One Coat to Rule Them All

My friends, it is finished. Not in a Good Friday sort of way – though I do kind of want to shout “hallelujah!” now that it’s over! – but rather in a “finally I finished that project that took for freaking EVER” sort of way. Whew!!

So you know all that perfectionism I was talking about earlier in the month? Well, I blame this project :P. And what is this project, you may ask? None other than the fabulous Sewaholic Robson Coat! Now, I want to preface this post by saying that this project isn’t monstrously difficult or anything, so don’t let all my hemming and hawing make you nervous. It’s a great pattern! I did, however, kind of set myself up for failure in terms of the timeline.

I had purchased the pattern back in February of last year, and got the fabric in September – a lovely bronze colored cotton twill from Mood. Then of course I put off actually starting the project until the week before Thanksgiving. And here’s the catch: I wanted it to be done in time for The Monthly Stitch’s November Outerwear Challenge. Ummm, making an entire lined trench coat in a week? Not gonna happen!!

And then December happened, with all the necessary gift sewing and holiday outfit preparation. By the time I got back to sewing after the holidays, I had most of the coat done, but was afraid of ruining it with the final touches (i.e. Buttonholes….uggghhhh), so I put it off. Until two days ago. Oops.

But at least it’s done!! And now for the good part:

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YAHS

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DOUBLE YAHS

In case you couldn’t tell, I am SO freakin proud of this make!! So get ready for picture overload :P.

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Back and cuff pics

SO, here are the details! I agonized over which size to make – my usual size 4, or go up a size for wearing ease? I eventually went with a 4, since several bloggers said it ran big, but it’s a tad snug around the bust. Not terrible, but I probably can’t wear a bulky sweater underneath. Granted, if it’s bulky sweater weather, I’ll probably want a heavier coat anyway! I may adjust the positioning of the buttons along the bust to give myself a little more room – we’ll see.

The only change I made to the pattern was to move the pockets up – I think about an inch? Honestly, it was so long ago that I can’t remember! *Edit: I just remembered that I also added 1 1/4″ to the sleeve length, and they are the perfect length!*

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As you can see from the above pic, the biggest change I made was to add lining! The twill I picked out wasn’t quite as heavy as I wanted, so I thought a light underlining would do the trick. I used Seamstress Erin’s awesome tutorial as a guide, though I used fusible interfacing for the facings instead of the lining, since I wanted those to be a little stiffer. I hand basted alllll the lining pieces to the fashion fabric. It took forever, but I’m so glad I did it! It definitely made the process smoother in the long run.

I also chopped the back pattern piece in half and cut the top part on the bias to give myself a little more wearing ease. If I has been lining the coat instead of underlining, I would’ve added a pleat in the back, but that wasn’t really an option here. And since my fabric has a touch of Lycra, I really wanted to make sure the lining didn’t rip! You can sort of see that seam here:

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More interior pics:

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And the leopard print lining is a nice nod to Jungle January – just in the nick of time!!

It was a long time coming, but I am SO so so pleased with the outcome! I’m glad I took my time – it was very satisfying to sew all those details just right, and I definitely hope to make this again. Perhaps out of waterproof material for a rain coat?

Now more pics!!

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Top button undone and folded out of the way

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Popped collar!

And, of course, no trench coat is complete without a Doctor Who reference:

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HOORAY!!!!

Preppy Pink Chuck

I finally did it, y’all – I finally broke free from the Perfectionist’s Curse! And I made stuff! Woohoo!!

Today’s make, however, is actually something I made over New Year’s while visiting my in-laws. I have really been enjoying knitting, and decided to take part in Andi Satterlund’s Selfish Swearer Knit-Along. I chose to knit her Chuck sweater pattern, which I’d been eyeing for a while since I looove knitting cables. It came together in no time at all – I started it the day after Christmas and finished exactly a week later!

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Not to shabby! I knitted a size small, but I’m thinking I may need to size down when making her patterns in the future – it’s a bit big through the armholes and bust.

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It’s still totally wearable, though, and I’ve enjoyed wearing it out several times since finishing it! I especially love the button-up shirt/sweater combo – it gives it a slightly preppy edge, which I enjoy :). I’ve been wanting to dress more professionally to work these days, and thought this ensemble had an especially polished, put-together look.

