Me Made May 2021 – Week 1

April showers have indeed brought May flowers. And with the flowers we have also come to Me Made May. I have been participating in Me Made May since 2017. The first year I had a hard time wearing just 1 self-made item every day, but as I have continued making myself clothes dressing myself in Me-Mades has become easier and easier. Here is what I wore the first week of May:

Day 1: blue shorts and a striped boxy shirt

Day 2: the same blue shorts and a paisley cowl-neck tank

Day 3: pinafore dress

Day 4: grey pencil skirt and a checkered blouse

Day 5: grey dress with a white ruffled blouse over top (bonus: I made my necklace, too!)

Day 6: striped petticoat and a paisley cowl-neck tank

Day 7: grey herringbone pants with a striped purple tunic

Day 8: the same grey herringbone pants with a green Adrienne blouse

I definitely feel a lack of pants in my Me-Made wardrobe. The one pair of long pants I have made are very warm, and will quickly become unsuitable as the month goes on, so I am mainly reliant on the 2 pairs of shorts I made last year and several skirts and dresses to clothe my lower half. I have several self-made tops, but I’m worried I don’t have enough to fill all the gaps for an entire month. I am enjoying wearing some items that don’t get a lot of wear and mixing up which pieces go together (days 4-7 were new combinations!). Trying new garment combinations may be one of my favourite parts of Me Made May!

Sweater Disappointment

I started knitting a sweater for my husband in September or October of 2019. I’ve written about it several times (here and here) as I made progress, but to sum up, I knit three quarters of the thing, then stopped due to project fatigue and a repetitive motion injury. Six months later I started the second sleeve, but set it aside again when it wasn’t the same size as the first (this is a prime example of shifting gauge. The first sleeve was knitted on vacation, the second in the middle of a pandemic). After doing a little math I made the new sleeve work. Then I sewed up the seams, knit the front bands and neckband, and sewed on the buttons. I was so excited to finally be finishing the sweater, and I documented my progress copiously on Instagram.

Seaming the body up.

Setting in the sleeves.

Adding the front bands, collar, and buttons.

I thought it was perfect…until my husband tried it on. The sweater didn’t fit. The fit issues were partly due to gaining the COVID 15, but equally at fault was the too-loose gauge I chose for the sweater. The front bands gape and refuse to hang straight even on a smaller body. And the neckline is wonky. It’s too low to be a crew neck, but too high to be anything else, and it stands out from the body instead of fitting snugly to the chest and neck. Part of me wants to rework the neck portion and the front bands and see if that will solve the problems. Another part of me wants to burn the thing and then pretend it never existed.

What do you do when disaster strikes your knitting?

Pinterest Win: Checkered Turban

We’ve all seen the Pinterest Fails. Some of them are spectacular fails, not just ordinary “well, that didn’t quite work” fails. And yet we all continue to search for and follow Pinterest tutorials, despite the fact that they may or may not work. The reason is because sometimes Pinterest tutorials are good and lead to good results. This is one of those times.

The tutorial is for “A Smart Dusting Cap” in the 1930s style. I had a very small amount of some checkered shirting I bought several years ago for a top that seemed like a good option for this project.

I pieced the fabric to within an inch of its life, but in the end the piece wasn’t quite long enough to tie securely.

This was my first try-on, and I had a few changes to make to fit my head better. I opened the slit on the long side up an additional 3 inches, and gathered the front section in by another inch. Then I cut out a piece of lightweight black linen, hemmed all the edges, and whip-stitched it onto the main piece.

This is the last of my checkered shirting. I have used it for quite a few projects over the last few years:

  • The original shirt I bought the fabric for
  • Embroidery for my 2019 word of the year
  • A furoshiki-style lunch wrap
  • 2 face masks (fashion fabric for one and lining for the other)
  • This turban

With this, all my scraps of this lovely shirting have been used up. I have really enjoyed working with this fabric, and it has helped me realize how much I love working with stripes and checks and making the fabric align in a way that can appear seamless (especially when piecing).

A Wool Edwardian Blouse

I have always loved the clothing people wore in the past, so I have very gradually begun to add historically inspired garments to my wardrobe. I am interested in several time periods: Medieval, Tudor, mid-18th Century, Regency, Edwardian, and the list goes on.

One of the first of the historically inspired garments I finished was the striped petticoat I made last year, which fits into the mid-18th century category. I fast-forwarded into the Edwardian period earlier this year, and made a shirtwaist. I used the Wearing History Edwardian Blouse and Guimpe pattern, and made it up in a delicious textured wool shirting from Denver Fabrics. I had never worked with wool shirting before, and I found this fabric to be delightful!

