This year I’m sewing along with Amy Gibson from Stitchery Dickory Dock. A bunch of other talented seamsters and I have joined up to make a quilt using Craftsy’s 2012 Block of the Month class. Here’s a reflection on my efforts to sew well.
Well, ladies and gentlemen, I’m proud to say I’ve completed all of the Craftsy 2012 Block of the Month squares before the little one’s arrival. Now, there’s still lots to do to finish the quilt. The November and December class lessons are devoted to “The Big Finish”: assembling, basting, quilting, squaring up, and binding. I don’t think I have the energy to tackle those steps right now (though who’s to say how my “nesting urge” will present itself?!). But, I also decided I’d like this quilt to belong to any daughter I might have, and you guys have voted for this baby to be a boy, so perhaps I have a lot more time before the quilt needs to be finished anyway?! (That said, the girl vote has made a big comeback recently, so you never know!)
Regardless, let’s get on to the new quilt squares!
In the August class we pieced together stars. First, we made an Ohio star block…
…and then we made a double star block.
In the September class we tackled curved piecing. Though curved piecing in quilting sounded complicated to me, I actually enjoyed seeing how the pieces fit together to make neat little squares. First we made a chain block…
…and then we made a Cleopatra’s puzzle block.
Finally, in October it was time to learn paper piecing. Now, I will admit that I put this lesson off for a very long time. Up through the September blocks, I was alternating between sewing blocks and sewing garments, as I explained in my last Block of the Month post. But, paper piecing made me nervous. I imagined cutting tons of crazy shapes out of paper, then carefully cutting those same shapes again out of fabric, and then finally having to sew all the little bits together. Boy, was I wrong! I did have to cut more paper than in any other class, but it was only eight 6+” by 6+” squares for the two blocks. The fabric pieces could be cut willy nilly – no precision needed! It was all very easy, and I can see how the technique could make for endless designs. I’m now totally sold on paper piecing! Anyway, in this particular class we made a friendship circle block…
…and then we made a circle of geese block.
Now I just need to work on the layout. My initial idea is something like this one:
I was going for a semi-diagonal-rainbow-order layout with no two squares from the same class sharing a side with each other. I like it, but we shall see if things change once I start working with the actual squares. As with the paper piecing and many of the other squares I’ve made for this class, I hope the next steps also prove to be easier than I currently imagine them to be!
Also, Craftsy recently announced their 2014 Craftsy Block Of The Month class. It’s free, just like the 2012 class and 2013 class, so I signed up. I won’t have time to start on it just yet (or likely any time this year, honestly, since I already have two other quilts in mind that I want to make first!), but if any of you have been bit by the quilting bug, getting started now means you’ll actually be sewing along with a whole slew of other quilters. I think that sounds like fun!
Okay, so we’re just about two weeks into 2014. How’s everyone doing getting started on their new year’s sewing resolutions? Or, should I say, “resewlutions”?!
Getting a good first tackle on those resewlutions is something I want to focus on this month. I’m throwing it into the Science of Sewing thing I started last year since I figure our sewing goals are hugely important to how we manage and maintain our sewing – and how we keep it fun! And, that’s a big part of the science of sewing, right? By writing about how I’m getting a jump start on my resewlutions this month, I’m hoping that those of you who’ve also already started on yours will share and help keep me motivated, and I’m hoping to spur those of you on who haven’t even begun to think about yours (though, hopefully that’s none of you!).
I kept my resewlutions pretty minimal this year since life is getting ready to change pretty drastically, what with the impending arrival of the little one. I wrote out four simple resewlutions at the end of my 2013 reflections post. They were…
- Keep sewing once the little one arrives.
- Be more conscious of sewing with fabrics and patterns that flatter and fit my lifestyle.
- Move to my own dot com.
- Get better connected with the Seattle sewing community.
So, how am I doing? I’m off to a good start, I’d say! I’ve actually already checked one off the list. If you look up, you might notice that the domain now says sew-well.com. Crazy, right?! I checked number three off the list. Now, I know when I wrote about number three, I said it would follow number one and two. But, number one requires the little one to be present, and he or she is still enjoying kicking my ribs from the inside. Number two requires I really plan out the clothes I want to sew next, and though I’m definitely dreaming about my post-pregnancy sewing, it still feels a bit presumptuous to start thinking about what it means for something to truly “flatter and fit my lifestyle” since I have no idea what’s in store for me as a new mom!
