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Hey, is Anybody There?

Nope this page isn’t defunct though you wouldn’t be blamed for thinking that.  I can’t believe it’s been over eight months since I posted!  It certainly didn’t feel like that long but my home page doesn’t lie. Time sure got away from me!  Fall is always a crazy time for work and this year I had a lot more travel.  I did sew a few things this summer but lost the motivation to go through the hassle of photographing myself (I still dread that part).

However, every time I think about making a pattern I scour the internet to see what I can learn from other’s reviews. I feel like when I’ve finished something I should share my thoughts too.  I know I appreciate those posts that are honest and real. I also refer back to my own posts when making a garment again – they remind me of any sizing or construction issues and I like having a visual record of what I make.

So this is going to be a catch-up post.  I completed several garments over the summer and want to share them even if I did take the all the photos on my dressform.  Here are the cliff notes reviews:

New Look 6303 / S0599

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This is probably my favorite garment from this summer and fall.  It looks the most like a ready to wear garment I would buy.  In fact, after I cut the fabric, I realized I had bought almost the exact blouse from Nordstrom a few months earlier. No wonder I liked it!  You can’t see it here but I sewed the version with the draped front and longer shirt tail hem in the back. 

  • The blouse is more drapey and not as blocky looking as it looks above.  The dress form was at a strange angle.
  • Very easy to make. 
  • Even though tacked, the front can flap open so needs a camisole underneath.
  • It’s wearable but just a bit too short so when I cut a second version (still not sewn), I added length to the front and back.

Sewaholic Saltspring

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I guess I did take a photo of my blue Saltspring back in July! Some notes:

  • Size 8 throughout.  Measurements indicate size 10 in bodice and 8 in skirt.
  • Blue version is a linen.  This fabric is good and bad: it’s opaque enough to not require lining but can be thick through the gathers. I also left off the pockets to reduce bulk.
  • The print version is a rayon challis and is fantastic.  It’s so much more light and airy.  I lined the bodice in ambiance rayon.  I chose not to line the skirt but will need a slip.  Adding a lining as per the Sewaholic sew-along would result in two layers with gathers adding thickness around the waist.
  • Left off the zipper.  There are a couple steps needed if you want to eliminate the zipper.  As far as I could figure out, between steps 8 and 9, sew the back seam of the bodice lining then sew the back seam of the bodice outer fabric before attaching it to the skirt. Between steps 13 and 14, leave a 2” hole when topstitching to feed the elastic through the casing.

Sewaholic Belcarra

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This is a great basic blouse.  I made these to wear under blazers or cardigans for work.  Not much to say – I made the most basic version and didn’t even add the pocket.  I made a straight size 8.  Easy to make and very wearable.

Foxglove Tank

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I’ve been trying to find a pattern similar to ready-to-wear tanks I’ve bought.   This is a good basic tank with a high-low shape. It’s fitted through the chest and loose below.  I ended up making a ton of changes and at least three versions before I found one that worked well.

  • I love how Lauren set it up so you can select and print just the size you want.
  • Great instructions.
  • Definitely use a drapey fabric.  You can see the difference above.  The navy floral is linen (or a linen/rayon blend, I forget) and the chocolate and white dots is rayon challis.
  • Size eight as a base.  I cut both pieces on the fold.
  • I didn’t like the drastic difference between the front and back length for versions I’d wear with shorts.  I added 1.5 inches to front, shortened the back by 2 inches. I may add an inch back to the back, particularly if worn with jeans.
  • Scooped out the armhole to get more room.  It was a bit snug all throughout the back and chest and tight under the arms.  I didn’t want to mess with the racer back so I made the armhole bigger and added a 1/4 inch under each arm.  Maybe I could have gone up a size but there was no way I was reprinting and retaping another size.
  • Reduced the width at the bottom (I think 2 inches total – can’t remember). Probably not needed if your fabric has a lot of drape.
  • Even though I used the exact same pattern, the blue version has plenty of room in the arms, the brown version is tight through the arm/chest.  I think it’s because I used ready made bias binding for the brown and it doesn’t stretch much.  The blue version has self made linen bias tape which I believed stretched as I sewed it on.  It makes it hard to know whether I need to give myself more room next time around.
  • Once you have the pattern how you want, it’s a super fast make and a great pattern for fun prints!

New Look 6283

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This swimsuit cover-up is probably the least exciting but definitely got the most wear this summer.  It looks a bit tired in the photo above since I wore it every weekend and for hours every day on vacation.  It’s the perfect cover-up.  Loose but not a shapeless sack, full coverage but still cool and airy.  I’ll definitely make at least one more version since this gets washed so often.  I’ll probably add 2-3 inches next time since it seems to shrink over time even with pre-washing the fabric.  I’d definitely recommend this quick, easy pattern.

