Jessica Dress

7.15.2018


When I first started sewing garments, I almost exclusively made dresses.  Fitted dresses, flared dresses, woven dresses, knit dresses.  I tried them all and had various levels of success.  There was something thrilling about being able to make dresses as a new sewer and while I'm not somebody who naturally loves wearing dresses, I was definitely able to incorporate them into my everyday wardrobe.  Fast forward a decade, and the truth is that I rarely make dresses anymore.  My garment sewing is much more practical nowadays and filled with lots of basics.  And while I was able to wear dresses intermittently to work in the past, that's not something that I can do in my current role making them much less useful in my everyday life.  Which brings us to the fact that I haven't sewn a dress for me in long, long time (I think this Alder dress was the last dress that I made - hello, 2015).  But in scrolling through Instagram I randomly saw a version of the Jessica Dress by MimiG and my interest was piqued.  And as I did more digging, saw other versions, and found that it was a free pattern, my interest was cemented and it moved to the top of the queue.
I hit up Drygood Designs to look for some fabric and bought the last of this gorgeous blue jacquard.  Originally I was imaging a more drapey fabric for this dress (like a linen/rayon blend) but then I fell in love with this fabric.  When I brought it home, though, I had some definite hesitations about using it for this dress.  It has a more body than I would have liked in a fabric and I worried about how that would look in a gathered skirt.  Plus, I worried that the princess seams in the bodice wouldn't work well with the simplistic pattern on the fabric.  I suppose someone smarter or more patient than me could have done some amazing pattern matching to match things up on the princess seams, but while I have many life skills, pattern matching is not one of them.  In the end, despite my hesitations I decided to move forward with my initial plan.
Now this is where I mention that in making this dress, the person who almost never makes a muslin (me!) actually made a muslin of the bodice.  I ended up cutting out a straight size small but after making up the muslin I took out some width near the top of the bodice and added a wee bit of width around the waist.  I also ended up making the pockets smaller because those pockets are freaking huge!

The actual sewing went together pretty easily.  It relies on some individual customization so there's no suggestions as to how long to make the straps, where to place the buttonholes, and it has no pocket marking for the skirt.  Those things really are best made to your individual body or choices, but I imagine that for a beginner the lack of even a suggestion could be a bit frustrating.  I ended up using 1/2" buttons and placing them every 1.75-2 inches (I can't remember exactly).  I do know that I ended up placing 5 buttons on the bodice alone and 13 buttons all together (I didn't add them all the way down the skirt - this way I have a bit of a "slit" in the front).
Now here's the great and not-so-great thing about making your own garment - since finishing it, I can't help looking down at the bodice and wondering if I should have fit it more around the bust or elongated the straps.  It seems a little baggy around the bop of the bodice, but I also have a bad habit of overfitting things, ultimately making them not the most comfortable garments to wear.  Ben swears that it's not noticeable and it's probably just me being way overly critical in a way that I would never be about a store brought garment.  So today I'll endeavor to remember one of my favorite sayings - don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

Mini Colfax Dress

5.26.2018


 With Me Made May quickly coming to a close, this is typically the time that people start to talk about the gaps they've found in their handmade wardrobe.  Not so over here, however, because the fact of the matter is that I have plenty - plenty of handmade clothes, plenty of store bought clothes, plenty of everything I really need.  So yes, I can think about all the things I'd still like to make for myself (because truth be told, there are many things on that list) but lately I've been thinking of all the things I'd like to make for my kids.
Back when I started this blog, that's mostly who I sewed for and I loved seeing my kids in handmade clothes.  Sending them out into the world in a handmade item was like sending them out in the world with a tangible reminder of my love for them.  But over the past couple of years, as I increased the number of things I made for myself, I greatly reduced the number of things that I made for them.  The truth is that between back-to-school shopping and being the lucky recipients of many hand-me-downs from kind relatives and friends, they're not hard up for clothes either, but I miss sewing for them and seeing how excited they are to have a new item of clothing.
And with that in mind I set out looking for a new pattern to make a dress for O.  I quickly settled on the True Bias Mini Colfax dress which just so happens to be incredibly cute.  Now I know that Kelli has said in the past that she likely won't release more kids patterns because they don't sell as well, but to that I say "noooooooo!" because her kids patterns are fantastic.

