Undie Making Attempt #753 (Or At Least It Feels That Way)

This week I turned one year older and I celebrated by doing one of my very favorite things - getting stuff done!  Doors painted, papers shredded, random piles of junk done away with, and toys donated.  Oh, and I sewed a bunch of undies.

This isn't actually my first attempt at sewing underwear for myself, but it is my most successful.  After trying my hand at sewing kid's undies, I sewed a pair or two for myself with some interlock cotton and while they worked okay, they were actually kind of ugly and they didn't stick around too long.  About a year ago, I tried again, only this time using the So Zo free undies pattern.  The fit was great but I'm horrible at sewing with foldover elastic so the finishing was pretty hideous.  I tried to make them again using a picot edged elastic but I forgot to add width to the crotch area to make up for the fact that you have to fold the elastic over, and let's just say that they ended up riding up in all sorts of areas because of the missing width.  Not comfortable!  And then about a month ago I made myself a pair of undies using the free Make Bra hipster pattern, but the fabric I used ended up being far too flimsy and having no recovery so the undies are kind of saggy.  Not exactly a good look.  I could consider all those project little failures, but the truth is that I learned something important from each and every one.

I learned a lot about choosing fabrics for undies (lycra is your best friend).  And about how to sew on picot elastic (sew as close to the picot edge as you can when sewing it on the right side of the fabric.  Oh, and trim your fabric after the first step of sewing the picot to the right side.  The undies end up looking much better that way).  I also always hated how the inside of the undies looked when the thread you used matched the outside of the undies but contrasted with the elastic portion.  Then I had an epiphany - just use a different color thread in the bobbin! - and my undies have been looking much better since then.

Which brings us to today and my undie-making extravaganza.  These undies were actually all made using the Ohhh Lulu Grace underwear pattern which was fantastic but is definitely geared more towards an intermediate sewer.  A beginner could definitely try their hand at the pattern, but they would probably just have to search the internet a bit for some tutorials on certain techniques.  They're certainly not difficult to put together - they just require some different skills.

The pattern calls for using a woven cut on the bias for the front and back panels, but for my first pair I used a knit for the entire pair.  The only issue was that this is a pretty flimsy knit without an lycra and when I tried on the undies for size they ended up being too big.  No problem though - I just went back and sewed all the seams with a 5/8" seam allowance rather than a 1/2".  Problem solved!

I did use a woven for my next pair along with a cotton/lycra knit fabric for the sides and the fit was right on!  The woven fabric is a voile leftover from this project and the knit fabric is cut up from a dress that I made and never blogged about because it made me look like a stuffed sausage.  The pattern calls for just turning under the leg seam allowance but I added elastic edging to the legs in addition to the waist just because I prefer that look.  The orange elastic is local from Pacific Fabrics and all the other elastics I purchased from here.

For the third pair I used fabric leftover from this project and O just thinks it's hilarious that I have undies that match her dress.  The side fabric is just a cotton/lycra fabric that is leftover from my children's undie making efforts.

The truth is that I may be addicted to making underwear.  I know this because I spent the last hour searching websites for things like stretch lace and plush back elastic.  Who am I?

Oh, that's right - I'm the gal with some kick-ass undies!


A Tale Of Two Shorts

It was the best of times.  It was the worst of times.

But let's start with the best because that's much more fun.   Allow me to introduce my latest pair of City Gym Shorts - with gold bias binding nonetheless!  Now if I were a better blogger this is where I would tell you where exactly I got the inspiration for these shorts, because I'm definitely not the first person to use metallic trim on these shorts. The truth is though, that I have no idea where I first saw this because while I was immediately drawn to the idea I knew that there was no way that I was ever going to get around to making my own metallic bias tape so I didn't even bookmark the inspiration.  Fast forward a week or two and what do I find at Joann Fabrics?  Pre-made metallic bias tape.  Boo-yah!

Actually, double boo-yah because it turned out that I had just enough plain black cotton fabric in my stash that was leftover from some long-forgotten project.  And with that combo these little shorts were born.  And I just have to say - holy cow, are these shorts quick to sew up when you use store bought bias tape.  Lightening fast, people!

So fast that I had time to make a whole another pair of shorts - only this time for the little one.  I dug through the stash to find some coordinating fabric and came up with this mermaid fabric by Heather Ross and some leftover orange quilting cotton.  I really love these little shorts too but the recipient is less enthusiastic about them.  When I tried to try them on her to check the length of the elastic, she started yelling "Bad shorts!  Bad shorts!" and her opinion of them still hasn't changed.   I'm choosing to believe that she's displeased with them out of a sense of solidarity with the mermaids - whose heads I accidentally cut off because I miss calculated the seam allowance of the waistband.  Oops.

