The Cascade Duffle Adventure, Part 1: Fit

So, believe it or not, I do still write this blog. In fact, I even still sew. A lot. Apparently I just haven’t felt like writing about it in a while. Oops ūüėõ

Anyhow, I had mentioned a while ago that I was embarking upon Grainline Studio’s Cascade Duffle Coat, which I literally just finished about an hour before writing this post. Before I post (and take) final photos and discuss construction, though, I wanted to take some time to talk about fit. Those of you familiar with this particular coat might be scratching your heads at this point, thinking, “fit? But it’s such a loose-fitting coat, you shouldn’t have to worry about that…” However, since I had a dread fear of putting in countless hours of work only to end up with an ill-fitting garment, I decided I’d rather¬†be safe than sorry.

…and I’m glad I did! Although the coat would’ve fit fine without any tweaks, I thought this project was a great illustration of how just a few small changes can dramatically improve fit. Since I didn’t want to take the time to do a full muslin, and since the style¬†*is* pretty loose, I started by cutting the larger of my two size options (I was waffling between a 2 and a 4), and basted¬†all the main pieces together to check the fit.

***Warning*** The photos that follow were taken for fitting purposes only, and were not originally intended for public consumption so…please excuse the terrible lighting. And I may or may not be wearing pajamas. And slippers. Like ya do.

Notice the diagonal lines pointing from the bust outward on the front view? And how the hem tilts up from back to front on the side view? Yeah, I wasn’t a fan of that, either. I also didn’t love that the sleeve was falling slightly off the shoulder (though I think the design is intended to look somewhat oversized). So, those were the various issues I wanted to address.

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In this next picture, I altered¬†the shoulder seam, taking out 1/2″ at the sleeve and tapering to nothing at the neckline. As you can (sort of) see, that lessened the diagonal lines on the front. While it didn’t completely alleviate the problem, it did improve it enough that I called it a success.

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Next, I did a type of sway back alteration by removing¬†some excess fullness along the bottom seam, taking out about 1/4″ at the center back and tapering to nothing at the side seams (you can sort of see it pinned out in the picture). This fixed the hem issues – you can see that it’s level here.

I also shaved 1/4″ off the armholes to raise the shoulder sleeve. I wish I had lengthened the sleeve, but I forgot to do that before I cut out the coat, and I didn’t have any extra fabric to re-cut. So, the sleeves are a bit too short (sigh….), but not the end of the world.

So, in my next post (which hopefully won’t take another three weeks…oy…), I hope to present the finished coat! I have to say, I’m super¬†proud, and I can’t wait to show y’all!

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Heathered Hetty

Greetings from the frozen tundra of New England! This weekend has shown us several days with sub-zero lows, and I have been in a sewing and knitting frenzy to prepare! (Why did I leave San Francisco????!!) Thankfully, I was able to (almost) finish some of my warmest projects in time to stave off at least some of the cold.

Today’s make, while not my first “official” finished project¬†of 2016 (my first was a pair of black leggings…so exciting), is my first interesting/blog-worthy make, in my opinion. It is the Hetty cardigan by Andi Satterlund, which I finished just in time to meet the deadline for her Selfish Sweater Knit Along, a post-holiday opportunity to knit for yourself instead of gift making. With our last minute move, I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to participate this year, since I had packed all my yarn away in crates, but luckily the crate with my Knit Picks City Tweed aran yarn¬†arrived in plenty of time (of course, the crate with my sewing machines took several more weeks to get here…).

The knitting was pretty straightforward. I usually knit the second smallest size¬†on Andi’s patterns (sometimes that’s a S, sometimes a M), but this time I made the smallest version (size S), since I’ve noticed some excess material around the armholes in my other sweaters. I’m definitely glad I went with that option, as I think this is my best fitting cardigan so far. I also lengthened the sleeves to full-length, since the west-coast-friendly 3/4-length sleeves are not nearly as useful in the frigid northeast.

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I reaaaaaaally love the finished result – I don’t have any long sleeved, light colored, neutral cardigans, so I know this is going to make a lot of my existing wardrobe more wearable during¬†the colder months. It’s nice and warm, but also quite soft, since it’s a wool/alpaca blend. The lace pattern makes it more breathable, too, which I appreciate, as I tend to overheat pretty quickly these days (not that I’m complaining!).

The buttons are from my new favorite place/fiber haven, Twill Fabric and Yarn, which is¬†super close to my current (temporary) residence. They also have a lovely knitting group that meets Friday nights, which has become the highlight of my week these days!¬†My Valentine’s Day may have included a yarn bouquet from their shop… ūüôā

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You can’t really tell from the photo, but the button band is made of gold grosgrain ribbon. Cuz I can…

I hope you all enjoy the long weekend – happy sewing/knitting!

