Tag Archives: DIY

The Refashioners 2016

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It’s finally time to talk about The Refashioners 2016!

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!

Refashioners 2016:  Jeanius

Refashioners 2016:  Jeanius

Refashioners 2016:  Jeanius

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.

Refashioners 2016:  Jeanius

Refashioners 2016:  Jeanius

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!

Refashioners 2016:  Jeanius

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!

Refashioners 2016:  Jeanius

The first showed me that I needed to size down.

Refashioners 2016:  Jeanius

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.

Refashioners 2016:  Jeanius

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.

Refashioners 2016:  Jeanius

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.

Refashioners 2016:  Jeanius

Refashioners 2016:  Jeanius

Refashioners 2016:  Jeanius

Refashioners 2016:  Jeanius

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!  😉

Refashioners 2016:  Jeanius

Refashioners 2016:  Jeanius

Refashioners 2016:  Jeanius

Refashioners 2016:  Jeanius

Refashioners 2016:  Jeanius

Refashioners 2016:  Jeanius

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!

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Vacation! And a Deer and Doe Datura Blouse

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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 finished one wonderfully quick project on Wednesday, however–a Deer and Doe Datura Blouse.

Deer and Doe Datura Blouse

Deer and Doe Datura Blouse

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.

Deer and Doe Datura Blouse

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.

Deer and Doe Datura Blouse

Deer and Doe Datura Blouse

Deer and Doe Datura Blouse

(Thanks to my Instagram Husband for taking these pictures of me!)

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!  😉

Deer and Doe Datura Blouse

Deer and Doe Datura Blouse

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!  😉

Recommendations

  • 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!

Bathing Suit Finished!

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It happened!  I finished my bathing suit and…I think it works!

Bathing Suit Finished!

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.

Bathing Suit Finished!

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.

It worked!

Bathing Suit Finished!

Bathing Suit Finished!

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.

Bathing Suit Finished!

Bathing Suit Finished!

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.

Recommendations:

  • 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.

Bathing Suit Progress…and a Breakthrough

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I think it’s time for a progress report.

Making bathing suits (year three)

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.

Making bathing suits (year three)

Making bathing suits (year three)

In year two I made every iteration of the Soma Swimsuit by Papercut Patterns.

Soma Swimsuit Test Suits

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.

Soma Swimsuit Hack by Pattern and Branch

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.

Making bathing suits (year three)

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.

Making bathing suits (year three)

Here’s where I am as of Wednesday evening:

Making bathing suits (year three)

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.

Recommendations:

  • 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.

Ginger Jeans Dreams Realized! Or…I Made Jeans!!!

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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.

Ginger Jeans Dreams Realized!

Ginger Jeans Dreams Realized!

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.

Ginger Jeans Dreams Realized!

Ginger Jeans Dreams Realized!

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.

Ginger Jeans by Closet Case Files

Ginger Jeans by 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.

Ginger Jeans Dreams Realized!

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!

Ginger Jeans Dreams Realized!

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.

Ginger Jeans Dreams Realized!

Ginger Jeans Dreams Realized!

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.

Ginger Jeans Dreams Realized!

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!

Ginger Jeans Dreams Realized!

Ginger Jeans Dreams Realized!

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!

Ginger Jeans Dreams Realized!

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.

Success!!

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!

Recommendations:

  • 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.)

Esme Top from Everyday Style by Lotta Jansdotter

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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.

Esme Top from Everyday Style by Lotta Jansdotter

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.

Esme Top from Everyday Style by Lotta Jansdotter

 

Esme Top from Everyday Style by Lotta Jansdotter

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.

Esme Top from Everyday Style by Lotta Jansdotter

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.

Esme Top from Everyday Style by Lotta Jansdotter

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.

Recommendations

  • 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:

Tiger Shirt!!!! Simplicity 1538 Perfected

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I’m so excited to share my latest project with you today.  I LOVE this shirt.  There are two reasons I love it so much.  The first is this awesome Cotton + Steel pink tiger fabric.  The second is the fit!

