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Color Coordinated

June 9, 2014

Sew Well - Nina Cardigan - Color Coordinated Stitching

I have a sewing confession to make:  I rarely use anything other than ivory or black thread in my serger.  If my fabric is light, I’ll use the ivory, and if my fabric is dark, I’ll use the black.

After deciding to put my Polly Top on hold for a bit, I pulled out some coral-colored sweatshirt knit from Mood and my Style Arc Nina Cardigan pattern.  When I was cutting the pattern pieces out of the fabric, I realized that neither ivory nor black would do these seams justice.  Plus, the openness of the cardigan meant these seams would be on display more often than most.  So, I made my first trip to Joann Fabric since moving to Seattle.  It was surprisingly far away!  A few coupons later, and I was the proud owner of a set of bright coral serger threads.  Color coordination for the win!

How many different colors of thread do you typically keep around?!

Finding the Space to Sew

June 2, 2014

Sew Well - BHL Polly Top

Boy has it been quiet around these parts lately. A new baby and a new house have meant I’ve needed to find new rhythms and new routines.  I now have to add home renovation projects to the baby/science/running/sewing juggle!

Thanks to some longish baby girl noontime naps, I’ve recently been able to start setting up a nice sewing space in the basement, complete with a makeshift cutting table and ample space for fabric and pattern storage.  There’s not a lot of natural light, so getting work-in-progress shots will not be as easy as it once was, but I love that I can now leave whatever it is I’m working on out on the sewing table. Not having to clean up really helps keep projects moving forward when I only have twenty minutes or so to sew at a time.

I’ve yet to find the time to actually organize anything, partly because I’m still trying to figure out how to best utilize the space.  I really liked the recent post by Sarai of Colette Patterns on her comic-book-pattern-storage system.  I used to use narrow boxes that came free from my local Costco and fit nicely under my bed, but the differently sized envelopes of the various pattern companies’ patterns never stacked together perfectly.  Now that I have space and actual shelves, I’d like to figure out a system that would be a nice, permanent solution.

As for my fabric stash, I’m wondering about hanging it on hangers instead of shoving it into large plastic bins or folding it up on the basement shelves.  Anyone have any thoughts as to the best way to store fabric?  Does hanging fabric stretch out of shape over time?

In the meantime I’m trying to work on my first post-baby project for MSN.  I wanted it to be a By Hand London Polly Top (my first BHL pattern!) and Vogue V1247 skirt (a repeat, first made here), but I’m currently underwhelmed by the fit of the top.  Since I was eager to get sewing, I cut right into my fabric after checking the typical bust, waist, hip measurements on the paper pattern, but I didn’t think to measure the length of the shoulders.  I think I would like the top better if it were a little shorter, but it just breaks my heart to undo the bias binding along the neckline and the sleeves since so much of my precious sewing time this past week went into putting the binding on.  I have half a mind to just resew the seam with the bias binding as-is, and then tack back the seam allowances.  But, what I should probably do is just put the top aside, work on something else, and then come back to it when I’m ready to put in the time it needs to fix it correctly.  Regardless, I hope to have something new and fun to show off over at MSN sometime this month!

What are you up to these days, and what tips do you have for someone setting up a new sewing space?

Pleat Hem Dart – PhDs and Sewing

May 29, 2014

Interview with Seamstress Erin

Recently, the sewing world and the scientific world united in celebration over Seamstress Erin getting her Ph.D.  With her degree in hand, Erin’s had a bit of time to reflect on how important sewing and knitting and quilting and crochet and…  well, you get the point… were to getting her to the end of graduate school.  So, she’s putting together a series of guest blog posts in which sewing bloggers who’ve spent way too many years in school share their reflections on sewing and higher education.  She’s calling the series “OverEducated Seamstress“.

I definitely count as someone who has spent way too many years in school.  I received my Ph.D. in chemistry from Caltech a few years back, but it wasn’t until I was a postdoc at Stanford that I started sewing.  I was honored to have Erin ask me to write a piece for her series. Click through to read five reasons why my training as a scientist has helped my sewing.  And, don’t forget to congratulate Erin on a well-earned degree!

And, the winner of the Kate & Rose Midtown Collection pattern is…

May 14, 2014

Sew Well - Mariska skirt in spots and stripes

Chrissy Weeks of STEMS Sewing Studio!  Congratulations!  Out of the three Midtown Collection sewing patterns, it sounds like she’s planning on choosing the Mariska skirt, the pattern I was lucky enough to make and test, since she’s already the proud owner of the Giselle dress pattern.  She even already owns the Roza shirt pattern!  Lucky duck!

In other news, baby girl has started taking a two plus hour nap right around noon.  Well, at least she has the past two days.  It’s the perfect amount of time to jump on the treadmill for a quick run and then get a bit of sewing done.  I feel rejuvenated!

