Friday, August 19, 2016

FO: Lacey Wrap Front Top

This is one of those projects that make you wonder if sewing actually is fun, lol. All was well ... until it wasn't... and this project sat unloved on my ironing board for a solid 2 weeks yet I wouldn't allow myself to sew anything else. *sigh* I've had a little distance from it now, so I'm not as upset with it as I was, and I even think it's very pretty considering I thought I was going to have to throw it away at one point, haha. So here's a slightly more fancy project than my norm to break up the monotony of toddler print t-shirts: A stretch lace wrap front top.
As soon as I made my first Dawn to Dusk Top using New Look 6150, I sort of had a vision of this shirt. I wanted to make it up in an ivory stretch lace. I had thrifted a beautiful 100% silk chiffon blush pink knee length skirt earlier this year, and I just didn't have anything quite fancy enough to wear with it. I knew that silk chiffon and lace would be a lovely combo, and since this pattern uses a knit I could have an outfit that was both fancy and comfy. Behold!
I couldn't get a whole body shot, and I was in no mood to futz with it, so trust me when I say the skirt is knee length, lol. I already had a very nice ivory rayon jersey in my stash that I bought from a friend ($5 for 3 yards!). The fabric is buttery soft but just too sheer to wear alone in all decency. You could see everything through this stuff. So it sat for years until I made this up. I hunted for a stretch lace to use on top of it hoping that the pattern of the lace would help with the opacity, and I finally settled on this stretch lace from (affiliate link). It was the right color and not too expensive, so I snapped up 2 yards with a coupon back in June. Combined the two fabrics are still a bit sheer, but the pattern in the lace does distract from that fact so I felt fine proceeding.
You can see on the back that it's still a bit sheer, but not overly so. You can also see my unintentional pattern patching on the lace - score! Anyway, this projects marks a few firsts for me: this is my first time working with lace (other than trims, but they are a whole different animal), as well as being my first successful attempt at underlining anything. Early into trying to sew clothes, I tried to underline a shirt dress with disastrous effects. It did not matter what I tried (I even hand basted it flat with silk thread) the pieces would shift as I sewed them and they wouldn't line up, leaving me with puckers inside. How did people do this so effectively with no puckers? I decided I was ready to try it again since I have loads more experience under my belt AND I would be making this in a knit so I knew I could just fudge it if the fabric slipped (I could just stretch the other piece to fit). I did not have to fudge anything though! Which makes me wonder what I did wrong the first time around, but at least it worked now. After spending about 2 hours cutting out everything, I stitched the lace and lining together around the edges with a straight stitch.
From there I sewed the body together with no issues. I even managed to figure out a rather tricky instruction that I did wrong the first time I made this pattern. The bodice looked great, and when I tried it on it was a little snug but I realized that I still had all those straight stitched edges so the skirt wouldn't give like it should. I pulled out all those basting stitches and it was better, but it was not as loose as the first shirt. It's a snug fit, but not uncomfortable or unsightly, so it's ok. I just figure it's from having more layers of fabric. 
Look at that lovely shoulder draping! I stopped sewing the shirt that night after getting the body fully assembled figuring I would quickly insert the sleeves the next night and be done. When trying on the shirt though, I noticed that the shoulders were too wide - they hung off my actual shoulder by a few inches. This is a problem I have with the other top too, but I never realized the reason the shoulders fell off all the time was because the shoulder was drafted for a football player (stupid big 4 grading...). I just figured the problem on my first version was caused by me not doing that tricky instruction right that I mentioned before. Apparently it was a combination of that and the shoulder drafting. So, I started messing with the sleeve. I sewed the sleeve about 1.5" inward on the shoulder, but that looked really odd. "No worry," I told myself, "it's because there's all that extra fabric I don't need. I'll just cut it off and THEN sew in the sleeve." You can guess where this is going, right? I tried it on after this and it was even worse. The sleeve was pulling the fabric over to itself, which was completely eliminating the drape that the front needed. In fact it was causing diagonal drag lines toward the seam. This is when I realized I'd royally screwed up. I was going to have to put that cut out piece back in, which would cause a ridiculous looking seam around the entire arm hole. I was so frustrated at this point after all that work and unpicking (for the record unpicking a lightning bolt stitch in ivory thread from ivory rayon jersey is no picnic in itself, but add in stretch lace and you have a serious nightmare) and I just couldn't even look at this shirt anymore. I set it on my ironing board and didn't touch it for 2 weeks straight.
Sorry for the awful phone pictures, but I couldn't get my regular camera to show the extra sleeve seam. This what each shoulder looks like now, which is really not that bad considering all the trouble I had with it and how lost I was. I actually only cut a piece off of one side before I realized my mistake, but I had to make the other side match. Once I got the piece sewn back in, I basically pinched a pleat on the other sleeve opening to try and match the other side. It's not exact, but who's going to stare at both my shoulders to compare? So not I've ended up with a "design detail", lol. Oh, and as fate would have it the shoulders fit fine now :/ And I was really surprised when I put on the shirt - you don't even notice the extra seams. All that stress for nothing ...
All that unpicking caused a couple of holes - only 2 which is amazing considering the fabric types and the tension on the lightning bolt stitch. Happily they were at the seams and my thread was an exact match, so I was able to just stitch back and forth a few times to secure the fabric and I haven't had any problems. That little lump in the circle above is where I did this - looks pretty good, eh?
So after all that, I now have a very pretty lace shirt that I really like. And it does look really good with my chiffon skirt :) Now, since you've endured this whole word-filled post, you get rewarded with this super sexy photo of me trying to look demure and swishy in lace. You are welcome.
So next time I run into issues, I'll try to take my own advice and not get so upset about it :) Don't sweat it, folks! It's just fabric :) Considering this was my first time with lace and my first time underlining, I'm pretty thrilled with my new shirt.

