Saturday, August 29, 2015

Selfish Sewing

Whew!  Now that my big kids are back in school, I have time to sew again!  And believe it or not, I don't *just* sew for my kids.  I've really been enjoying sewing for myself lately, too.  I've done a little selfish sewing in the last few weeks preparing for fall weddings and events.
The first jaunt was a dress I had in my mind for a long time before I had it on my sewing machine.  I used the Marbella pattern by Itch to Stitch.  It's made of grey satin from the "Let's Pretend" line from JoAnn Fabrics and lace and pleather from Fabric Recycles, a sewing consignment store in my area.

Pretty on the mannequin, huh?  

The pattern is well written and detailed.  The measurements are spot on.  But unfortunately, this dress does not do my curvy, post-four-babies, over thirty bod any favors.  My measurements are 40-30-40, and my tummy is a little squishy.  This dress makes me look wide and boxy.  I'm not sure if it's the design of the dress itself or the fabric I chose that does this.  I am eager to try this pattern out again with some less structured fabric than the crisp satin I used, such as a lighter weight linen or perhaps some rayon challis or even ponte de roma, and see if it lays in a little more flattering way.  I don't think I'll be wearing this one any time soon.  It's fun to look at in the closet, though.

The next two on the list should really get their own post, because I've used this pattern several times and it is currently my favorite dress pattern.  But I'll just write about the two I did yesterday for now.  
Both of the these two came from the same pattern.  It's Harlow by Violette Field Threads. If you have a squishy mommy body and like to sew, BUY THIS PATTERN.  It's incredibly flattering.  I feel so pretty in all my Harlows.  I have four so far, and plans to make another.  They're all different, and they're all awesome.  I sewed both of these up yesterday.  Yes, both in one day.  And I took a kid to the doctor AND took care of my four kiddos solo (hubby was on a much-deserved guys overnight outing with some friends). It's easy to sew and just the greatest dress/top ever. Depending on the fabric choice and what options or modifications you make, it can be very sleek and modern or retro fabulous.  I flippin' love this pattern. 
This first one is the peplum top version of the pattern done in drapey rayon challis.  I have to admit that while I really like the finished product, it was a total pain to sew.  I've gotten spoiled by all the non-shifty fabrics I've been sewing lately.  But it still came together in a couple of hours.   I let off the ruffle and sleeve parts to make a tank that will go nicely under a cardigan as the weather gets cooler.  I very much look forward to wearing this with skinny jeans and black boots. 
One of my favorite things about this pattern is the bust options.  You choose the bra size you typically wear for the bodice as well as chest and waist measurements.  This makes for a totally perfect fit.    

 Now THIS one....this is a perfect dress.  The fabric is a flocked stretch denim (so weird, right?) I found in the red tag section at JoAnn Fabrics, and I actually originally intended to make skinny jeans for my girls with it.  But the more I looked at it, the more I knew I had to have it.  I modified the neckline on the original pattern to be lower and kind of a sweetheart/v-neck hybrid.  I also shortened the sleeves about three inches to be cap sleeves instead of short sleeves.  The denim, which really seems more twill-y, was just dreamy to sew.  Nothing shifted or slid.  The seams pressed easily.  It was like therapy.  And it fits crisply and comfortably.  It even makes a subtle swish sound as I move.  I'm sure my friends and family are going to get tired of seeing this thing, because I'm going to wear it a lot.  Jessica and Ericka of VFT have outdone themselves on this pattern.  

Seriously, go buy it.  

Like, now.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Springtime Fabulous

I have the privilege of having the fabulous Kelley Fantasma of Fantasma Imagery as my sister.  We love to work together and our kids are gorgeous, so we made a springtime/Easter fashion shoot happen this year.  She did, as usual, an AMAZING job capturing these cuties.  

The patterns:
For the boys, I used Peek-a-Boo Pattern Shop's Little Gentleman Pants and Vest and Little Gentleman Tie.   Amy Hindman writes designs fantastic patterns for slim kids.  My sister and frequently struggle to find pants that our boys don't swim in.  These fit the bill perfectly, and were a snap to put together.  I didn't make their shirts this time, but I have also used Peek-a-Boo's oxford shirt pattern many times, and it's pretty great.  We just happened to be able to pick up these white shirts for next to nothing at Goodwill.  Ditto for Baby Guy's suit.  It was super cheap at the thrift store is is basically identical to the ones I made for the bigger boys.  If I had it to over again, I might size up on my older son's outfit.  He's kind of between sizes, and I went with smaller instead of larger, but it was fine.

The fabric for the boys is cotton blend suiting I found in the value section at Hancock Fabrics.  For the ties, I used what little scrap satin that was left after the girls' dresses (more on that in a minute).  I did narrow them pretty significantly, as we were going for more of a skinny tie than the pattern calls for.  And I was nearly out of fabric.

Aren't they handsome?  I love these guys.

