Thursday, May 19, 2016

Ruby Slip FAIL

I had such high hopes for the Ruby Slip. My wardrobe is in dire need of some good slips!

I printed out the pattern and made it up this week. Since it is drafted for a B cup, I did a FBA, following the excellent instructions in the sew along. I did a quick muslin of the bodice, without the straps. Here lies my error, I think... had I thought to add the straps to my muslin, I think I would have realized that I had a problem. Without the straps, the muslin seemed to fit okay... the bust had sufficient volume and seemed to fit.

I continued merrily on my way. I was making a short version, camisole length, with china silk. I did a double layer bodice and serged all of the interior seams. I did french seams on the "skirt." I hemmed it, and attached the straps.

It looks lovely on the hanger.

Alas, the fit sucks. I did sort of realize the straps would be widely set, and that was not a dealbreaker for me. But I did not at all realize that the bodice would come up so high under my armpits-- that is what makes it truly unwearable for me.

It looks especially terrible with this bra. But you can see the problem with the underarm height, and the bra (which is a racerback) shows about where I would like the straps on the slip to be.

I was so disappointed when I first put it on that I just wanted to wad it up and throw it in the trash. But, I think this is perhaps not so difficult to fix, and cutting a new bodice wouldn't use much fabric. I need to adjust the top of the triangle cup to be about 1-1.5 inches more towards the center, and scoop out the underarm 1.5-2 inches.

The need for these adjustments caught me by surprise since I can't recall seeing a review of this pattern that mentions these problems. Many of the reviews I've read have been from leaner sewists who are probably sewing the smaller sizes and have slender arms, and many of the reviewers show it on their dress forms (for good reasons, especially those made with lace bodices, as the pattern suggests). Looking back, I can see that the armhole is pretty high even on smaller women.

It is probably worth the work, since I do like this design for a slip, and the bias skirt is a nice touch. The other slip pattern I have in the sewing queue is Butterick 6031, but this is for knits. Oddly enough, looking at the Butterick pattern, I would bet I will have the same problems with it-- overly wide set straps and high on the underarm. Is that a thing with slips-- are they purposefully designed this way? Thinking about it, I could sort of see it... wide set straps would prevent the straps from being seen on many dress styles, and perhaps the peek of lace from your slip is preferrable to showing bare underarms? Am I reading too much into this?

That doesn't mean I have to like it though-- that's definitely one of the benefits of sewing. If I want a slip/camisole with straps set securely on my shoulders (there is nothing I hate more than having straps slip off my shoulders all day long) and a low cut on the underarm, I can make it that way!

So, back to the seamripper and the drawing board for this one, and perhaps there will be another version forthcoming!

Friday, May 13, 2016

Endless Combinations on Pattern Review

I've entered the Endless Combinations contest on Pattern Review. If you are a member, check it out... if not, it is free to join, and a great place to read pattern reviews and join forums about sewing.

Since I wanted to sew some new spring wardrobe pieces anyway, entering this contest didn't take me too far away from what I really wanted to be sewing, anyway.

So the way this contest works is that you sew at least 4 items (I sewed 5!) then you pair them up together A+B, B+C, etc. However, A doesn't have to go with C. Since every item doesn't have to go with every other item, it allows you to do things like make multiple tops.

All of the combinations are in the photos above, and here are the items with links so that you can read more about them:

A: Rainbow Floral Ruby Top
B: Ginger Jeans
C: Wool and Pink Striped Ponte Lisbon Cardigan
D: Tessuti Kate Top
E: Sequin Trim Cardigan (also the Lisbon Pattern).

Happy Sewing!

Tessuti Kate in Black Shadow Stripe Linen

As soon as the heat sets in, all I want to wear is linen!
I've never been to Australia before, but I have a feeling Australians know how to dress for heat... because Tessuti Patterns are just the thing for light, breezy linen tops, dresses, and pants. 

