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.

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.

Building My Summer Wardrobe: More Shorts

In April I made my first pair of shorts. I took the time to adjust the pattern to myself, but even so there were some fit issues I wanted to tweak a little more. For my second pair of shorts I used the same pattern, originally from Gertie Sews Vintage Casual, and another stretch denim from StyleMaker Fabrics. The fabric is a dark-wash denim with woven-in silver pinstripes. I already had a perfectly matching thread in my stash, and I used a silver zipper.

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The tweaks I made were:

  1. Take in the waist 1/2 inch on the side of the front pieces (I did not adjust the back pieces)
  2. Adjust the curve of the center back seam to account for my slight swayback. This reduced bubbling in this area.
  3. Add extra length so I would be able to do a double-fold hem.
  4. Lengthen the pocket pieces by 2 inches. Because big pockets are the best thing ever.
  5. Finish all the interior seams.

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I am SO HAPPY with these shorts! The fitting adjustments I made really make these perfect for me. The original shorts are just a touch too big in the waist, and they end up sagging down as I move around, which leads to me having to pull them back up throughout the day.

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The insides of the first pair of shorts are super shreddy. I finished the edges by pinking them, but that doesn’t seem to be a very good finish for stretch denim. This time I felled all my seams, which make these so clean and beautiful on the inside as well as the outside! And the pockets! The pockets are so big and deep and beautiful. All of my pockets need to be this size!

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There are one or two more tweaks I’d like to do for a future pair of shorts (because you can never have enough shorts):

  1. When I adjusted the side front pieces this caused the pocket openings to be really close to the side seams, and almost too small to get my hands into. I opened up the  bottom of the pocket area where I attached the zipper and felled the side seam and reworked the top stitching to be closer to the seam. Next time I would adjust the angle of the pocket to combat this.
  2. The lower leg portion of the shorts is quite fitted to my legs. This is intentional based on the original pattern, but for the next pair of shorts I’d like to increase the width of the leg pieces to make for a more relaxed fit.
  3. If I make these in a striped fabric again I would adjust the grain of the front side piece so the stripes match up with the main front piece. It’s a small thing, but I love it when stripes match up perfectly.

 

Spur-of-the-Moment Sewing

You know how sometimes you see a fabric and it just grabs you? That’s what happened to me with this.

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It’s a wide-stripe cotton seersucker I found at Hobby Lobby, and there was less than a yard left on the bolt. I’ve never seen a seersucker with such a wide stripe! It hurts my brain when I try to figure out how to weave it.

Like much of the world right now, I’ve been working from home a lot recently. One of the up sides of this is that if I decide to cut out a new shirt in the middle of the day I can do it on my lunch break. That’s totally normal behaviour, right?

I used a Dolman Sleeve shirt I currently own and love as a pattern template. The front and back are the exact same pattern piece except for the neckline. I used the full length and width of the fabric, and only have a few square inches of fabric leftover! For the construction I used a mixture of machine and hand sewing. The seams were done with the machine, and the finishing was done by hand. I do love a tidy felled seam!

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When the construction was done I tweaked the sleeves and neckline, then finished the edges with bias tape. The bias tape was sewn onto the right side of the garment by machine, then felled down on the inside by hand. The shirt hem didn’t need any finishing since it is the fabric selvage.

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Tadah! This was a super quick project! I made it over 3 days, working on it for odd minutes here and an hour there. It was a pleasant mixture of hand and machine sewing. The fabric is delightful – I love the colours and the texture. The only thing I’m not sure about is the boxy silhouette.

P.S. This is yet another make that pairs so nicely with my cream jean shorts. I swear they go with everything, and I wear them all the time! Wearing clothes I’ve made myself is the best!

I thought my pinafore days were over

My mom sewed a lot for me when I was a kid. She made me all sorts of lovely dresses and skirts, especially sundresses until I stopped wearing them in favor of pants around age 12. I don’t remember if she ever made me a pinafore as such, but I remember reading about them, and my sundresses certainly served the same purpose.

Recently as I was scrolling through Instagram I came across the Fleur Pinafore by Untitled Thoughts. I was entranced. But then I kept scrolling, because I don’t wear pinafores, and I haven’t since I was 12 at most. But then it kept popping up on my feed. And then I followed the hashtag. And then I found myself at the fabric store shopping for supplies to make myself a pinafore.

I bought this beautiful softly woven cotton fabric from Hobby Lobby. It’s somewhat more loosely woven than quilting cotton, which makes it drape nicely, and the colours and pattern remind me of my childhood in Arizona. I also bought some plain deep red cotton as an accent/lining fabric.

