sewing

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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Twinsies

So, I did a thing. I couldn't resist.

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In my defense, she loves to wear matching stuff. I do too. I love the compliments and feeling cutesy with my girl.

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Confession: I'm not going to stop until she makes me and I hope that day is far, far away.

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Pattern is the free Popover Dress from Oliver and S. It took about 90 minutes from idea to finished product and that was mostly due to the fact that I did a bias tape hem instead of a double fold and that I tried it on her to double check the length of the shoulder straps (I didn't bother measuring against the cut pattern piece). I used leftover fabric from my Jessica Dress. You can check out the details in my last post here.

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She loves it, it's super comfy. I recommend it if you need a quick palate cleanser project. I can easily get a size 3 (that's what I used, same as last year. She's gotten taller but not broader.) on less than half a yard of fabric.

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And in case you need further proof that we are related, here you have it.

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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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400!

I guess I'm better at sewing than blogging. I know I've been making this crazy quilt longer than I've been blogging but sheesh! My sewing is pulling way ahead. I supposed I shouldn't complain, eventually I'll have to quilt the thing and at least I'll have a backlog of hexies to blog while you patiently wait for it all to be done.

All this commentary is brought to you by the number 400, as in I just finished my four hundredth hexie triangle! In celebration, I'm posting a favorite and bonus double block photo! The fabric came from my friend in Australia and is a fussy cut of the same fabric as the yarn balls block I posted way back as hexie #35.

Hexie count: 44-45

Green and Grey

I was planning out my next post and noticed that my photos of late had tended towards green and grey. I looked through what I'd shot but not posted yet and couldn't really come up with something that broke the pattern.  So I decided not to fight it.

I think the fabric came from Jo-Ann. 

On a mostly unrelated note, I love the song Green and Grey by Nickel Creek. It's one of my favorite songs from one of my favorite bands and just right for this post. Treat your ears for the next three and a half minutes.

Hexie count: 42

Bump on a log

Did you sing that song when you were a kid? The one about the hole in the bump on the log in the middle of a tree that just kept going and going? That's all I can think of when I see this photo. Honestly, that's why I'm blogging it right this very minute, so I don't have that ear worm of a song stuck in my head every time I look over my to-be-blogged hexie photos. 

The fabric came from a scrap bag at Handcraft Workshop and I believe that the print is an old Ed Emberly print for Cloud9.

Hexie count: 41

Surf Shack

I get my fabrics in all sorts of ways. First, I ran through every single woven cotton of a reasonable weight that I had in my stash (which, before this project, was pretty tiny!) Some comes from generous friends looking to share the textile wealth and free up some space in their own stashes. The rest I buy.

Because I only need six hexies per fabric (sometimes if it's a specific pattern I can get two separate triangles out of the same fabric. I'll have an example of that soon.) I tend to buy the very smallest cut I can. At Jo-Ann stores differ on the minimum cut (I've been told 1/9yd, 1/8yd and 1/18yd depending on which store I was at and which cutter I was talking to) but it's pretty universally small. I try to buy from the red tag section on a 1/2 off red tag day. If I plan it right I can spend around a quarter for a cut. Local quilt and fabric shops are different. Often they have a quarter yard minimum, though many will let you choose if you'd like a 9"xWOF (width of fabric) or a fat quarter. Factor in the fact that local stores tend to carry a much higher end fabric and usually a 1/4 yard cut works out around $3. Simply too much for every block in my quilt but worth it for a special fabric here and there.

This fabric was a special buy for me. I got it while on my birthday vacation to LA back in May. I managed to sneak away one afternoon while my husband stayed at the hotel with my napping toddler and I had 90 minutes of uninterrupted solo fabric shopping. I got tons of hexie fabric and a really great sweatshirt fabric I'm dying to cut. I loved this print so much that even though this particular shop would sell me 1/8 yd I bought a half. The little houses are just so cheery. I couldn't help but want to squeeze the last few juicy moments from this summer.

Hexie count: 40

Between a rock and a hard place

This fabric was a gift from my friend Meghann as a part of a knitting bag swap. She made me an awesome Road Trip Case (by Noodlehead) that used this fabric. It is a large scale print which sometimes makes use for hexies more difficult because a large print can be really hard to translate in a piece that is only 1" wide on a side. I sort of love them anyhow. They become like a pretty jigsaw puzzle that I have to figure out how to make play as nicely as the originally fabric or come together to approximate the larger pattern across several hexies. I think my favorite example is my Japanese crane triangle. I'll have to dig that one out of the pile and photograph it, it's soooo good, one of my favorites of the whole bunch.

