Sunday, May 31, 2015

Stashbusting Challenge 2015

Announcing the June theme for the 2015 Stashbusting Sewalong:

Click here to read all about the Sewalong
Yes, June is all about knits. You know you love them. Even if you don't sew with them very often (or perhaps at all?), I bet you wear them all the time. Tee shirts, yoga pants, underwear - nothing beats a knit when you want that second-skin comfort. And when that hot, summer weather hits, a knit dress or top in a nice, natural fiber is just what the doctor ordered.
The knit stash - smaller than it used to be!
Why did I volunteer to be the host for knits month? I can tell you that it's not because I am a skillful or experienced knit seamstress - I'm still a newcomer.  What I am, though, is an enthusiastic and accomplished stasher of knits. Knits were probably about 75% of my stash when I began the Stashbusting Sewalong in January. I've been diligently chipping away at the knit shelves over the past 5 months, so I'd say the proportions are now more like 50-50.

Oh, what the heck. I'll just come right out and admit it; I've bought some knits over the past few months too. I just can't say "no" to a good knit, especially if it's a great color or print.
Got these at the Tilton booth in Puyallup. The devil made me do it.
If you're comfortable working with knits, jump on the bandwagon and dive into your knit stash! You'll be glad you did. Especially when you throw on that new tee or maxi skirt and head on out to the beach. Or, if you're a Southern Hemisphere sewist, when you cuddle into that soft, warm cowl-neck Renfrew...

If you are a bit of a knit newby, here are  couple of knit myth busters that might encourage you to give sewing with these fabulous fabrics a try:

Don't you need a serger to sew with knits? No, you do not! I don't have a serger and I can sew up most any garment I want, right on my Babylock Craftmaster. My seams might not look quite so pretty on the inside, but knits mostly don't fray. Practically speaking, you don't need to finish those seams at all. And as far as hems, I often don't hem my knits at all. Remember, those edges don't fray, and no hem means less bulk if you're going to tuck in that top.  If you do want a hem, your regular sewing machine can handle the job just fine, especially if you throw in some stabilizing hem tape.

But you do need a special stretch stitch, right? Again, no! My friend Martha has recently been sucked into sewing. She's been turning out super cute tee shirts on her grandmother's Singer Featherweight.

I recently took the Craftsy class on the Ultimate Tee, taught by the Tilton sisters. I learned that, unless you're sewing something with negative ease (like a swimsuit), you can just go ahead and use your straight stitch. My machine does have a stretch stitch (a.k.a. lightening bolt stitch) but I rarely use it these days. The straight stitch is quicker, uses less thread and is much easier to pick out (not that I ever need to do that).

So, toss that stash and pull out your bits of knits! And remember to share the inspiration on facebook and flicker!

May Burda Challenge - Fifties Love Affair

Just under the wire, here is my May garment for the Burdastyle Challenge.

The May, 2015 issue didn't have anything that really grabbed me, so I went on a very enjoyable voyage through the Mays of the past. I settled on these trousers, from the Fifties Love Affair section of the 2011 issue.

Burdastyle 05-2011 #124
The magazine shows the model lounging against a cream colored Jaguar convertible (which The Man believes to be an XKE). She's wearing the trousers with a pleat-neck top and carrying a wee Luis Vitton bag. Very Audrey Hepburn. They describe the trousers as "tapered 3/4 length classic trousers/pants with low-set broad waistband and deep pleats."

I am 5'2" (and three quarters) and I have what I like to think of as "athletic" calves. I don't do cropped trousers. I thought I could figure out how to lengthen them though, and in stash I had some charcoal twill with a bit of lycra that seemed like it might work well.

Inspired and eager, I hopped up to the cutting room (a.k.a. the carpet in the guest bedroom), laid out my tools and stared intently at the pattern sheet until I thought I had my three pieces spotted. I went to roll out my tracing paper, and then disaster struck. I was out. Drat!!

