Tag Archives: fall

Morgan Jeans!

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Morgan Jeans!

I’m working through a batch of transitional garments as we go from warm to cool weather, and first up is a pair of Morgan Jeans from Closet Case Patterns.

Morgan Jeans!

I made a short pair this summer, and wanted to try a full-length pair, hoping for some pants that would be good for daily wear and that I could layer over long underwear in the cold weather.

Morgan Jeans!

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Morgan Jeans!

My measurements put me in a 14 waist and 16 hip, but as I discovered this summer, that 14 waist is just too small.  I ended up adding extra fabric at the top of those pants, so I wrote myself a note to make a straight 16 next time.  Well…as I read the description, I noticed that these are drafted to fit closely, assuming that the non-stretch denim will relax over time.  I don’t love tight jeans and I wanted these to fit over long underwear in winter when layering is an act of survival, so I chickened out on the sizing and decided to trace an 18 to be safe.

Morgan Jeans!

I was lucky enough to be visiting Fabric Place Basement in Natick, MA when they were having a denim sale and, after vacillating between some non-stretch selvedge denim that was 30″ wide and a 60″ wide non-stretch denim, I went with the wider fabric, not least because I could make two pairs of jeans for the price of one in selvedge denim.  The more thrifty I can be, the more projects I can make!  That’s a huge consideration for me.  Happily, I managed to get enough denim to make a pair of jeans for about $15.

Morgan Jeans!

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Morgan Jeans!

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Morgan Jeans!

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Morgan Jeans!

The pattern and topstitching thread came from Pintuck & Purl, as did the Cotton + Steel fabric I used for my pockets.  It was left over from this shirt.

Morgan Jeans!

My jeans buttons are from Wawak.

Morgan Jeans!

As far as the pattern goes, here are my notes:

  • I bound the edges of the pocket facings with bias tape, because I think it looks really nice.Morgan Jeans!

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    Morgan Jeans!

  • I also like the look of French seams at the bottom of the pockets (this is a suggestion in the pattern).Morgan Jeans!
  • I recommend sewing your buttonholes, slicing them open, and using Fray Check on them before you sew the fly placket into your pants, just in case you have issues.  It’s not such a big deal to recut the piece and redo it before sewing it in.  I accidentally sewed my bright thread on the bottom of my fly placket, so next time if I want contrast stitching, I’ll put it for my top thread and in the bobbin.Morgan Jeans!
  • One thing to note, my button fly placket extended above the top of my pants.  I think I should have matched the top of my fly shield to the top of my button fly placket, because I matched the top of it to my pants and it was weirdly low.  I had to trim it and finish it with my serger.  Incidentally, I have a new-to-me vintage serger that is working!!!  I was able to use it to finish my seams. A billion thanks to Pintuck & Purl for servicing it!Morgan Jeans!

More tips:

  • When putting the back together, wait to trim the seam joining the yoke and back legs until after you have topstitched it–then you don’t have to worry about missing the seam as you topstitch.
  • As Heather, the designer, suggests in her Ginger Jeans sewalong (in this post), it makes sense to finalize your back pocket placement at the end so you can put them in the optimal spot for your unique back side.  In the end, I moved the pockets a little bit, but not too much. Morgan Jeans!

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    Morgan Jeans!

  • One other new thing I tried was installing the waistband using Lladybird’s tutorial (skip to the end of the linked post).  It was really helpful and makes so much sense.  The gist of it is that you sew your inside waistband seam first so that when you are turning under the seam allowance and finishing the waistband, you are topstitching from the outside, and you never have to worry about catching an inner facing–it’s already attached.  It makes more sense in the post, but it’s a very logical order of steps.  I like it.
  • I interfaced my waistband this time to make it less stretchy, but I really should have graded my seams better around where my buttonhole was going to go.  I had to sew through so many layers to make my buttonhole that I ended up fudging things to make it longer and it still takes a good amount of effort to get that top button buttoned and unbuttoned.  You don’t want to have a bathroom emergency in these pants!Morgan Jeans!

Last tip:

  • Use Fray Check on the edge of your belt loops to keep them from fraying every time you wash them.  It doesn’t take care of the fraying entirely, but it helps.

All right, now after all of that, what’s the final consensus?  Well…my jeans are really comfy…they will fit over long underwear…but they do look a little big.

Morgan Jeans!

They’re perfect when they come out of the dryer…for about 5 minutes, and then they are comfortably loose.  Also, it may be the style with boyfriend jeans, but I’m not sure that I like them cuffed.

Morgan Jeans!

So I guess I’ll have a better take on them after wearing them during cold weather, but my gut feeling is that, especially if I were to make these in a thinner denim, I should go down to a 16.  Or maybe I should just look for a pair of pants with a straighter, wider leg.  I think I convinced myself that these were like that, but they really are a closer fitting, non-stretch jean, which is actually obvious from the cover art and the sample photos.  Well, live and learn!  That one’s on me!  😉

Morgan Jeans!

The good news is that whether or not these are the perfect jeans for me, the pattern itself is high quality and well done, which is consistently true with Closet Case Patterns.

