Saturday, February 25, 2012

farmer's daughter banksia dress

Guys and gals, I took your advice on my last post and decided to move on from winter sewing to the fun stuff for spring. Therefore, I blame you for how cold I was taking these pictures in my open doorway. Just kidding... your encouragement helped this little dress come to fruition and I think it's wonderful. It's not denim, by the way; it's a $3 blue cotton bedsheet!

Hey, wrinkly bum, this serves as a reminder to not sit down & play around on Pinterest before a photo shoot. 

The pattern is (mostly) Megan Nielsen's newest release - the Banksia Top, which she describes as a: "Semi-fitted [top] with button-up placket front and large peter pan collar... elbow-length sleeves and shaping darts at the bust line." In the back of the instruction booklet, Megan suggests some possible modifications to the top, such as lengthening the hem to make a dress. Well, that sounded brilliant, so I did it.

I added about 15 inches to the pattern piece to begin with, I think, and sewed a fairly deep hem. It was quite loose-fitting as it was, and the bunched-up fabric looked sloppy when I belted it. I decided to add elastic to the waist so it'd have a better fit and the gathers would be more even. It also gave me a way to line the skirt without having to cut the dress at the waist to create two pieces. Here's the beauuutiful inside:

Yes, that's black thread for the serged edges, tan thread for machine stitching, and white lining. Some of the seams have light blue thread, too, since that's what I started with before I switched to tan. Don't judge me for ugly mismatched garment interiors, please.

Don't tell anyone but I left off the buttonholes; I just sewed the buttons through both layers of the placket because the neckline's low enough to pull the dress on over my head without having to unbutton it. So, why bother, amirite? I added a box with an X (an X-box?) to the bottom of the placket, mostly because I had messy placket sewing skills and I wanted to distract from the unevenness along the bottom seam. I highly recommend, if you make this pattern, to very carefully and evenly mark, cut and sew the placket lines. It makes a big difference in how neatly everything will fold and fit together at the bottom. Oh and another "design" element I added was narrowly tucked sleeve hems with double stitching.

I lowered the bust darts and had them slant upward at a diagonal to the bust point. The original pattern has high horizontal darts, just like the Darling Ranges Dress, which I learned don't quite work for my shape. So I used my Lisette Traveler's Dress pattern as a guide, since those bust darts had better positioning.

I was in the middle of sewing this dress and didn't know what color buttons I wanted. I just happened to see Mary of Idle Fancy pin this on her Pinterest that same day I was thinking about it:

Hey! Looks familiar. I then knew mine would have to have brown buttons, too. By the way, Mary has a lovely "Sew Much Inspiration" pin board chock full of beautiful dresses to ogle - I recommend you follow her if you have a Pinterest account.

This dress is pretty cutesy with the collar, buttons and elastic. I won't lie, I feel kind of farmer's daughterish in it. "Well hi there folks!"

Nothing wrong with that, though, and you never know when some hay-pitchin' opportunities will arise, so I best be dressed right.

project linked to sew country chick

Is the Banksia Top (or dress!) in your sewing queue?

Monday, February 20, 2012

the vernon shirt (read: i'm cool)

I think I've mentioned before how I don't like to dress too casually (t-shirts, hoodies, sweatpants, sneakers, etc.) but I decided to branch out on the casual tree and make myself a good ole plaid flannel shirt. I'm just so damn hip. I should be in a band. 

I'm calling this the Vernon Shirt, in honor of Justin Vernon of Bon Iver. Why? Because he wears plaid flannel a lot. Also, I'm cool so I make music references. This year Bon Iver won the Grammy for Best New Artist, even though their first album was released FOUR YEARS AGO. Eh. Anyway, Justin wore plaid flannel when I saw him perform live. He also wears plaid flannel in many of his Google images. Of course it makes sense; he is in an indie folk band. And when your band name means "good winter" and many of your songs have sad wintry themes, certainly you want to wear warm flannel clothing at all times.

 He looks just as awkward posing for photos in his plaid shirt as I do in my plaid shirt.


