Valencia Tunic

When it came time to choose a pattern to make from the newest Willow and  Co collection I embraced my inner selfish sewer and went with the Valencia Tunic because:

1) I really do love to sew for myself
2) look how freaking cute it is!

My decision was pretty easy, even for an indecisive person like myself (although those little girl patterns are pretty darn cute and tempting).  For sizing, I went with a straight size XS based on my measurements and I didn't worry too much about my usual grading out for my hips since the top is sightly A-line and very flowy.  Also - confession time here - I didn't make a muslin.  For all you gals who always make one, I commend you, but the fact is that I only make one about 25% of the time mostly because a lot of the clothes that I make are not super-fitted and there's a little more wiggle room in terms of fit.  Also, I'm lazy and I hate any sort of prep work.  Just ask my husband who has the unenviable job of doing all the prep work before we paint any room.

Now can we talk about this fabric combo that only came about thanks to an off-hand comment from the lady cutting my fabric at the fabric store?   The green rayon fabric was originally purchased with this project in mind, as it's light and drapey and perfect for this top.   And while this top lends itself to some great fabric combos between the yoke and the body, I was initially going to make the top in just one color because I thought it would be more wearable.  But while cutting my fabric the lady mentioned how good these two fabrics look together and I thought "you know what, lady who I've never met before?  You're right!"  And it just so happened that I had juuuust enough left-over for the yoke after I made a different project from the navy blue linen/rayon fabric.  I should also say that all my past sewing attempts with rayon have been total fails and I usually find rayon really hard to sew with, but combining it with linen made it very manageable and somehow I muddled through with the 100% rayon fabric too, probably because it was a bit thicker than the past rayons that I have worked with (may they rest in peace).

Because I only had a little bit of the navy blue fabric to work with the yoke lining and all the bias bindings are made from the green rayon fabric.  And while the pattern says that you can use store-bought bias tape I went ahead and made my own because I never like the way store-bought bias tape feels, especially in what is supposed to be a drapey garment.  I cut my bias bindings 1 inch wide and sewed them with a 1/4" seam and also added some under stitching to keep them in place better.  I also cut a little extra bias binding so that I could bind the neck instead of using the collar piece that the pattern comes with.  I didn't initially intend to make this modification, but once the shirt was mostly sewn up I couldn't help thinking how nice it might look without the collar so I went ahead and left it off.  Sometimes it pays to listen to your gut.

Also, two other tips about this project - sew your buttons on a bit loosely since the button tabs are thicker because they're made of fabric.  I didn't do this and the button are pulled pretty tight on the yoke.  I may go back and sew them on a bit looser...or I may just learn to live with them.  Also, be careful on the length of this top.  I'm 5'6" and I think the length is perfecto but if you're shorter you may want to shorten the body a bit (or fully embrace the tunic).

But you know what this project really taught me - respect your tools.  For Christmas this year I got new sewing scissors and they are super-sharp and super-fantastic.  But I snipped a tiny hole in this top when cutting a thread off and that was not super-awesome.  The hole is really small and barely visible since it's in the front gathers.  And I put a little Fray Check on it as soon as I realized my stupidity so I hope it doesn't cause the garment to fall apart the first time I wash it.

Really sharp scissors cut holes in fabric.  Who knew?

Many thanks to the ladies from Willow and Co for providing me with this pattern.  As always, all opinions are my own.  As are all the stupid mistakes I make when sewing my garments :)


A Really Belated Post About My Favorite Three Year Old...And Her Birthday Dress

Well, someone turned three the other week month and, of course, that someone needed a new dress to help her celebrate this momentous occasion.  Perhaps my favorite part of making this dress was taking her to the fabric store  to let her pick out the fabric.  She loved looking at all the colors and patterns and was so excited that she got to choose one just for her.  I may be a little biased, but it was pretty darn cute.

In the end she chose this Michael Miller print that has some subtle moths hidden in the print and I chose the coordinating lime green fabric for the lining.  The back is finished with a bright pink invisible zipper and even though it's technically "invisible" I love the pop of color that it adds to the dress.  In fact, a contrasting color invisible zipper may  just be my new favorite addition to kid's clothes.