In trying to work my way through stash fabrics, I settled on this rayon which was a gift from my mother-in-law when she traveled to Indonesia.  I think it was originally meant to be a sari but sari's don't get a whole lot of use around here, so I figured that repurposing the fabric was the way to go.  With all the gold on the fabric, O of course loved it and the rayon makes for a nice, light summer dress.  
Given O's string bean status I cut out a size 7 in width and a size 8 in length (she just turned 9).  It fits her perfectly right now, but honestly I wish it were a tad bit longer to ensure that it fits her all summer.  No worries, though, because there's a younger sister waiting in the wings to steal all of O's clothes.

And now on a totally unrelated note, I present to you the one thing O and I have in common - the ability to make ridiculous faces.  I love this little stinker.

A Sandal Making Extravaganza and Some Tips On Where To Purchase Supplies

5.01.2018

About a month ago I found myself lucky worm my way into a slot in a Rachel Sees Snails sandal making class that was held in Seattle.  The class was a whirlwind hands-on experience in sandal making.  I loved the process and the fact that it doesn't require too many specialized tools to get started (having to make a huge up-front investment is always such a deterrent to diving into a new craft).  Having absolutely no experience in leather crafts, I spent the next week googling some of the basic supplies and trying to locate places to find some of the more specific ones.  Most basic leather working supplies can actually be bought on-line - either through Amazon or specialized leather stores like Tandy Leather Craft.  I headed up to MacPherson's Leather in Seattle to purchase the actual leather but in the end I ended up only buying leather for the soling there. I didn't buy any leather for the uppers because all the leather is sold in fairly large pieces - which come with a fairly large price tags - and I knew that I wouldn't want to make every pair of sandals out of the same leather.  Where's the fun in that?  I also found out that they don't sell rubber soling there unless you have a corporate account, so that required me to do some additional googling to find that product.

Etsy, of course, was a huge help and I ended up getting my rubbing soling from this store and the leather for my uppers from here.  The leather store is a bit of a pain because the leather is not organized by weight and the vast majority of the leather they sell is too thin for sandal making, so it was a slog to go through all the options to try to find the correct weight. In the end, though, it was worth the effort because I was able to buy several 12x12 pieces leather that allowed me to make a couple different pairs of sandals.
The first pair I made was for my littlest kiddo.  She had a some definite ideas in what she wanted - in particular, a diagonal strap across her foot.  Unfortunately, having such a little foot, there were some limitations as to how diagonal that diagonal strap could be but she seems to really like the way they turned out.  This is the kid that rejects about 99% of the things that I make for her, but in this case she put the sandals on right away and headed out of the house in them.  It warmed my little heart.
The second pair I made was for O and this one gave me a little more trouble.  I feel like the fit is not great and honestly, fitting sandals with kids is a bit of a pain in the butt because they are not the most patient of creatures.  She also seems a little less than enthusiastic about how these turned out but I'll give her a little more time because it's basically been raining non-stop since I finished the sandals.
And the third pair were for my most appreciative recipient - me!  I love this blue leather and knew that I wanted to make a strappy, slip-on pair of sandals with it.  Despite loving all sorts of cute sandals, I knew that they also had to be comfortable or they would just sit in my closet, unworn.  Fortunately, with all the straps, it allowed for lots of opportunity for fitting and the straps provide a lot of support around the foot (I can't wear basic flip flops because it hurts my toes too much).  To say that I love the process of sandal making would probably be a bit of an understatement but I'm beginning to realize - exactly how many sandals does someone who lives in the rainy capital of the United States need?

Now, as a disclaimer I should probably note that these sandals are not as "done" as they should be.  Technically they need a little sanding around the outside so that my imperfect cutting is not so noticeable.  Word on the street is that a Dremmel is a great tool for smoothing out the edges but with buying all the new supplies, I figured that I would be responsible with the budget and wait on purchasing yet another thing.  Being a responsible adult can be such a drag sometimes.

Persephone Pants

4.22.2018

 I don't even know where to start this post.

Do I start by talking about the hesitation I feel almost every time I consider trying out a new pants pattern because I often don't feel up to the task of dealing with fitting issues?

