Sunday, December 29, 2013

A Rainbow of Renfrews

Or an Ode to Renfrew

Stripes work great with this pattern

Like many people out there I’m a bit obsessed with Sewaholic’s Renfrew pattern.  It’s your basic knit t-shirt with neck and sleeve options. Whenever I feel in a bit of a rut or want a quick fix I make a Renfrew.  They’re really that easy and satisfying.  This is my latest version.
Check out that side seam!

Let's just take a moment to appreciate my stripe matching on the side.  I carefully cut out everything in a single layer and used my walking foot.  For the bands I followed the stripe width more than the pattern piece and made sure the design would continue uninterrupted.  Instead of a 5/8" seam allowance I used a stripe which made it easy to pin and baste before serging it for good.

 Then I made this discovery:
Gillian of Crafting a Rainbow would be so proud

Yep, almost a complete rainbow.  All I’m missing is orange which I’m ok with because it’s not necessarily the best color on me and I haven’t found any orange knits out there that weren’t Halloween themed.

Why must tiny stripes photograph so poorly?

This is one of my favorites.  Turquoise is one of my all-time favorite colors so I was thrilled to find this striped rayon/spandex jersey at my local Pacific Fabrics.  So much so I ended up going back to buy more.  I successfully suppressed my sewing OCD with stripe matching and threw caution to the wind.  When dealing with 1/8” stripes it’s better not to try and match everything up.  I did pay attention to the neckband since I figured this would be the most obvious miss.
Getting over my aversion of yellow
I used to never wear yellow and yet this is probably my other favorite version.  I made it in the spring but have worn it a lot during fall because of the long sleeves.
Short sleeves are perfect for layering
This pattern is a great introduction for anyone wanting to learn to sew with knits or use their serger/overlocker.  The instructions tell you how to sew it using a sewing machine however you can also construct it almost entirely on a serger with the exception of some topstitching.  I prefer to sew the neck/arm/hem band seams on the machine for less bulk before using the serger to attach them.

After washing, those neckbands lay so much flatter
Looking at my still growing collection I realized just how much I love a v neck -  most of my Renfrews have one.  Like to the point where I had to make a conscious effort to make a few scoop necks.  My hot pink one totally was supposed to be a scoop neck too.

3/4 Sleeves
Long sleeves

With the cold weather here to stay I might need to make a few more with 3/4 or long sleeves.  I've never been a fan of turtlenecks (I spend half the day fussing with them) so I love the looser cowl neck option.  I have fabric for about 3 that fit in this category.
The best thing is that with most knits coming in 60” widths it doesn’t take up much fabric.  I can get a short or ¾ sleeve version and v or round neckline out of a single yard of solid knit.  I got both the green cowl neck and yellow long sleeved out of 1.25 yards and managed to stay on grain for both.  With the Lilac version I tried to eek it out of ¾ yard but at the store it was cut way off grain. I ended up piecing the neckband in the back, left off the armbands and used a twin needle to hem them instead.  Keep in mind with solids there’s nothing to match and I was cutting a size 0 but playing around with the cutting layout can do wonders.
My top 4 most worn

In general the Renfrew fits as is and I only shortened the long sleeves a bit.  Recently I started taking 2" of length off the body and I like a the fit a bit better - I'm short and the original length was a bit long.  

Makes a cute dress too

Hack it off at your waist and add a simple gathered knit panel and you instantly have a flirty dress.  Just make sure you determine how long you want the bodice to be before cutting and hemming your skirt or you'll end up with a mini dress like me.  Simply adding the skirt panels in place of the hem band just ends up with an awkward looking dropped waist dress.

Or add length to the bottom (I added 3.5") and you've got a tunic to wear with your leggings.  Made out of ponte it makes a cozy, classy winter outfit with the feel of PJs.

