Thursday, April 16, 2015

Tank Top 2.0

This morning I tried something new. I went down to my studio and worked on sewing rather than letting myself get sucked into my computer. And I realized that just being in my studio can be inspiring and I got an amazing amount of work done.

I have a basket of "crap that needs to be delt with". Ok let's be honest this morning it was actually two baskets full. But now I am down to 1!

So far today I have:
- finished a pair of cargo pants for the kid
- but the drawstring back in a pair of my lounge pants
- taken in the waist in on my leopard print jeans
- taken in the back seam of a workout top
- totally re-worked a tank top I made about 5 years ago!

All this before noon! All the sudden the kid has a new pair of pants and I have 2 pairs of pants and 2 tops back in my wardrobe, crazy, I know!

So the deal with this tank top is that I LOVE the fabric but have never liked the style and fit.  It was in the basket-o-crap because I did not want to throw or give it away but I did not know what to do with it, until today.

Tank Top Before. Pulling across the chest and arm holes are too tight. 

I did not like the pleats in the front, and the armholes had gotten a little tight. Also there was a facing around the neck that was not put in right and it never stayed put!

The back before.  
 The back was not fitting quite right either. A little tight and what was I thinking with that giant button?

The armholes previously had bias tape facings. Cute but not much give, plus you know my arms some how must be a little bigger then when I first made this shirt.

I basically took the whole neckline, armholes and back seam apart. I took off the facings. For the armholes I simply turned them under and hemmed them. This gave me about 1/2 an inch larger openings for my arms. For the neck I needed a way to gather it that looked better than the pleats. So I turned it and hemmed it as well. Then I attached a piece of frilly elastic to gather the front.

Thank goodness for huge seam allowances, because of the standard 5/8" I was able to open up the back seam and give myself a little more wiggle room.

Sadly the back seam does not entirely match up. But you know what I pretty much never have to look at it so I am not going to sweat it. It is a casual shirt so I am going to let it go. At least now it is wearable.

Not so perfect back seam. 

After! Tank Top 2.0
See how much better it fits. The neckline is a little lower, which is more flattering, and it is not pulling across the chest like it was before. I have to say I am pretty happy I managed to salvage this top. I have always loved this fabric. Now if it would just quit raining and warm up then maybe I could wear it!

Hope you are good today!
Peace Out - C

Friday, March 27, 2015

Easter Dress!

Fabrics for M's Easter Dress
I admit I do not celebrate the Christian aspects of Easter. However the part I do like and celebrate are; the renewal of the earth, new Easter clothes and fun goodies in a basket brought by a bunny.

There is something about Spring that lifts your mood and brings back hope and happiness. You usually celebrate Easter with your friends and family and a big meal and fun things to do. All this along with the fact that Easter candy is the best candy all year and you get new clothes! Seriously what is there not to love.

When I was a child we did go to church, so the tradition of getting a new Easter dress was a new "church dress".  No matter where you wear it, having a new dress in warm spring colors makes everyone feel good.

A couple of weeks ago the kiddo and I were shopping on on a dreary day. And we decided we needed to buy some fun spring fabrics. I tend to buy fabric and then figure out what I want to do with it later. It usually works out just fine.

I found a dress idea on good old Pinteret. It is called the Knot Dress and has a girls dress and doll dress pattern available for free download.

It is sized up to 6T, so I did need to make some size alterations for tall skinny M, but the doll dress works great as is.

It is a digital pattern that you print out and tape together.

The bodice is wide. But I have to take everything in a couple of inches for my kiddo, so I am not a good gauge of what would fit other kids.

Also the skirt as planned would have been way too short. That is an easy fix I simply made it about 4 inches longer.

I took in the bodice 3/4 of an inch on all seams and used 1/2 seam allowance on top of that. Then it was too small to get over her head but fit perfect so I added a side zip.

Invisible zipper added to the side seam. 
Reluctant and Grumpy model. 
Somewhat cooperating, but too focused on the bees outside.

The ties at the shoulders and back are super cute. I used the white with gold dots to line the bodice so that it would show when tied.

And since kiddo is 7 and likes to run and climb and all things kid, I decided she needed some matching little shorts to wear under this dress.

The shorts pattern I used is the City Gym Shorts for all ages, from the Purl Bee, Soho.

