Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Starting 'em early!

It might be somewhat surprising, but my son's pre-school classroom at the Google Childcare Center doesn't have computers for the children's use.  Instead, (and among many other awesome features, like a real woodworking station) they have a sewing station, with two regular sewing machines, an iron, fabric cutting table with a large Olfa mat, and a child-size dress form.  Overall, it's pretty much comparable to my own sewing workroom!  Actually, I don't even have a table for my Olfa mat--I cut on the bed or floor--so their set-up is better!
Today, the teachers sent us videos of the kids practicing with the sewing machines, investigating thread colors in the spool and bobbin, and testing out the various stitches (unfortunately, I can't share those outside of our classroom community, but trust me it was cute!).  It's incredible to see girls and boys learning this great art at such a young age--the same age I began sewing.
My own child has not shown much interest in sewing (yet!); instead, he's been hanging out at the woodworking station, sanding blocks of wood. And that's pretty cool, too.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Last vestige of summer dress--Vogue 8663

At the suggestion of several readers (thank you for rescuing me from indecision!) for uses for this striped canary ponte knit from Mood , I went with the Vogue.  Here's a refresher of the pattern (Vogue 8663) envelope, now out of stock:
What is most distinctive (and worth sewing, in my opinion) is the pleated neckline.  Finished, the neckline is interesting and flattering without being showy.  Love it.
I had significant fit issues that involved taking the entire dress apart, trimming, trimming, trimming and putting it back together.  The width of the shoulders and waist were the biggest issues, and they still aren't perfect.  See that wavy waistband?  Ugh.  As much as I love the neckline, I can't stand the waistband.  It needs to be slightly tighter to pull the clear elastic a tiny bit, but I think I'm done taking it all apart!

Between the wavy waistband and slight bagginess at the lower back, the dress needs some kind of belt or sash. Apparently, the pattern envelope has a "purchased belt" for a reason.  Some options:
White sash, stolen from another top.
Skinny hot pink belt
Self sash?  
I kind of like the self-fabric sash, since it can be sewn down and not shift (always practical!), but the pink belt looks kind of fun, too.  Self sash + pink belt? :)
Looking at it finished, and seeing the calendar whizzing toward September, I know this was a bit of a silly make.  I figure, I have about two wearings before Labor Day, and then I'll tuck it away until Spring.  But I'll wear the heck out of it next year!

Resewlution 2014: August garment #1

Friday, August 15, 2014

Return from Alaska and sewing indecision

My family and I just returned from a nearly two week vacation to Homer, Alaska to visit my husband's parents.  It was lovely and peaceful, and we did a million things a person can't do in Silicon Valley: digging for clams, picking rhubarb, wild raspberries and blueberries (I made jam!), fishing for halibut, salmon, dolly varden, rockfish, pollock etc., seeing the sun set at 11 p.m., playing in the rain... :)  It was refreshing to have a completely different life for a few weeks!  
Since I couldn't bring my sewing machine (though I just may next time!), I purchased some local handmade yarn.  I'm not much of a knitter, it's like a craft-of-last-resort for me, but I saw this color (named "Fireweed" after a local wild flower--a photo of the real deal is at the top of the post) and my fingers started itching to make something.  Well, after about 20 rounds on the circular needle in a basic lace pattern for an infinity scarf, I had "lost" 4 out of 260 stitches.  Now that I'm back in the land of sewing machines, it might be hard to persuade myself to figure out how to remedy that situation!
Canary ponte knit from Mood Fabric
Which brings me to my next problem: while I was away, I ordered bunches of fabric, which was all sitting on my doorstep when we got home.  I feel most inclined to sew something with this lovely, but summery, striped ponte knit (image above).  But what to make??  Some options:
Lady Skater
Vogue V8663 (out of print)
Another Myrtle?
Another Renfrew modified with a boat neck?
Dresses are always my initial inclination, but with Fall approaching, a top might be more versatile right?   I may modify the Renfrew to have a boat neck--seems to go well with the stripey print and will be well-worn, I'm sure.  With an upcoming bathroom remodel, I've had to make a so many decisions lately--I just need someone to tell me what to sew!  