I made the high-neck version of the blouse with no alterations, choosing to treat this as a wearable muslin. Wool is forgiving, and the blouse is fashionably (for the 1910s) oversized. The construction was quite straightforward, and the instructions were easy to follow. The sleeve was so interesting to construct! The part of the sleeve seam that is toward the back of the arm is longer than the part that is toward the front of the arm. The back part is gathered slightly and eased into the front part, which creates a sleeve with plenty of room in the elbows. It was also interesting inserting the sleeve into the armhole since the sleeve seam and side seam do not line up, and the great majority of the shoulder ease is located at the back rather than being distributed evenly throughout.

Instead of inserting a waist casing I marked the waist with a length of twill tape and adjusted the front and back into pleats so I wouldn’t have to adjust it every time I put it on. I secured the pleats with a length of elastic for ease of wearing. I hemmed the bodice and sleeves using my favourite rolled hem variation, and used snap tape for the back closure instead of buttons or hooks and eyes. The snap tape was SO EASY to use and saved me so much time! 10/10 would recommend. I did have one snap break, though, so if you choose to use snap tape I would recommend that you inspect your snaps before inserting the tape into your garment.

With that the construction was done! I wore it a few times, and snapped a few photos before throwing it in the wash.

That is when disaster struck. I told you this was wool fabric. I had been diligent and prewashed and dried the fabric on a Delicate setting. My dear husband did laundry that weekend, and used the Normal setting. My poor blouse shrunk. Thanks to the loose fit in the body I can still get it on, but it is tight across the back and too short in the arms and body now. I think I can unpick the snap tape and let out the back, but I will probably have to remake the sleeves. And possibly add length to the body? Oh well. Live and Learn. I have linen to make another version of this that will be more appropriate for summer.

Dress Like a Pirate, Part 1

Who has not, at some point in their lives, been enamored with the idea of pirates? Whether Peter Pan, Errol Flynn, or Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow, pirates have haunted our imaginations since childhood. My husband recently bought me a Pirate magazine, which reignited my imagination and inspired me to make a pirate-y shirt. I actually couldn’t decide if I wanted my shirt to have ruffles or not, so I decided to make two garments: one with ruffles and one without.

I couldn’t get ruffles out of my brain, so I started on the ruffled top first. I used the Sew Over It Juliette Top pattern and white handkerchief linen (IL020) from fabrics-store.com. The construction was pretty straightforward, and I only made a few deviations from the instructions. Instead of making the ruffles a double layer, I finely hemmed the ruffles before basting them to the shirt fronts and sewing the shirt fronts together.

I finished seams as I went: the shirt fronts and ruffle are flat felled, I used French Seams for the side seams and sleeve seams, and I sewed a spare bit of ribbon over the raw edges where the sleeve is sewn onto the bodice. I shortened the sleeves to elbow length, thus avoiding the sleeve cuff altogether. The sleeve hems and shirt hem are finished with a variation on a rolled hem.

Overall I LOVE this top! Now that it is in my wardrobe I find myself reaching for it far more than any of my other tops. It is light and breezy, and will be perfect for summer. That being said, there are a few things that I’m less happy about:

  • Shirt length: I have a long torso, but I didn’t lengthen the pattern. I’m happy with the length in back (this is probably because of my swayback), but the front and sides are a bit short and have come untucked from my waistband a few times.
  • The V-neck is a little lower than I am comfortable with.
  • I didn’t trim the rolled hem well before sewing. The rolled hem variation I used puts the raw edge right along the sewing line, so if this isn’t trimmed well before hemming, the hem can look a bit…fringey. This is entirely user error and not a problem with the pattern.
  • The shoulders are too wide in front, and the underarm opening is too low. These two pieces together limit my arm movement somewhat. Compare this shoulder/underarm with the shoulder/underarm of my Bruyere shirt:

I have plans to make at least one more Juliette, possibly with some shoulder/sleeve modifications, and even possibly with an extra ruffle! I could also make a plain top by omitting the front ruffle. There are lots of possibilities here, and I am excited!

I have not forgotten about the non-ruffled pirate shirt. That is still coming, and it is going to be epic!

Nearly Instant Gratification: A Kimono-style Robe

Sometimes the urge to make something is just too strong to be ignored. I do most of my sewing on the weekends, but we had been busy for three weekends straight, and I was desperate to make something with my hands. Every spring/summer for the past few years I’ve thought about buying or making a kimono-style jacket, but I was always stopped by the concern that it wouldn’t be flattering to my body. In my recent desperation to make something, anything, I decided now was the time to throw aside my concerns and just make the thing.