I use medical exam paper for my pattern tracing. Apparently I'm so used to that paper that I can no longer use anything else. I placed an emergency order with Amazon, paid for expedited shipping and twiddled my thumbs for 11 days. Finally, last Tuesday my package arrived and I got to work.

I lengthened the pants about 4 inches. I thought that would allow plenty of room for error, but it turned out to be just enough.

I moved the zipper from the side to the back because I couldn't wrap my brain around how to install a side zip into an inseam pocket, and I was pretty sure that Burda was not going to give me much help. In fact, I was barely able to stumble through the pocket instructions at all.

When I do an in-seam pocket, I normally sew the pocket pieces to the sides of the garment front and back and then seam the front and back together all in one go. Burda had me sew the side seams on the pants, but leave the pocket slit open. Then you attach the pocket pieces to the garment front and back, sew the edges of the pockets closed and press to the whole schmear to the front.

It took me two hours to figure out pocket #1, and then I proceeded to do pocket #2 wrong.  Twice.

The fit doesn't look this bad if I don't have my hands in my pockets, hones.
I also changed the waistband to have a button. Burda had the zipper going all the way to the top of the waistband. I kind of like my waistband to be a bit more adjustable. Cake and all.

I haven't really test-worn them yet, but I think I like them. Even though there are pleats in the front, the fit isn't baggy, so they're different from my enormous pleated 80's pants.

Roomy 80's pants
My only complaint is that the pockets can gape open a bit. I wouldn't mind so much, but I made the pockets out of contrasting fabric, so there's a flash of blue when I move. I may end up sewing those pockets closed, which would really chap my hide, considering how much brain-sweat went into installing the darned things.

 See that small flash of blue there?
I should have made the smaller pocket piece out of the pants fabric, then all would be well. Next time....

My pattern review is on here.

Me Made May The End

Monday I met my friend, Martha, for a dog walk and sewing show-and-tell. She took up sewing again a couple of weeks ago and she's been going gangbusters! She loaned me a couple of patterns I need to take a look at. I wore my Burdastyle 70's pants and a Burdastyle gathered shoulder tee.

Tuesday was a work day. I wore my Kicking Up the 80's pants, an Alabama Chanin tee and a Summer Cardi from Knitting Pure and Simple.

Wednesday was another work day. I wore my Beetle Dress (the zip front dress from Gertie Sews Vintage Casual). This is a very easy dress to wear. I went for a hike at lunch and was totally comfortable.

Thursday was an at-home day. I wore my good old Burdastyle Straight Pants (I wear these all the time, it's a great pattern), a Kirsten Kimono tee and the Summer Cardi again. So far, this has been the kind of summer that requires a cardi.

Friday I wore my Burdastyle Pajama Style Pants and a sleeveless shell I knitted years ago. My photographer was worried you'd all be getting bored of seeing the front door, so he set me up taking a sighting through an antique compass.

Saturday I sewed most of the day - ahhh. Just what the doctor ordered. I almost forgot to take a snapshot, so I'm afraid it's a cell-phone selfie. I wore my Burdastyle 70's trousers and another Burdastyle gathered shoulder tee.

Sunday was another at-home day. I wore my khaki Burdastyle Narrow Leg Pants with a woven tee I made long ago. Plus - me made undies!

Whew! That's Me Made May done and dusted. Now that I've been sewing for a few years I usually wear a me-made wardrobe, but my day-to-day dressing is pretty repetitive. Like, even more repetitive than what you've seen here. Me Made May gets me thinking about things I haven't worn for a while. It also gets me to think about putting things together a bit differently. That knitted shell, for example. I'd forgotten about that top and it's actually kind of cute.

And - it makes me realize I need to go through my closet and drawers to get rid of things that are getting tired to make way for the fruits of my stashbusting!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Experiments in Undergarments

I’ve been wanting to try making my own undies for a while now, but somehow I hadn’t gotten around to it. Then, just when I needed a kick in the pants (ha ha), along came the Stashbusting Sewalong’s Lingerie theme.

