Thursday, January 18, 2018

Flannel Blouse

Back in mid-December I took a little wander through the Anthropologie in Carmel, looking for scented candles. While sniffing the various options, I happened to notice a rack of plaid flannel shirts that didn't look like plaid flannel shirts. They were more like blouses that happened to be made of flannel. It was a cold and windy day outside; I had a vision of a nice, soft, warm flannel blouse that could be my very own.

The idea stuck with me, so I made a visit to Hart's to check out their wares. I found this Robert Kaufman mammoth flannel in a color way called Turquoise Surf. It spoke to me, so I grabbed a couple of yards and got to work.

I used Burdastyle 06/2011 #104, a top I've made a few times before. I like this top because it makes it easy to finesse pattern matching. The design lines are very simple and there are no darts. Burda uses a few gathers at the shoulder instead.

I cut the cuffs on the bias to avoid plaid matching there. I would have cut the button band on the bias too, but I didn't have enough fabric. When I was standing at the cutting table two yards seemed like plenty to make me a top. But I forgot to notice that this fabric is 44 inches wide, which is narrower than I'm used to. Doh! I tried to match up the horizontal lines at least, and I don't think it came out too bad.

I kind of wish I'd interfaced the cuff pieces. I decided to skip interfacing altogether, because two layers of flannel seemed like it was about as thick as I could deal with. I think it's just fine for the button band, but those bias cut cuffs warped a bit with handling. It passes the galloping horse test, though, so I'm not too fussed.

This is my second flannel shirt, along with my flannel Archer. I've been loving them. Winter on the Central Coast can feel even colder in the house than it does outside. A flannel shirt is just the thing to take the edge off.

My pattern review is on here.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Button Front Fly

I made these pants partly for scientific purposes. I've never sewn a button front fly before. Actually, I haven't worn a button front fly since my old shrink-to-fit Levi 501s in high school. This pattern is in the December, 2017 issue of Burdastyle. Even though you can't see the buttons in either of the photos of the pants, I was intrigued.

Front view
I had my doubts while sewing, and I had to stretch my visual thinking to figure out how to put that danged fly together. Now that they're done, I like 'em!

Here's the line drawing from Burdastyle. They show them with a cropped leg and a flounce at the ankle.

Burdastyle December, 2017 #101
As a woman in her 60s, I feel I need to be sparing in my use of flounce so I decided to omit those. And as a short person, I think cropped trousers make me look even stumpier, so I lengthened them 6 inches. I'm 5'3";  if you're a long-legged gal and you want ankle length you may want to tack on even more.
Side view
I planned to add pockets, which Burdastyle doesn't include. I dug up an inseam pocket from another pants pattern; cut them out and everything. Then I decided I couldn't be bothered after all. Next time, I'll go for it though.

The fabric is a lightweight railroad strip denim that I got at Cool Cottons in Portland a couple years ago. Once I got it home the fabric seemed a little too heavy for a top and a little too light for a pair of pants. I think it works OK for this style though.

I'm actually surprised how well I like these pants. I test wore them to a party yesterday and they felt very comfortable. Add some pockets and this could become a go-to pants pattern for me.

My pattern review is on here.

Happy echeveria

And here's a happy, somewhat seasonally colored echeveria in my planter on the porch. Succulents seem to really like this planter. This guy looks like he's going to bust out the sides and take over the yard.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Another Jalie Drop Pocket Cardigan

Back in September of 2015 I made myself a Jalie Drop Pocket Cardigan. I really liked that cardigan. It was a neutral gray, so it went with most of my wardrobe. It was fairly slim fitting but also long, so it managed to feel trim and slouchy at the same time. Plus it had those nice, deep pockets.

Then I left it hanging on the back of a chair in the Pearl Bakery in Portland, Oregon. I didn't realize that I must have done that until we were on the train, heading home. Goodby, beloved cardigan.

It's not like I don't have other cardigans. Between knitting and sewing, I have plenty of toppers to keep me warm. Still, none of them really filled that tender, empty spot inside left by my Jalie 3248.

So I made another one.

Front view
 I used a marled, navy blue sweater knit that I got while browsing the aisles at Hart's. They still have this fabric in some other colors, including a nice cranberry. It's light but warm, and it washed up nicely too. Into the washer and dryer with no special handling and it came out looking just like it did when I bought it.

The pattern is kind of a fabric hog because the front is cut double; one outer layer and one lining layer. The construction is nice. You can have some fun with different fabrics for the lining, which would show on the pockets, and you end up with a clean finish on the inside. The sewing is pretty much a breeze. Except for those pockets.

Close up of pocket
They kick my butt every time. Even though I've made the darn pattern before, I still sewed one pocket backwards. And when I did get the first pocket put together correctly, it took me another 20 minutes to puzzle through how to set up the second pocket.

The instructions are good. It's my spacial perception that's at fault. It's worth the trouble, though, because I do love these pockets so.

The fit is pretty slim, though the cardigan is cut fairly long. Especially for someone who is 5'3", like me.

The sleeves are slim fitting. Jalie says: "The sleeve is fitted and designed to be worn over a sleeveless top or dress." It works for me over a short sleeve tee shirt, but I wouldn't want to wear anything more bulky than that underneath.

Here on the Central Coast it's just what's needed for most of our weather. We consider anything below 65 degrees to be downright nippy.

Jalie 3248 has 18 reviews on and most of us give it a lot of love. My review is here.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Itch to Stitch Brassov

Now that the days have turned a bit shorter and chillier, I found myself hauling out the warmer tops. Even inside the house it's cozy to have something snugged up against the back of your neck. And though I'm generally a 3/4 sleeve kind of person, a long sleeve is really nice when the wind is blowing.

The Brasov top, from Itch to Stitch, fits all my winter criteria.

The Brasov is a faux-wrap top which features:
  • Soft-draped surplice neckline
  • High back neckline
  • Curved surplice hem
  • Shoulder pleats
  • Side pleats
  • Long sleeves
The neckline is high in back and in front, which I like a lot. Not only is it snug and cozy, I don't have to worry about showing too much chest when I bend over. 

Back view for you
I used an ITY knit with a brushed surface. Though it's light-weight, it feels soft and cozy. I liked the colors and print in the abstract; now that it's on me I think it veers a bit into old lady territory. But, heck, I am an old lady so it's all good.

The instructions were very clear. Construction involved some layering and flipping, making me feel like a genius, even though all I did was follow the nicely illustrated steps. Just make sure you mark your notches and keep straight about which is the wrong side of your fabric and you will have no troubles at all.

I'm toying with making version two for our upcoming holiday trip to Las Vegas. I can picture it in black, or maybe a jewel tone, with a pencil skirt and a pair of bling-y earrings.

My pattern review is on here.

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 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 here.