Yes, I might have a Renfrew addiction
If you haven’t tried out the Renfrew yet, I and the majority of the online sewing community highly recommend it.  It’s a great basic that has filled a lot of holes in my wardrobe.  In the past few years I've started to think I need more plain "grownup" tees  to replace my college collection of printed novelty tees. I frequently use it as a palette cleanser between more involved projects or when I can't sleep at night.  Yes, I've gotten out of bed in the middle of the night and whipped up a Renfrew.  (I try to keep one laying around that's already cut out exactly for this reason.) I still have other versions on my never ending to do list with some more alterations planned.  Next year I plan on trying out some of Maria Denmark's patterns (they're just at the taped together stage) but I know I'll come back to my precious Renfrew.

Touchdown leggings

All ready to watch the big game
All over the Internet people have been making leggings and offering up their discoveries to furthering the science of sewing.  Here’s my contribution about Kwik-Sew K3455 and McCall’s M6173.
Just imagine I'm wearing leggings
I experimented with OOP Kwik-Sew K3455 first which includes both leggings and a cute top with a wraparound contrast.  I made the top out of navy and teal “active wicking jersey mesh” and the leggings out of a black, high performance knit.  The leggings pattern included a crotch gusset – basically a tiny square that gets sewn between the legs.  In theory this sounds like a great idea and for some it must work out well.
I am not one of those people.
Let’s just say the only thing worse than camel toe is faux toe.  I’m fairly petite and it’s not unusual to have some extra fabric down there making perfectly nice pants/swimsuits/newly sewn leggings look horrible.  This is disappointing since otherwise they seemed to fit pretty well.  I couldn’t even bother to add elastic to the waist.  They might be salvageable if I rip out all the seams and try sewing them back up without the gusset.  However black on black serged seams?  I’ve found better ways of spending my time.
Wraparound contrast
Understandably there is no photographic evidence of the leggings, hence the photos of the top.  I really like how the contrast wraps around to the back.  I imagine when the weather warms up some it’ll be nice for running in.
The rear view is very important!
Next up was McCall’s M6173 and I have made a total of three pairs now.  I prefer my leggings to sit below my waist so I petited the pattern at the line above the crotch.  I kept the length as is so I could try them on before deciding how much length I needed.
Not too low rise
Pair #1 was made out of the same navy jersey mesh as the above top.  I used 1 ¼” sportswear elastic and attached it by serging it as a band to the leggings before flipping it to the inside and finishing it with my twin needle.  I finished the leg hems by twin needle as well.  By comparison to my previous failure this pair fitted great.  Maybe a teeny bit extra fabric but nothing noticeable unless you’re staring at my crotch.  And those who sew are far too polite to do that for anything beyond purely construction and fit curiosity!  These will probably end up used as house pants the most.
No faux toe this time!
This lead to me immediately cutting out Pairs #2 and #3.  #2 is made out of purple jegging material from Jo-Ann’s and is a nice firm and warm knit.  This time around I shaved off just under ½” from the inner thigh and that seemed to do the trick.  I attached the elastic the same way but probably should’ve used more narrow elastic instead.  These tend to ride a bit low – not to the point of looking scandalous, just enough to feel so. 
How low will I go?
If there’s one thing I learned during the extreme low rise jeans heyday is that I could never pass as a plumber.  Good news is no matter how low I dared to go (and living in Miami “too low” really didn’t exist) I could always bend over like a lady.  Still, I don’t see much reason to tempt fate in that regard.  I will probably go back and fix the waist on this pair.
Neutrals galore!
My most recent pair is made out of camel colored ponte.  Keeping in mind that third time’s the charm I remembered to both shave off that extra bit of fabric and used ¾” elastic on the waistband.  I don’t wear camel often (I prefer more color) but always thought it a nice basic to have in my closet.
From the "Two Broke Girls" wardrobe dept
Of course when worn with my latest Renfrew I’m a string of pearls and heels from being Caroline from “Two Broke Girls.”  When it comes to TV characters I think she has the most restrictive wardrobe when it comes to color – just white, cream and camel.  But there’s nothing more comfy than wearing head to toe ponte.  It’s like wearing PJ’s out in the world minus the strange looks.  Never mind my Dad’s comment that it looked like I wasn’t wearing pants.  I’m much paler than camel, especially during the winter.
I have plans for at least one more pair in navy ponte.  This time I will adjust the pattern piece to allow for a bit of extra fabric in back.  I do prefer the 1 ¼” sportswear elastic but will need that extra bit to accommodate.
Sewing Touchdown!
This fall/winter I've probably worn this outfit the most - jeans or navy leggings, navy Renfrew and Twelfth Man jersey.  I'm a huge football fan and love that I can wear some Me-Mades while cheering them on to the NFC West Championship and #1 seeding.
Overall I deem my experiment a success.  I’m glad I found a nice, basic leggings pattern that fits.  Beforehand I seemed to only see so-so reviews for the McCall’s but just because something doesn’t work for other people doesn’t mean it won’t work for you.  Now I just need more tunic length tops to wear with them.
Go Hawks!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Victory Patterns Lola

