Thursday, November 21, 2013

Tales from the Sewing Crypt

It's Halloween-time again and that means that my sewing machine is going full-steam ahead. This year Maeve decided to wear her costume from last year, so I don't have to try to top that one! However, this year I have to make a costume for the baby (yes, I'm masochistic like that), as well as Miss G., T-bird and myself. Luckily, they should be fairly easy to do, with the exception of Miss G's.

Gwyneth decided that she wants to dress as Merida from the movie "Brave" this year. I've done several Disney princesses - Maeve was Cinderella and Snow White, as well as a sort-of Sleeping Beauty (the dress was pink, anyway). Anyway, I was kind of hoping that Gwyneth would opt for the Snow White costume this year and give me a break on costume sewing. Of course not. Merida is her favorite princess and I have to agree with her on that, since Merida is the one princess who doesn't end up falling for the prince at the end, and is actually the one who does the 'saving'. Tallon decided that if she was going to be Merida, he wanted to be one of her brothers the triplets.

At first I was hesitant but then I decided that this was a good idea. Normally I'm a stickler for authenticity when it comes to iconic costumes like the Disney ones, but I'm taking a different view this time. Here's why: there is plaid involved and a kilt. I could make a kilt, but it would be time-consuming and I wouldn't be able to find a plaid that was the same as the plaid in the movie. Since that's the case, I decided to go an easier route, unusual as that may be for me. Tallon already owns a kilt in our clan tartan and Gwyneth, Maeve and I have sashes in the same tartan. How easy is it to just have him wear our tartan? Then all I have to do is make a green shirt to go with it and I'll have to do very little sewing. I like this idea.

The Merida dress, however, is more difficult. We decided on this project before McCall's put out their Halloween patterns and apparently they have a 'licensed' Merida dress pattern. I personally don't like it that much and since it wasn't available, I scoured online pattern sources until I found a pattern that most closely resembled the dress from the movie - McCall's 5207, which is currently out of print. I got my copy on ebay and I'm sure there are several copies out there. The thing I like about this pattern is that it runs up into the larger girl sizes (12, 14) so I could make her another dress from this same pattern when she's older. To keep that option open, I traced the pattern pieces. I will be altering the sleeve construction to make it do what I want (not surprising) and I'm adding embroidery to the neckline and hem. Yes, I know that in the film Merida's dress is plain, but I'm not sticking to the authentic version, remember? Besides, I need to justify having the embroidery machine and this is a good reason. That and the dress will look that much better when it's finished. Lastly, I'm going to do hand-made eyelets on the back (it laces up!), rather than apply the metal eyelets which never stay properly, anyway. And it's a good excuse to practice making eyelets by hand.

Merida wig before haircut.
Accessory-wise, Gwyneth already has a Merida wig that she got for her birthday last year and I ordered a bow-and-arrow from the Disney store so it will look authentic. Mr. T is blonde and insisted on having a wig too, so I bought a cheap Merida wig from Party City and I've cut it down to look like a boy.


Here you can see the wig in the middle of the trimming process, after I'd cut off the long pieces at the back and on the sides. I was concerned that I would cut too much off and then I would have wasted $15 on the wig, so I went slow and only cut a bit at a time. The triplets in Brave are drawn with curly reddish hair that's short on the sides but the front bangs are puffy and stand up quite a bit, so I didn't want to cut too much from the front. The trick was getting it to not look too much like Merida with short hair. Here is the end result, from front, back and side:

 As you can see, I tried to make the back look as natural as possible, cutting it short but leaving enough that you can't see the wig base. I also needed it to look a little messy, otherwise the curls would look too girly. I think I managed to get a good balance. This wig was in the section for littler girls and I think it's a tad small for his head, but that's okay because that way the curls aren't too overwhelming. Overall it looks pretty close to the triplets' hair in the movie, but I think it's  best judged with the entire costume, and that will come next time.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Pajama Time!

It seems like my kids always run out of things that fit in stages that go by types of garment. Around Christmastime I realized that Mr. T was in desperate need of new pajamas. His old ones were all too small and I was reluctant to go out and buy new ones, given the vast stash of fabric in my storage room. So I got out a pile of knits and had him choose 3 prints to work with, for 3 new pairs of pajamas. He ended up choosing a print with dogs (some of which are blue) on yellow, a jungle print in green, aqua and brown, and - his absolute favorite - a "breakfast" print of eggs, bacon and toast. Breakfast-themed prints seem to be his thing; his favorite RTW t-shirt is a face whose eyes are fried eggs and whose mouth is a strip of bacon. Go figure.

