Plaid Floral Pants

Late last year I realized that I didn’t like any of my clothes. I hadn’t bought anything new in quite a while (thanks COVID!) and many of the items in my closet were old and showing signs of wear. I take immense pleasure in dressing prettily, so my dilapidated wardrobe was actively making me unhappy. I decided to approach the problem from two directions: I would buy several garments depending on what I could find in stores and what I didn’t think I could easily make myself, and I would make items I wanted to make or couldn’t find in stores. I made a list of garments I wanted to add to my wardrobe or replace, and I listed out some colours or styles I specifically wanted to target. Then I went shopping for clothes … and ended up returning half of the garments I bought due to fit issues. This further fueled my resolve to make my own clothes. Next I went online and picked out a whole host of beautiful fabrics to make myself beautiful clothes. You’ve seen quite a few of the garments I made from this bulk purchase, and I still have several fabrics that I haven’t even cut into yet!

When I first saw this floral plaid ponte knit from StyleMaker Fabrics I knew I had to have it for myself. It was just so beautiful! I bought enough to make a pair of pants. I had already made a pair of Cigarette Pants using a similar knit ponte, so I knew my pattern fit me, but that I needed to make a few alterations to accommodate the fabric. My main alterations were to narrow the pants from waist to hem by about half an inch per pattern piece and to add a plain waistband instead of the internal waistband from the pattern.

I used zig-zag and lightning stitches for everything to reduce the possibility of popped seams (and because my new machine allows me to use fancy stitches whenever I like!). The sewing went quite quickly once I had started, and within a few hours I had a lovely new pair of pants!

I really like these pants! They fit great, and the make quite a statement (maybe too much of a statement?). As with everything, however, there are a few things I don’t like:

  • The plaid doesn’t quite match up due to a pattern error (I’ve fixed this on my pattern so it doesn’t come up again).
  • I’m pleased with the waistband, but I want to futz with it a little. The waistband is made from a long strip of fabric, with a length of 1″ elastic inside. I zig-zagged the elastic to the inside of the waistband to prevent it twisting. I applied the front of the waist band to the pants, and then top-stitched the under-side down, but I folded it too far away from the edge, so the seam allowances are not caught in the waistband like they should be.
  • The waistband is maybe a little bit too tight?
  • I intentionally left the pants long because I don’t like my ankles showing when I’m sitting down (weird, I know). This worked a treat with my herringbone pants, but in these pants it just causes leg wrinkles due to the tighter fit in the leg. You can’t see this in the photos because I folded up the hem by about an inch to make them the perfect length.
  • These pants are loud, and I can only wear certain colours/styles with them. Since I’m still rebuilding my wardrobe this is severely limiting the amount of wear I can get out of these pants right now.

Despite the flaws in my garments, I see so much progress in my skills and abilities over the last few years. I am so proud of myself for making beautiful garments that fit and look pretty professional. And let’s not forget that professionals make mistakes, too. I don’t know if I’ve ever looked at store-bought clothes as closely as the clothes I make for myself, but I know that I’ve seen some weird stuff in purchased clothes over the years, too.

12 Months, 20 Years

20 years ago, my mom and I started small embroideries to be sewn into two quilts. The idea came from a magazine, with the goal of creating one embroidered rectangle for each month of the year. I was about to turn 9, and during that summer I embroidered 11 of the 12 months. And then summer came to an end, and the project sat in a box for a very long time. Early this year when I visited my family my mom gave me my completed blocks as well as the materials and instructions to finish the final block.

I traced and stitched the December block (in January, ironically) to finish the embroidery for the quilt.

The original quilt is designed to be an art quilt rather than a functional quilt, and it’s quite a small size. I love the idea of making items functional items, rather than just decorative, but I’m not it sure will be possible to make this quilt functional (for me) due to the embroidery and the small size. I need to evaluate my options to determine how this will be finished and with what fabrics.

How would you finish this quilt?

Faux-Edwardian Half-Circle Skirt

Historybounding is all the rage this year, and I am here for this trend! I love the Edwardian era, which is specifically fueled by my love for Anne of Green Gables and other works by L. M. Montgomery. Growing up I desperately wanted to be Anne, and it turns out that my personality is very similar to hers (This similarity is positive in terms of creativity, but negative in terms of feather-brained-ness).

