Simplicity 2700 Pinstriped Trousers

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I finally have a finished sewing project to show you again! To be honest, these pants didn’t actually take that much actual sewing time. I’ve just been so busy lately that there hasn’t been time to work on them! I’ve also had a couple of other projects underway, including revamping the storage in my studio. But I finally got these finished up and honestly, I think they’re pretty awesome.

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The pattern is my standard modified Simplicity 2700 “amazing fit” trouser block. I slimmed the leg down like I did on my last pair, except this time I actually remembered to make the changes to the pattern (I’m so detail-oriented, lol.) The original pattern is a wide-leg but these are slimmer through the thigh and then flared toward the bottom. I also redrafted the waistband (again) for these. The main change I made was to omit the fly front and install an invisible zipper at the right side seam instead. It’s a bit less fiddly that way and doesn’t interfere with the pinstripe lines. But mainly I did it because it was easier.

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I’m pretty proud of a few things. One, these fit great. (The back view is a little more wrinkly than I’d like, but those go away if I hike these up a smidge.) The fabric is a fabulous stretch cotton that I bought ages ago; the lycra gives them a good deal of stretch which makes these really comfortable. The rise is not quite a high-rise, which doesn’t look very good on me, but it’s higher and more comfortable for me than a low-rise (which is all I’d be stuck with if I were buying pants.)

The other thing I’m proud of is my stripe placement. I matched the stripes to make chevrons on the center front seam, the center back seam, and the side seam (the zipper side is not as good—one day I’ll learn how to make waistband overlaps that match properly!). I also matched the stripes at the slash pockets and on the belt loops. I omitted a center back belt loop because it would have obscured the neat chevron effect.

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Other than that, the construction was pretty straightforward. Once you get the fitting down, pants are really not that tricky to construct—even the slash pockets are pretty easy, especially if you’re using the same fabric for the pocket as the pant so you can omit any facings. The innards are serged, nothing fancy. I debated adding welt pockets, or fake welt pockets, or pocket flaps, but in the end I decided not to make these pants too busy (and I didn’t want real pockets because I thought there might be funny lines on my butt. Trufact.)

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(There is a spider-shaped light spot in my hair. Did you know humans can get spots just like other furry creatures? I have at least three spots in my hair, I think.)

Ultimately the goal here was just to let the fabric do the work. It’s pretty awesome fabric, but it’s kind of loud for dress pants—in fact, the fabric had sat for long enough on my shelf wrong-side-out that I forgot how heavily contrasted the navy is to the white stripes. I do like the effect, though—although I probably will wear these with solid tops and jackets.

I’m hoping to have one of those solid tops to share with you next week, but like I said, I’m pretty busy, so we can only hope! Peter and I are getting ready for a show on Saturday, and those always take a lot of work and a lot of prep.

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“More treats, hooman!”

Alpacas: A Good Source of Fiber

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For most people living in the US, Memorial Day means a holiday from work, barbecuing in the backyard, the beginning of summer. For me, it means one thing in particular: alpacas.

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Just look at these adorable little fuzzy things! They’re impossible to resist. They’re like anime characters with their giant eyes and funny hair.

Anyway, every Memorial Day for the past few years, I’ve taken the opportunity to go help some friends with their annual alpaca shearing. To me, it really is irresistable: cute animals (not just alpacas, but llamas, horses, cats, and lots of dogs), great people, and incredible vistas of the Utah mountains. What could be better?

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Now, shearing day is just the beginning of the process of making beautiful alpaca textiles. The fleeces have to be collected and stored for later processing; eventually they become beautifully soft yarn. Alpaca is both softer and warmer than merino wool, and has a silkier, denser quality; certain kinds of alpacas, called suris, have even silkier and longer fleeces. Blended with wool, alpaca fiber is excellent for sweaters, hats, mittens—anything that needs warmth or softness. On its own, or blended with silk, alpaca can make lace with a beautiful halo and drape. There’s not much you can’t do with it!

Shearing day can be a lot of work. There are a lot of alpacas to get through (20+ most years, plus four llamas) and the process is fairly involved. Each alpaca is hobbled—they’re shy creatures and don’t much appreciate being handled, so this is the safest way to get everything done, and the alpacas aren’t hurt at all, although they are very annoyed. The blanket fleece comes off first—this is prime fiber from the shoulders, sides, and back. It tends to be the longest and the finest, although often covered in hay if the ‘paca is a roller! Usually my job is to collect the blanket fleece as it comes off the animal.