I will fully admit to not spending nearly as much time on the boys' outfits as on the girls.  My vision for the whole thing was based more upon the girls' dresses.  The boys suits turned out nicely though, and they felt so grown up and good looking in them.

For the Girls
The pattern: Violette Field Threads Chloe in the tea length version.  I modified them slightly by adding length to the sashes and sewing the skirt lining and the skirt layers together with the bodice sandwiched in between, so there would be no scratchy edges where the skirt attaches.
The fabric: Oh, my.  This was a pain.  The dress requires four different fabrics (satin/silk/whatever for the bodice and skirt lining), chiffon, tulle, and netting.  When I imagined this shoot, I wanted the colors to be a gradient of the same color.  I did not realize that this is next to impossible.  Everywhere I looked, I could find all but one or two of the TWELVE different fabrics I needed.  At one point, I found what I needed at one store, but four of the bolts were a yard or more short of what I needed.  I left that day without buying anything.  I ended up with the shades of pink/purple because it was the closest I could get to that.  Most are from the Casa Collection at JoAnn Fabrics, with the orchid colored dupioni as the exception.  I got that one at Hancock Fabrics.  The bodices are all slightly different fabrics, too (again with the lack of matches to the tulle and chiffon).  The ballet pink is a glossy satin.  The orchid is poly dupioni.  The dark purple is matte satin.  Three trips to brick-and-mortar stores and countless hours spent looking online, and I finally got it all together, but just barely.
The fabric flowers are out of the leftover chiffon from the dresses.  This tutorial is the basic idea, but I added more petals and gathered them up a bit.  I used this tutorial to make the little veil, except I hot glued it to a metal barrette.  I knew a comb would fall right out of my daughter's silky fine hair.  The barrette made it stay firmly in place.

The dresses are swishy, twirly, delicious princess perfection.  I am so pleased with how well they turned out and how much they loved them.

Side note: It's a great idea to get holiday pics taken before the holiday.  These outfits were also all these wonderful kiddos' Easter clothes.  I rolled into church Easter morning with six gorgeous, perfectly dressed angels (my niece and nephew had slept over the night before), and we left with ripped tulle and multiple chocolate and Dorito stains. Kids will be kids, and that's definitely part of the fun.  I would almost like to do a "trash the dress" shoot of the pale pink one with fingerpaints and chocolate pudding.  But's hoping the dry cleaner can get smashed M&M's out of chiffon.
I love these crazies!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Pixie Perfect

One of the first things I learned to sew was cloth diapers.  I could go off on a tangent here about how great cloth diapers are and how fun they are to make and how much money your family will save by using them, but there are literally hundreds of blogs devoted to that, and I would be beating a dead horse.  I'll just link you to a few of my favorites: Rocket Bottoms, a really great source for paid patterns that are wonderful for beginners and well loved in the cloth diapering community, and Arfy's blog, which is great for free templates and patterns to get you started on different types and styles of cloth diaper.  You can head down the rabbit hole yourself on those.

Over the years, I have picked up TONS of the washable laminated fabric intended for the waterproof exterior of cloth diapers.  It's fantastic for it's original use, but also very useful for other applications.  Since it tends to be pretty pricey, when I see it on sale, I jump on it.  I've made a few super cute little jackets for my girls out of it, and one of this post's Stashbusters is just that.  

The fabric: For Holly- Babyville brand PUL purchased from the Red Tag section at Jo-Ann and ivory broadcloth I got at a garage sale.  For Tessa- knockoff "Donegal Irish Linen" that I bought at the same garage sale that actually ended up being polyester.  No good for traditionally linen items, but a perfectly useful jacket outer.  Also two prints from Riley Blake's "Happy Ever After" collection that I used last year to decorate the girls' bedroom.  I had about a half a yard of each of them, and I thought they would be pretty cute for the lining.  

The pattern: Pixie Hood Coat by Big Little Patterns.  I've had this one for ages and this was the first time I sewed it up.  I definitely regret that now!

Something you will notice as you follow this project is that I almost never use mainstream patterns.  I love independent designers, and I love PDF patterns.  One reason for this is that on children's patterns, the sizes are typically nested rather than overlapping. 
Because of this neat feature, I was able to cut out Holly's size 6 jacket first, then cut around the lines on the pattern to cut Tessa's size 4.  Major time saver.  I did not cut Holly's as written, because I thought that at six years old, she may be a little bit too mature for a pointed pixie hood.  I cut her hood rounded instead of with the point.  I made Tessa's exactly as written.
I made the two jackets at the same time, and it was a quick sew.  I got both done in a single afternoon with both Tessa and Declan (who is 15 months old and a VERY busy boy) hanging around.  
Its been a while since I've sewn any diapers, so I had forgotten what a total pain in the behind PUL is to sew without a teflon foot or a walking foot.  But I'm lazy, and didn't feel like rooting through the messy closet looking for my walking foot for such a quick project, especially since sewing the laminated sides of the PUL parts was such a small part of it.  After ripping out a couple of stretched, messy seams and cursing just a little (a lot), I remembered that in a pinch, you can use a zipper foot to make sewing laminated fabrics a little easier. 
aahhh....much better.
I'm a little bit obsessed with my sewing machine's embroidery functions.  I topstitched Tessa's yellow jacket with green thread using an embroidery stitch that coordinated with the princess pattern in the lining fabric.  It totally made the jacket.  
The fit of these jackets is a little on the big side.  Not to the point that they are unable to wear them by any means.  We should be able to use them with the sleeves rolled a bit for the windy, nippy days of early Spring and for wading through the crunchy fallen leaves in Autumn. 
Don't my girls look great?

