Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Sweaters for everyone!

The final gifts (yes, plural) I made were cowlneck sweaters for me and my sister. The fabric, which unfortunately with my lack of photography skill, comes across as flat in these photos. It is not! It's a delicious, textured, shimmery Japanese silk novelty knit from Gorgeous Fabrics that when I saw it knew it had to become this sweater. I've been wanting to make this design up since I saw the pattern in the October 2005 issue of Burda. One for me, and one sized up for my sister. It's lightweight and oh so snuggly warm.

You can play around with the neck.

This is also the first time that I've sewn with a twin needle. There's a dearth of good advice on the internet regarding how to sew with a twin needle. That said, this tutorial demystified the intimidating twin needle. Maybe that's why there isn't much more written about twin needles...

A rainhat for my mommy

Last week was a rush of finishing gifts, and trying to wrap up some work projects before the end of the year. I was successful at the gift finishing... the work projects, not so much. At least I'll have something to do in January when I go back!

Have you ever bought an album for one song? Well, I bought this book for one hat, and it turns out the pattern wasn't in the book!

That said, it's a fun book even if some of the hat instructions are, "buy a hat, put a ribbon on it like this."

The last time I was home, my mother who is of a certain age pulled out a little rain bonnet to cover her hair in the rain. I understand wanting to look a little older than you are (people always think I'm at least 5 years younger than I really am) but this is too much! A cute rainhat was in order.

I had some rainwear microfiber left over from an attempt at making a raincoat (funny I didn't have that on my list of no-sew, because I have no plans to ever sew any rubberized fabric after this! The hat went together very quickly. I used a microtex needle and lined it with a lightweight stretch cotton from my stash. There was a slight smell of burnt rubber when I was done -- all finished in less than 2 hours!

For the record, I have a small head, as does my mom.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Burda 10/2005 #133: What to wear to get thrown out of a Cavs game

Last year, Lee and his roommate went to Cleveland during the playoffs to watch the Celtics-Cavaliers game. Now, Lee has a special sense of style and is one of those people who can pull off almost anything. Crazy plaid mohair suit? Yes. Giant rabbit fur hat with earflaps? Yes. Sharkskin silk suit? Yes.

So, naturally, the thing he wanted for the game was a kelly green suit.

I'm not about to try out whatever suit making mojo I might imagine to have, so this is what he got for Christmas... a Celtics shirt! Kelly green with bright orange buttons. The fabric looks like nasty quilting cotton, but surprisingly it's a stretch poly/cotton blend.

The collar stand has an interesting pointy detail.

I drafted the sleeve vent bands by enlarging a pattern piece from a Vogue shirt pattern in my stash.

The shirt is a little on the large side. I didn't have any of Lee's shirts at hand, and was going from his telling me that he'd just bought a size 40 jacket. It's so much easier to sew a men's shirt than a women's shirt... there's so much more space to make a flat felled seam in the sleeve! Lee is happy with his shirt and I might make more in less obnoxious fabric and smaller size.

Leopard robe

You know how they say that you should consider the cost-per-wear of a pair of shoes, jeans, coat, etc. when you're buying it? Because, like, if it's pennies per wear then it's totally worth it? I'm really optimizing my cost-per-sew with this pattern. I've now made 5 robes and 1 pair of boxer shorts with it. I have 2 of those robes, my ex has 1 robe and the boxer shorts, my dad is about to get a robe for Christmas, and now I've made a robe for Lee.

He's been talking about this robe ever since he went to a meeting in DC last year where they put him up in a fancy hotel where he had his choice of leopard print or zebra print bath robes. And now he has one of his own! The fleece is from FFC, and I was afraid it wasn't going to arrive on time. We won't be spending the holidays together, so when the fabric arrived last Wednesday I was under the gun to complete it in time for our visit this weekend... at this point, it takes me only 6 hours from the time I lay out the fabric to the time I have a robe... so this pattern is a total win for me!

I didn't skimp on the fabric because if my dad is shorter than the Butterick Man, Lee is probably taller... otherwise, there are no changes this time around.

Now, on to the pictures... When I asked Lee if I could take photos, he was like, "what for? your blog? I don't want anyone to see me!" So you get to see that the robe fits well, but only I get to see his handsome face. I hope you can settle for that! ;p

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Things I don't sew.

I'm traveling again for work which means in the evenings, after my meetings, I think about all the things I could be doing at home. Sounds glamorous, eh? My job is neither that nor lucrative. It takes me to places like exotic Columbus, Ohio and thrilling Long Island, New York.

Wah, wah, wah, I know.

This blog is not about whining, it's about sewing! And in this case, not sewing!