I initially resisted the Kate top pattern because it looked too boxy for me. However, I love the way it looks on so many people, and I was interested in adding a new style to my linen top collection. So I did up a muslin and decided that if I added a shaped back seam, that might add just enough curve for me. I have a bit of a swayback anyway, so I basically did a swayback adjustment. I added a center seam instead of cutting on the fold, and pinned out the excess in a curve that was deepest at the small of my back and tapered to nothing behind my shoulders and at the hips. 

My muslin also suggested that I needed to add length (which several other reviewers have also mentioned. I added 2 inches at the lengthen/shorten line on the pattern). 

Other than my minor adjustments, I sewed view B with only tiny changes. I love the very clear pictures in the instructions, and how a beautiful interior finish seems integrated into the design. 

My fabric is Marcy Tilton's "shadow stripe" linen. It is a loosely woven linen with a subtle stripe woven into the fabric. It is rather sheer, and I debated lining it, but I decided that on a really hot day when I was hanging out at home, I might appreciate a little extra air. If I decided to wear it to work, I could always just wear a cami. Working with this very loosely woven linen was delicate work, it wanted to fray if I even looked at it too hard. I stay stitched everything, religiously. I probably should have used a tear-away stabilizer as directed (Tessuti patterns suggest Vilene, which is an Aussie brand, but there are others available here) but I didn't bother, and seem to have mostly gotten away with it. 

The innards are quite lovely. The back slit is faced, and the facing is turned under and stitched down. I did flat felled seams at the shoulders for a little extra strength. For the back seam that I added, I serged the pattern pieces before sewing them together. I then sewed the back seam, starting at the bottom of where you were directed to cut the slit. 

There is a self fabric button loop. Mine is a bit thicker than recommended, as I didn't have a smaller tube-turner thingy, but it works well enough. The button is a vintage shell button from the buttons gifted me by my best friend's grandmother. 

The lovely side vents with mitered corners were one of the details that really sold the pattern to me. They are explained very well in the instructions. Unfortunately I fumbled a bit on them... somehow I misread the directions and turned up the bottom seam 1/2 inch rather than 1/4, which threatened to put the entire mitered corner askew. I persevered though, and the only lasting effect is that the bottom hem is a bit narrower than it should be. 

The pattern also described a method of adding binding to the armholes and neckline that was new to me, and I sort of love it. Rather than using a bias binding maker, which I find rather fussy, especially with a very loosely woven linen, the pattern has you simply press your binding in half and attach the raw ends to the raw edge of your neckline and armholes. It seems sensible, and it worked well. Also, you are instructed to understitch the binding, and this extra line of stitching may help to keep all of those loosely woven ends in check. I have some trouble with the edges of bindings working their way out on some of my older linen tops that are made with loose weaves. 

I've been sewing awhile now, and I really appreciate it when patterns have techniques that are really smart and add to my arsenal of sewing tricks!

Overall, I really love the top. The fit is loose but not sloppy, and I think the bit of shaping that I added was just right for me. I love the look of the high neckline and slightly scooped shoulders. I think this linen top is going to get a lot of wear this summer!

Lisbon Cardigan in a Drapey Jersey with Sequin Print Trim

To be truthful, this was my first Lisbon cardigan!

I was a pattern tester for this pattern, and I hadn't sewed an Itch to Stitch pattern before, so I decided to make up my first version in a black jersey that I had lots of so that I would not be sad to lose a precious fabric if changes had to be made.

I needn't have worried... the fit was spot on. After trying it on and realizing it was going to be a keeper, I decided I would jazz it up with a bit of sequin print trim. I've been hoarding this lovely sequin print jersey, but I figured I could spare just a bit for this purpose. From a distance, I think it is quite effective.

This is the 3/4 length sleeve which is an option on the pattern, and I believe shortening the 3/4 sleeve is the one change that Kennis made before releasing the pattern. Just so you know. It makes sense, since these sleeves on my version are sort of awkwardly in between a 3/4 and full length sleeve. It doesn't really bother me though.

