Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Next year, I'm starting in June

Because I started a new part-time job in October (in addition to my fabric store), I didn't get around to starting Christmas gifts until late. Really late. Compounding the problem was that my machine went into the shop after Thanksgiving. So, basically, all of December I was a frantic mess trying to get Christmas gifts made and shipped. It was not a pretty sight. All thoughts of keeping the household clean were totally abandoned, and I became so far behind in email that I'm surprised my friends and family did not send the police to my door asking if I was ok.

Anyway, I managed to somehow get it all done (not without a few major meltdowns on my part) and most everything arrived before Christmas. Here are the fruits of my labor.

My niece casually mentioned a few months ago that she loved peace signs. I instantly knew exactly what I was going to make for her. This is the Farbenmix Bandito pattern, which I've been dying to try for some time. Great pattern, but I do feel the arms are rather gorilla-ish. I wish I had taken off a few inches in the arm length.

Pattern: Farbenmix Bandito
Embroidery: Huups

While we were in Disney World, my oldest son and his 7 year old cousin bonded over endless games of Mario played on the Nintendo DS. When I asked Shane what he thought his cousin would like, the obvious answer was, "Something with Mario on it." This is an Ottobre sweatshirt, also made from bamboo french terry. The actual sweatshirt is about 1000X better in person than it is in the picture. For some reason, I cannot for the life of me get a good picture of a sweatshirt. Anyway, it is so wonderfully soft and cozy. When I talked to him on Christmas day, he very diplomatically said it was one of his favorite presents.
Pattern: Ottobre 1/07
Fabric: Periwinkle Bamboo French Terry from Bamblue Fabrics
 Mario fabric is from Ixat on Etsy

And finally, during our Disney World trip the eldest of the three innocently asked if I could make her a Vera Bradley-type backpack. I stammered out a positive reply even though I was not at all sure I could manage it. First, we're talking about woven fabric here, something I usually don't do. Second, the zippers! Lots of zippers! And god only knows what else. I was petrified of this project. But I don't get the opportunity to do very much for these kids since they live across the country from us, so I bravely decided to give it a try. 

The only backpack pattern review I could find was from Cindy Taylor Oates. Luckily, it was a positive review, and since I've used her patterns before with much success, I decided to go with it. Despite all my massive trepidation about making a backpack, it really came together very easily. Time consuming, perhaps, but the instructions are very clear (at least in most parts. I think she kind of leaves you hanging a bit on the last part, the interior binding). I was totally ecstatic when I finished it (only had to use my seam ripper once!). It seemed to go over pretty well with the recipient, too, so everyone is happy.

Having made something for the kids, naturally I had to make something for their mother, too (my husband's sister). I eventually settled on an infinity scarf and a zippered pouch; the latter is made entirely in the embroidery machine. Once I got the hang of those pouches (which took a lot of trial and error), I became addicted and made a ton of them. Actually, the same can be said for the infinity scarves. And with those, I finally had to get over my abject horror of hand sewing; once you turn them out, they really need to be hand-stitched closed. I hunkered down over YouTube to figure out how to do a simple slipstitch. This is pretty embarassing to admit, really, as your average 10 year old can probably hand sew better than I can, but in the end I think I made it past a huge mental hurdle.

Here are my zippered pouches. As you can see, I made several. The top row (for my nieces and nephew) are filled with Target gift cards; the bottom row (for my sister, my SIL, my mom and my nephew's wife) are filled with yummy scented soap.
Pattern: Zippy Bags In The Hoop by www.stickbaer.com

And here are the infinity scarves. I actually got the idea for these from Suzanne of Sewzanne's Fabric, who had posted on her Facebook page a YouTube tutorial. Once I got past the handsewing part, these are soooo simple. I made myself one of the zig zag ones, and got a million compliments when I wore it. I made the zig zag ones for my sister and my SIL, and the bamboo jersey ones for my nephew's wife and my other sister.

My middle sister taught me how to sew, so I always feel a little weird giving her sewn gifts. But many months ago, she commented on a top I'd made for myself out of this fabric, saying how much she loved the design. I very quickly de-listed my remaining bit of it and saved it for her. I decided to use Simplicity 3918 because it was cute and seemed pretty fool proof. My sister is much bigger in the, ahem, bosom than I am, so that's why it looks rather large on me. Overall, I'm happy how this turned out and will be making many more versions of this pattern in the future.
Fabric: Floral Rayon Jersey from Bamblue Fabrics (now sold out)

Here is a baby set I made for my cousin's first baby. I'm a little embarassed that the child was born in June but I hadn't gotten around to making an outfit until now. I've made a dozen of these baby sets, but none gave me the trouble that this one did. Absolutely everything that could go wrong did go wrong. I won't bore you with the details; sufficeth to say that the binding reduced me to tears (I learned the hard way that neither bamboo jersey nor bamboo french terry can be put through the binder on my CS machine. A very sad discovery, I assure you). Anyway, it turned out ok in the end. 