So, I figured I’d at least look into number three. You know, for later. When I did, I quickly realized that it was actually pretty easy to stick with WordPress.com and just take advantage of the dot com that my husband had surprised me with a couple years ago (after I complained about someone being crazy enough to sit on the unhyphenated version).
And, I rashly pulled the trigger.
I have to figure out what it means if I ever wanted to drop the dot com and move back to sewwell.wordpress.com, but I figure it is likely easier with the way I’ve done it now than if I were to move everything to WordPress.org. I bring that up because I once had a conversation with a popular and prolific blogger who mentioned how important it was to her that everything about her blog be free so it could continue as is indefinitely. Her sentiments have stuck with me, and I think about them whenever I get crazy grandiose ideas about this blog.
I also need to figure out whether it changes things for those of you following through readers like Bloglovin’ and Feedly. Does anyone already know? Everything seems to still be coming through just fine on my end…
Anyway, enough about me. How are you doing on your resewlutions? Let me know in the comments! Or, if Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest are more your style, what about using the hash tag #resewlution to share a sewing resolution that you’ve already started working on?! Let’s motivate each other to get this year off to a great start!
The title of this post is a bit misleading. Using the plural “gifts” implies that I sewed more than one gift this holiday season when, in fact, this knit Renfrew top that I made for my sister-in-law is the only gift I had time to make. But, I thought it sounded better than “Sewing a Gift for the Holidays”, don’t you?!
For some reason when I make up this pattern, I always seem to make it in multiples. The first time around I made four (here, here, and two here), the second time I made two (here), and this last time I made my maternity Renfrew and this one. They just come together so quickly that it wouldn’t make sense not to dig through my fabric stash while I have the pattern out!
I made this one with fabric left over from my ombre striped shingle dress. The navy-and-white stripe was my favorite of the fabrics from the four blues I used in that dress, so when I was placing my order, I made sure to order a little bit more of it in the hopes that I’d end up with enough to make this exact shirt. Only, because I had to make the shingle dress twice, I was close to not having enough fabric. In fact, I had to decide between skinny-ing up the long sleeves a bit or making three-quarter length sleeves. I opted for the former since I really had my heart set on this exact shirt.
Though I did my best to match up the stripes at the side seams and along the sleeves, I learned a good lesson about where it’s most important to match stripes across the armscye seam. After throwing this top on my dress form for photos, I realized it would be the most visually pleasing, at least to me, to see the stripes match across the armscye seam a couple inches down from the top of the shoulder. I focused on matching stripes that were too low and that, as a consequence, are now hidden in the armpit. And, those visually prominent stripes a couple inches below the shoulder seam are just about completely offset!
Even so, I still call this top a success, and I really hope my sister-in-law likes it. I think she could pull off the nautical vibe it has going on really easily. And, she wears the last one I gave her a lot, so hopefully this one fits similarly.
Now to find the time to make my mom the capes and the little French jacket I promised her many Christmases ago!
It’s been fun trying to sew creative maternity makes these past few months. Looking back over the length of my pregnancy, I haven’t actually had a huge baby belly for that long. Even though, of course, at this point it feels like I have been waddling around with a belly that’s become this protruding extra third of my body for forever now. As I said yesterday in my sneak peek, I expect these garments will be my last maternity makes for this pregnancy. The baby is “due” in two weeks now, and I’ve shifted to trying to finish up my Craftsy Block of the Month squares and a few other baby things instead of more maternity clothes. Here’s to hoping I’ll be back to sewing my own clothes (and to sewing as part of MSN) here in no time! Now, on to my January MSN post…
I currently can’t stop dreaming about making beautiful silk blouses and tailored wool coats and faux leather jackets, but my dreams are confounded by the fact that I’m so far into my pregnancy that all I want to wear are my comfiest comfies. So, to add a bit of polish to my daily wardrobe here in my last month of pregnancy, I decided to make a maternity-approved variation of the classic cowl from Mood Fabric’s black wool jersey.
Mood describes this jersey as “a soft, tissue-weight wool jersey knit… perfect for t-shirts and tops.” I couldn’t agree more – it really is perfect for this winter top. Plus, it cut and sewed quickly and easily (a must for me at this point in my pregnancy!), and it’s super warm and cozy to wear. If you haven’t tried wool jersey before but are comfortable with knits and would love a warm top this winter, I highly recommend you check out this fabric.
