The Neutral Zone

This might be the simplest thing I’ve shared yet. But If you think I can’t write a post about two zooped-together pieces of fabric, I cordially invite you to listen to my not-tight-five on many topics, from Angela Lansbury’s 70+ year career to my extended opinions on draculas in romantic fiction (their feet and hands are always cold and they don’t watch any current television, WHO SEEKS THAT OUT). Anyway, here we go.

This is the Sew House Seven Tabor v-neck, or what I’m calling a Tabor scoop. As you can guess, the neckline took a turn! I started with the thinner lapped band, but I flattened the base of the “v” (so essentially “cutting off” the point of the shirt front neckline by raising it, and actually, literally cutting off the point of the neckband). This was straightforward to sew, and it may have worked stylistically with the widest lapped band, but visually, at this scale, it was wishy-washy. The neckline hung in a noncommittal curve, and it looked like the width of the band fluctuated by accident. I had already topstitched the seam allowance (though on the back neckline only) when I decided the whole thing had to go.

I am not an impulsive person. I own many rulers. My motto is “when in doubt, do without”. I love my stitch picker. But I folded this shirt symmetrically along the center line, grabbed my shears, and lopped off the band and seam allowance in a freehand curve. I turned the edge over once and topstitched and hey, guess what! It’s fine! It’s a little wide, and by necessity the back neckline ended up a bit too scoopy, but it is OK-hand-sign-emoji by me.

There’s something to be said for the lowest possible stakes, helped by the extreme affordability of this fabric. Sewfisticated is a fabulous fabric store with two puns in its name (one of them even makes sense!) and my favorite thing about it is that you have to work pretty hard to spend more than $10/yard there. That makes it a good place to shop if you’re feeling experimental; I hoped to find two colors of linen for a bicolor look (they’re everywhere and I’ve succumbed), but instead I walked out with this and another knit in cream. It was an odd impulse buy. I worried this shirt would be a Beige Alert (those damned neutrals!), and also it’s polyester, but for under $5 and about two hours of my time I got something I actually like.

I single-folded the sleeve and body hems, same as the neck. I topstitched the shoulder seam with a straight stitch because I’m between clear elastics and I hoped it would add stability.

All my other topstitching is a zig-zag stitch in a functionally invisible shade of dark grey. This sandy cookies-and-cream color hides a lot of sins; I missed like an inch of the hem, but danged if I can see where!

But what did you overcomplicate this time? Was it the sleeve hem? Thank you for asking, yes it was! First I sewed and topstitched the shoulder seam.  Next I folded and sewed into place the sleeve hem, starting and stopping 1” from each end. Then I sewed and finished the side seams, making sure the sleeve hem was unfolded where my stitching line crossed it. Finally, I re-folded the hem and stitched the last two inches. All to avoid sewing in the round as much as possible! Another option would have been to hem the sleeve edge fully before sewing the side seams, but I was wary of a serged seam just stopping without a hem to ‘seal’ it (and I didn’t want thread ends in my armpit).  

This was my first time trying the curved hem option of the Tabor, and it’s a nice gentle curve. I don’t like the shape of my previous Tabors untucked, with the straight/mitered hem, but I can live with this (I mean, I haven’t worn a tee-shirt untucked in years – if my jeans have a nine-inch zipper you’re going to see ALL NINE OF THEM, that’s the POINT, but still).

I’d make another one of these! It would be even zippier if I planned ahead not to use the neckband. I’m a bit agog, in fact – my “two pattern piece” patterns usually involve a whole lot of bias binding not included in that total, so literally two pieces?? What?? You could sneeze and one of these would come out. There’s nothing to it. The only problem is that setting up my ironing board, sewing machine, and serger is a pain in the butt if I’m going to put them away again an hour later!

Dare I wonder if my future holds…BATCH SEWING?!

Oh, and you’re seeing bits of the jeans I’m going to write about next week, but I thought denim twice in a row might be trying the patience of even you lovely folks. Next time. : )  

Pattern: Sew House Seven Tabor v-neck

Pattern cost: NA

Size: 10

Supplies: 1 yard of polyester sweater knit in Cookies and Crème, $3.99, Sewfisticated; thread from stash

Total time: 2.25 hours

Total cost: $3.99

Darkest Dawns

I didn’t think I had too many pairs of jeans until I began regularly using the phrase “I’m not a denimhead, but”. I just love sewing jeans, and this pair was an easy comfort sew. Probably I should have taken it a little less easy, though, because the fit isn’t great!

Let’s rewind. These are Megan Nielsen Dawn jeans, the tapered view. I made one pretty bad muslin, and then adjusted the pattern and sewed one pretty good ‘real’ pair. This pair uses the pretty-good adjustments, plus a couple more, but with less success. These are shown on the 3rd (and final) day of wear, by the way (they are actually foxy and wrinkle-free right out of the dryer, but only for a few hours).

I started from a 14 waist, 16 hips, with a 16 rise. Here’s my list of total adjustments, with the new ones for this pair in bold:

  • ¼” small waist adjustment
  • 3/8” wide hip adjustment
  • removed ¼” from center front at waist
  • removed ½” from center back at waist
  • scooped butt curve ¾” deeper
  • lengthened front crotch extension by ¼”
  • lengthened back crotch extension by ½”
  • lowered back pocket placement by 1”
  • enlarged back pockets by ½” per side
  • integrated front fly pieces into the front legs
  • used a straight waistband

Bigger bum pockets, A+. Integrated fly extensions (and Ginger zip installation method), A++. Straight waistband…eh? B+, A-? Hard to judge in this fabric. The most significant issues stem from the denim, which is thin and crispy. I think either a heavier denim or a softer denim would be more *discreet* about my fitting problems, instead of the extremely obvious and sharp wrinkles I have here. Also, the waistband crumples. But most importantly, because I sewed my pretty-good pair with much thicker fabric, I think by comparison this pair came up a little…big? I’m not used to that. A hot wash & dry helps a lot, but the crotch is still busily wrinkled.