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My Favorite Bra (Plus Adventures in Lingerie!)

MY SEWING MACHINES ARRIVED!!! As I’m sure many of you can understand, words cannot express my joy. I may not have a house yet (we are currently crashing with the in-laws), but I have my beloved machines back, so all is well.

Of course, I decided to celebrate their return by embarking on a looooong project, the Grainline Cascade Duffle Coat. So unfortunately you probably won’t see any new makes on the blog for a while. However, I do have another old one to share with you!

Several months ago, when I was still in the midst of my bra-making frenzy, I decided to be practical and make a nude bra that I could wear underneath light-colored tops and dresses. Naturally, this bra quickly rose to the top of my favorites list, since I could wear it with literally anything and not have to worry about a darker lace or mesh showing through. Also, it’s pretty!

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You probably recognize the pattern by now Рmy bra TNT, the Marborough Bra by Orange Lingerie. The fabric is left over from previous bra projects, and the elastics and findings are from Blackbird Fabrics. The underarm and bottom band elastics are actually a pale mint green Рa lovely detail that still remains invisible underneath light-colored tops.

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I fully lined the cups with a light mesh, and stabilized the lace with clear elastic. Speaking of lace – that’s by far my favorite part! This lace is from Britex, a store that I will miss a lot now that I’m no longer on the west coast. I added a nice lace detail to the frame, which I hadn’t done before:

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That little detail really elevates this piece from “merely practical” to “fancy yet functional.” This bra has gotten a LOT of use, needless to say!

I also wanted to note that, in addition to my “Adventures in Sewing” and “Adventures in Knitting” pages at the top of my site, I have added an “Adventures in Lingerie” section, since that seems to be a separate “branch” of sewing from my usual garments. I’m definitely catching the lingerie bug again, and will probably need to make a small herd of bras once my coat is finished to get it out of my system!

Back to Basics, Black Blazer Edition

Every time I move, my wardrobe gets a real workout – I have to pick and choose those¬†few garments¬†that will a. fit in a suitcase, b. mix-and-match to the max, c. cover a variety of social/professional situations, and d. provide maximum comfort for travel and moving. That’s a lot to ask of just a few items! Since moving usually entail interviews for¬†new jobs, etc., I have to make sure to include at least one work-worthy outfit, since I never know when the rest of my things will arrive (my sewing machines – and most of my wardrobe – are *still* in transit!! Agh!).

Anywho, that long, blabby paragraph exists simply to preface another one of my late-2015 creations: the perfect black blazer. Which has turned out to be the saving grace of my suitcase, since it dresses up most outfits while providing the necessary warmth to combat the now-frigid northeast.

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The pattern is, yet again, my beloved Morris Blazer¬†by Grainline Studio. To make the piece even more versatile, I lengthened the sleeves to full-length instead of 3/4 to allow for more layering possibilities. I managed to accumulate a lot of 3/4-length sleeves while in San Francisco, which, sadly, will not be as useful back east, since the New England¬†doesn’t stick to that “sweet spot” of 65 degrees for very long each year. Alas.

But back to the blazer. The fabric I used is a strangely spongey stable knit. It was a bit of a pain to topstitch – I’m still not thrilled with the job I did – but other than that, behaved reasonably well. It also vehemently resisted pressing, and I ended up having to use a taylor’s ham like a wooden clapper (since I don’t own a clapper) to get them to lay flat.

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The fabric also has a fun geometric pattern woven into it that adds some extra interest to an otherwise plain garment. I especially like how the pattern mirrors the shape of the shawl collar (yes, that was intentional…).

In other news, I’m getting ready to (hopefully!) get started on the coat project I mentioned in my last post¬†by tracing the pattern, which is quite a task, since it has over 20 pieces! I’ve decided to do the Grainline Cascade Duffle Coat, view B, since that seems the most practical for New England winters. Now I just need my sewing machines and my fabric to arrive from the west coast…hmph…

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New Dress, New City, New Year!

Hey everyone, remember me??? It feels like¬†years have past since my last blog post – that’s how crazy life has been. I do have a good excuse, though – I moved across the country! Again! That’s right, folks; I am once more a resident of the East Coast. Around Thanksgiving, my husband was interviewing for a job back east “on a whim,” and a few whirlwind weeks later, I found myself backing boxes like my life depended on it. Crazy how quickly things can move when you least expect it. CRAZY.

