Batch Sewing and a Coco Dress

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After returning from Michigan a month or so ago, I was anxious to start sewing again.  I came back with lots of good fabric from my travels and, since I’m trying to up my sewing game, I decided to try out a different method for getting ready to use that fabric.  Normally I have one or two or even three projects that I’m working on at the same time, but this time, I decided to move several projects through the pipeline together so that I could test out some patterns in preparation for using my “nice” fabric.

I made a big list of all the projects I wanted and needed to do in the near future, and then wrote down the steps I needed to take.  Once I taped those up on my wall and determined which projects could happen now and which would have to wait a bit, I decided to prep all my patterns.  For me, this means tracing out my size and cutting out my traced pattern.  I usually fall into one size at the bust, and a larger size at the waist and hips, so tracing also tends to mean blending two different sizes for tops.  I also want to begin to understand how to fit pants, so I did some research and took a guess at what was needed to make my McCall’s 6848 shorts pattern fit better, and I added those modifications to my already traced pattern.

Once all the tracing, blending, and changing was done on the paper patterns, I cut all my garments out.  I decided to test these patterns out with wearable muslins before making up the winners in my final fabric.  It’s hard for me to take the time to make a muslin, but if I tell myself it’s a wearable muslin, it helps.  Even if I hate the pattern and end up giving the muslin away, it helps somehow.

Then it was on to sewing!  Figuring out what to sew first really showed me:  I love sewing with knits.   Sewing knits is my “low-hanging fruit”–the type of sewing that feels easy and fast.  There’s no seam finishing, no real fitting.  The fabric is forgiving (at least the t-shirt type knits and stable jerseys I was using).  I never understood when I first started sewing why people would make t-shirts when they could buy them so cheaply, but now I get it.  Aside from the allure of making something unique, it’s a quick win that keeps you excited and the other projects moving forward.  That’s why my first three makes from the list were two t-shirts and a knit dress.

After all that wordy build-up, maybe you’d like to see my finished Coco dress!

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I won this pattern during Me Made May ’15 by entering a contest on the blog ‘So, Zo…What do you know?’  The prize was a pattern of your choice by Tilly and the Buttons, and a really cool tote bag with the words “DIY Dressmaker” on it.  I feel cool every time I carry it.  :)

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I tried out the dress version because…well…because I bought some fabric I would never have bought if I’d had the patience to order a swatch, and I want to use it up while also testing out this pattern.  I thought I had a good idea of what “ponte” fabric was like, so when I saw this go on sale, I ordered it with visions of cool stretchy pants in my mind.  When I got it, it was…polyester-y.  I do not love “polyester-y”.  It was my fault, though.  The site made no misrepresentations as to what the fabric was.  That taught me to be more patient and order a swatch!

When I bought my cool, reversible striped fabric at Haberman Fabric last month, I thought the t-shirt version of this pattern might be a good match for it.  So, I made the dress version thinking I would get a feel for how the pattern fit in the bust and waist section, and I could use up this fabric on a ’60’s style dress that would be a good fit for the mod-looking fabric.

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This was a great pattern to work with.  It was easy to put together, and I really like the finished product.  I think the best compliment I got was when someone mistook it for a vintage dress, partly because of the fabric!  Really, though, that compliment belongs to Tilly.  This dress has such a great ’60’s look (well, my idea of the ’60’s anyway–feel free to correct me if you lived it).  It has the wide roll collar and cute cuffs as well as that A-line shift dress thing going on.  I also like where the shoulder seams hit my shoulders.  It’s the perfect spot for me.  It’s very comfortable to wear (partly due to the softness of the fabric, actually).  This pattern did make me realize that I like my A-line dresses and skirts a little longer, despite the fact that a pencil skirt feels comfortable to me at this length.  I think it’s because with an A-line, I can’t always feel the back of the dress or skirt against my legs, and it makes me worry that things are getting exposed back there!

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Here’s what happens when a bee decides he wants to hang out with you while you are shooting pictures.  Or this is how I think people danced in the ’60’s.  You pick.  ;)

So, the Coco dress is a win.  Thanks, Tilly!  (Can I just say that she is really nice, too?  I wrote to thank her for the pattern and she wrote back and was so sweet.  You gained a fan, Tilly!)  Her site is great for beginner and more advanced sewists.  She has clear pictures and instructions, a book, etc., etc.  You should check it out if you haven’t already.  The Coco goes back into the pile to be made in other editions.  It’s definitely a contender for the reversible striped fabric I mentioned!

Lastly, a little technical note.  I’m going to start posting my pictures to Flickr instead of keeping them stored in my WordPress media library (I ran out of room and didn’t want to pay for more!).  If you find that a picture is not showing up, please leave me a comment and let me know (there should be seven pictures in this post).  This is new for me and I think I have it figured out, but we’ll see if I’m right or not.  Hopefully I’ve got it because figuring all this out is eating up my sewing time!!!

That’s all for now!  See you next week!

 

There’s Winning, and There’s…Learning

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My husband has a friend whose son is in a chess club.  In the club, they tell the students that “there’s winning, and there’s learning”.  Losing somehow got left off the list.  When we heard that, we laughed, chalking it up to some sort of self-esteem gimmick intended to keep kids from ever feeling bad about themselves.  But then, as sometimes happens, I started to think about the concept.  So now I get to laugh at myself for being so cocky because, in certain areas of life, that principle holds true.  In fact, in sewing as in chess, the only real losing happens if you fail and learn nothing from it.

So, today, I have a few sewing failures learning experiences to share with you.  These are garments I completed awhile ago, but in wearing them I discovered that they weren’t really right somehow.

#1:  The cross-back shirt (McCall’s 6751)

 

 

McCall's M6751 by Pattern and Branch

McCall's M6751 by Pattern and BranchThis summer and last made me see that I really wasn’t wearing this shirt.  I like the concept of it, and I love the fabric and the binding I (finally) managed to get attached, but when I wear this, I’m always worried that it will blow open in the back.  I also can’t wear standard undergarments with it without worrying about my straps showing (something I’m not a fan of, despite current trends).  The shirt never lays right (which I think is due more to my fiddling with the seam allowances and binding than with the drafting of the pattern).  So, I declare this a fail learning experience.

