Me Made May 2018

I just missed out on the first Me Made May back in 2010—I had just started sewing seriously, had made about three things for me that actually worked out, and only became aware of it partway through the month. But the idea resonated. That first year, Zoe did a bunch of me-made months, and by Self-Stitched September I was IN. You can still see the photos here. (Incidentally it’s actually pretty neat to have that record of how I was presenting myself at that point in time in my life. Even though the answer is: weird) I went on to do several more Me-Made Mays, because they are super fun. But the last one I did was spring of 2013. After that, I started working two jobs and life was this insane slog where I just had to keep my head down and survive. Doing anything extra was not possible.

Which is still kinda the case now, but a few things have changed. My position at my day job is different, both less stressful and more fulfilling. I have a house with bits that actually look nice without massive effort. (Yes, that makes a big difference for these kind of challenges. Also for my mental health.) And, a week or so ago, after years of rumours,we learned that the Fabricland where I’ve been working for the last five and a half years is closing this summer.

There are a LOT of feelings about that, but chiefly a deep sadness. I have met so many wonderful people through working there. Anyway, that’s a whole nother post. Working at Fabricland has had a profound impact on my sewing, as you may have noticed—a substantial chunk of my posts in the past five years have been shop projects. But the projects also influenced WHAT I chose to sew, both in terms of fabric—many of which i wouldn’t’ve been able to afford otherwise—and the patterns. Having the pick of anything ButMcVogue or Burda envelope, really let me try out a lot of new things, and I probably sewed a lot fewer TNT and Indie patterns than I might have otherwise. It also reduced the practicality of my sewing—instead of focusing on basic wardrobe needs, the party-dress temptation was pretty much irresistible.

Anyway, the upshot is that I have decided to take another stab at Me Made May 2018, with a focus on wearing things I’ve made as Fabricland projects. I want to document them, as kind of an homage to my time there, and also as a way of looking at their place in my wardrobe more critically. Do they work? Do I keep them? Or was it a poorly-judged whim?

I’m going to aim for daily outfit shots of some kind (probably mostly crappy mirror pics like above). I’ll post daily over on Instagram (@tanitisis) and probably make a Flickr album again. I’ll try and do a wrap-up post here at the end of the month but I kinda suck balls at those so who knows.

I’m hoping this will help me sort out some of these feels. I guess we’ll see.

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Avery Adventures

Leggings are the ultimate quick make. They’re one of the few things faster to sew than to shop for. And while they’re easy and cheap to buy, I almost never get the particular fit I want in bought versions—the length is rarely right and the rise never is.

There are a jillion patterns out there, including free ones, and I’m assuming instructions for drafting your own aren’t hard to come by either. In the past I’ve used two patterns: the Cake Patterns Espresso (disclaimer: I did the digitization work for that one) and the Jalie 2920.

Espresso is basically a draft-your-own where you plot your measurements on a grid and connect the dots. I got a fairly “loose fitting” pattern out of it, which works well when I want to make leggings out of ponte or other less-than-optimally stretchy fabrics. I could obviously make another version with more negative ease but it was easier to just use Jalie 2920, which is nice and snug and has ALL THE SIZES.

So why branch out? Well, both Espresso and Jalie 2920 are solid basic leggings patterns, a single pattern piece. A nice feature a lot of my kids’ more substantial storebought leggings have is a wide top band. I’ve been winging my own recently with mixed results, but when Helen’s Closet came out with the Avery Leggings last winter, they had this exact feature built in—plus a gusset, which I was curious about, not that I’m flexible enough that I actually need one in my leggings.

Obviously any of these features you could hack on your own, but we use patterns to make things easier, and easy patterns to make things effortless. When I got offered the opportunity to teach a leggings class at my local quilt shop, Periwinkle Quilting, I jumped at the chance to get my hands on Avery as something a bit more detailed (and maybe something people would like their hands held for) than a basic one-piece leggings pattern.

We’ll see how that works out, but at the very least I got the pattern and a chance to try out some of the cute knits they’re stocking from Cotton and Steel, which is a lot more swanky than I’m likely to find at Fabricland.