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Fall Sewing Inspiration

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One of the best things about sewing is the limitless possibilities it presents.  Every pattern or bit of gorgeous fabric is loaded with possibility.  As if that weren’t enough, people-watching provides its own set of garment styles and combinations to consider, as does “shopping” for ideas in stores.  Sewing gives me the power to make the things I see in the colors I want with the modifications necessary to fit me well.  While I like the process of sewing, with its inherent building of skill on skill and opportunity to try new things, I think my favorite parts are the planning and the finishing.

Fall Sewing Inspiration

I’ve been thinking about what I’d like to focus on for the fall for a long time now.  While in the warmer months I like to sew woven fabrics like cotton and linen in order to make garments that stand away from my body and allow air to flow, in the cooler months I have different priorities.  I want my clothes to allow for layering and feel like a warm hug.  😉  I’m looking for pants that either have enough room for long underwear to fit underneath or that are stretchy (like leggings) for ultimate comfort and flexibility.  I find myself drawn to knit tops (typically t-shirts) more frequently than woven tops because they are comfortable and can hold warmth in.  Additionally, in the last few years I’ve been thinking that it would be helpful to focus more on cardigans or light jackets rather than pullover-style sweaters and sweatshirts.  That way I can layer, adding interest to my outfits with various colors and textures, while keeping in step with the temperature around me.

All this leads me toward these garment types to focus on:  looser pants, t-shirts/knit tops, and cardigans/jackets.  I’m going to list some pattern ideas (with links and/or pictures) in each category.  I don’t plan to make all of these–they’re just ideas–but hopefully, if you are thinking along similar lines, you’ll find some interesting patterns to inspire you as well.

Pants

I’m tired of exclusively wearing closer-fitting jeans, even though it’s the silhouette I’ve grown used to seeing myself in.  It’s time to try some different styles.  I want pants that have ease for comfort and for the practicality of layering in colder weather.  For that reason, I’ve been exploring a few options.

  • Morgan Boyfriend Jeans by Closet Case Patterns.  I made a shorter version of these this summer, and I’m hoping they could be a good staple jean, especially if I go up a size for winter.Fall Sewing Inspiration

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    Fall Sewing Inspiration

  • Butterick 4995 wide-leg pants, View B.Fall Sewing Inspiration

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    Fall Sewing Inspiration

    I’ve had this pattern for ages (it is actually out of print (OOP), but you could find it on Etsy).  I have linen set aside for these, and currently have a muslin/toile cut out to see if I like the shape enough to make a final version.  If I do, I may see how I like linen for fall, or make it in another fabric and save the linen for spring/summer sewing.

  • Lander Pant by True Bias.Fall Sewing Inspiration

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    Fall Sewing Inspiration

    I wasn’t thrilled with these the first time I made them, but after wearing my first attempt for awhile, I think I could modify the fit to a place that I like.  I’ve seen some good corduroy versions of these.

  • Chinos.  I’m not entirely sure what pattern to use.  My top contenders are Simplicity 1696 (OOP), which I’ve made before (in gray sateen and octopus print),Fall Sewing Inspiration

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    Fall Sewing Inspiration

    Burda Style 7447 (OOP), which I haven’t tried yet,

    Fall Sewing Inspiration

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    Fall Sewing Inspiration

    Alina Design Co. Chi-Town Chinos, or Pauline Alice Port Trousers.  What I’m looking for is a tapered, but not tight style with a mid-rise, angled front pockets, and back welt pockets.  I’m leaning toward using the Simplicity or Burda patterns since I already own those, but I can’t decide if I like the fit on the Simplicity pants or not.  The zipper definitely needs to be set deeper in, but otherwise they are more or less what I want, and they are a known quantity.  I have Cloud9 Tinted Denim in “Heather” (pink) that would be great for these.

T-shirts/Knit Tops

  • Deer & Doe Plantain T-Shirt.Fall Sewing Inspiration

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    Fall Sewing Inspiration

    As soon as I tried this t-shirt, it became a favorite (merino wool knit and cactus print double brushed poly versions here).  The best part?  It’s FREE!  You can download the PDF to make it yourself, AND they have expanded their size range from what they had previously.  I have a wool knit and some Cotton + Steel cotton/spandex knit set aside for t-shirts.  My t-shirt situation is pretty sad right now, so I want to try to rectify that.

  • Coppélia by Papercut Patterns.Fall Sewing Inspiration

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    Fall Sewing Inspiration

    This top can be a cropped wrap top or a longer faux wrap top.  My first version of the faux wrap top didn’t have the amount of stretch or ease I wanted, so I passed it on, but I would love to try again, especially since I want another chance to get that neck-band right.  I loved this pattern, even though my initial attempts weren’t perfect.

  • I had forgotten about Vogue 8950 (still in print!),Fall Sewing Inspiration

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    Fall Sewing Inspiration

    which is very similar to Papercut Patterns’ Ensis Tee.  This would be a fun take on a t-shirt with great color blocking options, and it’s a Very Easy Vogue pattern, so it could be a nice, quick win.

Jackets

  • Simplicity 8700.Fall Sewing Inspiration

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    Fall Sewing Inspiration

    One of my long-term dreams has been to copy a favorite ready-to-wear jacket that I thrifted several years ago.

