Sleepy time pajamas

A little chilly for this time of year.. but very comfortable!

So somehow, I’ve actually managed to rebuild a decent sized stash… which of course included some odd selections. Lots of white t-shirt knit – it’s a bit on the heavier side but at least there are no worries about seeing through the fabric. And this flora/fauna green and brown quilters cotton that I am sure came from Joann’s at some point early last summer. Tom created a new cutting table for me and I had been thinking I would cover it with a patterned fabric… but this particular one ended up clashing with pretty much every other material in the room. So away on the shelf it got stored.

Until I started to get ready for the Nashua Sew & Vac retreat! I spent the first week of January just cutting out projects and kitting them in bags with the pattern and all necessary notions. It was actually kind of nice to work that way. And in fact, I’m already sewing more since I got back since I have all these projects just ready to go.

Anyway, this particular set ended up being the first project I sewed during the retreat- partly because they were easy, and partly because they were two of the least interesting projects I brought so I wantedto get them out of the way. It also gave me a chance to tweak the settings on my serger and Bernina for the rest of the weekend – since I didn’t mind a few skipped stitches on my sleepwear!

All told, I followed the instructions exactly – made a medium top and medium pants – and they probably took me a combined 2 hours from start to finish. I haven’t worn them to bed yet… but as soon as we get closer to spring… or I find myself away for the weekend I’ll try them out!


Stash bash jeans

New jeans... still need some sanding... and a better place to take photos!

Pictures! I wore my newly finished jeans today, and aside from one minor mishap, they were great… and I even took a few pictures just a few minutes ago. (Note to self… start working out… or stop wearing sleeveless tops. It’s not currently a good look!) As for the minor mishap… I meant to topstitch the inseam but didn’t think of it until the side seams had been sewn and serged. AND I also forgot to go back stitch the crotch seam again… so there were a few ripped stitches at the first try on this morning. oops. Luckily the serging held and I survived until getting them back under the machine for a row of reinforcement stitches. And I added that step to my directions for next time.

Once again these are made from the J. Stern Designs pattern #37. I’ve used the pattern successfully before and still love those jeans but they are getting a bit worn out and were meant for flip-flops… so they end up a tad short when I want to wear my boots. Or any other shoes for that matter! Sadly, I’ve put back on a bit of weight (about 15 pounds) so the new pair are ‘curvier’ in the hip area (or rather my hips are curvier – ugh) than I would like but nothing a little new year’s healthy resolution can’t help with.

So – any major changes this time around? Here’s what I noted:

  • Fabric… purchased directly from Jennifer Stern at the Worcester Expo last April – excellent denim to work with although washing & drying it 4 times was a pain.
  • Topstitching… set up a second sewing machine just for top-stitching so I didn’t have to keep re-threading. Definitely saved time. Also used YLI jeans stitch thread. Great end result.
  • Fussy detail – pocket fabric is much sturdier this go round. And it was stitched three times for reinforcement. (I got a hole in a pocket in the first pair.)
  • The standard length was just right – I simply unfolded what I had tucked up from cutting the flip-flop length last time.
  • Back seat – still not perfect but that’s due to some faulty drafting on my end. I just need to straighten out the center back seam with a french curve – no biggie.
  • Must remember to topstitch inseam. It would have added strength and a nice detail that is found on nearly every other pair of jeans I own. I did topstitch the side seams from the waist to the base of the pocket – another detail found on many jeans and I like the look.
  • I’m still not shortening the zipper enough. Next time I need to shorten it to the length of the placket or just order some 4″ zippers and be done with it!
  • I’d like to try the YLI jeans stitch thread in beige next time. I think it would make for more subtle detailing on the next pair.
  • I add some decorative stitching on the pocket – just extra-long stitches mimicking the design shown on the envelope. I’m thinking I need to start a file on pocket embellishment ideas. Or keep saving for an embroidery machine!

Not bad for a first pocket attempt... just chalked a design and sewed!