I spent a while staring at my own reflection, confronted with new-to-me wrinkles. I tried pinching and binder clipping excess fabric at a few different points, and what I came up with was: I just don’t know.

The extra fabric under my butt goes away if I sit down or angle a leg forward, so I assume that’s necessary for wearing ease.

The extra fabric in the front crotch smoothes out if I stand up exaggeratedly straight, but that’s not really part of my daily life in the same way sitting and walking is. If I tug the front leg fabric back (jerry-rigged test to see if I should shorten the front crotch extension), there’s no improvement. If I tug the fabric up (to see if I should shorten the vertical rise), it’s distinctly worse. I guess it’s probable that the front crotch curve needs to be shallower – it would make the crotch shorter overall, but wouldn’t affect the extension where it fits my inner thigh, or the rise.

Or it might just be that if I want to wear this cut, on my excellent bod, I’m gonna get these wrinkles! I wish I had used this fabric for something else – specifically, how good would it have been as Clyde pants?! But as the wisdom says, It’s Only Fabric.

And in any case, the pants are really comfortable. Pandemic or not, I like high hard pants. There’s no give in the fabric so I definitely couldn’t do yoga in these, but I already don’t do yoga, so problem solved.

Favorite new trick: selvage is useful not only for the outside edge of the belt loops and the unfolded edge of the fly shield, but also for the short end of the waistband underlap. It makes a neat, low-bulk finish. Yay woven selvage!

I made a couple very mild style swings on this pair. I used a traditional button instead of a jeans rivet to keep a low profile (oooh) and left the hems raw (aaah). I put a line of stitching ¼” from the raw edge as a safeguard. Then, after a wash, I trimmed the fringe neatly, somewhat mitigating my supercool edginess.

I remember reading something, somewhere, about softening natural fibers by soaking them in a solution of a common household good (like baking soda, not necessarily baking soda though) – does that ring a bell for anybody? I think I’d like these better if they weren’t so crunchy, but fabric softener seems like a no-go (I searched “is fabric softener…” and Google auto-filled “…bad?”, and the results said “Yup!”).

These are worn with a cupro knit Stellan tee, which is one of my favorite Stellans. It’s got a cool hand and it’s very slithery, so much so in fact that it slithers right out of my stitching and has been mended in several places. I’ll continue to fix it, because I love it.

Honestly I’m really fine with the jeans, too. Like I said, I’MNOTADENIMHEADBUT here’s an excellent excuse to iterate further. As always, I end up back where I started: thinking about sewing jeans.

Pattern: MN Dawn jeans (Curve, tapered view)

Pattern cost: NA

Size: 14 waist/16 hip & rise, with many changes

Supplies: 1 2/3 yards of Mid Weight Cotton Denim Black – 10 oz, Stylemaker Fabrics, $25.00; zipper, Gather Here, $1.60; thread, Michael’s, $3.70

Total time: 4.25 hours

Total cost: $30.30

Short Marlo

First, go check out Heather’s Overall This 2020 Nonsense dungarees – aren’t they terrific?! Unfortunately she can’t totally endorse the pattern (unfortunately for me, mainly, because her finished pair is beautiful and beautifully made, and now I want some too). Anyway, go feast your eyes, and enjoy her detailed review!

Okay now look at me again. ; ) Like a sweater-y Lady Macbeth, I didn’t let “I dare not” wait upon “I would” and here’s my second Marlo already.

This True Bias Marlo is the cropped view, size 10, in Pacific French terry from iseefabric. It’s the second half of my fabric splurge and I had some trouble choosing which shade of blue I wanted. Eventually I just sort of squeezed my eyes shut and picked one, and when it arrived the color didn’t match the one shown on my monitor, but I’m happier this way. It’s the perfect dark teal I always hope to find. It’s not madly warm (the waffle knit is cozier); I often assume French terry is warmer than it is, I need to break that habit. It’s more like wearing a soft and sexy sexy towel.

Last time I talked mostly about the finished sweater and less about the Marlo pattern itself, so I wanted to mention that it’s simple but great. When a pattern is uncomplicated I really expect everything to line up perfectly and this one does that, with ample notches. I was initially surprised by the soft, gradual shape of the seam where the bottom of the armscye meets the side, but for a big sweater with big sleeves it doesn’t feel like too much fabric ends up in my armpits, thanks I think to that transition. Also it’s easy to serge because it doesn’t create a sharp inside corner.

I’d like to find a better way of marking notches; I usually cut them outwards, but because so many of these pattern pieces are straight-edged, you can butt them right up against each other to save fabric. But, then I can’t cut my notches pointing out. I used a white charcoal pencil to trace pattern pieces (leftover either from the days when I was forced to draw with charcoal, or from the days when I forced my students to draw with charcoal) and it tends to rub off. I might need a better tool.     

Sewing this was pretty straightforward, especially with the directions fresh in my mind, but I tried a tweak. Instead of adding the cuff in the round, as directed, I tried to keep it flat for as long as possible, like so…

I’m not sure that it made that much difference to the overall difficulty. I still ended up hand-sewing the inner edge of the cuff. It might have felt easier if I had actually sewn the cuff to the sleeve on the first try! Instead I sewed (and serged the seam, luckily with the knife off) one cuff to the bottom edge of the left front. I had to really stretch the bejeezus out of the cuff to get them to match, too! Unpicking loop-back French terry is not my all-time favorite.

I managed to snag the back of the fabric this time too, same as my last Marlo. Only this time I made a hole, but it was with the edge of my fingernail so what am I sposed to do, not have fingernails? It’s on the inside of the cuff and I ironed a little piece of interfacing to the back. I could have re-cut the piece but I didn’t notice the hole until I had attached it and I couldn’t face unpicking this one cuff anymore.

