Saturday, September 22, 2012

Baby's doing good

     I have continued to sew for the pregnant daughter, but as she enters her 3rd trimester, I begin to sew for the baby, too. Here's my first creation:  the baby bunting. I found this fleece at Hancock's for $6 last week and thought it would be perfect for a newborn. The hood is lined with heavy, tan fleece. I debated about lining the whole thing, but since it was the first time I used the pattern, I opted to start slowly with a single layer. You can't see, but the sleeves end with fold over plackets that create mittens. I found an orange zipper in my stash that matched perfectly. Final cost:  $7. I wanted owls, but didn't find anything that could serve boys or girls well. Will keep watching.

     So, today I have an animal print maternity top to finish (the Megan Nielsen ruched top). I mailed out a care package Tuesday for the daughter and wait for feedback on the wool skirt. I have another piece of wool plaid and a navy pinstripe that I'd like to turn into pants for her. I want to make sure the hipline is correct BEFORE cutting the material, though.

     I should be sewing for me, but I cannot seem to jump start myself. I have plenty of patterns, fabric, and time, but when it comes to stopping, choosing, fitting, cutting, and sewing for myself, I'm a bit of a dud. I joined this online community and agreed to sew my own clothes for a year--that began Sept 1. So far, I have made a black t-shirt with black, knit pants and a fleece jacket. What I really need is undies since my undie drawer is nearly empty. Do I sew panties that take next to no time or fabric? Of course not. I'm looking at slacks, tops, jackets, even camisoles and cardigans (and I never wear those things). My social outings are usually limited to work, work, work, and the grocery store. Not exactly a couture world that I run in. OK, here's the promise:  Today I will cut out at least ONE thing for myself and complete it before September runs out. OK--help me stay honest and on track.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Sewing makes me cuss.

I love to sew when it goes right, but when it doesn't....well, it's a good thing I married an aviator. He has taught me a lot of good profanity that fits perfectly into bad sewing situations. Case in point:  maternity wear for eldest, pregnant daughter.

My eldest daughter lives in a small town in Oklahoma. The closest town has only a Walmart and K-Mart for her to shop at. If she wants any exotic clothes from Target or Old Navy, she has to drive 45 minutes to Tulsa to shop. Problem there:  the clothes are not well made, expensive for the quality, and ugly colors. Thus, I am trying to assist her (and empty out my sewing closet at the same time). Though, truthfully, I have probably doubled my stash since learning of her pregnancy rather than diminish it, but that's a topic for another day. Anyway, I began with the Megan Nielsen patterns. If you are unfamiliar with them, they are great. The skirt and t-shirt patterns are quick, easy sewing projects, take only about 1 yard of material, and look better than most affordable RTW shirts. I'd honestly place them up there with Pea in a Pod, and those tops start over $30. So, I made several shirts, skirts, and maternity/nursing tops. Unfortunately, success does breed pride and over-confidence, and I assumed (making an ass out of myself) that I could use any stinking pattern and be successful. WRONG!! Enter Butterick pattern 5796.

I began with the pants pattern. [Please ignore my husband holding them up for me. Photos taken flat on the bed or hanging on a hanger looked weird. He was forced to hold these pants up (the gun pointed at him is not visible at this angle)]. We tissue fit the pattern and found a 16 to be a perfect fit. WRONG!! I ended up sewing 1 1/4" side seams, 1/2" inseams, 5/8" crotch seams, and took 1 1/4" off the yoke before the pants fit. However, once completed, there were perfect!!! I was sewing on Cloud 9. I thought I had finally gotten the hang of fitting pants and could even adjust for pregnancy. My head was gonna need 3 pillows.

Then I started the cowl top. Being conservative by nature, I prefer to test new patterns with junk fabric. If it works, OK and I end up with something to wear around the house. If it is an absolute flop, I don't feel so bad wasting fabric. I dug up some stretch velour in a slate blue for my "muslin". I got online to research sewing maternity and size selection. All the instructions I could find said to use the pre-pregnancy size. Sadly, I didn't sew for my daughter pre-pregnancy, so I had no starting point. Then, some website told me to go 4 sizes larger than pre-pregnancy RTW. Since she had been a 5 or 6, I figured a 14 would work, but when comparing to the pattern back, I felt that would be WAY too big since I wear a pattern 14-16 and she is smaller than me (even pregnant). So I tissue fit the pattern to her and came up with an 8 above the armpit and 12 below the armpit. Feeling especially cocky, off I went humming and cutting and acting like a sewing big dog. The top hung like a sack--the back gapped, especially at the neckline, and she hated it. Pinning like a fiend, I reassured her I could fix it all the time reminding her it was only a sample--not really to be worn in public. That lie seemed to buy me some grace. I took in 1" shoulder seams, ran a 1" pleat down the back from neckline to waist, added size 10 sleeves with 5/8" side seams, and the thing was looking more promising. Just 3" off the bottom and we were in the money. I knew she wouldn't love it, but I was thinking we were on the right track--another assumption. When will I learn?