I used my go-to pj pattern, the "Stripey Legs" pants and "Night Owl" shirt  (nos. 34 and 35) from the Winter 2009 issue of Ottobre. This issue is one of my favorites and I've made quite a few things from it by now. Since I wasn't sure if I'd have enough of the prints to do both the shirt and pants for each set, I decided to throw in a complementary stripe for each one: two-tones of blue rib knit for the dogs, green with white stripe interlock for the jungle print, and yellow and orange rib knit for the breakfast print. I used brown ribbing for the cuffs of the jungle and breakfast prints, and a cobalt blue ribbing for the dog print.

Crazy before bedtime.
I've made this pattern a couple of times and used a few different techniques to sew it together. The directions call for you to lap the seams and then sew them with "a flat lock stitch", by which I assume they mean a coverstitch. I don't have a serger that does a coverstitch so I've used the honeycomb stitch on my regular machine in the past and that's one they recommend in lieu of the coverstitch. I've also constructed them using regular seams and topstitching them. This time I decided to try a flatlock stitch on my serger, which gives a smooth seam on the inside and has the seam allowances on the outside. It worked out okay but I don't think I'd do it again, simply because the exterior seam allowances are a little bulkier than I'd like.

Jungle Jammies!

The other issue I came across this time is that, because I used the blue striped rib knit for the body of the shirt, the neckline was slightly bigger than I would have liked. Darn that rib knit! I should have stabilized the necklines before I sewed the binding on. It's not a glaring fit issue and it makes it easier for Mr. T to get the shirt on over his big head, but still.

All in all, a very successful week of sewing these. If only I could get in the sewing room more regularly! And if only I could remember to post about them in a more timely fashion! At least I was able to do them in a sort-of assembly line style. Using the brown for 2 pairs meant I didn't have to change thread for each set and that's always a time-saver.

Now he needs more pants. It never ends.

Third Time's a Charm

A while back I posted about needing to make a maternity bathing suit and what I thought I might need to do. I started off enthusiastically to make the "Rimini" tankini top from the Spring/Summer 2011 issue of Ottobre Woman. Knowing that I have a larger-than-average bust, I measured my full bust and it ended up being the largest size - a 52 - so I traced the pattern in that size, cut it out and sewed up the 'bra' portion of the top. It was waaaaaayy too big around my ribs and the gap in the front where the two pieces were intended to cross over was so big that I was falling out of it, but I still didn't have enough fabric in the cups to properly cover myself and get any support. I fiddled around with it, trying to figure out what went wrong and then gave it up for a while to focus on some other projects.

I went back to the tankini when we had an unusually warm week in early May. This time I decided to add fabric to the cup area by slashing the size 52 pattern to the bust apex and spreading it. This had the effect of  tightening/shortening up the curve at the front and lessening the gap there, as well as giving me slightly more coverage at the side. I cut this new version of the 'bra' portion and found that there still wasn't enough support at the front and that it still gapped. I took out the stitches and overlapped the center fronts about twice as much as the first time. Now I had more coverage but it still was dragging down at the center front and kind of twisting. I took in the back by increasing the overlap, thinking that this would counter-act the problem at the center front, and it seemed better so I decided to add the lower portion of the tankini.

Disaster. I'd added way too much fabric at the center front and as a result there was far too much fabric in both the front and the back. I got upset because I really wanted this pattern to work and because I don't want to spend a ton of money on a maternity suit off the rack. Cheap suits generally don't give me the support I need in a bathing suit so I end up with a suit that costs $75 or more. I'm unwilling to pay that much for a maternity suit for my last pregnancy. So I decided to take a break and do some laundry and think about the problem.

The solution presented itself while talking the situation over with Scott. He was looking at the instructions and pointed out that while I needed the cup size of the 52, my underbust measurement was more like a size 46 or 48 (I fall kind of in the middle of the two). He also pointed out that I lost weight at the beginning of this pregnancy and haven't gained very much, so I'm clearly not a 52 all over. We decided that I should cut the 48 to allow for a little room for my belly to expand. That remedied the problem of the lower portion, but what about the bra portion? I played around with the 2nd version and decided the way to go was to sew the two pieces together so that there was a center front seam, then do the same thing at the back, after shortening the length of the back pieces so that they were more equivalent to a size 46. This gave me the coverage and support that I needed but in the size appropriate to my body frame.

Center back seam.

So here is the final product:

Don't make fun of the bathing cap - it keeps my new teal hair protected!