Once again I used the low-stretch band, and it’s a little sloppy at the back neck, though not critically. Since I’m never going to wear the cropped Marlo unbuttoned, I serged and topstitched the inner edge, and it went fine. French terry seems to like a bit of topstitching, IMO. I topstitched the shoulder seams too – this fabric is a bit springy, and the grosgrain ribbon I used in those seams doesn’t match, and I didn’t want it to peek out (I’d be the only one who’d see it, but I’m “I”! I care!).

These aren’t the buttons I thought I wanted – I was hoping to find something largish in light wood – but I couldn’t find that locally, and I’ve been looking for an excuse to buy these expensive washable ceramic buttons for uhhh a while. I didn’t sew buttonholes, just attached the buttons through both layers. This was lucky, because I guessed at placement again; initially I had sewn a fourth, higher button, but when I tried on the top I was getting intense drag lines, so I removed it. My breastbone resembles an uninhabited steppe from my collarbone to my bra band, and lowering a neckline a couple inches makes no significant difference to the look/my comfort otherwise, so it was all to the good.

I might switch them someday, because I think the weight of the buttons throws off the balance of the sweater. Or equally I might not; I like the color and the card of five buttons cost eight American dollars!!! That’s sandwich money!

After having sewn both views, I can confidently say this pattern is a keeper. And if you buy your fabric by the fractional yard, the cropped view in size 10 only takes 1.5 yards, not 2 as listed. I could only buy whole yards so now I have .5 yards of luxurious organic French terry kicking around. I’m thinking of making my hot water bottle a coordinating sweater (its name is Hot Walter, and it deserves the best). Wishing you the best, too!

croppe–

Pattern: True Bias Marlo sweater, cropped

Pattern cost: NA

Size: 10

Supplies: 2 yards of organic French terry knit in Pacific, iseefabric, $31.90; thread from stash; buttons, Gather Here, $8.00

Total time: 3.75 hours

Total cost: $39.90

Stroopwafel Marlo

I’m not tempted by some luxuries – like, as far as I can tell, a luxury hotel room is still a stuffy bland box and a luxury car is still a roll-y box that goes beep. And then some seem totally worth it – tea and chocolate, haircuts with good-smelling shampoo, the Petit Trianon. Happily my recent splurge showed me that nice knit fabrics fall into the second category. I got myself 2 2-yard cuts from iseefabric for my birthday, hoping to fill in some holes in my homemade wardrobe. The colors are beautiful, they’re squishy and warm, and they showed up as two wonderful fat rolls snuggled in a box. Budget-wise this is going to be a Sometimes Food, but I have no regrets!

This is the first of them, a waffle knit in the color maple. It’s quite possibly the power of suggestion that led me to pick this color (maple + waffle! Delicious!) but it’s a closet pal and gets along with most other colors. It was really fun to work with – satisfying to handle and sew, it even held a press well, thanks to 95% The Fabric of Our Lives (also 5% The Spandex of Our Lives). The drape is heavy. It’s warm. It’s soft. Basically, I love it.

Speaking of loving it, this is the Marlo sweater by True Bias, and uh…I love it also. This was the other part of my birthday gift to me. Basically I bought this sweater pattern and used it to blackmail myself into buying fancy fabric (“If you don’t buy fancy fabric you’ll be wasting $14 and untold cents of toner!”). And I used the fancy fabric to make myself buy the pattern (“If you don’t lay out the pattern and calculate the amount of fabric you need yourself, you might buy the wrong amount!”). It worked like a charm, I never saw it coming.

My size – 10 bust, graded to a 14 hip – called for 2.2 yards of 54” wide fabric, but I found 2 yards to be more than sufficient (this is mainly important when ordering online, especially since iseefabric only sells whole-yard cuts). Mine doesn’t have pockets, but I did cut the pocket pieces out, interface them, hem the tops and everything, only to discover I couldn’t turn or attach the rounded corners to my own satisfaction. I stitched one on before deciding that the stretch of the fabric + texture of the fabric + asymmetrical corners weren’t going to fly. Unpicking went almost flawlessly, but then I snagged one little thread on the back of the sweater front. It doesn’t seem to have run, so I’m hopeful!

I do have enough scrap fabric to recut the pockets as squares. I might. I feel the lack of them, but I’m not confident I can sew them as neatly as I’d like.

The fabric has a very relaxed recovery so this sweater definitely grew in the making. It will probably shrink back again someday (Spandex), but I don’t know when! I added grosgrain ribbon to the shoulder seams as suggested, which is attractive and functional (as opposed to clear elastic, which is just functional), but it’s attached to the back so you can’t see it anyway.

Because of the fabric’s lack of springiness/recovery, I cut the longer band, even though it stretched more than 40%. That’s probably why it kind of slumps at the center back.

Because I didn’t stretch the band much, though, I was able to hand-sew the inner edge. That’s right, I used the ‘fancy finishing’ method on the bands and cuffs, only more so. I felt mildly goofy hand-sewing on a knit but I didn’t think I could machine stitch perfectly on the first try, and I didn’t want to risk unpicking again! Also, I don’t have matching serger thread (I have two colors – black and white).

I was forewarned by Beck’s post that the last 10 pages of the print-at-home PDF were just the button placement guides for each size. I decided to print none of them, to avoid waste, so my buttons ended up sCanDoloUsLY low.

The buttons, by the way, are vintage leather from my never-ending flea market bag and are also arguably waffle-esque, which I enjoy. I like the brown tones together a lot (alternative color family name, “caramel macchiato”).

The elements of this project were expensive but the final sweater does feel truly luxurious, and luckily not like a sad beige bag. And I’m definitely going to make another Marlo! I want to try the cropped view next. think the success of this piece is due partly to a solid pattern, but a lot to the fanciness of the fabric. Now that I’ve had a taste of the good stuff, I want more grade-A maple syrup every day!   

