FO

Waka Waka

This summer has been a wild one, seeming so slow, then crazy busy, always going by too fast. (Summer is like that. I think it’s fleeting nature makes me love it more. It’s hard to love crazy heat and humidity when it hangs around too long.) Importantly, some dear friends of mine were expecting a baby midsummer. I had a grand plan for something highly complicated, and each time I simplified the plan the project got easier, but more importantly, better. My whole time working on it I’ve had this quote from the opening of Pride and Prejudice stuck in my head:

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. 

Of course my mangled mind deemed that in the same vein that a fresh baby, in acquaintance of a good quilter, must be in need of a quilt. This baby has a big sister whose baby quilt features Kermit the Frog and as such needed something in the Muppet family to stay on theme.

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Now, I had planned this quilt far in advance to give myself lots of time. Unfortunately, all I had were plans, and all she had was hurry because she arrived three weeks early and I had only just purchased the fabric. In the end, this worked out well, as I was able to incorporate her name into the quilt. I used a paper piecing patter that was free from Fandom in Stitches, printed at 200% for a 20” block rather than the drafted 10”. This pattern looks great when done but it is decidedly not for the faint of heart. It had 135 pieces and even doubled in size there was a not insubstantial number of pieces that were so small I couldn’t read the labelling and had to fiddle around figuring out which piece was which. (The smallest was a piece of the eyelid so small that it was barely 1/8” tall.) I did do a dumb thing and print, tape and cut out the entire thing on regular printer paper before I remembered I much prefer my newsprint for paper piecing. It worked out well, since I cut out each individual piece from the thicker paper and was able to use them as cutting templates.

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The lettering is a personal favorite. The pattern is drafted so well, it always comes out looking so impressive. It’s My First Alphabet by From Blank Pages. Framing the text in a cartoon speech bubble was a stroke of a genius (if I may toot my own horn) as I was beginning to plan out the quilting. Beyond that I outlined Fozzie’s head, eyes and mouth and stitched vertical lines 3” apart, going around the main motifs. I’ll be honest, the quilting is my least favorite part (besides basting, but no one likes basting). I also really like fluff and drape in a quilt so sparse quilting works for me and is my go to. I think it works well here.

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I made a label using a Dear Stella fabric that has a bunch of printed labels you can fill in. I played with the monogramming feature on my machine to embroider the label. It did go a little sideways but I still think it looks nice. You can see that I am quite the novice at needle turn appliqué but hey, you know it’s handmade.

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I had the pleasure of gifting it to said lovely baby upon meeting her tonight and it was just a delight. My friend told me she had forgotten to buy a quilt in the lead up to baby’s arrival and was planning to do so ASAP but I beat her to the punch! Perfect. Then she said the thing everyone wants to hear about a thing you’ve made with your hands and your heart and given freely:

This is the best present we’ve gotten.

There is a truly nothing better. I am the cat that caught the canary.

In defense of internet friends and finishing WIPs

First, an update: I won! I was on the ballot for School Board Director in my township and I was actually the top vote getter for any race in the township. My colleagues on the slate with me won as well and now we are not only the endorsed Democrats, but the winning Democrats who will go on to run in the general election in November. Thank you so much for your support! (If you want to check out me and my running mates, see who we are and what we’re about and, if you feel so inclined, help fund our campaign you can do that at votelmsd.org.)

Now, sewing! The dress I’m going to show you today has a lot of different angles so I’m going to try my best to just do it chronologically. This has been over a year in the making so forgive me if some of the details are blurry.

A while back I found this vintage-ish simplicity pattern. It’s old enough that there aren’t a lot of copies floating around but new enough that it’s not in high demand in the vintage market so info was pretty scarce. It’s from 1996. Does a 23 year old pattern make it vintage? Anyhow, here’s the cover illustration:

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Let’s just say I was pretty liberal in my alterations. I redrafted the bodice to eliminate the center section and make the bodice one piece. I omitted the patch pockets and used my favorite pocket bags from the True Bias Southport dress to add inseam pockets. I ignored the patterned skirt and just used as much width as I possibly could since it was a gathered skirt and I wanted it full. And I lined/underlined the whole thing in the weirdest, fly by the seat of my pants kind of way. (Read a book to learn the proper methodology? Pah!) Also, I trusted the pattern illustration which I never do because it’s what the designer wanted it to look like and not how the drafter actually made it. Had I to do that over again I’d lower both the waistline (which is almost at my bra band) and the neckline (which is borderline choking me, which I hate. Turtlenecks and I are not friends.). I think I got this pattern for $1 at a thrift store in Austin with my mother in law but I’m not sure so let’s just go with it.

