Monday, November 24, 2014

Sometimes simple is really really great

I made a flannel t-shirt, and I love it.

You read that right. A flannel t-shirt.

Years ago, I used a vintage t-shirt pattern to make the stegosaurus tee, and wore it to death. I loved the vintage fit and the way the center back seam fitted the shirt much better than my more current patterns did.

Then more recently, I found this vintage pattern (Simplicity 5523) in my stash and made up this quick lobster tee to see how it fit. The shoulders were very wide (something I've noticed a lot in my patterns from the seventies; I think maybe it's because their knits really didn't have much stretch) but I loved the shirttail hemline, the scoop is just right, and so I have been stewing on the needed modifications ever since.  When you get to the bottom of this post, you'll see my plea for help.

The boys and I made our way to Joann's Saturday morning to buy flannel for their very first sewing projects. Both of my boys plus two of their friends want to learn how to sew! I can't tell you how excited I was to hear that. I thought pajama pants would be an easy first project that they would also really like to own, so we hunted for flannel.

While at Joann's, I found this plaid flannel for myself, from their Plaiditudes line. It pills quite a bit, so I can't say I'm super impressed with the washability but it is very warm and cosy and super soft. So that's the upside.

I will literally buy anything that combines gray and camel. Anything.
Anyway, while thinking about how that pattern fit, and thinking maybe it would be better suited for a woven instead of knits, I decided I needed a flannel tee. Something I can wear under my cardigans on days that are frigid, but without the collar and buttons of a more structured shirt.
It took 30 or 40 minutes to pop this baby together, and I love it! I was right, the fit is spot on in a woven.  I did a little slash and spread for a dart at the bustline, and narrowed the shoulders by 1/2" on either side. For this one, I cut the back on the fold instead of shaped with a center seam.  I also added a ribbed neckband and used bias tape for the shirttail hem. I had a doctor's appointment today, and my nurse said "That is the cutest top! I love it!," so there. A real human out in the world approved of my flannel t-shirt.
Now is where I'm turning to you, kind internets, to help me. The bias tape sewed quite nicely along the hem, but starting and stopping it at the upturned corner was a bad idea (see close-up photo). I have never sewn much with bias binding, I could use some advanced tips.

  • Where is the best place to start attaching bias tape on a hemline like this? 
  • Should I have used satin bias instead? 
  • Should I have clipped the curve at the corners to make it turn better or was I trying to force too much fabric into that curve?
OK, that's it for my questions. If anyone can help me, please weigh in!

So now I'd like to comment on something that really makes me shake my head.  I recently found the darkside of the sewing blogs, the forum whose entire goal seems to be to mock people who choose to sew and post their creations online. It really makes me question the heart of humanity. I'm not going to say there aren't posts that have merit, such as the questionable greed of "designing" simple patterns like an a-line skirt, and then charging $16 for it. I've been frustrated by that myself and written about it here. But my option is to not buy them. I just do not see the need to be hateful and vicious about sewing {not that there's ever an excuse to be hateful and vicious, but seriously ~ sewing??}. What starts out as a seemingly fair-balanced vent on the price of simple patterns will turn into an all-out mockery of a blogger's body. Or God forbid, you have drag lines! The shame! Hey, I buy very nice ready-to-wear clothing that has those same lines. Is anyone outing DVF for that? I doubt it.

You know what my head was thinking when I read some of that?

These people need real problems.

Friday, November 21, 2014

I love you, Burda 7031

I am so happy. I have been admiring this lace bonded sweater knit fabric at Joann's all fall but it was $39.99 a yard and you all know with my track record for ruining projects I really can't be trusted with pricey fabric. I finally got a coupon texted to me for 25% off my total purchase, and the fabric went on 50% off sale.
Burda 7031 View C
Woot! I bought it, not even knowing what I would make with it.

Francis jacket pattern by C'est Dimanche, also in my pattern stash
At first, I had planned to sew up this jacket by C'est Dimanche. But then I spent way too much time going through my pattern boxes the other night (holy cow, I need to thin that herd) looking for the perfect coat pattern for an embroidered wool I've owned for four years, when I came across this pattern.

