Sunday, May 31, 2015

Around and About the Internet

Some of my favorite blogs have a weekly post with links to interesting articles and inspiring projects.  I enjoy those posts because more often than not, I end up reading about things I wouldn't have found on my own.  So I figured I would start my own little weekly list of links to things I found while wandering around the internet.


I love genealogy and the everyday history of local areas.  In her recent The Way Sewing Used to Be post, Madalynne shares some vintage hooks and eyes from a Philadelphia source as well as a little history about the Philly fabric stores.


Laura Mae of Lilacs and Lace makes the loveliest frocks with the prettiest insides.  While I love nearly everything she makes I currently don't live the kind of life suited to most of her projects.  However, recently she's been working on some Alabama Chanin style separates that I might have to give a try.  Here latest work in progress is here.

Dear Lladybird Lauren, please stop making cute summer things.  I already have a To Make list that will keep me busy until sometime in January.


I've been wondering, would it be easier to draft a skirt sloper rather than fit a current pattern?  Or are both equally likely to drive one to drink?  I've scouted out a couple of tutorials that I may give a try:
  • Making a Pencil Skirt Sloper from So Sew Easy. The post covers drafting both front and back skirt slopers + darts.  I would call the skirt more of a straight skirt since I think of a pencil skirt as something that's more pegged at the bottom.
  • Drafting a Skirt Sloper from Simple Simon and Co.  Another pencil/straight skirt.  This post covers drafting the front and back slopers and talks about two ways to make darts:  drafting them from scratch or making a muslin without darts and trying it on to see how big the darts need to be.


Fit problem graphic from an old sewing textbook

Thursday, May 28, 2015

A sad day

After 15 years of service, my iron has decided to call it quits.  The auto-off is now permanently on.  Time to get rid of it before DH finds out and declares, "It's probably just a short in the electrical system," and, "I'm sure I can fix it," leading to months of a broken iron sitting around the apartment waiting for him to "take a look at it when there's time."

Monday, May 25, 2015

For Cate: (Non-) Ruffled Capri Pants

In addition to the two tops I made for Cate, I also made her two pairs of capri pants using the Ruffled Capris pattern from Sew Classic Clothes for Girls.  The pattern is for a pair of shorts or capris (depending on length) with two front slash  pockets, one ruffled back pocket and ruffles on the hems of the legs.  The waist has elastic in the back waistband but is flat in the front.  I decided to leave off the back pocket and the ruffles but I did include the front pockets.  The first pair was made from a remnant of the stretch denim I used to make my Miette skirt.  I made a size four thinking I could simply install a fairly tight waistband then loosen the elastic as she grew.  But, the pants were clearly too big in the waist and after fiddling with the waist for a stupid amount of time, I finally gave up and threaded the elastic through the entire waistband.  The next issue I had to deal with were the pockets.  They are slash pockets with a scalloped top with the option of functional or decorative buttons.  I didn't feel like dealing with buttonholes on the pockets and in any case, Cate has difficulty with buttons so if I wanted the pockets to be usable, they would have to remain unbuttoned.  I did plan on adding the buttons as a decoration, though.  However, the pockets gaped so much when she tried on the pants that I actually sewed on a button going through the pocket to help keep it closed.

Even with the buttons the pockets still gape a
little when the pants are on her

Pretend I ironed these before taking this
The second pair of pants I decided to leave off the front slash pockets and add patch pockets to the sides of the legs.  I also decided to to make a size 3 instead of size 4.  The pattern only comes in even sizes, but it wasn't difficult to draw lines halfway between sizes 2 and 4.  I used a remnant of some khaki cotton bottomweight fabric that I used to make a Ginger skirt that I never blogged about.  These pants went together much better and I even managed to make the waistband work with the elastic only in the back.  The pockets went on easily and overall look less baggy than the denim pair.  Alas, they are too short in the back and, were it not for her pull-ups (disposable training pants), she would have a serious case of plumber's butt every time she bent over.  It's really too bad, because she looks adorable in them when she's standing up and her top is covering the waist.  I wonder if I could add some sort of yoke in the back that actually looks intentional in order to give them a little more coverage?  Beyond the back waist issue, they pretty much just fit her exactly which means they won't fit at all after her next growth spurt.  So, it's back to the size 4, I think.  I suspect the reason the size four looked so baggy was due to the front pockets so I will leave them off again.  I like having the patch pockets on the sides of the legs because they are easy to access for her, so I will probably do that again.

