Thursday, September 21, 2017

Velveteen Rabbit Pattern is available on Etsy!

When my daughter was born, a family friend gave us a copy of the Velveteen Rabbit. Of course I had read it as a child, but I as a new mother the idea of something that is so loved that it becomes "real" struck me as all the more poignant. 


So when I started making home-made toys for my kids, the Velveteen Rabbit was high on my list! 

My first pattern, the Bunny Lovey, is very sweet for a baby, but the Velveteen Rabbit is a toy that a child can play with throughout childhood. It is soft and cuddly, but also is wonderful for imaginative play or for taking a place at the tea-table. 

Love Sewing Magazine noticed my blog posts about my first versions, and they asked if I had finished the pattern. Last spring, in cooperation with Love Sewing Magazine, the pattern was released in the spring of 2017. 

Now, I am happy to be able to offer it to you as a downloadable PDF pattern on the Unlikely Handmade Store on the blog and on Etsy. The download includes the PDF pattern, which you can print on your home printer, and photo-illustrated, step-by-step instructions in a downloadable PDF. 

This fall I'll be doing a little sew-along on the blog! So get your pattern and your fabric ready, and we can make up a Velveteen Rabbit in time for the holidays! 


Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Summer of basics: Final three!

For the Summer of Basics Make-Along at Fringe Association, I need to choose my favorite 3. So here they are, being worn together!


It was a hard choice because I ended up making so many great basics this summer, but if I have to pick, it would be my rust charmeuse cami, my black ginger jeans, and my black rayon twill Kalle shirtdress. (Click on the links to see the posts on each of these)


I love the cami because I drafted it myself to fit over my beloved racerback bras, and I can make it out of a luxurious slippery fabric like silk and the racerback will NEVER creep off my slopey shoulders. It is also a nice, thick, sturdy silk that is not likely to tear and has been pre-washed so that it won't require any special care.


The black Ginger Jeans are an obvious pick. These are the most comfortable jeans I've ever made! Black jeans are great for dressing up and down, and I'm sort of in love with the black-on black topstitching and matte black rivets and jeans button.


The black Kalle shirt dress is a wardrobe staple that I'm not exactly sure how I've been without for so long. It is just such a versatile piece.


The drapey rayon twill is really lovely to wear, and I love all of the fun shirt details, like the scrap of silk I used on the inner yoke and the smoke gray real shell buttons. 


I also love how I can change the look by adding a belt, or wearing it unbuttoned over a cami or tee.


So those are my pics for #summerofbasics, #sob17finisher, #sob17bestcombo. 

I think I'm not done with basics, quite honestly... fall is approaching, and I'm thinking about making a button-down shirt with sleeves, such as the Grainline Archer or the Liesl Classic Shirt. 

What are your favorite basics for summer/fall?

Monday, August 28, 2017

Black Ginger Jeans-- Summer of Basics

One of the most worn items in my closet are my jeans, especially my black ones. There is a pair of black jeans in my wardrobe that is so comfortable that it might be endowed with a trace of supernatural powers. It's been my favorite pair for 5 years, and there are periods where I have worn them almost every day. They've fit me through some pretty dramatic body changes-- I haven't worn them when I was pregnant or directly postpartum, but they are they first jeans to fit when things start to fit again. 

I bought another pair of jeans at the same time I bought the "magical" pair, in a slightly different colorway, and they just aren't as magical. I've tried to buy the same ones, but I can't find the exact same ones, and similar cuts of the same brand just don't fit the same. (If you are curious, the original two pairs were NYDJ, bought at a somewhat unbelievable price on Amazon... so I'm not even completely sure they are NYDJ, or they could have been seconds or something.)


Of course the first thing I did when I got my Ginger Jeans pattern was compare it to my favorite jeans, and the cut is remarkably similar. However, when trying to reproduce a favorite pair of jeans, it seams like finding, or making, a good pattern is only part of the problem. 