My old standby undies are the High Leg Brief by Victoria’s Secret. Back in the day, that style used to come up to my waist – or pretty close, anyway. Now that a lower rise is so popular in the RTW world, Victoria’s waistband has been migrating downwards. I find that a line of elastic across my high hip cuts right into my chub. VPL for sure.

Now that I have a few me-made knit skirts and trousers that I like to wear, I’m all about the smooth silhouette. 

In fact, my goal is to avoid elastic altogether. On top of disliking the chub-compression properties of elastic, my frugality gene came into play. I like the idea of making undies out of scraps and nothing but scraps. How sweet would it be if I could come up with a plan that didn’t involve purchasing any special elastics or findings?

One of my favorite sewing ladies (who, sadly, hasn’t been posting recently) is Loran of Loran’s World. She wrote a great post about sewing lingerie and active wear using self-fabric bands rather than elastic. She used to sew dance wear this way, and I figure if it works for a dancer, it’s going to stay put just fine for me. 

Burdastyle 01/2012, #127
I hauled out the high-waisted panty pattern from the January, 2012 issue of Burdastyle. I remember thinking the pattern was pretty cute when I first got this issue, but I was put off by the zipper called for in the instructions. Zippers in undies just seems like too much . . . something. But if I made the undies out of a stretchy knit I could probably omit that puppy, just like I’d omit the zipper from a knit dress.

And bingo!

I test-drove the undies yesterday and they felt pretty good. Meaning that I didn’t notice them at all. The knit bands that substituted for elastic did their job, though I think the cut of these undies helps minimize any creep factor.

Plus I think they look pretty cute. I’m too dignified to post a photo. Imagine me modeling these undies, but looking more like Betty Grable than I actually do.

For this trial pair I used some scraps of cotton jersey left over from making tee shirts for The Man. Fabric constraints inspired me to make my first attempt at color blocking. I kind of like it! Maybe I can flex my color-blocking muscles with underwear and then move on to outerwear.

I initially cut the size 36, as suggested by my measurements. The pattern is designed for a stretch woven, so I thought I wouldn’t downsize immediately. I ended up retracing the pattern in the smallest size. I think I’ll try to size it down a bit more next time, just because I’m used to the feeling of a snugger fit for underwear.

I like this style enough that I to make up several more pairs. I may just go a bit wild with the fabric combos. I have some black lace that would be fun for those side panels.

Have a hankering to try some lingerie sewing yourself? Obsessive Creativeness has a plethora of tutorial and free pattern links here!

My pattern review is on here.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Me Made May Week Four

Monday I walked downtown with the dog and did a few errands, so it was a pair of Burdastyle straight pants and a Kirsten Kimono Tee.

Tuesday was a work day, and chilly to boot, so I wore a pair of 40's Retro Trousers (Simplicity 3688) and my spotty Santa Monica Tee. I just bought some fabric to make another pair of these trousers. The two I have are getting pretty beat up, and I really like this pattern!

Wednesday was another work day.  Word on the street was that it was going to get sunny in the afternoon, so I wore an Alabama Chanin skirt and a top I knitted years ago, using Madeline Tosh yarn and a pattern from Custom Knits by Wendy Bernard.

Thursday my Great Pyrenees, Zoe, and I did a Stress Relief visit with Furry Friends, our pet assisted therapy group. We went out to Scotts Valley High with about 6 other dogs to meet the students at their lunch hour. The kids were adorable, and they threw themselves on the dogs like they were starved for love. It was a cold, drizzly day, so I spent the afternoon drying out in front of the fire in my old friends, my Burdastyle straight pants, and my Furry Friends uniform shirt.

Friday I went to a gourd decorating class with my friend, Jessica. What a great way to spend the day! Our teacher, Carmen, was wonderful. There were three other students and we chatted away about all sorts of things while dying, carving and decorating our gourds. I wish I had pictures of the other gourds - it was so fun to see how different they all turned out! It was still grey and chilly most of the day, so I wore a Renfrew cowl neck tee with my Barb pants.

