Wednesday, May 26, 2010

My first dip in the pool

I've never made swimwear before. We went to Hawaii last Thanksgiving for a family vacation, and I started thinking "why can't I make a swimsuit?" It's not like there's a lot of fabric involved.

So when I got back I read a few online tips on sewing swimsuits, and promptly put it all away, not to be seen again until this week when the weather turned freakishly hot and suddenly we're longing for our neighborhood pool to open to we can go swimming.

I didn't want my first swimsuit project to be for me. Let's face it, after it carried two rather large (9 lbs and 9 1/2 lbs) boy babies, plus the accompanying 50 pound weight gain with each of them because I really like to gain a lot of weight when I'm pregnant, my body has issues.

She ain't what she used to be.

Much study will be involved when I finally get down to making a swimsuit for myself, and there will be control-garment textiles involved.

But my boys are another story. I recently got the Boden Kids catalog and in it were these so-cute-it-makes-me-sick swim trunks. My boys don't have body issues, they just like to have fun.

I dug out my 3/2009 issue of Ottobre, the one with the adorable spandex swim trunks (style #40), and set about recreating Boden's latest cuteness for a whole lot less money.

I wish I could find spandex with sharks or alligators on it. I can't. I did find a nice bright blue stripe, though, so that's what I used for my first attempt at trunks for my older son (4).

The first attempt went in the garbage can. But! The stripes matched. So that's a plus.

The piping, on the other hand, was from hell. I started off by basting it to the front section with my sewing machine. In the second version, the version with non-matching stripes because I'd used up all my matching-stripes lycra, I sewed the piping to the front section with my serger. I'll post all my tips below.

These are the second attempt.

I didn't take a picture of them on my son, so you'll have to take my word for it how cute they are. Let's just say I could barely contain myself when he put them on, they're so stinking cute. I gushed. I oohed, I aahhhed. Even my husband gave him a high-five and we told him he was destined to be the fastest swimmer in the pool in these trunks.

I know in these pictures the stripes and the entire finished product looks kind of wonky, right? Well, I think that's just how spandex fits on my mannequin. On my son, they fit super nicely and lay flat and everything you'd want them to do. And the mismatched stripes weren't at all so offensive.

The fit, as I've found with all Ottobre kids patterns, is perfect. Here are some of the finer details I didn't photograph:

1. I used bulky nylon in my serger, for all four threads. I only had four colors of bulky nylon thread, so I used all of them and it really didn't turn out too bad! I'd never worked with it before, but I'm really happy I did. Bulky nylon is just made for spandex, that's all there is to it.

2. For the waistband elastic, I used a large zig-zag on my sewing machine (and a stretch needle in size 80), and stitched 3/8" clear elastic onto the inside of the waistband, stretching it a little as it went along. I stitched down the waistband, then I threaded a nylon drawstring through the channel and that's the tie you see in front. The worst part of the whole waist assembly was the buttonhole I had to sew on the spandex. Yikes! I interfaced it, thank goodness, and it was still hell.

3. I used a stretch double needle for the leg hems and for the waistband attachment, because of its stretchiness. I didn't use bulky nylon on those seams, but I think in the future I would get another spool and use it on everything, or simply swap it out from the serger. I was lazy, I used polyester Gutermann thread for the hems and topstitching.

4. Spandex walks, and it stretches. It was much easier to work with on my serger than the regular machine, if you can believe that. I don't usually think sergers are easy to sew on, but this time I was wrong.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The weekend sewing disaster

Last weekend had such potential, at least with regards to my sewing. My mom had made plans to take my older son (4) for the day on Saturday, kind of a grandma-and-Cooper bonding time. This left my husband and I to split duty on only one kid! This is somewhat like winning the lottery, except I’ve never won so I wouldn’t know.

Sure enough, I was able to sew. I had a beautiful piece of light blue cotton/silk lawn with tiny white polka dots that I’d already cut out from Vogue 8252 a while ago, just sitting in my To Be Sewn projects box. Since I wanted to be able to take at least one handmade item to my meeting in Atlanta this week, this blouse seemed like it was going to be the most appropriate.

