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.

Me Made May 2021 – Week 2

Day 9: cream shorts and plaid Wiksten tank

Day 10: burgundy linen dress

Day 11: grey pencil skirt and red tunic top

Day 12: checkered shirt and herringbone pants (bonus: enjoy my husband’s photo-bombing skills!)

Day 13: plaid Bruyere shirt and the same herringbone pants

Day 14: striped boxy shirt and cream shorts

Day 15: Wiksten tank with the same cream shorts

I tend to dress up when I go into the office (usually two days a week) and dress more casually when I’m at home. My dressier wardrobe is serving me well, which makes sense, since I’ve been more heavily focused on making pretty clothes than on making casual items to wear around the house. I am still finding some new clothing combinations as can be seen on day 13. Despite this, I’m getting to the point where I feel like I’m wearing the same pieces a little too often.

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.