Simplicity 1538

Ping of Peneloping was my inspiration for this project.  Her tiger shirt is amazing (as is everything she makes), and it set me on the quest for my own tiger shirt.

You may remember my first attempt at this pattern, made from a vintage sheet.  I really loved that shirt.  It was beautiful, except for being too tight across the back.

Simplicity 1538

Simplicity 1538

I also realized, in trying it on before making this one, that the darts were slightly too high.  Luckily, I had just learned both how to do a broad back adjustment AND how to lower darts.  After doing both of these things to this pattern, I think I may have found my perfect casual button-down…and I have worn it a billion times since making it.  I’m actually afraid of wearing it out.

This post is going to get a bit technical in the hopes that it might help someone else out there.  I won’t go into lowering a bust dart because The Curvy Sewing Collective blog just did an excellent post on this.  You can find that here.

I will, however, show you pictures of the major broad back adjustment I did in case anyone else is working on learning how to do this.  I showed how I did this on a princess-seam shirt in this post.  Today’s shirt, Simplicity 1538 does not have princess seams, but does have a yoke in the back.

Simplicity 1538

Simplicity 1538

Now is the time to skim if you don’t care about the technical aspects of this project.

As before, I used the information in The Perfect Fit, part of The Singer Sewing Reference Library.

Singer Sewing Reference Library:  The Perfect Fit

Because I knew my back measurement, I could measure the pattern to see how much width + ease I needed to make the shirt comfortable when sewn up.  The pattern was 15 inches across the back.  I needed 17 1/4-17 3/4 inches in order for this to be comfortable on me.  (I mention how I measured for this in this post.)  This meant I had to add 1 1/8-1 3/8 inches to this pattern piece (since it only represents half of the back).  I decided I would try adding 1 1/4 inches with a major broad back adjustment (rather than a minor adjustment, which just adds a little width to the back armhole curve).

Major Broad Back Adjustment on Simplicity 1538

Here are my pieces before alteration:

Major Broad Back Adjustment on Simplicity 1538

I have a full yoke piece and a half bottom back piece.  I folded the yoke in half so that the edges of each side could be adjusted simultaneously (and hopefully identically).  You’ll see that my yoke is narrower than the back bottom piece.  That’s because there is a little bit of gathering below the yoke on the center back.  As the shirt is sewn, they become the same width.

For the major adjustment, I taped the yoke to the bottom piece of the back so I could work on them as one.  I made sure to overlap them by 5/8 inch to account for seam allowance.

Major Broad Back Adjustment on Simplicity 1538

Then I drew a line from the middle of the shoulder seam down to the waist and parallel to the grainline.  (I’m more or less quoting from the book, but since you may not be able to read the picture in the book, hopefully this will be helpful.)

Major Broad Back Adjustment on Simplicity 1538

 Next I drew two horizontal lines perpendicular to the one I had just drawn.  Line number one went from the middle of the armhole over to my first (vertical) line and line number two went from about 1 inch below the armhole to my vertical line.  Since line number one coincided with where the yoke joins, you can’t see it, but I’m pointing to the two new lines with my fingers in the picture below.

IMG_6Major Broad Back Adjustment on Simplicity 1538967

 Next, cut out along the lines you just drew so it looks like this:

Major Broad Back Adjustment on Simplicity 1538

 That little ‘almost rectangle’ you have is what you will slide out the amount you need for that half of your shirt (so, it’s half the total amount you need across your back).  In my case, I slid that piece over 1 1/4 inches.  The book notes that the maximum you should slide it out for sizes smaller than 16 is 1 inch.  For 16 and up, you can slide it a maximum of 1 1/2 inches.  Since I had cut a 16 at the bust and an 18 at the waist and hips, this worked for me, and would give me a total amount of 2 1/2 inches across my whole back when the shirt was cut out.

Once you slide that piece out the amount you need, place some paper beneath it and tape it down.  It helps if the paper extends out beyond the edges of your pattern by the armhole and side seam since you will have to redraw those areas now.