Hot Patterns Medina mini-kaftan

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It’s a free pattern from fabric.com which is fantastic.  This had so much potential but ended up as a fail.  Luckily I made it out of $3/yd fabric so no great loss.  It was voile I bought online and was disappointed to see how thin it was when it arrived. It worked for a cover-up, not for anything else. Couple notes:

  • Don’t accidentally chop off 6 inches instead of 3 like I did.  D’oh! No idea how I did that.  It’s so short, it’s un-wearable.  Well, assuming I want my rear covered… Anyone 5’3” or below want a cover-up?
  • The directions don’t walk you through every step or hand-hold.  You definitely need some experience before trying the pattern though the actual construction is not difficult at all.
  • The V section needs to be a opaque fabric or use thick interfacing.  Otherwise you’ll see the edges from underneath.  They have you fold down the edges of the contrast V, place it on the blouse and topstitch on.
  • Waistline is low – I’d raise it next time if I make it again.
  • It’s a cute, flattering style.

Well, I’m all caught up.  I really hope I get more opportunity to sew in the new year.  Maybe I’ll even post more often than every 8 months! 

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

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Sewing roundup – 2013

I’ve really been enjoying the roundups of fellow bloggers over the past few weeks.  Every December it amazes me just how many garments they make!  It’s incredible.  Sometimes I can go months without sewing anything.  All the same, I’m happy about the progress I made this year.  Here’s the wrap up:

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The Good:

  • The garments I made this year actually get worn – I was more realistic about fabrics and styles.
  • When I looked back at the year, I completed 12 projects, averaging 1 a month. That surprised me! I definitely go in spurts.  Nothing gets done in the late summer and fall due to lots of work travel.
  • I’m learning more about what fitting adjustments I normally need and how to do them.
  • I was a pattern tester for Christine Haynes’ Emery Dress.  That was fun! It also got me to try a silhouette that I normally wouldn’t. I didn’t post it here because I made it in remnant fabric and had fitting issues.  That wasn’t the pattern’s fault – her pattern and instructions are great – I was between sizes and needed bodice adjustments.  As a tester, you make one straight size to ensure the drafting is correct.
  • I found some patterns I already know I’ll make multiples of next year.
  • I embraced the muslin.  We all have fitting issues and while making muslins cuts down on the number of completed garments, it helped to make ensure those that are completed are worn.

The Bad:

  • The flip side of ‘embracing the muslin’ is that I spent a TON of time on fitting issues this year with fewer garments to show for it.  Without a finished product, it can feel like I did nothing.
    • There was a summer dress I wanted to make before vacation .  I made 2 or 3 bodice muslins before realizing I wouldn’t get the project done before leaving.  I never picked it back up upon returning.
    • I did at least 3 or 4 bodice muslins to work out my fitting issues on a “real” (non test) version of the Emery dress which took a lot of time.  The dress is done except for inserting the lining, zipper and hem.  It has been on my dress form for at least 3 months waiting to be completed.  I just have no reason to wear a dress like that in winter so it sits.  Boo, me.
  • The knit tops I made early in the year were duds.  That’s unfortunate since I wear knits in some form almost every day.
  • I bought too much fabric with grand plans for it.  Must sew from my stash in 2014!
  • Last January I made a goal to try to carve out some sewing time each week.  I didn’t even come close to that.

My favorite project(s) – This is a tie between the Saltspring Dress and my new pillows. Since one is home decor, I think I can have a tie.  I love the Saltspring dress and wish I would’ve made it earlier in the summer.  I’ll definitely make several next year.  It’s a perfect comfy and cool sundress.  I loved my Cambie dress too – I just don’t have occasion to wear it often.

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My least favorite garmentsSimplicity 1810 and Simplicity 2181 (the two polka dot tops below).   Both have fit issues and neither is flattering.  In fact, I’m not crazy about my first 4 garments of the year.  I like the floral blouse below, I’m just not in love with the fabric.  I purposely used a fabric I didn’t love for my first try at the pattern in case it bombed.  I should make a new version.

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Next year:

  • I want to improve my fitting skills so that when I do make something, I wear it.
  • Sew more knits.
  • I’d also like to make more of an effort to sew regularly, even if it’s a few minutes here and there.  I’m more likely to finish something if I break it up in bite size pieces.

Have a Happy and Healthy New Year!

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2012–My First Year of Sewing

Happy New Year!  We closed the door on 2012 last night with dinner and Baked Alaska for dessert.  It was my first time having Baked Alaska.  It was good but for all the novelty it was kinda plain.  Doesn’t matter – I was already full from a delicious steak!

Anyway, 2012 was my first year sewing.  Previously, I hadn’t touched a sewing machine since junior high when I made a lovely patchwork pillow (pink and green of course – it was the eighties!) and dolman sleeve sweatshirt.  My sewing consisted of sewing buttons.  Even those didn’t look so good.

If I look back on my finished projects for 2012, there are some things to be proud of and others that are disappointing.  On one hand, I really thought I would have made more garments and developed more advanced skills.  Learning to sew in the age of the internet is amazing with all the tutorials and sewing bloggers.  But, in the end, it takes a lot of time and a lot of learning by making mistakes which can be demotivating.  I definitely underestimated the time commitment. I don’t know what I was thinking but I was surprised at just how long it takes to complete something.  Between the cutting/tracing the pattern, cutting the fabric and then the construction, even the simplest garment takes hours.

