Category Archives: Pattern/tutorial review

I’m back!

Hello world! So, I had a baby. He’s a toddler now. And we moved to a new condo. And I haven’t been sewing at all (thus the total and complete lack of posting).*

However, I have gotten back into knitting!! In August, I knit a pair of toddler legwarmers as part of a swap. They were awesome. Sadly, I forgot to take a picture. But they convinced me to knit regularly again. I started a hat, and then got distracted by moving and life, but I finished it this week. I was inspired by the ridiculously cold weather that suddenly moved in to Chicago.

It’s the Aesderina pattern by Jane Richmond. Yes, I *bought* a pattern (and browsing through her website, I want to buy all of her patterns)!** It was an easy knit (and I learned a new decrease), and the resulting product is quite striking. I’ve gotten lots of compliments. Best of all, it was pretty cheap since I used less than a skein of Cascade 220 (in Spring Green, I think).

I have also started knitting socks!!  I took a 4-week class at Loopy Yarns. If you’re thinking of knitting socks, I really recommend a class. I learned the knitted cast-on (so easy! and stretchy!) and how to turn the heel. And I re-learned things like ssk and kitchener stitch. I’m not sure I would have stuck with it without a class. I now have 1.25 pairs of socks done. Knitting socks is a bit addictive, I think. They’re horribly time-consuming and a little complicated, but it’s so cool to think that I’ll get to wear warms socks that I knit. Still in progress, but here’s a sneak peek:

I’m on a bit of a green kick.

*It’s true that I haven’t been sewing, but I did sew a nursing cover since my last post. I also knitted a couple of diaper covers and took a crochet class (and never finished the crocheted scarf). But since that was all over a year ago, I’m going to skip over it.
**If anyone is looking for Christmas ideas for me…

Look Ma! I sewed again!

I know it’s been a while, but at long last I finished my Pendrell blouse!

Pretty Pendrell

A few weeks ago, I had it mostly done, and it looked like I would be finished quickly. But then I failed to read directions properly and got mighty discouraged. This is definitely not the fault of the pattern, which is clearly written, or the fault of Tasia’s Sewalong, which was well-documented. No, the fault is entirely mine. I start going and think I know what I’m doing and get into trouble.

In this case, my problem was that I sewed up the right side seam before doing the princess seam on the left side. Big mistake! This made it much more difficult to get the princess seam lined up properly, and I somehow ended up with extra fabric that didn’t line up. So I let it sit. For a long time. I had thought about ripping everything out, but I was afraid that the ripped out seams would show on this fabric. In the end, I left it as is and just trimmed that section to match the rest of my hem. I still don’t know exactly where the bubble of fabric was, but it didn’t matter.

Close-up of the neckline.

Sewing up the side seam too early also made it more difficult to do the armhole binding, but it still wasn’t difficult. I’d never made my own bias binding before and hadn’t even really worked with pre-made bias binding much, but this pattern made is very easy to make my own and use it for the neckline and armholes. I’m definitely a fan of this method.

Based on the fabric recommendations, I used charmeuse for the first time (from fabric.com for $5/yard). I hated working with it (it’s sooooo slippery), but I love the final look and feel.

I wore the Pendrell to work with my Beignet skirt, and in fact I bought this fabric specifically to match the Beignet. It’s a great combination!

 

Whoa. Super blurry picture.

It’s a great pattern with no closures, which is fantastic. I did have to grade down the waist and hips a bit from the size 6 I started with, but it wasn’t difficult. I do have plans to make this again, in View B and maybe even one in View A for summer. And I finished this just in time for Tasia to announce her next pattern (sign up for her mailing list to find out more)!

It’s a wrap!

As I noted earlier, I got a little bored with the pace of Gertie’s Crepe Sewalong. The Sewalong is a great idea, but I’m a fast sewer without much patience, so it just doesn’t work well for me. And the Crepe is a pretty easy pattern with very clear instructions, so I just forged ahead on my own, with lovely results!

 

Crepe Dress in my "Winter Look"

 

 

Mu husband said that this is the most flattering thing I have ever made, and I might just have to agree with him. The contrasting waistband is a definite plus for my body shape (or for anyone with a waist that’s smaller than her hips), and all shades of blue look good on me (lucky thing, since I’m obsessed with blue!).

To top it off, the dress is comfy (with one notable exception I’ll talk about later). The pockets are fantastic and hit in just the right place, and I feel very girly in this dress, which is not something I feel often.