I've sewn most of my clothes, but there are a few things that i just won't sew. They can be categorized into the fabric scares me or it's cheaper to buy than to make, or it looks bad. This post is inspired by the current Patagonia fabrics sale at Fashion Fabrics Club. I run and climb, and Patagucci makes the best active clothing ever. You can sweat like a pig but your shirt will magically stay dry and stink-free. Their clothing is worth every penny, and they are not paying me to say that. However, buying their fabric to make my own t-shirts? File that under the fabric scares me.

so without further ado, here are my lists:
this fabric scares me
technical knit
technical woven
multi ply silk
slinky (it just sounds like a nightmare)

cheaper to buy than to make

t shirts

it looks bad
corduroy pants*
small floral print

Of course, these lists are subject to change. Up until 3 years ago, jeans were on the list of cheaper to buy than to make. And then I figured out how to make them fit and haven't looked back. How about you? Anything you think I've left out?

*I plead guilty to having made, worn, and loved corduroy pants but after seeing this photo of myself from the back in black corduroy, I don't see the need to wear something that gets all poochy, nappy, and faded on my butt and knees. No more corduroy pants! From now on, corduroy will only be worn above the waist!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Burda 9/2009 #105/106, take 1

In the September Burda issue, there is this shirt (106, too many ruffles):
and this shirt (105, nice but not special):

I wanted the plain fit of 105 but the ruffles on 106. In theory, the result is what I'd love to wear. Ruffles, gray, and fitted. But I think this will end up a wadder. I'm going to wait a few days and see how I feel about it.

I didn't need to make a petite adjustment in the upper bust. The dart now falls above the rack and there is a bit of fabric pulling in the top of the shirt.

The buttonholes turned out to be a mess because with three layers of shirting for the ruffles, I didn't need to put in interfacing after all. They don't look so bad buttoned, and if you don't stare at my chest (ahem)...

But I don't think this will stand up to more than a few washes.

Add this to the fact that the fabric was fragile and bruised and run in a few places. Here's a bruise on one of the shirt cuffs.

And a loose thread that turned into a run on the shoulder.

I think I'll try again but with a few changes...

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Getting in touch with my inner prep: Burda 1/06 Henley jacket

...and not getting in touch with my camera. Half of my photos when taking pictures of this jacket came out like this.

I'll spare you those and show some pictures of the fixed sleeves, lining, and trim up close. As you may recall from this post, I was having problems with the sleeve hem. I ended up taking out the sleeves, trimming 1/2" around off the top (1" in the shoulder) and setting them back in. There is very little ease in the upper arms now... and I have pretty scrawny arms. This jacket is pretty cozy and it's like wearing a sweater, so I don't lament not being able to wear a sweater under it.

The fabric is a heavy wool tweed from Fabric.com and the trim is black crepe back satin that I had in stash.

Here is a picture showing the lining.

Here is a picture of the trim. The trim goes on the facing and front pieces, as well as the upper collar. I don't have a good picture of the sleeve trim... it's one of the blurry photos I took.

This photo also shows a little secret. I used some of the trim fabric for the collar stand on the outside. I was trying to squeeze a jacket that needed 1 3/4 yards of fabric out of 1 1/2 yards and there was no way I could get two collar stands out of it while cutting all the other pieces out!

And another little secret? The upper collar on one side of the jacket turned out a little higher than the other side. Betcha can't tell from the photos which one it is... and I hope no one else but me notices!

Patriots robe

The first of the Christmas gifts is done -- this went together very quickly. It's the third time that I've made a robe from this pattern and at this point I can almost do it in my sleep. I made a few unplanned changes this time, and if I make this again I have some additional changes I'd like to make.

Unplanned changes?
Sometimes I'm a space cadet. Sometimes I can't control what comes out of my mouth. Sometimes this converges so that when I want 3 7/8 yard of 60" fabric, I'll somehow have forgotten that I'm sewing for someone else so should get the full amount needed and blurt out "3 and a half yards please" at the cutting counter. Add the fact that the saleswoman cut each yard an inch short and I was 10" short on fabric for this project.

Not to worry, I'm not the only short person in my family! Shortness is inherited, and my dad is not as tall as the Butterick male ideal (he's about 5'7" whereas the Butterick Man is 5'10" So I could take 3" off the hem. I also cut the front facings an additional 2" short, which saved fabric and bulk -- I sewed up the hem like a facing over the facing... Sounds confusing, but here's a picture.

Changes for next time?

If I sew this again, I'd make the cuffs wider. With the turn of cloth for a bulky fabric like fleece, the cuffs are pretty skimpy. I've also made this in flannel, and the cuffs are about the right width.

Some other notes about this pattern and sewing with fleece
Butterick's pretty serious about the amount of fabric that you need. There's no waste in the layout and very little room for fudging around. I'm lucky that I could cop out and shorten the pattern pieces. The robe seems long on me (forgive the belly skin in the pic) but will probably fall just below the knee on my dad.