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We pull the fleece off and bring it to the “skirting table”, where we pick off the very short pieces that sometimes get left behind as part of the shearing process, and any obviously unusuable fiber. This is, in my opinion, the best part—I get to handle the whole fleece, which is always incredibly soft, as alpaca tends to be, and has interesting color variations throughout. That fleece above could practically be considered “pink” with the white and red-fawn colors.

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Once the blanket fleece comes off, the rest of the “wool” follows. Some of it is considered second-quality fiber, from the legs and neck; the rest gets tossed, as it’s not worth the effort to process it or work with it. While the shearing is going on, the alpaca gets their nails trimmed, their teeth checked, and they get a whole going-over to check for any health problems or signs of impending crias (the technical term for a baby alpaca. That little brown-and-white one at the top is one of last year’s crias.)

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Unlike the last few years, this year we had rain and threats of more rain. Ultimately it meant we only got through the “girls” yesterday instead of all of the alpacas plus all four of the llamas. You can see the llamas above smirking that they don’t have to get shorn yet! (Llamas are a bit more work to shear, mainly because they’re much bigger than alpacas and tend to put up a proportional amount of fuss.)

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In the end we got 14 alpacas sheared, including the two crias from last year. Don’t they look happy to be naked? Well, I expect they’d be a bit happier if the weather would stay clear, but either way they’re now ready to be cool for the summer.

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Alpacas and horses? It’s not exactly “sheep and horses” but really, how could I resist?

Making the Deep Blue Sea Dress

Today I’m going to walk you through how I constructed my Deep Blue Sea dress. I had some guidance from my pattern source book, The Party Dress Book by Mary Adams, but in other ways I was on my own. Making your own design can be exhilarating, but challenging, as there’s no one there to walk you through every step or make sure you didn’t forget anything. I found it helpful to make a checklist of everything I needed to do.

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Sketching and plotting

The first step was to sketch out what I wanted to create. This was the phase where I had to be serious about figuring out if the time I had would be enough to finish the project, but also the phase for throwing designs on the page and seeing what I liked. Sometimes that’s the most fun part! It’s also really cool to come back to your sketches and see how well you executed your vision.

I like to make notes on the side of my sketches to plan out fabrics, notions, and techniques I might use for the project. You can see I’ve also sketched out other stuff on the page; some of it might make it to a final product, and some of it might just stay on the page. Everyone has more good ideas and intentions than they can pull off in a lifetime; this is why we have stashes and project queues.

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The bodice design on the left is the design I ended up using for the final project. I liked the idea of a “deep blue sea” dress. I knew I wanted to use the dark blue satin I already had in my stash, and I wanted the organza overlays to be blue as well, so “underwater” was a fitting theme. You can see I also sketched out a flower and vine possibility, and sketched the dress as a whole (originally it had shoulder-swoopy-bits as well, but I omitted those in the final.)

Sample, sample, sample!

Once I had an idea, the next phase was to make sure it would work. It always, always helps to sample beforehand if you really care about what the final product will look like. This involved two phases: making a bodice muslin and testing the embroidery and fabric combinations. The muslin was easy; I cut out the pieces from the book’s pattern, basted them together and whacked in a zipper, and from there I just pinned out the excess (my dress form helped a lot with this.)

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I bought undyed organza from Dharma, which is a much less expensive source of silk fabric than almost anywhere else, as long as you don’t mind your choices being limited to white or black. Fortunately I know how to acid-dye and have the dyes on hand. I tossed the silk into my dyepot (after a good long vinegar-solution soak) with Jacquard “Brilliant Blue”. In the meanwhile, I grabbed some satin scraps and embroidery thread and hit the machine to test out if I could really do the kind of embroidery I was planning on, and if it would work.

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The fabric combination was a go, and the embroidery, I decided, would be fine. I couldn’t figure out how to get the satin to pucker less, but by testing the organza overlay I’d already planned on, I knew in advance that it would be fine, because the puckers wouldn’t show.

Embroidering the front panel

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Now, how to get my sketched-out design onto the bodice panel? First I thread-traced my construction-stitching lines onto the fabric, so I knew where my edges were. Then, with my sketch close at hand, I took a chalk pen and drew out the design on the back of the fabric (it’s a crepe-back satin, so this was much easier than if it had been satiny on the other side, too.) It took a view variations to decide on something I liked, that worked with the proportions. Then I thread-traced the design. (Helpful hint: do this in the final embroidery thread! I wasn’t really able to pick out most of the thread-tracing under the embroidery, and it would have worked better if the colors had matched for where the thread peeked out.)