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Happiness is a Twirly New Dress

For my second stashbuster, I made a deliciously twirly sundress for Holly, who is six years old and in kindergarten.

The fabric: navy and white slubby cotton gingham found on the clearance table at Hancock Fabric's for a dollar a yard (a DOLLAR!).  I bought eight yards, so this one will be reappearing over the spring or summer.  Trim fabric is a blender cotton I found at a local quilt shop.  It was not a bargain, but you can't always cheap out.  I like to support local businesses any time I can, and it was fun to chat with the lovely lady who cut it for me.  It evened out with the practically nothing paid for the main fabric, anyway.
The pattern: It's a bit of a mashup.  The main dress pattern is Chloe by Violette Field Threads - available here.  The collar is from the Piper dress pattern, also by Violette Field Threads, available here, which is one of my very favorite little girl dress patterns on its own.  I've made it five times now, and have plans to make several more.  I used the size 6, which is what she wears in ready-to-wear clothing.  I did not make the Chloe dress exactly according to the directions.  The original design uses tulle, chiffon, and netting for a big, glamorous, poofy skirt and does not feature a collar.  I was going for something more casual and play-appropriate, so I made the skirt out of a single layer of cotton woven instead.  I added the collar because I wanted to tie in the teal with more than just the sash, and because I am obsessed with bias trim lately, and wanted a way to add some.  
Any time you put patterns together without enough planning, there are risks.  If I were to do this again, I would copy the neckline from the Piper dress on the Chloe bodice, rather than leaving it as-is.  The collar doesn't lay down quite as well as I wanted it to.  It's still cute, but not exactly right.  Certainly wearable, though.  I added the bow because it was still missing something when it was done.  
I made a pretty little matching hairbow, too, from this free tutorial.  To modify it for fabric instead of felt, I cut out the pattern pieces with at 1/4 inch added seam allowance.  I cut two of each, sewed right sides together, and turned and topstitched.  Then I put it together exactly as instructed and hot-glued it to a barrette.  Super cute.  Holly told me that she would have made the bow teal and the center of it gingham, but that my way was acceptable, too.  
She loves the dress.  She said it rubs a little at the armholes and the waistline, but when she said it, she had been wearing the dress for two days, including having insisted upon sleeping it it.  I think that assessment can be taken with a grain of salt.  
My twirly girly.

Monday, March 9, 2015


I am something of a bargain hunter.  When I find a fellow sewist's garage sale or a fabric store going out of business, I STOCK UP!  Four years of accumulated finds have led to my basement containing more random fabric and craft supplies than some small fabric stores.  Before I  go on any more buying sprees (and since garage sale season is right around the corner), I need to do some serious sewing.  Coincidentally, my two girls have sprouted up like crazy over the winter, and need an entirely new wardrobe for spring and summer.  (The boys are growing too, but the oldest still fits in his summer clothes from last year, and the baby has inherited a TON of hand-me-downs.  I will be sewing some for them, but the bulk of this project will be for the ladies).  Huge fabric and pattern stash plus leggy children equals summer stashbuster project!  I'll be detailing my adventure as I go here, as regularly as I'm able.

My little girlies are six and four years old.  They love to twirl and dance, and enjoy all things sparkly and fancy.  They also love to play outside, ride bikes, and bury their toes in the mud.  They're best friends, and they're a lot of fun.

So the first stashbuster was a birthday dress for Tessa, who is four years old.  She is completely obsessed with Hello Kitty.

The fabrics: A heavier stretch denim from the Red Tag section at Jo-Ann during their Coupon Commotion event.  I think once all my coupons and discounts were used, it was about $2-3 per yard.  As accent, some Hello Kitty licensed quilting fabric out of the remnant bin.  I had about 3/4 of a yard.

The pattern: Jane by Violette Field Threads - available here.  I love this pattern.  It was easy to follow, and true to off-the-rack size.

I made it for her in size 4.  It was a little bit big, as she's kind of between sizes right now, but that's ok.  It should last her into the fall, I think.

She LOVES it!  I made it a couple of weeks ago, and she has wanted to wear it straight out of the dryer every time it's been washed.  She gets tons of complements on it.  I'll definitely be using this pattern again at some point in this project.