Sewing Retreat Report

It’s  hard to believe that a week ago I was in Meredith NH for a three day sewing retreat run by Nashua Sew & Vac. I brought scads of projects and got nearly that much done while I was there

Friday was the first day of sewing and we were set up with machines running by 11am. I started off slow with a white knit racer back pajama tank top and then a draped neck sleeveless top. Both were made from the same white tee shirt knit from my stash. Neither are incredible but both were easy and gave me a chance to work out issues with my bernina and the serger. About 1.75 yards went into those two projects.

Next in  line was a pair of pajama pants… your basic full leg, elastic waist, printed cotton. The cotton in this case was an odd green and brown floral/animal print that I had intended to use as a cover for my cutting table. Unfortunately it really clashed… but who cares when it’s jammie fabric!! 2ish yards went into the making of those pants.

Somewhere along the way was a pizza break for dinner and then I got started on one of the dresses I brought – the green boucle sheath with tan bemberg lining. It went together pretty easily and I enjoyed taking my time and doing everything by the book. Lots of serging along the way on that one since the fabric frayed like crazy. I had it finished except for the hem when I tried it on for the first time on Saturday afternoon. Eek…. my hips are even wider than I admitted to myself when  cutting everything out. Luckily there was just enough room to let the skirt out a tad. Stockings would have helped too.

Anyway, that dressmaking lasted well in to Friday night and then most of the day on Saturday. However, in the end, the fit was great and having spent so much time hand finishing the details was worth it. And  chalk up 2.25 more yards sewn up from my stash!

The rest of the report will have to wait… I made a pair of jeans today and now my brain is tired! Photos and the rest of the report tomorrow!






a jazzy new laptop bag, finis!

It’s done, it’s done!

Well, we had our usual Tuesday night sewing time and all three of us completed our professional totes. Sharon and Lorrie’s turned out fantastic – the leather really looks great and they even added feet to the bottom to keep the bags from wearing too easily. Mine doesn’t look too different from the partial finished photo in the last post. The big difference is the center zipper that closes it all up and of course the zillion pockets on the inside. Okay, maybe it’s only 7 pockets – but it seems like a lot more when sewing them all together. Final tally: about 19 hours. Not too bad for my first bag. Now I’ll have to take it to work tomorrow… just because!

A pink partial petticoat! Only the dust ruffle was attached in this photo. There's a 12" flounce that gets added on top, too.

Over the weekend I also finished my 1911 chemise and drawers as well as a pink sateen underpetticoat, except for one button and button hole. I have a corset in the works, too but am waiting on some boning to arrive before that can be wrapped up. Unfortunately the underpetticoat can’t get fitted until the corset is tried on again and I know my final waist size!

There’s another sewing night planned for tomorrow at work which will entail more 1911 sewing. At this point I have almost enough photos for a complete tutorial on 1911 drawers, chemises and petticoats. If only I could find the time to sit down and do it!

a peacock dress

Yes, peacocks! When I first described this fabric to friends – apparently they were picture peacock-colored fabric. So needless to say they were surprised to find actual peacocks all over me!

Anyway, this dress was a labor of love – following both couture techniques included in the pattern, as well as others I have picked up along the way on other classes and looking at historical garments. Basically, during my August vacation, I visited the newly opened Silk Road Fabrics in Auburndale, MA… and was simply blown away by this cut silk/rayon velvet patterned with roses, vines and yes, peacocks. The sheer black background was tried over a number of different colors of silk charmeuse… but ultimately this bright lime green won out. With the addition of some black silk organza for interlining, I was ready to get started… and this was the winning dress pattern:

Interestingly, this pattern is based on a vintage bias-cut dress from the 1930s – one of my favorite decades for fashion! All of the fitting is done through a pair of three darts:  one diagonal front dart, one back vertical dart, and one horizontal dart. And of course, it says right on the pattern “no allowance made for above waist adjustment” (or something like that… you get the idea!) So basically no easy way to do a full bust adjustment (FBA.)

Would I let this deter me? Well – for a few days, yes. I made an initial muslin (with no adjustments) and tried on and debated for about a week about whether or not the bias cut would allow me to get away with skipping the FBA. Ultimately I decided it it was worth the extra effort (math, redrafting, additional muslins, etc) and invented my own bias-cut FBA. (I’m sure others have done this before but I couldn’t find any online tutorials – or suggestions in any of my dozen fitting books.)

