Monthly Archives: October 2012

So I made my Halloween costume this year, after the last couple years of meaning to and not getting around to it. Cool, right? Except I’m just realising that this may actually be a problem. Because what did I make? Was it a fantastical mythical being costume? A fancy period dress? A complicated conceptual design that could not be found elsewhere? Nope. I made a plaid shirt. Just a plain plaid button-down shirt that I could have bought anywhere. But still… I’m glad I did. Hey, it means all those other bespectacled brunettes out there who went as Liz Lemon this year didn’t have the same shirt as me, right?

Maybe next year I’ll go as that pernicious insect the Sewing Bug. Cause once it gets you…

Let’s start with the shirt. This is Simplicity 2447, a nice basic princess seam button down with a front bias panel.

This is a nice pattern, and was not too hard as far as shirts go. (Cast sewing is getting way easier… all the same I hope it doesn’t have to continue much longer!) It isn’t a particularly fitted shirt, so with the extra ease listed on the pattern pieces in mind, I made a straight size 10 rather than grading up to a 12 below the bust, and I got a good fit. The shirt is a hair short for my taste, and the sleeves are a little long, but I was pleased with the fit in the shoulders/back, which can sometimes be an issue for me.

The only pattern modification I made (other than shaving just a little off the princess curve as an SBA) was to add a placket to the sleeve, since the pattern just had a button cuff but no placket. I used the magic placket tutorial again (first used on my corduroy jacket), and made a 5 inch long by 3/4 inch wide placket on each sleeve between the circle markings on the pattern indicating where the cuff opening would be. I did not modify the sleeve or cuff otherwise, and I kept the two pleats indicated in the pattern. I cut my placket strips on the bias because I wanted the diagonal plaid, but I should have interfaced the pieces because the bias made the plackets stretch out a bit and not lay flat.

This shirt has been in the works for a couple seasons now, since I bought the shirting fabric on super clearance from more than two years ago. I’m glad the shirt finally came to be, and there’s nothing really wrong with it, except, well, I just don’t really think I’m a button-down shirt person. I just don’t find them flattering on me, I guess. Would it help if this pattern had more waist definition? Maybe. But overall I’m just not sure how much wear it’s gonna get. For a Halloween costume though, it’s terrific!

On to that then: I’ve always been a big fan of 30 Rock, and (like many women I think) I’ve always thought of myself as a Liz Lemon… mostly because I love to eat and I embarrass myself on a regular basis in front of my co-workers/passers-by. I’m also not a huge fan of dressing up for Halloween, so a cop-outish costume that involved me just wearing a slightly different shirt and doing nothing else appealed to me greatly. I knew I’d have to give some other clues as to who I was, though, so using this still as inspiration I decided to make myself a TGS hoodie too.

Thankfully I have not reached the point in sewing madness that I needed to actually construct a hoodie from scratch, so I just bought a cheap sweatshirt at Target and some iron-on printer transfer paper and appliqued some logos on it (I found the large logo for the back online, but I made the front TGS logo in a paint-like program, then cut the letter circles out separately before ironing them in place together).

And here is the whole costume together, with (what I hope is) a Liz-Lemony face. Actually, at the Halloween party I attended on Saturday, I was pleased that a lot of people came up to me and said “Liz Lemon!” There’s no better feeling than when someone gets your costume without any prompting.

In other costumey news, I also made (in a crafty sense, not a sewing sense) my husband’s costume. The loose theme of the Halloween party was “board games”, so after some quick googling we decided that an easy and fun costume would be the dude from the game Operation:

I traced off the shapes of the plastic pieces (by zooming in on pictures I found online and using my computer monitor as a light box), then transferred the tracings to white foam sheets and cut out the shapes. I then cut red felt to the shapes of the openings in the game board for each piece, and used sticky-back velcro to attach the foam pieces to the felt. I thread tacked the felt shapes to a random yellow shirt and (incredibly wrinkled, wow) shorts, with the wrench safety pinned to the sock. Quick and crafty costume!

So those were my Halloween escapades for the year. (Well, I also helped a friend make dragon wings for her costume, but unfortunately we didn’t manage to get any good pictures of them.) Happily we’ll both be getting to wear these costumes again on Wednesday for actual Halloween, so at least we’ll be getting (or close to) my effort’s worth out of them. And actually I can see myself wearing the TGS sweatshirt all winter – it’s very nice and cozy for a cheap Target hoodie.

