All Grainline, All The Time

Alternative Title: "The One In Which I Blatantly Copy The Lovely Ms. Beeman"

Perhaps this top looks a little familiar to you?  Probably because it looks exactly like the version that Jen sewed up for her tutorial on how to turn the Scout Tee into a Madewell-inspired top.  What can I say?  I'm a total copy cat.  But imitation is the highest form of flattery, right?  If so, I hope she considers herself truly flattered.

Well, let's start at the beginning and talk about how this top came to be.  I know that I've mentioned it before, but I'm trying my best to work with what I have in making new garments this year.  That certainly doesn't mean that I haven't bought new fabric or new patterns in the last 9 months, but that does mean that I'm trying to be a bit more thoughtful in what I do purchase and that I do my best not to jump on all the latest crazes.  It also means looking at patterns in new ways to see how they can be altered slightly to make garments with different design features.  The fantastic thing about this project though was that all that work was done for me thanks to Jen writing a couple of posts about how to reconfigure the Scout Tee into this lovely garment.  She did a great job writing out a tutorial on how to alter the pattern and all I did was follow her directions (which were lovely - as usual).  I love the curved hem and the cuffed sleeves on this version, not to mention the split neck.  Three little modifications that make for one awesome new garment.

As for sizing, I used the size two in the Scout Tee but with the length of a size 18 garment and I'm sure glad I did because it would have been way too short otherwise - especially since you take some length off of the sides with the curved hem.  The fabric is a Kaufman chambray and is as lovely as everyone says it easy.  Super easy to work with and very affordable - especially since it's such a wide fabric.  I think I bought two yards to make this shirt but only used maybe a yard and a quarter.  Now I need to figure out what to do with the other 3/4 of a yard.  Oh, to have such troublesome problems.

Oh, and why All Grainline, All The Time?  Because I happen to also be wearing my favorite Grainline Maritime Shorts.  A fully handmade outfit?  Yes, please!


Alabama Chanin - The Sequel

Okay, let's start out by just acknowledging the fact that this dress is super-wrinkled.  I swear it's not because I'm lazy.  Rather, it's just because I'm a poor planner and I ended up taking these pictures after wearing the dress all day at work.  Just squint your eyes until you can't see the wrinkles anymore.  There, problem solved.

Now on to the details!  This lovely white dress - that I finished on September 2nd, just in time for it to be a fashion faux pas - is yet another Alabama Chanin garment.  The pattern is the short fitted dress pattern from Alabama Studio Sewing and Design and when they say fitted they mean fitted.  I cut out a size small - the same size as the tank top that I had made (although this time I didn't grade out to a larger size at the hips) - but this garment came out much, much smaller.  In fact, after sewing it up (by hand!) I tried it on for size and found the stitches under a lot of pressure in the bust area (and I don't really have a  bust area, so if I have a problem you know it's pretty tight).  In the end, I went back and reinforced those stitches with smaller stitches which ended up helping a bit and then I felled all the seams (by hand!) and that ended up helping a lot.  Who knew?  All that felling actually serves a purpose!

The hand stitching of the dress actually went by pretty quickly and was enjoyable to do.  The felling of all the seams?  Well, that felt like a chore, probably because there was a lot more pressure to make the stitches nice and neat because they're so visible, but I really love the dimension that it gives to the dress and I'd do it all over again in a heartbeat.  

As for the neckline and armholes, I used the cretin stitch to attach the binding once again.  The only real change that I made was to make the overlap of the binding on the neckline right behind the shoulder rather than in the back of the neckline.  The low back neckline is such a design feature that I didn't want a big old overlap right in the middle of it.

As for the fabric, I bought it from Organic Cotton Plus again and I'm incredibly happy with it.  In fact, it's taking all sorts of self-control not to place another order so that I can make an Alabama Chanin mid-length skirt for winter.  Right now self-control's winning.  We'll see how long that lasts.

Oh, and remember how I said that I wore it all day at work today?  Well, it turns out that this dress goes perfectly with the Ikat blazer that I made several months ago.  It's a handmade match made in heaven!


