Springing forward one skirt at a time

Flowers in the garden.

In an effort to spring-ify my life out of the winter doldrums, I thought I’d begin at the sewing machine.  I’ve got to clean out the house to make room for a visitor who will be staying for months, and that motivated me to look to the stash when project pondering.

I’d bought rather too much fabric in New York a few months ago, all with no master plan.  Much of it turned out to be floral and two pieces are border prints and one is a borderline border print.  Confession time:  I’ve never worked with border prints before and kind of had to go with my best judgement regarding pattern placement.

Burda 7652:  It’s out of print, so here’s the line drawing.

Lack of knowledge aside, I wanted to use some very vintage looking cotton floral border print from B&J Fabrics (which is an amazing store btw).  My thought was some pleats and A-line.  A fully pleated cotton skirt on the cross grain wouldn’t be the most flattering so I found Burda 7652 (out of print so there’s the line drawing for your edification) marinating in my stash.  It’s an A-line skirt silhouette with sewn down front pleats, plain A-line back and a yoke.  That yoke and sewn pleat look should minimize the damage I’ve caused my tummy from the latest batch of Lemon Yogurt Cake with icing, which makes for a tasty breakfast (and lunch and linner).

Can you see the flowers peeking out at the waistband?

Fabric-wise I didn’t have enough fabric to make the front faux sewn placket (which is kind of weird anyway since it’s not functional if you sew it up their way) so I folded the pattern at the center front and just placed that on the fold and pretended like it was supposed to be that way.  That worked fine.  I also had to turn the back pattern pieces off grain to make the florals be at the same level at the side seams.  That made the side and center back seams off grain and more unstable (read wobbly).

The top of the yoke has a few flowers peeking out, but the print made it impossible to get the yoke plain black.  It looks kind of cute so I’ll pretend I meant for it to be that way.  A jaunty hint of flowers peeking out!

Other than remove the faux front placket, I made the skirt as written.  The pattern is excellent, as one would expect of a Burda pattern.  There is no excessive ease to account for so you can just measure yourself and make the right size with a minimum of fuss.   I stabilized the top of yoke and pocket openings with stay tape (via Sandra Betzina’s tips).  I used plain black voile for the pocket lining and yoke facings and HAND SEWED it to the yoke.  Turns out that Pam Howard’s “The Classic Tailored Shirt” has converted me to a bit of hand sewing.  That and getting “sewing glasses” from the eye doctor.  My insurance pays for glasses every other year but I didn’t need new ones (for driving) this year so I asked about close sewing work and the awesome doc said “no problem”.  So I’ve got sewing glasses that work just great for close work, but make me queasy when looking at anything else.  Well, there you go.

So spring is here in my skirt, a riot of flowers that I can only imagine in a garden since we have no water to grow such things.  Isn’t it ironic that most of you are buried under mounds of snow and we have water restrictions?  If only we could balance that a bit.  Next up I’ve planned another skirt, and to be different it’s black and A-line.  Hey, I know what I like and wear!  Plus I’ve got to use up some stash before April!

Pleat detail.

Glamour in sweats

Pretty good start on my quest for sweat pant perfection.

Call them what you will “lounge wear”, “casual” or “yoga pants”, they’re all in the sweat pant genus. Here are True Bias Hudson Pants made straight from the pattern with no alterations.  They are narrow legged pants with cuffed bottoms.  Mine are a big larger since I sized up as my fabric didn’t have the required stretch for the pattern.

These sweats are quite fine.  The pattern is very good and properly drafted (not always the case – so kudos due here) and the fabric is from Fabrix (you know I love them).  The fabric is jersey on one side and french terry on the other,  rather soft and comfortable.  The sewing up was very fast and much can be done on the serger.  This pattern has everything I need in sweats – they’re comfortable and have pockets.  The only thing I’d change would be to make them from black fabric, but that’s hardly the fault of the pattern!  I’m on the hunt for appropriate black sweat pant material.

The only things I varied from the (very good) instructions were the addition of twill tape to the pocket edges to try to prevent them from stretching out with use, omitting the drawcord (but made the buttonholes and channel just in case) since I didn’t have a gray cord and making the cuffs wider around because my fabric has very little stretch in that direction and there is no way I’d have been able to ease the cuffs onto the much wider legs.