Cate, Movie Star!
On both pairs of pants I sewed the waistband facing closed on the inside by stitching in the ditch on the outside of the pants.  I assembled the waistband, sewed the waistband seam, folded the facing to the inside, folded the bottom of the facing over about a quarter inch so that the raw edge would be enclosed, then sewed directly on top of the waistband seam from the front.  It's a little tricky because you have to pay close attention to your stitching so that you stay exactly on the seamline* on the outside of the garment while at the same time making sure that you are catching the waistband facing on the inside.  When I've sewn skirts that have a waistband (for myself) I've always topstitched to catch that waistband facing because it's easier.  But, I'm less picky about my sewing for Cate (whenever I start to obsess I remind myself it's for a 3 year old who will likely get stains all over it at some point), so I figured I would try the stitch in the ditch technique because it was less likely to bother me if it wasn't perfect.  That's one of the nice things about making such small clothes, it give you a chance to try new things in small amounts.

I'm definitely making more capris from this pattern (maybe even with ruffles, who knows?) and probably the shorts as well.  However, I've also purchased a shorts pattern from MADE with a ton of variations for design features, so I think I may try those next, although she's not likely to need shorts for awhile.  It's been unseasonably chilly here in the Bay area.

*The spellchecker in blogger keeps auto-correcting "seamline" to "seamen". Strange.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Outfit: Refrew + Miette

These two garments were actually finished some time in the not-so-distant past, but I was on a blogging sabbatical and never documented them.  The top is the ever-popular Renfrew from Sewaholic.  I've made four of these t-shirts, though I've only documented one other on the blog.  Two of them have gotten stains on them which led to them getting tossed but the other two get heavy use.  The fabric is a cotton/lycra knit from The Fabric Fairy.  The only modification I made to the pattern was to extend the front and back pieces and hem them rather than adding a waistband.  I didn't make a deep enough hem, however, and so it has a tendency to flip up.  Oh well.  Now I know better for next time.  And there will most certainly be a next time as I have recently purchased more knit fabric to make t-shirts for summer.

Not bad for my first attempt at matching

The skirt is the Miette wrap skirt from Tilly and the Buttons.  I had been hemming and hawing about getting this pattern (because I still have a good 20 other patterns I have yet to make up!), but finally went ahead and bought it.  The fabric is a stretch denim from Joanns.  I decided to leave off the pockets because I knew I would be tempted to stuff them full of things and end up with bulging pockets right on my belly.  According to the measurements, I needed to add just a little to the seams of the largest size to make sure it fit.  I wish I hadn't because even when I tie it as tight as it can possibly go, it's a bit loose on the waist, causing the front waist to slide down a bit while the back waist gets held up by my butt (if you look at the first picture, you can see that the waist dips down in the front).  Next time, I will make the largest size as is.  I'm of two minds about the bow.  On the one hand, I like being able to tie it closed.  On the other hand, I'm not real keen on having a giant bow at my waist when I'm trying to emphasize my hourglass-ish figure.  I think if I made it in a fabric with more drape, the bow wouldn't be as stiff and not so prominent.  Or, I could alter the pattern a little ala Handmade Jane who turned the ties into tabs that button on the waistband.