I found this part kind of tricky.  I felt like I was making it up as I went along, but here is what I did.  I used my curved ruler to redraw the seamline itself, and then I added my seam allowance in afterward.  I just sort of slid the ruler around until it seemed right.

Major Broad Back Adjustment on Simplicity 1538

Major Broad Back Adjustment on Simplicity 1538

I also had to redraw the area below the armhole, blending the armhole into the side seam.  Again, I felt like I didn’t know what I was doing, so I took my best guess.  Then I cut out my altered pattern pieces (back bottom and yoke).

Major Broad Back Adjustment on Simplicity 1538

Major Broad Back Adjustment on Simplicity 1538

Because my yoke piece was actually a full piece that I had folded in half to do my alterations on, I had to make sure that I had the correct and identical alterations on both edges.  Don’t forget to move any markings (like notches and dots) to an equivalent place on your altered pattern pieces.

A really great thing about this alteration is that it doesn’t change the length of the shoulder seam.  If it did, I would have to adjust the front shoulder seam as well.  The length of that seamline wasn’t my problem, and neither was the size I had chosen.  The width of the shoulders in the back was the issue (and one I also have with store-bought clothing in woven fabrics).  This alteration completely fixed that, and now the shirt is wonderfully comfortable across my shoulders.

Simplicity 1538

The other thing that I did was to lower the front dart by an inch.  I found my information for how to do that in The Perfect Fit as well.  As I mentioned above, The Curvy Sewing Collective did a great tutorial on this very thing.  If you find that dart height is an issue for you, you should check out that post.

Even thought I’m not going into the details, I will show you how my front pattern piece looked after I moved the dart down.

Lowering a bust dart on Simplicity 1538

Lowering a bust dart on Simplicity 1538

I’m glad I didn’t go any lower, and I was a little nervous that the inch had been too much, but after wearing the shirt often, I think it turned out great.

Simplicity 1538

Technical details now finished.  Time for pretty pictures!!!

We found the best background for these shots, and it was actually sunny, too.  All that color + sunshine makes me happy.

Simplicity 1538

Simplicity 1538

Simplicity 1538

And one little fabric and topstitching close-up.  Love those tigers!

Simplicity 1538

Wow!  That was the most technical post I’ve written in a long time (or ever?).  How about some fun?

Recommendations:

  • I’ve got another podcast for you!  Now that I’m out of school, I’m discovering that history is interesting.  😉  I can see how valuable it is to know the past because then you understand why things are the way they are today and how you can avoid the mistakes of the past (hopefully).  It’s also just interesting.  I have long loved “Stuff You Missed in History Class”, but now I have to add “The History of English Podcast” to my list as well.  I realized I was really into it when I went back to episode one and started binge-listening.  It’s not about technical things like grammar, but more a broad history lesson about how languages are related and how the English of today came to be.
  • Have you heard about Me Made May?  If you are a seamstress/stitcher/sewist you should check it out.  It’s a personal pledge to wear your handmades throughout May.  You can challenge yourself to wear one for the month, one every day, or all handmade all month.  It’s whatever you choose.  I participated last year and loved it, and I’m planning on doing it again this year.
  • One of my librarian friends recommended the movie “The Woman in Gold” to me.  (Thanks, Laura!)  It’s the story of one of Gustav Klimt’s most famous paintings, the family it belonged to, and justice long after a wrong had been committed.  Here is the trailer:

A Quartet of Briar Tops

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And here’s the last of my unselfish sewing…EVER.  Ok, just kidding.  At least for now.  I made myself another Briar top (by Megan Nielsen patterns) as well as two Mini Briars and one mash-up of an adult Briar and a kids’ Briar.