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Fitting and constructing the bodice

Because I’d already done a decent fitting in the muslin, this wasn’t too tricky. However, the organza made everything even slipperier than the satin. I hand-basted the organza to the front panel to keep it from shifting (it still did, but less so) and then hand-basted the front panel to each side panel. After that it was fairly straightforward stitching.

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Adding boning and interlining

This was the part where I mostly wished I had more guidance. There wasn’t any provision for boning in the book, that I remember, but I knew I wanted mine to be boned—the structure helps the dress stay up, for one thing, as well as keep its shape. At this point I pulled a lot of advice from the interwebs. What I decided was to make an interlining out of cotton flannel (the idea being the flannel smoothes any bumps behind the fashion fabric that might show) and attach the boning to that. I had a hard time finding any advice on where to put boning; in the end I kind of guessed. Jury was out on whether to continue boning straight up the princess seams over the bust, or end under the bust line; I decided to put boning all the way up. I used spiral steel boning and I figured my bust line could use the extra filling-out.

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(The best part about interlining is that no one will ever see. I went with fun fabric because of that.)

In the end my final boning channels were placed thus:

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This seemed to work pretty well. By this point I had done fittings on both the outer bodice and the interlining. When it’s really crucial for something to fit and stay up, more fit-checks are definitely a good thing. (Also: make sure and wear the foundation garments during fitting that you plan to wear at the event! This means you have to have them beforehand.) I planned not to wear a bra with this dress, because I hate strapless bras, so the bodice was fit close enough that if I did wear a bra, it would look weird, but it fits perfectly without.

Sewing the skirts (oops…)

Pretty straightforward step that I somehow managed to screw up. I cut two circle skirts, one of organza and one of satin, French-seamed them and then stitched them together at the top. Then I stitched them to the bodice. Then I realized I’d sewed the outer skirt on inside out. Oh, and did I mention I used an extra-short stitch on these? *groan*

Creating the lining

At this point I went to a friend of mine for help. She alters wedding dresses professionally and had good advice all the way through my process for getting good results from this dress. She advised making a lining that extended further down my torso, to my hips. The idea is that the lining is fitted very tight, and then boned. The tightness over the hips wants to go somewhere narrower, like the waist, which forces the rest of the dress upward—no bodice falling down! I did this pretty much to spec, adding boning (I used Rigilene for this, not having enough spiral steel, though the spiral steel would have been better) in different places than the first boning, at the middle of the side front and side back pieces. 

The zipper is attached to the bodice and the lining, but not to the skirts. The skirts have a slit to accommodate the zipper, and then they are meant to be snapped closed over the lower portion. This part got a little messed up—I wasn’t able to get the clear snap I wanted to use for the organza in time, and then I accidentally sewed two male snap-ends onto the underskirt and only found out when it was too late to fix it. A handy safety pin came to the rescue there. 

The skirts were both hemmed using my rolled hem function on my serger. The lettuce-hem adds a nice floaty effect and it was much easier than bothering with a narrow hem. 

   

(Tigger had to help. He’s completely attracted to blue fabric, probably because it shows off his orange fur the best.)

  

Pink and Lace

Two things that normally don’t describe me at all.

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Short post today for a quick project. I started this yesterday afternoon and finished it in time for dinner. I love making t-shirts, they work up so quickly and I wear them so often, they get plenty of time in the rotation.

(Speaking of self-made clothes in the rotation—is anyone else a “saver”? I am constantly reminding myself that I don’t need to save my favorite clothes for a special day or occasion. If I didn’t remind myself, I think I’d wear my worst stuff all the time and never wear the good stuff! And the first wear is the most nerve-wracking, I think—I hesitated to put this on once it was done because I was afraid of ruining it, I guess.)

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I bought a couple of rayon jerseys from Koshtex on Etsy for t-shirts and undershirts. The pink was a bit of an impulse-buy, but I figured it’d make a good undershirt since it’s fairly close to my skin tone. Once I received the fabrics (they’re all fantastic, really soft, and with a subtle sheen. Highly recommend) I took a closer look at the pink, took out some lingerie stretch lace from my stash, and immediately decided the fabric was perfect for something “sweet”.

