Saturday, April 15, 2017

a ghost of a trace of a pale imitation

Jumping a little bit out of order in my sewing history since I have no decent pictures of the Washi dresses, Mesa dresses, or Departure Shifts that I made over spring and summer 2016.   Since I'm traveling right now, I can't get pictures of them, but I have my Tamarack Jacket with me so here you go:

This project started after I saw the most amazing refashioned denim Tamarack Jacket and became enamored with it.  I'd liked the Grainline Tamarack jacket when it came out, but the longer, color-blocked denim version was what convinced me that I had to make it pronto.  As much as I would have liked to recreate that version, I wasn't in a time in my life where I could devote quite that much work to one make, so I took a number of shortcuts.  All of which resulted in a coat that isn't anywhere near as perfect as its inspiration, but is easily my most-worn me-made, since I have used it as my primary coat since (almost) completing it.

To approximate the look while saving some time, I bought some of the Art Gallery Denim studio fabric in the Fading Darts pattern.  I'd been interested in the denim studio fabrics since they were released but had been unable to find them in person to see what they were like.  I ordered a swatch of this one as well as another from to see if I should invest in the full yardage.  Of course, it then took me over a month to fully commit to the idea of sewing this jacket, by which time the Fading Darts pattern was sold out at  So I ordered my yardage from Hawthorne Threads instead since they still had some in stock.  The Denim Studio fabrics do look like a printed denim but have the weight of a quilting cotton, making this project far more manageable for my machine.

I was planning to make the lining a patchwork of scraps of leftover Nani Iro brushed cotton.  However, it turned out that my scraps were very large, so, with a little careful pattern piece placement, I was able to get each individual piece from a single scrap and skip the patchwork.  I made my bias strips from the denim fabric and also used bias binding for the seam allowances.

I used bamboo batting from Stonemountain and Daughter Fabrics.  I'm still not sure that this was the right decision.  I wanted something lighter than wool for the Bay Area climate.  However, the bamboo batting is supposed to shrink when washed and can't be prewashed, so I will either decide to be okay with the batting shrinking or only dry clean this jacket.  (Of course, I forgot about that and marked a bunch of quilting lines on the lining with washable marker.  They aren't too noticeable, but still.)  That being said, I really like the weight and feel of the quilting so I'm happy with that.  I followed one of the quilting patterns suggested in the Tamarack pattern (3-inch spaced horizontal lines).  Though I thought I was being fairly careful, the quilting lines don't match up at all at center front so I clearly wasn't being careful enough.  I did stitch each quilting line twice to give it a little bit more visual emphasis.

I wanted a two-way zipper since I though that I'd need some more movement through the hips than the pattern would allow.  Luckily, Stonemountain and Daughter Fabrics had some 30" two-way, open-ended zips in stock.  I'd hoped for 28" (largely because that's what the Makery used in the inspiration coat) but was more invested in it being two-way so went for the 30".  I think I ended up lengthening the pattern by 8" to match the zip.  I followed instructions by What Katie Sews for the zipper mod, since the pattern closes with hook-and-eye fasteners, and bias bound the seam allowances.  (Since I still haven't gotten around to hand-stitching these down, they flop around a little awkwardly but I've been too lazy to do so since it doesn't really impact the functionality of the coat.)

The welt pockets were a new skill to learn on this project and I found them to be very satisfying once I realized that I had been thinking about them upside down.  (Until I had that realization, I just found them to be frustrating.)  I haven't yet finished the minimal amount of hand sewing involved in the pockets which is really pathetic, and will eventually impact functionality so I really should prioritize some crafting time to finish it up.

Though my jacket doesn't come anywhere close to its amazing inspiration, I still enjoy it and it has made me excited about the idea of sewing other outerwear.  I have fabric to make another Tamarack as a gift and have thoughts about making myself another shorter one this fall.

Friday, April 7, 2017

three cheers for the grapevine

(Sorry the fonts are so wonky on this post.  I've tried numerous strategies and can't get them to be consistent so am giving up.)

In March 2016, I (begrudgingly) diverted from my Fen obsession to make a Sewaholic Cambie dress to wear to a wedding in mid-April 2016.