First of all – I should mention that this dress is a single pattern piece with a center back seam. However, other than the zipper place at the left side, the pattern is a mirror image at the center front. (i.e. it could be placed on a fold if it weren’t for the bias grainline)

So for my bias FBA – I only worked on redrafting the left side of the pattern. I split the pattern lengthwise from neck to hem, running through the bust apex marked on the pattern. I spread the pattern apart about 1.25.” Normally it would be between 1.5 and 2″ but I did want to allow for the extra ease provided by the bias grainline.

You can just see the extra space from widening the pattern at the center bottom of the photo.  To get the shaping I needed for the FBA, you can see how much I widened the main front dart. It starts just below the bust apex and curves back, ending at the lower hip. This made for a VERY wide dart – but it worked perfectly during the subsequent muslin fittings. The dark lines on the right side of the image are the final darts – the paler lines and everything on the left side of the photo are the original markings.

I didn’t add any extra length to the pattern pieces – normally I would add 1/2″ to 1″ but again I figured the bias drape would weigh the dress down and stretch out the fabric.  Fortunately I guessed right! It took three muslin fittings to perfect this –  but hopefully you’ll agree it was worth it!

Wrong side of the charmeuse is up... the velvet layer is below it, also with wrong side up.

With the muslin perfected, it was time to transfer all the cutting lines and markings to silk charmeuse. I decided to baste the velvet and charmeuse layers together to work them as one so that meant basting all the darts, zipper markings, and matching dots & notches. As both fabrics were incredibly slippery, I used weights to keep everything in place and basted everything while it was flat on a table. Difficult to see – but most of the dart markings have been basted in the photo above. Around the cut edges I used pins since the sewing time was nearly constant – there wasn’t much worry about losing pins or layers separating.

Following the traditional couture methods, all the darts were basted together by hand and then machine stitched. This was especially effective since I was working with velvet which has tendency to creep while sewing. (One of these days I’ll buy a walking foot!) From that point on I pretty much followed the instructions, working the two fabrics as one throughout the process. For the facings and zipper placket, I also used the two fabrics to keep the finishes consistent. The zipper placket, which is inserted into a cut slit at the left side, was a new technique for me but not too bad when following the pattern instructions. I did have to hand-sew the actual zipper in several times as the drape of the fabric kept fighting against it as soon as I tried on – but finally on the third attempt it was laying properly.

After not too much more time, the dress was finished except for hem and armhole trim. I lucked out on some great red beaded velvet trim which worked for the armholes. It was a bit wider than I hoped for, but the rich red color really helped the roses in the dress to pop. Lorrie at Unique Boutique Boston was kind enough to mark the hem for me (and be the first one to ‘wow’ at the gown which was very gratifying!!) and after a bit more hand-sewing… all was finally finished!

I don’t dress up very often… but as I was the guest of honor at the party I wore it to – I must say it felt fabulous to be wearing such a stunning dress!

a puppy love quilt

puppy love quilt

Awfully sweet, isn't it?

So what’s worse? The fact that I probably started this quilt for my niece’s 1st birthday and that she just turned 2 in july? Or that even though I finally finished it, I have managed to bring it over to give to her?

In any case, I picked up this quilt kit on sale at Joann’s long enough ago that I can’t remember the details… However, over the last x number of months, I’ve been working on it with the idea of giving it my niece. (Well, technically she’s my fiance’s niece, but does that detail really matter?) I can’t recall if the kit pieces were cut out or not, but I do have vague recollections of doing some cutting so I’m going to guess not.

I really don’t enjoy quilting which I think is why I bought a kit so I didn’t have to put much thought into it.  I did end up sewing the entire thing by hand, including the piecing. The quilting itself probably took the longest – mostly I just kept getting bored with it.  Each of the outside squares is quilted 1/4″ away from the seams, as is the large center panel. Then in the large panel I also quilted around each bunch of large flowers to help hold the layers together. Although you can’t see it in the picture, the backing is the all-over pink and white printed flannel – the same as some of the small squares.

