Friday, February 24, 2017

Christmas FO: Slouchy Beanie

So I know I said back in January that I'd shared all my handmade Christmas gifts, but I kind of lied, lol. I shared all the ones I had photos of, but there were still 2 projects left - one that will be blogged soon, and this hat.
My sister, Marisa, specifically requested a hat this year. More than just that she sent me an actual pattern through Pinterest that she wanted me to make her, lol. Lucky for me it was basically the easiest crocheted hat ever. This is the Really Easy Slouchy Beanie pattern by Jennifer DiMaria. It's a free pattern, so that was an even nicer bonus. The whole hat is just double crochet with a single crochet brim. You increase out to the width you want, crochet straight, then decrease slightly and sc a few rows for a brim. That's it! So easy. This made it really easy to give my sister exactly what she wanted. Woo hoo!
Marisa requested either a black or dark red hat, so I went with Caron Simply Soft in the Autumn Red colorway. I figured the yarn would have a nice drape in this style. Being me I couldn't just follow the pattern when I disagreed with it, lol. So in the end this hat is different from the written pattern, but it still turned out slouchy. I just didn't think it was going to have enough slouch, so I added both width and length to it. We have large heads in my family (it's all the brains), so I just kept trying the hat on and adjusting to my preference. Didn't take notes though, sorry. It took about the course of one movie to make this hat, and Marisa was happy with the result :) So happy that she requested I make her more hats for the West Virginia winter (which you will see more of coming up).
And here it is on Marisa herself :) She recently went on a tubing trip and took pics of all her new hats for me. We'll have to have a chat about how to pull that slouch to the nape of the neck, lol, but other than that it looks pretty good if I do say so myself. I love the pop of color in the drab winter landscape. So I'm glad that I could give my sister just what she wanted for Christmas and have it be practical for keeping her warm too. Yay for people to make hats for!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

FO: Khaki Sally Skirt

So let me start off by saying that this is a muslin that is technically wearable (meaning I've worn it in public, lol) but it's not perfect. But this project held a lot of firsts for me so I wanted to show it off for other beginners to the "jeans detail" sewing idea. So ... don't judge me, lol.
This is the Sally Skirt by Style Arc Patterns, an Australian pattern company I've been curious to try. I've looked at their selection a few times, but most of them are a bit more modern then I usually wear. Then one day I came across the Sally Skirt and all sorts of birds started singing. I've been on the look out for a jean skirt style pattern for quite a while now. I love the style of a straight, knee length skirt with a front fly and top stitching, but I can never find any that fit me very well in ready to wear clothing so I've wanted to make my own. I put the pattern on my list "to buy" and when they had a Black Friday sale last year I snapped it up. 

For anyone new to Style Arc patterns, know that you have to pick your size up front. The patterns are not nested, and in my case with buying the PDF file I had to choose a block of 3 sizes (this is the 16-18-20 size) but you would have to print each size separate from the others to actually see the difference in the sizing. I'm sure you're not surprised that I only printed one size - I went with my hip measurement and let that be it. I was worried pretty much the whole time I was making this that it wouldn't end up the right size. I knew this was a muslin, but I also knew it would be a lot of work so I wanted to end up with something at least wearable. I was so worried it would be too small that I added about 1" or wider seam allowances to the side seams just in case. It turned out that I should have just trusted the drafting since it came out the perfect size for my hips with just enough ease for wear. The fit at my waist was a different story, but before we get to that let's talk about the pattern itself.

So the details - this pattern has everything you expect to find in a jean skirt: top stitched patch pockets on the back, a full fly front, scooped front pockets with a mini coin pocket on one side, top stitched seams, and hitting at the knee. All these details are what I fell in love with. For my first try I dug out this khaki twill from my stash - I grabbed it at a thrift store for ridiculously cheap only to discover some awful stains on it all the way through once I got it home. The piece had been folded and something spilled on top, which then seeped through each layer leaving the same orangey large round spot on each folded layer. I washed and treated but to no avail. Since this skirt has center front and back seams, the pieces are relatively small, so it was perfect to cut around the stained areas of the fabric and no one will ever know the fabric had issues :) One thing I didn't anticipate with the fabric is that it really is too light weight for this type of skirt. It felt pretty sturdy as just yardage, but now that it's a skirt it's just too light. Not only does it show lumps and bumps and pocket linings, it also blows up pretty easily in the wind. Lesson learned: use heavier fabric on your bottom.

