Little sweaters

Cloned sweater. Conflict was much reduced when the sisters didn’t have to fight over the original.

One of the styles (my) contemporary teenagers like is a fairly shrunken, close-fitting version of the sweatshirt. I had cloned an existing one (which belongs to Tyo) for Syo, last winter sometime, which was successful but, like the original, very dependent on fabric stretch to fit. I wanted a version with a little more ease, that would work in less stretchy, classic sweatshirt fabrics. There are almost certainly patterns out there for this look—but I don’t own any of them, and I do own enough patterns that I should not be buying more for something as simple as a raglan sleeve sweatshirt.

Anyway, last night my husband sent me downstairs to sew while he played video games, and I cut out another Jalie Julia, but the fabric was dark and there’s white thread in the serger right now and I didn’t feel like changing it, so I looked around for a different project.

(The regular machine, on the other hand, had black thread in the needle and white thread in the bobbin, because Syo was apparently down there trying to alter a bra but she’s too lazy to change the bobbin thread. Or so I surmise, since the bra was still sitting on the floor. Because that’s life with teenagers. )

Anyway, so looking around for something else, I spied this fabric, which I bought my girls for Christmas presents last year. (This is what happens, teenagers, when you make the mistake of showing interest in your mom’s hobbies.)

I thought it was adorable and hilarious. It looks like sweatshirt fabric on the outside, but the inside is almost like a minky. And then when I was getting it cut we discovered it was flawed—some bad lines of staining on the soft white interior. It became steeply discounted and I became the owner of a ridiculous amount of it.

The kids thought it made great blankets (as most fleece fabrics do), and Tyo mused at length about making a giant pj sweater out of it, and a tiny cropped sweater for Syo, but nothing happened beyond that so eventually I packed it away into the stash.

But it would be perfect for white serger thread.

After a bit of digging I decided Kwik Sew 2893 seemed like a good place to start. While it’s styled like a baseball tee, it’s roomier than Jalie 3245, and the difference between a baseball tee and a sweatshirt pattern is largely about ease.

It’s a kids pattern but the XL is a size 12-14, which is about the same chest measurement as Tyo, and I figured if it didn’t fit Syo it would fit Tyo, and if Tyo didn’t like it it would work for Fyon, who is a very skinny eleven now. This is the convenient part of having multiple girls in the family, even if they don’t stairstep quite as neatly as they used to.

I wanted a slightly cropped length, partly just to use less fabric in this tester version, so I made it the length of the Extra Small size. This is still significantly longer than the sweater at the top of the post, and as it turned out, while it makes a short sweater, it’s not what I would call cropped.

At the last moment I decided to include the pocket, also in a size XS, because it’s nice for teenagers to have somewhere to stuff their phones. This was pretty simple, although more stabilization might’ve been nice. I did knit interfacing strips along the opening parts.

None of the grey ribbings I have in stash were a perfect match, but this one was the best. I could also try black at some point, that might be fun.

Anyway. While I was sewing it up I was convinced I was making a sweater for Fyon, but Syo tried it on and it fits her. It also fits Tyo but the length is awkward—longer than cropped but not as long as she’d like a normal length sweater. On the other hand she didn’t take it off and went on to sleep in it, so I guess it’s not that bad.

And it’s one tiny piece less taking up space in my stash.



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Palate cleanser

After the Great Linen Pants Debacle, I needed a palate cleanser. And, as it just so happens, after looking for it all summer my copy of Jalie 3246, my go-to maxi dress pattern, finally showed up. Right in the drawer where it was supposed to be, so I guess I’m blind. The only question was, which of the several fabrics I have mentally earmarked for maxi dresses should I use?

Well, this denim-look-plus-paisley ITY-type print has been taunting me since I bought it last fall. I was originally envisioning jeggings (though really it’s thin—they would be leggings) but I actually have enough for this dress (which only takes 1.5m) plus the leggings, so they may yet happen.

The pattern is dead simple, although I complicate it slightly by adding a back seam, for fit and fabric frugality. And I add a much wider flare to the skirt, because the skirt as drafted is too narrow for proper walking, which adaptation I actually haven’t put on the pattern—I draft it out on my fabric every time. I should really change my pattern. Someday.

I was very careful about centering the large motif on the front. Less so about where the parts of the motif would fall—maybe not the most flattering arrangement over the bust. On the other hand the design was a bit of a border print so I was running my pattern pieces on the cross-grain, so any wiggling up or down would’ve required piecing or shortening.

