Crane Beach, Ipswich, Massachusetts
I think it’s time for a little catch-up around here. I took a break from sewing bathing suits after making my tests runs to try a few pattern alterations and to begin exploring exercise clothing. My goals were to give my basic Alabama Chanin long-sleeved t-shirt pattern tapered sleeves and a boat neck, to turn a New Look dress pattern into a t-shirt with a curved hem, to make an exercise shirt, and to make some exercise leggings.
During the winter I had wanted a long-sleeved boat (bateau) neck shirt pattern. I had some fabric in mind for it and I thought it would be a useful addition to my pattern library since it’s a style that is versatile enough to work in casual and more dressed up settings. I took the basic t-shirt pattern with long, fluted sleeves from the book Alabama Studio Sewing + Design and, using the directions in Gertie’s New Book for Better Sewing, tried to create a boat neck that would not be so wide as to show undergarments, but would still have that classic look. I also decided to taper the sleeves so they would no longer flare out at the bottom. I think the sleeve alteration went well, but the neckline needs to come together in a point at the sides rather than being a flattened oval. Here is my test garment, made from knit sheets and sewn with yellow thread for contrast.
I’d call this a partial win because even though it doesn’t fit my entire vision, the sleeves are good, and my wardrobe desperately needed some brightly colored t-shirts for spring. I can always come back and work on the neckline later.
Next is my alteration of New Look 0595 from dress to t-shirt. I love raglan sleeve t-shirts and have been looking for just the right pattern, so I decided to experiment with altering this one.
Because it has a lot of ease, and I would be making it with a knit fabric, I sized way down and made the 10 (going by my measurements, I should have made a 14/16). I traced the curved hem of a button down shirt that I like to get the hem shape, and decided to bind the bottom edge a la Alabama Chanin by simply covering it with a folded piece of jersey cut on the cross-grain and stitching with a stretch stitch (in this case, a zig-zag). Here is version one:
Version one turned out shorter than I had planned and anticipated, so I added a few inches and came up with version two.
My too-short shirt and the sleeves of version two were made from some clearance fabric (probably poly/spandex). I’m hoping it doesn’t pill too badly and get gross, but we’ll see. Remember these leggings? The fabric on them is pretty pilled/nasty now, so they don’t make it out of the house any more. For the front and back of the second shirt I used some skirts from Old Navy that I don’t wear anymore and, by a happy accident, I cut an extra front and back, so I dug out the knit sheets again to add sleeves and got this second just-right shirt:
You can’t see it very well in these shots, but the skirts had some seaming on them that adds to the interest of these shirts and also makes me look like I did more work than I actually did. Nice!
Version Two: a hit!
Next up is my first try at an exercise shirt. I was intrigued by PatternReview’s Activewear Contest (although I didn’t enter) and I love looking through the clothing and patterns on Melissa Fehr’s website, FehrTrade. So, thanks to some wicking fabric and poly/spandex from Joann Fabrics and McCall’s 6848, I ventured forth.
This McCall’s pattern is one you may remember from when I made these shorts in a wax resist/Ankara fabric. The pattern is actually for pajamas, but the shirt was perfect for the gym.
This was really fast and easy to sew. Even though this pattern is for wovens rather than knits, I went with my measurements and made a medium. I like workout tops that are a little loose for airflow. This one feels great. For the edges, I hemmed the bottom by folding the fabric up and sewing with a zig-zag stitch, and for the arm and neck edges, I cut strips of my back fabric cross-grain, folded them over the raw edges, and zig-zagged them on. Since the knit fabric won’t fray, you don’t have to fold the edges of the binding under or double fold it at the hem (or finish any edges on the inside). I love knits!
When I went to they gym to test it out, I felt like the coolest person there. I would definitely make this one again (and probably will).
Workout shirt: a hit!
Lastly, I made myself some leggings using the same wicking fabric I used for the front of my shirt (above) and a self-drafted pattern (you can see a post on that here). This was a bit of a learning experience. The pants came together quickly and easily and, while not as stretchy as the fabric I used the first time I sewed this pattern, I could get them on fine. Here’s what they look like:
Not too bad. Maybe the fabric is a little thin, but it was a start. I took them to the gym to test them out just by shooting some baskets–nothing too strenuous.
First, I realized this:
Oops. The waistband’s a little loose. OK. I could fix that. I folded it over for the time being, and kept shooting baskets. It was winter. I was cranky. I needed some form of exercise.
Then, I had this problem. Can you see what it is?
