December 17, 2014

2014's top 5, part 3: Reflections and Goals

Top 5 2014 #sewingtop5 

Finishing up my series today, with what I've learned this year and what I'd like to accomplish next year.

1. I am not the fastest of makers. This is especially true when it comes to knitting, but it's true for sewing as well. I looked back at last year's reflections, and this was actually the first thing on my list then, too! I think the difference this year is that I'm more ok with it. Looking at my top 5 makes for this year, aside from the Tiramisu dress, everything on there was projects that required more thought and detail-- welt pockets, underlinings, linings, bound seams, etc. But they ended up fitting really well and getting a lot of use. Yes, I know two of them are coats, but still.

2. That being said, I've also learned that I really like having a quick "palate-cleanser" project between the more detailed stuff. Usually some kind of knit project.

me as Amy Pond3. I feel like I've kind of rediscovered how much fun refashioning clothes can be this year. I didn't really do any last year, but I've definitely picked up on that more this year. I've ended up wearing these zipper leg jeans quite a bit, as well as my Amy Pond shirt. (Generally minus the tally marks, though.) I've definitely been doing more of that lately, since I'm literally running out of things to wear! So I've been maternifying unwanted pants. Since one pair I'd had since college wasn't fitting so great anymore anyway, and the others were pants that my mom was getting rid of, it's been gratifying to be able to get some much-needed maternity pants into my wardrobe for just the cost of a half-yard of black knit.

4. The Wardrobe Architect project was really an invaluable process for me to go through. Even though I was trying to buy less fabric overall anyway, and I'm pretty sure I succeeded, I feel like what I bought will mostly fit in well with my existing wardrobe. It's also easier to weed out some of the new patterns now, since I have a better idea of what I actually like the look of on me. Of course, this is all subject to change now, since I also have no idea what sort of a waistline I'll have when this whole pregnancy thing is over!

5. I've actually developed some self-control on adding to the stashes. Though I sort of fell off the wagon at actually tracking pieces of stash used up before buying more, as stated in my Stash Diet pledge, I did a good job of sticking to my plan! Aside from pieces of fabric that my mom gave me because she didn't want them, almost everything I bought this entire year fell into one of three categories: a) Fabric I bought on vacation, b) Fabric I bought because I needed it for a specific project and I literally did not have anything else that would work (i.e. Thinsulate for my coat, yellow knit for the minion costume, etc) c) Stuff I would categorize as the "extenuating life circumstances" exception--mainly buying a few pieces specifically to make things for the baby, or the 3 things I've bought specifically for maternity clothes. I also didn't buy much yarn at all this year--I think the one skein I bought in Paris may have been it--and I didn't really buy many new patterns this year, either. Maybe 6 total, and 3 of those were ones I won in a Pattern Review drawing because my Robson coat randomly got picked when they were highlighting Sewaholic. So yay me?

Maybe not. I just looked at the numbers, and I actually added 10 more yards to the fabric stash than I started with at the beginning of the year! But it does look like I used about 70 yards overall this year, and I'm already in the process of using up those baby-related fabrics. So not too bad.

If you had asked me this three months ago, I probably would have said "learn to make bras and/or undies". I don't think that's going to be happening this year, lol! Especially the former. So here's what I think will be the best things for me to focus on for 2015...

1. Finish a capsule wardrobe that will get me through the first half of the year. I've quietly been working on this anyway, between my most recent makes and things I've bought. I'm attempting to use the Wardrobe Architect principles for this, and I do have a definite palette emerging. But I definitely need more clothes, since I didn't have too many things in my wardrobe already to get me started. That's definitely a downside to favoring styles that are more fitted at the waist! So once I sort out what I need to survive/see if I get any fabric for Christmas (a safe bet, knowing my mom), I'm going to see if I can sort out a decent plan of attack.

2. On a related note, I need to work on my pattern hacking skills. I've noticed that there really aren't that many good maternity-specific patterns out there. I have managed to acquire Megan Nielsen's wrap top pattern, also this pattern that can double as a maternity and a nursing top. The latter sounds like a really good use of my precious sewing time. But aside from that, I really haven't found anything that looks interesting to me, so I guess I'll have to create my own. I've got my Renfrew hack to keep tweaking, and I did pull out several other patterns from my stash that looks like they might be useable for this purpose. If I can figure out how to do a couple of other things that will be good for both pregnancy and nursing, great.

3. Get as much sewing for "Hobbit" (what I've been calling the baby while we don't know the gender) done as possible, before June. Obviously, though I may sew a few outfits, I'm not going to make every little piece of clothing. They'll get too small too fast. But I will need to do some things like curtains for the nursery, and I have some bibs that I'm already working on (which will hopefully be done by the end of December, since I'm using them for The Monthly Stitch's current theme). I have a piece of printed suedecloth that has stumped me for a couple of years on what to use it for, but I think it would make an excellent gender-neutral diaper bag. And my mom and I are planning on working together over the winter to make cloth diapers. I know it'll be a lot of laundry, but it's cheaper to make cloth diapers than buy them, and it'll definitely be cheaper in the long run than buying all disposables. More money saved means more money to spend on fabric, right? I still need to get most of the supplies for that, but I did get some of the waterproof outer fabric already. Because there was one yard left on the website and it has TARDISes on it. Seriously. I couldn't pass it up.

4. Since basically everything I'm going to be able to sew for myself for awhile is knits anyway, I might as well work on things like finishing techniques and getting my serger tension right. Right?

5. I think probably the biggest goal for after Hobbit comes will be finding time to make things. I know it'll be a challenge, and probably impossible for at least the first month while I'm a sleep-deprived zombie cow. (Not the best time to work on a hobby that involves sharp cutting/pinning implements, I'm guessing.) And I do also need to prioritize music time, since I do plan to continue teaching lessons. I've been following Cindy's blog with a lot of interest lately, given that she recently had a baby herself, and I think what jumped out at me the most is the idea of doing one thing a day that lasts, since so much of caring for a newborn is laundry and feeding and changing over and over again. Practicing music can also feel repetitive and like it's never done, since you spend so much time working on the same passage or the same piece for days or weeks in a row. So hopefully I can find a way to make that happen. Even if it's just sewing one seam, or knitting one row, or sticking just one picture in a photo pocket. I guess it's a good thing I've gotten more ok with being slow, right?

