Monthly Archives: December 2012

I hope everyone who celebrated Christmas yesterday had a great one! Mine was lovely, and I wanted to share a couple sewingy things it involved. First up, a Christmas Renfrew!

winter Renfrew

What makes it Christmasy, you may ask, besides the Christmas tree in the background? Why, nothing at all, except the fact that I wore it on Christmas eve. I bought this soft and cozy knit fabric at the FIDM store last month in anticipation of needing some warmer tops for the holidays in Nevada. I thought it would make a perfect casual Renfrew, and so it proved. The fabric is lovely, warm and thick but with fantastic stretch and recovery. My first Renfrew was a near miss, due to fabric choice and dubious off-grain stripe placement decisions, and because it was the first time I realised that the Sewaholic patterns are drafted for folks with narrower shoulders than I, but I vowed to get this one right. This time I cut about a straight 8 (I say about because of course I am a pattern cutter and not a tracer, so my pattern was cut on the size 6 line, so using the other lines as a guide, I just graded up as I cut to what I thought would be an 8), veering toward a 10 at the shoulders just in case. That plus the super stretch of the fabric means I can reach my arms forward comfortably in this version, hooray! The neckband also worked much better this time and lays properly with no problems. I’m still getting some wrinkles from the armpit to above the bust, I suspect due to the whole not-drafted-for-broader-shoulders thing, but I’m not going to make a ton of fussy adjustments to a knit tee pattern. I may just seek a TNT tee elsewhere… blasphemy, I know, but I’m just not sure the Renfrew is perfect for my shape up top.

That’s not to say I’m going to stop making Sewaholic’s patterns, though… because one of those presents under the tree turned out to be her new Cordova jacket! I’m thinking I’d like to make it in a doubleknit, because I’m really into the whole knit jacket trend, and also because I think it might mitigate the shoulder issue a little. I’ll be cutting a bigger size in the shoulders for sure, anyway.

christmas haul

I also got a french curve set and some of the famed Swedish tracing paper – yes, I’m going to attempt a bit of pattern drafting in the new year! Possibly. Not anything major, now, but maybe getting in to some more serious pattern modding and RTW knockoff fun. My need for jeans that fit is getting dire, so at this point I’m actually seriously planning on some quality jeans-pattern-making time. Soon.

And one last Christmas present – I was nominated for the One Lovely Blog Award by the appropriately lovely Adrienne of stitching on the edge! Thank you so much! I’ll need to ponder a bit more about what 7 random things about myself to share, so more on that next time, but I just wanted to say thanks!

So Happy (belated) Christmas and (soon) Happy New Year, and (always) Happy Sewing to all!


Look familiar?

McCall's 6513/Tori pants take 2Yes, it’s the same outfit that kicked off my Mini Wardrobe back in September, McCall’s 6513 top and the Tori pant. I made this redux back in late October as a quick addition to my LA trip wardrobe, but I just photographed it a few weeks ago (to spare you another picture with a cast!), back before the weather took an abrupt turn into capital-W Winter (as winter as the Central Coast gets, anyway, which means mid-50s and rain) and it got too cold to wear it any more.

I don’t often make a pattern more than once, but I liked both of these and they were easy (plus I hadn’t put the patterns away yet!), so I figured why not? I love how just using different fabrics can make a totally different look and feeling to the same pattern. I will say that these are the new, improved versions – now with pockets!

Yep, I added pockets to these pants. Hooray! I love my yellow pants, but the lack of place to stash my phone/keys/hands is very disconcerting. I started by tracing the front pocket pieces off of a Butterick shorts pattern that I haven’t made yet, but I shrunk them quite a bit based off a pair of RTW cropped jeans I have. It was a bit of a challenge incorporating the pockets with the front darts and folded-over elastic waist of the pattern, but it turned out okay – the darts kind of overlap with the start of the pocket, and when I was stitching down the waistband it pulled more than usual because of the pockets (I like this pattern, but it is really hard to fold down and topstitch the elastic waistband without it pulling terribly), but, hey, no one’s going to see it… except you all, that is:

Tori pants added pocketsI lined the pockets with some scraps from an Alma blouse I cut out but haven’t sewn yet. While I kind of winged the pocket shape, I based the construction on the Thurlow trouser pockets, topstitching scraps of denim onto the pocket lining pieces for the bit that shows. I also made a faux fly, by cutting on a fly shaped piece to one front, folding it under and topstitching in a fly shape.