So Happy Halloween to those who celebrate it! I for one am hoping to have a very happy day on Wednesday, since I have an appointment with the doctor and am crossing all the fingers I can cross that he’ll tell me my wrist is healed…

I’m finally sharing this dress that I made a couple months ago, back in the BC – before cast. I photographed it and everything back then, but just didn’t get around to writing it up, which is kinda crazy cause I love this dress! So, long overdue, here is Butterick 5778:

This is a really cleverly designed pattern. I’m calling it the “bike-proof cowl”, since the cowl piece is attached to a lining/stay of sorts that has a regular scoop neckline, so the lining hugs the chest like a regular t-shirt and doesn’t expose everything when you bend over – or in my case, ride a road bike (which, as those of you familiar with drop bars know, puts you into a perpetually leaning-over posture not at all suited to regular cowl neck tops). Anyway, it’s ingenious. The princess seams on the bodice are fun too, and they break up the bodice into little pieces so this dress isn’t a fabric hog like some cowl dresses can be. I like the proportions, the skirt hangs nicely with just the right amount of gathers… overall, just a win. It’s another one of those “make your cake and eat it too” sort of patterns.

That’s not to say I didn’t modify it at all. I was humming along in the construction, having attached the cowl piece to its lining, when it occurred to me that it’d be easy to fully line the bodice, rather than just have the center cowl be lined as instructed. I had some fabric left (see earlier non-fabric-hog note), so I cut two more front side pieces and another back piece, and I tossed the back facing. I sandwiched the center front between the side front and lining (like you would when attaching a midriff and lining to a bodice, for instance) and sewed the princess seams, then I finished the front armscyes by sewing them right sides together then turning. I sewed the back bodice and back lining at the neckline and armscyes in a similar fashion. I then used a trick from a Burda dress I made this summer (and never posted – someday, I promise!), which was to stick the right-sides-out front bodice into the wrong-sides-out back bodice, line up the raw shoulder edges, and stitch the shoulder seam. Then when I turned the whole thing out the shoulder seam was completely enclosed! I stitched up the side seams by opening out the sides and matching the front and back edges all the way along the outsides and the linings. Then I attached the bodice to the skirt as usual. Whew! Trust me, it was way easier to do than to describe – sorry no pictures, but if I make this dress again I can try to document the lining technique if you want.

In the end, I’m really glad I went with a full bodice lining, as my fabric (a probably-rayon jersey from, you guessed it, the crazy fabric store) was on the thin side, and also it made a nice finish to the armscyes and back neck without any futzing about with facings or narrow hemming (neither of which work very well on knit fabrics). I’m not sure why the pattern doesn’t just include a full lining, since it was so intuitive to add one, but I guess the mysteries of Butterick will never be known.

Anyhoo, the one thing I’m not totally sold on here is the belt. I was going to omit it, but the waistline looked a little barren without anything, so I sewed it on. It’s kind of weird in that it’s just topstitched over the waist seam just in the center front. I’m not a huge bow-in-back kind of girl anyway, so I’m toying with the idea of just adding a traditional waistband next time, and shortening the bodice accordingly. Because, after all, how could I not make it again – it’s the cowl that solves the cowl problem!

My pattern review is here.

In other news, I am still sewing, and I’ve gotten way better at using just my index and middle fingers on my cast hand to hold fabric, lobster style. I’ve just got to sew the buttons on my plaid shirt for my Halloween costume, so it’ll be done in plenty of time for festivities tomorrow. I will try to get my complete costume (and hopefully a couple others I’ve helped make) posted before actual Halloween on Wednesday, you know, for all those folks out there who are worse procrastinators than me – if there are any…

Hey, look, I made something! Really! And it was only about 2.5 times more frustrating than usual!

Thank you all so much for all your kind words, encouragement and well wishes on my last post. I will say that my scrapes are almost all healed, and my wrist is not painful at all, just annoying. Turns out that when you can’t bend your wrist or touch your thumb to your index finger on one hand, it makes everything take like twice as long. (Constant internal monologue: “How do I do this… okay, twist the shoulder… push with elbow… poke with fingers… and… there it is!”) It gives me a real appreciation for having all four limbs in normal working order, that’s for sure. But dammit, it was my birthday this week, and I wanted a new dress for it, and no stinking broken wrist was going to stop me… just slow me down.

