Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Jack's Back... for Spring

Spring around here was kind of an on-again-off-again proposition. We had a freeze after Easter, and then *another* one two weeks later, and then a week after that the temperatures went into the 90s. So I'm still not sure we ever got an actual "spring" to speak of, but it definitely (and suddenly!) became time for short sleeved clothing, at least SOME of the time.

The only problem? In all my sewing for my daughter, I never actually MADE her a short sleeved dress (or top, for that matter). See Below.

On the bright side, that's an easy fix. I hand-sketched up all my short sleeved dress patterns (so my daughter wouldn't be distracted by color or fabric selection):

And since we had a Disney Vacation coming up, I spread out my shelf's worth of Disney-inspired fabric:

For pattern selection, A went with the tried & true Isla by SLPco. I could have seen THAT coming. But, can you guess which fabric she picked? If you remember how much she loved her Merry Nightmare shirt, that should give you a hint.

Yup, a Halloween/Christmas print! Technically Nightmare Before Christmas IS a Disney related, but... Augh. Next time, I curate my fabric selection more carefully. And buy more spring-y colors, apparently.

At any rate, even though the whole *point* of the exercise was to make A a short sleeved dress, I just... couldn't do it with Christmas fabric. Not if it meant she'd be wearing short sleeves at Christmas next year. But, I've been curious to try the ruffle sleeve option for a while, and this sounded like a good compromise/decent chance to experiment. I could always cut it off if I didn't like it.

Hilariously, when only the bodice was done I showed the results to my husband, and in a mix of (carefully masked, but not well masked) disbelief and horror he said "you're making a Mardi Gras outfit for our daughter?" He relaxed considerably when I explained that there would be a skirt on it, and it wasn't actually a midriff top for our 5 year old. But I think he was still relieved to see the final product.

Here it is! I used the non-drop waist, but lengthened the bodice by an inch without shortening the skirt (oops). I used the small circle flounce option on the sleeves rather than the large one, and took great care to fussycut the bodice so there'd be one moon in the center instead of two across the chest area. On the back, I did a star cutout.

And.. already A is a HUGE fan... I put it on her, and she spun for 5+ minutes, declaring "best dress EVER!!!" until she finally fell down.

I'm pretty excited about that reaction, and I'm pretty excited about the dress itself. It hasn't gotten worn *too* much yet, both because of our 90 degree heat and because those flounces mean it's not wise for her to wear it if there's any chance she might paint.

But she did get to wear it to a Kentucky Derby party earlier this year, and I am sure there will be other great opportunities this fall!

Looks like she cannot wait :-)

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

King of Pop Cardi

My mother in law is a charming woman, and a faithful Micheal Jackson fan since the days of the Jackson 5. After the Wizard of Oz, Micheal Jackson is definitely her favorite fandom. She collects his memorabilia and DVDs, and loves his music. So when I saw this fabric, the question wasn't should I purchase, it was how much should I purchase?

For the record, I went with 2 yards. I had no idea what I would make, but that seemed like a pretty safe amount. Eventually, based on my MIL's clothing taste and a desire that this should be fairly flexible attire, I decided to make the Women's Fairy Jacket by Ellie and Mac.

Why? Because it's gorgeous, it fits my MIL's free-flowing style and as outerwear, hopefully she'll get to wear it more than once a laundry cycle. Suggested fabrics included any knit with more than 25% stretch,  for which this CL fabric qualified. For this project I paired it with the LUSH Black Cotton Lycra from Snowy Owl Fabrics, which was thick and super wide (70").

Because it's reversible, I figured my MIL would have 2 options: she could wear it black side out - with little peeks of Micheal at the cuffs and the opening, or she could wear it Micheal-side-out, for a full-on statement of Jackson love. She, being a true fan, instantly opted for the Jackson love.

As a pattern, the Fairy Jacket was easy to follow and pretty quick to make. Following the instructions for sewing the cuffs together on the reversible version was a little nervewracking (and I had to pin and turn it several times for "proof of concept" before I actually turned my sewing machine on), and I'm pretty sure you could accidentally sew a twist into one of the arms if you just follow their instructions blindly. That said, I got through that step with some practice, and wouldn't hesitate to buy from Ellie and Mac again. AND...

My Mother-in-Law Loved it!

In terms of Lessons Learned, I think the big one was "don't go crazy and get the heaviest winter-weight CL you can find if you want the top to be reversible," because 2 layers of 11-13 gsm Cotton Lycra actually turn out to be rather heavy. As my MIL put it "this sweater is gorgeous - but it's also WARM."

