Tuesday, September 13, 2016

My Sewing Machine is Calling...

I know I already said way back in April that life was crazier than usual because we were getting our house ready to sell and all that.  I thought it would all kinda calm down by July and I could start sewing and posting projects again. 

Well, here it is September and I still don't feel like I have the luxury of sewing quite yet.  Actually, I was starting to feel like I could sew, did a pattern test, tried a new pattern, planned and set out several more, and then everything took an extremely unexpected turn and we ended up moving to a new apartment.  Second one this summer.  And then kids started school and it was about all I could do to send them to school with essential school supplies. 

But I feel like I see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Just about everything in the house has a home.  I'm making regular meals.  I should be able to start washing clothes normally by Monday (haven't had a dryer for most of the summer and have been channeling my inner pioneer to get laundry done).  The kids have shoes, backpacks, supplies, new socks and are getting to and from school everyday.  

I hear my sewing machine calling me during nap time as I try to check off my to do list.  

It's coming.  Soon.  And it's gonna feel great!

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Pattern Test: Wardrobe Builder Tee

Okay, life has been crazy in the past couple months.  We have to move to continue my husband's training (on to fellowship!) so we have been prepping our house to sell, navigating offers, counter offers, inspections, finding a place to live in our new location, and on and so forth.  I've had my head down getting it all figured out and never even blogged about projects I finished up right before the chaos started.  But I'm starting to surface now that all of that stuff is getting resolved and figured out.

I tested the Wardrobe Builder Tee from Wardrobe by Me.  I've been wanting a versatile well drafted pattern for T-shirts to make my own shirts.  I completed three versions after making two muslins.  I made size 4 even though my measurements suggested I blend a 4 and 6.

The pattern has just about every option you would want for a basic wardrobe.  5 necklines (crew, scoop, deep scoop, boat, and v-neck), 5 sleeve lengths (cap, short, half, 3/4, and long-but you could also make it sleeveless which some testers did), 3 length options (regular, extra length, and curved), as well as a ruching option.  

Both of the shirts I made were long sleeve since it was winter here.  I loved the length of the sleeve.  It was just right for me.  I also really liked the regular length for the shirt.  The extra length was too much for me and I didn't try out the curved hem.  And I made the regular scoop neck for all of my shirts and really like where those hit.  I'm not sure the deep scoop or the v-neck are right for me (I'm not comfortable showing cleavage), but I can see myself adjusting them to be a bit more conservative for my taste.

What I'm not so sure about is the fit of the shoulders, under arms, and neckline.  The shoulders were too narrow for my broad shoulders, I seemed to get some wrinkles under the arm into the bust, and the neck band has some slight pulling on two of my versions. The neckline on my muslins were fine.  My actual shirts were made out of 2 way stretch ponte, a clearance find that looked like jacquard, and some interlock with no recovery layered with a stretch lace.  The first two materials were both thicker, stiffer, knits with strong recovery.  I think the slight pulling along the neckline in those versions is because of those materials. 

I tried making an adjustment for wide shoulders by extending the seam on the top of the shoulders out by 1.25 inches and adjusting the armscye.  That adjustment helped the sleeve to hit at an appropriate place on my shoulder, but then the seam where the sleeve attaches started poking up, making a funny box look.  And I sometimes get some wrinkles under my armpits after lifting my arms up.

I plan to make another version or two with this pattern to see if my material choice can solve some of those puckering/wrinkling problems and to see if I can figure out how to get that width in the shoulders without making the shoulder seam look weird.  Since I haven't been able to get to that yet (painting, decluttering, paring down my workspace to the bare essentials...) I haven't really formed my opinion of the pattern.  Maybe not as helpful of a post without a clear yes or no to the pattern, but I want to get all this information out before I forgot it all.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Pattern Review: Gabriella's Winter Coat

2 months ago I tested a pattern for Bella Sunshine Designs called Gabriella's Winter Coat.  (Click here to see that post.) I shared a bubblegum pink jean jacket I sewed up during testing.  Unfortunately, my machine broke in the middle of sewing up a second version of the coat.  (Apparently, I use my machine more than it was intended to be used for.)