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I combined adding lace to the neckband and sleeves with a small gather in front (I added about an inch in width to the center front-top when cutting, grading the extra to nothing at the bottom. Then I gathered it when I attached the neckband. I do wish I’d done it a bit neater, the gather looks slightly goofy, but from farther away it’s hard to tell.) I used my standard t-shirt block from the Closet Case Nettie bodysuit pattern. Once I’d attached the neck band, I coverstitched the lace on top, and then for the sleeve hems, I pressed up the hem and then coverstitched it and the lace in place at the same time. I left the hem laceless; I will probably wear this tucked in at least some of the time, and I didn’t want to add bulk where it would show weirdly.

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While I’m not usually one for super-girly clothing, this is a nice subtle feminine piece that’s also very comfy and easy to wear. I imagine it would also look nice under a blazer or jacket. It’s a pretty cute variation on a standard t-shirt and I’m sure I’ll do something like it in the future.

I’m working on a pretty big project in the meantime; it won’t be ready to show off for a couple more weeks. And really, there’s nothing like having a lot to do, as having a lot of help getting in the way of me doing it.

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I’m sure Tigger thinks he’s helping… notice how the orange cat gravitates toward the blue fabric. Of course. *sigh*

Spring has sprung!

And for an event rider, that means only one thing*: cross country!

Alas, there’s not much going on that I can show you in the crafting department (although there is still plenty going on behind the scenes!) so I thought I’d share my weekend adventure. I have an important clinic (training session) with a world-famous event rider, Lucinda Green, in a few weeks, so over the weekend Pete and I tackled the cross country course for the first time this year. Boy, it was a good thing we did. I’d rather get all the crap out of the way first! Let’s just say the cool weather and a new body-clip had Petey feeling fiiine. And he felt like expressing that with a few bucks. Maybe more than a few.

Fortunately, the only disaster was that I was so focused on staying on that I forgot to ride well. I think my trainer was a bit exasperated with me after telling me the same thing three times. But ultimately I did get the message, you know, eventually. We worked on basic cross country obstacles (jumping over logs) as well as more classic “cross country” type jumps, such as up banks and down banks. Those require specific techniques to ride, especially down banks, so it was good practice. And eventually I got the hang of it again!

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I’m looking forward to lots of good rides to come.

*This is not entirely true. Spring also means SHEDDING. SHEDDING EVERYWHERE.

Sewing Room Tips and Tricks

My latest projects lack hems and buttonholes, so I have no finished items to share with you. Nevertheless, I feel like I’m getting a lot more accomplished these days, so I thought I’d share my personal tips for getting the most out of your sewing workspace. These are tried-and-true, in that I didn’t do any of these things when I first started sewing, and then I learned that there’s a reason for doing them. I used to cut corners all the time! (I’m talking recently… I just threw away a piece I made no more than a year or two ago, no finishing inside the seams, facings not understitched or tacked down, seams straining from bad fit… the piece was a wadder, but it shouldn’t have been. If I’d taken the time not to be sloppy, it would have been great.)

