Hi, everyone! It’s fall! Yay! While I still have a few summer projects to show you, time really got away from me this week, and I didn’t get a chance to take pictures of them. What I do have pictures of, though, are a few projects perfect for the start of fall: two more Twig + Tale leaf blankets and a quick upcycle. All of these projects are almost a year old (yikes!), but just haven’t made it to the blog yet.
Last October, I whipped up a Quaking Aspen Leaf Blanket from the North American collection for a friend that was visiting. I used a golden corduroy left over from some pants I made since aspen leaves turn yellow, and for the other side, I used the last scraps of this bit of green blanket someone gave me years ago.
I also used it on my own Monstera Leaf blanket (which I still love and use all the time). This blanket came together really fast, as these blankets all do, and was a fun present to give my friend.
The other leaf blanket I made was the English Oak from the European Collection. I wanted a blanket to use on our couch, and I let my husband pick which leaf shape he liked best since he loves trees. I used a cream twill originally from Fabric Mart that I have used in many projects, and I backed it with a mystery home dec fabric that feels like cotton.
I have probably had this fabric since before I began sewing regularly. I really had to piece it together to make it work!
While I like the shape of the oak leaf blanket, I don’t love the finished object as much as the others that I have made. I think it’s something with my fabric choice. It’s good functionally, but it’s just not my favorite one. Still, it works well, and I’m glad I made it.
One other project I did last October was a quick little upcycle. Sometimes it’s the details that make a garment, and that was the case here. I thrifted a nice flannel shirt for my husband, but it wasn’t quite his style, so I kept it for myself. I liked it, but it kind of needed something. I realized that if I just changed out the buttons for some really fun ones, it would give the shirt a distinctive detail without much work required and would make it more interesting and fun to wear.
Of course, this completely dovetailed with my desire to try out some of the super fun buttons by Tabitha Sewer that Pintuck & Purl had in stock. Yes! I chose some that are neon pink with neon orange edges…or maybe neon orange with pink edges? These buttons aren’t cheap, so ironically, my “small details” cost more than the shirt, but oh, well. Tabitha Sewer has so many fun buttons, but so far I have held off buying more until I have a specific project for them. Adding some to this shirt turned it from something a little too normal into something really fun! That also means I wear it a lot more. I am so motivated by good colors in my creative work. I just love the fun they bring.
All these projects are great for fall! Have you tried making a leaf blanket? Do you have favorite details you add to bring a garment from just ok to extra special? Let me know!
Oh, boy, this was a big one! Today’s project is the Arrowhead Cardigan by Anna Cohen for Imperial Stock Ranch, and it took me a long time and a lot of head scratching to figure it out, but I did it!
This cardigan was definitely above my skill level, but I’m happy to say that perseverance paid off, I learned a ton, I conquered some fears (steeking!), and made it to the finish line. And it fits, which I have struggled with in the past.
Now for the details!
Sweaters are a big undertaking when it comes to finding and choosing yarn, especially if you want to watch your costs. Plainly put, it’s expensive to knit a sweater. Yarn cost is always a factor for me, especially on larger projects. Thankfully, there is a wide range of yarn and price points, if you are willing to dig a bit. And I love the digging–it’s like a treasure hunt.
I found what I was after online at WEBS (yarn.com) in the closeout section. Univeral Yarn Deluxe Worsted offered some bright colors in a 100% wool yarn (non-superwash, worsted spun) at a great price. Reviews were a bit mixed, but I decided to take the risk. My skin isn’t super sensitive to wool and I planned to wear this over a shirt.
I ordered three skeins of “Blushing Bride” (pink) and seven skeins of “Strip Light Yellow”. With shipping, my cost was around $50. That’s more than I like to spend on fabric for a sewing project, but for a sweater, that’s really economical. When the yarn came, it looked and felt great. Before ordering, I had done my best to determine if the colors were far enough apart in value (gray scale) that they would stand out distinctly, and they were. In person, they were just as good.
I was really struck by this pattern when I saw it. The design was beautiful and it looked oversized and cozy in all the best ways. I looked at others’ projects on Ravelry and really liked the sweater in different colors as well. Also, I have to admit the original styling for the pattern was right up my alley, and it didn’t hurt that I knit most of this while watching the first 13 seasons of Heartland (a Canadian show set on a horse and cattle ranch) with my daughter. Sometimes I think of this as my “Heartland Cardigan”. All I need is a horse and a farm to go with it! Oh, and a lifetime supply of farming knowledge. You know, the little things. 😉
My gauge came out pretty close to correct at about 17 stitches and 16/16.5 rounds over 4″ x 4″ (the pattern calls for 17.5 stitches and 21 rounds over 4″ x 4″ (10 cm x 10 cm)). I never worry too much about row gauge since I can change the length of the sweater as I knit. I had already gone down from the suggested needle size of US 8 to a US 6, and since I am typically a loose knitter and this sweater has plenty of positive ease, I went down one size as well from the large to the medium. For my body ribbing, I used US 4’s. Since knitting smaller circumferences can tighten your knitting, for my sleeves I went up to US 7’s with US 5’s for the sleeve ribbing. And then I just hoped and prayed it would all work out.
I decided I wanted the pink to be my dominant color (the one that would stand out the most), and after looking through some notes on Ravelry, I decided to catch my floats every 7 stitches. I recolored all my charts so I wouldn’t get confused and knit the wrong color (like I did in one of my Sparks socks), and I made full, colored charts of the sleeves so that I wouldn’t make mistakes there. Those charts took me a long time to color and create, but it was so worth it!
