that I will be continuing on this path of instant gratification sewing. Mama needs clothes! There is a piece of the purple knit leftover from Sunday's Simplicity 2288 cardigan so I will  be making a coordinating top to go with it.

Sadly, my jean jacket project is going to be delayed. I received an email from saying that the denim (clearance @ $3.99/yard) I had ordered is sold out.  There is a mid-weight denim in the stash, but I really want a heavier denim.  I’ll choose something else; it just won’t be the bargain I had planned.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Summer is Over...

The temperatures here in Texas have finally dropped. Enough that there are serious gaps in what I have to wear and I hastily put three garments together. First, I made the Vogue 8634 cowl neck top. You may recognize the fabric as the same $1.95/yard Lycra knit that I had used back in August for the Lena Sommermode top. Granted, this is some odd fabric but it was ideal for testing the pattern.
I made view B, Xlg (20-22), borrowing the long sleeves from view C.  And, as usual, I added to the hem (2") and shortened the sleeves (2”). I also eliminated the front horizontal seam by pinning the upper and lower front pattern pieces together.  To secure the cowl, I edge-stitched along the neck seam using the coverstitch.  The top went together very quickly and I will be making it again using a more subdued fabric.  This style would be great to wear under a vest or jacket.
Next, I made a cardigan and a sleeveless top.  For the top, I used Simplicity 2598, view E. The cardi-wrap is the star of this pattern and the top, I suspect, is really an “oh, by the way” afterthought.  I just cannot bring myself to sew the cardi.  To me, those pointy cardi-wrap tails are begging to get caught in the car door, or worse - a public toilet!
The fabric is a stretch polyester knit that I purchased several months ago from Farbic Mart.  I cut a size 18W-20W with 22W-24W side seams and added 1” to the hem. 

Needing to wear the top in a few hours, I didn’t use the coverstitch binder to finish the armhole edges. This fabric curled as soon as it was cut and I simply didn’t have time to experiment. Instead, I sewed clear elastic in the armhole seam allowance, folded the seam allowance over and coverstitched.  It worked! The elastic will keep the armhole from stretching out of shape. I also sewed clear elastic into the shoulder seams.
For the cardigan, I used Simplicity 2288, view A.  This fabric also came from Fabric Mart. I made a size 20, using size 22 side seams and skipped the pleated ruffle trim.  I didn’t shorten the sleeves as they look a bit short on the envelope model.  It ended up being the correct sleeve length for me. 
The neatly stacked pieces of the 1952 dress are patiently waiting next to the Bernina. I am still working on the shoulder pads. There isn’t a pending occasion/looming deadline for the dress though I’m sure that locating the right belt buckle will improve my motivation.
I purchased some denim and a few knit pieces from a few days ago. I want to sew another jean jacket, this time actually using denim. And, after these easy projects, I could use something a bit more complicated. However, my goal is to complete the 1952 dress before I tackle the jean jacket.

Enjoy your week!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Pattern Weights and Storage Bag

I am still working on the shoulder pads for the 1952 dress.  Of course, I used the rotary cutter when I cut them out which made me realize that I could use some small, flexible, low-height pattern weights.  My first thought was to make weights about the size of a roll of pennies.  I cut the fabric (the leftovers from my jean jacket) 3” wide and 6” long; folded the fabric in half and sewed ¼” seams, leaving one end open.  A chopstick was handy to help turn the fabric.
Filling the fabric tubes with BBs was easy.  I couldn’t find my kitchen funnel, which was probably too big anyway.  I ended up borrowing a silicone mini-muffin cup from my bento supplies.  It worked great and had I located my funnel, I would have still used the little muffin cup. By the way, it took 4 ounces of BBs to fill the fabric tubes. I didn’t fill them to the top as I wanted the finished weights to have flexibility; also, it left room to sew them closed without the machine needle hitting a BB.
I made some larger weights, too.  For those, I cut the fabric 4” by 11”, using ½” seam allowances.  They were filled with 12 ounces of BBs.
As always, storing my sewing items in this little house is a challenge.  So, while I am sewing them I am already planning where they are going to go. None of my available boxes or tins were the right shape or size. However, there was a large piece of the fabric left so I thought I could make some type of pouch for the weights.  For a pattern, I chose view C of Simplicity 9949 as it was about the right size.  I have had this pattern for years but it is still on the Simplicity website.  I modified the pattern by adding five inches to the bag.  The outer fabric was block fused with heavy interfacing and handles were attached once the bag was finished.
Because I didn’t know where I was heading when I started this project, I was happy to use scraps.  The bag is sturdy enough for the weights, but when making the next one, I will give it more structure by using some Timtex, template plastic, or something similar.
I think the weights would be wonderful made up using embroidered ribbons (reinforced with fusible interfacing) instead of fabric.  Wouldn’t they be a pleasure to use?  Also, the bag could be embellished with some of the same ribbon and/or quilted.  Leather for both the weights and the bag is appealing, too.