I used the contrast fabric for the shorts and store bought white bias tape I found in my stash.

I had high hopes of making my own matching bias tape but sometimes good enough, is good enough.

I also made an American Girl Doll version of the dress and a more simple pair of shorts. I like making easy doll clothes. They are fun but they get abused by my daughter and her friends so I am not going to put a lot of time and detail into them.

Doll Shorts
Now I have about a week to come up with some dress shoes and kiddo will be all set and have a nice Spring dress she can wear to any event that comes up.

Hopefully I can manage to get hubby and myself spruced up a little in the next week too!

Hope you are enjoying Spring!!

Peace Out - Chrissy

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Ideas of March......

Ok so yes I know Ides of March was 2 days ago. But, I have SO many ideas and have had SO little time. Therefore the Ideas of March.

Sick kid, injured husband, sick myself, working out, eating right, cleaning, cleaning, cleaning, grocery shopping and everybody gets sick again. Loop all that and it is basically what this year has felt like so far. Right now I am sitting in my very messy house alone. It is so quiet. Too quiet. So I am putting on some music and writing this blog post and getting some other stuff done around here.

I really have no excuse for not writing except that I don't get paid to do it (yet) and therefore I let life get in the way.

I have been doing some sewing. Not a ton, but some. I have also been doing some fabric & supply buying and inheriting. All giving me lots of ideas.

Currently I am working on finishing up my commissioned jobs so I can get to our family Spring clothes. My favorite sewing time of the year.

I volunteer once a week at the Decatur Education Foundation aka DEF. They had a whole bunch of old banners laying around. And they asked me if I would turn their banners into tote bags.

Not only is it recycling, but now they have great incentives for their donors or volunteers. They are not sure what they are going to do with them yet.

All the banners were vinyl. The banner with the blue background was super stiff and hard to work with. All the other banners were a much softer, more playable vinyl.

It took me a few bags to get the construction and sewing right. It is a heavy material but no heavier then denim. So I used a denim needle and regular thread.  I have worked on these with both of my moody machines. (One is Italian and the other is about 50 years old, so they have their reasons for being moody).

After a few attempts, I discovered it is much easier to put any binding and handles on while it is still flat and then finish the construction of the bag. Which seems obvious in hindsight, but things always do.

You do not want to have to do a lot of turning it inside out and back because the lettering and color come off the more you handle it. So here are the steps of the best way to put it together.

1. sew the front and back together at the side seam

2. finish the top edge with bias binding, hem or zipper

In some ways the zipper top is easier, it's really just what you are up for. 
I put the zipper in on both sides of the bag and then top stitch it. A separating zipper is way easier for this but a purse zipper works well too. If you use a metal zipper make sure you rub the teeth with beeswax or soap to make it open and close more smoothly. 

Bias binding on the top edge of the bag. 
I use both store bought binding (b/c people give me all sorts of stuff) and binding that I make myself.  Making your own binding makes it so you can use any fabric. But store bought is easier, if you are the sort of person who takes the easy way to do things.

3. attach handles and any pockets

4. sew other side seam

5. sew bottom seam

6. square off corners (if desired)

Measuring the line where you plan to stitch across the bottom can really help get it right. 
Some bag patterns cut out the corners before you sew it, 
but I find folding and stitching the corners easier, just personal preference. 
When you get to the side seam, make sure you back tack over it. 
This helps to make the bottom stronger. 

back tack here at the side seam
Trimming the corners off after you sew them takes the bulk out of the inside of your bag.

7. turn bag right side out

Sometimes this is the hardest part, it feels weird and wrong. 
Depends on how stiff the vinyl is. On the really stiff ones I heated them before turning. 
But you have to be careful not to melt it or get it too hot. 
It starts to warp before it melts so you want to catch it when it is just soft. 
You can iron it with a pressing cloth or use a hair dryer. 

8. Enjoy your fancy new bag

Other tips for sewing on vinyl
- use a teflon sewing foot, helps move the vinyl through your machine more smoothly
- if you don't want to invest in a teflon foot, you can put tissue paper between your sewing foot and the vinyl and then tear it away after you sew. But I find this to be annoying and if you make a lot of things with vinyl the teflon foot is only about $6
- sew once! Vinyl is like leather in that it is unforgiving. Once you sew those holes are there. You do not get a second chance.
- test on a scrap, see above
- plan ahead, really think about how you are putting something together. Vinyl is not forgiving and a lot harder to shove around your sewing machine than most fabrics.