This thing ain't exactly sexy, especially without a belt, but it sure is snuggly. Flannel may be one of my favorite fabrics to work with. Less pinning is required because the fuzziness of the fabric makes layers stick together without shifting. It's more forgiving of crooked stitches. It holds a crease well. It hardly frays, or is relatively slow to fray. And it feels awesome to wear. However, it is more difficult to seam rip and can become bulky at seams.

I used the Lisette Traveler's Dress (Simplicity 2246) pattern for this, but obviously made it a long shirt instead of a shirt dress. 

I followed View A but made a sloped hem like View B. I cut mine a few inches shorter than the tunic length so it would look better with jeans. I loved this pattern, even though now I wish I had gone down a size because there's a lot of ease. It's a great shirt/shirt dress for beginners to make because there's no yoke, annoying yoke facing, sleeve placket or cuffs to fiddle with. I made only one pocket cut on the bias for visual interest. I actually completely ran out of fabric, but I think one pocket is sufficient for all my pen-holding needs.

This shirt would have come together in a snap if I didn't have to match plaids. I've never matched plaids on a shirt, and GEEZ was that an ordeal. It's not just about cutting it out accurately, which was difficult enough with limited yardage. I learned that even when plaids match at the raw edges, they're probably slightly shifted at the actual seam line 5/8 inch away, so you have to check that, too. And your presser foot might scoot the top layer a tiny bit as you sew, even with pins, so even after all that triple-checking beforehand, it still might not come out the way you intended.

I cut the sleeves without intending to match those plaids to the body of the shirt. Turns out it almost lines up, which is super annoying. Either be perfect or be completely off, please. I made an oopsie and the plaid design is upside down on one sleeve, but at least the major lines are symmetrical in terms of placement, if not color. I'm not going to be too angry about the imperfections because I looked at the other three RTW plaid shirts I own (remember, I'm cool) and none of them having matching plaids across all seams. Therefore, I win.

I developed an eye twitch while making this shirt, and I don't know if that was due to the stress of plaid-matching or the agony of somehow having a Bruno Mars song in my head for three days straight. Hey, Bruno wears plaid flannel, too. I must really be cool.

If I were releasing an EP and happened to call it "Hair Shadow" or something equally bad, this would be the photo for the cover. Does that photo exude the aloofness, mystery and vulnerability as is required for female singer songwriters?:

Okay, back to business. With this finished project, I have officially sewn through (or given away) all the winter-appropriate fabrics in my stash. Now all that's left are floral or sailboat-themed cotton sheets that are probably too adorable for me to use anyway, even in warmer weather. It's February 21st, folks. What should I do? Continue with cold-weather sewing, or move onto the fun stuff? What does your sewing schedule look like at this point of the season?

Monday, February 13, 2012

and I was like, baby, baby, baby

Sorry if the title of this post gets some Bieber lyrics stuck in your head. Shared misery, eh.

"Andrea, you shrank and became real adorable!" Wait, you guys, that's not me. That's my one and only niece, wearing the one and only thing I've made for her so far in her little baby life. I know, how negligent. For her baby shower I gave her a store-bought laundry hamper and a stuffed cow. What kind of seamstress aunt am I? I'll make up for it once she's of the age when drooling all over her clothing is no longer socially acceptable.

I made her a robe, which my dad thinks looks like a Jedi robe and my brother thinks looks like a boxer's warm-up robe. I think I'm okay with either one of those interpretations. 

I made it from Simplicity 3711 (size 3 to 6 months) with some simplifications. For the main fabric I used JoAnn's "Lil' Safari Buddies" cotton interlock knit, which is soft and cozy. The lining is made from a camel-colored king-sized pillow case that has a bit of sheen to it. 

Safari-themed kid prints are my favorite; I think it's hilarious how they "bab-ify" wild ravenous beasts like lions by giving them oversized heads/whiskers, little round bodies and goofy grins. Trust me, human babies: these animals aren't actually "buddies" with each other in the real world, but I admit they do look pretty cute when they frolic together on your bath robe.

As you'll notice on the model, the sleeves are too long and have to be rolled up. I made it for her current age range as indicated on the pattern, but I'm glad she has room to grow in it. I added belt loops to the side seams so the belt wouldn't slide off and become lost forever. I put them where the pattern indicates the waistline, but I think they should probably be lower since babies tend to flail their arms around and get picked up a lot (making the belt line rise up - see fourth photo of this post). 