Megan Nielsen Briar and Mini Briar Tees

Megan Nielsen Briar and Mini Briar Tees

This is now my third Briar (number one in a double-layer knit is here and number two in Polartec is here), but it’s my first time making a Mini Briar.  I received all three of Megan’s children’s patterns as a thank you for being a pattern tester for the Mini Tania culottes (which are super-cute, by the way).  The children’s Briar is similar to the adult version, although not identical.  It came together very easily.  One thing I love about Megan Nielsen patterns is their visual clarity.  When I first started sewing garments, I was always intimidated by the busy and complicated look of the standard patterns you find in chain fabric stores.  Megan’s patterns are completely opposite to that.  They have a clean look to them that makes you feel confident you will be able to understand them.  Actually, I think that is the case with a lot of the independent pattern companies, which is a big plus.

Megan Nielsen Briar and Mini Briar Tees

It is a great advantage to have the same pattern in a kids’ version and an adult version when you are sewing for someone who doesn’t quite fit in either range, but is somewhere in the middle.  This was the case with the aqua and pink shirt.  It was great to be able to pull both patterns out, compare sizes and make a custom pattern from the two of them.  It was a bit of a head-scratcher at times, trying to figure it all out and make the best-fitting pattern possible, but all the problem-solving is one of the things I really like about sewing, so I enjoyed the challenge.

Megan Nielsen Briar and Mini Briar Tees

Megan Nielsen Briar and Mini Briar Tees

I ordered all of the deer fabric from Girl Charlee.  It’s a poly/cotton blend, so we’ll see how it wears over the long run.  The fabric for the short-sleeved Mini Briar is left over from a long ago project and is from Jo-Ann’s.

Sewing all these up reminded me that while I really love sewing knits because they are so forgiving, I still have a lot to learn.  I’m getting better at choosing stitches that work well, but I still get wavy collars that don’t sit right.  Part of the problem is that, in most cases, I’m not quite sure what I’m doing wrong.  In the aqua and pink shirt, I raised the neckline, but still used the original pattern piece for the neckband, which I should have shortened.  Lesson learned.  As for the other ones, they are pretty close, but not quite right.  Ironing helped, but I think I still need more practice.  Oh, well!

Overall, these are great shirts and they have been getting lots of wear.  It’s nice to see my t-shirt collection slowly getting more interesting and colorful, and it was fun to try out a kids’ pattern.  I think the recipients of the kids’ shirts were happy, too.  🙂

Megan Nielsen Briar Tee

Megan Nielsen Briar Tee

Megan Nielsen Briar Tee

Megan Nielsen Briar Tee

Recommendations

Here’s some fun stuff to check out over the weekend.

  • You have to see this dirndl on the Draped in Cloudlets blog.  I’m so impressed by the fit, subtle details, and sheer amount of work that must have gone into this!  The results are so beautiful, and really inspiring.  I think I may need a reason to sew a dirndl…
  • I’ve been listening to a lot of the folk/bluegrass music of Sarah Jarosz lately.  I don’t have a broad knowledge of music, but when I find someone I like, I tend to play their music to death.
  • I always figured that the one everyday clothing item I couldn’t make was shoes.  Then I saw these ballet flats that Jodie of Scared Stitchless made.  I’m happy to be proven wrong.  These are amazing.
  • Here’s another cool music video for you this week:  Wintergatan–Marble Machine.  The music is made by marbles being run through a machine by the artist.  Fascinating and lovely.

I Made PANTS! Unselfishly, Even…

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Is it still unselfish sewing when you get the knowledge, even if you don’t keep the garment?  Of course it is!

Finishing this project kept me on a serious sewing high for a good week.  I made real, true pants!

Let me introduce you to the Jutland Pants, Variation 2 (cargo pants) by Thread Theory Designs, Inc.

Jutland Pants by Thread Theory

Jutland Pants by Thread Theory

I made these for my husband, and I think they are a success!  I don’t measure success by perfection.  In this case, success meant finishing the project and producing a wearable garment that fit well enough to be worn.  I’ve made leggings before, but I’ve never successfully made fitted pants.  I dimly remember an unwearable pair that I attempted for myself before I really got into sewing and an unfortunate craft fail, but this is my first finished pair of fitted pants that…fit.