Anyhow, I think this one is really cool. And the rocks felt right at home in Phoenix.

Hexie count: 38

Desert flower

Thanks for bearing with my on my impromptu bloggy summer vacation. Between the heat, travel, family and just being crazy busy my poor corner of the internet got a bit neglected. Fortunately the making of the hexies plugs along (I'm somewhere in the neighborhood of 385 triangles finished and many more in progress). I even had time to photograph another batch on a recent visit to my parents in the Pocono Mountains. 

I'm in Phoenix, AZ today where the high is a mere 106F/40C. At least we missed out on last week's 117 degree day! (Though we were in Austin, TX where the temps were barely more than 10 degrees cooler.) Oddly enough, even after all this heat I'm not ready for fall. Endless summer, baby. Here's a beach hexie for you. The sand feels at home in the desert where I am today.

The fabric is a scrap of an Amy Butler print that I got from Handcraft Workshop, a lovely sewing shop in Mount Airy. I highly recommend a stop in if you're in the Philly area.

Hexie count: 37

Knitterati

You might not know it from reading my blog, but really, I'm a knitter. Have been since my mom taught me when I was 15 (backwards and twisted, but knitting nonetheless!). I have a wonderful group of friends on the knitting/crochet/weaving/anything yarny website Ravelry. (If you are at all into yarn work/wool craft and aren't on Rav yet 1) Where have you been? and 2) Get thee an account ASAP!) Anyhow, yet another lovely Rav friend (most of the gifted fabric you see here is from my wonderful Rav friends) sent me fabric that I'm showing you today. This one is one of my all time favorites. It features knitting cats (featured soon) and balls of yarn. Some of my seam allowances are crazy small but I have no regrets, I had to eek out every last hexie I could!

And no, I obviously couldn't resist photographing a yarn print on a knit sweater.

Hexie count: 35

Bump it up

I don't know what it is but I love this shape. Scallops, clam shells, fish scales, baptist fans. I love it so much that I actually just bought more of this fabric in tan. I harbor an ambition to make Latifah Saafir's Glam Clam quilt. So yeah, I'm really digging on this particular hexie triangle. I like the orientation I ended up on, it's totally not what I saw when looking at the fabric on the bolt.

The fabric came from Jo-Ann and it reminds me of Smile and Wave from the Koi collection by Rashida Coleman-Hale, one of my all time favorite fabric prints.

Hexie count: 33

Sunshine day

The weather is absolutely perfect today. Sunny and warm but not so hot as to be sticky. Perfect day to sit in the shade in the backyard with a good book. I have no resistance so I did just that. I even painted my toenails while I was at it since it's impossible to ever be in a bad mood when your toenails are a happy color. (Copyright Shayna's Life Philosophy) Mine are a shiny orange as befits my upcoming trip to the beach.

Laser Face discovered dandelions this week. Seeing her face when I held up the little white puff ball and blew away the seeds was so wonderful. She was so amazed and happy. I love the daily discoveries. The world is so big and new to her. I try to live that way myself as best I can too. 

Have a sunshiny weekend!

Hexie count: 31

Flora

I learned to sew in my freshman year of high school. I took a costuming class in a school where there were no sports teams so theater was a big, competitive deal. I sewed like crazy (daily class plus 5 musicals, 4 straight plays and 2 rounds of student written and produced plays each year) through high school and then a bit again in college. Once I started knitting my sewing slowed down to nothing.

Fast forward to last fall and my knitting mojo is pretty nonexistent. I started quilting but my costuming history didn't stay down long. I came across the Flora pattern by indie designer Stitch Upon A Time. It seemed pretty straightforward and easy. Only hard part is that it's written for knit fabric. Knits can be really comfortable to wear because they stretch and move well. This also makes them a total pain to sew with. I picked up some knits from Jo-Ann and Gaffney's for a song and decided to just try. In an effort to pattern match my first fabric I managed to cut my front piece from the middle of my first fabric. WHOOPS. I guess that fabric will have to be something for Laser Face since it won't be anything adult sized anymore!

It's super comfy. I see a lot more in the future.

 

Point the way

This fabric came from Jo-Ann's. I am really pleased with it, it has such a nice hand. It's a great combo of geometric and organic. Thinking about it now I almost wish I'd bought enough to make myself a top of it. Speaking of tops, I finished two blouses last week; my first real garments in about 10 years. I'll play show and tell with those soon. But first, hexies!

Hexie count: 29