Or do I start by talking about how smitten I was with the Persephone Pants Pattern from the moment I first saw it?

Or do I start by talking about how pants sewing has totally stolen my heart over the past year and made getting dressed in the morning a much more enjoyable task?

Or do I just start by telling you how much I love these pants?
Yeah, I'll just start there because I do freaking love these pants.  And while I was (and am) smitten by this pattern and I did hem and haw for several days before making it because I felt exhausted by the idea of dealing with various fit issues, I am so glad that I took the plunge because these pants ended up being everything I could have hoped for.  And don't tell anybody, but I really didn't end up doing any fitting adjustments because fortunately the pattern is made for ladies with big old ten inch differences between their waist and hips and I fit perfectly into the size 8 recommendation (29" waist, 39" hip).  Really the only modification I made was to hem them a 1/2 an inch higher (I'm 5'6" for reference).

As for the actual sewing, this pattern was super-fun to make.  I realize not having an outer side seam can make fitting a bit more difficult but I loved having one less seam to sew and it really makes for a great pattern for patterned or striped fabric since you don't have that side seam to break up the visual interest.  As for using striped fabric, I should have been a little (or a lot) smarter about stripe matching but I ended up with a pretty good match on the front and a slightly less good match on the bum.  You win some, you lose some.

I did manage to match the stripes in the pockets to the pants since you can sometimes see them ever-so-slightly and I went with a bias cut on the waistband and belt loops to add a little visual interest (and to avoid pattern matching hell).
The fabric is an Italian cotton bottom weight that I bought back in November at Esther's Fabrics on Bainbridge Island.  I originally planned to make some Lander Pants with it, but now I'm thinking that I like that pattern in a fabric with a wee bit of a stretch to it.  While this fabric is a bottom weight it's definitely lighter weight than recommended for the Persephone Pants (recommended weight is 10 oz and up), but it seems to still work well with the pattern.
The turtleneck is made from the Itch to Stitch Hepburn pattern and a Pickering knit that I bought from Fancy Tiger Crafts back in 2017.  I know I've mentioned it before, but I love the Pickering Knits and while buying knits on-line can be a bit of a crap shoot, I've always been happy with every one I've gotten from them.  And as for the turtleneck pattern, this is actually the first Itch to Stitch pattern that I made.  It's a fairly simple pattern given that it's a knit turtleneck but it seems well drafted and I love having patterns for basics like this one.
And if I can throw in one last me-made item in this post that may never end - my sandals!  I took a sandal making class with the lovely Rachel Sees Snails, hosted at Drygoods Design, a couple weeks ago and these sandals were the fruits of my labor at the class.  I've been bitten by the sandal-making bug and have made a couple more pairs since that time and if I can get my butt in gear, I hope to write up a post about material sourcing sometime soon.
Alright, my friends, that's a wrap.

Making A Short Sleeved Dress In April Is A Sign of Eternal Optimism

4.15.2018

The stash busting continues - although not so much with scraps this time as I had several yards of this Art Gallery knit left over from making the kids some Alex and Anna Pajamas 2 years ago.  It's a cotton lycra blend that is incredibly comfortable and works great with the Joey Dress.  How do I know this, you ask?  Well, because I made my first Joey Dress with an Art Gallery knit 3 years ago. Ohh, look how cute O was back then (although she's still pretty cute)!
I love that the dress comes with a couple different options and this time around I opted for 3/4 length sleeves, although truth be told, they're more elbow length than 3/4 length.  I also chose the size based on O's measurements which means that I chose a size 2 sizes smaller than would be recommended based on her age and I just added some length to the bodice and skirt.
Having made this pattern before, I can't say that there were any surprises this time around except for discovering that my serger was in dire need of servicing.  I thought it was just a tension issue at first but it soon became apparent that something was seriously wrong and the serging on the inside of this dress is atrocious.  But given that most people don't go around looking at the inside of other people's clothing, we'll just keep that secret between the two of us, okay?