I ended up doing the center front and back seams, though I think I should have deepened the center front seam just a bit more. As it is, I hand-stitched it a bit to close up the neckline a little more so I didn't feel as though I would fall out of it. Also, if I make this again, I will reduce the amount of fabric under the arms at the sides, since the suit cuts into me slightly there. I decreased the amount of elastic that I used at the under bust portion significantly - I used about 24". I'd probably use even less next time, in order to have more support under the bust. And I'd probably find an underwire bra that I could sew into the lining, since I feel like I really don't have enough support with this, plus I'd probably retain the alterations I made but cut one size smaller in order to get more support out of the fabric itself. Right now it feels comfortable but I still wonder if there's too much give due to it being a 46. Cutting a 44 and still doing an FBA would probably be better overall, and I think I'd get a better lift for "the girls". I have more fabric (black with hot pink dots!) so I plan on perfecting the fit on this suit after the baby arrives.

Side view - 32 weeks pregnant.

It's better than a lot of suits I've worn, and I'd say it's not bad for a first attempt, but I'm not totally thrilled with the result. It gets the job done, though, and that's what's important. I probably added a bit too much to the bottom portion in order to accommodate the growing bump because the overlay pulls down a bit at the center front and the shirring doesn't lie evenly. Again, not a huge problem, since the suit is still quite functional.  What I love most is that it pretty much stays down over my belly and sort of looks like a retro one-piece suit, a style I really like.

The bottoms themselves were much easier - I cut a size 52 to see if that would cover my bum and still give me plenty of room for the belly. I was expecting to have to make some significant alterations but I was pleasantly surprised that they fit perfectly the first time. I used the bikini bottom pattern, rather than the boy-short bottom, and I found that the height of the leg opening was just right for me and it has a nice full-coverage back. I don't find myself having to adjust the fabric on my bum to keep it covered, so that's a definite plus.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Stuck in a Holding Pattern

Hold on there, kiddo. It won't be much longer!

Nothing new sewn. Nothing. It's killing me. I've spent the past 2 weeks trying to just find time to get into my sewing room, now that it's moved from the old room into what was once the storage room. I can't find the time. Or the energy. Or both, I don't know. I do know that I have a few things left that I really want to sew while I'm still pregnant, and I have to finish the summer SWAP for the boy. But this pregnancy has left me more than a little drained and I'm starting to really feel it. I've said it before - Pregnancy after 40 is not for wimps. This is especially true since Scott is gone for the next month. I'll reach the 33 week mark on Friday and I won't see him until I reach week 36. The children have lost their minds because it's summer and Daddy is gone and they know I'm exhausted. Lucky for me Miss Maeve is at camp right now - at least for the next few days. And tomorrow - tomorrow Scott's replacement shows up. And by replacement, I mean his mom.

C. and I don't have tons in common, but she's my mother-in-law and she's available to help out for once. And for once I mean, this one time. Last time we asked her to come and help was when I was pregnant with Tallon and she told us she didn't think she'd be able to come and help because she couldn't take time off of work. I don't know what Scott said to her this time, although she's retired now so work isn't an excuse she can use. Her main work is usually taking care of the other grandkids, Scott's sister's twins who are 8 1/2. She spends a lot of time taking them to their various tennis, violin and swim lessons, and I don't know what-all else. Scott must have been convincing, though, and I'm glad because I'm far too pregnant to be dealing with my 3 crazies alone and trying to run a house. I'm not too proud to admit that. Scott left on Sunday and I'm already drained and it's only Wednesday.

So tomorrow we pick C. up at the airport and then run errands on the way home, get our CSA box for the week at the Farmer's Market, eat lunch (I promised the kids we'd eat at the market) and then we're back to the house for a brief time before gymnastics. It promises to be a busy day. Friday will sort of be a day of rest, though we do have a Daisy scout meeting here in the late afternoon that day. Then C.'s help will start off with a bang on Saturday morning, since I have to pick up Maeve at camp while she takes the other 2 to their swim lesson. Tallon, I promise, will tire her out just by being himself.

The rest of the time, though? I'm going to put her to use as much as possible so that I can get back in the sewing room. I figure that she's probably got more energy than me right now, even if she is 65. If she can take charge of even half the stuff to do with the kids (especially baths and bedtime) I'll have more time to get to things that need doing around here. Plus, the more she takes them to the park and whatnot, the less cleaning I have to do in the house. And that's always a plus. Additionally, I'm starting to get into that nesting mode and I want to have everything clean and tidy before the new one makes his appearance. I know realistically it won't be like that, but if I can sort of have things the way I want them I'll feel a lot better.