You know what else I love?  Hidden small touches to make a dress extra special.  For this dress I considered embroidering a note to her on the lining of the dress, but in the end I got lazy and instead opted for some  cool machine stitching to hold up the hem of the lining.

Have I ever told you just how basic my sewing machine is?  You know how most modern machines offer a ridiculous number of stitch options?  Well, mine offers a whopping 18.  That's it.  And honestly, I never really mess with the more decorative ones, but I thought that this might be the perfect opportunity to try one out.  And why not try it out in bright pink?

For the pattern I chose to use the Hanami dress pattern once again because, well, just because I love this pattern.  I was a bit lazy and didn't pick the size by C's measurements so it's a bit big and I definitely had to make a very deep hem to make it the right length for her, but it'll probably fit her perfectly by the time summer comes along.  The pattern has a couple different options and I asked for her input but in the end she just wanted a simple bodice with no added collar or flutter sleeves.  I did add some flat piping around the waist because, well, who doesn't love flat piping?  I also chose to add a full lining under the skirt to make it fancy-schmancy.  That isn't included as one of the pattern options but it's a no-brainer to figure out how to add it.

But no post about a birthday dress would be complete without a note about the birthday girl!  She is ever-changing but right now she's incredibly into being a "big girl" (don't you dare call her a baby!) and not missing out on any of the fun (which usually means that she refuses to go to bed at night).  She has recently discovered a new-found love of cuddling (which, of course, I love) and she has one of the most active imaginations that I've ever seen.  One of the things that I love most about her, though, is just how head-strong she is.  She's stubborn and opinionated and not afraid to tell you when she disagrees with what you're saying.  It certainly makes parenting her an interesting experience at times, but I have no doubt that these same traits are going to serve her well in life.  I'm far too much of a people pleaser so I love having a little girl who kicks a little butt.  Now if only we could get her to eat something else besides noodles with butter....

PS - I have a feeling that this face is a preview of her teenage years to come.

PPS - This is her last year in her Hanami birthday dress.  My goodness, she's gotten big!


I Think I'm In Love...With This Dress

Remember when I wrote about using nearly 20 year old fabric?  Well, I can now beat that because this dress just so happens to be made out 40 year old fabric that my mom bought back when they lived in Indonesia in the early 1970's.  Now I realize that I'm making it sound like I come from an entire family of hoarders, but that's probably not too far off from the truth.

In any case, my mom gifted me a couple of fabrics that she no longer has use for since she really doesn't sew anymore.  This fabric is a beautiful handcrafted batik and given that and the fact that my mom held on to it for so long, I was more than a little nervous about cutting into it.  Especially, since the last time I tried to use a precious fabric from my mom I ended up making an entire dress....and then cutting a hole in it with the serger just as I was finishing it.  Ughh!  This time I was determined to be far more careful.

I used the Alder Dress pattern by Grainline Studio since I already had a good idea of the fit and I thought it would be a great match for this fabric.  This time around though I went back and properly added three inches to the length and I love the length on this version  You know what else I love?  The fact that I think I've finally figured out how to sew the gathered inset in properly.  The inset on my first Alder is a little rough but fortunately dark blue color hides a multitude of sins.  I also only added one breast pocket to this one, but you may have a  hard time seeing it due to my kick-ass pattern matching (excuse me while I pat myself on the back).

Other than that, there's nothing too notable about this dress.  Except that I really, really, really do like it.  It is totally not something that I would ever try on in a store, but somehow that makes me like it even more.

Oh, and no post would be complete without a picture of my favorite little photobomber.  Hello there, little one.


The Training Wheels Are Coming Off

I don't often post about life outside of sewing around here - mostly because I'm not the most introspective of people.  I take most things as they come and try to make decisions based on facts, figures, and logic.  I look in wonder at those who only need their gut to tell them what to do.