On the upside, I'm super-smart and made C's shorts in a size three so there's the possibility that they may still fit her next year.  Here's to hoping that she makes peace with decapitated mermaids in the coming year.

Also on a positive note, after making three pairs of these shorts I've come to the conclusion that the waistband is just a tad bit too long.  I struggled like hell to get the second one in just right (just like the first one), so on the third pair I cut the waistband a tiny bit smaller (maybe like 1/2 an inch) and it went in perfectly.  And another tip - although this one is far from mind-blowing - I've been sewing a little X on the backside of the shorts to indicate which side is the back.  Usually I do this with a little bit of ribbon but the way that this waistband is sewn on makes it so that step requires much more forethought than I'm capable of so I went with this sporty little method instead.  Problem solved.


City Gym Shorts For The Girl Who Never Goes To The Gym

<<Ha!  I just realized that I forgot to make the sides line up perfectly.  And this is why I never sew with plaid fabric!>>

Sometimes I sew incredibly frivolous items that never get worn, and sometimes I sew something that's actually useful.  I'm pleased to say that this little pair of shorts actually falls into the latter category.  You see, I have one pair of lounging-around-the-house shorts that have been in heavy rotation for years and are about to die so I needed to add a new pair into the mix.  Luckily the stars seemed to align as the City Gym Shorts pattern was released by Purl Bee just when I needed a pair of casual shorts (and the pattern's free!).  If you search the internet you'll find tons of versions of these shorts sewn up in all sorts of incredibly cute mix-and-match fabrics, so I'll just point out the completely obvious fact that mine are definitely on the plain side.  But I love them all the same.

The fabric is from my stash and I have absolutely no idea when or where I bought it.  It seems to be a 100% cotton fabric with a little bit of texture and luckily it works perfectly for these little shorts.  I took extra time to cut everything out perfectly so that all the plaid lines align but when I finally got around to sewing the shorts I totally forgot about matching everything up and all the lines ended up being a 1/4 inch off.  Of course, I didn't realize this until I had serged all the seams and I don't know about you, but ripping out serged seams is the bane of my existence.  I made it through about an inch of ripping when I just decided to cut the shorts out again.  Problem solved.

I probably should have taken that mistake to be a bad omen because I had all sorts of trouble sewing up these shorts (all of it of my own doing).  I did a crappy job sewing on the bias tape and ended up having to rip it out and sew it back on.  I sewed one side of the shorts together wrong so I  had to rip that out too.  And my waistband kept getting stretched out as I sewed it down despite the many, many pins I used, so I had to spend quite a lot of time fiddling with that too.

I don't know what my problem was!  I swear that these are simple little shorts to sew together!  In the end, though, the effort was totally worth it and I love the final product.  So much so that I took them on our little family camping trip and wore the heck out of them.  I'm pleased to say that they lived up to the task!

What are we looking at here?  Oh nothing...just this view! Gotta love those San Juan Islands.


Alabama Chanin

I can't pinpoint the exact moment that I became smitten with the idea of making something from one of Natalie Chanin's books, but somewhere along the way that's exactly what happened.  And the more that I looked at her work and thought about the process of making one of her patterns, the more I became enthralled by the idea of making something entirely by hand.  There's something about it that goes against almost everything that we do as home sewers.  I mean, how many times do we choose certain fabrics or finishing techniques because we want our handmade items to look like ready-to-wear items?  And yet, here's a process that fully embraces the fact that something is not only handmade but that it looks handmade.  And the fact that it looks handmade is a good thing.

No.  It's a great thing.

I can totally get down with this philosophy.

But enough blabbering on.  Let's get to the good stuff.  The top that I ended up making is the fitted tank top pattern from Alabama Studio Style and the great part about this book (and her other books) is that they essentially offer one or two patterns that are available in all different lengths, from a top all the way down to a maxi dress (and you can also just cut the skirt out if you're only looking for a bottom).  Ingenious.  The other great thing about these patterns is the cut of them.  I love that they're incredibly simple, but really feminine.  They emphasize the little curves that I have up top while working great with the much bigger curves that I have around the hips.