The pattern is very easy to sew with clear instructions and takes almost no time at all to make up.  There are no closures and the tie that goes around the back and comes to the front through the waistband (I hope that made sense) does so through a gap in the seam rather than, say, through a buttonhole.  There is a generous overlap of the two back pieces so you don't have to worry about flashing anyone, even when you're chasing your toddler outside on a windy day.  I definitely plan to make it again in another basic fabric so I can wear it with just about anything.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Colette Pastille: Skirt muslin #2

So, when last we saw the Pastille muslin, I had finished bodice #3 and I was feeling pretty good about it having cut a smaller size in the waist and completed an FBA and a swayback adjustment.  The next step was to make a second muslin of the skirt.*  For this iteration, I had cut a smaller size and done a swayback adjustment.

Bathroom photos are the worst
What you can't really see is that it's still too baggy at the side seams in between the waist and hips.

Please ignore the potty chair in the background

 On the other hand, I have a textbook case of "prominent abdomen"**.

Here, I've taken in the sides of the skirt going from the waist to the hip and let it out a bit at my upper thighs.  That has helped with the prominent abdomen but it's still not quite right.

Next step is to try the pot-belly alteration for pencil skirts by Maria Denmark found on the By Hand London blog here.  Right after I took this picture, I drew a line just under my post-baby belly that curved up to the hipline, like on the tutorial.  Then, I cut along that line, let the fabric fall in front and pinned Swedish tracing paper to the skirt across the gap so that I could preserve the size of the gap when I took the skirt off.

Cutting line

Now, I need to transfer that slash and spread to the paper pattern, along with the seamline adjustments and cut a new muslin for the skirt.  Onward to skirt muslin #3!

*The first bodice muslin was so awful that I didn't bother making the skirt at the time, I just went straight to making a second bodice muslin.

**Or as I like to call it, post-baby belly.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Strawberries and mushrooms: A smock top for Cate

Lately, I've become a little obsessed with the idea of using up the fabric I already have laying around the house, mostly so that I can buy new fabric.  A lot of that fabric is quilting cotton, purchased in small quantities sometime before Cate was born with the vague idea that I would make tons of baby clothes for her.  Having never gotten around to that, I've decided to try to use up as much as I can in making clothes for her now.  I mean, what's the point of keeping it for "the right project"?  Will there ever be a right project?

This top was made using a pattern from Sew Classic Clothes for Girls. I really love the fabric with the red and white mushrooms on a blue background and wanted to make something sweet but not over the top with it.  The fabric is actually a remnant, I previously used it on the lining of her cape for her first Halloween.  Red and white always makes me think of strawberries in the summer. So, I decided to call it the Strawberries and Mushrooms top.Absolutely everything for this project came from my stash.  Some of it, such as the lace trim, I have no idea why I purchased it in the first place.  It was obviously for some project I had in mind but heck if I know what it was.  Same for the red gingham.  The red with white polka dots I used for an ill-fated muslin of the Sorbetto top for myself.  The buttons came from my MIL's button box, but I think she actually got them from her mother's button box--heirloom buttons, I guess.  The facing is muslin for making muslins.

Seriously, can you stand the cuteness?

The top turned out really well--it really looks fantastic on her.  The only thing I would change is that I messed up the button placket in the back.  I forgot about it being a placket and attached the lower part of the shirt all the way across the bodice pieces in the back which made it a little awkward for buttoning.*  I almost switched it to a different style of closure, but I really wanted to use those buttons, so I finagled it a bit.  I don't think it's noticeable unless you are looking for it.  Also, the pockets might have benefited from a little lightweight interfacing or something because the gingham is very lightweight and so they are a little floppy.  Oh well, you live and learn, right?  In any case I'm pretty proud of most of the sewing.  I used french seams on the side seams to make it nice and tidy on the inside and the lace went in just beautifully on the first try!  I practiced the buttonholes on some scrap fabric before doing the ones on the top and I'm very pleased with the way they turned out.
But the real kicker is that Cate looks so adorable in it, I just want to eat her up!  And, make about 10 more similar tops so she can look this cute all summer.