What I learned:  It’s better to spend my time making a bunch of shirts I can wear with standard undergarments rather than making ones that will cause me to worry if anything I don’t want to show is showing.  Maybe five normal shirts equal one that calls for strapless support.  I also began learning to use my binding attachment on my Featherweight, something I had never tried before.

 

#2:  The overly long infinity scarf

Infinity Scarf by Pattern and BranchI thought I was so smart when I made this.  Rather than following the pattern lengths given in the tutorial, I used as much fabric as I had because I loved it so much and didn’t want any to go to waste.  And then I never wore it.  Because it was too long/big (actually, this picture brings the word “goiter” to mind).  Now the former scarf is on my sewing table, recut into a woven tank top.  Hopefully that will work out better.

What I learned:  Sometimes it pays to follow the directions, even if it means a little bit of “waste”.  Because, really, couldn’t I have used the leftovers for something else and then had a useable scarf?  Also, even though I could have reworked the scarf to a shorter length, sometimes you are just done with a project and need to move on.  And that’s ok.

 

#3:  The Soma Swimsuit Hack

Well, some of you knew this was coming!  My latest attempt at a swimsuit gets an A for looks, but is a fail for wearability.

Soma Swimsuit Hack by Pattern and Branch

I wore this suit once while in Michigan and, in addition to the issues I detail in the (very detailed) post about this suit, one of the underwires started to come out.  That was when I decided: I’M DONE!  Then I promptly bought a too-big tankini top from a thrift store and started fiddling with that, trying to get it to fit.  Sometimes, it can be hard to know when you need to walk away.

What I learned:  Know when to walk away!  I’ve put myself on bathing suit probation for a few months.  I’m still determined to get “mad bathing suit sewing skillz”, but I need to take a break before diving in again.  Also, there may be something to be learned in the realm of not trying to make a pattern do something it wasn’t intended to do…but you can’t always know until you try.

Maybe that’s the larger lesson to be learned from each of these projects:  TRY.  If there’s no “losing”, if you can learn from it, it’s probably worth it to try.  Of course I’m not talking about “trying” stuff with massively expensive fabrics on someone’s wedding dress or something.  The stakes were never even close to that high with any of these projects.  But I’m glad I did them, even if they aren’t going to become part of my wardrobe, because now I’m a better seamstress/sewist than I was before.

 

A Perfected Knit Racerback Tank: McCall’s 6848

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Here’s a project I’ve been waiting to share with you for over a month!!  I had debated blogging on the go last month, but decided against it.  So today’s make has had a lot of real-world testing since I finished it.

Long-time readers of this blog will remember my several versions of McCall’s 6848.  I’ve made the shorts, several racerback tanks in knits (#1 and #2), and the non-tank top.  Here is yet one more knit racerback tank, this time tweaked out in a way that I can easily reproduce.

McCall's 6848 racerback tank in knit fabric

McCall's 6848 racerback tank in knit fabric

In my last version of this top, which you can see below, I realized that in order for this pattern, which is drafted for woven fabric, to work for knits, I needed to do a little tweaking.

McCall's 6848 racerback tank in knit fabric

When I made the latest version of this top, I decided to take the tweaks from the above gray (or grey?) top and add them to my pattern in such a way that I could use them again.  Here are my pattern pieces:

McCall's 6848 racerback tank in knit fabric If you look, you can sort of see some triangles folded under at the bottom of the arm and the top of the shoulder.  Look below to see them from the back side:

McCall's 6848 racerback tank in knit fabric

McCall's 6848 racerback tank in knit fabric

McCall's 6848 racerback tank in knit fabricNow I can use the pattern pieces for knits or wovens depending on if I fold those little triangles down or not.  The sizes of the triangles are the same as the wedges I took out of the shirt in the post on the gray exercise top I showed you above.  The fit is terrific and, since this is a supposed to be a pajama pattern, there is the added benefit of being able to have the comfort of PJ’s in your everyday wear.  You know I like that!  I think I wore this outfit more than any other when I was in Michigan last month.

I got the fabric at Joann’s.  I think it is a polyester.  (You can see a fabric with a similar design but in a different colorway here.  Looks like it’s a poly/rayon, so maybe that’s what mine is, too.)  I’d had my eye on it for awhile because of the subtle print, but I was a little nervous because the last time I bought a polyester knit there (the fabric in these leggings), it pilled pretty badly after awhile.  So, we’ll see if that happens.  Also, the fabric is fairly transparent, so I lined it with some old, old white knit sheets I had around (also used as part of the lining in this dress).

McCall's 6848 racerback tank in knit fabric

And, in a stroke of brilliancy, I put the seams on the inside so it could be reversible!  I haven’t actually worn it with the white side out, but I could if I wanted to.  :)

McCall's 6848 racerback tank in knit fabric

Front: cream and silver side out

McCall's 6848 racerback tank in knit fabric

Back: cream and silver side out

McCall's 6848 racerback tank in knit fabric

Front:  white side out

McCall's 6848 racerback tank in knit fabric

Back: white side out

I almost never line things, so I was pretty proud of myself.  I may or may not have sewn the armholes together before turning it right side out and, again, may or may not have had to rip those suckers out so I could turn everything right side out, but regardless of what might have happened, it got sorted out in the end.  The lining hangs a bit below the cream side, but I decided I’m cool with that.  I even made myself a little braided bracelet out of the scraps of sheet that I had lying around.