Pattern: True Bias Marlo sweater, long view

Pattern cost: $14.00

Size: 10 bust, 14 hips

Supplies: 2 yards of organic cotton thermal waffle knit in Maple, iseefabric, $31.90; thread, buttons from stash

Total time: 6.25 hours

Total cost: $45.90

Quilted Jacket 3 (and done!)

IT IS DONE. I will now smile beneficently at Harrison Ford and crumble into dust. Actually, more realistically, I’ll spill tea on myself and then weep salty tears, but my QUILTED JACKET IS FINALLY FINISHED.

Thank you everyone for humoring me on this journey – I’ve spent so many hours exclusively on this one piece over the past month and a half, I think I’d pop if I couldn’t talk about it! This is the final stage, quilting + construction.

First, quilting! As I mentioned last time, I was worried about the stress of hand quilting, but I made two significant discoveries: 1., I didn’t like the look of machine quilting on this. Commenter Elizabeth suggested checking if my machine could mimic hand stitching. Brilliant idea; sadly it doesn’t have that functionality, and the one-thread stitching looked kind of wimpy, while the idea of double-stitching all those lines (what if one wobbled!!) also made me want to cry salty tears (this post co-hosted by salty tears). Still, I machine quilted the whole back panel before jumping ship. Luckily I then discovered:

2., I had been hand quilting wrong. Not horribly wrong, but I had been working on my lap instead of a table. It was much more comfortable and sustainable at a table! I usually worked in 15 minutes – 1 hour increments, which was a little challenging because it turns out hand quilting is pretty hypnotic and more-ish (especially with TV on). There is now a little flocked pattern where I gouged our soft pine table with the needle over and over, so maybe throw down a magazine or something first if you’re trying this on an Ikea Ingo.    

Some of my knots are definitely secured better than others. I confidently expect having to re-do some lines as they work themselves loose, but I have plenty of extra thread. Also, only a small proportion of my stitches actually show on the backing, so I guess despite the table scarification I wasn’t sticking the needle through enough. That said, I’m super happy with the final look! It’s wrinkly and uneven but it plays so much more nicely with my imprecise piecing than the machine stitches. And the doubled thread is punchier.

Also, I decided to keep my second belt! Redemption!!

You know people who are like “Oh I’m much more comfortable in stilettos, something something arches”? I’ve never really felt in my bones how that could be true. However, I’m ready to believe now that I’ve melded with my thimble. At first it felt ungainly, but I got to the point where I forgot I was wearing it and only noticed when I went to do something else and felt it clack against the oven handle or a doorknob. I nabbed one at a local swap (well over a year ago now) and it’s just been sitting. Why was I ever hand-sewing without it?!

After the quilting, the jacket was practically done (which is different than actually done, as it turns out). Still, I let the pieces sit for a while as I thought about how to handle the shawl collar/back neck junction, and eventually I decided to figure it out on the day. It’s obvious in retrospect but without a facing the bound center-collar seam shows at the back! I had a belated “duuuh” moment, but in a garment with so much visible binding, I wasn’t going to quibble about a little peek at the neck.

I couldn’t figure out how to bind the shoulder and neck seams so I just shoved them under a yoke-ish facing – it’s machine sewn along the back neck, and hand sewn along the shoulders and bottom hem. I had to clip into the corners of the front panels and clip away the corners of the back panels to fold them down but everything is nice and tucked away inside.

I also had to ease the back shoulder seam to match the shorter front shoulder seam but I’m not sure if this is a pattern feature or a me-adding-a-shawl-collar bug.

I forgot to show you the pockets last time! They have a batting layer and are lined with the background ‘Putty’ cotton. My only serging is inside these pockets – the top edge is sewn to the lining right-sides-together, then flipped and understitched, but the other three sides got the zoop. These are indeed machine-sewn in place, but there’s a non-zero chance I’ll go back and sew them invisibly instead. We’ll seeee.

I made oodles of bias tape that was a little skinny so I bound seams separately as much as possible, which led to a slight sequencing issue at the side seams. Ultimately I sewed each side seam from the underarm to an inch above the pattern notch (so on my version, to the top yellow horizontal stripe), bound everything, and then sewed the rest of the side seam, including sewing over the finished binding. I deeply covet the squared-off binding finish used by Studio Quirk used on her drop-dead-beautiful Tamarack, but I couldn’t work it out (and oddly I can’t leave a comment on her blog to ask, I always get an error message). I sewed one edge of the bias tape by machine, and the other by hand. This involved further television.

I had enough binding fabric left to cut two extra-wide strips to go around the armscye seam allowances – 2” wide, as opposed to the 1.25” wide I used elsewhere, which had no chance of covering all the layers there – and then – I was done?!

A mere 48 or so hours of sewing later. I could have cried salty tears – twist – OF JOY!! This is the only thing I worked on in February and part of March. I think it might have been worth it. I learned a ton and I really enjoyed myself, and the time was going to pass whether or not I used it. I can see errors in the quilting, the piecing, wrinkles in the construction, and why why why did I not use neon green binding, but I really don’t care. I intended this as a warm stylish house jacket but I am definitely going to take this show on the road. Jacket, prepare to get worn everywhere!

Also, I’m not sure if you can tell, but I’m slightly favoring one arm – I got my first vaccine shot! No side effects except for a sore shoulder. I’ll be fully vaccinated in mid-April!

Thanks for reading!

Pattern: Grainline Tamarack

Pattern cost: NA

Size: 12, with added shawl collar

Supplies: .5 yards binding, 2.5 yards backing, 2 yards batting, 5 1/3 yards various cottons, Gather Here, $108.49; thread, Sewfisticated and Michaels, $5.39

Total time: 49 hours

Total cost: $113.88

Winter Shirtdress

I’m so close to being done with my quilted jacket, but not quite. In the meantime, I have something a little less exuberant to share – actually this is another farewell tour, so say hello & goodbye to my would-be-could-be-but-isn’t go-to winter shirtdress.

