Monday, December 30, 2013

Christmas pajamas, a week late

Truly, I had every intention of making pajamas for my boys, but I just had to cut myself a little slack in the days leading up to Christmas.  However, the next three months are going to be busy, so I want to get all my loose ends sewn up (haha!) before it all starts.  Since I was so excited about the printed fabric (more about that later!), my big boy's PJs moved up to the top of the list.
Sewing pajamas is fun--they're fairly quick and super satisfying.  For the pattern, I used the Recess Raglan (with much narrowed arms) for the top  and the "Sleeping Johns" from Sew Liberated.  Since I needed some knit ribbing for the cuffs and neckline, I ordered up some fabric from Hart's (and got it the very next day!). I knew it was sold as a "tube" of fabric, but when it arrived, I realized it was the perfect dimensions for my skinny boy. So, I cut the top as a single piece (no side seams!), then stitched the underarm seams on the sleeves. Since the fabric is nice and stretchy, setting in the raglan sleeves was a cinch.  Serging the ribbing on such skinny cuffs was a whole different story, though!
Okay, so I bought the gray knit ribbing from Hart's, but the real story is the printed "Mod Fox" fabric. My son LOVES foxes.  His love of all animals is pretty huge, but foxes are at the top of the list.  So, Spoonflower to the rescue!  The hiding foxes, the red/green was too perfect, and seriously worth the price of a yard of the organic knit.  And of course, he loves it.  He insisted on wearing the PJs all day, and really, I couldn't bear to stop him :)
I've been sewing a bunch of other things lately, some of which I may post, but this is likely my last official make of the year.  My sewing may slow down in the next few months, but I'm registered to take an actual, college-level class in patternmaking starting at the end of January, so I am super thrilled!  I'm looking forward to seeing what this year has in store!

Friday, December 27, 2013

My only handmade gift

Wow, that's terrible!  I only made Christmas gifts for a single recipient, my sister, and it was something I should have made for her over the summer!  This apron, from Lotta Jansdotter's Simple Sewing, is my favorite for everyday wear.  It covers you, and it's reversible.  This one was made with lovely printed linen, with gray twill for the ties.  
Since I had some leftover fabric, I whipped up some matching potholders (my own pattern).  I love the free-hand spiral quilting:
I guess with a busy end of term at work, silk slip project for Britex, Christmas rush and all the various school-related pre-Christmas activities, there just wasn't time for a bunch of sewing for gifts.  I even opted to purchase pajamas for my boys (despite having bought fabric to make some) when it got to the eleventh hour and I still had a party and a dinner at my home to prepare for.  From the kids' perspective, I'm sure a sane mom is preferable to mom-made PJs!
Since we didn't fly home to NY for the holiday, my sis sent along a photo of her with the gifts, along with a note that said she loved them.  Since I could only chose one person to get a made-by-me present, I'm glad she was the one!

Did you get as much holiday sewing done as you wanted to?  As a sewist, do you feel an obligation to make gifts?

Monday, December 23, 2013

Cinnamon slip in silk with small bust adjustment

Even with the onset of colder weather in California, I've not wanted to give up on wearing dresses.  But tights with dresses, and the static that clings them together, make me completely crazy.  So, with an opportunity to use some of Britex's beautiful silks, I just had to make a slip.   

The fabric I chose was a semi-sheer silk, in a dusty apricot color.  After washing (on delicate) and drying (on low heat), the fabric had an almost crepe-like texture.  The weight was perfect for this application, and it pressed and sewed beautifully.  Truly, this silk was an absolute pleasure to work with. And since the slip is cut on the bias, the silk is wonderfully drapey  and comfortable.  
The pattern is Colette’s Cinnamon slip dress, available as a pdf download.   The slip dress is very simple, with only a handful of pattern pieces.  However, knowing that Colette tends to design for a larger bust than the big 4 pattern companies, from the start I planned to alter the bodice of the slip for my smaller than normal chest.  In this post, I'll be giving the details of how I did a “small bust adjustment” for my Cinnamon slip.
In my adjustment of this pattern, I not only wanted to reduce the cup size of the bodice, but I also to reduce the volume of gathering at the shoulder straps, since I didn’t want a lump of fabric to be visible under a dress.  So first off, I traced the original pattern, keeping all the markings in place. Measuring the length of the bodice (from the notch to the center front) and midriff (from the notch to the apex), where they are are to be sewn together, there was a significant difference: for size 0, the bodice is almost 3.5 inches longer than the midriff, meaning all that fabric would have to be gathered to fit.  For my chest (which normally wears a 34A bra), I only wanted about a 1” difference between the two measurements, enough for a small amount of gathering to shape the bodice.
To reduce the width of the bodice piece, then, I folded a wedge out of the middle of the pattern piece.  At the top, the width was reduced by 1”, and at the bottom the reduction was 2”.   
To further reduce the length of the bodice bottom seam and get rid of some of the puffing that occurred with my muslin, I dramatically lessened the curve of the bodice bottom seam.  To do this, I placed another piece of tracing paper over the folded bodice pattern piece, retraced the piece, and hand-drew a new line, transferring markings upward.
Here, I've placed the adjusted bodice over the original. Even though the total bust measurement is decreased, the fit is just right.
During construction of the bodice, I concentrated the gathering near the center front, but the gathers can be shifted more under the breast, if that’s preferred.   From there, the construction of the slip was exactly as described in the instructions. 