Very fuzzy, but if you squint and try real hard, you can see the stitches around the large bunch of flowers!

A basic store-bought quilt binding in bright pink was also handsewn along the edges to finish the quilt. I must say, all in all, it turned out quite charming… but I am NOT in a rush to make any more quilts. (But I am happy to have one gift to store away until Christmas!)

a bright & cheery bra

Yes, you read that right… Today’s post is one in a series (hopefully) of projects I’ve been sewing this summer but never quite got around to writing about. Apparently I need a little cheering up and so looking back at how many projects I’ve finished should help….

I’ve had the fabric and notions for a few bras since taking the fantastic bra-making course with Marijane Johnson back in June. However I don’t think it was until sometime in August that I actually got around to cutting one of them out! I will say I’ve been wearing the boring old flesh-toned bra I made in class for months… but it’s now much more fun to wear the white, green, red & orange mod print bra! With a little bow in front of course.

Are those not odd shapes or what?

My class bra pattern was a Pin-up Girls Pattern, size 32E with lots of adjustments. I tweaked it further for the latest bra (and could probably still use a few more tiny tweaks – but the fit really is damn near perfect.) My latest version of the pattern has been transferred to swedish tracing paper so I’m not dealing with all the slashed, spread & taped pieces any longer!

Cutting out the pieces is pretty quick – and about the only thing I use my rotary cutter for. I’ve never liked using them… but they sure do make a difference with working with stretchy lycras! Unlike my class bras, this new one used two layers of fabric (I can’t remember what the underlayer is called) but the upper layer is basically swimsuit material. Very bright swimsuit material.

I did say it was bright!

All of the construction technique were learned in the class although I did have to refer to my notes and the text we used, The Bra Maker’s Manual, fairly often since it had been two months since learning it all! I’m still pretty impressed that it’s possible to make these at home on a regular sewing machine – but a great deal of it is having all the right materials.

You can see the two fabric layers here

The close-up shot of the inside of the right cup shows some of the other materials and techniques, including the underwire casing and the back band fabric. The underwire casing is pretty neat – it’s actually a tube so you sew it down and then pop it open and slide the underwire inside the casing itself, rather than putting the underwire between the bra fabric and the casing. All of the exposed seam get ‘butterflied’ or opened flat and edgestitched 1/8″ away from the seam on each side. Sure enough, if you look at RTW… you’ll find the same thing.

I don’t have any photographs of the finished bra, because, well… there don’t need to be any picture of me wearing it on the web! However, here’s the last photo I took of the process which shows everything in place except for the neckline elastic and the little white bow I eventually added in front.

And I wonder why my dress form doesn't help with fitting. There are no hollows when this is on the body!

Did I mention that I have a matching pair of boy shorts with hot pink beaded lace for the waistband? Yes, indeed….

a little black dress, part quatre

This is the dress that never ends! Except… just maybe the end is now in sight!

After months of languishing on a hanger on the back of a door, it’s been rescued and progress has been made. Since the bodice had been sewn to the skirt with any pressing, I opted to take out that seam, press and trim all the seams to 3/4″ or so, and then sew the bodice back to the skirt.  This actually took several attempts – or at least touch-ups – as I tried to exactly match all the seams and pleats… but as with every other step on this dress, it turned out to be worth the effort.

After pressing the waist seam,  I got to work catch-stitching most of the interior seam. It may be a while before I add a lining so I wanted to make it wearable in the interim! This step was slow going but easy… most of it got finished while watching a movie on Hulu. (The Relic… if you must know. There’s something about cheesy sci-fi monster movies that I love!)

Moving on, with most of the seams taken care of, I followed the directions to staystitch and then press the neck and armhole seam allowances to the inside, then clip curves, then press again. With a deep V-neck in front and back this didn’t work perfectly but it certainly helped. All those edges got the catchstitch treatment, too.

Switching to Peter Benchley’s The Creature in the background (yeah, I know, extra cheesy monster) I went ahead and inserted the zipper using a lapped application, stitched by hand. Since I had been having trouble getting the dress on and off, I moved the zipper higher up the side to give more of an opening at the bust. I was mostly winging it… but luckily it did the trick.