When I tell you this pattern was above my skill level, I’m not kidding. I’ll admit that I am used to using patterns that hold my hand, and I love that. It gives me the confidence to dive into things I have never tried, knowing the help is there for me to figure it all out in the course of the project. There was a lot more assumed knowledge with this pattern, and occasionally I would have to think about a direction or next step for a few days or dig into some knitting books or the internet to figure out how I was supposed to proceed. It meant I made pretty slow progress, but the breaks to puzzle things out ended up paying off each time. I’ll skip the blow by blow description of what I did on each step, but if you could see my copy of this pattern, you would see margins filled with notes.
I have a theory that really, really wanting to make something can carry you through a big project, even if it’s beyond what you have done before. This sweater further solidified that idea in my mind.
If you take on this sweater, which is a good one, despite the complexity, you should note that there is an error in the medium size instructions. When you begin the body and have to join in the round, the part that says to knit 105 stitches should say 106 stitches. If you don’t change that, you will be short of the 220 stitches you are supposed to have after joining in the round. This will also impact your stitch counts as you go through the pattern. Sometimes you will have to add a stitch, sometimes two, at various points, so keep an eye on that. The charts were fine, by the way, it was just the written directions that were off.
Eek! A Steek!
This sweater is knit from the bottom up as one big tube, with panels of stitches in the areas you will have to open up for the front opening and the armholes.
You open these areas by sewing within that panel (I used my sewing machine) and then cutting down the middle.
Seems scary, right? And it was, but also exciting. I practiced on my swatch after doing lots of steek research on the internet, and that worked out well.
It’s such a crazy idea to cut your knitting, but it really works!
After doing that, whether at the front or sleeves, you pick up stitches to knit the sleeves and the ribbing around the front opening, and then later you knit facings to cover the raw edges and the sewing machine stitches. I worried that sewing down my facings would show from the outside, but it didn’t.
Since my row gauge was off, I decided to steek the front opening after finishing the body a little before the directions told me to. That way I could try the sweater on and see if my sleeves were at a length I liked before adding the final patterning and ribbing at the wrists and finishing them. Once I had steeked the front, I also blocked what I had to get a better sense of that sleeve length. And I was nervous, because I was not knitting quite as loosely as I had expected, so I just needed to see how things were going.
Doing all of this gave me a lot of helpful information, and I’m so glad I did it.
This is the project where the idea of using lifelines really solidified in my brain as well. I found the shoulder area especially confusing to knit, so before starting, I added some blue pearl cotton to my live stitches in case I messed up and had to rip back. Luckily, I didn’t have to rip back, but it was nice having that security. You can see a bunch of these blue lifelines three pictures up where I had just cut my front steek.
I began knitting in August of 2021 and I finally finished my sweater in March of 2022. Seven months! I didn’t work on this non-stop, and usually only put in time while watching TV on a lot of evenings. I’m really happy with how it came out and that it actually fits.
It’s very interesting, now that I have knit several sweaters that actually fit, to see what I reach for and what fits best in my current wardrobe. I don’t wear this quite as much as I thought I would since it can be a little hard to find pants and shirts to go under it, and I tend to reach for pullover styles more (my purple Wool & Honey sweater is my most-worn sweater by far). It’s very comfortable, though, and I like wearing it. It has pilled somewhat, but the pills are very easy to remove. It is not scratchy unless I am wearing a bag on my shoulder that presses it down, and then it is a little scratchy in that area. I feel like my yarn choice has paid off, however. I love how bright the sweater is, and the amazing designs in it. If you don’t look too closely, it sometimes looks like the sleeves match up with the pattern of the body. They don’t, of course, but it’s easy to think they do initially.
This sweater really stretched me, and taught me a lot. It helped me conquer the fear of steeking, and helped me realize that if I think long enough, and search hard enough, I can find the answers to a lot of knitting questions. This project made me feel like I levelled up, specifically in stranded colorwork, which is my current favorite area of knitting.
I entered this cardigan in the 2022 Topsfield Fair (in Topsfield, MA) and it won a first place ribbon!
I have finally achieved my dream from last summer. It may have taken me until nearly the end of this summer, but I did it nevertheless! That being said, I give myself an A+ for effort and concept, but only a C for execution.
So what did I make? Well, it’s really a “system” of clothes for summertime exploration. I made a bikini + rash guard that can be paired with my Supplex shorts for all manner of summer trips, whether they include water or not.
My daughter and I spent last summer exploring the area around where we live, and it was then I realized that the optimal clothes for this would include underwear that could get wet, shorts that could also get wet (or at least dry quickly), and a rash guard that could be worn as a t-shirt or be swapped for a t-shirt as needed. I made the Vero Beach Set shorts by Hey June Handmade in a quick-drying Supplex earlier this summer. Now I also have a basic sports bra and underwear style bikini from Butterick 4526 (View D) to be worn with a rash guard version of the Tilly and the Buttons Romy top.
The system works–it’s very comfortable and does what I want in terms of function. Where the rash guard and suit go a bit off the rails is in the fit/polish section of things. That being said, the fit is no worse than you would find in ready-to-wear (RTW) clothes, but those of us who sew know we can make better than RTW. (Sewing power!)
Let’s talk about each pattern.
Tilly and the Buttons Romy as rashguard
I bought a copy of the Romy top online from Chateau Sew & Sew, a new-to-me shop based in Louisiana, earlier this year with plans to make a unique t-shirt. I even have some great fabric set aside for it. As I was thinking about rash guards, though, I wondered if such a stylish shirt would also make a cute rash guard.
I didn’t want one that was too tight, but they are swimwear and typically tighter than a t-shirt, so I sized down one size to a 6 (Tilly has her own sizing system, so I’m using her size numbers here). I cut out my top from some poly/spandex swimwear fabric my husband got me last year from spandexbyyard.com. It feels substantial and didn’t seem see-through, so I didn’t line it. Also, I knew I would have a suit underneath if I was wrong about the opacity. Luckily, it was pretty darn opaque, as you can see from the photos of me wearing it further down. It stayed that way when wet, too.