Now I am a very creative person. I’ve written knitting and tatting patterns, and I’ve drafted one or two very simple sewing patterns for myself. So when I looked at the Fleur Pinafore, I thought about how it’s pretty much just rectangles, and I decided to take my measurements and draft my own pattern. And doing that turned out pretty well, but I definitely feel that if I had bought and followed the pattern this would have taken me less time and my finished product would have turned out a little nicer. As it is, though, I’m pretty happy with what I made.

The first thing I did was to measure myself and my fabric and have a good think. I even made a little sketch! I wanted to be extra fancy with the front “bodice” block of the pinafore, so I cut and stitched this first.

Then I cut my lining fabric. I had originally planned to do my pockets, waistband, and lining all in the same wine red fabric, but it turned out that I didn’t buy quite enough. So my waistband and the front and back blocks were lined with an eggplant purple linen/rayon blend that was left over from another project. Before sewing the fashion fabric to the lining, I made up the straps so I could stitch these in with the seam. Once the front and back blocks were assembled, I turned them right side out, clipped the corners, ironed everything, and top-stitched around the edges. With this the bodice front and back were done.

The next piece I worked on was the waistband. I cut the waistband straight, as a rectangle, but with hindsight I wish I had cut it on a slight curve like a pants or skirt waistband. The red fabric originally meant for lining was cut as the outer waistband, and had interfacing fused on. Then the waistband outer and lining were centered over the bottom edge of the bodice blocks, and seamed.

The final piece to assemble was the skirt. I found that if I folded my remaining fabric in half it was the perfect length, so I cut it into 2 equal pieces along the fold line, and sewed 3 rows of basting stitches along the top of each skirt panel. Before gathering the skirt panels, I sewed them together, leaving a 5″ opening at the top of each seam. I inserted a placket into both openings, but instead of attaching both sides of the placket to the skirt, I attached one side of each placket to my pockets. The pockets had not been seamed yet, so I sewed the second half of each pocket to the second skirt panel, and then sewed the pockets together. This is hard to describe, and even harder to visualize, but it left me with a pocket and a skirt opening in the same place.

At this point I was running out of daylight, so I did a quick single-turn hem, and went to bed. The next morning I was wild to wear my new pinafore, so instead of waiting to sewing in closures I pinned it on and went about my day. This wasn’t part of the plan, but I am so glad I wore this around for a day before adding closures! It turns out that my sitting down waist measurement is about 2 inches larger than my standing up waist measurement, and I had not accounted for this in my pattern drafting. Wearing the pinafore pinned closed for a few hours helped me to figure out where the closures needed to be so I would end up with a garment I would actually enjoy wearing.

The last adjustment that needed to be made was to the hem. I cut the skirt as 2 equal rectangles, not taking into account the difference in waist-to-hem measurements in the front and back. The proper technique to fix this is to take out the waist seam and raise the waist to the right measurement, but I had already established that I was not taking the waist seam out. Instead, I cut the front panel to be an inch shorter in the front, angling to match the back panel at the side seams.

My pinafore is technically still not done. I still have a single-turn hem, and I need to do some finishing work on the pocket edges, but it is wearable, and I have loved wearing it this month!

P.S. This garment is massively cat approved! My black cat normally refuses to sit in laps, but the first day I wore this pinafore he volunteered to be a lap kitty. This dress is magic!

Finally Finished: The 4-year Red Tunic

In the spring of 2016 a friend gave me some fabric. She had gotten a few remnants at a garage sale and thought I might enjoy it – how sweet of her! This was a few months before my wedding, so most of my time, creative energy, and money was going into wedding planning. I assessed the fabric and decided that if I cut carefully I could make a sleeveless tunic, so I used a tunic I had drafted the previous year as a pattern, and got started.

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The fabric is canvassy, possibly a linen/poly blend, and it has decent drape. I was going for a high-low hem, decorative pleats to add fullness to the bust, and a diagonal front zipper as the main focal point.

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I cut my pieces out, sewed the fronts and back together with French seams, and stopped. At the time I didn’t have a dress form or the zipper, and I was daunted by the prospect of draping the front pleats on myself. The top was also rather blocky-looking – not the best look for my shape. So I stuffed everything into a bag, put the bag deep into my stash, and forgot about it for a while.

Over the years I have pulled this project out several times with intentions to finish it, and at some point I even bought a zipper. But it wasn’t till about a month ago that I finally sat down and got it done. I started by assessing the fit. 4 years later, boxy still wasn’t a good look for me, so I pinched a dart/seam into the back to make the top more fitted. I have a bit of a swayback, so back shaping is very important for me to have a decent fit. With that done, I finalized the neckline and put in the zipper. This was a scary moment, but it actually went quite well. Then it was on to the high-low hem, and then finishing the arm-holes with bias tape. After 4 years, my top was finally finished!