For the back pockets I traced the back pockets on those same RTW jeans. I placed them in the same place as on those jeans relative to the center back seam, but I think they’re a little too far apart. Oh well, they hold my phone!

Tori pant take 2 back

I also changed the hem vent on this pair – rather than doing the whole overlapped vent of the pattern, I just made little slits in the side seam hem. I sewed the side seams to the hemline, hemmed, then topstitched along the slits. Here’s a super awkward mostly blurry picture:

Tori pant hem slit

For the shirt, I basically made it the same as the first time. My funny-shaped piece of fabric (from my favorite place), a super drapey rayon knit, didn’t allow me to cut the full length of the top. I thought it’d be okay since it’s drafted so long, but it wound up being just a little too short for my preference. So rather than doing my usual twin needle hem, I scrounged up a strip of fabric that was about 2 1/2 inches wide to make a very narrow hem band, which made it just a wearable length for me. Phew! I made the sleeves as long as my fabric would allow. And even though I made the same size as the last time, for some reason this top fits a little closer through the neckline and is less prone to gapeage than the black and white version. And I just love this color!

I got a lot of wear out of this outfit in our extremely brief fall, but now I’m firmly entrenched in winter sewing. In fact, I just finished a doubleknit dress in this same color that I’ll share soon. Hope your warm-clothes-making is going well too!

Well, I’ve made it about halfway through the stack of cut-out things on my sewing (er, dining) table, but the intermittent tension problem I’ve been experiencing on my Bernina (I know, right? Berninas aren’t supposed to even dream of tension problems!) has finally become a mittent tension problem and I don’t feel like sewing a bunch of seams that will just pop the first time I put on the shirt, so what’s a girl to do? Oh, yeah, maybe blog something I made like a month ago.

I’ve been kind of realising that I really like New Look patterns. I’ve made a few now and I feel like they fit my upper body really well. I know, they should be drafted just like Simplicitys, since they’re the same company, right? Well, it might be my imagination, but I think they fit me better than any of the other Big 5s. I’ve generally not bought New Looks in the past because they work out to be the “most expensive” patterns at Jo Ann, since they’re actually the cheapest but they never ever go on sale for a dollar (eesh, Jo Ann has really messed me up with their sales, thinking $5 for a commercial pattern is too expensive…) Anyhow, I’ve really been loving the jersey twist top patterns that are ubiquitous now, so once I decided to splurge on some New Looks, I grabbed this one, New Look 6802:

New Look 6802

Aaaand, yes, I know, the print totally obscures the twist detail. Sometimes I miss at the whole appropriate-fabric-for-pattern thing. But zoom in! It’s twisty, I promise!

I found this fabric at Jo Ann as well, breaking my Don’t Ever Buy Jo Ann Fabric rule again. I rationalize it thusly: all their fabrics are polyester, but if you are in the market for a poly fabric in the first place, you won’t get burned! So I’ve had good luck with their ITY/poly jersey types. This was a remnant of a yard and a half or so wrapped around a bolt of a totally different fabric, so I have no idea what it was originally labeled as, but it feels ITY-y to me. I loved the print and the color in the store, but of course didn’t realise until I made the dress that the background’s just about exactly the color of my skin, so all the little dots make it look like I have leprosy or something. Okay, maybe not that bad. I think it’s right on the border of being okay, and I still like the print, so I will wear it and just hope no one thinks I’m contagious.

