Friday, February 28, 2014

Ode to the Macaron Dress

A few weeks ago I decided that Colette Patterns Macaron Dress was the One True Dress for me.  I dreamed about it. I gushed about it to my friends and family-- it was stylish, classy, and I was sure it would be a perfect fit.  It would flatter me (and who doesn't like a little flattery?).   I had to have it.

And so I bought the pattern, and made the dress....and it was true love.  Or something like that. 

Really, though, I do like this pattern.  A lot.  Although I had previously spent too much time admiring Colette's patterns online, this was the first one I had ever purchased.  Their patterns have such a tailored, stylish look that I think they always came across as a little intimidating.  And while this was was certainly time-consuming, it wasn't all that difficult.  I even installed my first invisible zipper (without an invisible-zipper foot), to much success.  So let me introduce you:

 Flattering, a good fit, and the best part....

It has pockets!

I would rate this as an intermediate pattern.  Not too difficult, but due to lots of darts, pleats, and pieces it does take some time to put together.  It could probably use a little bit of alteration for me to achieve a perfect fit, but I can live with this for now.  Both the main and the contrasting fabrics are linen from Joann's, and it creates a nice drape and comfortable feel.

Now if it would just get warm enough to actually wear it outside!  

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Briar + Tania Culottes = Signature Style

I think I have found my new "Signature Style" and I never knew I needed one!  For Project Sewn you are to choose your signature style this week.  I'm not sure I have one but I know when I love something I've made and this top plus these culottes are my new favorites.

The patterns are from the amazing independent pattern designer Megan Nielsen.  I have several of her patterns and they are all well worth owning.  I can't say how many of her Briar tees I've made but it is quite a few.  This one is made with a ponte knit.  The pattern on the fabric was pretty psychedelic so I used the underside as the right side.  If anyone hopes to use ponte on their pattern you may want to go up a size since it doesn't have much stretch.  

The Tania Culottes are ingenious.  It appears to be a skirt, but I tell you people it is NOT its hard to believe but there is a crotch (I know awful word) seam under there hidden by a pleat in the front and the back!!!  They are amazing I tell you!  They are super comfortable and I loved wearing them all day, even when carting the kiddos around.  These are made from thrifted rayon and a lapped zipper.  You can see the zipper here.  The pattern calls for an invisible zipper but I didn't have any and don't have an invisible zipper foot, hence the lapped zip.  

I really suggest, if you make these, that you will want to let the hem hang out for a few days before hemming.  The pieces are all cut on the bias (giving them amazing drape) but they get completely wonky after hanging and have to be evened out.  Not as big of a deal as it sounds, just requires some patience.  I had to trim quite a bit from the hem and I used the XL length hem with the Medium size pattern.  I read that others pinned the hem up while wearing the skirt, I couldn't get that method to work so I would eyeball it in the mirror and them pull it up and trim on my cutting table while still wearing them.  Just be patient with that part of the construction and you'll be fine.  I am sure to have a lot of these in my summer wardrobe as they are so comfortable and more flattering than a lot of shorts I own. 

Well there you have it.  If anything was close to my "Signature Style" I'd say this was it, comfortable, a step up from jeans and fun.  

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Thrift Store Ruby Dress

I am really, really cheap-- sometimes by choice, sometimes by necessity.  But one of the things that I love about going to thrift stores is that it's like going on a treasure hunt-- you may find something great buried in the racks or on the shelf.  And that's what happened with this outfit: the boots, belt, and dress fabric are all thrift store finds, for a total of $7.50!

So let me start with the boots, since this week's Project Sewn challenge was to make something based on a pair of shoes.  I typically play it safe with shoes-- a pair of tennis shoes, two identical pairs of dress shoes (one in black, one in brown), a pair of brown books, some LL Bean Mary Janes, a few summer shoes, and a couple of pairs of high heels.  A few months ago I was at a local thrift store when I found these boots, and though I'd take a chance on trying something a little different-- low boots with heals, in kind of an orangey-brown shade.