Earlier this year I made an Edwardian blouse out of wool shirting (Wool shirting is lovely, but requires some extra care to avoid shrinkage. I learned this the hard way). Next I needed a long skirt to go with it. I considered several options of various difficulty levels when making this skirt: drafting a skirt using instructions from the Keystone Jacket and Dress Cutter, using the Fantail Skirt from Scroop Patterns, or being really simple about it and lengthening the half-circle skirt pattern in Gertie Sews Vintage Casual (Again, I know. I did warn you I would be using these patterns a lot!). In the end I chose the half-circle skirt because it was the easiest option, because I already had the pattern, and also because I like the more modern fit and silhouette of this over the Fantail skirt (plus, it uses less fabric!). The Keystone and Fantail skirts have an extremely Edwardian silhouette, but there is some evidence that skirts in period may have also been cut similarly to our modern half-circle skirts (photo from Petit Echo de la Mode in this blog post).

I used a beautiful light green wool suiting from Denver Fabrics. The fabric is a nice medium weight with a cream warp and green weft (or vice versa) – this creates a lovely heathered look in the fabric. I pre-washed and dried my fabric, then cut out the (identical) front and back pieces on the fold. I wanted the skirt to end just above the floor, but this made my pattern piece a few inches wider than my fabric. Rather than narrowing the skirt I pieced the bottom corners on both front and back. I created pocket and pocket facing pieces based on the pieces from Gertie’s cigarette pants. Then I assembled the pockets and seamed or basted everything in place.

Next I sewed up the side seams. I tried to align the piecing perfectly at the bottom of the skirt, but failed on both seams. Oh well, c’est la vie. I then inserted an invisible zipper on one side of the skirt. To finish of the top of the skirt I cut a straight waistband 3 inches wide and a little longer than my waist measurement. The 3 inch waistband was folded and seamed into a 1 inch finished waistband that fit my waist exactly with a 1 inch underlap.

At this point I could no longer avoid the hem, and I set the skirt aside for a while. On one hand I wanted to make the finishing simple – which would usually mean a double-turn hem, sewn by machine. But the rest of the skirt was so beautifully sewn to avoid the appearance of machine stitches, and I didn’t want to spoil that with sloppy finishing. What I ended up doing (after much dithering) was creating an 8 inch facing using a coordinating quilting cotton, and inserting some cotton crinoline into the hem for stiffness. I was surprised to find cotton crinoline at my local JoAnn’s, and it was exactly what I needed. Crinoline is a starched open-weave fabric. Using it in this application helps keep the skirt hem out and away from the legs, but does limit washability (washing in water would remove the starch, and the fabric would no longer be stiff). I cut shaped panels of both the crinoline and the quilting cotton that were seamed together before being applied to the hem. My husband helped me mark the skirt hem so I could then do the finishing.

I do not recommend the method I used to apply the hem facing. After piecing the hem facing in quilting cotton I aligned it with the skirt hem, and sewed it on by machine with right sides together. I then turned this right side out, inserted the crinoline, folded the facing edge over top of the crinoline, and whipped this down by hand. Turning the facing right side out while maintaining the hemline, and then inserting the crinoline was frustratingly difficult. If I was doing this again I would apply the facing to the crinoline using basting stitches, then fold up the skirt hem allowance and apply the facing + crinoline to the skirt using whip stitches. This would result in having to hand-stitch the entire hem (rather than only the top half), but it would be so much easier to move around and make sure the hem is kept smooth. Please, if you try this yourself, don’t do it the way I did.

Once the hem was done all that was left was to make a buttonhole and sew on a button. I had just bought my new sewing machine, and this was my first chance to use the buttonhole and button sewing functions. I selected a plain brass button, and tested the buttonhole before sewing into the final garment. After the buttonhole was sewn I cut the opening using a chisel, rather than scissors, as I feel this gives a cleaner cut edge. I did not finish the side seams, since these are cut on the bias with a 5/8 inch seam allowance and are unlikely to fray significantly.

With that the skirt was done! There is a lot of hem to wrangle when getting into the car, and these skirts were definitely made for an era before rolling office chairs had been invented. Despite these niggling complaints, I am very happy with what I made. I find this skirt to be comfortable and glamorous. It’s not fully historical, but still gives a nod to the past, especially when styled for the Edwardian era. I am looking forward to continuing to build out my Edwardian-ish wardrobe. Next I need to make a petticoat and fix/remake my Edwardian blouse.

Pinterest Win: Wrap Top

Some ideas keep coming back around. The particular idea I’m referring to is that of a rectangle of cloth with a hole cut for the head, that wraps and ties both front and back to make a lovely top. I found at least 3 different Pinterest entries (here, here, and here) and 2 YouTube videos (here and here) showing how this can be done, and the idea has been around since the 30s. I had maybe a yard of cotton shirting left over from a previous make, so I decided to give it a go.