I’m looking for stretchier black fabric and I shall keep the twill tape addition at the pockets and perhaps add interfacing at the edges to try to stave off the inevitable stretch and make the cuffs the original tightness.  Also, a stretchier fabric may have me make them in my “correct” size to prevent any “diaper booty” action.  All is fabric dependent and I’m still searching.  My current favorite sweats are made from light fleece but don’t have pockets.  If I find the right fabric I may be able to make my perfect sweat pants.  Such lofty aspirations here at the house.

Have a dry and safe day.  The storm’s brewing and will arrive today!

Sewing in French

Boxy, ruffle and rather sheer – I like it though.

Don’t worry, I’ve not learned any French yet despite buying very expensive language software.  Turns out French is chock full of irregular verbs and phantom apostrophes.  Sewing in French is much easier than speaking French.

This blouse is Marthe from Republique du Chiffon.  (sorry I don’t know how to add the accents)  It’s a pdf downloadable pattern and I quite liked the shape.  I think it would be quite cute with straight jeans and a cute jacket over top but alas you see it here paired with my sweats and sports bra.  As per usual.  I matched the pattern with some double georgette I picked up in Los Angeles on a fabric buying “walk around the neighborhood”.  It’s got little bits of silver print on it and reminds me of a fabric an Indian woman would wear, though probably not in polyester.

As you can see the shape is simple with an angled bottom ruffle – shorter in front than in back.  The construction is quite simple and I am exceedingly happy with the thread button loop I made in the back.  I had to watch a YouTube video to remind me how make the loop again, but it was quickly done and just the thing.  The georgette has a good drape so I hope I won’t be accused of pregnancy when wearing it.  It’s super comfy and just a bit sparkly.  Hah!

If you’re interested in any of the Republique du Chiffon patterns, and they are quite cute, you need to know a few things,  The most important is that the seam allowances aren’t included on the pattern so remember to add them on.  The sewing instructions are in French but the illustrations are good, so if you know how to sew you’re fine.  Give it a try if you’re interested.

Next up (after a few days of work) are sweats.  Seriously.  I love wearing my sweats and have some french terry to sew up into some comfy pants.  Oh the glamour!

Mushrooms and Monsters

Week 1 mushroom identity parade.

I’m not a gardening person and am rather disinterested in my tiny yard.  I keep it within HOA guidelines, hire someone to do the bulk of the upkeep and call it done.  So the other day I noticed a mushroom growing the backyard.  Odd.  We’re having a three year drought and I’ve got shrooms?  We have had a bit of rain and these poor spores were so desperate the must have said “now or never”.  So here are the week 1 and 2 splits of my very own three mushroom crop.  Isn’t that third one odd looking?  And it’s big!  Boy they grow quickly.  Anyone know anything about mushrooms?  Don’t worry, I’m not going to eat them.

Week 2 after several days of rain. Super shrooms!

Other than watching mushrooms grow, I’m on vacation (!) for the rest of the month so I hope to get some crafting done, despite scheduling multiple tasks every darn day like an idiot.  First up is a shopping bag I made in under an hour for a little gift.  The pattern is  Michelle Pattern’s Grocery Bag (it’s on sale and super easy).  I live in a county with a recent plastic bag ban so bringing your own sacks to the shops is a must.  And why can’t those bags be cute?  This monster bag is destined for a pal with two little boys and we all know little kids like monsters of the cute variety.  Perhaps I’ll make more and give them for Christmas?  They sure are easy and useful, so stay tuned for more versions.  Maybe I’ll find some mushroom fabric 😉

Monsters and gingham shopping bag.

Striped Hemlock

This little striped fabric looks crazy distorted on my monitor, it’s just playing with us.

Because I lead such a glamorous life, I made another tee shirt.

I know!  I do wish I could show you all the swanky things I make and wear to cotillions and soirees, but alas, my days aren’t like that.  Nor are my nights.  Perhaps in the next life.

What I made here is the Grainline Studio Hemlock Tee pattern.  It’s actually a free pattern that has been quite well represented on the blogs.  It’s a simple project, which is all I was up for when deciding what to make.  I sewed most of this on the overlocker so it’s also quick in addition to being easy.

This top should be good for knocking around the house, or “lounge wear” if we’re being fancy with the words.  I’ll “pair” it with “lounge pants” (that’s sweat pants to you and me).  It’s a good basic that won’t embarrass me if the neighbors see me taking the trash.  It will be much worn and used a stashed bit of fabric.  That’s a win!

