Monday, June 16, 2014

Now for details on Althea's Popsicle Safari Coat. (and some dog-walking fun)
For starters, it is huge, but that is ok. Better large then small right? I rounded up on her measurements and also I did NOT forget the seam allowance on this one and it turned out that this coat is actually bigger than the one I made for Fern. But I had each girl so specifically in my head when I made each jacket that I couldn't bear to just swap them at the end. This one remains Althea's popsicle safari coat and the fancy trench is Fern's. End of story. Unless they decide to swap and borrow from each other. Which they do already. Althea is tall and sturdy and their wardrobes are virtually interchangeable right now (ages 2.5 and 4.5). 
The fabric is of course from the home dec fabric at JoAnn's again - I just can't get over the prints!! Look at this popsicle print! It can't get much cuter than this. I love the bright colors too. The lining is the anti-static poly liner from JoAnn's, same as Fern's, just a different color.
This coat follows the Melange pattern from Ottobre 6/2013 exactly in terms of shape of the garment. They use a stretchy wool knit, but I think the pattern worked great for a woven fabric. I did add an elastic waistband encased between the outer and inner fabric layers stretching across the back. 

I also used a different layout for all the pockets I wanted to include. There are four patch pockets on the front: an upper and lower pocket on each side with the upper pockets having flaps to close them. I did not have very large pieces of material left over from which to choose my pocket pieces, but look at the amazing luck I had with lining up the fabric pattern:
 It meant that I placed the lower pockets farther out to the side and the upper pockets closer to the center, but it is symmetrical and to get those lower pockets that spot on, I was thrilled. I like how the upper pockets didn't match exactly, but they make their own kind of sense anyways. And if you look for a second you can find the blue surf board created on each side. 
There are also flannel heart side-seam hand-warming pockets (as with Fern's), bringing the grand total up to six pockets. Althea is pocket crazy and she has filled every single one with treasures on a walk. 

I used a fun bright orange sport zipper to close it, along with a cute cupcake button that Althea chose. 

I learned a lesson in zippers here. First of all, I didn't even realize that there were two types of zippers out there, ie. closed bottom zippers vs. separating. Then, I finally got my hands on the right one and needed to adjust the size. Well, I do know that on a close-bottomed zipper I can adjust the size by creating a new stop at the bottom by sewing a few zig zag stitches with the stitch length set to zero. But I obviously couldn't do that on a separating zipper. So I needed to cut some length off the top. And the zipper had a distinct stopper at the top, but I figured that I had to cut that part off, and hey, when the zipper gets to the top it will stop, right? I talked about this briefly with the lady at JoAnn's and she agreed with me, but apparently she isn't a seamstress. The zipper does NOT stop at the top. It continues on until the zipper is in your hand, not on your coat. At which point you can manually unzip the coat and thread the zipper back on and down to the bottom and start over, trying not to pull the zipper up all the way this time (and try to convince your two year old not to pull the zipper off, or at least to give it to you not throw it on the ground and continue on if she does). I ended up trying to sew the stopper part of the zipper onto the top of my zipper, but since they are not completely attached still, the zipper sometimes goes around it. I am going to try to glue the stopper to the end of the zipper and see if that makes the difference. 
The proper way to adjust the size of a separating zipper is described here. I haven't tried this myself yet, but it makes a lot of sense and may save me some grief in the future.
Aside from my zipper woes though, I love this little coat. This pattern is great. I think my favorite part about it is the hood. I want to make every hood I do in this style now. The bottom of the hood wraps around to the front of the coat and closes securely with a button. This really keeps this hood in place. Again, I did not add any elastic or drawstring / pull cord to this hood and it doesn't need it at all. It just stays put. Love it. (I promise to come back with a good picture of the hood and the button)
And I love my little dog walker in it as well. 
Can you tell our secret to successful toddler dog walking?