The First Day Of School Dress That Almost Wasn't

I'd like you all to know that you shamed me into making this dress.  Until I saw all of your posts on clothes that you made for your kid's first day of school, I had resigned myself to the fact that this dress just wasn't going to happen.  O definitely had an idea of what she wanted - "I need more long sleeved dresses" - but I didn't have any fabric in my stash that would meet her demands and I don't live close to any store that sells apparel fabric.  I had just accepted the fact that it wasn't going to happen this year, but then the guilt set in and I knew that I had to get my butt in gear, so we headed to a fabric store the Saturday before school started to search for some jersey fabric.  Unfortunately I wasn't in love with 99% of the knit fabrics that I saw.   So many were polyester knits and the others weren't particularly kid friendly.  Fortunately, stuck in between a bunch of quilting cottons was this Heather Ross knit fabric that just so happens to be 100% cotton and very kid friendly.  Now if it looks familiar it's because:

1) it's been used all over the internet and
2) I actually made O a shirt out of the red version of this fabric for her first day of school last year.

I swear that I didn't plan to use the same fabric for another first day of school outfit.  I'm a huge nerd, but not that big a nerd.

In an attempt to make O a nice comfy knit dress I started with the Flashback Tee pattern, elongated it, and widened it at the bottom.  My so-called attempts at pattern modification didn't go so well though. I tried to add gathers to the sleeves, but I didn't alter the sleeve enough so you can't really see the tiny, almost nonexistent gathers.

I also attempted to scoop out the neckline but I got a little overzealous and cut out way too much so I had to add gathers to the front to prevent the dress from looking like an off the shoulder Flash Dance tee.  Then I had some trouble getting the binding to lay flat along the neckline, but that's par for the course for me.  Also, the dress fits a bit bigger than I was imagining but that's probably because O is a string bean and I should have gone with a size 4, rather than the size 5.  The good news on that front though is that this dress will probably fit her for longer than a week.  Woo-hoo!

So, the dress is not quite what I imagined and doesn't fit quite like I would have preferred, but I seem to have a happy customer anyway and in the end, isn't that all that matters?

Happy first day of school, O!  You go, girl!

PS - You may have shamed me into making a dress, but you didn't shame me enough to make another backpack!  Store-bought backpack, baby!

PPS - Like the painter's tape on the door?  Keeping it real around here!


Sewing For Summer At The Beginning Of Fall

I realize that most of you all have moved on to fall sewing, but you should probably know that I live in a state of eternal denial so I'm still firmly in the midst of summer sewing over here.  Hence, the shorts that I just made.  For the record, this is my third pair of Maritime Shorts.  Why another pair?  Well, my waistline seems to be spreading a bit lately (I'm not pregnant - I should probably just make that clear) making all my pants and shorts ride up just a little bit.  The problem is that this pair that I made is already on the short side so any additional shrinkage is causing some real issues in that we're quickly approach butt-cheek exposure area (an area that I generally try to avoid).  So, it was back to the Maritime Shorts again, only this time adding about an inch and a half to the length.

I love how the length came out but I probably should have taken into account the fact that I used a different type of fabric in making these shorts (oh, when will I learn?).  The fabric is a cotton sateen but there's a bit of stretch to it, making the shorts a bit bigger than they would be in a regular woven fabric.  Because of that, there's a bit more fabric in the front than I would prefer, but what are you going to do?  After all, they're not exposing my butt to the world.   You win some, you lose some.

Speaking of which, this is what happens when you try to take pictures in the backyard.

First you get one photobomber, who looks so sweet and innocent that you can't help but give her a little hug.

And then the other kid hops in.

And pretty soon it's all gone to hell.

The good news is that Ben's a good sport about it all.

Hence, this awesome t-shirt that I still like to wear.  I'm pretty sure that I have at least 2 more years before my kids start to tell me that I embarrass them.