I did a massive amount of internet research to find the right dress pattern before starting this dress and had actually settled on making the By Hand London Elisalex dress.  However, while endlessly researching, I had neglected to notice that By Hand London had pulled the Elisalex pattern to make edits before reissuing it.  So I had to come up with a new plan.

I consulted with Alexis, Jenny and Wamps as follows (excerpted due to excessive length):

"Sewing friends!

I'm going to a wedding on April 16th and have long wanted to make my own dress for it....
I had this dress in mind.  I would make it with the a-line skirt and I'd modify the neckline so that it was straight across and not shaped.  (Like this).  I purchased the olive version of this fabric for the Cambie.

But now I've started thinking about this dress (short sleeve version, but with a skirt that is longer than on that version.) and how I could use this fabric, which I purchased with no plan in mind but that it was pretty.  But it looks like double gauze works well for the Zeena dress. [note that I actually sent them the wrong link here and should have linked to this dress instead]

Help me decide!  I definitely will need to do a toile/muslin/dry-run for either of them so I need to make a decision and get started....

For the Cambie, I feel like the pluses are that it comes with a pretty detailed tutorial and I could learn how to do a lining.  For the Zeena, I'd get to learn how to do box pleats and everyone on the internet says that it's a really fast dress to sew.  (I have not found such estimates to be accurate for me, but I'm guessing that it would still be faster than the Cambie.)  For both, I'd get to learn how to do a zipper and a new type of pocket, and maybe I could work on pattern matching.... 

And then I also keep thinking that there must be a better option out there and keep searching for something else (which is how I found the Zeena which I had originally ignored because I didn't like the main picture on the pattern page). So I need advice so I can stop spending a bunch of time searching sewing blogs!...

PS#2: All I really want to sew are more Fen dresses, but I don't think that will quite cut it for this wedding.  And I should probably try to learn the zipper since that feels like it will open up a lot of new possibilities for me."

The vote came back and was unanimous in favor of the Cambie, so that's what I did.  However, I changed plans on fabric and used a bright blue Nani Iro double gauze for the fabric.  This had the advantage of being a bright blue double gauze and also not requiring pattern matching.  I lined it with a white and gray lawn from Stonemountain and Daughter Fabric (horrifying the staff there by using such fabric as a lining).

I probably should have chosen something slinkier, but wanted something that I knew would be easy to sew.  I also maybe should have chosen a plain color since the lining peeked out at places, but it worked out okay.

I did actually muslin the bodice, though then decided that the fit was good enough, probably because I didn't know what to do to make it better.  That's definitely an area of sewing where I'd like to improve since I often decide that the fit is good enough and don't work to make it excellent.  On the final dress, this showed, as I had to pull the straps/sleeves pretty tight to avoid gaping which wasn't as comfortable as it could have been otherwise.

Inside of pocket

But the dress came together fairly quickly after all my dithering and it turned out that learning to do an invisible zip was incredibly useful.  I brought a back-up store bought dress to the wedding, but was cleared by my former housemates to wear the Cambie so that's what I did.   Though it looks like I have no pictures from the wedding itself, which turned out to be a fancier affair than I expected.  In the end, I probably should have gone with a more formal silhouette than a-line or a more formal fabric, but I learned a lot making this dress and enjoyed the final product.  I look forward to being able to wear it again!

Monday, April 3, 2017

here it goes, here it goes, here it goes again, oh, here it goes again

Sewing in this post is circa October 2015 to April 2016.

The Fen pattern is what convinced me that I needed to start writing the details of my sewing down.  I've made 4 Fen Dresses and 2 Fen tops and made slight pattern modifications for all of them, but I can't now remember which I should repeat in the future.  And I do want to repeat this pattern in the future.  I feel a little silly in wanting more Fens in my closet; nonetheless, I want more Fens in my closet.  And I have fabric that would have become a 5th Fen dress if I hadn't needed to take a break from the pattern.

The Fen pattern has many options, but I've tended to choose the same ones.  I really like the length of the sleeve so have used it for all of my Fens.  I'm also not generally a fan of v-necks so have always used the crew neck.  So the only options I've really tried have been the hem variations and the dress/top variations.

