Friday, September 25, 2015

Sew for Elena: Knit Pants & Cardiga

I think Elena's Fall Capsule Wardrobe is complete, but I still have things to show you. Her life is pretty simple so most of her outfits are comfortable knit pieces to mix and match. Upon going through her stuff from last year, I saw that a lot of her tops still fit her so I have focused most of my sewing on everyday pants, a couple of nicer outfits for Church and such, and just a few new tops and cardigans. When paired with a few RTW hand-me-downs, I've created a couple of fun outfits that cost next to nothing.

Today I have 2 upcycles to show you: knit Titchy Threads Twisted Trousers and a Hey June Greenpoint Cardigan. Both are slightly modified, just cuz.

These Twisted Trousers are made from a former maternity t-shirt of mine. I did patch pockets instead and added cuffs to the bottom for a jogger look. They are so soft and comfy that they have quickly become a favorite. The top is a beaded GYCT Tinley Tee upcycle from last year and the totally adorable jacket is a hand-me-down.

I raided the maternity box again for this Greenpoint cardigan. I left off the bottom band so I added 2" to the length and hemmed it. I did just one snap at the center. It was supposed to be a button, but my stupid #%*&% machine balked and ripped a hole in it so I patched it up, reinforced it some more, and did a snap. Grrrrr. Although what I think I actually said was more like this *#@#&!!! Feet were also stomped. A bit of a King's Speech episode. I could be flogged for it in some countries. God Bless the USA.

Touchdown! See my little patch?

She is wearing the same beaded tee and some Carter's leggings from last year. Ready for school.

If you are afraid of sewing with knits, why not try it with some upcycled materials until you feel more certain? Since knits are what we all like to wear day to day, it just makes sense to get comfortable with sewing them. Plus, you can be environmentally friendly (a priority of mine) since you are re-using and reducing (no electricity needed since no ironing needed). 

Have a great weekend. We are having just the most amazing weather this fall so I plan on spending as much of it outdoors as my poor eyes and nose can handle with all my allergies. I'll keep the eye drops and tissues handy.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Butterick 5682 Jeans for Me

My fall capsule wardrobe is just about complete. I have made plenty of quick, easy knit tops and cardigans so it was time I start thinking about something to wear on the bottom. I was all set to go shopping for jeans and then the awesome Becca DuVal of FreeNotion offered up a chance to participate in a pattern showcase. My first instinct would have been to sign up for a top or a layer, but I was too slow and those spots were all filled so I decided to take the plunge and make JEANS! There is a link-up if you'd like to share what you've been working on for yourself. Sharing is caring you know so snap some pics and teach us something. Anyway...

I was all excited at first and fairly confident. I bought my copy of Butterick 5682 on sale at Joann's for $1.99 along with a couple yards of stretch denim. I already had some black stretch sateen I'd found at the thrift store (same as some I'd previously bought at Joann's this summer) so I was ready for the muslin. Well to be honest, I don't think it's a muslin if you have every intention of wearing them. Let's just call them a trial pair.

This pattern comes with 5 different views: slim leg ankle length, straight leg, boot cut, flared, and a trouser jean. All views have a contoured waistband, zip fly, and front pockets. The first four have a back yoke with patch pockets while the trouser view has back darts and no back pockets. For $1.99 let me remind you. And by the way, Butterick patterns are on sale at Joann's again this coming weekend (Thursday-Saturday, September 24-26).

This trial pair was a great first experience. This was only my second zip fly ever and it went amazingly well. Way better than my first where I was all kinds of confused and had to do it 3 times to get it right. A little experience goes a long, long way I think. I thought the instructions were very clear. I didn't do much top stitching on these because I was going for a dressier look. For the pictures I just threw them on with what I was already wearing that day (a Deer & Doe Plantain by the way), but I think they can be dressed up or down.

I know that people's main complaint with Big 4 patterns is always the sizing. I'm not a tiny person. In ready to wear pants I'm a solid 14. According to the size chart, I should cut a 20 for these, but according to the finished measurements (which are found on the pattern tissue for the front pant piece), a 16 would do it. So I cut the 16 and I still took the legs in a good inch or more. They were oddly baggy starting a few inches above the knee for something called "slim fit". That kind of thing doesn't bother me about a pattern. It's all totally customize-able. Isn't that the point of self-sewing anyway? The only other change I made was to cut the waistband a little longer, but that was silly because I wound up cutting off the extra. I just was worried it wasn't going to be big enough. I felt ready to cut into the denim now.