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Check out those cables! I really do enjoy cable work. In fact, I’m trying to whip out another Chuck before the KAL ends. However, I’m using a different yarn – I used Lion Brand worsted weight for this one, and now I’m trying out Cascade 220, which is what the pattern calls for. For some reason, I’m have a terrible time with wonky cables and loose traveling stitches – any advice?? I’ve literally ripped it out three times, and am wondering if it’s even worth it to try at this point.

Anyhow, I’m quite pleased with this make – my very first finished project of 2015!

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The Missing Link Hollyburn

Well, folks, the struggle with perfectionism continues. I still have yet to finish a single sewn garment in 2015. Argh. The good news is, I am three buttons away from finishing a major project from last year, so at least that’s something! I’m thinking this sudden perfection paralysis is the result of working through my perfectionist tendencies as a musician. I tend to find that my music and my crafting go hand-in-hand in terms of helping me work through creative struggles; in this case, as I am working to find freedom from perfection in my music making, my inner perfection beast is rearing its ugly head in my sewing world. Ah, well, it is what it is. I’m working through it, and that’s what matters!

That being said, today’s garment is another from the end of 2014. I made it when I was full-on stress-sewing the week before leaving for my holiday travels – I ended up making almost a garment a day in my frenzied excitement! (Which is also probably why I’m having such a hard time getting back into things!) This is my fourth Sewaholic Hollyburn Skirt – definitely a TNT pattern at this point! The fabric is a lovely bronze cotton twill from Mood, and is actually left over from the aforementioned major project that is almost done. I’m so glad I’ve finally gotten around to making so many neutral skirts – this one especially has really filled a “missing link” in my wardrobe!

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This time around I added belt loops, which in my opinion really makes the skirt. Sometimes it’s those little details that make all the difference! I’ve also been finding that I need to modify the size of the waistband depending on the type of fabric I use with this pattern, since it’s so close-fitting at the waist. For this skirt, I added about 3/8″, since the twill is a tighter weave and therefore has less give than other fabrics I’ve used in the past. It’s still a tad on the tight side, but very wearable!

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These pictures were taking during a lovely day trip to Philadelphia near the end of my visit with my parents. It was a surprisingly warm day, and we took a fantastic walking tour of the city, including a stroll through the University of Pennsylvania campus. Definitely a highlight of my vacation!

How is your 2015 sewing so far? Are you still getting back into it, or are you already stitching away?

Christmas Crafting: The Rest of the Gifts

Do you ever get in a weird sewing funk where nothing feels right, and you end up undoing more than you actually do? Ugh, I am completely bogged down in just such a funk, and I haven’t finished one single sewing project yet this year! Between yesterday and today, I think I unraveled the sweater I’m knitting at least three times, and am having to hold myself back from undoing it a fourth time. Last week, I literally hemmed the same sleeve about half a dozen times before I finally let it go. Seriously, what is going on????

So, good thing I have a ton of back-logged projects to blog about :P. Of course, having utterly lost my sew-jo, I’ve also mostly lost the desire to write about sewing, hence my lack of posts this week. So much for blogging twice a week in 2015! Hopefully it’ll get better…

Anyhow, today I’m just gonna dump the rest of my handmade Christmas gifts on y’all, and hope you’ll forgive me for the information overload. As I mentioned before, I decided to make most of my Christmas gifts this year, since I wanted to save money and I happened to have a lot of time on my hands. I managed to start early enough (before Thanksgiving!) that I actually didn’t get very stressed about it, and really enjoyed the process. So, here it goes!

Tea Wallets

A few years ago, a friend of mine gave me a tea wallet as a gift, and it dawned on me this year that that would be the perfect gift to make, as I have a huge quilting cotton stash and lots of tea-loving friends! I used this tutorial to sew up a whole bunch, and gave them to friends, sisters, and my mom!