I’m pretty happy with how my bindings at arm and neck worked out. I was a good girl and did lots of testing. It’s the same triple-fold binding I almost always use, with the inclusion of 1/4″ clear elastic for stability because my non-elasticated tests tended to go wavy when stretched. I did not test my hem and it is not nearly as nice. Should’ve used steam-a-seam.

I’m kinda bored with this modestly scooped neckline after my four other versions of this dress, so I really should’ve changed it up. A square would’ve been nice, or maybe a V in the back. Anyway, so I added some decorative buttons. A lace-up détail would’ve been nice, too, but would have required more forethought and planning than I had put into it.

Other than that, there’s not much to say. It’s quite long. It’ll get worn.

And it’s my last bit of vacation sewing.


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Just Jutlands

Did I mention lately that I don’t need any clothes? I really really don’t. My husband, on the other hand, is in dire straits. Since he hasn’t needed a professional wardrobe for years now, and he hates shopping and is super picky, everything in his closet is ancient, worn out, and often ill-fitting.

And guys, he’s hard to sew for. Lord knows I’ve tried over the years, and sometimes I’ve succeeded (most often with loose overshirts.)

But did I mention he’s picky? Nothing gets a “oh, that’s perfect!” Everything gets criticism that at best is constructive but at worst is just demoralizing. He’s fussy about fit, fussy about fabric, fussy about style.

But I really don’t need clothes, and he does, and he won’t go shopping (nor do we have a lot of money for that, see the part about where my second job just went away)

Anyway, he needed some cool pants for the summer. He won’t wear shorts (see the part about picky) and while he couldn’t quite articulate it, I was pretty sure some casual linen pants would fill the slot.

Fortunately, I had just enough of the black linen I used for this dress for a good sized pair of men’s pants.

I was initially thinking very plain and simple, as much of a fit test as anything else. Then I made the mistake of telling him what I was making.

I had picked the Thread Theory Jutland pants, a fun pattern with great workwear details. I liked the combination of jeans style pockets in the front and darts in the back, which make for easier fitting on the fly. I was a bit worried about the slim fit of my other option, the Jedediahs. I was going to save the cargo pockets and reinforcement details for a future version, though. I planned to size up and add elastic to the back waist to allow for his highly-fluctuating waist size.

The first mistake was letting him see the pattern. Not that he didn’t love the details (the ones I was going to skip, you recall). He just wanted even more. Zip off legs! Accordion pleat in the back!

I protested, and the whole procedure nearly halted right then.

But I really don’t need more clothes, and he does. So I took a deep breath, and “compromised” by doing the added details as per the pattern, but not doing stupid zip off legs that he’ll never actually unzip because he only ever does that while wading in water fishing and if he takes his black linen pants fishing I’ll kill him. I don’t think he considers this a compromise.

Anyway, I don’t actually mind the process of constructing cargo pockets and the other reinforcements were very simple. (And frankly as cargo pockets go, the ones in this pattern are pretty Lite(TM). Just a couple of pleats. Not really 3D at all. I was actually a wee bit disappointed.) I did the pleats a wee bit too deep so the pockets are a bit small for their flaps. This turned out to be the least of my worries, however.

The problem is, this was my first time making up this pattern, and the details really pin down certain things. Where the knee should be. Where the hem should be. And it turns out, I kinda fucked those positions up.

When I traced out the pattern, I added length. My husband isn’t that tall, but he does tend to be long-legged and too- short jeans are a common issue.

Let’s just say they would not have been an issue as is. There seemed to be about 6″ of extra length on each leg, and I only added about 2″. I wound up making a 1″ tuck above the cargo pocket (topstitched down) and adding a seam to take out about 5″ more between knee and hem. Edit: and it turns out that was a little too much now that he’s actually sitting down in them. FML.

Because when worn “high” (aka as they should be) they’re way short even on me. But when we tested the length he had them slung low. Argh!!!

I also discovered when I went to sew them up (AFTER the cargo pockets were all in place, of course) that I must’ve screwed up my tracing, because my front and back inseams are about an inch off. WTF? Side seams match fine. Anyway, in the end I eased the extra length in. This will probably cause problems at some point, but linen eases pretty nicely.

They were also quite a bit fuller than he likes. Some of this is because I sized up, but some is just the style of the pattern, which is quite loose in the leg. So I wound up taking in the inseam (remember, outseam is fixed at this point by the cargo pocket on top of it) by about 3cm on each leg. That’s over 2″ off the circumference of each leg, guys. And I had already topstitched inside the tube to finish off the inseam. Rookie move on my part. I was a little cranky.