Pattern: Ottobre 5/06 (hat is NCBE)

I needed something handmade for my MIL, but it is so hard. What to make for the woman who has everything? After consulting my husband, we settled on this, a little wallet done in the embroidery machine. These are pretty easy, and I had envisioned making more of these as gifts but ran out of time.

Embroidery Design: Purses in the hoop from www.stickbaer.com

My mother also falls into the category of a woman who has everything. But I began giving her journals about a dozen years ago, and now it has become a tradition. Not seeing anything spectacular during my journal shopping trips this year, it finally occurred to me that I could just buy a cheap journal and embroider a cover. If you ignore my lousy stabilizing job, it turned out pretty nicely. I love this embroidery design.
Embroidery Design: Emblibrary
Journal Cover Tutorial: Urban Threads

Am I finally on the last gift? Well, you see why I was so crazed for the last few weeks. My nephew's adorable little girl is now 2, so therefore is finally able to fit into Farbenmix patterns. Had to make her an Olivia.

Pattern: Farbenmix Olivia
Fabric: Turquoise velour + Stenzo print
Embroidery: Janea's World

Actually, after looking at all this and having nasty flashbacks, I think I'm going to begin sewing gifts for Christmas 2012 next week.

Friday, December 2, 2011

More Missoni and more recycling

As I said, I'm slowly but surely making myself a new Missoni wardrobe. I decided my wardrobe was incomplete without a zig zag hooded cardigan (I mean, of course, right?). The odd thing is that there really aren't many hooded sweater coat/cardigan patterns to be found anywhere. I did try a vintage-ish juniors pattern last year that was so enormous that I use it as a bathrobe. I finally found a vintage Kwik Sew pattern that generally fit the bill. That pattern coupled with this fabric give it a funky 70's vibe, which I happen to love but realize it may not be for everybody.

I lined it with the slate gray bamboo jersey that I have in the store, making this super-luxurious!

Pattern: Vintage Kwik Sew 619

Still trying to decide what to do with the rest of my Missoni fabric, but you will probably see a Missoni Parts 3, 4, and 5 in future posts!

As my embroidery machine was still in the shop, I decided to continue recycling old t-shirts. I had forgotten how much fun it is, but of course using up more vintage shirts meant I had to restock my supplies. Skoober and I have spent the last few days perusing thrift stores looking for more. In the process, we found a Mario Kart robe in just his size, which I think has now become his most prized possession.

But anyway, I digress. Here are a few more recycled shirts for my older kiddos. This first one is actually a man's shirt made into a dress for my daughter, using a Jalie t-shirt pattern as a base:

And this one is a Farbenmix Antonia Scooby Doo shirt. The original shirt was enormous. It is really hard to imagine a grown man (and an awfully large one at that) wearing a Scooby Doo shirt, but that's probably why it was in Goodwill to begin with:

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

My new Missoni wardrobe

Well, it's a work in process, anyway. So far, I just have one piece, but I adore it!

I've always loved Missoni. Those bright, bold zig zags really appeal to that part of my nature that wants to make a statement with my wardrobe choices. Of course affording Missoni is quite another story. So when I saw the Missoni for Target line, I was overjoyed....until I tried to get on Target.com (along with everyone else in the world) to stock up on Missoni treasure. By the time I was able to get on the site, almost everything was gone. Sob!

But all was not lost. A few months ago, one of my suppliers announced the arrival of some beautiful zig zag crochet fabric, and I hopped on board quickly. The colors are just divine! Before I even got the any of it listed on Bamblue Fabrics, I had cut out several yards for myself and started planning my new wardrobe.

Because it is crochet knit fabric, it has to be lined or worn over something. I decided Burda's double layer top would be the perfect pattern, although I didn't do the weird twist at the hem. I thought that would make it look like I messed up, not a particularly desirable feature. The under layer is bamboo jersey.