The cowl neck was an excursion into sewing HELL. I re-shaped the cowl to accommodate all the adjustments I had to make at the neckline. You can imagine how long this took me. I fit and tried then trimmed with paper until I finally got the right dimensions--then I cut the fabric and stitched it on. At first, I thought I had it backward because the cowl made a huge hump (like a camel) at the base of the neck. I rechecked my work and yup, all the pieces were in the right place; but it still looked like crap. So, I took out the basting and re-sewed the cowl which offered no improvement whatsoever. My daughter started looking at me like I was a novice and trying to permanently scar her pregnancy by "dressing her funny". After sending her back to Oklahoma, I went back to the drawing board. I pinned and trimmed until there was hardly a cowl left. I was tempted to toss the shirt in the trash and tell all involved of my experience with spontaneous combustion, but I knew the lack of smoke and scorched, burn marks would expose my lie. So I kept trying...and trying...and trying....until there were no ideas and no tries left. I opted to turn the edge, finish it off with a double needle, and call it good. Here's the final project:

I don't think she'll hate it--I know she will. Oh well, at this point I just want the Shirt from Satan out of my sewing room. I know it exudes bad karma. I don't care if she uses it as a bum-around shirt or rag. All I know is next week when I mail her the package of maternity goodies, this demon seed will be hers to deal with.

Next, is the maternity skirt. I morphed the 5796 pants into a skirt pattern. I did this because she prefers the stretch fabric yoke to the usual front panel found in most maternity RTW and sewing patterns. Sticking with the "cheap is the way to start" concept, I chose a black, grey, and off-white plaid as my fabric. Here's another new lesson:  material at Hancock's on sale for 69 cents that ends up 4 cents after the 10% off coupon probably has a problem with it. Mine did:  the plaid is off. Though I cut the plaid as meticulous as I could, the plaid only matches on 1 side. For me, it's no big deal. I'm not sure if she will care or not. I lean to the idea that she won't since a wool maternity skirt is a novelty where she works. Here's the final product:
Personally, I like it. It's slightly A-line and slightly pencil skirt with the
yoke at the top to allow for tummy. Just like the pants, She can wear the yoke over or under the baby bump. The knit yoke is another scrap from my stash and is a 4-way stretch similar to the fabric found in tights. I know she will catch the mismatch of the plaid, but I think the overall look with make her happy. Plus, it's one more free outfit for work. Go MOM!! Oops, I'm getting cocky again. When will I learn?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Location, location, location.

     We have lived in our current house since Oct. 1990. During that time, we have done some interior painting, but other than that, the flooring and wall coverings were original. Until NOW!! We have removed wallpaper, repainted, and put down hardwood flooring. My husband had a hard time letting go of the green marble entryway, but finally we have a lovely, tile area to welcome our guests. . .AND I have a new sewing area that is mine, mine, mine. Welcome my new addition:

As you can see, I have an oak armoire that has been converted into a sewing cabinet. The chair folds over and slides into the space (not visible in this picture) on the left for storage. To the bottom right, I have a extendable shelf (made for a printer) where I house my second serger. I have yet to re-organize the upper shelves. I want to find (or make) storage boxes for my patterns and cone threads.

The door handles serve as hangers for my current projects. Over by the window, the ironing board, lowered to a functional level waits patiently for me to press and steam my seams and projects.

Here's a view of the other side of the room. I have an antique maple dining room table that serves as my cutting board.

I love my workspace. This is the piece of sewing Heaven that I have always wanted. Besides another storage unit on top for my sewing ham, sleeve board, etc and a small rug to muffle some of the sound when I am sewing, I cannot think of one more thing I need. I can die now--all goals are met!!

Monday, September 3, 2012

The Year of Sewing

     For the past 30+ years, I have flirted with sewing--always wanting to become a fabulous, all-inclusive seamstress, but never really knowing how to get there. Now I do. To be a better sewer I finally understand I have to sew more. So, I have committed myself to one year of sewing instead of purchasing. I should be scared out of my mind, but instead, I am rather excited by the challenge. God knows I have enough fabric to sew myself around the world a couple of times, but I don't think I have the skill to do so. This year will be the year I develop the skill. The only thing that can stop me is fear and lack of faith in myself. By experience I know I can do anything I set my mind to. So, here I gooooooooooo!

     I begin with an honest look at my wardrobe. I must admit, it's pretty pathetic. I have a lot of stuff that is the wrong color, wrong size, and wrong fit. I have clothes that are stained that I continue to hang onto. I have some odd guys that I purchased (mostly on sale) that I never really found a use for. It's apparent to me that I have a closet full of impulse buys and my "wardrobe" has no plan. I cannot tell you how many times I have read the articles about creating a mix and match wardrobe using 5, 7, or 9 pieces. THAT's what I want to do.

     Another thing I recognize involves weight and body shape. Mine is not good. Though I love the look of tailored, I need loose and multi-sized to allow for weight changes. Though I am injured right now and unable to workout, I will be back on my feet soon. I can no longer afford to avoid diet and exercise, and my wardrobe must reflect that lifestyle and adapt appropriately.

     Also, I have to incorporate color that flatters. Somewhere along the way, I lost my color palate for a "summer" wardrobe. I need to get back to that formula. When I dressed according to my best colors, I looked good, felt good, made wise purchases, and had a wardrobe that worked.

    So, where do I start?  I have decided to make my blue jeans my core outfits. With fall looming on the horizon, I think this is a good idea. The next step is to learn how to make a storyboard where I can post pictures of my patterns and fabrics. With that goal in mind, off to google search I go.