So I decided for this challenge that I wanted to be brave-- instead of wearing the boots under jeans, as I normally do, I wanted to wear them with tights or leggings and a dress.  (Because that's what blogging is all about, right?  Taking risks and being brave?)

I wanted to use some rayon that I bought a thrift store last month (two and a half yards for 50 cents!), and thought that the Ruby Dress would be the perfect companion to my boots.   And.... it was!

This outfit is not something that I would normally ever wear (my wardrobe is mostly jeans, t-shirts, and cardigans), but I love it!  The dress is really comfortable, and just the right length.  When I made the Ruby Top in January, I had problems with the armscyes being too tight.  This time I kept the seam allowance at 3/8 inch all the way around, and it made a world of difference-- a perfect fit!  The belt was another thrift store find, and paired nicely with the brown boots:

You can see the fabric print better in this picture.  Elizabeth and I have had some discussions lately about rayon prints-- they are typically really ugly, and it's hard to find good ones.  I don't completely love this one, but for 50 cents I can live with it, and it goes with just about anything.  Does anybody have any recommendations on where to find any good rayons?

I will be making more of these dresses, maybe as part of my commitment to being brave I'll actually make some sleeveless ones, haha.

Finally, I wanted to share a series of pictures from my "photo shoot", it's kind of amazing that I get any half-way decent shots at all! (I had the camera set up on a continuous timer)

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

A Plantain Tee with a Punch

The theme for Project Sewn this week is "If the Shoe Fits."  The idea is to make a garment that goes with a pair of shoes you own.  My first inclination was to make a dress to go with a pair of new black boots but as I've been thinking a lot more about making garments that fit my everyday style (thank you to this post and this post) I decided to give the much lauded Deer and Doe Plantain Tee a try.  But I couldn't just leave it as a plain tee, I wanted it to have a little punch so I added a back panel.

The panel is a piece of hand stamped rayon challis I've been saving for just this sort of project.  I loooovveee this rayon, I made it for a Colette Laurel top last spring and had just enough left for this top and maybe one more.  I have such a hard time finding rayon challis prints that aren't too "Grandma" so hand stamping it was my solution.  I added a pleat to the center back of the panel for volume and also shaped it to drape a bit lower in the middle back.  I'm thinking of doing a tutorial for it so if anyone out there is interested in learning how to modify this FREE tee pattern let me know!  Btw, I highly recommend this pattern as the shape is very flattering and it comes together quickly.

 Since the sewing challenge was to be connected to a pair of shoes I thought it only right that I should show you what shoes I intend to wear this tee with.  Well folks, this is where we interject a little reality into this here blog post.  Here are my shoes....they aren't the most stylish but this is what I toodle around town in because people, there are toddler's to tote on hips, stuffed toys to pick up while holding said toddler, five year olds to shuffle and sometimes multiple bags slung over arms.  And I am not the kind of person that can accomplish any of that in heels of any kind.  So loafers it is....

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Skirt, Uninspired

So this is my Plan "D" skirt for Project Sewn, so called because it was my last-minute act of sewing desperation.  Last weekend, after we had decided to participate in the Project Sewn challenges, I had a brilliant idea for this week's challenge, which was the color pink.  (Ok, maybe it wasn't brilliant, but I was inspired).  I was going to do a color-blocked tee, something similar to the Lucille top that I made for my daughter, but with more blocks.

And then reality set it.  Joann Fabrics has a very limited amount of knits, especially pink knits, unless you are a girl between the ages of 2 to 5.  There are no other local places that sell a wide-variety of knits, and I didn't have time to order online.  So it was on to Plan "B".

Plan "B" was a knit skirt from this New Look pattern.  The plan was to make it from a fuchsia ponte knit that I picked up at a thrift store a few weeks ago.  But the more I looked at it, the more blah it seemed.  Safe.  Easy.  Boring.  So moving on...

To Plan "C", which truly was inspired.  And exciting.  But the website that I was trying to purchase the pattern from was down for about 24 hours, so I wasn't able to buy the pattern in time (I know, excuses).   However, that pattern is on hold for the final Project Sewn Challenge in a week and a half, so I'm not going to give it away!