McCall's 6848 racerback tank in knit fabric

McCall's 6848 racerback tank in knit fabric

McCall's 6848 racerback tank in knit fabric

I didn’t get any compliments (or even comments) on this, maybe because it looked stupid to people.  I thought it was pretty cool, though, and it made me feel like I was enviro-saintly (yes, I just made that up–take note OED!) for using some scraps even thought I threw much bigger scraps away, but don’t think about that.  Anyway, if you want to be cool like me (enviro-saintly, even), just take three strips of jersey from any old t-shirt or some knit sheets, stretch them out, braid them up, and tie some knots on either end.  Then, knot them together and wear your bracelet like you paid an obscene amount for it at a cool store.  In fact, if you make one, leave a link in the comments so I can see it!  I’d like to see people put this with a festival look or just some kind of more-is-more thing and layer it up!

 

 

City Mouse, Country Mouse: The Country

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After visiting friends and family near Detroit last month, we went and did the same on the other side of Michigan.  The area we stayed in was completely rural, and very beautiful.  I regret not photographing any of the rolling hills and corn and soybean fields, but since that would have involved stopping on the highway or sticking my camera out the window, you’ll just have to take in what I did manage to capture.  :)  Let’s go on a tour of southwest Michigan!

In my book, summer must include some fruit-picking!  My parents took us to Lehman’s Orchard in Niles, MI to pick sour cherries and raspberries.  I’ve long wanted to make a real cherry pie from scratch, but I can never find fresh or frozen sour cherries where I live (and if I did, I’m sure they would be very pricey).  Sometimes I find them in jars and they cost way too much, so I’ve never bought them.  The cherries at this farm were a bargain and so easy to pick.  Look how beautiful they are!

Cherry picking at Lehman's Orchard in Niles, MIDid you every play Hi Ho Cherry-O?  I think these look just like the cherries in that game!

Cherry picking at Lehman's Orchard in Niles, MI

Once we picked them, we brought them to a little outbuilding and washed them.  Then they went through the cherry pitter!

Cherry picking at Lehman's Orchard in Niles, MI

We also picked raspberries.  My husband found one of the coolest sights that day on top of one of the raspberry rows:

Raspberry picking at Lehman's Orchard in Niles, MI

Baby birds!

We also visited Fernwood Botanical Garden in Niles, MI.  One of the highlights was these stick houses.

Fernwood Botanical Garden and Nature Preserve

Fernwood Botanical Garden and Nature Preserve

And…since I was out in the country, I had to look into a new store that I had never seen before:  Rural King, in Niles, MI!  I don’t own any trucker hats, but I was kind of hoping to find one there that said “Rural King”.  I would definitely have worked that into my wardrobe!

Rural King in Niles, MI

This is a true farm store.  I got a lot of looks when I walked in mainly because, although I was dressed very casually, it was clear I hadn’t just come off the farm.

Rural King has many cool offerings, like

Rural King in Niles, MIwork clothes,

Rural King in Niles, MIsparkly belts (this picture does not do the sparkles justice),

Rural King in Niles, MI

and baby chicks!

Along with farm and food stuff, I also love antiques, so I peeked into many an antique store.  Luckily for my wallet and limited storage space, I didn’t buy anything beyond that dress in Detroit, but how awesome/crazy would it have been if I could have bought THIS?

Picker's Paradise in Niles, MI

Doesn’t everyone need a mirror with taxidermy squirrels on it?  “Only” $325!  Or how about THIS to hold your rings and bracelets?

Picker's Paradise in Niles, MIA raccoon arm!  Yeah, that didn’t come home with me either, but not because I wasn’t tempted!  These were both from a booth in Picker’s Paradise in Niles, MI, which was a pretty great store.  All the other booths were much more normal, I promise.

During our visit, we went to Lake Michigan several times.  I love Lake Michigan.  It’s like the ocean, only with fresh water and no scary creatures.  We visited both St. Joseph, MI and Jean Klock Park in Benton Harbor, MI.

When we went to St. Joseph, it was for the day.  They have beautiful Silver Beach, with bathrooms, a snack shack, and a playground.  The town also has a children’s museum, carousel, Silver Beach Pizza, the coolest splash park ever, and lots of cute shops you can visit.  It’s busy on the weekends, but really fun.

St. Joseph, MI on Lake Michigan

Sunset view of Lake Michigan from the pier in St. Joseph, MI

Jean Klock Park in Benton Harbor is just over the channel from Silver Beach, but is much less built up and more naturalistic.  Like Silver Beach, it also has bathrooms, a snack shack and a playground, but is much quieter.  We had fun swimming and looking for rocks with fossils on them.

Jean Klok Park, Benton Harbor, MI

The beach at Jean Klock Park in Benton Harbor, MI

We ate a lot of good food on this trip.  So, my burger recommendation from the west side goes to Laura’s Little Burger Joint in Decatur, MI.  We’re staying rural, here, so this is out in the middle of cornfields.  It’s a beautiful drive.

Laura's Little Burger Joint in Decatur, MI

The burgers here are huge!  There are many fun options (as well as things besides burgers), and seating is in the open at picnic tables spread out under the trees and sky.

Laura's Little Burger Joint in Decatur, MI

Laura's Little Burger Joint in Decatur, MI

May I also humbly suggest that after you have finished your burger, you might want to drive a minute down the road to get your after-dinner ice cream at the Hayloft?  I think you won’t be disappointed.  :)

And now, for you sewing fans out there, the west side fabric report.  As I mentioned in the last post, before this trip, I did my research about good fabric stores near where I was going to be staying and found this great list from Rae Hoekstra of the blog made by RAE.  By her recommendation, I visited Field’s FABRICS in Kalamazoo, MI.

Field's Fabrics in Kalamazoo, MI

Field’s is an excellent fabric store that I highly recommend (and now really want to visit again).  For all the lucky western Michigan people, there are several locations.  Field’s is probably as big as Haberman Fabrics in Royal Oak, MI, but has a very different feel.

Field's Fabrics in Kalamazoo, MI

Field's Fabrics in Kalamazoo, MI

It didn’t hurt that there were some serious sales on.  I came away with a stretchy fleece from Malden Mills (smooth outside, fleece inside) and a cool red/purple chambray that I want to say is Robert Kaufman (although I’m not 100% sure).  Sadly, I can’t find these on their website to link to.

