Monday, July 24, 2017

My Little Sewing Space

Hey there! Hope you had a nice weekend. I spent mine getting organized, something I've been wanting to do for a long time, and it felt soooo good! Even though I love seeing other people's creative sewing spaces, I never planned to share mine because:  a.) I don't have a sewing room so my work is spread across my apartment, and b.) It's always been a messy disaster and not beautiful and perfect like so many sewing studios I find myself gazing at. But I'm proud of the work I did to make my space more organized this weekend and, like William de Vaughn says, "Be thankful for what you got."

So my sewing happens in three parts of my apartment: Ironing in the bedroom, serging, cutting, and pattern adjusting in the living room, and stitching in the kitchen. Part of this has to do with the fact that our building was built in the 1920s, and we often blow fuses if we overtax any one outlet. Our living room is actually pretty spacious, and I can have a little cutting table in it without encroaching too much into our living space. There was just way too much visual clutter; I mainly wanted to do something about this eyesore below. 

I found the table on the street (yay, street treat!). If you look at the legs, you will see that they are a good four inches off the floor because of the storage unit below. It means I couldn't move things around and almost tipped over my serger more than once. 

Ta da! So. Much. Better! I can even throw a tablecloth on top and set up a bar if I decide to have a party. The table's cutting space doubles by lifting up the other hinged side. Also, it's on casters so I can move it easily. Here's what it looks like full size -- i.e., with the hinged half of the table up.

The cabinet space really helps to reduce the clutter. I've got my serger, interfacing in the Britex bag, small pieces stash (for small projects, natch), iron, bag of elastic, and a current project all folded up waiting for when I'm ready to work on it some more. I purchased the table on Amazon. I can't in good conscience recommend it. It's what you would expect for less than $200 bucks - cardboard/particle board, etc. For my space and budget, though, it works really well, so I'm happy even if it is a little janky. Also, I have to personally own some of the jankiness since I'm the one who assembled it. It took most of the day on Saturday. (Hilariously, the instructions estimated 50 minutes to assemble.)

The great thing about tidying up, is that it motivated me to organize some other areas. Here's a before and after of my stash. I organized by fabric type -- knits, rayons, cottons, special fabrics (e.g., lace, etc.) This isn't quite everything as I had a number of new additions in the wash. 

The white cube-thingy is mostly filled with patterns. 
I also have one of those Ikea trolleys that everyone else has. I don't have a before and after, so just imagine a "before" with a bunch of crap hanging off it. The dresser is almost entirely filled with craft supplies and scraps of fabric. Crazy, right?

And finally, since I'm in a sharing mood...Here's a pic of the other side of the living room where Beej and I chill. I'm standing next to the couch when I pose in new outfits or position Eva in front of the French doors. The kilim pillows were a fairly recent Etsy purchase, and I absolutely love them. They're a little scratchy since they're made from rugs, so I turn them over to the other side when I'm curled up and it's just perfect.

Thanks for checking out my humble abode. Have a great week! 

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Cashmerette Webster

Hey there! Hope you're having a good week. It's pork chop Wednesday here in my house, which means that Beej does the cooking (usually pork chops -- hence the name), and I get to relax, look at blogs, work on projects, etc. I spent some time cleaning my serger and modifying a pattern and decided that was enough work for a Wednesday night. Then I realized that it's been a while since I wrote about my latest projects so here I am.

So, the Webster by Cashmerette...what a cute pattern! I was immediately smitten. When Jenny first announced her pattern company for curvy ladies that would include different cup sizes, I was beyond excited. I mean, I think I'm in the key demographic since I really need to FBA everything I make. Strangely, though, I haven't made a Cashmerette pattern that's really thrilled me yet. There was this very well fitting, albeit poorly sewn, Springfield and a couple of Concords that I didn't even blog about, but overall I haven't made anything I'm super pleased with. I have a couple of theories: First, since it's a new company, she's been designing a number of basics that fill a hole in the market but are not the most exciting to make. Second, and more importantly, you really need to consider your comfort level in terms of how close fitting you want the bust to be. The patterns are designed to fit curvy plus ladies close to the bust, providing an alternative to the many oversized tent-like patterns in the plus size market, and I definitely prefer not to have my bust featured too prominently.  I've probably been conditioned over the years to gravitate to looser clothing--both from growing up in the oversized '80s and from trying to escape the unwanted attention and unsolicited comments that can come from having a large bust. Now that I'm middle-aged and invisible this is less of an issue, but old habits are hard to break. And finally, there are also just certain styles that we gravitate towards, and personally I like the look of clothes that are loose and flowy and a bit oversized. So with Cashmerette patterns, I think I'm still figuring out the ideal silhouette and amount of bust ease for me.