I made view C

I bought Burda 7031 late last winter, after seeing a soloist at church wearing an adorable lined lace top. The shape was similar to this one, so I optimistically added it to my pattern stash.

I pulled the pattern out and studied the navy blue fabric in View C. It reminded me of the weight of this bonded sweater lace.

Closeup of the fabric, you can see the white fluffy parts are where the lace is bonded to the sweater knit.
I started cutting this out at 3:00 yesterday afternoon, took a break from 4:00-4:30, sewed til 5:15, and then finished it at 9:15. Honestly, cutting and sewing took all of 2 hours, maybe even less.

And even though it's a touch big I love it! Seriously, I love it. I have no idea why.

I went upstairs to take pictures with my taupe trousers and they're missing. So for these photos I've paired it with my wash and wear pleather skirt from QVC, another favorite purchase of mine this fall.

I never style my photos! The GOMI people scare me. But I think this time it will be ok.
I even put on high heels! Another QVC purchase. I share the links because I'm always frustrated when I see footwear that isn't documented.

Back to the pattern. Let's talk about the wonky "collar." Yes, they do call this a collar. Do you know those crazy kids at Burda actually suggest that you can add batting to the collar piece if you want it to have more body?? BATTING. I chose not to do that, it stands up plenty on its own.

I sewed most of the seams on my machine and pressed them open. At first I was treating this fabric delicately, but by the end I was pressing the hell out it with full steam and I couldn't tell a difference at all. That's nice, I don't have a "delicate" lifestyle.

I wanted you to see how the sleeves bell out just a little bit at the end. So. Much. Fun.
Then I goofed amd sewed the collar, the hem band, and the center back seam with my serger. That much bulk under one seam made for some ripples and difficulty pressing the seam to one direction, which was super important when tacking down the collar and hem band. In hindsight, I should have used the machine for all the seams and my serger for finishing edges.

All in all, I'm super happy with this top! I will wear this quite a bit for work, especially if I can track down those taupe trousers. I have to call the dry cleaners, I have a feeling they never made it home.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

On making pants

I was away from home last week for work, so I had a lot of time on my hands to research sewing techniques. Namely, making pants.

Making great pants is one of my sewing goals. That, and slowing down. Honestly, I probably stand a better chance of making kick-ass pants than I do slowing down.

I guess I can understand why drafting pants patterns is so difficult. All human bodies are shaped differently, and with pants you're trying to engineer something to cover the most moving-est part of your body. And cover it well, so that you can move freely and look kick-ass at the same time. That's a lot of pressure.

For this past trip, I packed three of my favorite professional pants, plus some fun leggings.
  • Theory ankle-length slim-leg stretch wool trousers
  • J Crew grey wool straight leg trousers 
  • Anthropologie seamed cropped stretch wool trousers 
  • Vince stretch suede cropped pants, cut much like a legging 
I had some time in my hotel room to take them all, turn them inside out, and look at what was similar or different about them all. Lucky for me I carry a tiny tape measure in my purse at all times. You never know when you'll find yourself in Home Goods and need to measure the height of a super cute chair!

One thing I noticed right off the bat is the crotch curve is very different in my ready to wear pants than in some of my sewing patterns. I'm used to seeing a full back curve but also a fairly deep front curve, similar to two Js.

In my ready-to-wear pants, however, the front curve is almost nonexistent, and the back crotch curve is very deep. I need to repeat that, it is very deep. Instead of a J, it more resembles a fishhook that sticks out at the end in a point.

I'm now obsessed with perfecting the perfect pants pattern based on my ready-to-wear pants. I came home and made what I had hoped to be a wearable muslin from Simplicity 1696.

I made a classic mistake of choosing the wrong fabric, a stretch cotton that behaved and wore a lot like velveteen. It was just too heavy and bulky for this pattern, but it would make a lovely blazer or skinny jeans. When I finally tried them on, they were quite unwieldy like they fought back a little? Weird.

I do believe with some adjustments this pattern could be a keeper for me. The rise was good, I love the 1" seam allowances, and the legs weren't super voluminous. I even blindly followed their ridiculous instructions for a fly zipper and it turned out ok. I kind of forgot while I was cutting out the fabric to change the pattern piece to reflect a cut-on fly, so I stayed the course and followed the instructions as closely as I could.
The only thing I really didn't love was the fake welt pockets. I know a lot of people don't like extra fabric volume on their backside, but I do appreciate a real pocket. I always try to stick my hands in fake pockets, I don't know why. Like a pocket bag will magically appear somehow.