On the fun side, I dyed my hair teal back in June and love the color. It started to fade a bit towards the end of the month, so I brightened it up the other day and I love it.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Ahoy, Matey!

So, my girl is not the girliest of girls. She likes pirates. I think she has a secret desire to be like Pippi Longstocking. Back in 2010, I made Miss G a pirate girl outfit for her birthday present. She's since outgrown that one and was begging me for a new one. Since the whole thing was based around a velour iron-on that I'd found at Bunte Fabrics it would have been a bit difficult, but for the fact that before Yvonne closed her shop, I managed to score another one, plus a boy version.

Left sleeve.
Right sleeve.
The shirt is basically the same as last time -  I used the Imke pattern from Sewing Clothes Kids Love and I made it in a faux 2-layer style, with the pointy version of the hood. The short-sleeves and the body of the shirt are a black rib knit and the sleeves and hood are red and white cotton-lycra - both left over from the previous shirt. Like last time, I managed to get a red velour pirate skull iron-on (plus one to go with the boy pirate for Mr. T) and that goes on the right short sleeve; the long sleeve has 2 layers of ribbon - the bottom layer is black grosgrain with white pick stitching and the top layer is light blue with red stars. The star one is from Farbenmix. On the left long sleeve is a stripe of pirate boys and girls ribbon that I got from Banberry Place; the short sleeve has iron-on stars of various sizes in a red holographic vinyl. The hood has a tassel of several different ribbons, including the stars ribbon and the pirates ribbon.

Ribbon tassel on the hood.
The previous pirate girl outfit had a skirt, made from black denim with embroidered skull-and-crossbones motifs in white. This time I opted for pants. I'd been wanting to make the Farbenmix Nonita pants pattern for a while - how can you not love a pant called 'piratenhosen' (pirate pants) by its' maker? I knew I didn't have enough of the denim from the skirt, so I found some stretch red denim and used that for the main fabric, with the embroidered black denim as accents. I like how they turned out, though the denim is pretty stiff; hopefully it'll get softer as it gets worn in. I really like the look of some of the topstitching done by others on these pants, so I tried to go for a similar look. I'm not entirely happy with the look but that's probably because I had to use doubled thread, since I didn't have white topstitching thread. Also, I don't know if I'd use the thicker thread for the more complicated stitch patterns on such a heavy fabric again. They probably would have been fine with a single thread.

Pirate pants- front.
Pocket on left leg and ribbon detail on cuff.
The other thing I had a problem with was fit, but my girl is so skinny that I'm kind of not surprised that the waist is a bit big on her. This is often the case with the Euro patterns when I make them for her. There's always a good amount of ease and sometimes I have to compensate for that. After one or two wears we decided to undo the waistband a tiny bit and redo the elastic. The fit is much better now. The buttons were the coolest part, since I discovered them by accident at JoAnn's. The pirate skulls appear to be printed on them, but I'm hoping they won't rub off in the wash.
Topstitching detail, skull and crossbones buttons, pirate ribbon and Farbenmix label.
 The pants look super cute with the cuffs rolled up, since that exposes the pirate denim on the underside. And they look great with boots, sneakers, clogs or pretty much any other shoe. Miss G. likes to wear her pirate print clogs with them. I kind of want to use this pattern to make pants for my son's pirate boy outfit, but I'm not sure the fit would be good for his body. I do think it will be fun to make another pair of these for G. in a lighter weight cotton for summer. First, though, I need to finish some other projects!

Stars and Stripes

Ideally, this post should have been written back in September, except I forgot about it. I mean, I do a lot of sewing but don't always end up documenting it as I go along or even right after I finish it. I'm working on changing that, but it's a process.

This outfit for Miss Gwyn (who else?) was actually her first day of school outfit, and I stayed up all night to finish it - literally. The birds were singing when I went to bed. Anyway, she had asked me for "an adventure skirt" and had chosen a star-print twill from JoAnn's. After perusing my Ottobre magazines I found the perfect pattern - #14 in the 1/2005 issue. It's a pretty quick and easy pattern but with a lot of topstitching. I used a yellow thread, since yellow is her favorite color.

She needed a top to go with it, so we went with the ever-popular Farbenmix Imke (or was it Antonia? I don't remember now!), with hood and short, puffed sleeves. The green and white striped knit I had in my stash, grabbed from the bargain table at G Street Fabrics in Rockville, MD back when we lived on the east coast. It was a huge piece, but at $2.97/yard you really can't go wrong, can you?