So, at the moment, all of my precious sewing accouterments are being shipped in large crates across the country. We are staying with family until we either a. find a place to rent or b. buy a house. SAY WHAT?? Needless to say, it will probably be a while before I am able to post my “first makes of 2016!” In the meantime, however, I do have a “final make of 2015” to share, as well as a few reflections and goals for the coming year.

First off, a pretty dress:

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When I found out at the beginning of December that we were going to be moving in just a few weeks, I of course responded by stress sewing. Rather conveniently, this news also coincided with my husband’s holiday work party. So, naturally, I decided that the best course of action was to sew an entire dress – including tracing and fitting a new pattern – the day of the party. And I had to work that afternoon. But somehow, it all came together in time (well, almost – the hem is still basted in :P), and my manic sewing episode actually did help me sort through some of my anxiety about the move.

The pattern is Tilly’s Lilou dress from Love and First Stitch, which I modified slightly to ensure a proper fit. Since I was so short on time and this was my first time making the pattern, I took a bodice pattern that I had already fitted and tested, and traced the neckline and armhole shape onto it. I’m soooo glad I did, because it meant that I didn’t need to make any more fit adjustments as I attempted to break me land-speed sewing record. The fit isn’t quite perfect (the shoulders are a teensy bit too long), but it’s good enough for a special occasion dress.

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The fabric was one of my Black Friday scores from Fabric Outlet in SF. The whole week after Thanksgiving, everything was 40% off, which I used this as an excuse to do some serious retail therapy. I also got two gorgeous lengths of wool coating in anticipation of the frozen tundra of the northeast. Goodness knows I’ll need it!

Speaking of coats, that leads nicely into my goals for 2016! While I have several specific goal projects in mind, my over-arching goal for the year is not to force anything I don’t feel like doing. I was re-reading my goals from last year in preparation for this post, and saw that one of them was to post on this blog twice a week. HA. I realized soon after that that very goal was the kiss of death for me posting regularly, because it set up a guilt-procrastination-more guilt loop every time I didn’t meet my goal. So above all, I want to keep things fun and as stress-free as possible.

With that in mind, here are a few projects I’d love to make, or at least start:

-a winter coat. As I mentioned above, I already have the wool. Now I’m just debating which pattern to choose…

-more jeans. I’ve worn my current Ginger jeans to near oblivion, so I clearly need more!

-more work clothes, especially blouses. Honestly, I’m not that thrilled to sew these, but I really need them, and I’m trying to create an entirely handmade wardrobe so…we’ll see. Not holding my breath on this one.

-my sister’s wedding dress. YUP. I¬†have a feeling this one might trump all of the above…

And I’m going to leave it at that. It could be months before I even have a sewing space, so for now my goal is to be patient, role with the punches, and try not to let the chaos of it all phase me too much. The changes have only just begun, and we have so much left to do before we can truly “settle down.”

To close, I just wanted to mention a few reflections on the past year. I feel like sewing took a bit more of a back seat than it had in 2014, but I’m ok with that, because I had such a full life in San Francisco. And I have to admit, I’m very sad to have to leave such a wonderful city. Even though I was only there for 16 months, I really¬†lived there, if you know what I mean. I still can’t believe how lucky and blessed I was with the opportunities that came my way and the people with whom I shared them. In so many ways, this was the best year of my life to date.

So, here’s to looking at you, 2015. We sure had a heck of a time together.

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Work(horse) Separates

Yikes, it’s been a long time since my last post!! I blame Christmas sewing :P. In my defense, though, I’ve almost completed all of my handmade gifts, which hopefully means no stressful last-minute crafting! Or, at least, less…a girl can dream. Anyhow, several weeks of “secret sewing” have meant that nothing bloggable has come from my sewing machine in quite a while.

Luckily, I had some separates I made a month or so waiting in the wings, so here we go! I’ve been noticing a distinct dearth of “real” work clothes in my wardrobe recently, and decided I really needed to remedy that. I have lots of full/poofy knee-length skirts paired with casual-ish knit tops or knit dresses, but no “serious” work clothes. Granted, in my line of work, you can really wear pretty much whatever you want, but since I’m still on the young side and since looking “twee” doesn’t really encourage people to take you seriously, I decided it was time for a change.

Since my altered Mabel skirt had been such a hit¬†when I first made it, I decided not to mess with success, and got right to work on another. This time I used a striped ponte – actually, leftovers from this¬†dress – to make it again. I made a few little tweaks to the fit, mostly just taking the center back in a little more and lowering it a bit for a sway back adjustment. It’s still not quite perfect, but I’m getting there.