Here are the details I do remember about my Fens:

Fen Dress #1: October 2015:  Long sleeves, crew neck, high-low hem.  Made with Robert Kaufman Brussels Washer in Black, underlined with black lawn.  I'd ordered the Brussels Washer fabric and thought it would be fine on its own.  When it arrived, I though it was too sheer and found some black lawn at Piedmont Fabrics to underline it.  (The lawn cost more than the Brussels Washer fabric, sadly!)  The staff at Piedmont Fabrics were super helpful in discussing underlining options with me; they are really great at providing advice that works within the constraints of one's sewing ability/experience.  The two fabrics created a really nice drape together.

I was in a rush to make this one and didn't love the final product.  It was kind of overwhelming on me, being a lot more black fabric than I usually would wear.  I quickly shortened the sleeves by turning up a larger hem and that helped.  After I'd worn it to its intended event, I took out the sloppy sleeve hems with the intent of shortening them properly.  And then I couldn't decide if I should just remove them altogether so it has sat in a basket waiting for me to decide ever since then.  Not the most auspicious start to the Fen pattern, but it sure recovered.

Fen Dress #2: December 2015-January 2016: Long sleeves, crew neck, high-low hem.  Made with Nani Iro brushed cotton.   I took a break from selfish sewing through Christmas and then rewarded myself by sewing this afterward.  I spent a long time thinking about pattern placement and cut pieces on the cross grain to get the right placement, but in the end, it just looked random so that was probably not the best use of time.  I hemmed it right before going to church so I could wear it that day.  I'd lengthened both the bodice and the skirt and think I probably lengthened them a scotch too much since it looks a little oversized on me.  It works well with boots, though.

Fen Top #1: January 2016: Long sleeves, crew neck, shirttail hem.  Made with Nani Iro double gauze.   This shirt revealed perhaps the only flaw of the Fen pattern (in my opinion) which is that I don't think the instructions are sufficient for a beginner like me to achieve a nice curved shirttail hem.  Nonetheless, this top is super comfortable and I wear it often.

Fen Top #2: January or February 2016 (?): Long sleeves, crew neck, high-low hem.  Made with Nani Iro brushed cotton.  I don't think I have any pictures of this top, but I completely love it.

Fen Dress #3: February 2016: Long sleeeves, crew neck, shirttail hem.  Made with Cloud 9 corduroy (Elizabeth Olwen design) and underlined with Anna Maria Horner Eucalyptus rayon.  I really love both of these fabrics, but together they probably read more homemade than some of the other Fens.  I'd also hoped that underlining would allow me to wear this over tights without bunching and that hasn't been the case for me.  It seems I should have done a separate lining that could move on its own to avoid tights-bunching.  For this one, I do remember that I lengthened the skirt by 2 inches only to have to chop off 2 inches when I tried it on and it was an unflattering length.  Of the 3 green Fen dresses, this is the least worn.

Fen Dress #4: March 2016: Long sleeves, crew neck, high-low hem.  Made with Cotton and Steel canvas.  I was basically copying one of the Fen samples exactly, though I now can't find the blog post on the Fancy Tiger Crafts blog with the sample to show you what a copy-cat I was.  Please just trust that I was imitating the sample as identically as I could.  This is probably my favorite of all of the dresses, despite my super lame pattern matching.  (I matched almost perfectly on one pocket and was a total fail everywhere else on the dress.)

Although 3 of my Fen dresses are green, I think that they actually look pretty different from each other.  Or maybe that's just wishful thinking since it allows me to contemplate making more Fens in the future...

Wamps has also made a delightful Fen in the more recent past, so maybe she will chime in with details about hers?  Fingers crossed!  In the meantime, here are some poor snaps of it for you all to enjoy.

Monday, March 27, 2017

all straight things must bend

The Grainline Scout tee.  Like the Linden opened up a world of patterns for me, the Scout taught me not to fear setting in sleeves and how to bias bind a neckline properly.

My first attempt was yet again in Cotton and Steel rayon.  While I liked how the pattern came together, it was a wee bit short for my taste and I rarely wear this version.

As you can see, I didn't perfectly set the sleeves, but since I didn't realize it was possible to do better than this, I left them as is.

My second version was another Leah Duncan Art Gallery voile.  I followed this tutorial to use French seams throughout, including at the sleeve cap, and I lenghtened it by 2 inches.  This worked well for me, and this top is often worn, though I don't think I have any pictures of it.