With the loose fit and opportunity to use silky fabric, the Webster seemed more like something I would be interested in wearing. For this version, I could tell pretty early in that it was going to be too big, so I rushed finishing and pretty much botched the back. It's okay, though, because once I realized the size was off, I knew it would only be worn under a cardigan. You might wonder how it is that I made a well-fitting Springfield and then managed to get this one so wrong. Apparently, I didn't bother to read my own blog to check the size I used previously and made an 18 GH instead of an 16 EF. What the hell was I thinking? Total brain fart, I tell you. Good thing this was an inexpensive voile from Fabric Outlet and only intended to be a wearable muslin.

So now that I've chastised myself for spacing out over the size and relived humiliating high school memories, I want to talk about something else--marking fabric with printed pdf patterns. Those little tracing wheels just don't work for me with the thick copy paper. Hell, they barely work with thin pattern paper. I've tried punching holes with an awl and using different types of mark-making tools such as chalk, those white pencils that barely make a mark, and frixion pens, which are no bueno for dark fabrics. None of these have worked very well for me. I'm not sure if this is "legal," but I had this idea to cut out the dart and trace the inside with a chaco pen. I think I'm on to something. Can anyone think of a reason why this might not be a good idea? I've been teaching myself to sew from sewing blogs, so I really value input from experienced seamstresses on stuff like this.

Finally, here's a pic of me wearing it as intended--i.e., covered with a Blackwood cardigan from Helen's Closet. I've been making lots of cut sleeve styles lately, so it's actually great to have something without sleeves that fits so well under a cardi.  I like that there's very little gaping despite the size goof and that it's designed so that your bra doesn't show. Very clever.  Will definitely make another version in the next cup size down.

Nothing says glamorous blogger like ladies room phone snap at work.  I should really quit trying so hard. :)

Thanks so much for reading about my project. Hope you have a fabulous week!

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Mandy Boat Neck: A Cautionary Tale

Hello, Hello! Hope you're having a fab weekend. Due to a busy week that led to weekend napping--along with a certain someone's snoring--I find myself wide awake in the middle of the night and in a blogging mood.

I consider the Mandy Boat Tee by Tessuti to be one of my TNT patterns. I love the boxy shape, and it looks so classic when sewn up in stripes. My favorite elements are the turned back neckline (no unnecessary drama with a neck band) and the slightly fitted sleeves, which serve as an anchor to help hold the oversized top in place. So when I bought this lovely 75% Polyester/17% Cotton/8%Linen Knit from Blackbird Fabrics with the perfect stripe I confidently set out to make another fab, striped Mandy tee. (It's funny how sewing changes the way you look at things. I only became obsessed with stripe proportion once I started looking carefully at textiles.) Anyhoo, I was so focused on the stripe aspect that I neglected to think about stretch percentage. This particular fabric doesn't have a lot of stretch (maybe 10%?) probably due to the linen content, and, as a result, I ended up with a top with uncomfortably tight arms and an awkward fit around the shoulders. I've definitely gained weight in the last year (Some people call it the Trump ten; it's probably more like the Trump twenty for me.), but the thing is my other Mandy tees still fit me just fine. I figured it had to be the fabric.

To ensure longevity, I had taken all the extra steps--e.g., stabilizing the shoulder seam and hem with fusible bias tape, conscientious stripe matching, and adding a side split hem. (Aren't side split hems the best? I want them on all my tees these days. If you're like me and tend to forget how to do them, here's a good tutorial from the Creative Counselor with lots of helpful close-up pics.)

After all that extra work and finding the perfect stripe and all, there was no way I was going to give up and throw it in the Goodwill pile. After unpicking the serged sleeves (bummer), I dug out my recently sewn Hey June Santa Fe tee pattern and used the sleeve bands. The nice thing about knits is you don't have to worry about exact measurements. Even with this fabric's limited stretch, I was able to ease them on just fine.

So all in all it worked out just fine. In fact, we're having a spate of warm weather here in my usually foggy neighborhood, so the short sleeves are perfect right now. A note for my future Mandys: They tend to hit a little too high at the neckline, no doubt due to my large bust pushing the neck up. I will lower the neck by 1.5 inches and also extend the length by 2.5 when sewing a side split hem.

