Category Archives: finished objects

outfit: easter sunshine

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Happy Easter! We had such lovely sunshine yesterday, so we took a walk around town and took some pictures. I wore what I’ve been calling my “dotty cowl dress”, which is the wearable muslin for my Ireland dress that I finally went back and properly finished.

Fabric: Polyester crepe (?) from Vogue Fabrics in Evanston, IL. I found this poly in the discount section, but it’s been nice to work with. And the color and print is so fun!
Pattern: Self-drafted, finally wearable muslin for the Ireland dress. See the not-so-wearable in-progress muslin here.
Techniques: Self-lined bodice, fabric cut on bias, invisible zipper, bound armhole seams, understitching, bra strap carriers.

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I think my favorite part of this dress is the irregular dotted fabric in a purple-putty/bright peach color combination. It made me laugh out loud at the fabric store, and since I have an ongoing goal of wearing more patterned fabrics, I snatched it up. You might have seen this dress before, as part of the process of making a floor length gown to wear to a wedding in Ireland. The finished dress turned out beautifully, which was of course thanks to making several muslins to tweak the fit!

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One of the things the muslin helped me see was some excess fabric diagonally on the back bodice. I fixed the pattern for the final dress obviously, but since I just wanted to make this muslin wearable I wasn’t going to recut anything. Below is a picture I took while doing the fitting adjustments, and then the finished wearable muslin. I’ve taken the excess out of the side seams only, but it did help! The armholes are a little oddly shaped now (a little high and tight, and abruptly shaped from the armhole going up), but this is a totally wearable muslin. In fact, I’ve worn it several times since finishing it – while giving a gallery tour, at a nicer dinner, and at an evening work event. Success!

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In sewing for myself I don’t make muslins often, mostly just when I make very fitted garments like strapless bodices or blazer-style jackets. I think this is actually the first time I’ve even made a test garment out of “real” fabric instead of the standard unbleached cotton muslin! I hate letting things go to waste, so I’m glad this dress was salvagable.

DSC_5583DSC_5558I wish a Happy Easter to all – for me that includes a lot of oranges and tea and chocolates, knitting, reading, and sitting against a sunny wooden cabin wall wearing sunglasses. Aaaah!

hemlock tee

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Fabric: The same rayon jersey from Stoff og Stil as the t-shirt I just made, this time in the color called grey-brown. I think it’s more of a grey-warm-purple, but ok.
Pattern: Hemlock Tee from Jen at Grainline studio.
Techniques: jersey fabric, neck binding, serged seams.

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I’m on a knit fabric sewing binge at the moment, with the t-shirt I just made and this t-shirt, in addition to the two knit hoodies and a ponte dress at the top of my sewing list.

John took pictures for me, and we got some funny shots – like the one above, with a non-existent wind machine and camouflage jeans! Anyways, Hemlock Tee! I made one, like a bunch of other people have. And I’m happy with it, like it seems everyone who makes it also is. It’s a slouchy, relaxed fit, and super easy to make. I think if I make another one I will narrow the neckline opening a little to make it slightly less hyper-casual. I really like what Andrea at four square walls did with her Hemlock Tees, so I might take a cue from those and lower the front neckline and narrow the sleeves.

hemlock_tee (1)I overlocked all the seams on my serger, and finished the hems with a twin needle seam. I’m thinking of getting a coverlock machine this year, which would make these t-shirts even quicker and easier to make, and more professional looking, but for now I’m doing ok with the twin needle. Once you figure out the tension so it doesn’t pull or stretch out the seam, it works well. I tried a slightly different touch on the neckband, which was to straddle the two lines of stitches on either side of the seam, instead of having them both on one side. I’ve seen this on factory-made knitwear, so I wanted to give it a go. Looks good I think!

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Look how smug I am! Is it the t-shirt? Is it the awesome view? Is it the fact that my Easter holiday has begun? In any case, sewing knits is so quick – which makes is so satisfying!

dino-hood

This will seem a little out of season, I’ll admit, especially since I had bare arms in the last post, but the interwebs is telling me that Chicago is still having cool enough temperatures to warrant wolly things.

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Yarn: Super bulky weight “Drops Eskimo” from “Garnstudio” in the yellowish green colorway 29, about 2 skeins (ravelry project page).
Pattern: Burton Bear Cowl
Techniques: Kitchener graft, crocheted details.

Here is the dino-hood I referenced as something I was making for not myself! It’s for the coolest little 5-year old kid in Chicago, and it’s because I came across this pattern, which is one of the most adorable things I’ve seen on a kid. I got to choose colors, and this green just called out to me. Which isn’t very surprising since I’ve actually made a cowl and hat from this exact yarn and exact color before! I’m so predictable. A trip to my mom offered the blue colored yarn to make a contrast binding and ears from – trying to think like a kid and not myself, I realized a bit of bold was a good thing.