December 15, 2014

2014's top 5 Highlights

Top 5 2014 #sewingtop5
Continuing with the lists... I was originally intending to lump the last 3 topics into one post, but this particular category ended up being pretty wordy. So I'll spare you the mega-post.

The new category this year is "Highlights", which is pretty much anything not sewing-related going on in our lives. I don't know about you, but sometimes I find it hard to share life stuff on here, mostly for fear that I'll bore people. So this seems like a pretty good way to keep it real! (Of course, I have actually talked about some of this stuff on here...oh well.)

IMG_28411. Travel. This was a really good year for that, and I'm really enjoying that I can say that I went fabric shopping in both New York and Paris this year! And there was also my girls' geekout weekend in Atlanta for DragonCon. Aside from those three trips, Doug and I took a day trip down to Washington, D.C. for our first anniversary, which was also a lot of fun, and I also got to spend a day hanging out with some of my cousins down at the Delaware beaches. That's been a tradition since I was a kid, and I'm glad I found some time to go down this year, even though I wasn't able to stay overnight at all this time. (The picture is me and Doug at the Eiffel Tower, because why not?)

piano2. I got a piano this year! Both of my grandmothers have been trying to downsize their belongings recently, because it's getting difficult for them to live on their own since both of my grandfathers passed away in 2013. So one of the big things going on in my family right now is that my parents are building a new house, and both of my grandmothers will be moving in with them in the spring. My mom's mom had two pianos, so she asked me if I wanted one. She actually gave me the bigger one! So this is a baby grand that my great-grandfather originally purchased in 1928. It's horrendously out of tune, which I'll need to remedy at some point, but I like the family history behind it, and it's been fun brushing up on my other instrument. I took piano lessons for about 7 years when I was a kid, but my parents didn't want us overloaded with too many extracurriculars, so once I got to 7th grade, they asked me to choose between continuing with the piano or the flute, which I'd been playing for about 3 years by then, for my music lessons. Obviously, I picked the flute, though I still played the keyboard at home for fun when I could, and I also had to take one semester of basic piano as part of my music degree. (Which, since I already knew how to play scales and stuff, I basically spent learning the "Linus and Lucy" song from Charlie Brown specials. The professor didn't care as long as we tested well.) The other thing connected to this is that I'm actually teaching one beginner piano student now at a local school, in addition to the flute. So in the long run, this could be a very good thing for my music teaching career.

3. In the category of non-sewing/knitting hobbies that I don't talk about on here much, I am still scrapbooking. The Project Life system has turned out to be a really good fit for me--I can save photos without feeling like I have to make a layout for everything, and the pockets make it really easy to finish pages quickly. I still do "real" scrapbook pages from time to time, usually for bigger events. And I still use my older supplies, usually in the form of cutting down big pieces of paper to make cards when I don't have a color I want. But aside from still needing to write in a few notes and paste down a few pictures, I'm basically done with everything from the wedding to our first anniversary. And I already have some stuff in an album for year 2 as well. That's a nice feeling.

4. Meeting writers. As if I didn't have enough to do to keep myself busy, I've always loved to read. And I got to meet two of my favorite living authors this year! A couple of friends and I went to see Brandon Sanderson at a quasi-local bookstore signing, and I briefly got to meet Jim Butcher when he was signing books at DragonCon. (I was wearing my Belle costume at the time, and when he saw me next in line, he sang one of the lines from her intro song: "Look there she goes, that girl is so peculiar..." So that's a fun story.) One of the friends I went to Atlanta with is a published author herself, and she introduced us to another writer friend, Diana Peterfreund. I bought two of her books and read one on the plane on the way home from Atlanta. I have yet to read the second, but I quite enjoyed the one I read, so I'm sure I'll get to it before too long.

5. Family stuff. Being able to say I've been married for a year was pretty exciting for me, since I wasn't sure I'd ever get married in the first place. And, of course, what's been mostly occupying my brain lately is being pregnant with our first child! (And all the nausea that goes along with it, which is sadly still going on. I thought the second trimester was supposed to be better!) I'm sure this will be occupying a LOT more of my attention for 2015.

What about you? Anything exciting going on for you this year?

December 11, 2014

2014's top 5 hits and misses

Top 5 2014 #sewingtop5
Time for the Top 5 lists, as hosted by the fabulous Gillian! I'm going to start off with hits and misses today.

Top 5 Hits
Looking back over my posts this year, I guess this was the year of pants, coats and dresses.

Grey Thurlows 21. The Thurlow Trousers-- all 4 pairs of them I made this year. I'm just showing the grey pair here, since they show up in photos the best. Along with the brown test pair I made in 2013, these got a ton of wear during the cooler months this year. And unlike most of my jeans, I was able to wear these pretty much all the way through the first trimester--it was just last week that I had to resort to safety-pinning them closed rather than buttoning them. So I'm feeling hopeful that, even though I'll have to retire them for the remainder of this winter, maybe I can pull them out again next fall.

Robson Coat

2. The Robson coat. I love the color, and I'm quite happy with the inside finishing. I will confess I need to do a tiny bit of repair on one of the pocket flaps where the stitching has come out, but aside from that, everything's holding up nicely. I actually took this with me to Paris and ended up wearing it pretty much constantly, and it was the perfect added layer. Also, dragon buttons!

Tea Cambie3.  The teacup Cambie. I loooove the print on this dress, and I have to admit that this is probably the dress that I'm most nervous won't fit again post-pregnancy. Here's hoping, because I really feel like this dress deserves more wearing than I was able to give it in one season!

IMG_13884. The Tiramisu maxi-dress. This one did get quite a bit of wear over the summer, since it's a little more casual of a dress than the Cambie, and that makes it easy to wear for teaching and such. This one did adapt very nicely to the longer skirt, and I'm glad I got a chance to try this hack out!

peacoat5. Even though it did take forever to make, I'm going to have to say the peacoat. The time I spent on the tailoring seems to have been well worth it so far, as was the investment in the Thinsulate. It's much less stiff to wear than the old one, and so far, it seems to be keeping me warm.