Today I finally feel that there is hope that spring is here for real. The sun is out! The sky is blue! I am on the right side of the ground. So I am going to enjoy a little inspiration and get some work done today!

I hope that spring is coming your way soon too! Be brave and try something new.

Peace Out - C

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The difference between Plus and Regular clothing sizing

Notice a rather stark difference between these two?
It is no secret that I have struggled with my weight my whole life. It is complicated. But the conclusion I have come to these days is you have to live for today and not wait for when you are skinnier.

I have always had a hard time buying store bought clothes that actually fit. Sometimes I would find a brand that would fit flawlessly (Talbots) for a few years and then they re-brand or start cutting their clothes differently and once again nothing fits. 

I keep trying new brands. I went to Torrid for the first time a few weeks ago. (In case you don't know Torrid is plus size clothes for younger gals) I found a few things I liked. But I discovered; 
a. I may be too old to be shopping there, 
b. their smallest size top (a self esteem boosting 0) is too big on me, and 
c. their size 0 pants are too tight in the leg while the size 1 about fell off. 

Over the past few years, through making my own clothes,  I have learned why it is so hard to find clothes that fit off the rack (or even fit enough to alter). 

1. I have TINY shoulders.
2. I have big boobs
3. I have a long torso relative to my overall height
4. I have a big butt and a small waist (well relative to the butt any way) 
5. I have "thick" some would call them, legs. 
6. I am exactly on the borderline between "regular" and "petite" as well as currently being trapped in the canyon between "regular" and "plus". More on that canyon below. 

These are body issues that the clothing industry does not cater to. However I have a hard time believing I am the only one. 

Recently I decided rather than fight these battles I would focus on making my own clothes, a luxury not everyone has. I have found a pattern I love! Even though I had to make a few rather large adjustments. 

Recently Colette Patterns embarked on changing their pattern line to include up to size 3X. Read more about this HERE. And while I loudly applaud their efforts, there are some interesting things I discovered while making one of their recent patterns. 

This is the lovely Moneta pattern. As you can see it is designed for knits and sized XS - 3X. 

This is a great start. It is a simple flattering shape that can look good on anyone. Their patterns are packaged beautifully and I love that the directions are in a little booklet attached to the envelope rather then another huge sheet to deal with. 

However the issue I have is why is there 1/4 - 3/4 inch difference between each size in the "regular" range but you get up to plus and there is about two inches between the sizes? 

Colette points out on their blog that there are challenges to making plus size patterns. Maybe, but I think it's really just that they are used to what they are used to and there is a learning curve. Just like on Project Runway when they have a "real people" challenge and all the designers are thrown off their game by anyone over a size two. 

Now are you starting to see the canyon between the two?  
XS - S = 1/2 inch 
S - M= 1/2 inch
M-L = 3/4 inch
L-XL = 3/4 inch
XL - 2X = 1 1/2
2X - 3X = 1 7/8 

This is the top of the sleeve. That's a big jump, in comparison. 

My pink line is a much different shape than the pattern 
On the show "What Not to Wear", they often pointed out to people that their body was not the problem. The clothes that they were trying to wear simply did not fit. Their philosophy of try on a million things and spend $5,000 was all well and good but is hard to do in real life. 

This is the bottom of the bodice. The bodice is longer on the larger sizes to allow for room for the "girls". I actually found this length to be just right, still the difference is noticeable. 

These are the differences in the measurements of the skirt pieces
Two inches is a big difference. Especially when you consider that you are really gaining a total of 8 inches (2 each side which gives you a total of 4 front and 4 back). Between a XS and a S you only gain a total of 4 inches. Why such regular increments and then such a huge jump? Thus creating the canyon I referred to in my list of clothing difficulties.

All that said, it is a lovely dress pattern, sews up easily and is one of my new favorites. And in some ways I feel a lot better about why nothing at stores fit me. Because if this pattern (which they put tons of thought and effort into) does not work out of the envelope, chances are slim of finding any that do. 

