Friday, February 28, 2014

Better late than never, also I have long arms

Nearly two years ago, I won some fabric from Carolyn, who writes the blog Diary of a Sewing Fanatic. This contest happened as I was in the middle of interviewing for new jobs, most of which weren’t in the Boston area where we lived at the time. Shortly after the fabric arrived, I accepted a job offer in the Kansas City area. Things were super crazy for quite a while as we packed, sold our place in Boston and moved halfway across the country. I have to confess, I sort of forgot about the fabric in the hectic activities that followed.

About eight months after moving here, we bought this house and got all moved in a year ago. One of the nicest things about this house is that we can use our dining room as a wonderful sewing space. We put our dining table up on risers so we don’t have to hunch over to cut out patterns, and we have room for both sewing machines, our serger and our ironing board. But even with this great space for sewing I still neglected the fabric.

Partly that’s because work was insane but partly it was because I found myself really intimidated by the one-way plaid. I know myself, I would go nuts if I didn’t get the plaid lined up right, and at the time I didn’t have the mental energy to even begin to think about it. Plus I wasn’t sure what to make with it.

Then I got that lovely fabric I mentioned a few posts ago, the wool/cashmere blend, and I realized I also still had this fabric and both needed and wanted to make it into something. I decided to make Burda 7183, even though I knew the style might not be all that flattering on me. It’s basically a box with sleeves and I’m not a box, I’m an X or hourglass. Still, I thought it had possibilities.

Take a look at the information Burda provides for selecting your size. Notice all the places to measure? I found this so helpful in figuring out what size to cut– and do you see the arm length measurement (#6)? Well my arms are actually 24 ½ inches long! So I guess I need to give New Look a pass on arm length – the arm length issue is mine, not theirs. As made, this jacket is right between a 12 and 14. If I’d cut the sleeve length for those sizes, I’d have had problems. This Burda jacket is described as having 7/8 length sleeves, so I ended up adding nearly three inches. I didn’t want 7/8 sleeves, not in winter and not out of this fabric.

The red arrow points to the slightly snarky comment that “all Burda patterns are prepared with ease appropriate for style in question.” Forget about getting five and a half inches of ease in your jacket! Heck no, this jacket – at least on me – is closer to the three inches that I’ve heard tossed around as a good measurement.

Anyway, this project ended up being harder than it needed to be and mostly that was because of me. I ripped out seams several times when the plaid didn’t line up perfectly and even still, one seam doesn’t match perfectly. It’s pretty good though. The zipper really gave me fits. Burda says you can shorten a zipper like this by pulling out the teeth . . . um no. At least not when it’s a plastic piece of crap like what I was able to find. Maybe if I had had a zipper with metal teeth it would have been easier.

Now if you want to see fantastic use of the same exact material, you should go read Sew Melodic’s blog post here. In a very odd coincidence, we were both making something from the same fabric. Hers is amazing, and while I can aspire to sew like she does, chances are I’ll need to stick with the easier, less demanding patterns – like this one.

Matches across the center zipper

Slight mismatch :(

Perfect match!

Thursday, February 27, 2014


The report is in: the jeans fit although they are (thankfully) trending toward the tight side. So he's got a pair he can wear for now and I'm on the hunt for some lighter-weight denim for another pair in the next size up. Whoohoo!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Tiny jeans

You may recall that I had offered to sew some pants for the middle grandchild, the one who’s got no butt so he wanders around the house either pantless or clutching his pants at the back of his waist to keep them up. I sewed the shorts as a test for fit, and they were mostly fine as done. The elastic was a little too tight, but otherwise they fit him. Fixing the elastic will be really easy.

Having that feedback on fit meant I could get a pair of proper pants sewed up for the little guy. Here they are:

As with the shorts, these are mock front fly and the button is purely for looks. I changed up the pockets so they look more like proper jeans, top stitched some of the details, and also used a fun lining on both the casing and the pockets. Overall I’m pleased with how they turned out and I hope they fit him well.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Close call

The best fabric store in Kansas City – and by best, I’m talking about quality of fabrics, not the cheapest price – is closing at the end of this week. Kaplan’s has always had extremely nice, high end designer fabrics; you didn’t go there for a bargain, you went there when you wanted exceptionally special fabric. Kent and I dropped by two weeks ago before we left on vacation and picked up some really amazing pieces. The one you see on the left is a wool and I believe cashmere blend. Even half off, it was expensive. Whatever I make needs to work well with the fabric and also fit me. I should also mention that I’ve only got 1 and ¾ yards of the fabric so there’s not a lot to work with.

