#2 Toaster #2

I recently ordered fabric while chilly.

I’m henceforth going to make all my shopping decisions while chilly. I’m not saying the cold makes my brain work better, just that 4 yards of Kaufman Trainers French Terry Fleece was EXACTLY what I wanted to sew with in January. I got two lengths, one for a sweater and one for sweats. This first one is called Woodrose. After 4 years, it finally kicked my butt into gear to make another Toaster #2 sweater!

I sewed my original 2017 Toaster from soft, drapey modal French terry. While it didn’t exactly work, I could see it had potential. By the way, Sew House Seven is steadily + reliably updating their catalogue to add sizes up to 34, and I believe the Toaster will be included soon.

When browsing cold-weather fabrics, I saw Kaufman does a French terry now. I picked this color to go with the skirt I made recently. I’m trying to add more variety/warmth/elegance/overall oomph to my winter wardrobe, but even so my clicking-finger hovered over my typical Sienna for a while; maybe next time!

Hawthorne Supply Co. sells fabric by the 1/8 yard, which is terrific, because the pattern calls for 1 5/8 yards; half-yard cuts would have left me with an awkward amount leftover, guaranteed. I shortened the body of the sweater 1.5”, and I have 6” extra selvedge-to-selvedge. I like the finished length, so next time I can order 1.5 yards. Climb back into my pocket, sweet little $1.70! You’re safe now.

I haven’t been working on anything madly complicated lately but this still seemed like a luxuriously tiny number of pattern pieces. Front, back, sleeve, badda-boom. I compared the front and back armscyes, and they are shaped differently as I hoped/expected, but the sleeve itself is vertically symmetrical. What’s that about? It doesn’t affect comfort, so maybe it’s a knit thing.

When I make another Toaster #2, I’ll extend the width of the grown-on neck facing to reach the shoulder seam. It’s like an inch away anyway, max; may as well anchor it there. Missed opportunity. The split mitered hem is a quick, clear, fun part to sew, though! I added a sassy little triangular fold before topstitching the top of the vent allowances.

Construction went quickly, but I spent a solid hour or more at the end of the process just futzing. The front funnel neck looked odd. There seemed to be too much fabric above the bust, or maybe too much width? Maybe some combination of those? I did my usual ‘tug tests’ – pulling the fabric tighter, looser, forward, back, etc., and have concluded that I don’t know much about history biology what a slide rule is for fitting the upper bust, but I know how to show a sweater a good time.

I tried stitching in the ditch to keep the neck facing in place, by hand and by machine; topstitching along the long front and back edge of the facings; making the front neck deeper and shallower; pressing in a crisp edge, pressing it out again; and finally, topstitching a few random sigils to keep everything in place in the best arrangement I could manage.

After a day of wearing, I realized moving my head around an average amount crushes the front funnel neck anyway, and the fit wrinkles either hide inside of the use wrinkles or merge into mega-wrinkles. It’s moot.

Somewhere there’s a fabric with enough body to stand up at the neck and enough drape to move gracefully across the mysterious hinterland of my upper chest, but is it 95% cotton, fleece-lined, and $13.50/yard? Probably not. Weird neck aside, I loved sewing this fabric. It was so cooperative and just beefy enough (also, beefiness will never not hit me as the most hilarious sewing qualifier). I used a stretch stitch on the shoulders, sides, and cuffs, and a straight stitch on the hem, and it was fine with both.

The fabric is quite malleable, but it has a low recovery. This pattern actually calls for 5/8” seams throughout, but I used ¼” seam allowances on the sleeve and side seams, so my S bust graded to a M waist might be more like an M graded to L when all is said and done. I like the balance of the width and the length and I really appreciate that it has a set-in sleeve, as I’m feeling distinctly cool towards drop shoulders lately. I asked Professor Boyfriend what era he thought it was referencing and he Zoidberg-scuttled away because he thought it was a trap, but it’s an honest question. I definitely feel a bit past-y, but I’m not sure when!

I’d love to learn how to read and fix these wrinkles before I make another Toaster #2, but I still like this one. It’s fuzzy inside, actually warm, and the color is different enough from the rest of my wardrobe that it goes with practically anything. You’ll probably see it again in a week or two!

In the meantime, I might go use my actual toaster and make some hot buttered toast. Mmm. Always a good idea!

Pattern: Sew House Seven Toaster #2 sweater

Pattern cost: NA

Size: S bust, M waist, with ¼” sleeve and side seams

Supplies: 1 5/8 yards Kaufman Trainers French Terry Fleece in Woodrose, Hawthorne Supply Co., $24.92; thread from stash

Total time: 3.75 hours

Total cost: $24.92

Time and Money 3

You like numbers? Baby, we got numbers.

If you ever close-read someone’s blog searching for clues about how much they spend on their hobby (“HOW much Liberty lawn went into the bottom tier? IN TER EST ING”) , search no more. I’ve been recording my expenses in detail since 2017; this is my third January with a blog, so my third entry in the series here (here’s 2019, and here’s 2020). My sense was that I had a spendy year but that wasn’t actually so. I bought some pricier fabrics, but also some cheaper ones, which balanced out. I also sewed fewer items overall.

Plus, I’m living the phrase ‘an embarrassment of riches’ – I hadn’t realized quite how generous my friends and family had been until I saw my gift and gift-card total tallied, so now I am blushing but also feeling very loved (and they know what I like!).  

Other people spent around $30 total more on my hobby than me! Eek! I could have thrown my knitted sweater into that pie chart, but I kept that expense separate, as I do the expense of blogging, leading to this discomfiting but not disagreeable outcome.

I spent less than $40 a month out-of-pocket. !!! So little for the amount of fun I had! It’s more like $75 per month when including other people’s money, which was more in line with my sense of my spending, though it’s still a not-too-expensive way to enjoy myself for lots and lot of hours. More on time later.

