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Jun 122015

Wow, it’s been over a month since I last posted!  I guess I shouldn’t be surprised; my sewing life hasn’t been what I’d hoped lately.  At the beginning of the month, Ben was out of town for a week because his job sent him to Connecticut, and I thought I’d just have a big one-person sewing party the entire time he was gone, but all kinds of stuff kept coming up, and I got next to nothing done.  As soon as he stepped off the plane, we headed to Ohio to visit family (literally:  I picked him up at the airport and we continued on down the highway).  I actually brought my new little sewing machine with me (I got a Pfaff Passport with some money I got from a teaching award I won at school – yay!) and sewed there, but it was two muslins for dresses for my mother and altering a bunch of her work scrubs for her.  She’s short like me so everything is always too long on her.  We came back with a child in tow, so that threw a wrench in any sewing plans I’d made for when I got back.  I think every time we visit Ohio, our niece Ashley asks if she can come back to Chicago with us, and we always tell her we’ll plan for her to visit some other time.  Well, we’ve lived here six years and we’ve never managed to plan for that other time, so we brought her home with us to stay for a week.  She stayed with us a few times before when we lived in Ohio, and it’s always a fun time, but the last time we did this she was 10 and now she’s 17.  I was worried that she would be too cool for school and would end up being miserable with boring old me and Ben.  It turns out that she may be a little too cool for school (she goes to a high school where she can take online classes instead of going in whenever she wants to, so she was supposed to be doing school work while she was with us but kept blowing it off), but I think she had a good time with us.  She’s already planning her next visit!  During prior visits we did crafty things and baked, so I told her this time I could teach her how to sew.  She was excited and started listing off all the things she wanted to make:  a bag, a dress, a skirt, a top.  This should have been my warning signal that I was about to be signed up to sew a whole new wardrobe.  However, I was wooed by the siren song of fabric shopping, so I merrily ferried her to Vogue and excitedly carried bolts and bolts of fabric up to the cutting table.  At some point I started to understand how much work I was in for, but if there’s one skill I have, it’s underestimating the amount of work things will require, so I plunked down my debit card and bought the pile of fabric you see below.


As you can tell, Ashley has some wild taste!  She was obsessed with getting “tie dyes,” a category to which the batiks pictured apparently belong, plus animal prints, and anything else that caught her eye, which turned out to be a money print and a camo print.  She wanted the money, camo, pink batik, and green batik all for her bag, and I must admit I was giving her some serious side eye vis-a-vis this eclectic combo.  I’ll show you her bag later and you can be the judge of whether she was right or not, but for my part, I was converted.  I think her bag is super cute, and I shouldn’t have doubted her vision!

Below is just a quick illustration of the style differences we faced:  me, suited up for the elements on a cold, rainy night at Lake Michigan.  Ashley, wearing her most recently acquired bling, consequences be damned.  I could not understand how this child’s feet didn’t fall right off wearing those gladiator sandals, but even I must admit that they’re pretty awesome.

Gina and Ashley 2

We’d gone shopping downtown and when she spotted these at Akira, it was love at first sight.  They were on sale, so she called around to her various sources of shopping money until she gathered enough promises to pay me back if I would front her the money for the sandals.  We grabbed the shoes and continued on to my doctor’s appointment, whereupon she began Facebooking her loot in the waiting room, which is the source of the picture you see below.  They’re pretty cool, aren’t they?  My busted old lady feet need more arch support than that, but if I was healthy of foot and thin of calf, we might have been sporting matching gladiator sandals that day.


But is this a sewing blog or a teen fashion report?  Well, today it’s both, but at least we can move on to the sewing part now.  First up, a skirt made of a knit remnant we found in Vogue’s massive pile of remnants.  Seriously, sometimes they have no remnants, and other times, you find all kinds of stuff, including some healthy-sized remnants of Bemberg lining and a very nice 2 yard piece of striped bamboo jersey that one might purchase for oneself as a reward for being such a great aunt.  As evidence of that unnamed individual’s greatness, I offer you exhibit A:  a skirt I “draped”, i.e., didn’t use a pattern for.  It has an elastic waist and is quite mini in length, though Ashley is short like me, so not as mini as it might appear here.  I zigzagged a little ribbon to the back waistband so she could tell the front from the back, and that’s pretty much all there is to tell about this one.

Next up, her most prized item:  leather shorts.  They’re actually vinyl, but I didn’t let on.  When she saw the bolts of faux leather at Vogue, she stopped dead in her tracks and declared that she desperately wanted a pair of leather shorts.  Such a garment sounded incredibly uncomfortable to me, but her body, her clothes.  She assured me that her mother wouldn’t take issue with her wearing leather shorts (which I believe is true; Ben reports that even her Nonnie [his mom] approved of them when she got back to Ohio), and we bought a yard.


I used Grainline’s Maritime shorts pattern, which I bought a long time ago after seeing some shorts I liked at LOFT in hopes of copying them.  I’ve since decided that I’m just not a shorts person, so the pattern has sat unused.  I was glad to be able to use it for something!  Ashley didn’t want front pockets, thank goodness, so these were fairly straightforward.  I did make a muslin out of stretch denim, and it turned out to be a wearable muslin because the fit was pretty right on after adding some darts on the back and taking in the sides a bit, so she also has a pair of denim shorts with lime green topstitching per her request, but I must have forgotten to get a picture of those.

I was briefly flummoxed by the fly insertion method because it’s so different than the method on the Ginger Jeans, but Jen has a tutorial that made everything perfectly clear to me.

In what would turn out to be a running theme, Ashley requested something that was more difficult than it sounded for her leather shorts – she wanted heart-shaped back pockets out of the pink batik fabric we bought for her bag.  I made them twice before I ended up at the right size you see here, and I just hope they last because that particular batik fabric has a very loose weave (I did interface to help with this issue).