Field's Fabrics in Kalamazoo, MI

I may actually deserve an award for this fabric trip.  I had only 45 minutes to shop this whole, amazing store and, cutting time excluded, I totally did it!  My husband laughed when I told him I would only have that much time (after I spent two hours shopping at Haberman Fabrics, can you blame him?).  I did it, though!  I also tried to convince the lady who cut my fabric that they needed to open a Massachusetts branch, but she didn’t go for it.  That’s sad, but I’m recovering.

Lastly, although I didn’t photograph it, I went to Hancock Fabrics in Mishawaka, IN.  I hear people say they get things there and since we have Joann, but not Hancock, I thought I would check it out.  I think there was a sale on at nearly every store I hit on this trip (awesome!), and it was no different here.

Hancock Fabric in Mishawaka, IN

I got a pink and white cotton gingham (can’t find the fabric to link to, but it’s 100% cotton with a quarter inch check) and a cotton stretch sateen suiting in super-fun colors.  I can definitely envision a skirt (the suiting) and shirt (the gingham) out of these, maybe even worn together.  My mother wasn’t so sure about that combination, but if those garments ever materialize out of this fabric, I think that I can convince her.  If not, I’ll wear it anyway!  ;)

So that was my trip!  We got seriously spoiled, ate so much good food, and had a wonderful time with friends and family.  Thanks to everyone who made our trip really special.  And readers, I hope you get a chance to check out some of these places if you are ever in southwest Michigan.  It’s a beautiful and friendly place to visit.

 

City Mouse, Country Mouse: The City

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Hi, Friends!  It’s been a long time since our last meeting here on these pages.  I was off visiting friends and family for most of July, and I thought you might like to see a few of the places I visited.  As always, I’ll include links when possible.  Maybe you’ll find some new favorites, too!

First let’s visit the Detroit area of Michigan.

My sister-in-law took my mother-in-law and me into Eastern Market in Detroit one weekend.  Eastern Market is a farmer’s market filled with delicious food and beautiful plants.

Detroit's Eastern Market

Detroit's Eastern Market

Detroit's Eastern Market

Castor Bean

Detroit's Eastern Market

Dahlia

Detroit's Eastern Market

Dahlia

The market area is flanked by cool shops as well.

Outside Detroit's Eastern Market

DeVries & Co.

Outside Detroit's Eastern Market

DeVries & Co.

DeVries & Co. had all sorts of great foods, imported and domestic.  You could ride the old freight elevator to the top level to find cute home goods as well.

And, of course, we had to look in this labyrinthine antique shop that my sister-in-law discovered.

Outside Detroit's Eastern Market

Eastern Market Antiques

This little area was arguably my favorite.  I even found a vintage dress/tunic!

Outside Detroit's Eastern Market

Outside Detroit's Eastern Market

Collar detail

It’s a bit on the short side for a dress on its own, but I have a few ideas for it…

Just before we left, we visited the Detroit Mercantile Company.  Talk about a great selection of quality and hand-made goods!

Outside Detroit's Eastern Market

Detroit Mercantile Company

Outside Detroit's Eastern Market

Detroit Mercantile Company

Since I’ve been contemplating making jeans, I was pretty interested in the offerings from the Detroit Denim Company.  After checking out their website, I kind of wished I had tried to set up an interview.  Maybe another time…

We also had fun food adventures, and I can wholeheartedly recommend Joe’s Hamburgers if you are ever in Wyandotte, MI.  They have a great retro vibe and delicious food.  The burgers are small (“sliders”), which makes it all the better if you want to sample several–and don’t forget to order a few kinds of fries if you are with a group so you can try more than one kind!

Joe's Hamburgers in Wyandotte, MI

 

Joe's Hamburgers in Wyandotte, MI

Joe's Hamburgers in Wyandotte, MI

Joe's Hamburgers in Wyandotte, MI

Mushroom Swiss Slider and Poutine Fries. Yum!

And now, you probably knew it was coming…FABRIC SHOPPING!  I have to thank my husband who drove me around and sat through three hours of fabric shopping (plus plenty of indecision on my part).  My in-laws also deserve thanks for babysitting!!!

Before we left, I looked online for fabric stores in the Detroit area and came up with this list from Rae Hoekstra of made by RAE that covers some of the best of southern Michigan.  And she was not wrong.  I went to two different fabric shops near Detroit, and each was spectacular.

Unfortunately, I didn’t do Material Girls in Dearborn justice (so sorry!).  I got a picture of the outside of their shop and then totally dropped the ball on photographing the inside.

The Material Girls in Dearborn, MI

The ladies who worked there were really wonderful.  They had a good selection of quilting fabric as well as some carefully curated apparel fabrics.  It was so wonderful to see, in person, many of the fabrics I have looked at online.  There really is no comparison to touching and looking at fabric in person.  After saving up a nice little fund for shopping, it was great to not only look, but also buy and stock up on supplies for upcoming projects.  Here is what I got from The Material Girls:

The Material Girls in Dearborn, MI

The bird fabric is for me (I was inspired by Carolyn of Allspice Abounds), but the pandas and superheroines are for Christmas presents.  Luckily the intended recipients don’t read this blog.  Shh!  ;)

We also visited Haberman Fabrics in Royal Oak, Michigan.  It’s a little bit hard to describe this one.  It might be fabric paradise.

Haberman Fabrics in Royal Oak, Michigan

I don’t think I’ve been in a fabric store quite like this since I started sewing seriously.  It was mainly dedicated to apparel fabric, including bridal and special occasion, but also had home decorating fabric, space for classes, a sewing machine repair window, and so many notions.  Wow.