Top 5 Misses: 
Not all of these are necessarily sewing projects, or even entire sewing projects. But still...
1. The daisy Sorbetto. It's not so much that this project was a fail, as that I just haven't worn it much. I pretty much have this one skirt that it works with and that's it. Plus it got cold pretty quickly after I made it, and, know, all my clothes starting to not fit. I'll probably pull it out again sometime, though I doubt I'll get much wear from it next summer, as it's not the most nursing-friendly top.

2. My jeans hardware installation skills. I think I would have gotten a lot more use out of the skinny jeans earlier in the fall, if the button hadn't started to get loose after one wash. My dad used some of his epoxy-type stuff to ensure that it wasn't going anywhere, and that's worked. But it's also made the inside waistband really scratchy right behind the button. I managed a quick fix for awhile by just sticking a band-aid behind the button, but I need to stitch a patch over it for a more permanent solution. I just never got to it, and now that those jeans won't fit me for awhile anyway, my motivation to do so has been quite low.

Irish cables hat
3. This hat. I think it would have been better for me if it had been about an inch longer. It barely covered my ears at all, and that bugged me to no end. I ended up giving it to my mom, since it fit her much better. I guess I have a big head or something?

IMG_13224. The Tauriel costume, which I attempted to make for the Sewcialists' "March of the Shieldmaidens" sewalong. A combination of bad choice of fabric and less-than-stellar pattern alterations left this looking pretty awful. And though I love making costumes, I wasn't having much fun with it, and was just getting stressed at how many more things I'd need to make for DragonCon vs. how long this was taking. So I ended up throwing it out and wearing my old Eowyn costume instead. Which was probably for the best.

5. Honestly, I think the biggest miss for me this year, or at least the last couple of months, has just been sewing time. It's not that I didn't want to, or even that I didn't have any free time in which to do so. It's just that my "morning" sickness ended up being so bloody awful and I just didn't have the physical stamina to do it as much as I would have liked.

So what's your favorite thing(s) that you've made this year? Anything you wish had gone better?

December 9, 2014

The slowest refashion I've ever made

I mentioned in my FESA post that I had finally finished a knitting project, and here it is!

RohelineThis is the Roheline cardigan, as modeled by the floor. I tried to get a good picture of it on me, but I was completely unable to avoid the canine photobombs today. Plus the sky is about the same color as this sweater right now, and that really doesn't help on the lighting front! Oh well, you can see the drop stitch detail better this way anyway.

I call it the slowest refashion, because the yarn is actually recycled! Several years ago, I bought three sweaters from the thrift store, as a cheap way to experiment with how my skin would react to some different animal fibers/percentages of wool.
I ended up tossing the yarn from #2, since it unraveled into a gross tangle of cheap acrylic and just enough wool to annoy me. I still have the yarn from #3 and love the colors, but I'm leaning towards tossing that one as well, since I suspect that even a measly 8% wool is going to be too much for me. So this all came from sweater #1. It's a mostly cotton/acrylic/viscose blend, with a little bit of rabbit hair. And I guess I'm ok with rabbit, because this one didn't bother me to knit with at all!

Roheline sleeve issue
Making this was definitely a learning experience. I already knew how to do drop stitch, and had experimented quite unsuccessfully with short rows in a failed sweater attempt before. But I did finally learn how to do them properly on this. I had to learn Kitschener stitch for the underarms. I also taught myself how to do "magic loop" knitting so I could do both sleeves at the same time, which was mostly successful. I guess I still need to work on that, because I was unfortunately left with this obvious line down the sleeves where I was jumping between the two circulars and the stitches are a bit looser/sometimes look like I left holes. Is that normal? I did sort of try to block this when I finished, meaning I basically just dumped it in the sink, ran some water over it and squished it around, and let it dry. I know the yarns I can generally work with don't block as nicely as wool-based ones, but I guess I should try actually washing this for real and letting it dry to see if I can smooth that out some more.

Roheline sleeveFor the most part, I knitted this straight off the pattern, since I frankly don't really have the knowledge to add extra shaping to knitting yet. But I did add a little extra length to the sleeves, about an inch, which I think was a good move. It's nice to have my wrists completely covered when it's cold outside!


And here's my attempt to get it as an outfit photo. This was seriously the best out of the multiple tries. Crosby really wanted to model today, I guess! Considering how long it took me to knit this sweater (a full 15 months!), and current events in my life, I am SO glad that I decided to do a cardigan for my second sweater, so I can actually wear it this winter!

I'm in a weird place right now, wardrobe-wise. I'm pretty firmly in the camp of having to wear maternity stuff on my legs already, since the waistbands of everything else are just getting too uncomfortably tight. But I'm still able to fit into my regular tops very well, as long as I'm ok with the "I ate one too many cookies" look. (Just minus the fun of actually getting to eat the cookies, sadly, since I'm still waiting for that nausea to go away.) So this is maternity leggings (from Old Navy) and a maternity denim skirt (from Goodwill) with my regular purple Sadie tank. I'm slowly in the process of trying to assemble a wardrobe that will be as mix-and-match as possible, but I think that will have to be a separate post for later. As of now, I have a lot of holes to fill. But since this cardigan fits very nicely with the palette that's emerging, at least I have one layer to work with.

December 2, 2014

one day I'll be part of your world

First off, thanks for all the kind words on my last post, both on here and Twitter! It's been hard to keep things quiet, and while quite a few of my friends and family have known already, it's nice to have the support of my sewing friends as well. :) Of course, the baby is also the reason I could only show a preview of my Sew Disney project, and why the Gabriola skirt I'd originally planned wasn't going to work! It's a shame, because I did have enough fabric to do so, but non-stretchy waistbands don't make sense right now since I have no idea how my sizing will end up when this is all over. Or if it would even fit now, tbh.

Ariel-inspired outfit
So here's my whole outfit, with a little help from Malkin--and my hair even looks slightly red here! I wasn't sure if it would, since it's very cloudy here today. As I said before, the top is a Renfrew, though I did make a few additional modifications that I hadn't mentioned before. I added a little extra width to the front (about 1/2" total, I think), and I added some length--more in the front than the back, so I could do a little ruching on the side. I also left the bottom band off, simply because I didn't have enough fabric left to cut it, even if it had been pieced together! The length looks all right for now, but since I'm sure I'm going to use this pattern to make a couple more tops, I think next time I'm going to add even more length to the front and put the band on anyway, just to accommodate any expansion and hold things in place. I'd definitely like to avoid that baby belly hanging out from underneath my clothes look if I can!