Can you smell it?

I could say this is in here to show detail, but this made me think of Joey from Friends explaining “smell the fart” acting. Seriously funny.

I’ve been spoiled for choice about what to make for my next sewing project as I’ve got lots of new and stashed fabrics available to me.  What have I done, not much.  There has been much weirdness in my world of late, but I hope I’ve shaken it off and returned to the land of tranquility and harmony.  To that end I decided to finish a dress I’d already finished during the World Series.

I know, the World Series ended 29 October with our local SF Giants winning.  Yay them!  While watching some of the games (I’m not the hugest of baseball fans but the WS is fun) I cut out and made Vogue 1351.  This is a simple DKNY pattern for a bias cut lined dress with a cowl neck.  I’d seen it on the blogs and it’s really a “good” dress, if that makes sense?

Fits much better now!

I had some black and white ponte knit in the stash that I couldn’t really find a use for and thought it would be fine for this dress since the pattern wouldn’t look cattywompus on the diagonal.  The lining I’d just dig out of the stash and it’s insta-dress.

And really, this was insta-dress since there’s only 5 pattern pieces and that includes the lining.  I even omitted the side zipper since I used a knit, and that worked out perfectly in case you’re thinking of doing the same.

My problem came when I tried the dress on.  It was just too loose through the waist.  Perhaps if I’d used a fluid woven, rather than a stable knit I’d have got more drape.  Or much more likely, I cut the size too big.  Either way, I had to take it in after seeing the pictures I’d taken to blog.  I like loose and and even I thought it was too much.

So it sat.  The Giants had their victory parade.  I flew back and forth across the country a dozen times.  And still it sat.  One day I’d had enough of looking at the forlorn bundle and took it in using my machine basting stitch.  Well that was ugly.  Turns out that making curves on the bias makes big old wobbly bumps.  Not so pretty.  Ripped that out and tried a much more gradual straigh-tish line in to the waist and back down the skirt.  That worked.  Much smoother.  Note to self:  cutting a size down would be the way to go if I made this again with knits.

Why did I buy that crazy abstract ITY? What was in my head? No freaking idea.

So here is the much delayed and altered World Series dress.  I even lined the dress with some orange ITY from the stash to reflect the Giants’ colors (that was luck since I wanted to use this fabric up which I’d purchased in a fit of crazy).  It’s still warm enough to wear around here for a little while longer, but it would look good under a cardie with tights and boots.  Or even tucked up to the Thanksgiving table, where I’ll probably be sad I didn’t leave the extra fabric in.

20 Bernina 1080 years

20 year old receipt!

Twenty years ago I bought my sewing machine and serger. I didn’t remember when I’d actually bought them until I was moving stuff out of one drawer to another.  Voila, a receipt slipped in between two other things.  It’s a testament to the Bernina quality that those machines are just as good today as when I bought them.  Which is good because they were pretty darn expensive.  I’m sure I made payments for yonks.

Cute pink and green skulls.

I wish I had a dramatic and glamorous garment to show you to celebrate my machines’ and my 20th anniversary, but what I’ve got is pretty much cake and not frosting.  That really does sum up what my machines have made for 20 years, so I guess it’s only fitting that I’ve got pajama pants.

Yes, another pair of flannel pajama pants made from the Tofino pattern.  Same mods as the last two times, 28″ inside leg measurement (this pattern is REALLY long!) and omitting the bow belt thing.  The fabric is cotton flannel and is covered in cute skulls.  It was pretty difficult to find skull fabric for these pjs.  My friend (the recipient) wanted skull pjs for her birthday and I thought it would be a snap to find fabric since skulls and pirates are kind of popular now.  No, I was mistaken.  There are several quilting cottons I found with skulls of varying scariness, but this was one of the only fabrics in flannel.  Nevertheless, they’re cute and the pjs will hopefully be well received.

Pajamas that are hopefully not scary.

Finishing up

Tees and remnants made into pants.

I’ve had some projects sitting around for ages that involve upcycling or mending.  Sigh.  Dullsville.  Well yesterday the dam of ennui broke and I finished up a few straggler projects.