Hm. My pants started to slide down a bit. The crotch was getting lower and lower as I hopped around and chased the basketball. Nothing indecent, but not what you want out of the pants you wear to exercise in. Good thing I wasn’t on a treadmill! I had to go through this sort of thing a few times:
Pull up one side.
Pull up the other side.
Make sure the front is pulled up and fold that waistband over again.
Hm. Maybe this was more than an elastic problem. Luckily, no one is really looking at you as much as you think they are, so it wasn’t like I was a spectacle or anything. However, I started to think that maybe this problem had something to do with my inexperience and, um, my fabric choice. I went back to Joann’s and looked. This fabric only has about 8% spandex and definitely stretches more in one direction than the other. So, these leggings got chalked up to “a learning experience” and they are going back with the other fabric to be reused in another garment. I also bought myself the FehrTrade PB Jam Leggings Pattern to one day try exercise pants again.
Exercise Leggings: a miss and a craft fail (but a good learning experience).
I’m hoping to finish one last project and then get back to bathing suits (and more!). I really, really want to try adding underwires to the Soma Swimsuit while simultaneously turning Bikini Variation 2 into a tankini. Even after plenty of online research, I’m not confident I know what to do as far as adding the support I want. Any advice? I think I’ve been avoiding it. It could bomb or it could BE the bomb! Stay tuned!!!
Hi, readers! If you are local to southern New Hampshire or the North Shore of Massachusetts, you may be interested to hear that we’re going to have a new fabric and yarn store in the area soon. I was so excited to hear from Laurel of Retromat Vintage that her friend Maggie is opening a brick and mortar store called Pintuck & Purl in Exeter, New Hampshire. Maggie says she hopes to open by the end of May or beginning of June, but stay posted for updates!
Anyone who sews or knits knows that sourcing materials is one of the most exciting and frustrating parts of making. There are so many great online shops, but there is no substitute for being able to feel and see the goods in person. It looks like Maggie will also have classes, so plan a field trip! You can keep an eye on her blog or facebook page for more information and, to tide you over until she opens, she also has an etsy store. Hooray for more fabric, yarn, and knowledge! Good luck, Maggie!
Pintuck & Purl
50 Lincoln Street
Exeter, NH 03833
Back in college, I discovered something amazing: seed catalogues. I had no idea there was any such thing. Then, Martha Stewart did an article in her magazine about seed companies. There were so many great options. I think I ordered any catalogue I could get for free. My favorite became Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company.
I always sign up to get one of their catalogues, and I save their catalogues from previous years to use for planning or to give to friends. The arrival of the Baker Creek seed catalogue gets me excited for spring and all things “garden”.
Of course you can buy seed packets at any number of stores. I can and do buy seeds from local stores, but not everyone has purple carrots, green and purple beans, striped tomatoes, or strange and wonderful squashes that I’ve read about in the pages of books.
The only downside of all these super-cool vegetables, fruits, and herbs is that I have a hard time narrowing my focus. Even after I eliminate some of my ideas, I still tend to have so many things I want to try that it can get a bit crazy. (One year I got really enthusiastic and started over 200 tomato plants from seed. It was actually a relief when some of them got destroyed in an accident. :( Consider yourself warned!!!) If, however, you want to cook with things you can’t easily find in stores, here’s your chance to grow your own.
My one regret on this topic is that I didn’t post this sooner. Unless they’ve reprinted, I think they may have run out of free catalogues for this year, but sign up for next year’s or look at their offerings online if you are thinking about what to plant this year. I CAN’T WAIT FOR SPRING!!!! ;)
Ever heard of pysanky? Yes? No? Pysanky are Ukrainian Easter eggs. (You can find more information here and here.) They are made using a wax resist technique much like batik. Every year around this time, St. John the Russian, a Russian Orthodox church in Ipswich, offers a few pysanky workshops. I was able to make it to both of them this year, once with some friends, and once with my eldest daughter. Check out what we made:
At the beginning of each workshop, Julianna and Xennia Scheider explain some of the history and technique behind making pysanky. They both have decades of experience, and it’s really amazing to see the eggs they and Julianna’s sister, Seraphima, have created over the years.
To decorate the eggs, you begin with white eggs and a small tool called a kistka that is like a stick about the length a pencil with a very small funnel attached to the end. You heat the funnel over a flame and then scrape beeswax into it, heat it again until the wax melts, and then use it to draw whatever you would like to remain white onto your egg. Once you’ve done that, you put the egg into the lightest color of dye you plan to use. After a few minutes, remove the egg, dry it, and cover whatever areas you want to remain the color you just used Then submerge it into the next color, and so on, until you finish with the darkest color you want to use. It involves a bit of planning backwards and a good combination of aiming for a certain design and letting go of creative control. You never know quite how the colors will come out.