Once I'm done with this fabric, it's the transition to a Fall work wardrobe--wools and darker prints, skirts, trousers and blouses.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Tutorial: reducing the cowl neckline on the Myrtle dress

After exposing my bra to my friend (and most likely many others) while wearing my original Myrtle top out for drinks the other night, I decided to reduce the depth of the cowl for my second Myrtle.  If you are less well-endowed than the C cup Colette designs for, this might be a good adjustment for you, too!  After learning how to draft a cowl neck top in my patternmaking class, I know that this hack isn't precisely an "undoing" of the drafting process that creates the cowl; however, for small reductions in the deepness of the draped neckline, this works really well!

  • tracing paper (or other large format paper, such as the backside of wrapping paper)
  • pencil
  • long straight edge or quilting ruler
  • Myrtle pattern
Start by folding Piece A (Front Bodice) in half along the dotted line.  We're going to manipulate half of the pattern and then mirror the final product at the end to recreate the doubled-front of the Myrtle dress.
On your tracing paper, draw a long straight line (I drew mine in red).  This is center front.  Position your folded bodice front along this straight line and trace the original pattern.  Then, set your original pattern aside.  My traced pattern is in green, below.
For my top, I reduced the cowl by removing a wedge from the center front equal to about 2" at the widest (at the upper neckline) tapering to 0 at the waist.  This may be too much for some people, so a muslin is your friend here!  To remove this wedge, position a straight edge ruler at an angle, 1" in from the center front at the upper neckline, angled to 0 at the waist.  Draw the line (mine is in blue).

Since this is on the fold, removing a 1" wedge equals 2" on the final garment.  Next, cut along the newly drawn line (this is the new center front) and the rest of the traced bodice.  (Image not shown, but trust me, I cut out the bodice :)
Now, fold another length of tracing paper twice as long as the bodice length + a few inches extra. Position your traced+cut bodice with the upper neckline at the folded end of the paper (it doesn't have to be on the fold, just near) and the center front right along the edge.  Tape the bodice to the tracing paper and trace the pattern yet again (I did it in black this time).    
Position your straight edge ruler such that it is exactly perpendicular to the edge of the paper (parallel to the fold) and just touching the shoulder point closest to the neck.  Draw a new line connecting the shoulder point to the center front. (You may want to cross out the previous neckline line to avoid confusion.)  This new line represents the "dotted line" on the original pattern piece A.  

Now, refold your long piece of tracing paper so that the fold exactly matches your new neckline. 
Before: New neckline is perpendicular to the fold of the tracing paper as in previous image.
After: Repositioned the fold of the paper to match the new neckline.
Finally, cut around your traced bodice leaving the folded edge uncut.  
Now when you open the folded tracing paper, you should have a lovely mirror image of your bodice, just like pattern piece A! 
Comparing the pieces side-by-side, you can see that the revised version (on the right) is slightly longer and narrower at the shoulders than the original.  This will raise the neckline and reduce the amount of fabric that drapes at the center front.  

Hope this helps and contact me if you have any questions!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Myrtle dress in stretch silk