Fabric: 1.5 yards ivory rayon jersey (similar here) - $1.50, 1.5 yards Ivory Stretch Lace - $8.50
Pattern: New Look 6150
Notions: knit stay tape - $0.10, thread - $1.50
Time: 10 hours
Total Cost: $ 11.60

Saturday, August 13, 2016

My Sewing Room - Banish the Beige!

 So, I moved last month (gasp!) which means I had to move my sewing room and start afresh. Before I delve into the big reveal though, let's all shed a quiet tear for the space I had to tear down: here. Man, I loved that room. I still love the wall color, but I digress. I'm renting my new space, so painting wasn't an option. I had to just stick with the awful beige and make the best of it. Here is what my new room looks like:
Not bad, eh? I can't help but feel happy when I go in here, and it's all mine :) I mean, I share with my dog and cat, but still. Personally I love stalking other people's sewing rooms to see how they organize things and all that, so I thought I'd do a detailed tour.
So, here's what you see when you stand in the doorway. My cutting table is in the middle of the room, and the walls are lined with shelves and other storage.
My cutting table is one of my favorite things in the space. This was my first kitchen table year ago, but when we got a bigger space we also got a bigger table, so I was quick to stake my claim on this one :) We bought this at Ikea preassembled in the As Is section (it was the display model). I haven't seen the table since so sadly I believe it may not be available anymore and I have no idea what it was called. The table is right at 1 yard square on the top, and the best part is that there are 2 hidden wings that you can pull out to extend the table on each side and double its length. This works fantastically for cutting things out and gives me all the space I need. I added some rod holders on one side to keep my medical exam paper within easy access for tracing. A friend of mine gave me 3 of these white closet organizer drawer units when she moved and they are the perfect height for me to raise up my table. I just have the table sitting on top of the units now, but it makes the table nice and tall (I'm 5'7") so it doesn't hurt my back to cut fabric anymore. The other side of the drawer units has all my rulers. I attached some mini Command hooks to the sides so all the rulers are an easy grab away. I also keep my blocking boards for knitting and my small cutting board in the space between the drawer units under the table. The drawers are also very useful - one holds my tracing paper and tacking tools, another has WIPs in bags, and another is full or crocheted stuffed animals I made a long time ago but don't have space to display while the other 3 drawers all hold yarn. The table really does so much more than a table needs to, and I love it for that.
Storage wide, the first thing you see when you come in is my big étagère in the corner. This was a big painting project of mine years back (see post here) for my other sewing room, and it fits really well in my new space as well - yay! This holds some of my favorite knitting books as well as some of my favorite knitted and crocheted animals. I love how the animals add fun pops of color. This also always holds my tv and bluray player (eventually it will hold the cable box, but my cord isn't quite long enough at the moment). The bottom cabinet holds my old sewing machine and other random tools and such. Also, you can see my yarn swift on the floor - it usually lives in the corner but I hadn't noticed that it fell over before the picture, Oops.
To the right I have a little drawer unit stack filled with tools. I got these drawers at a yard sale for $5 and they're a great size. The drawers are organized as: glues and magnets; stay tapes and fusible notions; snaps, grommets, setting tools, etc; shoulder pads, pocket lining, velcro, elastic, belting, etc; extra scissors and seam rippers; my Sizzix Paddle Punch set. My tower fan is an absolute must since I'm always hot, and the stand up lamp is just the $10 one from Ikea with 2 lights.
My dresser was another piece I painted (posted here) and it holds more notions and tools. The drawers are: knitting needle sets, crochet hook sets, clear tape, and washi tape; yarn winder, post its, ric rac, etc; button stash (shown in above photo); decorative trims and elastics, extra pins; fold over elastic, animal eyes, sewing machine feet; bias tape maker machine and tips, embroidery hoops, heat set crystals and tool. There are other random things mixed in, but that's the gist of it.