I wanted an elasticised waistband to accommodate his wildly fluctuating waist, and after some thought decided to go with the old buttonhole elastic. Maybe overkill in this situation, but the oversized pants would’ve been beyond wearable without it. Hopefully the convenience of the adjustability will outweigh the weirdness of the finish to him. What I didn’t do (which I would have in more fitted pants) was add some height to the back rise. I assumed the over-sized-ness would compensate. I was wrong. So they’re a little low for his taste back there.

I probably overdid it on the sizing up. Next version, I will size down, add height to back waist, and reduce the length a couple of inches.

Or just say fuck it and make something for me!

(Confession: I felt pretty goofy taking these pictures, but I haven’t worn pants this loose since the 90s and even then I only did it so they would hang low on my hips. So I had to style them as I would’ve in 1996, with a crop top and Docs, because sometimes you just gotta!)


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Out fit for last day of work: my first project dress.

Last week, the Fabricland where I’ve worked for the last five and a half years closed its doors. I feel weirdly dislocated, almost like the feeling of forgetting your phone, like some phantom limb is missing from my life.

On the other hand, staying home and spending evenings with my family this week is pretty amazing.

I don’t know if it was always clear, but it’s hard to overestimate the impact working there has had, on both my sewing and my wardrobe itself, and I’m still processing some of that.

First, and most obvious, were the shop projects. Having a monthly budget of “free” fabric and deadlines changes what you chose to sew.

Having my pick of any big 4 (or later McVoguerick, after they turfed Simplicity) pattern meant I tended to choose from those rather than an indie pattern (which I’d have to buy myself) or a vintage pattern in my collection (which was discouraged since people will be inspired and probably want to know where they can get that pattern, and if it’s out of print they’ll get bummed out.) I also tended to go with new ones every time. Not a lot of TNT makes, nor of things already in my disgustingly massive pattern collection.

Second, instead of using fabric from stash, every project came from the store. This means you get to try shiny new fabrics, and use things I wouldn’t be able to afford otherwise, but it also meant the stash just got bigger and bigger. It’s not like you stop buying stuff! (Although Fabricland staff prices aren’t anything to write home about, you’re there for ALL THE SALES and you’re right there when stuff gets marked down at the end of a season. There is still plenty of temptation to buy.) If you wanted to make something right away, you tried to figure out how to do it as a project, because everything else went on the back burner.

Third is a bit more subtle. Projects that would boost your skills and try out new products were encouraged. Projects that get people excited were, too. Which, as you probably can guess, means it was fun to make a lot of dresses. Sometimes stupid, crazy, fancy dresses. With a strict two week deadline (and keep in mind I was working two jobs for most of this span, so limited sewing time at home) it was hard to tackle really involved projects like coats, or to muslin things. But a quick, fun dress? Perfect!

Next is its effect on what I wear. Shortly after I started working at Fabricland, the simple good marketing of wearing things I had made became obvious—but not just anything. The jeans and tees that had dominated a lot of my sewing while I was in grad school, trying to disappear into the background, don’t make anyone ask “Did you make that?” The dresses did. Those same ones I was conveniently making for impractical but fun projects. And I’ve always been one for binges of overdressing, so a perfect storm was created. I was making crazy dresses. I was wearing crazy dresses. I had a REASON to wear crazy dresses. This week, without that reason, I haven’t quite reverted to form, but it’s felt different. My day job doesn’t have much of a dress code and doesn’t directly interface with the public, so that drive is missing. On the other hand, there are several of us who enjoy playing with our wardrobes, so I don’t think the dresses are suddenly going to languish. But I may not make quite as many of them.

Or maybe I will!

But the biggest thing I’m missing already is the interaction. These people were my sewcialists. The staff (and some customers!) were always talking about what we were making. Everyone had their specialties, from self-drafted unique pieces to quilts to intricate hanstitched felt creations. We learnt a lot from each other—but most importantly we had a lot of fun.

There are the things I don’t miss, as well. Crabby customers. Corporate policy decisions that seem designed to create crabby customers. Constant, brutal price hikes (many items more than doubled their price in the five years I worked there). Interpersonal drama. Stone-aged (ok, pre-computer-era) inventory and ordering processes. Sometimes this stuff seemed overwhelming in the moment. Yet as soon as it was taken away, I find myself focusing on the good. The fun, the people, the shared love of making.

Then there’s the identity.

Somehow, working at Fabricland crept into my sewing identity. I wasn’t “just” another hobby seamstress, I was a professional. Even if I wasn’t blogging much, or starting my own indie pattern company, I was still working in the sewing world. And I quailed at losing that.

Fortunately, teaching sewing seems to be an option for keeping that feeling alive. More of the classes have been going through, and I’m really enjoying teaching. I have a fairly full lineup of classes ready for the fall, and ideas about others in the future. Beyond that–well, we’ll have to see.