For this fabric, I didn’t want a lot of seaming or fussy details, so I chose New Look 6012, view B (it's on the left in the picture at the bottom of this post). I made a couple of decisions that have ended up saving me much heartache and disaster with my beautiful fabric. First, I decided I would line the jacket since wool is itchy to me. Second, I double checked all measurements including the amount of ease, and also compared the new pattern with another, similar New Look jacket pattern (6082, second from the left) I’ve made before. With sewing patterns, sizes are governed strictly by measurements. For most sewing patterns, I measure between a 14 and 16 depending on how close fitting the garment is. Based on the measurement comparisons and the amount of ease listed on this pattern, I didn’t cut my normal 14, I cut a 12. Finally, I sewed up the lining before I did anything else.

The tent on the table
I am so glad I did all that. This thing is enormous on me. It’s not just a little bit big, it’s a tent. And the sleeves are too short, like by five inches or so and that’s before any hemming.

And that brings me to the point of this post. I realize I am no expert sewist. I have a lot to learn especially about fitting and adjustments. But I don’t think this pattern issue is because of me. I’ve made New Look jackets (from 6082, and 6028) and while they aren't huge, the sleeves for both jackets are pretty short. I had put the blame on me, even though I have normal arms but now after making this third New Look jacket, I don’t think that I screwed up. And I’m not the only one to notice these kinds of issues – recently two other bloggers who are amazing and expert sewers blogged about pattern issues and the stupidly large amount of ease built into most patterns. (Wearing ease is the minimum amount of ease needed for comfort and it's added to your measurements; design ease is above and beyond wearing ease.)

So now I’ve got an unwearable lining and still need to find a jacket patterns for my lovely wool/cashmere blend. I think I will give Burda 7183 a try. I’ve only made a couple of their patterns but I love how many more measuring points they give so you can adjust your pattern to really fit your body. Based on my unwearable lining experience, you’d better believe I’ll make a lining from this pattern first.

Maybe it's New Look?

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Vacations and us

Kent and I take two kinds of vacations: completely unplugged vacations where we imitate slugs doing nothing, and Crazy Trips™ where we more closely resemble Tasmanian devils on speed and just go, go, go doing and seeing things the entire time. All our trips last year fell in the Crazy Trip™ category, including Barcelona.

Last week was the unplugged kind. We would have liked to go back to Couples Negril in Jamaica but the travel time is longer and Kent doesn’t get much in the way of vacations. We wanted warm temperatures, a good beach, plenty of sunshine and easy to get to. Cancun fit the bill. Kent found a good price on flights and also found a great deal at one of the two Westin properties there – a reasonable room rate plus for another $60 a day, all our food and drinks were covered. We were pretty sure we’d have spent more than $60 a day for our food so that was an easy decision.

Overall the trip did exactly what we wanted: we both relaxed, enjoyed the temps (upper 70s and low 80s), kept our window open at night to hear the waves and ate ceviche every day. (We are now determined to make our own ceviche so stay tuned for how that goes.)

But we did still miss Jamaica. Here’s a quick comparison of the two properties:

Click to read

So the TLDR version is we prefer Negril when we have the time and money, and Cancun when either is a little tight.

Obligatory beach photo from Cancun

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Final thoughts on Simplicity 3833

I got my second version of Simplicity 3833 completed in time for our short trip to Cancun. In this picture, we were getting ready to go out to dinner so we were in a hurry but you can see how it looks on me. For the most part, I'm pleased with it. I think I need to shorten it by a couple of inches as it looks a little long for the cut of the dress.

I also need to figure out how to solve a problem I have with patterns – I tend to have some excess fabric at the nape of my neck. My shoulders aren't the issue, the measurements for the shoulder seam fit me just fine. I just tend to have some extra fabric right there at the neck and going down a few inches. This is a fit issue I've had all my life in ready-to-wear clothing. The shirt I pulled together last week, the one I labeled not a success? I did a bit of tapering right there and removed some fabric, which worked pretty well. That the shirt didn’t work was entirely due to using fabric unsuitable to the construction of the shirt – call it user error!

Anyway, I need to read up on how to alter my patterns for this fit issue. God knows there are all sorts of tutorials out there on things like full/small bust adjustments, prominent shoulder blades adjustments etc, etc, etc. I just haven’t seen anyone talk about this and honestly I don’t even know what to call it. Gapitis at the neck? Pretty sure I’m not the only one in all of sewing history to have this issue.

Edited to add:

Whatever did we do before the world wide web?? Lo and behold, immediately after publishing this post, I Googled “sewing fit issues at the neck.” The first hit was this blog post. I’d suspected I might need to add darts or make any existing darts a bit bigger. It’s just nice to have confirmation I’m on the right track.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Back soon

We're going to go thaw out until Monday evening.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Winners and a loser (or at least not a winner)

I have been sewing a lot over the last week. In addition to the shorts for the middle grandson, I also pulled together my second make of this Simplicity dress.