Based on my measurements I was at the bottom range of the size medium, but because they recommend a fitted fit I went down to a size small but graded out to a medium at the hips.  I'm really glad that I ended up going down a size because it turned out that the shirt would have been much too big in a size medium.  As it was, I sewed all the seams with a slightly larger seam allowance than recommended (3/8 inch) to get a better fit.  Also, because the top has a fair amount of flair around the hips I probably didn't need to grade out to a size medium for the bottom half, but better safe than sorry I suppose.  I also cut out a size medium in length because I'm oddly paranoid about having shirts that are too short, but I don't think that the extra length was really needed.  Oh, and I also sewed the shoulder seams with a 1/2 inch seam allowance to raise the neckline a bit since it's definitely on the low-cut side.

While my lazy-butt almost never makes a muslin, I did make one in this case because I didn't want to sew everything by hand only to have it not work out in the end (I think I might have cried if that happened).  Plus, I ordered a yard of Alabama Chanin fabric to make this top and that fabric ain't cheap, people, so I didn't want to waste it.  I made the muslin entirely with the sewing machine and while it was helpful in working out the fit, there were a couple things that I guessed on because my muslin fabric was quite a bit stretchier and thinner than my garment fabric, especially since I made my garment with two layers of jersey.  

About that - initially I was just going to make the top with only one layer since I wasn't doing any fancy stenciling or cutting away the top layer, but in the end I chose to make a two-layer top because of the stability that the two layers together provides and I'm really happy with that decision.  Two layers for the win!

The top layer is the fabric from Alabama Chanin (storm color way), but I only decided to make it a double layer garment after I had already received my Alabama Chanin fabric so in an attempt to save a couple bucks I ordered the second layer from Organic Cotton Plus, based on Jessica's post about her beautiful dress.  She was spot-on when she said that the weights are similar and I've already placed another order from them in order to make a dress from this pattern.  What can I say?  I'm hooked.

I used the button/craft thread that the book recommends and was just able to find it at my local craft store.  I did, however, spend a good 15 minutes combing through the thread aisles looking for this particular type of thread because it only comes in like 4 colors so it's hard to find amid 100's of other spools of thread.  I opted not to fell any of my seams because I just like the clean look of leaving that step off.  As for finishing the neckline and armholes, I stitched the binding on with a cretin stitch and while it was slow-going at first, once I got the hang of it, it went pretty fast.  And dare I say that I actually enjoyed all that hand stitching (I know!?!  Who am I?)

I should probably also add that I bought a package of beads from Alabama Chanin with the intention of beading a part of this top, but in the end I just couldn't do it because I love the look of it without any kind of adornment.  What can I say?  I'm a boring type of gal.

A boring type of gal in a totally handmade shirt.




Like every parent, I sometimes worry that what we have to give the kids simply isn't enough.
Not enough time.
Not enough attention.
Not enough skill or knowledge.
But this past weekend we went on a camping trip up to Orcas Island and as I looked at my kids sitting around the camp fire and hiking through the woods, I was overcome with the feeling that while there could always be more, this is enough.
My kids are happy and healthy and full of joy (and ice cream, apparently).  And that is enough for them and enough for me. 


Puppet Show Shorts - Part Two

You didn't think that I'd make just one pair of Puppet Show shorts did you?  You should know by now that I'm physically incapable of making one of anything.  I guess I always figure that while I have the pattern out I might as well trace both of the kids' sizes.  And since I have both sizes traced, I might as well cut them out of fabric.  And while they're both cut out of fabric, I might as well sew them up.

And that mindset, ladies and gentlemen, is how you end up sewing two of everything.

The good news is that these shorts are actually a bit different from the other ones that I made (as opposed to the many other matching items that I've made for the girls).  While the little one's shorts were made of seersucker, these are made from some Kaufman yellow chambray.  After buying the fabric I worried that it would be too thin for a pair of shorts, but I actually think that the fabric works well with this pattern.  I wanted to add a little something special to the shorts but also keep them fairly simple so I just added a little blue piping to the pockets and the waistband (Are you seeing a pattern here?  Piping on everything!).

The one thing that I wish I would have done differently is modify the shorts to make them have a flat front waistband rather than a fully elasticized one.  I happen to love the look of a flat front waistband and I'm kind of kicking myself for realizing too late that it would look fantastic on these shorts (especially on an older kid).  But there's always next time...except maybe for O who is quickly growing out of all the Oliver and S patterns that I have.  Wahhhh!

And on that note, I'll leave you with these pictures of O and C mastering the fine art of posing for pictures.  If only I had half the moves that these kids have.


