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!

jalie-2921-front

 

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.

jalie-2921-side

 

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.

jalie-2921-back

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.

jalie-2921-front-cardigan

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.

jalie-2920-leggings-front

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?

jalie-2920-leggings-stirrup

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.

jalie-2920-leggings-waistband

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.  

jalie-2328-long-johns

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!

Dec 142013
 

I don’t really like tiramisu.  The dessert, that is.  People have told me I’m crazy for not liking tiramisu because it’s supposed to be so amazing and because I’m Italian, but I say no thank you!  Benjamin and I went to see Wicked on Thursday and went out to eat at an Italian restaurant beforehand.  When the waiter asked if we wanted to try the world’s best tiramisu, we laughed nervously and asked for cheesecake, hoping not to offend him.  Our cheesecake was delicious (and Wicked was a lot of fun)!  When it comes to the Tiramisu dress from Cake Patterns, however, I’m a huge fan!

red-stripe-cake-patterns-tiramisu-front

I’m going to be honest – I hated it at first.  Surplice dresses are cute and all, but they always gap open on me, so I dismissed the Tiramisu as just another dress that wouldn’t work on my body type.  I also hated how tall the waist band was.  A lot of people seem to think it’s flattering, but I would haaaaate it on me.  I’m short-torsoed (and short-everythingelsed, for that matter!) for one thing, and for another, the proportion just looks off to me on pretty much everyone I’ve seen it on (sorry, fans of the tall waistband!).  As I read more reviews of the pattern, however, I discovered that the Tiramisu has a special neck binding that’s supposed to keep it from gapping.

red-stripe-cake-patterns-tiramisu-no-gap

And holy crap, it worked, you guys!  Please forgive the brightness of that picture – it was taken before I started taking real pictures for the blog, so I wasn’t worried about standing in a spot where the sunlight didn’t wash everything out.  But you get the point – I’m leaning over and there’s no gap!  Woohoo!  I was pretty amazed by this and was so thrilled I decided to give the Tiramisu a chance.

red-stripe-cake-patterns-tiramisu-back

I even managed to line up my stripes perfectly thanks to the grain/stripe lines on the pattern pieces.  Genius!  As you can see, I did shorten up that waist band quite a bit, though.  I think it looks perfect now.  I think everyone pretty much knows the drill with Cake Patterns by now, but just in case, they don’t use regular sizing.  They have their own sizing system based off of your high bust measurement and then customized to work with the rest of your measurements.  I LOVED this idea, because my high bust (for those not in the know, this is the area above your actual breasts) is way smaller than anything else on my body, so tops always fit me wonky, especially cut-on sleeves like the Tiramisu has.  What you do is cut the top according to your high bust size, then the pattern has dots for waist and hip measurements, and you connect the dots to create a pattern piece that’s custom-fit to your body.  It’s not precisely perfect, but it’s pretty close, and we’re talking knits here, so it doesn’t have to be exact.  The only thing that I think needs to be changed is the bodice needs to be a smidgen longer on me because of my large bust size.  I tried to correct this in the second Tiramisu below, but the finished garment didn’t end up much different, so I think I wasn’t aggressive enough with adding more length.

red-stripe-cake-patterns-tiramisu-cat

My kitty was wandering around while I was taking these, so I thought I’d let you all meet her.  She refused to look at the camera, though, because she’s like that.  She seems to know what cameras are and does her best to avoid them.  If we’re Skyping with friends or family and she walks in, it’s nearly impossible to get her to come into the frame so people can see her.  But I got her this time!  So, readers who haven’t met her in person already, meet Desdemona.red-stripe-cake-patterns-tiramisu-spinning

Yay, twirling!  Another pre-nice-blog-photos picture, but I love this one.  I won’t even tell you how many takes it took or how many injuries I sustained while trying to capture a picture of me spinning using just the camera timer.  This experience really made me wish I had a camera that would work with a remote, though I’m so clumsy it may not have mattered.red-stripe-cake-patterns-tiramisu-layout

I took this photo to show how you can lay out this pattern using just 2 yards of fabric rather than the 2.5 recommended for a size 35, which is what I made.  I wanted to remind myself as well because the fabric I wanted to make my second Tiramisu from was only 2 yards.  I never buy more than two yards  when I don’t have a specific plan because you can always at least make a sleeveless dress out of two yards, and I hate ending up with tons of extra fabric.  I don’t want two garments made of the same fabric, so I never know what to do with it, and I don’t want to waste it.