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I dragged my feet on this one a bit. I really wanted to get this kiddo his hood before spring set in, but man… I did not like the pattern. It irritated me by being incomplete in instructions and measurements – in one place it tells you to knit a certain amount of rows (no length indicated), and in another place to knit a certain length (no rows indicated). Add the fact that no row gauge or finished hood measurements is listed in the pattern (really? Basic stuff to include!) meant that it was hard to figure out what was going on. I’m also skeptical of a pattern that includes a size range of newborn to adult across 5 sizes, with 5 different needle sizes, but still only the one stitch gauge offered. This is a paid pattern, and I expect more info, more details, more instructions and better construction from my paid patterns.

There, I’m done being critical! Excpet for the changes I made to the pattern. First off I bound off some stitches at the center front of the hood to allow the button flap to lie better, and to avoid a weak spot from sideways strain. I, along with a lot of people making this I think, opted for a kitchener graft of the top of the hood instead of the crocheted binding in the pattern. Finally, I could not get my made-up ears to look remotely as cute as the pattern pictures. While watching the Eurovision semifinals on tv, my friend suggested I made some jagged points-thingies instead, and of course! A dinosour-like ridge of triangles was a *much* better fit for the cool kiddo than the ears, so jagged pieces it is!

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The feedback is he loves it. Best result I could have hoped for!

quest for the perfect t-shirt

Lately I’ve been working on a lot of things for other people (ipad case! costumes! John’s socks! A dino-hood!), so my face hasn’t been around here much. I’ll still be sewing for other people a good while longer, since I have a costuming gig at the end of April, and two little nephew-boys I’m making hooded jackets for (tracing Ottobre patterns tomorrow!)

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But now for myself, I’ve made the first of what will be a slew of t-shirts – in the quest for the perfect t-shirt! I already had the perfect t-shirt of course, but after years of faithful use, it was falling apart. I finally took a seamripper to it, and used the pieces to trace off  new master pattern pieces. I traced off both left and right sides, averaging out the two.

Fabric: rayon jersey from Stoff og Stil, in a heathered blue.
Pattern: Self-drafted from a beloved old H&M t-shirt.
Techniques: jersey fabric, neck binding, serged seams.

This was quite a quick make! It took me 10 minutes to cut the fabric last night, and since I worked a later shift today I actually managed to sew it up in the morning and wear it to work, yey! How’s that for a productive start to the day? The fabric is a lovely heathered bluish grey, and very soft and drapey. It’s a little more substantial than the original t-shirt, which was almost a whisper thin cotton jersey, so I was a little worried it would drape differently. It’s not too far off though!

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And of course, as a first try, there are things to be changed for future versions, which I was anticipating. I’ll be adding a couple of inches to the hem, since the slightly too narrow fit at the hips means the t-shirt rides up a little. The sleeves jut out a little more than I’d like, so I’m thinking of taking out a wedge from the center of the sleeve to narrow it. Ooo, I came across the most wonderful explanation of sleeve cap shapes on a blog, I really recommend this post in particular, and her blog in general if you have any interest in patternmaking and/or fitting. Anyways, that post shows the mechanics behind why I don’t want to narrow the sleeve too much, since the sleeve cap would get taller, and therefore more difficult to sew in flat to the armscye before sewing the side seams in one fell swoop.

perfect_t-shirt1Never mind the scratch – kittens are vicious things! No, not really, just very sharp-clawed.

Enough technical talk! I have a lovely weekend planned with what’s looking like beautiful weather, a pub quiz with colleagues, a school reunion, and a Sunday hike. Anyone else have a nice weekend planned?

case of leather

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One day I got the idea to make a leather tablet case as a present for a dear friend. I had a quarter hide of leather left over from my fashion collection project, and an idea for how I wanted the tablet case to look. I only knew he had an older iPad, but fortunately they are all pretty similar in dimensions so it was enough information to go by. Ready, set, start!

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It was a surprisingly quick project once I had the measurements all sorted out, so it only took me about an hour from start to finish! I knew from last time working with this leather that the feed-dog on my sewing machine would leave marks on the bottom layer of the leather, so I opted to punch holes and handsew with a denim-weight thread (wax the thread first to avoid breakage). I think it came out quite nicely, and happily my friend is pleased with his gift too!

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portrait blouse in bird print

portrait_blouse3Fabric: Same bird-print, polyester crepe georgette I used for my latest tiny pocket tank, underlined with a remnant of fallow colored plain weave cotton/poly mystery blend.
Pattern: Portrait Blouse from Gertie’s New Book for Better Sewing.
Techniques: Invisible zipper, facing, catchstitching, understitching, FBA.