Shorts On The Line: Puppet Show Shorts

Can I just say how excited I am to be back for another year of Shorts on The Line?  Because I am.

And I'm even more excited this time around because it's been hot, hot, hot around here lately which makes for some perfect shorts-wearing weather.  Now, when it cam time to pick a pattern to make this time around I have to say that I came very close to picking one of the many new (or new-to-me) patterns that are out there, but in the end I remembered that I'm trying to hard to sew with what I have on hand this year and that includes patterns.  Because if you're anything like me you have an embarrassing number of patterns at home that you've never even made (please tell me I'm not the only one who has this problem).

Like this Oliver and S Puppet Show Shorts pattern.  I actually bought this pattern almost two years ago specifically to make the shorts, but somehow I never got around to making them (although I did use the dress part of the pattern to make this dress, so it wasn't a total waste I guess).  I love that Shorts on the Line provided me with the kick in the rump that I needed to finally make a pair of these ridiculously cute shorts.

And they are ridiculously cute (or maybe it's just the chubby toddler legs in them that make them so cute).  For the fabric, I decided to go with some dark gray and white seersucker because 1) nothing says summer like seersucker and 2) I love the way that you can make different design elements on a pattern pop simply by changing the orientation of the stripes on seersucker.

Shorts? Vertical stripes
Waistband and pockets? Horizontal stripes
Bindings? Diagonal stripes.

Easy peasy.

Oh, and a little flat piping on the pockets for good measure (and because I cannot resist piping).  And a completely non-functional button on the front because, well, because I wanted to.  I kind of love the way that these shorts turned out, but more important I really loved making them.  I've had a spate of sewing failures around here lately and this project was a much-needed win.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to dig through my patterns to find out what other little treasures I have buried in there!  Hopefully it'll include some more shorts patterns!

PS - And here's my PSA message of the day.  When your child does this pose, run - don't walk - to the nearest bathroom.  Someone (who shall remain nameless) may have peed all over her new shorts about two minutes after I put them on her.  Lesson learned.

This post is part of the Shorts on the Line sewalong.  Shorts on the Line 2014 is sponsored by: Britex FabricsHawthorne Threadsmiss matatabi, and Soak Wash.  Hosted by imagine gnatssmall + friendly, and Kollabora.


How Many Times Do You Have To Sew The Waikiki Swimsuit Before You Get To Go To Waikiki?

We're doing things a little backwards around here today, because the fabric that I used to sew this latest little swimsuit is actually leftover from a swimsuit that I sewed for myself.  In case you're wondering where that swimsuit is - it's around and I definitely plan to post about it at some point, but we have people staying at our house for the next couple of weeks and I'd rather avoid the awkward conversation that inevitably comes about when people see you taking picture of yourself in a bathing suit.  So, for the time being you're left with pictures of C in her new swimsuit.  Fortunately, she's the cuter of the two of us. 

If you're thinking that this swimsuit pattern looks familiar, you're definitely right because I've made it four (!) times already (twice in some vintage rainbow fabric and twice in some yummy cherry fabric.  I'll admit that I may just have an issue when it comes to matching bathing suits for the girls).  The pattern is the Waikiki Swimsuit pattern from Peekaboo patterns and in case it isn't obvious, I'm kind of in love with it.  It's super-simple to sew, the ruffle and binding allows for some fun fabric combinations, and the halter design makes it really easy to fit to your child.

Child too small?  Tie the ties a little shorter.
Child grows?  Tie the ties a little longer.

Now, that's an alteration that I can do!  I've been tempted to sew the straps down to change the look of the bathing suit since I've made it with a halter neck so many times, but I think I'd miss how adjustable the ties are. 

Now I may be a bit of a hypocrite because I just mentioned how this bathing suit allows for fun fabric combinations, but if you look at this suit you'll notice that I made it using only one fabric (a lovely print from Spandex House).  What can I say?  I was trying to use leftovers.  I also made the suit in a fabric that is pretty fantastic for adults, but perhaps a little boring for a little kid's suit.  Honestly, I think my child does find it a bit lackluster (after all, it doesn't look like Disney threw up all over it - her preferred look), but I kind of love the simplicity of the look.  And I think it might be growing on her too because while she absolutely refused to try the swimsuit on when I first finished it, she only had to be bribed with gummy bears to take these pictures 

Now that's what I call progress.


Just Like The Old Days

When I first started sewing, I sewed dresses almost exclusively.