The Cotton and Steel jersey is a bit thin for what I like in leggings, and perhaps not quite as stretchy as the Avery calls for, but I wanted to give it a shot, even though in the grand scheme of things it’s probably better suited for a T shirt. I picked the arrow print mainly because the colour didn’t fade out as much under stretch as some of the other options. Also it’s super cute. And it had the most adorable slogan in the selvedge I just had to appliqué it on the back of the waistband as a label.

I also used a wee bit of those cute selvedge stars on one ankle, too. I cut the longer length, which is meant to have ankle scrunchies. No ankle scrunchies on me, but they are long enough.

For my second pair I added 3″ in length. Perfect ankle scrunchies!

For the crotch gusset, I made it two layers. Even though this isn’t like an underwear gusset, I just felt better with the gusset being thicker. Your mileage may vary.

I was curious about the construction of the waistband. Turns out it’s much the same as Jalie 3022, if you skipped the contrast band, which I always do. Good instructions.

I was sewing all these while my basement is under construction and most of my sewing gear is trapped in the depths of a storage container. And I didn’t think to buy elastic, because I always have elastic, but the only stuff that’s not buried is my 1/4″ clear elastic. That makes for a nice non-bulky finish—but maybe not ideal for the whole staying-up part. The pattern calls for 1/2″ elastic.

Partly because of my not-totally-optimal jersey, and because Avery calls for 70% stretch (Jalie 2920 only calls for 60%), I rounded my size up to the Large. This is comfy but may be a bit “big” technically—there are some wrinkles in both pairs, especially around the hips, that maybe don’t need to be there. A quick note on the % stretch—I had always read to measure stretch along a fold of fabric, since the raw edge will stretch out more. But the instructions for Avery don’t mention this. So if you’re measuring the 70% stretch along a raw edge, the actual stretchiness of the recommended fabric may not be much different than the Jalie pattern. I’d compare but, again, all my stuff is buried.

My second version is in a deliciously beefy cotton spandex knit from the ends at Fabricland. It’s everything you could ask for for a pattern like this. I added a bit more length, as I said before, for ankle scrunchies, and went with the mid-rise version of the waistband. The high rise version I think is actually a little too high for my short body—the mid-rise still comes up to my waist pretty easily, though it does ride down a bit.

In the mid-rise, I think a little more height in the back could be a good idea—this happens with almost all my pants. I think the correct solution might be to use the high-rise waistband but lower the front rise on the leggings piece a bit.

But while there’s always room for a tweak or two, I gotta say these are pretty darn perfect.

(Oh, and if you’re local and would like some hand-holding with these, the class will be May 5! Contact Periwinkle Quilting to register!)

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The last gasp of winter

It’s April, and it’s cold. Like where I live is right in the middle of the purple part there. Which is crappy but actually not nearly as scary as the warming up at the polar region on this map, but anyway.

I was supposed to be working on a cute little sundress for a Mother’s Day project for work. Pretend it’s spring even if it doesn’t actually feel like it? But.

My basement got cleared out last week, finally, to make the repairs from our flood in February. I had left careful instructions for the sewing stuff that needed to come upstairs as opposed to going out in the storage cube. And everything did, except the one bag that contained the (prewashed) fabric and pattern for the project.

Head, meet desk.

So instead, I pulled out a random fabric box that I could reach from the front of the storage cube (which is totally accessible, just very densely packed and I am not going to mess with that), and started rifling through the extremely limited selection of patterns I could get my hands on. (Because they happened to be on the kitchen table not in the basement where they belong)

And all of a sudden, apparently, McCall’s M7467 is at the top of my list, one final sweater dress for the season. In red velvet, because that was the best option in the box that I could reach. It’s actually good because I’ve been wanting to make this one for a while and it kept getting bumped down the list. And, well, who doesn’t love red velvet?

I made a size 10 grading to a size 12 in the waist/hips. The main alteration was to petite the hell out of it through the armscye. I was a bit alarmed at how much I shortened (at this point I feel like I know roughly what “my” armscye looks like in a knit pattern—but I also don’t trust myself.) but it actually worked out pretty perfect.