*One of the disadvantages of sewing only between 10pm and 2am is that I'm not always at my best, mentally.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Colette Pastille: Bodice Muslin #3

Crappy bathroom mirror photo at 12am
Not my best look
My 2nd Pastille bodice muslin was baggy at the waist and just a little too tight in the bust.  For this muslin, I went a size smaller for the waist and did a very small FBA.  This was very successful and I now feel the front of the bodice looks and feels like a sheath dress.  I probably could have added another 1/8" to the FBA to give me a tiny bit more ease in the bust.  Because it's so hard to find ready to wear fitted tops that actually do fit me right, I mostly wear knit fabrics.  So, I am not used to the feel of a fitted garment with no "give" to the fabric and as a result, the bust feels a little bit tight.  There is no pulling of the fabric across the bust, so the fit looks very good and I don't think I'm going to change it.

Another crappy bathroom photo.  I can see some wrinkling
here, but I think that might go away with the weight of the skirt.
After sewing the muslin and trying it on, I saw the back bodice dipped way down past my waist in the middle but not the sides.  So, I unpicked the zipper and did a swayback adjustment, removing about an inch from the middle tapering to nothing at the sides.  Yes, I do baste my zipper into my muslin.  Since I'm fitting the garment on myself, it is the only way to close the back properly so that I can check the fit.  I read a tip once that said to put the opening in the front of your garment for your muslin because that makes it easier to fit things on yourself without sewing in zippers.  I can see how that would help with the back, but what if you need to make adjustments to the front?  Won't having an opening there screw with how the front fits?  Anyway, I'm finding that basting an invisible zipper into the bodice takes almost no time at all, now that I've done it several times in a row.  Funny how that works.

I took some photos in the mirror so that I could try to see how it all looks, especially the back which is difficult to see otherwise.  I do see some wrinkling, but that goes away if I pull down on the bodice,  leading me to think that the weight of the skirt may take care of that once the skirt is attached. So, I'm moving on to skirt muslin #2 before trying to make any more changes to the bodice.  I'm also worried I may end up overfitting the bodice and since it feels pretty good when I have it on, I'm not sure I want to make any more changes!

Monday, May 11, 2015


In certain knitting circles, it has become a sort of rite of passage to knit Elizabeth Zimmerman's Baby Surprise Jacket.  If you are unfamiliar with the project, you knit the sweater/jacket in one piece and all you need to do at the end is sew up the shoulders and add buttons.  The pattern sets of miters to create shaping and while you are knitting it, the sweater looks like a strange, rippled thing until you finish, fold it up et voila--a baby sweater!
EZ's hand-drawn illustration of how to fold up the
your finished knitted blob.

On the one hand, the sweater is fairly easy:  it's all garter stitch and double decreases and increases, all shaping is done on odd rows while even rows are always knit even.


The directions are not like modern knitting patterns.  Elizabeth Zimmerman took it as an article of faith that knitters are clever people* and do not need their hands held during a project.  Therefore, she gives you rather minimal directions for knitting this strangely constructed baby sweater.  The Baby Surprise Jacket is one of the patterns in the book The Opinionated Knitter, which consists of a series of newsletters Zimmerman sent several times a year to subscribers and anyone who bought yarn from her.  Each newsletter appears to have been two pages (or maybe one sheet front and back) and includes the instructions for one knitting pattern plus any knitting-related news she had (new books coming out or TV shows and similar).    They look to have been typed up on an old typewriter and sometimes included her hand-drawn diagrams when necessary.  In this space she would give you a complete pattern for a fair isle sweater (including steaks), or how to make wool leggings for both babies and adults, or how to make an Aran sweater, etc.  So, you can imagine how brief the instructions must be.

Baby Surprise Jacket after knitting but before folding
For instance, for the surprise jacket, the first thing you do is start a series of double decreases at two points, creating 3 different sections of knitting.  Then, she tells you that, at 5 ridges (1 ridge = 2 rows in garter stitch) you should evenly increase by 5 stitches across each of the two end sections.  She doesn't explicitly tell you how to make the increases and she doesn't mention the middle section at all.  Do you keep doing the decreases you had been doing?  Well, yes, because she didn't say to stop the decreases and the next instruction tells you that after 22 decreases, you knit three rows even. So, obviously you must keep decreasing at the previously specified two points or you never would have that many decreases.  Oh, and she's not talking about stitches decreased, she means 22 decrease rows.  You can figure this out because you start with 160 stitches and at 22 decreases she says you have 90 stitches.

So, given the unusual style of directions, a few pointers can be helpful when you knit your first BSJ.  Here are my tips:

  1. When she gives you an instruction keep doing that thing until a different instruction that is contradictory to the first.  For instance, when she tells you to do decreases at two different points, keep decreasing in addition to any new instructions until she tells you to knit even.
  2. When she tells you to increase 10 stitches across the middle section, you can do this by repeating K5, m1 across that section until 6 stitches remain in that section, then knit those six stitches.
  3. Don't try to understand the directions for a future section because they likely won't make sense until you are actually knitting that part.  
  4. For the buttonholes, she tells you to work 5 buttonholes evenly spaces across the end sections.  To accomplish that:  k3, (yo, k2tog, k8) four times, yo, k2together, k2, then continue in pattern.
  5. In order to have the buttons correctly placed for the gender of the baby (the convention is for buttons to be on the left for boys and the right for girls), EZ suggests you make buttonholes on both sides, then, when you find out if the baby is a boy or a girl, sew the buttons on the appropriate side, right over the buttonholes that you don't need.  This is a great idea if, 1. you actually care about that sort of thing and 2. the parents of the baby care about that sort of thing and are waiting to find out the gender of the baby at the birth**. I don't know many people who actually know what the convention is, so I decided it wasn't important enough to me to worry about it and just did buttonholes on one side.

Pattern:  Baby Surprise Jacket, from The Opinionated Knitter by Elizabeth Zimmerman
Yarn:  Cotton-ease by Lion Brand
Needles:  US size 4
Buttons:  from Joanns
Size:  6-9 months maybe?
Notes:  I crocheted together the top seam rather than sewing it.  The fabric was a little dense, next time I would use larger needles for that yarn (gauge was around 5 st/in).  

*And we are clever!

**I've known a couple of parents like this, they said they wanted to be surprised.  As if the act of giving birth wasn't exciting enough in its own right.  Personally, I was of the opinion that the birth was the last place I wanted to be surprised since "surprise" usually translates into "complication."

Monday, May 04, 2015

Sidetracked: A top for Cate

After modifying the paper pattern following my second muslin of the Pastille I decided I needed a break from all of this fitting business.  So, I decided to make something for my 3 year old, Cate, who is basically a straight cylinder.  Fitting her is mostly a matter of cutting out the correct size.  To make it even easier, I decided to make an A-line top, which meant that, as long as it fit around her chest, it was going to be fine.

Before Easter, I bought the book Sew Classic Clothes for Girls by Lindsay Wilkes of The Cottage Mama.  I had planned to make Cate's Easter dress from one of the patterns but was saved from the madness that grips me every Easter to make a fancy dress in 24 hours by the appearance of another special dress (stay tuned for a future post on this topic).  So, this top was my first project from the book.

The A-line top/dress pattern has an appliqued bib on the top and a round collar on the dress, although of course, those are interchangeable.  It's fully lined which I wasn't sure was necessary but decided to do it anyway.  *cue portentious music*  It's a pretty simple pattern so I thought I could make it in a couple of hours.  Boy was I wrong.  It was entirely my fault, however, because I kept going off on my own when attaching the lining rather than following the directions, thus leading to much wailing and gnashing of teeth when I found I couldn't turn the garment right side out through the opening I had left no matter how hard I tried.  So, when I got around to reading the directions, it was late, I was tired and frustrated, and I couldn't understand what the heck I was supposed to do.  I made the further mistake of attempting to picking it back up again while Cate was awake and asking me approximately 5,968 questions about what I was doing while trying to read the instructions.

