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!”

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.)

  

Wild Blue Yonder

Hello again! It’s been a little quiet around here, but that’s because I have been pretty swamped trying to finish my latest ambitious project… my new party dress!

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The idea for this project came, as so many great ideas do, at the last minute. You see, my big brother both graduated from college last week and commissioned as an officer in the Air Force. The commissioning was a big deal, and formal dress. Now it’s true that I could have reached into my closet and pulled out a couple of options that would have fit, including dresses that were handmade, but I decided I wanted to make something new. Commissioning has a special place in my heart, because my brother was able to complete something that I tried to do, but couldn’t finish (I did three years of ROTC, but medical issues prevented me from continuing from there.) So I wanted to make something special.

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The other reason I decided to dive in was that I had just borrowed the book The Party Dress: How to Sew the Best Dress in the Room by Mary Adams from the library. A lot of the book discusses ideas or design process by the author, but the last section discusses how to make your own party dress based on a few different design options provided by the author (all of them were princess-seamed bodices with circle skirts). One of the design options available included an organza overlay skirt, and Mary Adams also discusses a few ways to make contrast panels interesting in the front bodice. So I sketched up a few options and went to work.

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I nicknamed this dress the “deep blue sea” dress, although “wild blue yonder” is appropriate for the occasion as that’s part of the Air Force song. In addition to all the blue (I really wanted a dress to match my new blue shoes), you can see the underwater influence in the front panel. I machine-embroidered a few wavy lines of seaweed and yes, some octopus arms to add some interest and give the impression of an ocean. (My jewelry is thematically fitting as well—I borrowed it from my mom, it’s made with black volcanic rock from Hawai’i.) The embroidery was done on dark blue satin and then overlaid with blue organza. The rest of the bodice was made only in the dark satin, as well as the underskirt, while the overskirt is also organza. The two different layers create an intriguing color effect. Mary Adams showed a lot of different ways an organza overlayer can be used for color effects, and I definitely want to experiment with other options in the future. The two different skirts also created a fun way of movement in the final product. And they’re circle skirts, so they’re perfect for twirling!

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(I, however, am not perfect for making twirling expressions.)

The really fantastic thing about this dress is that it fits perfectly. Because I was able to control the construction process from beginning to end, I could make a dress that doesn’t need to be hiked up over the course of the night, and doesn’t give me concerns about falling down and revealing anything it shouldn’t. That’s a big relief! The dress stayed exactly put no matter which way I twirled, sat, or bent. Now I can’t say I could have created this effect on my own before I started—I had some great advice from Mary Adams, tutorials on the internet, and a friend with a lot of expertise who was willing to give me advice.

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Next week I’ll talk more about the design and construction process for this dress. My main complaint to people as I was creating this was “this is a feat of engineering, not a dress!” so I’ll go more into detail about what it takes to hold this thing together and make it stay up.

Oh, and in case there was any doubt—I did get this done on time, even though it was a little closer to the wire than I’d hoped! I did the last hem on the day of the event, in fact. But it worked out, just in time for me to watch my big brother become one of the Air Force’s newest lieutenants.

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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*

Sewaholic Oakridge: Another Sign of Spring

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What better way to celebrate the arrival of spring (okay, here in Utah it’s really been spring since about February, but April is Officially Spring) than with fabric covered in flowers? Admittedly, this fabric is not your typical floral: it’s a fairly large print and completely lacks any pink or red at all. I simply can’t resist blue, that’s all; it’s an addiction. The pattern is  Sewaholic’s Oakridge bow blouse, which is another garment to go in the “office wear” section of my closet, which is presently rather lacking. I’ve had a goal for a while now to sew more office-appropriate clothes, in anticipation of actually getting an office job. Piece by piece, I’m gathering a wardrobe! This blouse is meant to fill a more feminine space than my previous Granville button-downs.

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The fabric is Fabric.com‘s Picasso rayon poplin. It has a lovely hand and drape. The combination of the drapey fabric and the loose cut of the blouse sometimes gives me the feeling of wearing pajamas, actually, which I suppose is a good sign that it’s comfortable! It’s also quite cool for a long-sleeved shirt, so it’s versatile enough to wear most seasons.

