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Apr 042014

Wow, it’s again been a month since my last post!  I’m just so busy writing this dissertation that I don’t have time for much else.  I haven’t even been sewing much for myself.  I’ve made some cushions for an architect friend’s clients, some unpaper towels for my sister-in-law, and a dress for a friend’s little girl, but nothing for myself.  This week I began working on my Victory Patterns Anouk muslin, which I had cut out in the fall but never sewed up.  I got all the fit issues worked out last night and I hope to get the real version (I almost typed final draft – too much dissertating!) done in time for a sewing meetup on Sunday with some local Chicago bloggers.  I always get inspired to make something new when I have big events coming up, despite the fact that big events = people I don’t see often or I’m seeing for the first time, which means whatever I wear, it’s likely new to them.  But whatever gets me back at the sewing machine is A-ok with me!  I also downloaded the Bluegingerdoll Winifred dress pattern and began taping it together.  When I got sick of doing that, I thought maybe I’d finally get my act together and write a blog post.

Today’s post is about a top I made and took pictures of last fall.  That’s how behind I am with blogging about my makes – so even I haven’t been sewing, I have things to write about!  I think everyone and their mom has made this shirt by now, so I’m way late to the party, but there’s a reason it’s so popular.  Jalie patterns are pretty well-fitting because they’re mostly knits, and knits are hard to screw up in the fit department.  For this one, I wanted a little more ease than what’s built into the pattern because I don’t like my knits to be clingy, so I made the two pattern pieces a little wider using my Renfrew pattern piece as a guide.  I love the way my Renfrews fit, so I figured this would be a good bet, and it was.  The only other alteration I made was to sew the center seam a little bit higher to raise the neckline to a height I was more comfortable with.  The version you see below is a sort of wearable muslin.  The fabric was really cheap from Vogue and I wasn’t super emotionally attached to it or anything, so I figured it wouldn’t be a great loss if it didn’t work out.  Luckily, it did!



One weird thing about this fabric is that it comes out of the washer looking all twisted up but when it dries it’s fine again.  I always do my best to cut things on grain because I always hated those t-shirts that twist around your body because they’re cut off grain.  I use the fold and hang method: I fold the fabric in half and then hold it up by the two corners that AREN’T at the fold, if that makes sense – so I’m holding four free corners and letting the rest of the fabric hang free.  If the bottom part, or the fold, is smooth, that means you’re on grain.  If the fabric has diagonal drag lines leading toward the bottom fold, then you’re off grain.  If you’re off grain, you adjust your corners at the top until the drag lines disappear, thus indicating that you’re now on grain.  I’ve heard about people thread-tracing along a vertical line of the knit rib, but I think that’s totally excessive unless we’re talking about a couture garment or something, and I kinda don’t think I would make myself a couture garment out of a knit fabric, so I don’t see myself doing that anytime soon.  I like the fold and hang method because it gets at what’s important about locating your grain, which is that the fabric hangs nicely.  In my mind, it’s not critically important that it be ZOMG PRECISELY ON GRAIN.  It’s important that falls from your body in a straight line and not in a twisted mess.

Ok, so that was a really long discourse on finding the grainline!  Like I’ve been saying, dissertation brain.  So I used this method on this fabric, and all seemed well.  Before I washed it, the fabric hung nicely and I suspected no problems.  But when it came out of the washer it was so twisted that it looked terrible.  This top has a front center seam, so it’s really obvious if it’s not hanging straight.  If I had put on the shirt as it was when it came out of the washer, the top of the front seam would have been at the center of my body, but the bottom of the seam would have been completely on my side.  I decided that I must have been sleep-deprived when I cut the fabric and that the shirt would be a loss.  Oh well, the fabric wasn’t that important to me anyway.  Not wanting to throw a wet shirt into the trash to molder, I let it air dry hanging on the back of a chair.  Imagine my surprise when I returned the next to see that my seams had magically migrated back to where they were supposed to be!  Very strange.  This fabric has done the same thing every single time I’ve washed it.  Anyone have any clue what this might be about?  I’ve never seen such a thing.



The skirt in these photos is a denim skirt I made last summer when I decided that I had a massive shortage of skirts.  As soon as I made a bunch, I realized I had a corresponding massive shortage of tops to wear with them, leading me to realize that what I’d started with was simply a shortage in clothes.  I lost some weight last year, so I didn’t fit in a lot of my clothes.  I’ve gained some of it back, so I think I’m going to have the same problem this summer.  Sigh.  Anyway, this skirt was one I threw together using a skirt pattern I’ve modified from a Kwik Sew pattern.  The original pattern has a center box pleat, but I’ve only made that version once.  If you just hack off the part of the pattern that corresponds to the box pleat, it’s a pretty good moderate a-line skirt.  I like the shape on me, so I’ve made it a ton of times.  I made this one super simple without a top waistband because I was trying to get it finished before leaving on a trip.


I actually hate this skirt because I didn’t realize how super stretchy the denim was when I bought it from Joann’s.  I really hate stretch denim – especially when it’s cheap stretch denim because gets baggy.  I like denim because it’s structured.  Making it stretchy defeats that purpose.  I wear the skirt occasionally, but it bugs me every time.  Below is how I usually wear this top – with a sweater and a cami underneath.  The fabric is sooo sheer that not wearing a cami is out of the question.


So that’s Jalie 2921 and a sort of crappy skirt!  I hope to report back soon with Anouk success and some thoughts on the Winifred dress, which I haven’t seen a lot in the blogosphere.  I also want to show you the dress I made for my friend’s little girl because I think it’s adorable!