Well, I’m not placing an online order for leather scraps or embroidered ribbons anytime soon.  I want to see how well these work and what other changes, if any, need to be made. Prototype. Yep. That’s it.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Bernina My Label Pants – Fitting Evolution

While searching for a belt buckle for the 1952 dress, I took a departure from sewing on it. I want the dress to have ¾ length sleeves and I am still considering how the bottom of the sleeves should be styled. Do I want to use the 4” zippers? Will they be necessary? A cuff? I don’t know….

Last week, I visited several thrift stores and came away without a buckle. I haven’t been anymore successful with online shopping. I did find a vendor that sells buckles you cover with your fashion fabric. Wouldn't that be ideal for this dress? The price of the buckle is a reasonable $2.25. Shipping, however, is $10.25. Somehow, I find that offensive. I mean, the little buckle would fit into a standard letter-sized envelope. $10.25 - really?
Now, I haven’t been idle while figuring out the buckle thing.  I’ve pulled together the other items for the dress and have returned to my abandoned My Label pants pattern. I had thought my fitting issue was the crotch length. Remember the old Gap pants that I had deconstructed a few weeks ago?  Well, I took those pieces and compared them to my pattern.  Other than the waist, they were surprisingly similar.

My previous My Label pants attempts had used muslin-weight fabric.  It wasn’t pretty nor did it reflect what was actually going on with the pattern. This time, I decided to use a heavier fabric.  I had a green cotton (and silk?) fabric that I had ruined by drying it in a too hot dryer with a fabric softener sheet.  I had tried, but failed, to salvage the fabric by treating and rewashing it.  The stains would not come out and so it became test fabric.
As the Gap pieces predicted, the crotch length was just fine though the waist was excessively big.  Other than the crazy waist, the pants fit me better than any others I have purchased or sewn.  The measurement used is my actual waist measurement, so I don’t understand why it is so large.  Maybe I don’t have the various height measurements entered correctly.  Anyway, back to the software for another round...

Knowing that everything else fit, I kept adjusting the waist and printing new waistbands. Finally, I got one that fit my mid-section and I printed out the new pattern. I am in the process of sewing the pants using some leftover fabric.

One thing I have learned about printing the My Label pattern pieces is that it is much easier to individually print the various garment pieces instead of all of them at once. My worktable is small and taping individual pieces means there is less paper hanging over the edge pulling the taped sheets down while trying to line up the cross marks. It does use a few more sheets of paper but not as many expletives are required.  A fair trade in my opinion.
Please note the rotary cutter and tiny cutting mat. This is a crafty mat that I have had for many years.  I want to get a large mat but my cutting table folds up when not in use and pretends to be a desk.  The mat would have to be stored and I don’t have anywhere to stash it.  Under my bed? No, I think that would just be bad feng shui.  So, until I work that out, I will just slide the little mat around.  Actually, it is faster and cleaner than using scissors.

Okay, I’m gonna get the pants fitting dealt with and the 1952 dress won’t take long to finish – with or without a buckle.  And, after that I think I want to sew another jacket. My Label?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The 1952 Dress - Progress

I’ve been working on the 1952 dress.  The side seam zipper is next and I suppose I should create the shoulder pads before fitting the sleeves.  The shoulder pads are constructed from crinoline interfacing and thin layers cotton batting.  What I will actually end up using depends on what I have here. Likely, it would be less costly to purchase ready-made shoulder pads but I want to try making them.
I skipped the bound buttonholes and the ribbon seam binding. The seams were serger finished. I hadn’t considered putting bound buttonholes into a dress before. But, after thinking about it, they would be a good-looking detail.

I still haven’t decided what sleeve style to use. Also, I have been looking for a belt buckle and so far, they are either too large or the wrong material/color. Maybe I should start looking at RTW belts (hmmm, thrift store?) for an appropriate buckle.
The good thing is that there isn’t a deadline for completion. I merely saw the pattern in the file and, on impulse, decided I wanted to make it. So, no pressure other than I would like to have it hanging in the closet instead of on the dress form!