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I love the dramatic look of this top, but I’m not super happy with the fit through the waist. But hey, with all the last-minute fitting and the super uninformed cutting and construction at the beginning of the project, it’s not too shabby.

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Making My First Circle Skirt

A circle skirt is irresistible. I have always loved “twirly” skirts, but I never remember owning a circle skirt. I’ve been making more of my own clothes recently, which constantly leads me down pattern rabbit holes. When I found the Sense and Sensibility circle skirt tutorial I knew the time had finally come to make a circle skirt of my own. I bought 3 yards of a lovely plaid wool flannel on sale from Denver Fabrics and got started.

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The first part of any project is planning. I had a vision of wearing this deliciously warm skirt with a cream long-sleeved T-shirt, my bomber jacket, and my wedding boots. In addition to buying the fabric for the skirt, I also needed to by a cream long-sleeved shirt and some leggings for a bit of extra warmth.

That done, I focused on fabric care. Since my fabric was wool I wasn’t sure how friendly it would be to laundering. I wanted a skirt that was easy to care for, since that makes it more likely that I will wear and enjoy it more. I followed in Morgan Donner’s steps, and tested my laundering methods on several swatches.

Swatch number 1 was my control – it didn’t get laundered at all. Swatch 2 was handwashed with Eucalan wool wash. Swatch 3 was washed in the washer on my normal cool water setting. Swatch 4 was washed with swatch 3 and dried in the dryer on my normal low heat setting. Each swatch shrunk a little more than the last, but the difference between swatch 1 and swatch 4 was minimal, so held my breath and laundered my whole length of fabric. The fabric came out of the dryer fluffy and wonderful, not the ruined felted mass I secretly expected. That bit of suspense over, it was time to draft my pattern and cut everything out.

I used wrapping paper as my pattern paper. It’s pretty and whimsical on one side, and has a very helpful grid on the other.

Once I had my pattern drafted and cut out it was time to cut out my fabric. In Jennie’s tutorial she mentions that the width of your fabric will determine the length of your skirt. I wanted a mid-calf length skirt, rather than just below the knee as my fabric would have allowed me. Since I am the boss of my sewing I chose to piece the bottom of both the front and back of my skirt. I made sure to piece along the plaid lines as much as possible. This is an excellent way to disguise piecing, but it can be a bit tricky to sew just right.

Because of this decision I had barely enough fabric. Another departure I made from Jennie’s tutorial was to cut my fabric on the selvedge. I did this because I wanted openings on both sides of my skirt – one for the zipper, and the second for a large pocket. Using the selvedge meant that I had to sew both seams (Jennie recommends sewing the full seam anyway), but that I didn’t have to finish the seams since there is little chance of the fabric fraying.

On to the construction! I started by piecing my front and back panels. I wanted this to be very exact, so I basted before sewing the panels with a running back stitch. Once the panels were complete I cut out my pocket and sewed that in with the corresponding side seam.

Then I mustered my courage, pinned, pinned again, and sewed the invisible zipper in with a back stitch. If I can sew an invisible zipper in by hand, I can do anything!

At this point I put the skirt away for a few weeks while we went to Phoenix for Thanksgiving. I came home with a sewing machine, so finishing the 2nd side seam and attaching the waistband were a breeze. I used a whip-stitch to attach the inside of the waistband to the skirt because I didn’t want any visible top-stitching on the outside. Then I began the long process of hemming the skirt. I started by making sure my hem was even when worn, which actually means that if you measure the length of the skirt it’s longer in the back than in front. My fabric doesn’t fray much, so I turned the hem up once by about half an inch and whip-stitched it into place over the course of several evenings.

The last thing I did was sew a button hole and button on by hand. The skirt was now complete.

Now that I’ve worn the skirt there are a few changes I want to make.

  • The waistband seems a bit big. I need to figure out how to shorten it without causing gathers in the skirt at the waist. When I do this I may add some interfacing for additional stability.
  • I have not yet finished any of the interior seams. I plan to do this like the hem by simply whipping the seam allowances into place.
  • The pocket is gloriously large, but about an inch too low. I plan to take this out and raise it.
  • I may want to take another stab at leveling the skirt.

I love how warm this skirt is. It’s like wearing a blanket! And I love twirling in it. I will forever love twirling. I definitely see more circle skirts in my future.