On a total sidenote, this pattern is now out of print. But it looks just like a lot of the blouses J Crew has in their current collection. Huh? I don't get pattern companies, that part is clear.

I decided to needle-down and was working with a Microtex super sharp needle in a 70. In hindsight, I could say a 60 would have been better, I think. Just a tip if you’re ever sewing on a cotton that’s very whispy, go sharp and go down in size. I find most gingham to be lighter than usual, too, and usually go down to a size 70.

Anyhoodle, I had made my way through most of the hard stuff. I'd checked the fit (that's when I made my husband take these pictures).

I'd even put the collar and collar stay on, at least three times. The first time I attached the collar band, I realized I'd omitted the most important part - the collar. So I took it off , took it apart, inserted the collar, and reattached the band. Sounds like fun, right? Yeah, I kind of wanted to scratch my eyes out by that point, but I was determined to keep sewing.

See, I was leaving for a weeklong meeting and for the first time in my life, I planned on wearing something I'd made at the meeting.

It was not to be.

Shortly after attaching the collar correctly, I decided to step over to my laundry machines and switch loads.

Right about this time, my two-year-old decided to step up to my project table with a tiny pair of scissors in his hand and take a swipe at my blouse.

I can still see my body, lurching across the room in slow mo. Screaming "nooooooooooo!!!!!" But it was too late.

The delicate voile had taken a hit, and it was in the worst possible place. I hole in the fabric about the size of a large plastic pin head, right under the face at the top of the button placket.

I don't know if you can see it or not, you may have to click the photo to enlarge it. It's there. It's not repairable, unless I somehow figure out another way to construct the blouse that would allow me to cut all that fabric off? The problem is the fabric is pretty sheer, so any type of interfacing or repairwork will show up like a gigantic Spongebob band-aid under my face.

So, I stopped sewing right then and there. I don't mean for life, I mean for that day, and on that project.

*sigh* Sewing and small children often don't mix well. They both take a very large amount of concentration. This weekend I haven't done any sewing at all because my husband and I were like ships that crossed in the night on Friday and I've been a single parent since I returned home, but I'm hoping next week will bring with it some down time worthy of working on one of my Jalie patterns, or anything else in my UFO box.

Friday, May 14, 2010

I need one week.

I need one free week. Where I don't have to go to work, and I don't miss out on time with my kids, where I'm fully rested and my house is clean, where the laundry is always done, folded and put away, and the dishwasher is also empty.

If I had that week, then I could catch up on all of the projects rattling around in my head and on my work table.

I have a white version of Wenlan's Twinkle bouse from BurdaStyle waiting to be started. Thankfully, I've mentally walked through the construction steps this week so it shouldn't be too confusing when I sit down with virtually no instructions to assemble it.

I am dying to make a white stretch lace top like one I saw when I was in a cute boutique in Kansas City's Plaza a few weeks ago. This little shop had an entire section of white and lace things, so I'm fairly certain it's in style right now.

I need to finish my white Jalie jeans.

I have a cute summer dress partially complete, out of shimmery metallic (subtle) flax linen. All I need to complete is the zipper and the facings, just haven't found the motivation to do it yet.

I have a few Jalie knit tops on the pile of To Do. Lots of lovely jersies on the stash pile that I kept, all just waiting to be cut up and worn.

And that isn't counting the half-dozen Ottobre patterns I want to make.

Or the Mariposa top from Anna Maria Horner's new book. I have the perfect red and white check cotton picked out for it, too.

Instead, I don't have a free week. I have a week where I'll be out of town, without a sewing machine. Plenty of free time in the evenings but no tools. This is where hand-sewing would come in handy, eh? Well, I'll just have to compensate by making a trip to Atlanta's Whipstitch. That ought to cheer me up.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Stars on my arse

The back pockets are the first step on the Jalie jeans? Seems strange, but who am I to judge.

See, I knew there was a good reason to obsess over the pocket decoration before starting the project.

I copied the pockets on the "Bella" version of People's Liberation jeans. Here's an example from Ebay so you can see them.

You may have to click the picture to enlarge it to see the stitching? Or you may have to take my word for it.

