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.

Me Made May: I made Shorts!

Hello, friends, and happy May 1!

I remember when I first heard of Me Made May, probably 6 years ago. I had a few me-made garments in my closet, but not nearly enough to wear everyday. The idea of wearing handmade every day – or even taking it a step further and wearing only handmade items – boggled my mind. So the first and second Mays I watched from the sidelines, marveling at all the things other people had made. The third May was the first year I participated. By this point I had made several tops and had quite a few knitted accessories. It made me sad that it was Me Made May, and not Me Made February. It’s a lot easier to wear knitted shawls and socks in the winter than in the late Spring. The second and third Mays were easier than the first as I continued to make things I needed instead of always buying.

This will be my 4th year participating in Me Made May, and this year I have a game-changer: Pants. I’ve wanted to make pants for quite a while now, but it seemed scary and I didn’t have a pattern, so I always put it off. What made me change my behaviour (and my mind) this year was the COVID-19 pandemic and the realization that it was Spring and I only had one pair of shorts. Just before the pandemic hit the US and everything shut down I went to the library and got a bunch of books. This wasn’t intentional, but it was fortuitous, since I now get to keep the books until the library opens up again. One of the books I got was Gertie Sews Vintage Casual. The book comes with quite a few patterns, ideas on how to mix and match them to create different garments, and a lot of general sewing and fitting advice. One of the patterns is for fitted cigarette pants made in a stretch fabric. I like fitted pants, so I took my measurements and cut a size 6 with an 8 waist. When I buy ready-to-wear pants I often have trouble with them fitting well in the bum, so I added some length to the back and sides of my pattern to make sure I would have enough coverage. Then I ordered some stretch denim from StyleMaker Fabrics and waited for the mail.

A few days later my fabrics had arrived. I washed and dried my first fabric, laid out the pattern pieces, and cut everything out. Then I machine-basted everything together according to the pattern, and did a self-fitting. The pants fit surprisingly well out of the envelope. I took the waist in (I probably could have cut a straight 6), made a small adjustment in the front seam, lowered the waistband, and raised the hem. I made sure to mark all my adjustments, then I took everything apart. Before I started these shorts I told myself that these were just a muslin, that it didn’t have to be a wearable garment, and that whether or not they fit I was going to take them apart and transfer my changes to my paper pattern. Doing this made me feel like an adult and a virtuous sewist. And I know that next time I use this pattern it will already be adjusted to my body and preferences.

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With my pattern updated, I sewed everything back together with a normal stitch length. Then I wrangled with the zipper: I put the zipper in 4 times, and I’m still not happy with it, but there comes a point where good enough is all you need. On the first try the zipper went in beautifully. But I had used a basting stitch length, and I was worried about the longevity of my zipper. So out it came. On the second try my stitch length was correct, but the thread tension on my machine was horrible. Ditto for the third try. I noticed on the second and third tries that the bobbin-side of the sewing looked much better than the needle-side, so for my fourth attempt I sewed from the inside of the garment (which made much more sense to me anyway). There are still a few weird loops of thread on the outside of the fabric, but it mostly looks ok. This was the only part of this sew that my machine had trouble with, and I think it just didn’t like sewing through 2+ layers of denim and the zipper tape.

Once the zipper had been wrangled into submission, I pinked the inside seams and sewed the hem. Then I did a final fitting for the waist height, sewed the waist facing in, and tacked it down at the zipper and seams. At this point I realized I should have sewn the facing in before the zipper, but oh well. My shorts were finished, and at that point, being finished was all I cared about.

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I have fabric to make another pair of shorts, which will bring me up to three pairs – a respectable number. After that, I’d love to get some fun stretch wovens or Ponte knits and make full-length pants. I can make pants, y’all! The sky is the limit!

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My First Renaissance Festival!