After two consecutive winters of wearing this zero times, it’s time to say goodbye (I’ve yet to successfully integrate a dress into my casual wardrobe). This particular experiment hails from 2017 and is mostly a Deer & Doe Melilot, with guest star, the fabled but rarely seen Grainline Archer bum ruffle. I alternate between thinking that ruffle is pretty unappealing and craaaving a bum ruffle Archer shirt; it’s the honey mustard pretzel bites of shirt views.

The fabric is brushed cotton, 4 yards of Kaufman Grizzly Plaid cotton to be precise. It’s soft but less bulky than their Shetland flannel. 2017 Lia was apparently pretty apprehensive about fabric thickness though, since a lot of my decisions appear to have been made to reduce bulk, unfortunately sometimes at the expense of quality/longevity. I was also living that new-serger life, which contributed.

The inner collar stand has a serged bottom edge, which is surprisingly not too obvious. I pictured this being worn done all the way up the neck, and it is the way it looks best, but I really put baby in a corner, style-wise, there. Cover your collarbones or reveal your lazy serging, hussy! The collar is closed by a silver ring snap, and there’s a second snap about 3 inches below that one. And for the rest of the placket…nothin’. It’s funny for me to revisit old projects; I’ve become a sewing completist since then. I would have placed snaps all along the placket nowadays, whether or not I planned to use them.

This isn’t the first popover placket I’ve bungled, but it’s among the worst! Since the Melilot has a full placket I would have followed an online tutorial; I don’t remember which, but this nice, recent CC one makes it clear that it’s just a sleeve placket writ large. I’m not sure how I made it so complicated, but line up it does not.

My other bulk-reduction moment is in the sleeves – I wanted to wear this with a rolled cuff, and again didn’t leave any other choice, since the sleeves are finished with scrap cotton cuffs. Serged on the outside, no less.

I like the visual balance of the cuff but the placement is just wrong. I thought a full-length sleeve would be overwhelming on a dress, but I judged the shortened sleeve length incorrectly, so it’s not very comfortable; the cuffs sit over my elbows, so I’m always either tugging them down or feeling them ride up.

The interior seams are serged as well, except the hem, which I finished with bias tape. I like the extravagantly swoopy Melilot shirt hem and I transferred it downwards. That does make the sides pretty short!

Plaid matching fell by the wayside as I adjusted this dress. Originally I lengthened the Melilot shirt (size 42) by 11” and added extra space for my hips. I used the shape of the Melilot back, but divided at the height placement and along the curve of the Archer bum ruffle seam. The lower half is also mostly Melilot, with the upper edge shape and width of the bum ruffle. This turned out to be a series of nopes. I had to shorten the top back to raise the ruffle by 1.5” to make it even barely a top-bum rather than a mid-bum ruffle, remove the added volume from the hips (in a word: saddlebags), and shorten the dress overall by 4.5”.

The finished dress isn’t terrible. It’s not the most thoughtfully constructed but it’s warm; the details are sloppy, but the silhouette isn’t bad. But I just don’t wear it! I can blame the usual suspects; the length, the fact that it’s a dress at all, lack of pride in the finishing. I think this candid more or less sums it up.

 And I also think it’s just a bit blah! I could see something like this working in a warm, colorful flannel, but the last thing I reach for in winter is top-to-toe grey.

Okay, now picture this with me instead: a winter shirt, maybe needlecord, deep jade or dark teal, shiny buttons…and a bum ruffle?! Maybe someday!  

Pattern: Deer & Doe Melilot (mostly)

Pattern cost: $10 (my first Melilot, weirdly!)

Size: 42, extended 6.5”

Supplies: 4 yards Kaufman Grizzly Plaid cotton, Mercer’s Fabric, $28.80; snaps, Michael’s, $3.00; thread from stash

Total time: 10.75 hours

Total cost: $41.80

Quilted Jacket 2

When last we met I had my supplies, my plan, and some unjustified optimism. As a reminder, my goal was to make a shawl-collar Grainline Tamarack with the pieced design below.

Part 2 starts with fabric. I stay-stitched the cut edges of my yardage before pre-washing – I don’t usually bother, but I don’t usually buy quantities 1’ at a time, either. The Ruby Star “Denim” cotton frayed and wrinkled noticeably less than the others, by the way. Nice stuff!

I cut the stripes first to make sure I had enough long, continuous fabric pieces, and everything else I cut as I went. The tutorials I relied on were this, for stars and triangles (sawtooth stars and flying geese, as I learned), and this, for stripes and grids (nine patches). I drew my pattern on fresh paper so I could mark my piecing design on that and measure what I needed to fill each space. As much as possible I used nice round numbers so I could consult the measurements provided by the tutorials. The drawing isn’t super easy to see here, but hopefully you can make it out; I drew lightly because I had an asymmetric design, and I wanted to use the front and back of each pattern piece instead of tracing them twice.

I launched in with the bison face quilt block. As I mentioned already, I thought I would be able to size it to my design, but I instantly realized: hell to the no was I scaling anything. Measurements provided or bust. The first thing I had to sacrifice was pins, since the pieces were too small and too many for pinning to make sense; the next thing to go was my illusions. I was following the directions and saying yes ma’am thank you ma’am and even that might be beyond my skill set.

So yeah, the bison face came out bigger than I planned, and as a result the framing stripes are all closer to the edges of the pattern pieces, and everything ended up slightly skew-whiff. Even the long straight seams, aren’t. The colors look alright IMO, though. It meant a lot of muttering “Right side – wrong side – right side – wrong side”, but I used both sides of my brown printed fabric for the bison fur and it turned out a bit rad.

