Friday, November 17, 2017

A Denim Skirt for Free

My friend, Jessica, has become involved with FabMo, a non-profit organization that rescues discarded materials from designers and provides them to teachers and artists for a nominal donation. They have everything from fabric to wallpaper to tiles to rugs.

Here's their self-description from their web site:

"FabMo provides unique, high-end materials to artists, teachers, and others for their creative reuse. These exquisite textiles, wallpapers, tiles, leathers, trims, etc. are from the design world, and are usually not available to you at all except through a designer. FabMo makes them available on a donation basis, diverting about 70 tons/year of them from their otherwise destination - the landfill!"

If you haven't been to one of their events, give it a try!

The materials are usually sample-sized, but every once in a while you can find a larger hunk of fabric.  Jessica had her eye open for me, bless her soul, and she scored a piece of black denim that was about a yard.

Hand in pocket, which is hard to see  otherwise

I used it to make myself a second version of Burdastyle 10-2011-119. Black is notorious for masking design details, so here's the line drawing:

Burdastyle 10-2011, skirt #119

It's just like your favorite denim skirt from high school, only with better pockets.

Close-up of pocket. I'm in love!
I made this skirt in a washed-out blue denim some years ago and I ended up wearing it quite a lot, especially last summer. That first version had gotten an ugly grease stain on the front, so I shortened it quite a bit, giving it a new lease on life in my wardrobe. Wearing it was like wearing a comfy pair of shorts, only even cooler on a hot day.

I've been wanting a darker-colored version for a while now.


This skirt is hemmed as Burdastyle drafted; 26 inches. Since I'm a short person, that means it's a midi-length on me.
Here's a view without hands in pockets
I was tempted to whack it back to just above the knee, like my light blue one, but I decided to keep it longer. At least through the winter. I can see this length being a good match for a pair of boots and a sweater once those dark, rainy days kick in.

This pattern is available as a download from the Burdastyle website, in case you like the looks of it but don't have 10 years of back issues stashed in your closet, like I do.

My pattern review is on PatternReview.com here.



Thursday, November 16, 2017

Social Sewing Two

My friend Beth is like many of us; she used to sew back in the day. Then the job, the husband and the kids came along and she had no time or energy for such things.

But the years passed; the two kids became beautiful young ladies who fluttered from the nest to attend out-of-town colleges. She and her husband would look at each other on a Friday evening and realize they didn't have to ferry a single kid anyplace for the whole weekend. The sewing bug, which had lain dormant for decades, began to stir.

So we got together and made a Kirsten Kimono Tee.

Pretty print, yes? Perfect for a tee.
This free pattern from Maria Denmark is the bomb. It has two pattern pieces (plus a neckband). It has a nice, body skimming fit that flatters most everyone. There are no sleeves to set. And you can get it out of a yard of fabric.

I've lost count of how many versions of this top I've made up. It works well in all weights of knit fabric and it's great on it's own in warmer weather or under a jacket or cardigan when it's chilly. Did I mention it's free?

Maybe you're jumping back in the sewing pool after a break, like Beth. Or maybe you're new to knits and looking for a simple but useful pattern to cut your teeth on. Or maybe you sew regularly but want to add a nifty staple to your pattern drawer. Wherever you're at with your sewing, I highly recommend this pattern.

Here's one of my stable of Kirsten's. I have three in black.
Don't be shy; give it a try!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Shirt Maker's Express

The Man's birthday is September 4, and here is his birthday present. Finally done. Better late than never, right?

The Man had been kind of wanting a flannel shirt ever since I made my flannel Archer last January. Once again, I had a heck of a time finding some flannel that didn't look like kids pajamas. Plus, The Man had some color constraints I had to consider. When I found this plaid at Hart's he gave it the thumbs up, saying, "Black and gray, just like my soul."


Instead of trying to hack up the Archer, I used the Shirt Maker's Express #228 from Islander Sewing Systems. I'm really glad I did! The Man likes a trim fit and this pattern delivers on that. The sides have a bit of shaping to them, and there are optional back darts. We went for them.

Back view with darts and smooth yoke
Also, while the Archer has a pleat at the yoke to add extra ease, this pattern is smooth.

I got this pattern as part of the Craftsy class; "Sew Better, Sew Faster: Shirtmaking," with Janet Pray.

I've bought a lot of Craftsy classes. Like: a lot. I have 45 in my library. Some have suggested I have a little problem with late night Craftsy jags. In my defense, I wait to get them on sale and I do watch all of them. The two I've done with Janet Pray are some of my favorites. She sets a comfortable pace, she's clear and organized and she talks like she's in the room with you.