I serged whenever possible, and used a dashed zigzag stitch on my regular machine when I couldn’t (I’m blanking on the name of that stitch right now…). It was a pretty easy, enjoyable sew. Tilly’s instructions and pictures are really top-notch (and fun with all the bright colors).
When I was done, I tried it on, and…something was just off. The shoulder fit was weird and the front draped in a way it wasn’t supposed to.
My husband helped me figure out a solution. I just folded the excess under in the front and zigzagged with that same dashed zigzag stitch. It wasn’t perfect, but it was better.
It’s very comfortable, but if I make this again, I really hope the larger size will fit my shoulders a bit better because I’m not sure how to fix it if it doesn’t! Also, I should note that the arms are comfortable, but if this were a regular t-shirt, I would want the sleeve hem circumference to be just a bit wider, so hopefully a larger size will fix that too.
It’s very comfortable to wear. It does float up a bit because it’s not super tight, but that doesn’t matter since I’m just wearing this for fun, not for any kind of sport competition. It stays wet for awhile after you swim in it, but it’s surprisingly comfortable despite that. I went swimming and then wore it afterward for a few hours while we did some exploring, and it worked great.
Butterick 4526, View D
Before making this, I went back and forth on whether to use this pattern or buy the Cottesloe Swimsuit from Megan Nielsen. Stylistically, they are very, very similar. Long ago, I made Butterick 4526, View C (one of the one-pieces), and had to count it as a fail due to poor pattern placement on my part, and excessive ease on the part of the pattern (not to mention, I forgot to sew in a shelf bra–haha, whoops!). Still, I already had this pattern, so I decided to give it one more try, but with the modification that I would make my finished size in this pattern match up with the finished measurements of the Cottesloe suit in my Megan Nielsen size.
I know there is always a lot of discussion in the sewing community about the ease in Big 4 patterns. I typically like the amount of ease included and nearly always make my size according to my measurements. The place I don’t trust the included ease is in situations like this–with a pattern that is a few years older (this is copyright 2005) and is for a garment that is supposed to have negative ease.
My decision to size down meant that even though my measurements put me in a 20/22 bust (C/D cup) and 22 waist and hip in the Butterick pattern, I needed to size down to a 14 bust (C/D cup) and 16 waist and hip. That’s pretty significant! To figure this out, I measured all the necessary pattern pieces minus seam allowance.
Except for showing you the photo of all the finished sizes above in case you are also sewing this, I won’t bore you with my notes, but trust me when I tell you there was a lot of measuring and math going on! The sizing down I did was possible because I had fabric with at least 50% stretch. Since my fabric was quite stretchy, I also didn’t add any extra length. This worked out well, thankfully.
Before sewing, I read through the instructions for this pattern. I think they would have been great at a time when we didn’t have the performance/swimwear fabrics we have now with their excellent stretch and recovery, when many people used sewing machines that may not have had a zigzag stitch, and almost no one had sergers. If you happen to be sewing with vintage fabric on a vintage machine, these instructions will probably work great for you. If you are using modern fabric and tools, there are better ways to sew a bathing suit.
Because I had modern fabric, a machine that could sew a zigzag, and a serger, I used the instructions in the Cottesloe sew-along. I also looked back at an older, but extremely helpful bit of information from a 2013 post on the Kaddiddlehopper blog all about swimwear. (If the link doesn’t work, you may be able to find it by Googling “Kadiddlehopper SwimAlong 2013 tips for a professional finish”.) This post gave me professional results on my first really successful bathing suit that I wore for years. Because of this post, I only used 1/4″ elastic at the neckline and used 3/8″ for the arm and leg holes. I really wish I had done that for the Mairin suit I made last year. (The leg holes on that suit do not feel secure. 1/4″ elastic there is just not enough!) I used 3/4″ elastic for the bottom of the bikini top and for the waist of the bottoms. I would have tried 1″, but didn’t have any. Luckily 3/4″ was great. I only used my serger for a few parts (basic construction). For inserting elastic, I used my regular machine with polyester thread in the needle and wooly/bulky nylon in my bobbin, another tip I picked up from the aforementioned blog post. I used a stretch needle, a walking foot, the lightest pressure on the presser foot (one on my machine) and a three-step zigzag (THAT’S what it’s called!) with a height of 6 and a length of 0.5, but you should test all that on scraps for yourself. I don’t think that particular height and width are typical. I like them because when I sew them on my test scraps and then stretch hard in both directions, the stitches don’t pop.
I used up some leftover shiny lining for the top and the more cottony-feeling lining I got from Spandex by Yard last year on the bottoms. (Spandex by Yard is where I got the pink swimwear fabric from too, also last year.) Both linings work great, and I never notice the difference when wearing this.
The suit looks a little tortured when you see it flat, but it fits pretty well when it’s on. It’s not a perfect fit, but it’s very secure and supportive, and really does the job.
I really like this sort of bathing suit system. It’s really comfortable and has the functional benefits of a bikini with the modesty of a tankini, and the comfort and versatility of regular activewear clothes. While sewing doesn’t always save money over RTW, I think swimwear (like bra making) is an exception. I know I saved money on the outfit as a whole.
I would make this style of bikini again to wear under a rash guard as a more versatile and comfortable tankini, although I don’t know if I would use the Romy as a rash guard pattern again. There are a lot of other great patterns out there that I would probably try instead.