To make this top, I started with the Sewaholic Renfrew pattern (which I’ve used a million times it seems – here, here, here, and here, not to mention the number of knit garments that I’ve modified using this pattern as a guide), and then I lengthened it 11″ in the front and 6″ in the back while also widening it, gradually increasing to an extra 6″ around the hem. When I was sewing it together, I gathered the extra 5″ of length in the front into the side seam near the widest part of my baby belly. You can see the little puckers from the gathering in the photo above. I also made a more substantial hem band to complement the longer length of the top.
So that I can get double wear out of this cowl (a necessity since so little fits me these days!), I decided to make two pairs of funky leggings to wear with it using two of Mood Fabric’s jerseys, a navy jersey panel printed with a white forest and a wine jersey with an “applied tattered printed layer”.
The navy fabric is a panel print, and to make sure I had enough yardage, I ordered two panels. When I was laying the pattern (Vogue V8401 with the waistline dropped so that it ends under my belly) out on the fabric, I realized the second panel would start a few inches above where the top ends. Even though the repeating pattern would be hidden for the most part, I couldn’t ignore the fact that there might be times when it would peek out. Since I figured a navy-to-navy seam would be more subtle than the start of a new tree line, I separated the two panels and serged them top-to-top before cutting out my pattern. I don’t notice the extra seam when I’m wearing them, and no one’s inspecting my leggings closely enough to even see it, so it’s a win-win in my book! When I was ordering my fabrics, I imagined these leggings pairing nicely with black ankle boots. But, in reality my feet are too swollen at this point! Maybe post pregnancy?!
The wine-colored fabric is a wonderfully comfortable jersey that feels and wears exactly like my favorite pair of store-bought leggings. It has a second layer of fabric applied to its surface that is printed to look like old denim and roses. I really love the my-jeans-are-falling-apart-but-oh-look!-roses! vibe it has going on. Mood suggests it would be “great for a variety of apparel”, and I agree. I’d love to see what others have made with it!
All in all I am very happy with what are likely my last handmade maternity clothes – at least for this pregnancy! Having something that keeps me feeling cozy while not looking like a bathrobe or a pair of sweats is very nice right now. I’m pretty sure these outfits will be on heavy rotation for the next little bit, especially considering that my due date is only two weeks away now!
Well, this post is likely my last for MSN before the little one arrives. As I mentioned yesterday in my sneak peek, I’ll be taking a few months of leave from MSN so that I can spend some quality time with my newborn, but then I’ll be back making my dreams of beautiful silk blouses, tailored wool coats, and faux leather jackets into realities. See you back there in the spring!
This post can also be found on Mood Sewing Network. I used my MSN allowance towards the purchase of the fabric.
Well, I’ve made what are likely to be my last maternity makes, at least for this pregnancy! They’re live over on MSN today if you want a sneak peek before they show up here tomorrow.
Also, if you read to the end of that post, you’ll see that I’ll be taking a few months of leave from MSN so that I can spend some quality time with my newborn. It was a hard decision to make since I really enjoy being a part of that group. But, I’d rather take a few months off than get burnt out because I’m overextended. I will still sew and blog here as much as I’m able, and I plan to jump back in to MSN sometime in the spring. I already have plots and plans for so many new Mood projects!
Have you seen all the fun variations of Seamstress Erin‘s new Presidio Purse pattern popping up all over the sewing blogging internets? There are some pretty amazing ones out there. I think my favorite so far has to be Helena of Gray All Day‘s black-and-white one. Mine feels so plain compared to that one!
I used a gray twill I bought from Discount Fabrics in San Francisco back when I first started sewing. At the time it was meant for some gray jeans, but then it sat and sat. And, after the disaster with the non-stretch orange twill jeans, I thought better of using it for jeans at all. When the Presidio Purse pattern arrived in my inbox, I thought the twill would be perfect for a large, casual, slouchy shoulder bag. The lining is a red cotton print, and the pockets are a crazy silk print, both also from Discount Fabrics forever ago.
And, after a few pretty quick sewing sessions, I had my large, casual, slouchy bag – actually, make that my giant, casual, slouchy bag! I made the mistake of not measuring the test square until after I’d started into my cutting and noticed just how big the pattern pieces were. It turns out my 3″ square was 3 1/4″! And, that extra 1/4″ added up into one giant bag. I’ve printed out so many pdf patterns that I just didn’t think about it. I was using a different computer and printer than typical though, so I should have double checked! I learned my lesson though. Next time I’ll be sure to check. Imagine what that extra 1/4″ would have done to a garment!