There’s an interesting story behind this fabric.  A friend of mine was home for the summer, cleaning out her grandmother’s old house because her grandmother had come to live with her family.  Her grandmother had a huge stash of sewing things, but wasn’t well enough to sew anymore.  My friend texted me to see if I’d like any of her old fabric.  She was really great about describing everything that was available, but in the end I took everything she wanted to give because I’m a greedy fabric monster.  As soon as I got the fabric package in the mail and saw these stripes, I knew I wanted to use this piece to make a wearable Tiramisu muslin since red striped fabric is what’s on the pattern envelope.  If it didn’t work out, at least the fabric was free.  Lucky me – it worked out great!  I’m lucky because I not only ended up with a dress, I ended up with the admiration of my friend’s grandmother.  She showed her a picture of me in the dress, and her grandmother apparently gushed about it and even mentioned me in her next letter to my friend.  I’ve always been popular with the grandmotherly set, but I was really flattered that this one liked me because of my sewing!

purple-cake-patterns-tiramisu-front-1

And now for Tiramisu #2.  This one is made from a purple and black doubleknit made by Milly that I bought from Emma One Sock.  I LOVE this fabric!  I love the shade of purple and the abstract pattern.  Some of the swirls sort of look like skulls, but not quite, which is one of my favorite things about it.
purple-cake-patterns-tiramisu-no-gap

Still no gapping!  Yay!

purple-cake-patterns-tiramisu-side

In addition to the tall waist band, one thing I changed when I made this is the way the arms are sewn.  The pattern tells you to put the arm binding on flat and then sew up the side seam.  I think this looks messy and have no problems sewing binding on in the round, so that’s what I did.  That way I didn’t end up with any messy seams.  I think most reviews and blog posts I’ve read about this dress have said they did the same thing.  I really don’t understand why the pattern would tell you to do things this way – it just ends up looking unprofessional (and “professional” is one of the complimentary words my friend’s grandma used about me, so I don’t want to disappoint her!).purple-cake-patterns-tiramisu-fabricFinally, a close-up of that fabric I love so very much.  Both of these dresses were so easy to sew up – I didn’t have to spend tons of time adjusting fit, and it’s just a few seams on the serger and you’re done.  I’m so glad I gave it a try!

I hope everyone is keeping warm!  It’s been in the single digits in Chicago this week, so I bought my first pair of fleece-lined leggings.  I’d love to make my own, but I don’t know where to find nice non-bulky fleece-lined lycra.  If you have suggestions, let me know.  Target only has black, which is kinda boring, plus they’re made for people who are like nine feet tall!

I hope to have more to say before Christmas, but we’ll see if I find the time.  Benjamin is having surgery next week, so I may need a distraction while I’m waiting in the hospital, or I may be too anxious to think about doing anything.  I never know which way I’ll go when stressful things happen.  If you want to send any good thoughts his way, I know he would appreciate it, and I would too!  🙂

 

Oct 292013
 

It seems like every time I think a project is going to go smoothly it ends up being a disaster. I decided to make an empire-waist dress using the Renfrew with a scoop neck for the top half, and the gathered skirt from Butterick 5456 (you can see my first two versions here), joined at the waist with elastic. I’ve made the Renfrew twice and the Butterick dress twice, so this should have been a piece of cake, right?

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I like this picture because it reminds me of the sassy preschoolers I taught one summer. Can you hear me stamping my feet and saying, “NO!” to this dress?

WRONG. OMG you guys, this dress almost put me over the edge! First of all, the fabric.  It’s a Derek Lam rayon/cotton blend I got from Emma One Sock. I don’t know if the cut they gave me was short or if it just shrank aggressively in the wash, but I was 10 inches short of the two yards I ordered and needed to make this dress. I managed to squeeze this dress out of what I had, but it was really close. Also, I somehow missed that this fabric was super lightweight on the website. I thought it might need lined, but it definitely needed lined because it was like a featherweight knit.

Since the fabric was so lightweight and lacking in body, I thought I’d be clever and hand baste the lining to it (I’d decided to underline to give the fabric a better hand instead of just lining). Well, that was a terrible idea. Here’s the hand basting I did – it’s the red thread running around the edges:

sewaholic-renfrew-dress-1

Aren’t those colors pretty, though?

I used this rayon embroidery thread that’s really slippery. I always use it when I make muslins or machine baste things because it’s super easy to pull out of the fabric if I need to make any changes. Turns out, it also makes the fabric slide around on it when you use big old hand basting stitches. So I had to pull it out and just machine baste them together.