Ariel skirtSince the Gabriola was a no-go, I raided my pattern stash for ideas. I picked out an elastic-waist maxi skirt, then realized that the hips were still pretty fitted and that this skirt wouldn't work for too long as a result, either. So, believe it or not, it was a boxy Burda magazine pattern to the rescue! This is #119 from the June 2010 issue, and it's literally two rectangles with two drawstrings that tie at the sides. No elastic, even. But I figured that could be a good thing, because then I can tighten and loosen this to fit exactly where needed. I'll admit the result is a bit bulky around the waistband, but you can't really tell as much when it's under the shirt, I think. I did change the pattern slightly by doing a drawstring casing instead of a lining piece at the top, and I also did a French seam finish inside. If this ends up looking like a high-low hem in a few months, I wanted the insides to look good!

Ariel- side view
Here's the side view--you can sort of see the ruching, but my hand's in the way. Now that I'm seeing the top on, I kind of wish that I'd started the black a little bit lower so it wasn't running directly into the sleeve seam. Oh well.

You can also see that I'm not really showing much, if at all, at this point. I'm sure that will change soon, though. It's been very hard to wrap my head around the fact that I've lost a few pounds overall, due to the nausea and the very limited, bland diet I've been eating to try to get through the days, and yet I'm still having trouble with my pants fitting! For the record, my Thurlow pants have fared much better than most of my thrift store jeans, and it's just been this week that I haven't been able to button the top anymore. So that does give me hope that they'll fit again! (I haven't tried my last pair of jeans, because I need to do a little repair on the waistband before I can wear them. But honestly, I've already worn maternity jeans a few times and they stayed up, so I may not bother trying.)

Stashbusting totals:
Top: about 2 yards (1 of the ivory jersey, and 1 of the black interlock left over from the summer's black tank dress. Both pieces completely used up, hurrah!)
Skirt: 2 1/4 yards of the teal. I have about 2 3/4 yards left, which I'll need to come up with a use for at some point. (I already bought a similar-colored short-sleeved maternity top on clearance at Target, so that option is out.)

Ariel outtakeAnd I'll leave you today with an outtake--  I've got the standard Disney princess animal companion, and we can just pretend his name is Max for this picture, even if he is the wrong breed. But apparently Ursula's spell messed up, because this mermaid only has one foot!

December 1, 2014

FESA report card, and other news

Now that it's December, and the Fall Essentials Sew-along is over for another year, let's see how I did...

Well, I didn't do great. I had seven things on my original list. Very conservative of me, I thought!

1. Espresso leggings (Fashionable Foundations): didn't get to them.

2. Roheline cardigan (Chic Chemises): The knitting part of this one is done-- I barely finished in time, as I wove in the rest of the ends and sewed up the underarms on the 30th. I do still need to add buttons, but first I need to find some. The buttonholes ended up being a lot smaller than I expected, and I somehow didn't buy enough of the original buttons I purchased for this. Either that, or I lost a pack. So I need to find some small enough to fit through those tiny one-stitch buttonholes. Not that I'm likely to button this much, but oh well. Pictures to come.

3. Darling Ranges dress (Fabulous Frocks): My original plan of sewing this for The Monthly Stitch's Frocktober got scrapped when it became apparent that my peacoat would have to be a higher priority. Maybe next fall?

4. The peacoat (Baby It's Cold Outside): I did finish this! And since I've already talked about why it was such a time-suck, I'll leave it at that.

5. The Scraptember skirt: I worked on it, but didn't finish it. In my defense, Julia's had it in her possession for awhile to figure out what she wanted to do about another tier, so I haven't actually had access to it.

6. A scarf: I knitted part of this while I was on vacation. And haven't touched it since, so I could concentrate on my sweater.

7. The Disney sewalong project: Which would fall under Chic Chemises and Fashionable Foundations. You know I already finished the shirt, and I did also finish the skirt last week. I have a little extra time tomorrow, so hopefully I can get some pictures of the outfit then.

So, not my most productive period of sewing. But once again, life happened while I was busy making other plans...the truth is, there is a reason why my sewing mojo has been so low during the past couple of months, and it's not just all of the tailoring involved in that coat. Some of you whom I chat with on Twitter may remember me mentioning some major jet lag and nausea when I got back from my trip in September. Well, turns out it wasn't jet lag...I've also been busy over the last couple of months with making a tiny human! My "morning sickness" has really been 24-7 nausea for about 6-7 weeks straight now. So most of the time, I've felt too crappy after work to do much of anything other than sit in front of the tv, and sometimes knit. It really was pure stubbornness that enabled me to finish that coat!

Thankfully, I'm just about at the second trimester, currently on week 12, and hopefully that means I'll stop feeling constantly sick soon. (Oh please oh please...) And yes, there is going to be some baby-centric sewing going on here, but I seriously need some more maternity clothes, so I'll still be making stuff for me as well, I promise! Finding RTW maternity clothes that aren't in boring colors or fit properly in places that aren't supposed to change that much--i.e. my shoulders and the length of my arms--is really hard, you guys!

November 18, 2014

Making plans, Disney-style

If you follow the Sewcialists blog, then you've probably heard that this month's theme is all things Disney. And I'm co-hosting! So I'm really glad to be done with the coat so I can actually, you know, make an outfit for this.

Since I already channeled my favorite Disney bookworm earlier this year for DragonCon, I decided to look a little further back into my childhood for this one. I grew up watching Disney cartoons--one of the things that I always looked forward to during family gatherings was that my grandmother would try to get the latest Disney movie on VHS, and my cousins and I would all watch it together. And if there wasn't anything new, we'd watch older classics like Cinderella or Peter Pan. I enjoyed those, of course, but the first one I really remember latching onto was this one:

I have this vague memory of this being the first movie that I actually saw in a movie theater, though I guess that depends on how accurate my memory is--after all, I would have been around 7 at the time. But I loved this one. Especially the music, and all of the underwater prettiness, though I'm also pretty sure this is where I got the idea that my hair should be red and if it doesn't agree, then I should just give it a little help! (Now if I could just get her volume...)