Just as comfy as sweats but soooo much cuter
It only seemed appropriate that the moment I decide to make a Lola – a cozy sweatshirt style dress from Victory Patterns – that all the local sweatshirt fleece runs and hides.  Now that it’s complete, the sweatshirt fleece has come back out to play.  That’s ok, I wasn’t sure I wanted to use it anyways.
Perfect fall dress
This purple knit was labeled ponte, but it’s pretty different than the pontes I’m used to.  Regardless I loved the color so some yardage found its way home with me.  It has more stretch than ponte and is a bit “ribbier.”  It’s nice and thick without being too heavy but sadly lacks a cozy, fleecy interior.
Princess seams to keep it interesting
This is my first time using Victory Patterns and right off the bat I noticed they’re drafted for tall people.  Despite the above knee length I knew I’d be chopping a few inches off but wasn’t quite sure how much.  (This was confirmed later on when I discovered that I couldn’t reach all the way to the bottom of the pockets without an assist from a friend or friendly stranger!)  Also I was excited to get my hands on a printed version as I try to avoid PDFs whenever possible.  What can I say – I’m not completely confident of my cutting & pasting skills when large projects involving tons of printouts are concerned.
World's deepest wraparound pockets
I sized the pattern down the lazy way by using 5/8” seam allowances instead of the written ¼”.  I cut the bands extra-long so I could figure out what length was needed later.  I also adjusted the width of the pockets to match the side skirt panels.  Despite their size I knew I’d use them less as functional pockets capable of holding small infants and more as interesting design features. 
Cute little triangle detail
Most of the construction was done on using my serger which meant it went pretty quick.  I did baste the bodice to the skirt to match up all the vertical seams.  Only one ended up being a smidge off but after another try I told myself “good enough” since it was on the back and serged it up.  (Long hair can cover up a number of imperfections.)

I want to keep my hands in these pockets all the time
After trying it on and making my pocket discovery I took 2” off the bottom which allowed me to reach the bottom of my pockets unassisted.  I attached the hem and sleeve bands after cutting them slightly longer than the pattern pieces since I wasn’t using actual ribbing.  This worked well on the sleeve and hem bands and pull them slightly in like the pattern photos showed.  The neckband was another story – even with a good press with lots of steam it wouldn’t lie flat.  Ripping out the serging was a bit of a nightmare with the navy thread blending in surprisingly well with the purple knit.  The band seemed a little puny at that point so I recut a new one, making sure the new one was shorter.    The “ribbiness” of the knit really became apparent and I probably ended up with a neckband about the same size as the pattern piece.  It still seemed a bit wavy but at this point there was no way I was going to rip it out again.  Instead I just blasted it with the iron and a massive cloud of steam and that did the trick.

Future favorite background?  I think so.
Funny thing, the other week I wore it to school when a girl in another class came over and asked if it was a Lola.  Then she reached into her bag and pulled out her own Lola which she had some issues with and had planned on asking the teacher how to fix it.  Turns out it was the fabric’s fault, it was super stretchy and had almost no recovery.  Luckily it was just a test garment that she made with whatever knit was lying around and has since gone back and fixed it.  Plus she has another version planned with sweatshirt fleece that I can’t wait to see.  Instances like this are some of the great things about attending fashion school.

