Apr 24, 2014

Me Made May 2014: There better be a hashtag

Looking in my closet, the me-mades outweigh the store-boughts by about 2 to 1. It makes sense: I don't have any money left for ready-to-wear after spending it all on fabric!

And as someone who sews, blogs about sewing AND teaches sewing, I rarely go a day without wearing something I made myself. Is it partly ego — that I don't want to answer "No" when someone says "Did you make that?" I admit it: yes, I am embarrassed to say "This came from Target". It's also that I want to inspire my students ("Yes, I made this — and you can too!") by showcasing what an at-home sewer can do.

That's why I tend to make items I can wear daily: T-shirts & tanks, blouses, pants, leggings, jackets, sometimes skirts and (very occasionally) dresses. But I do have a few makes that get little love because I can't figure out how to style them. Also, there are a few items I've been meaning to overhaul in the hopes of raising them up to daily-wear status.

And so I was inspired to take part in this year's Me Made May, the 4-year-old sewing blogger challenge begun by So, Zo What Do You Know in which we pledge to wear handmade for the month of May:  
 I, Suzanne of Beau Baby, sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May '14. I endeavour to wear at least one handmade piece of clothing each day for the duration of May 2014. 

In past years I haven't even blogged much in May thanks to my awful Spring allergies (who wants their photo taken when they have a sinus infection and double pinkeye? Not me! And who wants to see that photo? Not you!). But I'm optimistic that a bunch of new meds I'm on will make this May bearable, so I'll be posting daily on my Instagram feed (which you can find here). I'll also be lurking your Me Made May postings, so drop a link in the comments section below and let me know how you will be taking part in this year's Me Made May challenge. We can all stroke our sewing egos together!

Apr 22, 2014

Pattern Review: Jolly Roger Raglan Tee

A few months ago I started teaching sewing at this great space in Upper Manhattan, Bread and Yoga (they also have yoga, obviously, as well as art and cooking). In addition to beginner adult classes and weekend workshops, I also teach tween classes (age 9-13). And since most of the young girls in my class ultimately want to sew clothes, I started searching the web for easy tween patterns. It's not easy to find patterns for that age group that look like something they would actually want to wear.

And then I found the Jolly Roger Raglan Tee pattern by Patterns for Pirates, a small indie patternmaker who specializes in boys clothing. She has just four patterns available for download at her Etsy shop. Having drafted a raglan T pattern before, I didn't mind paying the $7.50 for the downloadable PDF of this multi-sized T-shirt in several variations, including long sleeved with a cuff, 3/4-length sleeve and short. Plus it comes in sizes 3m,6m,9m,12m,18m,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,10,12,14 — which gives you options. But I've never heard of Patterns for Pirates — nor could I find any sewn examples on sewing blogs. Would it be any good? 

I made one in size 7 for my daughter, using some cotton knit from Chic on 39th Street in NYC's Garment District:

And then I tested it out in the largest size — 14 (I wondered whether both sizes would fit well; pattern grading between such disparate sizes ain't easy). It fit me pretty much perfectly:

There's a bit of rippling at the top where the stripes meet the sleeve and neckline. I chalk that up to my own error in using fabrics with different amounts of stretch. (I also possibly didn't measure my neckband properly). No matter: I've worn it at least several times anyway since then.

This was such an easy make: I sewed it all on my serger. My fabric was quite stretchy so the fit was great all around — even though this top was designed to fit a 14-year-old boy. The striped fabric is rayon from Metro Textile. The grey sleeves and neckband are upcycled from a maternity nightgown:

The pattern also includes options for elbow patches and that little triangle thing at the center front (is there a word for that?). There are three different hem choices too: banded hem, traditional hem and curved. I do love options. (My big quibble with some indies is that often there are no options — you have to draft them yourself).

The pattern instructions include full color photos and detailed instructions, making the Jolly Roger a good option for someone who hasn't sewn a T-shirt before. If you have sewn a raglan T before, you probably won't even need them. All the pattern pieces are clearly marked and fit together perfectly.

Making a bunch of little Ts in the smallest sizes would be a great way to use up scraps of your most treasured stretch fabrics. I've yet to try out the littlest sizes to see how they fit, but I'm guessing after my two samples they will be just fine. It's a great basic top — and I think easy enough for a tween to sew (they don't yet know to be afraid of stretch fabrics, which is wonderful!).