I had a limited amount of this lightweight jersey since I’ve used it for 2 other projects in the past. Because of this I cut my front and back piece in one to my bust measurement +5 inches for ease, paying no attention to grain (this knit has similar stretch in both directions). I had originally planned to cut the sleeves in one with the garment, but had to cut them out separately and seam them on due to my limited fabric quantity. I cut down the center of the front, widening to my neck width at the top of the neck and cutting slightly into the back.

I cut an additional 5 inch wide strip, which I folded in half to use as the robing down the front. I turned the fabric inside out to contrast with the main fabric. This ended up coordinating perfectly with the fabric selvedge which is not patterned. I turned the bottom hem in by about half an inch and sewed it down. I did not hem the sleeves, but I am still debating if I need to go back and add a hem for better drape and overall structure. I did not finish any of the seams since this knit fabric does not fray.

Thoughts on the finished garment:

  1. This is SO COMFORTABLE to wear!!!
  2. I still don’t think the garment is terribly flattering (read: there is no waist definition), but it is useful for when I want more coverage or a tiny bit more warmth.
  3. I have tried it with a few belts and have not been pleased with the results. I will continue to try garment and styling combinations to find my favourite ways to wear this.
  4. I definitely want another kimono, but wider and in a sheer fabric.

A Trio of Adriennes

In January I had the opportunity to visit my family for my grandmother’s funeral. It wasn’t the reason I wanted to see my family, but I took the opportunity to enjoy their company and make some good memories together.

I have mentioned before that my sewing machine only sews straight stitch, which limits me somewhat in what I can sew. I had recently acquired the Adrienne Blouse pattern from Friday Pattern Co. and wanted to sew myself a few tops. The Adrienne blouse is made with knit fabric, which requires a stretch stitch for the sake of longevity and comfort. My mom’s machine is fully functioning, so I brought the pattern and some fabric with me and concocted a devious plan to sew with my sisters.

The pattern is written to use a knit fabric for both body and sleeves, but I wanted to make my sleeves with woven fabric instead. I had the perfect amount of cotton flannel left over from a pair of pajama bottoms I made at the end of last year, which I paired with a green knit for the body. I love how the sleeves are somewhat poofy here. Anne Shirley would be so pleased.

I also brought a light blue floral knit fabric, which I paired with a white lightweight polyester woven fabric. The difference the fabric makes in how the sleeves look is incredible! I love how this blouse is whimsical and romantic.

My youngest sister also wanted an Adrienne blouse. She went for a very romantic look with a pink floral woven fabric for her sleeves, and a mustard yellow knit fabric for the body of her blouse. You’ll see that we moved the wrist elastic up to the elbow for my sister’s blouse. We left the full sleeve length so she ended up with the most darling sleeve ruffles. I almost wish we had put lace on the sleeve edges, but that might have been over the top.

Overall, the blouse was very easy to make and to alter. The pattern sizing will give you a more fitted blouse, but my sister and I both wanted a little looser fit. For this purpose we measured the body pattern piece and chose the size closest to our measurements rather than going by the size recommendation. I would also say that the elastic length you choose is extremely important for this pattern, so take the time to get this part of the fit right. Neither of my two shirts is perfect, and it bothers me every time I wear them: the shoulder elastic on the blue one fits perfectly, and the wrist elastic on the green one fits perfectly. I may address this at some point, but I’m the meantime, C’est la vie.

My middle sister didn’t feel that Adrienne would be flattering for her body, so she chose to sew another pattern that I had brought with me: the same pattern I used to make my hobbity corset top. I am so proud of how well this came out for her! The top is reversible – green and yellow on one side, and a teal-ish blue on the other. Doesn’t she look fantastic!? For the record, sewing this top in garment-weight fabric works SO much better than using super thick upholstery fabric like I did.

It was wonderful to see my family, even though it was under difficult circumstances. I am so happy to have these new pieces in my wardrobe. They truly are a joy to wear!

Wardrobe Reincarnation: Pencil Skirt Edition

In college I had the most gorgeous grey pencil skirt with hand-stitched details on the front. Alas, it has been many years since my college days, and that skirt is no more. I’ve been working on renewing my wardrobe recently, and was reminded of this skirt. I looked online for fabric to make one, but couldn’t find anything I liked right off. And then I was sewing my herringbone pants, and when I turned the fabric over I realized it was perfect! And I had just under a yard of fabric left, which is the perfect amount to make a pencil skirt.

As I often do, I started with a sketch. I used the Knit Pencil Skirt pattern from Gertie Sews Vintage Casual as my base pattern, making fitting adjustments as needed. I dithered around for sever days trying to find a way to make the skirt reversible, but in the end I went with the simplest route and made it normally.