I thought, for some reason, that making a knit dress would be my easiest option. I’m familiar with knits, no finishing required, minimal fitting, etc. But it turns out that fiddly thin ITY (but it is the awesome polka dotted fabric I got in Oakland this summer, and I love it!) was not the best choice for ease of one-handed operation. I had to use a lot more pins than I usually do (I’m generally all about the hold-it-as-you-sew-it method, but that’s not super well suited to only-one-opposable-thumb sewing), but it got there eventually.

My biggest error was probably in choosing this pattern, McCall’s 5435 (a pattern so out of print I can only find it on etsy), which I picked out of the dollar basket at my local fancy fabric store a few months ago. It’s designed for wovens, but I thought it would make a great knit dress. I was kind of right. This pattern has a really odd design, in that the contrast neckline is actually formed by turning the facings to the outside and slipstitching them down. Weird, right? I certainly wasn’t going to do that, so I decided to convert the facings to a neckband. I cut two of each facing piece and sewed them together along the inside neck edge to make a band, then I attached that band to the bodice pieces like a t-shirt neckband. I had to remove a half inch along the neckline of the bodice pieces first to make the neckline end up as drafted, since in the original pattern that’s how much of the bodice is covered by the facings. Ultimately that did work, though the back neckband gaped a bunch so I made a dart at center back to take in the excess (this is an adjustment I’ve made before, so I’m not sure if the gaping was caused by my neck finish mod or if that’s just how the pattern was anyway). But you totally can’t see the dart in the back view, so it’s fine. I also omitted the back zipper for obvious reasons, so I cut the back bodice, midriff and skirt on the fold.

It took a little futzing to line everything up just right at the point of the midriff, but I got it with just a little residual wonkyness that’s only noticeable when it’s not on a body. Other issues: The short sleeve is actually almost a bell sleeve, which is not at all evident from the pattern illustration. I had to narrow the sleeve by about 3 inches because the bell sleeve was neither fashionable nor flattering. Unfortunately this necessitated a bunch of unpicking since I didn’t think to narrow it before I sewed the contrast band on… and we all know how fun picking black stitches out of black knit fabric is. I also ended up taking 2 inches off the length of the main skirt to keep the hem band as wide as it was while shortening the dress to a less dowdy length. This too, of course, required unpicking the entire hem band. Finally, because I was using a knit, I made a straight 10 (the smallest size in my envelope), and I still had to take it in about an inch on each side seam to get the midriff fitted. I made a minor SBA by pinching out some of the horizontal fullness (I made a vertical dart in the pattern between the gathering marks), and I think that helped. The shoulders were much too broad for some reason (and I have broadish shoulders), so I took the top of the sleeve seam in to bring it up a little. I also found the armscyes way too low (I usually have the opposite problem), but there’s nothing to be done about that. The perils of making a woven pattern in a knit, I guess. (My full pattern review is here.)

Okay, so I’m starting to think this dress would have taken me just as long even with both hands at 100%… but I’m happier blaming the cast than admitting that I just made some of my usual bonehead sew-first-think-later mistakes. All the same, I finished it in time to wear it to dinner (and work after, boo) on my birthday, so mission accomplished! I actually like the way the dress turned out, and I do think that the pointy midriff is flattering and interesting in a contrast. The neckline is fairly plunging, but since I have literally no cleavage it’s not a problem.

And, hey, look, in this picture everything looks totally normal:

Just a regular, non-bike-crashed sewist looking forward to making something in a nice, stable woven fabric next time.

So, just as I was poised to go forth and conquer my fall sewing projects, I hit a surprising speedbump. Well, actually I didn’t hit anything, but I did fall. Hard. Off my bike while traveling quickly down a steep hill. After spending most of Monday in the ER, I emerged with a diagnosis of a bunch of scrapes and a (very minor) broken wrist. So. No bike for a while, and sewing, while still possible, will be a lot slower. I think I’m going to stick with some simpler things (I can barely put on pants, how could I make them?), and take it slow. At least I still have some things that I made this summer that I still need to share, and I can still (mostly) type…

I did manage to cut out most of a knit dress yesterday, so we’ll see how that proceeds. Ah, life. It happens!