The front and back are shaped identically with the neck line being the only thing that differentiates one from the other. To avoid a mistake that would waste my lovely shirting I started with a mock-up made from an old bed sheet. Once I had my final pattern piece I cut into my fashion fabric. I had a very long strip of fabric left over, so I decided to make this into a peplum to extend the length of the shirt – filling the roles of both form and function! One thing I’m very glad I did was add darts to the front. Darts make such a huge difference to the overall fit and look of the garment!

This really was quite a simple make: after cutting out the overall shape I sewed the darts, then pleated the peplum and seamed it on front and back. These seams were finished with a finishing stitch on my sewing machine. Then I cut the neckline. My next step was to make a belt for the front (I used twill tape for the back ties). I hemmed the outer edges of the top and attached the back ties, then hemmed the belt and sewed it on at either side. I was down to scraps at this point, and I was lucky that 2 of my scraps fit the neck hole quite well, so I seamed these together and trimmed them up to become a neck facing. I finished the outer edge of the facing and seamed the facing onto the neck hole.

I did the final bits by hand: I used a herringbone stitch to (almost) invisibly tack the neck facing down on the inside, and I caught the upper edge of the belt to the bodice just above the peplum to keep it permanently in place.

This is one of the simpler tops I’ve made, but I really like it. It’s quite light and breezy while still giving good coverage. It’s also nice to know that if my weight fluctuates I can still wear this by adjusting the ties as needed. I want to adjust the curve of the sleeve a little, but other than that small detail I have no changes to make.

3 Tops in 3 Days: A Jersey-filled Weekend

At the end of last year I did an assessment of my wardrobe, and I was appalled with what I found. My clothes were worn, didn’t fit, or just didn’t excite me anymore. The result? I didn’t want to wear any of the clothes I had, and I hated getting dressed in them. I have always loved clothes and dressing in a way that makes me feel pretty, and without that ability I didn’t feel like myself. I resolved to dig myself out of this hole not by going shopping (or at least, not just by going shopping), but by making many of the pieces that were missing or worn out.

You’ve seen several of the pieces I’ve made over the last 6 months. Most of them have been made of woven fabrics for the simple reason that my sewing machine had broken and would only stitch a straight stitch. It did (and still does) a great job at straight stitch, but I dreamed of sewing zig zags and buttonholes, so I entered a side-quest to find a new sewing machine. I searched online, read dozens of reviews, and visited several sewing shops in my area. Finally I made a decision, gave the shop my money, and sat down to wait for my machine to come in. Did you know that the pandemic has caused a sewing machine shortage? I didn’t until I was shopping for a new machine. It seems that when everyone was stuck at home a lot of people decided to pick up sewing. That along with factory and shipping issues has caused a shortage of sewing machines and delays in getting a machine once you have ordered it. I waited 2-3 weeks (which felt like months) before my machine came in. Then the sun shone, the birds sang, and I brought my new machine home!

My new machine is a Baby Lock Presto II. She has 100 built in stitches (including 7 zig zags, 7 buttonholes, and 4 alphabets), and sews up to 850 stitches per minute. I had planned to buy a manual machine for the sake a simplicity and quality, but companies are moving more and more toward electronic machines, and these seem to have the best quality offerings. I am still learning what she can do, but I am happy with what I’ve seen so far.

Around the same time I ordered my machine I bought several cuts of jersey in preparation for FINALLY having a zig zag stitch (I had been wanting this capability for at least 2 years, so I was ready!). First I made a Wiksten tank with some jersey from Hobby Lobby (it’s the same jersey I used for this shirt). It had been a while since I made my last Wiksten tank, but my modified pattern pieces seemed about right, so I moved to cutting out. My cut of fabric was about 6 inches too short for the pattern, but I didn’t let that deter me. I ended up piecing the upper front and back pieces to make a final piece that fit (I didn’t want to sacrifice any length in the top since I am long-waisted). After the piecing was done I completed the actual construction, then moved to fitting. The Wiksten tank is patterned for woven fabric, so I wasn’t sure how it would do with jersey (even a more rigid cotton jersey like this) and I’m so glad I took the time to fit this before doing the finishing. I took several inches out of the shoulder and out of the underarm (I angled this out to the hem, and I love the angle it created and how it fits me). I contemplated putting a tuck in the front neck to reduce gaping, but decided to wait until I had washed the garment in case the neckline had stretched out while sewing (after washing I decided the neckline was ok). Finally I finished all my edges by turning under once and zig-zagging into place. In hindsight, this wasn’t a great way to finish the neck and arm holes because it created some puckering, but it is what it is, and I am treating it as a learning experience.