Jutland Pants by Thread Theory

So, let’s talk details.  What I really wanted to create was an awesome pair of pants like these ones from Duluth Trading Company.  The inspiration pants have all sorts of special features and although I didn’t include all the possible options in this first home sewn pair (like lining, knee pads, or a crotch gusset), between the pattern and the Thread Theory website, you can learn how to put all these cool extras into your pants.  When I saw this pattern at Pintuck & Purl in Exeter, NH, I knew it was one that I wanted.  Thread Theory patterns are not cheap, but in making these pants, I felt that, more than any other independent pattern I have tried, this one offers great value for my money.  This is something I couldn’t make up on my own, print for free off the internet, or easily find from another company.  There probably are other cargo pant patterns out there and while I make many “Big 4” patterns, I was really glad to have the more individualized support that Thread Theory offers.  They have a sew-along on their blog and in the two instances when I got tripped up and e-mailed Morgan (one of the owners), she got back to me and answered my questions.

As far as all the fabric and notions went, I bought duck canvas on sale from Joann’s for my main fabric.  My original plan had been to get some really nice canvas, but then I thought that I ought to start with something cheaper for my first try.  The lady cutting my fabric looked really doubtful when I told her I was going to use it for pants.  She told me it was the kind of canvas you used to make bags like you might get at L.L. Bean.  It really shook my confidence, but I got the duck canvas anyway.  In the end, it worked out great!  Encouragement, people!  That really would have been preferable!  I also got a metal zipper that was as close as possible to the size called for, but a little longer because I couldn’t find the exact size.  I bought medium weight fusible interfacing and a jeans button from Joann’s.  I had Velcro, bias tape, and something that I hoped was broadcloth or another suitable pocket material in my stash.  I didn’t line the pants.

Jutland Pants by Thread Theory

Jutland Pants by Thread Theory

Unlike nearly every sewing project I’ve ever done, I actually made a muslin for this one.  I had an old sheet that came in handy for this.  I took all my husband’s measurements and then made up a sample without the extras like the cargo pockets, knee patches, and hem reinforcements.  The added benefit of the muslin, besides checking the sizing, was that I could practice a few areas like the fly and the main pockets.  It turned out that the muslin was mostly right, but after evaluation, we shortened the pants by about an inch and made a straight size instead of grading between two sizes.

This is definitely a complex pattern and I thought more than once that I was glad I hadn’t been the one who had to design it and then figure out how to communicate the directions for sewing it.  You can tell that a lot of work went into creating this pattern.  There were times when I wasn’t exactly sure what I was doing, so I had to turn the questioning part of my brain off and just follow the directions.  Luckily, they didn’t lead me wrong.

Here are some “in progress” shots:

Jutland Pants by Thread Theory

Jutland Pants by Thread Theory

Jutland Pants by Thread Theory

The two questions I wrote to Morgan about had to do with how to shorten a metal zipper (Could I really just use the waistband as the top stop rather than trying to remove teeth with pliers?  Yes, thank goodness!) and if I was supposed to do a second line of stitching on the seat seam as pictured (You can, but you don’t have to and it complicates things if you are doing a lining.).  For the zipper, she recommended leaving at least one metal tooth above the seamline and letting the zipper tape extend into the seam allowance by about a centimeter.  At that point, you can cut off the excess.  I hand-cranked my machine when I went over the teeth just to be safe and avoid breaking needles.  This was a billion times easier than trying to take out teeth with pliers!

Jutland Pants by Thread Theory

Concerning the second question, here is what Morgan said (I hope it’s ok to quote her–it will be more accurate and less confusing than if I paraphrase):  “I didn’t end up including this in the instructions due to how it might complicate things when sewing the lining.  I usually stitch the seat seam by clipping the seam allowance at the base of the fly just as you describe.  I stitch rather than pressing the seat seam so that the seam allowances stay to one side.  Depending on the fabric I am using, the seam just under the fly can look a little bit ‘warbled’.  If this is the case, I clip one seam allowance a couple of inches below the fly so that they can sit pressed open rather than both pressed to one side.”  I did the extra line of stitching before she was able to get back to me (because I was impatient) and while it was mostly ok, it did turn out a little funny, like she mentioned.  After being worn a few times, though, it’s not noticeable any more.