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The construction on this… well, it had its ups and downs. This was a project that could have been so much better if I’d just paid more attention, but I didn’t and it shows in ways I wish it didn’t. To start with, in my efforts to get optimal print placement on the front (no giant boob-flowers!) I failed to consider how much fabric I actually had. I ended up piecing the bow ties because I didn’t have enough fabric to cut them correctly; my ties are 4 pieces instead of two. I also should have shortened the sleeve and moved the bust darts in the same way I did on my Granville shirts; the patterns were drafted from the same block, so I knew they needed the same adjustments. It’s just that when it came to cutting, I plain forgot.

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I did remember to alter the cuff, which is good because I think the sleeves would have been completely falling off otherwise. My preferred cuff length doesn’t let the sleeve go over my hand. This meant I had to pleat in the extra sleeve width. I made the cuff narrower to compensate for the length of the sleeves, but next time when I remember to shorten the sleeves, I’ll use the full cuff width.

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The fabric is pretty shifty, which is normal for something with this kind of drape. I hemmed it using a self-fabric bias facing instead of turning-twice-and-stitching; in my experience the facing is a little easier to keep under control and prevent the hem from twisting. I french-seamed some of the insides, when I remembered (I was really scatterbrained during this project!) and serged the seam allowances when I didn’t. Instead of buttons, I added pearl snaps. I might go back and add more; I think I spaced them too widely for this fabric (4″ is my standard for button-downs, but the drape on this allows the front to gape open more easily.) The pearl snaps look nice against the fabric, and they’re more fun than buttons to do up.

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I think I have to make this pattern at least once more, if only to correct my mistakes on this one. I may change the neckline a bit next time, though… this is definitely a gaper. Don’t bend over too far. The weight of the bow really pulls the shirt down, so I think this might do better with a higher neckline—possibly a mandarin-collar with ties. It would also be interesting to test this with a fabric with more body—I think one could get fairly creative with the neckline and ties.

My next work in progress really doesn’t count as “office wear” and it’s pretty intensive… I’ll be hard at work for the next couple of weeks!

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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Hey there, foxy

I’m still elbow-deep in what I’ve been calling the shirt from hell—it’s nearly done but I fear the buttonholes will be the end of me. So I took a break to whip up something I knew would be fast. A t-shirt takes me hardly any time and always gets worn, and I had some fabric sitting around waiting to be made into one. It’s pretty cute fabric, don’t you think?

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Adorable little foxes on cotton jersey from Girl Charlee. (Heads up: that’s a referral link. I get a credit if you make a first purchase there off that link.) It’s not quite as stretchy as I expected it to be, so instead of my standard Nettie t-shirt, I made it up into Sewaholic Renfrew, which has more ease.

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I didn’t even touch my sewing machine for this project. All I needed was my serger and my coverstitch machine. I LOVE having the coverstitch machine. It’s a big expense for a very specialized machine, and most people don’t have them. I got mine for a steal from someone who wasn’t using it, and I adore it. I mean, seriously. Look at this sweet sleeve hem!

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Simply beautiful, right there. (Yes, apparently I can get cat hair on EVERYTHING.) I love that I can put a “surprise” color in the looper (it blends in here, but it doesn’t need to!) and it doesn’t show on the right side. I plan on using that fact to put a lot of color pops in future stuff.

Initially I just turned and stitched the neckline. Since this jersey isn’t very stretchy and the print is busy, I didn’t want a self-fabric band. (As you can see, I didn’t do the bands originally written into the Renfrew pattern for sleeves and hem, either.) The turn-and-stitching worked fine, but it left the neckline uncomfortably gape-y. So I ripped it out and attached a snug band with a rayon jersey scrap leftover from another project. Perfect!

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Confession: I was really, really into foxes at a certain stage in my life, by which I mean the second grade. My best friends and I played foxes every single recess, and I had this obsession with drawing them. I still think they’re pretty neat! I met someone once who had domesticated pet fox babies and they were just about the cutest thing ever. It was all I could do not to steal them. I did at least take a picture.

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Well, until next time—if the shirt from hell doesn’t defeat me!

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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