If I do make this style of suit again, I would happily fork over the money for either the Megan Nielsen Cottesloe or the newly released Jalie Claudia Bikinis. The Cottesloe is basically the more modern, better-fitting version of Butterick 4526 with the one and two piece options, plus Megan Nielsen’s excellent instructions. Jalie’s Claudia is a little different and doesn’t have the one-piece option, but comes from a company that has vast amounts of experience drafting swimwear and other performance-wear with a truly amazing size range. Either way, you couldn’t go wrong. As for Butterick 4526, I’m glad I tried it, but I’m ready to move on.
Finally, I would definitely make more Vero Beach shorts. Those get an A+ for concept and an A+ for execution and fit. The system as a whole works and is really, really great for outdoor summertime adventures. I’m so happy I finally got around to making it, even with its imperfections.
After the post on my cardigan from a few weeks ago, I thought I would follow up with some pictures and a tutorial of the process I used to create the self-welt or stand pockets on the front. This comes straight out of my 1976 edition of the Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Sewing, my favorite sewing reference. If you also have this edition of the book, I’m using information from pages 284 and 288. This process isn’t hard, but it does require paying attention and being careful. It also requires frequent pressing, unless you have a fabric like this fleece that shouldn’t press.
Make a template
Before starting my pockets, I made a template out of some cardboard so that I could be sure my pockets would be the same size and that my pocket openings would be perfect rectangles.
Once I figured out just where I wanted to place my pockets, I traced around my templates with a Chaco liner. Use the marking tool of your choice.
I will tell you that I have used this yellow Chaco liner twice on light-colored materials (this cardigan, and this bag) and it does not always wash out of lighter colored fabrics. I should probably get a different color to try in these situations, but I didn’t really think about that until too late. It’s ok, though. Most people won’t notice it.
Mark your pocket
After tracing my pocket template, the next thing to do was to thread-trace the shape, extending my lines a bit beyond the corners (at least 3/4″). This helps you to see the shape of the pocket from both sides. The directions say you should also thread-trace a center line through the middle of your rectangle, parallel to the long sides of the pocket. That is up to you. I did this, but didn’t find it as helpful as I thought it would be.
Because this is a heavyweight fabric, I didn’t need to interface it. If your fabric is lightweight or loosely woven, you will need to cut interfacing about four inches longer and two inches wider than your pocket opening, center it over the opening and baste around the edges (for sew-in interfacing) or fuse (for fusible interfacing) before you begin to thread-trace. Then thread-trace through both the garment fabric and the interfacing.
Create your welt + pocket bag piece
Now it’s time to cut out the fabric that will form your welt and your pocket. You will be cutting out a rectangle with the grainline going the long way on the rectangle. Rather than using fabric from my main garment, I used my accent fabric. The length of your rectangle should equal two times the desired finished depth of the pocket plus two times the desired depth of the welt. The width of your rectangle should equal the width of the pocket opening plus one inch for seam allowance (this gives you a 1/2″ seam allowance on each side). In order to keep lint from catching in the corners of your pocket when you wear your garment, round the corners with your scissors. You could fold your fabric lengthwise and then widthwise and trim all the corners at once so they would have a uniform shape.
Now fold your pocket in half horizontally and mark that line by pressing or with chalk or other marking tool. I chose chalk since I couldn’t press. If marking with chalk, mark on the wrong side.
Build the pocket
Now place your pocket piece with its right side on the right side of your garment, aligning the line you just marked with the bottom stitching line of your pocket. Pin in place.
Turn the garment to the wrong side. Using a short stitch length, stitch both layers together by sewing carefully around the rectangle, along the thread-traced lines, starting in the center of one of the long sides and pivoting at each corner. When you come back to the point where you started, sew over a few of your beginning stitches to lock them in place. Do not sew at all on the center line that you (optionally) marked. Now you can remove your thread-tracing.
On your pocket piece, mark the center of your pocket, parallel to the long sides. You can also mark 1/2″ in and parallel to the short sides of your rectangle.
Then cut along the middle line through both layers, stopping 1/2″ before each short side. Cut diagonally to, but not through the corners. This will make small triangles of fabric at each end.
Carefully push the fabric through the opening to the wrong side and press (if possible) so that you can’t see the pocket fabric from the front. Pulling on the small triangles you just created should help you square up the pockets. Because I couldn’t press my fabric, I basted the seam allowances on the short sides down and pinned the longer parts of the pockets.
Now it’s time to make your welt! Don’t worry–it’s just a fold of fabric. Working from the back, fold the lower part of the pocket up to cover the opening and then fold back down, creating a pleat that covers the opening of the pocket. Check that it looks good from the right side. It should cover the opening completely, with the fold touching the top opening edge of the pocket. To keep everything where it should be, baste through the fold and then use a whipstitch to temporarily attach the fold to the top of the pocket opening.
Now turn your work to the right side. Fold up the bottom part of your garment fabric so you can see the lower seam allowances of the pocket opening as well as the lower part of the pocket. Stitch through these seam allowances and the lower part of the pocket as close to your original stitching as possible.
Now turn everything back to the wrong side. Fold the long top part of the pocket down and align it with the bottom part of the pocket. You are creating your pocket bag. The right sides of your pocket piece should be facing one another. Pin around the raw edges of the pocket and press the seam allowances on top of the pocket open if possible.
Remember that 1/2″ seam allowance we built into the width of your pocket piece? Time to use it! Flip your garment around to the right side again and fold the garment up out of the way so you can see your pocket. Sew around the pocket, using your 1/2″ seam allowance, starting at the top and sewing over those little triangles on the sides as you go, getting as close to your earlier stitching as you can. Don’t forget to backstitch at the beginning and end! Finish your pocket edges together if necessary for your fabric and give everything a good press if you can so it’s all nice and flat. Then remove your basting stitches.
It’s finally time to talk about The Refashioners 2016!
I’ve been waiting a long time to share my #jeanius project with you.