Turning Scraps Into a Mini Ogden Cami

3.16.2018


Now don't get me wrong, I love new fabric and patterns as much as the next person, but sometimes it feels like the act of purchasing new goods overshadows the actual creative process and that's when I find it helpful to take a break from the buying and engage in some stash busting.  Fortunately, I have two little ones to sew for which makes finding uses for leftover fabrics much easier.  While my favorite pattern for stash busting through knits will forever be the That Darn Kat undies pattern, the Mini Ogden Cami is quickly becoming my favorite pattern for stash busting through wovens.  The women's version can often be made with a yard of fabric with some creative placing and the kid's version requires even less (my favorite other pattern for stash busting wovens - the Purl Soho City Gym shorts!).
 This fabric is actually  leftover from making some some Origami Pillows from Sewing Happiness.  I now realize that I probably should have taken some photos of the pillows, but you'll just have to take my word for it that they're lovely and really fun to make.  I had about 3/4 of a yard left over and thought that cotton-linen blend would work great for an Ogden Cami (we'll just ignore the fact that it's still 40 degrees F outside).
While I wish I were a minimalist who could fully embrace the natural beauty of this fabric and the clean lines of the Ogden, I have to admit that I love little extra touches and I added some to this top with some decorative stitching on the straps and some contrast stitching along the hemline.  Nothing earth shattering, but it's nice to add your own personal touches to makes, right?
Now it's back to digging through the stash for other odds and ends to try to make something out of.

Things I've Made and Never Blogged About

3.10.2018

We shall call this post "Things I've Made and Never Blogged About" because I actually finished this sweater sometime around November.  I was in full knitting mode at that time, buoyed by the fact that knitting during my downtime is a far more productive use of time than just playing around on Instagram.  Fortunately, I'm not opposed to knitting a beloved pattern over and over (and over) again so knitting this sweater ended up being just the right mix of mindless and interesting.  On a side note, this is a completely different mindset than I had when I first started knitting.  At that time I had a list a mile long of things I wanted to make and I couldn't understand why anybody would limit themselves by making the same pattern multiple times.  Apparently, that sentiment no longer exists because this would be the fourth (1, 2, 3Bloomsbury Sweater that I've made and the truth is that I'd make it again in a heartbeat.
The yarn is Manos de Uruguay, which just so happens to be the same yarn that I used for my pink version.  I love the slight varigation of the kettle dye and it's so incredibly soft and warm.  It's also held up fairly well with wear, which isn't always the case with such soft single ply yarns.
O remains a tiny little thing so I picked the size according to her chest measurement (size 6) and just added a bunch of length to the arms and body.  The ease of doing this is why I will forever love top-down sweaters.  I was worried that I went a little overboard in the body length because I'm always afraid that she's going to grow out of things too quickly, but fortunately it seems to be a Goldilocks length - not too short, not too long.  In fact, some might say that it's just right.

Also, on a totally unrelated note - I love this little kid.

Sometimes The Sequel Isn't As Good As The Original

2.17.2018

So, as it happens, not all knitting projects turn out to be raging success stories.  In fact, some turn out to be sad disappointments.  Like this sweater.  I had high hopes for my second Tegna.  Mostly, those hopes had a lot to do with fixing some of the issues that I had in making my first Tegna - namely fixing the neckline that came out far wider than anticipated.  Instead of fixing the problem, however, it seems to be even worse in this one.  I realize that it looks okay from the front, but the view from the back shows just how ridiculously large it is (Bonus - it gives people a nice view of my big back mole which fortunately you can't see in these pics!).  And there's a good chance that this sweater could go into some 1980's off the shoulder territory with just a bit of movement.
There are few things as disappointing in knitting than finishing a sweater that took weeks to make only to realize that the size is totally off.  Especially since I was a good little knitter and even made a gauge swatch to make sure that the sizing was right.
On the upside, the yarn, Madeline Tosh Light, was lovely to work with and I love the bright green color - even if I am slightly camouflaged amongst the trees.  Also, the lace bottom is as lovely as ever, so at least there's that.  Fortunately, while resiliency may be more of a struggle in other parts of my life, I'm a resilient little knitter and already have my next project on the needles.  You can't keep a good woman down, right?