Haberman Fabrics in Royal Oak, Michigan

Haberman Fabrics in Royal Oak, Michigan

Haberman Fabrics in Royal Oak, Michigan

Haberman Fabrics in Royal Oak, Michigan

Haberman Fabrics in Royal Oak, Michigan

 

Haberman Fabrics in Royal Oak, Michigan

Haberman Fabrics in Royal Oak, Michigan

Haberman Fabrics in Royal Oak, Michigan

Haberman Fabrics in Royal Oak, Michigan

Haberman Fabrics in Royal Oak, Michigan

When I first got there, I was so excited.  I wandered through looking at all the various apparel fabrics.  I had made a list so I could be at least slightly focused, but after looking at everything, my excitement turned into distress.  I saved and worked to build a fabric fund, but there was too much!  What should I get?  What would I be sad to leave behind?

Want to see what I got?

Haberman Fabrics in Royal Oak, Michigan

The striped fabric is a rayon knit from Italy that’s double-sided!  I also wanted to experiment with a little stretch lace and stretch net.  (I can’t find any of these on their website, or I would link to them.)  What a great store.

Yea for fabric shopping and yea for some fun in the city!  Thanks, family and friends!  Next up…the country!

 

 

Happy Independence Day! (Red + White Corset Tank)

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Happy Independence Day to all my American readers!  British readers, I’m glad we’re friends again.

July 4th (American Independence Day) is one of my favorite holidays to spend with my extended family.  This almost never happens any more, and so I usually find myself missing my parents as I plan out whatever red, white, and blue outfit I can come up with for the day.  My Mom, especially, always got into July 4th, telling us we had to wear red, white, and blue.  And if my Aunt Jane was with us…well, it usually got out of control!  Picture temporary tattoos with flags or glitter or both, all kinds of sparkly nail polish, and really whatever weird or embarrassing thing they could come up with.  I would roll my eyes and say how ridiculous it all was, but now that I rarely get to be with them on Independence Day, I miss all the craziness.  And I still find myself looking for a red, white, and blue outfit come July 4.

For the past few years, I’ve wanted to make my own version of this Alabama Chanin corset tank, so I finally decided now was the time to do it.  My friend Mary (also mentioned in this post) gave me some unused white t-shirts, and I cut them up according to the pattern in Alabama Stitch Book by Natalie Chanin, and sewed them back together to make my own tank.  I’ve made this pattern before and liked it.  Rather than hand-sewing the shirt, I chose to use my machine for speed, and instead of beading my tank like they did in my inspiration picture, I used a double strand of red button/craft thread to hand-sew my seam allowances down in a way that I liked.

Happy Independence Day!  (Red + White Corset Tank)

Front

Happy Independence Day!  (Red + White Corset Tank)

Back

I also chose to bind the bottom edge.

Before making this, I tried to raise the neckline using the instructions in Alabama Studio Sewing Patterns (also by Natalie Chanin), but I took a wrong turn somewhere and ended up with things just as they had always had been.  The low cut is definitely flattering, but it’s a bit too low for my comfort level, so I had to enlist an undershirt for a little extra coverage.  I’ll try to raise the neckline again another time.

Happy Independence Day!  (Red + White Corset Tank)

Happy Independence Day!  (Red + White Corset Tank)

While sewing this, I was watching a movie with a baseball theme, and pretty soon, all I could see was a baseball-inspired shirt.  I guess I could wear it to a game or for the 4th of July!

I kept my knots on the inside, although the shirt is reversible, so I can also flip it inside out, if I want something a little different.

Happy Independence Day!  (Red + White Corset Tank)

detail, shoulder and neckline area

Happy Independence Day!  (Red + White Corset Tank)

detail, hemline

All I needed was some blue jeans and I’m ready for the 4th of July!

Happy Independence Day!  (Red + White Corset Tank)

Happy Independence Day!!!

P.S.–I may take a little time off this month.  I’m not sure what that will look like or how often I will or won’t post, but if it seems quiet over here this month, don’t fret.  I’ll get back up to speed in August.

Summer=Swimsuits: Soma Bathing Suit Hack

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I’m back today with my long-awaited/long-procrastinated-on Soma swimsuit hack.  During the winter, I tried all the Soma swimsuit variations (here, here, and here).  Then, I set out to make my ultimate version!  Here were my goals:

  1. Turn Bikini Variation 2 into a tankini, inspired by this suit.
  2. Add support in the form of underwires, with help from Gertie’s blog.
  3. Add polylaminate foam for coverage and modesty, as seen on sallieoh’s blog.

Let’s check out the suit:

Summer=Swimsuits:  Soma Bathing Suit HackThe top.

Summer=Swimsuits:  Soma Bathing Suit HackHigh rise bottoms.

Summer=Swimsuits:  Soma Bathing Suit HackLow rise bottoms.

Let’s talk about the bottoms, because there isn’t much to say there.  I followed the directions and made the low rise bottoms in a medium and the high rise bottoms in a small.  I used black fabric for the outside with a black lining.  I used white elastic because I wanted to order a large quantity, and I figured that would be most versatile.  I like them, but I think the next time I make bottoms, I’ll go for something with more coverage rather than this style, which is slightly cheeky.  I think the pattern for these is good–that’s just my personal preference.

Now for the top.  Here’s a small fraction of my planning:

Summer=Swimsuits:  Soma Bathing Suit Hack This is when math class (at least arithmetic) meets the real world!  I figured and refigured until I thought I had it right, and then I made pattern pieces for the front and the back trusting in the spandex to stretch right over any mistakes I might have made.

Summer=Swimsuits:  Soma Bathing Suit HackFrom left to right:  back, front middle, front sides.

So, this next part is going to get long.  Feel free to skip to the end if you aren’t interested in the sewing details, but because it’s helpful to me when others post what they did, I’m going to give you my step-by-step process (because I’m also hoping someone out there can troubleshoot my mistakes!).  This will make most sense if you have a copy of the directions in hand while reading this.  Here we go!