In order to take best advantage of the drapey effect, I decided not to put buttons down the entire front. Quite honestly, I was also worried that the buttons would just look sort of saggy and sad since the front bands are quite soft, even with interfacing. Besides, I rarely ever button the front of my cardigans, and it was especially unlikely with such a think knit.

But I did want some sort of closure on the neckline. I thought a button would spoil the trompe l'oeil that I had created with the sequins, so I salvaged some sew-on snaps from an old sweater.

I pretty much followed the directions to the letter-- and they are very well written! I did make one change though-- when I sewed the front bands to the sweater, I sewed them on like you would sew a waistband onto a pair of pants, so that all of the seams are enclosed. I pretty much do this on all of my sewn cardigans, since I can't stand seams showing when the wind flips my sweater open. You basically sew the front side of the front band to the cardigan right sides together. To sew the back of the front band, you fold the seam allowance in and secure it with a lot of pressing and pins and/or wash away tape, then top stitch it from the right side, catching the fold.

I think I'll get a lot of wear out of this cardigan. Black with gray-toned trim goes with just about everything! Also, the sequin print trim makes it a little more dressy... but the fact that it is actually jersey means I can also wear it during the day.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Ginger Jeans! Cone Mills Stretch Denim with Purple Topstitching

I made a pair of jeans, whoo-hoo! This is, of course, the Ginger Jeans pattern by Closet Case Files. 

Yes, those are my tango shoes. These would be good jeans for dancing in, don't you think?
So much has been said about these that I'm a little daunted by all those bloggers who have come before, but I can't really leave these unblogged!

After sitting on my Ginger Jeans kit for 6 months, I jumped right into making these jeans this spring. The impetus was the fact that the two pairs of RTW jeans that I wear constantly are starting to look a little rough around the edges, and not in a good way. And the thought of engaging in jeans buying... ugh, what a dreadful thought! And expensive, to say the least.

I considered making muslins or using cheap denim, but so many people have had success with this pattern that I figured that it was highly likely that I would be able to make a wearable pair of jeans on my first try, and it seemed worthwhile to put my effort into making a decent pair of jeans, even if they weren't perfect. I also thought that making a muslin, in this case, would be counter productive for a number of reasons. One is that I've never worked with Cone Mills S-Gene denim-- it is a lot sturdier and less stretchy than I'm used to. I also feel that jeans really need to be worn in before you can truly assess fit... which is probably not true if you are experienced at pants fitting, but I'm not, and I thought I would need to FEEL the fit in order to truly understand the adjustments I would need to make. I need to answer the question: what adjustments are truly necessary after the denim breaks in and moulds to my body?

I wasn't completely reckless. I did spend a lot of time comparing the pattern to my favorite RTW jeans (NYDJ). I have to say, the shape of the Ginger Jeans pattern, especially the crotch curve, is remarkably similar. Based on my RTW jeans, I chose to make a size 10 and grade to a 12 at the waist. I also took my time making these and basted all of the pieces together twice during the making to check fit. I ended up taking out the seams 1/4 inch in both the inseam and the side seam. Other than that, I made no changes.

Sewing all of the jeans details was totally fun! My machine handled denim pretty well. I used my leveling foot for most tough spots. In some places I just moved slowly, turning the handwheel. The Ginger Jeans sewalong was invaluable, almost all of Heather's suggestions were spot on.

For some reason, the denim needles included in my Ginger Jeans kit didn't work very well in my machine, so I ended up using my usual Organ needles in the heaviest size I had (18). Top stitching worked like a charm on my machine, and I used an edge joining foot as a guide for some of the top stitching, as suggested in Cashmerette's tutorial.

I chose to use purple top stitching thread-- it was just a random color I had ordered in my last big thread order, and I thought it would be a nice personal touch. I had a selection of jeans notions to choose from since I've been collecting, and went with a sort of antique bronze finish in the hardware. The jeans button was from the Ginger Jeans kit and the rivets were from Tailor Taylor.

