Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Belize Shorts

More vacation garments! A few days ago I popped for a PDF of the Belize Shorts and Skort pattern from Itch to Stitch.

Front view with wet hair. Just took a shower.
Lisa, of Lisa's Carolina Handmade, has sewn up a passel of these shorts, each pair a winner. Her versions look so cute and cool, I had to get in on the action.

So I jumped in with both feet. I've made three pairs this week. That puts this pattern right up there with one of my all time favorites, the Kirsten tee by Maria Denmark.

back view
You will notice that I have my hands in my pockets in every photo. That's because these shorts have the world's most perfect pockets. They're nice and deep and set at just the right angle so that my hands are sucked in like the Millennium Falcon making the jump to light speed.

Side view
I can get a pair of these babies out of a yard of 45 inch wide fabric. They feature an elastic waist with a flat front. They're as comfortable as gym shorts, but they look a lot dressier. Or at least I think they do.

Trying to show the flat front on the waistband
They're also the perfect length for me as drafted. I'm 5'3", and no one would call me leggy, so if you are one of those tall, coltish gals you may want to add a few inches.

Version 1
This was my first version, made up in a stretch twill remnant that I had knocking around the fabric closet.

Version 2
This is version two in a Japanese indigo print.

I'm actually trying to stop myself from going upstairs to cut out a 4th pair from a yard of beetle printed fabric that I originally got to make some love bug overalls for my grandson.

My pattern review is on PatternReview.com here.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Jacket Express!

I confess. I am a late night Craftsy shopper. Some sewists, when wide awake at 3:00am, will turn to online fabric sites. I get sucked into Craftsy. And Craftsy knows it too, darn them. They keep sending me those seductive $20-a-class deals. The upside is that I can now make a passable naan and I have a new jacket.

Front view with welt pockets
This is the Jacket Express, the class pattern for Craftys's "Sew Better Sew Faster, Industry Secrets." The class is delivered by Janet Pray of Islander Sewing Systems. She uses this pattern to spoon-feed you tips on sewing without pins and improving your sewing accuracy. She also teaches you a few nifty techniques that make for some nice finishing.

Back view
The class pattern is the Jacket Express #218, which is billed as a grown-up version of the blue jean jacket. I wasn't too sure about the pattern at first, but since it came along with the price of admission I decided to give it a whirl. I ended up liking it a lot more than I thought I would!

Side view with dog, anxiously awaiting her morning walk
I used a blue-grey cotton twill that I think is a good weight for a jean jacket. However, it has a touch of lycra, which Janey Pray does not recommend for this project. I'm guessing that any stretch to the fabric complicates working with her "no pins" and topstitching techniques. It also made the seams a PITA to press. I had planned to just omit all topstitching, but I ended up doing one topstitching pass on all the seams just to get those devils to lie down.

Dress form view

I also left the pocket flaps off the breast pockets. I toyed with the idea of omitting those pockets altogether, but a breast pocket sure is handy for carrying a phone along. Only, in order to fit my ginormous phone I had to deepen the pocket quite a bit. I also made up a pocket bag instead of topstitching the pocket to the jacket front (cleverly avoiding another chunk of topstitching).

Breast pocket without pocket flap
I actually like the way the squared-off mouth of the pocket looks without the flap hiding it. I think I'll call it a "design feature."

Welt pockets, prior to removing placement marks
These aren't my first welt pockets, but I was still nervous about installing them. OK, they were my second welt pockets, so that's why. I think they turned out OK though, and Ms. Pray totally walked me through them.

Most of the techniques in the class were not totally new to me. The two that were are:

  • sewing without pins
  • the burrito method for sleeve cuffs

I'm not a total convert to pinless sewing, but I'm halfway there. I do believe that pinless sewing works best when you have a narrow seam allowance. The Jacket Express uses either 3/8 or 1/4 inch. That was, frankly, terrifying to me. Most especially when I was attaching the cuffs. Given the heft of my fabric and the 11 layers (7 fabric and 4 interfacing) at this juncture, there was a lot of bulk to work through, and not a lot of wiggle room to play with. Still, Ms. Pray's method gave me one of the cleanest finishes I've ever gotten.

Far from perfect, but my finish is loads better using the burrito method!
So, I like the jacket and I liked the class. As a Craftsy junkie I've learned that not all instructors are created equal. Some are so stiff on camera they're a bit painful to watch. Some are disorganized in their presentation; thank God for the 30 second repeat button!

Janet Pray was organized and easy to follow, and she had a natural, engaging style. My Craftsy library includes Janet Pray's Sew Better Sew Faster, Shirtmaking class. The Man has been wanting a flannel shirt; I'm thinking Janet Pray may be my best bet for making him happy.

So, I like the jacket and I like the class. If you haven't played around with Craftsy, give them a look-see.

My pattern review is on PatternReview.com here.

Friday, June 23, 2017

The Brindille & Twig Tee - Does It Fit?

In this post I reviewed the Basic Tee by Brindille & Twig.