 

Sweater Necessary

 

 

As is usual with Colette Patterns (at least in the two I’ve done so far), the instructions are crystal clear, and I was never unsure what I had to do. I did have one adventure with the seam ripper, but that’s not entirely the fault of the pattern. Although the pattern never said to sew together the back seam and made it clear that you should finish the edges, I just kept thinking that of course I would need to sew up a back seam. And I did. But of course this is a wrap dress, and the back seam isn’t sewn up. I understood that on the bodice but somehow managed to forget on the skirt. Oh well, it worked out.

You may remember from my muslin that the size 2 was way too big in the bodice, even though it matched my measurements. I cut a size 0 for the bodice on the dress and a 2 on the skirt (although a 0 on the skirt probably would’ve worked). The 0 bodice is still a little big, but I think it’s fine. There’s some leeway in this style of dress, since you can pull things somewhat tighter with the wrap.

 

Please ignore my ubiquitous ponytail!

My only real gripe is that I don’t particularly like the seam down the front. With such a tiny, busy print, I didn’t both to try to match, but with a bigger print, you would almost have to, and it would be tough since the skirt front pieces are so big. Also, the bow in the back, although super cute, is a little painful when you lean back in your chair, like I tend do. It’s also a little too high up for the cardigan I’m wearing with it, which is not a terribly long sweater. I guess I’ll need to knit a shrug to go with it if I want to keep wearing it in winter!

 

This is the first piece of clothing on which I serged all of the edges before doing anything else, and oh my goodness, it’s so much easier. I’ll be doing that in the future!

Bottom line: it’s a super cute dress with good instructions. I’m thinking of making the other view in black as a little black dress, probably with the bodice seems taken in a bit.

 

I had to take this picture twice to get the bow close to right. :)

 

 

1 Piece Kimono Tee

I’ve now made my first (super comfortable) t-shirt!

Kimono Tee

The Kimono Tee at work

I used the 1-Piece Kimono Tee pattern from Burdastyle. It’s free(!), and as it says, you cut just one piece of fabric. I used the Slub Poly/Rayon Blend Jersey Knit in Turquoise from Fabric.com. It was my first time working with a knit, and it was a pretty slippery fabric to cut. I think it would have gone better to cut the pattern in two pieces because cutting the neck hole out of the middle on this kind of material was not fun.

The pattern is fine, and pretty simple. I didn’t look at the directions much, so I can’t speak to them. I can say that the small was way too big for me. I used my serger (yay!) on the side seams and had to do them a second time an additional inch in on both sides. I folded under the sleeve ends to hem with a zig zag stitch on my regular machine.

kimono tee

You can see how it's just one piece!

The wonky bit you see handing off on the right sleeve is from the second time up the side seam. I need to fix that.

The fabric was so slippery on the neck and hemline that I decided to just do a rolled hem on both. I only have white serger thread, so white it is. I think it actually looks pretty cute.

Rolled hem

You can barely see the rolled hem because it rolled up so much!

My husband said the white made it look “edgy,” but I don’t know about that. I’m not 100% pleased with the rolled hem yet. I think I don’t have the tension balanced quite the way I want it yet.

The shirt is not perfect, but it’s so comfortable and nice enough to wear to work. Plus, it was good practice on the serger. I LOVE the serger, but the way, and I may just start doing all of my sewing on it. :) I did a lot of boring serging of seams on previously made items this weekend, and I also made a pair of really ugly (but really comfy) sweatpants that I may post here at some point. I also made a dress this weekend (I had a four day weekend, and I spent most of it sewing!), but you won’t see that until I fix some pretty egregious fit issues.

JJ Blouse with Pretty Princess Seams

I finished my last to-sew item of October, the JJ Blouse!

Work-appropriate! Yay!

I can now stop buying clothes from stores altogether! :)

In typical Burdastyle fashion, the instructions were practically inscrutable. I’d read some set of instructions over and over and over again and then just put them aside and wing it.

I especially didn’t understand:

  1. The button area. So, I just looked at lots of blouses I owned and did what I thought made sense, based also on the pattern markings. I think I did that completely right.
  2. The ruffles. So I googled “How to make ruffles.” I think I did them right, too. However, despite ironing the heck out of them, they will not stay flat, so I will be tacking them down.

    Ruffles

    Darn ruffles *will not* stay down!

  3. The sleeve slit. It turns out there was a technique help for this one, but I didn’t realize it until too late. So I winged too. And, although I’m pretty sure I didn’t do it right, I think it looks nice.

    Sleeve

    Completely unnecessary detail, but it's cute.

  4. The collar. I still don’t know what I did on this one, and I know it’s not right, but it mostly works. The only problem is that the collar shouldn’t have come as far forward. It should have ended before the button flaps. Oh well. I realized this after the collar was on, and I really didn’t want to take it off to re-do. Since the buttons don’t go all the way up to the collar, it works out okay.