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Anyone who tells you that internet friends are not real friends are some combination of dumb, wrong, oblivious and obnoxious. In this case, my lovely friend Bianca (whose blog you should totally read. She makes the most wonderful clothes and she is just an all around fantastic human being.) just offered me up some Liberty fabric she had cluttering up her stash and wasn’t going to use. If you sew, you know what a gift this was. She gave me the wild floral I used here and some Carline poplin that, inspired by another favorite internet friend Roisin, will someday become a half shirtdress with as full a gathered skirt as I have yardage for. Unfortunately this fabric was just too sheer and fray prone for me to leave it unlined. So I went to my ever trusty Gaffney Fabrics who just so happened to have the perfect pink cotton voile on sale for something like $2 or $3 a yard. I thanked my lucky stars and frolicked on out of there.

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Like I said before, I made up a way to line this dress that confused even me. I figured I could put the bodice and bodice lining right sides together and sew the neck and sleeve hems and then turn the thing out and have it perfect. Turns out that’s a recipe for a date with the seam ripper and a year in the naughty box. I did have a cool way of finishing the hem that I’m rather proud of. First, you lengthen the main skirt by depth of the facing you want on the inside. Then shorten the lining by the same amount. Stitch hems right sides together, (my lining was nondirectional but if yours isn’t make sure you aren’t sewing it on upside down once it gets folded back). Press seam allowance towards the main fabric. Pin the top edge of the skirt and skirt lining wrong sides together at the waist seam, your facing will show on the lining side at the hem, and press. I hate hemming and will figure out all sorts of creative ways to avoid it, especially if they mean no measuring.

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I then had the pockets to deal with. In the end I serged the edges of the skirt pieces before sewing them together and finished the seam allowance of the pockets in self-made bias tape from the lining fabric.

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I didn’t do anything fancy at the waist (I used slippery thread and two rows of gathering stitches in four sections) but my gathers came out so pretty and perfect I’m going to make you look at them.

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So what do I think about this dress? I think it actually looks pretty amazing. It also feels amazing on. That said, I feel like I’m really nitpick on this one. The neck is too high and the back is a bit tight (I often have this problem, especially with dolman styles. I really just do better with a set in sleeve.). The waistline is too high (and this coming from someone who loves things to hit at a natural waistline, not where I like pants to hit/high hip) which also means my pockets are too high. This doesn’t look off but can feel that way. The waist taught me to never judge a make without a bra on. I finished at night and whipped it on and almost cried. A bra and some daylight made a world of difference. A belt really brings it together and defines the waist in a way I really like. Without one it is super comfy and I feel like I’m channeling another internet super friend, Shannon, who has been on a sack dress kick. My favorite parts are the fabric (so soft and breathable) and those perfect gathers and the shape they make on my body. In the future I’ll be looking at silhouettes with a heavily gathered skirt and without dolman sleeves. Will I make this one again? Probably not. Will I wear it all the time? Oh hell yes.

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Thirteen years in the making

My husband and I met in October of my freshman year of college. We've been married since 2010. In the almost fourteen years I've known him I've frequently offered to make him things. In all that time I can detail exactly what I made, with and without permission.

Before I thought to ask him if he'd even like such things I knit him a scarf and crocheted him a throw blanket. The scarf was a green and brown Homespun, likely in garter stitch that has since been lost to the ether. The blanket lives in the closet. I think he likes it fine but it doesn't get a ton of use. Since my skills started to broaden, I began to ask him what he'd like (I realized that if I was going through the expense and trouble to make him something I wanted him to both like and wear/use it). This, friends, may have been a mistake. In the last ten years or so, all I was permitted to make for him was a single watch cap. It is brown and simple but it does look quite nice on him. I used vintage Australian wool I got from an op shop while I was living there in 2007.

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I grew tired of being able to make these wonderful things and not share a bit of shine with my honey. (It's how I show love. I get it.) I offered to knit him a sweater which he repeatedly declined since he doesn't much like wearing sweaters. (In hindsight I'm glad he didn't let me knit some fine sweater for a six foot tall person that would never get worn.) So I decided to really look at what he did wear. Enter the Fairfield Button Up from Thread Theory Designs. His wardrobe of tops consist in large part of polos, graphic tees, and button ups (largely in a plaid cotton). I showed him the pattern and asked his thoughts. He gave the go ahead and I got to work. I hit my favorite fabric store (Gaffney Fabrics in Germantown, if you're in the Philadelphia area) and found a cute print (Dear Stella Fabrics Jetsetter print in Sky, unfortunately discontinued) on sale so it wouldn't be so precious if I needed to make some fit changes in the next iteration. I took measurements and double checked with the helpful Morgan at Thread Theory to make sure I was choosing the right size based on those measurements and then I got to work.

