Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Completed: Elementary School Art Teacher Jacket

This jacket has been a long time in the making, mostly because it uses one of those precious fabrics that I don't want to screw up!  I have a lot of those now though, so I'm trying to be brave.  It all started on my fabric-buying portion of my trip to Thailand, when I went into a small silk shop, and admired this cool patchwork fabric made up all different striped Thai silks.  I started talking to the owner of the shop, who said she couldn't bear to throw away even scraps, since fabric is precious, so she sews them into these patchwork fabrics (and had some examples of jackets sewn in them in the shop as well).  We bonded over fabric preciousness, and then proceeded to jabber away about sewing in general.  She was really impressed that sewing was a hobby of mine, as it's not so much of a general hobby in Thailand.  Instead, it's very common for people to have clothes made for them, going to the many fabric shops, picking out their fabrics and patterns and having someone else make them.  This was a few years ago, but if you ever go to Bangkok, go to the River City Mall, and visit L.C. Design.  This is one of the few shops I actually have the name of, but it was a great one!  Someday I'll get back to Thailand, and I'll spend half of my time up north playing with elephants (that was one of the best days of my life, seriously) and the other half fabric shopping in Bangkok.

Anyways, fast forward two years, and the fabric was still sitting in my stash, because practically speaking, what can you make with striped silk patchwork fabric?  I wavered between some kind of tee or a dress, and finally landed on a jacket.  I originally was thinking about doing the Tamarack jacket from Grainline Studios, as I've seen some great versions, even if the quilting wouldn't show up at all in the busy fabric, so I bought a navy rayon challis for lining it from Cali Fabrics.  It is seriously one of the most delightful fabrics to have against my skin, even if it turned out to be a mistake for this jacket (more on that later).  So the pattern and fabric languished for another month or so, until I ran across Heather's version of the Wiksten Oversized Kimono Jacket, and I changed my mind.  I had originally discarded the idea of a kimono jacket, as it seemed a little obvious for the fabric, but I loved the idea it could be a reversible jacket, making my crazy fabric a little bit more wearable.

                                               Tamarack Jacket                                             Oversized Kimono Jacket 
                          (photo from Grainline Studio, link above)             (photo from Closet Case Patterns, link above)

Project Details
Pattern:  Oversized Kimono Jacket by Wiksten Patterns (in Making Zine No. 4)
Fabric:  Patchwork Thai Silk (2 m) & navy rayon challis (3 yd)
Size:  XS 
Modifications:  shortened body and sleeves, adjusted back seam, changed hemming method

Project Saga
So last week, I cut out all the pattern pieces, debated over sizing, and finally settled on the XS.  You may think that is not my normal size, which is correct!  The jacket as drafted is very over-sized (as is in the name), and I wanted it to be a touch more fitted, so it didn't overwhelm me.  After all is said and done, I think I might make it even smaller when I make it again (which I will, just with a little more careful selection in fabric).  I laid out my pattern pieces to make sure I could squeak by with my 2 meters of patchwork silk, as this pattern is a fabric-eater, calling for 3 yards each of main fabric and lining.  I had wanted it a bit shorter anyway, which was good, because I barely squeezed the main body (shorted by 4") and the sleeves (shortened by 3") out of the fabric, which meant no pockets on the patchwork side (which I was ok with) and the band would have to be all navy (again, this was preferable).

As I was cutting out the lining, I realized that the fabric was super light-weight and shifty, as opposed to the silk, which was very stable.  Hmm, maybe this isn't a match made in heaven?  I tried as hard as possible to stay on grain, but wasn't perfect in my cutting - oops!  I should have used my fabric stabilizer spray, which I usually do on shifty fabrics, but didn't want to wait for it to dry.  Lesson learned - if I think it's going to be difficult, deal with it, don't just plow ahead.