The hand-stitched details on the front really elevate this item from a normal skirt to something special. My college skirt had 4-6 lines stitched on the front, but I sewed 9 lines in. This was actually the part that took the longest. The fabric is thick, and my hand and wrist started hurting after sewing 3 lines. So I spread the embroidery out over several days to avoid injury.

This was a simple make, but I am quite happy with it. I love the graphic, almost Art Deco, embroidery. The knit ponte fabric I used and elastic waistband make this skirt extremely comfortable to wear, while still looking professional and even a bit (dare I say it?) glamorous! There are a few fit issues that I may go back and tweak. You might see a little wrinkling at the hips, and the waistband could be a bit smaller (this seems to be a theme for me – I am so terrified of making my clothes too small that I make them too big!). But the skirt is wearable, and I am honestly the only one who will ever notice these small things.

I am enjoying leveling up my wardrobe and building it to be exactly what I want. I honestly can’t wait for my next project!

Sewing my First Pair of Pants

Ok, the tittle is a tiny bit click-bait-y because I sewed two pairs of shorts last year (here and here). The concept is entirely similar, but I did wonder if my legs would turn out to be some weird shape that would require pattern alterations. I used the same pattern for my pants as for last year’s shorts: the Cigarette Pants from Gertie Sews Vintage Casual (if you’re looking for a sewing technique/pattern book, I highly recommend this one). The pants were very simple and quick to sew up since I had already fitted the top half of the pattern to my body and I was using a knit ponte fabric that didn’t need the edges finished.

The fabric is from Style Maker Fabrics. It is really nice and thick and has a bit of fuzziness to it, which makes it very warm. 4 inches of this fabric will stretch to about 5 1/2 inches. I used my already modified pattern to cut out my pieces, and got to sewing. I surprised myself by completing the pants within 7 hours, even with a slight waist adjustment. This speed is due to starting with a pattern that fit well to begin with, not needing to do fitting adjustments to the legs, and using a knit fabric that doesn’t fray.

I absolutely love these pants!! They are super comfortable to wear, and the pockets are absolutely enormous! The legs are not fitted, which also adds to the comfort level, and I deliberately chose to make them a little bit longer than I normally would so that the length would be right when I’m sitting down. It’s the little details like this that really make a garment perfect, I find.

I still feel that the waist could be a bit smaller. I’m considering adding an internal elastic waistband for this. I’m also considering trimming the entire leg down about an inch in width along the entire length on my next pair. But all in all, I consider these pants a roaring success, and I can’t wait to make more!!!

Finally Finished: a Burgundy Linen Dress

Two years ago in the summer of 2019 I started a dress. The fabric was a linen/rayon blend in Burgundy from JoAnn’s. I hacked Very Easy Vogue V8926 to be a dress instead of a top by adding length and skirt gores (I had made a vest version of this pattern about a year earlier, and it is one of my favourite things to wear). This was before I had a sewing machine, so I sewed the main seams with a mix of running stitch, running back-stitch, and full back-stitch. By the time the seams were done, I couldn’t stand to look at the dress anymore. I put it away for a long time.

A blurry photo of the moment the seams were completed.

Since starting the dress I have gotten a sewing machine. But I wanted the outside of the dress to have no visible stitching, and the seams were already done, so a sewing machine was of little use to me in doing the finishing work. I felled the seams down by hand over the course of the last 2 years. I also worked on fitting the dress to myself. The back pieces are cut straight, and I have a swayback, so I ended up narrowing the back pieces as well as taking a dart along the waistline in back to minimize wrinkling. I had originally cut three gores: one for each side and one for the back. I ended up removing the back gore because it hung weirdly. The front collar is interfaced with fusible woven cotton interfacing. I extended the interfacing to the hem.

Once the fitting was done, it was time to finish the hem and sleeve cuffs. I sewed a coordinating ribbon to the hem, and then turned it up. While working on the sleeve cuffs I had another setback. My sleeve got too close to a candle I had burning and was scorched!!

I refused to let this defeat me when I was so close to finishing the dress. I cut out another sleeve and sewed it up, but realized quickly that I had sewn it backwards. Out came the seam ripper, and I sewed it again. I sewed the sleeve seams by machine, felled the seam allowances down, and finally sewed the second sleeve cuff. After two years in progress my dress was done.

Overall, I am very happy with this dress. It will be a great addition to my wardrobe throughout the summer months, and is very comfortable to wear. There is something about wrap bodices and big collars that I find irresistible. If I made a dress like this again I would make it as a bodice with circle skirt, as that would be a lot easier to sew and fit. In the photos above you can see a white linen underdress I made last year that I am wearing as a slip or petticoat. That little bit of white peeking out when I move makes me so happy!