One of the big problems is the HUGE variation in denims. The thickness and the amount of stretch and recovery varies widely. My "magical" pair is made of a denim that is quite thick, has lots of stretch, and has incredible recovery. I've never found any denim on the market that is quite like it. I've also sampled lots of twills, since the "magical" pair is a black-black shade which means it is either an overdyed denim or a twill, but the stretch twills I've sampled are even farther from the mark, even the ones that are marketed as particularly pants-worthy. Cone Mills denim is widely cited as some of the best out there, but it is not a super-stretchy denim. My first pair of jeans was from Cone Mills denim, and while there are lots of improvements I can make in fit, I'm not altogether convinced that I'll ever make a pair that are super-comfy from Cone Mills. 



These are made from the Black Turkish Denim from Threadbare Fabrics. This denim is thick without being too thick, and definitely stretchier than Cone Mills. I have high hopes. 



I also made the fit more relaxed. The fact is, my "magical" pair are not skinny-skinnies, which is probably why they are my favorite pair. In the Ginger jeans pattern, I cut a straight 14, which is pretty much my size by the numbers right now. 

I did a 1/4 inch full belly adjustment, but I think that might have been somewhat of a mistake, because when I baste-fit them, there was too much fabric in the front crotch. I ended up taking material away from the front crotch curve to correct this. 


In baste-fitting, I decided that a full bum adjustment might be helpful, since it felt like the back waistband was being tugged down. Using Heather's suggestions for a quick and dirty full bum adjustment, I added 3/8 at the top and bottom of the back crotch curve, making the seam allowances there a scant 1/4 inch. I also deepened the J of the back crotch curve. These changes seemed to really improve the fit for me. Next time I will definitely factor this in when cutting.

I made was to make the waistband facing out of the same stretch denim. Previously I've gone with quilting cotton for the waistband facing. Since I'm going for comfort, I decided that stretchy was the way to go. 

With all these changes plus the stretchier Turkish denim, I ended up taking the side seams in an extra 1/4 inch on both sides, from the waistband to mid thigh. 


I went with black topstitching on this pair, and I didn't even bother switching to topstitching thread. It made things go soooo much faster to not be switching thread all the time. These were by far the fastest jeans I've made, they went together in record time.


The rivets and jeans button are the lovely matte black ones that Angela Wolf carries on her website. I found these rivets harder to install than other rivets, the posts seemed to blow out through the caps half of the time, but I could just be out of practice. I blew through nearly the whole packet of 10, but ended up with 5 decent ones in the appropriate places. 

I've entirely given hope that my machine will sew an automatic buttonhole on a jeans waistband so I didn't waste time trying this time. I sewed the buttonhole with the zigzag stitch on my machine, following a hand drawn guideline. 



The weather is just now getting cool enough to be true jeans-wearing weather, so we'll have to see how these hold up. I have high hopes that they'll be a hit this fall! I would really like a black-black pair, so I have some more of this same denim on order, as well as some black dye!


Do you have a favorite pair of jeans? Have you tried to replicate them, either through buying or making a similar pair, and have you had success?

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Black and White Kalle Shirt/Dress-- Summer of Basics, Kalle by Closet Case Files

Basic black and white. 


This is, of course, the Kalle Shirt Dress by Closet Case Files. I'm just a bit obsessed with it.

Also, it happens to fit a huge gap in my wardrobe... I don't own any basic button down shirts. To be completely truthful, there might be a few oddball items that sort of fit the bill in my closet... I still have the white tuxedo shirt that was my uniform when I had a catering job a LOOOONG time ago. Maybe I can think about letting go of that one now that I have a white shirt to replace it.

I did in fact buy a bunch of button down shirts back when I started my job in 2008. But NONE of them fit very well and I was constantly checking to make sure I was decent. I always had to tape or pin that point right at the bust, because there was NEVER a button in the right place. Those shirts are long gone. You can bet that when I made these shirts, I made sure there was a button in that special place!




The white Kalle is cut at the tunic length, and shortened just a bit more. I wanted it to be just long enough to tuck if I was in the mood, but the fact is, I'll probably wear it untucked.






It is made out of twill tencel from Emmaonesock, with real shell buttons purchased from a seller on Etsy. I also made a double pocket, and made the pocket just a tad larger (about a 1/4 inch all the way around). This might have been inspired by Helen's white shirt, which I love!