As always, this represents the lion’s share of my clothing spending. I bought a pair of Docs this year and have been wearing them nonstop since (high recommend!). I also spent around $20 on clothes from Goodwill for my Halloween costume, since they weren’t garments I wanted to sew or keep long-term. I was Messy Neighbor from Untitled Goose Game; Professor Boyfriend was obviously Tidy Neighbor. My real-life neighbors and actual human children spent the evening alternately pretending to be terrorist geese themselves and screaming at our trick-or-treaters to say “HONK” instead of “Happy Halloween”. It was a wonderful evening, well worth the Jackson!

This year’s spending is also lower because I made fewer garments, though at least one took a lot longer than average (my quilted jacket). That jacket represents 49 of my 224 total sewing hours, or 21%.

Over the year I sewed, on average, around 4 1/3 hours per week, or about 1 network drama per day. I sewed the kind of stuff I usually sew!

The oh-so-helpful category ‘other’ includes 1 skirt, 1 jumpsuit, 1 pair of overalls, and 1 set of pajamas. ‘Pants’ is mostly trousers, but also a pair of shorts. This was a high-knits year, partly because I sewed 3 True Bias Marlo sweaters, probably my most successful new pattern of 2021. For the second year running I sewed 0 dresses. That aligns well with how I dress – I’m pretty sure I also wore 0 dresses, Halloween costume excepted. I’m currently inside my new skirt, though. I used to wear skirts all the time and they might be on their way back into my life. We’ll seeee!

I recorded 4 giveaways/refashions this year. First, the bib of my Kwik Sew overalls somehow became mangled in the wash, so I took it off and altered the legs into cuffed shorts, but the center-back lapped zipper sans overall straps/bib made it look like the wearer’s butt was on backwards, so those are adios. My Seamwork Natalie top and McCalls jumpsuit are perfectly functional garments, now hopefully getting more use in other homes. Finally, I am so ready to chop up these breeches. Not in a spirit of vengeance. Vengeance is a pleasant extra. Failure rate: 4/33 projects, or 12%.

12% isn’t terrific, but it is improving. I’d love to get that number under 10%. Heck, I’d love to get it to 0%, but sometimes new stuff isn’t going to work out and I’m not manufacturing spaceship parts here. I can live with 12%.

Time for fabric talk!!

I used cotton for 26/33 projects. Almost 80%. It really IS the fabric of my life! I just divide it into substrates here so the chart is less boring. That denim/corduroy slice? Cotton denim, and cotton corduroy. That oilskin? Treated cotton. Linen/linen blends? Blended with cotton. The wool? Okay, that one’s not cotton. I also used way more polyester than normal (4/33, 12%), all from Sewfisticated, all for low-stakes projects. I wear the heck out of one of those tees and one sweater, but I’m not wild about the other two, and I really don’t like sewing poly (so many skipped stitches!), so I don’t expect to see that number grow. 27% of my projects had stretch; 73% did not (imagine how much more interesting that would be if those numbers didn’t add up. Now THAT would be news).

The average cost per make was around $30, but my actual out-of-pocket per make was around $13.

8/33 projects (24%) used leftover fabric. I approve. I don’t stash, but I do save scraps, and using them up feels good. I’ve instituted one new category for my spreadsheet for 2022: leftover yardage. I’m very interested to see how often I overbuy, and by how much. And then stop doing it!!

33 projects averages out to 2.75 per month, but as always I had seasons with more and less time to sew.

I actually sewed a lot in February, but I didn’t finish the project until March – quilted jacket again! I didn’t sew much in August because we (and everyone else) were trying to make up lost time socially. However, I suspect that I will have some free time this winter. Blergh.

As always, feel free to peruse the whole spreadsheet at your own pleasure, for an EXTREMELY limited definition of pleasure. And if you’ve got data, drop me a link! I love knowing this stuff.

I’m wishing everyone a safe and happy (AND BOOSTED, YOU ABLE PRO-SOCIAL COMMUNITY MEMBERS, YAHOO) new year! And safe and happy new clothes, as desired!

Never Again Into These Breeches

Let’s start with the big questions. What, uh, what are we looking at here?

It’s a pair of navy blue velveteen jodpur-style breeches.

Cool, cool…and why?

Okay so listen, typically I enjoy getting dressed. I like picking a sturdy cotton pant and trying not to forget sunscreen. But I don’t like getting dressed up! I’m bad at it, and I never feel like myself, even if objectively I look gooood, so now I’m trying to bridge that gap with an Event Pant. I was hoping to wear this outfit to our annual, recently reinstated, Christmas party (hence this blouse again), and maybe even to a wedding we’re attending in February.

I lurked this (overpriced) SisterMag pattern for a while, but my recent urge to sew slightly sillier clothes pushed me over the finish line. It was also an excuse to try spray-painting snaps, which I was curious about – it wasn’t madly effective, since they started flaking as soon as I installed them, but I’m glad I tried. Unfortunately that might be the only thing I’m realio trulio glad about.

Immediately post-download I was discouraged by the pattern’s quality. The back crotch curve was so shallow it was almost flat, never a great sign, and there were very few notches anywhere. At least the AI file was unlocked so I could edit the back crotch curve and add seam allowances before printing (you’ll see my adjusted back crotch curve in the diagrams below).

Then, there’s two pieces referred to in the directions – welt piping and a back pocket bag – that don’t have pattern pieces provided. Well okay, I thought, maybe they give dimensions somewhere, they’re just rectangles, but no. I could have measured the flap piece, found a tutorial, and worked it out, but I figured side seam pockets were sufficient in an Event Pant so I skipped them. My back ‘pocket’ is just a flap. Actually, it’s just TWO flaps. One flap per side. Two flaps > one flap!

Calling the direction ‘directions’ is generous, by the way! A sequence of words is provided. It’s Sphinxlike. That didn’t always bother me – I was always going to sew the front fly the way I like to sew front flies, ditto that for the waistband – but I was really confused about the placket on the leg.   

Now I like being prepared. I recently read an article about projector sewing in Threads that included the suggestion “make changes on the fly!” and it gave me chills (every time?? You have to remember your adjustments EVERY TIME??? But the paper remembers!). So using a small handful of denim scraps, I decided to sew a lower-leg muslin.

