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!

2020 – a Year of Making

2020 is finally out the door and 2021 has arrived. What an odd year it has been! Last December I came home from a vacation with a sewing machine. Thus, 2020 has been a year of sewing, and I haven’t done as much knitting or spinning as I have in the past. Here are my makes:

January:

February:

  • We continued to settle into the house, and I started a mini raised-bed garden.
  • I wrote an article for Ply Magazine that came out in their Basics issue in the fall!
  • I knit a washcloth for a friend.

March:

  • I mended my slippers.
  • I made a chemisette for a Regency outfit I’ve been quietly working on in the background. 

April:

May:

  • I mocked up the bodice of my Regency dress pattern. 
  • I made a colourful pinafore
  • I bought a rose bush and planted more seeds in the garden. 
  • I finished weaving a handspun/mohair lace scarf

June:

  • I started brewing Kombucha and Kefir.
  • I finished spinning the wool samples from the spinning class I took in the Fall of 2018.
  • My husband made me a yarn display for my wall. 
  • We went on a massive hike.
  • I made a T-shirt

July:

August:

  • I made a second pair of shorts
  • I finished a sparkly tunic I had started several years ago, but stalled out on due to fitting issues. 
  • I made an 18th century-inspired petticoat skirt.
  • My article was published in Ply Magazine!!

September:

October:

  • I made a corset-style bodice and paired it with my petticoat skirt for a Hobbity Halloween look. 
  • We got a puppy!!

November:

  • We spent a lot of time playing with and training our puppy. He is adorable and is growing like a weed!
  • I baked Pumpkin Sourdough Bread in the shape of a pumpkin. 
  • I moved my garden indoors.
  • I knit a tasseled shawl!

December:

Throughout the year I have enjoyed making things, especially clothes. I always seem to think that a garment will come together in just a few hours, and I am rarely right. I need to work on factoring in a realistic amount of time when planning a project and not beat myself up when it takes longer than I initially thought it would. There is nothing like getting dressed in clothes you have made yourself. It’s like a sort of armor against the world. I am looking forward to continuing my garment-sewing journey in 2021 and (spoiler) I’m considering quilting. Because I don’t have enough hobbies yet.

A Hobbity Hallowe’en

I am posting this two months too late, but it is too good not to share. Enjoy my unseasonal makes! Merry Christmas to all who celebrate!

Every year I tell myself I’m going to make a a amazing Halloween costume. And every year I start too late or don’t start at all. This year I made myself a few pieces throughout the year that weren’t intended to go together, but turned out to be a pretty great Halloween costume.

First, I made a skirt based on an 18th century petticoat. The fabric is a striped herringbone rayon from Hobby Lobby. It’s totally the wrong fiber for 18th century, but I love the colours. I’ve come to the realization this year that I adore sewing with stripes and plaids. Something about the fussiness needed to match stripes and plaids really makes me happy.

The skirt, or petticoat, was simple enough to sew. I trimmed up my yardage so the ends were cut straight, then cut 2 lengths to the measurement from my waist to my ankles. I also cut a few strips to use as the waistband and tie, so the front and back panels weren’t quite the full 60” fabric width. From there I sewed up the side seams, leaving the top 8” open, and felled the seams by machine to finish them neatly. Since my fabric wasn’t right for the period, I had no qualms about using a machine construction. Once the side seams were completed I sewed a small double turn hem at the bottom of the skirt. Next, I made the waistband/tie. The front waistband is made of probably 2 yards of self-fabric 5 inches wide. I made this long enough to wrap around the back and back to the front and tie in a pretty bow. This is not historically accurate, but it made me happy. The back tie only wraps around to the front and ties, and it is made of twill tape.

I made a corset-y bodice from an upholstery fabric sample my bestie gave me using a McCalls pattern. I made View E. The upholstery fabric was so thick I couldn’t get two layers under my machine foot, so I sewed the fashion layer by hand.