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The top is also a new make. The photos are a bit overexposed so it’s hard to see, but it’s the Seamwork Astoria cropped sweater. I used a very spongy polyester sweater knit to sew it up, which created more than a few fit challenges. Although the fabric had the necessary stretch percentage for the pattern, it also has rather extreme recovery, making it fit much more tightly than a more regular knit “weave” made from a natural fiber or blend. To give myself a little room to play, I cut the pattern with¬†larger seam allowances (I think it was 5/8″ instead of 3/8″). I’m very glad I did, since my basted together version with the original seams was skin tight! I ended up using 1/4″ seams for the side seams and bottom band, which added back the necessary circumference.

I also added 1 1/2″ to the length – I found it was just *too* cropped as-is, and I couldn’t raise my arms without flashing people. The fit is definitely still wonky, but it’s wearable. Next time, I plan to make this out of more forgiving fabric to see if I can fix some of those issues.

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So there you have it – two new pieces that have already turned into real wardrobe workhorses. Now back to Christmas sewing!!

All Wrapped Up: Belated Birthday Wrap Dress

(apologies for the terrible pun in the title…)

In the spirit of finally blogging things made several months before, I bring you – *drumroll* – my birthday dress! My birthday was in March, and I did wear this on “the big day,” so you do the math :P. But hey, better late than never!

Backing up a bit, I’ve been on a search for a good knit wrap dress pattern pretty much ever since I started sewing. Short of shelling out major $$$ for the original Vogue DVF pattern, however, I was having trouble finding one. However, for Christmas, my mom got me the wonderful Famous Frocks: The Little Black Dress¬†book, which happens to have a knit wrap dress pattern included in the lineup (the “Liza Dress” in the book). This pattern was inspired by the original DVF design, so it was exactly the sort of look I was going for.¬†I also knew I wanted a wrap dress that was red and drapey, so when I spotted a slinky Brazil knit at Eddie’s Quilting Bee in Sunnyvale, I snatched up several yards and got to work!

I made the variation version, with 3/4 length sleeves and a fuller skirt (the “original” is sleeveless, with a slightly narrower skirt), and I absolutely love the result. It has become my go-to dress for fancy-ish-but-not-too-fancy occasions, like attending opera dress rehearsals or ballet performances. It’s easy to dress up or down depending on the occasion, and it’s always comfortable, which is a major plus at formal events!

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One unique construction element worth mentioning here was the neck finish – this pattern used a binding instead of simply folding under and hemming. This helps alleviate gaping, which is often an issue with wrap dresses. The binding is simply a strip of fabric cut along the direction of greatest stretch, creating basically a knit version of bias binding. You then press it in half, sew it to the neckline, understitch, and then turn under and hem. It’s a few more steps, but it’s definitely worth it, since it both stabilizes the neck and prevents gaping.

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Outtake – the dangers of taking pictures in the wind!

So, all in all, a very successful make, and one that has been worn many, MANY times already!

On the Run: Giving my Sewing a Workout!

This seems to be the year of making things I never thought I’d ever attempt to sew for myself¬†– things like bras, jeans, and bikinis. Well, today I have a new addition to that list – workout clothes! Now that we live in such a mild climate year-round, I finally decided to bite the bullet and start running. While I have no ambitions to be a marathoner (I’ve told myself that 10K is a goal someday…maaaaaaybe…but no more than that!), I’ve actually grown to really enjoy running shorter distances (I’m up to a 5K at this point), especially since that often involves running through parts of Golden Gate Park :).

Since my workout clothes were getting…errr…a workout, I decided it was time to restock my fairly tiny athletic-wear wardrobe. I started out making the Seamwork Manila leggings¬†using an unlabeled technical fabric I found last summer while discount fabric shopping in San Jose (I’m pretty sure it’s some kind of poly/lycra/nylon blend). The pattern came out pretty well, although I found the cuff at the bottom to be quite snug, so next time I’ll probably grade up a size at the ankle. I didn’t think I had particularly beefy ankles, but maybe I do! I also need to add about an inch to the back at the waist to account for my buxom bum.

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For the top, I made Papercut Patterns’ Pneuma Tank, using a thin rayon for the tank and the leggings fabric for the bra underneath. For the straps, I used my usual bra strap elastic, which worked out quite nicely. I¬†really like this top – I definitely plan to make it again! I especially love running with it, since the vents in the side and back provide a bit of extra breeze to keep me cool. I did wear it to a yoga class recently, though, and the looseness of the tank was a bit problematic for inverted poses (thank goodness for that bra underneath!!), so consider yourself warned…

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The top especially has gotten a lot of wear, and both have held up great so far to the demands of movement, sweat, and washing. I’m really looking forward to making more activewear in the future, especially now that Tasia has come out with her own line of workout clothes at Sewaholic. I already have the fabric and patterns for those – so stay tuned!