The instructions for sewing up the jacket are very straightforward and there are nice illustrations for everything, so the body came together nicely.  It was only when I tried to sew the lining to the main fabric that things started to fall apart.  The instructions have you sew the bottom hem with right sides together, and then flip it right side out and hem the sleeves.  I did the bottom hem, but then the lining was hanging out below the silk, and it was all hanging wrong and it looked super unprofessional.  The other weird thing was I essentially had a little duck tail action going on.  I'm still not sure what as causing it, but the back hung weirdly so that the middle of the bottom hem stuck out in the back.  So I unpicked it all and put on my thinking cap.  

I started first with the duck tail issue.  I basically just sewed out a wedge (like the biggest dart ever) with the widest part at the middle back of the jacket, tapering to nothing in my upper back.  I ended up taking out maybe 8" or so at the bottom, so it was pretty dramatic.  I examined the side seams, and it seems like they were tilting back quite a bit, causing the back to bunch like that.  I'm still not sure what the overall cause would be, but it might just be again the fabric choice causing things to hang weirdly.  I repeated sewing the wedge out of the lining, and they essentially matched up again.

I then stuck them wrong sides together (i.e. the way I would wear them), and hung it on my dress form.  I aggressively pinned the hem together and because of my ducktail wedge, I had to cut the hemline to be level again, as there was a large swerve up in the back.  This ended up making it even shorter than I was hoping, but live and learn!  I then basted the hem to make sure everything was in place, and then did a double fold, with the navy folding up onto the silk side.  I did the same thing for the sleeves, with a slightly bigger fold, to make them the right length.  The last thing was to add on the neck band, which again I had to modify the procedure slightly because of my weird hemming method.  It's all a bit cobbled together where the band meets the hem, but it works.  Because I already knew how shifty the navy fabric was and I was using it for both sides of the neck band, I interfaced both sides, instead of just one, which makes it a bit stiffer than I would like actually, but oh well.  Anyways, that is all, and the saga is complete!  Meet my new (entirely reversible) kimono jacket!  John's comment when he saw it is that I am slowly sewing myself the wardrobe of an elementary school art teacher, which I don't actually hate the idea of. :)

Notice how the patchwork angles to the center back - thanks to my duck tail!

Much drapey-er on this side - plus pockets!

Fun surprise on the inside!

Friday, March 2, 2018


I actually set up my photo corner again, so I'm hopeful that I can keep up with documenting my makes from here on out - at least until I decide to make the spare room a giant mess for months again. :)

Looking back at Instagram (which I use way too much to tell time these days), I made this sweater back on February 9th, having purchased the fabric from Emma One Sock on January 23rd - this has to be a speed record for me in terms of fabric purchase to documented make!

I had been eyeing this wool fleece blend for a while, but was trying to be good and not add to my stash.  I finally gave in though, without a clear picture of what I wanted to make, beyond some kind of sweater.

My original thought was to make a Toaster sweater #2 (on left below) to replicate this sweater from Man Repeller (on right below):


The fabric is a wool-blend, and I'm thinking it is heavy on the wool though, as it's a bit scratchy and I was concerned with having it so high up on my neck.  I switched gears, and went instead with the free Hemlock pattern from Grainline Studios.

The only adjustments I made to the pattern itself was to narrow the neckline a bit (I find it a bit wide on me) and to lengthen the sleeves a tad, both of which I usually do when I make the pattern.  I also had to think about how to finish the hems, as the thick knit is a little different than the lighter-weight knit the pattern calls for.  The fabric had this amazing selvedge edge, which was striped red and black, which I immediately thought about using for the hems.  One side was more bold than the other, so I decided to use what I could of the bolder side for the hem and neck, and use the thinner version on the sleeves.

The bobbles are quite three-dimensional, so I spent a decent amount of time cutting them off in all the seam allowances - probably more time than actually sewing!

All in all, I'm pretty pleased with how it came out!  It's definitely an over-sized, slouchy sweater, which is perfect for cozy chilly days.  Unfortunately, it's just started to warm up towards spring here, so I'm not sure how much more wear it will get until next winter, but it's all ready for me!