The bodice is lined with white linen. I couldn’t find a bias binding or a fabric that matched my fashion fabric well, so I used a ribbon for the binding. It worked ok, but there is some bunching around the corners of the front neckline. This was my first time setting grommets, and oh my, it is so much fun to use a hammer! I finished it up by used a pretty red ribbon for the lacing.

For the final look I used my Regency shift as a base layer. Next I put on the bodice, and then the petticoat. Since I was going for a hobbity look I let my hair be naturally curly and long. I used a silk scarf to fill in my neckline, and went barefoot (as a self-respecting Hobbit would do).

I love this impromptu costume, but if I did it again there are a few items I would add:

1. I wish I had made an underpetticoat for this outfit. The skirt silhouette is ok, but another petticoat would make for a much better shape.

2. I also wish I had a better neckerchief made of white or cream cotton or linen.

3. Finally, I wish I had an apron – preferably in linen and smocked or embroidered.

As a teenager I always wanted to be an Elf. Now that I am an adult I still love the elves, but I am learning to embrace my inner Hobbit.

Paper Bag Skirt

Do you ever do that thing where you find an irresistible fabric, so you buy just barely enough of it to make a hypothetical THING, and then when you go to make the thing you realize that you don’t really have enough fabric at all? Yeah, I do that a lot.

I had taken my sewing machine in to be serviced, when the most beautiful midnight blue and sunshine yellow floral batik captured me. I could not leave the store without it. I knew I wanted a garment in this fabric, but wasn’t sure what kind of garment. So I bought a yard. One. Single. Yard. Sigh. When will I ever learn that a single yard is not enough? My, er, artificial shortage of material made me think long and creatively about a solution, and I finally decided that I would make a paper bag style skirt. When I first saw paper bag skirts and pants I thought they were decidedly odd and unflattering, but evidently my opinion changed with time. And anyways, I wanted something a little more interesting than a run-of-the-mill A-line skirt.

I started (as always) with planning. This included measuring myself and my fabric and doing various calculations and layout sketches to make sure I could use every single inch of my precious fabric. I used this tutorial for general instructions, but decided to fully line the skirt and add an invisible zipper and an internal pocket. Because I like turning simple projects into not-so-simple projects. Oh, and since my sewing machine was in the shop, I would be sewing the skirt by hand. Because I’m impatient.

So I measured and cut my two layers of quilting cotton (the lining is a teal cotton I’ve had in my stash for ages), and ironed the seam allowances down. Apparently I’m at the point where if I’m going to sew a skirt by hand, I’m going to aim for interest rather than efficiency, and I’m going to use the most entertaining stitches I can. The pocket was constructed first, with running back stitches.

Next, the invisible zipper was sewn in with spaced back stitches (The only invisible zipper I had was brown. It doesn’t match, but it does coordinate, and I like the effect).

Then the side seams were sewn with an interesting variation on a whip stitch that I learned from the American Duchess book as the English stitch.

The top and bottom hems and the pocket openings were finished with whip stitches. The only parts of the skirt that were machine sewn were the pleats (I just didn’t want to sew these by hand, and my machine had come back from being serviced). Finally, I sewed in a waist tape so the strain of wearing would not be all on the pleats.

In my original sketch I had planned to make a self-fabric belt, but due to the busyness of the fabric this didn’t show up when worn. Instead I changed tactics and made a belt from a tie my husband no longer wore. It’s slightly the wrong shade of blue, but overall I think it’s a pretty good effect.

The skirt is wearable, but not technically done – I still need to add the belt loops!

There are a few picky things I would change if I made this again. First of all, I would not line it with quilting cotton. The two layers together make the skirt quite stiff, and the cotton grabs at my tights a little and wants to work it’s way up. Not a great look. Secondly, I would move the pocket down. Currently the top inch or two of the pocket opening are underneath the belt, which makes pocket access a little more difficult than it needs to be. The pocket will just barely fit my phone (length and width) so I would also make the pocket a little larger in both directions. The final change I would make is to lower the waist tape. The tape sits at the very top of the waist section, so if I look down at my skirt I can see the white tape peeking up at me. I’m the only one who will notice this, but it does bother me.