Bias cut dresses give a very fitted silhouette without any closures, very important for the purpose of this sort of garment.  But even though the entire slip was cut on the bias, sewing wasn't very difficult, owing in large part to the texture of the fabric.  The pattern instructions also give several really useful tips on sewing on the bias, including using a very narrow zig-zag and stretching the fabric slightly while sewing, which allow for some stretch in the garment, and having the completed piece hang over night before hemming.  I hemmed the slip a few inches above knee length, since the vast majority of my dresses are at the knee.
The fabric of my slip is almost the exact shade of my winter-pale skin, so I felt a bit self-conscious modeling it for photos, but it's the perfect color and weight for lingerie or undergarments.  

By the way, the gorgeous ceramic and metal necklace was made by a local Bay Area artist.  Isn't it incredible?  

Thank you to Britex for not only providing the lovely silk fabric, but the perfectly matching silk thread as well!    ADDENDUM:  The thread was originally listed incorrectly.  It is actually this thread.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Pattern testing: Goldstream Peacoat by Thread Theory

When I first "discovered" Thread Theory and their solid line-up of patterns, I was impressed and excited: stylish menswear!  What a concept!  So when they had a call for pattern testers for their newest pattern, the Goldstream Peacoat, I just had to respond, and was fortunate enough to be chosen to do it. Lucky me!  Never mind, of course, that I was (am!) overwhelmed with "real" work and other sewing projects (including the Britex tie/ pocket square)!

The pattern itself produces a stylish and modern coat, with many options (some of which I didn't add to my husband's jacket, such as epaulets).  The pockets on the front are super clever; they are actually two pockets together, one with top entry (with a flap) and the other side entry.

The details of the jacket make it exciting and interesting to sew.  Button tabs on the sleeves?  How professional does that look??
I love all the topstitching around the front, lapels and collar.  Sure, I broke 5 topstitching needles in the process of sewing the jacket (not just this topstitching, don't worry!), but I was sewing through some serious layers in some spots!
I used shoulder pads!  And they make such a huge difference: especially on a man, a jacket just hangs better with shoulder pads.  And check out that hood, with the small leather buttons.  LOVE.
The arms are constructed of two pieces, and are beautifully contoured to the arm shape.
The pattern is great, as is, but I made some slight changes to suit my own preferences.  First, I underlined the main body (not the arms) with flannel to support the fabric a bit better, and second, I actually made all 6 buttons functional.  It makes it a bit of a pain to button them all up, but after making my own jacket with several non-functional buttons, I felt like it looks better.
For fabric, I used a chocolate brown wool melton, purchased locally and for a steal at $20/yard, with moss green Bemberg lining from Mood.  
The lining looks messy at the hem in the photo, but it's actually really nice and straight (and hand sewn!) in real life.
One of my favorite tiny details of the jacket is the back neck facing: it was designed to encourage the sewist to add their own little design touch for the label.  
I used a little scrap of some wool-silk upholstery fabric and my little "z as in zebra" label.  
I am in love with the results of this pattern and I can seriously recommend it (once it's released, of course!).  Another hurray to Thread Theory for helping us sewists clothe the males in our lives in stylish handmade wares!

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Project in the works (Hint: more menswear!)