She also includes a lot of great information, based on her years of experience in the garment industry. My favorite techniques from this class were:

  • sewing without pins (still not a convert, but I'll keep trying)
  • the burrito method for shoulder seams, cuffs and collar. Her method results in the cleanest collar and cuffs I've ever achieved
  • hemming a curved shirt tail. She has you hem the fronts and back before sewing the side seams, and shows you how to crimp the curves to ease in the extra fullness. Worked a treat!

She uses a different construction order, like they do in the garment factories. She also has you work with quite narrow seam allowances; generally 1/4 inch but sometimes even less. This makes it much easier to ease in collar stands and so forth, but if you're using a beefier fabric, like flannel, it can feel like you're forcing a watermelon into a milk bottle. A little sweating and cussing were involved, but it's totally doable.

Side view: under that sleeve the plaid is matched!
I made up the shirt just exactly like Janet Pray told me to, except when I screwed up. Each time, once I ripped my errors out and did things her way, I had to confess that she is 100 percent right.

The one mod I made was to deepen the pocket by one inch. The Man likes vintage fountain pens and one of his requirements is that the pocket accommodate an oversize Mont Blanc number 8 safety pen.

The oversize #8 and a bonus Rouge et Noir
I really recommend both the pattern and the class. I'm busy trying to talk The Man into wearing dress shirts, just so I can make one of these in a nice, pliable shirting. The pattern comes in a bajillion sizes, from an XS (28 inch chest) to a 4XL (60 inch chest). Maybe I can find some other guys to sew shirts for? My nephews are not dress shirt guys either, and my son would be caught dead before he wore a shirt sewn by his mother. Maybe I'll have to wait until the grandson is in high school.

My pattern review is on PatternReview.com here.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Belize Shorts

More vacation garments! A few days ago I popped for a PDF of the Belize Shorts and Skort pattern from Itch to Stitch.

Front view with wet hair. Just took a shower.
Lisa, of Lisa's Carolina Handmade, has sewn up a passel of these shorts, each pair a winner. Her versions look so cute and cool, I had to get in on the action.

So I jumped in with both feet. I've made three pairs this week. That puts this pattern right up there with one of my all time favorites, the Kirsten tee by Maria Denmark.

back view
You will notice that I have my hands in my pockets in every photo. That's because these shorts have the world's most perfect pockets. They're nice and deep and set at just the right angle so that my hands are sucked in like the Millennium Falcon making the jump to light speed.

Side view
I can get a pair of these babies out of a yard of 45 inch wide fabric. They feature an elastic waist with a flat front. They're as comfortable as gym shorts, but they look a lot dressier. Or at least I think they do.

Trying to show the flat front on the waistband
They're also the perfect length for me as drafted. I'm 5'3", and no one would call me leggy, so if you are one of those tall, coltish gals you may want to add a few inches.

Version 1
This was my first version, made up in a stretch twill remnant that I had knocking around the fabric closet.

Version 2
This is version two in a Japanese indigo print.

I'm actually trying to stop myself from going upstairs to cut out a 4th pair from a yard of beetle printed fabric that I originally got to make some love bug overalls for my grandson.

My pattern review is on PatternReview.com here.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Jacket Express!

I confess. I am a late night Craftsy shopper. Some sewists, when wide awake at 3:00am, will turn to online fabric sites. I get sucked into Craftsy. And Craftsy knows it too, darn them. They keep sending me those seductive $20-a-class deals. The upside is that I can now make a passable naan and I have a new jacket.

Front view with welt pockets
This is the Jacket Express, the class pattern for Craftys's "Sew Better Sew Faster, Industry Secrets." The class is delivered by Janet Pray of Islander Sewing Systems. She uses this pattern to spoon-feed you tips on sewing without pins and improving your sewing accuracy. She also teaches you a few nifty techniques that make for some nice finishing.

Back view
The class pattern is the Jacket Express #218, which is billed as a grown-up version of the blue jean jacket. I wasn't too sure about the pattern at first, but since it came along with the price of admission I decided to give it a whirl. I ended up liking it a lot more than I thought I would!

Side view with dog, anxiously awaiting her morning walk
I used a blue-grey cotton twill that I think is a good weight for a jean jacket. However, it has a touch of lycra, which Janey Pray does not recommend for this project. I'm guessing that any stretch to the fabric complicates working with her "no pins" and topstitching techniques. It also made the seams a PITA to press. I had planned to just omit all topstitching, but I ended up doing one topstitching pass on all the seams just to get those devils to lie down.

