Wednesday, August 19, 2015

refashioned shirt quilt

I've been blog-dead for many moons, but this year I decided to participate in The Refashioners, hosted by Portia, because it seemed like a fun and creative way to reengage with the sewing blogosphere. The challenge was to refashion a man's shirt, but I took it in a slightly oddball direction. I decided to make a quilt out of many men's shirts! My goal was to make a cool modern quilt that happened to use secondhand shirts, instead of making a "shirt quilt" that looked like a bunch of men's shirts, so it took me many thrift shopping trips to find these bold solid colors that matched my home decor.

Head over to Portia's blog to see my full post about the process, and while there be sure to check out the rest of what The Refashioners have done this year. Pretty amazing stuff! If you decide to participate yourself, there's an enormous prize package to be had by one random winner. Yeah, it's like laughably enormous. 

I do plan to be back soon with a brief tutorial, and perhaps a post about the Colette Cooper backpack I recently made. As you probably know, you can always keep up with me at Instagram (@foursquarewalls) where I'm slightly more active...

Get shirty!

Friday, May 1, 2015

me-make may?

Denim Archer shirt I made for myself (for fun!) a few months ago

I know. May is the time of year when all the AWOL sewing bloggers suddenly show up in your blog reader with bathroom selfies galore for Me-Made-May. Don't worry; I've definitely been AWOL and here I am suddenly on May 1st, but bathroom selfies ain't me. I decided that I wouldn't make a proper pledge for MMM15, because I tend to (try to) wear at least one item of handmade clothing everyday and I'm pretty aware of my wardrobe needs and desires already. 

Kimono thing I made two weeks ago. Sooo slapdash but I'm kinda obsessed.

My problem is actually making time to address those needs and committing to sewing for my own damn self. When you sew for a [modest] living, every moment at the sewing machine is a potential money-maker, so it's hard to shove my to-do pile aside and sew for fun. I figure May is a good enough time to spoil myself, though. I've been having major Insta-Envy, where I scroll through Instagram with a pit in my stomach because everyone's making Ginger Jeans and Morris Blazers and undies and cool bags and all the things I want for myself but don't have time to make. #PoorBaby. I know it's the price I pay for choosing this ridiculous career path, but I'm grateful that my passion for sewing is still strong and that my only limitation is lack of time, not lack of desire or inspiration.

Baby quilt for my future nephew I made in March. Really should have taken better photos on a proper camera.

So I'm calling it Me-Make-May, where instead of just wearing my existing handmade stuff, I'm going to try to set aside time to sew more clothes for myself... that aren't cut off-grain and slapped together on a serger and left unhemmed as per usual these past few months. I'm afraid to set quantitative goals for myself because I can't always predict my work schedule and deadlines, but I would love to work towards accomplishing the following:
  • Tops. I wear black jeans like everyday and have few tops to pair them with. Maybe one knit tee and a short-sleeve button-up?
  • Maxi dress. I still feel like I'm playing dress-up when I wear the one I have (never blogged), but it's so damn comfortable that I need another.
  • Pajamas and underwear. Not very fun but the situation is dire.
  • Dress for my friends' wedding at the end of May. I have some knit lace I want to use, but need pattern inspo.

Linden Sweatshirt I made as a sample for my knits class at Butcher's Sew Shop

Here's to hoping I can get all that done. My plan is to check in with you all again, either halfway through May or at the end of it (let's be real... how about July?), to see how I did. Fingers crossed!

Do you guys also have sewing goals for MMM15, or is it more about reflecting on and celebrating what you've already made?

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

heidi hoodie cardi(s)

Back in September, I went on a trip to Michigan with my mom and her friends. While packing I thought, "Vacation! Lake Michigan beach walks! Porch lounging and wine drinking! I'll bring a bunch of my handmade dresses and tees and, like, one cotton cardigan." Obviously that was a mistake. My sweet mother, always concerned for my comfort, insisted on buying me something warm to wear after I suffered through a 50-degree rainy day and we were all eating dinner with quilts wrapped around our shoulders. On her generous dime I scored a wonderful cardigan/jacket from Toad & Co. made of 100% merino lambswool. That sweater is probably the best garment I own and I continue to wear it constantly, even to bed, because our drafty apartment is a miserable place to be in the winter. Thanks, mama.