I have wanted to go to a Renaissance festival since I first heard about them as a teenager. Alas, growing up in Arizona I didn’t come across many. However, now that I’ve moved to the SouthEast, I have more options (also being an adult with a car and spending money helps). A few weeks ago my Sister-in-Law invited me to go to the Renaissance Festival with her. I had already been playing with the idea of making a Medieval dress for Halloween, so a few days after we finalized our plans I finally caved in and bought fabric.

The fabric I used was a deep red Polyester knit velvet – not what they used in the time, but comfortable and it looked good. I used the Alabama Chanin Long-sleeved T-shirt as a base pattern for the bodice and angled my skirt pieces out to the edge of my fabric. I used the remaining triangular pieces as gores to widen my skirt. Pinning took ages, and then I used a simple running stitch to sew all my seams. In a perfect world I would have also felled the seams, but I was sewing the dress completely by hand and running out of time. Miraculously I found a perfectly matching trim for the neck and sleeves. Even though the trim is woven and the dress is knit, the edges lay pretty well. The hem took me ages. I folded it under about 4 inches and just basted it down to the inside. Maybe someday I’ll go back and finish the hem properly, but the important thing is that the dress was done on time and I wasn’t tripping over it all day (although I did end up ticking the train into my belt so other people wouldn’t be tripping on me all day). The final piece was braiding a wire circlet and borrowing a leather belt to complete the look. My SiL and I had a fabulous time and I felt so pretty (and comfortable!) in my costume!

 

Finished Object: Squircle Socks

Hello, there, lovelies! I have been a busy bee and finished some socks! I started the Squircle Socks on Thanksgiving Day last year as my husband drove us 2 hours to his grandparents house. The project stayed in my bag as a “just in case” project for a long time, and I’m not a very prolific sock knitter anyway (I once knit a pair of man-sized socks in 2 weeks and hurt my wrists so bad I couldn’t knit for almost a month afterward. Not doing that again). The yarn is Knit Picks Felici in Mint Chip, which is sadly no longer available. This was my first time using self-striping sock yarn. I can’t believe I hadn’t tried this before! It was so ridiculously fun! The pattern is a little involved and asks you to do a little math, but it was a really fun and interesting knit.

If you want to explore different sock styles and like a bit of a challenge, I would highly recommend the Squircle Socks.

Kumi-what-oh?

I somehow managed not to tell you about my exploration into Kumihimo braiding! In February I decided to try something new, and that something was Kumihimo. I looked it up and watched some videos and then I bought some beads and a Kumihimo disc and tried it out.

I wanted to start with black beads, fade into peach, and then fade back into black, so I did some math and wrote down the order I needed to string my beads on. The round Kumihimo I was making had 8 strands, so lines 5-8 were a copy of lines 1-4. In order to keep the very long strings under control you wind each strand around a bobbin. I didn’t want to make a huge investment in this craft since I didn’t even know if I would like it, so I cut out a few pieces of cardboard and used them as bobbins. They tangled a little, but worked very well for the most part.

In the end I had a very lovely necklace. I had bought some clasps, but didn’t want to bother gluing them on, so I tied the ends into a square knot and wrapped the knot with wire. Easy and effective.

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I would definitely recommend trying Kumihimo braiding. It takes a good bit of time to make something like this necklace, but it’s easy to learn, the materials can be as costly as you want them to be, and the finished products are striking!

Well That Took Long Enough: Finished Project

Early this year I made a goal to finish my small mountain of WIPs. I then promptly cast on a new project because Ooh Shiny! I’ve thought about this subject a lot over the last few months: my desire for a new exciting project every so often contrasted by my desire for finished things and the resulting space in my stash. I haven’t come to a conclusion or made any world-changing discoveries, but in between all the castings-on I have finished a few things.

I must have started my black wool vest in November. I originally bought a few yards of black wool crepe to a make a Henrietta Maria top, but when I got this vest pattern (Very Easy Vogue, V8926) it seemed like a better option for the thicker fabric.