Good thing, too, because it emerged that not only did the lower-back-leg piece need seam allowance, it needed additional placket allowance on one side, or it wouldn’t be an underlap at all. There were no directions for accomplishing this seam/placket, and I don’t mean there’s bad ones – I mean that step is skipped entirely. But here’s how I eventually worked it out.

1. Add seam allowances to all pieces. I used 3/8”. Also extend the underlap (lower back leg) by ¾”, doubling its original width. Add a fly extension, if desired.
2. Sew together the upper and lower back leg, but stop and backstitch 3/8”* from the outseam edge, leaving the seam allowance free. *Or whatever the width of your seam allowance is.
3. Finish the horizontal seams separately (I trimmed mine with pinking shears).
4. Fold over 3/8”* to the wrong side. Fold ¾” to the right side.
5. Avoiding the unattached seam allowance of the upper back leg, sew across the underlap extension 3/8”* from the top edge.
6. Turn the extension right-sides-out. If you plan to topstitch, wait until you’ve sewn the hem. I recommend turning the corner similarly to above, like in this faced hem tutorial. If you don’t plan on topstitching, the buttons/snaps will hold the layers in place.
7. Stay stitch 3/8”* from the inside corner of the front leg. Clip into the corner, stopping at the stitching line

8. Sew the outseams together, backstitching at the snipped corner.
9. Finish the outseams together, again stopping at the corner.
10. Fold over the top seam allowance of the front leg placket to the wrong side. Fold over edge seam allowance to the wrong side, then again by the width of the placket. The outer folded edge of the front leg placket will be continuous with the outseam line. Again, if you plan to topstitch, sew the hem first. After the inseam is sewn, you can finish the hem as linked above in step 6.

And, the result. Not perfect, but good enough, and worth sewing the scrappy denim version.

I also wanted to make sure the leg wasn’t too snug around my calf (it wasn’t). And then I realized I could put the muslin on my leg, take the measurement from the horizontal back leg seam to my waist, and then check the pattern to see if the leg was my preferred length. And it was.

So in many ways I was prepared. I was not prepared, however, for how violently I hate wearing these.

Maybe the fit is wrong, maybe that calf is supposed to be tight-tight-tight so the bottom leg never shifts at all, but my whole self rejects the way it feels when I sit down and the placket slides over my knee. I don’t know where it’s supposed to go – over? Under? Allemande left? But no matter what, it’s uncomfortable and impractical and it drives me fully flipping bananas. Just to comprehensively justify my rage – like, these are jodhpurs, maybe they’re for sitting on a saddle, not in a chair – I even posed like I was riding a horse (“HEELS DOWN!”) and proved I was, indeed, justified. They were still enormously uncomfortable.

“Ah ha,” you might be thinking. “It CALLS FOR buttons. These are snaps. This sounds like a snaps issue.”

IT IS NOT EXCLUSIVELY A SNAPS ISSUE.

The snaps don’t help, in that sometimes they unsnap themselves and when I bend down to re-snap my right leg a snap on my left leg bursts open, and then I become a first-act romantic comedy heroine trapped in an endless loop. But the snaps are useful, too, in that the only time these pants are remotely comfortable while sitting is when I undo the top two (visibly straining) snaps of each placket and let my knees pop out. Yep. Velvet breeches, a wind on my knees, that was the dream.

So I would like you to scroll up to those ad hoc button placket directions and do whatever the digital equivalent is of throwing them into a fire. Do not make these pants. I am the old sailor. I am Banquo. Heed me.

And the thing that’s really sending me up the wall is that I love the fabric, and it was a gift, and a pricey gift too! And I wasted all this time and money and all these resources! The only fix I can think of is making the pants into shorts, but blue velveteen puffy bloomer shorts??? Do I want those? Does anyone? Or maybe if I rip out the inseams, a miniskirt? I can’t guarantee *I’ll* get more use of it that way, but I’m looking to maximize this garment’s likelihood of finding a new home. To be clear these breeches do not get to be on my body in their current incarnation ever again. I’ve thrown away the pattern!

And this raises another question: what should I wear to that February wedding? Nerts.

Pattern: SisterMag breeches

Pattern cost: $9.06

Size: 44; scooped back seam 1/2″, added 3/8″ seam allowances, plus additional 3/4″ allowance for leg underlap

Supplies: 3 yards Kaufman velveteen in Navy, $56.97, Ryco’s; zipper, Sewfisticated; spray paint, Tags, $4.85

Total time: 8 hours

Total cost: $70.88

Something Unexpected

So, I knit a sweater.

Did I knit it particularly well? No. But did I knit it *quickly*?

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

I cast on in early November 2020, mindful that we might be going into another lockdown (we didn’t, but I tucked away a couple hobby-acorns for quarantine winter just in case) and I finished it last month, late November 2021. Most of the sweater took me that first year (extremely non-continuously); the sleeves took me the last two weeks. By then, I was VERY ready to be done. I spent 54 weeks as an auto-hostage, but now I am freeee and I’ve learned a lot! These were my starting assets:

Your brains I could knit and purl (in the simplest sense)

Fezzik’s strength YouTube, baby

My steel Access to skilled knitters

Particularly Eloise Narrigan – will it surprise you to hear that in addition to being the toppest-notch illustrator and a brilliant friend, she’s also a meticulous and amazing knitter? I picked the No Frills Sweater pattern for my first project after running it by her. She mentioned that the short rows on the back neck were a promising sign that the pattern would be solid, and I immediately formed a religion around that casual comment and now judge all sweaters by whether or not there’s short rows, and nothing else. Actually, the part of the directions that challenged me the most were those about shaping the short rows, but she did some invaluable translating from knitting pattern to plain English and it turns out it was a simple idea expressed in a way I found confusing (basically, make each row longer than the one before).