This was my process for the top:

  1. Starting with the bikini top part, stitch together outer fabric only as in Step 1 of the directions.
  2. Stitch together lining only as for outer fabric in Step 1.  In retrospect, I should have followed the lining instructions.
  3. Trim seam allowances back and clip curves on outer and lining pieces.
  4. Encase underwires in channeling or 1/4″ double fold bias tape (I used this since I hadn’t ordered channeling.).  Don’t stitch ends closed, at least on one side.  Leave extra bias tape at ends.
  5. Pin to inside of lining, matching bottoms to underbust seam and shorter sides to triangle seam.
  6. Hold underwires slightly open (as per Gertie) and mark with chalk or whatever.
  7. Remove underwires and sew on both sides of channeling/tape with a straight stitch.
  8. Reinsert underwires and sew ends closed.
  9. Pin polylaminate foam in place with lots of pins!
  10. Use long zigzag stitch (for me this was a zigzag with a width of 4 and a length of 2.5) to sew around the outer perimeter of the front.
  11. Use square zigzag (this had a width of 4 or 5 and a length of 1.5) to sew over seam between lower cup and underbust piece, being careful not to sew the underwires.  Sew from central triangle toward outside seam.
  12. Use square zigzag to sew on either side of center bust seam from middle triangle to outer edge.  I tried and tried to do this, but my machine kept skipping stitches and I never managed to get it right.  I had to rip the stitches out in the end.
  13. Follow steps 7 and 8 for Bikini Variation 2 in the instructions with a square zigzag (I used a width of 5).
  14. Stitch together the bottom of the back piece so it can be used as one piece.
  15. Assemble front outer fabric and then lining fabric for tankini/stomach section.  I forgot that I wanted to sew each outer piece to each lining piece and then assemble the front so it wouldn’t balloon in the water, but I don’t think it mattered in the end.  I ended up with pieced outer fabric and pieced lining fabric for the front that was not attached together.  If I wasn’t going to sew them together, though, I could have just cut two of the back pattern piece in lining fabric and saved myself some time and made the inside of the suit look a little nicer.  Oh, well.
  16. Sew front sections together wrong sides together around the edges.
  17. Layer fabric for tankini section in this order:  outer back fabric right side facing up, constructed front right side facing down, back lining piece wrong side facing up.  Pin together at sides and sew with long zigzag stitch.
  18. Flip fabric around so everything is right way out.  All side and front piecing seams should be enclosed.
  19. Use a long zigzag to sew across the front excess length (there was about 1 inch extra length on the front) in preparation for trimming it even.
  20. Use long zigzag to sew top and bottom of stomach/back covering together so it seams like one tube/piece of fabric.
  21. Omit elastic sewn around the bottom of the bikini top in the directions.
  22. Attach stomach/back piece to bikini top piece with right sides together.
  23. Hem bottom with a half inch hem and square zigzag.
  24. Use directions on Papercut’s website to make straps (1 1/2 inch wide cross-cut strips of fabric and 3/8 inch elastic), but use square zigzag for all (width of 4, length of 1.5) rather than the long zigzag.  Also, double sew (sew twice) when sewing right sides of fabric together.
  25. Step 9 in the directions with lots of stitches!!!
  26. Step 10 in the directions with lots of stitches!!!
  27. Test in the shower or at the beach.

Here’s a look at the back and inside of the suit.

Summer=Swimsuits:  Soma Bathing Suit Hack

Summer=Swimsuits:  Soma Bathing Suit Hack

Summer=Swimsuits:  Soma Bathing Suit Hack

Summer=Swimsuits:  Soma Bathing Suit Hack

I tested the suit and the high rise bottoms out on Wednesday for a good couple of hours at a local pond and here are the successes and failures of the suit in its current state.

Successes:

  1. The general silhouette is great and very flattering.
  2. This works well as a tankini and my version offers good coverage in the stomach area, which I like.
  3. The style lines and color blocking are cool.  I’m happy with how that turned out.
  4. The top gives some support and separation in the chest area.
  5. I finished this crazy suit!

Failures (or at least “Elements I am Not Satisfied With”):

  1. The underwires do not lay flat against my chest.  Since I don’t have any experience making bras at this point, this is something I can’t troubleshoot.
  2. The polylaminate foam I put into the upper and lower cup areas does not offer full coverage.  I cut off the seam allowances and had to stretch the fabric to put them in, so that they seemed like they would offer full coverage, but when I put the suit on, the foam in the bottom cup sinks down and leaves the exact area where I wanted padding unpadded!  I tried to use a zigzag above and below the central seam joining the cups, but my machine, which sews well through all kinds of materials, skipped like crazy and just couldn’t handle sewing right on that foam.  I used a walking foot, wooly nylon in my bobbin and nice Gutermann thread up top, tried both a stretch and a jersey needle (new ones), and messed with the tension and feed-dog pressure.  What the heck?!!

If you look at this picture, you can probably see the holes from one of my topstitching attempts on the lower cup on the right side:

Summer=Swimsuits:  Soma Bathing Suit Hack

Here’s an inside shot, too, for those who might be curious for a close-up:

Summer=Swimsuits:  Soma Bathing Suit Hack

After trying numerous solutions to the foam problem, I knew that I just needed to finish this thing and move on with my life.  I’ve been mulling it over, working on it, and procrastinating on it for so many months now.

My conclusion is that it’s still a wearable suit.  It does offer some support, even if the support isn’t right.  After my trip to the pond, though, I realized that I could live with the underwire situation being imperfect, but I really want to fix that foam.  The foam from the upper cup is partially stabilized by being caught in the fold-over on the top edge but the bottom is not anchored down, just held between the outer and inner fabric.

Readers, what would YOU do about stabilizing the rest of the foam?  Can I use a straight stitch?  I had assumed it needed to be a stretch stitch, but maybe I’m wrong.  Can you troubleshoot this suit for me?  What would you have done differently with the underwires?  Is this pattern one that can even be made into the kind of suit I tried to make it into?