The Refashioners is a challenge created by Portia Lawrie of Makery that showcases creative ways to refashion whatever the chosen garment for that year’s challenge is. If you’ve been following along, you already know that this year’s garment of choice is jeans (#jeanius!). Check out what I made!
I’ve written about my creative process over on Makery, but if you want more details on working with the particular pattern I chose, Vogue 8750, you’ve come to the right place.
As soon as Portia sent us our brief for this year’s Refashioners challenge, the gears in my mind started turning. My local big box fabric store was having a pattern sale, so I went down there with notebook and pencil in hand, sat down in front of the big pattern catalogue books, and started making list. Lists and lists of patterns that I might be able to create out of different pairs of jeans. I decided to look for something that had multiple narrow pieces so I could cut them out of jeans legs. I finally settled on Vogue 8750, a skirt pattern. I chose View A, which is the shorter (but not actually short) pencil skirt. This looked like it had a lot of possibility for color-blocking, and I was hoping to find some super-cool denim at my local thrift store.
With the help of a pattern and all the inspiration on my then-secret Denim Pinterest board, I went to my thrift store looking to find some railroad denim or…something inspiring. (I have a little railroad denim obsession at the moment). No railroad denim. But I did find…THIS! Yellow denim, white, denim with hearts, and my own older pairs of dark blue. Now it was all coming together!
Last year’s Refashioner’s contest helped me make a move up from beginner to intermediate sewist. However, still not being super experienced, I don’t always make a muslin. (Who am I kidding? I skip it whenever I can.) I know…I know… It’s helpful, and I’m moving in that direction, but I’m not there for every project. I actually DID make a practice garment for this one, though. I made two, even!
The first showed me that I needed to size down.
A lot of people say they find this with Big 4 sewing patterns–I typically don’t, but in this case it was necessary, so it’s a good thing I made a muslin. I used the second muslin to try lowering where the skirt sat on my hips and practice putting it all together a bit more. The pattern tells you to ease the top of the skirt to the ribbon facing, but I had a lot of trouble with this and didn’t really want the skirt up at my natural waist. I found that skipping the easing and just cutting a ribbon to match the top of the skirt solved both problems.
Muslins can also be a great way to procrastinate on cutting into your final fabric while appearing busy. 😉 I finally got up my courage, though, and found that I could easily fit my pattern pieces onto the jeans I had chosen (large men’s jeans for the white and yellow). I tried out using one pair of children’s jeans for my middle panel, but had to backtrack when I saw that it just didn’t work.
The thing I wish I had done (and I’m still not sure how or why I didn’t after two practice garments) was think about how and when I was going to finish my seams. I realized part way into my final draft that I really wanted to bind the edges of the seams with bias tape. This is something best done as you go along and before you join various parts. You can see a few places where my bias binding doesn’t go all the way to the edge of the seam. Lesson learned. I actually contemplated starting over when I realized that (plus, I was getting pretty good at making this pattern after a couple of versions), but it seemed to defeat the purpose of refashioning to throw an otherwise good garment-in-the-making out because of one little detail.
The other interesting thing I discovered was that sometimes, in matching up seamlines (namely on the sides), it wasn’t about moving the pieces up or down to get them to match, but making the seam allowances the correct width for them to match. One of my sides matched immediately, and the other took several passes through the machine, taking the side in millimeter by millimeter in order to get it to match. The skirt in-progress looked messy and crazy, but as I got things lined up, trimmed and bound my seams, and finished edges, it came together into something that looked polished.
When I finally finished, I had a thing of beauty. It’s certainly not perfect, but I’m proud of it. I think the best compliment I got was when I was in Rockport, Massachusetts shooting pictures, and I stopped in an art gallery. Rockport is famous for its artists, and one of the artists in the gallery complimented me on my outfit. When a person who spends their life looking for beauty compliments you on your outfit, you know you’ve done something right! 😉
My favorite thing about this challenge is that it makes me think like an artist. You get your parameters, but within them you have freedom. How far can you push it? What will you do to make your garment distinctive? Will it be simple and sleek or heavily embellished? This is what I talk about in more depth in my post on the Makery blog. If you haven’t already, I hope you check it out and look through all the other posts as well to get some inspiration. What do you think? Will you be diving in? There’s a pretty tempting prize package!
Last, but never least, thank you to my photographers–my husband Scott and my friend Colleen. I appreciate your help SO MUCH!
Hey, friends! Happy July! I can’t believe it’s July already. I feel like summer is just starting. I’m going to take the rest of the month of July off from blogging (although you can still find me on Instagram @lisa.poblenz). I’m coming off a number of complicated sewing projects (Refashioners 2016–which you’ll get to see in the not-too-distant future, bathing suit sewing, jeans, etc.), and it’s time to regroup, create some new garments, and do family stuff. I don’t know about you, but when I finish a big batch of projects, I feel a little discombobulated for a while until I figure out what direction I’m going to pursue next and get going down that road.
I’m finding that while I am most drawn to bright colors and fun prints, I need a few neutral garments to wear with the fun and crazy stuff. So, to test out this pattern, I chose the most basic view and made it up in a white linen-look fabric from Joann’s that I’ve had forever, and a khaki linen that a good friend gave me. I also took the opportunity to use some vintage buttons from my mother-in-law.
Before beginning, I measured myself to see how high the dart should sit on my body and then checked it on the flat pattern. It seemed perfect, so other than grading up a size for the waist and hip, I used the pattern as it was. There were a few tricky parts, mainly having to do with sewing together the shoulders, but once I weathered those, it was a quick sew. (I used Part 1 of this sew-along to help me out, in case you are considering making this top as well.) The only potential issue is that the neckline seems to gape just a bit, but I’m going to wash and wear the shirt a few times before I decide if I need to deal with that in any future versions. They’ve updated the pattern since I bought this one, so maybe they fixed that. I’m not sure.