Here's a goofy pic of me on the street car because blog posts are no fun without pictures.. (Yes, another on my way to work pic.)  Have a fantastic rest of your weekend. Cheers!

Monday, May 29, 2017

Blackbird Knits: Tees and Undies

Hello! Look at me blogging two weeks in a row.  I'm on a roll! So this is going to be a quickie (I think) as I take advantage of the three day weekend to get my blog caught up with projects. Namely, some tee shirts made with some of these absolutely lovely knits from Blackbird Fabrics. In addition to the knits shown above, I also bought some tencel twill and even a satin jacquard. I kind of went a little crazy, to be honest, and do not need to do any fabric shopping for while. (Yeah, right.) See below for a picture of the whole lot.

One benefit of my recent splurge is that Blackbird has a curated collection based, I assume, on the owner's taste. I love the understated colors that she chooses--the deep blues, charcoal, almond, and burgundy--and feel like they will become clothes that I'm more likely to wear in my real life.

So I kept it simple and made one Hey June Santa Fe top and two Closet Case Ebony tees. It was good to compare the different styles to help me figure out what works best for me. All three tees are made from a Slubby Organic Cotton and Bamboo Knit. All fabric arrived individually wrapped, affixed with a low tack sticker that explained the  composition and country of origin, which was so very helpful. Even if my clothes look like I bought them at Gap, at least I know I'm wearing knits that are 55% organic cotton and 45% bamboo rayon.

For this version I made size 2X of View C, which, when cut on the fold, is essentially a front and back sewn together. For my next version I will size down to a 1X since there's so much ease. It fits large all over and that can feel a little sloppy. The neckband feels a bit skinny and the neck seems overall a bit too wide. Maybe that won't be a problem when I size down. On a positive note, it has great drape and the sleeve cuffs are such a nice finish.

For this version I sewed up a size 18 of the crop version but lengthened it by three inches. I also used the jewel neckline. Overall, I prefer this to the Hey June because it's more fitted at the neck and shoulders while still retaining the swingy shape that I like to wear. Next time, though, I will lengthen another two inches. Even though I prewashed, the fabric shrunk a bit more. Also, the swingy shape means it billows up like a parachute at every gust of wind. That wouldn't bother me as much if it were a little longer.

This charcoal is the exact same as the burgundy, so nothing to add. However, I would like to blog about my favorite way of finishing the bottom hem and sleeve. I haaaate breaking out my walking foot. It's always such a pain in the ass to get back on. My hands are just too big and can never get at quite the right angle. Anyway, so for knits like this that do not have negative ease in the hem or sleeve, I like to use 3/8" fusible bias tape stabilizer. (Not an affiliate link.) Basically, it stabilizes so that the knit isn't stretchy anymore. Because it's not stretchy, I can sew with a hem and not worry about stretching it out or puckers or any of the other problems that can occur.

I bought a bit too much of the burgundy and charcoal fabric (2 meters), while the blue was the perfect amount (1 meter). So, of course, I made a couple of pairs of my latest favorite bikini--Celeste by Ohhh Lulu. I'm always trying to reduce clutter, and sewing up underwear with my scraps helps me get rid of the excess fabric quickly. Otherwise, it will end up in a bag in my closet never to be seen or heard from again.

Normally, grey underwear makes me sad, but this fabric is so soft on the skin it HAD to be made into undies. Fortunately, I still have some fold over elastic from a Peak Bloom grab bag I bought in September of 2014. It felt good to use up a few more bits and bobs. I didn't have matching thread, so I just picked a pretty salmon pink. If you're like me and always forget how to sew foldover elastic, Ohhh Lulu has a really great resource of video tutorials on youtube.  In the future, I would like to figure out a way to avoid the doubling of stitches on the underside, but these will do for now.

ETA: I almost forgot the reason why I wanted to blog the Celeste undies again: Sarah Norwood (Ohhh Lulu) has a couple of videos that show a different construction technique so that you sew the elastic before joining the sides. I definitely need more practice joining the sides evenly, but overall I love this technique. No measuring, no worrying about running out of elastic toward the end, no bulky joins. Game changer!

Whew! That wasn't a quickie at all! If you've made it this far, you deserve a medal. Thank you for reading and have a fantastic week.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Just Like Ina

Hello sewing friends! I hope that wherever you are, you're enjoying yourself on this lovely day in May. I'm enjoying and honoring the weekend by ignoring my to-do list and letting myself be lazy on a Saturday AND Sunday. Yay me.