First up was some boy short knickers made from a remnant of black jersey.  I’d already cut them out and they’ve been waiting patiently for sewing up.  The two pairs of colored knickers are made from thrifted tees that I originally planned to wear for work out tees but ended up not liking.  I made those into bikini undies.  The white scalloped elastic is from Fabrix and is 25 cents a yard so these were pretty cheap undies.

Five bananas in the bread and one more sliced on top. Delicious!

I find sewing undies fiddly so I don’t make too many of them, but I wanted to reuse these materials.  I’ve sewn the elastics in the round and flat and much prefer sewing in the flat – much easier.  I’ve also found I get a much nicer elastic fit if I make the elastic almost as long as the length of the leg or top, rather than using the 10% less rule of thumb.  Maybe it depends on the elastic, but the almost at parity length works for me.

Another reuse came from bananas.  What?  Yup, when bananas go brown I peel them and freeze them.  I don’t like bananas that are terribly ripe and freezing them for later use makes sense.  I had a bunch (ha!) of them to use up so I used a new banana bread recipe and made up a delicious batch.  Ultimate Banana Bread.  Plus it used five frozen bananas up and gave me some valuable freezer space.  I wonder why I never have any left over chocolate?

Still looking for my aloha

Burda Style #124 from 7/2014 magazine.

I had high hopes for this bodice.  This is Burda Style #124 from 7/2014 magazine.  In the magazine it’s a cute beach-y empire style with a full skirt.  I lengthened the bodice 2″ to make it less empire and more grown up and nixed the sweetheart bit.  I thought this style would be it.

Then I tried on the muslin.

The shoulders fell off my shoulders (and I’ve got pretty broad shoulders) and there was too much fabric at the center back.  I pinched out the shoulder and back excess and it fit ok, but somehow I knew it just wasn’t it.

I was pretty frustrated since I’d put a fair bit of work into altering the pattern, but sometimes you just have to call it like you see it.  Not good enough was the initial verdict, so better just admit it and move on.

And moving on.

See, fits much better than the one up there.

The last bodice that fit me pretty darn well was Simplicity 1419 of my “galaxy fabric” dress.  Why not go back to that one and make some changes there.  I photocopied the front and back bodice pattern tissue and taped them together like a ransom note.  I drew in a rounded neckline and thought I’d try a muslin of this version.

As you can see it fits pretty darn well, as did the original dress so that’s not a big surprise.  It’s just nice to finally make something that works.  I will redraw the neckline curve so it’s a bit more open and I’m going to go forward with this version for my Aloha dress.  Well after I go to work tomorrow.

Seriously, this dress has been hard!

Turns out I’m still a Madonna wannabe

Imagine this a non shiny day dress. No trim, no nothin’

I have some Hawaiian fabric I got in Honolulu over the 4th of July and want to sew up and enjoy it.  It’s not a particularly precious fabric, it’s a poly/cotton blend with a floral border print.  Pretty darn inexpensive (about $5/yard) in fact.  I just like it and don’t want to make a hash out of making a dress with it.  I was attracted to McCall’s 6833 because it had that nice pleated skirt I’ll need for the border print skirt, and the bodice looks pretty cute too.  I decided to make the view C bodice because I wanted to get a lot of wear out of it and my need for a strappy, un-bra-wearable dress isn’t too greatl.

maddonaSo bodice muslin commenced and my first reaction was: Madonna cone bra.  Check it out, I snapped a boob picture in profile so you could see the pointy darts.  I’ve made my muslin from a gorgeous remnant of Japanese

So pointy and wrong.

cotton, much more gorgeous than my poly Polynesian print fabric and it still looks like ass.  That doesn’t bode well, does it?

Must hold onto it to simulate the weight of the skirt. Good news, that makes the neckline even more low cut.

So my options are to redraft the front cups and raise that neckline while I’m there.  Heck, I’m not breast feeding so that’s too much cleavage for a day dress.  Which is a fair bit of work.  Then remuslin.


Pick a different darn pattern!  Maybe take the bodice from my super fabulous, much worn Simplicity 1419 dress from May (! where’s the time gone!) and frankenpattern it to the McCall’s skirt?  I’d redraft the Simplicity neckline to a simple round neck, leave off the collar, sleeves and slit and that should work, I think.

Why is this dress so hard to bring to fruition?  I may just think all that over and make something else while I mull it over.  A palate cleanser so to speak.    I’m tired thinking of it.  No wonder I’m obsessed with jam.  Hull fruit, squish and cook!