It's really super hard to see on the white denim, and if I had any brain in my head I would have used graduated grays for the thread. But I don't. So the stars are white, which is fine for this pair. The next pair I'll practice more, I promise.

Oh, and check me out! I saw the prettiest cotton at Hancock's today when I was buying needles, and I refrained from hoarding buying it! Can you believe that?! It's like I'm getting better or something.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The infamous Jalie jeans

I am succumbing to the peer pressure of the Jalie jeans. Since everyone else on the planet has made them and raves about them, I'm finally going to try my hand at them.

So far, I have not had the easiest time of it. I decided to use up stash fabric and make my first pair out of white denim I had on the pile. It's not stretch, and the pattern calls for denim with 20% stretch, so I'm cutting a size larger than I usually would (I would have cut a V but now I'm cutting a W).

Jalie patterns are printed on very large heavy white paper, not pattern tissue. They also include sizes from 2T to way past mine, whatever that is. I was looking forward to making a pair of the regular-rise jeans for my mom if the low-rise pair works out for me.

After unfolding the pattern, though, I couldn't wrap my scissors, head, or tracing paper around how to go about cutting out my size without ruining the ones above it? I ended up tracing directly onto my denim with blue tracing paper. I was having no luck tracing the pattern onto tracing paper for some reason.

Well, anyhoodle, now they're cut out and the true test begins. I'm wondering if I should have bought a stretch denim. But then there's the issue of the large stash of fabric I'm trying to sew down. I have a really nice pair of dark denim, too, but it doesn't have stretch either.

Oh, and there's the added bit where I think about and stress about the pocket decoration stitching all day long. That can't be healthy, right? I think I've decided on some sort of star motif. Kind of like the stars that decorate the butts of People's Republic denim. I like them, so maybe I'll try to replicate something like that? And the h's from Citizens of all Humanity are cute, too. So we'll see.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

My stint in jail

I made another New Look 6936 dress, this time in a lovely soft striped jersey I bought for $2.95 a yard. Score! I have enough fabric left over for a top and I have plans in mind for something with drawstrings on the sides.

I even broke out the twin needle for the hems! I have a confession to make. I have never used a twin needle before in my life. Isn't that lame? It was the easiest thing ever, and kind of neat how the bobbin thread gets intertwined between the top threads. I guess that's what makes it stretchy, I don't know.

What I do know is I love this dress, and I'll be wearing it to the pool and to Target quite a bit this summer.

I'm on the Train to Crazy this week!

make it wear it

Saturday, May 8, 2010

How to make $1,000

First, you have to spend waaaay more than that.

I had my gigantic Fabric and Crafts DeStash Yard Sale today. I am tired. I am sore. I am cold to my bones because it was only in the forties and early fifties with the wind blowing hard the entire time.

I have about $1,000 I didn't have yesterday, and I don't have about 500 yards of fabric I did have yesterday.

I can't believe it, almost every single piece of designer cotton I had is gone! The crowds showed up a little before 8:00, hovering on the sidewalk until I said it was ok to come down. Ladies battled over prints, standing in line together if they both wanted something, snatching up pieces that were about to be put back on the table before they could get there. There was a lady here who bought tons of fabric, and she doesn't even sew! She called her seamstress to come over and help her pick fabrics.

It was a madhouse.

If I'd had a camera, all you would have seen was blur.

All of these pictures from the night before will have to do. I had everything stacked in my office, ready to go. Fabric prints, apparel solids, knit jerseys, ribbons, trims, buttons and zippers. All color-coordinated and separated by width and by use.

Yeah, the color coding last all of ten minutes when the hoard descended. They were like vultures, snatching fabric out of each other's hands the second it looked like it was a discard. At least a dozen times I saw people on their cell phones, saying "you have to get over here, you'd love it," or "I picked some stuff out for you, hurry up!"

My mom and I were at the cutting table and my dad was taking money. We could have used at least two more cutters the first two hours, but after that it was over. As quickly as they came, they were gone and so was my gigantic fabric stash. Gone!