I was frightened of reading the knitting pattern, but it was okay. The hardest part was working out which yarn to buy. After lots of back-and-forth math between grams and yards I decided that instead of using two strands of madly expensive yarn, I could use one strand of nice in-budget DK yarn, and I bought 8 skeins of Cloudborn Highland DK (100% wool) in Ocean from Webs. I knit a size M and I have a full skein leftover.

I very nearly bought cute stitch markers, too, but I stifled the urge. In the meantime I used jewelry jump rings. My first, shockingly basic piece of learning: the marker goes on the knitting needle, not the stitch. So that’s roughly the level of ability I started at.  

I want to talk quickly about the two kinds of skills I used during this process, ‘learned’ skills and ‘loaned’ skills. The skills I actually, thoroughly learned while working on this sweater include: the magic loop method. How to join yarn. The inscrutable K2tog tbl. How to weave in ends. How to block a sweater. How to get your boyfriend to help you wind yarn into a ball by telling him it’s what a courtly gentleman would do.

My loaned skills, skills I could perform after (or while) watching a YouTube video, but not on a permanent basis, were a cabled cast-on, joining in the round, left- and right-leaning raglan stitches, German short rows, a backwards loop cast-on (I honestly don’t remember what this one was for), a tubular bind-off, and what ‘pick up and knit’ meant. All those linked videos are novice-recommended – clear, performed slowly, not too chatty.

My missing skills, which are still missing, not available in video format, and pretty fundamental, are: reading knitting. As in, looking at a loop on the needle and understanding whether it’s a knit or a purl stitch, and any other information contained there. And possibly more importantly, ripping out mistakes without going all the way back to the beginning. I can just about pick up a dropped stitch, but that’s it. Often I found my mistakes by knitting past them, then looking at the formed fabric and realizing “that’s a funny spot”, at which point it was already too late for my butterfingers to fumble back. This is why I have one lumpy learner’s sleeve and one pretty good sleeve.

It took me ages to realize I was getting yarn caught on the needle while magic-looping and then knitting the decoy stitches as though they were real ones. Definitely a rookie mistake. On the other hand, knitting anything was going to be a challenge, and I’d rather sail out of a challenge with a lumpy sweater than a lumpy scarf.

Here is my not-so-good armpit! Here’s my better one! Capital ‘I’ for Improving, Lia!

Maybe some wiser eyes can help solve some lingering knitting mysteries. For example: why do the short rows have this feathery texture, and the body of the sweater doesn’t? Knitting is knitting, surely?

Also, how did I manage to switch the ‘right’ side and ‘wrong’ side of the collar halfway through, and how is that a k1/p1 rib HAS a right side and a wrong side? Shouldn’t they be the same? Yet I have tight braids on one side and open braids on the other. I prefer the look of the ‘wrong’ side, unfortunately. Actually I find this k1/p1 rib to be a bit thready and wimpy looking but I’m definitely not at the stage where I can change a pattern. HAHA no no no.

Mysteries or not, it’s done! Finishing was a rush (and also about damn time). I thought weaving in ends was going to be a pain, but I realized triumphantly ‘this is just sewing!’ and it felt quick to me. This sweater had no seams to sew, so once I was done, I was done – except for the 48 hours of cold wet sweater taking up my table, but you’re s’posed to, so I did.

So, like, do I knit now? Um…this is comfy, this is warm, this took me a year and much woe and it made my brain and my fingers creak and it’s a ridiculous way to form a garment and it takes far too long and I’m free now and oh yes I bought more yarn. So, I guess, sort of.

Look for another in about a year!

Pattern: No Frills Sweater pattern

Pattern cost: $6.61  

Size: M

Supplies: 8 skeins of Cloudborn Highland DK in Ocean, $35.71; needles (US 3 16″ + 40” circular, US 6 16″ + 40” circular), $27.52, WEBS

Total time: 11/12/2020 – 11/27/2021 (no way I recorded hours)

Total cost: $69.84

Ivory Patina

As per my plan, I’ve made the short-sleeve view of the Friday Pattern Company Patina blouse.

But this isn’t the slubby rich recycled mahogany silk I had my eye on at all! It’s old rayon!

Ah, old rayon. As shifty as new rayon, but with that classic I-lived-in-your-scrap-box-for-four-years flavor. We’re still without a washer; I was fine casually pre-washing my first Patina blouse’s poplin in the bathroom but my respect for silk might cross the line into fear of silk, and I just couldn’t see myself throwing it into the tub and hoping for the best. So I raided my scraps for something! Anything! pre-washed to sew, which is how I ended up using such an unfavorite fabric here (the unfavorite-ness is also why the scraps have lasted this long).  

This was made from two different rayons – one length was leftover from a blouse I made from fabric purchased at Walthamstow in 2017, and the other length *may* have come from a fabric swap around the same time. They’re not a perfect match, but they’re not bad. The yoke and the undercollar are a slightly brighter shade of ivory, but I can live with that, especially for the price tag (my favorite, the bubble).  

I’d mentioned wanting to take pictures of an alternate facing/yoke construction, but in white fabric without an obvious wrong side, that seemed like a fool’s quest. Luckily it turns out Peter of Male Pattern Boldness has already done it! The neckline of the Negroni shown there is a different shape, but it’s the exact same technique. Here’s the first part, assembling the shirt body and inner yoke/facing unit; and the second part, putting it all together with some very fun and satisfying burrito sewing. I left the small part that I couldn’t sew by machine unsewn, so you can see how small it really is.

See that fingertip-sized gap next to the facing/yoke seam? That’s it.

And using this technique means no visible topstitching on the yoke, though it’s ordinarily covered by the collar anyway.

I absolutely prefer this method. It’s easy to reshape the facing pattern piece, too; just overlay with the shirt front and trim as shown, below.

That little leftover can go right into the recycle bin. Huzzah.

This is the ‘lowered neckline’ variation, 1” lower than the standard draft. I find this depth a little more becoming than the standard. The pattern also has instructions for lowering another inch, or raising the ‘v’ neck higher, but this is about right for me. The collar is wobbly though! Oh woe! It’s not the draft, it’s the rayon. I interlined it with white linen, but that was shifty and grow-y too, and even though I moved the collar pieces carefully and sewed them first, the long outer curved edge stretched out pretty badly.

