Friday, June 28, 2013

Fix or Fail: wavy striped top

I started this top ages ago and even though it was mostly done, it was relegated to my Unfinished Pile.  The fabric is tissue-weight knit from Britex (purchased in the store) and, for me anyway,  it was really difficult to sew.  And after struggling with the construction, in an act of final desperation to avoid using my double-needle (this was pre-coverstitch machine) I used the serger to make a rolled hem.  Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately....) there are no photos to show how absolutely awful the wavy hem looked on this top.
Once I got my coverstitch machine, I pulled the shirt out of The Pile, trimmed off the rolled hem and sewed a proper hem.  It was *just* long enough (barely!).
The pattern, KwikSew K3616, is fine, but I think with all the fiddling and resewing I had to do with the difficult fabric, it just didn't turn out as well as I'd like.  It isn't the worst thing ever, so maybe I just have negative feelings toward it since it gave me such a hard time? :)  Either way, I've tried to wear it but have taken it off in favor of other tops.

Not every project can be perfect, so what have you revived lately from your Unfinished Pile?  Were you successful at fixing the problem, or was a lost cause?   Share (and link to your blogs/photos) so we can all commiserate!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Keeping up with it all

As so many other bloggers have posted, the date of the end of Google Reader is fast approaching.  If you all think it's hard to be losing such a valuable internet resource, imagine being a Spoogler (spouse of a Googler, for those outside of Silicon Valley) and STILL not being able to do anything about Reader's demise.   For days, conversations in our house went something like this,

Me: "Seriously.  Can't you do ANYTHING about this?  You work there for crying out loud!"
Husband: "No.  I don't even work with that team."
Me:  "Well, check the internal groups again to see if there's been a change of mind."
Husband:  "There's no talk of reversing the decision, and they aren't going to."
Me:  "Why would they do this?  WHY??"  {Shaking fists in the air}
Husband: {Shaking head}

In a final act of lameness (that Larry himself will notice, I'm sure), I'll be using Reader until I can no longer do so.  But I know the wheels of change roll on, so I haven't been idle: in searching for a new RSS feed, I've imported my Reader feeds to Feedly, which seems to be what most folks are using in these parts and Bloglovin, which most crafty/sewing bloggers seem to like.  I haven't used either enough to have a major preference, so after July 1, I'll get a better feel.

Click here to follow Nicole at Home with Feedly (Hit the "+add to my feedly" button)
Click here to follow Nicole at Home blog with Bloglovin

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

One yard, two tops

The day I made my Plain Jane Shorts, I also whipped up a fun variation on Kristin's now-infamous Scoop-neck Tee.  I had a tiny bit of some super soft, taupe-colored bamboo knit fabric (bought locally here), some lovely peach narrow-striped bamboo knit from Michael Levine, and an idea to make a color-block version.
For the pattern, I folded and traced the original pattern where I wanted the color break, adding seam allowances to both newly "cut" pieces.  I serged the seams (I've been using a 4-thread mock-safety stitch since sewing my bathing suits) and used my the coverstitch machine for the hem.  I'm having some beef with my new machine, but I need to talk to the store before assuming it's anything but user-error.
Since the pink portion of the shirt didn't use a lot of fabric, I had *just* enough to manage a second shirt with tiny cap raglan sleeves.  The original pattern is from Burda Style, but I completely removed all the gathering on the sleeves by slashing and reducing (and lots of measuring of arm-scythes!).

The neck and armholes are binding-bound and then top-stitched with a single-needle chain stitch (using my coverstitch machine) to keep it stretchy.  Next time I'd like the arms a tiny bit bigger all-around--I feel like a beefcake in this one!  It sure is comfy, though.
I don't mind having multiple shirts in the same fabric, and I'm seriously pleased with getting two tops out of a single yard.  Woohoo!
Photo-bombed by my little helper.  Next time: use the iron and buy a t-shirt bra.  Sheesh!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Chevron swimsuit

Considering I have barely a use for them, I've become a bathing suit-sewing addict.  This is another style (C) from my vintage pattern (McCalls 5036) to go with my polka-dotted version F.
I left off the bow at the bodice because it was a little floppy, and with a style change for the straps creating a bow in the back, I certainly didn't need more than one.  The little cut-out at the bodice is pretty cute, though.
All of the suit styles in this pattern set are intended to tie behind the neck, but I changed it up adding a little loop at the middle of the back and tying the straps in a bow.  The straps are much more comfortable this way, and I can slip off the suit without having to untie, which is a big bonus.  
I am absolutely loving the low-cut legs. I can bend over, wrestle kids into bathing suits or out of the pool and I don't have to constantly pull down the bottom to keep decent.  I totally don't care if I look like an old lady!
I added elastic along the bodice sides and around the midriff to help it feel more secure, especially when the suit is wet.  I'm really not sure why the pattern doesn't call for it, but it's needed.  I actually took apart my red suit to add the bodice elastic (and additionally lining fabric), and it's SO much better.
The fun chevron print is from The Fabric Fairy (which carries an incredible assortment of swimsuit fabric) and the suit is completely lined with nude fabric from Joann's.  Total cost, under $20.  
If we had a pool or ready access to a place to swim, I would be making many, many more suits (including the Bombshell!), but as it is, our Mom-Tot class is ending this week.  Come on friends with pools--have some parties! 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Plain jane shorts