I initially did the big scrunchy collar, which looks great on the cover photo. In practice, it was a disaster. I could kind of pull it down into place, but as soon as I moved my arms it would pop up into a wad around my neck. It might be my velvet, which isn’t the stretchiest stuff ever. But ruching requires a certain amount of tension to look good, so I feel like it might need to be tacked down even in a stretchier fabric. I guess I could’ve read the instructions to find out if that was addressed. Anyway. Not working in my fabric. So I wound up just serging clear elastic to the edge and turning and stitching. We’ll see how I like that. It’s an uncommonly high, wide neckline for me that I’m not entirely sure about.

I cut view B, which in the drawing looks like a mini dress but is actually a tunic length, and not a long one. (Keeping in mind my petiting, but still). So when I got to try-on phase, I decided to add a big wide band at the bottom. I like the look anyway.

the sleeves might actually have been long enough! I still added about 4″ to the ends, which was a bit ridiculous, but then I added some stretched clear elastic to the seam to ruch them up and they’re perfect. I feel like they’re a bit wide, but they don’t look wide in the pictures so they’re probably good.

And that’s about the size of it. Except I still have that work project to do.

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The masochist dress

I really hate sewing with chiffon.

I didn’t really think of this sheer rayon-poly blend being a chiffon when I picked it out—technically it isn’t. But it shares all of the qualities that make sewing with chiffon unpleasant—shiftiness, slipperiness, a tendency towards fraying, and sheerness that means the insides have to be as tidy as the outsides. Also, hard to unpick. Yugh.

This boxy, oversized shirt dress pattern, McCall’s M7713, is really outside of my comfort zone, too. What I like is the lace-up belt. Also it was on the April mailer, so free extra project. Many an unwise project has been spawned that way.

While I may not be a fan of the boxy shirtdress, my husband is a fan of those scenes in eighties movies where the girl is wearing the guy’s shirt around the house the morning after. So I guess I’m hoping to channel that vibe.

This pattern does have a really cute little collar, so that was fun to try out. I did not like the instructions for handling the back yoke, though, so I kinda went off-road, and I’m not overly satisfied with my own version either. Possibly some googling would’ve been in order. Or, y’know, pulling out my old Colette Negroni instructions, since it’s basically a funny-shaped camp collar.

I managed to get the front pockets basically even. The symmetry pretty much ends there.

I like the faced hem, and the cute split sleeves, which I shortened to 3/4 length. This photo is of the good side.

I discovered when I went to set up the project that I have only two white serger spoools left. Not sure how that happened, but it meant that this became a serger-free project. French seams all the way, even when they’re a bad idea like around the armscye (extra bad with the sleeve split.)

Because the fabric wasn’t traumatic enough on its own, my iron’s tendency to spit yellowish water at inopportune moments is also well displayed over several parts of the dress. I think there’s some chocolate on there too. Just shoot me now.

On the other hand, I actually like it more than I thought I might. It’s pretty fun. There are a lot of cute details—the shaped faced hem, sleeve splits, obi/cincher belt, and of course the cute collar.

I made the split sleeves only 3/4 length, as I thought at full length they would be a bit much. I’m very glad I made that decision.

You may have noticed, as a dress is is SHORT. Especially with those side splits. (Mine might be split a little higher than the pattern intended, as I went a bit off-road from the instructions in that area, too. So it may be destined for tunic-hood. Though black boyshorts underneath would be pretty fun, I have to say.

The bottom half feels very narrow compared to the billowy, blousy top, which is interesting since the pattern is more or less straight and I actually graded up a size below the waist. The whole thing feels a bit top-heavy. On the other hand some over-the-knee-hooker-boots might offset that perfectly. Sadly my wardrobe is lacking in that department.

It was definitely fun to take these photos and try styling it with different underthings.

Even the unbelted view was fun—a lot more understated than with the belt.

So all in all, a harrowing process with an imperfect result that actually looks pretty cute in the pictures, if not up close.

And considering that it’s still firmly winter outside here as I write this on Easter weekend… at least it’s summery. I’ll take it.