My first project from Gertie’s sewing book! I have several more I’d like to make, like the wiggle-dress (ooooo!), pencil skirts (can you have too many?), and the coat dress (that looks pretty awesome). The Bombshell dress isn’t in this book, but it’s another Gertie-involved project that I’m looking forward to taking a stab at. Also – this is the first batch of pictures I’ve taken with my new fancy camera remote control thingy! It’s great – it focuses before taking the picture, so I don’t have to run back and forth between each timer-set picture only to see I wasn’t in focus. Dare I say it was even… fun?

portrait_blouse_untucked I *loved* the two Portrait blouses that Gertie made back in the day, as part of her VoNBBS challenge (I hope she continues and finishes all the projects some day!), so it seemed a natural starting point for trying the patterns in this book. I noticed that her Portrait blouse looked a little different – I’m seeing a higher neckline, a slightly less fitted silhouette, and somewhat shorter sleeves. I prefer the fit and proportions of the original vintage pattern, so I made some changes to the pattern. I lowered and widened the neckline, lengthened the body a couple of inches, did a 1″ FBA (full bust adjustment), and cut the smaller of the two sizes I landed between, based on measurements.

Perhaps you recognize the fabric? I’ve made a Grainline tiny tank with this fabric, but just with a single layer of fabric. I thought this blouse would benefit from a bit more structure, so I underlined it with some leftover cotton/polyester lightweight fabric. This also helped the slight sheerness the other blouse has, making it a little more office appropriate! I did the facing for the neckline and catch-stitched it to the underlining instead of just tacking at the shoulders, and I did a bias tape finish at the armholes instead of the stitch and turn method outlined in the book. I actually can’t quite figure out how that method work would work out, since the curve at the underarm is so sharp a double turn would seriously pull the fabric.

portrait_blouse_facingThis blouse is a definite stash-buster – Gertie quoted needing a yard of fabric, and that seems about right. I think it has a flattering neckline, which, after all, is the entire point of the blouse! I think the proportions work very nicely when tucked in – a little less so when not tucked in. For next time (since I will absolutely forget the details before attempting to sew this again!) I would bring the neckline back in a little, maybe 1″ in and 1/2″ up? That way I’d be a little more confident the blouse would cover my bra straps, but sill have the more open neckline I prefer.

I’d need to lower the armhole too, since they are super tight right now! It was pretty snug in the waist as well, so I ended up letting out the non-zippered seam – I’m thinking the size I chose was a little too snug. The dart also needs to be lowered and extended, between 1/2″ to 1″ I think. I can tell the blouse is designed to be tucked in, with inverted pleats ending and opening up right at the high waistline for a controlled blousy effect. If I wanted to make a next version to wear untucked I think I might let the tucks end closer to the bust to control the shape a little more. I should also use a longer zipper since I like a snugger fit, in fact I might actually try the zipper in the “usual” position at the underarm instead.

portrait_blouse2portrait_blouse_backIt looks good though! Paired with one of my first blogged garments (wow how long this simple linen pencilskirt has lasted!) it makes for a nice outfit with a little vintage touch.

taking in a dress shirt

Well, hello there! Let’s talk about dress shirts. John has a closet full of perfectly nice dress shirts, but they are a little loose on him. Especially since he’s in a business casual environment at work, which in Norway is waaaay more fitted than the standard is in the US. So I volunteered to slim down his shirts and give them a longer shelf life (heh, literally). This is, I think, the third shirt I’ve taken in, if anyone remembers this “around here” snapshot.

I wanted to share this as a tutorial, so this time I took some pictures I’ll be posting separately as a how-to for taking in a men’s dress shirt. But now, the before and after!

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As you can see, John had a haircut in between the pinning and sewing of the shirt as well! With taking in a shirt you’ll mostly shave off from the sides, and there are some limitations. For example – the breast pocket has a tendency to end up a smidge too close to the armpit, and there will be some draglines from the shoulder to the underarm. The draglines are mostly from the flat curve of the top of the sleeve that is common in shirts, and something that can be fixed by taking the sleeve off and reworking the shape of both the sleeve and the armscye. I don’t think it’s worth to do that alteration that unless the shoulder seam hits too low, and the body and the sleeve is really big.

It’s a definite improvement from the front, but the major difference is the side view! The first picture is the before, and then where I’ve pinned the sides and a couple of darts in the back, and finally the finished after. Much better! This is the first time I made darts in the back. Even after pinning in the sides there was a lot of billowing in the back (which was John’s biggest annoyance with this shirt), so a couple of moderate darts did the trick to contour the shape a little.

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The billowy before

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Pinned in

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Tucked in and ready.

I’m including the back view because I was a little worried about the darts showing. I’ve seen mens’ shirts with darts in the back, and they look perfectly fine, but I was still concerned about it looking too… girly? You can definitely see them if you look for them, but I’m pleased that they aren’t overly obvious.

john_shirt_after_backIt’s not a spectacular sewing project, but a very satisfying tweak that means John has a closet full (well, eventually – when I do this to the rest of them!) of shirts that actually fit. I’ll leave you with a slightly out of focus picture of John demonstrating how happy he is with his newly fitted shirt. I promise, he really is happy!

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I’ll be back with a tutorial on how to measure and distribute what is being taken out, and tips for sewing.