Which is when I found out that my sewing machine HAAAAATES this lining fabric. It’s also from Emma One Sock, and it’s called Venezia 4-way stretch lining.  I’ve used it before and didn’t have any problems, but this time, no matter what needle I used (and I tried them all – sizes 10, 12, and 14 in both ball point AND sharp – no dice), I got skipped stitches and the thread would snag or something and then bunch up. WTF? Who’s ever heard of this?! I was just banging my head against the wall anytime I was at the sewing machine with this fabric, and the sewing part is usually my favorite.

At some point during all this, I saw that the fabric had a tiny little hole in it near the bottom of the dress. AAAAAAHHHHHHHHH! I nearly cried. Don’t think sewing hasn’t driven me to tears on multiple occasions. This just wasn’t one of them, I think because I was sort of over it at that point. The hole isn’t that noticeable, so whatever. I’m just leaving it as is, because the last time I tried to darn a little hole like this, I just made things worse. These little ones don’t tend to spread unless you put a lot of stress on them, and I think this one will be fine since it’s near the hem.

So after all that, I put it on and decided I didn’t really like it that well. Much like my black and white Butterick 5456, the all-over pattern didn’t give my waist enough definition.

sewaholic-renfrew-dress-2

kinda frumpy, no?

So I got out the trusty single belt that I owned and slapped it on, and I like that much better. It’s a new age of belts in my household. I just bought another one to wear with my fall Belladone that I just completed and hope to show you soon.

sewaholic-renfrew-dress-4

better, yes?

I got a lot of compliments on this dress, so I guess it came out okay. All I can see is hours of frustration, though. I do like the colors, so maybe the trauma will wear off with time and I’ll love it.

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I realized that I never wrote anything about sizing on my last few posts, so here’s some info about that. I made the Renfrew top in a size 14, and the Butterick bottom in I think like a size 18. But I should say that I think I greatly reduced the size of the Butterick skirt because the gathered skirt they had was just too bulky for me. What I ended up with is a piece of fabric 27 inches long by 28 inches wide, which I then gathered down so that it fit my waist.

sewaholic-renfrew-dress-7

That reminds me – one thing that did work out very well on this dress was gathering on my serger, which I tried for the first time. I HAAAATE gathering by pulling threads, but I’ve always been too nervous to give up the fine-tuned control that method allows for the serger, which just sort of does its own thing. I did some tests on scraps beforehand, though, and it all worked out okay. I thought it wouldn’t need much gathering, but I ended up turning the differential all the way to the highest amount of gathering and going with almost the longest stitch length, which is the way to get maximum gathering on my serger. I think it worked out because the serger gathering is kind of stretchy, so if it ends up a little small, you can easily fudge it.

You may notice that the sleeves don’t have the typical Renfrew banded hem. I decided to just serge the edge, flip it under and top stitch it because I felt like the banded hem wouldn’t look right with this style.

sewaholic-renfrew-dress-9

Or maybe I was just feeling lazy.

I also did the same thing with the bottom hem. I’m still kind of learning how to get my coverstitch machine to do what I want it to do without annoying me, and I just did not feel like taking the time for that with this dress. I wanted it to be done, and the serge, flip, sew method was the quickest way to get there.

sewaholic-renfrew-dress-10

Yep, lazy.

Lately I’ve been taking shortcuts like this, and I think a lot of the reason is that I’m just not sure how long I’ll be this size, so it’s just not worth it to go the extra mile. It’s kind of freeing to just not worry about all those little details all the time.

Oct 212013
 

Today I’m going to talk about Butterick 5456.  It’s getting really cold here in Chicago, so it feels inappropriate to be showing you such light, summery dress.  But this can easily be paired with tights, boots, and cardigan, so just use your imagination!

Most of the pictures below are of my second version of this dress.  The first photo is of the first one I made from a beefy knit print I got from Gorgeous Fabrics paired with a weird beefy knit solid from Joann’s.  The fabrics were too thick and didn’t drape properly, so I didn’t like the dress very much.  It was nice to slip on and head out the door to run some errands, but I always felt like it was too casual or just kinda strange, so I didn’t like to wear it to anything where I wanted to look nice.

Butterick-5456-v1

My first version.

I knew I wanted to make a second version in a drapier fabric, but that desire was solidified in August when I visited my mother and saw that she had a dress from Macy’s that looked exactly like the pattern envelope!  It was such a strange coincidence.  Hers was obviously made out of the proper kind of fabric, and it made me want one that would look better than the one I had.

butterick-5456-1

Second version, sans belt.

This fabric is also from Gorgeous Fabrics.  It’s an ITY knit, and it’s a nicer one.  I’ve sewn some ITY knits that were terrible – too clingy or had a squicky-feeling finish.  This one is nice and smooth, and it skims the body without clinging because of the smooth finish.