Style Arc's patterns are notorious for their extremely brief instructions, and I can definitely add my testimonial to that, lol. They are very brief indeed. There are some diagrams included about the fly front, but when I followed only their instructions I ended up with a fly that looked fine but was completely nonfunctional. The written instructions completely disagreed with the diagrams. It was really confusing, especially since I've never done a fly front before. I looked up online tutorials, but the ones I knew were good (the Ginger Jeans sew along for example) had extra pattern pieces involved that this one did not, so I decided to just muscle through. I ended up having to pick out most of my first attempt, but I brought in a ready to wear skirt to compare and I was able to figure it out. It even has bar tacks along the curve in the fly! I've never done those before either :)
So - the fit issues. Like I said above, I picked the size based on my hip measurement, but the waist was pretty close to mine as well so I wasn't anticipating it being too off. Woof! Was I wrong there. The waist was absolutely enormous. I still don't understand what happened. It has a curved waistband, which certainly could have stretched a bit, but it really wasn't handled much and the main skirt pieces matched up to it perfectly, so I don't think it did stretch. It's still a mystery, but it caused all sorts of problems for me. I was doing so well, everything looked great and it seemed like it was going to fit, but with this style you really don't know what the final result in fit will be until it's finished since the waistband is the last step. I sewed the waistband on and tried it on, and I can't lie I was pretty disappointed. The waistband was meant to be continuous, but the only thing I could do to fix this problem was to create a center back seam in it, so I pinched out and pinned the excess fabric and angled out. I took out almost 6 inches from that waistband at the top and angled down pretty rapidly - I'm obviously curvier then this was drafted for - but because I had already top stitched my back seam on the main pieces things got a little ... bumpy at the butt area. I was almost completely out of khaki thread at this point, so I didn't want to rip out that seam (it was overcast and then top stitched down with a triple stitch), so I just tried to get it as smooth as I could over my butt, but I still ended up with a bit of an angle there. I was so ticked off at that point that I just called it good, but in all honesty it does bug me.
I do adore the back pockets though! They are the perfect size and placement. It always bugs me when I see home sewn jeans that have one back pocket look closer to the center seam because of how the top stitching lies to one side, so I compensated by pulling one pocket slightly further away to make it visually even there. I was kind of at a loss with what to stitch on my first jeans style pockets, so I just went with a simple double V. All my top stitching was done with regular Gutterman polyester thread using a triple stitch for more definition and I really like the effect. 
All that pulling in at only the center back caused the fabric to suck to my tummy more then I like as well. It did line up the side seams with the side of my body though, so clearly I need a longer front than back.
Another sad outcome on my skirt is the pockets. They are great in theory, and when it's on the hanger they look great, but they are not really functional given how small they are and how high they are on my body. They are basically right at the waist, making the pocket bags right on the gut area, and since I have such a drastic curve out ward to my gut area in makes putting my hands (or anything else) into the pockets a tight experience. Next time around I will be dropping the pocket opening as well as making the pocket bags deeper. I think it's all due to my pear-shaped-ness, so not necessarily the fault of the pattern, but still... annoying after all that work. My little coin pocket will never be seeing the light of day on this skirt, lol.
Realistically my skirt can only be worn out with a shirt untucked that covers all the issues with the waist area (as demonstrated above). This is how I've worn it out and always with a loose and flowy top. The butt area isn't that bad to the untrained eye, so I think it's passable as a normal skirt.
So... details! The button is the final step on this skirt, and I could not get the button holer to cooperate with all that bulk. I was so disappointed at that point that I just put a pearl snap on it and called it done. This lead to another lesson: regular snaps are not strong enough to put at the waist of a skirt. This button pops open all the time when I sit down. Luckily my zipper is good and strong so I have no wardrobe malfunction dangers with the bad button choice. And there's a better look at the back pockets, plus you can finally see my little coin pocket. The zipper is a very old one from my stash. I bought a bag of salvaged metal zippers from a sewing friend at her yard sale years ago, and this one was the right size so I went with it. All was well until I needed to remove some teeth at the top and it actually shredded the zipper tape a bit (oops). It was old, what can I say? I was able to hide that section securely in the waistband though, so now one will know. Also you can see my hem - When I tried it on toward the end it was really the perfect length as it was, but that left no fabric for a hem allowance (which would have made the skirt too short). So I dug out some beige bias tape from my stash (also thrifted) and used that for the hem and it worked out great.
And the inside views. The zipper - still looking good from the inside, lol. I'm not sure how well you can see it in the photo, but that's a pic of my improv fix to the back waist. ugh. My pocket bags are pretty fun - I used lime green broadcloth scraps from my Joy Halloween costume. This is another good example of how the instructions assume you know what you're doing - the instructions never say anything about finishing seams. You just have to anticipate which seams need to be finished off and when to prevent fraying. It also never officially tells you to stitch the pocket facing to the pocket bag lining, and I didn't realize that was the intended move until I had already assemble the rest of the pocket, so going back to top stitch down the facing while it was inside the pocket was quite a challenge.
So there's my first Sally skirt - the good, the bad, and the ugly. It's still not a bad skirt overall, and it is wearable so that's a big plus. I have to keep telling myself that it was always intended to be a muslin, but golly was that a lot of work! I definitely plan on tweeking this pattern more and trying again. I have a stack of really cute denim prints I've always intended to make into this type of skirt :) I think I'm actually going to make a skirt block and then compare the pattern pieces to see where that gets me. I do know I need to at least make these changes: add length for hem, curve top of center back seam edges quite a bit, lower pocket openings, make pocket bags deeper, use heavier fabric. There are probably more, but that's a pretty good list for me to look back on later :) This was also so many first for me: first fly front, first bar tacks, first triple stitching, first back yoke fitting, and more. AND this marks another pattern sewn from my Make Nine 2017 list! Woo hoo! Here's to the quest for the perfect jean style skirt!