Ahhh!! Evil clown!!
For the outside pictures I braved the cold to take photos in front of new mural my building’s alley.  A neighbor has spent a lot of time working on it and it’s turned out awesome.  Except for the evil clown that welcomes me home every time I go in the garage.  Because I believe ALL clowns are on the evil spectrum.

Bogged Down Bows

Yikes!  Mid December and I’m only just getting around to posting my makes for Seamstress Erin’s Bow Neck Blouse Sewalong!  Both items were completed in November but it’s hard when your camera isn’t on speaking terms with your computer.  Fortunately they have recently made up and are working together again.

I’ve always like bow blouses but only have one store bought item so this was the kick in the butt I needed to make a version or two of my own.  Only one ended up being a true bow neck blouse, the second is more a clever play on the idea.  But both patterns came to be courtesy to the Big 4 which I haven’t sewn in a while.  Bring on undetermined but most likely excessive ease!

Almost a sailor look dress
First up I decided I needed a minidress version.  I went with McCall’s M6793 which gives you options for loose, pullover tops with a variety of necklines, sleeves and tunic options.  I went with a mashup of views A and B with A’s cap sleeves and B’s flounce which I cut several inches longer.  I started off bombarding my rayon challis with sizing to stiffen the fabric up and make it less wiggly when cutting and sewing especially the bias cut ties.

This took FOREVER to tie nicely
I spent more time than necessary trying to avoid handsewing by stitching the neck seam in the ditch to secure the ties.  This turned out so-so due to perfectly matching thread but didn’t look that great.  Eventually I gave up, ripped all this stitching out and resigned myself to sewing it by hand.  It turned out not being that bad since I did it while watching TV and it looks so much better.  Lesson learned: sometimes you can’t avoid handsewing so just do it and get it over with.  You’ll appreciate it when you’re done.
Looks really shapeless on the dressform
I ended up hacking 2” off the top and reattaching the flounce, it was just too drop waisted and looked awkward.  Loose and drop waisted are two silhouettes I don’t wear much so they make take a bit of getting used to – most of my clothes have a more defined waist.  The shorter skirt length definitely helps in making it look more modern.
Put a bow on it!
My next version is like the bow version of Portlandia’s “Put a bird on it” sketch.  Butterick B5817 is a fitted top with a big bow appliqued on front.  This was also made of challis – turquoise and white this time.  While stiffening this fabric up with sizing the nozzle got stuck on and wouldn’t stop spraying.  After a few comedic attempts to put the cap on, spray and move fabric and eventually tossing it in a bag so sizing wouldn’t get everywhere I quarantined it to the deck where for the next few hours I could hear it continuing to spray its heart out.  Luckily this top involved only a few pieces and seams so fiddliness was kept to a minimum.  Although during construction it looked like a hot mess with some massive sizing puddles dried on it.

Fake bows are always unperfectly tied
At first I thought I was so clever by sewing interfacing to the applique and then ironing it to the shirt to keep it in place.  But some of the interfacing kept showing and I wasn’t satisfied so I peeled it off and when with two pieces of white challis and used fabric glue to stick it to the turquoise.  I like the contrast of the white on the turquoise but wish the seam allowances didn’t show through so much.  As instructed I used contrast thread to topstitch the applique around the edges and to add some detail.
Contrast stitching
After putting both garments through a quick wash to remove all the sizing and a serious ironing session they were ready for me to try on and see how they really look.

Right off the bat I realized I made a summer dress.  We’ve been suffering from below freezing temperatures lately.  And I don’t handle the cold well.