The wall above is pretty fun too :) I have my neutral colored threads, a shelf with hanging bins (that I still haven't put anything in, lol), a bulletin board, some paper flowers, a faux milk glass dish, and art work. I also hang my rotary cutter on the shelf because it's really convenient. The little art work is all meaningful to me - the pin cushion one at the top is actually a card my husband gave me, and the kitty with the diamond ring is a postcard I bought at Epcot in Japan when I was a teenager (and I still had it!). The canvas is a photo I took with my Holga back when I was obsessed with weird film photography and then I did an inkjet transfer onto this canvas. I still haven't decided where to hang it, so it's just sitting on the dresser right now. I also splurged a few months ago on a Capri Blue Volcano candle so now my sewing room smells like Anthropologie on command :) The cup on the desk holds my pencils and colored pens for tracing as well as a loop turner, chop stick, and bodkin.
The cork board was given to me by a friend and most of my pins are actual lapel pine or costume jewelry earrings I thought were neat but can't wear. The clock one is actually a button cover, but I hot glued a pin to the back :) And you can see the magnetic Crazy Cat Lady on the desk in this photo. She's fun to stack with her little cats when I want a change, lol.
This is the other side of my sewing room. My dress form hangs out in front of my book shelves, but she rolls easily. Usually my ironing board is set up in front of the book shelves as well (I put it up to look fancy, lol).
Keep going to the right and you see the other big shelf unit. There shelves were in my office at my house before I moved, but since my new place only has 2 rooms these needed a new occupation. And who doesn't need move shelving in a sewing room, I ask you?! The pink bins on the bottom of the shelf hold bins with embroidery/cross stitch supplies and thrifted sweaters I plan to unravel. The shelf above those with all the boxes have elastic, ribbon, old wooden thread spools, fat quarters, and my bead box from my pre-teen days (my friend and I used to sell beaded bracelet and I still have a fancy sticker on the box with our prices #entrepreneur). The bottom of the other shelf has by clear bag full of yarn for when I want to work on crochet or knitted animals that take multiple colors as well as my distilled water for my iron. The shelf above that holds my tatting bag (maybe I'll actually figure that out one day, lol, I had high hopes at one time) as well as some knitting projects in bags.
The top shelves I used more for decorative purposes :) I do have various craft books (sewing, knitting, crochet, embroidery, etc) as well as my Eucalan and Soak washes, a darning tool, my clothing shaver, and little bits and bobs, but I love being able to see my fox, tree, and Well Dressed Pig as I iron, lol. The two sheep are some thrift store finds that I couldn't resist. I am a knitter, after all.
The other shelf has some white baskets I use to hold small knitting WIPs. Below that is a shelf with my PDF patterns (which I keep in file folders) as well as a yarn holder and my basket of pressing tools (the hams are in there, you just can't see them). Below that is my sewing basket with all my little tools and hand sewing needles (typical basket stuff) and my iron and spray starch. And on top of the shelves I have some pretty sewing baskets I just really like and a fancy wig box - because. And my letter M that I spray painted years ago sits here too. It used to hang on the wall, but that thing is a beast to hang (there are 2 holes on the back, but they are not level plus it's really heavy so it needs anchors, ugh). It's cute up there though, so I'm not worried about it :)
Next is my desk area. I deliberately put the desk here because I found I was a little paranoid with my back to the door all the time in my old sewing room. At least now I can greet Gordo and Daisy as they come to visit (my dog and cat). The desk used to be a boring computer desk, and was actually my first custom painting project - I even stenciled it (posted here). The desktop itself holds my sewing machine (a Singer Quantum Stylist 9960) and my Ott Lite (because I'm getting old). The little shelf in the corner keeps my bobbins (in plastic cases), extra machine needles, and manuals at easy access. On the shelf I keep a mug with pens, seam rippers, chop sticks, seam gauges, and more. My magnetic pen plate and wrist pin cushion also live here near my note pad so I can quickly take notes as I'm sewing or weighing out yarn. The milk glass lamp is the real deal and it still works! I was given a matching set and I just love them in my sewing space. Above the desk I have a magnetic strip from Ikea to hold my scissors (clearly organized by type so I don't accidentally grab my sewing scissors for paper).