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(Recognize the fabric? ;))

Knitted Hats

This was the Christmas of knitted hats. I discovered that they’re the perfect yarn stash buster for all those single balls I had left from various sweater projects, and just went to town! First, I made a baby hat for one of my sisters-in-law, who is expecting her first child soon. I used this pattern, and knitted up the whole thing on Thanksgiving day while visiting family! And yes, I was the gal at Walmart who knitted while waiting in the pre-Black-Friday sales line while the boys shopped for electronics :P.

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When I was home in November, my sister had strongly suggested that she might like a hat for Christmas, so of course I got right on that! I used this fantastic free pattern to create a fun cabled hat that I thought would match her winter coat nicely. Since she is quite petite, I left off a full pattern repeat in addition to shortening each cable to mine rows instead of ten. It fits her great!

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I had a hard time figuring out what to give my dad, but I finally settled on a hat for him as well. Since I was in a cabling state of mind, I went with this pattern (also free!), knitted up in a reasonably masculine brown wool/acrylic blend.

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Lacey Mitts

For my other sister and my mom, I wanted to make them something fun and elegant (initially, I was going to do this for the above mentioned sister, but since she specifically requested a hat, I changed my plans!). I have a thing for fingerless gloves, so when Andi Satterlund’s Piperita pattern came out, I gobbled it right up! I love knitting lace, and they were a very satisfying make.

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Niece/Nephew Sewing

This year, I decided to go all out and make niece and nephew gifts! I inherited several little ‘uns thanks to my husband’s highly productive family, all of which actually live in CA, so I’ve had the chance to get to know them a bit these past few months! For my niece who is seven months old (now more like eight), I made baby leggings. I forgot to get a picture, but they turned out pretty cute, and got a lot of wear over New Years!

For my older niece and nephew, I made raglan tees. This was my first foray into sewing for kids, and it was a blast! I love how I was able to use scraps too small for adult clothes, which just serves to encourage my hoarding tendencies. Oops. 😛 Anyhow, the pattern I used was the Recess Raglan Tee by See Kate Sew. I appreciated the different styling options, and tried to personalize each tee so the kids didn’t feel like they each got the “same thing.” My nephew was wearing his last time I saw them, so I think it was a success!

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Stocking Ornaments

Last one, I promise! While staying with my family over Christmas, I realized I wanted to take some kind of small, token gift to my in-laws when we visited for New Years. They’re not big gift people, but I felt strange at the thought of showing up empty-handed. So a day or two after Christmas, I borrowed my mom’s machine and stole some of her quilting stash to make some crazy quilt ornaments! I just winged the design based on some Pinterest finds – it was super easy! In a nutshell, I strip-pieced several crazy quilt panels, used a template to cut two mirror-image stockings from each, and layered some batting in between. Now I kind of want to get back into quilting….uh-oh!

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If you made it this far, congratulations! And thanks for reading :). I’m sure I won’t make nearly this much every Christmas, but this year it was fun!

How about you – did you make gifts, or reserve your precious holiday free time for personal projects?

Christmas Sewing, Hubby Edition

This year I decided to make the majority of my Christmas gifts, and since I’m no longer tied down to a full-time job, I mostly succeeded! My biggest reason for giving handmade gifts was actually to save money – since I’m not working as much this year, I thought it would be nice to use the extra time I have at home to avoid shopping as much as possible. I’ll be sharing the majority of my Christmas makes in another post, but today I wanted to focus on my gift to my husband. Unlike his birthday pants, these actually got done on time. In fact, I even had a week or so to spare! HA!

So, what did I make? I chose another Thread Theory design – you really can’t lose with them! – and made the Newcastle Cardigan. I had actually promised him the cardigan back in September, when I purchased the fabric for it, so I admit that turning it into his Christmas gift was sort of cheating. But, hey, it got me to finally sit down and make it!

The fabric is a pretty awesome double-sided knit from Mood Fabrics. One side looks almost like a rib knit, with thin, contrasting stripes running vertically down the fabric. The other side was a slightly darker shade of brown than the first side. I took advantage of this fun detail by making the main body of the cardigan out of the stripes, and the collar, cuffs, and button placket out of the darker side.