There was a ruffly clown-collar vibe to the finished shirt. Based on hope, not science, I plugged in my iron and chuffed steam at the collar in hopes of shrinking the edge. I don’t use the chuffer often though so I actually just sprayed the whole thing with surprise brown spots. WHAT FUN. Since a new washing machine didn’t magically appear as soon as I flavor-blasted a white shirt, I stuck it under a cold shower with some dish soap then threw it in the dryer. And, um, something along the line there worked, because the collar is definitely improved. I feel like a very lucky bunny.

The dart is a little low. Also, I realize now, the tip needs pressing. Next time my ironing board is out I’ll gather my courage, roll up a towel, and go for it.

I forgot to take pictures of my first version untucked, but here’s some of this one. Wrinkly, because my go-to is tucking in, and also because I’m tireless in my quest for gritty realism or something. The untucked silhouette is actually not too godawful!

I’m feeling good; I got to sew, and I got some aged fabric into use, even though it was kind of a pain in my neck. The rayon really can’t support the weight of the collar that well, even with my interfaced v-neckline, but it does gather nicely. And you can’t go too far wrong with a white blouse! After all that monkey business with the steam, I like it. It’s a bit everyday-pirate, but that’s not necessarily a problem.

If I kind of blur my eyes and blend the collar into the shirt, the Patina looks like a decent plain v-neck woven blouse base. I bought it for its slight costume-y elements, but I might keep making it for relentlessly sensible reasons. Two steps forward, one step back!

We took these pictures on an unseasonably warm day in November, by the way – it feels like another universe now. I don’t do much Christmas-specific sewing, but Christmas BAKING is very much on. Cinnamon & chocolate! See you soon!

Pattern: Friday Pattern Company Patina blouse

Pattern cost: NA

Size: M, lower neckline

Supplies: scraps of rayon, from stash; thread, Michael’s, $2.39

Total time: 5.5 hours

Total cost: $2.39

Common Quail

Heyyy, I actually sewed a new pattern while it was still new! I really enjoyed dressing as a vaguely interwar pseudo-intellectual for Halloween, to the point where I’ve decided to start layering some more vintage-inspired pieces into my wardrobe. When I saw the Friday Pattern Company Patina blouse I pretty much went “that’ll work!” and mashed the buy button.

This was my first time sewing a Friday Pattern Company pattern. You’d have to force me kicking and screaming into their breakout hit gown but I’ve only heard good things in general. I was surprised, though, that this pattern used 3/8” seam allowances throughout, since this is a blouse that calls for fine lightweight fabrics. I added ¼” to the side seams and shoulder seams, so I could French seam those later, but otherwise cut a straight size M.

Right off the bat I was impressed by the accuracy of the fabric requirements! I like that it didn’t overspend my money or generate much waste. I needed every inch, as in I had about a fingernail-clipping’s worth of excess length after laying out all my pieces. The layout would have been a little more flexible if I hadn’t increased the seam allowance, but no regrets. My only scraps are funny shapes and sizes. I spent more than I intended to on fabric, by the way; I went looking for quilting cotton to make a wearable muslin before investing in cotton lawn, and came home with this gorgeous organic poplin. Oops not oops.

Ch-ch-changes: I staystitched the front neck as directed, but also applied this tricot interfacing along the edge. I wanted to make sure it would support the weight of the collar. I’m in love with that 1” roll; it makes it so much easier to do the right thing.    

However, instead of using interfacing in the collar, I cut another layer of fabric from my scraps. I pinned it to the wrong side of the top collar and treated them as one piece until it was attached to the bottom collar. Then I trimmed the extra layer of fabric ‘interfacing’ to right beside the stitching line. When turning right-side-out, that teeny-tiny overhang of fabric helps push the seam to roll to the underside. That’s my theory, anyway. 

By the way, I placed the cost of my free-floating button purchase on this make, because I ended up really liking them together. These are the same buttons that saved my bacon when mending my Halloween skirt. I’m learning all the wrong lessons about buying notions without a plan!

I also removed about 5/8” of fullness from the sleeve at the front shoulder.

Doesn’t that sound wonderfully deliberate and official? Actually what happened is that I traced the sleeve piece the same way twice, but luckily caught my mistake before cutting. I retraced one of them flipped over and was still congratulating myself on my perspicacity when I cut on my new line to the shoulder point and on my old line away from the shoulder point. Yeeks. I noticed before I got to the single front notch, so I was able to compensate slightly, and my mess-up would (hopefully) be hidden in the gathers. I cut the second sleeve the same wrong way because I thought it was important that they match.

It’s a full sleeve, so it’s still perfectly comfortable to wear, but if it looks off at all that’s why. I can’t really tell. There’s one strange function of this shirt which is that my sufficiently long, loose sleeves ride up to my elbows at the slightest movement; possibly because of my front shoulder ‘adjustment’?

Also, the universe decided I should eat my words on the subject of continuously bound plackets, since this pattern calls for them. Plus I don’t mind not doing a thing, but I don’t like feeling like I can’t do a thing.

I was a little confused by the official directions, which tell you to press under both edges of the bias piece, but then only show one edge pressed, so I turned to the internet. I followed this Sewaholic tutorial and uhhh…I think I made this kind of placket into a boogeyman. At least in crisp, stable cotton, they’re actually fine.

I think I even have them opening the right way (50/50 chance)! I’m calling that a win!

In general the way the directions are expressed and the accompanying illustrations are good and clear and easy to follow. (The encouraging clip-art on the pattern pieces gave me a jolt though. “WHAT IS THAT PATTERN PIECE FOR?! Oh it’s a cartoon sewing machine.”) However, I sometimes disagree with what the directions actually say to do. Most notably, I hate the facing finish on the back neck. It’s hard to sew well and I firmly believe there’s a better way. If/when I sew another Patina blouse I want to try using the Negroni directions, which join the front facings to the inner back yoke. I’ll try to take pictures if I do.