I need my gut to tell me what to do and then I need to collect pages of information from various sources and put the information in an excel spreadsheet and move the information around based on seven different scenarios that might occur, ranked in order from most likely to least likely.  Needless to say, I'm a bit of a mess when it comes to making big decisions, which would explain why I've had a permanent headache for the last week as I've tried to decide whether to stay in my current career or make the leap into going back to school.  I thought I had made a final decision several weeks ago but a number of things changed at the last minute and that made me re-evaluate my decision.  I thought of how easy it would be to stay in my current job, about the flexibility that it gives me and my family, and how comfortable I was in a position that I've done well at for the past 9 years.

But that evening I took O on a bike ride and my thought process changed.  You see, O learned how to ride a bike without training wheels last summer but all this year she's refused to ride her big bike, instead opting to ride C's tiny bike with training wheels.  Truthfully, she looks absolutely ridiculous riding a 2 year old's bike around and as we headed to the park I found myself telling her:

"You can do this.  You've done this before."

"You can go so much farther and faster on the big bike."

"Don't be scared.  We're right here for you.  We'll help you."

And in that moment I realized that I was O.  I wanted to stay on the little bike forever.  It was comfortable and safe and I knew that I could do it.  I had mastered the little bike.  And, yes, I was fairly limited in where I could go on the little bike but I was ready to accept my self-imposed limitations.

And that's when I realized that I was approaching this decision all wrong.  Everything I was telling my child I should have been telling myself.  And I knew that if I expected O to ride her big girl bike, I needed to ride my big girl bike too.

I gave my final notice to my job today.

The training wheels are coming off.  And it's just as scary as O said it would be.


Alder Dress

After falling in love with the butt ruffle Archer I knew that I needed to get my hands on the dress equivalent - the Alder.  Now I should probably say that when this pattern first came out I was kind of "ehh" about it, mostly because I get the feeling that View A is not the most flattering cut on me.  But then View B's popped up all around the internet and I was sold!

You know what else popped up on the internet - warnings that this dress runs on the short side and it definitely does.  Here's another warning for you - don't try to be lazy and just trace out the size 18 length for size 2 pieces because they don't line up correctly.  Trust me - I learned this lesson learned the hard way.  Use those shorten/lengthen lines that Jen so kindly put on the pattern.  I was able to work a little magic to get the mismatched front pieces sewn together but there's some definite gentle waves in the fabric where the piece was too long.  Aesthetically, it doesn't look too bad nor is it very noticeable, but it drives me a bit crazy knowing that it's not supposed to be there.

The dress is sewn up in a lovely navy double gauze that I purchased from Drygoods Design and all I have to say is "why, oh why, did it take me so long to try out this fabric?"  I now want to wrap myself in nothing but double gauze.  And it's a great option for a flowy dress like this, although I'm concerned that it may be tad see-through if I stand directly in the sun.  I'll have to do a bit more investigation into that potentially embarrassing possibility.

I think this dress is going to be a great option for summer since it's so light and airy but until summer gets here I've been wearing it with tights and a cardigan thrown on top because I'm perpetually cold.

Also, many thanks and big high fives to O for taking these pictures.  And many thanks to C for mastering the art of the photo bomb.

Now get out of my pictures!


The One In Which Hoarding Pays Off

What I'm about to tell you will both inspire you and make you realize what a total hoarder I am.

Almost 20 years ago my sister went to Ghana on a nursing trip and brought back two skirts made from beautiful Ghanian wax print fabrics.  Unfortunately both of them were made for people with teeny-tiny waists.  One I could barely squeeze into, but this one sadly never fit. 

And yet I kept these skirt...for almost twenty years...through at least six moves...and I've literally never worn this skirt.  And I didn't sew for the vast majority of that time nor did I have any great plans to start sewing so I have no idea why I kept holding on to this skirt.  Hoarder much?

But, there's a happy ending to this story because after almost twenty years of lugging both skirts around, one of them now has a new life as a dress for O.  