Me and my gourd
Saturday Zoe and I visited a nursing home with Furry Friends and then went for a dog walk with her pals, Hitchcock and Griffith (and my friends Therese and Maurice). We hiked up into a park behind our house and lucked into some of the prettiest weather we've had all week. I wore my Burdastyle straight pants again, along with yet another Renfrew. This particular pair of pants is one of my favorites, partly because they're comfortable and partly because the fabric seems to repel dog hair more successfully than most of my other clothes. When you have a Great Pyrenees, a lot of your wardrobe decisions are driven by dog hair.

Sunday we had a lazy morning, then cleaned house and went to they gym in the afternoon. I wore my Bagua pants and yet another Renfrew. Have I gotten my money's worth out of this pattern, or what? And I plan to make more. I love the neckline variations and those 3/4 length sleeves are so darn practical.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Me Made May, Week Three

On Monday I mucked around in the yard wearing an ancient woven tee and my Burdastyle 10/2013-127a (Straight Pants). I think it's almost end time for this tee. The fabric is fraying around the neckline and hems. I'll be sad to see it go. It's made from the leftovers from a set of place mats I made for The Man probably more than 10 years ago.

Tuesday was a work day. I wore an Alabama Chanin tee along with a pleated skirt made from a Kaffe Fasset fabric I got at Jimmy Bean's in Reno. I made up the pleating myself in an attempt to use all of the fabric I could. Sadly, my math skills failed me. I have a couple of odd tucks on either side where I had to get rid of some excess to squeeze on the waistband. Luckily, you can't really tell, given how busy the print is.

Wednesday was another work day. I was planning on a lunchtime walk with some friends so I had to dress outdoor-friendly. I went for my brown ponte Barb pants and a cotton sweater I knitted years ago.

Thursday we went to bagua in the morning and then I grocery shopped and knitted in the afternoon. I wore a Burdastyle gathered sleeve tee with my denim Burdastyle Pajama Style Pants.

On Friday I cleaned house, so I went for comfort and easy mobility. I wore my bagua pants and an old Kirsten Kimono Tee.

On Saturday we went up to San Francisco for the Bay to Breakers. It was chilly and grey most of the day - the weather we call "June Gloom" on the Central Coast. I wore my Burdastyle Straight Pants again, along with a Christine Johnson V-neck Tee. I topped it off with my Minoru and felt cozy. We did some quality carbo loading and I found the time to squeeze in a visit to Britex. I found a piece of scuba knit to make another Gertie pencil skirt.

On Sunday I ran the race at 8:00 and spent the rest of the day collapsed on the couch, wearing yet another pair of Burdastyle Straight Pants and my Bay to Breakers tee.

What I learned this week: on a day to day basis I tend to wear the same things over and over. That's even during Me Made May, when I make an effort to attain a higher standard.

I also see that I haven't yet produced anything in the categories of clothing that I wanted to focus on for Me Made May; undies and active wear. Time to get on the stick!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Me Made May, Week Two

Monday is so long ago that I can't seem to remember what the heck I did, but it looks like I did it wearing one of my Kirsten Kimono Tees and a pair of Burdastyle 10/2013-127a (Straight Pants). I've made this pants pattern four times now. It's my go-to basic trouser pattern.

Tuesday was a work day and also a party day. I met some friends at a local brew pub to celebrate launching the second phase of our project. Beer and calamari all around! I wore my new Gertie Knit Pencil Skirt with a Burdastyle Dolman Sleeve top.

Wednesday was another work day. I wore an Alabama Chanin tee with my 80's pants. My photo editing software is pretty good, but apparently it can't iron.

Thursday The Man left early for a quick out-of-town trip, so I was on my own for photos. This is my attempt at a cell phone selfie. Oh wow, it's so dark that I can't really tell what I had on. I think it was a pair of Burdastyle Straight Pants and my black Christine Johnson V-Neck Tee. It was a bit chilly and rainy that day and the high neck felt nice and cozy. I putzed around the house and had my friend, Martha over for dinner. She's been sucked into sewing (mwah ha ha) so we had a delightful crafty chat.