I don't want to go all-out costume for this one, especially since a shell top and tail just isn't something I want to be seen in out in public! So I'm taking my inspiration more from her going around town/"Kiss The Girl" outfit:

I actually already have the top done, so I'll give a little sneak preview!

It sits a little wonky on Donna, but here's what I came up with! I really thought about making the black neckline more of a sweetheart shape, but with some careful basting, managed to get a mostly clean line for the notch.

It's a Renfrew, of course, with some modifications for the color-blocking and also a raised neckline. Now that I look at the Ariel picture again, I probably could have left it a little more scooped, but I'll be warmer this way. Since I'm all about the stashbusting, and some of the pictures look more off-white and some more light blue, I used an ivory jersey for the top/sleeves and the leftover black interlock from the dress I made over the summer for the "corset".  I just barely had enough to squeeze this out--I couldn't even cut the band for the bottom, so it's just hemmed. I'm hoping this won't look too blatantly costumey if I pair it with cardigans or jackets or whatever, but I do like the look of it, and I'm quite happy that my hack turned out the way I wanted it to! There may have to be more color-blocked Renfrews in my future. Because that's a way more interesting use of plain colored fabrics, IMO.

More pics to come once I figure out what I'm doing about that skirt--I was originally planning to make a Gabriola, but it isn't going to work at this point. So I'll have to improvise. Looks like it might be my old Burda magazines to the rescue...

November 13, 2014

the coat that stubbornness built

peacoatThe coat is finally done! It took a lot longer than I'd planned, mostly due to my sewing mojo being the lowest it's been since I was in grad school and trying to juggle that, my TA duties, getting a teaching career going outside of the university's music school, and actually seeing my friends on occasion. But I did the last bit of hand-stitching and sewed on the buttons last night, finishing it just in time for the cold to come. Literally. Yesterday it was in the 60s, and today we might scrape the upper end of the 40s if we're lucky. Brr.

Since I've used this pattern before, there isn't really a ton to say about it. I did do several things differently this time, mostly involving hand-stitching all of the internal seams down because they weren't pressing flat enough, and underlining. I used up that silk organza I'd mentioned in a previous post to underline almost everything (I didn't have quite enough for the sleeves, so I left it out of there), and I also underlined (interlined?) the lining with Thinsulate. Which was way less time-consuming in the long run than my last coat, where I quilted two layers of quilt batting into the lining. This coat is still heavy, though! I think it's mostly due to the outer fabric, which is pretty thick and heavy compared to the suedecloth I used for the last coat. Oh, and I had to draft the pattern piece for the collar stand, because apparently I also failed to return that to the envelope the last time, along with the first page of directions. Organization fail. Maybe next time I need a coat, I should just get a new pattern!

bound buttonholeOh, and I did bound buttonholes! This was my first attempt at doing it, and they are a little wonky in spots (also probably due to the thickness), but they blend in well enough with the fabric that it isn't blatantly obvious unless you're looking up close. I did cheat a little bit--the original coat pattern calls for an additional buttonhole on the part that goes underneath the main buttoned-up part, to attach to a button on the lining. But honestly, I rarely, if ever, buttoned it there when I was wearing the other coat. So I figured I'd save myself some time and skip it! I also stole the buttons from the old coat, since they were still perfectly good.

hemI cheated on the lining a bit, and just shoved the raw edge of the lining underneath the serged edge of the coat and hemmed it on machine. At that point, I just wanted it DONE. But honestly, I think it will hold better in the long run than hand-stitching on this particular fabric, and since the lining pleats over top of the hem, you can't even really see that serged edge.

This project may have taken forever, and it was honestly sheer stubbornness combined with my fear of cold that pushed me to finish it. But it was great for stashbusting! All together, I completely used up 3 yards of that tweedy stuff on the outside, 2 yards of Bemberg lining, and about 3 1/3 yards of the organza--it wasn't full width everywhere since it was leftover from a previous project, so I had to do some creative pattern work. I do have a decent-sized piece of leftover Thinsulate, so I'll need to figure out what to do with that at some point.

peacoat liningSo, one project of my FESA plan down, finally.  I'm hoping I can still squeeze in my SewDisney project before the end of November, but I'm starting off with a Renfrew hack, so this should theoretically go much faster! And at least I'll manage to stay warm in the meantime. I hope. Since this is me we're talking about, after all.

October 16, 2014

What's it got on its pocketses?

Since finishing up my friend's cape, I've managed to make a little progress on my coat, at least as far as construction of major sections has gone. It's taking a little longer, for a couple of reasons:
a) This tweedy fabric frays if you just look at it--I'm really not exaggerating by much! So I'm having to go back and serge every raw edge once the seams are sewn.
b) The first page of the directions somehow didn't make it back into the envelope after the last time I made this coat! So I'm having to really think through this and make sure I'm doing it right. I even pulled out my old Reader's Digest Guide to Sewing as a reference just to make sure. Yay for sewing books!
c) I'm actually glad I did that, because it inspired me to add a detail to the pocket construction that I think will make this coat better. Also, I had to cut the pocket lining in the first place.
d) I also discovered that I sewed one of the pockets on in the wrong place, and had to rip it off and re-sew it to the right place. Which means I've just now finished the first two front seams, minus topstitching. Yikes.

So that pocket detail... I added a facing to the lining fabric portion. (One side is cut from the actual coat fabric.) I was originally planning on lining the coat in this lime green silk crepe that I bought for the wedding and then couldn't use. But I had this royal TARDIS blue Bemberg lining that I bought to attempt to line the Darling Ranges dress that I was originally thinking of making this fall. (At this point in October, I'm thinking my best bet is to drop that part of my FESA plan and save it for going into next fall. Again.) A little Twitter conversation confirmed my thought that fully lining the dress might be more complicated than helpful, particularly for the bulk of the gathered skirt. So I commandeered that particular piece of fabric for the coat lining instead, because I think it will slide over sweaters and the like so much more nicely. (Now I still have to come up with something to do with 3 yards of lime green silk. Help?)
I was worried about how the lining would hold up against the strain of pulling my gloves in and out of my pockets, especially with the thicker tweedy fabric. So I basted a leftover scrap of my organza, cut on the selvedge, onto the seam line of the two pocket pieces...