Shirt front detail.
Anyway, the green matches the green stars in the skirt perfectly but it's a bit plain, so we added some iron-on stars in red holographic foil and some Farbenmix ribbon. I'm not sure what the middle ribbon is called, but it's still available at the Farbenmix online shop. The other two both have stars - light blue with red and orange with red, also available at Farbenmix and at Banberry place, respectively. Because, you know, you can't have too many stars. The hood on this shirt is the pointy version, naturally, and it has a tassel of the 3 ribbons that I used on the front of the shirt. I like that these two pieces are easily worn separately - I think she's worn the skirt with a solid red shirt and the striped shirt goes with any jeans, so she doesn't always feel like she needs to keep them together as an outfit. I think that they'll fit well through the summer, but Miss G. has had a slight growth spurt lately, so it may not last into the next school year.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Summer SWAP for the boy - Part 1

I'm trying to get a jump on the summer garment sewing for Mr. T, since it usually sneaks up on me. He's pretty much growing out of the size 4T things from the past year, so everything is needing replacement pretty soon. Back in February and March I started going through my Ottobre magazines and sketching out things I wanted to make for him, just so that I'd have an idea of what fabrics I wanted to use and what I'd have to buy. I really tried to focus on using fabrics already in my stash so that I'd have to buy very little. This meant that I could also try to make everything fairly mix-and-match so that there wouldn't be any mismatched clothing if someone other than me picked out his clothes. I've got all the patterns traced and am cutting things out in bunches, keeping the knits together in groups so I can sew several garments at one sitting without having to change needles or rethread the serger. It makes the process go really quickly.

As of right now I have 4 t-shirts completed and 1 short-sleeved hoodie. The hoodie is from a burnt-orange and cream 100% cotton French terry. It has some stretch because of the lofty, almost loose knit but no lycra, so the stretch is fairly minimal. For this I used the # 25 "Eleven and One" pattern from the 1/2011 issue of Ottobre. This pattern actually calls for a lining in the hood and the sleeves, but I felt that it would be too warm for summer if we used a lining, even if it wasn't in the body. Additionally I thought that a lining would drag down the loftiness of the hood and make it droopy. Instead of using the lining, I simply turned the edges of the hood under twice and stitched it down. I did the same thing with the sleeves. I contemplated making a front pocket but then the summer 2013 issue arrived with a short-sleeved hoodie pattern for babies and I thought I could use the leftovers to make a matching hoodie for the baby. I wasn't sure if I'd have enough fabric for that if I added a pocket to the larger one, so I left it plain. I did add a piece of contrasting ribbon with dragons on it at the bottom, just for a cool detail.

The first 2 t-shirts are made from the 3/2007 issue of Ottobre -# 20 Slim Fit T-shirt. The first is made from a striped interlock knit in aqua and chartreuse, with dark brown ribbing. I can't remember where the interlock came from but I think I got it on eBay and it may have been a Chez Ami knit. Don't quote me on that, though. All I know is that it's super soft.

The second of the Slim Fit T-shirts is made from a surfboard-print stable jersey that also came from either an etsy seller or eBay. My only problem with this shirt is that the fabric was a beast to work with due to the fact that it was twisted and the print was off-grain, making the rows of surfboards slant. I tried to avoid this at all costs but it would have created a shirt that twisted miserably if I had tried to make the surfboards line up straight. I almost gave up on this print but T. wanted a surfboard shirt so much that I decided to try to make it work and the end result isn't that bad. The ribbing is orange ribbing from my stash.

The last 2 t-shirts are from the 3/2008 issue of Ottobre - the # 10 "Bat" t-shirt. This shirt has a looser fit than the first 2 and a chest pocket. The first is made from 2 different interlock knits - one solid orange and one a cars print in cream with brown, orange, aqua blue and sprout green. I like the contrast of the bright solid sleeves with the print body and I really like the way the turquoise ribbing looks with the orange.

The second "Bat" t-shirt is made from a beautiful tie-dye 100% cotton rib knit that I got in a remnant bin somewhere. It was already dyed when I bought it, though it does look like I could have dyed it myself. The binding on the neck and sleeves is made from an olive green interlock remnant from my stash and I decided on the interlock based on how thin the rib knit is. I felt that a chunkier knit or ribbing would have distorted the neckline due to the difference in weights. These 2 are really close in weight and look great together, as evidenced by the really smooth seam. I love the way this looks. I added the dragon ribbon to this one, as well.

Next up, a couple of pairs of shorts, including some 'summer' sweatpants and probably 1 or 2 more t-shirts.