Literally almost nothing lines up. There is however one perfect junction, where a white stripe meets a blue square –

So beautiful! Also so unique! But as Professor Boyfriend pointed out, better one really good place and lots of wonky places than the other way around. That would be the worm in an otherwise perfect apple (as opposed to what I have, which is a bunch of laid-back worms hanging out around a tiny apple slice).

My final design had to evolve as I sewed, because I didn’t always have the space I planned. Most noticeably this affected the left front (pictured on the right). In real life there was too much vertical space above the star and not enough below the stripes, so I moved the small vertical element I had planned for the bottom above the star and turned it sideways, and ended up with a slightly horrible anti-coincidence.

So close! I just won’t look down while wearing the finished jacket.  Also that black piece near the shoulder was unplanned, but the power of an asymmetric pieced design is that I could just pop on a scrap when I cut the light blue fabric a bit too small, and call it good.

I sewed the sleeves second-to-last and by then I was sensing improvements in my own work. They’re pretty tidy! They’re also pretty small and simple, so the butterfly effect of mis-matched piecing didn’t get much scope.

I’m planning on wearing this tied shut, or maybe buttoned and tied, so the actual last thing I sewed was the belt. Well, two belts.

For the first, I saved all my scraps and trimmings and extra geese and sewed them into an arbitrarily long, 5” wide rectangle, which I then folded in half lengthwise. The result is far too busy and distracting and untidy but HOT DOG it was fun. I would just grab a piece and see if it fit and it did, I’d sew it on, and if it was too small I’d sew it to a buddy and try again. It was organic and intuitive and I really loved the process, even if the finished belt makes me say pbbt.

For the second belt I cut and sewed rectangles from my scraps. Here’s where you can see me working out some thinking in real time.

To hand quilt or not to hand quilt?! Originally I planned to machine quilt the jacket panels, as I did with my first Tamarack. However, after my piecing turned out so messy, I was concerned that the precision of machine stitching would highlight those imperfections, so I decided to hand quilt. With that in mind I basted the pieced panels around the edges to the batting and backing fabrics (I bubble cut those with a rough ½” extra margin). I wouldn’t have done this if I was machine sewing, but I thought I could control wrinkles and tucks with hand-sewing pretty easily. Then I went ahead and hand-quilted the belt.

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My stitching wasn’t great, but more importantly I’m not sure I can afford the strain. I used a thimble and a nice sharp needle but I was cramping after just an hour and my hands are my money-makers. I try to quit drawing or painting when I feel physical stress, and this counts as unnecessary wear-and-tear. So maybe I’ll machine stitch after all?

The only things I know for certain: I want to use simple diagonal lines, and neon green thread is a neutral. Oh, and which belt am I going to use? Um, neither. I think I’m just going to stick skinny binding straps in the side seams. So that’s where I’m at for now! One major decision left, followed by quilting, one way or another, and construction. Woof, we’ll see what I decide soon. Thanks for reading!

Quilted Jacket 1

 “I love making jeans, even though there’s sooo many pattern pieces!” an intermediate sewist told her friends.

A shriek of laughter splintered their conversation. They turned to a see a woman, alone in a shadowed corner, with a gaze as sharp as a 14/90 Microtex and a hollow laugh on her lips.

“Don’t go over there.”

“Just ignore her,” they advised.  

But the intermediate sewist, braver or perhaps more foolhardy than the rest, approached the strange woman.

“What are you laughing at, old-timer?”

“You, garment sewer!”

“Me?”

“That’s right.” The old-timer cackled. “You think you suffered, because you had to cut a waistband x 2 and interfacing x 2? You think you’re tough because you slashed open a welt pocket? You added a gathered skirt to a tank top, so now you can hack it in the wilderness?! What do you know…” her voice dropped to an intimate rasp. “About piecing a quilt block?”

A chill ran up and down the intermediate sewist’s back. “Not much,” she admitted, frightened but compelled.

“The pieces! So many! So tiny! All with perfect 90° corners! I’ve seen things…I’ve done things…I’ve cut 1” squares without a quilting ruler or a rotary cutter.”

“Why don’t you just buy a quilting ruler –”

The old timer slammed the table with her fist so hard that spools of thread jumped up and rolled away. “Why don’t you just grow wings and learn to fly!!” She surged forward suddenly and held a seam gauge to the intermediate sewist’s neck, so close that the foolhardy sewist could feel its metal edge with every pulse of her carotid artery. The intermediate sewer didn’t dare to move or even speak.

“Do you know what it is?” The old-timer hissed. “The space between life and death? Between right and wrong? Hope and despair? Between a quilter and a garment sewer?! Do you want to know the seam allowance?!”

The intermediate sewist closed her eyes. There was a clatter and an abrupt sense of emptiness, and when the intermediate sewist looked again, she was alone, with nothing but the abandoned seam gauge on the table before her. Her eyes crawled irresistibly to the slider. The distance between her and a shattered woman.

Only a quarter-inch.        

Through some mysterious process (I’m not even on Instagram!) it recently became a priority to make myself a pieced, quilted coat. I made a whole-cloth quilted Grainline Tamarack in 2019, but I don’t (well, didn’t, now) have any piecing experience. WELL. If you want to learn something new, it’s gotta be the first time sometime!

It’s true that I don’t have a quilting ruler, or a rotary cutter, or a big cutting board. This is mainly because I don’t like buying things and I’m not wild about owning stuff either. But if I was going to go back to the beginning, I would strongly consider adding a ¼” foot to my toolkit. A ¼” seam allowance is NOT 3/16” or 9/32” or 9/40”, which I learned to my dismay; an imperfect seam here or there on a not-so-fitted garment will barely show, but I’ve been making such an accumulation of small mistakes while piecing that the results are wonky indeed. My progress so far looks like what it is: a first effort by a beginner. But actually I’m finding it terrifically fun as well. Let’s talk.