The black shirt dress is made out of bamboo twill, also from Emmaonesock. This fabric is just luciously drapey! I hope that it turns out to be durable-- I've been disappointed with the durability of the rayon items in my closet. I always wash gentle cycle and air dry, but many rayon items (especially knits) end up pilling in areas of high wear, or sometimes they just stretch out and look saggy. I guess only time will tell.

I did the inner yoke in a scrap of black and white silk, and the buttons are real gray shell. The pictures don't do the buttons justice, they have that colorful, luminous quality of real shells. I also love that the set I bought came with smaller ones for the collar... it is one of those small details which you notice when you have made something yourself!




I made the dress 2 inches longer than my previous Kalle dress. Since I'm 5'4" and I usually shorten Closet Case patterns by 2 inches, that means I made the pattern exactly as printed. It makes it just long enough that I feel good about wearing it without leggings to work.



I also love it belted! Which has alerted me to the fact that I own no decent belts... I was surprised this black one even fit. Don't look too closely, it is one of those plastic-y belts that came with something I bought a long time ago.


And, of course, it has pockets. I still have a love-hate relationship with inseam pockets, but I'd rather have a pocket than none at all.

I am in love with both of these items. I wore the black shirt dress for the first day of classes, belted, and felt very artsy and chic. I'm really happy to add these basics to my closet, they go with everything and I think they will be in constant use during the rest of summer and beginning of fall. 

I've had to wash the white tencel twill one already... the blue chalk that I used showed up terribly! It still isn't completely gone, but it seems to be fading. I did my usual gentle cycle wash and hang dry, and it came out all wrinkly. It did iron up beautifully... but I'm not used to having to iron things. My linen Kalle looks quite acceptable after hang drying. Is that just a tencel thing? Any tips?


Thursday, August 24, 2017

Racerback Cami-- Summer of Basics

Speaking of basics, what is more basic to a woman's wardrobe than a nice woven cami? 


This is a basic that I've been sorely lacking. I do have several spandex yoga camis that have taken on this role when necessary, but that's the best I've been able to do in the RTW world. 

To get a bit personal about it, I just don't prefer to be bra-less in public. I didn't care for it before I had my kids, and I really don't care to show off the saggy-boob look after having kids. Then, there is the added complication of my sloping shoulders. I am convinced that I have some of the slopiest shoulders since Botticelli.

I've tried every non-slip bra known to commerce and the only ones that aren't down to my elbows by 11am are racerbacks or cross backs. I could just embrace the "show off your bra" look but my RTW racerback bras are just not so lovely that I want to parade them around in public. 

The True Bias Ogden pattern that has been all over the blogosphere is sort of a brilliant pattern. If you wear a traditional bra, the Ogden looks to be cut generously and modestly enough that you can at least attempt to camoflauge your bra. However, it wouldn't work for my racerback bras, obviously. 

I could have tried to modify the Ogden, but I thought that I'd have better success just starting from scratch. So I pulled out the muslin and the tracing paper and came up with a pattern of my own. It took quite a few generations of muslins, but I eventually came up with a usable racerback cami.



Once I was reasonably pleased with the fit of my muslin, I dove right into a scrap of silk crepe I had left over from a recent project. It is 14mm silk crepe from an Etsy seller. It doesn't completely hide my bra straps on this particular bra, but at least it doesn't showcase them. 


It is totally lovely to wear, the drape is gorgeous and the crepe texture doesn't cling. 

The edges are finished with what could be considered long facing or a half-lining. I considered just making a double layer cami, but this seemed unnecessary. For the black crepe cami, I did the facing in rayon lining since I was out of silk fabric. I finished the edges by understitiching, so it has a very smooth finish.  I think the use of the rayon lining also helped to control stretching on the edges. 


I quickly made a second one up in a rust colored charmeuse. This is a nice, thick charmeuse that got a lovely sandwashed texture when I pre-washed it. I think it was originally from Mood. 


I topstitched this one, and I sort of regret it... the topstitching stretched the edge just slightly, and I prefer the understated look of the understitched black one. With the understitiching I was worried the facing would flip out over time, so we'll see which finish I prefer in the long run. 