I designed the pocket after looking at lots of existing pockets. Personally, I think the rounded lines echo the rounded lines of the exterior of the pocket, helping to create the illusion of a nice rounded bum!

The buttonhole is a free-hand machine buttonhole. I used this fantastic tutorial by Angela Kane, and it was not nearly as difficult as it sounds. The automatic buttonhole just wasn't going to happen on my machine, especially not with my pretty purple topstitching thread. Having looked at a lot of jeans buttonholes in researching jeans detailing, I think this looks pretty authentic.

I chose to do the pocket stay with quilting cotton and backed the waist band with the same woven, no stretch cotton, no interfacing. This was a quilting cotton I picked up on sale at Joannes several years ago... you'll probably see me wearing the dress I made with it this summer. It does actually have a bit of give across the grain, but no true stretch.

Overall, I'm more than pleased! I've been wearing them continuously since I finished them. I was worried at first that they were too tight, but I think they are wearing in nicely. It has definitely been my experience with denim that jeans that are comfortable when new turn out hopelessly baggy when they are well worn in, so I was definitely going for a nice firm fit.

Pictures of fit after wearing for several days.

They are, however, not perfect. I think I might belatedly make a muslin at this stage, trying out a few fit ideas I have. The circumference of the waistband is actually pretty perfect, but I think that my post-baby belly is pulling the jeans forward. I also suspect this since I usually have to do a sway-back adjustment, and there is no back gap in these jeans. So, I might try doing a full belly adjustment and a sway back adjustment... basically, shifting the extra room to the front of the jeans, where I apparently need it!

The other adjustment I think I will try is a small full-buttocks adjustment. I can't really see any need when I look at the pictures, other than the fact that it is nice and tight across the bum. However, I feel like my buttocks could us a little more room... especially when sitting and squatting. I'm dangerously close to a plumber's crack when moving around in these, and adding a bit more room in the back is all I can think of to do to help this along. This might mess with the fit in a bad way though... hence the though of trying this on a muslin first.

I might try adding just a bit of room in the upper thigh... but I'm not sure about that. In some pictures, they look rather tight there but in others the fit looks perfect. I wouldn't want to introduce bagginess in that area so I'm on the fence about that one.

In any case, I really need to push forward with jeans-making, since I want to wear these every day! What will I do on washing day? ;)

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Lisbon Cardigan by Itch to Stitch: A Pattern Review

This beauty is the Lisbon Cardigan by Itch to Stitch. Isn't she gorgeous?

When Kennis asked for pattern testers, I jumped on this. What a beautiful, classic design... I've actually searched for something similar, and been disappointed with what I've found. If you are a prolific knitter, your wardrobe is probably full of nice cardigans, but as slow and plodding knitter, this is a definite gap for me.

This version is made with doubleknit and ponte fabrics. The black is a wool doubleknit from Mood that has been in my stash for years. I fell in love with it and bought a ridiculous quantity. This was probably a mistake in how much space it takes up in my limited fabric storage area... but for something like this, it is the perfect fabric-- warm, durable, and with just a bit of stretch- 25 percent or so. 

The magenta striped fabric is a rayon ponte from Marcy Tilton (who has the most amazing collection of stripes). It is a 2 way stretch, which was a bit worrisome for this pattern since I had my heart set on vertical striping and the stretch goes with the stripes. So I got away with making the cuffs and bottom bands with very little stretch... there is enough ease that this worked for me. 

The neckline, however, was a bit of a disaster without stretch-- it is basically a rectangle and the shaping of the neckline comes from stretching it to fit the body of the sweater. After a total fail, I re-cut the neckline horizontally, with the stretch. In retrospect, I really like it this way.