My hope in posting all these details is that someone, somewhere will be able to take my experiment to the next level and perfect it.  I’m also hoping some of you will know what I did wrong and tell me.  Even though I will probably not make this suit again, I want to know how I could have made it better.  When I set out to make this, I scoured the internet to find out if anyone had put in underwires, and couldn’t find that they had.  I’m hoping someone will find my post, and take this pattern/idea one step further.  You can do it!  (But if you do, leave me a link in the comments so I can go and check it out.)

For anyone who’s curious, I got my fabric from Girl Charlee and my elastic and polylaminate foam used for swim cups from Sew Sassy.  The underwires came from an old bra.

 

Now for Something a Little Bit Different…Pillows!

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Today’s Show and Tell is a little bit of a departure from my normal sewing paths.  While in this learning phase of sewing, I’ve been a mostly selfish sewer.  A short time ago, however, my friend Mary asked if I would be willing to make some pillows for her.  Her father-in-law had passed away and she wanted some of his favorite clothing to be made into pillows for her daughters to have as keepsakes of their grandfather.  I thought it sounded like a great idea, as well as a fun challenge for me.  I finished them early this week, and I thought you might like a look.

Keepsake Pillows by Pattern and Branch

Mary gave me a sweater, two blazers, a flannel shirt, and a pair of pants.  She had already washed the sweater, but I washed and dried the other items twice to make them shrink as much as possible so that if her daughters ever needed to wash the pillow covers, they could use the washer and dryer (rather than a dry cleaner) without fear of shrinking them.

I got a little nervous when I did this.  Everything looked so frayed and crazy.  I thought, “What if I don’t have enough fabric to make these pillows?!!!”  But then I turned on American Pickers, got my scissors out, and started deconstructing and ironing.  I saved all the buttons, tags, and anything else that seemed useful in case I wanted to incorporate it later.  Eventually I got everything into neat little pieces.

Keepsake Pillows by Pattern and Branch

At that point I began to see where I wanted to go with the pillows.  Mary had given me the pillow forms for the project, so I knew the dimensions I needed to sew to.

Keepsake Pillows by Pattern and Branch

Then, I got into a thinking and procrastinating phase with several projects at once:  not sure of all the pillow designs, problems with the bathing suit I’m sewing (yes, I’m still making versions of the Soma Swimsuit), and fitting issues with some shorts I had started.  Finally, I decided, it was time to FINISH things!

Back to work!  (At least on the things I had a clear direction for–the other ideas would come in due time.)

Keepsake Pillows by Pattern and Branch

Keepsake Pillows by Pattern and Branch

Keepsake Pillows by Pattern and Branch

Keepsake Pillows by Pattern and Branch

Luckily Mary had given me complete creative license, so I could do what I wanted.  I also tried to take the quality up a notch.  I don’t go back and fix all my mistakes in my own garments, but I made sure to fix off-center button holes and buttons and finish all my seams in this project.  Gotta get professional, here!

Finally, I figured all my design and construction questions out, and I finished!!!

 

Keepsake Pillows by Pattern and Branch

Fronts.

Keepsake Pillows by Pattern and Branch

And backs.

Keepsake Pillows by Pattern and Branch

Keepsake Pillows by Pattern and Branch

This pillow was made from the two blazers (the striped front) and the pants (the gray back).

Keepsake Pillows by Pattern and Branch

Keepsake Pillows by Pattern and Branch

I made this one from the gray pants and the cotton flannel shirt (the red).

Keepsake Pillows by Pattern and Branch

Keepsake Pillows by Pattern and Branch

Finally, there is the pillow made from the sweater.  The buttons and button holes are stabilized with strips of the gray pants material underneath.

In the end, I was really happy with how these turned out–happy with the quality, happy with the designs, and really happy that I hadn’t ruined the fabric!  The best part, though, was that Mary was really happy with them.  Hopefully her daughters will love them, too, and enjoy having them as a way to remember their grandfather.

Fit for Fitness: Gray Exercise Tank

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Wow.  I feel like we just dropped back into “normal blog life” if there is ever such a thing.  Me-Made-May ’15 (MMM ’15) is over, and I got to tell you about the exciting new fabric store opening in NH.  Now we’re back to life and projects.  I’ve got about three projects going on (not counting the thousand in my head), but one I just finished is fitting the gray exercise tank you saw on MMM ’15 day 20.  Did you notice it was a little floppy in parts?

Fitting the exercise tank (Pattern and Branch)

Interestingly enough, this is the same pattern I showed you here.  Check it out.

Fitting the exercise tank (Pattern and Branch)

Fitting the exercise tank (Pattern and Branch)

Fitting the exercise tank (Pattern and Branch)

The differences are that I finished the gray tank top with fold-over-elastic rather than cross-cut strips of this ITY knit that I used on the back of the shirt above.  The other interesting thing about this pattern is that it’s actually for woven fabric.  It’s also a pajama pattern.  (In case you are wondering, it’s McCall’s 6848.)

Fitting the exercise tank (Pattern and Branch)

Fitting the exercise tank (Pattern and Branch)

This pattern is quickly becoming one of my most used, but least made for its intended purpose–sleepwear.  ;)

So, with all that build-up, you might still remember that we were talking about fitting the gray tank.  Fitting is an area that is still dark in my mind.  I don’t know how to do it, really, but I guess I have to figure it out sometime if I’m ever going to turn the light on, so to speak.

In order to fit this tank, I tried something that I had just tried on a friend’s shirt that had gaping armholes.  I took a triangle out from under the arms.  The triangle was about one and a half inches wide and tapered into the old seamline about six or seven inches down.  I read somewhere that taking the shoulders up can also help with a gaping neckline, so I tried that, too, taking out a small triangle that was about half an inch wide on the side closest to the neck and that tapered to nothing at the other side.  Does that make sense?  Here are some pictures, so you can see what I’m talking about.

Fitting the exercise tank (Pattern and Branch)This is the side seam.

Here is how it looks on:

Fitting the exercise tank (Pattern and Branch)

 

Fitting the exercise tank (Pattern and Branch)

Here is a close-up of the shoulder seam.

