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Saturday, July 31, 2010

Wardrobe planning

When I sew for myself, I have to think about fitting items into my current wardrobe. Unless I suddenly gain or lose a lot of weight, that's a pretty fixed group of clothing. Sure, I weed stuff periodically, but I'm not a growing child.

Speaking of which, I have several of those, but most notably, my sweet little Gracie. Having had three boys first, I have a large wardrobe to pass along for them. I weed the stuff the older ones mess up (oldest two are the same size and have been for a couple of years), and I add in a few new pieces for the little guy, but I don't start from scratch (anymore). However, I only have one daughter, and she's a darling little three year old who is suddenly acquiring little girl proportions - all arms and legs and tiny body. She ends up with a new wardrobe every six months just by virtue of her age. It is her wardrobe that I have the most fun with.

I do buy her a few pieces, mainly at end of season sales on things I wouldn't buy at full price (b/c I'm cheap like that). I buy her jeans - especially when I found some gorgeously embroidered and embellished girly jeans for about $8 a pair on clearance, and I buy a few embellished/character t-shirts since I don't yet have an embroidery machine. I also buy sleepwear because that's pretty boring to make.

It''s the little girl fashion coordinates and dresses that just make me smile. I cut a cute little corduroy print jumper and a soft corduroy print dress, and then I started on a wardrobe of coordinates. I used some of the new Michael Miller/Patty Young knits with Ottobre patterns to cut a tunic, reversible skirt, dress, and two pairs of leggings. Now, I'm working with the same designer's "Playdate" cotton woven line which I plan to mix with some of the knits and a couple of Farbenmix patterns. My goal is to have some mix and match outfits.

Pictures to follow...

Friday, July 30, 2010

Simplicity Fall sneaky-peek!

I was at Joann's looking for some Simplicity's as they are currently $1.99, and I found a cool surprise - the next release was already in the drawer!

That's not all, of course, but just the ones from the new collection that I liked.

They have lots of Halloween including several Alice in Wonderland themed costumes, and a new Cynthia Rowley. That one wasn't my favorite, but CR fans might like it.

Here are some details on the ones I did get:
 This Project Runway dress has lovely front tucks and I like the teal version with the contrast hem band.
This skirt pattern has some great lines and doesn't take much yardage - about 1 to 1 1/4 yard per version.
I'm not a fan of the angled hem cardigan, but I like the knit dress/top a lot.
Adorable dress designs for little girls - also comes in 4-8, but Gracie's only a size 3 (in length - smaller in actual torso) so I got the 1/2-3. I like the tucks beneath the yoke - that's different.
I don't much like the big girl's outfit, but isn't the little girl's outfit cute? The pants have a side zipper - I don't see that working in a 3 year old's pants. That's a potty problem going somewhere to happen.
I've decided this is the season I tackle a fitted, lined jacket, and while I already have several patterns, I liked the style on this one. Now, this is NOT lined, but I want to try fitted and unlined before I go for the lined one.
I got some other Simplicities as well, and I also stopped by Hancock's where McCall's is 99 cents and Vogue is $3.99. If you need patterns, this is a good weekend to get yourself to one of these stores!

Knit tops!

Simplicity 3790 - If you have a drapey knit, make up view D - went together like a dream in about an hour - esp. since I didn't have to even re-thread my machines!
Simplicity 2364 - Sexy tops, but surprisingly not revealing (and yes, I have a convertible bra to wear this with) - another quick and easy one
Burda Style magazine - June '10 - design # 139 - Great top for those with curves (and Gracie's dress is from 2008 summer Bizzkids mag, my shorts are New Look)

I love sewing knit tops. They are quite forgiving in the adjustments and tend to be wash and wear and still look great. Being a working mom, I love things that transition well between professional and casual wear.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Sandra Betzina 'em

The more I try Betzina's Today's Fit patterns from Vogue, the more I love them. After hitting the wall of frustration earlier today, I was correct in guessing that Vogue 8151 would improve my mood.

Check it out: no FBA (although I did go up a size, figuring I could always take it in if needed), no wrap gap, no problems.

Sandra Betzina's instructions are excellent and I couldn't be happier with how this turned out.

There is also a plain front top with 3/4 length sleeves in this pattern. That one's great, too. The next time you see a Vogue sale, you need to pick this up if you don't already have it.

FBA = F-in' Big Annoyance

I'm using to doing an FBA on most patterns I sew for myself. However, the FBA for this dress took on a life of its own.