At long last, here it is being modeled by the boy who is, in my estimation, the cutest baby in the world:

The Frida Kahlo print

 My new grandson.

As you may recall, I traced the 6 month size for my Grandma sewing spree. The Grandson isn't quite 2 months old, but these tees already seem to fit him pretty well.

The vintage VW Bus version; truly unique!
 It remains to be seen if he can squeeze into them in 4 more months. No worries though. I can just trace out a larger size for next time. I should have him covered until he starts kindergarten. This pattern includes sizes up to 6T.

Rocky Raccoon version
 The raccoons seem to irritate him.

But he seems to find Frida soothing. Though I hear he's peed on her at least once. The other duds are still too big for him. I'll let you know how they work out as he ages into them.

He is big enough to hang out on his elephant skin blanket though!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Edith as a Dress

I'm still puttering around making the odd thing to take with me on our upcoming car trip to Idaho. I'm expecting it to be warm. Hot, in fact, especially while we're on the road. We'll be traveling through the high plains desert in July.

Ergo, here is the Edith dress from Maria Denmark. I've made this pattern up a time or two in the blouse length and had always intended to try the dress version. I'm glad I did!

Here's the line drawing from Maria Denmark's website. The pattern has 8 darts, which is enough to give it a nice shape while keeping the fit cool and breezy.

I used some Italian shirting from stash that I'd originally pictured as another Archer. It's kind of a subtle grey on grey stripe that I thought might look kind of Audrey Hepburn in Rome.

Which didn't quite translate, but I like the dress anyway.

Even though the fabric is so tightly woven that it won't drape to show off the shaping from all those darts. Plus, it has absolutely no ease whatsoever.

Edith is finished with bias tape around the arm scythe, and the curve under the arm on that kimono sleeve is pretty darn tight. I ended up just nipping the edge off the underarm to get a curve I could force my bias tape to adopt.

Nipped off the edge of the arm scythe

It worked just fine, and actually turns out to be more comfortable. I'll be keeping that change for next time.

I test drove the dress this week during some unusually hot weather. We're pretty much weather wimps here on the Central Coast. Anything over 75 has us wilting like violets. It got up to 82 the day I wore Edith and I was cool and comfortable.

In fact, it felt great enough that I'm kind of pumped to try another in a much softer cotton I got at Josephine's Dry Goods in Portland last summer. I have maybe two yards and I think it's 45 inches wide. Since Edith has no sleeves and a pretty slim fit, I might just be able to squeeze it out.

My pattern review is on PatternReview.com here.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Summer Trousers

The Man and I are heading off to Idaho in July. Traveling by car, as usual. Neither of us like flying and both of us like driving, which is another indication that we are made for each other.

In preparation, I've been sewing up a thing or two to keep me cool and comfortable on the journey.

Front view
These trousers are BS 05-2013-117.  On their website, Burdastyle calls them "Tie Up Pants," which makes them sound a lot more exotic than they really are.

Side view
They're actually drawstring pants with nice, deep slash pockets. Here's the line drawing for you:

Not a lot of shaping going on, but since my waist and hips are pretty close to the same size, shaping is optional for me.

Back view
I used a light cotton chambray (at least I think it's a chambray). It's breezy and loosely woven, and it doesn't appear to need ironing after a wash, which is a definite plus for me!

Front View showing elastic waist
Here's a shot with my top hiked up so you an see how the waist sits. It comes out just about belly-button height on me.

You'll notice the lack of a drawstring. I made these pants a couple of years ago out of a brightly printed rayon and I went with the drawstring on that pair. I ended up taking it out and subbing in some elastic. I like the idea of drawstring pants but I always have trouble arranging that darn bow so that I don't end up with a lump in the front of my top.

The fabric is probably too delicate to make long lasting pants, but I think this pair should see me through vacation. Picture me sitting on the veranda at the Sun Valley Lodge, sipping a chilled, dry vin gris while watching the ice skaters twirl around in the summer sun.

My pattern review is on PatternReview.com here.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Two Tees for One

I scored this remnant of striped knit at a local garage sale. A sale at my friend Jessica's house, as a matter of fact. There was, maybe, a yard and a half?

I really liked the colors, as did The Man. He would have been happy to have a tee in this fabric for himself but, since he likes his tees enormously long and with large pockets, there wasn't quite enough fabric to kit him out. Especially given the demands of stripe matching.

Kirsten Tee from Maria Denmark 
So instead I made myself two tees! My first go was with an old favorite, the Kirsten Kimono Tee from Maria Denmark. Cut on sleeve means you need just enough fabric to get the length you want. Plus, free pattern! If you haven't given it a try, I recommend it highly.

Side view
And I think I did OK with the stripe matching! My arm is in the way, so you can't really check out the side seams, but you can kind of see I chevron-ed the shoulder seams, right?

Back view. Not too exciting.
I cut the neckband on the lengthwise grain, so the stripes run the opposite direction to the body of the tee. Quick and easy, and the color combo seems to go with most of my pants and skirts.