...and then stitched on a piece of the coating. The edge facing the inside pocket is serged, of course, because of that fray factor.

A small detail, I know, but even though the front isn't pressed yet, I think this is helping the pocket to lay much better. And it looks a lot more professional to not have that blue peeking out!

I don't think I'm going to go all-out tailored with this coat, because it being halfway through October means I'm feeling pressured to get this done. Especially since it's been oddly warm and the temperatures are set to plummet this weekend, which means I'll be freezing my butt off at work next week for sure. So if I try any more super-tailored details on this one, I think it'll be attempting the bound buttonhole thing. I just can't see a regular stitched-and-cut buttonhole holding up for too long on this fabric. I guess I'll have to figure out when in the process to do that, so wish me luck! I think I'm at least caught up to the point where I have directions again. So that's something.

October 11, 2014

a little owl cape

The nice thing about sewing on Saturdays is that I can instantly post! I literally just finished this project about 10 minutes ago, minus photography/writing time.

Anyway, as I mentioned in the last post, a friend of mine emailed me while I was on the Paris trip to ask if I'd be willing to help her out with a Halloween costume for her foster son. I've made some capes for her before, for her own boys and her nieces/nephews, and the idea was pretty cute, so it was hard to say no! The boy loves owls, and really wanted to dress up as one. This was the inspiration link she sent me. And she bought the owl mask herself, so my only responsibility was the cape.

Owl cape, frontAnd this is what I came up with. I made this one a little differently than the others, mostly in that it involved a half-circle rather than a rectangle. The bottom-most level of feathers is the cut edge of the cape, but all of the others were cut and sewn on. I was also able to use all stash fabrics! The boy's favorite color is green, so I was glad to find a piece of cotton that didn't have a girly-looking print on it.

Owl cape, backAnd here's a view of the back, as best as Donna could model it. I'm sure her shoulders are wider than a little boy's! I left all the edges of the feathers raw, because it would have taken forever to make this otherwise, though I stitched the edges about 1/4" away from the edge to prevent too much fraying as it gets washed and worn. I figured a little fraying would actually be ok for this one, to soften the feather edges! The rows of feathers are just zigzagged on, so I did add the lining that you can see above in order to hide that. The rows got pretty crooked in some spots! I know there's this huge span of tan at the top, but honestly, I ran out of the green so I had to improvise!
Owl cape liningOne more detail my friend requested was some "handles" so he could use that to spread his wings. I made them pretty wide in order to accommodate growth, but it's just two pieces of ribbon stitched on so that the feathers above it were left free (minus the hem feathers, of course.)

I sent her some pictures in progress and she was excited about how it was turning out, so I'm hoping the boy loves it! This was more of a fabric hog than I thought, too-- I only have scraps left of the tan leaf print and the darker brown. So all in all, about 3.75 yards of fabric. I've been remiss in keeping track of the numbers on my spreadsheet lately--I still have some subtracting to do for the DragonCon projects and my TARDIS bag. So I'll have to catch up on that soon so I can at least see how I'm doing on my Stash Diet at the end of the month!

Are you doing any Halloween costumes this year? Or are you all too busy sewing your fall and winter stuff, like I need to start doing?

October 9, 2014

the slowest of sewing

I figure I'll have to do a few more in-progress posts for awhile, since I'm not speedy enough to whip out a winter coat in no time! Also, I've gotten a little sidetracked by a sewing request from a friend that I couldn't pass up. (Because it's costume-related and for a little kid--how could I say no?)

All I've managed to get done on my coat so far is to cut the outside and underline the pieces. My fabric doesn't look like a loose weave on the table, but when you hold it up to the light, it tells a different story!

If that much light gets through, it seems reasonable that winter winds could do the same! I had a large piece of silk organza left over from making this dress, because I seriously overestimated how much I would need to underline it. I also ruined the light color of it back when I made that dress, because I threw all of the fabrics in the wash together and it turned sort of an uneven, hand-dyed-looking grey. So I didn't want to use it as a press cloth, and I couldn't use it for any interfacing-type roles on lighter colored fabrics. However, I did have just enough to squeeze most of the outer pieces of this coat onto it, minus the two front pieces. (They were supposed to be interfaced anyway, and overlap when the coat is buttoned, so I was ok with making an exception there.)

The grain may be wonky on a few pieces here and there, because if you've ever worked with silk organza, you know how it shifts. At first, I tried cutting out the pieces and then basting it onto the main coat pieces, but of course things were shifting like crazy. So since the fabric itself has a bit more grabbing power than the usual things I underline, I tried a different approach: laying the pieces directly on the organza, basting them on, and then cutting them out. The other advantage to this was that I could tweak the layout to fit as many pieces of the coat on as possible, since I was working with leftovers!

The pieces are all cut out and ready to go, including the two interfaced front pieces. I'm hoping to finish my friend's project--an owl cape for her foster son to wear for Halloween/his early November birthday--before the weekend is over, so I can give it to her on Sunday. I do have a little sneak peek of that, aside from what I've been posting on Instagram here and there, because Doug got bored while I was working on this last weekend and started goofing off with my camera. I guess a good side effect of our Paris trip is he's a lot less nervous about using it now!
So many feathers. But the good thing is that I was able to completely bust a few pieces of quilt cotton from my stash!
And a little peek at me in my sewing room. It had been awhile since I had a nice chunk of weekend time to sew, so I was a happy girl!

The feathers didn't go quite as far when I pinned them on for real after edge-finishing, so I cut out what I hope is the last of those last night. The only work I have today is teaching a couple of lessons, so I'm hoping to get those edges done so I can finish up the sewing ASAP!

September 29, 2014

an American fabric-shopping in Paris!

Yeah, that happened! There's a lot more I could say about my trip, but we all know you're really here for the fabric chatter, right? Of course right.