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Gingerly, jeans

I massively enjoyed following the #nofearjeansmonth and #nofearnewjeans hashtags that Closet Case Patterns coined for February. I like to think of myself as one of the “first generation of internet jeans sexists”, having made my first pair as part of a Pattern Review hosted sewalong in the spring of 2010. Jeans were a staple of my wardrobe at the time, and being able to make my own revolutionized my mindset. Also, they were fun to sew. I even wrote posts full of helpful tips.

But in the last eight years, something changed. Partly, as I transitioned from grad school to the workforce, I got to indulge my love for stunt dressing more. This has always been a recurrent theme in my life, but it went particularly well with working at a fabric store, and even my eventual “grown up job” was a good venue for overdressing. I just wasn’t wearing jeans, except in my downtime, and there isn’t much downtime when you’re working two jobs.

But something else was going on in the background, too. Those jeans I had loved just weren’t working for me any more. Partly I gained a little weight, but even the ones that fit weren’t making me feel sexy any more. As I crept further and further past the thirty mark, as my skin elasticity changed… what I wanted in my jeans was changing.

Some of it is undoubtedly the cultural zeitgeist. Low-rise jeans, always controversial, had had their day. But I’ve never been a slavish follower of fashion and I’m not quick to change when something works for me. But my low-rise jeans were no longer working.

Enter the high-rise Ginger jeans. I’m not convinced these are working for me, either, but I’m branching out, testing. Seeking.

Compared to the changes I made to my Jalie 2908 pattern to get it to the style I wanted, the Ginger Jeans are a much better starting point. Actually the other view (low rise, straight leg) is why I originally bought the pattern when it first came out—it nailed exactly what I had modded my Jalie 2908 into. Of course, it was much easier just carrying on with my modded version than tackling a new pattern, so I didn’t. Until I was finally ready to try something different.

For this high-rise, skinny version, I made minimal changes. I added a wee bit of height to the back (possibly unnecessary), and angled the rear seam a bit more. I also had to take in the side seams, a LOT, but this is a very, very stretchy denim.

I did my pocket placement more or less as the pattern directed (I think) and I’m not super happy with it. They should be slightly higher and much closer together. (The closer-together part has a lot to do with the extra-stretchy denim, though)

This denim was a mystery fabric, so while I like the weight and stretchiness, I don’t trust it. But I think it cost me $4.00/m, which made it perfect for a wearable muslin.

To make sure the waistband didn’t gape, I actually eased the back yoke onto a smaller portion of the waistband. This worked pretty well. I also interfaced only the front half of the waistband—I’ve gone back and forth on this over the years, as it’s kind of a trade off between comfort and stability. I’m pretty happy with the half-and-half, at least at this early stage.

I topstitched on my new-to-me Elna, but I chose to use two extra-strong threads in the needle, and it was kind of a nightmare. Lots of snarling and refusing to penetrate, not to mention skipping stitched at corners and things like that. Eventually I gave up and dropped to one thread, and just topstitched twice all around the waistband and hems. The effect is better than I would’ve gotten with the two threads. So, next time, we won’t do that. I’ve also been experimenting with using Coats’ newish Eloflex thread in the bobbin—it’s stretchy, so hopefully less likely to snap in high-stretch areas than regular thread in the bobbin. I’m hoping, anyway. We shall see.

The Ginger pattern suggest you add a bit of interfacing at the top of the pockets to keep them firm. I gave it a try, but at least in this super-stretchy denim I’m not a fan—the less stretchy pocket rim makes a dent across your butt. (Though having worn them a few times since the photos were taken, I think they’ve stretched out a bit.)

So does the yoke seam. This is partly because the denim is so stretchy, while the seam is stable, and I think the position of the yoke line (the yoke is pretty tall on this pattern) emphasizes it. According to @wzrdreams on Instagram, who is a pattern smarty-pants, cutting the yoke on the cross-grain can help with this and I am totally going to try that next time. Though this particular denim has lengthwise stretch too, so it might not have helped so much. Anyway, wearable muslin.