I was left with a tantalizing remnant. It looked like it should be enough to eek out a sleeveless tee, but I'd be sporting a crop top if I wasn't pretty creative with layout.

That night in bed I had a little "ah-ha" moment and realized that, since this knit has 4-way stretch, I could just flip the fabric to cut the pieces on the cross-grain.

Alabama Chanin tee, sleeveless version
This is the tee from Alabama Studio Sewing + Design. It's another great pattern for using teeny tiny bits of fabric; as the fit is pretty slim. I also appreciate that the neckline is high and the shoulders are pretty covered up for a sleeveless tee. Irish heritage plus California sun can be a bad combination.

I had just enough fabric so that I could give some thought to stripe matching on this axis too.

I didn't get a good shoulder shot to demonstrate, but I even managed to match the stripes going front to back.

And I chevroned the stripes at the side seams. Not identically, if you compare the left side to the right side, but if you only look at me from one side at a time, it's pretty good!

Just in time for summer!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Cocoknits Lizzie

This spring I went on up to Stitches West with a couple of my knitter friends. During our explorations we stopped by the Cocoknits booth. Julie Weisenberger had just released a new book called the Cocoknits Sweater Workshop. She had a bunch of her patterns made up for us happy knitters to try on.
I tried one of the cardigans, the Lizzie, and bought the pattern book on the spot. I also bought 2 skeins of a cotton/hemp blend yarn ($28 bucks). I was so excited, I cast on pretty much right after I got home.

And here it is, all finished, blocked and ready to wear! This was a quick knit for me. Most of the patterns in the book would be, I think. I won't say it was super easy though. The patterns use some techniques that were new to me, so I stumbled around in the beginning. Take a look, for example, at this sleeve.

That lump is the Kirsten Kimono Tee that I have on underneath
Looks like a set-in sleeve, don't it? It fits like one too. But it's done seamlessly, from the top down, using a method I've never seen before. The book walks you clearly through the whole process but I found it a little mind-bending.

I was reading a thread on Ravelry about how many times knitters are willing to rip and redo to get something right. The average seemed to be about three; many folks figured that if the third time wasn't the charm it was a sign that the yarn wanted to be something else and you should set it free to find its true destiny.

This Lizzie taught me that I'm willing to rip and re-do 9 times, if I think I'm learning something. Luckily the challenging parts are all right at the beginning, so ripping was hardly heart-wrenching at all.

I'm super glad I persevered, because I love the way these shoulders fit. I think I might have square shoulders? At any rate, top down cardigans always feel like they're slipping off of me backwards. Set in sleeves, on the other hand, feel much better. Well, this is a top-down, seamless knit with sleeves that fit like a seamed, set-in sleeve. And now that I know how to work the magic, I'll never go back.

back view showing cropped length
The Cocoknits aesthetic is what I would call clean and modern; asymmetrical lines, lots of drape, lots of open fabrics. My knitter friend, Jessica, is tall and slim and stylish. She was born to wear these styles. As a short brick, I feel like I have to approach them with some caution.

There's a write-up in the book that helps you choose which styles and which modifications will work best with your frame. Julie points out that the waterfall neckline works well for us shorties by giving a strong, vertical line, and that by ending both the body and the sleeves close to my narrowest point I can emphasize whatever waistline I have.

I would say that I enjoyed the making and I'm enjoying the wearing. I could totally see knitting this one up again, maybe in a light wool for a bit of coziness. Come to think of it, I have some green Mission Falls in stash that has been looking for a project for years.

If you want to give the Cocoknits method a whirl, they have a Youtube channel with videos that will show you the way.

My Revelry notes are here.

Little Hoodie

OK, this is absolutely the last piece of baby clothing I'm sewing until the kid is at least 18 months old.

This is the Brindille & Twig hooded raglan sweatshirt. I used a soft, gray cotton jersey and lined the hood with some frog jersey, left over from the Froggy Coco that I made for my DSIL for Christmas.

Frogs on lily pads for the hood liner
I've made a few Brindille & Twig patterns by now and I like them very much. Some of the baby patterns I've tried seem to have the same "excessive ease" issues that I've found with the Big 4 adult sewing patterns. Witness, Butterick 6364, which delivered an 11 inch inseam on pants allegedly sized for a 6 month old. I ask you.

The items I've made from Brindille & Twig look like they'll fit an actual child of the age the size suggests. Now, I haven't tried any of them on a actual child yet, but within the next month I should have my chance.

They're also easy to put together, and include the kinds of cute details that make the result feel special.

For example, this hoodie includes a functional front pocket. Not sure what a 6-month old will be wanting to carry around in his pockets, but he'll have them if needed!

Besides being very cute and easy to put together, this pattern is free. And it includes sizes from newborn to 5-6 T. What could be better?

My pattern review is on PatternReview.com here.

I'll leave you with a very LA picture, taken while sipping a glass of wine in the garden with my DSIL after the baby shower.