The drafting, however, seems spot-on. My collar is sitting a little higher than the sample because I thought I was sooo smart and I understitched the curved part of the neckline seam, instead of just the straight vertical parts as directed, so it’s being tugged up a little. But the collar still curves really nicely. And most impressively to my mind, this shirt stays put! I can raise my arm parallel to the floor before the hem even starts to rise. And the neckline doesn’t budge. It doesn’t gape at the back, it doesn’t pull to the front. It parks! I’m impressed. 

I’m not really sure what era this top hails from, style-wise – the 70s do the 30s? But I dig it. I wouldn’t mind giving that deeper neckline a whirl. There’s some $$$ recycled silk I’ve had my eye on for a while, and though I don’t think I’m owed a new holiday outfit every year, it would be pretty ideal.

I’ve been making fewer items this year, so while my cost-per-item is definitely up (gosh this blouse cost a bit), my overall spending is down. Which sounds like a possible excuse for silk to me…

Pattern: Friday Pattern Company Patina blouse

Pattern cost: $11.20

Size: M

Supplies: 2.25 yards of Charley Harper organic poplin in Sierra Range, California Quail, Gather Here, $37.15; buttons, Etsy; thread, Michael’s, $11.86

Total time: 8.75 hours

Total cost: $60.21

Plaid Granville

I’ve been meaning for a while to add a home-sewn plaid flannel shirt to my closet. This isn’t the shirt of my dreams, but it’s going to get a lot of wear.

This is a Sewaholic Granville with the same fit modifications as my other Sewaholic Granville. It’s a little less successful in this thick fabric, as it’s kind of occupying an awkward middle ground between indoor shirt and overshirt; in retrospect, I’d push it wider. I love the fabric though, a black-and-ivory Kaufman flannel. This may have wet my whistle for sewing an actual overshirt. Kaufman does staggeringly beautiful speckled flannel solids now!! I saw the olive in person and it’s gorgeous, plus this substrate is so satisfying to sew. Even though this Granville isn’t perfect, it’s cozy and I enjoyed the process.

I mostly rolled right along and followed the directions with no wacky diversions. As they were last time, the sleeves are really too long. Excellent for tucking cold fingers inside but not so good for washing dishes. This was a bright-but-cold finger-hiding day. I’m wearing them unrolled as a rule, partly because this is a heavy flannel for chilly weather, but also because I feel I earned it. I put in the time to get those sleeves right!

Slightly embarrassing after my recent tough talk about tower plackets, but I messed these up. Or not these, precisely, but their predecessors. I attempted to pattern match and got it exactly reversed – an ivory stripe on black, and a black stripe on ivory. I finished the shirt and actually wore it a couple times that way. Then because new sewing is on pause (I can’t pre-wash fabric right now) but that sewing mojo has to go SOMEWHERE, I sat down on a quiet Saturday morning and did it all again.

Luckily, because I sewed the cuffs in this way, I could unpick them without removing the button or worrying about the buttonhole. I unpicked and discarded the old placket pieces, and whip-stitched the cut line on the sleeve shut. I also unpicked the sleeve seam to just above the elbow (twice, because it’s French seamed) so I could spread the cuff end flat.

Time to cut a new, hopefully matching placket. Obviously my original system didn’t work, so I did the one thing I skipped amid all my mental contortions of figuring out the plaid the first time: I Googled it. It’s actually pretty simple. This tutorial is even from the Granville sewalong. I probably should have done that earlier! This time it went smoothly, though this fabric is a little too bulky for a pristine finish. The little buttons at the top are just for show.

I also sewed the hem a few times. First I sewed it exactly as written, but that left just an awkward flash of white at the center front, and I’d prefer to end on a dark horizontal stripe. So I unpicked the hem, straightened the front curve so no ivory would show when folded, and sewed it again. Then I realized I had cut one of the fronts slightly askew and the plaid was asymmetric. So I unpicked the longer side, trimmed it, and hemmed it again. Then I decided I didn’t like the look of cream thread topstitched on the black front edge there, so I hand-picked the hem with grey thread and unpicked the machine stitching. And here it remains!

If I get seized by another re-sewing mania, my next target would be the collar. I folded the button bands a little too much, so they’re wider than designed (for some reason my math was off on the day I cut). I should have shortened the collar piece slightly to compensate, but I didn’t think of it, so it ends a little too close to the end of the collar stand. This isn’t a big deal when I wear the shirt open, but if I want to button it all the way up the plaid lines diverge at the neck where it pulls apart to make space for the collar.

I’ve been considering adding flaps to the chest pockets, too. I don’t think it looks right to cut rectangular plaid on the bias, so I cut the pockets on-grain and pattern-matched the fabric underneath as far as I could. It diverges slightly because it covers the dart ends, so the bottom edge of the pocket isn’t quite parallel to the horizontal stripe anymore, but they’re still blending in pretty well. So what I have here is two fairly invisible pockets that I don’t put things in, because who uses chest pockets. Flaps would give them a little more context. On the other hand, do I need to draw focus to my invisible unused chest pockets, or am I just going loopy due to lack of new projects?

You might notice my total sewing time seems a little short for all the monkey business mentioned above. That’s because those changes were made after I wore the shirt in public, which means I mentally filed them under ‘mending’, and I don’t record mending times. If some sort of sewing authority ever audits my process I’m gonna be in trouble!

Are you enjoying our transition to long dark cozy evenings? It’s the stay-homiest time of year! I hope you’re gaining some quality sewing time. And I hope I’m gaining a washing machine soon, so I can sew new stuff too!

Pattern: Sewaholic Granville shirt

Pattern cost: NA

Size: 12, modified fit

Supplies: 3 yards Kaufman Mammoth Flannel in Ivory, Ryco’s, $33.00; thread; Ryco’s, $3.25; buttons from stash

Total time: 7.5 hours

Total cost: $36.25

A Murder Is Announced

Professor Boyfriend and I have participated in a weekly game night for years, but this year for one week only we hosted a murder mystery evening instead. It was partly for Halloween but mostly due to A Murder Is Announced, because we held it on Friday, October 29th, just like the mysterious notice in the book!