In the meantime, I’m re-learning what it feels like to sew at my own pace, pick my projects based on stash, and taking a few deep breaths. I’ll be ok without work projects and deadlines. But I definitely want to maintain the relationships, even while I figure out who I am, sewing after Fabricland.


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Julian scrapbusting

I’m kinda a fangirl for Jalie Patterns (if you hadn’t noticed, go read every post I’ve ever written about their jeans, or their maxi-dress pattern, or that one with the shorts and crop-top/sports bra.) But given the size of my pattern stash, I REALLY shouldn’t be buying every cute little pattern that wafts itself past my face. So I was trying REALLY hard not to bite when their new batch of patterns came out this spring.

And then there was Julia. Cute bralet, neat underwear, and that breezy swingy tank just pushed me over the edge. Plus, the pieces were all small enough that I was happy to buy the pdf and save myself time and expensive Canadian shipping. I do like being able to pick my sizes and print only a couple, although the big empty spaces left by the disappearance of the larger sizes make me want to fire up my computer and see if I can rearrange the pieces in Illustrator (I’m guessing the file’s protected but you never know) so the printout is more efficient, but anyway. Over the last few weeks I’ve tested out the bralet a couple of times, and i finally made a matching set with the camisole and underwear

I love the forward-thrown side seam on the underwear, too. I’m sure no one remembers this post about a vintage indie pattern that seemed to promise this feature, but did not deliver. (Obviously I could hack this myself into some other pattern. Obviously I am lazy.)

The only problem with a pattern like this is often my versions don’t come back to me after the kids do the wash. I guess it’s a compliment when your teenagers steal your clothes? Well, bralets, anyway. As long as they don’t steal the underwear.

I’ve been slow to warm up to bralets. I remember a sporty little CK one I got at my husband’s behest in my early twenties—the elastic tended to cut into the underside of my boobs and create, in my head at least, the illusion of sagginess that wasn’t actually there. I made a couple of Watson bralets when the pattern first came out, but the long-line version doesn’t work with my ribcage and the band felt too structured for something that didn’t really do much. But lately I’ve been wanting something a teeny bit more supportive than a snug camisole but without any hard parts, for wearing around the house on days off when I don’t even want to look at an underwire. Julia seemed like it might fit the bill.

I’m a bit ambivalent about the darts (I keep having to lengthen them, but in one version I just skipped them and eased the extra in and that seemed to work well), and I need to break down and order some metal hardware for the straps (or buy locally but Fabricland doesn’t carry metal rings and sliders), but I think on the whole it’s pretty much what I was looking for.

I replaced the band pieces with a wide, soft waistband elastic for this version. It’s probably a bit overkill but I like it.

And I really enjoyed making this version with the built in bralet inside the tank, though on closer inspection of the instructions I guess that wasn’t the idea. It works well enough although the top has a bit more ease.

Julia (left) and Watson bikini (right)

Patterns like this are especially great for using up little scraps of knit that have been lurking in the bin for ages (I got this lovely heavy eggplant rayon knit from a Value Village back when we lived in Calgary. At some point I made a rather cute shirt with most of it but I can’t find any pictures. Anyway. )

I do love the fun racer back. The upper point of the tank is wider than that of the cami, which makes for an interesting bit of fullness when you overlay them. And very soon now I’ll have some days off where I can enjoy it! (Also the pants are Jalie 3022, which means this is a total #sewcanada outfit—Canadian purchased fabric and Canadian-made patterns all the way!)


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The first Fiona

Apparently since all my (minuscule amount of) free time is no longer occupied with Fabricland projects, my vulnerability to the lure of the Shiny New Indie Pattern has re-emerged. Or something. Anyway—first Avery, then York, and now the new Closet Case Patterns Fiona dress have leapt to the front of the sewing queue.

Ok, the Avery was for a class I was teaching, but anyway. Fiona just hit me in all the right places. You may have noticed I have a bit of a thing for button-front sundresses, and sundresses with a band detail across the top. Add in that fabulous low-back option? The only thing I might have changed was a fuller skirt, but on the other hand the columnar shape is one I don’t already have in my wardrobe. And it’s good to try something new.

Well, high hopes can be a curse as much as a blessing, and I kind of struggled with this pattern. Which is fine since this was meant to be a wearable muslin, but it’s still a fairly intensive pattern. Them’s a lot of buttonholes.

I took brand-new measurements and followed the pattern recommendations, which put me in a size 8 at bust and waist grading into a size 10 hips. I think for the no-bra version, at least, I should’ve gone down to the size 6… and possibly up to a 12 in the hips.