So, finally, on Thursday morning, I moved on to Plan "D", just for a chance to submit something...anything.  And this is what it was:

On the hanger, in the picture, it doesn't look as awful as it does in real life.  I knew that it had the potential to be ugly, but I was hoping that it would cross that threshold of being so ugly it became cool again.  And it didn't.  It's just ugly.  The individual elements of the piece aren't bad on their own, but they combined to make a something that a matronly woman might have worn in 1972.   

I used Simplicity pattern 2451, and some pink polyester that had been passed along from someone else's stash.

The skirt was really easy to sew, and I still think that I like the pattern, just not with the fabric.  It was too poofy and lightweight, and highlighted all the wrong areas.  I think that with some heavier fabric the pattern could still have a lot of potential.  The skirt looked so awful on me that I'm not even going to post a picture here.  

Live and learn, right?  I'm looking forward to next week's Project Sewn challenge that will hopefully be a little more inspired and fashionable!

The "Maria" Moss Skirt

Can you tell what kind of kick we've been on lately?  Moss Skirts!  Believe it or not, this was the first skirt that I have ever made for myself.  I've made lots of tops, and a number of dresses, but never a skirt.  I don't know why, because I love wearing skirts-- so it was good to have an excuse to finally sew one! 

I think that in general, skirts have a reputation for being a quick, easy, sew, a good project for beginners.  And that was NOT the case with the Moss Skirt.  It wasn't a really difficult pattern, but it wasn't easy, that helpful?  But before I get into the details, let me show you the results! 

Let's talk about the fabric first.  This type of fabric is typically not my style-- large, gold and green floral that almost looks dated.  I don't know where it came from, but it was actually hemmed in sort of a valance-style when I pulled it off my shelf.  It's a Waverly screen print from 19_ _?  And strangely, I was drawn to suddenly seemed like the perfect fabric for my skirt.  And then I realized why.

Last week, when we were snowed in for several days, my daughter decided that the Sound of Music was her new favorite movie.  So we watched it over, and over, and over.... and those curtains-turned-clothing were burned into my brain.  Gold.  Green.  Garish.  Floral.

 So there you have it. My "Maria" skirt.  Now on to the details:

Pattern:  The Grainline Stuidos Moss Skirt

Fabric:  Waverly Screen Print home decor weight hand-me down

Size: 12 (I normally wear a 10).  With some stretch fabric I definitely would be able to wear this in a size 10, with a normal woven, I'm not sure.  Also, I didn't add the hem band, and you can see that it's definitely as short as I would want it.  I'm 5'8", so taller women may definitely want to add that band.

Sewing: I earned my Fly Zipper Merit Badge on this project.  Installing it actually wasn't that difficult, but deciphering the instructions proved to be the challenge.  I found the Grainline tutorial to be more helpful than the pattern instructions, and I'm sure that there are other great tutorials out there as well.  I think that the next time I do a fly I'll be able to breeze through it now that I understand what I'm supposed to be doing.

It is also helpful to pay close attention while you're sewing this pattern (I suppose it is always helpful, but particularly so here).  Several of the pattern pieces are similar in shape, and some of the pieces are asymmetrical, but have angles that look close to identical.  

I know others have had trouble with the waistband being too short for the skirt.  Initially I didn't think I was going to have a problem, but I did end up having to shorten my seam allowances to make it fit.  Next time I think I'll add an additional 1.5 inches on to the length, and that should allow it to comfortably fit around the top of the skirt.

Overall, I like the pattern, and I think I'll be making a few more.  Maybe some longer ones for the summer, since I don't think I can get away with the short version without leggings.  Has anyone else out there made the Moss Skirt?  Post your links in the comments, I'd love to see them!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Pinkedy pink pink Grainline Moss skirt and Hemlock tee

Does anybody else have parents that bring things like pink Valentine's trees when they come to visit their grandchildren?  What you say you've NEVER heard of a Valentine's day tree?  Why it consists of pink ornaments, some lovingly made of salt dough and mountains of sequins that are never to all be in one place ever again.  And for this show of love by my parents to my children I say "thanks Mom and Dad" that's why they always love it when you visit.  And I also say what better way to display a pink floral mini skirt than next to said tree?  