Now my machine is back and I finally got to finish this coat.  My material is a wool blend of some sort and has metallic threads woven through.  I'm really not very good at paying attention to what fabric I buy.  I bought this stuff because it was so pretty!  It is quite stiff, but is thick and warm.  At least I think it is warm.  Wish I could fit into it...

I took out about 10 inches of the flounce in the back of the coat.  With how stiff this fabric is I think I would have been happier with about 5-10 more inches taken out.  Despite my personal debate about the flounce I get so many compliments on the coat everywhere I go!  I admit to telling people who compliment the coat that I made it because it looks so good how else would they know!  (wink) Honestly, it's really satisfying taking credit for this coat especially because it was so thick to sew and my machine was throwing all sorts of fits.  (It just does not seem to be back to it's old self after having broken and been fixed.  It's just more temperamental.  Boo.)  The button holes were especially troublesome because of the thickness of the fabric.  And I could not sew the buttons on with my machine.  It made all sorts of snarls.  So I had to sew them on by hand.  (I know...not all that terrible.  It just seems like an indicator of who temperamental the machine is now that it won't even sew a simple button on when there are thick layers underneath.)  I also added half an inch or so to the sleeves (It's getting hard to remember what I did!) in the hopes that just maybe she will be able to wear it again next.  I know that is a bit wishful with how kids grow...

Pigg#4 is not very happy in these pictures.  It was VERY cold and windy when we took them and she acted like she couldn't move in the snow.  But I was very ready for this project to be finished and checked off my list after mulling over it for 2 months so we shot a few quick pictures anyways and are calling it good.

After making a second coat, I can say I definitely like the pattern.  The instructions are well written and the finishing is complete.  I can't think of anything I would have done differently as far as techniques.  (Of course I did help with the testing, had never done a coat before, and I am definitely still learning--but everything seems like professional techniques and finishing to me)  The pattern has a glossary to explain all the technical terms it uses which also describes how to execute the techniques those terms refer to.  I couldn't bear to make her open the jacket to show the lining, but it's completely lined in a plum taffeta.  It also has invisible pockets sewn into the side seams.  She never uses them, but and older child would certainly put their cold hands in.

A few general notes about the pattern...the pattern has layers, so you can print out just the size you want, but is not trimless.  The instructions include illustrations, not full-color photos.  The instructions include a tutorial for blending sizes, as a finished garment size chart, and a yardage chart.  The pattern does not include a suggested layout for cutting out your fabric and has pattern pieces for rectangular pieces (which I thought was smart considering how many pieces there are to this coat!)

One thing I don't love (and this seems to be just how Bella Sunshine Designs do their pieces) is that the pattern pieces don't always meet up just right throughout the entire seam allowance.  Sometimes, especially at shoulder seams by the neck edge, the pieces meet up perfectly right where you sew, but not right at the edge of the fabric.  That bugs me because I feel like I'm not sewing accurately and it made the princess seams slightly more challenging.  But the pieces do fit together almost perfectly right where you sew.

My one last comment is just about fabric.  As I mentioned earlier, this second coat was much thicker and stiffer than the pink denim from my first coat.  I learned that many machines have the capability of changing the pressure on the pressure foot to accommodate for thicker fabrics.  Look at your own machine for that feature because it helps.  However, machines can only adjust so much so keep that in mind when selecting your fabric.   I actually couldn't fishing the topstitching at the the neckline because the fabric was just so thick!  (I was also using a cheap little loaner machine from the place fixing my machine and didn't want to risk messing up their machine)  You can't tell that 5 or so inches didn't get topstitched so I'm calling it good.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Pattern Test and Review: Autumn Grace with Expansion Pack

I've been slowly taking shirts out of my daughter's closet as the sleeves get too short and as I was doing that this week, I wondered what my daughter's favorite shirt was.  So I asked.  Without hesitation, she said this one.  

It's made of fleece and is very warm.  If it looks similar to this dress I made a few month ago, it's because this new tunic is made from the Autumn Grace Expansion Pack!  Now when you buy the Autumn Grace Dress, it has dress and tunic lengths, long sleeves and jumper (sleeveless), pockets, a regular neckline, cowl neck, and a hood.