    Fall Sewing Inspiration

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    Fall Sewing Inspiration

    It’s slightly too small to be really comfortable and the upper back is too narrow, so I have often wished for a version that fits better.  I think this pattern could help me approximate my jacket.  If that doesn’t work, other pattern options could be these patterns designed for Simplicity by Wendy Mullin–Simplicity 4109 (OOP)

    Fall Sewing Inspiration

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    Fall Sewing Inspiration

    or Simplicity 3966 (OOP).

    Fall Sewing Inspiration

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    Fall Sewing Inspiration

    They’re out of print, but you can find them on Etsy or eBay.  I have some olive cotton twill that would work for this type of jacket.

  • Sapporo Coat by Papercut Patterns.  This is a really intriguing pattern.  It has interesting seamlines and definitely fits the category of clothing that could be like “a warm hug” for cold days.  The cocoon shape is such a weird, yet interesting fashion idea.  I go back and forth on how much I like the look of this one, but I find it really intriguing, and I’d love to make one.  Curiosity often gets the best of me with interesting patterns.
  • Women’s Kimono Jacket by Wiksten.  This falls into the same category as the Sapporo Coat in my mind.  I’m not sure it is always good-looking (although I have seen several versions that I thought looked great on Instagram), but it would be so comfortable and tick all my cool-weather clothing boxes.
  • Cardigans.  I want to think about this category further, but so far my only plan is to take the version of McCall’s 7476 I made last winter and cut it from floor-length to knee-length.Fall Sewing Inspiration

    McCall’s 7476

    Fall Sewing Inspiration

    As fun as it was to parade around like Darth Vader in his flowing cloak, the length I chose isn’t the most practical, and it needs to be chopped.  If I were to make this again, I would also raise the V front a bit.

So those are the things I’m mulling over most for fall.  Of course I’ve also considered a skirt or two, a jumpsuit, some activewear, etc.  I always have so many ideas, that I tend to forget a lot of them, which is why I write them down and then periodically look back through my sketches and notes.   I plan and plan and then finally come up with my next batch and a general list of ideas for potential future projects.  They never all get made, but that doesn’t bother me.  I also make myself a seasonal mood board on the back of the door nearest my sewing machine.   I’m not sure how good I am at weaving all of the mood board ideas into my sewing, but some of them do show up, and it’s a lot of fun to make.  One thing from my most recent mood board that stands out is that I really want to find a way to incorporate bright colors into my cool-weather garments.  That has been an ongoing project for the last couple of years, and one I need to work harder on.  I’ve found a lot of inspiration from Katie Kortman on Instagram.

In case you are interested, here is the first batch of projects that I already have started for the transition into fall (pictured at the top of this post):

  • Restyle of a basic skirt.  I want to change the back to an elastic waist and add pockets.
  • Two Lark Tees.  I have felt mixed about this pattern, but I haven’t tried the v-neck yet, so I’m going to give it a go and see if I like it.  I have two cut out.
  • Morgan Jeans.  These were going to be for later in the fall, but I put them on the fast track, and they are already finished.  I just need to photograph them.
  • A Kalle Shirt (shown below).  I lengthened the cropped version.Fall Sewing Inspiration
  • A muslin of Butterick 4995 wide-leg pants.  I want to see if I like these enough to make a final version.
  • My current ongoing knitting project is the Glacier Park Cowl by Caitlin Hunter.  I’m taking my time on this and learning to knit do colorwork while knitting Continental-style.Fall Sewing Inspiration

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    Fall Sewing Inspiration

Everything is traced and cut out, so now it’s time to sew, sew, sew (and knit).

Fall Sewing Inspiration

I got this antique drying rack on my last visit to Brimfield.  I’m testing it out as a structure to hold my traced and cut projects.

I’m hoping all the ideas I listed above will guide me as I make future plans throughout the fall and winter.  So, what about you?  If you want to play along, answer one or all of these questions in the comments below:

  • What is your ideal type of clothing for fall?
  • What are you planning or hoping to make in the cooler months (or the warmer months if you are in the Southern Hemisphere)?
  • What is inspiring you right now in your sewing?

Recommendations

  • After all this talk about planning, I have to recommend Episode 58:  Planning Projects on the Love to Sew Podcast.  If you like to plan projects (whether or not you actually make them), you will love this episode.
  • I’m recommending this to myself as much as to you:  go shopping and try on types of clothes that you are interested in sewing.  Don’t let yourself obsess over the fit or sizing of the clothes in the store.  Focus on if you like that style and if you would be excited to make it and wear your version that you made.  These days you can find a sewing pattern similar to most ready-to-wear styles.  How many failed projects could we save ourselves from if we did this?
  • I’ve been listening to The Innocence Mission a lot lately.  They make great music to sew to.  It’s like being in a quiet, magical world.

 

Outside in September

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Outside in September

This month has flown by!  I had to schedule in a little bit of outdoor time at the end to get these pictures.

Being out in nature is one of those things that helps me to quiet down on the inside–in a good way.  It doesn’t always feel necessary to set aside time to be outside and take pictures, but when I do, I realize that I needed it.