I was given the character of Sally, an authoress, and initially I thought I’d just wear this McCalls dress, but then I had a rummage through my mending basket and got a better idea. I’ve had this brown Kaufman flannel half-circle skirt lying there unworn for ages due to a youthful indiscretion – I tried to install an invisible zipper on the bias and the back seam was unwearably wobby. It took me months of wear to notice, but once I did, I realized my rear looked like a ski slalom. Then I crammed the skirt in the mending pile for mumbledytum years.

But change was finally a-coming. I removed the waistband, unpicked the back seam to about an inch above the finished hem, and took out the zipper. Happily I didn’t have to touch the hem itself!

Then I was pleasantly surprised to see the fabric itself wasn’t stretched all out of whack. The zipper had become permanently distorted, though, and I didn’t have another one. Here’s where I had to use my little grey cells, mon ami. Some context: this skirt is pre-spreadsheet-era, meaning it’s at least 5+ years old, so as you can imagine I didn’t have any leftover scrap fabric hanging around. Also, my washing machine is broken (and has been for several weeks) so I haven’t been buying and can’t add new fabric. Also also, it was the Tuesday night before the Friday of the party. Also also also, the original waistband closed with a snap I was unable to pry out, so instead I had to snip off the ends, making the already-scanty waist piece (see: my measurement of 5+ years ago) now comically small.

So I winged it!

Improvisational button fly time. I grabbed some buttons from my recent regretted button-buying binge and, HUZZAH, even though they weren’t suitable for the planned project I ordered them for, they were perfect here. I ‘drafted’ an extremely sketchy fly shield from a mostly-coordinating scrap by guessing at a length and width, folding it in half, and sewing the bottom shut. Then I sandwiched some snipped-up hair elastic button loops between the shield and the original back seam allowance. I also left the bottom half-inch or so of the shield piece free and unstitched, which matters later.

 Next, I folded under and topstitched the opposite seam allowance, but only parallel to the seamline.

The only part that required a little finesse was re-sewing the center back seam. I folded the bottom free half-inch of the fly shield out of the way and sewed the back seam shut until I bumped into my new stitching. Then I overlapped the button side over the now-extended fly shield and sewed a short horizontal bar to join the two layers at the base. Voila, button back!

I used another piece of scrap fabric to extend the original waistband piece. Does it match? Nah. Does it matter? Honestly, also nah. Professor Boyfriend and I have a saying we rely on in times like these: “It’s better than good. It’s good enough!”

For a finishing touch, the day before the murder, I Googled “how to sew a beret” and about an hour after that I had one of those too!! I used Erika Bunker’s tutorial on the We All Sew blog, and it was excellent. My only meaningful change was to add seam allowance to the inner circle (the head hole circle). I also folded my ‘stem’ in half and attached it flat instead of sewing it into a loop. This beret was the perfect use for a scrap of wool that was too small to wear but too nice to get rid of! I lined my wool with cotton, because it’s what I had around. I love it.

It was surprisingly easy to find everything we needed to host the evening lying around our apartment – this poison bottle is a vintage vanilla extract bottle I use as a bud vase, my cigarette holder is a metal straw with paper curled inside, and I bought my brooch at a pawn shop at the tail end of my Victorian phase (the pawn shop has been a patisserie for years, which shows how long I’ve been living in Somerville).  

My new-old skirt is still a little snug, but it served its purpose. Much like the pockets, which, while low, are large enough and sturdy enough to contain a murder weapon. I walked around with a Lewis chessman in my pocket all night but was still framed for murdering an industrialist with a hairpin. Nom d’un nom d’un nom! I think I’m a beret person now, though! I’m going to wear it in real life!

And as long as I’ve got you here, how perfect would Navid Negahban be as a post-Suchet Poirot!? He’s my dream casting. Pipe down, you Malkoviches and Branaghs! Hercule has arrived!

Now it’s time to pick your weapon!

Welcome to November. Don’t get murdered. 🙂

Wear Your Greens

I made another True Bias Marlo sweater, pretty much the same as my first True Bias Marlo! Iseefabric was running a 20% sale for some American holiday (I’m not being coyly European, I just forget which) and I picked up 2 more yards of their lovely squashy waffle knit.

This color is called ‘Pistachio’, and on least on my screen it’s accurately pictured, a grey/blue/green rather than a straight sage or what-have-you. Pistachio was my second choice, but Oatmeal sold out. It’s a little more romantic than I generally like. Like, this sweater would go great with a broderie anglaise sundress and a flower crown, while my aesthetic is more thick socks and a tuna fish sandwich. That said, according to the economic theory of revealed preference, I DO like this color, because I wear the sweater all the dang time. It’s the time of year when the inside of my apartment is reliably freezing even on warm sunny days and I’m generally to be found inside a Marlo.

I tend to wear this one open, though, and I’m not sure why; some tiny quirk of button placement, maybe?

Speaking of: I recently became a nihilist *just* long enough to spend too much money on buttons, including these. They’re beautiful engraved shell buttons I ordered from this Etsy shop. They really are lovely but from any reasonable distance they read as solid white.

Continuing my pattern of using whatever elastic is nearest when I need elastic, this time I stabilized the shoulder seams with plush-backed bra strap elastic. I had the perfect amount and those shoulders are going NOWHERE. My only meaningful change from my first long Marlo was to serge the seam allowance edge of the neckband + body. First I hand-stitched the cuffs, but that reminded me that I got these seam allowance berms from turning under. I actually like the serged finish better from the outside even if it’s less pristine on the inside.

Unexpected bonus: the neckband is actually hugging my neck! I must have stretched a bit more vigorously this time.