First off, I would like to note that this is the first time I've ever used a "guts" pic as the lead picture for a post. Mostly because I'm not careful enough in my sewing to have tidy guts, but, damn, isn't it so satisfying to have pretty insides?

Here's the right side on Ava. The fabric is not exactly a polka dot—more like two teeny tiny horizontal lines that form a tiny square, but it looks like dots from a distance. I'm sure I was drawn to it because I love dark blue.  So much so that it's all I ever want to wear these days.

I suspect many of you can tell that this is the Lodo dress, which I always want to call "Lodi" for some reason, by True Bias. If you've read my blog before it's not a surprise since I'm always using her patterns. Which brings me to the title of my post. I'm referring to Ina Garten, a.k.a. the Barefoot Contessa, because while I was making this dress I kept thinking about how Kelli and Ina are so alike. Besides the fact that they're both good looking ladies, they also both specialize in a kind of easy style based in simplicity to achieve consistently polished results. Sidenote: Beej and I love cooking Ina's recipes. We even have a running joke that we're just like Ina and Jeffrey, except without all the money.

The pattern itself is the easiest thing in the world to make Just four large pieces, which could even be honed down to three pieces if you chose to cut the back on the fold.  I'm sure there are hundreds of similar patterns, but since I like other TB patterns so much, it was an easy choice to hit that purchase button. What I love most about this particular pattern is the elegant shape of the v-neck and the fact that it's designed for ponte. A ponte cocoon/shift dress means that if you're like me and sit at a desk all day, you will not be wearing a wrinkled dress by the end of it. At least, not nearly as bad as wearing a woven shift all day. To paraphrase Ina, "How bad is that?"

I also love how the woven facing keeps the neckline nice and crisp. No dealing with sloppy looking bands, here. 

So before I forget, here are some deets and more musings:
  • Size: 18. Rather than doing an FBA, I went with the largest size. I wanted it to skim not cling, so I think I will continue at that size. As you can imagine, there's tons of ease. 
  • I shortened by three inches at the "shorten here" line. Three inches seems to be the magic number for me when making alterations. 
  • I used a ball point needle and my serger for the whole thing. Does anyone have a definitive answer for which needle to use for patterns that combine knits and woven? It seems to me that it should depend on which fabric the needle is first piercing. In other words, maybe I should have switched to a regular needle when I sewed the facing. 
  • I think it's really important to use ponte de roma instead of a lighter knit since it's a very structured design. Must find more quality pontes.
  • For the hem, I used a gadget called a hot hemmer. (Not an affiliate link, by the way, I just didn't feel like taking a picture of a boring-looking gadget.) I don't think it's a must-have, but to me it was worth ten bucks since it made hemming easier and more pleasant. I used a small and nearly invisible zigzag rather than a double needle. I am OVER double needles. Not worth the trouble, and I've grown to appreciate the home-sewn, unfussy look of a zigzag. 
  • Ponte is from Britex. I think it was around $20 per yard. 
So that's all I have for the Lodo dress. Because I've been thinking a lot lately about how important it is to be brave, I'm posting a pic of me wearing my new dress.  It's just a rushed phone pic on my way to work that doesn't give you a very good idea of the dress, but it's a step for me. Please excuse the hair. Thanks for reading and have a fabulous week!

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Spring Sewing and a Couple of Blackwood Cardis

Hey there! Hope you're having a good weekend. Spring is definitely here, and I'm loving it. Summer and Winter don't have a lot of variation here in San Francisco weather-wise, but Spring and Fall never fail to delight me. You can just feel the energy of things coming to life, the quality of the light, the brighter colors. I find myself looking out the window at work and thinking things like, "I should take sailing lessons"or "I wish I was 25 again, hanging out in the park with my friends, and making daisy chains or doing something spontaneous like deciding to explore a new neighborhood or trying to find a hidden stairway or a mural or even a favorite tree."

Okay, so in addition to pondering my misspent (or brilliantly spent) youth, I've also been thinking about Spring sewing plans somewhat, but these thoughts only stay in my head for a moment or so before I move on to something else. Seriously, my attention span is shot. I'm definitely not the same woman who read all three volumes of Proust's Remembrance of Things Past. (ETA: My husband read this after I posted and thinks this sounds like I'm bragging, being pedantic, etc. I can see, after posting. SO did not mean it that way. Just can't believe I once had that kind of focus.)... So instead of talking about future plans, I'm going to focus on a couple of completed projects and hope I can remember all the details.