While I was gone my new Peter and the Wolf pants pattern from Papercut Patterns arrived in the mail {I do support indie pattern designers, I just like to spend my money on original designs I haven't seen before}! I did a little happy dance.  For all of you in the US considering Papercut, keep in mind the dollars they reference on their website are New Zealand dollars. For me, the price including shipping from New Zealand to the States was $25, so not as bad as it could have been.

I spent my last hour of the night last night cutting the instruction booklet  out and putting it together, then tracing off the pattern pieces. If you haven't purchased a Papercut pattern before, they come in this adorable cardboard box and they're printed on large natural paper sheets. You know I must be motivated to find great pants patterns when I'm tracing patterns. It is NOT my favorite thing to do in the sewing room.
This pattern calls for stretch wovens, but I hope to be able to make a pair in a non-stretch wool for work. It also only includes 1 cm seam allowances, so I'm definitely going to have to increase that just a tad to account for my crazy behavior behind the machine!

Honestly, I know I need to slow down with my sewing. I will never enjoy the process or the finished products if I slam through them and fail to make wearable garments. A couple days ago, in order to find an 'early make' for #bpSewvember, I went all the way back to my first sewing posts from my personal blog. You know what? Not much has changed. I made easy mistakes back then and I still make them now. While the walk down memory lane was fun, it was also painful.

Why do I do that? 
Why does my brain malfunction and let me cut through a piece of fabric that needs to stay intact? 

I don't know. I really don't. I just know I don't want to do it anymore. So from here on out, I hope to report that I'm taking my time. That I'm creating quality over quantity. That I'm drafting responsibly and sewing methodically.

Oh, and that I'm making kick-ass pants.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Anna Maria Horner knit top

I should probably never go on the internet and look at things. Because then I get ideas and those ideas make me spend money and buy fabric.

Like these beautiful Anna Maria Horner interlock knits. I bought them from a few months ago after seeing something stunning AMH had made {no need to pick just one, it's like endless eye candy with her designs}. Her fabrics are so vibrant and unique, I seriously love them all. I've even bought some of her home dec fabrics so that I can frame them and hang them on the wall in the sewing room.

Which I will totally do, one of these days.

In the meantime, I stole a few hours these last few days and tried to make a shirt using my sweatshirt shoulder pieces but a t-shirt body.

I will totally wear this shirt all the time, but it's a little big around the shoulders and bust. Also, the fabric is a true interlock, so not necessarily the drapiest of fabrics. Warm and cozy and lovely, yes. Drapey, no.
I didn't have enough fabric for long sleeves, so I added a band at the bottom.
I'm really enjoying hemming with my coverstitch  machine.
It scared the crap out of me for a long time but now I think I have the hang of it.
I cut the neckband three inches shorter than the neck opening, but even that wasn't enough to avoid a little gaping. I've put some temporary tucks in place to keep it down, but I'll take it off and shorten it tonight after the kids go to bed. Speaking of kids, my son thought I should have "action" shots of me in my regular life. Enjoy.

Doing laundry.
I had to run up to my kids' school after this, and one of the moms complemented me on this shirt! I was stunned.
More laundry.
What are the odds that the grey and pink Tangle print would perfectly match my pink Frye cowboy boots? Love it. Another reason to wear these boots more often is a good thing. I've had them for at least five or six years and I never get tired of them.

Seriously, can we stop with the pictures of laundry?
Now, I must clean up the sewing room and take a work-induced break. My dog will be bummed.

I like it when my mom sews.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The envelope tunic - a tutorial

As you know now, after my husband died three years ago I took a big long break from sewing and blogging. So long, in fact, that I didn't realize people were still leaving comments on posts and asking questions!

The kind folks at Pattern Review emailed me during this time and asked if they could share my series of posts on how to construct a swimsuit? I said yes, but I wasn't sure I would be able to help much if anyone had questions as I had temporarily forgotten how to sew. They posted them anyway, and I hope they've been helpful to fellow sewers.