This fleece is such a novelty fabric... I bought it at Joann and it is Joann quality as in it shed everywhere. I've been sniffling all day from sewing with it. That said, it's still easy to sew because it doesn't fray and is stretchy so easing sleeves and the collar is very easy. I set the sleeves in flat with no problem.

To finish the seams, I mock flat felled them with a zig zag stitch. Here is a picture of the upper collar and shoulder seams.

And I bartacked the belt loops. I hope that they're in the right place. When I've made this robe for myself, I've had to move the belt loops up by 3". You can't see it in the photos either, but I bartacked the cuffs in place. The pattern instructions tell you to hand sew them, but I'm no sucker. If I can find away to avoid hand stitching by taking a machine short cut, I will!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

this up next: Fleece robe

Thanks for the compliments on my jacket and ideas for what to do about the sleeves. When I read A Sewn Wardrobe's idea about a stray string getting caught in the sleeve (and so making it bunchy) I was so hopeful that it would be that easy a fix. It wasn't. I sucked it up last night and opened up the jacket, took up the sleeves at the shoulder. In all, I took out 1" of shoulder ease and 1/2" in the rest of the sleeve. It didn't completely fix the problem (it's still a little bunchy) and now the sleeves are kind of snug on my upper arms. But it looks much better and the half hour of ripping stitches and pinning (pins in armpits are no fun, ask me how I know!) was worthwhile because now I'll actually wear this jacket. I'll post pictures this weekend.

The next thing I'm sewing is this robe as a Christmas gift for my dad. [Aside: Isn't this envelope hilarious? It's like the Bennetton sleepover and that glasses guy with the little red book is going to end up falling asleep first and getting toilet papered.]

With this fabric which I paid an embarrassing amount for, just because it has the Patriots print on it.

It was twice the price of unprinted fleece! But this is for my dad, and I'm willing to put my biases aside... I don't really sew with Butterick -- so dowdy looking! I'm a total sucker for good illustration. And I don't really care for football, unless we're talking about the Steelers. But that said, I know this will turn out well and will be something that my dad will like.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

So close...

This is the jacket, from Burda 1/2006, that I'm basing mine on. I didn't really pay much attention to this jacket when the magazine came out because the fabrics are not what I'd choose.

I'm almost done... I thought I was done until I tried the jacket on and the vents are all wonky so that the sleeves don't fall smoothly. I'm at a loss for how to fix this except for folding up the sleeves, which works well and all but I do want to be able to wear this jacket without adjusting the sleeves. Any thoughts?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Sewing sort of with a plan

Lee and I went to the Big Deal Halloween party and my costume was a hit, but I have to say that the guy who dressed up as the Balloon Boy took the cake. Seriously, his costume was awesome. And I'd show you photos of the dress in action, but somehow I managed to only show my back to the camera (in the photos that I've seen) so there's nothing new to see unless you want further proof that I really need a haircut.

I am slowly, slowly working on a tweed jacket for myself. The lightweight jacket that I was thinking of earlier this Fall has kind of gone by the wayside. It was freezing here in October, and I decided that I didn't want to mess around with a cotton jacket (although I did make a muslin). Because I am IMPATIENT and have to have everything NOW I cut right into some heavyweight wool tweed for a jacket similar to this:

You can get one for a cool $425 here. And I hope you won't be making a pissy face like the model when you wear yours. The trim on the jacket is turning out to be really fussy, one of the most tedious things I've worked on in a while.

In other news, I've decided to make Christmas gifts for everyone on my list (my immediate family and Lee.) I figured I should start planning now because it seems that almost every week this Fall I've either had guests or been heading out of town (I am just returning from another work trip tonight) which means almost no time to sew! This is the first year that I'm making an effort to make all my gifts. I have made gifts for people in the past, and to be honest I am a bit gunshy of making things for others. Most of my friends are truly gracious and a joy to give to; they make you feel like you've received a gift yourself! It's the few people I've made things for who are very critical of my gifts that make me unsure of giving homemade gifts. They can't be returned, unlike a storebought gift, so if it doesn't suit the recipient's taste they're kind of stuck with it (until they unceremoniously throw it out.) The part that really gets me, though, isn't so much the critique of what I've chosen for them but the waste of my time in making something that garners me a load of complaints. I know, I'm whining, but that's time that I could have used to make something for myself or for someone who actually likes what I make!