Related to the time commitment is the fact that sewing is a solitary hobby.  My sewing machine is set up in my bedroom and I find that I don’t want to go up there and spend hours by myself at night or on the weekend especially when my husband and I work all week and I travel frequently.  But the fact is I won’t develop my skills without devoting the time and the willingness to fail.  The latter is something I need to work on.  Because projects still take so long for me and I don’t yet know how to customize the fit, I’m hesitant to start more complex garments because there’s a good chance they won’t be worn (see below).  But I won’t improve ‘till I try!

All that said, I’m happy that I decided to learn this new skill and look forward to progressing.  I’m glad that I didn’t set unreasonable expectations and decided to learn slowly. When I started I didn’t even know how to thread a machine!

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When I look at the items I completed in 2012 there were lessons learned with each one:

  • I started and ended the year with some sort of dog collar.  Weird.
  • I’m glad I started with easy projects.  My very first items were aprons made from tea towels (those were done on 12/31/11 so I didn’t include them.) That’s a good first item because it’s all straight lines and still functional if the ties look bad.  Even those aprons gave me practice since I had to re-do the ties twice on my first one. I still use that apron regularly.
  • The next shirt was part of a beginner class at JoAnn.  It’s a shame they picked such an ugly pattern because the shirt went together nicely and I learned basic construction details. Taking a class is very helpful.
  • Pajamas are the best beginner project.  Even if they look weird (like the green and blue floral version), you can still wear them.  Poor Matt never did get usable PJ’s – his plaid pair totally shrunk in the wash and are now floods.  I should cut them off and make shorts.
  • The next two projects were very helpful for practice but don’t get used.  They are a lesson in being honest about practicality.  I never use printed handbags or totes – why did I think I would use a green floral one?  And a fleece coat for a fuzzy Newfoundland?
  • I really like my next two tops and wear them regularly, especially the Vogue cowl neck. The Schoolhouse Tunic is comfy but not the most flattering. But I have a soft spot for it as the first garment I completed entirely on my own.
  • The button down Liverpool tunic is probably the item I’m most proud of.  It had tons of construction details that were new to me and I wore it often in the spring.  This was part of a class and the instruction was invaluable.  I was just thinking I’d like to make another version in a dark color.
  • I forgot to include a picture of the Barcelona skirt.  That was a fail.  I don’t like loose, slouchy skirts and the fit was bad.  I could probably refashion it but I haven’t had the desire yet. It was part of a class which was fun but it was a bad pattern choice.
  • The Anna Tunic is a lesson in knowing what looks good on my body.  I’m still learning that…  I love belted sweaters and tops but just have to face the fact that I’m too high waisted to wear them.  The tunic construction looks good; it just doesn’t get any use. I should probably find a friend that could wear it.
  • The A line skirts were a total disappointment.  I thought they would be so easy to fit but I never could get them right. I wear them around the neighborhood in the summer but never out and about.  Maybe they will look better shorter.
  • Vogue 1236.  Love it and wear it even though the belted style might not be the most flattering.  Plus clothes made of quilting cotton always need to be ironed which limits how frequently I wear them.
  • Wiksten tank – I’ll make more of these.  There need to be some adjustments but those should be easy.
  • Sewaholic Renfrews – both versions.  I had a setback initially with fabric and size choice. One those were fixed, they came together quickly.  I wear both of these – especially the thicker black one.  I’m tempted to make more but how many cowl necks do I need?
  • The rest of the projects were more crafty.  Those definitely have their role – I can get a sewing fix with little risk of disappointment.  Plus they are so quick, you get the sense of accomplishment without toiling for hours.

All in all, not bad for year one.  I’m definitely going to set some goals for 2013 and get sewing!

Sadie has been officially Dog Shamed!

Have you guys seen the website dogshaming.com?  It is hilarious!  I check it everyday and giggle at all the things these dogs get into.  I had to submit one for Sadie since she’s a notorious counter surfer.  Here it is!  And check out the rest of the site, you’ll be rolling!

Sadie’s No Angel

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Thankful – Day 9

I’m so thankful I married Captain Christmas! I love having our Christmas trees up (yes, plural) but if it was left up to me to do, we’d only have one and it would take days to complete.  He’s downstairs putting up the first one now.I used to always insist on decorating one of my own. Then I wised up.  He enjoys it, is much better at it and I have enough cooking and other prep to do.  Sounds like a good deal to me!

Thankful – Day 6

I love that my job allows me to work from home.  When I’m not traveling, I work out of my home office.  It’s flexible, saves on the hassles and $$ of commuting, I write my own schedule and the dress code is VERY lax (ha!).  Plus on days like today when it’s crappy out, I can hunker down and only step outside to take the dog out.  Question though – at what point in the afternoon do you give up taking a shower for the day if you didn’t do it first thing in the morning?  Hypothetically….