Fabric: 1.5 yards of khaki cotton twill - $0.50 (thrifted)
Pattern: Sally Skirt by Style Arc - $6.30
Notions: pearl snap button - $0.10, metal zip - $0.10, khaki thread - $2.50, white thread - $0.50, cream bias tape - $0.25, pocket bags - free (scraps)
Time: 7 hours
Total Cost: $10.25

Monday, February 13, 2017

FO: Blatant Copycat Wild Flower Top

Are you sitting down? Because I made something else off my Make Nine list! This time it's from last year's list, but still - I said I wanted to work from both and here I am, killin' in, lol. This pattern has been in my stash for a few years now, always with the plan to make it up yet never actually getting made. I decided I'd waited long enough and just went for it. I printed up the pattern and traced it off, then while looking at the instructions I noticed a familiar fabric. In fact it was the exact same fabric I had in my stash. I searched the rest of my stash for possible options, but in the end I settled on blatantly copying the example, lol. I mean how often does that happen that you have the exact same fabric and no concrete plan for how to use it, right? 
This is the Wild Flower Top by Blank Slate patterns that I picked up with the Just Add Jeans pattern bundle years ago. The Parisian Top and this top were my favorites and made me buy the pattern pack. I've long loved the Parisian, so I thought this would be a fun one to try as well :) The fabric I used is a poly rayon blend knit teal and heathered gray stripe knit I bought at Joann's July 4th, 2015 (aren't blogs great for this type of information? lol) I bought it because it was soft and a good price at the time and I liked the colors - no idea what I would make with it. At the time everything was destined to be a Renfrew or a Plantain (let's face it - that still goes on today, ha ha), but it sat and sat so I knew it was meant for this project. I had a little more trouble picking a fabric for the under layer. None of the fabrics in my stash looked right with the stripe, and in the midst of my frustration I realized I would be passing by our newly opened Hobby Lobby the next day, so I decided to check their online store and found a cute gray that looked like it would work. I brought my fabric with me to check and it was almost the same color gray as the same piece on the example I was copying, so I bought a half a yard (using the lovely 40% off coupon they always have) and went on my way. The fabric is a poly spandex knit with little white arrows on it periodically. Cute and trendy but such a small touch that it wasn't in your face. Yay!
In another effort to copy the pattern example, I went rogue and cut the front overlay pieces on the cross grain (gasp!). In a woven fabric this isn't always a big deal, but in a knit it's a different story. The stretch in this fabric runs in the direction of the stripes, but since Melly Sews was able to use her same fabric this way, I just trusted that and made it up. Thankfully it worked out well in the stretch department. 
I made extra sure to cut this so the stripes would be lined up. The only difficult part was figuring out where the bust overlay seam would be and how that needed to line up with the stripes on the back piece so it would look continuous. It's not perfect, but it's pretty close and I'm really pleased with my stripe matching :)
And the back view - here is where I start to not love this top so much. This fabric was not only a bear to work with (a soft, uncooperative, rolling bear), it also happens to be overly clingy to lumps and bumps as well as on the sheer side. Great. It's such a nice color though! I also don't love how deep the neckline is at the back - it's not a bad look in general, but I don't love it on me.
The nice thing about this pattern ins that the bodice piece and the overlay are all connected, so it looks like you're wearing 2 layers but in fact it's all one piece. Here's my really awkward pic where I show that, lol. Yeah. The overlay pieces are pleated at the top and the bottom before they are sewn to the bodice piece, then you stitch everything together as one. Nice and simple.