The pattern is the free Popover Dress Pattern by Oliver and S.  I've made it once before and am a huge fan of this super-simple dress.  Just like last time I added some width to the front and back panels (five inches) and gathered the extra fabric when sewing it together.  I also slimmed down the straps by cutting out strips of 1.5 inch bias binding (instead of 2 inches) and sewing them at 3/8".  The straps are made from navy double gauze from a yet to be blogged project and sewing such thin bias strips of double gauze was not the easiest of tasks so don't look too closely at my stitching, okay?  Thanks.

And with that ends the nearly 20 year saga of this fabric.  Maybe in another 20 years I'll make something out of the other too-small skirt that my sister brought back.  One can dream.

Also, this is my new favorite picture of O.  I don't think I've ever seen a picture that captures so perfectly who she is.  I love this little nugget.


Butt Ruffle

Well, my love affair with the Archer continues and if possible, it's grown, because I think I love this version of the Archer even more than my first version.  I may just be a butt ruffle kind of gal...who knew?  Actually, what's probably most surprising about my love for this shirt is that I love it so much even though I made it out of a fabric that I really didn't like.  It's a 100% cotton shirting fabric that I ordered ages ago from a long forgotten online fabric store but as sometimes happens when you order fabric online, when it arrived I realized that it really wasn't what I was looking for.  The color and actual fabric are fine, but I just didn't like the way that the dots were printed on the fabric.  It looked a little...cheap, maybe? In any case, it sat on my shelf for probably three years and I don't know if I would have ever gotten around to using it had I not been forced to dig through my shelves for something to sew with.  While I may not have loved the printed dots, a great redeeming factor for this fabric is it's super-wide yardage which made it so that I had plenty of fabric to work with.  Also, having worn this shirt a couple of times already I can tell you that the fabric is definitely growing on me because it rarely needs ironing when it comes out of the dryer (although, you wouldn't know it from looking at these pictures since I'd been wearing the shirt all day long when I took these pictures.  Bad blogger!)

As for the shirt, what is there to say that hasn't been said before.  This is a straight size 2 with no fit modifications.  I followed all the pattern directions, except that I used Andrea's tutorial for attaching the collar.  The pattern and instructions are great and I'm a huge fan of the ruffle on the back even if it is kind of a mullet shirt.

Business in the front.

Party in the back.

You would't know it from the silence around here, but I've actually been sewing a ton for myself lately.  I just can't get up the motivation to actually take pictures of the garments.  I'm hoping that Me Made May will finally force me to debut some of my most recent makes.  I'll probably be playing along on Instagram if you want to follow.  Let's hope that I stick with it longer than I did last year.


Seersucker + Chambray

While I've spent the last two years trying to be more intentional about sewing from my stash, there is now a sense of urgency behind these efforts since I'll most likely be unemployed come the middle of June.  And not only unemployed but also racking up student loan debt.  Ah, the great American dream.

In any case, while I've always tried to be pretty sensible about not dropping too much money on fabric and patterns (with varied success), it's pretty clear that I need to make some changes in how I approach picking my projects.  Lately I've begun to dig through the stash trying to sort out the scraps from the larger pieces of fabric that can actually be made into a garment.  So many of the pieces that I have are fairly small so imagine my surprise when I found two pieces that were actually big enough to sew a dress from.  And it was an even better surprise when I saw just how cute these fabrics look together.  The chambray and seersucker make for an awfully cute preppy dress.

The chambray's leftover from this top and the seersucker's is left over from this dress.  The piping around the waist is also left over from some unknown project  and the zipper was shoved in the back of my cupboard no doubt from some long-ago discarded project.

I kind of felt like one of the little mice putting together leftover bibs and bobs for a dress for Cinderella to wear to the ball.  A scrap of fabric here, a zipper there, and ta-da!  A dress!  And, of course, it's a Hanami Dress because that pattern holds a special place in my heart.

Sure, it's no ball gown but I happen to love it all the same.