Undie Making Attempt #753 (Or At Least It Feels That Way)

This week I turned one year older and I celebrated by doing one of my very favorite things - getting stuff done!  Doors painted, papers shredded, random piles of junk done away with, and toys donated.  Oh, and I sewed a bunch of undies.

This isn't actually my first attempt at sewing underwear for myself, but it is my most successful.  After trying my hand at sewing kid's undies, I sewed a pair or two for myself with some interlock cotton and while they worked okay, they were actually kind of ugly and they didn't stick around too long.  About a year ago, I tried again, only this time using the So Zo free undies pattern.  The fit was great but I'm horrible at sewing with foldover elastic so the finishing was pretty hideous.  I tried to make them again using a picot edged elastic but I forgot to add width to the crotch area to make up for the fact that you have to fold the elastic over, and let's just say that they ended up riding up in all sorts of areas because of the missing width.  Not comfortable!  And then about a month ago I made myself a pair of undies using the free Make Bra hipster pattern, but the fabric I used ended up being far too flimsy and having no recovery so the undies are kind of saggy.  Not exactly a good look.  I could consider all those project little failures, but the truth is that I learned something important from each and every one.

I learned a lot about choosing fabrics for undies (lycra is your best friend).  And about how to sew on picot elastic (sew as close to the picot edge as you can when sewing it on the right side of the fabric.  Oh, and trim your fabric after the first step of sewing the picot to the right side.  The undies end up looking much better that way).  I also always hated how the inside of the undies looked when the thread you used matched the outside of the undies but contrasted with the elastic portion.  Then I had an epiphany - just use a different color thread in the bobbin! - and my undies have been looking much better since then.

Which brings us to today and my undie-making extravaganza.  These undies were actually all made using the Ohhh Lulu Grace underwear pattern which was fantastic but is definitely geared more towards an intermediate sewer.  A beginner could definitely try their hand at the pattern, but they would probably just have to search the internet a bit for some tutorials on certain techniques.  They're certainly not difficult to put together - they just require some different skills.

The pattern calls for using a woven cut on the bias for the front and back panels, but for my first pair I used a knit for the entire pair.  The only issue was that this is a pretty flimsy knit without an lycra and when I tried on the undies for size they ended up being too big.  No problem though - I just went back and sewed all the seams with a 5/8" seam allowance rather than a 1/2".  Problem solved!

I did use a woven for my next pair along with a cotton/lycra knit fabric for the sides and the fit was right on!  The woven fabric is a voile leftover from this project and the knit fabric is cut up from a dress that I made and never blogged about because it made me look like a stuffed sausage.  The pattern calls for just turning under the leg seam allowance but I added elastic edging to the legs in addition to the waist just because I prefer that look.  The orange elastic is local from Pacific Fabrics and all the other elastics I purchased from here.

For the third pair I used fabric leftover from this project and O just thinks it's hilarious that I have undies that match her dress.  The side fabric is just a cotton/lycra fabric that is leftover from my children's undie making efforts.

The truth is that I may be addicted to making underwear.  I know this because I spent the last hour searching websites for things like stretch lace and plush back elastic.  Who am I?

Oh, that's right - I'm the gal with some kick-ass undies!


A Tale Of Two Shorts

It was the best of times.  It was the worst of times.

But let's start with the best because that's much more fun.   Allow me to introduce my latest pair of City Gym Shorts - with gold bias binding nonetheless!  Now if I were a better blogger this is where I would tell you where exactly I got the inspiration for these shorts, because I'm definitely not the first person to use metallic trim on these shorts. The truth is though, that I have no idea where I first saw this because while I was immediately drawn to the idea I knew that there was no way that I was ever going to get around to making my own metallic bias tape so I didn't even bookmark the inspiration.  Fast forward a week or two and what do I find at Joann Fabrics?  Pre-made metallic bias tape.  Boo-yah!

Actually, double boo-yah because it turned out that I had just enough plain black cotton fabric in my stash that was leftover from some long-forgotten project.  And with that combo these little shorts were born.  And I just have to say - holy cow, are these shorts quick to sew up when you use store bought bias tape.  Lightening fast, people!