 This is the Grainline Moss mini that I completed last week.  I've had this crazy floral fabric for about a year just waiting for a pattern like this.  I love the vibrant colors of this fabric but I know that an entire dress consisting of this fabric would just look like a big Scarlet O'Hara curtain dress.

The tee is the Hemlock tee also from Grainline.  Its a free download and I highly recommend it.  I am loving the ease and comfort of this big tee.  It comes together very quickly and I have a couple more of these in mind to make.

I'll be adding this project to the sew-along pool at Project Sewn.  I'm really loving that sew-along and all the amazing talent displayed there.  If you're not familiar with it you should check it out there are some incredible sewists creating some equally amazing garments.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Valentine Geranium Dress

I know, I know.  There are millions of Made by Rae's Geranium Dresses out there in bloglandia.  But you know why?  Because it's a really great pattern.  Simple, quick, with lots of potential for personalization.  So I won't go on and on, except to say:  it's a great pattern, I definitely recommend it, and here is my latest version:

The fabric is clearance fabric I bought on clearance at Joann's lat month-- perfect for a February Geranium Dress! This version includes the u-shaped cutout on the bodice, the pleated skirt, pockets, and cap sleeves.  So there it is!

As a side note, I finally discovered how to get my daughter to smile for pictures-- tell her "Don't you dare smile", and instantly she's laughing.  We'll see how long I can get away with that!

For the next few weeks I think we're going to be sewing along with Project Sewn, so be sure to check out our blog updates as well as their site-- there are lots of amazing, creative clothing items being made!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Grainline Moss ("I hope you got a discount") Mini Skirt

This is the Grainline Moss Mini Skirt and I can't recall how long I've had this pattern but it has finally come to fruition!  The whole time I was making it all I could think of was my Dad's admonitions to my sisters and I that he "hoped we got a discount" on our mini's because "you're missing half your skirt."  Silly Dads.  
I'm not sure what to say about the pattern because all of the online research I did comparing people's experiences and reviews led me to think that this skirt would practically make itself.  Maybe I just wasn't in a good zen sewing place but I think I had to redo almost every step of this skirt at least twice.  Granted I've never inserted a zip fly and at least a couple of times it was completely my lack of paying attention but at different points I just had the hardest time deciphering the diagrams and instructions.  Did anyone else have that experience?  I'd be curious to know.

So here's a rough review:
Fabric: This is a bottom weight denim-ish fabric from Hancocks.  It has some stretch to it and a bit of a sheen.  It was great for this pattern except my waistband ended up a couple inches too short for the skirt waist, I suspect in part because of the stretch of this fabric.  So I had to recut that piece again to fit the skirt. I can't wait to make this in a crazy pink floral fabric I have in my stash.  It doesn't have any stretch so maybe I won't have the same waistband issue.  
Pattern: As I stated above I had some problems (some my own fault) discerning the instructions and diagrams.  I had some gaping at the back waistband but as already stated I think this was due to the stretch of the fabric and not the pattern.  This was my first time to insert a fly zipper and I'd say that I think these instructions are probably the least painful way to do it.  The end result is good though and I think I may have to make a couple more of these just because they're great with leggings.     
Alterations:  I let the back seam out 1/4" because I was worried it might be too snug.  My hips measure a 39 and the size 8 (which is a 39) was just right- not really sure I needed that extra 1/4".  One more note about size, this skirt is made to sit low on your hips, so I think that the hip measurement is probably the most important one to take.  I did not fold the hem up 3/8" two times and stitch, instead I used bias tape to finish the bottom.  I just needed that extra 1/2" length.   

These little owls are the lining of the pockets.  I love that my girls aren't the only ones who get the adorable prints on their clothes.  Well I think that sums it up!  Make sure you have your thinking cap on when making this and you should be just fine.  And, to my Dad- no, I did not get a discount but I think we should all show the zip fly I completed some major respect!  