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m still very happy with my bag. And, it’s rare for my husband to even notice any bag I might be carrying, but he sure seems to like this one! It’s just that when I’m testing a pattern, I like to get things accurate. And, for some reason, as soon as I realized the bag was bigger than it was supposed to be, I just started letting things slide. Poor Erin. I tried to give her good feedback, but as far as the actual bag construction, I felt like I let her down. But, more on that after I first gush about the pattern.
The pattern is filled with a bunch of professional details. Let’s start from the top down. The pattern comes with two different types of straps, one of which calls for hardware where the strap meets the purse. And, if there’s anything I’ve learned from following crafty sewing blogs, it’s that hardware really makes a different when you want to make a professional-looking bag. The purse closes by a zipper, and the treatment and insertion of said zipper requires no hand stitching, yet all of the edges are nice and neat. Even the zipper ends are covered in the exact same way as my fancy, store-bought purses! Finally, there are some really clever pockets inside the purse. The large, zippered pocket is pretty ingenious.
Now that you know how great the pattern actually is, I’ll just go ahead and tell you all the ways I deviated from it after becoming frustrated with my printing error. (Honestly, I also think this pregnancy has started draining all of my creative energy and motivation. I’m so tired these days!) First, the pattern suggests you interface lighter weight fabrics, and my twill seemed borderline – thick, but not able to stand on its own. Instead of erring towards interfacing, my mild frustration caused me to go the lazy route of no interfacing. Since I wasn’t going to use interfacing, I decided I wasn’t going to make the fancy straps either. I was on a very slippery slope, you guys! Next, the only zipper I had in my stash that would go with the casual, slouchy look was a big, metal YKK separating zipper that I also got once upon a time from Discount Fabrics. In the past I would have run out to the store to buy the zipper the pattern suggested, but this time I talked myself into thinking a separating zipper would be nice for a bag this large since it would allow me to really open up the mouth of the bag whenever I was digging inside of it. It works, but I didn’t think through the fact that I now have to realign the zipper bottom every time I want to zip the purse closed. In hindsight I would have had just as large of an opening with a regular zipper using Erin’s insertion instructions, only I wouldn’t have to fidget with the zipper so often. Not to mention it would look more professional. Finally, I rarely use zippered pockets inside of my purses, so I opted to omit the large zippered pocket and just go with a large plain pocket instead. To make the pockets easier to find, I used a contrasting fabric. I also put a pocket on each side of the purse, and I stitched the smaller pocket that comes with the purse to the outside of the large plain pocket. Basically, I didn’t follow Erin’s instructions at all. And, I don’t think my purse pockets are as functional or look as professional as Erin intended. Blurg.
So, in summary I made a giant, casual, slouchy purse that I think is pretty great but not quite as great as it should have been had I actually followed the pattern instructions. I’m excited and motivated to make another one though, so hopefully I’ll be able to redeem myself and produce an authentic Presidio Purse. First, I’m going to reprint the pattern – to scale! Then, I’m going to carefully select my fabrics – something thick and heavy for the exterior and possibly pleather for the insets and handles. Finally, I’m going to follow Erin’s hardware and zipper instructions to a T – no slippery slope of laziness this time! Erin’s planning a Sew-Along this month, so if the impending arrival of the little one doesn’t throw things off, I think it would be fun to sew my next one along with all of you!
- Pattern: Seamstress Erin’s Presidio Purse
- Fabric: Discount Fabric’s gray twill, red floral cotton, and crazy multicolor silk
Hooray! I finally finished the Aurora Dress, the one I’ve been planning since early fall! And, would you believe that it does in fact fit my pregnant self just like I’d hoped?! Fitting around my belly is no small feat these days considering how large I’ve gotten. It’s mind boggling that my belly can expand the way that it has, but I guess there is a little being in there – one that I should be meeting sometime in the next month!
I’ve definitely taken my time making this dress. Just to remind you, my original inspiration was the fabric, a green and purple cross-dyed voile from FineFabrics.com. I chose Simplicity 2145 because I thought it would convert nicely from a non-maternity pattern to a maternity dress and then hopefully eventually back to the non-maternity dress it was meant to be. You’ve already read about my adventures pre-washing the fabric, making a muslin, and modifying the muslin - all of which took place over a month ago! You see, once I was happy with the muslin, it took me forever to build up enough courage to cut into the fashion fabric. What pushed me over the edge was attending a sewing meet up with some lovely ladies who are part of the The Seattle Sewing Guild Meetup Group. I took advantage of their positive energy and large tables to make that first snip into the fabric.