The vast relief I felt last weekend after finishing/posting my Mini Wardrobe (voting in the contest goes until the 11th, so if you’re a Pattern Review member – and I highly recommend it, that site is a terrific resource – head on over to the contest gallery and get your vote on!) soon gave way to feeling slightly adrift and without purpose in the sewing department. I had a lot of practical sorts of things planned to make next (more pants! shirt for Halloween costume!), but none of them made me feel particularly motivated. I wanted to make something random and unplanned. I started digging through my stash, to see if there was any fabric I’d forgotten about that would speak to me. And what do you know, there was! I pulled out a cool geometric print jersey that I’d ordered from Girl Charlee last fall because I loved it, but hadn’t been able to match it to a pattern. Something simple seemed best… what if I turned the Cation Designs Dolman Sleeve Top into a dress? So that’s what I did:


Yes, apparently I’m making fall clothes now. (All those leaves on the ground are contributing to the illusion that it wasn’t still like 75 degrees yesterday.) I didn’t mean to make a fall dress, necessarily, but it just turned out that way. It does actually kind of make me excited for fall though (which, here, will arrive in approximately 8 weeks).

I started with the dolman sleeve top pattern and pulled the skirt pattern from Vogue 1224 (love that pattern!). I shortened the top by 4 inches, so it would hit at my waist with still a little blousing (I determined this using the extremely scientific method of putting the top I made from this pattern on and belting it at the waist, then measuring from the hem band to the belt). I cut the Vogue skirt a bit bigger than the size 14 to give more ease in the skirt (for biking, since this jersey has very little stretch), and I added one inch to the length (that skirt pattern is short!). Then I attached the skirt to the top and used the seam allowance to form a casing for elastic. Pretty easy!

I was originally going to just hem the sleeves rather than use the sleeve bands, but it turns out that the unbanded sleeves are an extremely unflattering length for me, so I went with the bands. The skirt also ended up a bit shorter than I’d like, necessitating the tights, so that plus the longer-than-intended sleeves fall-ified the dress completely.

I put the whole thing together in just a few podcasts (apparently I count time in Fresh Air episodes now), with the most time-consuming part actually being threading the elastic through the casing at the waist (which would have taken a lot less time if I’d made the casing just a tiny bit wider…) And now that I’ve gotten my randomness back, I seem to have recovered my planning mojo. Onwards, then, to the fall of pantsmaking!

And coming in just under the wire, as usual of course, are the final two items in my Yellow Pants! Mini Wardrobe!

Let’s start with the Thurlow shorts:

I was cautiously excited about this pattern when it was released. I never thought I’d be someone who made pants (so many little pieces! so much to fit! easier to just buy!), but as I’ve built muscle from cycling and my shape has became even less typical than before, shopping for pants has gotten so frustrating that I decided I’d better just bite the bullet and make some pants that fit me. I used the Sewaholic pattern because I felt like pants patterns from the big pattern companies were designed with both everyone and no one in mind, like RTW pants, but Tasia has clearly thought about what she and other women like her might want in a pair of pants, and her fingerprints are all this pattern – in a good way. It somehow feels like a very friendly pattern, and a comforting way to jump into real pantsmaking. Funny, then, but also awesome, that style-wise they look and feel very RTW. With more practice I can see making a pair of these that look like I bought them in a store, inside and out. But yeah, with lots more practice, because these were not without their speedbumps.

First let’s talk fit. These shorts are like attack of the whisker crotch! I think there’s a few things going on here, but I’m not sure. All those pants-fitting guides with their oh-so-helpful “smile wrinkles” and “frown wrinkles” and whatnot are not really useful in diagnosing the delightful starburst of wrinkles that is happening here. I think, maybe, that one thing I’ll adjust when I make the pants version (cause hoo boy I’m making like three pairs of these this winter) is crotch depth. I love where they sit on my hips (literally the perfect rise for me, thanks Tasia!), but they feel very slightly short in the crotch. I took out the crotch seam a little and it helped, but I think I need to slash horizontally and lengthen the crotch depth just a 1/2 inch. But honestly, I’ve been checking out a lot of crotches lately (I mean, in clothes catalogs! Jeez, what do you take me for?), and all those models have wrinkle starbursts too. I just think we pants-fitters are overthinking it a little.

I do think, though, that the biggest cause of the wrinkle party is just the fabric. This is a poly woven of some kind I ordered forever ago from when I was still learning how to select fabric online. I think it was billed as a poplin, but it’s much too heavy for a blouse. It’s not quite heavy enough for shorts, though, I guess, and it seems to have a mind of it’s own, drape-wise. It was fine to work with (other than making that burning tire smell when ironed like all the finest poly fabrics), but it’s just a little too light to hide an inexact fit. It’s also thin enough that you can see the hem of my tucked in shirt in the back, so I’m glad I dedided to omit the back welt pockets (primarily because I was short on time), since the pocket bags would almost certainly have been visible.