Mariska in Spots and Stripes // Giveaway!

May 7, 2014

Sew Well Mariska Skirt

These days I seem to be using pattern testing as a way to keep me motivated and finding the time to sew.  Take this skirt for example.  It’s the new Mariska Skirt by Kate & Rose.

Sew Well Mariska Skirt

Kati emailed me to ask if I would help test one of the patterns in her new Midtown Collection while I was working on my Belcarra blouse.  When I saw the design lines of the Mariska skirt, my thoughts immediately jumped to the spots and stripes silk twills I had left over in my stash after making my Tessuti Awards entry back in 2012.  Ever since making that spots-and-stripes dress,  I’d always wished it was a bit easier to dress down so I could wear it more often. Using the leftover fabric to make a spots-and-stripes skirt seemed like a great alternative.  As an added bonus, the skirt that was beginning to take shape in my imagination seemed like it would perfectly pair with the white blouse on my sewing table (when the finicky Seattle weather cooperates, of course!).

Sew Well Mariska Skirt

So, I gave Kati an enthusiastic YES! and began working on yet another sewing project with yet another deadline.

Sew Well Mariska Skirt

Even with the impending move and a three-month-old little girl, things were going quite well, and I was sure I was going to finish the skirt well before Kati’s pattern testing deadline.  The zipper was even in with days to spare…

Sew Well Mariska Skirt

But then I tried on the skirt.  And I liked it.  I like it a lot.  I liked it so much that the optional lining that I had originally decided to leave off in order to speed the making of the skirt now seemed like a necessity.  The skirt was too nice not to line.  By the time I’d dug back through my stash to find the leftover silk crepe de chine I’d use to line the spots-and-stripes dress, prepped it, and sewed it in, the pattern testing deadline had passed.

Sew Well Mariska Skirt

But, my skirt was now lined, and I had still been able to send Kati my thoughts on the pattern and instructions before the deadline passed, even if I didn’t have a finished garment to show off (yet again!).

Sew Well Mariska Skirt

Though I really liked the skirt as is – it’s wonderfully swishy and swirly – it sounds like she made a bunch of improvements to the pattern after receiving feedback from all of the testers.  So, the skirt pattern you guys would make would be even better.

Sew Well Mariska Skirt

I really wanted a nice but subtle finish to my seams since most of the flounce seams are not hidden by the lining due to the high-low nature of the hem.  I wasn’t sure I had the time to deal with French seams again so soon.  I thought serged edges would be substantial but disappear against the busy print, but I was also a bit nervous as to how the silk twill seams would behave through my serger.  I ran a scrap piece of the silk twill through my serger and everything seemed to do just fine, so serger it was.  For the rest I machine hemmed the lining, hand sewed the waistband lining down to the skirt, hand picked the zipper, and hand hemmed the flounce.

Sew Well Mariska Skirt

The instructions call for a hook and eye at the waistband, but I decided to use two cute little white buttons to play off the polka dots.  One question – is there a proper way to directionally sew a waistband button hole if you’re going that route?  I sewed mine perpendicular to the direction of the waistband (up and down, if you will), but after I was through, I realized my jeans waistband buttonhole was sewn parallel to the direction of the waistband (side to side, if you will).  I chose perpendicular so that the buttonhole would disappear behind the button, but perhaps it’s best to sew the buttonhole in the direction that it’ll have the most give?

Sew Well Mariska Skirt

At least one of us is happy for the camera!  Generally, she’s such a happy baby.  But, there’s something about these photo shoots that just gets her pout on.  Maybe she’s camera shy? Or, maybe it’s just that she’s already practicing that perfect model pucker for the camera?!

Now for my favorite part – the giveaway. Kati of Kate & Rose has generously offered to give one of you a pattern of your choice from her recent collection!  Perhaps you’re more of a Giselle dress or Zsalya top kind of person.  No problem!  (By the way, have you seen the stunning floral Giselle dress that Kati made?!  Oh la la!)  If you’d like to be entered into the drawing, just leave a comment below letting me know. I’ll pick a winner at random next Wednesday, May 14th at 7 am PDT. Good luck!

Friday Finds for Sewing Well

April 25, 2014

sew-well.com // moving with a baby!

There’s been a lot of radio silence on the blog this month.  I’ve missed the creativity that writing brings and the joy I get from being an active part of the online sewing community, but there’s just been so much going on outside of the internet.  In a nutshell my husband and I bought our very first house.  We love it.  It’s gorgeous.  And, it must be a magnet for the sun – it’s always so light and bright inside, even on the dreariest of Seattle days.