Finished version no. 1, I have a few more Moneta's planned now that I have worked out the fit issues. I have also used the lovely bodice to draft a tunic / t-shirt and made a test one of those. 

I will have to do a different post on how to measure and make these changes. To be honest I have done it so many times I can draw it out from memory and do not measure. But I know how to and can explain it so that other peeps can benefit from all I have learned. 

Another question people ask me is "why do you even use patterns"? The short answer is I am a seamstress, not a designer. Also my two favorite pattern companies are Colette and Kate and Rose and I really like supporting them. They have done all the lovely design work, makes it easier for me to make it fit from their starting point.  

I plan for my next few posts to be more about the technical aspects of changing the pattern to make it fit. Let me know if you have specific questions. 

Peace Out 
- C  

Friday, February 6, 2015

Coat, done before winter is over!

Back in early November I had a few hours of free time. In that three hour window I cut out and finished the outer shell of a muslin of a new coat I wanted to make for myself. It was really supposed to be a muslin so I could practice with the pattern and decide what I really wanted to do with it. But it turned out great and the perfect weight for Southern winter weather so I will hang on to it as is.

I used the Colette Patterns Lady Grey. Which is an "advanced" level pattern and is sized 0 - 18.

We all know I am not a tiny person and I was looking for something I could get my arms into even with a sweater on, so I cut a size 18. Now keep in mind this is a "regular" 18 and not plus. I would never in a store buy a ready to wear 18. It would be too big.

My size is in the canyon that lives between "regular" and plus. If you are not someone who has experienced this you do not know that between a regular 14 and a 14W (aka plus) there is about a 1.5 - 2 inch difference. The interesting thing about this is that between "regular" sizes there is 1/4 to 1/2 inch difference in the size. More about this in my next post, where I will really show you something that will illustrate this difference.

This is a lovely pattern. I made very few adjustments. The shoulders fit great which almost never happens, so I have to say that Colette has won me over with this pattern. I had a less pleasing experience with another of their patterns a few years ago. I made their Crepe dress in 2011 with less than stellar results. But I have high standards and made a few poor choices.

The only thing I would really change if I made this coat again is, I would make the collar a little different shape. Otherwise it is nice right from the pattern.

The back of the collar is the one piece that I think
is not upsized enough to go with the larger size.
Next time I would make it longer.

The outer is a red aztec sort of print. It is a heavy jersey that I inherited from a friend. I made this coat for about $10 worth of interfacing, thread and buttons, plus the cost of the pattern and it is still much less and a much better fit than I could achieve with something store bought.

In this picture it is lined and top stitched and about 95% ready to be worn. Then it sat again for a couple of weeks while I debated buttons and the belt.

I have a "new" machine and I have a 1964 Kenmore. The new machine used to do great button holes but it has been abused and the button hole it sews is no longer as pretty as I would like. I have had this old Kenmore up and running for about a year now and had not yet figured out how the button-holer worked. So I decided if I was going to put buttons on my lovely coat I had to figure it out. I was terrified of it. Which was silly because it took me about 7 minutes to figure it out and it makes beautiful button holes with ease.

I considered a black rhinestone button but somehow it was not right. 

I ended up settling on these large black vintage buttons. 

The belt is the same fabric as the outer shell on one side and the lining on the reverse.  
I ended up sewing the belt in place rather then belt loops. 
This is because the fabric is jersey and 
it would get all scrunched up if I did not sew it in place. 

I was so excited when I finished I tried to take a picture of myself in it. 

Fortunately a kind mom friend at school pick up was willing to take a picture for me. If you will notice the collar does not come quite far enough forward. But the front lapels are so lovely it may not even need that back collar piece? Also I must have short arms because the patter says 3/4 sleeves and I did not make and adjustments and the sleeves are full sleeves on me.

I am contemplating making a rain version. But I have other projects in line ahead of that. My next post will be about sizing! Why nothing store bought fits me and the changes I almost always have to make to patterns.

Have a great weekend!!!
Peace Out - Chrissy   

Monday, January 12, 2015

It's 1.12.15 already let's get this year started

I am not sure entirely why but 2015 has been a slow starter for me. Maybe because I am not writing my blog or doing anything at all to organize my thoughts, but I am going to start doing so now! 