Pattern-wise, I un-peared the shape a little by basically grading from a 10 waist to an 8 hip, but I think I should have just made a straight 10. I won’t say no to a little extra room in the hips, it might also help the wrinkle crotch situation. The curve of the 10 waistband fits really well, hooray! I also love the length of the cuffed shorts – it’s long enough to feel comfortable and not too casual, but short enough to still be cute and fun.

Any trouble I had with this pattern was totally my own fault. Yes, the instructions are concise, but they’re more than sufficient. The fly construction had me flummoxed when I just read through the instructions, but once I had the pieces in front of me and proceeded step by step, it made sense and became a real, working fly in no time! (I was so excited that I brought it in to show my husband: “Look, I made a fly!” His response: “Uh… cool?” Yes honey, very cool, to me anyway.) The real trouble arose when I decided to switch right and left fronts to get the fly access on the right, but I didn’t think about it when I fused the interfacing to the waistband, so I ended up with the front waistband extension on the wrong side. Because I was totally out of fabric, I had to make do, so I cut a bit off the longer waistband off and sewed it to the other waistband. Classy. You can see the extra seam on the back view – I was going to hide it with a belt loop, but I literally couldn’t turn the belt loop tube right side out after sewing it, this fabric has too much friction. If I’m ever serious about wanting to wear these with a tucked in shirt I may try the belt loops again, but I prefer untucked shirts anyhow. I fastened the waistband with just a hook rather than a hook and a button as instructed because I didn’t have enough of an extension to put a buttonhole on. Just the hook works fine.

So those are my first “real” pants, and they really weren’t as hard as I thought! There will definitely be more Thurlows of various lengths in my future…

Which brings me to my last piece, the Vogue 8747 blouse.

This is a fairly straightforward princess seam pattern, but I ended up sewing every seam twice because this sucker was too small! After I had stitched (and serged) all the princess and side seams and tried it on, I realised that it would never button. So I went back and sewed all the seams again (just from the bust down, the shoulders and bust fit fine) right along the serging (thank goodness I’m not a super close serger and there was about 2/8 inch of room on each seam) to take the whole blouse out about an inch. So much seam ripping! Thankfully this fabric is a tough cotton poplin that the stitches ripped out of easily and without a trace. I cut my usual Big-5 size of 10-top-12-bottom, but I guess I should have cut a 10 shoulders grading to a 14 or 16 in the waist! I’m clearly too used to sewing knits. I chose the A-cup pattern piece, and the bust fit is very good with no adjustment.

I didn’t like any of the sleeve options provided with the Vogue pattern, so I pulled out McCall’s 6035 and used the short banded sleeve from it. And although it was a perfect fit to the Vogue armscye, the sleeve band was also too small for me! I had to unpick it and let it out as much as I could, which was only about a 1/2 inch since I had already trimmed the seam allowance. It’s still a tad snug – if I use this sleeve again I’ll cut a 12 or 14 in the band.

I’m not sure I love this pattern – there are just a couple things about it that aren’t quite perfect. First, as one review I read pointed out, it has kind of a “squinty boob” look to it. The gathers are concentrated in such a small area, and are a little lower than might be most flattering. I also think the button bands and the band collar are just a smidge too wide. I think a narrower band would give a more RTW look. I don’t know that I’ll make this pattern again, but if I do I’d narrow the bands a little. But it’s a cute little blouse and I love the black and white dot print – it’s my favorite fun neutral!

So, finally, here’s a collage of all the outfits that can be made with the five items:

There you have it, five coordinating items made in less than a month. Whoo! It was fun to create a collection, as it were, but I’m glad that all of these things can be worn with other stuff too. It was also great to stretch a bit and get away from knit dresses (gah, bad pun alert!). Pants, a jacket, and a blouse were not as scary as I’d made them out to be, and I’m happy to say that I’ll likely be making more of all of them in the coming months. But don’t get me wrong, I’m still a knit dress girl at heart! So I think the next thing I make will be something random and spur of the moment and that doesn’t go with anything… just cause I can.

All of my pattern reviews for these items are linked from here, my composite review/contest entry. You can check out all the contest entries in the contest gallery, and if you’re the voting type, head on over starting on the 3rd and I’d love your consideration!