Fitted dresses.  Flared dresses.  Long dresses.  Short dresses.

You name it, I spent all night sewing it.

But overtime I kind of lost my love of sewing dresses.  Possibly because I really don't wear a ton of dresses in everyday life.  Probably because nowadays I tend to be drawn to simpler projects and fitting clothes kind of gives me a headache.  And honestly, I'm not particularly good at fitting clothes to my body.  I totally use cheater methods and anybody who knows anything about proper fitting techniques would no doubt shake their head at my lack of skills.

But despite all this, I did it anyway.  Sew a dress, that is.

Don't be too impressed, though, because I basically sewed this dress (New Look 6557) once already -although that dress died an unfortunate death at the hands of my serger.  Knowing that it fit fairly well the first time around, though, gave me the motivation to try my hand at sewing dresses once again.  Plus, once I decided to make this dress, I found that I had the perfect amount of an ombre batik fabric in my stash.  It's almost like it was meant to be.

Just like last time the dress came together fairly easily although I did find myself scratching my head at the point where I was supposed to sew on the back facings.  In the end, I'm pretty sure that I didn't do it right but I've come to realize that pattern instructions are not the end all, be all and if I can figure out an alternative method that works just as well, then good for me.  In making the dress I also opted to interface the front of the midriff and I added a facing for that piece as well to cover the interfacing.  Also, I took off about three and a half inches in the length of the skirt after it was all sewn up because it hit at a weird point on my leg and I like the look of a knee-length skirt better.  I also hand-sewed the hem because I wanted to avoid a visible hem, but it ended up being a fortuitous decision because it helped with easing in the flared skirt at the hem.

As for fitting modifications, I used my cheater methods once again and took about an inch off of the upper back through the placement of the invisible zipper.  And because you fit the straps at the very end of making the dress I was able to make sure that the dress fit around the bust by adjusting the length of the straps.  Part of me wonders if I should have fit the dress better around the bust, but another part of me knows that I tend to over-fit dresses which makes them fit perfectly when you're standing straight up, but makes them way too tight when you do anything else (like bend, or walk, or engage in anything that requires even a small range of motion).

In any case, it's done.  I sewed a dress.  It's just like the old days.

Only with a few more wrinkles and gray hairs.


You Biked 200 Miles? Well, I Sewed A Dress. It Looks Like We're Even.

A wonderful thing happened this weekend.

I found my sewing mojo.

Because while Ben spent all day Saturday biking the STP, (in his handmade jersey, thank you very much) I spent all day Saturday holed up in my basement sewing like a machine.

First up in my weekend creations - a Popover Dress by Oliver and S (which just so happens to be a free pattern on their website).  You see, O's all-time favorite dress is a super-simple sundress that her grandma brought back for her from Cambodia.  She started wearing it several years ago when it was way too long but now it's almost too short for her so I figured that it was time to attempt to create a replacement.  Fortunately, the Popover Dress is pretty similar in design to O's current favorite dress, making it the perfect pattern for operation "dress replacement."

I really didn't make many any big changes to the pattern except that I added 6 inches of width to both the front and back panels because I knew that I wanted the dress to be nice and flowy.  I just gathered up the extra fabric when sewing the pieces together and it worked out perfectly.  I kind of wish that the straps were a bit thinner but I'll just have to remember that for next time around.  And like most Oliver and S patterns, the dress came together like a dream.

But let's talk about this fabric because that's what I'm most excited about.  You see, quite a while ago my sister brought me a packet of fabric from Pakistan with three different cotton lawns in it.  One fabric was a solid color and the others had two different patterns on them.  According to the picture on the packet I guess I was supposed to use the fabric to sew this...

...but I didn't because I'm a total rebel.  I used the super soft plain cotton to line these shorts last year and I've been scheming about what to make with the other fabrics ever since.  And if I'm being completely honest, I was also greedily holding onto the fabrics because I wanted to make myself something with them.

In the end, though, I knew that a fabric with such a beautiful border print would make a kick-ass sundress (and sadly the fabric piece wasn't big enough to make a sundress for me).  So in an attempt to be a good mom, I cut into my beautiful fabric and made this little sundress for O.

Fortunately, O is a really great recipient of handmade goods.   Every time I make something for her, she always asks if she can wear it the rest of the day.  My other one, however, is a less grateful recipient and often has to be bribed to even try on handmade clothes.  If it were up to her she'd wear polyester clothes with Disney princesses and My Little Ponies on them all day.

You win some, you lose some.
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