Expect future versions of this, though. I want to try the one with the triangle cutouts next…and in crazy fabric. One neutral garment at a time is about all I can handle! 😉
Do you ever wish you could sew at super speed? I’ve never really had a handle on my summer wardrobe, but after sewing for a few years, and thinking seriously about what I actually wear (rather than just what I like to look at in fashion, which are often two very different things), I think I’m getting closer to the essence of how I like to dress in summer. And now I want to sew it all up!!!! I’ve been stocking up on fabric, but I can’t yet sew at lighting speed or fit garments to myself with shocking perfection. Alas, my reach exceeds my grasp (but I think they are getting closer!). Ah, sewing problems! Ha!
Well, have a great July. I look forward to more writing and talking with you in August. We’ll find out then if I spent my time sewing or not! 😉
This Piped Floral Shirt Dress from Making It Well is amazing. I’ll have to pick up some tips from Jo when I finally dive into the wonderful world of shirt dresses.
I just have to recommend The Great British Sewing Bee. As much as I love Project Runway, sometimes it’s just so…ruthless! The GBSB has a much kinder tone as well as an educational one. I’ve only watched Season/Series 1 in its entirety, but Series 4 is on now! You can look at the show’s website here.
If you are in the greater Boston area, I highly recommend the magazine edibleBOSTON. If you aren’t in greater Boston, you may have an edible magazine covering an area near you. edibleBOSTON is a fun way to learn about farmers, restaurants, small batch food makers, and other foodie things in your locale. Magazines are free from subscribing businesses and come out quarterly. You can also read issues online.
Aaannnddd…..we’re TOTALLY making this spaghetti and meatballs recipe this summer!
It happened! I finished my bathing suit and…I think it works!
When we last met here, I had finished the bottom, but not the top. During this week, I worked on joining up all the pieces and adding elastic to the neckhole and armholes. That last bit wasn’t a part of the pattern, but I really like the look it provides, and I was hoping to solve a few problems with it.
There was a small part on the front neckline where I didn’t catch my outer fabric very well when I was sewing all the layers together. There was no invisible way (that I could think of) to fix that. Even using clear thread, it would have been visible.
I also wanted to stabilize those openings and give them more support so that they would be stronger and hopefully not gape when wet.
Finally, I was hoping the edging would magically tighten and take in the little bit of excess under the arms. So…that didn’t happen (which I expected, but you always hope for that happy accident!), but I’m more optimistic about the other things.
When I began to apply the elastic, I realized it was a make-or-break moment. The suit would either be much better for the addition or it would be ruined. I bet on the side of better and went for it.
After letting go of my perfectionism, I ended up with a swimsuit that isn’t perfect, but is actually finished and is, I think, a wearable first draft. I’ve tested it briefly. Now to see how it does over a whole day at the beach.
If you happen to be working on your own bathing suit and want to try applying elastic like I did, check out this tutorial on the Kadiddlehopper blog. I used the advice here on both the stitched and turned elastic for my leg holes as well as the bound edges in the top. I actually have this blog post printed out and saved in a binder so I don’t lose it!
As for the few other details on this suit, here they are: I fully lined both the front and back of the top and bottom. I also used powermesh from the Imagine Gnats shop as the lining fabric in the built-in bra of the top. I have nothing but good to say about buying from there–super fast shipping and great service. All my elastic was 3/8″ swimwear elastic, and I used wooly nylon thread in my bobbin, with 100% polyester Güttermann thread in the top. I used a walking foot, plus a stretch needle and Jalie’s method (found in the pattern) of sewing a long zigzag stitch first (width: 4.5, length: 0.5) and then going back and doing a straight stitch while stretching the fabric slightly (length: 2.5) at the actual seamline. For pattern and fabric details, see my first post on this swimsuit. If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them.
Thanks to everyone who encouraged me! It means so much, and it really helped me finish well. My neighbor’s mom, who I just love and who is an amazing seamstress herself, is now convinced that I can sew anything. Little by little, right?
Here’s some fun for your weekend.
I have really been loving the Instagram feed of @suzyquilts. There is something about her bright and beautiful pictures and her patterns…and I don’t even quilt! (Well, I do have a quilt that’s been in-progress since 2008, but I’m talking quilting as a regular practice.) I love the stripes she uses in her Kris Kross quilt. Tempting… You can also find her website here.
If you like the crop top look, but not the idea of baring your midriff, Allie J. will show you how to “make your own (fake) crop top” in this tutorial.
We like thinking games in our house, and one of the games we play on the iPad is Monument Valley. They bill it as “an illusory adventure of impossible architecture and forgiveness”. It feels a little bit like trying to figure out an M.C. Escher visual puzzle with calming, completely non-scary background music. Good for any age.
Explore.org has links to lots of wildlife cameras. It’s pretty cool that you can see African wildlife, ospreys in Maine, or pandas in China any time you want.
But first, how about some mental anguish? 😉 As I was procrastinating and freaking out about this project, I had a breakthrough that now seems completely obvious (funny how that happens sometimes).
I expect to create the perfect suit.
Despite the fact that I rarely allow myself to be a perfectionist in my sewing, despite the fact that I understand that skills take time to build and ‘finished is better than perfectly unfinished’, I’m putting a perfectionist’s pressure on myself with this project. Of course I’m procrastinating and freaking out! That’s completely unrealistic! I may have made suits before, but it takes time (and considerably more practice) to become skillful.
I guess it just goes to show that perfectionism can sneak up on anyone.
Once I realized this, I decided it was time to chill out. So, I put on some surfing to distract me and psych me up to sew bathing suits and got going. Now we can talk progress.
