Wednesday, February 26, 2014

  This week marks the end of Project Sewn; they are already on their Signature Style week. There has been some really fun and inspiring stuff going on over there. I tend to sew more for the kiddos, but it is fun to try to sew for myself as well. It's definitely harder though. The wrong fit can kill it (or require a lot more work) when I sew for myself. The girls are pretty easy to fit, not to mention aren't very picky about things that don't fit perfectly (if it is pretty).
    I had some success the other night though that I was very happy with. I had some very soft knit material that I wanted to use to make a copy of an old favorite pair of pants that I love. They are wide legged "skirt pants" (as named by Fern) that have a wide foldover waistband. They are total lounging pants but I dress them up sometimes with a nice top and shoes and feel they serve my purpose well. Comfortable and flattering equals perfect in my book. And sewing more with knits has been something I've been working on. I was using exclusively woven cotton until recently. My new machine has some new stitches to try out which is exciting. I've also been learning more of what I don't know through reading other folks notes online.
    So I laid my pants out onto some paper and tried to trace them and make some pattern pieces without cutting them up. The old ones are a little pill-y but definitely still have some life left in them as house pants.  It worked great! I made a pattern piece for the leg and cut two; assembling them by first stitiching the crotch seams then closing the leg inseam. I didn't use a stretch stitch for either of these as the pants don't really need to stretch much vertically. I just used a straight stitch, then played with all of the fun types of decorative zig-zagging I now can do on the inseam seam allowance to finish that seam. And I did a flat-felled seam for the crotch seams. Note to self: remember that while flat felled seams certainly do make a very sturdy and finished looking seam to use for that part of your pants, you ARE actually top stitching right down the front of your new pants whilst you do so, so don't be to lazy to match your thread! Realized that about 20 seconds too late (yes I am definitely too lazy to take the seam ripper to a seam that is already 1/3 sewn, especially when doing so would very likely leave behind some carnage on the remaining fabric, front and center). I made the waist band by measuring a large rectangle about 2 inches shy of the diameter of the waist of the pants as they were sewn thus far (my pants were 31 so I cut my waist band 29). The other dimension of my rectangle was whatever I had for fabric, probably 10-11 inches. I then sewed the short edges of the rectangle together, decreasing my waistband length further to about 28 -28 1/2 inches. Then folded it in half lengthwise and attached to the pants, easing in the larger waist and stretching the waistband as I went. Here, I sewed with a stretch stitch which is a new feature to me. Worked great. The waist looks great, isn't too tight as I feared and keeps the pants nice and secure but comfortable. Final step was to hem the legs by folding twice and sewing a fancy wide zig zag.

Finished them last night; wore them all day today while driving to and from school and the Y and catching a yoga class. And there they are, already wrinkled and dirty. (They may have started off not completely unwrinkled - some double negatives for you to sort out and find my guilt). No less comfortable then they started out though, let me tell ya. They do justice to my favorite old pair; and they make me want to make several more pairs now that I know my lil pattern works. Alas, I blew my fabric budget for the time being at JoAnn's the other day during a sale they were having. 

I wore these pants today with a fleece dress that I finished several weeks ago and intended to present along with a pair of boots that I love in the project sewn "if the shoe fits week". They had an entire challenge dedicated to sewing an outfit based on / inspired by a favorite pair of your shoes! I love that idea. I am going to keep that in my back pocket if I am feeling short of inspiration sometime in the future (the mental whiteboard is chock full at the moment though, I love that feeling of overflowing with ideas). Anyway, I had decided to sew this dress in November when I picked up fleece for a dress for everyone. For my adult version I used Collette's Laurel pattern. I have used it once before and liked the result. This was a very different experience since my fabric choice was so different (the first time I used a heavy linen). I added on seam pockets, an oversized turtle neck / cowl type collar, lengthened the sleeves and added some leather patches on the elbows and shoulders.
I spent a lot of time thinking about the leather patches. I was really excited to sew with leather, had my special needles in hand, couldn't wait to see how the new machine would handle it. But I didn't want to overdo it. I was originally thinking elbow and shoulders, but it seems like a lot. A lot of sweaters you see with shoulder patches just do one (to reinforce it where you will be laying your rifle I do believe), so I decided to go with one. Then I couldn't stop with a plain square patch, so I angled the corners and cut some diamond shapes out of it. Then I had some cute little diamond cut outs, so I sewed them onto the opposite shoulder in a negative image of the other. Then I made the elbow patches diamond shaped as well. I think it jazzes it up a bit, and I know that sewing with leather was exhilerating! It was so easy! Sally (I think that is going to be her name) the babylock went through it like butter!

Fern took the following pictures for me; I think they came out pleasantly blurred. 