Second I made a light blue t-shirt with bees on it (fabric from Joann’s). I veered from my trusty Alabama Chanin t-shirt pattern to try the t-shirt pattern from Gertie Sews Vintage Casual. I have found that the Alabama Chanin pattern works well with ribbed Jersey, but doesn’t fit me when using a stockinette style jersey. I went by the pattern size recommended in the book, and was very pleased with the overall fit. I felt that the neckline was too low, and the neckband gaped a little, so I took note of these things to change in my next version.

For the third shirt I used the same pattern as the second, this time with a happy clouds jersey fabric. I raised the neckline, made the neckband a little smaller, and stretched the neckband a little tighter when applying it. This resulted in the perfect t-shirt! I am so happy with the fit of this and I definitely plan to make more.

3 tops in a weekend is a lot of sewing (at least for me). I am so pleased to have these garments to help fill out my casual wardrobe. I am planning to make more t-shirts, so stay tuned!

Do you have a favourite stitch on your sewing machine?

A Smocking Adventure

When you sew (or knit, or do any kind of craft) you inevitably accumulate some sort of a stash. Pretty and useful materials are fun to accumulate, and this has the added advantage that when inspiration strikes you can immediately make the thing. But a significant part of any maker’s stash ends up being scraps of this and bits of that – enough to do something small with, but not small enough to throw away. I had a scrap of linen just like that. I had made a bias-cut dress and my scraps were weird shapes. I rescued a rectangle about the length of my waist to knee and almost as long as my full waist measurement, and decided to make an apron. But not just any apron, oh no. I had to make it complicated interesting. I had seen several Smocking tutorials floating around Pinterest, and decided to give the honeycomb stitch a try.

I started out by hemming both sides and the bottom edge of the apron. Then I marked my smocking lines using a heat-sensitive pen and quilting ruler. You don’t have to run gathering stitches through your fabric before beginning Honeycomb stitch, so I started on the smocking immediately after this step. I used a blue ombré embroidery floss (3 strands) for the smocking, and worked both left to right and right to left. I found that it was easier to work left to right, but perfectly possible to work in both directions.

When the smocking was done I ironed the top edge flat and applied a bit of navy blue bias tape (also left over from a previous project) as a waist tie. The apron was done!

I’ve never thought about myself as an apron kind of gal, so the apron sat around for a while waiting to be used. One day I was harvesting peas from my garden and needed a receptacle. A bowl seemed annoying to wrangle, so I put on my apron and fell in love! This is the perfect use for an apron and the perfect way to harvest produce since it moves with you and keeps your hands free.

I do find that the bias ties are a bit slippery, so I might sew along the ties with some embroidery floss to add texture and hopefully a little more grab.

What is your favourite thing to make with fabric (or yarn) scraps?

Bruyere

I was browsing patterns (as one does) and was stopped in my tracks when I saw Bruyere by Deer and Doe. I thought the plaid version in the pattern sample was incredibly striking, and decided to make myself a plaid version as well. Since it was early winter when I started the project I chose a yarn-dyed plaid cotton flannel from Joann’s (I took my colour inspiration from this make).

I had a hard time getting the fabric to lay flat without warping, but I did my best to get all the pattern pieces laid out straight. I cut the collar, shoulder piece, waistband, and sleeve cuffs on the bias for visual interest and to save myself from the horrors of trying to match the plaid across so many different pieces. I cut the front facings, inner shoulder piece, cuff placket, and inner cuffs from a scrap of black wool crepe that I had leftover from this vest I made a few years ago. I thought the solid colour would be a nice change from the overall plaid. This was my first go at this pattern, so I did not do any pattern alterations when cutting.

There are a lot of pieces in this pattern. It is one of the most complicated patterns I had ever made, so I followed the instructions religiously. There were a few instructions that I had to read a few times before I really understood them, but overall the top went together pretty well. In the absence of finishing instructions, I finished my seams with lace seam binding and faux French seams.

The only pattern alteration I made was using a smaller seam allowance for the front button plackets than the pattern specifies. At this point in the project I was able to try on the garment and test it for fit, and I needed more room. This small change worked perfectly, though I still could use a little more room along the waistband (you can see in the photo above that there is a small amount of pulling along the waistband).

By the end of this project I couldn’t stand the thought of hand-sewing 7-8 buttons and buttonholes, so I bought some snaps to close the shirt front. I had never set in snaps like this, and I was intimidated at first, but they went in really well overall and I haven’t had any problems with them.

I LOVE this shirt! It ticks all the right buttons for length, fit, and overall style. I especially love how well the shoulders and sleeves fit me. This may become my personal shoulder/sleeve block! I do plan to make more Bruyeres. When I do I plan to grade out at the waist 1-2 sizes. The fit is perfectly comfortable as is, but I want to avoid the pulling at the waistband in future.