This is year three of attempting to create a bathing suit that I love. The last two years have (sadly) been fails. Year one was a pretty spectacular fail due to my not clueing in to some very awful print placement, forgetting to add in the necessary internal support, and the fact that it came out too big. That suit just got cut up to become bottoms.
In year two I made every iteration of the Soma Swimsuit by Papercut Patterns.
I wanted to practice and then hopefully create a tankini by hacking my favorite bikini view. Unfortunately, I have no practice constructing bras, so I couldn’t create the desired support well. I wore the tankini once, but by the end of the day, the structural elements started to come out of their places, so…no good. I also decided I wanted bottoms that offered fuller coverage.
So here we are at year three. I finally found a fabric that I completely love at the Fabric Fairy (she has a lot of excellent swimsuit prints), but I can’t find a tankini pattern that I’m really excited about.
I’m using the bottoms of the Jalie tankini (#3023), but I’m not jazzed about the top. It’s good, but I wanted something a little different. So my solution (which I realize may lead me to another fail) is to use lisette/Butterick 6295, a work-out top that I really like, and to add extra elastic to the neck and arms.
Here’s where I am as of Wednesday evening:
After putting so much time and energy into searching for a pattern I love, I’ve decided that this is what I really want:
I want a pattern designer to create a tankini pattern that has interesting details to set it apart from the crowd, offers full bottom coverage and the option for internal support up top (in the form of underwires). I think you could (please!) also include a sports bra pattern as another view with the same optional underwire support and cool details. That would make me so happy. Jalie? Fehr Trade? Closet Case Files? Someone? Please?
Until then, I’m working away at this as well as several bathing suit experiments that will not be for me. After this, I just want to make something easy for myself. I want to return to my selfish, simple, sewing ways. Well…until I find the next exciting challenge.
I’ve mentioned how much I like the podcast Thread Cult and I’ve also mentioned the 3-D printing company Nervous System. Guess what? In episode #40, Christine interviews one of the founders of Nervous System about 3-D printed clothing, and it is FASCINATING. The dress Nervous System made is a thing of beauty (and wonder!).
It’s been so much fun to discover new artists via Instagram. One of my current favorites is Anisa Makhoul (@anisamakhoul on Instagram). I love her saturated colors and cool style.
Watching surfing movies has helped me make it through the last few winters, but now it’s bleeding into other parts of life as well. I’ve decided it’s my new figure skating–fun to watch when doing projects (as I mentioned above–good for when you are sewing bathing suits!). If you want to start down the surfing rabbit hole, let me enable you. The World Surf League app, which is free, lets you watch surfing live when events are on (or you can go to their website). I follow them on Instagram (@wsl) so I always know when an event is happening. My favorite is when I can watch the women surf.
I have to dedicate this video to my husband’s family. I think they played this song a lot when he was growing up, but I doubt they did it like this.
I didn’t think it could be done. Could I ever make jeans? I doubted myself and procrastinated for ages. Until finally, I used my old sewing trick that has served me so well: just do the first step.
This is great for life outside of sewing as well, but I mainly use it to get myself moving on “scary” projects. Even if the first step only takes one minute, once I do it, I can be done for that day. Next time, take the next step.
Eventually I tend to get caught up in the process and things move along. That’s what happened with these jeans. It took me forever to trace the pattern, and forever to cut them, and forever to get to sewing them, but at the point of sewing, I took the first step…and then the second…and then worked on them for a whole day! By that point, things were getting exciting, and I couldn’t wait to work on them again. After another day of sewing, I had them done! They are the most comfortable jeans I think I have ever worn. And they fit!
Aside from jeans-making being new to me (and therefore intimidating), pants in general intimidate me in the area of fit. The few times I have made/attempted to make pants or shorts, I can tell something is off, but I don’t know how to fix it. There were two things, I think, that really saved this pants attempt. One was that the drafting on these is different from what I have encountered in the Big 4 patterns that I have tried. In those, I always feel like the front is too high and the back is too low. This jeans pattern didn’t feel that way at all. The second thing that saved this project was all the excellent fitting advice that Heather (the designer) offers both in the instructions and in the sew-along on her blog, Closet Case Files.
So, let’s talk process a bit (Technical Talk Ensuing. Skim this part if you just want pictures.).
I chose to make this first pair of jeans out of an inexpensive denim in case I had a lot of problems. I got my denim at Jo-Ann Fabrics on sale. I noticed that many others had used denim from Jo-Ann’s with success, and so I decided to give it a try. I also got some interfacing there.
I found some rainbow topstitching thread in my stash. (I wish I knew where it came from so I could get more, but I have no idea. It may not even be real topstitching thread.) I used navy thread from my stash for the non-topstitching parts, and some really old thread for the basting. I’ve decided that basting is an excellent use for old thread. I have lots of hand-me-down thread and I know you’re not *supposed* to use it, but I do. I can’t let it go to waste. Basting seems the perfect use, because if it breaks, it doesn’t really matter.
The fabric for my pockets is some very old Amy Butler fabric that I had in my stash. My husband saw it and said, “Oh! You’re making your pockets out of diaper bag!” Back when I had my first baby, one of my best friends made me a diaper bag with this fabric. Time to put the scraps to a new use!
Now on to the jeans. I made View A in a size 14. View A has a low rise with stovepipe legs–similar to what I wear on a daily basis.
Because I’m new to fitting pants, I just cut the size that fit my measurements without any initial adjustments. I assembled the front of the pants completely. Then I basted the back of the pants with the exception of the pockets, which I pinned on. After that I basted the sides together, all before assembling the waistband.
My main issue came at the back. The back waist gaped. Heather explained very clearly what I needed to do, and so I made a few darts in the yoke, tried the pants on again, and then took out just a bit more until they felt right. Then I sewed everything minus the waistband together.