Before I tell more about the expansion, I'm going to just say some things I really like about the Autumn Grace.  

The style of the dress really appeals to my daughter.  She likes to be girly and wear dresses and she likes that you can see the flare of the dress really clearly.  I also love that it is fleece.  The weather is currently cold where we live and even inside our house I feel cold because I'm trying to keep the electricity bill low by keeping the thermostat fairly low.  

So.  On to a review of the expansion pack.  Some of the expansions are not as value added as others.  The tunic length and the sleeveless options are easily reproduced by hacking the original pattern.  It is nice to already have the length figured out though...

I find the other options a great addition to the pattern. 

 The pockets are a new-to-me technique using the front of the shirt/dress as one of the sides of the pocket.  And while you can fairly easily hack patterns to put in your own pockets, it's nice to have the sizes and positions already figured out for you.  Plus, I'd never done pockets this way before and it can create some fun stitching on the front of the dress.  One of the testers even made raccoons out of the pockets!  It's absolutely adorable!

The cowl neck is actually what makes this my daughter's favorite shirt.  When I was pitching the idea of this shirt to her and getting her option about what options to test, I described the cowl as a scarf attached to her shirt.  And she loves it.  I used Ultra Comfy fabric from Joann's for the cowl so it is just about as snuggly as you can get.  If Pigg#3 were wearing the shirt, he'd be in heaven and probably never ever take it off!  This cowl doesn't lay quite as well as I would like.  It likes to ride up and become tall.  However, it also was not made from the finalized pattern.  That's how it goes in testing...you sew the pattern, tweak it, sew sew up the new version, repeat, until the designer gets consistency through the sizes and the fit they are looking for.  The final pattern should lay better but still be a fairly thick cowl.  Pigg#2 likes the height of the cowl because it keeps her neck warm.  I also used Heidi's twisting technique when making the cowl.

The last option is a hood.  I did not test that option but it looks really fun.  I was torn between testing the cowl and hood, but Pigg#2 voted for the 'scarf' so I went with that.  I will probably sew up more of these until some day in the future when we move to a warmer climate.  I just love knowing my kids are warm!

Coordinating Christmas Dresses

Seeing as Christmas was almost an entire month ago, now seems a great time to post those pictures of my two girls in their Christmas Dresses!  :)  Better late than never...

Pigg#2's was made with Bella Sunshine's Adaline Dress and Tunic and Pigg#4's was made with Terra's Treasure's Evening Primrose Dress.  So glad I made them!  Pigg#2 wears hers every Sunday.  Pigg#4 still wants to wear the dress whose decorative stitching is coming undone and sequins snag my nylons and skirts.  :(  At least Pigg#2 loves hers!

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Pattern Test and Review: Evening Primrose Dress

Terra from Terra's Treasures Designs let me test the Evening Primrose Dress and there is a lot to love about it. It can be a fancy party dress or a fun everyday dress depending on your fabric and print choices.  It can be elegant and it can have lots of personality.  As well as somewhere along that spectrum.  Terra has lots of tester photos on her website for inspiration and you'll find plenty of dresses all along that spectrum.  So many gorgeous dresses!

First off, some of the non pattern-specific features you'll love.  Some of these are pretty standard for professional patterns-which means Terra's Treasures are pretty professional.  Terra's PDF patterns are trimless-which frees up a good chunk of time you would have spent cutting off the edges of your pages before taping.  Her patterns also include layers, so you can deselect all but the size (or sizes if you're blending) you need and print only the pages that size is actually on. All of the pattern pieces are clearly labeled with the designer, pattern, and pattern piece as well as how many of that piece you need to cut.  The pattern includes a size chart to help you determine which size to make as well as a finished measurement chart.