After I made the dress and tried it on, I felt like the all-over pattern didn’t give my waist enough definition.  I thought it would look better with a belt, but I didn’t own any.  For real – zero belts.  I used to think I couldn’t pull off a belt, but I used to be stupid.  Belts are awesome.  I really wanted to wear this dress for the first day of classes (and I finished it at like midnight the night before, haha), so I made myself a fabric belt out of some aqua fabric I had lying around.  I just tied it around my waist and I thought it looked sort of stupid, but it was better than nothing.  I ended up getting tons of compliments on it, so what do I know?  I’ve since bought a real belt, and here it is with the dress.

Butterick-5456-2

Second version, avec belt.

I think the belt looks better pretty much from every angle.  I have a habit of buying tons of patterned fabric, but as I’m learning, I really need to think about the style of the dress I intend to make because patterns hide a lot of fun details, and as in this case, can make me look waistless.

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Side view, aussi avec belt.

As the pattern is written, the back is supposed to have a cutout, like so.

butterick 5456 envelope

But I didn’t like that feature because I intended to wear this in the winter as well as the summer, and I thought the ties would look weird with a cardigan.  So I just made the back pattern piece straight so that it goes all the way to my neck.  Easy peasy.

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The only problem with this dress is that if I move certain ways, you can see the side of my bra.  It’s not such a huge deal unless I lift my arms certain ways, but when I’m teaching, I have to lift my arms to write on the board, so whoops!  A black bra minimizes this, but it was easier to show you the problem with a lighter-colored bra.  I could fix this by raising the bottom of the armhole, but I feel like I have really good mobility in the arms because of its size, so I’d have to muslin this to be sure I was happy with the fit.  Also, because these are cut-on sleeves, I’d have to be sure that changing the armhole doesn’t mess with the fit at the bust.  I’m really not the biggest fan of cut-on sleeves because they don’t tend to play well with large busts, but they sure are easy to sew!

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Boo, unfortunate gappage!

The dress is constructed with a self-lined bodice, which you can see below.  Part of the problem with my earlier version was the fabric was bulky to begin with, and then self-lining it doubled the bulkiness.  This one is so much better in that regard.  The self-lining makes for a pretty clean finish with the elastic, which is nice.  I just left the edge of the elastic casing raw because this knit isn’t going to ravel, plus the raw edge is a lot softer than serger stitches.

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This was the third thing I hemmed with my new coverstitch machine (I have a Janome CoverPro), and it was a nightmare – I had to rip out the stitches a few times because the hem kept rippling and it was making me crazy.  I think I eventually ended up taping the hem up with wonder tape so it would stay put, then running the cover stitch over that.  I guess it ended up looking pretty decent here!  You can see it from the right side and the wrong side below.

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I’m still learning about how to coverstitch – it’s really hard to get everything lined up properly so you’re catching the edge of the fabric.  I’ve been using a stack of post it notes on the bed of the machine so I can run the fabric along the edge, but it’s not perfect because floppier fabrics like this one don’t necessarily lie flat and will bubble up against the post it notes, meaning that the edge is no longer exactly underneath the needles.  I’ll get the hang of it soon enough!

I’m in the middle of about 5 different projects right now, because I’m freaking out about getting enough clothes for fall, so I hope to have lots to show you in the coming days!

Oct 122013
 

A couple weeks ago I met up with several bloggers from the Chicago area and Lauren from Lladybird when Lauren made a last-minute visit from Nashville.  I was so pleased to meet these wonderful ladies:  Jen from Grainline Studio, Meg from Meg the Grand, Tasha from By Gum, By Golly, Debbie from Makizy Sews, Liz from zilredloh, Michelle from tres bien ensemble, and Mari from Disparate Disciplines.  I’m stealing pictures of us from Lauren’s blog, since I didn’t have a camera with me and the camera sucks on my phone (along with everything else, but we won’t go into that!).

L-R:  Mari, Eliza, Debbie, Jen, me, Meg, Lauren, Liz

L-R: Mari, Eliza, Debbie, Jen, me, Meg, Lauren, Liz

L-R:  Lauren, Mari, me, Michelle

L-R: Lauren, Mari, me, Michelle

As you can see, I’m wearing my Renfrew in the second photo.  I was so flattered when Lauren told me that she admired the “v” in my v-neck that I promised it would be the first post on the blog I had already begun to plan by the end of the weekend.  So here we are!  Not a very exciting first post, but I like to give the public what they want.