In the picture above, you can see the three eggs I made over two weeks on the left. The fourth from the left was a Jackson Pollock inspired collaboration between my daughter and myself. She made the two eggs on the right. The first egg on the left I had planned to make purple, but in the end it became a deep blue. The next one over was going to be green, turquoise, and royal blue, but it came out a little different. If you can approach the process with a little planning and a little letting go, you can really enjoy making the eggs and seeing the surprise of how they turn out in the end.
There is a lot symbolism you can incorporate into your eggs, or you can just experiment. This year I used some of the example pictures they gave us to cobble together designs I liked. The collaboration egg was pure experiment. My daughter’s red egg was her trial egg, and she made the Batman egg for my husband. Her first version smashed on the floor, but she put aside her disappointment and started again, finishing with plenty of time.
Once you go through the process of drawing with the wax and dying the egg, you put your egg on a rack of some sort in a warm over to soften the wax. When it has softened enough, you wipe the wax off, revealing your creation! It’s so exciting to see everyone’s eggs coming out of the oven and being revealed.
You can see a faint “S + L” that my daughter drew on the egg we worked on together.
I have yet to buy a kit and try this at home, but it wouldn’t be hard to do. You can find kits in many places, including amazon. Julianna told me that the dyes will usually last about three years if you add a bit of vinegar to top them off each year. You can also find all kinds of books with examples of amazing eggs at your library or online. One of the oddest parts for me was that we didn’t blow these eggs out. Xennia said that over the years, it just feels like the insides turn to dust. If you aren’t comfortable with this, however, you can blow them out first. If you choose not to, just make sure you store them where air can circulate around them or they may crack (and stink). I learned that lesson the hard way last year after storing the ones I had made the year before in a Ziploc bag. Eggs may make us think of spring, but that smell certainly won’t remind you of a flower-filled day.
Have you ever tried this? If you never have, I hope you do, but watch out! It’s pretty addictive. ;)
Happy first day of Spring to all you people of the Northern Hemisphere. Any New England readers? Yeah, sorry. It doesn’t feel like spring here. After trying to be “in the moment” and enjoy winter and all that, I got kind of grumpy yesterday. But every time I started to complain, that idea that unhappiness often comes from expectations not meeting reality kept swimming to the forefront of my mind. Maybe I needed to change my expectations. I have to tell you that I’m not doing a wonderful job of this, but I’m trying to reframe my expectation from, “Spring should be here RIGHT NOW!!!!!” to “Spring will come…someday.” Like I said, it’s a struggle.
I was preparing a spring-related post for you yesterday when I found these VERY wintry pictures on my camera, some of which were too snowy not to share, so here’s a look back at winter in northeast Massachusetts, where we broke records for snowiest winter, coldest month, longest stretch below freezing, and so on. And I give all the Canadians and northern New Englanders permission to laugh and say, “Cry me a river–that’s normal for us.” Southerners, though….if you felt gypped by winter and are really sad you had no snow, please come visit. You can take some of ours home with you!
I went with my parents to look at the snow on Crane Beach in Ipswich, Massachusetts. When I was younger, we lived mostly in the southeastern parts of the US, and I couldn’t fathom the idea that there could be snow on a beach, because beaches were where you went when it was warm. Even after all these years of living in New England, I still think it’s weird/cool that there can be snow on a beach.
My Dad took this picture of my Mom and me by one of the walls of snow. We couldn’t believe how high they were!
Now, I’m praying every day for spring. I hope you are having a wonderful, sunny, lovely, flower-filled spring if you find yourself in the northern half of the world.
I am so excited to share Variation Two of the Soma Swimsuit with you today! This is my last test garment for this pattern, and I think it’s definitely the coolest and most flattering, at least on me. The fact that its structure is naturally somewhat supportive probably helps.
Enough talk, though. Here it is:
I really love how this came out. It kind of makes me wish I had more of this fabric so I could use it to try making a tankini, but I’ve used it all up, and Girl Charlee, the site I ordered my fabric from, doesn’t have any more. I will say, though, that while I love the combination of these two fabrics, the coral one, which is a midweight, is much easier to sew with than the lightweight chevron print. Lesson learned. I think my final products with the midweight fabric were much better and more professional looking than what I managed to make out of the lightweight, too.