  1. Stock up on needles. You’re supposed to change your sewing machine needles every 3-4 hours, or every project or so. How many of us actually do that? I used to skimp on changing needles because I didn’t want to go buy any, or the shop was closed by then, etc. But making sure your needles are sharp will prevent skipped stitches and needle jams, which can really throw off your groove! I generally try to pick up a new pack of needles every time I go shopping. They sell nice multi-packs of Universal needles in different sizes at my Joanns, which are always handy; if I’m running low on ballpoint/stretch needles or Sharps, I’ll pick up those instead. If you never have a shortage, it’ll be easier to change needles since you won’t have to worry about running out. Another useful thing: if you use Schmetz needles, here’s a printable guide to the color bands they use to differentiate between needle types and sizes.
  2. Stock up on bobbins. Wind a few ahead of time in your most commonly used colors. That way you don’t have to interrupt your sewing time quite as much when you run out of bobbin thread, or worse, have to unwind an old one to even start winding a new color. Bobbins tend to be pretty inexpensive, and they’re good to have on hand.
  3. Toss your stash every so often. I don’t mean go throw it out! Toss your stash like you toss a salad (I stole this term from the Yarn Harlot, by the way. She is fabulous.) Go through all of your fabrics, reorganize them if necessary, or if you’re me, straighten the piles they’ve gotten stacked in. (I like to see what I’ve purchased! This means things usually don’t get put away very well.) Check things over for damage—moth holes, sun bleaching, the cats got into it, that kind of thing. This is great to do because it will remind you what you have—if you have a “deep” stash, it can be like going shopping, except since you already own it, it’s all free! You may want to go through your patterns and notions during the stash toss, as well. You can make sure they’re organized and, again, remind yourself of what you have. If there’s stuff you don’t want to have, now’s the time to get rid of it!
  4. Set some good background sound. Now, I realize not everyone gets a great choice of background noise—some people are sewing in the living room and keeping an eye on the kids, some people are in a cramped dorm room, everyone’s making the best with what they have. But if you can, set yourself some good grooves. (I don’t like headphones since I’m running back and forth from machine to ironing board and wielding hefty scissors; if you do use headphones, be careful to keep them out of the way!) Music can be great—if you tend to get stressed at the machine, pick something calming; if you tend to get bored, pick a playlist that lights you up. I also love listening to podcasts and audiobooks; it keeps my hands busy and my mind entertained during long stretches of sewing. You may have to tweak the volume to hear over your machine, or pause your audiobook when you get to a puzzling set of instructions, though; trying to focus on two things at once is a recipe for disaster.
  5. Sample, sample, sample. It’s the golden rule, really. If you get to any point when you’re not sure about the instructions, or the technique, or the fabric, etc. take the time to test it. Trust me, this will really save your bacon in the long run! Sampling can mean testing on a scrap of your intended fabric, like you should do with buttonholes. It can mean testing the technique on whatever fabric comes to mind—this is a good idea when you’re learning how to do plackets, or bound buttonholes, or welt pockets, anything like that. It can mean testing your needle/fabric/machine settings/interfacing combination, which you should do with exactly the combination you intend to use, otherwise your results won’t be accurate. Or it can mean simply basting your next seam instead of stitching it, if you’re not sure it’ll turn out right; that way it’s much easier to rip back if it’s wrong. Yes, sampling feels like it can slow you down, but in the long run—and I mean the long, lonely minutes with the seam ripper in hand and swear words on your lips—it will really pay off.
  6. If you’re trying to improve your sewing skills, not just make whatever garment is in your hands—or if that garment itself is proving obnoxious and difficult!—and you find yourself overwhelmed or frustrated, just take it bit by bit. I used to have a really low frustration threshold when I sewed, which is why I took so many shortcuts. As soon as I’d hit something hard—if I had to rip back, or I didn’t entirely understand the instructions, that sort of thing—I’d give up, and try to come back later with new energy. This is a pretty slow and frustrating way of doing things! Bit-by-bit is the way to conquer this. I learned to tell myself, “yes, I’m annoyed now; let me just do one more seam, and then I’ll quit.” It helped. Usually I found myself doing more than one seam; even if I didn’t, I hadn’t left myself at the hard part, and I’d conquered whatever had frustrated me. This is a great way to build confidence! Or, if I was trying to do “proper” sewing techniques and not take whatever shortcut occurred to me, I’d just try one less lazy technique. “This time, I don’t have to take time for a muslin, or try the fancy new topstitching technique I saw, but I will do flat-felled seams the whole way through.” It’s a good way to ease into better habits, and the sight of those awesome-looking flat-felled seams will encourage you to set higher standards for yourself.
  7. A caveat to the above: never sew when you’re so mad you want to throw things out the window. Nothing good can come of that. Nor should you sew when you’re exhausted or drunk. Trust me, scissors and needles and sewing machine motors will not be kind to you in that state. If you find yourself frustrated a lot, it can be helpful to push just a little bit past that, to improve your confidence; but when you’re really fed up and mad, go do something else. Even if you’re on a deadline. Trust me, long hours with a seam ripper are not going to help you with that deadline.
  8. And lastly: get good helpers!IMG_5411

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Well, they think they’re helping, anyway. ;)