Closer up:
Pattern: Burda 8/10

In other sewing related news, I got a new serger! It was Black Friday, and I was scanning the lightning deals on Amazon religiously, and was quite surprised to see a Juki serger sitting there. I've wanted a new serger for quite awhile, so when this popped up, I sprang into action! Which wasn't that difficult because I have Amazon's one-click ordering and a Prime membership, so all in all, it was a little too easy.

My new toy arrived yesterday, and I decided to try it out with something easy, yet serger-intensive. Farbenmix Antonia fits that bill exactly. I decided to do a recycled Antonia, also known as a total, blatant knock-off of my sewing friend Katie's wonderful shirts (be sure to check out her Etsy store, Little Overcoat.)

So, here's a Speed Racer shirt for my little guy.

Love the new serger. It works like a dream.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The annual Christmas card photo shoot debacle

Every year we go through this torture. Sometimes I just want to go back to the days before photo cards, when all you needed to do was decide between a picture of a partridge in a pear tree or the three wise men. Trying to wrangle three kids into a single frame, and then somehow make them all look at the camera at the same time and - heaven forfend! - smile nicely is really just too much to ask.

When all was said and done today, we had taken 350 pictures. Exactly zero were good enough for the Christmas cards. Skoober just refused to stay in one place, and didn't make it into 97% of the pictures. My oldest was in a foul mood and just decided to complain, whine and grimace the entire time. I didn't realize until we came home that my hair was a disaster. My husband didn't set the camera's timer correctly, so we got a good shot of his butt as he hurried to get into the picture.

This is pretty representative of the shots we took today:

My daughter, despite the fact that she is running away screaming in this picture, was the only one who came close to cooperating today. This is a good thing, because I had made her a top and skirt to wear for the occasion, so luckily I was able to get some good shots of her outfit.

Pattern: Farbenmix Antonia and Insa
Embroidery: www.stickbaer.de

I have no idea what is going to end up on the Christmas card. We may have to do another photo shoot, but for obvious reasons that idea appeals about as much as a fork in the eye. I wish I were a Photoshop whiz, and then I could just surgically replace the scowling, screaming faces of my children with some more angelic-looking little ones. Or maybe I should just find the worst of the bunch and use that. I'll get my payback when I bring out that picture to show their prom dates.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Vogue 8634 done 3 ways

I used to be very into vintage clothing, and one of my "finds" was a tan cashmere roll neck sweater from the 70's. I absolutely loved that thing, but somewhere along the line it disappeared. I was going through my fabric stash the other day and came across a lovely brown sweater knit that had been a remnant from a local designer. While I stood there fondling this lovely bit of fabric,  it occurred to me that the perfect use for all its drapey goodness would be a roll neck sweater exactly like that vintage 70's one that I loved so much. But where to find a pattern?

My first thought was to check the vintage patterns on Etsy and eBay for something suitably 70's, but that search turned up nothing. I next went through all my Ottobre Women and Burda magazines - still zilch. Feeling rather defeated, I decided to abandon the roll neck sweater idea and find something else in my pattern stash to use. That's when I found my untried Vogue 8634 pattern - perfect!

Once I sewed up a muslin, I realized how brilliant this pattern is. It is so incredibly easy - foolproof, really. I've had my ups and downs with Vogue patterns, but this one is fantastic. I loved it so much, I did it 3 times. Given that I have almost zero sewing time at the moment, this is quite an accomplishment. Each one only took about 45 minutes start to finish, including cutting time. That's my kinda pattern.

Here is the version with the brown sweater knit:

Here is a close up of the fabric. Isn't it divine! To get the full effect, though, you have to touch it - it is supremely soft.

Here is my muslin version. It is some sort of shimmery poly fabric. Quite nice, actually, but I didn't realize until I tried my finished garment on that it is basically see through.  My husband may appreciate that, but it's not so good for picking up the kids from school.  I have to wear a camisole underneath, which shows through at the bottom - yuck. Oh well!

For my third version, I wanted to lengthen it to a dress. I could have spent a lot of time fooling about with measurements, but luckily I realized that my much-adored Simplicity 2580 has a similar construction with the exact length I wanted. When I put the Simplicity bottom panel piece up to the upper front of the Vogue top, I was delighted to see they matched up exactly!

I was a little hesitant to use this fabric - it is rather loud, after all. But I threw caution to the wind and went ahead. My husband, rather surprisingly, LOVES this dress. I did take it in about an inch on either side to make it more slinky - maybe that has something to do with it.

