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!!

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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!

Mabel Magic: The Perfect Pencil Skirt

There’s nothing quite as satisfying as that quick, palate-cleansing project that happens to by not only super comfy, but also rather stylish, all while filling a major wardrobe gap. This skirt fits all of those categories!

After my rather epic evening gown adventure, I needed something fun and easy to get my sew-jo back. I attempted to make Tilly’s adorable Bettine dress, but everything about it just looked horribly wrong on me, and it ended up in the UFO pile (which I never had before a few months ago, but now…ooof, looks like a new bad habit is forming!!). Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a fabulous dress and has looked wonderful on a lot of the folks who have sewn it up, but it just didn’t like right on me. A combo of poor fabric choice and design elements that don’t quite jive with my body and face structure created a perfect storm of frumpiness. Ugh.

Soooo…that did my sew-jo in even more, and I knew I needed something quick and idiot-proof STAT. Enter Colette’s Mabel skirt. I’ve made it a few times before, thought it never turned out exactly right – the fact that it sits at the hip, and not the waist, means that it is forever creeping up my legs as I walk, resulting in a great deal of tugging down throughout the day to avoid wardrobe malfunction. So, when I saw the tutorial on the Colette blog about how to add an elastic waistband that would sit at the natural waist, I knew I needed to try it. And I’m so glad I did – I love the result! I think I have finally found my Magic Mabel.

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To add the elastic waistband, I added 4″ to the bottom of the skirt, as the tutorial recommends. I also took in about a half inch at the waist at the center back and did a slight sway back adjustment (I think I might need more next time), to account for the different size of high waist vs. low waist. I used a different technique than the tutorial does for applying the elastic, and instead used a twin needle to sew the 2″ elastic to the right side of the skirt. It’s actually the same technique used to apply the elastic to the Comox Trunks – good thing I learned to make men’s undies! 🙂

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Oh, and in case you’re wondering, the top in those photos is another Renfrew I made over the summer – I seriously love that pattern! I made it before our Maine summer vacation so I’d blend in with the locals (cuz, y’know, deer/moose and all….:P). Quick fabric note – I made it with a Girl Charlee cotton/poly print, and since there is no stretch or give in the fabric due to a combo of no spandex and having some polyester, it ended up being WAY too small in the size I usually make. SURPRISE! So I ended up having to creatively size up using smaller seam allowances. It’s not a perfect fit, but good enough considering. And I love how this skirt makes it more work appropriate – win!

All in all, the skirt only took a few hours from start to finish, and I can already tell it’s going to be a real wardrobe workhorse. Now to make five more!

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Vacation Trio

Today I have not one, not two, but three unblogged garments to share with you! My pile of “needs to be photographed and blogged” pieces is really building up, so I have a lot of catching up to do – not that I’m complaining! Since we were renting a cabin in Maine with my parents over vacation, I wanted to make sure I took advantage of my dad’s superior photography skills and camera, and on our last day there we did a lovely little shoot at the beach right across the street from our rental. The view you see here – that’s what we saw when we looked out the window! It doesn’t get any better than that.

Anyhow, on to the outfit! Two of the garments are recent makes, and one is actually from last summer that just didn’t get blogged before now. I’ll start with the star of the show – the Morris Blazer by Grainline Studios. This is actually my second Morris – I still haven’t blogged the first one – and it is definitely a new favorite pattern. It’s just the right combination of casual yet put-together, which is perfect for life as a musician in San Francisco (and great for vacation, too!). I love that this pattern uses stretch fabric – so often, I feel very constrained in a traditional blazer, like my wide shoulders are about the bust open a seam, so that extra bit of stretch really helps a lot. I made up a size 4 for this version, which is out of a stretch twill, but it’s worth noting that my first version, made out of a ponte knit, was a size 2. That just goes to show you how important your fabric choice is! And that it’s always good to air on the big side for sizing just in case…

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Next up I have the Aurora tank from the June issue of Colette’s Seamwork Magazine. I really enjoyed both of the patterns in this issue, and have made up the Mesa as well, but just haven’t blogged it yet…story of my life! The fabric for this make is a Brazil knit made by Telio, which I purchased at Eddie’s Quilting Bee in Sunnyvale. I had never heard of Brazil knit before I encountered this fabric, but it kind of looks like a tiny herring bone pattern on the right side and a “normal” knit on the wrong side. It has a lovely, heavy drape and very strong recovery, making it nice for flowy dresses and tops.

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As you can see from these pics, the armholes are a bit too tight due to the method I used for finished the under arm raw edge. The pattern has you simply turn under the raw edge like a hem, but the curve on the pattern pieces is very deep, and the strong recovery of the fabric meant that it simply refused to press such a tight curve. I ended up having to use a knit binding, which I think I must have stretched too much while applying, hence the puckers at the armholes. Oh well – it was a good learning experience!

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I especially like the back pleat detail – it gives a little more room for my wide shoulders. I may try going a size up next time to see if that helps with the armhole situation. We’ll see!

And what’s the third garment, you ask? My Katy and Laney Tap Shorts! I made them last summer after the pattern came out, and was so happy to have weather hot enough that I could finally wear them again! Clearly, they really need to be ironed since their last wash, but they’ve been getting a lot of use and turned into a real workhorse during this vacation.

And so ends my summer vacation. I’m definitely feeling sad not to be on the east coast anymore, but this trip was a nice contrast to my west coast life, helping me see the pros and cons of both locations. I have a feeling the east coast will always feel like “home” to me, but I look forward to the new adventures the west coast has in store for my this fall!

Adventures with Scuba – Diving Right In!

I know, I know, my puns are inexcusable. But sometimes I just can’t resist…

Seriously, though, have y’all heard of scuba knit fabric? It’s a pretty awesome textile that has been making its way through the sewing blogosphere in recent months, and I’ve been dying to get my hands on some. Scuba knit is exactly what it says it is – the stuff you make scuba gear out of! (Or, at least, that’s what I’ve always assumed – correct me if I’m wrong!!) Essentially, it acts like a firm double knit, and has a thick, squishy texture. One fun thing you can do with this fabric is leave the hem edges raw, since it’s extremely stable. It’s basically an all-around awesome fabric!

…and a few weeks ago, I finally added some to my stash! In the spirit of my blogging resolutions for 2015, I attended the January Bay Area Sewists meetup, arranged by the fabulous Chuleenan of C Sews. This particular meetup was a fabric swap, so we all brought bits of our stash to swap. I’d never done one of these before, but it was truly genius – I arrived with five pieces I didn’t want anymore and left with five pieces I couldn’t wait to sew up. And I didn’t pay a penny! (Well, I did later when we all went to Stone Mountain and Daughter, but that’s another story…). It was an amazing experience to meet so many other sewing enthusiasts of all ages. We even had a few men! I’m so thrilled I went. And I went home with a yard of scuba knit!

Since I didn’t have much to work with, I decided to make the Colette Mabel skirt, which is the perfect pattern for small amounts of stable knits. I spent quite a while studying the print of the fabric and trying to figure out how to make it match up at the seam lines. I got so close to getting it perfect, but the whole mirror-image thing with the back piece messed me up. I’m still kicking myself a little for not seeing that sooner! So one side seam matches up perfectly, but the other doesn’t. Alas. But I still managed to get a pretty good approximation with the bit of fabric I had left, so all in all I’m still pleased.

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As far as the fabric is concerned, I treated it like any old regular double knit and sewed the seams on my serger. I decided to leave the hem edge raw, and cut around the lace-like part of the print for a fun extra effect. I was quite proud if myself for thinking that up, and I really like the result!

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(I promise I didn’t cut the front crooked – it’s the way I’m standing)

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The one thing I’m not so thrilled about with this skirt is that it rides up terribly when I walk in it. If I’m mostly standing still, it stays in place just fine, but if I’m walking much at all (which is what I do pretty much all the time!!), it rides up so badly I start to get stares from passers-by. I think this is because the scuba is such a stiff fabric – on my other Mabels, which are made of drapier ponte, this isn’t such a problem. Oof. Has this ever happens to you? Any advice for fixing this??

So it will probably be reserved for “standing only” occasions like parties or dinner outings. But hey, for a free skirt, I’ll take that!

Oh, and p.s., my top is another Deer and Doe Plantain Shirt, made from a gorgeous bamboo/Lycra blend I got at Grey’s Fabric during my November visit. I made it up right before Christmas, and it has been in constant wardrobe rotation ever since!

P.p.s. I made the necklace too :P. And yes, it’s driving me bananas that it ended up crooked in these pics!

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All the Rage

Several months ago while on a shopping/research excursion with my mom, it dawned on both of us that peplum tops are pretty much the “in thing” right now. We thought the fad probably wouldn’t stick, so I figured I didn’t want to invest in a style that might not last long. However, many months later I’m still seeing them everywhere! I always thought they were cute, so I decided I wanted to join in.

And you know from a few posts ago that the Lady Skater Dress is the “in thing” in the sewing world right now. Taking things a step further, Lady Skater Modifications are super “in,” too. So, peplum top + Lady Skater Dress + modifications = all the rage – amiright??

Anyhow, I’ll cut to the chase. I used Amanda’s Lady Skater Peplum Tutorial to make my own peplum top, using the Peplum 3.0 skirt mod. Le voilà:

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Top: handmade “Lady Skater Dress” peplum top by Kitshy Coo, Pants and Belt: Banana Republic, Boots: Clark’s, Cardigan: LOFT

This is another wearable muslin, made from the scraps of my first Renfrew top. It’s kind of amazing how little fabric this takes! Of course, I didn’t have enough fabric for long sleeves, so I’m wearing short sleeves when it’s 40 degrees out (oops…), but it was a good pattern test. I think for my next one I’ll make the bodice and skirt an inch longer each – what do you think?

Since the fabric I used doesn’t have a ton of stretch, I shortened the armband pieces by an inch on the sleeves to keep their shape. I probably should have done that for the neckline, too, but didn’t remember at the time. I’m also still trying to decide if I like the size I used for the sleeves – I’ve been making a size 3 top, but I’m wondering about a size 2 armhole and size 3 everything-else. More experiments to come!

If at First You Don’t Succeed…

So you know how I keep complaining that it’s winter here? Well, today it’s spring :P. Seriously – 65 degrees and humid. I didn’t even have to wear a coat this morning. So weird! Not that I mind; I got to pull out one of my spring skirts! Yay for denial…

Since I’ve been in such a sewing frenzy, I managed to complete yet another project this weekend. I had enough fabric leftover after the dress to make a top. However, I already have two grey knit tops – one long-sleeved and one sleeveless – so I wanted to make sure this one was different enough to justify making it. I decided that this was the perfect opportunity to try out a new pattern and use this as a “wearable muslin” (i.e. an experiment that hopefully works out well enough to wear). The pattern I tried out was the Côte d’Azur top pattern by Hot Patterns. This was my first pattern from that company, and I had read variable reviews about the fit of their garment, so I wasn’t sure how it would work out. Here’s the result:

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Top: handmade “Côte d’Azur top” by Hot Patterns, Skirt and Tights: Anthropologie, Cardigan: LOFT, Boots: Clark’s

Yes, those are yellow stockings….I keep trying to come up with a clever Twelfth Night reference about them, but so far have come up dry. Anyhow, I’m very glad I made a muslin of the top! Not because it fit poorly – the fit is actually great – but because I made a stupidly obvious mistake that almost ruined it! I did the front gathers wrong – I misread where the gathers end, and ended up gathering way too much. I then tried to make some alterations to fix what I thought was a fit problem, which involved me cutting the fabric, so that when I finally figured out what I did wrong I couldn’t go back and do it the right way. Argh! I managed to make it work, though. The hem is kind of wonky, but when it’s tucked in you don’t even notice it. I really like the finished product, so I can’t wait to make it again *correctly*! I think I want to make a dress version of it for spring…real spring, not this faux get-your-hopes-up-but-it’s-actually-winter spring 😛

Home Sewing: The Adventure Begins

I am incredibly excited to announce that today’s post is brought to you not only by ready-to-wear clothes, but also by my sewing machine and local fabric store! My sewing machine, which had lain dormant at my parents’ house in PA since my undergraduate years, made the trip to Boston with me, and it has been my recent mission to revive my high school sewing skills. A few weeks ago, I discovered a fantastic fabric store right around the corner from the Ballet School, and was instantly inspired to sew again. In fact, I’m making another trip to Grey’s Fabric and Notions as I type! (Thanks to public transportation, I can multitask while travel!)

My latest project was a knit top. I didn’t really have any experience sewing with knits, even from way-back-when, so I was a little intimidated. However, after a great deal of internet research and q&a texts with my mom (an expert seamstress), I took the plunge, and here is the result:

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Pants: Banana Republic (they’re a beautiful aubergine corduroy, but you can’t tell from the lighting), Boots: Clark’s, Top: handmade, “Renfrew” pattern from Sewaholic

The pattern, by Tasia at Sewaholic, is perfect for the knits newcomer, and it was a breeze to sew. Took me two days, start to finish, which is why I need more fabric now! I’m super happy with the results. What do y’all think?

P.S. Any comments on the photo location? I know the lighting isn’t great…