Monday, February 3, 2014

Pattern Runway Gathered Skirt

 I love it when I discover that independent pattern designers offer a free pattern.  I tell you what could be better than a simple pattern, well drafted, and offered up to you for free?  So, its the little things that get us excited around this blog.

This skirt is a Pattern Runway pattern.  Its #1402 the Gathered Elastic Waist Skirt and is a simple design with some really nice small touches.  For example the front waistband lays flat while the back is gathered with elastic.  This is better than some of the skirts I've made in the past with elastic that goes around the whole waist.  Nobody who's ever had a baby wants more floofiness around their front middle than necessary.  Plus no zipper to insert.  The skirt also has pockets if you fancy that, I didn't for this skirt since I didn't want to wrestle this chiffon into submission.  

Alterations to pattern: A note about length on this pattern, I'm about 5'5'' and I cut the length of the XXS skirt with the Medium size.  After I tried the skirt on I shortened it another 5 1/2 inches.  So it seems to be a little long.  Also I think I could've used the small skirt as the medium was a little big.  The pattern doesn't call for a lining but I lined this since the chiffon is very sheer and just sort of winged it with some royal blue lining fabric.
Fabric:  I used a chiffon from Hancocks and some lining I had on hand.  The chiffon works great and I've already picked out another chiffon for a maxi length version of this skirt.  I would love to see this skirt in a rayon...that may have to happen this summer.  Another change in fabric will be to use a lighter weight fabric than quilting cotton for the waistband.  The quilting cotton has a tendency to bunch up with the elastic in the back and poof out.  You can kind of see it in the picture of the back of the skirt.

I highly recommend this pattern if you need a beginner skirt pattern.  Its quick, its flattering and did I mention its free...oh I did didn't I?  Well now you know again!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

And now, for my next trick....

Something completely different!

Well, it still involves sewing, and kid's clothing, and Kid's Clothing Week.  But this time no florals, no ruffles, and it definitely would not coordinate with pink polyester pants.  For clothing article number two I made the Lucille Top from Shwin Designs: a color-blocked raglan tee with a very modern feel.  

This is the second pattern I've made from Shwin Designs.  The first, last fall, was the Pepper Pinafore, which is an adorable pattern but was a frustrating sewing experience due to sizing issues in the arms and chest.  With the Pepper Pinafore,  even though my daughter was solidly in a 3T at the time, and her chest measurements matched the 3T measurements on the pattern's sizing chart, it was waaayy to small.  I had to remake the pattern in a size 4, and extend the length of the bodice to make it fit. 

So I hoped that this time, with a knit patten, I wouldn't encounter the same problem.  Just to be safe, I made a 4T.....and it was too big.  Mostly around the arms.  It did turn out to be more of a tunic than a shirt, but it looks great with a pair of leggings.  And there is room....lots of grow!

For the bottom portion of the shirt I upcycled a woman's long sleeve blue t-shirt.  The top is made out of an eyelet knit that was a hand-me down fabric.

Overall, a quick sew, an easy pattern, and a nice twist on a classic design.  I wish I had done a better job with the v-shape in the front and back, the point isn't quite as sharp as I would like.  But I will improve on that next time!  And there will definitely be a next time!  This pattern would be great in short or long sleeves, and is also a wonderful way to highlight small amounts of fabric--for the size 4T, it required only a half yard of each fabric.  One more quick note about Shwin Designs:  while this pattern was fairly simple, I don't know if I would recommend any of their patterns for a beginner, mainly because their instructions are not very detailed.  There are other designers (Made By Rae especially) who include the step details and tips.  With Shwin Designs, you are left to figure some of it out on your own.

And before I go, just a question for you all out there:  How do you balance making clothes for your children that they won't outgrow too quickly versus clothing that fits them really well right now?  I don't want to spend my time and energy creating items that my daughter will outgrow in two weeks, but I really don't like making clothes that run big, either.  I want to make her perfectly fitted clothing that she can wear for the next year-- I want it all!  So what do you do?