Fitting the exercise tank (Pattern and Branch)

Here is what it looks like on:

Fitting the exercise tank (Pattern and Branch)

Not perfect, but I got to the point where I felt like I had mostly achieved success (especially since I have such limited fitting experience), and that if I kept fiddling with it, it would get worse or just never be finished.  And I need to finish projects in order to spur myself on toward new ones.

I basted these seams with a straight stitch first to test them out, which got me to the gym once.   (Yea!)  Then once I found that they were good, I went over them with a zig-zag stitch.  I’m sure they would have been mostly fine with a straight stitch, but the zig-zag seemed appropriate (Wow.  I almost wrote that it “seamed” appropriate.  Ha!)  In case anyone is wondering, I used a zig-zag that was 6 in width and 1 in length.  I’m not sure what that is.  Millimeters?  I should really know that.  All I do know is that it worked.  Here’s how it looks finished.

Fitting the exercise tank (Pattern and Branch)

Yea!  An early fitting success.  I’m sure as I go along learning to fit, I can get more and more picky, but in knitting, my mantra is, “Don’t be a stressed out knitter!”  That means that when starting out, you should just ignore your mistakes and keep going.  The more you learn, the easier (and less devastating) those mistakes will be.  As you get better, you can fix more, but in the beginning, the most important thing is to get something marginally wearable done so you can feel proud enough to try again.  Also, as far as this shirt and other knit fabric sewing projects are concerned, knits are forgiving, so I try not to be too hard on myself.

It’s nice to deal with sewing and art problems in the sense that you can make mistakes and learn from them.  Sometimes mistakes make you better, they always teach you something, and sometimes a mistake is just a bump on the road to an even better end-result than you originally envisioned.  Too bad for people like doctors and engineers that they can’t have that philosophy.  Mistakes there can equal death, but in sewing, they make you better.  Hooray for sewing!!!!

 

This is a Public Service Announcement. (Fabric! Yarn!)

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The day has finally come.  Pintuck & Purl, in Exeter, NH has opened its doors to the public.  You may remember that we’ve talked about them before.  When I heard a new fabric and yarn store was opening within driving distance of my house, I was pretty excited.  Thanks to the generosity of Maggie, the shop owner, I got to come in early, along with some other privileged people, and take a look around.  Now I get to show YOU some pictures.  That way you’ll know what you are looking for when you head there yourself.  Because you are going to want to.  (I’m already plotting my return.)

First impression:  Wow…and Yes!!!!

All the fabrics I always read about, but don’t really know how they feel are there, in the flesh fiber.  I’ve slowed down on my knitting in recent years, but they have some pretty tempting stuff in that department, too.  As anyone who knows me can tell you, I can go on at length about things I’m excited about, but maybe I should spare you the verbal gush and give you some visual gushing instead.  Let’s take a little tour of the shop:

Pintuck & Purl Open House (Pattern and Branch)Let’s start with this super-cute classroom space.  This is to your right as you enter.  Maggie also has this awesome calendar (I want one!) showing everything going on in the shop for the month.  (You can also view this on her website.)

Pintuck & Purl Open House (Pattern and Branch)To your left as you enter, and around a little wall, is a cozy space for hanging out, knitting, chatting.  We all know making things isn’t only about the things themselves.  It also has so much to do with sharing, whether that means talking to a friend as we knit or creating something for someone we love.  I think this space will really facilitate that.

Pintuck & Purl Open House (Pattern and Branch)

Here’s a wider view of the shop (That’s Maggie cutting some AWESOME linen I bought.  I cannot WAIT to use that stuff.).  The door and classroom space are to my left, and you are looking at the front counter that you will see as you come in.  The hang-out space is beyond the wall in the back left.  I suppose the building is really a rectangle, but the way the shop is divided makes it feel spacious and cozy at the same time.

Let’s look at some of the lovely materials you might find at Pintuck & Purl, shall we?

Pintuck & Purl Open House (Pattern and Branch)Maggie is stocking some great indie sewing patterns as well as gorgeous fabric.  Check out that pink voile on the cutting table–that was my other purchase.  So soft!!!

I only had about an hour there, and I spent so much time examining fabric, that I didn’t even get a chance to look at all the patterns!  Darn.  I’ll have to go back.  ;)

Pintuck & Purl Open House (Pattern and Branch)

For those who like quilting or just the great prints you find on quilting cotton, she also has a really lovely selection of quilting fabric that can walk the line between quilting and apparel.

Pintuck & Purl Open House (Pattern and Branch)

Need some notions?  Check!

Pintuck & Purl Open House (Pattern and Branch)

Cool vintage patterns?  Check!

Pintuck & Purl Open House (Pattern and Branch)

Pintuck & Purl Open House (Pattern and Branch)

Vintage buttons?  Check!  Check!

Pintuck & Purl Open House (Pattern and Branch)

Because I am becoming frighteningly obsessed with sewing, this post is a little more sewing-focused, but that doesn’t mean the shop is.  There are plenty of goodies for knitters as well.  The yarn was really gorgeous.

Pintuck & Purl Open House (Pattern and Branch)

Loved this stuff!!

Look at this wall of knitting needles below.

Pintuck & Purl Open House (Pattern and Branch)

Pintuck & Purl Open House (Pattern and Branch)

Despite the fact that I already have at least two stitch gauges, I was tempted by these.

Pintuck & Purl Open House (Pattern and Branch)

I still haven’t gotten over my hunger for colors after last winter, so I had fun looking in here, and…

Pintuck & Purl Open House (Pattern and Branch)

…in here!

So, when you go to Pintuck & Purl, look for this red building.  This is where you are going.

Pintuck & Purl Open House (Pattern and Branch)

Then go right on in, say hi to Maggie, and equip yourself for your next project!

Pintuck & Purl

50 Lincoln Street

Exeter, NH

603-418-7175

http://pintuckandpurl.com/