I may want to break up the fabric's pattern with a belt, but after scouring my closet, I came up empty. How could I not own a black, skinny belt? I'm going to be 40 in a couple of weeks, for heaven's sake. How I managed to live that long without a black skinny belt is beyond me.

A slightly different view:

Anyway, you get the idea. I highly recommend this pattern, especially if you are a beginner or not used to sewing with knits. There is not much you can do to mess this up.

I also managed to make another Vogue dress, the highly acclaimed V1250. Everyone on PatternReview.com RAVES about this dress. I can't resist a good cowl neck pattern, so of course this was high on my to sew list. I added the long sleeves per Art Attack's instructions which merge Butterick 5495 with the Vogue pattern. The end result is fine, and the whole thing is very easy to sew. I still think I like my Simplicity 2580 cowl neck dress pattern more, though. I like how the Simplicity cowl hangs much better than the Vogue version.

Isn't that just an awesome color? I wish I had more of that fabric.

And one final thing for me, a Christine Jonson Shirred Top. There were approximately a billion pattern pieces to this top, many of which look exactly the same but aren't, and I did not properly mark them, so this took forever. However, I adore the end result. It is actually quite simple to make once you have the pattern pieces figured out, but it doesn't really look simple. As I've said before, that is my main criteria for judging a pattern. Love this one.

Here is a bit more of a close up so you can see all the shirring:

I just started a new part time job, so I feel like all my sewing time has evaporated. But looking at all this makes me realize I've actually been able to squeeze in a fair amount of sewing for someone who has no free time anymore. And I haven't even included the three pairs of pajamas I made for the kids last week! That makes me feel better. A girl's gotta have her sewing time.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Getting into fall sewing

I've found myself woefully unprepared, wardrobe-wise, for the cooler weather we've been having. To be more precise, it's my kids' wardrobes that are severely lacking. Since they have all grown about two feet since last year, I can't just pull out last winter's clothing! Sewing up some cozy clothes was definitely in order.

Here is a little set I made for my 3 year old son. I did have a moment of panic once I cut everything out, thinking this would end up looking like a Gymboree outfit, circa 1985. All those color-blocked, bright colors! In the end, I love how it turned out. I used bamboo french terry for both the red and the blue, so it is deliciously cozy and soft.

Pattern: Ottobre 4/10
Embroidery: Kiki Tomato
Fabric: Bamboo french terry from Bamblue Fabrics

And here's a sweatshirt for my oldest son. I have a ton of boy knits in my stash, and it's getting a little hard to figure out what to do with them. My oldest has pretty much grown out of prints, and in any case, the prints sewn up as shirts always looks like pajamas to me. My solution for this was to use the prints for sweatshirts. Of course the t-shirt jersey is much too thin to use by itself, so I fully line it with another knit, making it a perfect weight for our mild winters.

A close-up of the Mario fabric, which I got on Etsy:
 Pattern: Ottobre 1/07

Here's a Zoe for my daughter. I couldn't believe how fast this was - 30 minutes start to finish, I think. It's amazing how quickly I can put a shirt together when there is no embroidery involved!

Pattern: Farbenmix Zoe

And finally, a rocket ship shirt for my little guy. Can you tell I had red in the serger and was too lazy to change it? The fabric is some lovely, but extremely pricey European campan. How I wish this stuff wasn't so expensive! The colors are just fantastic.

Pattern: Ottobre 1/10
Embroidery: Kunterbunt

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Ruffles for my girl

I was scouting out eBay a few weeks ago, trying to come up with some sewing inspiration (as if I really needed any more of THAT!). A friend of mine introduced me to the Australian brand Paper Wings, and I just love the elegant simplicity of their clothing lines. I found this dress on eBay, and fell instantly in love with all those ruffles! I had to make one for my daughter.

I used the Mamu Katrin pattern for my base, which ended up being pretty much exactly what I needed. The original PaperWings dress is gathered in the front and back, and I originally thought I'd have to extend the skirt panels to make those gathers. But I know from experience that this pattern runs really wide, so I just left it as is and added lastin to the seam to create the gathers. That worked perfectly.

The original dress only had a couple ruffles going up the back, but I kind of miscalculated how much I would need and ended up with a ton of ruffles. Having rolled all those hems, I was determined to use all of them! So my dress ended up being a little more ruffly than originally planned, but you can never have too many ruffles, right?

For the fabric, I used some red jersey that may or may not be bamboo. It's an old piece I pulled out of my stash, and it predates my store, so I'm not 100% positive what it is. I do know that it is supremely soft, so bamboo or not, it is heavenly.