Now for some pattern-specific information.  The Evening Primrose Dress is drafted for woven fabrics and has sizes from 12-18mo up to 14.  That is a huge size range!  It is fitted through the bodice (which has a square neck and an empire waist) and has two closure options.  Both closure options use buttons but only one actually requires you to make button holes.  I only made the loop option during the test because my machine was in the shop and I was using a loaner machine without a 1 step button hole stitch.  I just didn't feel like doing button holes the way my mom taught me using a simple zig zag stitch.  (I've been so spoiled-I haven't had to make a button hole the hard way since high school!)  The Evening Primrose has a square neckline, two layers of skirt (with pleats adding volume instead of gathers), two skirt length options (dress and tunic), and long sleeve and flutter sleeve pieces you can mix and match.  The bodice is also lined which makes for a nice finish.  An added bonus is the sleeves are not cut on the fold.  Which means the front and back of the sleeve have slightly different curves and give a better fit.

I might change how the sleeves are added on the next time I make this pattern.  The way the dress is constructed leaves the sleeve to armscye seam exposed.  Since the dress already has a lining, I might use the lining to enclose that seam.

I also found blending sizes more challenging with this pattern than others.  Because of how the sleeves are layered, their shape (which I consider a great thing), and the shape of the skirts I found this pattern a bit more difficult than other patterns to blend sizes.  That may be partly due to my inexperience or just the more precise nature of the pattern.  Unlike gathered skirts where the skirt pieces are rectangles, very forgiving, and you can make fit almost any size bodice, the skirt pieces have pleats that make them fit the bodice just right and a slight curvature to the hem.  My advice when blending is to be ready to trim up the bottom of the skirt because the hem curve will likely get tampered with in the blending process.

Overall I really like this dress and hope to make some more.  On my list of things to try with this pattern is knit fabric without a closure, tulle added to the bottom of the underskirt, and the button placket.  I did not love the loops-partly because I found them harder to make look consistent than button holes (I love that 1 step button hole function!) and partly because I felt it would leave a small gap for cold air to get in her dress.  I think the button placket option will fix both of those for me.

So, now for more pictures of my own versions!  On Pigg#2's request, I made Pigg#4 a Christmas Dress to coordinate with Pigg#2's Christmas Dress.  I'll show pictures of them together another time.  For now, I'll just say that this face makes me melt!  

I sewed the lace onto the top bodice piece so it would be more stable and you wouldn't see all the seams. 

 The thin lace really makes the pleats stand out.  I probably should have added a third layer to the skirt (similar to what I did on the bodice) so I could hide that, but I didn't have enough fabric.


 This next version is the 'Valentine's Dress'.  February 14th is on Sunday this year so I'll dress my dolly in this dress for that Sunday.  :)

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Quilt: Triangle Heart Quilt

Here's a project I finished around Thanksgiving...a new quilt for Pigg#2's bed!  I finished binding it while we drove to my sister's house for Thanksgiving.  

So originally, I planned to make puff quilts for the kids beds.  I felt like they would be comfy and cozy and soft and great wonderful things!  I even made two of them completely and posted about the pink one.

Then my sister visited and used the pink puff quilt to sleep.  She said it took a long time to warm up and then by the end of the night it was HOT!  My daughter also had a hard time moving it-even just to make her bed.  And then...I tried to wash it and discovered it physically would not fit in the washing machine...

Bad News Bears.

I figured with three strikes agains the quilt, I should just admit that it didn't live up to how I imagined it.  

I've made new quilts for 3 of the 4 kids beds and here is one of them.

I used a the same tutorial from Must Love Quilts that I used for my nephew's baby quilt because I loved it!  Somehow, I didn't realize until I had the entire top pieced that I made the heart taller than I intended.  And while it bugs me a bit, my daughter doesn't know the difference.  So I'm making a point to repeatedly tell myself to move on.

I used a clearance sheet from Wal-mart for the backing.  Actually, I have several of these sheets...the same color.  I've already made several projects with it and am not done yet...they were a good deal.  I quilted on both sides of each seam and it creates that triangle pattern on the back.  I like it.  I actually quilted half of the quilt in a hotel room.  I went with my husband on a business trip (without kids) and took my machine.  I sewed until I ran out of thread and then read and wandered the hotel.  Quite relaxing...

I think it looks really nice on her bed.  The scrappy look was challenging to me, but I like how it turned out.