And now is a good time to show some art work :) Back over by the TV is this awesome electric sewing machine ad from a ladies' magazine from 1919 I picked up at an estate sale. The frame was thrifted and I painted it white. The Simplicity posted came from Simplicity a few years ago and I just really love the design. Back over by my desk I have my Pretty Little Paris cross stitch that my sister gave me for my birthday last year. Aren't the colors fun?! And above the desk itself are my colored threads and serger threads as well as these really cool Marie Antoinette postcards from Versailles that I picked up on Yerdle (posted here) and the frame they are in is one I've had for over 10 years that I just spray painted the same coral as my desk. I also spray painted those thread racks.
Back over to the other side of the room, there's another little storage area. The shelf holds my dtraight knitting needles and circulars (inside the basket) plus my sewing machine bank (it's a bank!) and some animals. The shelves hold a basket with project bags in it (what can I say, I really like project bags, lol) and folders and magazine holders filled with knitting patterns, craftsy patterns and class materials, etc. The drawer unit is the same as the ones under my table and it is full of yarn. The mini drawer unit has things like buckles, snaps, and other random little items (I really need to go through this again and get rid of things. One drawer has feathers in it?) My other milk glass lamp is on top of these to spread the light evenly since this room has no ceiling light fixture.
I'm pretty proud of my little mini curtain above the window too. Since the place has vertical blinds, there is a matching "valance" at the top, but those are just so unbearably boring. I had this cute coral eyelet that I salvaged from an old bed skirt that a friend gave me a long time ago and it's a great match to bring the coral color to this side of the room. I just measured it out and cut it, then folded the edges over twice and top stitched around the edges. I made a little dart for the corners et voilà! I know it's a crappy picture, but it's just enough to make me happy :)
The other wall has a huge closet, but that can be kind of boring just left on its own. I had collected quite a few vintage doilies from thrift stores just because I liked them, but I ever did anything with them. They are really perfect to go above the closet! Now I can enjoy these old pieces of crochet every day. The mirror is kind of a funny story. I knew I needed a full length mirror in the room, so I deliberately left this space next to the closet empty and planned to buy a mirror when I could spare the $8 later on. That same night I was walking my dog around the complex and what did I find in the trash alcove? A perfectly fine full length mirror! It's like a little gift from the sewing gods to reward my hanging everything up that night, ha ha. 
The closet itself holds ... my fabric stash! You knew it was hiding around in here somewhere, right? A good friend of mine gave me two huge Ikea shelf units she used as a desk like a year and a half ago, and they fit perfectly in a standard closet, but this closet is more like a 1.5 length closet than a double even though it has 2 sets of doors. This measn one of the doors cuts the shelf unit in half, which can be pretty annoying. When I want to search through that side, I ususally take the doors off. Also these shelves fill the entire area, which means these shelves have another layer behind what you see (don't judge). I try to keep the shelves organized by fabric type, and I must confess I heavily neatened things up before taking this photo, lol. On top of the fabric I have buckets with yarn (I organize by type and size) as well as ... more fabric! I use the shelf in the top of the closet to hols my buckets of zippers and interfacing as well as some Craftsy boxes with yarn and fabric in them. The other side of the closet has boxes of thrifted clothing to refashion and a little more fabric, lol. It's everywhere! At least it can be nicely tucked into the closet and close the door. 
The only area that is not really "maximized" is the space between the étagère and the drawer unit under the window. I used to keep my patterns in a large filing cabinet at my house, but even there I couldn't fit it into my actual sewing room. So when I moved and couldn't fit it in the new room either, I wasn't too broken up about it. At the moment, my patterns are all just in paper shopping bags as they wait for a solution. There are also two boxes of yarn and a serger I need to get a part for. I'm hoping to figure out some type of shelf unit or something that they will all fit in. We shall see.

So that's my sewing room :) It's always a work in progress, but I'm pretty happy with the current iteration. If you have any questions, please leave a comment!

Saturday, August 6, 2016

FO: Swirly Birds Planfrew

This is one of those projects that was totally inspired by fabric! When I saw this print from the latest collection of the Doodles line at Joann's, I had to have some. It comes in 3 colorways, and when I went to the store back in June the only color they had on hand was this green. With such a bus fabric, I knew I wanted it to be a fairly simple t-shirt, so I bought 1.5 yards and went home to plan.
The resulting shirt is a true Planfrew - part Plantain, part Renfrew. My last few simple shirts have been combinations of these two patterns, but this one is definitely the biggest marriage of the two. I took my previously altered Plantain pattern with the Renfrew neckline (as well as a 1" wedge removed from the center front for my hollow chest) and used that for the bust and above. Since this fabric is an interlock knit, it's a bit too thick to pull off the drape around the tummy area of the Plantain, so I used the Renfrew pattern for the waist and hip, but I made it the length of the Plantain so I could do a twin needle hem (not the ham band of the Renfrew). Still with me? lol. Since I used the Plantain above the bust, I used the Plantain sleeve as well, but hemmed it shorter. The result is almost my perfect t-shirt.
Here's that slightly shortened sleeve. All I did was fold the hem up a bit more and twin needle stitched at 6/8ths of an inch. It's something I wanted to try lately since I've noticed that a lot of nicer ready to wear t-shirts have a greater distance between the bottom edge and the twin needle stitching.
I'm particularly happy with how the back of this shirt looks. It's a nice relaxed fit, but it's still a bit shapely. I've been trying to figure out the perfect shoulder distance for me, and this is certainly the closest I've come. I also made a deeper hem at the bottom on this just like at the sleeves. I folded under about 1.25" all the way around and then stitched at 6/8ths and trimmed the excess. It may still be a touch long, but I think that I can easily wear it with jeans in this length (should I ever actually wear jeans - it's so blazing hot right now!)
For some reason I had a harder time than usual with this neckband - I just couldn't get the stitching smooth around the curve of the neckline. So this neckline took two tries, but I'm really happy with the results :) I used Woolly Nylon thread in the bobbin for all my twin needle stitching on this shirt and I really am surprised at how it keeps the stitches from looking like a raised tunnel. This is really the perfect neckline height for me though! It's the Renfrew neckline height and neck band, but I attached it using the method from the Plantain pattern. I told you - it's a total marriage of the two patterns!
Yay birds! Isn't the color on this shirt great?! It's borderline Christmasy, and I will certainly play that up come December, lol. While the neckband piece is from the Renfrew, I did make the finished band itself much narrower just as my personal preference - I find it much easier to stitch the neckline if I have a bit more fabric to hold onto and then I just cut off the excess close to the stitching line.
As usual this fabric is wonderfully soft. I've worked with Doodles interlock before on my Forest Friends Sorrel and I certainly plan to again (in fact I already have another piece waiting to be sewn up!). The fabric is really soft since it's designed for toddlers, but it washes really well. It's also got a bit more heft to help hide lumps and bumps, but it's still not so thick as to be too hot for Florida. Perfect!
So there you have it - my Swirly Birds top :) I've already worn this out and about and I can absolutely attest to it's awesome comfort level. Yay for quick, simple, and fun projects!

