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.