Anyway, trying to figure out how a button-front bodice with criss-cross straps and a back overlap is fitting before things are all sewn together is pretty tricky. There are a lot of variables. Initially I thought I could take in the waist by increasing the back crossover. This seemed to work, and I attached the straps, trimming about an inch and a half off (as I had expected since I’m fairly short-waisted). But then when I got the skirt on, it was pulling up weirdly at the back. Releasing the overlap to its original amount (and then taking it in at the sides, and then also taking it in at the princess seams over the bust) fixed most of that. But then my straps were too short. So I opted for a halter closure.

After all that, the skirt itself is pretty much as-is, though I made the rear darts a bit deeper and they could perhaps be a smidgeon longer. The grading to the smaller size at the waist changes the side curve, and I could probably tweak it a bit, but it’s not bad.

I’ll add a little bit about my construction here. The fabric I picked, which looks like linen, is apparently actually ramie, which is a bast fibre from a different plant (a member of the nettle family, which I always think is neat possibly because I watched The Wild Swans too many times as a child and shirts made from nettles are a big part of the plot, anyway, this does not matter). It behaves like linen in pretty much every way except for maybe being a bit scratchier. Anyway, it is a handkerchief weight, which is lovely and summery but not actually opaque. So I underlined the bodice and the upper part of the skirt with random cotton scraps from around the sewing room, making it opaque and also a little bit less scratchy.

I did the buttonholes on my grandma’s Singer Rocketeer, which made them largely painless although the metal grip that jerks the fabric around seems to have done some damage to the lightweight ramie. That would’ve been another foot reason to use a wash away stabilizer… note to self.

Since there were also so many damn buttons, I decided to face my fear of the button-sewing foot. The principle is simple: drop the feed dogs, set a zig-zag to the width of the holes in the button, and the foot holds everything in place.

There’s an oddity with mine in that the soft no-slip plastic “shoe” on the foot seems to slip forward and get in the way of the needle. I had to trim parts of it away with scissors to get it to work at all. But once I did it worked really, really well. Just hand-wheel the first couple of stitches until you get really good at gauging where the holes need to be.

The blue buttons were my kids’ suggestion. Left to my own devices I would’ve gone with white (actually, I would’ve liked metal but I didn’t have twenty random matching metal buttons. These blue ones were just about the only non-white buttons I had in anything like the right quantity and size. )

I don’t know if I’m overly in love with this version—I had a hard time getting photos I liked. (On the other hand it was the end of a long hot day where I spent several hours walking, so my makeup was basically gone and the hair was hanging on by a thread). I do think the band at the top is too loose, maybe not enough to show but it doesn’t feel as secure as it might. But it’s still pretty fun and I like the overall look.


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Summer reruns

I first made this pattern last summer. Apparently it was the last thing I sewed before we moved. I didn’t have a lot of casual yet nice summer stuff. The previous version is great, but the bottom was always just a wee bit snug.

This version arose out of my intermittent but recurring attempts at scrapbusting. (So far no significant reduction in scrap volume has been observed, but I keep trying.) I had just enough of this lovely textured cotton for the top, spliced in a bit of another lightweight cotton for the bottom, added some lace (as well as some more width at the hip) and, I almost have a little dress!

I had to take some closeup selfies to get the fabric to show up. I suck at these, by the way.

Unfortunately, apparently I have no shorts at all to pop it over. Maybe I need to steal them from my children. I usually have just lopped off old jeans into cutoffs but certain increases in the derrière department mean that my last generation of jeans either doesn’t fit any more or has disintegrated at the thigh and butt rather than just going at the knee. So I might have to make shorts, or worse, buy them. I kinda hate making shorts for shorts sake, I gotta say. They’re just as much work as pants but I only wear them a few days a year. So maybe a good candidate for buying.

I should mention that I found the bust snug in my first version, but I don’t in this version. I’m guessing the fabric I used this time has more give.

I’m not super in love with the straps—I could’ve done them thinner and positioned the front wider—but I like the criss-cross in the back. The non-criss-crossy straps are my bra, by the way.

None of my pictures show the lace on the bottom very well. This is some of my favourite lace of all time. I didn’t do a good job finishing the raw edge though. Shhh.

Other than that I’m pretty happy with the finishing. I finished the top with more single-fold bias tape, and I even remembered to sew on the straps in front first. I did the buttonholes on my modern Janome, which never goes as well as with the vintage buttonholer on my Rocketeer, but I was impatient.

All in all, I think it’s pretty cute. Maybe needs some teeny little shorts to go underneath. Summery and casual. Well, casual for me. Come on now.

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