Fabric: 1.5 yards of Doodles Cotton Interlock Green Birds fabric - $10.36
Pattern: Renfrew by Sewaholic Patterns and Plantain by Deer + Doe Patterns
Notions: knit stay tape - $0.10, thread - $1.00, wooly nylon thread - $0.20
Time: 2.5 hours
Total Cost: $11.66

Monday, August 1, 2016

Progress, Not Perfection

I have a simple sewing project that will be coming up this week on the blog, but I wanted to interrupt the finished stuff to report on a few in progress items :) I'm in the middle of a new sewing project that has been thrown in the naughty corner for the last week...
This picture was before I ruined it, lol, so don't let its looks deceive you. It's New Look 6150 made up in an ivory stretch lace and underlined with ivory rayon jersey. All was well until I tried to attach the sleeves. Even though I made this shirt once before, the sleeves on that one drive me crazy and I didn't know why. Now I know: the line backer shoulders they grade the larger sizes up to have. Ugh. I didn't realize this until I tried it on sleeveless and saw how far the shoulder drooped off my actual shoulder, so I've been trying random fixes and at the moment I have no idea what to do. It may just end up with crazy dropped shoulders and an added seam to fix how I tried to fix it at this point. I just couldn't look at it anymore last Sunday, and now it's sat on my ironing board for an entire week with no work at all. So what do you do when you've lost your sew-jo and just can't bare looking at your current disaster? Switch to knitting!
Right when the shirt debacle happened, I decided to join in a knit along. Susan B. Anderson just put out a new pattern called the Smooth Operator Socks that is designed specifically for striped yarns so you don't disrupt the striping at the heel. This is an issue I ran into with my Arne & Carlos socks earlier this year, so I was really interested to see what her answer was, and the pattern is currently on sale at a discount for the Knit Along she's hosting on her Ravelry group, Itty Bitty Knits. It's an amazingly simple pattern, but it's beautifully thought out and I ended up with a perfectly fitting sock that still has a striping heel! She gives a great breakdown on how to match up your socks as well as how to match the heels and get a great fit. I don't have all that much self striping yarn in my stash, and I didn't want to use my beloved Le Petit Prince Opal sock yarn until I knew the pattern fit and worked well for me, so I pulled out this Patons Kroy Sock yarn in the Meadow Stripes colorway (which I actually purchased after Susan herself made a pair with the same yarn earlier this year). Since this sock is entirely stockinette stitch, I was able to knit up this sock in just 4 days! Isn't that crazy? I finished it up last night and I'm excited for the second one. Anyway, if you're at all interested in the pattern now is the time to get it at a discount plus you can join the Ravelry group Knit Along to potentially win some prizes :) What's not to love about that?
 Sadly I did set my Alecia Beth cardigan aside for these socks, but I have made significant progress on it in the last month before the socks came around. I'm almost to the waist and I love how the rows of cables start to disappear on the back - see that diagonal at the lower back? So neat.
And here's how it looks on the front. Sorry for the awful pictures - my current phone's camera is horrid and doesn't like color or detail. The yarn here is a nice rich navy color in real life. I'm actually really enjoying knitting this sweater and it seems to go faster than my first fingering weight sweater did. I guess I've just made more things with fingering weight in general and I don't mind it so much anymore. So, I'm slowly plugging away on this as well.

I also have a small smattering of projects that haven't seen light in months (my Fuzzy Mitten KAL project is about 50% done, my Antarktis is also about 50%, and another shawl I started months ago is still just a few inches in overall size, lol), but I'm trying not to be too hard on myself about them. I know I will eventually get back to them, but with the limited crafting time I have right now I try to just go with what I really want to work on to keep that feeling of it being fun. Sewing and knitting are my escapes from the drudgery that is clearing out my house and getting ready for an estate sale (ugh, heavens) which feels like it will never end. I'm glad I have something soothing to help me wind down after hours of unpleasant real life junk each night.

So that's what I'm working on now. What are you working on?