Jutland Pants by Thread Theory

When I finished, the most amazing thing happened.  I was proud.  I was so excited.  But mostly…I was grateful.

I feel grateful.

I’m grateful that I get to sew.  I know it’s a privilege that I have the time to improve my skills in something besides cooking for my family (let’s just leave housework out of this).  We may not have a ton of extra money (we don’t), but we have been blessed enough that we have been able to make it, somehow, even though I have been home, and thanks to God’s blessing and the public school system that my kids are able to attend, I can do this.  I don’t get all the housework done and, alternately, I don’t get to sew all day every day, but for this time in my life, I have been able to sew enough and have had the support and friendships to enable me to get my skills up to the point that I made my husband a complicated pair of pants.  Maybe I won’t be able to sew forever or even want to, but for now, I’m really, really grateful to God, my family and friends, and now to Thread Theory that I made a pair of pants that my husband likes and wears.

Jutland Pants by Thread Theory

Jutland Pants by Thread Theory

Jutland Pants by Thread Theory

Jutland Pants by Thread Theory

Jutland Pants by Thread Theory

Jutland Pants by Thread Theory

Jutland Pants by Thread Theory

I promise nothing about the length of my blog post when I finally make myself jeans.  😉

The icing on the cake is that sometimes, my husband wears this:

Jutland Pants by Thread Theory

I made his shirt and pants!  I’m so proud.  Now to get over my fear of making myself pants…and to conquer bathing suits…and sew all the things!!!!

And don’t you think these need a clever leather tag on the back?  I’m taking suggestions for what it should say!  Leave yours in the comments!

Recommendations:

  • Just when you think you’re an INDIVIDUAL something like these awesome, AWESOME biker-style jeans comes along…and you just want to copy them.  I want these jeans.
  • Double Chocolate Banana Bread (recipe from Smitten Kitchen).  I was skeptical, but it’s so good!  If it’s from Smitten Kitchen, that will probably always be the case.
  • More Christopher Walken.  More Jimmy Fallon.  More Will Farrell.  More Cowbell!

A Vintage Blanket Becomes a Skirt

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Years ago some amazing sewing ladies who are my mother’s friends, gave me a vintage wool blanket (among other things).  They had a business repairing antique quilts, as well as upcycling quilts that couldn’t be repaired and turning them into handmade goods.  When they moved on to other things, they gave me some of their fabric and thread.  I didn’t sew much at the time, but being a creative person, they thought I might be able to use the things.

One of my favorite items was part of a woolen blanket with two sets of initials on it.  It was a winter white with two blue stripes and navy embroidery, and although I didn’t know its story, it seemed special.  I put it aside until just the right project presented itself.  It finally seemed that I had found the perfect use for it when I saw the Brumby Skirt by Megan Nielsen.  I knew it might not work…but I also knew it might.

Brumby Skirt pattern by Megan Nielsen

Brumby Skirt pattern by Megan Nielsen

That idea, that sort of razor’s edge between working or not working is what makes creative endeavors so exciting.  I love to try projects where I am more sure of the outcome.  I get a lot of satisfaction from them, but it really gets interesting when you ask the question, “Will it work?”  I think this is a question that some of the best art and the best fashion have at their heart.  Sometimes the outcome is terrible.  Sometimes it’s ok.  But sometimes it goes beyond what you imagined.

I don’t think this project reached the level of being beyond all I imagined, but the act of walking that line made the project exciting.  Could I create a skirt from this blanket?  Would it be too thick to sew?  Would it lay right?  I’ll tell you from the outset that I love this skirt.  It’s not perfect.  It doesn’t give me an enviable form or lack mistakes.  But I still say it works because some of my big goals in sewing are to create clothing that is unique and interesting.  (And I get to wear a blanket as a skirt in winter!  Always a worthwhile goal!)