I then followed another Grainline tutorial to lengthen the Scout sleeves to elbow length.  My first attempt at this produced sleeves that were just slightly too narrow: not quite bad enough to notice immediately but uncomfortable after being set in.  So I scrapped them and recut the sleeves a little bit wider.  I was using a lovely Nani Iro brushed cotton and just barely had enough to get the right pattern on the front of the recut sleeve.

I decided to make a neckband for the neckline rather than finish it with a bias binding, since the brushed cotton is a little thicker.  I love this top and wear it often.  

Following that success, I made another with longer sleeves from a Japanese textured cotton found at Stonemountain and Daughter.   

I tried my darndest to pattern match along the side seams, and while I did get the pattern to line up, I cut one of the pieces backwards so the design does not match correctly.  (You can sort of see this in the bottom picture.). Nonetheless, this is another favorite that I wear often.

Thinking about how much I enjoy wearing three of my four Grainline Scouts has made me wonder why I haven't made more of them!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

and when I opened my eyes

Circa June 2015, the next big development in sewing for me was the Grainline Studio Linden pattern.  I think I'd come across the pattern while hunting for more Liberty sweatshirt fleece.  I had made a handful of circle scarves out of the Liberty sweatshirt fleece for Christmas 2014 and was fairly enamored with it.  It's hard to come by, though, so I was hunting for it (probably to make a boxy tee; I think I had visions of a long-sleeved one).  While hunting, I came across the amazing Lindens in Liberty on the Make Something blog.  I think this one was the first to catch my eye, though there are a number of amazing ones.

That sold me on trying the Linden, and I found some delightful Art Gallery knit (another Leah Duncan print: Mojave) to test it out.

I was totally hooked.  I loved the great instructions from Grainline and how they walked me through making a real top so it wasn't really hard at all.  I also really loved the Art Gallery knit fabric and promptly purchased a ton more.

Though I loved that first top, it became a pajama top pretty quickly as it was a wee bit too short.  For future knit Lindens, I lengthened by 2 inches which was a great length for me.

I subsequently made 2 more knit Lindens for me, 1 for a gift, 3 Liberty Linden sweatshirts for gifts and 2 woven Lindens.

For one of my knit Lindens, I used the split hem tutorial from the Grainline blog.  I like the idea in theory but the hem pieces stuck out a little bit like wings so I'd need to fine tune that if I were to try it again.

That shirt has basically been relegated to casual wear after it pilled pretty badly from friction from my backpack on the hike seen above.

I don't have a picture of my favorite Linden though I probably wear it about once a week.  I also only have one pic of the gifted Liberty Lindens.

For the Liberty sweatshirting, I found that it was best to cut the neckline long and on the bias and then figure out the right length.

The woven Lindens were fun to try, though I'm not sure I'm going to spend the time to get the fit just right.  They are both a little tight.  

One is made from more Cotton and Steel rayon and the other from the other piece of Liberty that I got on our honeymoon.  I still need to make myself a Liberty Linden sweatshirt!

Next time: the reason why I won't bother perfecting the Linden for woven fabrics.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

wade in the water

I have been knitting lately, but never documenting, and a lot of my crafting time has gone into a new interest in sewing.  Yesterday, while organizing my sewing patterns, I realized that I'd better write down some notes before I forgot everything.  (I pretty much have forgotten everything, but I can collect what I can remember.)  I know no one is reading this blog anymore, but I'll at least have some record.  I'm going to try a few posts to catch up on the sewing that I've done so far and then will hopefully keep more detail about projects moving forward.

The events in this post are circa April to July 2015.

The first pattern that got me excited about sewing was the Purl Bee Boxy Tee.  True to its name, this pattern produces a totally wearable t-shirt out of a few rectangles of fabric.  Wamps had gotten me pretty comfortable with a rotary cutter and mat, so I wasn't intimidated by the idea of cutting rectangles.  (Come to think of it, that's how I started knitting, too, with a book of cushion patterns that didn't intimidate me because they were just squares.)

The other motivating factor was that I had fallen in love with some Cotton and Steel rayon.  I ran into their rayon substrate at Stonemountain and Daughter Fabric while looking for some flannel for a lap blanket (also a Purl Soho pattern).  It was beautiful and silky and the Stonemountain employees assured me that it was easy to sew with as long as I had thin thread so I impulse purchased it.