A quick try on of the dress… and eek… a tad bit tight around the hips. I’ll try it with spanx tomorrow and hope for the best! If all goes well, the only remaining steps are fixing one of the side pleats and hemming. It may actually get worn tomorrow…

Well, I’ll also need a lint brush and a fresh pressing ;o) Silly cat loves being near when I sew lately!

Oh – and if I never say anything further about this dress… the neckline is so spectacular. Strapless bra required – but wow, will the effect be stunning. I’m already trying to think how I can use it other ways…

a very expensive pair of jeans, finis!

Crummy picture. Yummy jeans!

Happy dance! I’m wearing my new jeans!!

I was a bit annoyed after the rear fitting issues I discovered last night but another hour or so of sewing today and it’s all forgotten…

It was a bit of work to take out the back seam topstitching, and in fact, I had to do it 3 times – twice due to refining the back seam fit, and once because I forgot to check the stitch length before topstitching. In case you’ve ever wondered, small topstitching (2.5) on jeans looks really dumb. No getting around it – don’t bother experimenting! For what it’s worth, a stitch length of 3.25 worked perfectly with my Gutermann topstitching thread. The tension was increased slightly depending on how many layers of denim I was sewing at any particular time.

These are now a mess inside... but who can tell when I'm wearing them?

Since I opted to do the back seam adjustments with all the other seams in place, I had to hand finish the threads for the topstitching. This meant pulling threads to the inside, tying them off and then threading them back through the seams.

I then re-topstitched (or re-re-re-topstitched) the back seam since it took me a few tries to get the jeans fitted to my liking below the waistband.

The hem length was perfect – just enough to turn up the suggested 1″. We’ll see how they do after being worn and washed a few times. The belt loops were pretty straight-forward although this is another area that doesn’t have much detail in the directions. I admit, not much is needed – but again, I didn’t want to have to think! In the end, both ends were turned under about 1/2″, topstitched straight across 1/8″ away from the fold, and I lined up the bottom fold wherever it looked best, keeping it loose enough to actually hold a belt.

Yes, I need better pictures. But still the jeans look good!

Hmm… what else? Ahh, yes… pockets! I opted for the cotton print lined version… worked just fine and placed according to the directions. I did wait until the jeans were fully constructed so I could test the placement which made them a bit trickier to sew.  No photos of the back view – partially because I forgot and partially because there’s no reason to draw attention to that side. However, they don’t look so bad from the back either. Enough said! ;o)

This is probably the quickest turn around time for a project in years. Clearly new jeans were long overdue! I’m still wearing them… and doing the happy dance!!!

A few gripes:

  • Although I will undoubtedly make another pair using this pattern, the back yoke & back seam area still need to be refined for my figure.  (But that’s my issue not the pattern!)
  • It would be easiest to have two machines set up simultaneously – one for topstitching and one for seams. It got really annoying switching the threads and settings back and forth every few steps.
  • Next time I will head the advice to serge all edges in advance. They all need it and it really would speed up the rest of the construction process. Stitch and learn!
  • Even after two washings, the blue dye is affecting the topstitching thread. I’m going for 3 or 4 pre-washes next time.
  • Inseam and upper outseam could use some topstitching. I think I’ll pick a favorite pair of jeans to mimic next time. While I do love these pair, they could be even better!

Had enough yet? Now I just need to remember all this for next time! And yes, there will most certainly be a next time.

a very expensive pair of jeans

So jeans really can fit! (but only after a few trys)

Several weeks (or perhaps months) ago I was inspired but all the ‘I sewed my own jeans’ posts on various blogs that I ordered the J. Stern Designs jeans pattern and some lovely medium weight denim from in an ‘antique blue’ shade. I washed and dried the fabric and it’s been sitting patiently on top of the dryer until this weekend.