Monday, February 19, 2018

Tablecloth Dress

So I sewed up this dress back in October, but realized when I wore it yesterday that I hadn't taken any photos or documented it yet!  It doesn't count until then, right?

The details are a bit fuzzy, but I'll try to piece it all together here, as it was a bit of an adventure.  I've had this lightweight, floral pleather in my stash since last April (purchased from Emma One Sock), but didn't really have an idea what I wanted to do with it - I just thought it was really cool.  I stumbled upon this suede dress from Free People (probably while traveling down a Pinterest rabbit hole), and thought it would match up nicely!  I settled on the Grainline Studio Farrow Dress as a good approximation.

(Inspiration)                                                                (Pattern)        

The Messy Middle Bit  
I came up with this plan maybe the week before we were planning a mini vacation up to the Finger Lakes to celebrate our anniversary in early October.  I figured that it couldn't be that hard, right?  Unfortunately, I didn't do a muslin, and things turned out to be a bit trickier than I anticipated.  

I definitely had to adjust the pattern to match up better with my inspiration, and that deep v-neck was key.  I just eyeballed it and cut the neckline like I wanted, and was happy with how that came out.  I decided to do away with the angled seams and pockets for two reasons - first, I only had 1.5 yards of fabric, and didn't want to mess with piecing it all together, and second, I didn't want to interrupt the busy print.  To do this, I just taped the top and bottom pieces together and cut them out as one.  I didn't want to lose pockets though, so I just drafted up some in-seam pockets to add back into the side seams.  The final change I had to make was to draft my own all-in-one facing for the neckline and armscyes.  

That was all relatively quick and painless, and I sewed it up, and then tried it on, which was where the issue became evident.  It doesn't look so bad on my dress form below, but there are a couple of key differences between us - mainly in the chest area.  It was falling off my shoulders and gaping all over the place, so I had to figure out how to take it all in without screwing it up.  I think it's just part of being petite, but a frequent adjustment I have to make to patterns is that the shoulders are too wide, even if the rest of it technically fits.  I usually fix this by pinching out a bit from the center of the pattern piece, and adding it back into the sides if needed.  Unfortunately, it was a little late in the game to do that adjustment, and I really hesitated to add a center seam down the front, given that I intentionally left it as one piece.  Taking in the sides would help with some of the fit issues, but the shoulders were still falling off a bit, and I didn't want to mess with the pockets too much.  

At this point, I came to the conclusion I wouldn't finish it in time for our vacation, so it sat unfinished for a few more weeks.  I ended up adding in a center seam down the back to help fix some of the shoulder width issues, and took in a bit under the arms, tapering out back to the original seams so I didn't have to redo the pockets.  I then did a hem, and called it good!  

Another thing to note - this fabric was a bit tricky to work with as well, given it's slippery nature.  I used a clear plastic foot to sew the whole thing up, and went slow!  I also made the mistake of using the same fabric to do the facing, so there wouldn't be any obvious fabric showing if it peeked out, but it means I can definitely not wear it on my bare skin.  The V-neck is pretty deep, so I wouldn't anyway, but something to remember next time I work with pleather!  You can see my facing (and a bit more of the texture) below:

The Reveal
I ended up finishing this at the end of October, and have worn it a surprising number of times since!  I call this my tablecloth dress for multiple reasons - first, floral fabric is a bit intense, and is a little tablecloth-like, but primarily, it's because any of my many food spills can just be wiped right up!  There is still a bit too much volume for my taste, and I may at some point take in the sides again, but for now, it works, and I'm pleased with how it came out.

(visible center seam - oops!)

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Customizing a Calendar!

I like to have some kind of calendar up in the kitchen, so both of us can see at a glance our big picture schedule.  I've gone through a few different iterations of chalkboard monthly stickers, but late last year decided to cut out the middle man, and just drew it on the fridge, after testing the markers to make sure they came off, which they did.  Unfortunately, I drew two months at once, and left them up for even longer than two months, after which point the marker did not come off the fridge - whoops!  I then switched over to drawing up two months at a time on my large roll of craft paper, but it was quite a bit of work.  I found a free downloadable calendar online (from This Little Street), which printed out one month each on 8.5x11 sheets of paper.