The fit is perfect for me. I made a size 10 with no adjustments at all. I'm a 38 bust, 35 waist, and 41 hip, and 5'4".  Technically my waist would be a size 12, but the fit is boxy so I just ignored that fact. I have slightly larger than average biceps and sometimes feel the need to do a large biceps adjustment, but I didn't need to on this pattern (some testers narrowed the sleeves a bit). The sleeves might be just a tad long for me, but it doesn't bother me because the cuffs keep them in place. 

I know this sounds crazy, looking at this sweater now... but it totally didn't occur to me that I needed to pattern-match the two front bands (where the buttons and the buttonholes are). Thank goodness I ended up pattern-matching by accident, just by virtue of the fact that I was using the stripes as a cutting guide when I cut the pieces. I sort of thought they would totally overlap and you wouldn't see the bottom band, but looking at it now, it makes sense that it would peek out. It would have looked dorky if I hadn't managed to match it!

This is my first Itch to Stitch pattern, and I was impressed with Kennis's professional drafting and instructions. The seam allowances aren't shaped, so you do need to make sure you are matching the stitching lines, but this is pretty standard sewing technique. Her instructions are very well thought out and concise, there are no extra steps or fussiness, she just tells you what you need to do in a logical order. You don't need a serger, but she indicates where you can use one, and the seam allowances are 1/4 inch so there isn't a lot of wasted fabric.

The PDF is layered so that you can print out just the version you need, instead of all of the sizes, and she includes instructions on how to print out just the layers you need. FYI, if you are PDF challenged and ignore the instructions and print off all of the layers at once, that works too. As me how I know ;). The one piece I had to reprint with unnecessary layers turned off was the front band showing the buttonhole placement, but this was just 3 pages. 

I did made one significant change in construction. When sewing the front bands, she has you sew the band on and tack the seam allowances. This is a very reasonable, reliable way to sew the front bands on... but I like an enclosed front band on my cardigans since I tend to wear them unbuttoned. So I sewed the front band on like you would sew a waistband. I just finished a pair of Ginger Jeans by Closet Case Files, and Heather explains the technique very well in her sewalong. I'll do a tutorial for this when I sew my next Lisbon, but I basically treated the front band of the cardigan like the waistband of a pair of pants, using the topstitching to catch the seam allowance of the underside of the band. Since you are basically sewing blind, it helps to use wonder tape (double sided water soluable tape!). If you don't have wonder tape, use lots of pins. It is a little trickier to sew the front bands in this manner, but I love the result... if the wind catches my cardigan and flips it open, the inside is almost as beautiful as the outside.

Speaking of beautiful insides, Kennis includes instructions for a "hong kong" seam finish for knits. I think this is a super cool idea! I just serged this cardigan, but if I'm working with something super special in the future, it would be lovely to have a beautiful color or print enclosing the seams. You could also just use this technique on super obvious seams, such as the front band seam, if you aren't doing the "waistband" method of enclosing the seams. 

One other detail I added was underlining for the arms. I know from experience that I find this wool doubleknit a bit scratchy to have in direct contact with my skin, and I wanted to be able to wear this cardigan with sleeveless tops. So I underlined the sleeves with some Venezia knit lining from Emmaonesock. I love this stuff... super light, slightly slippery, and stretchy. I used the sleeve pattern pieces to cut out the lining, and basted the lining to the sleeve, wrong sides together. I then treated the sleeve and lining as a single piece for the rest of the construction of the cardigan. 

Let's just talk for one minute about the elephant in the room: buttonholes! For the full length version of this cardigan there are SEVEN of them. Ack. I was hoping for miracles when I bought my Janome 8077 last year, but I have to say, the automatic buttonhole feature is miles better than my old machine (which was scoring a ZERO, so that isn't saying much) but still rather finicky. If the buttonhole situation is PERFECT-- totally flat, even thickness of fabric, not too thick, not too thin, normal Gutterman thread (mara 100), perfectly stabilized (preferrably, woven), no seams in the vicinity-- the buttonhole function will still sometimes stop with inscrutable codes for no reason at all. 