I omitted the patch pockets because I found it incredibly tedious to press and neatly top-stitch tiny bébé pockets. Almost certainly my niece is the smartest baby in the whole world ever (of course), but even she doesn't yet understand the concept of pockets, so I doubt they'll be missed. I also omitted the ric rac and appliqués because I'm a no-frills kinda gal. The hood has a flat-felled seam down the center which I like.

O hai.

So, the robe's safari fabric was leftover from a set of baby-related things I made for my work's silent auction fundraiser (actual baby not included). I'll show you those items, too, because I know you're just dying to see.

I used Simplicity 2924 as the base pattern for everything here, though if you're familiar with the pattern you'll notice a lack of plastic vinyl, ribbons, reflecting tape (seriously) and bias tape in my version. I made the diaper bag, wipes case, burp cloth, bib and a pacifier clip. Everything you need to take care of your baby's spontaneous bodily messes! Lovely. 

It was difficult choosing fabrics, since the diaper bag needed to be gender-neutral enough for a mom or dad to carry around for their baby girl or boy. It also needed to be adult-friendly with enough whimsy to pair well with baby prints (i.e. no ornate damask). I wanted it to be sturdy, too, so I stuck with home decor fabric and heavyweight interfacing. I eventually chose brown and beige geometric shapes with blue accents for the whole set. Learn from me: don't use a directional print for the diaper bag because of all the seams and overlapping pockets/flaps; mismatching stripes (or circles) are inevitable, unless you're incredibly patient or have a ton of fabric to spare. Imagine how thrilled I was to find, when cutting, that both fabrics for the two bags were printed crooked on the cross grain. How perfect for a pattern that's essentially a bunch of rectangles! 

I threw in a bottle and two pacifiers for some name-brand desirability. There should be a gift certificate to a local baby product store (Mama's Hip) included, too, so I hope the whole set is a desirable item at the auction. 

I'm pretty nervous about this silent auction, to be honest, since I'm not a professional seamstress  and I've never done anything like this before. I just hope it gets some bids and  is able to raise a little money for this organization that's so dear to my heart. It's kinda ironic that my job for them is to write grant proposals for pretty substantial funding, but I'm most anxious about trying to raise ~$50 with some handmade burp cloths. Oh nooo my top-stitching's not perfect! 

Have you ever sewn for charity?

Saturday, February 11, 2012

fabric giveaway winner

Let me first say thank you to everyone who stopped by this ole' blog and entered the fabric giveaway. And another big thanks to Debi for directing all the Sew Grateful traffic this week! She's done a remarkable job hostessing by taking care to highlight each participating blogger in a meaningful way.

So yeah, who won the fabric?!

njeri!! who said:

I love to sew because I love the feeling of accomplishment at the end of it all. Being creative is a part of who I am and in essence sewing makes me feel more me! I love having something that no one else [has].

Congrats, njeri! Looks like you don't have a blog for the rest of us to visit but I'll be e-mailing you soon to ask for your address.

So I loved reading everyone's responses to the question about why you like to sew. Non-sewers often ask me when I became hooked on this hobby -- to which I have no straight answer -- but not as often why. So why do I? Certainly I'm a fan of creating something unique to me that I can show off, but I think I actually most enjoy the process itself. I'm a long-time puzzler, as I grew up constructing jigsaws and solving crosswords with my dad. There's something immensely satisfying about creating the larger whole by piecing together its smaller parts. 

Puzzles and sewing both require patience, problem-solving skills, accuracy, a keen eye and trial & error. Sewing is superior in my mind, though, because (if I'm lucky) I can get long-term use out of wearing a cute outfit. Puzzles unfortunately can't really be displayed anywhere, and they take up a lot of room, so once they're complete they must be crumbled back into the box to sell at the next yard sale for 25 cents.


Uh, hello? I need the above jigsaw. It's hilarious. Can you spot the three dogs and two cats just chillin' amongst all those quilts? I can't decide if I just want to construct this puzzle and frame it, or actually join this ethnically diverse, lemonade-sippin', wicker chair-rockin', animal-lovin' sewing circle myself.