Several weeks later, all the rayon had given me was complete grief.  I was trying to make circle scarves out of it, but kept getting ridiculous thread nests and horrible tension problems and was about to throw out any idea of ever sewing with anything other than 100% cotton.  I tried researching solutions, but while the internet had lots of articles about how rayon was produced, I found very few useful tips about avoiding the problems that I was having sewing with it.  (Colette has now done a series about sewing with the Cotton and Steel substrates, but I don't think it includes the tips that made a difference for me.)  Anyway, eventually I found a site (which I unfortunately don't remember) that suggested a ballpoint needle.  And maybe the same site, or another site, suggested using spray starch to stabilize the rayon before sewing.  Both of those tricks turned out to be game changers for me and my circle scarves were completed.

It also helped to make sure that all the fuzz from lap blankets was brushed out of my machine.  Once the scarves were done and gifted, I was excited to try a top out of this fabric.

My first attempt at the boxy tee went better than I expected.  I messed up the neckline since I thought it was supposed to be a neckband rather than a bias binding (in retrospect, I should have been able to figure that out from the picture but I'd never sewn a neckline before so I didn't understand the directions).

As you can see, the neckline stood away from my neck.  I added some ad hoc and improperly constructed darts to make it lie flat.  And then I wore that top everywhere.  It is probably one of my most worn things that I have made.  The lovely color plus the drape of the rayon make this top work really well under suits/cardigans, both of which hide the awkward darts.

Given that success, I thought I'd just make a bunch more boxy tees.  So I cut into some lovely textured Liberty (not Tana Lawn) that I purchased on our honeymoon.  And it turned out that I'd been really lucky with my first top since the second looked like this:

Pretty bad and too bulky to be hidden under a cardigan.  I'm not entirely sure still how it tuned out so bad; there's definitely less drape to the fabric and Purl had enlarged the sleeves on the pattern between these two versions so maybe the proportions are just off, but it was startling how bad it was. If this had been my first attempt, I'm not sure I would have persisted so it was lucky the rayon one was first.

I tried again with an Art Gallery voile designed by Leah Duncan.  That turned out much better; their fabric had the right drape.  However, I have no pictures of it since the thin fabric didn't hold up to wear as well so it is in a basket waiting to be mended.

Around the same time, I talked Jenny and Elizabeth into "sewing days" which really helped me to become much more prolific with sewing.  Rather than spend hours online researching something, I could bounce ideas off of them and get advice.  And it made sewing more social as well, which made it feel more like knitting.  I think our first sewing day was on July 3, 2015, and you can see that Wamps was working on her own boxy tee:

Around this time, Wamps started talking about how great it was that I just plowed ahead with my "wearable muslins" and I tried to pretend that I knew what she was talking about.

Next time: I follow a pattern not made of rectangles.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

it's the same old circle going round, but

This hat is an amalgam of the Turn-A-Square pattern, which I've greatly enjoyed knitting before, the Purl Soho Simple Pleasures brim, and the Dessine-Moi Un Mouton sleeve stripe pattern.  I was concerned with fit, and my diagonally-upstairs neighbor suggested that I could knit in some flexibility by giving the recipient an option to wear the hat slouchy or to fold the brim and have a more fitted look.  She recommended a Purl Bee pattern with a long stretch of ribbing to start, which led me to the Simple Pleasures.

Because I was using fingering weight yarn (Plucky Knitter Bello in Pollen with stripes of Heartstrings, Old Copper, Fisherman's Wharf and Bastille), I cast on 140 stitches and then did almost three inches of 2 by 2 rib.  After that, I pretty much followed the Turn-a-Square pattern exactly, except that I used an idea for striping from the Dessine-Moi Un Mouton Pattern.  I'm in the midst of knitting a Dessine-Moi sweater and have loved the combo of stripes with blocks of the main color.  (I actually meant to follow the Dessine-Moi stripe pattern more closely, with some sections of 5 stripes and some sections of 3 stripes, but I forgot to switch to 3 when I started my second group of stripes and decided there were too few stripe sections to make it look intentional if I switched for the third group.)

All together, I'm pretty happy with how this turned out and the recipient seems to enjoy it as well, so I'll call the amalgam a success!

 To slouch or not to slouch?

Slouchy back view