And you know what? It feels kind of good. As I was sorting and separating yesterday, I was totally bummed. I'd look at each piece and say "oh, I love this one!" But then I thought about it some more, and realized that even if I sewed every single day for a year, there's no way I'd ever use every piece of fabric in my Keep pile, let alone the ones I was letting go. So I added more to the Sell pile. And more. And then this morning some more.

I still have a lot of fabric left, but most of it is apparel fabrics, most of it is 60" wide. To my surprise, the apparel fabric didn't sell as well as the designer cottons, probably because it's a smaller audience that would use it.

All in all, it was a huge success. I feel lighter already. Now if only someone would go downstairs and re-organize my sewing room, I'd be totally set!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

I'm off

I don't know why, I just know I'm taking a little bit of a sewing break for a few days.

I finished my striped jersey dress last weekend and haven't sewn anything since then.

I do love it so (the striped jersey dress). I love the stripes. I don't care what anyone else thinks, to me it's summer fun in a breezy package. I'll share pictures soon, just as soon as I take them. I would love a cool obi belt to wear with it. Oh, that's right. I have ordered the perfect fabric to make into the mostest awesomest obi belt on the planet, thanks to that cool new book I have.

The biggest thing on my plate right now is my Gigantic Fabric De-Stash Mother of All Yard Sales this Saturday. That's kept me remarkably busy. When I first decided to do it, I just thought I'd slap out all my excess fabric, sell it all, and be done with it.

As it turns out, there's quite a bit of excess fabric, and even more odds and ends that need to go. Two vintage sewing machines and one teeny tiny mini Janome. Trims, ribbons, and notions coming out the yinyang. Vintage and modern patterns of all kinds. Knitting supplies and some beautiful yarns, because although I'd love to, I don't knit. Sewing books that I've found completely useless but I know someone else might love it.

Then there's the random household items I see and decide to slap a price tag on. Two high chairs. A coffee table. Some framed artwork I no longer love. The more I walk around, the more I want to sell. My four-year-old has even gotten in the act and says he wants to sell all his toys, too.

It's taken on a life of its own and most of my free time this week has been spent getting ready for The Sale. I hope to have a moment to take pictures before the crowds show up. Oh, and I hope to walk away from it all with some cold hard cash.

Plus, (I'm back to talking about why I'm not sewing) I can't decide what to sew next! I have a darling little top cut out in the most darling cotton and silk voile. I have another darling top cut out in the remaining white french terry. I have the rose denim pants to fix, and the other denim trousers to finish (oh, right, fix the pockets first, then finish). Then there are all the new Jalie patterns that arrived this week, including the infamous low-rise bootcut jeans I'm dying to try. See? Too much to do and no motivation is not a good thing.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

handmade beginnings - a book review of sorts

I had to take my car to the Firestone station today and there's a Barnes & Noble very closeby. Soooo, naturally I bought a sewing (in this case, more of an inspiration) book for my reading pleasure while I waited for my service.

Handmade Beginnings by Anna Maria Horner

I haven't really read anything about it (duh, it was only published this week!) and I haven't had much luck with books like this in the past, so I picked it up off the shelf to glance through it, rather than with any intention of buying it.

I was so happily surprised to find at least six projects that I would love to make, and so I bought it!

After reading the introduction (and the title is a dead giveaway, eh?), it seems as though the book is totally about sewing for pregnancy and newborns. BUT I really feel like most of the projects are super versatile. For instance, for the three clothing patterns for women, AMH includes instructions on how to make them in both maternity and non-maternity versions.

I haven't yet tried sewing any of the patterns so I can't speak to their accuracy. Honestly, I'm not expecting much. This is where designer books tend to go astray, in my experience. The pictures, colors, and concepts are great, but when the rubber meets the road (or presser feet come down, in this case) things fall apart. This book, like many on the sewing shelves, is probably more geared towards quilters that are bridging into clothing construction rather than people who prefer to sew couture or ready-to-wear knockoffs. For me, I like them both so I'm super excited about it.

For the price of the book ($18 online at B&N), I saw five or six projects/patterns I plan to make this summer and at least a few that would make great baby shower gifts for the future:

There's a beautiful skirt, complete with instructions on how to convert it from a maternity skirt back to a regular size, that I totally plan to make. Of course, it calls for hand stitching the seam lines for embellishment, so I'll have to figure out how to bypass that and still maintain the cuteness factor.