And as with all projects lately there are somethings I'm not completely happy with. The neckline on this pattern is just turned and stitched. This is the first time I've come across this in a knit pattern, and I have to say I'm not a fan. I understand why it was needed - you have to finish the edges on 2 different fabrics and one is supposed to look like an under layer - but I don't like it in practice. Notice how the neckline is leaning forward so you can see my seam allowance in the above picture? Yeah, it does that all the time. And it was awful to sew in this fabric. Also the pattern only gives 3/8" seam allowances everywhere including the hems. That's the smallest hem I've ever seen, for real. It was nearly impossible to do - I tried several times with the twin needle and it looked horrible every time. I had to roll much more over (at least 5/8") to be able to even do a twin needle hem there, but I still don't like how it looks. I even used my beloved woolly nylon thread in the bobbin, but it still tunnels like the Dickens. Ugh. The neckline also feels loose , which again contributes to it folding outward. The overlay pieces also only called for a 3/8" hem, but that was even more impossible on this fabric. I had to (again) roll over more fabric just to actually stitch a twin needle hem and have it look decent, but that made my neckline more open because I used more fabric in the seam allowance. I understand that 3/8" seam allowances are great for patterns using a serger for knits, but when even the instructions call for a twin needle hem you'd think they would include more hem allowance.
In the end I really don't love how wide open the neckline is - again it's not actually designed that way, but I just flat out wasn't able to sew it with the smaller seam allowances. If I make this again, I will definitely be adding more to my seam allowances on anything that needs hemming.You can see in pretty much all of these photos that I have a weird drag line coming off the center neckline of the gray area and it's caused by the extra tension on the center front from just turning and stitching and hoping for the best. Next time around I will figure out some sort of neck band for sure. Also another little gripe while I'm at it - another indie pattern with no notches. Is this a common thing? I've never encountered it before in any patterns I've used, but now I've had two back to back. I notched my center front and back as always, but other notches would've been helpful to ensure even stretching.
Some details :) You can see my nice even gray stripe under the overlay pieces :) Also the pleats at the shoulder (as well as the nasty looking twin needle stitching along the back neckline - ugh).
So here we are with another wearable first go at a pattern that will get worn occasionally but could use some tweaks. I'm staying away from poly rayon knits for certain (ugh, so lumpy), and I'll have to constantly futz with my neckline to make sure I'm not exposing my bra when I move, which is just annoying to think about. Overall it's a cute design that I still like, but it will need some adjustments the next time I make it. It has potential though! Yay for potential :)

Fabric: 1.5 yards teal and gray striped poly rayon knit, $7.20 , 1/2 yard of gray chevron poly knit - $2.56
Pattern: Wild Flower Top by Blank Slate Patterns
Notions: gray thread - $0.25, gray woolly nylon thread - $0.25
Time: 5 hours
Total Cost: $10.26

Friday, February 10, 2017

Trying Something New: A Needle Felted Turtle PLUS Creativebug Class Review (and Free Trial For You!)

I've always wanted to try needle felting. I'd never even heard of it until I started knitting and crocheting, my first time seeing it being when Stacey Trock felted a cute little animal and it got me interested. A few years ago, I saw a sewing blogger give a code to join the (now closed) craft class website called The Amazings. This was a British run website with classes taught by "amazing" older people who were top in their crafts at one time. It was really a fantastic idea for a website, and it was a shame it didn't take off, but the reason I mention it here is that was where I first really learned about needle felting. I used my free class for the needle felting class, and it was very instructive to watch. At the time I didn't have any materials of my own to try, but I still remember that sweet old British lady giving her tips and tricks to making cute animals. I wish I still had access to that class.