After that, I assembled the waistband and basted it on. It also gaped, so I followed Heather’s directions and put a few darts in. On my first try, I sewed the darts in opposite to how they were supposed to go! Argh!! I contemplated just recutting the whole thing, but I ripped out the darts and resewed them in the end.
Once I got that right, I sewed it all up and went after the back pockets. I started to get nervous when I sewed them on because I was nearly out of topstitching thread. I managed to finish the pockets with just a little bit left. Success!
When I put these pants on for the first time…oh, it was wonderful! They were so comfortable and fit so well. I had done it thanks to help from Heather Lou! What an amazing thing to make your own jeans!
If and when I make these again, here is what I would do differently.
I would interface the waistband. I thought I wanted one that would stretch but, I think because I chose a cheaper denim, mine tends to stretch out.
I would also consider basting the jeans the slightest bit tighter. These are so comfortable, but the denim doesn’t have the greatest recovery despite the spandex content.
Lastly, I’m curious about how to do a midrise version, something Heather explains on her blog. I’d like to try that.
If you are considering making jeans, I highly recommend this pattern. It gave me enough confidence to move forward and to want to try making more pants so I can learn how to fit other styles to my body as well. Heather also has a jeans making e-book and published a blog post on basic pants fitting that you might find helpful.
Update: I’m linking this post up with Allie J.’s blog for her series called “The Social Sew”. Each month she puts out a sewing theme and you can link up your recent projects that fit within the theme. Since this month is ‘Me Made Basics‘, I thought these jeans would be a great fit. You can also check out what everyone else has made. It’s a great way to find new sewing blogs!
I just found out that one of my favorite podcasts, Thread Cult, is back up and running. I thought perhaps it had been abandoned, but it turns out it was only on hiatus. This podcast is “for the sewing, fashion and textile obsessed”.
I’m fascinated by the Instagram account of Tara Curtis @t_jaye. She makes these fabulous geometric designs that remind me of quilts, but she does it by weaving strips of fabric. If you love pattern and design, I think you’ll like her work. She also has a website.
Have you ever looked at Cooking Light magazine? I like their recipes because they are healthy AND they taste good! Several of their recipes have become family favorites. You may be able to read Cooking Light at your library (ours lends out magazines) or check out their recipes via their website.
Here is an important lesson on compound words. (Preview this before showing it to your kids–there’s nothing bad, just a few surprising parts that could scare little ones.)
How are you? I hope, if you are in the Northern Hemisphere, that spring has arrived. Spring is trying to happen here, but it’s still a little cold. Despite that, I’ve got warmer days on my mind, and after some complicated projects just finished and several other tricky ones in progress, I needed a simple, fast, and summery pattern. I found just the right thing in Lotta Jansdotter’s new book Everyday Style. It seemed like just the right thing to go with the lovely pink voile I got at Pintuck & Purl when they opened.
I made Variation 2 with the three-quarter length sleeves in a size large. My only regret (and I find it equally annoying and funny that I did this) is that I didn’t measure the back pattern piece to see if it would need a broad-back adjustment. The shirt turned out to be quite comfortable, but if I had checked ahead of time, I would have done a broad-back adjustment and it would have been even more comfortable. After all my recent blog posts about broad-back adjustments (here and here), I didn’t even check.
Ironically enough, I did check the dart height, and that turned out to be fine. Thankfully, there is good ease in this pattern, and it’s still wearable.
Living in New England where the weather changes several times throughout the day, I’m looking forward to having this for summer when a breeze springs up or the air gets cooler in the evening.
The Esme top gets my stamp of approval as a quick and simple make, especially since there are numerous variations if you want to change things up a bit.
Before we get to the recommendations, I wanted to mention Me-Made-May 2016 one more time. I’m participating because I really enjoyed it last year. Here is my pledge:
‘I, Lisa of patternandbranch.wordpress.com and @lisa.poblenz, sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May ’16. I endeavour to wear at least one me-made garment each day for the duration of May 2016. I will try not to repeat any articles of clothing within a single week and I’ll try to wear at least two me-made things together at least once a week.’
I decided that this year I wasn’t going to worry about daily photos, so I won’t be doing weekly outfit round-ups on the blog. You may see a few photos if you follow me on Instagram, but my focus for this year is the challenge itself. The only downside so far is that I might forget what I wore earlier in the week without the photos to remind me! 😉 Check out Zoe’s blog for more information on this year’s Me-Made-May.
OK, my friends! It’s nearly time for one of my FAVORITE events of the year: BRIMFIELD ANTIQUE SHOW! Brimfield is the largest outdoor antique show/market in the US. It takes place three times a year in the town of Brimfield, MA and people come from all over the country (and the world) to shop for antiques, upcycled antiques, and unique materials for creating. This year, for the very first time, I know one of the vendors! My friend Laurel, of Retromat Vintage is going to be at Booth 22 of New England Motel, which is one of my favorite fields. She sells great vintage items. I’m always really impressed by her clothing, but she has much more than that. If you go to Brimfield, stop by and show her some love.
Have you ever tried a magnetic pincushion? After buying more pins awhile ago, my little pin jar was full and hard to use, so I bought a Zirkel magnetic pincushion at Pintuck & Purl. I missed the main selling point until I got home and started using it. If you drop your pins in the middle of the square magnet, it fans them out around the edges in a circular pattern. It’s so cool and fun to use! I knew I would like it, but I had no idea I would like it this much. Here’s a link to a 14 second video that shows how it works.
I’ve mentioned them before, but I think it’s time to officially recommend to you The Curvy Sewing Collective. This is a great site for so many things! I find myself returning to it frequently to read their helpful tutorials, pattern reviews, and to look at the great projects from their contributors. This site also gets two thumbs up for body positivity. We can all use that!
Finally, the Batman vs. Superman trailer…reimagined by kids: