Saturday, June 25, 2016

FO: Gathered Back Top Experiment

Through sewing, I have developed a very consistent personal style. I'm a tried and true fit-and-flare gal, and while some of the newer patterns out there have lots of ease and drape, I've always just stuck to my fitted comfort zone. Everyone needs to try something new every now and then though, and this past week I finally decided to try an experiment I'd plotted out months ago. Granted it didn't turn out as a huge step away from my usual style, but still...
The kind folks at Indygo Junction contacted me months and months ago (something like 6 months ago, holy cow - sorry, life happened) to see if I'd like to sew up some of their new patterns that have an extended size range and share my review. How could I say no to that, right?! I've seen their company for years and despite even owning Amy Barickman's new book, I've never sewn any of their patterns before. I knew this would be a great chance to give them a try :) I received a happy little package with 4 of their newer apparel patterns: the Sophia Swing CoatSidekick Wrap Skirt, Modern Gored Skirt, and Gathered Back Top and Tunic. I knew straight off that I would definitely make up both skirt patterns and they would work great in my wardrobe (they are already planned out and waiting to be sewn), and the coat is very cute. The only pattern I was not 100% sold on was the Gathered Back Top - it's a woven shirt that is designed with lots of ease to tent away from the body (see the pattern photo above). While I knew a shirt like that would not feel "me" to wear, I couldn't help but wonder - could I use the pattern in a slightly different way and make it into something I would wear? That's the glory of sewing, right? To take a pattern and make it work for your body and your life. On that vein, I decided I would make this up in a knit fabric and size down to account for the stretch, essentially giving myself a drapey tee with a fancy back. So in spite of my initial hesitation, this pattern became the first one that I sewed up - funny how that works, isn't it? I struck gold at my favorite thrift store a few weeks ago and came across this shirt that would be perfect for my little experiment: 
The top was a size 2X tunic in a royal blue rayon jersey - perfect! The length and size meant there was plenty of fabric to play with. There was a horizontal seam across the back, but I knew I could use that for the gathered back, so it really was just meant to be. I started out by cutting all the serged seams off to separate the pieces. Then I had to get some point of reference to measure the pattern pieces in a knit - so entered the ever useful Plantain tee from Deer + Doe. I've made this pattern enough to know it fits me well, so I laid the front bodice piece on top of the Gathered Back Top front pattern piece to compare the width. Going this route, I ended up cutting a size XS! Yes, Me! I don't think I've worn and XS in anything since I was 6, but knits are interesting creatures and I wanted it to fit across the bust to give me some shape. I decided to go the safe route and cut an XS at the bust grading to the S nearer the hip. For reference, my bust measurement is 43". I had to cut the back piece different from the pattern because of the pre-existing horizontal seam. To do this, I just used the gathering line like it was a cut line, making the upper yoke piece the width of the top and the bottom piece wider to accommodate the gathering, making sure to mark where the gathers should be. It was a very simple change to make and this also meant that there was no need for the upper center back seam, so both back pieces were just cut on the fold. 

From there, I just sewed the top up like you would for any t-shirt. I started by gathering the back and attaching the two pieces, then attached the front and back, then the sleeves, then sewing down the sleeves and body side seams as one, then the neckband. I used my beloved lightning bolt stitch throughout and added knit stay tape to the shoulders to prevent stretching. I used the existing hems for the front and back pieces as well as the sleeve hems. The sleeves only had so much fabric since they came off a different completed shirt, so I just sewed them to the top as they were - man, I love knits for this reason alone (no fiddling with the armscye!). I had so little remaining fabric to cut the neckband from that I had to make it from 3 pieces - I just tried to center them so they are even across the front and I don't think they are super noticeable unless you can sew (in which case you will notice any weirdness anyway, lol). This process took a few hours and a few concerts on MTV (Stone Temple Pilots and Soundgarden - yes!), after which this was the result:
You can already see on the mannequin that there is a good amount of ease at the back gathers yet it hugs the front bust - just like I hoped it would :) The shirt has a bit of a high-low hem going on, but it's still a length I'm comfortable with in the front. After trying it on, something wasn't quite perfect - I toyed around with shortening the sleeves, but the next day I realized that the sleeves were too loose in the bicep area compared to how fitted they were in the lower arm. I also wanted to get just a bit more definition in the waist on the front, so I decided to take it in a little in both places - I just went down the side seam again all the way from the sleeve to the waist area. 
Looking at the pictures, I'm not totally loving the placement of that back seam, but that's entirely my fault due to the constraints of refashioning. It hits directly on my bra band, which is kind of the least attractive area of my back, lol. Nothing like drawing your eye to the dip in your back fat with a seam. Oh well, I think the gathers make up for the little dip in and it's still comfy.

Next, I wanted to jazz up this rather plain (from the front, at least) shirt. I had a handful of trims on hand that would work, and after a lot of thought I decided to an iridescent beaded trim, but it looked silly due to how narrow it was on such a wide open area. So I used 4 strands of it twisted together to make it thicker. Et voilĂ ! I love this detail now.
The trim gives more interest to the front while distracting the eye from the seams along the neckband :) Go ahead and call that my "refashioning tip" - pull the eye away from rigged areas with embellishments, lol. 
So, while I technically didn't test out the extended sizes on this pattern like Indygo Junction asked me to do, I did make a cute and wearable shirt for my lifestyle while showing that the pattern can be made up more than the prescribed way. That's got to be just as good, right? :) My mom and sister like this so much they want one of their own! I call that a win. I'll be making the other patterns up as written though, don't you worry. Thanks so much to Indygo Junction for the fantastic patterns! And here's to a truly versatile pattern and the glory of tweaking something to work with your life and style!
Fabric: Size 2X rayon jersey tunic - $0.50 (thrifted)
Pattern: Gathered Back Top & Tunic by Indygo Junction - free (retail is $15.99)
Notions: knit stay tape - $0.10-ish, thread - $0.50
Time: 3 hours
Total Cost: $1.10! Yay - this seems to be my magic number lately, lol.

*I received the Gathered Back Top & Tunic pattern free of charge from Indygo Junction to review, but all opinions (and hacks) are 100% my own!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

FO: The Birthday Skirt

It's my birthday today!

As one who sews clothing fairly often, I just can't go against the urge to make myself something that I deem my "birthday outfit". Last year, it ended up being my Blue Beignet Skirt (which I still love). This year, things have been pretty stressful, I can't lie. I had no real plans on making anything for my birthday just because I didn't want to add additional deadlines on myself, but that all changed when my mom asked me to go to Hobby Lobby with her last weekend. I was just along for the ride, and I was very good about not shopping around, until we hit the fabric section and saw that the spring fabrics were 50% off. There were a few floral printed twills that I had gawked over earlier this year that were all in the sale. Oddly enough what drew my attention to these fabrics was a little baby jumper made from them as a sample (so good job to the sample maker, ha ha). Since the fabrics was on sale, and I knew what I wanted to make AND I would make it up immediately, I splurged and bought the fabric :) It's so cute!
Since I was in the store and the fabric was a spur of the moment purchase, I had no pattern in mind. At first I contemplated a Hollyburn (what can I say, I have Hollyburn fever at the moment), but I really loved a striped coordinating fabric that I wanted to use as a border on the hem line, so the curved hem of the Hollyburn made that no longer an option. Since I knew what I wanted, I just decided to self draft a pleated skirt - which sounds much fancier than it technically is, lol.
Since this was "self drafted", I thought I'd outline how I figured everything to make this skirt and the sewing order I used in case others have never tried it. I used the full width of the fabric, first cutting two long rectangles of the floral print in the length I wanted my skirt to be minus the width of the hem band and the waistband. I cut one piece in half because I wanted a center back zipper (I need a little more fabric around my front so it worked out great). Next I cut out my striped fabric so that the stripes I wanted for the hem had enough to 1) have a seam allowance above them, 2) had an equivalent amount of fabric to fold to the wrong side and enclose everything as a true hem band, and 3) had a little extra on that back piece to fold under to stitch in the ditch and close it all up. I cut two strips of the stripes, also the full length of the fabric, and after some creative ironing, my band was ready to attach. I started by inserting a lapped zipper (my first ever and definitely not my last!) so that I could sew the back seam closed. Next, I attached the hem bands to the front and back pieces. Next, I decided I wanted pockets, but in a split second decision I decided to use the Hollyburn pocket piece - those are my favorite part of that pattern after all. So, I just cut the scoop for the pocket off the front piece, sewed pockets by the Hollyburn instructions, then I sewed the side seams. I prepped my waistband by cutting another 2 strips that were 2" tall and the full width of the fabric, interfacing one of them, then I sewed them together at the top and understitched the seam allowance getting it ready to attach. I wrapped the waistband around my waist and marked where it needed to meet with pins. Next I added inverted box pleats to the skirt. It took a few tries to get it to the right width, but we got there in the end. Next I attached the waistband, and jerry rigged a little flap at the end. I had to get creative and use my "alterations" skills on the zipper area to get it to sit correctly, but it all worked out and in the end I have a lapped zipper that connects to a flap that closes with a button on the other side. My final step was to fold the seam allowance under on the waistband and stitch in the ditch to close it all up.
I added in a few extra areas of top stitching - I like to top stitch my box pleats a little at the top so they lay flat against my tummy area, and the flap on the waistband had to be top stitched because of the order I sewed everything, but I think it turned out just fine :) Making a skirt from scratch like this certainly takes a bit more time and head scratching than using a pattern that already fits, but I think it's a fun challenge. Also, you are making it "size YOU" instead of a number designation - I didn't even have to technically measure my waist with how I constructed this. So if you're dealing with number anxiety, this is a good way to avoid it.
I love all the little touches on this skirt. I adore the lapped zipper - so much so that as I was making the pleats I wished I didn't need them so that the lapped zipper would stand out more. I've sung the praises of Sunni's free zipper class on Craftsy ever since it was first released, but until Meg of Cookin' and Craftin' asked for zipper advice and then ended up going lapped, I never even saw the final lesson in Sunni's class that had lapped zippers! And I was one of the ones who recommended the class to her, lol. I've looked at tutorials before about lapped zippers, even ones that are reputed to be so easy, and I could never wrap my head around it. Watching Sunni go through all the steps though made it all sink in and now I will be using this method fairly often since it's so pretty. I also love the pockets - these pockets are great in anything, I swear. Also - the hem band! Isn't it cute! I've never used any form of border print before, nor have I really ever used two coordinating fabrics to feature any aspect of them before. It was definitely more work (and caused much grief at Hobby Lobby trying to decide how much of the striped fabric to buy), but it was so worth it because I think it really makes this skirt have a little something extra. It takes the cutesy floral print and adds a touch of modernity, if that makes sense. I don't feel quite so twee with that cool striped bottom going on, I guess. Plus the inside of the band is just as pretty as the outside :) Also, I used a really pretty antique glass button that was orphaned in my stash - it's mint green! It perfectly matches my mint green vintage zipper (also from my stash - yes!) and it's always nice to use those single buttons, don't you think?
And I haven't even mentioned the colors on this skirt yet. This skirt's color scheme is quintessentially "me" - mint green, navy, coral, peach, gray - these are all my favorite colors to wear and therefore I will be able to wear this with several shirts and sweaters already in my wardrobe :)
And there you have it - my birthday skirt :) I'm wearing it today at work (my one little bit of birthday excitement. Ah, adulthood, right?) and I know I will get lots of wear out of this in the coming years. Yay for fun skirts for a fun occasion!

Fabric: 2.5 yards of floral cotton twill from Hobby Lobby (I only used a little over 1.5 yards, but I'm counting all that I bought) - $11.23, 5/8ths yards of striped floral cotton twill from Hobby Lobby - $2.80
Pattern - None!
Notions: 9" zipper - $0.10 (stash), single button - free (stash), interfacing - $0.50, thread - $3.00
Time: 8 hours
Total Cost: $17.63

Not a bad cost for my birthday :) And I still have almost a yard left to make something else.

*Craftsy links are affiliate links, but all opinions are 100% my own (and the class is Free!).

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Your DPN Needle Cases!

So, last year I posted a tutorial on how to make your own DPN knitting needle case the way I did (see the post click here). I made up the pattern originally in December of 2013, but it wasn't until I made another one in December of 2014 that I decided to take step by step pictures and put it up for others to use. I've had a few people ask questions about steps and whatnot over the year, but I've only received a few photos of what others made using the tutorial. It's so much fun to see what someone else made with your pattern! Any of these surprise messages from people who've sewn their own cases bring a big smile to my face :)

So, I decided that I would share the finished projects with others every now and then just to give variety and show what they did with the tutorial. This one is from Debby! 
She used a pretty floral fabric combo, and I love that cute button that ties together the different colors. She made this for her daughter, who had specific things she wanted, and she used the pattern I posted and made a few modifications to fit her needs.
She modified the measurements of the needle pockets so that one side holds 6" length sets and the other side holds 8" length sets. She also added 2 extra small pockets inside the top flap - such a good idea! She also used velcro for the closure on the outside.
Here it is in action. So useful! Thanks so much, Debby, for sharing your photos with me (and giving me permission to post them here). It really made my day when your email showed up.

I know there was someone else who left a comment somewhere on Instagram and showed me their case, but I can't find it now! If you're reading this and you made a case, I'd love to post about it here and show others, so please comment or email me a link or a photo. It's the greatest thing to see your makes!

If you'd like to make your own needle case, you can use the tutorial I posted here. Enjoy, guys :)

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Outfit Along 2016, Etc - Progress Thus Far

Many projects have been going on behind the scenes here lately, but my biggest projects are still in the works so I don't have a fun finished item to share yet. I do, however, have a few in progress shots since I feel like posting today, lol.
First, the Outfit Along. This project has consumed all of my knitting time this month and I've deliberated long and hard about what fabric to use for the skirt. I entertained about 8 different choices from my ridiculous stash, but none of them thrilled me. Turns out bright coral with sparkles is not that easy to color match :/ As there's no point in sewing something for a challenge if you're not going to wear it in real like, and since I had a coupon for (affiliate link), I decided to just bite the bullet and get something that did thrill me for this project. I ordered 2.5 yards of Brussels Washer Linen in the Dark Purple colorway. I figured coral and purple will look nice together, plus the purple skirt will go with tons of things already in my closet. Also since I'm using this immediately, I'm not counting it as stashed fabric, lol. The fabric is a linen/rayon blend, so it has the texture that I love plus a wonderful drape. I can't wait to sew it up!
The Hetty sweater itself is coming along quite nicely :) I cast off the body a few nights ago and the fit is just like I wanted - yes! I did mess up when joining the fronts and back (I forgot a row of the lace and didn't notice until I had knit 3 inches more), so I had to rip back and fix it - not too big a deal since it's a fairly quick knit. I lengthened the pattern and spread out the waist decreases over that extra space, so now it hits my waist where I want it to (I am long waisted and Andi's patterns come out very short on me as written). Because of the longer body, I am afraid I may be playing yarn chicken with the sleeves. Because of this, I plan to knit the button bands and neckband first, then I can make sure both sleeves get an even split of the yarn. I just hope I make it to elbow length at least. We shall see. I've never worked with 50 gram balls before, so it feels like I'm always starting a new skein. Think good thoughts for me, peeps!
My other big project that was getting lots of attention until the Outfit Along started is my Alecia Beth cardigan. I managed to separate for the sleeves and join the body before I had to set it aside, which I feel pretty good about time-wise since this is knit in fingering weight. It's a really fun pattern to knit, so I'm excited to pick this back up once I finish my coral sweater.

I've also been sewing up a storm (for me, anyway), so there will be a few new projects here next week :) In the meantime, I share all my projects in real time on Instagram, so you can check me out there if you;d like to see the in progress makes (my name is showandtellmeg, bug surprise I know).

See you next week with some finished projects!