I had to work a little harder to find some color amidst the grey, but it’s still there, even if it takes more searching in the fall than in the summer.

Outside in September

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Outside in September

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Outside in September

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Outside in September

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Outside in September

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Outside in September

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Outside in September

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Outside in September

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Outside in September

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Outside in September

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Outside in September

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Outside in September

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Outside in September

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Outside in September

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Outside in September

 

The Long, Long Cardigan: McCall’s 7476

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The Long, Long Cardigan: McCall’s 7476

The long cardigan was a new style for me until the beginning of the year when I bought one at TJ Maxx.  I wasn’t sure about the look, but I was curious and wanted to try it.  I told myself I would test it out, and I really liked it!  Then I saw this look and found McCall’s 7476.  It was time to MAKE one of my own.

The Long, Long Cardigan:  McCall's 7476

The only problem was that the super long version I wanted (View E, but without the shawl collar) called for A LOT of fabric.

The Long, Long Cardigan:  McCall's 7476

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The Long, Long Cardigan:  McCall's 7476

I knew that if I was going to make this, I would have to find a good deal on material.  One of my favorite places to look for such deals in person, rather than online, is at Fabric Place Basement in Natick, MA.  It’s not exactly nearby, but if I’m really efficient with my time and focused when I’m there, I can do it on a weekday.

I went with my list and my budget and my ideas and, providentially, there was a sale on wool.  The fabric I found for the cardigan was a wool/acrylic rib knit, so it was affordable with the discount.  I don’t normally like rib knits, but being able to see and feel this one in person convinced me that it could work for my cardigan.

The Long, Long Cardigan:  McCall's 7476

On to the project!  I washed and dried a fabric swatch (I think it was 4″ x 4″) to see how much shrinkage would happen.  Despite the warm temperature I used, there really wasn’t any shrinkage.  So, I put the rest of my fabric in the washer and dryer.  The only downside to this fabric is that it’s a hair magnet, but at least it doesn’t shrink!

I cut my pattern out on the floor after cleaning it as well as I could so the fabric didn’t get dirty.  I cut a large for the bust and waist and an extra large for the hip, leaving off the shawl collar.  This was also my first time using knit interfacing.  It went well, and I like the feel of it in the finished garment.

The Long, Long Cardigan:  McCall's 7476

Except for the unwieldiness of the project due to its length, this wasn’t hard.  I tried using Coats & Clark’s new Eloflex thread, which is slightly stretchy and made for knits.

The Long, Long Cardigan:  McCall's 7476

After awhile, I switched from Eloflex as my top thread and in my bobbin to Eloflex in just the top and wooly nylon in the bottom.  It seemed like my machine didn’t like something that I was doing, and for some reason, that configuration seemed to do the trick.  I still used a zigzag stitch and all the other things I do for sewing with knits (walking foot, lighter presser foot pressure, jersey needle), but just changed up that top thread from my usual all-purpose Gutermann to Eloflex.  We’ll see how it holds up.  No complaints so far, but I also haven’t used it enough to say if I love it or not.

The Long, Long Cardigan:  McCall's 7476

The other thing I tried out on this garment was Steam-A-Seam 2 (the 1/4″ one).  I’ve had this for a while, but haven’t really used it.  It’s a lightly tacky double-stick tape that you then use to fuse your fabric together with an iron when it’s positioned.  I used it to help me hem and for my pockets as an extra stabilizer. It says it creates a permanent bond when ironed, but I still sewed my hems and pockets where I applied it.  Why did it take me so long to use this?!

The Long, Long Cardigan:  McCall's 7476

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The Long, Long Cardigan:  McCall's 7476

After wearing the cardigan a few times, I wonder if I need to shorten it just a bit.  The hem is about an inch off the ground.  (For reference, I’m 5′ 8.5″.)  It doesn’t pick up as much dirt as you might expect, but I’m always worried it will drag.  I was hoping I could just fold the hem up one more time, but when I tried pinning it, I realized that my hem was slightly uneven, and simply folding it up really exacerbated that.  Maybe it’s time to use my new-to-me hem marker if it will go down that far.

The Long, Long Cardigan:  McCall's 7476

I really, really like this cardigan.  I know it’s a different look and it’s a lot of black for me, but it’s so cozy and warm (guys, it’s basically a blanket or a robe).  I like how it looks with jeans or overalls, and it’s great to have something so long and dramatic–something so different from most of the rest of my wardrobe.  I would definitely make this again.

The Long, Long Cardigan:  McCall's 7476

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The Long, Long Cardigan:  McCall's 7476

Recommendations

  • While reading the Wednesday Weekly from Helen’s Closet, I saw that Sewrendipity is creating a hub for local fabric shopping guides.  You can see if she’s linked to one near you, or submit your own.  It’s a great idea.
  • Indie Sew wrote a great article on fabric weight, how to determine fabric weight, and why it’s important.