Next up we have a tank top that she requested based on a shirt we saw while shopping.  For this one, I used the slip pattern from McCall’s 6696 and just made a second layer that was half the length and a bit wider.  Because I ended up doing the bulk of the sewing after she was gone, I got out this old dressform to model some of the clothes, but I had to put a camisole on it and pad it out at the bust because it’s just shaped so stupidly.  It has those dials you can turn to increase the measurements, but it basically just makes the form wider at the bust instead of projected.  Anyway, that’s why you see another tank top right underneath this pink and purple one that I made, and it’s why you should just pretend it’s not there from now on.

I used pre-made double fold satin bias binding for the straps and I used my serger’s rolled hem for the edges.  Easy peasy, except for the intersections of the binding at the corners where things got very thick and difficult to sew.  I was an angry seamstress.  I think I might change the name of my blog to “The Angry Seamstress.”  Most of my sewing time consists of being angry at pins for poking me, being angry at my sewing machine for not doing what I told it to do, and being angry at everything for falling on the floor (seriously – I am the clumsiest person EVER).  I can frequently be found grumbling or exclaiming in frustration and sometimes even declaring that if clothes fit me from stores, I wouldn’t be sewing them!  I don’t understand the people who say they sew because it’s enjoyable and relaxing.  I like my hobbies to be frustrating and damaging to my self-esteem.  It’s why I’m a grad student.


This next picture is an inspiration photo she found for one of the dresses she wanted.  She wanted this out of a red and black knit, so I headed to my pattern collection to see what I could find.  I ended up using Simplicity 1610, which has a crossover halter neckline similar to the inspiration dress.  However, that pattern is for wovens.  I sized down two sizes in hopes of making it work for a knit.  I had to take it in even further, but I got it to work.  Ashley's Dress

And here it is.  The dressform is just so oddly shaped that it doesn’t look quite right, but I think it will look better on an actual human being.  The skirt on her inspiration photos appears to be a square circle skirt, which is like a circle skirt in that the waist is just a circle cut in the center of a large piece of fabric, but unlike it in that the large piece of fabric is a square rather than a circle.  I didn’t have enough fabric for that, so I just put a regular skirt on it and cut the bottom of it to mimic the shape of the square circle skirt.
simplicity-1610-frontsimplicity-1610-backThere’s elastic in a casing on the back bodice to keep it up, and the hem is just raw since this is an ITY knit that won’t ravel.

Finally, the first dress she wanted:  Papercut’s La Sylphide.  I had her look through my patterns before we went shopping, and this was her favorite.  It’s made out of a super shifty and super annoying polyester chiffon.  I am so pleased with how it turned out except for the mismatched skirt pieces.  Big sad face.  Being a genius, I cut them on a single layer because the fabric was shifty.  I thought I was taking great care to match them up, but as you can see, I didn’t match the wide pink stripe to the wide one and the narrow one to the narrow one.  They’re flipped.  I was so upset when I saw this because I didn’t have enough fabric to recut (I never have enough fabric to recut – I’m the queen of buying just enough fabric to squeak by).  I kept going, however, knowing that Ashley likely wouldn’t care.  While I was making her things during her visit I kept stopping to fix this or that and she would sigh exasperatedly and tell me she didn’t care about whatever it was that was stressing me out.  So I tried not to care about this mismatch.


But look at how nice the back looks!  And yes, that fabric is pink, not orange.  It’s like a coral color, but it’s definitely more of pinky coral than an orangey one, despite what these photos would have you believe.papercut-la-sylphide-back

But look at how nice the back looks!  And yes, that fabric is pink, not orange.  It’s like a coral color, but it’s definitely more of pinky coral than an orangey one, despite what these photos would have you believe.

The final item I have to show you today is one Ashley made, not me – it’s her bag!  She had sewn a pillowcase before so she wasn’t entirely new to the idea of sewing.  She found an inspiration photo online and I worked out the necessary steps to get us there.  First I had her cut out a bunch of squares, then I had her interface them.  Then I realized we should have block fused them.  But I didn’t tell her that.  Then I had her sew together the nine patch squares, which I knew would end up being a little wonky because of her carefree attitude and lack of prior experience with piecing.  I like the wonky look so much that I wish we’d gone full-on wonky, which I think would have been awesome.  Next I had her cut diamond shapes out of her camo pieces and fray the edges of the holes that were left by using a pin to pull at the fabric.  Then I had her sew those squares on top of the money print squares, then sew the whole thing together.  She made a strap that’s money on one side and camo on the other and made a lining out of the money fabric, then I had her put it all together.  She did it all herself on my new Passport while I sewed on my regular machine.  I jumped in to fix a few small seam allowances that had gone astray, but this is mostly her own creation.  I really thought she was a bit addled when she picked out all these fabrics, but the end product is super cute in a funky sort of way.  ashleys-bag

And that’s that!  if you feel exhausted after reading all that, congratulations – now you know how I felt after sewing it all!  The eagle-eyed among you will notice that there’s a blue and white leopard print in the pile of fabric that doesn’t appear as a completed garment.  I just got a pattern for that one the other day based on some inspiration photos she sent me, and I’ll start work on it in a little while.  I have some sewing I want to get done for myself before I head to Kansas City in a week and half to score AP Language essays*.  I’m assuming it will be blazing hot there, and I need a few more summer dresses.

*I drafted this a while ago and I’m now in Kansas city with a pile of new dresses that I frantically sewed before coming here!  I’ll eventually get pictures and get them blogged, but they’re mostly McCall’s 6696s and Grainline Alders, so the posts won’t be that thrilling unless you’re in it to look at pretty fabrics.