After making my wearable muslin top of the Myrtle dress by Colette Patterns, I immediately geared up for making a second version.  I made some pattern adjustments: reduced the depth of cowl (tutorial up tomorrow!), as well as some petite adjustments of the bodice at the waist AND the upper bodice to shorten the armholes.  I also redrafted the armholes a bit to make them slightly more curved at the bottom and narrowed the back bodice at the shoulders.  After all that, it fits great!
For the fabric, I used the most incredible stretch silk from Britex (unfortunately no longer available).  I washed and dried the fabric (on gentle and low heat) and it looks just as good as it did when before pre-treatment.  The stretch is significant and the fabric has a easy-to-sew texture and weight.  It's a gorgeous fabric and was a pleasure to sew.
Since the fabric isn't quite as stretchy as a knit, I finished the arm and neckholes with purchased bias binding.  I know, I know, purchased.  I'm okay with that :)  The hem was sewn with my narrow rolled edge foot.
I left off the pockets for a few reasons.  First off, I don't love the shape of the provided pockets--they kind of flap around if not attached at the waistband.  Yes, I could have redrafted them, but....Second, the fabric is so light that I didn't want to put any lumps or bumps under the skirt.  So, no pockets!
I love that the dress is dressy enough for any dinner date I might be fortunate enough to have (especially in Northern California), yet I could definitely pull it off for teaching (with a lab coat for messy labs, of course!).  
I can definitely see more of these dresses in my future!  

Be sure to check back tomorrow for the cowl neck reduction tutorial!

Resewlution 2014: July garment #3

Friday, July 25, 2014

Cropped Myrtle dress and pattern review

I guess it's a little silly since I just drafted and released my own (free!) cowl-neck pattern, but I just had to buy Colette's newest release, the Myrtle dress.  It was like a black hole, just pulling me in: I couldn't resist!  I love a casual dress, and this pattern looked like it would be pretty versatile. And it is!
In a mad effort to use up stash fabrics, I pulled out this very stretchy knit (purchased online at Michael Levine a while ago) and started cutting before I realized I wouldn't have enough for a dress.  Such a rookie mistake!  No matter, an abbreviated version (aka, peplum top) works well, too!  
This was my wearable muslin, so I cut according to my measurements on the sizing chart and went with XS.  Overall, the top was a bit big in the shoulders and chest, and especially in the deepness of the cowl. With the slightest waist bend, you can see down to my belly button.  So not a good thing!
The back was also wider than I normally like, which makes the top a bit shifty.  However, it's probably because instead of folding and stitching the back neck and armholes, I used self fabric binding on the edges, which increased the overall width.
I made my usual petite adjustment in the bodice (reduce by about 1"), which was needed.  The length is good, but the armholes were a little deep for me, too.
Okay, that's a lot of sizing complaints, but that's why I do muslins!  For my next version (already sewn!), I altered the pattern to fix all my fit issues.  Overall, the pattern is great--I love the construction of the top and the wide elastic waistband.  I've made it in this slinky/stretchy knit and a stretch silk, and both are lovely and comfortable.  Definitely a pattern that can be dressed up or down with fabric choice (and accessories).   Stay tuned for version 2!

Resewlution 2014: July garment #2

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

(Another) perfect polo for my littlest man

Kids Clothes Week was just the thing I needed to get my mojo back.  I've been sewing a little bit, but I haven't felt like it was going well--lots of struggles, some unblogged failures, that darn washed fabric. For me, kid sewing is like down-shifting: the sewing is fairly easy and the pay-off is pretty big.  So far this KCW, I've already sewn some Oliver+S Field Trip cargo pants (made into shorts) for my bigger boy and some pajamas for both guys (all using up stash fabrics, hooray!), but this top is the one worth posting.  
The pattern is Blank Slate's Perfect Polo, and I've made this top here and here already.  It's a lovely pattern, but I always need to increase the length of the collar--it seems to be about 3/4-1" short in my hands.
For the fabric, I used more of my stash--the putty cotton/Spandex is leftover from an unblogged Julia cardigan.  It's super high-quality--medium-heavy weight, washes well and doesn't look like it will pill. My little guy wore this shirt all day to daycare (even playing soccer and taking a nap) before I took photos.  The cotton print is from the Mod Squad collection.
I kept the shirt modern and left off the buttons entirely.
I know he's mine, but could this kid get any cuter??
After getting back into my sewing groove with this cute top, I went back to some selfish sewing with great results--I'll share soon!