Megan Nielsen Brumby skirt made from a vintage blanket

Megan Nielsen Brumby skirt made from a vintage blanket

Megan Nielsen Brumby skirt made from a vintage blanket

So, let’s get into some details.  The skill that I hoped to learn in this project was how to create a lining, so I bought some Bemberg rayon lining from Joann’s and leaned heavily on the book Easy Guide to Sewing Linings by Connie Long.

Easy Guide to Sewing Linings by Connie Long

Megan Nielsen Brumby skirt made from a vintage blanket

Maggie from Pintuck & Purl helped me think through my process for creating the waistband, which included lining it with some fabric from my stash and omitting the interfacing.

Megan Nielsen Brumby skirt made from a vintage blanket

I found a plain navy fabric in my stash for the inside of the pockets.  Since the edge of the blanket was already finished, I decided to omit the hem.  This also saved me fabric, since I had a limited amount of blanket to work with.  In order to do that, I marked the place I would have turned the fabric up to sew the hem and used that as the new bottom line for my skirt.  You can see it faintly below.

Megan Nielsen Brumby skirt made from a vintage blanket

Like vintage fabric sometimes does, this blanket had some light stains.  I tried using a stain remover to get them out, but it didn’t work, so I did my best to cut around the ones I could.  The rest just had to remain.  I did run into a little bit of trouble while sewing in the zipper.  It wasn’t quite even at the top, but since this is for me, and I get to decide what I will and won’t fix, I just folded the extra over and sewed it down.  Problem solved.

Megan Nielsen Brumby skirt made from a vintage blanket

Megan Nielsen Brumby skirt made from a vintage blanket

Megan Nielsen Brumby skirt made from a vintage blanket

I also decided to do a decorative topstitch above the seam that joins to waistband to the skirt, just to make sure everything was tacked down.

Megan Nielsen Brumby skirt made from a vintage blanket

Megan Nielsen Brumby skirt made from a vintage blanket

I wanted this done before winter was over, so I was pretty motivated to get it finished.  The days after I finished it were cold, so I could wear it right away!

Megan Nielsen Brumby skirt made from a vintage blanket

Megan Nielsen Brumby skirt made from a vintage blanket

Megan Nielsen Brumby skirt made from a vintage blanket

I really like the skirt.  I don’t think it’s going to be the most flattering look, but I just love its interesting uniqueness.  My sister says I need a clever response when asked what the initials stand for.  Any ideas?  (Keep it clean!)

Megan Nielsen Brumby skirt made from a vintage blanket

Megan Nielsen Brumby skirt made from a vintage blanket

It’s really warm and comfortable and love all the different parts I incorporated–lining, colored pockets, and patterned waistband.  I deem it a sewing success.

Megan Nielsen Brumby skirt made from a vintage blanket

Megan Nielsen Brumby skirt made from a vintage blanket

I haven’t yet had a chance to blog a few of my other winter projects, but as far as sewing things goes, this was my last winter make.  I’m on to spring sewing.  I’ll still post the few made-in-winter projects I haven’t shown you yet, but this is the only garment that will probably be worn exclusively in the winter, so I wanted to blog it before spring came.

Recommendations (Yea!)

  • As I come to love hand-sewing more, I find my interest in embroidery being renewed and growing, too.  In that vein, I’ve found some really fun embroidery artists.  An etsy shop I recently discovered is cozyblue handmade.  They have embroidery patterns, etc.  I’m a fan of the Sea Captain.
  • If you listen to podcasts, I’ve just found a new one that I like:  The Seams podcast.  It’s about clothing and the stories connected to it. Jacki Lyden does a great job of interviewing a wide variety of people and looking at clothing from many angles.
  • If you like to garden, but sometimes feel nervous because you don’t really know your plants’ intentions, you should watch “Indoor Gardening Tips from a Man Who’s Very Scared of Plants”.  Problem:  SOLVED!