Feb 282014

In my last post, I mentioned that I had a lot of boring utility projects to get done over the weekend – a pair of fleece lounge pants for my husband, long johns for him and leggings for me from Under Armour fabric, and a slip were all on the list.  I got it all done that weekend except for the elastic in the waist of the long johns because I didn’t have the right width, but I got them done about a week later.

The slip was pretty basic – I just used Gertie’s tutorial and made it with rayon bemberg lining, which is awesome and never sticks to anything and is the perfect slip and lining material.  The fleece lounge pants were made with a Kwik Sew pattern and are really basic, so I don’t have photos.  The only thing special about them is that they have no elastic and close with only a drawstring, per Ben’s request.  I was really happy when I realized I could make him lounge pants because it meant I wouldn’t have to look at any more home surgery to remove elastic on store-bought pants!  I made them with Polartec fleece I got from Rocky Woods, and it’s SO MUCH nicer than the fleece I got at Joann’s, which I think must not really be intended for garments.  So now I’ll have to make another pair of these so I don’t have to look at the grubby fleece from the pair I made last year.

But the thing I was most excited about was making leggings and long johns out of Under Armour fabric that I also got at Rocky Woods.  You may have heard about or lived through some of this polar vortex we’ve been having .  I prefer to wear dresses and skirts pretty much always, and to keep the cold at bay, I’ve been relying on a pair of fleece-backed leggings I got at Target, but they’re really getting run ragged by repeated wearings and washings.  When it gets really cold, Ben has been wearing his old fleece pants under his jeans or khakis, which just sounds awfully uncomfortable to me.  I read about Melissa’s cold gear PB Jam leggings on her blog at Fehr Trade, and was excited to see that I could buy my own Under Armour cold gear fabric, also from Rocky Woods.  As Melissa mentions, their inventory changes constantly, so they don’t always have every color and sometimes have odd colors/prints.  I decided to get some in black and white.  I don’t know why I thought I’d like the white because I never wear white tights, but I ended up with three yards of the stuff because of my freewheeling shopping ways.  I made Ben’s long johns out of those and might make a pair of leggings for myself that I can wear other colors of tights over.  The cold gear fabric I got is four-way stretch, so it’s perfect for making leggings, which really need to stretch lengthwise as well as widthwise.


Sorry – no pictures of us in these because they’re basically underwear!

I used Jalie 2920 for my leggings, and it was one of the super easiest things I’ve ever sewn!  It’s just two pieces and you sew them together lickety-split on the serger (and Jalie gives you great instructions for sewing knits without a serger), finish the waist band and hems, and you’re done!  I made things a little more complicated by making the stirrup version, but even that was pretty quick and simple.  I thought the stirrups would be good because I always put socks on over the bottom of the leggings and then wear boots, and I thought the stirrups would keep the leggings from riding up.  The stirrup on these pants is less of a stirrup and more of a hole you put in the backside of a longer version of the leggings.  Your ankle goes in the hole and prevents the bottom of the leggings from going anywhere.  Jalie just has you cut the hole then turn the edges to the inside and zigzag.  I can’t say my “stirrups” look that beautiful, but they’re going to be under socks all the time, so who cares?


For the waistband elastic, they have some method where you stitch the elastic to the waistband and then turn it down, blah, blah, blah, and I seriously can’t understand why anyone would use or recommend this method when you could just make a casing and slide the elastic in it.  So much simpler and better looking!  So that’s what I did.  I stitched the casing with my coverstitch machine so it would stretch (or you could just use a zigzag on a regular sewing machine!).   I also used the coverstitch on the bottom hems, and I put a little tab of ribbon in the back of the waistband so I can easily tell the back from the front when putting them on.


These leggings were so quick and easy, and I love them to death!  They’re warm and the outside of the Under Armour fabric isn’t as sticky as my fleece lined leggings from Target, so I don’t even need to wear my new slip with these.  I got good use out of them on Monday when we got another 8 inches of snow here, but on Tuesday it was almost 50 degrees!  I’m sure I’ll have plenty more opportunity to use them, though, since it’s only the middle of February and just a couple of weeks ago the groundhog promised us six more weeks of winter!

For Ben’s long johns, I used the out of print Jalie 2328, which is the only men’s long johns pattern I could find anywhere.  It’s out of print, but I was able to buy it in a PDF version from Jalie’s website.  No one else seems to have made a pattern like this, so I can’t understand why Jalie discontinued it.  These long johns are made with a fly flap thingy (is there a technical term for that thing?) that men’s underwear have, which made these a little more difficult than my leggings.  It was mostly just wrapping my brain around the construction order, which I always find a little confusing on Jalie’s patterns because they rely mostly on the drawings with very limited written instructions.  


The long johns were a little *too* long because this fabric is four-way stretch, which means it stretches lengthwise as you put it on, so I cut some of the length off at the bottom.  My leggings were also a bit too long, but I just left the length as is because I hate it when tights or leggings are too short and then you feel like you have to be hiking them up all the time.  Not a classy look to be constantly tugging at your underthings!  I used the same casing method for the elastic in these, but I cut the elastic too short when I put it in the first time, and they were too tight.  To replace the elastic, I unpicked all the coverstitching, which, if you’re smarter than me, you’ll realize wasn’t necessary.  Hello!  When you make a casing for your elastic and then decide to change the size of the elastic, you don’t need to unpick everything!  How do you think you got it in there in the first place, bonehead?!  I realized as soon as I sat down to do the new coverstitching that I had just done all that work for nothing.  Ugh.  

Even though there’s a heat wave today (20 degrees instead of 3!), I’ll be wearing my leggings when I go out.  One thing I really love about them is that the right side of the fabric is somewhat silky, so I don’t have to wear a slip with these like I do with my fleece lined leggings from Target.  Win!