Apr 14, 2014

Spring Break Sewing: Bomber Progress!

I have exactly five minutes to write a post before my child's daily allotment of Doc McStuffins comes to end, thus officially beginning Spring Break/No Time to Myself Week. (I already used one episode and three-quarters to shower, dress, and do some sewing, naturally).

I thought I would share some progress on my self-drafted silk bomber jacket. With my pattern tested twice and ready, I started cutting my bomber out. I thought about the weight of the silk and decided to completely fuse the front and back pieces with weft-weight interfacing. The silk is a charmeuse weight, and I thought the slant welt pocket would drag it down too much without a little stabilization. It still feels really nice. The sleeves I left unfused:

Speaking of welts, these might be some of the nicest I have sewn:

The pocket bag will be hidden by a lining eventually, but here it is for now:

I'm afraid of my neckline getting stretched out, so I won't actually leave my bomber-in-progress on my dressform...but here it is just to get a taste:

Times up! We are off to go hunt Easter Eggs in the city today (Faberge is hosting the "Big Egg Hunt" which is obviously a marketing ploy but my kid is super stoked to scan the eggs on my phone and "crack" them. Anyone else got some good Spring Break ideas? We are staying in NYC for most of it. Sewing, unfortunately, is off the table!

Apr 10, 2014

Bomber Pattern-in-Progress

I'm not saying you have to be a math wizard to be a good patternmaker, but it definitely helps to have the kind of mind that can solve visual problems. Exhibit A: here's what my patternmaking textbook (The Art and Science of Patternmaking and Grading by Professor Harry Greenberg & Professor Leonard Trattner ) indicates needs to be done to create a proper raglan sleeve pattern:

Fun, right?
Doing so creates the necessary ease under the arm, so you can do things like scratch your nose and wave to your friends. Now here's what that looked like in real life on my living room floor the other night:

Of course, then I taped it all down to a large piece of paper and used my curves and rulers to draw all around the now-cut-up sleeve pattern. Then I double-checked and fiddled until all the seams were the right lengths.

The end result? Pretty perfect really!

Now the back view:

I wanted to check welt placement (and let's face it, who couldn't use a little practice making welt pockets?), so I cut and sewed just one:

There you have it, kids: Math=a good fit! Now I just need to choose my lining fabric and I'm all set to sew a bomber jacket from my own pattern.  Anyone have a fave welt pocket tutorial they want to share? Throw it down in the comments below.

Apr 9, 2014

Sew Sexy? Or Sew Hard to Wear?

Things are heating up in the Sew Sexy Sewalong challenge with Sown Brooklyn's ab-baring two-piece outfit in houndstooth. (Have you seen it? I love it). I don't actually have any clue when this sewalong wraps, so I'm posting my entry immediately lest I miss the deadline. So, I present to you a sheer striped Scout tee, made from pieced organza and cotton with a back in solid black shirting. Yes, that is a one-inch section of my midriff showing. Feast your eyes: 

That face I am making is in response to my photographer/husband, who is saying to me: "Why are you standing like that with your toes together?"

"This is how sexy women stand these days!"

"Pigeon toed? You look like you're hunching."

If looks could kill:

Here, again, is the inspiration for my top, in a much more demure white-on-white stripe:

I used the Scout Tee pattern because it has good bones: I've made it before so I know the neckline (which I dropped) is flattering; the side seams are positioned properly; the hemline is perfect; and the ease is enough to create the casual shape that I hoped would contrast the sheer fabric I was using.

I created the striped piecing by cutting wide strips of both fabrics, and then sewing them together. I then pressed and topstitched:

I then cut the front pattern piece out, taking care to place a non-see-through stripe across the bust:

I modified the back piece of the Scout Tee pattern to create an overlapped open back. Unfortunately, in this stiffish shirting it looks a little like a goth hospital gown:

Though I feel like this was a pretty successful experiment, I'm not sure the sexy factor is high enough. It is see-through in places...but the overall shape is pretty boxy. (That was purposeful; I thought it would be kind of mod/sexy.) I don't exactly look thrilled, do I?

Though sheer fabrics aren't likely to make their way to the top of my sewing pile again soon, I will definitely attempt making my own stripes once more. I really loved how easy it was to create a bold, graphic look with just a few scraps of fabric. It's definitely a fun way to make a tried-and-true pattern all-new again.

Have you sewed with sheer fabric before? How do you (pigeon) toe the line between sexy and trashy?


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