This is a useful and functional piece, but I didn’t really enjoy sewing it because I rushed through the process. I didn’t make sloppy mistakes or anything – it looks the same as it would if I sewed it mInDfUlLy, probably – but instead of the process making my brain feel like it took a warm bath, it felt like a cold shower. And I hurried for such a foolish reason, too; because I was more excited to use my serger on the next thing, with black thread, but my serger was already threaded with white, so I banged this out so I could avoid switching the thread one time. Rethreading isn’t even hard once you’re used to it. The whole process takes about a minute and a half. So, to save 90 seconds, I made two hours less pleasant. Kind of a dingaling move.

But the thing I wanted to use my serger + black thread on? These pants!

They’re the MN Dawns I posted about a month or so ago. I had a wild hair to reshape the leg. I pinned the outseam, tried them on, and decided why not. First I cut a freehand curve from about knee height to the hem, then I unpicked the hem, serged the new fresh seam allowance, and finally refolded the hem along its original creases. I couldn’t squeeze any more length out of the legs because the missing corner I’m hiding in the deep hem is on the inseam side!

Since I didn’t adjust the inseam, the balance of the leg changed. Now it has this kind of bow-legged banana shape which I really kinda dig.

I really like balloon/banana trousers. The silhouette looks fresh to my eye. Plus, when picking a shirt, it’s easier to balance than a straight-sided wide leg pant. I might want to play with more extreme versions of the shape, too. Also in foot news I finally got the pair of combat boots I’ve been thinking about for ages! It’s not NOT because of this music video. I love ‘em. Other shoes feel like socks now. Anyway, I’m done poking at these pants now! Finito!

Ultimately this Marlo ended up pricey, but I glanced at my spreadsheet and I’ve still spent less than usual by this time of year, so I’m not going to sweat it. The Fabric Snob recently added waffle knits in some deep, rich colors (iseefabrics tends to focus on light beach-culty hues) so who knows what will happen next!

But hopefully something cozy. Happy Halloween, all!

Pattern: True Bias Marlo sweater

Pattern cost: NA

Size: 10 bust, 14 hip

Supplies: 2 yards organic cotton thermal waffle knit in Pistachio, iseefabric, $35.60; Agoya shell buttons, Etsy, $12.44; thread from stash

Total time: 3.25 hours

Total cost: $48.04

Tiger Archer

Today we are going way, way back in time, all the way back to the dawn of sewing (kidding, but I did buy this pattern in 2013). You can probably tell from the date that it’s a Grainline Archer! I don’t have any specific notes on this shirt since it’s at least 6 years old, possibly 8, but it’s made from pre-rift Cotton and Steel quilting cotton and despite the kind of crunchy fit and my not-so-hot sewing I use it plenty.

I actually remember the fabric provenance pretty clearly – I bought some for pockets for Professor Boyfriend’s pants, fell in love and decided it MUST be a shirt (mine), but my local Gather Here had sold out in the meantime, so I called my mom and she found some in her local, Ryco’s (which is an awesome place but closing at the end of this year when the owner retires, unless someone wants to buy the business, which one of you should. Go do that now, and then come back here). The buttons were from JP Knit and Stitch before it was online-only. This shirt is a time capsule shirt!

Quilting cotton isn’t the most comfy-cozy fabric to wear, but it’s hard to argue with chartreuse tigers. A quick Google reveals the Archer has been made in a ton of different fabrics – and heck, everyone seems to have made at least one.

In thinking about why the Archer blew up so quickly, I have two theories. One is that it was the first buttoned shirt pattern to offer exceptional support (which is why I bought it). My second is that, for the sizes available, it fits accurately and predictably. The deliberately loose fit helps, I’m sure; my pattern is graded from a 6 bust (!!) to a 12 hip, and it fits fine now, and was presumably fine way back when, or it wouldn’t have lasted this long. That’s flexible.

The sewalong and the easy fit are both awesome building blocks for a ‘beginner’ pattern, but looking back now with all my greybeardy wisdom, the Archer doesn’t always use the easiest techniques. Most notable is probably the collar stand construction, but the technique I hate with oh such hatred is the bias bound plackets.

It’s possible that you, dear reader, find them easier than a traditional sleeve placket, but I big-time don’t. Either way you’re cutting into the sleeve piece, but when using a binding, the pieces of fabric are so much more fiddly and the margin for error is smaller. And they’re stupid and flimsy and tiny and pointless and also I did them wrong.

You might notice the lack of buttons and buttonholes on the cuff. That’s because even my beginner eyes were filled with so much blergh at the sight of this placket that I decided this shirt would only be worn with the sleeves rolled, forever, and I took steps to ensure that.

I moved the proposed cuff button to the sleeve and added a little button strap (it’s actually a bit longish, since it begins and ends where the button is stitched). I also sewed everything with French seams despite that ½” seam allowance. A ½” sa is for nobody. Nobody wants that. Give me liberty 5/8” or give me the other thing 3/8”.   

This is another shirt I wear on a perma-tucked basis, but the hem has a perfectly nice curve, which I feel proud of wee beginner Lia for handling well (even if my topstitching is a bit hideous, partly because my stitch length on this whole shirt was bonkers short – why did I sew everything with like a 1.5 length stitch?!).

You don’t need my extremely lukewarm take, but the Archer is an approachable shirt with mostly-classic details – a button band, a lined yoke and a pleat at the back, PORS (Pockets of Respectable Size). A history of indie patterns would be sure to include it (I know it’s the first PDF pattern I ever bought!). Just, for the love of Mike, use a tower placket. Any tower placket will do.

Not too much else to say about this, except a few years ago I wore it to a book signing by beloved childhood author Tamora Pierce in order to bait her into saying she liked my shirt, AND IT WORKED.

I can never get rid of this now. It’s Alanna-approved.

Pattern: Grainline Archer shirt

Pattern cost: nowadays, $16 minimum

Size: 6 bust, 12 hip

Supplies: unknown quantity of quilting cotton in two lengths, which my mom bought most of, Gather Here & Ryco’s

Total time: So unknown

Total cost: So so very unknown