A floaty dress with Sorels?  Maybe not.
I’m not sure if I like the look with a cardigan (might just be this particular one), tights and boots or it’s just not a style I’m used to. 
Bows & polka dots?  Yes please.
Regardless I see myself wearing this more next spring and summer with these polka dotted shoes.
Distracted by pigeons that took over my deck
The top I’ll be able to wear now and when the weather warms up.  At first I made it sort of as a joke and an easy out but I ended up liking it more than I thought.  I like the massive oversized bow that will never need tying or fussing over throughout the day.  At the time I bought extra fabric and am looking forward to turning the rest into a dress although I haven’t settled on a pattern yet.

So that’s the story on my contributions to the Bow Neck Blouse sewalong.  It was fun and I appreciate Seamstress Erin taking the time to organize everything and put out a number of inspiration posts of bows on clothes throughout the decades.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Grunge Sureau with Bonus Sparkle

I swear this isn't actual Seattle formal!
First of all I’d like to point out that after finishing this dress I remembered that I used to have one very similar to it.  Except that one was a blue and light brown plaid printed knit.  Oh yeah, it was supposed to be a babydoll dress but since I’m short it just fit normal.  I had a friend with the exact same dress plus a several extra inches in height and it fit her like it should but it looked good on both of us.
After my Bleuet success I quickly snapped up a couple more Deer & Doe patterns including Robe Sureau.  Since the Grunge sewalong was happening and I couldn’t wait to bust out this pattern I figured it’d be a match made in Seattle fashion heaven.  Which naturally meant plaid flannel.

I love plaid!
 I lucked out with this plaid as its balanced which made cutting it out a bit easier while lining up the pattern pieces.  I had “Spinal Tap” on Tivo and turned it up to 11 while fussing over how I wanted the plaid to line up.  I cut the center inset on the bias to avoid it only matching partway and to add some visual interest.  I basted it to another piece cut along the grain to avoid it getting stretched out.  I totally forgot to think about where the diamonds would be placed but they ended up in the perfect location but more on the later.

Tip: Wear a slip to avoid flannel sticking to tights
 Construction was pretty straight forward although like usual I decided to sew the sleeves in flat – I’ll do just about anything to avoid setting in a sleeve.  Next time I’ll probably interface the facing, it doesn’t say to do it in the instructions but a looser fabric like flannel could benefit with some added structure.  I topstitched ¼” around the neckline to help stabilize it and now it mostly lies flat.

Obligatory awkward pose showing pattern matching
I pulled my walking foot out for the first time to help match up the plaid and loved how well it worked.  I will never use anything else to at least baste plaids or stripes together!  For a while now I’ve thought it would be a useful addition to my machine foot collection but wasn’t sure how much I would use it since I don’t quilt.  (Actually I’ve been meaning to try it out for a few years but garment sewing keeps getting in the way!)  I ended up getting a super cheapo generic version to try out since I wasn’t sure how much I would use it and they’re kinda pricey.  If my current one breaks I now know it’s worth replacing with a name-brand foot.  My plaid matching on the side seams turned out awesome if I do say so myself.  Even on the invisible zipper side.
More pattern matching
 I shortened the sleeves a bit using the plaid as my guide to get everything lined up.  I hunted through my button stash and wasn’t happy with the black or white ones that I found.  They both just looked “eh… ok” on the bodice but liked how some bronze ones looked despite being the wrong size.  So I wore the dress to Thanksgiving dinner sans buttons.
BTW: I sewed half this dress with navy thread and half with black... I think. All due to poor lighting and the fabric disguising almost all stitching.  Good thing I didn't need to rip any seams out - they're practically invisible.