Thing 1: pattern! I decided to make another Tamarack, but for better coziness than the oddly wide neck provides, I added a shawl collar. Using this article from Threads, I made the center front 1.25″ wider, chose a breakpoint 12.75″ up from hem, and drafted the shawl collar to be 5″ wide when finished. After thinking about it before falling asleep every night for a while, I decided against using a facing. My plan is to bias-bind everything as the pattern instructs, including the seam where the shawl collar meets the back neck. We’ll see if this is realistic in practice. Now that Pinterest knows I’m interested it’s been showing me a ton of quilt content, including, rather late to the game, this article on designing a quilted coat, which recommends a separate lining; maybe next time.

Thing 2: pieced design! I have no particular claim on bison but I wanted something punchy for a central design for the jacket back, and I found this free quilt block, and designed outwards from there. At this point I thought blithely I could scale a square design to any size so I ignored the fact that the measurements given were for an 8” or 16” square. I used Illustrator to draw a design and color it a few different ways; all my angles are 0°, 90°, or 45°. This seemed achievable (based on no experience or knowledge, but hey).

Thing 3: Color! I had a vague notion of what I wanted, having already bought the backing fabric. It was terrific luck, actually – I described my perfect fabric (while walking to the fabric store, no less) to Professor BF as “white or off-white with grey or grey-blue stripes, but organic stripes, not perfectly geometric” and I didn’t so much find this fabric as recognize it from my dreeeaaams. So that meant any blues would have to have a nice relationship with that quite cool blue, and I also wanted the pieced side to have an off-white background. Here’s a few of my experiments:    

I landed on the fourth palette, which I labeled somewhat ambitiously as “modern”. Once again, If I Knew Then What I Know Now, I would probably just pick a fabric collection or fat quarter bundle I liked and fill in my design with a pre-curated set of colors, but I didn’t. Instead I separated out each color individually (using Select, Same: Fill Color for you AI fans) and put them into a new document. Then I threw myself on the mercy of a lovely Gather Here employee and was like “How much each buy please!?”  

Pink, white, dark blue, yellow – 1/3 yard each. Black, rust – ½ yard each. Light blue – 1 yard. Cream for the background – 2 yards. I had the brown already. Oh and binding – ½ yard also, but I picked that on the fly.

I mostly used Kona Cotton (named beautifully Ochre – 1704, Pepper – 359, Spice – 159, Fog – 444, and then disappointingly PDF Bleach – 1287 and Putty – 1303), but the pink with yellow dobbies and the dark blue are both Ruby Star Society (Warp & Weft Wovens Dots Lilac, and Speckled 52M Denim). The binding is Folk Friends Linework Cream by Makower UK. The brown is leftover Essex cotton-linen from my Morella pants, and the batting is some mostly-cotton kinda-poly stuff that was cheap and wide. I had a 20 minute shopping appointment and a hope that maybe I’d add another print or something and then I went into a fugue state and came out with these 35 minutes later. And next the real work begins!

This is getting super wordy, so I’ll stop here for now. More soon on my wobbly journey to a quilted coat! I’ll do the time and spending round-up at the end. If I ever get there!

Stay safe, don’t talk to strangers in shadowy sewing bars!

Red Dawns Rising

“Fell deeds pants awake. Now for wrath fabric. Now for ruin fitting. And the red dawn[s]!”

Here we go again! My first ‘proper’ MN Dawns, the pattern only slightly mauled, in corduroy. Corduroy again! This is it for a while, though…probably.

I surprised myself with this fabric, as I’ve got kind of a self-mythology that I don’t like red; which is why I’m describing this color as “ruby chocolate” (Mood said “henna”, and it’s OOS). The fact that these pictures were taken on Valentine’s Day is PURE COINCIDENCE I ASSURE YOU. Anyway, this cord is definitely du roi. It’s seriously plushy. Like, the first time I washed and dried it, it overflowed the lint trap with ruby chocolate fluff and almost committed ruby chocolate arson. While sewing it shed tiny velvet fuzzies all over my ironing board, sewing machine plate, and legs. But I like it! It’s warm! It’s rich! The wales are deep and dramatic and luxurious! The small amount of stretch in the fiber makes next to no difference, though – I had hoped it would aid in recovery, but nah.

Oh, by the way, the yardage estimate for the Dawns is VASTLY overgenerous. It calls for 2.5ish yards and I had over a yard left over! I passed the remnant on, so you won’t be seeing it on the blog again, partly because this was straightforward to sew until I reached the belt loops, whereupon I broke no less than 5 needles, two on the same loop. Yikes. Enough was enough for me.

These Dawns are freshly washed, and they’ll bag over the course of the day, but right now I think the fit is – dare I say it – pretty good! I made further significant changes to the pattern, which I had already modified as described here, with the help of my personal Good Book, Singer’s Sewing Pants That Fit.

The below illustrations encompass ALL my changes, shorts and pants – i.e., starting from the straight leg view, unmodified 14 waist, 16 hip, with a 16 rise, here’s everything I did to get to these pants. First, I stacked and taped all the affected pattern pieces; pocket bag, facings, etc. on the front, leg + yoke on the back. Then it was time to slice-and-dice…shall we gif?

The finished pieces don’t look ‘ideal’, as in, they don’t look like a platonic/generic pants pattern, but they work for my body way WAY way WAY better. My other helpful change, not to the pattern pieces but while sewing, was to stretch the heck out of the waistband when attaching it to the pants. I wanted it to conform to my body, and on my shorts muslin the waistband stands up straight, partly because I forgot this step.

Just to commit a quick pants blasphemy for a second – I don’t think this pattern, with my changes, benefits from a curved waistband. The rise hits at like the one point of my body that isn’t curved, and I’ve already made every seam that meets the waistband less vertical, essentially widening dart intakes on the sides, front and back. The mild curve of the waistband is superfluous. Also, a folded rectangle is easier to cut AND there’s less bulk to sew through when adding belt loops. Ooh la la!      