I'm not a huge fan of shorts, but I recognize that living in California requires I wear such items (and probably with a sweater and scarf in November :).  I've been doing the "sporty skirt with built in shorts" for a while, but a girl needs some variety.  After cutting out the Plain Jane Dress, I realized I had a sizable amount of the stretch denim fabric left (about 3/4 yard, out of 2 yards total.  Yes, I'm indeed short enough to make a dress out of 1 1/4 yards of fabric.).  Quick as a bunny, I downloaded the Iris pattern from Colette, to you know, just see if I could make shorts from 3/4 yard.  And I could!  
I'm not nearly curvy enough to properly fit a pattern from Colette, so using the garment measurements, I decided to cut size 2 for the waist and grade down to 0 for the hips.  Before attaching the waistband, I tried the shorts on and they fit well.  However, the waistband was so incredibly curved, I knew it would  dig into my midsection in a very unflattering way.  It wasn't just a matter of sizing up, so I slashed and spread the waistband and recut my fabric.  I also cut "generously" along the upper side edge.
The resulting waistband fit just right.  No digging in, but still lays properly and doesn't move around when I walk or sit down.

The pattern.  Fitting issues aside, the pattern was fine.  I'd probably make them again, but a couple of things irked me.  For instance, sewing button holes after the pockets are complete was a pain in the buttocks, though I'm not sure there's a work-around for that.  And the front pockets are real, but not super functional. Next time I might make them larger and leave off the buttons. Since I need actual pockets somewhere, I added two functional welt pockets in the back.  
I used this tutorial, which is hands-down the best single-welt pocket tutorial around.  They turned out beautifully, and don't even add much bulk in the back-section.  
Sorry about the wrinkles!  I was wearing the shorts while I was sewing my new pink top.  I lined the waistband in this oh-so-adorable mermaid fabric from my scrap pile.  Love love love, but wish the ladies were right-side up.  *Sigh*
By the way, check out my bracelet!  How cute and summery is that?  My brother-in-law and his wife created Charity Gift Market, which is a marketplace for goods created by charities, and it was gifted to me from there.   So many fun products, and all to support great causes around the world.  
I like these as much as I can like a pair of shorts and will certainly wear them this summer (and maybe even this winter :).  If you haven't already, stop by Shorts on the Line to see the cute shorts folks are sewing up!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Plain jane dress

I know, it's a boring blue dress.  But guys, before taking these photos, I'd worn this for two days and it even spent time folded in the bottom of the stroller during Mom-tot swim class this morning.  And it still looks respectable!   If I have to choose something to wear, I'll grab the boring yet incredibly comfortable, flattering, hides stains, looks nice (it's a dress!), doesn't wrinkle garment any day, and twice on Sunday (or twice this week, as the case may be).  Why do people think dresses are so fussy??
The pattern is the same semi-vintage (since it's not available anymore) Vogue pattern as this one.  It's super simple, but has a flattering shape and takes almost no time to sew up.  I used light weight stretch denim from Joann's and the contrast trim on the inside is some kind of light weight striped cotton from Britex.  To take it up a few notches, I used bias tape liberally--around the neckline, waistline, hemline and armholes.  All for my own enjoyment :)
I finally ordered some new labels, too!
Nonchalantly checking out my biased-trimmed hem.  Since this is an A-line skirt, with a fairly wide hem (about 1 1/2"), I ran a basting stitch around the edge, eased the fullness and then sewed the bias tape on to hold it in place.  Then, sewed the hem.
Contrasting pockets, too!  More and more I appreciate the details that only I see on the inside.
Best part of all--I can wear it with my retro 80s belt!  (Purchased here.)  I have woefully few opportunities to wear it, but with this dress, it's a highlighted accessory!
I'd wear it again tomorrow, but that would just be weird.  In the laundry it goes!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Man's button-up: Matching plaids