Lots of new stuff for me here, and more hand-sewing. That’s right–I hand-sewed the buttons. In the end, it seemed easier than machine sewing them. And I think I might be getting a little bit better at it. :)

JJ

Please note the fancy red fashion accessory (aka, bandage from giving blood).

I will re-make this pattern, and in fact I think I have all of the materials I need to do so. Maybe I will have some time in November somewhere? When I re-make, it will be as a shirtdress. Basically, I will just draft the pattern pieces longer. I’ll take out the ruffles, and I *might* try for long sleeves. And I want to add side seam pockets, which theoretically won’t be that difficult. I’m just not sure whether I have enough buttons. I’m pretty excited, though. I’ve been wanting to make a shirtdress for a while!

Mad Men Madison

Oh, I have such mixed feelings about the Madison.

Madison

This dress just makes me want to lounge around outside.

I first heard about this dress when Kathleen had it as one of the options for the October Frock by Friday. I really wanted it to win, but alas, more people wanted to sew the Gail, which ended up being a fairly disappointing dress for me. So, I decided to do the Madison on my own. It was another cheap Burda pattern, so again, I had to print, tape together, and cut out the pattern. And again, the instructions were less than helpful.

I’m verging on happy with the final product. I do think it’s a striking dress. The collar is arresting, and the shape of the dress is very flattering on me (much more flattering than most of the store-bought clothes I wear). And I’ve gotten a lots of compliments on it today at work, even from lots of people who didn’t know I’d made it. And yet, the construction problems really bother me (and I’m not entirely certain that this collar is practical at the office).

Side zip

The really invisible zipper.

The problem really started as far back as the fabric purchase, a stretch cotton poplin from JoAnn, with 3% spandex. I guess I’ve learned my lesson not to buy anything but quilting fabric (and maybe lining) from JoAnn. This fabric just feels cheap. It didn’t help that I couldn’t find coordinating thread, so I bought a brighter teal (I should have gone with a darker color instead because this is way too contrasty for my liking). The thread color didn’t show up in pictures, though, so I can’t point it out.I did, however, find a perfect invisible zip (love the invisible zip!).

Snag number two was not lining the dress. I should have at least underlined it to keep from feeling quite so cheap (and to keep it from riding up when I wear it with tights). I just couldn’t really get my head around how to line with a side zip (and I wanted to try the side zip for the first time), so I didn’t line it.

Cats on fabric

The kitties show me how to create folds on both sides.

One thing I did right (and I was so proud of myself) was to figure out how to cut as much on a fold as I needed to. I had almost resigned myself to having a seam up the back when I realized you can fold both side of the fabric in.Duh! And with skinny pattern pieces like this, it all fit just fine. The other cutting confusion was in figuring out how the heck to cut on a fold and on a bias at the same time. I eventually realized I had to fold the fabric on the bias. (Duh, again!)

I made my share of mistakes on this dress, partly because I didn’t totally understand the directions, and partly because I sewed a really big seam on the left so that the bodice wouldn’t be too big, and I didn’t have a lot of fabric to work with on the zipper side. In fact, when I finished sewing the zipper I found I had a hole, where the zipper was sewn to air. I was able to fix it by pulling over some of the fabric, but it doesn’t look perfect. This fabric really showed holes, so I didn’t want to rip out the whole side of the zipper to sew again.

side view

An imperfectly fixed mistake.

I was also less than pleased with the slit. It was my first, and I think I may have done better to just wing it than to follow the directions. It looks okay from far away, but I’m not thrilled with the way the top-stitching looks up close.

A few things to know about this dress:

  1. You can’t wear a cardigan with it. You just can’t. I wrinkled the collar with my coat on the way to work.
  2. With the right styling, it would look totally Mad Men. And that’s in right now, right? I, obviously, went a different direction on styling, most due to the cold weather.
  3. My collar (both the front collar and the back collar) has fusible interfacing attached to it (of a medium stiffness). The pattern doesn’t call for it, but I think the collar would be *really* droopy without the interfacing. Also, attaching the collar is probably the easiest part of the dress.
  4. The “sleeves” are completely unnecessary. I didn’t understand the directions for them. At one point, the diagram seems to indicate that you should finish the “bottom” but then that’s the side you’re attaching to the dress. And I didn’t bother finishing the actual outside edges because they’re under the collar.
  5. Screen Shot

    I don't understand these diagrams. Maybe it's me.

Lots more pics on Flickr.

  • The pockets, though somewhat complicated to make, are awesome. They’re actually functional, and they look terrific!
  • Bottom line: for $5, it’s a terrific dress. Although I can’t see owning more than one of these, I would recommend it, assuming you pick a better fabric and/or line it, and assuming you don’t make the mistakes I did. :)

     

    Straight on

    The collar was a bit distracting at work.