The Blackwood Cardigan is the latest from Helen's Closet and it's a very practical and versatile close-fitting cardigan pattern. I like Helen's blog and her energy a lot. She also uses such lovely fabric, and her makes always feel fresh but still practical...if that makes sense.  I initially hesitated because I already have the Oslo cardi pattern, by Seamwork, but am so glad that I finally caved. The Oslo makes for a more dramatic, oversized sweater, which I do like to wear with a handful of things, but most of the time it sort of feels like it's wearing me. The Blackwood, on the other hand, is a bit more unassuming and therefore more versatile. It also comes together super quick--especially if you have a serger.

I picked up two inexpensive sweater knits from Fabric Outlet for around $10 per yard plus 40% off. (A pic of my most recent haul is posted at the top of this post.) It's a thin knit that snags easily. It's also perfect for this pattern. I went for the long version on both. I had a little trouble with the collar on the army green below. You can see how the bottom curls up because I stretched it like mad to get it to meet. It was just sloppiness on my part and looking at this picture makes me want to grab my iron and steam that shit out. For the black version, I took the extra step to baste the collar before serging and it really paid off. Basting is the best!

At some point I'll probably make the shorter version, but, like a lot of people, I've been loving cozy, long cardis these days. For me, this is really a year-round pattern since I live in cardis at work. (Of course, I wouldn't wear it to work with only a bra underneath like my saucy dress form. :))

Okay, here are the deets before I forget:
  • I paid close attention to Gillian's testing post because we're close in height. She shortened the sleeves by 2" and left the length as-is. The khaki version is just a tidge too long but still definitely wearable. For the black one, I cut sleeves by 2", shortened length by 1" and it feels like a better length. 
  • FBA: I tried that cool "dirtycheater" method even though I'm most definitely a candidate for the full version; I just wanted to try a new method. Verdict: Definitely a good one to have in your backpocket for knits. Also, I'm thinking it might work well with striped fabric since you would still have a chance of the stripes matching. Actually, I don't know that for sure. Any seasoned FBA'ers out there that would like to share their thoughts?
  • Sorry to not have any pictures with a human. I think this is a step backwards for me, but hopefully I'll feel like getting in front of the camera sometime soon. 
  • Size XL with the pattern adjustments noted above.
I had other things I wanted to talk about--Spring sewing plans, some ideation for long-form sewing experiments, etc.--but hopefully with the lighter days and renewed energy, we'll talk soon. 

Have an absolutely lovely week!

Monday, March 13, 2017

Celeste Undies

Hello and happy Monday to you. I had a very relaxing weekend and hope you did as well. The seemingly nonstop rain has finally stopped, and it's starting to feel like spring. Spent a mellow Saturday afternoon replenishing my underwear drawer with Ohhh Lulu Celeste undies. (You're going to have to endure an entire post of me trying to dodge the "p-word." I'll say drawers, knickers, undies, smalls...anything but (shudder) "panties.")

Ohhh Lulu offers a free version of this cute bikini, and I can never resist a free underwear pattern. This one is super easy and fun. So fun that I was a bit bummed when I discovered that I didn't have a lot of large-enough scraps and was frantically going through my clothes, looking for t-shirts I never wear that I could cut up and repurpose.

So, the blue ones are from scraps, and the two green pairs are made from t-shirts that were heading for the Goodwill pile. Last week I took BART to the Mission on my lunch hour for a quick shop at Fabric Outlet--that's Cali-fabric to you online shoppers. I've decided that foldover elastic is overrated and what I really love is picot edge elastic. So I bought 10 yards each of of cream and black for next to nothing. I like having it on hand when I'm in an underwear-making mood.

I guess there's not that much else to say. Here are the deets:

  • Started with the XL and wound up cutting the side seam (between XL and L) in half on all pattern pieces. 
  • I like the full bum and full crotch coverage. Sorry if that's oversharing. 
  • I need to practice sewing the picot so that only the edge shows on the other side. I think they're still cute, though
  • Sewed the first pass at 3.0/2.5 zigzag and the second pass at 4.0/3.0. Seemed to work out okay
I'm already looking forward to making more. In fact, I picked up some super skinny satin ribbon today to make little bows. I think that would look really pretty at the center front. 

Have a lovely week, everybody!