My changes also made these pants less suitable for corduroy overall, mainly because topstitching the fly meant sewing a shallow diagonal across the wales (it reminds me of a story of a college classmate once told, of a boy who went in for a kiss she tried to avoid, and his teeth ended up scraping sideways clack-clack-clack across hers).

But that’s true of the original pattern as well. I’d like to try canvas or traditional denim next.

Begging the question, will there be a next? I think probably yes. I’ve achieved a fit state that Professor Boyfriend calls ‘Pareto optimal’ and I call ‘Whack-a-Mole’. The front is a little long, but if I pinch out the extra length, I get more wrinkles at the crotch. The waistband isn’t perfectly level but a shortened back rise would be worse. But the overall effect is comfortable and reasonable-looking.

There’s still tweaks to be made – I might want to enlarge the back pockets further, experiment with their placement (right now they’re about an inch lower than the pocket markings, by the way), try this zipper technique one more time (I’m still not wowed by it but I need to know if it’s my lack of experience), and swap in a straight waistband. And I’m tempted to give the tapered leg view a whirl. Basically, I can always find a reason to sew another pair of pants.

I hope you got to spend Valentine’s Day doing something you love, maybe with somebody you love…and I’ll leave you with these affectionate words!

Til next time!

Pattern: MN Dawn jeans

Pattern cost: NA

Size: 14 waist, 16 hip, with ch-ch-changes

Supplies: 2.5 yards of Italian Burnt Henna Stretch Cotton Corduroy, $35.97, Mood; 1/2 yard Rifle Paper cotton in Strawberry Fields, $6.25, Gather Here; 9″ metal zip, Sewfisticated; thread, Michael’s, $3.19

Total time: 9.5 hours

Total cost: $45.41

Overall this 2020 Nonsense

Hi there! As I mentioned recently, Heather and I planned to share overalls in February to mark being over 2020! Obviously flipping over a calendar page doesn’t create systematic change but 2021 does feel like an improvement so far, including some pretty cool executive orders, the re-opening of my local library branch for contactless pickup, and, well, these so-so overalls.

These were supposed to be a redemption make, ideally replacing my old pair of Turias before they split along the equator. I either wanted to repeat the pattern (What Katie Sews just posted a winter pair, very inspiring) or the fabric, 21 wale corduroy. I’m starting my transition to a corduroy-only blog (kidding, but also…I have been using it a lot lately) so I ordered 2.5 yards of Kaufman 21 wale cord in Olive Drab from The Confident Stitch and paired it with Kwik Sew 4138.

K4138 looked like the kind of pattern I could eyeball and copy but I got it on deep sale so why not use it? I was pleasantly surprised, when tracing, to see it wasn’t just rectangles – the bib and the straps are, but the pant legs have actual shaping and the waistband is curved. But the pattern support was lacking. This was my first time sewing a Kwik Sew pattern, is the back of the envelope always so coy? The only finished garment measurements given were the inseam length and width of leg at hem. It’s a beginner-facing pattern with a fitted waist, tell us the waist measurements! They weren’t printed on the pattern tissue, either.

Also, for the first time ever in my experience, the lay plan was wrong. I ordered the listed amount of fabric and far from being the usual way-too-much it was 4” too short! I could have shortened the legs from the hem to fit (and if I had actually looked at that spurned inseam measurement I probably would have) but after some experimenting I was able to come up with my own plan that fit the pieces as drafted. Surprise surprise, these legs are too long.

So yeah, cutting was unusually trying. The fabric is beautiful though – soft and light and a sheeny silvery green – and I expected sewing to be a snap. January brain disagreed.

You jump right in with a lapped zipper, using a simple fold-and-topstitch method. “Oh ho ho,” I thought to myself. “I’m sure there’s a better way. I remember pinning one!” and sure enough I had this video saved. It’s a nice clear video but I could not do it for some reason, even with the increased seam allowance! I sewed and unpicked my zipper six times. I had a shopping appointment at Gather Here that afternoon and I decided I would give up and grab an invisible zipper (so you know I was desperate) but then in the store I was in a complete flurry and walked out with some beautiful fabric and, as I realized when I got home, a traditional zipper.

I did the simple fold-over-and-topstitch method (the first one mentioned in the video, the one in the Kwik Sew directions booklet), and it came out pretty good. O_O Blurgh.

After that, sewing was ok. I cut a medium, except for the waistband. After some measuring I decided on a waistband halfway between a small and a medium (3/8” larger than small, 3/8” smaller than medium) but then when sewing I waffled a bit and sewed just the waistband side seam allowances with ½” sa instead of the called-for 5/8”. My only other pattern change was to cut the bib as a single piece with the fold on top. I also changed the sewing order very slightly, topstitching the waistband piece on the bib edge before adding it to the pants half.

I put all my interfacing on the outward-facing sides and used overalls buckles instead of buttons and buttonholes (partly because I had them, partly because I was worried about going too cute with these).    

I think the finished pair might be a swing and a miss. The proportions seem a little funny, and thanks to my fabric choice, I’m not quite sure what ‘character’ these are for – forget the Madonna/Whore dichotomy, these say Hobbit/Saboteur.

But they are sturdy, and tidy, and soft (as am I).  And who knows, maybe when I can get my ankle bones out I’ll like the proportions better. And in the meantime I can be sure that the bib won’t rip off the trousers, so I’ve definitely satisfied the minimum. Now off to enjoy my new library books!

Pattern: Kwik Sew 4138

Pattern cost: $5.49

Size: M, S/M waistband

Supplies: 2.5 yards of Robert Kaufman 21 wale corduroy in Olive, The Confident Stitch, $38.15; zipper, Gather Here, $2.10; thread, Michael’s, $2.39

Total time: 10

Total cost: $42.64