There are two adorable tops - the Mariposa tunic/dress and a tank-style shirt that can be made into a convertible nursing top (but clearly I won't be doing that).

There's an awesome hooded jacket for kiddos that one or both of my sons will be sporting in the fall, when jackets will be necessary again. It's weird to think they won't be needing one for that long again.

There's a cute little dress pattern for toddlers that will be made up very soon. There's nothing more gratifying than sewing for kids. The pieces are so small and they tend to make up very quickly. Plus, there's no odd body shaping issues to deal with!

I am in love with this beautiful strip work obi belt. I have plans for it already.

And the diaper bag design is perfect.

I spent my lunch hour reading through the instructions on a couple of the projects and I will warn you - they don't seem written for a complete beginner. In fact, the lack of pictures and some of the descriptions could lead to total disaster if you don't have a basic knowledge of clothing construction, or at least a guide who can help you translate.

Hey! Maybe that's how I'll incorporate this book into the blog, I'll do each project as a sort of sew-along tutorial, complete with pictures? It's an idea. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Whew! I feel like Cinderella at the ball, but the part before she finds her slipper.

Yay, another top made it into the top 60! So if you care to vote again today, here's the link to the page.

I'm exhausted with the excitement. I want to go back to bed.

That also could be because my 2-year-old was up at 12:30 crying and came into bed with us, then the puppy wanted to go out because she heard all the excitement, then the puppy was up at 3:30, then both boys hogged my side of the bed and I had to sleep sideways at the bottom, and then I got up at 6:30 with the puppy while my husband did his beauty routine in the bathroom. Grrrrrrrrrr.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Time to vote! (**and $$ rewards for those who vote for me**)

***EEEEKKK!!! I just checked the page and saw my Liberty Liverpool awesome tunic-from-hideous dress made it into the first round of voting!! YAYYY!!!!*****

Spring Top Week is upon us, people. So it's time to go vote for the tops you like the best!

Check out Made by Rae each day this week to vote for that day's fave top. I have no idea how the votes are tabulated, but I think it's awesome to encourage fellow sew-ers in their creativity.

And now that I am in the voting, I will reward you greatly for voting for me. Although there's another top in that round I'd like to vote for, but I'm not telling until it's all over....

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Any Spanish speakers out there? **with an edit**

I have this copy of Patrones magazine, and there's a skirt I'm thinking of making for someone other than myself.

SKIRT in beige cotton with hip piece, roll on the base and applications stitching sewn with black cotton. Side zip.

The thing is, I don't speak fluent Spanish anymore. OK, I never did, but I could get by when I was in Spain.

I've run the text of the instructions through Babel Fish and it came out sounding like a different foreign language, only written in English. So I'm going to post the description and instructions here and hopefully someone can either email me or comment to tell me what's going on?

Colocar adomo de flores y hojas en falda delante y detras segun modelo y coser con un pespunte estilo hilvan en hilo torzal quedando recortadas y deshilachadas. Pasar un doble frunce en los angulos de la falda delante y detras y coser a una pieza cadera delante y detras tensando los frunces segun formas, coser y cerrar lados falda hasta senal final cremallara lado ezquierdo, aplicar esta invisible.

Translated, it supposedly means: Adom Place flowers and leaves in front and back skirt and sew according to the model with a basting stitch yarn style clipped and frayed twine. Spend a double pleats at the corners of the skirt front and back and sew in a piece hip front and back by tightening the forms according gathers, sewing and close sides to sign final lap side zip ezquierdo apply this invisible.

My main question is how the top half goes together? Is the yoke piece at the top simply topstitched onto the skirt, or are those keyhole boxes actually turned with right sides together, clipping at the corners? It looks like the flowers are just stitched on top of the skirt, allowing the edges to fray? The person I'd be making this for wouldn't like that, so I'd have to come up with a different method of stitching them on.

Thanks for your help!

**Thanks to the wonderful okiethfairy, I am now including a photo of the pattern pieces. They lead me to believe it's put together like the key/pattern pieces and not appliqued. What do you think?**