For this version, I again made a 16 but I added 1-1/2" to the length at the bottom, not at the lengthen/shorten line because I wanted them full length, not ankle. They aren't "skinny" jeans exactly, but they are pretty slim. I'm calling them "boyfriend skinny" like Old Navy does. I still don't feel like I can pull-off skinny jeans. I'm not sure I'm cool enough. I'm a 46 year old lady with graying hair. My least favorite parts of my body are definitely my thighs first, and my calves second. So these are not parts I'm going to highlight with skin-tight jeans. Not at my age anyway. Thank God that wisdom comes with age.

I wound up with a comfortable pair of jeans that I will actually wear so I'm pretty dang happy. These boosted my sewing confidence enormously, though I'm still not sure about my Pinterest-worthiness confidence level. I still struggle with looking like I'm trying too hard.

When making jeans, it is really helpful to keep a pair of ready to wear jeans nearby for reference. Where this pattern could be improved would be in the details. There isn't a coin pocket, but that wouldn't be hard to add - it's just a rectangle for heaven's sake. There was no mention of top stitching the inner leg seam, but I did on mine. I also top stitched the outer leg seam to the hip like on most ready to wear jeans. I didn't do rivets, but I did buy a real jeans button so that was fun. I've done snaps before so I wasn't too nervous about poking a hole in the fabric and hammering it in. It went it really well. No trouble at all.

My one fear was that my machine wouldn't be able to handle sewing on the belt loops, but what kind of legit jeans don't have belt loops? I had read a tip somewhere to put in a new needle (denim needle of course) at this point. I did change my needle and I had no trouble so was it the needle? Who knows, but I have belt loops so it's all good.

I think that making jeans could become addictive. I like self-improvement and I see all kinds of ways I could improve my jeans-making. For instance, I'd like to try a different view, probably boot cut, and I'd play around with some stitching on the back pockets for sure. I could spend hours researching and experimenting with bleaching and distressing denim. This pair is looking too pristine for me, but I can't quite bear sanding my brand new babies with 200 grit sandpaper. It seems so harsh. And risky. I'll let them age naturally - kind of like me and my gray hair (but that's a whole different post for another day).

So please, I'm dying to know what you think of my jeans and my styling. Are these boots ok or not? The tank is something I made this summer and the cardigan is the ready to wear one that is showing it's age so I made the cream one to replace it last week. I love the color so much I just can't toss it. Thanks for stopping by and have a great week!

Friday, September 18, 2015

Jalie Drop Pocket Cardigan

I've been talking about this Jalie Drop Pocket Cardigan all week and now I can finally show it to you. I am just having the hardest time getting pictures of anything. I'm reduced to my phone camera and it has no timer function so I'm always waiting for someone to be home and the weather to be right and it just all feels impossible right now. I wish I could afford a nice camera, but it seams silly to spend so much money on something that I'm doing strictly as a hobby. I am not trying to make any money off this blog, so how can I justify spending that much? Especially when I just treated myself to a serger this summer.

Anyhow.... here it is.

Wait, I wasn't ready.

Ok, I'm ready hubby, are you ready?

Then I got distracted by the amazingly awesome clouds in the sky. Such a gorgeous day. But look how nicely that sweater hangs. I am going to live in this thing!

This was my first experience with a Jalie pattern and I'm sure it won't be the last. It was really a pleasure to sew. I LOVE the design. I live in cardigans all fall and winter so this one with big comfy pockets is perfection.  The fabric doesn't hurt either. This is some amazingly soft and cozy Hatchi Slub Sweater Knit in Dusty Mauve from (They don't seam to have this color now but this link will take you to the sweater knit section.) I pre-washed it and laid it flat to dry. Fingers crossed that it holds up well over time, because I seriously love it. And by the way, I bought the paper pattern through as well because they do free shipping on orders over $35. This was my first order with them and it went great. I ordered on a Friday night and received it the next Wednesday.

I must confess that I don't often cut notches when cutting out patterns. Somehow, I sensed with this one that I should and I am so, so glad that I did. There are quite a few of them so I figured they must be more important with this pattern. Don't skip them.

Sewing this sweater helped me determine that for certain the thing I want for Christmas this year is a chair on wheels. I was back and forth between the sewing machine and the serger quite a few times. (But then again, if I get lazy and just wheel around I'm going to have to start doing squats or lunges or something to make up for it so maybe not.) The first step is to bind the neckline on the back piece and that requires the sewing machine. There are some basting steps here and there and the final hemming too. All else was done on the serger.