Several people were kind enough to give me recommendations for places to check out, via Twitter. Specifically Sonja and Sarah--thanks, ladies! I knew I would have to limit myself on how many places I could visit, since I'd be dragging Doug with me, so I ended up picking one recommendation from each sewcialist.

Les Coupons de Saint-PierreFirst up was Les Coupons de Saint-Pierre. I'd been forewarned that this place was one you'd have to dig through piles, but I've been a thrift shopper since I was 13, so I have no problem with that.

To be honest, I could have spent hours in this part of town alone--there were so many tables full of fabric sitting outside multiple shops, just begging to be noticed! For a girl who only has a handful of Joann's in her entire state to pick from, this was a dream! But for the sake of my long-suffering husband, I restrained myself. Yes, there was a lot of digging to do. All of the fabric is piled onto tables by type, in 3-meter cuts--there was a huge pile of cottons, a section for linen, a part with leather hides, a huge section on the one side of the store for "silks", etc. (I put the silk in quotes, because upon closer examination, I deduced that the sign probably meant silky and the biggest pile was actually polyester. All of the labels were in French, of course, but I made sure to look up the words for the different fiber types before I left!) So I bought 3 pieces of fabric here. When we were walking to the metro, I spotted a fourth "coupon" on an outside table that I couldn't pass up, so we quickly bought that as well and kept moving. I forget the name of that shop, but it also had "Coupons" in the name, and looked to be pretty similar.

French fabric!Here's what I ended up with, from left to right:

1. A fine-wale corduroy, covered in embroidery and sequins. This was on the 5 Euro table outside the store. My first instinct says jacket, but since I already have a brown corduroy jacket, I'm pondering a fall skirt. A Beignet, maybe? French named-pattern for a French fabric!

2. The piece on the side of the road I couldn't leave! It's a thin jersey, and I do so love brown and teal together. I think this could be very nice as the lately-released Muse Jenna cardi, though I don't have that pattern yet. 4,75 Euros.

3. A denim with a slight amount of stretch. I liked the cross-hatching in the weave. These will eventually become jeans, of course. I'll have to decide whether to make them skinny, since that's pretty much the only pants I saw anywhere in Paris, or give myself another pair of bootcuts.

4. An ITY floral jersey. This color scheme is odd for me, and almost completely outside of my palette, but something about it called to me. I don't know what this one will be yet, but it's not like I have a shortage of jersey patterns. I'm open to suggestions, though!

All together, the cost of these fabrics was just under 30 Euros. Which made the whole shopping trip cheaper than almost every single meal we ate. Those cafes are expensive when you're buying for 2! Even for just sandwiches!

la drougerieThe second store I visited later in the week was La Drougerie. I didn't end up buying any fabric here, because there was only a small selection and it looked like mostly quilt-type cottons. It was also sold by the meter instead of the 3-meter cuts, so it looked like that would add up quickly. It looked like the big draw here was the yarn--it's the first thing you see when you walk into the door, and dominates the whole first half of the store. There's also a room to the side where you can browse beads and buttons and trims, and again, I could have spent a lot more time here.

I decided to limit myself to just a small yarn purchase here, since the yarn is sold by weight. It's a good thing I came armed with fiber translations, because as usual, there's wool in almost everything! But I did find this super-soft linen/bamboo blend. It's called Kaleido, Ravelry has it categorized as fingering weight, and I ended up with about 330 yards. So probably enough for a hat or a lacy scarf or something along that line.

Unleaving, in progress
Finally, I did do some crafting while I was gone! This was mostly done during times like airport layovers and sitting in the hotel room at night-- I was originally thinking to knit on the plane some, too, but for both of the long flights, I ended up in the middle seat with not a ton of elbow room. This is the Unleaving Shawl from Knitty, which really looks a lot more like a scarf than a shawl and highly increases the chance of this actually getting worn. And it's a really simple pattern, unless I'm so tired from flying for 8 hours straight that I screw up the pattern and can't figure out how to backtrack and fix it. (Yeah, that happened once. Hopefully it's not too terribly obvious. I really should not knit anything other than straight stockinette when I'm super-tired.)

One other fun sewing-related story from the trip: Doug and I had just gotten on the metro later in the day after dropping off my fabric at the hotel, to head to Notre Dame. There were two older ladies in the seats near the rail we were holding onto, and one was telling her friend (in English) about something having to do with a silk-cotton blend and the pattern she was working with. So when there was a pause in the conversation, I asked them if they sewed, they answered in the affirmative, and the three of us got to chatting about sewing clothes! I didn't have time before our stop to ask their names or where exactly they were from, though I'm guessing America based on the accents (or lack thereof, to my ears). But they did like my Cooper bag that I was carrying, and had heard of Colette when I replied to their question of what pattern I'd used. It's amazing that I could instantly find someone to talk to in a random subway on the other side of the world because of sewing!

If you do want to see travel photos, I have a small selection up on my Instagram. I still need to sort through the photos on my SLR, and when I uploaded those and the ones on my phone this morning, I have over 700 photos from the week! But I'm also going to make a Flickr album of my favorites, mostly to make it easier to upload and print. After all, this is exactly the sort of trip that makes me want to dig into my scrapbook paper and play!

September 15, 2014

Do the (blog) hop!

I'm sure many of you have seen the blog hop that's been going around about our writing processes lately, and Alessa nominated me! If you don't know her, she lives in Germany, makes wonderful, colorful dresses, and started a new job as a doctor this year (congrats!) So it's an honor to be nominated by her. And here's my answers.

Early days blog photography, when Donna 1.0 was my main model.
Why do I write? I started this blog waaaay back in 2007, mostly just as a way to keep track of my own projects, make notes of changes that I'd make when re-using patterns in a place where I couldn't misplace them, etc. Somewhere on the way, people actually started reading it and (gasp!) commenting. And suddenly, I was actually part of a sewing community. Since I live in what is basically a desert for garment sewing, and the only people I know who sew regularly are my mom and grandmother (who are both more into quilting), this is a pretty big deal! When the "sewintists map" went live, I kept checking and checking, but I've never seen another pin in Delaware. I guess it's a good thing I'm only a day trip away from Philadelphia/Baltimore/DC, right? So my blog is still mostly just for my own personal documentation, but also as one method of keeping conversations going with other sewcialists.
A recent outtake with both dogs trying to get in the action!