Anyway, one of the post comments I got in the midst of all that was a request to show how I made this envelope neckline in a tutorial. Better late than never!

The Envelope Tunic
After twisting my brain into knots to construct jeans without a pattern, I wanted to make something easy and wearable. I pulled out this striped sweater knit I think I bought on the Red Tag table at Joann's and decided a loose tunic was in order. I matched it up with a grey slub knit from for the neckband.

I recommend choosing two fabrics that match in their stretchiness, otherwise you may have to fight one or the other. Both of my fabrics are quite stretchy, as were the two I used in my first version lo those many years ago. I'm happy to report I finally sat back at my "new" Babylock coverstitch machine (purchased three years ago when the boys and I moved into this house and then promptly abandoned) to hem this top and it was so lovely I think I may start using it more. But I digress..
The Envelope Tunic - Supplies and Construction Instructions
  • 2 yards of stripe knit (main body fabric). For my sample, I only had 1.75 yards, so I turned the sleeve sideways, hence the stripe running vertically instead of horizontally. I kind of like it.
  • 6" of contrasting neckband fabric at least 32" wide
  • 8 buttons, mine are quite large but you can play around with sizes and colors
  • A serger. OK, maybe that's not exactly a must but with the fabric I used, I simply can't imagine keeping this thing together on a regular sewing machine unless I used wooly nylon, and my Bernina hates that stuff. If you've sewn stretchy jersey on your machine with no problems, then you could do this top on a regular machine.
Make your own pattern pieces with large crafting paper or freezer paper (or literally cut as you measure, like I did). The dimensions are shown in these photos for my sample, a size Large.

Front pattern piece. See my note below, you may want to cut the neckline 5-6" deep instead of 4".
Back pattern piece, total length is 27" unless you want the back a bit longer than the front, then cut it longer.
Sleeve pattern
After all your pieces are cut, fold the two neckband sections in half, wrong sides together and press with a warm iron.

Neckband sections
With right sides together, pin neckband to front section and then back section.

Serge or stitch the neckband to the front, then repeat this step again for the back. You will have two pieces that look like this:

*Now this is where I pinned the front and back together, pulled it on over my head and checked to see if the neckline fit in the right spot. After wearing it today, I'm convinced the neckline in front should be a least one inch lower than my pattern states, so you may want to cut the front curve deeper after trying on.*

Lay the back over the front so that the neckband overlaps completely but doesn't lap into the body of the shirt, baste to hold in place, leaving 12" opening for pulling on.

Baste the sections together, lapping the back neckband over the front neckband.
With right sides together, attach sleeves in the flat to each side. This step essentially "closes" the envelope for good.

Right sides together, sew side seams and sleeves together.

Sew buttons onto basted neckband. I placed mine 3" apart starting at the opening and working back towards the shoulder. I also considered using mismatched buttons from my grandmother's stash but I decided against it in the end.
Mismatched buttons?
I'm very lucky to have a sewing machine that has a button attachment presser foot, so sewing on 8 buttons takes no time at all.

Hem the bottom and sleeves and wear it!
You see this stash? This is why I should not step foot into a fabric store again.
Cargo skinnies - Cabi
Cowboy boots - Frye Carson
Let me know if you have any questions about the construction or want to share your own version, I would love to see them!

Freezing cold + super strong wind = not a good day for photo shoot.

Very hard to take a selfie of your shoulder!
This top only took a couple hours from start to finish, and I had a lot of fun sifting through my grandma's old buttons. She passed away twelve years ago, and I inherited her sewing supplies and machine (a Bernina). She and I both used to share a fondness for Molnlycke thread. They've since been discontinued, apparently Coats and Clark bought the company and then closed it! Can you believe that? Probably because they had a far superior product. I still use those threads today and after all this time they are still so much better than C+C, which I try never to buy unless I'm desperate.

Metrosene and Gutermann are nice, but I'll probably pine away for Molnlycke for a long time.

Molnlycke thread and my grandma's buttons

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

I make things I don't need

I don't know why I don't just change the name of this blog. Any number of titles would be more appropriate than Featherty Sews.
  • I Make Things I Don't Need
  • Sewing With Attention Deficit Disorder {I'm not sure I actually have that, but it feels like it when I step into the sewing room.}
  • I Should be Cleaning {or substitute Cooking, Working, Exercising, Reading...}
  • How to Make a Wadder
Case in point - I made jeans. Because I need more jeans like I need more pajama bottoms, that's what I decided to make the other day.