This is Vogue 1152, a Rebecca Taylor design that appealed to me because of its figure flattering nature. I also know that *usually* princess seams are easy to alter. This one - not so much. My original FBA, described in my previous post, turned out to have a problem. I had extra space above my girls. It was not good. Plus, I had gaping at the shoulder seam. The inch and a half I added to piece 1 was good, and I would definitely recommend it.

I spent hours messing with the fit before constructing and attaching the sleeves. This project is causing me to think about making a duct-tape-double, but I must admit I am totally horrified at the thought of what that would look like. The hormonal roller coaster of giving birth and then nursing four babies plus a little birth control has not done nice things to my body. Yes, I need to lose weight, but I am sewing for the body I have. It could be worse. I'm a 14 RTW which translates to 18 US or 44 Euro in patterns. I've stayed at that size throughout my forays into the maternity section, and I'll settle for maintenance. Of course, I'd be a liar if I didn't say I sometimes look wistfully at the size 8/10 girl staring at me from my wedding portrait, but she was fleeting (and on the Pill so the darn dress didn't even fit on our first anniversary). Then came the kids...I blame them. Even if I lost 30 pounds, things would never look like they once did. Yep, I'm curvy, but I'm going to do my best to make those curves look good.

Now, I think I will be much happier after I finish the four knit tops since there should be fewer fitting issues, and did I mention that the poly charmeuse is pretty, but it is slippery! Ugh! Now I remember why I hate sewing with that stuff. I'm not a fan of pinning, but I couldn't have sewn this without pinning a lot of it. Other fabrics, I do very little pinning during construction.

It's moments like this that make sewing frustrating and rewarding at the same time. Hopefully, I'll have a more positive perspective on everything in the morning (since I'm reviewing and blogging in the wee hours). I reckon my experience with this dress was turning into the project I did NOT want to go to sleep thinking about.

Now, I shall go to bed, wearing my cute knit nightie sewn by me from a pattern in Ottobre Woman (that I repurposed as a nightie). This one makes me feel cute and the FBA worked the first time!

Sleep now, sewing knits in the morning, grad school work in the afternoon...

Sunday, July 25, 2010

A preview of coming attractions

I had a cutting party, one of my favorite things to do. I love imagining all the possibilities as I match fabric to pattern. Here are some pieces for transitioning from summer to fall:

First up is Vogue 1152 which is a Rebecca Taylor design. I'm making it in a satiny poly print from Hancock's.

I added an inch and a half to the bodice (piece 1) below the V neck and increased the curve on the side front at the bust an equal amount. That's why this piece doesn't lay flat - because I am most definitely not flat!

I plan to complete this tomorrow and pair it with some lovely black strappy pumps I recently got on sale at Macy's.

My next project is also a Vogue - Today's Fit by Sandra Betzina, V8151. I've made view B already and it's a great fitting basic knit top. I'm tackling view A, the wrap top, out of a gorgeous Canvasbacks knit I got last summer at Waechter's Fine Fabrics in Asheville, NC while I was traveling. (Funny how I always make a side trip to a good fabric store...)

I like the cut of this pattern, especially the ruching at the bottom sides. That looks quite forgiving.

While I have the serger threaded with white, the next project will be from the June 2010 Burda. I have decided that being a size 44 Euro is perfect as I can fit both the regular and the plus patterns, and what is not to love about that sexy knit top with the gathered front seam? I'll be making it in an ITY jersey I got from

After the two print tops, I'll be threading up my machines with purple for the next two selections.

The first purple top is Simplicity 2364. I'm using some purple interlock that I got at the Patsy Aiken outlet and making view E. I like view E because it's almost one shouldered, but I need that little strap. I think this will be fun to wear to the Brad Paisley concert next month (especially after seeing how people were dressed at Toby Keith).

The second purple top is made with a really drapey cotton blend jersey I got at the Fabric Mart store in Reading, PA, on my recent trip. It was only $2 a yard! I'll be making Simplicity 3790, View D. I think the draped front collar will work quite well with this fabric. You can also see in the picture that the fabric has a pretty sheen to it.

The last project I cut tonight was also from Simplicity 4032: a jacket designed for fabrics such as the ubiquitous polar fleece that abounds at Joann's (which is, of course, where I got it). I have cut view D which has a cute curved front shape that was easy to do an FBA on and is a style that looks good on ladies with a lot happening up top. I really like the idea of this as a casual, yet somewhat more sophisticatedly styled jacket. I'd like to try a more tailored jacket for this fall and this is a good stepping stone project, in my opinion.