 

 

 

The Coziest Sweatshirt: Very Easy Vogue 9055

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The Coziest Sweatshirt:  Very Easy Vogue 9055

After the dirndl project that I undertook earlier this fall, I wanted to make sure that I had some quick, easy projects in my next project batch.  As we were going into cooler temperatures, I started to think that a few knit sewing projects were in order.

The Coziest Sweatshirt:  Very Easy Vogue 9055

One of the new things I want to incorporate more into my wardrobe is leggings (even though I’m not wearing them in these pictures) which, whether or not you think they count as pants, definitely count as secret pajamas.  However, I also don’t want my hind end exposed, which means I need longer t-shirts.  I’ve tried the Briar Tee from Megan Nielson Patterns, which I like, but it’s not quite as long as I want and I think something is off for me in the shoulder area.  I really like the concept, however, and so I thought I would give Vogue 9055 a try.

The Coziest Sweatshirt:  Very Easy Vogue 9055

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The Coziest Sweatshirt:  Very Easy Vogue 9055

I found the coziest sweatshirt-like knit fabric at Fabric Place Basement in Natick, MA that seemed perfect.  It’s 80% cotton and 20% polyester.  This pattern and fabric combination ticked most of my boxes:  cozy, secret pajamas, like a warm hug, long and butt-covering.  The only thing it was missing was real color.  While gray is a cozy color, it also kind of depresses me.  Sorry, gray lovers.  I live in a land of gray winters (as you can see from these pictures) and I need color.  So I bought bling to spice it up.  🙂

The Coziest Sweatshirt:  Very Easy Vogue 9055

While in my mind this project was going to take me, like, two seconds (which never actually happens, but it’s still possible to delude myself), it didn’t.  I made the shirt, minus hems, and then I looked at it…  The hips were too wide, and actually it looked a bit big on top, too.  The neckband wasn’t tight enough, so it was flopping forward.  What the heck?!  Also, why have I not mastered knit neckbands after all this time?!

So I took a step back and started working on one issue at a time.  I took the extra off the hips that I had added previously, and that made a big difference.  I decided not to hem the sleeves or body of the shirt because I like the unhemmed shirt length and the look of it unhemmed.  I could probably trim an inch off the sleeves…but I just don’t want to.  As for the neckband, I cut it off and stay stitched again, but it wasn’t great without some sort of band.  So I asked someone who knew more than me (always a good choice!).  She told me I needed to make the band shorter, and she did all my calculations for me, making the neckband 15% smaller than the opening of my neck hole (thanks, Stacy!!!).  When I recut the piece and sewed it on, it was SO MUCH BETTER.  I still need practice to get knit neckbands perfect, but this was a serious improvement.

The Coziest Sweatshirt:  Very Easy Vogue 9055

I know lots of people are down on the amount of ease in Big 4 patterns.  I’m the opposite.  I usually love the amount of ease they include, since I’m not a fan of super-fitted clothing, but I think in this fabric, I could have gone down one size from my measurements.  On the plus side, it’s the ultimate in comfort.

The Coziest Sweatshirt:  Very Easy Vogue 9055

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The Coziest Sweatshirt:  Very Easy Vogue 9055

As for the sparkly decorations I bought for my shirt, there really isn’t a lot of space to put them on.  So I don’t know.  What would you do?  Keep the sweatshirt plain or add details or decorations of some kind?  For now, it’s plain, because I just wanted to wear it, and it really is as cozy as it looks.  I’m open to ideas for jazzing it up, however.  Leave your ideas in the comments!

The Coziest Sweatshirt:  Very Easy Vogue 9055

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The Coziest Sweatshirt:  Very Easy Vogue 9055

The only thing that is out of the ordinary in this project is that I tried a new product:  the new Eloflex thread from Coats & Clark.  I haven’t used it enough to have a firm opinion on it, but it seems good so far.  It’s not elastic thread, but it does have a bit of stretch in it.  You can’t really tell if you hold a small amount between your fingers, but if you hold about a foot of it and pull, you’ll feel more stretch than in standard polyester thread.  Normally I would use all-purpose Gutermann polyester thread for my knits, maybe with woolly nylon in the bobbin.  For this shirt I used Eloflex in the top and in the bobbin.  Now we’ll see how it holds up to wear and tear.  I’m definitely excited to experiment with it.

The Coziest Sweatshirt:  Very Easy Vogue 9055

Recommendations

  • Check out these cool seam rippers from Bias Bespoke on Etsy.  This one is a travel seam ripper with a flip-down lid, and this one has a seam ripper on one side and tweezers on the other.  Smart design!
  • My awesome parents now scout out fabric stores for me (my mom is also a quilter, but they look for me now, too).  They discovered Fabrications in Richland, MI.  If you are looking for wool knits, Fabrications has a number of them, including some marked “machine washable”.  I spent a lot of time on their website picking out swatches so I could give some a try, courtesy of my parents.  Thanks, Mom and Dad!  I’m excited!
  • Sometimes I struggle with anxiety (especially the last few winters), so this winter I’m trying out The Happy Light to see if light therapy helps.  As one doctor said, even if it’s psychosomatic, if it helps, it’s worth it.  So far I really like it.  We’ll see how the whole winter shapes up, but even if it doesn’t help with anxiety, it makes a great little work light.
  • Here’s what happens when you use Google Translate to take a song out of its original language and then translate it back.  🙂

 

How I Sew

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How I Sew

The process of how people make things is interesting.  It’s fascinating to see the spaces people create in and to learn about their processes.  And since sewing is my creative practice, I’m interested in how others sew and in thinking through how I sew.  After spending a few years sewing regularly, I’ve developed some habits and systems, and I thought I would share them with you in case you are curious about those types of things too.  Here is how I take a project from start to finish.