4 diamonds + 4 buttons = perfect placement
Later on after the Black Friday shopping frenzy I found some bronze buttons in the correct size to add. This is when I realized that the plaid on the bias formed perfect diamonds that screamed to have a button in the middle of each.  So I didn’t even bother lining up the buttons with my simflex, I just eyeballed the center of the four diamonds and cheered that it suggested four buttons.  A few minutes later my dress was completely done.
Who says there's no sparkle to grunge?
I’m really happy with my finished dress.   It’s warm and cozy, honors my Seattle roots with a nod to French girl style.  It’s a little bit looser than I was thinking, but that’s most likely due to the flannel.  (I have a flannel Alma that fits looser than others made of more tightly woven fabric.)  As a bonus since the plaid includes navy, black and brown it goes with multiple colors of tights and boots.  I wore brown the first time around but pulled out my hologram Doc’s for this photo shoot.  For those days when you’re aiming for grunge formal.  (I totally had a friend borrow these for prom one year!)  I’m curious how Sureau will fit in a more stable fabric and already have other versions planned.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Bleuet: Shirtdress of my Dreams

After seeing so many gorgeous versions of Deer &Doe’s Bleuet around the Internet I finally got around to make one of my own.  And now I’m hooked – I’ve since cut out two more versions and expanded my Deer and Doe pattern collection.
Check out that Seattle sun!
 I’ve had this dark, lightweight denim in my stash for several months with the idea to make it into a shirtdress.  Despite having several options in my pattern collection, I couldn’t commit to one.  Until one afternoon when I discovered that Made Sewing Studio, my local source for indie patterns, now carried Deer & Doe.  Excited about the process of not having to wait for shipping I debated which pattern to start with before deciding Bleuet was the shirtdress of my dreams.

Surprise back bow

Initially I was a little concerned about the pattern being drafted for a C cup (which I’m not) but figured the princess seams would make it easy to adjust mid-construction.  I’m really glad I was too lazy to attempt any pattern alterations because I ended up not needing them.  ( Am I a C cup?...)  The length ended up being perfect too.
Understated French girl style
The directions tell you to topstitch the princess seams and I took the opportunity to topstitch ALL the seams.  And when working with denim what’s better than using denim topstitching thread?  Of course the best way to make sure it turns out nice and even is to use a denim needle and go SLOW.  Which means it took forever to topstitch those long princess seams but the outcome is worth it.
Bow closeup
Next time I will probably sew the sleeve bands with a .5” seam.  It’s not like they’re tight or anything, it’s just a closer fit than I’m used to.  After topstitching the bands on the sleeves the armhole seam looked a little plain so I topstitched those as well.  Which means the only seams I left alone are the shoulders.
Topstitched like my life depended on it
I used pearl snaps instead of buttons and this decision had nothing to do with the prospect of 10+ buttonholes.  Sometimes a girl just wants to pretend she’s the Hulk and rip her shirt(dress) off.  Plus any time I get to use a hammer on a sewing project is tons of fun!  I used my simflex to painlessly space the snaps and they all matched up perfectly. There's nothing worse than slightly off snaps or buttons.  Pearl snaps seemed like a good match for a casual denim shirtdress topstitched within an inch of it’s life.
Two snaps are cracked but are barely noticeable
The back was the teeniest bit tight but I doubt I’ll adjust the pattern for future versions.  I discovered this while doing my usual movement test – goofy dance moves.  I can raise the roof like a champ but fall short when attempting the YMCA.  That’s just fine by me since I rarely spell out words with my whole body and am willing to accept that I’ll need to wear something else if the urge strikes me.  And that’s a big IF.  But I can reach the tall shelves in my kitchen and give someone a hug so I think I’m good.
Raise the Roof: Pass
I was excited to be able to take photos outside on a sunny fall day while the leaves were still around.  Last Saturday we had a huge windstorm in Seattle that blew them all away and knocked out my power for 10+ hours.

YMCA: Fail


While planning this dress I realized it works for the Fabulous Frocks category of the Fall Essentials Sew Along.  This is my kind of sew along - one without any restrictions or daily To Do tasks. Sometimes all it takes to suck the creativity out of me is a formalized schedule and plan.  I much prefer to sew whatever catches my eye at the moment.
I can’t wait to finish my next two versions although it’s going a little bit slower since the fabrics are a bit sheer so I’m underlining everything.  In other words: I’m in love.  Deer and Doe is quickly claiming a place in my heart next to my beloved Sewaholic.  Just the other day I snapped up two more and immediately set about tracing them out which I never do.