At this point, I ran out of pins and space in my to-be-sewn basket, so I dumped a load of fabric in the washer for shrinking purposes. All but the dark solid on the bottom left are Michael Miller knits from Patty Young's collection. They are lovely, but prone to major shrinkage so I was not about to touch them without prewashing. I also wanted to be sure the dark stretch twill was ready to be cut into a semi-fitted skirt from a Rachel Comey (Vogue designer) pattern. Once I do that skirt, I'll probably switch over to working on Gracie's back to school wardrobe. My baby is starting three-year-old preschool and she needs some cute things for school.

Friday, July 23, 2010

A picture is worth a thousand yards

Okay, maybe not a thousand, but this is definitely a major addition to the stash. The final tally will be revealed after I complete the task of inventory and adding it all into my database of fabric. I plan to sew something tonight. I don't know yet what it will be, but after a week away from my machines, I *need* to sew.

BTW - highlights from this pile include many lovelies from my visit to Fabric Mart. I even got to pick out the pieces of my own "mystery bundle" since I spent more than $75. The picture doesn't really do it justice, but as I start planning and sewing my fall wardrobe, more of this will be revealed.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Sewing Machine Withdrawal

I'm sitting here in a Barnes & Noble because I (fortunately) had an excuse to leave the kids at the in-laws' house for a couple of hours so I could submit a paper for graduate school. Of course, I did that little deed in a hurry and now I'm about to peruse some sewing books/magazines. I managed to snag a July Burda yesterday afternoon in Philadelphia, and there is an entire suitcase of all that gorgeous new fabric waiting in my car. However, it will be Friday before I can bust out the machine back at my house.

I wanna sew!!!!! I need to cut some fabric! I need to hear the whir of the motor...

In the meantime, I will satisfy my urges by reading about sewing and, of course, purchasing so more fabric. I have 3 more fabric store visits in the works, so I will hit them and get my fix.

Is it a bad thing to have no problem bypassing cheaply made, wrinkly, chain-store clothes longing to custom fit and create one's own fashions (or things for one's adorable kids)? I think not. I just miss the thrill I get from doing it!

Friday, July 16, 2010

A Fabric Place (a.k.a. Michael's Fabrics)

No trip to (or through) Baltimore would be complete without a visit to A Fabric Place. An unassuming little building hides this amazing gem. The staff was very helpful and Michael himself greeted us and when he found out I had come from North Carolina, he gave us (me and my four thankfully well-behaved kids) a tour, offered some amazing deals and pointed out some incredible fabrics. I just about had a fabric-gasm (if I can invent the term).

It's late...very late...drool now, and I'll describe later.

G Street Fabrics

Since I was passing through Washington D.C. area, I knew I wanted to visit G Street fabrics in person. I had received an order from them after winning a $150 gift certificate in the Fabric Stash contest on Pattern Review. I still had some of the credit left, so I picked up...

The brown has hints of peach woven through it and is a lovely soft twill. The peach is microfiber and the raspberry is French terry cloth. I also got a few trims.

Overall, the store had a large selection and prices ranged from reasonable to dirt cheap to take-out-a-loan, a very wide range. They have an extensive selection of buttons and beautiful trims. I would definitely consider making another stop there while traveling.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

On a Fabric Journey

So I'm headed toward the Washington/Baltimore/Philadelphia/Central PA area with four kids in tow, but luckily they know how to act in a fabric store. So far I have stops planned at G Street Fabrics, A Fabric Place, Jomar, Fabric Mart, and just maybe Fabric Row in Philly.

Any other must-visits???

I'll try to review my store visits and share pics of loot, but I won't be sewing (gasp! withdrawal!) until I get back home. I'll have to get my fix via blogland and PR.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Big girls and cute tops

I'm not a big girl, but I have BIG girls, so tops are a special pain to fit. I've been a fan of knit tops in RTW and sewing my own, so I was excited to try some knit top patterns in the hopes of making some cute tops to take on a trip.

I started with Butterick 5327:  I have already made a hybrid of view A & B, but I wanted to try view C. I did not consider D because big puffy sleeves would just make the twins look like quadruplets.

This one needed (gasp!) no full bust alteration (FBA). It was easy and quick to sew, a definite winner.

My next undertaking was Butterick 5497, one of their newer offerings. It has some interesting back detail and I liked that view B did not present any cleavage-related issues. I teach middle school; I can't go around with my boobs hanging out like appetizers on a tray.

I did a simple FBA for this by adding about an inch and a half of length to the front piece. That was all it needed. There is some nice hidden elastic giving this shape at the shoulders and the empire waist. It's also got a cool back slit.

My final project was another Butterick - 5495. I hesitated to cut into my fashion fabric because I was having trouble visualizing the construction and I was worried about fit (not being able to see where to check a bust measurement or add space for an FBA). I cut a test garment out of some el cheapo Wally-world poly knit.