 I also like how those pictures show the shape of the dress. The back darts are a key feature to making an otherwise very boxy dress seem a bit feminine. I originally made this dress longer; I think I just maxed out the fabric when I chose a length. It was very cozy but the static generated when I wore anything underneath it was intolerable. Even with a satin slip in between. I was concerned about this, but hemming about three inches off the bottom solved my issue. I know I will always want to have something underneath, so going to short wasn't an issue (if it's warm enough to wear without pants, it's probably too warm to wear it at all). I was surprised to see that hemming made such a drastic difference. I used the same fancy zig zag stitch to hem as I did on the pants. Love that stitch! Now that it is hemmed, I think I've decided that I like it. I have been wavering a lot, although I will admit that with the temperatures the way have been this winter, I have sure reached for it a lot and layered it on. I can also confirm that I receive extra requests for cuddles when I wear this. We are all getting some miles out of our fleece dresses!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

    "Signature Style" is the topic for the final week of PR & P. It is a fun one to contemplate. There are a lot of different ways to think about it. Style that I dress myself in; style my kids prefer; style of things that I sew for myself or for them. I think I am going to describe myself as a casual / comfortable mom-infused blend of funky bohemian and outer wear. My clothes are usually either flowy or geared towards a long hike / run / ski excursion. I like mixing opposing styles, or simply dressing up an otherwise completely practical outfit meant for a walk about town with the kiddos with flashy earrings or a fun skirt. Project Sewn is starting this week as well, which is Project Run and Play's sister site. They organize the same type of sew off but with clothes meant to be worn by the sewist as opposed to clothes for kids. I just finished an item of clothing for myself which I will have to post for one of their sew alongs (excited)!
      I think I am still discovering what my signature sewing style is. I tend to sew things that I don't think I could find in a store, or something that would be ridiculous to pay for at a store. I LOVE calculating how much cheaper I made something than if I had bought it ready made. Especially since it is then also personalized and means more than the bought one would have. 
      I am really drawn to old fashioned clothes for the kids. Especially with accessories. I am finding that I really love sewing hats. If I were to open an Etsy shop I think I would call it bonnets and bloomers. And those would be my favorite thing to sew and sell. With an occasional fancy dress. I do love sewing dresses, but we tend to have a lot of them handed down and gifted to us. We are a lucky family with older cousins and doting grandparents. So sewing dresses drops low on my list unless it is a very special occasion, or if I can think of a way to do something very different than what we already have. Fern has begun to participate in the process quite a bit though, which is a lot of fun. Her requests certainly get put on the "to sew" list. 
    Last year, Fern was in a big Wizard of Oz phase. Her big gift from Santa last year was a Dorothy dress, along with some silver slippers (which Dorothy wears in the book we have, based on the original by L. Frank Baum, with gorgeous images by Charles Santore). Once she had those items, she began asking for a bonnet to complete the outfit. 
My own little Dorothy, with Toto of course. (and braided fabric strips for hair extensions!)
    I was excited to oblige her. I love bonnets. I think they are absolutely adorable on little girls. I first made a blue gingham one out of some scraps that Santa gave us along with the dress (thoughtful guy!) It came out well and she liked it, but then started asking for a pink one to really match Dorothy's outfit in the book So I went ahead and made the two girls matching Easter dresses from The Sewing Rabbit's Spring Fever dress pattern, and made them each a reversible bonnet to go along with it. I used the same fabric for each dress (Fern chose it) but used pink to line the sleeves and ruffles on Fern's, and green to do the same on Althea's. So they each have a bonnet that coordinates with their dress, reversing to the matching pattern from the dress. 

    It was so fun! I loved being able to figure out the way everything needed to come together to make it all work. My brother had a great comment when he heard that I had made their outfits, including the hats. "You made those? What did they start out as?" He was impressed to hear that I started with a flat piece of fabric, and he made me laugh. We got so much use out of those bonnets from that day through fall (and will break them out again when we head to Florida next week, yay!). I decided to make some more bonnets. I made one for each of my two nieces so that all the girls could wear them when we went to the beach together. I also made one for a friend's new baby, and another pair for a new baby and her big sister. So 8 all told. I think this makes it a signature item for me! I made myself a pattern that I kept going back to and adjusting a little bit with each one based on how big the hat needed to be. All were reversible except for the first one I made. Here is some bonnet mania for you!

The four female cousins at the beach! Fern and Thea have their Easter bonnets on; the cousins (who are sisters) both have yellow on the inside of their floral print bonnets.

         This is my original prototype. I love her face in these!

This is a newborn version I made for a darling little girl whose middle name is "Bee." I was looking for something with bees on it, but couldn't find anything that didn't use silly looking cartoon images; but then I found this great honeycomb-esque print and this GORGEOUS bird fabric in the exact right colors to match it. I like the way this little hat came out!

       One thing I love about bonnets is that they scream girl. I have noticed that if a child has short hair, people tend to call them a boy, no matter what they are wearing. My kids have been called boys while wearing pink, skirts etc. I don't know that they really care, and I would say that I don't but I guess I find it a little bit annoying since I am writing this. Anyways, top the short hair off with the fact that I don't care a whole lot for pink myself, and prefer colorful ensembles such as this one, and I can definitely understand why she may be called he. BUT, add a bonnet to this blue and orange outfit and everyone knows she's a little lady. Even older gentlemen, who tend to be the most confused. The bonnets are actually a huge hit with the older folks, they just swoon over them.
  More examples of the girls around town all summer in their bonnets.....

And here's a pretty honest Easter outtake for you. I unfortunately made the opening in the back of the bodice of Althea's dress to small, so it was a chore to get on and she was sad. We literally took scissors to it and cut it off of her that night. She was happy to wear it the rest of the day though, I swear! And they looked pretty cute. Fern wore hers constantly afterwards, but I still have yet to mend Thea's. She isn't as much of a dress wearer as her sister though, and was traumatized enough by it that she certainly didn't miss having it as part of her wardrobe. 

Thanks for stopping by!