But about the pattern: this must be an older design, an early example of twist-front technology, because it’s literally just a twisted overlay that you sew into the side seams and the shoulders of a totally regular, uninteresting empire waist v-neck dress. There are even bust darts, on a knit dress! This pattern would run away screaming from a Japanese Drape Drape dress. At first I thought the way the overlay is attached was pretty ghetto (you literally just sew the overlay on to the bodice at the shoulder seams, then fold it down, rather than sewing the overlay into the shoulder seam), but it works fine and is super easy. You have to finish the neckline of the under dress (which I did with clear elastic and twin needle, as usual), but the neckline of the overlay is just folded under, and it stays put just fine. You can see just a little of the under dress neckline at the front center, which I thought was a little odd, but especially with this crazy print it’s not really noticeable.

Now, I said that NL patterns fit my upper body really well, but they are not so in-sync with my lower half. As some other reviews of this pattern have noted, there is a definite faux pregnancy pouf possible with this dress. I think I may have figured it out, though: the way the skirt is drafted, with a gathered front and a shaped, ungathered back, the back skirt pulls the front skirt tight against my (not unsubstantial) thighs, keeping the front skirt from falling straight from the empire waist and poufing out the gathered fabric in front of my stomach. It was much worse when I first stitched up the sides, so I went back and narrowed the seam allowance as much as I could from the high hip down, and it helped. I think if the back skirt had more flare it would solve the problem, so next time I make this or a skirt style like it I’ll cut 2 sizes larger in the hip of the back skirt piece. Sigh. I never thought I’d have to be making a “full bottom” adjustment in knit dresses!

The only other modification I made was to the sleeves. I didn’t like any of the sleeve variations offered in the pattern – I just wanted plain, 3/4 length sleeves, please! I used the long sleeve piece from view A and narrowed it to approximate normal sleeve width, and shortened it by a few inches to get 3/4 sleeves. I feel like I’m always modifying sleeve patterns to get normal sleeves – do pattern companies think you’ll feel like you aren’t getting your money’s worth unless there are 3 crazy sleeve designs in each pattern?

In the end, I like this dress, and it’s another good multi-use work dress for me. I may make it again someday, perhaps in a fabric that would allow you to see the twist front, but for now I’m more interested in patterns with real twists, not just overlays. I think I will continue to shill out for those pricey New Look patterns, though, since they actually seem to fit my miniscule bust and broadish shoulders pretty well without adjustment! My full pattern review of this dress is here.

Well, fingers crossed that the sewing machine man can get my Bernina back in line, tension-wise, tomorrow, and maybe I’ll have a slight chance of getting at least half of what I have planned done before Christmas. More things to share soon!

Once again my terrible procrastinatative (yes I just coined that word) nature shows itself in a something like three-week blogging hiatus. In those weeks, I returned from LA and was immediately met at home with the craziest weeks of my work schedule as well as visiting family members, and, you know, a not unconsiderable amount of turkey. But I have at last managed to carve out some computer time (I am also woefully behind with what you all have been up to), and I have things to say/share!

I’ll start by going back to my last few days in LA, when (on very short notice) some awesome LA sewists came out in the rain the week before Thanksgiving to meet up in Venice for some fabric shopping, dinner, and lots of sewing talk! I met up with Cindy of Cation Designs, Sandra of Brown Paper Patterns, and Nhi (who can be found here on Pattern Review) at Fabric Planet (open til 8, about the only place to fabric shop after 6 in LA), which is a pretty big, delightfully random fabric store with a nice amount of knits, some nice wovens, a ton of zippers and just about every trim you could possibly imagine. I walked out with a piece of mustard yellow modal knit and a super stretchy blue chambray (shirtdress!), and a few random zippers (all zippers $1!). The proprietor was really nice, and funnily enough was surprised and amazed that we had all sewn the things we were wearing. I guess he mostly gets people in who buy fabric for curtains and then hire someone to make them? We let him in on the secret world of the online sewing community and he gave us some deals (he miscut my knit at first, but let me keep the miscut remnant for free!). We then went and had dinner at a really cool place called Lemonade, which is like an awesome, mod, gourmet Souplantation, with everything served “cafeteria style”. We stayed there talking until we realised the employees were waiting for us to leave so they could go home… I once again marvel at the magic of the internet, which can so easily connect four people with like interests living in roughly the same geographical area, when we otherwise would have had no idea that such like-minded folks existed at all. I had a great night and I hope we can do it again sometime! And, luckily, we remembered at the last moment that we’d better take a picture:

Fabric Planet meetup(I love how it looks like I bought the whole store… really it was just 4 yards of fabric! The bag was actually made from a funny ribbed knit fabric remnant, tied into a bag shape with handles cut out.)