Any excuse to play with different stitch patterns... but at least the 'pocket' held for fitting purposes

I’m not sure what got in to me, but after checking my most recent set of measurements, I decided to dive in, trace off the pattern in a size 12 and make up a muslin.  For the muslin, I just faked the pocketsand the front fly so that there was enough together that I could check the fit. Overall I was mightily impressed – the size 12 seemed to be a great fit, particularly in the length – the knee marking hit perfectly (and I’m 5’8” so things don’t always work out that way!) and the front rise, which is on the low side, looked and felt comfortable.

The back side was (and is) another story. Big hips. Small waist. A pain in the @$$ to fit. No pun intended.

I opted to raise the back rise of the jean and used the pattern designer’s excellent instructions from her blog. With full hips and small waist… low rise just equals major gaping in the rear. Neither comfortable nor attractive! I’ll spare you the details of what the muslin looked like in that area. End story is that I added 1″ to my back pattern to increase the rise which I thought would do the trick. I also shortened the leg length from the knee to the hem by about 1.5″ since I really wanted to wear these jeans with flats and sandals.

Oh – and nearly forgot. The waistband was also too big at the top edge so I made a dart in my muslin at the side seams to increase the curve. Transferred to the waistband and waistband facing pattern and voila… snugger waistband! [Edit: after reviewing the muslin fitting pictures… I can’t bring myself to post them. Hello insecurity! Sigh. )

After pressing my denim and falling ever more deeply in love with the dark blue color and finish (pictures coming, really!) I got all the piece cut out. I wish I could remember how much I bought because I have a lot left over – possibly enough for a second pair. But that will have to wait a bit longer!

For the pocket linings and facings, I dug out some great block printed Indian cotton from my 18th century repro fabric stash. Love, love, love the effect! Goes so well with denim!

So onto the construction. I did review the jeans tip and techniques on Pattern Review for some pointers but mostly I just followed the pattern instructions blindly. I should mention that I opted for the J. Stern pattern rather than widely lauded Jalie pattern because I specifically wanted to work with non-stretch denim.  I like my jeans made of plain old cotton denim!

The instructions were good, but there were a few places a bit more information could have been helpful. It helped to have a pair of jeans handy for reference while I was making this pair. The front fly made sense once you started doing it – but it was tougher to wrap my head around  when just reading the steps. Also, the instructions indicate that a coin pocket should be added to the left and right pockets, yet most jeans only have one on the right side, and illustrations for other later steps reflect this. I opted for just one on the right side.

Trust me... this looks better than the muslin did! This is pre-waistband and post-back seam alteration #1

Also, there was no mention of what to do with the inseam and side seams once sewn together. By looking at the envelope cover, I was able to confirm that they aren’t topstitched, but it wasn’t entirely clear if anything else need to be done – such as stitch them again for strength, press to one side, etc. A minor detail and hardly critical, I just like knowing every last intended detail. Sometime I just don’t want to have to think for myself when sewing!

But perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself… in my spare weekend time I made the jeans from start to finish, with the exception of the hem, button and buttonhole. The center back seam was adjusted once to take in the yoke area about an inch, prior to adding the waistband. I was hoping this would help the jeans fit closer against my lower back. Sadly, I ignored my better judgment – and the odd angle of the new back seam – and went ahead and finished the waistband.

The end result… the jeans are gorgeous in the front – great fit, great details, great length. The back… not so much. There’s a weird  section of extra fabric below the yoke at center back – I knew it was there and yet just kind of hoped it would work out when all was said and done.  It did not. So… tomorrow I’ll pick out the topstitching of the center back seam, take it in further (and in an straight line this time), and replace the topstitching. I’m reasonably certain this can all be done without affecting the other seams – I’ll just need to finish some of the threads by hand to avoid having to backstitch in awkward place.

So, hopefully by this time tomorrow I’ll have a stunning pair of new jeans… and better yet, a perfected pattern so that I can keep churning them out! I may even remember to take the camera out of the car and add some pictures ;o)

As to why the jeans were so expensive. Well, umm, I’d been wanting a new serger for some time, and um, well, a basic enough one was on sale at JoAnn’s – a mere 5 minute drive from home. Nothing like instant gratification, eh? And jeans really do look SO much better when you finish them with a serger on the inside… so, shopping I did go.

And now I can’t wait to keep playing on it!

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