Because the fabric is a bit sheer, I ended up cutting doubles of the front top pieces, the back top pieces, and the back skirt piece. I was planning on treating the double layer as one piece, sort of like you would with an underlining, but then I decided half way through construction that I would instead treat the double layer as a sort of lining so that I could hide nearly all of my interior seams. It meant a lot of hand sewing because of the way I’d already started putting everything together, but I think it was worth it. And, I have to admit that I am quite pleased with the neat interiors. I also hand stitched an invisible hem on both the sleeves and the skirt.
To ensure that the skirt would fit over my expanding belly, I ended up adding 10″ of extra width to the center front. Yes, you read correctly – 10″!!! After conferring with a sewing friend, I was reassured that the lovely soft drape of the voile would handle the gathers (and my belly!) well, much better than the muslin would have ever been able to predict. As you can see above, there’s still extra ease in the dress, but not that much considering how much fabric should be there!
I’m not sure how well you can see it above, but the side seams fall naturally down my side, which is further confirmation that the extra 10″ was really what I needed!
I didn’t change anything to the back that I hadn’t already done in the reworked muslin. As I mentioned then, instead of sewing the pleats down the length of my back as the pattern suggested, I only sewed them a few inches. Just enough for them to hold their shape at the top.
Now, to be completely honest, I did make a few mistakes. Though I removed the gaping in the bodice front by using an invisible dart when I reworked the muslin, I worried that it pulled the empire waist line too far up in the front, so I tried to add a little bit of the length back to the bottom of the bodice when I transferred the muslin changes to the pattern. I must not have done it quite right because the gaping came right back. I was able to eliminate a majority of the gaping by essentially removing the length that I added to the bottom center of the front bodice pieces, but in doing so I destroyed the markings that I made for the front center and the bodice front pleats. Though the bodice no longer gapes, it is a bit more revealing than I expected based on the fit of the final muslin, a result that I’m chalking up to the loss of the correct center front placement. In addition, the interlocking front bodice pleats that were one of my favorite features in the original pattern were also lost. Forming the interlock involves cutting into the bodice, and I just didn’t trust myself to make the cut after all the bodice drama I’d already had. If only I had just stuck with the changes I knew would work from the muslin!
One other mistake I made has to do with the sleeves. After trying out the long sleeves in the muslin, I decided instead I’d just go with something a bit shorter but still wintery. If you recall, the long sleeves had this potentially interesting pleat in them. When I shortened the sleeve pattern piece, I assumed that the pleat added unnecessary ease, so I folded it out, hinging the fold at the top center of the sleeve piece. Unfortunately, I now know I should have either left the sleeve width as is or just pinched out the pleat somewhere below the armscye since the sleeves as-is are now a bit too tight across my shoulders. You can see the crease lines from the wearing tension in the photo above. It’s actually not so bad, but I’ve mentally made it worse since I know it wasn’t supposed to be that way! The pattern was drafted just fine, but I thought I knew better! If I actually follow through with my plans of un-maternityifying this dress when my pregnancy days are over, I’ll likely also go in and either remove the sleeves or turn them into little cap sleeves. My winter aurora maternity dress will become a summer aurora dress!
Until then, I am so very happy to have another fun dress to wear during this last month of giant belly. It reminds me of the baby moon my husband and I took in search of the aurora, and it makes me feel fancy and dressed up when I might otherwise be inclined to feel sluggish and top heavy. I was proud to wear this dress twice last week – once to a Christmas eve service and once to the Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Nutcracker. Here’s to finding as many occasions as possible to feel fancy in the new year!
(Sorry for the grainy camera phone photo, but we worried no cameras would be allowed in McCaw Hall. Of course, once we got there we realized everyone else had their fancy cameras!)
Finally, even though this dress was planned long before the Sewcialists announced Sew Green December, I have to credit their Sew-Along as one of the driving forces that helped me to keep cranking away at the hand sewing there at the end and to get this post up before the end of the month. Thank you for your fortuitous choice of green for the month of December!
- Pattern: Simplicity 2145
- Fabric: FineFabrics.com Emerald and Purple Cross-Dyed Voile