So fast that I had time to make a whole another pair of shorts - only this time for the little one.  I dug through the stash to find some coordinating fabric and came up with this mermaid fabric by Heather Ross and some leftover orange quilting cotton.  I really love these little shorts too but the recipient is less enthusiastic about them.  When I tried to try them on her to check the length of the elastic, she started yelling "Bad shorts!  Bad shorts!" and her opinion of them still hasn't changed.   I'm choosing to believe that she's displeased with them out of a sense of solidarity with the mermaids - whose heads I accidentally cut off because I miss calculated the seam allowance of the waistband.  Oops.

On the upside, I'm super-smart and made C's shorts in a size three so there's the possibility that they may still fit her next year.  Here's to hoping that she makes peace with decapitated mermaids in the coming year.

Also on a positive note, after making three pairs of these shorts I've come to the conclusion that the waistband is just a tad bit too long.  I struggled like hell to get the second one in just right (just like the first one), so on the third pair I cut the waistband a tiny bit smaller (maybe like 1/2 an inch) and it went in perfectly.  And another tip - although this one is far from mind-blowing - I've been sewing a little X on the backside of the shorts to indicate which side is the back.  Usually I do this with a little bit of ribbon but the way that this waistband is sewn on makes it so that step requires much more forethought than I'm capable of so I went with this sporty little method instead.  Problem solved.


City Gym Shorts For The Girl Who Never Goes To The Gym

<<Ha!  I just realized that I forgot to make the sides line up perfectly.  And this is why I never sew with plaid fabric!>>

Sometimes I sew incredibly frivolous items that never get worn, and sometimes I sew something that's actually useful.  I'm pleased to say that this little pair of shorts actually falls into the latter category.  You see, I have one pair of lounging-around-the-house shorts that have been in heavy rotation for years and are about to die so I needed to add a new pair into the mix.  Luckily the stars seemed to align as the City Gym Shorts pattern was released by Purl Bee just when I needed a pair of casual shorts (and the pattern's free!).  If you search the internet you'll find tons of versions of these shorts sewn up in all sorts of incredibly cute mix-and-match fabrics, so I'll just point out the completely obvious fact that mine are definitely on the plain side.  But I love them all the same.

The fabric is from my stash and I have absolutely no idea when or where I bought it.  It seems to be a 100% cotton fabric with a little bit of texture and luckily it works perfectly for these little shorts.  I took extra time to cut everything out perfectly so that all the plaid lines align but when I finally got around to sewing the shorts I totally forgot about matching everything up and all the lines ended up being a 1/4 inch off.  Of course, I didn't realize this until I had serged all the seams and I don't know about you, but ripping out serged seams is the bane of my existence.  I made it through about an inch of ripping when I just decided to cut the shorts out again.  Problem solved.

I probably should have taken that mistake to be a bad omen because I had all sorts of trouble sewing up these shorts (all of it of my own doing).  I did a crappy job sewing on the bias tape and ended up having to rip it out and sew it back on.  I sewed one side of the shorts together wrong so I  had to rip that out too.  And my waistband kept getting stretched out as I sewed it down despite the many, many pins I used, so I had to spend quite a lot of time fiddling with that too.

I don't know what my problem was!  I swear that these are simple little shorts to sew together!  In the end, though, the effort was totally worth it and I love the final product.  So much so that I took them on our little family camping trip and wore the heck out of them.  I'm pleased to say that they lived up to the task!

What are we looking at here?  Oh nothing...just this view! Gotta love those San Juan Islands.


Alabama Chanin

I can't pinpoint the exact moment that I became smitten with the idea of making something from one of Natalie Chanin's books, but somewhere along the way that's exactly what happened.  And the more that I looked at her work and thought about the process of making one of her patterns, the more I became enthralled by the idea of making something entirely by hand.  There's something about it that goes against almost everything that we do as home sewers.  I mean, how many times do we choose certain fabrics or finishing techniques because we want our handmade items to look like ready-to-wear items?  And yet, here's a process that fully embraces the fact that something is not only handmade but that it looks handmade.  And the fact that it looks handmade is a good thing.