I eventually figured it all out, but I do believe next time I will be doing a bias tape facing on the neckline and armholes!  For what it's worth, I do think there were a few steps that could have used more photos to illustrate the instructions in order to make it all easier to understand if you've never tried to line a dress before.  It made me wonder if all of her pattern testers were quite experienced sewists.  I would call myself an advanced beginner, but I'm no dummy and can usually follow a set of directions!

All of the materials for this top came from my stash.  I forget the provenance of yellow lining/bib fabric, a quilting cotton that was a remnant from making Cate's first Easter/Baptism dress.  The fashion fabric is a Kauffman print on quilting cotton that I purchased 4 or 5 years ago.  I haven't been able to find it online.  The ric-rac and pre-ruffled eyelet came from Joanns as well as the flower button and appliques on the bib.  The button for the back closure is from my button tin collection.  The ruffled eyelet was a last-minute addition when I had her try it on before I hemmed it and decided I wanted it a bit longer.  It's a little big in the neck and armholes but that means she will be able to wear it over a t-shirt through the fall and winter and under a sweater in the spring and hopefully by itself next summer, especially since I added the ruffle for length.  If I'm going to go through the trouble of sewing clothes for a child, I want the clothes to be wearable for as long as possible!

I could see using this pattern for a corduroy dress/jumper for the fall/winter, too.  I'd like to make more summery tops with this pattern as well, but first I'm going to make one or more pairs of the ruffled capris (sans ruffle) since that is what she needs most at the moment.

ETA:  I was originally going to include a review of the book Sew Classic Clothes for Girls in this post, so I included "+ Book Review" in the title, but then decided it made the post too long, so I removed the review bits but forgot to change the title until after I published the post.  Oops.  Book review to come after I finish making the capris.

Friday, May 01, 2015

Colete Pastille Muslin #2: So Much Better

I'm really glad I decided to cut a second muslin than attempt to fix my first sad muslin.  I did my measurements, made my changes to the paper pattern, cut and sewed the bodice and lo and behold and possibly verily, the fit was so much better it was hard to believe it was the same pattern!

Emboldened, I embarked on the skirt portion where I immediately ran into trouble.  Even armed with measurements, it was difficult to decide which size to cut.  I think this was partially a function of inexperience and not knowing how much ease I actually want in a garment.  But, I do think the pattern drafting is not totally blameless.  The ease in the pattern is 1.5 inches for the bust, 1 inch for the waist, and a bewildering 5 inches for the hip.  However, this is supposed to be a fitted sheath dress and in the book, Sarai says that "for a very close fitting garment, this might be 2" in the bust, 1/2" in the waist and 2" at the hips" (1).  And, looking at the picture of the model, I would guess that's about how much ease there is in the version of the dress she is wearing.

For myself, I compared my measurements with the finished garment measurements and then made sure I had the amount of ease the pattern called for.  As a result, I have an enormous skirt which I have taken in on the sides a lot.  A lot, a lot.  The middle back of the skirt was a hot mess until I did a swayback adjustment which made things somewhat better.  I'm tempted to keep messing with the skirt part of the muslin, but knowing how much better everything became for the bodice just from cutting a smaller size, I think I will recut the skirt in a smaller size and see how that looks before trying to make more changes.

The bodice still isn't perfect.  While the smaller size is definitely better, it's a little too tight in the bust (but not elsewhere), so I think I will need to do a very small full bust adjustment to get the fit right there.  I also still need to shave a little off of the side seams at the waist.  Finally, attaching the skirt made the back middle of the bodice droop (but not the sides) leading me to think I may need to do a swayback adjustment, but I might wait on that until I try a smaller size skirt to see if that makes a difference in the amount of length I want to remove in the swayback adjustment.

(1) Colette Sewing Handbook, p. 64