I am holding the double leash attached to both dogs. She is holding a longer single leash attached to one dog so that she can feel like she is walking a dog just like mom. But they are never able to pull her because I keep my leash tighter than she does. Both girls love this. They feel like important helpers and I like how it is almost like having a leash on the child as well because it keeps them close. Fern will usually hold my hand with her free hand at the same time. It is sweet. For the first ten minutes. Then it turns into some sort of feat of balance and patience as I try to manage both dogs and a girl on piggyback, or two dogs and a straying toddler that lost interest. Poor old dogs get a little jipped in the walk department lately. I think I am going to have to slip in a selfie I took while trying to take both kids and both dogs on a walk to the park a month or so ago. At least I brought a Boba baby back pack. No stroller though. We were out walking. I figured at least one of them would want to walk anyway. But alas......
.....we walked home close to a mile like this. With me holding the double leash attached to two sixty plus pound dogs. My plan was to just drop the leash if they decided to lunge towards a squirrel or something but fortunately they didn't make me put my plan into action. The furry boys are getting older and a shorter walk tires them out like it never did before. And those girls are getting heavier.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Easter came and went a while back.....
I think Easter may be my favorite holiday to sew for. Last year I made dresses and bonnets. 
This year I did fun fancy coats! I am so excited about them. They both came out really well and the popsicle coat Althea is wearing will definitely fit both girls for a long time to come. 
      This picture was taken on Easter (both girls wore last year's bonnets and Fern even insisted on wearing last year's Easter dress- this girl is not afraid of pattern mixing - I love her strong sense of very true-to-herself style). I was finishing them up last minute the night before (of course), and realized the zippers I was planning on using were not going to work (closed bottom, not separating zippers....ugh. I don't have much zipper experience and learned quite a bit on this project). So they don't have zippers in this picture.
      They do have silky linings. Flannel heart side-seam pockets. Flat felled seams throughout except for the upper reaches of the arm seams. And beautiful little girls to wear them.
     I was heavily inspired by both this coat (which completely took my breath away when I first saw it!) and a hand me down coat that we have that was lovely at one point, but is now stained. It was also a little bit small for Fern by the time we got it, and it does not seem to suit Althea's taste.
     I drew sketches of both coats as I envisioned them. Fern's is a twirly trench coat with a hood, an off center closure and a large belt / sash. Althea's is a safari coat with an elasticized rear waist and a hood - and a total of six pockets (because I ran out of time to add the secret interior pockets I wanted to add).
      After I decided what I wanted them to look like, I began looking through some Ottobre magazines online, searching out an issue that would have two patterns that would work for me. I had never used an Ottobre before, but had been reading so many good things about them I figured I had to try it out. Ottobre is a great Finnish fashion magazine aimed at sewists that includes patterns for everything in the mag: about 40 patterns per magazine! So it is a steal, even though shipping and the conversion from Euros to dollars means that it cost me about $20 as opposed to the $10.95 it lists at on the website. I went with the winter kids issue 6//2013. There is a pattern that I used almost exactly for Althea's (the "melange"), and also a little moto coat/sweater with an angled off-center zip (the hunstman) that I modeled Fern's from. I think the final thing that really motivated me to try an Ottobre was this tutorial from Sew Straight & Gather. Her idea to trace the patterns with a crayon and iron them onto paper is genius. I used plain white packing paper that my husband brings home from work for me when they get large deliveries. The sheets are huge and we use them for painting and I love to use them to make pattern pieces. Gotta love the price point on that!
I will dissect them in more detail one at a time. Let's start with Fern.
The outer fabric is from the home dec section at JoAnn's, just like Althea's overalls. It is covered in stylized lollipops. Perfect for a little girl and I just love the color scheme that it uses. The lining is JoAnn's anti-static polyester liner. I used the Ottobre pattern pieces for the bodice of the pattern. I shortened them quite a bit to hit at her true waist (so I could add the skirt there) instead of at the hips. I also straightened out the left front bodice piece - in their pattern it starts off center at the top and then angles down to the center by the bottom- so that it remains off center all the way down. I also used the hood and sleeves as is from the pattern, and drafted an a-line skirt to attach to the bodice to complete the trench look. 
Unfortunately, I neglected to add seam allowance when I cut the pattern pieces from my fabric. I had some choice things to say to myself when I realized that. The good thing is that I had read that these patterns tend to run slightly large and I was trying to err on the side of overestimating when I calculated their sizes. I do think it is a good thing that they don't include seam allowance - there are so many options of types of finishes; I tend use a larger seam allowance than recommended, especially if I am going for flat-felled seams or french or something. I hate having small bits to work with and would rather give myself a solid 3/4"-1" and have more to trim and a larger space between my rows of stitching than to struggle with it. I find I do much neater (and faster) work this way. With much less muttering and swearing. Anyway, if I am in charge of adding seam allowance myself, then I can add as much as I please - so long as I remember to add it. 
In the end, the sleeves and hood were fine the way I cut it. What I did add was a ~3" panel to the front left bodice and skirt piece to allow it to reach far enough across her body and to overlap the right panel enough to close comfortably. I had to make this panel with scraps (the panel attached to the skirt portion is actually two pieces itself), and please note how beautifully they lined up: 

There are on-seam side pockets made out of cozy heart flannel, and pretty interior seams.
And there are two wide sash pieces attached at the side seams to tie in a large bow in the front of the coat. I was inspired by the trim Falafal and the Bee used on this dress to try out a fancy stitch my new machine offers to top stitch the sash and I love it. 

Fern picked out the button that we used to close the top:

It is plastic but looks like an antique glass button. The colors are slightly off but she loved it so it was the winner. She likes to wear it closed with only the button and call it a cape. I think it makes her feel like she is in Frozen when she does that.
I still have yet to add the zipper to her coat. She likes her "cape" without a zipper, but I do plan to put one in eventually. When I do finally install the zip, I will be referencing this tutorial about shortening separating zippers. I ran into some trouble winging it on Althea's coat, but I will discuss that later on.
The only thing I regret about her coat is that I did not include a casing for a drawstring around her hood, or at least some elastic in there around the top. It does not stay up on her head very well, especially with her fluffy hair and that silky lining. 
She isn't fazed by this though, and has actually continued to wear it and chooses to wear it on her own which I love. It is a great weight for a spring / summer jacket. Here she is again:

Thanks for stopping by!