The only real fit change I would make next time is scooping out the front crotch curve a bit—it’s a tiny bit camel-toey on me.

They’ve relaxed a bit after a day of wearing and I think that’s helped the fit, which is good. And they’re already letting me experiment with some wardrobe pieces I haven’t been getting much use of lately—mainly shorter tops—so that’s exciting. And the weird charcoal colour goes with some other things in the wardrobe which gives me some new colour combos to play with. So, I think good? I think?

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Bunny hugging

In recoil from the Grad Dress Making, I took out a quick hoodie project. Around here, those are called bunnyhugs.

Actually, my co-worker Jacque had dibsed this fabric for a project for her husband weeks ago, but then he didn’t like it. I jumped on it so fast when she “surrendered” it! You can only see it in the closeups but it’s got this teeny grey pinstripe, which makes it infinitely more interesting than our usual solid black.

Also cat hair, but if you wanted impeccable pictures you sure wouldn’t be reading this blog.

The pattern is McCall’s M6614, which I’ve actually kinda liked for a really long time. I mashed up a couple of different versions as I wanted the princess seams combined with the front zip.

And the lace on the sleeve. That’s a really cute touch.

I made a size S grading to an M at the hip. I wound up raising the underarm seam by close to 1.5″ during construction (my favourite thing about raglan sleeves is how easy this is to do), and I also tweaked the back princess seams to reduce some bagginess there—probably I should’ve done a swayback adjustment instead but anyway. Other than that I only added some length to the sleeves. If I did it again I’d probably add a bit more width at the hip, believe it or not. It’s pretty fitted there.

I like the shaped shirt-tail hem, too.

I added a bit of a point to the hood for that Assassin’s Creed vibe, but I’m not sure it really works. This basic hood is a decent size but not nearly as fun as the Jasper hood. The pockets are inserted into the front princess seam, which is a nice location but limits their size.

One more thing I’m going to brag about—I used twill-tape on the inside of the neck to cover the seam there and for once it went down super nicely! (The white is wash-away stabilizer that helped me stitch the lace on to the sleeve—I’ll wash it away after this thing is done being a project on show.)

The jeggings are ones I made a long time ago, but I made the waistband elastic stupidly tight. Today I took that off, added a big ol’ fold-over-jersey waistband, and repaired a bunch of popped topstitching. I’m much more excited about them than I’ve ever been.

You know, I’ve been meaning to sew myself a black, raglan sleeve bunnyhug since my niece borrowed my last one in about 2011 and didn’t give it back for five years. Well, better late than never?

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Grand Finale

Have I mentioned Tyo is graduating high school this year?

I’m not usually an anxious parent. I didn’t agonize over sending my babies to daycare, or cry at the first day of kindergarten.

But this one is really getting to me. It feels like my job as a parent is almost done.

I know it’s not, really. Heck, if she has her way, Tyo might not move out for another ten years. But in a few more months she’ll be officially, legally, an adult. The world opens up, and it’s freaking terrifying. Before, there was always a next time, always a do-over. The do-overs are done.

Mind. Blown.

Also she asked me to make her grad dress.

Ok so maybe not so much asked as assumed.

It was also a wise choice, as I can’t afford the $800 dress she fell in love with at the fancy dress shop—but we can put her favourite elements into the dress that we make. Well, some of them. Not all that insane beadwork.

After some dizzying trying on at one of the fancier local dress shops, not to mention some heavy-duty pinteresting, and a bunch of style sketching that didn’t seem to catch her imagination, I finally got Tyo to just come to the fabric store where I work and pick fabric. The much more limited local selection really helped her focus and narrow down what she wanted, and I think we were both really excited by what she ended up going for: navy, a short satin under-dress with a long, full, removable lace skirt over top.

We settled on McCall’s M7281, as a contemporary pattern with the right lines, despite the not-very-inspiring envelope.

The Under-Dress

And despite my fears, the muslin process went quite well. Her measurements put her in the size 10 for bust and waist, size 14 for hips. Grown into the pear shape we have been predicting for her! And the sizing was true enough with only minor taking in. We initially muslined the straight skirt—she wanted a slightly flared skirt, but not as full as the one that came with the pattern. I planned to follow Gertie’s old tutorial for converting a pencil skirt style into a gently flared skirt.