So first off resolutions! I am doing attainable monthly resolutions rather than HUGE year long ones. I hope they build on each other but not going to beat myself up about them. January = NO Cheese! and get to Jazzercise at least twice a week. That's it. February = See my friends more often! Hopefully while continuing not to eat cheese and to get to Jazzercise at least twice a week.  Small goals I can actually achieve.

But you are here to hear about what I have been sewing. The last project I actually finished was right before Christmas. It was "M's Magical Christmas Dress" which is suspiciously similar to the Elsa dresses I made around Halloween.

When M drew out this design, I thought she was nuts. I thought it was going to look ridiculous. But it is her dress so I went with it and I am glad I did. It really did turn out lovely. 

The thing that was throwing me off was that those are tiny silver butterflies on the white overlay. I had it stuck in my mind that it had to be a summery looking dress, or all white or some such nonsense.

In reality they just look like silvery spots that could be snowflakes or whatever. I'm the only one who cares that they are butterflies.

Of course the first time she wore it was to a ornament making party where she promptly got blue paint on the front and did not tell me till two days later. Fortunately I worked my magic and got most of it out. She really does not care and is happy to wear it paint and all whenever she gets the chance.

School has been back for a week, and I really have to get my brain back in shape. All that resting and playing turned me to mush! So I have actual paying jobs due this week that I really must get to!

Hope your 2015 is shaping up ok.

Hugs - C   

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Giselle Dress, Winter Version

We all know I am a huge fan of all things peasant style. I even have a Pinterest board called "Oh Peasants....How do I love Thee!" Where I keep all my inspirational ideas. It is a simple, timeless and flattering style on almost anyone.

You may remember early in the summer (when it mattered that my AC was out) I made a very summery Giselle dress.  It is a dress I wore a lot over the summer.  But the v neck is too low and I did some serious thinking about the changes I wanted to make. The overall concept is great and the pattern was very easy to change. I am a great sewer but a little lazy. No way I am drafting a pattern for something for myself when there are great patterns out there to buy. BTW you can by the Giselle and all her other lovelies here.

Last week I had a fancy dinner party to go to, so about a week before that I realized I did not have anything to wear. Our weather has been unusually cold. So I needed an actual winter dress. I looked through my sewing stash which is huge, and I found some black stretch velvet that I wanted to use. Then I had to decide on a pattern. Giselle came to mind. But I wanted some embellishment, because as much as I love black, this dress deserved a little something.

I picked some stretch lace out of my stash, I like brown and black it is a little unusual as a combination. But not weird and for sure wintery.

For a more comfortable fit, I had to make a few adjustments to the bust. First I made the v neck less deep, then I created a seam down the center from the v to the top of the bodice to accommodate my shallower neckline. Additionally I added about an inch of length to the bust cup to give myself a little more room. Some would call this the "full bust adjustment".

Another change I made, because I have to make it to everything I make for myself, is that I narrowed the shoulder and raised the armhole. I have tiny shoulders in comparison to the rest of me. I know it sounds like a lot of adjustments but I always have to make them so I have gotten good at it. I did all this without measuring just eyeballed it. Plus I was using stretch velvet which is very forgiving.

However one adjustment I forgot to make was making an adjustment to the bodice and the back that accounted for all these bust adjustments. So once again the back was too long. Which the first time I made it I blamed Kati & her pattern (SO sorry!!) but it was me! And my flakiness. This picture is not super easy to see but I had to cut about an inch and a half off the bodice bottom to make it match up with the back. Which actually made the bodice the right length for me so like magic it worked out.

To attach the lace, I first sprayed it with spray-on fabric adhesive. I let that dry and then sewed it on. I tried pinning but the fabric was stretch and the lace was stretch and life is too short to battle with stretch fabrics! I also made a small change in the sleeve band, instead of elastic I used a wide band of the stretch velvet to make a sleeve band.

Here I am all dressed and ready to go. 

These shoes where a mistake! My feet hurt the whole time!

These will be the ones I wear with it in the future. 

Slightly blurry b/c taken by the kiddo. 
I hear that Kati is making a wool Giselle. Hmmm....... I may have to borrow her inspiration and make myself a couple more winter versions. Now I just need to figure out how to carve a little time out to work on something for myself!

Happy Sewing,