What about you? Do you make gifts to give? Are you making gifts this holiday season?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The swan dress

Do you remember the dress Bjork wore to the Oscars when she was nominated for best song in Dancer in the Dark? If not, here's a refresher:
Now, why am I thinking of Bjork's swan dress? Not only is it awesome, but it's a great Halloween costume. Every year for Halloween, I wait until the day of whatever party I'm invited to before I figure out what I'm going to wear. It's partly that I don't really want to be that person who has all the free time in the world to compose an elaborate costume. I'd rather do something creative and cheap. Last year, I painted my face and neck black, wore all black and a borrowed iPod to be an iPod dancer. This year, however, Lee and I are invited to a Big Deal of a party. Big Deal as in it involves a rented venue and is combined with a farewell-for-now for one of his closest childhood friends, and we are traveling to attend it. I can't put off the Halloween costume to the last minute. It took me a while to figure out what I'd be for Halloween, and decided that being Bjork in her iconic swan dress would be fun.

It turns out that it's also a lot of work. As you can see, Bjork is wearing an illusion net body suit with rhinestones with her dress. I'm not about to make a body suit, but I figured I could come close to approximating her look. I made a crossover front close-fitting dress from the 5/2006 Burda issue using white gingham and illusion net for the sleeves, one half of the front, and the back.
Then I gathered 10 yards of fine net tulle and 5 yards of wire net tulle. This took FOREVER. Tulle is a royal PITA to cut because it's not easy to see what you're doing, and cutting long strips up to 10 yards long takes forever. Then when you try to gather it on the machine or machine stitch it to another piece of fabric, you discover that there are a million little hooks around the needle area that will catch on the tulle... which is easy to do because tulle is full of little holes! The other thing about tulle is that it's voluminous, huge, giant, fluffy... and after the first few layers it's like having a tulle pillow stuck to your machine. In fact, after this experience, it will be FOREVER before I sew tulle again.

The head and neck are made from more of the white gingham, the beak and eye detail are felt. The whole piece is stuffed with fiber fill and the end was insert into the right shoulder of the dress. I originally thought to put a wire into the neck to pose it, but it wouldn't sit on my shoulders. Instead, I whipstitched the neck to the dress neckline.

I took one photo outside to show the tulle layers accurately. Yes, it is scandalously short.

The other photos are indoor because... I don't have Bjork's beguiling charm, and I'm not just talking about taking a Marilyn Monroe-esque pose. I just didn't want my neighbors to take notice that I was wearing about 2 lbs of tulle!
From the right side. I safety pinned the head to the net illusion bust piece. If I had sewn it to the piece, I would not have been able to shimmy into this dress. I suppose that now would be a good time to mention that wearing this much tulle is really hot. Perhaps that is why Bjork is playing with her skirt in the above photo; she needs to cool off! I will also say that with all this tulle sewn to the dress, and the swan's neck sewn to the dress neckline it's tricky to get in and out of. This may be a one time garment!

A view from the back. My hair is covering it, but the swan's neck is stitched to the neckline.
Now I just need to get some fake eyelashes and figure out how to squish it into a carry-on suitcase!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Simplicity 2603

The last month has been a rush, going out of town for another wedding, having friends in last week (and then seeing them go, which is always sad), and going out of town again this week for 4 days of conference in San Diego. Allow me to whine: who in their right mind starts a conference during a holiday weekend (because I work for a school, I get Columbus day off)? how am I going to dress like a grown up for 4 days? I don't really have a suit, and am going to try to get by with wearing the same skirt or dress every day that I'm there. The problem boils down to a few things:
  • I'd rather sew something that I wear daily, i.e., jeans, shirts, jackets.
  • I'm not very good at sewing formal wear.
  • I don't really have the lifestyle that calls for regular suit wearing.
  • I am really hard on my clothes. I had 2 skirts until I clumsily stepped on the zipper of one of them, breaking the zipper and tearing the fabric irreparably.
So, when I had to go to the Canadian outdoor autumn wedding I was kicking myself for never having made a good pantsuit (this doesn't include the pant suit that I pulled out of my butt for my Defense, which still has safety pins holding the pants closed.)

Now I'll stop whining: I'm lucky that I can sew and whip up something like this the night before going out of town for an evening outdoor wedding north of the border. This was perfect, and I was warm all night. I made mine in black cotton-rayon jersey. The fabric doesn't ravel, but because I'm paranoid about knit fabric stretching out of shape, I zig zagged the edges to reinforce them, since the different arrangements call for lots of knot tying.
It's like a snuggy, but better. I'm taking it with me to the conference, you can wear it so many different ways nobody will know I'm wearing the same thing every day. I'm not sure how the picture hosting works, but I think if you click on the photos they get bigger.

Here it is, left open. Initially, I was worried that because I'm so short that the shoulders would be too wide on me and the front too long. But it seems to work.
These are two easy ways to wear it, that I especially like. You tie a little knot in the front piece and pop it over your head so that the fabric drapes in the front. It's fun to play with and whenever I've worn it I'll sometimes change it up over the course of the day.