The first tricky bit of sewing is when attaching the front pieces to the back piece at the shoulders. Be sure to baste as instructed and line things up carefully so that the binding gets neatly tucked into the seam. The first one turned out great and then I got over-confident and messed up the second one so I had to unpick and redo. No biggie, but take your time. It's nice that the seam is enclosed in the end. I wish I had adding some stabilizer to that seam too. I think that with this fairly heavy, slouchy fabric it would have been smart.

The Jalie instructions consist of a list of steps and a separate set of numbered diagrams. It being my first time, I had to get used to it and didn't always find it super easy to find the diagram illustrating the step I was reading about. This would never stop me from using another Jalie pattern though or from recommending this pattern. All the pertinent info is there.

To form the pockets, I followed the directions and diagrams and was almost certain that I knew what I was doing, but being spatially challenged sometimes, I wanted to be sure before I headed to the serger and cut off 1-1/8"! That could be a catastrophic mistake if I interpretted it wrong. So just to be sure, I basted the first one on the sewing machine and saw that yes, I was doing it right, and then I happily serged it. Like a boss.

Now that I have done one, I know the next one will be much easier. Not that this one was hard, it was just different. I was really impressed with the construction of this sweater. And the fit is perfect. I mentioned in a previous post about the cream cardigan that my rubbed off pattern was a little small in the shoulders. This one is perfect. Even though Jalie says it is meant to be worn with a tank top, I can comfortably layer it over long sleeved tees as well. I hear we are in for a mild winter (wouldn't that be nice?) but I still want to be warm.

I'm linking up to the Capsule Wardrobe Sewalong Fall Pattern Showcase at FreeNotion. You should check it.

Come back Monday to see my JEANS!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Dolman Top in Stripes

Teal is one of my favorite colors, or for sure my favorite shade of blue at least. So this 2 tone stripe rayon blend knit from Girl Charlee is awesome in my book. This simple dolman top was cut with the stripes on a 30 degree downward angle.

The pattern is Simplicity 1805. I think. I made it 2 weeks ago and I already can't remember for absolute certain. Geez. Just about every PDF designer has a basic dolman top pattern though so I'm not going to worry about it. It's just one piece. Same front and back. I obviously cut mine in half to make the chevron effect. I shortened it by about 3 inches and I took at least that much out of the arms too. I think it's more flattering this way. I'm an "hourglass" and this shape, the stripes and the bootcut jeans show it off.

There isn't much more I can say about such a simple top so instead I'll tell you about these pictures and how my 4 year old photographer helped me out.

I need simple clothes to help out in a complicated life. We all know the pressures of marriage (19 years now) and children (senior and sophomore in high school and one in pre-K) and money (never enough). For the kids alone, there are always school projects, what to do after graduation (that's kind of a big one), mandatory service hours for school and swim team, and travel for sports. I'm in my mid-40's now so there is also the aging of our parents, our own health to maintain, a vegetable garden and yard, mounds of laundry, constant grocery shopping, and then throw in Elena's food allergies that make it tough to eat out or eat quick and daily life is very full. That's why the capsule wardrobe has become so important to me. I need simple, quick, comfortable clothes.

On top of my own life, I help out a lot with my husband's brother because has a brain tumor. He was diagnosed some 14 years ago after a seizure. They removed as much of it as they could at the time. Two times over the last many years, it has started growing again (slowly) and he has undergone a year of chemotherapy each time. Each time, the treatment was successful in terms of knocking it back. However, it is incurable. We have always known it would morph into a grade 3 tumor at some point and become aggressive, but kept praying that day would come much later.

This summer we found out that it has become that aggressive, malignant tumor. It's sort of funny because up until then, it was considered "benign" but the doctors will tell you that no tumor inside your brain is benign. It's very being there and the results of removing most of it in the beginning surgeries, has left my brother-in-law disabled, mentally. He has a problems with making decisions, following through, remembering, and opening his mail to name a few.

I have attended all of his medical appointments with him for at least the last 10 years. I've been there at all the meetings and court dates for his divorce and all the times since then that the county has pulled us all back to court because of her failure to pay child support. I find a sitter for Elena and drive him downtown and help him make decisions when they ask him if he would like them to put her in jail for failing to pay. (No, by the way. At least so far.) I pay his bills. I do his taxes. And currently, I take him to daily radiation treatments and lots of doctor appointments.