Fit-wise, this was a bit of an adventure. I’d never made anything for my hubby’s upper half before, so his “fit issues” came as something of a surprise! For some reason, I had been thinking, “well, he’s a man, so it’ll just fit right out of the envelope, RIGHT??” Wrong!!! His chest measured a size medium, so I started by cutting a medium. However, when I had him try it on after attaching the sleeves, the shoulders were WAY too big! Turns out my man has a very narrow upper back, which I never would have guessed. Since I didn’t feel like re-tracing my pattern pieces grading from an XS at the shoulders to a medium at the chest, I just shaved off 3/8″ at the armhole seam, which seemed to take care of it. Next time I make it, I’ll probably try doing it the “correct” way, but for now, it works!

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I think it’s rather snazzy on him :). In fact, he’s gotten compliments on both the cardigan and the pants. Not too shabby!

The buttons were fun to pick out. I actually managed to drag my husband to the fabric store to get them. (Obviously, I did not try to keep this gift a surprise :P) Since he has excellent taste and is somewhat picky about what he wears, I thought it would be best to let him select the details. He picked out German coin buttons, which I initially thought weren’t the best idea, but after sewing them on, he clearly made the right choice!

Button detail:

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Anyhow, this was a super fun project to make, and I hope to make many more in the future!

My Christmas Dress: A Velvety Experiment

Less than a week before I embarked upon my holiday travels, I decided it would be a great idea to make a dress for Christmas. Because, y’know, last-minute deadlines are SO helpful in the midst of the already-stressful holiday season. HA. But, actually, this turned out to be a reasonably successful experiment, given what I has to work with.

I say “reasonably successful” because a) this was my first time working with velvet, and b) the velvet I used was incredibly cheap. Like, $3/yard, I-need-to-spend-more-to-get-free-shipping kind of cheap (which, yes, I totally did…). So I knew going into it that this would be a somewhat mixed experience. To prevent myself from getting too frustrated over what could potentially be a total disaster, I allowed myself one day to work on the project, and made myself promise that if I reached any major snags, I would ditch the project and move on. With those parameters firmly in place, I got to work!

Before cutting into my fabric, I did a bit of internet research about working with velvet. Many sites had great information, like cutting your pattern pieces in one layer and tracing pattern pieces onto the back of the fabric instead of pinning. Both of these were fantastic pieces of advice that definitely saved me a lot of slipping and sliding in the cutting phase! I also read that you should baste your seams in place before sewing. If I had been working with fancier velvet, I absolutely would’ve done that, but my fabric was panne velvet, which is a crushed stretch velvet (and not nearly as delicate as the fancier, more expensive versions), so I just forged ahead with my good ol’ serger.

For my pattern, I used my old workhorse, the Lady Skater Dress, which I made a million times last winter and then put aside for some reason. So I was happy to revisit this one once more! I probably should’ve gone a size up, as my fabric had only moderate mechanical stretch and no Lycra, but alas, I didn’t, and my finished dress is definitely on the tight side. Oops.

Sewing with the material was kind of awful, since it was so cheap, but actually not quite as terrible as I expected. I had read in one internet article that with panne velvet, you can just sort of “smoosh” the right sides together, and the slightly Velcro-like quality of the fabric will cause it to stick to itself, eliminating the need for pins. So I totally did that. I also underlined the bodice with a double knit, since the fabric was a bit sheer, and also threatened to stretch out rather disastrously. I’m very glad I did this – I think it will increase the longevity of the garment a bit, which would be nice. I also decided not to try hemming the dress, and just left the hem edge raw. I was afraid that attempting to sew a hem would stretch out the fabric too much, and I didn’t have the time to play around with stabilization opinions. So I may go back and hem it later – any suggestions?

Anywho, enough talk!

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I’m actually rather pleased with the outcome, all things considered. I wore it to our Christmas Eve church service, and felt appropriately festive and decadent.

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How about you? Did you sew any special party/holiday/Christmas outfits? Maybe next Christmas I can plan mine more than a week in advance!

A Year in Review: Highlights, Reflections, and Goals

Happy, happy New Year, y’all!! I hope that everyone has been having a joyous holiday filled with family, friends, and fun. I know I have! After spending a week with my family in PA, I’m now in NH with the in-laws for New Year’s. While I still have lots of handmade holiday items to share (like gifts and a Christmas dress!), I wanted to continue where I left off with Gillian’s Top 5 lists. So, off we go!