Pattern: Mamu Katrin
Fabric: Either bamboo or rayon jersey

I also decided to make the kids some Halloween shirts. Despite the fact that I have more Halloween embroidery designs than I could ever possibly use, when Urban Threads had a sale not long ago, I stocked up. I fell in love with their Primitive Macabre series, and bought the whole lot of 'em.

Embroidery: Urban Threads
Patterns: Ottobre Design

As long as I had that Ottobre pattern out, I decided to upcycle a men's shirt for my son. I've long been a fan of Little Overcoat's recycled children's clothing. The way she combines fabrics and colors is masterful! I've been copying her style for ages, but mine never turn out as nice as hers.

Despite the fact that it looks like the dragon is sniffing his armpit, my son loves this shirt.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Sewing for sweater weather

I am in dire need of a new winter wardrobe. Where I live, it doesn't really get cold until December, so I usually don't have any motivation to sew wintry stuff until well into November. By that time, of course, I am frantically making Christmas presents and up to my eyeballs in all the usual holiday stuff. After Christmas, I'm usually looking forward hopefully to spring. So, the winter stuff just never gets sewn.

This year, I decided to change all that, in large part because the average age of the garments in my winter wardrobe is approximately 8.5 years. Drastic measures have to be taken. So, despite the fact that it was hovering around 100 degrees for much of last week, I pulled out a few of my sweater knits and started sewing.

The first fabric I picked up was this amazingly soft sweater knit that I got on a recent fabric shopping excursion. Apparently it was a leftover from a local fashion designer, and I snagged all I could. Wanting something  a little unusual, I turned to Butterick 5564, which bills itself as being Fast & Easy. Snort! No, it is not fast nor easy. I suppose it could be if the instructions for the sleeves made sense, but they don't, so you are left to flounder, swear, or break out in a cold sweat (I did all 3). Thank heavens someone had written how to do the sleeves on www.patternreview.com, so I didn't need to go completely crazy.

After struggling with those sleeves, I wanted to do something that was truly fast and easy, so I turned to Jalie 2911 for a shawl collar hoodie. I love Jalie instructions - so simple! And the patterns don't have a lot of fuss to them, which is much appreciated by someone who is coming to despise fussy patterns. (Just don't ask about the Jalie button down men's shirt I recently had to throw into the garbage midway through. Sore subject.) For this hoodie, I used some of my yarn dyed hemp/organic cotton jersey from Bamblue Fabrics. I love this stuff! I bought every colorway available. This will be a staple in my winter wardrobe, I think. It's roomy enough that I can wear a shirt underneath on the coldest days, but still doesn't look like a tent.

Pattern: Jalie 2911
Fabric: Hemp/organic cotton jersey from Bamblue Fabrics

And now for a little bamboo sweater knit. I have three colors of this amazing fabric in stock at Bamblue at the moment. I'm totally in love with the stuff - the softness is just incredible. If it were realistic, I would make my entire winter wardrobe from it! But for now, I just have this:

Pattern: Burda 7866
Fabric: Bamboo sweater knit from Bamblue Fabrics

While I love, love, love how this turned out, I was annoyed by the instructions for how to do the neckline. It looked simple, but turned out to be a fussy mess. Nope, don't like it at all. Next time, I will do something completely different. What, I don't know. But it certainly won't involve any hand sewing, I can tell you that right now.

Having sewn a bunch of stuff for myself, I was starting to feel a little guilty about not sewing anything for my kids. As I had promised myself that I would make at least one Halloween costume this year, my daughter's witch costume was next on the list. I have never actually made a Halloween costume before, despite my best intentions, because whenever the costumes come out at Target, my kids fall in love with one and I hand over my $20 and everybody is happy. Not this year! This year, I really wanted to struggle with gathering yards and yards of tulle and slippery costume satin that unraveled all over everything! Who wouldn't?

I do love the end result, and my little witch is quite pleased with her costume too.

Pattern:  Simplicity 2569

I also made a raincoat. How I hated sewing this. I will never use laminated cotton again. It is ghastly. So stiff and unforgiving! But it had been sitting in my stash for two years, and my daughter kept asking over and over when I was going to use it, so I finally broke down. I hated every second of this project, but at least my daughter has a new raincoat. It's not totally waterproof because I didn't treat the seams, but at least she can go out in a light rain. Also, the sewing is just atrocious because about midway through I had given up the will to live. But it is done, and I can move on with my life.

Pattern: McCall's 6392