Also, the requirement for stretch meant that this cardi was hard to get over another set of sleeves (and they showed underneath). Fortunately my MIL is one of the brave souls who isn't afraid to rock a tank top after 40 - so that's what she paired with it - but it does mean she's not going to be taking it off in fall or winter, and she'll have to launder it frequently since she is going to be wearing it with the sleeves next to her skin.

Not that I think she cares, mind you - she's clearly just thrilled to have a unique, one-of-a-kind hand-sewn garment from a beloved Daughter in Law. And the fact that it's one of her favorite fandoms is just the icing on the cake. I did a triple stitch about 1/2" from the edges to help the garment keep its shape, and she's already worn it on several outings.

Not bad for a gift of love that took 2 weeks (and countless hours of custom-fabric site-watching) to make!

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Rainbow Mermaid

Little A has been loving her Descendants dress, and as soon as I realized how much use it was getting, I knew I needed to make another. On a lark - and in the middle of an I-swear-I'm-not-buying-any-more-fabric stint - I saw this set go on sale at Miss Mac Fabric, and I HAD to have it.

The original plan was to make a PaB Violet with a mermaid center and fishtail sides, and then add in the CKC Haven's hood. But that fish-scale rainbow stripe turned to to be really, REALLY bright, in person, and I began to suspect a dress with it on the sides AND on the hood would be too busy. And my daughter LOVES the hood on her Descendants dress.

So, I switched gears to a "solid" bodice, which could support the Haven pocket, and CKC Haven's hoodie (modified) it was.

This time I skipped the bottom cuff and just lengthened out the bodice/skirt accordingly, as I had done last time with the sleeves. I'm not sure if that was an improvement over a 2.5" band of scales at the bottom, but it did save me some time in cutting & sewing.

I will admit that after whipping out those two Care Bear Dresses in a weekend, this dress felt like it took FOREVER. But, the time spent definitely paid off.

My daughter loves the dress, front and back...

And as always, she can't resist a dress with a pocket! I'm glad I took the time to fussycut so the sleeves are even, and so Ariel could be centrally placed. A still says her Descendents dress is her favorite, but it's obvious that this is a close second!

It's always satisfying to make a garment that your child likes, and doubly so when you go from feeling guilty to making something this thrilling.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Cuteness Report!

My son has been a longtime Octonauts fan; for at least a year, it was in near-constant rotation on our TV. By the time I bought this fabric last November, I was beginning to suspect the obsession had run its course: but the price was right, and I couldn't resist the memories. 

Then this February, out of the blue my son started binging on Octonauts again. What luck! A window of opportunity, as they say. I took the main character toss (my favorite part) and paired it with a royal blue solid from Sweet N Charmed.

One of these days I am going to have to work up the nerve to make another hoodie with some of my precious boy fabric. But, since I just wanted to get this DONE and on my kid, the Made By Jack's Mum Explorer Raglan was the logical choice; at this point I've figured out the correct sizing for my kids, and I know how to choose and place fabric to get the look I want so... Despite its quirks this is definitely a go-to pattern for me. 

It's also been kind of fun to compare these shirts to the ones I made in November and see how my product has improved. I learned about the the triple stitch on my machine from the SLPco Facebook Group while making the Science Dress, and it's made me a lot more enthusiastic about topstitching. I'm also getting better at 1/4" seams, and my necklines are definitely getting more even and less caddywompus. 

This particular shirt was made in a size 4T for my son (who wears a 2T in ready-to-wear), but shortened by about 2" on the bottom. It's a little large yet, but I hate making things that don't have room to grow. These photos were taken before I worked up the courage to try double needles on a the neckline, but the shirt has since been updated with them. 

And my son loves it! It was definitely a case of the right fabric at the right time, and I'm glad I made the space in my project queue.

Monday, April 9, 2018

A Wicked Patch Job

On literally the first day that A wore her Descendants Dress socially, a mini-disaster struck: A friend's cat got his claw stuck in A's dress.

Fortunately, the cat (who should probably be venerated into sainthood for his patience) didn't panic or hurt A at all, but he did tear a small hole in the arm of her dress with his efforts to get himself unstuck. I'll admit I wasn't the *happiest* I've ever been, but A was devastated. "My dress is ruined!" she cried. Well...

Not so fast, kid! I do have to give major thanks to the CKC Message Boards on Facebook - which came up with a ton of clever solutions for fixing the problem, from adding cuffs back to fingerless gloves and colorblock sleeves. But the winning suggestion came from a poster who pointed out that custom ribbon on Etsy is usually perfectly washable on normal laundry settings. Hello 1" patch!