Well, in true Carolyn fashion I finally got around to sewing something that the rest of the sewing community has been making for the past two years - an Archer!  In my defense, when the pattern came out I thought it looked great, but I also thought that it really wasn't something that I would wear.  Oh, how wrong I was, though, because this one has been getting a ton of wear (hence all the wrinkles) and I definitely see some more in my future (in fact, I already cut out out another one - only this time with a butt ruffle!)

Truth be told, I was also late to the game in making in an Archer because so many people commented on what a time consuming project it was and I'm more of a simple project kind of gal.  I was worried that I would find the project long and tedious and that I wouldn't enjoy it at all.  I'm happy to report, though, that my experience couldn't have been farther from that.  Yes, it took a couple sewing sessions to finish, but I loved the fact that knowing that it was going to take me some time caused me to slow down and take time in getting things right.  I have a tendency to speed through things unnecessarily and the process of slowing down definitely led to a much better end-product.  How embarrassing is it that I'm just learning this now?

For my first Archer I made straight size 2 with no modifications.  I was a bit worried about the fit because I'm definitely a pear shape and I usually grade to a larger size around the hips but I compared the Archer measurements to store-bought shirt that I had and they seemed to be comparable.  The overall fit seems to be right on although the more I wear it, the more I wish that it was just a tad bit longer.  Maybe about an inch?  (For reference, I'm 5' 6")  Fortunately, that's an easy enough modification to make in my many Archers to come.  The directions were great and I used the sew along on the Grainline Studio site to help me along when I got stuck.  And, following the sage advice of many other bloggers, I used Andrea's collar tutorial and it made the collar installation pretty easy.

The fabric is from Nancy's Sewing Basket and I bought it on a particularly memorable Mother's Day outing that ended with both kids crying hysterically in the car and O having blood all over her face because of some obsessive ear-picking that she did back when she was three.  This fabric is probably the only good thing to come from that day.  The fabric is a cotton with a tiny bit of stretch to it and I originally purchased it thinking that I would make some sort of dress out of it, but then I got smart and realized that I rarely wear dresses and this was the far more practical solution.

And it is.  The end.


New Year. Same Resolution.

Like most sewers (sewists?  sewing people?  you know what I mean.), every year I resolve to sew from the stash and since the new year is still kind of fresh I figured that I should probably stick to my sewing resolution.  So behold!  Three shirts made completely with items from the stash.

The first shirt is made from a super-soft Ella Moss fabric that I'm pretty sure is some sort of cotton/poly blend.  I originally bought it to make some undies for myself (which I did), but luckily I happened to have just enough left over to make a shirt for O.  This fabric has very little recovery so it make its uses limited but it's incredibly soft and perfect for swingy t-shirt.  The pattern is just the Made by Rae Flashback Tee pattern which I've used, oh, about a million times.  I cut out a size five, but added a bit of length and width at the bottom to make it more a-line.  I love the really simple black and white stripes on her and she loves how soft the shirt is so we're both very happy campers with this one.

Okay, on to the next t-shirt, which so so happens to be made from a Michael Stars turtleneck that I sadly outgrew.  I've been holding on to it for quite some time, but in the New Year's cleaning out of the closet I made my peace with the fact that it juts doesn't fit me anymore.  Fortunately it was able to find new life as a t-shirt for O.  I kept the original hems on the shirt and sleeves, making this a super-quick sew.  O loves that the shirt is gold and sparkly and I love that her new shirt was essentially free (well, you know what I mean).

Last new t-shirt - cut up from yet another shirt that I outgrew.  The shirt say "I'm a little stinker" on it and I'm not sure what it says about me, but two different people gave me this T-shirt for Christmas 13 years ago.  Either all the gift givers shopped in the same places or I really am a little stinker.  I choose to believe the former.  In any case, this shirt was well-loved by me for many years but it was time to accept the fact that it is way too small on me now.  Once again I used the Flashback Tee pattern but because the original tee had little cap sleeves, O's version has short sleeves.  Not so appropriate for winter, but it's nice and long so it should fit her by the time summer comes along.

And that's it!  Three things that sat around in my cupboard for way too long are now being well-loved.  Let the stash-busting continue!
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