Embroidery Sampler 1

Young girls used to make samplers to learn (and show off) new skills. In today’s day and age it is an exception rather than the rule for someone to know how to embroider and to make a sampler. My mom taught me some embroidery basics when I was young, but last year I decided I wanted to learn more stitches. Around the same time I came to this conclusion I created a Creativebug account and found Rebecca Ringquist’s Embroidery sampler tutorials. I went to her Etsy shop and ordered all 3 of the samplers she had Creativebug tutorials for.

I love how fresh and new these samplers look, especially compared to older designs that can feel stuffy and outdated.

In my head I thought I would work a new stitch every day for about 3 months and have 3 new samplers and a decent knowledge of embroidery stitches by the end of first quarter, 2021.

I started off well, and dutifully worked my stitch a day for about 10 days. Then I missed a day and made up for it the next. I would miss days and then work multiple stitches in one go. Invariably, I missed more days than I made up.

My first sampler took me from January to the end of April, so actually longer than I thought all 3 samplers would take me. But that’s alright. I enjoyed the first one, and I’m looking forward to the next two.

I used this collection of beautiful ombré embroidery floss. I’ve had this floss for years, and have always been afraid to use it because it is so beautiful and I don’t know where I got it and I don’t want it to be all used up. But what are beautiful materials for if not to be used?

Using a collection like this also helped me to keep my palette limited. When I needed to add a different material, such as yarn for a couching stitch, I tried to choose yarns that would coordinate with the colours in the floss. I also couched around the “hoop” part of the design with handspun alpaca, which felt like an extra special touch.

I had a lot of fun working this sampler, and I learned a lot! I have 2 more samplers to go and lots of embroidery floss left, so I will be embroidering on and off for a good long while.

Me Made May 2021 – Week 4 and Conclusions

Day 23: paisley tank top and striped jean shorts

Day 24: brand new happy cloud t-shirt and the same striped jean shorts

Day 25: new ruffled blouse and grey pencil skirt

Day 26: brand new bees t-shirt and floral paper bag skirt

Day 27: plaid Wiksten top with striped jean shorts

Day 28: blue Adrienne blouse with cream shorts

Day 29: jersey Wiksten top with cream shorts

Day 30: happy clouds t-shirt with cream shorts

Day 31: linen Juliette blouse with striped jean shorts (+new smocked apron for gathering peas!)

I made 3 new jersey tops over the weekend, so my wardrobe this last week tended to be more casual than what I’ve worn the rest of the month. It’s funny that even though I really felt like I needed more pants throughout the whole month I only ended up sewing tops. I guess tops somehow seem a little less intimidating, which I don’t understand since my pants pattern is already fitted to me, but the patterns I used for my tops were mostly un-tested as to fit.

I had a lot of fun wearing full me-made outfits this month. 2021 is the first year where I’ve had enough me-made garments to wear full outfits every day of the month, which is a huge milestone for me! My favourite garment to wear was my grey pencil skirt, which really surprised me. It is comfortable to wear and I always feel fabulous in it. I think I might have to make another.

One of the things I love about Me Made May is how it really forces me to look at my handmade wardrobe and see what works well and what gaps I still have. Over the last year I have been mostly focused on sewing “nice” clothes that I can wear to the office. These happen to be the kind of clothes that I most like to wear, but can be a little impractical for cooking or cleaning or running around with my dog. I knew I had a gap in my handmade wardrobe regarding leisure staples and pants like t-shirts and jeans. I am looking forward to filling this gap and continuing to improve my overall handmade wardrobe.

Me Made May 2021 – Week 1

Me Made May 2021 – Week 2

Me Made May 2021 – Week 3

Me Made May 2021 – Week 3

Day 16: linen Juliette blouse with striped denim shorts

Day 17: blue Adrienne blouse with the same striped denim shorts

Day 18: Pocahontas dress

Day 19: pencil skirt and kimono jacket

Day 20: cream shorts and a brand new ruffled blouse

Day 21: striped petticoat worn as a dress with a brown vest

Day 22: cream shorts with a brand new Wiksten Tank in Jersey

I tried some new outfit combinations on days 19 and 21, and mostly didn’t like them. I also got tired of my limited options and made/finished two tops, which I wore on days 20 and 22. This is ironic, since my options are much more limited for pants/shorts than for tops. I have a great pants pattern that is already fitted to me, and my fabric is already washed, so I really have no excuse to not make some fantastic new pants. I guess I know what I’m doing this weekend.