Sewaholic Granville: Second Verse, Same as the First

Well, this may look a little familiar! I’m really fond of button-down shirts in general, so naturally, once I completed a successful first run of Sewaholic’s Granville shirt, I pulled my next fabric and did it again. I was pretty satisfied with the first one, but I love this one. small-20150315-015 The fabric is some gorgeous Andover chambray from Fabric.com, although it seems as though they’ve discontinued this particular color. I only had 2 yards of it and it’s 45″ wide, which is a full yard less than the recommended fabric amount. Fortunately I managed to pull it off, although I admit it was tight, and I wouldn’t have managed it if I’d needed to place patterns or prints. The fabric, though, is absolutely my perfect color and was wonderful to handle, unlike the mystery fabric from hell on the white shirt. small-20150315-041 I only made a few modifications on this version. I added back in the 3/8″ I took out the first time. The collar was a little tight last time, and I wanted the additional width on the neckline; also my yoke and back section (with the three back pieces princess-seamed together) weren’t quite matching up in length, but adding in the 3/8″ fixed that up. small-20150315-021 I also added 1/2″ to the height of both the collar stand and the collars. I always feel as though standard collars are too small, especially if I’m wearing a tie; I get very self-conscious if my tie peeks out from under the collar in the back. I really like the proportions on this collar, and probably will continue using it. I remembered to add the 3/8″ length back onto the collar stand, but I forgot to do it on the collar, and just stitched slightly narrower seam allowances on the short edges to compensate. small-20150315-028 All the seams are flat-felled except for the armscye seam. I did flat-fell it on the white shirt, but I decided it was just too much trouble for not enough effect. Instead I serged the seam allowances and topstitched them down. Much easier. I love how neat it looks on the inside. small-20150315-035 I also changed the plackets slightly by extending them 1″ at the bottom and shortening the top pointy bit by 3/8″ to make it more square. You can’t really see it here, but I topstitched them with the classic X-in-a-box pattern you see on plackets a lot. The interfacing I used on this shirt is Fashion Sewing Supply‘s Light-Crisp Fusible. Their interfacing is always high-quality and this particular variety is perfect for this sort of shirt—it adds the necessary stiffness for crisp collars and cuffs, but it’s not excessively stiff like the normal Shirt-Crisp, which can look very starched. The mother-of-pearl buttons are also from Fashion Sewing Supply. small-20150315-007-1 As a finishing touch, I appliquéd a heart onto the inner yoke. It’s not visible from the outside, but it’s a cute little label that I’ll see every time I put it on. Sort of a maker’s mark. I used a quilting cotton I bought in Hawai’i years ago with sea turtles on it, although there aren’t any on that particular scrap. I love the idea of doing fun subtle touches on things that I make; I’ll probably play around with putting things on inner yokes or collars or cuffs in the future. small-20150315-013 I really gotta hand it to the ladies at Sewaholic, they can put a pattern together! This was a great second round with Granville, but it definitely won’t be my last. Expect to see several more of them in the future, each with their own particular charm. :) small-20150315-002-1 (The pups helped me with my photoshoot. That’s Brutus on the left, my SIL’s dog Jane Austen in the middle, and Teddy on the right. They were very enthusiastic helpers. Jane’s unfortunately on the injured reserve list and will be taking a break from helping; she’s torn a ligament and needs surgery, poor pup.)

Sewaholic Granville: Based on a True Story

Hello again everyone! It’s taken me a little while to get to my next post, I’ve just been so busy. Last weekend was my first horse show of the year, and those really wipe me out for the entire weekend. (This one, not least because I lost my car key and had to wait five hours for my mom and sister to bring me my spare; I didn’t get home from the show until 11pm!) Also, this project took a fair amount of time, since it’s got a bunch of little details to pay attention to, and the fabric was none too cooperative. But now that it’s finished, I am happy to present my first run of the Sewaholic Granville button-down shirt.

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As soon as I saw the pattern, I knew I had to make it. I love button-down shirts but most of the ones I own have some problem or other that makes them annoying. Usually it’s the sleeve length. For some reason it’s nearly impossible for me to buy a button-down with long enough sleeves. And my Archer is fabulous (although the lawn has not been weather-appropriate yet) but definitely boxy. I was really drawn to the fitted silhouette of the Granville shirt and love the details of the princess seaming in the back.

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(I have spots in my hair. You can see the biggest one here. For some reason it never faded dark and now it’s a spot. For the longest time, I didn’t even know about it until my hairdresser chuckled at it and then had to explain.)

Now, one reason that my purchased button-downs annoy me is probably that I’m quite picky when it comes to shirts. The same applied to Granville. I made a lot of small tweaks to the pattern (which is why this is “based on a true story”—it’s a lot like the original pattern, but I don’t think a single piece went unchanged! Maybe the plackets.) For one thing, I like to be able to wear ties with my button-downs, and Granville is drafted for a more relaxed-fit collar. You can’t wear a tie with a very loose collar, you just can’t. So I shortened the collar quite a bit (the correct way would have been to raise the neckline, but ultimately I just ended up shortening it because I needed to pinch out 5/8″ from each shoulder and 3/4″ from the center back.)