Dress form view

I also left the pocket flaps off the breast pockets. I toyed with the idea of omitting those pockets altogether, but a breast pocket sure is handy for carrying a phone along. Only, in order to fit my ginormous phone I had to deepen the pocket quite a bit. I also made up a pocket bag instead of topstitching the pocket to the jacket front (cleverly avoiding another chunk of topstitching).

Breast pocket without pocket flap
I actually like the way the squared-off mouth of the pocket looks without the flap hiding it. I think I'll call it a "design feature."


Welt pockets, prior to removing placement marks
These aren't my first welt pockets, but I was still nervous about installing them. OK, they were my second welt pockets, so that's why. I think they turned out OK though, and Ms. Pray totally walked me through them.

Most of the techniques in the class were not totally new to me. The two that were are:


  • sewing without pins
  • the burrito method for sleeve cuffs

I'm not a total convert to pinless sewing, but I'm halfway there. I do believe that pinless sewing works best when you have a narrow seam allowance. The Jacket Express uses either 3/8 or 1/4 inch. That was, frankly, terrifying to me. Most especially when I was attaching the cuffs. Given the heft of my fabric and the 11 layers (7 fabric and 4 interfacing) at this juncture, there was a lot of bulk to work through, and not a lot of wiggle room to play with. Still, Ms. Pray's method gave me one of the cleanest finishes I've ever gotten.

Far from perfect, but my finish is loads better using the burrito method!
So, I like the jacket and I liked the class. As a Craftsy junkie I've learned that not all instructors are created equal. Some are so stiff on camera they're a bit painful to watch. Some are disorganized in their presentation; thank God for the 30 second repeat button!

Janet Pray was organized and easy to follow, and she had a natural, engaging style. My Craftsy library includes Janet Pray's Sew Better Sew Faster, Shirtmaking class. The Man has been wanting a flannel shirt; I'm thinking Janet Pray may be my best bet for making him happy.


So, I like the jacket and I like the class. If you haven't played around with Craftsy, give them a look-see.

My pattern review is on PatternReview.com here.

Friday, June 23, 2017

The Brindille & Twig Tee - Does It Fit?

In this post I reviewed the Basic Tee by Brindille & Twig.

At long last, here it is being modeled by the boy who is, in my estimation, the cutest baby in the world:

The Frida Kahlo print

 My new grandson.

As you may recall, I traced the 6 month size for my Grandma sewing spree. The Grandson isn't quite 2 months old, but these tees already seem to fit him pretty well.


The vintage VW Bus version; truly unique!
 It remains to be seen if he can squeeze into them in 4 more months. No worries though. I can just trace out a larger size for next time. I should have him covered until he starts kindergarten. This pattern includes sizes up to 6T.

Rocky Raccoon version
 The raccoons seem to irritate him.


But he seems to find Frida soothing. Though I hear he's peed on her at least once. The other duds are still too big for him. I'll let you know how they work out as he ages into them.



He is big enough to hang out on his elephant skin blanket though!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Edith as a Dress

I'm still puttering around making the odd thing to take with me on our upcoming car trip to Idaho. I'm expecting it to be warm. Hot, in fact, especially while we're on the road. We'll be traveling through the high plains desert in July.

Ergo, here is the Edith dress from Maria Denmark. I've made this pattern up a time or two in the blouse length and had always intended to try the dress version. I'm glad I did!


Here's the line drawing from Maria Denmark's website. The pattern has 8 darts, which is enough to give it a nice shape while keeping the fit cool and breezy.



I used some Italian shirting from stash that I'd originally pictured as another Archer. It's kind of a subtle grey on grey stripe that I thought might look kind of Audrey Hepburn in Rome.


Which didn't quite translate, but I like the dress anyway.


Even though the fabric is so tightly woven that it won't drape to show off the shaping from all those darts. Plus, it has absolutely no ease whatsoever.

Edith is finished with bias tape around the arm scythe, and the curve under the arm on that kimono sleeve is pretty darn tight. I ended up just nipping the edge off the underarm to get a curve I could force my bias tape to adopt.

Nipped off the edge of the arm scythe

It worked just fine, and actually turns out to be more comfortable. I'll be keeping that change for next time.


I test drove the dress this week during some unusually hot weather. We're pretty much weather wimps here on the Central Coast. Anything over 75 has us wilting like violets. It got up to 82 the day I wore Edith and I was cool and comfortable.


In fact, it felt great enough that I'm kind of pumped to try another in a much softer cotton I got at Josephine's Dry Goods in Portland last summer. I have maybe two yards and I think it's 45 inches wide. Since Edith has no sleeves and a pretty slim fit, I might just be able to squeeze it out.

My pattern review is on PatternReview.com here.