Cell phone selfie
Friday I picked up The Boy, who very sweetly flew up to see me for Mother's Day. We walked around downtown Santa Cruz so I could check to see if the May Burdastyle was in the bookstore. It wasn't, darn it. I'm wearing the same Burdastyle Straight Pants as yesterday with my spotty Renfrew cowl neck and my Minoru.

Photo credit to The Boy and my iPhone
Saturday started out foggy and grey and then turned sunny and beautiful in the afternoon. The Boy and I went out for a huge breakfast at Zachery's and then wandered about enjoying the day. I wore my brown Barb pants with a red Renfrew cowl neck.

The Boy took this one too.
Today we made waffles for breakfast and then I dropped The Boy off at the airport.  I also bought myself a new pair of running shoes for the Bay to Breakers next weekend. I'm wearing my Burdastyle Pajama Style Pants and, yes, another Renfrew.

Me Made May is teaching me that I wear a lot of Renfrews. And I haven't even tried the V-neck version yet!

Friday, May 8, 2015

Easiest Skirt Ever

This skirt has one pattern piece - you can't get any easier than that. The skirt front and back are identical and the waist band is cut on. Two seams and you're done.

I'm wearing it with another version of The Easiest Tee Yet, top #108 from the September, 2011 issue of Burdstyle. It also has only a front and a back, though they're cut from two slightly different pattern pieces. By the way, this tee is my project for the April Stashbusting Challenge theme - Vibrant Color. Honest, it was cut out in April, even though I didn't actually sew those four seams until May 2.

From the front, belted and shirt tucked in
The skirt is the Knit Pencil Skirt from Gertie Sews Vintage Casual, made up in a dark brown ponte. A yard was plenty for me, making this a pretty economical garment.

Back view
I really like the way the pattern has you put in the elastic at the waist. You make your loop of elastic and then sew it to the top of the skirt on the inside, then flip the top edge down and stitch in the ditch at the side seams to keep things in place. The elastic is covered, but you don't have any seam showing on the outside. I've made a pants pattern by Loes Hines that does the same thing. It gives a pretty smooth line for an elastic waist.

This is the 4th garment I've made from Gertie Sews Vintage Casual; 2 dresses (here and here), this skirt and a tee which is yet to be blogged. For me, that's a pretty good track record for a sewing book.

Un-belted view
I've gone from someone with no pencil skirts to someone with two pencil skirts in just a few months. They're easier to wear than I would have imagined. This knit one is really comfortable and versatile. I took it along on a recent weekend getaway and it worked well in the evening with heels and a silky top and also during the day with sandals and a loose tee.

So, two more hunks of knit carved out of the stash closet. Go, me!

My pattern review is on here.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Me Made May, Week One

Week One of Me Made May is in the bag.

Friday was a gardening day, so I wore my second oldest pair of Burda trousers and what's probably my oldest Maria Denmark Kirsten Kimono Tee. Both great patterns that I've made in multiples. Gee, I love sewing something that I know is going to fit from the get go.

Happy wine taster

Saturday I wore my Alabama Chanin tee and my Burda 70's Wide Leg Trousers. We did a few errands and then went out for a little wine tasting at Hallcrest Vineyards in Felton. If you're in the area and feel like a glass of wine on a lovely country patio, I highly recommend a visit.

Sunday I test drove a new top, the Sweetheart Tee from Gertie Sews Vintage Casual. I think the neckline is cute, but overall the tee does me no favors. I made a size 6, which is my usual for Gertie's patterns, but the arm scythes are just tight enough to be uncomfortable. Worn here with my 70's pants again. Clearly I need to do laundry. Though the more I wear these 70's pants, the better I like them. I have some grey twill that I might just earmark for a second pair.

I'm sad to say that I haven't gotten myself together to sew my own undergarments, so my inner layer is store bought. Pretty old store bought too, because I refuse to buy any more undies when I know I can make something just as nice from my huge pile of knit scraps.

Good thing that the May theme for the Stashbusting Sewalong is lingerie - that should give me an extra kick in the butt!