It's all but done, all I need to do is hem the outside layer. I faced a different (for me) sort of challenge with this dress because although I'd made it before, I'm enough smaller now that the previous size was/is too big. But patterns come bundled in sizes and the size I needed for this make was not included in my pattern. That meant I needed to buy a second pattern, which annoyed me but resulted in a better fit.

I used a fabric that's quite drapey which sort of goes against the retro vibe of the dress. To overcome how much the fabric wanted to drape, I lined it with white cotton. This solved a couple of potential problems: it's not see-through, the dress has more body and skims better and it's also really soft and comfy to wear.

It's too damn cold to put the dress on for anything other than a nanosecond of fitting so I will get a picture next weekend when we are someplace warm. Yes, we are going away for an extended weekend so we can thaw out.

I also made myself a bag. If I'm not careful, I'll be known as both the crazy cat lady and a bag lady . . . Anyway, here's another version of the Birdie Sling Bag but this time it's for me.

Finally I had enough scraps of this material on hand that I thought I could get another top out of it. I'd already made a dress, which I like a lot. Normally I wouldn't go for multiple items from the same fabric but you have to admit this is some neat cloth. Unfortunately, it's a bit too soft to work in the pattern I made. I may be able to salvage it but I'm out of energy for that top right now.

Next up is possibly a coat. We'll see. My upper back is scolding me for all the hunching over I've done the last few days.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The world's most interesting cat

The most interesting man meme has been done to death, but when Eddie sat like this the other day we just had to get a photo of him. Now I need your help. Complete the meme for my cat:

I don’t always ___________ but when I do _______________

Monday, February 3, 2014

You say it's your birthday

Twelve years ago, the Super Bowl had been moved to February because of 9-11. In fact it had been moved to my birthday. Kent and I had started dating a couple of weeks earlier after my refusal to do so for three years, but he’d made it clear that this wasn’t an exclusive relationship. Fair enough, I had made him wait for a very long time so it wasn’t unreasonable that he was a little gun shy.

We’d been invited to a Super Bowl party and Kent had just picked me up to head over to the party. (We were both still in full courtship behaviors, both going to things maybe we didn’t really like to do or doing all those little things that go along with courtships. That’s why I was going to this party as I find football deadly dull.)

Anyway, we were chit chatting in the car, and he says to me “I need to tell you something really quickly before we get there.” Oh boy, maybe he realized he didn’t want to date me after all . . . No, that wasn’t it at all. In fact, he said, he had made the decision that he would date only me because he realized he wouldn’t find out whether this relationship was what he wanted if he didn’t do that. He made it clear he wasn’t asking or pressuring me to do the same, he just wanted me to know where he stood.

What he didn’t know at the time was that I was already dating only him. Having overcome the initial, crippling fear of starting a relationship with him, I was all in. I couldn’t conceive of dating around while I figured out if this was indeed the one for me. So you better believe I was smiling slightly on the outside and doing fist pumps on the inside. That was the best birthday and Super Bowl ever.

No, I don't know who played, let alone which team won. Who cares? I won!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Pants on the ground

The middle grandchild has a fit problem with his clothing, specifically his pants. Much like his older sister, he has long slender limbs and tiny little acorns for his buns. That means if pants fit his waist, they are clam diggers, and if they’re long enough, he has to grab a fistful of material at the back of his waist so they don’t fall down. Well, that’s just no way to live especially since its winter and the boy needs pants he can wear.

I offered to sew up some pants so my DIL sent his measurements. According to the sizing chart, he wears a ½ T – keep in mind that pattern sizes are based solely on body measurements and have nothing to do with the sizes you see in retail stores – but needs more length in the pant legs. So I cut out a pair of what ended up being shorts to act as a fitting muslin for the little guy. If they fit, I’ll whip up another, long pair and anyway summer will get here someday. I lined the pockets for fun and used the same contrasting material to make the casing for elastic in the waist.

I made the shorts from Simplicity 2907, which is out of print now. I’ll make his long pair out of them too, I just won’t do the seams across the knees. That seam would bug me so why inflict potential irritation on him.

I also whipped up a yoga mat bag for myself. I’ve been meaning to do this for a while and have had the pattern cut out for a couple of weeks. But it’s so cold and the dining room (which is also our sewing room) has just been uncomfortable to work in. This is from McCall’s 4261 which I bought for $1 from the remainder table at my favorite fabric store in Boston. All that was left was a huge size but that’s OK, all I wanted was the bag pattern.

As is often the case, I sort of ignored the directions and lined the bag with fabric and batting so it’s stronger, made my own strap (seriously, the pattern called for a yard of 1 inch wide webbing – that’s like calling for a can of cream of chicken soup in a recipe. Just make the damn white sauce already), and also my own drawstring instead of a purchased cord.