Fast forward to now. I've watched needle felting being done, and I even bought a kit to make a turtle from Joann's somewhere along the line, but I still hadn't tried it out. This past year I've enjoyed having a membership to Creativebug - an online class platform that teaches about all sorts of crafts. Since you can watch any classes you want when you have a membership, I've watched all sorts of classes I never would have on a platform like Craftsy where you buy each individual class. I really love watching the art classes, or things like picture framing, or even stamp carving. I don't have the equipment for many of these crafts, but they are neat to learn about nonetheless, and I certainly am more apt to try something new after watching their videos. One day when putzing around on the site, what should I come across but a class on needle felting! I knew it was finally time to give this cute craft a try. I pulled out my kit and set to work, using the Creativebug video for guidance.

The kit I bought included wool roving in blue, green, and black in the quantities you would need to make 2 turtles (one big, one small) as well as a foam block, felting needle, and instructions. The instructions were extremely short - definitely not something for anyone to use on its own unless they are experienced with felting. I was happy to have the Creativebug class to draw from. The kit tells you to first wet felt 2 balls of blue roving and then let them dry for 2 days before continuing. Yeah, that wasn't going to happen! I wanted to make my turtle now! I remembered on The Amazings a little tip the lady gave - you can use polyfill to make your base shapes and then just felt the wool over top and no one will be the wiser! It saves your wool, which can be expensive, and felts easily giving you a great base to start with. So that's what I did :) I grabbed a wad of polyfil and started stabbing it like crazy. I stabbed my finger pretty early on (thus the paper towel in the photo below), but it didn't bleed on the project, lol. I was a bit more careful after that - these needles really are sharp!
After my polyfill was nice and solid and almost the size I needed, I covered it with blue roving and followed the rest of the instructions for the kit. This is where the Creativebug class came in really handy. The kit just said things like "felt shapes onto ball", which was hardly what I would call descriptive or helpful. Thankfully the Creativebug class showed how to felt your basic shape, how to shape it to your liking, what to do if you felted too much and got creases or divots, and how to apply other colors.
Wrapping the wool around the polyfill
After adding feet

 I liked that class so much that I decided to watch another more specific felting class on how to needle felt a gold fish and make a little aquarium display. It was so cute! I totally want to make one of these, but I only had green and blue roving on hand, lol. I'll be getting some other colors now for sure. The second class taught how to make tiny details like eyes and how to make odd shapes and what the best way to apply them is. I was very impressed overall, and I was able to finish my turtle and have it look remarkably like the example photo. If I'd been left with just the kit instructions I know my results would never have been as good.
Isn't he adorable?! I call him Ludwig :) He sits very comfortably on my étagère with my knitted animals. I can see this it the beginning of a new interest. The results are so cute, and it was very satisfying to just sit and stab something for an hour or so, lol. I'd had a pretty bad day before I made this turtle, and I took a chance starting on the project with the mood I was in, but it really was a good stress reliever to stab away at the wool. It may sound bad, but it's true :) Very cathartic. Plus you end up with something cute in the end! It's a win all around!

So, I have a little something extra for you - Creativebug has a nice little promotion going right now.
You can get a free 30 day subscription to Creativebug PLUS 30% off - click here to sign up for your free month. If you decide to keep your subscription, you will be charged $4.95 per month after your free trial. This is an affiliate link, and I do get a small cut if you decided to subscribe, but I honestly wouldn't put it up on my blog unless I really liked it myself. My membership is paid with my own money, and I genuinely enjoy their classes. For a long time I used to think it couldn't be worth it to pay per month when you can get more in depth classes on Craftsy and just pay per class. I tend to use my online videos very hit and miss, so I knew there would be months I would pay for but not use the site, and I saw that as a waste. They has a promotion last Mother's Day to get a year for just $25, and I decided to give it a try. I'm SOOOO glad I did! The classes are just a different style than Craftsy, not in a good or bad way - just different. I've been much more interested in trying things like drawing and painting lately, and that's entirely due to Creativebug's laid back, "Anyone can do this" approach to these crafts. Even just for the confidence boost these classes give, I recommend trying the free month. There are so many cute ideas as well as more involved classes about sewing, quilting, knitting, drawing, painting, and much more. There are even classes for kids which my nephew loves to watch. It's a lovely service, and I hope you give it a try :)

As for me, I will certainly be making that goldfish at the very least. He's so cute! I'm glad to have had this little introduction to needle felting, and to have had my first project turn out so well :) Here's to trying new things!