     

     

    Pants!!

    I made pants!

    Pants

    Look how happy I am to be wearing pants! :)

    I know that’s probably wildly ambitious for a new sewer, but I wanted to prove to myself that I could actually build a wardrobe by sewing. In real life, I wear a lot more pants than I do skirts and dresses, especially in winter. And while I’d like to wear more skirts and dresses, the truth is that I need to be able to make pants if I’m going to move toward a self-stitched wardrobe.

    Sew Convert Bella

    So cute! Photo from the Sew Convert's website.

    Bella jeans

    Photo from the Cupcake Goddess's website.

    I was definitely inspired by the Bella jeans by The Sew Convert and The Cupcake Goddess. Both of them have been sewing much longer than I have, which didn’t reassure me that I could do it, but the pants looked so flattering that I wanted to try. What really sealed the deal, though, was looking at all of the finished projects on Burda’s website. The pants seemed very versatile, and the pattern was only $4, so while I was on a Burda spree anyway (purchasing the Gail and the Madison and downloading the free JJ), I bought it.

    buttons

    It only took me half an hour to pick out these buttons.

    After the run of dresses and the Beignet skirt, I was ready for something new but hadn’t washed the fabric for my JJ yet, so on to pants it was. Although the pattern calls for denim, I wanted something that was work-appropriate. Several of the Burda sewers had done other materials, so it seemed it would work. At JoAnn, I discovered that their denim is pricey (at least pricey for JoAnn), so I bought gray polyster from the suiting section instead. And I spent way too long in the button section but emerged with buttons I love.

    I was pretty worried about making pants after seeing so many disasters on Project Runway. The Michael Kors in my head kept saying: “Watch out for Crazy Crotch.”

    Michael Kors

    The Michael Kors in my head.

    Luckily, I discovered that pants really aren’t that difficult. At least they wouldn’t be with halfway decent directions. Unfortunately, the Bella directions are a little less than clear. Or maybe they aren’t in English. And the tiny pictures didn’t really help. But I guess that’s what I get for buying a $4 patterns. Oh, how I wish Colette Patterns had a pants line.

    Cutting the fabric was no different than other projects exactly that it was fantastic to have 60″ to deal with, and it was nice (from my perspective) not to have to worry about placing anything on the fold. I was a bit confused about why I needed four each of some of the pieces instead of two each (but two each in interfacing for the same pieces), but it turned out that the self and facing were from the same pieces.

    A few things about the pattern. (I didn’t make any changes except for an additional button and my usual avoidance of the blind hem, which worked fine here because my thread color completely blended in with the fabric):

    1. It’s too big. I don’t know if my measurements are just off, or if there’s too much ease, but the waist gapes on these. I’ve seen other commenters say the same thing, so you might want to go down a size if you make these.
    2. Side view

      The waist does not sit flat like it should.

    3. The front pockets are basically ornamental. They’re certainly not deep enough to keep anything in. And they’re a lot of work. And they make the pants bunch up weird when you sit.
    4. Pants

      View looking down when sitting. Dislike!

    5. The button area is just weird. I still don’t understand what the directions were telling me to do, so I made it up. It basically worked, but I ended up with this weird gap under the buttons. I sewed it up (obviously!), but now it looks a bit off.
    6. Gap

      Wacky gap under the buttons. Clearly I did something wrong.

    7. There’s a lot of top stitching on this. You can’t see it at all on mine because of the thread color, but if you use a contrasting thread color, you’d want to be pretty exact with your top stitching.

    By the way, I had to do more HAND STITCHING on this. And I survived. First, I had to repair some buttonholes. I think it was the fabric, but the stitching ripped on a few of the buttonholes when I snipped them open. (I know, it doesn’t make sense to be the fabric, but it didn’t happen at all on the 12 buttonholes for the Beignet.) And then I had to hand sew all of the buttons, since there’s no way to do these kind by machine. I didn’t love it, but I survived. I was, however, definitely regretting adding an extra button to the five called for in the pattern.

    More pictures on Flickr.

    I just ordered denim from Fabric.com (shh, don’t tell my husband) on clearance for $3.99/yd, along with some cute flower buttons, so I will be trying this again. I’m going to try to make the front pockets deeper and lose the pleats if I can figure that out. I’m also going to take a page from The Sew Convert’s book and make the facing a different fabric (which should also reduce bulk). Now that I sort of know what I’m doing with the button area, I’ll try to avoid the gaping hole. While I didn’t enjoy sewing them, I will probably stick with six buttons. Oh, and I’ll probably go down a size.