I'm not quite ready to reveal my most recent (big!) project, but here're a sneak peeks and some thoughts about it...
  • This project marked the first time I've used shoulder pads (!).  I sewed during the late 80s and 90s, so that's kind of impressive.
  • My own blood, sweat, and tears (well, maybe not tears) went into this endeavor.  Here's the forensic evidence to prove it.  Thankfully, the garment is for my very own husband!
  • I've been working on making nice, crisp corners and I think it's coming along!  And I'll write up a tutorial soon so your corners can be awesome too :)  Check out this little bit of lovely (that's brown wool melton and forest green Bemberg lining):
  Oh, I can't help more photo!  I love this little leather button:
Many more photos and a full post will follow shortly!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Holiday tie and pocket square for your man

With the holidays quickly approaching, the season of get-togethers and parties with family, friends, and co-workers is nearly upon us!  Whether it's as a gift for your sweetie or a unique statement to be worn yourself (you budding tailors out there!) sewing a special tie and coordinating pocket square is actually surprisingly easy.
While silk is the classic material for menswear ties, exciting trends using a vast array of fabrics have been popping up (think wool suiting).  I'm no style maven, but it appears a though the only hard and fast rule regarding ties and pocket squares, interestingly, is that they shouldn't match.   And in my opinion, the combination you put together, both in color and texture, can really make a statement.  For my tutorial today, I'll be using an eye-catching silk print from Britex  for the tie, with a lovely silk-linen blend for the tie lining and pocket square.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Lady Skater Dress in wool sweater knit

Continuing the parade of wool clothing from my recent, multiple visits to the fabric store is my latest work/ holiday dress.  I'm the biggest fan of dresses for any and all occasions, particular those that are stretchy and flattery, so when the Lady Skater Dress pattern by Kitschy Coo started making the rounds, I was really excited.  However, the weight of the knit is really important for this style, and without a decent local source for heavy knits with lycra, I was a bit stuck.  However, the moment I spotted this wool sweater knit at the fabric store, I knew it was the right fabric for the job.
The fabric stretch is significantly less than the 40% recommended by the pattern, so I inserted an invisible side zip.  However, even with only a slight stretch, I can pull the dress on over my head, so the zipper wasn't needed.  While not specified in the pattern directions (I don't think!), I applied some 3/8" clear elastic at the waistband, which helps the dress maintain it's shape and keeps everything in place.
The most significant change I made to the pattern was the neckline.  Since the fabric had too little stretch, the neckline from the original pattern wouldn't work so well (and didn't seem to suit the fabric style).  So originally, I attempted to make a wide cowl neckline.  Uh, yeah, big fail there.  So instead of removing the "cowl", I sewed a casing and inserted elastic to gather the neckline.  Then, folded it over and hand stitched it to the stitching of the neckline.   What a happy accident!
The fabric isn't itchy at all, though a slip is required for wearing with tights.  I need to make a gorgeous silk slip so I don't hate wearing them [the polyester versions] anymore!

Overall, I love the dress and will definitely seek out more fabrics for this pattern.  (And definitely add pockets next time!).
Here's the wearable "muslin" version of the dress, from a knit of some type and while it turned out fine, I feel pretty self-conscious in such a clingy fabric.  I wore it to the grocery store, but it took some bravery! It's amazing how different the same dress pattern can look with fabric selection and a few tweaks!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Hooded Woodland cape in cashmere!

Cashmere, guys!  This super soft and lovely plaid cashmere was one of my many finds at the wool sale from last week.  At $35/ yard, it wasn't a steal, but I certainly couldn't leave it there, especially since I had purchased the Woodland Cape pattern by Liesl & Co a while back and hadn't found the right fabric for the job.  A little Sherlock Holmes, "Where's my magnifying glass",  no? :)
This pattern is super simple--just three pattern pieces--so my plan was to whip it up between some bigger projects I have in the works.  However, I couldn't shake the idea of adding a hood, so with some drafting help from this tutorial and a couple of trial runs, I finally made something hood-like.  I don't love it, but that's okay.  It is just a hood, after all!  I used a self-facing for inside edge of the hood so it the blazing red lining wouldn't show quite so much from the front.

The lining is an orangey-red matte silk.   Cashmere and silk makes quite the high-end cape, no?  The non-slippery texture works well, since I don't want the cape shifting all over the place.  
Not wanting to break the bank on buttons again, I got these from Joann's.  The tag says "genuine leather", so we'll go with that.  The next smaller size secures the side flaps.
The cape is surprisingly lightweight and warm, perfect for this time of year in Northern California, and the colorway is just so Fall!
I have to say, it took a bit of nerve to wear it out of the house.  It's definitely a statement garment (well, maybe just for my quiet wardrobe!).   For those interested in the pattern, get yourself some awesome fabric and make it.  Its fun and easy.  However, the garment has some issues, so I'll give you fair warning:  there's no pockets and you can't sling a bag onto your shoulder. Really.  Makes it fairly impractical, but hey, not all fashion multitasks with cargo pockets.