And a PUZZLE QUILT? How "fitting." I wonder if there are jigsaw blogs where people post photos of their finished puzzles and everyone leaves comments like, "omg cute." Shall I start one? 

Hope you're having a great weekend, friends.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

plaid about you

Reminder: Tomorrow, Friday the 10th, is the last day to enter my fabric giveaway for Sew Grateful Week. You have until 11:59pm EST. That's 25 hours from now. Go go go!

Patterns are still my sewing crutch, so whenever I successfully create something without one I can't help but FLIP OUT WITH JOY. Mostly because it means I don't have to re-fold and cram any tissue back into the envelope after the project is complete, sulking about how the envelope that used to be nice and flat now looks pregnant and awkward stacked against the unused patterns on my pattern shelf. #firstworldsewingproblems

Offending preggo pattern: fourth from right

So yeah, it's not like this pattern-less project was complicated or anything. I just made another half-circle skirt (like my navy knit one made only two weeks ago), though this time I used wool so it required a lining and zipper. I'm proud to say I figured out (all by myself! Kind of!) how to machine-stitch the lining to the invisible zipper and attach a lapped waistband. I couldn't find a tutorial online for doing all those things together, so I combined some resources and did a lil' sewin' improv in between.

Here are a couple relevant but not exact resources for some of these techniques, because I'm sew grateful for them, and you should be, too: 
  • Slapdash Sewist's post on machine-stitching lining to an invisible zipper on a skirt with no waistband
  • Casey's post on making and attaching a lapped waistband on a skirt with a lapped zipper and no lining

This skirt is quite the A-line. I kinda feel like this chick:

Except I have a neck and she doesn't, apparently. She has arms and I don't, apparently.

This skirt was cut out awhile ago, but I got sidetracked into making baby stuff for some babies (that post to come once I can snap pics of le bébé  - oh boy, get ready). Meanwhile, Lauren's own plaid wool circle skirt popped onto my blogroll and I was all like, "Okay, my turn." 

So, do you all normally stick to patterns or do you prefer experimenting and figuring out construction on your own? What do you like and/or dislike about using commercial patterns?

Sunday, February 5, 2012

sew grateful for fabric giveaways

Sew Grateful Week

It's the kick-off to Sew Grateful Week. Aren't we so lucky that the name of our hobby sounds so much like a word used so often in the English language? The potential plays on words are so endless.

Debi of My Happy Sewing Place is the charming hostess. As she puts it, "T
his is the week to show your thankfulness for our wonderful sewing community and people in your life that support your love of sewing!"

I think the main idea is to make something using fabric, pattern, notions, etc. you won in a giveaway from someone else's blog. I still have not won anything, try as I might, so I've decided to host my own giveaway in order to
 increase my karma points show you how much I love you. You are wonderful, after all. I'm so glad I started a blog because I've re-discovered a skill I absolutely love, and all your support makes me want to keep getting better.

So what's the prize?
A FABRIC BURRITO. (Zero calories.)

I mean, some fabric yardage that just happens to be rolled up like a burrito in that photo. This is a lovely purple and black plaid medium-weight wool, 58 inches (1.47 m) wide and 2.333333 yards (84 in) (2.13 m) long.

I live in a smoke-free, pet-free home, but I did buy this fabric from a secondhand store so I do not know the conditions of its previous habitat(s). It is in good shape and does not have any rips or stains. I did not wash it or do anything at all with it besides store it on my fabric shelf. I will lint roll it much better before I ship it, though, promise!

This wool needs an owner who will give it the attention it deserves. Such as turn it into a chic jacket and blog about it, for starters.

Oh, the possibilities!

To enter, please leave a comment telling me the number one reason you love to sew. Make sure there's a way for me to contact you. If you don't have a blog but want to participate, just leave your name and e-mail address in the comments. Open to international folks, too!

You don't have to follow my blog in order to enter the giveaway, but I just can't see why you wouldn't want to. ;)

You may enter the giveaway anytime between now and Friday, February 10th at 11:59 PM (Eastern Standard Time). I'll use to choose the winner and will announce him or her next Saturday the 11th.

Thanks, friends, and good luck!