Overview

Currently, I batch my projects.  The first time I tried to do this, it was completely overwhelming.  But the next time I did a single project, I missed it.  These days, I tend to group about five sewing projects together and move them from start to finish as a unit.  Here’s what that looks like.

1.  Choose patterns and fabric.  This has to be my favorite part (except for finishing, when I get to wear the final product!).  Pairing fabric and patterns is so much fun.  Sometimes I have a pattern I want to make and I go looking for the fabric.  Sometimes there is a fabric already in my stash that I bought for a certain type of garment, in which case I have to look for just the right pattern.

How I Sew

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How I Sew

This is what I’ve got on my sewing list right now (which is a bit larger than usual):  Vogue 9055 (a knit top), McCall’s 7476 (a long, knit cardigan), Mini Virginia Leggings from Megan Nielsen Patterns, The Belvedere Waistcoat from Thread Theory Designs Inc., The Fairfield Button-Up, also from Thread Theory, Simplicity 4111 (a woven top), and the Lander Pant and Short from True/Bias.  This particular batch is a little out of control, but I’m going with it.  Christmas might have a little to do with the size…

2.  Choose pattern view and sizes.  Once I decide on my patterns, I make sure I know my measurements and, in this case, the measurements of the other people I’m sewing for.  I use this information to pick out my size(s) on the back of the envelope and I also choose what view/version of the pattern I’m going to make.  Everything gets written down on a sticky note and stuck to the back of the pattern, along with a list of the pattern pieces I’ll need to trace.

How I Sew

It’s also important to note what notions and interfacing I need, so I can look through what I already have and write down what I need to buy.  I stock up on what’s missing the next chance I get.

3.  Trace patterns.  I trace my size(s) in each pattern and, while I usually use paper patterns, if I am using a PDF, I assemble and trace that as well, since I don’t want to print and assemble PDF’s more than once.  I often have to grade from one size to another between the bust and waist, and sometimes I have to do a broad-back adjustment as well.  All of that happens on my traced pattern pieces.  The clean, traced pieces look so nice, and I’ve learned to enjoy the process of tracing.  It can get intense, though, when you are tracing through five or more patterns, especially the ones with lots of pieces.  TV, an audiobook, or a podcast help.

How I Sew

4.  Cut out patterns.  Once all my pieces are traced and adjusted, I cut out all of my fabric and interfacing (or my muslin if I’m making one).  Whenever possible, I cut on a self-healing mat on a card table that is raised up on bed risers.  I use a rotary cutter and large washers as pattern weights.

How I Sew

For longer patterns, I cut on the kitchen table or living room floor with scissors.

How I Sew

Once cut, I pin my pattern pieces to the fabric and stack everything up.  Sometimes I transfer markings after cutting, and sometimes I do that right before sewing.  Despite how nice and neat the picture below makes things look, my cut patterns usually end up draped over a chair in the living room, taking it out of commission.  I should probably use hangers more often!

How I Sew

5.  Time to sew!  Once I have everything cut out, I can sew, sew, sew!  I think that’s what really hooked me on batching projects–the fact that you can sew through project after project.  I love that.

I usually pin my instructions up in front of my machine, mark my place with a little Post-It flag, and transfer any pattern markings to my fabric pieces if necessary.  Then I sew through each project one by one.

How I Sew

In my current batch, I’ve made Vogue 9055, McCall’s 7476, and three Mini Virginia leggings.  All of these are knit projects that were super fast.  I felt the need for a few quick projects, so I put those at the front of the queue.  Now I’m ready to dig into the Belvedere Waistcoat, a garment type I’ve never made before.

Batching like this produces a nice group of projects I can photograph and bring to you here on the blog.  It’s really satisfying.  When I’m finished, I clean everything up and plan my next group of projects!

What about you?  Do you batch projects?  Do you have a system for working or do you change it up?  I’m curious!  I’m also excited to look back at this post sometime in the future and see how much my work practice changes (or stays the same) over time.

 

Just Like Magic…In Which a Down Jacket Becomes a Down Scarf

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Just Like Magic…In Which a Down Jacket Becomes a Down Scarf

Welcome to this issue of Experimental Sewing!  Today’s project involves turning the remnants of a down jacket (from this past project) into a scarf.

Just like magic...in which a down jacket becomes a down scarf

After seeing the scarves Alabama Chanin and Patagonia made from worn out Patagonia jackets a few years ago, I reallllly wanted to try it for myself.  I thought it was a cool idea, and I was intrigued by the thought of recycling a down jacket (plus, I couldn’t pay $90 for one of theirs just because I was curious).  It was time to get sewing.