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I wanted a hybrid of options A and C – sleeveless, but tunic length and with bias-bound edges instead of a collar facing. I cut out my fabric and pretty quickly finished the basic construction. Progress ground to a halt when I realized I needed to finish all my edges. I started whip-stitching, and quickly felt like the vest was sucking the life force out of me, so I put it in a shoe box, put the box into a cupboard, and started something new.

A few weeks ago I traveled to Arizona to see my family and be in my best friend’s wedding. My mom has a sewing machine and a serger, so I packed the never-ending vest in hopes of finishing it before it finished me. I am happy to report that I emerged the victor (this time). I serged the remaining unfinished edges and used the sewing machine to stitch on the binding and do some other finishing work. I do wish I had been more careful top-stitching the bias binding down, but at that point I was so ready to be done with the project that I didn’t care much. I just keep reminding myself that sometimes done is better than perfect (and I can always go back and do it again if it bothers me that much). At some point I may add a pocket since I have some extra fabric left over.

The vest is an odd mixture of hand- and machine-stitching, but it’s done and it fits and I love it. And can we just take a moment to admire the new yellow pants I’m rocking in this picture?

How to Crochet a Broomstick Lace Bracelet in 9 Easy Steps!

My husband’s grandma is a crocheter. When we visited them recently I showed her a picture I found on Instagram of a bracelet made of broomstick lace. We realized that we could totally make that, and before I knew it we were in her yarn closet (She has a yarn closet! I knew I married into the right family!!) picking yarn and finding a dowel to make broomstick lace with. She rooted out her crochet notebook from when she taught Home Ec. in the 80s and found the directions for Broomstick Lace:

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She guided me as I awkwardly made a chain and single crocheted a few rows before starting.

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The bracelet was a rousing success! So fast! So easy! The hardest thing was picking out buttons. I decided to go with blue, since my wardrobe has been skewing toward blue recently.

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It would be super easy to make up a whole set of bracelets in different colours – something for every occasion!

If you want to make a bracelet just like mine, here is what I did:

Materials: 

  • Yarn: 10 yds fingering weight yarn
  • Hook: 3mm
  • 4 buttons, sized 1/2″-3/4″
  • Dowel: 1″ wide and at least 6″ long – it helps to have a very smooth dowel with a rounded end, so take the time to sand your dowel down if it’s not already smooth

Method:

  1. Ch 21, turn work
  2. Skip 1 ch, sc 19, turn work
  3. Ch 1, sc 19, turn work
  4. Ch 1, sc 19, do not turn work
  5. With crochet hook pull up last loop and place on dowel held in left hand. Insert crochet hook in each st of ch, pull yarn through and place on dowel (20 sts).
  6. Insert hook in center of first 5 loops, holding these loops together as one, yarn over and pull off needle, ch 1, and work 5 sc in first set of loops. Work 5 sc in each set of 5 loops until no sts remain.
  7. Repeat rows 4 and 5 six more times, or until the bracelet is just long enough to go around your wrist. Cut yarn and hide the end.
  8. Sew 4 buttons to the foundation rows.
  9. Wear your new bracelet with pride!

Have you ever crocheted Broomstick Lace? What do you think of it?

Happy hooking!

Adventures in Dyeing

Earlier this year I made a long sleeve t-shirt.

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There were some things I liked about the shirt (the construction and finishing details) and some things I didn’t (the colour and fit, since I didn’t measure before choosing a pattern size). Since then either the fit has relaxed or I have lost weight (or both) and I’m much happier with the look. Still, I’m not a huge fan of navy blue. I blame it on the uniforms I had to wear in high school. So I went to the store, bought black dye, and dyed my shirt.

So the lesson is: if you don’t like the colour of your clothes, dye them. Dyes these days are easy to find and easy to use, practically foolproof (as long as you get the right kind of dye for the fiber content of your fabric). You will be so much happier with the clothes you have and more likely to wear them.