what the public wants

what the public wants

I saw SO. MANY. Renfrews being made over the past year or so, and I always thought I’d hate it.  I’m not much of a t-shirt wearer, and I thought the band along the bottom would be unflattering for my shape.  I finally gave in a few months ago, and I’m so glad I did.  The Renfrew is amazing, ya’ll.  First of all, there are so many options.  I’ve since made a scoop neck and a dress based on the scoop neck, both soon to be featured here.  I love all the different sleeve lengths, and the band is actually quite flattering on me.  Believe me, I NEVER wear t-shirts out of the house unless I’m running, but I wear my Renfrew all the time.  It goes with skirts and jeans and can look casual or slightly dressy depending on what you pair it with.  I’m sure I’m preaching to the choir here because everyone on earth has already made a Renfrew, but if you happen to be a holdout like me, seriously, go make one right now.

 sewaholic-renfrew-vneck-2

My measurements indicated I would be a size 14, so that’s the size I made my muslin (I muslin every last thing I make, no matter how simple or fool-proof it is).  I like a little more ease in my knits than the pattern is apparently drafted for, so I widened out to a 16 below the waistline.  I feel much more comfortable in the shirt with a little extra room there.  Aside from that, the only change I made was to shave off the tiniest little piece at the underarm of the bodice – a quarter inch on each piece – because it seemed like I had some excess fabric under my arms.

 sewaholic-renfrew-vneck-3

I made the v-neck first because I feel like it’s the most flattering silhouette for large-busted people.  I used to wear really high-necked things because I thought that would somehow disguise my enormous bust, but all it really did was make me look super matronly.  I’ve since learned that neckline detail that visually breaks up the bust area is what will minimize the appearance of a large bust.  Just a little pro tip for you.

wrinkly back

As you can see in the photo above, I have a bunch of wrinkliness on the back of the shirt at the waist and below.  I have no end of problems with swayback/prominent buttocks/terrible posture, and I always have this problem.  I can usually fix it with a center back seam or even better, darts on both sides, but that would just look silly on this knit top.  I’m not exactly sure what to do about it, so if anyone has any suggestions, I’m all ears!  I’m not excessively worried about it, because I see RTW shirts looking this way on people all the time, and when I buy RTW, I usually get shirts that are blousy in the back and make me look like a hunchback.  So some wrinkling is not a major concern of mine, but better fit would always be nice.

not-really-so-perfect v (and a crooked necklace)

Finally, a close-up of the v, in which I reveal that it’s not precisely perfect.  You can see that the line in the center of the v in the neckband is a hair off from the center of the v in the bodice fabric.  It’s hardly noticeable, and I’m still really pleased with the top of the v of the neckband – the v is nice and sharp with no puckering.  I think if I had been more precise with my topstitching, it would have fixed any appearance that the neckband and bodice don’t quite line up, but I didn’t want to rip stitches out of a knit and risk putting a hole or a run in it.

The fabric this is made out of is quite beefy.  My muslin was made out of some gross ITY knit I got at Joann’s from the red tag rack, and it was really drapey and I liked that.  I knew this fabric was more substantial, but I didn’t realize quite how beefy it was until I finished it.  I didn’t like it when I first made it in July, partially because it was too thick to wear in the summer heat.  But in the early fall, I’ve grown to love it, and the beefiness of the fabric means I’m comfortable wearing it with pants.  Do you guys get more lumps and bumps with pants than skirts?  I do, and I hate it when shirts cling to them.  It’s a Sophia doubleknit that I got from Vogue Fabrics in Evanston, IL.  I love that I live close enough to Vogue to pick up stuff like this at a moment’s notice.  I have a few other Sophia colors for Renfrews in various permutations.  I heard cowls are out now and I also heard they’re not for the well-endowed, but I want one, so I’m gonna make one and there’s nothing you can do about it!

Finally, a note about the skirt.  I didn’t make it, which is odd because skirts are so easy that I usually make them myself.  But I LOVED this fabric so much when I saw it at Banana Republic that I had to have it.  I tried to deny my love for a while, but when I went back and it was on sale for $28, I couldn’t stop myself.  While I like to make my own skirts because they’re easy, they’re also something that it makes sense for me to buy right now because I’ve been losing weight and skirts are pretty much infinitely alterable down in size if you’re willing to unpick enough seams.  Once I got the skirt home and saw that the tag said it was from the Milly Collection, it immediately made sense to my why I loved it so much.  Milly speaks my language – whenever I see Milly fabrics at Emma One Sock, I jump on them right away.  I’ve sewn up one in a Tiramisu that I’ll show you soon, but others I’m just hoarding because they’re so beautiful that I’m afraid to sew them, haha!

Well, that’s it for now!  I’m looking forward to sharing more of my closet with you all!