What am I working on? Blog-wise: you probably wouldn't know it, but I am attempting to work on improving my blog photos. My current challenges here are that I don't have anywhere good to take photos outside on a regular basis, since I live in a middle-unit townhouse that has a lovely view of one of my state's busiest highways from the backyard, and I'm still trying to convince my long-suffering husband to not be scared of my camera. Also, photobombing Golden retrievers. :-)

I'm also working on writing more concisely, because I have a tendency to ramble!

Sewing-wise: I've got two projects going on right now! One is my winter coat, which I'll probably write more about soon. This one pretty much demands in-progress posts. The other is a patchwork skirt commissioned by my sister-in-law. It's a good thing she's patient, because I started this one before my wedding dress and it still isn't done! But since this is the perfect project for Scraptember, I'm trying very hard to finish it this month. We'll see if I make it, since I'm leaving for vacation on Friday!

How does it differ from others of its genre? I don't think my blog is all that unique, tbh. I don't design patterns, I'm not an expert at fitting or pattern hacking, and I'm not trying to come up with anything to sell at this point in my life. Since I've already turned one hobby into a job, via my music teaching and occasional performance, I'd like to keep my crafty life as something that's just for fun! I guess what does make me a little different is that I don't just sew--that's why I named this blog what I did. I've been teaching myself to knit, I make jewelry when the mood strikes, I've been making scrapbooks since I was in high school, and sometimes I do other "crafty" stuff. And I need to remember sometimes that just because something isn't sewing-related, doesn't mean it's not creative or unworthy of a mention.
me as Amy Pond
Or not-so-secret costumes, though only the Whovians would get this.

Also, some people like "secret pajamas" clothes.... I like making secret costumes! (AKA things inspired by geeky things I love, which can still be worn in my everyday life.)

How does my writing process work? Most often, I start with the words. I've always found it easier to consolidate my thoughts in writing, rather than verbally. Also, sometimes I pre-write my posts at my retail job, when I'm close to finishing a project and don't have anything else to do. (Shh!) After that, I take the photos/pester Doug into taking them for me, edit my text as needed to match them, and post! Lately, that's also been followed by tweeting about the new post, since sewing completely sucked me into the Twittersphere. 

I'm supposed to tag two other people, so I'm nominating Katie from Kadiddlehopper and Helena at By Eitchy. In case you don't know them, Katie makes fabulous clothes for both her and her highly photogenic daughter, and has the most stylish Barbies around. She's seriously tempting me to get out my old Samantha doll and make some outfits for her with my scraps! Helena lives in Sweden, is working through a really fascinating project she calls "Sew For A Change" where she's also working on greening up her lifestyle, and has also been in pretty much the same boat of re-examining her wardrobe plans and ideals through the Wardrobe Architect project. I also find it interesting when she talks about Swedish culture, since it sounds like it's soooo different in a lot of ways from what I'm used to here in America.

September 11, 2014

FESA plans!

It's that time of year again! I do love this sewalong, and this is the 3rd year I've participated. You all know how I feel about the cold, and my ironically wool-phobic skin doesn't help matters. (I say ironic, because since I got married, my last name now starts with Wool! Go figure.) So this is a great way to keep me focused and excited about making things to get me through the winter.

So without further ado, here are my plans for the next couple of months. I'm keeping things rather conservative this time, so maybe I can actually finish everything?

Fashionable Foundations for Frosty Weather: I have some stashed knit to try out the Espresso leggings, and I'd like to knock out a pair or two of them. Since woolly tights are a sad no-go for me, I think this could be a great way to keep my legs warmer for wearing skirts. (I wear boots with skirts a lot, so the no-foot-coverage thing won't be an issue.) Not to mention it's a layer I can wear under my jeans while I'm shivering my way through the last bit of October at the outside register at my retail job. (I have some black, too, but it's a much bigger bolt since I'd also bought this fabric with that aborted attempt at a Red Velvet in mind. Oh well. I can always use black knit somewhere, right?)

Chic Chemises for Cool Climates: The definite is that I'd like to finally finish up the Roheline cardigan that I've been knitting since August 2013! (Though I really didn't get it started until last September, since I had to restart no less than 7 times.) I'm so, so close to finishing the sleeves, which means I only have the yoke and buttons to go, so it's not unreasonable. Depending on how the time goes, I also wouldn't mind trying out the Archer blouse, since I didn't get to that in my summer plans.

Fabulous Frocks: I would like to do a Darling Ranges dress if at all possible, since the colors will be great for taking it into the winter. Also, I meant to make it last year, so it's time. I'm hoping to knock this one out next month, since The Monthly Stitch's theme is "Frocktober" anyway. I'll just need to find a layer to go over it--I have yarn to knit a yellow cardigan that will pair nicely with this, but there's no way I'll be able to finish 2 cardigans in this time span.

Baby It's Cold Outside: My old peacoat that I made in 2007 is starting to fall apart. Replacing that will be first priority! (Even so, 7 years, including the polar vortex of wintry doom that we had this past year, is not bad at all for my first me-made winter coat!) I'm hoping to play around with a few more tailoring techniques, but I'm using the exact same pattern as the first one, so at least fitting won't be an issue. I actually have started cutting this one out already, but since there's 4 layers involved, I'm still on the outside. (The black and white tweedy fabric has been cut, but I'm underlining most of the pieces with that greyish silk organza that's right next to it. And that's taking a little longer. Especially given that I haven't been able to touch it since Saturday.)

Other projects: I'm hoping to knock out a skirt before the end of the month, because a long-standing project I've been making for my sister-in-law is perfect for Scraptember! I may knit up a scarf, too, since I'm strongly leaning towards a one-skein project to take on my upcoming trip to France. (Next weekend! Eeeeee!) After all, I have a lot of plane/airport time, and at least 6 hours on a bus to get to Normandy and back, and I'm not sure how well my Kindle battery will hold up for a cross-continental flight. Also, I know from experience that I sadly cannot read on the bus without getting sick.  Maybe I'll have better luck with just keeping my hands busy.

I'm also beginning to plot out what I'm going to make for the Disney sewalong that Katie and I are co-hosting in November, but that project is still a secret!