I played around with just taping them up as is onto the fridge, but the spacing wasn't quite right, as  the last three months would be partially covered by the trash can, and i wanted to get the whole thing up at once.  I then had the idea to cut off the patterned edges (which weren't exactly my style anyway), and tape them onto a backing of my craft paper, to make a larger calendar.  It looked a little whimpy, so I added a sharpie border around each one, and voila - a custom calendar for my fridge that I don't have to update all year!  Well, except for actually filling it out, that is.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Top #64 Christmas Shirt

So there have been many items I've made over the past year that I never got around to taking photos of, let alone blogged about, but I made sure to take some photos of my Christmas shirt while I was up in the wintery wonderland of northern Michigan!  It was freezing, so by the time I looked at the photos and noticed my bra strap was showing (mostly because I was hunched up to try and keep warm), I was too lazy to go back out in the cold and retake them, so excuse that.

I originally set out to make the Merchant and Mills Top #64 in a leopard stretch twill, but I was horribly indecisive on the sizing.  According to the size chart, I should be between a size 12 and 14, but I wanted it to be a bit more fitted than the pattern photos (see below), and according to the finished measurements, I would technically still have an inch or two of ease everywhere even in the size 8.

Particularly since I was planning to do it in a (somewhat) stretchy fabric, I thought I could get away with sizing down.  I knew I also wanted to do it in a woven fabric, so I traced the pattern on the size 10 (first time in a long time using a printed pattern instead of a pdf), which gave me 4" of ease in the bust, and more everywhere else.

Because I was still nervous about the sizing, I sewed up a muslin, again for the first time in ages.  I'm trying to be much more thoughtful and intentional about sewing, so it's worth the extra time.  Because the bodice is split into two pieces at the pocket line, I just sewed up the top half with the sleeves.  The fit was pretty good, but I wanted the pocket line to be higher (plus shorter in general for the whole thing), the pockets to be a few inches deeper, and the sleeves definitely to be shorter, so I adjusted the pattern to remove about 3" from the top bodice piece, and about 2" off the sleeves.  Also, the pattern had a seam line down the center front and back, and has a lot of optional top-stitching.  Because my fabric was on the busy side, I eliminated the center seams and decided to leave off the top-stitching.

I then cut out my leopard fabric and went to serge all the edges and spent way too much time fiddling with the threading, which I had to redo over and over.  I gave up on my stretch twill, and decided to switch over to the woven version which I was planning, and wear it for Christmas.

The fabric I was planning on using was actually the original fabric I bought the pattern for, which was a really soft buffalo plaid from Fabric.com.  I cut it out exactly with the pattern alterations I already did for the stretch version, with one exception.  The original vision I had for this fabric was a photo I had saved on Pinterest for years now, and featured a split neck:

This is clearly a dress with set-in 3/4-length sleeves, so I made a few changes, but I haven't sewn any raglan sleeves in a while, and wanted to give them a whirl.  Anyhoo, to make the split neck, I just carefully cut down the center until it looked good, and then adjusted the facing to match.  Sidenote - even though it doesn't show, I had enough fabric to carefully match up my plaids on the inside! :)

I'm getting ahead of myself here, so I'll go back and talk construction.  Overall, super simple to sew.  I even cut and matched up notches, and it's funny how much more precise you can be when you do that!  Because my serger was being annoying, I did just pink all the inside seams, which is annoying me now, but oh well, I had to make a short-cut somewhere.  I did manage to match up my plaid on the pocket seams pretty well, and I did attempt it on the sleeves, which are two pieces each, but for some reason I ended being off like half an inch from front to back, so those didn't line up and I didn't even attempt to line up the raglan seam.  All the seams coming together at the top got a bit bulky with the flannel, and I did try to grade it and steam it into shape, but it doesn't lay quite the flattest there (also contributing to the exposed bra strap, I'm sure).  All in all, it's a good project that's fairly quick, and I'll definitely be making it again in leopard!