And did I follow a commercial pattern with easy to read instructions, you ask?

No. I decided to take a pair of pull-on skinny jeans I bought off the Home Shopping Network last year, cut them up, make changes to the fit and details, and sew a pair myself with no instructions. Because I have no time and a million other things I should be doing.

I believe this is a sickness.

Anyway, here's the story.  For my real job, I cover a vast territory - Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma and New Mexico. Last week I spent a few days in Oklahoma and found myself in the Joann's in Tulsa before I was due to be back at the airport. They had a lovely little piece of animal print stretch denim on the remnant table that somehow reminded me of these jeans made by Elke of Pulsinchen. I love foreign bloggers, even if I don't understand a word they're writing and Google Translate is only moderately helpful. My only wish is that they would share more info on where they buy their shoes. They all have fabulous boots.

Anyway, I got the denim for $8, stuffed it into my carry-on and flew home to hug my kids. After I washed it, a lot of the animal print was worn off - total bummer, but sometimes I think you can still see the hide?

A few days later, I pulled out the cut-up pieces of those skinny jeans I've had for a while now. The price was great ($20!) but the pockets were so small they made my butt look enormous. Plus, they were way too short, but that's something at my height I'm used to. And then while the fit was OK for the price, the crotch seam hung a little too low for my comfort and the calves were very tight.

The piece of denim was only 1 5/8 yards, which was a little short to make a pair of jeans, but I managed to make it work. The waistband is pieced together in sections, although with the elastic on the inside I can't feel it. I considered removing the denim waistband and replacing it with a knit yoga-style waistband but those remind me of maternity jeans so I opted to leave it alone for now.

You can see the pieced seams in this picture, and a little bit of the hide print, too.
I wanted them to be pull-on, with a faux-fly front but no actual zipper. Most of the tops I wear are long enough to cover the tops of my jeans (or longer) so I am not worried about my make-do waistband showing at all.

If my belly is showing, I have bigger problems.

Wow, look at all those lines! I am thinking of taking the inseam out a little to make them less tight, we'll see if that fixes the lines. To be fair, my RTW jeans do the same thing.
I used a pair of my own Hudson jeans to copy the pocket design and size, and made sure the placement wasn't too high. When pockets are high on me it makes my butt look like it's sagging way down. I found the jeans buttons at Joann's for another $2 and they were surprisingly easy to install. I only wish I could find rivets for the pocket corners.

I like the finished product, but I do wish the animal hide showed up more. Also, in hindsight I think I would have gone with a simpler pocket since the pattern of the denim is the focal point.

The fit changes I made, in no particular order -
  • I cut the pieces with 1" seam allowances to make adjustments to the legs as needed. In the end, I sewed  1" SA up by the waist and tapered down to 5/8" at the knee break. 
  • After the knee break my ready-to-wear jeans all tend to be a tad tight, so I kept the 5/8" SA on the outside seam but eased out to 1/2" SA on the inside seam. I also measured to be sure my knee break was in the correct spot, which I've had trouble with before.
  • For the crotch curve, I raised the crotch stitching line higher in the SA from about midway down the pockets through to the front where the "zipper" would be. This creates a bit more "curviness" to the bum area and less of a flat-butt effect.
  • The waistband is simply turned down and top-stitched, then elastic zig-zagged onto the inside to hold them up. They're already plenty tight, but it's for added security. I left off the belt loops on this version.
No belt loops, but so far they haven't fallen down.
At the very end, I pulled a classic Heather move and cut off a bit too much of the excess length before hemming. Yes, that's right friends, one of the reasons I decided to slash up my original pair was they were too short. And I carelessly cut these pants that I labored over for hours too short.  BIG SIGH.

Oh, well, live and learn. I already have a new piece of stretch velveteen ready to go for a different pair that will hopefully not get slashed to bits by my own hands.  Wish me luck.
Sweater - Evereve cashmere cardigan
Boots - Lucky Brand I found at TJMaxx a few weeks ago