15 minutes of searching with the Etsy app on my phone, and I had 3 candidates for a "patch ribbon" lined up. I was trying to get the logo, but my daughter declared SHE liked the CGI characters best, soo... Compromise!

The patch is about 4" worth of 1-inch ribbon from TheBowzStore on Etsy, with the characters for her and the logo for me. My husband (an ex-firefighter) helped me burn the ends, and I sewed it on by hand using a quick whipstitch. My daughter loves it, and I love that this quick fix turned out both functional AND beautiful.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Care Bear Dresses

I know my nieces already have tons of cute dresses, but one of the perks of Seamstressing for yourself is, you get to create matching outfits. I initially resisted the call of this Bears that Care fabric in pink, but when Firefliez Fabrics had a Black Friday sale at 30% off, my self-control faded. Who can resist outfits for brother and sister in the same fabric, different colorways!

I only bought one yard (custom knits are expensive!), so I was faced with the challenge of how to get two dresses out of one yard of fabric. Enter the Violet Tunic by Peekaboo Patterns, acquired from Etsy. The silhouette reminded me of a cute photo of my niece in a candy-cane-like red and white striped dress at Christmas, and the construction looked pretty straightforward. So I bought it (and, uh, a bunch of other stuff) at the Peekaboo Etsy Shop. As I had suspected, it was a pretty quick make.

As it stands, I think I'm acquiring the level of proficiency where I *don't* have to follow a pattern exactly. I skipped the pockets on this one (sacrilege, I know) and both dresses came together pretty quick. I did a 4T for V, and an 18m for L. The above photo was the front, and the below photo is the back.

Since the pattern was so straightforward, I didn't have much in the way of feedback. I found it marginally annoying that seam allowances were all over the place (default 1/2, dress side seams in 3/8", neckband 1/4") but since I'm a consummate instruction-reader it was just annoying and not problematic.

I also used this project to try out a new skill: double needles. I'd been admiring them on the hems of shirts as of late, and it seemed a good solution to the problem where the seam allowance inside the neck likes to pop up, but I don't trust a triple stitch to be sufficiently stretchy.

My first try with "universal" double needles from my local sewing store resulted in skipped stitches, so that was out; but persistence prevailed, and 2 days later (ie, the time it took the needles to ship),I tried again with some Schmetz Stretch Twin Needles from Amazon. The "stretch" needles worked out great, and is the final result:

And here's the smaller dress (for L, who is 2), paired with the Kimono for my nephew. They make a cute set!

Now, all that's left is to hope that they all fit - at the same time, preferably.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Care Bear Kimono & Footie

One day, I went to clean out A's closet, and texted my (pregnant) Sister-in-law to verify her girls' sizing and see if she had use for any hand-me downs. Her response? "V and L are size 4T and 18m respectively, and have 18 million clothes. Baby boy is a newborn and has ZERO clothes." Well, that's a disparity. I didn't have any hand-me-downs for baby boy at the time, but fortunately I don't *need* storebought clothing to ensure he has something to wear.

The fabric for this project was left over from C's Maternity shirt, and after some time spent on Etsy, I sprung for a Baby Kimono pattern from Brindille & Twig.

I made it in a 0-3 month size, and was pleased with the results. It was my first time working with snaps - so that was an adventure - but overall I was happy with how it turned out. And snaps are way, WAY easier than buttons or zippers, which is good to know for the future.

Since I had (barely) enough fabric left over, I made the footies as well. That way, my nephew could have a full set. I fussycut both toes from the scraps (although if  had it to do over, I would have skipped the cloud), and barely eeked out the legs without color blocking. They're pictured here before I added the elastic.

The set came together quite adorably. I forgot to take a picture off it, but the pads of the feet are also the same yellow as the binding. The left leg of this photo hints at it if you look carefully.

From a sewist's perspective, this was my first B&T pattern, and I'm probably not going to rush back for more. The instructions were clear and easy to follow, and the photos in the instructions were super helpful, but the construction of the garments took some shortcuts I didn't care for. On the top, the binding leaves a raw edge on the inside, and my first attempt at sewing the binding on clamshelled pretty badly (I had to rip it out & try again). On the pants, the method for attaching the elastic was fast, but left a raw edge on the inner waistband that wasn't terribly attractive. Sigh. B&T also calls for 1/4" seams, which aren't my favorite when working with knits. So, there wasn't anything particularly *wrong* with the patterns, but the line definitely doesn't mesh with my sewing style even though they design a lot of cute, unique garments.

That said, the real question is if the final product meshes with my Sister-in-law's dressing style! I have to admit I sat on this for a bit before sending it out, but my Sister-in-law should be getting a package later today. We'll see what she thinks when she gets it.