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Shedding some light on the Living Room

So we've been in our house for over three years now, and every now and then we get a burst of energy and get some stuff down, but the list is very, very long!  Our living room is in a sad state at the moment, with a raw drywall wall that has been there about a year at this point, and a new hole in the ceiling due to a plumbing leak in our upstairs bathroom.  We'll probably end up hiring someone to do a bunch of drywall repairs around the house at some point, but until then, live with them we will.  (ugh). 

One issue that I can tackle though is lighting.  One of the joys of a hundred year old house is crappy electrical systems, part of which is that we have very few overhead lights in the house, with none in the living room or any of the bedrooms.  I've had a ramshackle combination of table and floor lamps in the living room, but I wasn't super happy with them, so I'm coming up with a Plan (capitalization is intentional, it's that important)!

This is the current set-up:

The issue is that we only have task lighting, and it's just not working.  I bought the black double-sconce a while ago from Urban Outfitters, which I do like, but is not quite right for the living room.  I think it will work much better as much needed task lighting in the attic, so it will move up there once I get replacements.  A couple of people recommended lights with white lampshades, to provide diffused light in the room, which is exactly what it was missing.

Another issue with the room is that there is no entry lighting.  That's the front door on the left of the photo, which goes back to the stairs and the coat closet, all which have no lighting.  Eventually, John will probably add a ceiling light at the door, but that will be probably in a year or so, so temporary measures are in order.

I came up with a vague idea of a plan, and have a few lamps on order, so we'll see how it goes!  The current idea is to do a simple wall swing light where the double-sconce currently is, and the big debate there is to do a dark bronze/black or brass finish (both quite affordable options from Target):

We have very little metal anywhere in the house, I've realized, and our dining room light fixture (very visible from the living room) is the dark bronze color, so I thought it might tie in well.  The black double-sconce is so stark though, so I'm not sure.  We will be painting the walls at some point, but they will be a very very pale turquoise color, almost white, so not too different than the warm white they currently are.

Diagonally from that corner is our Eames lounger in a corner (older picture, but you get the idea):

I think that corner is a great place to do a hanging pendant.  I was initially thinking just a simple white drum lampshade, but then I realized I wanted to amp it up a notch.  I found a really cool pendant, also from Target, but I'm worried it will not provide enough light:

I went back to my old standby, Overstock.com, and found this kinda interesting light, but it's on the small side (the shade is only 7" in diameter):

I just looked back through my home posts on my blog, and found this post where I was talking about copper lights, and now I've gone down a rabbit hole on Etsy looking at vintage copper pendants.

What do you think - any favorite contenders?

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

A skirt throughout the years

I made this tweed skirt 3 years ago, and I love it still!  It doesn't get a ton of wear these days, which is why I wanted to include it in my fall 10x10, to mix things up a bit and revive it a bit.  Let's just say I struggled this morning though, in what to wear with it.  I originally had it all planned out to wear it with my white tee and orange sweater, but the three pieces together looked awful (totally wrong proportions).  I instead switched the tops out for a green cami and the same cardigan in black and liked it better, but it still isn't great.  I took a look back at a few photos from when I previously wore it, and fun fact, I used to dress up so much more!  It's crazy to look back at my wardrobe from just a few years ago.  Going from daily trips to the office to weekly (if that) has really done a number on dumbing down my wardrobe.

Today's struggle (I went with the open cardigan, but still not happy with it):


Basically the one thing I do love about this outfit is the color palette.  The tweed skirt screams fall to me, but I can have my comfortable black as a neutral, and moss green, which is turning into one of my favorites.  I am not a fan of the proportions though - the shoes cut off my legs horribly, and the cardigan is baggy in the wrong places and too cropped for my liking.  As many times as I have to go through this, I should finally just admit I don't like cropped, shapeless cardigans!

A few oldies from 2014 (apparently I really like to wear this skirt with green):