Following short on the heels of my return home was the holiday week. I actually started this post on Thanksgiving day, but didn’t have time to finish it before the cooking needed to start. But even though it’s two weeks past the day of thanks, and we’re well into the next holiday season, I still wanted to share some thoughts I had on that day. I’m not one of those folks who goes in for a lot of sentimental stuff, so generally the most important thing about any given holiday for me is what I get to eat, rather than, you know, giving any thought to what the holiday is supposed to represent. Thanksgiving for me has always been an amazing food orgy and little else, but this year I actually had a couple things that I was, well, really thankful for. So I thought I’d depart a little from my usual meaningless-holiday tradition and run down the reasons why this was maybe the most appropriate Thanksgiving ever.

First, on that Wednesday morning I got my cast off, found out my wrist was totally healed, and on Thanksgiving morning I rode my bike for the first time in over 6 weeks! I even got a flat tire and it didn’t dampen my joy. I was, ridiculously, a little worried that I’d have forgotten how to ride or something, but it turns out that riding a bike is just like riding a bike – huh, I guess that phrase exists for a reason. I am generally grateful for having full use of both hands back, which makes everything so much easier of course; and I’m also glad now that the weather has turned colder and I’m wearing tops with sleeves that I won’t be stretching out one cuff on all my warm shirts and sweaters! Mostly the whole broken-wrist experience really made me so thankful that my usual state of being is whole and healthy, and I will try not to take that state for granted so much in the future.

I also had a funny experience the week before Thanksgiving that really brought home how glad I am that I’ve embarked on this whole sewing lark. I was in IKEA (like I was going to be in LA and not go to IKEA. Man I love that place), and up on the top floor in one of the sample rooms there was a really cool orange bird-print table runner on a table all decked out for Thanksgiving. I immediately thought “I must have that”, but when I went downstairs to the table linens section, no bird runner. Then in the fabric section I spotted the orange bird fabric and realised that the sample room decorator must have made the runner from the fabric. After a moment of disappointment that I wouldn’t be able to buy the table runner, I literally thwacked myself on the forehead and thought “wait, I can sew!” So I bought a yard of bird fabric, got it home, cut a strip of it and hemmed the edges. It made me wonder how many other people had walked away disappointed that the table runner was not for sale, when it was so easy to make. Sewing is pretty cool. So here it is on our Thanksgiving table:

ikea fabric table runner

We had a wonderful feast, featuring a splatchcocked turkey (it’s laid out flat in the pan so it cooks more evenly – it really works!) basted with Emeril’s Essence (terrible name, but it’s awesome on turkey and the drippings make the best. gravy. ever.), as well as a terrific apple parsnip soup and a persimmon salad (no spinach at the market so we used kale, marinating it all day in the dressing, and it worked great), not to mention fall cocktails. So even though I had reason to give thanks this year, it still was an awesome food orgy too.

And now, finally, things have slowed down a bit and I can really get back to sewing – I mean, sewing frantically, since before Christmas I want to make a bunch of long sleeve knit shirts as well as at least one pair of pants, since I’ll be spending the holiday somewhere rather colder than Southern California, not to mention all the presents I want to make! Right, more than I can chew as usual… I’m off to a good start with 5 shirts and a dress all cut out and waiting to be put together. Let’s just hope I can keep up the pace, and still make time to share the stuff with you all! In the meantime, I’ll be back with actual finished clothes soon, the last of my pre-LA sewing binge (including the dress I wore to the awesome LA meetup). So a belated Happy Thanksgiving to those who had one! And with that discharged at last, full steam ahead to the next holiday!