Ugh...there was a lot of seam-ripping action on this one. I couldn't tell which was the right side of the junky fabric. I kept sewing things the wrong way. At one point I cut out an entire serged seam because I was so annoyed (and I knew it was destined to be a non-wearable muslin).

By the time I put it on, I feared it would be awful and hit the trash and that would be the end of it...but it's not. I finally can see exactly how it's supposed to be constructed (correctly, the first time...) and I feel ready to try the short sleeve version with my pretty fabric.

Like the old song says "Two out of three ain't bad..."

Friday, July 9, 2010

Motorcycle Kitties

Oh, the things I sew for my kids! I was in Joann's when the kids spotted this fabric:
 That's right...motorcycle kitties. Totally bad-ass cats on bikes, tough enough for my boys to want it made into something to put their Beanie Baby kitties.

You might notice that this is attached to the top rail of a bunk bed. Having had a previous (purchased) organizer on this rail before, I had seen a tendency of my kids to pull on things a lot. I don't want to keep sewing buttons on over and over again, so I put the buttons on the back. Please don't destroy it too quickly...

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Mama Made Mine

In case you were wondering about the name of the blog url, there's a story behind this. I can't sleep, so I thought I'd share.

When I was pregnant with my fourth child, I found out  was having a girl after three boys. I went nuts - couldn't wait to girly-up the nursery and buy little frilly dresses, but I hit the wall at Babies R Us when I saw how ridiculously priced some of the crib sets were. I got the notion that I would make my daughter's bedding. After all, I could buy a decent machine for as much as a crib set. It wasn't long before I had my lovely Kenmore. (seen on the left)

I made her a crib set, a bunch of flannel receiving blankets, organizer baskets, and her baptism dress. Then I put the machine away for a few months until she was about 3 months old. I took it out again and made a few outfits. By the time she was one, I was making about half her clothes. By the time I had the Kenmore two years, Brother arrived (my serger) and by then I had really taken off with sewing.

When Gracie started talking and really paying attention to what she was wearing (she is MY girl after all), she would tell someone if they asked about her clothes, "Mama made mine." It was really cute. She's three now, and she knows how to say it with better grammar, but she also knows Mommy smiles if she says it the baby way, so she does.
So, now I make about 90% of her wardrobe and I love how excited she gets whenever we go to the fabric store or I complete a garment. She's a joy to sew for and because of her I have really discovered a passion. I love sewing! I love sewing for her. I love sewing for me, my husband, and my sons. I love sewing for our home. Sure, things have a little wabi-sabi (the Japanese art of imperfection - if you saw the King of the Hill episode where Bobby grows roses, you know what I'm talking about), but I still can produce better quality than many store-bought items for the same or less money. Most of all, it's satisfying.

Mama made all of these!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Who bought this?

Somebody out there was awfully quick on the draw at Lanetz Living - darn it!!!

Vogue 8636

I've been working on a Vogue Marci Tilton top - V8636. I can't decide which neckline treatment I want to do, but it was easy to settle the 3/4 versus full length sleeve option - I only had enough fabric for the 3/4 sleeve!

The fabric is a Juliette knit in a lovely medium periwinkle blue, one of my favorite colors. I picked it up last week at Mary Jo's in Gastonia, NC. It has a lovely feel to wear and it drapes beautifully. Sometime I ought to get this type of knit for a dress.

I stopped before hemming the bottom and sleeves and completing the neckline because I am almost out of thread, but I wanted to share the FBA I did on this one because I'm pretty pleased with the fit I got. I'm about a size 14 in RTW, so in patterns, an 18 is good (or 44 in Euro sizes). It's the boobs that are out of control. I'm a 38G - thank goodness for Dillard's because it's the only place I can get bras! Anyway, I need width and length to go around them, so here's the alteration:

I cut everything except the front piece in the 18 without any changes. For the front, I slashed on the lengthen-shorten line and added two inches. Then, I drew an extension from where the seam meets the sleeve, curving out about an inch and a half and curving back to the pattern at the slash line. After cutting that piece, I gathered the part I extended on the side. The two inches in length got drawn up and the extra three inches total (because I added up to 1/5 inches on each side in the curve) are all what's covering the girls without pulling. I've seen similar gathering on another pattern (I think it was in Ottobre Woman) and that was my inspiration.

Of course, I'm still back to the dilemma of what to do with the neckline, but at least I don't have to sweat what to do about the fit.

BTW - That's just the light from my ceiling fan leaving a weird reflection on Gracie's 6 month portrait. She's not really a Gremlin!