More Husband Sewing: Another Newcastle

Today I have yet another long-overdue project to share with you! This year, like last year, I decided to sew my husband something for his birthday. However, unlike last year, it didn’t take me five¬†months post-birthday to complete it. Just one month. ūüėõ Still, an improvement!

Since his first¬†Newcastle Cardigan was such a hit, I figured a second version would be a great choice. This time, I chose a lighter weight fabric so that I could play around with the contrasting yoke option the pattern offers – a really sharp detail that I enjoyed a lot! The main fabric is a very lightweight fleece I found at Britex¬†that supposedly has moisture-wicking properties, which I figured can’t hurt in our often sweaty weather here.

In fact, the fleece was¬†so lightweight that I was concerned about pairing it with the ponte knit I had chosen for the contrast yoke. To mitigate any potential problems mixing the two different weights, I added a medium-weight interfacing to all of the interfaced pieces (as opposed to a lighter-weight option that I might have otherwise picked for the fabric). This worked quite well, and I didn’t end up needing to interface the main body pieces, which was my plan B if things didn’t work out as hoped.

I played around a bit with the fit for this one. Last time, I had made a straight-up size medium and shaved off 3/8″ at the armhole¬†to account for my husband’s narrow shoulders. This time, I retraced the whole pattern, grading from the smallest size at the shoulders to a medium at the chest. After basting the pieces together, I found that this actually didn’t work as well as my first fix, so I adjusted my seam allowances accordingly to approximate the first version as closely as possible.

I really love how this one turned out – the contrasting yoke is such a nice touch!

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I’m pleased to report that this version has been an even bigger hit than the last one! It’s gotten a¬†lot of use, and has held up extremely well, even with the differing fabric weights. I always enjoy sewing Thread Theory patterns – not only are they beautifully drafted, they work perfectly with my husband’s body type! I’m sure there will be many more Newcastles in his future…

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Belated Blogging

Goodness gracious, I’m behind on my blogging! I now have several garments languishing in an¬†un-blogged (though much-worn) state, one all the way from March! Unfortunately, I blame this mostly on my photo-taking situation here in the city. Even though I live in a “good” neighborhood, I’ve had several experiences with loitering, “creepy” voyeurs during a few of my photoshoots, so I’m now very shy about taking my camera out into the streets of SF (and my living room is a no-go in terms of lighting). Have any of you experienced this when taking pictures? Any tips??? Ugh.

But anyhow, on to cheerier topics – like a colorful dress! In case you hadn’t already figured it out, this is the Colette Moneta Dress, a real favorite of mine! I actually made this version well over a year ago, shortly after the pattern came out. It’s my second iteration of the pattern, and I have since made a few changes (mainly, a sway back adjustment and removing a bit from the CF neckline to avoid gaping), so you may notice a few fit issues here that I fixed later on.

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As you can see, I made up the pattern pretty much as-is, using the original collar and gathered skirt. I¬†really love this version, and it’s been a real wardrobe workhorse for the past year. It’s the perfect combo of polished enough for work but comfy enough for pretty much every other activity, so it gets worn a LOT!

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The fabric is a fantastic jersey from a local sewing store near my parents in PA, Steve’s Sewing Center. They started carrying designer leftovers a few years ago, and their collection is really pretty amazing! I actually just went there again on a quick trip back home – any sewers in the area should definitely check it out! This particular knit has a lovely drape and a very soft, almost peachskin texture. I think the fiber content is polyester, though to be honest, I really don’t remember.

…but wait, there’s more! One of my favorite makes from over the summer was by far the Grainline Studio’s Morris Blazer.¬†It’s¬†such a versatile pattern, and really fills a lot of wardrobe needs. (I may or may not have bought fabric for another…) I already blogged about my second Morris here, but this was my first version. Interestingly, since this first version is made out of a stable knit, and my second one was made out of a stretch twill, I actually had to use two different sizes to account for the varying amounts of stretch. This version is a size 2, but my green one is a size 4 – just goes to show that you really do need to take your fabric into account from the beginning!

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I absolutely adore this fabric – it’s from Blackbird Fabrics, and although this particular knit isn’t available anymore, Caroline always has some great knits stocked. I used the “right side” for the main body of the blazer and the “wrong side” for the collar – I just love it when I can take advantage of fabric like that! I originally had purchased this fabric for a different pattern, so I only had one meter, but I was able to squeeze this out with the help of some creative cutting (I had to switch the grainline of the collar facing, but it all worked out in the end). The fabric is super soft, and has only pilled a tiny bit after¬†very frequent wear.

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So there you go – a few favorites that have now finally made it to the blog! Whew!