Just like magic...in which a down jacket becomes a down scarf

I decided at the outset that my goal wasn’t perfect, heirloom sewing.  Undoubtedly the Alabama Chanin + Patagonia scarves are amazing in quality and workmanship, but I didn’t want to worry about that.  I just wanted to know if I could do it and what the process would be like.

Just like magic...in which a down jacket becomes a down scarf

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Just like magic...in which a down jacket becomes a down scarf

After my first project with this down jacket, which was interesting, but somewhat unpleasant to sew, due to the reality of sewing down in your living room, my husband suggested that I try sewing the scarf outside.  That was a game-changer.  Sewing outside in October, when it was still somewhat warm but not hot, was heavenly.  Any escaping down floated away on the breeze.  I felt like I was in a sweet, sweet dream (the weather was really nice), sewing away on my Featherweight in the backyard. 😀

Just like magic...in which a down jacket becomes a down scarf

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Just like magic...in which a down jacket becomes a down scarf

Let’s talk process for a bit, and discovery.  I looked at what I had left of the down jacket, and marked off pieces with  my sewing marker that were as rectangular as possible.  Then I sewed a straight stitch on either side of my cutting lines.  After that, I cut my pieces up.  And then I sewed them back together…as you do.  😉  This left me with something like a long rectangle, but also some exposed, slightly downy edges.

Just like magic...in which a down jacket becomes a down scarf

And that’s when I made my discovery.  I went to an estate sale and came away with, among other things, fleece binding!  I had no idea this was a thing you could buy!  It was perfect for my project.  Rather than buying more to match things, I just decided to use what I had to cover the seams joining the rectangular pieces and the edges.  There was a little hand-sewing involved where the binding crossed from side to side, but not much.

Just like magic...in which a down jacket becomes a down scarf

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Just like magic...in which a down jacket becomes a down scarf

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Just like magic...in which a down jacket becomes a down scarf

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Just like magic...in which a down jacket becomes a down scarf

Before I finished, I also sewed a little rectangle to the inside of one end so that you could weave the other end through, helping to keep the scarf on.

Just like magic...in which a down jacket becomes a down scarf

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Just like magic...in which a down jacket becomes a down scarf

Some bonuses include the three pockets that are left in the scarf from the original jacket and, weirdly, the fact that the front zipper is still a part of the scarf and you can zip it up so it looks like you are wearing the front of a jacket.  It’s weird and cool.  (Really!  It’s cool!  I promise!)

Look out!  This could be the next trend coming your way in 2018.  You heard it here first!  😉

Just like magic...in which a down jacket becomes a down scarf

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Just like magic...in which a down jacket becomes a down scarf

I don’t think, after doing this, that I’m going to set up shop making a million things from down.  It was fun, but not so much that it’s going to be my new favorite thing.  What IS one of my favorite things in sewing is trying out different fabrics, and this definitely scratched that itch.  I’m pushing the boundaries of my sewing knowledge a little more each time!  That’s a win.

Recommendations

  • I just checked out the new cookbook from Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen, called Smitten Kitchen Every Day.  I’m still reading through it, but after only making it through the Breakfast section, I want to make every recipe.  Seriously.  I might need this cookbook.
  • I feel I would be remiss if, after this project, I didn’t recommend Wrights fleece binding.
  • I can’t get the great fabric/color combination of this Kelly Anorak sewn by Lauren of Guthrie and Ghani out of my head.
  • Oh!  And one more since we’re talking fabric.  I LOVE this Neon Neppy fabric from Robert Kaufman, and I can’t decide which one I love best:  Blue, Royal, or Charcoal?  The internet really doesn’t do it justice–it has little slubs of neon color throughout, and since I’m clearly in a speckle as well as a neon phase, it’s right up my alley.

Three Knitted Cowls

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Three Knitted Cowls

It’s time for a little knitting…only a very little, because these days I’m primarily a garment sewer, but before I got serious about sewing, I was serious about knitting.  Lest that give you any false impression of my skillz, let me set you straight.  I’m no expert.  I thought I had progressed pretty far, but I took about a three-year break once I really got into sewing, and in that time, not only did my skills atrophy, I started to realize how much more there was to learn.  I discovered that if I really wanted to, I could become an excellent knitter…but that’s not my goal right now.  Yes.  I just told you I am choosing mediocrity.  😉

So what do I really want out of knitting?  I want fun, small, easy- to moderately-challenging projects that I can do while talking with friends or watching a movie.  I really enjoy knitting, but I don’t want to have to pay too much attention to it or fix mistakes.  I want projects that don’t require perfect sizing, because that’s an area where I struggle, and I’m not ready to give knitting enough attention to fix that.  I want my mental energy to go toward sewing, because right now, that’s where I want to be excellent.

So!  We come to the point where I keep seeing truly gorgeous skeins of yarn.  How can I use them in a project that fits with my requirements?  Looks like it’s time to knit cowls!  Cowls are the perfect project for someone like me.  A cowl, as I’m using the word here, refers to a scarf that is a loop rather than a rectangle.  I can choose a simple cowl and I immediately have a project that is portable, fun, and doesn’t require precise sizing.  Once I figured this out, I made three cowls!  Want to see?