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I made used the Average Figures block, the darted back which I think looks lovely and slimming, the standard pocket (the pattern comes with one pocket style but there is a free download of three additional pocket shapes available) and the short sleeve from the free sleeve download. If you read the sew along, I used the less stiff interfacing scheme and just did one button band (the one with the buttonholes), one collar piece and one collar stand. Instead of topstitching the inside collar stand I hand stitched it for a clean finish. I used a double border of topstitching to attach the pocket.

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I found the instructions quite clear and very rarely had problems. The drafting is really spot on. I used my blue frixion pen for markings and they came out completely with the iron. I highly recommend trying these if you haven't. The marks will reappear below 30 degrees F but I'm not worried as this is a summer shirt. My only problem was when I accidentally cut the directional print of my upper collar upside down and only realized after I'd sewn the whole thing, trimmed the seam allowance and turned and pressed it. Luckily I had a good amount of extra yardage to redo it. Most of the garment is constructed with flat fell seams so it has a beautiful, professional finish inside and out. To facilitate this, some of the seams that match up have different seam allowances (for instance a seam where one piece has a 5/8" SA and the other a 1/4"). You line up notches at the edge but I did not like having to justify the piece with the smaller seam allowance along that long seam. Yes, it meant no trimming at the end, but I didn't want to just eyeball things so I measured out the difference and marked it all the way down. My preference would have been to trim later but I could see where the designer was coming from with this approach. My only other qualms were in the absence of two things I really like to see in PDF patterns: layers and a map of the full document so you know which pages to print for the style you're making. Layers let you print only the size you need and avoid the guesstimation at the points where several close lines blur together in a blob. A map lets you save on printing. As it was I ended up having to print both back pieces (this pattern has the option of a pleated back or a darted one) even though I only needed the darted one.

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All in all I'm thrilled with how this came out. He liked it so much that he not only put it on to wear to work but agreed to quickly pose for photos before he left! Once he's back I may pop with a shot of the contrasting inner collar stand and my label on the inside yoke. I will certainly be making this again and am just over the moon to have found something I want to make and he wants to have. I'll add a touch of ease in the midsection per request and try to troubleshoot the draglines at a front and back armholes. Might a rounded/forward shoulder adjustment help with that? I may try a small one next time using the fitting instructions from the sewalong in this post. Oh, and I'll ignore the button markings and make my own since the top button is a little low for his liking. Tiny tweaks. This really is a great pattern with serious TNT (tried and true) potential. I recommend checking out Thread Theory if you're looking to sew menswear. They have a free undershirt pattern you can try out to get a feel for their stuff. They also have two womens' patterns, one of which, the Camas blouse, I've had finished but for some fiddly topstitching (a breeze on wovens, an epic headache on knits) and some hems. Hopefully I'll have an update with that one soon.

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It Can't All Be Slow Sewing

I started my hexie quilt as a way to try to ignore my sudden desire for a really expensive sewing machine. Well, that mostly worked. I still bought a new machine. This time though, the "new" just applied to me, not the machine. I got an Elna 7000 (the first computerized machine they ever made) from Craigslist. After a service it's been sewing pretty well. 

I got adventurous and threw my hopping foot on there. I had some fabric I got on clearance from Gaffney, a pre-pieced fabric that I used for the top and a great hot pink for the backing. I ditched it all and then sewed diagonally through all the blocks. After that I did some free motion and did a wishbone stitch (alternating vertical and horizontal) in each diamond created by the diagonal quilting. I machine bound it in a soft navy solid to coordinate with the plaid blocks. 

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You can see the quilting a bit better on the back.

I really liked the wishbone. Not too hard so that I couldn't do it and not so easy that I got bored. I highly recommend this or a similar stitch as a first free motion foray rather than the stipple. Having something where you are supposed to cross lines makes it so so so much easier and takes a lot of the pressure off. I never quilted myself into a corner.

I used a cute little loop for the top and bottom edge triangles.

All in all, I'm really pleased with how it came out. This is my first quilt using free motion and I'm proud of my efforts. It's a great size for Laser Face (we've called her that since she was in utero!) and is currently folded up under her crib waiting to be used. There is hardly a better feeling than knowing I get to wrap the ones I love in the physical manifestation of my love.