This is a fun skirt to wear! I paired it here with a black shirt and tights. It would go equally well with a chocolate brown top, and I’m dying to make a blouse in mustard yellow just to wear with this! I purposely made the waist to my sitting down waist measurement, so it’s comfortable to wear all day at work while looking extra glamorous. Overall, I’m pretty happy with this make, and I look forward to it becoming a regular part of my wardrobe.

Finally Finished: Purple and Sparkly

I have done more sewing this spring and summer than I have in any other period of my life. I tend to go through phases with how I spend my time: I’ll spend 6 months knitting, then I’ll do nothing but read for a month. The next 3 months will be dedicated to spinning, followed by a month of dabbling in crochet or tatting. I love learning new things and experimenting in an environment where a mistake only costs me a skein of yarn and a few hours of my time.

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A few years ago I went through another period of intense sewing. At the time I didn’t have a sewing machine so I used the sewing machine I was born with – my hands. It turns out that sewing by hand is slower than by machine, but that you can be much more precise. Sewing by hand is also much more soothing than sewing with a machine will ever be. In college my best friend had a deep purple sparkly skirt she had made. I loved that skirt and wore it as often as she would let me borrow it. Eventually she gave it to me and I continued to wear it as often as I dared. Only, after college I found myself gravitating less and less toward skirts and more and more toward pants. It broke my heart that this beautiful skirt wasn’t being worn and loved. So I hatched a daring plan to refashion the skirt into a tunic. I used my trusty Alabama Chanin T-Shirt/dress pattern, and very carefully laid my pattern out. I was just barely able to eke out the shirt and 2 elbow length sleeves. Proud of myself, I quickly sewed up the shoulder and side seams and felled them down. Then I tried it on. The tunic did not fit at all how I had expected it to. In hindsight I know that I hadn’t payed attention to the grain of the knit fabric, so instead of the direction with the most stretch going around my body, it went vertically. The tunic was skintight and wanted to stretch in length. Frustrated, I put all my supplies into a bag and put that bag into my stash and out of sight.

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Over the years I’ve brought the bag out several times, turned out the contents, thought a bit, and put everything away again. I came to the conclusion that I needed to add gores to the side seams, but there was not enough of the original fabric to make this work. Black seemed like a good alternative, given the dark purple of my fabric, and I had already intended to use a black binding for the neckline and hem. But when I shopped around for black knit fabric I could never find anything that I was really happy with. Recently I bought some 100% cotton knit in black and white just to have around. You never know when a lightweight cotton knit will come in handy. As I yet again considered this project a light bulb went on. I pulled my quarter yard of black cotton knit out of my stash, measured the length from the underarm to the hem and marked this on my fabric twice, then I cut the lengths diagonally from corner to corner, leaving 1 inch of seam allowance on each piece. I then sewed the straight edges to the side seams of my tunic, and sewed the angled sides together.

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When I tried it on this time, the angels sang! It was so comfortable and flattering! I sewed the sleeves on, then started the finishing work. Since I was working with Jersey it wasn’t strictly necessary to finish the edges, so the inside seams are a mixture of left raw and felled down. The hems and neckline were finished with double-fold elastic. 

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All in all, I am so pleased with how this make turned out. It is comfortable to wear, and I feel so pretty in it! There are several elements that echo Regency fashion, namely the squared neckline, the close fit through the bust and looser fit in the skirt, and the fitted elbow-length sleeves. This pleases me immensely! I am still working on upping my binding skills. The sleeve and skirt hems are pretty decent, but the neckline hem wants to curve outward ever so slightly. I noticed this same problem with the striped T-shirt I recently made as well. I think the solution is to stretch the binding a little more around the curves, but this is easier to say than to do. I will keep practicing.

It’s tempting to keep this top in reserve for a special event or date night, but it’s so comfortable and beautiful that I think it deserves to become part of my “normal” wardrobe – sparkles and all.