So in the end I made minor tweaks to the bodice, some more major ones to the skirt (mostly to do with hip curve), and converted it from the straight original shape to the cute little flared skirt above.

Which makes it approximately the same shape as every other cute little dress she owns.

Did I mention we included pockets?

Apparently this feature is causing quite a bit of jealousy among her classmates.

The one thing she REALLY loved from her favourite of the store dresses (up above) was a corset-laced back.

It took a bit of mental rehearsing, but I eventually managed something not too dissimilar.

The dress has an inner corselet made of ticking, with metal boning. I used the original straight skirt pieces to draft a princess-seamed, hip-length pattern for it.

My biggest screw-up is that I didn’t choose to underline my bodice fabric. I thought with the dark fabric and corselet it wouldn’t be necessary. But the bodice could definitely have used a bit more support and smoothness in the outer layer. However, it’s not bothering Tyo, so please don’t point it out to her.

After some consultation, we added halter straps. They’re not, strictly speaking, functional, as the boning holds the bodice up just fine, but they definitely make her more comfortable—and they’re pretty. This crêpe back satin makes lovely soft bows. And yes, I forgot to attach them before sewing on the lining so I had to rip and insert.

The overskirt:

Once the base dress was nearly done I started on the lace over skirt.

Tyo was really excited by the idea of having the lace skirt removable. I’m trying really hard not to tell her how much this reminds me of the Teen Sweetheart Skipper doll I had in the 80s with the removable overskirt that could be worn three different ways.

Man I loved that doll. I think she perished in the Great Barbie Massacre of 2003, when I thought it would be a good idea to give the three-year-old Tyo all my old barbies. All of the heads were broken off within two weeks.

Anyway, Skipper aside, I was kind of dreading making the overskirt. The design plan was simple—gather the lace onto a straight waistband, close with hooks and cover the join with a bow. In practice, I was really dreading gathering all that lace.

I shouldn’t have been so worried. I used the zig-zag-over-heavy-thread method, which is interesting in mesh because the zig-zag basically shrinks around the centre thread into a fine line, and then it does very little shifting around on its own when you gather it. Also the fine mesh isn’t as bulky as most things, so even with something like four mètres of lace gathered onto a 26″ band it was remarkably well-behaved.

the waistband is just an interfaced rectangle I gathered the netting on to. We discussed adding another layer of tulle for poof but she says she likes it as is. The waistband closes with some skirt hooks and then a soft, droopy bow covers the attachment. We will have to cut slits in the overskirt so she can access the pockets. Also I’m pretty sure at some point during the night she’ll wear it as a cape.

The lace:

ok, I’m giving this its own section because I’m freakin proud of myself.

Tyo had one other request, which was to add a bit of lace to the hem of the short skirt’s lining, to make the basic dress a little less plain. Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough of the wide lace to cut off 1.5m for the lining, and while we did have a sizable piece cut off from the upper selvedge of the lace, it had only a rudimentary, ugly really, scalloped edge.

Fortunately, I was feeling obsessive on a Saturday night, and set to work messing around with the space piece, some wash away stabilizer, and my machine’s fancy stitches.

Some key points:

  1. a hoop was useful but not essential, which is good because constantly repositioning it would’ve taken forever
  2. It works better to NOT work along the edge of your fabric. Much easier to guide things down the middle. Fortunately my remnant of lace was about twice as wide as I needed it to be.
  3. Baste your stabilizer in place, and then draw the outline of your scallop right on the stabilizer.

This took kinda forever, but was also weirdly fun, and saved me buying 1.5 more mètres of fancy 60″ wide lace just to use the bottom 3″ of it.

So this kid, though

This is done as another shop project, so we had to get to it early so it could go on display. It does feel good to have it done, though, as long as she doesn’t lose weight in the next three months. It also feels good to see how happy she is with it.

And now we can tackle the hard part—finding the right shoes!

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