The charmeuse one doesn't hang quite as well in the back. I'm not sure if that is because the pattern needs tweaking, or if the charmeuse just stretched out despite the staystitching. Whatever the issue, it is minor and I love it anyway, it is really fun to wear and the color goes well with my current wardrobe.

I'll just have to make some more and see how the turn out. I think I could do with a few in linen, and I wonder if I have any more silk scraps around...


Monday, August 21, 2017

Sewing wardrobe staples... the Tessuti Kate Top x 3... Summer of Basics

It is interesting how my sewing has changed over time. Only a few years ago, most of my sewing was pieces for special occasions and fancy showstopper wardrobe pieces. I still have and love most of these pieces. For example, my Missoni Sweater Coat, Striped Lisbon Cardigan and Asymmetric Wool Blazer get pulled out a few times each season. However, one can't wear these items too often, they're just too distinctive.

I haven't always thought it was worth my time to spend a lot of effort on basics, but the act of making beautiful basics has grown on me lately. There is a certain pleasure to making and wearing a simple, beautiful pieces that fit well and are made with quality materials with thoughtful details.

I find it harder to blog these quiet makes that I wear everyday. It seems much more exciting to post something eye-catching, made with a complex pattern and and exotic print. But I enjoy reading other people's posts on basics, so I should really be better about it. I've enjoyed reading the Summer of Basics posts by Fringe Association and their partners, and all of the other bloggers and instagrammers who have joined in to #summerofbasics . I think it is a much needed acknowledgement that simple, lovely basics are just as worthy of notice as the other creative projects we engage in. Perhaps more important!

On that note, my next few posts will be devoted to showing some of the wardrobe basics I've been sewing up this summer.

There are lots of woven tank patterns to choose from, but the one I've latched onto is the Tessuti Kate. I have a definite soft spot for Tessuti patterns. I love how they almost assume you are going to sew them up in linen or something similar, and in this day and age, I feel like a hand-drawn pattern is gutsy and cool. I've talked about the pattern quite a bit in this post, so I'll leave out the gritty details.



I made these three Kates in June, and they have been in heavy rotation ever since. The are all in linen from Emmaonesock, and the floral and denim were discounted roll-ends. The floral one doesn't get worn as much, it is almost too pretty for daily wear in my current rather minimal aesthetic, but the striped linen and the denim-y linen are what I've been living in.


I've modified the Kate slightly. I always make the view with the higher neckline, I just prefer this look right now. I skip the back closure-- while it is lovely, I don't need it, and if I have a button there, it just gets tangled up in my hair. I always add about an inch of length. The striped and the floral tops have been made more "swing-y" by grading out a size from under the arm to the hem, while the denim-y linen one keeps the original boxy shape. I really like the look of this silhouette but on certain days this just feels a bit too close on my belly.

The mitered side vent is a lovely detail on the Kate, and I love having this as an option, but I frequently improvise other hems. On the floral one, I cut the hem totally straight and did a narrow hem (to conserve fabric!). The striped one keeps the vent and mitered corners.


The denim-y one has a hi-lo hem, which was sort of an accident. I lengthened the top by two inches instead of one, which for some reason I thought would be a good idea, but after wearing it I realized that it was hitting my body at an awkward place. So I belatedly hemmed the front up higher than the back. 


The roll end that I made the floral linen top out of was not quite a yard. I probably should have passed on this, since I knew the pieces wouldn't fit, but it was such a lovely print that I wouldn't have bought if it wasn't on sale. To make it work, I ended up cutting a strip off-grain and adding it to the center back. 

I'm wearing the striped linen Kate right now! Dear readers, what are your favorite tops for summer? Do you have a TNT pattern or a favorite store-bought option?

Monday, August 7, 2017

Jumping on the shirt dress bandwagon! Kalle Shirt Dress by Closet Case Patterns, a Pattern Review

Heather from Closet Case Files has done it again. She manages to look effortless and put together, then produce patterns so that the rest of us can aspire to such easy coolness. And somehow it works, at least for me. 


This is, of course the Kalle Shirt Dress from Closet Case Patterns.

It all started with those pics of Heather in her self-drafted white shirt dress in Barcelona. I don't know if it was the early morning light or just Heather herself, but she just looked stunning.