No.  It's a great thing.

I can totally get down with this philosophy.

But enough blabbering on.  Let's get to the good stuff.  The top that I ended up making is the fitted tank top pattern from Alabama Studio Style and the great part about this book (and her other books) is that they essentially offer one or two patterns that are available in all different lengths, from a top all the way down to a maxi dress (and you can also just cut the skirt out if you're only looking for a bottom).  Ingenious.  The other great thing about these patterns is the cut of them.  I love that they're incredibly simple, but really feminine.  They emphasize the little curves that I have up top while working great with the much bigger curves that I have around the hips.

Based on my measurements I was at the bottom range of the size medium, but because they recommend a fitted fit I went down to a size small but graded out to a medium at the hips.  I'm really glad that I ended up going down a size because it turned out that the shirt would have been much too big in a size medium.  As it was, I sewed all the seams with a slightly larger seam allowance than recommended (3/8 inch) to get a better fit.  Also, because the top has a fair amount of flair around the hips I probably didn't need to grade out to a size medium for the bottom half, but better safe than sorry I suppose.  I also cut out a size medium in length because I'm oddly paranoid about having shirts that are too short, but I don't think that the extra length was really needed.  Oh, and I also sewed the shoulder seams with a 1/2 inch seam allowance to raise the neckline a bit since it's definitely on the low-cut side.

While my lazy-butt almost never makes a muslin, I did make one in this case because I didn't want to sew everything by hand only to have it not work out in the end (I think I might have cried if that happened).  Plus, I ordered a yard of Alabama Chanin fabric to make this top and that fabric ain't cheap, people, so I didn't want to waste it.  I made the muslin entirely with the sewing machine and while it was helpful in working out the fit, there were a couple things that I guessed on because my muslin fabric was quite a bit stretchier and thinner than my garment fabric, especially since I made my garment with two layers of jersey.  

About that - initially I was just going to make the top with only one layer since I wasn't doing any fancy stenciling or cutting away the top layer, but in the end I chose to make a two-layer top because of the stability that the two layers together provides and I'm really happy with that decision.  Two layers for the win!

The top layer is the fabric from Alabama Chanin (storm color way), but I only decided to make it a double layer garment after I had already received my Alabama Chanin fabric so in an attempt to save a couple bucks I ordered the second layer from Organic Cotton Plus, based on Jessica's post about her beautiful dress.  She was spot-on when she said that the weights are similar and I've already placed another order from them in order to make a dress from this pattern.  What can I say?  I'm hooked.

I used the button/craft thread that the book recommends and was just able to find it at my local craft store.  I did, however, spend a good 15 minutes combing through the thread aisles looking for this particular type of thread because it only comes in like 4 colors so it's hard to find amid 100's of other spools of thread.  I opted not to fell any of my seams because I just like the clean look of leaving that step off.  As for finishing the neckline and armholes, I stitched the binding on with a cretin stitch and while it was slow-going at first, once I got the hang of it, it went pretty fast.  And dare I say that I actually enjoyed all that hand stitching (I know!?!  Who am I?)

I should probably also add that I bought a package of beads from Alabama Chanin with the intention of beading a part of this top, but in the end I just couldn't do it because I love the look of it without any kind of adornment.  What can I say?  I'm a boring type of gal.

A boring type of gal in a totally handmade shirt.




Like every parent, I sometimes worry that what we have to give the kids simply isn't enough.
Not enough time.
Not enough attention.
Not enough skill or knowledge.
But this past weekend we went on a camping trip up to Orcas Island and as I looked at my kids sitting around the camp fire and hiking through the woods, I was overcome with the feeling that while there could always be more, this is enough.
My kids are happy and healthy and full of joy (and ice cream, apparently).  And that is enough for them and enough for me. 

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