So when this morning, 10 minutes before time for preschool, I decided Elena was too sick to go to school, that meant she had to come with us. But with her runny nose and cough, I can't very well take her into the radiation unit where there are people with compromised immune systems all over the place (and besides that, it's a scary place even for me somedays) so we spent some time walking around the main campus of the world renown Cleveland Clinic. The place is like an art museum, seriously. There are art pieces everywhere lining every wall. Even this tunnel that connects one of the main buildings to a parking garage is not just a block wall. There are LED lights that make a rainbow effect that travels down the wall changing colors as it goes. Plus there is a long escalator to get to it so that adds to the fun (for Elena).

Since I realized that I was wearing a top I haven't photographed yet and we had some interesting backdrops, I thought I'd pay Elena her usual posing fee of one marshmallow to shoot some pics of me. There were many pictures of my legs and my shoes and lots of blurry ones too, but she did manage to get a few. It's just an example of "making it work". The whole deal takes about 2 hours out of my day for a 15 minute radiation treatment and about 4 hours when there are other appointments afterward like there will be 2 days this week. It's not wrong to take advantage of the situation and cross something off my list. It's making lemonade. :-) And do you now see why I've had time for hand-sewing projects lately?

Elena's second favorite place is this tree that is projected onto a wall. Its branches sway in the wind and it goes through all 4 seasons of the year. There are benches across from it to sit a while. Elena had a yogurt snack there since we had already packed her snack for school.

That Jalie cardigan is still up next, unless Elena has to come with us tomorrow. If she does, I should dress her in an outfit that still need to be photographed. That way, we can work in another blog post maybe.

And next week, JEANS! I made jeans. I still can't believe it. 

Monday, September 14, 2015

Fall Layers for my Capsule Wardrobe

I had a blue cardigan I bought a few years ago. I really love it, but it is starting to show it's age so I thought I'd try to recreate it. I traced it onto freezer paper, added seam allowance, and compared it to a standard t-shirt pattern to see if I was totally off base or not. Things looked good, so I cut it out of some cream interlock I bought at Joann's to try it out. And guess what, it's pretty good.

Cream may be a useful neutral color for a capsule wardrobe, but it looks pretty boring in these pictures. Either way, I think this will get worn a lot year round.

Construction wise, this was really simple. There was a back, 2 fronts, 2 sleeves, and a long band folded in half lengthwise to finish the front edge. Then I just hemmed the bottom and the sleeves with the double needle. The whole thing was done in under an hour.

There is only one problem with it. It feels a little tight through the upper arms and shoulders. It feels absolutely fine over a tank top (as in the photos), but I don't think I could wear it with anything thick. I saw some versions of the Jalie Drop Pocket Cardigan that I really liked, so I ordered the paper pattern and some fabric. In comparing my pattern pieces to the Jalie pieces, it's funny to see how close they are. The only differences are right there in those 2 places - the back width at the shoulders and the width of the sleeves in the upper arm.

Come back later this week to see the Jalie Drop Pocket Cardigan. It's good. :-)

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Tinkerbell Pajamas

Elena and I found this very soft flannel Tinkerbell fabric at the thrift store early this summer. Now that fall is approaching (though not this week - we're in the high 80's again!) I made some pajama pants with a coordinating tee.

The pants pattern is my own. It's a combination of a few PDF and commercial patterns. There is no outer seam so a super quick sew. She was out for a hike with her sister, and when she came home, the whole outfit was done.

I searched through the scrap bins and couldn't find enough of anything to make even a size 3 shirt. Then I remembered this yellow raglan tee made last spring and not worn much. I like the the gathers I added to the shoulder seams, but she never fell in love with it. Yellow isn't the fave. It is upcycled from a Target tee with the bottom hem reused. That made it easy to unpick the side seam and open it up.

I cut a pocket from some lilac Girl Charlee scraps and added a Tinkerbell piece to it. I cut some long sleeves, hemmed them, and sewed them under the short sleeve hem. One seam down the arm and side finished it up in record time.

Sewing doesn't have to be all fancy and expensive all the time - although that kind of sewing is fun too. Making something useful and that Elena absolutely loves (even without pink and only a smidgeon of purple) is some of my favorite sewing. It's my super power. 

And I just found out I made the Top 10 for August's Project Run & Play Hand-Sewing Challenge. Hop on over to vote if you want.