Then, Closet Case Patterns released the Kalle shirt dress pattern. Initially, I was skeptical... there isn't a single shapeless dress in my closet, I tend toward body-skimming sheaths and dresses that are fitted over the bust. That is, if I wear dresses at all... with my post-baby body I've tended to prefer pants and top combos that provide support and definition. I also worried that the curvy hem would show a bit too much leg for my taste.



However, summer got hot and the thought of a breezy relaxed fit linen dress got really tempting. Also, I've had a bit more time to workout this summer so my belly isn't as annoyingly prominent. All of this added up to the Kalle jumping to the front of the sewing queue right before our annual summer vacation.

I used my favorite mid-weight linen from Fabrics-store.com in Vineyard Green. I am totally crushing on this color right now. This could also be partially Heather's fault... this color is quite close to one of Heather's samples, although I swear I started loving this color before the Kalle even came out. I've never really been a fan of green before, but now I can't get enough of earthy greens-- a touch spring-y or olive-y or army-y. There are several more items in my sewing queue that are these colors, I think it is my new neutral.

I sewed it almost exactly as written. The only alteration I made was to shorten by 2 inches because I'm 5'4" and the pattern is drafted for a 5'6" woman.

The directions were, as usual, spot on, and the sew-along posts for the placket and the yoke were brilliant. I have actually sewed yokes and plackets before so I'm not a total newbie, but I enjoyed being led through the process and I think even a beginner could figure it out with the help of the sew-along.



The three methods of making collar points were totally interesting to read about. I tried the thread-pull method of making collar points and it worked a charm.

I tested a few different interfacings on scraps of my fabric, and decided to go with my usual favorite, Fashion Sewing Supply's Pro-sheer Elegance Medium. I have some genuine shirt interfacing that I was itching to use, but this was too stiff for a relaxed linen shirt.


To add a bit of fun, I did the under collar and inner yoke in an Alexander Henry quilting cotton that I had in my stash. Oddly enough, it is the same fabric I used on my Ginger Jeans. The label one of my new self-made inkjet printed labels (heat set pigment ink) on cotton twill.

My Janome gave its usual lackluster performance on the buttonholes. That is to say, they went perfectly except when they did not. For no conceivable reason, the Janome 8077 sometimes decides to stop after sewing 2/8 of an inch of the buttonhole. If it is going to stop, it always stops at this point. It will not restart, and trying to sew over the existing stitches has only resulted in a bigger mess. I have to stop, unpick the stitches, and start over, and it usually does just fine the second time around. The only time I don't have a problem is if the fabric is a totally smooth weave like a twill or a quilting cotton. Apparently a nicely ironed linen did not trick the machine into buttonhole perfection. This time I had to unpick three false starts-- annoying. I really don't understand why my machine is so darn fussy.



The top buttonhole was a bit of a trick... I ended up using a scrap of heavy interfacing just laid under the offending area, then just tearing it out of the seam when I was done. I really need to get some of the dissolving stabilizer, it would be easier to remove.

I used buttons harnessed from a repurposed men's shirt, plastic but nice quality.

The pocket went wonky the first time around, so I cut another and interfaced just the top of it. It went in much neater this way, and hopefully won't get saggy.

I added side seam pockets. The dress definitely had cleaner lines without pockets, but I really like having somewhere to put my hands (and my phone). I just borrowed the pocket from another pattern that was handy-- it just happens to be the Suki Kimono by Helen's Closet.



Love the curved hem. I slightly stretched the bias tape as I applied it, a trick I learned from sewing Tessuti patterns, which often use bias finish.

This was the perfect dress for a beach vacation. I wore it on outings to town, as well as on the beach. I'm planning on wearing it well into the fall, with leggings and a cardigan. The linen does wrinkle quite a bit, but for beach wear it just added to the casual vibe, and we'll just have to see how I feel about it at work.

I love it so much that I have more versions planned... I'm planning another Kalle dress in black bamboo twill, which I think will give it a lovely drape, and possibly the tunic version in white linen.









The bathing suit is new also, Jalie 3350, I might blog it in a future post. Styled with Born shoes (old), Missoni sunglasses, and Mac Half and Half lipstick.