The downsides:  not only have we had to pack everything up and move for the second time this year - with a three month old baby girl no less – but also the last time this 1909 house was renovated was likely in the ’30s.  There is one outlet in the kitchen, and it’s knob and tube.  There is no stove or refrigerator, but there is one of those giant, scary freezers that will lock you inside if you dare crawl in.  The yard is a blank slate.  There’s a soon-to-be unused chimney running through the center of the house that really breaks up the kitchen and one of the bedrooms.  And, the garage is about to fall down.

Our new home will be a project house, but we’re actually pretty excited about it. We get to design our dream kitchen right away, open up walls that take us back in time and reveal hidden secrets about our house, start planting our very own garden, dream about the future, and more.

Sewing may even be involved in the renovations.  Do I dare try to make my own curtains and cushions and pillows?  Oh my!

Anyway, that’s been the gist of my month.  Exciting times, chez Sew Well.

I have still been trying to keep my eye out for fun Friday Finds though, and this week there seemed to be enough to warrant squeezing in the time to write a post.

  • In the New York area?  Or, headed there soon?  Want to know the secrets of the garment district?  Check out Seek New York Tours, a new sponsor of this blog.  Save by using the coupon code “WELL” when you check out!  I’m even considering hosting a giveaway for a ticket.  Any interest out there for a free tour?!
  • Fine Fabrics is having a big sale.  Just about everything is 20-50% off from what I can tell.  Care for some Burberry?  Pucci?  Missoni?  They’ve got it!
  • Have you signed up for Mood Fabric‘s emails?  I know they (annoyingly?) ask for your email in a popup every single time you go to their site (at least they do for me), so the answer is likely yes, but if not, those emails do have a lot of great one-day-only sales in them.
  • Britex Fabrics is having a remnant sale through the 26th.  Oh how I miss the Bay Area!
  • Teach Me Fashion now has five pattern and video pairings out there (singlet, draped coat, leggings, draped skirt, pants).  Has anyone out there tested any of them out yet?  I’m eager to try!

What else has caught your eye this week?!

Pattern Testing the Belcarra Blouse – Take Two

April 23, 2014

Sew Well Belcarra Blouse

Finally!  I’m pleased to present my first finished garment of 2014 – a simple cotton/linen blend Belcarra blouse, the most recent addition to the Sewaholic Patterns line.  My new top is a perfect classic white top to wear with just about anything, and I foresee it becoming a wardrobe staple.

Sew Well Belcarra Blouse

This pattern is super easy to sew up since there are no darts or fiddly bits – just fronts and backs and sleeves and bindings.  But, it’s not fool proof.  My first attempt was out of a much loved silk, and I totally screwed up the bias neck binding and the French seams around the sleeves.  I plan to have another go with silk since the lack of darts make this pattern a perfect candidate for a tricksy fabric like charmeuse, but next time I’ll try taking advantage of fabric starch to get nice French seams – I’ve heard good things about that tip lately.

Sew Well Belcarra Blouse

My silk version was supposed to be a test of the pattern for Tasia.  But, as the testing deadline neared and the silk continued to be uncooperative, I realized I was only going to be able to send written feedback, no pictures of a lovely finished garment.  Disappointed, I vowed to try again. But, this time instead of continuing to struggle with silk, I turned instead to a very forgiving cotton/linen blend I have had in my stash ever since my big trip to FabMo. Version two came together in no time.

Sew Well Belcarra Blouse

For this version I neatened each seam with my serger and took my time with the bias neck binding even though the cotton/linen blend was so much easier to work with than the silk.  I sewed the binding to the neckline, trimmed the seam allowances, turned the binding inward, pressed everything over a tailor’s ham, pin basted, and then sewed again.  Tasia provides lots of markings that help make sure the bias binding is perfectly aligned around the neck, but I still got a few subtle twists where I must have gotten things just ever so slightly off.

Sew Well Belcarra Blouse

The hemline is just an edge-stitched double fold.

SewWell-Belcarra-5

It should be no surprise that I love Sewaholic Patterns.  I’d own them all if money were no object.  Yet, even still, this top has to be one of my favorites.  It can be dressed up or down depending on the fabric and the styling.  The raglan sleeves allow for lots of fun fabric combinations.  I’d love to try one where the entire top was made in a sheer, but the front and back were lined in something opaque.

Sew Well Belcarra Blouse

So far this white blouse is turning out to be a good mommy top.  And, the bonus lesson from having to make two versions before getting one right is that the cotton/linen blend is much more forgiving than the silk would have been.  That said, I don’t seem to be taking that lesson much to heart though as I have so many silk tops planned for this summer!

SewWell-Belcarra-Baby-1

It turns out baby girl is very skeptical of the tripod and wouldn’t smile for the camera no matter what I tried, but I promise this top has her drool seal of approval.

SewWell-Belcarra-Baby-3

Look at how big she’s gotten!  I just can’t get enough of her!

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