I compared the cuff to a shirt which fits me very well and ended up shortening that. I shortened the sleeve and made it a bit narrower, and lowered the sleeve cap. After doing that, the sleeve was about 5/8” wider than the cuff, so I pleated the sleeve into the cuff.

I took a little out of the side-back and side seams, and reduced the flare. And I had to move the bust dart up, because it looked a little funky where it was originally.

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If I do say so myself, that cuff and placket look good.

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The fabric gave me a whole other bundle of trouble. A friend sent me, essentially, some mystery fabric. Supposedly it’s 90% tencel 10% linen, but to be honest I have no idea. What it really is, is some extremely tightly woven nonsense. It looks like ordinary shirting but it’s hell on needles. I ended up using a Microtex sharp needle and being very, very careful over multiple layers. Even then, I broke two needles doing the collar and collar stand. It just doesn’t want to be pierced by the needle, and it put up a hell of a fight. I used self-fabric to interface the button band because I was lazy, and that was a mistake. I had to go back and trim the layers quite a bit just to get the topstitching done. It pressed okay, but not as crisply or as easily as cotton.

The other tragedy was my chalk marker. It turns out the Chaco pens, while wonderful, do not work well with this fabric from hell. The fabric refused to give up the chalk, which means even after several washes, my buttonholes have little tints of blue. *sigh*

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Despite these struggles, I finished the shirt and I love it! It fits me really well, and the details are just right. The collar ended up a little too tight, but it’s still wearable and I can wear a tie with it just fine. All of the seams are flat-felled (even the armscye seam… that was not fun) so it looks good on the inside, too. Compared to my only other white button-down in my closet (a Ralph Lauren shirt), this is way better. The Ralph Lauren shirt is too short in the body and boxy. The construction quality is similar, but when I need a nice white crisp shirt, this is the one I’m going to go to.

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~

And on a separate note, I have a couple of fluffies pictures to share. This is from the show last weekend. It was taken in the warm up ring before I went in for my jump round (I disqualified my first round and finished, but didn’t place, in the second. It was an “interesting” day.)

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The weather has been beautiful lately; we hardly got a winter at all, and now we’re well into spring.

After the show, I was a bit discouraged because I hadn’t done better. Fortunately, I had my usual lesson on Monday, and everything worked out really well. My trainer helped me figure out what had gone wrong on Saturday and we worked on addressing that thoroughly. Peter and I were working really well together and it felt great, and definitely restored my confidence. (The color variation, for those who don’t know, is from Peter’s haircut. Working horses often get clipped during the winter, so the areas where they sweat the most can dry off more quickly.)

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And, finally, I have to share this picture of my little dog, Brutus. Yesterday was his 10th birthday, the Ides of March (hence why he’s called Brutus, even though he’s a sweet, clingy lapdog.) He’s my baby, and I hope he stays around for several more years.

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Simplicity 2700 “Amazing Fit” Trousers

I’ve been sewing up a storm lately. For me, that doesn’t really mean a project a week or anything like that. Mainly, it means sitting down for longer than five minutes and really continuously working on a project. Normally I have a short attention span and a low frustration threshold with sewing, but my sessions of longer sewing, and telling myself I’ll “just do one more thing” have really helped that. For some reason, if I tell myself I “have” to do it, I won’t; if I tell myself I can quit whenever I want, I’m much more likely to stick to it. That’s been the case this week, when I’ve been putting together a muslin that’s been much more tricky than I expected… but was not the case with the project I just finished. I started sewing these in June of last year! Not exactly a quick one. However, they are finally done… my new Simplicity 2700 trousers!

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I’ve made this pattern once before. This was another “lots of muslin work” pattern, but I think the work really paid off, because these trousers fit really well. I had a really difficult time getting a good fit at first, until I finally emailed Simplicity and asked for advice. The pattern includes 3 different versions of the trouser for different body types, “slim,” “average,” and “curvy.” To my surprise Simplicity recommended the “curvy” fit and it definitely fit me the best! The main difference, I believe, is that the “curvy” has two darts at the back, where the other versions have only one.

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For this pair of trousers I mainly changed the fit of the leg. Originally this pattern makes a very nice wide-leg trouser on me, but I wanted a fitted leg that flared at the bottom. I think I may have made these a little too tight, as they’re harder to move in than I prefer, but I quite like the look when I’m standing! I also redrafted the waistband to fit better, and added belt loops.