Anyway, a girl can't wear the same sweater day in and day out, especially when she's trying to be an ambassador for a handmade lifestyle (which is what I like to think I'm doing?). What I like about that Toad & Co sweater is the warmth, but also the style --- it's long and covers my bum, but isn't bulky, and the hood is a practical element that draws attention to the face instead of the hipz. So I decided to try to sew a similar version.

I found the Style Arc Heidi Hooded Cardigan pattern and thought it was a pretty close match so I gave it a go...twice. Style Arc produces so.many.patterns but I feel like I don't often see them made up in the blog world. They advertise each pattern with a fashion illustration, versus a human/dressform, which throws off my ability to determine if I actually like the garment. The line drawing looked promising so I took the risk.

Luckily, Style Arc now offers PDF versions of their patterns on Etsy, and each pattern comes in a range of three sizes (i.e. 4, 6 and 8 comes with one purchase). From what I gather, they used to only offer printed patterns and would ship you one straight size. Bollocks. This new offering is a good idea, but the sizes are still separate files (not nested) so it remains tricky to grade between sizes. A cardigan has room for error, though, and I could tell the cardigan was slightly A-line so I didn't stress too much about fit. I made a straight size 8 and it's alright. The sleeves are pretty slim so it's not great for layering, but with a tank or bodysuit underneath it works fine for me.

This pattern is very fast to sew because the edges are all finished with bands (instead of being hemmed) and the bands aren't stretched to fit the openings so you barely have to fiddle with anything as you sew. The seam allowance is 1/4" so it can be whipped up on a serger. You have the option for a one-button or snap closure but I skipped that. I also skipped the pockets because I'm lazy bones and didn't feel like topstitching these sweater knits I used.

One note about the bands: the pattern has you cut the bottom hem band along the lengthwise grain instead of along with the stretch, which I think is kinda weird. I feel like it should stretch along with your hips for ease of sitting, so I cut it that way. For this brown/black version of the cardigan I also cut the front band in the opposite direction from directed, I think to save fabric? The print is thus sideways down the front.

Another thing to discuss: the facing. The pattern has a facing for the hood, so that you don't see any exposed shoulder seams and center back seam of the hood when the hood is down. Sounds like a good idea, but in actuality the hood facing is awkward. You still sew the facing to the existing band seam, therefore that seam remains visible and it means you get double layers of serging thread, which looks dense and sloppy. The lower edge of the facing isn't secured to anything so it just flops around on the inside. This would be fine if I did use a button closure on the cardigan, but I always wear my cardigans open so I keep having to adjust the fronts of the cardigan so my facings don't flash themselves. Naughty things:

For my second version of the cardigan (the blue one), I combined the hood and the front bodice pieces to eliminate the need for that seam where the hood meets the cardigan. I didn't use a facing at all so you can see the wrong side of the fabric when the hood is down, but I don't really care about that. I also added two inches to the length of the cardigan, which meant I had to add four inches to the total length of the front band.

See, no facing OR neckline seam:

I do want to keep tweaking this pattern because I find it appropriately casual for my lifestyle, highly wearable and a nice shape. On my next version I think I will make the hood piece bigger so it's not so fitted on my head and hangs a little nicer in back. Also, the sleeves are too short and the cuffs aren't tight enough. I always wear my sleeves pushed up so I didn't even think to fix that issue when I was cutting the second cardigan. Next time I'll definitely add an inch to each sleeve and tighten up the cuffs so they're more snug. My right sleeve kept falling down while taking photos:

I also want to use better fabric. Both of these versions were made with acrylic or acrylic-blend sweater knits from a local store in Philly. The blue one seemed especially nice and squishy in the store, but by the second day of wear was already pilling and attracting lint and threads like cray. I tried cleaning them up before taking these photos but you can still see fuzz balls and thread danglies galore. They're not nearly as warm as my Toad & Co. wool cardigan so I'm not as inclined to wear them when it's 15°F outside and thus 45°F in our home.

Have any of you made Style Arc patterns or tried their new PDFs? Please link to your finished garments so I can see what they look like on real human beings!