First of all, personal highlights. WOW were there a lot this year! 2014 has probably been the single most action-packed year of my life to date, what with moving to yet another new city, finding new jobs, and generally getting a fresh start at things. So, in no particular order, here are some highlights!

5. Moving to San Francisco. I never ever thought I’d be a west coast gal, and I do miss the east coast terribly, but I have to be honest – moving to SF has been a wonderful experience so far, and has served as the catalyst for many amazing opportunities.

4. Sewing with the Crafty Foxes of Grey’s Fabric this past summer. Yes, I know it’s technically a sewing event and not really a “life event,” but this was my first time being a part of the IRL sewing community, and it was amazing. Dare I say life-changing? Those ladies are so lovely, and I miss them so much!

3. Working with the Boston Ballet trainee students for their spring showcase performance. This was the #1 career highlight for my time in Boston, and even involved getting to play a few rehearsals at the Boston Opera House! It really forced me to “grow up” as a musician and taught me not to back down from a challenge.

2. Working with the San Francisco Opera. UM YEA, I DID THAT. Literally as soon as we moved to the city I got a call from the opera asking for a ballet pianist to rehearse the SFO dance corps. I just so happened to be totally available, having just moved here, and a beautiful friendship was born! It was truly surreal to work with such incredibly talented artists, and the best part is, they asked me back for the spring!!

1. Singing. While I love to sew, this year really reminded me that music is my passion, especially singing. For the first time since grad school, I’m finally practicing on a regular basis, and it feels AMAZING.

Reflections:

Now for the sewing bits!

5. I love the process of making things. It doesn’t even matter that much what I’m making, so long as I’m creating something with my hands. So I don’t always feel the need to plan out big, complicated projects, and instead want to cut straight to the construction stage. This has its pros and cons – it’s just a reflection!

4. I have a tendency to want to sew whatever is new, without regard to whether or not it fits my personal style. Although it is certainly fun to sew the latest big thing, I hate making things I don’t wear! So I want to learn to be more discerning when new patterns come out, and not just jump at the first thing that looks cute.

3. I need to have a knitting project going at all times. Knitting is often how I deal with stress/anxiety, and I find it incredibly calming. It’s especially good when I need something more mindless than sewing to keep my hands busy!

2. I love to wear handmade. Wearing my own garments gives me a sense of pride and accomplishment, to the point that I try to wear at least one handmade item every day. I just don’t feel like myself if I’m wearing only RTW!

1. As much as I love sewing, sometimes I need a break. I stated a few months ago on the blog that I really wanted to work towards a more balanced lifestyle, and I’ve discovered that I don’t necessarily need to sew all day, even if I have the time. I’m much happier if I also take the time to exercise, practice, or cook.

Goals:

SO MANY!! But here are a few:

5. To blog more consistently – I’d like to try for twice a week if possible. I would really love to build up my readership, and more consistent posting habits seems like a good place to start!

4. Improve my knitting skills. I never had “formal” training in knitting the way I did with sewing, and I feel like it’s starting to show. I especially want to learn more about finishing and altering garments to fit better. I love to knit, and it’s about time I invested more in that skill set!

3. I know it’s not sewing related, but I want to continue learning to cook. I’ve gotten really into cooking in the past month or so, and I love it! So it may occasionally turn up on the blog. I also want to work on improving my personal body image (posting pictures of myself online has been starting to get to me for some reason), and cooking seems like a great place to start forming a more heathy relationship with food!

2. Begin working towards an entirely handmade wardrobe. As I said above, I’m finding that increasingly, I just don’t wear my RTW garments anymore, and I long to have a handmade garment for my every need. Yes, including underwear. So in 2015, I want to start swapping out my store-bought clothes with my own makes. I have no idea how far I get, but I think it’ll be a fun process!

1. Do a better job of connecting with the sewing community, both online and, if possible, in person. I want to comment more on other blogs, meet more folks in person, and generally just put myself out there more. Y’all are so fabulous, and this community just makes me HAPPY!

How about you? What were some of your highlights? What are your major sewing goals?

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