After about 15 minutes or so of failures on test fabric, my machine and I came to a truce on these buttonholes. No fancy buttonhole thread-- just regular old Gutterman thread with the stretch needle that I had used for construction. No funny stuff, like going around twice. Tissue paper under the fabric. Then I pulled off 7 buttonholes in a row, and breathed a huge sigh of relief. 

One little hint... if you are using an automatic buttonholer where you put a button in the slot to get the right size buttonhole, you might want to trick it into making slightly smaller buttonholes for your knit fabric. I took out the button and clamped the little lever down another 1/8 inch.

The buttons are vintage buttons from my best friend's grandmother's button collection. They are basic black buttons, and I'm not sure what they are made of, but they have a bit more weight and a slightly cool touch. They feel nice to the touch. I machine sewed them, which went pretty smoothly on my Janome-- no broken needles and faster than hand sewing. 

Oh, and one more detail I added: topstitching. I was having trouble getting things to lie flat... these knits just didn't hold a press in a very satisfying way. So I added two lines of topstitching, at the top and bottom of the striped portion of the waistband, which served to add a bit of definition and hold the seam allowances in place. I also topstitched the neckline, on the black doubleknit just under the neckband, once again to hold the seam allowances in place and help everything lie nice and flat. 

This was actually my second Lisbon, and I sewed it up in one evening, minus the buttonholes and buttons. Kennis is totally right that you are going to want to make TONS of these, it is such a versatile wardrobe piece, and very fun in all sorts of fabrics. I'll blog my other Lisbon soon-- I used a drapey knit, and it has a totally different feel. I can't wait to sew another one!

Kennis is having a new release sale right now, so head over to her shop if you want to make your own Lisbon Cardigan. No code required to get 20% off. 

Monday, May 2, 2016

Me Made May 2016... My Pledge

You might think I'd be an old hat at Me Made May, but the fact is, I've never properly committed to it. So, here goes nothing:

'I, Christine of Unlikelynest, sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May '16. I endeavor to wear mostly me-made garments for the duration of May 2016, and will try my best to document with photos."

Okay-- this is sort of a wishy-washy pledge. I acknowledge it. It is very imprecise language, leaving lots of wiggle room- it would never stand up in court! I defend it this way-- I don't need ANY more stress in my life. Here's the thing... if I say I'm going to do something, then I commit all the way and suffer self-inflicted guilt if I don't carry through. It's just how I am. However, my wardrobe is not worth a lick of guilt-- there are plenty of other things in life to agonize over!

However, I do very much appreciate the idea of Me Made May. I love the fact that a very simple idea has turned into a community event of sharing the very personal, creative things we spend hours and hours of our lives doing.

At the heart of Me Made May is the wonderfully empowering idea of a handmade wardrobe. It solves so many of the problems of the mass-marketed consumer fashion industry has created. Instead of trying to fit my body to a pre-determined set of arbitrary measurements and being frustrated when I don't fit the mold, I can make garments to fit my body. Instead of spending days of my life shopping and seeking the dubious thrill of the "bargain," I spend my time thinking about and creating one-of-a-kind garments. Instead of buying many garments each season that wear out, go out of fashion, and fit poorly, I make a few garments each season that I enjoy pulling out each year. This all feels like a much more healthy and rich experience.
May 1: At the Y with my Bombshell bathing suit (Closet Case Files); May 2: Ginger Jeans (Closet Case Files) and the Jasper Sweater by Paprika Patterns 

I've been sewing for almost 5 years now, and haven't purchased more than a few RTW garments in that time. I just crossed one of the big me-made wardrobe hurdles-- I finally made my first jeans just this month. I still have a number of long-wearing RTW garments in my wardrobe, but I'm gradually replacing items with better, more special me-made garments.

Everyone has different skill levels and style preferences, and this is part of the fun of Me Made May! I'm really enjoying seeing everyone wearing their unique garments. I'll post some roundups here, but follow me on Instagram to see (almost) daily updates.