So, details on the top:
I followed the directions, but used Lauren’s idea to prevent any, um, textural show-through in the front. She used about four layers of lining and one layer of the outer fabric in the cups. This was a bit tricky, but I persevered, and it came through alright in the end. My machine was able to handle all the fabric layers, which was a huge relief. I think the only other thing I did differently, was that I sewed a double line of stitches on the top and bottom elastic. I hadn’t sewn down far enough and the elastic was flipping up a little bit at the chevron fabric. Hopefully this will help. Here’ s the suit before the final edging elastic went in:
So, here are my questions now: If I were to make this into a tankini (kind of like this), could I add a little more support like an underwire or a shelf bra? Would that even be a good idea? I definitely don’t know what I’m doing in that area (it doesn’t help that I forgot to put the shelf bra into last year’s suit, either). How much chance is there that I can force it to work? I think I would make it one size bigger next time, so I want to make sure it still has good support. I want everything held in place!
I’ve contemplated taking a break from this pattern and making one or two of the Jalie swimsuits, in the hopes that those patterns might show me my answer. The Soma suit has a great stylistic edge, but Jalie has years of experience on its side. I also think I might need to change gears completely for a short time. My head is starting to swim with all these bathing suit questions (no pun intended), and I can hardly walk into a clothing store without snapping a picture of inspiring bathing suits. I really, really, really want an awesome suit that I love by summer (and I want to be awesome at sewing bathing suits), but I may be on the edge of bathing suit burnout, so perhaps I’ll sew up a few t-shirts or a skirt as a break, and then get back to it. Does anyone have any tips on adding support to women’s suits or do you have a favorite bathing suit pattern?
I will admit, learning how to sew these things is very empowering. I think I might be getting a little arrogant (my pride is outflanking my skills). I look at the price of bathing suits, and I think, “Yeah, right!!! I can make that! And it will cost less, be cooler, and be unique!” Yeah, maybe I need to step back a few paces…
Still, check out my work as a whole:
It feels good to have done all that, even with the imperfections. And giving myself the opportunity to practice makes me feel like I can get the obligatory mistakes out of the way on the path to ultimate bathing suit domination. Someday, even Anthropologie shoppers will wish they had my suits! Wahahahaha!!!!
And on that note, I think I’m going to sign off and look for something different to sew.
Remember when I was doing all the sewing with Polartec? I made the skirt, the dress, a pair of pants that didn’t make it on the blog because instead of fitting me, they fit my child, and a cardigan that has yet to make an appearance here. So, while I’m currently still busy with bathing suits, I thought I would show you this cardigan that I sewed just a little while back. Don’t worry though; once I test out my latest bathing suit top, we’ll talk bathing suits again.
This cardigan was made from McCall’s 6844. I was completely inspired by Bianca’s green jersey version, and would still love to make one like hers someday, but since we seem to be living through a Canadian winter in Massachusetts this year, fleece was more seasonally appropriate. I made it with the same Polartec Classic 200 Sweater Look fabric from Mill Yardage as the pieces I mentioned above.
I made a medium of View C, which has a shawl collar and a high/low peplum.
Thanks to the many reviews on the Pattern Review site, I skipped the interfacing in the collar and sewed the sleeve in flat. Also, despite what the pattern says, the front does meet, so I debated adding a closure, but skipped it in the end.
I liked the idea of modelling this in the snow while also wearing the red shirt I made so, on a “warm” day in the 20’s (Fahrenheit), we went out and took some pictures.
I have to say, this was a really quick and easy pattern. The cardigan is comfortable, super warm, and looks really cool with the variable length of the peplum. I like that the fleece fabric has enough body to make the back and sides stand out in a really interesting way. I noticed on Pattern Review that a lot of reviewers loved this pattern, and were churning them out for themselves and as gifts for others. I was not so generous and only made one for myself. Selfish sewing is my favorite…
(Maybe someday I’ll have made all I
want need and by then my skills will also be awesome, and I’ll start making things for other people instead of only myself. I’ll keep you posted on that. It might be awhile.)
Next up (probably): more bathing suits!!!
Don’t you think the snow is an appropriate backdrop?
Here are my notes and thoughts for you. I sized the bottoms down from the medium that fit my measurements to a small and the top of the one-piece from a small to an extra small after testing out the high-rise bottoms and the bikini top variation 1, which is a similar style to the one-piece. I think that for the low-rise bottoms, I should go back up to a medium, although I like the high-rise bottoms in a small. I also used a different elastic technique on the low-rise bottoms and I think it makes them look like…well, have you ever seen a swim diaper? Kind of like that. The good news is that they’re not going anywhere, but they give me some serious muffin-top, if you know what I mean.