Brown Birkin Flares

2.11.2018

There's a part of me that feels like "For the love of God,  Carolyn, stop making pants!" but there's another part of me that says "Make all pants, all the time!"  To be fair, there was a real gap in my wardrobe when it came to pants.  I grew out of many pairs over the last couple years and while I had some cropped pairs that I could wear in the spring and summer, I didn't have a whole lot of options for colder weather.  That may partly explain my pants making spree but you know what else explains my pants making spree?  I just really like making pants.  The most intimidating part is definitely the fitting aspect but once you have a pair that fits, the actual sewing isn't bad.  Yes, it's a bit time consuming, but it's definitely worth it in the end.
And with that diatribe, allow me to introduce my latest pair of pants - dyed brown Birkin Flares.  The fabric was once white stretch Cone Mills denim that I purchased with the idea to dye it another color. I originally used some Dylon dye but it came out more of a clay color so I dyed it again with Rit, using significantly less water in my washer, and it came out much closer to the color that I was looking for.  To be honest, it's still a little a lighter than I was originally hoping for and I may just end up throwing it in the dye pot (otherwise known as my washing machine) once again.  The good news is that this is my second pair of jeans that I've dyed and I'm happy to report that the dye seems to be holding up well in the first pair so I'm hoping that it will in this pair too.
This certainly isn't my greatest sewing job. The top stitching ain't perfect, the rivets gave me a super-hard time for the first time ever (don't look to closely at them!), and the waistband is not as tidy as I would like it, but the pants are still super-wearable and I imagine that they'll get a lot of use.  I made a size 30 once again and took some width out of the leg below the hip all the way down the leg to reduce the size of the flare.  Some of my past pairs seemed to have shrunk a bit in length after repeated washings (despite pre-washing the fabric) so I left this pair a little on the longer side in case they decided to shrink up a bit as well.
And that may be a wrap on my pants making for a while, especially since I want to spend February stash busting through some scraps and that generally means sewing for the kids, since tiny people allow for the use of tiny scraps of fabric.

The Lander Pant - Round 2

1.28.2018

It's been a couple weeks since I finished my first Lander Pant and those weeks gave me some much needed time to think about what modifications I wanted to make to future pairs.  Most of my fit concerns were with the crotch, button fly, and waistband areas.  I found the waistband a bit tight and restrictive for my taste and I was concerned about some pulling at the fly making it look like I was about to bust out of the pants.  After trying my first pair on a couple times, I also became concerned that the the crotch was a tad too short for me so I delved into the world of of YouTube videos dealing with measuring crotch length and making needed adjustments and I found this one particularly helpful.  As it turns out, based on my measurements the crotch was an inch too short for me, but to be on the safe side I ended up only adding 1/2 an inch total to the crotch (1/4 to the front and a 1/4 to the back).  I also figured that some of the pulling could be address by adding an extra button to the fly and that actually seems to have worked really well.
Well, not at first since I accidentally added 2 extra button holes initially because I wasn't paying attention and then I had to unpick 3 buttons holes to fix the spacing issue.  Let's just say that there's some unintentional denim distressing around the fly.  Another change that addressed some of my concerns is that I made this version out of some stretch Cone Mills denim, (purchased from here) which is far more forgiving than non-stretch twill when it comes to fit issues.
In an effort to keep some of that stretch around the waistband I cut the waistband with the stretch going around my body, but then I chickened out and interfaced the waistband (as recommended by the pattern), essentially negating the stretch.  I was worried that without the interfacing on the waistband it may not hold up well with wear, but now that I think about it, I probably should have just left it off because I've made several Birkin Flares without an interfaced waistband and they've held up great.
Lastly, I opted to leave out the pocket lining in an attempt to reduce some bulk and instead just finished the top portion of the pock with bias binding that I then folded over and sewed down.  It worked out great and this is probably a modification that I'll continue with on any future pairs that I make.
As for the fit, the pattern is well-thought out in that it includes a larger seam allowance on the outside of the pants so that you can try the pants on and adjust the fit as needed.  I hemmed and hawed about how fitted to make these pants and in the end opted for a fit that's not super fitted.  I slimmed out the hips a little bit but left the larger seam allowance on the leg to preserve the wide leg look.  I'm still trying to decide whether I should have gone with a more fitted hip but I can definitely say that these are incredibly comfortable to wear - something that I couldn't say about my first pair.  And I may officially be an old lady, but I do like my pants comfortable.