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I really love the slash pockets. I don’t think I can have a pair of pants and not have pockets. I just don’t know what to do with my hands! There’s some wrinkling on the side seams by the pockets, though, and I’m not sure how to fix that. I think it’s just the way my hips are shaped, there’s a bit of a concavity there, but I’m not sure. The stitching lines could definitely be smoother.

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The t-shirt, by the way, is also a me-made. It’s Closet Case Nettie, originally a bodysuit pattern, which I made into a t-shirt. It’s my favorite t-shirt pattern, and I love how it fits. The fabric is a stained-glass ikat print from Girl Charlee.

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There are definitely some things I want to fix for the next time I make this pattern. The fly area is weird—there’s a noticeable wrinkle from some stitching oddness at the bottom of the fly, and the top of the waistband pulls apart. I think my redrafting of the waistband is to blame for that, so I’m going to change the center front a bit and see if I can fix it next time. I also think I accidentally sewed the waistband and its facing at slightly different sizes, which is not a great idea.

The fabric for this is some wool suiting from Fabric Mart. It’s a really gorgeous heathery blue-gray, just my style. I bought about six yards of it when it was on sale, so I’m planning to make a jacket later—but I suspect that one’s going to need a lot of work, so I’ve put it off for now. Someday I’ll have time to sew everything! (And one day I’ll buy a unicorn. You know. Like you do.)

Oh, and here’s your cat picture for the week. Tigger is so exhausted by the work of being a cat. Maggie thinks he’s full of it.

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Hats and Cats

Lately I’ve been working on some knitted hats. They’re great projects for when I don’t feel like thinking about anything too much, because the patterns tend to be fairly straightforward, and they’re finished quickly. They’re also easy to grab and go, and I don’t have to worry about needing complicated notions. Sometimes I don’t even need to grab the pattern.

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(Graham by Jennifer Adams)

A friend of mine works at a cancer research hospital. They have a hat box for patients to take hats from. I had some time where I didn’t want to commit to starting a major project (or finishing one… there’s a sleeveless cabled sweater sitting around that definitely isn’t going to get done before it warms up), plus I wanted to make a stronger effort to give back and think about others. So I knitted some hats to put in the box.

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(Turn A Square by Jared Flood)

Apparently they were well received. I used my favorite workhorse hat yarn, Ultra Alpaca by Berroco. (I can never remember how to spell Berroco right! I have to look it up every time.) It’s a sturdy, worsted-weight wool/alpaca yarn in a nice range of colors. It’s not too expensive and, despite not claiming any merino in the content, it’s not itchy. (Or at least, no one’s complained to me about it being itchy.) It’s my go-to for “manly” knits, or if I need the yarn to be warm but not fancy.

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(Lucky Seven by weezalana)

Nothing was too tricky about these hats, except that Lucky Seven (which I’ve made before) turned out really small (…again.) I’m not sure what it is about the pattern—I guess it must be some combination of ribbing (which does stretch) and cables (which don’t stretch much.) I made my last hat of this round on the same number of stitches, 96, and I even used a larger needle on Lucky Seven, hoping it would help. It didn’t. It can compensate a bit in width since it has extra length, because it’s designed for a flip-up brim. I hope it goes to someone with a small head, but since I didn’t make it for a specific person, it should be fine.

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(Windschief by Stephen West)

No, that’s a lie. I did originally make the Lucky Seven hat for someone, but decided to put it in the donation pile after it turned out so small. Then I made Windschief for the original hat recipient. It was made for a coworker I’ve worked with for ages and become good friends with. He asked me for a hat quite a while back, and I told him I wouldn’t make him one, but reconsidered shortly after. I wanted to have this done by Christmas, but my wrists were in a very bad tendinitis flare-up, so it didn’t happen. Now it’s done, and it should still be useful for a while this season before the winter disappears. (Not a moment too soon.)

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I finally got some high-quality pictures of Miss Luna. This was on account of finally bringing my camera gear home (I shoot product photos for my dad’s business, so my kit had a long holiday at my parents’ house.) This picture really illustrates why I call her Dragon Eyes…

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Yes, her eyes really look like that in person.

And this is why I call her Grumpy Face.

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To wrap up, let me show you something that ties everything together. This is a little kitty hat I originally made for my cousin, but it turns out babies have much gianter heads than you’d expect! so I made a bigger one for my cousin and put this aside. Then my best friend had a very tiny baby, and they like cats, and they even have a white cat! Match made in heaven.

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I have some sewing coming up to show you all, but I need to get that aforementioned camera gear out first. Until then… may your heads be warm, and take all the sleeps you can get.