The one piece is easy to put together even if you are different sizes on the top and the bottom. Because the back doesn’t close, you just need to make sure you mark the midpoint of your top and bottom pieces and line those up. (The pattern tells you to line up the markings on the top with the side seams of the bottom, but if you just mark the mid-points of top and bottom pieces, everything still works out.) I definitely heard some popping stitches as I pulled the one-piece on, but thankfully they were basting stitches. Everything felt pretty secure, but if you are someone who likes support up top, this is not the suit for you. Sadly, I do like some support or else Speedo-like compression, so I think I will not make the one-piece in my final fabric. I also wonder how the fold-over elastic is going to hold up over time. Still, the suit is wearable, professional, and a vast improvement over last year’s attempt. Also, I really like the mid-weight fabric in the one-piece as opposed to the light-weight fabric I used for the bottoms.
Here are a few close-ups in case you want to see details:
I still have bikini top variation 2 to go, and I have high hopes for more support and coverage from that pattern. If all goes well, I hope to turn it into a tankini in its final version. I’ll keep you posted!
If you are looking for more details on pattern, fabric, notions, etc., see my last post here.
I feel like I’ve been sucked into the sewing vortex. Without the chance to easily go outside for walks or have as much time to myself due to all the snow days, all I’ve been doing is sewing, thinking about sewing, reading about sewing, trying to avoid thinking about spring and summer, and looking at fabric websites to fuel my sewing. I like it best when the blog reflects a wider range of things than just that, but sewing is mostly what’s going on. Give me a month and I’ll probably be back to watching surfing documentaries to make it through the end of winter, but for now, I have to keep my head in the game and think winter, winter, winter. That’s why I’m sewing bathing suits. ;)
Here’s a peek at what’s going on over here:
I’ve decided that I WILL conquer swimsuits (hope I don’t have to eat my words). Maybe you recall last year’s attempt. This year, I plan to try again. I got the Soma Swimsuit pattern from The Papercut Collective for Christmas, and I want to try all three suit options (two two-pieces and a one-piece). Sorry to have to tell you up front that I won’t be modeling them for you. This isn’t about body image issues. It’s about the fact that I don’t want pictures of myself in undergarments or bathing suits on the internet. Everyone has their threshold. I will, however, take pictures of the suits (not on me) if and when I finish them.
I ordered some fabric from Girl Charlee and elastic from The Fabric Fairy and, at the wise advice of my husband, decided to do some test garments with leftover materials while I waited for the new materials to arrive. I’m glad I did because it’s giving me a chance to figure out my size and to freely make mistakes without ruining my “final” fabric. I made a small top and medium bottoms, but while they fit, I think they will fit better if I go down a size, so that’s what I’m going to try next. Their sizing is rather more generous than ready-to-wear sizes.
The salmon colored bottoms are mediums and the chevron bottoms are smalls. Thankfully both have the same amount of coverage, but the smalls feel more secure. I’m really not a bikini wearer, but there are times I just want to sit at the beach with a tank top on over my suit, and not have my stomach get all sweaty. Plus, I’m wondering about making bikini top version 2 into a tankini.
The shower has become the testing ground.
While the top fits (you can adjust it a lot to get the perfect fit), I noticed that the bust darts were off-center, so I sized down for my tests of the one-piece and bikini top version 2. I don’t wear an extra small in ANYTHING, so if you sew this, make sure you take your measurements with the knowledge that you may still have to size down.
Now I’m working on making a pair of low-rise bottoms, the one-piece, and bikini top version 2.
A word on supplies: I ordered fabric and lining as well as swimsuit elastic and fold-over elastic. I had leftover bra rings from a project I never made (I got them at Sew Sassy). I had to buy a few bathing suit hooks at Joann Fabrics as well as some bulky/wooly nylon thread for my bobbin thread and 100% polyester thread (I chose Gutermann) for my top thread. (I don’t have a serger, so these will be sewn on a conventional machine using a stretch needle and a walking foot.) I did not order the bra strapping or swimsuit cups/foam for making cups. I really wanted to, but the cost was starting to get prohibitive. Here is the problem I ran into: if I wanted the best prices, I had to order my supplies from about four different websites. But then I would have to pay shipping at every one of those websites. I searched the web for two days and finally found one site that had ever single supply I might want or need: Fabric Depot. The hardest part, though, is that their shipping costs are pretty high, so having limited funds, I decided it was time to follow Tim Gunn’s perennial advice and “make it work”. I don’t want to spend all my hoarded Christmas money on a single sewing project.
In case you are thinking about making this suit yourself, here are some helpful blog posts around the web.