Cowl #1:  The Very Gifted Cowl

This pattern is from Churchmouse Yarns and was free.  It’s very simple, with a cast on, an edging row, a body in basic stockinette stitch, and a bind off.  The pattern also comes with a nice calculator so you can figure out how deep you can make the cowl with one skein of yarn depending on the weight you choose.

The Very Gifted Cowl in Hedgehog Fibres Sock Yarn Cheeky

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The Very Gifted Cowl in Hedgehog Fibres Sock Cheeky

I used sock yarn from Hedgehog Fibres held double in a color called Cheeky.  I just need to tell you that this yarn company is largely responsible for bringing me back to knitting again.  I used to follow the owner, Beata, on Instagram because I just loved her beautiful yarn, but  I had to stop because she was making me want to knit, and I wanted to focus on sewing!  In the end, though, my enabler friend Maggie at Pintuck & Purl, ordered some Hedgehog Fibres yarn for the shop, and that was it.  I had to give it a try.  I really enjoyed knitting with it, even though I normally shy away from such thin yarn.  I still have a tiny bit plus a mini skein left for some future project.

The Very Gifted Cowl in Hedgehog Fibres Sock Cheeky

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The Very Gifted Cowl in Hedgehog Fibres Sock Cheeky

Cowl #2:  Portillo Cowl

This one is by Gale Zucker and is from the book Drop-Dead Easy Knits.  It ticked all the boxes for me because it’s a cowl, it uses big yarn (which means it’s fast), and it’s also easy but still kind of interesting.  You’re just using the garter stitch, but you change color a bit, which gives the cowl a cool look.

Portillo Cowl in Yates Farm Chunky Yarn

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Portillo Cowl in Yates Farm Chunky Yarn

I used yarn from Yates Farm in Windsor, Vermont.  This yarn dates back more than a decade to my initial yarn phase.  I love it and wanted to use some of my partial skeins up.  This was just the right project, but because it’s so chunky, it knits up pretty huge.  This cowl’s going to keep me nice and warm!  I still have a ton of needles from when I started knitting, but I didn’t have circular needles long enough for this project.  In case you find yourself in the same boat, check out this economical option from Amazon.  Score!

Portillo Cowl in Yates Farm Chunky Yarn

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Portillo Cowl in Yates Farm Chunky Yarn

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Portillo Cowl in Yates Farm Chunky Yarn

This cowl is not perfect.  It’s not hard to see where I wove the yarn in or ignored a mistake, but I was going for a pleasant experience over perfection, so it is what it is.  It bugs me a little, but not enough to go back and fix it.  My friend’s and my motto for knitting is:  “Don’t be a stressed-out knitter.”  In other words, feel free to ignore your mistakes if you want to.  So I did.

Cowl #3:  Spidey’s Spiral Cowl

I’ve made this cowl before and given this pattern + yarn to knitting friends as gifts.  You can find it on Ravelry for purchase or you can buy it through your local yarn store (I got mine at Pintuck & Purl).  I really like how interesting it is, and because it uses such nice, chunky yarn, I actually don’t mind going back and fixing mistakes (once in a while).  My attempt last year in Yates Farm chunky yarn didn’t turn out the way I hoped.  It was more like a stiff neck tube, and I think it eventually made its way to the thrift store.

Spidey's Spiral Cowl in Baah Yarn Sequoia Yearling

This time I made it in Baah Yarns Sequoia in a color called Yearling.  I had plans to use a different colorway, but this pink was like cotton candy or a fluffy cloud, and when I saw it at Pintuck & Purl, I knew it had to be mine (See?  Enablers!!!).  I do think the final shape looks a little funny, but I don’t care!  This is the softest, most luscious yarn ever, and I needed to make something with it.  I even saved my tiny scraps, so I could just touch them.

Spidey's Spiral Cowl in Baah Sequoia Yearning

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Spidey's Spiral Cowl in Baah Sequoia Yearning

One thing I will say about this yarn and the Hedgehog is that they smell sort of like a perm.  Have you ever smelled that smell at a salon before?  It’s sort of weird, but I think it’s because of the dyes they have to use.  You really don’t notice it unless you are keeping your project in a plastic bag, so maybe use a cloth bag (or just don’t be surprised)?

So that’s it!  I now have all the cowls!  What on earth am I going to knit now?  Maybe another try on last year’s hat?  I would love to have a version that’s a little longer.

All the cowls and scarves!!!

Thanks to my photographers for making me laugh so much.  Now back to sewing!

Recommendations

  • I updated my blog post on McCall’s 6751 (the cross-back top).  It felt too exposed and unrealistic for my daily life, so I switched out the back piece and it’s so much better now!  You can check out the new look by scrolling to the bottom of the post.
  • Can someone make me this Color Dipped Hat from Purl Soho in these colors so I don’t have to make it for myself?  It’s a free pattern!  If you want to make it for yourself instead, that’s cool too.  😉
  • If you’ve ever wanted to make a popover shirt (I know I do, even though I haven’t done it yet), Liesl has a free popover placket and tutorial on the Oliver + S blog.  Check it out here.