When I discovered the beautiful and vintage-y modern plaid at Britex, I knew I had found the fabric for which I had been searching.  I had in mind a short sleeve button-up shirt for my husband, but wanted something different than classic dress shirting.  This fab plaid completely fit the bill!   However, once I laid out the fabric and went to cut out my pattern, I realized I had a big challenge ahead of me.  Plaid.  Matching plaid is one issue; deciding in which direction the plaid should be arranged and the overall layout was the other.  Should the plaid on the yoke be diagonal?  If the yoke is on the straight grain, could the pockets be diagonal?  What about the placket??  I was completely paralyzed by indecision for a while, but after looking at some ready-to-wear men's tops, I opted to go for a straight-laced version with no diagonally arranged plaid pieces.  Really working the 70s vibe of the fabric might look great, but I wanted to be sure my husband would actually wear the shirt!
Working with plaid is definitely a challenge, but there are certainly tips to make it easier.  First up, buy more fabric than needed.   I can't stress this enough!  Ask a professional for recommendations for how much (like the nice folks at Britex!).  Tasia from Sewaholic has a great piece on plaid matching.  Her suggestions for carefully pinning your fabric to ensure that the plaids are lined up and drawing plaid lines onto your pattern pieces are invaluable.

This post will help you tackle matching plaids and keeping the pattern continuous across the front of a button-up shirt, with or without button placket.
To keep the plaid continuous across the front, the first order of business is to identify the center front on each of the three main pieces: left and right front pieces, and button placket.  If your pattern does not have separate left and right pieces (the Negroni pattern does not), trace the piece so you have two separate pattern pieces.
Since I drafted the button placket for this shirt, it helped me visualize the process by drawing in the sewing and topstitching lines for the placket on the left piece. 
I decided that I wanted the center of the shirt and button placket to fall between the dominant plaid lines, so the center front of the right side was centered accordingly.  Then, the left side front piece was overlapped onto the other side, carefully lining up the center front lines and pinned everything in place. 
With the pieces overlapping, this is how the plaid pattern will appear on your final garment.  However, the fabric can't be cut with the pieces overlapping, so the plaid lines must be transferred onto the pattern pieces.
Using a straight edge, trace the plaid lines onto your pattern pieces, in both the horizontal and vertical directions. Do not unpin the pieces, just draw straight across the overlapping sections.  You may want to label the plaid lines, particularly if there are multiple designs in the plaid pattern.

The button placket piece could be lapped on top of the other two pieces, but I placed it separately, using the front pieces to guide the location of the horizontal plaid lines.
Once the plaid lines are drawn on the pattern pieces, the pattern can be moved around on the fabric, pinned and cut. 
Collar, yoke and back all match up
With the fabric all cut, you are ready to sew!  Here are a couple of tips for keeping plaid lines together while sewing:
  • be sure to mind the width of your seam allowance.  If your sewing machine doesn't have the right seam allowance guideline, measure and draw the guideline on a piece of clear tape.
  • use plenty of pins, but don't sew over them (the lump created by the pin may move your fabric).  
  • a walking foot can really help keep plaid lines together, particularly for thick fabrics. 
A follow up post on creating the notched pocket (an option from Colette Patterns) and coordinating notched sleeve hem (below) will be coming soon!

    Man's button-up

    After sewing up the last button-up for my husband, I got really excited to make another.  The process just wasn't as hard as I had envisioned and the final product actually got worn--a lot!  So, using what I had learned making the "wearable muslin", I got started on a plaid version, with this beautiful and perfect fabric from Britex.  However, even with a tested pattern in hand, new challenges awaited with loads and loads of plaid to manage (my tutorial is here at the Britex Fabrics blog, and will be posted here soon) and in the end, this version proved to be much more time consuming than the first.
    As described in the previous post, this shirt has the bones of the Negroni pattern by Colette, with some modifications.  Instead of a camp collar, I went with a collar stand/ regular collar and a button placket.  The arms were reduced in width and length to make it slightly less informal and fit my skinny bicyclist husband better.
    For the pockets, I used one of the free options provided by Colette Patterns and carried the notched design to the sleeve hem (a second tutorial is coming for those, too!).   See, he's pointing out the notches, so you don't miss them :)
    Even though I wasn't brave enough to go all urban cowboy with diagonal plaids and whatnot, I just had to use pearl snaps, as a nod to the vintage-y feel of the fabric.  Snaps vs. buttons are almost a wash in terms of time spent and ease of application, but I felt a little more nervous with the first whack of the hammer than if I were sewing a button hole, since there's no going back after the snaps embed in the fabric.
    I'm not convinced that they are the sturdiest things around, so of course at the instruction that he's not to rip his shirt off like a male stripper, my husband, of course, pretended to do so.  Thanks, babe!
    Look at that all that plaid matching--so satisfying!
    There are flat-felled seams throughout, even the armholes (possibly the most finicky bit of the whole shirt), so it's pretty on the inside, too. Honestly, I am so enamored with this shirt and my husband even wears it!  Win!

    Upcoming: tutorials on plaid matching across a button placket and creating the notched pocket & sleeve details!